Keep the body running


aving to visit the doctor or being sick can subject a person to all kinds of indignities. Of course you’re more likely to suffer these as you get older, but that doesn’t mean the younger bunch don’t get their share. It is sometimes hard to communicate symptoms without blushing, and most people pray that nothing below the neck needs attention, but inevitably you get to the stage where you have to stuff your pride in a sack and just get on with it.

I’ve personally had a fairly high threshold when it comes to embarrassment, although I do remember a couple of incidents when I was going through what I’ll call my Gallstones Phase. At the beginning I thought it was just really bad indigestion, but after two bouts of considerable discomfort and pain an ultrasound at the George Town hospital revealed a small quarry at the bottom of my Gall Bladder. It was conclusively determined that I had gallstones. Of course I put off surgery for ages. After all, this was an excellent way to monitor my eating habits! It was one thing to be concerned about gaining a couple of pounds, but quite another when horrible pain would inevitably follow a burger and fries! Alas this theory only worked in the short term. After a while I had no idea what would set it off, and one night I was really suffering which prompted best friend Lynne to drive me to the Emergency Room at an hour usually reserved for owls and bats. I was bra-less in an old T-shirt matched with paisley Capri pants whose waist elastic had long expired and legs that could have used a good waxing. I didn’t care – I was in agony. The doctor quickly got me on a painkiller drip, and I immediately drifted off to sleep. The next morning I was feeling much better and really able to appreciate the ensemble I had thrown together – barely a more enchanting sight than nudity. As they wheeled me to the exit I tried to cover my face with my hair. Who did I fancy would be there – the National Enquirer?

You would think that that experience was enough to drive me to surgery, but as it happens I had to sink further to find wisdom…grasshopper. Anyone who has had to deal with severe pain knows that the quicker you can administer painkiller, the better. All I’ll say is that by mouth doesn’t get you the fastest results. Now apply that scenario to a gallstone reaction on a plane back from Vegas going through decent turbulence and a bathroom barely big enough for one person. The next day I called the hospital to book the operation.

Don’t you find that medical ads that made no sense twenty years ago now all seem to be directed solely at you? I’m not at the Depends stage yet, nor am I actively searching out bonding material that will allow me to eat an apple without scaring off the neighbourhood kids, but I certainly take Aleve from time to time so that my feet aren’t killing me after a jog at the gym. I have a patch of Psoriasis on my leg that started when I was 30, so bikini season is out for me too! (That’s not the main reason, but I’m happy to fall back on it as an excuse.) I could go into other ailments but I won’t in this column. What’s the applicable phrase? “Leave ‘em wanting more?” Maybe “Silence is Golden.”

A friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) is only in her forties, but after many years working as a server in her youth, carting around large trays of heavy food, her knees, feet and spine are starting to cash in their chips. She confessed to me a few weeks ago that she’s taking so many pills per day she’s had to break down and buy one of those pill boxes to keep track of them all, lest she mistakenly take two in the same 24 hours and experience temporarily bionic legs. When I speak to younger compatriots their biggest recurring discomfort is directly related to late night indulgences. They don’t mention hobbling out of bed first thing in the morning until their feet unfurl like waking caterpillars.

Going to the doctor or hospital when we suspect problems can give many of us pause. Those attractive gowns, the bed covered with paper, the snap of a glove on a hand… Sometimes we think “Hey – if I just leave it alone it’ll fix itself!” Yep – that theory ALWAYS works out when employed in any situation. Cars making rattling noises, roofs that leak, toothache…shall I go on? I’ll be the first to admit that I can be a big baby, and when I was younger, I was a big hypochondriac. Every pimple was skin cancer and every headache a brain tumour. There’s an interesting mix of people in this world. Those who worry and are too scared to visit their GP and those who brush aside searing pain because they simply don’t want to make a fuss and besides, there are things to do at work etc. In the end we should treat our bodies like very expensive cars we were given by our parents. We can’t afford to buy another one if this one gets damaged beyond repair, so we need to find a mechanic qualified to tune us up on a regular basis. The quality of petrol we use to fuel ourselves is also important. We all know that a Ferrari doesn’t run smoothly on sodas and fries! One piece of crispy potato gets into that carburettor and it’s an expensive visit to the garage!

It’s inevitable that we’ll be unwell from time to time, but the more we look after ourselves, the more our body will resist those nasty germs. I’d love to give you all further benefit of my incredible insight, but it’s time to take my iron tablets.