When you’re a man of a certain age, you become used to being pricked, poked, pinched, and prodded. This is not something I necessarily like; it’s just the way things are.
Men are their own worst caregivers. I’ve seen this in acupuncture practice where clients are primarily women. The few men who come into the office are there because they are dragged by their wives or girlfriends, or because what ails them has not been properly resolved by western medicine. Men hate being poked or asked about their bodies; the prospect of a needle pricking them humbles even the gruffest or manliest of guys.
Men hate going to see doctors. I think this is because we think it undermines the feeling of awesome-ness we built for ourselves as teenagers. We like to think we are unstoppable. A doctor’s visit can put an end to doing the things we used to — or worse, remind us that our bodies are not what they used to be.
My father, for example, thinks he’s still 37. He’ll go on about the house hammering, climbing, fixing, and demolishing with the will and gusto of a wrecking crew. I’ve taken to following him around the house, offering a steady hand when he climbs a ladder and telling our handyman not to encourage him getting on the roof when a hurricane is approaching. Hearing the word “No” to something he wants to do causes my dad to throw a tantrum. When someone reminds him of his age, the accountant in him subtracts digits to what we otherwise know to be his real age.
My father expects the medicines he has to take to work within a day or two, even if an antibiotic regimen lasts about seven. He complains when symptoms return after not taking his drugs for more than a day or two. I can’t explain to my father that he now has what is termed a “condition.” This means that he now has to take certain medications daily the way a person with diabetes has to manage their condition, or a person with asthma has to keep an inhaler nearby in the event of an asthmatic attack. To my father, having a condition means one has given up, succumbed to, or been bested by something that should be gone in a day or two. When I bring up the subject, the hunter/warrior in him feels threatened, and he’ll lash out saying I have no idea what it is I am talking about. He’ll run to his doctors and gather a new set of prescription drugs he’ll forget to take. Only when his malady fails to go away will he come back, tell me to poke him with a few needles, and ask me (for the umpteenth time) what he can do about his pain.
This week was my turn to see my doctors. I like to schedule my physical exams at the start of the year hoping to get a clean bill of health that will last me six months, which is generally the time between visits my primary care physician likes to schedule for me.
I saw my therapist, PCP, lab technician, and X-Ray specialist. I was poked, prodded, pricked, measured, photographed, weighed, and asked a number of impertinent questions I don’t normally like to answer. Blood was drawn. An intern rummaged through my plumbing trying to find my sweet spot. Tests were scheduled. Over-the-counter medications were recommended, in addition to the number of herbal remedies I already take. A follow up appointment was scheduled, and I was recommended a number of doctors I could choose from to schedule an endo– and colonoscopy. Were it not for the promise of being anesthetized, I would have skipped on the last point.
The exam results have begun to trickle in, and I’m glad to find everything remains where it ought, the numbers do not show anything alarming, and my heart continues to beat steadily. My blood pressure continues to remain under hypertension warning levels, even while driving in South Florida traffic. For a Latino, my body temperature stalled at temperate, far short of muy caliente. My therapist thinks I’m no more crazy than the person texting in their car next to me at a red light. And the X-rays showed nothing that needs to be biopsied or removed.
I could use to lose ten pounds. My cholesterol rose 15 points, so I must do something about that. My triglycerides are borderline alarming. And my good cholesterol could use a boost. All things to work on.
I do not have to return to my doctor for another six months, which is good news because there are plenty other things I’d like to do instead — all of which are inappropriate for a man of a certain age…but I figure one last round won’t kill me. Or at least, I hope they won’t.