Monday, September 23, 2013

The doctor says...

I'm sitting in a house that smells like bacon. Normally, that would make for a spectacular morning--locally cured bacon from a pig farm in the western part of the state? Hell yeah. But, I got some disturbing news.

Let me start by admitting I haven't written much this summer because I haven't had much to say. With the ruptured disc--and it is confirmed by the way. The jelly doughnut has left the building. I repeat. We have a ruptured disc--I can't do much. The nefarious part is that I feel fine when I exercise on the elliptical or when I go outside for a walk/run. But, at the end of the day or sometimes the next morning, it feels like I got 16 flu shots and a tetanus shot for good measure in my left arm. Is it livable? Sure. Is it annoying? Absolutely. I tend to squirm like a four-year-old who refuses to use the restroom.

You know what didn't help my situation? Taking a "nap" in the moss outside my friend's cottage last week after a long night of Manhattans and weird shots that required two glasses and tasted kind of like apple cider but not really. When I got out of the taxi (See how I did that? I mentioned that nobody drove. You like that?), I started walking backwards and couldn't stop--whaat is happening.... It was just one of those nights. I'd like to blame it on the fact that I saw a former boyfriend/fiance--someone I hadn't seen up close in 25 years--and I was feeling overwhelmed and nostalgic, but the truth is, I was just having a good time while holding my stomach in, maintaining excellent posture, and pretending I didn't see the former boyfriend/fiance I hadn't seen up close in 25 years. The hangover I received after such a night was trumped by the ruptured disc because as it turns out, mossy earth isn't the best place for sleeping. Noted.

Or, I may have had too much to drink because I met with my PCP (that's primary care physician, not angel dust, which is how I interpret it every time I see it, which is disturbing to read in all the pamphlets and wall flyers about good health while I sit on the examining table with that awful restaurant paper under my legs in an ill-fitting johnny and remembering my former boyfriend/fiance is named John and it's very likely I will see him tonight. No, it didn't bother me at all seeing him. No, that's ridiculous.

Back to the PCP. (Ha! That's what the junky said!) The other day, prior to meeting up with friends and having the best night ever I swear to god, I met with my PCP to hear the results on some standard, annual exam blood tests. You know, the cholesterol, sugar, heart attack numbers. The numbers were so bad, I kid you not, the doctor tried to make me feel better by telling me I definitely don't have diabetes. That was the good news.

Having bad numbers like that is embarrassing to me. It says, "You don't work out enough (I don't) and you eat crappy food (I do)." It's hereditary in my family to have hypertension and bad cholesterol, heart attacks and stroke and autoimmune disorders, and we're all pretty much functioning alcoholics, and as much as I'd like to lean on that, I need to be held accountable. I make bad food decisions. Like, eating a pile of locally cured bacon from a farmer in the western foothills (which I repeat I can smell right now but I didn't have any and I'm certain Groom didn't either). Just because it's local, that doesn't mean it's healthy. I know this. I've always known this. But, that little voice in my head kept saying, "At least it isn't processed crap coming out of a box!"

I'm going to admit something and I can't believe it. The doctor did one of those heart healthy or cardiovascular risk tests on me. I'm guessing they take your numbers and put them into some crazy program and a risk number pops out. It's a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being "look at the adorable newborn baby," 5 being "fella, you might want to take a few walks around the block," and 10 being James Gandolfini. (Too soon?)

I'm a 9.1.

Oh my god I can't believe I'm admitting that. And, no, that doesn't give you license to reprimand me when you see me grab a small piece of cheese when I'm feeling a bit peckish, the same way it's rude to reprimand a Mormon for drinking alcohol or a Jew for eating shrimp or a Catholic for eating meat on Friday. As a former Catholic with a current looming heart condition, I now have the urge to eat steak frites every Friday from now until I have the stroke.

So, things are changing around here. I have to take cholesterol medication, but it's not a life-long med sentence if I take better care of myself. Even though I have that weird feeling of middle-aged mortality, the point here is that I'm avoiding mortality, not staring down the barrel of mortality.

On this medication, I might add, I'm not supposed to eat grapefruit--it interferes with the something to do with the something that clears your arteries or something? That's not even a burden. I like grapefruit but I won't miss that bitter sour fruit. The other thing I need to avoid is limes, or so the doctor said. That caused me great concern.

"How much lime?"

"Well, I doubt you eat enough lime for it to be a problem."

I paused again. "Yeaaaa...but how much lime?"


"In the interest of full disclosure, doctor, I will tell you the only thing that makes my back and arm pain go away is tequila."

"And you drink that with limes. Right. How much tequila?"

"Enough for me to be concerned about limes."

"As much as I'd like to prescribe tequila to my patients with chronic pain, you really shouldn't be treating pain with booze," the doctor said to the Irish Catholic girl who was about to see a former boyfriend/fiance she hadn't seen in 25 years and who she was remembering as being very size-ist and judgmental.

Moving on to food, the lovely doctor recommended I go vegan. It took him, literally, half a second to read my face and change course. "Maybe you could try the Mediterranean Diet."

"Is that the olive oil diet? I'm in."

This week I've dedicated some time to researching heart-healthy diets. I've seen materials on the China Study, which is interesting, but I'm really not a plant-based eater and I know I can't change my lifestyle like that. The Med Diet seems to fit nicely. Basically, fruit, vegetables, good grains, and maybe some fish or chicken. I can get behind that. I can avoid animal-based products but I can't remove them from my diet altogether. You know how I quit smoking? I never quit. If I want one, I can have one. And, guess what? I don't. (Well, I do sometimes. I had a few the other night when I was not thinking about that former boyfriend/fiance and not thinking about how I'm basically turning into a solid because I love to eat cheese so much.)

Today, as I mentioned, I woke up in a house that smells of bacon. The fridge is packed with yummy cheese and butter and sausage and the aforementioned bacon and eggs and frozen Snickers bars and cookies and homemade apple pie.

As I dumped some fat-free plain yogurt into a bowl, peeled a banana, and sprinkled some granola with honey on top, I reminded myself that if I want to eat all those yummy things ever again, I have to get this under control first. I've never been goal-oriented, always deadline-oriented. This nebulous sense of having to someday get things under control does nothing for me. Knowing my blood will be tested on November 14 and I will be held accountable to the man with the clipboard on November 21 is enough incentive. I won't be embarrassed like that again.

As for exercise? It's a bit of a roadblock with this back problem. I have a consult with a neurosurgeon this week and I'll discover whether a Cortisone shot will ease the pain; I'll find out whether working through the pain will make things worse; and just maybe I'll walk away with some ideas for ways to keep up the exercise without aggravating an already aggravated situation.

For now though? It's the bacon that's aggravating me. Who sneaked into the house and fried up a pound of bacon last night? Wait. Am I having a stroke right now? Do you smell oranges?

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