As we get older, we also have to worry about things that can kill us, especially problems like cancer, organ failure, or a heart condition.
So when a doctor takes a piece of my body out for a lab examination, I tend to worry about what the report might say. I’ve had seven places where surgeons have removed skin cancer in the last two years: Most were basil cells, which is not a problem when found and removed soon enough, but some others were melanomas which can cause problems. Fortunately, none of those cancers had spread.
Last week, a surgeon at Carilion/Roanoke Memorial, sliced out five polyps from my colon, three “descending’ and two “flat,” which they say are more dangerous. On Wednesday, the word came in — negative on all five plus a piece of tissue where another flat one was found in an earlier colonoscopy.
I had been on an “every six months” colonoscopy schedule, but the results now say I won’t need another for three more years.
That’s good news. At my age, three years is a lifetime.
But the nurse who checked my heart before the procedure in Roanoke last Thursday said what she heard was “not right,” so they ordered up an EKG. The readout from it suggested an irregular heartbeat that could be a sign of “AF,” Atrial fibration.
A follow-up EKG this week found a regular heartbeat. A random murmur? My heart was checked earlier this year with both a sonogram and an EKG. I haven’t had my symptoms of a heart condition.
I do suffer a lot of aches and pains in a body that has been abused a lot over the past seven decades. A helicopter crash 40+ years ago broke a lot of bones. Crashing my Mustang into a rock wall late one night broke more. So did a motorcycle-cow encounter in 2012. It requires 300-400 mg of Tramadol to keep the pain at a manageable level.
When I wake up each morning, it takes the vision of my right eye 30-90 seconds to snap into focus because the plastic eye socket the plastic surgeon had to fashion after the motorcycle wreck is not quite level with the left eye and my brain has to recalculate to correct the sync of the eyes.
I walk with a limp because my right leg is now about three-quarters of an inch shorter than my left because of the pins, braces, and screws it took to rebuild it. I can’t run well, but I can walk.
After two sets of injuries 44 years apart that should have killed me, I left hospitals bent, but not broken. When I checked out of Carilion on Christmas Eve of 2012, the doctor in charge wrote a “walking miracle” on my final chart.
I’ve kept alcoholism from more than 30 years of drinking at bay for 26 years, four months, and 16 years. Wife Amy says I’m on at least 16 of my nine lives. I’m not a good man. I have hurt too many people and did too many stupid, insensitive things in my life, but I’ve been a lucky one.
So will an erratic heart finally bring me down? I hope not. To be safe, I will be going to a cardiologist for a full workup in the next couple of weeks.
They call this time in our lives “the golden years.” Whoever coined that cliche had a sick sense of humor.