Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dr. Thirty Something

Up until now, I have been able to get by with yearly visits to my cardiologist who would do blood work and take my blood pressure and my gynecologist who would do the pap and mammogram and also take my blood pressure.  I also had a nurse who was very competent with triaging who worked in the school I worked at who was there every day of the school year.   With no medical concerns or complaints (thank you, God and maybe my genetics!),  I have had no need to visit a general practitioner who would do a breast exam, check my blood pressure and ask me a few questions, and so stopped years ago.  But there is more,  I probably really stopped going to a general doctor because of a nervous and maybe inept physician who very dramatically,  sent me rushing in an ambulance to the ER for a heart arrhythmia (yes, it was a complicated one but I clearly was not having a heart attack as I had had the irregular heart beat for several weeks and I later found out that is not so unique around menopause!).  That was several years ago.  In fact, my last visit to that medical group was so long ago I now have to make a written request for my medical records that are archived by a special company!

Of course, and duh, as we age so do our medical team members (which was initially shocking to me) and this is an adjustment I just don't like to make.  My beloved gynecologist died last year.  56 years old and she lost her battle with a rare cancer.  Then my cardiologist retired last year, as well, looking like he had a stroke the last time we met.   And, of course, I retired and so no longer have access to Dr. Nurse at my school.  My little medical team is no more.  Learning to embrace change and transition is my new personal goal.  And so just yesterday, in preparation for retirement and for our trip,  I finally went to meet a potential new doctor.  I had read up on her and she came recommended by a friend.  She's committed to preventative care and runs marathons (so she takes are of herself and others, which I like).  Actually, the friend was recommended by my cardiologist but seemed a little awkward using your friend as your doctor and so I choose to see her colleague.  I was ready to say, "Hello, yes, yes, but I don't really like you so I will try another doctor."  This is one great thing about being older and wiser.  I don't just accept what's in front of me.  I take the option of reviewing everything and if it doesn't feel right, I choose to look elsewhere.  But....she was smart and kind and calm and open to my questions and lists.  She was also very.......young.  I will call her Dr. Thirty Something.

As I left,  happy to have a new doctor to "case manage" me as I age and give me advice about my health (get a shingles vaccine she advised me because I am over 60),  but it was as an odd feeling looking at Dr. Thirty Something thinking, she might be tending to me on my death-bed (retirement has made me much more reflective about my mortality...and when did I start looking like my mother?), but then, again, at least she most likely won't die before me or retire in my lifetime!  

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Playing Hooky

Yesterday I went to lunch with a colleague who also retired this year.  She did the same job I did but in a different school district and with a different age of kids.  Driving to meet up with her in a town nearby, I kept thinking that something was missing, something wasn't right, that I was going to get caught!  I felt like I was playing hooky from school.  And then when we sat down for lunch we started reminiscing, smiling and remembering kids who would run out of the classroom when the fire alarm rang yelling, "Save me, save me!!!" Or the kids who would burst into my room like a whirling dervish with a wide-eyed paraprofessional hot on their heels and who I'd have to clear the room for ("Excuse me, Mrs. Green, you might want to go work with Jennifer elsewhere right now.") as I turned down the lights, and settled the child next to the aquarium in the quiet corner with a book to calm down.  As we went on with these really great and warm memories, I started to miss my work, the kids, and wondered if I had retired too early.  My friend and I worried/wondered about how certain kids would do (did the staff remember what notes we made, comments we made about a particular student?  did they care?)  and reflected on how many years we had done our work (and done a good job) and the fact that now, poof, all our expertise and experience was no longer used.  And just as I was starting to really miss my work my friend took a deep breath and said, "But I don't miss the chaos of scheduling, the struggle to get some teachers to understand who kids with challenges really are, the consuming nature of that kind of work, the unending paperwork and computer data entry........"  And, I no longer felt like I was playing hooky.  I felt like I had spent many years in the work I was meant to do and happily moving on!

Monday, August 1, 2016

UpKeep of the Newly Retired

Me in NYC with brother - trying on "products"

Last night I had to laugh as I congratulated myself for completing every task on my evening To-Do-Before-Bed list.  Frequently, and knowing better, I just plop into bed.  So as I settled under the covers last night, knowing that I had "checked" off every item on that list, I was amused and not a little proud of myself.

What's on that upkeep list, you ask?  Well, first, I swallowed (choked down?) the entire mountain of pills I lay out each day and don't always take because it's an intimidating number of caplets and softgels not easily consumed in even two handfuls.  In fact I can be a bit of a gagger when it comes to pills.  "No problem," I tell my granddaughter, " just put a few into your mouth, take a gulp of water, relax and swallow."  I know this routine well because that's what I do every time I ingest that gag-worthy pile of pills.  I take all these pills in hopes of ensuring a healthy entrance into retirement and onto the next 33 years.  I write "33 years" because our financial planner recently wrote 95 as my "termination" date on some paperwork related to our investments.  Termination date?  What if I don't want to die in 2049?  I guess that's how the accountants, attorneys and number people view death in the financial world, terminated like the T-800 cyborg as he melts into the giant fiery, molten abyss in the 1984 syfy movie Terminator.  You know,  the movie where Schwarzenegger says in a deep and foreboding voice dripping with a thick German accent, "I'll be back."  Wait, that was T2 (Terminator 2...bit of a syfy fan,  I am).  In the 1984 movie he was crushed to death.  Terminated, crushed, either way I am supposed to be gone from this earth in 33 years according to my financial planner.  And 95?  I'll take that but hoping it's a healthy skiding-to-the-end 95 and that my husband is by my side although his "termination" or expiration date was listed as 90.  He tells me, in response to hearing his life is predicted to end at 90, "We're doing a Thelma and Louise at some point so there won't be one of us left to mourn the other!"  He's such a romantic.  Just the thought of us, Rusty and Flo, rolling our battery-powered wheelchairs over the nearest cliff makes my heart flutter...

Anyway, back to the boatload of anti-aging supplements, what makes me laugh is the shear number of pills I take (or at least lay out to take), and that none of them are prescription, thankfully not yet (my friend says how lucky I am to not have liver, heart, bone, or some other health problem I need a pill for but I tell her, hey, I had all the mental health struggles in my family's biology so we are even).  Here's the impressive list of supplements/spices/oils I lay out each day in hope of taking:   CoQ10; Multi For Her +50; Triple Omega 3-6-9 (flax, fish, and borage (?) oil); low dose safety coated aspirin; OsCal Extra D3 calcium supplement; advanced and double strength glucosamine chondroitin with calcium and vitamin D3; turmeric curcumin with Bioperine (?).  Just writing that list makes me wonder what the hell am I really taking...Bioprene (just looked that one up - thermoplastic tubing? or I am hoping, what's added to my turmeric curcumin is the other pepper fruit extract which I know makes tumeric more "bioavailable")!  This whole concoction is supposed to support my aging bones, my aging immune system, and my aging cardiovascular system.  I hope so.  I am counting on this.

Next on my list is the events that happen in the bathroom prior to bed.  The cleaning events.  And, so I went upstairs and tended my teeth by whitening them, flossing them, brushing them, and  then by swishing around non-alcohol mouthwash (my frizzy-haired dental assistant tells me, "Alcoholic mouthwash dries your gums out.").  I finish this little regime by using those tiny green scrubbing brushes to dislodge any lingering piece of meat, onion or mushroom that could still be hiding out between my teeth.  Although none of this will help with the fact that my aging capped teeth (some of those caps are 30 years old at this point) will soon need to be re-capped because they are, as the dentist put it, "Just old," I am counting on this nightly dental plan to at least help keep my gums healthy ("Your gums are slightly receding but then you are older," my non frizzy-haired dental hygenist casually commented the last time she dug and scraped around in my mouth).  I am also thinking, this should keep me cavity free. 

Done with teeth I move onto my aging and wrinkled  (wow, what's going on around those eyes I wonder as I look in the mirror?) face.  Using Neutrogena cleansing towelettes to remove my makeup  (with lavender in it to promote quality sleep....."night calming" it's advertised as....oh and by the way, Prevention magazine calls lavender the sweet scent of sleep! And who knew that Latin derivation of lavender is "to wash" and that the University of Maryland Medical Center endorses lavender because "research confirms" that lavender can have a soothing, calming, sedative (?) effect).  So, it turns out these little wash cloths I have been using at night not only rid my pores of grime but they apparently sedate me, as well.   Maybe that's why I have been sleeping so soundly ever since retiring?  Anyway, next I smeared on a grainy white mask (from an expensive cosmetics company my brother who looks 40 at 52 recommended to me, Rodan + Fields REDEFINE) all over my cheeks, forehead, neck.  This has to sit and "harden" on my face for a bit before being washed off and so I walked into the bedroom where my husband was getting ready for sleep (he takes off his pants and shirt and lays down), "You look like an aborigine with that stuff on your face and your hair all wild. You should look in the mirror and take a picture of that!"  Um, thanks, husband.  After 8 minutes I returned to the bathroom, washed off the aboriginal facial, and slathered on a nightly (well, supposed to be nightly!) and inexpensive, drug store alpha hydroxy and aloe anti-wrinkle cream (my brother would gasp at my second-rate night cream), checked for loose chin hairs (yeah, when the aesthetician said she noticed a long hair coming out of my chin at my last visit and wanted to know if she should pull it, I wanted to say, no, really, I was hoping another one would grow so I could braid them!).

Done with the head, my nightly regime is still not complete until I hop into bed and, laying there, cream my feet with a thick foot cream (this has to be the last thing on my list to do because if I do it before crawling under the bed covers, I have to creep ever so carefully across our bedroom hardwood floors so as to no feel like I'm riding a banana peel as I slip my way across the room from bathroom to bed).  I have few pet peeves but for some weird reason I hate nothing more than those hideous, unattended cracked heels you can see on some women as they break out their summer sandals (don't they even look before they wear?) and so thick foot cream goes on those little feet of mine (hey, what's that old-lady bump on my right big toe?)  right before I close my eyes.

Pilled, flossed, brushed, washed, and creamed....nighttime upkeep complete.  Check, check.