Clearly, It’s Time To Break Up With My Doctor. (And Also Learn How To Dye My Hair.)
Last Friday my doctor was surprised to see me.
Not only because I’m now 30 and my cervix is apparently so old that it no longer requires a yearly examination, but also because, aside from the time I had that spider bite on my butt, I’ve pretty much never been there for anything else.
(I’m sorry I published the word “cervix” so early in the morning, but I felt that since we’re talking about medical kind of stuff, the word “vag” was too crass for the context. And really. Something like fifty-percent of us have a cervix, so let’s just all move on.)
So he was surprised to see me because I rarely get sick, and when I do, I’m more of a self-medicate-for-a-week-or-two-until-this-goes-away kind of person than a let’s-get-the-official-okay-for-use-of-perscription-drugs kind of person. To me, going to the doctor is usually even more of a hassle than… well… getting sick.
So we don’t see each other too often, the Doc and I, and usually he’s fumbling around somewhere below the waistline not trying to make awkward small talk (which is one reason I’m going to be really sad to have to get a new doctor when we move — probably one who wants to talk about the weather or football while he’s lubing up his plastic gloves), and he was surprised to see that I was there for a cough. A cough! Visiting the doctor for a cough is something usually reserved for worried mothers of small children — not actual adults who don’t cringe when swallowing Nyquil and know how to properly wash their hands. But after two weeks of a cold, another two weeks of straight-up hacking, and at least one full week of Nyquil-induced sleep, I knew I needed an intervention.
Even if it meant going to The Doctor.
Before I even saw the doctor, of course, there was the pre-examination done by a very proficient nurse. Oh, right. The scale. With my shoes on. Why do I always forget to wear sandals to the doctor so I can casually slip them off? I mean, I’m not ashamed of my weight. Not in the slightest. But I’d like it to be accurate for their records, you see. I don’t want them to mistake the additional weight from my two-pound clunky boots to mean I’m lying when I tell them that I’m working out three times a week. (Which, coincidentally, I did lie this time because — you know — bronchial infection.)
“ONE TWENTY-FOUR!” the nurse shouts while she glances at the digital output.
“Um… you mean one twenty point four,” I say with a meek smile. “I’ve been working out.”
She rolls her eyes.
Next up? A painfully detailed survey about my current health, prescription medications, a depression risk questionnaire (like I’d tell them), and of course, the alcohol use question, which has morphed from requiring a simple “on occasion” answer to a detailed narrowing down of how many alcoholic beverages I consume per week. I forced myself to answer honestly — usually one — sometimes two — per day, and made up my mind right there that it was time for a detox.
(Today is day 5, for what it’s worth.)
When The Doc finally showed up, I felt beaten. Exposed. Give me that depression survey back! I wanted to shout. I need a re-do!
But he smiled, and because he’s pretty much the nicest guy on the planet, I relaxed. He’d just returned from a three-week hiking trip with his son in Colorado, and he was clearly rejuvenated. Back when I actually needed to see him once a year, we’d have a pre-pap catch-up session on our most recent travel adventures — mine usually involving road trips and sleeping on friends’ couches, and his involving extreme long-distance hikes and sub-zero sleeping bags — and today was no exception. Knowing how badly I’ve been wanting to live overseas, he perked up when I told him we’d gotten orders, and gave the appropriate condolences when I gave him the news it wasn’t happening.
Then things got serious.
“It’s good you came in for the cough,” he said, holding the stethoscope to my back as I took a deep breath and tried not to hack. “Especially if it’s been going on for four weeks. Us older folks have to watch these things a little more closely.”
Us older folks?
Was my doctor, who’s probably close to three decades older than me, lumping me into his age bracket? I mean, I know I started seeing him when I was twenty-four. But suddenly I’m old?
“I can recommend a great cane maker.”
And know this. I’m no ageist. In fact, some of my closest friends are a decade older than me, and I’ve always been a firm believer that youth, in so many important ways, is as much of a state of mind as a state of body. Just look at my grandma. She’s the youngest person I know.
One is my grandma and the other is my sister. But I’m not going to tell you which is which.
And I’d like to think that I handled turning thirty pretty well — that this getting older business hasn’t scared me too much — but. I was at the doctor for a cough. And at least two of my hairs have turned gray. And sometimes my hip hurts for no apparent reason and the other day I yelled at a teenage driver in my neighborhood to slow down.
Truth be told, he hit a nerve. A small nerve, since if I have to be older, I want to be older like him. Or my grandma. But it was still a nerve.
Suddenly I wanted a drink.
“Um. I’m one of the older folks?” I stammered.
“Well,” he laughed nervously, “what I meant was that as we get older, it’s easy to brush these things off, but sometimes they can be quite serious.”
“And I didn’t mean old like old. Just older than when you first started coming here.”
“And if I’m going to be honest, your cervix looks like it hasn’t aged a day.”
Just kidding. He didn’t say that. But if he had, I’m not gonna lie.
It would have made me feel better.
Going to the doctor was still worth it, though.
At least now my cough syrup has codeine.
*It’s important to note that I do not actually advocate using cough syrup and pharmaceutical drugs for any use other than which they’re intended. Nor am I doing that myself. But this picture does have me seriously contemplating drinking my syrup on ice from now on.