I had a physical this week. I didn’t even know people still went to the doctor for a “physical,” but my new G.P. (actually he’s an N.P — can an N.P. be a G.P.?) suggested a few months ago when I was there getting the new shingles vaccine that I make an appointment for a physical and I finally got around to it. Mostly because I wanted to talk to him about my chronic daily heartburn and, again, about my sleeplessness.
My N.P. is a nice young man, spends more time at the gym than he probably needs to, and has a big bushy auburn beard and a Scottish name. The last time I saw him we sort of had words — I’d gone in for the second of two shingles vaccine shots and found out when I got there that they didn’t have the shot because there was a shortage. I was short with him (“you could have called me to let me know — the only reason I’m here is for that shot”) and he was short with me (“you’re not the only one — literally all day long everyone is asking me about this shot”), but a few minutes later I apologized and then he apologized, neither of us had been having a good day. So now I feel like we’re close.
In case you’re wondering what a 21st century physical consists of, they don’t do the turn your head and cough thing any more, but they do, at least in the case of MSM (men who have sex with men), a Pap smear in your butt. I am not lying. It involves a tool that looks for all intents and purposes to be a bottlebrush. The HPV virus can cause cancer in men, too, and this test checks for cell irregularities. (TMI? I used to overshare regularly in my blog years ago, but I got out of the habit for whatever reasons. This is nothing.) He said, “you don’t have to do it today if you want to think about it, but I will ask you again.” I told him that if he was going to make me do it, I wanted to get it over with.
It was extremely unpleasant. Since I am in a monogamous marriage, I do not have to have it done again. This is why we fought so hard for gay marriage.
On the way out, I had blood drawn. I don’t have the results of the bloodwork yet, but I know he’s just going to tell me I have high cholesterol, and I’m going to say “I know.” And he’s going to say, “I’d like to start you on statin drugs,” and I’m going to say, “Mm, I don’t think I want to do that.” (Funny, just now as I’m writing I received an email from my doctor’s office telling me my LDL is in the high range (207) where they recommend statins to reduce it.)
I have gained 20 pounds in the last couple years, which I already knew because I weigh myself compulsively, but now it’s in the official record, thanks.
This summer has been stacked with anxiety and disappointment, and I’ve been depressed. Or I should say more depressed than usual — I would probably describe my baseline state as “kinda sad.” So my N.P. is glad I joined a gym (it’ll help with the depression and sleeplessness, too) and he said I should cut down on drinking, also to help with both the weight gain and sleeplessness. He also told me that, to help with the heartburn, instead of wine, which is very acidic — he said, “I can’t even drink rosé anymore, it upsets my stomach!” — that I should maybe have a martini or a vodka on the rocks with dinner. Don’t you wish you had my N.P.? Also for the heartburn he referred me to a gastroenterologist who will do an endoscopy. (My only experience of endoscopies is from a dear friend who has a pre-cancerous condition in his esophagus and has to monitor it closely and my father who recently had a severely inflamed esophagus caused by a hiatal hernia. So obviously I’m a big fan of the endoscopy.)
I do feel better, more upbeat and energetic, since I’ve been doing cardio exercise nearly every day since last week. They always tell you that’ll be the case, but I thought it was just a way to get you to do it. I’m not so weighed down by the lack of sleep, and my hips are not feeling as stiff as they had been recently.
He suggested I try melatonin for sleep. I’ve taken it the last 3 nights and noticed no difference, but I’ll stay with it for a while. He also prescribed Zantac for my heartburn, and that has helped dramatically the last 2 days. I’ve always somewhat superstitiously resisted any medication I have to take daily. It just feels like the beginning of something I don’t want to start. But I’ve been taking Zyrtec every day for a couple years now for my respiratory allergies, because it helps. I guess the distinction in my mind is whether or not the benefit of a drug is immediate and tangible. For example, I don’t want to start taking statin drugs for my cholesterol because the benefits are far less clear.
So that’s the state of my 58-year-old self. I honestly never thought I’d live this long, but life does seem to generally get better as it goes along, so I don’t mind.