I walked into the doctor’s office a few days ago and announced:
“I have a brain tumour”.
The doctor looked up from reading my notes and, in a voice that I thought totally failed to reflect the seriousness of the situation, said:
“Oh, really? Why do you think that?”
And so, I told her, in glorious detail. All about that weird pain, just above the bump, near the base of my skull. On the right hand side. Go ahead, feel your head. You’ll see where I mean. She asked a few questions about random things like dizziness and blurred vision and disturbed sleep patterns, none of which applied to me, and then said:
“You don’t have a brain tumour.”
But what about that bump? And the pain? And now that she mentioned it, I did feel a bit dizzy. And sleepy. And was it just me or had everything suddenly gone slightly out of focus in the room?
She sighed, shook her head slightly and, in an overly patient voice, went on to explain that the bump is where the muscles attach your neck to your skull, and that it is an extremely common place for headaches, especially in cyclists, who tend to hold their heads in strange positions. She looked at my cycling helmet. Pointedly.
Undeterred, I then informed her that perhaps I didn’t have a brain tumour after all but that I was definitely suffering from lymphatic stress syndrome. I was completely certain of this because I had googled my symptoms and that’s what had popped up. From a reliable source. Somewhere in northern Australia.
She arched her eyebrows, which made a nice change from the sighing. And then she prodded, and poked and asked a few questions. And announced:
“You do not have lymphatic stress syndrome. Whatever that is.”
That came as a surprise.
So I asked her, if I didn’t have a tumour or a syndrome then what, exactly, was wrong with me?
And she said:
“Nothing. It’s just your age. You have to expect these sorts of things.”
“Are you seriously telling me that the only thing wrong with me is that I am old?” I said in a voice of total disbelief.
“No”, she replied. “You’re not old. You’re just…of a certain age”.
This from a woman whom I know for a fact was born the year before I was.
I sat there. Stunned. I had been prepared for bad news, but this was devastating. Not only was it totally unexpected but, worse yet, there didn’t seem to be a cure for it.
She was obviously used to wrecking such havoc in her patients’ lives, because she went on, as if nothing had happened, and decided that since I was there, she might as well update my notes.
So, she asked all about my lifestyle.
No, I don’t smoke. Yes, I do exercise. Yes, fruit, vegetables and I are well acquainted with each other, if not actually great pals.
And then she asked how many units of alcohol I drink per week.
“None”, I said.
She looked at me. She looked at my notes. She said:
“So, that’s 14 then. None above the recommended 14 per week”.
“No, that’s none. As in zero. As in I do not drink alcohol.”
She looked back down at my notes. And said:
“So, how long has this been going on then?”
“Since Tuesday…LAST Tuesday.”
She laughed. Seriously, she laughed. And made a note, although I couldn’t see what it said.
And then she asked me to hop on to the scale.
Apparently, I hadn’t been weighed in quite some time.
And so I hopped, as well as someone who had recently had a brain tumour and lymphatic syndrome could. She read the result, wrote down a number, consulted a chart and said:
“You need to lose some weight.”
“Really? How much?” I inquired.
She consulted her chart again, looked up and said:
And then we both laughed. I said that I would look like my mother on her 85th birthday if I lost 20 pounds. She said that I would probably wind up back in her office complaining of some weird disease that I had found on a Chinese website. And so, we settled on 10 pounds.
By which she really meant 5.
It was at that moment that I suddenly realised two very important things:
You should always have a doctor who is your own age and sex;
And, this being “Of a certain age” could have a lot going for it. Although, the jury is still out on that one.
I’ll let you know if I find out any more about it. But right now I have to go. I have a racquetball lesson coming up, given by a 71-year-old, and it’s always fun to get there early and watch him wiping the court with people one-third his age.
He obviously hasn’t heard about this ‘certain age’ concept yet.
And, I’m certainly not going to be the one to tell him.
Not Leo Tolstoy (aka Eileen Riley)