March 9, 2021 – “At least you have your health.”

There was a common phrase that ‘older’ people used when I was much younger. I didn’t understand why it was so popular until I was in the thick of my own (physical) health issues. The phrase? “At least you have your health.” It used to really irk me because it seemed dismissive, kind of like, “It could always be worse.” It also didn’t appear to take into account mental health because that’s been a struggle I’ve had for many years and unless I actually share it with people, most wouldn’t have a clue. I remember conversations I’ve had with folks of advanced years, when I would complain about feeling overwhelmed for assorted reasons, lack of money, lack of support, or whatever else was troubling me at the time. The odds were, if they were going to respond with a pat answer, 9 times out of 10 it would be, “At least you have your health.” Ack! It used to frustrate me to no end! Instead of what I yearned to hear, something to the effect of, “I’m sorry to hear that. Keep the faith. Eventually, things will get better,” I’d get the ol’ health quote which felt much like, “Too bad, so sad,” or, “What are you b*tching about?”

Now, that I’m ‘old’, I finally understand the meaning behind the quote. Although, if you ask any of my ‘older’ friends, I’m still quite young. I guess a more accurate portrayal of myself would be to say I’m a middle-aged woman with an ‘old’ brain, because even though I’m 53, I feel like I’m 103. Anyway, yes, I ‘get it’ now! Why? What I have discovered is that once your health goes, life is never quite the same. In my case, it started out with my thyroid. After years of pushing myself physically to the limit, I think it finally had enough and said, “I give!!” If anything is going to go a little haywire, fortunately (for the most part), fixing a thyroid issue is relatively easy. It’s some bloodwork and medication, and occasional tests to ensure the medication is keeping things within the ‘normal range’. One pill with breakfast is definitely doable. No problem, I can handle that! A few years later, my body decided to throw me another curveball. I became aware of this new ailment when I would be sitting perfectly still and my face would suddenly turn bright red (and I was years away from menopause at the time).

A visit to the doctor helped to solve the mystery! As it turns out, I had suddenly and unexpectedly developed high blood pressure. Yay! Life had become slightly more complicated but if I had to choose between IBS, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure (HBP), I wouldn’t hesitate to pick HBP (not to be confused with HPV). It’s ok, honestly. The way I looked at it, my thyroid pill now had a ‘friend’ to accompany it as it traveled from my mouth, down my esophagus, and into my belly. We all need ‘friends’, right? Healthwise, aside from my emotional health, things had basically stabilized. Two pills with breakfast and everything was a-ok. Well, that was up until my back decided that it had also had enough. I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that I can nearly pinpoint exactly what caused it. I am all but certain it’s the 2 sheets of 12 foot sheetrock that I helped my husband carry down the stairs and into the basement (for yet another remodel) that did the trick. I’ll tell you, after suffering from it for years, nothing quite compares to back pain.

Nothing is more effective at stopping a person dead in their tracks than a ‘bad back’. I didn’t realize how much I took mine for granted until I injured it permanently and have to continually go in for adjustments at the chiropractor’s office. Backs are involved in nearly every movement we make, even when we are not necessarily ‘moving’. Back pain can make the simple act of breathing a painful and traumatic experience. Imagine how it must feel to sit or stand or walk if breathing hurts? Not fun! I can get about 3 hours of work done before mine says, “Enough already!” It sucks. Yesterday, however, I cleaned up a bunch of pine needles in my yard (for the 100th time) and within an hour, I had to ‘pack it up’. I couldn’t believe it! One hour of some crouching and bending and lifting and I have to throw in the towel? Give me a break!! It’s no wonder I feel 103. By the way, I just have to share that while I was cleaning up the pine needles, I noticed an unusual mound of rocks.

A mound of rocks doesn’t seem that unusual, does it? Hang on. I also have to add that my dog was staying particularly close to me at the time and watching every move I made. I thought she was just being super cuddly until I decided to ‘disturb’ the mound of rocks. It was then that a fluffy tail and a foot emerged. Oh, crap! The reason for the recent population decline in squirrels suddenly made sense. My dog didn’t seem too happy about her ‘find’ being exposed so once I got out of the way, she got busy pushing a bunch of gravel (with her nose) back onto the mound until the foot and tail were completely covered again. I really hope she wasn’t responsible for the squirrel’s demise but if she was, I wouldn’t be surprised. Sorry, I have a tendency to get off track. Anyway, where was I? That’s right, before I started discussing the burial mound, I was talking about how I only got in about an hour’s worth of work yesterday before my back gave out. Fortunately, after a decent night’s rest, it felt pretty decent. Unfortunately, I still had a lot more to do!

Today’s schedule of activities included trimming the huge bush next to the house before all the leaves start to emerge, finish painting the trim in the bathroom, fix the dog bed, remove all of the dog hair from the chairs I want to donate, prepare and make dinner, make my mom a card on the computer for her birthday, finish my ‘buskers dancing’ painting, and sweep all the hardwood floors. Because I know myself fairly well, I knocked out the dinner prep first. It’s a good thing I did because after trimming all of the limbs on the bush (which was taller than our house), my back was screaming and I had almost no upper body strength left. I only worked for a little over an hour and I was so weak afterward that I could hardly lift my arms. What the heck?! This is a new and unsettling development that I’m not happy about at all. I know the doctor mentioned that the steroids I take to prevent rejection will affect my muscles but this is ridiculous! When I lifted up the salt shaker, I nearly dropped it! Hey Universe, just an FYI, I did not sign up for this!!

Here’s the thing, I understand that once I had my transplant that life would change significantly. I knew my days of ‘two pills with breakfast’ was a thing of the past. That’s fine, I have come to accept it. What I’m not fine with is ‘muscle wasting and weakness’, a side effect of Prednisone (which I’m required to take for the rest of my life). I could live with a ‘bad back’ and everything it entails but this is too much! What is the lesson I am to take from this? Ok, ok, I finally understand the phrase, “At least you have your health.” It’s pretty obvious that once it’s gone, life will drastically change (for the worse). What more do you want, Universe? I am doing everything I can to maintain what I currently have going for me. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t eat sweets. I walk 4-5 miles every other day. If you expect me to give up pizza and burgers and fried chicken, we’re going to have a serious fight on our hands! I’ve got to have something to look forward to because I’ve nearly watched all 6 seasons of ‘Community’ and I have nothing else in my queue.

I just thought of another phrase that might help me gain some perspective (or comfort), “Misery loves company.” It came to mind when I thought about the state my husband is currently in, which is ‘miserable’. While he was maneuvering the washing machine out of the laundry room and into the garage (in order to repair it), he tweaked his back. As a result, he’s been laid up for the last few days (and refuses to seek treatment). Grr! I guess if I were to put a positive spin on the situation, I can find some ‘good’ in all of this. The main thing I ‘take away’ from the situation is that I don’t feel as guilty about not contributing as much when he’s parked on the couch for hours at a time. Usually he’s working on something (installing tile, making bird houses, repairing appliances, cleaning out the gutters, reroofing the shed, etc.), and I feel like a bum when I’m not exerting as much effort as he is. So I do have to admit that it’s refreshing to have this time to just chill out and be TV buddies for a while. It is a nice change (and my back doesn’t mind at all)!

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