I’m getting older. I hurt more. I creak more. My ankles sound like they’re each having their own personal fireworks display every single morning when I walk downstairs to feed the dog.
He’s getting old, too. We commiserate. “Another gray hair?” I tease.
“Pot, meet kettle,” he’d respond if he could. Touché, Bear.
Each day brings a new malady, depending on what I eat, how I exercise, how much sleep I get, or if I have one too many glasses of wine. My liver has given up having even a shred of compassion for my unintelligence.
And for some reason, my allergies whalloped me very hard this year. I can tolerate almost anything, but for some reason, I’m highly allergic to ash trees. Once March 15 hits in St. Louis, I resign myself to removing my contact lenses and exchange them for my glasses for the better part of two months while the ash trees secrete enough pollen to choke an elephant.
But this year, it was like the trees were on crack. For a good six weeks, my eyes gooped like they never have before. Allergy drops were useless. There would be no respite. I would have to simply ride it out. Stupid ash trees.
Usually around the Ides of May, this pollenatic blood-letting stops, and I can go back to my normal routine, and this year was no exception. After the ash-pollen count came up as negligible, I dumped my glasses for my lenses. Welcome back, pals.
The next morning, it felt like my eyeballs were literally on fire. I hobbled from my bed to the mirror, and after turning on the lights, came face to face with what looked like cherries in a pile of snow. They were blood red. I had put my lenses in a few days too soon. Shit.
So I took them out for four days while my eyes calmed down, and once they were some semblance of white again (without the use of Clear Eyes), I popped them back in again.
An hour later, my eyeballs burst into flames, and a bottle’s worth of eye-drops couldn’t make a dent. I was soul-crushed. “I’m going to have to wear my glasses for the rest of my life,” I lamented to my wife.
“Why don’t you have your eyes checked out?” Stephanie asked.
“Because I’m just getting old and I have to come to grips with these things. I can’t do what I used to do,” I said.
See: movie theater butter. I found out my colon was allergic (the hard way) that time I took my boys to go see the Smurf film.
“You should have them looked at, anyway,” said Stephanie.
Three days later, I begrudgingly walked into my local Clarkson Eye Care and asked to make an appointment with the doctor. As it happened, the doc had an opening at that moment. Ten minutes later, I discovered that while I was, indeed, getting old, this was not the root of my problem. I had a mild eye infection. Ten days of steroid drops and a fresh pair of contact lenses later, I got my ocular life back.
Must. Never. Question. My. Wife. Again. Ever.
When she got home that night and I told her my news, she said, “You know, your body usually lets you know when there is something wrong.” And then she told me the most amazing example of this I’ve ever heard.
Steph knew a woman who had Type II “Diabeetus.” She had gastric bypass, she lost a lot of weight, and the Type II went away. Six months later, during a routine check-up, her disease came back. Her main physician, who really didn’t have a good theory as to why, chalked it up to a medical anomaly. “I guess sometimes things like this happen.”
But a young physician in the room thought, “This disease does not just show up and leave when it wants to.” So he ran more tests, and they discovered the cause.
Pancreatic cancer. Stage 1.
Oddly, pancreatic cancer, when caught early, is one of the easiest to treat. The problem is that it’s usually asymptomatic… meaning you could have it and you’d never know it until you start showing symptoms, which usually means it’s stage 4.
But this lady’s body told her there was something askew. It was subtle, but it was unmistakable.
And it saved her life.
As I look back at my own journey with cancer, my body was all but screaming at me, “Hey, buddy! Somethings wrong here! Yoo hoo! Hey, are you listening, jerkhole?!”
It told me fifty ways to Sunday that there was something wrong, and I’ve learned through my recent optometric infirmity that it continues to do so. From now on, I need to listen to my body to discern what it’s really trying to tell me. My ankles going snap-crackle-pop walking down the stairs is one thing; bleeding eyeballs is quite another.
I will try to accept the expected, but listen to the unexpected. And if my mind tries to justify a malady with the adage, “I’m just getting older,” I will try not to listen. My body is telling me something for a reason. Probably a good idea not to piss it off.