Wednesday, January 18, 2006


The doctor will see you.....eventually

For the past few years, I have had to visit a cardiologist. Nothing wrong with my ticker, but there is a family history there, and it's a good thing to keep an eye on. Since my brother died five years ago from an unexpected heart attack, all my siblings have been going for checkups on a regular basis.

Many years before my brother's death, I thought I had some kind of heart problem. I noticed that many times that summer, I felt my heart skip a beat, which really freaked me out. I went to my regular doctor, and got fitted with one of those Holter monitors. Basically, I had a bunch of wires and electrodes stuck to my body which were hooked into a tape recorder that I had to wear for 24 hours. There were a number of other tests performed to try to determine what caused these skips. The mystery was finally solved when the doctor asked me a number of questions.

"Do you drink coffee?"
"Maybe 1 or 2 a week."
"Do you drink tea?"
"About the same."
"Do you drink a lot of Coke or Pepsi?"
"No, not really."
"Do you drink iced tea?"
"Oh. My. God."

That summer I drank more iced tea than any human being has a right to. I mean, it was bordering on a compulsion. It was nothing for me to have 3 or 4 cans a day. It went down easier than Monica Lewinski in the Oval Office. (rimshot, please)

So I made the decision to remove caffeine from my daily routine. On the occasions when I would normally have coffee, I had decaf. I drank caffeine free diet coke. I had decaffeinated or herbal tea. The skipping heartbeat disappeared. Excellent.

Years later, when I met my cardiologist for the first time, I had to do a stress test on the treadmill. I thought I was going to die! I have never been in good shape, and that day was certainly no different. I walked on the treadmill, and gradually, the machine would speed up and the incline would raise. I thought for sure the next thing I would hear is "CODE RED!!". It felt like my heart was going to bust through my ribs.

Even though I ran until I thought I was going to die (it probably lasted about 3 out of shape!), I would still say that the worst part of it was having my chest shaved with a dry razor so they could stick those damned pads on several places. I have learned a lot since then. Most of all, I have learned to take care of the shaving myself when I go in for a checkup. And so it was this week.

My appointment was for Monday morning (my day off), so on Sunday, I got the clippers out and buzzed down to stubble, and followed it with a proper shaving. Figuring that I hate to do a half-assed job (don't go there), I asked The Squeeze to do my back. Some of us guys are cursed with more than our fair share of body all the wrong places. If I had to name anything that my body resembles, I would say....Chewbacca. OK, maybe not that bad.

The Squeeze proceeded to use the clippers and then lather me up and shave my back while I stood in the bathtub. It seemed to take an awefully long time, so I asked if he was nearly done, and he replied, "Hey, it's a big job." Hmmmm....not sure how to take that. Not a great thing to say to someone with weight issues. But we had a good laugh about it. While showering after the shave, I noticed that the water seemed to bead off of me like water off a newly waxed car.

Monday morning arrived, and I made it to the cardiologist's office a bit early for the appointment - even after finding a parking space! The appointment was for 11:15. When I got there, there were at least a dozen people in the waiting room. It wasn't looking good. There are three doctors in that office, but averaging it out, that still leaves at least four people ahead of me. Since all of the chairs were taken, I wound up standing out in the hallway until about 12:45 when I informed the lady at the front desk that I needed to go out to feed the parking meter. Of course, she said "well, you're up next". So I said, "well, I've been waiting for over an hour and a half and I know I'll be in that room waiting another good chunk of time, so I'm sure I'll be able to make it to the meter and back before anyone misses me." Sure enough, I did. In fact, I still wound up sitting in the waiting room for about 10 or 15 minutes after I got back.

For the past month or so I have been stressing over this appointment because I thought the doctor would freak on me for not working out, and putting back on the weight I had lost. The last time I was there, I told him that I hadn't been on the treadmill because my knee was bothering me. Well, I still haven't been back on it, and I've gained back the weight I had lost when he saw me the time before that. I had made some very healthy changes in my life way back then. I was walking on the treadmill at home 45 minutes, twice a day, seven days a week. I had dropped about 35 pounds. I was feeling great. My cholesterol had dropped. One thing that freaked him out on my last visit was that my blood pressure was spectacular.

Well, again, my blood pressure is 110/78 which just astounds him. Sugar levels are good, cholesterol is ok (could be better though). I have decided to smarten up and get back into a routine of at least moderate exercise. Anything would be better than sitting here in front of the computer or planted on the couch watching TV. I have another appointment in August. So many things will be different by then. Not necessarily with my weight and exercise, but I hope that is the case, but by that time, that little baby of mine will be here if all goes well. And that is one huge reason to look after myself.

Hopefully, by the time of that next appointment, this itching from the stubble all over my chest and back will be gone too!

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