Aging Semi-Gracefully

You know you’re getting older most days just looking in the mirror. More wrinkles, gray hair, and things sagging that once were firm.

The gray hair has been there since I was a teen. My Gramma went white when she was in her 20’s and no one ever remembered her with darker hair. I have had my hair every color possible because why not? My biggest personal indulgence is my monthly hair salon visit. A natural brunette, I’ve gone blonde with pink highlights to help hide the white roots. You know you’re getting older when the few stray dark chin hairs you used to pluck out have turned white.

I was blessed with good genes as far as wrinkles go. It wasn’t until I turned 60 that wrinkles really started to catch up with me. I’ve been blessed not to have looked my age. Once the youngest in my office (I was 19 when I started my very first job, a temp job at a bank), I am now the old broad, the oldest one in my department. You know you’re getting older when you’ve been tasked with training (multiple) people. I spend a good portion of my day imparting my knowledge to others. After all I’m not going to be doing this forever.

I was never a star athlete or much of a fitness nut. I was fit enough in my 30’s to join a gym and work out every day at lunch time. Now I find myself working in the very same building with free access to the very same gym. I’m 60. I know I’m not dead, but I have zero interest in jumping around in an aerobics class as I once did. I could walk a treadmill or ride a stationary bike, but the things that once worked well enough for that no longer cooperate as they once did. You know you’re getting older when you add your name to the list of people in need of assistance during a fire drill.

I fell down the stairs a number of years ago and I have a knee that’s had physical therapy. It refuses to cooperate and swells up every so often. It buckles when I go down stairs. I have Achilles’ tendons with calcium deposits and a bum ankle from spraining it twice in my youth. I work on the 19th floor now. Walking down all of those stairs for a fire drill isn’t an option for me. If I don’t have to, I’m not going to. Period. Hell, yes, add me to the list. You know you’re getting older when your pride doesn’t hold you back from asking for help.

Yes, age has its benefits. I no longer care what others think nor do I walk around worrying about what they might be saying about me. Nope. I wear leggings, capris or yoga pants. No more tight waistbands for me. I remember lying down to zip up snug-fitting jeans and then looking damned good in them. I also got gas cramps and itchy grooves dug into my belly. Now I wear baggy, triple x sized t-shirts. I’m not that fat. I just don’t like anything tight or clinging. I wear flats 24/7. I used to stuff my feet into spiked heels, and I’m 5’9”. Now I wear sneakers to work, and I wear slacks and baggy blouses. I used to wear business suits, stockings and color matched high heels. I dressed for success. Did I ever succeed? Nope. So now I’m comfortable. You know you’re getting older when comfort comes before fashion.

I’ve reached the age where I can eat off of the 55 Plus menu or do the early bird specials. Do I? Nope. I’m not quite ready for that level of senior citizen label. I probably should because my digestion these days doesn’t allow me to scarf down bad food. I’d rather be hungry than sorry tomorrow. I only eat what agrees with me. You know you’re getting older when you order a full meal and walk away leaving most of it still on your plate.

You know you’re getting older when you can feel it in your bones. Age is freeing, but aging is permanent. The years slip by before you know it, and you can’t get them back. So take those instrument lessons you always wanted to or put pink streaks in your hair. Play live on stage with a band. Adopt a kitten while you’re still young enough to chase them around.

You know you’re getting older. Hurry up before it’s too late.

More Belly Woes

Virtual colonoscopy? I don’t recommend it. It’s uncomfortable and embarrassing.

I had an unsuccessful/failed regular colonoscopy in April. My doctor was trying to investigate what he called “thickening” where I’d had the diverticulitis on my last CT scan. I woke up from that colonoscopy to hear he hadn’t been able to scope me.  The internal scarring from the diverticulitis was so bad he couldn’t advance the scope. He then ordered a virtual colonoscopy.

I had heard virtual wasn’t bad, just an x-ray of sorts and I could drive myself home afterwards because they weren’t knocking me out. None of that was true. My son ended up driving me because I was so sick.

The prep was a disaster. I have never been that sick. I won’t go into details, but I had an overpowering, intense nausea and violent diarrhea. I got three hours of sleep and was up and visiting the bathroom again at 4:20 a.m. I was dehydrated, had a migraine and the chills. A step on the scale showed I was down seven pounds just from last Friday! That was all water weight lost.

The test itself was fairly fast once they took me in. Waiting is always the worst part for any sort of procedure. I was awake the entire test and that was the stuff of nightmares. A rubber catheter with a balloon attached was inserted in a place it shouldn’t ever go. Then it was inflated and air pumped through the entire colon. Yuck and ouch.

Images lying on my back and images lying on my stomach, and they removed the torture device and I was free to go.

I get the results from my doctor in a few days. I’m home resting today, and I think my belly is finally calming down after 24 hours of extreme upset.

Just Keep Breathing

Today finds me at the Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endoscopy Center, part of  the University of Rochester Medical Center.

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I’m here for a hydrogen breath test which tests for lactose intolerance and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). I’m here because I complained to my primary doctor that my belly issues are still not completely gone. So this seemed a simple test.

Yesterday I ate white bread, white rice, white potatoes, plain, baked chicken breast, unflavored black coffee and water.  I have had nothing by mouth since 7:55 p.m. last night. I got up today and brushed my teeth at 5:55 a.m. (it had to be two hours before my test). And they ask if you’ve done all this. I took my prescription medications this morning with the tiniest sip of water.

So here I sit. My side of the room is all people who are doing the breath test. All of us are starving. Every twenty minutes we get called into the room behind the brown door on the right in the photo. We exhale into a handheld device attached to a plastic bag and then go back out and sit down and wait to be called again. This goes on for three hours.

We all drank a sugar (lactulase) solution when we got here, and our bodies are now digesting it. The exhales test for the hydrogen in our breath. As you digest, your body breaks things down. A high hydrogen level indicates something isn’t working right.

My belly is percolating at the moment. I’m not sure if that’s hunger or something the lactulase is brewing up. I guess we’ll see. I hope it’s not gas. This waiting room is crowded.

Mostly this is just boring.

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I’ll let you know how I make out. I just want to go eat!

Psyllium Anyone?

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Psyllium is the main ingredient in Metamucil. My gastroenterologist suggested I begin taking psyllium tablets to help my belly issues. The tablets are supposedly more palatable than the powder form of psyllium. I used to drink Metamucil powder (the orange flavor) for my IBS. It’s been a while since I’ve used it.

Diverticula (or pouches on the intestinal wall) form because of age and because there’s not enough fiber in the diet. The “itis” part comes when those pouches get food stuck in them and an infection starts. That’s diverticulitis in my layman’s terms.

I have never been a healthy eater. As a stick-skinny pre-teen, I was an extremely picky eater. My older brother used to tease me relentlessly, insisting my mom just feed me birdseed since I ate like a bird. My mother usually served meat, potatoes and a vegetable. There were lots of pies, cakes and cookies. She enjoyed baking.

After I got married, I served meat and potatoes and I gradually learned to eat and enjoy some fruits and vegetables. I had to be careful with fiber because of my IBS. Healthy food always seemed to race right through me. I did great with Weight Watchers Selection Plan (similar to Richard Simmons’ Deal-A-Meal program). You ate based on the food pyramid and had so many selections of dairy, meat, fruit, vegetables, breads and fats/oils that you had to eat each day. It forced me to eat a variety of foods.

As I aged and endometriosis and IBS both took their toll on me and my digestive system, variety got to be more of an issue. I transitioned to more of a straight meat and potatoes diet with only an occasional salad. When diverticulitis reared its ugly head, I was put on a low fiber diet, and there I’ve stayed.

My GI doctor changed my probiotic. I’m now on the generic form of the Phillips’ Colon Health probiotic. My primary care doctor put me back on a multivitamin when I expressed concern over my limited diet. I now take two Flintstones gummies daily. Now I contemplate adding in the fiber capsules. Another change for my system, and probably enough to put it into fits until I adjust again.

What’s that old expression? Youth is wasted on the young? Then there’s Health is wealth. I do believe that health is wasted on the young. I took good health and feeling well on a daily basis for granted. Now that feeling well is more of a day to day thing, I wish I’d taken the time to appreciate what I had when I had it.

Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. – Joni Mitchell, 1970