Saturday, January 21, 2012

run for the shadows

How old are you?

Or rather, how old do you feel?

I have always felt a couple of decades younger than my biological age, until sometime in the past year. The switch was gradual, but undeniable. Activities that I had always taken for granted started getting increasingly difficult and painful. Suddenly words like I ache in the places that I used to play made perfect sense to me.

But my medical parameters of health have always been solid. Those annual tests were a mere formality. I may have been getting creaky, but I was damned healthy.

And then last week I failed my first ever bone density exam. I knew I should have studied; I could have at least faked my way through the essay question.

It came as a bit of a shock, and suddenly I felt every single one of my misspent years. With this coming on the heels of the Spousal Unit's current health issues, I felt a little betrayed by the body I always considered, if not incorruptible, then certainly robust for the foreseeable future. And I'm not the only one.
I've noticed that when I talk to my siblings on the phone lately, one of the first things we discuss is our latest health betrayal.

I did eventually snap out of the bout of self-pity enough to realize that it was up to me to adjust to the new reality of life inside this shell and to work even harder to make it as strong as possible. This was no time to lie down and give in to the ravages of cell biology.

But sitting down and calculating my calcium and vitamin D intake made me realize something about the elderly, about why they are so obsessed with their aches and pains. The reason that failing health is by far the most popular topic of conversation amongst the geriatric set is because nobody expects it to happen to them, and nobody expects it to take up so much time and attention. I have two degrees in physiology and it was still challenging to come up with an exercise and supplement plan to combat this bone mass loss.

I can only imagine how confusing and frustrating all this aging is to someone without a science background.

22 comments:

Wandering Coyote said...

I started to fall apart at age 29. I remember it well. Used to hiking around & doing lots of walking, I was on holiday here in Van and my friend & I did a long loop around downtown Vancouver - longer than our scavenger hunt. As the walk lengthened, I felt a pain in my groin muscle (gracilis) that only got worse as the day progressed. I had to go home & put a heating pad on it. And I get that same pain now whenever I do a day-long jaunt like that or a longer hike. And my eyes! I need so much light now in order to read properly! That is more depressing than the muscle ache, I think!

Allison said...

I used to poke frun at my mom with all her supplements, but even though she's been taking them for years and years she too has problems with her bone density, and has osteoarthritis, on top of the other issues.

I've been trying to get myself back into shape and have even started taking iron supplements - I don't want to fail my next test at the doctor either. Sometimes though I feel like it's never enough.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

The failing eyesight is disturbing, WC. My vision was restored when I had cataract surgery a few years ago, but I still need strong light to read. Still I would rather buy a new lamp than have my sleep disrupted every night because of a sore hip.

Apparently low bone mass can be inherent as well as acquired, Al, so your mom's supplements may have been more useful than it appears. It's still frustrating.
I was actually rather relieved to be told that the chronic pain in my hip is arthritis, because I know I can keep working through that pain and not worry that I am damaging my bones.

The McIlrath Family said...

The year Sammy Jo died. Sounds stupid but when he became sick instead of going for my usual walk along the ocean all the way to the breakwater I was staying at home to be with him. Then Butterscotch moved in and I told myself I was just hanging about making sure she felt at home but before I knew it the weight packed on and I turned into a slug. A slug with achey knees.

mister anchovy said...

The least they could do would be to make those medical tests multiple choice.

The good thing is that we get smarter as we age. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

~Jen~ said...

yeah falling apart is a bloody mindf*ck...I am starting early and not really surprisingly...my Dr has been warning me for 15 yrs "you feel fine now but I promise you at 40 it all goes sideways"...she could NOT have been more accurate. :o(

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It does not sound in the least bit stupid, Toccata. In fact, I think that as women, we are known for that very tendency - to look after others and put our own health last.
I hear you on the achey knees part. The slug part too...

I was hoping it would be multiple choice too, Mr Anchovy, or at least get partial marks for showing how we derived the formulae.
I may not be getting smarter as I age, but I certainly care less about what people think.

Your doctor is brutal, Jen. I sort of wish my doctor had been so straightforward. Although at the time I'm sure I would have sloughed off the advice.

Karen said...

Like WC, I started falling apart in my later 20s: arthritis, blood pressure, cysts... What next? With my luck, when I start getting mammograms, my boobs will stay that shape :( Dang, life is cruel.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You've certainly got something to look forward to, Karen! Mammograms are a laugh riot. You may be onto something with your concerns, my girls seem to have morphed into a mammogram-ready shape.

vicomtesse said...

It's mental game, baby. Imagine dancing @ 90 and you will be!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

That's a really great attitude, vicomtesse! I'm going to adopt that mental image!

Sean Wraight said...

Ironically I have always felt beyond my age. Way beyond my age. I recall telling you that even as a child I felt much older. To that end I was always burdened with the responsibility of being the less carefree one amongst my friends. All things being fair then I expect a misspent adulthood should be right around the corner then.

Imagine how much fun I'll be at parties though...

Good luck with the knee too. (I went through that when I was 15.)

Love,
Seanjamin Button

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Let the misspent adulthood begin in ...3, 2, 1! Sean, I think it's time you shed the mantle of youthful responsibility and start on a carefree geriatric career as a part-time beachcomber, part-time disk jockey.

LesleyG said...

I feel 23. Seriously. I usually feel that way (albeit probably wiser and more patient). It's my body that will so kindly remind me otherwise.

kelly said...

I turn 50 next year and still feel pretty good, either that or blissfully ignorant. Although I am wearing my reading glasses more often.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Keep on being 23, Lesley! Ignore that party pooper body!

You must be doing something right, Kelly. Perhaps all that good clean living?

kelly said...

I'll let you know how old I feel after the end of September. I've talked about it long enough, so now I have to put up or shut up. I've decided to run the MOMAR race. (10km kayak, 10km run through bush, 10km mountain bike while orienteering) Dumbest part is I agreed to have a 35 year old as my team mate. I'm concerned about being able to keep up with her, but I can read a map.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Keep saying those words to yourself, Kelly: but I can read a map!

Johnny Yen said...

I've been fortunate that most of me is holding up, particularly with the recent career change. The two exceptions-- my eyes and ears. My bifocal prescription is ridiculous. And I have to have people repeat things more than I"m comfortable with.

Growing older is a pain, but, as my mother points out, it certainly beats the alternative

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Glad to hear you are still a healthy young sprout, Johnny!
Your mother is absolutely correct. And I am starting to realize that when we accept our increasing frailties, we can move on and keep thriving under the new normal.

bloody awful poetry said...

Watching my mom go through everything she goes through definitely gives me some seriously ominous visions of my own future ; diabetes, blood pressure, hyperventilation and a history of mental illness, just to list a few. She carries on magnificently despite it all though, and I'm hoping I inherit that attitude more than anything else.

Having said that, the mattresses at home are already giving me some killer back aches when I wake up in the mornings, and I am 22. The horror!

Love that "Leonard knows" tag by the way.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Here's hoping the gene selection works favourably for you, BAP. I know you definitely inherited the attitude to pull everything off exceedingly gracefully.
Buy new mattresses!