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Posts Tagged ‘doctor’

  1. Living Large

    April 30, 2017 by Diane

    The older I get, the more I shrink. And you know what that means.

    Baggy elbows.

    It’s not that my elbows sag. It’s just that I have more skin than stuff to fill it up.

    I Googled How to get rid of baggy elbows, and found several YouTube videos with exercises involving a lot of repetitive arm movements in various directions. Watching the videos left me exhausted, but did nothing for my elbows.

    There must be an easier way. Something that doesn’t involve a knife. Although there probably is a doctor who debags elbows.

    I imagine meeting him at a cocktail party—not that I attend cocktail parties, but that’s the kind of party I imagine an elbow doctor attending. He’s standing next to the artificial potted fern, looking artificial. Mannikin-artificial. Which is why I mosey over and strike up a conversation, because a conversation with a mannikin is all I can handle as an introvert. But surprise, surprise, he responds when I say, “Howdy, stranger. I couldn’t help but notice you from across the room.” We chat, and eventually I get around to asking, “What kind of business are you in?”

    And he says, “Elbows.”

    “Elbows?” I say.

    “I debag them.”

    “Of course you do.”

    And he hands me his card.

    Which brings me to my first point to ponder:

    What do elbow doctors do with all that excess skin? Do they have bags of baggy elbows? Do they donate the stash to medical research, like Henrietta Lacks’s cells, although in her case, her cells were used without her consent? Who knows what anti-aging or cancer-curing miracles might be discovered from baggy elbows.

    Elbows are odd ducks. They come in handy when I’m making my way through a crowd. They’re useful pushing a swinging door open when I’m carrying dinner plates. When I don’t feel like shaking someone’s hand, I can give them an elbow instead. Beyond that, what good are they? Poking out someone’s eye?

    The funny bone is located in the vicinity of the elbow, but when that thing gets whacked there’s nothing funny about it.

    Which brings me to my second point to ponder:

    Why do we keep the funny bone, but yank the wisdom teeth? I can only surmise that we value humor over wisdom. Which is wise, come to think of it. As long as we maintain our sense of humor, we can survive damn near anything.

    Even baggy elbows.

    In the meantime, I get older, I shrink, and my world does, too. Where once I jetted around the globe—okay, not the globe, the country. Once. Where once I jetted, now I shuffle to the refrigerator, which doesn’t require shuffling as much as reaching from my desk chair or the bed, because my cottage is a former playhouse. If I live long enough, eventually my world will shrink to the dimensions of a nursing home bed. I’ll gaze out the window without being able to see what I’m gazing at, and my world will shrink to the dimensions of my imagination. Which could actually be rather large.

    Bringing me to my third point to ponder:

    Why is it, the smaller people get, the larger they live? It’s like they’re trying to fill the space they once occupied. They talk loud. They dress loud, in patterned Bermuda shorts, thick sandals, and black socks pulled up to their calves. They carry big purses. They wear huge glasses. And they have big opinions.

    Don’t get me started on their cars.

    My mother, who’s ahead of me in terms of shrinkage, drives a Chevy Tahoe. It’s a mystery how she sees over the dash. From outside the car, all I see is her forehead.

    While I watch exercise videos for elbows, my mother, who wears a back brace because her spine could crumble at any moment, is carting a dead deer in her little red wagon to the curb for the animal control people to claim. Days later, when even the garbage man won’t touch it, she’s tossing it into a garbage bag and carting it to the backyard and burying it with a shovel. While I ponder the usefulness of elbows, my mother is fishing things from the creek with a hoe, like the opossum skeleton for some nice boy in the neighborhood, and a man’s wallet, crawling with worms. While I daydream about elbow doctors, my mother is feeding every feral cat that migrates to her yard, even the finicky Siamese that insists on dining atop the garage roof. While I wonder if the funny bone is actually a bone, my mother is hauling giant bags of cat food from the back of her Tahoe. And if the handicapped parking space is too far from the front door of Raley’s Supermarket, you can bet everyone in the store will hear about it when my mother complains to the sixteen-year-old bag boy.

    My mother knows how to live large. She knows how to claim her space in the world. Does she have baggy elbows? Who knows? Who cares? She’s got bigger things to focus on. Besides, with all that carting and tossing and burying and fishing and feeding and hauling, those elbows get a workout.

    YouTube’s got nothing on my mother.

  2. I Need a Dentist Who’s Less Anxious Than Me

    November 22, 2015 by Diane

    funny cartoon tooth

    I had a pain in one of my upper teeth on the left side. Thinking I may have developed a cavity—or worse, dislodged one of my mercury fillings and swallowed it—I phoned my dentist for an appointment.

    “Doctor Lu’s office.”

    I recognized the voice; it was Doctor Lu herself. She never hired a receptionist, so she pretends to be the receptionist.

    “I may have lost a filling,” I said. “I need to make an appointment.”

    “Doctor Lu can see you on Wednesday at two o’clock.”

    Wait a minute. You’re Doctor Lu.

    “Two o’clock will be fine.”

    * * *

    When I arrived, Doctor Lu was waiting behind the reception desk. She shuttled me into the yellow room on the left. She hooked a paper bib around my neck. She asked if I had any new allergies, wanted to know how I was sleeping and if I was taking any new medications, and inquired about my blood pressure. She took two x-rays and blew cold air on my teeth and jabbed at my fillings with a sharp implement and asked me to bite down on a piece of rubber and when nothing revealed itself to be a problem, she searched for one.

    Starting with my neck.

    Her fingers probed under my jawline and along my windpipe and then froze.

    “Uh-oh,” she said. “You need to see a doctor ASAP.”

    She probed some more. Dread flooded my body.

    She motioned to her assistant. “How big is this?”

    “I don’t know,” the assistant said. “The size of a penny?”

    “That’s it! The size of a penny. Write that down.”

    Doctor Lu probed some more, then handed me a mirror. “I want you to see this.” She pointed to a bulge in my neck.

    “Oh, that!” I said. “That’s my carotid artery. I had it examined years ago. It’s just a weird part of my anatomy—“

    “Write that down,” she said to her assistant. “Weird part of anatomy.”

    “It’s nothing,” I babbled on, trying to reassure her. “I’m thinner now, so it’s more noticeable.”

    “Yes. You have lost a lot of weight.”

    “I wouldn’t say a lot—“

    She turned her back and consulted a laptop on the counter. “Look at these x-rays,” she said, waving me over. I peered at the screen. “These fillings are old. See how close they are to the nerve?”


    I knew what was coming. We’d had this discussion many times. Sure enough, “You need a mouth guard,” she said, her voice rising. “You’re grinding your teeth at night. If you lose one of these fillings, I don’t know what I’ll do. I won’t be able to FIX it. They’re too close to the NERVE!”

    “Okay, okay. I’ll get a mouth guard.”



    Total cost: $500 for the mouth guard, $10 for the visit.

    “And see your doctor. Report back to me.”

    I need a dentist who’s less of a hypochondriac than me.

    * * *

    I made an appointment with my doctor. Cost: $30. He felt the lump. He suggested that I get an ultrasound.

    “But I’ve had this thing for ten years,” I said. “It’s never gotten any bigger. Isn’t it possible—isn’t it likely—that it’s fine?”

    “That’s a good way to look at it,” he said. “But I want ENT to make that call. Schedule an appointment with ear-nose-throat. And schedule an ultrasound.”

    I need a doctor who’s less worried than me.

    * * *

    Member services informed me that the ultrasound would cost $371.

    “What’s the extra dollar for?” I wondered aloud.

    I canceled the appointment.

    * * *

    Online, I checked the profile of the ENT doctor I was scheduled to see. He had started as a psychologist, then studied to be a surgeon. He also made time to become a photographer, canoeist, rock climber, wilderness guide, sculptor, sailor, chef, and sword-swallower. Okay, not the last one, but he had an impressive list of activities to his credit, in addition to raising three children, which he claimed was the most challenging activity of all. I felt good about this doctor. Maybe I could squeeze in a free therapy session while he examined my neck.

    As the nurse led me down the hall to an exam room, we passed an open door. A man in a white lab coat sat at his desk wolfing down a sandwich, just shoving it in. God, I hope that’s not him, I thought.

    It was.

    Less than a minute later he strolled into the exam room where I sat perched on a giant leather chair. I wondered how he’d found time to chew.

    He offered his unwashed hand for me to shake.

    “So, you’ve got a lump in your neck,” he said. He placed his unwashed fingers on my throat. Felt the bulge. “That’s your carotid artery, “ he said. “Leave it alone.”

    He pulled up a stool.

    “Want a second opinion?” he asked.


    “Nice glasses.”

    Cost: $30.

    I need a specialist who’s less goofy than me.

    * * *

    I went to the dentist to get my teeth checked. They’re fine. But I’m $570 more in debt. It would have been $941 if I’d gone through with the ultrasound.

    I need a new dentist.

  3. Some Might Think You’re A Hypochondriac When…

    June 21, 2015 by Diane

    Shelf with books

    Some might think you’re a hypochondriac when you’re abnormally anxious about your health. But when does normal anxiety about one’s health become abnormal?

    A case in point…

    I became concerned about my cortisol levels. All of those adrenaline surges I’d suffered night after night after night had battered my adrenal glands to the point where they were shooting out cortisol like water from a busted fire hydrant. So obviously I needed to reset my adrenals, right?

    There’s a book on how to do that very thing.

    This book was written by a doctor who was on the Dr. Oz show. Not that I watch the Dr. Oz show (although if I was a hypochondriac, tuning in daily would be a tell-tale symptom). No, my mother watches the show, or she watched it this once—when the adrenal reset expert was on—and she recorded it and called me that evening and replayed the whole thing, repeating everything the doctor said about resetting your cortisol levels, which was this:

    “For breakfast, eat raw oats with berries, nuts and coconut milk.”

    I already did!

    So why was I still having those adrenaline surges?

    I looked up this expert online, and got his book, and in the book he clearly states the opposite: that it’s pure protein you should eat for breakfast, meaning MEAT, not carbs. Which is downright confusing! And I told him so in an email.

    Hey, on the Dr. Oz show you said to eat oats for breakfast, but in your book you said…

    Someone in his office emailed back, and gave me this explanation: there wasn’t much to choose from on the Dr. Oz set, so we went with what was available.


    Just who is this doctor?

    Dr. Christianson.

    Yeah, Dr. Christianson! That’s who.

    But I digress.

    In between adrenaline surges, I like to sleep with my left arm flung overhead. The result? When I wake up in the morning it’s numb, which in my book is a clear symptom of a heart attack. Is this the thought process of a hypochondriac? I think not. After all, my arm has gone numb many a time. For instance: one afternoon I set my laptop on the ironing board and stood and typed for an hour, my shoulders pressed into my earlobes, and sure enough, my left arm went numb. Now if that isn’t the start of a cardiovascular incident, I don’t know what is, right? Furthermore, if I was a hypochondriac–which I’m not–I might have called Dr. Oz himself, or even Dr. Christianson, for advice. If I had their numbers. But I didn’t. So I called the next best expert: my mother.

    “Um, my left arm is kinda numb, and it’s bugging me.”

    I was taking a walk when I called her, so it’s unlikely that I was having a cardiovascular incident, which her rational mind pointed out to me. Still, you can never be too sure.

    Now, some people might think that makes me a hypochondriac. And if they’ve read my blog, they might also think that I have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and insomnia (NO-ZZZ), all of which add up to an obvious case of Squirrels in the Doohickey (SITD).

    But is my concern abnormal?

    Oh, sure, I’m not above asking people if I can poke around their stomach to see if it feels like mine, since mine feels like a mine-field.

    “That’s your vertebrae you’re feeling,” my doctor claims.

    “That hard knot?”

    “It’s your spine.”

    “Through my stomach?”

    “You’re thin.”

    “Here…that thing?”


    “Can I feel yours?”

    I’m not above asking my boyfriend to offer his abdomen to my probing fingers.

    “Can I…”

    “Oh for God’s sake…”

    And with an audible sigh he’ll roll onto his back and offer his belly, like a dog does, but not as happily, and I’ll knead away, like a cat does, but not as peacefully, and his belly, every time, feels soft and warm and pliant and not at all like mine.

    Now I ask you…does that make me a hypochondriac? Or you, for that matter–if you found yourself nodding with recognition?

    Some might think so.

    Some might think you’re a hypochondriac because you have the urge to feel a stranger’s carotid artery in the elevator after surreptitiously feeling the odd shape of your own. “Excuse me…”

    Some might think you’re a hypochondriac because you count the number of coughs you have in one day (throat clearings don’t count), and by two o’clock in the afternoon you’re up to fifty and wonder if you’re being a tab obsessive.

    Some might think you’re a hypochondriac because one whole bookshelf in your bedroom is filled with medical tomes. Especially if it’s a paramedic looking at that shelf (the night you end up going to the hospital wearing your own pajamas and come home wearing someone else’s), and as he scans that row of medical titles, his eyes flash a warning to his buddy that says, “uh-oh, hypochondriac,” ….well, I’m here to tell you one thing: don’t believe it.

    Not for a second.

    Because in my mind…

    (that is, if we’re really talking about you in this scenario, and not me),

    …in my mind you’re perfectly normal.