You’ve put on a few lbs. Mr. Tanner

Prostate exam

Since Lisa died, I have committed to an annual physical – at least until Michelle graduates from high school.  Once she is out of the house, I think I will stop.  Because I hate them.  Of course there are obvious reasons 50 year old men don’t like physicals.  And I don’t need to hear comments about what women go through.  I know.  It sounds awful.  And No.  I have never had my privates smashed in between two cold metal plates until I yelled out in agony.  But I still don’t like to be handled in that manner by someone I scarcely know who resembles Danny Devito.

As if I didn’t have enough anxiety about having my blood being siphoned out of my vein by Morticia Adams, and having to fully undress in front of a complete stranger eager to conduct a full cavity search, this year, the pre-manhandling session began with a scathing attack on my weight.

“I see you’ve gained 5 pounds since you were in here 18 months ago.  You’re up to 181.”

“Well… I’m 6’1.  What would you like me to weigh?”

“Don’t get me wrong.  You’re doing better than most.  But I’d prefer you stick to 175, your late 2013 weight.”

“That was my weight early in this morning, naked, after a good trip to the bathroom.  Your nurse puts me on the scales wearing my dress shoes, with my phone and wallet in my pockets.  And… I just ate lunch!”

He was unmoved.

That night I watched what I ate.  I went to sleep at 176.4.  The next morning, I jumped on my Walmart scale and had shot up to 177.2!  How does that happen?  I had eaten nothing!  I had gone to the bathroom!  I was in the buff.

A friend at work suggested that perhaps I was a sleep eater.  He saw a show on TNT.

“You really should consider a pad lock on your fridge.”

My kids are at camp.  There is no food in my kitchen.  Unless you can pack the pounds on French’s mustard, I don’t think I’m packing it on while I sleepwalk!

After telling me I was fat, my physician, who could also stand to shed a few lbs., started his annual check of my business.  He finished one side and then stopped to chat about the shark attacks on the coast of North Carolina.  Mistakenly, I had shared that we had a beach vacation heading our way.

It’s not that I mind conversation while being groped, I actually like to have a relationship with those who intimately touch me.  But the pause was disturbing.  I was sprawled out, naked as a jaybird, boxers dangling around my feet, and he stopped to catch me up on the daily beat.

My underwear hasn’t spent that much time around my ankles since I made pee-pee in Mrs. Holt’s kindergarten class.  Typically they are fully on or fully off.  They ain’t hanging out in other places around my being for extended periods of time!

Then it happened, what I’d been dreading since my last physical in November of 2013.  He said, “Roll over –  toward the wall.”

The last doc to give me a prostate exam had me lean over the table, feet on the floor, hands gripping the table.  A friend told me that his physician’s favorite position was on all fours – up on the table, like a four legged animal.  That makes me thankful for my physician.

After checking my bladder, colon, prostate, intestines, and esophagus (he has very long fingers), he walked over to the sink and handed me a tissue, one, to clean the vat of Vaseline he left behind.  It was like cleaning up the BP oil spill with a hand towel.

Michelle graduates in six years.  I don’t know if I’m going to make it.  Perhaps I’ll just buy more life insurance.  With enough money, certainly my demise wouldn’t bother her too much.

My Buddy Brian

The week before Lisa died I went to see my doctor twice.  I was having anxiety attacks and needed some help sleeping.  I’d seen him a couple of times annually for three or four years prior to my crisis, physicals, sinusitis.  I think I was one of his younger patients.

I saw him on the Thursday before Lisa died about sleeplessness.  I shared my story, let him know our family’s situation.  I went back on the following Monday.  He had no idea who I was.  Not only had he forgotten my name, I had to refresh him on the fact that my young wife was dying, that I had three kids, that I was struggling emotionally.  Needless to say, the following month, I switched to a new physician.

The new guy was younger than I.  He was a swimmer, in incredible physical condition.  He was also a great listener.  He was as concerned about my mental condition, how I was handling the stress of my loss, as he was my physical ailments.  He wasn’t herding cattle.  He was genuinely interested in making a difference in the lives of his patients.

Two years later, I heard that he was facing the same diagnosis as Lisa.  He had colon cancer, Stage IV.

He took time off from work and eventually left the practice.  But he and I kept up.  We periodically went to lunch to share war stories, particularly about our kids and the legacy we wanted to leave for them.  I didn’t see him often, but in the little time we had, a bond was formed.  I remember thinking to myself, don’t get too engaged, it will hurt worse when he’s gone.  But there was something about this guy, an intensity – a fierce desire to figure life out, to make a difference.

And he did.  My doctor not only changed lives in the office, but he was also instrumental in starting and growing a swim team for kids in a nearby neighborhood.  I understand he coached the same way he practiced medicine with a thoughtful, caring, intensity.  Encouraging, pushing, listening, meeting you where you were not where he wanted you to be.

Imagine knowing that you built something on this earth that will change lives for years and years into the future.  Each person he poured in to, each kid he challenged, each patient he encouraged will take his legacy and spread it in their own unique way.

I’d like to think that we are all as conscientious about leaving what we touch better than we found it.  Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the case.  But there are a few, like Brian, who sincerely put others before themselves.

My goal:  To be more like him.

If I meet my objective, the world will be a better place.

It Has Come To This

receeding teeth

I mean, I knew that aging wasn’t going to be easy, that things would begin to droop and sag.  I was clear that hair would turn white and appear in places it’d never been before.  But, I never imagined this.  Yes, I want everyone out there struggling with the same issue to know… don’t be embarrassed, I’m owning it…

My gums are receeding.

AHHHH.

Well, actually only one – gum.

I have prided myself on great dental hygiene.   The first time I spent a weekend with Lisa we climbed a mountain, and at the top, I flossed.  And she married me anyway.

My mouth has always been my most attractive feature.  And now this.

I went in to have a simple teeth cleaning and made the mistake of complaining about tenderness around number 21, the left bottom canine.  Dr. Helms came in and started poking around with his fancy fish-hook.

“Looks like you have a receding gumline.  We’ll just drill a little and fill that right in with some epoxy.”

Epoxy?  Isn’t that what we made ashtrays out of in high school?

Two weeks later I found myself horizontal in his chair, with a flurry of folks dashing about my kisser.

I began to have heart palpitations.

“Am I going to get a shot?  In my mouth?”

I’d never had a cavity, never experienced Novocaine.  Needles and mouths are not compatible!  You wouldn’t put butter beans in your underpants, it doesn’t make sense.  Why in the world would you ever stick a needle in your trap?  It’s for eating, kissing, talking – not stabbing!

The doc assured me it wasn’t going to hurt.  “you’re going to feel a slight sting.”

“I don’t like slight stings!”

“It won’t hurt, I promise.”

He was pretty much right.  The actual prick didn’t cause much pain, but I could feel him digging around my gums with his prickly apparatus.

Once he was through, the left side of my lip stuck out like Fat Albert’s friend, Dumb Donald.

Iba couldn’tba hardlyba talkba.  Slobber was falling down my chin and neck.

He finished the procedure and told me that number 21 should be good to go by dinnertime.

I jumped into my car and began to stretch my lip in and out to see if I could feel anything.  I bit it, nothing.  I hit it, nothing.  I pressed down on it with my fingernail – if I hadn’t seen it in the rear view mirror, I wouldn’t have known my hand was anywhere near my face.

If I wanted to I could have pulled my lip out and stuck a grapefruit between the outside of my gum and the inside of my bottom lip.  It was like Stretch Armstrong.

I actually sort of liked my lip in limbo.  Next time I want to do my eyelid.

 

 

Mr. Tanner, we’re gonna need that form.

Mr. Tanner, we're gonna need that form.

Mr. Tanner, we’re gonna need that form.

I am delinquent.  I admit it.  I have not yet completed my oldest child’s physical form for the upcoming school year.

There’s a good reason mind you.  She can only get a physical once each year, and her last one was on July 12, 2013.  She’s been working at an overnight camp in Arapahoe, NC, for the past ten weeks.  I don’t think there are doctors in Arapahoe.  If you have a tooth ache there, your neighbor extracts it for you.  We simply had no options.

She does have an appointment this upcoming week.  And I promise, the second we walk out of the office I will drive straight to her school and turn it in.

It has to be frustrating to deal with parents like me.

To deal with us, the delinquents, our school has hired a health form repo company to ensure that my child does not spread disease and that I meet my deadlines.  I was late on my middle daughter too.  Between the two of them I have received no less than 60 emails this summer informing me of my inadequacies as a parent.

This week, I didn’t get an automated reminder, I actually got a specific note from a staff member at the Health Form Repo Center.  I think his name was Guido.

Today I logged on their website to print the form, readying myself for the upcoming appointment, and at the top of the page there was a large red box.  It read, “54 DAYS PAST DUE” you idiot!!! (that wasn’t written but it was certainly implied).

I am afraid.  I am not sleeping well.  I look out of my windows at night fearful that Guido is going to snatch my child and hold her until her blood test comes back.  We don’t walk near windows anymore.  I just don’t know what might happen.  I have Michelle climb under the car, just to be sure nothing looks cut, before we leave home each morning.

I purchased a bulletpoof vest.  I wear it any time I leave the house.

Guido, have mercy!  Do I not get any credit for the forms I have completed?

Vital Health Record – took 20 minutes to complete – CHECK

Consent to Treat – CHECK

Over the Counter Medicine Form – CHECK

Prescription Medicine Form – CHECK

Psychological/ADD meds Form – CHECK

Copy of Health Card – CHECK

Concussions Form – in the event my child gets hit in the head with a ballet slipper?? – CHECK

Asthma, Allergies, Diabetes, Seizures, Mental Health Condition forms – CHECK, CHECK, CHECK, CHECK, CHECK!

I have also completed the Transportation to/from and at school form.  I agreed to have any and every photograph of my child be displayed anywhere the school wants to put it.  I have given them information on all four grandparents, my credit card number for school purchases and volunteered for two committees.  They know my shoe size, that I prefer boxers, and that I had a crush on Janice Middleton in 4th grade.

This week I will attend multiple orientation sessions to seep up more information.

But I will attend only, only if I get this dag gone physical completed and turned in.

What if my car breaks down on the way to the doctor’s office?  What if the doctor is sick that day?  What if their copier is broken or their pens run out of ink?

I’m going to begin investigating home school options.

 

 

Me and my HSA

It’s the end of my insurance plan year.  Three years ago, I signed up for a Health Savings Account.  This nifty new tool costs significantly less per month which is a good thing.  However, unless you have open heart surgery or gangrene in your gall bladder, you likely won’t hit your deductible.  I pay the first $4,000 in medical expenses out of pocket.  After that, my insurance company pays 100% of costs I incur.

Thankfully, this was the first year on the new plan that I met my deductible.  After Stephanie had her tonsils removed in June, we were golden.  The past three months I’ve been searching for a reason to go to the doctor.

“Dad, my left toe hurts.”

“I’ll book an appointment with the podiatrist tomorrow.”

“Is this a freckle or a mole?”

“We’ll let the dermatologist make that call.”

“I’ve got a really bad tooth ache dad.  Can I go to the dentist?”

“No!  That’s a different insurance company.  Take a shot of whiskey and bite down on a twig.”

I don’t understand insurance, and I don’t understand the medical profession.  Last year at my annual physical, my doctor asked me if I wanted him to check my prostate.

How do you answer that question?

“Absolutely!  I’ve been waiting for that all year-long!  And while you’re at it, could you give me a spinal tap?”

What guy is going to answer that in the affirmative?

“Well,” I started, stalling for a moment as I pondered my choice.  “On the one hand, I would trade my P90X video series to avoid that investigative procedure.  On the other, I would prefer not to have cancer in that area.  What are most of your other patients choosing?”

We ended up agreeing that I’d be checked at age 50, and the tension in the room decreased tenfold.

Oh, and the last doctor I visited on my multi-month journey chasing free healthcare, had a nurse who gravely insulted me.

She called me from the waiting room, took my height and weighed me.  She then walked me into the examining room, pulled out the blood pressure cup and headed toward my arm.

“Mr. Tanner, can you roll your sleeve up a bit?”

“Sure.”  I thought she could take it with my dress shirt sleeve down.

When I unleashed my right gun, she turned around and huffed, “Uh.”

“Is something the matter?”

“It’s smaller than I thought.  I need to get the little cuff.”

“My arm?”

She nodded.

“Ma’am, it’s not that small!” I insisted.

“It’s whole a lot smaller than it looked under that big ole sleeve of yours.”

As a general rule, it is better not to suggest that any man’s part is smaller than anticipated – especially his bicep!

So this week I’m back on a healthcare diet.  And after my experiences this year, perhaps that’s not a bad thing.

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