When asked, “How are you?” these days, I use the line, “I’m doing great! -- But I do have some parts that are not functioning properly.” In order to communicate more seriously with my primary physician and others who want a more precise answer, I listed the parts that needed repair. They include as of this writing at almost seventy-eight years: hearing, balance, shortness of breath, skin problems, shakiness, restless leg syndrome/periodic multiple limb disorder, lower back pain, difficulty concentration, memory loss, gastro esophageal reflux/Barrett’s disease including voice problems (singing and speaking), insomnia, fatigue/weakness, controlled hypertension, sleep apnea, and frequent cough. After listing these I am tempted to add one more—hypochondriac. (This short list does not include parts affected by prostrate cancer 12 years ago. I have learned to live with those handicaps. The operative word is live since I thought I was through living when first diagnosed with cancer.)
The quick diagnosis of all this is “aging", but as a long-time believer in wholeness, I am curious about how these symptoms interrelate and feed off each other. Can I connect the dots and get the big picture? If so, will that give me a clearer understanding of “how I am.” Is there a root cause of these symptoms and perhaps something I can do about it?
I am learning that the eye bone is connected to the head bone, the leg bone is connected to the head bone and the ear bone is connected to the head bone; now hear the word of the Lord. I can never be well balanced without my senses and the brain communicating and cooperating with each other.
Checking out my ears started the ball rolling and the wall moving by showing me that I was not only losing my hearing, but the silly cilia in my middle ear might be connected to loss of balance. My ENT doctor referred me to physical therapy to learn how to walk again and prepared me for walking a strait line should the patrolman request that I do so. Physical therapy also showed me just how inflexible and weak I really had become. My slow walking gait was not just laziness. It partially explained some of my “falls without grace” on the tennis court and doing yard work. The dot connecting mystery must be continued in all my other systems.
Speaking of tennis, my doubles partner/wife often noticed long before I did that I was “out of it” and should get off the court. This is not to be confused with all the times she just wished I were off of her side of the court. Now my stare and slower-than-usual reaction time mean my concentration and strength are depleted. These dots remain to be put in place in the puzzle, but we have a psychiatrist friend who thinks I may be dealing with “minimum cognitive impairment.” Perhaps too minimum to show up on my recent brain scan. My ENT doctor reported the MRI indicated my brain was good for life (but failed to mention how long that would be.) Close friends have already indicated that I am overusing my “minimum cognitive impairment” excuse for mistakes I make at cards and conversation. You use what you got.
With seventeen sessions of physical therapy, my strength, flexibility and reaction time in off-balance situations improved a bit. My shortness of breath (air hunger) and frequent cough remained as isolated dots.
I did very well with the lung test in the pulmonary clinic. Inhaling and exhaling in the machine showed that I was both a sucker and a blowhard.
My restless leg syndrome may be connected to my insomnia that is connected to daytime sleepiness and fatigue. Spending a restless night at the sleep lab was a waste. I was sent there because I couldn’t sleep. I failed the sleep test in the lab three times because I didn’t sleep enough. Catch 22. I finally got the bad news: I stop breathing forty times every hour. The good news: I also start breathing 40 times every hour. I now sleep with a contraption on my face that forces me to breathe clean air and won’t let me stop breathing. When I am not thinking about or fiddling with that foreign appendage clamped on my nose, I get some uninterrupted sleep.
I would like to understand more about the dots that need to be better connected in my brain and how that affects all the above. Those neurotransmitters, synapses, etc. are another story. I was never good at chemistry or electronics.
Maybe my gastrointestinal doctor could help with some of this puzzle. He picked up on the possibility that the medicine he had me on might have run its course and changed that. He also recommended another endoscope exam to see what is going on in my esophagus that may be connected to my coughing, hoarseness and difficulty in talking. (Not to be confused with saying the right things.)
So step right up folks. Get your tickets for the amazing Deep Throat show! Move right into the tent. The show is about to start. Here he is: the death-defying sword swallower. He’s daring. He is fearless. He’s fast asleep! Oh well. The show must go on. They ram the tube down my throat and later the biopsy shows nothing changed in last 2 and a half years. My gurds is no better, but no worse. Keep taking the meds. Just to be sure, he ordered an examination of my colon. These pipes were a little rusty, but functioning. Whatever bumps there are in there are benign.
I saw a neurologist who basically relieved my fears of Parkinson’s disease and worse neurological terrors, I’m not on that track, just getting older and some foot and leg nerves are wearing thin. We do still need to buy some new cups, saucers and plates. The ones we have make my hands shake.
The older I get the more I see not only my dots getting connected, but all my experiences, coming together to form a whole. I now believe Jesus is just as interested in saving wholes as souls. That being the case, with the help of the Great Physician and many of his colleagues, I hope to keep patching up my whole body, mind and soul for as many years or days as I have left. Then after the Great Transition, I look forward to having whatever parts I need in perfect working order. Thanks to God I will still be doing just great!