Friday, May 27, 2011

They Really Are A Scree-um

In 1998, I'd been with Joe #1 for three years. My first real boyfriend, I already knew our relationship wasn't going anywhere. Joe was older and set in his ways, and I really believe he instinctively kept (and still keeps) an emotional distance because of his HIV status. But I enjoyed being a couple with Joe and, yes, I loved him. I still love him. That was the year his sister was the highest bidder at an HIV-AIDS fundraising auction.

Liz invited us to to participate in her prize. I didn't realize at the time how my life was about to change. I was simply looking forward to a fun weekend in a city I'd never visited before, and spending time with Liz and her husband. Joe and his sister have always been the close, and I can't look at Liz without thinking, "this is Joe as a woman." They have the same sense of humor and the same streak of crazy that keeps me from ever getting too comfortable around either one of them on their own. When they're together I keep a constant state of alert.

After landing in Portland, we freshened up at Liz's house as some of their friends started to arrive. Eight of us climbed into a chauffeured van and headed toward the city.

The part of town where we stopped looked transitional, and we walked up to the porch of an ornate old house, run down yet grand and stately. I imagined at one time in Portland's history that this was the home of an important family, a family that moved long ago to another part of town when they noticed their neighborhood beginning to decline. I could sense history, and foreboding.

The others must have sensed it too as Liz broke the tension with the Addams Family theme song. "They're creepy and their kooky, mysterious and spooky..." Our laughter must have alerted the inhabitants to our presence on their doorstep. It stopped abruptly as the heavy front door unlatched, then started swinging open on creaky hinges. As it did, opera music began pouring out from somewhere inside.

I was half expecting Lurch to greet us. What I wasn't expecting was Uncle Fester's gay brother.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Irregular Pac

This story has so many layers and threads, I'm not sure where to begin. It's going to take more than one post to explain. Let me start by rewinding 24 hours to my appointment with Dr. Dilf for yet another fasting cholesterol blood test.

It's been a month since I started my newly prescribed medication for blood pressure and cholesterol and it was time to make sure everything was working as expected. But I would have been making an appointment anyway, since I haven't been feeling well these past couple weeks.

At the risk of sounding indelicate, my digestive output hasn't been keeping up with my input. It got bad enough last weekend that I even tried bullying my system with a greasy corned beef reuben from a local diner we'd stopped patronizing after noticing... a pattern. God bless JB for putting himself in harm's way and having lunch with me. And putting us both in harm's way as he raced back home down Ponce de Leon as if it were the Talladega Speedway.

Anyway... Oh yes. I was at the doctor's office.

I explained my condition to Dr. Dilf and he asked, "Has there been any change that may have caused this?"

"Well... I started taking Simvastatin."

Yes, even though I know doctors hate when their patients use the Internet, I couldn't resist doing some research on my own. I think the only thing doctors hate more is when their patients pull a folded up print-out from their back pockets.

"Simvastatin doesn't do that," he responded flatly. I offered the print-out, but he refused to look at it. "I don't care what you read online, but I've been prescribing this stuff for fifteen years and it's never happened."

Now I'm not an idiot, I know how the Internet works. If you're looking for a connection, it's easy to find one. I could probably find that Simvastatin causes testicular elephantiasis if I googled long enough. Or I could post it myself. I just found it a stretch to believe this was some script kiddie's idea of having fun on eHow when even the information sheet the pharmacy stapled to my prescription listed constipation as a common possible side-effect.


"Now I have seen this side-effect with the Norvasc. Did you print out those side-effects?"

Ooo, sarcasm. Welcome to my office, Dr. Dilf.

"So you prescribed two drugs which cause constipation? No wonder I feel dead on the inside."

Dr. Dilf was getting exasperated, I could tell. "You're having an issue taking the Simvastatin, aren't you."

He already knew the answer to that question. I've been clearly expressing my concerns since he first tried getting me on statins five years ago. It took him that long to convince me my apprehension was unfounded, that statins are perfectly safe, that heart disease is quickly joining polio as something only our grandparents had to worry about, and that I was irrationally and foolishly endangering my life by dragging my feet.

"I'm trying to prevent you from dying of a heart attack."

It's hard to say "no" to an offer like that. So why would I?

To be continued...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Left Behind

Bad news... if you're reading this, you haven't been raptured. I'm assuming rapture is a goal of yours, it might not be. As for me, I just hate being left out of things. The more exclusive the guest list, the more I want be there. Even if it only sounds elite. If there's a "platinum" or "pro" version, I'll pay extra for it.

I think this deep-seated insecurity stems from my years being picked last in elementary school gym class. Sure, I threw like a girl and am still slow to understand the rules of any organized team sport. But I liked to think I had something to offer my team. Evidently, biting sarcasm and physical comedy weren't skills highly prized among prepubescent team captains. At least not on their team.

Seriously. You can't spend a week pelting me with dodgeballs, then show dismay when I run screaming from a baseball on an incoming trajectory. It's classic Pavlovian conditioning.

To be fair, I wasn't always picked last. But I was always in the group of dregs where the selection process tapered from enthusiastic to "aw Coach, do I have to?" My tribe of outcasts included the Japanese foreign exchange student, the deaf kid with the hearing aids, the boy with baby fingers on one hand and the kid that had to wear a wig since the fire. And me, Alternative Lifestyle Kid. (A euphemistic paraphrasing of my actual tribal name.)

But even within our ragtag team of misfits there was a hierarchy. Exchange Student made that clear every lunch break. (Pacifist culture my ass.)

I could beat Baby Fingers in the rope climb, but a pair of boxing gloves leveled that playing field. Once while tumbling, Hearing Aid Kid missed the mat. I'm sure today's solid-state microelectronics would have fared better.

I'm 100% convinced it was only for entertainment that Coach made Baby Fingers wrestle Wig Kid. They were fairly matched though, since Wig Kid had to use one hand to keep his hair on.

But I will never forgive Coach for pairing me with Exchange Student on karate day. I still cringe every time someone bows with honor. Or I wax off.

One of my many birthday gifts from Julie. A mousepad. How did she know?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Thanks for the nice feedback on the 64-story stair climb. I was pleasantly surprised there was absolutely no soreness in the days following. Especially considering that immediately upon returning home, I almost fell on my face starting the one flight of steps from the car port.

I think my arms got as much of a workout as my legs, pulling myself up the hand rails.

I'd been training on that machine at the gym that looks like a mini-escalator, but that was deceptively easy. Julie explained that it's not just the climb, but the fact that the activity of all the climbers shifts the O2 and CO2 levels in the stairwell. This is why the fire-fighters climb last, and in full gear. It makes for a realistic training exercise.

I can tell you I haven't heard so much heavy breathing since watching Kirstie Alley on Dancing with the Stars.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Stair Master

I almost never use the elevator at my office. It's not that I'm especially claustrophobic, although I have every right to use that excuse after getting trapped for nearly three hours on the twelve-and-a-halfth floor of one of Dayton's tallest office towers. It served me right for trying to sneak out of work ten minutes early.

And it's not necessarily all the unwritten rules of elevator etiquette I seem to be the only one to observe. (No eye contact, no unnecessary conversation, no facing any random direction, etc.) Our office park is so multicultural, I'm lucky when I don't have to share the lift with livestock.

I can legitimately complain our elevators are accessible to every handicap except color-blindness. This is because the elevator indicator is a single light with red indicating "going up" and green indicating "going down". Or is red going down? It doesn't matter because I can't tell if the light is red or green. I usually end up visiting the penthouse every time I try to get to the lobby.

But mostly I just like using the stairs. It's the perfect way to insert exercise into a job that's otherwise so sedentary it makes Jabba the Hut look like Jack LaLane. I work on the third floor so I can typically climb there as quick or quicker than using the elevator.

So Saturday morning when I found myself in the stairwell of Atlanta's Equitable building, I was in my element. Julie, JB and I were there to participate in the American Lung Association's "Climb for Life" fund-raiser. It's a 32-story climb which can be done once or twice. Possessing some semblance of a Y-chromosome, I signed up for the double climb.

When my starting time came (15 seconds behind Julie) I bounded up the stairs two at a time thinking "this is just like going to work." I hoped Julie wouldn't cry when I passed her. Sort of. Then something happened I wasn't prepared for... the fourth floor.

By the tenth floor I was gasping for breath and gladly accepted the water bottle handed to me by a race volunteer. At each landing I stopped to catch my breath as senior citizens and former Biggest Loser contestants passed me by. At the 20th floor I was wondering if anyone would notice if didn't do the second climb.

I found Julie at the top waiting for the elevator ride down to climb the 2nd stairwell. She waited for my vital signs to stabilize before encouraging me to give the second climb a try. As I took the elevator down, I wondered where JB was. It was only a little over a year since his hip replacement and I started to worry, imagining him slumped somewhere on the 18th floor.

The second climb wasn't any easier than the first, but it wasn't any more difficult either. I took it slow and easy, encouraging Julie to continue at her own pace and leave me behind. (I didn't want to "Monique" her.) Around the 4th floor I heard a familiar voice echoing in the stairwell with a tone of distress that gripped me with panic. "How in the hell do I get out of here?!" It was JB. I was afraid of this. I talked him into doing the climb and now he was in trouble. I should have known it was too much for him. I should have known he wouldn't be able to finish it.

Turned out that instead of taking the elevator to the 29th floor where the post-race celebration was to be held, he accidentally went all the way back down to the 1st floor where the race volunteers shunted him back into the stairwell. He'd already finished two climbs and now he was passing me on his third trip up.

I should have known not to worry about JB.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Even though Lent is over, I'm continuing my meal plan through May. I've got one more follow-up test at the end of the month. Just to make sure my new cholesterol medicine is indeed saving my life and not, you know, the opposite.

It's been a rough couple weeks, with a big push at work coinciding with physical concerns and an uncharacteristic surge in my social life. I still don't feel like I've made up last week's sleep deficit. I know I haven't made up the last two weeks' exercise deficit. And it's clear fourty-five is happening, whether I'm ready or not.

I used to think the goal of a balanced life was a perfect, static equilibrium where all internal concerns and external demands were constantly attended. In that scenario one aspect of life cannot be allowed to interfere with another, or chaos follows. Once static equilibrium is lost, it's difficult to restore.

Now I imagine my life is a pendulum. Almost always off-center at any given instant, but with overall balance over time. A dynamic equilibrium achieved by means of mass with momentum, acceleration with restraint, forces along lines forming tangents.

At each extreme I pause and remember my center.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day

I still love the idea of Mother's Day. It probably would be a depressing day if I let it. But I don't.

My partner and I both lost our mothers about six years ago, two months apart. JB's mom passed first. Unlike my mom, it was sudden and unexpected. She came to visit us on a Thursday. Friday she started complaining of back pain and JB took her to see a doctor. Despite heroic efforts by the staff and doctors at Piedmont Hospital to repair an abdominal aneurism, she passed on Sunday. As tragic as this was, JB saw it as a blessing that this happened while she was here with us rather than home in Texas where she lived alone.

My mom had been ill for several years after struggling with diabetes then suffering a stroke. She bounced back at first, but one setback after another made it impossible for my dad to care for her at home. She spend the last four years of her life in a nursing home.

I don't know what happens after we die, but JB does. He was comforted thinking about our moms hanging out together in heaven telling each other all the funny stories they have about us. And watching over us.

When that first Mother's Day rolled around, we already made plans for it. We have plenty of wonderful friends in our lives and many of them have fabulous moms that we've come to know as friends. On Mothers Day we give our attention to our "foster Moms" and to our sisters. We spend most of Sunday on the phone.

Yesterday one phone call made us sad. When we called our friend Phyllis down in Florida, she was thrilled to hear from us. But she admitted that when the phone rang, she was hoping it was her son calling. Her son happens to be JB's ex. (Yes, it's complicated. One of these day's I'm going to diagram the relationship dynamics between myself, JB and our exes.)

We haven't seen Phyllis in a few years. She hasn't visited since shortly after her son started a new relationship. I really like these guys and I've always been happy they found each other. What I didn't realize was that there is some sort of animosity between the new boyfriend and Phyllis.

I know there's two sides to every story. And frankly, I don't care about the details. Their family drama is none of my business. What I do care about is a sweet, lonely woman who feels shut out from her son's life. And about a son who, for whatever reason, is squandering the precious time he has left with his mother. To JB and myself, who would give anything for one more Mother's Day, this seems incomprehensible.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Let 'Em Take Caduet

Last night I found my birthday cake from last weekend
in the refrigerator, still intact. This is what life has become.
I can have my cake but I can't eat it without
dangerously elevating my triglycerides. Sigh.
It took nearly a week but I finally filled my prescription yesterday and started taking my old people medicine. No, I wasn't dragging my feet, really I wasn't. After my appointment last Wednesday, I went to work then stopped at the pharmacy on the way home.

"That'll be $167."

"What the fuck???" Yes, I dropped the F-bomb at CVS.

"Your doctor prescribed Caduet. I'm afraid that's not on your formulary."

I left without my prescription. Caduet is a combination blood pressure and cholesterol medication. Not only is it convenient as it replaces two tiny pills with one tiny pill, it allows Pfizer to continue making money from two drugs which have (or soon will) lose patent protection and go generic. I found myself in the rare situation of agreeing with my insurance company. I really started wondering if I wasn't being too cynical about some sort of collusion between doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

It's bad enough you're telling me I need to start taking meds I'll probably never be able to get off of for the rest of my life. Do you really expect anyone to pay $167 a month for that privilege? No wonder our health care system is so fucked up. All for a 1 or 2% decrease in the likelihood of having a heart attack.

After a week-long four-way between Doctor, Insurance Company, Pharmacist and myself; I now have two prescriptions (generic Amlodipine and Simvastatin) that'll hit my wallet for $20/month. I fully realize this is my choice. I can say no. And that's where I'm at right now. I can trust my doctor that I'd be foolishly harming myself by not taking this stuff, or I can trust my gut feeling that we're tinkering with delicate metabolic orchestrations we barely understand.

And the worst part is, any of my effort to eat right, exercise and take care of myself are now removed from the equation. My cholesterol will go down, and it'll be all thanks to the drugs. Will I be healthier?