I celebrated my 55th birthday with a ride on my mountain bike, logging around 8 miles of bumpy dirt road and feeling downright proud of myself. It was another sparkling Teton Valley day with hawks perched along the fence lines watching for voles, sandhill cranes yodeling overhead and the crick, crick, crick of my deteriorating left hip with every pedal push.
This cheerful snap of worn-out cartilage reminded of my morning phone call from a well-known seer and aging expert. As usual, my sister got right to the point.
“Happy birthday. Getting old sucks.”
Over the years, she’s offered valuable advice and recommendations about this age-old battle. Now, I’ll share those pearls of wisdom with all of you.
Just last week, she was trying on skirts in a retail dressing room. The sales clerk knocked on the door as she was forcing the zipper. The clerk asked if she needed any assistance. My sister responded that there was an odd bulge preventing her from closing the zipper.
“Do you have any control?” asked the clerk.
“If I had any control, I wouldn’t be trying on a size 18 skirt, now would I?” she snarled before it occurred to her that the clerk was referring to control-top Spanx.
Moral of the story: When you’re old, you snarl at people uncontrollably and that’s okay.
I once made the mistake of asking for advice on how to lose weight. Her initial response was less than optimistic.
“Losing weight at our age is like pickaxing cement out of a car trunk.” Then she told me how she managed to lose 20 pounds rather quickly by going on the Clapton Diet. First, she read Eric Clapton’s autobiography “Clapton.” This brought back memories of his youthful beauty and magnetism.
After reading his book, it was clear that Eric had surprisingly low expectations when seeking female companionship. So she put his 70s rock star picture on her refrigerator, inside cupboards and above her scale reasoning that if she lost a few pounds and ran into Eric on the street or at the mall, her chances were as good as anyone’s that she could catch his eye. Just the thought of him on his knees singing ‘Layla’ to her provided sufficient motivation. She lost the weight and then saw him on a television show and realized that he had aged right along with the rest of us. The honeymoon was over.
Moral of the story: Let go of fantasies and just eat whatever you want.
And finally, there’s the never-ending conversation of how, when and where to wear yoga pants without completely alienating the children. When I told her that in my neck of the woods, women wear yoga pants everywhere; grocery shopping, mall browsing, wedding receptions, horseback riding, job interviews, you name it. This kind of behavior doesn’t fly in SoCal. In the Newport Beach area, yoga pants are carried in special exercise bags to the yoga studio where they are put on prior to yoga and then removed immediately after yoga. So when my sister tried to travel by air with her children and they realized she was planning on wearing yoga pants ON THE PLANE, the sky fell.
“I even put on my best cowboy boots and they still wouldn’t let me leave the house,” she said sadly.
Moral of the story: Don’t grow old in Southern California if you like to wear baggy yoga pants.
Our phone conversation devolved into a discussion about the ignominy of being hailed by every miracle face cream and weight-loss kiosk operator in the mall.
“Excuse me miss. Not you. No, not you. YOU over there in the pink yoga pants, I have some extra potent samples just for YOU.”
Then she had to hang up because she was running late to the eyebrow salon where a true artist would try to make brows appear where there weren’t any since half of each arc had fallen out at the age of 50.
Moral of the story (and this can’t be stressed strongly enough): Growing old isn’t for sissies.
I’ll take the good days with the bad and continue to ride my bike in my loose yoga pants. I’ll keep coloring my hair until I decide not to. I’ll paint in a brow line and rub anti-ageing cream pretty much everywhere from the forehead down. And that’s okay.
Moral of the story: Keep pushing the pedals. There’s a lot more fun to be had.
Anyone can come up with at least one thing that wakes them up in the middle of the night. Barking dogs, thunderstorms, nightmares and so on.
I recently had an unusual wake-up call at 5:15 a.m. when I opened my eyes to a sudden painful scrunching in my left chest area. Not wanting to disturb the peaceful slumber of the two cats and husband beside me, I told myself to breathe calmly, deeply, and (hopefully) continuously. I soon felt a mighty thump in my chest, a release of the squeezing feeling and a burst of warmth flowing to the ends of my toes and fingertips.
So I rested there for about an hour, telling myself to relax relax relax, there was nothing to be concerned about, no need to elbow my husband or nudge the drooling cats off the side of the bed. After all, it was highly unlikely that I was having a heart attack of any type because – well – because I don’t have heart attacks. Then I started ticking off the facts of my basic profile:
That’s five out of five. What would an intelligent person do at this point of realization?
I decided to ignore all of the medical information about heart attack symptoms that I know very well because I’m a healthcare marketer so it’s my job to tell people to get immediate medical assistance if there’s even a miniscule chance that they’re having a heart attack. I fell into the high percentage pool of people who think that it would be terribly embarrassing to call 911 or be driven to the ER, only to discover that the problem was a panic attack or heartburn. After all, what could be worse: dying of a heart attack or having a doctor tell you that you’re not having a heart attack? Ummm …
Anna Gunderson PA-C chastised me gently but thoroughly during my clinic appointment at 10am that morning, reminded me that “time is muscle” and that I should have come to the ER via driver or ambulance, and by the way, shouldn’t I know better?
At the end of the day, my lab tests, an EKG and chest X-ray indicated that I hadn’t suffered a cardiac event. My rheumatologist suspected pericarditis brought on by systemic lupus. While I felt somewhat relieved, I was also smacked with the reality that I could have a heart attack and that in fact, many of my friends and acquaintances could have a heart attack at any moment and need to have their lives saved by the very people with whom I work.
I’m making a donation today to our hospital foundation’s campaign to raise funds to buy a Zoll defibrillator unit for our ambulance and a cardiopulmonary DASH monitor for our E.R. I discovered that last year alone, our current E.R. DASH monitor system assisted 126 people in cardiac distress and almost 500 people with respiratory ailments.
Please consider supporting this campaign for acquiring this essential equipment and who knows? It just might save your life.
My goal with this blog is to enable you and your family to make the best choices you can about how you live your life in relation to your health.
The decisions we make, large and small, throughout our lifetimes play an important role in our overall health, and I hope to encourage positive changes that may help improve the lives of my patients and readers.
I believe the philosophies of both Western and alternative therapies can work together to aid the healing process. I’ll provide you with evidence-based medicine to help you make informed decisions on therapies you may be using at home, or may be contemplating adding to your wellness routine.
Teton Valley is a great place for growing and healing. I enjoy the outdoor activities our area has to offer, including rock climbing, backcountry skiing and hiking. My husband, Jansen, and our Great Pyrenees mix, Kingsley, especially love the long winters and powder days.
I’m excited for my 7-month-old girl, Saraya, to grow up in Teton Valley. I’ve lived here for two years, after spending six years in Jackson, Wyo. I love the peacefulness of the valley and the strong, lively community of which we are a part.
Disclaimer This blog is meant for educational purposes only and should not be considered direct medical advice. Consult your provider before beginning any activities or programs. Anna Gunderson, PA-C is a nationally certified Physician Assistant. She sees patients at the Driggs and Victor Health Clinics. For more information or to make an appointment, call (208) 354-2302.