August 6

Part 2

John pretends to be an ostrich

Head in the sand. Deep in denial. All I had ever had was pneumonia, bronchitis, chickenpox, and mumps. All of my male relatives lived well into their 80s, so I thought, “no sweat.”

I didn't like doctors. Or nurses. Or hospitals. I have worked with doctors and nurses on a peer-to-peer basis for 15 years as a medical editor helping them publish and, when the white coats come off, we get along fine. That is to say, I don’t like the institution of medicine. I don’t like institutions, generally. I am not one who is easily told what to do. And I thought I was bulletproof. My cholesterol is low, and pulse and blood pressure are normal.

Well . . .

Waking up is hard to do (apologies to Neil Sedaka)

My wife, Ann, and I routinely shop for groceries on the weekend. Occasionally, some outfit or another who has more concern for my health than I did would offer blood tests at the store for various diseases. Ann convinced me, after much reasoning, to have my PSA checked.

My score for PSA (prostate-specific antigen) should not exceed either 2 or 4, depending on which doctor you talk to. Now I personally like 2 as a limit. My first test came back 6-point-something. So I immediately went to the internet, and found “research” that concluded the PSA test was an “unreliable screening tool.” I had no symptoms of any disease.

Roughly 12 to 18 months later, Ann convinced me to have the test again. This time it was 9-point-something. I preferred to have my head firmly in the sand. It was more comfortable that way. Besides, even if I had prostate cancer the likelihood of actually dying from it, statistically, was slim, according to the same sources.

Lies, damn lies, and statistics

Hmmm, wrong. Prostate cancer is a sneaky son-of-a-@%^*# that can kill you while you pretend to be a big bird. Very fortunately, for me, this wasn’t all that my body had in store.

How to get a hernia while you’re looking the other way

Natural Bridges State Park in California is a beautiful coastal park. We went there on a visit to my oldest son and daughter-in-law and their son. The tide pools are among rocks that get slippery as the tide goes in and out. My oldest grandchild, who was three years old, was walking by himself, and understandably had some trouble navigating the rocks, so I picked him up. And I felt a twinge. Aw, hell, I’ve had hernias before, and guess what? Another inguinal hernia. Been there, done that. Can do it again if I have to. It was August 31, 2002.

One of these sides is not like the other

At the motel that night, I confirmed it; push in, it comes back out. Crap. Got to schedule an appointment with a surgeon. Double-crap. Perversely, I thought, “well, at least it’s a surgeon." Surgery is pretty cut-and-dried—if you don’t mind the pun.

Hang in there. In Part 3 it starts to get interesting.

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