Taking our Health for Granted

Carrie Rubin recently wrote a post – It’s Easy to Take Our Health for Granted until It’s Taken from Us – describing her mother’s unfortunate ongoing health issues.  Unlike me, Carrie’s mom has retained a sense of humor through all this adversity.  In comparison, I would bitch, moan and complain about every insignificant problem – ingrown toenail, flea bite, that zit that always arises at the end of my nose – in the vain hope that it would ward off more serious problems.

As Carrie points out “Many ailments like [her] mother’s aren’t due to our poor behaviors, and many of our poor behaviors aren’t due to a lack of willpower. Our health is such a priceless commodity […] and yet we humans purposely do things we know aren’t good for us.”

So why do we systematically take our health for granted?

Faulty logic – Many of us don’t like going to the doctor. We argue (I argue) that the results are the same:  Either the doctor tells us that we are fine in which case we did not need to go or the doctor tells us that we have a problem in which case we wish we had not gone.

Avoidance part 1 – We avoid the obvious, men in particular. The fact that we can no longer stand up straight or bend our knees or that we donate blood whenever going to the bathroom is of no significance.  If a man loses his arm, he will still not want to go to the emergency room saying “It’s okay; it will grow back.”

Avoidance parts 2 – Studies have shown that daily exercise increases longevity by three years. Of course, most of that extra longevity was spent exercising.  Take out the extra time exercising and you only increase your longevity by three days.  In the words of www.despair.com , “Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.”

Pleasure seeking part 1 – I was touring Yosemite National Park a number of years ago and watched what I thought were bugs crawling up the side of El Capitan, the granite monolith extending about 3000 feet from base to summit. With strong binoculars, I realized that there were several teams of climbers scaling a shear face of rock.  It was far easier for me to watch than to participate.  Thrill seeking activities come with the risk of injury, sometimes fatal injury.  On the other hand, if you are going to die of something, make it something you like. ***

Pleasure seeking part 2 – Why do we consume in excess items that are injurious to us like cigarettes, alcohol or drugs? Because, we argue, they make us feel good.  If one of these is good, then two, three or forty-nine of these must be better.  Besides, they create jobs for the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives and the Drug Enforcement Administration as well as stimulate the economy.  If we collectively stopped consuming these items that are bad for us, we would send the financial system in a tailspin.

So, put up your feet, sit back on your fat butt, take a swig of rotgut, a drag on your cigarette, and watch endless reruns on the TV knowing that you are doing your part for the health of the economy.  Sacrificing your own health was never easier.

Taking health2



***Registered trademark, watermark, patent and copyright of Curmudgeon-at-Large. If you use this phrase without my permission and without sending me big bucks, a million fleas will infect your armpits.  I point out that it is not easy to train a million fleas to attack and infect armpits.

Folding Organs

Do your organs fold up when you sleep?

Among the displeasures of growing old (really old) is the anomaly of twisting all the organs in your body into strange and painful shapes when sleeping.  I must spend my sleeping hours engulfed in dreams where I ward off demons, crawl through mazes, pretend that I am a ball of twine or participate in the old folks’ version of a James Bond action scene or Cirque du Soleil.

I wake up with all my organs rearranged in places they don’t belong.  My spleen should not be visiting my tonsils; my liver should not be securely ensconced in my pelvis and my small intestines should not look as though it had won a prize at a sailor’s knot contest.

I sometimes feel that my insides are illustrations for a new, gruesome version of Grey’s Anatomy meets Animal Kingdom Origami:

Normal spleen/My spleen

Normal liver/My liver

Normal kidney/My kidney

Not only are such transformations painful but it takes a long time for each organ to approach its pre-bedtime shape.  On top of that, the organs have folds and bends from all this twisting and turning and it just makes it easier for them to twist into weird shapes the next time I participate in this strange bedtime yoga ritual.  Too bad your organs can’t be sent out to the laundry to be dry cleaned and pressed to remove these bends and folds.

Something similar is happening to all the pipes and tubes in my body.  I feel as though parts of me are dropping off when I walk down the street.  If I looked behind me, I would find a trail of nuts, bolts, bits of rust and some foul oozing liquid.  My parts are in such bad shape that, if the “cash for clunkers” program were still operating and they let people submit their bodies, mine wouldn’t even qualify.

What I don’t understand is, with the constant loss of parts, why don’t I lose weight?  Perhaps it’s because 80% of what I consume never makes it to my stomach for digestion because my esophagus has openings the size of the Lincoln Tunnel and lots of stuff accumulates in odd, assorted places.

My esophagus (on better days)

To correct my twisted organs, I have purchased, at great expense, a new kind of mattress complete with trained assistants to maintain a straight alignment of all my innards while sleeping.  I’ll let you know how it works out.


The Death-Defying Act All Men Should Perform

In response to the Bloggers for Movember challenge from A Clown on Fire, I agreed to write an article in November about raising awareness to prevent cancer, specifically prostate cancer.

I am all too acquainted with cancer.  My wife of nearly forty years died of metastatic breast cancer.  My father died of colon cancer.  My maternal grandmother died of stomach cancer.  Close friends succumbed to lymphoma and pancreatic cancer.

No one goes looking for cancer.  No one says “Hey there cancer, how about paying me a visit for a while?”  In many cases, the occurrence is a result of heredity rather than habits.  As a result of my blood line connection to cancer, I get to pay a visit to my gastroenterologist, or Dr. Roto-Rootor as I call him, more often than I wish.

We can’t change our heredity but we can change our habits.

Women, in their wisdom, realize that men are simple beings who can be defined, as a group, by annoyingly similar behaviors (or, if you have been colonized by the British, behaviours).  As a group, men are:

  1. Mesmerized by large breasts;
  2. Never need directions;
  3. Love sports (at least watching sports while consuming large amounts of alcohol);
  4. Exaggerators of their sexual prowess and
  5. Believers that all illnesses can be cured by ignoring them.

Real men don’t go to doctors; that’s for sissies.  A man can severely injure a limb and say that it was just a scratch.  They can have a bruise the size of Rhode Island and claim that it’s a small bruise and you should see the one they got two years ago while playing ice hockey.  Whatever illness, disease, disfiguration or disability a real man has, it will just go away if you give it enough time.  Of course, the man may go away (permanently) before the illness or disease, thus making the argument moot.

It is astonishing that most men will perform all sorts of jackass acts – like jumping from helicopters to ski down mountains, motorcycling without a helmet, extreme boxing, playing chicken with sharp objects, go paragliding or skateboarding at ages when they should be playing shuffleboard – but won’t perform the one death-defying act that could save their half-witted lives, getting a prostate exam.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers to affect American men.  A very good friend of mine was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  Through early detection and treatment, he is now, years later, still cancer free.  Yes, he does have to go for regular follow-up visits.  The point is that he is around to have those follow-up visits.

Men, defy death.  If you are over fifty or have a family history of prostate cancer, get a prostate exam.