Category Archives: Health

Into the ears of babes

The question of the day: Where were you when President Kennedy was shot?

Perhaps more important, what did it mean to you at the time? For me, it all boils down to one word.

On November 22, 1963, I was three weeks away from turning four years old. As young as I was, I can still remember it well. It was late afternoon, getting dark, and I was playing on a swing set with a neighbor boy across the street. His older brother came out of the house and yelled, “The president was shot!” My playmate responded with something like “Oh, no; that’s terrible!” We all ran inside to find their mother in front of the television, hysterical.

Without paying much attention to the TV news story, I probably toddled home for dinner as almost-four-year-olds did in early-1960s suburbia.

I hadn’t grasped what had just happened; still, I was upset. There was only one meaning of “shot” in my young consciousness. And it was indeed horrific.

For me, “shot” was what the nurse gave you when you were sick. On every drive to my pediatrician, Dr. Bunce, I’d ask my mother, “Will I have to get a shot?” I’d tremble with fear and anxiety until the appointment was finished and I was sucking on my good-job-being-brave lollipop. Getting a shot was the worst possible thing to come from a doctor visit (next to spending Christmas in the hospital, which is what I did later that year, but that’s a story for another day).

So, on November 22, as far as I was concerned, the anguish I witnessed in the neighbor’s back yard, in their living room and, most likely, in my own house was a result of the President of the United States being injected with a needle. I probably wondered if he got a lollipop.

Yesterday’s Washington Post ran an article on how parents can help their young children understand clips of Abraham Zapruder’s footage they’d see in the news coverage of today’s 50th anniversary. Sadly, gunfire isn’t new to today’s youngsters. I’m just glad I made it almost to age four oblivious to anyone being killed with a gun.

On a brighter note, I’m reminded of a scene in the 1989 movie, When Harry Met Sally in which Harry is out with a much younger woman. Attempting to make conversation, he asked her where she was when Kennedy was shot. The date replied, “Ted Kennedy was shot?” Out of the mouths of bimbos.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Health, News, Politics

Moreover

When I was young my father used to tell me the story of a professor who, after a lengthy absence—perhaps years—finally returned to the classroom, and began his lecture with “However, . .” You may know the story. I failed to find it on the internets, and my father, now 81, is on the road working, and I hesitate to interrupt him.

Four months since my last blog post, I shall begin this one with “Moreover, . . .”

The Word Nymph last laid on you a tale of woe, of illness and death and, my apologies, it has hung out here like a slab of decaying flesh since Memorial Day. Anyone visiting this place has read of my husband’s and my medical mysteries, our friend in the ICU, the passing of a cousin, and other sharp stones the universe has flung in our path.

Moreover, the friend died after seven months in the ICU, while the cousin’s brother died suddenly four months later, followed by two additional losses in the same family. A friend here and there also left this place and, sadly, there are others in the queue. Moreover, my mother is struggling to recover from a terrible tumble she took in August.

If you’ve become acquainted with the people I spoke of on May 31, you’ll be happy to know that the babies born four months premature are home and healthy as of this past week. I know I am.

As for my husband and me, we’re doing better. My body is functioning at full throttle and my husband’s brain waves, according to that zany take-home EEG, are hunky-dory.

I continue to suffer from a severe case of creative writer’s block, long unsuccessful at keeping the technical and scientific writing I do in my day job from infecting the right chamber, but we’ll get back to it, I promise.

However, I do have a new concern about my husband; perhaps you have some advice.

The last two mornings, I’ve gone downstairs to find him, instead of watching the news as usual, listening to the Carpenters’ greatest hits.

By the way, I know I misused “Moreover.” I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Health, Music

In the hairy scary month of May

There was a time when the end of May sprang forth with new possibilities – the end of a college semester, a fresh season at Dewey Beach, the inaugural igniting of the Weber grill, white jeans unfolded after hibernation in the attic. The aroma of new-mown grass, the jingle of the Good Humor man turning the corner on to your block and the first sighting of the season’s fireflies used to be the sights, sounds and smells we soaked in on the eve of the first of June.

Decades later, I say to what was once my favorite month, Don’t let the screen door hit you on the way out. Good riddance, Hasta la vista, Sayonara and every other cliché I can spit this day.

Since we last met in April, the only May flowers around here are the ones my husband was planting when he yelled out “Call 911!”

Not to worry, he’s okay. After a Memorial Day weekend stay in our neighborhood hospital, he was deemed to be suffering from benign positional vertigo. He is slowly getting back to work, though he can’t yet drive himself there.

The week before, the mister’s head was covered in electrodes for a 72-hour take-home EEG. Picture a 64-year-old man in a luau shirt, with colored wires running from the back of his head to a shoulder bag–out in public. It’s a miracle he wasn’t taken into custody.

While my husband suffered two medical emergencies and spent much of April and May with various docs for various ills, I had to get in on the fun. By Memorial Day, I had had 11 appointments with five specialists, undergone five diagnostic procedures for what is essentially an aching back, and gotten two dental crowns. I even had my piano tuned. That’s not code for anything. It just seemed like the thing to do.

We visited a friend who’s had two liver transplants since Christmas and remains in the ICU five months later; buried a cousin and a family friend; prayed for twin babies born four months premature, and offered there-theres to a friend suffering a fierce animal attack. And many moooore… including a friend who also spent Memorial Day weekend in the hospital with benign positional vertigo. This could be an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Oh right. It was.

So what have I learned from this period of trial?

  1. When your husband calls out “911!” he doesn’t mean finish taking in the groceries and bring him some grape juice and a cheese stick.
  2. When you walk into pain clinic and hear blood curdling screams, turn around and limp for your life.
  3. It is possible to make a daisy chain out of hospital bracelets.
  4. If you and your spouse get sick at the same time, make sure one of you can drive. But know this: There is a 10-minute stage of benign positional vertigo, between extended periods of total incapacitation, when a patient is able to hop in the car and drive to Baskin-Robbins. (You won’t read that on WebMD.)
  5. If one is carrying around a bag with electrical wires attached to one’s head, putting on a floppy hat isn’t going to make him look any less like a suicide bomber.
  6. When the slightest drop of self pity seeps in, remember the guy in the ICU.

As the great modern philosopher Michael Bublé once sang:

Golden haze,
Another morning feels like yesterday.
End of May
Now you’re gone and there are still bills to pay.

Medical bills, no doubt.

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Filed under Health, Holidays

Regime change

Twice recently, I noticed a system of healthful habits being described as a regime.

The first reference was in a rerun of The Dick Van Dyke Show, in which Sally Rogers referred to her new diet regime. My ear twitched a bit, recognizing a potential misuse of regimen, while I also considered it might have been a colloquialism of its time some half a century ago.

Then yesterday, I read the same use in the Washington Post’s Health & Science section, in which the author of a recent book assured readers that, in order to age healthfully, they needn’t “go all out with a major fitness regime…” Prior to this, the only regimes I’d read about in the Post were systems of governmental power. I made a note to investigate.

My first scratch into the matter had me feeling pretty cocky. Indeed, the definitions I located defined a regime as a form of government (e.g., a fascist regime), a government in power, a prevailing social system or pattern, a period during which a particular administration or system prevails.

My cockiness wilted when I read an alternate definition—“a regulated system, as of diet and exercise; a regimen”—but I had just enough left to fuel one more regimen-related peeve.

Healthy Regiment

Healthy Regiment

I have a friend who likes to refer to her “regiment” of eating fruits and vegetables. My friend is not alone; the internet has no shortage of references to healthy regiments.

No matter how you slice your produce, there’s no room to rationalize that one. A regiment is an army unit. Period.

One of my favorite sources of analysis on such matters, the Visual Thesaurus, has a thoughtful explanation of regime v. regimen, pulling from various medical publications and etymological authorities to compare the two. They explain that regimen and regime are known as “doublets,” two words that have entered the language from the same source by different routes. They further advise, “If you use regime, you can be confident that you have a couple of centuries of accepted usage on your side. But if you want to make sure you don’t set off anyone’s pet-peeve alarms, stick with regimen.”

So technically, Sally Rogers and the Post are correct, though regime in this context appears to still bother many healthcare professionals. And me.

Nevertheless, Visual Thesaurus states, “Anyone who confuses regimen and regiment betrays ignorance of an elementary verbal distinction.”

They said it, not I.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Health

Flashionable accessories

Is it me or is it hot in here?

I was asking that question months before the 103-degree heat showed up.

To be sure, it’s me. (Actually, it’s I.)

One would think I’d have figured out by now that, at the moment the temperature in the room, in the car, in church, in a meeting, even at the podium, suddenly and without warning soars to a dangerous high, it’s me. But still I ask.

The bed bursts into flames at exactly 3:30 every morning. Every evening, simply sitting down to dinner triggers onset of SPP, or sudden projectile perspiration. Is it me or is it hot in here?

Recently, as I walked red-faced into my local GNC store, dripping on the counter, a young man smiled pitifully and walked me over to the women’s herbal products, where he made some helpful recommendations. Three weeks later, I’m still a raging inferno of Colorado proportions.

Yesterday, I went to the dollar store to find one of those handheld fans I swore I’d never carry. I bought one in every color. After all, mustn’t one’s peacock-embroidered purse fan always match her shoes?

Sisters, if that fashion trend doesn’t strike your fancy, how about this:  When the devil strikes, I take a washcloth from the stack in the refrigerator, drape it around my neck and attach it with a chip clip. For women our age, it’s the new black. Look for it on the cover of More magazine.

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Filed under Beauty and Fashion, Health

Losing it

Humorist Dave Barry once said of memory loss, the nouns are the first to go.

You know the feeling. You’re deep in conversation and, mid-sentence, you can’t remember the name of a simple object or person’s name. I once worked myself into a panicked froth when it took me two hours to remember Roy Orbison. I knew the face. I knew the music—every lyric to every song. Just couldn’t retrieve the man’s name.

I’m here to tell you, officially, that my memory loss has advanced beyond nouns and into adjectives.

We were having dinner last night with some friends.

One was sharing her frustration with having two parents with Alzheimer’s Disease. Around the table, we knew too many people who had suffered from the awful disease and had far too many friends caring for loved ones with dementia. We talked about Alzheimer’s specifically and dementia in general and pondered how memory loss has become so prevalent.

Someone questioned whether dementia truly is an epidemic, or that we’re just hearing more about it. I posited that perhaps we are more aware because there are large facilities that now house dementia patients, whereas in prior generations, a doddering grandparent simply lived with his or her family, blending into the background of everyday life.

One of our dinner guests observed that even the term dementia seemed to be relatively recent. Back when Granny lived with her kids and grandkids, no one referred to Alzheimer’s or memory loss. There was another word.

Yes, there was another word. But what in the world was it?

Around the table, we all tried to remember. How did we refer to old people who had lost their memories? What was that less politically correct, more descriptively exact, word that we no longer use?

The conversation became uncomfortable. No one could remember this simple adjective.

I told our friend, “Stop trying to remember. It’ll come to you eventually. But when you do remember, even at 3 o’clock in the morning, call me. I’ll be up anyway with age-related insomnia.”

Shortly after our friends pulled out of the driveway, our phone rang. I answered.

“Hello?”

“Senile!”

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Family and Friends, Health

Only skin deep

My husband’s umbilicus has a significant architectural disorder.

I just thought I’d get that out there.

The plan was to leave his health out of the blog—and all is well now—but he and I could not let a recent lab report go unlampooned.

Now that we know all is well, I can report that the first two months of the year here in Nymphland were focused on my husband’s diagnosis with a Stage 2 malignant melanoma on his left ear, for which he had surgery but for which, fortunately, no follow-up treatment was necessary.

During suture removal, a suspicious speckle was spotted inside his navel.

The good news came in by phone that this abdominal anomaly isn’t particularly worrisome, though he’ll be going in later today for a bit of surgical scraping and scooping, just to be on the safe side. Doctors warned him that his bellybutton could end up in a different place, which I’m imagining might be on his left shoulder or behind his right knee.

Yesterday we received the full pathology report of February’s “umbilicus punch biopsy,” which had my husband and me in stitches. So to speak.

You think you know a man after 29 years, then you learn he has an exaggeratedly reticulated epidermis. Furthermore, there are nests scattered in the vicinity of his periumbilical region. Where the rest of us store spare lint, he carries around a lentiginous dysplastic nevus, which “cannot be fully appreciated.”

The pathologist closed with: “Thank you for sending this most interesting case in review.”

Off I go this afternoon to take my husband downtown for his re-excision. May you have a Happy Nevus Appreciation Day.

Be honest: How many of you are checking out your own navels right now?

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Filed under Family and Friends, Health