Tuesday, August 24, 2004


At one time in my life I had a cast iron stomach and fancied that I could eat anything or any combination of things without repercussion. As I have gotten older this belief has been belied in the face of my continuing attempts to pretend that I’m not aging. And there are lots of things that slowly begin to happen, little harbingers of fading youth. Things that make denial difficult. Things like alarming noises coming from my joints when I get out of the car. Spotting a whisker gleaming from my chin as I check my rearview mirror. Nipple hair that sprouts seemingly overnight – I shower every day how is it possible to miss a 2” hair springing from my breast? The other night I fell going up the two steps into my dining room and I had no idea how it happened. My first thought was of that commercial for the speaker box old people put in their homes so they can push their emergency button and say, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”. I could get up but still, I had no idea how I fell – I wasn’t drunk or anything. One minute I was up and the next I was down. This is not a sign of good things to come.

But lately the most disturbing part of this aging process has been my belly and it’s attendant drama every time I eat something. It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote about my mom letting one rip at the Christmas tree lot and it seems that karma is now biting me on the ass. Literally. And because I am so anal retentive I walk around imploding all day which I know cannot be good for me although I’m sure anyone who is downwind appreciates my efforts.

I have ignored the rumblings for a very long time when I think about it, blithely consuming things that most sane people would never eat. Especially when their bodies are warning them off with dire symptoms. I once created a case of extreme food poisoning that I thought was going to kill me. I say created because I actually had food poisoning 3 times in 10 days. When you get food poisoning it beats the hell out of your immune system making you an easy target for any other questionable bacteria that you might come into contact with.

In my case the first bit of food poisoning occurred down in Mexico one weekend where I was scarfing nachos and drinking margaritas with abandon. By the time I got home that night I was not feeling well at all. I spent the night tossing and turning and running back and forth to the bathroom. About 3 days later I ate some leftovers out of the fridge that were questionable but I’d had a few glasses of wine and I needed to eat something. I ended up doubled over with cramps for most of the night. Have you ever noticed that food poisoning always seems to come on at night, at least most of the time.

The weekend following the Mexico adventure, and 3 days after the bad leftovers, I went to a friend’s wedding down south in Dana Point. We all got hotel rooms because we planned on drinking and didn’t want to drive home. Three of us shared a room and Erin was starving when we arrived so she got a quesadilla to snack on before we went off to the wedding. She didn’t finish it all and left it in the styrofome container on the dresser.

Where I found it the next morning in the pre-dawn hours with a horrendous hangover. Or perhaps I was still drunk because I decided that it would make an excellent snack and I threw that bad boy in the microwave and heated it up for a little snack before I passed out again. Had any of my compadres been conscious and sober I’m sure they would’ve stopped me but I was awake and alone with my own bad judgment. I got up the next morning and felt pretty alright considering that I had been karaoke-ing the night before doing a bang up version of Kung Fu Fighting in my wedding finery at the local bar down the street from our hotel. I believe I was accompanying myself with all my best karate moves as I sang. It’s all kind of a blur.

The first sign that something was not right with me was that I turned down the donuts that someone had bought. I was extremely fatigued on the drive home, but that could be chalked up to all the gallivanting the night before. I got home about 2:30 in the afternoon and had to lie down. About 20 minutes after I lay down I began doing the home version of the Exorcist – starring me in the role of Regan. I was writhing on the bathroom floor making guttural noises as I crawled on and off the commode while hurling into the trashcan. And every once in a while I would think that perhaps the worst was past and drag myself back into bed because my body was aching so badly that the cold hard bathroom floor was akin to lying in a pile of broken glass.

About 7 hours later I just knew I was dying. I called my brother who has a degree in microbiology and at the time was working in the lab with bacteria and various viruses. I asked him what I should do and he suggested that I take my temperature and if it was high I might want to consider going to the hospital for some hydration. “No!” I croaked, “What do I do to make the dry heaving and the cramps stop.” His answer did not please me. He told me that I had to let my body get rid of the poison. Not what I wanted to hear.

I took my temperature and it was 104.8. I was trembling and absolutely positive that I was going to die. I called the hospital emergency room and asked them if I could come in for one of those suppositories that stop vomiting. That’s how desperate I was. Since I couldn’t keep anything down I was willing to stick something up my ass to make the pain stop. Unfortunately the hospital was in concurrence with my brother. I had to let my body do it’s thing to get rid of the heinous bacteria I had ingested with that quesadilla some 15 hours earlier. The nurse I talked to also said that if my temperature got up over 105 I should come in because I might go into convulsions.

I hung up and I cried – but I had no tears.

I rode it out and finally got some sleep the next day. I wasn’t able to eat again until the day after that. And ever since I’ve stopped eating things that are even a tad questionable. I’ve also become so aware of what a hard time I have with certain foods and most noticeably with alcohol. Not only does it reduce my ability to make sane choices (and this expands into areas beyond food), it also makes me sick. I can’t drink more than two cocktails without dire consequences, e.g. throwing up in public.

And lately conversations with friends contain references to blood pressure and high cholesterol. We say things like “How’s the Lipitor working?”, “I’ve got a great lady I see for colonics” and “the Glucosamine and Chondritin really helps the aching in my knees – I don’t limp so much in the morning.” And some of these people haven’t even hit forty.

It’s like we got old overnight!!! Or maybe we’re just obsessed with our health more than the generation before us. Perhaps the pharmaceutical industry has a hand in that with all the magic pills they make to ease our “social anxiety” and create erections on command. I heard someone say the other night that 40 is the new 30 and that may be true, but I’ve got parts that feel like 40 is the new 60. And before I go looking for a magic pill I’m going to try a colon cleanse because as they say, “death begins in the colon”.

They also promise lots of energy, glossy thick hair and a flat stomach. Pfizer and Merck aren’t offering anything even close to that!

No comments: