Not too long ago, I walked out of my allergist’s office, and realized, “I feel good.” Now, why waste valuable Internet space on my (knock on wood) good health? Because I’ve made four lifestyle changes that have made me feel better than I did years ago. Who knows, there may be someone reading this who wants to feel better, and maybe I can help. I’m no doctor, but I have stayed in a Holiday Inn Express, and my first two initials are D.R. Close enough.
1) I finally went to the allergist. Ever since I was in my twenties, I sneezed a lot. I have vivid memories of spring softball games, with my beloved KZ-106 Foul Tips, sneezing my brains out. My wife Cindy would suggest I see someone about it, but in typical male fashion, I’d blow it off (pun intended). I remember telling her, “It’s no big deal, I sneeze every day of the year.”
True, but it got to the point that I was miserable, just downright sick every May. The tree and grass pollen overwhelmed me. Then in October the leaves would fall, and my misery level would rise again. Twice a year, for several weeks at a time, I’d trudge on to work, on radio and TV, stuffed up and sore-throated. It was just part of life, I thought. About four years ago, I had the “scratch test” done, the allergies were identified, and the weekly shots in the arm began. Soon they were bi-weekly, and now they’re monthly. Easily the best doctor’s visit I ever made. Relief was immediate. This was a life-changer.
2) I finally went to the dermatologist. Being of fair skin and English/Irish descent, the sun is not my friend. No one told me this when I was a teen, sunbathing constantly in a futile effort to look as good as my bronzed friends. No one said anything about it when I was playing softball on blistering weekend afternoons, with no “protection.” I kept thinking that painful beet-red burn would magically peel into a skin tone somewhere between Bob Barker and George Hamilton. No such luck. The only thing it turns into is melanoma. About ten years ago, a good dermatologist looked first into my family history, then deeply into my skin and laid down the law. “Hey Knucklehead,” he may well have said. “You shouldn’t even get the mail without smearing SPF 55 sunscreen over your exposed skin.” Done! Much of the damage was inflicted long ago, and it never goes away. But at least I’ve fended off any new damage in recent years.
3) I finally started getting an annual physical exam. A good friend and former boss of mine scared me to death when he was about 40, and I was in my 20s. He was telling the tale of the prostate exam portion of getting a physical, and made it sound like torture.
I never forgot that, and adopted (again) the stubborn male philosophy of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” My dad was among many who would say, “If you go to the doctor when you’re not sick, they’ll find something wrong with you anyway.” So unless I was deathly ill with a stomach virus or something, I stayed out of doctors’ offices. Finally, I gave in to spousal pressure, and made the annual date with the doctor. No excuses. That uncomfortable little exam I had so dreaded wasn’t so bad after all. It only lasts a few seconds. And the good doctor has monitored my once-high cholesterol levels, and introduced me to the wonderful world of colonoscopies.
(That reminds me of a story. My first colonoscopy was about 7 years ago. During one of my many visits to the bathroom the night before the procedure, I looked at the bottle of liquid laxative I was chugging. It was called “GoLitely.” On the floor was a bottle of bathroom cleanser, labeled “KaBoom.” I remember thinking “KaBoom” would have been a more appropriate name for the laxative.)
4) I finally visited a sleep center. Throughout our marriage, Cindy often expressed amazement I was still alive each morning, after enduring sleepless nights of my high-decibel snoring, the rattle frequently interrupted by me gasping for breath. Of course, I had no idea this was happening. All I knew was, I would awaken bone-tired, like I had worked in a cotton field all night. I would often lumber out of the bed wondering why I was so achy and exhausted. Eventually I’d snap out of it, but mornings were not pleasant. I endured a sleep test, with all the sticky electrodes and uncomfortable gear making it darn near impossible to sleep. But evidently, the doctor acquired enough data and video evidence to prove that I had sleep apnea. The solution: that lovely C-PAP device that covers your nose, keeping your airways open.
(My kids nicknamed the device “Nixon.” I have no idea why, but the name stuck. A salute to our 37th president.) The happy ending: almost immediately, I slept better, stopped snoring, and have since felt great when I wake up each day. Another life-changer!
Nothing I’ve written here is revolutionary, or considered a recent medical breakthrough. Certainly, I’ve been blessed to work for a good employer with a health insurance plan that allows me to make regular doctor visits and undergo these treatments. I wish everyone could do the same with no hassle or financial worries. But if anyone reads this, and is able and willing to get their allergies under control, regular physical exams (and if appropriate, colonoscopies), skin cancer screening or sleep apnea testing, it might make their life better too. As for me, 20-30 years ago, there was no TV news guy on the Internet passing along these little self-improvement tips. If there had been, I would’ve been singing this song a long time ago: