Friday, September 18, 2009


I have two or three posts I want to write, and ditto chapters. But I'm up for the past hour, mostly to eat after a 24 hour unwilling fast, and my body is aleady saying I have to go back into absolute stillness.

This past week really sucked. And that's mostly what I want to say. Body-wise, it was no fun. (That's understatement, kids.)

The lingering headache, which did eventually go away, led into left ovarian pain and cramps, plus eye-weeping from allergies and an inflamed taste bud. Too minor to complain about, really, but nagging and irritating. I was juggling the body mechanics requirements of (a) crappy joints everywhere except my elbows, so far knock wood no elbow issues at all, plus (b) that left ovary which gave out a knife-like jab with most kinds of movements, plus (c) the cramps which came and went, plus (d) forgetting to take the weak-acting OTC and sometimes affordable med I can take for the arthritic shit, Alleve -- trying to change position in bed to reach the lamp so I could write a few things in my notebook, and YIKES, zonked my back but good. The thoracic area muscles plus, either then or soon afterward, my rib muscles on the right side.

The kind of pain that left me unable to find a comfortable position at all, and made me never want to take a full breath. Which is really a bad choice for someone with asthma, I pay diligent attention to full, steady breathing.

This was at about 1 a.m. Five hours later I had spiked a fever, emptied my bedside water jug, and was beginning to wonder if it was in fact a weird-ass heart attack. I fished my blood pressure cuff out of the box with my thermometer and other medical necessities, realising I hadn't checked my BP in over a month.

I do have mild hypertension, kicked in when I was 40. Everybody in my family, even extended family, had hypertension from a young age onward. The family ethic was to simply tough it out, which meant early death from strokes and heart attacks, or to diet obsessively while still smoking, drinking, and/or living in a simmering rage. Hostility is as much a risk factor as hypertension, more of one than being fat or having high cholesterol, but since the drug companies can't come up with an anti-hostility pill that folks will actually take, it's the diet industry which gets all the bucks for "preventing heart disease."

Thing is, in those mass studies that prove a correlation between being fat and having increased incidence of heart disease, if you factor out the folks who are chronically dieting (which most studies do not, but a few have) -- if you factor out the extremely abnormal behavior of self-imposed starvation, there's no cardiac difference between fat people and non-fat people who are not dieting.

I once typed medical records for a clinic of doctors who did medically-supervised weight loss. I typed the release forms patients were asked to sign which indicated it was highly likely if you lost weight by their methods, i.e., focused on calories but not kinds of calories, you would develop extremely abnormal cholesterol levels as a result. Also, 30-40% of their patients had to have a cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal) within six months of the diet beginning. They didn't mention the 95% failure rate of all diets, but my guess is, it still wouldn't have stopped people from spending their money on what sounds like medicine but is pure snake oil. (I mean, can you imagine any other recommended treatment with a 95% failure rate being allowed by law?)

Because the real problem folks have with fat is that it looks like fat. Not what it does to your health.

So, anyhow, when my high blood pressure showed up, I had a good feminist doctor who said "I assume if you're this fat already, you've dieted for years in the past" which is exactly right. We went over what I ate, which at that point was extremely healthy, and she couldn't find any suggestions to make. I did as much exercise as my asthma allowed. So she recommended lisinopril, an ACE-inhibitor, and warned me that hypertensive drugs vary widely, not all of their mechanisms of efficacy are completely understood, and I might have to go through a dozen before I found one that worked for me.

I began on the lowest possible dose, and it worked instantly, easily, no side effects, no spikes after exertion or during stress. Just nice steady pressures in the 110/70 range. Been on it ever since, at the same dose. Because there is no honor in dying young.

But a few months ago, I began noticing that, along with some other physiological changes, my daily or every-other-day blood pressure checks were registering some very low readings. Lisinopril is available as a generic for $10 covering three months, it's not a drug I've had to give up, EXCEPT it costs me $25 to have somebody go pick up a prescription. Even every three months, that $12 a month, which is a significant budgetary item. I mean, fresh broccoli or lisinopril? That's a real question in my life.

So I decided to try not taking it for a while, see what happened. For over a month, no change in my readings. And then I forgot to keep checking.

So, in that world of pain, I suddenly thought "Hey, lingering headache, sign of hypertension you dummy" and I took my pressure: 165/100. The highest, by far, I've ever had. I managed, with serious effort, to move enough to find the lisinopril bottle and took one without water. Then I began to worry about fluid imbalance, what with a fever and all, so with what I honestly consider a heroic effort, I got up to refill my jug. Also checked my e-mail, and I replied to Cowboy Diva's comment about my latest chapter, but it's not there now so I must have either hallucinated it or somehow hit the wrong button. I called Jesse to let somebody know what was up, and also to check in on him because he was also in a world of pain. Then went back to bed.

An hour later, my blood pressure was normal. I've checked it eight times since, and it's never above 120/70, so I'm back on the lisinopril, for sure. I finally found one strange position which eased all the various spasms, and I fell out of consciousness right away. Slept half an hour, which is when the need to shift joints kicks in and in the course of moving while asleep, of course my back and ribs screamed. But with half an hour to an hour of sleep at a time, it's gotten slowly better. Fever is gone, taste bud is normal again, and sitting up/walking is possible.

That's my story for now. Back to living on an island far away from the current of the rest of the world. Dinah is keeping me good company, because I have been free-handed with the treats. The night of her birthday, she even watched a few minutes of a PBS special about show cats with me.

And, by the way, Max Baucus, Dianne Feinstein, and all the Republicans who think the public option is anti-American: I hope you have to spend your old age living off inadequate Medicare and the kindness of strangers. Except you wouldn't recognize kindness if it was a Maine Coon show cat who bit you on your gluteally-challenged ass.


Blue said...

I'm sending prayer-spells (as Ry and I call them) into every joint and soft tissue in you. Love you, buddy.

C. Diva said...

hallucinations can sometimes be fun...
Sorry to hear it took so long for you to figure out your hypertension warning sign; mine is daily migraines so I usually clue in pretty fast that my medication and salt/caffeine/sleep/stress combination is out of whack.
Rest well.