Here I sit by a fire pit at a lovely resort in AZ thinking about turning seventy-five. What a year it has been.
Last year, when I posted Growing Older: On Turning Seventy-four, I pondered what the next year might bring, not anticipating a move from Chicago to Sioux Falls, SD, and for sure not dreaming I’d be sitting in AZ in 60-degree sunshine while my daughter and family back in Sioux Falls are bristling in minus wind-chill temperatures. “Stay there,” she says, “You’re where you need to be.”
Now, about turning seventy-five—I’ve had one unusual event so far. A month ago, I saw my new doctor in Sioux Falls for my annual Wellness Visit, as Medicare calls it. Five major things were different from last year:
–Mental status exam
Last year, my Chicago doctor said it was now required that I have a mental status exam. He named three items and said he would ask me for them at the end of the visit. Then he asked me to draw a clock, followed by making the clock say 3:00.
This year, my new doctor did not mention a mental status exam. (Too bad because I’d written down the three words on my iPhone calendar, so I could study them from time to time just in case…! Now I’m wondering who was requiring it last year, and why wasn’t it required this year?)
Last year, I had my yearly blood draw for Vit D. A low level of Vit D can contribute to muscle pain, so, with my history of fibromyalgia, my doctor ordered the blood test yearly to make sure my 2000 IUs of Vit D daily were maintaining a therapeutic blood level.
This year, because I said I was not having any pain right then, monitoring my Vit D level apparently wasn’t important. (Anyone who knows about having fibromyalgia knows that if we touch ourselves, we have pain, so a good day is when we don’t touch ourselves and we still don’t have pain!)
Last year, I had my yearly blood draw for lipids. They’d been borderline for years and were of just enough concern for my doctor to order a statin. But then I got the side effect of muscle pain which I didn’t need with having fibromyalgia, so, with my doctor’s knowledge, I stopped taking it.
This year, after I recounted this history to my new doctor, she said the latest thinking is that if we’re not going to treat something, we don’t have to test for it. (So maybe my first indication of a real problem will be when I have a heart attack or stroke! It may be nice to know if things are getting worse, so I could reassess taking a statin or substitute.)
Last year, my doctor performed my annual breast exam.
This year, the doctor told me the latest thinking is that the patient knows her breasts better than doctors do, so it’s more effective for us to do our own exams.
Last year, my doctor checked my every-two year Dexascan for my history of osteoporosis since the late nineties. The test showed my bones were no longer responding to the medication I was on, so he ordered a new drug. When I found out the cost and that my insurance would not cover it, I opted, with my doctor’s knowledge, to treat my osteoporosis with over the counter meds.
This year, as with no lipid blood draw, if I wasn’t going to take the new drug, I didn’t need to have the Dexascan.
My new doctor did ask me a few questions and check my heart and lungs, but then she sent me on my way. “See you in a year. We’ll do blood work then.”
I walked out shocked, but also feeling like a new woman. A young woman who just checks in with her doctor once a year for fun. A young woman with no important long-term history of any ailments. A young woman with supposedly healthy-enough bones, breasts, and blood.
What a great birthday present!
Now, if only I’d not developed a severe bronchitis during our 2200-mile road trip from frigid South Dakota to a much warmer Arizona, I would almost believe I was immune to all ills that might come my way. But after days of hacking, coughing, and spitting, and with over a hundred dollars of antibiotic, cough syrup, and inhaler meandering through my body, I’m feeling every minute like I’m meeting the milestone of turning seventy-five in a truly magnificent geriatric style.