Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Medical maladies of middle age

That’s a nice and depressing title, isn’t it - especially if you’re aged between thirty five and forty five like myself, my brothers and most of my mates.

According to the data gathered by the Victorian government, the average life expectancy of men is 77.4 and for women it is 82.7. Simply dividing these numbers by half gives a ‘middle age’ of 41.4 for women and 38.7 for men respectively. It doesn’t seem like too long ago that, as a know-it-all early twenty-something, I considered middle aged to be in the mid to late fifties like my parents were. Poor old sods – they’d hit that unfortunate stage just as I was leaving my teens.

My own mathematically robust ‘middle age’ might be only three-and-a-half years away, but my beloved Love Chunks is already a year beyond his. This rather sobering thought was enough to wake me up at 3am today, with road-map eyes refusing to stay closed and my almost-middle aged brain still annoyingly capable of firing up too many synapses for too many unhelpful thoughts. As such, it led me to have a mental rundown of my middle-aged friends. How are they faring as they prepare to walk downhill in the second half of their lives?

My big brother, Rest’n’Recreation, has become more medically obsessed in the past few years. This is probably due to the fact that he’s married to an internationally renowned medical researcher who, ironically, is also into homeopathic, herbal, Chinese and naturopathic medicine. RnR, who predated Seinfeld by many years in his love for cereals as an all-day food source now has drastically cut back his intake, citing an itchy rash on his chest as the reason. He is also dealing with dodgy knees from his tiling days and rickety elbows in his current plumbing role. If those aren’t enough to keep him occupied there’s always the winter ailments to look forward to – wearing shorts with socks and thongs whilst sitting on a hot water bottle during a minor head cold or encasing his entire lower body in icepacks when his footy-playing ankles act up. Thank god he has a perfect set of teeth.

His lovely and talented wife, Dr W, is a girl after my own heart. Lots of physical failings to focus on in what is probably a symptom of working too hard and the body throwing up its hands saying, “That is it. I quit!” Hence she suffers from irritable bowel syndrome, asthma (incurred in recent times), sinusitis and coeliac disease. Even so, she’s still the most cheerful person in Victoria and always finds time to watch the Saturday morning cartoons.

Little brother Thumb, at 35.5 years old is just outside of the middle aged circle but getting close enough for my purposes. As a chronic asthma sufferer he probably already qualifies, but recently he’s also been rather clumsy with the surfboard, resulting in an angry red scar shaped like a computer’s Forward Slash on his forehead. His fingers appear permanently taped up with various bandages from his weekend renovation attempts and, when he has the time, there are many budding warts to have a pick at. Aw bless his sweet little heart – this was the boy who, at eight, told me he wanted “To open a kiosk to rip off tourists”, but, in reality is now a town planner who pisses off tourists instead.

His beautiful high school sweetheart, Feet Fatale, is a podiatrist (naturally, refer to the obvious nickname) and mother of two very endearing and active boys. Like Thumb, she too is just spying the peak of middle-age in the distance and is so far doing the best at preventing its snowfalls from interrupting her ascent. The most one can write about her medical maladies is that she’s decided that two children are enough and, after 35 years, it’s now high time to start drinking coffee so that she has the energy and perkiness to get through her busy day. She can also console herself with the fact that she is still sometimes asked if she’s from school on work experience by her elderly clients. (Let’s not tell her that they’re the ones who’ve forgotten where their glasses are).

My best buddy, Jumpin’ Jill Flash, is the same age as myself, having been born in the same hospital two days later. Brought up on a dairy farm she survived her fair share of scrapes and accidents, not least the ‘shit pit’ near the milking sheds. She and her brothers forced their visitors to walk along it, hoping that the dry, odour-free crust would give way to the malodorous cow crap beneath. Perhaps this ‘hospitality’ is now being revisited upon her via excruciating neck and back pains that the doctor can not find a reason for. She has also suffered through endometriosis and had polyps on her ovaries yet still walks 8km five times per week, plays two games of squash and expertly cares for her three children. Recently she’s also had some infected blisters from her new walking shoes and was shocked when the hairdresser pointed out that she might need to cover up her grey hair. She should give her hairdresser the flick (pun intended) – who the hell can see greys in naturally blonde hair?

Catherine the Elegant has raised a gorgeous little boy on her own, which has been made slightly more challenging by her also being the living embodiment of the Human Germ Sponge. As with all childcare parents, she has come into contact with every infection going, but has sadly been the unfortunate winner of having the highest number of colds, flus, gastros, lurgies, cases of the trots and weird afflictions ‘that are going around’. Despite this, she works a stressful full-time managerial position, has put in the front and back gardens in her home and constructed, sanded, painted and installed her own window shutters. In between coughs, nose blows and vommies into buckets she still manages to have a home that would make the ‘House and Garden’ editor convulse on her Corbusier recliner with envy.

Ravishing Rebecca is a Special Education kindergarten teacher, mother of two cute little girls and regularly donates her time and energies to school committees, projects and fundraising activities. She’s looking the dead centre of middle age right in its beady little eye and fighting all it the way. There’s no way she’s going down the fuddy-duddy route without at least giving the half-way point a good swift kick in the ghoolies. Rebecca has suffered her share of child-induced lurgies (see Catherine the Elegant, above) and the ever-present ‘stay at home versus career’ guilt complexes and anxieties but is now hitting the gym, pounding the pavement and refusing to eat anything with the words ‘creamy’, ‘chocolate’ or ‘pan fried’ in its title.

Lastly, me. Poster Girl for the Whining, Afflicted and the Negative. Where do I start?

  • Diagnosed with a Macro-Adenoma Prolactinoma (non-cancerous brain tumour) in 2005 which thankfully responded to medication and didn’t have to be yanked out via my nose;
  • Migraines that arrived suddenly at age twenty five and don’t show any signs of going back to where they bloody well came from;
  • Owner of an Irritable bowel – there’s an understatement – Should be Very VERY Angry Bowel;
  • invites in insomnia;
  • Dances regularly with Depression and anxiety;
  • Squeezes in some stomach aches;
  • Sneezed my way through hay fever, regularly infected phlegm and Sinusitis which led to sinus surgery – best thing (nose-wise) I ever did;
  • Currently suffering from painful and overly long periods – oh goody; and
  • Endured teeth, jaw, neck and shoulder pain from grinding and clenching my teeth – this resulted in six new crowns, chewing through two silicone mouth-guards and cracking two of my new crowns within six months. All of this mouth mangling abuse has resulted in my wearing a double-thickness, titanium-strength mouth guard that gives me a set of lips like a saltwater schnapper. It helps though.

Lordy, imagine how bad I’d be if I didn’t have the love, support, kindness and patience of Love Chunks, whose only middle aged malady appears to be putting up with me. And snoring.


xianfu said...

Its's true... "p... :p

Dan said...

Hi Milly,
I admit to the heinous crime of lurking lately...
I've been meaning to post a comment but get stuck on what to say.
Anyway, found you on BE and enjoy your blog!
I'm afraid I'm headed down the "Elmer Fudd without the wit" path myself - the only thing currently saving me is the fact that it's a 10-minute walk between classes at UWA.
Oh well. I'm trying to make the switch to healthy... not always easy when it's your mum who packs you lunch ;)
Anyway, keep up your fight, and if you keep blogging I'll keep reading!

Anonymous said...

Don't see it as "going downhill" but "gaining momentum"...