My recent experiences with unresolved, generalized symptoms prompted me to finally go and get a checkup a couple of weeks ago. I figured that if my mind felt okay, despite the skepticism of psychiatric professionals, then it had to be something in my body.
Generally, I’m one of those folks that is lured into my regular yearlies when they are prompted by something. For the last four years, it’s been mostly job related. When a person works with children, the company wants to be damned sure that their staff isn’t riddled with dangerous, communicable diseases. But, that’s about the end of it. There isn’t much regard for routine testing that should be done, especially in cases where it might be questionable as to whether the insurance will pay out or not.
This last time, I was mostly lured in by the need for a refill on my inhaler. But, I figured while I was there with excellent insurance, I should probably get stabbed a half dozen times with a baby needle before they found a leaky vein to slowly drain my blood into a fist full of vials. Besides, there were some things I wanted to look into. Things I had been ducking for a few years, because I really didn’t want to know the facts surrounding it.
When I was 25, a new primary care doctor reviewed my intake forms. He asked, “Have you ever had a lipid panel done?”. Mystified, I replied, “No, why? Should I?” Frankly, he looked shocked, and explained that any reliable doctor would have been monitoring that since I was 18. Apparently, I was at a significant risk for heart disease.
Imagine my shock when my lipid panel came back indicating that I had high cholesterol. I demanded to know why. I wasn’t obese and by that time I was very active, chasing multiple toddlers around as part of my job. My diet wasn’t absolutely atrocious, probably not any worse than anyone else in my age group. All she could say was, “It’s largely genetic in your case.”
The nurse started rattling off orders to put in a prescription for statins and attempted to get my pharmacy’s information. I resisted, explaining to her that I was just too young to start that kind of serious medication. I resolved to make an honest attempt at maintaining diet and exercise to combat high cholesterol.
I simply refused to believe that someone in my age group could be at serious risk for heart disease.
The following year, I managed to shed about another 10 lbs and remained extremely active, having a largely pedestrian commute, and spending most of my working day on my feet. And again, I ended up with an even higher number than the year before!
But, I still resisted. I refused to give in.
My test results came back today. I hadn’t been tested since I was 26, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew that the numbers probably wouldn’t be in my favor, considering that I am currently at my highest adult weight yet, having gained about 25 lbs in 18 months. Sadly, it was largely a result of quitting smoking. I guess there are some instances where you have to pick your poison, so to speak.
My triglycerides spiked almost 100 points, over twice the level that they should be. My overall number was considerably higher, being that my LDL was higher. The only thing that brought my overall number down was the impressive number I had on my HDL.
And the dread hit me. I’ll be 30 in less than three months now. I had given it five years, and pretty much proved that despite my best efforts, genetics aren’t something that can be easily beaten.
Then, there was the horror. I had orders being sent to me via mail to go to their local diagnostic center immediately for an abdominal ultrasound. It seems that my liver enzymes are elevated. Now, how elevated, I don’t quite know. I won’t know until the orders hit my mailbox, along with a copy of the complete report. It was apparent’y bad enough to alarm the doctor into urgent actions.
I keep hearing it repeatedly. Every medical professional has rattled this off to me over and over again.
Many readers may be chuckling at my alarm over turning 30. Most people, mainly those older than me, remark, “You’re still so young”, and, “You’re just a kid!” – to which I honestly take no offense. Chronologically, I’ve really only lived a speck of time in my life. I’m actually relieved when someone points out my youth, because I feel like I’ve lived dozens of lives already.
But, I take my age pretty seriously up against when I’ve witnessed in my own family.
My dad almost died shortly after his 50th birthday from heart disease. The man had spent his entire youth at the peak of health, being in the army and all. I never saw him take a drink in my lifetime. He had quit smoking long ago. And yet, 14 years and five days ago, he went into emergency surgery where they performed an old school quadruple bipass. The Widowmaker, they crudely called it at the VA Hospital.
Through the modern miracles of medicine, he’ll be an official senior citizen in the upcoming year. The doctors told him that he would probably last only another ten years, seeing as how another surgery wouldn’t be an option. He used to remark about his mortality, saying awful things like, “I won’t live to even meet your child” to me.
Not only did he meet his grandson, but they are best friends today. Poppop is Beast’s world. That’s the man that would hold him ’round the clock until his arms were ready to fall off for the first year of Beast’s life.
Comes with Blues
I guess I was mostly prompted into action when my brother was diagnosed as having very high blood pressure earlier in the year. My mom attempted to dismiss it by pointing out that my brother easily outweighed me by over twice my own weight. But, when my own weight gain wasn’t easily coming off this time, I knew that I was probably at risk.
So, I started Lipitor today, much to my chagrin. The most common symptom is myalgia, and it has to be reported immediately. I’m not sure what happens after that, if they have to discontinue the medication and try again with something else. Woohoo. Another medication roulette wheel to spin.
But, this condition now limits my bipolar treatment options significantly. My physical health has absolutely no room to risk any additional weight gain, increased sugar levels, or any liver toxicity. That rules out pretty much front line mood stabilizers like Lithium and Depakote, and almost all second generation antipsychotics.
In a way, it’s kind of nice. I mean, I now have a guarantee that any heavy medications are off the table. Limiting my treatment options pretty much limits what combination of medications they can throw at me. In all likelihood, I’m probably the safest on what I’m already taking.
But, there are some dangers that come with limiting my treatment options. Since I’m so restricted now, I don’t have many avenues of treatment left. I’m not willing to gamble my physical health for the sake of my mental health. It might sound counter-intuitive, but exactly how well will I feel in my mind if my body isn’t well? Damned if I do, and damned if I don’t, right?
I’m now introduced to a low carb, high protein diet. This is something altogether new to me, being that I was raised on potatoes, pasta, and soda as my staples.
I will mourn the loss of all of those wonderful foods. Especially pasta, pizza, and french fries. Admittedly, I went on a carb bender tonight, because the idea of the new diet tormented me. I don’t mind the foods that are promoted. I actually enjoy fish, and it’s advised that I eat it twice a week now. Chicken is easy to cook and fairly versatile. Most vegetables are agreeable, and I’m definitely a fan of all of the “good” fats they are recommending. Eggs are absolutely a household staple!
But, that doesn’t mean I won’t sorely miss all of those delicious carbs. Farewell, my tasty friends.