maintenance

Yesterday I made a list of people I needed to call to schedule appointments. At the top of the list: allergist. Mom called yesterday morning and said, “Have you seen the wheat doctor yet? I really want you to be able to eat bread again.” I think the next time I come to town, she’d like to be able to serve “normal food” again. It’s very difficult to eat like a proper Polish girl without pierogies. Also, I don’t like life as much without pierogies.

At the bottom of the to-call list was “Car.” It was beyond time for some scheduled maintenance, the kind that always seems dubious to me. I’ve never gone for a physical, and I avoid taking my car to the dealer for check-ups. As long as we’re both running fine, I see no reason to spend time and money to go poking around, looking for something wrong. I know this isn’t the right attitude to have towards health care and car upkeep, but it’s worked for me. Until I turned thirty.

I talked to my friend Josh on his birthday. I’ve known Josh for more than a decade now, and one of my favorite things is to hear him get ramped up on a topic.

Example:
[scripty]
JOSH
You’ve never had chartreuse?

PAMIE
You drank a color?

JOSH
Interesting story, if you don’t know it, how chartreuse came to be. Back in the 1600’s, there was a monastery in a small suburb of Paris, and they received a gift that was an ancient manuscript called “An Elixir of Long Life.” Well, only those monks and a few apothecaries–”

PAMIE
Josh?

JOSH
Yeah?

PAMIE
Can you hold on and then start over? Because I want this to be my outgoing message on my voicemail.

JOSH
Pam.

PAMIE
I’m serious. I wouldn’t have to return any calls. “I hung up when the guy said ‘apothecary.'”

JOSH
Do you want to know what chartreuse is?

PAMIE
Of course I do. Monks. Paris. Elixirs. Hit me.

JOSH
The color is named for the liqueur, and not the other way around.

PAMIE
You wonder-kill all fancy.
[/scripty]

So on Josh’s birthday, as we were discussing aging, I got frustrated.

[scripty]
PAMIE
Do you have any idea how many pills I’m taking these days?

JOSH
Pills? Like medication?

PAMIE
No. I live in California, where they start you on dirt of the earth first to try to fix all of your problems.

JOSH
Well, that’s good. Vitamins and supplements are an important part of… what are you doing?

PAMIE
Counting.

JOSH
How many?

PAMIE
Six. SEVEN. Seven different–

JOSH
Let me hear them.

PAMIE
There’s a multi-vitamin. And fish oil. And a b-vitamin.

JOSH
So far these all sound good.

PAMIE
And… this one is embarrassing, but I take a vitamin for my hair because my stylist told me to.

JOSH
Uh-huh.

PAMIE
My nails currently look awesome, and my hair’s getting better. I got a complex about it, so I’m doing something about my hair. This is the year I fix myself. Hair is on the list.

JOSH
You don’t have to justify.

PAMIE
I feel like I do.

JOSH
What is it?

PAMIE
Methylsufonshcumackerazamine,” or something like that.

JOSH
Good hair is important, Pamie. What else?

PAMIE
Digestive enzymes to balance the Hydrochloric Acid in my stomach so I don’t get shingles or staph again and to help with the rosacea.

JOSH
This all sounds good.

PAMIE
And then some girlie stuff to help with the crying. Evening Primrose Oil, which makes me feel like I’m supposed to be dressed like Stevie Nicks when I take it.

JOSH

PAMIE
You know what color my pee is these days? Chartreuse.

JOSH
I should have seen that coming.

PAMIE
Electric Chartreuse.
[/scripty]

This is when Josh launched into an explanation of cell regeneration, and how every seven years we’ve got a whole new set of cells… until we turn thirty. And that’s when we start losing them, and our skin falls and our faces fall and our muscles get weak and we start getting older. Yeah, he’s fun at parties, that Josh. And by the end of it, I didn’t mind popping the handful of pills if it meant my skin would stay right where it is for just a little bit longer. And you know, no staph, shingles or rosacea. That part’s awesome, too.

So later that day I had to go to the Sherman Oaks Galleria to do more things to help take care of myself and my skin. As I pulled into the parking garage I thought about how I hadn’t been there since it was where I worked, years ago, as a logger for The Bachelor. It was during that time I wrote a monologue about my dad’s death, called “Dear Honda Civic,” for Letters Never Sent. There was a night, after logging for so many hours, when I was completely loopy, and when I got into my car at three in the morning in that parking garage, when I absolutely forgot how to drive my car. I had a lot of bad memories in the Sherman Oaks Galleria parking garage.

But then, when I was trying to get out of the Sherman Oaks Galleria parking garage, my car wouldn’t start. The battery was dead.

Don’t you see what happened? I wrote “car” on the list of things to fix, and that afternoon the car died. I had made some kind of Stephen King list of the doomed, and if I didn’t start getting to the items on that list, it was possible something terrible would happen to every organ in my body.

It wasn’t just the battery that died. I needed a new timing belt. “You haven’t had your car serviced since 2002,” the service man said. “What did you expect?”

While stranded without a car, I spent the rest of the day calling every doctor and specialist on the List of Doom. From teeth to hair to stomach to girlie parts, everything gets checked out. Even the full physical. Look at me, being preventative with my health care, just like I’m supposed to, because I’m scared I created a Voodoo List that will kill me if I’m not careful.

The allergist asked me to explain why I needed to determine if I had a wheat allergy.

I told her about the stomach aches, itchy eyes, my skin flushing, and all the things that led up to my self-diagnosis, how I eventually realized it wasn’t just stress.

“But what made you think it was wheat?” she asked.

“Well… you know that show House?”

And then she sighed.

“Well, Dr. House pretty much diagnosed my symptoms as a wheat allergy. Seriously. And then I checked in this book… by the Oprah doctor? I’m sorry, but I did. So using the important three-part process of Fictional Character, Oprah and Dr. Google, I stopped eating wheat to see if that would make me feel better.”

She was quiet, so I said it for her. “I’m not proud of how it all came to be, but it did make all the pain go away.”

“Well, then it sounds like you did a pretty good job listening to your body. How about we take it from here?”

For the next twenty-four hours I’m not allowed to put anything in my body that prevents an allergic reaction. No vitamins, no eye drops, no asthma inhaler. Just me, living life, in the normal elements. Cat hair and pollen and even the random bite of wheaty goodness. Good thing I knocked all the items off the List of Doom. Although, I will admit that right now there’s something painful on my chin, and while my rational, Dr. House side tells me it’s probably going to be a really mean zit, my brain is sure the staph is back. As I knock out doctor after doctor on the List of Doom, it’ll be nice if the hysteric in my brain calms the fuck down.

“So what do you hope we’ll discover at the end of the tests?” the allergist asked.

“I want you to hand me a loaf of bread and tell me to go to town.”

“We’ll see what we can do.”

11 thoughts on “maintenance

  1. As I’m only 4 episodes into season 1, I’m hoping to never have anything Dr. House diagnoses.Good for you, Pamie, getting those appointments made to keep you well. You need to stick around for a long time.

  2. I am SCARED SHITLESS about Josh’s comment about everything falling off when you reach 30.Not a good entry to read when such date is only a few weeks away.I too stay away from House. The only time I’ve seen the show, I freaked out about how I had too hit myself on the table once months ago and what if this would cause a stroke in my brain like it did to the little girl on the show?Not a show for a hypochondriac. I will tell you that much.

  3. How could I have been reading you for so many years and not realise you’re Polish? A life with no pierogies isn’t worth living, but you could try a compromise made out of layers of wheat-free lasagna noodles alternated with layers of mashed potato into which you’ve melted some cheddar and stirred in some sautéed onions.

  4. When I started getting symptoms of acid reflux at 36 and had to take Prilosec for it to go away, I felt broken. Like my body was now defective, where it never used to be. It was very hard to accept. But now I try to stay away from caffeine, carbonated beverages, alcohol, and fatty foods–all of which contribute to acid reflux–and every day I’m so grateful that at least my stomach doesn’t hurt. I’m just really glad that there’s something I can DO about it. That helps me to accept it. And eating healthier makes me feel better, and feeling better makes me want to do more things that make me feel better, like exercising and feeling strong instead of like a couch potato. This getting older thing has pushed me in a new direction that I never would have gone in, had my body stayed stick thin with all the junk food I was eating, like when I was younger.So basically, it’s smart of you to take care of yourself! Keep on truckin’!

  5. (Long time lurker feeling the need to comment, hi!)So, not to scare you or anything, but even taking care of yourself doesn’t help sometimes. I do my yearly check-up, I excercise, I eat right, and last December, I checked my bp at a pharmacy… extremely high. Did I mention I was 23 at the time? So, after checking it occassionally, showing my doctor and her telling me that at one point it was so high I could have had a stroke, we started the test rigamarole. After being on 6 pills a day, a chest x-ray, 2 CT Scans, and three specialists, they found a bump on my adrenal gland that’s secreting aldosterone, causing low potassium, causing high blood pressure. I can’t tell you how many times in the past year I’ve wished that House were a real person. I hope you get your allergy sorted out.

  6. I heard it was at age 25 that our bodies stop growing and start dying.The scariest thing my naturopathic physician explained to me after I had to get my blood tested for food allergies, was another way my body can be allergic to food: leaky gut syndrome.If the name alone doesnt sound totally gross – the explanation is worse. The villi in your intestine slowly get scraped away by, well, I dont know exactly, and then food seeps into your blood stream.She explained it like you could have bits of chicken floating around your knuckles. Which btw causes joint swelling. Food. Where it isnt even supposed to be in your body. so gross.That’s the next item on the lineup of testing for me. Oh and I totally booked my first appointment with her having to explain that my only physician was dr.google. I feel your pain.

  7. Please keep us updated on the wheat allergy thing. I was recently diagnosed and would love to find out any way to be able to eat bread and pasta again! (Plus cookies, cakes, tiramisu…)

  8. Ok… I’m going to tell you this works before it grosses you out. I have always had a problem with my skin… until I started using eggyolk on it once a night for a month and then occasionally (troublespotting) from then on out. All the redness went away all the nasty zits went away… it was fantastic. Not sure how it would work on Rosasia but it might be worth a shot.

  9. I was diagnosed with Celiac (intolerance to gluten) disease 3 years ago. Two years later I was still not feeling the best so I went to an uber specialist for it. Turns out I was misdiagnosed (weeeee!). And what is completely awesome? I take 10 vitamins each day and after 6 months, I’m feeling pretty good. Who knew?? So I will never underestimate the power of an awesome multi/c/b/d/a combo again!

  10. It’s not quite true that all your cells are replaced every seven years or that things start falling off when you’re thirty or whenever. What is true is that the molecules that make up the structures in your cells are gradually being broken down, built up, and exchanged throughout your lifetime, and in general, all of the molecules making up all of your cells are turned over the course of any given seven year period. However, I personally think that that figure is a pretty rounded number. I also think that since your metabolism in general slows with age, and as mechanisms designed to correctly break down and rebuild structures are copied with increasing error, the mechanisms become less efficient. Probably turnover decreases in that way with age. But no dropping off! Unless you’re a leper.

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