So, there was this time I went bowling..

This post is mostly just an FYI, for the 1% of the population that doesn’t know this.

On February 28th, I went to the Emergency Room unable to catch my breath after playing a couple of games of 10-pin down at the local bowling alley.  On March 2, I had a quadruple heart bypass.  I spent the next week more or less half-conscious in the hospital.

My recovery has been slow, I’m still in a moderate amount of pain.  On the plus side, I feel pretty good.. in some ways, I feel “better” than I did before I went into the hospital.  Before just getting through my day was often a struggle.  Now I don’t feel like I’m struggling to get through it, even if I need to occasionally sit down or have a nap if I spend too much time walking around.

One of the upsides of this was I got to spend a couple of weeks at this wonderful home of a friend-of-a-friend.  It was a nice pastoral setting, kind-of out of the center of town.  It was a very supportive environment, and a huge thank you to Helen and her good doctor friend for tolerating me when I was recovering.

Also, Matt, Mee, Brendan, and Silvia came to visit for a couple of days when I was discharged initially.  If not for their support, I would have been kinda screwed.  They made sure I had a safe place to go, and that means the world to me.  Thanks guys.

So, that’s the short of it.  I’m still hurting from the surgery, but the scars are healing.  I have good days and bad days.  But at least I have years ahead of me.

Heart surgery sucks, by the way.  Would not recommend.

“The Big C”

So, this week I finally got a doctor to look at something that’s been nagging at me for a little over a year now. I have had this mole on my arm that started itching a while back, and I scratched it. And I’ve been continuing to scratch it. And it’s starting to change.

What’s scary to me is that the little I know of my biological family for certain is that there is some history of skin cancer, and that it seems to become a problem when my biological lineage gets to be in their mid-40’s. Well, guess fucking what.

I know, at least at a logical level, that if this does turn out to be a melanoma it is in it’s earliest stages and is getting caught. And that this sort of thing when caught this early and removed is pretty much a “slam dunk” surgery-wise and the overall prognosis is good. I’ll have a 15mm hole in my arm that’ll get stitched up and heal quickly, and a quick blood test some weeks out (if the biopsy is positive) looking for cancer markers. That will likely come back negative, and I’ll get the “Survived a 15mm cancer growth” to my Achievements tab, a dubious accomplishment at best.

But at an emotional level, it’s very challenging to face. I saw what a simple skin cancer did to my uncle. Other people in my life have (or are continuing) to suffer from the effects of cancer, although a lot more serious cancers than a simple wacked-out mole. And it’s scary precisely because now that I have one mole that’s gone The Way of the Dark Side (even if it isn’t malignant) I’m more likely to develop others.

My appointment is on Thursday. I’ll let you know how this goes.

Healthcare is this bad in the US.

So, I understand that “drug stores” have a long and varied history here in the US, and that many of our major drug store chains grew out of a more “general merchandise” view of the establishment. Heck, my favorite hangout in Southern California was a drug store soda fountain, the oldest continually operating business in the area. And trust me, nothing on the menu there would ever be confused as “health food”.

All that said, as of late the big drug store chains are trying to position themselves as one-stop health care centers. Rite Aid has, for a long time, had a co-branding arrangement with GNC. Walgreens will not only give me a flu shot, but apparently other vaccines as well. In some markets (where state regulations allow) some chains are experimenting with on-site urgent care.

I could see this as a big step forward, if only for one big problem. “Drug stores” carry so many things that are unhealthy that it is really hard for me to even walk in the place and keep a straight face.

Case study: I walk up to the counter today at a Walgreens, with a filled prescription for diabetes medication, a sugar-free Red Bull, a package of sugar-free diabetic candy, a bottle of water, and some batteries. “Would you like a brownie for $1?”

Wait, what? I actually did a double-take for a minute. Here I am, a borderline morbidly obese man, with an armload of diabetic supplies, and you’re offering me a 400 calorie brownie?

It’s bad enough that they sell tobacco products right there at the counter. Add to that the checkout lane is a veritable cornucopia of unhealthy snack choices: cookies, sugared gum, chocolate bars, and Life Savers. There are a few “healthier” options: Altoids aren’t too bad, and infrequently there’s a Power Bar or something similar.

And I get to thinking. If I wanted a healthy snack here at this drug store, what are my options? And I realize that I don’t recall seeing a piece of fruit in the entire establishment. Now, it could very well be there’s a well-stocked produce department hiding somewhere behind the Pampers on aisle 3 that I missed. However, the fact that in my journey through the entire store I can’t recall ever seeing one product that I would consider ‘health food’ tells me something.

If major drug store chains really want to be “partners in my health”, they need to become that, and not be my 7-11 that sells amphetamine, sulfa drugs, and test strips. Start by dropping all the unhealthy things on your aisle: tobacco products, fortified wines (not here in OR, that would be illegal mind you, but I remember buying Thunderbird at a Rite Aid once in CA just for laughs), and junk food.

Heck, offer me a banana instead of a brownie, or a Tiger’s Milk bar instead of a cookie. It’s a start.