Went to the doctor for my annual physical today…he gave me an A+ and said of all his patients in their 70’s, I am in the best shape. Unimpressed, I asked him about his patients in their 60’s, and he said I am near the top of that group too. Everything looked good…as usual. All the exercise and healthy eating is still paying off.

I had just spent a week in Florida visiting my old high school classmates. One was lucky to be alive after serious health issues and weeks in the hospital. I hope I can hug all those guys again next visit in the fall and that none have passed on to loftier pastures. One said he doesn’t recognize his face in the mirror. I told him to start “youthing” the image by coloring his hair, so it isn’t all white. The guy who’d been hospitalized said he didn’t have any hair left to color!

On the way out of the doctor’s office, feeling pretty happy with the doctor’s comments, a staff member suddenly yelled back anxiously that I couldn’t go yet. The doctor needed to talk to me. Uh oh. This has never happened in 20 years.

So back to the examining room to wait impatiently. My blood pressure had tested 20 points higher than the year before: 130/70 up from 110/70. Maybe there was something wrong with my heart. Unlike previous visits, the doctor had been so prompt that the EKG was taken after he examined me, rather than before. So I guessed he had looked at it and seen a problem. Now he was going to give me the bad news. Ten minutes earlier I was talking about living to 90 or 100. Now I feared he was going to tell me to go to a specialist, a heart surgeon, who knows what.

Two weeks ago a friend went for her annual physical feeling fine. She had major surgery a week later. Tomorrow another friend will have surgery. I know of a number of people who feel fine, go to their physical and learn that they have terminal illnesses. WHY DOES MY DOCTOR NEED TO TALK TO ME AGAIN? WHAT THE HELL COULD BE WRONG? I am too agitated to sit, so I pace around heading towards a panic.

The medical assistant comes in and places the paper print out of my EKG on the table. I look at it, trying to decipher the peaks and valleys. Two lines look totally uniform. But two others have spikes in just two places. Another line has descendant drops in just two places. Has my heart failed? Are my tennis days over? Will I need surgery? Take a deep breath or three and calm down. But this has never happened before. Is this a panic attack? Where the hell is the doctor? Rehearsing his speech to tell me that I have a serious problem?

He comes in at last after maybe 10 lifetime minutes. He looks at the EKG. Three seconds later he casually announces that the paper copy confirms his earlier exam. ” You’re fine. See you in a year.” We shake hands, and he heads for the next room. He has no idea what I went through. A woman friend tells me this is what she goes through every time she has a mammogram.

Painful. Horrible. But I am relieved that my conscientiousness about health, diet and exercise—combined with good genes—keeps me going without grief and justified anxiety…

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