Monday, May 16, 2011

A Wee Bit o' Reality

I received a call from my doctor's office the other day. The receptionist told me that the doctor had requested I come in to his office. I felt this was strange, since I'd only just been to see him a week or two before this call. Everything checked out well, at that time, and he had not sent me for any tests.

I questioned the receptionist as to what the reason might be; she mumbled something about a medical review. Even though I had no idea what the doctor might be reviewing, I allowed myself a small bit of hope...had they perhaps found a new treatment for Fibro I hadn't heard about?

Since I didn't know what the whole thing might entail, I cancelled one appointment, as a result of having visitors that week. I thought, when I phoned and cancelled, that the receptionist ( a different lady, this time) sounded a little knowing. When she realized I didn't know what the appointment was about, she changed the subject to how cool the weather has been.

I didn't think much about The was just another thing to do in an already busy week ahead.

I was still not thinking about what the doctor might want, out of the blue like this, when I settled myself in his office. My mind was on a whole cadre of different tasks I had ahead of me.

After the preliminary greetings, my doctor said...I guess you're wondering why you're here?...

I began to be aware that he was a wee bit nervous. And that made me focus more on where I was and...why was I here?

I could see him thinking...In for a penny, in for a pound...and, with a little grin, he told me that since I was on a couple of medications for Fibromyalgia that could cause either Alzheimer's disease or dementia, that Fibro itself can cause them, he felt, at my age, that I should be tested for those two conditions.

All I heard was Dementia, Alzheimer's and...test. A test!

Good grief. My eyebrows shot up and I stared at him, wide-eyed.

My doctor, who reminds me of one of my granddaughter Brianna's friends...he seems about that young...began to giggle nervously. For him, I suppose, it must have felt as if he was facing his grandmother. I could see and feel his apprehension at what he was planning on doing.

He quickly explained. My doctor felt that aging was one of the things the medical profession was ignoring. He is all about prevention, he said, and since I'd just turned sixty, he felt he had to talk with me to make sure I knew what aging was all about.

Excuse me?

And then he went on to state statistics...on average, women die at the age of 75 and men at the age of 72. Women usually get Alzheimer's and dementia more than men, who statistically die of stroke or heart attack. He hurriedly explained, as I was about to fall off the chair, that these were only statistics...most people live much longer.

I kept thinking...they must have gotten those figures from somewhere!

I began to usual reaction to shock. Some perspective arrives, after I let out inappropriate and nervous, forceful energy in laughter. Usually.

My doctor watched me. My laughter took on a nervous edge...was he already thinking I was demented?

I told him I couldn't pass the test...I could hardly remember anything. I told him I had recently joined and that I was doing brain exercises every day. I told him I took my dog for walks every day, that I worked hard physically in the garden. I told him I could not pass tests...even an eye examination has sweat pouring down my face.

I tried to come up with as much as possible, to prove I was still mentally coherent...anything, just so I wouldn't have to take that test. I caught myself almost begging...

The doctor ignored it all. He told me the test was very simple, it was not about the questions so much as how I dealt with them, my body language, and so on. And that there was much that could now be done to help with dementia/Alzheimer's.

Well. If one knows one is to be tested for losing their minds, then perhaps one can visit the doctor in a better, more prepared frame of mind, one not shut down by shock and stupefaction, at the fact that statistically, at the age of sixty, there may only be fifteen years left to one...

I have never contemplated how much longer I would have to live. I knew about those statistics the doctor rattled off to me. I just had no idea they applied to me. I have forever held the opinion I would live to be 104. But, even if I lived to be eighty or ninety, there are only twenty or thirty years, conceivably, left to live.

Time goes very quickly, these days. The last ten years have gone by in a flash...

He began the test. He asked me the date, where I lived, what country I was in, where his office was. He asked me to remember three, table, and penny. Except he has a South African accent and penny came out of his mouth as pain.

He looked astonished as I recited apple, table and pain back to him, when he asked what three words I was to remember. He mentioned it again, again I heard pain. He tried to describe the penny; he said it was a coin, a round metal object you pay with. Still! I heard pain. I could not think what pain had to do with a coin.

Addled, I watched him take his wallet out and hold up a penny. Oh! Oh! A penny!

I just knew I would be the first person declared demented because I couldn't understand an accent.

After that, I was asked to write a sentence, fold a paper and place it on the floor, and subtract seven from 100, then seven from 93, etc.

It all caught up with me in the subtraction. After 93, I no longer knew who, where, what or why. I stared at the doctor, my mind a complete blank. Were there other numbers? What was a number? Oh, my goodness...

For just a second or two, I learned what Alzheimer's might be like for those so afflicted. For just that moment, my brain felt like a hole, like there was only Air where my brain should be.

The doctor watched me; suddenly, I could tell he was a doctor, albeit young, and a good one. 

He was aware of my struggle and so, I didn't try to hide it. I showed my astonishment, for only a moment, and then, closed my eyes and concentrated like never before...

After what seemed like hours but was really only seconds, I was able to visualize the numbers once more. I was able to think once again.

After the questions were completed and after the doctor told me I passed the test in the high percentile, we discussed the moment where my mind went completely blank.

He told me this occurs more often in the aging brain. He explained why...something about blood flow, lack of exercise and a few more ditties I have stuffed away until I'm ready to really have a good think about them.

He warned me about lack of acceptance of aging; he'd seen too many people become angered and embittered at themselves and their partners/families because of impatience and fear of increasing age-related problems.

It is the way it is...he said...I am concerned that here in this country we ignore aging, we try to stay young. Any signs we might be getting older are hidden. And then I see the elderly not getting the respect they deserve, only because their bodies and minds cannot keep up with the young...

He looked so earnest and so young as we chatted. He knew I worked with elderly patients; he was somewhat surprised at my shocked reaction to the test. He said...You are a senior, after all.

And therein lies the rub. I have not, as yet, considered myself a senior. Nor have I ever considered how many years might be left, in my life.

A wee bit o' reality is a good thing, for the Queen of Denial.

On the drive home, I tasted the word senior, as it applied to me.

It felt good. 

Actually, it felt right!


  1. LOL! You have a great attitude, lady! I could not pass that test. I lose something every single day (and seldom know the date or day of the week...) and am completely surprised when I find it days, weeks, months or years later in a perfectly inappropriate place.

    Marion, you are not old. I hate, HATE doctors and their stereotyping of people. I could NOT pass that test as I cannot subtract double digits in my head! Mama always says that you're as young as you feel...this from an 85 year old woman with a crumbling spine who smokes and yet is so full of life she told me recently she still feels as if she's 25 years old inside. (Her doctor gives her hell about the smoking...he asked her how many ciggies she smokes in a day and she replied, "As many as I damn well want to smoke!")

    Thanks for the chuckle today. Great post.

    Love & Blessings,

  2. I was recently given a similar test by my neurologist. I did well until she came to numbers, which have always freaked me out. I blanked. But I would have blanked in my 20's when confronted with numbers.

    The next test was to remember six unconnected words and say them back. I couldn't do it. I was blank.

    I drove home. Petted my dogs and called the dr's office. "Please tell the doctor...." and I recited back all six words. Stress does strange things, but I learned to avoid numbers and pet my dogs for good mental health.

  3. I really enjoyed your trip to the doctor’s office, Marion! The flowers are lovely and the prose compelling. Yes … you are, indeed, lucky to have such a good doctor! Having seen people suffer from Alzheimer’s, it is clearly a tragic situation that luckily can be slowed down a bit these days with medication, if it is caught early enough. So it is very important to keep on top of this … especially if you’re a senior. :))

  4. What a great post!! Your physician sounds like a lovely and sensitive young man - but I was "feelin' your pain" throughout the post!! Those "serial sevens" have freaked me out since I was in my 20's. He and you have reminded us all to embrace this stage and not just pretend we're all still 35. I so love the wisdom, and the not getting rattled by silly things as I did in the past... The flowers are beautiful as well.

  5. People used to grow old; now they become seniors.

    I couldn't pass any such test, at least not on my bad days. I don't know that the years are to blame though since I've also been in pain for a long time, live with exhaustion, and live on drugs. I often worry that I've told someone the same story several times, and they're too polite to tell me. I also worry that I'll say things that make no sense. I think I'm still able to think clearly when I'm writing, and the feedback I get suggests that this is so, and I would say the same about you.

  6. Thankfully your doctor turned out to be a good one after all. :)

    But,Argh...stereotyping. Your story reminded me of how my two year old daughter was recommended for speech therapy because she didn't know the difference between a cup, a truck, and a bear. Even though my little one was born three months prematurely, I protested that she was a real chatterbox at home with good comprehension, especially pertaining to objects as simple as the ones mentioned.I asked to talk to the therapist directly so that I could clarify things. Imagine my surprise when I could barely understand the lady because of her thick accent! She had asked my daughter to point out a "coop", "a lorry" and a "tahdee". Needless to say, I went home relieved and thought twice about the accuracy of certain tests.

    As far as seeing yourself as a Senior, I often forget I am not a teenager even though I am decades (plus plus plus)removed from my teenager-hood. (I have five children, three of them adults and am soon to be a grandmother!)

    Oh Queen of Denial, I leave bouquets of roses at your altar. :)

  7. Marion, I go cycling with a guy who is 81. He is as fit as a fiddle, a fast cyclist and as bright as a button. Just try and keep as active as possible, read, keep your mind young, and just enjoy and relax...Dave

  8. I was coming unglued as I read this post. I kept thinking throughout the post, "For crying outloud, get a another doctor!" Then I thought about it. The meeting isn't such a bad idea, but the set up was terrible. Next time he needs to send a letter to his sixty and older patients, tell them what he is doing as a preventive measure for his older patients, and tell them to expect a call. Much better. MUCH less stressful.

  9. Great post! I don't consider any of us with BLOGS (she sniffed in a superior fashion) to be suffering from any of THAT... I mean, we know big words and everything! :)

    It's funny, but for most of my life, I have mixed up two unrelated words: matches and stamps. I have no idea why... but I realized once that when I am very old, I won't know the difference between the two. You know? It was just this realization that if I mix them up NOW, and have to stop and think about it, that it will only get worse, like so much else.

    So while you were saying Pain pain pain (and what would Freud say about *that* Marion?) -- I was thinking, matches and stamps... I hope neither one is on MY test, when it comes time for me to take it!

    Love ya, xoxoxoxo.

  10. You had me scared at frist and then left me laughing. I have been counting how many years I may have left for about a year now, I don't recommend it, but I agree that we have to accept aging, as we all are, and it is best to accept and not resist. I am 55, but still think inside like I am 20. xoxo

  11. excellent post. i agree with whomever suggested the Dr send out letters explaining what he has to offer and then one chooses or not to undergo the test with time for reflection.

    I have always thought such questions esp about date and who is president as ridiculous. We had some of those when I worked for the Dept of Mental Health to supposedly help us assess the state of someone's mind/consciousness at the moment.

    I also do not always know the date or day and certainly couldnt do the subtraction thing.

    At least 15 years ago I was having my eyes examined and the examiner exclaimed at something i had said, well but you have to expect this you are old! Ah.

    And recently I consulted a Naturopath re: hernias and she suggested heal drops. Or that was how I interpreted the words. And even though she demonstrated standing on one's toes and thumping down onto one's heels, and I thought oh that kind of heel, later on in our discussion when she mentioned heal drops again I said, "Do I get those at the health food store?" I was fixated on a little bottle of drops like Echinecea. Then I laughed and immediately thought oh goodness she will note me down as pre-demential. LOL Or at least I hope LOL.

    great post. glad you are well.

  12. oh my goodness - SENIOR??? I don't think so...

    As for a test under pressure? I have always blanked out - since I was in 1st grade. So, according to your doc I would have had dementia at age 6.
    nothing wrong with being aware, but the set up sounds crazy to me.

  13. Marion,

    I was convinced I couldn't pass this test, either. But if my meds or condition can cause dementia or Alzheimer's,then I told myself I should find out if I at least test negative. And I did! I think the procedure should not be called a "test", though...I went blank at the thought in my teens!! Heh!

    I know many people in their 80's who are as sharp as your mother is. I'd love to meet her!

    Take care in the floods, dear Marion...we are in a Snow Storm this morning. Can't believe it!! xo


    Oh, Jan, thanks so much for the lovely story.

    I took Lucky for a walk when I came home...same idea. Petting a beloved pet stimulates one of the power points in the body, in the middle of the hand, and it soothes stress...animals always help. xo

    aka Penelope,

    I agree. I even have the Alzheimer Report banner on my blog. It was a great wake-up call for me!

    I think it's way past time to regard the word "senior" in a really positive light. I intend to embrace it...somehow, to me, it sounds better than middle-aged, which I was labelled as just last year! Heh.

    I hear the sixties are a lot of fun! xo

  14. rottrover,

    Exactly.I've discovered there are so many things that are just not worth worrying over, that I once obsessed over endlessly.

    I think I spent my fifties accepting bodily limitations; now that I know what they are and have largely accepted seems so much easier! xo


    You have been an inspiration to me since I began to read your blog. Your writing is exceptional and always interesting...

    I watch the repeat of stories in myself to others as well; I guess it'll happen, though. Stuff that bothers me the most usually does...heh!

    I've recently purchased a membership in, a brain game site. It helped me enormously in gathering my focus and attention to what the doctor was asking me. I've only used the site for a couple of months; I find it so helpful. I take a number of medications as definitely plays a part in my ability to remember.

    It takes a lot longer for me to write a post than it did six or seven years ago, though...playing brain games notwithstanding! xo

    Susanne Iles,

    I LOVE the roses...thank you so much! Heh, heh!

    That's the thing...I hadn't realized I had moved beyond the age of 18!

    YOU are incredible...I'm forever in awe of your incredible creativity in your paintings, along with bringing up a family of five, one a toddler!!

    Thank you for your postcards by the's a wonderful way to promote your art and quite a few of them are on my bulletin board!

    I sympathize with your little one...xo

  15. Dave,

    You're right...exercise does grow new brain cells. I am trying to find an exercise regime which doesn't aggravate fibro. Yoga seems the best, so far...

    I'm happy to hear you sounding so well!! xo


    In hindsight, had he sent such a letter to me, I quite probably might have ignored it...or at the very least, put the whole thing off and worried about it forever. I'm glad it worked out the way it did, especially since I passed! Heh..xo


    I love your story! For some reason, I can see why matches and stamps could be mixed up. Odd...our brains must be wired the same, dear Daisy!

    You know, when I first heard the three words, I thought I thought how easy the last one...pain...would be to remember! I actually thought he was trying some psychological testing on me, hahaha! It was too funny that I could not be dissuaded, no matter how many times he said penny, with his accent...xo

  16. Annie Coe,

    It gave me such a weird feeling...the realization I had about mortality. I thought I had accepted it; yet, this time it struck me differently. Aging suddenly became real.

    But I still haven't gone beyond the age of eighteen, I don't think...xo


    What a great story...I love all the stories this
    post has brought forth. Isn't it so funny how the mind can fixate like that! And there is so much relief when one finally, finally understands!!

    You've shared such a great bit about yourself, I find myself laughing over and over about the heal drops! Hahahahaha! So funny!

    Oftentimes, I walk away from a salesperson or someone, wondering what I just said...heh.

    Great comment! xo

  17. What a cute and sweet doctor. Right now the word senior sounds good to me. I recently moved into Indian housing in Oklahoma and they call it "elderly" housing. Senior I can handle, but elderly sounds not so nice to me. Ah well...

  18. What a strange way for the doctor to bring up the subject. When Mom was in the hospital after her back surgery (she's 95 now), a psychologist came to give her the test. Mom "failed." She didn't know the day, date or the name of the president. After a few more he gave up. He never asked her a question the involved experience, feelings or emotion. Just the clinical one word answer type. It made me feel so sad because Mom may be forgetful, but she still has a good mind and attitude toward life. What give them the right to pigeon-hole a person like that. It just drives me crazy. And I'm with you. I may be over 60 but I don't feel like a senior, unless I'm trying to get into a movie with a cheap ticket. - Margy

  19. Marion, You are so lucky to have such an excellent doctor. So many can barely even keep up with their appointments, and yours called you in because he was actually thinking about you when you weren't there. Amazing.

    As for the "senior" title, I believe it is a badge of honour. It signifies wisdom, tenacity, Life. And in you, love.

  20. What a sneaky ambush but sounds like you have a good doctor there Marion. Mental math has had me marked with an F or D since I was 5 so I intend to go all stroppy when my turn comes and tell them I don't do Math ;) You should have told him you blog which proves you're a master at mental gymnastics*!*

  21. My neighbor (whose husband just passed away at the age of 68) has often joked that she is on the 20 year plan. It seems such a short time, 20 years, so I say I'm opting for the 30 year plan with a rider. Even 30 years is not a long time! I have another friend who turned 103 in April. She sleeps a good deal of her day away and her eyesight and hearing are failing fast but she still smiles, still relishes conversation, still is happy to be alive.

    I had to laugh at your mental math block. I've been doing that since childhood - numbers are slippery little buggers! But often I find myself mid-sentence with no idea what I'd been about to say. It's very disconcerting. It's not so bad if I happen to be talking to someone my own age - they can't remember what I've just said ;)

    I agree with Bim above; your blog leaves no doubt that your mind is still nimble!

  22. Mim,

    Your comment made me laugh. Since math seems to be a problem with a lot of folks, I wonder why the test includes math. Especially subtraction...taking away things never did sit well with me!! xo


    Welcome! I hope you will enjoy your new home and that you will meet lots of people soon. I agree with you...I'd rather be called senior than elderly, if I've got to be called anything! But I do hope I get respect from being aged, heh!

    Powell River Books,

    I agree with you on the one word answers. I've also been in the company of others who have failed this one word test. I have often thought there must be a better way...quite often I do not know what day it is and had to really think hard when I was asked.

    But again...according to my doctor, it is not so much the questions but the way the body reacts to them. I didn't know the name of the street the clinic was on, although I knew the name of the clinic. Turns out the clinic is named after the street...hahaha!

    Being a senior gets you a cheaper ticket??? I didn't know that! xo


    For sure, I was taken aback when I received the call! Since when does a doctor take the time to do something like this...I was amazed, I can tell you! He looked so cute and earnest and young...goodness, he looks so young!! That fact alone tells me I'm getting older, heh! xo

  23. Bimbimbie,

    I told him I blogged. I told him I was a member of Lumosity, a brain game site. I told him I worked hard in the garden, mowing and hoeing. I told him I walked the dog regularly. Nothing worked. I still had to take the damn test.

    On the other hand, the doctor said I beat him on the test, heh!!! xo


    I know. When you break down the years like that, it seems like such a short time. I learned a bit taking this test...I learned what it feels like to go blank at an important time (it's happened before, but not quite as totally blank), I learned to take each day as a valuable one with no waste, and I learned not to be as cavalier as I was about my age. I want to make sure I am happy, now, no more wasting time finding it, if that makes any sense!

    Isn't it great when there is a whole group of older people sitting around a table and everyone is reminding the other about something, heh! xo

  24. that I am in my 50's... I would be lying if I didn't think about "aging" and what that "little number" means. I never thought much about it before....but since losing my "career" job two years ago, I KNOW my "age" has been a deterrent in finding a new one. (And yet, I feel like I am 20....)

    As for all of those "tests" your doctor made you you a very non-political person...there are many times when I couldn't tell you who the USA President was....
    but I like to think I do know what month/year I am in....

    Mortality is matter how much plastic surgery one has...we all age...we all die... but...the key, I think, is to live well, love well, be honest, be true to yourself....

    You ARE young in all the right ways! Never forget that! I admire you so.

    Love from San Francisco,

    ♥ Robin ♥

  25. dear friend, i don't know what to say. i am older than you and i do reluctantly acknowledge my age by thinking of the MOST number of gardening seasons i (probably...hopefully) will have left. BUT what's wrong with me? i don't see myself as old or senior or anything like that. i have just started working out--my muscles are rejoicing over it--and you know i still aspire to be a babe.

    your doctor sounds caring and sincere, all good, but i can see that his use of labels could have a harmful effect on some folks.

    our average life expectancy is 75? that leaves me 12 years.

    plus the extra 20 i hope to have....

    love always, marion ♥

    i am delusional!!!!!

  26. Hi Marion!

    What a great post that was lol
    I don`t consider you a senior at that age yet though!
    My doctor has diagnosed me with that ugly word Fibro. Even tho I hurt more than I used to I`m not ready to accept that label. Oh well.
    Glad I popped by!


  27. I think that I began to feel old at 45 . . .
    -- mostly a matter of physical changes, aches and pains -- reduced endurance.
    But mostly its mental now at 64. You have to look to the future.

  28. Marion, first let me thank you for your visit and kind words...really apprteciated them!

    I loved all your gorgeous pictures throughout this post!
    And your post was wonderful!
    I think one of the secrets of not aging is keeping young at heart!
    Oh, we age in our body but keeping a good attitude about aging can help so much!
    You have a very good attitude, I like that!

    Margie xo

  29. We don't use the term senior all that much over here, if people think you're old they call you a pensioner even if you're not. You look fantastic, I only hope I look as good and can manage to type as well when I'm sixty. What am I talking about, I can't type as well as you now! Hahahaha I remember so little myself but have been coming to terms with that and not worrying so much. I didn't realize that Fibro may bring on alzheimer's and dementia so I hope I forget that soon! Hugs and pics soon xxx

  30. Just this week I listened to an audio conference on how to communicate with Alzheimer's or memory impaired people. The statistics are a bit alarming. If one lives to 85, there is a 50% chance of having Alzheimer's. Yet, here I am at nearly 59 and I see myself noticing minor lapses in how I process information.

    When I first took my new job last fall helping seniors, I was a bit overwhelmed by all of the information I needed to know about benefits, etc. Over time, and with some mistakes I will admit, I am getting a better handle on it. Mostly, I tell myself, and them, that let's just sit down and take a look at whatever problem or situation they present. Being calm and troubleshooting is always welcome to them. And I readily see why. Here in the U.S. so much of our time getting to the bottom of a problem is spent navigating a series of phone prompts, hardly ever reaching a real person until you are at your wit's end. You can imagine how hard that is for an older person with hearing that's going bad. Or one with early stages of memory impairment.

    I wonder if modern society has just given all of us too much to handle. Too many guidelines, rules, mental chores, and choices. Is that why Alzheimer's seems on the rise? I think it's because many of us are perpetually overwhelmed.

  31. i believe 'statistics' don't apply to the individual!
    i SUCK at tests because the time restrictions STRESS me, Not because i can't count!
    and 'age' i believe is a state of mind... We can remain young until the day we die...
    Some doc's are wonderful but there is so much that they are not taught...
    ~Wisdom gained through Life experience~ and ~Laughter lines~ though, i Believe in xox

  32. hello sweetie friend!

    just stopping by to drop off a basket of love. can you feel it?