The Backpage: My ailment's bigger than yours

We had dinner at our neighbours’ house on Friday night and for dessert passed around a blood pressure testing machine.

Does this mean we’re getting old? Just possibly, for I sense a theme emerging.

Earlier in the week I had lunch with some mates of a similar or slightly earlier vintage than myself.

Instead of talking about sex and the real or imagined conquests of days long gone after the second bottle of red, we discussed the relative merits of hearing aids.

That is to say I think we did. I couldn’t hear all the conversation.

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But back to the neighbours and Friday night dinner.

The conversation took on a medical note the moment my wife and I walked through the door. This may have been due in part to my appearance which approximated that of a man who had been torched by a flamethrower.

Two days earlier my skin specialist had applied a gel to my face that he said would remove the sun spots which were a legacy of decades spent on beaches and in beer gardens.

It did this, he said, by burning off layers of skin. Does this hurt? Yes.

“I’ll be right in a week,” I said to Steve the neighbour as he backed away from the sizzling, fire engine red, pumpkin-sized tomato that sat where once had been my head.

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“Have a look at this!” said his wife, hoisting her leg up onto a barstool.

Was she encouraging me to admire her limbs in front of her husband? Were we to have a ménage a quatre? Peyton Place in one of Brisbane’s leafy suburbs?

We were not. She was showing me a scar, newly inflicted and the result of surgery to remove skin cancers.

“This one had a skin graft,’’ she said displaying a patch of calf still swathed in bandages.

“I think I should have a stress test” said Steve in an attempt to divert attention from his wife’s legs.

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“What were your symptoms again?”

This was a reference to a shoulder pain I had experienced which I thought was a pulled muscle.

My GP, thankfully, was of a different opinion. A stress test followed by an angiogram revealed a blocked artery that required a stent.

“An ache in my shoulder when I exercised,” I said. “You should have the stress test.”

“How’s your hip?” he said to my wife, newly diagnosed with osteoarthritis.

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“It’s improving” she said. “How’s your ulcer?” she asked of Steve. “I think it’s the red wine,” he replied. “I’m okay when I drink beer,” he said opening another.

Steve was still recovering from the trauma of a recent medical experience which saw him sent for an MRI.

He didn’t think he was claustrophobic. He was wrong. No sooner did they slide him into the MRI machine than he started kicking and screaming in blind panic.

When he calmed down, which took a while, he told them exactly what they could do with their MRI so they abandoned the test and did a CAT scan instead.

I sympathised with him. I’ve never had an MRI and I live in fear of having to do so.

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“How’s your blood pressure?” he asked. Before I could reply that as far as I knew it was perfect, he appeared with a blood pressure testing machine.

“I’m worried about mine so I bought this,” he said so we sat around the table with our glasses of beer and wine on a Friday night in the suburbs and took our blood pressure.

The only person with high readings was Steve. “It’s the pressure of worrying about the pressure,” I said. “Maybe you’re right,” he said.

“Do you realise” I said to my wife when we got home, “that we spent the entire night discussing our physical ailments?”

“Whatever happened to arguing about religion and politics?”

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“You don’t think we’re getting old do you?” she said. “Impossible,” I said. “That was never part of the plan.”

Does Mike’s story resonate you? Do you catch yourself comparing aliments?