Staying Healthy in Third-World America

This fine warning comes to us regarding fresh peaches purchased in Aldi stores.

We don’t yet have Aldi here in lovely Arizona, though the chain is planning four discount emporia in our garden state. Doesn’t matter though: the principle applies across the board: We’re not in Kansas anymore…

It’s unclear from this opaque article whether we’re talking about fresh whole peaches sold in bags, or sliced refrigerated or frozen peaches. However, it looks like probably they’re talking about fresh whole peaches. So, here’s a message from 1955, courtesy of US citizens living in lovely Saudi Arabia, where ALL fresh produce was assumed to be contaminated with this, that, or the ’tother fecal bacteria. It applies now as it did then, back before the US was a Third-World country:

Before bringing any fresh produce into the house, fill a kitchen sink (or, if you have it, MUCH better: a garage or workroom sink) with soapy water. Dawn is really good: a generous squirt of Dawn in a sinkful of cold water.  But any dish detergent or laundry detergent will do the job.

Gently submerge the produce in the soapy water. Let the produce sit there while you go on about your business for a few minutes; videlicet:

a) In another sink, wash your hands in soap and water

b) Bring in the rest of the groceries.

c) As needed, wash other (non-produce) groceries in the kitchen sink, using soap and water.

d) Drain the kitchen sink, rinse off groceries, and place them to drain dry or wipe them dry with towels. Toss towels in washer.

e) Put these groceries away.

f) Return to the sink where the produce is soaking. Wash each piece with soap and water (that is: your produce is sitting in detergent water — say, Dawn or Ivory + water — and now you take a bar of good strong soap and wash each piece with the soap under running water.

g) Rinse well, and set these aside to drain dry

h) After 15 or 20 minutes or so, to the extent the produce is still damp, wipe it dry with clean toweling.

i) Then, and only then, put it away in the refrigerator or in whatever cool place where you store it.

Got it? Wash produce in detergent, bar soap, and water; wash your hands in soap and water; rinse produce well; drain produce dry; refrigerate produce. Pray for the best.

Ideally, items that have tough skins — such as citrus and melons — should be doused briefly with dilute Clorox and rinsed well before storing.

If it is revealed to us moderns that we’re talkin’ about refrigerated or frozen processed peaches: cook the damn things before eating them. 

This was what we had to do with when my family and I lived in Saudi Arabia, where the produce we bought in the local commissary was likely to have been grown in fields fertilized with human waste. Very little that was brought into camp from nearby Middle Eastern countries was safe to eat, at least not by “Western” standards. By the 1950s, most produce and meat you bought stateside, in ordinary U.S. grocery stores and supermarkets, was safe enough to eat that consumers did not typically obsess about sanitizing every bite. But once you were outside the industrialized world…well…you took your life in by your hands if you chose to get careless about any detail of sanitation.

Who would think that half a century later, we here in the Good Ole USofA would find ourselves living in a Third-World Country?

Adventures in Pharmaceutical Marketing

Okay, so day has dawned. Accordingly, I leave the house at 8:30 to make the 20-minute drive down to the dentist’s office. Because I know which roads the City has kindly ripped up, blockaded, flooded, exploded, and whatnot, I fly in the door right on time, to the minute: 9 a.m.

A-n-n-n-n-d-d-d-d-d….

Yeah. No dentist.

Whyyy, one might ask?

“Wrong day.”

Waddaya mean, wrong day?

“It’s Monday. Not Friday. Today is Friday.”

Evidently I wrote it down on the wrong day on the calendar. Come to think of it, though, it’s a minor miracle that she’s there, because she’s waiting for her out-of-town relatives to show up and meet her there, whiling away the time fiddling with some new computer software. But she’s getting worried, because she thinks they should’ve gotten there by then.

I say the traffic is its usual bitch-ish self: they’re probably tangled up in whatever mess the city has kindly created along any of the several routes whereby they could have found their way to Dr. D’s office. She says yeah, that’s what she’s thinkin’…but she’s still worried. I ask her if she needs me to do anything for her — pick up some office supplies (there’s an office supply store just down the street), donuts, or any such. She says naaahhh….the truth is, all she really has to do is wait for the relatives to surface.

I’ve already made my way down to her precincts by avoiding Main Drag East, whose blacktop the City has bladed off all the way from Gangbanger’s Way down the entire length of the central city to someplace south of the Doc’s office, mile on mile on catastrophic mile. To accomplish this evasion, I’ve driven way out of my way over to Throughway Drag, a long, dreary strip of asphalt that will take you from way, way south of the river through downtown, through mid-town, through North Central and then the blight that is Sunnyslop, up and up and up till you reach the 101 freeway and from there dumps you into tract-littered desert, a deeply dreary journey, indeed.

Needing a flu shot, I decide to navigate back up Throughway Drag, because it takes you past a Walgreen’s and a Safeway, both of which dispense the flu vaccine. I don’t really need anything else in either store, but both of them are more or less on the way. Sounds propitious, hm?

Hit the Safeway, a right turn off Throughway, easy to access. Not very crowded. Prance to the back of the store, where the pharmacy resides, and find just one (only 1!!) customer ahead of me at the pharmacist’s counter.

She is a very elderly woman, all wrapped up for wintertime (it’s 105 out there now as I write this) and leaning on a walker as she tries to fill out a form the pharmacist has inflicted on her.

No kidding: this thing is PAGES long. And no mere 8.5 x 11 pages: page on page on page of 8.5 x 13-inch paper, covered with lines for her to fill out.

The poor soul is sifting through the goddamn thing, line by line by interminable line, trying to figure out what they want her to fill in and trying — with little success — to dredge the required data out of her memory.

She struggles and she struggles and she struggles and…

I stand and I stand and I stand and I stand…and….

Finally I think OH FUCK IT! It’ll take less time to drive across the intersection to the Walgreen’s, park in their lot, hike to the back of the store,, and get the damn shot there. So I leave her doing battle with Safeway’s paperwork and head across the street.

Yeah.

There it only takes about 10 minutes to get the attention of one of the two clerks. I say I just want a flu shot. She says no problem, and proceeds to give me the Covid Third-Degree. I go no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no… to another eight or ten minutes of questions that could easily have been condensed into three or four questions. Fork over my Medigap card and my Medicare ID.

She asks me for my “Blue and Red Card.”

Huh??????

“I’m sorry,” I say. “I have no idea what on earth you’re talking about.”

She says, “You know. Your Blue and Red Card. Your Medicare card.”

“You mean this one?” I give her the photocopy that I’ve been carrying around ever since my original Medicare card was stolen.

She looks more closely at it. “Ohhhh, yeah! That’s it.”

No kidding, kemo sabe?

Now as we proceed, it develops that she cannot figure out how to enter the data to charge up a flu shot on Medigap/Medicare. She asks her coworker how to do it. Coworker, visibly annoyed (because she’s visibly very busy) drops what she’s doing to instruct.

In the process, our heroine remarks that she was off work for eight weeks and so has forgotten how to work the computer.

Uhm. You forgot how the computer works in eight weeks? 

Definitely not the brightest rhinestone on the pharmacist’s lab coat.

It takes her another eight or ten minutes to figure out this two-minute process, during which another elderly woman hoves up to the drive-through window in her Cadillac, whence she asks for something that was supposed to be ready. She is given a nice runaround.

I think If I’d stayed behind the Safeway crone I’d be on my way home by now. Matter’o’fact, I’d probably be in the house by now.

The paperwork filled out and the stabber in hand, I ask if they could please send a notice over to the Mayo to let them know (as the doc there requested) that I received this inoculation.

Now…get this: She says “Where’s that?”

No kidding. Another sentence or two, and it becomes startlingly clear that this little lady has NEVER HEARD OF THE MAYO CLINIC. Not only does she have no clue where it is, she doesn’t know what it is.

I think…I’ll bet you were in one of my 300-level “professional” writing courses, weren’t you? Probably one of the classmates who never heard of the Civil War or never imagined it happened during the 19th century. Whenever that was…

Holy shit. Next time I’ll drive out to the Mayo to get a shot.

What a Day!

So first off, it’s out the door at 5 a.m., running late to walk the dog. Dog-Walkers’ Rush Hour kicks in around 5:30, meaning I have to drag the corgi away from mutt after mutt after mutt, each of which she enrages by LUNGING at them. Get back to the house right at 6.

Feed the birds, sit down and feed me. Manage to finish breakfast just before Jim the Pool Dude shows up. He’s interminably chatty — nice guy but yaks a lot. He probably thinks something similar in my direction. 😀 Anyway, he decides to toss some gunk into the drink which hazes it up — because all the palm tree trash Gerardo’s guys dropped in there has dorked up the chemicals.

Now, late in the afternoon,the  pump hasn’t run enough hours to dehaze it, and I do not feel like fiddling with it…so it’ll have to wait until I feel a lot more lively or until Jim comes around again next week.

As I’m slamming around trying to get ready and fly out the house to drive halfway to Yuma for ANOTHER damned appointment at the dermatologist’s, I spot a phone message from Gerardo. He and his guys will come by today. I call back and say I’ll leave the gate unlocked.

A-a-a-n-n-d-d-d of course as I’m streaking out the door, I forget to unlock the gate. Realize that about the time I get a quarter of the way to Yuma. Arrive at the derm’s; PA freezes some more emergent actinic keratoses. She says it looks like the back surgery wound is healed enough that I could go swimming.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the pool weren’t quite so chemically milky? Oh well.

The magic elixiir for pereipheral neuropathy?

Streak back across the city. Planned to stop at Sprouts on the way home to pick up the woo-woo (IMHO) patent medicine that beloved Mayo Doc thinks might be helpful, but figure I’d better get back here to unlock the gate, just in case there’s some chance Gerardo has yet to show up. Unlock gate. As I’m walking through the garage, I brush against the decrepit clothes rack that I use to hang laundry out of the washer or dryer, and the damn thing falls apart! It collapses all over the floor, bearing a load of laundry with it.

Did I mention that the weather has cooled a bit? Only 112°. Don’t ask what the temp is inside the garage.

Jump back in the car and shoot over to Sprouts, where I discover alpha lipoic acid pills are made of gold! It’s upwards of $9 for a ten-day supply at the rate WonderDoc has in mind (three of the horsepills a day!). And that’s cheap compared to what Amazon is charging!

Grab a bottle, fly home, pick up the clothes off the floor and put them away, repair the clothes rack. Throw the clothes I’m wearing into the washer, throw in the three cloth masks I wore while gadding around, & turn it on; scrub feet, legs & arms in the shower. Defrost a lamb chop, start cooking lunch/dinner. Drop one of the pills. Realize I feel extremely tired and wish only to bolt down food and go back to bed. As said food is cooking on the grill, Gerardo and his sidekicks show up. Naturally.

He’s feeling chatty. (What IS it with chatty guys today????)

I want to eat.

Shovel the men out the door, Gerardo with a hefty check in hand.

Ship off a client’s paper — edits and clean copy — with a bill. Hit her up for an amount I think is about a hundred & fifty bucks too little. Realize last time I worked for her I charged her 6 cents a word, because her stuff tends to be exceptionally difficult. But it’s been so long that when she sent this assignment, I just automatically quoted her my regular 4-cent-a-word rate. Cheated myself.

This evening we get an announcement from the power company begging us to conserve electricity: no pool pump, no laundry machines, ratchet up the AC thermostat to 80. Fire up around Lake Roosevelt is threatening transmission lines. That and day after day after day of 115-degree temps are, we’re told, “straining the grid.”

No doubt!

Magic Dragon to the Rescue

So it’s been about a month since I decided, at a young doctor’s urging, to climb back on the wagon…and since then have managed to cling to the haystack. She speculated that the disturbing tingling in the hands and feet is a peripheral neuropathy occasioned either by a vitamin B12 deficiency or by alcohol abuse.

I personally do not think one or two glasses of wine, once a day, taken with a large meal consisting of meat, two vegetables, or a vegetable & a salad represents alcohol abuse. On the other hand, neither do I feel my world will end if I substitute iced tea or iced coffee for the swiggles. The doc’s definition of “too much,” it develops, is driven by shifting standards of acceptably safe amounts of alcohol consumption — revised downward. These official pronouncements tell us that women should drink no more than 4 ounces of wine a day.  This is less than the standard presented as Received Truth when I was a young pup.

Well. Four ounces is one rather small glass — hardly more than a taste. It’s not worth opening the bottle and dirtying up a wine glass to pour less wine than will accompany a full meal. I’ve probably been drinking about 6 ounces a day. Apparently that is dire, DIRE, we tell you!

Okay, to the great joy, no doubt, of my Christian Scientist ancestors’ lurking ghosts, I heave myself onto the wagon and fasten the seat belt. Meanwhile, the young doc and her boss also suggested that I drop a vitamin B12 supplement every day, the B12 level being one aspect that turned up wanting in the vast complicated set of blood measurements they did. (Does it not strike you as odd that if you have a nutritional deficiency, only one of a wide array of factors would be lacking?). This stuff isn’t going to harm me. Whether it will help remained to be seen.

And, we might add, still remains to be seen!

Neither of these two changes seemed to have much effect, over the course of three or four weeks. Well: I feel a little more energetic — one symptom of B12 deficiency is fatigue. Was I fatigued in the long-ago time? Not exactly: I incline to call it lazy. But whatEVER. Yesterday I scrubbed 1868 square feet of tile without noticeable “fatigue.” 😀

As for the tingling feet and hands? Like an electric current flowing through them. All. The. Time.

Oh well.

I’d been applying a topical anesthetic in the form of lidocaine. Its effect, to the degree that it has one, was brief, at best. But then…oh, yes, THEN: a vague memory flitted across the fogged brain: that nightstand drawer held several vials of CBD cream and ointment given to me over the years by various friends & relatives. Hmmm….  What if?  D’you suppose…?

Dig these out and smear them on the paws, one at a time over a couple of days. Only one of them has much effect, but it does make a noticeable improvement. Hot dang.

This elixir goes away quickly, because it’s just a sample size. But…it is to be noted that Sprouts, which has a store within walking distance of the Funny Farm, sells CBD nostrums! So yesterday, girding myself with face mask and disinfectant, I trotted into that fine emporium, where I found the cannabis nostrums under lock and key. Tracked down the woman who runs the cosmetics and patent meds department, and found to my surprise that she was pretty knowledgeable on the subject of cannabis-laced skin balms.

Picked one that she recommended, hauled it into the house, and lo! It actually does work pretty well! Doesn’t make the electrical effect go completely away, not by any means, but it does dull it enough to make it tolerable.

Meanwhile, we have the perennial blood pressure neurosis.

Since I’m going to have to trek back out to the Mayo toward the end of this month to do battle with the docs over my various lifestyle manifestations, I figured I’d better resume making a record of average BP measurements, since every time I so much as drive into a hospital or doctor’s office parking lot, my blood pressure heads for high orbit. I feel I need to have a record to show how the figures run in a less crazy-making environment.

At 2:30 in the morning on August 3, when I was awakened by the sensation of my pulse pounding, the blood pressure was 161/93. Holy shit! By 3:30 it had gone up to 167/107, freaking terrifying. This, however, was not the first time I’d experienced a night-time episode of astronomical blood pressure. Last time, it had dropped into the elevated but not terrifying range by the time I got to the ER, and within 45 minutes or an hour had gone back down to what was then “normal” for me. Also by now had learned that a “blood pressure crisis” — hurry on down to your nearest ER — is upwards of 180/120. So this time I refrained from panicking and just tested it about every half-hour or so, and yes: watched it fall to 143/90. Still way too high, but not immediately in stroke territory.

As this night watch proceeded, it occurred to me that because of the neuropathy I was swimming in ibuprofen. I’d been taking 200 mg four times a day — the last spiked with Benadryl in the (vain) hope of sleeping past 2 a.m. That’s 800 milligrams a day of the stuff. Holy ess aitch ai!

Turns out ibuprofen can jack up your blood pressure. And…it’s dangerous to ingest it along with cinnamon, a little experiment I’d decided to try by way of addressing the alleged prediabetes that also showed up in the blood tests.

So I decide to go cold turkey with that stuff.

It was dulling the tingling a little…but not enough to matter. In fact, the CBD gunk makes one helluva lot greater improvement.

Okay. So…

Now I’m tippling nary a drop of wine (or anything else, either).

And not gulping down piles of ibuprofen.

Two days into the ibuprofen fast: BP is 120/78

Awww c’mon! Gimme a break. I write it down but regard it as a fluke.

Another two days later, it drops to 105/72.

Right. Sure. I figure the BP machine must be busted. Make a note to take it up to the Walgreen’s to get it checked.

Next day: 118/78. Hmmm..that at least is in the more or less normal range. But I’ll believe it if I see it again. More than once.

And today: 118/72.

Dayum! It must’ve been the wine, not the old age and not the various neuroses that was pushing the blood pressure into the alarming range.

Well. We shall see if this proves true. I’ll believe it when I see it…at least eight or ten times.

As for the tingling extremities? The electrical current is about gone in the feet.

What next, dear Lord?

Adventures in Medical Science: Blood Sugar Frolic

One of the reasons I haven’t been writing much at Funny about Money (or anywhere) is that I haven’t been feeling on the top shelf. Not sick. But not what you’d call creative. Just blah. This has been going on for awhile. I put it down to laziness. And to the heat: it’s in the 110s here now. Every day.

Well, three or four weeks ago my hands started tingling. Felt like an electric current was running through them. Then the feet started tingling. Not good.

So I call out to my doc’s office at the Mayo, and the nurse says “you need to come right on in.”

Ohhhh….shit! Just what I wanna do: go to a doctor’s office in the middle of a contagion of a potentially fatal disease. But this stuff is scary, so I traipse out there. They order up an elaborate series of blood tests. Traipse to the hospital at the crack of dawn to get blood drawn. Then traipse way to hell and gone back out to the far side of Scottsdale to meet with the doc’s resident.

Who IS….this really neat and smart and wonderful woman. I want her as my doctor! Don’t let her get away!!!!!

Anyway: She says I have a vitamin B12 deficiency and also am pre-diabetic. Peripheral neuropathy — the grown-up term for tingling hands and feet — is a symptom, and it can get a whole lot worse. She and mega-doc agree I should start taking vitamin B12 supplements and come back in a month. Okay.

At the risk of repeating myself: Well….

Finding this stuff is easier said than done. I decide to try the Sprouts near my house, partly because the last time I went to the Walgreen’s near there, I was waylaid by a pair of aggressive panhandlers in the parking lot — to the point where I had to lock my car door and drive away! — and partly I figured if anyone had a vast selection of woo-woo “supplements,” it would be Sprouts.

But meanwhile and by sheer coincidence, I open up a medical newsletter — a piece of journalism — that I happen to subscribe to and find, lo! An article going on about how a recent study showed that  ingesting 500 mg of cinnamon thrice daily reduced glucose levels among a decent-sized group of test subjects. This peer-reviewed paper came out through Oxford, so it’s presumably reasonably sane.

Hm. So I decide to buy a bottle of 500-mg cinnamon tablets, too.

Troll dollEasier said than done, indeed! No problem finding the B12 pills. But cinnamon is apparently High WooWoo. Not only are there a jillion variants, every one of them is ludicrously overpriced. Most of the B12 pills are rapaciously priced, too, but just as I’m about to walk away I find, down on a lower shelf, a brand selling the stuff for 7 bucks a bottle.

I figure ohhhhkayyy…I’ve got a big jar of cinnamon back at the Funny Farm: that can be sprinkled on apple slices, into spinach and chard, mixed with tea or coffee. A little math shows this should be easy: 500 mg is .1 teaspoon; three doses a day would be 1/3 of a teaspoon. But munching this stuff three times a day could get tiresome. I order a jar of 500 mg capsules from Amazon, which arrives within a day.

Problem is…well, there are two problems.

1. The study doesn’t say what type of cinnamon they used. There are two: Saigon cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon. The stuff in my spice cabinet is Saigon cinnamon. The stuff in the pills is Ceylon cinnamon. The Korean authors of the laudatory research paper do not specify which variety they inflicted on their test subjects.

Turns out these are the products of two separate plant species. Saigon cinnamon is a cassia. Ceylon cinnamon is not. A little banging around reveals that the supposedly therapeutic variety is Saigon cinnamon, AND that it can have baleful side effects if you overdo it.

How baleful, you ask?

Liver damage.

Uh huh. Apparently you have to ingest somewhat more of it than our researchers inflicted on their subjects for that to happen. But still…

2. The horse pills that arrive from Amazon are as big as the end of my thumb! NO WAY can I swallow one of these without choking on it. To use the things, I’ll have to cut the capsule in two and sprinkle it over food or into a drink.

We have this fine DIY comparison of the two varieties:Hmmm…  Ohhkayy… It looks like it can’t do much harm to ingest Saigon cinnamon, the stuff that supposedly works against incipient diabetes, in moderation: the amount used by the researchers is within the supposedly safe limit. Just.

But of course this means I’ve wasted my money on Amazon’s horse pills. Ohhh well!

All pretty dubious, I’d say. But nothing ventured: I decide to add 1/4 teaspoon of the Saigon variety 3 times a day to what passes for my diet. If this isn’t toxic (it apparently could be), it may be redundant, since I routinely drink a fair amount of tea and coffee and eat a fistful of blueberries every day — all supposedly having a similar effect.

We’ll believe it when we see it.

What is more likely to have the “effect” is getting off the sauce. As it develops, prediabetes and diabetes are not the only potential causes of peripheral neuropathy. It can also be caused by alcohol abuse and by vitamin B12 deficiency. We know I’m low on B12. And, to my doctor’s horror I have a glass or two of wine every day, with dinner. I’m not exactly getting soused every day, though: two glasses of wine with a pile of food fit for the Queen of Sheba is not the same as getting shit-faced every day. Nor am I such a lush that it causes me great pain and suffering to substitute iced tea or water for the vino. So…losing the wine and  losing some weight (I’m 10 or 12 pounds overweight again: the result of spending day after day loafing with a computer on my lap) are evidently in order. Whether these strategies will help remains to be seen.

All of this therapeutic tee-totalling and dieting is complicated by the fact that it is too damned hot to get any exercise. It was supposed to be 118 here today — we missed the mark by two degrees And with these damned precancerous growths sprouting up all over my hands and legs and back, I’m not allowed to go into the pool during the daytime. Like Dracula, I must stay out of the sunlight! The dog and I walk about three miles before sunup every morning — about an hour’s jaunt — but evidently that is not enough!

And what really works on the tingling is ibuprofen. One tablet of ibuprofen tamps it down by about 80% and lasts about four hours.

Shenanigans Update…

So a variety of shenanigans have been in progress here at the Funny Farm, none of them very momentous (because you can’t get up to a whole lot during a covid quarantine). It’s been hotter than a by-god here, 111 and up. But today is a little cooler, following yesterday’s monsoon showers — the first we’ve seen in the Valley this summer.  A lovely, hazy 180-degree rainbow stretched across the eastern sky yesterday afternoon, as the sinking sun lit up a broad curtain of virga and rain.

Adventures in Medical Science have proceeded — at a stately pace, but still proceeding. I’ve developed peripheral neuropathy, an unending, annoying tingling in the hands and feet. Turns out this can be related to the pre-diabetes the Mayo decided, lo! these many years ago, that I harbor. As usual, they assign me to a resident to assess my current hypochondria. And what a lovely, brilliant young woman. I want her as my forever doctor!

Before I left the house for the appointment, I checked my blood pressure: 124.4/81.8, average of five, the first of which (always the highest) was 131/85. This bit of intelligence invariably leads to one variety or another of mystification or amusement.

And yea verily: I get to the Mayo and as usual they slap a blood pressure cuff on me. They make me sit up straight on the edge of the bench seat (you’re supposed to sit with your back supported, according to the video published BY THE MAYO for training its employees…). It’s 141/74.

Say what? a serious diastolic of 74…did you happen to notice whether I was conscious at the time? 😀  Well of course…my BP goes right into orbit every time I set foot inside a medical facility, so much do I just love visiting those places. But that reading was pretty hilarious.

So the two docs — one the resident and one an old hand — listened to my sad story, provisionally hypothesized that the tingling is from drinking too goddamn much wine, proposed that I knock it off (easier said than done, ladies…), opined that they don’t THINK it’s diabetes, at least probably maybe likely not, and arranged for a blood draw the following morning. So works well: it’s at the (much closer) hospital facility at 7:10 tomorrow, a straight shot north of the coveted Fry’s supermarket.

I felt marginally encouraged, since it was clear that they weren’t very concerned. Or if they were, they sure hid it well.

Senior doc was not pleased with my boozing habits. I figured out how much is in one of my wine glasses and concluded that a typical serving for me is about 4 to 5 ounces. So if I drink two glasses — which I typically do, because I start tippling while I’m cooking the meal — then I’m drinking twice as much as the amount currently deemed OK for women. Note that this reckless behavior has been going on since I was about 29 years old…46 years!

But she had another suspect: she also told me to knock off the vitamin D capsules I’ve been dropping every few days. Not just because 4000 milligrams is about three times too much for a normal dose, but more to the point, she said, merrily OD-ing on the stuff can make you good & sick. In the vitamin department, though, she observed that a deficiency of vitamin E can cause peripheral neuropathy. So that’s one of the things she wanted to test for. Not likely, since I’m given to scarfing down salmon with gay abandon, but…any fishnet in a storm, eh?

Vitamin B12 deficiency also can cause peripheral neuropathy, so she’s testing for that, too. Again: unlikely, as it’s caused by inadequate diet and I eat like the Queen of Sheba.

Honestly… I dunno whether knowing all this stuff makes a junket to the doctor’s office LESS stressful or MORE stressful. On the one hand, you have an idea what to expect. On the other, it may be better not to know.

Okayyy… So come the crack of Thursday’s dawn, I traipse up to the Mayo Hospital in Paradise Valley, where we hoi polloi are greeted with a phalanx of covid-checkers. Their phlebotomists are so skilled you can barely even feel them puncturing your vein. So that was fine.

Our honored highway department had the righthand lane leading up to the freeway off-ramp that takes you to the hospital ripped up for at least a year. What they’re doing is unclear, but whatever it is seems to involve making no progress. My guess is, what they’re doing is pumping money through a boondoggle. At any rate, if you’re doing 70 on that freeway, you’re just barely keeping up with traffic — you’re actually moving too slow. And of course everybody has to get there first! So you have a bitch of a time maneuvering on to the freeway from SR 51 and then an even bigger bitch of a time getting off at 56th Street. Basically, you have to threaten to kill someone. That is why I always drive a car of hefty build…and why I vaguely covet a candy-apple-red pickup, bigawd!

On the way, I realized dayum! i left my credit cards at home!!! So much for the planned early-morning sneak attack on Fry’s Supermarket. Just as well, though: I’ve become too accustomed to eating breakfast, so by 7:15 when I walked outta there, I was starved. But neverthless decided to head back toward the ’Hood on the surface streets, the freeway being too annoying to contemplate further. Amazingly, there was almost no traffic. I flew across the city and shot into the ’Hood at an astonishing 7:25 after that 7:10 appointment, just freakin’ unthinkable! At any time of day, to say nothing of rush hour on a Thursday morning.

Before you know it, the Mayo ALREADY HAS THE RESULTS of that damn blood test posted on its portal. And…it appears that “glucose” is just slightly high. According to the Mayo’s squib on subject, I could bring that down by losing about 10 pounds.

Wouldn’tcha know: that’s exactly the amount by which I happen to be overweight just now. Except for a low bilirubin figure, which is described as “not a concern.” Jeez…if you believe these figures, there’s not only precious little wrong with me, I’m healthy as my horse-like Christian-Science forebears. Those women lived to be 94 without ever once seeing a doctor. But….

Well then…what the HELL is causing this crazy zinging in the paws?

***

Okay, so I learned early this morning that peripheral neuropathy can ALSO be caused by pre-diabetes, not just full-blown diabetes. Sooo…that explains the condition and releases me from the guilt trip laid on me about my daring to have a glass of wine with dinner every day. (How un-American can you get, eh?)

So, what to do about it?

Medication includes drugs used as antidepressants. I happen to know, from Connie the Long-Haul Trucker and from a couple others of my more stressed-out friends, that these have some amazingly undesirable side effects.

Reading along here, we discover that one factor in this ailment is lack of exercise.

Uh huh.

Well. I’ve been loafing either on the bed or in my chair with my feet up on an ottoman since the covid fiasco crashed down on us — since April 1. I’ve gained 10 pounds. And though the dog and I walk two or three miles a day, that seems not to suffice. Literally, days and days go by when that is the ONLY exercise I get.

You don’t register how much walking you do across grocery-store and big-box parking lots, and around and around inside malls and big-box stores. Though I laid the cleaning lady off as soon as the contagion started, I’ve thoroughly cleaned the house only a couple of times. It’s too hot to go hiking on the mountain now, even in the wee hours, and with the craze for exercise, that place is so mobbed that walking through the desert preserve there is not what you’d call a nature stroll.

People don’t realize how far their voices carry across the desert — especially women’s voices, with their higher pitch. So they’re out there yakking…and you can hear them a half-mile away. In detail. Yakitty yakitty yakitty yakitty yak yak yak!!!!! Sometimes I feel like turning around, walking back to a pair of them, and saying, “Ladies, I do not want to know the gossip in your office. I don’t want to know how your kids are doing in school or what allergies they’ve got right now. I don’t want to know about your husband’s best buddy’s peccadillos. I do not care what color you got your hair dyed, or how your stylist baked cookies, or what a bitch her sister-in-law is. Will. You. Please. SHUT UP!”

But of course one can’t get away with that. {sigh}

Point is, the swarms of humanity out there have ruined what used to be a good (if sometimes sketchy) place to get some decent hiking or mountain-biking exercise, with lots of up and down hill and plenty of rock-hopping. Now you can’t hear the birdsong for the nonstop yapfest.

So that’s one excuse. The other is it’s just too hot at this time of year to go out there safely. Heat exhaustion is a real thing. And it can kill you.

Soooo…one thing that might help is to get off my duff and clean this place up. And keep it clean.

The garage had gotten so dirty and messy that it was uncomfortable to walk around barefoot out there. So this morning I pulled the car out onto the driveway, hauled out the shop-vac, and started vacuuming. There was bird seed scattered evenly all over the garage floor. Whaaaa????? Finally recalled that one of those Instacart delivery folks had kindly carried a 50-pound bag of Costco bird seed into the backyard…we would have cut through the garage…the bag must have had a little leak.

Finally got up all the dust and dog hair and bird seed. Hauled out load after load of precious valuables like empty cardboard boxes from Amazon (who knows when you’ll need an old cardboard box, right?). The problem with these little projects is that they multiply…you go to fix something and that leads to another thing that needs to be fixed which causes you to realize something else could be reorganized and cleaned up and on and on and on. Hauled 30# of soda ash out to the pool, where I’m going to offer it to Jim the pool dude. If he doesn’t want it, at least maybe he’ll help me lift it into the trash barrel, since I can barely pick it up.

***

That chore done, we moved on to a mighty fine HOLY SH!T moment. 

As I’m cleaning up the litter on my computer and go to close out of the Mayo Clinic’s “portal” page, I notice that three items in the blood test report are higher than normal: hemogolobin, hematocrit, and erythrocytes.

What, wonders my hot little brain, does that mean? So I look these up — also on a Mayo page —and discover that if hemogolobin and hematocrit are both elevated, that indicates something called polycythemia.

And what is THAT, you might ask?

That is a blood cancer.

This revelation causes a moment of panic. Nay verily….an extended chain of moments of panic.

I call MagaDoc’s office, trying to get in touch with one of the RNs and PAs they have fielding calls from panicked Mayo patients. Mind you, since one day is the same as the next for me, it escapes my attention that today is Saturday….  However, the woman I reach arranges for me to talk with an MD on call.

Shortly this doc calls me. She looks at the test results and says the high numbers, especially since they’re inconsistent with earlier test results, don’t indicate anything more threatening than dehydration.

Well, that certainly would make sense, since we’ve had temps between 100 and 111 every day since…the birth of Adam, far as I can tell. She adds that if the docs feel any concern about it, they’ll ask me to come back for another test — and be sure to drink some water, for cryin’ out loud.

Yes’m.

She adds that doesn’t think the figures have any dire significance whatsoever.

So aside from the prediabetic level of a couple of indicators, there seems to be nothing wrong with me that losing 10 or 15 pounds won’t help.

Literally, other than the daily doggy walks I’ve been inert ever since the covid panic started. Have rarely left the house (except for sneaking an occasional junket to Sprouts) since the first of April. And, since laying off the Cleaning Lady from Heaven, I have not been throwing myself around to do all the work she did.

And that woman DOES heave around! Right now I need to dust, vacuum, mop the floors, and clean the windows. But…one wonders if those antics count as exercise…given the portliness of CLfromH, who cleans at least one house and probably a couple every day, one tends to doubt it.

I hope she’ll come back whenever the plague abates. But don’t think I want a return to happen until a vaccine comes available. Among the many potential plague-carriers she works for is young couple here in the hood. These two are extreme Evangelical Christians. He—the husband—told a neighbor that (hang onto your hat!) they will not wear masks and will not get vaccinated if and when the time comes, because they do not believe covid-19 is “real,” and because even if it is and they do get it, God will take care of them.

Can you imagine? This guy is teaching high school here! At least he isn’t teaching science.