A Woman of a Certain Age

I started this with the idea of listing all the stupid things said to me and about me in reference to any illness I have. I also hope to amuse myself along the way. I have an awful tendency to use the fuck word, but most of the time it’s just like breathing. I don’t even notice. I refuse to say what or even how many shortcuts I have on my phone that have the word fuck in them.


I figured I would start with this one as it is one I was actually talking to someone about, today. It was an old friend, Kay*, who has chronic illnesses herself. It was a conversation about actual age and what she wanted to do for a specific birthday, and we started talking about how this wasn’t how we thought things would go. And not in the general “Oh, gosh, I never saw myself with kids” or “Never thought I would see myself living in Florida!” No. This was things like “Never figured that my teeth would have fallen out and my tendons are disintegrating. I expected to be a little more attractive.” And these were things that we know are related to our chronic illnesses and maybe, in her case, exposure to some pretty fucking serious chemical poisoning for years and years. And this reminded me of a doctor’s visit I had a couple years ago that left me slightly baffled.

I had gone to see my OB for some kind of ladyguts** (TM) problem and I was ticking off symptoms, one after the other. I will spare you them, but it was a hell of a list. He looked me dead in the eye and said “Well, you *are* woman of a certain age.” I like this doctor. A whole lot. I would refer him without a second thought to anyone who would ask. But I was stunned speechless. “Uhhhhh what the fuck does that actually mean?!” was what I said to him. He blinked back at me and said “Well, you know, it’s just that… I mean, at this point in time…  Well. Ok.” I could see him back tracking and attempting the conversation, again. And after we had a productive pause, he went on to discuss with me the things that, while I was too early to be having at 38 or 39, seemed to be having and it wasn’t out of the question. This discussion included medications I was on, things that had happened, the number of children I had. And it was a discussion. Not a vague hand wave to tell me not to worry. That what I had wrong with me was just me overreacting to a heavy period. Turns out, that wasn’t it at all. And if I hadn’t pushed, it probably would have lead to a couple more years of me being miserable for no reason. It lead to a series of tests that showed that there was something that wasn’t normal for a “woman of a certain age”.

My rheumatologist tried using that phrase on me once. And I was much less kind. I was still learning how to communicate with her and deciding if I wanted her as a doctor I was going to be spending a lot of time with. She was awfully new to the practice and to being a PA in general, and I just don’t suffer fools gladly. We managed to work around it. And I am glad we did. Dismissal of symptoms because of the age of the person in question is a big, red warning flag that means you need to find another doctor. Because the symptoms that I am having mean something is wrong. It could be that I need new insoles. It could also mean I need surgery to correct my big toes. (Yes, I know someone who this happened to. No. Thank. You.)

Here comes the second stupid in the same post. I figured since y’all are new, like me, we should just lump a couple dumb things in the same post –

I have lumped this one in with “Oh everyone hurts at 40” because of the age thing. The abject refusal to believe that there is something wrong with me other than “getting old”. No. Not everyone hurts at 40. Not like this. If they did? No one would be going to work or playing softball. They would all be on large amounts of opiates and stay in bed a lot longer. I don’t hurt because I’m 40. I hurt because I have several physical issues that cause all kinds of pain. This isn’t a back ache. It’s vertebrae crumbling and discs bulging. And disc desiccation. So. No. Your blithe dismissal of my physical issue for whatever reason is rude. And wrong. And hurtful. So stop it. Not being able to vacuum my house, clean the cat boxes and do laundry all in one day has nothing to do with my age and everything to do with needing ice packs and Vicodin with a Xanax chaser after that much house work.


Well, that went on much longer than I thought it would. And I am not pleased with it. Which isn’t a request for back patting, it is a statement of intent. This one didn’t go the way I had planned. It wandered away like a small child with a finger up their nose and didn’t come back. But I remember reading that several authors say the same thing over and over – write. Write every day even if you don’t have a thing to write about and you don’t want to write. So. I write. I claim I get a pass while I am in Cincinnati this next weekend. But I have heard that I can put WordPress on my iPad and bug people that way. I won’t even name drop. I mean, unless you want me to. And then I will totally name drop. Because I am a HUGE dork and am always stunned when I have gotten to work with or hang out with someone with A Name because OMG HUGE DORK.

*Names have been changed because first, everyone deserves their privacy and second, y’all had best not sue. You’ll end up with five cats and a five year old laptop. If you’re lucky and don’t get the youngest child, too.

**Ladyguts is a word my daughter taught me. GirlChild may not have invented it, but it sure made me laugh.

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