By Joe Rector

Today, I visited the doctor for my annual physical. It’s funny how things have changed. In my younger life, I rarely had a physical, and when I did, the entire thing consisted of checking my heart beat, determining my hearing by holding a watch up to my ears, weighing on a scale, and peeing in a cup. The whole thing lasted no more than 10 minutes. Boy! Things sure have changed.

The first part of physicals these days is spent with a nurse. She checked pulse, weight, and blood pressure. Then Linda and I had an interesting talk about my medications. I nodded with the naming of every one of them. Then I asked her to make sure the doctor wrote a new prescription for Flonase and Nexium.

I’d name the rest of the pills if I could spell them. All I know is that each morning and again each night I swallow a fistful of pills and capsules. When a couple of them run in short supply, I become nervous. The last thing I need is a case of acid reflux or a bout of restless leg syndrome.

Doctor Catherine Mathes is my doctor. She took care of my mother for several years, and I swear by her. She’s a no-nonsense doctor who takes excellent care of her patients. She came into the room and sat down at the computer. The doctor reviewed my record while catching up on my condition at present. I told her I was worn out, and she surmised that being so was, in part, the result of getting older. Then she asked me how I felt, what physical problems I had experienced, and whether any things had changed unexpectedly. All answers were “no.”

An EKG was in order this year, so I lay upon the table as Linda attached a handful of wires to my chest. It occurred to me that those leads resembled the spark plug wires and distributor in my old Pathfinder. The car is 30 years old but still manages to chug along; I do the same. When I was young, those sticky things didn’t bother me a bit. Now, they are painfully removed along with a small crop of gray hair. How’d that stuff get there and turn so gray?

A few deep breaths, a couple of thumps on my abdomen, and new prescriptions led to the end of my exam. I managed to escape the prostate exam this year, and I said a quick, silent prayer. For some reason, I felt better; maybe the fact that no serious “Hmm’s” were uttered let me know that I was good to go.

Dr. Mathes escorted me to a waiting room, and before long, a man came in with a small clear cup with a lid. Yep, it was time to pee in that cup, open a small metal door, and place it on the shelf. Some people have difficulty performing this act; maybe it’s a form of panic. The only times I’ve experienced problems are when large lines of men at events are waiting for me to finish.

Soon, I was off to the lab where three vials of blood were drawn. Then I was sent to x-ray for a picture of my chest. Even though I’ve been a reformed smoker for 13 years, the doctor wants a yearly check of my lungs. I always get a bit nervous about the results, especially since both parents and my older brother died of cancer after years of smoking.

Finally, I walked to the last procedure of the exam. A nice young women looked at the paper I handed her and then announced that I owed a $35 co-pay. I thanked the clerk and walked out the door.  Thankful for a good report and feeling healthy, I decided to take the stairs instead of the elevator. By the time I reached the ground floor, my legs were weak and muscles were burning. That was all right with me. My mind focused on finding something to eat since I’d been ordered to fast the following night.

The next visit is a year away. The goal is to do a better job of living a healthy life, something I plan to start as soon as I pick up an order of biscuit and gravy from Hardees.