Kathleen Clary Miller
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Kathleen Clary Miller has written 300+ columns and stories for periodicals both local and national, and has authored three books. She lives in the woods of the Ninemile Valley, thirty miles west of Missoula.

Lately a preponderance of my email correspondence and conversation across the lunch table with friends centers on medical procedures.

“I’m off to visit my husband at the hospital, then going to the urologist to see about having a procedure on my kidney,” writes Karen, who I picture in my mind as that teenage bosom friend languishing on her beach towel next to mine, listening to the radio. “Tomorrow is the dermatologist where I’ll have a few more suspicious skin spots zapped. I’ll let you know how it goes after I get home and finish my back stretches.”

I’d just written to her reporting the results of my basal cell carcinoma skin biopsy: As I’d suspected, more had to be scraped and cauterized. “At least it’s not melanoma—I’m ok with it!” I made the appointment in the same building and at the same time as my husband’s colonoscopy—the last in a month marathon of appointment referrals to various specialists who had, thank God, ruled out anything life threatening based on suspicions from his annual physical. “We dodged those bullets,” I told Karen.

“Kudos on efficiently timing your coinciding procedures!” she congratulated.

It doesn’t always work. Last year I tried having my annual blood draw performed at the same time as the gastrointestinal nurse was inserting an IV for my colonoscopy screening. I’d been fasting, after all, for the entire day before! Why skip breakfast some day next week to endure another needle? I aced the colonoscopy, but the blood panel results were monstrously skewed due to the ingestion of that prep potion night before. Be careful that when you are killing two birds with one stone you don’t lead the doctor to think you might be dying.

But Karen only knew about my current success story and consequently was impressed and concluded, ”There is nothing that says ‘romance’ like simultaneous doctor visits!”

Against my will, I am getting older. I never thought I would say this, but I look forward to the Medicare birthday next November; there is consolation in reaching this milestone I formerly chagrined because I carry such a high insurance deductible that it can’t possibly be met, short of the lightning bolt of some disaster I pray fervently will not befall me. And don’t try to sell me 65 is the new 45, I’m not buying that at 45 I was constantly wagging tongues about medical matters and taking the stairs instead of the elevator so my blood work would look better on the lab report.

“How’s that hernia? Have you had your knee replacement? What are the results from your A1C test; is it diabetes or did you get to eat Easter candy after all?”--typical content of my March social exchanges. OMG! Karen and I even check in daily to commiserate about our dear old dogs’ deteriorations.

“Where’s the FUN?” asks another friend who has just come back from a round of arthritis treatments, whose husband daily swallows a pharmacy of prescriptions, each of which must be monitored, and who now has to see a hand specialist. It’s true; you have to work it in. Without injuring yourself.

And you have to take pleasure in the little day-to-day blessings, like nailing a good parking place in the structure under St. Patrick’s medical facility.

Walking with my neighbor Susan seems to be a sensible solution “at our age” --until one of us pre-osteoporosis patients slips on the ice or twists and ankle. We were going to go today until I got her phone call explaining that she’d “come down with the flu and then gone into Afib” and had spent the previous day and night at the hospital restoring her heart rhythm. “I’d better skip the walk and stay close to the couch,” she said. Sometimes the only way to have fun is to rent a good movie and nosh on popcorn—as long as it doesn’t exacerbate Acid Reflux.

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time, sang James Taylor in earlier days—back when he was twenty-something. I wonder: Does he still feel that way at 68?