I lay on the table in the radiology department, awaiting a scan, and idly chatting with the technician.

“Seems like, since I turned 50, it’s one thing after another,” I remarked.

I was being a bit dramatic. I’d had a few curious symptoms, and this was just part of the diagnostic process.

“Oh, it all started for me when I turned 40,” the technician replied.

Well, that shut me up.

Now that I’m older than 65, I often think back to that moment, when I first connected age to physical decline. Luckily, it has not been all downhill since then. It only feels like that sometimes.


When I went to see my primary care provider recently, I had not one, but three complaints: a blocked ear, a rash on my leg and a sore wrist. This visit closely followed an emergency trip to the optometrist, after I suddenly saw flashing lights dancing outside my right eye.

None of these complaints was life-threatening. The rash is gone, I can hear again and the vitreous detachment causing the light show has safely healed up. I’m still waiting to see a wrist specialist, but here I am typing away.

Still, I find it hard to avoid the thought that this old machine is just wearing out.

I do firmly believe in the mind-body connection, so I’m sure this kind of negative musing is counterproductive — i.e., it’s aging me.

I have tried to cheer myself up by acknowledging that I only have two prescriptions — and those are for dry-eye drops and a dental rinse. That is not bad for an old gal.

Also, though I definitely did wear out my knees, there are two new ones in place. I’m coming up to the one-year anniversary on the right one, which is now nearly perfect. I’m still a bit stiff in the early morning on the left knee, which was replaced six months ago. I’m not complaining. I am thrilled to be walking normally again and grateful there was a solution for my problem.


But the greatest attitude adjustment I have found is in the distant past. I remind myself that health issues are nothing new for me.

I picture myself at age 8, at the nurse’s “office” at the Village School in Somerset, Massachusetts. It was really just a space at the back of the stage. I am sitting on a cot with my head back, a cloth pressed to my bleeding nose. This would be a curse that would follow me into young adulthood. Once, in college, I had to squirm my way out of a crowded lecture hall to get to a bathroom, no easy feat.

As a teen, I had cystic acne so severe it required me to see a dermatologist, which, believe me, was a big deal back then.

In college, I developed allergies to acidic foods, such as oranges and tomatoes. I would break out in horrible hives that might swell my eyes and/or mouth.

For years, I suffered from premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, and accompanying migraines, which caused me to miss work. I celebrated when Advil became available over the counter. I could live again. Sort of.

In my 50s, I had to have carpal tunnel surgery on both wrists (not at the same time), and at exactly 59, a bunionectomy. Oh, and somewhere in that decade I developed a nodule on my thyroid that required a biopsy (negative) and regular visits to the endocrinologist for a while.


Despite this litany of complaints, I did — do — consider myself a relatively healthy person. For one thing, I’m an optimist. Also, I’ve had no cancer. My blood pressure and cholesterol levels are low. I don’t have heart disease or diabetes. I still have my tonsils, adenoids and appendix.

Plus, I try to be healthy. I have followed the advice of Dr. Andrew Weil, the guru of mind-body medicine, for years. Olive oil, fish and broccoli became regular parts of my diet. I did yoga and meditated. I walked daily.

There is something that happens when an American turns 65, though. You have to register for Medicare. I didn’t feel aged on my birthday. I went to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay and trotted among the blooms all day to celebrate the event. But signing up for Medicare — even though I didn’t have to use it because I was still working — made me growl. It made me feel old.

I’m determined not to interpret every minor health issue as a sign of impending decrepitude.

Not that I’m sticking my head in the sand. I’m going to worry more about a chest cold now than I did at 35. It could turn into pneumonia.

But then I think about the eve of my wedding. My hairstylist lifted my tresses and said, “Ooh, look at that gray underneath there.” I was 29.


It soothes me to think I was never a perfect specimen.

Sometimes I imagine myself standing in front of a mall map that says, “You are here.”

I’m not sure, at 65-plus, exactly what that means, but it’s a good thing.

After all, I might be a little creaky in the early morning, but when I go to the mirror, there’s not a pimple in sight.

Liz Soares welcomes email at lizzie621@icloud.com.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: