Past age 55, things start to break down.
My hair went before that, of course, first thinning out, and then presenting a pate that was hyper-aware whenever an air-conditioner turned on or when the sun beat down with a little more intensity that usual. In response, I discovered the miracle of sun screen and flat caps.
My hip started to hurt about four years ago, when I was 57. Coming back to the truck after 5-6 hours in the field humping 40 pounds of tools through the brush, I found my thigh would not operate to lift me into the Explorer. What the hell was going on?
About three years ago, I developed a bad case of eczema, and my hip got worse. I went to a dermatologist for the eczema, and they prescribed a cream which helped a little, and then they prescribed a stronger prescription cream, and that knocked it down and the eczema has not recurred.
Still, my hips hurt, and my hands started to swell so that my joints felt like walnuts. I could not make a decent fist or wear my wedding ring. I started to feel vulnerable. Something was wrong.
The dermatologist said it looked like I had psoriatic arthritis. After testing my blood at the lab conveniently located one floor down, he prescribed Humira, which came in an auto-inject pen. I needed to take this stuff every two weeks.
It took a few months for things to get better, but they did, and I was thinking this was not so bad even if administering an injection seemed rather dramatic.
The Humira only cost me a $5 a prescription co-pay, but I looked up the price on-line and it's jaw-dropping even in countries where they have price controls, like England.
I guess this is why I have insurance, I thought.
After a few months, my wedding ring fit back on my hand.
Last summer, I began to feel increasingly tired and run down. Last fall, things got worse, and my joints began to ache. The problem was that I was moving out of my house of 25 years and into a smaller one 50 miles away, and I had no time or energy to see a doctor. Was this just old age?
In February of this year, I blindly picked a new doctor -- a rheumatologist -- and after playing 40 questions with me (I don't smoke, don't drink, don't do drugs, have no infections, take no supplements, etc.) he decided to double my Humira dose.
That seems to have set things right for now, but as with my previous Humira prescription, this too took a few months to kick in.
By now it was spring, and I had a yard to plant out. The new house needed 600 feet of solid fence to contain the dogs, wire mesh along the bottom to prevent them from digging out, and a new kennel. The fence then needed to be stained, plants need to be bought and planted, a new shed needed to be built and painted, and ... there was always a bit more.
A wet spring rolled into a searing hot summer, and it turns out it has been 9 months without me getting the dogs out for a real dig. Ridiculous.
The good news is that I am now back in action. Or at least I think I am. I still have a rotator cuff problem that does not seem to be going away, but it does not impact me too much. I have elbow tendinitis in my right arm at the moment, but I am treating it with heat and trying to use my cell phone less, as I think that's how I got it. My feet have two cuts on the bottom from walking in fields with nothing but Crocs on. It turns out real shoes were invented for a reason -- lesson learned.
I was out twice last week with the dogs and, aside from my right arm which has both the rotator cuff and elbow tendinitis problems, things felt fine. No problem with the hip, and the hands are working OK.
I dug a bit and it was not bad, even with the right arm injuries.
This morning the specialty pharmacy called to refill my prescription, so things are set for the next month.
I have renewed my hunting license and fur bearer permits, and I have changed out the batteries on my locator box and sharpened and oiled the tools for the season ahead.
Not dead yet.