Vail Daily Columnist Linda Stamper Boyne: Holy Crap! Is this middle age?
Vail, CO, Colorado
I think it’s fair to say I’m a healthy person.
I eat well. I exercise regularly. I’m not overweight. Blood pressure is low. Good cholesterol is high, bad is low. Sure, I’ve had a few medical bumps in the road over the years, but who hasn’t? By and large, I’m healthy.
So when a spot in my lower back started hurting a bit over the winter, I just thought it was a little muscle pull, nothing I hadn’t felt before.
As spring arrived, the pain was still there, unchanged. It was never sharp, never stopped me in my tracks. It was more a lingering annoyance, much like the feeling of a 3-year-old constantly poking me in the back saying, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy” over and over.
In May, I noticed that bending over was more difficult, that I felt a little stiff. This gave me pause. I’ve always been flexible. I was one of those kids who could reach my fingertips eight inches past my toes in the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. Into my adult years, I could hit the yoga poses without much difficulty the first time on the mat. Even after I passed the 40 mark, I could still roundhouse kick a small adult in the head. Should that situation ever present itself.
My light bulb moment came on a July afternoon when I went to tie my shoes before a workout and a noise came out of my mouth that startled and horrified me. What in the world was that? Gasp! Is there really something wrong with me? Or was that an elder grunt? Could this be, God forbid, middle age setting in?! Oh, the injustice!
I’m not sure why I thought I was going to skip the aging process. Maybe I had just never allowed myself to consider it, as denial is one of my favorite ways of coping. I figured if Madonna can still be ripped and toned at 53 and Helen Mirren can look fabulous in bikini at 63, there was no reason why I should be any different. Granted, I don’t know what aches and pains those ladies endure, nor if they’ve had any surgical help to get them to that point. But still.
I am beginning to understand the phrase, “Youth is wasted on the young.” I miss the days of the quick recovery after a strenuous physical outing. The body just doesn’t bounce back like it used to, even with the assistance of Aleve and ice packs. It makes me look down the road and wonder what’s next.
But at that moment, there was a back pain to deal with. I could not longer ignore it, willing it to go away by refusing to acknowledge its presence. I realized fear is what had kept me from doing anything about it. In the back of my mind, I feared I was suffering the same fate as my dad.
My dad was about my age when he was diagnosed with degenerative disk disease in his spine. I have watched him deal with chronic pain for more than 30 years with aplomb and dignity.
He is a model physical therapy patient. He exercises regularly, putting hundreds of miles on his bike each year. Not an evening passes that he doesn’t get down on the floor in front of the TV to do his exercises. He is so disciplined. It’s inspirational. I truly admire his commitment to himself and his health.
As the diagnosis came from my doctor, it was not as I feared, but the scoliosis discovered during an all-school screening in my junior high gym all those years ago coming back to haunt me.
Although I had avoided treatment and the adolescent horror of the back brace (a la “Sixteen Candles”) when I stopped growing at 14, apparently the scoliosis was merely lying in wait to exact its revenge and humiliation. Off to physical therapy with me to be stretched and strengthened.
But I, unfortunately, do not currently possess that same level of discipline as my father. I am sporadic at best with my exercises. Why I cannot commit myself to a regimen that will help is beyond me.
So, as I wage a battle against aging and my manufacturer’s defect, I implore you all to help me. I hereby put anyone who sees me on Nag Detail. You are empowered to ask, remind, cajole or harass me to do my PT. In advance, I thank you.
Linda Stamper Boyne of Edwards can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org