big log

I don’t know if this is the weirdest thing I’ve ever done, but many years ago while a medical doctor was trying to diagnose a little trouble I was having with my gastrointestinal tract, she asked me to keep a diary of what I ate and each time I pooped. She also wanted to know what kind of dump I had, i.e. was it firm, loose, runny, explosive, etc.

I did just what she told me. I got a pocket-sized spiral-bound notebook, kept it in the breast pocket of my BDU blouse, and each time I sat down to eat I got the notebook out and jotted down a list of each item I was about to consume. I had a very simple appetite and was a picky eater back then, so the list was usually short and easy to make. AND ALSO after each visit to the men’s room I would make a quick note of the visit and the ‘character’ of the expelled dookie. I did this for at least a couple weeks. I think it might have been a whole month.

On my next visit to the doctor I handed over the notebook, saying something like, “You wanted me to write down everything I ate and every time I pooped.” She acted puzzled as she flipped through the pages. “Wow, you really did it,” she said. It seemed to me this was the first time anyone had actually followed her directions. Weirdly, she hardly read the diary. She mostly just flipped through it, pausing to read two or maybe three pages before handing it back to me.


I went to the eye doctor yesterday afternoon because my prescription seemed a little out of whack and it had been about five years since I’d had my eyes checked last. The office I went to last was in a Shopko that closed last summer, but the office moved to a strip mall about two blocks from our house so I guess even that minor catastrophe had a silver lining.

Before the doctor did her examination, a tech took me into a side room to check me for glaucoma with that goddamn machine that hit my eyeball with what they always describe as a “puff” of air, and which I describe as being punched in the face by an evil spirit. She had another machine that projected an image on the back of my eye but she didn’t say what that did; and she had a camera that took a picture of the retina of both my eyes. She had to take two photos of my left eye but she didn’t say why.

Once the tech was done with me, the doctor took me to a separate examination room and did the usual examination with the goggles that flip between better and worse, then she got behind a scope that shined a bright light into my eyes so she could examine the retinas live, one at a time, under magnification. She spent a bit longer looking into the left one than the right one before she explained that she was looking for a whitened area on my retina that showed up on the photos. It was probably totally normal, she said, most likely a myelinated nerve fiber layer and probably not A CANCEROUS TUMOR, but the only way she could be sure was to look at it live under magnification. Trouble was, it was in a part of my eye that at such an acute angle to my pupil that she couldn’t see it without dilating my eyes.

Luckily for both of us, I walked to the examination, meaning that driving home with dilated eyes wasn’t even part of the equation. Therefore, yes, please, go ahead and dilate my eyes so we can find out if one of them is full of cancer or it’s only a benignly myelinated nerve. I am only too happy to have this cleared up in exchange for having to squint all the way home.

And it turned out to be the benign thing, whew. So what might have turned out to be a slightly more exciting day than I had planned was instead routine. All I got out of it was a new prescription and a new pair of glasses.


About two weeks ago, I was chatting with a coworker about going to the doctor when she told me about the pain she had in her upper arm. It sounded just like the pain I had in my upper arm, I said. It’s probably a rotator cuff injury like mine, she said.

A couple days later I visited a physical therapist who made me stretch and bend and reach, and after poking and prodding me for a while and asking lots of questions he announced that I had a rotator cuff injury.

Well, thanks a lot, I told Judy the next time I saw her.

And then last week Bonkers, one of our cats, started squinting because the pupil of his eye was blown open. He also couldn’t stop drooling and he drank a lot, so we made an appointment with the vet who suggested that he might have diabetes. She suggested a few other things that might be wrong with him, like radiation poisoning and cancer of the toenails, because she was getting paid a lot of money to point out all the possibilities, but diabetes seemed like the most likely diagnosis, considering the symptoms.

That’s when I remembered that a week or two ago Judy told me she’d be in to work an hour late because she had to drop her cat off at the vet’s. The cat had recently been diagnosed with diabetes and was going back for follow-up testing.

After I got the news about Bonkers, I cornered Judy in her cubicle. “Don’t tell me anything that’s wrong with you any more,” I ordered. “From now on, everything’s fine. Everyone in your family is healthy. You couldn’t possibly feel better. Got that?”


I pinched a tendon in my rotator cuff. Not on purpose. I didn’t even know I had a tendon caught in my rotator cuff. If I did, I certainly wouldn’t have kept pinching it in there. That hurts.

I found out about this when I visited a physical therapist yesterday morning and told him about my symptoms. Actually, I might have found out about it the week before when I was talking with Judy, one of my coworkers. She mentioned she was visiting a physical therapist for pain in her upper arm and described symptoms identical to the pain I was experiencing. “Well, you’ve probably got a rotator cuff injury,” she told me. And she turned out to be right, so I probably could’ve saved myself a couple bucks there. If she had shown me the exercises she was doing to fix it I could’ve saved myself a few trips to the clinic, too.

Anyway, after telling the physical therapist about my symptoms and letting him give me a good going-over, he explained that my injury was not at all unusual for people who have spent years at a desk, hunched over a keyboard, staring into a computer monitor. To repair the damage, I would have to exercise for months and months to rebuild my muscle tone. I tried to picture myself at the gym three times a week, pumping iron, and was having some trouble doing it, but it turned out that wasn’t what he had in mind.

First, he asked me to slouch. I thought that was an unusual request, coming from a physical therapist, but he’s a professional so I figured he knew the dangers associated with what he was asking me to do. I slouched.

“Good!” he said. Again, I thought praising me for slouching was a little odd, but again I kept it to myself because he went to school for years to learn how to do this and I didn’t.

“Now sit up straight, and then draw your shoulders back and look up at the ceiling,” he continued. I did what he told me and felt myself turn into a question mark.

“Hold that for a couple seconds, then slouch again.” And that’s all there was to that exercise. I do that ten times twice a day. It’s a foundational exercise.

So’s this one: Rocking my pelvis back and forth. Again, he praised me for my flexibility. I was under the impression that I’d sort of let myself go in the five years since I retired from the Air Force, where they made me work out three times a week, but it turned out that I was a lot better off that most of the people who needed physical therapy. “Do you ever get people who can’t do that?” I asked.

“Oh, yeah. Lots.

And this is an exercise that’s apparently pretty tricky, too: Tucking my chin against my chest. It turns out my head juts forward. It shouldn’t do that, so I have to re-shape my spine with this exercise so I can tuck my head back where it’s supposed to be. This feels wrong, but he was impressed that I could do it without him having to tell me exactly what it was supposed to look like. “Have you ever done physical therapy before?”

Nope. First time. I’m just that good.