It makes me think

Wednesday May 18, 2005

To Spilsby late this morning, seeking one-day provisions for lunch and dinner from the Co-Op, and my monthly prescription from the doctor’s.

Two medications changes this month. I have been completely clear of SAD symptoms for about three weeks now and have discontinued the daily low-dose Fluoxetine pills that are so invaluable to keep both the winter blues and the grumpy old man out of my life. Probably more important, the doctors have switched me from Simvastatin to Atorvastatin. I was told some time back that this was going to happen as part of a long-term review of the risk of side-effects arising from these essential cholesterol-busters. I’m due to go in for a set of blood tests towards the end of next month and this will serve to reassure me that the switch is beneficial.

It’s all too easy to take the benefits of these ‘heart holiday’ drugs for granted. I pop my pills daily as a matter of routine and carry on living happily, needing to keep only a gentle watch on my diet and activity levels. The risk of major cardiac and circulatory problems is by this means reduced to a level where I live very happily alongside it.

It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t quick to get to this stage. I’ve reached it by taking control of my situation, including my health care, over a period of several years. The initial drug treatment, while rescuing me from a frankly rather parlous state, was necessarily hard and harsh, smacking in the pills fast and furious to treat everything that might conceivably be wrong. Some of the immediate side-effects were less than pleasant. Slowly but surely, though, with monitoring and gradual modification, the mix of pills has been changed and reduced to a completely tolerable level and I find myself sailing along from day to day, week to week, a completely happy and contented patient. I think I got it right and I think I helped the medics to get it right, too.

Now and again I like to sit back and review my situation, to be sure that I made the right choices and that I continue to be right to stay with the programme. Now and again you can’t help but wonder if you’ve got it right. Driving back home from Spilsby, then, I was thinking this one through and as I turned off the main road and on to our lane, I was coming back to the conclusion that I’m doing fine, and grateful for it.

Then, as I came up to the house, the whole question was brought suddenly into clear focus.

My next door neighbour, almost exactly the same age as myself and afflicted with much the same degenerative health problems, takes the opposite view to my own and has avoided doctors, hospitals and all but the most basic of medications as much as he possibly can. He’s not been doing too well for some while now, having had a rotten winter and finding it close to impossible to change gear as Spring came in. It seems that, this morning, he suffered a stroke of medium severity, and there was an ambulance there, with paramedics taking him off to hospital. On inquiry, it looks as if he’ll make a reasonable recovery, but I suspect he’ll not be able to continue living alone much longer and will be obliged to seek a move to sheltered housing where he can be kept under observation and given the help he needs, when he needs it. The fight has, I fear, gone out of the man. I’d love to be proven wrong but I doubt that’s going to happen.

What do I learn from this? Certainly not that I have had it right and he has had it wrong. I do feel that I have it right for me, optimising my quality of life so that I can go on into the future and feel good about it. I do think it rather silly to refuse oneself the benefit of free access to the very best that Western medical care can offer. But I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong. Getting the best out of any health provision system is hard work unless you’re very, very rich and privileged. For me it’s worth putting the work in. For others, so it seems, it isn’t.

Obviously, and without hesitation, I join the community effort to provide my neighbour with the support he needs while he’s in hospital. When, hopefully, he returns home, we’ll continue to do what we can. He’s a decent bloke, kind, generous and gentle to a fault. I think he’d have been better advised to extend some of that generousity to himself, is all. You can’t keep yourself young, and you can’t keep yourself beautiful, either, at least not on the surface. But you can, with care and with application, keep yourself as fit and healthy as your genetic make-up and earlier life-style allows. It works for me.

On to less weighty matters, it’s beginning to look as if we’re not going to have a rapid house sale this time round. The UK housing market, while not in decline, is entering on a period of stagnation. Our putative buyers really, really want this house, and are making best efforts to sell their own. We’re not actually waiting for them but there’s no sign of a rush from other buyers. There is likely to be a slow, irregular trickle, but we’re resigned to the likelihood of needing to sit back and wait patiently. That’s no great punishment. This is a very pleasant, comfortable house, easy to maintain, and a few months of feet-up easy living will do us no harm at all.

If the housing market goes into decline we may, if we remain determined to move, be forced to reduce our asking price but then so will the people from whom we’ll be buying the next one so there’ll be no net loss. That’s the wonderful thing about house equity. So long as you stay in the house market, and pay your dues, your purchasing power remains unchanged regardless of the figures on the ledger. That’s not to say that a declining house market is a good thing, far from it. Good, hard-working people suffer greatly in that circumstance. When you’ve a mortgage to pay on your home it’s horrific to find yourself slipping towards leave alone sliding deep into negative equity. I worked long and hard to pay off my mortgage, however, and I can see nothing wrong in feeling good about having done so.

Hey ho. The two concerns of my day are similar, I suppose, at least in a way. I doubt there’s a moral in either, but it certainly makes me think.



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