My doctor is the mender of last resort
A DAD'S LIFE:At 50 quid a pop, I like to get value for money, writes ADAM BROPHY
‘IS IT that time again?” he asks.
“It is,” I say.
“Have you got the list?” he asks.
“I do,” I say. And I do. I don’t go near the doctor until the list is long. Fifty quid to be told I have a virus and I need to take it easy for a few days? Don’t be daft. I wait until there are afflictions affecting all quadrants and then make sure to write down the symptoms for fear one or two may be forgotten. I start with the feet and work up to the crown of the head. I only see my sawbones when it’s absolutely necessary, when something may be about to expire, when the discomfort can no longer be ignored. It’s fifty nicker a pop for God’s sake.
If you’re like me, blokey, somewhere between 30 and 50, you don’t see your doctor much either. You’ll stand in the waiting room with your arm hanging from your shoulder by the last thread of sinew following a chainsaw accident and tell the lady beside you to go ahead because you’re “grand really, just a bit careless”.
You’re part of the last generation where everyone smoked in school. Most of you have ditched them since, but the difficult part was staying off them with a few pints on board.
You managed by distracting yourself with thoughts of the battered cod and chips on the way home. Onion rings too, and maybe some mushrooms, and curry sauce. Ah yeah. And a battered sausage to nibble on while you’re carrying the bag back to the house.
That did the trick. Because we all need a treat to keep going. The thing is, if you are like me, you became embarrassed by the spread around the middle. You didn’t feel comfortable whipping the kit off in the Algarve when the bits started to wobble more than before. Out on a Friday night, comments may have been passed on how your jeans were very “street”, hovering as they did between your crumbling waist and the backs of your knees.
So, if you’re like me, you decided to exercise. Six months later you found yourself lapping the Phoenix Park for hours at a time, preparing for your first road race. You managed it and, despite the incredible pain, have sustained your efforts over the following years. Why? Because by running – or running, cycling and swimming, as more and more middle-agers are doing – you can eat as much curry as you want, sup pints, and still beam when people tell you you’re looking great.
I recently completed a middle-distance triathlon, which took more than five hours. Afterwards I loaded up on cake and drove home to attend a friend’s birthday party, a little delirious from the day’s exertions. Once there, I kept the strength up by refuelling on chicken goujons, black pudding and cocktail sausages. It was fantastic. The lager worked its black magic and by midnight, I was no use to man or beast. So what? I’m an endurance athlete. The night didn’t end until much later.
How ridiculous is this? The body responds to exercise. Your muscles harden and your aerobic system strengthens. But exercise makes no difference to the thickening of arteries, clogged by years of rasher sandwiches and cream buns. Exercise will not change the genes handed down by your forefathers.
I love it when my kids are at the finish line of a race. I love it that they think it’s perfectly normal for me to get up at 5am to travel half the length of the country and come 150th out of 300 in some inconsequential triathlon in Clare. I love that, because they might themselves stay fit for life as a result.
Fortunately, they don’t see peers smoke. They find it abhorrent. They’re conscious that drinking to excess does not a rock star make. They would rather soup and a sandwich to McDonald’s. I’m sure, human nature being what it is, they will find their own ways to mess themselves up as they grow older but for now they are on healthier paths than I, and maybe you, started out on.
They’re okay. We auld fellas have the problem. Maybe we should get to the doc more regularly to ensure the cholesterol hasn’t gone through the roof. Maybe last night’s korma isn’t the best choice for breakfast. Maybe we should break the habit of a lifetime and explore the meaning of low-fat. Maybe.