Wednesday 07 Dec 2016

Treadmills and Twinkies
Matt Seinberg

Four years ago, my wife, Marcy, wanted a treadmill for a present. Being the loving and caring husband that I am, I said sure. We scoured the local ads and she decided to buy one at Sears. I don't remember how much it was, only that when it showed up she was very excited.

Remember, if your wife is happy, life is so much easier. If you can't yet admit that, you soon will. That also depends on how long you've been married. We're going on twenty years, so I know when to bend, when to walk away, when to fold the cards, and when hold my ground. That's a different column for another day.

A year later, Marcy decides that she also wants a stationary exercise bike. We scour not only the local ads, but look on the internet as well. We find one on the Reebok site and order it. Yea ho, another exercise toy in the house.

The box shows up a week or so later, and the model number and description isn't right. Being the impulsive male that I am, I open the box anyway. It's some sort of elliptical machine, not a bike. I call Reebok, and explain the problem. They say they can't ship out the right item until I return the wrong one. Have you ever tried to repack something big into the small box it came in? Trust me; it never fits no matter what you do.

A couple of weeks later we have the new bike; we enthusiastically try it out. It even has a couple of simple video games built in that works with how slow or fast you pedal. Now, we have two machines, we can exercise together. One little problem I soon discover.

When I'm on either machine, I need up tempo music, and I tend to sing rather loudly to it. I readily admit I can't sing, which is why I always tell my kids I got into radio. I'm better at announcing the songs than singing them. Marcy also can't sing, but won't admit to it. She also doesn't admit to snoring either.

So while I'm on one machine singing away, she's uselessly yelling at me to stop. Since I have the music turned up loud in my headset, I hardly hear her. Good planning on my part I must admit. I'm hoping she will eventually give up. What happens is that we decide to exercise separately.

Marcy works on the machines much more than I do. One of the problems I encountered was a bad case of bronchitis, a year or so ago. I stopped using the machines, completely, when the bronchitis hit. Once you stop, it's hard to start again unless something scares you so much that there is no choice.

So let's get personal. In a recent column, I wrote about having my annual physical. I saw a new doctor in the practice I had been going to for many years, as my long time doctor retired. The physician ordered every blood test in the book. Two days later the nurse calls to reveal the results. My cholesterol is great, but the blood sugar level is high. Please remember the testing came right after the kids collected over 40 pounds of candy at Halloween. This is scare number one. He says I am pre-diabetic. I have to control my carbohydrates; drastically limit sugar.

Scare number two happened this week. I went for my first ever stress test. I should mention that I had started using the treadmill, again, and used the bike for the first time in a long time.

Have you ever had a stress test? When I made the appointment, the nurse said it takes five hours. I asked why, and she said that half of that is waiting time. I get to the office on time, and wait a few minutes. Then Nurse Barbara comes out and hooks an IV to my left arm and takes blood, and then injects the radioactive isotope, which travels throughout your bloodstream so they can take before and after x-rays. She sends me to the waiting room for an hour before they can take the x-rays. Oh, did I mention that she also started to shave my chest without telling me? I'm still itching from that.

I was inserted into to a very uncomfortable x-ray machine for about 45 minutes. I must hold my arms above my head the entire time. Was that painful or what? If you're even the least claustrophobic, you'll have a problem with this machine circling your head and chest, making all sorts of strange noises.

I get out of the x-ray machine, and wait about half an hour before Barbara calls me in again. She introduces me to Charles, who is the physician's assistant in charge of this particular torture room. That's what he said. He's a nice fellow; very funny and informative about what he was about to do to me. I wasn't scared, yet.

Charles tells me about the three cycles the treadmill goes through with higher speeds and bigger inclines. What he didn't mention that by the end, your calves are burning and you feel like you're pulling an elephant in a shopping cart up a very big hill.

The first three minutes are easy, and I'm waiting for the next cycle. Charles gives me a thirty-second warning and the incline and speed both go up. Okay, still not too bad, I'm doing fine, not ready to collapse or give up.

Now comes the tough part. Charles gives me that thirty-second warning and the incline and speed both go up again. I'm starting to huff and puff, my calves are on fire and I'm grateful my lawyer forced me to sign a medical power of attorney and will. I'm trying to position my hands in the most comfortable way I can, so I won't fall or stop.

At eight minutes, I'm ready to give up. My legs are on fire, and sweat is pouring off me like Niagara Falls. Another thirty seconds goes by that feels like thirty minutes, and Charles puts his hand at the small of my back to not only encourage me to keep going, but to make sure I stay on that damn machine.

It stops! Yea, I finished the full nine minutes. I'm huffing and puffing like the engine in a Shelby Cobra GT. I stopped moving.

They put me in to the x-ray machine for another 45 minutes. Again, my arms start to hurt, and I just want this torture to end. I'm trying to sleep, doze, whatever just to get through this.

Barbara and Charles tell me at the end that I will hear from my doctor in a week. Imagine my surprise when he calls cell the next day to tell me there may be an abnormality in the test. He said it could be a blocked artery or an artifact from my diaphragm.

Ok, now I'm scared.

I end up having to go to see the physician the next day, as I'm not feeling well. What I have is a sinus infection. At least I caught it before it turned into something worse. We go over all the test results, and he tells me I have to change my lifestyle. How many men over the age of 50 have heard those words and felt a cold chill go through their bodies?

Since I don't smoke or drink, that's easy to control. I do however love to eat, and that's what has to be controlled. My wife has lost over 50 pounds in nine months on Weight Watchers, and the only way I can do this is with her help. We have this discussion about what I can't have anymore or only in the smallest amounts.

This list includes all our favorites: candy, cookies, cake, ice cream, white bread and anything else that tastes good. Now it's whole grain breads and pastas, lots of fruit and vegetables, and cut back on the sugar. The physician gave me three months to lose some weight and drop my sugar level or he puts me on medication.

My medical journey is not over. In December, I get to see the urologist and gastroenterologist for consultations on the man parts that no one likes to discuss. I remember reading a column, which Dave Barry, did about his colonoscopy. Though it was funny, I'm hoping most of it isn't true. I guess I'll find out and share it.

So wish me luck and keep good thoughts for me during this difficult time. I'll take all the help I can get. Just think, the Thanksgiving feast is coming up and that will be my first test of will power of not putting everything in sight in my mouth. Maybe a muzzle will help.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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