Many U.S. men only go to their doctor when they’re extremely sick, skipping preventive care. ~ Miranda Hitti – WebMD Health News
There are dysfunctional parts of my old school “masculinity,” particularly where it regards my health and self-care. Like many or most men, I seem to be locked into a stereotypical, self-neglecting role of maleness, despite my most noble intentions to defend the innate value of my life. My actions (meaning myself) have served up a good deal of proof of this in recent days. I have been my own stark reminder of the ingrained and self-imposed misandry that drives male disposability.
This should not be real news to most of the men that read here. We currently have over 1,000 of the finest articles on men’s issues ever assembled in one place, and none of them are focused on the issues of men’s health. Hell, until this article we didn’t even have a category for it.
I don’t really know what to do about a lot of this, and don’t know that I ever will. So, lacking any real wisdom or expertise on the subject, and not wishing to be a bigger hypocrite than I am already being, I will simply tell you my story, and hope that you learn more from my experience than I have.
I also hope to kill a flock of birds with one stone, as I have received many kind inquiries about my health recently, largely from men whom I suspect could also be taking better care of themselves.
I will warn you in advance, though, that the details are suitable for a trigger warning. Some of this is pretty gross, guys, so continue reading with the same caution that I would issue the average man about neglecting his own needs: do so at your own peril.
There are a few medical issues at play here. I will take them in no particular order. Considering they are all part of the same problem it won’t help to adhere too much to chronology, nor will it serve to address things in order of chronicity.
I am 55 years old. I started smoking in earnest by age 14. I “tried” quitting a few dozen times, with varying degrees of success, but always found my way back to a pack of menthols before it was over.
Two years ago I started to experience breathing problems. I don’t mean that I got short of breath when running the hundred meter dash. I mean that I was waking up at two and three in the morning struggling to get air. I went to the doctor (after months of procrastination), got put on Albuterol, and continued to smoke.
The Albuterol was a godsend. You see, it got to the point that I was forced to put my cigarettes out about halfway down because my chest was getting so tight every time I lit one. The Albuterol fixed that to a degree. I would just take a small puff from the inhaler and the bronchodilation would allow me to breathe through the last half of that smoke, sometimes even a little longer.
Who says men can’t solve problems? We’re experts at it.
During this time I was also facing a couple of other issues. I had a bad gallbladder. That is the little sack-like organ attached to your liver that stores bile (produced by the liver) that aids in the digestion of fatty foods. In some people, the organ also starts producing stones which do not aid in digestions, but do cause pain in “attacks” on a level that would make a Southern Baptist bow to Mecca.
I listened patiently to the doctor’s advice that my gallbladder could eventually cause very serious problems and that it needed to come out. That was six years, and about 12 trips to the ER ago, in excruciating pain.
In between those trips I suffered constant rounds of diarrhea, stools full of undigested fats and excess bile. I also lived in fear that every time I ate something with more than a trace of fat that I would end up in the hospital jacked up on morphine that usually did not resolve all the pain.
That fear was rational, even if my actions weren’t, and I stuck with it long enough to experience that “you again?” look from more than one emergency department employee.
During all this time I was following my AVfM obsession faithfully. I was tending to what I thought was important. I was, in fact, hiding behind it in a strange sort of way. While I attended all that important work (and no, I am not saying that sarcastically) I slipped toward a bad and untimely end.
I put on a great deal of weight, battered my already damaged lungs with the help of R.J. Reynolds, and even learned to play chicken late at night with my gallbladder and plates of pizza. Most of the time I dodged the bullet and didn’t have an attack. Most of the time, yes.
I was living my life, guiding my affairs with a brain that thought it could kill me and keep on living. With a smoke in one hand, an inhaler in the other, and the occasional stray piece of pepperoni on my keyboard, I continued doing what a man does. I worked and met my goals, none of which were about me obtaining a better quality or quantity of life.
It makes sense, in a crazy sort of way, when you consider that is precisely how all of us are raised to view our own intrinsic value.
It is also worth mentioning here that during all this time I noticed a reduced flow of urine when urinating. It is a sure sign of an enlarging prostate. No big deal. I am in my mid-fifties, after all, and that is what starts happening when you get a little older. No need to go see a doctor. No, not in the least.
If all this sounds like I am cleansing myself, or seeking absolution for my own stupidity, I probably am. If it seems brave to be this personal and revealing, it really isn’t. It was not bravery but fear that led me here.
You see, I quit smoking four months ago, just before my 55th birthday. It was not because I had an epiphany and suddenly desired the smoke-free lifestyle of a SoCal granola head. I would love nothing more than to torch one right now and hammer out another piece on feminism than to be doing what I am doing.
I would love to have a cheeseburger as a reward after I am done, but I can’t. In addition to dropping the smokes I also dropped 30 pounds. But it was not insight or a healthy ego that got me there.
It took the, “is this going to be the one that kills me?” thought, every time I lit a cigarette, before I got, for the first time in my life, serious about quitting. It was pretty much the same with the food. I am still not exercising near as much as I should.
The silver lining here is that the sudden fit of healthy decisions led to other things, and a week ago today I had the gallbladder surgically removed. Oh, and my prostate? The propofol they gave me during the surgery made it swell so much that it cut off my ability to urinate completely. Eight hours after the procedure I was back in the emergency room, subjected to very hearty attempts to insert a catheter into my bladder before it ruptured. The fact that you are reading this lets you know that they got it in – with enough sawing back and forth.
The catheter came out today, and I will be going back for a PSA test (a screen for prostate cancer) in a week. Apparently the catheter causes false high results on the PSA so they need to have it out for about a week before testing.
When I go back for that we are going to discuss the kidney stone in my right kidney that I never followed up on because it wasn’t bothering me like the one in my left kidney did; because it would have got in the way of the really important stuff I was doing.
There is a lesson in this, but I am vowed not to insult you with platitudes or Peter Pan advice or some brain dead preventative medicine slogans. What I will do is tell you what all this means to me, and hopefully have the humility to shut up about it afterward and stay out of your way.
We live in a misandric culture, and often times, when we are scared enough or motivated by some other powerful force, we find that the root of the hatred is in the mirror staring back at us and mocking.
We men are raised with a sense of shame for having any needs. We are told, in fact, that we already have everything, and largely don’t deserve even the most basic of our needs for dignity, respect and love. If you look around in medical literature long enough, you will even see them shaming us for not going to the doctor more. Feminists have even used our tendency to neglect ourselves as a good reason to go full steam ahead with the unabashedly pro-female Obamacare.
And you can watch many men nod their heads in agreement with this crap. Sure, some of it is just the typical effects of feminist ideology on the brains of obsequious men, but there is something else at play here.
What made men willing to stand on the decks of sinking ships where their betters were loaded onto lifeboats? What makes men OK with being singled out for selective service? When is the last time you heard an average man point out to a woman who is whining that her great grandmother could not vote, that even today, unless a man signs an agreement with the government to use his body as cannon fodder, that he still won’t be allowed to vote?
We often have to point out to morons that being anti-feminist is not the same thing as being anti-woman. I think we would do well to remember from time to time that misandry is often not something done to us, but something we do to ourselves.
It is a monster that can live in any one of us, and often does. I have been doing battle with my own for a while. 25 years of consideration, soul searching and bucking the system and I am just now figuring out to go see a doctor when I have a problem.
I want to take this time also to thank the many of you that got wind of my problems and wrote to inquire. I hope you are doing the same for yourselves, because that is the real point here. It is about all of us, and about our inherited demons.
I know many of you have done a better job at taking care of yourselves than I have, but I am still betting that we are dealing with a monster that inhabits us all to one degree or another.
Let us not continue to give that beast a place to hide.