Quality of Life – Listen Up!Posted: June 18, 2009
I took my cat Blanche to the vet, because she seemed to be limping. Three hundred dollars later, I learned she has sciatica and is old. Okay, I knew she was old before I took her in. I’ve had her for sixteen years, but sometimes I forget because she’s small and like any good resident of LA, she really doesn’t look her age. But she’s started to move a little slower, and these days she’s more interested in curling up inside the house (in my chair, of course) than running around chasing birds outside. Right now she’s sleeping off the pain medication the vet gave her to “take the edge off.” At sixteen, he said, it’s not so much about curing her, but more about “quality of life.” There is a decision that will have to be made at some point, perhaps sooner than I would like to think, about whether her pain is impeding her quality of life. But for now, for today, it is under control.
I am also under control. My doctor has put me on blood pressure medication. Apparently being middle aged, and unemployed for a year, and stressed out about the economy and life and three hundred dollar vet bills have caused my blood pressure to increase markedly. I really didn’t want to go on the medicine, because that’s for old people, or people who eat Big Macs every day. But when I said that to my doctor she got very agitated and her voice got really loud as she described all the horrible things that would happen to my heart if my blood continued to rampage through my body with such a great force. Then she told me that she didn’t care and she would write “patient was advised of risk of not taking medicine” on my chart and go her merry way, and it was my body and it was up to me, but of course by then I was afraid I would give her a heart attack if I kept resisting, so I quietly asked her how much the medicine cost.
Later, when I gave the pharmacist the prescription, I asked her what the name of the medicine was, because I couldn’t read the doctor’s handwriting. “Oh,” she said “This is Listen Up.” Listen up? As in, “Listen up – you better get a handle on things? You better get a job, and start eating more vegetables for dinner. You better straighten up the shoes on the floor of your closet and file all those papers that you keep pushing to the side of your desk. You better get with it and get on it and get to it, because this is serious and you need to wake up and pay attention while you still are relatively young and don’t have to take fourty-six pills every morning. It’s all about quality of life, and yours is going to go down hill faster than you realize if you don’t listen up!”
And when I picked up the prescription fifteen minutes later I realized it was actually “Lisinop.” But then I thought about the cat I had seen cradled in the arms of her owner in the waiting room of the vet’s office. Argyle was a beautiful orange tabby, and she was seven years old and dying of Leukemia. And I thought, “Listen Up! Forget about the shoes and the unfiled papers. Hold Blanche while you can, and take your medicine and eat your vegetables and also have a cookie once in a while. Find the balance.” Because it’s all about the quality of life, and there are decisions that will have to be made at some point, maybe sooner than later, but for now, for today, it is under control.