Melissa Kite

Real life | 16 June 2012

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You know you’re getting old when the pharmacist puts your medications in a carrier bag.

‘Here you are, dear,’ said the nice lady, who works behind the counter at my local chemist. And she handed me a bag. Now, the exact dimensions of this bag are crucial. I’ve measured it. It is 30cm long, or nearly 12 inches for those of you not yet participating in the metric era. Or for those who think more literally than that, it is a foot long. A whole foot, including toes. As to the width, we’re talking 21cm or eight and a quarter inches.

But that isn’t the worst bit. The worst bit is that the bag has handles. Handles, I tell you!

I am now so decrepit, my medications can only be borne through the streets if they are housed in a large, stiff paper bag with handles and a reinforced bottom.

How did all this creep up on me? I remember so well the days when, if I needed a few pills for something minor, usually an inflammatory issue to do with an athletic encounter with a horse, I would emerge from Boots with one tiny little packet. At most, I would be twirling a flimsy plastic mini-bag. My medications would require no more than that for perambulatory purposes.

Not any more. Not now that I have two distinct, on-going conditions: the cysts, which resulted in my nearly perishing in an appalling south London casualty department two weeks ago, and the eczema, which occurs periodically in response to stress.

Both seem to be working in conjunction with each other, so the pain from the cysts brings out the eczema, and the itching of the eczema irritates me into thrashing around and setting off the cysts. They really are an ensemble cast of disorders, coming together to produce a stunning overall effect.

Little wonder that I am feeling so tired I can hardly move. I am buckling under the weight of the knowledge that I am now the sufferer of multiple illnesses, which, although relatively minor, have Latin in their subtitles and are not altogether unrelated to age.

Actually, that’s putting too fancy an interpretation on it. I’m out of my face on prescription medicine. Between the Diclofenac and the Co-dydramol for the cysts and the Atarax for the eczema I’m barely managing to keep my eyes open.

I did ask the doctor whether one wouldn’t clash with another and set off some horrible reaction. In fact, I seem to recall using the rather flash term ‘contraindication’. I am, after all, an accomplished hypochondriac and I know my stuff. But he shrugged and looked at me as if to say, ‘Get them down you. It might shut you up.’

While I was waiting to see the GP, I went through the blood test report from the specialist, referencing all the medical terms with my iPad.

By the time I’d Googled everything that came up marked ‘h’ for high on the results page — including something called CA125 which stood for ‘cancer antigen’ or possibly ‘cancer aaaargh!’ — I had diagnosed myself with hyperactive thyroid, several tumours, high cholesterol and rickets. Oh, and I also worked out that I had a mild heart attack during the cyst-bursting because there was an ‘h’ marked next to some protein associated with trauma to the heart muscles.

The doctor dismissed all of this, claiming that I am not qualified to interpret pathology reports. Well, he has to say that, or he would be out of a job. But I think I’ll be the judge of my own haematology.

In any case, I need to be up to speed on everything because the private specialist is preparing to do something clever to my insides with keyhole surgery and a laser gun. Or that’s what it sounds like.

He is a very clever man, by all accounts, but he is starting to remind me of the spoof character Dr Spaceman (pronounced Spchemmin) in the US comedy 30 Rock.

He talks like a plumber when he’s describing what he’s going to do to me. But every time I describe my symptoms to him he comes over all squeamish.

To make conversation, I told him I still had forceps marks behind my ears from when I was evicted from my mother after she had been in labour for two days and had lost patience with my lackadaisical attitude to getting born. I thought that as a medical man he would be fascinated and ask to see the scars. Instead he exclaimed: ‘Oh, my god! Yuck!’

When I told him I was having a spot of bother with the digestive system after the burst cyst, he crinkled up his nose and said, ‘Uuuurgh. It’s probably all those drugs you’re taking.’

Which reminds me, it’s time for my meds.

Melissa Kite’s Real Life — One woman’s guide to love, men and other everyday disasters will be published by Constable on 21 June.