Absorbine Jr!

This morning my right knee, the one I fell on, was showing me beautiful bruising all around it and all down my calf and even surrounding the inner right ankle.  It was also swollen and sore, so I gave it a nice rub with some Aspercreme.  Right on the tube it says “odor free therapy” and that reminded me of times past when therapies were supposed to smell.  Didn’t you grow up thinking that if something worked then it either hurt, smelled bad, or caused nausea?  Oh.  You must be a lot younger than me. When I was a child, my mother’s father introduced us to Absorbine Jr.  He would rub his rheumy joints with it and put on his long underwear on top of it, then dress and come in from his room to smell up the whole house.  My younger sister and I always held our noses and fussed at his smelliness, secretly wondering what that potent medicinal liquid could do that warranted such an odor. As I thought about this today, I flipped over to Google and looked for the old remedy.  Guess what?  The original Absorbine Jr (and a whole group of other more modern products) is alive and well.  One of the newer products boasts that you can even spray it upside down to reach those inconvenient places.  Hmmm.  I was tickled to find the old smelly stuff and I even viewed both of the commercials on the site.  Evidently the product is good for cowboys and ballroom dancers, and Lord knows that’s enough to build a fortune! You are not going to let me get away without asking the question, so I’m going to be brave and answer it.  Yes, I ordered some.  My daughter has to know this smell-I owe it to her not to let her coast through life with only odor-free products.  Besides, it might help my over-worked knitting hands.  More than all that, it has sentimental value. 

My grandfather died when I was in 8th grade, just after my dad retired from the military, bringing us to live temporarily in the home of my grandfather and grandmother.  It was the closest I have been to a dying relative, him with the deep bone pain of his multiple myeloma, receiving the old-fashioned cobalt treatments.  As much as he could, he still sucked a lemon half and dressed to go practice with the men’s choir of his church.  He was in his 70s, long retired from the Postal Service where he was one of the first African-American mail carriers in Chattanooga, but he did occasionally serve parties at the country club on the mountain.  30 years later I lived on the mountain and was invited to join that country club.  I accepted the invitation and kept an active membership for a few years.  I could have more cheaply joined the YMCA and exercised and swam, but I wanted to honor my grandfather. I knew he could see me, a member of the club where he could only put on a white jacket and be a servant.  He wanted that for his grandchildren. 

If my grandfather was alive today his multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer) wouldn’t necessarily be a death sentence.  There is chemotherapy and even bone marrow transplant for these patients now.  Medicine has moved forward in so many ways. 

I went to see my doctor today, sporting my own brand new medical therapy.  I tried to prepare on the way to the office.  I wanted to make sure I could convey to  him that my back pain is disabling and that I’m worried about the new place that hurts.  I was anxious about whether I could adequately describe it, and let him know that I am limited by it in such crucial ways, without appearing hysterical.  I was almost in tears as I approached the office, but his staff saved me from the indignity of sniffling my way into the exam room.  They welcomed me and told me funny stories that had me laughing even as I sat alone, waiting for him.  When my doc came in I felt capable of having a good conversation and describing my symptoms, and I was reassured that he took them as seriously as I do. 

In my first year of practice I was at a Community Health Center.  One of my patients saw me several times before he admitted that he downed a little “mini” bottle of alcohol before every visit.  He had to get up the courage to talk to a female doctor, and he wanted to make sure he was steady enough to make me really hear his needs.  I understand that now, the feeling of putting yourself in someone else’s hands, and hoping that they will see you clearly.  (My little patient eventually became comfortable enough to abandon drinking his mini, and instead he presented them to me.  They stayed on my windowsill at home for years, reminding me of what I needed to be for my patients.)

The upshot of my visit was a shot of cortisone in each sacroiliac joint.  No biggy, I’ve had umpteen of them, and I know that in three or four days I’ll be walking much more easily.  The new pain will be checked out with some tests on Wednesday.  I’m good.



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