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Dr. Smith said it best: “The pain, the pain of it all!”

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POSTED October 28, 2009 1:48 a.m.
If pain is relative, then it must be one of my first cousins.

One of the joys of living, if you call it that, is your body reminding you that you are alive. Mine does it on a daily basis  whether it is jammed fingers, a toe that’s been broken for years, a bunion I hit wrong, an old shoulder injury or my upper right leg that is still smarting from a spill I took a month ago.

Most of it I just mask out and ignore. Once in awhile, though, my body gets a bit peeved at the cavalier attitude I take toward pain and reminds me so by flaring up my gout.

It is almost comical that I have gout. I’m not overweight. I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t eat foods rich in purines such as venison, organ meat, meat extracts or asparagus. I don’t take aspirin. My tendency to have it is inherited from my father. The only time I ever heard him scream in pain was when he wrapped one of his ankles in a plastic bag during a flare-up and was trying to take a shower when the bag slipped off and water hit his skin.

If you have had gout you understand how painful it is for anything to touch it including a bed sheet. The nice thing about it is that it is just pain caused by sharp uric acid crystal deposits in joints that feel like a hundred or so needles sticking you. I’m told it’s one of the most painful forms of arthritis as if such knowledge is supposed to make me feel better.

My Achilles’ heel when it comes to gout is my right knee. It started flaring up again Monday night after leaving me alone for close to three years. It didn’t stop me from jogging to hitting the gym Tuesday. The pain level is constant until I make a mistake such as touching my right knee to the floor after doing a set of push ups as I did Tuesday.

As I get older I find myself dealing more effectively with aches and pains and especially the gout. Fifteen years ago, I had to hobble around when a flare-up hit and couldn’t sleep. Either it’s gotten better or else I’m just better at ignoring it.

Actually, what has helped is realizing what I’m dealing with.

Eighteen years ago when I first started at the Manteca Bulletin, I had a hard time believing anyone read Dr. Paul Donohue’s medical advice column. Now I find myself reading it every day because I can relate to much of the stuff.

Getting old is an education, to say the least.

Pain is the body’s way of telling you it isn’t happy with something. Gout – which has nothing to do with overuse – is one of those pains that you can test your mettle on. I used to lie around rocking back and forth as I let the shooting pain dictate what I did. Now I don’t let it intimidate me although if it gets worse in the next few days before subsiding I will forgo wearing Dockers as the constant brushing against the knee by the pants’ leg offers new adventures in pain.

Making this episode all the more ironic is a conversation I had on Monday. The Manteca Convention & Visitors Bureau is going to have a torch relay when they host the Northern California Senior Games next spring. They asked if I’d run the first leg – circle around Del Webb and head down Union Road toward Main Street.

I agreed but afterwards I got to thinking I didn’t know whether I was flattered or insulted.

I don’t consider myself an athlete as that takes skill – not to mention speed and strength – which is a big difference from being relatively fit and healthy. What got me was the fact I qualified as a senior citizen.

At 53 years old I’ve never considered myself a senior citizen although I admit I got my first mailing from the AARP wanting to know if I wanted to join the organization back when I was 30. I’ve got nothing against growing old, I just didn’t think I was there yet.

I still joke with people when they call me “Mr. Wyatt” that I’m not my dad and to call me “Dennis.”  If Dad were still alive he’d be 99 years old.

My gout, by chance, started flaring up about 30 minutes after I took the phone call regarding the torch relay.

It’s obvious my body is letting me know it is still the boss and that I most certainly qualify as a senior citizen. Even so, I’m not about to let the little nuances it manages to come up with every day slow me down.

As for pain being relative, I just prefer the family reunions to be a bit less frequent.

• • •

P.S. For those of you – non-senior citizens obviously – who never saw the “Lost in Space” TV series from the 1960s, the headline refers to the oft used words uttered by actor Jonathan Harris playing the role of Dr. Smith. After all these years, I finally get what he meant.
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