All This and Cancer, Too

It was my birthday a few days ago and normally I would have celebrated with a post noting it was the fifth birthday I wasn’t supposed to see, take that, Cancer, and Mortality, those pains you feel are me, flamenco-dancing on your face in stiletto heels (it’s my defiance fantasy, I can flamenco-dance in stilettos). But I was too busy worrying about my blood pressure. And, as everyone knows, worrying about your blood pressure isn’t good for your blood pressure.

A few weeks ago, I was supposed to have some extensive dental work done under sedation (yeah, that’s right, I flamenco-dance on Cancer but the dentist makes me scream like a girl). I’d had sedation before and I wasn’t anticipating any problems. Then they took my blood pressure.

I won’t give you the exact numbers but suffice it to say that they were equivalent to, ‘Stand back, boys, she could blow at any moment!’ The procedure had to be postponed while I had a talk with my doctor.

Worrying and high blood pressure aren’t like me. Worry and anxiety require a lot of effort. I’m too lazy to work that hard unless it solves a problem, and worrying only tires you out without letting you accomplish anything. It’s like running a thousand miles in place. My blood pressure was always low, even back when I was still smoking. Even back when my mother was alive, and if anyone could have caused every blood vessel in my head to explode, it would have been her. (She didn’t develop hypertension until sometime in her mid-80s.)

Of course, I was a bit younger then. Also, I didn’t have cancer, and I wasn’t taking progesterone.

Among the more charming side effects of progesterone are mood swings, anxiety, and high blood pressure. I was doing okay for a while but I’ve been taking progesterone for five years. It’s been doing its primary job very well—i.e., keeping my cancer at a low level, even reducing it little by little. This has kept me alive, which means I’ve been getting older, and to my shock and dismay, having cancer didn’t make me exempt from the more ordinary problems that come with getting older, like, say, high blood pressure. All this and cancer, too.

So I’ve spent the past week taking my blood pressure three times a day and keeping a log of the readings for my doctor. She prescribed some medication and I start taking it this morning. I have to continue logging my blood pressure for the next two weeks, and then we’ll talk again.

Cancer never made me as tense as this has—and high blood pressure is far more common, at least among the people I know. In fact, I was shocked to find out how many of my friends have been coping with hypertension, and for quite a long time, longer than I’ve been coping with cancer.

They call hypertension the silent killer, and I had no idea how apt a name this is until that day at the dentist’s office. The oral surgeon asked me if I’d ever had this or that symptom and I could honestly say no, I hadn’t. I never felt a thing. I felt normal. I still do.

Maybe you feel normal, too. Get your blood-pressure checked anyway, even if you’re under forty. Yeah, I always thought of it as an over-forty thing but it isn’t. Anyone can develop hypertension, for any reason.

I never had high blood pressure until after I started taking progesterone. And I blush to admit this: I honestly believed that since I wasn’t hypertensive to begin with, my blood pressure wouldn’t be affected by medication.

Live and learn.

The key word in the previous sentence is ’live,’ which becomes iffy when your blood pressure is so high, your dentist is afraid you’ll stroke out in the chair before he even hits you with the first syringe. My blood pressure was—no, is a more serious problem than my cancer at the moment. Dammit, it’s just not fair.

(That was a joke, if you couldn’t tell.)

So I’ll start the new medication today, and make the recommended lifestyle changes—-better diet, more exercise—and we’ll see what happens. I’d feel pretty stupid if, after staring down cancer and dodging Covid, I keeled over because my head exploded.

Although I’ll still be wondering from time to time what the hell Mortality is going to throw at me next.

(Did I mention you should get your blood pressure checked? Do that, okay?)