Blood tests don’t lie. My own, taken after years of showing me normal, if on the high side, for the very first time indicates a capital “H” (for ominously high) beside the count for blood sugar and cholesterol.
Well, that’s what I get for insisting on asking even after I had been repeatedly forewarned by my lolo: “El que pregunta, pierde.” Taking heed, my mom herself avoided tests upon hitting 83. “At this age,” she said, “one only has to look to find something.”
A confirmed diabetic, among other things, she died un-medicated, except by herbal tea—two years later, peacefully, in her sleep, after a last happy meal of lechon.
I’m certainly not there yet myself, although my test results have not been too comforting, either, and I’m not surprised. I threw all caution to the wind, indulging in every oral delight a three-month American vacation offered, and ended up heavier than I had ever been, pregnant or not.
As the only female, one with, additionally, a precedent kitchen reputation, left at home with my husband and his three brothers—the host brother’s wife, Grace, an internist, worked all day at the hospital—I became the resident cook, a role I assumed with some relish.
I went gung-ho gourmet, absolutely carefree with calories, to the obviously voracious delight of everybody, especially my husband, who had been pining for my long-vanished specialties. Even merienda was an occasion: steamed young corn bought from the neighborhood farmhouse waiting for the boys, who were primed after an afternoon of hard tennis. So were desserts: freshly baked pies a la mode and fresh-brewed coffee topped with dollops of cream.
I partook myself; after all, I was entitled to some reward for service and even ensured to make the exchange truly fair by attacking the side nuts and fruits—I easily put away a pound of cherries—and chocolate.
Well, something had to give. My husband’s blood pressure shot up, along with my sugar.
Both embarrassed and afraid to show myself to my doctor upon returning home, I decided to first check on the damage myself with home-service blood tests. Actually, I had already seen enough evidence to be alarmed, intimate-enough evidence—in my husband.
I had always thought him indestructible; he was, after all, the man to beat at tennis in his class and comes from a lean and high-metabolic line. He was a fearless fat-eater, and he gulped down a bucket of fresh Roxas City oysters at every chance. (At the famous Acme Oyster House in New Orleans, he had done three or four dozens when the barkeeper, alert to any prospective big leaguer, asked how many he could do. Six or seven. Not anywhere near the minimum for listing—15 dozens—and a far cry from the record—32—but still not bad for his size.)
If this specimen, five-eight and only 135 lbs at his heaviest, could fall stricken, what more an older, overweight, non-athletic plodder from a line of diabetics? No wonder people like me are not allowed to travel abroad without insurance covering a return ticket in, among other morbid things, a box. As happened, my husband didn’t himself need any insurance—his sister-in-law had specialist colleagues to care for him, for free.
Back home, under the care of a cardiologist picked by his daughter, a pediatrician, he looks atypically vulnerable, listening as the results of his tests are explained to him, which can’t be too bad. All things considered, his heart is fine, and he can go on playing tennis at his old, hard pace, although he has been warned of his cholesterol, for which he has been ordered to take medication for the moment.
For me, the full verdict isn’t out yet. My series of blood tests—the first ones already pronounced worrisome—have yet to be completed. Meanwhile, I have been given an ultimatum: Lose 5 lbs in one month or I, too, would be put on medication.
In any case, we are being reminded of our mortality, exhorted to rearrange our life’s priorities, to change our lifestyle. It happens, I suppose, to all who manage to live long enough.
At Medical City one morning, we bumped into an old friend, Peping Laurel, looking trim, youthful, sprightly, and we know those things don’t happen without discipline.
The encounter was enough to lift our spirits. We only hope Peping felt the same at the sight of us.