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My body doesn’t have a warranty

I was 21 years old when I looked in the mirror in the computer science building’s bathroom and saw the first grey hairs growing out of my scalp. It was that same year that I started to see small grey flecks of dust in my vision when I looked up at a clear blue sky or at a white wall. My eye doctor told me these were floaters, little blobs of protein that develop in the fluid in your eyeball. Near-sighted people like me get them quite frequently.

A couple years later I woke up in the middle of the night and wanted to scoop my gallbladder out with a spoon. The surgeon did it with a scalpel and a tiny camera instead, and I was only 24. Then my knees started to hurt when I climbed up the stairs. By this point I’d also lost track of how many cavities I’d had filled, caused by too much Mountain Dew and too little dental floss.

A friend my age told me over dinner she is fighting acid reflux disease and takes medication for a slight thyroid imbalance. Another friend was just diagnosed with pernicious anemia and has to get shots of B12. We are not old. We are in out late 20′s and early 30′s.

No one told me my body was going to break down so fast. No one warned me that after 21 years I’d start needing repairs. I cannot trade myself in for a newer model. So if you are young and your body is working, enjoy it for me. It won’t be long until you’ll need a fix-up and wish you’d invested in more dental floss as a child.

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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33 Comments

BrightAngel • March 25, 2009 at 9:24 am

I have been fortunate to be in good health for most of my life,

despite massive weight issues.

Now, when I see the age tracks in my face and body,

and feel joint/muscle etc. pain,

I remind myself ….

It’s all okay,

The Body is Designed to Wear Out.

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Janet • March 25, 2009 at 9:41 am

I hear that…I am a month away from my *gulp* 30th birthday, and I’ve been suffering from back problems and indigestion most of this decade. I only started noticing the grey hairs in the last year, but I am far more disturbed by the hairs that have been sprouting up on my face! (Sorry for the TMI!)

Getting older sucks, and we’re not even that old! I’m trying to take as good care of myself as I can now, since I can only imagine it’ll be getting worse with time. Sigh…

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{cher} • March 25, 2009 at 9:44 am

I totally understand this. When I was diagnosed with diabetes at 25, I was crushed, as at that time, I only knew it as an elderly disease. At 30 I was told I had major bone density loss, and now even with diet, exercise and insulin, I’ve developed neuropathy in my hands and feet. Going on 36, and having been a very active person most of my life, I never would have thought this would have been me back when I was 21 yrs old.

I’m trying so hard to get my 10 yr old to recognize a healthy lifestyle is so important. Even though things still happen, we still need to do our best to maintain what we do have, and try our best to fight the things we develop over time.

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Yum Yucky • March 25, 2009 at 9:54 am

So now I know what those gray flecks are!

I’m 36 and have started developed spots on my face. (age spots?) They’re small but they keep coming.

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Lyn • March 25, 2009 at 10:48 am

Yeah. Getting up on 40 here and seeing a lot more breakdowns. Scary…

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Denise • March 25, 2009 at 10:59 am

Hi!

This comment doesn’t have anything to do with today’s entry (other than yes, I’m 39 and my body has been falling apart since I was at least 30).

Actually, though, I just wanted to stop in and say hi. I found your blog a month ago or so, and just finished reading my way through your archives. I’ve been very inspired by your journey, and it has given me the final push to start my own (something I had been considering for a while, but hadn’t made myself do yet). I’m looking to lose about 83 pounds in all, but mostly I just want to feel healthier and happier in my body. I linked to sparkpeople from your site, and have been having fun over there, logging in my food and exercise. It’s a great tool, so thanks for linking to it. I think it’s going to help me make sure I’m eating the right foods in the right amounts to get me to my goal.

Anyway, thanks again, congratulations on your own weight loss, and I hope you find a cure for that neverending headache soon!

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Jamie • March 25, 2009 at 12:29 pm

I’m so sorry you’ve been struggling. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time now and have been continually amazed by the grace and humor and wisdom with which you approach all things. Thank you for sharing your perspective. Hang in there.

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suzanne • March 25, 2009 at 1:03 pm

I’m pushing on towards 50 and my body has been breaking down for a long time :)

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Jen Hughes • March 25, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Argh, tell me about it. A little over a month ago, I had a major gallbladder attack and ended up in the hospital with pancreatitis for 3 days. Two weeks later, I had my gallbladder “scooped out” as you say. On top of that, I’ve been ignoring a bad tooth. Well, it wouldn’t let me do that anymore so I went to the dentist today. My choices are to: 1) spend 2 or 3K on a root canal and a crown or 2) get it pulled.

Guess which one I’m picking?

On top of that, I have a pile of other issues that are fat-related that I won’t bore you with. :)

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maggieapril • March 25, 2009 at 2:58 pm

As my Mom says every time I complain about aging, “It’s better than the alternative.” She is also quick to point out how minor my complaints are compared to much of the world’s population.

Hey, if I have to listen to it, no reason for me not to make everyone else hear it, too.

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maris • March 25, 2009 at 2:58 pm

On a positive note, not everyone has a body that breaks down slowly and steadily from your 20s to old age! I’m only 25 but know some 80+ year olds who are still going strong with minimal health problems.

I know there are plenty of people who take great care of themselves all their lives and STILL wind up with lung cancer, we’ve all heard those stories and they’re awful and tragic. But I think there is something to be said for taking care of yourself: getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, exercise and a diet free of processed foods all go a long way towards keeping our bodies healthy in good shape.

We’ll always have aches and pains and gray hairs but the overall picture of health doesn’t have to be grim just because we’re aging!

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JC • March 25, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Just came over from another site. Your site is awesome. Congrats on your weight loss and on your success.

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~liz • March 25, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Now that you mention it mine too started breaking down in my 20s. eek. I was just going to write… you think its breaking down now…wait until you turn 50 something. I just had a root canal REdone yesterday. It’s more like having a rc done 3xs on one tooth…the first time, removing the first time, and then in two weeks putting it all back in (that’s 3). I don’t know why I was going to say I didn’t really notice my body breaking down until recently when I turned 50ish but then I remembered the 2 bouts w/cancer and 10 operations I had by the time I was 32. eek. I guess I try to forget about that. So yes, I guess you are right they do start breaking down in the 20s. Whatever, I do try to focus on positive things I guess that’s why I had a mental block about my past, I think I try to forget it ever happened. =C

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Kyle • March 25, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Yikes, this post scared me! I’m 25…is it all downhill from here???????

Fortunately I know that I have great genes. Hopefully those pull through for me. My mom only has (and has only had) one big problem and she’s 50. So *KNOCKING HARD ON WOOD RIGHT NOW* I hope the same holds true for me.

I definitely don’t take my health for granted.

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Isabelle • March 25, 2009 at 5:45 pm

If it’s any comfort, I developed a bad back at 25 and now, at 58, it’s still bad but not any worse. And I was fairly creaky otherwise at that age and not as much creakier than I feared.

I would certainly be delighted to look anything like as good as you do! If you’re stiffening up a bit, at least you don’t look like it.

Thoroughly agree about the shoes, by the way.

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MB • March 25, 2009 at 6:02 pm

It s*cks getting old ;) Too bad we aren’t smart enough to appreciate our health when we have it and only realize how good it was when it’s gone.

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AquaMarine • March 25, 2009 at 6:57 pm

Well, if it’s any consolation, my grandmother — whose hair turned gray early, then she lost it (the hair, that is) after a while; had arthritis in her knees, elbows and feet; developed high blood pressure; was overweight and ate red meat quite a lot (don’t know why I’m throwing that in. I guess because it’s something doctors say you shouldn’t do.) — lived to be 97.

Her daughter (my mom) has been diabetic for 40+ years and has a bunch of aches and pains. She’s now pushing 80.

I can only hope that all my aches and pains at 45 might have me following a similar pattern (knock wood).

I guess what I’m really saying is pass the Advil and Ben Gay!

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eggy weggs • March 25, 2009 at 9:16 pm

It’s not just sad, it’s really frustrating. Yeah, they gray hairs, the hairs on the face, the changing of the skin and the flesh — those things are sucky.

Last night I was sitting on a basement floor trying to stretch to practice a dance routine. My stretch is minimal. It’s harder to lose weight. Jennette, you’re right. No one ever told us it would happen this quickly — or that it would be subtle enough to be annoying.

I usually choose to ignore it, but say, with my tap routine, my knee was borked for about a week. Never a problem before.

But now it is.

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cher • March 25, 2009 at 9:26 pm

The good thing is you can somewhat reverse your age with a good diet and a decent amount of exercise.

When I was 18, I had the body of a 40 year old.

When I was 28 I had the body of a 28 year old, but only for about six months due to the extreme diet and the fact that my brain was not skinny yet.

Now that I’m mid 40′s, I have seen enough of my dreams be deferred because of the weight issue. It is slow and steady, but lose weight I do. Sometimes only a half a pound in a week, even though I go to the gym each and every night.

My plan is to be the 50 year old with the body of a 35 year old, whatever the hell that would mean.

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my3monthchallenge • March 25, 2009 at 9:44 pm

What you said is sooo true.. we only have one body and it’s to last for an entire lifetime. Too many of us don’t realize that we’re not taking (enough) care of it until ‘repairs’ need to be made.

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matmos • March 26, 2009 at 12:05 am

When I was 24 I got a knee problem. I went to the doctor and he said “You know, these things start happening as you get older.” Me: “Older? What are you talking about? I am 24!” Yep, it starts a lot earlier than you would think.

On the other hand I am now in my late 30′s and have learned that that knee problem comes from insufficient gluteal activation, and that it is pretty easy to fix with the right exercises. And through strength training I have gotten a lot fitter than I was in my early 20′s. So there is hope.

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Dee • March 26, 2009 at 9:11 am

I have been in pretty good health (knock on wood) until I got hit by a Mack Truck on the highway last april. Since then I have had nothing but problems, with my knees, my feet, my hip on the side I was hit. I feel so old as my knees pop going up the stairs. Uggh It stinks!

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kristisummer • March 26, 2009 at 9:41 am

I hear ya. I am just a few months away from 30, and see small changes. Not as chipper as when I was 18, that’s for sure.

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KateG • March 26, 2009 at 9:58 am

Yeah, the getting older is not that fun. Also weird — when your much younger siblings are having the aches and pains too. I think everyone has to learn to make peace with it in their own way. Some of the cosmetic type things – the gray hair and wrinkles – don’t really bother me, but I try not to judge when it bothers other people. I feel fortunate in some areas (I have really good teeth) and not in others (adult acne, boo). And in still others, the future looks a little dim but all I can do is try to live healthy in the meantime (my father has an adult-onset degenerative condition of the spine that may be hereditary).

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victoria • March 26, 2009 at 4:12 pm

I, too, started seeing grey hairs early — at age 18, in my case. I got bristles on my chin at that age, too. A few years leter, at age 26, I would develop crippling and persistent lower back pain.

Now, at age 43, I am feeling better than ever about my age. Partly because I’ve learned how to live with the cosmoetic issues (I’m a fan of Botox, Restylane, a photofacials; I have my hair colored every 6 weeks; I’m a whiz with the tweezers; and I look younger than my age).

But mostly I’m happier about the whole ageing proceess because I’m convinced there’s so much I can do to “reverse” it — or at least, some of its effects.

I’m slimmer and much fitter than I was last year and feel better about my body than I have in a long time.

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victoria • March 26, 2009 at 4:20 pm

I, too, seem to be ageing prematurely.

Age 18: first gray hairs.

Age 25: first onset of crippling, persistent low-back pain.

Age 33: Onset of increasingly severe osteoarthritis in hips.

Age 42: Spinal stenosis + bulging disc in lower back = referred pain that forced me to cut back on my career and work only part time.

By age 42, I was pretty much a wreck, hobbling around like a little old lady, taking a ton of Vicodin every day, and still in a lot of pain.

Age 43: 50 lbs weight loss + regular exercise = pain free.

IMHO, managing my weight and getting fit have practically been a panacea for all my ills.

I still have a little meralgia paresthetica (nerve damage in my leg due to former obesity), but by every conceivable standard, I’m much “younger” this year than I was last year.

So, don’t despair! Yes, our bodies age, but there is much we can do to affect the process. Even if you’re in really bad shape due to a combinaton of genetics and lifestyle, like me, you can make dramatic improvements in your overall well being.

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Melissa Taylor • March 26, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Once again, Amen. Something about the early to mid 20′a from the comments I have been reading! My fear of walking started at age 22.

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julie • March 27, 2009 at 8:51 am

I’m 40, fortunately still doing okay. Except for a bit of indigestion when I eat large chunks of spicy peppers, and an extra 20 pounds (used to be extra 60). I think it’s good genes, other than RA, parents and sister are extremely healthy too.

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KJ • March 27, 2009 at 7:42 pm

I got floaters in my vision when I was about 16. I try not to let it bother me that I can never look at the sky the same way again.

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Blue • March 29, 2009 at 8:14 pm

I’m 27 and plucked a 1.5 inch long dark hair from my upper lip the other night.

I was less disturbed by the fact that I was growing a “moustache” than I was by the fact that the hair had gotten that long without my noticing it.

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victoria • March 30, 2009 at 1:20 pm

@Yum Yucky – Those age spots can probably be removed with a photofacial treatment. I’ve had it done and the reuslt is flawlessly even skin tone.

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travelingrd • April 1, 2009 at 12:26 am

I just read an article about how the body goes downhill after 26! That’s way too young. Life is just beginning at 26 and our bodies are on their way our.

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Toronto • April 1, 2009 at 8:03 am

Recent convo with a friend.

How are you?

I’m having symptoms that look like thyroid disorder. But it may just be perimenopause. How are you?

I just finished fasting for my colonoscopy and now have to drink this liquid to start pooing.

I told this convo to my doctor and said Is this the type of conversations I have to look forward to at 42? She said, That’s nothing, wait until you hit your 50s.

Sigh

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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