On 3rd September 2007 I finally went to do my long-overdue post-40 health screening. It was with my classmate from school, Cheong Wei Kuen, now a gastro-enterologist in private practice at Mt Elizabeth Medical Centre. I arrived at 10h00 for the initial consultation and to have my blood drawn for the battery of tests. I checked in to a ward to prep for and then have the gastro- and endoscopy done.
The next morning Wei Kuen told me that my ‘scopes were clear, and most of my blood tests were fine. The only concern were very high cholesterol levels. I checked out of the ward and went straight to see a cardiologist, Dr Tan. I was put on a treadmill for an ECG. Halfway through the test the cardiac technician asked me if I was feeling any discomfort. No, I said. She repeated the question several times, and then asked Dr Tan to come in. He took one look at the ECG trace and terminated the test. The trace was showing an S-T inversion, indicative of a blockage of the right anterior artery. He scheduled me for a heart MRI scan that very afternoon.
To my great relief the MRI scan showed that there was no blockage in the artery. There was also no sign of calcification of the heart muscle. The only visible trace of anything was some low density plaque in another artery. It wasn’t significant. So, the S-T depression was a false positive. Later that evening I found out that Dad had it too, and it was therefore likely to be genetic. That was a relief!
What about the high cholesterol levels? Diet and exercise could possibly bring it down by about 10%, which would leave it still too high. So I will have to go on a life-time course of statins. Of course, the diet and exercise would still have to be done.
In between the treadmill ECG and the heart MRI scan I also decided to have my hearing evaluated. This was because my tinnitus had gotten louder and I was concerned that my hearing loss had worsened. I was right – my hearing beyond about 8 kHz was shot.
Then it hit me. For the past 11 years or so, after leaving my teaching post at the National University of Singapore, I had spent so much time working at my job that I had neglected my personal life and health.
On the PW Adult Beginner Forum, loveschopintoomuch wrote about why so many people in their middle-age either start or return to the piano:
It tends to come as one gets older. As we age, we realize what our priorities should be. Naturally, famly and friends come first. (I guess you have to throw in “job” somewhere only because it allows us to provide for our families.)
The happiness that we once thought material things would provide now just leave us cold. This is the time when we feel that void within that begs to be fulfilled. A new car or that big screen TV just doesn’t do it anymore.
Now we know that happiness comes from within. And to express ourselves as we believe we are is what we strive for. That’s why so many older people take up hobbies (painting, etc.). And returning to the piano for many of us is the perfect outlet. Also we really “hear” the beauty in music now (I’m typing this listening to Beethoven’s Moonlight).
Please realize that I am speaking in general terms, for I know there are many “younger” people who already possess this “wisdom.” And I applaud them with all my heart and wish them well, for learning to play the piano is (IMO) the most difficult and frustrating task a person can do. Oh, we oldsters are also more obsinate (and patient…usually) and that’s why we don’t give up as easily as we did when we were younger.