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Jack Ryan: Being 60 years old isn’t all bad

This age-60 thing, which for me arrived last September, is starting to take its toll. At least four clear signs of getting older have crossed my path in recent weeks.

Let’s get the depressing stuff out of the way first. Next week I am scheduled to have my first-ever prostate biopsy. Which does not sound fun.

Dr. Chris Schiepis, the urologist who will retrieve the tissue samples, told me it used to be a painful procedure, but medical technology has improved. Still, he said I may not be able to go to work the next day.

I have learned a little bit about the prostate gland in the last three years, as mine has started enlarging the way it does for almost all men above 50. The biggest change is that as the prostate takes up more space, it affects your bladder functions.

A condition called Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia means that the prostate increases in size without becoming cancerous. Hopefully that applies to me. I guess we’ll know after the biopsy.

But the blood test for my six-month checkup in April showed there was a high level of an enzyme called the Prostate Specific Antigen. That’s the red flag requiring my hospital visit.

I found one website that listed reasons besides age for an enlarged prostate. Diet plays a role. Naturally, the site listed everything I like to eat as possible factors. Such is life.

Medical Issue No. 2 was planned for this summer but now has been delayed. As you get older, a colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years to check for colon cancer. I got a great column out of my first scope a decade ago, which I assumed occurred at age 50, making it time for another peek.

So a couple of weeks ago, I went to an appointment at the gastroenterology office in the Medical Arts Building in advance of the scoping.

The nurse very gently told me that it had not been 10 years yet, and Blue Cross does not cover the procedure until a full decade has passed. I had my first colonoscopy in January 2013, when I was 51.

On the bright side, that was the easiest medical appointment ever. And no charge!

My first colonoscopy was clean, but a few years ago my brother Patrick told me that his procedure found a few polyps, the slow-growing things on the wall of the colon that if left untreated can turn cancerous.

It’s a great thing when you and your brother can discuss this stuff, right? At the very least it means you’ve both lived for a while.

Medical Issue No. 3 is much less important — almost a vanity thing.

I have something growing under the skin of my left cheek, pretty much in the center of that side of my face, and I plan to get it removed.

It’s circular, maybe half an inch diameter, and not very thick. It doesn’t hurt at all.

Dr. Heather Newlon, a dermatologist, said she can remove it if I like, so this is official notice that I do like, and I will be in touch. She said there will be a small scar, but I am thinking that Gene Kelly, the “Singin’ In the Rain” star, had a scar on his face too and he turned out pretty good.

I am pretty sure this is a sebaceous cyst, described online as “typically harmless, slow-growing bumps under the skin.”

I’ve had two of them before, one on the back of my neck as a teenager and one in the center of my back, which Dr. Andy Watson removed in about 2010 because it had ruptured and was painful.

OK, enough of the medical stuff, although if I am able to stick around for a few more years, there will be some entertaining stories to tell.

To close on a far more positive note, Mary Ann and I on Thursday marked another milestone of getting older: Our first grandchild was born in Memphis.

Our youngest child Audrey delivered a baby boy, Henry Ryan Landers, at 7:51 a.m. He weighed 9 pounds, 8 ounces, is 21 1/4 inches long and has a massive shock of black hair. I mean, we are talking Elvis.

Audrey dropped the news on us during a visit home last November. She came into the den carrying a gift bag. Inside was a card that said, “You have been promoted from fur grandparents to human grandparents,” and a onesie that said a baby was coming.

I look forward to being a grandfather, but the single most frequent question people have asked is what will the baby call me. I wanted Papa Bear, but that got shot down unanimously. So it will be Pops, at least for starters.

To recap: It looks like I have prostate issues now and a colonoscopy coming up next year. But a grandson ought to make up for that. Life is good!


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