When It Is Time To Set Life On Cruise Control

By John H. McCord, DPM

     I am taking another short break from podiatry, the job I love. Being a small town DPM provides lots of perks but it can also drive a person nuts.      Last Thursday was the day from hell. It started with two difficult surgeries. One was a lady with hallux valgus who was in for her third operation. The first two attempts with me as the surgeon had failed miserably. I asked why she was going to trust me for a third attempt. She told me I knew her expectation better than anyone else. Performing that surgery was like walking the plank.      The Thursday afternoon clinic was jammed with patient visits being punctuated with urgent phone calls, “I need a full report this afternoon for my disability claim. Fax it within an hour.” I was hammered horse dung by the time I locked the back door of the clinic and headed for home to pack.      I had never planned to take a cruise. My wife was getting tired of our usual vacations which consist of flying to some city in Europe, renting a pint-sized car and driving in any random direction until we were totally lost. Then we would look for bed and breakfast places, usually in a country where we do not speak the language. Now that to me is excitement.      She suggested a cruise this year. I am too much of a control freak for a cruise. I would want to drive the boat. They have rules about that. Another thing I presumed about cruises is that they were for the newlywed or nearly dead. I finally agreed to try a week on a cruise to Alaska. It was to be the cruise for the fans of A Prairie Home Companion. Garrison Keillor and his production company would provide all of the entertainment. It was to be a ship full of aging hippies and other assorted gray-haired liberals. I fit into both categories.      Friday morning, we boarded a ship called the Zandaam and headed north, singing our hearts out with Garrison and Guy’s All-Star Shoe band. We sang “America the Beautiful” as the ship left the Seattle harbor and sang an assortment of folk songs that I had not heard since the late 1960s.      Saturday morning, I sat on a deck chair reading a novel and watching whales and eagles. I realized that my anxiety level, which had been at an uncomfortable peak Thursday, had dipped to minus 12. Rumors about cruise food and gaining a pound a day are false. I am sure I have gained at least two or three pounds a day so far.      Yearly breaks from podiatry have been my salvation and have helped me to continue to love this profession. I return each summer with my batteries charged and my emotional cup full. Many of my regular patients are anxious to hear stories of my travel adventures like last year when my wife and I got kicked out of a bar in Normandy for using the potty before placing our order. Another time while I was traveling on the French Riviera, I went for a day drive and forgot the town where my hotel was located. A very helpful young lady in the tourist information office in Cannes began calling hotels to locate me. I had also forgotten the name of my hotel. It took her 30 minutes to find the town and the hotel.      If things go well, I am not likely to have adventures about this cruise to share. To say that I spent a week enjoying contentment, good food and meeting interesting people is not very exciting but it is what I have needed.      I talk to many young and older podiatrists who do not like to take a break for fear that all their patients will abandon them. The fact is we lose more patients when we are exhausted and sometimes short tempered. I have also found that the revenue over time is about the same if I stay home and work too hard as when I take a few vacation breaks every year.      If you are young, don’t wait until you get old to travel. If you are older and have never traveled, try it. Travel and adventure have been the best part of my adult life. If I had all the money I have squandered on travel, I would just be a sick, tired old podiatrist.      The cruise will be over in three days. I am really starting to miss my patients and my co-workers at the clinic. I have to make a serious attempt not to gain any more weight. I really want to try the 20-oz. porterhouse with a crust of wild mushrooms and blue cheese. I am going to sit on the deck, start another novel and maybe catch a nap while I am struggling with this diet issue. I sure wish I had brought some stretch pants along. Dr. McCord is a Diplomate of the American Board of Podiatric Surgery. He practices at the Centralia Medical Center in Centralia, Wash.

Add new comment