I out-pilled my mother.

About two years ago, when my nonagenarian mother was in a health crisis so severe doctors and family all thought she would die within hours, I got the bright idea of running her meds through a conflict-checker online.

For a lawyer, that verges on smart thinking. Lawyers check for conflicts in the office all the time, usually by thinking about the past or by having a secretary check ratty files and time cards, or maybe, if the law office has been dragged kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century, a computerised client list. Applying that template to a medical scenario? Hey, pure genius!

Stodgy thinking or pure genius, it worked. One of my mother’s prescriptions was fighting with three or four others, driving her nuts and causing enormous pain. As soon as the conflicting meds were withdrawn, bingo! the same old feisty, sharp-tongued champion of the sharp-elbows competition roared back into play, handicap of IQ 165.

Did I say four or five prescription meds? Those were just the main actors. She had bit players, too–about fifteen prescriptions all told, eating away the family estate to the tune of several thousands annually, benefitting my mother in their convincing array with an assurance of the best medical care.

"This will never happen to me," I would mutter sotto voce. But, of course, you never know what will happen to you once you have fallen into the Old Sod category. I think of the day that looms in my future, when I will not be able to walk out the door and into the woods with a beloved dog, and hope I end before that day.

Mum knew I didn’t fully approve of that cabinet full of prescriptions, especially as they were tricked out with "OTCs"–over-the-counter helpers, mostly to do with the business of excretion or the difficulties thereof. Last week, therefore, she viewed my pill collection on her counter with astonished dismay. Was her daughter so terribly ill as to qualify for sixteen prescriptions? One more than herself?

"They must be carefully taken," I warned her. "Breakfast takes forever nowadays." She blanched, and I almost relented. ”Watch," I advised, taking up the aerobic oxygen and letting twenty drops fall into a glass, followed by the passion-flower stuff (which smells just like oregon grape, by the way). "I drink this stuff against infection, with a glass of water. Then I wait."

We waited. "Now the modified pectin, to make the surgeon’s work easier." Another glass of water with those. "We wait again."

"These are not from the doctor," she pounced.

"Nope," I admitted readily. "They are for the doctor. They’ll make the surgery go better." She might have left then, but the next set of pills consisted of three yellow monsters. "Chelation," I said. "Where’s the yogurt? Don’t you have any yogurt that isn’t made of starch?"

She didn’t. I thought of the fridge in 2001: A Space Odyssey, which holds the same mush in variously labeled cans, but used her yogurt anyway to drop the vitamin-and-mineral stash into the system along with at least some good bugs. "In colon cancer there’s apparently too much glucuronidase," I explained. "So I eat plenty of fermented foods to put butyrates into the system. Butyrates happen when foods ferment. As in yogurt. Miso. That kind of thing."

As each type of preparation was used, I replaced it into my black bag. Twelve little bottles still squatted on the counter, threatening to encroach on her medical space. "What about those?"

"We wait half an hour," I informed her. "Don’t want to overwhelm the system."

Thirty minutes later, she ventured back into her kitchen, wanting to hear about my miracle drugs. "I need a chair," she said.

I hauled one in from the dining room.

"With arms," she reminded me.

I hauled in a better chair.

"Show me," she demanded. Hawthorn, for the heart Magnesium and calcium. Cocky Ten, more correctly called CoQ10.. Most important, because everyone is deficient in this one in these sunless days, Vitamin D. Astaxanthin, the super free-radical scavenger.Cayenne to thin the blood–this is the last day before surgery I can have this baby. A vision supplement, for aging eyes. Colloidal silver…. I downed the goodies with a swallow of the world’s best coffee, pure black, french-pressed, and a bit of very dark chocolate. Next: free-range eggs with fruit salsa and perhaps some creme fraiche on naan bread.

"When are you going to get some real medicine?" she burst out. "And shouldn’t you stop drinking coffee and eating chocolate?"

"Mom," I said, handing her a tissue for the fourth time that day, "if you ever get cancer, get colon cancer. No symptoms, and on top of that, coffee, chocolate, and wine all contain butyrates–just what the doctor ordered!"

"You have more pills than I have," she said wonderingly. "How do you know they will save you?"

"I don’t. But I do know they make me feel stronger, and that’s what’s needed now."

"When do you get some real medicine?"

"Hopefully, never," I said. "We don’t need to think about that question now, Mum. The important thing is to get through the surgery as strong as possible."

Tears threatened. She was thinking about the prospect of losing her last child–me–for no reason her formidable intellect could ascertain. "You eat so healthy…and so little. Look at us–we eat normal." She waved a hand at the twin buckets of medications for her and for my step-dad. "A few real medicines, and we are in the nineties."

I didn’t have the heart to point out that her generation had grown up before pollution put a stranglehold on Earth. No medicine yet invented will likely stem the tsunami of illness that may well overcome us older humans. Remembering how, as a child, I was detailed to the task of poisoning the "weeds"–the dandelions, thistles, and indigenous plants–and the "bugs" in our vegetable garden with a wand of DDT or a spray gun of the latest murderous chemical, I judge it a miracle to be alive at all today.

Mum’s fridge is a desert. I can’t bring myself to eat a single item in it. Everything is chock full of stiffeners or softeners, sugar in all its disguises, screwed-up oils, artificial this and that. No fresh greens or fruit–not a leaf or segment. For protein, a pan of what passes for gravy, with several bits of boneless chicken drowned in it. The wonder of it all is that this horrible diet seems to be survivable for Mum and Dad as it certainly would not be for me–two days of it and I’m so sick, I need a week to recover..

I take Mum in my arms. "Don’t worry," I say, stoking the sparse hair that once was so fiercely abundant. "I’m fine. I’m strong. The docs know what they’re doing. Everything’s going to be fine."

And if not, I think, you’ll be the last one to know.

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