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Skipping ticker

One night last month I noticed an irregularity in my heartbeat. I guess it would be called a palpitation. I attributed it to the nicotine patches (which I was still using at the time) and didn't pay much more attention to it. It's back today, and I've been off the patch for almost two weeks now, so I'm pretty sure that isn't it after all.

I don't know what it is. It's not a painful feeling, but it is unnerving. It feels like I have some kind of animal inside my chest occasionally rapping against the inside wall. Maybe it's a kuato.

A few years ago I woke up several mornings in a row with this horrid pain in my lower back. Finally I decided to go to an urgent care place to see what the hell was wrong. After getting poked, prodded, x-rayed, and examined, the final diagnosis was undetermined, and the doctor told me, "These kinds of things sometimes happen when you get older. Use the over the counter pain reliever of your choice." And eventually it went away, so no harm there — but the diagnosis bothered me, because it meant I'd officially reached the age where mysterious aches and pains were a) just going to happen sometimes, b) sometimes going to be severe enough that a trip to the doctor may be necessary, c) possibly without cause, and d) possibly without treatment besides generic drugstore painkillers. And I assume all this applies for other ails too.

So I guess the question now becomes: When is a trip to the doctor necessary, and when is it something you can disregard? I'm sure the question will come up more and more as I get older; I know (hope?) I have years and years of decline in front of me. I don't want to be a hypochondriac, I don't want to turn into one of those people the medical community decides is crying wolf as I shuffle in with yet another drugstore malady. But I do want to get the serious things taken care of.

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