I have a friend named Ben. He’s in his 70s, is retired from a successful career, and leads a busy, fulfilling life. He’s endured a couple of health setbacks during the past 10 years, including a cancer scare, but he has bounced back well. When we chatted recently, he asked, “Dave, how’re ya feeling?” Fortunately, I was able to give him a positive reply. He followed up with, “That’s good, but pay attention to your ‘check engine’ light.”

Of course that made me think of my car. A few decades back, I would ride in the front passenger seat of a TV station news car, driven by a photographer. I noticed the “check engine” light was always on, day after day. I finally asked him about it, and he said his dad had always told him to “ignore those lights.” That made sense to me, because dads know everything about cars.

Some years later, the ‘check engine’ light came on in my own car. I was making a 70-mile daily round trip to work, and I didn’t like that bright red light staring at me while I was driving. So I did what any reasonable adult would do. I found some black tape, and covered it up. It would no longer be in my face. Problem solved, right?

Well, let’s just say this didn’t have a happy ending.

Now, back to Ben’s point. Of course, he wasn’t referring to my car. He was talking about the unusual aches and pains, and other warning messages our bodies try to send. Men have a bad habit of toughing it out, and shrugging it off. “I’ll get over it. It’s just a sign of aging. Give it a couple of days, and it’ll go away.”

Ben’s reminder was timely. During the past few weeks, some of my best friends have been sidelined by serious health issues.

Let’s start with Bill. I’ve known him since my radio days in the 1970s. We were both just kids, and radio was the bond that sealed a lifelong friendship. He’s been healthy as a horse ever since. Until ...

Bill: “Just before bedtime a few weeks ago, I noticed blood in my urine. No pain, but a lot of blood. The pain started the next morning. It was excruciating pain in my chest, back, and side.

My doctor squeezed me into his schedule, then sent me for a CT scan. The next afternoon, I went to his office to go over the results.

When I heard him say “malignant tumor,” my mind became fuzzy. “That’s cancer,” I thought. “This must be a mistake.”

I’ve had very few health problems for a man my age. How could I have cancer?

I was angry with God, but that didn’t last long. I’ve had a terrific life, even if the road was full of potholes from time to time. No need to be mad at God.

I worried (and still worry) about COVID. I’m highly vulnerable. I’ve worn a mask in public since February, but few of my neighbors are that cautious. If I get COVID in this condition, it would probably kill me.

The doctors have since removed a kidney, and that seems to have taken all the cancer in the process. The doctors have been amazing. I know I’ll survive this.

I’m a lucky man. I said this to my cousin and she corrected me. She told me I am blessed. She was right, of course.”

Garry is another old broadcasting pal. He’s in his mid-60s. He never slows down, he’s always on the go. His work has taken him all over the country several times a year, for many years. And then ...

Garry: “I had just moved into a new place, and afterward I was feeling sore. I just chalked it up to lifting heavy boxes. I would usually get over that after a couple of days, but not this time. I drove to a small hospital emergency room, they ran some tests, and said I had a silent heart episode. Sort of a prolonged, quiet heart attack. The doc told me I’d better go to the big hospital. I said, OK, I’ll go next week, I’ve got some places to go beforehand. Instead, he called an ambulance, and I soon underwent quadruple bypass surgery. Lots of people prayed for me, and I felt it. Not once was I scared because it’s all in God’s hands, and his guidance of the surgeon’s hands.

To sum it up, a busy life does take a toll. Do me a favor. Do your family a favor. Keep regular doctor’s appointments, double-check your vital signs, and pay attention to your body. It talks to you but you have to listen.”

So look for that ‘check engine’ light. And whatever you do, don’t cover it up.

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David Carroll, a Chattanooga news anchor, is the author of “Volunteer Bama Dawg,” a collection of his best columns. You may contact him at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405 or 3dc@epbfi.com.

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