I'm slightly more than 60% of the way to my goal of outliving George Burns who obtained his life-long dream of making it to 100. In my pursuit of this geriatric goal, I have overcome many challenges. My mother was ill nearly all her short life, and my father limped into his late sixties suffering with a bad heart for years. I've lived a decade longer than my mother and am in far better health than my father during the last half of his life. Having said that, I am not sitting back on my laurels. I am proactive about staying healthy-while not being obsessive. I do cardiovascular exercises daily, don't smoke, and try to live a balanced life. I also take an assortment of gels, tablets, capsules, and other concoctions to add to my chances at longevity. You might want to jot down my daily handful of healthy herbal healing potions: fish oil, multivitamins, calcium, magnesium, and zinc supplement, vitamin E, saw palmetto, chondroitin/glucosamine, aspirin, acidophilus, and green tea.

Nevertheless, I am always on the lookout for additional weapons to fight off the onslaught of old age and to stave off the grim reaper. I begin my day by writing for an hour and then exercise. During my cardiovascular exercise, I watch Don Imus on MSNBC. Not long ago, he was on one of his rants about a friend that couldn't get a supply of sea cucumber through customs. Imus' friend claims that sea cucumber has helped him overcome various health issues including cancer. Well, to say that my ears perked up would be an understatement. It wasn't long before I was on the Internet reading feverishly about this potential panacea for what may ail me in the less than two score years before I reach the century mark.

For those of you who aren't as diligent about your health as I am, let me get you up to speed with what might be the medical discovery of the 21st century-a possible new version of the Fountain of Youth-sea cucumber.

The sea cucumber isn't a veggie. It is an oceanic, gelatinous shaped organism, which looks like a cucumber. Freudians would describe it as having the persona of a phallus. The marketing guy, who called this echinoderm a sea cucumber, made a wise choice when naming it. Puritans amongst us would not rush to the stores to by sea phallus. However, my research did find that the Chinese use the sea cucumber or hai shen (translation: sea ginseng) as an aphrodisiac.

The sea cucumber looks like an elongated and viscous marine animal that is closely related on the aquatic evolutionary tree to the star fish and sea urchin. It is defenseless aside from its natural auto-evisceration ability. When in imminent danger, it will expel its digestive system. I can't see how that wards off an attack by a shark or by Chinese fisherman. Perhaps, it merely grosses out the would-be predators. Fortunately, like the star fish, it has the ability to regenerate a part of its body-in the sea cucumber's case, its digestive system.

The sea cucumber's processing into a medicinal product involves merely drying the organism and the pulverizing it into a powdery product. Then the light gray powder is encapsulated for ease of ingesting by humans.

Within a couple of hours of my extensive Internet research, I had purchased a bottle containing thirty capsules of crushed sea cucumbers for a little less than twenty dollars. Before I took my first dose of this possible miracle, I read the label. The label suggested that I ingest two capsules per day. Being Scottish and naturally tight with my money, I quickly calculated that this potential life prolonging compound was going to set me back about $500/year or roughly $20,000 by the time I get to the century mark. There I sat in my car holding the bottle debating with myself whether spending 20k would be worth it. I finally concluded that if something was that expensive that it must have great health benefits. Would I have been so optimistic about this panacea had it been as cheap like aspirin? Probably not.

I quickly put myself on the sea cucumber regime. Within a couple of days, I was feeling pretty good. My joints weren't as stiff, no signs of cancer, and life was good. Unfortunately, my initial physical results can't be considered totally scientific. The day before I started with my sea cucumbers, I had reduced the amount of aspirin that I took daily from an adult dose to a children's amount. My baby brother and I had been comparing what we took to maintain our health, and I had complained about joint stiffness. He is a pharmaceutical rep and told me that I was ingesting more aspirin than I needed for the sake of my heart. I cut back on the aspirin intake to 60 mg.

Therefore, I can't say for sure that sea cucumber or the reduction of the amount of aspirin resulted in less stiffness. Even though the jury is still out regarding the benefits of sea cucumbers, I will keep my readers abreast on my attempts at slowing down the hands of time.

This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on 7/30/04.