Thursday, November 7, 2013

Be Prepared


During one of my outpatient IV sessions, I was the only one in the room and in a weak moment, turned on the TV. I tuned into the National Geographic channel and rather than the stunning cinematography and nature programming I was expecting, I was met with a program featuring some survivalists and their compounds. I won’t go off on a tangent about television programming, but it reminded me that there’s a whole industry out there catering to those who are planning on “the big one.” Now, that “big one” could be the earthquake that is supposed to level the city where I call home, it could be something downright apocalyptic, or just a few of these fringe survivalists National Geographic featured who want to live off the grid.
I sure didn’t anticipate meeting “the big one” of catastrophic illnesses, but to be sure, there are a number of interdependent industries catering to this particular “big one,” yet it’s more reactive than preventive – that is to say there is a huge nutritional supplement industry on the preventive side and a reactive health care system. No one really prepares to have a catastrophic illness befall them. Well, I thought that was true until Angelina Jolie pre-emptively had a radical double mastectomy to reduce her risk of developing breast cancer. Some cancers tend to be hereditary while others like mine, as I’ve been told, are just arbitrary blind dumb luck. It defies me how some people can live reckless lives, abusing their bodies with all manner of chemicals without consequence while others are borderline obsessive and end up with a debilitating illness. Yet, that is the way [fill in your favorite aphorism here].
I have been pretty conscientious since entering what we euphemistically call “middle age” about my health. I’ve made changes in my diet and lifestyle, exercised regularly, and even thought to myself every time I check out at the grocery store seeing the headlines on the health magazines, “Yeah, I do that…I’m good.” In fact the night I was ushered into the elite leukemia club, I was on my way to the gym, bag packed in my trunk. I wasn’t sporting the coveted six-pack abs, but just a few months prior, I was riding 500+ miles down the California coast on my bicycle. I was in pretty decent shape for a 50-year old grandfather.
What I lacked in that chiseled muscle, I had in stamina and ironically, as it turns out, having held on to the body fat that I have been valiantly trying to exorcise through exercise has actually turned out to be a benefit, both in terms of being able to lose weight from chemo and in the many subcutaneous injections. Whoda thunk? Well, my primary care physician did say to me, “The jury’s still out as to whether it’s good to carry a few extra pounds.” I like this guy. He not took the time to actually listen to me about turning 50, but he was persistent with his suspicions and was the one responsible for finding the leukemia. That certainly works for me. Say what you will about the VA Health Care System, but I think it’s awesome.
Still, I hadn’t prepared to be sick. Again, who does?
Having been through what I have, I will tell you that being healthy has made all the difference on how fast my body has responded to treatment, healed when something went wrong, and is now rebounding now on the downside of transplant. Some of it has to do with heredity, to be sure. I’ve been blessed with some pretty good genes, but it wasn’t obviously enough to ward cancer off completely and I have some battling with this thing yet, but I hope it makes sense to say you can be quite sick with an illness and yet be healthy just as it is to not be sick yet unhealthy. For example, I may be battling cancer and have some challenges with blood chemistry or limitations with strength, but I will exercise and eat watch what I eat and be otherwise just as healthy as before.
This is the cover of the April 1, 2013 of Time magazine. I read through the article while at the hospital in Salt Lake City. One of the poignant things I walked away with is that 1 in every 2 men and 1 in every 3 women will be impacted by cancer in their lifetimes. If those numbers aren't compelling enough to take whatever pre-emptive action about your health, I don't know what numbers will persuade you.  Far from being fatalistic about it, use it as ammunition to be healthy.
Some of the habits that got me in decent shape prior to my diagnosis will be hard to forego because the intent of the habits are to take care and improve myself. The adage of ‘no pain, no gain’ could set me back, so the new mantra is now ‘listen to your body’ to find out the safe limitations and I have to add in the numbers from my daily blood chemistry and counts and medical advice. But the impetus behind the habits will produce new ones that keep the healing moving along.
I wanted to talk about this because simply taking care of myself through a reasonable diet, regular exercise, and a good attitude have made a bad situation bearable and allowed for a much more rapid healing than otherwise. From my standpoint, it’s purely anecdotal, but there is empirical evidence to support my assertion that I’ve read in the past few months. I’ve been around a lot of other cancer patients and the number of people who don’t take care of themselves take so much longer to respond to treatment and heal, it’s worth mentioning. Moreover, these people are much nicer to be around, which makes it a really cool thing to have the nurses jockeying over who gets to take care of you because of your attitude!
Bottom line: whether you actually ever meet “the big one” you’ll be healthier and you’ll be happier. Seriously.

Music for the day from Rascal Flatts – My Wish
hhBottom of Form
I hope the days come easy and the moments pass slow
And each road leads you where you want to go
And if you're faced with the choice and you have to choose
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you


And if one door opens to another door closed
I hope you keep on walkin' til you find the window
If it's cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile
But more than anything, more than anythin


My wish for you
Is that this life becomes all that you want it to
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small

You never need to carry more than you can hold
And while you're out there gettin' where you're gettin' to
I hope you know somebody loves you
And wants the same things too
Yeah, this is my wish
I hope you never look back but you never forget
All the ones who love you and the place you left
I hope you always forgive and you never regret
And you help somebody every chance you get
Oh, you'd find God's grace in every mistake
And always give more than you take
But more than anything, yeah more than anything
My wish for you
Is that this life becomes all that you want it to
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small
You never need to carry more than you can hold
And while you're out there gettin' where you're gettin' to
I hope you know somebody loves you
And wants the same things too
Yeah, this is my wish, yeah yeah
My wish for you
Is that this life becomes all that you want it to
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small
You never need to carry more than you can hold
And while you're out there gettin' where you're gettin' to
I hope you know somebody loves you
And wants the same things too
Yeah, this is my wish
(My wish for you)
This is my wish
(My wish for you)
I hope you know somebody loves you
(My wish for you)
May all your dreams stay big
(My wish for you)