Am I Ready to Die?

by | Jul 26, 2015 | General Health, Reflection

My apologies to my blog subscribers who are looking for some humor.

But something happened in the last couple of months that compels me to share this.

Those who see me and know me in the office know that my focus has always been on prevention and wellness. And I try to practice what I preach. After all, it’s hard to hear, “Eat right, exercise, and control your blood pressure” from a guy who weighs three hundred pounds and smells of tobacco.

Fifteen years ago at  the age of 45 I stood six feet tall (more or less) and weighed 235 pounds.  And although used to staying in pretty good cardiovascular shape, having been a competitive swimmer through my college years, I was too heavy. So I started making little changes.

Now at age of 60, weighing around 200 pounds, having made gradual changes in diet and exercise over the years (I’m addicted to cycling) I’ve turned my ship around. Probably lost 40 pounds of fat and put on some muscle.

I’m not saying this to brag, only to make a point.

The life of the body, no matter how hard one works at it, will end.

Over the years, having close relationships with patients at all levels of health and illness, and nearness to death, I have rehearsed not only the “wellness” speech, but also the “death” speech. I mean, my own death, not theirs. I sincerely hope I am able to say to patients to follow my example in staying healthy. But can I also show them by example how to die or to deal with disabling or painful illness?

Recently, I rehearsed that speech in earnest.

I awakened on my day off, bleary-eyed. This was not so unusual. But the foggy eyesight didn’t go away. I realized after some analysis that I was seeing double.

My knowledge of neuro-anatomy said this was not likely to be something good. A stroke? Naaah! My cholesterol, blood pressure, and fitness are top notch. I ride my bike 50-100 miles a week.No family history of vascular disease.

A tumor? Possible but not likely due to such specific and localized symptoms (my left eye would not turn inward). An aneurysm or multiple sclerosis? Also not likely for the above noted reasons.

Nevertheless, after a consultation with a neurologist friend I got the brain scan.

All the while I rehearsed the speech.

I can honestly say that I was not anxious about what the scan would show.

Actually, I was thanking God that my main anxiety was waiting to see what work I would have ahead of me… how I would deal with the stress to my wife, family, and friends, and how I would I articulate my status to patients. Was it my time to walk the talk and show them how to be unwell? Or possibly to die?

Two weeks later my vision was mostly better. The problem was a tiny, random capillary closure (common to people who have migraine headaches – which I have had from time to time since my teens – and high blood pressure) at precisely the right spot in my brain to cause symptoms. Likely to get 100% well. Not likely to return.

Oh, and despite all my efforts, my strong family history of high blood pressure has finally reared its ugly head. So, for the time being, I’m going to swallow my pride and get that treated while I redouble my efforts to deal with it naturally. Maybe a heck-of-a lot of stress reduction would help.

And now I’ll get back to the wellness speech and save the death speech for later.

So put down that pastry, quit smoking, get off your butt, get your priorities straight, get fit and get skinny!

OK, so we can laugh a little now.