Monthly Archives: September 2014

When your body starts falling apart. It will happen to you someday too.

The expression “the raves of the ages” is no more appropriate than when it comes to your body and your health. The years catch up to you long before you’re ready. Yes, someday you will need the dreaded pill minder to keep track of all your pills and when to take them. That medicine cabinet that used to contain your Pepto and aftershave or perfume will soon be jammed with pill jars of every sort imaginable, many of which you won’t even remember what they are for. Your calendar will go from keeping track of all the fun things you have planned, to all the doctor’s appointments and tests you have. You’ll be poked and prodded in every way possible trying to figure out what’s now wrong with you. You think twice about taking that long awaited vacation because you don’t want to be too far from your doctors.

Not that many years ago I was in the best of health. Even though back in 2004 I was diagnosed as diabetic all I took was Metformin to control it. I rarely checked my sugars, although I know I should have, but I could always tell by the way I felt. My diet didn’t change much either, in fact, during my extensive renovation, when I didn’t have a kitchen for six weeks, I ate fast food for every meal. It helped that I was busting my ass physically every day to work it off, but I was none the worse for wear and felt great.

My years in the Okanagan were filled with every activity imaginable. I roller-bladed for miles every Sunday. I dirt-biked in the hills around Kelowna and Revelstoke with my Dad and siblings. I water-skied, even learning to slalom. I ran a hiking club all year-round, hiking some really tough trails around Rose Valley and McDougall Ridge. In the winter I snowmobiled around Kelowna, but mostly in the mountains around Revelstoke. I downhill skied at Silver Star and Big White as often as I could afford. I cross-country skied at TeleMark usually three times a week. I played racquetball in a league at the Courtplex and usually went out and played for three hours on Sunday mornings. Back then they had a bar at the Courtplex and I would go off the court and light a cigarette and all the guys would look at me, amazed that I didn’t cough my lungs out. I took the Canadian Lung Capacity test, three times, because the guy testing me couldn’t figure out how I smoked, but I was in the top three percent of Canadian males. He figured his instruments were faulty. The most enjoyable thing I did was dance my butt off three nights a week at the Corral, usually from nine til two. That really kept me in shape.

My last couple of years in the Okanagan were spent renovating, first my parents’ place to sell and then my own renovation from hell (long story). In my last year I worked fourteen hour days, usually seven days a week and it was all very physically demanding. When I did my river design out of rocks I figured I moved some fifteen thousand heavy rocks, placing them all around the house. Then there was framing and drywalling and painting and flooring and installing bathroom fixtures and kitchen cabinets. There was no shortage of things to do, but I loved it.

Even when things went horribly wrong and I had to flee the country to Panama, before I knew it I was renovating a three apartment house for a guy back in Kelowna. Other than playing a little pool at a local bar and taking one day to go to the ocean with friends, plus my side trips to Costa Rica to keep my tourist Visa alive, I worked very long days all over again. Except for a cold I could not seem to get rid of, I was healthy as an ox. I did continue the small doses of insulin I had been put on back home because of all the stress I was under and my sugars had spiked to life-threatening numbers.

When I returned to Canada to the safety of my cousin’s place in Rexdale I did things like ride my bike all the way down from Islington and the 401 to go across to Centre Island. At one point after thinking I was not far from home I started walking, not realizing just how far it was. It had to be around thirty kilometres or so. I was exhausted by the time I got home. When I first moved to London, another long story, I biked all the trails in one day, quite the distance. I roller-bladed the trails and I ice-skated in the winter. Not a lot to do in this town. I did manage a couple of nights of dancing as well.

The downhill slide began when I was forced to leave the apartment I had been renting when the crazy landlady threatened to change the locks on me. I had no idea where I was going and stayed in my car, then a series of shelters. During this period I ran out of my medications, was out of them for six weeks and ended up in the hospital. I did not know at the time how much damage this had done. While living at the last shelter I got a job at Home Depot. At the time I could not afford decent steel-toed shoes so I bought the cheapest ones I could find and they were incredibly painful. After my shifts walking the concrete floors I could barely walk and this started it all.

Soon my feet were painful all the time. It felt like someone was holding a match under my feet and stabbing me randomly. Sleep was difficult. Walking was painful and I couldn’t do anything physical anymore. Soon I was seeing a host of doctors and being put on all kinds of pills and doses of two insulins. The total lack of exercise and the insulin packed on almost forty pounds and I didn’t wear it well. I had trouble hoisting myself up off the couch. The pain was intolerable and it sent me into depression. An EMG at the local hospital confirmed that I had peripheral neuropathy in my feet and it was starting in my hands, which terrified me because I spend all day on the computer. The doctor also said that the pain level was about a three and it would eventually be a ten. Not good news.

The other issue was that I developed what’s called an incisional hernia which was a result of the botched surgery done in Panama to remove my gall bladder. It was painful at times and I was sent to consult with a surgeon at University Hospital. He confirmed that I had the hernia and required surgery, but said I was too fat for the surgery and if I had it done I might be in even more pain. He said I had to lose at least twenty pounds before he could operate. Just more good news. The results of the ultrasound for the hernia also showed that I had an enlarged liver and spleen. I still haven’t seen a specialist on this one. I am also being referred for bariatric surgery but the wait times here in Ontario are up to ten years. I am also seeing a urologist in December because things aren’t working down there, if you know what I mean. It’s probably a combination of my age and the medications I take, not to mention my boy hasn’t been called on to perform in years.

For me, the scariest issue is cancer. My mother nearly died because she had fifth stage melanoma but they caught it before it reached her lymph nodes, so she survived. Had it reached her lymph nodes and spread she was given less than a five percent chance of surviving more than six months. It was a terrible time for our family, partly because my mother was in the pink of health. She had never smoked and she walked five miles every morning. It made us all more aware of cancer. I had a birthmark on my forehead that had changed colour and developed little bumps. When I had it checked it turned out to be fifth stage melanoma and I had surgery to remove it. Just recently I had another birthmark that the doctor didn’t like the look of, so I had a biopsy which came back positive as zero stage melanoma. The pathologist had the surgeon repeat the surgery to take a larger sample and I am waiting for the results. It’s frightening on so many levels to think you have cancer.

So, if you have your health, treasure it. Eat right. Stay fit. One day you will look back on those days with longing. We are all mortal. I’m reminded of the saying, “live every day like it’s your last because one day you will be right”.

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