Saturday, November 29, 2008

more random thoughts

Let's get this straight -- I am not complaining. Wanted to be clear about that up front. Because I consider myself extraordinarily lucky; always have been lucky. Bad things almost never happen to me, and on the rare occasion that they do happen, they turn out in the best possible way, or put me on a new and much better road.

For example, when I got cancer (melanoma on my arm) twenty-six years ago, it was completely self contained, and removed completely in the excision, with no radiation, no chemotherapy. Plus, the experience made me so grateful just to be alive, that when I went on an interview the week after the surgery, I couldn't possibly be nervous about something so trivial as a job. My calm and poise so impressed them that they hired me immediately.

Or there was the time that a piston in my VW beetle exploded, cracking the engine block bring the car to a faltering halt on a really empty looking stretch of I-77 in rural West Virginia. But I was extraordinarily lucky, because I was in Braxton County, where the woman who was sheriff required all her deputies to be on the look out for stranded motorists, and it was departmental policy to offer whatever assistance was necessary. The engine was destroyed, and I had not money, but it turned out that the officer who rescued me, needed a VW body for a dune buggy he wanted to build, he paid me cash (more than it was worth) and took care of all the towing costs, found me a motel to stay at, and the bus schedule that would get me back home to Pennsylvania. Plus, during the month I was between cars, it created an opportunity for the man who would be come my first husband to give me rides and get up the nerve to ask me on a date.

The problem is, that I became to comfortable with the idea that I was lucky. As a result I've not taken care of myself the way I should have. I've been overweight my entire life, sometimes by just a little, and for the past twenty years by quite a lot. The term "morbidly obese" applies to at least the last 10 years of my life. But I paid little attention, because I was 'lucky.' I had 'good genes' (almost everyone on both sides of the family live into their late 80's and 90's) -- another form of luck. And I was healthy, I didn't have high blood pressure, I didn't have diabetes. Every time I got a new doctor, they always assumed I had those things, and was surprised when I didn't. So I ate whatever I wanted and was cavalier about exercise. The few times I felt it was necessary to lose weight (like for job interviews) I never had any trouble dropping 40 or 50 pounds in a few months through diet and exercise. But I never kept the weight off for more than a year or so.

The first chink in the armor was my blood pressure. I started having trouble with it after I married 14 years ago. But I rationalized that it was only because of the birth control pills. It had nothing to do (in my mind) with my diet or weight. Then beginning at age 54, everything began to unravel. My blood pressure did not go back to normal when I went off birth control pills. Being morbidly obese made recuperation from a hysterectomy more difficult, made it harder to deal with osteoarthritis and then rheumatoid arthritis, contributed to plantar fasciitis. Suddenly I needed to lose weight to feel better, but my primary tactic for losing weight -- lots of walking and exercise -- was made problematic by the very conditions that the obesity was exacerbating. I found myself virtually immobilized by pain in my feet, in all my joints, for several months, and the weight went up even more.

The Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis brought me the right kind of medicine and some physical therapy, and my mobility improved, but my weight didn't. I was stuck in this cycle of destructive eating. I knew something was wrong with me. I was always out of sorts, cross and crabby all the time. I knew I had a good life, a good job, and good husband, but I didn't feel happy any more.

Then Nino the cat was diagnosed with diabetes. Suddenly I saw the parallel between his symptoms and my symptoms. I went to my doctor and got tested. I am still lucky, I don't have diabetes -- yet -- but I am "pre-diabetic" and if I want to continue to be lucky, if I want to avoid ending up a diabetic, then I'm going to have to take action: major changes in diet and eating habits, much more exercise. I've only been living with this for four weeks. It's not easy to change all the bad habits of a lifetime.

So understand, this is not a complaint, it's a warning, a cautionary tale, if you will. If you are in your thirties or forties, and your health is good, it is easy to think that you don't really need to make changes, or that you can always make them when the time comes. The problem is, that when the time comes, you may find that you face a lot of obstacles, pain and disabilities, that make changes a whole lot harder. I don't know if I would have listened at age 45, but I wish that someone had told me this. Sure lots of people warned me about diabetes and high blood pressure and arthritis, but no one ever really explained it this way -- that your body can start to gang up on you when you pass a certain age (it's different for everyone). Just because you can easily drop 50 pounds at age 45 just by walking a few miles each day, doesn't mean that you will always be able to do that. The day may come when walking even a half a mile is painful and difficult, and yet you'll still need to lose weight.

1 comment:

Qaro said...

I need this. Not right now, but I will save it. Thanks.