The Days of Bliss and Innocence
Life was great. Yes, I knew that I was overweight. I knew that I really should be eating better and getting more exercise. I knew that congestive heart failure ran in my mother’s side of the family. I knew that highly-processed foods posed health risks. I read a lot about health and knew a lot about it.
But, my bad lifestyle decisions had not yet manifested in really bad health issues.
There are two ways of “knowing” things. Those of you who go to church may recognize these.
You can have a head knowledge, meaning that you “know” it intellectually. This type of knowing is like a computer storing information on its hard drive. It has the information and can pull it up at any time, but it really doesn’t do anything useful with it.
You can also “know” something with your heart. This “heart knowledge” means that it is something that changes you or motivates you. This is like a computer having some information built-in to its programming code — it is actually using the information to decide what to do and when to do it. Without that “heart knowledge” you are lost, despite what you might “know” intellectually.
I could talk to you all day about health, about bad food choices, about what factories do to our food, about how to be healthy, and more. But I didn’t live it.
The Decline Begins
Then there came that inevitable day when the bliss and innocence ended.
It wasn’t actually a single day, but a period of a few months when my health began to decline. I didn’t know at first what was going on.
I was tired all the time.
I slept a lot more than I used to.
I began gaining weight fast. I had always been big, but now I put on 120 pounds in just a few months.
It seemed like I had headaches all the time.
I had more and more frequent heart palpitations.
My attitude toward life began to change and darken. Hopelessness started to set in.
All my life I had worked hard. When challenges came, I worked more and harder and always overcame it. But this time it didn’t work. This time, I just got sicker and more tired.
Until one day when I ended up in the Emergency Room — a day that would change everything in my life.
My wife took me in to the hospital one Sunday afternoon after several hours of heart palpitations and chest pain. They ran what seemed to be a million tests. It was not a heart attack, they said, but my blood pressure was over 200. My weight was up to an unbelievable 450 pounds.
They sent me home with a heart monitor, which I wore for 24 hours and returned to the hospital to have it processed. I had not seen a doctor in years, but set up an appointment now. She looked at the records from the ER and couldn’t believe that they had sent me home with my blood pressure so high. She started me on some meds for the blood pressure and ordered more blood work.
The meds brought the blood pressure down, but not nearly enough. Four medications later, my blood pressure was just barely into the normal range.
The heart monitor showed that I had Atrial Fibrilation. As the blood pressure went down, the episodes of AFib began to decline, but they kept me on an aspirin regimen out of concern for stroke. The blood pressure meds made me dizzy and lightheaded most of the time. I wasn’t sleeping well, and the fatigue was becoming worse.
The Collapse Begins
My world was collapsing. But it was just the beginning.
One of the blood tests showed that my testosterone level was very low, so my doctor refered me to a urologist. The nurse at the urologists’s office said it was the lowest level she had seen. More tests were ordered. They found that I had a tumor on the pituitary gland at the bottom of the brain. The tumor was depressing testosterone levels and skyrocketing prolactin levels. In fact, I had the prolactin levels of a pregnant woman.
The symptoms of this type of tumor were severe fatigue, depression, and rapid weight gain.
Testosterone treatment was out of the question, since it tends to thicken the blood and I was already a stroke risk.
There is treatment for the tumor, but they need a high-res MRI image of it before the right treatment can be determined. Unfortunately, I did not fit in any MRI in the State because of my weight.
Now, weightloss became a major priority.
My cardiologist recommended the DASH diet and told me to restrict sodium as much as possible.
A series of mammograms was begun, every six months.
Then, my feet and and ankles began to swell up. They swelled to the point that I could barely walk.
Another visit to the doctor and cardiologist. Now they were talking about diastolic congestive heart failure, and I began taking furosimide (brand name, lasix) to get rid of the excess fluid.
Things were happening so fast. I couldn’t believe how rapidly I was declining.
People with congestive heart failure can live for many years. People with congestive heart failure who weight 400+ pounds don’t live long at all. Now, weight loss became a critically urgent matter.
My doctor recommended bariatric surgery and connected me with a practice which specialized in it. They did more tests, and set up a series of appointments with dietitians and a fitness expert to begin working on lifestyle changes, including a high protein, low carb diet.
In about a year’s time, my whole life was altered forever and I was left coping with multiple health issues, several medications, and major life decisions.
I went from getting up at 6:30 AM to barely being able to get out of bed some days.
I went from doing whatever I wanted to hardly being able to take care of my own necessities for the day.
I went from being independent to being very dependent on my family.
I went from being in control of my finances to usually not even having enough to take care of needs for the month.
I went from rarely interacting with the healthcare system to having 2 appointments a week.
I had to lose weight and develop a healthier long-term lifestyle. Many things had to change, and fast. I had to learn a new way of eating and exercise. I had to cope with the symptoms of multiple health problems.
This is new territory for me. It is a journey that began in darkness and hopelessness, but must lead to hope.
This web site is an attempt to document some of the things that I learn on this journey, and to try to be a help to others who find themselves in similar circumstances. I can beat this, and I know you can, too. Let’s move ahead to a brighter future.