I feel (and this is a recent feeling) that when it starts becoming too much we need to step back and reassess what we are doing. I stated in an earlier post that a simple question of “why?” should be revisited at intervals through the year. We need to know why we are doing what we are doing, and if the original reason we embarked on whatever quest we are on is still valid in our lives. We tend to be stubborn as human beings, at least I am, so when I have set a goal I stay on the path to that goal with little regard to it being “good for me” or if that goal is relevant anymore. There have been a few weeks recently where I have questioned what I am doing … and the why of it all. Since the question was asked of me I have had it on my mind … and I think it has come down to one … simple … thing …
I fear death …
And not only death … I fear a painful death ….
I would consider myself a spiritual man .. but not a religious man. I am not certain why that is. I was raised catholic. My grandmother was a god fearing woman who believed in church and catholic doctrine to her dying day (even after surviving a catholic orphanage and still sporting scars in her 80’s from the beatings the nun’s dished out), but despite her efforts there is some block in me that will not accept it. And it’s not like I don’t want to either. In her last days I was … comforted by her comfort in knowing she was going to a better place. Even if I don’t personally subscribe to that, I envy the comfort that people feel.
So, when asked “why?” now I think my answer comes down to the morbidness of “I fear death”. I am in my 50th year, and I know that no man in my family lived past 69. So now I am finding myself wondering when a new medical issue comes up if “this is it”. I know it’s stupid, so no need to lecture me on it, but it’s what I feel. Most of these men died without me really knowing them, with the exception of my grandfather, who I was close to, and his experience is what sits in my head. He turned 69 in January of 1991. By all accounts perfectly healthy. He smoked Camel non-filter cigarettes his whole life but had never experienced health issues due to it. In April of that year he started noticing blurred vision in one eye, which progressively got worse to the point that in July he finally went and got it checked out. I left the Navy in June 1991 and was spending a lot of time with Pops during this time, renewing our relationship, so even with the sight issue I still believed, as we all want to believe, that our grandfathers (or fathers) will be around forever. I lost my father when I was 3, so my grandfather WAS my role model. I had never seen him sick in my whole life, and it never occurred to me that something as simple as blurred vision would end up like it did. The diagnosis ranged from cataracts to syphilis (!!!) before it was discovered that he had a tumor in his brain. “It’s a small one” they said … “no worries”. The removed it and put him on chemo.
And it went downhill from there.
The chemo destroyed this once strong man. First it was a heart attack. Once in the hospital for that his lungs filled with fluid. They removed half of his left lung but could not get the lungs to clear. He died in November 1991 of pneumonia. He would have been 70 two months later.
No other male in my family was left after that near that age group … until now … my uncle, his son, is in his mid-60’s. I am 50. My brother Mike is 47. Both Mike and I have had cancer already. And now, I have PsA and have to start infusions of Remicade next week. But while I am concerned about that, it’s not my biggest worry.
Know what is?
I have blurred vision in my left eye for the past few months.
So why do I do this? I am trying to outrun death. And I know I will eventually lose that race … the ultimate DNF, but when that happens it will not be due to something I could have prevented. It will not be because I spent the latter half of my life in a chair scarfing potato chips and watching Netflix. I think that’s what gripes me about those I see living these unhealthy lifestyles (and even healthy people with unhealthy habits). Regardless of your situation, most of us have people in our lives that love us, and enjoy having us around. Is that hamburger or that Cherry Berry Sugar Bomb, worth leaving them over? Is the 10 minutes of sugary goodness worth a painful death 20 years later? No one wants to believe that have an expiration date, especially the young people. My son, who is 19, scarfs crap food like it’s his last meal, and no amount of me being an example of healthy living and practices changes his mind. He is heading down the same path I did at 20. Yes, you may be the picture of health today, but tomorrow that slightly blurry vision could mean something else, and are you willing to chance that?
Mike and I were discussing this over dinner a couple of weeks ago in Ocala. My step-father died three years ago of bladder cancer, caused by smoking, which he refused to stop doing even when he knew it was killing him. My mother has now lost 95% of her vision from diabetes, which she was warned about ten years ago, and refused to start eating right to stave that off. In these two cases they were told if they stopped doing what they were doing it might be enough to stop the progression of the diseases they both have, so it boggles my mind that you would ignore warnings like that. My youngest brother, from my Mom and Step-Father, smokes … after seeing his father waste away right in front of him from a disease he caused himself, and knowing the pain and anguish he felt while watching his father go through this, he is willing to put his own children through that same trauma because he needs to smoke.
I don’t get that … and I don’t get people filling their bodies with crap knowing that eventually it will get them. May not be now. May not be ten years from now. But it will get you. Every day I look across my cubicle at a co-worker who is at least 400 pounds (and I would guess closer to 500 pounds). His breathing is audible. He moans and grunts when he stands up from his desk. But I watch him every day open his desk drawer, pull out a loaf of white bread, Jiffy Peanut Butter, and Welch’s Grape Jelly and make a sandwich 3 times. He is going to die … and it won’t be an easy death … and that saddens me. It saddens me for his wife, and his children, who will have to witness it.
And this was me 4 years ago. I am by no means innocent in this … I was doing the same damn thing … I was selfish … I only thought of my minute of gratification felt while plowing through a double whopper with cheese. Have I caught myself in time? Did I hit the reset button with enough room that my body can heal itself? Maybe … maybe not. I guess we will see in the next 20 years when I start approaching that 70 year mark.
But I hope I have …