Sunday, November 27, 2011

Everything is Normal Until it’s Not

With serious illness, things that were normal before are not anymore. You're grateful to be alive but, some days, something is missing. There is this cloud over your head; a nagging feeling that things aren’t quite like they used to be.

It’s hard to put your finger on it – to describe to others what you are feeling. And others don’t understand why you can’t explain it.

It can be as simple as realizing your own mortality. 

You likely don’t have a fear of dying but you do have a fear of not being there for your family, of seeing your kids graduate, of seeing your grandchildren grow up.  And you feel that you can’t control any of this.  No one else seems to understand. Yet, you are the only one who can take the treatments or can die. Some days you may feel very alone.

Every ache and pain scares you.

All of this is normal.

If you are reading this, you are one of the lucky ones. What you are experiencing is still better than the alternative. (an estimated 17.5 million people died from cardiovascular disease in 2005, representing 30% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, 7.6 million were due to heart attacks & 5.7 million due to stroke. )  You have been given a second chance at life and the sooner you accept that your life must change, the longer you will live.

You and your body are in this life together.  You were living your life as you wanted but you were taking your body for granted.  A heart attack is one way that your body demands your attention.  Control over your life changes.  Your priorities in life change.  Your focus changes.  Your body demands it.  Listen to your cardiologist.  He speaks for your body.

You need to learn all about the requirements of your new life; this is your new normal

1.    You realize that you can’t do all the things that you used to do.  An example is sports. You probably used to do more than you can now.
2.    You have to spend more hours on your health each day than in the past.  Don’t take your health for granted; make it a priority.
     a.    You have to spend more time learning about your health.
     b.    You have to spend more hours on exercise than before. And exercise is now critically important to your continued health.
     c.    You have to pay much more attention to food because it is now more important than ever before.
     d.    If you weighed too much before your heart attack, now is the time that you must lose it.
     e.    Some days, you will need more sleep than before. (Studies show that a nap of 30 minutes or more at least three times a week produces a 37% lower risk of dying from heart disease. (
3.    You must reduce the stress in your life.
4.    You need to surround yourself with positive people.  Consider speaking with a counselor (a minister, a priest, a mental health professional, a family social worker).
5.    Involve your family as much as you can. This is also a major event for everyone in your family, except maybe the dog.  Yet, even the dog knows that you have suffered a trauma.  You may not realize that some days things are different; you are different. Try to be considerate and understanding.
6.    You may feel healthy but you now find that you’re not going to live forever, that you should plan for the future.  Things like wills, life insurance and health care become a priority.
7.    Once the necessities of life and death have been addressed, then consider one more.  Make a list of things that you have wanted to do but have been putting off until later. This is later.

You cannot ignore the trilogy of diet, exercise and stress.

Start each morning with:
          “I’m going to live, live, live until I die and not get the two confused.” 

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