I just celebrated my 66th birthday on Monday and as it approached all I kept thinking about were the words of a Dylan Thomas poem:
“Do not go gentle into that good night. Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
I kept thinking about my parents, my husband’s parents and how they were fighting the ravages of time as they turned 66. My dad had already had a heart attack; my mom had severe osteoporosis and high blood pressure, my mother in law had COPD, my father in law had already died of a massive heart attack. Some of these illnesses were genetic in nature; others were based on personal choices made over time. The one thing they all had in common were lifestyle choices certainly had a significant effect on their health.
I am not (fortunately) on the brink of death, but it is a natural end point of living. My parents and in-laws lead what they believed were active lives, ate well and what they thought was healthy, and taught my husband and I to eat and live those ways as well.
I used to be a smoker, both my parents were. There are lots of things I used to do that would leave me fighting for my life today at 66 years old; if I were even alive to fight since 10 years ago I weighed in at 424 pounds.
Rather than rage against the dying of the light, I made an informed decision to embrace life, have lap band surgery, and change my daily habits to include a lifestyle that would allow me to spend active days and nights for many years into the future.
I chose in 2004 to LIVE and today, in 2014 I choose to continue to live. What does that mean? It means my food choices, my vitamins, my fitness, my hydration, my personal accountability are all in a place which forwards my personal goal of living each and every day to the fullest.
Let’s review my birthday weekend as a great example:
Friday, September 12, 2014: Went to the gym and swam laps for 45 minutes, Came home, stomach started hurting. I ate nothing but sipped water all day to stay hydrated. Finished my work and was still in pain. I went to the ER at about 9 PM with severe stomach pain on one side. My surgeon had called and requested blood work, urinalysis, and a CT scan. All of the findings were negative. At 2AM still in the ER in pain. I was given a shot of dilaudid and sent home with a prescription for more pain meds and anti-nausea drugs to stem the nausea from the pain meds.
Saturday, September 13, 2014: Woke up with a headache from the dilaudid so I took a couple of Tylenol and stayed on a liquid diet for the morning and afternoon. Stomach still felt achy but the pain had reduced from a 9 to a 2. My daughter and grandkids came over for an impromptu birthday party since my husband and I were going to Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort for 2 days the next day. Throughout the day I managed to do 3 loads of wash, fold them and put them away, go to the market, change bedding in my guest room and vacuum it in anticipation of friends arriving the next week from Connecticut, go the market to pick up a few last minute items, have a birthday party, clean up from it and go to bed.
Sunday, September 14, 2014: Woke up at my usual 4:30AM. My abdomen was still a little sore but now probably a 1 on the pain scale. I had taken no pain meds since the shot in the hospital so I figured I was up to our little Sunday night- Tuesday morning retreat. Drove up the coast about 140 miles to our getaway spot, had dinner out, ate real food and was doing okay. Hot mineral water tub on the patio of our room that night- HEAVEN.
Monday, September 15, 2014 my birthday. Woke up and checked my messages, had some coffee, switched to water and then lazed around reading for while until my husband woke up. We shared some yogurt and a small slice of left over steak from the night before. Notice it was protein first for sure. My pain was still present, but still at a one so off we went to begin the first day of my 66th year.
We walked about ¼ of a mile to the gift shop where we picked up our 2 bicycles and then took off for the beach. Biked up and down rolling hills with only the steepest hurting my belly. I walked when it hurt to pedal.
Beautiful morning, beautiful ride and then back to the resort. I was not in a mood to deal with beach traffic on a bicycle so we decided to drive back over to the beach for some lunch (ahi appetizer on 6 blue corn chips with a dab of guacamole) and a walk around, and possibly some wine tasting.
Did all of that and it was time to take off into See Canyon for some fresh apples and then back to the resort in time for a swim, a deep soak in the mineral water hot tubs and then a massage. What a birthday so far and the pain remained at a 1. We were back and forth many times that same ¼ mile to our rooms and walked on the pier at the beach, around the town of Avila, probably 2-3 miles all told. So far, biking, walking, and then it was swimming. The pool was a nippy 75 degrees, but with the air temperature at about 85 it was more than tolerable – after the first lap. I could NOT swim free style, it hurt so I did breast stroke and backstroke instead and got some more exercise in. Warmed back up in the hot tub and then relaxed to wet noodle consistency through the massage. Pain level still around 1.
Had a lovely dinner that was an appetizer salad and a strawberry shortbread dessert with a cup of decaf cappuccino. No main course. I ordered one, they overcooked it (first time ever at this resort restaurant that they did not prepare something perfectly) so I sent it back and instead of having it redone, chose dessert. The end of a very relaxing day was more hot tub time on our patio, along with a lovely glass of zinfandel and a piece of dark chocolate.
What’s my point in sharing all of this? It’s simple. I am not raging, or raving, I am LIVING. I do not allow small setbacks to be anything but what they are – small setbacks. I do what I am able to do and choose when to push and when to get off and roll the bike up the hill to avoid pain. I keep trying and I am finding that there is so much more that I can and will do as long as I am not afraid to try it.
In my previous life (life before weight loss surgery) I would have wailed and cried at the fact that the pain was ruining my birthday and my little vacation and probably worked myself up into a rage and created pain just from the stress of it all. Because my overall health is better, my body works well most of the time, my food choices support my healthy body and I am hydrated so I can think clearly I chose to live the weekend one day at a time and do what I was able to do and enjoy it.
This is a new approach for me. I am not fighting for survival, I am LIVING, and no, I will “not go gentle into that good night”. I will rather LIVE every day to its fullest.
Let GO of resistance. Control what you can. Enjoy life. Embrace the change and you will succeed.