American Heart Month Comes to a Close

Today is the last day of February, which is American Heart Month.  As we exit this awareness campaign this year, it is on a sad note because of the loss of Leonard Nimoy.  I know that to some people 83 sounds like a long, fully life, but it is shorter than what can be expected in this day and age if you take care of the body you’ve been given to live in.  My grandmother, who also died of heart failure after a protracted illness with advanced COPD, passed away a few years ago at the age of 92.  She lived on her own until her last year, at which time she could no longer manage her medications reliably on her own, or feed herself properly at home without supervision due to a loss of decision-making abilities.  She had to be moved to convalescent care.  No one in my family was capable of caring for her at home due to her complex multiple health conditions.  She did well to reach 92… but I believe she could have had better.  Yes… when she was younger, she smoked.  She also lived for many years with a husband that smoked.

I don’t address this topic (smoking cigarettes) very often.  I am addressing it today, along with general discussion about health care choices – the real ones that are made at home 24/7, 365 days a year when your Dr is not around.  YOU are in charge of your health care, not your Dr.  YOU make the decision to pick up a cigarette, get drunk regularly, overeat, dehydrate yourself, scarf donuts and candy, live on pizza, drink HFCS-laden soda, not get enough sleep, run on coffee, rarely to never buy fresh produce, and sit on the couch rather than get a workout in a couple times a week.  YOU.  That makes you 100% unequivocally in charge of your health care.  If you have a physician, you have hired him to assist you with it, but he’s not responsible for your decisions – good or bad.  It’s on you.

I am aware of all of the rhetoric about how genetics play into this and some people smoke till they’re ancient and never get lung cancer, etc etc etc.  We’ve all heard it.  Do you have a crystal ball to predict whether that will be you or not?  Do you really know whether you’re going to have that full life, or if you will end up on a handfuls of medication, O2, and in someone else’s care in the end?  I’ve personally heard the argument, from my own grandfather, “It’s my body and I’ll do what I want.”  When he was O2 dependent, in need of a scooter to get around, and living in a hospital bed at home, was it really his body and his choice anymore?  Was he the only one affected?  No.  Someone else was caring for him at that point, and it was the woman that he left a parting gift of COPD with because her brief history of smoking when she was very young was a tiny fraction of the exposure she received.  The second-hand smoke in the latter portion of her life likely did far more damage.  It’s never just about you.  Your decisions will affect others in all cases.  Whether it is other people that you expose, or the people that will eventually be caring for you, or simply the sadness you will cause others that lose you in a horrific manner, it affects others around you.

I lost my paternal grandmother to lung cancer when I was about 9 yrs old.  At 47 yrs old, I still remember vividly spending the night with my mother and older brother, listening to her coughing upstairs, before a morning when we had to take her to the hospital for appointments and treatments.  I still remember clearly her checking into a hospital where in spite of being a close relative, and her being a terminal patient, I was not allowed to see her before she died.  I grew up seeing hospitals as a place that people went into and never came out of.  I remember following the colored lines on the floor with my distressed mother, and eating from vending machines (yuck), when I was exhausted and dealing with my own health issues (I’ve been ill my entire life), and wanting to rest… with nowhere but hard chairs in a cold environment of stark white walls and echoing hallways.  Hospitals have changed a lot in my lifetime, but those are my memories.  They could however be as nice as they are today, and it wouldn’t change the pain of how that loss affected me.  She smoked.  She drank excessively.  That’s the truth.

When Yul Brynner was dying, he made a PSA on this subject as well.  He too wished he had not smoked.  I almost never talk about longevity, and if you know me personally you can verify this.  The number of years on this planet should not be the goal on which you focus.  It is the QUALITY OF LIFE that is our aim, and in the end, longevity will be a natural result of that – barring a freak accident.  It’s not foolproof, but in most cases it does have that effect.  The important part is… however many years you get, they will be better ones.  You are far less likely to suffer a stroke, have to fight cancer, or have to live with cardiovascular disease.  I have an unfortunate genetic bad hand myself, and developed Systemic Lupus, have had Fibromyalgia since I was young, and I now also have Raynaud’s syndrome, dysautonomia, and… left ventricular hypertrophy.  I have heart disease.  I didn’t have a choice in the matter, as it’s likely that my autoimmune conditions attacked and damaged that system.  It happens.  There is no way to be certain.  The fact that I was in too much pain to stay athletic for a number of years certainly contributed to the problem.  Now… I’m in the fight of my life.  I fight for quality of life.  I fight to have a life.  Facing your own mortality makes you want to do that.  I live with the knowledge that no matter what I do, no matter what treatment I am on, there is still always the potential that one episode of arrhythmia could be my last.  My heart could just shut down without much warning.  It’s a smaller possibility now than it used to be… but it’s still there.  If I had choices I could have made that would prevent this, I would.  If you have choices you can make…. will you?  I highly recommend it.

It has gotten back to me more than once that certain people that chose to block me in Facebook have made remarks in the aftermath of their problem (not mine).  Basically the rumor is that I was messaging people to tell them off for eating unhealthy foods when they would post something “yummy”.  Let me state this clearly once and for all:  That never happened.  The ONLY people that I discussed dietary choices with in private were individuals that ASKED FOR MY ADVICE AND HELP.  I was honest about the facts, but never unpleasant.  If someone doesn’t like what I have to say on the topic, then they shouldn’t be asking for my input in the first place.  It’s not my fault if you don’t like to hear that something isn’t good for you.  If you’re not serious about this then I am not the source of info that you want to talk to.  It won’t hurt my feelings one bit if you don’t do what I tell you about, or if you don’t want to talk about it anymore, but to go around spreading lies is just gradeschool and unnecessary.  Unless someone states that they want to abuse their body and don’t care, I will always believe the best of an autoimmune patient and that they truly want to have a better quality of life.  Until you tell me that you’re just wallowing in your misery and want to complain about the pain that your bad choices have created, I’ll offer suggestions.  It’s on you whether you do something about it or not.  There’s the tough love truth for you – and more bluntly stated than anything I EVER said to any of the rumor mongers.  I will believe the best of you that you want to learn how to feel better, sleep better, do more, and enjoy life… until you tell me that you don’t care and want to be miserable.  So I have these pages in Facebook now.  Tala’s Treehouse, Mariposa Climes, and Out of My Tree: Lupus and More.  They are devoted to providing you inspiration and ideas and healthy choices… new information… everything forwardly motivated and positive that will HELP offer a path that gives us a better quality of life.  Nothing but good vibes in that.  That’s the purpose.  Take it or leave it.

So I’m saying it this way… I wish you wouldn’t smoke.  I’m not saying “don’t” because I can’t control anyone else’s choices.  As a traditional First Nations woman, I dislike the recreational use of tobacco in processed cigarettes as much as any other cultural abuse.  So that doesn’t set well with me either.  I consider it sacred, and ceremonial, and it is often misused.  That never comes to a good end result.  Ponder that.

To honor the memory of the man that Leonard Nimoy was, I am sharing this heartfelt message.  He spent his last days saying, “don’t”, and that he wished he had not done it.  I myself have been exposed to cigarette smoke, having unwittingly ended up living with smokers for a year almost 20 years ago.  I have chronic bronchitis and mild asthma, the same as my grandmother started out with, and I have a heart condition.  What do you think my end will be?  How many years do I have, and how much difference can I make now with living a healthier life?  That is not how I want to go out, and while there is, as Dr House points out, truly no dignity in death… I believe there are less horrific ways to end this walk on earth.  I would like to have as many quality years as I can be given.  I believe that wise choices are a part of that.  I believe that without doing these things, you do not have true prosperity.  That’s not about money.  It’s about quality of life.

If ever I share my healthy choices with you, and offer advice, it is because I care about you.  I will still care even if you reject it, and I will also still be here if you change your mind.  Please take care of your earthsuit.  Please feed it good choices.  Please love your heart and treat it gently… and really… Live long and prosper.  ❤

T

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