Choose Your Own Path

After having decided against continuing with the statin and beta blocker, I faced another issue: whether to follow my cardiologist’s recommendation and proceed down the well-worn path of a routine angiogram or take the other less-traveled path, one which pursued more natural remedies. It’s not that the two are opposite approaches exactly but to my mind the angiogram, while of value in determining the extent to which the carotid and other arteries may be blocked, was still an invasive operation which had its own risks. For one thing, I may think young but my body is still 92 years old -as my cardiologist reminded me – so that even a routine medical procedure could be more than my body could bear. Furthermore, infection has become more of a problem in hospitals these days and that’s something to avoid at all costs. Thirdly, my youngest son (he’s 59 years old) told me of his own experience with the angiogram procedure. He discovered he was allergic to the dye that was used in the operation which called for some emergency counter-measures. The question it raises, of course, is whether I, as the father, might have the same allergic reaction. The chances are good that I would. Over and above these considerations is my own long range view of life and death and how I want to live these last years. I know I do not want to live dependent on, tied to, various drugs, particularly when there can be serious side effects. Nor do I want to spend any more time in hospitals than necessary.

      Hospitals have their place. Nothing is more clear. Island Hospital in Anacortes, Washington was essential to me when I had my ruptured appendix. But I don’t want to spend my last days in a hospital environment like so many of my friends have done. This involves changing my own attitude toward death, accepting it as a natural component of existence, not something to be avoided at all costs. Also, taking the less-traveled path just seems right for me. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy over the years trying to keep healthy without making a big deal out of it which among other things means staying free of dependence on prescription drugs (or any other drugs for that matter) focusing on natural, less invasive solutions when possible. There’s no reason to abandon this approach now just because I’m headed down the home stretch. I’m not going to allow fear and panic to change my game plan. Instead, I’m more determined than ever to let love and patience prevail, including love and patience toward myself, as I explore ways to stay alive and aware. Regular exercise and intentional eating choices will always be part of my daily routine. So will exploration of spirituality because I’m finding some spiritual insights to be of lasting value in helping me to understand and cope with my advanced age. Of all the reasons for wanting to live and thrive, however, the chief reason has to do with my new partner. We celebrated our first year together three months ago and our relationship has only gotten stronger.  We are planning to celebrate our second anniversary next summer by exchanging vows and rings in the company of our friends and children. Is there a greater motivation to live?

      Recently, I took advantage of the offer to have my need for physical therapy re-evaluated.  During the last weeks the right side of my body seemed to be getting worse, not improving as I expected. In the original evaluation, the therapist could find nothing in my condition that would benefit from further therapy. In the second evaluation, a different therapist came up with the same conclusion. In fact, the second therapist found that the grip of my right hand (the side affected by my stroke) was stronger than the grip of my left! He went on to theorize about my right side feeling worst. What is really happening is that the mind and body are trying to find ways to communicate again. Due to the stroke, the neural pathways were disrupted. The body is now starting the mending process, finding ways for the damaged nerves to reconnect. The therapist estimates that the return to wholeness will take a couple of years. So what I have been  experiencing as a worsening condition is only the first step in my complete recovery. This insight, of course, is music to my ears, making me more determined than ever.

      Everyone is on their own journey. We cannot take someone else’s journey for them nor can they take ours. This includes our medical doctors and other health care providers.They can and often do decide things for us on our journey but it’s still our journey and we have the final say. Besides, no one can possibly care for my health more than I do and I need therefore to take full charge of my life, making sure every decision is in my best interest and aligns with my own inherent sense of things. Almost inadvertently I have around me now a medical team to advise me including my primary health care provider who is a competent PA, and my cardiologist with the Skagit Regional  Clinics. To these two I’ve added a naturopathic doctor who trained at Bastyr and whose views are more in keeping with my own. At the naturopath’s urging I am planning to renew regular acupuncture sessions to speed along my neural and circulatory recovery. Meanwhile, I plan to continue trying every day, every hour, to reflect the motto I created for myself a few years ago: “Live to love and love to live.”

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