Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why and Why Not

One of life’s great mysteries is why some people get diseases and others don’t. There is certainly a correlation between a healthy lifestyle and health. Bad health behavior leads to bad health … often … but not always. One of my Dad’s brothers was a life-long smoker and died at age 75 from complications related to that. The grandfather of a hospital employee I talked with today was a lifelong smoker who lived to age 93 and died from natural causes that had nothing to do with smoking. Why and why not?

My Dad was healthy. He didn’t smoke, rarely drank alcohol, ate healthy, balanced meals, and was active till his early 70s. But he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 69 and that medical condition robbed him of mobility, dignity and eventually his life. He lived with it for fifteen years, if you can call that living. Nothing he did in his life led to that outcome. Why did he get that disease?

I live a healthy life. I don’t smoke; I do drink wine, averaging one glass a night … not a health risk. In fact, there is evidence that drinking that amount of wine improves health. I eat a balanced diet of mostly healthy food and have done so for most of my life since my late 20s. I ate too much red meat and fried foods in my early twenties but very healthy meals growing up, thanks to my Mother’s obsessiveness relating to balanced meals.

So here I am over age 50 entering my fifth week of undiagnosed medical issues. The symptoms have stabilized in the past two weeks but the “norm” now is fairly constant pain, sometimes in the background and sometimes annoyingly present. Walking is a struggle after I’ve been sitting for any length of time and is at least a small challenge at all times. Each possible diagnosis from five doctors and my retired doctor cousin have led me to research their suggested possibilities, with the same results in every case: I exhibit a few of the symptoms, but only a few.

Why?

Anyone who knows me well knows I am a relentless problem-solver. Most of the doctors I’ve seen so far are also obvious problem-solvers, yet the problem isn’t solved yet. Next week I do start a series of treatments that should attack the symptoms, but that might still not lead to a diagnosis of the causes. Nothing has been completely ruled out, but fortunately cancer is now very low on the list of possibilities.

I am a big believer in cause-and effect and in the concept that behavior usually leads to both the problems and the solutions in life. Maybe it’s a flawed belief. I haven’t done anything that would produce this medical result. Sadly, nothing I’ve done has solved the problem yet either. I can tolerate a lot of pain but that is clearly not my first choice in dealing with this. I want to know the reasons and my options for fixing this. I have a lot of life left to live.

I also believe in the power of a positive attitude and it seems my positivity is wavering a little. I am confident in the outcome of all of this but I’d be kidding you and me if I said this crap isn’t bothering me. My problem-solving strategy usually involves a form of ‘divide and conquer’ – meaning I break down big problems into smaller manageable pieces and deal with them one at a time. So my typical advice to someone else in my position would be to attack things one piece at a time. I’m trying to take my own advice. It’s a bigger challenge than I anticipated. And I still keep coming back to the root question: why is this happening?

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