Older, Friends, Wiser and Survivor

El Gringo Viking

WOW – a year can bring immense joy, sadness, and unwanted adventures.  Had you asked me last year when I turned 46 what the coming year would bring, I would probably have answered “more of the same, family and work”.

I had not anticipated being smacked in the face with my own mortality and certainly did not expect to be able to see my toes again.  The latter might sound rather ridiculous, but I love food and love living, and for me, I was simply enjoying life while eating and celebrating it.  Body size was not a huge concern and I would just opt for a bigger size shirt.

My wife an I love each immensely, and it doesn’t bother us too much that we might have grown outwards over the years, but it is simply the effect of love.  Some might even claim it is the ‘Shallow Hall’ syndrome, and that might well be the case 🙂

Nevertheless, when I was hit in October with heart failure, and the following weeks after the incident, I honestly did not expect to live past 2018, let alone celebrate another birthday.

I was scared, sad, weak and emotionally fragile.  I’m sure the prospect of having to depart this World too early is never a desired outcome, and I was giving the afterlife a lot of thought.  It is in those moments that you seek powers from higher authority, praying for healing and strength.

For me, it was not an option to give up although the thought was there constantly.  If I wanted to live long I had to change, so I did!

You also learn, when going through this life-altering and challenging moments, who your friends really are.  They are the ones that stand by you, and the ones fading away were never meant to be your friends in the first place.  So, I learned I have different levels of friends … we all do … and you then know who you can lean on.

Friends are an important aspect of the healing process!

I was very disappointed that some friends did not support me and my family more, given the time I think I’ve spent making these relationships.  No calls.  No emails.  No unsolicited visit. No postcard.  They only interacted when I reached out to say ‘hi’.

New friends emerged that I didn’t expect, and they gave me renewed strength and hope, and despite not seeing these friends daily or weekly, I know that I can count on them for support.  I also know that I will help them if asked or if I sense they need help.

I fully appreciate that people have their own lives and they might not be aware of the severity of my illness at the time, but I would’ve expected some random calls to check in as the rumor mill starting to spread that I was ill.

Going forward, I guess I have learned the hard way that some friendship bonds are stronger than others.  My late dad did share the same experience when he fell ill, and people he thought were his friends started to disappear.

It is as if they are afraid of coming face-to-face with weakness and do not know how to interact with a sick person.  I get it, but all I can say is, reach out to help a person will generate positive energy and help the person recover.

Friendship is soul medicine.

I have also learned that my heart rhythm matters.  Before I would have ignored my body’s signals of pain or discomfort, and simply brushed it off as being the man-flu. I was (and am) too you to have serious medical issues, I thought.  Honestly, I can’t even remember when I had my last health check and would only seek medical attention if I knew I had strep throat.

Work stress and poor diet apparently also impacts your health, which I cared less about.

Now, after my scare, I’m actively monitoring my heart rhythm and my food intake.  Yes, I hate not being able to eat what I want when I want, but I also want to live longer.

Healthy food is soul medicine.

The moral of the story, be prepared for anything.  Not in a doomsday prepper sense, but start taking active steps towards a healthier life.  And no, you do not need to be a vegan, fitness freak or some other radical freak.  You simply need to make some healthy choices to look after your body.

Here are some changes I’ve made, with little or no effort.  These steps have helped me tremendously and I would urge you to consider your changes.

  • look at what you consume
  • reduce your portion sizes
  • avoid too much salt (2ooo mg max)
  • get your daily walking exercises (7000+ steps daily)
  • it’s just a job
  • take breaks and relax
  • find some soothing music

This web site was created to start sharing my experiences, and I’ve been posting a lot of stories.  Not sure who and how many people read them, but hopefully I can help someone out there with similar experiences.  It does not have to be heart-related.

Any illness scare can and will require some changes, and will require support.

Here’s to another year, and many more!  47 is the new 21!

And thank you to all the friends and family who made it a special year!

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