#oldguyslifttoo – Consarn It!

Those of you who follow me on other social media (yeah, both of you) may have noticed that I usually tag any remotely fitness related post first with #oldguyslifttoo. Though it clearly hasn’t caught on I’m trying to make a point with that hashtag.

It doesn’t take much observation to realize that in our culture and society fitness and athletic activities are the province of the young. In mo and t pro sports you’re finished before 40. A quick look through Instagram and you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands, of posts, pictures, selfies, swolfies, and not so random flexing poses of young men (and a few women) in front of bathroom mirrors. Each who seems fully dedicated to their particular workout, diet and intent on spreading their knowledge and enthusiasm to the world. Or at least get a date. Maybe both, I’m not sure, and I’m not criticizing this in the least. If it motivates anyone towards physical fitness I’m for it. Heck, if I had the abs and biceps of some of these guys I’d be right there in front of my mirror with my phone snapping a picture too.

But, you don’t see so much from older people. Go to a gym, again filled with folks under 40. Now I’m sure that there are a lot of reasons for this. The usual being other priorities. Career, family, etc. But, these reasons don’t explain all the middle-age men and women out there who have just stopped moving. The kids are out of the house, but instead of using the time gained from no longer running mom’s transit service they have doubled down on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and the like. Then complain that they hurt all the time or don’t have energy.

It’s time to change this folks. The benefits of daily exercise are well documented. Both men and women at any age can increase strength and improve quality of life with a moderate program of walking and weightlifting. Barring an underlying medical condition (and hey, I’m pooping into a plastic bag as I type this so I know about underlying conditions) you can stall father time. You may never have 20 inch arms or buns of steel again but you can keep your bones strong and muscles firm well into old age.

Which, for all you teens out there, doesn’t start at 30.

So, I’m proud to be an old guy who lifts, too. I hope you’ll join me.

And whoknows, maybe senior citizen swolfies will catch on too!

Onward!

Dave

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Why We Lift: The Psychology of Working Out

So as some of you may know, if you read my other blogs such as Talking to Strangers, that for some time now I’ve been working on breaking through my introverted nature and have tried to talk to someone new each day. Usually a simple smile and a quick hello, but many times actual conversations. Over the years I’ve met a lot of interesting people this way and discussed many things. Because of my interest in fitness more than a fair share of these conversations involved working out, nutrition, and the like. I’ve talked about working out with several people who are experts in their chosen sport and/or activity: triathletes, marathon runners, bodybuilders, surfers, Division I football players (okay, one),  Division I softball players (helps when your niece is one), casual lifters,

adventure athlete athletic daylight
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mountain climbers, rock climbers, and a rugby player (who, by the way, was nothing like the stereotypical Rugby guy. He was friendly, personable – and I later learned through social media has a great sense of humor – and was not only well muscled but well proportioned. More like a physique model or competitor, not the burly “Bluto” type usually associated with the sport). Most of these people, started exercising because they participated in a sport in high school or wanted to prove something to themselves – the latter being especially true of the marathoners and triathletes.

But, there is a subset who work out – and by working out I mean lift weights – for a wide variety of reasons. Because of my own interest in weight lifting I want to focus on these men. Why the men? Well, one reason is that despite my reaction when seeing a mouse scurry across the room I am a man. The second is that from my experience very few women lift weights. Which is a shame because the benefits of lifting weights is well

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documented for both men and women. As high school or college athletes, many women have lifted, but for some reason later in life they stop (as do most men I suppose). Some are afraid of looking like Schwarzenegger I suppose, which isn’t going to happen without chemical assistance and even if it does wide shoulders are making a comeback in women’s wear. Or, just as likely, their focus shifts to losing weight and running becomes the activity of choice.

So, why do guys start lifting and/or keep lifting long after their high school football days? My conversations reveal many reasons:

  1. He started lifting for a sport and discovered that he liked it more than the sport he was originally training for.
  2. He wanted to gain weight to avoid being bullied and/or intimidated by other guys.
  3. He wanted to be bigger and stronger than his older brother (a surprising number of men fall into this group).
  4. He started lifting with his older brother, father or another male member of the family and got hooked on both the weightlifting and camaraderie.
  5. His younger brother started lifting and he didn’t want him to get bigger and stronger than he was.
  6. He wanted to just better when he took his shirt off and have a reason to flex.
  7. He saw a muscular man as a kid and was impressed enough to want to look like that when he grew up (either in person or in a comic book or on television, etc.)
  8. He was a big kid and found that he liked getting bigger and staying stronger than his peers.

You’ll notice that among all the above reasons the classic, “to get the girl” doesn’t make the list. I don’t think I’ve talked to anyone who started lifting to attract girls! Impress other guys, you bet, but not women. It seems to me that to most men that attracting the attention of the ladies is a side benefit of looking better – if that’s his goal to start with.

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Personally, I fall mostly into group 7, fell a bit into number 4 when my dad bought a weight set, and now just have gotten hooked on being stronger, bigger, and the “pump.” Obviously, though I’ve had superficial desire and have gotten stronger over the years (until my surgery this summer) I haven’t had the discipline to achieve the look of a bodybuilder. Darn diet and flat bicep peak!

By the way, and if you spend anytime on social media I think you’ll agree with me on this, there seems to be a whole new group who workout just to show off to strangers (a subset of group 6). Guys who don’t participate in sports but can’t wait to flex in front of a camera to try and gain followers on Instagram. Many seem to fancy themselves models, some are just trying to build their personal training business, but others just seem to like it when people like their photos and follow them. I’m guilty of following quite a few of these guys myself because of my habit of following back anyone who follows me. In fact, one of my favorite activities on Instagram is to use new hashtags just to see who starts to

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follow me. Use hashtags like #bodybuilding #weightlifting #exercise and you’ll get a dozen new likes and several more followers. Some are trying to sell their personal training packages, but most just seem to want followers. I know that some are hoping to get rich by monetizing their Instagram account and have discovered that flexing their biceps gets them followers and likes, but I can’t believe it’s true of every guy whose posed in front of his bathroom mirror.

To be fair, I might be a little harsh – if not hypocritical – on my description of this group. After all, there’s a certain amount of vanity and narcissism in participating on social media to begin with isn’t there? I mean does anyone really care what we had for dinner or how often we workout? But I think I’m right even if it’s a fine line between the guy who is genuinely tracking his progress and motivating himself and others versus the guy trolling for “likes” and fans. The former usually has before pictures and candid shots doing other things. The latter is never seen without the proper lighting and would never admit that he was once the proverbial 98 pound weakling (maybe he never was?). But, as so often I do, I digress.

Anyway, these are my observations. Am I right about these categories or way off base? Why do you workout? I’d love to hear from folks (at least those of you who read through the whole thing).

Onward!

 

Crohn’s Update: Accidents

Warning: this blog entry contains very frank content regarding bodily waste. It may not be appropriate for all audiences. Plus, you may learn more about me than you really want to know. But, if you’ve been reading my blog we both know that ship sailed a long time ago. 

I mentioned in an earlier blog (Crohn’s Update: Life as an Ostomate – What I’ve Learned So Far) that “accidents” will happen. Yesterday was for me the perfect storm of accidents and I thought I’d share to illustrate my point.

You should understand that I had last changed my appliance on Saturday morning. I should change it every 3 to 4 days in the perfect world, so I had planned to change it in the evening before retiring for the night as by my count that would have been 4 full days.  It’s also best to change the appliance (aka “the bag) when the stoma is less active. Which is usually in the morning or two or three hours after I last ate. In general though, I was feeling a little cocky as this had been the longest I had gone without incident in the past 4 weeks. I thought that I had gotten the hang of it and there would be nothing but smooth sailing from here on out. Riiiight.

I got through most of the workday without a problem. Then about an hour after lunch – when I knew my stoma would be active again (by the way, some people name their stomas – and possibly other body parts but that’s none of my business – I haven’t. My fingers don’t have names nor my toes, why should the stoma be any different?). I felt the  the bag fill up. I went to the restroom – conveniently located across the hallway from my office – to empty it and discovered that I had a small leak from the left side of the ring. The good news was that the dressing from my wound had absorbed most of it so my clothing was still dry including my underwear. I didn’t bring my emergency kit (extra bag, seals, etc) into the restroom so I cleaned up and went back to the office, shut the door, took out an extra seal from my kit and patched the leak. Problem solved!  I could make it through the rest of the day – darn, I’m good.  But, I determined to change the bag as soon as I got home.

I went the rest of the workday without a problem, as expected – yay, me again – and on the way home I remembered that I needed to stop at Costco to get my new membership card (I had signed up last week during a promotion at work). My patch was holding so I exited the expressway and went to the store.

Got my card with no problem, except the wait – not sure what the issue was but there were about five associates and one supervisor crowded around a cash register trying to help one customer while the line grew longer. Not Costco’s best “customer service” moment, but having spent time in retail I understood and waited patiently. Unlike the woman in front of me who left and the man behind me tapping his toe. But, I digress. I felt that my bag was getting a little full so after I got my card I went to the restroom to empty it before I looked around the store. I noticed the $1.50 hot dog combo and thought that I might have found my dinner.

In the restroom, much like anyone else would do, I sat down to do my business. For those who haven’t dealt with an appliance before, I found that it’s easier to empty from the sitting position. When standing it splashes too much and there’s a greater chance of mishap – or so I thought. This does involve dropping “trou” as they say and I’m sure most of you are familiar where the clothing ends up in front of you and the bowl. I removed the velcro fastners which keep the opening of the bag closed and flipped the opening towards the bowl. Instead, I release too soon and miss completely! The the contents, mostly liquid, spill onto the floor, into my pants and my underwear. PANIC ensues!

I wad as much of the flimsy toilet paper as I can and blot up the mess from the floor, my pants and underwear. I got the floor pretty clean, for a public restroom at least and I was confident the next person wouldn’t notice the spill or end up with any residue on their clothing. My pants and underwear, not so much. I felt that I had no choice at this point. I wasn’t about to go to the sink half naked to rinse off the remaining waste and I couldn’t sit there all day waiting for my clothes to dry. So, I pulled up my clothing, fortunately the contents all spilled inside and I didn’t see any obvious stains on the exterior of my clothes, winced at the wetness, untucked my shirt to cover as much of my pants as possible, and exited the stall. I washed my hands while checking myself in the mirror to see if I had covered up any spots that might start to show. On the way out I grabbed a handful of napkins from the snack counter (hey, I’m a member now) and passed up the quarter pound hot dog with drink for $1.50 (sigh) and headed straight to my car. “Have a nice day!” the cheerful attendant (guard?) at the door called after me.  Too late ma’am, too late.

At my car I put down the napkins on my seat to hopefully absorb any liquid that might soak through and drove home sitting in my own filfth (if you have a better way to describe it, feel free). Lovely…

Once at home I was pleased to find that the napkins I was sitting on were still dry and that the stain guard of my new pants, pleated to better hide the appliance, must work both ways as they seemed to contain the remaining moisture pretty well. Changed my clothes and checked my appliance. My patch from earlier in the day was still holding so I thought I might as well go visit my mother and like a good son take some laundry with me (I didn’t want the stain to set into the afore-mentioned new pants). For those who don’t know, unlike many adults living on their own I don’t own a washer and dryer. Hey, I have to have some social life right? And what’s more fun than a trip to the laundromat on a Saturday night? But I digress.

My mother was gracious enough to allow me the use of her washer and dryer while I helped her with the crossword and we watched a little television together (Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, and NCIS for those interested). When NCIS was over I folded my clothes, noticed that my bag was once again filling up so I emptied it, and then headed home to change the appliance. Life was good and everything seemed fine.

I got home, took my laundry in and started to put it away when I felt a wetness in my pants. A wetness that started to flow down my leg – down both legs! Dagnabit, I exclaimed, I sprung another leak. I once again “dropped trou” only to discover that I had not sprung a leak. I had neglected to re-attach the velcro straps after the last time I emptied the bag. My now active stoma was dumping itself straight through the bag and down my leg. At this point I did what any self-respecting ostomate would do in this situation. I uttered a few more well chosen exclamations (shoot, crud, and golly-gee if I recall correctly) and cried.

In that moment I just wanted to be normal again, I was tired of having this thing attached to me (after only 6 weeks), I hated that I was having more problems and accidents in one day than I think I ever had in 30 years of suffering with Crohn’s. I felt like a freak who couldn’t take care of himself and I just wanted it to go away.

Then, like a big boy, I stood up. Realized that the pity party wasn’t going to do any good. Also realized that two of the three incidents I just had were my own fault for being careless. Took myself and my jeans to the shower and cleaned up. I also thought of that saying, “people say to me ‘I don’t know how you do it’ and I reply, ‘I wasn’t given a choice.'”

Then I changed my bag, watched some reruns on television (American Dad followed by Hogan’s Heroes) and went to bed, warm and dry.

As Miss O’Hara would say – tomorrow is another day.

Onward!

 

Crohn’s Update: Good News and Frustrations of a New Ostomate

As I sit here eating my lunch – because my appetite is still quite strong – I was thinking about a few things regarding my surgery and recovery. Thought I’d take a few minutes to share them because, why not?

Healing: the healing process is frustrating slow. Not regarding the stoma, that seems fine, but the darn incision. Most of the incision is healed and scarred (lovely) but a couple spots just don’t seem to want to close and keep oozing. Not blood, but exactly what you think of when you hear or read the word “ooze.” So, I’m changing dressing twice a day to keep up with the flow and trying not to get too grossed out when I do. Yesterday at the doctor’s office he essentially cauterized a couple areas of what he called “granulation.” When talking about skin healing, granulation is the process where new tissue is created to fill in the gaps of the wound. It starts from the base up, so for a deep wound it takes some time. However, in my case, I had a couple areas that overgrew and formed small lumps on the scar. These may have been infected so the cure was to remove them chemically and one by “snipping” it off. The Good News: If all goes well, my oozing should stop in about a week or at least dramatically slow. I’m looking forward to not changing dressing.

Output: I can’t seem to get the hang of regulating the output of my stoma. Everytime I think things are settling down – so I don’t have to empty out every hour – I backslide. I’ve discovered that lemonade is a problem so I have to avoid that. I’m taking imodium like it’s candy (up to four pills, four times a day), and have eaten enough toast, applesauce, bananas, and rice krispies to bind up an elephant! But, I’m spending more time in the bathroom now than before the surgery. The Good News: The doctor thinks I’m making progress and have the tools I need to get there. I’m not de-hydrated and my weight is stable. He thinks I look “great” so there’s that. Of course, he’s only seen me two times now (part of the post-surgery clinic).

Breakage and Leakage: not fun anytime, especially in the middle of the night or when out and about trying to do normal activities. The Good News: I seem to have re-gained the hang of when to change my appliance. No accidents for more than a week now (knock wood).

Enough venting. According to the doctor I’m free of all lifting and exercise restrictions. I plan to start working out – slowly – this week and get back to tap dancing again next week.

And, then there’s my trip to Florida in about two weeks…

Onward!

 

 

Crohn’s Update: Life as an Ostomate – What I’ve Learned So Far

Well, it’s been a little over a month since I became what is known as an “Ostomate.” This is a person who’s insides have been altered to create a new opening for his or her intestine to empty through (aka a stoma).

Hopefully, to assist the few other new ostomates who may stumble across this blog here are a few things I’ve learned so far. Some the doctors, nurses and dietitians warned me about. Most, they did not:

  1. No matter how careful you are, no matter how often you empty your appliance, you will have accidents. It might be a leak or a blowout – but it will happen.
  2. Some of these will occur at an inopportune time like work (once), before a social function (once), or in bed (three times so far).
  3. Invest in a mattress cover. Don’t skimp on this. I got one that’s breathable and noiseless. Sheets can be cleaned. Mattresses, not so much.
  4. Have emergency kits on hand in your car and at work (a pre-cut appliance, powder, solvent, whatever you need to make a change). I also have spare underwear hidden in my office.
  5. Follow the doctors’ and nurses’ orders. I know, this should be a no-brainer, but it’s worth repeating.
  6. Be patient. It takes a while to adjust to life with your new friend.
  7. Try a pouch support of some kind. I have a band that I slip into with a built in pouch. Check on line there are several styles out there.
  8. Guys, suspenders are better than belts.
  9. Chew, chew, chew. The stomach is an amazing organ and very efficient at breaking down what you eat. But it can’t do it alone. Avoid “chunks” and chew carefully. Trust me on this.
  10. Share your story with friends and family. My first instinct was to not let people know what I was going through. But, there are more of us than anyone realizes. It doesn’t help to keep it a secret.
  11. Red dye is forever. Before you panic because you think your bag is filling with blood, take a deep breath and think, “what did I eat?” One popsicle or glass of Hawaiian Punch can put a very quick scare into you.
  12. Having stated the above (#9), remember it’s okay to be discreet. I don’t tell everyone I meet that there something different about me.
  13. You are going to learn a lot about how your food is digested. This can be interesting and disturbing at the same time. For example: fish smells like fish going in and coming out.
  14. Try to focus on the positive of your situation. Is your pain from Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, or whatever issue gone? Hemorrhoids cleared up? And I bet you don’t miss having to strain to relieve yourself anymore.
  15. Don’t focus on what’s changed in your life, focus on what’s the same. Get back to your normal routine as quickly as you can and your energy allows. Remember, your life didn’t change – only your plumbing did! 

Don’t get me wrong, I have my moments of despair and depression, too. I have times when I hate that this thing was done to me and that now I’m not “normal.” But, I then focus on why it was done – literally to save my life – and that perhaps I was spared by God for a greater purpose. I just need to figure out what that is.

You know, like everyone should.

Onward!

P.S. – you’ll also get really good at estimating how many milliliters of liquid there are in any container. You know why…

 

Crohn’s Update: It Finally Happened – Surgery!

“Mr. Wahr, Mr. Wahr? Do you know what’s happening?” the young med student who just woke me at 4:00 A.M. asked me.

“I think so,” I replied. I had come in to the University of Michigan Hospital less than 24 hours earlier with abdominal pains that didn’t feel like a normal Crohn’s attack. Something was off so after much hemming and hawing I finally decided that given my heart history I really couldn’t take the chance that something was really wrong. Especially since the pains had started the day before and weren’t lessening as was the usual pattern with my Crohn’s, “but why don’t you tell me.”

She looked at me with sympathetic eyes and said, “you’re going in for emergency surgery. A surgeon will be in shortly to explain.”  Surgery? I had certainly anticipated this. In the Emergency Department they had determined that I had what they called a “micro fissure” of the fistula in my ileum. But, at least at that time, they didn’t think I needed surgery within 12 hours. So I had been moved to a room for observation.

Almost as soon as she finished her sentence a young man appeared at my bedside – why are all doctors so young now? –  in a polite, but firm tone he said, “Mr. Wahr, I’m sorry but you need to sign some forms to authorize surgery. Here, here, and here.”

“Surgery?” I asked.

“Yes, we can’t get your fever under control. Our only choice is to go in and remove the cause of the infection. Otherwise your prognosis…we’ll it isn’t good,” he said in a quiet, somber tone. I understood what he was telling me and started signing the forms.

“I need to tell you of all the possibilities of having this surgery,” and he listed off the usual complications and issues and then added, “and you may end up with a stoma.” By this time another surgeon had joined the growing group at my bedside. She seemed to be in charge.

“May end up with a stoma?” I asked, “how likely is that?” The new surgeon answered, ” well, we never go in planning to create a stoma, but until we go in I can’t say for sure. They’s be coming to move you to surgery in a few minutes.”

The doctors disappeared and my nurse appeared to start prepping me for moving to pre-op. As she moved my IV bags the transport team came in. “We’re going to take you down to surgery now,” the nurse said. I grabbed my phone and sent a quick text to my brother. If something happened during surgery, I wanted someone in my family to know what happened while they slept.

In pre-op I was greeted by even more medical staff. One of the anesthesiologists started to ask me a slew of questions, a woman who identified herself as a nurse held my hand and spoke to me in a comforting manner, then I heard doors open, multiple footsteps and could feel the group around me stiffen a little.

“Mr. Wahr, I’m the faculty surgeon overseeing your operation. Here’s what’s happening. The fissure you have is worse than we thought. The contents of your bowels are emptying into your abdominal cavity, causing infection. If we don’t go in and stop this, we won’t be able to bring the infection under control. The outcome will not be positive. Do you understand?” I nodded that I did. “We’ll remove the damaged areas of your intestine and when you wake up you will have a stoma. Do you know what this is?”

“Yes,” I replied, “but it sounds better than the alternative.”

“It is,” the surgeon replied. “You’ll be going into surgery now.” And with that they began to wheel me to the operating room. I noticed the time on a clock. It was not even 5:00 A.M. They were not wasting any time which told me all I needed to know about the seriousness of my situation.

A quick trip down the hall, during which I mostly observed the ceiling, and we were in the operating room. A white, sterile looking space filled with equipment and a woman sitting in the corner covered with a blanket around her shoulders. Part of the anesthesiology team perhaps? I’ll never know. A quick transfer from my bed to the “table” and the voice of the anesthesiologists who spoke to me earlier. “Are we ready? Okay, here we go.” A mask was put on my face and just as I was wondering if this was it and would I ever wake up, everything went black.

Next thing I knew, I heard a disembodied voice asking me questions, “Mr. Wahr, can you tell me where you are?”

“U of M Hospital, I’m having surgery.”

“Very good, everything went well. You’re going to a room now.”

I continued to drift in and out of consciousness for an unknown amount of time. It was about 10:00 A.M. when I finally seemed to actually wake up. I said a silent prayer thanking God for letting me wake up and yet another doctor came into my room. This, I would later learn, was the “attending” doctor for the intensive care unit I was in.

“Mr. Wahr? How are you doing?” he asked.

“I guess fine. Considering.”

“Yes, I understand. The good news is that the surgery went well. You do have a stoma, but the infection and fever are gone and you should make a full recovery. You were lucky,” he paused to consider his words carefully, “this was the kind of thing that people die from.”

“So I hear.”

He went on to tell me a little more about the surgery and that the surgeon would be in later to check on me (as he did each day I was at the hospital). He then left me with the nurse so I could settle in.

Thus begins my newest adventure with Crohn’s. In a way I always suspected that this day was in my future – yet it was still a surprise when it happened. Many Crohn’s patients end up in surgery and with stomas. I’ve managed to avoid it for more than 30 years so in that sense I’ve been fortunate. And there is the possibility that in 6 months or so, presuming that the Crohn’s is under control, that I could be “hooked back up” so that my colon can be useful again. So, all in all, I’m handling the situation pretty well.

My current concerns while I recuperate and adjust to life with an appliance attached to my side (which does get changed every three to four days): 1) dehydration – most of the water for the body is absorbed by the colon. It will take time for my small intestine to realize it needs to pick up the slack; 2) weight loss – even though my appetite is good, food is still passing through my intestine too quickly. As a result, I’ve been slowly losing weight (almost a pound a day). Something a lot of folks dream of, but be careful what you wish for. When I was first diagnosed with Crohn’s I dropped down to about 140 pounds from my then previous weight of 180 pounds before being stabilized. I sure don’t want to be that thin again. Plus, all the weight seems to be disappearing from my chest and shoulders and thighs. Not my belly where I really don’t need it. Muscle loss is certain at this point. There goes the last 30 years of training down the drain; 3) infection, which I’ve avoided so far, always a risk after surgery but especially for someone with a weakened immune system; 4) controlling the Crohn’s. My past medical regimen didn’t prevent the fissure which is an indication that the treatments weren’t working. The interesting thing now is that my Crohn’s has historically been localized to the ileum. Now that my ileum, about a meter’s worth of small intestine, is gone the question is will my Crohn’s flare up somewhere else?

That’s it in a nutshell. I’m managing to deal with the appliance pretty well so far with only a couple mishaps (one in the doctor’s office) and I’m looking forward to returning to work soon.

Of course, I’ll keep blogging about my experience in the hopes of helping someone else with the same or similar situation. There’s always hope folks and we are all in this together.

On a side note, I had an interesting experience that was repeated with three nurses as they prepared to give me an injection in the back of my arm. It went something like this:

“Left or right arm?” the nurse asks.

“Doesn’t matter. Left.” I reply.

“Okay,” takes my arm to prepare the injection site. Stops and says, “oh, I’m not sure what this is. Is there a tumor in your arm? Or is that your tricep?”

“I hope it’s my tricep.”

“Yes, I guess it is. Not used to seeing a tricep like this. Very impressive.”

Now, I can’t be sure if the comment – from three different nurses – means I have an oddly shaped tricep or if they just don’t expect a relatively well developed tricep on a…ahem…mature man (though I think it’s looking pretty puny right now). I’ll go with the latter as it makes me feel better about myself. You have to look for the positive in every situation after all.

Onward!

Not a Tumor

 

Fitness Quest: Spring and Summer 2018

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted (April) so there’s a lot to catch up on. Mostly good…

Crohn’s: we, my gastroenterologist and I, have decided to change my medication and I’m no longer on Humira and have switched to Entyvio (vendolizumab). She, my gastroenterologist, strongly suspected that the Humira wasn’t keeping me as well controlled as I thought and after consultation with my cardiologist – who now gets consulted by every doctor I have – recommended that I try something else. I’m all for anything that can better control my symptoms, of course, and so I now get infusions instead of taking a weekly injection. I’ve had some flares since starting the new treatment, including one that sent me to the emergency room while traveling out of town.

The issue wasn’t the Crohn’s directly, as the pain wasn’t that bad, but dehydration

ambulance architecture building business
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

brought on by the Crohn’s. I just wasn’t going to take a chance since we think that a Crohn’s attack brought on my heart attack and my symptoms (severe chills) were just too unusual for me. I was so cold, inside my hotel room under my blankets, that if I were outside camping I would have thought I had hypothermia.

Long story short, one ambulance ride and two IVs of fluid later, I was back at my hotel feeling a whole lot better.

I’ve had one or two other minor flares since starting the treatment, but I’m still within what they call the “ramp up” phase of the infusions so the drug hasn’t reached it’s full efficacy (full effectiveness) yet. My next infusion is August 9th so we should know by then.

In addition to the Entyvio, we are also being more aggressive in treating my anemia – presumably caused by the Crohn’s – and have started getting iron infusions as well. Interestingly enough, if these work I’ll only need two and the benefits will last months and possibly years! The first infusion was this week and so far no side effects so we know I didn’t get too much iron. The second is next week and it will then be a few weeks after that before we know if it works. If all goes well I’ll have more energy and actually be breathing easier as well. Which means, you guessed it, less strain on the heart (concern #1).

Cardiac Health: I finished my cardio rehab with flying colors. My exercise therapist said I was a star pupil and an example for others and sent me off with instructions to

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continue my work and a hope that he never sees me again – at least in rehab. If anyone out there has a heart issue and is offered the opportunity to take rehab DO IT! I left knowing my body better and more importantly my limits. I can judge when I might be pushing too hard and, just as importantly, when I’m not pushing hard enough.

Thanks to rehab I had the confidence to run in the Rose Run again this year.  This is the annual 5K to support breast cancer research held in Petersburg, Michigan in July and Burbank, California in October. If there are two more disparate communities to host the same event out there I couldn’t tell you where they are! Anyway, I didn’t beat my time from last year (sob), but I finished feeling good and, here’s the important part, without a cardiac event!

Massage:

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I got my first deep tissue massage. I’ve been having some intermittent muscle pains, especially in my chest, and my primary care physician suggested massages as a regular treatment. Well, while traveling on business I was a spa in Saratoga Springs, NY and some free time so I treated myself to a mineral bath and a deep tissue massage. Wow! I had no idea how tight I was until my masseuse started her work. I was never in pain, but came close. She also confirmed that I had a couple substantial “knots” in my chest that one massage wasn’t going to get rid of. So she gave me a couple stretches to do on my own and suggested fascial stretch therapy. I’ve been looking into this and will likely give it a try within the next couple weeks. I’ll blog more on this later.

 

Yoga: 

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I did start yoga, but have fallen off the wagon. I need to get back on it as this does help with stress, breathing, flexibility, and a lot of other benefits. I been using routines on youtube led by Adriene. Her videos were suggested by a friend and I find her teaching method to be easy to follow and a good introduction to yoga. Plus, you can do it from your home. I’m sure most would say that a video can’t replace a good in person instructor, but honestly, I’m not reading to show my downward dog in public yet – let alone a warrior three!

Nutrition: Um, yeah, about that. Did I mention that I was traveling a lot? I have a lot of “adjustments” to make.  Moving on…

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Overall Fitness: I’m still lifting weights a couple times a week. Not seeing much progress in this area and I haven’t been pushing. It’s time to make a few changes and a few gains. I can’t go heavy on lifts like the bench press anymore (see cardiac health) but as long as I don’t raise my blood pressure I can do pretty much everything I used to. Weight lifting was part of cardio rehab so I see no reason not to continue. Too many people don’t realize that strength training is especially important as we get older.

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I’ve read that the average man without training loses about 10 pounds of muscle each decade after the age of 30 (yes, 30). Regular resistance training (i.e. weights) can slow down and even reverse that loss. In fact, I would say in my case, I was actually at my strongest in my late forties. I may never bench 350 again but I can be stronger than I am now and less likely to fall and break something! I suggest you do the same.

Onward!

Mediterranean Diet

Fitness Quest: April 2018

Several positive items to report in my renewed quest for fitness since the discovery that I had a heart attack sometime in the past (likely, in my mind at least, in January of 2017).

Mental Health: first and foremost, my mood has improved considerably. Thanks to cardio rehab and the natural adaptation process that we all go through after experiencing major life events I’m happier than I’ve been in a while and am functioning again. At least in my opinion (my friends and co-workers may continue to disagree but that’s their problem). I am looking forward to the future for the most part again and not afraid that each day will be my last – even if it turns out to be.

Physical Health and Exercise: cardio rehab goes well and I’m making progress. I’m biking and walking like I should on days I don’t have rehab – even beating several other “steppers” in my weekly Fitbit step challenge – which I wasn’t doing for a long time. I get through my tap dancing each week without feeling like I’m going to pass out and I’m in general feeling more energetic.

More exciting is that my bodyfat percentage has been on a downward trend for about four weeks now even though my body weight has increased slightly. In bodybuilding this would be known as “making gains.” Not by huge amounts, after all I’m not a newbie or a teenager anymore, but a clear trend. It does mean that I’m not losing fat as is actual goal, but it means that I’m gaining more muscle than fat which isn’t bad either. Especially for someone who is in late middle-age (unless I live to be 130).

Last month I mentioned I was being tested for asthma and the good news is that my lungs are “normal” and have no obstructions. Something is still going on with my breathing though and my gastroenterologist has put me on iron thinking that my anemia could be contributing to the issue.

I do have sleep apnea, both obstructive and central, for which I’ll be getting a CPAP machine for this coming week (I hope). I have one more night of testing with various devices to see which will work best for me.

Crohn’s: speaking of gastroenterology, we’ve decided that my Humira may not be doing the best job for me. So we are switching things up and I’m going to Entyvio. The plus side of this is that I only get an infusion every 8 weeks (at home) instead of a weekly injection. I’ll be blogging more on this as treatments begin.

Nutrition: here’s the hard part. I’ve discovered something that I probably should have known all along. Sugar is bad for you. At least added sugar is. And like sodium, the stuff is everywhere. According to the American Heart Association men should restrict their added sugar levels to just 9 teaspoons a day (4 grams = 1 teaspoon) and women only 6 teaspoons. This means that if you have one 12 ounce can of pop a day, non-diet variety,  you’ve gone over your limit. Not to mention the mega servings most of us consume! I drink the diet stuff so that’s not a source of sugar for me, but my sweet tooth may literally be the death of me. Especially when you consider that sugar has inflammatory properties – which can aggravate my Crohn’s, which may have caused my heart attack in the first place!

Overall: I’m doing as well as can be expected and maybe a little better even. I thank God for each day I’m given and that I’m not worse off.

It’s an old saying but true: it could be worse. Oh well, it’s back to the grocery store I go!

Onward!

Mediterranean Diet

Sodium, Sodium Everywhere and Not a Bite to Eat

Question: which do you think has less sodium, a medium order of McDonald’s French Fries or a small salad?

Answer: It depends. Are you going to put dressing on that salad? If so, the fries win. In fact, the fries win even if you go up to large size and small fries can win if you are looking at overall fats, too!

Surprised? Don’t be. Since discovering that I had a heart attack sometime in the past, I’ve been working harder than ever to get my diet in line. I was already doing pretty good in keeping my fats low and started cooking for myself and am getting a little more “Mediterranean” in my eating and food choices each week (more fish, more veggies, less sugar). So, I thought it was time to take the next step and reduce my sodium intake.

Ha!

I now understand the trials and tribulations of people with high blood pressure. Sodium is in everything that is even slightly processed. Fast food, sit down restaurants, frozen food, soups, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables (but not always), baked goods, lunch meat, you name it and I bet it’s got more sodium than you would think.

Fat free means “added salt.” Pizzas should be called sodium pies. Surprisingly, things that taste salty, like potato chips, may have less sodium than a small can of spring peas.

According to the American Heart Association we should be eating no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, 1,500 if you have high blood pressure. But, the average American consumes more than 3,400 mg each day (more at the AHA website)! And I know from MyFitnessPal that I’m somewhere north of that figure on any given day. How much is 2,300 mg of sodium? About 1 teaspoon of salt per day.

Now in my case, I do not have high blood pressure and my heart attack does not appear to have been caused due to any dietary issues (arteries, with the exception of the one where the damage occurred are clear and “beautiful” according to my cardiologist). It’s likely, in fact, that the heart attack occurred due to my Crohn’s. And, I could choose to side with some of the research out there which suggests that if you don’t have high blood pressure sodium intake isn’t really an issue. However, with one big strike against me, I don’t think I should risk a second. So, I’m going to keep doing my best to get my diet in line and that means lowering my sodium intake.

Now should we talk about the amount of potassium in salt substitutes and the effect that has on someone taking ACE inhibitors?

The struggle continues.

Onward!

Fitness Quest: Total Eclipse by My Heart, Part 2

I cried.

While waiting for my brother-in-law to come pick me up and take me to the Emergency Room I just lost it. Why was this happening? Why couldn’t I cope with this? What have I done with my life? Is this really it? Is it over? Just a few of the many thoughts flying through my mind as I tried to digest the news I had gotten earlier in the week. My heart was damaged.

I had suffered a heart attack. I thought I was having another one now.

Now, interestingly enough, this wasn’t news to me. As I blogged earlier (Total Eclipse By My Heart) I knew that I had apparently suffered a heart attack some time in the past. The echo cardiogram had indicated reduced heart function. I had learned this more than a month earlier and seemed to be handling the news well. But, earlier in the week I had an appointment with a cardiologist. She recommended a heart catheterization to investigate further (for those who don’t know, this is a procedure where they actually insert a “tube” into your heart to find out what’s going on. I’ll spare the details, but there’s more info here). The test was less than a week away. But for some reason the news was really hitting home now.

As often happens with people in my situation, I became hyper aware of every little twitch, pulse, pang, twinge, tightness, tingle, etc. of my body and my chest in particular. And trust me, for a middle age man in his late fifties – there are a lot of them. Finally the feelings – some brought on by my medication – became too much and I thought my heart was failing. Add a feeling of impending doom (another warning sign of a heart attack by the way) and I just lost it. I called family who immediately rushed to respond (thank you) and then just blubbered like a baby. Something I hadn’t done since my father passed away four years ago. I miss my dad dearly, but I’m not anxious to see him again if you know what I mean.

Fast forward several hours to the University of Michigan Emergency room and I’m lying there talking with a wonderful head resident – who’s name I wish I had taken note of – and she’s advising me that there appears to be no immediate issue with my heart. In fact, if they didn’t know about my earlier diagnoses they would have thought I was in very good health, but that sounded like it has been a life changing event and maybe I needed to find someone to talk to about it.

She was right of course.

This news was, and still is, life changing. One week I’m hiking through the mountains of Colorado, hanging out with Olympians (more on that story here), feeling like a teenager who just discovered the gym, a little sore but full of energy, on most days, and enjoying a relatively active lifestyle. The next, I’m lying in an emergency room surrounded by people who are literally dying and thinking that I might be one of them.

One day I see myself as a strong, healthy “old man” who can bench more than most twenty somethings. The next day I see myself as a feeble old man who’s days are numbered and has one foot in the grave. I moved mentally from someone who was eager to tackle the next challenge and change the world to being someone afraid that there was no more to offer. No more opportunity, no more chances, it was time to sit down and wait for the end.

These emotions, thoughts and feelings are not unusual. According to the American Heart Association it takes anywhere from 2 to 6 months for a person who has experienced a “hard cardiac event” to come to grips with what has happened. My mood improves each day – occasional panic attacks aside. I’m sleeping through the nights now. But, I’m still “hyper aware” of each little pang and twinge.

And aware that my life has, and has to, change.

  • Diet – which I have always been trying to improve – is not literally a matter of life and death for me. And I still have trouble sticking to it! Do you know how much sodium is in like everything?
  • Roller coasters – a passion for me – are now something I probably should avoid (sadly, at first my cardiologist thought they’d be okay. But on re-thinking and researching a little more she decided that I probably shouldn’t open myself up to “potential exposure” of a different type of cardiac event).
  • Probably should find a travel buddy for long hikes in the woods. Which, to be fair, is always a good idea anyway.
  • No more heavy weight lifting. In or out of the gym.
  • And, I’m undergoing more tests. Do I really have asthma as one doctor once thought? I’m a heavy snorer (so I’ve been told), better check for sleep apnea. Maybe my Crohn’s treatment is part of the issue. Time to re-evaluate my medication.

But, I do have a new perspective on life. At some time or another we all must come face to face with our mortality. Once we do we have two choices: 1) give up and wait for the end or 2) embrace each day as a gift and work to make the world a better place than we found it. I’m choosing option 2.

Filters are off – or at least subdued – no more polite agreement on political and moral issues. I don’t need to be rude, but I’ll stand my ground more. I’ll smile more, I’ll say hello more, I’ll…well, you get the idea.

Stay tuned. My story isn’t over just quite yet.

Onward!

Wally-Bicep Still Got It