I've entered a new phase of life, and it is terrifying. I am among the lucky to make it to this point, and I am grateful for all that has gotten me here. But I am at that point where I have realized I am most definitely in the second half of life, and what lays ahead of me is decidedly shorter than what is behind. This frightens me. It also is awakening in me a sense of urgency, a nudge to stop and consider how I am spending my time, how I want to spend my time, who I want to stay around with me.
This is all very morbid for a sunny Sunday afternoon, and perhaps more fitting to the dark of night when around midnight last night I finally realized that if I don't take ownership of my health from here on out, it will impact my ability to interact with the world around me in a deep and meaningful way.
So how did I get to this place of despair? Over the last year I have been developing edema. My blood pressure has been going up every time it's measured, and this year my ankles swelled to the size of my calves. Edema is when your body starts retaining fluid. Everything swells, and if you aren't walking like 5 miles a day, by the end of the day it all settles into your feet and legs. It's associated with a couple of things (like blood pressure), and I'll be discovering the underlying causes of mine in the near future (that is another story).
Unable to make the necessary life changes to correct this (like consistently walking those 5 miles) have landed me on Dyazide. This is a super-powered diuretic that forces all that excess water out. When I started taking it, I dropped a size in two days (two very intense days that kept me close to home). Overnight, I could fit onto all of my clothes, my joints were able to move freely, and I started to feel all around like a human being in a way I haven't for years.
Dyazide tries to regulate and lower your sodium and how much gets into the kidneys. This is what they give people who can't manage to stop eating processed foods and cured meat. And none of the information I got from my doctor or found on the internet prepared me for what would happen if I continued to eat those things while taking Dyazide.
If anyone remembers Alli, this is the pill that blocks fat absorption so you can continue to eat cheese and bacon and butter and still lose weight. But the truth was if you ate too much fat, the side effects were explosive.
The same seems to be true for me and sodium and Dyazide. The euphoria of the first week was replaced by malaise the second week and a wretched stomach the third. Then came yesterday - a fairly standard breakfast at Bob Evans (a Denver Omelet and hash browns - I really haven't been making the effort) that roughed me up pretty bad, and then a luau party, complete with pig roast. By 9:00 I was tired, by 10:00 I was exhausted, which contnued to devolve into dizziness, headache, and the inevitable rejection by my stomach, and then basically all the known side effects of this medication.
It was scary. I didn't drink, having given that up long ago. I did eat, though - Hawaiian meatballs, authentic musubi, fried rice, ambrosia salad, and plenty of the aforementioned pig. That's a lot of sodium, and the Dyazide continued to try to keep it in check. But it was just too much. We left, and on the way home, with the party fading in the distance, I faced this thing.
Today's breakfast was a home made unsalted omelet with fresh herbs and a dusting of grated cheese with some also unsalted boiled potato. I am much better. Life will be different from now on, and it probably should have happened a long time ago. I'm giving up the cured meats and chips (good-bye Utz cheese balls) and many of the aged cheeses. I'm returning to citrus fruits and leaf greens and lean meats. I'm reading labels differently now, and adding a sodium check to my current carb-to-protein ratio.
I can do this. I gave up cigarettes and booze and a whole host of other things when their actual negative impact became unavoidable. I still have a few decades left, and I want them to be vibrant and productive for as long as possible. My grandmother was a great lover of life, and I felt her pour out every bit of joy she could into our time together, even into her 90's. May I live to be so happy.