Two years on

Health Matters

Two years on

    I don't want to put the mockers on things but I think I'm doing pretty well. At least in relation to my two 'conditions'. I still struggle with some things, but those are personality-based and would take too much changing at my time of life!

   No, I'm doing OK with my diabetes and Peripheral Arterial Disease. The two problems are probably related and there is plenty of potential for things to go awry if I don't keep an eye on things, so I must be doing something right.

   Both diagnoses came as a bit of a nasty surprise and were followed by a period of uncertainty and angst (fear may be closer). But gradually I got a handle on things. Though neither complaint can be cured, they can be managed. Actually WE got a handle on things. My wife Jan has embraced her fragile partner and helped hugely with our diet. She's coupled a sensible regime with encouragement and no-nonsense advice, such as, 'don't eat that you fat git!'

     She's makes sure I eat properly by presenting me with a daily heap of compost and keeps me active by sending me out to work.

    It's strange the way the mind works, it's wandering as I write. I'm actually the same age my Dad was when he died (leukaemia) so I'm trying not to be superstitious. 58 he was.

    One of my dearest friends died recently. Cancer got him. A big man felled by a bastard of a disease. Despite being ill himself he was one of the few people who really asked how I was doing – and meant it. In the light of his struggles mine were paltry but the guy did genuinely care. I miss him not being on the end of the phone - more than I expected I would. Not that he could solve anything but us chaps do little enough talking as it is.

    You'll remember my vascular man signing me off a few months ago 'till the moment when I'm knackered'.

    'That's the time to come back,' he said, 'when you're in a real mess. Nothing more we can do for now.'

   He didn't use those exact words but the stark reality is that the only thing that can be done medically to improve things carries a fair risk. So, I take my tablets and look after myself as much as possible. The next intervention will be surgery, unless I peg it!


    So, I've been trying to avoid going back. In fact I've achieved it. As discussed on previous pages I've tried to eat properly and exercise. Since my initial diagnosis I've renovated three houses and done plenty of other stuff in between. I also walk the dog every morning. I have some peculiar pains that seem to migrate from day to day. From back to hip to leg to foot. Sometimes down the right side but more often the left. Each day is slightly different but if I keep walking (taking a break for a couple of minutes if it gets too sore) I manage fine. Both the dog and I have slowed down a bit but we get there eventually. So work and eating gargantuan portions of green stuff has taken care of the physical side.

    Mentally I'm in a state of perpetual suspension. I'm floating along trying not to come off the high wire. I need to keep my head up and look forward. I find things to do, positive things. I suspect that if I weaken and fall off my wire I'll end up in a pickle.

    Daft as it sounds I'm too much of a coward not to look after myself.

    It starts with the head. If I can be positive everything else follows.

   The other thing I can do is compare myself to other people – the old adage that there's always someone worse off than yourself. Like my mate, who's dead, or car drivers who always look thoroughly miserable. After all they are in the archetypal vicious circle. They sit in traffic jams unable to get to the job that pays them the money that pays the finance company that owns the vehicle in which they can't go anywhere because the roads are cloggd.

    How frustrating is THAT?

    No, I'm not that badly off.

   I had annual year check up with Smaug the other day. Smaug, you may know, is a fire-breathing dragon who resides in a mountain in Middle Earth. AKA my diabetic nurse who's buried in a cave in the bowels of the health centre. She of the lack of sympathy and unbending philosophy. But, you know what, this time it was a far more pleasant experience than I'd feared. Perhaps I've surprised her by being still alive. My results were pretty good, all the blood tests were encouraging. My blood pressure was fine – second time anyway, I think I must have been anxious to start with. Pulse, yes there was one. Kidney function OK. Liver, slightly pickled but not too bad.

     She was more cheerful this time and my visit was filled with joy and gaiety.

     She weighed me. I told her I'd lost a couple of stone and her scales agreed.

     'I wish I could lose a couple of stone,' she said.

     'You're not frightened enough,' I tell her.

     Now she appears a bit less cheerful. More ruminative for a spell.

    But nothing is going to spoil things and she moves on to the next series of checks in the hope of finding something she can give me a bollocking about.

   So it's on to the feet. 'Mmm, they look OK,' she said, having a prod. She smeared them with jelly and put a rudimentary pulse monitor on and found a pulse. This is a biggy. No pulse there, big problems. You'll remember that I have no main arterial flow down my legs so any blood going south has had to find another route – collateral arteries I think they call them.


    You can scroll back to find out about my difficulties but feet are pretty important to me. Well, that's a daft thing to say, of course they are, without them I'd be about eight inches shorter. What I mean is, if they are in a reasonable state, they are a positive indication that things are not too bad. See how guarded I am about my progress. I'm a bit reticent about being cocky – it's too far to fall if things go belly up.

    'How are your eyes,' she asks.

   'Fine.' I say. I'd had a routine opticians eye examination a few months ago and they found what they described as scarring on my right retina. So I was sent to an appointment with a large, but very nice, Nigerian lady specialist (an ologist of some description) who assured me that everything was basically fine. No retinopathy, no other problems. What I did have was something indicating a predisposition to a potential detached retina somewhere in the future. It may be in ten years, it may not happen. But she said she would organize a non-urgent appointment where they would glue my retina in place by zapping it with a laser. Local anaesthetic, quick procedure, nothing to worry about – apparently. It'll all be over in the blink of an eye.

    Well, it won't actually because I've not had the appointment through yet – cutbacks probably. 


    In effect my comment to the nurse about not being frightened enough is accurate. Most people could give up fags or booze or chips (french fries) if scared into it by the doctor. Not just 'you should stop smoking', no, more, 'if you don't stop now you will die.' That really was where I was at diagnosis. What's frustrating about my situation is that it was all preventable. Basically when you're charging about with carefree youthfulness, you feel that nothing can go wrong. It turns out I didn't need to stop being carefree, all I had to have done was just change a bit ten years ago and all this stuff wouldn't have happened.

    I had a nice email the other day. It was from a friend in France and was actually in reply to an email I sent out back in April (it's late August now). What I was trying to do was warn people about the dangers of not looking after themselves. She admitted that when she first saw my email she thought, 'oh no, not another moaning health blog.' But it seems it struck a chord and she did actually read it properly. A few months on she's written to thank me for giving her the necessary push to improve her health. She and her husband are good folk and I hope they go on being so for many years.

    Since I started with my problems I have noticed much more publicity about sugar, obesity and diabetes.

   I know, I know, every day there is a health-related scare of some sort. I see numerous articles by 15-year-old stick insects (often Australian for some reason) about the benefits of this or that. Articles that contain various photos.

   One snap will be of the stick insect in a bikini. Another, an edifice, someone who can hardly see out of their fat face past cheeks that are bigger than most people pectorals. Then a photo of a lettuce. Then a photo of a 235-stone seven-year-old, whose buttocks are larger than most people's garden sheds. I really hate seeing fat people. Most, who shoe-horn themselves into stretchy clothing, blame their hormones. Usually this is a monstrous load of flob. Their problems actually stem from an overload of pizza, coke, chocolate etc. etc. In fact they suffer from what my friend calls, 'an over-active knife and fork.'

    The only hormone they'll need is injected insulin when diabetes strikes.  

    Next: Up to date. All present and correct!