The title of this article appears to sum it up. It sums up my own personal experience in seeking guidance in following a whole plant-based lifestyle. A lifestyle that is a never-ending journey of health improvement and maintenance. In other words I want to improve my health as much as possible and uphold all of these efforts for as long as possible.
When I first faced my diagnosis of having a very rare (2- 4 in a million) progressive disease of idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH) (high blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries of the lungs). I was told there was “no known cause or cure” and that I would have only 2 years to live without any treatment and 5 years to live with treatment. Treatment consisted of heavy duty drugs, often a number of them bundled together, which are intended to slow the progression of the disease. While they are prescribed to be of help, they also come with many side effects – read this as down effects.
Within months, I was on continuous oxygen via nasal cannula and because of a combination of diabetic retinopathy, a lack of oxygen to my eyes and my IPAH drugs (according to my Retinologist), I was left legally blind. I could not even see my teeth in a vanity mirror to brush them! Other drug side effects mixed with the disease included waking each morning to incontinent bowels; experiencing light headedness, with episodes of fainting; dizziness; fatigue; abdominal and lower leg swelling; nausea and severe jaw pain that felt at times like I was chewing on glass. My mobility was also affected as my oxygen levels increased over time. For periods, I used a cane, then wheelchair and then walker. This went on for over 5 very long isolating years.
What I learned about illness is that fear keeps others at a distance. Most will fall back on the rationale that they “do not know what to say”. In this day and age of answers literally being at our fingertips through the means of a quick internet search, this is quite a hollow excuse.
I think their absence was really a homage to the devastating effects of this rare, brutal, no cause-no cure, progressive disease. Who would want to face someone, once full of energy and enthusiasm, to only be struck down in their prime? And to make matters worse, it happened due to no fault of their own (so scary). This unfair randomness is too much for most to handle. Just contemplating that it could happen to anyone can be overwhelming. So to protect themselves, most people keep their distance from the disease and you – you are in essence blotted out of their existence.
What results? Silence. Silence is dangerous because it can be so damaging. It is in the silence, that imagination runs rampant. Mix this imagination with the build-up of multiple losses of a job / career; earning power; competency in preforming activities of daily living; privacy and the overriding identity of being a 24-7 “patient” – you find yourself believing you are of little value to anyone, including yourself.
Even the love a devoted significant other is not enough to offset the silence and the accompanying experience of isolation and aloneness. This is when the collaborative team of “me’; “myself” and “I” has to step in to rescue you from your sorrow and with loving gentleness and firmness guide you toward a declaration of “I will help myself because “I am worthwhile and enough”. It is a kind of courage that is in all of us if we take the time to listen.
This innate desire to will yourself to live – the ‘survivor instinct’ means facing life full on and not giving up even in the face of temporary setbacks. Because that is all that failure is – a temporary setback. It is perseverance that can keep us searching for answers. I also made use of my professional background as a former nurse, both at the bedside and operating room, to remind my self that medicine is often about detective work – a process of elimination to figure out what is wrong and what might just work. And that evidence-based science that is not tied to an industry selling products needs to be sought and considered, as it is far more reliable and valid.
In addition, I used my other skills and experience of over twenty-five years, as master-level social worker trained in clinical therapy, in particular solution-focussed counselling, to find the “exceptions”. Exceptions are times when you find things that are working and you stop and ask yourself: “how did you make that happen?” – so you can repeat these behaviours that work to make your life more positive. And conversely, if some behaviours are not working, asking yourself “what can you do differently/” to move yourself forward toward a more positive outcome.
And it was this kind of perseverance of doing more of what works and choosing to do things differently when it did not work, that lead me to go from a blind kitchen klutz to a fully- seeing, oxygen-free, (day-time), non-diabetic, level one, formerly level three, IPAH person (“patient’ is no longer the identity that fills the room) who is grateful for the power of whole plant-based foods combined with movement and mindfulness for healing me as much as possible.
It is in the process of my own healing that something even greater came of it. It is a gift I share with my partner of over thirty years, Andrew and together, we offer a legacy of better health for our children. This legacy, far more worthwhile than leaving worldly goods or money, offers something of far more lasting value – for vibrant health is true wealth!
We want to share this true wealth with you and your friends and loved ones. We are offerIng a 10 day Fork Smart Re-Plant Weight Loss Challenge – next session starting soon: https://forksmart.org/coaching/. This is followed by the Fork Smart Ideal Weight / Lifestyle Challenge (Achievement and Maintenance). Hope you will consider becoming healthier and happier! Contact email@example.com or 403-519-9261 to register now.