Tag Archives: health

Aside

Today’s lesson is courtesy of Facebook. The lesson is that “life isn’t about finding yourself. It is about creating yourself.” I love it, and I am all in. As I look at my life, it is not even about creating … Continue reading

It is not about me: what is important one year after my stroke

One year ago today, at this very hour, my life changed.  I had a stroke, which led to two subsequent surgeries, a Code Blue in medical parlance, and the rebuilding of a life.

A tragedy was on its way to becoming a blessing.  I was less than 40 years old, active physically, and  engaged civically and professionally.  I thought I had the world by the tail.  And I quickly found myself having to re-evaluate what was really important. It has taken me a year to get the courage to even think about what happened to me.

The real lesson is about the power of good people doing good.  It is about the heroes who saved my life, This story is about my experience, and learning that living life successfully is about the impact you have on other people’s lives.

The first — and most important — hero in my life is my wife, Teri.  In hundreds of ways since I fell ill, she has stepped up as a family leader, world-class organizer and communicator, and amazing partner.  Before I got sick, and as much as I hate to admit it, I did not show this hero enough appreciation.  Since my stroke, she has been my constant companion.  One of the greatest gifts the stroke gave me was a better appreciation for her.  I don’t think I can thank her enough.

My family, collectively, gets hero status.  From my own personal security guard — as one of my favorite nurses called my brother, Kevin — to my Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brothers from William and Mary, who came and waited quietly alongside my wife in those early, trying hours; to my in-laws, whose love and support defy categorization; to my sister and brother from Richmond, who visited me at every opportunity, to my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, who both made so much possible for me; to my colleagues, who went above and beyond for me daily; and including my many uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and aunts who prayed constantly and visited as often as they could.  I saw my health improve as each LIVED more meaningful sermons about  faith than any pastor ever could speak.  I have seen God’s hand at work in my life.

I would also bestow hero status on the enormous network of friends and extended family. Each of them prayed, visited, gifted and carded me back to health.  They showed me love in ways that were inspirational, instructional, and completely humbling. Every one of them did what they could, some even more than that.  Heroes, every one of them.

And finally — but certainly importantly — I thank the entire Centra Health medical team who saved, then rebuilt my life.  Each first responder, doctor, nurse, and therapist is a hero of mine.  I am alive because of their skill and care, and I  owe them the appreciation due heroes.

So, yes, less than a year after I almost died, and nearly left a wife and two young kids – nearly mirroring my own mother’s death before I was a teenager  — I stood before a group of fellow stroke survivors in Danville, VA.  And as I said to my fellow stroke thrivers, I am a miracle, and a child of God.

Thank God for my heroes.  I owe each of them my life, and I will continue trying to live it as worthy of having been saved.  And I pray with the faithfulness of my aunts and friends. Thank God for heroes.  Amen.

The power of changing One Small Thing

On January 5, a number of colleagues and I started a weight loss challenge.  The competition would be replete with tired false self-motivation, old platitudes, and false starts, but I pushed my usual standards aside in favor of a new concept.  This time, I was already self-motivated.  I decided to change one small thing.

To date, I have lost 20 pounds, hit and worked through at least one difficult plateau, and seen at least two weigh-in periods in which I lost at least 7 pounds.  I have dropped one waist size, lowered my blood pressure and cholesterol, and have more energy.  I find my racquetball game improving and see the possibility of returning to near the weight I was when I wrestled at William and Mary.  So what am I doing differently?

When I sit down for a meal, or have an opportunity to splurge, I simply ask myself to make a very simple decision to stay disciplined long enough to choose what to eat.  I also make sure at least one meal every day is a tasty salad.  The beauty of this method is that the longer I stick to it, the more invested I am in ensuring the next interface with a decision is advantageous.  Even though making many small decisions becomes second-nature, it does not get so easy I can stop thinking about it.  I have to remind myself frequently to maintain discipline, and not get over-confident.  It would be easy to get cocky, and forget that calories don’t care about my confidence.  They respond only to controlled management.

So I attribute my success in this competition, in which I have remained in no worse than second place, to NOT having to co-exist with some enormous, complicated diet program, or special food system, or even enormous amounts of exercise.  Nope, I just make one small decision, up to five times a day (lasting about three minutes per day, in total).  So requiring that level of discipline in such short bursts, mentally, is really easy to accommodate.

So far, I think I have made 180 small decisions.  Of those, more than 90 percent have been good decisions.  So 160 times, my system has worked for me, and 20 times I blew it.  Or so it would seem.  But upon closer review, six of those have been intentional “pressure release” choices, made intentionally.  After each of our twice-monthly weigh-ins, I purposefully enjoy a really delicious, unhealthy cheesesteak.  Its a small decision to not be too hard on myself.

Will I win?  Is this a defensible long-term strategy?  I don’t know and right now I don’t care.  The absolute beauty of this new technique is that I don’t have to worry about either of those things.  They will take care of themselves.  All I need to do is  keep spending one minute at a time, three t0 five times per day, making good calls.  Time for breakfast.