Xmas 2016: Honoring the Gift of Health

The fortunate majority of us are born able-bodied and healthy. And then there are those who are not born able-bodied and / or those who must fight and overcome grave illnesses and disabilities every hour of every day.  There are also those who squander their health and quality of life on alcohol or drug abuse, sedentary lifestyles, and sheer gluttony. And those who abuse their bodies in other ways…

Me? I’m guilty of taking the gift of health for granted, for pushing my body beyond its physical limits, feeding it crap (ridiculous amounts of sugar, chocolate, and junk food), and exposing it deliberately and excessively to the elements (sun).

And I’ve suffered the consequences. People are surprised by how many operations I’ve had. My list is getting so long that I can barely keep track anymore. The irony of course, is that I believe I live a relatively healthy lifestyle. Yet, I know plenty of couch potatoes who have never had 1 physical affliction or surgery.

Here’s a glimpse at my surgery dance card:

  1.  Skin cancer surgeries (2) and ongoing freezing pre-cancerous spots (nearly monthly now). (I knew better – no excuses, except my stupidity. 100% Irish, I am the poster child for skin cancer. Ignored my mother and other’s warnings and enjoyed the sun too much without protection.)
  2.  Greater saphenous vein ablation surgery right leg, literally blew this vein out pushing too hard on the bike/racing triathlon.
  3. Kidney stones (6 in ea side): 2 lithotripsy procedures, 1 ureterscopic laser surgery (so much more painful than any stone I have passed) – all due to chronic dehydration,  my self-inflicted pattern of under-hydrating and over exercise. Oh, and I have gallstones too – no surgeries for that yet.
  4. Severe osteoarthrtitis and chrondomalacia in both knees – ongoing knee injections. This was brought on by flat feet and decades of running 5-7 days a week. I literally ran out of cartilage in my knees.
  5. c6 / c7 Neck Fusion (plates & screws) – no single catalyst, just a lifetime of living rough & tumble – probably a childhood pool slide incident combined with a more recent surfing injury.
  6. Cycling accident: Collarbone repair surgery(plate and 8 pins), 2x foot surgery – pins and plates, and a broken 5th metacarpal (pinkie).

EGAD, I know! Clearly I’m not honoring the gift I’ve been given by being a good care taker. I am a huge proponent of living vigorously, but many would argue that I take it to a frenetic level. Of course, it’s all relative. I pale in comparison to others who are far more extreme / intense about their physical activities than I am…Granted, just because there are plenty of people out there who abuse their bodies more than I do, it doesn’t negate the fact that it’s still abuse.

My x-mas holiday was consumed with getting through kidney stone surgery, which of all the surgeries I’ve had, was by far the most painful. It felt like a severe and brutal punishment. Ultimately, I have to face that nearly all my injuries are self-inflicted to some degree. (The picture above is from my first walk outside in 5 days – don’t worry, I didn’t overdo it this time.) So how do I reconcile my passion for activity with my tendency to go overboard and be neglectful? This has been a long, hard lesson and I’m finally getting the message loud and clear. It’s way past time for me to balance living vigorously with nurturing the amazing, strong and vital body that I’ve been given. The joy I get from my outdoor activities is one of my life’s greatest pleasures.Yet I’m driven to push my body to its limits and then neglect it – a mystery for another blog post. Perhaps for tonight,  it’s enough to recognize and begin to correct this tendency – to commit to being a better steward of my health – to balance my rigorous activities with the nurturing and nourishing my body needs – to be a kinder, gentler person to my body, myself and others.

Tell me, how do you honor and nurture your body?

My wish this holiday season is that we see each day as a gift to live our best life – one that honors our bodies, our spirits and those we share the journey with. I’m going to work on it and maybe you guys can help keep me on the path.

Perhaps one word sums it up? Nameste