For decades my mantra has been, “age is about attitude not chronology”. But it is hard to maintain a youthful attitude if you can’t get out of bed, or are losing your eyesight, becoming incontinent, or face an imminent heart attack.
While none of those apply to me yet, every day I face longevity decisions such as: Does forgoing a Cheese-burger with french fries, and a chocolate milkshake save me 2 1/2 more days staring out the window in an old age home?
John Mortimer argues, “There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward”
It’s easy to believe that attitude but hard when you face daily decisions that can effect your life style next week.
After decades eating a diet of far too much beef and fast foods, and far too few fruits and vegetables, does giving up the foods I love, now at 84, worth some extra days in a home. I have already, far outlived most lives lived on my 1950s diet. At this time in my life how much will my lifestyle change by eating a truly healthy diet. As Woody Allen said, “You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred”.
Is wolfing down a burger and fries now too late to matter? At my age, why bother? Or is it? The devil is in the details. Staying alive in my 80s has become a full time job. I am my own ‘medic’ in my own clinic. My bladder cancer lurks with a 70% chance of recurrence, requiring regular monitoring. Every day my declining kidney functioning leaves me more and more breathless and weak. I feel my life slipping away, drip by drip, day by day. My kidney functioning is now below 25%. At 15% I go on dialysis. Kidney decline does not proceed in a uniform numerical steady rate. It stalls, then plummets, stalls again, and dips. My blood pressure is central to controlling several conditions so careful home monitoring is required. My arythmia requires regular Holster monitor readings and ultrasounds. Pre-diabetes demands my monitoring my carbohydrate intake, checking labels relentlessly. I feel like I am on a greased telephone pole, desperately trying to stall the slide, clinging with my fingers, knees and feet trying to slow the decline. My diet is now dictated by a strange combination of statistics. While keeping my blood pressure down, contrary to tradional BP advice I have to take high doses of salt. I am salt deficient. I as prescribed to a cup of bovril 2x per day, 1000 mg of salt per cup! I also have elevated potassium levels, a serious risk for a heart attack or other serious conditions. I monitor my potassium intake as carefully as a ‘Weight Watcher’ counts points. I ponder the small print on my favourite lemon soda and decry the 28 mg of potassium per can. Yet how much does it matter if a baking potato can be 1000 mg of potassium? I don’t eat potatoes anymore even though I can eat a half cup of double boiled potatoes in a special process that’s not worth the effort. Tomatoes in any form, raw or sauced are toxic to me, as all beans in any form, all multigrain breads or rice normally believed the healthy choice, like brown rice or whole wheat bread or any breads with husks, rye, nuts or seeds. White bread, white rice are my healthy choices for my kidney but unhealthy for my pre-diabetes. Ann’s celiac condition demands the constant avoidance of anything with gluten even ketchup or soy sauce.
Every day is preoccupied with one central question. What are we going I have for diner ?
And yet every day the sun is shining brightly, even on days that are overcast or stormy