Working At It For Years – Disease Or Health

We are born as perfect as we will ever be. With rare exception, we have our greatest potential the instant we arrive into the world. From there, our environment begins to chip away at our possibilities and over time we suffer from the outcome of our decisions or the decisions that were made on our behalf. With each breath, we either maintain our potential or it is reduced slightly.

I have trained a couple of people who had suffered heart attacks and then subsequently made the decision to correct as many of their bad habits as they could. They eat better, exercise more, reduce their stress and stop over indulging in alcohol. They, like many people who have suffered a heart attack, make reference to their heart attack as both an ending point and a place of new beginnings; “my health was fine up until that day” is something that I have heard which reflects their understanding of what was going on. But it doesn’t reflect what actually happened. Their health had been suffering for years BEFORE the heart attack and the heart attack was only the latest in a series of escalating symptoms; even if it was the first symptom that registered that there was a problem.

You have been making yourself sick for years – everyone has been. At best, you are doing everything you can to achieve your potential – eating appropriate amounts of whole food, getting an appropriate amount of sleep and exercise, etc…. but in a world as polluted as ours, the chances of you not consuming toxins is very low. The clean life that you may be living likely isn’t as pure as is needed to reach the highest level of health. In all probability you aren’t getting enough exercise, eating the right amounts of food or getting sufficient rest to recover your vitality and enhance your constitution for health.

This doesn’t mean that you are going to die of a heart attack at 50 or cancer at 55. But it does mean that you are damaging you body and diminishing your ability to recover from this damage with each non-ideal choice you make. It also means that if you do end-up with a disease, there is a very good chance that you have been working at it for the last 20-50 years and not just during the few weeks preceding the diagnosis.

The human body has a remarkable ability to recover. There is ample redundancy so a lot of stuff can break down before their is critical malfunction. But there are limits and one needs to be mindful of them as they move through life. With each less than ideal decision that is made, you move one step closer to the cumulative consequences of these choices.

It’s About Changing State

In talking to more than a 1000 people over the last 10 years a few facts about nutrition have become clear.

First off, the education system is doing a good job at teaching people what they should be eating. I’ll fill-in some blanks about how the remarkably adaptive way the body operates, but I’ve yet to talk to someone who doesn’t know that eating more vegetables, less sugar, fewer processed products and drinking more water and less pop is a more effective way to eat. People know what they should be eating in order to improve their health and functioning so they suffer from obesity and reduced vitality for reasons other than education.

Next, many people comment that it is hard to eat correctly. On one level this is true, given that living things benefit from eating unprocessed food that rots quickly. Shopping twice a week is a necessity if you are going to eat real food because you will not have the “luxury” of buying food that doesn’t spoil because it is loaded with preservatives. And you need to prepare that food which is going to take time – peeling vegetables, cutting meat and removing bones or fat/skin and then cooking the meal requires time. But this only seems like it takes more time when compared with opening a box and heating something in a microwave or ordering a meal and waiting for it to arrive.

The other comment I hear consistently after an optimal nutrition conversation is that eating for health and vitality is boring. My thoughts about this one is that this is the biggest reason why people do not live optimal lives with an abundance of energy, clarity of thought and emotional contentment. Good quality food doesn’t provide the instant state-changing experience that the high sugar, high fat, high chemical food-like stuff delivers. Good quality food doesn’t do very much to your immediate state; it really shouldn’t because there isn’t anything in it that will have a quick impact on the brain or body. Real food impacts the body slowly, over time and in many ways by doing nothing at all.

People like or become addicted to food-like stuff because it has a very quick impact on the brain – it changes their state almost immediately and in a predictable way. Feeling sad? Eat some sugar, get a release of dopamine and feel better. Feeling some pain somewhere? Eat some ice cream and get a release of opioids to numb the pain. Eat fat and sugar together and feel good immediately. The happy / feel-good chemicals will be released and you will get a little high from it.

You don’t get this state change from eating salad, beef, chicken or fish. Eating these things may not even make you feel full. They have been shown to be better for you, but their immediate impact is low and almost perceivable, and given the distance from the consequences of a poor diet the instant reward is what many choose.

But as time passes, and the consequences begin to take hold on a person – addiction, obesity, disease, loss of energy, loss of circulation, impaired thinking, etc…. the state change is all that remains in terms of any conceivable positives. But then it’s too late to do very much about it. A 40 year sugar habit is tough to break. Dropping 100 lbs is close to impossible and only successfully undertaken by the most remarkable of individuals. Once cancer takes hold, the body has a very tough time fighting it without medical intervention. Clogged blood vessels don’t suddenly clear-up simply because the person stops eating crappy food. Make no mistake about it, the consequences arrive and they usually stay forever.

Real food does very little to our immediate state and it does very little to our bodies; which is what one should look for in their food because the body has a remarkable way of repairing itself.

Their Lies Will Kill You, Your Lie IS

You have been lied to and the quality of your life is lower because of it. So is your life expectancy. As is your vitality and in many ways your constitution for health is also diminished. Some of the lies were not malicious at the time, but they are now, and you really should start to pay attention to them and how they impact your spending habits.

What am I talking about?

The crappy food you eat, the reason you give for eating it and commercialization of “Food” and “Health”.

You eat a lot of really low quality food. It’s loaded with sugar, it has a lot of the fat processed out of it and it last forever on the shelf because almost everything else that made it food has been removed. It’s created and perfected in a lab, then manufactured and distributed to the masses in much the same way a smart phone finds its way into your life. And you buy this food, week after week, feed it to yourself and your children, and move forward telling yourself that it isn’t harmful because Health Canada wouldn’t allow big companies to sell poison and because big companies wouldn’t sell something dangerous to their customers.

Before you pull your head out of the sand, you may want to eat a few mouth fulls because it’s a lot healthier than what you have been eating.

Food in this country is, for the most part, about profit. It is about creating more wealth through increased market share and decreased production costs. The people who sell you the food had nothing to do with its production. Most food sellers work for corporations, not farmers. They are part of the massive industry that maximizes profit by selling the most food possible at the cheapest possible rate. It is in the interest of profit to create foods that people will eat, that won’t spoil and that can be shipped anywhere in the world cheaply.

Health Canada doesn’t care about food being harmful, they care about it being safe and big corporations will sell you anything you’ll buy that they are allowed to sell – tobacco, highly addictive pain killers, and untested chemical creations that “enhance” flavor and sell-ability. So long as the products don’t make you sick immediately and there is enough time between consumption and illness, Health Canada won’t get involved. They’ll rightfully shutdown a meat plant and recall tons of beef because of E. coli that sickened 17 people, but they’ll give high sugar foods a green light because the illnesses they cause take years to develop and are in many ways the result of personal choices.

It’s daft. Vexingly stupid actually. Obesity crushes the life out of people and the stats tell a sad tale about wasted potential. Sugar causes heart disease and fat gain. It causes cardiovascular disease because the inflammation associated with sugar consumption destroys the blood vessels. Omega 3 fatty acids, when taken in the right amount, improve health; yet they are being removed from food because of an antiquated notion that cholesterol is the cause of heart disease.

But the food is “safe” and it is keeping you from dying from starvation; although you likely suffer from a strange kind of malnutrition never before seen in the history of our species. I encourage you to notice how you feel after eating a boxed meal, a bowl of cereal, or a meal replacement bar. Notice how much different you feel when you eat a fresh salad. Pay attention to the different levels of enjoyment you get from the “food” and the food. Notice which one creates more cravings and be aware just who benefits from this need to eat more.

You’ve felt it for a long time, that what makes up most of your diet isn’t food at all. It’s a Frankenstein creation of things that seem real but would never spontaneously exist in nature. And when you eat it, it’s shortening your life. To believe otherwise is to continue to lie to yourself.

“No, You’re Not Entitled To Your Opinion”

“No, you’re not entitled to your opinion” by Patrick Stokes is a very interesting read that tackles the notion that people are entitled to their opinion. He isn’t saying that you are not free to hold whatever opinion you like, he’s just saying that when you don’t know what you are talking about or cheery-pick the evidence to bolster your opinion, you should probably keep your mouth shut. To do anything other than that is intellectually dishonest at best and dangerous at worst.

He is speaking about the anti-vaccination movement and to some of the untrained people who spearhead the movement. The article is well thought-out, presents a clear point of view and is supported by enough evidence to make this POV compelling enough to consider.

His point is clearly demonstrated in the comments. One of the anti-vaccination advocates makes a statement to the effect of “you bring your evidence and I’ll bring my evidence and we can debate the issue.” This is a little frightening given the abundance of research that has been done on vaccination over the years how there is no link to autism – Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 study linking MMR to autism and bowel disease has been shown to be fraudulent and it has also been show that he has a conflict of interest when publishing the releasing the study.

The numbers don’t lie, vaccinations are safe and societies that have the highest uptake of vaccinations have the lowest incidents of the diseases that they target. And make no mistake about it, the measles, mumps, rubella, small pox, diphtheria, pertussis and lockjaw are serious and potentially fatal. Reducing the incidence rates for these diseases is not a bad thing regardless of the growing number of immunized people who don’t want their own children immunized from them.

When someone is spouting off about things they don’t know anything about without being clear that they don’t know anything about it, they have forfeit their right to have an opinion and should stop talking about the topic.

I am pro vaccination and pro science, and I believe the world is better off preventable diseases that cause suffering.

What Neuroscience Says About Over Eating

Doctor Daniel Amen does a lot of research with the brain. Along one of the paths, tracking brain injuries with football players, he uncovered some very interesting things about the human brain:

As weight goes up, brainpower goes down. The size and function of the brain diminishes as BMI goes up….the larger people were, the smaller their frontal lobes were, and that’s a disaster because the frontal lobes run your life! Not only are we finding that overeating and overweight cause changes in the brain, but we’re seeing that brain patterns can influence how we respond to food.

It goes both ways. If you have low frontal-lobe activity, as is common with attention deficit disorder (ADD), for example, you’re much more likely to be obese. The frontal lobes are critical to making decisions such as food choices…

Consider the ramifications of this two way street. We’re born magnificent, capable of developing to our full potential and living a long illness free life. Our prefrontal cortex doesn’t develop until we’re in late childhood / early teenage years and grows throughout puberty – if we make it through most of childhood, there is a very good chance that we can have it all.

But along the way we get fat. It could be that our folks are too busy to cook healthy dinners, they didn’t know what to buy and cook, you were a picky SOB, whatever, you ended-up fat. As a result, your prefrontal cortex does not develop optimally and your brain in general is smaller than it would have been had you remained lean and optimal.

Moving through life, with a smaller brain, you suffer the consequences of having reduced executive functioning. Your working memory isn’t as good, your will power is compromised and your ability to anticipate the consequences and deal with the future just doesn’t hit on all cylinders.

Staying fat is easier because you don’t have the tools needed to think your way out of it, or at least, control your behavior out of it. You may never see a healthy weight again.

I don’t mean to scare you because you do have options here, but if you are over weight or have a tendency to over eat, you may need to consider enrolling an expert in helping you gain the skills needed to reverse the path of destruction you are on. Let them be your proxy until your brain repairs itself and can anticipate and plan for a better future.

10 Things That Will Boost Your Progress

Intelligent people want to be living a life that is moving forward, growing towards something greater than that which already is. It could be a part of human nature, part of how we were raised or part of our specific genetic code, but intelligent people are on the move, forward and upward. Progress is the unit of measurement, the currency of driven people, and we like to fill our banks with lot of it!

Below are ten things that will speed-up your progress; not just your body transformation or your athletic pursuits, but in all areas of your life.

  1. Realize that effort alone doesn’t work. Many business owners perform all the roles of their company and their business say small because of this. The 20 hour days don’t yield the same results as a well thought out 10 hour day at enrolls other people in doing some of the work. Effort is kind, up until a certain point, then it becomes a joker.
  2. Know your motivation. Be moving towards something very important or leave something behind that needs to be left behind. Or both! There needs to be a compelling reason for WHY you are trying to progress. Progress for its own sake is good, progress for a higher purpose is GREAT. Focus on this purpose and enjoy the boost in efficiency. Most people do not know their motivation for doing things and this is a huge limiting factor with their progress. Have a compelling MUST have reason and notice what happens in your life to help you get it.
  3. Learn from EVERYTHING and EVERYONE. We learn from experiences, not from sitting around. Be open and wise to the fact that you don’t know everything. Progressing forward is about acquiring new knowledge and converting it into wisdom, and this will only happen when stuff goes in. This applies to both the things to do and the things to NOT do – there is a reason why someone lost their job which is usually not the inverse reason why someone keeps their job. Learn from both and maximize your progress.
  4. Choose proof over theory. Some things look great on paper but don’t pan out as predicted while other things seem doomed from the beginning but turnout to be not just the best way to accomplish a task but the ONLY way to accomplish it. When you are looking for progress, go with what works. When you are looking to innovate, go with theory.
  5. Take a few small actions each day. Success is made-up of 1000’s of small things. Progress is about attrition against the odds. While it is unlikely that the small thing you do today will lead you to the victory you are looking for, not doing the small things is usually the reason for a lack of progress. If it takes a few minutes and you have a few minutes, just do it. It will get it out of the way and make action your method of operating.
  6. Set many small and achievable tasks. 10’s or 100’s of these tasks will make-up a goal. Setting-up goals as being the combination of many small things makes achieving them more likely as they won’t overwhelm or discourage you. This way you will always be making progress, everyday and with almost every action.
  7. Find someone to be accountable to who you WILL be accountable to. Sadly, many people get into the habit of not being accountable to themselves as there is a temporal processing issue with it – how do you be accountable to the you of the past? The finest way to overcome this is to enroll someone else to help you stay on track. Engage someone who will be dogmatic about your objectives and who will press you hard when you present excuse as reason.
  8. Track your results to make sure you are staying on track. Consider enrolling someone else as the tracker of your progress – ideally your accountability person. When you do not achieve your results, you need to uncover the cause of your breakdown and eliminate the offending behavior. The objective opinion of an outsider can be the difference between a slow or light speed progress. They only have a vested interest in your results, not your emotional reasons for not acting in a goal achieving way.
  9. Focus on behaviors, not outcomes. Being progressive is about acting in a progressive way, not about achieving a progressive thing. If you do the right things for long enough, the outcome is an inevitability.
  10. Become part of a success orientated group. Successful people need to be surrounded by other successful people and there can be a magnificent synergy between group members. It is usually true that many minds are better than one when it comes to seeing solutions so engage others and enroll them in your journey. This will boost your accountability and it can dramatically increase the intellectual resources that work on an issue, problem or task. You never know what or who other people know, so connect with others and share unconditionally; both your quest and your wisdom.

Antiquated Coping Strategies – Smoking

NOTE – I don’t know the person in the image above but her story is available here. I use this image because it is reminiscent of my dad’s last few days and because those last few days were like NOTHING I have ever experienced. Take a look at the Poo bear on the table and the pictures of her loved ones. Read her story and the final words from her husband. I could be her in a few years and the post below outlines what I need to do to stop that from being my future.

I started smoking again. I had the choice to not start but I convinced myself that I DIDN’T have a choice and set-out believing that it was a fine coping strategy.

It was embarrassing to lie to my father about it. “I’m going out to work on something in the workshop” was what I’d say, and I’d do something, but it was really a trip out there to smoke. The lie made him feel better, like I was finally taking ownership of my life and working hard to build the panel business and it allowed me to avoid disappointing him in his last weeks here. He was proud that I had turned my life around after Natalie’s death – stopped smoking, started eating correctly, got back to exercising, became a personal trainer, started teaching cycling classes and effectively stopped doing most of the things that were destructive. I was glad that my dad was happy and once I slipped, and it was evident that he was getting sick, the smoking habit took hold because I didn’t want to stop out of fear of what it might be like. I also didn’t want to rock the boat given his terminal diagnosis.

Now I have quit. I left everything as it was until I was able to deal only with the death of my dad and the impact it has had on my self-awareness. This was a request of my family to just try and keep things normal until you know what you are feeling and are ready to make the changes. Strangely, the thing that actually clued me into the fact that it would be fantastic idea to stop was a realization about my girl friend at the time. She’s an amazing women and I think we both knew that the relationship would be a 2 part thing if it was to last at all. There was not going to be continuity in it, a separation / break-up was going to be absolutely necessary because of WHO I am and where I am in my life. BUT, my time with her was good and I realized that I actually wanted to live for as long as I can. There was something about the relationship with her that helped me realize that you can feel connected to someone and this connection can help you see things about your behavior that aren’t working. I needed to stop for myself, not for her, my dad, for anyone. I tabled the stopping until after my dad died.

I don’t want to die. I want to live forever, floating through the universe with a smile and love in my heart. But I will not live forever, and if I don’t fix my bad habits, I won’t live for much longer.

Below is a list of the positive changes that occur when someone stops smoking. I like this list because there are benchmark to achieve and it tells a story about recovery. The body will heal itself from a lot of damage if you do the things to promote recover, but only if you stop the damage as well.

Last smoke plus …
  • 20 minutes
  • Your blood pressure, pulse rate, and the temperature of your hands and feet will all return to normal.
  • 8 hours
  • Remaining nicotine in your bloodstream will have fallen to 6.25% of normal peak daily levels, a 93.25% reduction.
  • 12 hours
  • Your blood oxygen level will have increased to normal and carbon monoxide levels will have dropped to normal.
  • 24 hours
  • Anxieties peak in intensity and within two weeks should return to near pre-cessation levels.
  • 48 hours
  • Damaged nerve endings have started to regrow and your sense of smell and taste are beginning to return to normal. Cessation anger and irritability peaks.
  • 72 hours
  • Your entire body will test 100% nicotine-free and over 90% of all nicotine metabolites (the chemicals it breaks down into) will now have passed from your body via your urine.  Symptoms of chemical withdrawal have peaked in intensity, including restlessness. The number of cue induced crave episodes experienced during any quitting day will peak for the “average” ex-user. Lung bronchial tubes leading to air sacs (alveoli) are beginning to relax in recovering smokers. Breathing is becoming easier and the lungs functional abilities are starting to increase.
  • 5 – 8 days
  • The “average” ex-smoker will encounter an “average” of three cue induced crave episodes per day. Although we may not be “average” and although serious cessation time distortion can make minutes feel like hours, it is unlikely that any single episode will last longer than 3 minutes. Keep a clock handy and time them.
  • 10 days
  • 10 days – The “average ex-user is down to encountering less than two crave episodes per day, each less than 3 minutes.
  • 10 days to 2 weeks
  • Recovery has likely progressed to the point where your addiction is no longer doing the talking. Blood circulation in our gums and teeth are now similar to that of a non-user.
  • 2 to 4 weeks
  • Cessation related anger, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, impatience, insomnia, restlessness and depression have ended. If still experiencing any of these symptoms get seen and evaluated by your physician.
  • 21 days
  • Brain acetylcholine receptor counts up-regulated in response to nicotine’s presence have now down-regulated and receptor binding has returned to levels seen in the brains of non-smokers.
  • 2 weeks to 3 months
  • Your heart attack risk has started to drop. Your lung function is beginning to improve.
  • 3 weeks to 3 months
  • Your circulation has substantially improved. Walking has become easier. Your chronic cough, if any, has likely disappeared.
  • 1 to 9 months
  • Any smoking related sinus congestion, fatigue or shortness of breath have decreased. Cilia have regrown in your lungs thereby increasing their ability to handle mucus, keep your lungs clean, and reduce infections. Your body’s overall energy has increased.
  • 1 year
  • Your excess risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke has dropped to less than half that of a smoker.
  • 5 to 15 years
  • Your risk of stroke has declined to that of a non-smoker.
  • 10 years
  • Your risk of being diagnosed with lung cancer is between 30% and 50% of that for a continuing smoker (2005 study). Risk of death from lung cancer has declined by almost half if you were an average smoker (one pack per day).  Your risk of pancreatic cancer has declined to that of a never-smoker (2011 study), while risk of cancer of the mouth, throat and esophagus has also declined.
  • 13 years
  • Your risk of smoking induced tooth loss has declined to that of a never-smoker (2006 study).
  • 15 years
  • Your risk of coronary heart disease is now that of a person who has never smoked.
  • 20 years
  • Female excess risk of death from all smoking related causes, including lung disease and cancer, has now reduced to that of a never-smoker (2008 study). Risk of pancreatic cancer reduced to that of a never-smoker (2011 study).

    Action, Recovery and Consequence

    As I close in on my 40’s I’m starting to notice a pattern in the world – order continues to form, exist and disintegrate. Philosophically, psychologically, physiologically, in the living and in the inanimate, large and small, matter combines and separates for reasons that are now almost completely understood. Once you understand the science and see the pattern, the mystery is gone and the beauty remains.

    Dealing with human beings (me in particular), the order that constitutes me is my body. It is made up of particles that are governed by rules. It’s a complicated bag of matter so many of the rules we have now are general guidelines based on statistics. It doesn’t make a difference what way you look at the numbers though, the longer something exists in an organized state, the less likely it is to continue to exist in that state. Everything is falling apart….

    Fortunately there is a repair mechanism built into living things to stop them from falling apart and with young healthy humans it will replace most of the cells of the body within 3 months and many within hours. This is an enormous undertaking – manufacturing most of the component pieces that make-up 1 human being and ordering them to be an almost exact copy in one fiscal quarter. The body gets it right over and over and over again until it doesn’t. Then it sets out to keep making itself over and over again while attempting to not write-in the mistake.

    Eventually something breaks down or the error is replicated and we get a disease or suffer ill health. If this isn’t addressed, the body will quickly disintegrate into the less-ordered state, death. Once dead, the particles that make up the body break down and find their way back into the environment to become part of something else, eventually.

    There is a relationship between what you bring into your body, what it has to recover from, and the speed of the decline – a toxic internal environment will impair or inhibit recovery / repair and can disrupt accurate cell replication. You can increase the toxicity of the body by bringing in toxins, allowing toxins to build-up and by causing too much damage for the body to completely recovery. Smoking and drinking are obvious stressors with a fairly well established consequences. Dehydration and sleep deprivation are known to impair normal functioning as acute events. Getting a concussion during a football game may require a few weeks or a lifetime to recover from. As a general rule though, the younger and healthier you are, the greater your potential to recover from the stresses of life. Young living things tend to have more resiliency when it comes to maintaining high levels of vitality. There are fewer consequences to their actions because they can recover more completely.

    EVERYTHING we do has consequences. While it is unlikely that one single action will cause disease the battle to maintain order is a war of attrition. Each reaction takes a toll. Every calorie too much or too few does damage to the body that must be repaired. Every chemical reaction can increase the oxidative stress and damage the cells – too much exercise, not enough sleep, holding tension in muscles because they don’t relax, poor posture, constipation, uncomfortable working positions,….

    Treating your blood like the sewer at a chemical factory will also have big consequences on your ability to recover from living life.

    The body evolved to maintain a fairly tight range of environmental conditions that promote optimal vitality and can handle most acute deviations outside of this range that result from us ingesting something. But there is a cost to homeostasis both in terms of oxidative stress and the long term effectiveness of the mechanisms used to restore the optimal range. Insulin and cortisol are important for regulating blood sugar. They are two chemicals that the body produces naturally but which have a toxic effect on the body in acute high doses or chronically elevated levels. Too much insulin over time will increase insulin resistance and impairs the body’s ability to regulate sugar (associated with obesity and a slue of other health issues). This leads to more oxidative stress and the cycle continues to worsen. Prolonged elevated levels of cortisol destroys tissue, creates inflammation and increases oxidative stress. People who don’t eat enough or who exercise too much tend to have higher levels of cortisol

    These two chemicals are mentioned because they are destructive and because our actions dictate when they will be released. Insulin needs sugar. Without an increase in blood sugar, the body will not need to release insulin. We get sugar from the food we eat. If we eat less sugar, we can improve our sensitivity and recover some of the lost homeostatic functioning. Cortisol is released in response to stress; any type of stress – getting scared, thinking about something bad, getting hurt, not getting enough sleep, not going to the bathroom regularly, having too busy a work schedule, children, relationships, your sex life / lack of one, going shopping, ….. doing ANYTHING will create some stress. The issue begins when there is no escape and recovery from the stress and the cortisol the body releases. Consider it like low grade adrenaline – it gets the body going, but it damages the body a little bit each time it is released. If this damage is not repaired before the next stressor, the body grows weaker. This wear and tear begins to compromise function leading to disease. Getting away from stress can be a little tougher than not eating junk food for 5 days, but most of the things that cause us stress usually have very simple solutions.

    The statistical story says there’s a relationship between the amount of pollution we bring into our bodies and the occurrence of disease. Every action has consequences and a need to recover. We DO have control over a lot of the internal environment so we do play a big hand in maximizing our vitality. Our bodies deal with our choices.

    Afternoon Naps

    I have never really enjoyed sleeping in the afternoon. For one thing, waking up the second time is tougher. For another, the quality of sleep isn’t of a very good quality for me. But the main reason why I’m not a fan of afternoon naps is because of the hypnagogia phase of this type of sleep. This state always kind of bothered me because the imagery of dreams doesn’t tend to happen here and you get a raw stream of clear pictures and dialogue about EXACTLY what your brain is processing.

    A couple of weeks ago, a Tuesday afternoon, I had a dream were I was telling someone that my uncle Kevin (oldest brother on my dad’s side) “had gotten it from exposure” in reference to his cancer. In the dream I was attempting to create a logical difference between my uncle and my father. As I drifted awake I became aware that I could hear my parents talking in the computer room. I wasn’t able to make out what they were saying, but the tones of their voices was causing me to come awake with a touch of anxiety. “Are you having a stroke?” I hear my mom say. “No” in a soft relaxed tone is my fathers reply. I’m now standing looking at my mom and dad. I ask my dad how he’s feeling, go through the stroke check list and there’s nothing alarming. He’s fine. His thinking is seems a little off, but not really. It’s tough to tell to be honest. A few days later, after returning from the doctor with my brother, there’s a change to his medication for his heart rate and a “there seems to be something I’m not getting” from the doctor. The next day he improves so the crisis ends.

    Sunday my dad is thinking a lot more clearly but his stomach hurt. Monday he’s tired and not feeling so good. It looks like a stomach flu, a fair possibility. I take an afternoon nap. Out for a short while I wake-up hearing my mom say “we need to take your dad to emerge”. And off we go.

    He gets a CT scan, there’s something in his brain that shouldn’t be there so he’s transferred to Trillium Health Sciences (Queensway / Hurontario) Mississauga’s neurosurgery department for an MRI to find out what it may be. It’s around 11:30 am Wednesday when he gets back from the MRI. He’s sleeping and his vitals are normal. I take a some time to research brain tumors on the internet.

    Turns out brain cancer as a primary tumor is rare. Most brain cancers are a result of a cancer spreading from a different part of the body. Brain cancer as a primary tumor is rare in people above 70. There is a genetic link, but that accounts for 5% of it. My uncles bone cancer was the result of exposure at work. My dream from the week before was starting to settle very unpleasantly on what was suddenly become a new reality that was hard to understand and manage.

    When the neurosurgeon gathered around the family at 5:40 pm and said glioma my heart sank.

    Now what does this all mean? The hypnagogia phase is a possible gift of insight for a lot of people. What I did with the information that I was given the week before the cancer diagnosis is sort of a mystery. I didn’t say to anyone “my dad has cancer.” You don’t say that unless it’s true and I didn’t want to be right about what I had felt in the dream. I did pay more attention to his movement and the things he said, but other than the stomach pain he was improving. To the best of my knowledge, I hadn’t considered the possibility of my father having cancer before that nap. But the thought had been present and working on my brain for 8 days before the doctor said it.

    The family is stunned. My dad is 68, hasn’t been a smoker in years, rarely worked with PVC (the only chemical conclusively linked to glioma), is active and healthy, and has always had a fantastic brain – a natural problem finder and solver, an ongoing learner and an articulate communicator. It just strikes me as a little unfair that everything about him is still in great working order, that he’s taken care of himself, his body and his mind and now as he begins to enjoy his retirement his genetic code presents this new challenge.

    I’m not sure when I’ll take another afternoon nap, I suppose when I need some more of that hard hitting unfiltered clarity that my conscious mind can’t seem to draw out.

    Post Concussion Syndrome – Life In A Dirty Pit

    Over the last few years, I was able spend some time with Rachel after she received a couple of concussions. She had a few moments of bad luck and knocked her head off some ice and off a dresser. The ice one left her unable to remember key peoples names for about 6 hours, the dresser turned her into a paranoid crazy person for a week or so. It was a challenge to watch because she was suffering, it was evident, and because she wasn’t normally a paranoid person. What was actually frightening about it was that SHE was convinced that she was feeling herself. Her athletic therapist friend Louise called during an argument about me trying to hurt and change her and simply told me that if Rachel wasn’t acting herself, take her to the hospital because there’s a good chance that she’s injured her brain. It took about 4 weeks for her to return to normal and her recovery was an emotional roller coaster of up and down mood, forgetting simple things and struggling to find the right words or thought.

    I had the misfortune of sustaining another concussion a few weekends ago. It’s funny looking back at it because I was able to rationalize a lot of craziness that doesn’t make any sense to me now. I was messed up yet I felt like I was fine and everyone else just changed.

    The injury was fairly simple, horsing around while white water rafting, and I jumped off the boat spinning and twisting all erratically. I hit the water spinning, tumbling and on the side of my head. There was a stillness when I hit the water, after a massive slam to the side of my head followed by a hissing. I remember floating up to the surface of the water thinking “oh oh, that was stupid.” I was dazed and confused as I swam back to the boat. I couldn’t hear anything from my left ear, had a head ache, was having some trouble figuring out how to get back into the raft and I was beginning to feel sick to my stomach.

    We ate a few minutes later, but I had to leave a few times to throw-up. I was beginning to get irritable and a little paranoid, the sickness and headache were building and I was looking around at people wondering who they were and why I’d be in conversations with them. We got back on the boat and things continued to degrade. The head ache and sickness were becoming really bad and I thought about sitting out the next set of rapids, the Coliseum, because I had a feeling the boat was going over. I stayed on and, as expected, the boat threw-out all but one person. My next memories after feeling the boat void its contents into the river were of being underwater, eyes open looking around wondering if I was going to hit the rocks I saw coming at me or if I would be able to float to the surface. Well, I did both.

    I didn’t need the second impact to make my day any worse, but I got it. We got out of the water and I puked my face off. My head was killing, my knee was opened-up and I was becoming unhinged. We get off the water about 20 minutes later and I throw-up again. We get back to the camp grounds, I go and change, get sick and start drink water hoping that I’m just dehydrated. But the camp ground isn’t the same as it was when I left. I looks the same, but I don’t belong there. I don’t know any of the people anymore, even the people I’m there with, and I have a growing level of suspicion of everyone. I begin to withdraw into myself because I feel so wrong.

    At this point I start to notice that my left ear is leaking. It’s mostly a clear fluid, but there’s a little blood in it. This did not register with me at the time. Simply put, I thought “my ear is leaking. I guess it should be, I hurt it” without so much of a thought about lumping the symptoms together to get a more complete view of what was going on. Head impact leading to  head ache, confusion, irritability, paranoia, nausea, and fluid leaking from the ear. I don’t realize it yet, but for the next week I am going to be this new person, someone who was very much like Rachel after she banged her head on the dresser. A confused shell of a man, small, weak, scared, in a daze, with only flashes of memories from of the time between rafting and, well, right now.

    When I visited the doctor they told me my ear drum has a sizable rupture so there must have been some impact. They said it should heal within 6 weeks so my hearing should be fine but that I need to see a specialist to make sure things are normal. They didn’t think much about me not going to the hospital to get checked-out once the fluid started coming from the ear but they weren’t surprised either because if I had a concussion I wasn’t going to be thinking right. Concussions are tough to diagnose, impossible days after the fact, but based on the symptoms and what happened, there’s a good chance I had one, but we’ll never actually know.

    All in all, this recovery left me feeling drained, emotionally empty, and completely confused. This was a “in the pits” type recovery that is both extremely erratic and wildly irrational. I’m more than 10 days out and this morning is the first morning since it happened that I have finally gotten a handle on what has been going on.