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Countdown- 5 Days, 11 Hours, 9 Minutes

September 22, 2010

Here are a few facts. Some are new. Some are not so new.

1. New Fact-Sleeping is difficult. It takes me a long time to fall asleep and I seldom stay asleep for more than a few minutes for the first two to three hours each night. Lying on my back with my head on two pillows I feel okay, though my legs are usually hurting and I have that all over crawly feeling. When I turn to one side or lie on my stomach, my chest feels “uncomfortable.” Things just feel crowded. I guess I could say I feel pressure. After a couple of minutes I begin to sweat and get very hot. After another minute or two, if I haven’t turned back onto my back and taken a Nitro, my neck, jaw, throat are very uncomfortable. Seldom does this escalate to full-blown pain. Lying on my back, sitting up and/or Nitro usually fixes things in a hurry. Lying on my side has often been problematic since all this heart drama began, but I admit the symptoms are worse. I am sleeping less. The frustration is growing. Once I fall deeply asleep, I seem to be able to sleep in any position, though I do often wake up hot and sweating, sitting straight up in bed as if I just woke up from a bad dream but cannot remember having one. Like it or not, this probably means the blockages are getting worse or I have new ones causing symptoms.

2. Old Fact- It has been well documented that I have aggressive heart disease and peripheral artery disease. I’ve been told my arteries are those of an eighty year old. My heart disease is genetic. Years ago, when I first found I had high cholesterol (in my 30s) I went to a nutritionist. She had me keep a food journal for three months. She determined that my high cholesterol was not diet related. My dad died of a heart attach in his mid thirties. My brother, my two sons and my older daughter all have high cholesterol. My mother recently died of colon cancer, but after she had several strokes. These genes were made for clogging. I need to exercise for my heart. I cannot exercise because of my legs. It’s a hideous cycle that gets no better.

3. New Fact- I have recently discovered the joy of cooking. I’ve always cooked. It was unavoidable with four children. I never enjoyed it though. Maybe cooking for bland food loving children, or cooking after a long and exhausting work day, or cooking on a shoe string budget all took the fun out of it. Now though, I have time and an enthusiastic and appreciative spouse to cook for. I am in no hurry. I can try new things and experiment. I have found I am very good at it. I also enjoy it. While this heart disease and PAD limit so much, cooking is something I can still do. It has become a hobby and it gives me a feeling of satisfaction, accomplishment and purpose.I also feel closer to my mother when I cook. She was a great cook and loved to prepare an elegant meal, trying new recipes which we, her family, often complained about. We didn’t like her altering our family traditions! I can almost hear her snicker with glee when I change up something and make it completely different by substituting one or two ingredients. Lee loves Mexican food and I recently made enchiladas for the first time. Last night I made a chicken pot pie that was fabulous.

4. Old Fact- Bypass, stents, Crestor, Plavix alone are not going to heal me. Traditional treatments have nothing to offer except heroics to prevent my death and medications to hopefully slow the progression of the disease. With the arteries of an eighty year old, that progression is going to have to be at a snail’s pace to keep me out of the grave for long, and really, that means any day could be the last. This is an old fact, not a new one.

So, I have decided, make that, we have decided, to change our diet. Not long after I was diagnosed, I read about Dean Ornish. He promotes a diet of grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables only and claims that research has proven that such a diet, along with lifestyle changes such as exercise, stress management and even more love in your life, can not only prevent heart disease, but actually reverse it. Nothing else makes that claim and has the research to back it up. My brother-in-law called last night to say he’d heard Bill Clinton talking with Wolf Blitzer on CNN saying that 82% of people who stuck with the diet had some reversal. Other doctors backed up the theory including one from the Cleveland Clinic. I’d heard all this before. Just a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine had heard Dr. Oz talking about the same thing. (I don’t care much for the Dr. Oz. He seems to me to be much like a fashion magazine, or a parenting magazine, making up things to be knowledgeable about and blowing diseases and remedies out of proportion. That’s just my not so humble opinion by the way. )

We leave tomorrow for a visit with Lee’s family. We return late Monday night. We plan to start the diet changes on Tuesday and try it until Thanksgiving. I am panicky about it already. The thought of no more cheese, chocolate and rice is daunting. The thought of not using any oil, canola or olive oil, to cook with even more daunting. No dairy, no eggs, no meat or even fish. We could go at this in moderation, allow salmon, egg whites, no fat milk and yogurt and a little canola oil. We could add a few nuts and an avocado, but if the goal is reversal and not prevention, the all or nothing plan seems best.

I have no idea if we can do this. We love to eat! I love to cook! For today, this is still the plan.

I said we both decided, not just me. Lee left me a note this morning. It said,

I love you more than meat, ribs, chicken, sugar, white flour, cornbread and fish!”

Dean Ornish includes “more love” as a necessary lifestyle change.

I cannot imagine having more love in my life. I have so much already.

Countdown to a Plant Based Diet-

5 days, 11 hours, 8 minutes

I will now go make a piece of cheese toast. For dinner, we’re having the rest of the chicken pot pie and I’m making a pizza as an appetizer.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mary permalink
    September 22, 2010 4:50 pm

    My dear friend…do you have a vegan restaurant within striking distance? You will find vegan cooking can be GREAT. Fear not. Moderation. I actually crave it now. It is a journey, but don’t take too long to get on board the train, sister! Love, Mary

    • September 22, 2010 7:10 pm

      Dear Mary, I thought about you as we were mulling over this decision. I like to think I eat pretty healthy already, with all the salmon, fresh vegetables, whole grains, but truth be told, there is ample cheese, butter, chocolate to offset the benefits of my healthy efforts. I know I will grieve much as I did and still do for cigarettes. It has been a mere 1 year, 7 months, four days, fifteen hours and eight minutes since I last smoked. Piece of cake, or legume maybe. As for restaurants, I’ll have to look around. I’m sure there is something. At least there are farmer’s Markets and even road side produce stands. Thanks fo rthe support. If you hear a loud wail next week, it’s just me. Love, Allie

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