Monday, September 16, 2013

Virtue and Vices

According to the US National Library of Medicine 
National Institutes of Health, this year, more than 1 million Americans and more than 10 million people worldwide are expected to be diagnosed with cancer, a disease commonly believed to be preventable. Only 5–10% of all cancer cases can be attributed to genetic defects, whereas the remaining 90–95% have their roots in the environment and lifestyle.  

Sobering isn't it.  The fact is that the majority of diseases are caused by poor lifestyle choices. 

I entered the medical field right out of High School. The experience  has afforded me some amazing insight and opportunities into the human condition. Seeing the disease process up close and personal had a much more profound effect than reading about it in text books. 

My first job was in dermatology and at the time, I was a body surfing, bikini-wearing California girl who loved the sun and the outdoors.  When I became truly educated on the effects of ultra-violet radiation on the skin and saw how damaging it could be on unprotected skin, I changed my lifestyle in a huge way.  I still body surfed and enjoyed the sun, waves and the physical sport but started wearing long sleeved wet suits and zinc-based sunblocks.  I'm still thanking myself for it. 

I've always led a busy life, a productive life and for the most part a happy life. Not withstanding the normal stress of being human, a few broken hearts, job changes, moves and the passing of my 
mother when I was way too young.  I've tried to always look ahead and not behind me and adopted the philosophy that I am a product of my culminated life experiences and be it good or bad, I am what I am today, because of all of it.  I like who I am today, so, it's all good.  I strive for simplicity in my life. 

I  work a 10 hour surgical shift 4 days a week.  I clock in for 10 hours but I'm up at 4 AM every morning and in bed, if I'm lucky by 10 PM.  Try to work in weight training and hiking in between all that and oh yes, the photography too.  I burn a candle at both ends to say the least. 

This summer was spectacular in that I accomplished the Narrows hike and Scouts Landing in Zion National Park in two days. At the top of Scouts landing, I knew something was amiss when I became lightheaded and had to backdown from Angels Landing when I couldn't steady my backpack on the narrow hike with a drop off of over 12000 feet on either side.  Days after I returned, I spent my 4th of July in the hospital for a week, undergoing 2 separate surgeries.  A pretty bad fall I'd taken almost a year before where I had been standing on a ledge that gave way and had me landing on my tripod  did  some internal damage and finally caught up with me.  In hindsight, it all made sense.  

A physician friend counseled that a major surgery, aside from the physical effects of healing could also affect my emotional state and that many post-surgical patients often deal with depression after an incident like mine.  I returned back to work the following week and tried to get my life back in order.  I really just wanted to get back into hiking and photography.  At the same time, I dealt with what seemed like loss after loss after loss.  

I remember as a body surfer occasionally getting really punched out by a wave.  Pushed to the bottom, rolled around and dragged in the sand, I'd barely open my eyes so I could see the light and the orienting light meant air.  Swimming, what seemed like an unfathomed distance to reach the surface and take a breath.  

I couldn't reach the surface and I was drowning.  One of life's many forks in the road.  Wallow in self-pity or rise to the challenge/swim to the light.  I started to re-examine my lifestyle and sought to simplify, yet again. 

Starting with the physical self.  I needed some drastic changes.  I cut out almost all processed foods. No sugar.  I started to live as nutritionally perfect as I could.  75% fresh vegetables, 20% fresh fruit, 5% unaltered poultry or beans and nuts.  Increased hiking and weight training. 

I was not prepared for what happened after that lifestyle "choice".   I couldn't believe the changes I saw and how quickly it came about.  It was like I spiritually  shed a "sick" self and became a new self.  The increased energy level is unreal. I haven't complained of being tired in weeks. I started sleeping better, thinking better, working better and a funny little side effect, laughing more. 

I feel better, look better ( I had to buy size extra extra small scrub pants :-) hike more efficiently and run my life more efficiently. Finally....Breathe!! 

Now, it's not totally perfect.  I've kept two vices. I figured I'm entitled, I've work hard for it. 

My two vices? 
Handsome grey-haired men.

Life is wonderful again.