In my last post I talked about personal discipline as the key to getting your goals accomplished. I’m a pretty driven, eye-on-the-target kind of person, and I really did believe that – if I organized better, set priorities and held to them, and pressed on even when I might not feel like doing something my priorities require – that the pieces would fall into place and move me forward.
Never tempt fate like that!
Somewhere out in the universe, some gnome or fairy, or wayward guardian angel is laughing her behind off.
During the week after I wrote that last post, I did exactly what I said I needed to do. I spent at least a few hours a day on writing activities. I went to the gym, and a lengthy hike. I juggled those around my part time employment. I still had time to run errands, plant a fall garden, re-organize our master bath, AND, since we were blessed with unseasonably warm weather, enjoyed an hour or so each day by the pool with my husband, my dog, and refreshing gin and tonics! I really thought I had nailed the formula.
I ignored the fact that with each workout I felt more winded and lightheaded than the last. I ignored feeling tired, since, of course, I was pushing myself to do a lot more than I had done in some time.
When I woke on Friday of that week, I was out of breath just walking from the bed to the bathroom. Now THAT wasn’t normal. Even I had to pay attention to that. I called my doctor for an appointment and planned to drive myself there in an hour or so. But by the time I was ready to leave, it was clear it wasn’t safe for me to drive myself. So I enlisted my husband.
My doctor did a thorough exam and declared the impossible – I had an acute upper GI bleed. It seemed impossible, given that I’ve always joked about having a cast iron stomach. I’ve never had a single symptom of indigestion or abdominal discomfort. Apparently that didn’t matter. The bottom line was there was blood in my stool and I was short of breath which likely meant I’d been bleeding for long enough for my red blood cells to get down low enough they couldn’t carry enough oxygen to support even the slightest activity.
Somehow I’d missed the signs. Guess I was focused elsewhere.
Off to the hospital I was sent. An endoscopy confirmed I had not one but five cratered ulcers. Bleeders were cauterized and biopsies done. Ulcer treatment in these enlightened times has progressed way beyond the “sippy diet” of a few decades ago. I went home a day later on a drug called protonix, which actually helps the ulcers heal, and no dietary limitations other than no alcohol, no ibuprofen (or any NSAIDS), and pay attention to anything else that may not set well.
I also went home with my tail between my legs. I preach to all that the individual is responsible for their personal health, and I ignored the signs that mine was in trouble. I pushed on even when something clearly was “off” in my system.
The moral of my story? When you’re about to turn sixty-four, you have to accept that your body, while in reasonably good shape, is aging and can’t do what it did when you’re twenty-five. It doesn’t mean giving up all goals, grabbing the knitting needles, and spending the rest of your days in a rocking chair. It simply means, as you’re checking off your “to-do” lists each day, your list should include a check-in with yourself. Are you feeling okay physically? Are you tired and need to rest? Are you cranky because you’ve not had time to just chill?
Listen to your body. Set realistic goals and be kind to yourself when your body screams “stop!” Push yourself, if that is your personality, but stay tuned to what that is doing to your body and mind. When you hear what your body is saying and take care of it accordingly, you’ll get a lot further without the jolting reality check of a health crisis. More often than not, life will step in and interfere with your goals, slowing your progress toward them. If you fight it, you may find more and bigger, more serious obstacles popping up in your way. It’s best to keep your eye on the goal but go with the flow.
And you just might be able to thumb your nose at that gnome, fairy or wayward guardian angel who laughed at you when you were down.
Dawn, how awful for you and scary! What a serious condition you were harboring without knowing it. I am so glad you went for treatment and it sounds as though you will now heal and get back to your healthy life. You are so right that we need to check-in daily to see if we are feeling OK about our health, stamina, emotional well-being. Take care!