I have formed a belief over the years that the main problem in maintaining health is stress. Stress is often called “The silent killer.” I believe this to be true, and I, like many countless people over time have sought to minimise stress in my life. It is, of course easier said than done. We lead stressful lives, often without even realising it. The demands of career, family, finances, day to day life, create stress which we often don’t even recognise. Sometimes I was able to cope with this quite well, other times not. Occasionally stress plays its trick on us by sneaking up through circumstances beyond our control, to which we have to react and respond in the best way we can. Not always do we do this successfully, not always are we able to allay the stress of an unwanted situation, so it eats away at us insidiously until it gets us deep down without us even realising.
My recent serious heart attack, I believe, was a result of stress. How else could I explain being struck down so dramatically by a heart attack of such intense ferocity when I had none of the so called ‘risk factors’ which people are told to watch out for. None, and yet there I was hitting the deck being racked with pain so intense I could barely breathe. I knew instantly what it was, and thankfully was able to call 000 and text my wife at work before my arms gave way. I survived, thanks in part to swift action, great medics and excellent surgeons, but thanks also – according to my cardiologist – to the fact that I and my heart were strong. (many of my friends also attribute my Yorkshire stubbornness to this too)
Only stress can explain all this in my view. We were having a lot of stress in the family at that time, and my efforts to take this out on a rather large hibiscus tree with my chain saw backfired. But here I am 20 months later, a clean bill of health from the cardiologist (great news) but now with a new problem – multiple myeloma (not great).
Since my diagnosis I have scoured Dr. Google and read all there is to read about this crappy form of Leukemia, and have devoured most of what there is to read about alternative treatments for cancer. Chemotherapy does not appeal ( would it ever?) , but if not that then what? I will pronounce on this particular debate in a later post, but this one is about what I have come more and more to believe – that stress is the problem. Am I under stress at the moment? Outwardly one would have to say no, but deep down I know that there are things in my (our) current situation that are indeed causing me angst. Unlikely, I guess, sufficient to cause the problem … but sufficient to make recovery – whatever path I choose – less likely to succeed. Actually the word recovery is a bit inappropriate here because there is no cure for multiple myeloma, only treatments to ameliorate its symptoms in order to extend quality time. One always needs hope though – hence the use of the word recovery!
One of my neighbours, and a good friend of mine, seems to illustrate the point well. He is a similar age to me, has never had a days sickness in his life, and is fit and well enjoying our country life. He has no phone, no computer, no ATM card, no e-mail address. Although from what one might say a privileged colonial background, after English Public Boarding School he chose to eschew the standard University Education expected of him, and instead – after a period of 60’s drifting – became a landscaper, and then spent his life building waterfalls, which he loved. He came to Australia with a woman, and has been here for 40 years, chilling and building waterfalls for a living. Being disowned by ‘Pater’ seems not to have disturbed his love of life! Maybe he has the right idea?
So I am coming to a conclusion that a priority for me is to try and minimise stress in my life. As I said earlier, this is easier said than done, but I really do have a big time incentive now. I need to believe in my chosen strategy, and even if I do choose the chemo path, this will be accompanied by a natural healing strand and a massive, massive de-stressing push. I have considered moving to Ikaria (Greek Island, check it out, and why) or the Island of Saint Marie (as featured in the series “Death in Paradise”). The latter option does have the drawback of being fictional however.