Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm thankful to be alive

It’s the time of year when newspaper columnists wax poetic and list things most of us can be thankful for on this holiday, things like living in the USA, being able to read, having friends and family members to love who love us back.
Trite, formula stuff. I’ve read and written many such columns. While my columns were full of truisms, I don’t think I understood what it means to be truly thankful... until now.
Oh, I’ve had more than my share of blessings: my lovely wife, Linda; our healthy and intelligent children, Joanna and George.
I have an interesting job that challenges me, a loving extended family and a few good friends.
But this year I’m thankful for something even more basic — being alive.
This spring, after a routine physical, my family doctor sent me to a specialist who discovered I had prostate cancer. In May, a surgeon used a high-tech robotic device to remove my prostate; the cancer hadn’t spread.
I’m thankful prostate cancer is among the least aggressive. I had access to first-rate health care and we caught it early. It appears I’m now cancer-free.
I know how fortunate I am.
But that wasn’t my closest call with death this year. In September I had a stroke, a hemorrhagic stroke to be exact, otherwise known as a brain hemorrhage.
It sounds scary because it is.
After some physical activity my blood pressure spiked, causing a blood vessel in my brain to rupture.
It didn’t hurt a bit, but at first I couldn’t talk. After a few minutes I was able to utter gibberish and a few minutes after that all seemed well. I didn’t realize I’d had a stroke, I just chalked it up to another one of those things that happen to you as you grow older (and not the worst one, I might add).
It wasn’t till the next day, when I got to work that I realized that something was definitely wrong; my typing was far worse than normal and my speech was less fluent.
Linda took me to Oneida Healthcare; they scanned my brain and sent me to the Upstate Stroke Center at University Hospital in Syracuse.
Long story short, the experts watched me closely in the Neurology ICU, brought down my blood pressure and I’m almost back to normal. I have to closely watch my blood pressure and may receive some physical therapy to erase any lingering effects.
So I’m thankful to be alive. And I’m thankful to be able to offer a bit of advice. For prostate cancer, monitor the PSA results from your annual physicals. While there’s some controversy in this, be informed and make your own decisions.
As for strokes, call 911 immediately at any sign of a stroke. The FAST signs of a stroke:

F: Face -- Does the face look uneven? Ask the person to smile.
A: Arms -- Does one arm drift down? Ask the person to raise both arms.
S: Speech -- Does speech sound strange? Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Example: “The sky is blue.”
T: Time -- to call 911, if you observe ANY of these signs.

Happy Thanksgiving. If you’re reading this you are also alive. You may have problems, we all do. And there always are people whose lives may seem better than yours.
So what?
There are also many whose lives are far worse. Help them and experience the true meaning of this holiday.


Anonymous Jen @ Jen Spends said...

Wow, that is a lot for one person to go through in a short time. Thank goodness you are okay. Here's hoping that 2012 is easier for you and your family!

December 5, 2011 at 4:30 PM 

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