Out of the clear blue sky in June of 2022, I went into full blown liver failure.
It turns out that I was one of 500 or so folks poisoned by Daily Harvest’s French Lentil and Leek Crumbles, but I didn’t know that was what was making me so sick at the time; the recall wasn’t announced until a week or so later. (The fact that I nearly died from trying to eat as healthfully as possible goes to prove that the Universe has a wicked sense of humor, but I digress…)
Anyway, all I knew then was that I was sicker than I had ever been in my life.
Having previously endured 8 surgeries for various medical issues, one of which landed me in pulmonary edema from a medical misadventure, being “sicker than I had ever been” was saying something.
Within the span of three days, I turned a hideous yellow-green color all over and developed intense nausea, vomiting, headaches, body aches, insane itching, and unbelievable fatigue.
Like Earth’s gravity got turned up 1000% level fatigue.
Like the air was now made of molasses level fatigue.
My liver enzymes were 25x the upper limits of normal.
Within the first 24 hours of my hospital admission, all the usual suspects for liver failure had been ruled out except for one, and that one was “not good”- the “you get more and more of all of the miserable symptoms above until you die” kind of “not good”. Although honestly, death really didn’t sound that bad if how I was feeling at the time was the only alternative.
And then, right when I felt so bad that I wished I’d hurry up and get this dying thing over with already, I started to feel better.
At first, I thought they must have gotten the cocktail of meds right to help manage all my symptoms since, you know, I was dying and all, but my liver enzymes were actually starting to improve a bit, as well.
It took 3 more days to get back the final test looking for what might be causing my symptoms. My GI doc was positively giddy as he waltzed into my hospital room to tell me that the test had come back negative.
He had been sure I had it, since it was the only thing that hadn’t been ruled out yet, and he thought that the liver enzymes only looked better due to dilution effect from them pumping me up with enough IV fluids to make my fingers and toes all look like fat little sausages. He didn’t know what the hell caused me to get so sick, but whatever it was, I was actually getting better.
I was going to live.
Thinking that my days were numbered on the fingers of my chubby little hands profoundly changed me. Or maybe it was all the drugs I was taking.
Either way, I spent those three miserable days when I was pretty sure I was going to die thinking about what I really would have liked to have experienced or accomplished had I known how limited my life was going to be.
There were five things on my “I don’t want to die with regrets” list:
Not having experienced the love of a wonderful, supportive life partner
Yes, I had been married before, but it hadn’t exactly been a healthy relationship.
I had been divorced for 9 years before I turned yellow-green, and during those years, a new partner had not shown up at my doorstep, which is pretty much what he’d have had to have done because I wasn’t putting much effort into finding Mr. Wonderful.
Now, I fully recognized that I didn’t have total control over finding said wonderful partner, but it was clear that working 60 hour weeks (see regret #2) and not actually socializing much sure weren’t helping my chances!
I could, however, spend time reflecting on what I would want in a partner and make an actual effort to meet someone appropriate by, say, joining an online dating site, getting out of the house for social events, and letting my friends know I was looking for a partner and asking for “referrals”.
Spending too much of my life doing work that was no longer meaningful
I was spending 60 hours a week at work, with most of that work no longer being gratifying.
I had little time to connect personally with my patients and instead spent lots of time doing rapid fire management of chronic lifestyle-related disease for patients who were not interested in changing the habits that were making them sick in the first place, in addition to doing an exorbitant amount of meaningless administrative work.
While I had been willing to spend more time on work that I didn’t actually enjoy during the pandemic (it was a public health emergency, after all!), Covid-19 was dying down, and yet the amount of time I spent doing things that I didn’t find fulfilling was only getting worse.
That brought me to regret #3…
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Not having written my lifestyle medicine book
I love to write and co-authored a book in 2015 called the 4Leaf Guide to Vibrant Health-Using the Power of Food to Heal Ourselves and Our Planet.
I have had another lifestyle medicine book rolling around in my brain for the past three years, but working 60 hours a week (see regret #2) doesn’t leave you much time to write, especially if you don’t have a life partner (see regret #1) with whom share home duties.
Plus, I personally require consistent chunks of time to be able to write, otherwise I lose my flow of thought. Three hours in the morning most days of the week is perfect. I might write more later in the day if I’m in the zone (true confession- I am writing this at 3:35 am on a Sunday morning because I am on a roll), but having designated time when I am not mentally spent is key for me to be able to make progress on a big project, like a book.
Not having traveled to Scotland
I have been wanting to hike the Scottish Highlands and on the Isle of Skye for, well, just about forever.
There are plenty of other places I would love to experience (can anybody say New Zealand?!), but if I died before I got to hike in Scotland, I wouldn’t just be disappointed. I’d be pissed, and not in the drunk kind of way.
Not having learned how to swing dance
I have wanted to learn to swing dance for decades—it just looked so gosh darn fun!
Plus the music is wonderful. And you get to wear swishy skirts.
But I didn’t have a partner (see regret #1) and had been working too much (see regret #2), so I had not pursued it.
It is now just over a year since I survived my liver debacle, and I’d like to share where I am on my “I don’t what to die with regrets” list.
First of all, I submitted my six months notice to my employer five months ago and will be starting work soon as a consultant in lifestyle medicine for Love.Life Telehealth.
I will get to set my hours-what ones and how many.
Since it is via telehealth, I will be able to work from anywhere that has reliable internet.
I will have the freedom and autonomy I thrive on, doing work that I love.
As I determine my new work/life schedule, time for writing my next book will get high priority.
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But before I start the new job (and actually the day after I finish at my current job!), I am leaving for a two week trip to Scotland that will include hiking with a small group in both the Highlands and on the Isle of Skye, with some added time for exploring on my own after the organized part of the trip.
In addition, for the past seven months, I have been swing dancing at least once a week, and often twice!
Who knew that a designated partner is not actually needed?!
Even if you do come with someone, it is actually considered rude not to rotate around and dance with everyone.
I wouldn’t say that I am great at swing dancing (yet!) but I’m at least not terrible! Every week I learn something new, while also getting in a great workout and having a ball. It really is a hoot!
And as for finding a loving, wonderful, supportive life partner?
Well, eHarmony was a bust and my friends have utterly failed to produce any viable options. You’ll just have to stay tuned on that one…