|This is a photo of me at my younger son's bris, weighing somewhere around 285. Pounds.|
Text Messages You Don’t Want To Get From Your Doctor #427: “Call me NOW.”
Which is the text message I received from my doctor just four days ago, Monday morning, August 27th. I responded as Hellboy would have: “Oh crap.”
Just a few days earlier, Friday, August 24th, I had paid a visit to the aforementioned great and powerful Dr. Nosson Goldfarb complaining of extreme fatigue and general feelings of physical, spiritual, and emotional yuckiness.
In fact, I had felt like absolute garbage for the previous 10 months. Maybe even longer than that. I blamed the fatigue on my younger son, not yet two-and-a-half, who has clubbed feet.
“Hey Dan!” you’re thinking, “How do his clubbed feet make you tired?” It’s the braces. He wears braces on his feet. The braces on his feet get tangled in the blankets of his bed at night and prevent him from turning over.
Do this: tonight when you get into bed, tie your feet to the ends of a broom. Let me know how that goes for you.
Next imagine that you’ve only just toilet-trained. Your parents didn’t make you do it, you decided to do it out of the goodness of your heart (and the swampiness of your cloth diapers). You’re so proud of yourself! You are not yet two-and-a-half and you’re crushing this whole personal development thing. You’re able to warn your Mommy that it’s time to go, you’re able to hold it in until you both sprint to the potty. You go to the toilet with relatively little mess. You are, in short, the man. This isn’t beginner’s luck, this is expertise. You could be a motivational speaker for kids twice your age. Okay, so you can’t speak so well, but man, you’re ripe for the potty.
Your balletically graceful use of the toilet and your inability, at night whilst your braces are on, to independently traverse the garbanzo-bean-carpeted hallway between your bedroom and the bathroom scrape the blackboard like a duet between James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti.
What would your strategy be? If you’re my son, the strategy is to scream until a parent carries you to the bathroom. How many times per night you ask? Enough times. Enough times to make Superman cry for his mama.
That’s how my son’s clubbed feet made me tired. This has been going on since birth, pretty much. As the months and years passed, I would just pound coffee and count the days until Shabbos when I could crash. My several feeble attempts to eat healthily would fall away for lack of motivation. Exercise, you may ask? To which I would answer, “I remember exercise. I also remember when Pearl Jam’s first album came out.”
As one could imagine, not sleeping, ingesting coffee intravenously, and eschewing exercise was less an approach to life than a pastime in the waiting room of death. Until about a month before the Text Message of Doom. About mid-July, I started to think that maybe - maybe - something else was going on. As I stumbled through my thirty-ninth year on this earth, approaching the end of the decade of life when my father’s father had a massive coronary, and approaching the beginning of the one in which my father’s father’s only son had coronary number one, it occurred to me that, given my genetic heritage, I’d rather hear bad news from a doctor than from the Heavenly Court of Judgment.
So I went to my dear friend and doctor, Nosson Goldfarb. The appointment was for Friday afternoon, August 24th, just a few days before the Text Message O’ Doom.
Nosson knows my history. He knows that I stuff every negative emotion either into my shoulders in the form of stress, or straight down into the digestive tract, planting the seeds of future award-winning ulcers.
He knows my challenges are emotional as well as physical. He took my blood and sat me down for some tough love. “Dan, you’ve got to radically change the way you eat, and you have to do it now.” This led to a conversation about all the stress in my life - round-the-clock risk factors, daily invitations to the angioplasty club, or worse. And what have I done to mitigate the stress? See above, in which I admit that I eat like crap and don’t exercise.
I left his office and went about the rest of my afternoon. Shabbos was coming and I still had some shopping to do for the kiddush we were about to make in our new baby daughter’s honor. Are you keeping up? Wife, four children, no pressure, Weiss, no pressure at all. How do you feel about yourself now? You’ve let everyone down by letting yourself get this far gone.
But you’ll change all of that. You’ll get on the right track and all will be well. You’ll get back on your Esselstyn/McDougall hybrid eating plan, you’ll exercise, you’ll win the lottery, you grow to be six-foot-four and lead the Cleveland Browns to their fifteenth Super Bowl title in a row. After Shabbos.
Sunday morning, August 26th, just five days before I wrote this post. My fabulous wife got right on the job, as she has done in the past, to help me eat in the Esselstyn way. You could cut the excitement with a samurai sword, except that there wasn’t any excitement. I was pretty ticked off, actually. Why? Because I’m the kind of person who wants to eat exactly what I want. But I complied. My wife is an excellent cook, so I didn’t really have to suffer.
Monday morning, August 27th. Dr. Goldfarb’s text: “Call me NOW.” The blood lab called Dr. Goldbarb early in the morning. They instructed him to call the patient - me - as soon as possible. My blood glucose level was off-the-charts high. Say it with me now, “Diabetes!”
My blood glucose level was over 500. My A1C was well into the double digits. “No wonder you’ve been feeling awful,” said the doctor. Yeah. For how many months had I ascribed this to clubbed-foot baby fatigue? What had I put in jeopardy by simply not knowing how sick I was?
And that was when the adventure really started. Wake up call? Yeah. This was the first time in my life where the specter of not making it through my forties became visceral. I’m grateful to God that I got this news via a phone call from a panicked lab tech and not from an ambulance driver, emergency room physician, or mortician. This is my opportunity to transform the way I approach life. Because this isn’t just about food. This is about how I deal with life.
This is a physical journey. An emotional journey. A spiritual journey. I’m going hard core plant-based here. I’m going to stalk this food problem, find out where it is hiding, flash-bang it out of its Saddam-like dirt-pit, and pistol whip it in front of anyone who will pay attention.
I hope this blog will be a way to keep me motivated - no, not just motivated, but excited, totally off-the-hook inspired. Because that is what it’s going to take. I’m an over-the-hill Rocky Balboa. This challenge is the much-younger, in-much-better-shape fighter. I’m going to have to use all of my wits and creativity to whup it in the hiney. Won’t you join me?