The big dilemma…

Mom and Three Babies…the fourth has been missing for almost two weeks, but alas, he showed up by himself a few days ago. We’d hoped he hung around long enough to reunite with his family, but they left, and he appeared about an hour later. 
“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”
This is Basket. He lost his right ear in a confrontation a few months ago.

As I speak to family members and friends on Skype, text, or email, the question always comes up, “I’ve read the blog, but how are you really doing?” It’s a tricky question to answer.

No doubt, I don’t want this online medium to be a whine-fest about my concerns, pain, and frustration after this dreadful but life-saving operation. However, in our posts, we always try to tell it like it is, resulting in an oxymoron; Mentally, emotionally? I’m OK. Physically? I’m not OK yet.

I am getting better in bite-sized pieces. Some patients say they have good days and bad days. It’s not like that for me. I have days I progress, and days it stands still. But, they are days. And, I’m alive.

The concerns are many. How do I eat now? Do I go on a strict diet as the American Heart Association espoused, which doesn’t reap many benefits statistically. Or, shall I continue with my low carb, high fat, starch, and sugar-free way of eating?This way of eating eliminated 30 years of excruciating pain generated by a hereditary spinal condition in three months. Had I not done this strict diet, I’d be in a wheelchair by now, unable to walk, unable to move freely, spending lots of time in bed as my dear sister Susan (four years older than me), who suffers from the same spinal condition and has been lying in bed for 12 years or more. That could have been me.

We’d never have left the US and traveled the world as we have for almost six and a half years, with hopes and dreams of more. Only months after the pain and inflammation subsided, we decided to “step outside the box” and travel for as long as we could.  

It’s been a glorious situation, and we long for more. Is this all I get? Am I greedy to want more? Goodness, is it wrong to want more happiness and fulfillment when we’ve worked so hard to achieve it? This lifestyle in itself hasn’t always been easy.
Kudus were hanging out with Basket, who was less aggressive than usual.

If I follow a low-fat diet, the pain will return, and within months so will the quality of life, bringing an immediate end to our travels and the lifestyle we so much love.

If I continue to eat a low carb, high fat, moderate protein diet, will my arteries become clogged again in a few years? The two doctors, the cardiologist, and the thoracic surgeon, said diet for me has little to do with what transpires in the future.  

They said the plaque developed over 20 or 30 years, most of it eating a very low-fat diet as espoused by the US government as healthy. Even then, knowing my heredity, I was trying to avert the inevitable, as I’d watched family members suffer and die from heart disease, diabetes, and other inflammatory diseases. 

I “assumed” by staying slim and fit, I’d be exempt. How wrong I was! Before I began this way of eating in 2011, I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, only a short time away from taking medication.  

Once I began this way of eating within months, I was no longer pre-diabetic…there was no indication of any potential for type-two diabetes which ran rampant in my family.

Harmony in the garden on a sunny day.

My heart disease is not gone. It’s a hereditary and ongoing illness. The pipes have been replaced, but they can and most likely clog again in five, eight, ten years. Would I have to go through this again when I’m in my late 70’s or 80’s? Could I go through this again? It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.

Science is unclear. Studies are conflicting, and many are skewed. There’s no clear answer. Pain or heart attack, which do I choose? Therein lies the oxymoron, the conflict, the frustration coupled with the uncertainty of the future.

But then, we’re all uncertain of what the future holds, aren’t we? And I’ve recently spent the happiest six-plus years of my life. Not everyone can single out a segment of time where they’ve been fulfilled, content, and in awe of the world around them.

As darkness fell, Mike and Joe stopped by with a few zebras and helmeted guineafowls.

The doctors here both told me my heart was very strong and healthy. They even went as far as to state it is the heart of a 35-year-old and that my lifetime of exercising is why I am alive today when I had three of four arteries 100% blocked. I was functioning at 25%. My strong heart kept me going. Thank you, my heart. Thank you for saving me.

For all the criticism I received from family and friends that I exercised too often, too much, claiming I was obsessed, now proved to serve me well. Why I didn’t collapse from a heart attack during those years with blocked arteries baffles me today.

So now? Am I “telling it like it is?” Overall, the answer is yes, although I must admit I’ve kept some of it to myself. Seeing it in print sheds a whole new light on the reality of this dilemma, the answers to which I’ll continue to research until I’m satisfied the path is clear.

Heredity is a lot bigger part of our future than I’d ever imagined. In time and with advances in science, solutions may become more evident. For now, in part, it’s speculation and a guessing game.  

May we all come out as winners.

Photo from one year ago today, March 22, 2018:

This morning, in the rain, nine zebras stopped by for a visit and some snacks. It was delightful to see them a second time in our yard, although it wasn’t the same “dazzle” of zebras as the last time. For more photos, please click here.

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