Thursday, October 13, 2016

Embracing Mortality

Later today, Lor and I will be attending a funeral. It is not for a person who we knew particularly well, but instead the family member of a friend of ours. The death was quite sudden, completely unexpected, and the family is still in shock. So, we will be attending, just to provide what little support and comfort we can.

Normally, I avoid funerals. And hospitals. And nursing homes. Pretty much anything that is tinged with the awareness of the end of life, I avoid if at all possible. I am all too aware that life is fleeting, and I usually want no part of being around for the end of it.

I haven't always been this way. I used to be quite a bit more philosophical about aging, death, and end of life issues. But, in 2004, epilepsy arrived, and my whole worldview changed.

Why is that? Mainly because the type of epilepsy I suffer from, temporal lobe epilepsy, has a really high mortality rate. About 1 out of every 1,000 people die from epilepsy each year. But, for a person suffering from intractable seizures of the temporal lobe, as I do, that rate goes up to 1 out of every 150.

But, wait, there's more! My treatment for epilepsy led to morbid obesity, thanks to side effects from the drug cocktail I was on. The mortality rate for those who are morbidly obese is about 1 in 5. Also, add on to that the mortality rate for hypertension (another condition I suffer from) - about 15 out of 1,000. My health got so bad that one of my very first neurologists informed me that, barring a miracle of some kind, I would be dead before I was 50.

It got to the point where, every morning, I was kind of surprised to wake up.

Today, things are different. My seizures are coming under control. My hypertension is resolved. Earlier this week I graduated from "morbidly obese" to "obese" on the BMI chart. (And if you think that is no major cause for celebration, you have never been morbidly obese.) My miracle arrived, in the form of bariatric surgery.

So, later today, I will strap on my courage and go to a funeral. Sure, death waits for me eventually, like it does for all of us. But for right now, I can go out and bring comfort to a friend who has lost a loved one without being paralyzed by my fear of my own oncoming demise. My grandfathers made it into their 80s (one is still alive and healthier than I am!) There is no reason to not expect that I could have another 30 or 40 years ahead of me at this point. Hiding under the metaphorical bed does no good for anyone, least of all me.

Instead, I can now "work while the sun shines", no longer expecting to be felled by my failing body at any moment. And that may be the ultimate freedom that bariatric surgery has gained for me.

Grateful For Today (Even Though It Includes A Funeral),

- Hawkwind

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