In my ignorance I almost died

Are you really sure you want to read this? It's not very exciting and I'm forced to actually admit how dumb I've been when it comes to my health. If you absolutely must I guess I can give you a little peek into what I experienced when my body finally said "enough."

The story begins back in 2006, around February I think, I had decided to get my weight back to a respectable 210 lbs (from the 225 where I typically weighed). I had also been hearing that my sister in law (Hi Trish) was training to run a marathon. I liked burning off calories by riding my bicycle and decided that if she could run 26 I should certainly be able to ride for 100 miles. That was my goal and I began my steady progression towards the big ride (and before Trish could accomplish her goal, he he).

At the end of March I started noticing blood in my bike shorts. I figured that my new riding schedule was taking it's toll on my tender behind and that once I toughened up I would be just fine. Time passed and the problem did not pass. It kept getting worse and I started developing other symptoms as well. I was getting stomach cramps and having BM's more often and they were not as "firm" as normal. By July I was miserable, 6 to 8 BM's a day and every time it looked like I poured red in the water. Not good! I reluctantly decided to actually seek medical help, I had not been to a doctor for a long time and admitting I needed help was a big step for me.

I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory condition in my digestive tract, and once diagnosed I was given medication and all symptoms disappeared within 24 hours! Great, I'm now back to my old self and ready to take on the world again. By October my doctor had begun the process of weaning me off of the medication that I was on. I had been symptom free for months now and figured that I didn't need my doctor to tell me how to slowly discontinue my medication. I continued backing off the medication just like he was doing, I felt great and new that I had been cured. In the middle of January, almost off the meds by now, I had a flare up of the Colitis - back to bleeding and the pain was so bad that I had a difficult time breathing at times. Back to the doctor, scolded for missing appointments, scolded for self altering my medication and more importantly I started to get a clue that I had a chronic condition that may never go away. Doctor increases my medication, symptoms go away and I resume my bicycle training.

By the end of March I'm up to 65 miles at a time and the colitis has gone underground again. I am convinced that if I just keep up an aggressive pace with my exercise I can work through all health issues.

Along comes April 5 of 2007. On that day I had a busy schedule and started off early. No more than a cup of coffee and a biscotti for breakfast and I'm off. Several jobs at different clients and I've completely forgotten about lunch and dinner will be a late one when I get home. At around 6:30pm I start the last job, I'll be installing a computer network wire in the attic of a house. I get out of the attic, sweating like crazy from the heat up there, and complete the wiring job. I didn't feel real good, over heated, thirsty, and exhausted.

At this point I took a shower, had a bottle of water and only had the strength to lie down, there on the job site. My wife was called to get me and take me home. At home I was restless, I wanted to watch tv, then just go to bed, from there I was sick to my stomach again. My wife, knowing this was more than exhaustion, demanded that I go to the emergency room (it was after 3am by now).

I walk into the emergency waiting room, nobody was there, and sat down while I am being admitted. In just a few minutes I am led to a room to be examined. They check vital signs, draw blood, ask questions about my situation and are generally very low key. In 15 minutes the results of my blood test come back and the mood of the hospital staff changes dramatically. I am informed that I have had or are having a heart attack! I quickly envision scenes from a bad movie where the patient records get mixed up in the hospital - and am in total disbelief. I have several IV tubes installed, a morphine drip, nitro squirted down my throat; in just minutes (or so it seems) I'm being wheeled into the catheterization lab in the hospital.

I wake up in the cardiac care unit of the hospital after an angioplasty and stents are placed in my coronary arteries, but I am alive. I begin to realize that this was real and I was not dreaming. I cannot believe that this has happened to me. I remember the physical that I had when the colitis was diagnosed. I had very low cholesterol, blood pressure was in spec, I only ate red meat once a month and the rest of the time I ate lots of chicken and vegetables. I exercised regularly, remember the 100 mile ride I'm training for.

I needed answers as to why this happened to me when I thought that I was doing everything that I could to prevent something like a heart attack. The first bit of education came from my own cardiologist's book "The OC Cure for Heart Disease." I really didn't know exactly what a heart attack was until I read this book and came to understand that this is primarily a disease of poor choices with food, activity, and mental state. You do not "feel" your arteries clogging and I have heard excuses from others stating that they don't "feel" the benefits of eating properly. Trust me, I had to have a heart attack to believe that this is real, as real as it gets.

By the way the hospital is the exciting and easy part of having a heart attack. Once you are released you begin the difficult part of dealing with heart disease, the day to day struggle to keep yourself on track. A month after I was released from the hospital I was placed into a cardiac rehabilitation program. I was interviewed and asked to set goals for myself. I told the nurse that I wanted to get my weight down to 185, at the time I was 240lbs, she smiled and asked me if I thought my goal was realistic and maybe I should reconsider. I was determined and let the 185 goal stand. I started my rehabbing on Mon, Wed, and Friday for one and a half hours with one hour of cardio (30 min on a bike and 30 min on a treadmill) and 20 min of weights and a cool down and checkout. While I was in the program I wore a heart rate monitor that transmitted to the nurse and all values were recorded. Your weight, blood pressure and pulse was checked and recorded before, during and after the workout. When I started this program I hated it! I came in angry that I was there and it showed in my blood pressure. If your blood pressure was too high they wouldn't let you work out - but when I worked out it lowered my blood pressure (I was convinced that I knew more than the rehab people.)

I began my own program before I would go into the hospital and incorporated what I knew about exercise with the low intensity cardiac recommendations. The first three months of rehabbing and my weight actually went up by over 10 pounds, I got to over 250. I remained vigilant and continued to find ways that I was able to get more activity in the same amount of time spent exercising and at the same time get more nutrition from fewer calories. From this work I have come up with a formula that works in harmony with your bodies own adaptive mechanisms. Gone are the myths that the only way to get results is from attempting to hurt your muscles or starve your body into submission. These were fun (though misguided) myths that were propagated in high school - they were wrong then as they are now. The difference is that your body cannot recover properly today and will shut down on you and prevent you from ever getting to your goal.

I continued my progress until I hit my ultimate goal of 165 lbs in 15 months and have kept the weight off. More importantly I have been able improve my physical capacity, stamina, endurance and educate others about the dangers of ignoring the fundamentals of good health. I must admit that very few people are willing to listen and fewer still are willing to take action. I have spoken to so many people about the dangers of heart disease and have listened to them tell me that "they" don't need to worry (I remember their words at their funerals). Your odds of survival are little better than 50 / 50 if you do choose to have a heart attack. Are these numbers that you're willing to bet on, especially when it comes to your life?

Promise me that you will do something about yourself. If you know there is a problem you do not want to hide from it. You must face the issue head on and take action. If you are one of the few who are strong enough to take action I encourage you to get my free report on the "myths preventing you from losing weight."

To those who are willing to make a change.

Brent Fairbanks

Modified 06/26/2012