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Saturday, April 12, 2014

“You’ll Never Get Sick. You Will Never Grow Old. And You Will Never Die.” – Cocoon (1985)

            I’m sorry for the extended delay in posts.  Both my wife and I have had new work schedules and getting on a regular home/work schedule has taken some time.  Onto the posting!
            Ever since I went vegan, I have fallen into a belief that I should be superhuman healthy.  After all, I partly went vegan to get into, and stay in, optimal health.  I thought that all that really required was to eat right and – BAM! – I’d be fine.  It might not come as a surprise that I’ve always been worried that if I catch even a small cold, it would reflect poorly upon veganism as a healthy lifestyle.  I spent so much time discussing the healthy side effects that I have had and that my wife has had going vegan with people, that I thought people would call me a hypocrite even if I sneezed.  Whenever I would go into work with a head cold, I imagined somebody saying something like, “Uh oh!  The vegan is sick!  So much for the invincibility of you vegans!  Eat pigs, everyone!”  Then I would either slink into a corner or cough all over them.  Either way, it was a poor situation to find oneself.
            I thought all of this even though I can string sentences together and form complex thought.  I want to be the shining example of peak human health to give veganism a good name so it can’t be helped.  I think this without realizing changing and improving your health has multiple facets.  I do exercise but I’m still as skinny as a stick.  If somebody gives me anything heavier than a brick to carry, I’m sore the next morning.  (That’s hyperbole, by the way.  I’m still worried my humor doesn’t translate.)  I just half-expect a change in eating habits is enough to get me to peak performance, as if I could fall asleep like Tobey Maguire and wake up with Spider-Man powers.
            Tobey Maguire, by the way, is a vegan.  I didn’t even mean to use him as an example because of that fact either.  I just love all things Spider-Man.
            Not only that but I still have seasonal allergies and acne – as I’ve stated previously.  Veganism hasn’t been able to eradicate those two things completely but that doesn’t discredit veganism.  So why should I worry about getting a cold when veganism can’t be a cure-all for everything else about me?
            I recently listened to a podcast by the great Colleen Patrick-Goudreau where she was discussing healthy vegans in response to an e-mail somebody had sent her.  The e-mail was from somebody who felt like she shouldn’t tell people she’s vegan just because she is over-weight.  Colleen quite logically stated that there is no one example of a healthy vegan.  One shouldn’t be discouraged to proclaim him or herself a vegan if he or she happens to be overweight.  Your body image does not reflect on veganism.  Just as getting sick doesn’t reflect on the virtues of veganism.
            I do not know why it took hearing that coming from somebody else for it to finally click but it did.  And again I’m indebted to CPG’s podcast.
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. You'd know this if you had clicked on her link already. D'uh.

            However, that doesn’t mean that the lesson always sticks.
            Recently, I fainted for no (at the time) apparent reason.  This was the day that my wife and I had gone to The Chicago Diner for breakfast.  After we did our running around we collapsed for a nice evening nap (I told you our life/work schedules had changed).  Upon waking, I quickly got out of bed, took about two steps to my desk, and that’s it.  The next thing I know, I’m coming to on my bedroom floor with my wife and mom surrounding me.  My wife had been calling my name and since I had no idea what the hell was going on, I kept telling her I was fine.
            They told me that contrary to what I believed, I was not fine because I had fainted and hadn’t responded for several seconds.  I thought that was ludicrous because I’ve never fainted before and I had always imagined – thanks to Hollywood – that when one faints, they swoon a bit, mumble something silly, their eyes roll up, and then gracefully fall to the ground.  The only thing I could recall was turning the TV on and then “waking up” with everyone surrounding me.  What I had been was sweaty, weak, and nauseous.  The meal that my mom was making for everyone other than my wife and I was overpowering to my nose (everyone else said they could hardly smell it).  But to faint?  I had thought at the time that that was crazy.
            As the night wore on, I was equally intrigued by this fainting business and also worried.  My veganism had cured me of every illness and woe, right?  So what was wrong?  It had to be something bad because in the age of Web, M.D., a hangnail means cancer.
            With much reluctance, I scheduled my first doctor’s appointment in several years at the insistence of everyone in my family.  I had never had a physical before so I figured now would be as good of a time to get one as any.  However, since it had been ages since I had visited my doctor, I had to get a preliminary appointment first before I could get a physical.  Joy!  Two doctor’s visits for the price of one!
            I went in on the following Monday, retold what had happened to the nurse and the doctor, and then discussed possible outcomes.  Now, doctor visits for most vegans is a whole new blog entry, but for now let me just say I was a bit worried the topic of veganism and its viability as a healthy lifestyle would rear its head.  I was prepared for a discussion but when I mentioned it, my doctor didn’t even flinch.  He simply nodded and gave a, “Mmhmm.”  I was quite surprised but I should’ve known it wouldn’t be a big deal because my doctor had always been cool and seemed more evolved than the average doctor.  Or perhaps I’m full of shit.

My doctor, Dr. Doogie Howser.

            He did state that I probably just fainted from getting out of bed too quickly, and since I hadn’t had much water to drink that day, I was also dehydrated.  It was a perfect storm.  That eased my mind a lot.  He did want to draw some blood to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong.  I also had never had my blood drawn, as far as I knew, so this was just turning out to be all kinds of fun!  Since I also hadn’t had much water that day, drawing blood was a big process.  So what’s the real takeaway from every step of this situation?  DRINK WATER!
            I waited until my results came in and I am happy to report that I am the most amazing human being ever to walk the earth.  Okay, not quite.  I am, however, healthy.  So I have that going for me, which is nice.  No anemia, no thyroid issues, no liver or kidney problems, and no nutritional issue.  My glucose level was within normal range, which that alone is a miracle since I’ve grown up mainlining sugar into my bloodstream.  Take THAT Type-2 diabetes!
            I think the lesson is that there is no vegan completely immune to every illness and it is a lesson that I’ll have to try harder to remember.  I can still be a healthy vegan and have bad things happen.  Shit indeed does happen.  I can’t let veganism alone be my shield against bad things.  Oh, right, and drinking water also helps (repetition helps reinforce the takeaways).
            How about you all?  Any interesting doctor stories or health-related issues you’ve had to deal with as a vegan/vegetarian?  I want to see how other doctors have treated vegans.
            Until next time, keep calm and vegan on!

You can find Colleen Patrick-Goudreau on a number of social media sites including Facebook and Twitter.  DEFINITELY check out her podcast!  You can find her on Twitter at @JoyfulVegan.

The cartoon of the doctor was found using Google's image search.

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