Tag Archives: health

Diabetes

Blood glucose meter
Our blood glucose meter – photo by tamellu 2015

It was World Diabetes Day yesterday, the day of awareness that high blood sugar is absolutely not something we should neglect or take lightly. I’m living in Serbia, a country of somewhat more that 7 million people where 710,000 souls are diagnosed with diabetes, with estimated additional 245,000 others who have diabetes but don’t know it and don’t treat it. Those figures are indeed horrifying, and if we as humanity continue with current nutritional habits future surely won’t look optimistic.

Diabetes is a silent illness and can go for a long time undetected. At the time of diagnose if the patient didn’t check his or her blood work in years, high blood sugar had already made some damage in the patient’s body and shortened the expected length of life. People run away from this diagnose because we all very much fear illnesses that are still considered incurable, but in case of diabetes there is no need for that. There surely isn’t some medication that can fix things and allow you to go on eating whatever you want without a worry in the world, it’s a chronic lifelong illness, but there are treatments that can allow you to live a normal and happy life for many years. My dad was a diabetic for 22 years and as a medical doctor he strictly obeyed the nutritional plan he had to stick to. He couldn’t eat cakes or sweetened things, but he had a perfectly normal life, and what’s much more important his diabetes didn’t progress to provoke some of serious complications such as diabetic polineuropathy, gangrene, loss of eyesight, stroke… to name just a few. Yes, he eventually died of cancer and today we can only debate on the link between the diabetes and his pancreatic cancer, but he died at the age of 78. He was my dad and even he died at 98 it would be painful and I would ask myself if he could go on for maybe a little while longer, but I must admit that he still managed to live a reasonably long life without any serious problem up until virtually one month before he passed away. In the whole 2014 up until the end of July the only symptoms that could indicate cancer were certain weight loss and some changes in bowel habits which were attributed to his new combination of medication for diabetes. At the beginning of August the first dramatic symptom was a rapid, violent onset of blood sugar spinning totally out of control even though he still took his therapy and ate as usual. I was later told that we would never be able to tell if the diabetes had caused cancer or it had been the other way round, the only definite certainty was that it took too long for doctors to establish the type and dosage of insulin shots to stabilize him enough so that he could at least try any true oncology treatment. All in all, dad had 22 wonderful years in spite of diabetes and as he followed all the advice and rules of his treatment, he didn’t even depend on insulin till the last 3 weeks of his life.

I would just like to encourage everybody out there to check their sugar values regularly especially if you’re over 50 because this is a borderline age for a possible onset of type 2 diabetes, particularly if you have genetic predisposition or if you indulged in too much sugary and processed food before in life. Don’t let thing spin out of control and lead you into a situation where you could start drinking massive amounts of water and going very often to the bathroom, which if left untreated can lead to diabetic coma that can have even a fatal outcome. There is absolutely no need for this to happen with an illness that in many cases just requires caution, therapy and discipline. On the other hand, if diabetic with a good therapy that keeps diabetes under control, bear in mind that any sudden and dramatic elevation of blood sugar values especially if associated with stomach pains must be immediately reported to a doctor who has to perform an abdominal ultrasound.

Take care of your health and never let an illness that can be prevented or successfully kept under control influence your life and your happiness. Diabetes takes some kind of tool on human body even when treated and I am aware of that, but I think that you would agree with me that 22 years of normal life is not that short at all. In those 22 years dad was never in the hospital, at the beginning still worked as a doctor, never suffered a heart attack or stroke, he had incredible stamina and strength and in all that time he was in bed 3-4 times for several days with merely a seasonal flu. He traveled, worked strenuously in the garden, enjoyed a full and happy life. I would have nothing against such scenario if I got diagnosed with diabetes.

With lots of love for all of you out there, take care!

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World pancreatic cancer day

world pancreatic cancer day
WORLD PANCREATIC CANCER DAY – November 13th

Today is November 13th, World Pancreatic Cancer Day. This year, it’s also Friday the 13th and many people across this planet believe that Friday 13th brings bad luck. For those newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, any day on which that happens is like Friday 13th, because this is one of the worst and deadliest forms of this evil disease. Only 1-3% of those who receive this bad news from their doctors will survive the diagnose, and the survival rate hasn’t improved in more than 40 years. It’s still considered to be too hard to be understood and underfunded type of cancer. It’s hard. It’s more or less rare. It happens to somebody else. Until it happens to you or someone very close to you. Then the statistics won’t matter and it won’t seem that rare at all any more. You’ll want the cure, any cure, any support or good word of hope to cling to. But if the situation in the world still stays the same and if research for pancreatic cancer doesn’t broaden, nothing will change, there will be no cure. And with this diagnose, it is much more likely that you’ll end up among those 97-99% who won’t survive. The course of the disease is horrible and it doesn’t impact just the patient but also his or her immediate surroundings. Those days eventually end, but the horrid scenario behind them plays and plays over and over again in the heads of those who stay to live after the patient passes away. You survive, but you’ll carry the scar in your soul for as long as you live.

It’s a silent cancer and very often gives symptoms only when it’s too late for everything and everybody. That’s why the information about it has to be spread and shared so that it can be caught when there is still chance to do something. If there is enough awareness, maybe we can save some more lives. Maybe we can improve that hideous statistics and increase the survival rate. Maybe we can help some child to still have a mother or father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, relatives… If we do something maybe there can still be some hope, even though I can’t be certain about it. But on the other hand what I can be certain of is that if we don’t do anything, nothing will change and there won’t be any hope.

I’ll dedicate the rest of November to talking about this disease to try to help in the memory of my father. If you read this today, wear purple. Talk about how important pancreas is and how vital it is not to overload it with sugar, processed food, bad fats, alcohol and tobacco. Go for regular yearly abdominal ultrasound checkups and encourage someone you know to do the same, it can save a life. Abdominal ultrasounds are not just about pancreas but all the rest of your digestive system, and if for some malignant reason cancer strikes somewhere inside and you leave it undetected, it’s the perfect spot for it to spread very easily. Don’t be scared of checkups, once you complete them and they give you clean bill of health walk out of that office and put your worries aside for another year. Take care of your body and life, it is your life I know, but there are people out there who love you with all their hearts, your life is theirs too as your misery in case something happens to you will most certainly be their misery too. Don’t let yourself and them suffer if it proves that something can be done. And if you or someone you know survive thanks to the awareness you provided, there is nothing in the world that can be compared to that. We’re all on this planet for a short time and if we save at least one person, that’s what truly fulfills the purpose of our life.

In the loving memory of my father who passed away 14 months ago of pancreatic cancer:

My father
With lots of love for my dad 1936 – 2014

My city #BELGRADE is turning purple to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer! #WPCD bit.ly/wpcdsite

The most important thing in life is to – stay alive

Yes, it’s all about good health, overcoming illnesses and staying eventually alive, it’s not a trite phrase by any means. Because when you’re very sick, you can’t do anything. You can’t even just think clearly or grieve as you lie in bed, everything disappears in some surreal painful haze in which you reach the point where you beg to get a bit better so that you could at least suffer properly again.

What brought me to these thoughts? I got sick, again. It was some sort of respiratory infection gone wild probably because of my weakened immune response due to everything that happened in the last 3 months or so. One of the last useful medical tips my dad shared with me shortly before he died was that when your system lacks something and you start running on your body stores of the elements essential for its functioning, you have more or less three months left, unless you replenish your stores. It’s like a car without enough gasoline, reminding you to visit the nearest station and refill your tank. If you fail to do so, you can still cover some decent number of miles till the engine shuts completely down. It’s been almost exactly 3 months since this whole horror started, months of running, carrying, lifting, fetching, fighting, discussing, agonizing, taking care, witnessing the end, arranging funeral, taking care of the grave, respecting memorial dates, facing the places I haven’t seen in more than 7 years, grieving and crying and not sleeping, not eating properly, not stopping at any “gas station” along that mad road. I think that I was anyhow on the verge of collapsing, even without virus / bacteria that dance in the air at this time of the year.

First, there were some horrible chills and fever rising and falling in some desperate attempt of my body to resist the attack. 48 hours later I was in the bed in the middle of the night dreaming while I felt widely awake, I “saw” the “admittance ward” of the realm of the dead and some very nice and helpful deceased people who gathered to welcome me… I saw an entire river of those who passed away moving slowly down some hill, searching for their place. There were some strange ball-like constructions where as they said the most intelligent among them work on various cures and preserving options for the mother Earth, ball shaped rooms filled with some grayish substance necessary for our planet to keep on spinning for many more years. Spooky? Quite right.

Then I somehow semi-consciously snapped out of those melting images and made some effort to move in the bed, which was extremely painful. Next thing I realized was that the place I occupied previously in that bed was so hot that it could start steaming in any minute. I made some further effort to grab the thermometer and it took me a while to grasp that it showed something over 102. Wow. I had such fever only twice before, when I almost died of measles at the age of 7 and once when I was talking nonsense due to some very bad bacterial infection. Admittance ward and preserving mother Earth. That didn’t sound good. No way. Then I snapped back into that strange world, right where I stopped. I went to search for the dad, but they informed me that he was no longer on that “first level”, that he moved further or higher above. I remember that I was unhappy because I wasn’t able to see him, then I snapped back to the reality of my room again, my head seemed even hotter than before.

Next 48 hours were quite delirious, I was moaning, crying, taking pain / fever meds every 6 hours but that was hardly doing anything as I was in terrible pain, every muscle and nerve ending gave its best to produce the strongest pain possible that at some points it seemed that dying would be quite a merciful solution. When I would get very close to dialing ambulance to beg for some painkilling injections, things would get better from meds and so on, till the dawn came out and I dragged myself to bathroom… I opened my mouth, then I reopened it just harder and stared in total disbelief. Tonsils and everything else covered with thick layer of white substance, painful as if I were swallowing knives. And it was Sunday. Doctors covered by insurance don’t work on Sundays, hospitals don’t admit patients with sore throats. There are private labs and private medical care. Money. Ok, let’s apply dad’s teachings and my experience… I took out penicillin based antibiotics once again, broad spectrum, swallowed two pills, there was no time to lose. I could have hit the bacteria, but I could have missed. Equal chances, although it usually works for the infections of the throat. By the evening I mustered strength to drag myself to the lab and pay for the swabs of my throat, just to be sure. If I got it, swabs would be clean, as the antibiotic already got into the system. If not, we would at least see which antibiotic to take. No doctor could do better. I also ordered some blood work, just in case.

It takes some time for the culture from swabs to start growing, so I went on with my antibiotic, feeling totally off and partially on on alternative basis. There was some nasty bleeding from the inflamed nose and throat as well, so yes, ebola came into my mind’s picture as well, but nobody I know went to Africa… can I be sure? Stop being paranoid…
Then I got the result. Swabs clear. Totally perfect. Bloodwork? Iron depleted. Totally depleted. I was running on depleted stores for quite some time as it seems. Did I check the dad’s tumor marker? Oh yes I did. Scared as hell till I saw the result. Totally normal.

Conclusion? Three months of bad eating and nutritional neglect destroyed my immune response and turned a quite usual infection into a life threatening condition. What seemed “just a sore throat” should have been treated in hospital conditions as it had such a dramatic appearance, but in terms of medication, I did a great job. Dad would be proud. I’m sure he would. Hopefully, iron values will rise as well with supplements and hopefully life will continue as always…

Is it bad luck again, halting me one more time this year after I tried to do something productive and meaningful? Is this a permanent state or will this bad period finish ever again? No answer as usual. I just know that health matters very much. You can have everything else in this life, but it loses every meaning and purpose if you lose life. Because if you are not alive and healthy, you can’t even be sad and miserable. It feels as though there is a gap of all these past days in my grief, gap that consists of shock, loss of strength and switched priorities. From being extremely sad and depressed you turn to preserving your own life, no matter how much invaluable it seemed to you in depression.

You simply realize that your life is the only thing you really (though temporarily) HAVE in this world. Nothing else can matter that much.

More news from our organic garden 1 – dill

mirodjija-2

Dill’s natural beauty

mirodjija

Flowers can always come in handy to take things to a new level 🙂

This is the end of an extremely stressful day and I’m trying to let go of it with the help of my camera and my blog. I was really happy to see that my previous post “Raddish” was very much liked, so I thought that I might continue to keep a “diary” of the fruits from my dad’s garden, our little sanctuary of fresh and healthy vegetables and fruits that seem to be so rare in today’s polluted world. It’s located not more than 40 km from my home, yet it’s been 8 years since I was there the last time. 8 years. I still haven’t mastered this distance in my agoraphobic battles and it hurts very much. The place itself has changed a lot over the past decade as I hear from my family, so in the silence of the evenings I try to imagine how it looks like now and build an image to fill this painful gap in my visual memory with my imagination. I could have never dreamt years ago that I might end up in such a situation, but I realize that it can be interesting and challenging from the artistic point of view – it’s a quest to live distant places through indoor photography of objects that I can approach only when eventually they find some way to approach me. It’s also learning about the world through other people’s eyes and my visual interpretation of the images that reach me in form of stories of others. It will never be an ultimately true version of distant locations, because there is no such thing in the first place as we all see something different in the same situations we’re observing, but it will also never be only my direct interpretation of anything as I always need help to materialize the unseen in some way. I will be really happy to share this journey with all of you who can find here something for yourself!

Remembering Timothy John Byford (1941-2014)

timothybyford
Photo from http://www.timothybyford.com/about_me

I’ve been contemplating for a few days how to write a special tribute to this unbelievably special and humble man, Englishman by birth but Serb by choice of his heart and his one of a kind, gentle and fascinating soul. I’m no one special myself, just a common, anonymous person, just another temporarily pulsating dot among millions and billions of others similar to me who are currently living on this planet, so I was truly wondering if I should try to write something about Timothy Byford and the way his amazing life and his death touched my soul. I was doubtful until a simple truth dawned upon me – Timothy came to Serbia to stay for good some 40 years ago to dedicate all his creative energy to making the childhood of Serbian kids more meaningful and beautiful. When he was in the most productive years of his life, I was one of those kids he lived and worked for. I was among those who grew up with the TV shows he wrote and directed at our national television, fascinated by that man with a long and to us unusual name and his happy face, wondering at the same time how come he decided to stay with us, learn Serbian and eventually with time truly become one of us. He influenced not only my childhood memories but also as it turned out my entire life – I started learning English when I was 5 and his contribution to bring the English culture closer to Serbian children was truly priceless. I never met him in person or talked to him, but being aware that some special bit of his incredible creative energy is still alive in me of today, I realized that I can and should write something in his honor, for I’m definitely somebody who grew up as his work grew up to find its eternal place in our cultural history.

Nothing was difficult for Timothy, he won so many important life battles with his signature smile I will always remember, losing only this last one, the battle with cancer.
His smiling, vivid and inquisitive eyes of an eternal child could never give away how hard and painful must have been these last almost 9 years of his brave cohabitation with his enemy, multiple myeloma. It’s unimaginable to me why such a good and modest man had to endure such an intense suffering for quite a long time. Nevertheless, he was happy. Happy to be still alive, happy to be able to write some more TV scenarios, happy to get new books to translate to English. He adored this country the way it is, more than we, native Serbs will ever love it. He loved Serbian children more than we’ll ever truly be able to love each other. He adored Serbian birds in one to him very special Belgrade’s forest, Banjicka suma, forest many of us who were born in Belgrade know almost nothing about, forest to whose preservation he contributed to and where he inhaled life to the fullest. He knew so many things, yet he never learnt to complain. He asked to have a happy funeral as he was convinced that this isn’t the end, because he’ll continue to live in minds and hearts of his loved ones and all those people whose lives he touched with goodness.

After last night’s TV tribute to Timothy, I found his website. I’ve been late for so many things in these last 7 years or simply lived oblivious of them obsessed by my own demons, but there is hardly any of them that I will regret more than not entering the world of blogging sooner, because among other things it could have inspired me to search for his blog. It wouldn’t change the fate, maybe it wouldn’t mean much after all, but I could have still written even just a few friendly words of support to a man whose work embellished my childhood. Instead I’m late once again, and I am terribly sorry, but I suppose it’s never too late to have memories.

If you happen to get stuck with seeing the light at the end of the tunnel or any bright side of your ordeals, try reading how Timothy decided to approach his illness and how he still dreamt dreams in spite of being certain that his days were counted – http://www.timothybyford.com (especially the post called “My diary entry for 4th July 2005 – the day I was diagnosed with cancer” http://www.timothybyford.com/blog.php?iStranica=3&&iIDHTMLElementPodGrupa=-1&IDNaziv=My-Blog&ID=142&&iPoStranici=0&).

To me, his never changing happiness is a true inspiration, especially because I’ve been through one real and many other PD induced imaginary life threatening situations so far. Sadly but true, I never knew how to live life peacefully and with a smile, yet I feared losing it beyond belief on so many occasions. It’s perhaps only now that I’m trying to learn how to accept a bit more calmly the imminent fact that I’ll have to die some day and to release some fear of that moment. I’m trying to find a way to “meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same” as Rudyard Kipling says in his poem “If” that I discovered thanks to Timothy’s website. What I wouldn’t like though is to leave this life too soon, knowing that I didn’t give any particular meaningful contribution to the world around me. I’m desperately looking for that elusive sense, for my own unique purpose in this world, for a way to do some real good somewhere and somehow. I would love to leave some mark, no matter how small it can be. Timothy can rest in peace as his life was definitely a wonderful and meaningful one.

Dear Timothy, thank you for so much good that you brought into our lives, our dear Serb with English origin. All your children by birth, and numerous others by art and heart will never forget you.