15 Pounds In 50 Days By 55

Yesterday I realized that in 50 days I will turn 55. That starts to seem more old than middle-aged to me. Next big birthday is 60.  When did this happen? Last I remember I was having a surprise 40th BDay party.

I have been carrying extra weight for the last few years. Can’t seem to get it off. I think it has been 4 or 5 years since I was consistently at an acceptable weight. So yesterday I vowed to lose 10 pound by my birthday.

I went to the gym for the first time in 6 weeks today (much of that was due to a lingering virus/sinus infection/coughing thing).   Got on the scale. 10 pounds will only get me to FAT. So the new goal is 15. That will get me to HEAVY BUT IN SIGHT OF A REASONABLE WEIGHT.

The scale registered the highest weight I have ever recorded. I am sure that at various times I have weighed more but if I thought I was that heavy I just would not mount the scale.


I am all of 5’7″ with a medium build. I think the height/weight charts call for 160 pounds. From experience I know that I look and feel good below 175 and am skinny at 170. A long way to go.

The thing with me is that I have to do it my way. That means no famous diet, no counting calories and nothing that will help lose the wight but I would not continue once the weight is initially off. The only concerning thought is that “my way” has gotten me to 192. Still as the great philosopher Popeye said, ” I yam what I yam”.

Less food. Cutting down on coffee. cutting processed sugar to as close to zero as possible. I may have to kill the coworker who brings candy in every day.

Wish me luck and provide as much support as possible. I will provide periodic updates on Facebook and if something blog worthy happens during this journey you can read it here.

Get That Flu Shot!

Contemplating getting the shot doesn’t count. Being at a client site on the day they are administering shots to the people you are working with doesn’t count. As proof, just two days before I came down with the seasonal flu I did both.

To put things in time perspective that would have been Thursday October 8. By Saturday my body was telling me that something was wrong. However I attributed the tiredness and the achy feeling to my workout– these have been so infrequent that I just figured it was all due to being out of shape. By Sunday the combination of aches, pains, fever and congestion worse than a Chicago rush hour made me realize that it was the flu. If only I had taken the 45 minutes to go to our company clinic. 45 minutes seemed like such an inconvenience. Or better yet if my company had made flu shots available at my work site more than the two days I was traveling on business. As it turned out the 45 minutes would have been a great investment.

Speaking of business, while clients can be very understanding of your illness on a personal level (rest, go to the doctor, take care of yourself were consistent comments) that does not mean that their work product can be late! So Monday with fever raging I was working at home trying to delay what I could and think well enough to deliver on all that remained.

Then to add to my personal pain, literally, I coughed. This was one of those violent, retching body shaking, come out of nowhere coughs. You could hear the sound of the tendon in my lower back rip. It ripped even more when I coughed again 2 minutes later. I now had screaming level, constant pain in my lower back. It hurt to sit. It hurt to stand. It hurt to breath.

By this time I had time for one, and only one doctor appointment. I had to choose. internal medicine for the flu or orthopedic for the back. No contest. I  made an afternoon appointment with the orthopedic surgeon. Fortunately no disk damage. I left with prescriptions for steroids, muscle relaxers and narcotics. If  I were to take the latter two there would be no driving or even thinking straight. I skipped the narcs so I could work and because I have an aversion to excess drugs.

By the next day the fever broke and the constant pain left. However for the remainder of the week I had bad cold symptoms, could not stand up straight or walk stairs without pain and was exhausted all of the time.

Next year I take the flu shot and as soon as it is available I am doing the H1N1 vaccine. The pain/time trade-off makes it worth while.

Oh BTW I Have A Brain Tumor

No, no, no, not me.

I was speaking a month ago to a client that I have become friendly with. He is a quietly engaging guy. Bright, good at what he does and one of those people you would describe as “one of the nicest people you ever met”. 

We were discussing the latest work related assignment.  I then asked him about his recent trip to the emergency room. I had heard that he had gotten dizzy and concerned colleagues insisted that he go. That turned out to be an inner ear issue that quickly cleared up.

“Great”, I said as I heard the news. Then in a voice which I will always remember for its calmness touched with a bit of satisfaction– as bizarre as that may sound. He was happy that it was discovered early since it was growing and that it was not malignant. His view was that if he had not had the ear thing and if it had not happened at work and if he had not gone to this emergency room, then the tumor would not have been discovered. I found the calm way he approached this moment in his life to be beyond my comprehension.

If I received this news I would be a basket case. I would be angry and sad and depressed. Not him. I continue to find this beyond amazing.

I am thrilled to say that he has had the surgery, is doing well and resting at home.  I hope to learn from his approach to life. A long and happy one we all hope.

Too Much Pain To Eat?

The doc who diagnosed my strep throat asked if I wanted any pills for the pain. I declined saying that I prefer home remedies to pills.  Between gargling with salt water and drinking tea with honey the pain was manageable.

He retorted that if the pain becomes so bad I cannot eat to call for the meds.

I stood there with a blank stare. I could not conceive of an amount of pain that would stop me from eating.

What does that say about me?

I Have A Youthful Constitution

This is one of those good news/bad news stories. The last thing my doctor said to me was that I had a youthful constitution and it was a complement. Since crossing the 50 line I have not felt youthful. Not old, not dead but only in very rare moments have I been feeling youthful.

Back up 90 seconds from my doc’s last statement. His penultimate statement was that I have strep throat which does not usually occur in people my age. As I said, good news/bad news.

Maybe this is just the kind of thing doctors learn to say to make their patients feel better- the youth thing not the strep thing. If so, it worked.

Being One of Chicago’s Top Docs Is The Second Best Thing

 My cardiologist has been named by Chicago Magazine as one of Chicago’s top doctors. This is what the magazine had to say about him:

GARY PINELESS  Coronary artery disease; heart failure. Highland Park.

O.K. That doesn’t tell you much. But the selection process was impressive:

Chicago’s list of the area’s top doctors was compiled by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., which publishes a number of guides to the country’s outstanding physicians. Castle Connolly’s physician-led team of researchers follows a rigorous screening process to select top doctors on both the national and regional levels. Using mail and telephone surveys, as well as electronic ballots, researchers ask physicians and the medical leadership of leading local hospitals to identify highly skilled, exceptional doctors. They follow up with a careful screening of each doctor’s educational and professional experience before finally selecting those physicians most highly regarded by their peers.

See. I told you.

He has been my doctor for over 20 years– which just makes both of us old.  He has doctored me through many things. The most memorable medical emergency being my un- heart attack a few years ago when the ER at a respected hospital told me I had had one and sent me to the critical care ward the night before I was leaving on vacation. I immediately called Gar (rhymes with bear) and told him to ignore all other patients and to get his ass down here. He did. (It is that kind of dedication that makes you one of the area’s best doctors.) After reviewing the test results, he had the hospital redo one of the lab tests, told me that I had not had a heart attack but probably by now needed a vacation so I should go home and pack. I did.

There is more to the story of Gary and me– I never call him Dr. Pineless. I think that’s because he was 10 when we first met and being no Doogie Hauser he was in the 5th grade at the time. One of my best friends ever since. And one of the funniest, if not the funniest people I have met in my life. Verifiable.

So what could be better than being named a top doc in a major magazine? Could it be the birth of his first son and the pictures I took of the bris? Could it be that I was like a brother to him and that his mom liked me more than his actual brother? No.

It was his wedding day. No offence to his wife but she was only reason # 3 that this day was so special. Reason #2. I took Gary out to breakfast the morning of the wedding. Boy, was he nervous. He calmed down once I reassured him that I would never leave him.

Reason #1. One of the top 3 wedding toasts of all time was given that evening. No, not by his brother Hal, the supposed “best man”, or his J.R. Ewing impression. No, it was 5 minutes and 20 seconds of pure joyousness and humor voiced by a master story teller. Yes, I mean me. (Would have been quite the let down if it wasn’t don’t you think?) If I ever get around to having the video transferred to electronic format I will post it for all to see and hear . In the meantime you will just have to come to the house if you want to partake of the magic.

Yes, Gar (rhymes with mare) and I have many wonderful memories. We will continue to have them as long as one of the best doctors in Chicago keeps my heart beating.


p.s. I was not getting mushy with that last line. Remember he’s a cardiologist.

Brush, Floss and Go To The Dentist

The three rules of healthy teeth. I religiously do the first two, the third not so much. I assumed at my advanced age that cavities were unlikely. Wrong. Despite brushing 2-3 times a day and flossing regularly I am about to have a tooth extracted and a second one drilled big time. Extracted. Unless I am being airlifted out of a flood zone, that is one ugly sounding word.

Ahhh. The sound of a dentist drill. With all of the technology improvements of the last decade one would have thought they could have created a nano sized muffler for those things that if not made them silent at least got them to play show tunes.

It is not that I am afraid of the dentist. I do not dream of Little Shop of Horrors or Marathon Man. I just have trouble scheduling appointments given my ever changing schedule. Lesson learned.

I will update you on the painful journey of the next several weeks as this tale unfolds. Next Key date: December 17. Drilling. Can’t wait. Whrrrrrr. Gulp.

Hearing Maids

The title refers to a name given by a child to her hearing aids. An article about one 4 year old’s transformation upon being able to hear clearly connected with me on several levels. It was a heartwarming holiday story. I am experiencing hearing loss. The story describes how the parents defined their daughter before they knew she was not hearing normally and how they came to understand and experience her differently.  All this from one story. Let’s see if I can sort this out.

The story about Angeliki appears in today’s Chicago Tribune in the Perspective section. It is a touching story told by the girl’s mom. Two years to diagnose. High frequency hearing loss in both ears. No discernible cause. An entire article could have been written on frustration with the medical community or the pain of the lost years — half of a lifetime for a 4 year old and at a critical time in her development. Instead the story focused on the positive. On how her and their lives changed for the better. This story could have appeared at any time at yet it is in the Sunday edition during the beginning of the winter holiday season. I suspect that this is due to its uplifting message. Just right for now.

Another angle. I have been hearing progressively less for 3 years now. The incremental changes have been subtle but overall it’s noticeable. While the impact is very different on me at age 50 something than to a child who did not hear well to begin,  I relate to her story.

This affliction is annoying for both speaker and attempted listenee.  It particularly drives my teenage son to distraction. hearing_aid.jpgHe jumps from modest volume to a scream the moment I ask him to repeat despite my pleas to just take it up one notch. I suspect that he interprets this as not listening as opposed to not hearing. With my wife it can become a joke when I need 3-4 reps of the same words but too often I mishear instead of not hear and I can blow up at something that was not ever said. With the TV or at work I do the best I can and  have learned to live without knowing exactly what is being said around me. The worst is in a crowded room or anywhere with background noise. A word of advice. If you are talking to me in person please look straight at me unless you do not want me to feel the sting of your rapier wit or hear the astuteness of your musings. A second word of advice. This hearing thing is one of my few idiosyncrasies that I am unwilling to laugh about. (There is an implied threat buried in that last sentence. Beware.)

Many of us, if not most, begin to put labels on people we meet as we accumulate information. Most of the information is limited to behaviors at first. Words, the tone they are spoken in, the specific and very limited context we are in at that moment all begin to shape our judgements. Labels get affixed quickly. Nice, mean, intelligent, idiot, harmless, menacing, kind, fair, authoritative, autocratic, boring, fascinating, etc. These labels can get hard coded relatively quickly based on limited observations. Labels become our way of thinking about and interpreting the person.

Angeliki’s mom had labels for her daughter. Here is how Angeliki’s mom describes her. “For one thing, Angeliki had the loudest voice of any child I had ever known. Nevertheless, she didn’t talk much. She was a little slower to speak than other kids, and what she did say was difficult to comprehend. Although Angeliki was gregarious and outgoing, socially she struggled because she couldn’t seem to interact well in a group.” “Most of all, she was an extremely defiant, independent little girl. I referred to this affectionately as her “screw-you” attitude toward life: She would not be moved by any persuasion; she responded with the taciturnity of a boulder to basic requests; and with a steely-eyed gaze and expressionless silence, she would flatly refuse to do what I asked.” Well it turned out that much of her defiance, her screw you attitude and her social struggles were the result of her not hearing much of what was being said.

Lack of hearing is an obvious trait. Once we know it exists. It changes how we interact with a person, again, once we know. We tend to be more understanding. The labels change. Unfortunately, most reasons behind why a person is what he/she is, or even is at a moment in time, are hidden from us. We rarely take the time or spend the energy to find out. In the spirit of 48Facets, I believe that most of us are more than we appear. I also believe that in most cases there is substantial reward for finding out what lies beneath the surface.

Yet to quote that great paragon of philosophical deliberation, Grey’s Anatomy,

“Sometimes a jerk is just a jerk.” (Lexie Grey, 11/22/2007) 

 All this from one article.

Count Your Blessings; Say Your Prayers

Some more perspective for anyone having an irritating day and complaining about it.

I have a friend who has had a difficult pregnancy. She gave birth to a son, her first child last week. Brett came 14 weeks early and weighed 2 pounds. I can eat sandwiches bigger than that. He will be in the hospital, if all goes well, for most of the 14 weeks he should have stayed inside his mom. Count your blessings.

Say your prayers. Let’s hope that this has a happy ending. Both Mother and Father are good people. Having a premature baby is dramatically hard. I cannot imagine how my friend will go on with her life if this should take a turn for the worse.

No complaining about little things. Not today.

Too Many Hospitals


In the past three weeks, the following family members have made visits to the hospital:

  • Mom, three times
  • father-figure. Long story on the reference. (Well OK. Lives with Mom for over 25 years. My best friend’s dad. Very great guy)
  • mother-in -law
  • son

There is nothing positive about the atmosphere in a hospital no matter how fancy they try to make the common areas look. Maybe it is because short of childbirth you are never there for a good reason. Illness and injury are all around.

This set of events has worn me down to the core.

The good news. Everyone is out and left under their own power. After going through the agony of not knowing for over a week, Mom does not have the big C. Several things yet to cure but she dodged that bullet. Father figure and mother-in-law home and healing well.

My son, D, has a broken nose due to a bad hop on a hard hit ground ball. He had been playing varsity baseball this summer but that is likely over. We won’t know for sure until the swelling goes down and he sees another doc in a few days but it seems like no serious damage was done. His shiners are starting to appear. If he learns to like a good story as much as his dad this almost might be worth the pain.

I do not think that my wife will agree with me on the value of this as a good story but then she was there. She watched as he collapsed to the ground after the ball came up fast and seemed to have hit him in the head. By the time the ambulance came D was in good spirits and telling his mom not to worry. Considering that he has played both soccer and baseball since he was 4 we are probably lucky that this is only his second injury and that neither was serious.

However, enough is enough. Lately I have contributed mightily to the health care system. It is time for a break. (Pun intended).