Finding Meaning in the Meaningless
In early July 2015, my husband Dan was suddenly struck down with a rare cancer called Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia (APML). He suffered a variety of complications, including a severe inflammation of the gut that left him eating and drinking intravenously for 6 weeks, clotting in his toes causing the tips of three to die and eventually be amputated, and a massive internal bleed in his right calf leading to significant death of muscle and skin. His leg required three risky, emergency surgeries while he was at his weakest, and after each one, he was forced to learn to walk again from scratch.
Shortly after I took Dan to the emergency room (for 'a bad case of the flu'), he was admitted to ICU, and his doctor told us that he was not expected to survive. Mere hours later, all the stress, pain and confusion led him to take off his oxygen mask, which was promptly followed by a respiratory arrest that landed him in a coma. Rapid internal bleeding damaged Dan's liver, spleen and kidneys, and his aggressive chemotherapy left him with severe mucositis that formed huge, painful ulcers throughout his mouth, throat, esophagus and stomach.
Dan spent 5 days in a coma, 10 days in ICU and a total of 8 weeks in hospital. Throughout that time, he frequently lost his optimism, temper and spirit - but when the doctors could offer him a tiny step, one little thing he could do to move himself forward and get him closer to going home, he would do it. "If you can swallow these pills without bringing them back up, we might consider take that nasal tube out tomorrow" or "if you are back on your feet quickly enough after this surgery, we'll aim to get a little more done in the next one". He made the decision to wean himself off morphine by consciously pressing that magic button when and only when he absolutely needed it.
It was the little steps that led him out.
Below is my incredible husband, on the first day he had enough strength to reach the lounge of his ward, feeling the sun on his face for the first time in over a month.
So simple, and yet such an unbelievably nourishing moment for him.
There's not nearly enough pride, love and gratitude in this world to express what goes through my head when I look at Dan now.
Edit: Three years on, Dan has built back his strength to a level that nobody anticipated. He was told he would never play soccer again, but just played his third game of the weekend today. In May of 2018, he ran a half marathon. His patience, dedication and positivity towards his goals know no bounds. Incredibly, he would never have known or achieved any of this, if it wasn't for his illness.
Amongst our family and friends, he is now affectionately known as Magic Dan - a nickname he was given while in his coma, fighting for his life yet making just the smallest of improvements each day. His progress came as such a surprise that he had 40 medical professionals tracking and discussing him. He showed us all that he is truly magic.
Magic Dan now:
The natural health and wellness industry is growing so rapidly because it feels right to the consumer to want to optimise one's health in a natural way. People are drawn to natural foods, remedies and philosophies because they make sense to us on a very primal level. What could be better for you than living a life supported by and attuned to nature? After all, isn't that where we came from? Where all life began?
But - no matter how immersed we become in the latest holistic product or theory, and no matter how many ideas or recipes I put out there, it's misguided to believe that any of us will ever have complete control over our biological health.
Dan ate well. He was active, young, slept well, didn't smoke and had reasonably low stress. His cancer was entirely unpredictable, and unpreventable - a 'snap' between two chromosomes. It is not genetic. It is not proven to be a direct result of being exposed to any type of toxin. It was out of his control.
Perhaps there are underlying elements to Dan's illness that medical science has not yet seen, that will eventually explain why this happened to him. Perhaps the huge growth in health and wellness awareness will help to eradicate whatever causes this illnesses for future generations. Perhaps acute illnesses like this are simply part of evolution, and play an important role in the growth and adaption of the human race.
At the end of the day, we can eat all the superfoods that we want, but a long, healthy life will never be a guarantee.
Longevity is out of our control, but happiness is not.
We owe it to ourselves to live as healthily and as happily as we can... as SOON as we can. We need to know, understand and implement the things that will nourish us in all areas of our lives - food, friends, nature, love... and what will not. In all honesty, how could we possibly have any room for the latter?!
Sometimes what will nourish us most is going to be a pump class and a green smoothie, and sometimes it's going to be a glass of wine with a good friend. Sometimes it will be taking a moment to feel the sun on your face, when you haven't been able to for weeks.
The trick is to learn to recognise what we need most in this moment.
Magic Dan is a massive inspiration for me, and his recovery is what keeps driving me to pour myself into Nourish Me Whole. I feel an enormous responsibility to keep broadcasting that life is fragile, and bad things happen that we cannot control - and that the best we can do is live happily, in balance and with our optimum health, whatever that means to you. That way, if we're struck down with illness (or worse), we can be sure that we've done everything possible to make our life worth living.
Start with the little steps xx