Laugh at life

Can good news come out of a heart attack and bypass surgery? Nothing I’d recommend. But without this experience I would never have known that so many people would be affected and write to me. It took days to read all your letters. My thanks for the kindness of so many CARPNews readers.

Many thanked me for sharing my trauma with them and I received hundreds of letters with this message: "We’ve been reading you for years and although we’ve never met, we feel we know you well and consider you a friend." Some even sent photos of themselves.

Others appreciated that I touched on issues many doctors were unable or reluctant to address and that I was "not a fence-sitter." They felt my articles were "down to earth," full of interesting material and free from technical jargon. They liked my honesty and humour, and hoped God didn’t want to see me too soon. I’ll say amen to that!

Many readers sent jokes, including a few Herman cartoons that nearly opened my incision. But I was happy to get this response – I’ve always believed wit eases the tension of medical problems and can be sound therapy.

Numerous people in their 80s claimethe columns helped them lead a healthier lifestyle, that they had kept a scrapbook of them over the years and had even sent articles to friends.

I was thanked for having an open mind concerning alternative medicine and asked for more columns about it. This is an important message and I will certainly write about it in future.

It was gratifying to hear how specific columns changed the lives of some readers, including how one on colonoscopy had led to the discovery of an early cancer and perhaps saved a life.

One woman wrote: "One of your columns saved my sanity and my life. For years I took antibiotics to relieve urinary urgency, frequency and pain, all to no avail. Then I read your column on interstitial cystitis, and it seemed you were writing my case history. I showed my doctor the article, he prescribed Elmiron, and I’m now leading a normal life, thanks to you."

Many readers remembered my efforts to legalize heroin for terminal cancer patients and criticized their doctors for not using it for loved ones who died in pain.

My heart attack worried several readers. Like me, they were doing most of the right things to prevent coronary attack. They asked, "Can we take further precautions?"

I mentioned in an earlier column that I should have taken a baby Aspirin every day. This helps oil the blood and could prevent a fatal blood clot.

Many letters advised me to take more time "to smell the roses." I can hear my Mother telling me this as if she were still here. So I tested this sage advice during my convalescence. I sat by the lake on several occasions, watched the birds, the boats and passing crowds. But I ran into a problem. How long can you smell the roses? I found about 30 minutes was enough! Then my mind wandered back to the usual daily conundrums and I soon found myself anxious to return to them. Sorry, but you can’t change the spots on a leopard.

The last few months have been difficult, but not all bad. I’ve been surrounded by an extremely close family, loved ones I would not like to leave. I’ve had your supportive letters. And now I feel well and content to be back at work with my patients, and writing this column.

What a stroke of luck.