Saturday, October 18, 2008

John and the Giant Cholesterol

This is such an amazing story that I just have to share it even tho it's not about MS, Fingolimod, or ME.

John, my boyfriend and father of my child, has always been one of those guys who took his health totally for granted. He smokes, he drinks, and he hasn't let a vegetable pass his lips in years unless you count lettuce and tomato on a Wendy's double cheeseburger as a salad.

A year or so ago he started noticing he had no energy. He also was out of work at the time due to this recession we're not having or the depression we're not in, one or the other. He's in the construction business and people just quit building houses all of a sudden.

Probably a lucky thing for him because he didn't have the energy to get out of the recliner, let alone climb scaffolding.

Then, in May of this year, his Dad passed away. He was in his 80's and had cancer, but had suffered several heart attacks before that. His brother who isn't that many years his senior has had his share of heart attacks as well.

I think facing his Dad's mortality is what caused him to decided to see a doctor for practically the first time since I've known him. What he found out was astounding.

He had super high blood pressure. I never did find out the exact number but it was 200something/100something. But that wasn't even the really disturbing part... he also has super high cholesterol. THAT number I will never forget: 1149. No, I didn't stutter on that "1", 1-1-4-9!!

Doc gave him some blood pressure medicine and a nutrition sheet about good and bad foods for cholesterol-lowering. He said he would put him on meds for the cholesterol but couldn't because John was a heavy drinker, downing a gallon of rum per week along with countless six packs. He said "if you can get your drinking down to just 2 beers per day, then I can put you on medication. Until then, my hands are tied and you are a walking time bomb for a heart attack."

When he told me all this, I was amazed myself that he hadn't yet keeled over.

So, FINALLY he's been scared straight, so to speak, and is taking the fact that "you are what you eat" is more than a saying spouted by vegetarians and other "whole food eating, Mother Earth News reading hippies". Gee, maybe they were onto something, ya think?

Over the next 3 months I witnessed a miracle. I have lived with this stubborn, set-in-his-ways man for 14 years, and never in my life would I have anticipated the change that came over him. God himself might as well have materialized on my couch and told me the end of this season's Survivor. I wouldn't have been more surprised.

He quit eating red meat, he stopped eating starches, salt, eggs...well, just about everything he ever liked.

He started scarfing down fruit and he gave up the rum. Completely. He went from 6 or 7 rum and cokes a night to zip, zilch, nada, nyete (now I'm just showing off).

His fruit habit was darn near as costly as his booze habit used to be. The man could slay an entire watermelon and ingest it's offerings in a single (or two) sitting(s).

Green grapes were also no match for the likes of him.

He started eating tilapia with a vengence. I will conceded that the fish is fried, but it's fried in canola oil. He eats grits with them and uses "No Salt" salt substitute which, it turns out, is potassium, which can aid in lowering cholesterol.

He uses Promise butter substitute, he drinks Juicy Juice fruit juice and he doesn't eat any processed foods.

He's gone from eating only take out, (because he didn't want to eat the foreign stuff our son and I were ingesting, like broccoli -- blech!) to eating only his diet on that sheet he got from the doctor.

Also, he got into my Centrum vitamins and started taking them, along with my Fish Oil pills.

He was watching TV one night and paid attention to some ad for Fish Oil/Omega3/Plant Sterol pills that combined every good thing known to man into one mighty cholesterol vanquishing sword of a capsule.

He whipped out his credit card and ordered them.

A week later he got his 3 jars of pills, plus his one free one, plus his tiny sample of CoQ10 skin rejuvenating cream.

I didn't interfere with his new regime. I just followed his wishes and fixed his meals according to his instructions.

And then the miracle happened.

He went back to the doctor at his 3 month checkup. Mainly he did this because he ran out of blood pressure meds. When he asked me, "Can't I just call them up and he can call in another Rx for me?" I told him, "No. The doctor needs to see you to evaluate if this medicine is the right one for you, so you have to go see him again."

John's reply was classic and true to his form I've come to expect:
"That's a crock of crap! They just want to get ya in there to drain you of your last buck and try to find something else wrong with you so they can keep bleeding you dry."

I roll my eyes, knowing that he probably won't ever go back and all this has been for naught.

He calls and makes an appointment. The day comes, he heads out the door and I pick myself off the floor from where I have fainted and wait for him to return from his visit.

"You're not going to believe this!" he says, "My blood pressure was 130/80! That medicine he's got me on is working."

I see a band aid on his inner arm and know they drew blood. "When will you find out about your lab work?"

"The doc said he'd call when it comes back."

Two days later we get the phone call. I listen to John's end of the conversation.

"You're kidding, right?...."

"That's incredible! Can what I was doing really have had that much of an effect?..."

"So, I don't need the meds even tho I quit drinking so I could take them?..."

I couldn't WAIT for him to get off the phone. I darn near took it away from him so I could ask a bunch of questions like the professional patient that I am. John hasn't been sick a day in his life and knows not how to wheedle information out of a doctor.

When he hangs up, he looks at me in utter amazement and says "Guess what my cholesterol is now. Just guess!"

I say "I dunno...800?"

He says "Lower".

I say "500?"

He says "Nope. Try 106."

I'm flabbergasted. (It felt weird, too. I don't get flabbergasted often.)

"So, the doc said I don't need the cholesterol meds and to just keep doing what I'm doing because it's working, whatever it is. He said it IS possible to make a change that drastic, but most people don't have the will power or self control to maintain the changes that consistently."

He may have spared himself from his family's legacy of repeated heart attacks and bypasses.

He still smokes, and he drinks his 2 beers a day, but between his son and I we're working on him about that.

Oh, and his energy has returned! No longer does he kick back in the recliner straining to lift the remote. He's up and at 'em every day, if not working at construction jobs for pay, then working on the big construction job that is our home (in various stages of remodeling).

It's good to have him back.


  1. That is fantastic news, Jeri! I am sure that you and your son are very proud of John. I applaud him, that kind of lifestyle change takes a lot commitment. Now, once you convince him to stop smoking, he will really be on his way!

  2. That's wonderful news - way to go John!

  3. OMG, BECKY!!!! Let that man know he is an inspiration. As I lay here in bed trying to see my laptop computer screen over my steroid inflated bulging belly, I am inspired.

    I hope I wake up with this same feeling in the morning...perhaps you could have him call me daily?!?

    Linda D. in Seattle


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