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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Quality of Life

A few days ago, I read an article entitled, “The Toxic Truth About Gluten-Free Food and Celiac Disease.”  Essentially, this article says that a gluten free diet is a good start for Celiac disease, but those who have celiac disease should also stay away from cereal grains, soy, industrial seed oils, and sugar.  This got me thinking about quality of life.

I’m not telling anyone that they shouldn’t take this article seriously.  I think you should.  But from a personal point of view, I wonder what my life would be like without those items.  Would I live longer?  And if I did, what would my quality of life be?

Quality of life is something I have been thinking about a lot over the last 10 years or so.  A recent example of quality of life would be the story of my father-in-law, whose name was Ed.  He lived in Baltimore for many years with his second wife, Cathy’s step-mother.  When she died, we asked him to come up here, and after a few years, he finally decided to make the move.  He was in his eighties at that point.  We found an apartment for him in Melrose, and he loved his independence.

Although Ed would get a bit confused when he was tired, for the most part he was sharp as a tack.  Cathy and I would play cribbage with him, and it always amazed me how quick he could add points up.  “I got fi’teen 2, fi’teen 4, fi’teen 6 fi’teen 8, a pair is 10, a pair is 12, and his nibs is 13.”

A couple of years after he moved up, he had severe chest pain.  He went to the hospital, and it turned out he needed open heart surgery.  He was in surgery for 11 hours.  After he got out of surgery and back home, mentally he was not the same.  Now when we played cribbage, he would say, “I got fi’teen 2, fi’teen 4.”  And Cathy or I would say, “No Dad, you missed another fifteen and this pair.  You have 8.”  Cathy and I did some research and it turns out that being under anesthesia for a long time at an advanced age can affect the mind.  He went downhill pretty quickly.  He couldn’t remember what medicines he was supposed to take, so we had to move him to a rest home.  He was there for a while, and continued to go downhill.  Eventually he had to go to a nursing home, and not too soon after, Ed passed away.

Cathy and I are convinced that had the doctor told him the risks to his mental health after this operation, he would have chosen not to have it, because he would not have wanted to live that way.  See, that’s the thing about modern medicine:  You can live longer than you used to, but what is the quality of life?

I love to eat.  I love the smell of food.  I love the different textures of food.  There is no better taste in the world to me than a perfectly seared scallop wrapped in smokey thick cut bacon, paired with a sweet Riesling.  I diet six days a week in order to help keep my weight down, and one day a week, I eat whatever I please, within the confines of a gluten free diet.  I feel fine.  The symptoms that I had are gone, and I have been essentially gluten free for four years now.  Although the information in the article absolutely has merit, I feel that cutting even more out of my diet would affect the quality of my life in a way that would make me enjoy life less.

And isn’t enjoying life to the fullest with the ones we love the most important thing?

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