A lot of our health, both emotionally and physically, is determined by what we consume. It’s not just the food we eat. It’s much more than that.

The dictionary gives four definitions for the word consume:

(1) To ingest food and drink (as in, “Americans consume way too much sugar.”)

(2) To use up a resource (as in, “Our house consumes 30 percent more energy in the Winter.”)

(3) To completely destroy (as in  “The forest fire consumed 30 houses in its wake.”)

(4) to be consumed emotionally (“Carol was consumed with guilt.”)

There is little doubt that the food we eat has an effect on our health. But are there other influences in our lives that hurt us? What else are we swallowing?

Are we sapping our strength by feasting on depression or lethargy?

Are we devouring outside influences that destroy our determination and hope?

Are we drinking the dark ales of guilt, anger, hate, and fear?

We would never consider drinking poison, yet so many of us willingly allow poison to enter our minds. Reports of war, religious rants of impending doom, and, just to bring it closer to home, statistics on survival rates of leukemia victims.

Another source of poison can come from friends or even family. Do you have ‘toxic’ people in your life? You know, people who are too needy, or always angry, or even turn their anger towards you?

I try to stop consuming the various toxins around me. Though I’m intested in politics and world events, I spend a lot less time listening to the news. I surround myself with friends who are happy most of the time and sad only some of the time. I have friends whom I can support and be supported by. If someone is angry with me, I try not to focus on that, but instead pray for him and calmly look for ways of resolution.

Being a middle child, I always tried to fix things and took on other peoples fears and worries. But one day, my little brother – one of the bravest men I’ve known – said to me, “Jim, there is a God, and you’re not it.” When ever I start trying to mediate I stop and remember his wisdom.

So, the bottom line of this rather long post is: don’t consume, or be consumed by, the toxic people or influences that come your way. Deal with what you can and let go of the rest.

W. Bartley put it succinctly in a short rhyme:

For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.

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Had a good doctor visit yesterday. It turns out my vertigo is caused by a problem with my right ear and not leukemia, a tumor, or some other horrid thing. She has given me a prescription for a very low dose of Valium. I won’t be taking it often – only if I feel a major spell coming on. Apparently the Valium fiddles with the spot in my brain that handles stability so I can go on with my day. And she said the dosage is so low it won’t make me drowsy.

My only question is, why didn’t they figure this out sooner?

I still have the leukemia and the cause of the vertigo is not fixed, but I can actually get on with my life without tipping over!

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[Before I start on today’s blog, I want to give a warning about the documentary May I Be Frank which I wrote on previously. It is very inspiring but I failed to mention it has some crude language in it. So my more sensitive readers may want to steer clear. ‘Nuf said.]

Our self identity is developed over time from birth on. What we think of ourselves may be partially built into our DNA, but I think most of it grows as we react to our environment. The relationship, or lack there of, we have with our parents, family, and friends has a profound effect. How we are treated by the other kids in grade school. Our sometimes tumultuous life as teenagers. How successful we are at work. Even our interaction with strangers. It all supports the view we hold of ourselves.

These inputs though are only the stimuli. It’s how we choose to react to them that forms our identity. In essence we choose who we are.

So what role does Leuk play?  How much does he effect our feelings about ourselves?

When leukemia invades our bloodstream there is a real danger of making the disease dictate how we look at ourselves. I call it the Disease Identity.

Before Leuk arrived, I drew from my experiences as a son, brother, father, husband, friend, etc. But now I have to be careful to not identify myself with my illness.

The friends we choose transforms our thinking about who we are. Do we buddy up with life, or spend our days with Leuk?

You’d think writing this blog would make me spend more time with him than I otherwise would. But oddly enough, dumping my thoughts onto paper seems to release me from brooding over him. Still, there are moments when I think of myself as a leukemia patient.

By the way, I realize I’m writing on a computer. My words are just pixels on a white background that imitates paper. But I remember the days when people used to type on real paper with manual typewriters so the thinking still sticks.Yes, I’m an old fart.

Anyway, I suggest we get out more. It is easy to cloister ourselves and have a pity party. Instead we should spend more time with friends and family. Get up each morning with plans for the day. Find ways to help and encourage others. All this will take us out of ourselves. Participating in life helps us live life.

We can stop focusing on white blood cell counts, bone marrow tests, hospitals, and doctors.

Let’s shake off the Disease Identity and make better decisions about who we are. I know it’s easier to say this than do it, and sometimes we have to think about our fight with Leuk; but not everyday.

If we are going to win the battle with him we first need to draw strength by remembering who we are and who we want to be. In The Art of War, Sun Tzu said you need to know your enemies and know yourself.

He never said be your enemy.

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I recently watched a documentary called May I Be Frank. It shows the transition of an overweight man with Hepatitis C and a history of drug use. It is very inspiring. Check out the website from the above link and look at the photos on the far left and right of the heading… that’s the same guy!

While the movie promotes the use of a vegan diet, it is more about one man’s committed journey to better health and improved relationships with his family.

So, I’m planning on starting my own journey.  However… I won’t be drinking wheat grass smoothies! I want to start out simply and with a diet not too far from my present one. This might make it easier to stick to it. (I can’t see myself downing a drink made from the clippings in my lawn mower bag.)

I’m focusing on four areas: (1) Eat more fruits and veggies, (2) Stop eating red meat (I will however devour chicken, turkey, and fish – the vegetarian life is not for me!), (3) Drink lots of water (aiming for 1 gal per day… gulp!), and (4) Exercise.

Today is day one. So far I’ve eaten a cheese taco with tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, and spinach greens. I put the veggies in after I melted the cheese so they wouldn’t be cooked. This, I’m told, keeps the enzymes ‘alive’ and working for you. (I know, I know, some of you are saying “Cheese?!” Hey, there are some things I just won’t give up, and I figure any kind of dietary improvement is better than what I was doing.)

I’m drinking H2O as I write this. And tonight I’m walking at the Mall.

Of the 4 above, exercising will be the most difficult to maintain – I’ve not been very consistent so far (see Exercising).

This may not cure my leukemia, but it will give me more energy and possibly reduce my dizzy problem.

So wish me luck… I’m on yet another quest.

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She is my cousin, but because of our age difference I’ve always thought of her as my aunt. Last Saturday Alma celebrated her 90th birthday.

I missed it. Not feeling well, I couldn’t make the 80 mile drive. But my better 3/4’s, my wife, daughter, and son (with wife and child) attended.

Every family has a center; a person who, without knowing it, helps glue the rest of us together. For my immediate family it was my mother. But for the whole extended family it is Alma.

This wonderful, unassuming woman quietly sees to the small details that make a person feel loved. For as long as I can remember Alma has sent me birthday cards. And a couple times she and her now belated husband sent hand-made Christmas gifts. Once it was a beautiful clock built into a varnished alder round. Another time it was a huge cribbage board. (It was 3 feet long and on legs like a table.) I’m also the proud owner of a book she wrote.

In her usual giving way, Alma turned the birthday party on it’s head – giving instead of receiving. She gave everyone a home-made jar of blueberry jam with a thank you note on top of the jar.

Alma, if you’re reading this, I want you to know how much I appreciate and love you. I am shamed by the realization that this is the first time I’ve said so.

Our entire family is blessed to have you.

Thanks.

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