I did it again. Like last year, I forgot my afib-freedom anniversary! Typical guy, right? Always forgetting the anniversary…lol. It was just a little over two weeks ago that marked the third year of me being 100% free of any atrial fibrillation (without any drugs) since my ablation on March 5, 2015. I can’t believe it’s been three years already. It seems like just yesterday I was in the blanking period. Time sure does fly by.
I know I’ve mentioned this many times in past blog posts but for me the cloud of afib has never gone away. You would think by now I would never think of afib. You would think it would be completely behind me. While it has certainly gotten a lot easier to “move on,” a single day doesn’t go by where I think to myself, “Is this the day my afib returns?” or “If my afib returns today, how am I going to handle it?”
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t dwell on afib and it doesn’t consume me. I just have passing thoughts about it at least once or twice a day. I envy those that are cured of their afib from an ablation and then never think of it again. They just move on. How do they do it? I wish I knew!
What Drives Me To Maintain this Blog (and to Continue to Help Afibbers)
Maintaining a popular blog on atrial fibrillation doesn’t help get over the fears of afib. People I talk to through this blog always ask me, “Travis, why do you continue to maintain this blog and help people with afib when you’re cured? Are you ever tempted to just let it go and move on?” I’d be lying if I said no to the latter question. There have been times where I have contemplated just letting this blog die on the vine but I just can’t do it.
Why? I feel this is my calling from God and that it’s the least I can do for Him for watching over me and for blessing me with so much in my life. This is what drives me to maintain this blog and to continue to help other people battling afib. It’s a higher calling.
I just wish I could do more than maintain this silly blog so I could truly help people. I’d rather be the elite-level EP I always tell people to look for when considering an ablation, or a multimillionaire philanthropist so I could give money to people to be treated by an elite-level EP. Heck, I’d be happy just being a doctor so I could be more qualified to help more afibbers. It’s when I start thinking about these things that I get discouraged and contemplate hanging it up.
What keeps me going, however, are these verses from Romans 12:6-8:
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” -Romans 12:6-8
I’m no theologian but my interpretation of those verses is that we are all blessed with certain gifts. God wants us to make the most of these gifts. My gift might not be being an elite-level EP, or any doctor for that matter, but I am blessed with the gift of serving and encouraging so I must make the most of those gifts. If I can serve and encourage through this blog then that’s what I’ll do!
I’m Free of Afib (for now) But My Health is Far From Perfect
I’ve been blessed to be free of afib for three years now but I still have my share of health struggles. It’s one of the joys of getting older. Slowly but surely the wheels start falling off, right?
Actually, my health struggles are minor compared to some of the stories I read from the numerous emails I get through this blog. I consider myself very fortunate and blessed. I have it pretty good but my health isn’t perfect.
I continue to struggle with my diet. You would think that as an afibber I would be living this totally clean lifestyle and would be adhering strictly to one of the recommended afib diets. Quite the contrary! If I detailed what I ate in a given day you’d be shocked.
Until recently, here are just some of the things I would eat on a typical day: 1-2 full-size candy bars (always chocolate – I LOVE chocolate), 24-32 ounces of Coke, fast food for lunch (usually McDonalds), several handfuls of chips, some sort of ice cream treat, and usually something “unhealthy” like pizza or hamburgers for dinner. Oh and on Fridays and Saturdays I always have one to two cocktails (always vodka and 7up).
You would think with a diet like that I’d be in constant afib or maybe even dead. Well that has mostly been my diet since I was a teenager. Surprisingly, I’m not obese. I’m overweight, yes, but not obese. I’m 5’11” and weigh 190 pounds. All my blood work checks out perfect year-after-year. My blood pressure also has been perfect every year. In fact, my blood pressure runs on the very low end of normal!
I know what you’re thinking; it’s my train wreck of a diet over the many years that led to my afib, right? Well I suppose that’s possible but I don’t agree. I still contend afib is strictly a genetic condition. My dad had afib and several in his family had afib. I think I was bound to get afib no matter what. Now I would agree that my diet probably led to the early onset of afib (I was 32 when I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation), but I think given the genetic history of my family I was destined for it.
It’s taken a long time but finally at the age of 45 I have gotten tired of eating like this but it has been incredibly difficult to change. I’m literally addicted to sugar and fast food. There is a running joke in my family that dad is on the “hummingbird diet.” Like a hummingbird, I need a constant intake of sugar to function! I literally don’t feel normal unless I have a steady flow of sugar (or fat) in my diet. And as crazy as this sounds, my palpitations are at their worst when I attempt to “eat clean.” When I maintain my trashy diet, my heart is as calm as can be. Go figure.
I don’t know if you caught it, but a few paragraphs ago I said I ate this way “until recently.” What happens from time-to-time, and I’d say every eight years or so, I’ll get a bout of acid reflux. Shocking, right?
Well I came down with one of these bouts last week. These acid reflux episodes will last weeks and sometimes months. It’s awful. So now I’m doing my best to eat better and I’m implementing all sorts of natural remedies to treat it. I may write about these natural remedies in a future post depending on how well they work.
These acid reflux episodes are always a blessing in disguise as they tend to put a break on my out-of-control diet. They force me to eat better and that’s what I’ve been doing the past few days. We’ll see how things unfold in the coming weeks and months. I just hope this acid reflux subsides sooner than later as it hurts right now even to drink water!
Why am I being so open and honest about my diet? I think it’s important for fellow afibbers to know that they don’t necessarily have to radically change their lifestyles to live free of afib. If you are ablated by an elite-level EP, it’s possible you’ll be able to maintain your usual lifestyle no matter how bad it is. I’m living proof of it.
Don’t get me wrong, a smart person would absolutely modify their diet and lifestyle to some degree to increase the odds of the success of their ablation but it might not be absolutely necessary. I content you certainly don’t have to radically change your life after a successful ablation. Again, moderate, yes, but switching to eating all organic and eat nothing but fruits, vegetables, and lean protein – probably not necessary…just my opinion.
I’m also open and honest about my diet struggles to show you I’m not unlike you. I’m not living this perfect organic-eating, “clean” lifestyle. I’m human. I’m imperfect. And like you, I struggle with my diet.
The other struggle I’ve had over the years is battling sleep maintenance insomnia. I’m happy to report this has actually gotten better. I can sleep through the night now at least one or two nights a week. And the other nights I don’t sleep through the night, I’m able to get back to sleep fairly quickly without taking any drugs or supplements. I wish the ratio was reversed – sleeping through the night five days a week and not the other two nights – but I’ll take whatever progress God blesses me with!
I still only get about 5-6 1/2 hours of sleep every night but that’s all I need to feel good and function at my best. If I get more sleep than that I’m usually groggy and out-of-sorts. My sweet spot is 6 1/2 hours of total sleep. I always have to say “total sleep” because as I mentioned, I usually don’t sleep 6 1/2 hours straight as I always get up once in the middle of the night.
Again, we are all wired differently so don’t listen to those gurus or articles that lecture you that you must get 8 hours of sleep or you’ll suffer all kinds of dire consequences and die young! It’s simply not true.
We all have our optimal sleep requirements. For you it might be eight hours and for some of you it might be four hours. Interesting side note, Sam Walton, the found of Walmart, slept four hours a night his entire life! He was obviously widely successful and lived a fairly long life. He died at age 74 from bone cancer (and not from atrial fibrillation or some other heart condition).
I always like to end my personal blog posts with “next steps.” My goal right now is to get my diet and acid reflux under control! That’s my #1 priority. I gained all the weight back I lost last year so I’d like to lose it all again and get back to 175 pounds. That means I have to lose 15 pounds. With strength from Christ I should be able to control my diet enough to meet that goal by June 1st. I just hope my acid reflux subsides by then as well!
I’m going to continue to write for this blog and try to help as many afibbers as I can!
God Bless and I wish you all the best of health!