Blog Update …friends and family

Ok, so it’s been too long since I’ve updated my blog. I just wanted to pen a quick update and also commit to doing more.

The last few months have been pretty bad to be honest. I completely underestimated my condition if truth be told and although my intentions of updating my blog and helping others was indeed best placed, I am not sure it was completely wise (or achievable)

I will still be running the blog, and hope that it can still be useful – to others as well as myself. I think it’s all about setting realistic expectations and not putting myself under too much pressure to do things! It’s a fine balance I suppose.

One thing I have noticed of late is the importance of friends and family. It sounds obvious I suppose, but it’s something that has been a bit of an eye opener. Since I was young I’ve always enjoyed my own company, I still do. I always thought that I could get along on my own, and although I was always pretty sociable I did believe that I could manage just fine with Me, Myself and I! Having positive messages from friends on social media has really been a big boost for me of late, and whilst I still enjoy time on my own I have come to realise that a good circle of close friends and family really is a great blessing.

Thanks for listening.

Today is a gift …..

I can’t take the credit for this, someone forwarded it to me from Facebook.  It’s such a wonderful piece, however, that I simply had to share it.  It really does make you think ….

It will take just 60 seconds to read this and change your thinking..

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.

One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs.

His bed was next to the room’s only window.

The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end.

They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation..

Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and colour of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake.Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every colour and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by.

Although the other man could not hear the band – he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days, weeks and months passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep.

She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window.The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window besides the bed.

It faced a blank wall.

The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window.

The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.

She said, ‘Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.’

Epilogue:

There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations. Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled. If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can’t buy.

‘Today is a gift, that is why it is called The Present .’

Ordinary World …

Sunset

Music, most specifically the lyrics, has always meant so much to me. I know I am not alone in this, as across the globe music speaks to all of us on a level that often nothing else can.  I feel there is something very spiritual about the way music, lyrics or poetry touches us in this way.

Anyway, one of my favourite lyrics is from the song Ordinary World, by Duran Duran.  Released in the mid 1990’s it was an instant hit with me and as time has gone by I’ve learnt to appreciate the lyrics so much more.

As I try to strive to build a life with Heart Disease, I am drawn to this song time and again.  The shredding off of  a past lifestyle and the building of something new can be summed up almost perfectly with the following lyrics;

“What has happened to it all?
Crazy, some are saying
Where is the life that I recognize?
Gone away …

But I won’t cry for yesterday;
There’s an ordinary world
Somehow I have to find!
And as I try to make my way;
To the ordinary world
I will learn to survive …”

The ambiguousness of the line “Left me in the vacuum of my heart” is also not lost on me! lol!

Pursuit of Happiness …

One of my favourites stories …..

Some time ago there was an experiment done on a group of people all attending a seminar.  Shortly after the seminar had begun, the speaker stopped and asked the delegates to accompany him to the adjacent room.  On entering the room the 50 delegates saw 50 red balloons at the far end of the hall.  They were each asked to go and pick a balloon and write their name on a small piece of card that was attached to it.

After a short while all the balloons had been written on, and everyone had completed the task.  The balloons were then placed, randomly, at the other end of the hall.

The speaker then asked everyone to go and find their balloon (the one they had written on)

As you can imagine, it was pandemonium!  People were pushing each other out of the way – all frantically trying to find their own balloon.  After 5 minutes the speaker stopped the delegates and asked them to come back to the far end of the hall.  When they had returned, the speaker asked them all to now go and pick any ballon – and then give it to the person who’s name was written on it.

Within the same 5 minute period everyone had picked a ballon and returned it to the person named on the card ….. Everyone had their balloon back.

The moral of this experiment – it’s really quite simple.

This is what we are all guilty of in our lives.  We are so frantically searching for our own happiness that we’ll never find it. Our happiness essentially lies in the happiness of other people.  If you give people happiness; then you’ll get your happiness back in return.

British Heart Foundation …

I just wanted to give a little shout out to the British Heart Foundation

Since being diagnosed with CHD, I have found them to be a truly excellent source of knowledge and assistance.  The fact that they are a charity and have been around for over 50 years is truly astonishing.

I’ve found their advice to always be top notch, and they do a simply amazing job.  Who knows, maybe in future I’ll be able to do some sort of charity / fundraising work to help them out in return.

Selfless Selfies …

The recent craze of women taking “Selfies” without any makeup on has flooded many Social Media networks over the past week or so. Well done to all those who took part!! It goes to show how far reaching Social Networking goes. It also reaffirms my faith in humanity and shows that actually, regardless of what one reads in the newspapers, as a species we are inherently good and want to help one another out. After all, biologically we are essentially nothing more than a sociable mammal, so when I see people raising money for good causes like this it does make me feel a real sense that all is not lost in this world of ours.

So, in closing, my hat’s off to you Ladies (and some gents, I believe!) who posted these images and raised money in the name of Cancer research.

A selfless act like this can be likened to dropping a pebble into a pond … Once the first ripple starts, it soon the spreads out across the entire surface. What a nice metaphor for being selfless and caring, something we can all surely learn from and strive for.

Stripped Away …

 

There are many fables and ancient sayings that concentrate on the rough principle that stripping away life’s inessentials is ultimately the key to health and happiness.

Like the sculptor who unveils a masterpiece out of a large piece of stone, revealing that actually the sculpture was always there – he mainly just chipped away the unwanted rock to reveal what was always actually  hidden away.

I think we all can take something from that …..

What are your life essentials?  After Food, Water and Shelter our next needs turn out to be companionship and love.  Everything else is merely overload ….

Now, I am not suggesting that we all go out and hug a tree, leaving all our worldly goods behind and living like a caveman or some sort of buddhist monk; but maybe we should all take heed of these early teachings and realise that potentially there is some truth there.

I certainly found that stripping away unhealthy aspects of my life, be that food/drink, Social Media overload or simply learning to appreciate what is really important in one’s life – this decluttering can be a real bonus.

There is still some way to go.  After all, like this blog title says “The Pursuit of Excellence is a Lifelong Endeavour”  However, carrying less baggage on any journey must surely be the right thing to do …..

Reality Check …..

Every now and again Mother nature lets you know that you’re not really in charge, and brings you back to earth with a bump. This past week has been one of those weeks for me … What a horrible 7 days it’s been.

I’ve used my GTN spray more in the past week than I have in the past month. It’s so depressing, and really brought me down if the truth be told. I am usually quite a positive person. Indeed, the whole reason I setup this blog it not only to track my feelings / progress, but to also offer hope for those in a similar place as I find myself in. I want to try and pull out as many positives as I can from the whole situation. The past week has really challenged me on all of that, however.

A simple walk up a windy street resulted in me having to take a rest when I got a pain and using my spray to get it under control. I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t too long ago that I was running several miles a couple of times a week. How far have I fell???

Anyway – I really don’t want this to become a moaning / self loathing post. There are many, many, others in much, much, worse a situation than I. Time to brush it off and start again – after all, what other choice do I/we all have in this world.

Why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up …

Just Do It (?) …

I think we all know the importance of exercise. The benefits of getting out there and walking / swimming / running / cycling one’s way to that ever so far away destination of health & fitness perfection!

Well, what about if you’re suffering from Heart Disease? What then?

How hard is it acceptable to push ones self?
What if you get a pain when training – when should you stop?
How can one decipher between usual exercise stress/pain and a potential heart attack coming on?
What if walking on a treadmill bores the hell out of you and you want to do more?
What if, up until the last few years, you’ve been a regular in the gym and will find it hard to not do anything but your usual routine?

These were just some of the questions that have puzzled me over the past few months. Exercise and training have/had been an integral part of my life since I was a teenager – how can I suddenly just stop and not do anything? Is doing nothing actually helpful – surely a little exercise is a good thing? It sounds trivial but it really was probably one of the biggest changing points for me following diagnosis. Add to this the fact that I would normally feel guilty if I skipped a few weeks training – how on earth was I going to cope mentally with not doing anything?

Fortunately, the friendly Cardiac Nurses have been very helpful indeed in offering advice and support on what constitutes an active yet safe level of exercise for me. Naturally this will differ from person to person. Age, weight and previous activity levels will all (I assume) come in to play as far as offering advice. To that point, anyone who is after advice I would suggest them speaking to their GP / Cardiac Consultant or even the BHF (British Heart Foundation) The resources are there – so please use them.

For me, a gentle walk or cycle seems to be the right level for now. No boxing or weight lifting allowed at all – Doctors orders! Besides stress this is the one thing most likely to kick off a cardiac event.

To this end I am happy that at least my golf is not affected (I use an electric trolley, so no carrying heavy clubs etc) and I have also treated myself to a new bicycle to get me out and about in the fresh air at a very slow and leisurely pace. I even treated myself to a new pair of trainers too!

I think Nike should do a special CHD version of their trainers.

Imagine the tag line ….. Just Do It (but very, very slowly & gently; and remember to take your GTN spray with you!)

A Cut Above …

I came across a cracking new musician recently – a chap called Will Pound.  Will was born with a heart defect and had to endure multiple operations as a youngster.  His father passed him a mouth organ and encouraged him to start playing in order to help his breathing and recovery etc.  He never looked back, and soon enough Will’s natural flair and talent was there to be seen (and enjoyed) by all.

Still a relatively young man in his 20’s, Will has already established himself as one of the best harmonica players of his generation.  His debut Solo Album “A Cut Above” is quite simply amazing, and I would implore you all to check it out.  “A Cut Above” is an eclectic mix of various musical styles, from Bluegrass, Folk, Rock, Blues & Jazz, and a wonderful listen.  Will can also be heard playing his harmonica on the “He Ain’t Heavy” Hillsborough charity single that topped the Christmas charts in 2012.

As a side to being an amazing musician, this young man is an example to us all about how one can turn to triumph from adversity.  Will certainly is “A Cut Above” and a shining example to us all, regardless of heart disease or otherwise.

What a breath of fresh air, and a truly inspirational man …