Live as long as you can

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.
I am in the midst of mine.
For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page I hope you find it interesting.
The book is titled, Live Long*, Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

You can copyright a written work, of course, but you can’t copyright a title. And so it happens that uncounted songs have been titled, “I love you.” That’s nice. Surely there are no more blessed words in the language than those three arranged in that order.

But to get your full attention, sharpen your focus and reevaluate your priorities, nothing beats this little three word sentence, “You have cancer.”

That was the straightforward announcement from the doctor following my biopsy. This was new territory for me. Most of my life I had whipped through obligatory physicals for sports, scouts, mission and other adventures. The results were always, “You’re in great shape.”

As the years piled on, the medical folks began to qualify their happy reports. “You’re in good shape for a person your age.”

I appreciated their delicate wording, but it reminded me of the well meaning country boy who complimented his partner, “You sweat less than any fat girl I ever danced with.”

Roger Williams, a popular pianist of the 1950’s said near the close of his career. “I was a child prodigy, performing in public when I was three years old. People often said to me, ‘You play so well for your age.’ They are starting to say that again.”

I reluctantly, faced what President Gordon B. Hinckley used to call with a chuckle, “the golden years… laced with lead.” Of my own journey to wrinkle city, I chuckled some, grumbled some, and wrote a song parody on the subject. Occasionally I quoted to myself the poet Dylan Thomas, “Do not go gentle into that good night…Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” And sometimes I resigned myself to the words of Omar Khayyam, “The moving finger writes and having writ moves on. Nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line,.”

On my less grumbly days I considered starting an FMA society. I would sell T shirts, posters and certificates saying, “I am (fill in the blank) smart, strong, handsome, healthy, attentive, a good driver, quick witted, sexy, or all the above FMA*”

*For My Age.

I have gained a new respect for those who have traveled the highway of senior citizenship in good spirits. Full disclosure: it’s not a highway, more like a bumpy cobblestone street with more than occasional potholes. But I was chugging along, fairly well maintaining my “native cheery temperament,” as Joseph Smith described his. Until that gentle slope down the aging road rolled off a cliff and dropped me into the dark canyon below with the news I had cancer.

I began to add to the list my father had joked about in his later years. “Time to stop buying any green bananas, or filling the gas tank all the way up.” I might have added batteries in bulk packages, ten pack razor blades, or two liter bottles of Worcestershire sauce. Oh, and don’t start reading War and Peace, but do forgive those who have trespassed against me, and get notarized receipts from them that I did.

According to my doctors it wasn’t time to check the Yellow Pages for funeral homes yet. Anyway I figured I should call Berge Mortuary first and let them submit a bid on me. In my glory days of high school basketball, whenever I had a good game and got my name and picture in the paper, I would find in the mailbox a few days later a nice letter from Berg with a laminated copy of the news story. I thought then, “This is the longest running marketing program I’ve ever heard of.” It still is.

Another reason I didn’t schedule my obituary mug shot was I had a couple of things going for me. First: Even though about 30,000 American men die from it annually prostate cancer is relatively slow growing. Since I’m relatively slow at most everything else I thought that might bode well for me. Second: I was in pretty good shape (I know “for a man my age.”) I couldn’t qualify as overweight with a barbell in each hand and in a pair of lead wading boots. I work out pretty much every day but Sunday, and I’ve been running since long before it was fashionable, Back then when I was on the road touring or speaking I would look for a quiet road outside the city to run on. Dogs would chase me and little old ladies would peep through their curtains to see if I had a stolen chicken under my T shirt.

Like every American, even those who dine mostly out of Styrofoam clam shell boxes, I thought I was eating a healthy diet.

The doctor gave me his highest complement. He said I was a prime candidate for surgery. I asked him about radiation or other treatments. He commented briefly and vaguely on the subject. His specialty was surgery. I was reminded of philosopher Soren Kierkegaard’s observation, “To a man who has only a hammer, everything is a nail.”

The doctor said, “When would you like to schedule your surgery?”

I said, “I’ll get back to you.” I called him later and told him I had decided not to. It was quiet on the other end of the line.

I appreciate dedicated doctors and nurses including our daughter Callie who has blessed the lives of many people as a registered nurse. I have benefited from medical treatments in the past, and may well use them in the future. But this time the options of getting nuked or sliced and diced didn’t feel like the right approach to me. But there seemed to be no other protocols available.

At first I didn’t want to tell anybody about the unwelcome inhabitant I was sharing my body with. Who wants to be known as The Guy With Cancer? Even now I don’t recommend it as an ice breaker at social gatherings. “Hi, my name is Duane. I have cancer. Looks like we may be in for a dry spell unless it rains.”

But as 10 plus years have rolled by and I find myself still running the mountain trail behind our house, and haven’t seen my picture in the obituaries, I have decided to tell my story so far in case it might help someone else. I emphasize again that I am no expert. I am just telling you what has happened to me. The experience has changed my outlook on many things.

Following my diagnosis, I read what I could find on the subject. I talked with people who might have expertise or experience. Among others, I consulted Dr. Mark Lafferty, a chiropractor whose father in the same profession had helped me keep a straight spine, and put my hip back in place when I got banged up in high school football. Dr. Lafferty offered me the most optimistic prognosis I had heard since the fateful three words were dropped on me.

He said, “We can control prostate cancer with nutrition and life style.”

I was relieved and exuberant. Then he said, “Unless the Lord has decided it is your time to die.” I was sobered and focused.

The first thing we did was open the pathways of exit for the toxins I had collected in 65 years of living in our less than pure environment, and eating the “Great American Diet.” The premise of this approach is that the PH of the body is vitally important. On a scale of 1-14, a level of 6.4 to 7.0 is healthiest. Numbers below this indicate the body system is too acidic. Above 7.0 the system is too alkaline. The American diet includes much sugar, processed white flour, red meat, and other foods which bring down the body’s PH. Food additives also contribute. The best foods for regulating PH are vegetables, especially dark green leafy, the stuff your mother always told you to eat. These are best when grown naturally in nourishing soil with as little air and water pollution as possible. Some meats, especially fish are good protein sources.

Exercise, both aerobic to strengthen the oxygen and blood circulation systems, and isotonic, weights, pushups, sit ups, and/or yoga to build muscle and skeletal strength are part of the regimen. Plenty of good water, and adequate rest and sleep are also helpful. I had been practicing this life style for decades, but not as strictly and focused as I now do.

Sometimes even good foods may not supply enough of a certain nourishment I need, or my body may not be processing the food well enough to extract the nourishment from it. For example, after age 50 most people produce insufficient stomach acid to efficiently digest their food. I take concentrated food supplements to supply these needs.

In addition to the physical benefits, I have found mental, emotional, and even spiritual advantages. We joke about some foods being “sinfully delicious” or about eating “guilt free.” I think those are more than just figures of speech. I think it no coincidence that spiritual leaders of history including Gautama Buddha, Confucius, Mahatma Gandhi, and even Jesus practiced fasting and controlled eating as ways to strengthen themselves, and influence for good their followers. I have also found that the changes were not as difficult as I had expected. The human taste buds, muscles, heart and mind are marvelously malleable and adaptable once we convince them we are committed to the program.

I’m no medical or nutrition expert, but this system seems to work quite well for me. I prefer it so much that if I got a call from the doctor saying, “Hey, sorry about that. We pulled the wrong file. You’re fine,” I wouldn’t go back to my old ways. I have pretty well re calibrated my appetites, so that I am controlling them instead of vice versa. I feel now that my body and I are much more on the same page. We have an agreement; I will only put into my body what is good and nourishing. It will in turn serve me to the best of its abilities. Neither of us is perfect in our role yet, but we are much better.

I believe my present fitness program is giving me more peace of mind, confidence, and optimism for the present and future. It seems to help me “live long” both in years, and more important, in perspective.
I am also reminded of the words of J. Golden Kimball, a country boy who brought his homespun wit and wisdom to his calling as a general authority of the church. He once gave this counsel on health. “Get an incurable disease. Then you’ll take care of yourself and live to a ripe old age.”

Your next installment is: Learn a little

What do you think about this part of the book?
Everybody I know is busy, including me. Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.
I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)
The questions are these:
“A” How much did you enjoy this?
“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?
The rating is:
1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.
2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts
3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary
4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to
5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door
So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, but since that that would probably be from my mother and she has passed away, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)
Also feel free to add comments if you like.
Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.