Health, Hobbies, and Happiness

Ageing might bring its challenges, but I'm tackling them.

I'm getting older, but at fifty-six, I still have relatively few aches and pains, except for my knees. Unfortunately, my knees aren't as strong as they used to be, and some days I struggle to get going.

I suspect that one of the reasons behind this is the statin medication I take daily to reduce cholesterol. Cholesterol levels tend to increase as we age, and while most people tolerate statins well, some, like myself, experience side effects. My most common side effect is mild muscle aches, tenderness, and weakness (myalgia).

To monitor my autoimmune-induced medical condition (Type 1 diabetes, hypothyroidism, Grave’s eye disease), I undergo regular blood tests every three months, specifically checking my creatine kinase levels, an enzyme associated with muscle pain, inflammation, and weakness when elevated.

I've made lifestyle changes to manage my health and stay in good shape. Several years ago, I stopped consuming beef1 and started incorporating more chicken and fish into my diet (I particularly love fish). Additionally, I've begun exercising to maintain healthy muscle tissue.

However, despite these efforts, I've noticed that my leg and upper body muscles have weakened compared to when I was in my 40s. As a result, I decided to invest in an electric bicycle, as my leg muscles are too weak to ride a traditional bicycle without experiencing knee pain. The electric bicycle allows me to exercise while rebuilding my muscle strength.

Another challenge I face is carrying heavy camera equipment. Fortunately, the Fuji mirrorless cameras I use are much lighter than traditional DSLRs, which has been a great help. However, I still find my metal Manfrotto tripod, purchased back when I used a Nikon DSLR, to be too heavy for a full day of photography. It's time for me to consider investing in a carbon fibre tripod that is lighter and more manageable for extended use. I like the Sirui ST-124 Carbon Fibre Tripod and Sirui K-20X Ball Head, but those purchases must wait for a birthday.

So what strategies do I use to maintain my health and well-being?

I stay physically active by participating in walking, hiking, and bike riding. These not only keep me moving but also contribute to my overall well-being.

I focus on a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins like fish. Avocado, a fruit in its own right, has been a part of my diet since childhood. I often slice it and enjoy it in a sandwich on its own.

I strive for 7-9 hours of sleep every night, though I'll admit it's not always easy to achieve. During the peak of the COVID-19 period, my partner Bhavna and I found ourselves glued to late-night Netflix binges to escape reality. We're actively working on breaking that habit.

Instead of formal meditation or yoga, I find solace in spending time outdoors to manage stress. I've never quite mastered staying awake during yoga or meditation sessions. It does not work for me.

Staying hydrated is essential, and I drink ample water throughout the day. We've got a SodaStream, which comes in handy for satisfying those carbonated water cravings. I have an insulated metal cup that holds around 473ml of water – perfect for keeping cold, carbonated water at the right temperature.

Maintaining strong social bonds is crucial, and I invest in nurturing meaningful connections with friends and family to enhance my sense of belonging and emotional well-being.

I believe in mental agility and continually challenge myself by acquiring new skills. I've reignited my passion for fish-keeping and created a terrarium inspired by wabi-kusa principles. On top of that, I'm currently in the design phase for another fish tank that will incorporate iwagumi design principles. Additionally, I'm putting my creativity to work by designing a moss-based terrarium.

By adapting my lifestyle and making thoughtful equipment choices, I strive to maintain my health and pursue my photography passion with greater comfort and ease.

  1. You know. I’ve never liked beef. I started eating it when I moved to the USA. Americans are obsessed with beef?

2019 Sucked

The year 2019 is almost over. Yay! I am so excited to start something new. Like the previous year, 2019 was full of health challenges that affected my work, hobbies, and mental health.

The last two years have been challenging. In 2018 I was diagnosed with Graves Disease. The year had me battling with thyroid hormones playing ping pong with my mind and body. My endocrinologists, I had two, put me on various medications, none of which seemed to work. My autoimmune system raged on attacking my thyroid, causing it to pump out hormones that cause anxiety, panic attacks, sadness, exhilaration, weight loss, etc. I had lost 30 pounds by the time of my surgery later that year.

I was dealing with this while starting with a new client on Wall Street, New York City. It was tough going. I broke down in tears one day, sitting on a Manhattan sidewalk, unable to move. The hormones had left me unable to move. I waited until I could move, speaking with my wife, who was desperate to help but could not as she was home in Princeton. Two days later, I was in the emergency room under observation for several hours. Fun times!

My healthcare team determined that the best course of action was a thyroidectomy. At the end of 2018, a surgeon slit my throat and removed my thyroid. The surgery was a success, but now I could look forward to the life of pill-popping Synthroid. Yay!

Recovery from that surgery was progressing nicely, but in 2019 when it rained, it led to torrential flooding. My immune system moved on from my thyroid to my eyes. The attack had started earlier in 2018, but we could only deal with one problem at a time. The Graves Eye Disease worsened in 2019, leading to proptosis; a fancy word for my eyes was bugging out of my head, Quasimodo style, which is not like Gangnam style.

The doctors tried treatment with medication, but the situation worsened, and in April of this year, just a week before my father died, I was treated with radiation and high dose steroids. For six weeks, my attentive, loving wife drove 90 minutes from our home to Philadelphia to the Will Eyes Institute in Philadelphia. Then she went me to work, where I did my best not to fall asleep. I was exhausted.

The mask they made for the treatments made me feel claustrophobic and anxious, so I was given a dose of Xanax for each and every visit. I was not allowed to drive.

My dad died during my second week of treatment. “If you stop your treatments now, you could make things worse”. I was not able to attend Dad’s funeral in the Caribbean. My hair fell out, and the skin around my eyes looked like a bad sunburn. All that weight I lost from the thyroid disease returned. Thank you, high dose steroids!

I started to see a therapist. I was struggling to think positive. We brainstormed about using exercise, but it's hard to exercise when I have low energy, and I am exhausted from radiation treatments and the effects of steroids on my diabetes. We talked about using my photography to reduce stress, so I started doing more street photography since I walked around Center City between treatments anyway.

June came around, and I was told that the next course of treatment was orbital decompression surgery to reduce the pressure inside my eyes sockets. The eye muscles were swelling and putting pressure on my optic nerve, and there was a danger of blindness. The surgery would be scheduled for the first week of September. There were certain risks, but what could I do? I accepted the risk.

After surgery, I developed strabismus, a misalignment of both eyes, causing me to see double. Argh!!!

I was told the strabismus was temporary, but if it did not resolve on its own, “We can correct that”, said the surgeon. But we can't do any more surgeries right away. I had just had surgery. I would have to wait until December, but with any luck, it could resolve itself. It did not.

Weeks and then months go by. I couldn't drive. Well, I could have, but since I could see adequately only from just under two feet from my face, driving would indeed have been disastrous. Bhavna was back to driving me around to doctor appointments. The client reluctantly agreed to let me work from home. They don't usually offer that to consultants. Without transportation, I was stuck inside by myself staring at a screen, unable to go out and interact with people. Unable to go hiking. By the end of each day, I was emotionally wiped.

Last week, on 18th December, I had my previous eye surgery for 2019. My strabismus was corrected, and a few weeks after recovery, I will be able to drive, go hiking, take my camera around the area. Relief. I have been released from my 14-week imprisonment.

I nearly wasn't able to complete the CSA CCSK study course I started in August. I had to ask for an extension. I finally finished the course on Sunday. For the two weeks after surgery, I had spent the weekend mornings and afternoons watching the training videos and taking tests. So, good riddance 2019.

In praise of meat, milk and eggs

In praise of meat, milk and eggs For poor people, a little animal source food goes a long way by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

Shirley Tarawali, Assistant Director-General, and Delia Grace, a veterinarian and epidemiologist.

"Excluding animal products from your diet as a vegetarian or vegan is a choice some people have the luxury to make."

In praise of meat, milk and eggs For poor people, a little animal source food goes a long way by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

Shirley Tarawali, Assistant Director-General, and Delia Grace, a veterinarian and epidemiologist.

Excluding animal products from your diet as a vegetarian or vegan is a choice some people have the luxury to make, and if they know what they’re doing, and take care, they can be perfectly healthy. But there are probably far more people who have no choice in the matter. They would eat meat if they could, but they simply can’t afford it. For those people, a little bit of animal source food – milk, meat, eggs – can make a great difference to their health and wellbeing. It can be easy to forget that, in the clamour for meatless Mondays and other efforts to respond to climate change. There’s also the fact that in many parts of the world, animals play a very useful role in transforming things people can’t or won’t eat, like grass, into good food. Eat This Podcast