When you’re a kid, your parents seem invulnerable.  But as you get older, you begin to realize how human they are.  Once they’re gone, if you’re like me, you can’t help but look back and wonder if you did enough.

Driving with my dad

Driving with my dad in the 70s

Take my dad.  He smoked for most of my childhood, quitting after he suffered a heart attack when he was in his 50’s.  But he started again almost a decade later, and then smoked, off and on, from that point forward.  He loved my mother’s cooking, and the most activity he engaged in was the occasional long walk.  So his lifestyle resulted in weight gain which became a central issue, contributing to his heart attack, the development of colitis, and eventually to the development of diabetes, which happened sometime in his 60’s.  Eventually, everything came to a head, and at the age of 71 he suffered a massive stroke and died.

White.  Male.  Over 50.  Obese.  With a history of smoking, poor dietary choices, and a sedentary lifestyle.  My dad was a walking list of red flags, and the steady decline in his health was textbook.  He loved all his vices and even though he was fully aware of his failing health, he would always choose to indulge rather than deny himself those small pleasures.  He was never able to explain this seemingly irrational behaviour, often chalking it up to a general lack of willpower, but after reflecting on his life after-the-fact, I wonder if it was a symptom of something else, and I wonder if something could have helped…if I could have helped.

I’m dedicating the next few blog posts to my dad and drawing attention to his health challenges because I believe he represents a growing segment of the population that could benefit greatly from preventative care, but who so rarely seek it out.  I’m going to talk about the health challenges that we know for sure he had, like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.  And I’m also going to make assumptions about other things like his mental health.  So if you can relate to his story, or if you know someone like him, then check back over the next few weeks for my thoughts on those topics.

My intentions are two-fold:

1) For people like my dad to know that they are loved and they deserve to live happy and healthy lives; there are resources out there for you, and people who want to help

2) If you know someone like my dad, make it your mission to support that person as best you can and get them the help they need; don’t ignore the signs

This is dedicated to my dad.