The one thing you canít do anything
about is your genes. Everything else you
can do something about. My father died
of a heart attack when he was 47. I
inherited that gene. My brother did not
have a heart attack but needed heart
surgery six months after I did. My
children have to be regularly checked.
Odds are my children have the gene as
well. Now, they have to do what I do.
You canít defeat the gene but you can
stop smoking and exercise. I smoked
three packs a day. I always thought it
would never happen to me. I did some
stupid things. I would buy the pack of
cigarettes and read the warnings on the
pack and that bothered me. Take Yul
Brenner. He made a tape before he died.
You can see him saying, ďIím dead now.
Donít smoke.Ē Whenever that commercial
came on, I ran to the TV to change the
channel because it wasnít going to
happen to me. But it did happen to me.
So eat the right foods, watch what you
eat, and keep your cholesterol down.
There are amazing medicines out there.
There are drugs that my father did not
have like Lipitor. If you can keep you
weight down, keep your cholesterol down,
exercise regularly, watch yourself and
make sure to react to pain. Donít treat
pain lightly. Pain is a wonderful thing.
The reason it is wonderful is that it is
an indicator. Someone once asked me, ď
If you had one wish, what would it be?Ē
And I said I wish to have no pain. And
that, of course, would be terrible. Iíd
die of appendicitis or a heart attack
because I wouldnít know something was
wrong. I react to pain. If I get a pain,
I take it seriously. Donít be afraid to
bug your doctor. Ask your doctor, ďWhat
You believe that people need to partner
with their doctor.
Yes, partner with your doctor. There are
some people who say they donít want to
bother him or her. But thatís what they
are there for.
People are afraid of being a bother
because they think itíll affect their
loved oneís care.
Youíre not a bother. You should be
there. You donít want to tell doctors
what to do, but you have every right to
be kept up to date. Ask ďWhatís
happening?Ē ďWhy is it happening?Ē
Second opinions are very important.
Doctors can be wrong, too. You have to
be proactive, and you have to be loving.
And, itís very good to have a doctor who
knows the emotional side, too. A hand
holder is very good as well as an upbeat
doctor rather than a low-key doctor. And
thatís important because we are all
terminal. So no doctor should ever say,
ďYouíve got a week to live.Ē This should
not be said because no one knows.
Donít be afraid of firing your doctor.
Absolutely, donít be afraid. You are the
client. People are so afraid of their
doctors. They donít want to tell them if
they donít feel well.
Do you have one piece of advice you can
give to family caregivers?
To be proactiveóto be there. Donít treat
your loved one with pain lightly. Take
them seriously. If you have a wife who
is depressed and says something like, ďI
could kill myself,Ē take that seriously.
In other words, be there. Those are the
two best words.
Those are terrific two words. I
appreciate your time.