Founder’s Forum: You Deserve A New Lease On Life

JB Lester

By J.B. Lester

Both my parents died before they reached their senior years. They both had serious health problems that cut their lives short. Now almost 72, I have had my fair share of health issues after 50. Starting with a bad heart valve that caused me to pass out on a tennis court and then rushed to the hospital 18 years ago. A few months later I received a new aortic valve via open-heart surgery. Then a handful of years later, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After a procedure to kill the cancer, I thought I had beaten the mean disease. But now many years later, blood tests indicate the cancer might have returned. Now, at the same time, my prosthetic heart valve I received in 2005 has finally worn out and it’s time for a new one. By the time this column hits the stands, I will have my second heart valve replacement. This time the new heart valve deployed via a procedure known as TAVR where a catheter is sent up the femoral artery carrying an expandable heart valve. The new heart valve is opened up at the site of the old diseased valve and blood begins to flow normally in and out of the heart again. This is considered a minimally invasive procedure and recovery time is much shorter than the open-heart surgery I had 18 years ago.

Between cancer and heart valve disease, it has been a bit of a struggle to keep a positive attitude. But I have faith in modern medicine. If these procedures were available when my father struggled with heart disease, he might have lived to see his grandchildren. Medicine and science have come a long way in the past 40 years. I understand the need for a blending of new ideas and old traditions when it comes to healing. And I also understand the need for prayer and faith when it comes to dealing with life’s struggles. I simply want to make the point to not turning your back on anything when it comes to serious health or life crises. I urge you to learn as much as you can on your own about your health problems or personal challenges. Then when it comes to talking with your doctors or other professionals, you feel like you are all speaking the same language. You will feel empowered and less intimidated, and the information won’t overwhelm you.

I certainly put trust in my doctors. I also know what my procedures involve, and I ask the important questions. Getting older comes with many new obstacles, many of which are health related. I know my body is wearing out, and nothing lasts forever. But I am taking the steps needed to stick around to watch my grandchildren grow up. Modern medicine and my own research are making it all possible. I now know my retirement will be filled with more hope and promise now that I am facing my health challenges head on. I urge all of you in similar positions to do the same. You deserve to live as long as you can, and your children and grandchildren will be happy you took control of your health and became your own advocate. Read, research, talk to your doctor, get a second opinion, pray, meditate … do whatever it takes. After all, it’s YOUR life on the line and you only have one life to live. Make it the best and longest life you can. Be proactive, take control, you deserve a new lease on life!