Thursday, 9 July 2015

Damn! I knew all this healthy living would catch up with me!

My wife and I should be strolling along some sun-drenched cliff-top in Cornwall right now. After a year and a half of being pretty much confined to quarters, and, as a result, starting to go a little stir-crazy, I decided I was feeling well enough to get away for a week. But, two days before we were due to leave, I committed a fatal error: I decided that I deserved a special anniversary treat.

Actually, we both deserved it, as we’ve been on this Paleo diet for nearly two months. I started it as part of an attempt to find some way of relieving my chronic fatigue (having been failed by conventional medicine), and my wife decided to join me on it (which has helped enormously, as there is nothing naughty to eat in the house). In addition, I’ve been guzzling supplements (vitamins and minerals and weird stuff like D-Ribose and L-carnitine – don’t ask what they are or what the point of them is, because I’m not exactly sure) as if I were addicted to the damned things. What with all that, and with the weight dropping off (25lbs so far) as a result of not eating any of the things I actually am addicted to (wheat, sugar, fruit etc.), I felt I (we) deserved a pre-holiday naughty food blow-out – in my case a whole American Hot pizza followed by strawberries and whipped cream topped with about a pound of sugar.

I’m not sure I’ve ever enjoyed a meal more. I almost cried as I bit into the first roundel of pepperoni. As I swallowed the last mouthful of strawberries, I felt supremely sated. An hour later I was clutching my stomach and desperately trying to convince myself that the pain was merely indigestion. It all calmed down a bit later that night – but the next day I knew for sure that I was suffering my first attack of acute pancreatitis for almost 25 years. I’ve probably already bragged somewhere on this blog about how exquisitely painful it is – but it’s generally considered by medical folk to be one of the most agonising conditions in existence. In the absence of painkillers, there’s little one can do about it, apart from, in turn, clutching a hot-water bottle to one’s belly and immersing oneself in a very hot bath. The one thing you really mustn’t do is eat anything, because that’s like turning the pain dial up to 11.

Because I refused to go to a hospital (I really didn’t fancy being kept waiting in A&E for hours on end), it wasn’t until Monday morning and a trip to our GP (many thanks to my wife for arranging it and getting me down there – sorry about the holiday) that I got the requisite pain relief in the form of industrial quantities of codeine, which, as an opioid,  doesn’t so much banish the pain as leave you not really caring about it. By Tuesday, it started to ease, and by Wednesday, it was all but gone. My GP asked me where I’d rank the pain on a 1-10 scale, and I responded that, if the first few attacks I suffered in my 30s deserved a 10, this one was probably a 7, occasionally peaking at 7.5 (otherwise I’d have been down the hospital bellowing at them to give me a bloody bed this instant, damn you all to hell).

I’d already deduced the reason for the attack by the time I arrived at the doctor’s. After seven weeks deprived of not having to process carbohydrates or sugar, my pancreas had relaxed into a state of relieved semi-hibernation. When subjected to a spectacular overload of both, the 10% or so of the organ that’s actually left had, unsurprisingly, decided to issue a stiff complaint to the management – i.e. me. Can’t blame it really - only, after such a protracted pain-free hiatus, it came as a bit of a shock that it could still rouse enough energy to kick back in quite such an assertive fashion. I’ve promised it that it won’t happen again. ("Please don't kill me," I snivelled. "If I'd wanted to kill you, Mr Grønmark, I assure you that I'd have done so a long time ago," it snarled.)

I’ve actually been extraordinarily lucky, pancreas-wise. Many people with the chronic form (which is what I’ve got) suffer frequent bouts of pain. My heart genuinely goes out to them: I haven’t experienced even a twinge of discomfort in nearly a quarter of a century.

Anyway, it seems that the days of gorging myself on bad food are well and truly over – which is probably no bad thing.

The only good thing about all this is that it has allowed me to gorge myself instead on the tennis. Nothing, it seems, can stop me from enjoying Wimbledon (apart, of course, from Nadal winning it, and that isn’t going to be happening any time soon). Although I’m expecting Djokovic to breeze past Gasquet tomorrow, I have no idea who’s going to win the Federer-Murray match: but it could be an absolute corker.

No expressions of sympathy, please (or wounding insults, come to that). I no doubt deserve all this in some way.

Further bulletins will be posted by my medical team on a board positioned at the entrance to Grønmark Towers at regular intervals.


  1. I have complied with your request for 'no sympathy - no flowers'.
    Tennis - Cor Blimey Guvnor.
    I don't follow it with the exuberance that it deserves as I don't have the time but I have seen some spectacular matches and witnessed the nadir of broadcasting that was the diabolical evening TV chat show bollocks hosted by Claire Balding - thankfully now binned. Who dreams up such trivia?
    Answers please Mr Gronmark - you were a BBC man.
    That ghastly, attention-seeking, self-obsessed 20 year old Aussie git makes my blood boil.
    That Kevin fellow and Mr Popsicle are breaths of youthful fresh air but my pin-up for every possible reason is the 21 year old Venezuelan/Spaniard who is now in the Ladies final after beating the unpronounceable Polish gal - crikey - what a match. WHAT A GAL.
    Miss Williams awaits however....
    And as for the men: Gasquet will be lucky and the other three all seem unbeatable. It will be interesting to see what Paddy Power makes of it....

    1. Sorry - I was too late answering to make predictions for today, but I assume it'll be the appallingly thuggish and graceless Williams Brother tomorrow rather than the refreshing Miss Muguruza, and, despite Federer's almostoperfect display this afternoon, it'll probably be the metronomically robotic Djokovic on Sunday (although, to be fair, Federer is in even better form than he was last year). Given that it isn't the sweaty Spanish bum-picker, I'm fairly relaxed about the result.

      As for Nick Kyrios, it must be awful for the Australians to produce such a naturally gifted player after a long hiatus, and then have him turn out to be an ill-mannered, childish, egomaniacal knob who is evidently in need of a damned good thrashing.

      The reason programmes like the tennis round-up get disastrously "refreshed" is that they're always being taken over by the next generation of 23-year old producers, who want to make their mark by makiing them more "accessible" to a "new generation of viewers". Hence the Gardener's World debacle a few years ago, after which they had to haul in Monty Don and put it back the way it was. I only saw one of the Wimbledon 2Night shows last week and it was absolutely dreadful. The last thing anyone wants to see is bloody "fans" hanging around in every shot looking gormless, or someone like Pat Cash, who never says anything either insightful or interesting and who, despite all his wealth, manages to look like a scrofulous traveller, and we certaintly don't want ridiculous little video "featurettes" - we want to see the best bits of the tennis, have someone knowledgeable interpret the events of the day, and to be told the order of play for the next day. That is it. All these young producers actually need to do is give their existing viewers what they've had in the past and they won't go far wrong - they won't have made a name for themselves, but neither will they have ended up with an enormous cock-up on their CVs.

  2. I suspect you have put your finger on the cause of your trouble. I had a similar rebound effect from an extremely low fat diet some 20 years ago. My ability to tolerate fat has never properly recovered.

    I would like to claim that I had earned my lesson and have ignored loony diet crazes since but I succumbed to the Atkins fad and suffered unpleasantly from that, too.

    Anxious crowds will gather at your palace gates, fretting for news of your recovery, while insane dieticians, labouring in secret underground dungeons, will swell with pride and redouble their efforts to destroy the nation's well-being.

    Fiddlesticks to your injunction - get well soon!

    1. The only diet I ever really enjoyed was the F-Plan back in the '80s, which involved eating tons of baked beans and farting like a dray-horse. Fortunately, I was working at home at the time.

  3. "Further bulletins will be posted by my medical team on a board positioned at the entrance to Grønmark Towers at regular intervals"

    Your loyal readers are assembled at your gate and trusting in your full recovery (GCooper's point about your injunction is, I think, well made)

    FWIW I followed (and sort-of still follow) Barry Groves' high protein/high fat diet as set out in his book "The Calorie Fallacy". Despite the low fat fraternity jeering at his recent demise (he was "only" 77) the diet actually works and, on the basis of a sample of 1, appears not to have ill effects. More to the point, I can eat (but not over-eat) copious amounts of meat and dairy products which suits me fine.

    1. The book about CFS that I'm following recommends a high fat intake (and lots of salt). The problem is that the pancreas's main jobs are to regulate blood sugar and produce enzymes to break down the fat in our diet - and mine isn't much cop at either, so I'm not sure that feeding it more fat than it's used to did it much good. In fact, I suspect I might have tipped it over the fat edge last Saturday. So I've gone back to the Paleo Diet, but cutting down a bit on the fat intake. If I didn't have a wonky pancreas, though, I'd definitely be in the pro-fat camp. I could murder a bit of crackling right now.

  4. There was something about the aftermath of your Italian Feast that was just as inevitable as that served up by the Wimbledon Finals and the knee-jerk reaction to The Flag of Dixie after the church massacre.
    At least the strawberries and olives were blameless.
    Hope you're feeling much better.