Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Death of a Friend

I did not know Marc Orchant well. We worked together on a couple of projects and even met at a meeting not too long ago. I liked him, respected him, and even envied his ability to chatter on about the latest gadgets in geekdom. He was active, slim, and about the last person I'd expect to die of a massive coronary, which is what happened last week.

At the same time, I've had a number of male friends and acquaintances of about my age recently diagnosed with hardened arteries after complaining of chest pains or simply showing up for their blood tests. My friend, Dikran at Stanford, a life-long skinny person, swimmer and healthful eater, underwent triple-bypass surgery some months back. Laurent, who's been not married to our friend Jane for a number of years, had the same this month, and blamed it on too much imported camembert. (He's French.) Juliann's husband, Alan, complained of chest pains when exercising and ended up suddenly in the hospital for a bypass. It's anecdotal, but there's something real going on, and I hear the warnings.

For my part, I was discovered to have a triglyceride count over 700 (in whatever unit of measure is used). This was about two years ago. At the time I weighed 215 pounds, my heaviest ever, and at 5' 9", was definitely on the obese side by any measure. I've weighed between 180-185 for the past year, we exercise most days (vigorous long walks and visits to the Taft gym), and I have been taking Tricor, a fibrate medication that lowers triglyceride levels. It's a combination that by all measures (blood tests) seems to be working.

But what of Marc? I deleted his name from my address book the other day and it felt like an important gesture of recognition. He's the first person I've deleted in such a permanent fashion and the thought of what I was doing caused me to hesitate over the delete key. And yet, it is an act of acknowledgement, and in this sense a healthy act. So I acknowledge Marc's death, my own mortality, and, this shouldn't sound dismissive, I go on. I'm reminded of the importance of attempting to live my life in a healthful, vigorous way.

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