Still Walking

Still Walking

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Buddha Belly

Unfortunately, that God is Buddha, so goes the joke.

Of course, Buddha isn't really a God; and perhaps he wasn't all that fat either. You look up images and idols of Buddha, Gautama Buddha, that is, and the representations don't show him as a jolly little fat man with a rotund stomach. Yet, this image of Buddha seems to persist here in the West.

Where does it come from?

Confusion and lack of knowledge, of course. This happy character that often asks one to rub his belly for luck isn't Buddha at all. He is Budai. He was a monk in China from around 907 to 923 AD. His name means "cloth sack", which he is usually depicted carrying. It is a magic bag filled with good things he hands out and it never empties. He is kind of a Far East Santa Claus. Since he is almost always shown smiling and jovial he got the nickname of "The Laughing Buddha" He also became sort of the common depiction in the Western World of Buddha. You'll see a lot of nicknacks and statues of Budai sold as Buddhas, and a lot of restaurants and bars bearing his mistaken name.

So what does all this have to do with me and ALS?

Well, it is because I have been told I should develop a "Buddha Belly", by which they really mean a "Budai Belly". It is we with ALS burn more calories than when we had muscles. We need to keep our body up to what most would view as an unhealthy weight. I read for a guy my height that is 220 pounds. I don't see that as so jolly. I've been there, done that, and didn't like it very much. When I was a skinny teenager I would read these books and the hero was always some dude 6 foot tall and weighted over 200 pounds. That became my desire, something that would hide my skinny chest and visible ribs. I was already 6 foot tall, I just needed the pounds and by the time I was 30 I had attained my goal, peaking out at 215 pounds.

I didn't like it very much. I gradually lost a bit and settled in around 190 pounds for most my so-called
adult life. I had gained something of a Buddha belly that proved stubborn about leaving. A couple of years ago I decided to get serious about it and I upped my exercise to almost fanatic level, ate healthy and avoided sugar and all that good tasting stuff. I dropped my weight down to 165 by spring of 2016 and I was very happy with that. Felt so light on my feet. That middle fat was pretty much gone. (I wasn't using that walking stick leaning in the background yet, either.)

Then at the end of May 2016 Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis struck.

Now it doesn't matter how much exercise or walking, with or without that stick, I do, my muscles aren't going to grow and be nice and defined or strong, either. They are wasting away and I have been told to eat all those things I had given up, milk shakes and ice cream and candy and snacks. I have been ordered to put on weight and keep it. I have been told I must grow a Buddha Belly. It is getting there as seen on the left.  I guess I am a long way from competing with a lot of the beer bellies I see out there in the world, but I fear it will continue to balloon outward.

I was to my Primary Physician for the regular 6-month checkup this week. I weighted in at 188 pounds, but that was with my shoes on, so lets say 185. Doctor is happy. I wasn't with that gain of 20 pounds in a year. Everything else was pretty healthy for a dying man. My blood pressure was 130 over 84. All the blood tests they called for were within the normal range, except Cholesterol, but it was only 5 points above the scale. My Creatinine was at 1.60, but that has been steady for the last three years. No one is particularly worried about it.

Probably to most I look kind of unchanged, but I notice what is happening to my body.

My arms are beginning to show the loss of flesh with deepening crevices. I have become really weak, with not a lot of lifting power. I mean, really ridiculous lack of strength. I picked up a 1 quart bottle of V-8 this week from the bottom shelf of my refrigerator and couldn't lift it waist high with only one hand. I have to ask other people to open new bottles of anything, including the V-8, for me.


Two days ago I dropped a plastic plate, supposedly unbreakable, but it broke. Yes, I am becoming more and more clumsy. My hands have deteriorated terribly this year. The loss of hand strength makes it extremely easy for me to drop things. Even keyboarding has become difficult.

My legs, surprisingly, don't show the pitting of the muscles as much, given it was a weakness in my legs that first singled me something was wrong. This is fairly common in a sense. There are two types of ALS, Familial and Sporadic. Familial is just as it sounds, passed down through the family. In Familial cases the weaknesses are more prevalent in the lower extremities.

I have Sporadic, the more common type. In this it is the arms and hands that suffered the most first. Nonetheless, I have to use a walking stick on my walks now.

Also, my breathing has become more labored. I'm not yet to the point of needing oxygen, but I do get out of puff quicker and more often than I did just a few months ago. I fatigue faster as well. This has limited the activities I can perform. I have been mowing our back yard, but just barely and I could tell this week that once summer heat comes I may not be able to do it at all. I have also been trimming some of our bushes, but I can only last perhaps 15-20 minutes before I feel nauseated and need to rest.

My biggest concern is the little woman. She was to her psychiatrist Wednesday (she suffers from Bipolar Disorder and I am her care taker), and her blood pressure was 198 over 126. They are saying it is stress and he suggested we do some traveling. This would be nice, but the health issues over the last year and a half have also left us pretty close to broke. There just isn't money to go off on trips. Frankly, I'm not sure where we go from here.

Maybe Budai has some magic in his sack for us.






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