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Helen Harper

Health and Happiness

  • December 19, 2013
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The events of this week have had me considering the vagaries of good health. It sounds cliched, I know, but why do some people enjoy (rude) health, while others suffer so much? Take me, for example – I smoke. I started when I was a teenager for all the usual boring reasons, and have never found it in myself to quit, despite numerous attempts to the contrary. And, yes, I know New Year is coming up and I could make it my resolution (again). I know the dangers. I know it’s stupid. But I still do it. If I woke up tomorrow with terminal lung cancer I would have no-one but myself to blame. The Religious Studies teacher I started working with when we were both green newbies and who died ten years ago from leukaemia (her second time around – she’d already beaten it once) didn’t smoke. She didn’t drink either. She’d just gotten married. So why her and not me? It doesn’t seem fair.

And that’s not to mention the two heartbreakingly young students I’ve taught during my teaching career who also passed away as a result of cancer. The memories of them are almost too painful to think about.

The only health problems I seem to suffer from are repeated back problems. According to everything I read and everything I am told, the way to prevent this from happening is to do exercise. Except I only ever hurt my back WHEN I exercise. I could stop exercising and then end up with health problems as a result of putting on massive amounts of weight and, contrarily, never have another back problem in my life. It probably wouldn’t work like that in reality and, besides, I like the exercise I do so unless I end up paralysed I’m unlikely to stop. But still, Catch 22 springs to mind.

In a roundabout way, it’s the exercise I do that has led me down such a pensive route. One of my fitness trainers, a lovely guy called Ian with muscles that come straight out of Men’s Health, suffered a terrible tragedy last weekend. His sister who, by all accounts was only in her early 20s and who had a promising career in advertising, slipped into a coma on Saturday and died on Sunday. What’s being reported in the local press is that she died as a result of over-work, having been on the go for three days’ straight without a break, and drinking too much of an energy drink (something similar to Red Bull). It just seems crazy. And so very, very sad.

On a slightly less serious note, but along the same theme, I ended up hanging around hospital myself yesterday. A good friend and neighbour had an old friend’s brother visit this week (that sounds more complicated than it should be). I met him when I went round for drinks the other night. He was sensibly staying off alcohol because he didn’t feel well, but was planning to travel up to Bangkok the day after. He started feeling worse and didn’t go. Then my friend had to leave herself to go on an already pre-planned and pre-booked holiday of her own. He didn’t get better and suggestions of dengue were beginning to float around (if you don’t know what dengue fever is, be glad – it’s a pretty nasty disease communicable through mosquitoes and is remarkably prevalent in this part of the world). To cut a long story short, I ended up having to take him into hospital for tests. Fortunately it turned out to be nothing more than a bug and tonsillitis, but still…travelling halfway round the world and being sick enough to go to hospital in a country you don’t know – that’s not fun.

I realise I’m rambling. I don’t really have a point with any of this, other than to thank the stars for my own good health, and to take a moment to think of others who aren’t so fortunate, wherever they may be. Now the holidays are virtually upon us, I wish you all prolonged good health and happiness – not just for the festive season, but for the new year ahead as well.

Amen.

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