Avoid the snowball effect

Posted on March 28, 2011

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Sometimes we want the snowball effect. Warren Buffet is notorious for looking at investments as potential snowballs, using compound interest to his advantage.

Many times people looking to lose weight just need to see any progress, then once they see progress, this reaffirms that what they are doing is working, so they continue doing it, thus losing more weight, and the snowball – the amount of weight lost – grows. They just needed that slight push to tip the thing down the hill and get it rolling.

However, the snowball can roll down the hill in either direction, either direction being good or bad.

In this post I want to show how quickly the snowball can get out of control when it comes to someone’s health.

Enter Rocko

About a year ago a new client, whose name is Rocko, signed up for training. Rocko is a 100% Italian guy, who can cook some great Italian food, who wanted to be able to keep up with his grandson more than he currently could.

Rocko knew that he had taken too long to decide to take his health more seriously and he was not afraid to say he had regrets because of it. This was refreshing to hear because I hate how people always say, “You can’t have any regrets, your past decisions are the reason you are who you are now.” Yeah, well read this and see if you still feel the same way about that statement:

When Rocko was in his mid-twenties or so he saw his Dad get diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and eventually have to get his lower leg amputated due to the poor blood flow that can accompany the disease.

In his early 40’s Rocko got some blood work done, and his results came back as pre-diabetic. With knowing his family history, and seeing his Dad’s inability to successfully fight the disease, this alarmed him but no real action came of it.

Within a year or so Rocko was a full-blown type 2 diabetic. During this time Rocko had been experiencing some dizzy spells while at work but didn’t think much of it. An adverse reaction to some of the medications he was on, perhaps.

Within a year of his diabetes diagnosis, while having the intermittent dizzy spells, Rocko learns that he, just like his Dad, needs to have his lower left leg amputated.

So he gets the leg amputated, which obviously makes ambulating around at his job and during his daily life more difficult as he is relegated to using a cane. Not to mention the dizzy spells he is still getting.

Eventually Rocko decides to find out if something serious is going on with his brain causing the dizzy spells because they are happening quite often now. After a host of imaging done, he his diagnosed with vertigo. Not the type where you have it every now and then like after where you drank too much, but a chronic form. Eventually his vertigo gets to the point where he cannot walk without a walker and cannot stand if he is not holding on to anything. So essentially he is walking around as if he is hammered 24/7.

Because his only method of transporting himself around is with a walker, he begins to get shoulder pain because of the jamming of his shoulder superiorly over and over again.

Jamming those two bones together (where the arrow is) over and over hurts after a while

But it’s either sit in a wheel chair or walk around with shoulder pain, so Rocko opts for the latter. Eventually his shoulder becomes so bad that he his diagnosed with frozen shoulder i.e. he pretty much can’t move his left arm at all without being in considerable pain.

The pain becomes so severe that Rocko begins getting regular cortisone shots and he can no longer go through the pain of using the walker. Not only is his shoulder now trashed but the constant leaning over he does while using the walker causes his lower back to throb. He is now in a wheelchair.

So to recap, Rocko is now a type 2 diabetic, an amputee, has chronic vertigo, frozen shoulder, chronic lower back pain and can pretty much only get around using a wheelchair.

Then during a check up Rocko is diagnosed with cancer. The specific cancer escapes me right now, I believe it was prostate, but we pretty much never talked about the cancer so I’m actually not positive he ever told me what type it was. The only day we really ever talked about it was his first day because Rocko didn’t like to focus on anything that wasn’t positive.

And the cancer was in no way a positive as Rocko could not afford health insurance. This was because in between switching jobs and going without insurance for a little while is when his health problems arose. This increased the costs for him and then it got to the point where no one would cover him. No insurance = no chemotherapy treatment.

Like I said though, Rocko liked to focus on what he could do, thus him coming in to start working with a trainer.

I worked with Rocko for a couple of weeks before he came in one day thoroughly depressed. Something happened where he would no longer be able to afford the training. I told him that whatever days I had open space for him I would train him for free. It took some persuading but eventually he agreed.

After a little while his shoulder pain was minimal and he seemed pretty enthusiastic about his ability to be able to lift his grandson without his arm feeling like it was going to fall off. So the training had become a nice positive in his life.

Then there was the second day Rocko came in looking depressed. Something happened (Rocko didn’t like to give too many details) where he needed an immediate heart surgery and his doctor notified him that no exercise was allowed anymore.

I called Rocko while he was in the hospital and he said he would call me in the future if he was allowed to continue training at any point. I haven’t heard from him since. I’ve thought about calling him but part of me doesn’t want to call and hear, “Rocko passed away X months ago.”

Now I know this is probably an extreme example of someone’s health getting out of control; there are plenty of people who get diabetes, take insulin, and their lives don’t change a whole lot. However, Rocko does illustrate how quickly things can go awry.

My primary reason for writing this was that if you or someone you know see things going awry regarding your blood work or health, to take it seriously, and to take action immediately. This post was inspired by a particular client (hey Tracy!) coming and asking me what I knew about diabetes because her parents both came back as pre-diabetic on their last check up and she was obviously concerned.

Last two points: Rocko is not a very big person, he was probably 30-45lbs. overweight or so and in his early forties when all this started. You don’t have to be obese and elderly for problems to start.

Secondly, many things, such as a car’s condition, can snowball out of control but this snowball can be broken apart or brought back to the top of the hill with a forklift, or however you want to look at it. Or you can buy a bunch of new parts, just buy a new car, etc. That is, you can solve the issue.

Maybe the day will come, but for right now you can’t buy a new body…

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Posted in: Losing weight, Pain