By: Terry Foster
I sat up in bed inside the Milwaukee Hyatt wide awake at 1: 30 in the morning after a night of partying with fellow sports writers following a Pistons-Milwaukee Bucks game. For reasons I still cannot explain, I had to have a Philly cheese steak in Milwaukee. Gino’s and Pats were hundreds of miles away in a Philadelphia neighborhood, but I had to have a Philly cheese steak in Milwaukee.
I called room service and even though the cheese steak was not that good I scarfed it down as if it were my last meal. It was not the first or only time I stress ate in the middle of the night. It was routine because I could not sleep after experiencing the adrenaline of covering a game.
It was a fast and exciting life and I did not take care of myself. It was one of the reasons I suffered a mild stroke at age 57. My friend Drew Sharp of the Free Press experienced the same life style and died at age 56 of a heart attack. I get reports around the country of men in the profession who are my age and younger suffering heart attacks and dying.
Two of the men I hung out with most during my Piston days are gone. Bryan Burwell died last summer and now Boodini Sharp.
I am lucky that I did not die. Now it is time for me to wake up.
I missed five months of work and the experience shook me. Typically my last meal of the day now begins at 6:30 p.m. and I am more likely to have Alaskan salmon than a Philly cheese steak. As a result I have lost 36 pounds and am down to 188 pounds, my lowest weight since the good old days at Central Michigan University.
I did not lose the weight because I am sick. I lost it because I do not want to get sick again.
More importantly my blood pressure this morning was 122/72. That’s a far cry from the 224 over whatever they recorded when I checked into Ford Hospital in West Bloomfield last August. I could not talk, walk or write and some days feared I would never return to work to provide for my family.
I must succeed because I love my family and do not want to leave them. My daughter Celine, 17, is a senior at West Bloomfield High School deciding what college she wants to attend. My son Brandon is a freshman and still likes hanging out with dad Saturday afternoons. My wife Adrienne has been a tough but loving coach and friend during this process.
I also know others are watching and if I can give any inspiration or advice for those struggling with high blood pressure and weight gain I want to be the guiding light.
Others have reshaped their lives. I ran into broadcaster Mason at a Pistons game who lost 60 pounds and looks like a frat boy in college. A friend James turned vegan and is down 30 pounds. He has not been 170 pounds since high school.
I do not want you to experience what I did. I am lucky however, doctors said I will recover fully. Although I am back to work now I am not 100 percent yet but I feel better every day because of diet, exercise and regular visits to the doctor.
I also go by a motto I created throughout this process: “I believe in tomorrow.”
Have you ever heard of the term “outkicking the coverage in football?” Health has the same principles. You cannot outwork bad food habits in the gym. I tried and failed.
How did I lose the weight? It is easy and difficult at the same time. Mentally I cannot lose 35-40 pounds. But I can lose five pounds eight times. My goal was to drop five pounds every 10-14 days, take a break, and move on to the next five pounds.
I reached 188 pounds and my wife Abs said to stop. She does not want a bag of bones around the house.
You don’t have to starve yourself, but you must give up your favorite foods. Mine was French fries and pizza. I still indulge now and then, but I enjoy a good stir fry over French fries.
Or I replace the French fries with roasted potato wedges, baked in a spicy mustard and Mrs. Dash.
I have only had two beers the past six weeks although I plan on enjoying a couple this weekend. I also gave up soda.
You should limit processed foods and remember this simple rule. Eat what comes out of the ground and out of the water.
I also lost my stomach. Doctors explained that a big belly is a ticking time bomb for some folks. A big belly could signal high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes.
On a Sunday, my big belly and I were doing just fine. Then on a Monday my life changed. My right hand did not work, my speech became slurred and I felt off-balanced when I walked. It was a very humbling experience to slowly walk around the hospital with a physical therapist who tied a belt around my waist so I would not fall.
My personality changed from outgoing guy to quiet recluse.
A stroke is like a heart attack of the brain. I was lucky because a small vein on the left side of my brain became sluggish but not clogged. So if I work hard I can reverse this and live a long life.
During therapy they gave me a cartoon of a smiling guy driving a convertible. That is me. I am still in the driver’s seat and can reshape my life.
Patience. That’s the word I heard most during my recovery. And I am not a patient man.
Start slowly and do not be discouraged when you go to the gym. You are not in competition with the men and women with flat bellies and bulging arms. You are competing with yourself and nobody else.
I cried when I could not do half a mile on the tread mill when I began going to the gym. Now I do three miles five times a week in addition to weight training.
Remember that key word.