a hand holds a pill which has a leaf like an apple

A Statin a Day

When I left the hospital after my triple coronary artery bypass surgery (or CABG as it’s known in the trade), I was given several daily medications to take: metoprolol, a statin (Lipitor at the time), and an 81 mg baby aspirin. I asked how long I should be taking these and the response from my physician was “well, how soon do you want to come back here?” Or some sort of sarcastic response. She was a sarcastic doctor, which I appreciate, being a wry guy myself.

I am not an expert

I need to say at the outset here, I am not a doctor. I am not a pharmacist. I am definitely not an expert on any drug or medication and can no more tell anyone what to take or not take beyond Calamine lotion for a mosquito bite and even that is suspect. I am, however, somewhat of an expert on me, my experiences with the drugs I’ve been prescribed, the results they’ve given me, and my attitude about them. (I do strongly encourage anyone with questions about the drugs themselves to consult the aforementioned experts.)

This was indeed for life

My previous experience with medication had been mostly in acute situations: an allergy med for a few days of sneezing, something for an occasional headache, a stronger painkiller for a pulled tooth. I had never been faced with taking pills for the rest of my life. And at the beginning of my post-surgery existence, despite the momentary “OK, so there’s this,” I didn’t think too much of it.

But as time and the months wore on, the blade of my pill cutter crusted over and dulled a little. I also went through a number of pillboxes; the plastic snap tops finally gave way to the opening and closing and opening and closing. Then I realized that maybe this was indeed for life.

We often live within our own worlds

At first I resented it. I felt compromised somehow. I believed that I had now joined a legion wherein my existence depended on an outside source, a source where the implication was, quite simply, take this or get sick again (or worse!). This feeling went on for over a year, with these same medications. Honestly, it was not that much compared to some people really; I know others who ingest handfuls just to survive. But we often live within our own worlds, don’t we? And I was certainly preoccupied with mine.

As many pills as fingers on my hand

It didn’t help that after a protracted period of post-surgical depression, I was put on antidepressants, a number of them actually, “cocktails” to balance out some issues that had arisen from the surgery itself. (Post-surgical depression alone is an article down the road. Again, that is something to discuss with your doctor.) So now I was facing as many pills as fingers on my hand.

I didn't want to do it. Again, for the rest of my life I would be taking pills and that just didn’t sit well with me.

A change in attitude

But over time there was a change in attitude. And I remember when the first moment of “Oh, ok” occurred. It was after a check-up, about 18 months post-surgery. Before my appointments, I would go to the lab for a blood panel to measure levels of cholesterol, lipids, and all that. There are certain levels that are considered acceptable, each one differing (I was told) according to each individual. What I began to see was my doctor’s head nodding at my visits, and even an occasional “good job.”

Balancing chemistry

Depression was also no longer holding me down. I was following a healthy diet as well and for a moment thought “great, don’t need medication anymore.”

But I also had been eating about the same as before, being a long-distance runner. I began to realize that the pills were indeed helping my body maintain a balanced blood chemistry that would at least dissuade the plaque that was so fond of my arteries from setting up camp in the left anterior descending artery, or any others, for a good long time.

An apple a day

And so gradually, through result-oriented discoveries, I had a change in attitude. I did not greet my pillbox each day with the enthusiasm usually reserved for walnut fudge or the “juiciest burgers in town” down the street. But I didn’t resent it either. It now made sense that medication, as well as the previous surgery, was a help and not a hindrance.

I have generally subscribed to the cliche “an apple a day,” in spirit if not in practice, along with consuming other fruity/vegetably foods, like, for example, cabbage (to help avoid the other CABG of course). And I now gratefully add the word “statin” to that adage as well.

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