The same day I was diagnosed, I quit my job and started spending eight hours a day at the gym, or working out elsewhere. I would walk around the indoor track so many times I would lose count. When I couldn’t handle the gym anymore, I would ride my bicycle in the park, at least ten miles. I was up to a few hundred crunches a day and lost at least fifty pounds. Not that I was fat, but I could be as in my past, extremely skinny. Prior to my fitness commitment, I hadn’t been eating well, but I had been eating a lot. Money was plentiful and so were my restaurant visits. Salad was hardly an intimate acquaintance. In between the exercise sessions I would cry. In fact, I’d cry all the time. Why I cried, I did not know. I was never afraid of dying, at least not consciously, but I was concerned for my parents. They had suffered so many heartaches. I didn’t want to be the biggest one. That was what helped me through some of my toughest times.
I was not sure if I was going to live long enough to go on what was supposed to be my honeymoon. However, as the months passed, I began to realize that I might live long enough to do so. At the time, I was being paid ongoing commissions despite the fact I left my job. I was also working part-time as an analyst, after I resigned from AT&T. I think I was having a nervous breakdown. I told my sales manager that I would be dead in mere months. A more empathetic company might have put me on a trauma-based leave of absence or on disability. Instead, they just accepted my resignation.
I was experiencing major chest pain when I exercised. For some reason my hips hurt as well. I thought from riding my bicycle and walking so much, but as it turned out it was related to poor circulation. I went from out of shape and just a bit overweight, to a rock-hard cardio machine. But, I knew something was very wrong. My second set of blood tests showed my numbers were off the charts. What made it even worse, was no one could even tell me what I had. It would take a very expensive blood test and genetic mapping to make that determination. That technology did not exist commercially at the time. One doctor concluded I had asthma and another said I had asthma and eczema on my elbows. They could not have been more wrong. Another doctor told me it was my inner ear that was causing the issue and put me on steroids. The doctors were literally just guessing and the plethora of diagnoses made a dire situation even worse. My hands were turning orange and xanthomas, growths of rock hard cholesterol, were growing all over my body and inside it as well. It was disgusting to say the least.
Eventually, a doctor found a match for my condition in a medical textbook. But he only got half of the story. The reality of the situation was that I had two genetic mutations. The growths on my elbows, knees, and other joints were similar to the growths on the “Elephant Man.” They were growing even faster in my arteries and organs. Although this is a form of uncontrolled cell growth, it is not cancer. My body simply has a hard time processing any lipid, no matter if it was plant or animal fat based. The resulting, rock-hard, plaque growing in my body, was going to kill me. According to Nassau County Medical Center it would happen within months. When I left the hospital, I called my boss and quit. I never shared the diagnosis with my rock star fiancé. I just scared her away and she ended our engagement. I was not only going to die. I was going to die heart broken, as I loved her with all my heart. Depression set in and then, I think, shock. I was not even twenty-five and my life was ending.
There was no such thing as statins back then. Even stenting was uncommon. All four arteries in my heart were over ninety-five percent blocked. The walking and the exercise was keeping my arteries from getting worse, but barely keeping me alive. The true miracle was that my body somehow managed to grow new arteries. But at this point no one knew that I was one of the small percentage of people who could. My diagnosis stood as a death sentence.
At the time, my fiancé thought I had lost it. I experienced frequent episodes where my eyes would tear. I couldn’t control it. It happened most often when we were together physically. I couldn’t make love to her without thinking that she was about to be a widow, before we were even married. I lost it. I couldn’t maintain any sense of normalcy during those moments. Oddly enough, she never did ask me what was wrong. For me it was just too emotional. I was planning a way to end the relationship so she would not be going to my funeral in her wedding dress.
She became more and more distant, as did I. I did all I could do to reverse the damage and grow arteries but no one knew what I was going through. I was trying to exercise myself into Olympic physical condition. I loved her, but I tried hard not to think about her. If she had agreed to have children immediately after we were married, I firmly believe I would have married her. I was torn. I didn’t want to leave this world with my bloodline ended. At the same time, I didn’t want her pregnant at my deathbed. I also could not tell her. If I had, I knew she would not leave me. Eventually, I came up with a plan to chase her away. All the same, I was hyper-focused on having a child before I died. My plan was to have a child and leave a note for my father to take my place after I passed. My father lost his father to a train accident when he was only eight. He never recovered. I was determined to give him a grandchild before I died.
Before our relationship ended, we actually had a date for the wedding and the venue selected. We even had our engagement party. I had to get away, so I planned to go on what was supposed to be my honeymoon with a friend. In Saint Maarten, I played my wedding date on a roulette table in a local casino. I wanted verification from above that I had made the right choice in ending our relationship without telling her I was dying. Starting with only fifty bucks I won thousands of dollars! People started to put their chips on top of mine and the place started going crazy. It was the first and only time I every gambled in a casino. I won a small fortune. Almost immediately, I was upgraded to fine champagne and gorgeous women were hanging all over me.
I started spending like there was no tomorrow, as I thought there would not be. I brought a few of the casino women, as well as other willing women I collected along the way, back to the hotel. Several bottles of champagne later, I wound up in my room with one very pretty, intelligent, college girl. I came inside her without protection at least three times. I was trying to get her pregnant. I was a bit drunk and totally obsessed with making a child. After I planted my seed in her, I found another willing participant downstairs by the pool.
My entire stay, I was photographing everything while walking and sleeping with one woman after another. I used no protection. I must have slept with six or seven women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five. Not a single one asked me to use protection. This went on all week. I would switch back and forth from one to another. I didn’t even know their names. We would just meet, drink, have hot sex and then I would leave. It was a blur of photo shoots, sex, snorkeling, walking and popping nitros.
Nitroglycerine is one of the drugs the doctors gave me to keep me alive, during cardiac events, when my capillaries were pushed past their limits. I would frequently suffer from severe angina attacks. Despite my workout routine, I had still not grown enough arteries to manage wild, hot, sex. I was putting my life in grave danger. I was also potentially fathering more babies than any man should, especially a dying man. I gave every one of them my contact information. I was hoping at least one of them would tell me she was pregnant.
I was hoping it was the girl I went sailing with. We took a sixty-foot catamaran to a small island, where we all snorkeled in the nude. Most of the girls on the boat sunbathed nude as well. I joined the party. I was snorkeling for hours. The coral reef was so beautiful. As I floated on the surface of the water I forgot my troubles. I didn’t even feel the angina. It was an extremely peaceful experience. The beauty of the reef below me, the sun beating down on my back and the warm water caressing my body took me to a different place. A place of comfort, I had long since forgotten. She would swim alongside and under me. She was very overt in her flirting. Eventually, we floated to the shoreline. She laid on her back, partially hidden under the water. I mounted her partially submerged. We made love with our genitals under the water. Since I was partially suspended in the water, it was not as grueling a physical effort. I wound up with quite a sunburn on my back, but it was worth it. The cannabis I was indulging in helped with the pain and for some reason, my breathing as well.
As my time on the island vacation my planned honeymoon was ending, my reality came crashing back to me. I was likely not going to be around much longer. And, she, amongst other women might be carrying my baby. Yes, I was completely heartbroken after losing my rock star fiancé and of course about my diagnosis, but I was obsessed with trying to get all, or any, of these women pregnant.
Having, wild, unprotected sex with virtual strangers was the most insane thing I have ever done. However, I was at peace with the fact that after I was gone, my mother and father would have part of me still…. a child…a grandchild to love. Quite possibly several.