Thursday, May 3, 2012
´"Coffee and Chocolate are not a diet..."So said Dr. O´Connell to me in January 2011
"Coffee and Chocolate are not a diet..."
So said Dr. Derek O´Connell my GP in Cork
last January(2011). He is probably the best
doc I´ve ever had.
I said, "well it´s worked for over 40 years"
Then he reminded me it wasn´t working as I
was in his office. I was tempted to make a
wise crack that it maybe the poor quality
of chocolate that´s responsible, but I held
This is a true story.
Doctor O´Connell is probably the best
doc i´ve seen, and I would say the same
for his colleague Dr. Louise Nestor. But,
I seen Dr. O´Connell more. And, that January
day I´d gone in there feeling something was
very wrong with me, and was worried.
As usual I wait till the sypmtoms are
screaming out that something is wrong. I do
that with my personal health...I think it
has something to do with surviving Vietnam;
I can be a little unthinking...having survived,
so much so I don´t think or treat my body well
all the time. Other times, I get in shape, and
even then eating properly was sort of out of the
This time I said to Dr. O´Connell ´I don´t want
to say this, but I think I either got bowel
cancer or it´s my diet.´ Or like words. I had
a strange smell that was bad, very bad. I had
never had it, nor know what it was. I used
cologne to mask it till it reduced.
I didn´t have to buy cologne (well I bought
one bottle) because Debenhams situated where
Roaches Store was had loads of bottles where
you could sample. I did liberally! Finally a
clerk came over to me with what looked like
a fancy tongue depressor with white cloth or
something over it.
I´d seen them in a fancy shop, Bijenkorf in
Amsterdam. A clerk would spray some on the
stick, and the idea was you smell the stick.
That´s what the woman did that day in Debenhams.
I put it to my nose, and then said something
about not being able to smell it, so I reached
with up and took the purple ´Boss´ bottle in my
right hand, and doused my left hand 6-7 times
very, very, liberally. How liberally? My feckin
hand was soaking wet. I thanked her:-
They had seen me most days, and were determined
to put a stop to that. I must´ve gone through
one of those nice purple Hugo Boss bottles every
two weeks. Hey they were on display to sample, and
no one ever said ´Oh you can only use this much.´
Then I rubbed some on my face, coat and
pants. The clerk was a little shocked. I
learned that trick in my 30s at the
Jordan Marsh store in Boston in the 1980s.
I highly recommend that method; that way
after a few weeks you have a better idea
of which one you like best.
Dr. O´Connell leaned toward the computer,
and asked me if there´s a history of bowel
cancer in my family. I said "No." I had
done the genealogy, had birth to death
certificates, and autopsy reports in some
cases. I said no one in my family going up
or sideways that I knew of.
So, he nodded, sat back in his chair and said
"let´s talk about your diet." He asked "What do
you eat for breakfast?" What kind of a question
is that? as you´ll see.
I told him well I go to Cork Coffee Roasters,
and have a coffee, and some nice little Chocolaty
thing.´I forget the name of it now; kind of like
forgetting a woman´s name after sharing so much
pleasure over a span of time.
He asked me about it and I said that being a
baker I was pretty sure there was a probably a
good load of sugar plus the chocolate to make
it taste so sweet...almost addictive.
So he asks "well after that what do you eat
after that" I said, well I usually have two
coffees, and have another one of those. And,
if I have a third coffee...
So, Dr. O´Connell says "well what do you have
for breakfast?" And, I said that was breakfast.
He shakes his head a bit, and then asks me what
I eat later for lunch. Such rigid concepts to me;-
I said i may not eat for a while because i feel
full. "Lunch?" I was getting up late and writing
at Cork Coffee Roasters so if I got down there at
2-3 that was breakfast and lunch. That was a bit
mind boggling to him...to eat that way.
I wrote close to 90,000 words there on my first
novel. ´The Brick Jungle´ is a story about a
housing project that I grew up in until 14.
Then he asked about what i ate for supper.
Once in a while I might eat a vegetarian bagel
at LA Bagels, or a Pizza from Ginos(?) and 2-3
more coffees at the Web Workhouse. and for a
few weeks I got into a very bad habit of a Mars
bar, Snickers and Kit Kat each night. When they
opened their cafe with a great blend of two
Brasilian coffees....candy bars were replaced,
and supper was coffee and a nice chocolate cake,
or those chocolate chip cookies.
Sometimes I got a ´chips and cheese´ to take
home, but that would be after midnight. He
shook his head back and forth.
It was about that time that Dr. O´Connell
explained to me what sugar does to the stomach
and intestines if you eat like I do. It wasn´t
nice. I wish someone told me when I was in my
20s, but I doubt I would´ve listened.
I remember drinking after I got out of the
Marine Corps with my best friend Tommy L. We
started out the day by putting a case of beer
on ice in a cooler in the back seat of his car-
a mobile bar, or pub:- I told Tommy one day
I´d read that drinking destroys billions of
Tommy raised his beer and said "F*ck it we got
billions anyways, and we both laughed and
drained another beer. Tommy´s dad was nicknamed
That day at Dr. O´Connell´s he told me no more
than 2 coffees a day, and sugar was out.
He asked me if I liked bananas? I said i love
them. So he said normally two are recommended,
but I´d say three are okay for you to start.
I told him I looked for them, but couldn´t find
any. He said what do you mean? they´ve got two
organic shops down the street in the English Market
they´ve got plenty of bananas.
I said "I went there but they only had those yellow
ones; they didn´t have any chocolate ones:-
And, it was just about that time that he shook
his head and said "You Don´t get bad health;
you work at it..." I had been working overtime.
And, he said Chocolate and coffee is not a diet!
I said, "well it´s worked for over 40 years" Then
he reminded me it wasn´t working as I was in his
When we were done he said to me "You know everyone
who comes in here asks how to get better, or what´s
wrong and how to get better. But, in all the years
I´ve known you (about 10 years) you´re the only one
who comes in here and gives me two alternate diagnoses
one of which to confirm." So he confirmed one; my diet.
I cleaned up my act...for awhile, but once I was past
the fear of there being something serious wrong with
me...chocolate looked good, then carrot cake (I
justified that as getting a vegetable-carrots).
But i´ve been living out of hostels, residencials,
since late Aug. 2011, and it doesn´t make for great
discipline. And I can´t cook in them.
Plus, Portugal has great coffee and desserts.
I came to Lisboa in early October 2011, and by
December 20-22cnd I had a worse problem. From
December 23rd I did 20 days without a coffee.
I had been having 6-7 cafe duplos (12-14 espresso
shots a day)...and 5-6 sweets...Bolo de Arroz,
There were days when I felt so ill and worried about
getting better...I had thoughts i never thought i´d
have. I was going to a good restaurant...my one meal
a day...and it helped healing, and there was someone
nice there who gave me dietary tips at times ;- But,
I was eating the same thing, and needed much more in
my diet anyways.
I eventually left that restaurant, and I promised
myself to eat well, but my diet got worse and worse,
and this Sunday, 30 April I felt like I was back
where I was in December 2011. I was abusing my
stomach and intestines...testing the limits, so
to speak. And, I wondered if I could have the other
I felt the same hopelessness about changing and
worried that the damage was too far gone, or if
I´d get healthy again. Then, on Wednesday 2 May,
I cut out sweets, and drank less than one meia
de leite (cafe), more importantly I bought four
organic natural yogurts and ate them.
What happens is I kick myself mentally and say
you have to change, and feeling bad about it
won´t help. That´s how I kick or push or motivate
myself to change.
Thursday I went to an organic restaurant for the
first time in years. After, I went straight to an
organic grocery and got 2 organic bananas, 2 apples
and a large jar of yogurt. I thought it was plain,
but it´s vanilla...hmm. But, it´s a start.
Today, Fri. 4 May 2012 I bought five natural-organic
yogurts(natural-orgânicos iogurtes in Portuguese).
Plus three bananas (I used to think a banana split,
was the best way to take bananas)...several
apples, and had a meal at the bio cafe.
I had read an article about Olivia Newton-John (breast
cancer survivor..Grease) in which said she "believes
that good nutrition is the key to wellbeing, and she
only eats organic.
From now on I eat lots of yogurt (i had googled the
health benefits of it...very good for the stomach and
intestines), and I´ve only had organic food for
almost three days.
Tomorrow will be two weeks on a 90% vegan diet. I
have two apples, 2-3 bananas, 4 yogurt´s (natuaral),
but they´re like a treat to me, and a meal...usually
at ´Bake the Difference´ a vegan restaurant. Even my
drinking water I get from the bio store.
It´s when I get scared that it moves me.
I also meditated in my late 30s and 40s, and will
start again. It´s as important as eating well.
I had another very bad intestinal disorder at 18
whilst in Vietnam: Amoebic dysentery, and it took
almost three full months to shake off partly because
I was a new guy in the Nam, and they weren´t about
to let me outta the bush for a month or two. But,
even when I was in a naval hospital outside of
Boston I didn´t like the stuff they gave me to
The corpsman gave me a cup with what looked like a
cereal grain in it, and a separate cup of water.
He told me pour the water in and drink it right
away. I asked why right away, and he said ´because
it solidifies.´ I said okay. When he was gone I mixed
the water in it, and put it in the bottom door of my
bed table. Ten minutes later I picked it up. It felt
like a brick, and I said "F*ck that sh*t" to myself.
I had two drink it days later.
It was on my first operation, and our corpsman
(highly trained enlisted navy medical specialist
who provide emergency first aid in combat to
wounded Marines-they are the best!) warned me
about my consumption of water. I ran out, and
at some point we came to a small depressed area
where water ran into and stagnated.
There was water there, and I was thirsty. There
was also orange scum on top of the water just like
in the swamps I played in as a kid. The corpsman
warned us not to drink it until 45 minutes (I think)
after we put iron tablets into our canteen with the
I nodded, but was like ´ya sure,´and as I held a helmut
full up under my face I remember thinking I´ll never do
this again...anymore than I would as a kid. And, then I
swilled it down, and put some into my canteen with iron
It wasn´t long before I had the worst stomach cramps of
my life. How bad? I was walking bent over slightly in pain.
And, I always thought that once I relieved myself that the
cramps would ease.
But, I could never tell which was worse, the cramps I had
before I had to go, or when I was going, or the ones after.
And, when you go...it´s like you turned on the water faucet
full blast. And, ah...believe me you kinda smell:-
I remember the day three of us took a bath in the Cam Lo
river. It was finally nice to wash those wretched pants,
and shirt and hang them on the barbed wire-concertina
rolls. They were dry in no time, and after washing we
put our clothes back on and walked back over the pontoon
bridge across the Cam Lo river. I didn´t make it; I
started walking slower and slower as I knew I had to
go. Then, it came, and my nice clean pants were soiled!
A week or so before somebody had shot an RPG-(Rocket
Propelled Grenade) at me as I patrolled that pontoon
bridge on a quiet night. It was within 8- 10 feet in
front of me, and in the direction I was walking. I had
no clue as to what it was; it was bright red with a
white tail, and it was a dud. I went to the Sgt. and
described what I saw. He said someone tried to hit me
with an RPG. I asked what do I do...go back until my
shift ended and be careful. I stayed off the bridge
for most of my duty shift.
That was January 1969 when I got dysentary (and I
knew instinctivly how and where I got it). I didn´t
get rid of it for good until March 1969 when I was
in the Chelsea Naval Hospital just over the bridge
(Mystic River) from Boston. When I was in my 40s I
said dysentary was the best weight-reducing plan of
One day three of us were at FSB Charlie 3; it had been
taken apart. Two Vietnamese boys of maybe 10-12 showed
us a water hole. It was beautiful and clear (years later
I realized tons of Agent Orange were sprayed all over
there). I had dysentary, and had to go bad. I walked a
good distance away into the tall grass to do my business;
it was too far. A mistake.
I got into the grass found a spot looked around, and
when I felt it was okay I dropped my pants (jungle
utes-utility trousers) down and started to go.
Just a few seconds later I saw the sandy soil puff up
about 12-15 inches from the front of my left boot. It
meant someone put a bullet in there. My first thought
was ´Why are the F**kin with my now?´ meaning my own
The speed of light is faster than the speed of sound.
If you´ve ever seen someone set a firecracker off you
see the explosion, and then a second or so later you
hear the explosion. The same with bullets. While I
had that thought about one of my men screwing around
and taking a shot I heard the crack of a rifle. It was
to my right rear...over my right shoulder.
And, I shit.
Just then the dirt puffed up within an inch of the
toes in my left boot, and I grabbed my M-16, pulled
my pants up and held them with my left hand. My rifle
was in my right hand. I didn´t fire back. I ran fast
in a low zig zag with my rifle pointed in front ready
to fire. ´God is Good´ as the Irish say, and most
soldiers are piss poor shots despite all the training
By the way...while Dr. O´Connell was the best doc I
ever had so far, there was that guy outside of Boston.
The very first time i saw him about my seizures, and
complained that the post office had me on midnights
and it aggravated my seizures. He said "Did you ever
think of going out of work on disability?" It sounded
cuckoo to me (an alien concept)...i´d just been working
at the Boston post office, and it was the best money i
had made up to that point.
But, I did notice that every time I sat in his big
waiting room for an appointment everyone else seemed
to be wearning a neck brace or something else from a
car accident or other injury:- And, they were talking
about how they had their accidents, and what a great
doc he was, and how sympathetic he was:-. I must´ve
been the only real patient.
It´s organic and yogurt and meditation from now on.
Ps. Dr. O´Connell, about that two cups of coffee
limit per day you suggested...I saw this in yesterday´s
Irish Independent ´Drinking coffee linked to lower
deaths - research´
And it said ´Researchers found that compared with
people who did not drink coffee, men who consumed
six or more cups a day where 10pc less likely to
die during the 14 years of the study.´ Hmmm;-