Father and daughter

Wayne

My youngest daughter lay with me on the bed and said, ‘Do you want to die?’ That moment set me on the path to turning things around.

Wayne was once so sick he couldn’t work or eat – but now his physical and mental health are better than they have been in 20 years. He explains how he’s grasped a second chance at life.

I was 57, in November 2019, when I had a turn at work around 8.00 am. My vision went blurry, I was dizzy, I had never experienced such nausea and overwhelming feeling of being so ill. I thought I was having a heart attack. I asked the office staff to call an ambulance; they thought I was joking but when they looked up at me, they realised I wasn’t!

The ambulance arrived and I was admitted to hospital where they began the preliminary checks. My blood pressure was massively high – 214/117 – and my weight was at nearly 150 kg. I was a ticking time bomb. This was the beginning of a multitude of tests for an unexpected diagnosis and a journey of self-reckoning, a mental and physical fight to regain my health.

After I was discharged, I felt so crook, tired and lethargic. I was taking beta blockers and monitoring my blood pressure four times a day. I couldn’t go to work because I just felt so terrible. I had all sorts of tests and imaging, then my GP sent me for an ultrasound of the liver. From there I was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis and inflammation of other related organs.

I felt so incredibly terrible. I couldn’t work, I couldn’t eat, I was itching all over. I had lost over 50 kg in two months, from 149.9 kg to 92.5 kg; I had no muscles left, I was skin and bone. I went from being a service manager working non-stop from 6.00 am to 6.00 pm to locking myself in a darkened room. I couldn’t stand any loud noise – even the TV was too loud. I had no energy and was sleeping all the time. I had a feeling of impending doom. I thought, ‘This is it, I’m on a downward spiral and in the next few months I’ll be dead’.

I see now how reckless I had been with my health. Like so many men, I thought I was infallible and would never break. Our amazing bodies can be abused for almost a lifetime, but eventually they can give up on us and mine was sick.

I had been a reasonable amateur athlete and played sports from a really young age. I played and trained multiple times a week until I was into my forties. Like a lot of athletes and people who are driven by athletic performance, I trained hard and partied harder. When it stopped, I missed my comrades, my mates, performance, and competition. I had been numbing myself, trying to find ways of chasing the next high. I was drinking three bottles of vodka a week mixed with soft drink plus a couple of beers. My Western diet was terrible, just full of junk food every day – pies, burgers, chips, takeaway and high-energy soft drinks, all with no exercise and coupled with long, stressful days.

I was referred to an amazing professor at a well-known Sydney hospital. She was blunt and to the point. She told me that if she had seen me a month earlier, I would have been in hospital for at least six weeks. She said if I didn’t stop drinking and change my ways, I would be dead in six months.

Back at home, still I couldn’t eat and I was feeling terrible. It was mid-January 2020. One day, I got up at 11.00 am and forced myself to eat a Weet-Bix, and I broke out in a massive sweat and went back to bed for the rest of the day. In the evening, my youngest daughter, Georgia, lay with me on the bed and said, ‘If you don’t eat, you will die. Do you want to die?’ We were both in tears. That was the moment that set me on the path to turning things around, a profound point where I had been confronted by my baby girl also telling me the truth.

I had already stopped drinking from the day I was hospitalised because I felt so bad. I forced myself to eat more, just lean protein, fruit and vegetables with no salt or sugar – the ‘Mediterranean diet’ the professor had recommended. Slowly, I started to feel a bit better, and I could walk around the block. After six months, I started to feel good and do a bit of weight training, riding my push bike and walking. The recovery was underway and to the present day it still is a work in progress.

Today, my scores on the FibroScan® have gone from 26 to 12 and my blood enzymes are back to normal. When I had a double hernia operation recently, the surgeon took a quick look at my liver. He said it didn’t look cirrhotic to him – it was pink and healthy. It had rejuvenated.

My physical and mental health are better that they have been in two decades. My wife, in particular, and family have been my rock of support throughout this process and I can’t express enough my gratitude. I have learnt so much in the last three years about myself and how to look after myself and the people in my life. It’s been an enlightening and humbling experience.

I’m passionate about the opportunity I have been given for a second chance and so bloody lucky. I hope everyone finds themselves or begins the journey to head towards health, wellbeing and happiness.


Wayne’s tips for success

Healthy foodA healthy diet

I follow the Mediterranean diet. When you have liver disease, your body doesn’t absorb vitamins and minerals so well, so you need to eat higher quality, nutrient-dense foods.

Now I follow a reasonably rigid diet. I eat high-quality foods like chicken, fish, no red meat by choice, lots of fresh produce. I have oats and berries for breakfast, or eggs, mushrooms, tomato and good high-fibre seed breads. I like mixed unsalted nuts, simple salads and small tin of tuna for lunch, and high-quality protein and vegetables in the evening – all just good fresh food.

I drink three to four coffees a day, short blacks with a dash of milk, lots of water, no soft drink or fruit juices at all. Yes, the foods cost a little more, but it’s less than the alcohol and junk foods. I have a lot more cash in the pocket and far better outlook on a healthier life.

Read more about eating well

Alcohol

I haven’t had an alcoholic drink since. I can’t say I don’t crave a beer, let me tell you! But, for me, one is too many and 1,000 is not enough. I have lined up at the beer tent for many years too many times, I have to be strong and say no.

I weighed the pros and cons. Do I want to die? No. Do I want do enjoy my family and life? Yes, I do. I hold myself to account and draw on that every day to stay strong. I go out with many people on business and personal engagements. I don’t drink and still have a great laugh and a good time, although I am now the designated driver.

Addiction for me is a lifelong fight, you don’t just wake up and everything is OK, you fight and struggle and fight again.

You look at the man in the mirror – he is the only man who can tell you the truth, he is the only man that knows the truth, he is the only man that can determine his own destiny.

Every day it becomes a little easier. I went looking for answers and they were not in a bottle and not at the bottom of the glass. It took me a long time to get to this point and I have a lot more answers from myself that I could possibly have realised.

I am so fortunate to have the support I have had, and not everyone has the family support. But please don’t give up on yourself. Hold onto life, it is so precious.

Read more about alcohol and the liver

Exercise

It’s not about excessive exercise, it’s about raising your resting metabolic rate. I walk 5,000 to 6,000 steps a day and ride my bike 12 to 20 km four or five days a week.

So don’t be sedentary, get up and walk around, get a sit-stand desk or walk up the stairs every half an hour.

Buy a cheap bike. Remember what it was like when you were young, riding your bike with the wind in your face, leaving the world behind for a while.

Read more about exercising for your liver


Wayne’s recipe: Greek salad

This salad is great with all seafood such as salmon or basa – whatever you like.

Put the following in a big bowl (cutting sizes up to you!):

  • 2 red and green capsicums cut into 20 mm squares
  • 4 Lebanese cucumbers – quarter and sliced – your call on the size.
  • 4 large tomatoes cut to size
  • 2 large red onions – cut into rings then halved
  • 2 blocks of crumbled feta – cut to 20 mm squares
  • 1 large jar Kalamata olives – remove from brine

In a 500-gram jar – add together:

  • 200 ml of good olive oil
  • 300 ml of red wine vinegar
  • 1 large teaspoon of chopped garlic
  • 1 large teaspoon of whole grain mustard

Shake vigorously and pour over salad.

Serve on a bed of your favourite lettuce leaves and eat up!

 

 

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Keep up to date with activities, campaigns, developments and news.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.