For the record, Michael Jackson lasted longer than Elvis; Elvis being only 42 when he died. Jackson was 50.
Sadly, Jackson’s worst fears seem to have come to pass: he worried that he may die the same way Elvis did.
In his final years, Elvis was barely coherent due to his extreme use of and addiction to prescription drugs. Apparently, Jackson had the same problem.
The accounts I’ve read have his back problems as the culprit that started him down that path.
In 2000, I never fathomed not being able to run. I was active, ran about 30 miles every week, and had completed two marathons and an ultramarathon over the course of 3 months. The following year–2001–I finished two more marathons.
Then, in early 2002, I started feeling a twinge in my lower back. I figured it would go away. It only got worse. After a month of this, I got x-rayed.
Diagnosis: degenerative disk disease. I scaled back my running, worked on strength exercises, and had some improvement. I even got to where I was trying to get into the Army Reserves, as they had lowered the age limit.
Then, in late 2005, I blew my back out. I could no longer run. I could barely sleep at night. I could barely walk, and had a very bad limp. My weight climbed, as my exercise routine was decimated. At 5-3, I got up to 175 pounds.
In June 2006, I got the word from my doc: either take drastic action or the options get ugly.
- Lose weight, and develop core strength. This could buy me soem time before eventually needing surgery.
- take some pain killers from time to time, relying on injections and eventually surgery when things got worse.
As much as I loathed the idea of surgery, I loathed even more the prospect of pain-killers and injections. I knew the horror stories of addiction. Narcotics are nothing to screw with.
What did I do?
- I started seeing a chiropractor. At first, it was every week.
- I started focusing on exercises that could help strengthen my core muscles while providing decompressive relief for my back. I settled on the dip chair, doing knee-lifts.
- I found a recumbent exercise bike on eBay for $450. I bought it, and proceeded to ride the hell out of it.
- I started eating more sensibly, looking for ways I could cut calories without being too restrictive. My biggest adjustment? Not eating out as much.
- I reviewed my plans with my doc and chiropractor, and evaluated the progress.
- Oh, I didn’t take one freaking pill. (Ask me how I really feel.)
The end result? Between July and December 2006, I dropped 20 pounds with only small dietary adjustments. I was able to function. I could walk without a limp.
I didn’t stop there. I continued my fitness journey, and–by the end of 2007–ended up in the best shape of my life. (I’ve not let up either, as the future Mrs. Larijani can attest. Recon keeps my on my toes!)
I say this to point out that
- The solution to a medical problem is not always medical.
- A physician who resorts to narcotics for back pain–without exhausting other options–is doing his patient a gross disservice.
- Michael Jackson did not have to embrace a path of medically-induced misery.
Elvis Presley’s physician–Dr. George Nichopoulos–had doped him to the point of incoherence, feeding the furnace of addiction. The Elvis-Nichopoulos relationship became the classic case study in medical ethics. At the time, it was the highest-profile case of combined drug intoxication. Since then, Anna Nicole Smith also succumbed in similar fashion. Sadly, this appears to also be the case with Michael Jackson.
With his stature, Jackson could have hired a real physician (one who is bent on drugs as a last resort and not a first option) and personal trainer–even a physical therapist–in pursuit of lower back remedies outside of pharmaceuticals. A personal trainer could have kept him in tip-top shape.
Unfortunately, in Jackson’s case, there was probably a whole littany of bad decisions, and his personal health was probably not the largest of his concerns, even though–by tossing that to the wind–he only set himself up for disaster.
A serious lesson I’ve learned in my 42 years is this: you cannot afford to neglect your health. There are things most people can do to minimize their chances of serious problems, not the least of which include a sound diet, and a robust exercise regimen.
Even with profound difficulties–such as a bad back–this is possible, albeit with some adjustments.
Trouble is, you have to have the right doc who will put your feet to the fire to exhaust non-medical options, as most MDs are predisposed to prescribing this or that drug. After all, pharma companies pay big bucks and perks to docs who prescribe the products.
Call me presumptuous and/or cynical, but I’d say Jackson was poorly-served by his medical help.
Perhaps I need to become a personal trainer for celebrities.