a history of the fabled jcarver lifestyle
When I first made friends with people when entering the poker world, I was jokingly teased for my admittedly strange eating/life habits. I don’t drink, I eat a very narrow range of foods (almost always plain), and I had never even tried the food of many whole cultures – and still haven’t.
Why is that? Well, I’ve always been like this, ever since I was a kid. I don’t remember ever trying and disliking something so badly that it turned me off to trying new foods, but I guess it’s possible. I didn’t have any health problems as a kid restricting my diet and my parents both eat a normal range of food. As a teenager, when I sort of realized that my diet was a little odd, I eventually did try a few more things and liked them – but they were all very similar in flavor or taste to previous food groups. To be honest, the only foods I ever really experimented as a teenager were some Italian foods and ice cream, and I barely eat the latter any more except for those goddamn wonderful strawberry fruit bars. In the vegas house last year I think we probably went through 250 boxes of those over the summer, if not more.
That experimentation mostly stopped a few years ago, though. When I was 18, I came down with what I distinctly remember the doctor calling “a highly contagious bacterial infection”. It was immensely painful – I remember describing it as “hosting razor blades in my throat” to the doctor when I went in. I was prescribed antibiotics (another funny story there, I actually couldn’t swallow pills at the time and remember grinding these up in a mortar & pestle and putting them in a shot of gatorade – the doctor said I could!). The drug was some E-name with a -in at the end, which I spent about 30 minutes trying to google before I remembered that it was called Erythromycin. The only thing notable about the drug is the first line of adverse effects. “Gastrointestinal disturbances, such as diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting, are very common, so erythromycin tends not to be prescribed as a first-line drug.” Well, it was used as a first-line drug for me, and I wasn’t really “drug-savvy” at this point in my life and never questioned taking it. I’m still not sure – I’ll never know, really – if this created problems on its own or simply “shook things up” enough to reveal dormant problems, but as I improved from my throat disease, I started experiencing fairly major digestive issues – something new to me at the time.
I got sick with the throat stuff during the late summer/early fall, because I remember having just went to the $5K at Turning Stone a little while before. As my diseases criss-crossed in escalation, the throat disease falling off while this unknown digestive malady worsened, I became increasingly worried at the harsh symptoms. What initially was just nausea and diarrhea developed quickly into a massive cut in appetite, 20x/day bloody diarrhea, nausea, fevers, pain spasms, and a few other less-than-pleasant side effects these bring along. My weight dropped to high 120lbs or low 130lbs, a pretty big cut from my ~155 that I’d been all my upper teenage life, especially when considering I lost it all in a month with no exercise. I ate pretty much nothing, never was able to sleep (the diarrhea would wake me up, and I was in massive pain sleeping on my side anyway), and was extremely weak and miserable. I stopped playing poker, which was wise as I certainly wasn’t playing my A-game.
Obviously, my parents and I weren’t trying to pray the sickness away. As quickly as we could, we went back to the general clown doctor who gave me the Erythromycin. He referred us to a gastroenterologist (GE), as the insurance company forced us to get a referral. The GE, of course, couldn’t see me for two weeks. These were probably the most miserable two weeks of my life to date. I remember these nights as one big blur of misery – and if I wasn’t in actual agony, then I was spending my time dreading the like-clockwork next bout, usually within an hour of the last.
Eventually, the appointment rolled up to see the doctor. The GE was an enormous asshole (ha ha). I don’t really care about “bedside manner”, but this guy was just a prick. I remember him being very blunt, an asshole to my mother, and when I asked him if I’d be ok at the end of this, he dropped the line “well, you’ll never have a designer bowel movement again”. What the fuck?? He was like House without the genius, the funny, or the hair.
I still didn’t know at this point if this whole adventure of mine was a side effect of the Erithromycin that would go away in time or something worse. The GE had very little information to give me at the time and informed me we’d need to do a colonoscopy to find out what the cause was. He gave me a drug to take in the meantime in an attempt to reduce the some of the symptoms, but nothing too strong since he didn’t know what exactly I had. The drugs he gave me – alongside taking Immodium, which had done me no good the past two months at all – had to be swallowed, as they were time-delayed in order to affect the intestine. These were the first pills that I ever actually swallowed, and I had to take them one at a time to do it, and BARELY could. They didn’t really help, but I was in better spirits since at least things were hopefully rolling towards a conclusion.
A few days later, Thanksgiving passed, which I celebrated by eating half a plain bagel upstairs in my room. I didn’t really have enough energy that day to go downstairs.
That weekend was “prep weekend”, since the colonoscopy was set for Monday. I realize 99% of people who read this never have had a colonoscopy. It’s really not that bad, it’s the preparation that is absolutely terrible. If you’re under the age of 30, though, by the time you have to get one in 20-30 years they should have improved one of their up-and-coming technologies enough that you’ll be spared most of what I’m about to describe. I was given two bottles of Fleet Phospho-soda, a wonderful substance which was recently given a warning by the FDA. The “soda” basically serves to violently clean out your system by acting as a super-laxative so that they get a clear view of your intestine wall. I didn’t really have much to give, as you could imagine, as it had been something like 6-8 weeks of suffering at that point, but the utterly disgusting soda did what it was supposed to do.
Monday was the day of the colonoscopy. That morning I was particularly weak, alongside the standard fever, tiredness, hunger, and misery. I remember when it was time to leave, my mother had to help me down the stairs. That’s pretty bad, heh. I recall the drive to the hospital vividly, signing in, and then after that I don’t remember very much, other than being so out of it that I was looking forward to whatever he gave me to knock me out so that I’d get some uninterrupted ’sleep’. Well, I didn’t really get my wish, since the doctor put me in “twilight” for the procedure (vs knocking me out cold), which is basically all the fun of being asleep only to insta-wake up and insta-fall asleep again during the rougher moments. Lovely, right?
I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. I was given a bunch of pills, most of them to take “indefinitely”, something around 25 a day to begin with. We sought out a new doctor quickly thereafter, a much nicer guy who I’m very friendly with (I’ve actually given him poker coaching once). By New Years, I had pretty much recovered and entered into my first period of remission, a symptom-free time when the disease lies dormant. There’s no “cure” – the goal is to just stay in remission. This is achieved by taking pretty much all the same pills that I was taking while in my flare-up and hoping nothing changes. The only other advice the doctor had for me was to stay away from certain foods that aggravated any of my symptoms. None of my narrow food groups ever caused me any problems whatsoever, thankfully. When I drank at 19, I had problems again for a short period of time, so I’ve avoided alcohol since then. I had another flare-up about a year after the first, but much lower in severity, and other than that I haven’t been sick for longer than a week the past 24+ months.
I have no real desire to try new foods, but my caution in regards to setting off the UC keeps me from experimenting even if I wanted to, especially if I’m traveling. It doesn’t actually hinder anything else in my life, though. It had a surprisingly synergistic relationship with my longtime martial arts hobby, in that I couldn’t eat shitty food or drink, and wasn’t supposed to anyway while actively training. Those three factors – my own (lack) of desire, the UC, and what was best for training, all overlapped conveniently and sort of gave birth to the lifestyle I still have today.
It might strike you as odd, but I’m grateful for having undergone the experiences I have with UC. If I didn’t go through what I did, I guess my life would be better, but the UC has given me an appreciation for my health that most people my age don’t have. When I was sick, I remember wishing that I was able to travel, wishing that I was able to just sleep a full night, wishing that I was able to see friends, and wishing above all that I was able to resume living a full life. I try not to forget that.