Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Cause of death: broken heart

Dana Reeve surprised the world in August, when she announced she had lung cancer. As a 44 year old non-smoker, she's in a very low risk group - it's a very rare occurrence.

A little over 6 months later, she is dead.

Predictable, because 60 percent of lung cancer victims are dead within a year of diagnosis, 85 percent die within 5 years.

Less researched, but very much a factor, is the effect of stress and emotional turmoil on the body. Scientists don't have firm numbers, but the world is full of examples of people who die immediately after a spouse passes. I wrote about the health effects of a "broken heart" several months ago, and I am a total believer that mood, stress and events play a major role in our health. Most know the long-term effects of high blood pressure, for example. But little research has been done about the short-term effects of the vacuum left after a death or break-up.

In 1983, my grandfather died in a tractor accident at the young age of 57. My grandmother, who was a little older than he, suffered immediate health issues caused by the stress of his passing, and lived only 10 more years. In the last 2, she whithered away to nothing, and her official cause of death was "failure to thrive." She had slowly starved herself to death.

On the other hand, I've seen people diagnosed with cancer, but who possess a real zeal and love for life, who far outlive their diagnosis. I have no research to prove it, but I believe it has something to do with having a positive attitude and the will to live.

There are countless examples of perfectly healthy people who lose a spouse, then themselves die only days later. When the value of life dips below a threshhold, it's possible to simply "will yourself" to death.

There is little hard evidence, but I believe that had something to do with Dana Reeve's death. I know it did with my grandmother. Cause of death: broken heart.


Dana Reeve, 1961-2006

11 comments:

~The Goofy Ass Chick said...

When I heard this news this morning, I thought the same thing Dave. It's just so tragically sad.

When my mother passed away in 2004, her cause of death was complications due to a brain tumor. But all the years after her diagnosis and treatment, there really was no reason the doctors could give for her not being able to make a full recovery. But my mom was deeply overwhelmingly depressed and didn't have that gumption to live life. In a way, it's like she gave up. She wanted to die. I think you truly can will yourself to death like you said.

Who knows if Dana Reeves really did die of a broken heart, but I'm sure it had a heck of a lot to do with it. My heart just reaches out for their son though.

phoenix said...

I agree with you both. I saw my grandmother wither away as well. So sad, but now she is with him again.

Eve said...

I freaked when I opened Yahoo today to see this.

~sigh~

Their poor son.

So sad...

Heidi said...

I too agree with you. I have not known anyone who has died of a broken heart but it WAS the first thing I thought of when I read about Dana this morning. What an amazing soul she was. She stuck by her man to the highest of degrees.

Lee Ann said...

Yes, you are most likely right with this one. A broken heart can do this.
I feel great respect for this lady to stand by her "super"man to the end. They had true love!

Oh yeah, thank you sweetie for the encouragement. I hope your training is going well too.

kristy said...

I hadn't heard about Dana. How old was their son? I wonder what will become of him...

Weary Hag said...

Good post topic Dave. My daughter's grandmother (father's mother) had suffered with cancer for four years - she was remarkable as she recovered from each surgery, proceedure, etc through the years - perhaps because of the wonderful support of her loving husband of 50 years.
This summer, HE was diagnosed with cancer and died within a month. She, in turn, died 30 days after he did ... everyone at her funeral believed the two of them just really wanted to be together and that was that. It was so shocking that he died first ... being that she had been ill for so long. People thought "okay, it was cancer ... but perhaps he just couldn't stand the thought of watching his wife die before him."

Really amazing when you think about it.

Chelle said...

This news was so sad. I definitely agree with everything you wrote in your post.

I'm new here, on my blog surfing journey! Thought I'd say hi.....hi! :)

Mishka said...

I think you are right. So sad...I saw them talking about her for a second on CNN yesterday but I didn't realize she died...

KDillon said...

I was your best friend back in the days when you lost your Grandfather in that accident. I remember it like it was yesterday.

I truly believe, too, in the "broken heart" situation. Grandma was strong, but losing someone like that, so fast, and so neeedlessly, has got to have a tremendous affect on a heart, not to mention a soul.

I'll bet they're together now.

CP said...

I believe in the power of a broken heart. I do.

I know Superman and his Lois are together once more...but, I can't help feeling an enormous amount of pain for their son.

Both parents gone in less than span of a year.

If that isn't enough to break your heart.

God bless that whole family.

CP.