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Life Arts    H4'ed 8/24/09

Book review: A man turns his life around by confronting his demons

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Message Peter Duveen
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PETER'S NEW YORK, August 23, 2009--In "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, the main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, is confronted by the spirits of Christmas past, present and future, all encounters that, however harrowing, leave him with a new appreciation for, and a determination to make radical changes in, his life.

It is hard not to compare this heart-warming story to the one the author sets before us. For while Keith Ahrens did not wait for Christmas for the events to take place that changed his life--they came upon him unexpectedly in an earlier season--his reaction was similar, and his story could be likened to that of a modern-day "Christmas Carol." And although, throughout his life, he has been generous to a fault, Ahrens had, according to the interesting account as detailed in "Outrunning My Shadow: Surviving Open Heart Surgery and Battling Obesity," severely neglected his own physical well-being, to the point where he faced a life-changing choice--whether or not to undergo the corrective surgery to repair a life-threatening heart condition that had developed over years of devotion to work and family at the sacrifice of his health.

As an executive at a Las Vegas car dealership, Ahrens would put in long hours, and make up for his grinding schedule by indulging in culinary delights. Over the years, this habit, along with a sedentary lifestyle, allowed him to put some four hundred pounds on a frame no higher than five foot ten. The figure he cut was awesome, but not in the way we usually like to use the term. By his own admission, chairs were never large enough, nor strong enough, and his unusually large physique drew the kind of attention he would rather have done without. Still, he could put up with all of the inconvenience attendant to an overweight condtion, until the fateful day that found him breathless and incapacitated. That led to a doctor's visit, and a battery of tests that revealed a severe occlusion in some of the important blood vessels that supplied his heart with needed nutrients and oxygen.

After second and third opinions were rendered, Ahrens agreed to undergo triple bypass surgery. This might have been the end of the story, had it not been for his determination to lose the pounds that had left him only semi-ambulatory even before the surgery. The doctors gave Ahrens more ambitious goals than he set for himself, and ever since, a successful regimen of proper eating habits and exercise has left its mark. Over a period of about two years Keith lost 185 pounds and now is able to do the many thngs that were off limits to a man weighing 414 pounds.

"Outrunning My Shadow" is easy to read. Its content is matter-of-factly expressed, and there are no hidden mysteries or innuendo in the words. The story is simple, but as profound as the Dickens tale. A man can reflect on his life, change course, and turn upon a new path that leads to a future with endless possibilities. All one needs is the courage to take the first step.

More about Ahrens's book may be found on the website


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Born in New York, March 14, 1949. Staff writer for the New York City Tribune, Economic Growth Report, Register-Star. Presently publish on OpEd News. Mr. Duveen heads up a project known as "The Museum of Brooklyn Art and Culture,' which explores (more...)

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Book review: A man turns his life around by confronting his demons