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2017, the year I learned my health wasn’t as great as I thought.

January 2018

A lot of great things has happened in 2017, but I also learned my health wasn’t as great as I thought. It has changed many things and been dominating my 2017 completely. This is a very personal post, and try to put some of my many thoughts into words.

Lake Chelan, October 2017, WA USA Lake Chelan, October 2017, WA USA

Back in 2016 I moved to Vancouver, Canada to join Microsoft, and during 2016 I started to notice that I was in vicious cycle of colds, where I would get a week long cold about every month regardless of the season which left me drained of all energy.

By the time I’d leave the office I would be ready to go to bed. First I blamed my travels, as I travelled a lot in 2016. but I clearly remember going to Cuba with a friend and during that trip I mostly slept. Ate and then slept again for a week in a row. I was a zombie, and I didn’t understand why.

Sleeping in Havana, Cuba, 2016 Sleeping in Havana, Cuba, 2016

It was odd, as I prior to moving to Canada had spend a year off, and before that in 2015 had spent a significant time investing into my health by getting into healthy habits of lifting weight, eating healthy, getting enough sleep with the help from personal trainer sand nutritionists. I managed get far in my self labeled #projectBody, but I had one big problem: I couldn’t loose body-fat and my trainers didn’t understand why.

We ultimately gave up in the end of 2015.

Anyhow, back to 2016. First I was writing it off by thinking “you are just getting back on track after traveling in 2015” or “You just moved to a new continent. It’s alright”, but as the year progressed things just didn’t feel right.

So I went to the doctor and had a full range of tests done, and a few weeks later I was sitting in his office going through my results. He was casually telling me how normal everything was until he reached the hormones sections. He looked at me, started panicking a bit, and then began flipping between the pages of paper to see if it had the right papers before asking “You are Mr Kenneth Auchenberg”, right?

😳

It turned out that my hormone levels were way out of control and in particular my testosterone levels, the primary male sex hormone and an anabolic steroid was critically low. As a man this isn’t something that should occur naturally before the pension age is in sight, so something was wrong, quite wrong.

When your health becomes your undeniable first priority

The past year has been an interesting journey into the healthcare system, as I’ve spend a significant time with doctors, naturopaths and endocrinologists (that’s specialists in the endocrine system if you didn’t know) in both the Denmark US and Canada to “debug my body” and figure out what’s wrong.

As things looks right now I’ve been diagnosed with a condition called hypoandrogenism. In short this means that I have a deficiency that causes my body not to produce the right amounts of testosterone. I don’t know what the specific cause is, so I don’t know whether it’s something I always had or something that has been caused by external factors. Putting this into retrospective, it’s helps explain why I through out my life have been challenged with maintaining a normal body weight, and had significant challenges with gaining muscle mass, as I quite possibly haven’t had the right amounts of testosterone in my body.

I’m still wondering why I’ve first seen these symptoms now, but a theory from my doctors is that I’ve lived a life in “overdrive” for the past 10 years, and taking a sabbatical in 2015 allowed my body to dial down and reveal the true reality…

At the age of 28 it’s been sobering to admit that I most likely will need medical help for the many years to come. It’s been hard to accept that I now in a relatively young age has undeniable dependency on the healthcare system, and health insurance, just to be able to live a “normal” life where I can go to work and have a social life without crashing at 5pm.

There’s some good news in all of this, and that is my condition can be treated. Normally I would undergo what’s called Testosterone Replacement Therapy, and it’s a relatively common treatment, mostly misused by bodybuilders, where testosterone is injected on a daily basis to provide the body with enough testosterone.

But due to my age this isn’t an option as injections shuts down the natural hormone production and many related systems that has severe consequences. So over the past year I’ve evaluating treatment options with my doctors and for the past months I’ve been on new experimental medicine, that still isn’t approved for men in the US, and works by blocking certain signals in hypothalamus within my brain to trick my body to boost my hormon production.

It’s been a long process of experimenting with the right dosis, on and off protocols to determine the effects, but just before Christmas I got the latest results from, and most of my numbers are now within normal range 😄 My energy levels are much much better, still far from being normal, but it’s a start, and it’s awesome 😄🔥

As you grow older you learn there’s nothing such as a free lunch, and my medicine have also had side effects. My estrogen levels has been boosted too, with the consequence that I’ve gained roughly +20kg 😳 in bodymass during 2017, and I’ve lost 50% of my lean mass that I’ve spent years building.

Today I’m a super-sized Kenneth, which I hope I will be able to do something about in 2018, but for now my priority is to get back on track and to increase my general productivity.

Guess when I started to take meds? Guess when I started to take meds?

Having kids. A thing I’ve always taken for granted

A common consequence for hormone imbalances, is reduced fertility, and through extensive (and expensive) testing in 2017 I also learned that my options of being able to have kids are vastly reduced, if not close to impossible. It’s been a hard emotional rollercoaster to accept that one of the most essential things in life, a thing I’ve taken for granted, probably won’t be possible.

It’s been sobering to deal with this reality, and has triggered many essential and existential reflections, which I still haven’t made peace with. I really don’t know what to think yet, but I guess it will be a process to get there.

Gaining a new perspective on priorities

2017 has been a humbling and reflective year, and in the perspective of your own health, the value of most other things simply diminishes, as you realize they are inconsequential and superficial.

What does traveling the world, speaking at conferences, contributing to open source projects, building companies or gaining 1000s of new Twitter follows give you, if you can’t get through a regular day?

So, this has been my reality in 2017 — a bucket of cold water splashed straight to my face that has forced my to re-evaluate my priorities. It’s been an eye opening year that has made me more humble and grateful, but at the same time also probably made me more selfish and focused.

No longer waiting the “right” time

Looking back at how I have spent my time during the many past years I spent the majority of my time helping people executing their ideas, not executing my own. That’s over, so 2017 has been a year of saying no.

I’ve probably said no more times in 2017 than I have had the past 5 years, and it’s been great. When an opportunity has come by, whether it’s been new project, an investment opportunity or something else, I’ve asked myself:

Does this benefit my own priorities or can it help accelerate myself forward?

Most of the time the answer has been no, and it has enabled me to keep focus in times where there’s been a lot of moving parts in my life. Most of my life I’ve been a planner, a big planner that has taken (way to) long time to evaluate every single option before making a decision, but in 2017 I’ve learned that life is fragile, and that has had an impact on my decision making.

What Scott Riddle wrote in I’m 35 and I may suddenly have lost the rest of my life, really resonated with me:

Stop just assuming you have a full lifetime to do whatever it is you dream of doing. I know it sounds ridiculously cliched, and of course you never think it will happen to you, but let me assure you that life really can be taken from you at any time, so live it with that reality in mind.

Earlier this year I started reading pieces by the British philosopher Alan Watts, and in particular his “Live Fully Now made things click for me. What good does a great plan do, if you never take the step to execute it? What good does great savings do for you, if it means saving takes priority over doing the things you dream of?

So this summer I decided to pull the trigger and spend a fair amount of savings on a Porsche 911 that’s been my dream car since I’ve been a kid. It’s a somewhat silly material thing to do, but every morning when I drive to work it’s a good reminder to evaluate whether the things I’m about to do are well aligned with my overall priorities, and more importantly that I should stop dreaming and start doing.

2017 has actually been a good year

My 2017 has been overshadowed by my health becoming my undeniable first priority, but when looking back it has been quite a good year with many good results.

I’ve indeed traveled much less. I’ve only given single conference talk in Copenhagen (and visited my family). I’ve reduced my involvement in many communities such as Google Developer Experts and World Economic Forum Global Shapers and reduced my Facebook/Instagram posts to an absolute minimum, but it’s actually been good.

I’ve learned what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I’m grateful for being an situtation where my health issues are treatable and haven’t had too severe consequences for my life and financial situation.

I found my soulmate, and are thankful for the experiences I’ve had with my girlfriend this year. We have taken time off to enjoy and explore together, and it’s been amazing to be able to share experiences with someone.

My RemoteDebug initiative has become bigger than myself, and I’ve started to see my vision becoming reality, as the web and tooling industry has started to execute on the principles I outlined, now several years ago.

I moved to the US in the age of Trump which is an interesting journey, but it has been good for career and amplified my impact in many ways that I didn’t imagine. I’m still on the right path on my mission to make it easier to build software, and I have the right shipping vehicle to make it happen.

I’ve found a new partner to run ColdFront, and we have started a journey on transforming ColdFront to a internationally focused event company with several employees. We ran the biggest ColdFront ever this year, and is was fantastic to be a part of.

And most importantly I’ve started to be more for myself.

In 2018 I aim to

  • Get my health under control.
  • Stay true to my priorities.
  • Spend more time with significant others.
  • Be less for others. More for myself and the people I care about.

/k