He caught the Cancer…

It’s crazy to think that it’s been two months since I have published a post. I have written many private posts or drafts, but none have met my mental criteria to be put out there for the world to see. I vowed to myself that today I would put a stop to that.

I suppose this story starts in mid-November. My long-term boyfriend, Ron, had a surgery to remove some swollen lymph nodes on his neck.

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The nodes would be biopsied, and the doctor assured us that it was most likely a benign type of tumor. Optimism ensued.

On the weekend before his 42nd birthday, we celebrated alone together at the Cheesecake Factory in downtown Seattle. We each had our favorite, the steak diane, with several Blue Moon Ale’s and a lemoncello cream torte for dessert. I remember how Ron wore his grey beanie instead of a ball-cap. For some reason all of these details stand out to me as if they are important, when they aren’t. I think I have committed them to memory because I clearly remember Ron’s smile as the glow of his candle hit his face, right before he blew it out. I remember that moment and thinking that he seemed happy.

The day after his birthday, he met with his doctor to get his biopsy results and was diagnosed with follicular B-cell non-hodgkin’s lymphoma.

I was at work when he told me the news via text. I felt like I was in a time warp while the rest of the world kept on going. It seemed impossible to keep performing day to day tasks while my world was seemingly hanging on by a thread. Memories of my parents came to me over and over again. A bedside commode next to a frail body. Pill bottles covering an entire table. Tar black coffee to be my only meal as I sat in the hospital for an entire afternoon.

I really just wanted to break down, but that seems entirely selfish. Sure, I have my own part in this. I have to play the role of caregiver, once again. I have to helplessly watch my loved ones suffer. I don’t want to be one of those people that makes it about them, though. I am not the one that has to go through chemo.

After his diagnosis, Ron had to have a PET/CT scan to determine where the Cancer had spread throughout his body. The doctor told us at the time that he probably had stage 1 or 2, and might not even need chemo. Optimism ensued.

Before the scan he had to eat a low-carb diet. I was in HEAVEN because in my efforts to fit into skinny jeans I have researched diets galore and finally had someone to bore to death with my findings. For three days we both ate a Ketogenic diet, and after his scan we enthusiastically ate a full breakfast of biscuits and gravy, fresh fruit and juice from the hospital cafeteria. Hospital food had never tasted so good.

Yesterday Ron met with his oncologist and was told that he has stage 3A lymphoma. 

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People say to remain optimistic but if you expect the worst you will never be disappointed.

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Okay, it’s not that I expect the worst. I mean, I don’t think we should start picking out caskets or anything. The new diagnosis was simply a slap in the face considering we have been told every step of the way that it was likely a better outcome. It seems like trying to remain optimistic is a jinx.

The next step is a bone marrow biopsy to see if the Cancer has spread there, and if it has he will become a stage 4. The doctor said that she doesn’t think this is the case because he has no symptoms and his blood work is great. I am not going to be fooled into optimism this time, though. Fool me once, shame on you…

I keep wanting to throw a pity party. Every time that I see him tearing up. Every time that I think about going through the Cancer rodeo again. I keep wondering why this is happening again, but I don’t think I will ever have these answers.

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Regardless of this staging I am hopeful about the prognosis. I know in my heart that we have many years left together.

1200 calories a day is a snack.

I am no stranger to weight loss from a calorie deficit. I am also no stranger to gaining it back.

I remember the moment that I decided to lose weight. I saw a photo of myself that my (now ex) husband had taken, where I was sitting at the table with the kids at a restaurant eating. I couldn’t believe my huge stomach roll that stood out for everyone to see like some alien. My self esteem plummeted and I knew that I had to do something.


Note: This picture appears to have fallen off the face of the Earth… I don’t know how that happened!  wink


 

I started reading a lot about the dangers of processed foods and how to cook with whole foods. I used a calorie counter to track everything that I ate, and I worked out regularly in my living room to HIIT video’s. By the time that I started my divorce in 2014, my weight was down 35lbs. I was pretty proud of my appearance, fitness and progress.

It’s hard to explain what happened after that. Stress happened? I was a newly single parent and I was flat broke. I struggled to afford every little thing and sometimes wondered if I would make it. My ex-husband decided to move across the country to be with a woman that he met online and my kiddo started having depression. I bounced to a few different businesses but never felt truly happy. I struggled to keep up with my exercise regimen or any self-care, and I started to eat more for comfort.

On the flip side, I can say that during this time I also experienced some of the happiest memories that I had in years. I got a boyfriend and we were in the exciting honeymoon phase of our relationship. However, I also worried that having expectations would lead to disappointments, and the happiness I felt would fall apart. I didn’t feel deserving of that.

So, I gained back 20lbs. 

I have tried for the last year to lose that weight again but always fell off the calorie counting or fitness wagon. I have kept off 5lbs since my initial sobriety but it is such a grueling, frustrating, snails-pace that I don’t even feel like it’s worth counting.


1200 calories a day sucks.


 

Eating less food helps you lose weight- Shocking, I know!  I have had success with calorie counting and so have many other people. So, I am not going to sit here and tell you that the amount of food you eat doesn’t matter. It does. However, the real controversial question that more people are asking is: Are calories the only thing that matters?

If you go to any message board for weight loss right now, you will find a ton of people that are all saying the same thing:


  1. I feel hungry eating my calorie deficit
  2. I am not losing weight or hit a plateau
  3. I feel tired, irritable or have low energy and not motivated to work out

 

These people are all told the same thing over and over.

  • If you’re hungry, drink water. You could also eat more fiber. It’s okay and doesn’t hurt you to be hungry so stop whining and get used to it.
  • If you aren’t losing weight, eat EVEN LESS. Or you can exercise a bunch more and eat the same you’re eating now. You decide.
  • If you’re tired or have low energy it’s either your fault for being lazy or a nutritional deficiency, but nobody can agree on what foods encompass a healthy diet.

 

If you say that calorie counting isn’t working in any way, you are typically told that you miscalculated or that it’s your fault for not having the willpower to make it work.

I don’t know why so many people are so quick to discredit how food quality plays an important factor in weight loss, especially given the many studies that say just that. I guess the problem is that we can never agree which foods we should be eating, and so the whole idea is thrown out the window. The fact is, we know that foods affect our bodies in different ways and go through different metabolic pathways. Not only that, but the foods we eat can directly affect the hormones that regulate when and how much we eat.

Before any know-it-alls wonderful people jump up to say, “THERMODYNAMICS!”, let it be known that I KNOW. This is an unbreakable law of physics and isn’t even debatable. My point is, saying that weight gain is caused by excess calories might be true, but it’s meaningless. It’s the same as saying that highway traffic is at a standstill because more people are staying than they are going. It really doesn’t tell you a single thing about what caused it. Saying that it’s “laziness” or “lack of willpower” that is causing the increased calorie intake totally disregards the complex physiological processes that control our behavior and how the foods we eat can directly affect these processes.

This is something that I have been reflecting on a lot today since I have had such a hard time adhering to any deficit. There are a lot of anecdotal experiences out there from people that gave more attention to macro’s or food quality than calories, but of course this is always quickly dismissed. It’s been harder to take it with a grain of salt when the other side is a community of people that are constantly hungry and yo-yo dieting.

For now, I don’t know if I am going to land on any specific diet, but I am definitely focusing less on calorie counting and more on improving my fitness.

The scale is the ultimate betrayer.

I have been trying to lose weight for a year. However, overeating from stress and drinking made it impossible. Since I quit drinking and started running, I have lost 4lbs. I finally feel like I have a shot at this! That said, it has been such a slow process and I am completely impatient.

When you’re used to overeating, trying to eat at a calorie deficit every day seems like starvation. A typical day goes like this:

Breakfast: 400 calories

Lunch: 400 calories

Dinner: 198892983829 Calories

The fat kid in me tells me to eat two hot pockets after dinner. Or chips. Or 3 cereal bars. Or something. Except, I don’t have any of those things! Only Hobbits have two dinners so I drink water until it’s time for bed.

I jump out of bed in the morning and onto the scale. I think, surely, I have done it! Now I will have lost weight! and to my dismay, I am actually a pound heavier than my last recorded loss.

Sometimes I feel like the scale is against me…

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I know, I know. It’s just water weight. The scale is only one way to measure things. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that. I tell myself these things, but deep down I am still impatient. I want to see some kind of proof that my hard work is paying off. I can’t help but stare at my stomach in the mirror after every run and think, am I skinny yet?

In the past, I obsessed over calorie counting only to gain the weight right back, so this time I am trying instead to make healthier choices and the weight loss is much slower. I know if I obsessed over the numbers I might lose more quickly, but I am stubborn. The fat kid inside me doesn’t think she eats enough. No matter what’s on the menu, it’s only filling if it’s paired with 1/2 a large pizza or something that comes in a trough. Seriously, I can put it back. She stares angrily at the scale and says, “I didn’t eat cake for you, and you betrayed me“.

I wish it were as easy to lose weight as it is to gain weight.

Making strides.

Twenty-five days ago I quit drinking, and most people told me to start AA meetings or sign up for therapy. I started running instead.

I am not an athletic person whatsoever. I don’t work out and I’ve never trained for anything. Even as a child, I never participated in sports. I couldn’t even tell you how most of them are played. The 3-block walk to the grocery store to pick up potato chips for my Netflix marathon is usually plenty of activity in my book. That said, starting this running regimen has been kind of a big deal for me.

I suppose before I started the C25K program I had a romantic idea in my mind of what I thought running was like. The expectation was that I would leisurely jog down tranquil beaches in cute exercise clothing while sporting killer abs and hardly breaking a sweat, just like the girls in pictures. The reality is that I would drag my 2000lb, heavier-than-stone, aching body through the grass for fear of breaking my shins on the concrete, in the grubbiest clothing that I own because they will be so nasty that I will want to burn them in the fires of Sauron when I’m finished, all while praying nobody noticed my fat jiggling to the tune of “Get your freak on” on my Ipod.


Running is hard.


I know, I know. You’re probably thinking: You fool! You should go to AA. That seems to be the common thought among society. I did try a couple meetings, but sitting in a moldy church basement with a bunch of strangers and listening to someone’s struggle that was brought on from their dead cat simply isn’t therapeutic for me. Don’t get me wrong, I can see why a lot of people like the program. There is that sense of community when everyone greets you, listens to your woes and shakes your hand at the end. You even get coins, and who doesn’t like prizes?!  Well, this loner could do without.

The road is a fairly good listener and I get to tell my tale to the most important audience: myself. On my first run, I noticed right away the amount of positive self-talk involved to get through a session. It sounds really cheesy, but telling myself, “Don’t stop- you can do this!” has done wonders not only for my running but my self confidence.

You can get through this.

This pain is temporary.

You are strong.

These are all things that I think on my runs and I’m now starting to apply those same thoughts when I have other challenges in my life. As a drinker, I was only familiar with negative self talk and sabotaging myself into not doing anything that could result in failure. The mind is a very powerful thing. If you can train your mind to keep going even when your body wants to quit, you can achieve some incredible things.

I’m not sure how long I will have to train before I can consider myself a “real” runner. Right now, I am on week 4 of the C25K program and I find it quite challenging. Sometimes in the middle of a jog interval I have asked myself, “Is this really jogging or am I just hop-walking?” but finishing is all that matters so I keep going. I never regret a run. Even if my energy sucked and I come home feeling like I totally sucked, at least I tried.

The saying goes that you have to get through hell to reach heaven. Like all things worth pursuing, you are going to get knocked down, stepped on, and rejected along the way.  Maybe this is part of the journey to get to my goals. Sometimes it’s more about the journey than the destination, anyway.

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Obligatory photo of my running shoes and heart rate monitor.

The burning.

Five years ago, I was sitting at the kitchen table in the same run-down apartment that I live in now, and I realized that my feet were burning. Careful inspection revealed no burn, and no home remedy seemed to help. My skin simply burned in weird waves like a sunburn. It didn’t take long for the sensation to move to my legs, arms, face and back. The burning would float around, coming and going like the tides. I was stumped as to why it happened or why some days it was like the plague was upon me and others it was hardly noticeable.

I finally went to my primary doctor when I was in an unbearable flare. I remember telling him, “It’s like I’m being dipped in acid! I can’t stand it“. Sometimes I would touch things with my arm or leg and feel a burning sensation in its wake. Sometimes I would touch something and itch in that spot. My doctor said it was Neuropathy and referred me to a neurologist.

I waited for 3 months to get in to that specialist. On appointment day, I arrived 5 minutes early with a list in hand. I didn’t want a single thing to get missed. I waited for 45 minutes in the exam room for the doctor to come in. I remember it all so clearly. I remember his suit that didn’t fit, his white hair and his indifferent gaze. I remember starting to tell him about my symptoms, but he cut me off and started a few physical tests on me. I remember one of them was running a paperclip down my leg. He asked me if I could feel it, and I said yes and added that it left a wake of fire behind it. He raised his eyebrows and nodded as if I were telling tales. Then he said, “Well, it’s not M.S.” in a dismissive tone.

He wrote me a prescription and quickly left. The whole appointment was less than 10 minutes long. I remember getting up and watching him walk away down the hallway. I stared down at my list and realized that I had only touched on 1/4 of it. I was so angry.

An older, wiser self wishes that she could go back in time and tell Mr. Big-Shot Specialist a thing or two. I wish that I could say I never said anything about M.S., you twat. I wish I could remind him that the only way to diagnose M.S. anyway is with a series of tests like MRI and spinal tap, and he hadn’t ordered those. I wish I could tell him that when he dismissed me as being a liar it deterred me from getting help for nearly three years and encouraged me to self medicate with alcohol. Prick.

Today, I am no closer to getting answers or relief. In fact, new symptoms were one of the things that increased my drinking and brought things to a tipping point. The doctors are very quick to offer medications, but not so quick to get to the bottom of why it’s happening.

Using alcohol to self medicate was a dumb decision, but it seemed necessary when prescription medication had failed. I tried the medication the Big-Shot Specialist gave me, but it didn’t help my symptoms and had a lot of side effects. Other medications that I tried before that induced panic attacks. It didn’t seem worth it to feel worse in an effort to feel better, even if it was temporary.

After many negative experiences with doctors, the very idea of going again makes me instantly angry and defensive. And yet, I know that I am writing this because I am opening myself up to the idea of going again. I know that I don’t really have a choice if I want to stay sober. I have a neurology appointment coming up this month, and I’m not feeling very open to whatever treatment they will recommend. I don’t know what other options I have, though.

Sometimes, giving up alcohol is the easy part. The hard part is afterwards, when you’re thrown into the UFC octagon ring called Life with nothing but your wits and you’re opponent is a decade’s worth of problems. All you can do is hope to come out alive.

Okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but still fitting. The best reassurance that I have received lately was from my boyfriend, who said: “Well, you’ve made it this long with your health issues and you didn’t die, so… you will probably be okay”. Not dying is always promising. I’ll take it.