Twelve Years Ago

I’m tired. My eyes are stinging from lack of sleep and the realization that I likely didn’t get enough sleep today, but whatever.

I just finished drafting and sending a long overdue email to my mom’s oncologist to thank him. Jesus, how do you thank someone for saving your mom’s life? All my words felt trite, silly, trivial, but I still felt compelled to send the email.

So, I did.

I can’t believe that this November will mark twelve years. Twelve years ago, my mom and I sat in a local coney island restaurant when she received her diagnosis.

Sarcoma.

I still remember that day like it was yesterday. My mom’s biopsy had been days earlier and we were all anxiously awaiting the results. As we dined, her cell phone rang.

She answered. She dug around in her purse for a pen and began writing on her paper placemat. My heart sank. I had a feeling this wasn’t good news if it required written words on a cheap diner placemat. My mom began scribbling while she spoke.

“Sarcoma?”

Her scribbles continued. More words, most of which I cannot even remember now, but the one I remember the most was

sarcoma.

fuck.

As someone just entering nursing school, I knew that any word ending in -oma didn’t always hold great promise. Sarcoma is defined as a malignant tumor of connective or nonepithelial tissues.

I can look back and type all of this now without pausing to grab a fucking kleenex, wipe my eyes, cry angry tears, and wander through my days trying to muster up the strength to be strong for the one of the people I loved most in this entire world.

But, those feelings are still very raw and real. My mom and I comment often how we never really forget that time in her life, but as the time passes, we see it move further and further away in life’s rear view mirror.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard the word ‘sarcoma’ uttered very recently again. This time it’s affecting a peer.

fuck.

I really hoped I could go the rest of my life without hearing that word used in conjunction with anyone I know.

Cancer is insidious and evil and indiscriminate. It doesn’t give two shits about anyone or what good they bring to the table.

And after hearing this word again, I was immediately transported back to that coney island, sitting in that same booth across from my mother as she wrote the word

sarcoma.

So, the fight begins again. And yes, I can sit here and type words like ‘fight’ and ‘hope’ because my mother is living proof that there are badass researchers, doctors, nurses, surgeons, and other medical professionals that make all the difference. She is LIVING PROOF of such medical advancements.

So, you can just fuck right off, cancer.

You’re not welcome here.

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Whole30 Day 18

whole30truth

Wow.

Here I am on the downward slope of the Whole30 program, and I gotta admit: I’m feeling pretty damn good.

The question on everyone’s mind is usually: have you cheated? The short answer:

Yes.

I never set out to quit alcohol completely, BUT, I have nearly eliminated it. We traveled out of town last week, and yes, I did have a couple of cocktails. I also did have a tiny bit of cheese on a croissant, as we were lunch guests, and I wasn’t going to decline a meal with family for my Whole30 endeavor. As it was, I didn’t crave more, and it was a pretty small portion.

So, fast forward to Day 18. I sit here this morning, watching the news with my trusty black coffee, and I’m not feeling deprived in the least bit. As the days pass, and I can feel the difference in how my clothes fit, in my increased energy levels, and my improved sleep, I know this shit is working. It feels good to be in charge of food, rather than feeling as if food has some sort of hold on me.

My food choices have been quite good, but I do find myself falling into the same routines when it comes to breakfast. I always eat eggs and some fruit. I never thought I would ever eat so many eggs, but dozens and dozens later, I’m still coming back for more. Fruit has never tasted so damn sweet, and I find that oftentimes I can eat fruit as a ‘dessert’, and it satisfies my sweet tooth just fine. I still LOVE Taco Tuesday at work, and find the ground beef, shredded chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, and green onions taste quite good without the chips, cheese, and sour cream. Who knew?

Our recent trip to Boston was punctuated by some delicious seafood as well, and come on, who doesn’t love lobster with drawn butter (both Whole30 approved!)

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Don’t get me wrong. I still have some cravings and wistful longings for a large, cold Diet Coke from the McDonald’s drive thru, along with some delicious hot, tasty french fries, but those cravings are far and fewer between. I don’t really find myself as fixated on food in general, and for that I am grateful.

In 43 days, we travel to Kauai, and I am toying with the idea of simply keeping up the Whole30 program, or at least some semblance of one until that time. What better incentive than palm trees, Mai Tais, and beautiful sunsets with my handsome husband?

Who knows? I might even need some new clothes…

 

Day Six

Six days down. Twenty four days to go.

I’m feeling strong. I’m feeling proud of myself. And quite possibly the biggest thing that Whole 30 has taught me thus far is that there are countless times I have likely eaten something when I wasn’t even hungry. I’ve eaten out of boredom, sadness, anxiety, peer pressure, but oftentimes, it’s not due to hunger.

I have found myself really paying attention to the times I had just inadvertently taken a few bites of my daughter’s mac and cheese, grabbed a handful of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, relied on something less than ideal for a snack. It’s actually quite sobering to see just how often this happened.

That said, while I have visions of martinis and french fries dancing in my head, I’m feeling so proud of myself. I have stayed the course for six days, and the cravings are waning. My waistline feels smaller, my ‘pooch’ is definitely less ‘poochy’, and I can only wonder what the next 24 days hold.

Next week, we travel out of town, and this will be the ultimate test. Traveling, restaurants, cocktails, but no. I’m going to take it one meal, one day at a time.

For now, I’m victorious.

But, I’m getting awfully tired of eggs.

whathappens

Day One

I already miss french fries.

Okay, not really, but I know the white hot passion for something that only french fries can cure, and it’s gonna happen.

Oh, it’s gonna happen.

Today I began the Whole30 program. It’s been a whole ten hours, and so far, so good. I mean, I slept for about seven of those hours, so how bad could it be, right? Truthfully, this morning’s breakfast of scrambled eggs and a banana was actually quite palatable. I have eggs quite often, so this seems like a treat.

Let’s see how I view eggs at the end of this 30 day program, shall we?

The only major difference for me is drinking black coffee. No creamer. No sugar. Oh, and wonderful husband of mine: don’t think I didn’t fucking notice that you hid the sugar bowl.

Nice touch.

Perhaps he hid it from himself, since he’s traveling this journey with me.

So, today it begins. I’m not setting out to achieve anything dramatic, but I would like my belly fat roll to get a little smaller, my thighs to perhaps not rub together THAT much, and maybe even get rid of some of this acne that’s been plaguing me in recent months.

So, allow me to apologize to you in advance for the things I may do out of hunger. I certainly won’t mean to snap at you when you ask me a simple yes/no question. I won’t hate you when you walk by me carrying hot french fries from the cafeteria. I won’t question our friendship when you sip on that Diet Coke.

But, I can’t promise that once or twice along this journey I won’t question my resolve, my willpower, or my ability to see this through. I’m human.

And this human loves cheese.

And wine.

Damn it.

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Tough Love

This morning in the grip of insomnia, as I perused my usual haunts on my smartphone, I stumbled across a post in a group I’m a member of on Facebook. The group is a small one of women who are all pregnant and due in the same time frame as me. We have grown close to one another, even though we haven’t met. We share in each other’s triumphs, joys, heartaches, and milestones.

The post that caught my attention was one about weight. The dreaded weight gain. It rears its ugly head often it seems, especially with pregnant women. We all say we won’t focus on it, yet somehow it always comes back to that issue.

I finally decided to expand upon my thoughts later this morning, and below is the exact post. I believe in every single word….

I feel as if I need to make this a separate post to expand upon my thoughts I shared earlier this morning in response to a concern for feeling less than beautiful and weight gain that we all deal with.

I am sitting here typing this post unshowered, hair a mess, boobs unrestrained, resting on my big belly, same big belly resting comfortably on the tops of my huge, cottage-cheesy thighs. And you know what?

I could give two shits.

I’m 45 years old. I’m pregnant. I’m ecstatic. I’m chubby. I’m in love with my husband. I’m in love with this baby inside my belly. I’m letting it all go. All of it. All of the self-loathing. All of the self-doubt. All of the insecurity.

You know what I do when I’m feeling less-than-desirable? I strip down naked and stand squarely in front of my husband. I smile. I dance around with my fat self, and tell him that I’m glad he knew me and met me when I was many, many pounds lighter, but this is the here and this is the now, and this is reality. And if he can love me for all my new curves, new flab, new cellulite, huge belly, fat ass and all, then I can, too. Spend some time viewing your body with objectivity, rather than negativity. I bet if you all ask your significant others, they will tell you how much they love you because YOU ALONE are bringing them a HUGE gift. A gift they perhaps can’t bring themselves. Isn’t that worth a few extra pounds?

We are bringing new life into the world, mamas, and that is no small feat. I’m getting tears in my eyes just typing this, thinking of all the mamas that didn’t get to this point in their pregnancies, and are perhaps even a bit jealous that they didn’t get to put on that weight for their babies, and I’m also thinking of all those women who NEVER GET PREGNANT. We are an honored group of women. WE GOT PREGNANT. Don’t ever forget the enormity of that.

As I said earlier, we are all allowed a bit of time for a pity party, but please, please remember the bigger picture. This body of ours is doing what it does for a reason. The reason is just below your boobs and just above your crotch. Don’t forget that. 

I love you one and all, and we have all traveled quite a journey to be here, some longer than others, and we deserve to love ourselves, too.

Now then, if you’ll excuse me, I have to figure out if I’m having mac and cheese for lunch or if I’m going to have McDonald’s. 

xo

Stay Well, Travel Well

Another reader asked for some blog space, and I’m always happy to share my little corner of the blogosphere with others. Here are some great tips for travelers and exercise.

Take it away, Mike!…..

Stay Well, Travel Well- Fitness Tips for Travelers

Whether you travel for business or pleasure, spending time away from home can
be stressful. Often, the interruption of daily routine that results from travel schedules
can cause people to fall away from habits of healthy eating and regular exercise
regimes. By paying a little attention to details, you can maintain your healthy habits
while traveling and at the same time minimize travel-induced stress.

Planning a Healthy Trip

Before you leave on any trip, do some research to make sure you can take
advantage of the healthy options available to visitors at your destination. On a recent
trip to San Francisco, I did my due diligence by scouring a travel review site in order
to find the best hotel for me in the area. I was given a list of all the best hotels in San
Francisco and from there was able to click on any of them and see the rating, price,
amenities offered, and reviews from people who have stayed there. If you plan on
staying for several days, learn about hiking, biking or running trails in the community
where you will be visiting.

Healthy Commuting

For many travelers, the stress of a journey sets in even before they arrive at their
destination. Combat the physical stress of travel by remaining well-hydrated and
taking breaks to stretch and walk. Drink plenty of water before and during your trip.
Whether flying or driving, be sure to take breaks to stretch. You can even do a little
in-flight exercising to help minimize swollen or stiff joints.

Arrival

When you arrive at your destination, take some time to get oriented and grounded
before heading to meetings or on a sightseeing adventure. Locate the fitness
amenities in the hotel. Take the time to organize your room and unpack your
belongings. Then spend a few minutes walking through some basic yoga positions
or stretching. You will feel more grounded and become better acclimated to your
new environment, which will greatly reduce the stress of your trip.

Your Stay

Throughout your stay, take steps to maintain your personal fitness and well being.
Incorporate exercise into each day, whether you do in-room yoga, enjoy some time
in the fitness center of your hotel or take a morning run. At mealtimes, make healthy
choices. Avoid all-you-can-eat restaurants. If your hotel provides a complimentary
breakfast, enjoy healthy options such as oatmeal, fruit and whole-grain toast rather
than high-calorie pastries and other less nutritious options. To avoid late-night
snacking on pizza or whatever is available onsite, make a trip to a local health
market for fruit, nuts and other nutritious goodies.

 

Warrior Weapons

In keeping with the last post regarding a friend and her cancer, a reader expressed an interest in sharing some health and fitness tips for those who are fighting the battle. I am happy to share her article, and links to find more information.

Thanks to Melanie Bowen for the info. Keep up the good fight, warriors.

Starting an Exercise Routine After Cancer

Running, walking, yoga, and even martial arts has been shown to help cancer patients and even reduce the risk of cancer coming back. Evidence now shows that those who exercise daily can reduce fatigue related to treatment. There are a variety of other benefits, ranging from increased mobility to stress relief. With any kind of exercise during rigorous medical treatment like chemotherapy and radiation, it’s important to consult a doctor before committing to any plan. By speaking with an oncologist, you can find out what activities will better suit your health situation.

Benefits of Exercise for Cancer Patients

Researchers have shown that exercise, specifically cycling, running, and low impact exercises are some of the best ways to reduce fatigue and start building endurance, muscle strength and mobility. In some cases, cancer patients can benefit even more from daily exercise, such as mesothelioma patients after chemotherapy. Studies have also shown that physical activity can reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and other chronic illnesses. Exercise also improves energy and mental health, which may benefit those who are going through depression after cancer.

What Kind of Exercises to Choose

Most patients first start with shorter and less strenuous exercise for 20 to 30 minutes a day. Even a short walk in the morning or night can contribute to better mobility and physical health. However, if you really want to start doing something for your body, low impact exercises are an easier way to start moving your body, build muscle and improve joint health. Low impact exercises include walking, yoga, strength training, cycling, elliptical machines, swimming, a Stairmaster, rowing machines and even kayaking. For those who want to get more exercise or need rigorous activities, start with running for short periods of time, then upgrade to kickboxing, regular jogs, cardio training and even high-energy dance like Zumba.

Risks for Those Starting to Exercise

Running and rigorous exercise isn’t the key to improving health in every cancer patient. Along with fatigue come other disadvantages after undergoing surgery, chemotherapy and radiation to treat cancer. It can mean that your immune system can’t fight off infections and bacteria as well, making it difficult to stress the body with rigorous exercise or even go to public swimming pools and gyms. In other cases, your bones, muscles and joints may not be ready for high impact exercise. That’s why it’s important to start slow with lower impact exercises and build upon your body’s strengths as you go. In many cases, you should be able to warm up and go for a light jog before doing any sort of strenuous activity. 

What Else Can You Do

In addition to exercise, remember that nutrition, vitamins, the right diet and medication can also help with the side effects of cancer treatment. For one thing, ginseng has been proven to help with fatigue and allow for more rigorous activity. Acupuncture has also been recommended to help relieve fatigue in cancer patients, as well as lowering depression and anxiety. It is important to start taking the steps to become a healthier you, and it all starts with speaking to your doctor.

Exercise and Cancer

Mesothelioma 

Survivorship During And After Cancer