Keeping the Line- 29 Wk Food Journal Check In/ Cancer Scare

In April, I received the news that I had a small patch of basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) on my face by my right nostril.  A small pustule had been bleeding off and on and my wise husband said “You better go get that looked at.”  Though he had to nudge me several times before I made an appointment.  The dermatologist biopsied it along with doing a full body check for other possible skin cancers.  Considering I’m covered in freckles from my Irish side, everything looks like cancer to me.  I was sitting in my home office working the morning when the doctor called and said the dreaded words “It’s cancer.”

My mother died of metastasized colon cancer after an 8 year battle not only with colon but lung cancer.  To say this traumatized me watching her suffer so much is an understatement.  Aside from something tragic happening to my family, my biggest fear has been to get cancer.  Any kind of cancer.  I have nightmares about it and I’m always getting check or tested as much as I possibly can for different types such as getting a mammogram, colonoscopy, etc.  I do not want to die like my mother did, slowly wasting away, cancer taking over her bones where she was in constant pain.  We wouldn’t let our pets die this way, I’m not sure why we do our humans.  But that’s another blog post altogether.

I remember ending the call with the doctor and just staring out the window as my biggest fear had just come to life.  Logically, I knew it was a minor type of cancer, non life-threatening.  If I was going to have any kind of cancer, this was highly curable.  My unlogical emotional and fearful side just swelled and took over, stealing away my logic for about an hour or two.  I cried, I felt doomed, I was thinking but I used sunscreen at least from my mid-twenties when skin cancer advocates preached prevention.  Would I have a huge scar on my face?  Would that matter if it’s removed.  I just wanted that cancer out of my body and knew I would not hear from the skin cancer surgeon for a few days.

Then my brain kicked in and I calmed myself down.  Stop overreacting, I told myself firmly.  You’ve got this, you know people going through way worse than you, stop being a damned pussy about it.   Grow up, get a grip and get back focused with your life. The surgery was scheduled for the end of May, almost a month away.  I am an emotional eater.  I use food to comfort me and make me feel better.  Now that my mom is gone, I gravitate more toward food.  During this month, I was not as diligent about entering what I ate in the food journal, finally just giving it up until after the surgery.  Then I just let it sit until I weighed myself last weekend and realized I had indeed gained a few pounds back.  Nothing major but obviously left to my own devices, I don’t really pay attention as closely as I believe to what I eat.

I knew the time between the call telling me I had cancer until the surgery, I was eating when I wasn’t hungry.  I’ve read all sorts of books on emotional eating, I’ve tried the listen to what you really want and eat it only those things type of instruction they give you from that book.  I’m sure that works for some people.  But me, I always think I want chocolate or something not good for me or to eat when I am bored, upset but not hungry.  The problem is, I’m so good at lying to myself and excusing what I eat, that I am not a reliable source of recollection and tracking just in my mind alone.  My mind covers up my extra portions and little treats I think, oh those calories won’t count much.  Except they do.  Every single one of those little bastards add up and total much more than the 1800 calorie limit I set for myself daily.

To know your limitations is to know thineself.  My limitation is that I have spent so many years lying to myself about what I eat because I was in this binge/purge/overeating/under eating/dieting cycle that I still carry around my old habits.   Though this May, I quietly acknowledged my emotional overeating without coming down on myself.  I just noted that it was a rough period I was going through, I was eating to comfort myself and it’s not the best for me but I’m okay.  Several years back, I would beat myself up and then eat even more because I felt worse.  It’s an odd cycle, emotional overeating.   I also said things to myself like, well at least it’s a little extra food and not crack or heroin.  You could be self-medicating with way worse substances.  So I have come a long way but I’m still not quite in the zen of ony eating when I’m hungry mindset.

So the solution?  A simple one.  Back at the food journal 24/7, full time, recording every thing I shove into my pie hole.  That’s a lovely mental image isn’t it?  It’s been working and when I go off the journal, I regain a bit because even though I would like to believe that I am acutely aware of what I eat, I still tend to use food for comfort at times or I don’t remember things I’ve eaten.  Having the calories consumed in black and white on my phone is a continual reminder to adjust my eating habits.  I was hoping by the time six months had come and gone into this food journal experiment, that I would have the knowledge and wisdom to eat without the food journal.  While I have improved, I’m not quite there yet.  I have some old, latent issues to resolve.  Which is good news because now I can pinpoint them and work on them more specifically.  It took me years to get to where I am, it won’t be overnight for me to correct them.   It’s a journey like anything else.

Since I have been back on the food journal wagon, keeping the line, I’ve lost a few of the five pounds I gained.  Two steps forward and one step back.  The important thing is to keep going forward and learning along the way.  I could easily get pissed off and discouraged so I quit but that doesn’t do me any good nor does it fix the problem.  If I give up, then I lose.  I fail myself.  I’m not doing that.  I’ve done it enough in the past.  It’s time to keep the line, keep going.  Keep using that annoying app and record every little dang thing I eat.  Mostly it’s annoying because I want to think I eat better than I really do and having that pointed out to me pisses me off.  It really isn’t the app’s fault.

Food journals work, if you use them.  Kindness to yourself works as well.  I could be ranting at myself that I am a failure for my weight gain but I am not.  I’m just getting back on the horse and back into the food journal groove.

With the manta – Keep the line, keep the line.  I’m not even sure what that means but it sure sounds good.  Ciao!

PS – The surgery went well, it was a tiny spot and I only ended up with minor scarring.  I was being a big weenie about it all because of my fear of getting cancer.

 

Clues From the Dreams of Your Youth

As most people know, we bought a new house and moved out into the boonies or BFE, whichever you prefer to refer to it (hey that rhymes a bit!).  And that I wish I had moved out of the city limits years ago but was trying to be frugal and financially responsible so I didn’t dare think outside the lines.  Financially of course, it made sense to stay in our old house, after all the mortgage, with escrow, was less than most people’s apartment rent.  Plus we had done a ton of work to the place.  But none of us was really happy there anymore.  Once we fixed what we thought was wrong with the place, well things were just still ‘wrong’.

My husband drug me out looking at homes, kicking and screaming because I wanted to say financially ‘safe’ and well, I had been entrenched in that house for 15 years.  He was right and I was wrong and hell I even admitted to him.  He may have written it down in his calendar as a major life event.  “Laura admitted I was right.”  Kidding… Sorta…

So I was sitting down with a card I bought my husband for Sweetest Day trying to think of what I wanted to write inside.  I always try to write something heartfelt and poignant for that moment in our lives so he knows I didn’t just grab random card from the shelf and throw it in the grocery cart.  I actually put love and thought into the whole action.  And I want him to know how very much I appreciate him and how truly lucky I honestly am to have him in my life.  Okay, now this is starting to sound like a greeting card.

When I thought about our move, I thought about how I had given up on my dreams that I had when I was 18/19.  When I moved to the big city of Dayton, with plans to work part time for a doctor after completing college for Medical Assisting and going back to college to obtain at least a Bachelor’s degree, maybe even go for my Ph.D.  My folly was moving with the man who would become my first husband and letting all his agendas derail my plans.  In other words, I compromised so much in that relationship just to keep someone else happy (who then repeatedly cheated on and lied to me) that I lost my dreams.

Over the years, I struggled, one bad marriage and then finally another bad married until I turned 38 and said F! This is enough of this crap.  And I changed my entire life.  Except I didn’t realize that I was too afraid to reach for my dreams.  I wanted to stay safe.  Financially safe.  Everyone experienced layoffs starting in 2009 and my current husband and I put in a plan to pay off all our debt except one vehicle payment and our mortgage.  Eventually the vehicle payment will go as well when we hopefully can just start paying cash for vehicles but that’s down the road.

We reached our initial goal and had all this money left over.  We thought whoo hoo, if something happens with one of our jobs or both of our jobs we can both work at McDonalds and pay the bills.  There is something to be said for financial freedom such as that.  It makes you feel way more secure and free.   Which was part of the reason my husband had to fight me so hard to consider going into a lot more debt on a house.   Finally we agreed that we would stay within a home price range that would allow us to meet our budget requirements on his salary.  In other words, if we couldn’t pay the bills on his take home pay, the house was too much money.

Because we had paid off so much debt, we were able to allow ourselves a handsome sum for a home or so it felt to me.  This seemed to be a reasonable compromise even though the credit union said we were approved for a mortgage double with what we ended up with.  There weren’t even very many homes for sale in that upper crust price range anyway.  Not that weren’t over 6000 sq ft and so elaborate that it made my head spin.  I’m still a simple girl and a lot of homes in that price seemed to have a lot of “look at me” features more to keep up with the Khardashians than to make your life more simple or enjoyable.  I don’t need a theatre room but I may consider the heated towel racks for my current house…

So when I was writing my message to my husband in my card, I told him thank you for making my dream come true because I was too afraid to do it.  When I wrote those words, I surprised myself because I had not really considered the fact I had been afraid.  Some of it was the financial jump but we can still pay the bills on his salary easy enough so it wasn’t really the money.  I had to face the fact that I had long ago given up on my dream of a beautiful colonial home out in the country.  I had convinced myself I no longer wanted the bigger house, telling myself it was frivolous and silly and not smart financially.  I was being smart staying put in the smaller house in town with the little mortgage and neighbors looking in my windows (well not literally, it just felt closed in).

That morning I had learned a childhood friend is facing a serious and most likely terminal illness.  We are the same age, graduated the same class.  I sat with the pen still in my hand and thought about how we never know how long we really have.  When you’re young, you think nothing can hurt you, or nothing bad can happen.  Then you get mid-life and you’re losing people you love, watching people your age die.  Death isn’t that myth anymore, it is the stark reality.  You don’t know how long you have or the people you love have on this earth.

Cancer takes so many of us every day.  It’s an epidemic, not to mention all the other tragic things that can happen.  That fairy-tale bubble seems to burst for many of us when we hit a certain age.  You wonder things like how did my grandparents handle all their friends and family dying?  Do you finally just get used to it and accept it as a fact of life?  Just embrace each day and be grateful for your blessings?  I don’t know, my grandparents have been gone for years so I can’t ask them.

As I sit here on my bed, the sun has risen and I have watched the light move across the west wall of my bedroom.  It is utterly quiet and peaceful at this moment.  Just the sound of the dryer in the other room.  I can see for miles from my second-story bedroom windows over rolling fields, woods and a quarry.  My dream actually materialized better than I had first imagined all those years ago.  The question that came to mind yesterday I wrote in the card was what other dreams have I completely repressed and pushed away?  I’m going to search this out and see if there is something else I am missing in my life that I haven’t given myself permission to pursue.

Maybe the dreams of our youth don’t really die but just sit and wait until we remember we had them.  After all, back then we were more likely to follow our hearts than make excuses why we can’t make them happen.   We were allowed to dream back then.  When you grow up, you’re expected to be responsible and make practical choices but not all dreams are “practical” or even seem “wise” or even “grow-up”.   I intend to revisit my youthful dreams.  Dig them back up and really examine them.

But this time I am going to listen to my heart rather than my head…  Happy Dreaming!

Solitude and the Outdoors, a Girl’s BFFs

Being outdoors is like a drug for me. I’m not sure why but the Japanese have done studies to prove that spending quiet, meditative time outdoors in the woods can ease stress and depression. I have to concede with these studies because the other day, I was feeling pretty down, the weather here in Ohio is not really conducive to keeping your mood elevated with it’s cold and dreary days. On a whim, I decided to drive to this park which is closed off to auto traffic November thru April and you can walk many of the winding roads without fear of getting hit.

I parked in my usual spot and realized I had forgotten the outer layer of my coat, leaving me only the fleece inner shell. I found my gloves and a scarf, so I made due. I figured once I started walking, I would warm up anyway. Out of habit, I stuck my headphones into my phone and took that as well. Except as I started walking, I heard the birds singing, the ones who are too crazy not to migrate somewhere warmer, and I could hear the creek’s waters rushing through the melting ice. The air smelled clean and sweet. I tucked my headphones into my inside coat pocket and left the music off. This wasn’t the gym, I wasn’t here to ‘workout’, I was going to enjoy my walk. Sometimes I get too focused on fitness to just relax and enjoy what I’m doing.

I walked past the picnic shelter where we had the last picnic with my mom before she got too sick to get out of the house. My oldest was going back to college and while my mom wasn’t feeling the best, we managed an impromptu outing. I walked by the spot down from the red covered bridge where most years, the kids and I threw down blankets so they could wade the creek and catch crawdads. In the end, they would count their haul, maybe watch a few of them ‘race’ and then the rule was to set them all free again in the creek. We’d all been so busy this last summer, we never had our crawdad catchin’ day. Though I think this past year none of us felt like going to the park.

I stopped on the covered bridge and watched the creek break through the ice that had started to melt. The bridge also acted as a windbreak which gave me a moment to pause in relative warmth. I’ve been dreading my husband’s upcoming weeks away for training for his new position at his company. Four weeks over four months. The last time he had a series of training weeks like this, my mom was still alive and I spent a lot of time with her while he was gone. Now I wouldn’t have her here. I was feeling anxious and alone though really I’m not alone. Then I thought maybe it is the fact I no longer have her to lean on. It’s an odd thing when it really hits you that you no longer have parents or grandparents. No matter how hold you are, which I’m mid-40’s, you realize how much of a support system your parent(s) was to you. Well at least for me, I can’t speak for anyone else.

There was no one in the park which allowed me to think and I made a mental list of all the other people in my life who are my support system. I’m not alone, I thought, things have just changed. Then it dawned on me, that I’m far from helpless. Actually when crisis arises, I’m usually the first one to jump in and take action unless my husband beats me to it. It is simply just in how you look at things, your perception. By shifting my thoughts from wow, my mom isn’t here, I am going to feel very alone when my husband is out of town to hey, I can rely on myself and I’ll be just fine, I have a lot of support. Once I got that thought into my head, I felt much more at peace with the upcoming months’ challenges.

I won’t enjoy being apart from my husband but I can make the best of that time. Focusing on my writing for one. I’m bad about starting to write and then getting distracted by a million things. One of which is constantly looking at email, Facebook and the like. I’ve realized my phone has become almost another appendage to my body. I almost never am away from it. It’s always within reach. When it’s not, I feel phantom pains and go looking for it. Rarely is there anything in there that is so important that I need to know RIGHT NOW. Most of it could wait an hour or even forever. I thought back at times in my life when I was way more focused and productive. Back in the days of the desktop computer so big that you had to have your own room for it. You couldn’t tote it around so you checked your email once or twice a day.

Now I rarely even open my laptop, doing almost everything from my phone or my tablet. It makes me wonder how much more I could do with my life if I cut out the distractions. How much more focused on what is actually going around me than having my face stuck into a screen? LIfe before smartphones and tablets. I faintly remember it like a flashback in a movie. I wasn’t like one of Pavlov’s dogs, drooling at every chime or alert to see what had just shown up in my proverbial bowl. So I’m going to start putting the phone down. Turning the wifi off on my tablet when I write, things such as that to see if I actually am more productive and maybe a bit more engaged. It’s too easy to lose yourself in an electronic world. Even my kids bitch at me that I’m not listening to them. “Gawd, Mom, it’s bad when your kid is complaining that you are on your phone too much and not the other way around.” It’s such a habit I don’t even realize I’m doing it. And maybe it’s time I disconnect more.

Disconnect and get outside, I think it’s a prescription for a more content life. Time will tell me soon, I’m sure.