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.