Sunday, December 21, 2014
I had such a bittersweet day yesterday. In one way, it was a GREAT day. I didn't do much, other than some holiday baking. it is all stored in my dining room (out of sight--out of mind, at least that's my plan), and awaiting Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations. Afterwards, it all goes home with my kids, so leftovers will not be around to tempt me. Right now, I am trying to ignore their tantalizing call to me.
Even as I bustled around my kitchen, making one unhealthy treat after another, and taking samples into Du for him to try, I realized a day like that will not always be my reality. I love Christmas. I think I've mentioned that a time or two before. I mostly love the spirit of the season--the deep-inside warm, joyful feeling of Christmas. I love LOVE love the decorations, the music, the presents (but not the shopping nor the money spending), and yes, the food. I have made a deal with myself that I won't eat any of my goodies before Christmas Eve. I will try to be mindful of how much I eat on both holidays, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and then get right back on track the day after Christmas. There's no sense in going hog-wild all week before starting over on Jan. 2. I never start a diet on Jan. 1 anyway--that's my birthday!!! But last year the over-eating I started during the holiday season didn't really let up until June, at which point I had over 30 pounds to lose to get back to my "happy weight," and over 20 pounds to just get back to that 160-lb. goal weight I had set for myself back on 2011. I made it (below 160 anyway--still working on that elusive 150-lb. mark), and even joined another DietBet which ends on Christmas Eve. That has really helped me stay on track during these difficult times.
Thursday night at bowling was "goodie night," since it was the last week before the holiday break. As I watched Duane bowl, there were tables of sweet treats surrounding me. It was Hell. I won't lie. I'm a food addict and I wanted nothing more than to stroll up to those tables and load a plate with high-caloried treats and just binge away. Instead I popped a piece of sugarless gum in my mouth immediately and chewed like mad! It didn't squelch the desires though. I even considered getting a sack and taking one table of goodies that was leftover from the prior League, home with me. How sad is that? What would I do with them at home? I told myself I would just save them for our holiday celebrations, but I know I would have just eaten them. When I walked out of there at 9:00, I was victorious. Not only did Du shot 650 and raise his average to 190 (not bad for an old guy with cancer in both hips), but he and my sons (who comprise their team) beat the second place team 3 out of 4 games and gained a couple games on their first place position, but I did NOT eat one thing from any of those goodie tables. I watched other people who were actually seated at those tables, and they completely ignored the food that was tantalizingly sitting in front of them. They are incredible. No, they are just not food addicts like me. Everyone has a problem, I've decided, whether you can see it or not. With us food addicts, it is usually quite visible, because we are obese. Other problems are hidden, but just as real.
So yesterday, as I cooked and hugged and kissed my Du every time I gave him a sweet treat to sample (he doesn't get this stuff very often, because I simply don't make these things anymore), I prayed that this wouldn't be the last Christmas that things would be this "normal." More than anything, I wish and hope for his continued healthy fight against this awful disease. I know it can't last forever, but that's what I hope for. Like he said to me the other day, "It's weird, if you didn't know I had cancer, there would be no clue that I am sick." He has some adverse side-affects from his treatment, severe cold after eating being a major one, he physically aches from being so cold, usually immediately after our evening meal. he heads into his chair and covers up with all the blankets in the room and just moans in agony. He also has "tremors" that crawl up and down his legs, his primary care doctor told him, it was like growing pains, a side effect of the shots he gets to strengthen his bones. But other than that, he is pretty much pain free and works like a dog both at work and around the house.
It was a lovely Saturday, just a stay-at-home kind of day, although we did go out for lunch. We watched some holiday movies, "Love Actually," which is one of our favorites, and some football and volleyball and just enjoyed the holiday spirit we both feel and more than anything, enjoyed being together. The bittersweet part of the day came from not knowing how many more days like that we will have. I cried a lot yesterday, from the joy of the day and from the knowledge that days like that are not limitless. Tears are always close at hand, sometimes I feel like a few tears are cathartic. I cry and then I feel a little better. I want life as it is today to go on forever and I know that is not to be. The time before Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. These next few days are so precious, as everyone gets into the holiday spirit, and becomes nicer, friendlier, and shares the joy they feel from the season.
I saw a photographic essay someone shared on Facebook the other day. Here's the somewhat different You Tube version, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3n6sRvXQIu
It is the story of a young couple, just after they married her cancer was diagnosed, and since he was a photographer, he documented her journey through pictures. It showed her first as a healthy young bride, then fighting the cancer, losing her hair, then participating in some kind of swimming competition, and then her last battle, as she lay in her bed, bald and thin, and finally her tombstone, which read, "I loved it all!" The short story explained that every night as this lovely young couple lay in bed before falling asleep, they would ask each other what was their favorite part of the day. Sometimes it would be something simple, she would answer, "When you walked past me and ran your fingers through my hair." That very last night of her life, when he asked her the question, her answer was, "I loved it all." So very sad and so very true. Life is so very precious and so very good. I want that on my tombstone someday too. I LOVED IT ALL!!!
Friday, December 19, 2014
As silly as it is, when every one of my boys moved out (and the oldest two sons moved out a couple times before it was a "final" move), I felt some sadness. And they were all in their late 20's before that final move. I had nothing to feel sad about, and yet change is always hard.
Chris, my youngest, attempted a move to a College Frat House on campus when he started college in 2004. It was only a few miles from our house, but he only spent one night there, then the next night night he returned home, and never went back to the Frat. He has just always been happiest here at home. He has a great set up, a basement that he took over when his older brother moved out clear back in 1997. When older brother moved back (it was one of those temporary moves) he had to live in one of the upstairs bedrooms that were vacant because Chris was not giving up "his" basement. He has a bedroom, a huge family room, and a private bath downstairs. We put in new carpet about nine years ago and bought some leather furniture, as well as a new bed and mattress set around the same time. The laundry room is downstairs, and for many years Chris took over laundry duty because it was so difficult for me to maneuver the stairs when I was morbidly obese. But after my weight loss, I started doing Du's and my laundry, for the most part. It's kind of a tag-team effort now, when I take my wash downstairs, if there is wash of his to be done, or perhaps still in the washer or dryer, I finish it off for him. Sometimes when I bring my laundry basket downstairs, Chris will haul it on down and finish it before I have a chance to even get downstairs. Neither of us does ALL the laundry, and it works out fine. After raising three boys and working full-time and having a humongous pile of laundry to do every weekend that was sometimes overwhelming, a small basket of Du's and my dirty clothes which I usually do about twice a week, takes no time at all. In fact, I kind of enjoy it!
But now, after over 42 years of having at least one son living with Du & I, we are about to become empty nesters. We've only been married 44 years, so for most of that time we've had kids around the house, or I should say at this point, adults living at home with us. Chris has acted like an adult for years, long before he even turned 18. He is neater than his older brothers were (or even me) and likes to keep the house tidy when he is around. He helps me prepare meals and clean up afterwards (when he is home), he runs and empties the dishwasher, he helps me clean cupboards, pantries and the refrigerator. He also helps his dad out with the lawn, mowing, trimming bushes, and cutting down and burning all the trees that have died around our acreage. We like having him around, and so it is difficult to tell him "Good Bye." But he has bought a house, which he is set to close on in mid-January. Chris will be 29 in February, and he recently met a girl, which I'm sure instigated this purchase.
Chris has been working for the Railroad for the last three and a half years, and has put away a lot of money. He has looked periodically during this time at possible houses to purchase, but always with the idea that he would rent them out, it would be an investment, and he would continue to live with us. But now, his life has changed. He spends almost all his time with Ashley when he's not working, we don't see him much, and he is ready to make this big move in his life. It is time. I realize that in my head, but in my heart I will miss him so much. I have always been torn, especially so since Du was diagnosed with cancer almost two years ago, about Chris finding a new girlfriend. He dated a girl for over three years back in the mid 2000's, and when she broke up with him, he was completely heartbroken. He thought he would never find another girl to take her place, and it did take a while, but Ashley might be the real thing--who knows? It's been just a short time that they've been dating, but it's quickly turning serious. And I know that is a good thing. This young man deserves happiness in his life and I know he hasn't truly been happy since breaking up with the first love of his life. Still I know Du & I will both miss having Chris around. I want Chris to be happy, and yet I will miss him. He has agreed to leave Juno, his Bulldog, with his dad & I, Thank God! We love our Bully and would be devastated to lose both Chris and Juno!! She is Chris's dog, he paid for her and she is devoted to him. But he is gone for days at a time for his job, so she really needs to stay with us. I am home all day with her and we have grown quite attached, even though Juno's real love is Chris. I told him he would need to come visit her often. He will only be a few miles away, it's not like he's moving across the country. And yet, he is moving out of my home, and this affirms the fact that he is all grown up. Whether I like it or not, change is happening.
And this is a major change. Neither Duane nor I deal well with change. We like the status quo, and yet Chris's moving out clears the way for us to sell our acreage and find a smaller place to live, one that will not require so much caretaking, as Du won't be capable of so much work forever. Downsizing is scary, we have so much stuff. We had so much stuff that Du had a large shed built a few yeas ago for more storage space. Moving to a smaller place will require much culling, organization and perhaps even a sale/auction. The thought of all this scares us both to death, but I'm afraid it's time to deal with this. Change is in the air. It's not easy, but together, we can do it. That's what I told Duane at least. But always the thought in the back of my head is, "But how will I deal with these changes when I am all alone?" How indeed???
Sunday, December 14, 2014
Five Years Ago Today….I sat in my car in the doctor’s parking lot, sobbing at my steering wheel, not sure what to do next. He had just told me that my EKG seemed to show I’d already had a heart attack. I was 58 years old, over 300 pounds, and completely out of shape. The reason I went to the doctor that day was because any movement at all got my heart racing. I would walk 10 steps to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and upon returning to the recliner where I slept most of the night, my heart would be racing. I knew that wasn’t a good sign. I had gotten to the point where I tried to avoid walking at all. Even going out to eat (a favorite activity of mine), had to be limited to places where parking lots allowed you to park right outside the door. Any other activities that I had enjoyed in the past, had become prohibitive because my mobility was so limited.
Subsequent cardiac tests showed that I had NOT had a heart attack (YET!) and no damage had been done (YET!) I knew, however, it was just a matter of time. My maternal grandmother had a stroke at the young age of 62, and died. My sweet Mom who had changed her lifestyle, quitting smoking and losing weight, and began an exercise program late in life, died at the age of 65 of a sudden heart attack. I was less than a month away from turning 59, little more than a year from 60 and I had compromised my health seriously by over-eating. Constant over-eating coupled with very little movement does not lead to a good result. My life revolved around food. I never allowed myself to get hungry, because I was constantly stuffing some snack in my mouth. I realize now I wasn’t even really enjoying food all that much, because I never allowed myself to have an appetite. I was always satiated and stuffed. I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I experienced that “stuffed” feeling. And I don’t miss it a bit.
That day, in my car, I resolved that I was never going to go through this again, this feeling of complete humiliation, because all of my health problems were a direct result of my lack of self-control when it came to eating. I had only myself to blame. And that felt awful. I hated going to the doctor, where I begged the nurse NOT to weigh me. Sometimes she would skip the scale but usually she made me stop and stand on that mean, unforgiving machine that seemed to be the measure of how out of control my life was. The last time I had been to see the doctor was in July of 2009. A year or so later (well into my weight loss), I had my doctor check his records to see how much I weighed that day….328 pounds. I believe that was my all-time high weight. I didn’t own a scale, besides few scales go past 300 pounds anyway, and I sure had no interest in knowing how much I actually weighed. By the time I made my way back to his office in December of 2009 to get my racing heart symptom checked, I had dropped to 305 pounds, a result of giving up sugared soda after the summer appointment. I drank a lot of Pepsi! I had made no other changes in my eating or lifestyle, so it was just that POP that led to my initial 23-pound loss.
But on Dec. 14, 2009, I changed completely. I started slowly, but I ended up making choices that would lead to a total weight loss of 178 pounds! Five years later, I am a result of that change. My heart no longer races after minimal activity, in fact I can walk for miles. My blood pressure is normal without any meds (I used to be on five scrips, none of which controlled my BP very well), my blood sugar no longer is in the “danger” pre-diabetic area, and I can still walk. As badly as my knees hurt today even at 150 lbs., I often wonder if I would still be able to walk at all if I had not lost weight. I still need knee replacement surgery, but now that I am at a normal weight, it can wait a few years. I have heard from others who sought similar surgery, doctors are not willing to perform elective surgery like that on morbidly obese patients anyway, so I probably would be in a wheelchair if I was still over 300 pounds.
I am no longer digging my own grave with my spoon (as my father so elegantly described an aunt of his who had died many years ago). Dad was never critical of my weight, even though he himself had gotten healthy after he retired at the age of 60. He knew, as I do, there is nothing another person can say or do to motivate someone else to change their lifestyle, to lose weight, to get healthy, other than to lead by example. Everyone has to come to that decision on their own. But sometimes a health scare will lead us in that direction, as it did for me.
My world has changed. I go places and do things that I had completely shut myself off from for so many years. I attend concerts, shows, games, and participate fully in my grandchildren’s lives. We went to an amusement park with them two summers in a row, and I was able to walk all day and ride every ride with them. I can babysit for them, and although it exhausts me, we all have fun and the next time I am asked, I am ready to do it again. Sometimes I even volunteer to have the kids spend the night. I host holiday dinners, doing most of the preparing, cleaning and cooking, as well as the clean-up. I substitute teach. I enjoy life. I have regained my self-confidence and no longer am self-loathing. I enjoy shopping at all the malls, buying pretty new clothes. My joyfulness at being a normal weight is ever present. That is because I will never forget where I have come from. I will never forgot those 30 plus years of morbid obesity, where I hated myself and was embarrassed by what I had allowed myself to become. Even today, more than three years since I hit my goal weight, when I pass a mirror I enjoy seeing my reflection. I never looked in a mirror before. I hated what I saw. I like myself now. I am proud of what I did and I think that shows more than in just my changed body. My spirit and personality are different now too.
I was 60 years old when I hit my goal weight back in April of 2011. I am here to tell you, it’s never too late to change your life. I am living finally! Really living! Yes, it’s hard work, as evidenced by my 32-pound regain earlier this year. But I reversed that trend, lost the weight and am happily back in the 150’s, below my 160-pound goal weight, and it’s where I intend to stay. I won’t tell you it doesn’t require constant vigilance and effort. You have to stay determined, but just do it a day at a time. You can do anything for ONE day! And I have been practicing this new lifestyle for 1,826 days now and I have no intention of ever giving up!
Friday, December 12, 2014
Wednesday, my friend Ann, who lost her husband in February of 2013 (the week Duane got his Stage 4 Cancer diagnosis--so his death really hit us hard), from lung cancer, messaged me on Facebook, asking if I waned to go to lunch Thursday. "Sure!" I quickly responded.
We met at 11:30 at HuHot, a Mongolian Buffet/Grill. I was thrilled to see they had little business cards on the table with different food and sauce combinations, and there were about eight different cards that had recipes that were 400 calories or less. I had done some research on Mongolian Grill-type restaurants in the past and knew if you don't get too many noodles, concentrate on the veggies, and avoid the OILy sauces, you can do okay. So that is what I've always done, although I haven't been there in a very long time. I managed just fine eating-wise yesterday, and Ann and I had a nice talk.
The first thing she told me when we sat down was that it was Darrell's (her late husband's) birthday. She said, "I'm using you to help me get through this day." I grabbed her hand and apologized, I didn't even realize it was his birthday yesterday. I know she is still hurting badly, and I don't know that it's getting any better. I have read so much on grieving and how everybody grieves in their own way, no one can tell you how to grieve or how long to grieve. Whatever you experience and go through is okay, and you don't have to apologize to anyone. I just try to be there for her. But it turns out, she is also there for me!
What a good friend! She listened to me and I listened to her and we cried and commiserated about loving our husbands and talked about how hard it is to lose them. It's like they are part of you. You can't imagine life without them, and she is living that reality. A hundred times a day I think of doing something with Duane, and realize how much Ann wishes she could still be with her Darrell. When I don't want to get out of bed with Duane in the morning before he goes to work, I think about how much Ann wishes she could see Darrell off to work every day. That gets me going! Ann guides me, whether she knows it or not. I know I will use her as a sounding board and a resource to guide me on the path of widowhood when I am facing that reality.
It also scared me a little to hear how much she is still hurting, 22 months after he passed away. She didn't get much time to get used to the idea of losing Darrell. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer in late October and four months later he was gone. Even then, it was a shock, because he had the tumor removed after chemo and radiation, and the cancer was gone, at least temporarily. They thought they had bought some more time. But he was so weakened from the treatment, he never recovered after the surgery. And if you think this was a guy who abused his health, let me tell you, yes, he smoked. But he had quit smoking over 35 years earlier when Ann was pregnant with their daughter. He wasn't heavy, he bowled regularly and took good care of himself. He was also a wonderful guy. I remember at one of their kid's wedding dances years ago, I of course weighed over 300 pounds. I was never asked to dance by anyone other than Du, and believe me, we didn't dance much. But Darrell didn't care about my weight and he asked me to dance. That's the kind of guy he was. He didn't judge people by their outside appearances, and I will always remember that about him.
Ann told me she had already been to Darrell's gravesite twice yesterday before we met for lunch at 11:30. TWICE! She is obviously still in great pain and that scares me. She told me she visits him there often, he is buried very close to where she lives. To think that 22 months later I'm still going to be hurting so much, but I know I will be. And probably for much longer than that. How do you ever get used to losing your other half? I have read much on grieving, and something that stuck with me is this, "You might 'get over it,' but you are never again the same." Ann's kids are good to her, but she still is alone a great deal. She continues to work three days a week just to fill her hours. I don't want my life to become just something where I'm trying to make the time pass. I want to be happy. She told me she is not UNhappy, but she isn't happy either.
I emailed my oldest son yesterday about a variety of things, including our family plans for Christmas this year. I talked to him about how important Christmas Eve is to me. Since I was a child, it's just been a magical day to me. I know it's not really the holiday, but I asked my son to make sure that I am never alone on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I know you shouldn't have to ask, but with boys you never know how thoughtful they will be about their old lonely mother.
Ann was planning on meeting several of her children and their spouses last night at her and Darrell's favorite Mexican restaurant, where they were going to have a Margarita and toast dear Darrell and wish him Happy Birthday. Let me add my wishes to theirs, Darrell. Happy Birthday in Heaven Old Friend!
Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Sunday night I hosted my brother and his extended family, as well as my own family, for a holiday dinner. It was a full house, there was 18 of us. It's amazing to think about how it all started with just my brother and I! It is a tradition my niece started five years ago. We took turns hosting it for the first four years, then last year, we just stopped. Nobody stepped up to offer to host the dinner, and I was disappointed. So even though it wasn't really my turn, I decided since I had gotten the house all decorated for Christmas early this year and was done with that MESS, I could host the dinner.
I spent last week trying to do some deep cleaning, making lists, shopping at the grocery store, and thawing ham and turkey, while Du spent too much time outside decorating. I hate to see him climbing ladders, and up on roofs, as a fall would be awful anytime, but with the cancer in his bones, it would be a real disaster for him. But he was careful and the house looks beautiful. Five-year-old granddaughter Amber proclaimed as she drove up in the car with her family and saw all the outside Christmas lights and decorations, "This house is spectacular!"
Others brought dessert: a pudding cake, homemade cookies and an apple pie. (I had requested they bring dessert, so I wouldn't have to deal with those leftovers.) I had one cookie, and a small piece of cake and half a slice of pie. None of it was that great and later I thought to myself, "Why did I waste calories on dessert?" I guess I've lost my taste for that kind of thing. I did have small portions of two sweet fruit salads and some sweet potatoes, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
My brother is about three years older than I am, has two grown daughters and one adored granddaughter, who will turn 6 next week. Brother had some problems with alcohol in his youth, but stopped drinking entirely almost 30 years ago. He smoked, but quit that at least 25 years ago. His weight fluctuated over the years, and after quitting his other vices, he got heavier than he wanted to be (never as heavy as I was), and changed his lifestyle over 20 years ago. He eats right, works out, rides a bike long distances and walks his beloved Gordy every single day. A few months ago I was checking out at the local grocery store and a little old man behind me said, "Well Hello Pam!" It was my brother. I didn't even recognize him for a minute. He really is a little guy, never very tall but also quite thin, which to me is a compliment. I tell my brother's history to point out that even though he wasn't always perfect in his lifestyle choices, he figured it out, and is self-disciplined enough to stick to his choices every single day of his life. As all weight-loss maintainers know, sticking by those good choices over the long run is the real challenge.
A few pictures of my decorated house and the festivities.
It was a lovely evening with family. I know my parents would appreciate my brother and I and our families celebrating Christmas together with a nice dinner every year. I only have one sibling, and my brother lives fairly close to me. But I seldom see him during the year. I have no excuse for that, we were just never very close, but I'm glad we see each other at Christmastime. And if Du was up for it in years to come, I would be glad to host this family dinner every year. If Du felt good enough, I would do just about anything. Now I'm trying to make bargains with higher powers. There isn't much I wouldn't do or give up if it would mean Du could keep feeling okay. It scares me to see it slipping away. I spent yesterday calling and contacting Du's doctors, trying to find out how to proceed as his PSA levels continue to rise. At CTCA (Cancer Centers of America), they took care of him, they had a plan. Now we are on our own, trying to navigate these strange and scary waters and sometimes I feel like we don't even have a paddle. His Oncologist is not aggressive and always wants to wait. He doesn't want to see Duane any oftener than every six months, which when you have terminal cancer doesn't seem like it's very observant care. We are the ones who noticed this latest PSA showed a continued upward trend, and had to suggest to both his Urologist and Oncologist that perhaps it was time to consider adding some other drugs. It's scary to think that we are the ones making these decisions, or at least having to push for the doctors to consider these choices. What do we know? There's no Dr. Welby's out there anymore, that's for sure. I'm waiting for a return call today from the Oncologist's office, after his nurse consults with him about the possible addition of these new terribly expensive drugs. Wish us luck!
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