Thursday, May 30, 2013

Black and white is actually a good thing sometimes

I've been gluten free for five days now and I'm pretty amazed at how I've been doing.  First of all, I got rid of all my food that is not GF.  It reminded me of when I first started Optifast and I gave all of my food away.  At that time, it was getting rid of all food products that were not shakes.  With this, there are clear guidelines, too.  There are certain foods that, if I do have an intolerance to gluten, I should not have.  Why?  Well, putting it politely, they make me absolutely sick to my stomach.  So there's a medical reason behind all of this, not just another fad diet to follow.  In that respect, it is an awful lot like Optifast because there are clear black and white boundaries that I have to adhere to if I don't want to continue feeling sick.  When I was doing the shakes, it was actually pretty easy for me - you either drink them and remain compliant or you don't.  That really spoke to my perfectionist nature.  The difference here, though, is that if I eat something with gluten in it, I have medical consequences.

This problem has actually been going on for quite some time, even when I was losing weight on Optifast.  I didn't say a thing to anyone about the true nature of what was going on because I was losing so much freaking weight so fast.  Losing 45 pounds that first month was hard to fight.  If I sit here and think about it, this problem has been going on for years but I somehow thought I was the cause of all of it by not eating great.  The line in the sand was my graduation party.  I ate a lumpia, a slice of cake, as well as other thing that day and I felt absolutely sick to my stomach as a result.  So, in these last few days, I have cut all gluten out.  It has not been easy, but there are actually a lot of foods and restaurants out there that cater to the GF world.  Things are very expensive, there's no doubt about it, but look at the kind of money I spent on Optifast!  This is nothing in comparison.  Here are some things I no longer eat to stay GF:

  • Cooking spray 
  • Flour with wheat, barley or rye in any format
  • Anything that is breaded, has flour on it, served in a sauce that has gluten in it (which is a common preservative)
  • Marinades, such as soy sauce or teriyaki sauce
  • Wheat products
  • Any baked goods unless I'm absolutely sure they are made GF
  • Cereal
  • Chips, unless they are made from corn
  • Tortillas
  • Crackers
  • Fast food
  • Ice cream
  • Imitation seafood
  • Oats, unless made GF
  • Pasta, unless GF
  • Processed food, like luncheon meat
  • Most soups
  • Vegetables that have sauces
  • Yogurt (which I found out the hard way)
Yeah, okay, that's a pretty big list when you start thinking about it.  Think about the last time you were in a restaurant.  How many foods on the menu weren't breaded, covered in sauce or cooked in a questionable way?  Just the smallest amount of wheat is enough to make someone who has a gluten intolerance or Celiac disease sick to their stomach.  One little piece of wheat toast will do me in.  There's this oh-so-yummy wheat bread that Costco sells that I completely love, but it hurts me every time I have eaten it.

Given all of that, there are many foods that are perfectly safe to eat.  More and more restaurants are offering GF options or serve only GF items.  I have found that my meals are incredibly healthy, yet satisfying.  And I've had the GF version of foods that I can no longer eat, like the pancakes I made the other day.  They don't taste exactly the same, but I usually don't care about things like that.  They taste good and that's what I look for.  The other day, some moms brought in breakfast goodies to the high school where I work as a thank you for the work we do.  They really set up a huge spread, most of which I could not eat.  One of my friends at work, who also is GF, helped me pick out foods that I could have that would not make me feel sick.  So I had a lovely breakfast and was happy that I wouldn't feel sick later.

Since making the switch, I have not been feeling the same sickness in my stomach that I did before, except when I had a certain brand of yogurt.  I have an app on my phone that tells me if something is GF by scanning the bar code.  I looked up just general yogurt and it said it was safe.  I should have looked up that specific product because I felt incredibly sick and it has taken a full day to recover from it.  All for about 5 bites of yogurt.  So, as amazing as some of the food looks, I know I have medical consequences to eating them and incredible freedom but not eating them.  Who knows, maybe being GF is really a blessing in disguise for me.  I would love that.  For now, I am incredibly grateful to have a tummy that is not upset at me.

Monday, May 27, 2013

I didn't realize how much I was hiding

Things have been going great with cutting out gluten from my diet.  Actually, it feels sort of weird because some of the issues that have been absolutely plaguing me for months, maybe even longer, are gone.  If the medical tests determine I don't have Celiac disease, which would be hard for me to accept given how well my body is reacting to the change, I will still continue eating this way.  I was feeling so good today that I was actually dancing as I was making my dinner.  Chopping onions and shakin my booty!

One of the other changes I made recently is that, at my annual eye exam, I decided to not get new glasses
and opted for contacts instead.  When I was a teen, I tried contacts but I just could not get them into my eyes for the life of me.  I guess something coming up into my eye makes me want to blink it away.  Besides, weren't we told as kids to be careful or we'd poke our eye out? 

I told the doctor that I might be a challenging patient.  He suggested I give it a try and then if it doesn't work for me, I certainly can go back to glasses.  I work on computers all day long (in fact I have two computer screens at my desk that I look at simultaneously) as well as needing vision correction for distance and for things up-close.  Given that I already have bifocals, the doctor said I could have multifocal lenses.  My vision did change from last year, so I'd have to have a different prescription anyway, and so I was pretty sold.  Besides, I've secretly wanted to get rid of glasses for years.  I can't tell you how annoying it is to always have them on my face.  Even when I work out, if I want to watch whatever show is on any of the screens at the gym, I have to wear my glasses.  Given that sweating happens with working out, I have always detested wearing the glasses while exercising.  The cost of glasses is crazy, especially when I have one pair for indoor use and prescription shades.

After my exam was over, I was taken into a room to be trained.  The person helping me reminded me that I need to be as patient as possible.  That was the best piece of advice ever because I kept putting too much pressure when inserting the lenses or having them fall onto my cheek.  I thought I was in that room for an eternity, but they told me I did really well.  It still took me 15 minutes to put them in this morning, but nowhere near what it used to take me when I was younger.  It'll probably be quicker in time.  And, oh my gosh, the prescription is definitely stronger.  It's hard to describe, but at times I feel like I'm walking on air because of different focal levels. 

Surprisingly, a lot of feelings have been coming up around no longer having eyeglasses on my face.  I never realized this but I used them as a way of hiding and keeping myself distant from other people.  I also really saw that I didn't recognize my weight gain as being as significant as it was because I always felt the glasses hid some of that.  Of course they didn't, but that's what I thought in my head.  All of those feelings I have had over the years of not being pretty (my perception) or the flaws I see in my skin seemed to be pronounced without my glasses.  I look in the mirror and  see the skin around my eyes, wondering if there are wrinkles that the glasses used to hide.  Actually, I don't have wrinkles around my eyes.  I can thank both of my parents for their good genes.  My mother is 63 and she doesn't have wrinkles on her face either.  Yet, without the glasses, I almost feel naked in a sense.  It's the whole idea of being comfortable in one's own skin, which obviously I have a lot of work to do in that regard.  This is a very good thing for me, though.  Those glasses don't define me ... they're just glasses!  I have to be able to look at myself in the mirror and not look away in mortification.

That's pretty harsh, isn't it?  For right now, that's how I feel about myself.  The weight gain has broken my heart and I desperately want to turn things around.  I see my friends, whether in person or online, who have lost their weight at the same time I was working on that in Optifast and it just absolutely kills me to see them looking so good and me not.  Don't get me wrong, I'm so thrilled for them.  I know several of you read my blog so I'm not directing this at one person in particular.  It's really more of a collective whole.  Even among those friends, some treat me differently, almost as if my weight gain is going to rub off on them somehow.  That's not true for everyone, not at all.  There are others that love me just as much now as they did when I was at my smallest and have really been super encouraging. 

The thing I really need to look at is why I am having such a hard time loving myself.  When I had my commencement ceremony last weekend, I was incredibly proud of this huge accomplishment in my life.  At the same time, I was very uncomfortable in my seat, I was wondering if it would collapse under my weight and I really felt like I looked awful.  Part of me didn't want to walk in the commencement because I knew pictures would be taken and I would appear on that gigantor jumbotron.  I focused on those petty, selfish things more than what I was actually there to do, as well as the many friends and family members who were cheering me on.  This is all a part of my process, though.  Losing weight is not just about the physical, but there's a huge emotional component that deserves respect if I don't want to always be battling my weight.  And that's something I don't want to do.  I would much prefer to be healthy and happy.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

First foray in being gluten-free

I woke up with such a healthy attitude this morning about the whole Celiac disease, gluten-free life that I am embarking on.  I don't have all of the test results back from the doctor's office yet, so I don't even know if I'm officially going down that road.  Even if I'm not, anything to feel better is something I'm willing to try.  I've just been suffering too long from intestinal issues, which I really could have sought medical advice for sooner but I stubbornly did not.  I was losing so much weight so fast on Optifast that I couldn't pull back from that trajectory that I was on.  Anyway, I did some shopping and realized how much of a challenge it is to eat this way.  It's not impossible, but it's going to require much more diligence on my part.  I decided to have a great breakfast to start out my day.

Yesterday, as I was strolling up and down the isles at Target in the bread section, I spotted a package for making gluten-free pancakes.  Yum!  I had heard some of the gluten-free foods don't taste that great, but we must remember that I spent ten solid months of being on the Optifast shakes.  I was able to make them taste pretty good, so how bad could these be?  Besides, I'm adventurous enough to at least give it a try.  If I hate the pancakes, then I can say I at least tried them and move on.  It's been a little hard to distinguish which foods are truly gluten-free and which ones still continue to be products I shouldn't be consuming.  I found an app on my iPhone where I can scan the bar code of a food or do a search and it will tell me if it's safe for me to eat.  If it's not, it gives me alternatives.  So my plan was to have a couple of gluten-free pancakes and half cup of strawberries.  So I pulled out my griddle, grabbed a huge bowl and got to whipping up my breakfast.  I definitely could tell the difference in the consistency of the mix.  I was reading the label for the pancake mix before I got started and I found an interesting note that said:  Manufactured on dedicated Gluten Free equipment in a Gluten Free room.  In the research that I have done so far, we do have to be careful about things cross-contaminating.  Someone even made the comment to me that I really should be buying new dishes, utensils and cooking equipment to prevent contamination.  For now, I'll wash everything in hot water and be careful to sterilize.  So here are my little pancakes.

I remember a time when the griddle didn't seem big enough to handle all the pancake batter I would put on there to gobble up.  This picture sure shows how far I've come.

I put the strawberries on a plate, threw two of the pancakes on there and put a dab of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter on them.  I went to grab my bottle of sugar-free syrup that I had in the house so that I could add them to the pancakes.  Before I did that, though, I scanned the bottle with the app on my phone and it told me I should avoid that food because it contains gluten.  In sugar-free syrup?  Seriously??  I looked at the alternate choices it gave me for syrup and it suggested some maple syrup being sold at Ralphs, which is right down the street.  Only problem is that one serving of that syrup contains 53 grams of carbs.  A normal serving has no more than 15 carbs.  Holy smokes.  I decided going without syrup wouldn't kill me.

In the end, I really did enjoy my pancakes.  I love strawberries, so it was a great combo for breakfast.  My lesson in this is that I need to spend as much time as I can experimenting, reading labels and asking other people for help as the need arises.  The hardest part with this is that the list of foods should really be called "ingredients to avoid" because that's much more complicated than telling me not to eat wheat products.  Looking at that sugar-free syrup, I still can't see what item made it something to avoid but I'm sure I'll learn in time.  One of the things I do like, however, is the black and white nature of foods either being gluten-free or not.  If they aren't, I can't eat them.  That's a pretty simple concept that sometimes alludes me when I'm trying to figure out how to eat my food like normal people do instead of someone who was on Optifast.  It's just a different experience for me. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Handling the curveballs

I've been having a medical issue lately that I have not posted much on here.  It's not because I don't want to talk about it, but because it is of a highly personal nature and TMI for the average reader.  So I'm going to try to describe it without going into all the details (you're welcome!) because it's not necessarily in the specific details that I want to focus on.  I have had a spot on my body for years, probably the better part of ten years, but it didn't hurt so I didn't focus on it.  I think I had the same attitude about this spot as I did when I found the mole on my back had turned into melanoma ... it was with me for years so, at the time, it didn't cause too much worry, especially because I couldn't see it.  So the spot that hasn't been too concerning to me started to really hurt, intensely.  In a moment of sheer panic, I remembered the pain I felt with the cancerous mole.  Given two years have now passed since I was diagnosed with melanoma, I'm always on alert when it comes to unusual spots, moles, etc. 

On May 7th, I went in to see a doctor to have the spot looked at.  Lo and behold, there was a problem.  She didn't believe it to be cancerous, so she wanted to start treatment by giving me some medicine first.  Of course we were going to monitor it because skin cancer patients are very likely to getting it again.  I started using the medication that day.  All the paperwork said to call the doctor's office again in a week if it wasn't better.  Ten days later, it hadn't improved so I called and spoke with my doctor's nurse since she was out of the office.  She advised me to give it another week, to still do what I was doing in addition to some other things and, if it still wasn't better in a week, to call to make a follow-up appointment. On Thursday night, a little voice inside of me told me it was time to go in to see the doctor again.

I called first thing Friday morning and insisted on a same-day appointment.  I guess I got forceful because I had cancer before and, believe me, I did not want to live through the emotional pain of that again.  I was able to get in, but had to see a different doctor, which was fine by me.  I am still going through physical therapy for my work injuries so I saw the doctor about the spot after working with the physical therapist in the morning.  PT does cause a lot of pain when you're really trying to work through injuries.  By the time I got in the room to see the spot-doctor, I already felt beat up.  We went over my history and we started talking about the problem I am having.  Optifast reared its head into this conversation.  It is amazing the amount of doctors that really do not support the program, even when their own company has clinics for it.  I do realize that a LOT of people read my blog because of my experience with losing 190 pounds with the program.  Losing the weight, at the time, was the only thing I was focused on and I can imagine this is the same experience other people are having reading this.  I can't sit here and say you should do it or you shouldn't.  I think that if you are perfectly healthy and have no concerns other than excess weight, you are going to have a very different experience than the person that has other things going on.  I fit into the latter category. 

I know I have just digressed from my story ... I do that sometimes.  I just don't want to give the impression that Optifast is the right choice for most people.  I don't believe it is, but, again, each person will have a different experience.  When a person is obese, morbidly obese or whatever lovely category the medical profession has decided to label us with, perhaps the only thing to worry about in the moment is getting weight off our bodies. So, anyway, back to the doctor's exam ... Armed with information about my medical history over the past several years, the doctor began the physical exam to determine if my spot was any better or worse.  As soon as she probed further, her next response was, "You need to see a specialist as soon as possible."  That spot that had given me no problems before now was leaving me in excruciating pain.  In addition, through the course of the conversation, it appears that I likely have Celiac disease.  We talked about all the symptoms of that and when they appeared to start.  Again, Optifast was brought into the conversation.  Perhaps I had the symptoms before, but I really noticed them while on the products.  I just was losing weight so freakin fast that I just didn't want to rock the boat.  The doctor ordered more tests for me and told me the specialist's office would be calling me within three days to schedule the appointment.

Like a zombie, I walked out of the doctor's office and down to the laboratory to have some blood drawn.  There were probably 100 people waiting in line for the same thing so I decided to go to another Kaiser clinic closer to work.  They usually don't have a lot of people there.  As I was driving down the freeway, I think the depth of the conversation I had with the doctor hit me.  A spot that now left me in excruciating pain, the fact that I might have Celiac disease ... I just got hit with a ton of bricks in my face.  The tears started to flow and I remember asking God why He was challenging me so much.  I think about the last year, let alone the last several, and it has been a lot to wade through, especially as I continue to work full time and have gone to school during all of it.  Celiac disease is definitely manageable through having the proper diet (although it is a huge challenge) and it would certainly explain a lot of the pain I have had in the last couple of years.  When I leaned on the shoulder of a friend and started getting really upset as I told her what was going on, she reminded me that sometimes what feels like it's a lot to take on is not necessarily about the person carrying that load but, rather, God using that person as a vessel of His love.  Others are always watching how we handle a crisis, how perhaps we cling to our faith or walk away from it.  What will I do?

As I wait for the blood test results, the doctor suggested that I start incorporating gluten free eating now (for the Celiac disease).  A couple of friends at work eat gluten free so they are really helping me with diving into this new world.  If anything, it is a very clean way of eating and could be beneficial for any person that wants to be healthier.  And in terms of seeing the specialist, I have to wait on that, too.  I'm scared what the next exam will bring, but this sort of pain is not okay.  I do mask it pretty well.  You can't see I'm going through pain on the outside.  It's only when I start talking about it that others are realizing I am a good cover-up artist.  I did that all of the time when I was kid as I was being abused and I suppose those characteristics pop up as a way of protecting myself.  I am at the point where I don't care if I have to have yet another biopsy (I had six with the melanoma) or something cut out of my body.  Sorry if that's too graphic - I've been trying hard not to get too gory here in describing what's going on.  In the meantime, I have been doing the best I can to relax, to get some sleep and to let God take away any fear I may be having. 

Someone asked me today, who doesn't always see me in person, how things are going with my weight loss.  It's odd how things really get thrown into perspective in the weirdest moments, isn't it?  Of course weight loss is always a concern for me, but, right now, finding out why I'm in pain and whatever else is going on has to take priority.  That doesn't mean I'm giving myself license to eat whatever I want, but just need to be kind and gentle towards myself right now.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Be the change

I have been crazy busy at work.  Those that work with me know this is an awful time of yeare, as it is for most folks that work in a busy school.  I am in charge of our end of the year senior awards ceremony, from start to finish.  No one has any real idea what it takes to pull that off, but let's just say that I'm shocked I make it out alive every year!  Beyond that, it's not the only thing I do.  A lot of activity gets kicked up for me because students are panicking to talk to me about community college, I get inundated with work permits for the summer, parents decide now is the time to ask questions so that they can "prepare over the summer", etc.  My question is why everyone waits until I'm at my busiest to ask??  Oh well, gotta love it.  In about three-ish weeks, I'll be off for the summer, so really, truly, no complaining.

I have been coming off the high of my graduation.  I have to say I rode an incredible roller
coaster full of very different emotions.  First off, this is an entirely huge, gigantic feat in my life.  It took me an incredibly long time to finish because I could only take a couple of classes at a time for quite a while, at times having to drop classes because the supervisor I worked with at the time was the devil roaming around the earth.  She made it very difficult for me to move forward.  I only really kicked it up in the last few years since being in such a supportive environment.  Even so, I work full time and my major required knowing a lot of theories and doing a lot of reading.  I'm not complaining, just saying that it is a major accomplishment for me.  I wrote previously about the drama surrounding my dear brother.  Oh my brother - how my heart aches for this whole situation. Somehow, on the day of the commencement, I was able to put my feelings of disappointment quietly in a box off to the side.  It took effort, but I didn't want anything to spoil that beautiful day.  I couldn't let my mind be elsewhere because I knew, when it was time, that I would deal with the feelings again. 

My day on Saturday started out with the biggest surprise.  Sara had come over to my house at 6 a.m., full of mystery.  I knew she was bringing over a graduation gift, but I had no idea what it was.  I thought maybe it was a lei to wear with my gown, but I really didn't know what to expect.  She came into my bedroom as I was blow-drying my hair and asked me to come out to the living room because she wanted me to meet someone who was part of my gift.  Okay, Sarah, at this point I wondered if you were bringing a man into my house or what the heck was going on!!  She had arranged for a person to do my make-up for the day.  While that other woman worked on my face, Sarah straightened my hair.  So I was pretty much being pampered.  That was a pretty fantastic way to start out such a lovely day.   She even brought music with her.  Seriously, I thought you were trying to make me cry on purpose while I was having my make-up done.  This Girl's On Fire was the one that almost did it for me.  But I held it together.

My dad and stepmom had come into town from Utah.  My mother was there, proud as punch.  I had some friends attend the ceremony as well.  It was long and I was extremely uncomfortable in the chairs, but I wouldn't take the memories of that day away.  Afterwards, one of my other friends had a little get-together at her house.  I felt special and incredibly loved.  It wasn't until I was in the car with my mom, when she started to talk about my brother, that I broke down in tears.  The day was perfect, but the one glaring hole was this brother of mine who was absent.  My mother saw me crying in the car as I was trying to drive down the road, which made her cry.  I don't care how old your children get, you hurt when they hurt.  Turns out that my mother called my brother and chewed him out on Monday.  She not only was hurt, but she was pissed off.  I hadn't gotten to that point - I was more hurt that really anything else.  He lied to her and told her he forgot, which I knew was BS because of other circumstances.  So, while I was at work, I got this text from him on Monday:

Congrats Kathy wish I could have made.  Had to work this weekend got to finish my job by this Thursday hope everything went well.

So I immediately called her and asked her if she talked to him, which she said she had.  I asked her what happened in their conversation because of the text I just got from him.  She basically told him he would be contacting me, no discussion at all.   He was on her list and she just wasn't happy with him.  That's exactly what I wanted to know.  I needed to know if his message to me was because he genuinely felt bad he wasn't there or because my mom forced him to apologize to me like he did when we would have a fight when we were growing up.  I told her, before this happened, that I was done with him.  It is over 16 years of selfishness, self-centeredness and just basically being used by him that his not even trying to make an effort to go to my graduation was my line in the sand.  This event was a very big deal to me.  While I was so upset in the car, I told her I would have paid for an airline ticket if he couldn't afford to drive from Vegas to San Diego (about a 5 hour drive).  That's how it meant to me for him to be there.  I was there when he had his heart transplant, when he needed to borrow money and any other time he needed me.  It is the one and only thing I have asked him for in 16 years.  Instead of saying he couldn't/wouldn't come, he lied to both my mother and I.  He's also not speaking to my dad, again, for selfish reasons.  So I saw my dad in utter pain when he talked about him.  To me, as flawed as my dad is, don't mess with him.  That's my dad and I'll have no one treating less than fantastic.   

I really hate family drama, but it happens to a lot of us.  Now, given that I'm a few days past the ceremony, I do have to say that seeing myself in pictures from the graduation and after-party was like 50  stabs into my chest.  I know I have gained weight since getting off Optifast.  I have acknowledged that and I'm trying the best I can to regroup and start losing again.  Yes, I have had an insane amount of medical challenges, with two more things that have come up, and so it's been a very difficult time for me especially when the medication has contributed to the weight gain to a certain extent.  And I have not helped it.  I have not been feeling great so I have a tiny amount of food for breakfast, generally don't eat the rest of the day and then have dinner where I can feel sick afterwards at home.  I know in my heart something is wrong and I do have an appointment with my doctor coming up in a few weeks, but I'm just sort of tired seeing doctor after doctor that I haven't been pushing the issue too much. 

This weight loss things has been difficult.  I lost sooo much weight on Optifast.  At my smallest, I think I had lost 190 pounds in 10 months or something like that.  It was pretty crazy.   I thank God that I have not regained all the weight back, but pictures tell a thousand words.  When I compare my present pictures to my smallest-size pictures, it is so heart-breaking.  I'll post some pictures below so that you can see what I'm talking about.  Compare those to the pics of me at my smallest size in the "pics of progress" page at the top of this blog.  You'll see what I mean by pain.

The night before the ceremony, taking pics for the sign below.

My friend put this on her garage so that people
knew where to come for the after-party.

Greeting the president of the university on stage.
As I appeared on the jumbo tron.There were 10,000+ people at the event,
so they had to have a way for everyone to see.

My mom on the left, my friend Diane and me
after the 3-hour ceremony was over.

All I felt when I looked at this picture was incredible shame ...
I never realized how much weight has come back on as is evident here.

There is so much right stuff in my life, but the weight issues really sucker-punch me.  I was upset yesterday.  Then I heard the most amazing quote:

Where I heard this was I was looking online at graduate programs, which I will hopefully be starting in the fall.  One of those programs is Azusa Pacific University.  They have a graduate center in the San Diego area and I'm really excited about their program for so many different reasons.  They had posted online a speech made at a commencement ceremony a couple of years ago.  The speaker, who is on the board at APU, talked about the day her husband died and how she had no choice but to pick herself up and walk on.  So she talked about this quote, but she combined two together to make it much more powerful than it already was:

"You must do the thing you think you cannot do ... through Christ who strengthens us."

In that moment, I realized I am light years stronger than I have ever given myself credit for.  Is this weight thing kicking my butt?  Well, yes.  Will it destroy me?  No, it won't, because God won't let that happen if I allow Him in enough to strengthen me.  I have professed my faith on here many times before and I still am guided by it.  There are major challenges in front of me with all the medical issues going on in addition to weight, but hope from the Father is what lets me know that I can make it through.  Two years ago to the day, I was called by my dermatologist at  7:00 in the morning and told that the biopsy I just had completed was indeed cancer.  Not only that, it was melanoma ... the deadliest form of skin cancer.  I knew that if I didn't have the surgery, I would die.  Not could die - would die.  It was an incredibly scary time for me.  But God was the one that gave me the much needed courage to face this challenge.  I ended up having half my back opened up and sutured up with 30+ staples just to remove the cancer cells.  I tell you what, there aren't too many things in your life as frightening as being told that you have cancer and that you must operate to live.  As I was going through this difficult time, I was incredibly brave but would stand in my shower, crouch down in the corner and cry.  I felt like a helpless infant, not sure what direction to go in and feeling scared of whatever laid in front of me.

So here I am, attempting to be as real today as I have always been.  With that said, as much as this pains me, I'm going to update my weight on my counter up above.  I have gained a substantial amount of weight since the last time and I just need to stay more accountable.  This is not to shame me, but to help me remember that I don't walk in this alone.  No matter what, I know there are people that love me and want me around for a long time.  I have to have these medical issues addressed and I need to remember that food does not take pain away ... it only enhances problems by making more problems. Oh Lord, hear my plea for your grace today.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Coming down from the clouds

I'm about ready to turn in for the night, but I wanted to thank everyone for their well wishes regarding the graduation ceremony I had this past Saturday.  It was a whirlwind weekend, with some family coming in from town, feeling a ton of different emotions as I accomplished a huge milestone in my life and feeling love from so many different directions.  It was purely joyful to see my mom and dad, who have been divorced for a very long time, come together and bond in watching their daughter become a college graduate.  I'm the first one in my family, so it's a big deal.  I had a really great weekend.  However, I would be completely remiss if I were to say it was all sunshine and lollipops.  My brother's absence was glaringly obvious, actually to quite a few people.  I did a pretty good job of putting the emotions of that in a box and off to the side during most of the festivities.  It wasn't until I was alone with my mom in my car after driving home yesterday that my feelings about his absence came to the surface as I sobbed while driving down the road.  It wasn't anger, but just pure hurt.  She knows, better than anyone, how hurtful this has all been to me.  I told her that he never once texted me, called or anything to say he couldn't come, congratulations or anything else.  In 16 years since he moved to Vegas from San Diego, I haven't asked him for one single, solitary thing.  Trust me, he's asked me for plenty and I have always been there for him.  Even when I had cancer two years ago, he never said anything to me then, either.  How much effort does it take to send me a freakin text??  He's been back to San Diego at least 80 times (and that number is on the conservative side since he's a Charger's season ticket holder), and there's never been one word from him.  All of that came to a head for me yesterday and today.  I could have died when I had cancer and there wasn't one word from him.

So now I'm sitting here and I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to do with these feelings.  Do I write him a letter that I will send to tell him how disappointed and saddened I am?  I think it's important for him to know how I feel, that it's not okay to treat someone like crap, especially someone who is your one and only sister.  Or, do I just try to let it go and just not contact him any longer?  I am so beyond done with this that I don't plan to visit him any longer, no matter which approach I take.  You can only use someone for so long before they shut down and I refuse to be stepped on.  I had so much love thrown at me this weekend, yet the one person who couldn't bother to say two sentences to me has most of my attention and that's just not cool.  I'm not minimizing the other people at all.  I cherished moments sitting with each and every one of them and I hope they all know what they mean to me.  But my brother ... God, why do you challenge me so with him?  I just don't know how to walk forward from this with him.  My line in the sand has been drawn.  My only question is how I approach it.  I don't want to write him a letter full of anger, so if anything I need to take my time with this.  In the meantime, I get to try to get some sleep and face a new work week.  The answers will come to me in time, I'm sure of it.  Family dynamics just really suck sometimes.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pacing myself

After doing some writing with my last post, I'm in much better spirits about my upcoming graduation on Saturday.  I realized the thing bothering me more than anything (besides all the weight-related stuff) was my dear brother, who I love but who also drives me up the wall.  He got married in 1994 and then he and his wife moved to another state in 1997 when he got a job there.  Since he's been gone, I have gone to visit him at least once a year, if not more.  He always comes back to San Diego because he's got Chargers season tickets, but he has never once come to see me or my mom.  Not even to meet him somewhere for coffee or a drive-by hug.  Nothing.  I have never asked him for one thing.  In fact, I have given or lent him money over the years, but I did so because I love him and he's my family.  When he had a heart transplant, I flew up to Stanford where the surgery was being performed and helped him make his mortgage for a couple of months.  I did so with love in my heart for him.  It wasn't about the money at all.  So, I invited him to come to my graduation and told him it would mean a lot to me.  This is the one and only thing I have asked in all these years.  My mom even told him she would pay for his hotel room here.  And yet, he has never responded, not even to say he won't be coming.  I don't expect to see him at the graduation or at the party afterwards, but, I'm sorry, it pissed me off.  I have been so upset with him that I even wondered if I should make the effort any more and stop visiting him.  It has been hurtful.  This is a huge deal in my life.  If you guys knew the road I have traveled to get here, you would know how emotional getting a college degree is for me.  However, with all of that said, I have chosen to do the best I can to let go of my disappointment with him, as well as all of the weight issues I have been having surrounding the ceremony, and just be present in the moment. 

Meanwhile, things have been really kicking up for me at work.  I am always busy, but I am incredibly busy the last month of the school year.  I am in charge of our end of the year senior awards ceremony and it's a huge undertaking to pull it off without a hitch.  I somehow manage to do it and it turns out well, it just is exhausting.  So today, instead of taking work home with me, I left it all in my office.  Instead, I came home, said hello to my kitties and took a yummy afternoon nap.  I love those!  The work will always wait for me, but a nap was just what I needed.  I always forget how close it is to the end of the school year and the fact that I don't work during the summer.  It's always so busy like that for anyone that works in a busy high school.  Anyway, three more days to go!!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What is your weight?

I started another round of physical therapy for the work injuries in my arms, so I had my second session today.  It is hotter than you know what here, probably close to 100 degrees, so it was really uncomfortable.  Leading up to it, I was pretty stressed because I was trying to get a lot of work done since I would be leaving work to do the physical therapy and really couldn't because I was helping proctor advanced placement exams with kids at the high school.  While I was waiting to go in, I got a call from work on my cell phone so I just felt sort of on edge. 

My session started out on a negative note right away.  They were setting up a program for me to answer questions on a computer about the usage of my hands and the woman who was putting in my information yelled some questions at me from across a room with other patients in it.  Here was our exchange:

"Kathryn, how tall are you?"

"I'm almost five feet, ten inches."

"What is your weight?"

"Excuse me, but I'm not going to yell that across the room."

And so I got up and walked over to her.  First of all, who yells confidential information across the room with other patients in it?  I thought HIPAA laws were in effect to protect patient privacy, or am I just being silly?  Secondly, what person who is overweight and in their right mind yells their magic number across the room?  What the freak!  As I walked over to her, every eye in that room followed every foot step, perhaps wanting to hear my number.  If you've ever been in a big room where they do physical therapy, there are generally several patients being worked on at the same time. 

After all of that was settled, I started working pretty intensively with the physical therapist, a guy physical therapist.  No, it doesn't matter that he was a guy, just perhaps that I'm a little more aware of my body than I am with a woman.  He had me working on this machine and that one, lifting this weight and that one, working with putty, hand-grips and all kinds of contraptions that really brought out the pain in my hands.  In several of the exercises using weight machines, I was forced to look in the mirror in front of me and watch my form and posture while doing the activities.  I have to say, it was pretty difficult for me looking at myself in the mirror.  I wanted to look away because I saw every pound on my body that I have gained back.  I'm nowhere as heavy as I used to be, thank you God, but the weight gain is obvious.  And I have to be honest and say that it broke my heart to see it.  I know I can say that here because most people who are reading this can understand those feelings, especially when I had lost so much while on Optifast. 

In many ways, it's extremely difficult for me to look back at pictures when I was at my smallest while on the program because it feels like a lifetime ago.  I have discovered recently another medical issue that has popped up as a result of doing Optifast that has been causing me pain.  I won't go into specifics here because it's a highly personal body thing and completely TMI, but I will say that it made me think that the melanoma cancer I had two years ago had come back, which really sent me into a tailspin.  When you have had cancer, especially a deadly cancer like melanoma, you are hyper-aware of every little thing that can point to it being back.  I went to see a doctor and I'm getting treatment for what's going on, but it really helped me step back and look critically at the efforts I had been taking to lose the weight.  Of course I can't go back in time and undo things that I have done, but I can move forward in a healthy way now, or at least try to move forward.  Part of being healthy is being emotionally healthy as well.  That means things like looking in the mirror and not looking away in shame.  The eyes want to see what they want to see, but I also know it serves me no useful purpose to avoid looking in that mirror ... I have to own where I am at and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

My commencement ceremony at Cal State is on Saturday and all I can focus on right now is things like, "I hope the chair I will be sitting in doesn't collapse in the middle of the field right in front of the 10,000 people who are expected to be there witnessing my ceremony (one of four that weekend)."  I am not thinking about this amazing event in my life and how proud I am of having gotten to this point.  No, all my thoughts are all about my weight.  If it's not the chair, then it's about seeing the look of disappointment on people's faces as they see me at my after-graduation celebration, or it's about feeling like I'm going to sweat through the entire thing.  It's actually any number of things, but it's definitely not about the event itself.  And I hate to admit this next thing, but I am here laying it all out, committed to be as honest as I can be on this blog.  There's a lot of people who are not going to make it to my party and I couldn't help thinking that it's because I'm not that important to them.  It's that old feeling of just not being good enough.  Yes, of course people are entitled to have other plans, but many people who told me they wouldn't miss it for the world because they wanted to celebrate with me won't be there.  Someone reminded me today to remember what the day is about.  I can choose to let go of the other stuff and focus on the reason to celebrate.  I'm sure I'll get to that place by the time Saturday rolls around, but for right now I just feel how I feel. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Whew, done with that!

I'm sooo exhausted.  I feel crazy even typing this right now, especially given that it's not even 5 a.m.  Maybe I'm dreaming and I'm really still sleeping?  That would be nice!  However, I finished at Cal State last night.  Thank you God.  This week has been full with me working all day and then staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning to work on two research papers, then attempting to get 2 or 3 hours of sleep, only to do it all over again.  There's a part of me who envies people who went to college right after high school, where there were no other real responsibilities except school and living at home.  It's much more difficult when a person is older, when full-time work and the stresses of everyday life are there in addition to going to college.  But, every person's road is different and I couldn't be happier about the job I've done to get here.  It means so much to me, I could never adequately explain how much.  Next weekend I will be walking in my commencement ceremony.  Can't you hear Pomp & Circumstance in your head right now? 

After the summer, I will be starting the process to apply to grad school.  I will be pursuing a master's degree in education to become a school counselor.  It's the field I already work in, so it's the natural next step for me.  It requires I take the CBEST (test all California teachers take), obtain a certificate of clearance, get letters of recommendation, do an essay, etc.  I'm so blessed by my very supportive friends and colleagues at work who have encouraged me every step of the way.  The only difficult part that I have encountered is the issue of having to complete field work and practicum hours given I work full-time during the day.  So I decided to go and talk to my principal before I even begin the paperwork.  I have done some research on programs I have been considering and they have laid out what the requirements would be for me in terms of how it would affect my work schedule.  Essentially, I will need to adjust my schedule and it will most certainly impact my work.  I walked into his office, closed his door and said that the reason for my meeting with him was a personal issue.  I began by saying how much I appreciate his continuing support and where things stand for me right now in terms of grad school.  We talked about the impact of these hours on my future work schedule because I needed to know that he would work with me on those when it came time.  He, of course, was completely flexible and open with me.  I know he appreciates my work and he also knows how dedicated I am to the kids at our high school.  I assured him I am not looking for work elsewhere, but this is just my next step.  I never even realized how emotional the conversation could get.  He told me how difficult it would be to potentially lose me when the time comes.  I shook my head and told him I know, but we also don't know what the future holds.  Perhaps by that time they'll be able to bring on more counselors at our school or area schools, we just don't know.  It was a difficult conversation for me because this school and its staff has really changed my life.  When I came on staff eight years ago, I was at the district office for 15 years before that and I was treated horribly by my previous supervisor.  She was just awful to me and did everything she could to break my spirit and spread vicious rumors about me at the district when I had the audacity to leave.  I took a demotion to come to the high school but, at that time, it didn't matter.  What mattered was getting out of my situation and remembering what we are all there to do - educating our kids.  The first day at that work site was incredible ... I felt like a thousand pounds was lifted off of my shoulders.  I have been treated so wonderfully there and have met some fantastic people.  Regardless of what happens in the future, it's not here yet so we'll just take it as it comes.  Given that green light I got from my principal, I'll be pursuing grad school.  All this from a girl who was told she wasn't very smart in the past.  Granted, that was from a person that was trying to break me down, but still. 

So, anyway, that's where I'm at right now.  I'm hoping to get back to regular exercise, regular eating and regular life now.  I've just been getting by in the last couple of weeks and, right now, all I want to do is climb in bed next to my two kitties and stay in my bed to rest for the entire weekend.  But, nope, got to greet the day.  Ah, the life of an adult ;-)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Weight present in everything

I have just a few days left of my semester, so I've been plugging away at my research papers.  I didn't work on them yesterday and I really should have, but I just needed a break after a pretty intense session with my therapist.  When I walked in there, I was really in a very upbeat mood.  We started talking about things that occurred since my last visit and everything was going fine.  Then we talked about my upcoming commencement ceremony.  And, all of a sudden, I became very emotional.  It wasn't about the fact that I would be graduating shortly.  That is very exciting and I'm certainly proud of myself for this accomplishment in my life.  The emotions came about because I was talking about issues surrounding the event.  I'm having a gathering after the ceremony with family and friends.  I mentioned the fact that I want to be able to lose 50 pounds overnight.  That's possible, right?  Right?  I shared how I know everybody loves me for me, whether I have gained weight or I haven't, but I just feel shame about my body right now.  Then I talked about the ceremony ... would I fit in the seat comfortably?  We'll be sitting for two or more hours on those folding chairs.  Would it support my weight?  It seems like the deepest hurt in me, the one that has always affected me the most, is about body image and weight.  It hurts that it seems like everything in my life comes back to weight.  Here's an example:  I have a chair at work that is set at the highest height because I'm tall.  All of a sudden, it's been inching down until it is practically on the ground.  Given I'm tall and I have knee issues, it is very uncomfortable for me.  Yet, I waited to ask for help because I was absolutely sure the problem was happening because of my weight.  I realized, though, that I had this chair at my heaviest weight of 420 and it supported me then.  So, is it possible that it might not have to do with that?  In fact, I had a friend sit in it who is smaller and it sank down for her, too. 

As I was talking to my therapist, tears were just flowing from my eyes.  It was obvious to her and to me that it really affects me greatly.  I have so much going on in my life and so many plans for my future.  After I clear my bachelor's degree, I will be applying to grad school with a very specific plan in mind.  Through a lot of work, my relationship with my mother has been pretty fantastic.  I have about a month and a half left of work before I have the summer off.  There's just a lot of good going on.  Yet, when I really talk about weight, size, body image, any of that ... it just feels like it breaks my heart.  I don't want to avoid having these conversations and doing work around it because that's the reason I went to see a therapist in the first place.  I feel ready to tackle these things.  It's just that the emotions go so very deep and, I believe, is the root cause of the depression I have been dealing with.  Having been a child who lived through physical abuse, being sexually attacked as a teen and just generally not treated very well in so many ways, it was food that I went to for comfort.  We all do whatever we can in the moment to survive terrible situations.  For me, the food may have made me feel better but it was also hurting me at the same time.  The tapes that have played these negative messages all of my life have to be changed and it does take time, I completely get that.  It is just heartbreaking to know that my body, my weight and anything surrounding that plays a role in my life at practically every moment.  It's fitting in chairs, comparing myself against other people, looking in the mirror, being comfortable in clothes, snide remarks from other people, happy events that get ruined by thoughts of my weight and so much more. 

I am moving forward, though.  Part of this process is being honest with my feelings and trying not to run from them.  It's talking with my therapist, even if I feel tears coming in.  Who knows, I may cry at every session I have with her and that is really okay.  If I need to cry, there is a reason and I don't need to shelter that.  This is really the biggest challenge of my life, one that has been present with me since my earliest memories.  No matter what size I have been, whether a 34 or a 16, it has still plagued me.  So I am doing my best to just dig in the closet and bring these thoughts and feelings out into the light.  God is always with me, no matter what I do or what I think.  I have a whole host of people that love me very much and I am so grateful for that love.  I get to continue working on loving myself, as I am right in this moment, and the person I will become in the future.  Easier said than done, but I am committed to this.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Getting closer

Man am I tired!  I just finished two days in a row of finals for school.  Generally that's not a big deal but given the injuries in my hands, all of the essay writing is not a great time for me.  I just have to finish my research papers, turn those in next week and then I'll be all done for the semester!  I had a commencement info session the other day to find out what will happen at the graduation ceremony in a few weeks.  It's pretty crazy ... there are four graduation ceremonies happening and mine will have the most graduates.  They are expecting 10,000 people to be there.  Holy smokes!!  They showed us an aerial shot of last year's ceremony and it was a little overwhelming.  But a good kind of overwhelming.  It's starting to feel very real.  The invitations went out for my post-graduation celebration and it's been great to have friends so happy for me.  This has been such a major journey in my life.  If anything, I am the poster child for perseverance.  Many people would have given up but I didn't.  I just refuse to give up, not on this.  It has meant so much to me.  Friends have watched me through this process and I can't wait to celebrate with them.  I will for sure post pictures here after the ceremony so I can share this with all of you, too.  Now, off to fall into my bed and get some sleep.