A Glimmer of Hope

My husband’s cancer diagnosis isn’t exactly a surprise, given his family history. Both his grandfather and father died of cancer, and his aunt and uncle have both had it too. I knew he was at high risk for skin cancer because he is very fair-skinned and he worked outdoors in the sun for years. In my mind, it was not “if” but “when” he would get it. Somehow, though, that doesn’t make it any easier to accept when it actually happens.

So today my husband received in the mail the actual printed report from the dermatologist about his cancerous mole, and it definitely cleared some things up for us.

When the doctor’s office had called the report in to him, he was working in the garage and had no way of writing anything down. What he heard was “stage IV melanoma.” But looking at the report today, I saw that it actually says “level IV” melanoma, which is a completely different thing. After a few minutes of research, I had a much better idea of what has actually been discovered so far.

Level IV means that the cancer had spread down into the next two layers of skin, but NOT into the fat layer below. The thickness of the tumor was under the size that is usually associated with aggressive spreading, so it is actually unlikely that the melanoma has spread to other parts of his body.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s still cancer and it’s still scary. But after reading the report and looking everything up, I find I can be cautiously optimistic for the time being. He was able to make an appointment for a consultation with the surgeon for next Thursday. Maybe we’ll know more after that appointment, but in the meanwhile the situation doesn’t seem as dire as it did on Monday. I’m so glad he requested to have the report mailed to him!

Today everyone was back at work. Despite being sick for the last week and a half, Walter went to work, and so did Jasper. Lucy was back at her job in the library. And I had to start organizing my papers so I can have some hope of being ready to start teaching next week!

I also made an excursion to JoAnn’s in Tyler to pick up some fabric I ordered. I’m hoping that Saturday will be a big “sewing-for-the-baby” day so I wanted to make sure I had all the materials I might need. And I enjoyed the rainy drive. It wasn’t raining hard at all—just sprinkling.

My Diabetes Miracle #24: A Milestone Journey

I decided I had better write this and get it posted right after my previous post, because I know some people who read that post might worry about me, and they shouldn’t.

If you follow this blog at all, you know that I just returned from a fantastic two-week trip to the United Kingdom, a special milestone birthday gift from my kids. I haven’t posted about my health journey for a while, but I thought it would be appropriate to mention it here in conjunction with the actual physical journey I’ve just taken and the milestones it represents.

Milestone #1 was my flight to London. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I didn’t have to ask for a seatbelt extender. I didn’t overflow my seat or ooze into someone else’s personal space. That was amazing. I always felt so humiliated having to ask for a seatbelt extender. It was just as affirming to have this same experience on my flight back.

Milestone #2 was just the sheer amount of walking I did on my trip. Some days I walked several miles, and although my legs did feel a little tired eventually, I was able to keep going. This is new for me—having a body that can actually do what I want it to. What a concept!

Milestone #3 involved stairs. So. Many. Stairs. Three years ago I would have really struggled even to get into some of my friends’ homes. Not now. Sometimes I find myself dreading stairs out of force of habit, and then I realize—oh, right. I can do stairs now.

Milestone #4 is about photos. If I had taken this trip three years ago, there would be lots of photos of the places I saw, but no photographic evidence that I had been there. I was so ashamed of my looks that I never, ever wanted to be in a photograph. (And people rarely asked me to!) As I begin going through the thousands of photos I took on this trip (yes, thousands!) I am struck by how many photos there are of me. Me in front of cathedrals and doorways and scenic beauty. Me with my wonderful friends. I can say, “Look, that’s me in the library of Sandon Hall,” and prove I was there. This is a huge, huge milestone for me. I don’t fear the camera nearly as much as I used to.

Milestone #5 is about perseverance, about effort, about fighting to achieve a goal. My adventures in getting my big heavy suitcase to Heathrow yesterday were painful and discouraging and exhausting. Yet just as with my health journey, I knew that once I committed to the task, there was no going back, no giving up, no feeling sorry for myself. I had a job to do and I would somehow find a way to do it. And I did find a way, and that is the biggest achievement of all—because three years ago, no matter how determined I was, it simply would not have been possible. I would most likely have had to get a taxi all the way to Heathrow from Euston station, and even then I’m not at all sure I could have succeeded in getting the case from the entrance to the electronic luggage check-in place. So although my body is not capable of doing what it could thirty or forty years ago, it is much more capable of performing various tasks than it was ten or twenty years ago—and that tastes like victory. Bruised toes and bruised hands and aching shoulders seem a small price to pay for that much success—and all those things will heal. The triumph will remain.

Oh, and by the way—I returned home eight pounds lighter than I left!

My Diabetes Miracle #23: A New First

Last Tuesday, as I believe I reported, I had my book club meeting, followed by an open art session in the same location. The book club starts at 3:00 and the art time is scheduled to go as late as 7:30 p.m.

So, during the art time, we three ladies were busy with our painting, and our hostess asked me if I needed some food, because she knew I’d been there since midafternoon. I assured her that I was fine, and explained that I didn’t necessarily eat every day and in fact was currently fasting.

So the other lady piped up and said, “Oh! Is that how you stay so trim?”

Friends—I had a moment there. Never in my entire life has anyone ever described me as “trim.” Not once. Interestingly enough, you don’t tend to get that kind of comment when you are morbidly obese.

Now, I realize that my artist acquaintance was flattering me. I am not yet “trim,” but I’m the trimmest I’ve been in several decades. I’m still getting used to it. In my head, I usually still think of myself as obese. So I was genuinely staggered to hear someone refer to me as “trim.”

This tiny exchange was such a huge boost for me. Especially with Easter coming up, I knew I’d be sorely tempted to stick my toe over the lines I drew for myself two years ago. But I also knew that no treat in the world tastes as good as hearing someone else call me “trim,” let alone feeling so much better and having so much more energy to live my life. I honestly believe that eventually I will be trim for real, and that I’ll be able to stay there—and that is worth all the effort I’ve been putting forth for over two years now.

In the Driver’s Seat—With Bare Feet

Oh glorious day! Today I finally was allowed to remove my classy hospital-issued knee socks:

So elegant! Otherwise known as devil socks. They are very tight compression hose which are really hard to get on. I’ve had to wear them day and night for the last two weeks, except for the brief interludes when I washed them. Today, the two-week anniversary of my surgery, I was allowed to take them off and leave them off. Feels good!

The other thing I was allowed to do today was start driving again. I ran errands! I took Jasper to youth group! If you know me, you know that I am a barefoot driver, so driving today was doubly enjoyable because I didn’t have to wear shoes to protect my stupid socks.

My one big disappointment was going to the gym. I really looked forward to it, changed into my exercise clothes, and drove over there—only to discover that the track was closed today. I hope it’s open tomorrow. My doctor said I can walk as much as I want.

Parting Shot:

Spring is on the way. Our forsythias are leafing out.

In Which I Am Sorry to be Proved Right

Today I slept in successfully. I keep reminding myself that it’s okay to rest because my body really does need it right now. Because I was well-rested, I was up to making a big pan of fried rice for the family to eat for lunch, using up quite a few leftovers in the process. Lina is still sick too, by the way, but today seemed a little better for her.

This afternoon my husband took off work so he could take me to my doctor’s appointment. The upshot was that as I suspected, I have developed an infection at the site of the surgery. Much as I despise seeing doctors, today I was glad for my appointment because I knew if I had an infection it would need to be dealt with. It certainly explains some of the things I’ve been experiencing.

So I am on two different antibiotics for the next two weeks, and I am pre-emptively taking some high-powered probiotics as well. I’m really hoping to feel some improvement as early as tomorrow.

Also, I accidentally forgot to take my pain meds this afternoon. That was a mistake.

When Ignorance ISN’T Bliss—It Could Be Dangerous

I want to talk about my hospital stay again—specifically, about the food. My surgery took place starting at 7:00 in the morning, and I didn’t make it to recovery until after 11:00, so I wasn’t offered anything until suppertime—not that I would have wanted anything. My supper tray was a grim array of “clear liquids,” consisting of apple juice, broth, sweet iced tea, a grape popsicle, and jello. The only thing on that tray I could safely have was the insipid and lukewarm broth, which I drank and then threw up later. The girl who brought the food felt bad that she hadn’t known I was a diabetic, and promised I’d have something more appropriate for breakfast.

Meanwhile, my sweet nurse hunted down a sugar-free popsicle and brought it to me because she felt so bad too! Although I normally avoid artificial sweeteners completely, the cold treat really appealed to me, and it hit the spot—until it came back up.

I had vague hopes of bacon and eggs for breakfast the next morning. What I received was a bowl of wheat-based hot cereal, some milk, and another bowl of (regular) jello. The food delivery girl was quite dismayed when I told her I couldn’t eat any of it. She wanted so badly to bring me something I liked! She offered to find me some sugar-free jello. What could I say? I also avoid artificial sweeteners, so any kind of jello is right out for me.

By the way, this is an interesting phenomenon to me. My last hospital stay was in a completely different hospital, but at both hospitals the only “constant” presence during my stay was the food lady. I never had any repeat of nurses, even when the same shift came around again. It was new nurses all the time. But the same lady delivered all three meals a day, every day.

By lunchtime on Thursday, I was really in a bind because I had to prove I could keep food down, and I had failed miserably so far. The girl showed me the meal options and I picked grilled chicken and broccoli, which looked pretty safe. It also came with pasta, but I told her to leave that off.

Now please understand, I had told her I was diabetic so she could only bring me what the hospital dietician approved of for diabetic patients. I got a grilled chicken breast, some broccoli—and a big wheat bun and banana pudding. It was at this point I began to get angry. Not at the sweet food girl, who just delivered the meals, but at the person who was masterminding this atrocious mistreatment of diabetic patients. My lunch meal probably contained more carbohydrates than I would normally eat in a week.

It was exactly this ignorant approach to diabetic dining which led to my diabetes getting so bad so fast. If you are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and you follow the standard medical advice about diet, you are guaranteed to get worse and worse, until the day you finally have to ask your doctor, “Why do I keep getting worse and having to take more insulin when I’m doing everything right?” And if he or she is honest, like mine was, the answer will be, “Because your pancreas is wearing out.”

And I feel I should point out here that even from the time of my diagnosis, I followed a stricter plan. The diabetes educator in the hospital told me to aim for 150 grams of carbohydrates a day (!!!) I kept it well below 100, and aimed closer to 50—but it was still too much. My blood sugar continued to rise, and it took more and more insulin to control it. I knew I’d soon begin experiencing complications with my eyesight, neuropathy in my feet, poor circulation, etc.

So back to this recent hospital stay. The food girl really wanted me to have a supper I could be happy with. She showed me the menu, and one of the things on it was “Chicken Caesar Salad.” This is a pretty safe choice for me, so I was thrilled—but when I told her I wanted the salad, she said that as I was diabetic, I would not be allowed to have the Caesar dressing and would have to pick an alternate lowfat dressing. I was dumbfounded. I could eat a healthy salad, but I couldn’t dress it with a healthy high-fat dressing.

I realized the hospital is still going with the failed model of a diabetic diet that is high in carbohydrates and low in fat—when it should be the other way around. This was confirmed when I discussed breakfast with the food girl. She cheerily offered me French toast! I wanted to say, “You’re joking, right? Do you even know what diabetes is?” Instead I brought up the fact that I am not only diabetic, but also gluten free. I was offered sweetened gluten-free cereal instead. I reminded her I can’t eat anything with sugar in it. Finally she asked, “Well, what can you have for breakfast?” Eggs, I told her. She brightened up a little. Clearly eggs were something she was allowed to bring me. But when she asked what I wanted with my eggs, and I said sausage or bacon, her face fell. Sausage and bacon were not allowed for diabetic patients.

If I hadn’t been in such a very weakened condition, I would have wanted to march down to the kitchen and speak to someone about this outrageous approach to feeding diabetics. It’s not just less than optimal—it’s downright harmful. If you are diabetic, and you eat from a hospital’s diabetic food plan, you will get worse, not better. Your blood sugar will not be controlled. Yet this is the eating plan that has been endorsed and promoted by the American Diabetes Association, which is why hospitals follow it. It’s like intentional ignorance.

My many long hours of research have turned up exactly two ways to deal effectively with Type 2 diabetes. The first way is to adopt a very strict, very low-fat vegan diet that is also sugar free and involves periodic fasting. I’m glad that is an option for those who really don’t want to eat meat, but it’s not for me. The other way, the one I’m following, is to go with a ketogenic diet that is high in “good” fats, moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrates (less than 20 grams per day), and also includes fasting. In fact I’d say that a certain amount of fasting is really crucial to getting your diabetes under control, as is avoiding sugar completely.

It infuriates me that these two proven dietary approaches have not been accepted by doctors and hospitals yet. I know one reason is the belief that most people just would not be willing to follow either restrictive plan. I think they would, if they understood the alternative—the long slow death brought on by diabetes complications. The other, more sinister reason is that nobody makes money from people using food to heal their own bodies. The medical diabetes industry is a huge money-maker, and if people can learn to do without all those drugs and related products, that industry will suffer financial losses. So it’s not in their interest to tell you the truth—that you can do without drugs and reverse your diabetes by making smart food choices. I have not heard of one single person who reversed their diabetes by following the plan endorsed by the American Diabetes Association. There are thousands like me who have turned their health around by following one of the two approaches I mentioned above. The results don’t lie.

I wanted to cry when I thought about the newly-diagnosed diabetes patients in the hospital, who trustingly believe they are being fed an appropriate diet for their condition. I was like that several years ago when I was diagnosed with diabetes at the time of my emergency appendectomy. Following the ignorant instructions I was given led to my diabetes raging out of control after only eighteen months! I’m so glad I learned the truth two years ago and have taken charge of my own health! If (heaven forbid) I find myself forced to stay in a hospital again, I will go knowing that I won’t be able to eat the food there, and plan accordingly. If you live near me, I might even hit you up to smuggle in some contraband bacon or avocados.

In Which I am a Tourist Attraction

Can you believe I took my computer to the hospital and actually thought I’d be up to posting from there? LOL. Sometimes I crack myself up.

My surgery went well, although it took over three hours. Apparently there was quite a bit of repair work to do after removing my uterus. My stay in recovery was extended due to my extreme nausea, and as a matter of fact I threw up when they were transporting me to my room. I do not react well to anesthesia apparently, because the same thing happened last time I had surgery.

But anyway, while I was still in recovery I created a bit of a sensation—or at least my left hand did. You could say that I was caught red-handed, in fact:


My left hand was covered in tiny red spots all the way up to my elbow. My right hand was just fine and spot-free. It looked like a rash, but no one could figure out what caused it or why it was specific to my left hand. I was a medical mystery! All kinds of people came to look at it and discuss it with each other. They asked me questions, trying to figure out what was different. Even after I was moved to my room, I had a few sightseers come in to check out my hand. Not exactly the kind of celebrity one hopes for. . .

I don’t know if they ever arrived at a definitive answer, but they thought it might be due to a nurse putting the blood pressure cuff below my elbow instead of above before the surgery. Two days later, the redness persists.

Walter and Lina came to spend the afternoon with me on Wednesday, but I’m afraid I wasn’t very good company. It was kind of ridiculous to think I had hoped to go home the same day as the surgery. I was hooked up to so many things: oxygen, an I.V. with morphine pump, inflatable leg cuffs, a catheter, and some kind of monitor on my index finger. I didn’t feel up to sitting up, let alone walking out of there. I had brought my usual types of entertainment—plenty of reading material, a knitting project, and my computer. I didn’t touch any of it. There was a TV in my room, of course, but TV annoys me even at the best of times, so I lost patience with it pretty quickly.

The night was just as much fun as I expected based on past experience. At least they did darken the room for me, but they still came in every hour or so to take my vital signs and at 3:00 a.m. they turned the lights on and came to stick needles in me for lab work. And they still had the nerve to tell me to get a good night’s rest!

Thursday morning I got my hopes up when they took the inflatable cuffs off my legs and removed my catheter. My doctor told me I could leave as soon as I could demonstrate my ability to pee and to keep food down. Over the next few hours, I failed miserably at both goals. My friend Darlene came to visit and told me that morphine had made her very nauseated, so I immediately stopped taking it (not that I had taken very much—but I didn’t want to take chances). I couldn’t even keep water down!

So it was kind of a rough day. My husband kept me company for much of it, and then after he had to leave to go to work, Lina, Spencer and Jasper showed up with flowers and a big “Get Well Soon” balloon! It sure was great to see my kids. They hung around for the rest of the evening.

I had finally passed the “pee” test in the afternoon, so I was just waiting to prove my ability to keep food down. My supper arrived (I am going to do a whole post about the food) and I spilled salad dressing all over myself, but I was able to eat a few bites of salad and keep them down, so I declared victory. My papers were processed, and Walter returned to give me a ride.

The nurse wheeled me down in a wheelchair, and we pulled out of the parking lot at 8:00. Boy did it feel good to be driving away from that place! I have accepted the fact that at my age, it may take a little longer to bounce back from surgery, but I am just so happy to be in my own house. There were some lovely pink tulips waiting for me at home—a gift from one of my students.

So what have I done today? My main accomplishment was taking a shower. I am alternating between resting and being up to do things (easy things like drinking a cup of tea). I’m not allowed to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds for the next two months, so that definitely limits my options. I have opted not to fill my prescription for Tylenol 4, and am managing my pain okay with regular ibuprofen. (Can you tell I am not a fan of narcotics?) I am still fighting a respiratory infection, and I’m sure you can imagine how much fun it is to cough when you’ve just had abdominal surgery. My poor husband has been sick for over a week now and I think he rested almost as much as I did today. It is very rare for him to be sick for more than a day or two.

I was delighted to receive a phone call from Flynn this evening and hear more about his and Tiffany’s new house. And Lina has been a champ, going grocery shopping for me and taking care of the food. I haven’t seen much of Lucy as she left on a rugby trip today.

Battling On

Generally speaking, I am the kind of person who lets an illness run its course. I’m pretty fatalistic about it because when I used to try other people’s advice on how to beat various illnesses or symptoms, they never worked.

But this morning when I woke up sick, I wasn’t willing to just accept it. I went to the drugstore to stock up and for the rest of the day I’ve been doing all the things.

*Essential oils are hanging from my neck and slathered on my skin and spewing from the diffuser next to my bed.

*I am taking zinc, Vitamin C, elderberry, and garlic at regular intervals.

*I am taking several homeopathic remedies.

*I am even irrigating my sinuses, which is one of my least favorite things ever.

*My dad swears by gargling with hydrogen peroxide, so I’m gonna try that too.

The only thing I haven’t resorted to is warm whiskey with honey and lemon, and that’s just because honey is something I can’t have anymore. I’ve been getting plenty of rest (not that I’m up to doing much) and trying to catch up on all the reading I have to do. I will even stay home from church tomorrow and do more of the same. Today was supposed to be a fast day but I get very nauseated taking zinc on an empty stomach, so I have had a few bites of food. Even so, I bet I’ve gone over my carb limit because of all the stuff I’m taking—especially the low-carb elderberry syrup which is still higher in carbs than I usually allow.

If I am not on the mend by tomorrow afternoon, I will have to quit taking garlic, which is one of my favorite weapons, because they don’t want me taking it for a couple of days before my surgery. Apparently it might “thin” my blood.

Meanwhile, my husband is also still sick and in fact stayed in bed all morning, which I’m sure he really needed to do. Lucy went off to a rugby game today, complaining because the weather has once again turned cold. Yesterday it was so warm that I went to the gym in shirtsleeves and didn’t need a jacket at all. Jasper worked on his research for his research paper, and then went to his usual gaming group. Lina ran errands and worked on craft projects.

And this evening, I was able to have a delightful video chat with a friend who is now the mother of two adorable little girls. It was so good to see her face and hear her voice!

Now I’m off to take another round of supplements, irrigate my sinuses, and gargle . . .

My Diabetes Miracle #22: The Two-Year Mark

Today is the two-year anniversary of the day I started my radical “pancreas rescue plan.” Has my pancreas been rescued? Evidence would seem to say yes—as long as I continue to stick to my plan, and of course, I will. I no longer need any kind of medication. I never want to see a “3” as the first number on my scale again—or even a “2!” I am so much healthier now, and able to do so many more things than I could before. I love being able to buy “normal” clothes sizes. I just realized the other day that if I ever get to fly again, I won’t have to ask for a seatbelt extender, which I always found so humiliating.

So I thought I’d take a moment here to go over my most important rules as I’ve progressed on this journey.

Rule #1: Do whatever it takes for as long as it takes. It has taken a level of commitment and sacrifice that I couldn’t foresee at the beginning of my journey—but it has been worth it. One day at a time, I’ve learned to do what must be done. Just a few months in, I realized that this wasn’t a quick fix. I estimated it would take me a full three years to reach the weight and level of health I hope to achieve. I still think that is a realistic estimate, so I’ve got another year before I might find out what “maintenance” will look like. Meanwhile, I’ve proven I can maintain my current weight, and that’s very reassuring. If you want numbers, I lost 65 pounds in the first year and 55 pounds in the second year. This year my goal is 20-30 pounds, at which point I will be a “normal” weight.

Rule #2: Don’t do anything you’re not willing to do for the rest of your life. This is why I’ve never committed to a time-consuming exercise regimen. I’ve proven conclusively that exercise does not help me lose weight, and I certainly don’t have time to spend a couple of hours a day working out. I exercise to maintain my mobility and quality of life, and for that purpose a brisk forty-minute walk with some light weight lifting has been just fine. Fasting is something I’ve incorporated into my lifestyle and I know I’ll be doing it regularly for the rest of my life. I don’t plan to ever eat sugar again. Everything I’ve done, I’ve done with the realization that I may well be doing it for the rest of my life, and that’s okay.

I do want to address one issue that has come up occasionally, and that is the implication that I am “starving” myself. This always makes me laugh, because after all, I am still overweight! So maybe we should define terms here. “Starvation” is when you need food but have no access to it. I have never starved in my entire life.

Fasting, on the other hand, is a millennia-old practice used for both spiritual and physical healing. Honestly, keto and fasting have been very therapeutic for me—and I have yet to even fast half as long as Jesus did (forty days).The drastic measures that I’ve had to take are not necessary for everyone. Probably not for most people. Believe me, I tried all the other things. All. Of. Them. (Except surgery. Never gonna go there.) So rather than complain that I am “starving,” I am ecstatic that after 35 years, I have finally found something that actually works. As counterintuitive as it may seem to those who have never been morbidly obese and addicted to food, fasting is much easier than restricting your eating when you’re a food addict. I find it much easier to not eat than to eat just a tiny portion of a food I like.

So yeah—fasting will continue to be a big part of my life, however much longer that might be. The food I do eat is good food. No sodas, no sugar, no junk food, no starches. I am almost unbelievably healthier now than I was two years ago. I’m not starved. I’m well-nourished. I like feeling this way.


Sorry about my silence yesterday. I was up until well after midnight trying to finish my editing job. It was a very frustrating evening. I had a formatting issue I couldn’t resolve. I finally went to bed after I figured out a formal solution—but I still had hours of work to do on it today. I sent it back to the author with one issue still pending. More research ahead!

Even while I was beating my brains for solutions to the format issues, I was aware all day yesterday that it would have been my friend Matt’s sixty-fifth birthday, and the sense of grief and loss added to my distress.

Today, I slept in a little after my late night, but of course I had to get up and prepare for my Wednesday student. I think she was sleepier than I was this morning!

This afternoon I took Jasper to Walmart and then went back to work on the editing. What a relief it was to send that manuscript off! I took Jasper to youth group and had a great walk and even got some much-needed work done in my kitchen today. Now maybe I can get back to some of my own writing.

And finally, while yesterday was the anniversary of a late friend’s birth, today was an anniversary of another kind. It was two years ago today that I had the doctor’s appointment that changed my life—the one where I was told that my pancreas was “wearing out.” I didn’t start my “pancreas rescue plan” until two days later—but the appointment on February 6, 2017, was what started this journey that I’ve been on ever since.

Those of you who’ve been with me since then may remember that I was able to get completely off of insulin in just three weeks! But other victories came much more slowly and with much more effort. I’ll write more about this on Friday, the anniversary of the day I started actually taking action, but I wanted to at least remark on the significance of this day in my life.