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.

Anniversaries

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.

Done!

FINALLY I have been able to move my sewing machine out of the dining room. The blanket is done! I did a lot of work on it today, and the binding didn’t meet my standards, but hey—sewing binding on something very large and heavy is quite a challenge and I figure it won’t affect the performance of the blanket, right?

This morning I anxiously called the yarn store and this time I received an answer. Turns out the reason it was closed last week was that both of the sweet sisters were in the hospital! The older one is still in rehab after a nasty fall, but Lina and I hightailed it up there to commiserate with the younger sister and check out the sale. Neither one of us left empty handed.

I want to share some brilliant technology with you. If you sew, you’re going to love it. For the last couple of years, I have had difficulties threading the needle of my sewing machine due to my “mature” eyesight. It is hard for me to even see the eye of the needle.

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When I started working on this big project, during which I’d have to thread my machine multiple times, I was desperate to find something that would make the job easier. My machine actually has a needle-threading doohickey, but using it requires having three hands, and I only have two, so I virtually never bother with it. However, I hit on a solution which works very well with the number of hands I already have. It’s a little piece of white paper that I cut from a 3×5 card. I hold it behind the needle thusly:

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See how much easier it is to see the eye? I haven’t had any problem threading that needle since I started using this marvelous invention!

The blanket was so difficult to handle because of its weight, that when it was finished I couldn’t resist weighing it. Since it is too large to just put on the scale by itself, I weighed myself first (no longer a scary ordeal) and then had my husband drape the blanket over my shoulders so I could weigh myself again. I staggered into the bathroom and stepped on the scale, made a note of the number, and staggered back out to the dining room to get that heavy burden off me.

I sat down to do the math and discovered that the blanket weighs 36 pounds. It felt like a hundred! (Most weighted blankets are not that heavy. If Lucy was a foot shorter, as many women are, this blanket would be much too heavy.) But here’s my point. As I dragged myself to and from the scale with that heavy blanket on me, I struggled to walk. Yet two years ago, I carried around more than three times that much weight on my body all the time. No wonder I feel so much better now. It was a sobering moment. It helped me to realize how far I’ve come—and why I never want to go back.

In other news, my family undecorated and took down the Christmas tree while I finished up my sewing project. Now my chair is back in the corner where it belongs! Maybe tomorrow I can tackle my teacup tree . . .

Parting Shot:

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The finished (and very heavy) blanket.

My Diabetes Miracle #21: What Rosacea?

For at least ten years now (maybe more like fifteen), I have suffered from increasingly severe rosacea. At first it was just a little redness on my cheeks. I looked a little sunburnt—all the time. If I actually went out into the sun and heat, my face basically caught fire. People were constantly asking me if I had a sunburn or a fever.

Then it got worse. It progressed to severe “pustular” rosacea, which means that I had zit-like pustules on my face all the time. It was like teenage acne, only worse. I tried a succession of ointments, including one that had worked very well for my dad. Nothing worked. After several months of faithful use, my face was worse. The pustules were so numerous and so ugly. They took weeks to heal and fade away, by which time they were succeeded by many more.

I couldn’t bear to look at my face in the mirror. I was so repulsed by my own visage that I often burst into tears when I saw it. I avoided being photographed even more assiduously than before. I had never thought of myself as particularly vain, but this condition exposed my vanity in a most painful way. I had accepted the natural consequences of my advancing age, but I couldn’t accept the ravages of rosacea.

Then, a little over a year ago, I discovered by accident that the soap I had been using in hopes of ameliorating the rosacea was actually making it worse. I immediately stopped using that soap! And to my everlasting relief, the rosacea improved to where it had been several years earlier.

Since then, I have seen my rosacea continue to fade. I wish I could tell you what specific thing I’ve done to achieve this. I think the big thing is that my keto diet and fasting have successfully eliminated most of the inflammation in my body—including my face. In terms of what I put on it, I use a gentle cleanser and then follow up with moisturizer, to which I add a dollop of Prosacea ointment and three drops of frankincense essential oil. I don’t know if the Prosacea is actually doing anything at all, but I’m afraid to stop! The frankincense has been very helpful and in addition to treating my rosacea it has eliminated a couple of skin tags that appeared on my face.

Now, looking in the mirror no longer reduces me to despair. Every now and then, I’ll get a little spot, but it goes away within a few hours with no intervention from me. I actually get compliments on my complexion now. If you’re my friend on Facebook, you’ve seen this photo of me that Mary took on Christmas morning:

When I saw this photo, the first thing that struck me was this: where is my rosacea? Do you see any sign of rosacea? I don’t. I am not wearing any makeup in this photo. That is just my real face—a face I think I can live with!

And finally, since we have reached the turning of the year and tomorrow will be a new one, I just want to look back on what I have achieved in 2018. I worked very very hard and learned to deny myself more than I ever thought possible—and succeeded in losing another 50 pounds, bringing my total weight lost to 120. I wish I could have the quick and easy success that others seem to enjoy, but I am just so thrilled to be where I am. A couple of years ago, I would never have believed this was possible. I had gotten rid of all my “thin” clothes—which would now be way too big for me. In this year, I have gone from wearing size 20 to size 14 (I started as a size 24 two years ago). I have increased my fitness and decreased my joint pain. I freed myself from my last diabetes medication and am now medication free.

As I look forward to 2019, I know I still have plenty of hard work and self-denial ahead of me. I still have 30 pounds to lose and based on my experiences so far, I expect it to take all year—but the big thing is that I believe it is possible and that I can do it.

My Diabetes Miracle #20: Steps

This whole health journey of mine has been like climbing an endless flight of stairs. I pull myself up one step at a time, and often I seem to stay there for much too long before I am able to climb to the next step. That’s just how it’s been for me.

But today I want to just talk for a minute about actual, physical stairs. Stairs have been my nemesis ever since I dislocated both of my kneecaps after Jasper’s birth. Even after my knees “healed,” climbing stairs was painful and difficult for me. Four years ago,when we went to Master’s Mission for the spring break work trip, the stairs just about did me in. I had to use the hand rail to pull myself painfully up one step at a time. I was told by someone who should know that I should have had knee replacement surgery years ago. (Not an option because of the cost.)

On the few occasions when we have stayed in a place with two levels, I learned to arrange my life to include the absolute minimum of stair trips. Last spring when I started walking for exercise, the biggest challenge for me was having to climb the stairs to the running track.

Then came our trip to Colorado last week. When we couldn’t get the car up the driveway, we parked at the base of the long flight of stairs leading to the front door. I felt a little daunted when I saw them, but I had no choice. I climbed up all those stairs easily. Once inside the house, I saw the layout included two bedrooms downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs. The stairs were steep!

Two years ago, I would not have even gone upstairs to check out those upstairs rooms. I would have chosen a downstairs bedroom and let the kids take the upstairs, because I would have known I couldn’t handle going up and down those stairs multiple times a day. But guess what? This time I went right up those stairs without even thinking about it. One of the upstairs bedrooms was perfect—and it had an electric fireplace!

That first day while we were settling in, I know I was up and down those stairs at least ten times. My muscles felt it a little by the end of the day, but I didn’t really mind having to go up and down. My knees were tired, but not in agony. This is a HUGE sign of progress for me. Turns out that removing 120 pounds of the load on your knees is very beneficial! I’m sure they’re still arthritic, but life is so much more doable now that they don’t hurt all the time.

Going up and down those stairs was my primary form of exercise during our stay in Colorado. Up and down, up and down—many times each day. Not once did I look up at those stairs and think, no. I just can’t face that right now. If I had to go up more than once in rapid succession, it took a little more effort the second time, but it was easily achievable. This is literally life-changing for me. For the first time in a couple of decades, stairs don’t scare me. I am not limited to a one-story existence. My family didn’t even notice this milestone, but I still can’t get over it.

Stairs. Not a problem.

My Diabetes Miracle #19: The Beast in the Bathroom

If you’re a woman, chances are good you have a love-hate relationship with a piece of technology that probably resides in your bathroom: the scale.

 
In all the posts I have done about my health journey, I have rarely mentioned the scale and the role it plays in my plan. In the beginning, my focus was totally on getting my diabetes under control and getting off my prescription meds, so I made a deliberate choice to downplay the weight-loss side of my journey—even though I fervently hoped I would lose weight!

 
For the whole first year, I only weighed myself once a month, on the first day of the month. I was afraid seeing the daily fluctuations would just be too depressing. Yet I felt I had to have the accountability of a monthly weigh-in. I have never subscribed to the idea that you should just ignore the scale and go by how you “feel.” Often when I “feel” lighter I have in fact gained weight—and vice versa.

 
Earlier this year I changed my approach. Once a month was no longer working for me. I wanted to see the effects my meals and activities had on a more immediate basis, so I began weighing myself every morning after getting up but before eating or drinking anything.

 
I have found it very helpful. The scale motivates me both ways. If my weight is higher than I hoped for, it strengthens my resolve to stay the course so that the number will drop. I might be tempted to indulge during the day, but I will remind myself that I can’t afford it, and knowing that makes it easier to resist.

 
If I have lost some weight, first of all it makes my day! Also, it motivates me to stick to my plan because I don’t want to mess up and do anything to invite those pounds to come back. Again, I find it easier to resist temptation because I don’t want to see the number go back up.

 
Note: when I refer to “temptation” I am not talking about indulging in sweets or starches. I’m talking about being tempted to eat perfectly “legal” food that I just hadn’t planned to eat that day.

 
I think this is going to continue to be vital to me if I ever achieve my goals and move into “maintenance” mode. I’ll be able to catch it when I gain a couple of pounds and go right back into fasting before it gets out of hand. I may not continue weighing every day—but certainly at least once or twice a week.

 
What about those times when the scale doesn’t move? When the number stays the same for a week—or a month? This is exactly why I only weighed once a month at first. I didn’t want to be discouraged. However, I have learned something in the last twenty-two months. If I remain faithful to my plan, my body will eventually “accept” my current weight and allow me to lose a little more. Yes, it’s agonizingly slow, at least for me. But I have enough experience now to be confident that the process is effective and that it will continue to work.

 
Why have I been thinking about my scale today? Because I recently celebrated another little victory. My scale informed me that I have now lost a total of 120 pounds. Two years ago I would not have believed it was possible. It has been a hard, hard journey to get here, but my perseverance has paid off.

 
If I lose another 10 pounds, I will be at the weight I considered to be a “realistic” goal when I started this journey.

 
If I lose another 20 pounds, I will be at the weight I consider to be a “challenge” goal, well within the “normal” weight range for my height.

 
If I lose another 30 pounds, I will be at what I consider to be my dream weight. I don’t know if it’s even possible—but my views on what is possible have been changing!
And even if, for some reason, I am unable to lose more weight—it sure is nice to be 120 pounds lighter than I used to be! I know I can stay here, but I sure hope I am able to keep going.

No Answers, More Questions

Today was a pretty productive day. One of the things I did was to take Lucy to the doctor. Now this is the same person (actually a nurse practitioner) that she has seen before. But since her last visit, the clinic has changed hands, which means that her care provider no longer has access to all her records. I don’t understand this since she signed a release form.

Lucy has been experiencing a great deal of abdominal pain and nausea for the last month, which is why we made this appointment. So today there was no help in terms of diagnosing the cause of her troubles—not even a wild guess. She got a couple of prescriptions and some blood drawn, and at some point they will call to let her know what their tests have turned up. So we are still waiting.

It was a cold, gloomy, overcast day today—until the rain started. It is still raining as I type this late at night. I had to make an emergency trip to Walmart to get cold medicines for my husband. Apparently there is some kind of respiratory plague going around the campus, and he has it now. He probably should have stayed in bed today, but he is a stubborn man and he insisted on going to work.

I prewashed some fabric for a sewing project which needs to be done very soon. I got some knitting done on another deadline-approaching project. I did a bunch of schoolwork with Jasper and class work. Washed a load of laundry and added to my giveaway pile.

And I leveled up on the walking track tonight. I am still walking the same distance (about a mile and a half) and don’t plan to increase it because I just don’t see being able to take that much time every day. However, about a month ago I increased the difficulty a little by walking with weights. I just carry them in my hands and for one-fourth of every lap, I swing my arms high enough to give them a real workout.

I started with my “Barbie” weights—tiny little one-pound pink dumbbells. A couple of weeks ago I switched to my two-pounders. They have felt so ridiculously light this week that today I moved up to three-pounders. In addition to carrying them for most of my walk, I do a few weight-lifting exercises at the end of my walk on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. So I feel like I am making progress.

Please understand: I am an old lady. I am not trying to become a body builder. I just would like to develop a little more upper-body strength and take good care of myself. So don’t expect me to ever announce that I am lugging 20-pound weights around the track every day! I haven’t decided yet if I will move up to five-pounders at some point, but if I do, it’s stopping there!

Handicapped

For the most part, my health has improved dramatically over the last twenty-one months—but I still have some little glitches, and one of them is that occasionally I wake up in agony, because the middle finger of one of my hands is severely inflamed (it can be either hand). I can’t bend it, I can’t straighten it, and I certainly can’t touch anything with it because the pain is excruciating. Today was one of those days.

A few years ago, I learned that sometimes running hot water over the affected hand for a few minutes will make the pain go away quite suddenly. Not today though. No matter how many times I tried the hot water treatment, the pain remained. Usually, even then the pain goes away by itself by lunchtime—but not today. And wouldn’t you know it—everything I planned to do today required the use of my left hand? Typing on my computer keyboard was out of the question. Every task on my to-do list was undoable without the use of my hand. Even closing my car door was a real challenge.

While dealing with all this pain, I had to get dressed, so I put several articles of clothing  together, making an outfit that I thought would be whimsically bohemian. Instead, I looked like an aging vagrant who was wearing her entire wardrobe at once. I had to change, even though undoing buttons was extremely difficult and painful.

One thing I could do was go to my watercolor class, but I was pretty apathetic about it because by then I’d been in pain for several hours and I was just so tired of it. I painted a vase of roses and a rather roguish-looking pumpkin that I ended up being kind of happy with. It was just such a relief to focus on something other than the pain and what it was keeping me from.

By the time I returned home I needed a nap. I find pain very exhausting, and it didn’t help that I was also chilled most of the day. I couldn’t really rest, however, because the pain wouldn’t let me. That’s when I gave up. I broke my fast so I could take some pain meds. (I can’t tolerate ibuprofen on an empty stomach.)

When I got to my writers’ meeting this evening, the meds had taken the edge off the pain, which was great because my more immediate concern was the possibility of frostbite. Our public library is always cold, but today they outdid themselves. I am so thankful I wore my warmest sweater! I kept my hands in my sweater to keep my finger from getting worse.

The bright spot at the meeting was the lady who hadn’t seen me for a while and didn’t recognize me at first because I’ve lost so much weight!

Back home afterward, I finally had enough relief to be able to type! Not pain free, but doable with gritted teeth. So it’s been a rough day. Tomorrow will be better. I’ll be sleeping with warm socks on my hands in hopes that my hands will be back to normal in the morning.

 

My Diabetes Miracle #18: Wings

You know those flaps of flabby flesh that hang down from the upper arms of ladies who happen to be of my generation, and who also happen to be “traditionally built?” Perhaps you’ve heard them referred to as “bingo wings.” I saw one video where a man opined that those “wings” are where all the good recipes are kept, and I’m inclined to believe there’s some truth to that, because I have lots of great recipes, and I also happen to have an epic pair of bingo wings.

9-21-18 Bingo wing

Yes, that is an actual photo of my actual arm.

Even though I have lost so much weight, the bingo wings remain. They are just a lot less full of fat than they used to be.

I know they are unsightly, but recently, I have chosen to look at my wings a different way. I now call them “victory wings,” because they are evidence of the weight I’ve lost. My wings are visual proof that I have achieved some success. Once they were full of fat, and now they are like deflated balloons. They hang down like that because they’re empty—and that’s something to celebrate, right?

Sometimes, when I’m driving the car, I look down and see my victory wings hanging from my arms, and I grin and flap them around to applaud myself for what I’ve achieved. At my age, the chances aren’t good that they’ll ever shrink, despite all my fasting and the much-vaunted side effect of autophagy. So why not view them as a trophy instead of as a tragedy?

I bet in a pinch I could use them as a weapon too . . .