Saturday, August 22, 2015

Fighting Battles


I have been thinking a lot this week about our personal demons.  We all have them.  Alcohol, drugs, pills, food, shopping...we all have something we just can't resist.  I have a friend who is struggling right now, fighting for her life, in fact, trying not to let her demons win.  Unfortunately, I'm afraid she is losing the fight.  I have tried everything I can think of to help her, but ultimately, this is a battle she has to fight on her own.  I feel helpless, watching her world disintegrate and knowing that I can't do a single damn thing.  Her demons have beaten her down, taken away all of her self-worth, humiliated her and left her battered and bruised from the inside out. I wish she knew how important she is to so many people, how many lives she has touched and what a huge hole she will leave if she lets those demons win.  I so desperately hope she can find her fire again, her will to not just live but to live a rich and beautiful and healthy life, one filled with love and happiness, one where she keeps her demons at bay.  A life where she is appreciated and accepted with all her imperfections, not belittled and beaten down, judged and left behind.  I hope she knows that I will always be here, not just me, but an entire army of believers who know that deep down she is a fighter, and as long as she is fighting, we will fight with her.  But we can't swing the first punch or fire the first missile.  She has to do that.  I know she reads my blog, so I hope these words find her, and that she finds the strength to believe in her own strength. 

Before cancer, my personal demon was food.  For years, I have struggled with my weight and my relationship with food.  I always felt like food was the more powerful one in the relationship.  I often found myself powerless to resist.  I regularly overindulged, ate things that I shouldn't, or thought I shouldn't, "cheated" on whatever diet I was currently trying.  I obsessed about the last piece of cake in the fridge or that perfect bite of...whatever.  I went through fast food drive thrus and ate whatever would feed the demon.  I stuffed myself with food that tasted good but had less than zero nutritional value, filled with chemicals and preservatives.   I would make promises to myself and then break them the same day.  I watched the scale go up two pounds, down one, up another three.  The up was always more than the down and some days I felt as if I would never win. 

To be fair, it wasn't all bad.  I mean, a girl had to eat, right?  Food was the one thing that was a constant in my life.  It never disappointed me, it was always there when I needed it, it didn't judge me.  It was there to comfort me when my father died, eased the pain of hormone shots and failed procedures when we were trying to get pregnant, and then celebrated the births of all three children with me.  Food helped me make friends, impress people, get noticed. It was, and still is, a part of every life cycle event, holiday, get together, party, everything.   I collected recipes and cooked, tried to replicate the treats of my childhood, with varying degrees of success, fed my family well.  Food became a part of my soul, a part of my personality. 

And then, cancer came calling.  Eight months ago tomorrow, I had the surgery that would dramatically change my life...and my relationship with food.  I have had ups and downs in terms of eating.  For six weeks or so, after my second surgery, I was able to eat in limited amounts, mostly soft foods or foods I could cut into little tiny baby pieces.  But other than that brief time, my entire sustenance has been food through a tube.  My meals come in little boxes that I pour into a bag and pump into the port in my stomach.  We joke that the boxes say "New, improved taste!" as I press the buttons to start my meal.  Post radiation, I am working on swallowing.  Sips of water mostly, sometimes a smoothie, as there is still too much swelling to try real food.  And it is work.  I have to really concentrate on swallowing so I don't choke.  That makes the idea of eating a whole lot of work.

Surprisingly though, I am still obsessed with food.  I watch the Food Network religiously, still tear recipes out of magazines and pin recipes to boards on Pinterest.  I fantasize about what I am going to cook, to eat, when I am able.  I found that I am not alone.  Many of the head and neck cancer survivors that I talk to have the same obsession, and some of them have not eaten in years.

I think when food and I re-enter our relationship, there will be a new dynamic.  I will not deny myself anything, that has already been done for me, in a torturous way.  I will not feel guilty about eating, but I will appreciate the quality and value of the food.  I will savor bites and let them linger instead of wolfing them down and not even registering a flavor.  I will enjoy my relationship with food again, but I will seek out foods that are healthy and disease fighting, instead of toxic.  And if I slip, that's okay, as long as I enjoyed it.  There is always another meal, another day to live, to eat. 

When I sat down to write today, I didn't think I had much to say.  Guess I was wrong.  Thanks for going on today's journey with me!

Sparkles and love to you all,
Gayle


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