A New Chapter, New Hope
So I haven’t been blogging very much. I realized it’s because my blog didn’t really have a purpose. I mean, why would anybody care what I think about anything? Just a week ago I had no purpose, but now I do. I need your help. Would you please consider being my accountability partner for the next 30 days? Let me explain…
The past six years have been a whirlwind. My elderly mom moved in with us; our son graduated from college (Magna cum Laude in Physics!) then got married; my husband got a new job; we built and moved into a new house in a new town; we joined a wonderful, loving church family…and I suffered through it all. I knew something was wrong. My health had been on a downward spiral for years. I had become scatter-brained, stressed out, decrepit and exhausted. My ministry, which had always brought me joy, became difficult and sometimes I just didn’t want to sing or play the piano or organ anymore. It was just hard to have the energy. I tried to be brave, to hold it together, for my husband and son. I had to take care of my mother and my home. And myself. I was always last.
It caught up with me.
Growing up, I always had robust health. I was overweight, but I was active and busy and happy most of the time. Sure, the chubby girl is always bullied. So was I. I had great teachers my whole life who encouraged me in elementary school, but junior high was an ordeal I would never want to live through again. I started high school fearful that it would be just like junior high. Then a miracle happened. I worked up the courage to audition for stage band. Our band director told me he had never seen anyone my age who could sightread like me! That one compliment turned things around. I decided to try acting and loved it. It didn’t matter so much that I was overweight. I was voted a senior superlative- most talented; I was the class poet; I sang at our class Baccalaureate ceremony and the teachers voted to give me a college scholarship based on all-around ability. I was college-bound!
Like so many others, I did not have a clue what I wanted to be “when I grew up.” My dad insisted I study accounting. Ugggghhhhh….a creative musician taking accounting? It was the longest semester of my life! I changed over to journalism and settled in public relations. When it came time to choose a second major (or two minors) the choice was pretty easy. It had to be music! I had already been studying voice at the conservatory on campus at UTC and was singing in Chamber Singers, so I decided to check out the recitals held every Thursday in the concert hall in the Fine Arts Building. Music majors had to perform twice per semester. I sat in the back on several Thursdays and enjoyed the wonderful music. Then it hit me. I did not want to be judged by my appearance. I wanted to be judged by my talent.
I had to lose the weight.
My wonderful, supportive parents paid for Nutrisystem. I lost 80 pounds by dieting and riding a bike one hour a day. Success!!
I’ll skip ahead. I graduated and met a wonderful man. He joined the United States Air Force and we moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. All I knew about Albuquerque I learned from Bugs Bunny who said, “I shoulda taken a left at Albu-KOYKEY.” It was on a snowy morning in Albuquerque my life changed.
My husband says I hit him first. I don’t remember it that way. To be honest, I don’t remember much about that day. Except pain. I love my husband! He’s a lot like me; we both have the same weird sense of humor. We’re both playful and love to laugh together (and at each other). That’s what led to the event that changed my life. It was the snowball. That darn snowball! It was our first snow as a married couple; we did what most “normal” newlywed couples would do. We played in the snow. We made a snowman, then in my zeal, I started the snowball fight (or so my husband says.) He was too fast for me! I remember running to catch him so I could get him good, but I missed when my foot landed on a sheet of hidden ice beneath the snow on our driveway. It happened so fast I had no time to catch myself. I landed hard on my right hip. I haven’t been the same since.
I got up, brushed myself off and thought, ‘Oh, I’m gonna have a bad bruise.’ Which I did. But I had also fractured my pelvis.
I took something for pain. I was only 26 years old; what could possibly be wrong other than a bruise? Monday morning, I got up and went to work, nursing my sore leg. I did that for three weeks until one morning I got up and couldn’t stand up straight. “Hmmmm…I guess I better go to the doctor,” I said to my husband, “Something’s wrong.” By that time, my pelvis had started to heal, so the doctor did not seen anything on the x-ray. He referred me to the chiropractor on base. After three weeks, he said I was right as rain, so I didn’t go back.
The next year, I found out I was pregnant with our son. I was ecstatic! I read every book I could get my hands on. Money was tight, so I bought maternity clothes and a crib from a friend who needed to sell them. We could hardly wait to see him! I worked until two weeks before he was born. The pregnancy was easy, really, and I had no more back pain than “normal” expectant moms.
Two years later, we would try again, but that pregnancy was completely different. You can read about it in my Defining Moment post.
When the twins died, part of my heart died with them. This woman who had always had robust health realized that she was mortal. Spending 24 hours alone in intensive care in a military hospital has quite an impact on you.
I decided to just live. I would raise my little boy to be kind and smart. I would tell him about Jesus and teach him to read. And I would be the best wife I could be. What I did not understand then was that by putting myself and my health last, I could not be the woman I so desperately wanted to be. Now that I’m older and hopefully wiser, I tell young women to take care of themselves first. Putting yourself first means knowing who you are, a child of God. Seek Him out; remember that God loves you most of all. He loves you so much He gave His only Son to take your place in punishment for every sin you’ve ever committed or ever will. He wants you to live an abundant life…that means a balanced life: mind, body and spirit. You can’t live an abundant life if any part is out of balance. I wish someone had told me that 27 years ago.
It was in 2003 that my fall caught up with me. My right hip was hurting. It was less painful to ride in the car if I sat with my right cheek on a pillow. I went to the doctor, who prescribed pain medication and sent me to a physical therapist. He asked me if I had ever been injured; the only injury I ever had was during the infamous snowball fight. When I described what happened, he told me I most likely had fractured my pelvis. My decision not to see a doctor and get x-rays for three weeks meant the fracture had started to heal, making it very difficult to diagnose. There was nothing to be done but physical therapy and chiropractic care. And medication for pain. “You just need to lose some weight. That’ll help,” he said.
I tried. And failed. For years.
I don’t know if doctors were aware 15 years ago that certain foods cause inflammation. If they did, nobody told me. I had heard the reports that saccharin causes cancer. I thought drinking Diet Coke was a good thing; I mean, Coke is full of sugar, right? I cooked all our meals; I rarely fried anything. I was active and exercising, but my weight kept creeping up. As the weight went up, the pain level increased. So did the stress. Then Mom moved in with us and I tried to care for her as best I could. My doctor became concerned about my blood work and sent me to an oncologist. Now, that’s a scary thing! I had a bone marrow biopsy. The good news is I have no genetic markers for cancer. Not one. So what in the world was going on with my health? What was causing my symptoms: exhaustion, high white count, “brain fog”, mood swings, rosacea, etc.? My doctor prescribed an antidepressant. Oh goody…more medication. I wasn’t gaining weight, but I couldn’t lose weight either.
I gave up.
Fast forward to 2016. New home. New doctors. New pain. I have tried every diet fad and almost every diet…First Place, Weigh Down, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Paleo, the Daniel Plan, etc. but nothing helped me lose weight for very long. I was in pain from head to toe. I had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my hands, knees and neck. I had sprained my ankle and was diagnosed with Achilles tendinitis in my right ankle. I wore a dadgum boot for months! I had carpal tunnel in both wrists. A friend referred me to her hand specialist, who ordered x-rays of both hands and told me I need joint replacement in both thumbs. The most painful injections I have ever had were his cortisone shots in those joints. Thank God again that the injections worked and my inflammation went away, taking the carpal tunnel with it.
My knees were so painful I could barely walk anymore. My chiropractor referred me to an orthopedic surgeon. He ordered x-rays of every angle of my knees. The prognosis was not good. Severe arthritis behind both knee caps. He warned me never to take any stairs and said he doubted I would be able to put off surgery for very long. He ordered cortisone injections for both knees. I was hopeful the cortisone would help my knees the way it had my hands. I cried all the way home.
I had to make some tough decisions. No stairs meant no music ministry. There are stairs down into the choir loft, up to the stage and down into the organ pit. I had to give up singing and playing. You might as well rip my heart right out! My husband and I talked and prayed about what to do. We decided to switch to the early service so I would not have so far to walk to Sunday School. Our new connection groups embraced us and we feel loved. God is so good!
Knowing how desperate I was to lose weight, my husband agreed to let me try South Beach diet. I thought it would be a great option for us (especially in preparation for knee surgery), but we soon grew bored with the frozen foods. And even though I’m in pain, I still enjoy cooking my own healthy food.
Nope. South Beach wasn’t the answer, either.
I had grown desperate to find a solution to my pain. I remember a friend from Bible Study Fellowship telling me about her friend who had stem cell injections in her knees. After several days of research, I talked it over with my husband and attended a lunch seminar about stem cell research and how they treat osteoarthritis in joints. After the seminar, I went to the office to have x-rays to see if I would be a candidate. Thankfully, it turns out I am a candidate, so I called my husband to tell him how much it would cost. I am one lucky (blessed) woman! He thinks I’m worth at least $8, 960 (that’s the cost if you are treated the same week of the seminar.)
I am happy to report that in only two weeks, my knees are already feeling better. The pain has eased a bit and I’m able to get around much better. I go back in three and six months for plasma rich platelet injections. I may even make a video about my progress for the doctor’s office if my knees continue to improve. I pray so…
A friend told me about an eating plan called Whole 30. She said she and her husband were on the plan and had seen great results. I invested in the books It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, Food Freedom Forever and Whole 30 Day by Day by Melissa Hartwig and joined a beginners group on Facebook. As I read It Starts With Food, it hit me. Everything I ate was wrong. Even the South Beach meals were chocked full of foods and additives that were causing my inflammation! LIGHT BULB! I plowed through the book; it really is an easy read with some humor thrown in. It’s almost like reading my own story. That’s where I learned two important lessons.
DIETS DO NOT WORK and CRAVINGS COME FROM MY BRAIN, NOT FROM MY WEAKNESS!
I have spent so much time beating myself up because I’m not strong enough to resist temptation. I convinced myself that if I were a better Christian, I would love God more and food less. Folks, let me tell you something…if you have ever taken part in a Bible study that shamed you into thinking that if only your faith were stronger, if you were only closer to God you could turn your back on the foods that tempt you because temptation is a sin…let me tell you…that’s a lie. If your system is so damaged you’re suffering from metabolic syndrome (like me), you must heal your digestive and endocrine systems before you can EVER lose weight. Once you do that, your cravings will ease. Once you understand how food can HEAL you…that’s right, I said it…HEAL, you’ll give yourself a break. I did, and I feel like the weight of the world is off my shoulders!
DISCLAIMER: I do not work for the doctors who developed Whole 30. I will not make any money off one dime you spend on these books (so don’t ask me to lend you mine, because I’m not gonna!) If you’d like more information about Whole 30, here is the link to their website: https://whole30.com/books/
I just want you to feel free. Like me.
One of the things Melissa Hartwig encourages folks to do before they start their first Whole 30 round is to find accountability partners. I decided to document my journey here and will try to post every day as time allows. I began my fast last week, but will do my official start with accountability tomorrow. It takes time to read the book and prepare your pantry for your new way of living. So tomorrow I reboot. Today I drink my last glass of iced tea with Sweet & Low and order my last Chinese food for awhile (but not forever!) Thanks in advance for joining me on this journey.
Hey, if you don’t mind, please leave me a comment if you’re interested in tagging along and want to know how it’s going.
Until next time (tomorrow?)