I know I have it within myself to teeter along the edge of depression. Quickly things can spiral out of control in my brain and fear upon fear upon worry upon sadness down that long tunnel into darkness. It’s at that point where I can see the world around me going on about its business and I feel like a mannequin in a poorly lit window, watching it all. It sucks. For that reason, I lean on my coping mechanisms. I run. I workout. I cling tightly to my family. I inhale loads and loads of motivational and inspirational quotes. I also cut out negativity. I have to. I purposefully stop watching the news. All that to say, the past couple of weeks, I was walking an emotional tightrope.
Let’s back up. After everything I witnessed with my mother last year, I decided to make a dramatic change in our lifestyle and cut out animals from my diet at the beginning of the year. (I don’t say vegetarian because well, there are so many definitions to that. My thing was, if it has a face, then I didn’t eat it. This included fish.) It was supposed to be a six week experiment that has evolved into a mostly permanent thing. I allow myself to eat something with a face one or two meals a week. To say it was life changing is an understatement. For me, this is what happened:
- I lost 25 pounds.
- I’ve shaved off nearly two minutes from my mile pace (multiple miles).
- I have a waist. <---That one, well, I’m square shaped, normally. I’ve never, in my life, had the abdomen lines on my belly. Not even in college when I was an athlete and my body fat percentage was really low.
- My allergies mostly disappeared. I’m the sneeziest person I know. And yet, here I can breathe again. I still have off days, but I don’t suffer as much as I used to.
- My face is brighter, well, the complexion. I thought some of that had to do with the Costa Rican and Californian sun, but no, it is the diet.
For a few years now, my Beloved has been having pain in his abdomen area. In June, Don finally acted on that pain in his abdomen and had his gallbladder removed. In it, they found polyps, which we later discovered to be benign. (whew) We also discovered that his gallbladder had only been operating at less than 10% efficiency. Hooray, right? Well, mostly, until August when the pain in his abdomen persisted. It kept hammering at him and hammering at him. That month, several people around me (around our age) were new diagnosed and battling cancer. You can imagine my fears. They were creeping in, gaining a stronghold. I insisted he go in to get it checked. Before we made that appointment, he decided to give the non-animals diet a whirl. His challenge for himself was for two weeks. He lost 10 pounds in those two weeks. His blood pressure became more normalized. However, the pain, it lingered. In he went to a GI specialist.
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been running around with angst, worry, sadness…knocking on that door of depression. My world with him was in jeopardy. Why? Because when we sat down with the doctor, she told us that he would be undergoing a series of tests. Bloodwork, CT scans, ultrasounds, endoscopy, colonoscopy, and even biopsies..they wanted to rule out everything. At the worst, he could have some type of cancer. At the best, he has a food allergy. Talk about a broad spectrum! Shortly after we heard of the news, we had a road trip to Lubbock. We had 12 dedicated hours in the car to discuss, plan, and prepare. I spent three of those hours quietly sobbing to myself as my beloved lay next to me sleeping, our two blessings in the back slumbering. I prayed and prayed, crested over the canyons in the black of night and was greeted by the most amazing lightning storm I’d ever witnessed. For the next two hours, I focused on each bright burst, attempting to gain as much confidence and reassurance as possible for our own personal storm.
We faced each day, holding hands and embracing. His attitude changed from worry to relaxed. He tried to calm my fears by telling me it was ok. When things got to be too much, I ran. (or jumped or danced or cried) My closest loves held me tightly. Their infectious positivity lighting my mood. Their words of inspiration jumping out from the paper, the screen, my phone, all of them lifting me up. Despite all of that, the day before the “big tests” I curled up into the shower and ugly-cried for the better part of an hour. The biggest thing I lamented about that was all of the water that I had wasted. During that time, I considered the people we met along the way during our journey this summer. I reflected back on genuine and loving conversation from a beautiful man who has been victorious against throat cancer (and he has now become a mentor of sorts and a coveted friend). I remembered the sounds of the ocean lapping up the shores of Costa Rica, where the tiny bit of paradise is littered with trash, but in spite of the garbage, it is lush, thriving, and still very beautiful. I thought of my friends who have had other battles and remained steadfast in grace and positivity. I emerged from that shower, braver and ready for what may come. (We won't even discuss the crazy dreams.)
No matter what.
That’s our motto, mine and my beloved’s. I held his hand, he held mine, each of us taking a deep breath. He the calm and steady one with the sexiest antrum I've ever seen. (ok, it is the only one I've ever seen, but still) Me, the nervous wreck, trying to be as cool and cheerful. Why do I do that? Must be my way of coping.
Results came back and all is normal! (wiping tears) They had found and removed a polyp, which was non-cancerous. All of the other tissue samples they had taken to perform biopsies came back normal. What they did discover is erosion in his stomach and small intestine. Basically, it’s as if someone took sandpaper to them. The acids in your stomach are so strong that with this weaker lining, you are inviting ulcers, which could eventually lead to worse things like cancer. Because the stomach is near all of the other major organs, this poses an even bigger threat. Now, he has to take a pill to coat his stomach to prevent further erosion and ulcers. Eating better is now essential. Additionally, he will undergo tests for food allergies. To start, they encouraged him to eliminate gluten from his diet. Changes, indeed, but nothing we’ve not encountered before.
All that to say, please, please, please go get yourselves checked out if you suspect something. The tiniest bits of changes in your body could be indicators for things far worse. Not knowing is scary, but knowing and having a plan is better, right? That’s where we are. Attempting to live our lives, buying more time, and embracing challenges ahead as happily and as positively as we can…together.