Food has become my enemy and my friend over the last six years. Gosh, just typing that. I can’t believe it has been six years since I was originally diagnosed with cancer. So many people get diagnosed and then are gone so fast. I am very grateful for the time I have had and hope that in thirty years I am having this same conversation.
But, back to what I wanted to talk about. Food. Before I was diagnosed with cancer I became a vegetarian. Frequently people equate vegetarianism with healthy eating but that is definitely not the case for people who go vegetarian because they want to stop being part of the process that is cruel to animals, not for health reasons.
As a fat and happy vegetarian I ate tasty wonderful foods! Salads covered in all sorts of fun things, Mexican food many times a week with rice and tons of guacamole and chips and salsa. Processed foods galore! Noodles and snack foods with abandon. Then I decided I wanted to lose those extra 40 pounds I had put on. I started cutting out the junk food. Less cookies and pastries (OMG I love pastries!), smaller portions, less snacking and I started actually exercising. I started doing yoga which I loved and cardio. I dropped twenty-five pounds and started feeling good and that is about the time I got diagnosed with cancer. I had surgery, I had wicked chemo & a full round of radiation. Food was disgusting for those few months but as a weird quirk of cancer treatment and surgery I did not lose any weight, or at least not more than a few pounds.
Then came the aftermath. My body was trashed. I could not eat anything without being terribly sick for days. No raw fruits or vegetables and very few cooked ones. What does a vegetarian eat if they cannot eat vegetables? Back to the junk. Only heavily processed foods. It was so hard to maintain my weight. I did, but I had to really watch calories and I started adding in more and more exercise. I walked a lot.
After a few years I started getting healthier. I slowly started adding a few foods back into my diet and finding healthier options. Humus, yogurt and other healthier versions of processed foods.
And….BAM…here we go again. Cancer is back. So, blah, blah blah, two years of dealing with that.
I am determined to be as healthy as I can be. Food is not my enemy, or my friend. It is my medicine. I decided that food is not so important as my life.
People joke all the time about not eating healthy because why bother living if you’re not enjoying it. This makes me angry. It really does. I do not say anything because I do not believe I can change peoples mind but I just want to snarl at them. Are you really saying that the only thing in your life that brings you joy is garbage food? A bloody steak and greasy food means more to you than your family? How insulting. The 100’s of books you will never read because a rack of ribs is more important?
It is a choice. I use to be very quiet, almost apologetic about food because I am definitely a live and let live kind of person but watching people kill themselves so slowly and then laugh about it and make jokes is driving me crazy. I think they do not really believe that it is killing them and they think they will be one of those people who live a great life and keep going going going until they are old and worn out. In reality they will probably be sickly, and need other people to take care of them. They will need handfuls of medicine which will cost handfuls of money. They will need medical interventions to keep them alive, but with an ever diminishing quality of life. I don’t think that is funny at all.
I wish I could make people joyful and happy. I wish I could make them able to see through my eyes how wonderful and what a gift each day is. I might not feel that same way if I was lying on a couch eating corn chips and nacho cheese with a danish chaser. Eating an apple makes me feel light and happy and filled with energy. All that time of being denied healthy food and not having a choice has made my decisions easier. Do I want the cheese and cherry danish with layers of light flaky crust that was made by putting butter between each layer? Hell Yes! But I really want to enjoy every moment I have even more.