Endure and Enjoy

Last night’s juice was nasty.

I got it down, but it was nasty!

Really, it was a texture issue. It was a smoothie rather than a juicing. I think in my fevered state I did not get it all blended, so chunks of fruit and kale were floating around. I did not like that!

The leftovers this morning were much better, after I strained it again!

I am still stuck at home, in my chair, since Friday. At least I am awake some now! I had fevers and chills yesterday, and fever last night, and chills this morning. I think it has finally broken, and I am grateful.

They say day three is always the worst.

This morning was my first day to start with the green juice I will be having every morning now. It is made of cucumber, kale, broccoli, celery, apple, lemon, and ginger root. It is my favorite juice so far, and that’s a relief since it is prescribed daily for now. The toddler loved hers, and five liked his enough once he got over the initial shock. Nathan is being a sport and drinking along with me, encouraging me every step.

I have vague memories of him in night hours or with the sun coming through the window, hovering over me with wet cloths or tucking extra blankets around me or kissing my bald head. It’s all a blur, but I know it is his kindness that has made me strong.

Guess what! We got more of the training done on our new prescribed eating program, and we love it, I think! My favorite part is that breakfast every day is big and yummy, whatever we want, long as it has both a protein and a carb and a green juice. Every day. Portions matter, of course, but I love the flexibility and big breakfast because that’s my favorite.

Plus, we are supposed to eat every three hours after that, like clockwork, and so I don’t think we will have a chance to get hungry! Three meals and two hearty snacks, that’s the deal. Every two days our snacks and meals (except breakfast) will focus on protein and double vegetables (plus juicing), and every third day we add healthy carbs back in (rice, quinoa, gf grains, fruits, potatoes, peas, corn, and root vegetables, fruit smoothies). Portions are still important, but we can pretty much eat the things we are already eating – it’s just organized into a way focused on timing what we eat.

Essentially, the goal is to depriving any remaining cancer cells of what it eats (sugar and processed bad carbs), and to feed my healthy cells what they need to function at their best and make more good cells.

A lot of this happens through carbs, because they play such a big role in how things are metabolized in our bodies. Simple carbs (fruits, corn, peas, and sugar) get broken down quickly. Complex carbs (vegetables, root vegetables, and beans, and whole grains) get broken down slowly.

Breaking down carbs slowly is important because carbs get turned into sugar. Cancer loves sugar! Simple carbs cause spikes in blood sugar that make the cancer feed itself instead of me, and slows my metabolism so medicine doesn’t work properly, and leaves me feeling more sick with lower energy. Complex carbs keep the metabolism and sugars steady, so I have more energy and it’s my good cells that are getting fed instead of cancer.

Some simple carbs – like fruit – is good because they are packed with nutrients that I need, like vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, antioxidants, and fiber. It’s important to add them in once in a while, and to surprise my metabolism and keeping things working efficiently. That’s why we will add extra doses of simple carbs (not table sugar) every couple of days.

This will also manipulate my insulin to keep my muscles healthy, and so keep me healthy, by telling my body it is healthy so keep focusing on muscles instead of storing fat (thank you, steroid and estrogen) or handing over all my nutrients to the cancer.

A hormone called leptin works with the hypothalamus and other hormones to also regulate metabolism and tell the cells what to do (and how fast to do it). If underfed (because cancer is eating everything) or over fed (from unhealthy or too much food), then the leptin switch turns off and the body doesn’t know what to do or whether to feel full or not (or whether to store fat or not). That’s the other reason for mixing up the days and timing of what we eat when. It’s also important because there are leptin receptors on the ovaries, which I no longer have, which is another reason many women gain weight after hysterectomy or menopause.

Also, without enough carbs, serotonin levels get too low. That can cause cravings for food that’s bad for cancer, or even depression. Keeping this level in check by mixing up my days will help me stick with the plan. It also affects cortisol (the stress hormone that gives Americans big tummies!), which needs be reset frequently to keep working properly so I maintain what health I have – or even get healthier – instead of muscle waste or getting more sick.

That, I think, is how it works.

So it means this morning I had eggs and toast for breakfast, with a glass of green juice. Three hours later, I had a snack of some nuts and some fruit smoothie – because we don’t yet have any more protein powder that’s supposed to go in the smoothie, so I had to have some nuts on the side. Three hours later, the family had a white bean casserole with salad on the side.

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We even made a double batch to have a frozen meal ready the way relief society taught us to do!

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A snack later was a handful of a different kind of nut, with some snap peas. Dinner was chicken and red potatoes with more salad. Easy peasy, most of it all stuff we would have had anyway. We are just doing better about portions and timing of when we eat.

One more smoothie (almond milk, banana, orange, pineapple, and spinach) finished the day. Oh, plus the supplements to help everything, especially my immune system. I take capsules by the handful now, and drink a ton of water in between. I am trying.

This is what we do, because our family is fighting cancer.

Even though I do not have it any cancer, because they got it all, and it was already dead.

The doctor said so.

I am glad to wake out of my fog, but these are hard hours. It’s one thing for my body to fight hard when I am out of it, and another thing for the battle to become mental and emotional. I sleep for days, wake for moments, and miss so much.

The toddler is talking now, full on talking, constantly. I hear her babble in my dreams. Five starts kindergarten on Tuesday, and I cannot cannot cannot miss it.

I dreamed of my father, whether in the day or in the night I cannot tell you. He was happy to see me, and I glowed to be with him. I was shy and did not know what to say, and was so worried about offending him or breaking the spell that I almost couldn’t breathe. He told me of things he has learned, the peace he has found, and his happiness for me. Something washes over me so that I believe him, and I smile, and so many around us are celebrating with us.

I stir, because even in my dreams, mortality tugs at me as my core feels as if it has been sliced in half, and I pull against the pain, and push it away, to stay in my dream.

But he is gone.

I can still feel him, though, and hear his voice.

There is nothing about past shame, refusing to forgive, or old family dramas.

It is just him and me, like when I was a girl, and he is pleased with me again, and proud of me, and remembers that he loves me, and the miracle is that I can feel all this happening in him, maybe because I can feel it happening in me, too.

That’s when I hear his voice before it all fades away and my body clutches at me with pain and fevers. He says,

You are choosing to stay, and we have promised your body its healing. But what is in your spirit that you will not let heal? Let it go. It is okay to heal; it is okay to be well. Go be well.

I smile as I feel his “let it go” joke, with his love for my kids and their silly songs flooding over me, and in that moment I am overwhelmed with his love for me and my new family.

But his question also stings, and I cry to answer him. My tears come for his death, and the trauma that it was. My tears come for my mother, because I did not drive her that day. My tears come for my brother, a million miles away. My tears come for babies lost before they were born, and my tears come for children not yet mine. My tears come for the “sins that do so easily beset me”, the natural consequences that nearly destroyed me, and the redemption that has come.

I cry because everything, everything was to make things okay with them again, and now they are gone, both of them, and I am still here, without them.

I cry because I know he has come to set me free.

We all ended well, I think. As well as we could.

I have endured, I think. As well as I could.

There has been so much grief and so much loss, deaths every year I haven’t been in the hospital or very sick. I am so worn out, so exhausted, so tired of being sick. It has been six years of one thing or another in my body, and I just want to be well.

So do it, he says, go. Be well. Other seasons of grief will come and pass, but you are released from yours. Go now, and be healthy, and happy, and enjoy this life you have created and chosen. Enjoy, not just endure.

I know what he is referencing.

It’s the President Hinckley quote on the wall on my side of the bed:

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I hold on to those words, because life has required a lot of enduring.

Initially, I understood it was a matter of penance, a playing out of consequences I had brought on myself.

But then I understood the enduring required as a necessary step in being prepared to be able to endure even more.

And life kept happening.

And kept getting harder.

So I was grateful, and it seemed true, though not confining because there were miracles to match, like finding Nathan.

That’s how I knew it wasn’t just punitive.

It was about transformation.

I myself chose to be baptized and prayed for all the old things to be scraped out of me, and He has faithfully obliged, one surgery at a time, squeezing the trauma-drama out of me grief by grief.

I know, because I am a smarty pants therapist, that these things are swirling around in me only because I am sick and in pain and so very tired. I know that’s the trigger. A girl needs her parents when she is deathly ill, even if she hasn’t got any.

Except I am not deathly ill.

My father said so.

I will be well. I am recovering. I will enjoy my life, besides just enduring it.

I hear Nathan’s whisper from far away:

You are safe. You are loved.
You are not alone.
You are going to be okay.

I am starting to believe him.

That’s when I wake again, and send my children to bed. The day is gone before me, and I have missed it all together. But the pain in my bones is less, and the fever is gone, and the chills have stopped, and I am queasy but almost hungry.

It’s sacrament that Nathan brings me, before my dinner. I am grateful. It seems right for such a dreamy day of setting free and letting go. I tell him about my dream and seeing my dad, and I tell him the things I need to let go. He knows. I have worked through the pieces of them, I say, but I need to just let them go.

Because everything is going to be okay, he says.

Because everything is going to be okay.

You know why? Because I drew a line in the sand. I refuse to drink any more salad. That’s stupid and it’s gross. I will drink all the juiced veggies they want, and make all the fruit smoothies they want. I love salad so can eat as much volume of that as they want. But drink chunks of greens that float around in my awesome shakes?

No, It’s not happening.

Because I can eat salad to save my life, and endure that just fine.

But drinking it? No, I do not enjoy that.

It only matters that I get it in me, and I would rather crunch it than try to drink it, if I can get away with it.

But it’s not a kale crisis.

There are bigger things to wrestle with, eternal things.

This will only last a certain time, and I can only last a certain time; but the chief thing with me is, how to hold on to my faith, and maintain my integrity… and continue to grow in all intelligence, knowledge, faith, perseverance, power, and exaltation; that is a matter of some importance to me.

I would hate, after struggling, and trying to master the evil around me, and to conquer the evil disposition that besets me, to let some little thing upset me, and root me up, and cause me to lose my high calling’s glorious hope, and make a shipwreck of my faith.

~ John Taylor, 1854 (JoD 1:365)

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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