getting myself back
Hm. Where to start.
I don’t know if you know this, but I am not much of a lyrical wordsmith. I mean I can write things like ‘Happy Love’ about my couples because it is about them, and not me….. But today, I am going to share a story about me and my last year of life, which is a story that is wrapped into the last 6 years, so you are going to hear the lead up first. And I am doing this because everyone keeps asking me why, and how I started to get this healthy change a going + have kept it up.
The short answer is, because I needed to. The long answer is below.
So I guess we should start at the beginning.
2012 started as any year had before more or less. We were newlyweds, waiting on Match day to arrive to find out where we would be going for Craig’s residency. Then in February I got one of the those middle of the night phone calls you dread. What came out over the next few days of hospital visits was that Mom has a crazy softball sized cancerous tumor in her kidney which had to immediately be removed. From there we found out it had spread to the lungs, and a plan was made for maintaining a chemo pill to stop the growth. Over the next two years we sat in many hospitals for many complications. I took a crazy amount of flights + long drives from St. Louis, where Craig had matched to, back to Chicago for emergency trips and surgeries due to complications from the meds. Late night phone calls to on-call nurses, learning what PICC lines were, how to give lovenox injections and how to get bubbles out of the long tube lines. All things I did not want to know how to do, there was a reason I wasn’t in the medical field after all. But alas after getting Momma through the divorce a few years before, it was logical I would be the one there with her through the cancer. And thank the heavens for her incredible group of friends who took care of her when I could not be there because I had work or lived in a different state, I am forever grateful for that help + support, and the love you ladies had for Mom.
By late fall of 2013 I had more or less moved back to Chicago and in with Mom. Living in 2 places while running your own business, living on the road, and worrying/stressing about medical testing results and where the cancer may have spread to is an odd reality to be in. December 2013 was when the first of the 3 brain bleeds happened. I was in St. Louis when I got the call “Ugh, Mom’s brain is bleeding.” – brother.
That’s a weird one to get.
Craig and I were on the highway in minutes and got there to talk to her before the brain surgery. She came out of that one wonderfully, and Craig headed back to St. Louis as I settled in at home with Mom. Post brain surgery things were of course off, and working through those things with her in a grump state was rough. I spent my last Christmas with her yielding emails from a client asking if I can send some photos over because their family was together for the holiday and wanted to see them…. And as I was always wanting to please people I of course tried to make that happen. Which left me resentful later. Work life balance, real important guys.
The last 5 weeks of her life were the first 5 weeks of 2014. There were 2 more brain bleeds, the last one was the one that took her out. Having to call 911 and ride to the hospital knowing “welp this is it” is an odd kind of though. Especially riding through all of it on your own. Walking into the ER going “her brain is bleeding” and having the staff look at you like you are being a little dramatic and how could you possibly know that, also interesting.
When the time came, my brother Danny and I had all the tubes removed. Craig made it back up from St. Louis and the 3 of us lived in her room for the next 18 hours until she took her last breath. She was non-responsive that whole time, as she had never really woken up from the surgery. So we held her hand, she’d squeeze faintly here and there but not much. Those are the last connections we felt. She was 56. I was 27 and felt like I’d lived a hell of a lot longer at that point. Then I had this super out of body experience where I saw my Mom at 23 when she lost her Mom from cancer. Life is interesting you guys. Also, a whole lot of females in my family have died of cancer…
Craig, Danny and I left the hospital that day both of them holding my hands to keep me up. Leaving your Mom (or any loved one) in the hospital, like just walking away, such an odd, surreal moment. I wasn’t all that sure what day or time it was at that point so we went to my Dad’s house, took a quick cat nap and then went to my Grandfathers funeral.
Yeah guys, really weird day.
The next year that followed is a complete blur. I know I worked my but off. But I also drank all the Malbec I could find so I could sleep. For the first few weeks after she died every time I closed my eyes I would see the lights from the ambulance ride. I was living on coffee, wine, cheese. I was barely sleeping, or sleeping way too much. The first year of grief is confusing and overwhelming and frustrating and maddening. At least it was for me. The second year was the same, but I could manage myself a bit better. The third year, well more used to it… bu then you feel a little guilty for being used to it.
When my Mom was alive, post diagnosis, people would ask how she was doing – I would put on a smile + be positive and happy in my response to them, because it is easier. Nobody wants to hear the truth. They all end with “I’m sure it will all turn out okay!” “So everything is good then?!” and other uncomfortable things that you don’t know how to respond to, so you smile and go along with it. The point of this is, I held in all the anger and truth and saved that all until she died.
I was just sick of making other people feel better about it. They didn’t go through it all, so why try and make it easier on them.
Alright so these years of grief kept passing, and I kept not taking care of myself. I took care of my business and my clients, and tried to check in with my husband and friends. I never really checked in with myself. So over the 5 years since she was diagnosed I had gotten so incredibly unhealthy. I had enough. Like had gained 60 pounds and was miserable any time I had to put a pair of pants that had a button on them on. I like had to force myself to smile.
I was hiding behind Craig in every picture taken in 2016, so I was just a floating head, and his shoulder would help hide my chins. Like enough was enough, this grief and that pain and the struggles of losing a parent, my best friend in my case – are something that will always be with me. I needed to learn how to live with them and not let them to continue to take me down. Cancer could not keep winning.
Hiding + Hiding, both December 2016.
January 2017 – I hired a personal trainer to help me “get in vacation shape” before our trip to Asia. I knew I would not be able to hack walking multiple miles a day in the shape I was in and I foolishly thought, oh 3 weeks and a few visits will get me back to normal. HA. I really did not get just how far gone I was. So my trainer, Jennifer (hey girl), started to train my uncoordinated very out of shape self. She is my hero guys, I would not be here in a successful way without her.
February 2017 – we went to Asia for almost the whole month. When we got back home I tried to eat some pizza, and got instantly sick. Turns out once I had conditioned myself to not live on cheese I was able to see how much it hurt me… and was totally okay with not adding it back into my body.
March 2017 – this disposable camera picture came in the mail. I was taken January 27, 2017 — I saw it and I was like OMG WHO IS THAT LADY. Shit, it’s me. So I got on my trainers schedule more seriously than before. 3 times a week she was kicking my but for an hour and at home I was getting my eating in check. I know that the cancer is something that is in my family so I knew I needed to cut out the processed foods and a whole bunch of other stuff. Like my aluminum ridden deodorant.
Over the next 9 moths I more or less cut out all dairy, those processed foods, red meat (I cave sometimes on them hamburgers guys) any pop/sugared beverages + juices, alcohol consumption went waaaaaay way way way way down, no more bread or pastas, very little rice. You know – I eat a bunch of chicken + fish, quinoa, all the fruits and veggies, like so much spaghetti squash, kale and avocados, eggs, all the blueberries and things like chia seeds + apple cider vinegar.
I was training 3x a week with Jennifer and then started to add runs into my schedule in May, and would try to run 3-5 days a week depending on how I was feeling. I start just about everyday with a smoothie that always has banana, apple cider vinegar, kale and blueberries.
And you know what happened guys, all those things they say will happen. I started sleeping better, and being able to fall asleep easier. My skin + hair were healthier. I felt better, more confident, happier, and just more like myself. What a huge thing, to feel like yourself. People have been super sweet to me, but the best thing that I’ve been told is from a sweet friend who got a little teary eyed and exclaimed “It is so great to see you again”
So come January 2018, I stepped back on the scale and it turns out I am down about 45 pounds, had lost 6% body fat since March and am down 3 pant sizes. And I have stopped hiding behind Craig in photos : )
Sooooo here we are. I’m human, I slip up and eat things I should not here and there. I cannot pick what I eat at weddings so I try and pack larbars and RX bars and have tons of kale or protein pancakes to start the day. I’ve had shin splints twice over the last year, and I have tendinitis + an impingement in my right shoulder that drastically slows me down and does not allow me to do a whole lot of different activities at the gym. I think the fact that I cannot do burpees is why I still like my trainer. I’ve learned that rest days are in fact a vitally important part of the process and that anytime you can get your husband to workout with you and your trainer, make it happen because kicking his ass is a great boost of confidence.
This journey was just that, a journey. As you can see nothing happened over night. It is a lifestyle change that I needed, something that I can continue on with to live more balanced and to make sure I am stopping to take care of myself. You realize after awhile that if you’ve run yourself into the ground taking care of others and working nonstop, none of if it going to work out well. So here is to eating more kale + spaghetti squash, doing more and more squats, and keeping an eye on myself so I don’t get so lost again. I’ve set some new goals and am excited to keep working towards them!
I know this was like so much text to share. But it felt needed to explain what has driven me and what has been in my head this last year. So thank you for reading through : ) If you want to swap some workout routines or recipes – let’s talk, because I love learning other peoples favorites!!