I had another appointment with my oncologist. Erica accompanied me because she had some questions and concerns she wanted to discuss with my doctor. I think my lifestyle changes were now affecting her quality of life. She has to live with me and that can be a challenge in and of itself. Now she has to, while eating salads every night…sober!
This was just another routine check-up where the nurses take my blood and check my vitals. Then we would sit down with the oncologist so she could track my progress and see how I was doing. Most of the conversations with the oncologist are just us talking to the back of her head. She’s normally looking at what keys to press while she slowly types her notes in the system. Occasionally she’ll glance over to let us know she’s listening.
Erica read online, it wouldn’t kill me if I had an occasional drink. My doc agreed. She didn’t really seem to care. Upon hearing this great news, I whipped out a beer I had been saving for this very moment. I reached over and snatched a pen off my doctor’s lab coat so I could use it to poke a hole in the can. Right as I was going to shotgun my beer, she stopped me and clarified: It’s ok to have a drink – just do it in moderation. I casually hid the beer behind my back, slid down into my chair and politely listened to what else she had to say. Basically, having a drink is a comfort. With a tough journey ahead, it’s important to find comforts – wherever I can.
Then Erica asked her if I should be dieting right now. The typing stopped. She took off her reading glasses, walked over and smacked the back of my head. Ok, she didn’t really slap me, but that’s the kind of look she gave me. She asked (as if I was an idiot), “Why would you be doing that?!” I think this was her way of saying I should have some carbs. This was the most emotion she’s ever shown. She went on to explain: I shouldn’t be cutting back on eating – especially now. If anything, I should be trying to gain weight. I need to eat while I can, because later on, I might not be able to hold down any food – let alone have an appetite. Basically, chemo can wear a person down. The more rounds of chemo, the more taxing it can get on the body. She continued rambling on and on about some important safety crap, but all I heard was, “stuff your face, you lil bitch!” Before she said another word, I was out the door, sitting at a booth in IHOP, ordering breakfast.
Corned beef hash and eggs. Yes, my first indulgent meal in weeks was pan fried dog food. That wasn’t an accident – my mother’s Hawaiian. Hormel has always been a trusted brand in this family. Not so fast, I wasn’t finished ordering. I wanted carbs on top of carbs. Hash browns and a tall stack of pancakes rounded out my first real meal. When they brought my food, I stood up to eat. I took a pancake in each hand, rolled them up like taquitos, dunked them in water and shoved them down my throat. A crowd of onlookers watched in amazement, as I put on a Kobayashi-like performance. About 12 seconds later I was finished. The table next to me looked like the front row of a Gallagher show. After starving myself during four of the shittiest weeks of my life, I think it was warranted.
I felt like I just received a doctor’s note to participate in the Glutton Bowl. For the next few days I was on a mission to gain back the weight I lost. I did a complete 180 with my diet. Still keeping the focus and discipline I showed when I was eating clean and healthy – only now, it was fattening and delicious. It felt great to eat like a morbidly obese normal person again. I was feasting on nothing but empty calories. Milkshakes and pancakes became the staple of my new diet.
My new diet sent me on a new journey: to find the best pancakes. I must’ve eaten at every breakfast spot within a 15-mile radius. When I exhausted all those options, I started working on my own recipes. I love to cook, but recent tumors kept me out of the kitchen. Now I had the time (not working) and motivation (get fat) to cook again. I don’t hold anything back when I cook – I’m very passionate about it. It felt good being back in the kitchen, putting my heart and soul into making the best god damn milkshake ever! Cooking was just what I needed. It gave me a hobby, but more importantly, it cleared my mind. Now, I was thinking about pancake batters…not my homeboy crying like a baby.
Resizing my belt is what finally opened my eyes to what everyone else already saw. I didn’t need another one of these wake-up calls, so every morning I would jump on the scale. I became obsessed with my weight. It became my measuring stick to see how “healthy” I was. I had to gain some weight because I didn’t know what the coming treatments would do to my body or appetite. Besides, being that skinny can’t be healthy for anyone – let alone a cancer patient. 155 ain’t right…just ask BJ.
Even though I got my doctor’s blessing, I wasn’t going to drink caffeine or alcohol until I was finished with chemo. This was a concession for my personal challenge. For whatever twisted reasons I had, I still wanted to test myself in some way. Six rounds of chemo might be tough, but no beer or coffee might be Jeff’s Greatest Challenge.
I accepted the fact that I didn’t know how I got this tumor. Instead of feeling guilty, I put that energy into trusting my doctor and putting faith in modern medicine. I trusted R-CHOP was going to do its job – the rest was up to me. With five more treatments on my calendar – it was important I stay positive. With hair loss, appetite loss, fangs or whatever else chemo does to a person, the only thing I could really control was my attitude.
I was officially done dieting. I came to my senses and realized carrots and kale weren’t enough to get rid of this tumor. I had a new outlook on “healthy.” The lean and clean food I was putting in my body made me look sick. I’m not saying the diet wasn’t right, it just wasn’t right for me – right now. Aside from the fact that I gorged for a couple days, I eventually settled down and ate sensibly. I didn’t need my chemo summer turning into My Diabetic Fall. But, if push came to shove, I wouldn’t hesitate to dive into some chili cheese fries for some comforting.