Friday, July 23, 2010

Scared straight

My second 99% fat-free day - all those doctors telling me how you can die from pancreatitis.  Today it was the Chinese doctor, who told me, while inserting many needles, that this is very serious, "the pancreas can melt."  I get it.  Yesterday and today I have stayed under 1 gram of fat, today snacking 5 or 6 times, just 100 calories or so each time.  I feel distinctly better, less pain, but that may have something to do with the acupuncture.  I developed a bad right-side headache during the acupuncture, so the doctor put a whole new batch of needles in and kept me another 15 or 20 minutes - no extra charge.  It was miraculously freeing.  I had been storing my denial there.

Denial.  One of those psychotherapy words that is too big a wastebasket, I think.  It's used a lot in regard to alcoholism, too.  The doctor in the hospital told me a story as he was releasing me.  He had a 23-year-old patient who would not follow the diet and had several flareups.  Finally, this kid ate half a box of chocolate chip cookies and drank half a gallon (!) of chocolate milk.  He died.  The doctor told this in an even, conversational tone, and said, "I hated this.  It was so unnecessary."

But don't we know how hard it is to "diet"?  How tempting food is, how it seems to be the only solace sometimes, irresistable.  Thus we have the sad obesity epidemic in America.  I'm at least 20 pounds overweight myself, I don't know quite how or when that snuck up on me.  I'd like to make it melt.  I think I'm ready to go back to the health club tomorrow or the next day and get things flowing again, maybe step my metabolism up.

Oh yes, my denial.  Not denying that this is serious.  For years I've lived with an illness I understand, kidney disease, and for which there are treatments (dialysis and transplant).  Some people do get a pancreas transplant, but not from a living donor.  Otherwise, if it stops working and maybe becomes necrotic or septic, you won't live long. 

I wasn't denying that.  I was denying the intensity of my reaction to these facts.  I don't want to die.  I feel far from ready.  Yes, there are the manuscripts I ought to tend to and get out somehow, maybe a couple of letters I'd like to write, but it isn't about these accomplishments.  It's truly about giving up this form, this body, well, this whole life.  Out you go and it dissolves.  By the time they do your memorial service, the river has carried you on, and you are mostly forgotten. 

I say that.  Yet here on my desk are photographs of two beings I love and miss and think of often, a woman who was especially kind to me in my youth, and Sherlock, the old cat who died last year after 13 years with us.  They are not forgotten or disappeared.  But as far as I can tell, the pattern that was that woman has dissolved.  She has never come to visit me, nor has my mother.  How thoroughly dead and gone my mother was when she died was something I couldn't grasp for years.

Today I pulled out of that, and I feel fine.  I enjoyed hulling strawberries and slicing them, sugaring them down for a bedtime snack on angel food cake.  I loved it.  I thought a little about work and play, how cooking when you feel good is so delightful, not "work" at all. Beyond definitions.
[image - thanks to Wikipedia Commons] 

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