Where I’ve Been and Hope for What’s Ahead

photo credit: pennstatenews via photopin cc

photo credit: pennstatenews via photopin cc


Have you missed me?

I have missed me.

That might sound silly, but when dealing with a health issue over a long period of time you miss the things you used to do and how you used to feel; you may not even recognize yourself. It has been pretty quiet here at Savoring Today over the last six months because I’ve been sidelined with acute hypoglycemia.

Yep, low blood sugar of the scary and dangerous kind.

Blurred vision, confusion, anxiety, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, tremors, rapid heart beat, and weight gain have been a regular part of life, which I’ve managed to navigate by eating every 2 hours and carrying Smarties candy everywhere I go. This hobbit lifestyle of first and second breakfast, followed by elevenses and lunch, then more snacking and dinner means I’m never hungry. Ever. When hunger isn’t there to drive an interest in food and it’s difficult to think clearly (the brain likes glucose), writing about food just doesn’t happen.

All that to say, I’ve missed you too. Visiting your blogs, reading your comments, conspiring about what to cook next … I miss every part of it.

So what the heck is causing all the trouble?

As it turns out, I have an insulinoma, a rare insulin producing pancreatic tumor. I consider myself fortunate to have diagnosis, discovery, and surgery scheduled all within five months—the average is three years—because it is a condition often misdiagnosed and the tumors so small they are hard to locate. Funny, I never imagined myself being grateful to have a doctor find a tumor, but having an answer and a solid solution to this recent life-hack is a relief. 

Unfortunately, it will involve major surgery to remove it, which is scheduled in just a few days—another mountain to climb, but I’ll be on my way to getting my life back.

So in the meanwhile, I have invited a few blogging buddies of mine to stop in and share savor-worthy stuff with you during April and May until I can get back to the kitchen. I am deeply grateful for their support and honored to introduce them to you in the coming weeks—I know you’ll love them as much as I do.

♦          ♦         ♦

This particular health journey has been a marathon roller coaster ride physically, emotionally, and spiritually. A difficult season to be sure, but not without valuable insight. While my specific symptoms may not be common, the struggle to cope with an illness or injury has touched the lives of many. I hope this is encouraging in some way. 

Be gentle with yourself.

As I mentioned in the list of symptoms above, weight gain has been a natural consequence of the increase in calories. (No wonder hobbits have round, cherub like faces.) When I discussed this cruel twist with my doctor and the few choices left in my wardrobe, she said something I didn’t even know I needed to hear. “Be gentle with yourself about that. Buy some bigger clothes while you figure out the more pressing issues.” Her words were a soothing balm, the grace I needed.

I could see myself offering this same encouragement to a friend who is hurting or ill, so why would I withhold it from myself? When we are waiting on test results, facing painful treatments, or trying to recognize ourselves in the mirror, we need heaps and loads of this gentle grace. And it starts within us—how we talk to ourselves, seek the care we need, and allow time to heal.

Be good to yourself. A change of scenery is a often the best catalyst for a change in perspective. Schedule a short trip, even something as simple as visiting a local museum or hotel reservations in a neighboring city—interrupting the pattern of treatments, tests, or doctor visits is fresh wind for our sails.

Do today. It’s what you’ve got.

Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do. When a health issue prevents you from doing something you’ve always done or want to do, there is sense of loss with every “can’t” statement. It breeds frustration and victimization. Early on, I would bang my fist on my desk in frustration when my blood sugar dropped and I could no longer form sentences to write or get off the couch to cook. I would say, I can’t think, can’t exercise, can’t remember, can’t focus, can’t work, can’t entertain, can’t …

None of those statements helped me move past the frustration—feeling sick and frustrated all the time is no way to live. To interrupt this negative pattern, decide to be purposeful with I can/will statements. Subtle, yet profoundly effective, this enabled me to embrace the victories (however small) rather than fall victim to limitation.

I will take a break and come back to this when I can think.
I can vacuum the floor or clean the bathroom for exercise.
I can invite friends over who will be flexible and help with the meal.
I will look that up to be sure of the details.
I can carry food I need with me so I can go do what I like.

Replace limiting words with empowering words. Instead of saying, “I can’t …” use words that empower and involve choice, I will go to the store when I’m feeling better, or I will fold the laundry after I nap. The words we use can make us feel defeated and powerless or decisive and in charge of our own lives.

Ultimately, let what you can do be enough.

Rally support.

Over these long months, technology helped me stay connected and encouraged. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t replace the warm, healing touch of a hug, but it has been a cup of cool water along the way.

Of course, when you are dealing with a serious health condition you want those close to you to know. At first, I tried updating friends and family by email, text, and Facebook messages. It got so confusing trying to keep who knew what straight (remember, I’ve been dealing with brain fog) and retyping messages in the different formats drove me a little crazy. Creating a private group on Facebook made it easier to connect with those I wanted to keep in the loop and share prayer requests. Whatever was posted on the group wall could only be seen by those in the group rather than every friend/acquaintance. Friends who volunteered to coordinate meals or cleaning after surgery could easily post requests and updates too. This was BIG for me. 

There are also Facebook support groups for just about anything, even rare conditions like insulinomas. What a godsend to find a private support group—236 people who could relate to exactly what I was experiencing. This group is an invaluable resource for all my questions about symptoms, specialized tests, treatment, and recovery. Reading their stories and hearing over and over again that surgery is worth it, has been reassuring. Complete strangers, scattered across the globe, connected by a common experience and eager to help. We are never alone. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Extended periods of chronic pain or illness can be isolating if we are reluctant to voice our need. A stiff upper lip only makes your face cramp and robs someone of the opportunity to show they care. As I mentioned earlier, it has been difficult to write (this post has taken a month) and it pains me to think it will be another couple of months until I can get back to posting consistently. So rather than have Savoring Today fall completely off a cliff while I’m mending, I asked a few blogging buddies to guest post in my absence—they are such a generous and caring on-line community.

Dare to hope.

Waiting is torturous. Our emotional and spiritual lives collide in the vacant lot of the unknown. The ‘what ifs’ cascade, robbing energy and challenging faith. On one particularly vexing day, I was lamenting to my husband about frustration over the vacillating symptoms. All along I have prayed and believed for miraculous healing. One week I had three really good days in a row, symptom free, I believed it was done, I was healed.

Then on the fourth day, symptoms returned. Again, I lament and I ask him what that was all about … the hard why and why not questions. (It is difficult on family as well.) But for all the questions he had too, he didn’t even hesitate to say, “Hope. It was hope for what is to come.” Doubt evaporated and waves of peace washed over me. Hope does that when we chose it, it isn’t our last resort or positive thinking, it is a lifeline for our soul. Hope for a good report, hope for the best outcome, hope for healing, hope in the Eternal.

Countless days strung together with overwhelming symptoms of illness or chronic pain takes a toll, so it is vital to have people around you with the same outlook. When talking to my primary care doctor about preparing for surgery, among other suggestions, she said, “Ask people to pray, it is scientifically proven that those who are prayed for have a better outcome.” I agreed, I believe prayer matters. When I’m wearied and worn I draw strength from the faithfulness of others standing in the gap for me. 

Hope invites all the possibilities of Yes. 

Tether Me

Tether me, Lord, to your side
like a child’s hand held tight.

Remind me of Your faithfulness,
as the what-ifs battle for my mind.

Plant me in your Word and Truth,
so I can stand firm when doubt creeps.

Bathe me in your grace,
covering my awkward stumble forward.

Search me and know me so I am fully known,
unmasked and without prideful pretense or pretending.

Impart a vision,
so I might keep it my single focus.

Reveal what lies in secret,
for life, abundant.

Bring healing, Lord, as your stripes promise.

Secure my tether, my assured Hope.


    • says

      Yes, it was excellent advice, and I took it to heart. Thanks Maureen, for the encouragement, you are part of that generous and caring on-line community that I value so much.

  1. says

    Dearest Judy, I have indeed missed you and am so sorry to learn that you’ve been unwell. I had no idea.

    After reading your words I know that you have a positive frame of mind and are in very good hands too. Do please continue to be gentle with yourself. I wish I lived closer so that I could do something to help, but will most certainly put you into my prayers. Am sending a big warm hug and look forward to hearing from you once that first hurdle is over with xox
    Lizzy (Good Things) recently posted..Favourite flavours – sweet corn and chilliMy Profile

  2. Joyce Perdue says

    When God allows difficult things to come our way for a season, He has a clear purpose in permitting it, and we ALWAYS come out the other side having learned so much. I too have gone through a life changing illness and as difficult as it has been, one thing I have learned is that leaning on His Everlasting Grace and strength never fails. As the Bible says….as our days are, so shall out strength be.” We may not always understand the whys of His allowing it, but one day in His Presence in Heaven He will indeed show us. He never wastes our sorrows. And we do begin to have much more empathy for others in their difficult times and are able to much more comfort them. And with that He is very pleased.

    He loves you and will never fail you, nor let you go. And I know that He will raise you up to wellness again, and it will be wonderful.

    • says

      Thank you, Joyce, for your encouraging and grace filled words.You are right, not one thing is wasted, not a single tear. I am sorry you have gone through such illness, may you be comforted and wrapped in His perfect peace. (hugs)

  3. says

    I have missed you! Even though I subscribe to your posts via email, I’ve dropped by numerous times to see if perhaps I was somehow missing emails. Anyway, so sorry you have to experience this, but also so glad you’ve found out what it is, and are working towards a resolution. Great post, full of tons of good advice. Get well — and best of luck with the surgery and recovery.
    [email protected] Riffs recently posted..The Twentieth Century CocktailMy Profile

    • says

      Aw, thanks John, it’s good to be missed and know someone noticed. Thank you for your encouragement and well wishes, I look forward to being back in the swing of things very soon.

  4. says

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey so honestly and openly, Judy. I’m sorry you are going through this but I’m grateful that you are using your experience to share and help others. I was really blessed by so much of the advice in this post. Thinking of you and praying for you and your family as you have surgery and during your recovery. x
    April @ The 21st Century Housewife recently posted..Taking Time OutMy Profile

    • says

      Thanks for praying, April, and for your support in writing a guest post. I am glad to have friends in my online community like you — I’m so blessed. 🙂

  5. says

    Oh Judy, I was already worried about you when you mentioned something at your last IMK post. We HAVE missed you – I’m sorry to hear of your struggles. I hope the surgery goes well. God bless. xx
    celia recently posted..A Week of Sliding MealsMy Profile

  6. says

    I so agree with you on being gentle with yourself. We, women, feel the need to do so much and care so much for others, we find it hard when we have to slow down and accept care from others. You’ve provided great insight and advise we all can use when dealing through an illness.

    There are many things to be grateful for during this season you are going through. Stay focused on every little blessing and keep faith filled thoughts. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.

    • says

      Hi Linda! You are right, I think it is harder for women to adjust to being cared for when they are used to doing for others. And yes, there are heaps and gobs of things I am grateful for, sometimes focusing on that has been what has kept my head above water. Thanks for your prayers and your support in writing a guest post — it means so much to me. <3

  7. says

    We are right here praying for you, Judy, this is such a difficult time.. waiting for a diagnoses, finding out, and not feeling prepared for what’s next. But you’re exactly right, just being here today is so important, it’s letting go of what we can’t control and embracing what we can. Your words and journey will help so many people. Sending you love and hugs xxx
    Barb Bamber recently posted..Pad Tofu Long SongMy Profile

  8. says

    This is such a beautiful post, Judy, and the advice is sound. Do be gentle with yourself. I know you’re in a tough spot right now but you will get through it. I hope you find strength knowing that you’re in the thoughts and prayers of many. Count me in that number. May your surgery be successful and your recovery swift.
    ChgoJohn recently posted..Pasta and BeansMy Profile

  9. says

    You have been missed. It is very kind of you to let us know what you are experiencing and how you are coping so that we will be more aware of how to help others as well as ourselves if need be. Miraculous recoveries are made every day though the skill of health professionals and the power of prayer. You will be in my thoughts and prayers through your days ahead.
    Karen (Back Road Journal) recently posted..Cheese Steak With Broccoli Rabe, The Best Italian SandwichMy Profile

  10. says

    Judy, I just want to give you a big hug right now! I can tell that you’ve been working on this post for quite a long time, waiting and waiting until you had your emotional state at a point where you could actually get through it. Did you feel better afterwards? I’m sure that putting what was in your heart and mind down on screen was a relief in itself. I am so sorry that you are having to deal with all of this. It sounds like you have a wonderful doctor with a realistic attitude and great bedside manner. That is so important. Reading the second half of your post, I was going “yes, yes, yes”. 🙂 Everything you said is spot on. Eleven years ago I was diagnosed with systemic scleroderma and polymyositis which caused me to take the same journey you have been taking. The most important advice that you give (something I follow every day) is “It’s not what I can’t do, it’s what I can do.” Just keep living with that and you’ll have a wonderful, happy life regardless of what you can’t do. 🙂 My thoughts will be with you through the next few days as you go through surgery and for many, many weeks afterwards. You’ll be back on your feet soon, I’m sure. 🙂 Lots and lots of hugs, MJ
    mjskit recently posted..Strawberry Rhubarb JelloMy Profile

    • says

      Hugs right back, MJ, I so appreciate your understanding. It was therapeutic to write this post over the last month or so, searching feelings for words is important, giving voice to the experience. Surgery went very well, the best possible outcome! Focus on healing now, onward and upward! 🙂

  11. says

    I have been missing your posts and was wondering if everything was alright. Liz and I are so sorry to hear about your diagnosis but happy to know that you’re ahead of the game when it comes to curing your body. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and we look forward to the day when we can toast to life & health together during a visit to CO. 🙂

    Jed and Liz
    Jed Gray (sportsglutton) recently posted..Roasted Peruvian ChickenMy Profile

    • says

      Ah, yes, we look forward to toasting to life together if you are ever out this way, Jed and Liz. Thanks for your kind words, thoughts, and prayers, it all matters. Surgery went very well, the best possible outcome! Home and focused on healing now, there is much life ahead. 🙂

  12. says

    I should have read this post before commenting on the latest, but bless you, you have had a time of it. I’m so glad that they diagnosed you early and can begin treating your illness. And your attitude, words and advice are truly encouraging and inspirational to us all. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, and I’m wishing you a speedy recovery and happy days ahead.
    betsyb recently posted..Magical Mountain Day: Waterfalls, Wine and RaptorsMy Profile

    • says

      Thank you, Betsy, I too am grateful to have that long season of waiting and wondering behind me. I am recovering very well, getting stronger every day, so grateful to be moving forward. 🙂

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