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.
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, 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.