No, it wasn’t a New Year’s resolution. But by coincidence, January 2016 marks the time when I made the decision to not just change some things, but overhaul my health and fitness habits.
I didn’t have particularly unhealthy habits. I’ve always been a real food, treats on special occasions, play outside, chemical conscious kind of girl. I wasn’t (and I’m still not) on a weight loss mission and spandex culture never really appealed to me.
But, the world seemed to grab me by the jaw and give me a clear direction of where I have to go from here.
Here’s the story.
It’s late summer 2015, and it’s coming to light how bad my Nana’s Alzheimer’s disease is getting. By Christmas, we’re hitting the reset button on our conversations every 30 seconds. Several times through Christmas Eve dinner she thought she was at a wedding, and my brother would bring her to a wall to show her the photo of the two of them dancing at his wedding a few years ago.
She repeatedly asks how many children I have, though they’re standing right in front of her. She claims she never saw me pregnant, but she absolutely did. I know this because I remember she loved telling me I was eating well, winky winky.
Christmas Eve, 2015 marks the day I decided that Alzheimer’s is the disease I fear most.
Around the same time, my active, athletic, hardworking, relatively young father-in-law gets diagnosed with cancer. Pretty much anyone would fit the picture for cancer better than he would, but we all know cancer doesn’t always follow the rules.
He had been on a chemo regimen before Christmas, and had to take frequent rests during gatherings. I think that threw us all.
Then there’s that always looming idea that my mom was 38 when she was diagnosed with the cancer that would take her. I’m 33, and in my head, the countdown is on. My overall health has to beat the clock.
If all that isn’t a wake-up call, I had a health scare of my own.
Let’s set the scene. We’re in the baby life stage for six years in a row, seven if you count pregnancy. It seemed that when my youngest turned two, life became easier than it had been in a long time. I wasn’t pregnant or nursing, everyone started sleeping. Everyone fed themselves, two thirds were wiping their own noses and tushes, and thanks to slip ons and sandals, everyone started putting on their own shoes!
Life became a lot less hands on, and I had space to notice myself again. What I noticed needed to be addressed ASAP. I went to the doctor with a whole laundry list of strange symptoms I could have brought up – losing my hair, weight loss, breakouts – but I settled on fatigue and forgetfulness. I expected to be politely and respectfully laughed out of the office, because we’ve all heard of “mommy brain” and how many tired mom coffee memes are circulating the internet?
Instead, she took one look at my face, a quick look at my hands, and asked me some questions to which I answered “yes” over and over. She gave me a STAT bloodwork order and a stern warning not to elevate my heart rate. My test results confirmed her suspicions.
What I thought was silly mom stuff was actually a severe (but treatable) condition that could cause me to have a heart attack. It could be fixed if I either underwent major surgery or would take Class I carcinogens for the rest of my life.
“Can we wait a couple months? I could try this diet and those supplements…” I asked.
“You’re a heart risk. Let’s get you to a more stable place before we try things,” she answered.
My case was severe and treatment was necessary, so I went on two prescriptions that would remove immediate threats. I figured I would do this short-term to lengthen my runway once I decided to go off of the medicines and try to get my body to reset itself.
While I was on the medications, I made some intense lifestyle changes. Gradually, I cut coffee, cut sugar, lowered carbs, began intermittent fasting, tripled my already high vegetable intake, added superfood shakes, prioritized sleep, ramped up my physical activity (once cleared to do so), drastically reduced household and personal care toxins. By the time I was able to go off of the medications, my body was better equipped to function without them.
I’m better now. The best way I can describe how I feel is…undead. This is how I’m supposed to feel, and it’s incredible.
Several friends have said to me, just in the last few months, “I don’t know what it is, but you look amazing.”
It’s not a new lipstick. It’s a new life.
But I’m not finished.
See my family members’ stories up there?
But more than fear, I feel readiness.
I crawled out of a hole that I didn’t even know I was in, and now I’ve got my feet on the ground, in broad daylight. And I’m suited up to climb.
Having a healthy basis back, I’m ready to become the best version of myself that I can. There’s no better way to give what I’ve got to my husband and kids than to have something in the tank to give.
I’m never going into that hole again.