In the summer of 2005, I noticed a small dark bump growing on my left bicep. I went to the doctor, and in September the bump was diagnosed as malignant melanoma. In October I underwent a couple of surgeries – one removed a big chunk of flesh from my left upper arm, and another removed all the lymph nodes from my left armpit, and a patch of skin was harvested from my left thigh as a skin graft for my arm. Starting in November of that year, I went on a year’s course of Interferon therapy – one month of IV high-dose therapy via a PICC line installed in my right arm, and then 11 months of sub-Q (fatty tissue just under the skin) injections which I was able to do myself.
Let me tell you, Interferon sucks. I understand it’s not nearly as bad as chemotherapy, which is kind of like saying being burned at the stake isn’t nearly as bad as being skinned alive. I was sick and miserable for the whole first month of high-dose IV Interferon. I wasn’t nauseated as chemo patients are, but I had zero appetite, and as a side effect of the Interferon, everything tasted spoiled. I lost quite a bit of weight that month, but I sure don’t recommend the Cancer Diet to anybody.
I had started low carbing in 2003, and by the time I started Interferon I was an experienced low carber and drinking close to a gallon of water a day. I remember my oncologist telling me that I absolutely had to drink 64 ounces of water a day to flush my kidneys because of the Interferon, and I was sick enough that, yes, I actually asked, “Do I really have to cut back that much?”
My oncologist was thrilled to death when he learned that I ate low carb – he always encouraged (and still does) his patients to avoid sugars and starches because insulin fluctuations encourage tumor growth. Although my year of Interferon was hellish, my oncologist said he'd never seen any of his other patients do so well on it – most of his patients had to skip many treatments due to low white blood cells, and he’d had many patients who simply couldn’t go the course for the whole year. He actually had me write down the parameters of my diet so he could recommend it to other patients. We both firmly believe low carb is what got me through that miserable year so successfully. At the end of my year of Interferon, all my cancer tests came back negative.
The Good News
I still see my oncologist once a year for an exam and bloodwork. It’s an anxious time of the year for me. The week between the blood draw and my doctor’s appointment and exam is hellish while I imagine what will happen if this is the year that my luck runs out. This year was no different. I hate blood draws. My veins are deep, hard to find, and they roll. Plus, I have panic attacks when strangers touch me. So I’m sure you can imagine how the nice lab nurses look forward to my yearly blood draw. ‘Nuff said about that.<G>
Then today I had my appointment with my oncologist, and everything is still clear and cancer free, almost seven years out from my diagnosis. It’s party time at Casa Logston! Tonight I’ll sleep well for the first time in a couple weeks. And I’ll go on low carbing, because I love it and because it’s good for my body, and because I want next year’s appointment to be as much of a relief as this one.
And The Explanation
I take an indulgent, hedonistic approach to low carbing. I strive for delicious food. I indulge myself with wonderful flavors, with low-carb snacks and, when I want them, low-carb sweets. I drink tea with Splenda and cream. I eat cheese whenever I like, and that’s very, very often. I take specific off-plan meals for special occasions and I do my very damndest to recreate in healthy low-carb form all the carby goodies I crave. Sometimes, not often, I eat sugar-free chocolates sweetened with sugar alcohols or Dreamfields pasta or Carbquik biscuits. I put flavoring in my water when I want to. I realize that all these things may slow or even stall my weight loss, but to me the priority is making this WOE not only tolerable or sustainable, but enjoyable. And that is a deal breaker for me.
I am the diametric opposite of some low-carbers who I mentally refer to as “Puritans” and who my husband has referred to as “the hair-shirt crowd” who believe in a spartan diet, extremely low carbs, the purest ingredients, self-denial, etc. Believe me, I am not criticizing or denigrating that approach. It works for some people and I respect the hell out of them for it. But it SOOOOOO does not work for me, and here’s why.
Yes, I want to be thin and gorgeous, sure (unfortunately, the best I can ever hope for is thin<G>). Sure, I want to be healthy. And I have no intention of abandoning healthy eating and going back to eating carby crap food. After nine years of low carbing, I think I’ve proved I can stick with it. I want to be healthy and feel good and look good and fit in “normal” clothes and, if I had my druthers, live forever.
But here’s where I depart. I want to enjoy my food thoroughly. Yes, I want meals to be delicious and wonderful. I want every meal to be something I actively look forward to. I want to look at food as a beloved friend and ally, not an enemy. Because I am a cancer survivor. I don’t know – I’ll never know – how much future I have. That’s true of every human being that draws breath, but being diagnosed with cancer really drives it home. I can’t look at today as a sacrifice for a better tomorrow. I want to enjoy today, this moment, this meal. I want to enjoy every meal I have. I want to eat healthy, low-carb food that loves my body back, yes, but it’s damned well going to be wonderful healthy, low-carb food. I’m going to make it the very best, the very tastiest it can be. Within the parameters of my low-carb WOE, I am going to spoil myself rotten.
I am of my grandmother – preparing delicious food is both an art form and a personal way of saying “I love you” to friends and family. I have a sticker up on my refrigerator that says “Love people – cook them tasty food.” I double up on the “I love you” by preparing not only tasty food that we love to eat, but tasty healthy food that loves us back.
But the “tasty” is as indispensable as the “healthy.”
If you’re looking for rock-bottom, purist low-carbing, you’re on the wrong blog. Here food is an art form, a message of love, a dear friend, a staunch ally, and an indulgent gift to myself and others. I can’t say I live to eat, but I definitely lean more that way than “eat to live.”
To quote Robert Heinlein, “To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks.”
And to quote Auntie Mame, “Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”
Grab a knife and fork and dig in! Today, we live!