Whining and Dining



My internist eyes me and poses a question. “How’s your diet?” She’s trying to determine how well I’m taking care of myself. I stare back at her with a smug expression. “Better than yours or anyone else’s in your office,” I challenge. She laughs and drops the subject. But I don’t and begin reciting my unbeatable diet: kale, collard greens, beets, Brussels sprouts, leeks, garlic and dandelion greens. And that’s just my snacks.

When Jack LaLanne is your idea of the perfect man, then you’re obsessed with well-being. I’ve always maintained good habits with solid nutrition and regular exercise. I never smoked, consumed 8 daily glasses of water, wore sunscreen and favored a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and grains. Yet, it was I – not others with their wanton epicurean ways – who developed cancer. How could that be?

Apparently, I didn’t factor in that I’m human.

Upon hearing the “C-word,” I had to face the hard, cold truth that I was finite, despite my admirable lifestyle practices. My oncologist braced me for the long ordeal of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery – while adding that I was “healthy” enough to endure the tough road before me. Oh, the irony of being referred to as “healthy” with a cancer diagnosis. Her prediction came true, though. My routine helped me get through the arduous regimen.

After treatment ended, my goal was to do all in my power to prevent repeating that most unpleasant episode. So I ramped up my diet by juicing, reading about nutrition, scouring product labels and buying organic, non-GMO, farm-raised, “all natural” whenever possible. People avoid dining with me.

My exercise program diversified, as well, adding yoga, pilates and swimming to strengthen, stretch and tone. After the onslaught of treatment, I emerged with less balance and flexibility, lymphedema and other challenges. There are superb organizations that address survivors’ physical issues, because of the toll that treatment takes.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to accept is my post-cancer body is not the same as my “before” version. But then again, I’m not the same person inside either.

And while taking positive steps to rebuild my body is a powerful way to regain my life, I’m realistic about its limits.

It seems that many survivors, like me, try even harder after our ordeal to control our mortality. I guess it’s a human tendency. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that. We’re just not that powerful.

So while I still reach for the grass-fed and wild-caught, I’m also aware that it’s more for my overall health and well-being than anything else. But that might not be so bad after all.

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