Chapter 23: Picky Eater
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I was always a chubby kid, right up until the chemo attacked my body, and even then, I still retained my “curves.” Well, I should refrain slightly, as it wasn’t always like that.
As I had mentioned in Chapter 16, my parents had divorced when I was in third grade, and it was at that moment that my weight began to spiral out of control. But by no means was I blaming my parents. Sure, the stress of a split household and foster care would make anyone eat Ring Dings, but in my particular case, it meant one thing in terms of eating: Freedom.
Long ago, before the divorce, I was one of the pickiest kids you would have ever met. My Mom would slave over a hot stove every night, and cook an entire meal: meat, veggies, starch (almost always some form of potato), but unfortunately, she’d then have to cook an additional meal, just for me. Maybe I’d pick at the potatoes if they were mashed or french-fried, but more often than not, I would throw a hissy fit until I got something that was palatable to me.
Back then, my go-to foods were spaghetti and plain sauce (heaven help you if you put meat in it, or *shudder* vegetables, YUCK), pizza, French fries, chicken fingers, and my absolute favorite: Kraft Mac and Cheese.
I remember throwing these severe tantrums if my parents tried to feed me literally anything else. One time, my Mom tried to get me to eat a boiled egg, and I cried for an hour. I definitely put a strain on my parents– Oh no! It really WAS my fault they divorced!! (Please don’t ever believe that, kids.)
As the divorce finalized and the dust settled: Wherever my brother and I wound up, we were pampered when it came to food; as long as we were eating and happy, that’s all that mattered at such a stressful time. Maybe they assumed it would be beneficial to not have to eat healthy in addition to the stress of the divorce. So it’s THEIR fault I’m fat! (Please don’t ever believe that… anyone.)
So when I was picky and “happy” in a nuclear home, I was naturally quite skinny – in model weight, I was “normal,” – well maybe even obese by their emaciated standards of self-image…
But again, in the foster homes, I was able to maintain my junk food lifestyle. That is… until I went to Lori and Todd’s, reuniting with my brother, Travis. Here, they made sure their kids ate proper meals, and GOD HELP YOU IF YOU CHEWED WITH YOUR MOUTH OPEN! I learned that lesson real quick at this household, but thankfully they were that strict, or else, I would have continued my overindulgent ways, and Lord knows how big I would have become.
Lori and I would still have our “cheat nights,” however, where we would buy a box of the aforementioned Ring Dings, and split it down the middle. I swear we must have eaten those things in less than ten minutes. That’s a box of ten, five each, in less than ten minutes! OUCH!
But they instilled mostly proper eating habits in my Brother and me, which when we went back home to our Dad’s, those institutions stayed in the back of our minds… as we continued to purge on junk. What, it was a long process!
I think Dad just wanted to make sure we were happy and well fed, and he probably never assumed how God awful all of the Oreos, Doritos, Devil Dogs, Golden Nuggets, Sundae Cones, Fried Foods, American Cheese Sauce, String Cheese, Chips Ahoy! (Chewy and Regular), Lay’s, Sun Chips, Pepsi, Sprite, Orange Soda, Reese’s, Twix, Kit Kats, Milk, Blueberry Muffins, Ring Dings, Pancakes, Grilled Cheese, Pizza…. was for us. Wow, we were fat as all hell.
As the years progressed, we continually worked towards a more balanced diet. Dad tended a small garden annually, so we’d help him… eat the food. We rarely did any work, and I sorely regret that now. But, we devoured fresh garden carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, peas, green beans, potatoes, and more; in fact, we couldn’t get enough of it. Our tastes buds were awaking to the magic of how great real food tasted.
It still took years more before we started eating more normally, and our taste buds kept challenging us at every turn. Right up until my senior year (the year of diagnosis) I had begun to lose weight, although I’m not entirely sure what was the biggest factor; whether it be the physical activity I was leisurely incorporating into my routine, the fresher approach to food, or… the cancer beginning to eat away at my insides. Hmm, so many choices.
So it makes sense, that when I entered the hospital, I would be eating at the optimum nutritious level, ensuring I would have the proper vitamins and minerals to fight this violent disease.
If you bet money on that revelatory paradigm shift in eating habits, well then I’d recommend high-tailing it to Canada right about now…
To be honest, my eating habits bore a resemblance to when I first entered the foster care system; I would eat as much as I could, of any food, as long as I was eating and happy during these “stressful” times.
When I first hit the hospital, as long as I wasn’t queasy, I was eating what I wanted: nachos, cheeseburgers, French fries, hot dogs, etc. Then Marinol came into play (as mentioned before), and I was full at every turn. Sometimes, yes, I’d be restricted to no fresh fruit or veggies (which I hated ardently), but soon I’d be cleared for Gardenland once more, and all was right with the world.
But with any place of sustenance over time, I got bored of their food. I normally ate off of the room service menu, and that was mostly the fatty “kid” foods I mentioned. I’d drink soda like it was going out of style. I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker then, so I’d replace that with a “hot” cocoa (which was never hot by the time that it reached my room).
Sometimes, I’d eat what the “adult” menu offered, although, I didn’t like most of their veggies because they were salt-free. And that lack of true vegetables was driving me mad. I’d ask people to sneak in some fast food sometimes, but with my ever-waning cravings, it wasn’t right. The chemo really attacked the one thing that I cherished the most: eating. I mean, come on, it was my favorite “subject” at school!
It got to the point, where I was so fed up with the food offerings, that I would just get ground beef and noodles for lunch and dinner. Sometimes, I’d get gravy, but most times the grease from the beef was all that I needed. It did provide a balanced meal, but it was as though I had recessed into my past behavior of pickiness… a full circle of eating behavior.
Then, I noticed how much of my ribs were showing. I hadn’t seen ribs like this since second grade! I was almost ecstatic until I looked at my gaunt skeleton-like face. I was dying in a controlled manner, under professional supervision. I anticipated my next weigh-in. I must be about a hundred and eighty pounds! Take that BMI Index! I met your maximum for “healthy!”
I happily stepped on the scale. What the FUCK?! One hundred and NINETY-SEVEN POUNDS?! I looked like death; skin and bones, and yet still I was nowhere near the standard maximum of the BMI Index for my height. No wonder the people of the world have body issues, I had to be a fucking rail to meet the scale of which we measure the health of a person.
I always wondered what would have been different if I wasn’t so fat as a kid. If I ate healthily and was more active then, would I have had a “normal” body type? Would I have even got cancer? It’s like I was gaining all of this weight, making sure it stuck just so I could prepare for the fight– bulking up, so the body had some reserves for when it was on the ropes, struggling to survive.
So I still was technically overweight. You could never tell behind my sullen, sunken eyes, and rack of meatless ribs. Screw your BMI Index; it’s time for an upgrade, asshole.
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.