Monday, July 25, 2011

Friend Makin' Monday, sans unicorns and rainbows

It's a brand new day.  It's a brand new week.  And I'm still here.

It was a bit of a frenetic weekend.  Lots of cooking and prep for SC600 - which I managed not to photograph even once.  That works out OK, though, because we'll be doing a second SC600: BBQ Edition soon, and I'm really looking forward to it.  Sunday brought major exhaustion - including a brief nap that accidentally turned into a three-hour-nap.  It also brought with it some major food addiction struggles.  I was feeling emotional, and experiencing 2 or 3 out of the 4 "HALT" conditions that can lead to relapse.  I fought food cravings all day, and managed to avoid indulging by talking through my emotions, resting, and seeking out healthy food.  (Even when hungry while out late, I managed to order a turkey burger instead of something much worse.)  I did, however, eat a brownie.  I ate it mindfully, just the single-serving I bought.  I felt sated and no longer felt the need to cram every kind of everything down my gullet.  As I said to Tom earlier in the day - that craving had nothing to do with food.  It had to do with wanting not to feel emotion.

But I'm still here.  And do you know why?  The answer also happens to be the answer for today's Friend Makin' Monday question.

Was there a defining moment in which you realized that you needed to lose weight? 

Yes.  There was.  And it isn't pretty, so if you're looking for rainbows and unicorns, maybe it's best you move along to

My defining moment was actually a defining month. May, 2009.  It was the month my mother died.

Mom suffered from an auto-immune disease called ITP - which is a complicated condition, but boils down to her immune system consuming her blood cells, which made her bleed internally unless she took steroids.  Which she did for the duration of the disease.  Which lasted for twelve years before she passed away.  Most people gain weight from a couple of days on steroids.  Can you imagine taking them for twelve years?  Unfortunately, I can, because I saw it happen.  Along with the fatigue from the disease, it caused a vibrant, warm, spitfire of a woman to disappear before my eyes.

Before all of this went down, Mom had issues with behavioral eating (which I've discussed earlier and elsewhere) - and was already morbidly obese. But everything was compounded by the steriods, not to mention being exhausted and having her joints slowly destroyed. Which led to weight gain. Which led to more exhaustion, worse joints, more weight gain, more exhaustion, worse joints, more weight gain.  An infinite cycle of it.

There were years of slowly slipping mobility.  Of my dad doing all of the housework and caring for her 24/7. There were walkers, wheelchairs, electric wheelchairs, vans with elevators, chairs with mechanisms to lift her out.  And after her fall at the end of April 2009, in the retirement home where she was so miserable, there was even a mechanical sling that lifted her from the bed to the toilet on wheels.  She couldn't move herself at all anymore.  This is when I left Los Angeles to spend what I thought would be a week in my hometown, cheering her up.

But within five days at the retirement home, she'd contracted a blood infection from the pressure sores.  Her weight pushed so hard against the surface of the bed that it wounded her.  And because of her diabetes, healing would be impossible.  She spent the rest of that month in the hospital, and I stayed for all of it.

Soon there was an around-the-clock air pressure mask, for lungs weighted down so that not enough oxygen got to them.  Significant mental confusion followed, including an extended period of hallucination that my father and I were working with the mob to have her killed. (Which sounds funny now, but was heartbreaking then.)  And eventually, there was the discovery of her congestive heart failure.  There were a few precious days of lucidity as we all said our goodbyes.  And then there was coma.

And then, there's the day I don't talk about much, or think about much, for that matter.  The morning she woke up from the coma.  They were flipping her over to try to clean her rotting wounds, when she woke up screaming from the pain.  She didn't stop, or fall asleep again, until they administered the dose of morphine that allowed her to relax long enough to die that afternoon.  And we were all there with her, horrified, watching her suffer, and then watching her slip away.

I do my best to remember my mother as she was before all of this. A force of life to be reckoned with.  Quickest with a joke - with the least appropriate joke for the occasion, in fact.  Passionate about family, about celebrating, about understanding and communicating with her loved ones.  And those memories make me happy.

But the memory of her dying?  I have to return to it now and again.  It keeps me on my weight loss journey.  Because although it was an auto-immune disease that compounded her health, it was her weight that made that disease so much more difficult to bear.  Someday, somehow, I will die, too.  And when I do, I do not want my weight to make that experience worse than it needs to be.


Thank you for being here with me today, everyone.  This isn't an easy story to share.  I work so hard to make my journey to better health one that is filled with joy.  I firmly believe that one can find so much to love and live for while one is losing weight, even within that very process.  And I promise that I will continue to share my discoveries about the joy of healthy living here, day by day.  But some days, I have to remember what set me on this path.  I just wish my Mom didn't have to die for it to happen.

Please.   Please take care of you.  And tell your loved ones how much they mean to you.


  1. I really have no words Heidi. ((hugs)) I can't imagine how painful it must have been for you to share this...please just know that I am so thankful for you...

  2. A searingly true account as seen from these eyes too. Hugs to you Sis. May there be a day that running away in terror from ill effects of weight fully shifts toward sprinting toward all the gifts of healthy mind and body and spirit. For us both. Surely mom would like that!

  3. HJ Thank you for the courage to experience it, the eyes to see it and the voice to share it. Yes the weight and disease destroyed a vibrant loving woman. While we mourn her loss, I am certain that she wants, nay needs you to succeed, and so to I!!! She bore you, she loved you, and I am certain is looking down upon your success with the smile she always had on her face as we talked about you kids.

  4. I just found the cutest butterfly stickers at so thanks for the link!

  5. David, you just made me literally LOL, scare my cat and now I have a big ole' scratch. I think I need a butterfly sticker too. ;)

    Auto Immune Disease. Three words I ponder almost daily always followed by the word "Why?" Wiki definition says: Autoimmune diseases arise from an overactive immune response of the body against substances and tissues normally present in the body. In other words, the body actually attacks its own cells. The immune system mistakes some part of the body as a pathogen and attacks it.

    Again, WHY?

    I don't know the answer, but I do BELIEVE that taking care of your health will help your body NOT to want to wage war on itself in the first place.

    Thanks for sharing, H. Love you as always.

  6. I am so sorry for your loss. I can't imagine how it must have felt for you when she woke up. Thank you for sharing this story with us.

  7. This is my first time visiting your blog, and I just want to thank you for sharing such a powerful story. What happened to your mother was terrible, but you are growing and changing because of it. Thank you for being brave enough to revisit that day.

  8. Thank you for sharing such a tough memory with us. I needed to read this today. I had a slipup last night, and I've been trying to deal with it today, but reading this really helped me. I have tears in my eyes as I'm writing this, but it's because this is a wakeup call for me, too. I'm so sorry that you had to deal with this, and for the loss of your mom, but sharing this story truly helped me today. Thank you, again.

  9. What a painful event for you to have to go through - I can't imagine. I'm so sorry for your loss, and wish you all the encouragement possible in your journey for your own health.

  10. ((Hugs.)) I can only imagine that must have been tough to write. When I'm writing about things that have happened to me, I often relive my emotions. I'm so sorry your mom went through all that pain and that you experienced it along with her. I'm glad to read that you focus on the positive experiences you had with her and remember her as a loving, vital person.

    I'm kind of in the same boat with my mom now. From what you write about your mom's health, my mom doesn't even have half of her pain, or for nearly as long. But it's still hard to watch her deteriorate and experience age-related health and mental complications.

    My mom is in her 80s. She's been bed-ridden for the past 3 years, and earlier this year, fell and broke her hip while trying to walk around the house. As expected, it's been very hard for her to give up her independence. The fall resulted in a very painful hospital stay and recovery at a nursing care facility. She's back at home now, but we went through about two months of uncertainty if she would make it back home.

    Your post reminded me that I'm not alone in going through the painful process of watching a parent and loved one deteriorate. It takes a toll and changes us, and often has a hand in shaping who we become. Why loss has to be part of that process is a question I still haven't been able to answer. But I think you're stronger for acknowledging that you feel it and recognizing what it's done for you.