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Monday, December 30, 2013

Ready, set...re-set

*Note to reader - I am not a certified trainer or nutritionist. I do what I do and eat what I eat based on years of research and, sometimes, painful trial and error. Please take my thoughts as just that - my own thoughts.

It is usually this time of year that I get many questions. It's my intention to put down my thoughts for 2014, controversial as they may be to some.

The following is in response to the queries I often get and my perspective on those questions posed to me.

Resolution -

her resolution not to smokeintentionresolvedecisionintentaim,plancommitmentpledgepromise.

2014...Resolutions abound. It is at year end where we all decide change is imminent. Truth is, change is always imminent. Not a moment passes in which change hasn't happened.

As the year closes and the new year takes hold, know this truth - Negative change is coming. Positive change is up to you.

Okay, before the emails, IMs and FB messages start in on me about negative change, let's be realistic. What you view as a negative may not be so negative to someone else. A hangnail and hornet sting are two different types of pain. Negative can all be in perception. Yes, we all have our tragedies, both great and small. They happen and can't be avoided. Take note of this and remind yourself whenever negativity hits you, you will hit it back and hard.

My emphasis is on the positive. We can wait for positive change, check our Powerball tickets and hope for the best. Or we can force the positive. Daily if need be. The aim of this article is to force positive change from within. It all starts there...

Here are my thoughts on...

Smoking.

I'm not talking about what Native Americans had experienced in the 1700s. Today's smoking has no health benefit. Period. If you need studies, upon studies, then you are addicted. If you stand in the rain, the snow, the fog, or the earthquake at work to have a cigarette, then you are addicted. If you find it hard to simply walk away - then you are addicted.

But Joe. What about alcohol? Bad food? Smog?

True. All of these in bunches are just as harmful. But know this - if everyone quit smoking, then maybe some of the pollutants of our era would be less tolerated.

Now don't go all ga ga on me about beer, wine, etc etc. I am not the Health Police. I am not slapping Molsons from everyone's hand. Your twinkie is safe. And the person who ran his finger through the frosting on the cake was probably me. Do I believe in moderation? Damn right I do. Trouble is, most of us don't know what moderation is.


Sugar.

Our ancestors knew the difference between bitter and sweet. It's engrained in our DNA. Our instincts still love fat and sweet. We needed the energy, both stored and burned to survive. Our cultures have twisted this into the cravings we have today. With sensory overload, the addictions and cravings are still there.

Can you break this cycle? Sure. I am a recovering sugar-holic. As a teen, I would take out a spoon and scoop the white stuff out of my mom's sugar bowl to eat it raw. I would have Cocoa Pebbles with chocolate jimmies on top. No lie.

Does processed sugar damage you? Yup. If you ween yourself off you will find that the lure isn't as great. I've come to appreciate the treats I do have. It is never easy but certain items like candy bars and snack cakes are easy to avoid. If I do go off the wagon, it is usually around a celebration or holiday and even then, my body tells me when enough is enough. The bang is no longer worth the bite.

Vegetarian.

To be clear once again. I am a vegetarian who eats eggs, fish, but no dairy. Go figure. This decision didn't happen over night as some may have thought.

After my heart surgery, I panicked. Plain and simple. I gobbled, no pun intended, all of the nutritional information I could. I had to get better. I couldn't die this young.

http://www.ornishspectrum.com/proven-program/nutrition/

Dr. Dean Ornish had a radical plan. I bought into it. He not only removed processed fat from your diet but he removed ALL fat. His theory, which was slightly radical at the time, was to 'starve' a body from fat so much that heart disease could literally be reversed.  Backed by years of study, I had to attempt this approach even just from my mental state.

Talk about hard. After many months, I settled down. Radical as this change was, and a promise of what it could do for me, I had to look at what my body really needed. Fats are what our bodies need. In our sheltered worlds, this has a different meaning. Fat was where you found it. It roamed for miles over a landscape. We chased it. We hunted it. We died for it. Now? We reach for it, packaged neatly in cellophane.

As for being a veggie head? This took place not as a dare or snap decision. I cut various components out of my diet one at a time. Now? I ask what, if any, bang does my next bite give me. Truth. Next time you eat something ask yourself, nutritionally, what is that food giving you? Is it fresh or out of a can? Is it green? Does it contain more than 6 ingredients? Are any of those ingredients actually living things or are they chemicals?

Let me know what the answer is...

Joe, you have such will power.

All in the motivation. I've had cancer 3 times. Part of the treatments from those incidents had a doctor play Aliens in my chest.

I don't want to say it's easy. But I know a majority haven't gone through major health issues. Your motivation will be more difficult. Your own gun has to be placed at your temple. But I do beg you to do so. I know we are all born to die. But who said it has to be on someone else's terms? Men who hit their 40s and decide it is better to have 6 beers rather than do 6 miles. Women who think that once they are tabbed with 'Grandma', it's only a matter of time. Nonsense.

I was 220 lbs in Highschool. I am 162 lbs today.
I wrote my own abs challenge when I grew bored of doing the official challenge for 2 months.
I am still slow but I run longer at my age now, than I did when I was 27.

None of these are opinions. These are my facts. Motivated? Yes. My family and friends need me. I am no male model. I am just a person who is going into life kicking and screaming. If that is a role model then sign me up.

Don't ever be afraid to amaze yourself...you wouldn't believe how many people are simply afraid...

I can't run. I don't have time for the gym. I can't do all that. 

Don't run. Walk. Walking starts it all. Then push yourself. Walking can turn into jogging. Jogging turns in to running. Running turns into High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

Don't count the number of days that have passed. Just know that tomorrow, you are at it again. This is the new you.

Get an exercise ball and some dumbbells.

That's it. Start it. Start it slowly. Just do something everyday. Lift a little. Move a little. Every brick helps build your wall.

You don't need to find a track and run 10 miles your first go. It will only frustrate you. And that's the key to the life change. ELIMINATE WHAT FRUSTRATES YOU. Seems simple doesn't it?

You want to lose weight? It took me years to get where I am today. That's not a discouraging comment. What it means is that this is a lifestyle change for you. Look at what you eat, eliminate items, one at a time, and GO. Sooner than you realize, this is how you do things. There is no turning back. You won't want to anyway.

You want time to exercise? If you can't afford a treadmill, then get a 5.00 jumping rope. 20 minutes later, you are done.

Can't afford a juicer? Understood. They make these things like something paid for by NASA and built to land on Mars. Purchase a couple of bottles of vegetable juice, and experiment. Just one glass a day...

But Joe I have to make time....yes, yes you do. And here is the biggest stumbling block for most people. Invariably, this is a selfish act that benefits those around you. It is all for you. But the bennies that you give off are for everyone around you.

You are healthier, more energetic. You can 'keep up'. Mentally, you are sharper. You will tackle on subjects you may have shied away from previously. You can take care of others now that you are taken care of. Finally, you will know the difference between feeling okay and feeling damn good.

It all starts with baby steps.

Maybe there is negative change on the way. There are also thousands, maybe millions who would switch with you and the choices you will face. Be thankful you are alive and make your positive changes now. They are heavy sandbags against the tide. Stack them up. Each one counts. Your wall begins now.

At midnight, make a toast to yourself. 2014 is here. You are one baby step away from changing it all for the better....

Have a happy and healthy new year.

JM



Monday, December 23, 2013

Thoughts 2013

I might as well get it out of the way - I don't think Christians have sole possession of "good will towards men".

I think Christmas should be the true Earth Day.

Sure we all go out and plant shrubbery in April but the true Earth Day is now.

Everyone. Atheists, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Orthodox Sesame Streeters, penguins...you name it.

One single day. One day.  We all lay down our arms. We all make peace.

"Enemies becoming friends, when bitterness ends" - Faithless

That's the goal isn't it? Commercialism be damned.

For once, the alien races will look down at us not in laughter but in unity.

One day. That's all it takes.

Today's wind was biting. It's a balmy 40 degrees, but I felt compelled to take my HIIT training outside just mainly so I can breathe.

I confess to being bedeviled by thoughts of aging, dying, and time...how much is left? You can quickly cast them aside by breathing. It is proof that everything works.

You get shaken now and again so go out and prove that you are alive. Try it. You will see.

In this year of reflection, we often forget that it was "a year" to actually reflect upon.

We scratch and claw through our common lives daily. So much so, we forget that on our yearly birthday, we shouldn't count how many years are behind, but the fact that we got here in the first place.

It counts. We made it. And yet some have not.

This is a club, People. It's not solely for those who survive diseases but for those who survive life. Sure we forget. Well, here's a great time to remember.

Always remember...

You got here.

Someone probably helped along the way.

Someone new will help you in the future.

You will go it alone...and that's fine.

You won't be alone for long...

Remember Earth Day...we are united. We are thankful. We are strong in the knowledge that nothing in the known universe will stop us from simply surviving...

To all those I have met in 2013 and beyond, may you find peace during this season. And to all of those I have yet to meet?

See you soon...







Saturday, November 23, 2013

Reminders


Stark reminder.

I always take a mental inventory of where I am at. That's everything - Mental, physical, spiritual...everything.

As I get older (Author's note: yet, still stunningly handsome), injuries mount and I tend to do things differently to remain on my feet, so to speak.

This year has had it's moments. In between testing, there are bad knees, hip pointers, pulled this pulled that. I'll take it all and you have to keep the perspective in check.

Then someone reminded me.

It has been 3 bouts. I stopped to take that inventory again.

Six years of age.

Then Eight years of age.

Bypass at 37 years of age.

Tumor 3 years ago.

Better than David Blaine. Criss Angel's got nothing.

All I can come up with - WTF. Not a classic line or anything but it fits. It is a reminder. The questions flood back - how many bullets do you have?

Today was a rest day with just situps in the morning. I'll admit it. I pushed harder.

I look at other men my age, and see the spoils of middle age mania setting in. Beers, TV, wings...all happy to slow it down. Comfort is key for haven't we lived to the halfway point? Aren't we due some rest before facing the later years?

I performed the 12th pull up yesterday and felt something 'go' in the back. Now I understand - shoot it up and get back out there - you can't take a play off. There is nary a breather coming. Not when the reminders are always hanging around.

Screw the shrinks.

Anger mounts.

You want a level playing field. Too much to ask?

If it's tilted then I want it tilted back. And now.

After the anger and, yes, the fear abate, then I have to dial in.

Do what I do? You bet.

Does it hurt? You bet.

Am I tired? Yes.

Do I stop?

If I did, all I need is a stark reminder.




Monday, November 4, 2013

Who Am I?


Who am I?

It's a question we've all asked at one time or another.

Speaking from a survivor's perspective, I can honestly say I am defined by what has happened to me. In a way, we all are.

But the question remains - Who am I?

After a few decades of thought, I have come to realize that I am something of a traveling sentient. Explain? Sure.

I feel it is my role to help someone heal, however that may be defined. I gravitate towards those who just want a listener.

Oh yeah, I am a good listener. It got me nothing by way of a well documented non-prom date but that's another story for another time.

As the disease and its fallout twisted and turned my internal vision of who I was physically, I discovered something deep within that may not have burgeoned without the ordeal to bring it forth.

Empathy. It makes me a good writer. It makes me a good listener. It's the ability to share what another person is going through.

I don't say this with ease. I can't really explain the situation properly. It just happens.

Throughout my life, I have been surrounded by people who 'told me' things. They told me how to run my life. They told me what medicines I will take. They even told me what I may be incapable of doing.

All were well intentioned. But the people that truly stood out in my life are those who simply listened.

So, today, I listen. Many times I can't do a thing about someone's situation. But I've found that people just want to be heard. It's a catharsis we all need. At least I do.

Perhaps I should leave that to the shrinks. The galaxy knows that I've seen enough of them myself. But I am compelled. It is like being magnetized, drawn to a crying spirit.

Yes, there is a downside. What trained counselors are taught very early on is the art of not getting involved. To be a passive ear, gently guiding some soul to the other side then once your job is complete, letting that person go to stand on their own.

Downside? You have to let go. Many souls have crossed my path and I have had to learn that when you extend a hand, it is simply to get that person to stand. Once they learn to walk, you have to take your hand back and wave goodbye.

Internally, this hurts. I've had to wrestle with my own inner demons and regale myself with tales of why letting go is a good thing for all.

It doesn't make it easier but if I am obliged to carry on this skill, then I'd better learn what the pros already know.

Still, the lesson is here for all - we just want to be heard.

Have you heard anyone today?



**** The Patient  ***


The patient explained that he felt overcome by a terrible sadness, that he didn't want to get up in the morning. He could not see any point in his existence.
"With your condition I would normally prescribe a course of my patent powders," said the doctor, "but it so happens that I have recently come across something which will alleviate your condition much more quickly.
"You must," he continued, "go to the Covent Garden theatre to see the pantomime, Harlequin and Mother Goose. This is the happiest thing I have ever seen performed on a stage, tears of laugher ran down my face. Why, sir, I can almost guarantee that watching Grimaldi the clown will cure you completely!"
"Ah, but doctor," said the man sadly, "I am Grimaldi the clown."


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Ripple Effect




Funny what medications can do to a body. Even funnier, and in most cases, lesser known is what harsh treatments do to the mind.

I was one of the few kids who wouldn't have passed the NFL drug policy. One of the drugs I was on was called Prednisone - a steroid used for everything from bad allergies to cancer treatments.

Side effects are numerous. I was a solid 6 year old that ballooned into a 130 lb 8 year old. By the time I hit 7th grade, I was 150 and climbing.

By comparison today, my 9 year old son is 75 lbs.

I don't like to sit and list blame criteria. It's a common issue with cancer survivors - Who is to blame? What causes this? Why me?

Still, it was widely known that the Pred was something that caused, at times, much weight gain. I honestly don't even know why I was on the stuff. You don't get much say at that age.

What is left behind is an overweight kid who still hides the scars from being the butt of the cruelest jokes. The circle was complete - made fun of, go home eat more, gain more weight, be made fun of more.

Let's not get all crybaby about it. It was a long time ago and we all know kids can be cruel. It's a fact of life and part of the emotional maturation process.

I'm also not going to lie. The ripple effects can be enormous.

To this day, I still can't go clothes shopping. I have no issue with certain sizes and all but the images of a fat kid trying on 'husky jeans' always come rushing in and I am 33/34 waist today.

In fact, let's be honest. Many cancer patients can be spotted a mile away. Bald heads. No eyebrows. Weakened walk. Who knows what else but usually the general public has some inkling something is going down.

As a kid? No one really knew. And if they did, the rumors would abound. One kid, the purgatory of my life, would often come up in my face and say wonderful things like, "Oh come on. Everyone knows you have leukemia."

Sigh, no jackass, I don't. At least that was my thought process back to him.

But why bother explaining. And what good would it do in the first place? You simply turned into the kid who couldn't take gym class or the fat kid with the wonky body parts who left early on certain school days.

I am unsure as to what the worst crime against a survivor can be - pity or simply ignoring them.

It's a fine balance. I say treat them as you would anyone else but slip in a "how are you doin?" every now and then. You may be surprised by the answer.

As children, the survivor scope widens. Kids don't have the life experience to cope at times. Who knew anything about Post Traumatic whatever? Who thought a child would be an insomniac at 14? Who knew or cared about the impacts to self image, aptitude or social trauma?

It was shock and awe. I hope it has changed, but I suspect when sniper fire does not work, it reverts to shock and awe.

It is a necessary evil. It is a genie with 3 wishes but with a heavy price to pay.

You can make your way back. I know this much. I just wish I had a guide out of the hole, decades ago.

This one is for those who don't think they can make it emotionally.

We can all be something great. In fact, I am pretty sure we all are.



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Countdown....


I always get jittery in the office.

The oncological surgeon has a spot in Cancer Central. Four corners of a major space all filled with scientists, surgeons, oncologists, nurses and that one gal who validates parking.

I am not being braggadocios. I am surrounded by the elderly, the infirm and those who are struggling with their disease. I try not to stare because I understand and yet I don't want to know. The thoughts always race through my mind - who won't be here next time? I don't look like I should be here.

But no one ever sees the scars.

A new elderly nurse calls out my name. She actually pronounces it correctly. I believe in signs(ish) and this was a positive one.

Same old routine. I've learned where they put my chart on the side of the door so when the nurse closes it, I can listen for the rustle of papers. That will mean my doc will be right in shortly thereafter.

I read and re-read the same Melanoma poster that seems to be in every room. I'm pretty sure I can spot it now that I've seen the cases 450 times. I pass on reading the hand sanitizer. There were days I'd waste qtips in the garbage pail. Tell me you never pretended having an olympic javelin toss in an office!

Then the rustle. I hear him. Oh I know he's there.

He's the chief of oncology surgery. I got the best. I documented that a while ago. He's six feet tall and about 250 lbs. A right jolly ole elf sans the jolly part.

As the door opens, he fills the entire door frame. Usually, he is a whirlwind of personality and he thrusts the door open to announce my results even before the door closes.

Today, of course, is different. His round face is always beet red. Gotta watch that blood pressure, Doc.

"How are you feeling?"

"Who? Me?" Stupid question I know but this is unusual. "I am fine."

It's the truth. I am fine. I feel fine. I feel good. I kept telling myself this for the past two weeks. I'm not the droid you are looking for.....move along.

"Are you losing weight? Trouble sleeping? Body aches?"

"Well......yeah? I just want to lose 2 more lbs, I haven't slept since fourteen and you see how you feel when your 75 lb nine year old says 'Carry me, Dad'."

I made him chuckle. That makes me chuckle. I have bedside manner down to a tee. Just that silly doctor thing and I'd be in the club.

"Your scans were normal." Finally he says it. Fongoo, what took so long? It's been at least five minutes. He does what he always does after that - bring it all back down to Earth.

"Given your unusual tumor (read: we have no idea what the hell it was), I am always going to be extra cautious. One more year and we will scan once a year. How does that sound?"

I don't know? Sort of like Dana Scully saying, "I really just want to stay and watch bad TV with you."

I'm easy for him. In. Out. Collect copay.

I already have my appointment for next January scheduled. That's how we roll.

Tomorrow morning, run. Tomorrow night, shrink. Friday morning, weights.

All pretty normal. All pretty boring.

And that's just how I like it.....

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Just a little more...


Today I lifted more.

I know. It's not big news. It's not a record. In fact, I am pretty sure someone walked into the gym shortly thereafter and did more.

We all want to see progress. I was doing squats and felt good. I added more weight...then a little more.....then a little more.

It has been over 10 years since I had a triple bypass. Lots of people don't remember but it is still pretty clear. The other day I noticed the scars for the first time in a while.

It may be a good thing. I am taking it for granted.

The story has been told but to make it simple, radiation as a child caused a heart blockage requiring a triple bypass in 2003.

I could have used a fourth but they could not bypass a blockage on the back of my heart.

So to this day, I work to avoid the blockage. I still can do just about anything.

I've been cleared to run as far as I want. Pretty much do what I want.

There are certain problematic circumstances of course.

When I run hard that whole oxygen transfer doesn't work at optimal. I am a human who is governed through meds so the heart rate won't go too high. A precaution but a valid one.

A 5k is a marathon. So be it.

I have flashed back to the day of diagnosis this year for some reason. I remember not watching the video they tried to show me.

I remember my brother telling me, "You know they crack you open right?"

I remember my other brother asking, "Can I have your Star Trek collection?"

I shake my head now. The scar and, what I think, gnarled bone in my chest has healed. When a barbell bounces off of  me now, I still think I hear a 'click'.

All of this has been documented. All is pretty much known to others. Some don't realize which is fine by me.

I work to strengthen what I have. I can't go as fast as I'd like but that's okay. I can go.

Today it was particularly hot in the gym. Sweat poured off as I walked past the main desk to the muggy outdoors.

I always stop just outside to breathe and savor another moment of 'doing something'. The sun was hidden but the gray sky was calming.

Nothing great happened today. No records were broken. No human kind history was made.

But then again. It's been over 10 years so my history has been made. Selfish as it sounds, that means something.

It seems that every survivor needs to strive a little more....a little harder. Whether you are chasing someone to the finish line or chasing a nine year old across the yard. As long as we keep chasing and moving.

I am always reminded at how lucky I am. Even when Life's stresses hit hardest - always attempt to hit back.

Millions have not made it this far.

For those who haven't survived - This one is for you...



Monday, May 20, 2013

Dr. Oz and the 1 1/2 day adventure...

Okay you've heard me expound many times on the virtues of diet and exercise. It's a lifetime/lifestyle change for many people, Survivors or not.

To that end, I am always interested in other points of view, other options, heavy on the yadda yadda.

We could be talking new ways to exercise, see Insanity and Crossfit, or new ways of eating.

One of the tried and true proven ways of total nutrition is obvious - eat your veggies.

Here is where it gets a tad muddled. In my learning, what I see, hear, read and experienced with my own habits can be broken down into the following mistakes made with people adjusting to life after Twinkies:

  • Eating 5 - 9 fruits and vegetables a day
    • What the hell is a serving anyway?
  • Thinking one vegetable suffices for all
    • 10 lbs of mashed potatoes a week isn't the answer
    • Subsequently, 10 glasses of apple juice a day isn't either
    • Neither does potato chips...
  • Don't like the taste
    • You've trained yourself not to
      • Possible culprits are the addicting forms of processed foods
      • The chemicals that make meat hit the pleasure center of the brain


So I ventured out to the land of Oz. That immortal, Oprah-made, doctor we all love to sit and admire for his words of wisdom that sing to use in our LaZboy chairs.

During one of his shows, a particular cleansing diet, called, of course, the Three Day Cleanse, was illustrated as a great way to get your body sync'd. Get you on the right track. Reset you. Get it?

Now I'm an avid juicer and all that. How hard could this be? Just get the allotted ingredients, prep, then smoothie yourself to heaven.

Day 1...

You start with what Ozzy calls the breakfast shake. It has all of your ceremonial 'stuff' in it. Everything from raspberries, kale, bananas etc etc. You can even go all Vegas and add a tablespoon of almond butter - crazy talk!

Oh and don't even bother with coffee....nope. Done. Your caffeine days, organic or not, are done, my friend.

Instead, you will insert an IV of green tea. Add some lemon and you surfing with the alien.

Trust me.....you are full....for a time. It's not like this is the ambrosia from the gods but it tastes pretty
darn good. You get huge greens, reds and whatevers. Plenty of melatonin from the raspberries and no coffee should make for better sleep.

Hurdle number 1...No midmorning snack. I eat every 2-3 hours and sucking down tea just wasn't cutting it. Lunch came early.

At 11(ish) I decided to go for the lunch time shake. This was made up of many cruciferous vegetables. Celery, cucumbers, green apple, and the list goes on and on. It wasn't just green it was ANGRY green.

I'll admit it - I was intimidated. This green monster was tough to stare down. I gave it my all and to my surprise, it wasn't half bad. Again......not hungry. I was full. Walk away Joe.....walk away.

More tea in the afternoon. My bladder and kidneys wondered if I was aboard the Titanic. (Insert eye roll....you know who you are).

The all mighty and powerful Oz deemed I get a snack which is just another rendition of your favorite shake. Well that would be some type of strawberry Awful Awful back in the day.

I made a miscalculation here. I lost track of time and was imbibing in my tea-fest that I was encroaching on dinner before I had my mid afternoon snack.

No way in hell I was gunning down two shakes at once.

Hurdle number 2 - I was on edge. I didn't chew a damn thing all day. Seriously? Artisan soap? With a ribbon on it and everything? Who gets this stuff and why did they make it childproof when you just want to get it out of the bejeweled package to wash your friggin hands...

Dinner shake was different yet the same. A green was in there, kale, I believe, along with mango and a dash of coconut oil. Cayenne pepper made the shake exotic. I gunned that bad boy down.

I'll restate it. Not hungry. Not something else though either. I couldn't put my finger on it.


Day 2.  I woke up. Period. Now there are many out there who go off on the energizing effects of these drinks. How they woke up and learned to levitate. How this drink made them flush their viagra prescription. How they now see the reason for saving the egyptian asp from extinction.

Okay. I woke up. I went and performed my intervals.

I didn't feel bad. I wasn't even hungry per se. I gunned it down again. Breakfast shake. I was full but I was not satisfied.

With my keg of green tea in tow, I went to work with all the shakes a boy could use on a Tibetan harvest walk.

Again, no mid morning snack. I got to 11:15 and took down my Merlin's potion of green. Full. Sort of. I don't know.

Oh but I enjoyed the algae at snack time too which came only 2 hours later.  Now I am searching the floor for an Ezekiel crumb of sorts. If I found the mouse that had one, I'd probably bite its head off.

One and one half day. That was it. I called it quits.

I felt weak but then again, I reasoned it out.

This little adventure is surely aimed at those who are on the Twinkie Diet. It's for those who bow to the anti-nature Pop Tart.

You do a 5k in calories and not in kilometers, then this little ritual will seem like a march to the Himalayas to meet your maker. Oh the heavens have opened and the doves will fly.

But what if you are sort of already there? It made me wonder. This isn't so far out of the ordinary for me....outside of that chewing thing.

For me, there was no massive weight loss. There were no visions of diet deities. I felt okay with it. I felt full. I also felt something was missing.

I don't condone fads or quick fixes.  Does this cleanse work? I think it's good to try. If you aren't in the green or need to adjust your portion controller? This is a good start.

And we all need a good start, don't we?

Remember, you diet for life.

JM






Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What slows you down....makes you stronger


It happened in December 2012. I was running in the Jingle 5K and at mile 2, something was amiss. My right knee started to throb.

Of course, being an ass, I kept going.

As I approached the finish line, I am now in a full limp.

That was 5 months ago...

I have not been able to run with any distance since. This is more taxing mentally than it is physically. In fact it was downright stressful.

The miles have turned into fits of frustrations - Longer walking than running. Pain filled events that make me wonder what the hell am I doing out here.

This impacts my survivor mentality of 'keep moving'. I firmly believe that if I can keep my body as tuned as much as I possible, I can always give myself a fighting chance. I don't care if anyone else believes that or not. This is just me.

To that end, I can't move the way I want. I can't race my heart the way I feel I need to. I pour supplements and juices into me in hopes to compensate. The gym is the second home. Early hours of harsh activity...that's me. Yet, I am still held to human standards.

At a recent doctor appointment, for the ailing knee, it finally dawned on me. What I keep preaching to all, I had forgotten myself.

I am breathing.

When you remind yourself of this, you start to feel what it is like to believe again.

Breathe. Just try it.

A simple, reflexive act. Your body is the perfect machine. Fill it with the fuel it needs and do the simplest of tasks - breathe.

I left the doc's still limping but with a new resolve. Dammit, I am breathing. I know too many who aren't any longer.

The visions start to splay in front of me - fragments of fantasy.

A shrink once asked me to write down in a notebook what I wanted to be. Who was I? What was I?

I wrote down one word - Superhero.

I wanted to be that. The fragments of memory often collide with fantasy. As a child up to this day, I still feel the ripple effect.

I still fall asleep to thoughts of being superhuman. Someone who can't be touched. I've done it so much that I keep testing to see if I have super powers. Two attempts at lifting a car, and I realize I am still a puny human on this planet.

But mentally...well, that's the trick and that is where the true power lies.

We can't leap tall buildings, but we can build them.

We aren't bulletproof, but we can choose not to shoot at all.

We aren't hulking monsters whose rage conquers all. But we can bring peace to an entire world.

We are breathing. We are walking. We are living.

Maybe more like limping. Maybe we slow down at times. Maybe we simply cry until we can't cry any longer.

But the limp goes away. The aches just remind you that you are living and tears always dry.

And you simply breathe. An uncomplicated and mostly unconscious act.

Everyone's time is coming. Just choose later than sooner.

Me? I'm running tomorrow. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Panel


We all sat down at the front of the room. We were informally introduced in front of sixty to eighty people.

At first, I felt like we were the tribunal. All six of us, sitting there as the counsellor spoke over the crowd about long term survival.

Our ages range from, roughly, twenty years of age to yours truly.

I chuckled to myself as the mic started at the opposite end of the panel. I'd be last. I wasn't sure if that was a good thing. I don't like public speaking so I tried to crack myself up inside.

I wore a new shirt and "dress jeans". It's funny. When you sit in front of people on the subject of long term survival, you sort of want to look, what's the word? Healthy.

I get touchy about such things. The room was a mix of nurses earning their career continuing education points, and parents of children with cancer. Some of the "kids" attended with their rental units.

One girl in particular caught my eye. She was probably in her mid to late teens. Slight, with a RISD wardrobe and accompanying attitude. Her multi-colored hair was short and screamed punk rock. A big ass sticker was just below her shoulder that said "survivor".

She had the attitude. I am sure I romanticized it a bit but her look equaled what I felt inside. Rebellion. Fight. Attitude. I just wanted to scream at her - keep going, keep it up...don't give in.

The mic was getting closer. God, I had nothing to say and everyone was staring. The doctor before the panel had plastered various pictures of long term affects stemming from chemo and radiation. Yeah I was checking them all off in my head...one by one. It was a literal WTF moment.

I shook it off. I looked at my panel-mates and a wonder dawned on me.

We all look normal...

Okay, for those who know me and want to spew their almond milk at the equation Me=Normal, you know what I mean.

The mic got closer and closer. I looked over again and I confirmed what I've always said - we were still here. Normal, albeit affected, people talking about their lives in front of an audience. It was a surreal moment, both fact and fantasy swirling together.

We all sat in those large, badly colored lounge chairs with needles in our arms. We all smelled the rubbing alcohol till it made us nauseas. We all listened to the babble of doctors telling us they'll see us next time.

I took a peek at the audience and they were listening, hanging no less, on the words through the mic.

My innards shook. My legs were numb and I could have drunk a gallon of water because it was so dry in the room.

The mic was one person away. She is a stately woman, twenty-something, who is a criminal justice student. She didn't waver in her statements. She had an easy pentameter that spoke to me about that word again - healthy.

The mic was passed from that artist, to the counselor, to the nursing student, to the physician's assistant, to the law student...then to me.

We all were well. Sure, our bullets were used up early. Sure, some doctor somewhere will find a case to argue how healthy we really were...

We have scars. Mental ones as well.

I could argue that a generation was sitting before the audience.....ready to tell them that age old book title - We are still here.

I want the message to resound over the airwaves. We are still here.


Dammit.....hand me the mic.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dear...Myself...

*Note to reader: This is an exercise in, well, I am not sure what. This is a letter to myself going back to when I was 20 years of age - a different person, mindset, body and spirit. I've always wondered what I would say to myself if I could go back...here is my crack at it.


Dear Me,

I'm forty-six years old and you are twenty. It's hard to believe twenty-six years have gone by. 

Looking at you now, it's hard to believe we are the same person. Inside me, today, you are buried deep and yet you still manage to pop out now and again. 

Sometimes I really resent you. You and your insecurity. You were scared of everyone and everything. You stayed up all night paralyzed by the fear of dying in your sleep. If you only knew what was coming. I won't go into that now because you really won't sleep. 

Maybe you should have taken care of yourself back then. You wallowed through school - a college you knew you didn't belong. Deep down you knew but you were afraid to be who you are today. You were afraid to fail. You were afraid to try too hard and simply fail. Change scared you almost into oblivion.

I have news for you. People fail every minute. And if you think 'girls' are your biggest problem, wait until you have a shooting pain up your arm and you are on a table staring up at hospital lights. 

So scared of failure. So little lack of faith in self. 

Shame on you for listening to the negatives. You will learn not to waste so much energy on those who look to knock you down. It will take you too many years though so get crackin' on that now will you?

If you only knew about what you will accomplish. If you had a glimpse, maybe it would all be different somehow. Maybe you would have been braver. Hard to tell. 

Here are a few things you have succeeded in...I thought  you should know. 

You will graduate college...you will get a job. No, I can't say you will ever love it but you will be more successful than you could imagine at it. 

You are going to be in a rock band - a pretty good one at that. 

You are going to learn how to skate and play ice hockey - something you dreamed of when you saw Jim Craig win the gold medal in the 1980 Olympics.

You will discover the gym and get stronger and thinner. I promise. By the way...you should have started running by now but that can't be helped right now.

You are a published author. No one will ever take that away from you. And while you are at it, be okay with who you are - an artist. Recognize it early and don't take 25 years to figure it all out. Keep dreaming all of those fantasies you use to distract you from life - it worked.

Let go of your regrets. Do it now. They will only haunt you on your darkest days.

Let go of your enemies both real and not. Do it now. The battles that rage in your head will get you no where.

Listen to your body. It's telling you how you are every minute of every day. Did I mention you should start running?

You will sound like your dad more and more....get used to it and be proud.

By the way, you will be a dad contrary to what everyone has told you all your life since you were six.

You will have friends for life. And they will want to be with you forever.

That's about it, Me. I wish we could sit and chat longer but you and I are very different people. You like to sit there and wait for the world to guide you down the river. Not me. Maybe not as much. It's an unforgiving world we live in - grab it by the horns and twist until it goes to its knees. 

I'll never forget you, Me. Deep down, you are always there. I might try to hush you more than I should but I learned a lot from you. I am me because of you. 

Everything you did, made me what I am today. Sometimes I curse it. Most of the time, I accept it. 

Enjoy the ride, Me, and smile every once in a while. You don't do that enough, if you ask me. 

Sincerely,
Me




Thursday, February 14, 2013

Food For Thought...






I've had a long standing relationship with food.

I can sit and blame everything in my life on the treatments over a lifetime ago, even the eating habits.

Along with a laundry list of side effects that I have documented off and on, one of the stranger aspects came with eating.

All I remember was his formal name - Dr. Webber. He was a typical looking mad scientist type. He wore a typical white coat with typical glasses he would stare just over the rims from. He had typical male pattern baldness, with tufts of white around his ears and back of his head. All typical save for the fact that he wasn't mad or insane. What he was, was the head of Radiology.

I remember piercing blue eyes. He would always look me in the face when he talked to me. A refreshing deal when most adults talked around me, pointed, shook their heads and whispered when they realized I was crying at the words they were saying all too loud. Not with Dr. Webber.

Before all of my life began, I was built in my father's image. I had the build, the shoulders, the sturdiness at 6. After the storm took over, I put on a tremendous amount of weight and I never shot up in height like my brothers did.

More than likely it was the dosing of a steroid called prednisone that probably pushed the bulk against my favor. And along with a voracious appetite came an oddity - I couldn't taste any of the food I was eating. I remember explaining to Dr. Webber, that everything tasted "tinny" or it had no taste at all. Not salty or sweet. Not savory or tart. Nothing.

Outside of his white coat, Dr. Webber was a rolled up sleeve kind of person. He sat with me and my mother with a series of almost nonchalant questioning. Then he turned to me exclusively.

"If you had to pick out your favorite food, Joe, what would it be?"

Now picture a fat italian kid thinking about all of the possibilities. I grew up in a house where every Sunday, macaroni and meat sauce were the symphony that filled my nose for hours.

"McDonalds," I said.

"And what would you have at McDonalds?"

I'm talking steak and salad. Pasta fagiola. My mother's meatloaf...we won't go there.

"I like the fries..."

"And what else?"

"A hamburger..."

"And what else?"

Spaghetti. Porkchops. Fresh tomatoes from the garden. Sausage. Meatballs.

"And a shake..."

"Everything still tastes tinny to you?"

"Yes."

Dr. Webber turned to my mother. Years later I understood the mentality. If the patient felt good eating that stuff? The patient got a little leeway.

"Give him what he wants. Anything he wants to eat."

When you have a child who is in chemo and radiation...all that goes with it, you are hard pressed to push spinach smoothies into them.

I am not blaming anyone for it. That path may have been started with or without being sick. It was a different age back then. We didn't understand nutrition, exercise or the combination like the science it has become today.

Still on came the weight. In high school I was barely 5'-something and 225 lbs. No worries. Today that's 60 lbs away and a bad dream. The ramifications still resonate through me to this day.

They knew how they wanted to kill the disease but what they didn't know then was what about the patient? What about the psyche from having a body go hog wild, heavy on the hog?

What are the aftershocks as an outward 6 year old turns into an introverted teen? An introverted teen then turns into a rebellious young adult...

Decades later as I lay on a bed with a surgeon scrawling a pen sketch about where your heart blockages are...you wonder. And you keep wondering.

I love to eat. Eating to me is special. I pity diabetics who have to be careful about the carbs and those who cast aside eating food as a chore in general. To me eating, at the table, surrounded by friends and family harkens to my ancestors who huddled the same way in gratitude and very likely, survival.

My eating habits today are vastly different from twenty, even ten years ago. I get prodded, poked and even made fun of for what I take in daily. I don't care. I still enjoy it. I am motivated beyond what size jeans one would wear.

Still the resonating sounds off in my skull. Daily. Sometimes hourly.

Being overweight led to under confidence. Shyness took root. Introversion was planted. I lived in my own world. I was safe there. The irony is, that world back then, so dysfunctional as it was, has tributaries to my fantasy stories of today as an author.

With that dark period came loneliness and misunderstanding. You will note my love of wolves and other creatures that are 'misunderstood'. All of that came from the fat kid who didn't speak up much in high school.

No pity parades. Just the facts. Everything you have experienced has brought you to this place today.

Lots of people ask if I would change anything. If I could, would I?

Hard to say. Without all of these experiences I wouldn't be 'me'. Whatever that means. I do joke I may have been taller but that's another subject for another time.

Anyway, it's food for thought.....I am already thinking about my post workout breakfast....





Tuesday, January 8, 2013

When...


I shared my 'activity' schedule a short time ago. It's a basic routine, not unlike others across the globe.

The premise is simple:

Move.

Sunday - hockey, swim and/or run
Monday - Interval training/run
Tuesday - weights
Wednesday - rest
Thursday - Interval training/run
Friday - Weights
Saturday - rest


Keep moving.


Swap out what you'd like but this is pretty much the week. Today is a weight day, heavy, in fact. As the day wears on my body wears down, recovering. Before I go to sleep, my muscles are complaining.

The biggest, documented, question I get is "why?"

I say do until someone tells you, you can't do any longer...then do some more.

My scan results are 8 days away....I do because I feel I have to.


2012 was a year like most. It came and went. The country as well as many personal lives faced a common formula - loss, euphoria, struggle, fight, anger, happiness, joy....etc. The Mayan's ancestors had a nice chuckle. People are still killing others in the name of some god, yet the world for the  most part has peace.

It's a mixed bag. One hopes to have more positives at the end of time than negatives.

Or is it how we choose to handle the negativity?

Negative is coming. When you live life, you are surrounded by it. Just watch the news. Hence, I don't watch the news.

In the past few years, I've had a lot to be down about. It's not a pity parade, it's just my statement of how events have gone by in my life.

Yet, backing up one step, I can state that I am alive and breathing. Many can't. Many can't stand. I can and I'm thankful for that as well.

Many simply can't 'do'...I can.

I've learned a few tricks along the way. I am not one to make huge contributions to the Sunshine Club but I am learning to back up for a moment, count my blessings and carry on.

It all happens......when....

When I am around the holiday table, I take note of the relatives who have lived a long life and go on living, feeding those childhood memories I savor like candy.

When I am floundering at the gym, I remind myself that I am active. I am moving more than others...many others. Three years ago, I thought I'd never move again.

When stress hits me, I remind myself to keep breathing.

When I am alone, I remind myself that I have friends who care.

When I am on a cold road, struggling to run, I know that I am alive.

When I hear an inhospitable wind, I look up to admire the roof over my head.

When I long for my son to be three again, I smile that he is growing older and that I am there to see it.

We can't all be positive 24/7. That much is understood. I even think it is unhealthy. There is a dark reality that sits around ever corner.

What we choose to do with it defines how we will look at everything else in our lives.

I get my results in 8 days.

When I get those results, I know I'll walk out healthy.