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?"


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 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....

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