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Never, ever give up

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“Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up.”

Up until about the time I hit my 40’s, I both enjoyed great health and took wonderful care of my health through exercise (tennis, swimming, walking, running, biking), eating right and making sure I spent lots of quality time with friends and family to balance out work and other life stressors. My health took a dramatic turn, when, first, I needed emergency gallbladder surgery, and then two years later, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer known as sarcoma (soft tissue cancer). In my case, this cancer was discovered in my left abdominal wall and I needed two surgeries and a large # of radiation treatments to address it. All of the aforementioned surgeries and treatment lead to a recurring problem with what’s known as “intestinal adhesions.” It’s kind of disgusting to think about, but basically, intestinal adhesions are scar tissue that wrap around your intestines and cause bowel blockages that require surgery, in many cases. I have had two such surgeries on an emergency basis, and been hospitalized with an NG (nasogastric) tube and/or for observation to give my bowel a chance to relax and untwist itself. NG tubes are another disgusting thing you don’t want to think about — a doctor described them as “barbaric” to me. They just come along as part of the bowel/intestinal surgery package.

Having had to have 7 surgeries in the past 13 years, and numerous emergency room trips and hospitalizations, I could choose to just sit and wait for and in fear of the next health trauma/drama. But, and this is a HUGE but, I never allow this fear of my health future to cause me to put my life on hold or keep me from doing what I want to do. Far, far from it! If anything, it has just caused me to live and breathe one of my family’s favorite mottos, as you’ll see from the sweater in my photo, “Carpe Diem” (We’re a family of “Carpe Diemers” because of two siblings with MS and three that have battled cancer.)

Because of all the above, every day for several years now, I have dealt with a very messed-up digestive system. Basically, surgeries, radiation, and other medical treatment related to past cancer — and treatment of the symptoms that cancer treatment left me with — have caused me to have IBS-C. Because of the aforementioned, I need to stick to a very low-starch, low-fermentation diet. I follow one known as the “Fast Tract Diet” because it works well for me. It means I have to pick restaurants that work for me, pack up snacks to bring wherever I go, bring lots of food I can eat to any party I’m invited to, and explain over and over again to people why I can’t eat starchy potatoes, bread, pasta (yup, no beloved pasta or pizza), or vegetables, fruits, and grains that are known to have high fermentation potential. It’s hard to always control what’s available to eat and what’s in food, so there are days where because of various logistics, I might end up eating something slightly off/different from my daily diet and then pay the costly consequences of being extremely sick and in a lot of pain. Fortunately, I have found a wonderful support group on Facebook who deal with the same issues. It has been such a godsend. So much great love, support, and information-sharing there, just like on the “Our Heart Speaks” site.

I live an extremely busy and rich life. I launched my own marketing, communications, and market research consultancy four years ago, less than 9 months after recovering from the second of two emergency bowel surgeries in 2013, and I’m pleased to share I have a very full client plate and a very full personal life. I socialize with family and friends regularly. I enjoy extremely long walks with my husband, friends, and family members, as well as spoiling and hanging out with my 11 nieces and nephews. I also participate in cause walks and support causes with free marketing and communications consulting. And, despite my own health challenges, have plenty of bandwidth to support others as they go through their own, or other difficult challenges in their lives. Perhaps, this page of my Web site will inspire readers in some way, as I do hope and want to be an inspiration to others daily on how to deal with the “what may seem as unfair” health challenges that come their or their loved ones’ way. https://allintheresults.com/keep-up-the-fight.

Having dealt with sudden, unexpected illness (cancer, sudden menopause from cancer treatment that is quite severe because of it being caused by surgery/cancer treatment, iron-deficient anemia) and now dealing with chronic illness (primarily IBS-C/digestive issues), I want to share the following advice with others in similar situations:

  •  Live your life as you want and need to lead it: don’t apologize for having health issues or the inconvenience they may cause others because of special food or other accommodations you need
  • Try hard not to view yourself as an “ill” or “frail” person: you may have certain physical limitations, but you also likely have some great physical strengths and traits that keep you strong, vibrant, and active; there’s so much more to you than being and feeling sick
  • Share your story only when asked or necessary: it will help you not feel like the “sick girl” or the “sick boy” and remind you that there is more to you than your new or chronic illness, i.e., only give health updates whether it be to close friends or new acquaintances when asked “how are you doing or feeling?”
  • Don’t let fear of your future health stop you from doing what you want and need to do today.
  • When the situation requires it, don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about explaining how or why your current health situation prevents you from participating in a particular activity. For example, when my anemia was quite severe long commutes by public transportation were too much for me, or get-togethers that ran late in the evening, etc.
  • Never stop searching for the right answers, treatments, help, etc. When I first started experiencing my IBS-C issues, I did not know that’s what they were nor how to treat the symptoms. I just knew I would feel deathly sick to my stomach and something felt very wrong. It took me several months of researching online to find a diet that would work for me, and then several months on that diet before I felt better and saw a positive change. But I always believed things would get better.