(Over)thinking things through

I’ve been spending a lot of time in my head recently.

On Sunday, I took a charity yoga class to benefit the Dear Jack Foundation. DJF was founded by Andrew McMahon, aka my favorite musician, to help young adult cancer patients and survivors with support and community outreach. Adolescent and young adult cancer rates have not improved over the past 10-20 years — while survivor rates have improved in every other age range, the 15-39 group has shown no change. There’s a lot of reasons for that. This is the age range where individuals are least likely to be proactive about their health, avoid or discredit any symptoms, and skip their annual physicals, often due to lack of health insurance or the financial means to cover their healthcare. Considering that my $1500 FSA was 80% depleted after the first of four annual Dana Farber dermatology appointments required due to my own history of melanoma and basal cell carcinoma, leaving me wondering how the hell I’m going to pay for my remaining appointments, biopsies, and treatments for the rest of the year, I gotta say, I sympathize. But DJF is also committed to addressing the isolation and feeling of “otherness” that comes from being a young adult cancer patient – that feeling of “I’m too young for this” or “This shouldn’t be happening.” There’s a serious dearth of programs, organizations, and opportunities for YA cancer patients and survivors to seek out support, and DJF strives to address that.

I wasn’t exactly in prime shape going into Sunday’s class. It’s been a rough week for me in a lot of ways, and I was mentally and physically wiped out when I set my mat down in the studio. As the instructor led us through a heart-opening flow, I found myself reflecting back over the past few years. Last Friday marked four years since I received my melanoma diagnosis, and a lot has changed since then. That whole experience was a wake up call that I needed to start being more proactive about my health. It’s what inspired me to join Studio Poise in 2013, and it remains the driving force behind the choices I make when it comes to nutrition and fitness. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about my skin – I use SPF religiously, but there’s no changing genetics, and I know that my future is going to be marked off by one biopsy after another, hoping that I catch any future instances of melanoma early enough to avoid metastasis. Realizing this, I’ve been a lot more proactive about the areas of my health that are within my control. I’m far more mindful about my diet, and I have made exercise not just a habit or something I do because I feel like I need to, but something that is actively contributing to my mental health and sanity. Working out helps me to manage my stress, helps me to sleep better, and also gets me closer to the overall physical health I’m striving for.

That’s why I’m in such a shitty place right now – because nutrition and fitness is something I can control, and so when my body isn’t responding to those efforts, I panic. So much of my health is completely outside of my control, and to feel like now I also can’t control my weight is just more than I can take. I scheduled an appointment with my PCP yesterday to get her thoughts on this, and it was equal parts validating and frustrating. I’m really lucky to have a PCP who trusts me, so when I outlined for her all the steps I’ve taken over the past 8 months with minimal change to my weight, she never once questioned whether I was telling the truth. She affirmed that I’m doing everything right, and seemed just as stumped and frustrated as I am. She did do a blood test to check my thyroid, but it came back completely normal. She basically said that she can think of no medical reason that my body isn’t responding to the work I’m doing, and she thinks maybe I need to try a medication to help the weight along. I’m going to an informational session with the weight management clinic next week, but I’m not wild about the idea of adding a medication into the mix. I feel like these types of drugs have so many risks attached to them, and I’m skeptical of what will happen when I go off them. They’re usually appetite suppressants, and that’s not my issue – I’m doing okay sticking with my nutrition plan from Janie and I very rarely feel like I’m so hungry that I have to go off-plan to eat something. I don’t want to take a pill that will suppress my hunger and end up eating less – that feels like a recipe for long-term metabolic disaster, and short-term shitty performance in the gym.

Basically, everything that’s happening with my health is forcing me to confront my desire to have control wherever I can. So much of the universe is outside of our control, and I get that. I understand that striving to control things that are impossible to change will only drive me crazy in the long run. But the thing is – I should be able to control this. I control what I eat and I control how I workout, and the work I’m putting in should translate to a change on the scale, and it’s not, and that’s really screwing with me right now. So I’m dumping my thoughts here to try to stop them from swirling around in my brain, and I’m hoping that a change will come, sooner rather than later.

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