A matter of health…

So, Chicago is my hometown, and it’s where most of my doctors are all located, and where my health insurance expects me to be if I need more than some sort of emergency care … which isn’t a bad thing considering that Chicago has some of the best doctors in the world. In fact when in Florida last year, during the Jewish high holidays — it’s again Yom Kippur tonight (the day where Jews repent their sins), and I’m not at shul as I should be because I’m suffering a bit of a cold *cough* –Anyway, last year at this time (by the Jewish Calendar)  I was talking with a surgeon who said ‘if you live the US and you’re sick, you really want to be in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago… and if your a geriatric, Florida’ (where apparently they put more of an effort into trying to keep their elderly customers alive).

So, the long and short of it is I’m back in Chicago, at least through the election, in order to deal with some fairly serious medical issues.

Let me start off by saying, I’m very much a yo-yo dieter in the extreme, and as of about a year ago (let’s say Dec. of 2015) I was about 100 lb over weight… I can’t be sure of the exact number because I stopped stepping on scales after I hit 190 lb.

To put this in context: In my early to mid 20’s I was too petite  — the inverse problem of where I ended up. I generally, if at a healthy weight, weighed in at between 110 and 115 lb. (I’m 5’4″ and have VERY light bones, bird like even). I wore a size 4, and the bra size was 28 DD – the smallest chest cavity circumference on the market, but big boobs, so I looked like a 34 C but with twice the weight to lug around (yes I slump my shoulders). If I was VERY skinny, say I had dropped down to 100 lb, I would reduce to D cup or sometimes even a C., could fit into size 27″ size women’s jeans … and would find myself in tears when shopping because there were no cloths in the women’s department small enough for me, with size zero being loose on me … Oh, and considered myself horribly fat if I had gained enough to wear a size 6 or 8, … Oh those were the days!!

In my mid 30’s I started to get a bit heavier. I started wear a 6 or an 8 more regularly, (and increased to an H cup bra, but still with a 28 circumference). About then was when the doctors started to talk to me about needing to watch my cholesterol, and by my early 40’s they were talking to me about adult on-set diabetes (type 2) becoming a risk.

As a result, Pretty much since I was 35 I have been an on again and off again low carbohydrate eater, in order to try to stave off the diabetes (I hate needles). How ‘good’ I was about it often varied with my mood. About then one friend of mine noticed that I’d gone from always being pear shaped, and getting my weight in my hips and tits, to starting to expand in the mid-section, and to walk with a waddle.

That said, I’m a stress eater, and in times of high stress — like when in my late 30’s when because of what was happening with my stomach I was ultimately misdiagnosed me as having Ovarian Cancer (and told I needed a radical hysterectomy), I developed what I described as a close and loving relationship with both Ben and Jerry… However, since I WAS eating low Carb — or trying to, and WAS taking a statin to control my high cholesterol, I figured I could indulge myself on other things… like: fried chicken, fried cheese, fried jalapenos stuffed with cheese, fried calamari, fried mushrooms dipped in blue cheese dressing, cheesy broccoli, steaks, … need I go on? If it had the word fried in front of it, it was my friend.

Regarding the cancer scare… I ecstatically found out from a second opinion I got before letting them those idiots cut me open, that they were in fact WRONG, and what they thought was cancer was just a really horribly advanced case of endometriosis, the worst the doctor had ever seen. I say “just” because there are pills for that, cheap ones even … namely birth control pills. Most women the first sign of endometriosis is pain, so usually it’s caught early;  I had however none … so by the time they caught it it had managed to pull all my internal organs out of proper alignment, and was only inches away from invading my lungs — and if that had happened it WOULD have killed me.

Three weeks after the surgery for my endometriosis (it was supposed to be a 15 minute exploratory but turned into 6 hours on the table as my doctor weeded my garden) my gall bladder, after years and years of yo-yo dieting cried uncle and demanded that it be removed… THAT NIGHT… So, in an emergency surgery (because a bunch of gallstones got stuck in the pipe leading to the stomach, which resulted in sever pain and unrelenting barfing…) the gallbladder came out. After that, and because of it, I dropped back to about 130 lb as a result of having to add a VERY low fat diet to my low carb one… initially no more than 5g of fat per meal, and then slowly increasing it over time as the stomach adjusted to the absence of a Gallbladder.

But, like I said, that was only temporary, and once I could eat a high fat meal without it resulting in sever diarrhea, I went right back to eating a high fat diet. mmmmmm, deep fried mushrooms and jalapeno poppers dipped in blue cheese or ranch dressing… mmmmm  Then, during my few years of teaching in S. Korea, my weight started at 130 but did a slow and steady climb till I was back in the mid 155lb range. If you think being fat in the USA is hard, try in in S. Korea, where ideas of beauty actually prefer everyone and everything err on the side of cookie cutter uniformity.

Koreans believe there is ONE (ONE) perfect face, and most of Korean students had been given a “college acceptance present” from their parents of plastic surgery in their attempt to achieve it. This is what resulted in the Miss Korea debacle, where all the contestants looked alike:

No really, these are all different girls — its a combination of plastic surgery, and makeup intended to emphasize their uniformity that resulted in the above…  Oh, and keep in mind, the fact that they all looked so-alike was considered a “GOOD” thing, at least until the Koreans realized that the rest of the world was laughing at them because of it… then they released pictures of the same girls with no makeup….

On top of uniformity of face, Koreans also want to see uniformity of body… and in Korea the one size fits all clothing (which in women’s clothes is 95% of it) is a US size small. AND, my Korean female students who wore a size small T-shirt (US size — it’s a medium in Korea), all considered themselves fat. When I tried shopping for clothes in Korea women at the stalls would, towards the end of stay, take one look at me and just shake their heads. I was forced to go to men’s stores only, and buy X-large men’s size (US large) shirts… for pants I was actually sizing myself out of the available sizes, with only a handful of the larger chains even carrying my size.

Then dad died, and I came home to the single most stressful year of my life, so stressful that I thought I was having a heart attack because my heart would regularly feel like it was encased in ice… a really weird sensation. When I called the doctor she said, “that’s a high stress symptom, you NEED to reduce your stress or it will kill you.” At this point I had grown completely out of my own clothes, but I was able to wear my dad’s cloths, I”m 5’4″ and he was 5’10″… and a lot of the ones from when he had been skinny now fit me. That is when I decided I had taken about as much family bullshit as I could manage, packed up all my stuff into storage and took to the road. For the first few months I was down in Orlando, going to the Disney Parks almost daily… and eating healthy there, is beyond a struggle. As a result, in spite of the fact that I was walking way more, I was STILL gaining weight. I was wearing size 38 or 40″ waist jeans (keep in mind in my 20’s I was wearing 27 or 28″ jeans), and buying size L or X-Large (US) tops. In January I finally snapped out of my depression and started to alter my diet (less comfort foods, more healthy), and started to loose weigh — although two months in Georgia, (March and April), the land of all things fried where even the all day breakfast at McD’s only has the Egg-McMuffin on a biscuit (instead of the much lower fat English Muffin), did not help.

In May I swung through Chicago for my yearly checkup, weighed in at 185 lb, and was informed that not only were my sugar and cholesterol shooting up, but I had developed fatty liver disease; and, if I didn’t do something, and do it quick, I was going to need a new liver. YOUCH!!! She said I had to make an appointment with a liver specialist ASAP, and I had to change my diet immediately, to as low fat as possible. Mostly fish, a little chicken, no beef at all, and as low fat as possible, so I could NOT eat at restaurants anymore.

However, I was only in town for two weeks, not enough time to even book an appointment with the specialist, had already paid for lodgings in Canada for June through August, and I knew I would not be back in Chicago until the beginning of September, when an old friend was getting married.

This, my dear reader is why pretty much every meal after May consisted of fish, and something low fat and full of fiber on the side. NOT eating at restaurants wasn’t going to fly, so I had to come up with some pretty fierce protocols to makes sure that didn’t harm me. I know this sounds extreme but,…. I start every order with the explanation: “this is not about me wanting to loose a few pounds, this is about me having liver disease and if I am not VERY VERY careful needing to try to try find a new liver and get a transplant. So, unless you want to quite literally poison me, unless you want to be partially responsible for my death, you need to listen very carefully.” … it seems to work.

It’s also why I scheduled, as I promised her I would, two full months in Chicago come September/October …. which is where I currently am. First thing I did was to go to the liver specialist, and was greeted with GOOD NEWS!!! Instead of 185 lb, I was now 157 lb…  28 lb lost in four months…. about 2 lb a week which is a healthy weight loss … and all my bad liver numbers had dropped.

My three solid months of eating right, which involved careful ordering and ripping the heads off of restaurant staff that brought me anything oily, has resulted in a huge dip in my liver numbers. He showed me a chart, and my liver numbers that have been climbing now for the last 6 years (and this my doctor never really made that clear to me), or pretty much ever since they had taken out the Gall-bladder. He showed me a chart and there was this one yellow line that just climbed and climbed… at least till last May.


The red line was other liver numbers… which had also had climbed, but less steadily, both of which were suddenly coming down, and with a will. He said to me, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but keep doing it!” I think if you loose 10 lb more, you’ll be out the danger area… but keep going.

Later this week I’m scheduled for a special sort of liver test where they are going to try to determine if any Cirrhosis of the Liver has developed… he doesn’t think so, based on my numbers, but he needs to double check with this special sort of pictures. IF I fail that test — or it’s inconclusive, THEN they will need to do a biopsy.


Edit: Friday October 14th… just had the liver test. Firstly, they weighed me in, I was 157 on Sept. 7th, and the doctor said I had to loose at least 10 lb more…. I weight in at 150lb today… so he was VERY happy with that. Then they did the liver scan and he said there was no evidence of any scarring of the liver, i.e., cirrhosis. That he was very hopeful and happy (and how nice it was to have a patient who actually did what the doctor said to do). I was instructed to keep doing what I’m doing in terms of my low fat diet and exercise, till the liver number have come all the way down, but that he didn’t want to see me for two years, at which point he’d want to run tests again.