going au naturale and baring it all

“Happiness resides not in possessions
and not in gold,
happiness dwells in the soul.”
– Democritus

A lot has been happening Precious Readers! We have a lot of catching up to do. Grab some coffee or tea and sit a spell!

Pilot’s photography business has been booming, even causing him to go on the road now and then for new gigs.  Although he hasn’t been hired full time as a teacher, these new photography gigs are becoming a full-time job! He’s been branching out from aviation, sport and landscape photography into real estate photography!

Who knew that we’d end up abstractly in the same field?

A few months ago, Pilot was asked to go to Portland, Oregon for a sports photography gig of the Portland Winterhawks, Oregon’s junior hockey team. While he was out of town, I received a call from my doctor saying my lab work from my annual checkup came out wonky.

Yes, wonky. It’s a medical term, I’m sure.

After additional tests, it turns out I have a metabolic condition called Hyperinsulinemia, also known as Syndrome X.

Seriously. It’s called Syndrome X, like some kind of bad James Bond bad guy, or Dr. Evil’s sister.

How did my doctor decide to test for this in the first place? There were parts of my body where the skin was discolored as a medium-dark gray, and that although I try to live a healthy lifestyle I am a large woman. Even in college, I would exercise 2 hours daily and never lose weight, although I could feel myself getting stronger.

For those unfamiliar with this, it’s sort-of Diabetes, but not really. To walk you through it, here’s a quick breakdown:

  • The average human uses its liver and pancreas to create insulin. Your cells “grab” insulin to use as energy for your body.
  • Diabetes is when the pancreas and liver produces too little or no insulin at all, causing the person to either supplement their insulin deficiency with diet, medication and sometimes injections of insulin directly into their body.
  • Hyperinsulinemia is a little different. This crazy cousin of Diabetes goes a different route. My body’s liver and pancreas produces insulin like any other average human being. However, my body lacks the ability to “grab” the insulin and use it for fuel. This means that the normal amount of insulin my body keeps producing just builds up more and more, floating around my body without me being able to “burn it off” as energy. With enough insulin buildup over time, this can cause Diabetes in the future if I’m not careful.

This basically turned into some quick tough love from my doctor, which always means some severe life changes:

  • Diet Restriction
  • Medication
  • High Risk Pregnancy and Miscarriage

How did I get this? Well, it’s a hereditary thing, like anything else.

How did I not know about this sooner?  Well, that gets a little more complicated. Apparently this syndrome doesn’t show up until puberty. I had always grown up with those gray patches of skin as a young teen, so I didn’t know any better. Hyperinsulinemia is often misdiagnosed, or is discovered when the person is middle aged and has lived without taking care of this syndrome until after the insulin has built up in your body and you’ve already crossed over into Type 2 Diabetes. My doctor is extremely good and she recognized the symptoms quickly.

She explained to me this is a permanent thing. Even if I got my weight down, and followed doctor’s orders for a while, this will not go away. I will have to live with this forever.

By the way, all of this information was given to me in a compressed, 30-minute follow-up for my brain to absorb. Needless to say I was very freaked out. Saddened. Depressed. Angry. Feeling betrayed by my body. Not more than a year earlier, I had been diagnosed with a cancerous tumor and now this. Sometimes I want to find the bio-parental units and shake them saying, “Thanks for screwing up my adult life’s choices with my grab bag DNA,” but how were they supposed to know? Maybe I got this from a grandparent.

This also left me with a very big dilemma. Pilot had already been gone for 2 days when I received the news, and I had no idea when he was coming back.

The photography gig he had signed up for was only for a couple of days, but had decided to crash at his aunt’s house (we’ll call his aunt, Fauna) and visit. Aunt Fauna has a lot of mobility restrictions due to a horrible surgeon who botched a back surgery after Aunt Fauna had been in a car accident. Needless to say the doctor was sued and found guilty, but that left Aunt Fauna’s back with permanent problems. Because of this, we don’t get to see her often, so it’s not unusual for us to stay with her and visit for long periods of time.

I made the decision to tell him over the phone. This was a very difficult choice. There was part of me that still believes this type of information is something you say in person, face-to-face. However, I didn’t want to deal with this alone, and it would affect both of us. I decided he needed to know as soon as possible.

The worst part? The last time Pilot went out of town without me was when my tumor was found. I had to tell him about my tumor over the phone, and now I had to tell him about this. I was right back where I started.

Here’s a breakdown of my adventures with this:

DIET RESTRICTION

My new diet basically consists of an extreme form of Atkins.

When I first learned my MIL, known to you as Honey, had Type 2 Diabetes, and was on Atkins, it was right at the height when Atkins was becoming “popular.” After learning more about the Atkins diet, I was repulsed. How is it possible for a diet that says to choose bacon over tomatoes can be good for you? I mean, really: Does that seem healthy to you?

I’ve watched Honey for years trying to stick to this diet. Pilot’s family has watched her struggle longer than this. Constantly falling off of the wagon, feeling angry and guilty about falling off, then reluctantly being pulled back on. There was just no way I was going to deal with that.

No. Freaking. Way.

MEDICATION

I was placed on Metformin at 500mg daily, taken with an evening meal. This medication forces my body to “grab” the insulin and use it. I was told it will help get my glucose levels down. Since the medication is supposed to help my metabolism, it would potentially improve other areas of my health.

In June, I’ll be returning to my doctor to up the dosage. Apparently people with this condition are typically on 1,000-2,000mg daily.

The drawback? Severe side effects and I’m not even on a full dosage yet. Almost exactly 24 hours after taking my first dosage, I started experiencing the following:

  • Nausea
  • Severe stomach cramps
  • Intestinal problems
  • Dizziness

All at the same time.

Let me tell you, Precious Readers, that I am not a fainter. Never have been. To be walking down my apartment hallway and suddenly slam into the wall because I became “woozy” is an all new experience for me. Same with almost falling out of my chair as the world begins to fade out and flip sideways.

After a week of trying to get the dizziness under control, I learned about a new symptom: Hypoglycemia. I found that if I ate (foods that were OK for my new diet) every 1.5-2 hours, it staved off the dizziness and fainting. Waiting any longer than 2 hours, and I was fighting to stay conscious.

HIGH-RISK PREGNANCY AND MISCARRIAGE

So, it turns out that Hyperinsulinemia has another wondrous feature, exclusively for women: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Apparently these conditions go hand in hand. Two peas in a pod.

Oh, wait. That’s right. I’m no longer allowed to eat peas.

It turns out that women who have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome are susceptible to miscarriages. Even if they are successfully pregnant, they are high-risk pregnancies.

Lucky me.

Now, Precious Readers – it was never in my plan to have children. Ever. My 10 years with Pilot has led me to believe otherwise that MAYBE in the future we might have children. (Again, that’s a MAYBE.)

However…

It’s one thing to make the choice of not having children or being pregnant. It’s a completely different situation to be told that you probably shouldn’t or that with some more testing to potentially find out that you physically can’t.

As you can image, there was a LOT to discuss with Pilot that night. Which had to be over the phone.

You can imagine how devastating this news was for both of us. After a lot of talking and a little bit of crying-

<rolls eyes.> Ok, and maybe some unflattering swearing at my body from me.

-Pilot was extremely supportive as always, calmed me down-

<rolls eyes again.> Ok, got me to pause from swearing for a few minutes.

-and we made some decisions together.

1. No traveling out of town without each other, if we can help it.
We tend to receive life-altering or life-threatening news whenever this happens.

2. We would try out the new diet together.
Luckily, Pilot loves my cooking so at least he trusted me to try or create new recipes, no matter how weird it sounded.

3. We make healthier choices in all aspects of our lives.
This included our environments, eating habits and lifestyle habits.

SO WHAT NOW?

Well Precious Readers, if you’re still with me, that means you’ve already read over 1200 words. Maybe you’re willing to stick with me for a few thousand more?

Here were our results:

FOOD REVELATIONS.  Immediately after my doctor revealed that I now needed to be on a more restrictive version of Atkins, I practically laughed in her face. There was no way that carrots could be worse for me than meat. It just doesn’t make sense. There had to be a better way to eat than just lettuce, steak and bacon. But after Honey’s experiences, how was I going to deal with that?

Ding!

A light bulb went off. I remembered Pilot was raised as a meat and potatoes guy.

Pilot’s mom is an amazing cook, don’t get me wrong. Her barbecue is tough to beat over anyone else’s. But as we’ve discussed on this blog before, Pilot’s meals basically consisted of meat, a little salad and lots of potatoes. He hadn’t been exposed to other ethnic foods until after dating me.

Pilot also reminded me that his parents are creatures of habit. They don’t like to experiment with their food.

I do.

Hmm…

My mother is an amazing cook, and I spent half my childhood assisting her in the kitchen. Another thing about my mother, she has never worked with recipe a day in her life. If she tried something new and enjoyed it, she would spend hours in the kitchen trying to replicate it, then placing her own spin to place ownership on the dish. Thanks to her, I also have this spark of ingenuity about me when it comes to culinary delights.

Maybe I can make it work without eating red meat and iceberg lettuce all the time…

During Pilot’s and my Great Double-Tumor Experience of 2011/2012, our 2012 New Year’s Resolution was for us to make changes to our diet anyway. We decided to stop eating out as much as we could, but if we did eat out we were to pick as healthy a choice as possible.

2013 focused on getting as fresh ingredients as possible instead of processed foods into our home.

For my allergies, I had already cut out wheat dairy, only eating a 1/2 serving daily because I love cheese. He had already made the switch to almond milk with me. This was to keep me from being congested all the time and had been working for the last 8 months of this change.

Maybe I can live with food restrictions. I kind of already have been…

Pilot and I were already making strides to fix our diet. With my father’s heart attack in 2007 from a poor choice in lifestyle, and Pilot’s mother, Honey’s diabetes and recent heart scare, we decided we needed to stop screwing around with our health.

Yes, I’m adopted, and my father’s body concerns were not genetic. But it’s everyone’s responsibility to eat a healthy diet or I too could face a heart attack, potentially sooner than generally expected with my new condition.

The diet changes weren’t going to be too difficult since he and I were already taking baby steps to eat better anyway. They were just going to be a little more extreme than originally planned.

Maybe… Just maybe… There was more.

ENVIRONMENTAL REVELATIONS.  After trying to get our kitchen cupboards filled with foods as close to their natural state as possible, I began to wonder about expanding our “new shade of green” to other rooms of the apartment. I hopped onto my laptop and my WORLD expanded!

There are so many tips and entire blogs from people who have documented their switch to as much green and chemical-free living as possible!

Pilot and I have been living in a cycle that was bred from having pack rats for parents.

1. We feel the need to buy stuff.

2. We buy stuff.

3. The stuff collects dust or grows mold.

4. Stuff creates mess.

5. We buy other stuff with lots of chemicals to clean the stuff.

5. We clean stuff.

6. Our apartment is filled with stuff we don’t use and takes up space while accumulating dust which is bad for our breathing, so we use more cleaning chemicals also bad for our lungs, causing our now messy apartment to “smell like the forest” without ever having opened any windows for that smell, all the while buying more stuff.

NO MORE!

Pilot and I are trying to simplify. Over the last few weeks, Pilot and I have been going through a major purge of our possessions, really assessing what we need and don’t need. Truly going against our pack-rat nature, one of the driving factors of removing several of our possessions from the property have been watching our parents struggle with storage over the years. This includes, constantly tripping, falling, crashing into, knocking over, and bumping into objects we felt we “needed” to have.

After my father died, my mom and I were stuck with a house literally full of memories to go through. Even now, 6 years later, we still haven’t gone through everything. Keep in mind, my dad was the “neat freak” in our family. Now that’s a problem.

Jason’s parents went through raising 3 children, now having 6 grandchildren, several house pets of cats, dogs, chickens and a horse, along with all of the normal house furniture and clothing, AND all of Honey’s craft and nail supplies. You think nail supplies doesn’t take up space? She has an entire wall and desk area for nail stuff alone.

Most of the stuff we got rid of we hadn’t looked at since we got married when we were packing it to move.

Sure, there’s a sense of loss while removing those items, but sitting and thinking about that stuff is no different than what we were doing when we owned it. We didn’t do anything with the stuff, just thought about it. How is having the object physically present to think about any different than with it not being physically present?

I’m not saying we threw out family photos. But we removed bag after bag of clothing (donated and sold, ($!)), threw out old magazines that didn’t have Pilot’s pictures published in them, books and movies were given away as gifts and sold ($!), we threw out broken furniture that was always “going to get fixed” and moved furniture around to different rooms for more efficient functioning and use. It was amazing how much we actually used on a daily basis and what really wasn’t necessary anymore.

Now when I look at the room from top to bottom-

Omigosh! I can see our carpet! Believe me, this is a major accomplishment!

-I’ll tell you, it’s a liberating experience!

It was so clean, that now we weren’t scrambling to “clean something up” when people came over.

Yes, we were those pack rats. Stuff everywhere.

If we ever have to move, we won’t have to worry about packing up stuff we never use from place to place. We’re ready to move things around at a moment’s notice.

This literally came in handy tonight when Pilot and I bought a new couch and loveseat.

I know, I know. I just said we needed to stop buying more stuff. It’s bad when you have to warn people NOT to sit on your couch because they’ll hurt themselves. It really will be nice to actually SIT on our furniture again.

Keep in mind our current couch is very old and to the point where it no longer has any cushion. The springs poke up into areas they really shouldn’t (at least without buying you wine and dinner first), and has some gaping holes that one falls into.

We needed a new one.

Because our place is so clean, it will be a cinch when we take out the old couch tonight so we can move the new couch and loveseat in! Ah, the joys of simple living!

GOING GREEN INSIDE AND OUT.  Hello. My name is Katherine, and I’ve become “crunchy.”  What did we use to clean our apartment?  I’ll tell you. Vinegar, baking soda and water. That’s it. The only chemicals we use now is the stuff that keeps our toilet water a hilarious shade of blue and dishwashing liquid. Everything else? Mother Nature’s products.

Because of my allergies, I’m extremely sensitive to branded materials. I have bad reactions to perfumes and chemicals on a trial-and-error basis. After doing more Green-Living-Googling, the whole world of green living blogs opened me up to homemade cleaning products, natural cosmetics and body products, and lifestyle changes.

After 3 weeks of getting rid of our piles of “stuff” and going chemical-free in products, both Pilot and I are breathing easier. Literally. Like our allergies are nowhere near as severe this spring as they usually are. Typically by this time of the year I have a full-blown sinus infection.

Ok, you caught me. Pun intended. (Blow your nose? Get it?)

MEDS.  The meds got better. It’s been a while on the 500mg a day the side effects are still there, but not as severe. It took about a month and a half for them to die down, and I find if I don’t eat on a regular schedule the dizziness comes back. But I’ve learned to carry (diet-friendly) snacks with me. I’m a little scared come June when my dosage is increased and if those severe symptoms come back again. At least this time I’ll be ready for them and that they’re temporary.

Pluses: the gray discoloration has gone away. and because the meds have improved my metabolism back to an almost-normal person’s metabolism, I’ve found I have more energy and a lot of my insomnia is gone! Looks like I may owe Pilot an apology about being a morning person. I’m still definitely not a morning person, but I am sleeping more than 4 hours a night!

The meds have made me less hungry in general and I’ve been losing weight. I’m not quite sure how much, but I can feel my clothes getting looser and my belly has shrunk a bit. I guess forcing my body to use the insulin it makes has caused it to burn it off. Before the meds, even though I would eat, I would find myself “starving” for another meal quickly. This has staved off my appetite so I don’t eat as much, and I find myself no longer “starving” for my next meal.

This experience has also shown again how amazing my office is. When Pilot and I were dealing with our tumors, everyone chipped in to show their support. I looped in my supervisor and our HR person about what was going on, especially if I suddenly fainted at work. I didn’t want special treatment since this is a “forever” syndrome. I wanted to make sure I learned how to live with it. They have been amazing supporters through this.

OUR FAMILY’S FUTURE.  Ok. So the news of the high-risk pregnancy and miscarriages freaked me out. It’s scary. It makes me think of my parents when my mom discovered her health issues where it would endanger her life to be pregnant and my dad’s heart defect. They decided having children was something they wanted in their lives and adopted me.

I still think if Pilot and I wanted children, I’d prefer to adopt, but it’s a long and expensive procedure. But so is in-vitro or surrogacy. Most people want to have their own biological children, which is fine by me. It’s your life, do what you want according to whatever morals and ethics are bound to you.

I know others have voiced they want to see us with biological children, but after further pressing, I’ve found it’s for the sole reason of curiosity about what Pilot and my children would look like. Although it may be flattering to hear them say, “You’ll make pretty babies” because I’m Asian and Pilot is handsome man, but I don’t think that’s a good enough reason for me. I don’t think it matters what children look like because they’re all still human beings with thoughts, opinions, ideas, and most of all, feelings. If anything my former “Dandruff Girl” has learned is that we place way too much value on looks for some scrambled DNA that is out of our control.

Also, now with the tumor Pilot had, the cancerous tumor I had, my Syndrome X, bad vision, Pilot’s bad knees, thyroid issues on both sides of the genetic line and any future medical condition bridges I have yet to cross in my lifespan, I’m not sure I’d want to burden a child with a million boxes to check for “family medical history.” I suppose the other side of the coin is what I’m dealing with, having no family medical history.

Pilot and I are still going back and forth on this situation. I think since we’re both not-quite-30 yet, we have some time to talk about it, and we decided to cross that bridge when we come to it. I have an amazing doctor who has been really supportive and a great guide during this.

Also, my friends and family have been amazing.

To my friends who I’ve had to last-minute cancel on, thank you for putting up with me. I’d been dealing with some pretty severe side effects of the meds and never knew how I would be feeling from moment-to-moment.

All I know is, for now we’re getting my condition under control, Pilot is getting more photography gigs, our apartment looks amazing and we’re literally breathing easier.

Oh, and I’m getting a new couch tomorrow! Woot!

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