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Feeding my soul: 6 months post surgery

Where has the time gone? It feels like a distant memory I had a hysterectomy on January 26th. And I actually started typing this post for a 4-month update, but I’ve finally gotten around to completing it. It’s been a very long 2 months since my last post because I’ve been so busy with life. Without fail, I’ve been consistently exercising, meditating, and eating healthy. My therapist calls these my ADLs (activities of daily living). If you’ve spent any time working with, or know people of the older generation, then you might appreciate the comparison.

I’ve provided several post-surgery updates in previous posts such as Day 1: Post Surgery, How it started vs how it’s going: 2 weeks post surgery , and 4 Week Post Surgery Update, to mention a few. In this post, I’ll provide some updates on what I’ve been up to and my recovery progress. In my very last post in April, I shared we had to put down our beloved kittie, Beignet. It was sudden and traumatic. His death occurred within days of me having to navigate through a difficult work situation that together put be in a high anxiety and depressing head space.

One thing about me and what I hope my readers glean is I ALWAYS turn the situation around to a “light lesson” that will not only propel me forward, but will hopefully help others. It’s simply changing my attitude about the situation. I do have a pattern of retreating to myself and not blogging when I’m embroiled in life challenges. It’s difficult for me to share when I don’t see the way out just yet. However, I’ve ALWAYS returned to blogging because it’s an integral part of my self-care. It’s an outlet for me to express myself.

The grieving process was difficult as you can imagine. I’ve never grieved so hard with losing a pet. My husband, Bryan, and our kids had a difficult time. We’ve since become more at peace and are thankful Beignet is no longer in pain. Beignet loved us with his whole little heart and we loved him with all of ours.

I’m not going to share the work situation because I’ve been actively working on a resolution. I may choose to reveal what it is once it’s settled. I can tell you it didn’t help my recovery one bit. I spiraled into a pattern of poor sleeping habits and eventually getting sick AGAIN. I saw a doctor in early June and this time, the diagnosis is along the lines of asthma likely brought on by allergies. I do live in the ‘Allergy Capitol’ of the United States.

There were some BRIGHTER moments in May such as celebrating Mother’s Day with my family and my birthday. I was initially sad on my birthday because I always think of my mummy who’s passed away almost 5 years ago. I cheered up eventually, especially after thinking about how blessed I am to make it to 49 years old.

We had a beautiful Mother’s Day service at church. I chose to wear my big, barely cream colored hat with the black bow along with my striped maxi dress. Bryan took us out for breakfast afterwards.
Enjoying the sun at the Lazy River on my birthday.
Birthday dinner!

For my mental and emotional health, I journal occassionally, practice mindfulness, am being intentionally self-compassionate, and do all the homework my therapist assigns. Homework usually pertains to exploring a thought through journaling, practicing a technique, completing some research, or following through on something that’ll make me feel better…it just depends.

Spiritually, I’ve doubled down on reading and meditating on the scriptures daily. I pray a lot more too. This year is the first year I’ve been consistent with meditation. I thank my FITBIT app for the variety of options on my phone which make it easy. I do a guided meditation at least five days a week, usually before bed. Bryan has gotten used to it too and now asks me to start it when he’s ready for bed.

For nutrition, I’ve gone back to eating meat though I still mostly eat plant-based. Some meals, or days, I don’t eat meat. I enjoy eating meat and realized after over 6 months of solely eating vegan and plant-based, that my body does so well without dairy. I was even eating plant-based cheese, but since I do not like the taste of most of these alternative cheese products, I decided to stop eating cheese altogether.

I named this post “Feeding my soul” because I feel like I’ve been attempting to bring myself back to myself, and a major way I do this, is through nourishing foods. In the cover photo, I enjoyed a plate of pinto beans and rice, smoked chicken, and collard greens. It was so yummy. I believe the foods I choose to eat keep menopausal symptoms at bay.

One day I even made an old school, delicious version of pot roast. Old school because I used a box of Lipton Noodle Soup mix….a recipe I learned from my mummy years ago.

As I’ve noted earlier in terms of my mental, emotional, and spiritual health, I’ve been nourishing by mind, body, and spirit with activities that help me feel good, relaxed, calm, and hopeful. I’ve incorporated more stretching into my exercise routines (I’ve done more downward facing dogs this year, then I ever have.) Through life’s normal challenges, such as helping Bryan navigate his mom’s and brother’s declining health and family situations, I attend to ADLs because they keep me grounded and sane.

In terms of recovery post hysterectomy, I’m doing well. I’ve educated myself to the nth degree on all things hysterectomy and menopause. Education is another line of defense I use to demystify a topic that can feel overwhelming, especially when it’s personal. Below are some highlights of what I’ve experienced with the disclaimer some of the information may be TMI or for mature audiences.

Surgical Recovery. The four scars on my abdomen are healed although sometimes I can feel a tug on any one, or all of them, when I do too much activity like gardening. I had a follow up appointment with my gynecologist at 8 weeks, and after her exam, she said I was doing very well. She encouraged me to not delay having sex with my husband. I’ve been nervous about it. We tried shortly after and the first time was uncomfortable for both of us. For me because my body had gone through a traumatic experience and was out of practice in that regard. For him because I was jumpy, which made him jumpy. Initially, it was a bit painful. After a couple of times, we were back at it like riding a bike. I’m so delighted I can still orgasm with no problem. I’m relieved we get to continue to enjoy each other in this way.

Menopause Symptoms. There are many symptoms of menopause, but the hallmark symptoms mostly discussed are hot flashes, night sweats, cloudy thinking, weight gain, mood swings, and irritability. I’ve not had much of the symptoms noted except cloudy thinking, weight gain, and slight shifts in mood. The tricky thing about the cloudy thinking is that I’ve had that for years as I’m sure it’s a symptom of perimenopause too. What I’m not happy about, but am living with is weight gain. I know my body is a different body in postvmenopause because I’ve done nothing to put on weight. This is an act of my body not having any estrogen, which is a major hormone that regulates so much in the body. In the big scheme of things, it’s not a lot of weight, but it definitely landed in my already large stomach area and a little bit in my hips. Not only is the scale a bit higher, but some of my clothes fit tighter. I’m glad I still have many options of clothes to wear. I’ve been practicing more self-compassion while continuing to double down on nutrition, weight training, and reducing stress. Sleep is another area I’m working on.

General Health. I met with my oncologist earlier in June for my routine 6-month visit and he always makes me feel like I’m doing something right. It’s been 5 years since my breast cancer diagnosis and I’m still in treatment (oral medications). The doc said my bloodwork was on target (although I thought my glucose was slightly higher than my normal). He said I was doing great and looked great. We discussed a different medication regimen since I’m now post-menopausal. He’s going to run some tests on my old tumor to determine if I even need to continue with treatment since it’s been 5 years. I’ll return to his office in early August for the results. This is exciting news. And I mentioned earlier, a doctor told me I have asthma likely as a result of allergies. He did refer me to a pulmonologist (who I see this week) because of my history of experiencing pneumonia out of the blue last year and bronchitis the year before that.

What’s next. I have so many blog posts topics in my mind. In fact, that’s how they all start…in my mind. My plan is to share them. I will work on getting on a more regular schedule with my blogging. Bare with me because I don’t know what it will look like yet. In the meantime, I have so much existing content on my blog. I appreciate all the new viewers to my page. Feel free to peruse at your leisure and I hope you learn something new or get inspired along the way.

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Father’s Day message

There’s no denying the impact a present father has on his child’s life. In my culture growing up, he wasn’t “father” or “daddy”…he was called “poppy”. Whether positive, negative, or mixed, it’s an impact that lasts. I think when a father hasn’t been in his child’s life, especially from an early age, the impact becomes more tricky to assess. My perspective is personal because my father was not in my life. In fact, I barely speak of him. He was dangerous. He was irrational. He was bitter. He was defeated. He was misunderstood. He was broken.

My father was around, but he didn’t raise me because he was incapable of raising his family at the time. People whispered about him in my presence. When visiting my uncle, his brother, he couldn’t sit in the living room…he could only go to the basement. My uncle would arrange for me to see him on occasion, but those visits were brief and lacked substance.

That’s my uncle in the picture as I was getting baptized. My father wasn’t present at this most special occasion. I’ve seen positive examples of father figures through my extended family and friends. I knew what a good father was and I knew I didn’t have one. Some might argue it was in my best interest. Some might say that I would have only been disappointed and would have gotten hurt. The impact of him being in my life might have been tragic. I don’t know. What I can say is by him not being in my life, the impact is this underlying feeling of disconnection I’ve carried with me for years.

I’ve not placed the source of this feeling until now. I don’t know anything about my father personally. I don’t know what traits I picked up from him. I don’t know his likes/dislikes or what his passion was. As I reread this, I want to be clear my tone is not of bitterness. My tone is of acceptance.

To know your father, is to know where you came from…to know who you are. My beautiful mom did her God-given best, but there was a void she could never fill or replace. Now, both of my parents are deceased, and their parents are deceased. How do I contend with this void?

I have solace in knowing great examples of fathers who selflessly love their children. Men in my family: my uncle, my brother, my brother-in-laws, my cousins, and my friends’ fathers. I also sleep with one of these selfless fathers. He’s my partner in crime…my husband, Arnold (goes by his middle name Bryan), named after his father, Arnold, who passed away when Bryan was 10. Even though Bryan feels inadequate and gets frustrated at times…likely because his father passed at an early age and he lacked examples of positive father figures, he’s here every day…involved in his children’s lives. If it has to do with his children, Bryan is the most selfless person I know.

If you’re feeling alone and disconnected because your father wasn’t in your life, pray about it and adopt a family or two ot three. Don’t be bitter. There’s no going back to the fact you grew up without a father, but you can seek positive examples of father figures and allow them to have a positive impact on your life.

For the men, continuously make a positive impact on your children’s lives. Get to know your children and allow them to know you. For the women, if you haven’t already, marry a man who has the traits of a good father and support him always. For all, ensure your children see other positive examples of father figures.

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Nourish yourself

Merriam-Williams’ online has identified 3 definitions of the transitive verb nourish: 1) to nurture, rear; 2) to promote the growth of; and 3) to nurture, sustain. I’ve been thinking about this word a lot lately and have decided that my primary focus this year will be on nourishing myself and receiving the nourishment I need from the resources that will help take me to the next level (wherever that is as long as it’s forward). I haven’t set “new year’s resolutions” in years. I prefer to identify a set of goals that I want to accomplish. These goals help set the tone for the year. Here it is, nearly halfway through the new month, and I haven’t solidified my list yet, but nourishment will definitely be the theme. I’ve read that when you crave certain foods, that it is likely because your body is deficient in a particular nutrient. That’s why it’s best to listen to your body and satisfy the cravings. (I’m obviously not a nutritionist although I read about food constantly, so do your own research). I’ve been having some cravings of my own…for more healthy foods, for more green smoothies, and for things that are not related to food, but provide nourishment.

How did I this word “nourish” come to my attention anyway? There’s nothing complicated about it. I think the word is pretty self-explanatory. I do enjoy pronouncing it. Recently, I’ve made daily posts in a private facebook group created for a green smoothie challenge called Simple 7. You can read more about it here. It’s been fun to post pictures of my smoothies, the ingredients, and myself posing with my smoothies. I actually wrote a blog post on my love of green smoothies, which you can read about here. In a comment to one of my posts, a group member provided encouragement to me in my breast cancer recovery and I returned the favor regarding her brain cancer recovery. In my attempt to be succinct, I told her to “nourish herself”. What I meant was for her feed her body, mind and spirit with the nuitients that would help her heal. I had hoped that translated with those two words. She appreciated it very much and there were a few more post exchanges. Since then, I’ve been intrigued by this word.

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been the last 4 months that my life has beened altered in a way that I never imagined, but it has. In some ways it feels a lot longer than 4 months. Throughout this time, I’ve been in treatment, which means that I’ve had to focus all of my energy on improving my medical condition. I’ve slowed down, prayed, fed my body the proper healing nutrients, reduced stress, slept, exercised, read, and self-reflected. It’s natural for me to self-reflect, but I’ve had even more time to do so. When you have a life altering medical condition, you are forced to examine yourself. Believe it or not, some people still don’t get it. They have no clue. They’re not ready. They blow the opportunity, but not me. I search for the lesson and my assumption is that there is always a lesson. Searching for the lesson doesn’t entail shaming myself and assigning blame, even though I may want to sometimes. The lesson isn’t always obvious or easy to determine, but figuring out what the lesson is points me to a growth opportunity. It gives me an extra nugget of wisdom. And every year, I desire to be better, to challenge myself, to be wiser…to grow. 

I’ve been craving new adventures, the taste of achievement, victory over family pathologies, and conquering debt. I need a plan to carry out these activities and I’ve been working on it. My new obsession is audiobooks. I’m not much of a novel reader either, not that I’m criticizing anyone who is. I like a good novel every now and then. The last novel I read was The Twelve Tribes of Hattie and it was so fascinating, it haunted me for months. Outside of work, the bulk of my reading is on health and wellness, financial management, and personal improvement.

A vision board is another excellent tool to set the tone for the year. I am a visual person indeed. This year will be the 2nd annual completion of our family vision board. Although our health crises (my husband had one too…see my very first blog post here) was not on it (go figure), I did do more traveling in 2016, experienced Jamaica for the first time, and invited 2 new kittens into our home, all of which was on the vision board in some way or another. The kids were disappinted that they didn’t get to go on a big family trip, but we’ll work on that for 2017. The jury is still out on if we were all kinder and more loving to each other, but I put forth a great effort. We definitely didn’t save as much money as I wanted. Completing the vision board with my family will help solidify our family goals, but I am reminded that God may have a different plan on how we will get there. 

In the meantime, I will follow the advise I gave that kindred spirit in her brain cancer recovery. To the best of my ability, I will nourish myself with the healing nutrients that feed my body, mind and spirit to include healthy food, books, prayer, sleep, exercise, writing, the people that I love, and kindred spirits. If I think of more, I’ll let you know.