I could scream

One of the hardest things about trying to lose weight over the years has been the need to cook highly calorific meals for my son, who has cystic fibrosis. The kitchen needs to have drawers full of chocolate, crisps, cakes etc, simply because he needs the calories. Of course he eats healthy meals as well, the cakes etc are the snacks he needs to make up the calories.

So I’ve never been able to simply ‘not buy any biscuits’, as many a diet article will tell you to do. I’ve always had to have these highly tempting things in my house. Still, despite the mountains of roast potatoes I’ve cooked over the years, Angus remains very thin. He is improving though now that he has a gastrostomy tube.

Anyway I digress. The reason I could scream is because despite loving my son very much I also find him so frustrating I feel like leaving home some times. He does nothing, or very little, to look after himself. When he’s in hospital he always promises that when he gets out he’s going to do more exercise, lift more weights, maybe get a part time job, be more helpful round the house etc, but he never, ever does. I went away to Center Parcs for a weekend recently and when I got back he’d not taken his tablets. The tablets that I help him make up, in little pots, that sit by the chair he sits in when he’s watching television in the sitting room. I couldn’t make it any easier for him.

If he doesn’t take his tablets he will deteriorate very quickly and end up back in hospital. Which he professes to hate. I have tried everything to motivate him. Bought him a treadmill so he doesn’t have to leave home to get his exercise (what the hell was I thinking?) I have paid for memberships to racket sport clubs. I have suggested he might be depressed and told him to go the doctor. He was prescribed a low starting dose of citalopram and then never went back to get the dosage increased to an actual therapeutic dose. I have offered to pay for 6 counselling sessions. He went to one, said it was quite useful, but then refused to go to any more. I have paid for holidays, meals out, take-aways every night he’s in hospital, bought him a car so that he could do a college course that he’s never capitalised on, the list is bloody endless.

But. I’ve had enough. The final straw was when I found myself bribing him, financially, to take his medicines, do exercise etc. Even that didn’t work. I have to just accept that if Angus wants to be ill and stay ill then that is his right. But I don’t have to put up with it going on in my house. Angus will always hold the trump card because if he gets ill, which he can do very quickly, then he knows whatever hard stance I am trying to take will melt away in my panic that I’m going to lose him.

I have lost one son (not to cystic fibrosis but an accident) and I don’t want to lose another. But I have to just accept that I probably will. I now have to try some tough love, knowing all the while that in the short term, and maybe the long term, it might make Angus’s health worse. It is shit. But I am all out of ideas. I’m quite terrified of implementing the plan my daughter and I have come up with (which is that he goes to live with her for a bit, she won’t stand any nonsense from him) but if I’m honest I’m more terrified of what I will do if I don’t take this stand. I am so close to just running away. I’ve had years of this and I’m worn down with it all.

***

Last week we had snow. Actual, lying on the ground snow. In Falmouth! This is quite unheard of as we normally have mild winters and we are on the coast. In terms of walking myself slim it was fantastic because I couldn’t bear to stay in, I was out in it, walking miles, taking photos, slithering around but having the best time.

In dieting news I am so fed up of losing and gaining the same few pounds that I’m now trying a bit of 16:8. That is, I only eat in a window of 8 hours. So I’ve been skipping breakfast. Now I’m not one of those mysterious people who ‘can’t possibly face food first thing’. No, I am one of those people who LOVES breakfast. In fact it’s probably my favourite meal. So this is quite hard but so far I’ve been replacing breakfast with either an exercise class or a bottle of fizzy water. I will report back as to how it’s going. Or not!

 

Tumultuous Times

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…And……..breathe…..  It’s been a difficult few months. My son has been in and out of hospital, culminating early on Boxing Day by his needing to be rushed to A&E, having difficulty breathing. I kind of knew we were building up to it, but when it happened, and because it happened so suddenly, it was horrible. He had been hiding how ill he was.

I spent the next few days utterly terrified that he was on his way out. If not right then then in a few months’ time. Angus had a gastrostomy tube fitted in December and this had not gone well. He’d been in pain and without access to the painkillers he really needed (as it turned out), so he stayed in bed a lot. Staying in bed a lot when you have cystic fibrosis is wrong, wrong, wrong. You simply cannot do that. You have to keep moving. So that your lungs keep moving. If the alveoli in your lungs are constantly moving it is much harder for a bacteria to take hold and unleash micro bacterial havoc.

I visited my son every day, sometimes twice a day. We watched the stats. How much oxygen was he taking in? Too little, he needed extra O2. What about heart rate? Far too high; signs of infection (and also lung damage). I cried when I wasn’t with him. He was so thin it was impossible to see how he could still be alive. I have watched one of my children get thinner and thinner, and then die, I railed at the universe that I might have to do it again. It seemed impossibly cruel.

And then. A miracle. Angus turned a corner. The antibiotics started working. The gastrostomy tube stopped being so painful. Food was being absorbed through it overnight. This in turn led to his appetite starting to return. I could see – physically see – in his face, that he was putting on weight.

Another miracle: Angus somehow (and I have no idea how this happened) managed to improve enough so that we could go on our pre-booked family holiday to Lanzarote. Medical supplies and permissions from airports were hastily arranged. We needed to take seven huge feeding bottles in our hand luggage; way, way over the normal liquid allowance but it was all ok because Angus had a note!

As a result of us all expecting not to be going and then going we had the best holiday ever. The sun shone, Angus ate, Sorcha and Matt played pool by the pool, Ian and I swam in the sea. My mother though – aargh – managed to fall over at the airport before we’d even picked up our hire car and spent the rest of the week looking like a victim of domestic abuse.

This tale of woe has meant that my weight has been up and down and all around the houses. But some interesting stats: I started this #walkingmyselfslim campaign at 94kgs. Exactly one year later on 4th January 2018 I was 76kgs. I’m bloody proud of that! I have now been 76kg for about 3 months though…

I am still in the overweight area of the BMI chart though so I really, really need to lose some more. So… I AM BACK! Let the walking re-commence!

Today’s walk was round Mylor and Pandora. We even woke up to a little bit of snow, unheard of in Cornwall. ‘Twas lovely.

Gains… and desperately worrying losses

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Life is a bitch and this is why: while I am trying, very hard, and with painfully slow success to lose weight, my son is also losing weight. Except that he’s not trying. He’s trying to do the opposite in fact. His weight is now so low that I wonder if he can come back from this.

I lie awake at night worrying, worrying, worrying. It all started with the hideous bug Mycobacterium Abscessus which he started growing about 4 years ago. At first he kept on top of it – ish. Then, as more and more drugs have been tried to get rid of it my son has become more and more nauseous. The side effects of these very powerful antibiotics are bloody awful. The jury is still out as to which is worse – the symptoms of the illness or the side-effects of the medication. And worse still, there is no guarantee the medication will work and it often doesn’t. In my son’s case it hasn’t.

But still we try. Meanwhile A gets thinner and thinner and now just looks so ill and is a bag of bones. I literally cannot bear to look at him. He is in hospital now. Partly routine, he has to go in for IV antibiotics about every 4 or 5 months, but partly because I actually can’t cope with his being at home. I cannot watch him not eat. He won’t be here in 6 months’ time if he doesn’t put on weight.

There is hope. He has agreed to have a gastrostomy tube fitted so that he can be fed overnight straight into his stomach. But even that’s not straightforward. The operation itself, although a very simple one, could cause an infection which in turn could lead to sepsis because A has exhausted every single antibiotic there is. Once the peg is fitted he could still feel very sick and be unable to tolerate overnight feeds.

If someone had told me when I was younger that of the three children I would give birth to two of them would end up being tube fed for entirely different reasons I would a) never have believed them, and b) made sure contraception going forward was ultra robust. Almost worse than your child dying is watching your child suffer I think. I still have nightmares about the suffering my eldest child endured before his death.

But, this blog is supposed to be about my dietary successes or failures so, moving on: I am doing pretty well! In fact, I think trying to lose weight and doing exercise are a distraction from the pain going on around me in the rest of my life. I dread to think what I would be like now if I was going through this but still very fat and miserable about that too. Hideous.

I have now lost 18 kilos. Yes! 39.6lbs! I am two-thirds of the way there. My breasts are still massive unfortunately. I veer on a daily basis between deciding I definitely am going to have them reduced in size by a kindly surgeon to deciding that they’re not actually that bad (I have now discovered I am a 36GG not a 42DD so yes they are that bad) and it would be a complete waste of £6000 plus the recovery time, the scars etc, etc. Currently I’m thinking not to have it done.

They do really get in the way when I exercise though and being the age I am they are more like large Spaniel’s ears when I’m not wearing a bra rather than buoyant and sexy orbs. It’s not a good look. My breasts alone in a way are what incentivises me to keep going. If you are genetically pre-disposed to store a lot of fat in your breasts, which I clearly am, then the body will hold on to that fat until it has no choice. So in other words if you have large breasts then that area will be the first to get bigger if you gain weight and the last area to get smaller if you lose weight. If you have small breasts then the opposite is true. So… if I lost more weight would my breasts then get smaller? Properly smaller? It would be fantastic if they did so I’m going to give it my best shot. Though as I’m losing about a pound a month by the time I’ve lost the requisite amount of weight to make a difference I will probably be 87 and past caring.

Just me and my boy (and the cats)

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It is awfully quiet in the house. My partner has gone to Italy with his son, skiing. My daughter and her boyfriend are up country visiting his parents, so it’s just me and my son and our two cats rattling around this house. And it’s rather nice. Much as I miss my partner and daughter sometimes it is nice to not have to cook for lots of people and to have to consider their needs. The not so great thing though, about today, was that Angus went to college and made pastries. Aargh. He came home with an apple pie, apple turnover, spotted dick and eclairs. They all looked totally divine. Agony.

It was lovely to see him eat a load of eclairs though. He needs, as ever, to put on weight. It is a constant battle. People with cystic fibrosis generally do better the more weight they have on them, yet it is so hard for them to gain weight. I wish I could siphon some (all!) of my excess fat to him. For the last twenty odd years we’ve had this weird dichotomy whereby I am trying to lose weight at the same time as he is trying to gain it. It is madly frustrating.

I was at Rock Choir this morning and my friend said, ‘have you lost weight?’ I beamed. Yes, my lovely friend, I have. Over a stone in fact. It is nice when people notice. Unfortunately I was so overweight to start with I think the amount I have lost is still barely noticeable.

Today the weather was cold and temperamental and it would have been very easy to stay indoors. But! I ignored the call of the log fire and donned a heavy mac. I did the usual Pendennis Head walk. When drier weather arrives I will start being a bit more varied. However I do love my regular walk even though I got hailed on today and I notice when I got back how much my mood had lifted. Walking really should be prescribed on the NHS.

Today I ate:

Breakfast: my muesli mix (which consists of nuts, seeds, coconut flakes, dried cranberries, a couple of tablespoons of Dorset Cereals muesli)

Lunch: I found a home-made cottage pie in the freezer and had that with broccoli and carrots.

Tea: 2 pork steaks in sweet chilli and soy sauce and salad.

 

 

Emerging

A few things have shown signs of emerging this week. Crocuses, daffodils, and – dare I say it – possibly a waistline. Yes, I was staring at myself in the mirror this morning, waiting for the shower to warm up, when instead of the usual bemoaning of my hideously large, drooping breasts my eyes instead landed further down on my waist. It is going in! It actually indents a little where a waistline is supposed to indent!

This has made me very happy. What has also made me happy this week is that I lost 1.2kg, which makes up for the paltry 0.2kg I lost last week. No rhyme or reason, have eaten exactly the same, in fact had a very nice meal out this week which I didn’t the week before. So I have now lost 6.4 kg or one whole stone. Yay!

I am also happy this week because my partner and I have booked a holiday in Tavira, Portugal for about six weeks’ time. It will be my favourite sort of holiday in that we will use Tavira as our base and we will spend our days touring. Seville is high on the list. What is slightly weird about it is I was expecting my son to come too (he loves holidays) but no, he wants to go on holiday with his friends instead. I was at first gobsmacked, then delighted, then scared.

Scared because my son has cystic fibrosis and he is often very unwell. He takes about 30-40 tablets a day, just to keep him alive. He has had to give up university, give up lots of things in fact, because of his illness. It is of course unfair but he copes with it with very good humour and a huge degree of stoicism. He lives at home and being his mum I can tell instantly if something’s wrong, if he’s coming down with an infection. He will be away for a week and will be drinking and carousing. I’m so pleased for him yet also bloody terrified!

Yesterday Angus was 23 and to celebrate we went out for a meal at Olivers, my absolute favourite place in Falmouth. Fabulous food and no I didn’t have pudding, but I did have coffee with home made petit fours which were to die for and possibly even more calorific than a pudding. The scales will reveal all next Wednesday…