I have another kind of story.
August 19, 2007. It was dawn, and I was among friends watching the sun rise over Machu Picchu - at the sun gate, with a cool breeze on my skin and ribbons of exquisite fatigue running up and down my spine. I had hiked four days through the Peruvian mountains to get here and when I saw this, I felt it had all been worth it:
Wendy and I started down the trail to the city proper, and just about ten steps in, the cell phone towers kick in. My blackberry - after four days of silence - indicated a message from my Dad. That message, verbatim:
I just wanted to let you know that I have seen my oncologist and I have a small recurrence of cancer in my bladder. I am being treated accordingly and expect a full recovery, so I am regarding this development as one of no special importance.
This message, bad as it was, contained more than one announcement, and the unwritten one was the real sledgehammer - the one that made me plant myself against a sturdy centuries old piece of perfect wall of Incan dry masonry and heave while my friends waited for me to gain any shred of composure. This was the worst email I ever got in my entire life. Here's what it really said:
I just wanted to let you know that I have seen my oncologist and I have a small recurrence of cancer in my bladder. I am being treated accordingly and expect full recovery from bladder cancer. The leukemia as I am sure you have by now apprehended, poses a far greater threat, as we can assume from the bladder mishap that both cancers have now returned. I am being treated accordingly and expect a full recovery from the bladder cancer, so I am regarding the bladder cancer with no special importance. The leukemia is, and I am sure you are aware, another matter.
I have no idea what a death knell sounds like, but I can assure that as I leaned back against that cool Inca masonry, I learned what it feels like. As surely as I was helpless to offer him any aid from Peru, I would have been equally useless had I been right by his side. Cancer is a bitch like that.
So what did I do? I blew off the tour of Machu Picchu and spent the morning climbing the sugar loaf mountain in the background there, Wynapichu. I cried off and on, but when you have been sweating rivulets for days on end, I can assure you that no one can tell the difference. After the climb, I went home to face what was happening to my family. On that day, August 19, 2007, I weighed 148 healthy, strong, mountain climbing pounds:
(OK, OK. YES I HAD A HUGE RACK. But I was thin, rack notwithstanding.)
Now you wouldn't think that the events of August 19, 2007 would cause a person - any person - to gain 100 pounds, would you? Well think again, because that's exactly what happened, which I will now explain with somewhat more rapidity than is probably warranted.
- I got home from Peru. My dad was diagnosed with recurrent Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, which, DUH, we all knew would happen.
- My dad was sent home to die.
- My dad stopped communicating with his children, choosing instead to spend his last days with his second wife. (More on this later.)
- I stopped sleeping, thinking at every and any moment, my father would stop breathing and be gone.
- I started eating. I stopped hiking with my friends because what sort of insensitive, selfish, pig of a daughter goes out and has fun with her friends while her father is dying of TWO kinds of cancer?
- Weight went up.
- Father mysteriously did not die.
- Insomnia ratcheted up with every single day he remained inexplicably alive.
- He still didn't want to see us.
- Months went by. I ate a lot of egg foo young. I cried a lot and got fatter.
- Need I keep explaining?
I think not. After my father had miraculously not died for 9 whole months my doctor put me on SEROQUEL, a short acting sedative that would put any howling lunatic into a mild coma. I slept, finally. And then weight piled on until, lo, the scale read 289.
And then my dad died anyway - and gosh there is an awful lot more to say on that subject. But not today. My point is that my path to obesity - well - it was kind of weird. Not the usual tale. Stress, guilt, drugs, stress, food, heartbreak - all in a blender.
August 19, 2007 is the day it all started, and while I don't know what the middle will look like, I do know how this will end.
I will be thin again. Come back and read here to see how it all happens.