The body’s endless issues

By Caitlin Kelly

Oh, the joys of the human body!

I started 16/8 intermittent fasting November 1, and am sloooooowly seeing a difference.

I won’t get on a scale until my GP appointment Feb. 27 so I’m working hard — three 45-minute gym sessions a week (cardio and free weights) and hoping to add ice skating or walking or swimming the other day or two. The pool, at our broke and badly-run YMCA, now needs repairs it can’t afford.

But, of course, I got a recent surprise at my oncologist check-up, where they take blood every time — excess iron in my blood, necessitating more tests. I’m hoping it’s “just” a genetic mutation, which occurs in people with my Irish heritage, and which — so utterly bizarrely — might mean regularly getting blood taken out of me.

I’m trying to process how utterly 16th century this feels!

Apparently, the body can’t shed/excrete iron in any other way, which is so odd. How it got there is what we have to examine. I’m sort of hoping this is the reason although — uggggh — the thought of regularly getting a big-ass needle in my arm is not appealing.

Thanks to my DCIS (early stage breast cancer), I already have to take 5mg of Tamoxifen daily for five years; it suppresses estrogen and, initially, the hot flashes were pretty intense, but they’ve calmed down (now 2 years in.)

High blood pressure pills.

A statin for cholesterol.

Generally, I feel great — lots of energy and stamina. I sleep like a champ, at least 8-10 hours a night and I never hesitate to take a “toes-up” as my husband calls them, aka a nap or just a quiet time lying down and staring at the sky.

We eat healthily, most of the time! My weaknesses are cheese, chips and (sue me) sweets. So it’s a constant battle to be “good” and reduce calories, but not feel hangry and annoyed all the time.

I recently hired a nutritionist whose advice was….lengthy!

I need to eat more protein, so am working on that — but excess iron also means eating less red meat. I need to drink a lot of water (already probably drinking 3 cans of soda water, plus tea and coffee.)

The actual fasting, meaning I now can only consume calories between 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m, has gotten easier. Some mornings are easy, but some mean I’m counting the minutes til I can eat!

My father is still super healthy at 91, lucid and living alone.

My late mother had a lot of health issues, some of them terrible luck (multiple cancers), some self-imposed (COPD from smoking, other issues from alcoholism) so I worry about my genetic loading.

In the past, I went to a therapist, but haven’t for a while — I actually worry about her! I know the pandemic has really burned out many mental health workers, so unless it’s some emergency, I figure others need her a lot more right now.

With our small town a Covid hotspot, and super-contagious variants now raging, we are being super careful. I know eight people who have had the disease, luckily all mild (except for 2 people) and none lethal.

It’s a real challenge — even as healthy as Jose and I are — to manage all of this. He uses insulin for T2 diabetes, so we pay a lot of money for comprehensive health insurance. It’s not a place to economize.

I pray for a few more decades of good health.

You never know.

12 thoughts on “The body’s endless issues

      1. Just had this conversation with a friend recently. She started on a regime of supplements and feels worse. I think we have to trust our bodies. One thing at a time.

  1. I hope you don’t end up having to have regular blood-drawing (is that the right word for it? It sounds medieval to write that!) for the iron issue.

    I have the opposite problem: not enough iron. I have to take a daily supplement to keep my iron level normal.

  2. I watched a colleague insist on taking iron supplements in high doses while she was fighting cancer. She wouldn’t listen to anyone but (imo) a quack masquerading as a naturopath. She was young (early 40s) and a more conventional therapy would have worked. She passed away 15 months after her diagnosis. It was completely preventable as her cancer was very treatable. It was very sad.

    I take blood pressure meds now and omega-3 for cholesterol. There’s a lot of good research showing that omega-3 is very helpful. It’s at times hard to know what the best approach is. Like you, I have longevity on my dad’s side and relatively short lifespans on my mother’s (although I’ve passed the lifespans of almost all of those relatives now). I’ve had 2 sisters with breast cancer (one died) though (no other cancer events on either side of my family, strangely enough) so I’m considering having them removed as a preventative and then implants. Not sure yet, though.

    1. I am so sorry! What a choice she made.

      The breast cancer thing is a big decision — it’s less lethal, generally, post menopause (when I got it and my mother got it) because we have less estrogen — then Tamoxifen suppresses what little is left. I would be wary of implants because it requires more surgeries but it’s s super personal decision.

  3. Jan Jasper

    Caitlin, I’m surprised your nutritionist would recommend lots of supplements, but maybe it’s right for your particular health history. Everything I read – and I read a lot about health and diet – says that supplements are way, way over-rated. There’s a lot of BS under the aegis of the health food industry. The supplement industry is more powerful than many people realize, with lobbyists, “informational” articles placed in the media, etc.
    BTW I also saw a nutritionist and she was very helpful. She recommended looking carefully at ingredient labels and shaving off a few calories here and a few there. And tracking my daily food intake, which I did but couldn’t maintain for long. Once I realized how many calories I was consuming every day, I was amazed I’m not _more_ overweight than I am. (There was more to her advice than that, but that’s the nutshell version.) I should follow her advice more consistently.
    My weakness is wine and blue corn chips, which I consume to excess while watching Netflix in the evening.
    I have gotten my rampant sweet tooth under control, sort of. I even watch my intake of Orange juice – I’ll have half a glass, not a full glass. It’s natural sugar, but it’s sugar. There has been a great deal of diabetes in my family, so I have to watch this. I used to eat tons of cookies and candy bars, but no more.
    I envy your ability to sleep. I usually only get 6 hours. But the weighted blanket I bought not long ago will often help to the point that I can sleep for 8 hours.
    I know 3 people who had Covid, 2 recovered pretty easily. The other one, a 60-ish man, has really struggled – repeated hospitalizations on a ventilator. Very scary.
    Years ago my doctor often found me to be anemic; I’ve been a vegetarian for many many years. I started eating healthier and now have enough iron, as a result. I haven’t been iron deficient for many years.

    1. I’m also very careful with orange juice — can easily guzzle an 8 ounce glass but won’t. My trick is to pour maybe 4 ounces or fewer (50 calories) into a glass of plain seltzer — a bit of flavor and color, healthier than Orangina.

      I love chocolate and cookies — and just try to keep them out of the house. I. may make an apple crisp — but the recipe calls for very little sugar and not much topping. I do enjoy sweets, so can’t totally cut them all out. Jose is diabetic already, so there are several reasons to reduce/avoid sugar and white foods.

  4. it is all a balancing act at best, and the tightrope can break at any time, much to our surprise. all we can do is try to be as healthy we can manage, to help your bodies, but even with all that, like you said -you never know.

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