I arrived at my cardiologists overly prepared like usual. Ever since Dr. Delicious explored my legs for swelling through the great forest of hair, I’ve made sure to take extra care before leaving my house for a heart appointment. It involves a full body scan for any rogue hair and remaining grateful that I can once again wear an underwire bra.
The door opened to the little waiting room and I lost part of my smile when it was explained to me that I wouldn’t be getting Dr. Delicious that day, or any other of the handsome doctors I’d seen before. Although the female doctor I worked with was quite lovely, I’d grown fond of my cardiologists dates. They are, after all, the only dates I’m currently experiencing.
Left alone with the doctors assistant, we went through the usual checklist which involves making sure the meds are doing their job and being told to stop pushing myself; I get winded climbing up stairs, so doing laps in the pool to the point of almost drowning wasn’t helping me. She once again told me to simmer down and be kinder to myself.
Then she caught me by surprise by asking, “do you have salt in your diet?”
I was quick to defend my eating habits which have been continually altered because of chemo, then morphing again with radiation, then changing with the never ending surprise side effects and then finally modifying them again with heart failure. Honestly, I take one look at a shaker of salt and I feel guilty, longing to be the type of girl that believes in cheating. She was amused by my theatrics and eagerness to get a gold star but interrupted my defensive rambling by telling me she would like me to consciously add a little salt into my diet. Well I’ll be jitterbugged.
Normally people with heart issues have high blood pressure so yes, they need to set aside the salt and eat more leafy greens. But my blood pressure’s low, so eating salt would help my body retain some fluid and boost my blood pressure. I happily quote her exact words, “so once in a while enjoy some chips or French Fries”.
Finally, a medication and recommendation I could get into. My ‘follow the rules come hell or high water’ personality was thrilled that for once, I didn’t have to second guess my instructions, or research for clarity, I just wanted to bolt out of that office and get my hands on some Swiss Chalet fries. After all, it was the doctors orders.
The moment the doctors assistant left the room I texted a bestie to tell her of my newest mandate. We both agreed. This was the best news I’d received since finding that lump of smutz in my chest. And since she is a fellow connoisseur of the salty delicacy, appreciated my elation. It was the first time I’ve left that hospital thrilled to follow orders.
Practically skipping away, I reflected back on what a colossal pain in the tuchus figuring out food has been since the very beginning and noticed how much stress I myself was adding to the mix. I was being a warden about food, judging myself if I ordered a donut to go with my green tea, or feeling like a failure if I had a larger than normal slice of cake at Sunday dinner. I was contributing to sucking the fun out of eating and I needed to let it go. So, along with being less less tyrannical over my salt consumption, I gave myself permission to enjoy the food I can actually eat. It doesn’t mean I’ll start having fries and lava cake with every meal (ah, cake for breakfast really does start a day off right), but when I decide to satisfy a craving, I’m removing shame from my plate along with the feeling that I’m destroying all the hard work I’m putting into fighting cancer just because I have a small package of M&M peanuts at a movie.
So with a tin of Pringles in hand and a smile on my face, I took my medicine like a every good patient should.