A journey of healing

I wake up to the burning sensation in my stomach.  I clutch it, curling into a ball.  2am.

I close my eyes, willing myself to breathe in, breathe out.  Please, brain, don’t go into overdrive tonight.  Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out.  I feel the rise and fall of my burning abdomen.

What if I have cancer?  Am I going to die early?  Like the 3 generations of women on my mother’s side?  I think about all the things I have wanted to do, and never did.

Travel.

I recently read a question:  If you were given six months to live, what is it you would do?

The question aimed to make you think about the life you are living now, and to question if it truly aligned with what you would do if you had six months to live, since surely that is where your soul’s calling resides.  I liked it over the “what would you do if money was no object question.”  Money doesn’t speak to me like it does to most people.

Dying on the other hand speaks to me loudly.  I am very fearful of dying early.

Travel, I thought when I read the question.  I want to travel.

I’ve always wanted to travel, but for reasons perhaps discussed at another time, I never have.

Pain grips my stomach.  Shit, I wished I had travelled.

I’m at the doctors.  She is a little concerned at my symptoms.  Burning sensation at the top of my stomach, changed bowel habits, a perpetual feeling of fullness.  She orders blood tests and a CT scan.

Am I going to die?  Do I have bowel cancer?

I’m in a gown waiting for the nurse to jab the needle into my arm.

“You don’t have any veins,” she says.

I nod weakly.

I am feeling full, bloated, uncomfortable.

She finds a vein in the back of my hand.  They inject the contrast and it hurts like hell.  A warm feeling comes over me and I feel a metallic taste at the back of my mouth.  I also think I have pee’d my pants {a symptom of the contrast}.

“Breathe in,” says the machine.  I hold my breath for 20 seconds.

“Breathe normally,” the machine tells me.

Two days later I am at the doctors once more.

All appears normal,” she says.  “Your cholesterol is high, and that does need to be addressed, but all else is normal.  I think we should send you for a gastroscopy, but there is nothing obvious on the CT scan.  You have diverticulitis, but you knew that already.”

My heart jumps and sinks at the same time.

No dying for me just yet, but no explanation for why I am feeling so awful either.  Although I didn’t want anything that was life threatening, it would have been nice to have something wrong that could be medicated to clear it up.

That night, Mr C and I are watching TV.  We see a program called The Diet Myth.  I have never heard of microbes before, but when Tim Spector talks of the symptoms of a depleted microbial colony in the gut, I feel like he is telling my story.

Can he be right?  Can it truly be that all my problems are related almost entirely to my diet?  I am well clinically, the scans prove this.  Yet, I feel so uncomfortable all the time and I am so overweight.  Calorie counting is proving incapable of shifting my excess bulge.  Could my gut microbes truly be crying out for a radical makeover of my diet?

I glance down at the half of a Top Deck on my lap.  Bloody hell.

Mr C and I decide it’s worth a shot.

I am in the pantry, throwing out all things that are full of wheat and sugar.  I am wondering if I should become a vegan.

I have always hated the notion of eating meat (but have loved the smell of cooking meat, especially bacon – oh dear heavens, the smell of bacon!).  But modern day practices of producing meat have always been unappealing to me.  I have always been uncomfortable gulping down chunks of meat knowing only too well the impact my gastronomic pleasure is having on the animal as well as the planet.

Mr C and I buy prebiotics, probiotics, a vegan protein shake, and other supplements.  It costs a small fortune.  We are investing in ourselves, I remind him as his heart rate increases handing over his credit card.

Today, I am making a protein shake – coconut milk, protein shake, frozen banana, probiotics, vanilla essence.  I drink it.  I’m not sure I am that impressed, but I remind myself that this is taking charge of my health, this is aiding my gut flora to recolonise and do the job they are meant to be doing.

I busy myself at home – housework, washing, some administration.  My tummy still feels bloated and uncomfortable, but I don’t expect miracles.  I momentarily wonder if I will lose weight at all, something that has eluded me for the longest time.  I look down at my left ring finger.  I have not been able to wear my wedding ring for nine years.  I put on too much weight and refused to get the ring resized.  I look at my finger and imagine my rings sitting there once more.  I feel spurred on to continue.

Lunch consists of potato and leek soup.

Mid afternoon I have the Super Greens.  A powder concoction that is full of fibre, tastes like grass with a hint of mint and is doing my gut flora the world of good, apparently.

Dinner is left over lasagne.  Not vegan, or even vegetarian, but 90% of the day will have to do for today.  As I eat half the lasagne, I feel ill.  I know I shouldn’t be eating this, and my stomach is agreeing.

The next day I wake up with one mother of a headache.  I don’t feel well at all.  It’s on a migraine scale.

My mood is also low.

What is going on?  Why do I feel like this?  I feel incapable of functioning.  The bloating in my stomach has subsided but my pounding head and monkey mind are torturing me.  Suicide fleets across my brain momentarily.

Breathe in, breathe out.

I persevere with the food.  I make a green smoothie with my greens, consisting of coconut water, a handful of kale, spinach and mint, lemon and apple and the greens.  I throw in the probiotics too for good measure (and to avoid the concoction later).  I gulp it down.  It’s not great, I have to be honest.  I am not sure how those healthy upstarts can say it is delicious.  It’s okay.  Not great.

Changes are taking place though.  I am less bloated and my poo is good.  TMI?  Perhaps, but I bear my soul in this space as you well know.

Through my headache, I am motivated to make vegan anzac biscuits and rhubarb & strawberry crumble.  Who is this woman?  I do not recognise her?  Why is she in the kitchen, baking?  And enjoying it to boot.

Sadly, I have to retire to bed early.  The head is pounding and I need to survive to another day.

Third day, today, is a bit better.  The headache woke me periodically during the night, but I am definitely feeling a bit better.  Less bloated, slightly more alert.  I take it easy though.  My mood is still low and it is pouring with rain outside.  A perfect day for easing myself into this way of life.

I am searching for easy to do recipes to have food on hand when I crave sugar.  I don’t drink a lot of coffee, so I know the headache is a sugar withdrawal.  I need stuff on hand to assist with that.  I have made a callout on my Facebook page for go-to websites that friends love.  They tell me about The Minimalist Baker, The Buddhist Chef, One Green Planet, Lazy Cat Kitchen, The Full Helping, Be Good Organics, Forks Over Knives and Oh She Glows.  I am blown away by the variety in a vegan diet and make a list of recipes I want to try.

Who is this person that is actively seeking a healthy lifestyle and yummy vegan food to try?

I am reading about Steve Jobs and how he was a proponent for zen buddhism in his youth. He especially brought the minimalism of zen into his designs, though reports say he didn’t practice buddhism very well (apparently he was very difficult to work for and not very nice, though this is hearsay I admit).

I miss my spirituality so much.  I miss the faith I had in buddhism before my mom died.  I miss the peace it gave me.

I listen to a meditation.  Through my monkey mind I am able to focus a little bit.  A sense of calm washes over me.

I know in my soul I am embarking on a new path that isn’t really new at all.  It is a path I abandoned in my twenties, I do not know why.  In essence, I suppose, I am embarking on the journey that will take me home.

Much love,

SHW Signature AmyG Font

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6 thoughts on “A journey of healing

  1. Well done – keep going Sarah! It will be totally worth it. You are where I was at 36 years ago when I discovered how food can wreck your health. I was a sugarholic and the effects it was having physically and mentally were catastrophic.

    Thankfully, I met a very forward thinking Australian at my Lamaze natural childbirth classes in Canada and she enlightened me. It has been a long journey and for the first few years I kept falling off the wagon, but for the last 20 years, I have been steady wth it and what a massive difference it has made to my life! I was born vegetarian so that has never been an issue for me – I can’t stand meat. I do have natural yoghurt but no other dairy products – definitely not milk – it was causing me horrendous mucous problems that miraculously disappeared when I gave up milk.

    Oh my goodness, there is so much I could tell you Sarah but JUST KEEP GOING and ignore all those who tell you that this is crazy – it ISN’T – I promise. The headaches will go, read up on the Herxhiemer effect. People who don’t have these sensitivities will not understand what you are doing – avoid them like the plague and listen to your body.

    In fact, don’t even discuss it with anyone who looks sideways at you – my journey was hampered by so many negative people who told me I was an ‘extremist’ but now that I am 60, I am in really good health and on NO medication for anything while all my critics are on millions of pills. Seriously – just keep on going.xxx

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    • Thank you so much Gilly. Gosh I do wish we lived closer. My headaches today are less thankfully than they were yesterday (which was horrible!). I am determined to continue and today I do feel a bit better for it. I am sensing a massive shift in myself. I think we are on a perpetual journey of self discovery and I know that I am ever evolving. Have a lovely day lovely and thank you for your support and encouragement xx

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  2. Wow Sarah, this post, just wow. Your writing is beautiful, honest and raw. I’m sorry you are going through such a hard and confusing time. Please, hang in there, be kind to yourself, keep following your path.
    Also, have you read the book ‘Gut’? I have just finished it and it talks about all about the importance of our gut health and its relation to our bodies and mind…interesting stuff!
    Take care beautiful lady xx

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    • Hi there Sarah. Thanks for your kind comments and for stopping by. No, I haven’t read Gut but will definitely put it on my list. Take care too lovely xx

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  3. Gorgeously written, as always, Sarah. I hope you are continuing to feel better. I had dinner last night with my friend who has recently transformed from a meat eating, cheese loving but sore gutted soul to a purely vegan diet. She maintains that it has changed her life – energy wise and no more painful stomach issues. So, keep going Sarah !! I am trying to get my other half to do the same. He has battled with unexplained gut issues for years but is full of dread about giving up steak, milk etc etc.
    Don’t forget all the wonderful alternatives out there. Miss cheese? try some Vegusto or Bio Cheese. Missing your Top Deck ? I am in love with the Dark Quinoa Alter Eco vegan chocolate.
    I bought some Green St Kitchen Kimchi recently which is a great thing to add to your Vegan Buddha Bowl and supposedly brilliant for your gut (and so tasty too).
    And, of course, for someone who loves animals (as I know you do) and a Buddhist lifestyle – eating this way is not only good for you but is aligned to a non violent and kind world. What better incentive is there ? Best of luck Sarah xxx

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    • There are some wonderful alternatives here Ing, thank you so much for those. I am struggling a little bit converting, but I am getting there slowly. I love the whole idea of being kinder to the world and that is definitely helping spur me on to the end goal. And my gut is definitely feeling a bit better too :-). Thanks for stopping by xx

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