Dealing with Tragedy and Food

Nothing prepares you for a doctor’s voice saying the words pancreatic cancer in diagnosis of someone you love. I found out my mom had pancreatic cancer in May 2009. Like most pancreatic cancer cases, we didn’t realize it until it was stage 4 and too late. The words washed over me like waves in the ocean when you try to stand in water. No matter how hard you try to remain still, every wave rocks your body because the water’s more powerful than you. That’s what those words did to me. They rocked my world.

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Nothing prepares you for a doctor’s voice saying the words pancreatic cancer in diagnosis of someone you love. I found out my mom had pancreatic cancer in May 2009. Like most pancreatic cancer cases, we didn’t realize it until it was stage 4 and too late. The words washed over me like waves in the ocean when you try to stand in water. No matter how hard you try to remain still, every wave rocks your body because the water’s more powerful than you. That’s what those words did to me. They rocked my world.

My first reaction was “Ok, what do I need to do for her?”

My second reaction was to eat everything in sight.

I wanted to race to the closest fast food chain to get the fattest burger I could with all the fries they’d give me. That would’ve eased the pain of knowing my mom’s time was short. Ease the pain of being so far away when she found out. Ease the pain of what was to come. Ease the pain…

And what difference would it have made if I ate like that again? We got the most dreadful news of our lives, so why not indulge myself to numb this pain and fill this void?

I’ll tell you why.

Even though I couldn’t control what was happening to my mother I still could control the foods I put into my mouth. I went from being over 400 pounds to attaining my goal of 225 and I couldn’t throw that away because of being sad, horrified, afraid, angry and numb. No food on this earth would ever make my mom any better. It would only make me bigger and unhealthier again.

I am only human. I had to really struggle to suppress the urge to give in to my old ways. Comfort foods have the capability of feeling deceptively friendly in times of need. Then it hit me. My mom, who was so very proud of me for losing all my weight, would be disappointed if I went back to being bigger. In fact, so would I.

I decided then that every day from then on – especially after her ultimate death from this unforgiving disease – I would still control what I have the power to control, food – no matter what’s going on in my life. It sounds silly to be so worried about weight at such a time, but I’ve found some truths that remain constant in any weight loss journey:

  1. True and effective weight-loss and maintenance can only be achieved over time, even during stressful and emotional times. We’ve worked hard and no one or nothing should take that away from us. Even ourselves.
  2. Tragedy wins twice if we go back to eating the way we ate before. No disease, no drama, no job situation, no relationship, etc. is worth our own physical defeat, too.
  3. Life goes on and will go on, and so must we. Which means our weight loss must also go on and be a part of our lives through it all. It’s O.K. It’s a part of taking care of ourselves through a time of tragedy and loss.

I will not let pancreatic cancer beat us a second time. Mom wouldn’t want that, and neither do I. And if we couldn’t beat it one way, we sure as hell will beat it another.

I dedicate this inaugural blog to my mom, JoAnn Larson, whose support, love and guidance made me the person I am today. I love you, Mama, very much.

Blog written by Bill Larson
Bill Ivory Larson has lost a total of 175 pounds, without surgery or a special diet. In 2005, when he moved from Chicago to...