All posts filed under: Health

It’s Getting Hot in Here: The Sweaty Signifier of Age

I was at the kind of music festival that draws packs of “festies,” young people who travel from concert to concert in the summertime wearing Indian-print skirts and bikini tops, their skin pierced and tattooed, wafting a fragrance that commingles pot and patchouli, with a base note of humid sleeping bag. An afternoon spent among them was making me feel my age, 48 at the time. They were groovy goddesses of their own anointing, with crazy-curly-cool hair highlighted in green and purple, bare feet kicking up dirt as they danced. They looked like beautiful children with their exposed tummies — flat or rounded, it did not seem to matter which — playful and unselfconscious. I was sitting under a dusty sycamore, wondering how weird I’d look if I starting reading my library book, when it struck me: a bolt of searing heat, a sudden scrambling of the brain. A hot flash is a bit like a menstrual cramp or migraine. Even if you’ve never had one, you know it when you feel it. And perhaps …

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Baked Goods and Bad Trips

Last June was our 16th anniversary, so Scott and I spent a weekend at this funky hotel in the Catskills. Every room is themed at this place. I chose a space-themed room. It was appropriately far out. Before we left, Scott mentioned that one of his coworkers, a fellow video editor, had gifted us an edible. A pot cookie, in other words. (I feel like I’m a million years old when I say “pot cookie” but I don’t feel like I’ve earned the right to say “edible.”) He apparently was a frequent user (and baker, I guess) of such things, and thought we’d have fun with it. Sure, I said! Pot’s fun! Couple of important details: First, I smoked pot plenty in my twenties, but not really since. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but it’s … changed a little, in the past twenty-odd years. I learned this a couple of years ago, when I shared a one-hitter with a friend and spent the next few hours paranoid and hyper, my face in a jumbo bag of Cheetos. Number …

I Got You — Caring for My Wife During Chemo

As my wife sat in the treatment room during chemotherapy, she would sometimes sing to me a song that became a sort of anthem for us. Headphones on, she’d hum and sing, “We ain’t gonna give up on this now, we refuse to turn around. This won’t be easy, no way, no how, but we won’t back down…” The song was ”We Got It” by Ne-Yo from The Wiz, one of those live TV musical events we’d watched together after her surgery back in 2015. In some ways, she was Dorothy and I was some unfortunate combination of the Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. I would chime in, “And when the night is so cold, dark and lonely, All you got to do is look at me and hear what I say…” And then together we would sing, “We got it! We got it!” “I got you…” I got you. When Margit asked me to share my experience as a “caregiver” during her treatment, I felt a bit uncomfortable. I saw it as …

10 Foods to Comfort You (Pizza and Booze, Not So Much)

Here’s the truth: we are all emotional eaters. Emotions show up in the body, and your very wise body is asking for help to get calm. Here’s a quick list of ways you can support your body in feeling strong and calm again. 1. Water: Stay hydrated. Your brain works better and your nervous system is more calm when you’re hydrated. 2. Chamomile Tea: It’s calming for muscle spasms and the entire nervous system. Drink all day and before bed. 3. Sweet Potatoes: The sweet, dense flavor and texture are calming for upset stomach without the blood-sugar destroying effects of refined sweeteners. Roast up a dozen and store the extra in the fridge. Use leftovers for sweet potato pudding (recipe). 4. Coconut Butter: Like peanut butter, but from coconuts. Sweet, high in healthy fats that are soothing and satiating for the stomach, coconut butter and oil are helpful for thyroid and overall hormone production. 5. Kale, Bok Choy, Collards (ok, any leafy greens): Leafy greens are rich in folate, which helps your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. Also …

Pain in the Present Tense

For me, failure is a feeling. It’s a heavy weight in my stomach. I get hazy and lightheaded.  Things start to slow down. Lately I feel very heavy. When I feel this, I retreat. I isolate. I pick apart all the moments, actions, words that led to this particular moment and I evaluate them, polish them, put them in a line like dominos and knock them all down with one touch, only to pick them up and reorder them again. Glennon Doyle Melton, the author of Love Warrior, wrote something that caught my attention the other day and resonated with me. She said: “We have to choose carefully where we do our truth-telling… If you are going to share widely – make sure you’re sharing from your scars, not your open wounds….When we truth tell widely in real time, it’s alarming to people because it can feel more like a cry for help than an act of service. You have to be still with your pain before you can offer it up and use it to serve …

Sleepless in Suburbia

All my life, I have put myself to sleep with a novel—eyelids pulling down, dreams wending vine-like into whatever story I am reading. Sometimes I startle awake and, when I attempt to start reading again, I find that the words on the page don’t match the version of the plot my dreams invented. Proust writes about this in one of his interminable Remembrances novels, this being the only thing I remember about them. I’m sure I fell asleep to him as well. Presumably he would be forgiving. More recently, I’ve switched to getting in bed with my laptop. I watch the red Netflix page download and, soon enough, delight to the introduction: Previously on Damages. No matter how cold-bloodedly conniving Ms. Close is, I can fall asleep to her too. But then, at some wildly inconvenient hour — 2:53, 3:21 or 4:02 — I am wide-awake. Not the dozy, semi-wakefulness I recall from the time my kids were babies and wanted to climb into my bed, having peed in their own. No, I am hyper alert, …

Training the Gray Dog to Finally Fall Asleep

NyQuil. Ambien. Valium. Diphenhydramine. Melatonin. Gabapentin. These are the treats that I’ve been feeding the beast. The sock drawer full of scooby snacks that I’ve been resorting to for weeks and weeks now. Insomnia. Is. The. Worst. I’ve never been a good sleeper and recall much of my childhood spent either tossing and turning in anticipation of sleep or quaking under the covers after waking from yet another bad dream. My nightmares were epic pageants of the anxieties of youth. I can still recall a particular dream of being kidnapped that continued for three nights in a row — an actual mini-series of the psyche. I’ve been drowned in poisoned grape juice, hunted through city streets, trapped under a giant glass dome and pursued by oversized hats with eyes (I watched a lot of Lidsville for a time and never quite recovered from Sid and Marty Krofft’s dystopian vision of a world populated by both gigantic hats and Charles Nelson Reilly.) They call depression the Black Dog, and I’ve been fortunate — that particular cur …

Can I Learn to Accept My Chemo-Induced Memory Loss?

I am a woman who forgets a lot. Every day I misplace keys, call one of my children by the wrong name (I’ve been known to throw in a dog’s name if I’m honest), and I lose track of what I’m talking about mid-sentence. It would be easy to blame any number of reasons for my absent-mindedness: three kids who keep me running in multiple directions, the day-to-day financial and emotional responsibilities of a household of five, my own, natural tendency to lean toward ADHD, along with work, friends, and exercise. For years, I somehow kept all those balls in the air, even adding new ones without a shrug. One or two might slip, but for the most part I was an artist at keeping who, what, where’s, and when’s moving seamlessly, without the use of a notepad or smartphone reminders. All of that changed when the one thing I hate to remember made me forget just about everything else: cancer. A little over five years ago I was treated for breast cancer. I wasn’t …

Nope, It Doesn’t Need to be Steamed, Sprayed or Douched

A few years ago, I was talking with a relative and the talk turned to douches. I don’t remember how we got on this subject, but there we were, biding our time at the grownup table of a kid’s laser tag birthday party, talking about vaginal cleanliness. I was saying that while I had previously douched every month at the end of my period, I had stopped because it gave me a fire crotch of yeast infections. I had even given up the long, super-hot baths that I loved. “Wait…you don’t douche?” my relative asked, her voice full of judgment. She side-eyed me. She might have even sniffed the air in my vicinity; I couldn’t be sure. She’s only about seven years older, but suddenly I felt like I was talking to my mother or my grandmother, the women who raised me. Growing up, a hot water bottle with a hose and applicator attached always hung inside the shower in our bathroom. At some point, I must’ve asked what it was for and was told …

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How to Be Really Good at Insomnia 

Do you look at those of us with insomnia and think to yourself, “They must have so much time on their hands!” or “Think of all the things I could get done!”? Do you wish that you too could have insomnia? There are tons of diet, self-help, parenting and leadership guides out there, but what about those who wish to be good at insomnia? Well, look no further. I’m here to share with you my years of hard work and study in the field through diligent, direct hands-on experience. You’re welcome. Some people are just born with this skill and, honestly, they make it look so easy by staying up for days on end with little to no sleep as their eyes glaze over and they get more and more cranky with the world. But for those who struggle to stay awake and bask in the glory of unproductive hours of tossing and turning or long days of exhaustion, follow my simple rules and you too will be living the sleepless dream. Do identify a …

Snoring: My Not-So-Secret Crime

Once upon a time, I had to sleep in a bunkhouse on a women’s retreat. As per usual, in a group sleeping situation, I did not sleep well. I sensed rustling around in the room all night. It was hot, and I was uncomfortable — as it turned out, with good reason. When I woke up, one of the women in my group was glaring at me. “Damn Laurie, you snore,” she said. “I didn’t sleep at all last night. Thanks a lot.” My face went red. I felt deep embarrassment. Of course I knew this would happen. I had asked for my own sleeping space, as snorers frequently do, and was shot down. There was nowhere else to put me. I had told the organizers what the problem might be, and they blew it off. They never should have. It typically ends well for no one. This happened again, on a trip to Vietnam after a day-long journey. Again, I’d warned my professors that I might bother my roommate. No one listened. Anger ensued, …

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The Self-Medicated Woman

I’ve learned to love my Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I’ve also learned to accept and even love the legal drugs I use to manage it: caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. As many of you reading these words today amid your 500 other to-dos know, ADHD is blessing and a curse. My morning preamble to sitting down to this article was marked by a frenzied dance through a series of tasks I felt compelled to undertake no matter how inane, including chopping beeswax to make “cutting board butter” (thanks a lot, internet), muscling the sludge off of the side of a bottle of liquid soap (it builds up!), a step in the long process of making homemade apple jack (America’s first legal drug), repairing a broken window (it’s cold out there) and, oh yeah, getting my son out the door and to the bus on time. All before the sun had barely crested the treetops. At times, I feel ridiculous, but after a half-century of flitting from task to task, I’ve come to trust the process …

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8 Things You Know About Medication…That Are Totally Wrong

Drugs are everywhere. They’re taken in the bathroom stall next to us when we’ve gone out to a nightclub. They’re spread across the news and social media when one of our beloved artists meets an untimely demise due to an overdose. And they’re lining our cabinets and dressers when we reach for our birth control, aspirin and host of other pills. We’ve become desensitized to drugs and medications, whether experimenting during college or taking Vicodin after an intense surgery. And, of course, as with anything that is commonly used there comes a whole heap of misconceptions and myths that pervade the landscape without anyone ever making sense of them. So where does one go to find the truth in these ideas?  To dispel some common misconceptions and fallacies, I consulted three-time author Dr. Susan C. Vaughan, who is currently a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst on the faculty at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and author Dr. Frank Lipman, founder and director of Eleven-Eleven Wellness Center. Misconception: #1 Manufactured drugs have dangerous side effects, but …

The Devil You Know: Why I Chose to Remove Both Breasts

I had a double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery in December of 2009. I’m not a survivor, I did not have cancer. I am genetically inclined to get it, so I guess if anything, I am a pre-survivor — this was a proactive surgery. I never looked at my decision as brave. I just played the shitty card in the hand that I was dealt. A few years before my surgery, my mom was diagnosed with stage-3 breast cancer. Her mother passed away at age 44 of ovarian cancer. It was pretty obvious I was a vulnerable branch on the cancer family tree. The first decision I had to make was whether I should have the genetic testing done. For me, it was a no brainer; I believe the devil that you know is better than the devil that you don’t. [pullquote]No longer did I want to catch and beat cancer —     I wanted to deny it the chance to play at all.[/pullquote] I tested positive for the BRCA1 gene. In a nutshell, this …

How My Husband’s Cancer Changed Me — For the Better

At the start of 2014, I celebrated my half-century birthday. My New England home was packed to the rafters with friends, both old and new, family, music and food. I was enveloped in love and felt buoyantly optimistic about the upcoming year(s). My husband of 25-plus years, Ken, was starting a new senior role at a growing startup. I had launched a fledgling consulting business with a bunch of amazing clients. I had committed — finally— to getting on the biking bandwagon and going on a 62-mile race with my biking obsessed hubby. It was promising to be quite a year. Less than a month later, we learned that the funky little squamous cell carcinoma that my husband had removed from his lip two years earlier, to little fanfare, had metastasized. Stage IV cancer. The cells had spread into at least four lymph nodes. As a world-class problem-solver and fixer, I shifted into high gear. I researched and ranked doctors and surgical centers as my hubby, alternatively numb and angry, struggled to make decisions about …

1 in 8: Why You Should Still Get That Mammogram

One of the most fascinating/confounding phenomena I’ve observed over the last decade is the absolute explosion of health information on the web and the profound impact it can have, both positive and negative, on people’s behavior, attitudes and healthcare choices. While there’s definitely a lot of good information out there, there’s also a lot of bunk. Sifting through the clutter, picking out the important nuggets and turning them into choices about our health has become a huge challenge, much more so in a time when medical and scientific innovation is being communicated directly to consumers through so many different channels. In this monthly column, I’ll be cutting through the health-web BS and translating internet-speak about bodies, fitness and nutrition into real talk that matters for your health. Join me as I try to make sense of it all — I’ll do my best to tell it to you straight. Everywhere you look on the internet these days, someone is telling women what to do with their boobs. A lot of time and energy seems to …

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margit

Over the last three years, my body has slowly closed up shop. Four months between periods, then six, then almost a full year. So, I guess we’re done here. It’s a weird, bittersweet feeling — no more bloats, stains and mishaps. I’ve started to feel as if I’ve floated into another galaxy, where most of my friends are still on Planet Menses. That one time a year when it does arrive, it’s cause for a minor celebration. I secretly tell myself, maybe, just maybe at 47, I could still have a kid. Even though I know it’s a distant, nearly improbable concept. I do have a few friends who’ve had planned kids at 45 or even second and third “oops” kids at 45-plus — one, in fact, who grabbed me by the proverbial collar the other day, glared at me and said, “what have I done?!?” [pullquote]I’d never once fantasized about the perfect family, being a mom, spending time packing up carrot sticks in plastic baggies. That was, until I met my wonderful husband, who would, unquestionably, be …

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When You Can’t Look Away: Horror in the Newsfeed

Despite the fact that it was being played in a seemingly endless loop on the news, my mom wouldn’t let us watch the video of the Rodney King beating. She’d dive for the remote to quickly change channel or, in her most extreme moments, she’d send us kids out of the room altogether I was already an anxious kid, well on my way to becoming an even more anxious adult. Mom must have known that video would stay with me long after the trial. Even for how frequently the news showed King’s savage beating, it wasn’t impossible to avoid. This was the ’90s. There was no autoplay Twitter video and no refreshing Facebook feed flooded with violence. As much as I wish she could, these days my mom can’t shield me from them all. When I first started working in news in August 2014, I knew I’d probably have to come face to face with horrible material. I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of violence and bloodshed that unfolded during my first year on the …

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My Body F-ing Rocks

One of the great things about getting older (I am 39 this year) is a better understanding of what you need for a life that is meaningful, purposeful and satisfying. The problem is, we live in a youth-obsessed culture. You can’t be online for more than three seconds without being bombarded by images of young, invariably thin women frolicking on a beach somewhere or exercising gleefully with perfect hair, nails and skin gleaming in the sunshine. How can anyone keep up with that? Forget anyone; how can you and your ever-changing (and ever-aging) body keep up with that? We can’t. I can’t. So rather than wasting more energy lamenting it – as I did in my 20s and 30s – I am letting go and remembering something really cool: My body rocks. [pullquote]When I say that I have an ass that doesn’t quit, I literally mean it: I have an ass that doesn’t quit.[/pullquote] I am a biologist. I spent years and years getting my PhD and, while I will spare you my dissertation, the …

I Hit My Breaking Point and Asked for Help

I flipped my hood up and started walking, on my way to buy beer at midnight on a work night. I had gotten up from my desk back in the apartment when the panic set in that I wouldn’t have enough of what I called “my medicine” to get me through the assignment I was working on and then carry me on to maybe four hours of passed-out sleep. Where writing was concerned, I was sure I was much more productive then. Fueled by wine, adrenaline and a liberal shot of rage, words flowed out of the space between sober and drunk, a space where I spent a lot of my time. Whether the words were good or not is debatable, but I thought they were better — and only possible — with a few drinks in me. It’s a writer’s ego that values output over possible self-annihilation. Can’t do it if you’re dead or incapacitated, but what’s that small detail? Bless our hearts. That night, dwelling on my bullshit logic, I put on my shoes and …

I Can’t Quit Quitting

I consider myself to be a fairly successful quitter of the things. In my 48 years, I’ve managed to quit bad relationships, self-destructive behavior, credit card debt (mostly) and junk food. I’ve quit crap jobs, crappier friendships and — periodically — drinking. Heck, I would have even quit my own child after three straight months of colic and no sleep, but that’s illegal here in Canada. But smoking? Oh, smoking is a black-hearted bastard. Now, I’ve quit smoking too. Hundreds of times, in fact. I’ve quit for two days, two weeks, two months; I even quit once for two years. I didn’t touch a cigarette for the duration of my pregnancy, and I stayed strong during the postpartum period as well. Until… well, see above re: quitting my own child. The Modern-Day Pariah My 16-year-old son has no concept of a day and age where smokers weren’t treated as lepers. But when I grew up, smoking wasn’t frowned upon. Sheesh, it was a necessary rite of passage! Something you aspired to! I know for a …

Habits of the Mind: Beating Back Anorexia

I spent my youth despising the way I looked, from my (real or imaginary) pooch or my rounded thighs to the creases in my upper arms that skinny girls didn’t have. I took this obsession with my weight to the next level during my junior year of high school and went full-blown anorexic, taking the same mental traits that made me a classic overachiever — disciplined, conscientious, results-oriented — and turning them on my body. It takes a lot of discipline to ignore your body’s hunger signals — especially once it figures out you’re starving. Tracking my restrictions became the anchor habit underlying the anorexia, and I managed to whittle my total daily caloric intake down to 750 calories, starving my body but feeding my mind with goals reached and control expressed. Let’s be clear: Anorexia is not just a disorder of the body. To thrive, eating disorders require a perfect storm of mental, physical and environmental triggers. It’s complicated. Like, woah, complicated. It only took me ten years to realize the road out of …

I Have A Lot of Bad Habits…But I’m Working On It

I am an amassment of bad habits, all of them clinging together to crudely resemble a human female. I am a lady-shaped jumble composed of candy corn, terrible excuses, kitty-cat videos and wine. I’m nothing but bad habits, baby. I may be exaggerating a little bit. That’s another bad habit of mine. All right, look: I may have a number of bad habits, but I’m not all that different from anyone else. I’m pretty sure we share a bunch of these. Are any of us really getting enough sleep? Are we exercising as much as we should? Come, now. There may be a few virtuous types out there, the ones who win ultramarathons or help the poor while also following a gluten-free, sugar-free, cruelty-free diet, but I avoid those people. They’re not much fun at parties. I think. I actually avoid parties, too. The thing about most bad habits is that they tend to be fun and therefore hard to get rid of. Conversely, good habits are less fun, which makes them extraordinarily easy to …

Is Your Office Making You Sick?

Most of us spend the vast majority of our time (about nine hours a day, on average) at work, and for a large proportion of us, work time equals office time. Offices have evolved with our job descriptions, but the essence remains the same: Every day we leave our homes to join another group of humans in an environment that is not exactly tailored to our unique specifications but within which we must live (and live productively) for the largest part of our days. The first year I left academic research (working in a laboratory) for a corporate job (working in an office), I experienced a series of strange health ramifications. On the surface, one might imagine the laboratory environment, where I could potentially be exposed to various dangerous chemicals and strange bugs on a routine basis, would be less healthy than the open-plan office I moved to. But it didn’t play out that way for me. Within a year, I gained about 20 pounds and got sick more times than I ever had in …

Why Weight Loss Felt Like Betrayal

I am a fat woman. Most days, that’s merely a description, not a value judgment. It wasn’t always that way. At a young age, I learned that food was a double-edged sword. Wielded by my mother, food was a gesture of love that meant she was taking care of her family. In my hands, it was a way to soothe feelings of sadness, loneliness, hurt and anger. Growing up as fat girl with a heaping helping of nerd thrown in, I was bullied at school, ignored by boys and told through every possible medium that when measured against the Western Beauty Standard, I would never win. I’ve done all the usual things every self-hating fat woman has done: crazy diets, becoming best friends with bad self-esteem and creating the world’s best arsenal of self-deprecating jokes. It wasn’t until my mid-20s, after I was brave enough to cancel my subscription to Cosmo (which taunted me every month with pages full of clothes I could never wear, guys I could never date and skinny, beautiful models I …

Bacterial, Fungal or Viral? That Is the Question

I already had a backache during Donna Shalala’s plenary session at the 11th International AIDS Conference. During my flight to Seattle a few days earlier, I noticed I was particularly uncomfortable. But who isn’t on a transcontinental flight? Over the next week, I grew so ill that I had to lie in the hotel bed all day with the curtains drawn. I couldn’t stand the light of day. I felt like the very air I was breathing was toxic. If I take one more breath, I thought, the poisonous atmosphere might kill me. My back and my neck and my brain all hurt like nothing I had ever felt before. It was even worse than the worse migraine I had ever experienced — and those typically felt like someone was stabbing an ice pick through my forehead and rubbing the back of my eyeballs with a cheese grater. I was present at the conference as a representative of Philadelphia’s needle exchange program, one of the first in the country. More than 10,000 people attended as …

What It’s Really Like to Be a Germophobe

I have a thing with germs. Many things, actually. Like Kim Kardashian’s ass, germs are nearly impossible to avoid if you want to interact with the modern world. Every street corner, coffee cup, toothbrush, dollar bill, door handle, work surface and orifice (whether human or animal) is simply teeming with unseen bacteria, possible parasites and other predatory pathogens. Or even just plain dirt. And you can’t escape it. It’s not that I’m prissy. I just can’t help but sense germs everywhere I go — and try to avoid them. I’m like Monk with boobs. In case you think I’m exaggerating, here, in no particular order, is a collection of my admittedly neurotic germ issues and thoughts: Let’s begin in the bedroom, shall we? Despite my despotic clean-freak neurosis, I know that my bed is hot bed of germ warfare. All beds are, and that’s a fact that will keep you up at night. My number bed-germ rule is this: No handbags on my bed. Ever. Ever-ever. No exceptions. Your bag goes on restaurant floors? Then …

Learning to Love My Bugs

If you asked me which era of the great sweep of human history I would prefer to live in, I would have a two-word answer: Anti. Biotics. You can keep your Renaissance, your Industrial Revolution, your Paleolithic Eden. You can also keep your streptococcal pneumonia, your abscessed incisors and your untreatable UTIs. Give me the modern age. The one with penicillin, toothpaste and Pinterest. I wouldn’t have had a prayer of inventing a steam-powered loom or stalking a saber tooth back in the day anyway. I would have expired horribly at the age of three after having stepped on the shaman’s pointy poop-stirring stick — I KNOW IT. Despite my conviction, though, I’ve come to deeply appreciate the other side of the story. The anti anti-biotic side, if you will. In fact, I’ve come to love my germs. Our story begins six years ago with an unremarkable sinus infection. The holidays were coming, the days were full and my nasal cavities were jammed up with that sticky sweet mucus that we all know no amount of …

The Life-Changing Magic of Cleansing My Gut

  I’m finally getting clean. It’s not what you think. Well, in a way it is. I’m cleaning out my gut. And yes, that sounds totally disgusting, but it’s also kind of awesome. Before we start using code words like “elimination” and “move,” let me ease you in slowly. A few months ago my friend Stacy was extolling the virtues of eating in a clean manner. I was all, “You mean with a napkin and such?” “No, no, a cleanse, the Clean program. It’s two shakes and a meal every day — but also this amazing mental journey. For the first time in about 10 years I am controlling my eating habits, they are not controlling me.” Well, sign me up. She’d lost about 10 lbs. on the cleanse, more after the cleanse was over, and it kick-started some other positive health changes for her — the results were evident in her glowing face. When I think about a cleanse, I envision Beyoncé and Gwyneth Paltrow on California patios sipping hot water with lemon sprinkled …

My Daughter’s Mysterious Illness — And My Own

Exactly one year ago, my teenage daughter got sick. Really sick. One day, out of the blue, she woke up and couldn’t get out of bed. Up to this point, my then 14-year-old daughter had been a wildly healthy, state-championship swimmer who played the cello in an honors orchestra, earned straight A’s in all her classes. She was heavily involved in leadership positions in our church and in an assortment of other extracurricular activities at school and in the community. She’s beautiful, talented, smart, kind, friendly, and if you were to ask anyone from a neighbor to a stranger meeting her for the first time, “totally put together.” And then on March 19th, 2014, she woke up achy all over, vomiting, with a high fever. The first day of illness, I just assumed my daughter had the same flu that was running rampant through our community; the classmates of both my children had been sidelined for days with a terrible flu. I had no reason to believe my daughter was experiencing anything different. [pullquote]I was …