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I got diagnosed with “stress-induced anorexia” about 10+ years ago. I don’t have the classic form of anorexia where people have distorted body image issues, a fear of gaining weight, they count calories, use laxatives, over-exercise and other unhealthy behaviors.
My disorder is triggered by too much stress going on in my life. It creates a lot bad feelings like uncertainty which turns into anxiety, which in turn affects my ability to eat and drink enough. When this happens, I restrict and don’t eat and sometimes don’t drink enough to support my health and the needs of my whole body.
I don’t choose to do this to myself or want it to happen, it’s a mental disorder that I have and one that I have been battling off and on for years. It’s been especially difficult these past 7-8 years.
Thankfully, there is good medicine available to help me with my health issues. I take an anti-depressant called Mirtazpine each night and an anti-panic attack med called Klonopin that I take everyday and take more if I feel really anxious or if I get a panic attack and it shuts it down! It’s amazing!
Let me also say that this disorder isn’t about having a problem with food or being picky, for me it’s being too stressed and anxious to eat enough. My disorder is a battle for my life and it has the highest death rate of any mental disorder. Lucky me!
Let’s move on, at the end of August of 2019, I left a very toxic, abusive marriage where there was also co-dependency going on. Ironically, I left the very same man a year before that for a month also. I left because of hitting my limit of the amount of abuse and stress that I wanted to handle, my anxiety was through the roof most days and I was having debilitating panic attacks on top of everything that was going on. Something had to give!
In my marriage, I oftentimes felt judged, belittled and put down. He didn’t respect me as an individual and separate person that has different opinions, thoughts, values and morals. He tried to change me and couldn’t accept me as-is. That is why he is my ex now! Fuck that!
Moving on, when I first left back in August of 2018, after a month of living separately we somehow reconciled, (aka: I let him back into my life) he followed through and got marriage counseling with me finally when we were in Miami that winter and I was able to go to almost 3 months at an eating disorder treatment center in Miami called Oliver Pyatt.
In early March of 2019, we returned to our hometown of Miramar Beach from a job assignment that my husband (at the time) had in Miami for the winter months.
His son and his wife live here with their two kids, my husband’s grandkids, so this is where he and then we have been coming back to for years in between assignments.
Since, I own a virtual software company, I can work from anywhere in the world, so I’d go on assignments with him after my son turned 18 and eagerly left the nest! I don’t blame him and am super proud of the man that he is becoming too!
My amazing, loving and handsome son named Nick Surfer Ocean, lives in Maui and has made a dream life for himself in true paradise. I hope to be able, to go visit him one day soon!
Back at the beach, finding short-term, affordable housing is a real issue here in Miramar Beach because it’s a major tourist town and seasonal. So, we went a different direction this time and ended up buying a cozy 800 square foot condo at an amazing place called Baytowne Village. It’s in the heart of everything and we can walk out our door, go down an elevator and have lots of fun choices of things to do. Our cool condo is within the best resort in the whole Emerald Coast called Sandestin.
Right after we closed on the condo and moved in, we started fixing things up, making improvements and turning the place into our own. It felt great to have a stable home base of our own finally! And we were excited to be able to rent it out when we didn’t need it and have another source of income.
My husband typically took a month or two off in between his assignments. So, we were getting the condo ready to rent when we were off on the next job assignment to who knows where. He could get a job offer anywhere in the US, so it was both exciting and nerve-wracking! It is great when he got an assignment in a cool city like Chicago, St. Petersburg, Atlanta and Miami but not Woodward, Oklahoma and little crappy towns with nothing going on and not much to do.
After less than a few weeks after we moved in my husband had a grand mal seizure out-of-the-blue, one Sunday afternoon when we were out looking at the damage that Hurricane Michael did to Mexico Beach and Panama City, Florida.
I was the only person there when he had his seizure, I saw the whole thing! Let me tell you it was a scary thing to witness. I didn’t know if he was going to die. Thankfully, I was able to call 911 while he was seizing and quickly he went to our local hospital here at the beach via an ambulance.
A day later, he had to be moved to a bigger hospital in Pensacola to get the care he needed. A few days later the doctors and his neurologist decided he needed to do brain surgery because he had a mass showing up on an MRI.
The massive surgery was successful, except that it showed that he had brain cancer. After further testing was done we were told that he had stage IV terminal brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme (aka GBM).
All hearing all of this it was a total shock to my system, as you can imagine and I’m sure you can sympathize with me for having that type of reaction.
Our whole life changed on March 17, 2019, the day he had the seizure.
Up to this point, I was doing so well with my Eating disorder recovery. I put in double time and was working really hard to restore my weight and health. Maintaining this was challenging with all of the added stress and strain that was caused because of my husband’s surgery and grim diagnosis, but I did my best and pushed on.
I didn’t know much about cancer except for breast cancer because my Mom got it 10 years ago. Even back then when she was going through her ordeal, it freaked me out so much that I had a hard time waiting with her in the hospital when she was going in to get her cancer removed. I asked her if I could leave after being with her for 30 minutes because my nerves were too much and I don’t think I was helping her. I was such a baby! I’m so sorry Mom!
I didn’t like hospitals back then and today I have a deep respect for them. I just don’t want to have to go and get admitted if it has to do with my eating disorder. It was hard enough to fully surrender when I checked myself into Oliver Pyatt, but I sucked it up and did what I had to do.
This time around, with my husband’s health crisis, I was so much stronger, wiser about my disorders, I was weight restored and a lot more brave than in years past.
It was heartbreaking after his surgery when his brother and I told him of his grim diagnosis. He took it amazingly but he had just had a major surgery and his memory wasn’t the best. Plus, he had a major headache and said “it felt like a donkey kicked him in the head,” which I can understand completely because they had to take out part of his brain along with whatever cancer they could without permanently disabling him mentally.
My husband was the bravest man I knew because of him facing this surgery and not being nervous (well he did admit that he was a little bit right nervous before the procedure) but he was more so a ‘Superman’ once he found out about his cancer and what it all really meant.
Also, I’ve never cried so much in my whole life than I did during this whole ordeal. I didn’t hold back, I let it happen when it came and I didn’t care who saw me.
For the next month after he got out of surgery, we took things slow but as major life changes started sinking in, like the fact that he was now disabled, he wasn’t supposed to drive for 6 months and he was going to die from this, my life and my priorities took a backseat.
He was so incredibly angry that his life was going to be cut short. He planned to live to see his grandson get married and wanted to live another 20 years, shit he wanted to live forever. He just turned 61 years old. The oncology doctors estimated that he had 12 months to live.
For the next few months my husband reacted in the worst anger that I’ve ever seen from him. He directed it towards anyone and everyone that crossed him even just a little bit. He wanted to beat people up and threatened to kill them. His temper was out of control. It was scary to see and hear this and just as difficult for me to be around this myself! It wasn’t healthy!
As I quickly got a crash course in his cancer treatment options, I remembered that I needed to still take care of myself, my recovery and my health. Man, it was difficult putting my needs ahead of his at this time. I did the best that I could at the time!
I had my annual mammogram that I was supposed to do in October of 2018 before we left to Miami, but I put it off because they hurt something fierce and caused anxiety because of how it squeezes your boob and flattens it like a pancake. I thought that the smaller your boob is the more a mammogram hurts, but I found out from the radiology nurse they hurt everyone no matter the size of their breasts.
So, once we got back home and got past my husband’s surgery, with my Mom’s nudging and pleading me, I finally got my mammogram and ultrasound appointment scheduled and then went to it a few days later.
This time I got a mammogram and an ultrasound because I told my doctor that I felt a lump in my right breast, it hurt and it had been there for awhile. My husband found it months ago and told me to get it checked out.
Since breast cancer runs in my family, on my Mom’s side. My Grandma on my Mom’s side had it twice and my Mom got it once when she was 60. I started getting mammograms in my late 30’s as a precaution. I was 42 years old at this appointment and my previous tests didn’t show anything abnormal.
I did my tests and then was asked to come back in and do a biopsy of the growth in my right breast. I agreed and got it done too!
In between hearing the results of the tests and biopsy, I felt confident that the growth was just a cyst, so I self-assuredly told my parents and my husband that it would be ok. No big deal!
A few days later I received a voicemail from my primary doctor. I thought immediate that it wasn’t good that she was calling me instead of a nurse. I returned her call and when I caught up with her, she told me that the biopsy test showed “some suspicious cells.” When I asked her what that meant, she said the C word, Cancer.
My heart sunk, then I got pissed and threw something at the wall and started to cry.
“What the fuck!” I screamed out loud “Now we both have cancer!”
Before my meltdown, I got more information about next steps from my doctor before hanging up and then after my meltdown and telling my husband the news, I begrudgingly called my Mom, told her the news as I was on speaker phone with my Dad also in listening. I’m sure they were saddened by the news, worried and scared for me.
At that point, I didn’t know how big my cancer was, what stage it was, what kind of treatment I would need to do. Nada, I just knew that I also had cancer along with my husband’s cancer. I wondered if I was going to die too?!
I did know how horrible treatment was and how it forever changed you. I was starting to see lots of changes and side effects happen to my husband as he started his radiation treatment and chemotherapy pill. It was super scary for me to witness what was going on and how it made him feel.
He aged 20 years in 6 months because of the cancer and the treatments!
The effects of chemotherapy treatment is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Here was a man that I had been through so much with and someone that I still deeply cared about and loved. Add to this that he had to get the highest dose of radiation treatment directly to his head and I was just trying to keep it together for myself and for him, but this all was way too much!
Now, I was faced with possibly having to go through the same treatments for my cancer. I was beyond sad about my diagnosis and most of our family and friends were in total disbelief about my added bad news. How is it possible that a couple can both have cancer at the same time?! Well, it is possible and just absolutely shitty timing!
Soon, I was able to get referred to an amazing breast cancer surgeon named Sandra Hanson. I anxiously waited for my first appointment with her so I could learn more about my cancer and options.
As I was sitting in the waiting room with my dear husband by my side, I thought the very worst! I feared that I was going to die and that because I held off for 6 months on getting my tests done that it may be bigger than I thought, maybe it had spread, I just assumed the worst cause scenario.
When we got to go in and meet the surgeon, I was nervous about the news that I was going to hear. She told me that my cancer was taught early, it was small, stage 1 and she didn’t think that it had spread yet to the lymph nodes. I started to cry in relief!
My husband told me “see I told you it was going to all be ok!”
The surgeon went on about how I needed to get surgery to remove the cancer and the tumor, it was called a lumpectomy.
She also mentioned that a month after the surgery, I’d need to do radiation treatment and depending on some genetic tests that were ordered to test my cancer cells, I may need to do chemotherapy. She didn’t think it was very likely because my cancer was caught early but it depended on what showed up when they tested my cancer cells after removing it and 2 lymph nodes that were also removed also during my surgery.
How lucky was I with this situation? No really! If I couldn’t escape the reality that I had breast cancer, at least I wasn’t likely to die from it if I treated it correctly, fully and timely.
I agreed to get scheduled for my surgery a few days later after this important meeting. I was a champion and went into my surgery brave. I was going to kill my cancer just like I was killing “My Toxic ED” (Eating Disorder).
Of course I was anxious about the surgery beforehand, I am a nervous person by nature, a worrier. Shit I’m a Mom, what Mom isn’t a worrier!
I’ve never had any type of real surgery where I would be knocked out and where they were going to put a tube out down my throat.
Thankfully, the surgery went super well and I told my surgeon in the pre-op room to take more of the tissue or “margin” where cancer cell might be so that I wouldn’t have to come back in and do another surgery. She listened and did an absolutely wonderful job for me!
I was sent home after surgery and had to be driven, guess who drove me?My disabled husband that wasn’t supposed to drive at all for 6 months. No one else offered to help (at least to my knowledge, other than my brother offering to help in any way but he lives an hour and a half away) and I didn’t have any other family in town or that live close enough to make it easy. So off we rode 45 minutes to go home as I was all drugged up, it was a bumpy car ride, but we got home safe and sound. Now it was time to relax, sleep and recoup.
That first day of the surgery was scary! I asked myself why did they send me home so soon. After all of the medicine wore off a few hours later and my loopy head was feeling more normal, I started feeling more present mentally but my body was sure beat up. I didn’t know what to expect but this kicked my ass!
I wasn’t supposed to be left alone that first day and I was for a few hours. I had a little freak out moment a few times that day and took 2 Aleve pills instead of pain pills to help with the pain. I have a high pain tolerance, thankfully!
I don’t want any issues with getting addicted to pain pills, so I avoid them completely. Each day started getting a little bit better and easier but I was scared to move too much. So for the next few days, I was stuck inside our tiny condo. I couldn’t shower and had to wear a tight sports bar that made it hard to breathe.
I focused on what I could control and that was to try to eat, to drink, relax and be kind to myself.
I was getting cabin fever a few days into this and I knew that I was supposed to be up walking, but I took things slow.
During this time my husband was doing his radiation and chemo treatments too! He had about 15 pills to take each day and went to get “zapped” 5 days a week and had the weekends off. He was scheduled to get radiation for 6 weeks.
Here we are, both a mess and trying to do what we can for ourselves and each other. Let me point out now that I am someone who is fiercely interdependent and try to be independent. I’ve learned to be because out of necessity and bad experiences. I don’t ask for help if I can do something for myself. But, I still needed help taking off a tight sports bra that they make you were for 5 days after the surgery. It was nice to have help when I couldn’t do something myself and what was amazing was that the help I got came from my a man that was feeling more fucked up than me from his treatment and from the pills that he was on. Here he was fighting his own losing battle with his own cancer and he tried his best to help me.
My poor husband! He liked taking care of people and was good at it, when he decided to help. I was very appreciative, even for the small things!
You know, I am crying as I write this right now. It feels good even though it’s all very sad. At least I am processing things and getting them out of my head. I think that this is therapeutic.
So, a month and a half after my surgery, I started my 19 zaps of radiation to my right breast that had the cancer. It took awhile to start and there was some confusion about if I needed chemo (they didn’t get the test results of the genetic testing that I did months ago) but I’m glad I got started.
At one point right before starting, I told my primary doctor that I didn’t want to get the radiation done. She said that I really had to do it!
I also asked the radiation oncology doctor about the things I was concerned about before starting and he reassured me that it was be the wisest thing to do. So, I relented and trusted my medical team and started my radiation treatments.
A few weeks before I started my radiation treatments, I had another appointment with my surgeon where she told me the results of my genetic testing that I had done and that chemotherapy would make any difference if I did it, so I opted out of doing it and didn’t want to anyway. I saw the recasting and painfully sad affects that it had on my husband. I was relieved for myself that I didn’t need to do chemotherapy on top of what I was already doing.
My surgeon also told me that after the radiation treatment was done that I’d be starting on a special pill that would suppress Estrogen and further decrease my risks of having the cancer come back in either breast. The pill is called tamoxifen. It’s a trip!
About half way through my radiation treatment, I wanted to quit (Which I am sure is a very common feeling people have that are going through this, no matter what type of cancer they have and are trying to fight). I was scared that I was going to be forever changed from this treatment or bad have side effects for a long-time afterwards.
Radiation scares me, especially in the high doses that are given for cancer treatment. I don’t even like x-rays for my teeth or my body.
Once again, I decided that I really had to suck it up, be brave and finish the course, which is exactly what I did. On my last day, I cried and gave everyone a hug that was part of my treatment team. I also wrote each of them a thank you card with some heartfelt words and sincere thoughts of how much I appreciated them and what they did for me and for my husband. It felt great to let them know that what they did matters and makes a difference!
They gave me a certificate of completion signed by everyone, which was very sweet and it made me feel proud of myself because this was indeed a major accomplishment.
This makes me think of something that my husband asked me awhile ago when I was struggling with needing to take an anti-depressant pill. I told him I didn’t like medicine and was scared of it, that was the reason why I didn’t want to take it. He asked me what would I do if I got cancer one day. Would I refuse treatment? Would I not take a pill that would make me better? He wanted to know because based on my answer he was willing to stick around or not.
I told him back then that I would listen to my doctors and take whatever pills or treatment I was supposed to. So, I started at that moment and took an anti-depressant that has saved my life a few times.
Plus, I did follow through on everything that the doctors and my surgeon told me I need to do to treat my cancer. I’m very proud of myself for challenging irrational fears and overcoming fears by giving things a try.
Soon after my treatment ended, my resolve and strength to stay in my abusive marriage filled with domestic violence also pushed me to seek a way out, to go get a better life and to get away from my abuse that was feeding into my anxiety and “my toxic ED.”
Something to note, is that our marriage has been abusive for years, really it started a few months after we met in December of 2013.
I wanted a healthy relationship and a good partner and companion in my life back then. I did just about everything to get it and keep it.
Over the years, I saw that all that I really wanted and needed I could get and should get from myself. Self-compassion, love and acceptance of myself ‘as-is’ are huge things that anyone needs and these aren’t things that other people can give you.
I gave so much of my love, my heart, my time, my money and my soul that my true self noticed that I was neglecting my own needs and that I wasn’t advocating for myself or putting myself first.
So, I was able to safely leave a tremulous marriage. I am proud to share that I don’t have any domestic violence or co-dependence going on in my life anymore.
I’ve take full ownership of my shit and even though the road that I am traveling on right now is tricky, difficult and scary sometimes, it sure as shit beats staying in an unhealthy, abusive relationship, even with someone that has terminal cancer.
Thankfully, I have a great support team and system and because of my going to treatment for my eating disorder, I know what I am supposed to be doing and I’m doing it!
I see hope and promise in my future of good things.
Even though, I’m super sad about my now exes’ health and that he will lose his battle with cancer. I wish him well and can only hope that he has a drama-free, hopefully painless passing. I will always care about and love him and most of all I am thankful. There were some good things that happened between us but unfortunately there were a lot more hurtful, bad and unhealthy things, so I had to leave!
My soul is at peace now and it is exactly what I need in my life and have been needing.
I honestly thought that if I stayed with him until he passed away that I was going to die too, either right alongside of him or before. Living there with him during these times was pure torture mentally, physically and spiritually. (Although, I want to point out to be clear that there was all of the kinds of abuse in our relationship and marriage, but he was never physically abusive. But I think that any kind of abuse is not ok!)
I tried to stay and help him for as long as I could and actually looking back now, I see that I stayed too long. It hurt me and my health and it had me going backwards in my recovery. Thankfully, I had enough sense to finally get out!
I know in my heart that this is all water under the bridge now and a major lesson that I had to learn. I’m a better person for having gone through this complete and absolute hellish ordeal! It was pure pain and torturous when things were bad. But, I am still here and I am still alive!
You know the saying is true that goes something like this: “you don’t see what’s going on while you are in it but only after you leave, you get some distance from it and some time to reflect, you see it for what it really was.” Once you are out of a bad situation, you start to see just how fucked up things were. I never deserved to be treated so crappy in the 6 years that I was in a relationship with my ex. But, I also choose to stay with him during that time, so I am to blame as well.
I deserve a much better, happier life than what I had with my ex. I also deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and the consideration that I try to give to other people that I respect, care about and love and hold dear.
Since I wasn’t getting what I needed in my marriage, I had to leave to find what I needed to be whole. I also learned to depend on just me to give myself everything that I need on my own. I don’t give that expectation or responsibility to anyone else anymore!
Right now, I am taking complete ownership and control of my life. I am advocating for myself and standing up for my choices on a daily basis, consistently. It feels really great! I am putting myself and my needs first every single day because no one else will do it for me!
I told myself that if I want to be happy, I’d need to look to myself as the solution and put actions in place so that I was working towards independence. It’s working and I don’t have near as much disappointment because I do a good job of taking care of myself now and my needs.
It’s difficult but each day is getting a little bit better. I’ll hold tight to the saying that “time heals all wounds!”
Question: Have you been through a difficult time in your life where you felt lost and hopeless? If so, what was going on and what did you do about it?
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