When my oncologist walked into the exam room the other day and saw me sitting on the table he stopped and said, “Wow–you look great!” Then he did a double take and said, “Have you gained weight?”
As an American female, this was a little strange to hear. I can, of course, afford to gain a little weight–I still weigh quite a bit less than I did before my symptoms started almost two years ago. But i’m not emaciated enough to like it if someone tells me I look like I gained weight. So I laughed, tried to silence all the American female voices in my head that wondered if I have gained too much weight, and said, “No. I weigh the same.”
Then I wondered why. Was it because my hair was up? Or because I just had a lovely spring break? Or because i’ve been hiking more? Who knows. Because I haven’t yet found any medical justification that my vegan diet is “working” in my blood tests, and I hadn’t seen my oncologist for two months and I’ve been vegan for a little over three, I’m going to take this “You look great” to mean that this vegan diet suits me.
I don’t necessarily need to be told that it suits me to know that it does. The fact that it has fit so effortlessly into my life, the fact that I feel good, the fact that I can look at a greasy, cheesy pizza or a big fat cheeseburger without really wanting to take a bite says to me that avocados and nuts and almond milk and farmer’s market vegetables and green smoothies–and being vegan–suit me. The fact that being vegan hasn’t really made much of a difference in my liver test numbers, that they’re now at “we can live with that” levels instead of “normal” or “so abnormal you can’t take chemo” levels, almost doesn’t matter so much when “You look great.”
When I started on January 2, I was vegan on a two-month “trial” basis. I liked telling people that I was on a “vegan trial to see if I felt any different” when they asked because then I wouldn’t seem like a big hippie and have to explain any more. But now that it’s been over three months and i’m still going strong and I don’t see any reason to stop except for the occasional bacon and Parmesan cravings…I guess I have to start saying just plain, “I’m vegan, actually.” It’s weird to say, considering that two years ago I was headed the other direction.
I’m not perfect. Sometimes I eat ice cream–like when I had the best chocolate ice cream i’ve ever tasted in Porland last month. Less frequently, I eat cheese, especially when it’s in something Mexican or in cream cheese wantons and there’s no way to substitute something else (or it’s just plain delicious). But I remember every time I’ve had dairy over the past three months, and why, and I feel comfortable with that. I also feel comfortable not asking about things at restaurants that sound vegetarian but might not be–like a bean and rice burrito from my favorite Mexican restaurant. And I still eat eggs. But they’re “happy chicken” eggs from the farmer’s market like this “happy post.”
To me, part of being vegan and a liver is also giving myself a break when necessary. And as I’ve been reminded multiple times at multiple doctor’s appointments in the past month, life is short.