Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The final word on fat

C grew up in the good old days. The summers were longer, the days golden and the long drive to Blenheim for the holidays was shared with two adults smoking in the front seat with the windows up the whole way. No one at the time suggested it was child abuse. Driving home from the pub after a couple of jugs was normal and if someone was killed by a drunk driver the coroner declared the death 'accidental'.

But as society learnt more about the harm caused by cigarettes and drunk drivers our laws, and eventually our attitudes, changed.

It doesn't matter where you sit on the political, philosophical, or religious spectrum, being fat by which I mean obese, makes no sense. And I'm not afraid of saying so. With my very own real name attached to the opinion.

Not all smokers die of smoking related illnesses. Not every fat person is unhealthy. The evidence, however is unequivocal. Forget about the politics of body image, and the beauty debate. Ignore for a minute the gender issues of the impossibility of the ideal female form, versus the margin of 'error' afforded to men. Just consider where you live. I believe that first and foremost we live in our bodies. Our souls, spirits, personalities, egos, brains - the things that make us uniquely us - live in a physical form. Before our homes, villages and cities, we live in our bodies. And take it from me, that when our primary residences are in disrepair life is more challenging.

Creationists believe that we are created in the image of God and that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Scientists believe that we evolved and that the strongest, fittest and smartest of our species will outlast the others. Creationist scientists should be lawyers. The ducking and diving in their literature could be an Olympic sport. Even taking the crude view that humans are no more than a form of machine you can't escape from the harsh truth. Being too fat is bad for us. Being too skinny is bad for us as well but no-one's rushing to defend anorexics in the way that fat people evoke sympathy.

Being overweight is a key factor in a whole host of diseases, illnesses, syndromes, and disorders. The reason people get fat? We eat more energy than we expend. Imagine your car tank being full of petrol and asking the attendant to pour petrol into the back seat because there's no more room in the tank. What about taking a shitty form of energy like diesel and mixing that in with your petrol? Car wouldn't get far. But still people clamour for more refined sugar, more empty carbohydrates, more crap food to make them feel better. Poured maple syrup into your stereo lately? Not designed to run on maple syrup right? Our bodies are not designed, created, evolved - whatever - to run on the modern diet of junk food and jelly beans.

And just for a second, imagine owning a piece of equipment that never got used. A sofa never sat on. A book never read. A body never walked.

I should know. Since I began chemo I have put on 7 kilos. Of fat. Why? My taste buds are shot, my nausea overwhelming and my energy levels at all time lows. I have eaten as I have pleased to get me through the day. I have not exercised with any real intensity. I have stayed in bed.

I have disrespected the temple of my spirit. And in January I will suffer twice over. Firstly because I will begin the painful process of expelling the fat from my body by walking and running around the streets of my village, going to Les Mills for the world's best fitness classes, and lifting weights. And secondly because I will have to deal with C & T & P moaning their arses off (if only this were literally possible!) about the delicious semi-vegan nutrition plan our whole family will enjoy. There will be two options for every meal - take it or leave it. More raw carrots with your grilled tofu darling?

I do sincerely believe that fat people, smokers, climate change sceptics must try harder in 2010. The unfairness in this unholy triumvirate is that only one of these groups can be easily identified by others. If you're a healthy weight and feeling pretty smug right now - grow up. There are undoubtedly things in your own life that wouldn't look too flash on display for all to see. Be thankful that sneaking looks at internet porn while your wife is out doesn't instantly turn your hair permanently purple, or that speeding through a school zone doesn't set off flashing lights spelling IDIOT all around your car.

Me, I'm just pleased that when you're one-boobed and bald no one bothers to check out your bum.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hotpicks from 2009

What a bloody change. After ten days of feeling fabulous, my last FEC (Wednesday 9/12) has sat me firmly back on my bottom...or rather, back on my back. Lying in bed, with great rolling waves of sickness coursing up and down my body I've been reflecting on 2009. My most comfortable position is one that I imagine a dying dog assumes, head hanging over limp paws just waiting for the breath to run out. I'm not dying of course and feel mentally as tough as ever but the release that comes from physically relinquishing a fight is immense.

The great news is that my last FEC was my last chemo treatment and all I need to do now is rest up for a few weeks, have five weeks of radiation in January/Feb, then 3 weekly Herceptin for a further 9 months and then I can get off this cancer carousel and back into life as I used to know it...but with a few more pills, and raw beetroot juices.

So...to my lists. I don't know where you lot have all been over the past few months but I have been staggered by how few of my friends are in touch with the very coolest things in the world. Help yourself to my hotpicks from the year that's just been:

1. www.ted.com - if you weren't raised with an oral tradition you'll take some convincing but if you've spent any time in church, or at university you should find something to squeal your wheels. My favourite talks are: Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame on Creativity. Sir Ken Robinson on How Schools Kill Creativity, Barry Schwartz on the Paradox of Choice and Benjamin Zander on Classical Music. OK, some of these are older than 2009 but it was my year to discover them.

2. Louis CK - the comedian is filthy - if you are remotely upset by foul language and adult themes avoid it all - except his piece on the Conran show about 'Everything is Awesome and Nobody's Happy.' www.youtube.com

3. Catherine Tate does Lauren Cooper. "Am I bovered?" www.youtube.com

4. The Time Travellers Wife - perhaps facing death makes mushy movies about time travelling more appealing than they otherwise would be - I cried. A lot. All the way home. Only go if you've read the book. Lazy, lazy, lazy if you don't.

5. Susan Boyle. Go on. Give your inner cynic the day off. Buy the CD. Play Wild Horses in the car and remind yourself of her first appearance where the entire audience was sneering and gagging to bring her down, until she opened her lips and started to sing.

6. The All Whites. I couldn't watch the last 10 minutes. My heart rate was climbing to a rate way too high for a chemo cocktail boffer like me. Bring on the Italians in South Africa.

7. The idea that entrepreneurs and not politicians create massive social change. Are the wrong people in Copenhagen? Check out the tweets from the Thought Leaders Conference 2009 for more - not my original thought but one that has really got me thinking. For an easy read try Fighting Globesity by Dr Jackie and Phillip Mills. www.lesmills.com (In the interests of transparency you ought to know I'm mentioned - nothing like good old self-promotion.)

Must try harder:

1. Freedom Furniture. Had cash, ready to pay for light shade for the great white elephant, which incidentally is looking more and more like my dream home every day. Who knew that concrete would be comfy? "Sorry, you can't buy it today because I have to count it." There I was thinking they were in business to sell items of furniture and associated household trinkets. Wrong. They are in the business of counting them, and keeping them. "Why don't you pay for it now and come back and pick it up tomorrow when I've finished counting it?" There's a winning pitch if ever I heard one. "Why don't you," this is me talking now, "stick the light shade up your jacksie, plug it in, turn it on and blow yourself up."

2. Tiger Woods. Should he blame the guy who always yells 'get in the hole'? What's worse? Being such a schmuck or being so arrogant to expect to get away with it? Mobile phones? Security cameras? Waitresses? Porn stars? Brain explosion. I don't judge his morality just his stupidity and hypocrisy. No wonder he craved privacy.

3. Mark Sainsbury. If Richie McCaw could be trained to stop saying 'you know' surely MS could ditch the 'now, look.' Tell me I'm wrong.

4. Smokers. Fat people. Polluters. Climate change sceptics. Mark Hoitchin. Give it up already.

5. Me. More to say, do, be, see.....after a wee snooze.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Good advice

Pirates Women's Rugby 1997

It seemed like such a good idea. I knew such a lot about rugby, had watched so many games, dated so many players, chatted with top coaches and was certainly fit and strong. For a 46kg chick that is. You can tell from the photo that women's rugby is not weight restricted, and that our fabulous captain, who played for the Black Ferns was close to twice my size.
So was the woman who sat on me in a ruck and broke my collar bone. The last thing I heard before the tackle was our coach yelling 'way to run it up Sach'. The first thing she said as I staggered to the sideline with my left arm dangling helplessly by my side was 'no-one comes off until I say'. "Yes chief, that's an excellent point you raise, but in my defense I have suffered minor concussion and can't be expected to remember all the finer points of your particular brand of masochistic coaching."
Hospital staff mistook me for a 12 year old and I sailed through A&E. Another winger (you didn't think I played prop did you?) from another club had broken his collar bone too. Strong, strapping, 100kg of Fijian muscle sat next to me during the wait for x-rays. Tears rolled silently down his cheeks. I gave him my most sincere smile, leaned in really close and told him to harden up. What kind of pathetic excuse for a player was he? Crying? Come on.
My first game back after an extensive rehabilitation period involved Pirates and Varsity A. I was put on at half time and I'm certain the rousing half time speech was primarily for my benefit. "They might be up by 20, but they will not cross our line again. We will be a fortress, our line will be defended at all costs. Are you ready to lay your body on the line? From the smallest amongst us ...." I tuned out. I'd always been attracted to the way that famous rugby nation, Spain, structured their defense. So when Annaleah Rush, Black Fern and sister of All Black Xavier but blessed with more size and skill with ball in hand than he, ran towards the try line with only me in her way, I did what any decent matador would do. I simply stepped aside and waved her on through. I did ask if she would mind stopping to sign my jersey on her way past but I'm not sure she could even see me without a magnifying glass.
The only try I scored that season, or any other season for that matter, was on the day my Mum was visiting from Auckland. Sensibly, she'd advised against playing rugby. Sensibly, I'd ignored her. She came to watch, somewhat reluctantly. Not many sheep hang round for the whole lambs to the slaughter thing. About 5 minutes into the game a schoolteacherly (w.o.t.w) voice could be heard throughout the wider Dunedin region. "Get in there Pirates. Smash them. Hit them hard girls. Chase it Sach. Where's your guide dog Ref?" Once a sports fan, always a sports fan.
The only award I was nominated for, I didn't win. Club Personality of the Year. It turned out that having a witty turn of phrase and winning grin was no match for the Senior Men's nominee who had performed indecencies on a goat, a sheep, the captain's fiance and was otherwise just such a decent bloke.
It is blindingly obvious with the benefit of hindsight that rugby wasn't going to be my game. My good friend A.R. Baldwin, a fellow student burgling his way through law school summed it up best in a song he wrote to avoid studying the finer points of Wills and Trusts;
"But it seems I didn't listen to myself. All my good advice seems to go to someone else."
Each of us already has the answers to the problems in life that puzzle us the most. We could all advise our best friends what to do in any given tricky situation. We're just not brave enough to take our own advice.
Which is why I've sometimes skipped my injections, my daily mouthwashes, and the forty pills a day regime. It's hard, it's boring, it hurts, and I hate it. Thinking about chemo makes me spontaneously vomit and there are days where doing the right thing feels impossibly difficult.
But like every tough thing thrown at us, this too passes. Today, was a great day and there's every probability that tomorrow will be even better.

What advice of your own are you ignoring?