Breathe In, Breathe Out

How I Became A Weight Watcher July 17, 2012

Filed under: My posts — elanaalfred @ 2:19 pm
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When was the last time that you rummaged through your closet to get rid of the clothes you no longer wear that just take up needed space?


I’m sure this will shock my mother, but I try to do this at each season transition (you would not guess this from the look of my closets in Worcester). For those of you who know me well, I don’t have to tell you how much I love clothes and building my wardrobe, despite how irresponsible I can be about it.  As much as I love the clothes I have bought, I also love sorting through them and deciding what to give away when I feel I have made as much use of them as I can. Lately, however, giving away clothes is not always about choice.


This past spring I actually did not do my usual closet clean-out. I didn’t have to. Why, you ask? Well, it occurred to me that I had been getting rid of clothes sporadically over the past months because they simply no longer fit me. I am not complaining or saying I’m fat, but this is a fact. Giving away clothes has not been so much about what I no longer choose to wear, but more about the clothes not being right for me anymore. As I thought about the clothes I had in bags to bring to the local Goodwill, it occurred to me that most of them were clothes from before or while I was dating Eamonn (you may be thinking that it was time for me to get rid of them anyway!). It did not take long for things to click.


Weight-gain is a large component of having cystic fibrosis. Many CF patients have pancreatic insufficiency which means that they do not digest food properly, resulting in being very thin (I’m sure some of us would, at times, not mind having this issue). Case in point, Eamonn. For those of you who know him or have at least met him, he is rather small (funny for me because before dating him I used to be attracted to men with guts). Being that he is really skinny, gaining weight is critical to staying healthy. In fact, now that he is on the lung transplant list, there is even greater pressure to increase his weight specifically to ensure a better recovery, post transplant.


What does this mean for me? I think you guessed it—his weight gain has meant my weight gain. To be fair, I cannot blame CF entirely for how I have been taking care of my body and what I choose to consume. However, can you blame me for wanting to cook and eat dinner with my husband, even if this means cooking and eating fat and calorie-rich meals? Almost every meal that Eamonn eats is very intentional, meaning that he has to be sure that he has the proper nutrients and that he is taking in a lot of calories. To provide perspective, he drinks two, sometimes three, weight-gain shakes a day each containing 1,000 calories. I happen to think that this is a perk of CF because those milkshakes are really tasty! All of our dinners must have plenty of fat and until now it did not really occur to me how much this would affect my dietary habits as well. We also eat a lot of carbs: pasta, rice, and potatoes, are our staples. In one form or another, our largest meal of the day is loaded with calories, fat and carbs—and for anyone who has ever dieted before you know that fat and carbs are the first to go when losing weight.

The foods we eat!

Up until now, I honestly have paid little attention to my diet. My focus has always been on making sure that Eamonn is eating right and supporting his efforts to gain as much weight as he can while staying healthy (side note: because of CF he also has diabetes, making this far more complicated and challenging than eating a lot of junky, fatty food). However, though this remains my focus and priority, I am also trying to ensure my own good dietary health.  Along with exercising more, I have started to eat a healthier, well-balanced diet.  This does mean that Eamonn and I oftentimes prepare separate dinners for ourselves.  But as long as we enjoy each other’s company, dancing in the kitchen while cooking, it doesn’t actually matter what we’re making!


Last month, as I was on my routine walk to my office, I got a call from Eamonn. He had just gotten out of a follow-up doctor’s appointment and the first thing he told me was that he gained two pounds, making his weight a record high! I could not stop smiling ear-to-ear—I would take a wardrobe full of tight clothes if it means that Eamonn is gaining the weight he needs to be healthy.  I’ll tell you this,  there is no better sight than seeing my husband’s gut hanging over his bathing suit, sitting at the beach in the summer!


The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of CF May 3, 2012

Screaming and yelling.
Endless phone conversations.
The violin in a closet.
When the Saints Go Marching In” on the piano.
The trash compactor.
Ace of Base’s “I saw the Sign.”  

What do all of these things have in common? They were all familiar sounds of my childhood. Growing up in a family of 7, not to mention almost all over-dramatic females, I grew accustomed to noisiness. When it was quiet, it was weird. It either meant we were all doing homework, or that a fight just ended and no one wanted to break the awkward silence (though that was rare!). As an adult, I gladly admit that I can be loud—you can stop nodding your head in agreement. I do what I have to do to be heard, and I thank my upbringing for that. Having been surrounded by loud noises and voices for all of my life, I guess it just became a part of me, and little did I know this would prepare me for my life with Eamonn.

Now, my home is not full of so many voices, just Eamonn’s and mine, but that does not mean it is not full of many sounds and noises. Living with Eamonn I have gotten accustomed to new sounds—ones that make my skin crawl, ones that calm my nerves, and ones that wake me up during my sleep. These are some of the sounds of Cystic Fibrosis.

The first sound that comes to mind is when Eamonn is doing his physical therapy, twice a day. To describe the sound of the machine will probably do it injustice, but I will try. Imagine what a helicopter would sound like wrapped in a blanket–and it’s sitting on your couch. That is a sound that I fall asleep to at night and that I wake up to in the morning. Not to mention, Eamonn’s nighttime therapy is a good time for us to relax together and catch up on some of our TV shows, which means that the volume is turned to its maximum, disturbing our neighbor. Yes, he has knocked on our door a few times asking us to turn down the volume because he is trying to sleep. The loudness of the machine has also forced me to turn up my volume—it seems that I always have the most important topics to discuss with Eamonn just in time for the start of his therapy. In our old apartment, so as not to bother our random roommates, Eamonn had to do his jack-hammer-sounding therapy in our bedroom. Nowadays, in our current apartment, we are lucky to have a separate space for Eamonn’s loud routines, making it easier for me to, say, fall asleep.

As I mentioned in my very first post, another sound that I have grown fond of is Eamonn’s oxygen concentrator. Quite opposite from that of the therapy machine, this machine has a more calming, soft hissing sound that has actually become a sound of comfort to me. His concentrator is on for almost all of the time that he is home, so it has become the “norm” for us. When I don’t hear this noise the apartment feels strange and lonely.

Imagine waking up one morning, in a foggy, sleepy state-of-mind, to the sound of someone rummaging through your drawers, finding a bag of chips, and tearing them open. I wake up to these sounds most weekday mornings. Eamonn wakes up very early to start his therapy and this means grabbing all of his drugs. His drugs, which come wrapped in foil pouches, sound very hard to tear open. They are kept in our bedroom. Where I sleep.

An obvious part of Eamonn’s CF is his continuous cough. I consider this, often times, to have its perks. For example, when the windows are open in our apartment the sound of his cough echoes through our narrow street so I know when he is home. This is especially convenient when Eamonn is returning from the grocery store because it allows me to meet him downstairs to help him carry the bags. At the expense of sounding crass, I often times, however, can get severely frustrated at his coughing sounds. Most notably when he is getting into bed, cuddling with me while I am usually already sound asleep, and I am awoken by a loud throat clear directly in my ear. And Eamonn’s throat clears are not quiet—they sound like he is trying to push a kiwi out of his lungs. In general Eamonn’s coughing has become another background noise (though I do notice when he is getting sick and coughing more). Even though the coughs tend to interrupt us when we talk, I hardly notice them because they’re just a part of the conversation.

The sounds of CF are a part of my life now, making it hard to imagine my home without them. Even as I sit here, trying to concentrate and focus, I listen to the oxygen concentrator and it brings me peace of mind—it reminds me that Eamonn is only a few steps away, clanging the pots and listening to music, while making me dinner.

Be on the look out for a special post net time!