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April 21, 2016

Why "Everything in Moderation" Is Ridiculous

If you spend any amount of time on social media, particularly Facebook, you've probably (hopefully) noticed articles sharing how studies have found that refined sugar causes cancer, that gluten is harmful, and that lots of other "foods" we Americans know well are actually causing all sorts of sickness and disease... and in my opinion, all for good reason. Where there's smoke there's fire. I follow lots of pages and people that share such information and, with good reason, I've found I believe much of it.

You realize everyone used to think smoking was harmless, right? Now we laugh at such ignorance. How do we know in a few years (or for some of us, now) we won't find that there are things we're consuming on a daily basis that are causing cancer and all sorts of diseases?

In short, if something was found to cause cancer, why on earth would you put it in your body? And yet ... our society continues to. Why? Because it's familiar. It's comfortable. And in our puzzling human minds somehow familiar = safe. Which is terrifyingly inaccurate. See smoking example above.

So back to all these articles being proliferated throughout social media ... I can't help taking a few seconds to glance over their comments. There will always be the people that agree, then the people that lament how "everything" causes cancer so we might as well just ignore all findings and eat whatever we want (yeah, have fun with that...), and then there are always, always the people who impart their golden rule of "Everything in moderation," with sentiments like "You only live once, so you might as well enjoy it," following close after.

Such a view as "everything in moderation" bothers me greatly. And I'm beginning to figure out why. I've boiled it down to three reasons.

The more I learn about mainstream medicine versus alternative medicine, the more I see how looked down on and stereotyped alternative medicine is. And yet I also see just as clearly how hope-filled and, for lack of a better word, miraculous the latter is. Like it is little short of buried gold--buried in the big-bucks world of pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies making customers out of patients. And yet I also see one more thing: how Americans as a whole seem to be pretty oblivious. And they also seem to prefer it that way. Why? Because in regards to life as they know it, even if they're "just" having to nap every day or dealing with weekly migraines or hardly able to walk from arthritis or tied to the bathroom with malfunctioning insides, they think that in theory they want to get better. Who wouldn't? But in reality, they only want to do so in the ways that are familiar to them, that in the past few decades have become so doggone second nature even though we've all learned the hard way that they're not actually helping. They would rather take a pill that claims eased symptoms but never a healed cause. Or two. Or twelve. Because that's just how it is, don't you know? And they would rather run to get a burger or two and a large fry and their diet pop after they pick up their prescriptions because that's just how it is, don't you know?

I grew up in that world, I've eaten fast food a billion times in the past, I've been on antidepressants and muscle relaxers and special pain medicine in the past, like most of the country evidently. But I've learned and I know better now. I know the above is "how it is" just as much as anyone. But I also now know that's not how it should be. And I can do something about it ... so ... I do.

So heaven forbid we pull our heads out of the familiar sand, do some research, and actually come to terms with these earth-shattering findings on gluten and sugar and all their friends being bad for us. Because that's just how things are.

"Everything in moderation." Think about the sweeping acceptance of that phrase: how does it feel? All warm, fuzzy, and content, with a nothing-is-off-limits, all-forgiving lenience. It's a feel-good cop out for people who deep, deep down feel guilty when they're enlightened by newly (or maybe even not newly) found truth but don't have the gumption to do anything about it. It makes them feel better, and not just better but justified even. It's a lot easier to accept everything, in moderation, than draw the line anywhere.

But I have to ask: If this rule is good enough for your eating habits, why not apply it to your whole life? If everything really is fine in moderation, cancer-causing qualities aside, then why not have a little poison in your food now and then--not straight up, or every day, but just a little sprinkled on your food every week or so? What's the harm if it's in moderation? Surely all the non-poisoned food you're eating will just balance it out.

And why draw the line at what we eat? Why not steal a purse or some lipstick in moderation ... you know, once a month or so? Or why not shoot yourself, in moderation? Crazy, right? Pardon the extreme comparisons, but you see my point: If something is known to be wrong or, further, harmful, doing it in moderation really isn't much different than doing it faithfully. You eat poison, you'll at best be deathly ill. You shoplift once, good chance you'll find your rear-end in jail. One bullet can kill as well as a few. You get my point. So why would you eat something "now and then," you know, just once a week or so, that is proven to be harmful?

And I cannot help but draw this correlation: If everything is fine in moderation, why not sin in moderation? Surely just doing what you know is wrong once in a while, you know, on a special occasion or after a long day isn't harmful. And yet ... sin is sin. It doesn't matter if you only did it once or every now and then--that doesn't make it good, or at best harmless.

Since, after all, we only live once, and if that rule is good for determining what we eat, why not let that determine everything we do in life? Just lie in moderation. Just look at porn in moderation. Just cheat in moderation. Apply the moderation rule to the rest of your life, and watch your world crumble. Along with your compromised body.

All of this to say, if "everything in moderation" is your warm-and-fuzzy rule, please think about its implications. Are you going with that thought just because it keeps your familiar world familiar, if deadly, and because it's easy and lets you, in your mind, off the hook to ignore the warnings out in the open for you to heed? Would you actually apply that rule to your whole life? And Christians, would you let everything else slide in life just because it's comfortable and common?

How about new rule: Great things often, good things occasionally, and bad things never. I promise you won't starve, and your body will thank you.

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April 1, 2016

Health Update: Babesia and Something Called Progress

Now that we're well into 2016 (however that happened), I think it's time to update those of you wondering how this health journey is going.

This year started out with the slow improvement I'd been experiencing for the past few months, and then I hit a brick wall. And yes, it was about that painful. March was one of the hardest months, physically, that I have had in years. What we thought at first might be the flu but would not go away turned out to actually be the Babesia, my Lyme coinfection. I even went to the urgent care here to make sure nothing else was going on with my body, and I was "fine" by their basic standards. (They don't test for Lyme or coinfections there.) It was a relief to know I didn't have something else going on but still a wake-up call that Babesia is more serious than even I had realized. (And side note, this Babesia fun just continues to make the dead-end label of "Fibromyalgia" laughable for me or anyone. Anyway...)

Babesia is no joke, and I was absolutely miserable for a good two weeks, with all-over pain and a constantly fluctuating temperature that left me incredibly weak, shaky, and exhausted--far more so than usual. I know that doesn't sound like much, and I deal with a lot of symptoms so that is a pretty short list for me to rate as absolutely miserable, but my whole body was fighting a war and dragging every bit of me through it, and every day you expected it to ease up and it just wouldn't. An extra round of remedies from my doctor and then the routine every month-and-a-half round that I just completed last weekend have helped (and can take a few weeks for their benefit to be felt), as will supplements I continue to take; I am now finally about 85% back to where I was pre-Babesia flare. But retesting when I go back to the doctor next will show just how well we conquered the Babesia, with likely further treatment. Though I can feel that we're winning.

Meanwhile, this month it was time to do tons of bloodwork over again to see how I'm doing on paper, compared to when I started with this doctor last summer and also compared to all the bloodwork results we had on hand from the past five years. And the results are the best I've seen yet. Many things are now at least pretty good, and only three things stood out in those results as big issues: red and white blood cell issues and anemia issues, which are a result of infection which is obviously the Babesia, and adrenal issues from the stress of the infection. (Which I soo felt and am still feeling.) While there still are other issues to address, those were the only glaring ones in this round of bloodwork--my doctor literally said he is happy with these results, just days after admitting that I am indeed a complicated case. He is encouraged (not that he was ever discouraged to my knowledge) and so are we (I sure was though).

I do hesitate to share updates because, while Daniel and I know that ups and downs in this journey are normal and expected, I know that others tend to see the ups as "You're all better now!" and the downs as, "Ugh, you need to try something else--that's not working," when neither could be farther from correct. So please keep in mind with these updates, especially this roller coaster of one, that this is a very long process with highs and lows--getting to whatever is my level of optimal health can take a very long time, while this current type of every-month-and-a-half treatment I'm doing can take 10-12 rounds, and I've only just finished 7. And that is just the average timeline given--my body is known to not play by the rules.

Yes, I am improving. And that is unbelievable to say. But I am still very sick. As I put it in a Facebook post recently:

Let’s say everyone has 100 switches to turn on to make their body work correctly. When I started treatment with this doctor, all of mine were switched off. Now 10 are on. Does 10/100 make you all better, able to go places finally like a normal person? No. Does having 90 still off discourage you? Maybe sometimes, but not really because you can feel the switches continuing to be switched on. You can feel the progress, even if you can still feel how far you have to go.

The lows are hard and I am still learning to see them as simply bumps (or maybe craters) in the road and not defeat. But we're still going, things are still changing, and we are still quite hopeful, something we definitely have not always been.

You gotta take pictures on the three-hour ride home from the doctor...

We know that on paper this treatment has every reason to work. But we also know that it won't unless God gives the go-ahead. So every step of improvement has been through His doing, and to say we are grateful is an understatement. We are trusting that He will allow as much as He sees fit, and praying and hoping that He sees fit for it to continue. In the meantime, we're doing our part.

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