Sunday, July 13, 2008

Don't Bogart That Bon-Bon

After neurologist #6 diagnosed me with ALS and I stopped sobbing long enough to catch my breath, he said, “The most important thing you can do now is eat. Forget diets. Forget cholesterol. Forget calories. Just eat, eat, eat. You don’t want to lose any more weight.”

Which set my mind a’racing, mulling the possibilities. I had already lost 24 pounds since the ALS symptoms started two years ago, which I thought was a neat side-effect of whatever-it-was-I-had, but apparently this was not a Good Thing. And here I’d been so proud of once again being able to locate my ribs! I’ve been on a diet since 1948, when I turned 13 and first decided I needed to lose five pounds. I’ve been trying to lose those same five pounds, or multiples thereof, for the last 60 years. In fact, trying to lose five pounds has truly been my life’s work. My calling.

And now, this ALS thing is upsetting my entire world view.

I said cautiously, “Sooooooo ... does this mean I can eat See’s Candies all day long?”

He said, “Absolutely.”

“Really! How about cheesecake?”

“Absolutely.” He eyed my wrinkles and white roots, and added, “This may shock you, but you might want to consider medical marijuana, just to help your appetite.”

I tried to look shocked in an age-appropriate manner, but it’s hard to pull that off when your face muscles are all going in five different directions. In fact, when I try to achieve any specific expression these days, all I can usually summon up is a little light drooling, like a bemused St. Bernard.

But shocked I was. After all, I’ve been clean and sober for 28 years and 10 months (who’s counting?), and my immediate thought was, “Medical marijuana?!? Where the hell were you when I needed you?” (To help my appetite. Of course! Why hadn’t I thought of that? Doctor’s orders, doncha know. Keeps me alive! Oh, and pass me the Bacardi, too, dahling.)

I was taking notes during all this, scribbling furiously: “Sees pot chezcak eat mor.”

I figured this was just general good advice for any patient who has been losing weight without hardly trying, but then neurologist #7 told me the same thing, and added a little more detail. She said there are only two things proven so far to slow the progression of ALS: One is Rilutek, the med I mentioned in my last blog, and the other is gaining weight. And, she said, gaining weight actually slows the progression of ALS even more than Rilutek does.

Well, now we’re talking, people. If there’s one thing I can do, it’s gain weight. With apologies to Lou Gehrig . . . stand back, I’m gonna hit this one right out of the ballpark.

I am now reading grocery labels more assiduously than ever before, but to opposite effect. I search the bread aisle until I find whole-wheat bread with 120 calories per slice. No more wimpy 70-calorie breads for me. I read every label in the ice cream section, with Häagen-Dazs the clear winner at 270 calories per half-cup. Into the basket it goes, to be added a cup or two at a time to my dinner smoothies. I’m scarfing down cans of Ensure and similar supplements, with scoops of body-builder protein powder tossed in with them in the blender, along with the ice cream and cups of chocolate syrup. I pile fresh fruit into the blender for lunch, with protein powder, more Ensure, liquid vitamins, and everything I can find in the produce section that appears to be of a vaguely blendable nature. I snack on cheesecake or lemon meringue pie every chance I get.

If it weren’t for the fact that this disease is progressive and fatal, this would actually be a pretty great lifestyle. (Every ointment just has to have a little fly in it, doesn’t it?) I do occasionally miss eating real food, which I can no longer chew or swallow very well, (except for soggy toast, scrambled eggs, and the aforementioned lemon meringue pie) but this regimen ain’t half bad.
And, fortunately, I had saved all my fat clothes, just in case.

Moral: Never, ever, ever throw out your fat clothes. I have now gained six pounds in eight weeks. Take that, ALS! At this rate, I’ll live forever, or until I can’t squeeze into the ice cream aisle any longer. Or, until Häagen-Dazs goes out of business, which ain’t gonna happen on my watch, if I can help it.

(But, damnit, Janet, I do miss seeing my ribs, which are once again slowly disappearing somewhere inside the outside of me. But, I guess you can’t have everything.)