• Posted on May 1, 2017 8:48 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    3

    To my dearest anti-diet community, I get it. I totally get that every diet post, cleanse, and celebrity detox makes your skin crawl. I. GET. IT. I'm on your team, but I am not behind the shame storm that happens when someone decides to go on a diet or change their eating habits. Recently, I awoke at 3am (because my brain deems it a great time to wake up) and began scrolling through Instagram. I was taken aback by the diet war happening on Brené Brown's latest post. There were countless comments shaming Brené for her decision to do the Whole30. I then saw that Glennon Doyle Melton (my other 'she'ro) recently posted a Whole30 picture a few days earlier. The comments were inline with what I saw on Brené's picture.   All I have to say to my fellow anti-diet community is BE NICE. These two women have written best-selling books and changed countless lives, including mine. I am pretty sure they know what is best for them. My favorite mantra lately is 'You Do You'. Do what makes you happy and feel alive. Do what makes your heart beat a little faster. Take care of your body in whatever way you see fit. And if you feel like you need a little extra help and support, find a therapist and/or a nutritionist near you. I am happy to connect you. But whatever you do, don't shame others for their diet decisions. Advocacy does not mean shame and judgement. Advocacy is leading by example, promoting your message through your channels and being kind to others with opposing thoughts and feelings. Do I support the Whole30? No, it isn't for me. Any diet for me is a slippery slope back into my disorder. Also, my husband would literally die if we didn't have pretzels and beer in the house. I honestly don't know much about the Whole30, other than it is 30-days of eating 'clean'. It should also be said that the term 'clean eating' makes my skin crawl. I don't think my pretzels are dirty, but, YOU DO YOU and I'll do me. And I certainly won't insert my opinion on Brené or Glennon's life choices. Both Brené and Glennon are sober; I highly doubt they would judge me for my glass of wine so why would I judge them? Often times, we want to jump and say NO DIET! Trust me, my close friends can attest to receiving my anti-diet soap box over the years. I used to be very quick to judge, pleading with my friend and giving her all the reasons why she should not diet. Today, I still stand firm on my soap box, but I try to remind myself that the best way to promote my message is to live it myself - not shout it in unwilling ears. For many of us, a diet led to a lifelong battle with an eating disorder, crash dieting and all around unhappiness. I get how it can be triggering and you want to save everyone from the same dark rabbit hole. But for many other, diets will simply be that - a diet. Will the diet work for long term success? Probably not since diets have a 95% failure rate. But, again, you do you. My first encounter with the Whole30 happened in January. I was at a friend's house and her co-worker was over explaining how she was on Day 20 of the Whole30. I was intrigued and asked her about her experience. This woman knew what I did for a living and tried to explain it as a 'lifestyle change'. I went back and forth were a bit on why I hate the term 'lifestyle change' when it comes to diet, but she explained her reason for going on the program. Her fall had been fast and furious and the holidays followed. She did not feel good in her body, not necessarily from a weight perspective, but she felt sluggish and foggy. She went on to explain how much energy she has and how great she feels. Her diet is filled with wholesome food, no calorie counting or rigid schedules. She enjoyed the meal planning and prepping. So I get it. I get some people's reasons for wanting to reset. Some people need a plan to restart. I can totally get behind that. I don't agree with cutting entire food grounds or denying ourselves the calories we need to survive like many diets do. However, we have to remember that there are two sides to having a healthy relationship with food: flexibility AND meeting nutritional needs. It is a tough balancing act. In fact, lately I have been trying to get more veggies and fruit in my diet. The reason: my life has been fast and furious this spring and I haven't been feeding my body enough of those nutrient packed foods. I've been on the road, grabbing and going. When I finally landed home two weeks ago, I decided to take this next month to slow down, do a bit more yoga and get some color back in my diet. I also use my extra time to sit down and enjoy Easter candy and chocolate with my kids. It is all about balance, moderation and flexibility. But again, that works for me. I don't know what works for you. Now, would I recommend one of the young people I mentor to try the Whole30? Probably not. I would direct them to talk with their therapist and nutritionist if they feel like they need to make diet changes. The diet industry is sadly one of the most robust and booming industries. We can't rid the world of diets and guess what? That's ok! We can't stop others from dieting or changing their food habits whether it be by slowing down or doing the Whole30. We can lead by example, showing those around us what it means to love and take care of our bodies. We can admire and connect with like-minded people, people who make us feel good, people who challenge us, but we can't shame others for trying a diet or lifestyle change. We can't be quick to judge. Brené and Glennon share so much of their lives with us, but at the end of the day we don't know them. (Even though I claim them as friends in every talk I give "My bestie Brené/Glennon/Ellen says...") At the end of the day, we can't put people on a pedestal. We are all humans, trying to get through this thing called life as best as we can. No one is higher than the other. When we place people on pedestals, they will inevitably fall off and that fall hurts us more than it hurts them. Remember when your parents fell off? It hurts.   And if you are thinking of going on the Whole30 or a diet, I would simply caution you and ask you to reflect on your motivation. Weight loss does not equal happiness, despite what society says. On the other side of the coin, there is NOTHING wrong with wanting to feel good in your skin. Remember that health is mind, body and spirit. Do what you love, move your body in a way that excites you and challenge yourself to make every day count.   So to Brené and Glennon, rock on. You do you and I'll do me. And I'll keep loving you, buying (and recommending) your books, quoting you, photoshopping myself into pictures with you and claiming you both as my bestie. With a WHOLE (see what I did there?) lot of love and gratitude, McCall

    Body Image, Brene Brown, Eating Disorder
  • Posted on January 14, 2017 7:48 am
    McCall Dempsey
    1

    It was adding up to be a perfect night: the hubs was out of town, the kids were bathed and starting to rub their eyes and this momma had her eye on a nice cup of tea and a new book. Okay, why lie, all I wanted was a glass of wine, my jammies and Bravo. Marjorie went down sweet and cuddly as usual. And then, 30-minutes later, I heard it. That cry that only a mother knows. That cry that says: something is wrong. I ran to her room, opened the door and knew smelled the problem. EVERYWHERE. Her dinner (I'll save you the graphics) was E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E. The walls, her bedding, her blankets, the carpet, her face, her hair. I sat there staring at her in shock. Where do I start? What do I do? Why isn't Jordan here? I want my mom! Marjorie stared back at me as if saying, "Mom, get your shit together and get me out of this crib." I jolted out of my vomit trance and sprung into action. Bath, yes, put her in the path. I put Marjorie in the tub and started to clean...and clean...and clean. I ran between throwing all blankets in the laundry to rinsing her in the tub. Sadly, we lost her beloved Minnie Mouse jammies in the Norovirus Battle of 2017. They fought a hard fight, but in the end did not make it and were sacrificed to the trash. Thirty minutes later, everyone was clean and the house smelled like a FeBreeze factory. Marjorie was happy as a bug as we waited for her beloved and sacred blanket to finish washing. 'Okay,' I thought, 'just an upset tummy. We are all good. Deep breath.' WRONG. Oh I was so wrong. All. Night. Long. My heart broke for my baby girl. Her energy quickly depleted and she rested in my arms all night. I sat watching over her and memories of cancer days floated in and out of my mind. Even though I was so tired, I was so thankful this was just a tummy bug. Perspective is everything. The next morning she seemed okay, so I left her with our sweet nanny as I ran some last minute errands for my upcoming trip. I was finally going to hear and meet my idol, Brené Brown. The trip was days away and I was already giddy with butterflies with the chance to meet her and thank her for her incredible work. And then I woke up early Sunday morning with a text from our nanny... 'SHIIIIT! It's contagious. It wasn't an upset tummy from too much cheese. (Marjorie takes after her momma - cheese is LIFE). 'Okay, deep breath.' I thought, 'That doesn't mean you are going to get it, McCall. Wait, do I feel queasy. Nope. Not at all.' I rolled out of bed with positive thoughts flowing like lava through my brain, willing myself to be well. 'I am fine. I am a mom. We don't get sick. I won't get sick. I am NOT missing Brené.' Sunday dragged along. It was freezing outside and Marjorie was still on the mend so we were sequestered  indoors - every mother's dream nightmare. My queasiness rose in parallel to the kids' cabin fever and by 4pm, I knew I was going down. I called my sweet mother-in-law for back up, but it would be over two hours before she appeared at my door. Those three hours were a defining moment in my motherhood journey. As the cold sweats kicked in, I limped quickly into my bathroom with two tiny humans trailing behind me. One crying to be held and the other with his costume box asking, "Momma, which costume should we put on first?" 'Come on, McCall, you can do this. You've got this. Single mothers across the country have to do this. You. Can. Do. This.' And thus began the Battle of Norovirus 2017. My sister, who is an infectious disease doctor at the NIH (National Institute of Health), told me this was a classic norovirus case. Then she proceeded to explain that it was a highly contagious passed along by microscopic fecal matter on our hands. I stopped her there, thanked her for her consulting and headed into battle. "Mom, can you tie my cape on? Be sure not to get it backwards. You need the shield to be out." Manning, clearly not phased by what was going on, waited behind me with the patience of a four-year-old for me to help with his costume. I turned around, dizzy and weak, tied on his cape (the proper way) while holding his baby sister. I'm not sure what happened the next few hours or even day, but now that I'm on the other side I've had time to reflect on the many lessons and, yes, blessings of the Norovirus Battle of 2017. Moms can do (and survive) ANYTHING. And I mean ANYTHING. Moms can multitask like a BOSS. Who else can be sick while holding a toddler and tie a Superman cape...the right way? Moms are THE smartest people on the planet. When I posted my Norovirus Day 5 Diary pic, I got more tips and tricks on how to clean the hell out of toys (READ: throw everything in the bathtub with bleach)    Moms are the FUNNIEST people on the planet. Sharing my misery with fellow mommas, not only made the situation better, it made it HILARIOUS. Life is going to throw us curve balls, rather than bitch and moan - call a girlfriend who will provide some 'Me Too' empathy and will make you laugh so hard your stomach hurts.    Life somehow seems to workout when moms are involved. Needless to say, I was devastated when I had to cancel my trip to meet Brené Brown. However, I knew taking care of myself comes first and I also did not want to expose Baton Rouge to the plague. Despite her fun/tough exterior, my mom gets nervous and she knew how much this meant to me. Little did I know, she spent the day rehearsing what to say to Brené. She knew her time would be limited and wanted to tell Brené everything about me. My mom did great, even though she said I speak on 'body imaging' instead of 'body image'. So I'm pretty sure Brené thinks I'm a x-ray tech now. I didn't care. My mom's effort to still make the evening special from a distance had me bawling. It is not every day you get a video of your parents with Brené giving you a personal get well message. Cue. The. TEARS.   So, yes, I did not get to meet Brené. Yes, my entire house now reeks of bleach and so do I (Pretty sure I've lost sensation in my finger tips). Yes, I continue to go around with a bleach sponge, wiping everything down. But after it is all said and done, a little norovirus can't get my spirits down. There is something hilarious about dunking 3,987 legos, hot wheels and train tracks in bleach. Above all else, there is something beautiful in the gift of perspective. The day I felt human again, I received a letter in the mail. It was a card from Zoe McGowan's mother. I opened the small envelope and tears filled my eyes as I saw sweet Zoe's picture. It was the prayer card from her funeral. (Read more about Zoe) Tears rolling down my cheeks, I looked up as Manning and Marjorie gleefully played in the bath tub. Rather than spend my days asking God, "Why?" I embrace the perspective that comes my way daily from my own experiences and from my fellow eating disorder warriors and cancer moms. Life moves so fast and it is totally okay to bitch and grumble when life throws us curve balls. If there is one thing my recovery and Brené has taught me, it is that life can be both. We can be both flustered, annoyed AND grateful. We can have perspective AND still wish away the  laundry and lego piles (especially when you step on one barefoot, ouch). Let your heart feel both. Find perspective and humor. Reach out for empathy. Let yourself cry. And remind yourself, you will survive. Thanks for the lessons Norovirus, until next time...

    Brene Brown, Family, Motherhood
  • Posted on January 14, 2016 10:20 am
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    Marjorie fell over backwards multiple times yesterday, just out of no where. Of course, my back was to her and it could have been because our bulldog knocked her down or because she simply lost her balance trying to reach a toy. But here is where my new Cancer Mom Brain kicks in: "Marjorie has a brain tumor." Fear. Panic. A knot in my stomach. I'm going to throw up. Pre-preemie and pre-cancer, I was a laid back mom. Manning could take a fall and keep going. Nothing frightened or alarmed me. Then again, I had nothing to be frightened or alarmed about. With her next set of scans coming up next Tuesday/Wednesday, I find myself a bit more on edge. The scanxiety has kicked in and so has my Cancer Mom Brain. I do my very best to stay mindful and aware of my runaway fear hypocondria imagination. But it gets the best of me. Especially after my nanny told me Marjorie's hand shook yesterday when reaching for a toy. I came up to my office today with a work to do list a mile long, but the tears in my eyes were too thick to read it. Here is where I know I did the right thing: I did NOT Google. Never, ever Google. When we take to Google to diagnose ourselves or our children, a simple cough turns into 3-months to live. Never, never Google. Jordan Googles, which is why he is not in charge of medical decisions. I also don't hold my Mom Fear inside. That does not serve me well either. Mom Fear is equivalent to shame - the more you hold it in, the more it builds and takes over your brain and your day. We have enough on our plates as moms, we don't have time to ruminate on Mom Fear. So I picked up my phone to share my fear. I text our Oncology nurse, angel and friend, Two Knock Mack. Okay - my cancer mom brain is freaking out a bit. Marjorie fell over backwards five times yesterday. My back was to her each time so it could have been just an accident and off balance. But this morning the nanny told me her right hand was shaking when reaching for something. I haven’t noticed that. Now I’m concerned about something neuro going on. Am I crazy? Tell me I’m crazy. She confirmed I was most likely crazy (we all know that). But then gave me a few simple tests to do: check her eyes, tickle her palms. I ran downstairs and did just that. Marjorie's eyes seemed fine and when I tickled her palms she didn't squeeze back, instead she laughed, high fived and pointed. She's gifted, I know. After Two-Knock's test calmed my nerves, I returned to my office. I texted her the results and she confirmed once again that I was crazy and to settle down. Of course, she sees Mom Cancer Brains every day so she has more empathy and patience than anyone I know in this situation. So this is where I find myself: speaking the fear and writing the fear. Letting it out so the light can shine on my Cancer Mom Brain and put it at ease. Yes, my daughter has cancer. And yes, we have a scan next week. And even though her cancer is a great prognosis, it does not immune me from scan anxiety, mom brain (especially Cancer Mom Brain) and just fear of the unknown. I do my best to live by my best friend (even though she doesn't know me), Brene Brown's words: You can dress rehearse tragedy. But in this moment, it is easier to type Brene's words than actually follow through with them. I'm sure I'll be back to quoting and living in the moment after next week's scans. But until then, I will keep speaking, writing and most of all relying on my pal Arnold Schwarzenegger's words: It's NOT a TUMAH. And then I also watched this and EVERYTHING was suddenly better: And don't forget to vote for Loving Imperfection as the Best Health Blog of 2015. It takes ONE SECOND and does not post to your Facebook, I promise! My blog is in first, but needs your vote every day! First place gets $1,000, which will all go to Southern Smash. Help us raise money and continue our efforts to spread positive body image and eating disorder education! Thank you for your continued love and support - I send it all right back to you <3

    Brene Brown, Cancer, Family
  • Posted on October 22, 2015 4:48 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    Cancer. Chemo. Cancer Free. Metastasize. NED. NBD. Blah. Blah. Blah. If cancer has reminded me of one thing, it is to not get lost in the labels of life. We as a society get so caught up in labeling: fat, thin, pretty, rich, cancer, cancer free. How about we just live our lives? I spent this morning on the phone with Marjorie's nurse going over yesterday's CT and PET Scan results. She said words like, "decrease in size" "little areas are calcified" "less avid from where they were" "hypo density of the liver has decreased" "MIBG impression negative and no new disease" "in remission" Of all the big words she said, Jess never said those words I thought I wanted to hear, Cancer Free. Then five minutes ago the nurse called back with Dr. Gauger on the line and she walked me through the report again. I strained my ear so close to the phone, thinking my proximity to the speaker would help me understand complex medical jargon. Then Dr. Gauger said those magic words, but they were wrapped up in a complicated sentence that did not confirm or deny the words. Enter: comical confusion. I smiled on the other end, face still awkwardly mushed to my phone. I suddenly realized that it doesn't matter. Whether Dr. Gauger writes Cancer Free in the sky or sends a singing bear to my house, those words don't matter. Like I wrote last night, cancer does not define us and cancer free does not define us. It is not about crossing the ambiguous cancer free finish line, it is about the race and the race is a marathon. It is about taking it a day at a time. It is about taking the good news and running with it, rejoicing in it. Bottom line is: we got good news today and the bigger picture is that Marjorie's long term prognosis and recurrence rate is so good and so very low. THAT is what we embrace and celebrate. Yes, I have cried tears today. And after I hung up the phone with Dr. Gauger, I came to realize these tear were not from hearing magic words. They were tears of release. Releasing anger, exhaustion, stress, worry, joy, gratitude. These scans take so much out of me, not to mention my peanut. Both Jordan and I are a little on edge both before and after. After the scans is when the bigger tidal wave of emotions comes. Today, I let go of magical labels and embraced the feelings within. We will have more scans, probably twenty years worth. And I will go through the same emotions every time. One day Marjorie will medically no longer have cancer cells in her body, but for all intensive purposes, she is cancer free to me right now. Marjorie is cancer free because giggles and grows with love and a heart bigger than her tiny body. She lives every day cancer free, inspiring and reminding us all to live every day like we are cancer free. We don't know when cancer or tragedy will come knocking. Like my bestie, Brene, says, "You can't dress rehearse tragedy." So let's stop trying. Let's start living...with or without cancer. So F-you to cancer and your semantics too. Jordan and I are going out on a date tonight and taking some time for us, something long overdue. We will be toasting to life, another great scan and most of all to two fantastic kids who make us laugh and fill our house with love (and laundry) every day. Cheers. And for your entertainment...I present my cancer 'notes'. Clearly my background is in medicine.

    Brene Brown, Live Life, Pediatric Cancer
  • Posted on August 5, 2015 1:04 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    Let me set the scene: I currently live somewhere between gratitude and sheer anxiety and terror. My to-do list is light years long and it is completely trumped by my fear over what may or may not happen to my children. I mean, can you blame me? Within a year, my daughter has spent more time in the hospital than my entire family combined ever has. We have a scan this Friday, but of course, it is not an in and out scan. It is a PET Scan that includes a type of nuclear medicine to help us see how active the remaining neuroblastoma cells are. I received a call yesterday from the Nuclear Medicine Tech asking if Marjorie started her drops. Um, what drops? No one told me about starting her drops that protect her thyroid from the scan. Because, like every scan, there is radiation and a risk. Awesome. Enter: panic. I immediately reach out to our stellar Oncology nurse, Jess, who quickly calls in the drops and says it is totally fine. The drops won't be ready until 5pm today so I just have to accept this. Jess and our oncology team says it is perfectly fine to start later today. But it is hard for a momma bear to say it's fine when I don't want my daughter doing the scan in the first place. My mind jumps straight to all of the possibilities down the road. Cancer treatment comes with a hefty price tag: chemo can cause more cancer, chemo can cause heart issues, hearing issues, etc. and of course scan radiation can cause cancer. Cancer alone is enough to torture the mind of any parent, but the treatment of it all is simply brutal. I am dwelling in a place of such anger. Anger that we have to deal with this. Anger I did not get the drops in time. Anger that my baby has to be sedated, again. But bottom line: anger that this has even happened in the first place. Cancer sucks. And I am so damn mad that we now own the label of pediatric cancer. And no, saying 'survivor' after it does not make me feel better. I did not want this label to begin with. So as I sit in my anger, going back to therapy 101 'Feel your feelings,' that foggy cloud of guilt comes rolling in. I should be counting my blessings we only endured two rounds of chemo and that we are under observation now. Millions of others (many of whom I see daily on Facebook) endure round after round and unimaginable side effects. And the biggest: so many parents have lost their children to this dreadful disease. But I know better, I can't hang in this place of guilt. I know that the mom whose daughter died of cancer and the mom whose son is going through round after round would sit with me in this place of anger and tell me not to feel guilty. Just as I sit with my friends and tell them that their child's scraped knee deserves as much compassion as Marjorie. I basically revert back to my own blog: Compassionate Pizza. Just because I write about something does not mean I practice it perfectly. This is all a crazy balancing act of practice. The guilt is simply trying to overshadow the anger and I know I have every right to be angry. The problem is, when do I have the time to feel the feelings? We are building a house and it is almost finished. Instead of enjoying these last few weeks putting the finishing touches on it, I am covered in anxiety over how to fit it in. My MacBook Pro is on its last leg, making my ability to catch up on work (aka my passion and joy) impossible. My son is out of school until next Thursday and Marjorie has four appointments (including the scan) between now and then. And of course there is also the glorious chore of packing the house for our move in a few weeks. So amidst my day to day chaos, the hole in my heart does not seem to be adhering to my to do list. This journey, this pediatric cancer whirlwind, has put a massive dent in my soul and I can't seem to repair it. I know time will heal it, but all I want is to find a little bit of time for me to ache. To sit and hurt and cry. I know that sounds strange, but sadly I know that is the only thing that will repair my spirit. It is so frustrating when you know the solution, but you can't make it work. I love my children with every fiber in my body. I want nothing more in life than to watch them grow up and discover who they are. I want them to be happy. I want them to find love and chase their dreams. I want them to know that no matter where life takes them, I will always and forever be their momma and will always love them. That is my only wish in life and in this moment, all I feel is terror for my children. My son had a scrap on his knee a few weeks ago, and my mind immediately jumped to staph infection. I then had visions of the PICU. Brene Brown, my bestie/dinner date, calls this Foreboding Joy. Joy is a terrifying emotion to feel when you know first hand what it feels like to have it ripped from under you. I am so thankful to Brene's work that helps me identify my fear so that I can process through it. Of course, I haven't processed through it yet, but when I do you all will be the first to know. I feel like I am living in the ultimate Foreboding Joy challenge. Ask any pediatric cancer mom? Hell, ask any mom! When you've seen your precious baby endure so much in less than a year, all I want is to cover both of my children in a bubble wrap and never let them go. But I can't. I won't. We live on. I recognize when that fear creeps in. I acknowledge it and remind myself that just because Marjorie got cancer does not mean she is going anywhere. As always, easier said than done. The night we received Marjorie's cancer diagnosis, I rocked her to sleep and whispered in her ear: "No, you don't baby girl. You hear me? Momma is building you a new house with a pretty pink room. You will go to dance recitals and camp Green Cove. You will go to college and chase your dreams. And, Marjorie, your daddy will walk you down that aisle." Tell me how do you not play that moment on repeat in your mind. Every scan and appointment sends my anxiety and fear into a tailspin, which leaks out as anger and to do list angst. I forebode joy like it's my job. Like I said, I don't have the answers yet of how to trek through this muck. I don't think I will ever have a specific answer other than 'just keep swimming' - and just keep living, thriving and seeking joy. I've discovered life is not really about finding the answers; rather it is about being aware of your emotions and actions, examining them, processing them and learning from them to move forward. Ultimately, living your life in a more effective and fulfilling way. I refuse to raise my children in a foreboding joy house of survival. We will live and thrive. We will dance in our new kitchen just because we feel like it. We will read stories and build forts with boxes. We will play dress up in our new closet. My family will not forebode the joy that it is in front of us. I will not forebode it. Never have, never will.    

    Authentic, Brene Brown, Motherhood