I thought that I was on my way to managing my stress better than ever. I got a wake-up call when - while on vacation - I ended up in the hospital. I spent two days there after suffering severe stomach pains last November (2011). It was the fourth episode in less than a year. These pains almost always hit while I was traveling. Digesting food was excruciating. After being in the hospital for 48 hours and undergoing several tests, the doctor told me that I should have a biopsy of a vital organ. I started thinking, “Would my family or husband carry out my wishes and have a closed casket funeral?” Should I write my own obituary? Nah. With the support of family and my closest friends, I would keep the faith. While lying in that hospital bed, I looked back at my life and realized that I was always in a hurry. I walked fast. Chalked it up to being from a crazy city - Miami. I would eat healthy snacks, but it would be a piece of fruit while I sprinted out the door. For two years, I learned to multi-task with the best of them as president of the National Association of Black Journalists.
I also worked full time as a solo anchor who reported virtually everyday.
Few people knew that I had spent almost three years always smiling for the camera while anchoring a newsroom that was either on fire or taking on water. Months before my term ended as NABJ president, I left the anchor desk and the traditional newsroom madness. When my term ended as president last August, I looked forward to leading a normal life again. I did not know that my body had taken such a beating until one day it hurt to breathe. I would only turn off the cell phone and take a break during Christmas time.
Three out of the four belly bouts happened after I skipped meals and was traveling.
On the way to my last convention as NABJ president, I had a fever and food poisoning. I was in such agony that I stretched across three seats on the airplane and had to be wheeled through two airports in a wheelchair. An angel on the plane – a doctor -- gave me prescription meds that helped me get through a tense week. Again, I put on my best anchor face, and no one had a clue about the troubles I’d seen.
The last belly bout came suddenly while I was on a working vacation, and my best friend, Gloria took me to a Tampa, Florida ER.
Instead of going 100 mph daily, I was still going about 100 mph several days a week. I had left behind the newsroom deadline pressures, but being self-employed can be stressful. I often worked until midnight or later. I had just taken a trip to Israel, but it was no vacation.
The schedule was fast-paced.
Two months after my hospital stay and experts in other states studied my innards, the diagnosis was stress and acid reflux coupled with at least one brutal infection. I was dehydrated, and I constantly ignored warning signs that my body wasn't functioning like it was supposed to. My doctor ordered me to get to the gym at least four days a week. I thought, "Really?"
During the next few weeks, I had to adhere to a special diet. No fried foods, no nuts, no raw fruits or veggies. No salads. At times, I could only tolerate broth. (In another post, I'll tell you why the broth was making matters worse). I told God that if he healed me, I would tell the world. World, this is my story.
People assume that you are healthy when you are thin. They ask me all the time, how do I stay so thin? I tell them that I eat to live.
I have learned being healthy is not about what you eat. It is how and when you eat. It is about saying ‘no’ to unhealthy things and saying ‘yes’ to things that enrich and balance your life. Stress can and does kill. Real love, God’s comforting words, and the love of family and friends are the best diet of all. Bon appetit. Written January 2012