Lo Que No Mata Engorda

If you’re anything like me who grew up in a household where your mom always prepared something scrumptious in quantities that were fit for an army, then you’re probably going to relate. I grew up in an Italian household where mom would be cooking meatballs, bracioles, tons of pastas, eggplant parmesan (which is deep fried eggplant along with tons of cheese), fried calamari, fried shrimp, fried chicken cutlets, fried fried fried anything, and lived to be 36 years old to still talk about it, however, with a few minor problems. God bless my parents for being in their mid-seventies, however it sure has taken a toll on my health, although I’m the only one in “control” of the fork, but how can you say no to a cute little Italian mama who is only cooking for you out of love? It’s the guilt that gets me every time, and of course, it’s fricken delicious.

My wife and I cook much differently at home, mostly fish, chicken, vegetables and yes, occasionally we’ll eat red meat, but it has to be either a filet mignon (lean) or if we ‘splurge’ (mostly during PMS mania), a burger. But that’s rare...no pun. We’re totally conscious of what we put into our mouths, even switched our eggs to egg whites and have limited our cheese intake greatly. My wife comes from a Puerto Rican household, where again, everything is just too. damn. good. to just say no to. She decided to switch her diet around after having her heart broken when her grandfather passed away from health complications, such as diabetes, a heart attack, and other related illnesses. She decided to take control and lost 50 lbs. That was “her” scare. Now I have my own...

For the past couple of months, I’ve been getting severe pain and bloating in my upper abdominal region. Sometimes at night, the pain would wake me out of a deep sleep. I’d scream as if someone was jousting a knife into my stomach. I instantly thought it was an ulcer or something, so I started dosing up on Zantac and other stomach-related crap. Then I started to get severe chest pains - sharp pains, to where I said to Mad, “Wow, this is it...let’s go to the emergency room.” I seriously thought it was a heart attack, only coming home from the hospital with the diagnosis of costochondritis, which is only an inflammation of the rib and cartilage mimicking a heart attack. Another night, my entire left arm felt tingly, and finally numb. Then the chest pains started. Since I never had the arm go numb on me, I went to the ER once again, to only be sent home with the same diagnosis.

Fast forward two weeks later, the inflammation in my upper abdominal region had gotten worse and much more painful. I decided to just see my family doctor about it. He poked and prodded and said, “It’s your tissues and muscles around your ribs which are inflamed”, handed me a prescription for muscle relaxers and out the door I went once again, in pain. I then started noticing that anything I ate would immediately trigger a “costochondritis” attack, leaving me hunched over crying, grabbing for pills that would only manifest me into a useless drugged up zombie. Days would go by, I couldn’t eat more than two bites of something without getting sick and without my stomach bloating up inches out past my own boobs! Something is wrong.

I got a second opinion and got a sonogram showing possible gallbladder problems. They then sent me to the hospital to get a HIDA scan that uses nuclear medicine which is very minimal, however they warn you not to go near babies and to flush the toilet 3 times after you use it. (To me that spells out n.u.k.e.d up!) After getting the results, my gallbladder showed positive, and although I didn’t have stones, I had sludgy bile that hardly lets fats pass through to the liver. So, when I eat fatty foods or indulge in red meat, it doesn’t digest properly, or at all for that matter. Now, after months of not knowing what the hell was wrong with me, I now have to get my gallbladder removed. I’m actually excited about it because my pain and discomfort will be gone. Of course I get feedback from others who have had their gallbladder taken out saying that they’ve had problems with IBS or other complications, but I know each person is different.

Mom called me to see if I was okay. She sounded very concerned. After speaking with her, my sister calls me and says, “Mom is so upset that you can’t eat her food anymore. She wanted to know what you could eat that she makes and I told her not a single thing!” This mortified my mother, because this is the way she shows that she loves you. Mom suggested that we barbeque trout and she’ll make a big salad for me. She’s doing her best, but I know that my old school Italian mama thinks her meatballs are going to cure me, but in this case, they just may end up killing me. My wife Madelene used to always say to me before consuming one of my mom’s deep fried meals, “Lo que no mata engorda”, meaning what doesn’t kill you will make you fat. I don’t want either of those options! Another interesting thing is, my entire family thought I was a hypochondriac with all my ailments, chest pains, stomachaches and discomfort after eating. Now I no longer have to put on my tomb stone, “I told you I was sick” ---I can now say it while I’m still alive.