Thursday, September 5, 2013

Team S.J.G.R. Thursday Huddle #10: Rage against the machine.

Yesterday, I missed my sister terribly. I was inside of one of those moments where everything quieted in my head and life just sort of moves around me in slow motion. Maybe that doesn't make sense to you, but it's the best way that I can describe the most searing grief I feel sometimes when it comes to Deanna's death. I see her laughing and smiling and saying things like, "Hey Pookie!" And usually when that happens, I simply reach for a tissue to pat the few tears that leak out of my eyes, take a deep breath, and then carry on.

For some reason, though, yesterday was different. The little voice started niggling at me and I started in on the "if only" tirade. If only I'd gotten her into a doctor's care. If only I'd thought of creative ways to motivate her to move more and get into some kind of weight loss program. If only. . . . and then another voice said what has become my dad's new favorite phrase:

Cut. It. Out.

And so. I waved my hands in front of my face and shook my head furiously to get the thoughts out. Then I imagined Deanna scrolling through that Team S.J.G.R. Facebook page and seeing all of your beautiful faces in places near and far. Speaking of all of these brave steps that you are taking towards escaping the hypothetical la-la land that keeps people bound up inside unhealthy lifestyles. That? That made me super happy. It did because I know that all of this would please her. Knowing that all of these people are connecting and feeling inspired to take control of something that is often so, so complex and elusive yet so simple at the same time would make her glad. This I know.

I also think about when my friend Jill J-B said to me over a simple comment on this blog that she had a feeling that Deanna's influence would be even more powerful from this position than from her position on earth. And I liked that idea because some part of it feels divine and gives me marching orders to carry out the parts that she can't.

I miss my sister. Terribly, terribly, still. I wish that she did not have a heart attack more than anything I have ever wished in my life. Damn, I do.


I also trust the process. I am still more glad than sad and more determined than ever to continuously look for ways to inspire not only myself but others to prevent themselves or their loved ones from succumbing to heart disease. And let's be clear:  I fully recognize that people die every day of heart attacks who aren't overweight or who do triathlons or whatever it is you can think of that is super healthy. I know that a will and a power greater than my own called this shot and that some parts of life can't be chalked up to simple cause and effect but instead divine appointment. Yes, I believe those things but I also know that all of the knowledge that we have is a gift that we've been given. And there has to be something divine about us being empowered about taking that knowledge and raging against every weapon that tries to prosper against our bodies.

Was that confusing? Gosh. I'm sorry. Feeling a bit rambly. But really all I'm saying is that I am not walking around in a "woe is me" fog. Instead I'm just ripping the covers off of any and all bullsh*t that holds the people I love back from at least trying to prevent themselves from death or disability from heart disease.

Did you catch that part? The part where I said "or disability?"  Remember, a WHOLE bunch of people are left disabled by heart disease and strokes every single day. I see them and treat them, so I know. I admit that I am glad that I didn't have to see my sweet sissy severely disabled from this event and I know in the back of my head that it is something that absolutely could have happened.

Let's make this super basic, shall we?

The same thing that causes heart disease is the same thing that causes strokes. Arteries gummed up with plaques of goo from a myriad of factors. But the good news is that we know a lot about the "myriad of factors." We have good data that tells us which things are in our control when it comes to modifying risk of heart disease.

Team S.J.G.R. has been talking about them a lot. But I want to be sure that we never, ever get away from those simple things in the midst of being wrapped up in a feel-good whirlwind. And so. Those of us who are seriously looking to lower our artery goo levels need to make certain that every so often, we check back in to make sure that we're doing the things that matter.

So let's get back to the basics.

  • A minimum of 150 minutes per week of physical activity. Yes, you can add it up by doing fifteen minutes here and thirty minutes there. But remember that when your physical activity exceeds 30 minutes, that's when you really start getting the good fat burning.
  • Know your family history of cardiovascular disease. If someone in your family has had a heart attack or stroke, know that your chance of having the same is higher. And real talk, there's just not much you can do about family history. So what does that mean? It means that you MUST and I do mean MUST go even harder when it comes to the things you CAN control.
  • Get under a doctor's care. I can't emphasize this point enough. You need to know FROM YOUR DOCTOR (not CVS pharmacy) what your blood pressure is. You need to be okay with doing what it takes to get it to an appropriate level, which varies depending upon what other medical problems you have. And, if you're like a lot of people, you need to NOT make a single excuse when it comes to NOT doing these things. Because the artery goo keeps on goo-ing whether you accept this reality or not. So if you are one of the many, many, many people out there who tricks yourself into believing that "borderline" hypertension and "borderline" diabetes don't cause heart disease? Cut. It. Out. The damage these things cause to our hearts isn't "borderline." And if you also have a family history of heart disease (like most folks do) then that's all the more reason to go EXTRA hard and get a doctor.
  • Think about every single thing you eat. Good or bad. Think about it and never let it be mindless. 
  • Stop thinking that exercise directly counteracts what you eat. IT DOES NOT. You ate a bowl of ice cream? Okay, fine. Just pull up with your next few meals to make up for it. But don't go saying to anyone that you're going to "hit the gym" or "go on a walk" because you've been eating so bad. No. Don't. We lose weight in the kitchen. We get fit in the gym. Separate these things. Think of exercise as something for your heart and for building lean muscle. To lower the scale, put down the fork. 
  •  Get someone to help you be accountable. Sometimes I leave notes in the kitchen at night that say things like "YOU ARE NOT HUNGRY." Or worse "STOP. DON'T EAT ANYTHING UNLESS YOU WANT TO GAIN WEIGHT." And those obnoxious notes are mostly for Harry, but they do keep us both accountable. Harry is good about saying to me, "Hey, you need to chill on that dark chocolate." And me? Well, since he's the late night snacker, he gets the wrath of my post it notes. Sometimes we fuss at each other about these nudges. But mostly, it's appreciated.
  • Don't smoke. Period. End of story. It's horrible for your body. Horrible. So don't. Not even casually if you want to protect your heart.
  • If you are depressed, get help. I never mentioned this before, but there is very good data to support untreated depression as a risk factor for heart disease. YES. Are you blue? Feeling blah? Never want to go anywhere or do anything? Crying all the time? Dude. Get some help. Or your heart will be more than just heavy.
  • Aim for the real goal. Even if you are several pounds overweight, don't count yourself out when it comes to a healthy BMI being attainable. Don't. Yes. You should absolutely give yourself credit for every step along the way but don't aim for a size 18 as your ultimate weight loss goal. I know. It sounds insensitive to say but it's true. If you are at a size 18, there is likely a good bit of unhealthy visceral fat working against your heart. And since, for me, shit just got real on November 15, 2012, I refuse to pretend like saying "you go girl" and "some people are just always going to be curvy and fine, girl!" is going to make that a reasonable endpoint. Nor is a big discussion about how you "love yourself" and have a healthy self image. Because if loving yourself, being awesome and having a healthy self image prevented heart disease, I wouldn't have had anything to cry about this morning. If that were true, my sister would have lived forever.
  • Don't let anyone or anything stop you. Not a hating-ass person near you. Not a saboteur. Not a bad day or a break up. Not a NOTHING. Because this heart is the only one you have. And nobody can do this but YOU. So when you are deciding whether or not to get up off your butt to move, don't think about that ice cream. Think about your HEART. Hell, think about me with my arms around Isaiah this morning as he cried about missing his auntie so much that I almost didn't want to send him to school. But then, you make up your mind to GO HARD. 

I'm sorry to unpack like this today, y'all. I really am. But heart disease pisses me off. I want us to be an army that goes up against it and fights like hell. I want us to stop being okay with obesity as something that "runs in the family" and all of the other things that have tricked so many of us into not doing what we need to do. In other words, I love you guys and I love myself enough to give this tough love that must be spoken from the mountain tops. Our kids and the people who love us deserve nothing less. And dammit, they need to get caught up in our health rapture in the process. They do!

S.J.G.R. Matter of fact, it's been real all along but now we recognize it.

These our are marching orders. We are an army and we will not live in hypothetical la-la land for another moment. We WILL NOT. Our angel Deanna will nudge us to keep going and will use her power from that position to motivate us when we feel down. Yes. YES.

I hate heart disease.

I miss my sister. Bad.

Happy Thursday, y'all. If you aren't keeping it 150, what are you waiting for?


  1. Sissy,

    I miss her too. A whole lot. This weekend when Will and I were at The Gorge, DMB played “Satellite”… and you better believe I cried my eyes out, right there in the middle of everything. That was Deanna’s favorite DMB song. In the three nights, they played Will’s favorite song “Seek Up”… they played “Best of What’s Around”… they played “Sister” (which always makes me think of you both… and the last song on the third & final night, they played my favorite song, “Grey Street”. I swear I had resolved that I’d be okay if they didn’t play it in the 3 nights (after two nights had passed without hearing it.) When that song started, Will and I jumped up and down and hugged like we had just won the lottery! LOL! It was so funny. I swear I felt Deanna with us there. I think the reason was that we wouldn’t have even gone had we not lost Deanna. We weren’t even thinking about going to The Gorge… ever. But life is different now… we have to Get Busy Living… and going to The Gorge is on every DMB fan’s bucket list. And we did it! Thanks to Deanna!

    Anyways… I’m rambling… I miss her. And I miss you too.


  2. From the deck of the Poop,

    Great post! She was my first born daughter. She chose mechanical engineering probably because of her dad. She could say Poppy better than anyone. My main challenge is the try and stop being angry and hell at who or whatever decided that of all the three and four hundred pound people that didn't have a tenth to offer the world that Deanna did, that she should die.


  3. oh is just so damn hard sometimes...some days you just have to go with it. But honoring their memory is the best way to heal and that you are doing...xoxo

  4. Hey Poopdeck, my trainer is the most fit and healthiest man (mentally and physically) that I know and guess what? He has f'in leukemia. And it totally pisses me off at God that this gorgeous healthy man that is helping the world get healthy has stinkin' cancer. Then, I look around at all the unhealthy people that don't have cancer and I get even more upset. That's when I just have to turn it back over to the God that pissed me off in the first place. I get to ask "Why?", but I don't always get the answer I want.

    Dr. Kim, SJGR is so important and calling a spade a spade can save lives. I go bonkers when my friends say, "I'm borderline diabetic". Hell friend, you ARE diabetic, so quit eating like a preacher at Sunday dinner and eat right! I think the revelations of your grief about losing a sister to heart disease brings it home to a lot of us that every day is a gift and we better take care of that gift.

  5. Thank You for tackling your grief with this movement. Your sisters legacy will be each team members small victories. Blessings Doc!

  6. This post touched on so many things for me that when I try to put it into words, it is too much. Too many details, too heavy. I just wanted you and your father to know that I am hearing you.

  7. I really wish I had met Deanna. Please know that you and your family are honoring her by conveying what a smart, devoted, loving, industrious, funny and caring spirit she has (present tense intended). I can only imagine the depth of what she means to those who knew and love her.

  8. I just met a group of women frm Black Girls Run on the flight to Atlanta. They were going to Charlotte for a convention and 5 k. I told them all about you and teamSJGR. I am headed to Asheville for a reunion with a dozen Duke nurse classmates. I will be thinking of you and considering every bite. Thanks!

  9. It would be great if you could organize S.J.G.R. in memory of Deanna much like the sister of Susan G. Komen did for breast cancer. Anyway... I'll be thinking of you this weekend. I know it'll be your first birthday without Deanna.

  10. I started reading this post and cannot get beyond the first two paragraphs yet - I will have to take some time and come back a bit later. I just want to send you the most heartfelt of kind thoughts and gentle hugs now. I know those "what ifs" well - one of my parents committed suicide a week before I could make it out of my teens. I walked through that scorching thorny desert of "what ifs" for a time. Two things helped me find my way out: profoundly understanding that each of us is on our own path and nobody can alter our path if we do not truly want it altered, and learning to focus not on regretting what I have (or have not) lived/done but on living/doing what I will not regret.


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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