Jimmy loves french fries and fried chicken, pot roast, potatoes and gravy. If I put any one or all of these on the dinner table every day, it would be just fine with him.
When we met more 35 years ago, he blamed his mother. As the youngest of 10 children, he got to eat whatever he wanted which wasn’t much.
The only ‘healthy’ foods he likes are apples, grapes, grapefruit and oranges. A scant few other goods like nuts and just about any kind of bread have been known to pass his lips as long as they look nothing like pizza. He hates it and cheese, cooked tomatoes and any vegetable that can be considered overcooked in, say, five minutes.
It’s common knowledge that most kids don’t want to eat their broccoli, but Jimmy isn’t a kid. He’s a 66-year-old grown man.
I used to think his eating habits were, well, cute. No matter how many bags of jalapeno potato chips or Chips Ahoy cookies or Hot Tamales he ingested, his annual health numbers health was always better than mine.
He was the sweetest, healthiest cave man I knew. Then a few months ago he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, one of the most common types of cancer in men.
In fact, the American Cancer Society predicts that there will be around 174,650 new diagnoses of prostate cancer and around 31,620 deaths from this type of cancer this year.
Around 1 in 9 males will receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer at some point in their life. However, only 1 in 41 of these will die as a result of it.
Because it’s natural for the human mind to try and make sense of things, I’ve been thinking a lot about Jimmy’s diet, sometimes even blaming myself for not insisting he eat better or for buying his favorite junk foods during trips to the grocery store.
Sometimes, though, there is no making sense of things. It just is.
At 62, I don’t even ask why anymore. I’m just reminded of a familiar verse in Job 14: “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.”
This isn’t the first time trouble has taken up residence in the Staples’ home. Nor is it the first time it’s showed up uninvited. That’s how trouble operates. Unexpected and unannounced.
You might know what I’m talking about.
Your mother suddenly died. Your sister struggled through a divorce. You lost your job.
There’s a saying for that: stuff happens and then you die.
A lot of people tout “special” diets that they say will help treat cancer or keep it from coming back. Truth is, there’s no diet that can cure cancer and there’s no good research that shows that any eating plan, like a vegetarian or vegan diet, can lower the chance of cancer coming back.
Still, in my quest to take care of Jimmy, I’ve been trying to get him to explore foods beyond his comfort zone. Because I’ve talked to enough doctors over the past months, I’m pretty convinced that a holistic dietary approach to eating can reduce, if nothing else, our risk for disease and optimize recovery.
I’m not a doctor but I’m also pretty sure that Jimmy has an undiagnosed sensory issue. You wouldn’t believe the faces he makes when, say, he tried to eat a stalk of celery or tomato soup or any type of bean. Those same foods, foods I love, make him gag. Literally. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Our daughters never did that even when I began introducing new foods to them. To this day, there are few foods they dislike. Guess they got that from me. Food is our best friend.
Recently, I learned adult picky eating has become a popular topic of public discussion. In the medical community, it even has a name: ARFID, or Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, and is formally recognized as an eating disorder.
The causes can range from obsessive-compulsive tendencies to Asperger’s syndrome to general sensitivity to strong flavors and stimuli.
Many children leave behind their quirky eating habits as they get older but not Jimmy.
Up until a few months ago his were kinda funny. Now few things make me laugh.
I’m not sad. It’s just hard to laugh when you’re praying all the time. For strength. For courage. For compassion.
The last six months have been intense. Test, tests and more tests. Pills. Surgeries. And now radiation.
He keeps saying, Grace, God’s got me. I keep saying, Jimmy eat your vegetables so we can celebrate what God does.
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