Christmas, Cancer, and Carla

carla cooper and mikeOne of the most important features of a support group is just that – support. When life gets tough, you might need help in unconventional ways. Bariatric surgery support groups are most common  in person, usually offered through hospitals and surgeons’ offices. With my hectic schedule and so much of my time spent online, I prefer to participate in an online support group. I found the Bariatric Bad Girls Club around the time my surgery was approved, and I’ve come to depend on those friendships daily.

One of the dearest friends I’ve made through BBGC is Carla (AKA CC-BBGC). We’ve spent time together several times over the last 2 years, and she has given me encouragement and love when I’ve struggled through tough times. In August, we had plans to room together at the Obesity Action Coalition’s Your Weight Matters conference in Phoenix. On the flight between Norfolk and Atlanta, her husband Mike had a grand mal seizure on the airplane. After days of diagnosis and treatment, Mike was diagnosed with brain cancer.

rosie bullock christmas
Their last 4 months have been spent in chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and various other treatments. Despite Carla’s infectious happiness and positivity, the stress she has been under to support her husband through the last few months has worn on her. I’ve sent messages of love and friendship, but it didn’t feel like I was doing enough.

When my husband was scheduled for a trip over Christmas, Rosie and I had originally planned to spend those days kicking back in pajamas and watching Christmas movies. But on the 23rd, after noticing that Carla’s posts on Facebook were particularly grinchy, I knew I had to do more. After a few travel arrangements, I decided to plan a quick 24 hour trip to Virginia. Rosie and I flew out to Norfolk on the morning of Christmas Eve to bring some Christmas cheer. We came decked out in matching Christmas jammies and silly hats. The smile on Carla’s face was priceless when we came out of security and each gave her a giant hug.

christmas in virginia with CarlaCarla was wearing a Christmas sweater at the airport in an attempt to be merry, but said that she had to go home and get into her Christmas gear. She dressed up as “Carla Claus,” brought Mike along, and we had some fun at Virginia Beach. We walked the oceanfront in our silly hats and outfits, talked, laughed, and got some exercise. When Mike was too tired to continue, he waited for us to walk further along the oceanfront. It was fun to see other people smile and comment on our “gay apparel,” and watch Carla briefly forget about the stress that cancer has brought into her life.

virginia beach no swearingWith all the stress that Mike and Carla have been under recently, it felt so good to help them laugh, smile, and divert their worries away from cancer for a while. We posed for funny pictures in Virginia Beach, particularly by the “anti-profanity” signs (Because in a Navy town, it’s common for everyone to “swear like sailors”).

After VB, Rosie said that she wanted to drive to the North Carolina border because she’d never been to NC before. So we hopped on the highway and headed to the border. We stopped at Border Station, which is a convenience store where half is in Virginia, half is in North Carolina, with a huge dividing line through the middle of the store.

Norfolk Christmas Eve Dinner 2014For dinner, we drove to the marina where Mike and Carla keep their boat. There’s a lovely dockside restaurant called The Lagoon where we enjoyed Christmas Eve dinner. Our mutual friend Vivian, who is also in BBGC, met us at the restaurant to have dinner with us. We laughed, we ate, and had a dinner that was a little unconventional for Christmas. We joked around with the restaurant staff, sang along to the Christmas songs playing over the speakers, and enjoyed the view of the marina as the sun set.

When we got back to Carla’s house, we snuggled up on the couch and watched the ridiculously awful B-movie, “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.” It’s one of those movies that’s so bad, it’s good. We laughed so hard we cried. Carla packed up a suitcase full of sugar-free Torani syrups (our favorite) to send back on the plane to Michigan (totally worth checking a bag).

bullock family 2013 christmas at airportChristmas morning was different than any I’d had before. We didn’t sit around a tree and open presents. We just enjoyed each other’s company as we ate breakfast and watched the parade on tv. Rosie and I had to be back at the airport fairly early to fly back to Detroit, so we said our reluctant goodbyes before 8 am. When Rosie and I got off the plane in Detroit, Taylor was waiting for us at the gate in between his flight legs. We snapped a quick family photo, gave each other a kiss, and he was off on his way.

Christmas 2013 felt merry this year, and it didn’t require a Christmas tree with a load of presents to open. It was about love, friendship, and celebrating the small joys in life. My greatest hope for Mike and Carla this year is that treatments will be effective and his cancer will go into remission. I hope to visit again later this year, celebrating the successful conclusion to chemo. Until then, I’ll be supporting Carla however I can online. 🙂

2013 Healthy Holidays Gift Guide

With all of the food and extravagance of the holidays, it can be difficult to stay healthy and make good choices. Many holiday gift guides I’ve seen have been for products that are grandiose splurges, and not necessarily mindful of a healthy lifestyle. In this post, I am highlighting gift ideas for a healthful life, both for weight loss surgery patients and their loved ones.

Crio Bru

crio bruI am personally not a coffee drinker, and I am no longer able to tolerate most hot cocoas because of the sugar content. I like having a warm chocolately drink, but not enough to take a ride into dumpsville. Last year I discovered Crio Bru, which is a brewed cocoa drink that is delicious, low calorie, and unique. It is a natural appetite suppressant and gives you energy without traditional caffeine. It can be prepared in a French Press or traditional coffee maker. My favorite blends are Cavalla (cinnamon and coconut) and Maya (spicy chocolate). Most products are between $10-15, and  are in the form of the Crio grounds, Crio Cocoa, and Crio espresso. And they have cocoa-coated cocoa beans. It’s available in many grocery and specialty stores across Utah, or online at

Tessara Tea

Awake-and-alive-tessara-teaAlong with the hot drink theme, I’ve also become hooked on herbal tea. I’ve recently discovered Tessara Tea, which offers natural herbal infusions to saturate the body with nutrients. Herbal infusions are made by steeping plants material in water, including roots, barks, leaves, berries and flowers. While steeping, the plant materials release their essential minerals and nutrients into the water, making it easy for the body to absorb and digest. They have 3 different blends: Awake and Alive, Nourish and Cleanse, and Rest and Repair. They are a local Michigan company that has just expanded out of the local market, and their teas can be purchased online at

Better’n Peanut Butter

better'n butter peanut butterPeanut butter is a great source of protein, but it’s high in fat and calories. With 85% less fat and 40% fewer calories than regular peanut butter, Better ‘n Peanut Butter is a tasty item for weight conscious people, and it tastes fantastic. I was introduced to Better’n Peanut Butter at the Obesity Action Coalition conference in Phoenix this year, where they had a booth. I sampled ALL of their flavors: original, chocolate, banana, cinnamon chocolate, coconut chocolate, hot pepper, maple bacon and more. It’s delicious, and feels like a splurge item without sacrificing too many calories. I’ve put it on sandwiches, crackers, pretzels,fruit, and mixed it into protein shakes. You can find Better’n Peanut Butter at select Target, Rite-Aid, and Trader Joe’s stores, or online at the Better’n Peanut Butter website.

Six Nutrition Vitamins for Men

six nutrition mens vitaminsGot a man in your life that needs quality vitamin supplements for an active lifestyle? Six Nutrition has a complete vitamin packet for men that  pinpoints 6 key areas of health: heart, joint, sex, muscles, mind, and energy. Each day’s pills are packaged in a stylish foil packet that make it easy to stash in your pocket, briefcase, suitcase, or desk. My husband recently did a review of Six Nutrition Vitamins on my other blog, if you’d like to read about his experience. You can purchase Six Nutrition Vitamins from their website.

Fit Frappe Protein Drink

fit frappe vanillaSince I had my gastric bypass surgery last year, I have been around the block and back on protein mixes. I seem to fixate on certain brands for a while, then get tired of the way they taste. Of any protein I’ve tried, I am happiest with Big Train Fit Frappe protein in vanilla. It is very versatile…you can flavor it with sugar-free syrups, add it into recipes and fancy drinks, serve it hot or cold, and get single-serve packets for when you are on the go. Another plus about this particular powder…you can add it into other protein mixes to make the more tolerable. I hate throwing away protein just because I don’t like the taste, and mixing in a little Fit Frappe seems to make everything taste better. Fit Frappe is also available in coffee, mocha, espresso, chocolate, chai, and vanilla latte flavors.

Blender Bottle

blender bottleNo matter how I plan my day, I tend to have a lot of meals on the go. I am good at packing some healthy high-protein snacks, but sometimes you need a meal replacement. My favorite product for taking a meal on the go is the classic 20 ounce Blender Bottle. It’s made of sturdy plastic, has a removable metal BlenderBall for easy cleaning, and the lid makes it easy to shake things up without leaking. I have several bottles in various sizes and colors, and I love stashing one in my suitcase with Ziploc baggies of protein powder for when I travel. They’re affordable, and can be found everywhere from GNC to Walmart to Amazon.

Healthy Holidays!