For Whom the Bell Tolls
Monday, March 11, 2002
Suburbia, California 


"No man is an island
No man stands alone
Each man's joy is my joy
Each man's sorrow is my own
Do not send and ask,
For whom the bells toll
They toll for you.

 ~ John Donne

Throughout history, bells were tolled for those who were being threatened by marauders or approaching storms. Bells were also tolled to celebrate happy occasions such as weddings and to mark sorrowful occasions such as deaths.

Bells have been tolled to gather village residents to church and for meetings. In 1945, many church bells tolled to announce the victory of the Allies.

Lately, the bells in my life have been way too busy.  

In mid-December, the warning bell tolled: my friend found a lump in her breast.  To preserve her privacy, I'll call her B.  B for bravery and B for Belle, my favorite book-reading Disney character.  Any woman who finds a lump instantly thinks of and fears the worst-case scenario:  breast cancer. Those who don't fall into denial get it checked right away. B acted on it right away, but her overloaded HMO doctor was not able to schedule a mammography until January 18.

That meant a whole MONTH of waiting just to get tested!

The state of not-knowing must have colored her entire holiday season. The death bell tolled for me: knowing that overweight, diabetes, breast cancer and early death form a correlated cluster, I was haunted by the specter of the possibility of her slow, grueling death like my father's and our favorite aunt's and uncle's. Could I bear to lose yet another loved one to the ravages of cancer?  

Throughout the holidays, I never stopped praying for her.  DH and I prayed for her, together.

"If two or more are gathered together..."


January 18 finally came. Within a short time, the bell happily tolled: the mammography revealed no cancer. WHEW! The sense of  collective relief was gigantic -- for her and all who knew about her scare. I felt a huge weight being lifted, and I reveled in the freedom of no-fear.

In late February, B decided to take her reprieve seriously and was ready to make a REAL effort to finally get healthy by losing the extra weight. She was reading up and listening to tapes on low-carb diets.  

Over lunch, she told me about Luther Vandross, a self-confessed sugar/carboholic. She fully identified with what he had to say, especially about how a grain of rice could trigger his insatiable sugar/carb cravings. Like an alcoholic at an AA meeting, she confessed to me that she too was hooked. Hooked on sugar.  Hooked on carbs.

>> ABC News:  A Whole New Luther Vandross; Rhythm & Blues Powerhouse Powerless Over Food

>>  Sugar as Poison >> More articles

>>  Sugar Busters  >> More articles

B remembers exactly when she became a die-hard sugar addict.  A doughnuts binge tripped her full-blown sugar/carb addiction, and within a short time, she lost her svelte figure.  

Of course, I knew she was a sugar/carb addict.  Takes one to know one. I know that addiction all too well.  I was in graduate school, and I too can remember the time and place when I realized I was a sugar/carbo addict. One day my blood sugar level dropped so precipitously that I got the "shakes."  I hurried to the vending machine for a sugar fix, a package of snack cakes.  Hostess Ding Dongs, which were named after the chiming bells used in its first television commercial. 

Those ding dong bells!  How they chimed enticingly at me, and I was such a ding-a-ling for giving in to them. Thank God, I snapped out of that self-destructive spiral before I ballooned out of control.  I woke up to the gift of life, but resisting sugar and carbs is still a daily struggle, requiring will power and discipline. 


B is among the dearest of my kith.

She is my friend, and because I am hers,  ever since she was diagnosed with diabetes last year, I have been  battling her addiction with her, to her face and behind-the-scenes. While she may be sick of me talking about diabetes, I always sense that she knows I do it because I care about her. The mind and spirit can overcome the body, if given a chance. I won't be an ostrich; her weight and diabetes are sight- and life-threatening to her. 

I want my friend to "grow old along with me, as the best is yet to be."

I won't pussyfoot around a "touchy" subject. We openly talk about her weight; her yoyo-ing; the struggles and tragedies of the diabetics I've known, including my father, our friend, Wayne H and acquaintances; as well as my own constant struggles with hypoglycemia. When we lunch, I conscientiously order a salad, bowl of soup or high-protein breakfast.  I pass on dessert.  

In my office, I've asked those I do business with, staff, and clients-- in NO uncertain terms --  to NOT bring in sugar or baked treats, especially doughnuts, to tempt me and those around me. I've brought it up with B's co-workers, who know she is diabetic.

I don't mince words:  "If you have to bring in something, bring in fruit!  Bringing in a box of candy, doughnuts, or muffins -- full of refined sugar -- into the space of a hypoglycemic (or diabetic) is like waving a glass of booze under an alcoholic's nose."  

Some people just don't get it.  

This past holiday season, as every holiday season, I received mounds and mounds of sweets and treats from clients and those with whom I do business.  I take them home and give them away to those who do not have a weight problem, or I simply dump them out so as not to perpetuate the travesty of misguided gifting.

Recently, I saw a box of frosted Valentine's cupcakes sitting on a desk at B's office and I saw red.  Ignorance runs deep. As they say, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."  With the exception of one person, believe me, NO one in her office needs the extra empty calories or poundage.  And no one needs that kind of bachi * for being an enabler (sugar pusher).

* bachi: Divine retribution inflicted on someone who speaks or acts in a disrespectful, unbelieving, or impure way. Bachi is a variant form of batsu, meaning punishment. For those of us from Hawai`i, bachi is a form of the idea that what goes around comes around

To be direct, I see bringing in sweets into the workplace, whether it's my office or B's, as a cheap and inconsiderate way of buying favor or getting in another's good graces. Being "nice," but not at all.  I sometimes see such gifting as an insensitivity, a way to appease one's own guilt, or a flaunting. 

I forgive those who don't know that I am a sugar/carbo addict, but when it is made clear why sweets should not be present, i.e., "I am hypoglycemic," then I can only surmise that it is a form of sadistic cruelty. "If you really care about me as you say you do, you wouldn't be trying to poison or drug me, would you?"


So, when the waitress came by to ask B if she had made her dessert selection, B passed on it.  The waitress' face registered total surprise and she said to B, "But B, you always order dessert!  Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure," she replied, as she crossed her arms in front of her.

I was proud of B, and I made a pact with her.  I would start her no/low carb diet with her.  I'd put on holiday pounds, adding them to those from my comfort food indulgences after 9-11.  

We were doing great. The bells were tolling jubilantly: My skirts' waistbands are less snug, and B lost six pounds in two weeks and LOOKED like she'd lost weight.  Together, we created a vivid visual goal.  When she reached her target weight (135) in six months (September), we'd toss her up and down on an Indian blanket, an expected reward that she never received when she did well as a wee one.


Then, this past Thursday, when we least expected it, the bell tolled again.  Another warning toll:  B's tongue went numb.  I stopped by B's office at the end of the work day. The numbness had not gone away.

Of course, I immediately thought, "Overweight, diabetes, cardiovascular problems...stroke..."  I had an aspirin in my pocket (a rare, synchronistic event), pulled it out and verbalized my worst fear.  She took it, confessing that the possibility of stroke had crossed her mind,  She said she had spoken to her doctor earlier, who did not seem particularly alarmed and would see her the next day.  An aspirin couldn't hurt...just in case.

Well, yesterday, I got the lowdown.  The tongue numbing preceded the full-blown onset of Bell's Palsy, a neurological problem, specifically the inflammation of the facial cranial nerve.  Thank goodness, after her HMO experience with the mammography, she had upgraded her health care to a PPO, and was able to get a CT scan the NEXT day.

The good news: it's not a stroke, but Bell's Palsy, likely secondary to an ear infection that had bothered her last week.  She is receiving a three-pronged treatment, and it should resolve in a few weeks. The not-so-good-news: the CT scan revealed a teensy meningioma -- a brain tumor in her frontal lobe, which is, THANK GOD, benign but will now be monitored with care.

Since, I have been scouring the 'Net to learn as much as I can from websites and forums on Bell's Palsy, a condition that happens 11 in 10,000, and meningiomas.   

I trust in the therapeutic power of intercessory prayer, especially group prayer, so if you can take a moment, please send a prayer for B's well-being. The Great Spirit knows who she is.

Visualize a healthy, 135 pound love of a person being jubilantly tossed in an Indian blanket held by those who love and adore her.


Yesterday, the bell tolled once again when she called. It tolled for victory!  In spite of all she'd been through over the past few months -- if not, the past year -- B was immediately turning these adversities into strengths. She expressed gratitude that the Bell's Palsy was a blessing in disguise, as it uncovered the tumor, which is being caught so early that it will be effectively dealt with.

As B says, "My sense of taste may be gone, but my sense of humor is still intact:  My tongue's numb and I can't taste my food, and that's only going to help me lose this weight!"  


B for bells, B is for Belle, B for bravery, B for beacon. B for bosom buddy.

"Life is a Gift."

Me ke Aloha, 
Author Unknown

 "The only gift is a portion of thyself..."
Ralph Waldo Emerson


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This web journal was created on a September Morn, 
September 29, 2001
September Morn 2002