When there’s a cup of hot coffee in front of me, I don’t just see the deep darkness of the brew, smell the strong aroma as it rises from the mug or anticipate its sharp bitterness. My perception goes beyond those physical senses.
A cup of java reminds me of the special moments I would enjoy sipping coffee with my mother and stepfather, Jeff Wahl, who died from mesothelioma.
While there are pros and cons to drinking coffee, especially for cancer patients, it’s been a positive light in my fitness journey, as well as through the mourning process of losing a loved one to mesothelioma.
Learning to Enjoy Coffee
Mesothelioma hit close to home when it took the life of my stepfather. There was about a seven-month span between his diagnosis and passing.
Plenty of changes took place during those seven months, but coffee helped me deal with them.
When I was growing up, Jeff and my mom always shared their morning cup of coffee together. To be honest, I never really understood it. They’d act as if they couldn’t function until they had their coffee.
I didn’t like the taste of it, but they always swore that I’d acquire the taste for it eventually. It wasn’t until I moved away for college when I actually started opening up and trying new things. My roommate at the time told me jokingly, “If you ever want to be successful, you’ve got to learn how to drink black coffee.”
After many attempts, I eventually grew to like the stuff.
Coffee Stirs the Memories
It was in 2011, before spring break, when coffee made me start acting like my mom and Jeff. When the alarm clock sounded, I made a beeline for the coffee pot.
I knew I was going home the following week. I was happy knowing that soon I’d be sitting in the living room with the sun peeking through the blinds and watching Sports Center while drinking a cup of coffee with my mom and Jeff.
But that happiness was short-lived.
That same week, I received the call that changed my life. Jeff had been hospitalized after a test showed a spot on his lung. Jeff quickly changed his diet: No coffee, processed food or anything too acidic.
I came home anticipating a nice calm cup of coffee in the living room, but instead, we ate breakfast in the hospital cafeteria. It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting, but life rarely is.
After Jeff passed away, I noticed every time I poured a cup of coffee, I envisioned myself in the living room with him and my mom. With the warm first sip, came a sense of normalcy – an important feeling during a time of change.
I now wake up every morning and enjoy that cup of coffee with Jeff, in spirit at least. It’s important that I remind myself of where I came from in order to know where I want to go, and my cup of coffee in the morning has played a significant role.
Health Risks and Benefits of Coffee
What about the health risks and benefits of coffee? Would coffee have affected Jeff if he had kept drinking it during his battle with mesothelioma? What kind of effect does coffee have on my fitness level?
Donald D. Hensrud, M.D., associate professor of preventive medicine and nutrition at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine wrote that “most studies find an association between coffee consumption and decreased overall mortality and possibly cardiovascular mortality, although this may not be true in younger people who drink large amounts of coffee.”
Moderation is key here.
If you drink a cup of coffee daily, there are likely more health benefits than risks. However, that’s not to say that coffee is for everyone.
When Jeff was battling mesothelioma, he was prescribed a specific diet. He became incredibly sensitive to taste and smell. Anyone who remembers the first time they tried a cup of coffee, can recall its strong taste and aroma.
Although coffee acts as a mild diuretic, meaning it causes drinkers to urinate more than usual, the Mayo Clinic explains that drinking it won’t cause excess fluid loss. However, someone battling mesothelioma may have a severe need to stay hydrated. Drinking more coffee than water can make symptoms of mesothelioma worsen because of dehydration.
Coffee as a Pre-Workout Supplement
Generally, I always recommend that my clients drink two cups of water for every cup of coffee they drink, in addition to their normal daily water intake, especially if they’re exercising.
Black coffee is my favorite pre-workout supplement because it doesn’t contain a long list of ingredients, just coffee and water.
Drinking black coffee before a workout has been associated with:
- Accelerated fat loss
- Increased performance
- Improved focus
- Decreased muscle pain
- Preventing disease
Again, be sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise in order to ensure proper hydration. Stay strong, hydrated, healthy, and most of all, never give up.