Pink, Plus

pink for the cure

pink for the cure (Photo credit: silviaON)

Some people measure time by New Year’s Eve, they stay up till midnight, drink champagne and say good-bye, hoping for a better year. I used to measure years by the start of school in September for my children. I was the queen of the mommy hot-line, until they grew up and went to college.

Now, I measure time by my annual mammogram; it feels like I was just IN this same pink room with the stained chairs a minute ago. After having mammograms since I was in my twenties, I know the drill but the nurse tells me again, what to do: place the clothes in the closet, gown open in the front and as soon as she draws the curtain around me, my mind goes blank. I forget everything: did she say the opening goes in the back or the front? I didn’t use deodorant, (their loss, I think to myself) and I can never find the tie for the robe. Every. Single. Year.

I sit in this crowded room, next to me there is a tray of free pink pens and individually wrapped pink mints. I forgot for a second, that it’s October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. After reading many articles about how “Pink” has become an incredible marketing tool for companies as well as a great fund raiser. Awareness for Breast Cancer is WONDERFUL but I know that heart disease is the number one cause of death for women than all cancers combined. My own breast surgeon laughed at that (I know) and said “Hey, it’s good for me.” That definitely soured me a bit. Please read *Carolyn Thomas’ information on Heart Sisters. Carolyn is a pioneer among women.

The technician calls my name immediately and I am joyful, “This will be very quick” she says and I foolishly believe her. I kept this appointment and ultra- sound a secret from my mother who I know will worry all day; I keep this from her, I’ve already inherited the job. The test is quick, I go out to the waiting room again and sit and wait. All the people who have been with me have had their mammogram, are dressed and have left. Doors slam loudly. I can’t sit anymore, I stand, I pace. I don’t go to the women’s room for fear of missing my name being called. My head feels detached and numb and my stomach feels nauseous. I try to hide my nerves but now it’s been over two hours.  I asked a technician, very politely, if she wouldn’t mind checking for me and she was kind and I was grateful. She came back after ten minutes and tells me that the ultra-sound request was lost (yes, the one they had confirmed on Friday by phone) and they needed another one. Couldn’t they have just told me the result of the mammogram first?  No.

I was led to a different chair now, for the ultra-sound, where a well-meaning but over-talkative technician gives me a detailed explanation of what she sees. “This is a lymph node” “This is something, it could be fat or could be bad like a tumor” “I have to be honest with my patients but it’s not official, official only comes from the Dr.” She is talking to the wrong patient. She is scaring me to death. This ultra-sound takes at least 25 minutes. She takes me to the radiologist to sit and wait again. After what seems to be a very long time, she comes out and tells me “Doctor wants one more picture of lymph node” At this point, I’ve pretty much lost my mind but accepted my fate and I’m calmer. She does the picture again (another ten minutes) and we go back. I wait until the technician motions me in. The radiologist does not ask me to sit down but in an off-hand way that lasted under two seconds says “You’re fine.”  I stutter as she is about to wave me out of her door “Wait, what about the lymph node, and the tumor/fat that you were looking at?” They were fine. I truly felt like I had cut into her lunch time and she was being disturbed.

I had been in that facility for over three and a half hours, my best friend and my husband who DO NOT worry, were worried. There was no happy feeling or relief because of all the time, drama and their unpleasant way. Usually I would have said something but in this situation, after this time, I found myself completely tired, numb and mute.

I spent Tuesday in bed, still not over that stressful day. I wanted to avoid a flare-up of my Fibromyalgia but I have to say I still haven’t gotten my fight back. Yet.

*For more information on Heart Sisters:myheartsisters.org/

Rx: Anxiety

Anxious

Image by Brian Auer via Flickr

Arthritic, gnarled witch fingers

crawl into my bloated stomach

weaving in and out, with fire lit thunder bolts

pounding their way through my blood engorged arteries.

I want to scream for it to stop and I do

but no words come out.

I hear the words perfectly pegged with accuracy but no one else can,

as they lean into me, their black eyes engorged, their breath hot on my face.

I am living in the deep, dark labyrinth where there is

no beginning and no end just twisted corners turned around.

The veins on my hands pop up aqua blue

against milky white skin that is painfully translucent.

Breathing in labored breaths,

I swing my torso around and tuck it into my body cave, fatty, yellow globules mixed together.

Tonight, there are no answers, just questions and mind numbing

sadness with extraordinary swells of sweating fear.

“What Music Do You Work Out To?”

Simon and Garfunkel Mrs Robinson UK EP

Image via Wikipedia

Non-Work Out Music?  Sure.

Oh, be serious, not EVERYONE works out. I am not speaking just for myself but on behalf of some friends of mine…..well, we don’t work out at all. We walk. I can’t honestly say this is a work-out though it is well-intentioned but speed walkers we are not. We stroll, we talk, we share and we don’t listen to music but to each other. It’s our time to be with each other, when the wind is a gentle breeze, when the sun is not intense and when it is not cold out. Are we particular when we want to walk outside? You bet! Besides, I am the most particular since I have a chronic pain disease called Fibromyalgia and usually I have to conquer my aches and pains to even get out the door. It isn’t easy.

If I was to walk alone or use the treadmill ( LOL) the songs I would listen to would be “Story” by Sarah Ramirez (from Grey’s Anatomy), a 1980′s song by the group, Red, whose name I have forgotten entirely and possibly anything upbeat from the Beatles, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Simon and Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I am stuck in the 1970′s with my taste in music and when CD’s were not born yet and I listened to records, over and over again. Unfortunately, my chubby body is still stuck in the seventies as well! The best thing about being in your fifties, is image matters less and quality of life matters much, much more. Enjoy your life, whether you work out or not.

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Are You Even Aware, Do You Care? (ChronicBabe Blog Carnival)

woman

Image by Alessandro Vannucci via Flickr

Dear Doctors,

Fibromyalgia Awareness Day is May 12, but I bet mostly people who suffer from this debilitating illness know that.  There are people, fellow doctors even, who still think this is all in our heads. That IS the most insulting thing of all. Do you think we would choose this way of life? On purpose? Do you think that we would want to feel pain in every muscle and joint in our bodies for the fun of it? Maybe we just want attention, is that what you think? Do you know that I was diagnosed with two chronic illnesses within a matter of months and that menopause was the catalyst? Did you know that it was menopause that turned my body inside out and sideways, plumped up my lower belly and shattered my metabolism?  Do you know I eat less than the average child but I don’t lose weight and walking around the block twice is considered a work out?

I am going tomorrow to my third Rheumatologist to see what he has to say. He’s local, convenient and since I have had such different points of view from previous doctors I’d like to add yet another opinion to my massively, confused, Fibro Fog memory. That is if I can remember what we talk about which is as likely to happen as Christmas in July. I will try though, I will write things down, I will do intensive listening. I want to hear what you have to say. I wonder if you realize that a Fibromyalgia patient making an appointment to see you is not simple at all? It isn’t, we have to get there too and that is always a work in progress.

Did you know I saw a famous Rheumatologist for years, only to find out later, that the strong, immunosuppressant medications he prescribed could have destroyed me? That the medications he prescribed for me in his fancy office with his “Best Doctor Awards” on his walls, are only supposed to be used to protect a vital, organ? I didn’t know that either until another Doctor, actually two, told me.

Awareness is not just acknowledging a disease or many diseases; it is also imperative to take the accompanying emotional distress that it brings too. It’s no longer just me, it’s me and my shadow. We bring baggage, physical and emotional because many of us have dealt with this elusive, enigma of a disease for many years. Please, bear with us.

Even if you mean the best, you might not want to say “I know how you feel” because unless you are a patient, you don’t.  You can’t walk in my aching shoes, the soles of my feet are rigid, hurt and are on fire, right to the top of my head that aches at times with horrendous headaches, pounding me like turbulent waves on stoic rocks.  Are you aware, Doctors, that when some of  you treat us chronic patients like drug seeking  heroin addicts you demean us? You take away any sense of self-respect that we once had in the past? We know you try to help us but please understand how we feel. We feel pain, we just want some relief, once in a while when we need it the most. Try and understand that, we’re not looking for a quick high or to be comatose on life-altering drugs. We just want to be able to breathe without pain for a short time, ONLY, when we need it the most.

I’ll leave you with one thought. We know you try to help make us feel better. Just remember a moment of compassion, a light hand on our shoulder, an extra second of your smile means a lot, especially when we feel we have so little. If your son or daughter had the same disease and our same symptoms, would you treat him or her any differently? If you have to think about it, please consider treating us, like you would them.

Thank you very much for your time.

My Freckles Are Spreading, No Really

Ashton Kutcher at Time 100 Gala

Image via Wikipedia

I was in a small shopping mall last week and I passed a mirror and I thought, for a quick second, that I saw my reflection. No, that couldn’t be me. I must have seen someone else. Whoever it was, looked bloated, tired, pale and cranky. She was wearing a green shirt, and mom jeans with protruding stomach rolls, and she was frowning furiously that showed deep wrinkle lines.  That’s NOT me! Um, but I am wearing the same outfit and my eyes are green…..

Maybe the mirror I looked in was one of those funny mirrors that they use in amusement parks, or pranks!  I looked around for Ashton Kutcher because I thought I was being  “Punked”or at the very least, pranked. Ashton, however  was no where in sight and the only camera looking at me was a security camera following my every, suspicious move.

That old, sad, mad, fat person warily looking back at me made me want to weep and hide in some stranger’s musty attic or move to Canada or better yet, Italy. I can give good advice to others about positive body image but it wasn’t working for me today.  Today, I flunked the course.  I  ordered a chopped salad for lunch (appetizer size) and I had that lovely tiny slice of Italian cheesecake with the essence of orange, but don’t those things cancel each other out?

If big, cranky, frowning lady wasn’t enough I also saw that there is now something quite wrong with my skin. I’ve always had that pale, cream-cheese complexion but things are changing.  My freckles are joining together; I’m sure that’s what it must be.  It couldn’t be the dreaded old age spots, could it? This day just keeps getting better and better.

Just one more thing: I remembered the cashier at A & P  who asked me my age. I was so confused…..until she told me that Seniors, 55 and older get 5% off their bill on Tuesdays. It was Tuesday and while I am not 55, I’m really damn close. So, thanks for the discount but your people skills stink.

I know all the reasons why women gain weight in their, (cough, cough) mid to later years and I lend these pearls of wisdom to friends as easily as I would a  button-down blue sweater. My own body crashed with Menopause, followed closely by an Underactive Thyroid condition and an Auto-immune Disease called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. After that, I was diagnosed with  Fibromyalgia. But, today I’m just not buying it. I don’t care, I just know how awful I feel. Today, I am allowing myself to sulk.

Maybe tomorrow I will be able to put things in perspective. I will remember that good health is more important than weight, that I have a wonderful family and I am grateful for so many things. As for the cheesecake? It was worth every bite. The mirror? That, was pure evil.

Fat Fits

OUCH!  My pants are killing me and they are digging into my stomach and causing major red welts. WHO put them in the dryer for so long??! It is obvious that they shrank to a smaller size. Who hasn’t asked the very same question or said those very same words? When you are in your twenties or early thirties, five, even ten pounds are not that hard to lose. You skip some desserts, eat a few more salads with dressing on the side, you’re pretty much back to where you were. Not really a big deal although it probably seems like it when it happens. After all, you have nothing to compare it to. You can moan or groan and be a size 6 or 8 or 12 or 22 and still feel conspicuous. You can lie (as most of us have done) and say it’s “water weight,” “I’m bloated” or “just too much salt in that French onion soup (regardless of the mountain of gooey, stringy cheese on top).”  It’s all very plausible and they basically mean the very same thing. It’s not fun but it is fairly easy.

Now,  we are married and pregnant and you ARE eating for two! Thank goodness I had my children in my early thirties because now I hear that you are only supposed to gain about eight pounds for your entire pregnancy. Eight pounds? I probably gained that in between office visits when I was pregnant.  I didn’t crave pickles and ice cream much to my husband’s disappointment; he wanted me to wake him up in the middle of the night with cravings for chocolate ice cream with butterscotch syrup. I just wanted to sleep without peeing every hour on the hour.   With my son I craved Chinese food, French rolls from Dunkin’ Donuts with grape jelly (no butter) and bologna and orange American cheese sandwiches on white bread with butter; chocolate milk was the beverage of choice. After all, the baby and I needed calcium.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, a  mere twelve months after my son was born, we thought she would be Greek because all I ever wanted were Greek salads with extra feta cheese, all the time. It sounds healthy but it really wasn’t. The Italian (I know, right?) place I got it from gave giant-sized portions with about two pounds of salty feta cheese along with their deliciously creamy home-made dressing; extra dressing on the side, please.  It was a salad, and, in my befuddled brain, that meant healthy. It was also served with a lot of bread.  In addition, since I was pregnant in the summer, Carvel’s vanilla cones, dipped in multi-colored sprinkles were a must or extra thick, creamy French vanilla milkshakes to quell the nausea (if there was nausea), of course. Again, we needed even more calcium.  All that vanilla and my second child, my daughter, loves only chocolate. It figures.

Losing baby weight from two pregnancies in a row is a joke and besides, those pregnancy pants are so darn comfortable. Skip ahead a few years, okay, more than a few, and you’re fifty. You’ve gone through peri-menopause, menopause and post menopause and every single thing in and on  your body changes and you pretty much fall apart. The three pounds you used to be able to lose in two days? Gone.  You have gained weight by NOT changing your diet at all and you’ve developed a large kangaroo pouch for which there is no joey. Your fat is redistributed and your clothes don’t fit the same anymore. Your waist has all but (speaking of the butt, the butt reinvents itself and is its country), your hips take on Titanic proportions and you can’t even begin to describe your upper legs as thighs. They are more like battleships and the more you walk around, the more they shift and fight each other and no one ever wins; there are no survivors.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure things out and you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to put the pieces together; you are older now, middle- aged, middle- aged plus, or old and your body, in a sense, is breaking down. To put it clearly, after a certain age, you really do start falling apart.  I find this happening more to women than men but that could be because we just talk about it more. That is, women talk to women about these kinds of things ad nauseum.  This is not a discussion they are having with their boyfriends or lovers or G-d forbid, their husbands.  If we don’t speak about it, it must not be true.

The years go by, the numbers go up. You try to exercise but the numbers stay the same. If the numbers go up, it’s definitely muscle mass. It’s so damn cold outside how can we exercise? It is way too icy to walk and heaven forbid slip, you don’t want a broken ankle especially because your bones are more brittle now too.  You have the elliptical machine that you could use but with the foot/heel problems you have had your orthopedist strongly recommends you NOT use it because of the trauma to your already torn ligament. Of course there’s indoor swimming, which even if you had the ridiculous amount of money they charge at the gym, the thought of swimming indoors and going back outside to the freezing cold with wet hair is less than desirable. Don’t you get an instant cold that way? That could lead to the flu, swine, regular or all-purpose.

What can you do?  You either fight like hell and become a person who is relentless in starving and maintaining the lowest calorie account imaginable.  You can eat a moderate amount and not forsake all the things you love.  Or, you can eat as much as you want, when you want and just buy bigger clothes.  There are a few options in between and we can justify whichever one we want.  Basically,  fat is a relative thing. Health is a whole other article.  Do what’s right and what’s comfortable for you and don’t let anyone, ANYONE judge you. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t want to lose the extra ten or……if I easily could. But, the fact is, I’ve tried and I’ve tried again. Being 53 I just don’t care that much about what other people think of me. I know who I am and I’m the same woman inside no matter what the label says; let us be comfortable in our own skin, inside and out.

Mother and Daughter Wars

Last night I had another angry dream about my mother. We were  in Israel and supposed to be coming home. I remember my kids were with us as well. I was both daughter to my mother and mother to my children.  My mother decided she wasn’t coming home, she was abandoning us (me) and staying in Israel to be with her boyfriend. I believe she said something like “I never wanted this to begin with.” I begged her to come home with us, I sobbed,  I pleaded. She stood her ground and wouldn’t budge. I remember her crying in the dream as she walked in the opposite direction, but ultimately, she stood her ground and stayed. She had planned trips with her boyfriend. Until the very end of my dream and continuing as I gradually woke up, I was in a state of total disbelief. I’ve had this dream about 3 or 4 times a week for about two months.

My relationship with my mother now is definitely uneven, up and down, intense and cool. My mother and my sister are very similar people but I was always closer to my dad. He understood me, he made things better, he was more diplomatic; he was my warm and loving parent. He died 8 years ago. I feel that whatever I do for my mother is not good enough. Even though I TRY much harder to please her (visits, dinners, lunches, grandchildren…) than my sister,  it never feels like it’s good  enough.  My mother and I  are so different that it gets in the way. It gets in the way that with every thoughtless comment and(self-perceived)  dig she makes. When I am this angry it makes me  want to see her less. She drains me, she hurts me, the one time she came to see me when I was on bed rest with my leg, she arrived demanding a sandwich from my husband.  There was no pot of chicken soup in her hands or even a few bagels, not even a cookie. She came, demanded a sandwich and then, complaining about the stairs, went upstairs and said hello to me, after she was fed. In her defense, she is a diabetic, in my defense, I just wanted to see her first.

Several days ago I returned home from a very important Dr. visit in the city with my Guru Dr, as I refer to him. He was so pleased with my progress that I was beaming. He said the first time he saw me I definitely “grabbed his attention because I was so sick.” Then, the first visit after, I had improved a little bit. This visit he exclaimed “You Look Great.”  I felt better, I looked better, I had lost ten pounds and I was absolutely thrilled.  As a daughter, the first thing you want to do is call your mom and tell her  the good news and so I did. She listened and then said”Now I’m going to ask you a question that you won’t like”  to which I replied “do you have to” and she said “yes I do, I have to.” Sigh. Groan. She asked the following: What did the Dr. say about your weight gain? ‘Huh? What? I just told you he was thrilled with me?!  She then replied “but what did he say about your weight gain?”Telling her, again,, that I had indeed lost  ten pounds did not mollify her. She wanted to know about the total weight gain… I gave up.  I was hurt, I was disgusted. And, of course she pulled the weight button, goes off like an alarm every time.

A common theme in our relationship has always been about my being overweight, chubby, FAT. I was very thin as a child and she used to carry Nestle’s Quik all around the world trying to fatten me up. Boy, has that changed.  Ever since I was about 10 and  she left the NY Times Magazine on the kitchen table open to “Overweight Camps For Girls”it has been a big problem (try and forget THAT!)  Of course, when I starved myself to 121 pounds (that lasted about 5 minutes) she was nagging me to gain weight. Is there anyone who wouldn’t need Psychotherapy after this?  Not that it helped….

I summoned the courage to have the “talk” with her. It was heated, we both feel we can do no good for the other person. But then we listened…I told her how I felt, she told me how she felt. It wasn’t that different after all. She needed attention and she really needed advice. She did not know, honestly did not know, what mothering meant. She had grown up without a real mother, just a twisted, nasty, dishonest stepmother.

I told her what I needed, she told me she understood. She also told me that she doesn’t say personal things to make me feel bad, she just means it as a fact. Yes, I do take things way too personally. We agreed.

Today, she came over with bagels and cream cheese for lunch. She said hello to the dog,and told her outloud “I want to see Laurie”  and walked upstairs. The first thing she did was say hello to me, her brown eyes twinkling. I love this woman who looked so cute and fashionable in her little blue outfit. I will always love her;she is a part of me that will be with me always. I want to make her happy, I want her to know how much I love her and I do.  I just can’t promise to always agree with her. But that’s ok, as long as we keep on talking it through and leaving our hearts all the way open.

When Life Sucks, Eat Chocolate

Yesterday, I snuck a Hershey’s milk chocolate bar from the kitchen  furtively up the stairs. In addition, for balance, a 100 calorie pack of Lorna Dunes. I slipped in to my darkened bedroom and hid under the covers.  On one hand I had a 100 calorie pack of “Lorna Dunettes” and in the other a big milk chocolate bar. Together, I thought, the taste would be exhilirating. It’s all about the contrast . Sweet, soft, salty, crunch …   in my world it  was like a mini “fmores”  ( faux smores) festival. Luckily, the only one in the family that noticed was my dog, Callie, who gave me a knowing look;. she  blinked twice and sped up the stairs in front of me. While I was not going to share my chocolate with the  dog, she does love Lorna Dunes; they are one of her favorite cookies; mine too.  Lorna Dunes are melt in your mouth cookies, they are the cookie version of M and M’s, another fine dining experience.

I know, I know, I’m an “emotional eater” and knowledge is NOT power. Yes, I eat when I am unhappy.  Yes, food comforts me, it makes me happier. Tonight, I don’t give a damn. Spent the last 2 entire days sobbing because my favorite, unofficial aunt (or, come on, fill in the blank) “faunt” passed away 2 nights ago. The day before that was my dad’s birthday; he’s been dead 8 years. That’s a hard couple of days. I cried until my eyes were literally stuck together, my nose was a candidate for Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and my face was all kinds of puffy 3 ways. I didn’t care.  I ate. And, yes, it did make me feel better.

I hate hearing all these non-eating gurus speak about how emotional eating is so bad for us. I say, “so what?”  If it  helps (ok, ok, in moderation) just do it. As long as it’s legal, as long as it’s short -term. Basically, if I am upset or worried or depressed or all of the above and I crave chocolate, chocolate I will have.  Some days I want pretzels but that’s an ordinary snack one that I would not use for a cheer up convention. Pretzels are a clean snack. A healthy snack would not raise my mood an iota. For that we need endorphins (cool word, right?) the ones that they say people get after they excercise a lot. A real high. It’s hard to even type through my hysteria..I mean, really, exercise to get happy? Honestly, I don’t even understand the idea much less the concept. Exercise = Happiness? Not from where I come from. Believe me, I wish it worked for me.  It doesn’t.

When I was younger I loved Snowballs. Snowballs for those of you who don’t know (and I AM sorry) are a round chocolate cake with cream inside a la the Twinkie, BUT, most importantly, this exquisite sculpture of heaven-sent blessings are covered with a thick (i’m drooling) layer of pink marshmelow coating that has thousands of, okay, maybe hundreds, of  coconut flakes all over and inside them. It’s Christmas in April. It’s Channukah gelt, it’s jelly doughnuts on New Years Eve.

Look, some of us are not meant to be a size 6 or even 16. That’s life, that’s truth; that fellow chocolate lovers is the real deal. Don’t deny it. Skinny bitches might band together but those of us who crave carbs  know. Real women know. Give us pasta, pizza, chocolate, fritos, cookies and ice cream and we are happy. I’m not endorsing binging, I’m not endorsing purging. I am endorsing ” a little bit of this, a little bit of that….”(stolen from the Fiddler on the Roof) Anatevka…. Home to many of us.

Talking about tradition, my family has one for New Year’s Eve.  They are called jelly doughnuts. That is really the only celebration we have that I  have celebrated since I was a child. I could eat jelly doughnuts twice a day if they weren’t so oily (yum) and fattening (bummer) and be happy. Forget the champagne, my tradition needs a large glass of milk.  The jelly component is very, repeat, very, IMPORTANT.  The doughnuts I grew up with, once a year, were  pure and lovely pieces of art. Truly, the sprinkled sugar on top–NOT confectioner’s sugar, was equally placed all over the doughnut to perfection. That was from the Homestead Deli/Gourmet shop where we used to go when we lived in Kew Gardens, Queens.

I am not a perfectionist, I DON’T NEED that particular doughnut from that particular store. Dunkin Donuts are fine by me. And every year we buy doughnuts from them on New Year’s Eve, 2 chocolate doughnuts for my husband and daughter, 2 jelly doughnuts for my son and myself .Well, sometimes 4 jelly doughnuts because I just cannot choose between the raspberry and strawberry fillings.  Which to pick? How do I know I will like it? Why don’t I remember from year to year? These are important issues for me. At last,  an easy solution,  a Libra solution: I buy one of each  and only eat the doughy jelly part from both. How can you lose?  Maybe this year (probably not) I will write down my favorite and then just get that every year. Of course I’ve been saying that for many years and i know I won’t do it. Tis the season. Get happy. Eat.