29 August 2011

Walking against the Current

Since the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer is only three weeks away, our weekends are consumed with getting in long distance walks.  It's been in the triple digits here in Sunland/L.A. area, so this past Sunday we woke up at 6:00 to head out to Pasadena to walk the Rosebowl a few times. 

When we started walking, it was still early, and there weren't too many people out.  Still, it was Sunday, and despite the heat, and the chance to sleep in, there were people getting their morning exercise.  The beautiful thing was that there were all shapes, sizes, colors and ages of people there.  Walking, running, cycling, skating.  Some walking dogs, some walking each other. 
I'm a people watcher and I've noticed that there are some categories that most walkers fall into:1.  The physically fit:  these beautiful people are in the skimpiest of shorts, and exposed to the world.  They run like gazelles.  Tan bodies that don't giggle.  (I've never been one of this group...but if I were, I'd flaunt it too!)
2.  The ones that are trying to get into shape....(my category).  These people come in all kinds of shapes from super large, to extremely thin....and we're all out there trying to get healthy.  Ani and I, we just walk.  But there are those that wear sweatshirts, even garbage bags, trying to sweat "it" out...whatever it is.  There are chubby moms with chubby kids trying to get healthy together. 
3.  Young moms and dads with their strollers.  I saw a lot of really fit moms...and some not so fit, but with those fancy strollers.  Jogging with their babies. 
4.  The individualists:  This group sticks out, but they want to stick out.  We saw a woman with a Hendrix-size afro, snow boots, and leggings, plugged into her mp3, singing loudly to the world as she walked.  Then "the Mountain Man" with his massive whiskers and hiking boots; the flourescent-clad foreigner group...anyways, you get the picture.
and then there's my favorite group of all....
5.  The senior citizens.  I love seeing them out walking.  The women are so beautiful and so "no nonsense".  They are out there to walk...to visit with their friends while walking.  They have learned life's lessons and are up and moving.  They are such an inspiration to me.  The men are there too.  Walking either with the women, or with their friends.  Joking, getting their exercise.  There's this really cool guy too....he reminds me of an old bulldog looking drill sargeant.  He wears a flashing red light around his neck and a hat, and in the course of our walk, we pass him several times.  I asked him Sunday how many times around he goes around.  "FIVE times every day."  That's 15 miles a day.  What an inspiration!
Sadly, I compare this group of seniors to my own mom who doesn't walk because she believes she cannot.   It's just easier not to.  Her arthritis and severely swollen feet, make it difficult, BUT, she can, and should.  But chooses the easier path.  And sadly, the less she does, the less she will be able to do.  My orthopedist told me the same thing, "Use it or lose it" was the admonishment when it came to my arthritic knees.  So I walk....and  I remember the lyrics of Neil Young's song...to paraphrase, "It's better to burn out, than to rust."  I'd rather burn out trying, than to rust not trying my best.  And hopefully, one day, when I'm a granny, I'll still be out walking the bowl.

Okay, so all this being said I came to another observation.  The first lap around I saw a sign I had never seen before.  It was a graphic of a walker, with an arrow pointing in the direction that walkers are supposed to walk.  I had never seen it before.  And not surprising was the fact that we were walking in the opposite direction.  Grant it, we weren't the only ones walking our way...but I realized that if we were all walking in the same direction - following the directions -- we wouldn't see even half of the people that were out there on that beautiful morning.  We'd only be confined to walking with those that walked at our same pace or that passed us by (or that we passed).  Yet, walking against the current, you got to see almost everyone at some point or another as you passed them by.  I think my life is so much richer for going against the current.  Not just at the Rose Bowl, but in general.

26 August 2011

Approaching the Weekend - Tired!

I shouldn't feel so tired.  It all hit me yesterday after my first day back to work.  I had gone camping with Ani, my sister and her two girls and my friend Nancy.  Our all-girl camping trip.  That was Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.  Then Wednesday I had the day of doctor's appointments.  And yesterday it was back to work.  By the time I got home yesterday, I felt that I had the energy just sucked out of me.  And today, I'm just tired and dragging.

That's the difference between pre- and post-cancer.  I feel like I'm well.  My scars have healed.  I even feel like my insides are making progress.  Thankfully, I don't have any treatment going on for my breast cancer.  But despite all this, I find that my energy is just not where it used to be. 

I'm almost 4 months post op from my mastectomy and tram flap procedure.  The doctor, today, gave me the okay to expand my exercise from "just walking" to some light cardio and arm work.  Still no abs, no tummy stuff.  No pulling or stretching that area.  Still, I'm grateful for this much so I can work my geloid arms again.

I brought this fatigue up to the doctor.  Am I supposed to be so tired so far out from surgery?  Well, she said, if it was just one surgery, maybe....but I've had three major surgeries in 6 months.  I guess it's just catch up time.

If I could just put everything on hold and get some quality rest it would be one thing.  But there's so much going on in my life.  I have these illustrations for a children's book that I am commissioned to do.  I need to work on those and try to meet a late October deadline.  There's the jewelry business.  The homeless outreach.  Church.  Family.  The day job.  And the bills.  It gets overwhelming.  But....and this is a big one....I am alive to do these things. And I am relatively well and healthy.  I guess I should stop complaining, no?

25 August 2011

A Day for Doctor's Appointments - progress update

Yesterday was my Doctor's appointment day.  I took the day off work to schedule all my appointments in one day and get them over with.  There were some glitches with insurance authorization, and wrong coding, but I made it through.  It was exhausting.  Here's the update on my health both with my breast cancer and general health and weight loss. 

Appointment 1:  Genetic Testing for the BRCA gene.  My insurance approved me for genetic testing after my second time with Breast Cancer and given that I had also had colon cancer.  The test is very important because it determines if you are a carrier of the breast cancer gene or if your cancer was just some random fluke.  The test is nothing more than a blood test, but they test down to your DNA so the lab work up is quite extensive.  I will post the results as soon as I'm made aware, but I don't know who will contact me with them.  My primary doctor or my oncologist. 

Appointment 2:  Consultation with the surgeon for post op check and to discuss part 2 of the breast reconstruction.  Everything went well.  Doctor B was really happy with my progress.  I have been feeling "thicker" around the waist/rib area.  He said this was a natural byproduct of the tram flap procedure but said as far as results go, I was doing really well.  We discussed the reconstruction.  I have an area of scar tissue (near the right outer side of the reconstructed breast), and I have an area of necrosis (less circulation of blood flow so causes a hardened area) on the right inner portion.  During the time of the reconstruction, he will cut around the old incision site (areola) and reshape the necrotic area.  The scar tissue will remain.  And then he will create a nipple.  This is all going to happen some time in October, which is good for me.  I'll be done with the Avon Walk, and it's before the holidays.  It's an outpatient procedure and will require 2-3 days out of work.  I asked about drains.  Will I have to have drains?  (Hate those!), but he said it was doubtful, but not an impossibility.  So I'm keeping my fingers cross.  He will dictate the report and we'll wait for insurance approval.

Appointment 3:  My regular doctor.  Check up. I wanted to talk to her about my weight.  I have been working very hard for almost 2 years now on weight loss.  I had lost 92 pounds...and then once I had my tram flap surgery, I couldn't exercise, bend, etc.   Basically all I did was sit around recuperating....and, well, eating.  And the pounds started creeping back.  So I'm 18 pounds heavier than I was.  Despite all the walking in training that I'm doing, eating right, etc...the pounds are just at a standstill.  So I wanted her input.   I love Dr. M.  She said I may have been thinner back in February, but I was also at that weight because I had been sick with gallbladder issues etc...and to not be so hard to myself.  She was very happy with my progress and the fact that I had been maintaining (I wish I were as happy).  We decided that I would need to be more disciplined, and write down everything I ate.  She asked, "Could it be that you're taking more than you think?"  Anything is possible.  :::shrug:::   I'm walking a lot...so the exercise is not a factor.  But she suggested that I ask Dr. B if it's okay to go back to my yoga class or to the gym.  Anyways, the plan is to write it all down and try to cut back 200 calories daily...and then reassess in 4 weeks' time.  I also have general fatigue from everything.  I get tired more readily just doing what I used to do normally. She said this was due to having 3 major surgeries in 6 months.  Okay.  I get it.

After three appointments (and no coffee in the morning), I was exhausted.  Special thanks to my daughter Ani for coming with me.  She always makes the worst situations better.

18 August 2011

Los Angeles Most Valuable Blogger Nominee

I was really surprised when my friend Iris let me know that I had been nominated for LA's most valuable blogger.  I'm very humbled...and honored.  My blog,  Inside the Pomegranate, started out as a vehicle for my creativity with my illustrations and jewelry, but after getting diagnosed with breast cancer again, after 18 years I thought I would "go public" with my cancer.  I know when I first got diagnosed as a 34 year old mom with young kids, I had a lot of questions.  But the questions were entirely different for me, as were the emotions and decisions now that I was facing a mastectomy and tram-flap reconstruction.

My blog was an outlet for me as I was going through my surgery, and then my recovery.  And even now, as I'm facing the second portion of my reconstruction, I have new "stuff" to deal with -- which will be coming soon as I go back to the plastic surgeon next Wednesday.

Anyways...if you would, please click on link below - Daily - until September 9 and give me your vote.  I am very appreciative of all your support.  Oh, and if you're not already subscribed please click on the "follow my blog" on the right side of the page.

Wishing you much good health, happiness and joy in your lives always!

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04 August 2011

In Praise of Sunflowers

It always blows me away how beautifully intricate sunflowers are.  Typically we see the sunflowers that are sold at farmer's markets or florists, but homegrown sunflowers are different.  Out of a small 1/2" seed, grows this 10 foot tall flower.  The seeds on this one aren't developed yet, but I love looking at the pattern in the center.  My eye makes rings out of the little seeds.  I love how the petals are kind of floppy.  Like those long, skinny, balloons, they are twisted and soft.  I also appreciate how this flower does so much for so many.  You can see the holes in the leaves.  The ants love to climb the fuzzy stalk and eat the tender part of the leaf.  As the flowers mature and the seeds develop, the birds come around...and so do the squirrels.  Last time I grew sunflowers, I came home from work to find them all toppled.  The squirrels, in trying to reach the seeds, had climbed and pulled them down.  The good part was they had knocked the seeds out, and into the ground.  They had planted themselves that year, and come springtime, I had new sunflower seedlings.

As sad as it is when they are finally "gone", it's a beautiful thing.  This beautiful flower supplies me with so much joy in its majesty.  They are always my favorite (and most successful) thing to grow in my garden.