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Pain Free Mammogram!

I have a couple of NSVs today. First the one of lesser significance. It’s the first full week of the regular football season. As I write this, my Philadelphia Eagles are battling the Washington Redskins. I’m wearing an Eagles T-shirt that I bought for game days a few years ago. When I got it, I ordered a 3X so that it would fit comfortably. It still fits comfortably, but as a nightshirt rather than a regular T-shirt. Seriously, the shoulder seams hit me at the middle of my upper arms and I could step outside my house wearing only the shirt and not worry about compromising my modesty and flashing the neighborhood. That’s how big the shirt hangs on me now.

I kept it instead of getting rid of it in my clothing purges. It comes in handy as extra sleepwear some nights and can also serve as a bathing suit cover up. Mostly, I just want to hang on to it until I get around to ordering a new Eagles shirt to support my team. Booyah!

The second NSV is brought to you by the letter M, for Mammogram. Given the area of my body that got screened, maybe the topic should be brought to you by the letters DD.

I’ve always been good about going for my regular mammo screenings, even though I hated going when I was my fattest. For one thing, it’s embarrassing to not be able to close the wonderful hospital gowns. What’s more, my upper arms were so big, that the tight sleeves practically cut off my circulation. Then there’s the whole challenge of placing my boobs on the machine and, positioning me correctly in other ways. My large size made the process really difficult for the technician.

Oy, the pain! Older machines called for significant boob compression to obtain acceptable images. My flesh always needed to be compressed even more so that they could get a good read in spite of the fat. Mammaries mashed between the plates, I held my breath and thought of England. Okay, I held my breath and tried not to whine, moan or whimper. It wasn’t the tech’s fault that I was so uncomfortable. I knew she felt bad and didn’t want to make her feel worse.

My friends, I am here to tell you that today was an entirely different experience. Not only am I 170 pounds lighter than I was the last time I had a mammogram (Yes, I’m a few months overdue.), but the hospital upgraded to a new, digital imagine machine! I don’t know if it was all because of my smaller body size or a combo of less flesh and better technology, but the boob compression didn’t hurt at all and it was a lot easier for me to position my arm and the rest of my body. In a much shorter amount of time, the tech was able to obtain clear, good images of my breasts, and I was able to breathe without crying.

I don’t have results yet, of course. The images must be looked at by the radiologist. Honestly, I don’t anticipate a problem. Although a first cousin on my father’s side of the family developed breast cancer in her 40s, that is the only family occurrence that any of us know of. I’m able to self-check much more reliably these days and I haven’t felt any lumps or anything else. I’m a few months overdue, but it’s not like I’ve ignored regular screenings for years. So, I’m sure in a week I’ll get the letter that informs me everything’s okay.

In the meantime, I’m so happy that the experience was so positive. It’s another check in the plus column for losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle. I have my annual appointment in a few months with my primary care physician who also does my pap tests. At that appointment, I’ll be able to tell her that I am officially post-menopausal. It’s now been a year and a half since my last period. Booyah! I know that my doctor will now request that I have a bone mineral density test. She suggested I have one after I turned 50, even though I was still menstruating. I couldn’t because, unfortunately, I was beyond the weight limit for equipment for that test at any of the diagnostic centers in a 100 mile distance of home. No such problem now! Are three Booyahs in one post too many?

Next month, October, is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Have you had your annual mammogram? If not, please schedule your appointment and go. If you’ve gone, please ask your friends and family members if they’ve been screened. If not, encourage them to make their appointments. Tell them from me, that today’s improved equipment doesn’t hurt, but even if it does, they still need to go. Enduring a little pain now may save their lives later.

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Restorative Weekend

I took full advantage of my two days off to do only what I wanted. After the stress and busy packed schedule of last week, and knowing I have another busy week ahead, I needed the time to relax.

Yesterday’s Tai Chi open house went very well. Even though we were demonstrating for people who might be interested in joining the next Beginner’s Class, doing the moves and engaging in the practice at any level definitely relaxes me. A group of us later had lunch together, prepared and served by one of the instructors. He’s a darned good cook. I compensated for having such a full lunch by eating very lightly for the rest of the day — a few snacks of fruit, here and there.

After lunch, I went over to the animal shelter. Have I mentioned previously that I’m on the Board of Directors for the organization that operates the shelter? I can’t remember. Anyway, we all want what’s best for all of the dogs and cats in the shelter’s care, but there is one dog in particular that has stolen my heart. If I didn’t already have two smaller dogs, that big guy would be living here at home with me. He’s a two-year-old mastiff mix that tops 100 pounds. He was surrendered by his owners for questionable reasons. I personally think that as he grew, his size and energy became too much for them to handle. Instead of investing the time and effort in training him, they gave him up.

Staff and volunteers are on a mission to teach him good manners, on and off leash, so that he can be managed by anyone. Honestly, right now he’s so strong that until his leash manners improve, only a few people can walk him, but we’ll get him there. He responds well to training and loves to learn. He still has that two-year-old youngster attitude, but it’s a little more difficult to deal with in a dog his size. Anyway, I am confident that we will eventually find him a great forever home. In the meantime, several of us go in and work with him. I enjoyed seeing him yesterday afternoon and working on some of his manners and training.

After that, I came home and spent time with my own furballs, Nat and Pyxi. Lots of brushing and petting took up a good part of the late afternoon. It is incredibly soothing to pet and cuddle a dog. The stress of last week never ran through my mind.

Today, I enjoyed a relaxing morning, sitting out on the porch with the newspaper and my cup of tea and completing a set of Tai Chi. I then went up to work to swim with some of the dolphins. Today, I got to hang out with Santini and her 9 month old son, Reese. She and I have been friends since I first volunteered there in 2000 but I haven’t done a swim with her in a while. This was the first time I’ve really played with the little guy. I don’t care how many years I’ve been there or how many chances I get to swim, it never ever gets old and it’s always fun! Today was particularly special because little Reese kept coming over to get backrubs or rest his little rostrum in my hand. He’s also learning a behavior we call dance. He’d swim over to me and shake his head back and forth. If I danced too, he’d keep up with the behavior. Too, too cute!

On the way home, I accomplished a couple of simple errands, but that was about it for the afternoon. I took it easy, watched football and tennis on television, went for a walk with Nat and Pyxi shortly before sunset and just, in general, let the peacefulness continue to restore my spirit.

Just like it’s important to balance my food intake and my physical activity, it matters that I balance my emotions and spirit. Everything adds up to a healthier me.

Here are a couple of photos from today’s dolphin swim. Enjoy!

Reese Backrub-3

Reese and Santini

Tina Smooch 1

Flippershake

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Finally Friday

For an allegedly shorter work week, it felt like Friday would never arrive. Lots of challenges, stress on projects, additional commitments after work and general emotional upheaval. All of these things were made more difficult by a constant desire to eat over them. To be honest, I won some of those food fights and lost others. However, I must have compensated enough for the occasional foray into chocolate by keeping my actual meals light and healthy. I obviously didn’t do as badly as my diseased brain tried to make me think I did because I lost a little weight nearly every day and ended up with a good number at week’s end.

I also did my best to hold onto the idea that exercise is a great anti-depressant. It’s not that I was depressed, I was more emotionally exhausted but both conditions need a boost so exercise really helped. I got in two Zumba classes, did my Tai Chi, got the dogs and myself out for good walks and looked for other ways to incorporate movement into my days.

Here’s a really strong reminder. No matter what life, work and other commitments demand from us, we absolutely have to stay true to the things we need. Before I went out for a day on the water Monday, I made sure to go to Zumba class in the morning, which I normally can’t do because of work. I had to go to a meeting after work on Tuesday, but expressed the need to finish up so that I could get to Zumba by 6 p.m. Wednesday, there was a fundraising committee meeting scheduled. I gave it a good 45 minutes and then excused myself so that I could rush home, feed and let out the dogs, change and get to Tai Chi class.

Did all of this extra rushing around add to my stress? I’m sure it did to some extent, but the negative was adequately countered by the positive of the exercise. Even earlier this evening, when it would have been incredibly easy to sprawl in my recliner like a stranded starfish, I took Nat and Pyxi out for a walk. I have a responsibility to their health and well-being too. I neglected their exercise for too long when I was my fattest. So these days, even when I’m tired and ready to neglect myself, their need helps to motivate me to get moving.

I didn’t blog for a couple of days because after work, commitments, walks and everything else, I was often so tired at night, that I couldn’t string my thoughts together. I tried to treat myself well and go to bed early. I’m sure it was helpful for me to be in bed before 10 p.m. Yes, that’s early for me.

Unfortunately, the plan didn’t achieve what I needed. Apparently, me going to bed early threw off Nat and Pyxi’s schedule. (They sleep in my bedroom on their beds or the floor.) Either that or the neighborhood doesn’t settle completely down by that hour either. Whatever the case, the first night after I’d slept solidly for about 90 minutes, something disturbed Nat, which he signaled by letting out a mournful howl. I then had to let them both out into the backyard so they could investigate. Once awake, I started to think about some of the stressful situations I was sorting through and that kept me up for a couple of hours. Grrr.

I’ve never been a parent, but I’ve heard friends say that they can be fast sleep and the slightest sound from their children will wake them up. I feel that way sometimes with my dogs. Last night I again went to sleep before 10. At 12:05, Pyxi uttered the smallest whimper by my bedside. Up I rose to let them out. This time I was able to fall right back to sleep but three hours later, Nat cried. Yes, I could have let him cry but that wasn’t going to get me back snoozing any sooner so we repeated the process. I swear the two of them tag-teamed me and decided it was Pyxi’s turn again at 5. I don’t care that I kept falling back to sleep, these many interruptions do not make for a restful, restorative night.

I hereby declare that tonight will be different. For one thing, I’ll go to bed at my more accustomed time of 11:00 p.m. That will help me achieve 7 1/2 hours. It also sets the pups back on the right schedule. At least that’s the plan.

Tomorrow we have a Tai Chi open house and then lunch with friends. I have no other definite plans or responsibilities for the rest of Saturday. There are always things that I need to do around the house, but I’m not on a deadline so there’s no pressure. Sunday, I’m going to swim with dolphins at work as an uplifting treat to myself. After that, it all depends on the weather. I might go out on the boat, or I might just relax somewhere with a good book and take it easy. It’s been a rough week. The weekend needs to be my way to smooth myself out mentally and emotionally.

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Emotional Eating

I’m having an emotional day. Nothing specifically happened to cause it, but I’m a little moody and reacting less reasonably to somewhat minor things. Most people would shrug it off and go on. It’s a little more challenging for those who are emotional eaters.

Does that sound as much like whining as I think it does? I typed it, re-read it and all I hear in my head is “Wah wah wah, nanny nanny boo hoo.” Okay, that might just be more evidence of me being moody and out of sorts. Anyway, the thing is that when I’m emotionally off-kilter, I instinctively want to eat. It has nothing to do with physical hunger. Instead, I’m trying to feed another need. It’s like I know that I’m being irrational so I want to squelch it and the reflex behavior for me when I need to squelch is to smother the feelings with food.

I have peanuts in the house and I was just going back to the cabinet for another snack-sized serving when I realized that the action doesn’t really stop the feelings. Instead, it merely gives me something else to do in that moment. I engage in another activity rather than interact with my own emotions. That could sound a little twisted, but what resembles pretzel logic to some makes perfect sense on some level to me.

What really makes perfect sense is substituting some other behavior than eating. By the way, it doesn’t matter if I only took a snack-sized portion. It’s the behavior, the action of choosing to eat compulsively, that causes the problems. There are at least a dozen other things I could do at any given time rather than reach for food. Here’s a preliminary list of alternative behaviors the next time I’m tempted to compulsively eat over my emotions:

Pet a dog (I have two. One is always within reach.)
Do a Tai Chi move, or series of moves, or entire set depending on the strength of the compulsion at the time
Do a few squats, leg lifts, triceps dip or bicep curls
Sing out loud to whatever song is on the radio
Play air drums or air guitar to whatever song is on the radio (Mary trivia: I once broke a finger playing air guitar.)
Walk outside onto the porch and look at the stars (Night time.)
Walk outside and look at the water, count how many different birds I see (Day time.)
Drink a glass of water
Write haiku
Phone a friend
File something (My nails, something from the mountains of unfiled papers in my office, anything!)
Pamper myself in some way – apply cuticle oil, rub scented lotion into my hands
Take a hot bath with a good book

Looking back on the last hour or so, I’m sorry I didn’t think of this list sooner. On the other hand, at least I’ve made it up now so I can call on it if I get another urge between now and bedtime. In fact, after I hit Publish, I’m going to do some Tai Chi and then take a bath. That will put an end to any more emotional eating tonight!

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Never, Ever Give Up

“Never, ever give up,” said swimming legend Diana Nyad after completing a swim of around 110 miles from Cuba to Key West in around 53 hours, without the protection of a shark cage and while wearing a special mask to protect her face and eyes from jellyfish stings.

She’s 64 years old and this was her fifth try at accomplishing this marathon feat. She’s living proof of something else she said. “You’re never too old to chase your dream.”

I’m a little sorry that I didn’t drive to Key West to join the crowd that welcomed her when she reached Smathers Beach. I bet everyone felt an exhilarating, joyous energy when they saw her leave the water and walk ashore. The woman had just completed swimming for more than two days. How the hell she was able to walk is beyond me.

Instead of driving to the southernmost city, I went out on my boat with a friend. (After taking advantage of my day off to go to a Monday morning Zumba class.) We had a beautiful day on the water. Although I didn’t get to snorkel due to a massive number of moon jellyfish, it was lovely to be out on the salty sea. We hung out for awhile looking at the jellies, which are quite zen and beautiful, and then cruised over to the sandbar for a couple of hours. Very relaxing. I thought about Diana a lot during the day and swam around my boat a few times in her honor. (Okay, I also figured it was a good way to incorporate extra exercise since I was in the water anyway at the sandbar.) When I heard that she’d finished the swim, I cheered and I very much took her words to heart. “Never, ever give up. You’re never too old to chase your dreams.”

Sometimes I get angry with myself for not having weight loss surgery years ago. I wasted so much time and so squandered so much quality of life.

When those times hit, I do my best not to wallow, but instead try to cancel the thoughts from my head and heart. Regret is a wasted emotion to some extent. I can’t rewind and relive those years. I can only continue to make today, and all of the future todays, the best. Living my best life is the most important thing, no matter what the challenge.

For today, I’m not going to dwell on the fact that I’m already in my 50s. Instead, I’m going to focus on Diana’s message. I’m never too old to chase my dreams. In my case that means living my best life. I’m never, ever going to give up my recovery.

Thanks, Diana. Congratulations.

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Dangerous Curves Ahead

I don’t use this blog to promote books and I know that this post is going to break that guideline, but I can’t help it. I just read a novel that really speaks to every insecurity I’ve ever had or continue to have about my body, how I’m perceived, and how it all relates to guys and relationships. The book is a romance novel called Dangerous Curves Ahead by author Sugar Jamison. I might not ever have heard of it, except that one of my BFFs, Beth Ciotta, talked about it on her FB page. I’m so glad that I did!

The lead character of the book, Ellis, is fat. She refers to herself as fat throughout the book. In most areas of her life, she embraces that she’s overweight and it doesn’t get in her way. She’s given up her career as a lawyer to open a clothing store for hard-to-fit women, whether they’re overweight, taller-than-average, or whatever.

I love Ellis. She broke off a two year relationship with a man she’d fallen in love with because she realized that that in everything he said and did, he tore her down. He mocked her, belittled her for her weight. he tried to make her feel fortunate that he was with her because what other man would love her at her size? She hears this from him and from his creepy aunt and she knows that it’s bullshit. She refuses to accept it and dumps him.

However, it still affects her or, rather, the perception and treatment of overweight women affects her. It infuses her with a deep, powerful insecurity when she is faced with the reality of a relationship with a handsome, sexy, detective. She works hard to keep Mike, the detective, at a safe space apart from her. She resists getting involved with him physically and battles like a warrior to protect her heart. She’s positive that he will eventually dump her because great, attractive guys don’t really fall in love with fat women.

She’s nervous inside about a hundred things – like sitting on his lap, or being in the superior position in bed. On some level she is surprised every time he treats her with genuine affection and attraction. Throughout the book you experience how deeply she’s impacted by her weight insecurity, even when she’s a champ in all other areas.

I wanted to cheer her on throughout the story. I wanted to hug Mike every time he told her not to degrade herself because of her weight. I wanted to pulverize the ex-boyfriend and his aunt, Ellis’s bratty sister, and this bitchy random woman for all of their anti-fat bias, meanness and cruelty.

I haven’t talked a lot about my dating or relationship history here on the blog. It’s pretty dismal. At some point in this journey, I’m either going to seek out or run across an opportunity to date. I need to not be wrapped up in the past when that happens. I guess I should drag it out and examine it here. Not today, but someday.

Clearly, based on my own experiences, I emotionally invested in Ellis overcoming her insecurities and other, external struggles, to win her happily every after with Mike. She deserved it. We all do.

I applaud the author Sugar Jamison for this book. In addition to the heroine’s internal conflicts touching me, I also loved the book for the voice, all of the characterizations and Ellis in particular with her wit and humor. I’ll definitely read more by this author.

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