Weighty Matters

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Ease of Motion

I signed up for another 5K Walk today. This one is a fundraiser — Making Strides Against Breast Cancer — organized by the American Cancer Society in communities around the country. Co-workers and I are forming a team to walk together.

Right now a friend of mine is battling breast cancer. Another dear friend is a 17 year cancer survivor. I’m walking in their honor.

I absolutely love that the thought of walking five kilometers holds no intimidation and creates no trepidation in me. I’m holding onto that thought even though I spent the day periodically feeling complaints from the muscles in my abs and legs. I’m sticking with my determination to do these daily exercise routines and trying to remember that the soreness means that the muscles are being worked. The effort I put out ultimately will strengthen my body.

So what if every once in a while I need to break down and take an over-the-counter pain reliever to quiet the complaints? This is a far cry from the days when I came home from work and swallowed 800 mgs of Motrin every night because just the daily exertion of living my life resulted in significant pain and throbbing joints.

By comparison, this 5K will really be like a walk in the park.

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Doughnuts are Not Medicinal

Okay, gang, I’m mildly freaked-out about something. That reads like an oxymoron, but what I really want to impart is that I have a slight nagging concern emotionally, while logically my brain is saying don’t borrow trouble and odds are everything is fine.

Here’s the thing. I went for my mammogram on Monday, as you know, and had a great experience. I figured in a week or so I’d get the “everything’s fine” letter. Instead, I got a call yesterday from my doctor’s office to tell me that the radiologist identified something called a microcalcification cluster on my right breast. I need to go in for a spot compression to provide additional views.

Mentally, rationally, logically, I know that this happens all of the time and the odds are really, really good that this is not a big deal. Emotionally, of course, I’m going, “Oh my God! I might have breast cancer!!” If you drew me into a cartoon yesterday, there would have been giant letters in a horrified font with a dozen exlamation points. Then I took a deep breath and texted my sister-in-law to see if she had a free moment. She’s a nurse practitioner, experienced in women’s health. I explained the situation to her. We agreed that it was way too soon for me to freak out. She promised to do some additional research.

I wasn’t wound up like a tight spring all last night, but it’s a good thing there wasn’t a handy one-pound bag of M&Ms anywhere around. No sense in tempting a compulsive eater with a favorite drug of choice during an emotional time. A good friend reminded me that women really do get called back for further screenings all of the time that end up being nothing malignant. I slept well and this morning, my s-i-l called me back. It seems that most of the time, these microcalcifications really do turn out to be nothing of concern. She told me that after the spot compression, even if they were pretty sure there wasn’t a cause for concern, they might still want me to have a biopsy procedure just to be completely sure.

Having this information prepares me and, in the long run, helps me remain more calm. I’m working toward a state of “don’t borrow trouble, all will be well, no sense worrying until there’s something to worry about”. Honestly, I’m a lot better than I was yesterday.

The thing is, when I hit an emotional upheaval like this, it triggers me to want food. Whether I’m home or out driving in the car, it’s like I still think I need the food to calm myself down. I have to work through the process so that I don’t compulsively eat. That’s when I remind myself that doughnuts are not medicinal. Candy is not a sedative. I do not need cake to soothe me.

Instead, I need to breathe deeply, do some Tai Chi, take the dogs for a walk, sit on the porch, talk to loved ones. Those honestly help me where food is only a false remedy.

I got for my follow up test tomorrow morning and will probably hear on Friday if anything further needs to be done. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, please say it with me, “Doughnuts are not medicinal.” 🙂

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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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