Monday, December 20, 2010

The scars to prove it

I love my scars. And I have lots of them. I look at them as tree rings, etches that indicate age and experience. And often poor coordination.

I have a scar on my left knee that marks when I had my knee cap realigned. I have scars on both ankles from when I had my ligaments tightened. (The wrong operation, as it turns out. Lesson learned: Get a second opinion.) I have one on my right knee from when I ran through a rose bush at age eight during a game of hide and seek, and another on my left leg from when I executed a tether ball jump shot and got hooked on a nail sticking out of the pole. I have them all over my fingers and hands. I’m a real klutz in the kitchen.

But my favorite scar is the one that slices me straight down the middle, from above my belly button to my … well, let’s just say it’s a seven-inch vertical scar. This is my badge, my purple heart that proves I did battle with stage 3 colon cancer and won. At least so far.

I thought I was weird for loving this particular scar, for wanting to lift my shirt, unzip my pants and show it to my friends and family, especially when it was fresh and cherry red. I also love its partner scar, the one on the upper right side of my chest where doctors slipped in the chemotherapy port and then slipped it back out when my treatments were finished.

It turns out others love their colon cancer scars, too. In fact, there’s a calendar to prove it. The Colonder is “produced by The Colon Club, a New York-based non-profit that educates people about colorectal cancer,” according to the Chicago Tribune, where I learned about the calendar. The 12-month calendar features people—all under 50 (probably why they didn’t ask me to pose!)—who were diagnosed with colon cancer and lived to show off their scars.

I did as my doctor instructed and got my colonoscopy at age 50. Like those in the calendar, I’ve got the scar to prove it.

(Written for Women of the ELCA's blog.)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

An attempt at journaling

I'm sitting in a journaling class and the leader has given us 10 minutes to write: to journal. And since, I have access to the internet, I guess I'll just write a blog. She made suggestions, but they might be too personal, beyond even the discussion of poop. Like what are we upset about now. (I do have a couple of things I don't want to air online.) And how do we feel about our jobs and future. (Well, it's been a hairy month where I work; a lot of people were laid off.) And what were some bad things we did as kids. (That might take too long.)

So I'll just say, I wore a goofy shirt today. I thought, it being Saturday, that everybody would be dressing down. (Did I say I was at a board meeting for my work? So there are about 20 women here who could determine my fate.) But no, people are not dressed casually. There are giant beads. And dressy shirts. And heels. And here I am in a red and black cowgirl shirt.

Heavens, what was I thinking? Well, I think it's cute. And, you know what? It's my birthday and I can do what I want. (Well, tomorrow is really my birthday, but as far as I'm concerned, my birthday starts the first day in October, and ends the last day.)

Since I am working on my birthday weekend, I will wear what I want to. And I did. And now we are being called on to finish our entry.

So I will say goodbye. See you later pardner.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Did I tell you about my teeth?

Bob just discovered this video on his phone. So I'm posting it. Just beware. The drugs have kicked in.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I'm sorry

I'll make up for it soon.

I'm healthy except for:
my shoulder
my ankles
my back
my (can't say it out loud)
old age (soon to be even older (Oct. 17). (send gifts!)
but I am alive. (though just barely it feels like sometimes)
No sign of cancer in CEA levels. And that is good.

Life at work is tough. We're going through a downsizing on this very day and people I care about are losing their jobs.

And that sucks

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My beef with healthy eating

Here’s my beef with healthy eating. I want to do it; I really do. But society makes it difficult.

Take this morning for example. I forgot my breakfast, which lately has consisted of two eggs, scrambled (my cholesterol is just fine, thank you). So I mosey down to our in-building deli and opt for the English muffin sandwich. (Ok, ok, it had egg, ham and cheese on it, sheesh.)

But when I ask for a wheat muffin instead of a WHITE ENRICHED FLOUR muffin, the server shakes her head, “nope, we don’t have those.” And this made me think of my love of pasta. I adore pasta. But I can never walk into a gourmet Italian restaurant (or any other restaurant to my knowledge) and order wheat pasta. Never. I want wheat pasta!

Which then made me think about rice. Oh, how I love Thai and Indian cuisines. But what do they serve with their dishes. Rice. White rice. I always ask for brown rice in my hometown of Chicago (Berwyn, really), but have never once received it.

I was in California recently and stopped by a Thai food restaurant to pick up a quick dinner. The server actually asked me, before I had a chance to ask her, “Brown or white rice.” I asked her to repeat the question, just so I could savor it. Is California heaven? (The opinions are mixed.)

Here’s the thing. I’ve been on a quasi diet since Jan. 3. No white food, especially enriched, processed grains. More vegetables. And no sugar (or no processed sugar; certainly I need my glass of red wine.) I have been trying very, very hard. (Luckily, some of the sugar-free candies and cookies are actually very good.)

But how can I be good if society doesn’t work with me? The media, through the government, is claiming that one-third of us is obese (BMI over 30) and another third is overweight (BMI of 25-30).

Restaurant portion sizes are too big and we’re gobbling up white carbohydrates because the alternatives are not there (at least where I live).

So. My idea is to start a grass-roots initiative. When you go to a restaurant, ask your server what healthy carb choices are available. Let’s put brown rice and wheat pasta on the table!

P.S. Don’t even get me started on vegetables.

(This blog also will be posted [eventually] on the Women of the ELCA blog.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lucky Twelve

Today is the anniversary of my colon resection. Three years ago today, I was in surgery getting seven inches of my gut cut out. It hurt, too, after I was taken off the epidural a few days later.

I know this is my anniversary because my calendar tells me so. And Bob's calendar tells him so.

Last week I was cleaning out my cubicle which had gotten completely out of control. I looked through notebooks and notes, trying to determine which to dump.

That's when I found the notes I took (in red ink because that was the pen nearest my editor's hand) when the surgeon Dr. Brems called me at my office on a Monday morning. The notes say: [Dr. Brems] large tumor--cancer. Descending colon. Thursday (the day he wanted to operate because he had a cancellation.) 4-5 days (how long I would be in the hospital.) take things out. 2 hrs. 3-4 weeks (recuperation from surgery). CAT scan need done. size of golf ball. Tuesday-outpatient 3rd floor (meet with him to discuss).

I remember the conversation, but not much else that went on that day. Kate, my colleague and friend, said she remembers the day vividly. She said we were driving in from our designers that morning and I told her I thought I had cancer. She asked me if I was a doctor, and I said I googled the symptoms, and I just knew it (according to her report). She apparently looked askance.

(Actually, I had no symptoms, but I had my first colonoscopy the week before and they discovered a mass. A mass in your colon is usually a tumor.)

Then when we got into the office I got THE CALL. She said I was crying (I thought I was pretty stoic on the phone, but apparently I cried when I told her.) She asked me if I wanted to go home and tell Bob, and I said yes. She walked me to my car, and came back up to the office. She said when she got back to the office, everybody was looking down or had their headphones on. Of course, everyone heard my conversation with the doctor; we're in cubicles. (Not known for privacy, but at least it's blatant, unlike offices, where you also have no privacy because people can hear through the walls, but you think you do.)

Then she told our executive director that we needed to figure out what to do because I was probably going to be out of the office for a few weeks.

And here I sit, pretty healthy for a decrepit 53.5-year-old. I thumb daily through the What's Your Poo Telling You calendar my sister gave me for Christmas. I'm happy, gainfully employed, and I have health insurance. Thank God.

Others are not so lucky, and I often wonder, very often, why I am so lucky. And I often pray, very often, that my luck holds out.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Life is fun

Nurse called. CT scan is clear. I am not going to die. Again.

I thought I might die, though, while I was taking these killer antibiotics for the sinus lift I had last Thursday. What's a sinus lift? It's prep for a tooth implant.

There once was a tooth that broke off while eating popcorn in India. Tooth got pulled at an Indian school for dentistry. (That is a GREAT story.) Got an $8 bridge for tooth at same Indian school. It lasted a few years. Then I got a $4,000 American bridge. It lasted a few more years. Then tooth holding one part of the bridge decayed. Bridge cut off. Oh my. No teeth. No bone (because bone goes away if there are no teeth roots stimulating the bone. And that is why people with dentures drop their teeth when they talk. Because the bone and gum on which the fake teeth were formed slowly disintegrate. And that's also why people just trash their dang teeth when they are really old. They don't stay on anyway. They are old. Who cares? Mashed potatoes taste pretty good.)

But I digress. Twice. So a sinus lift is a procedure of drilling a hole in the side of the gum and punching fake bone in so that on down the road, the dentist can drill in an implant stem that on down the road will eventually hold a cap or crown--whatever, another fake tooth. And I need two of those. $11,000 worth.

Anyway, when they drill a hole in the side of your gum, you get three prescriptions. One for antibiotics. One for pain. And one for severe pain. I've taken a lot of antibiotics in my life, and I've never had one that slayed me like this one. For five days, I've felt like a helium balloon. (And worse.) Finally, I called the dentist and said I couldn't take it anymore. And he said, OK. Today is the first day I've felt normal since last Thursday.

So I'm really, really happy that my CT scan was good news. (Bob called me and gave me the message from the nurse. He said he teared up a little. That's sweet.) But I'm really glad I don't feel like do-do anymore.

Tomorrow, I go to the doctor to get the report, give him some blood, and visit the little Asian nurse who called me old and fat. But I'm not quite as fat. Because I haven't been eating carbs or sugar since Jan. 4.

If all of my teeth fall out, I'll have to revisit that carb thing. Most mushy foods are made of carbs.

Despite it all, I still feel healthy (though sometimes decrepit). Thanks Mom for the teeth genes. Thanks Granddad (may he rest in peace) for the cancer genes.

Thanks Mom and Dad for the life. It's really a lot of fun.