My New Challenge

Getting back in shape after 5 months in a post-surgical deep freeze plus urging my oh-so-menopausal metabolism to shed the last 20 pounds are not enough of a challenge for me. <cough> I have decided to take on something that is way/weigh beyond those health goals. Writing a novel.

I am setting my goal low by participating in the literary frenzy known as National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is the link to the home page. Every November, thousands of idiots overachievers strive to put down 50,000 words of fiction to “win” a certificate. There are very few rules except it has to be fiction, one cannot use work started before November 1, and one must type more than the same word 50,000 times. Seems easy, huh? 1667 words per day for 30 days. Apparently the key is no editing – just write. Editing comes later. Of course this length is not enough for a real book, but it is enough to make me write daily – a lot – and decide if I really want to go for longer version fiction or just continue to piddle around with short stories. I have no excuse this year. I’m scared, scared my idea sucks, scared my years of technical writing have warped me forever (writing workshops be damned). Wait, sounds a lot like setting myself up for failure. Hey, I have lost almost 140 pounds! I can write 50,000 words no one will ever read but me AND have fun doing it!

Anyone want to join?

My ABC’s

This post idea is stolen from Karen @ Waisting Time. Why? Because it is such a great idea, and I am in a creative funk. Here is my alphabet soup of eating, food, and other related themes.

A is asparagus, lightly mixed with olive oil, tossed with sesame seeds then broiled.

B is for berries, straw, blue, Marion, black…

C is cruciferous veggies such as broccoli and cauliflower dusted with a bit of cheese.

D is for doggies that beg for leftovers. The chi-terrier mix loves coffee and veggies!

E is for eggs. Hardboiled, soft-boiled, poached, scrambled, omelet-ized, over easy in olive oil.

F is for fish, which I do not eat enough. Fresh haddock is a favorite. Smoked salmon is a speciality of a local pricey market. Shellfish would be high on the list if I had not developed an allergy 😦 in the 1990’s. What is your favorite fish, and how do you prepare it?

G is for grapes that meet my desert and snack needs wants. Any food that you allow for snacking?

H is for Honey Baked ham with the fat and sugary coating trimmed off.

I is for the cast-iron skillet that we use so frequently.

J is for jogging that I learned hurts my knees.

K is for the Kashi cereals I no longer eat because I don’t “do” grains anymore. (Read Wheat Belly for good reasons to remove most grains from your diet.)

L is for lean protein. Cannot get enough. What is your favorite source of protein?

M is for maintenance. I cannot wait!

N is for nut, almonds and walnuts, please. Although macadamia nuts are my faves.

O is for organic. I’m still on the fence about which products to buy and which are not worth the extravagant cost. Recommendations?

P is for the produce section at Sunflower Market. Love it! Do you have a Sunflower near you?

Q is for quince – something I have never tried, although I have only seen it in New England as a jelly or jam. Anything in your alphabet list that you are curious to taste?

R is for my Mom’s roast brisket. I have tried to duplicate it with horrid results.

S is for steak. OK, I am a carnivore. We do limit beef consumption to once or twice a week. Anyone feel embarrassed about eating meat these days? (Those big ol’ cow eyes with long lashes…)

T is for toxins that lurk in our water and food supply. Without public health oversight from the government (local and federal), we could expect food borne illnesses to increase. Watch how your Congress person votes.

U is for getting unstuck. I could give many excuses why my weight hasn’t moved in the last several weeks, but that’s all they are, excuses.

V is the vitality that I feel when eating healthy and being physically active.

X is for xylitol, which is used as a sugar substitute. What, if any, sweeteners do you use? I put Truvia in my protein berry shakes.

Y is for yogurt, specifically Fage non-fat used for protein smoothies.

Z is the end. OK, that was a cop out. Zero grains. I’m serious. Zero ice cream. What foods are on your absolute NO list, if any?

Lucky Me

My last self-indulgent act before breast reconstruction in September was to take one of my notoriously long baths, knowing that soaking would be a no-no for 4-6 weeks after surgery. (My plastic surgeon claims heating up one’s core temperature delays healing.) Our bathroom was “reconstructed” about 2 years ago giving me a large therapeutic tub with air jets that allow all sorts of bubbly delights and salts to be added without messing up the system. With the light dimmed and candles blazing, I luxuriated and read my iPad. Carefully placing my beloved tablet behind the basket of tub goodies, I proceeded to lather when suddenly the physics of potential energy manifested, and the iPad plopped into the tub!

Like my Uncle John noodling for catfish, I swept both arms under the pile of bubbles. Quick as I was, no matter that the sucker was in a cover, it was doomed. When was the last time I backed up? Should I turn it on? Why didn’t I get insurance? Screw me.

To shorten the story… I put it in crystal kitty litter for a week, lacking any better desiccant. Everything came back but the 3G. Glumly I presented myself and my favorite gadget to the Apple Genius Bar and admitted it had taken some “water exposure.” John, the Genius, verified that the damage was irreparable. “Would you accept a one-time exchange for an identical, new model. Free?” Well, yes. Yes, John, I would. What was the catch? Turns out there was no catch, except that mine was an original iPad, and Apple can’t give those suckers away – except to dummies who read with them in the tub and have the guts to admit the “water exposure.”

So today I sit outside a cafe eating lunch in 82 degree weather (brrr) posting from my 64GB, 3G iPad version 1.0 and grateful for the iPad2. Think I should take the plunge for an iPhone?

What is your favorite piece of technology?
What has been the luckiest thing to happen to you recently (or anything you want to share)?

Bra Fetish

My serious thing for shoes, silenced since I no longer need so many pairs given a life of leisure in the desert, has morphed into a bra fetish. It’s not that I have to wear a bra according to my plastic surgeon, but I gotta tell ya, silicone is heavy! Also, I want the implants to stay in place medially and laterally. Nothing like developing a uni-boob (did that during the expansion process) or having one of these drop into my armpit… Finally, at this point post-op, I am more comfortable having the implants supported by underwires. If am going to wear a bra, why not have one (many) that are beautiful? Just ignore the cost issue.

I went back to the delightful lingerie store where I was first professionally fitted after I lost about 100 pounds. (If you have never had a professional fit, do it! Nordstrom’s is great if you live in a large city.) The same woman who miraculously stuffed my former sagging boobs into glorious bras looked at my card – eek, they keep records – and before I had a chance to tell my story she pointedly said, “Those are not the same breasts.” No ma’m, they certainly are not breasts at all. After a brief conversation where she revealed that she had breast cancer also, it was back to bidness. Whipping out the tape measure, she said I was 36-38 C+. Great. Just like my feet – between sizes. And, like my feet, one is larger than the other. (The girls are still settling in, but I was itching to get out of the compression bras.) The style I specifically wanted was not in stock. No matter, I left with 2 not-so-expensive bras that have molding, not really padding. Here’s something you might not know. After your boobs get lopped off, there is no implant that will fill out the tips of a bra. (We will discuss nipples at a later date – no I don’t have mine any more.) So, molded bras give a nice appearance and help hide the wrinkles and bubbles lurking under my skin. Remember, the girls are still moving in! The saleswoman, call her Brabara, brought out a “sports bra” at the last moment. The only thing sporty was the fabric and the lack of underwire. Oh, and of course the cost was much more. Put it in the bag.

It only took 2 days to realize that I needed at least 3 underwires. One to wear; one to sleep in (yes, it hurts is uncomfortable even sleeping without a bra); and one to be in the wash – hand wash, drip dry. Having already freaked out my sweetie by the number of bras since my mastectomy, I sneaked into a department store that had the style that I wanted originally, careful to leave our joint credit card at home. The store was having a “fit event” with professional fitters everywhere and specializing in the brand I was going after. AND, you guessed it, everyone was in pink. At least the event identified the recipient and amount of the proceeds. I shoved down my revulsion to PinkOctober and put myself in the hands of someone who looked way too young. Whipping out her tape measure, she told me I was a 36 DD. Now, I know what a DD looks like, and it ain’t me. She told me to trust her about the size for this particular bra. Dam if she wasn’t right – after about 10 different styles. I tried a D and the underwires hit my implants. I left with 3 even more expensive bras.

Moral of the story. Do not buy bras without trying them on, preferably with a fitter. Brabara said in one style (same size, same company) the black bras were a band size smaller than the other colors! Turns out bras are like all clothing. Size does not matter. Fit does.

My attitude before weight loss

Twenty Years

How thoughtless of me not to write anything (other than “tits”) about our 20th anniversary. Blame it on my post-operative state, although I managed to get a post out that day. Say I am just respecting the privacy of my oh-so-private partner, but we certainly do not hide our relationship any more. Blame society for not allowing us to be legally married in our country – 6 states do not count, sorry – and prevent us from fully celebrating our commitment and the joining of our families. (We have a mixed marriage – she is a Yankee; I am a Texan.) Blame me for not being as bold, as brave as I think that I am for not blogging about our 20-years of marriage-like relationship. For not writing about the weekend hike we took in 1991 in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, staying at Greenleaf hut, and early the next morning walking to an overlook called “Eagle’s Nest”. Fog snaked below us across the craggy ridgeline. The glorious quilt of fall colors in Franconia Notch that we had hiked through the day before was barely visible below. The sky was light blue, totally clear. We stood just at tree line where only stunted, deformed vegetation, called Krummholz, grows to the height of the snow pack. In a circle of candles and rocks, we shared our vows then each spoke a personal commitment of love. I cried. Sue laughed. We are still laughing and crying.

Sue & Mattie 2005

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” Ruth 1:16-17 (What can I say, I grew up the daughter of a minister, and Ruth’s words to Naomi always haunted me. Yes, I used this in my part of our ceremony.)

My First Pink October…

…after having breast cancer and reconstruction. What a change in perspective. All the pink makes me want to puke. Not P!nk the artist, whom I adore, but the color pink that has been co-opted as a fund-raising tool. There is nothing wrong with fund-raising for a cancer that will impact 1 in every 8 American women. (Remember that lung cancer still is the number one cancer killer of women, and most cases are preventable.) The problem is where do those $$ go? For what purpose? Read the not-so-fine print and you will see that proceeds go to “breast cancer awareness month” without designated organizations or what amount of your donation actually goes to the cause.

Also, you should consider that if you want to “give to breast cancer” – what aspect of breast cancer? Prevention, screening, treatment, research? Prevention of any type of cancer is a tough issue to deal with. There is rarely one factor that causes cancer. Even women with strong genetic susceptibility to breast cancer will not all develop the disease. Women who lead the most healthy lifestyles can get cancer. (Fat, post-menopausal women are at higher risk, sigh.) Women who lead more unhealthy lifestyles might never get cancer. Screening – many women have no access to mammograms, which have their own problems with false negatives and false positives. Treatment – women with metastatic disease clamor for more effective drugs and rightfully so.  My little ol’ Stage 0 cancer is now 20% of new breast cancers yet we still don’t know which ones will progress and which could sit forever in the ducts never causing any problems. This is after more than 20 years of well-designed randomized controlled trials. So, we all get the same recommendation and many of us opt for aggressive treatment, and some of us (OK, me) who have lost 140 pounds know that the standard of care would leave devastating cosmetic results, so we opt to lop off our breasts. Research – certainly more is needed but how much more profit do pharmaceutical companies need, and who is to say what amount of profit is too much?

Many others have written much more eloquently about these issues. I will just leave you with a few images that I shot at the grocery store yesterday. But first, be sure to purchase your favorite firearm in pink this month. Leave ’em laughing at the range.

Pink handgun

Walther P-22


"Give hope with every cup" WTH?

Think pink when you pee

Think pink when you poo

Pink paper products everywhere!

Don't forget the babies

Or the pets!

My favorite stethoscope brand sells out

At the check out counter when the clerk asked if I wanted to donate, it was all I could do to stop myself from saying, “I already gave my breasts to cancer.”

Returning to Normalcy

Suddenly I realize my life has gone from “pre-weight loss –> post-weight loss” or “pre-Mom’s death –> post-Mom’s death –> post-grief” to now “pre-breast cancer” –> “post-breast cancer surgeries & everything is supposed to be OK”. In other words, my world has been focused on my boobs or lack thereof for the past 4+ months, and now it is time to get along with living. However, I have another 2 months until I can fully return to vigorous activity, which is driving me bonkers. Heck, I can’t even ride the recumbent bike for another week or so. (No noob/foob bouncing.) Also, the chance of needing additional surgery is pretty darn high over the next 3 years (up to 50% with my symmastia – uniboob – that was repaired), thus the need for extra caution. Can you tell I’m still in recovery mode mentally?

Like many women, at least those who post on the forums, I am experiencing the end of treatment let down. Nothing to look forward to, or rather dread. Just waiting to heal and back to the usual hum-drum of life – almost. Perhaps it is the “almost” that is bugging me. Exercise had become an outlet for anxiety or restlessness and was certainly adding to my sense of well-being. Walking or biking indoors took me away from worries and helped connect my body to my mind. I was beginning to see definition in my legs. Now I feel like a slug. Gaining 3 pounds has not helped this bit of angst, but hey it isn’t 30 pounds, and I don’t weigh 300 pounds again. Good grief this is rambling. I’ll just say that not being able to exercise or even do little bits of housework (!) is driving me nuts.

What does a daughter of my mother do when she feels out of sorts? Go shopping! As you undoubtedly remember, I started using “barefoot shoes” back in March. That pair of Vibram FiveFingers KSO is great for trails, but the black gets a bit hot in Southern Arizona and I was wearing a men’s size, so the toes are too long for my infantile 5th digits. I was lusting for a new pair with a different tread. Without further adieu, here is my little splurge that I cannot enjoy for another week or so: Vibram Komodosport LS

Aren’t they pretty? Well, at least the color is pretty spiffy. (Ignore the swollen ankles. I’m still retaining fluid like a sponge since surgery.)

Do you ever use “shopping therapy”? Ever felt guilty about it?

Vibram KomodoLS shoes


As Cammy christened them, my noobs are on board. Swollen – well the surrounding tissue – a little uneven, and sore, but they arrived with much fanfare.

As usual I required an elephant-sized dose of midazalom (sedative) before heading back to the OR. So I have little memory of anything until the recovery room when I awoke to a gravely voiced nurse asking me if I wanted more pain medication. I asked what she was giving me. “Morphine”, she rasped. Crap. The pain receptors in my brain and elsewhere really enjoy fentanyl so much more. “I can’t convince you to dribble in a dash of …” “NO. We only use that for patients being admitted.” OK, but I warned her that I would get really chatty with morphine. Not like a mean drunk chatty, but very mouthy. She quickly found this out when the computer terminals at each bedside started winking out. “It’s the server”, I sang. She mumbled across the aisle to the nurse who had pre-op’ed me to reboot. “Noooo. It’s a hospital-wide server issue. La-la-la.” Glaring at me, she pushed more morphine and went to call the help desk. As I drifted off, I heard her barking at everyone to stop rebooting because it was a server issue. “Now can I have my fentanyl?” All that got me was a really quick discharge from the recovery room and into the arms of my sweetie. I was poured into the back seat of the car (not wanting a deployed airbag to hit my foobs noobs) and mumbled directions to the nearest Starbucks to cure my caffeine headache. Suddenly I grabbed my chest wall. “SOFT! SUE! THEY’RE SOFT!”

Being chauffeured after surgery

That night the phone range and on the other end was my surgeon! He called to advise me  (starting with, “Hey, dopey”) that I would experience significantly more pain than he had led me to expect. Apparently my weight loss had left the “pockets” for the implants very loose and required mucho extra suturing, some into my sternum. (Ouch) Two days later, the great unveiling occurred in Dr. N’s office. All 3 of us were impressed despite the swelling and unevenness, which will subside with time. I do have 2 drains and a lot of restrictions on arm movements and exercise (specifically, no exercise). This morning, however, I got to take a shower and have not had anything stronger than Tylenol for over 12 hours. I’m stiff. I bitch about the drains and wearing a compression bra 24/7. I get back spasms, but this surgery recovery has been much easier than the mastectomy – much to Sue’s relief. By Monday I should be ready for a very nice dinner for our 20th anniversary. Isn’t that what you get on your 20th? New tits?