Trying to Emerge

My excuse for not blogging is that I have been waiting for the final pathology report from my mastectomies – in reality I have been too overwhelmed with trying to recover from what I think should be a relatively easy surgery. (Insert maniacal laughter)

First – there is no evidence of invasive cancer and all lymph nodes removed were indeed negative for cancer. Yippee! That means no need for any further treatment (if you exclude the second surgery to complete breast reconstruction) and 99% + chance of not only survival but no recurrence. I am cancer free.

Now for the reality. My quality of life ain’t real great now. Of course I must preface all of the upcoming moaning and groaning with the acknowledgement of tremendous support from my family and friends. My 2 sisters arrived to take care of me (and Sue!). One of them will be here the rest of this week until Sue goes on vacation then tag, she is it. Hopefully by the end of vacation, I will be able to drive myself to doctor visits, shopping, etc. and function like a normal person.

Jan surrounded by 2 sisters

Jan surrounded by loving sisters

I hurt like hell – not so much from the mastectomies, which leaves most of my chest wall numb (OK, the lymph node dissection area is tender as is my skin where drains are sutured in place) – but from the temporary tissue expanders that were filled with 300 cc of saline at the time of surgery, thus causing constant pressure from underneath my pectoralis major muscles. It is difficult to block pressure pain receptors, so my sleep is horrid, my mood is irritable, and I fear that I am getting depressed. Sure I’m doing all the cognitive-behavioral things that I know to improve my mood. (Hey, eons of therapy are NOT wasted on me!) But constant pain gets to be a grind. My wound edges look like something out of a Frankenstein movie – chalk that up to excessive weight then weight loss, resulting extremely thin chest wall skin and compromised blood supply. Both surgeons (breast and plastic surgeon) and my wonderful physician-spouse reassure me that all will be well in time – sigh, it is most disturbing to see one’s body look so frightening. Also, I still have 4 drains removing fluid from – never mind, let’s not get too gross. Hopefully tomorrow the plastic surgeon will remove 2 of the drains. I just want to experience some progress. (Keeping in mind all the time that I am cancer free…)

This is a health and weight loss blog. How is food? What about physical activity? I have zilch appetite, which would be great except I need to eat about 100 grams of protein to help with wound healing. That is a LOT of protein when you have no interest in eating. Despite that, my weight is staying the same. Now, I should just kick myself because I lost 4.3 pounds of breast tissue, gained about 2 pounds of fluid in the tissue expanders, and have a lot of swelling in my chest. I really cannot exercise yet. (Walking in 100° heat is a no-no now, and I can’t lift more than 2 pounds.) I must keep reminding myself that weight is no longer a marker of success and focus on waist measurement. Bah, I just want a few hours of being pain-free.

Gosh Jan, want any cheese with that whine?


Family, Food, & Breast Cancer – Oh My!

I have spent the last week with my father, visiting with my younger sister, “baby” brother and sister-in-law and experiencing a house without Mom. The week has passed so quickly! Dad has been vigilant about my way of eating, cooking yummy breakfasts every morning, having huge pots of coffee, making dinners with lean protein and green veggies. Of course there were the expected candies and cookies lying around, but not the least bit tempting. Amazing. We spent 2 days at my brother’s home breaking in their new pool & eating Tex-Mex. My sis-in-law makes incredible pico de gallo that I devoured with a fork — no chips needed! Naked fajitas, yummy, as were carnitas. OK, I had to have a few barracho beans but skipped the rice and all things tortilla.

Yesterday we drove the 30 or so miles to a rural town and the family plot to visit Mom’s grave. We brought a bright bundle of daisies and, at the suggestion of my other sister, also placed a Snickers bar. Mom thought even ice cream could benefit from sugar. 🙂 I find cemeteries strangely peaceful, a part of life, but wasn’t certain how I would react to seeing her still unmarked grave. No biggie. She certainly isn’t there. We strolled around looking at headstones to help Dad finalize the design for their joint marker. Our family is notorious for procrastination.

Damn Starbucks for having half-price frappucinos during happy hour this week. For 190 calories each, I allowed myself a couple or 3 mochas and treated Dad to the strawberry ones with all the whip cream they could fit into a cup. Today we are joining my sister after her round of golf for brunch at her club. Gotta be plenty of options for me where those thin North Dallas ladies eat, no?

Had my first, and hopefully only, freak out about impending breast surgery — a few hours of feeling overwhelmed by the surgery and lengthy recovery ( bilateral simple mastectomy and start of reconstruction with tissue expanders). Sue and sisters are lined up for care taking and driving. Pre-op visit Monday, plastic surgery final visit Wednesday, surgery May 26. You would not believe the list of foods that I cannot eat from now until surgery. Will post those when I get home and review the THIRTEEN page consent form. All for just a little bit of breast cancer and 120-pound weight loss. Damn.

Spring In The Desert

Last week it was 95°. On Saturday it was 55° and rainy in Tucson with about 9 inches of snow up in the Catalina Mountains behind our house.

Catalina mountains

Catalina Mountain Snow in April

We decided to drive up the Catalina Highway – about 30 miles from our house at 2600 feet to the top of Mount Lemmon (well, close to the top), which peaks out at 9,157 feet. Supposedly the brief trek is the equivalent of traveling from Mexico to Canada ecologically and climate-wise. In the one hour it took to drive, the temperature dropped from 60° to 31° when we reached the little town of Summerhaven near the ski “resort”. Yes, there is skiing in Southern Arizona, but not this year. Usually there are about 180 inches of snowfall. This year I’m not certain there have been any days open for skiing, it has been so dry.

Tree blooming in the snow

Unidentified tree blooms in Summerhaven


icy tree bud

Icy tree bud

I made Sue stop and take a picture of me standing in the snow while her parents tried to get over their car sickness (evil snicker).

Snow bunny

Once back in the desert I shot a few blooms around the neighborhood while walking the pets.

Ocotillo with mesquite tree and saguaro cactus

Mexican bird of paradise bloom

Mexican Bird of Paradise






Generic cactus blooming

Cactus under palo verde tree






Finally, say goodbye to my in-laws! They left today with Sue escorting them home. Thank goodness since they had major travel delays in Chicago. I’m afraid they would have bounced back without her in tow!  (I’ve already reclaimed my space, emptied their crap out of the house, the pantry, and the fridge. Ah, peace…)

Adios ’til next year.


Sue & parents

I Scream

This is unofficial rant day for da blog. So I’ll make these kinda brief and to the point:

Another plateau. After 565 days, one would think I would be used to these. My devout adherence to <1200 calories/day plus no sugar/starch/grains is my own body’s proof that calories in/calories out math does not apply to weight as measured on a scale.

My in-laws continue to bring ice cream into the house. Finally told clinically crazy mother-in-law (MIL) that putting ice cream in our freezer is like giving whiskey to an alcoholic. Blank stare.

They removed “my” chair from the living area to put a chair MIL bought for herself. Now I’m beginning to feel more than a little displaced but have found a source of firewood for our cool desert evenings…invasive inlawsIt’s too darn hot! I either have to walk at 6 am or at dusk now, which is when rattlesnakes are most active on the trails. Lovely. Maybe spring will return for a few more days before I have to walk elsewhere.

Why can’t all clothes be sized the same? I leapt for joy when apparently dropping 2 sizes only to find that in another store I was a size larger. So, add sizing to the scale as a bad measure of fat loss. The tape measure is best if you can’t measure your actual fat stores.

A grocery store clerk turned down my ID when paying with a credit card because I looked nothing like the picture. Oh wait, that’s maybe a good thing, except now I probably need to go get a new driver’s license.

Finally – In an attempt to cut spending, Congress wants to repeal Medicare (for those currently born after 1955) and replace it with private health insurance. Yes, those of you who have paid in will lose out. The most efficient health insurance program for our nation’s elderly will be handed over to the most inefficient industry on earth. How about going after some revenue from the big corporations that pay ZERO taxes? (Apologies, this comes from my concern over health care for seniors and the poor. I don’t give a rip which political party is proposing such idiocy.)

Now off for a brisk walk along a local park route.

Have a great weekend! (I wish cause they will be gone after next weekend.)

Ironman, Here I Come

Mirinda Carfrae, Women's Winner Kona Ironman 2010

Mirinda Carfrae, Women's Winner Kona Ironman 2010

The Ironman World Championship is held October in Kona, and I will be back! No, I won’t qualify as a participant. Heck, I wouldn’t even be eligible for the few lottery spots that are available to complete the field of 1800 athletes. Good grief, I am struggling to get back to walking regularly (no bitching this post, promise). Nope, we are coming back for 2 amazingly, exciting weeks next September/October to volunteer and be a part of this truly amazing race.

For years we have tried to celebrate our anniversary here in Kona, which just happens to fall the same week as Ironman. Reservations are held years in advance by athletes, sponsors, officials, property owners, etc. Our loyalty and repeat business to a prime little condo that hangs over crashing waves finally has paid off. The manager pulled out a corner unit with a wrap-around lanai that she keeps in reserve for returning race customers, and she is letting us rent it for a very reasonable price. We started talking to shop owners and bartenders along the water front about the Ironman experience, and everyone encouraged us to volunteer as a great way to participate and get close to the action. We were given the number of the local volunteer coordinator and are so stoked about doing this!

I watched many marathons when we lived in Houston and one half tri-athalon. The energy is intense. Plus, this is one way to give back to the island that we are so attached to. It takes thousands of volunteers before and during the race to support the event. The one thing we won’t do is play doctor and staff medical stations. Not sure about licensing, but more importantly, we don’t want to mix bidness with pleasure.

So, tonight it’s aloha to the Big Island as we head back to the green desert of Tucson. The week has been full of relaxation, glorious weather, even more glorious humidity on our lizard skin, lots of whales, fresh pineapple dripping down our chins (thanks to Shelley for the tips), time on the water, and the sound of soothing waves. As one local told me, “We live on the land; we draw life from the ocean.”

Kailua-Kona coast

Village of Kailua-Kona seen from swim portion of Ironman route, safely from a catamaran


Village of Kailua-Kona seen from swim portion of Ironman

The Big Island Beckons

Less than 48 hours and we will be flying to the Big Island of Hawaii. I ♥ Hawaii – so much that we seriously considered moving there in 2005, but the distance from our families was too great. It has been over 2 years since our last visit, and this Island Girl (now shriveled from desert dwelling) will return to the wondrous diversity and Aloha of the Big Island.

Waipo valley

Waipo Valley

Waipo Valley is amazing beautiful and  incredibly secluded.

cowboys in hawaii

Cowboys on the Parker Ranch

The wide open spaces remind me of Texas!

Pele's Crater in Kilauea Volcano

Kilauea has been spewing lava since 1983 and adding acreage to the Island. We have seen active lava from foot and via plane and helicopter. Spectacular!

After many visits, we always rent a condo on the Kona side, which is technically a desert receiving about 10 inches rain/year, as opposed to the Hilo side that gets > 130 inches/year. See what I mean about diversity!

Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world – when measured from the sea floor it is 33,000 feet about sea level, towering above Mount Everest by over 4,ooo feet. Seeing snow on this gorgeous shield volcano from the beautiful warm beaches in the winter is a staggering sight.

mauna kea viewed from hilo

Mauna Kea viewed from Hilo

My strongest connection to Hawaii is the ocean. I love snorkeling with turtles (honu) and go in quest of whale encounters with the amazing humpbacks.

Honu - protected green sea turtle

humpback mom and babe

Humpback mom and babe

Leaping humpback

I will be just short of my goal weight of 200 pounds for the trip. Who the heck cares! We will be in paradise drinking 100% Kona coffee, eating fresh fruit, savoring fruits of the sea, and connecting with some of the most wonderful people in the world.



Lessons From My Dog

Eat when you’re hungry

Sleep when you’re tired

Love your pack

Be wary of strangers but be willing to accept them readily

Get along with everyone – even cats (or Republicans 😉 )

Show gratitude for everything that comes your way

Forgive easily

Play often

Go gently when it’s your time


Backyard trail dedicated to our beloved Mattie