I find myself very blessed to have friends who are as crazy about the Olympics as I am.From trashing the Eastern European uniforms (Hungry is all wearing very unflattering bike shorts and flowy tops that look like a field of sickly flowers threw up on the fabric) to rooting for Michael Phelps to make Olympic history (he did). Thank goodness I have friends (none whom live in London however, the locals I know are all cheerfully boycotting the games) who are willing to obsess over all this sporting drama with me.This is because the boyfriend, ironically the most sports minded person in the universe, is about as interested in the Olympics as he is in Quantum Physics or in becoming a vegetarian. Thanks Bob.
They stopped having baseball and softball as Olympic sports so the beau pretty much is boycotting the whole Olympic deal, from archery to weightlifting.He is even eschewing the Queen and the Royal puppies who pretty much stole the show from dashing Daniel Craig, a.k.a., James Bond, during the opening ceremonies.
I know, what does he know. He'll be back for the winter Olympics on account of all of the hockey players we follow.
Meanwhile, these Olympic games give me a breather from my life and all my marathon non-stop worrying about Will It Or Won’t It Come Back (the cancer I mean).I forget to obsess and worry. I just get to focus on rooting day and night for the U.S.A. to beat France in anything that comes close to swimming and cheer on all those American darlings, our gymnastic teams.I get to watch water polo (I went to high school in Santa Barbara with several Olympic water polo champs actually) and learn more about things like fencing and the shot putt.And, of course, like the rest of the women I know, I get to marvel at the shoulders of those butterflyers and backstrokers.The girls I mean.Mostly they all sound like they are sweet 16 but they all look like they could whoop you a good one.
Moral of the story, be nice to swimmers, not just the boxers and judo masters, people.
I need major distractions like this because just as everything is going along, pardon the pun, swimmingly, I start to worry.I’m missing something, I must be.Life cannot be nice, I am going to have a relapse or I’ll just get another, more deadly form of cancer, I just know it.I had a very minor ‘girl’ procedure recently − nothing remotely to do with cancer − and it involved some very minor bleeding which I am sure the doctor told me about when I had the procedure a few weeks ago.Yet there I was today, on the phone, speed dialing the very same doctor, only to be told that the bleeding, however minor, would last about six weeks.Whew.I knew that.Or at least I thought I did.
I still go totally blank some times when the doctors are telling me stuff, especially important stuff.I think it is the fear that grips me when I get to thinking that I could get cancer again.Even though I researched the (very minor) bleeding on-line, I was still convinced that I was getting cancer again which is just so irrational, I know.It helps when a cancer survivor, further down the path of recovery than myself, tells me that they get that very same panic/fear onset now and again too.I feel a tad bit more normal when that happens. At that moment I Am Not So Insane because really, I know from insane, I know what happens when my mind races a trillion miles an hour and I ‘go there’ when I should not even be thinking along the ‘cancer again’ lines.
So, this is why I love the Olympics.Instead of ‘What Iff-ing’ myself to death, I get to gab endlessly with friends and colleagues about the most stylish and coolest uniforms (hands down: female, India, the saris are stunning) and I get to root for the lone wolfs, the singular athletes from some third world countries that mostly nobody has even heard of.I root for them because they are so alone and so proud to be representing their countries.I wonder if they speak any English and can talk to other athletes or if their countrymen back home know what they are going through.And I hope, mom that I am, that they have access to food that is familiar to them.Finally, as a woman, I get to be REALLY THRILLED that this is actually the very first Olympics that every single country attending has sent female athletes.About time.
And of course, we all fall in love with darlings like Missy Franklin, the 17 year old swimming marvel with her fresh-out-of-braces smile and her tender teenage heart that is so missing her mom and dad.She makes me cry, that girl does, but in such a good way.The Missys of the Olympics remind us all of what is good and pure and kind and just right in this world and I hope she grows up to do something else amazing with her life because she is clearly already a young lady of exceptional character.I watch athletes like Missy and I forget that I am always so darn scared and that I had cancer and that I’m still mostly living in fear that it will return.I get to be normal when I watch these kids striving for gold or just for the honor of representing their country, it matters not which.
Claudia The Baby has just turned two and my daughter is frankly going bonkers trying to make the house perfect and the party perfect and the experience for a junior toddler who will not remember the event first hand anyway, perfect.
This she gets from her mother.
By the time I had relaxed enough in my own skin to realize all the above, it was too late, I’d already long ago passed on all my neurotic, obsessive tendencies to my only child. She got plenty of good things from me, no doubt, but my drive to make Everything Perfect, was clearly not always in the pro column.
I want to tell her to relax and enjoy the day but I know better, she’s far too busy obsessing over Every Single Detail right now.Sigh.This is what my parenting Hath Wrought.
So instead, I praise her efforts to help wean Claudia The Baby off the binky.Yes folks, the Binky Fairy came to my daughter’s house and took all CJ’s binkies to give them to Babies In Need around the world.That’s our story and we are sticking with it.Fortunately for us, as it turns out, Claudia believes very strongly in the magic of the Binky Fairy.
First few days of A Binky Free House have been rough going my daughter reports.Theory is one thing but practical application, entirely another.Welcome to parenthood I want to say but given that she is busy calling me and asking for the millionth time if I got all the goodies for the goodie bags (yes, for the millionth time), I am editing myself wisely.She’s off and obsessing so I am keeping a low profile until this party is good and over and she comes down a few thousand feet.
This I get, this previously unknown Deep And Abiding Pool of Wisdom, from finally knowing what is important, truly important.Fighting cancer and facing death will do that to a person. That and age eventually, hopefully, breaks down some of the messed up perceptions we got as kids.Not always though, my dad hasn’t changed in all his 84 years, not a bit.Some people are just like that I suppose.But I digress.
So I bide my time, make soothing tisk, tisk sounds of support and carefully, oh so carefully, try to undo some of the damage I clearly did in my early years of parenting.Given how I would routinely lose entire nights of sleep over things like flower arrangements for a Teddy Bear Picnic for a six year old, this is going to be a long term project.
I can add the space program of every civilized country to my official list of Resent You For Life now.We’ve lost a true pioneer, Sally Ride, the first woman in space, who just lost her battle with pancreatic cancer.She was just 61.This loss is particularly hurtful to me because my grandmother died from pancreatic cancer so I know close up how brutal this form of cancer truly is and because Ride was one of my personal heroes.She blazed the trail for other women in space and yet remained true to herself, a jocky, slightly nerdy, not very chic dresser, scientist/explorer/pioneer.She was fearless and articulate, brainy without being unapproachable, she didn’t take herself too seriously and had an air of self-deprecating humor about her.In interviews she seemed to be smiling inside as if to say, yeah, yeah, my last name is Ride, I get it, I get the joke.
And she went into space, fearless and composed, she went where no woman had gone before.When she died, she left behind a long term female partner whom she probably had to keep under wraps for many years before it was acceptable to just be who you are.She was married to an astronaut, male, for a time so I am guessing that maybe she figured out just who she was a little later in life or maybe NASA just had a thing about presenting the world with the All-American couple and she wanted to go into space badly enough to conform to the image NASA wanted to present to the public.Fact remains, the first woman in space was a lesbian.
I feel ripped off by Ride’s death. She devoted her post-space career to keeping middle school girls involved in the hard sciences and math, an incredibly worthy and important cause.I also know that astronauts have a much higher rate of cancer than civilians − likely due to getting caught in the radiation showers from solar storms and not being protected the way we are on earth from magnetic fields.I clearly pay attention to what they are telling me on the Science Channel.There is a special on what it would take to get to Mars and all the experts were saying that they need to pick astronauts in their 50s so that when (not if but when) they all get cancer, it won’t happen to them too young.Nice.
Astronauts are all highly educated, most are PhDs and mission specialists (read, nerdy scientists), so they know the risks and most are likely not surprised ten, twenty, even thirty years later, when they frequently come up diagnosed with a deadly form of cancer.I think astronauts accept this as part of the risk being a pioneer.But I don’t, I don’t accept that.I get that there is risk, big risk, to flying in space but I also want all the space programs of the civilized world to start doing a much better job of protecting the long-term health of our fearless trail blazers.Encase them in radiation-resistant space suits, whatever it takes. We are so not getting to Mars this way people. We need to fix this now.
We need to not lose another pioneer this way, to cancer.They have already risked so much in reaching for the stars.
Sally Ride, you are still my hero and you will be missed.
Time is an interesting concept.To a cancer survivor, time is either your best friend or your worst enemy.There is little left for in-between.We cancer survivors therefore tend to vacillate between the two. Time is either this wonderful gift we cherish and never squander or time is the Anti-Christ.Often we can swing between both extremes in the same day.
I am forever in a hurry when I travel. I think this is because I lack the ability to get myself to the airport in a timely manner unless some nice limo driver is picking me up.It seems that no matter how early I leave, traffic and all sorts of delays beset me at every turn.I barely made my flight today except that when I ran to my gate, I found my flight was delayed more than an hour.I am now winging my way to Cleveland of all locations.It should have been through Cleveland, a mere pit stop, but as we are now landing as my flight is taking off, I have little to no faith that I’ll make my connection.
Such is life.
This would not bother me so much except that when I rush to a customer service representative, they invariably inform me that my flight has left.
And then they just look at me.Silence.What should I do then? Leave? Get a car and drive? Lay down and die right there????
Could you kindly, I always say, put me on the next flight? Thus begins a moronic dance of sorts wherein the so-called customer service rep is loath to do anything that remotely resembles putting me on the next flight.Apparently, the so-called customer service representative would have me believe that I have missed the very last flight EVER leaving to my intended destination and there are no more flights going there or anywhere in the world ever again.
I end up getting a flight of course. But not until I’ve spend an inordinate amount of time on my phone and IPad telling the so-called customer service representative which flight to put me on.I am always curious as to what they are doing on their own computer, tap, tap, tap, because whatever they are doing never results in me getting a flight.I always have to do that all on my own.This is why I now believe that every so-called customer service representative must have a chip implanted in their body somewhere that fires off a painful electric shock if they are somehow able to help me.There is no other explanation.I am also curious as to why I apparently have access to all the flights and they don’t.I’ve even had them tell me, straight faced, that there are no flights.Ever? I say calmly.This seems to make them really angry but no more so than me.REALLY. Get me on the next flight or else I want to scream.At least stop being so obtuse.
I really don’t want to spend the night in Cleveland.I want to get to Poquoson, Virginia.Once I almost drove three and a half hours from Washington D.C. because the so-called customer service representation apparently was incapable of seeing that the next flight, half full, was leaving from the very next gate over.I had to tell her, several times.She was absolutely dead set against putting me on that flight although doing so was well within FAE and customer’s bill of rights.It was only when I pulled out FAE regulations, printed right off the Internet, did she, extremely reluctantly, relent.
I could almost feel the electricity zapping her as I ran to my gate.
I was worried about this trip and not for the usual reasons.I was concerned because it is my maiden voyage with respect to my so-called newly healthy eating lifestyle.I know now from being fully 18 pounds lighter that this lifestyle change is all about planning, planning and more planning.I packed a few low-cal non-perishables last night in my suitcase and made a lunch that would pass muster with security.I hoped it would be ok. At SFO and once past security, I found non-fat vanilla yogurt, 120 calories, and a giant Greek salad for the first flight.Not bad.I left all but a tablespoon or so of the super fattening dressing and filled up on mostly greens.
I am beginning to despise lettuce but further elaboration would take me off point.The thing I couldn’t plan that much for is all the delays that come with vacation travel and this when I’m not really going on vacation.It is July so SFO was packed to the rafters, so much so that I actually felt claustrophobic until I got on the plane, the precise opposite of what one might expect to feel. Then I realized that every single Cleveland transplant was very……slowly….getting on the plane.
I was clearly, the only one in a hurry which really ticked me off.Grandma Marabel wasn’t picking me up in Cleveland in her trusty old Buick and I really wanted everyone to get the heck on the plane, sit down, buckle up and shut the heck up so the pilot could make up some time.Please refer to my last Blog entry-rant about traveling wherein I recommended a National Weekly Flying Day for families and Really Old People.
The announcement came over the intercom and I was absolutely delighted to hear that the pilot was indeed going to make up some time. Enough time, in fact, that I was able to calculate that I’d be landing literally just as my connection flight was taking off.Swell.I also knew that the boyfriend would be tracking my tardy flight, doing the math and frantically calling me the second the plane’s wheels hit the tarmac.This is when Bob goes into Apocalypse Now Solider Mode and starts barking orders which I never react well to.You think the man would learn but no, this is when he starts raising his voice and I end up responding in kind because I’ve been doing this travel gig a really long time and I do not need anyone to tell me that the very last flight to Bongo-Bongo is leaving in less than ten minutes and I have to start running to somehow get to the other side of the airport. The point Bob is always missing is that I don’t have a new boarding pass or ticket for that flight and that at some point I’m going to have to stop, get in a line and talk to a so-called customer service representative --- all while Bob is raising his voice and barking orders and I end up getting so peeved that I pretend that we get disconnected until I am on said flight whereupon I text him the happy news and spend the remainder of my flight time imagining really inventive ways of applying a baseball bat to Bob’s thick skull or worse, taking the dogs (I have puppy custody though Bob seems entirely unaware of this) and leaving his sorry behind until he begs my forgiveness.
It takes me longer to get over the way Bob always yells at me to call the United 800 number all while refusing to hang up the phone.I find that my Iphone doesn’t let me do both, a fact that Bob seems to miss each and every time this happens which it does.Frequently I might add.The other thing that Really Annoys Me is that Bob cannot seem to grasp that I’m in line to talk to a so-called customer service rep, I’m on the phone with United, I’m on my IPad looking up flights --- all at once while he is seemingly unable to understand why I’m not (five seconds after deplaning) ticketed and sitting in first class on the next flight to Bongo-Bongo.Just keying in my Gold frequent flyer number and waiting on the phone for the so-called next customer service representative takes fully ten minutes.
Patience is not Bob’s strong suit on the best of days and when I’m under the gun this way to make all this happen at once while the last flight out of Cleveland has just left the gate, yes, I might get a little testy with the man.And the airlines and anyone who dares to call themselves a so-called customer service representative.
I have fantasies about reprogramming those embedded chips, the ones that go off only when somebody manages, entirely by accident, to help me.I want to program those suckers to zap people every time they do something obtuse like tell me that my flight has already left.
I can already hear the electricity sizzling as it whips through the bodies of every so-called customer service representative in the Cleveland airport.
At least it’s not me. I’m not the only one.One of my fellow breast cancer survivors started her weight loss regime in March and has lost 35 pounds on Tamoxafin so if Kim and I can do it, the rest of you wanting to lose weight can as well.
I joke about my fundamental lack of patience but it’s generally true.Discipline and accountability I’ve got in spades but patience, not so much. If only, I thought, I’d started back in March, I’d be down by 35 as well. As it stands, I figure I won’t hit that marker until sometime in September, I’m still fully two months away from hitting the big 3 5.
Meanwhile, my work BFF and I walk at least three times a week around lunch time and I stick to my healthy and low calorie food regime. I’ve grown used to feeling seriously hungry at times and at a birthday lunch celebration the other day when I did actually indulge a bit, the richness of the food made me feel slightly nauseated so I stopped. Eating that is.I stopped eating.Half of my entrée I took home just like all the fat loss doctors tell you to do.
In short, I got this. When I saw the photos my daughter took of me on Mother’s Day at the San Francisco zoo pushing Claudia The Baby on a swing, I actually thought: who IS that rather wide woman in the photograph next to my granddaughter?A second later I realized, with a shock, that it was me.Or rather, a much wider version of myself than I was willing to accept.The shock of how wide I’d become was enough to Set Off A Chain Of Events.I then pondered this whole weight loss thing for an entire week after that, setting straight in my mind what I had to do.Then I just did it.
In retrospect, I’m glad I took the week to think it through.I wanted to make a serious lifestyle change, not go on a diet.And I was not about to pay someone to send me boxed food or to list out points, I am too frugal for that and frankly, I didn’t need that kind of help or knowledge.I knew what I had to do.
I then set my ultimate goal with milestones and mini-goals sprinkled in-between so I would keep motivated.Yes, I even did a power point weight loss chart that I update weekly. I know me, I do this at work all the time, break down seemingly huge projects into manageable chunks.I figured a roughly six month long weight loss journey (followed by an as yet fully defined lifelong maintenance regime) could be structured similarly.That meant that I knew I’d need to hit multiple milestones along the way in order to stay motivated though truly, motivation hasn’t been an issue at all, I think that is because I view this as a lifestyle change, not a diet, not just weight loss.This is really about maximizing my odds, stacking the deck every way I can against a reoccurrence of cancer and maintaining a low body weight is at the top of that list. I already do everything else. I don’t smoke, would consider hormone replacement therapy, drink only moderately, exercise four times a week, am vigilant about seeing my cadre of doctors and medical specialists….what else can I do?
Lose the weight, that’s what. It was the only thing on the list of ‘improve my odds’ that I was guilty of not doing.That’s because weight loss is sort of….hard.It is.There is no mental YUM any longer, no brain twist to the taste of something buttery on the tongue, no feel good hormones that flood me when I eat something fattening because I don’t. I don’t subsist on the yummy, fattening cheesy foods I used to basically live on.I limit my baking (which I dearly miss as an activity) so I won’t be tempted to eat what I create because flour in and of itself is quite calorically dense. No wonder bread and carbs in general are so calorie laden.
Any time I am even a bit discouraged by the slow and steady decline on the scale I think of Robin Roberts, the television personality on Good Morning America.As a breast cancer survivor, she did everything right too, including keeping her weight down. She reportedly counted out the tiny number of almonds she ate every day because they are really good for you but fattening.She was disciplined and careful.She got to check off everything on the ‘improve my odds’ list including low body weight and now her reward is that she has to endure a bone marrow transplant because of the brutal side effects chemo had on her.She did everything right and still, the cancer may not have come back but she’s still fighting for her life due to some rare blood condition brought on by the impact of chemo.
I think of her every time I eat carrots it seems.And suddenly, those carrots aren’t so darn dismal after all.
I keep telling everyone that the toughest part about losing a significant amount of weight is not the food or the deprivation. It’s having patience.
Patience, as I told a dear friend on the phone this morning, has never been my strong suit. I have plenty of discipline and accountability to spare but patience? This is an area of my personality that I continue to work on. This is because I am fast, fast at most things. I get the answers on Jeopardy before the real contestants even ring in, I get more done in one night at home than all my friends do in an entire weekend. I am nothing if not efficient.So, while this is all very productive and admirable, it all comes to a grinding halt when applied to weight loss.
You have to be patient.I should know this because when you fight cancer, you oddly enough, have no choice.You have to wait on the doctors, the test results, the pathology lab, the answers.You have to wait even when, as my doctors did, everyone is moving at the speed of sound.Pathology results still take a few days, this isn’t like soap operas where everyone hurries down to the local hospital, the doctor is your ex-sister in law and you have paternity results by the next commercial break or at least on Monday after a cliffhanger Friday. This is real life where you have to wait because there are a whole lot of other potential cancer patients having tests done too.
So we all wait.And hope.At least with weight loss you can jump on the scale any old time to check your progress though I would not recommend it. You may well end up yelling at an inanimate object (a.k.a, the scale) and that’s usually cause for alarm.So, no yelling at the scale, mental health professionals typically frown upon that sort of thing.
One of the nurses who works for my OB/GYN told me her mother could not lose weight on Tamoxafin the way I have.I figure that’s because her mother was honest about her caloric intake whereas I was deep in the trenches of denial regarding the sheer volume of calories I was consuming, particularly cheese which, as I have mentioned before, is about a bazillion calories a bite. There are very few calories in baby carrots however.
This is why everyone in their right mind prefers cheese. And instant gratification.
I have gotten pretty good at keeping promises to everyone and to myself.This is why I was elbow deep in dust and grime and dirt last Saturday because I promised myself no more cool and crafty projects until I completely cleaned and organized my garage.This meant that I put on old grubby clothes and milled around my garage, pushing containers from there to here and back again for the greater part of six hours. At the end of it, I’d pulled the rest of my crafting supplies, piled books to take to the used book store neatly into three large boxes and stocked the rest of my daughter’s belongings in a staging area for her to take home.I organized all my DYI tools and materials in the tool organizer thjat used to hold all my crafting supplies (and good intentions) and then I swept out the dust, cleared the (literal) cobwebs.By the time I was done, I was the very definition of Filthy McNasty and in dire need of a long, hot shower.
But my garage is now worthy of a spread in the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living.
Right on schedule, my daughter arrived the next day, glanced suspiciously at the rather large pile of things I’d marked as hers and announced, again right on schedule, that none of it was hers. I calmly replied that I didn’t think the dozen or so mint condition boxes displaying designer Barbies were mine nor were the little girl tea sets. We got past that and I did my best to convince her that she also needed to take custody of all the Halloween decorations. I did this for three reasons: one, Halloween is her holiday; two, I pretty much had decided we would be spending that holiday in her neck of the woods and three, I was not keeping all that junk in my now perfectly organized garage.I omitted the last piece of reasoning when I convinced her to take everything.Actually, scratch that, her husband walked in, casually commented that he saw all her stuff and said he would pick everything up on Tuesday.
I’ve learned to refrain from gloating as it is never a good idea when one’s adult child is a hormonal, pregnant mass of frayed nerves. But I still kept my promise to myself to get this unpleasant project completed before Labor Day (I actually beat the 4th of July by a few days).I have also been keeping the promise to myself to lose the weight. I’ve been keeping a lot of promises as it turns out.Battling cancer can do that to a person.You realize your time on this earth is limited and that what you say and do matters.Your word is your bond and keeping your word is something that strongly influences how people perceive you.It’s how I want to be remembered actually, as someone who took care of business and kept her word. So, even if my friends and family find me a tad bit….smug these days I believe I’ve earned a bit of smugness.I now have a working, well organized garage that is not only functional but that I can find things in if need be. I am fully 15 pounds lighter these days and fitting into some of my cuter clothes. More importantly, I feel better about myself and significantly healthier.Those darn doctors and nutritionists were − surprise − not lying when they say eating properly gives you more energy and can impact your overall health and wellness.Who knew?The media actually had that one right.
So, I plan on continuing to keep my promises.As it turns out, in this world so fraught with uncertainty and basic unfairness, your word is pretty much all you have.
And turns out, when you keep your word, it’s enough.