Quarterly Update: Un-fucking Myself

In December, i set forth to un-fuck a few aspects of my life.  Nothing huge, just a few necessary course corrections.  It’s going well…

Finger Un-fucking:  After a referral by my general practitioner to a hand surgeon, i was dreading the complications of a surgical “slice and dice”.  Fortunately, this particular surgeon is not a meat cowboy, and wisely prescribed a bit of physical therapy.  Not ruptured tendons, but shredded ligaments.  The resulting scar tissue was keeping my finger curled up like a claw.  Three weeks of PT, and significant improvements had been achieved by mid-February. i continue to sleep in a splint, do my finger exercises, and occasionally wear the spring-loaded torture device prescribed by my therapist.  95% recovered, without spilling blood. Although i will continue therapy on my own,  i consider my finger officially un-fucked.

Check!

Space Un-fucking: January saw me tearing through boxes in the garage and storage room.  Many of them full of shrapnel moved into the new place in 2008 by my daughter – she had been preparing for her studies in Beirut as we prepared to move from our previous home.  This led to many boxes of “un-sorted shit”.  Much of that shit has now been sorted.  The trash disposed of, treasures re-packed and safely stored – and dozens of bags and boxes taken to the local thrift store for recycling.  Not only tackling her stuff, i got through much of my own.  Two Jeep-loads* cleared in January.  February and March have been full of entertaining distractions, but i plan to get back to this in April.  My goal is at least one Jeep-load per month removed from my home – trash, or thrift store, i will continue to reduce my footprint in the homestead.

Progress?  Check!  An on-going battle, though…

Body Un-fucking:  It hasn’t been fun, but it’s working.  As of this morning, down 15 pounds since the end of December.  Picked up a regular gym habit, wearing (and using) my fitbit for accountability, and making changes in my food habits – to include portion control, calorie counting, and ‘just saying no’ to the things that will slow down progress.  i feel better, have more energy, and have noticed looser clothing.  Granted, this is my ‘fat’ wardrobe, but being able to take off a pair of jeans without unbuttoning them feels good – especially when they were a bit snug a few months ago.

Having Studley as my ‘accountability buddy’ has been essential — he’s down 35 pounds, and has already approached his goal for the year.  i am both delighted and annoyed by this… He promises to remain my accountability buddy, and workout buddy.

Hmmm…. i guess that makes him my “un-fuck” buddy…

Whatever…

So there’s the score card for the first three months.  Not bad.  There’s another thing that’s been dogging me that i’m going to add for the upcoming quarter.  A project that stalled due to a vexing technical challenge – the holidays got in the way, too.

A year ago, i tackled a ridiculous project.  Tearing down a broken upright piano at the theater, i carted it home piece by piece, and re-assembled it in my basement.  It is going to become something else – a Frankenstein piece for my party palace.  When i hit a serious hurdle in November, i parked the project, with hopes of getting back to it in January.

But i didn’t.

So now, i shall un-fuck my MacGyver project, and get back to work. Leaving such things unfinished is simply not how i like to roll.

gutted piano

There will be another quarterly update at the end of June.  It is my intention to have hauled at least three more Jeep-loads of ‘stuff’ out of my home.  It is my intention to be at least 15 pounds lighter than i am today.  It is my intention to have overcome my technical roadblock, and be well on my way to completing the piano conversion.

———-

* “Jeep-load” is an acceptable volumetric unit of measure in these parts.  For conversion purposes, “10 Jeep-loads” = “1 Shit-load”.

 

 

Carry that weight…

“Maximum weight in your backpack should be no more than 40% of your body weight.  And you want to start well below that…”

Advice from a new friend, who agreed to coach basic backpacking, and introduce me to the local trails.   My adventure buddy, Studley McRocklegs, is playing along, as we add another skill-set to our adventure toy chest. 

Prepping my pack, i decided to start with twenty-five pounds.  My tent, sleeping bag, and about a gallon of water in a sealed jug was my starting load. i hopped on the scale to weigh the result. 

Twenty two and a half pounds.  Seemed a helluva lot heavier to me, though, as i hoisted it onto my back.

Then it hit me:  this is exactly how much weight i’ve dropped since the beginning of May.  

Damn. i’ve been carrying around a LOT of excess.  With another twenty-five pounds (minimum) still to be shed, i’m pretty sure i’ll feel a helluva lot better by the time i get there.  

And it’s sure going to make the backpacking easier…

Onward…

Weight for it

At least six times a week, i drag my cellulite-encrusted thighs to the fitness facility at work.  It is not cushy.  No fancy classrooms, state-of-the-art fat eradication gizmos.  It used to be a warehouse, that was re-fitted to encourage a larded workforce to stop filing so many health insurance claims get fit.

It’s most important feature, however, is that it’s free.  Second most important?  i can go on my lunch hour.  Third?  It’s free.

Patrons of this facility cut a wide swath through the employed masses.  From the doughy, middle-aged folks* fighting fat so they can have just one more breakfast muffin at the next meeting, to the aggressive and disgustingly hard-bodied youth who throw weights around like they’re quarters, we have it all.

i do not like being there.  It is necessary.  i do not like making the machines move repeatedly.  Three sets of twelve reps here, six sets of ten reps there.  It simply blows.  But i need to do it, it’s an hour of my day, and did i mention?  It’s free.

My mind wanders as i count.  i look at the other patrons.  They look back, usually with the same glassy-eyed resignation.  We have gotten to know each other on sight.  “That’s the guy who grunts.”  “She’s the one who waits a full two minutes between sets and ties up the machine”.  “She sweats a lot.”* 

Today, as i worked the machine that is the mechanical equivalent of “We Must, We Must, We Must Increase Our Bust”**, something caught my attention.  Resting between sets, i looked at the “Dip Rack”***, and there was a guy doing tricep dips – with about a 20 pound weight hanging off a weight belt.

Definite spit-take, as i had to look twice to see the belt.

workout buddy (sitting on the next machine):  Did you see that?

daisyfae:  Ummm…. yeah.  Whoa.  That’s badass.  Bet it gives him penile extension.

workout buddy:  Unbelievable!

daisyfae:  Would probably give him more penile extension if he were hanging that weight from somewhere else…

Which is exactly where it seemed to be swinging from when i first looked… 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* C’est moi.

** Grade school chant.  “We must, we must, we must increase our bust.  The bigger the better the tighter the sweater, the boys will look at us.”  Seriously.  No wonder girls grow up with body image issues…

*** No, not like that.  You climb up, hold the cross bars – which are parallel at the level of your hips – then do triceps dips with your knees bent.

Forever young… not…

“What?  He’s too young to have a stroke? What the FUCK?!?”

Ummm… just because i’ll always see him as that long-haired, deep-thinking hippie boy with the irresistible impish grin, doesn’t mean he’s too young for a stroke.  He’s 48.  And at the moment, he’s still in neuro-ICU, unable to speak, with complete right side paralysis. 

Although he and i hadn’t seen each other in decades, i stumbled upon his twin sister via facebook last January.  She’d been my best friend through 7th-8th grade (and NOT just because i had a crush on her brother), but we’d followed rather different paths and lost touch. 

After a few conversations with him, on a whim i hopped a plane out of town for a terrific weekend last summer.  One of those people in your life.  Our connection wasn’t based on the past — shit, we were 12 years old when we’d last had a conversation — but the connection was a good one.

Prognosis?  Who knows.  He’s overcome much worse during those 48 years, so my money is on him.  His twin is at his bedside.  He has an extensive network of close friends in town.  There’s nothing to be done…

As if we all need another reminder, don’t put it off.  Whatever it is.  Don’t fucking wait til next week, next month, next year. 

Get on it.

Towanda!

One of the nice things about having breast cancer is that for the rest of your life you visit your oncologist every year. Sort of like having a “cancer-stalking ninja” sitting on your shoulder. During my annual mammogram two weeks ago, an ‘area of concern’ was spotted in my right tit*. Biopsy was recommended.

It wasn’t a tumor, just a cluster of microcalcifications.  These are normally scattered throughout the breast and are of no concern unless they cluster.  Even if clustered, they are usually just indicative of pre-cancerous cellular abnormalities, and generally don’t evolve into invasive cancer.

Bottom line?  It was no big deal.  Even if it was bad, it wasn’t bad. 

So the biopsy was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.  Both of my children, and the two friends i told about it, offered to drive me to the appointment, but i declined.  Hopped in the jeep after lunch and drove myself to the hospital.  No big deal.  Local anesthetic is used for a stereotactic biopsy, and there is no concern about driving post-procedure. 

The stereotactic biopsy is the first approach attempted in such a case.  When the little nuggets are that small, sometimes a wire-localization surgical biopsy is required.  More extensive, still local anaesthetic, and good to avoid if possible.

Joking with the medical staff, i reminded them that these are the Model Year 2007 Bionic Twins we’re dealing with… The objective was to get something for pathology without mashing it into a thumbless mitten…  Given the size and location of the clump, the doc wasn’t sure he’d be able to get it.  The staff prepared me for several attempts, and said it might take an hour to just find it.  It took a full 90 minutes of x-ray imaging before the doc could do the core biopsy. 

That’d be 90 minutes with me lying face down on a hard table, tit through a hole, and strategically crushed between two plates.  While not painful, it wasn’t particularly comfortable.  “Don’t move!”  Right.  i stayed as still as i could.  The doctor, knowing that i was getting stiff, reached up to reassure me, placing his hand squarely on my left ass cheek.  Not sure he realized it… but i still didn’t move**.  Given that the doc was pretty sure we’d have to go back for a wire-localization, i was relieved that he was able to get a sample for pathology.

The doctor and staff said that i had been an ideal patient.  Relaxed, flexible and tolerant – with a fairly high threshold for discomfort.  Otherwise, they said, they’d have referred me for the wire-localized surgical biopsy.

When it was over, i wandered back out the the parking lot*** on a gorgeous autumn day, sucking in the fresh humidity-free air and drinking in the high-pressure blue sky.  Hopped back in my jeep. 

“i am one badass motherfucker” was the random thought that popped into my head…

When i went through the process almost three years ago, i went to all of my appointments and procedures alone.  With the random thought that flashed in my head, i finally realized why i do it this way.  It provides the illusion of power and control.  It makes me feel strong. 

The reality?  i was just as scared on that table as any other human being.  Even though my rational mind knew it wouldn’t be bad, it’s fucking scary.  So i rationalize it into a nice corner, tell myself i’m strong and in control of things and that i’m a badass motherfucker.

Always comes back to that amazing quote, uttered by Jeff Goldblum in “The Big Chill”:

Sam Weber: Nothing’s more important than sex!
Michael: Oh yeah, have you ever gone a week without a rationalization?

Got the call from my oncologist last night with good news:  negative.  So no further need for cutting or cooking my perky and healthy right tit.

Once again, i want to remind all of you ladies to get your mammograms.  The microcalcifications are the size of a grain of salt, and they are distinctly visible on a digital mammogram.  Isn’t that amazing?  Sometimes they can see the fucking cancer BEFORE it’s cancer.  Yeah, it hurts to put your tit in a vise once a year.  So what? 

Excuses are like assholes – everyone’s got one.  Just go do it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Pardon the medical jargon…  i’m a self-taught professional.

** Had he been anywhere near as hot as the orthopaedic surgeon who did my knee surgery, i might have jumped him…

*** i got dressed first…

Fill ‘er up!

When my niece’s husband, BJ, broke his back in a work-related accident last year, their sole source of income was encased in a back brace and told to stay horizontal for about three months. Rather than send flowers and chocolates, i offered to take their grocery list to the store when i was in town taking care of something for Mom.

It seemed a reasonable list for a family of four for a week. Bread. Milk. Eggs. Orange Juice. Bologna. American Cheese slices. Generic (store-brand) cereal. Breakfast pastries and granola bars. Baby food for the one-year old. Pound of hamburger. Tortillas, a can of cooked chicken, salsa and shredded cheese. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. A bag of frozen mixed vegetables… Several more items that are considered ‘staples’ for many families. No soda. No beer. No snack foods. But also no fresh vegetables or fruit.

Carefully scavenging through the center of the grocery store, which isn’t familiar territory for me, i found each item on the list. With a shopping cart that was almost full to the top, i was stunned when the total bill for the groceries was $80. “Eight plastic shopping bags full of food for about $10/bag? That can’t be right?” On the rare occasions i do go shopping, i spend at least that much and carry home half as many bags. What the fuck?

Didn’t think much more about it until i saw “Food, Inc.” a few weeks ago. Corn is cheap. Corn is filling. Corn is in damn near everything we eat. No shortage of alarming articles on this topic are out there, but the best source of info i’ve found so far seems to be a book by Michael Pollan (2006) Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.  Corn products include: ketchup, cheese, Twinkies, batteries, peanut butter, Cheez-Its, salad dressings, Coke, jelly, Sweet & Low, syrup, juice, Kool-Aid, charcoal, diapers, Motrin, meat and fast food. It is also the main ingredient in animal feed, so it’s in damn near every bit of meat in the supermarket.

A food additive? You bet! Cellulose, Xylitol, Maltodextrin, Ethylene, Gluten, Fibersol-2, Citrus Cloud Emulsion, Inosital, Fructose, Calcium Stearate, Saccharin, Sucrose, Sorbital, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Di-glycerides, Semolina, Sorbic Acid, Alpha Tocopherol, Ethyl Lactate, Polydextrose, Xantham Gum, White Vinegar, Ethel Acetate, Fumaric Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Baking Powder, Zein, Vanilla Extract, Margarine, and Starch. According to the US Department of Agriculture “Corn acreage in the United States has increased from a government-mandated low of 60.2 million planted acres in 1983 [to 87 million in 2009] due to provisions in the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996.“

Never mind that agricultural science has engineered the snot out of our current mutant corn species, and yields are about double per acre over where they were a fifty years ago. It’s a helluva lot cheaper to eat a corn-based diet, whether through cheap grain-fed beef in fast food (“Hey, Give me my fucking 99 cent tacos!”) or filling bags of starchy and mysterious “frooty loopettes”.

No real mystery that my niece is edging up well above 300 pounds, and her fourteen year old daughter is wearing “Huskaroos” from the teen shop… For the price of a dozen tacos at the drive through, you can buy a head of lettuce, 3 apples and stalk of broccoli. And guess which is gonna fill up a family of four better?

So the next time BJ breaks his back and i have a chance to do some grocery shopping for them, i might pick up a cookbook and a few more fresh items. We’ve simply made it too cheap and easy to eat shitty food…

Resourceful friend…

During my workshop last week, i had a chance to catch up with a friend i hadn’t seen much over the past few years.  He was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer last winter, and is about halfway through his ‘hell year’ of treatment.  GP and his wife, DP, are simply adorable humans.  Favorite memory was from a Halloween party, where he showed up as a smokin’ hot pirate, and she was dressed scantily in a black mini skirt and jewel-encrusted mesh top…. as “The Pirate’s Booty”.

Asking GP how he was doing, i was amazed to learn that he is currently undergoing aggressive chemo.  He really showed no outward signs of feeling poorly, just maybe a little tired.  Working through it, although he said he has had some pretty grim days.  Radiation, major surgery, now chemo… he’s facing one more surgery in January to repackage his intestinal parts.

His wife, DP, was very sweet when i was diagnosed in 2006, bringing me silly gifts, booze and chocolate to cheer me on.  i asked him how she was managing – with two active children at home, part time job, she was always on the move.  GP explained that she seemed very scared, was hovering a little, and always wanted to be close to him – which was ok with him. 

daisyfae:  If there’s anything i can do for you or the family, please let me know.  Maybe just taking DP out for lunch some day and getting her drunk is what y’all need?

GP:  Well, I’ve been telling her that since I got cancer, she owes me a three-way…

daisyfae: ….

Malaprop du Jour

As if i didn’t have enough going on at the moment, i endured another round with Buzzy McTwatprobe this afternoon*.  In my continued quest to hang onto my girlbits, supplied as OEM** parts, it was off for another ultrasound.  During the pre-procedure preparation, the technician went over my medical history, asking questions about pregnancies, birth control and surgeries.

While listing my hoo hoo-related operations, i told her of the sterilization*** procedure i embraced in 1999.  Having spent enough time with medical professionals over the last decade to earn an honorary MD, i’m pretty clinical in such matters, listing my procedures by title and date (in reverse chronological order). 

daisyfae:  Two C-sections, 1986 and 1988.  Tubal Ligation, 1999….

Twat Tech [interrupting]:  Hold on, that was “Tubal Litigation“?

daisyfae:  Yes.  Exactly…

not the brightest bulb

* Despite rampant urban legends to the contrary, she did not, in fact, find testicles. Large, brass or otherwise…

** “OEM” = “Original Equipment Manufacturer” for the non-motorhead reader.

*** Tubal Ligation, known as ‘having the tubes tied”.  Not willing to leave it to chance, i not only asked for them to be tied, i asked my doc to “cut, tie, clamp, cauterize, staple and superglue the god damned things shut”.

Ya gotta have heart…

A heart rate of 40 beats per minute is generally considered a bit low to sustain life.  Even trained endurance athletes don’t quite go that low.  That’s why a heart rate of 40 beats per minute in the body of an 81 year old woman should be pretty alarming.

Nope.  Not to my mother.  Returning from a fun, but chaotic, family reunion last weekend, she was getting settled in at home Sunday night.  Her normal evening routine involves checking her blood pressure and pulse rate – and she noticed that the heart rate was down.  Rather than let someone know?  She sucked it up and decided to tough it out.

She didn’t want to bother anyone.  Knew that folks were tired from the weekend.  She didn’t sleep much, but kept track of her heart rate.  Even in the morning, she still felt like crap, but waited til noon to call my niece, DQ.  The cardiologist had mentioned that low heart rate is pretty damn serious, so DQ called for an ambulance, and got Mom in for cardiac assessment Monday afternoon.  About fifteen hours after she first noted the low heart rate.

She was immediately taken to the intensive care unit, the docs said she’d need a pacemaker installed.  Procedure was scheduled for noon on Tuesday.  i cleared my morning calendar to join my sister, S, and niece at the hospital.  Routine stuff, and likely to immediately make Mom feel better. 

She was really lucky – and i mean really fucking lucky- that her cardio-circuits didn’t fry while we spent the weekend in a remote ‘holler’ down in Kentucky.  We were 30 minutes from the main road, and probably at least an hour from skilled medical care…

i had coordinated logistics for Tuesday with S and DQ.  The Park is about an hour from my office, and i had a meeting at 3:30pm – an interview panel, which had already been rescheduled 3 times.  i headed down first thing in the morning.  So long as i left the hospital by 2:00 pm, it was possible to meet my work obligation.  Given that things were reasonably under control, Mom was in no imminent danger, and S wasn’t shitting herself in a panic like she did last time, i figured it would be ok to plan to head to work after the procedure. 

Mom was prepped for the procedure, and they allowed us to come back and join her.  Some inconsiderate motherfucker having a heart attack had the balls to take the cardiologist away, so Mom’s procedure was delayed til around 1:30pm.  We explained this to Mom.  My sister  told her “daisyfae has to go back to work at 2:00pm”…. followed immediately by “But I’m not going to leave you!  You’re the only reason I ever take off work.  It’s more important for me to be here with you than to go to work…” 

(sigh)

On the bright side?  At least this time she didn’t break down in tears, or start with the “I’m not ready for you to die” routine…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The good news?  Mom’s doing great – she was pretty pasty-white when they took her back to install Ticker Helper.  She returned a healthy shade of pink.  Downside?  They’re keeping her for at least another night – pulmonary hypertension.  Will know more tomorrow… and still need to get back to writing up all the happenings – new and past history – covered over the weekend…

Get up offa that thing…

Leontine found me through an article in the local newspaper  – a nice fluff piece about the importance of early detection*.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer when i was, and she found resonance with my words. 

It was about risk management, “getting on with it”, and about not letting yourself be a victim.  During our surgeries and treatments, we’d meet up monthly to slog through an assload of wine and brie and compare notes.  Mostly, counting our blessings for getting off lucky in the grand scheme of things.

On the surface?  Not much to build upon.  She is in her mid-60’s, the wife of a local dentist, and mother of three grown children – happily spawning a flock of gorgeous grand children.  We found we had a lot more in common than just cancer nuggets buried in our titties.  We drink.  And we dish.  And we play.  And we travel like there’s no tomorrow…

Although our prognosis was similar, she opted for more aggressive treatment, including chemo “just to be damn sure”.  Leontine and i looked forward to our monthly sessions – swapping stories about living aggressively, and dishing gossip on the locals**, as well as discussing the merits of a merkin for a chemo patient!  To celebrate her one year anniversary?  She showed up with a tattoo on her left tit – a pink ribbon with the words “I won”.

Last year, we added a new member to our posse.  Doris, a good friend of hers, was diagnosed with her own pesky little cancer nugget.  And so we meet.   And we drink.  And we dish.  Doris – a lovely 68-year old grandma – is now sporting a smokin’ hot blond wig since she’s bald as a cueball from her chemo.   It is a replacement wig, since she burned the crap out of her original wig by leaning a little too close to the stove.

Last Thursday, the three of us met for another session.  It wasn’t easy to arrange, as we beat through our busy schedules to pick the date.  Doris was looking fabulous – meticulously dressed, matching outfit – right down to the coordinated earrings in her triple-pierced ears.  She’s been dealing with weekly chemo for six months, and is looking forward to being done at the end of June. 

i was surprised to learn that Thursdays are her worst days.  She receives chemo on Mondays, and says she feels ok through Tuesday, but by Thursday, she’s hitting rock bottom, recovering a bit to be able to enjoy her weekends.  Didn’t slow her down much from what i could see***.  Her words: “What’s the point of staying in bed and whining?  Life is out there!  Live it!”

i love these women.  Not to mention the fact that i’ve got friends named Leontine and Doris.  How cool is that?

let-it-rain

* It also provided an opportunity to get some shameless publicity for the show i was in at the time of my surgery.  Pimpin’ my cancer to get butts in seats.  No apologies…

** Dentist’s wives know shit about everyone.  Big fun… especially the dirt on the local politicos…

*** We killed two bottles of wine and two plates of brie in about 90 minutes… We are nothing if not efficient!