Sunday, October 4, 2020

Wondering about weight loss and activities moving inside

There’s a fine line between being hypervigilant and hypochondriacal. For example, whenever it comes up, my friends say that being a hypochondriac helped me when I went to the doctor after that fateful slow 10K in 2003; they would have just written it off to a bad day. I say that I think that one was more in the hypervigilant category. I thought something was wrong, but in my mind it wasn’t a deadly disease, just bad diet or training. 

 As an aside, it has been interesting to see the doctor who diagnosed me, Ron Berger, out on the tennis court after his retirement. 

 Well in any case, on the hypochondriac side, I started to worry that my weight loss was a sign of something dire, even though I recently had a blood test that turned up some slightly off kidney function but nothing too serious. (Upon retest it got better and might have been due to dehydration or taking Ibuprofen, which is bad for kidneys, but I'm not supposed to take much Tylenol, either, because it's bad for liver, which leaves me with oxy, and I definitely don't want to take too much of that, but pain relief is another topic.)

I don’t as a rule get on the scale. I started to think about it when my dentist, who takes an interest in my overall health, said I was too thin, and I should go eat some steak. It’s kind of in my family to get thinner and thinner, though. For example, my father was so thin and unsteady that we were afraid he would fall over. 

 At my last appointment at Dana-Farber, I did weigh in at about 10 pounds less than the year before, but they said it was OK since it was over a year, and I’m very active. 

Well I finally got on the scale last week and was aghast at what I saw. I weighed less than when I finished cancer treatment. When a disease is in the news, that’s the one that sticks with me, so immediately thought I had pancreatic cancer. I don’t usually do this, but if I’m in a panic, I think it’s OK to text my wonderful nurse practitioner, Melissa Cochran. She gave me her number, so I think she doesn’t mind. She said she would call me.

 She did shortly after. Her response was not that I should rush right in. (Maybe I expect bad news because of all the times it happened, and this history gets layered on top of my tendency to worry.) She said I probably wasn’t getting the 2,000 calories a day that I should be getting. 

I downloaded My Fitness Pal and tracked what I ate for a day. Then I subtracted my activity, which was a lot, and saw that indeed, I was below that number. Another factor was removing most dairy, due to digestive issues. 

I bought some Ensure (chocolate flavor) and took it back. Then after some friends said I should try it, I got some more, drank a little, and said no thank you. I think maybe I’ll take a chance on the digestive issues and put some ice cream back in. Also the running I’ve been doing, although not pretty, undoubtedly burns a lot of calories. 

And then there is tennis most days… I’m enjoying it so much, I don’t want outside tennis to end. A lot of people are going to go inside, but I’m not sure what to do. It seems like it was just yesterday (actually end of May or early June) when we were worrying that it wasn’t safe to even play outside. We got through that and even attended a garden party last week at a tennis friend’s house. 

 Since I like to worry, in addition to worrying about indoor tennis (which a lot of people say I shouldn't do), I'm worried about how I'm going to see kids and grandkids when it gets too cold to be outside. They were already briefly in my house, so I'm thinking that maybe we can do it if we don't get too close to each other.

I have an appointment at Dana-Farber in a couple of weeks with my new doctor, so I think I'll get his opinion on these things instead of taking the "person on the street" approach.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

How to improve your tennis game: Buy a new skirt

 I wasn't sure I could watch the US Open without fans, and with knowing that Donna and I wouldn't be going this year. But I quickly got into watching the tennis and finding it interesting to see the players watching each other and wandering around doing all the other activities in the bubble.

At Holyoke Canoe Club

It was right about this time that the elastic in my tennis skirts gave way.  I kept jacking them up like an old man hitching up his pants. And the colorful skirts and tops that many of the women were wearing caught my eye. The design was like paint brush strokes. I put in the relevant keywords (Nike skirt US Open blue and pink) and the Nike US Open skirt came up. 

I thought it was just an interesting, colorful skirt, but then I read that the Nike look at the US Open was more than that. Marija Zivlak of Women’s Tennis Blog wrote,

"Nike is reviving Andre Agassi’s rebel style in the 2020 iteration of the ATP icon’s Challenge Court collection that stirred up the tennis fashion world thirty years ago. Using coquille board, torn paper and snippets of the original design, Nike re-created the legendary looks with more modern, functional fabrics.

"The bold collection includes tanks, cropped shirts, skirts, shorts and jackets, all in neon and surf/skate-like geometric patterns that bring back the vibes of Agassi’s groundbreaking on-court style."

When I looked up the skirt online, I saw that I could get it for a discount at Tennis Warehouse. But in keeping with the "shop small" theme that I already follow and that the Open promoted, I got it at the tennis store in Fairfield after another fabulous day at the beach. 

"Maybe it will improve my game," I said to the salesperson.

Well, actually, it did.

I had this thought about my game:

For all the years I've been playing, and all the lessons I've taken, maybe my game should be a little better. 

But for all the days I spent almost dying, maybe my game should be worse...or maybe I shouldn't have a game at all.

Therefore, I am probably right where I am supposed to be.

Also, I'm having fun and getting exercise. When I first came back (multiple times) and went to clinics, I could barely keep the ball in play. I remember feeling kinda bad that I was gumming it up for the other players and feeling embarrassed that I couldn't do what I wanted to do. Now I get asked to sub in groups and feel like a valued member of the tennis community. And in the four days that I played this week, my foot didn't hurt!

Just to make sure it stays that way, I went out to Shutesbury, to the foot fix-it guy Ken Holt, and got a new pair of orthotics. My last pair was three years old. I was using a pair that was even older that got mixed up with the three-year-old pair. Ken is not seeing people in his office; you drop off your old orthotics and he makes the new pair based on it. But I wanted to make sure he was working off the right pair, so I met him in his driveway (at a distance of course) and showed him both pairs. I couldn't tell, but he said it was easy to see which was the newer pair. 

With our democracy at stake, foot problems and tennis level ponderings seem very shallow, so, I'll just say that although I found door-knocking easier when we were in the real world, I am doing some phone banking. I wrote postcards to Florida voters to encourage them to vote by mail, but that part is over. And the price of the shirt to go with the skirt was too much so I didn't get it, though who knows, maybe my gae would go up another level if I matched. 






Sunday, September 6, 2020

Birthday and beach day good, foot pain bad


I had a great pre birthday, birthday and post birthday followed by a bad foot day. The bad day turned into more. 
Something re-activated the dreaded plantar fasciitis, making me a bore to anyone who hasn't suffered from it. One of my tennis buddies had it so badly that she had to skip tennis for a while and go to physical therapy. In between games on the court, she showed me some of her stretches. I feel like I know them all...I actually threw out my boot because I was done with it. The moral might be that even if you have a dumpster in your driveway, never throw anything out.

I have been going to the chiropractor and have contacted my orthotics guy, Ken Holt, because I wonder if it's just a matter of getting new orthotics.

A friend said he couldn't keep track of my birthdays, and I understood. One original birthday and four re-birthdays. 

It was great to have the three kids and one cute little boy at my house for the pre-birthday. We ate outside and were going to stay outside (because, COVID) but Callen wanted to go in. We thought of not doing it but all of a sudden we were all inside. We spaced out and that was a while ago already so I figure it was OK. I loved seeing him at my mother's piano next to one of her paintings.

On the real birthday, I played tennis and went out to eat with Boyfriend, for the first time. People said that 30Boltwood, in Amherst, does a good job, and they were right. 

A couple of days later, I got to go back to the Fairfield Beach Club, where I had great success in getting Callen's little shoes on him while Ben was busy with Nell. Callen had eaten a Spiderman pop and got more on himself than in his mouth. I suggested we go wash up. He took my hand and we headed off. That little hand in mine was worth the two-hour drive. I thought we were going to a certain bathroom but he led me to another room with a big sink in it. I picked him up and turned on the water, which he seemed to be trying to catch in his hands. 

This of course makes me think of doing the same thing with my little kids.


At the end of the day I enjoyed a swim in the calm Long Island Sound. I miss seeing the ocean at Cape Cod, but I think it was Katie who pointed out to me that since I'm not allowed in the ocean, this is a good fit for me. Ben pointed out that there were also no sharks.

If you don't care about feet, you can stop here.

 On top of that, my neuropathy, which has been pretty tame, has gone on and off crazy. The other night, I felt like my feet were electrified. I don't post too much in FB groups such as Our Neuropathy Friends, because everyone is going to have a different opinion. But if a lot of people have the same opinion, for example on a kind of CBD that is effective, I might be interested. That group is recognized by The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy, by the way, 

Hello! I haven't posted in a while because I've been doing OK, meaning, a low buzz in my feet but not that bad. 900 mgs of gabapentin twice a day, or an extra 300 if I want. I don't know what happened. Maybe it's the rain that is coming. My feet got totally electrified, on top of a return of plantar fasciitis. A while back I tried CBD, THC and a combination and was never that happy with the results so I stopped. I was just staring at some chocolate that is 1-1 and wondering if I should take a nibble but I didn't. CBD doesn't really do anything and THC makes me a little stoned, even if I take a little/ I guess it works to take your mind off the neuropathy but I've kind of been there done that with that feeling. As you all know it is very upsetting. I took 5 mgs of oxycodone before. Now it has worn off. Ibuprofen has a bad effect on my kidneys and Tylenol of course is bad for the liver. I put CBD cream on my feet and that helps a little. I guess my question is whether people have had good luck with CBD. The kind I have now is made by Good Body Products in Vermont, for what that's worth.

Mostly it was good to get a little support.

"People that dont deal with this problem have no idea of how debilitating and relentless it is," one said.

Mostly they are doing the same as I am, rubbing different things in their feet. One said he had it so bad that he had to stop work and apply for Social Security Disability.

Someone said capsaicin in a gel, but I put that on my toe once when I had problems and it burned my skin. 

But then after a string of bad foot days I had one of my best tennis days ever. So in conclusion it's hard to figure.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Hard to miss hard court dedication at special place

This morning, George was to speak at a dedication for the new hard tennis courts at The Holyoke Canoe Club. He got the project started, donating $10,000, and others followed his lead and reached the goal of $25,000. I did my little part. He said some 60 people donated. Anyone who donated could cut a piece of the ribbon. 

When they reached the goal, he had said, with a big grin on his face, that he felt like George Bailey from A Wonderful Life. 

Apparently enough people said they wouldn't attend that the celebration this morning would be under the limit of 50 people set by the governor. I thought of going. I really wanted to. But concerns about my funky immune stopped me. He is always there, so I think I will go over this afternoon to ask how it went. 

I did a Serenity Yoga Studio yoga class (at home) during the time of the celebration. The teacher lives nearby, and next time I might do it at her house. I gave Maddie a good walk first so that she wouldn't come and try to sit on the mat with me. She seems to like to do that. I like it when she lies down beside me but not when she hogs, or rather dogs, the mat. 

George has helped me so much during all of my comebacks. It's not just the tennis. It's having the clinics – summer camp for adults. I told him I don't know if it's improving my tennis, but I come for the fun. He said it is, so I'll take him at his word. It's figuring out a way, this year, to have socially distant watermelon during breaks and place our chairs far enough apart and telling stories. We both talk about our fathers and tennis. "My father always said..."

My favorite of my own is, "Don't kid yourself how good you are when you're hitting with the pro." George says it's not totally true because he often hits us hard-to-get balls.

It's the breeze and the river and his "air-conditioned court," the one closest to the river. 

It was telling me not to take more than one step when I first came back after my fourth stem cell transplant, because that's all I could do. If you didn't know him, you would have been insulted by the way he said it..."Don't go for that ball, you won't make it." 

When I got to the point of being expected to get more balls, if I missed one, I would joke, "but I was in a coma." That would have been 11 years ago, when the coma was in the recent past. One day when the coma was farther into the past, I said, "I guess I can't use that excuse any more." So I stopped. 

In any case, he was a big part of this story I wrote for espnW.com about how tennis helped me recover from leukemia.

*************************************************************************************************************

Well, I guess I forgot to post that one!

Later in the day we went over and hit some balls and sat on chairs at the hard court and heard about the dedication. The idea is that these courts will be playable further into the cold weather than the clay courts. If the inside season started now, I wouldn't go in. I would of course miss tennis in the winter. If things change, maybe I would change my mind. I look kind of silly in this mask in the photo but I took the photo after tennis at Longmeadow High School courts with a little explanation of why the smell from this kind of mask brings back bad memories of wearing these when I was severely immunocompromised. Hey, this is kind of related to tennis: something I wrote about backhanded compliments. 






Sunday, August 9, 2020

'There's no crying in tennis'

 

In my opinion, the goal of a volley drill is to keep it going, to practice control, not to win a point. You don't want to hit a pouf ball because you need momentum, but you don't want to slam it either. I probably shouldn't have said anything, but I did on Wednesday when the player on the other side of the net was playing speed ball. We got nowhere near the number of volleys that George wanted. I don't remember exactly what I said, but it was something along the lines of "I think it works better to hit it more slowly." Or maybe it was, "I think it works better when you don't hit it as hard."

Her response: "I'm here for me too."

Say what?

She was not one of the regulars. I actually know her from Friday night mixers and team tennis, and we have a good rapport, so I didn't get why she was so edgy. (I was going to say hostile but that's a little bit much.) People understandably don't like to be told anything by anyone except for the pro. I get it. But at least have a better response than "I'm here for me too." It didn't make any sense. Who knows, maybe it bothered the writer in me. "Here for me too" doesn't work if you're not keeping the ball in play.

A friend (who we love) who doesn't live here anymore hit it equally hard in drills, also to the point of defeating the purpose. If we pointed it out, she would just say "I can't hit it any other way!" or something like that. Nobody got defensive and nobody got upset. We would just laugh.

In any case, on Wednesday, we rotated soon after. In two rotations, I ended up next to George and opposite the hard hitter and another player. One of her first balls hit me hard in the arm. My skin is very sensitive, and my sympathetic nervous system is probably over-reactive. I had to fight back tears. (There's no crying in tennis!) I grabbed my arm and gave her a look. "I said I'm sorry. It wasn't that hard," she said. I didn't hear the sorry part but I don't doubt it. But wait...the "It wasn't that hard part" wasn't necessary. It hurt, so it was hard enough. When we rotated again, I walked off the court to collect some balls and collect myself.

That left three in the next rotation. My spot would have been against the hard hitter. "Ronni doesn't want to hit with me," she said to them, loudly. It sounded like playground talk. One of the others called over that she would hit with me instead. I actually wasn't avoiding her...It was hot, we had been there a long time, and I was just taking a break. But the drill called for four people and I didn't want to mess it up, so I went back and hit with the other person.

It all ironed out by the end of the morning. But it was not your usual magic day at the Canoe Club. I thought I would get black-and-blue but at least that didn't happen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

(Not so) long ago and far away




I made a book for Katie with pictures from our California trip Feb. 20-24, under the wire before the lockdown. We both looked at the glow on our faces in the photo with Nancy, Serena, Goldie and baby Leo on Stinson Beach, our last stop before we came back, and said how happy we looked. I used the photo for the back cover. I leaned the book, with the back cover facing out, on a table in my dining room, instead of putting it away. 

 In perhaps a Freudian slip, when I went to write that we said how happy we looked, I wrote sad instead of said. Sad, because who knows when we will be able to do something like that again. And because it seemed so innocent to hand a phone to someone on the beach instead of darting away like we would have to do now. 

Back in the real world in dermatology land, I am treating two spots with Efudex, the chemotherapy cream that patients love to hate. The one that is the least problematic, an actinic keratosis on my face, is red and angry (that's what it's supposed to do) and the one that is actually a skin cancer (squamous cell) on my chest, is not doing much. 

I wrote a little something on how getting to the dermatologist can be a pain. It just came out but I wrote it before my latest visit, when I finally did it right. 

You wouldn't think that the lions, Patience and Fortitude, guarding the 42nd Street library would have much to do with neuropathy, but I wrote this post connecting the two. The connection occurred to me while I was running and needed a distraction from the pins and needles in my feet.

Missing live theater, I also wrote about virtual ways to stay connected to theater during the pandemic. 

I have a thin skin, literally and figuratively, so I got very upset the other day when someone told me that I was not as appreciative as I should have been when the neighborhood ladies brought me food after my first stem cell transplant. She said instead of being gracious, I had told some of them i didn't LIKE the food.

That was 17 years ago.

I'm not sure where that came from.

And I'm not sure where some of these sayings come from, but I was sick as a dog. I doubt I said I didn't like the food, but even if I did, whoever was bothered could have given me a break. I probably said I couldn't eat the food, because the rules after stem cell transplant are no food cooked outside your house, due to possible contamination on someone's counter or in transit. Or maybe she got this report after the food deliveries were OK, but under strict guidelines about what I could and couldn't eat. 

But hey Callen turned three and Nell turned five last month.

I hear Nell is working on her two-handed backhand with the tennis racquet I gave her.

You heard me say that I'd never see my grandchildren, right? 
So, some things are more important than what someone might say about you.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Having my pie and eating it too

My perfect combination is a tennis game followed by sour cream coffee cake from Breezy Acres Farm, in Granby. When I went yesterday, I got a cute little watermelon, broccoli, blueberries, and corn…the flavors of summer. I eyed two cute little mini blueberry pies on the shelf in front of the kitchen and asked if they were taken. Nancy, Evelyn's sister the baker, didn’t know, and Evelyn was outside somewhere. For some reason, though, I thought the person at the register had gotten one for me. When I got home, I looked in my bag and it wasn’t there. I called up and Evelyn said she had just thrown the pies  together, they weren't her perfect pies, and I could have one for free.

Tennis was good but I thought I could use a little more exercise. I told Boyfriend that I thought I might bike. He said, "You'll have to get up that hill." By that hill, he meant Cold Hill. In the old days it was a lot of effort but I could do it. A few weeks ago when I tried it I had to get off and walk. Katie reminded me that there was no shame in getting off and walking. Still, I would rather not do it. I don't like teeter-tottering in the easiest gear and stopping to get off; that's when I could fall. 

So I had the "brilliant" idea of going up Morgan Street instead. It has a gentler incline. I put on a back pack and off I went. When I got there, Evelyn started to say that I was a little nuts, but she changed it to that I was funny. In any case, I got my pie and went home. First I ate half. Then with about two seconds in between half one and half two, I went back and got the other half. 

The little dent at the top of the pie isn't a mistake on Evelyn's part. It's a little nibble that I took out of it while bringing the pie inside. 

The other day Katie and I took a walk along the dike through the corn fields off the bike path. I knew of a biking route that goes left off the bike path when coming from Damon Road but not about this walk, which is an earlier left, when coming from the parking lot. We heard loud booms that scared us. It sounded like shots. We couldn't tell where they were coming from. Two women happened to be coming towards us, from the direction of the Connecticut River, where we were going. They looked like another mother and daughter pair.

They said not to worry, these were corn cannons to scare off birds. When I got home, I looked it up and saw that we weren't the only ones who thought they were gun shots. This story describes how a farmer uses these bird cannons, or noise cannons.

When we got down to the river, we sat in the shade, leaned back, and looked at the water. It sure is nice to have her around. Usually when we do things together, we take a photo together, but since we are not in the same bubble, we are sitting further apart, hence the separate photos. We have talked about integrating our bubbles. Hers is larger so it's not a good idea. This is hard but I'm glad we have enough open space to be together apart.