Monday, September 30, 2013

Run your own race

I just read Julie Goodale's post on Fitness for Survivors about running your own race, physically and metaphorically.

A breast cancer survivor and ultra-marathoner, she was referring to her recent 100-mile race, in which she vowed to not compare herself to others. This is good all-around advice.

In that spirit, I will say that I ran one mile over the weekend – once around the lake – and maybe a little more because I went to and from my house. Over the weekend it seemed like every other runner was wearing a different colored St. Patrick's Road Race T-shirt. I dug through my drawers to find my latest one, from 2012. I wondered if I could do the race again. Maybe, maybe not.

In wanting to run, I am not trying to prove anything. My feet start on their own. My mind picks up a beat.

In other sporting news, I played my first round robin in months last night. I held my own. Some people hit it harder than I can, but thanks to George I can (sometimes) neutralize these strokes with spins and slices. Afterwards, some of us sat and talked. I had a delicious chocolate cookie with M&Ms.

The weekend was great. I had a special guest, one of my high school BFFs, Emily. We walked with friends (and dog), went to yoga, enjoyed coffee and conversation and had a candle-lit dinner party in which I took out my mother's silver.

And then last night, the "Breaking Bad" finale. It all came together so beautifully.

This morning, writing and cleaning up, then a walk. It's nice to have a 6-year-old dog who waits patiently in her corner of the couch while I get things done.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Reflexology 101

I did something different today, going for reflexology at the Cancer Connection in Northampton.

I have been aware of the programs, services and support of this wonderful place, but more as a reporter than a participant. Obviously I knew during the past 10 years that I definitely was qualified to take advantage of the services that are free to cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers, but I continued to see myself more as an observer.

That changed when I told a friend that I had been curious about reflexology and was going to pay for a session, and the friend suggested I check out the free programs that are available. Here is a definition of reflexology:

Reflexology is a gentle thumb-pressure technique that stimulates nerve endings in the feet and hands, corresponding to various parts of the body inducing deep relaxation. This soothing massage of the lower legs, feet and hands, combined with Reiki, help strengthen the immune system, activate circulation and restore a state of balance and calm.

I'm glad I went. It was so relaxing that I feel asleep, though the benefits might have been undercut when I woke myself up with a coffee and a chocolate chip cookie at the Woodstar Cafe so that I wouldn't be sleepy on my errands for the rest of the day. Anyway, sitting outside in the sunshine was as relaxing as the therapy had been.

The Cancer Connection itself is a soothing place, with an inviting living room where I filled out forms. I will definitely return to do reflexology again or try such other complementary therapies as massage, acupuncture and Reiki.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stinky dog tale

Yesterday was a good day in which my physical fitness continued to improve and I fulfilled my desire for yet another piece of black clothing.

A friend led me to the perfect black warm-up jacket that will go perfectly with my black tennis skirt and my black running pants. The combination of coffee, conversation and the purchase made for a very good afternoon.

I got back just on time for yoga, where I felt good.

Maddie got fed three times by accident, because when Joe saw the note "dog was fed" he took it to mean just in the morning, while I was trying to say that I had fed her a second time before I went out.

When sitting on the couch next to her after that, I said, in a playful tone, "You're going to get fat."

She got down and lay on the floor, her back to me. Obviously she didn't like being called fat.

When I took her out later at night, she rolled in something on the lawn. I told her to get away from that, and she came back in the house with me. I wasn't in the same room with her, so I didn't notice the smell until Joe came in and asked whether the dog had gotten into something.

It was after 11, and time to wash a stinky dog.

So we got her into the tub, and then she sat nicely while I washed the stink out. There was water, water everywhere.

I didn't get to bed until after midnight.

I bought a new collar today to replace the old one that I had to throw out.

This should be my biggest problem.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Weekend update

It's hard to get back in the swing of things when you've been on vacation, but that's what I'm trying to do.

On Wednesday, I went to George's clinic outside at the Holyoke Canoe Club for the first time since my surgery. I actually held up just fine, with help from George, who said I was playing well, and from my tennis friends, who seemed glad to see me.

It's really fun to be there, with everyone joking around and not taking themselves too seriously.

I stayed for about two hours, with breaks in between talking to friends, enjoying the late-summer sunshine glistening on the Connecticut River just past the courts. Watching the U.S. Open reinforced the basics, such as following through and moving your feet.

I left before the final hour or so of play, thinking I'd be wise to quit while I was ahead. I went home to walk Maddie but didn't get very far. I turned back and crashed on the couch, walking her later after I had perked up.

Thursday I did some interviews for a story I am writing, and yesterday, after doing this and that, decided just as the sun was setting that I needed to go for a run. Joe asked why. I didn't know; you'd have to ask my feet. I went about a mile, walking up a few hills. It wasn't my first time taking a little run. Last week in San Francisco, I jogged along the bay while Nancy talked to her yacht club friends.

Today I returned to yoga, also for the first time. I told the teacher I might not do everything, but, with a little help from my favorite prop, the wall, I went through all the poses without any stress or strain. Then it was back to the couch for a long nap, me on my side and Maddie dozing on her side. Every now and then one of us would open an eye and look at the other, but we kept going back to sleep.

I had to get out of the house this afternoon to do some writing at the Thirsty Mind for an upcoming post on my Newsmax Health blog. If I am one of the world's worst packers, I am also one of the worst unpackers. I can't seem to get it done all at once. It's like when the kids come home from college. Suitcases explode all over the place. Besides that, bills are waiting to be paid. And as if I didn't have enough house-keeping to do, I decided it was time to remove all the half-used bottles from the refrigerator so I could clean it. The bottles are still in the sink where I left them

But better opportunities presented themselves. By nightfall, the rain had stopped, and it had gotten balmy. Maddie and I took our walk then.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Back to reality

After taking the red eye from San Francisco to Boston Sunday night, I basically sleep-walked through two appointments in Boston yesterday.

I started out at 10:30 by seeing Dr. Goguen about the spot on my tongue that she had been treating for a fungus. She said it had gotten smaller but was still there and offered me the choice of (A) two more weeks of "swish and spit" and dissolving a medicated lozenge in my mouth, or (B) getting a biopsy which would hurt enough to require pain medication.

I chose A even though the medication is gross. I need to go back in two weeks for her to check it again.

Then I walked from Dana-Farber though the connectors to Brigham and Women's, grabbing a bite to eat at Au Bon Pain and then going across the street to catch the shuttle bus to Mass General...and promptly falling asleep.

I woke up at my stop to cries of "Miss, miss!" – and an empty bus.

Next I saw Dr. Neel about the squamous cell cancer on my lip. He voted for taking it off with a Mohs procedure rather than possibly waiting around for a face fry. He said I'd only lose 1/10 of my lip, and he'd stitch it together so that after it heals, it would only look like a wrinkle.

Hip hip hooray for another wrinkle!

I especially dislike the thought of getting cut on my lip, so I'm already planning on taking an Ativan.

Actually, I'll be glad to get it done because it stings most of the time.

It was a beautiful day here, with our rolling hills starting to turn color. I loved San Francisco, but it is nice to be home.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

I'll leave my heart....

Japanese Tea Garden
I think I'll move to California.

In a packed day on Friday, I strolled though Berkeley, dipped a toe (OK, a sneaker) into the Pacific Ocean and drove through Golden Gate Park, stopping for a walk through the Japanese Tea Garden, followed by tea and treats.

On the way home, we took photos at the Golden Gate Bridge just as the setting sun cast the perfect light on it.

With views of the bay from so many different directions it is just simply intoxicating.

Wendy, Nancy and me at Ocean Beach
In front of the golden icon
Today we had Dim Sum in Oakland's Chinatown, walked in the woods and finished the day with the San Francisco happening, Beach Blanket Babylon, the longest-running musical revue in the country.

With wigs to die for, this up-to-date satire melds pop-culture figures with show tunes, capturing the San Francisco spirit like nothing else.

Check it out:

Tomorrow we're going to Nancy's yacht club to watch the Americas Cup and then to Muir Woods, followed by dinner in Sausalito...if we can fit it all in.

I doubt I'll have trouble sleeping on the plane home tomorrow night.

Friday, September 13, 2013

San Francisco sightseeing

With my cousin Wendy Fitch
Our San Francisco tour yesterday started at City Lights 
Bookstore, the literary landmark founded in 1953 by poets
Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Lawrence.

My cousins Nancy, Wendy and I continued on to walk through the North Beach area, having lunch at a wonderful Italian restaurant followed by cappuccino at CafĂ© Greco, which the former policeman sitting outside assured us was the best coffee in the area.

Then we walked through Washington Square to Telegraph Hill, climbing the 378 steps (plus or minus) to Coit Tower, a 210-foot tower built in 1933, with frescoes capturing the working life of Californians.

Luckily there were handrails most of the way up, and for the other parts, one of my cousins offered an arm. Then we walked down the 397 steps, through the treetops.

Below Coit Tower
We wound up on the Embarcadero, the piers along San Francisco Bay including the sections where the Americas Cup is happening. (Nancy is going to take me to her yacht club Sunday to watch it!)

We definitely got a lot in. It was a great day with sweeping views, good food, interesting sites and a lot of catching up. And at night, I wasn't tired at all!

Today we're going to Golden Gate Park. And tonight I'll continue my admittedly scattershot but sincere observation of the High Holidays by going, California-style, to services at the Acquarion Minion, a Renewal congregation near here.

Photo below is our view of the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco Ferry Building from Coit Tower.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Made it!

The Berkeley Marina
The California jinx has been broken.

I arrived safe and sound at the San Francisco airport today after half-wondering if I would get here.

Looks like the third time's the charm.

I had been to California many years ago, but things did not work out well in the first more recent attempt. That was in 2007 when I had bought airline tickets and made hotel reservations for the kids and me to visit California. I relapsed and went to the hospital instead.

Then in May, when I was supposed to go for my cousin Nancy's 60th birthday bash, I ended up back in the hospital with pneumonia.

I'm so glad that I finally made it.

I'll be spending time with cousins, catching up and seeing the sites. Today I stopped in to say hi to my cousin Nancy's son Jeremy, who works in a restaurant at the Berkeley Marina. What a beautiful place. It's 9 p.m., but my body thinks it's midnight, so I'm f-a-l-l-i-n-g a-s-l-e-e-p.....

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Going here and there and back again

Katie, me and Ben at the 92nd St. Y
Happy 5774 to all of my Jewish friends. Here's to a healthy New Year filled with all things sweet.

In a whirlwind trip to New York, I dropped off round challas to various people. Before leaving,  I cut into one with Joe. We said the traditional prayer, and I thought as usual of my father with his large hands cutting the challah at our family gatherings in New York and wishing everyone a year with no sharp edges just like the challah.

On Wednesday I drove to Fairfield, leaving my car there and taking a train the rest of the way. I brought a new small suitcase and managed to toss it into the overhead, although it landed precariously on its side. Once at Grand Central, I maneuvered through the crowd, and then, thinking it wise to get a taxi instead of going up and down more steps to the subway, I went outside, only to discover that this was not an easy task since it was rush hour and the night before Rosh Hashanah, when a good part of the New York population was trying to get somewhere before sunset. Finally I did get a cab...and had one of the longest rides I can remember.

After getting uptown to Jeanne's and collapsing into a chair, I thought for a minute that my fatigue was suspicious and that I needed a blood test. But I stopped that one in its tracks. There was a reason for being tired.  Duh.

Katie came later, and we spent the night at Jeanne's. In the morning, we went to services at the 92nd Street Y as usual, meeting Ben there. I enjoyed listening to Rabbi Jen, who has been dubbed the coolest rabbi in New York. When she asked for a show of hands of people who had attended services there for at least two decades, I was among them; actually I grew up at the Y, having started there at nursery school. When I am there, I feel my parents around me.

After our traditional lunch at the Three Guys restaurant on 96th Street, we walked down Fifth on a beautiful day. I decided I didn't need a blood test after all. Then Katie and I took the train to Fairfield. I tried to show how well I could hoist my suitcase, but if the window had been open, it would have flown out of it. Katie to the rescue.

We picked up my car, drove the rest of the way home and turned around this morning and went back to Brandeis, and then I drove back home. It kind of makes my head spin. I had intended to participate in the Jimmy Fund walk tomorrow in Boston, but it would have been too much.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the walk. I am going to be a "virtual walker," meaning that I will contribute the money I raised and will be there in spirit.

And I still get a Heme Team T-shirt.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dermatology report

It was a good thing that when Dr. Lin told me Plan A for how to resolve the squamous cell on my lip, she quickly switched to Plan B, which was to NOT do Plan A.

Although the cancer is luckily not deep below the surface, it does cover a good portion of the top left part of my lip, so if I had another Mohs procedure, I would end up losing a third of my lip. Say what? I told her that the thought made me queasy. She said the lip would mostly regenerate itself, but still...

In the meantime, would I need to color in the area with lipstick?

Well, Plan B, which she prefers, is to burn the skin off that part of my lip the next time she fries the skin off my face. A lovely alternative, but a better one. The technical term for this procedure is PDT, or Photodynamic Therapy, which sounds a little better than "face fry."

I have set up a consult with Dr. Neel, the Mohs surgeon who removed the squamous cells under my eye and on my neck. She assured me that he would not simply start slicing away. If Plan B goes into effect, I would get the PDT some time over the winter.

While I was there, she froze some spots on my face and my hands. ZAP ZAP ZAP! I made little squealing sounds mixed with ouches. "I hope you don't mind the sound effects," I said. "No," she replied, "That makes it much more dramatic."

Saying I looked tired (which I was), she encouraged me to go to my sister's house and drink some water and get some rest. I went over and had a turkey sandwich and some water. I didn't really feel like taking a nap, so I went to Starbucks and headed out. 

I had to stop at the first rest area and take a nap. There were other people snoozing in cars, but I doubt they had only traveled 15 minutes or so. Oh well, it worked for me.

This morning I am heading down to New York, but I won't have to drive all the way because I am going to park at Ben and Meghan's in Fairfield and then Meghan will pick me up on her lunch hour and take me to the train. Thanks, Meghan! 

Monday, September 2, 2013

'Keep a stiff upper lip'

Yesterday I was thankful for tennis on two channels. I could hardly get off the couch, both because of the tennis but also because of feeling just plain soggy myself in this dreary weather.

I'm sure other people felt the same, but it gave me too much time to ruminate about yet another thing needing to be done to me, specifically, the squamous cell that I need to have surgically removed from my lip. It's no big deal, but still, these things pile up.

Someone who asked not to be named summed it up: "They'll dig a hole, fill it up, and you'll be fine. Keep a stiff upper lip."

Considering that the thing is actually on my upper lip, that wasn't the best choice of words. It made me laugh and groan at the same time.

I am supposed to go to Boston tomorrow to have the stitches removed. They just fell out themselves on a little piece of loose skin, but I'm going anyway to have my lip checked and some spots on my face zapped. On Wednesday, Katie, Ben and I are going to Rosh Hashanah services at the Y. (Joe is unable to go because of school obligations.)

We have a new tradition with our cousins, but the days of the big family dinners are long gone, as are the days of going to services with my parents. It's good to have wonderful memories, but still, it makes me sad. Because of various reasons, it's going to be a quick in and out.

Having had no exercise for more than a month, I think I am suffering from a lack of endorphins. As someone whose identity is tied up with exercise, this makes sense.

Hey, there is a sale at Sears!!! I'm going to go to the mall and walk around there.