Friday, February 21, 2014


Yesterday I had my long-anticipated meeting with my Prevention Doc. I've only seen her once — post-biopsy, to discuss my options — and while I liked her fine, I found her the teensiest bit pushy. She clearly thought I should go on Tamoxifen, when to me the decision wasn't quite so clear-cut.

But yesterday I totally fell in love with her. She listened to my passionate symptom recital ("I'm FAT! I'm SLUGGISH! I NEVER have a satisfying poo! I HATE that I even have to think terms like 'satisfying poo'! I'm gassy, ALL THE TIME! NO ONE should stand next to me at zumba! I'm GROSS!!!!!"), laughing and laughing, and after she finished taking notes she said, "But look what it's done for your sense of humor!"

(Yes, I clearly needed a tune-up there.)

I said, "If I actually had breast cancer and Tamoxifen was the treatment, it'd be a no-brainer — clearly I should take it. But instead I have a maybe chance of breast cancer and a treatment that will maybe prevent it. I feel like I'm sacrificing five years of relative youth for a big handful of maybe."

She said, "Yes. You have assessed this perfectly."

Well, that is a nice thing to hear from a doctor!

She added, "And if you decide that the side effects, which seem to be considerable, are interfering too much with your quality of life, it would be a completely reasonable decision to stop taking Tam."

(She calls my drug "Tam," which I like very much — friendlier and less clinical than "T-fen" but also less gag-inducing than "Tami." "Tam" is like a visiting foreign exchange student — her ways may seem mysterious and odd, but she means well. Tam!)

Of course, as much I'm complaining, I'm not an idiot; it hasn't even been a full two months yet, and I know from my IUD experience that my body takes a looooooong time to make peace with foreign invaders. (Which is . . . a good thing? I think so.) We agreed to give it six more months, and I'll see her again in August. But not on my birthday, much as I do like her. Please God, let me have something more fun to do on my birthday than see my Prevention Doc.

But here's another thing: My Grandma Claire, whom I love love loved, had breast cancer when she was in her 70s; she had a mastectomy and radiation. And then, because she was stubborn and didn't like to exercise, she didn't do her physical therapy, and for the rest of her life her left arm was basically useless. The radiation damaged her heart, so she had circulation problems after that, wasn't getting enough oxygen in her brain, and was supposed to use an oxygen tank — which she refused to do because she was stubborn and vain. When you don't get enough oxygen in your brain, you become a moron. My stylish feisty awesome grandma spent the last few years of her life confused and incontinent — because she found her treatment plan "annoying."

So I'm sitting in the doctor's waiting room yesterday, rehearsing my big "Tamoxifen Is SO ANNOYING" speech, and suddenly there was Grandma's voice in my head, clear as day.

I don't know whether I believe in ghosts but I've had at least four visits from Grandma, counting yesterday. The first was soon after she died; I saw her walking toward me on a bridge. Eventually she morphed into a tiny Korean woman — and no, Grandma was not Korean, though she was indeed tiny — but before that, it was absolutely Grandma. And this was the moment I realized that I was consciously waiting for her to come back — now that we had this funeral nonsense all over with, she could come home. Apparently this is a common mindset among people who are grieving a loss; Joan Didion writes beautifully about it in The Year of Magical Thinking.

The second time, she physically appeared on my couch as I was putting away Christmas ornaments and began nagging me to be more careful, these things have been in the family for years. "Grandma,' I snapped, "for God's sake, I'm almost forty, I'm a mom, I know what I'm doing." I called my mother later and said, "Listen, if you're worried about how your mom is doing in Heaven, let me assure you — she hasn't changed a bit."

The third time, I heard her voice in my ear when Mom and I were in Monaco; Mom wanted to shop, I wanted to sit on a bench and read. Suddenly here's Grandma yelling in my ear, "Go shop with your mother! See Monaco!" I said, "Grandma, will you for God"s sake start resting in peace already????" (I realize I'm making her sound like an old shrew, but this is just how we talked to each other. We really were great friends, I assure you! Man, I miss her.)

And then yesterday, there she was in the waiting room with me, making me remember her breast cancer story. She died way sooner than she needed to, and it was not a good death at all. Mom and I have so many regrets (which, some friends have suggested, is why I still see and hear her sometimes — I haven't fully made peace with her passing, even though she's been gone more than a decade now). I thought about how she resisted her treatment because it was "annoying," and I heard her say, "Pay attention."

So there was my revelation a la Grandma: Stick with the best treatment known to medical science, cowboy up, muscle through it. The Chardonnay women, we can definitely wail dramatically with the best of them, but then we put our heads down and get to work. Grandma, Mom, me — three generations of do-ers.

I'm going to start carrying a picture of Grandma in my wallet. I like the idea of having her next to me on this journey — this fat, sluggish, poo-conscious journey. She'll love it.

In other news, it's been quite the week — my brakes stopped working with my kids in the car, which was all kinds of fun, and Mimosa now has to wear glasses all the time like the rest of us, which has led to some "emotion" on her part, and Martini now seems to own three winter coats, none of which work exactly right, and we did find the new-to-us doughnut place . . . 20 minutes after it closed . . . and I still haven't seen 12 Years a Slave — how can it be that the Oscars are next week?? But we've been having fun.

Off to have some more!

— Lady C

p.s. My weight is still down-ish from stomach flu and not having my full appetite back, but I assume this is all temporary. I haven't been to zumba because my knee still flares up and I'm afraid to exercise until I've talked to my doctor. I've been sitting here patiently blogging while I waited for her call-in hours at 9:30 . . . and guess what? She's not in today.

How else can I interpret this? The universe doesn't want me to exercise!!

C'est la vie.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Ten Pounds the Hard Way

Ugh ugh ugh.

On Friday, Li'l Martini had a nasty bug — a poo bug that became a vomit bug — and on Saturday, Doctor Mom succumbed. I was done throwing up by Sunday, but I'm still not myself — feverish, achy, migraine-y. In addition, my stupid knee is still swollen and sore and it buckles periodically, which is just great for picking your way across snow and ice, let me tell you.

It's School Vacation Week, and I had big plans with the kids for today:
  • Check our the oddities at our nearby Goodwill and drop off some donations that have piled up
  • Visit a new (to us) donut shoppe
  • See the Oscar-nominated animated shorts
  • Pick up a few things at Trader Joe's for a Mexican feast: guacamole*, fresh salsa, mini tacos and taquitos, quesadillas!
We're also swinging by the post office to mail Lady Darcy's birthday presents (she changes her age in just six more days) and dropping off Mimosa's new eyeglass prescription. These are not un-fun chores, per se, but they do rank somewhat lower on the ladder of excitement.

(Though — our bar is pretty low. Yesterday all four of us went to Martini's orthodontist appointment, just to get out of the house.)

But there's a snowstorm coming, and I'm having second thoughts about everything. There is so much snow piled everywhere, the roads are more narrow than ever, and when they're slippery with snow . . . yikes. And yet, and yet — my poor snowbound kids are going a little stir crazy. (See "orthodontist visit," above.)

Maybe we'll do everything but the movie, get an early start and beat the storm. Maybe.

But that means I need to get moving now.

Oh, and my weight is back to 252, what I think of as my new normal. I would not recommend extreme vomiting as a method — I am still paying that particular piper, and despair of ever feeling fully myself again — oh, my aching head! my fevered brow! — but hey. I'm making lemonade.

Off to seize the day! Well, or to hobble toward it. Something like that.

— Lady C

* I have always made bad guacamole. This is disturbing on so many levels. I'm a native Californian — shouldn't good guac be in my blood?! And I'm also an ace cook — what the hell?? But try as I might, my guac is always too over-flavored, too thin, too full of chewy cilantro bits, too something.

(Which is why I'm such a fanatic about places and people who have it mastered, namely Good Guac Grotta and my youngest brother. — and his excellent guac defies all reason, as it begins with a seasoning packet [the horror!] and a container of pre-chopped pico de gallo. In other words, it's not exactly Brother's Fresh Homemade Goodness. And yet it is divine.)

But during the last snow day, I decided to master guacamole: I had a bag of ripe avocados and three promising recipes. I was off!

(I ended up making only two of the recipes as, on closer inspection, two of the three were nearly identical.)

Mimosa and I were the judges (Husband eschews the alligator pear; Martini allowed only a cautious nip of each), and while we liked both, the clear winner comprised cilantro and jalapenos pureed in the food processor, chopped white onion, cumin, cider vinegar, salt, and lightly mashed avocado. I plan to make it again today, and if it's as good as we remember I'll share the recipe. Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

One, Two, Color Me Blue / Three, Four, Life Is a Chore . . .

Numbers are torturing me this week.

My weight has shot up since I've been taking T-fen. I've been plugging along with all my usual practices, I assure you that I didn't suddenly add butter-smeared Doritos to my daily diet, and in fact I was exercising more than I usually do in the winter, since the one-mile treadmill walk has so much more appeal than the two-mile — and yet, I am almost 10 pounds over my new set point and that scale doesn't budge, even after zumba and a hot bath. I don't even get my Xanadu weight!! Incredibly frustrating.

It puts me in mind of an interesting article I've been hoarding, about a heavyish woman who's decided to stop hating her body and accept that she will always be big — since her lifelong efforts to lose her extra 35 pounds and keep them off have been a complete failure. Here's my favorite quote from her piece:
Nothing I've done this painstakingly in my whole life has yielded so little payoff.
Boy do I hear that.

She is a smart lady and she's done her research — leading her to the conclusion that there is no future in which she loses weight and it stays lost. And of course, her first response to this realization is despair — she puts her head on her desk, and "it stays there for an hour."

But then she begins thinking about all the things she hasn't done in her past because she thought she was too fat — skipping a particular dance, hiding from the family picture, etc. And like many of us, she looks at pictures of her younger self and thinks, "Why on earth did I think I was too big? I'm adorable!!!"

Which finally, finally, brings her to the place of deciding to stop tossing away her perfectly good life. She vows to buy clothes she loves, find a supportive doctor, do exercise she likes and that makes her feel good, and to avoid people and situations that make her feel bad about her weight — including the mean things she says about herself.

Though I'm not ready to declare that weight loss is impossible for me (though it sure seems like it lately), I am totally behind all the above and in fact have been preaching it for years. Be fat, be thin, it matters not. Be a good person and love yourself —that's what it's all about.

But as I slog through my days, feeling heavy and ungainly, it is very hard to lose the sense of having the word "FAILURE" stamped on my forehead.

And also: After taking my nice treadmill walk on Monday (and lifting my weights and working my core — look how good I am! pin a medal on me already!), I seem to have injured my knee — my poor arthritic knee that already wasn't in the best of shape. And I spent two days taking it a little easy (but not really), and it didn't get any better. In fact, I am hobbling around moaning like a deeply crippled nonagenarian.

I am devoting today to healing my knee in earnest: rest, ice, elevation, Motrin.

But I am also going to note this: Swollen legs are a side effect of T-fen.

I'm going to have such an interesting chat with my prevention doc next week! Given how dramatically T-fen has affected my quality of life thus far, is it really worth it to stick it out for five years — given that I don't actually have cancer???

So, yeah, the weight stuff is bad and frustrating. And I hate not being able to do zumba, and I hate contemplating the fact that zumba might be over for me — at least until I get a new knee. And there are other pesky numbers complicating my life at this time:
  • Bills, bills, bills, and yet little editing work (though I do have three big jobs coming up, yay!): I know I've been saying this for months, but the situation is now dire: I need to bite the bullet, confront my fear, and start substitute teaching already! The first day will be the hardest (as there is no training and little guidance provided), but it won't kill me — and every day after that will be easier. And it's sure, steady money — I can work as much or as little as I want. Oh, but I am scared.
  • Dates and phone numbers: I keep calling our church Office Manager to get my events on our church calendar, and she refuses to call me back. (She doesn't respond to e-mail either; someone told me I'd have better luck with a phone call.) We don't need to fire another church staff member right now, we're still reeling from the loss of the Music Director, but this is really pissing me off.
  • Outstanding money: Once again, Husband is owed thousands of dollars from his employer and it has yet to materialize. I don't know how or why we get into this situation so often.
Probably there's more, but now I'm depressed.

OK — here's some good number news! Last week I had my yearly physical (love my new doctor — she's 16 years old and very stylish and gorgeous, kind of like Freida Pinto's jazzy younger sister) and this week I took a fasting blood test. My cholesterol level at first freaked me out: 203! when a healthy level tops at 199!

I've never had high cholesterol before, and this was quite alarming!

But then I took a closer look. Your total cholesterol number comprises the total of your "bad" cholesterol and your "good" cholesterol. A good "good" cholesterol number is 40. A really good "good" cholesterol number is 60.

Mine is . . . 88. !!!!!!!!!

My doctor wrote me a love note! "Keep doing exactly what you're doing," she said. I should probably frame it.

Weight be damned — if my thyroid and blood pressure and cholesterol numbers are excellent, I am a healthy girl.

And I will take those numbers to the bank!

(Which . . . is really all I have to take to the bank, but let's not go there again.)

Off to Good Neighbor Anne's to drink coffee and eat banana bread with the Sleek Suburban Moms. Another storm is coming, we must pick up our cherubs at 11:15. The schools will be a mob scene. Best to fortify ourselves with something warm and good talk first.

And then I'll rest and elevate my leg. Promise!

— Lady C, ready to heal

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Playing Hooky With My Girl

Shh, don't tell — I took Mimosa out of school yesterday (she had to be there for Madrigals and Chorus; she has a solo in tonight's concert, and her teacher would've had kittens if she'd missed school altogether), picking her up at 9:15 with vague murmurs of "have to see a specialist," and we were off!
My poor pumpkin, she is completely tuckered out. She had rehearsals every night last week from 5:30 to 10, not getting home til 10:30 (she's usually in bed an hour before that), then rising at 6 for Mads practice every day, and then four performances of Into the Woods this weekend.

And I'm tired too, man. I was an emotional wreck on Friday — the fact that no one from Arlington was coming to see her just hit me so hard.

But Good Neighbor Anne and Angel-Daughter left flowers for Mimosa at our door on Friday, and a sweet little girl from Madrigals came to Sunday's show, and we were also able to get a ticket for Brunie at the last minute, and the show itself went really well — Mimosa says she's glad she did it.

Husband and I helped the cast strike the set after the final performance, which was fun in a grim kind of way but took two hours, and by Sunday night we had all the boing! of overcooked pasta.

We needed Mommy and Mimosa's Day of Fun, stat!!

A light snow began falling just as I picked her up from school, but it was easy to drive in, and it made everything so pretty.

Mimosa and I had decided to spend our day in Cambridge. Our first stop was Verna's, for a honey dip and a hot drink. Verna's is a Cambridge institution. A few years ago it looked like it was shutting down — weep! weep! — but then some new owners swooped in and rescued it. (cue Indiana Jones theme music) Hurray!

Except and except. It hasn't been quite as good since. Mrs. Cynicletary and I, who used to wax rhapsodic over Verna's honey dip, have transferred our affections to Ohlin's Bakery in Belmont. Nonetheless, on a chilly morning on your way into Cambridge proper, a Verna's slightly faded honey dip is still a thing of beauty.

We were also waiting for the stores to open at 10 a.m. February means my besty Lady Darcy's birthday on the 24th, and two of my favorite places to shop for her are Joie de Vivre and The Paper Source, both in Porter Square. These stores have such cool things!


Alas, I was not shopping for me, so the hedgehog Valentine kit and Barbie flask went unpurchased.

(My favorite find was a magnet featuring a golden-haired lad proudly sporting a plaid sweater vest. It reads, "Dad says I'm a disappointment, but Mom says I'm fabulous!")

It was still a bit early for lunch, so we drove around Cambridge for a bit, admiring the snowfall on Harvard Yard and checking out what's new in Harvard Square.

In Central Square, I showed Mimosa the exact spot where her dad and I met, on the steps outside the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, waiting for someone to open the door. I think she was impressed.

(Husband and I were both speakers bureau volunteers. I think it's a cool way to meet a feminist guy with good politics; nonetheless, it does give one pause to say, "I met my husband at the Rape Crisis Center!")

We also drove by the Middle East Restaurant, owned by my former beau, because I wanted to get a good look at the mural painted on its side; I heard that my ex is prominently featured in it. Alas, there seems to be a new mural — or else someone has re-imagined my ex to be 20 years younger and channeling his inner Ricky Ricardo. (The guy in the mural who most resembles him is shirtless and pounding on some bongos — neither, I assure you, being my ex's usual practice.)

(And wow is he doing well! The restaurant seems to be thriving, and it looks like they've expanded quite a bit. Ah, the Cambridge dynasty that could've been mine. C'est la vie.)

Lunch time! There are dozens of good restaurants in Kendall Square (including one with the promising name of Hungry Mother), but I picked a name I liked even better: The Friendly Toast.
And it was the perfect lunch spot for us!

The wallpaper features vintage YA mystery books, including Nancy Drew's The Bungalow Mystery and Tom Swift and the Caves of Nuclear Fire! There are quirky little oddities on the walls and along the shelves, and the menu itself is all kinds of fun; I held onto it for a bit so I could read the Hitchcocktail list.

I had mac 'n' cheese with chorizo and banana peppers and a side salad, Mimosa had a burger with garlic spread and avocado and onion rings, and we were happy kittens. We can't wait to come back and bring our boys!

To round out our day, we chose an Oscar-nominated movie from our must-see list, Her, which we both enjoyed enormously. Usually I dislike Joaquin Phoenix, but he completely won me over in this sweet part. And I love both Amy Adams and Scarlett Johansson, and they were stellar as always.

We drove home through quiet snow-dappled streets, warm and contented. Mimosa had purchased a stuffed Grumpy Cat earlier, and she held kitty up to the window as the sun sank lower and dusk gently settled on our pretty town.

It was a lovely, restful, soul-restoring day. I love spending time with my girl!

But real life now beckons . . . I suppose I should get back to it.

— Lady C, wishing she could play hooky every day