Friday, December 04, 2020

Why We Should Be Talking About Menopause

I've been using the Period Tracker app for the last couple of years. Ever since I wanted to keep up with what months I was skipping and more importantly how many months in a row I went without a period. 

I blogged about menopause and periods and how they shouldn't be taboo subjects in March of 2019 because I hadn't had a period since August of 2018 and the very next month in April I had one. I like looking at the log charts on this app because it tells me exactly when I had a period and when it stopped and started again. It's a great tracker if you're trying to get pregnant and you want to know when you're ovulating, but it's also a great tracker when you're at the end of the road like I am.  I had my last period in October of 2019 and it took me a few months to realize it. 

After my toe surgery I started on my quest to reach 200 rides on my Peloton. I started a count-down on my Franklin Planner. When I got to October to add a 200 sticker to my target date I found a couple of stickers that said "Done!" and "This is big." I was confused because I thought they were in reference to my 200 Peloton rides. Then I realized that I had put those stickers there when I had an idea I would be reaching 12 months without a period by that date. I had put them there as a count-down to the end. You have to skip 12 consecutive months to be considered in menopause and I knew that October 30 was my goal date. 

A year and a half ago I also talked about the veil of secrecy around menopause. I thought it was really interesting that it is a taboo subject because it's related to periods and aging. How can talking about periods, the reason we are all alive, be shameful? I just don't understand why as a society we have created this.

I started doing research about it again for this blog and I found some really interesting articles that speak about the lack of conversation around menopause.  One article from the UK said that women even shy away from talking about it with their doctor. To their doctor! The one person we should feel completely comfortable talking to. In fact, an AARP study found that 42% of women surveyed did not discuss menopause with their healthcare provider. 

I went to my my well-woman exam on the anniversary of not having a period and I proudly told her I had reached the 12 month goal. The nurse looked at me enviously and said, "Wow! So lucky!" The funny thing is, that was it. She made note of it and there was no further discussion about it. I'm not going to lie, I was expecting a little more fanfare. Maybe a cake or balloons? She didn't ask me if I was experiencing side-effects, anxiety, memory loss, nothing... I'm the one that had to tell her that I felt my hair was thinning more than usual and she prescribed a scoop of collagen powder in my coffee every day. It's good for bone density too!

While doing research about why women don't talk about menopause I came across a great article in the Harvard Business Review, "It's Time to Start Talking About Menopause at Work." The article makes such a great point. It says that "menopause often intersects with a critical career stage." Most significantly it occurs at the time of a woman's life when she is most likely moving into a leadership position. The article points out that one of the reasons women don't want to discuss what they are experiencing is because of "ageism." In fact, this is the reason they should be talking about it. We should be helping women work through this difficult time so they can continue to be productive members of the organization. 

When I read about the anxiety, memory loss, fatigue, and depression caused by menopause, I immediately thought about how organizations are preaching about DEI awareness. If corporations and organizations are serious about DEI, ageism needs to be at the top of the list, next to sexism. This is a real issue that affects millions of women every year, possibly 50 million women in the U.S. in 2020.  As Jeneva Patterson points out in the her Harvard Business Review article, "We are learning to discuss race, gender, and generational differences more openly at work and we need to put menopause on the agenda."

The sad part is that there is so much misinformation about menopause. Diane Danzebrink in the UK has made it her mission to "normalize the conversation about a phase of life that every woman will experience at some point." She launched the #makemenopausematter campaign to provide menopause education in the workplace and for menopause to be taught in relationship and sex education classes in schools. 

This is a great start, but European countries are often ahead of the U.S. in discussing human sexuality. We need these same kind of movements in the U.S. We need for menopause to become part of the conversation in the OBGYN office, in the workplace, in the press, and online. 

We need to normalize conversations about reproduction, the fact that periods lead to all of us being alive, and that there is an end to this cycle in life. Women should not feel ashamed to talk openly about menopause and they shouldn't feel ashamed or feel "old" because of menopause. We all need to be talking about it, in our homes, in the media and in the workplace. 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

One Hundred and Eighty-Five Peloton Rides

Today as I completed my 185th Peloton ride I was amazed at how far I've come. I'm not a super athlete. I wasn't even athletic or in shape when I bought the bike. I'm still not. I'm fifty pounds from my ideal weight, mine, not even the one on the chart for my height and age. According to that one I'm about 80 pounds overweight. My point is, you don't have to be super athletic to have a Peloton and to get active.

It has taken me two years to get here, with a lot of hurdles along the way. But I'm here and I was killing that 30 minute pop ride with Robin Arzon today, and that's all that matters. 

I've also completed 173 strength workouts. The bulk of those have been arm workouts. Most of them are 10 minutes high rep workouts with 3 pound weights, but I recently added 20 minute workouts with heavier weights. That is also an example of how far I've come. 

My original plan was to complete my 200 rides by Halloween, but things haven't really worked out that way and now some unexpected plans came up for that weekend.  I've set a new goal to get to 200 by October 28. That means I will have to average one ride per night this month. 

I am going to take this moment to feel proud of myself because as Robin says, "If nobody's clapping for you, clap for your own damn self."

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Caring For Myself

I read a wonderful quote today on someone's Instagram page. "Caring for yourself is not self-indulgence, it's self-preservation." - Audre Lorde

My temporary #9 tattoo that I'm testing. Wrist or arm, where I had the picc line inserted?

This quote is so significant for a number of reasons! 

First let's start with the fact that it's a quote by Audre Lorde, a feminist icon. I'm embarrassed to say I didn't know who she was. My 19 year old daughter who is a sophomore pre-med student and wants to be an OBGYN, and who is also taking feminist classes in college, had to tell me she is a feminist icon. 

Second. I recently joined a book club, which in itself was self-indulgent and amazing. I love that it has me reading on a regular basis again and that it has me reading outside of my comfort zone. I prefer fiction, but this has me reading non-fiction and graphic novels. I don't think I would have ever read a graphic novel, if it weren't for this book club. I'm so happy I found it. Reading again, regularly, is a big part of caring for myself. Feeding my brain is one of the things that is the most important in my life. 

Third. I found this quote on the page of another Peloton member. I LOVE that the main admin of our page, Working Moms of Peloton, asks us periodically to share our Instagram pages and to support one another. I've followed numerous fellow members and I have 30+ new followers today because of her last post. I feel like these type of followers are the MOST legit because they are people who I have a lot in common with. I love that! So when I saw this quote on one of the mom's pages I thought it was just perfect.

Fourth. The words of my 5th grade teacher, Ms. Lula Rivers, will forever play in my head. I was passing out pencils for a test and I forgot to give myself a pencil first. She shook her head and told me, "You should have given yourself a pencil first. Self-preservation." I was 11 years old and I will never forget that lesson. We have to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others. 

Working out and taking care of yourself IS NOT self-indulgent. It is definitely self-preservation. Life is not a dress rehearsal, it's the real thing. We only get one shot at it and we have to do it right. Or if you got started wrong, like I did, you have to re-commit and get it right. Our health is a big part of this because that's what decides if you will have a long life or a short life. 

I had blood work done for my annual physical this past week and I was so happy with the results. All my hard work this past year was worth it! I brought down my A1c  (my hemoglobin) level almost TWO whole points. That's epic! I also brought down my cholesterol and my doctor said that my liver and kidneys looked great. 

This made me feel so much closer to my goals. I still have a lot of weight and sizes to go, but knowing that I'm doing all the right things to make sure that the inside is doing good makes it so much more valuable than what I look like on the outside. 

Take care of yourself, do the things that matter to you first. Make sure you have a plan and that you're working that plan. My plan is to know what I'm doing every evening, instead of just playing it by ear.  I have days for writing and reading and I have days for doing the Peloton and studying Italian. A schedule keeps me on track and so much happier. I hope that you can find a schedule that works for you. 

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Time is of Essence

When I was a little girl and my mom woke me up in the morning for school I always felt like time went by so fast. One morning, as my mom was pulling at my hair to make my ponytails, I asked her, "Why does time go by faster in the morning when I'm getting dressed for school?" My mother, being a mom, thought that was adorable and repeated it to my dad and family. 

Time is tricky. At least it always has been for me, since I was a little girl, and even now as an older woman. Sometimes I wake up earlier than usual on a weekend and I think that I have so much time, only to find myself getting on my Peloton, or running errands, just as late as the days when I wake up later. 

Recently I was thinking about the years that I belonged to an organized religion and all of the time spent in worship and preaching. At one time we had three meetings a week, two lasted for two hours and one lasted one hour. We also went out preaching on Saturdays and occasionally on Sundays. Add on top of that, the time to get ready, the drive time and the time spent chitchatting after the meeting. If I am being conservative, I spent twelve hours per week on religion, possibly fifteen. I was a part of that religion from birth until I was forty-two. Those are a lot of years and a lot of hours. 

Since I left my religion in 2012 I have given myself back fifteen hours a week. What have I been doing with that time since 2012? Seven of those years were taken up by Miranda's lacrosse. Her father and I spent a lot of time taking her, picking her up, and going to games. So I know where that time went. I also spent time driving my dad to church and to his restaurant and picking him up.

My father has been gone for two and a half years now. Miranda graduated from high school one year ago, so now I ask myself, "Where did those 15 hours per week go this last year?" AND more importantly, now that I am aware of these 15 hours that I've gifted myself, what am I going to do with that time now?

Let's add something else into the mix. I have been working from home for 25 weeks now, 12 of those have been at my new job. Working from home has added back two hours per day that I used commuting. That's 10 hours per week. So now I'm at 25 hours per week! That's approximately 3.5 hours per day of extra time! 

Let me ask that question again. "What am I going to do with that extra time?" That leaves so many extra hours in the week to do the things that I love, like writing, reading, working on my little libraries, learning about art, making art, working on my cemetery preservation project and making time to exercise. The trick is not letting other things rob me of that time. 

This year has been a lot about self-discipline. I've been working on balance and choices. I need to work on these things to make the time to work out. I also need self-discipline to eat right, to make the right choices, and to do things I want to do. I also need to be self-disciplined about my time. 

For example, I feel like my whole life I've been trying to write fiction. I start and I restart, but I never give it the time I should. I let other things get in the way and lead me astray, time and time again. I am tired of doing that and if I am ever going to get anything worthwhile written it needs to be now. I need to reserve part of those fifteen hours a week strictly for writing. 

I am fifty years old and if there are two things I want to accomplish in this short life that I have left is this. I want to get to the point when exercise and eating healthy are second nature AND I want to be a published writer. Second, I want to spend time on things that bring me joy like reading, art, and my non-profit work. I cannot use the excuse that I don't have the time. Period.

Monday, July 27, 2020

One Hundred and Fifty Rides, Self-Sabotage, and What I Want

I reached 100 rides on my Peloton right before my 49th birthday in 2019. I then set a very lofty goal and said I was going to try to reach 200 rides by my 50th birthday. What I didn't know was that it wasn't going to be that easy for many reasons, starting with my own self-sabotage.

I made this meme modeled after one I saw about running.

The first reason or excuse that I had was that I pulled my rotator cuff in January. Of course I could have done rides that didn't involve weights at all, but I used that as an excuse. I kept saying that I was waiting for it to get better and the more I waited and didn't do anything the more time went by. Little did I know that in a few months I was going to have a real reason why I wouldn't be able to ride. It kind of reminds me of when you call in sick to work and then after you do you really get sick and you end up having to miss more days. That's how it was with me and not riding. Halfway through the year I started complaining about my toe hurting and we all know what happened there, if you've read my blog or follow me on social media.

After everything that I went through, both personally, in my head, and in my body, yesterday I completed 150 rides on my bike. It took me a year and five months to complete 50 more rides. Instead of concentrating on what I didn't do I am working very hard to think of what I have done. Because that is one of the ways that I self-sabotage every single time.

I've been doing a lot of self examination about my weaknesses this past month. I've talked about my allergy to shellfish before and how I wish I could see carbs the same way. I finally had Miranda make me a picture of a cupcake with a shrimp on top to drive the point home. I asked her to also make a cocktail glass with a shrimp on the side instead of a lemon wedge.

Image by Miranda Ruiz

As I face my demons I also face all the ways that I self-sabotage. I know them all. I know how I do it and I still do it. When I read the blog about self-sabotage that I linked to in the third paragraph it makes me sad that I've been writing about my weight, exercise and my health for so long. Not just the 15 years I've been writing this blog. Prior to this blog, marriage and children I used to journal. The topic took up so many pages of those journals from the age of 14 to 27.

I was telling a friend of mine that all I really want is to get to place where I want to be, healthy mainly, and I want to just maintain. I think of Zig Ziglar's analogy of the water pump. At first you have to pump really hard to get the water to come up. But once you get the water to come out, all you have to do is keep a steady pressure on the handle. That's what I want. I want to get to the point where all I have to do is keep a steady hand on my exercise and eating. I want to get to the point where I don't have to talk about it so much, unless it's to motivate others with my story. And when I get there I want for my story to be that it's never too late to get to that place. 

I post and blog about my Peloton because I want to motivate regular people. I want them to know that you don't have to be an athlete to work out on a Peloton. You can be a regular middle aged over-weight mom who is still on her inner journey. Most importantly, I do it to hold myself accountable and to motivate myself until I get to that place where I want to be.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Updates and Random Things

1. I changed jobs in the middle of this Pandemic and shocked everyone. I left the Chronicle on June 10 and started working at Houston Public Media at UH on June 15, selling corporate sponsorships. I'm really excited to learn about radio, tv and especially public media. I've been very passionate about HPM for a while now and I'm thrilled to be part of an NPR station. As always Portada magazine is awesome about announcing my moves.

2. My Little Libraries in Laundromats movement is continuing. I have a website, I was on the Nuestra Palabra radio show promoting it. 

3. I've been journaling again and it feels good. Honestly, having kids and then having this blog, and recording our life on Facebook affects my personal writing and also saving photos. They all live on FB and Instagram now!

4. I've been thinking about my thesis too and I always think about revisiting that subject and writing about it twenty years later, with all my added real-life experience. I'm thinking about reading through it, retyping it (because who are we kidding, I have no idea where that electronic file is) and within each example that I give, backed up by research, inserting a real life example from the years I've spent in Corporate America. I think that would be an interesting exercise. The topic of my thesis was gender in communication, specifically when we enter an organization.

5. Now that I'm working at UH I'm interested in teaching a class as a lecturer and I've gotten the ball rolling for the future, after this pandemic and when we go back to a somewhat normal life again. I realize that may be a few semesters but that's okay, I need the time to learn my new job anyway. 

6. I'm back in the saddle again with my Peloton now that my toe issues are behind me. I continue to work on myself and to think back on the last few months. I'm thinking of tattooing a little number 9 on my arm, close to where they picc line went in, as a reminder of the 9 weeks that I had it in and as a reminder that I never want to experience anything like that again. The only way to ensure that is to take care of myself by exercising and eating well. 

7. Seth, my youngest, is going to be a junior in high school next year. There's so much work to do, including applying for scholarships and getting his volunteer hours done. But what that also means for me is that my #threeyearplan is now a #twoyearplan.

8. I do feel like my new job is part of  my two year plan. Why wait until Seth is gone to school to do something different? There is no time like the present! This gives me two years to really learn my new career and to become good at it and then who know what may be next.  I want to really "Lean In" now that the kids are going to be grown. There's also a novel or two to write.

No, I am never satisfied and I always want more and I have come to accept that and embrace it. I saw a quote recently that I loved. "Life is too short to be unhappy and you don't want to fill your brief time on this planet with activities that deplete your vitality." SO TRUE! I want to live the best part of my life in this last one third.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Week 11 of Stay at Home Order - Working from Home

Last time I blogged I said we were at 9+ weeks of stay at home, but I counted wrong and we were actually at 8+ weeks. This week we hit 11 weeks of Stay at Home/Work from Home. When this all started we had no idea it would go on this long. Nobody imagined it would be this long.

Today I'm also 13 weeks post surgery! Then four weeks ago the doctor had to do a little minor cut on the inside of my toe nail and this time I gave myself more time to heal, as much I wanted to go walking or to get on the Peloton. People told me I pushed myself too hard, too soon, last time, so I have tried to be patient.

My Big Toe and Scar

The good news is that I've been cleared by my infectious disease doctor. He said not to come back unless I have an issue. I was so happy and so grateful to him for all his attention and for going with his gut feeling about my toe and sending me to that second MRI.

I'm also grateful to my podiatrist who did the actual surgery to remove the infection from the bone. Look at my toe! The scar is visible across the top, but it's not as bad as I thought it would be. I actually like it. This scar will be a reminder to me of how close I came to losing my toe and what I have to do in my life to keep that from happening. Namely, to exercise at least four times a week and to watch my carb intake. That is my life from now on until I die. Literally until I die. The less I do it, the earlier I'll die, the more I do, it the longer I'll live. That's all there is to it. 

Week 11 and Week 13. Those are good weeks, significant weeks. I have SO MUCH to be grateful for. I am so grateful to my company who has kept us employed through this all. I'm so grateful for being a part of a newspaper that has been providing Houston with daily news during this pandemic. I am so grateful to my doctors who have helped me get better.

I have been working on practicing gratitude since I've been working at home.

Questions I try to ask myself, or you can see them as writing prompts.

What was the my happiest moment today?

What do I want to do next?

What's my heart's true desire right now?

What do I really really really want?

Refine my mantra...

When death comes I want to quote the poet Mary Oliver in her poem, "When Death Comes."

“When it’s over, I want to say all my life/ I was a bride married to amazement/I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Still in Quarantine and Working on Little Libraries in Laundromats

Here we are at 9 weeks+ of stay at home. As stay at home restrictions are being lifted, many people are going back out while we are in self-quarantine because we want to be socially responsible. Miranda came home from New York (Long Island) a week ago. Originally anyone coming in from states like New York and Louisiana were asked to quarantine. Miranda said that when she landed in Houston last Saturday nobody asked her anything. Regardless, we are trying to do the right thing and we're staying at home.

It's wonderful having Miranda home. She's already done something huge for me. She created the logo for my personal project Little Libraries in Laundromats. I have it up on the website and Facebook page.

At nine weeks since surgery I went in for check-ups with my infectious disease doctor and my podiatrist and I had an ingrown toenail on the right side of my toenail, yes, the same toe that had surgery. Lovely. It's always some bullshit with me. Seriously. Hopefully this is IT.

I haven't blogged about my Little Libraries in Laundromats project on here. It is a project that is near and dear to my heart right now. It all started when I decided to start a Little Free Library outside my house, on the sidewalk at the corner.

My Little Free Library
Then I was listening to NPR and I heard this story about the City of Milwaukee and how they have an initiative to start little libraries inside of laundromats. I was intrigued with the idea so I searched to see if we had anything similar going on in Houston. The only thing I found was a woman in Kingwood who started a Little Free Library in her own laundromat. Other than that I didn't find an actual city-wide or state initiative. I found another national group called Laundromat Library League but they aren't in Texas. I almost contacted them about expanding their organization to Texas but then I changed my mind.

I thought that since I have already started a relationship with Little Free Library organization with my own library that I should just continue with that organization. I contacted them and I asked them if I could set up Little Free Library Charters in laundromats around the city and they were game. They said that as long as each one had a charter sign it was good.

I started out with four libraries in Near Northside, but one got stolen, as in completely. Someone stole the whole thing, books, box, the whole kit and caboodle. Then toegate happened, followed by pandemic, so I haven't been able to go out and find a new fourth location. My immediate goal is to have five. I want to replace the one I lost, plus one.

I do not intend to cover the entire city. My real goal is to get people to start a little library in a laundromat in their own neighborhood. If I can get the whole city engaged then we can all, as a city, cover our own neighborhood. I don't think that is too lofty a goal.

So I'm waiting for this quarantine to be over so I can set out to find new laundromats and to refill my little libraries. If anyone wants to contribute books or help in any way go to the Little Libraries in Laundromats website and to the "Contact" page. Send me an email letting me know if you have books to donate or if you'd like to help refill the libraries.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Day 26 of "Stay at Home" Mandate in Houston

My last two posts were posted after my job mandated a "stay at home" suggestion for us but I had no idea this was going to last this long so I didn't even mention it.

I had my picc line removed from my arm on Tuesday, March 10 and on Wednesday, March 11, I found out that four of our reporters had attended a conference in NOLA with someone who was infected with COVID 19. My boss told me to stay at home until she found out what HR had to say about it, because she felt like I was high risk, especially just having the picc line removed. Later that day we were told by HR to stay home for 14 days, so until March 24. After that, all the other companies around Houston started to ask their employees to work from home if possible, until further notice. The whole city is on a "stay at home" order now. On a good note, none of the four reporters got sick.

Seth and I about to go into Family Dollar.
When I posted my last post on March 23rd I did not expect to be writing this two weeks later. Seth went on Spring Break one day early, on the 13th, and he was told that the week after Spring Break they would resume all their classes online. He started online classes on March 24, a week earlier than the rest of HISD because his high school has to be an over-achiever like that.

Miranda came home for Spring Break from NY on March 7th and was scheduled to go back on the 14th, only to be told that all her classes would be online. We pushed her flight out one week, until the 21st, instead of the 14th, and she went back to LIU, to resume classes and working online. Once there, I knew she couldn't keep still. She's making masks with leftover material she had. She is staying pretty isolated in her room and only leaves to pick up food To Go from the dining hall.

Miranda at LIU making masks for those who need them.

Everything that is happening is so surreal. A friend posted a venn diagram on Facebook of all these dystopian society books and movies that are similar to the present situation. It was so funny because I saw The Handmaid's Tale on the diagram and I've been saying that all along. That this just reminds me of the book and the things that led to the government being overthrown.

I posted on Facebook as to why I think I've been able to cope mentally with this COVID 19 situation and that I haven't let it get me down. I know it's because I dealt with my toe issues for four months, and even now, I'm not out of the woods. I have a follow up appointment tomorrow because it started looking swollen on Thursday and even more on Friday.

In the middle of those four months that I dealt with my toe bone infection and the surgery I also had a serious allergic reaction to the antibiotic I was on and I could have died from Anaphylaxis, if I hadn't gone to the hospital when I did.

I'm not saying that my situation is in any way compared to the poor people who have become infected with COVID 19. I feel for these people, the first responders, like my step-daughter who is a paramedic, the nurses and doctors in the hospitals.

What I'm saying is that after the many weeks that I dealt with my toe, these three weeks do not feel like a lot. I am okay staying at home safe. On a funny note I saw an article about how Generation X can handle this pandemic better than any other generation. There is so much truth to this article. We got this!

I think that having this time in our homes to reflect is giving us the opportunity to focus on what is really important. I know that I personally am using this time to express gratitude for the good things I have in my life. I'm thinking of all the things we took for granted pre-pandemic. I think of the trips I said I was going to take and I haven't taken. When all this is said and done I'd love to travel to Northern California, via Los Angeles to stop in and meet my newest great nephew.

I want to use this time to focus on art and writing because those are some of my passions. I want to visit famous museums and galleries who are offering virtual tours. I want to work on an outline for a novel that has been brewing in my bones. Take advantage of this time at home if you can.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Enjoy the Price of Good Health

Eleven weeks ago, a few days before I started antibiotics for my bone infection, I decided to start a similar detox to one that I did almost six years ago. I think I lost 15 pounds that time. I stuck to it for nine weeks this round, the length of the antibiotic treatment, and I lost 20 pounds.

Arbonne Products I Use for My Detox
I know not everyone can use the Arbonne products I use, but they have really made it easier for me to follow a schedule. A couple of steps were different this time but I love this one the best. First thing when I get up in the morning I have a "Green Gut Shot." That's a combination of the Digestion Plus and the Greens Balance. I just feel like this starts my morning off right, before my coffee and breakfast, usually a protein shake. Every couple of days I make a quart of the Body Cleanse and I drink it throughout the day. I'm not as good at drinking the detox tea as I should be, but I was really doing better at the beginning. I drink a lot of water and I stay away from sugar and I keep the carbs low.

One of the main reasons I chose to do this detox was because I heard that the antibiotics I was taking  were really strong and could be bad for the kidneys and liver. They would pull my blood every week and a couple of weeks in, the infectious disease doctor commented that my kidneys were actually doing better than before I started the antibiotics. I told him about the detox diet but in the back of my mind I knew it probably had a lot to do with not drinking alcohol too.

I started drinking Arbonne shakes almost 13 years ago when I got the lap band. The doctor who performed my surgery recommended the brand and I really liked the taste. I've had these shakes off and on over the years.

Side note. When people ask me about the lap band I try to explain that it's a helping hand, but not a complete solution. I still have to do my part and I have to work out and eat right. It keeps me from weighing close to 250 pounds again. Yes, it helped me lose a lot of weight initially, but I've had to keep working on it. I've tried running but I'm not very good at sticking to it. It wasn't until I discovered the Peloton that my life changed. And then toegate happened. And just to be clear, I know that anything else can happen to me. There are illnesses that can't be avoided, like autoimmune diseases. I'm talking about diseases I CAN control and avoid, like Diabetes 2.

I feel like I've been talking about dieting and exercising my whole adult life and half of my teen life too and honestly I'm tired of it.  The truth is it's now or never. I am fifty years old and I have pretty much run out of time. This last health crisis was scary and I am so grateful that I didn't lose my toe, but I could have. I feel like it was a wake-up call and a reminder of how fragile our body can be, especially if you aren't healthy. I can only imagine what could have happened if I had't been exercising and trying to take care of myself.

Of course my health and life are the most important, but I also think about how health equals freedom. I think of older ladies I've seen backpacking in Europe and how I thought to myself, "I want to do that one day." If I want to go on adventures in this last third of my life and when I retire I am going to have to be healthy.

I took a week "off" and I ate and drank through it. I felt like I deserved it after being "good" for nine weeks. But then it hit me. I had an Aha moment. The truth of the matter is, I deserve to take care of myself and I deserve a healthy life. How is treating myself to unhealthy food and drinks a treat?  How is that a reward? How is eating well a chore or a price?

I thought of something I heard Zig Ziglar say in a motivational speech called "How to Get What You Want." He says, "You do not pay the price for good health. You thoroughly enjoy the price. You pay the price for failure."

I deserve to eat well. I'm not doing anything complicated. All I'm doing is making healthier choices, counting carbs, and making sure I balance my meals and snacks with proteins, vegetables and grains. Am I perfect? No. Do I slip up and eat bad stuff every so often? Yes. But I only want to feed by body with good foods more than I don't.

I honestly can't wait for my toe to be healed completely so I can get back on my Peloton. I can't wait to go running again. Now that I haven't been able to do those things for a long time I appreciate them more. This is my lifestyle now and I deserve to reap the rewards. I want to "enjoy the price of good health."

Friday, March 13, 2020

The Satin Cream House Coat - Celebrate the Big Things and the Small Ones Too

When my mother died twenty years ago and we were going through her things we came across her satin cream colored house coat, old and yellowed with age. It even had some stains close to the hem and it didn't look like the beautiful coat I had longingly looked at so many times as a little girl. It had a quilted padded pattern and it had gold thread woven into the material. As I was typing this description here, I searched for it and I can not believe I found one on eBay. It's called a "Vintage Doris Day Sonnet Hostess Robe." It was only $38 and I had to buy it.

I think my mother won the coat in the early 1970s, when I was a baby, when she was selling Tupperware. I may have only seen her try it on once, when she was in an unusually good mood.  I would see her pull the coat out sometimes over the years and I always asked her why she didn't wear it. She always replied the same way. She told me that she put the coat away when she won it and that she would wear it when she had the kind of house she had always wanted.

She never wore the coat.

The other night I was watching "This is Us" and older Rebecca, the mother, says something that reminded me of that cream coat. (Spoiler Alert if you haven't seen the March 10 episode or if you plan to watch This is Us in general one day.)

“My life has been full of next times: things I always assumed I would get to eventually,” Rebecca said. “But now I realize that I am running out of time to do them. ... I want to spend however many good years I have left with my family. I want to try new things like walking on red carpets. I want to make up for all of my next times.” 

This really stuck a chord with me.

I turned 50 on February 11. It was the day that I go out of the hospital and I was very angry and depressed. I told everyone that I didn't want to celebrate and that in fact I wanted to pretend that I hadn't turned 50 yet. I remember telling my sister that I was angry and that I would never get February 11, 2020 back again. 

I also posted something on Facebook about waiting until the picc line was removed, and I was better,  to celebrate. A friend of mine from high school commented that every day that we are alive is a gift or celebration, something to that effect. I don't remember the exact words but I know what she meant. She received a double lung transplant around eight years ago so she has a completely different outlook on life than many of us. She is so right. 

I keep getting reminders everywhere. I was cleaning my desk at home and I came across a fortune from a cookie that I had saved. It says, "If you don't have time to live your life now, when do you?"

So true! When do I? Am I going to wait to wear the cream colored house coat my whole life?  Am I going to get to a point in my life when I realize that I'm out of time to do the things I wanted to do because I have cancer, Alzheimer's, early dementia, MS, or some other life altering illness? I hope not.

I may be 50, but it isn't too late. If anything, that's what this recent toe bone infection taught me. It was a damn wake-up call. It sounded the alarm of my life and my health. 

I skipped my birthday on February 11 because I was bitter and angry, but I can't do that again. I know that's easier to say now that the picc line is out and the stitches have been removed from my toe. I am at that point that I wanted to be and I knew all along that I would get here.

So yes, I ordered the vintage robe and I'm going to put it on and I'm going to wear it around my Grey Gardens messy house in honor of my mother. I'm not going to wait to have the perfect house, apartment or life. I'm going to wear it now. 

I'm going to go ahead and I'm going to celebrate my 50th birthday all damn year! All year is going to be a celebration of my 50th year of life. Every day from now on I'm going to celebrate still being alive. I'm going to celebrate the big things and the small ones too. 

Then I'm going to make a new list of all the things I want to accomplish and all the places I want to travel to, instead of saying "next time." 

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Timeline of #ToeGate "It Could Have Been Worse!"

Rather than writing out a long synopsis of the whole ordeal, and if you don't feel like reading my two previous posts, here is a timeline of what happened: with my toe bone infection, my allergic reaction to vancomycin, the antibiotic I was on intravenously, and the amputation of the tip of the bone on my big toe. This whole saga started right before Thanksgiving and will hopefully end by St. Patrick's Day. Notice how everything happened around or on holidays and my birthday.

My arm with my allergic reaction to vancomycin.
November 22 (Right before Thanksgiving) - Saw the podiatrist for the first time. I thought I just had a fungus in my toe nail that wouldn't go away. He gave me an x-ray to make sure the infection had not gone down to my bone but said it hadn’t.  He did an ingrown toe nail surgery on me. I went to NY for Thanksgiving the next week.

December 27 (Right after Christmas) - Went back to podiatrist for a follow-up visit and he was worried that the toe still looked red and hurt me. He did another x-ray, didn’t see anything, so he did an MRI.

December 31 (New Year’s Eve) - Nurse called to tell me there was infection on the bone and that I had to go see an infectious disease doctor.

January 7- Saw the infectious disease doctor for the first time. He told me the treatments for a bone infection were intravenous antibiotics and that I had to go into the hospital to have a picc line put into my arm.

January 9- Went into the hospital and had a picc line put into my left arm. After they finished with me at the hospital they sent me straight to the infectious disease doctor’s nurse to instruct me on how I had to give myself the vancomycin antibiotic twice a day.

February 4- Three and a half weeks in and three days before my Vegas trip, I started having an allergic reaction to the vancomycin.

February 5- I woke up with the rash spreading from my chest to my face. I went to the emergency room and I was transferred to the hospital. The infectious disease doctor came to see me and thought that I should spend one night at the hospital and that I’d be better the next day.

February 6- I woke up worse and was transferred that evening from an observation room to a regular room. I stayed in the hospital until February 11. They changed my antibiotic from vancomycin to daptomycin.

February 11 (My 50th Birthday) - Went to see the infectious disease doctor the day I got out of the hospital. He mentioned that he would like to see another MRI to see how the toe was doing. He sent me back to the podiatrist for this.

February 14 (Valentine’s Day) - Had a second MRI.

February 18 – The podiatrist nurse called me to say that the infection was worse and they were going to have to cut on the bone. Initially I didn’t know how much and this made me burst into tears. The doctors both discussed my case and the infectious disease doctor called me himself the next day and explained that it was just a tiny bit and that I wouldn’t lose my toe. He said he would keep me on the antibiotics through my picc line to ensure that I healed.

February 21- Saw the podiatrist and he showed me the MRI and explained that the infection was at the very tip of my bone. He said he would just cut that tip off and would take out the infection.

February 27 (Beginning of Lent and I'm not even religious) - Had the surgery and it was successful. The doctor didn’t have to cut off any more or less. He went in from the top and left my toe and toenail intact. Thank goodness!

March 3- Saw the infectious disease doctor and he said that he would most likely take me off the antibiotics on Tuesday, March 10. I may have to take antibiotics orally for a while. 

March 6 – Saw the podiatrist who did the surgery and said the toe was healing well and that my stitches will come out on Friday, March 13. (Right before St. Patrick's Day.)

(Updated afterwards to have my complete timeline somewhere.)

March 10- Miranda's Birthday- Had the picc line taken out.

March 13- The stitches came out of toe. 

As you can see, I'm exhausted.

The recurring theme in all of this has been that so many people went on their gut feeling. Nobody insisted that I go see the doctor. It was just suggested. I went on my gut feeling that something wasn't right. The podiatrist went on his gut feeling that the toe didn't look right after five weeks and he decided to do an MRI. The infectious disease doctor went on a gut feeling that he should do a second MRI after I was in the hospital for a week fighting off the allergic reaction.

If you can see a bone infection on an x-ray it's basically too late. It took an MRI to see the infection in my toe. Everything was caught early because of these gut feelings and instead of losing the whole toe, I only lost the tip of the bone. Horrible I know, but not as bad as it could have been. It definitely could have been worse.

I can now see the light at the end of this long tunnel and the light looks bright. I have so much hope for the future and how I'm going to change my lifestyle. More on that later. 

Sunday, March 01, 2020

My Severe Reaction to Vancomycin “It Could Have Been Worse” Part Two

I almost didn’t write this second part because so much more has happened between February 16 and today that I have even more to write about. But in interest of following the timeline and explaining what happened in between I have to write about my hospital visit. 

Smaller Ball of Daptomycin
I started having a reaction to the Vancomycin on Tuesday afternoon, February 5. I called the 24 hour nurse and she told me not to give myself my evening dosage of Vanco. It started with a light rash across my chest. By the next morning it was all over my face so I went to the emergency room. 

By that afternoon I was admitted into the hospital next to the professional building with my infectious disease doctor’s office. He requested that the emergency room doctor send me there and he went to see me. I was in an observation room from Wednesday afternoon until Thursday evening. The rash just kept spreading across my face and my body. They kept me to make sure it didn’t get worse and go into my throat. Since they still had to treat my toe infection the doctor asked the hospital to put me on Daptomycin, another antibiotic.

By Friday I was dying, not literally but from the itching and watching the rash spread. I had a terrible night and slept very little because the rash was all over my body. My back had itched terribly all night. I called my primary care physician to let her know where I was and what was happening. I unleashed all my frustration on the poor doctor who came to see me on Friday morning. 

I was so lucky because she was a God-send. Her name is Dr. Juhi Jain and she works at Memorial Hermann Memorial City. She listened to me, cared, and took an aggressive approach, increased my dosages of steroids and Benadryl and moved them closer together. She was with me for four days so she was able to watch my progress.

Dr. Jain also gave me the best explanation of what was happening to me because I was freaking out. She told me it was as if the train had left the station and it had to run its course all the way before it could come back. So the rash had to run its entire course. As depressing as that was, it helped me understand and accept it. I surrendered to the rash, knowing that it had to happen before it could get better. She got aggressive with the medication for two days then pulled back to watch my reaction for another two days.

On Monday evening, my 6th day in the hospital, Dr. Jain sent me home with oral steroids and over-the-counter Benadryl to take for a week.

Here is what I found out about Vancomycin. Yes it has the best track record for healing bone infections but it’s also the most common antibiotic given because it’s the one that the insurance approves. Daptomycin is actually better than Vancomycin and people have less of a reaction to it but the insurance doesn’t approve it unless you can’t take Vanco. Yes, they wait for you to have a reaction to Vancomycin before they approve Daptomycin.

This whole ordeal has been such an experience. I had never been in the hospital that long. Thank God for insurance. Talk about being grateful for the things that matter, like insurance and my employer. Good doctors like Dr. Jain. So many things.

When I got out of the hospital I went to see my infectious disease doctor the next day for new smaller buzzballs of Daptomycin and a dressing change on my picc line. He decided to send me for a follow up MRI. I can see why he did because the allergic reaction could have compromised my healing. They were pumping me with steroids while I was in the hospital. The steroids were making my blood pressure and my blood sugar sky rocket. My body was trying to fight all these other things while they continued to give me the new antibiotic to fight the infection in the toe. 

I went for the follow up MRI the Friday after I was released from the hospital and I knew I probably wouldn't have the results until the following week. I have played the waiting game so many times during these past three months. 

All I can say is thank God for gut feelings and for doctors who decide to check things just to make sure we are on the right track. It’s a good think Dr. Price sent me for that extra MRI or I don’t know what would have happened to my toe. To be continued…

Sunday, February 16, 2020

My Severe Reaction to Vancomycin “It Could Have Been Worse” Part One

I started 2020 off with a bang! I told my sister that I was so tired of saying, “It Could Have Been Worse,” but that is really the best description for this ordeal.

As my son Seth said a few weeks ago, before things did get worse, “It all started with a bone infection.” That is exactly right. It all started with a fungus in my right big toe nail specifically. But as a pharmacist told me, “A dog cannot become a cat.” Somewhere along the way an opening occurred in the toe nail and bacteria got in. That bacteria became an infection and that infection traveled down to the bone of my toe.

Although that alone sounds bad enough, it could have been worse, and technically it still could be worse. That bone infection is called Osteomyelitis and it can lead to damage to the bone and worse case, amputation. The podiatrist that I went to see didn’t see the infection on two x-rays taken four weeks apart. He decided to do an MRI on my toe and that’s where he was able to pinpoint the infection. I’ve been told several times that if he had found the infection on the x-ray it could possibly been too late. It could have been worse!

The podiatrist sent me to an infectious disease doctor. I thought I’d be on oral antibiotics for a few weeks. To my surprise it wasn’t going to be that simple. The doctor explained to me that the only way we could attack this infection was through intravenous antibiotics. And the only way to do this was for me to go into the hospital to have a picc line inserted into the big vein in my arm. PICC stands for a peripherally inserted central catheter. The catheter runs the antibiotics through that vein, right above my heart and straight into my blood stream so they can reach the far regions of my toe.

So on Thursday, January 9 I went into the hospital to have this PICC line inserted and to begin my three and a half week experience with Vancomycin, one of the strongest but most effective antibiotics for bone infections.

The doctor has a pharmacist on staff and a pharmacy in-house. The pharmacist compounds the medications and each week I had to go in to see the infusion nurse and the pharmacist. The nurse draws blood and changes the dressing around the picc line. The pharmacist would hand me 14 globes of medication that closely resembled a buzz ballz cocktail, a week’s supply. I was responsible for giving myself these antibiotics twice a day for two hours each time.

They check the blood each week for kidney and liver function. Each week I was told I was doing great. I was being very proactive and when I started this antibiotic treatment I had also decided to start a detox diet. I was drinking a probiotic each morning, drinking a body cleanse drink, drinking detox tea, kombucha and a ton of water.

I have no idea how I did it those first three weeks. Somehow I fit this picc line and these antibiotics into my daily routine. I would go to work each day, check in, go to a meeting or check email and respond to important items. Then I would go to the nursing mother’s room in one of the restrooms where they have a table and a chair. I would hook up my buzz ball, would put on an apron with a pocket for the ball, and then I’d throw a poncho over me to hide the whole thing. I’d go back to my desk to work until it was time to disconnect and clean the line with saline and heparin.

There were a couple of times that I connected or disconnected in my car. I’d infuse sometimes while driving and once even while having lunch with someone. The second infusion was always at home before bed. There were times when I fell asleep while infusing because I was so exhausted. In retrospect I was wearing myself down.

I was planning a big trip to Las Vegas for my 50th birthday the weekend of February 7th.  I really wanted for the doctor to tell me that I was getting all better by week three and that he could remove the picc line of February 6 so that I could go to Vegas without it.  At my January 30th appointment he told me that wasn’t going to happen. He told me that I needed to hold on for another two weeks. I cried but I accepted my fate and even joked that I was going to name my picc line Piper and that she was going on an adventure with me to Vegas.

Ironically at that visit he suggested that I change over from Vancomycin to Daptomycin, a different and stronger antibiotic. My response that sealed my fate, “Why change antibiotics when I’m doing so well with the one I’m on. What if I change at this late date and I have a reaction to the new one?”

Five days later I had a delayed allergic reaction to Vancomycin.

To be continued...