Posted in breast cancer, femininity, travel, travels, weight loss

FIGHT LIKE A GIRL, KICK ASS LIKE A WOMAN

I have passed the middle of one of the busiest years of my life. I am tired, for sure, but I’m so grateful to be on this journey. 

My travels started in March with a trip to Maui, and with work, I started in May with a trip to Philadelphia, followed by a trip in mid-July to Los Angeles, and I just got back from New Jersey and will leave again for Los Angeles again this Sunday. 

Fortunately, I am fond of traveling, even for work. I just bought a new suitcase for the half dozen or so trips I have left this year, and the half dozen or so I will have next year. 

Daisy, the best suitcase ever!
Daisy, the best suitcase ever!

Daisy already has road wear, but whatever.  She is easy to maneuver and she is easy to spot and forces me to pack lighter. I love my work shirts – they help me pack lighter too. They don’t wrinkle either. 

I am on the quickest pace I’ve had since I had breast cancer. I’m not kidding – sometimes I wonder where the energy is coming from (right up until the point it absolutely disappears).  I am balancing two huge projects at work – which I’ve likened to juggling two burning bowling balls and trying not to get burned – and I’m surviving.  

I say “surviving,” and I am. Not always as gracefully as I’d like, because, well, this is me, and I have hit bumps in the road and found myself crying in frustration when I physically and mentally collapse in exhaustion, but I’m still going. Still getting better. Still figuring out what life is supposed to be like after the breast cancer/hysterectomy/RNY gastric bypass clean slate. 

I haven’t lost a pound in about 6 months. That’s been about as frustrating as anything. I’m still on the medicine that makes me gain weight, but I didn’t think I’d come to this plateau so soon. I’ve fluctuated the same 5 pounds since March. Up/down. Up/down. I’ve not gained any weight back per se. My measurements are still the same or even less. I feel no pressure to move the scale, but I’m still frustrated. I refuse to go back to being morbidly obese. I refuse to return to what was.  Getting the scale to move again is not my focus right now, but if it did, I’d be thrilled.

I have zero chances at establishing any sort of routine between now and next June. This is where I am challenged to find routine in the spontaneous demands of my job until these projects are finished.  I’m trying to see this as an opportunity rather than a hinderance. I know I am capable. I can do this.

Finding balance has never been my strong suit, but I’m getting better at it. I hope to have more tales to tell as the time goes on, more tales where I’m not just fighting like a girl, but kicking ass like a woman. What got me through the challenge of breast cancer must mature into something that can sustain me as I keep moving forward.

I fought like a girl and won. Life has gone on. Time to kick ass.

Posted in about shae, bariatric surgery, health, weight loss

TWO THINGS I’M WONDERING ABOUT POST-SURGERY

I had these thoughts today about life post-surgery:

1. What if my nose doesn’t lose any weight but the rest of my face does?

2. What if I lose weight in my feet? Will I get shorter? Will my shoes still fit?

These things may not be important to you, but as someone who has grown up with a German-inspired nose, I wonder about how big the schnoz will look if my cheeks aren’t so poofy.

I have invested quite a bit of money in shoes the last two years. If I end up losing a shoe size, I am buying stock in DSW before I start feeding my shoe fetish again.

Yes, these are the things I think about during the day. Random-tamoxifen brain at work.

Posted in about shae, allergies, bariatric surgery, breast cancer, health, relationships, weight loss

ONE OF THOSE DAYS (I want my life back)

I had a low grade fever most of the day, and though I wanted to be home in bed, since I have dismally few sick days I pushed myself to go work. I had wanted to go out tonight and be with friends, but the fever didn’t leave.

I cried all the way home. I am more than frustrated with the state of me right now. I am a breast cancer survivor, 1.5 years now, and though I got to live I didn’t get my life back.

Don’t read that as I have nothing to live for, I do. I just never thought that this far down the road I’d still be trying to get my legs steady and back under me. I’ve spent all month wishing the color pink didn’t exist as it is a bright pastel reminder that though I’m a survivor, I’m still trying to find my way back to myself.

It’s incredibly difficult to express how I feel, and even more difficult when I can’t even figure out what to say. People who have not had breast cancer or an illness that totally changes their lives have no idea what I’m going through. For them, I no longer have breast cancer. Everything is great, right?

WRONG.

I don’t feel sorry for myself. In fact, I swim in a pretty steady stream of optimism most of the time. As I wait for weight loss surgery that will hopefully turn some health issues around for me, impatience is an unwelcome nag – a constant reminder that I’m not where I want to be.

I’m actually ill more than I let on. I catch everything these days. Compound that with my daily dose of allergy havoc, and my body feels lousy most of the time. I am saddled with a profound tiredness every day. My brain, when not having Tamoxifen/Lexapro delays and lost moments, is actually pretty active and eager to move life along.

I know many people whose bodies do not keep up with their brains, wishes, and hopes. I am now one of them. Throw aging on top of that mess and I feel ancient in my bones. I’m not ready to relinquish my spirit to that notion.

Doctors and friends promise me that after surgery, the energy will return as the weight falls off. I will sleep better. I won’t have to worry about my heart’s current issues. My plantars fascia won’t have as many issues carrying weight around. My knees will stop hurting. I won’t be sick all the time. I might get to stop taking a pill or two.

I want to believe all that. I really do. On days such as this, however, I just can’t, especially when I feel truly alone right at this moment. I know that will pass, but I can’t tell you how much I miss presence, something I had a satisfying portion of before cancer. Now, I know I don’t have enough. Thank God for the friends who meet me more than halfway when I need it and especially for the ones who come 90% of the way when 10% is all I have to give.

I’m so thankful for the few faithful that are ever-present, the ones whom I’m never out of mind when I’m out of sight and the ones who are never out of sight when I feel out of my mind. I love you all and I’m grateful you are on this journey with me.

Now for more meds and begging God for a good night’s sleep.

Posted in bariatric surgery, pop culture, random, weight loss

TOKI THE ADIPOSE (the only fat I plan to keep)

I have many “mascots” that represent certain journeys in my life. I could think of none more fitting for this weight loss journey than an Adipose from the Doctor Who series. The Adipose are aptly created from adipose tissue, aka FAT. 

I named her Toki, which, in Japanese, means, “time of opportunity.” I am ready for this opportunity to turn my life in a radical new direction!

Look for Toki photos from my vacation in Tahoe this Fall.

Posted in bariatric surgery, breast cancer, femininity, food, tamoxifen, weight loss

DISTORTED IMAGE (and being comfortable in stretch-marked skin)

I took this photo before I went in for my first meeting with my bariatric surgeon, Dr. Davis, last Friday. I was waiting outside in front of the elevator bank since the office staff had not returned from lunch so I decided I wanted to take a “before” photo.  My hands were shaking because I was slightly nervous, and this is how the photo turned out.

When I saw how fuzzy it was, I immediately considered it a success. I look at myself and I do not see this person at all in this way. It’s a distorted, fuzzy image of me.  When I see photos of myself I am in disbelief. Who is that chubby person? When I look in the mirror, I see a beautiful, shapely person. I do not see fat arms, two chins and hips wide enough to double as an inflated flotation device.

I can’t pinpoint when the transition happened.  I used to look in the mirror and see fat everywhere. Fat, fat, fat. Big girl. I didn’t want short hair because it would make my face look fat. I would never, ever tuck in a shirt, because people might see my fat butt or stomach. Fat calves. Fat arms. FAT.

My hair is now the shortest it’s ever been and I love it. I I love my sassy hair and sassy glasses and sassy attitude. I don’t care that the jeans I’m wearing right now are size 20. I wear sleeveless shirts and I don’t care what my arms look like.  When I look in the mirror, I see beauty.  I see a woman who is comfortable in her stretch-marked skin.

The decision to have bariatric surgery has been a difficult one. I have fought having the surgery for a year. So when I sat down with Dr. Davis, I did so because I finally decided to do whatever it takes to improve my health. In three months or so, I will have the surgery, and then the real battle will begin.

I understand now why bariatric patients go to support groups. I cannot believe how unbelievably cruel people can be. Everyone has an opinion, and though most have been supportive, there have been a few who have ignored my boundary and let me know how much they are appalled by my decision.  Those negative, judgmental people want me to know I don’t have enough faith, that I am just lazy, and my weight loss doesn’t count because I won’t have to work for it.  Other people have let their feelings be known in less direct ways, but the sentiment is still there.

Not one of those people has walked in my shoes or lived my life.  They don’t know my medical history.  They don’t realize that when you are taking medications that make it impossible to lose weight, losing weight is, indeed, impossible.  Instead of encouraging me, or lifting me up, they’ve chosen to throw stones and discourage me in sometimes hurtful ways.

Negative comments tell me quite a bit about how much research or knowledge those people have about obesity and the hope this surgery gives. If they had done any research at all, they would know many bariatric patients have tried everything to escape their prisons of fat and surgery is the end of the line. Bariatric patients are choosing a life-altering, path-changing procedure and it is by far more difficult to admit they cannot achieve their weight loss by themselves than to repeat the cycle of diet insanity.  After 25 diets that don’t work, why not try something else?

I’m a breast cancer survivor. Last summer I had second degree radiation burns in a very tender area. I went to work every day.  I got treatment every day for 33 days.  I was exhausted and in pain every day.  I walked one of the toughest paths I’d ever had to traverse.  I didn’t take the easy way out then, and I’m not choosing an easy path now.  Life after surgery will be one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced. And I will face it.

My body is broken, but my spirit isn’t. I’ve asked Dr. Davis to help me put my body back together and getting it working optimally again. The next three months of anticipation of the surgery will hopefully fly quickly as I prepare physically and mentally for the aftermath of surgery – which will be a battle every day for the rest of my life.

I’m grateful for the people who lift me up every day – in person, via email, text, Facebook, Twitter.  I need your support so much as I go on this journey.  You know who you are, and I love you all.

Posted in bariatric surgery, breast cancer, health, tamoxifen, weight loss

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TAMOXIFEN and by the way I’m having weight loss surgery #bcsm

On August 21st, I celebrated my one year anniversary of taking the cancer-preventative drug, Tamoxifen. I’ll be honest, it has not been an easy year, and I’ll be more honest, I am not happy that I have four years left to take it. This drug, however, will help me not get breast cancer again, so I take it, grudgingly.

This far into the post-cancer journey, I am by no means back to normal or happy with where I am in the recovery/moving on process. I am, however, taking steps to ensure that I do move on, and I do more than recover. 

Last month, I went to see my new allergist, Dr. D. Dr. D has really helped me so far, and while I am still allergic to most everything I tested for 7 years ago, I am happy to report I can eat chicken again! I have eaten so much chicken in the last three weeks, I may cluck with joy.  I am so happy to have chicken as an option again.

Dr. D is going to start me on shots in a couple of weeks. I really like her.  Unlike my last allergist, she listened to me, asked questions, and wants me to be a well-rounded person. Dr. D, coincidentally, studied Tamoxifen in college.  I’ve been able to get a lot more information and support about this med than I have in a while.

So while I’m getting that part of my life under control, I now am onto the next phase of my new life. A year ago, when I started taking Tamoxifen (which makes your body think it’s pregnant and holds onto every pound), my oncologist said that since fat stores estrogen and my cancer was estrogen positive, I needed to be about 100 pounds less than I am now. I told her that was highly unlikely any time soon.

“Then we need to talk surgery,” she strongly suggested.

“Surgery?”

“Weight loss surgery. Bypass, I’m thinking.”

At that moment, I was not ready to hear that I needed surgery.  I told her no way and she left it alone for the time being.

In April, at another checkup, my oncologist noted I’d only lost 7 pounds. I felt estatic over that number considering how tired I’d been.  She was not amused.  She mentioned surgery again. I was not amused.

I started doing research on bariatric surgery and what it would entail. I began to deal truthfully with myself as well. I’d been overweight since I was 8 years old and for various reasons, I had not been able to lose weight and keep it off, and in the last 5 years or so, losing was nearly impossible.

I talked with three friends who have had this surgery and the consensus seems to be this:

  1. Bariatric surgery is not the easy way out.
  2. It’s a long, very long journey.
  3. Bariatric surgery takes a complete life change to make it work. It’s only a tool. The rest is  up to the person.
  4. SO VERY WORTH IT!

I have talked with a few more friends who have had either banding surgery or other forms of weight-loss surgery. All say it was difficult, but worth it.

After a lot of self examination, I decided that if I was going to get to this magical land on the other end of the scale, then I was going to need help.  I rarely ask for help. In fact, having to admit I needed help with my weight was a big barrier. A friend told me that knowing I needed help was, “discernment.”

Last week I had another followup with my oncologist and I told her I was ready to have the surgery. She seemed surprised but glad I was taking this seriously, as I was back up 6 pounds and in one year had only lost a pound. I was just happy I hadn’t really gained weight beyond that.

She referred me to the Davis Clinic here in Houston (thedavisclinic.com).  Dr. Garth Davis had a show on TLC a few years ago called, “Big Medicine.” He is the surgeon I am going to see on September 21. I am excited to have this moving forward and ready to get this part of my life under control.  Not only will I get the surgery, I will be seeing a psychologist and a dietician.

My plan is to live a long life. Getting the weight off will help bring that to reality. I know that once I get the weight off, with God’s help and with support I can keep it off.

I have already gotten many comments and negative feedback. Mostly from skinny people or people who lose weight easily or people who can’t imagine themselves going without their favorite foods for a very, very long time.

I am drawing the boundary line right here and now.  Keep your negative comments to yourself. I do not need to hear your negativity. It will not make me change my mind. I’m going forward with this.  If you can support me that would be wonderful, if not, I can appreciate standing up for what you believe in, and I will miss you.

I will be updating quite a bit more now, as keeping a blog during this transition will be very helpful. I’m getting excited about the positive changes I’m making in my life and I’m ready to be the healthiest I’ve ever been!

Posted in health, weather, weight loss

I AIN’T COMPLAININ’, I LIKE THE RAIN

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We haven’t had a significant rain several weeks. The evidence is not dry streets. The SPOD (Spring Pollen of Death) has coated my car in a greenish-yellow paste and has for quite some time now.  I’m giving the weatherman one last chance to predict a PWCW (Poor Woman’s Car Wash) tomorrow.  If he lets me down, I will have to seek out a place to rinse off my car, which is currently a rolling advertisement to SPOD.

I haven’t taken many photos lately or written much. I’m trying to give my body and brain time to find their balance as the doctor monkeys around with my thyroid and vitamin D levels without pressuring myself to flip the creative switch.  Apparently my vitamin D levels were so low, and have been for some time, that I have to take 50,000 units of vitamin D per week to try and catch up. Most people take 400 units a day. Couple that with questionable thyroid levels and I’m amazed that I wasn’t worse off hormonally than I was.

I do have to say, just over a month into this whole process, I do feel so much better than I did in January that it’s difficult to describe. The doctor did say that all of my levels will not be “normal” until sometime in late summer, which I can’t even imagine how much better I’ll feel then.  I can say it’s amazing what a better functioning thyroid and increasing vitamin D levels do for the human body.  Thank goodness I felt the freedom to tell my doctor to figure out what the hades was wrong with me and not put up with, “there’s nothing we can do,” like I did last time.

My energy levels still aren’t what I had hoped, but I am exercising again.  I am still not sleeping like I’d hoped, but I am sleeping more.  I have to remember that one month of meds doesn’t erase what was estimated as years of deficiency overnight. I still have hope that my energy levels will continue to rise, that my creativity levels will also continue to rise, and my general health will also continue to rise.

I also feel less…doomed, for lack of a better word. I feel like I am going to be all right now. My brain is no longer foggy or weighed down by sadness or hopelessness. I never imagined how much of my issue was physical on top of the mental demons I fight. The demons seem smaller now, because they are no longer magnified by deficiency.

That’s not to say I don’t feel sad sometimes or feel a little crazy, but those times are mostly in my rear-view mirror now. The rain can fall, but it doesn’t drown me. I am looking forward to what the next few months will bring and seeing the results of hard work and the ability to keep a disciplined thought.

Hopefully, the rain will come tomorrow and I will enjoy it…and my car will be free of SPOD.  Well, ok.  Free-er of SPOD.

Posted in health, weight loss, Yahweh's fingerprints

NOT JUST ANOTHER PRETTY FACE

The other day I got in a picture-posting war with a friend of mine from college on Facebook. We started posting pictures from our college days. Of course, we did not post certain pictures… you know, we were kind to each other. I laughed as I went through each picture. Wow, did I have wardrobe and hair issues!

If some of these pictures had surfaced a few years ago, I would have been mortified. I used to be consumed with what people thought of me and was convinced people’s acceptance of me greatly depended on how perfect my hair was, or how stylish my clothes were or how I looked in them. One day a friend pointed out that perhaps people didn’t think as much about how I looked or what I did as I thought they did. She was right.

Somewhere down the road, I became comfortable in my own skin. My face, my hair, my weight… how I look in pictures… it all is what it is. Most of me is fluffy. I could stand to lose a few pounds, simply for health reasons. Most of us could. I don’t obsess over my weight though. Not anymore. My two chins have grown comfortable with each other. If one were to disappear, the other would leave to go find it and bring it back. Then I’d look really odd, but I still wouldn’t care.

Yes, there are days when I still have bad hair days, my face still breaks out, and some days my jeans are too tight. The biggest difference is how I view myself as a whole… or rather, how I view myself as whole.

I’m not even close to the end of the road, but I am thankful to have finally hit this milestone. I’m sure there will be a day when I will burst into tears when I don’t think I look just right, but I hope I can remember that life isn’t about being another pretty face…and that no matter what anyone says or thinks, it is a pretty face.

Posted in hurricane, weather, weight loss

OH, THE INJUSTICE!


I went out for a walk around 9:15 this morning. Again, in situations like this (you know, IKE) I can get a lot of nervous energy that needs spent and I know I won’t be able to go outside much longer.

So, I thought, why not go to St. Arbuck’s for some coffee? And the above sign is what I saw. Sonic is across the street and they advertised lattes but it’s just not the same.

The good news is I’m not stress eating and I’ve walked about 2 1/2 miles in the past 30 hours, so maybe Ike will be good for weight loss?