beauty body health Life Me

Love the Lauren

I look forward to the Sunday New York Times for several reasons, and the Styles section is perhaps the first one that I go to for interesting pop culture-related features and trends, celebrity & interesting people profiles (recent one on the founder, Tony Hsieh), the Modern Love column and Wedding stories.

This recent wedding recap made me smile for some of the details – she wasn’t interested, then learned he had sold a company for $10 million and decided to perhaps take a second look.  I don’t know that I blame her but umm, yes.  Interesting details.

Anyway, I love the Styles section, too, for its full-page Ralph Lauren ads.

Western blouse with fancy skirt - Ralph Lauren spring 2011
courtesy of the NYT

It is often the first page that I turn to, to see what the stylists have created.

The colors are gorgeous, the outfits fabulous yet often down-to-earth, and I even went searching for a fancy blue dress last year after spotting the ad, only to see its price tag was more than $1,000 and definitely out of my price range, unless it shows up on eBay at some point.

The spring 2011 collection has a Western theme, maybe going back to retro Ralph Lauren in a way, as my friend Lisa recently remarked.  I sort of recreated the outfit to the left before even seeing this ad, mixing a J Crew bright blue gingham blouse with a pink taffeta skirt (also J Crew, from the outlet store). It’s a great look, I must admit and it makes me feel quite spring-y and optimistic (thanks, Lisa).

Here’s another example below, from a Women’s Wear Daily spread of the runway show.  Even though I lived in Colorado and dig cowboy boots, I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m into Western gear and clothing … or maybe I am, actually.  I love what Ralph Lauren does with this collection, mixing up the rugged and feminine, and keeping it sexy.  Hopefully I can recreate some of these looks, find them on sale, hiding in my closet, etc.
Ralph Lauren model on the runway - spring 2011 collection
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Finding needs more study.

We recommend that you have further images taken. The letter was dated March 17, 2011 and came from the Univ. of Washington Medical Center/ Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA).

I received it on the next day, Friday, and wasn’t sure what to think.  I’d gone for my annual exam earlier in the week, and my ARNP had suggested getting a mammogram that same day. I hadn’t done the usual prep (no lotion, no deodorant), so maybe that’s all that this was about.  I’d never had an abnormal read before on a mammogram and had no family history of breast cancer, yet the letter and what it could mean made me feel quite anxious.

I booked an appointment for Tuesday, March 22. Further images were needed of the left breast, I learned. Calcifictions, or small bits of calcium, were present and the doctors wanted to take a closer look.  The radiology tech took three or four mammograms, and then I went back to a room to change out of the robe, and back into my clothes.  A little while later, someone came and took me to a room, and said the radiologist would be in to discuss the results.

I didn’t ask for reading materials, so I looked at my phone.  Then, I looked on the desk in the office.  There were pamphlets under a box of kleenex: Breast core needle biopsy – instructions for care.  That didn’t seem like a good sign. I waited.  My boss called, forgetting that I was at my doctor’s appointment.  It was a short call, interrupted by the staffer coming back in to say the doctor was on her way.

The radiologist came in, then, accompanied by a resident.  My first thought was, “Oh, great. I have something unusual and people are now interested in my case.” But working in an academic medical center, I should have realized it’s part of the training situation.  The radiologist was young, blonde and sporting knee-high suede boots.

She said, yes, that they wanted a biopsy of the calcifictions.  It wasn’t anything that looked like cancer, like some calcifications do, but they just needed to rule that out.  They had an appointment available in one hour, or I could come back later in the week.  She said there was no rush to stay today and have the biopsy.  She gave me the pre-biopsy instructions and asked about medications I might be taking, including ibuprofen on a regular basis.  “You’re too healthy,” she said, with a chuckle and a big smile.  The resident smiled and laughed, too.

I opted to come back on another day, and would hopefully see the same doctor.  After the appointment, I called and emailed my friend, Elizabeth, who had lost her son to cancer. She immediately offered to take me to my appointment. “Oh, I was just going to walk over,” I said.  “This is not about transportation,” she replied. “It’s moral support.”  Won’t you be fired for being gone for hours, I asked.  “I run this place,” she said.

When I talked with her later on the phone, I said that it might scare me if she came with me. “This is about me and not you,” she jokingly admonished.  I appreciated that so much, later on.

My appointment was scheduled for Wednesday, two days after the second set of mammograms. I had dinner with girlfriends the night before, and decided I would limit who I would tell until I after I got the results.  My parents were in Florida, for example, and I didn’t want to freak them out unnecessarily. We didn’t talk about personal things all that often, so it was better just to wait.

But at dinner that night, my friend L said she had to go in the next day for a repeat mammogram.  I decided to spill the biopsy beans.  She was going in for the right breast and me, for the left.  We decided to send each other positive boob karma from opposite angles.  We promised to text each other the next day and to keep our other dinner buddy informed. Her appointment was at 8 a.m.

I told two people at work, and they both had stories of either having to go back for a repeat mammogram or even a biopsy, or friends who had gone in for the same procedure.  One friend had cancer, said my boss, but they caught it early, which is what is important.  I started to wonder if skipping last year’s mammogram in support of new public health guidelines was the right thing to do.  Was this my punishment for being a health policy wonk?

Elizabeth picked me up at work on the 23rd a little after noon. My appointment was at 12:30, close by at the SCCA.  We joked a lot beforehand and I recapped the latest 30 Rock episode that spoofed reality TV shows and portrayed Alec Baldwin’s character as being gay. I am always after Elizabeth to watch that show, and I was happy to have the distraction of sharing silly stories.

When I was called for my appointment, I changed into a gown that opened in the front.  The physician/ resident came in, introduced herself and talked me through what would happen. The procedure sounded different than what the radiologist had explained, and I wouldn’t be seeing the same doctor that day (even though I’d been told she’d be there when I called to make my appointment).

I would be lying facedown on a table, with my breast hanging through a hole in the table. The table would be elevated high above the providers’ heads, so that they could do their work. My breast would be placed in a mammogram-ish device, a few more slides would be taken and when it was time for the biopsy, I would first get a shot of lidocaine to numb the area, and then they would go in and take out the cells to study.

After the procedure, they would place a titanium clip in the spot where they took out the cells, to mark the spot in case it did end up being cancer. Titanium in my breast – I guess that sounded sort of cool.  The doctor said it wouldn’t be detected at the airport or cause problems in metal detectors. She asked if I wanted any reading material, and I said no, that I was okay.

After she left, I began to read my medical chart.  The words and writing I saw began to make me nervous:  suspicious abnormality, UOQ, amorphous calcifications measuring 18 millimeters, overall assessment – category 4, suspicious.  I began to cry.  I also felt a little miffed when I read: Patient preferred to return for biopsy on a subsequent day, and was given instructions for scheduling the biopsy.

It would have been nice if the doctor had written: Patient was told that there was no need to schedule an immediate appointment.  Instead, what she had written made it sound like I should have stayed for a biopsy that day, and decided to leave the clinic.   Having shed a few tears, I was then led into the room where I’d have the procedure.

I asked the tech on the way in about UOQ.  It means upper outer quadrant, the place that they’d be targeting to grab those unknown cells.  I never realized that I could get so upset over a medical procedure and related unknowns, and it probably didn’t help that I had scoured my medical chart and saw all the scary words, without any real explanation.

My mammograms were in one of those viewing device things on the wall when I came in, probably for last minute review and to make sure they were targeting the right area.

I got up on the table and got into position.  It wasn’t comfortable, but it also wasn’t so bad.  What was bad, though, was when I was clamped into place, heard people come into the room, stand in the general area of the mammograms, talk … and I couldn’t hear what was going on.  My head was turned to face the wall, so all that I could see was a generic print or painting.

Tears began to stream from my eyes again.  I heard more talking but couldn’t make out what they were saying. Of course, the imagination goes to work.  “Are you trying to figure out which area you’re targeting?” I asked.

One of the doctors came over and spoke with me.  He saw that I was upset and a little while later, they had one of the staffers stand up near the table by my lower body to talk with me and to calm me down.  She placed her hand on my shoulder, which helped.  Why didn’t they just do that from the start?  I suppose they didn’t know that I would completely freak out.

I barely felt the lidocaine injection, but did feel a splash of cool water on my breast.  The resident mentioned the needle going in deeper and that I might feel something stronger, but I didn’t.  Phew.  Then some device sucked out the cells that they needed to study.  Again, I didn’t feel anything.  I should have felt comforted, but I still was very upset.

Dr. G. came around the side of the table near the wall, and he said that they got everything that they needed.  “How did things look?” I asked.  On a scale of one to 10, where one is nothing and 10 is not great, he said he thought my cells or the calcifications looked like a three.  That was pretty good, I guess.

I kept crying while the tech and some other staffers helped me sit up and tried to stop the bleeding in the biopsy spot.  One woman said, “Oh, there’s no bleeding.” But then, when I sat up, it started bleeding again.  “Do you usually bleed a lot?” she asked.  “Well, I’ve never cut my breast before,” I said.  Seriously, what kind of question is that?  It made me think: Oh, it must be a bad sign if the bleeding doesn’t stop right away, even though it probably didn’t mean that at all.

Steri strips, or really skinny thin white bandage-y material, were placed across the small wound.  I was given a cute little round icepack that could tuck into my bra, too.  The tech took a few more “soft” mammograms (no serious squishing) and, then, I was done.  This tech, Tara (I think), was the person who had put her hand on my shoulder and tried to comfort me when I was past the point of no return in tears.  It did help, even if the tears continued.

She offered optimistic words and said that what Dr. G. had told me (three on a scale of one to 10) was not something he said to everyone.  I suppose that made me feel a little better.  Results would come within two days.

I changed back into my clothes, and tucked the cute little icepack into my bra. Tara had mentioned re-freezing it and keeping it on my chest until the early evening. “I’m going back to work,” I told her, and that would make re-freezing tricky (and probably scary for co-workers).  “Really?” she said.  “That’s the first time I’ve heard that, but I’m not surprised with you.”  Wow. Even after all of that crying, she could sense some strength.  Interesting.

Back out in the waiting room, Elizabeth convinced me to not go back to work. It wasn’t that hard, considering I felt like I’d been crying for the last hour and could probably use some rest. And my freezer would be nice and close for the icepack.  I wasn’t really sore. That wouldn’t come until a week or so later, amazingly.  I even went on a yoga retreat that weekend, and didn’t feel any pain.  The post-biopsy instructions, after all, said no strenuous exercise for 24 hours.

Two days later, the day that I was leaving for the retreat on Whidbey Island, I got the call. “Benign,” said the SCCA staffer.  I figured it was a good sign that I didn’t hear directly from the doctor.  She said that they wanted me to return to clinic in about six months for another mammogram.  I felt so relieved, more than relieved.   Despite some recent heartache, at least I didn’t have cancer.  I have a healthy body that is strong enough to do yoga (do I sound like your yoga instructor?) and friends and family who love me, and a pretty darn good life.  Those are all things to concentrate on for the moment and in those future times when I struggle with the “what ifs” and “why didn’t this work out?”  Just remember:  HEALTHY.  BENIGN.   NO NEED FOR FURTHER STUDY.   I AM FORTUNATE.  AND GRATEFUL.  Yes.


Surf’s up, and my new abs o’ steel.

I didn’t get sad until I walked across the tarmac at the airport in Puerto Vallarta. But as Olivia and I approached the plane, warm sun beating down on our heads and shoulders, it hit me that this most restful and physically challenging week was coming to an end. I was heading back to Seattle, Wash. after a week in Sayulita, Mexico with 20 sort-of strangers who were now friends and/or friendly.

Beach scene from Mexico, island off Puerto Vallarta
Private beach not far from the blue-footed & other-colored booby sanctuary

This was my second time on one of Jen Isaacson‘s yoga retreats, and the second to Sayulita. Last year’s trip was rejuvenating, and transformational (as I described when we set our intentions on one of the first days), and I loved the sleepy yet vibrant fishing and surfing village of Sayulita.

This year’s trip kicked my butt, mostly because Jen was going full-steam and there were lots of enthusiastic yoginis who asked for more and more each day.

Last year, I was tired on Friday. This year, I was tired on Tuesday and had to skip a class to give my bod a rest. It also gave me the chance to catch up with Wendy, who was on the trip last year. We did the girl talk thing (talked about boys) and I was really happy to see her again. She’s young at heart like me, and she helped me find a fabulous necklace. (Thanks to Marta on that, too.)

Allen, Hannah, Luis & Jen on the boat ride

So, the yoga kicked my butt as well as the hills I trekked up every single day. We did so much ab work one day, and then went surfing, that I had to roll sideways out of bed that night and the next day because it hurt too much to sit up. I didn’t feel quite so wimpy when I heard some of the younger and super-fit on the trip say the same thing. I also brought back war wounds in the form of bruises on my hips from surfing. That’s not something I can write all the time, so it’s important to document. Yo.

The group this year was a lot more light-hearted and independent than last year’s group. The light-hearted brought laughter to every class and every party, and it was something I really appreciated.  I was baffled during last year’s retreat about the negativity that some people brought along for the ride, but I suppose Jen would just say that those people are just where they’re at, and it just happened to carry with it some negative vibes.

She said something great on one of the first days to help all of us let go of whatever we were carrying on the trip. She talked about being present, in the moment, and related it to when we were leaving Seattle and had our boarding pass and were getting on a plane. We knew in that moment where we needed to be, for sure.

It isn’t always easy to put aside stressful thoughts about work, or the boy who said he needed space and broke your heart a month ago (yes, girl talk) or where you are going to get coffee after class, but Jen provided encouragement during every class to help take my mind off things. I’m pretty sure others would say the same thing.

Humpback whale sighting (!)

One of my favorite memories from the trip & class was the day we were rolling backwards (like into plow) and then coming forwards pretty quickly so that we landed in a deep squat. I was among the last to get to my feet.  Luis was looking at all of us and maybe struggling a bit and he said, “Man, you chicks kick ass,” which meant he also needed to complete the task to join us chicks.  Okay, one of my other favorite moments with Luis is when Jen was having us do something with the block and he wasn’t digging the block, but she thought he just wanted a different size. Not this block!

Other great memories – connecting with Jodi and appreciating her positively infectious attitude; hanging with Teal and Olivia, the Capricorn (slow and steady wins the race) and meeting them on the bus ride into Sayulita; being around Allen’s goofiness, which was a big part of the light-heartedness we all enjoyed during the week; tequila bottle in class (yes, Jen, I encouraged Allen to put it near the altar); seeing that Alaina had Rufus Wainwright on her iPod; meeting Nichole, who works at Harborview & having that work connection; having a fabulous meal of mahi mahi and other amazing Mexican food at Alaina, Rose & Lauren’s place (group dinner was a fabulous idea); being around the dynamic duo of Amanda (sexy booty shorts – I need to get a pair) and Allison (sorry I missed the bartending night!); Hannah’s exotic and quiet beauty; Andrea’s fabulous hair; talking with the Aussies from Capitol Hill and appreciating their exuberance and back flips in the ocean, and descriptions of the Villa Amor (will I really be there next year on my honeymoon? It’s a thought); last meal of a small Mexican baby, I mean burrito, outside the P.V. aeroport with Allen & Olivia; learning that I’m not the only one struggling with relationship issues right now (duh); taco truck, surfing, blue-footed (and other color) boobies.

And I’m sure there are other things I am forgetting and leaving out details from the other beautiful people on the trip. But here are some thoughts for now, after my first day back at work, before time passes and Sayulita is too distant of a thought.  Namaste.


Twitter buds.

I am the pseudo … or maybe de facto social media expert in my office and run the Twitter account for UW Medicine News. I started tweeting nearly a year and one-half ago and we now have nearly 1,650 followers. I have fun tweeting, see breaking news before others on the team (Mark Emmert leaves the UW for NCAA!) and connect with reporters and partners in the community.Twitter logo - blue bird

That sounds so boring … but it’s true. And I like trying to be creative in 140 characters or less (incl. the condensed URL) while still relaying serious information/news. If Tom Paulson can do it on his Humanosphere blog, then I can do something similar on Twitter.

A few weeks ago, I was having a bad day.  Boy trouble, can’t make up his mind kind of badness. Tears the night before that wouldn’t stop.   @SeattleCCA sent a comment to me and asked if I was having a good day.  I needed to vent. I felt sad, hurt and I didn’t feel like covering up, even if @SeattleCCA was a complete stranger.

So I responded to @SeattleCCA directly, and said I was having a bad day. Boy trouble.  It helped just to vocalize it, instead of pretending. I could pretend with people in the office, after all, or among the strangers on the street. Megan wrote back, offered support and kind words. I felt silly and smart, because I had been truthful, and it just seemed right.  We exchanged direct messages the next day, when it was a better day for me and I knew, as corny as it might sound, that I’d made a new friend via the social mediasphere.

Megan and I met for coffee today before work. It had snowed and she wore a cute pink and white hat. I had my blue Anthropologie hat on (see Facebook page for details). We chatted about work, boys, Colorado, Texas and upcoming holidays. My boy story has turned around  although, boys being boys, one doesn’t always know what will happen.

We plan to meet up again and maybe grab other Twitter buds (@HutchinsonCtr @SeattleChildrens), too.   I’m of course still glad I shared what I did, even if it could have been totally awkward and even if it made me feel a little silly and equally brave. And now I have a new friend that I know I can count on when I need words of encouragement, advice about work, and stuff – and vice versa.  I’ve read that social media creates barriers and you lose the real people or connections. It only does if you don’t reach out, and keep it real. Yo.   🙂

Life Me Relationships

Vows, Modern Love & the NYT

I love the Sunday New York Times. I used to feel guilty when I couldn’t read most of the paper and I’d have to dump a massive pile of unread newsprint in the recycling. It’s that Catholic guilt thing again. But then I decided if I was able to read at least one article each week, it would be enough.   I set myself free and continue to enjoy such well-written pieces that amaze me, educate me and make me happy.  Pretty basic, I know … but it means a lot.

Case in point – Sept. 19 SundayStyles section. It had been lingering on my coffee table. Yesterday, I put my recycling project into gear and I’m glad this section didn’t make the cut. The Amy Ryan profile caught my eye at first and I thought it would be good bedtime reading. I then reconnected with Vows, the somewhat elitist weekly column that features a wedding. The Sept. 19 article profiled Ariana Rockefeller (yes, of the Rockefellers) and new husband Matthew Bucklin. Like other Vows features, the Rockefeller-Bucklin story relays a fairytale-like, sweet romance. Love lost, and found again. Missed connections. Long distance trials and tribulations. Love found later in life. You get the picture.

Vows used to be among the first, if not the first section I turned to when I opened the paper. It varies nowadays, and I’m not sure if that is because I’ve grown more cynical in the whole finding-true-love story, still angry at the last guy who broke my heart or if the stories perhaps depressed me because I’m still single. I do still believe in love, for what it’s worth, and perhaps the reconnection with Vows can help me remember that.

That whole “being single” thing brings me to Modern Love, a fabulous column where I hope, one day, my writing will appear.Modern Love essay collection I recently submitted my third essay to editor Daniel Jones and have been rejected twice. It almost still feels like victory to be able to submit a piece.

In that same Sept. 19 issue, there’s a great essay by Seattle-based writer Kathy Harding. I must find her and congratulate her on this beautifully-penned piece, “Diving deep to reach the surface.” Penguins, a chance meeting with a guy at a party … and then, it happens. Sigh. Another good reason and reminder to read the Sunday New York Times. And I haven’t even unwrapped the packaging on today’s issue.