Day 8 of 40: Turn my world upside down

5 steps to headstand from lulu lemon

90 minutes of yoga, much needed after a busy week and feeling sluggish today.  KT started us off with a form of cleansing. We moved our warmed up hands from below our chin, up our face and over our head, like a veil, she said. We put slight pressure on our eyes (eyes closed), massaged the mandible and loosened up the face.

Inversions – a parallel with life, when things get turned upside down all of a sudden. I’d never thought about a headstand that way before. Lots of core, and some flow. Backbends. Music you could dance to, in a ballet kind of way, which I love. A wonderful class. Much needed – did I already say that?

Tomorrow: Swimming challenge. And, yes, I’ve been talking about that since day 1.

Day 7: A broken shoe still works

Mary Jane missing a part

More walking on the 7th day. And proof on the left that the distance was far enough to cause some damage. My friends Alex and Nathan got married yesterday afternoon. I left work early and despite planning ahead to wear my black patent leather Dansko clogs to the hotel and bringing my higher platform-y Mary Janes, I decided that I could hoof it the whole way from my office (8th & Stewart) to the W Hotel.

I’d recently repaired my old-ish Mary Janes, applying a nice layer of super glue to the sole of one shoe to ensure the platform was secure. It was secure, just not enough to endure a brisk 30-minute walk to the W (made longer because I forgot the W was on 4th and not 1st), including a few steep hills. Sigh.

As luck (?) would have it, both platforms broke off by the time we left the courthouse. The second platform came off in the middle of the street, like a scene from a movie. I was fortunate enough that even without the platforms, the shoes still had a bottom and you couldn’t really tell what had happened. The ruby red with a small bow Franco Sartos would have been a better choice. (Note to self, and do I need to say that when I’m blogging?)

At least 30 minutes of walking in? Yes, definitely. And dancing after dinner at Pink ultra lounge downtown. The DJ didn’t take requests, though he didn’t say that. A pet peeve of mine, especially when celebrating a wedding. We heard that Pink is closing this weekend, actually, and that’s not surprising. The company (wedding party) was fabulous and we had tons of fun as a result. But the bartenders weren’t very friendly or very into customer service. I just hope Alex and Nathan had a great night. I think they did.

Next up: Yoga at Samadhi. 90 minutes of a workout today. Looking forward to it.

Days 5 & 6 of 40: Walk on, grin and barre it

Andie Hecker on JuicyCouture.com

First, it was skin care. And now, my social life is cramping my exercise routine. But, wait, perhaps instead… my social life is helping me reframe my exercise routine. I also now realize that on many days, I can easily meet the 30 minutes goal.

Yesterday, I had plans to meet friends after work to watch the IU-Purdue game. Eric, a friend I’ve known since high school, was in town for training with his job (Microsoft).  Celeste, a friend I hadn’t seen for awhile and who is also from Indiana, was meeting us along with Eric’s friends from work.  I had brought clothes to work to change into and climb up some hills as a break during the day, but that didn’t happen.

Luckily, the walk from the bus to the bar (Buckley’s in Belltown) was a good 15 or 20 minutes, at a brisk pace (X two, since I caught the bus home at the end of the night, too).

Today, I had a non-rehearsal rehearsal dinner to attend shortly after work. I took yoga clothes to work but the class in my building is no longer happening. Drat. But I also had a dentist’s appointment downtown in the morning. Walk there and back: Approximately 30 minutes. And instead of yoga at home before dinner, I tried a 15-minute DIY barre workout from Daily Candy and Andie Hecker, celebrity trainer to Miranda Kerr, Ginnifer Goodwin and Natalie Portman. Hecker’s Ballet Bodies site is inspiring photog-wise and perfect for me, the one who is craving dancer’s legs.

So there you have it. I’m still on target for the 40 days. I’m a little worried about tomorrow, since I am leaving work early for a wedding and am not sure I’ll have time for a workout during the day. Plus, I have to haul the party dress to work. Do I want to also bring workout clothes, or can the workout be the dance party after dinner? We are also walking to the courthouse for the wedding – could that perhaps be a 30-minute walk, total? See – social life dilemmas hit me once again. I have a feeling I’ll be ready for the weekend, and some actual gym time. Short-term goal: Finally hit the pool.

Day 4 of 40: Change o’ plans

Tennis shoes, from charmofcharleston.comThwarted with my swimming plan, but that’s OK.  I had a laser treatment today for my face, and hadn’t planned ahead when starting the 40 days that this would interfere with swimming.  Such is life.  Laser treatments and skin care are important to me and are perhaps part of the reason why my own father doesn’t realize my age. In all fairness, I don’t remember his age either.

Swimming was out, and yoga probably wasn’t a great idea. My left knee was aching a bit when I went to bed last night, and I realized that I probably should have iced it after the yoga, stairs, yoga routine on days one to three of 40.

But walking was in. And I needed to go to the store. I felt really cold on the way home, even though it was in the mid-40s today. Could I drive to the store and walk somewhere, and still get at least 30 minutes of exercise in? Probably not, and gosh, how wimpy of me. As one of our researchers would say, it’s all about the right clothing. It doesn’t matter what the weather is. A long-sleeve shirt and fleece jacket with hat did the trick. And gloves. iPod on Father John Misty to reminisce about the awesome concert the other night.

In the end: 40 minutes or so of walking. Groceries procured, lunch ready for tomorrow. And another look at the latest episode of Girls.

Up next: Most likely another walk. I’m meeting friends after work to watch the IU game.

Day 3 of 40: Santosha

90 minutes of yoga at Samadhi with Steve. Backbends on blocks, tilted against the wall. First with the hands (easy enough) and second with the blocks. I felt too shaky and then Steve decided it was better to have the blocks on the floor. We were the guinea pigs and it was an experiment.

Strength moves and core work. Triangle, without putting weight into the hand reaching for the knee, calf or the ground. I felt slightly stronger than even just a few days ago, though I couldn’t do the move with two blocks where I hold my entire body weight up.  Only one foot felt like moving.  Another goal to aim for, in addition to the dancer’s legs.

108 chants of Santosha near the end of class. Contentment, or satisfaction. I felt distracted at certain times, thinking about work or “sorry, I can’t make it” or reluctant ends to a friendship when I should have been breathing into it.  I know it’s part of the process.

Day 4:  Plan of the moment is swimming, which gets back to yesterday’s theme. And also moves from class tonight. Face down on the mat, left arm forward, right leg back and up, look over your left shoulder. Keep swimming.

Having it all: What does that mean?

I’ve never taken a pregnancy test, and won’t have kids at my age unless it’s through adoption or a future boyfriend’s slash partner’s slash husband’s existing kids.  I felt distant from the whole “women having it all” debate from a few months ago because, let’s face it, I am an outlier in many ways:  I’ve never been married, don’t have children and will never “have it all” in the eyes of some people.  Sometimes those eyes are even my own.

Continue reading “Having it all: What does that mean?”

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.

Don’t stand, don’t stand…

A local version of inappropriate yoga guy was in my class the other night.  I placed my travel mat on the floor (all folded up) and went to place flip flops in the back of the room. Yoga guy looked around, smiled and placed his mat almost on top of my travel mat.

I moved my mat away from his mat, and class began to fill up a little more. He then moved his mat even closer to mine, as if this was a joke. Creep-y is all I have to say.

I moved a bit further away and didn’t make eye contact. He creeps me out a bit, I have to say. My friend, Chris, said he’s just a nerdy IT guy. But I don’t think it gives him the excuse or right to totally invade my space at class and think it’s funny to put his mat on top of mine. Namaste.

more yoga thoughts, you oughta know

I recently took an extended yoga class with Wade Morissette and yes he is the brother or Alanis (twin brother, in fact).  I learned about the class through a S. Lake Union list serv I’m on and as soon as I saw it, I thought … who would not want to go to this class?

Wade was fantastic and it was my first time at Be Luminous Yoga (a fabulous name, I must say). It’s a hot yoga studio and, unlike Urban Yoga Spa in downtown Seattle, it’s not overly stinky from sweat and steam.  I kid you not – UYS was not the best experience, despite a great instructor in Jennifer Isaacson.

So … Wade talked with our small class (maybe 10 people?) for the first 30 minutes … about the flow of the class, what we would work up to (triangle was one man’s choice) and his philosophy about yoga.  It’s clear he is a serious student/ teacher of yoga and he was very peaceful, zen and all that.

The practice was amazing and challenging, 2.5 hours in a hot yoga studio. I didn’t know it was hot yoga, which made things tricky towards the end of class, after sweating for two hours. It also caused me to feel a little nauseous after doing a full-on backbend towards the end of class. I skipped the second one and felt much better.

Wade ended the class with song and played the acoustic guitar during the savasana or corpse pose. It was peaceful and cool.  For the first time in a very long time, I was almost completely able to clear my mind of all thoughts except for what was going on in class. Maybe I was distracted by the heat. No matter what the reason, it just felt pretty amazing. I would recommend Wade to anyone who enjoys yoga and wants a challenge.  The side bonus? It made me revisit my Alanis CDs and download the MTV live/ acoustic CD. She’s good stuff, for sure. And what a cool brother/ sister combination. Namaste.