40.5, RA

Just over six months ago I turned 40. I was temporarily unemployed, buried in coursework and trying to secure an internship but feeling mostly optimistic about life. My parents had surprised me with a long weekend visit and treated us to meals and snacks and great company. I had no major life complaints. I mean, I couldn’t open the resealable Sargento cheese packaging without a struggle and I suddenly needed Steve to open what seemed like every jar or can, but mostly happy and complaint free.

Sometime around Halloween I experienced some aching in my wrist and hands that I attributed to more frequent driving since I had started driving for Lyft shortly before that. I used ice packs, heating pads, super duper extra strength tylenol, advil that’s generally off limits as per weight loss surgery and I got a little crabby about it. The pains and cramps came and went, sometimes I would wake up with them and they’d go away by lunch, sometimes they would linger all day, and invite my elbow or shoulder to join.

In November I clearly remember being bummed about how I felt and trying everything I could think of , including sleeping on my back so I didn’t crush my arms, or sleeping with my arms out straight when I slept on my side. Some nights Steve moved to the couch and so some mornings I felt even worse. I had definitely begun experiencing depression, which is not wholly unfamiliar to me, so one morning I got myself up and dressed and went to a nearby park. I walked about two miles around, up and down steps, listened to music, laid in a pile of leaves and confessed my depression to Instagram and felt like I was gonnna be just fine…. until 2 am when I was in excruciating pain now in my hips, legs, ankles, feet and I was home alone laying in bed crying and asking out loud what the fuck was going on and ice packing, heating padding and adviling myself back to sleep.

Before I knew it, it was December and now my feet hurt frequently, a lot like my hands. Both feet, in the heel and the ball and the arch, I was trying to figure out how to walk without putting pressure on any of those points. Well, I thought, you’re out of shape and maybe those sneakers aren’t a great fit. I tabled exercise and slowly anything that required me to exert much effort. I felt exhausted and sad and heavy and uncomfortable in my body. I started wearing the same pair of flats, to my internship interview, to Christmas with Steve’s family, to the grocery store all hoping nobody would notice how I was walking and that another advil might keep me looking normal. I’m not a hypochondriac, I truly believed whatever was going on was my doing, so I wanted to take all the steps to remedy it before I went to my doctor because there had to be something I was missing.

I put a lot of time into trying to determine what I might have done or what I was doing that was causing my body to ache and rebel in such a frustrating manner. I did a lot of reading, a lot of trying supplements and diet modifications; I gave up keeping protein bars in my bag or buying them at all, I considered going dairy-free, gluten-free, seeing how many things I could hide turmeric root in, I started drinking tart cherry juice, I read about inflammation, bought plantar fasciitis braces from an Internet ad, cried myself to sleep, took stairs one at a time at the pace of a sloth and finally, at the end of January, when I took my flats off and my ankles were swollen, and there were visible deep lines areound my foot from my shoes and my my feet were swollen and misshapen looking I called my doctor the next morning.

The appointment was three days later and I was so hopeful that he would have an answer, because after all my trying and suffering I didn’t. And I didn’t know how to explain what I felt to anyone, it was a burning, aching, sometimes restless, sometimes felt like what I imagine a broken bone felt like pain that produced anxiety in the simplest tasks – getting out of bed, getting into and out of the car, any number of steps with out without a handrail. I didn’t tell anyone really, unless they saw me and I (felt I) had to explain myself. Coworkers at my internship who would end up in the back stairwell I was trying to hide in while doing my  toddler steps up or down – and hold the door for me (so nice!) but also watch me and make me more aware that this wasn’t normal.

The upshot of the whole doctor appointment, if you read the last post was he ordered some blood and xrays and said come back in a week. They did images to check for arthritis and he said everything looked normal and he wanted to move on. I pushed for a referral; a podiatrist, a neurologist, a rheumatologist, anyone who might have a different view or specialized eye. He gave me the name and number of a rheumatologist and had me come back in 2 weeks. I made the appointment that day but they didn’t have an opening for almost 2 months, “ Have your doctor call us and we can connect him to Dr.’s secretary and maybe they can get you in sooner” so I tell my doctor this at our next meeting, and he says “You should be fine” and let me tell you, I wasn’t.

It was such a dark time in my heart and my mind and I couldn’t even talk about it. I started to question how much pain I was in, and others didn’t see it or know it because I still worked and interned and cooked and grocery shopped and wrote papers and did all the things I had to do. As my appointment got closer I started to feel hopeful and then anxious, what if he couldn’t help me, what if this wasn’t something anyone could identify? I got sad, rather than happy thinking about the summer; I can’t walk a mile on a rocky dirt road to go to the car rally we go to, I can’t sit on a plane for 5 hours to fly to Colorado, or a few hours to visit my family. I would think about going to the gym, even for the treadmill when I would feel less pained in the evening, but in the morning when I had to hoist myself out of bed with the help of my dresser and penguin walk to the bathroom, I gave up the dream on Zumba.

This is long and if you’re still reading, let me tell you, I’m okay. The rheumatologist was the right referral; it’s nothing I did or could have prevented, it’s an auto-immune disease. He said it was a great catch by my pcp and juvenile as it may be, I had to take that credit for myself.

Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthrist, what a strange thing to feel relieved by; an incurable, degenerative auto-immune disease –  but after six months, having my pain validated and labeled, and told there was treatment was the first time I felt hopeful in months. I got three prescriptions and he told me in a a few days I would start feeling better, and that a year from now I probably wouldn’t even remember the pain from this time. I asked if he thought I would have be able to Zumba again and he said “Totally” I called bullshit in my head but was grateful, and optimistic that, if he sees Latin-inspired dance routines in my future I can definitely live a normal life.

It’s been five days and I can’t believe the relief I have already started to feel, the way my mood has elevated, the way I just feel like myself again. I didn’t care that I chipped a nail on a can of seltzer, because I opened it myself, or that the first night I experienced a little insomnia because in my awakened stated I walked to the bathroom less like a drunk penguin. Maybe I’ll give that treadmill a try soon after all.

 

 

‘surgiversary’ is a made up word, but here we are

To be honest, I didn’t even think much about the anniversary of my vertical sleeve gastrectomy yesterday. Previous years have been loaded with comparison photos, follow up appointments and little celebrations treating myself to smaller size things or bites of foods I don’t indulge in often.

I woke up on December 1, 2014 and headed to the hospital with my boyfriend and parents. I remember weighing myself one final time before heading out (two seventy something) and being nervous we would hit traffic or something would derail my scheduled procedure. I can’t tell you much else. I remember waking up very tired, there was an incident where my catheter betrayed me and I wet the bed a bit, I barfed some black colored shit after my swallow test and I could barely stay awake any time Steve or my parents were visiting. I don’t remember any pain, and I left on the third day, but not until I could drink some sugar free carnation instant breakfast with a room temperature skim milk. I remember it was vanilla (yuck) and I waited until I could ask someone to track down any other flavor. Oh, and the drains were removed – weird (like, really weird) but not painful.

On this particular December first in 2018, I can’t tell you how much I weighed, I haven’t stepped on the scale in at least a week but my weight has been the same, give or take five pounds for the last few years. I had coffee and some bacon and a cheesy scrambled egg covered in everything but the bagel seasoning with a blob of ketchup. I did some homework, stayed in my sweats until late afternoon and then headed into the same area of the city for a comedy show. I had a cider, most of a slice of pizza from some joint on the corner of the steeet where we parked and then ate a piece (okay, two) of peppermint bark when I was back in my sweats. We stopped to look at Christmas trees because our prelit one ( also 4 years old!) moved to the dumpster after a few hours of tinkering with the lights. I didn’t really do anything special, and to be frank, that’s the very best thing about the whole process.

The one intentional thing I did was decide to revamp my Instagram account. For the last four plus years it has been riddled with comparison photos, nonscale victories, and all the weight loss surgery things. How many photos do I need to hold on to comparing a me that doesn’t look like me now, to another me that doesn’t look like me now? Or wondering if I would have lost the last twenty or so pounds I’d like to, if I kept doing Zumba like that post, or yoga poses in the other post. I can’t discount the role it (and all the people!) played in my journey and the success I’ve had but it just can’t be all I talk about anymore.

I was never trying to “get skinny”.  I wanted to be thinner, healthier, feel better, have more energy and be more active but I was so tired of obsessing over it for what equaled most of my life. I am all those things now, without having to drive myself mad and I still got to eat pizza. That’s something to celebrate.

forty.

In little more than twenty-four hours I will turn forty and I don’t give a fuck.

When I was turning twenty-five, I had only been transplanted in Wisconsin for a year or so from New Jersey and I remember panicking about that big fat scary number. I was sad about leaving my friends behind, about a new place, about everything. A few months before the big day I started seeing a therapist for the first time; I was terrified about getting older, having moved away from my then boyfriend, my parents getting older, finally finishing my undergraduate degree … I was thinking about all of us dying, about what I was doing with my life about how we even got here and everything getting scarier and closer to ending. I was a sad sack who did a lot of talking and only half the doing.

It’s laughable now because at twenty-five the worst things that had really happened in my life were some shitty friendships, less than stellar boyfriends, a series of years where I was starting college (again) and being fat.

I was almost twenty-seven when I thought I met the guy of my dreams and talked about marrying him. I was two days from twenty-seven when I drank entirely too much at a wedding after taking some pain reliever that caused a breakdown that landed me laying on the driveway, sobbing and that guy of my dreams and I breaking up on my birthday.

The rest of my twenties were only slightly tumultuous with a graduate degree, another half-assed relationship, a waitressing job I couldn’t stand but wasn’t ready to leave behind and happy hours and movies and lunch dates.

I panicked about my thirties which were kicked off with another waitressing gig, poor sleep habits, the deaths of my grandparents, the scale creeping uncomfortably over the 250 mark and plenty of other sad and anxiety producing things that I can’t even recall right now ….

because there are so many excellent things that happened ….

I reconnected with an old crush who kicks that dad jean wearing dream guy from my twenties ass, I moved (a thousand miles) away from my parents for the first time,  I had weight loss surgery and lost (& kept off!) over eighty-five pounds, I had some parts nipped and tucked, I got my shit together and applied to counseling programs like I wanted to do in my twenties, I fell in love with Vermont, I started going to rallycross events, I started buying myself flowers every week, I stopped over-explaining myself, I got over my fear of horror movies and am now obsessed with all the scary things, I learned how to make a killer latte, I embraced minimalism, I became obsessed with Zumba (I gotta go back!), I stopped saying yes to shit I don’t want to do, I went from making tacos without seasoning to having a slew of my own recipes, I started journaling, I started going for walks and hikes in the woods, I got better at following through on what I say I’m going to do, I took a week long vacation with my parents, I started this blog, I went to Colorado and cried when my plane landed and I saw the mountains (MAJESTIC!), I ate good food, I stopped apologizing, I laughed often and never passed up a craft cocktail. I learned things about myself (and others) that helped me grow and change and live what is in retrospect, definitely my best life.

I worried about all these milestone birthdays or getting older and it was for nothing. I can’t control getting older, only how I react to it, and if the next ten years are half as fulfilling as the last ten, I don’t give a fuck about turning forty.

have a seat.

I can’t believe it’s been a month since I sat down to share anything here. If it isn’t the email from WordPress to remind me that my annual billing was coming, it was definitely a conversation last night that brings me back.

We like art around here. Not mass produced posters from IKEA or Bed, Bath & Beyond or the generic bowls of fruit and flower arrangement art; creative, funky, dark, and let’s be honest, horror themed art. We have an acrylic Marion Crane piece and a canvas of Michael Myers in our bathroom and an amazing (almost complete) gallery wall of the best movie related art.

If you’ve known me for a while you might remember a story about a one-of-a-kind airbrushed welcome sign that has a skull and spiderwebs and a rose on it that used to make the old lady who lived upstairs cry every time she saw it. We took it down and it floated from room to room for awhile before landing itself in our storage closet.

I didn’t buy the piece, Steve did long before I even came to this apartment as a visitor and at that same time, or not, he also purchased an airbrushed toilet seat cover from the same artist. It was awesome. It was black and sparkly and the coolest thing in the then white bathroom with faded pink and white linoleum. The toilet seat itself cracked years ago and we couldn’t find one to match the cover, which ended up in storage and then eventually the trash. (Who keeps a toilet seat cover they can’t use?)

It was a mystery, the cracked seat. We had gone out somewhere and when we came home it was cracked and ready to pinch our thighs until we replaced it.

Every time a conversation comes up about Ruth (the old lady) we laugh about the crying from the skull sign, and then talk about the sign in general and Steve brings up the toilet seat. The mysteriously cracked toilet seat and how cool it was and what a bummer to have to have gotten rid of it.

Last night we were putting some things in storage and brought it back up to hang in the kitchen. Steve gets it up and we talk about how cool it is, and laugh about crying Ruth and the time my parents visited and it was on the bathroom door, clinking a bit every time you open or close the door and my mom saying at least a dozen times “you should put some tape on that!”. Then, inevitably he says “Remember that toilet seat cover I had? Man that was fucking cool”

And I cringe.

Silently.

I take a deep breath and then say the thing I had not said for the last six or so years since it had cracked.

“I broke it!”

“What?”

“I broke it, I was in the bathroom before we left and it cracked and I didn’t tell you”

He stares at me, kind of stunned

“Why wouldn’t you tell me? Why would you keep something so stupid from me?”

Silence… us staring at each other.

“I can’t believe you wouldn’t tell me, it’s like you lied for years about it, what the hell?”

I actually got tears in my eyes

“I feel so bad every time you mention it but I couldn’t ever say it, I never told anyone it even happened”

Now, he looks at me more quizzically

“You went out to the car ahead of me because I was in the bathroom, and it cracked … …. ….  I was too embarrassed to tell you that”

He laughs a little, “How did you break the seat though? Did you stand on it?” (so sweet!)

“Dude, I was almost 300 pounds, I had to lift my leg like this (lifts leg and adds in wiping motion) to wipe and I put all my weight to one side and it fucking cracked UNDER THE PRESSURE!!”

He laughs again. Kind of.

He walks over and hugs me. I’m half crying, thinking about all the times I’ve told a story about shitting my pants or the time I threw myself behind a boyfriends car so he couldn’t leave, or barfing on the altar in church. I never told anyone I broke a toilet seat. It wasn’t funny, and I like to make everything sound funny even when it was sad or painful … just couldn’t spin this one.

A weight has been lifted, literally! We joked about it the rest of the night and it still isn’t funny (yet) – but at least now I’m just a person who was so fat they broke a toilet seat, not a liar.

 

 

i don’t start fan clubs.

For a long time it could be said that I didn’t like anyone. I mean, that could still sort of be said I guess. Anyway, my reputation of not liking anyone sometimes made it seem like no big deal when I would actually speak up about a person.

If I commented that a new coworker seemed lazy or wasn’t up to par, it was brushed off as “Well, you don’t like anybody” or if someone was dating someone and I saw things about them that they didn’t see “Of course you don’t like them, you don’t like anyone!”

Commenting on traits that people have or had that seemed odd or suspect to me just seemed to others that I didn’t like anyone, or was being critical or judgemental.

Someone’s new boss a dozen years ago that was overly religious and hug-y and I said something seemed fishy, but was “wrong” because how could a man of god giving this opportunity be a bad guy. Fast forward to him reorganizing his company and milking that guy for all of his knowledge and experience and then letting him go without much of a warning.

The friend who meets a guy on the internet who is living with an ex girlfriend and something seems off to me, even more so when he proposes a few months later – but when I bring it up I’m accused of being unhappy for her since I had just gone through my own breakup. Naturally you can’t say anything after the fact when he leaves her and causes nothing but turmoil, because it’s insensitive and more than that, not helpful.

High school friends who like someone I don’t and then end up in a feud with them at some point in those four years. Co-workers who think I am too judge-y of new employees and end up bitching about them over drinks within months. My mom thinking I am too critical of someone before I get to know them – Steve thinking I’m being silly when I comment on seemingly disingenuous models and photographers looking to connect.

There have been a slew of incidents like this in my lifetime, so much so that I am sure you could poll everyone who I have ever known and they can recall a time when I cautioned against someone or expressed disinterest in a friendship/acquaintance. I’m not proud of the fact (okay, I’m a little proud) that I have been right more than I have been wrong.

I don’t know everything, or everyone, obviously – but – I do get a pretty good read right off the bat. It takes a few runs before people get it sometimes, though. Make no mistake, it’s a good feeling to be right about things, but not when it’s people causing drama or pain to others.

We can’t make other people see things or people the way that we do, no matter how much we think it might help in the long run. Everyone has to get there at their own pace, and despite my opinions, I am a firm believer that not everyone is for everyone, so it’s possible I’m wrong on occasion for any number of reasons.

The most recent disdain of a person I recall is someone who married into my family, and I didn’t want anything to do with her the minute I met her. Sloth-like, lackluster personality, I assumed she would eventually die off and be replaced by someone more fitting to my liking, and to what I considered the vibe of my family. I wasn’t completely quiet about it, but I kept it mellow, only really expressing my vehement dislike to those who had a touch of that same dislike, or no real opinion.

I spearheaded the planning of a bridal shower when none of her family or friends seemed to step up (should have been a clear indicator of her fan base, in retrospect) and I played the game – but not without “accidentally” dropping my bridesmaids gift on the way out of said shower where I clarified to someone that she had been a bit of a cheat, and donating my dress and gifted jewelry to goodwill the day I returned from the wedding (I’m bitchy, ask my mom!) I also snapped at both my mother and my boyfriend in a diner the morning of the wedding before crying about how not right this whole thing was.

This has got to be the only one I feel bad about being right about. I had hoped she’d prove me wrong, that I’d have to eat my words – years of scathing, dismissive and uninterested words that would taste terrible, but honestly, I would have been thrilled to be wrong.

I wasn’t. There’s a divorce in the making, she’s hacking into social media accounts, telling some tales and her true colors are shining through more than a Kodak commercial from the nineties.

I’ve mostly learned to keep it to myself, or a handful of people in that same circle. Smile and nod and let shit happen. Unfortunately that doesn’t help, either, so maybe my original approach was best.

Like I said, I’m not always right, so if I give you my opinion or impression of a person and you don’t want to take it, that’s no skin off my back.

I’m never going to say I told you so, but, chances are good that I told you so.

 

you can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna jae

A few years ago, at least six or seven by now, while eating lunch at work, I found a bone in the tuna sandwich I had made for myself the night before.

Not a little teeny splinter of a bone, a full-on, looked like a golf tee, solid as shit almost cracked a tooth BONE.

I threw the sandwich out and when I got home I wrote an email to the tuna company and let them know this happened and while it was gross and unacceptable, I’m moving on and hey maybe just check your tuna better so some old lady doesn’t choke to death in the future. They reply and couldn’t be nicer, explain how tuna is caught and all that stuff I don’t need to hear if I have hope of ever eating it again. Then, the coupons. Scads of free cans, money off, all the discount tuna you could ever want.

The envelope of bargains arrives a few days later, and Steve comments that it came from a company that wasn’t the brand of tuna we had used. Umm, what?

Yea, I emailed the wrong company about my fish bone blues.

The only thing to do? Email the right company and tell them what happened, leaving out, of course, the part where I blamed it on another company and made out like a tuna bandit.

You know what they say in their apology email?

Yea, you do …. LET US SEND YOU SOME COUPONS …

I decline, because I have plenty of free tuna coming my way, but they insist. So I express my gratitude and when the envelope shows up with an entire ocean of free tunas, I pack them and the others up and send them to my parents. Because honestly, I am never eating tuna again.

I think a year or so later I decided it was ridiculous to have given up something I ate pretty regularly because of a fluke. So, I go for it and make one of my favorite lunches; cucumber slices topped with tuna, bacon and a drizzle of Italian dressing. I got myself a plate of them made up, got comfortable on the couch for some trashy day time television and by the third one, I had forgotten all about the skeletal difficulties of the past.

Ahhhh.

I pick up the fourth one … mid chew, I’m like woah this bacon is over cooked.

NOPE.

FUCK.

BONE.

Not kidding, couldn’t make this shit up if I tried.

I couldn’t get past it and I scraped the rest of it into the trash.

What are the odds of that happening —- twice?!

I really haven’t eaten tuna since. Don’t show it to me, don’t talk about it. It’s bony and gross and I just have to pass.

Fast forward to today;  it’s a million humid degrees and I am not turning on my oven, or cooking on the stove longer than I need to. Steve says, “We have everything for those tuna boat things, right? Why don’t we have that for dinner?”

I stare at him, into his soul “Really??”

“Yea man, they’re good. ..and we haven’t had them since you were fat” he laughs (we use this as a measurement of time around here).

“They tried to killllll me. TWICE!”

He stares back waiting for me to realize I’m a bit absurd.

Fine.

I make the bacon, I make the tuna. I assemble them and I fearfully take a bite of the first one. Well, I put the whole thing in my mouth because I’m a monster but guess what??

BONE FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

So was the second one, the third and the fourth one I had.

I didn’t have more than that, but I think I would have been in the clear if I did. Looks like I’ve got ninety-nine problems but tuna fish ain’t one!

 

 

stranger cake

I never met a cake I didn’t like; chocolate, marble, carrot, angel food, pound, ice cream, funfetti, crumb, yellow, cheese, vanilla … I mean, I really like cake. Double like if it has frosting. In the rare case when someone doesn’t like the frosting (hi, mom!) I am happy to save it from the a trip to the trash and plop it onto mine.

Yep, definitely never met a cake I didn’t like, except for stranger cake.

Stranger cake is a term I started using when I worked in restaurants and families or groups would offer their leftover birthday or celebration cake to the staff. My coworkers would flock to the free cake, but not me. Sure it’s cake and probably delicious, but it’s from strangers.

Not professional bakers who are strangers to me, or a food establishment where I don’t personally know the people.

Strangers who could have sneezed on it, not washed their hands while making it, or even worse, have half a dozen animals who climb all over their kitchen while that potentially scrumptious treat is exposed to cat tails and sandpaper tongues.

It’s a weird thing that has always been one of my hang ups.

Potlucks? Don’t invite me.

Leftovers from a dinner party my mom went to …Who made them? Have I met them? Do they have pets?

That Amish friendship bread that has to sit on your counter for a week – from a random customer who always talks about her cats and pet bird? I’m all set.

Church run spaghetti dinners and pancakes breakfasts? Happy to donate but skip my plate.

Full spread at a cookout or party? You’ll find me quietly asking who made what before I even know what the food is so I can decide what makes it to my plate (or not).

If you know me, you probably already know this weird thing. If you don’t, I may divulge it at a totally inappropriate time. Say, when you are out to dinner with me after only knowing me a few days and a kind stranger brings you a piece of birthday cake because your group sang to her daughter. I might, I don’t know, shout at you to not eat stranger cake, and say that could have been made with unwashed poop hands while you have a mouthful of it (sorry, Andrew!). Sometimes I get lucky though and someone else has an issue with community food too, and I don’t have to feel [so] weird.

It’s a weird thing to be a foodie, such a lover of snacks and treats and have this barrier that sometimes keeps you from them. It was even more weird at almost three hundred pounds. Believe me the last thing I wanted to ever do was turn down cake.

brave-ish

A few months ago, after hearing my tale of woe as the struggling fat girl turned weight loss success story, the woman I was speaking to sat, mouth agape, finally saying “How brave!”

In my memory of this afternoon I cocked my head like a dog does and she clarified “to go through all of that, just to be happy in your body, that takes bravery.” I smiled and shrugged so I didn’t comment in a fashion that seemed ungrateful for her acceptance, or her pat on the back.

Brave is hardly the word I would use to describe my experience. Without sounding like a poor me, self-deprecating kind of gal, I have never walked into a burning building to save anyone, battled cancer or worked in a job where I put my life on the line every day in a way that would show some kind of bravery. I was fat and now I’m not, I don’t think there’s anything brave about that.

I forgot about this instance until recently, in two separate conversations with other losers who have also had plastic/skin removal surgeries, I admitted that not only did I not feel brave about the whole thing, but in fact, kind of sad.

Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled to no longer be battling a weight nearing 300 pounds, or questioning every piece of food I put in my mouth. I don’t weight myself two and three times a day after eating or going to the bathroom, I’m more comfortable in my skin and body than I have ever been but I don’t see that as an act of bravery. Necessity, maybe. Cleaning up a mess, definitely.

In one of the conversations where I am talking about my occasional lackluster feelings toward my arm scars (and maybe, depending on the day, the results in general), I say – that in my frustration about this, I am more mad than anything. Mad that I was even in a position to need all the things I’ve done or had to do to have a “normal” body. Mad that maybe it could have been prevented some how, mad that obesity is a thing that happened, or I let happen to me. Mad that in the last four years I missed a total of  14 weeks of work to recover from surgeries. Mad about how many hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars disappeared from my bank account to fully cover one of those surgeries, and part of the others, and co-pays and pain pills and protein bars and vitamins. Mad when I think about what things and experiences could have taken place in those weeks off or with that money.

Maybe, swimming in my usual sea of unpopular opinions, I don’t think of the word grateful to describe how I feel now, but that doesn’t mean I am not. I see other weight loss surgery patients, or people who didn’t have surgery agonize over their loose skin and how they wish they could afford it, and I know that I am lucky I was able to do any of these things. I have gotten messages from people asking about the process for weight loss surgery itself, for the future, because they don’t have insurance right now, or a job that allows them time off.

I know that I am fortunate.

I revel in my size medium shirts, my ‘normal’ store clothes shopping, my belly fat and floppy arms not holding me back from things. I still do a double take when I see myself in photos taken by others or see my reflection in something new. I am proud of my transformation and the correlation between my confidence and accomplishments is not lost on me. The life I am living now feels like the one I always wanted to be living and I am in awe of that all the time.

I’m more than happy to field emails and phone calls from other patients going through the same program at my hospital, and I tell them in no uncertain terms that I would do this again and again to change my life for the better.

I don’t regret the decisions or the results, in any way. I just sometimes wish it wasn’t something that even had to happen. Who knows, maybe there’s a little bravery in admitting that.

I am.

I haven’t posted anything here in a few months, and I may not have written anything that wasn’t a paper or discussion board response in just as long. I am writing this from a dorm room in Colorado where I am for the week as part of my Counselor Education Program. One of my daily sessions is group therapy and today we were given prompts to write a “poem” that we shared and discussed, so I thought I’d make that the meat of this post, to sort of bring me back to this blog.

I am

I am open and strong
I wonder what comes next
I hear music everywhere
I see something good in everything
I want to be the best version of myself
I am open and strong

I pretend to know what I’m doing
I feel happy when I think about the fall
I touch the lives of others
I worry about everyone
I cry when I think about losing loved ones
I am open and strong

I understand that I determine my worth
I say that the time will pass anyway
I dream about everything
I try to make others comfortable in my presence
I hope that I give off the vibes i intend
I am open and strong

Goodnight.

irony.

A couple of months ago I sat in the very same examination room where I had first met my primary doctor a few years prior. I was here for my yearly physical and I had been having some headaches, which I wasn’t overly concerned about but mentioned, since I had a dizzy spell and fallen the week before.

It was no big deal, and in retrospect, probably my own fault. I was handing out prizes during a Q&A session at the weight and wellness expo I was participating in and did a sort of squat to not be a distraction and ‘walked’ backwards in my chunky heeled shoes in said squat position until my feet went out from under my throwing me down and back into a table where I hit my head and bruised my arm.

Embarrassing, but I survived. So much for not being a distraction.

Anyway, here I am with good old Potter telling him about the previous year and everything looks good and oh what’s this about headaches. He immediately insists on a brain MRI, which makes sense because he is old school and very thorough, and he leaves to let me get dressed. When he returns he says that he noticed a lump in my throat and could he check it out. Oh, what, not just an MRI? An ultrasound of my thyroid now?

COOL.

I remember leaving the office and my eyes were teary, but not because I was scared, but because, THIS is how my luck worked. Fat for years without a single real health concern but some high blood pressure and snoring, and the taunting of the onset of diabetes… lose nearly ninety pounds, have excess skin removed, have consistently normal blood pressure, take all your vitamins, need no medications for anything but oh hey your brain and your thyroid might wanna fuck shit up for ya.

Please hold.

Also, please postpone that arm surgery you have scheduled temporarily, it’s not a priority if, you know, there’s a tumor.

I had the MRI which I hope to never have again because one Ativan was no match for that tube and the headphones they gave me barely covered the noise and I swear I was in there for three hours (it was 30 minutes, maybe). I kept thinking, what if someone comes in and shoots the place up and I’m in this tube and can’t get out and calm down you watch too many movies.

I also had to have the ultrasound of my thyroid, which was no big deal at all, except they kept asking me to stop talking. Story of my life.

The results of the MRI come back with no issues regarding my brain. Looks like I have full sinus cavities, and a partially empty pituitary something or other which means there is an endocrinologist in my future. Okay, sure.

Oh, and that lump he felt? A three centimeter nodule on my thyroid, we’re gonna need to biopsy that. Wait. What? Why?

To determine if it’s cancerous.

“Do you think I have cancer?”

“I have treated patients with thyroid cancer for over thirty years and they’re all still alive, so let’s just get that biopsy scheduled.”

”So, you think I have cancer.”

:deep grandfatherly sigh:

“What I think doesn’t matter without the biopsy”

”And, my arm surgery?”

”let’s just wait on that…”

”..because you think I have cancer…”

”You’re one of my favorite patients, you know that?”

He proceeds to give me his personal cell phone number so I can text him later that day or weekend when I inevitably think of something I need to know or forgot to ask.

I have the strangest moment of my life, as if I’m watching a movie and I wonder if I have cancer. What the fuck. Is that why I have these headaches, is it related? This lump in my throat feels like a soccer ball and no, I don’t have any pain when I swallow, right? I’m hyper aware of this teeny mass and I just cry thinking about how fucking sad it would be if I died.

How morbid, I know.

How ironic though, that I’m finally in a place where I feel good, I feel like my life makes sense, I’m ambitious in a way I never was, I’m doing things, I’m happy …. and maybe I don’t get to be after all.

I’d be a damn liar if I didn’t say I spent the rest of the afternoon laying on my bed weepy and overthinking all the possibilities like always.

I’m extra emotional because we’re going to my parents for Thanksgiving a few days later, I cry about that. I cry about what Steve will eat for dinner when I’m dead, who will know how to make his coffee, will he be too sad to move on, will my parents survive this possible tragedy… what will people say about me when I’m gone, do I need surgery …what will happen … am I overreacting, probably, what if I’m not, what the fuck kinda shit is this anyway.

Then I cry about all the people I’ve known (and not known) who had afternoons like this being scared or feeling sorry for themselves and not living to tell about it. Then I cry for their parents, and their Steve’s and I text my cancer riddled actively dying neighbor who talks me off the ledge and offers me some xanax.

I get it all out of my system and stop feeling sorry for myself for something that’s nothing so far.

I have the biopsy,  which is done by needle, and I hope you never have to have one. They took multiple samples with a long thin needle and I watched it on a screen, neck bent, not allowed to talk (you’re killing me here!) wondering what the different colors and flashing things meant. The same woman who did the ultrasound resting her hand on mine to keep me calm, she knew there was something there before any of us.

I get a phone call the week before Christmas, 2 weeks before my arm surgery and it’s Potter. “Merry Christmas, it’s benign! You don’t have cancer”

I’m driving and I’m so relieverd, I cry. “And I can have my arm surgery?”

”Why would you want to have arm surgery with full sinus cavities? Make an appointment with an ENT first…”

I see an ENT a few days before my brachioplasty … she hardly seemed concerned and I said “Dr. Potter insisted…” she prescribed some Zyrtec and antibiotics “That makes sense, he’s old school.”

Like I said, he’s thorough. And two-for-two on saving my life, I’d say.