EMDRUSERIOUS?!

Earlier this year my therapist … Yes, I have a therapist and I have been seeing her since the start of this year. For a myriad of reasons, but mostly the culmination of stressors in life resulting in me losing my ever loving shit over a pork loin (I mean, it wasn’t over the pork loin) and screaming like a wild animal and then sobbing off and on for several hours before slapping myself in the face twice (one on each side, DBT emotion regulation, hush) and beginning a low dose med.

So anyway, my therapist asked me if I would like to try EMDR. I remember thinking that it was just a trendy intervention and my coworker at the time referred to it as “snake oil”. I hesitated but also was curious about the process from a professional standpoint as well as personal. Would it help me to reprocess things that were impacting my life or way of thinking years later? Would I want to offer this as a service to clients in my professional practice? I decided to go for it.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy method that is used to resolve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain – basically allowing the brain to use it’s natural healing capabilities rather than to change the emotions, thoughts or behaviors that are the result of the distressing events.

I’m a little skeptical because it eventually involves a light bar and this whole thing is virtual because we are still in a covid-esque world. Is this gonna work? Is there anything that even needs reprocessing? Is it snake oil?

Fuck it, I’m in.

I’ll save you all the details, but we work on a timeline of things in life that were distressing. I’ve had a pretty good life so I was a little surprised at correlations I made between places I have lived, people I have known and all the food and body stuff. I remember when she suggested it, I said “Isn’t the for people with unresolved trauma?” and she said “Well your experience with obesity, and dieting and eating disorders has to have left a mark”

Damn… but, you’re right.

We explore different periods of life, highs and lows. We talk about diets (so many diets!), we talk about family culture and experiences and I call my mother at least 3x asking about different things I remember and making her feel bad or question instances herself. I jot down things that come up, I make connections between why I eat what / where / when and why I have done or not done certain things. Health clubs with my mom and grandmother as a kid, slim fasts and supplements and weight watchers in grammar school. A weird memory about a spotted pear on the front porch with my childhood best friend, rude comments people made, things I tried or did to alleviate the distress and emotional toll of living in a body I didn’t feel comfortable in. Some real deep dives on things that always seemed like surface level whatever, now felt like revelations. The more I talked, the more I heard what I was saying. The more sense things started making, even things like my lack of returning to places where I previously lived. Honestly, it’s wild.

Then comes the light bar and the reprocessing and installation.

One week she says, “okay, next on your timeline is the dinner dance dress”

I stare at her through the screen “What about it?”

She says “I don’t know, that’s all you said” and try as I might, I got nothing. I said “uhhhh I cannot remember what was distressing about that. If I had to guess it was being an almost 200 pound girl who couldn’t fit in the dinner dance dresses other girls my age were getting, but I don’t have any feelings about that”

aaaaaaaaand I was stunned.

I remember EVERYTHING, I can transport myself right back to almost any emotional experience in my life and I couldn’t do it. There was nothing. Logical explanation but nothing emotional. Nothing shameful. Nothing that felt like some distressing life altering experience.

“This is weird” I say.

She explains that when the brain reprocesses events, sometimes what happens is that later events are no longer distressing, because what was causing them to be that way has been reprocessed. Even as I am typing that I’m thinking how amazing the whole thing is. Then what usually happens when I take a drastic step or big leap, I wish I had done it sooner.

“I could have been unburdened years ago, EMDRuserious!?”

We laugh and she says, “so do you still think it’s bullshit?”

And I don’t, not even a little.

thankslosing

The only time in my life I have spent a holiday entirely alone was a Thanksgiving six years ago. It was the best and worst day. It wasn’t some sad story of being alone, but choosing to be by myself, for what could only be reflected on now as, the greater good.

Steve and I didn’t always have the chance to leave town for Thanks giving since one of us usually had to work Black Friday (please note this capitalized itself) Anyway, on this particular thanksgiving weekend, we were off and planning to head to his family for the weekend. A last hurrah of sorts since that Monday was my then top-secret weight loss surgery and my parents were coming into town for that. Emotional as I was about trying to see everyone and do everything and keep things normal, since I had no idea what was on the other side of Monday; we went through all the options. We batted around taking two cars, so I could come back early – or maybe my parents flying into a NY airport so we could all come back to Massachusetts together. We toyed with all the ideas until the nurse called a few days before to go over what to expect when I checked in. In that call she asked a very specific question about a cough, or cold or congestion and that if these symptoms were to arise they may have to postpone my surgery. Well, that sealed it, Steve was going, and I was not. It seemed too risky to subject myself to the coughs and sneezes or half sucked cookies from the mouths of children.

I’m fine staying home I say at least forty times; before finally believing it after fifty or so. We had a tearful goodbye (pretty sure the tears were all mine) with easily seven hugs on the way out where I insisted to help carry his stuff to the car. I was on the cusp of potentially changing my life (spoiler alert: totally did) and maybe a little resentful I had to sacrifice these last few days to do it. Which sent me into a resent spiral about all the choices I made or didn’t make and the influences I had (or didn’t have). After a brief pout/sob combo on the couch, I pulled up my (really) big girl panties and set out to get some groceries for one.

I wanted a normal thanksgiving dinner but scaled down to just me. I poked every fresh and frozen turkey in the store before settling on a turkey breast. I got a couple potatoes, some stuffing and of course, I got the food of the gods  – canned cranberry sauce complete with the lines. I got some wine. I watched bad tv and set the coffee table for my food funeral; my last gluttonous meal before I started liquids over the weekend.

The anticipation was thick and my mouth near watering…

The turkey was rubbery, the potatoes were weird and gluey as if I had never made them before – at least the stuffing was stove top, so you know it was great. I cried. Over food. By myself on the couch, at 278 pounds, I sobbed over the disappointment of this last supper. I cried while I scraped it into the trash. Tears flowed while I washed the dishes. Pretty sure I wiped my nose on my sleeve, drank more wine, and then plopped back on the couch and ate the innards of the pumpkin pie I made – because you’re not not going to make yourself a pumpkin pie on your last thanksgiving.

So dramatic. Last Thanksgiving.

I had no idea. I had no idea that the following year I would be able to eat the same delicious things I had always eaten on Thanksgiving, just less. I didn’t know that for all the years to follow there would be real turkey, brined by me and fluffy bowls of mashed potatoes and delicious stuffing (full disclosure: still stove top sometimes!) and wobbly canned cranberry. I didn’t know I would still be able to eat pie, and turkey-stuffing-cranberry sauce sandwiches on rye bread for days to follow. I wish I had known, to save myself the grief – I dubbed it Thankslosing: a small little pity party for all the things I thought I had to leave behind. Turns out everything I had to leave behind belonged there and helped me get closer to the life I have always wanted; self-awareness, a healthier body, which I don’t hate to look at; an improved relationship with food, a career path, a level of self-esteem I did not know I was missing and, of course, a heft of gratitude on days like this. Guess it was more like Thanksgaining.

Hello 911? I have no pants on …

Every since I was a fat girl crying all over myself in the office of a primary doctor in 2014, I have seen all of the same doctors. Recently I have been feeling like I wanted to change them up, but it’s really hard to find new ones and I am pretty comfortable with this lot since they have seen me for years and witness my blood pressure and weight go down, biopsied a nodule on my thyroid, removed excess skin, swabbed throats and lady parts, ya know, witnessed my whole transformation into this person, and I don’t know if I want to do all that again. So I’m slowly exploring and as things frustrate or disappoint me with one, I look a little harder.

In the meantime, a few months ago it’s time for one of the yearly visits with my gynecologist. I schedule the appointment, and a few days before they call to say she has to cancel because she’ll be in the hospital with a patient. A baby takes priority over a swab, understandable. We find a day and time that she’s available that also fits in between my internship, school work and my part time gig  during the week.

All set.

The day before?

They call to cancel and we reschedule for the following week. Another bout of moving and squeezing in and we’re good.

Then, you guessed it, that gets cancelled too.

The woman who calls about the appointment says that my usual doctor is just too busy but I could see the nurse practitioner. The woman pushes “everyone likes the nurse practitioner, she’s really nice” – I say I’m sure she is but I am just a little attached to the set of cold hands that I normally see there and I don’t want to. I mean, I don’t care, but I see this doctor once a year I feel like I should be able to see her, so I decline and reschedule again.

I’ve had to ask for two prescription refills because this is over the course of a few months. I’m finally going to my appointment the next morning, and that evening, after hours I get a call from “Unknown” and it’s a voicemail about having to CANCEL MY APPOINTMENT the next morning. It was a good thing it was after hours because I was so infuriated I just called the next morning and said I would take the next appointment with the nurse practitioner, but please call in my refill because you guys keep cancelling and I take a chemotherapy drug and I cannot get pregnant.

Appointment set, don’t worry they’ll put the refill in, see ya in a week.

Later that week I get a call from the office letting me know that my refill was called in but they won’t be able to do it again without an office visit, ‘SINCE YOU’VE CANCELED YOUR LAST FOUR APPOINTMENTS’ ………….. Woah, nope. I let her know the whole timeline of events and decide, now that I have been reprimanded (for a thing I didn’t even do) I’m going to let them call in the refill and once it’s in my hands I’m going to find a new office.

I forgot to.

The appointment was this morning so I decided to just go and get it over with, get my year of refills and get on with my life. Nurse practitioner, as expected, is very nice. She assured me there would be no more hiccups, and I almost might prefer her to my usual doctor. We chit chat a bit, she updates my history, does a little exam and then we’re gonna get the awkward part out of the way and I’ll see her in a year.

I’ll spare ya the details but just know she’s rubber glovin’ it and I’m half way into a backward roll when she says “scoot all the way down to me” and someone knocks on the door. I only hear a little of what is said and she comes back laughing and says “Uhhhh apparently someone smelled gas in the building so they called the fire department and they’re on their way”…

I laugh because she is and say okay and she continues “They said to evacuate…

…. immediately”

“Immediately?”

I look down at myself wearing only an ill fitting backward robe gown thing made of paper.

“Is there time to put on my pants?!”

“Yea, but really fast, because they’re on their way in”

ONLY ME.

I shimmy into my pants, adjusting them as I walk out with my shoes in my hand and my wallet in the other. After ten minutes of standing outside the building, half dressed in a crowd of people with two fire trucks, about seven firefighters come out and give us the all clear. Inside, I get myself  up on the table again and she says “All right, let me jump back in” … silence … laughter …I guess I’ll keep her.

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 Arthritis, 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.

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!

 

 

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.

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.

 

parking lot shuffle

Parking lots are one of my least favorite places in the world; people are walking anywhere they want, backing out of spaces without looking, leaving carts all over the place, whipping into spaces to beat someone else to it, staring at their phones while they stroll  (or drive!) and sometimes pushing their carts too close to your ankles.

The parking lot thing that has always bothered me most is that weird two steps forward-three hops back thing you have to do on your way to or from your car; when someone is letting you walk, but then they’re not … then they are … then not …  and nobody can decide what’s happening and everyone is watching to see what happens next.

Okay, maybe everyone isn’t watching, but it has certainly felt that way.

When you’re fat … well, I can’t speak for everyone, but when I was fat, I was sure that people were looking at me almost all the time. I’m sure they hardly ever were, but I felt eyes on me every time I left the house in an outfit I wasn’t sure of, or was eating in public, or oddly enough since it’s a positive thing, exercising. I digress …

I used to run as fast as I could (think: turtle speed) when a car was letting me cross; I didn’t want to give anyone a reason to honk at me or draw any unnecessary attention to myself. I’d usually make it to the other side virtually unscathed. Out of breath, a little sweaty or red faced, but no real embarrassment. As long as I didn’t make eye contact with anyone while trying to catch my breath on my way in to what always seemed to be the grocery store.

Today I came out of the store and a car was coming toward me, then slowed and waved me on. I sort of ran, maybe more like jogged across the lot to my car.

Wait, what?

I did it because it was raining and hailing and sleeting seemingly all at the same time and the wind had blown the hood of my coat off twice already and I hate wet hair more than anything – I was just trying to get to my car! But, yea, I jogged across a parking lot, effortlessly and without even thinking about it until I was pulling out of the lot and saw the old two step parking lot shuffle going on with someone else.

Of all the times I could swear someone was paying attention to me, or feasting their judgey eyes on my every move, I’m pretty sure nobody even noticed my personal ray of sunshine coming through the cold, gray day.

happenstance.

In one of my classes we had to watch a movie recently where a high school student from a mining town, who was the son of a coal miner witnessed the passing stream of Sputnik, and it changed his life forever.

The movie followed our discussion and reading on a man named Krumbolzt whose theory finds indecision about career paths desirable and sensible; giving us the opportunity to learn and grow from unplanned events. The movie was October Sky, and while I initially wasn’t that interested in the required watch, I really enjoyed it. The main character witnesses this event and becomes obsessed with making rockets, even when his father tries to stop him, or his school officials get in the way, and being based on a true story, we know that he eventually worked for NASA.

And it got me thinking.

How many things in my life are the way they are based on one single incident or decision?

(or lack of decision)

How different might things be if I didn’t jump on the unplanned opportunities or see or hear something that piqued my interest?

How far back can I think about things that I did, or didn’t do that built on each other? (The answer is pretty far back…)

When I was working at Uno’s sometime in 2000 or so, and all my friends were going to New Orleans and I opted not to go because I had a French midterm that week; and ended up chatting with a guy online who later became a long time on and off tumultuous relationship. Would we ever have met if I went on the trip? Could I have avoided years of annoying on again off again bullshit? Or would we have met another time and had a happily ever after (SO GLAD WE DIDN’T) …

When my family was moving to Wisconsin in 2002, and I was already beyond old enough to stick around in Jersey on my own, would I have chosen to do that if I didn’t have as shitty night at my waitressing job and get into an argument with said boyfriend before deciding I could do both of those things anywhere?

When I was in Wisconsin and hating it and decided to reply to an email I got from an old love interest, what would have happened if I didn’t reply? Or didn’t keep up the correspondence after one or two exchanges?

What if I hadn’t let the crappy attitude of my manager piss me off one Friday to the point that I used it as an excuse to quit my job I was starting to hate? Would I have still gotten in my car that Sunday morning and drove to Massachusetts to explore that rekindled relationship?

Would I still be a fat, over educated waitress who felt stuck and lonely in the Midwest? Would I still be in half ass-ed relationships with dudes who didn’t know what they were doing either? Would I still be answering questions about what I was doing working in jobs that didn’t require the backpack of degrees I’d had?

Would I be living in a different kind of what-if world? Where I was questioning all the positive things that I could do and change about myself and my life rather than actually doing it?

I have long been a person who doesn’t go with the flow, or follow traditions for the sake of traditions, and I gotta be honest, sometimes I wasn’t sure that was going to pay off at any point.

I’m not saying anyone should be reckless with their talents, or time or feelings but maybe just take a step back and see how things are. Not how you think they are, how they actually are and compare that to how you want them to be. They match up? Great! They don’t? Maybe gave your cage a little rattle. (Don’t let the rattle of your cage be silenced by the opinions of others, because there will be opinions!)

I was always saying that maybe something was a sign that I should (or shouldn’t) do a thing and my friends would think it was as stretch, or give me crap for believing in the “universe” … but as I’m sitting here listening to howling wind and a torrential downpour sipping my coffee and feeling pretty good, I don’t feel like it was a stretch at all. I can’t help but think that old sad, confused, seemingly directionless fat me would have to admit, the universe did not steer me wrong!