Family life, Paleo-ish eating and Coping with Chronic Illness

Archive for October, 2015

Mom Lessons and Taming the Beast

There are two kinds of people in this world.  The first kind of people are the ones who don’t notice they lost.  The second kind of people are the ones who are normal.

Scott likes to say that I am a wolf in sheep’s clothing when it comes to my competitive nature. It’s a well known fact that there is no such thing as a minor competition for Scott.  If it’s a contest, he means to win. I’ve been very outspoken over the years about Scott’s overzealous competitive streak.  I’ve even given him a few lively and convincing lectures on the subject.

It took Scott a while to figure out that I had a competitive streak of my own.  He’s figured it out now.  He’s really figured it out.  He figured out that all my lively lectures were always given after he just beat me at ping pong, or tennis.  I really HATE being beat. Especially by Scott.

Losing burns.

Scott and I have raised competitive children.  I’m not sure there was another possible outcome.

This weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about our family’s competitive nature.  Our boys and some of their teammates competed in a national wrestling tournament against top wrestlers from states all over the country this past Saturday.  There was some winning.  There was some losing.

The boys have spent a lot of time  improving their wrestling skills over the years.  I’ve improved my skills too.  I’ve improved my fan skills.  Good fan skills take practice.  Good fan skills require denying your primal instincts.  When my boys wrestle, I have learned to resist the urge to draw attention to myself with high pitch screams (mostly).  I don’t offer my boys nonsensical pointers like, “Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle”, “Squeeze!”, or (my personal favorite I heard from a mom sitting in her heavyweight high school son’s corner, while watching her son attempt to pin his opponent), “Come to Mamma!!!”  That one should get you kicked out of the gym.

I’ve learned to avoid these missteps. These missteps are  not easy to avoid when adrenaline is causing your blood to crash through your veins, into your limbs, tricking your primal brain into believing you need to help your baby cub in a fight for his life.

Wrestling has taught me  to master my frantic impulses; I’m becoming quite an impressive fake.

When my boys lost this weekend, I smiled.  I said nice things.  I talked about what we could learn, and how we can’t win them all. Then, I sat quietly,  listening to my pulse beat furiously in my ears, and running through a string of cuss words in my head, while telling myself I couldn’t possibly HATE anything as much as I hated wrestling.

THAT is the beast you don’t let out.

I think the reason I thought I wasn’t competitive all those years, is because even though my brain gets hijacked by the beast, I recover quickly.  I experience mental anguish after a loss, but the anguish is temporary.

At this weekend’s tournament, I was talking to another wrestler’s mom.  This was her son’s first big tournament.  He was excited to be a part of something so large.  He wanted to do his best.  He wasn’t expecting to win the tournament.  This boy’s mom was telling me what she and her husband were observing about her son’s experience with this tournament.

This boy’s mom said she loved watching her son decide on his own to compete at this tournament.  This tournament was not on any school calendar, and participation was voluntary.  She told me that she and her husband took delight in hearing their son pull out of the driveway in the morning while it was still dark. He wanted to get some training in, and meet with more experienced wrestlers in the wrestling room, so those wrestlers could teach him things he didn’t know.

This mom said she felt so grateful that her son was choosing goals for himself, developing a plan for how to reach his goals, and following through with his plan to get there.  This mom also told me she would never get tired of watching her son sit in his teammates’ corners, offering his help, and cheering for them.  This mom’s son went 0 – 2 at the tournament, and then he was done.  But, this mom asked me what more could she want for her son than all the maturity and personal development he was gaining through this experience.

I agreed.

As this mom was talking about her son’s experiences, she was starting to tear up; she was so moved.  I got choked up just listening to her.

After the fiery burn of our  sons’ losses died to a small flame, and then was extinguished completely, I started to think about our own lessons.

Like a lot of other young athletes, our boys have spent hours, days, weeks and years of their lives working towards their goals.  A part of almost every day of their lives is devoted to making them better wrestlers.  Their imaginations and private thoughts are consumed by dreams of what they plan to achieve.  They don’t have what they want yet, but trying to get there fills their lives with meaning.

Losing is part of getting there.

Our boys were disappointed after their losses.  By the following morning, the boys had more plans. They had fresh insight into what adjustments they could make, and an idea about how to make those adjustments.  They have places they want to go.

I’m so grateful that the boys have places they want to go.  I hope when they get there, they’ll think of NEW places they want to go.  Because, I think trying to figure out how to get where you want to go is providing my family with more engagement with a meaningful life than they realize.

But they’re not entirely satisfied. And, I think a little dissatisfaction is good.  I mean,  not the kind of dissatisfaction that deflates our spirit.  The kind of dissatisfaction that gets you up in the morning, making plans for how to be better than you were when you went to bed.

I can’t flip the off switch on our family’s competitive nature, any more than I can change the color of our eyes.  We have to identify our competitiveness, embrace it, tame it, and use it to become our best selves.  And, really, it’s so much fun.  Like my wrestling mom friend,  I don’t know what else I could ask for.

Zeke with dad

He’s 9 feet tall, Dad. Any ideas?

ed's wrestling stance

Wrestling stance.

team at pre season



Blog Rehash and Nutrition Preachers

Hi.  Where you been?  I’ve missed you.

I didn’t know what to expect when I published my blog about my little health scare.   When I was writing that blog, I had that familiar sort of in-my-body, sort of out-of-my-body feeling I get when I’m writing as a reflex.  When I’m in that weird place, I certainly want to write, but mostly I just HAVE to write. I don’t notice time passing; I don’t want to eat, talk or to be distracted until my word well runs dry.

I felt compelled to share my last story, and I’m not looking back. But, I embrace truth.  The truth is, I made myself a little uncomfortable with that story.  I used the word “breast” a lot, didn’t I? You know what?  I’m not generally a big user of the word “breast”.  Actually, I try to avoid naming private body parts out loud, if I can help it.  I’m repressed, and I like it that way.

So, I flayed myself open with that story. Once the story was published, I felt spent.  Exposed.

Bloggers can keep track of how many people are viewing their blog.  You know where this is going, right?  Yep. I’ve never had more people read one of my blogs than this “breast” blog.  I watched the numbers keep climbing higher and higher.  I saw those numbers, and I felt grateful that anyone would spend their precious time reading words I wrote.  I also felt embarrassed. I thought, “It will be just my luck. That dumb blog will go viral, and the whole world will be reading about breasts.  My breasts.”

The blog did not go viral. The blog probably did not even register as a tiny droplet of water in that great blogosphere pool of blogs. People on the interwebs talk about breasts all the time.  Mine are not breaking news.  Whew!

Okay…I’m done now.  I just wanted to tell you how I felt weird about using the word breast, by continuing to use the word breast.  We get each other, don’t we.

I’ve been blogging for more than two years now.  That’s a lot of blogs.  People sure can change in two years, can’t they?  Two years ago, I was a meth addicted prostitute, living in the streets. Remember that?

Naw. That’s not true.  I’m just trying to make my blog go viral for real.  I’m gonna need more than the word breast to make that happen.

Two years ago, I was a busy, working mom with three kids and a husband.  Wow!  Still am.  Maybe things don’t change as much as I thought.

One thing that did change is this.  I used to proselytize about nutrition.  Paleo, in particular.  In fact, I still have “Paleo” in the title of my blog.  I don’t write about Paleo now, and have little interest in sharing what I know about Paleo anymore.

Here’s what I learned from my Paleo preaching days.  People do NOT give a crap.  Force feeding your ideas on nutrition down people’s throats is the perfect way to win the most annoying friend on Facebook status.  I know, because I won that award.  The ideal time to share your ideas on nutrition with your friends and family is when they ask you to share.  Otherwise, keep her zipped, yappy.

One day soon, the word “Paleo” is coming out of my blog title.  Prepare yourself.  I know It’ll be kind of a sad day for you.

I’m telling you all that, because, naturally I need to lower your defenses before I talk to you about nutrition.  And, you thought I wasn’t clever.

I just wanted to say this.  My family will tell you that I’ve always been a bit of a nutrition junkie.  Nutrition is very interesting to me, and I spend a lot of my free time reading about nutrition.  When I thought I had cancer, I was a little surprised that all the good food choices I have made over the years didn’t offer me protection.  Sure, lately I wasn’t as rigid as I was when Eddie was very sick.; still, relative to the rest of the world, I thought I was doing okay.

Before I received the good news that I was fine, I turned into the most fanatical health food junkie version of myself.  I told Scott that I was doing a ton of reading, and I’d be darned if I was gonna go down without a fight.  He laughed.  He said he knows me well enough to know I’d do everything within my power to beat whatever came at me. He probably feared it.

I realize, I’m not fighting for my life anymore.  Except, I am.  We all are.  Another reason I’m grateful for my health scare is that being scared reminded me that I have a decent amount of control over how I feel, and how I age.  I mean, I get it, ultimately, I have NO control over how things end.  We know any crazy thing can supersede the laws of nature at any moment.  But, minus a scary superseder, I AM in control.

I have a renewed fervor for building strength, and protecting the miracle of my interwoven body systems with high quality fuel.  This scare we had, reminded me of my belief that nutrition and exercise are my first line of defense.

That’s all I’m going to say. Please don’t block me on FB.  I promise I won’t post pictures of my brownies made out of avocado and kale.  Scott just gets mad at kale.  He’s sorry he knows about it.



A Story for my Girlfriends…

Disclaimer:  I want to tell you a story.  My story is a woman’s story.  From a woman’s perspective.  About stuff that can happen to a woman (mostly).  We’re gonna talk about breasts.

I know I was made for telling stories.  But, this story is more personal than most.  I’m comfortable telling this story, but you might be uncomfortable reading it. Now that I’ve made that clear, there’s no chance you’re turning back.  Right?  I get you.

I feel like it’s more responsible to tell you what’s ahead here.  You might be an upstanding man who doesn’t know if it’s okay to read about breasts that don’t belong to your wife.  I understand.  I feel like she might be okay with this kind of breast story, but it’s your call.  I feel better warning you.

I haven’t been blogging lately.  I’ve been preoccupied. A couple of weeks ago I had persistent pain in my breast.  After a couple of days of pain, I noticed the breast was red, warm to the touch and sort of inflamed.  I thought it felt like one of those breast infections you can get when you’re breastfeeding.  I hated those.  Except, my last child has been weaned for, oh, about 13 years now.  Women who aren’t breastfeeding shouldn’t be getting breast infections.  I learned that.

I talked to my Doctor, and scheduled a mammogram.  Mammograms aren’t terrible.  I don’t know what all the fuss is about.  I’d volunteer for ten mammograms before one trip to the dentist.  Now DENTIST visits are something to complain about.

But, about this mammogram.  I walked into the mammogram room, and was greeted by a friendly mammogram technician. We chatted about her daughter’s birthday party that night, and my manicure.  I barely realized she was taking pictures of the insides of my breasts.  When she was finished taking pictures, she left the room.  The technician came back and told me the radiologist said he wanted to do an ultra sound now.

We did an ultrasound.

In the ultra sound room, there was another very friendly technician.  She put some gel on my breast and rubbed that wand thing over the skin.  I didn’t know what we were looking at; I could see her measuring and labeling a variety of oddly shaped circles. When she was done labeling, she left the room..  She came back with the radiologist.  This time, the radiologist himself used the magic wand to see inside my breast.  The radiologist looked for a while; then he left the room.  (This story has a lot of leaving the room scenes).

I sat by myself.  Things got quiet..  The radiologist returned with the ultra sound technician by his side.  The radiologist used a  soft voice to tell me he wanted me to see the breast surgeon right away.  The radiologist said I had a tumor.  He said he wanted to  do a biopsy on the tumor himself.  But, he said, he also wanted the breast surgeon to do a biopsy on the red and inflamed part of my breast.  He said this area was cause for concern, and he wanted the breast surgeon to biopsy this inflamed area,  and determine the priority of their strategies.

How you doin?  You tracking with me here?  If you are to the part of the story where you think your hypochondriac friend, Miki, must have been feeling a little whoozy with fear, then you got it.  You understand me.

When it comes to health issues, I ALWAYS assume worst case scenario.  This usually works for me. You can’t even know all the scary diseases and diagnoses I’ve kept my family safe from by using reverse psychology.  I worry so hard, all those diseases and scary things don’t stand a chance.

Fact.  Malignant tumors respond to the jinx.  If you say you DO NOT have a malignant tumor, then, guess what?  You just jinxed yourself, my friend.  Everyone knows that  cancer cells replicate rapidly in a jinxed environment.   It’s called Biology.  Do your research.

Enough science.  Back to my story.

After the radiologist’s pronouncement, someone escorted me up to the breast surgeon’s office.  The surgeon’s nurse took my blood pressure and pulse.  Guess what?  High.   I was smiling and joking on the outside,  but heart rates don’t lie.   I was a little scared.

When the breast surgeon came in he said, “Hi.  How are you?”

I said, “Thanks. Me too.”

He pretended he didn’t notice my incoherence.  I’ll bet nervous, rambling women  are his daily drill.  To him, I made perfect sense.

I may have been imagining it, but I felt like the surgeon and the nurse were talking to me and looking at me in a way that made me uncomfortable.  They were’ being awfully sweet.  Ahhh!  Were they feeling sorry for me?  That is THE WORST!!! You NEVER want your health care professionals to be feeling sorry for you.  That is bad.  That’s worst than a jinx.

The surgeon did a biopsy right in his office.  He poked three ginormous needles right through this red, inflamed area.  I’m telling you the truth.  I went through three unmedicated child labors, and didn’t make a peep.  I am a “scream on the inside” type of person when it comes to pain.   But, when this needle went through this inflamed area, I yelled.  The pain was excruciating.  When the biopsy was over, I started to shake uncontrollably.  Maybe I was going in to shock?  Then.  The tears came.  Good grief.  I could have sworn I started this appointment with some dignity.  Well, I couldn’t find it now.   I felt silly for crying. I was afraid.

I wasn’t in the best state of mind driving home from that appointment.  But, I knew I needed to find a way to not be me.  Because “me” is the type of person who doesn’t hide anything.  I’m more than happy to share my misery.  Very generous that way.   But, was scaring my kids really wise?  Even I knew it wasn’t.

I made it through a good long weekend.   We told the kids that I had a biopsy, and we were waiting for the results.  No big deal.  They weren’t overly curious.  You don’t need to say more than the word “breast” to end any conversation with your teenage sons.  Works every time.  Olivia was a bit more persistent with questions, but I threw her off track easily enough by changing the subject.

Monday morning.  Homecoming week.  I was trying to compartmentalize my worry, and get in the homecoming zone.   I had spent the weekend doing me:  Using Google to scare the crap out of myself.  Inflammatory Breast Cancer was my diagnosis.  Inflammatory breast cancer isn’t common, and it isn’t very treatable.  Is that why the healthcare folks were acting all kid glove with me?

I spoke to the Doctor on Monday evening.  No results yet.   But we were frank with one another.  I requested honesty.  He respected my request.  He told me they didn’t know anything yet.  “But, Miki, you should prepare yourself for the worst.”  He said, “That way, if it’s good news you’ll be able to celebrate.  If it’s bad news, you’ll be prepared.”

Holy Mother.

I didn’t hear anything after, “Prepare yourself for the worst.”

I finished that conversation, and Olivia walked through the front door.  I don’t know how I did it, because Olivia and I are tight.  But, I did not tell that girl what was on my mind.  I kept myself in this foggy, smiley state, and drove Olivia to the hairdresser.  All the while, contemplating “the worst”.

Finally, everyone went to bed that night, and I could shut our bedroom door.  I needed privacy to express my worry and fear.  I needed to sob my eyeballs out for a while.  I was trying to figure out how these people were going to adjust to “the worst”.  There was so much to consider.  I cried it out, and then Scott and I climbed into bed.  He held me tightly, and he said this, “I don’t think you have breast cancer.  I don’t.  I really don’t.”

That might seem like a logical thing for a husband to tell a wife who is worrying about having breast cancer.  I know that.  But, there’s this thing about Scott. He rarely makes proclamations.  He’s loathe to mislead anyone, and he needs to tell the truth. So many things in life are subjective.  He rarely comes down firmly on one side or another.  And, the kid has GREAT instincts.  When Scott makes a bold statement in our house,   we always believe him.   Scott’s words delivered some relief, but not enough.

I laid in bed that night with fear induced adrenaline firing through my limbs.  What chance of sleep did I really have? I thought about what I’ve learned in 43 years.  Surely, there must be SOMETHING I’ve learned that I could use to approach this new scary thing.

I think I told you that when I miscarried last spring, God renewed me.  My faith in a living God was reborn.  I can’t remember a time I have not believed in a Savior named Jesus.  But, this new faith I was experiencing was something else.  God was talking to me.  He was just showing up.  He was in my morning cup of coffee, He was in the cold evening air, He was in the dark green leaves of summer, and He was even in Reggie’s soft fur.

I was in awe of God.  I trusted Him.

I laid in bed thinking about the way God had revealed himself to me over the past few months.  Why did He do that?  This awesome, timeless being, with the power to move the winds and the sea, wants this ordinary woman to know Him?  He spent the summer tutoring me on His power, giving me a new perspective on my significance and place in the scope of history and mankind.  This new perspective helped me loosen my grip on my self importance.  My idea that my happiness and well being are God’s chief concern.

Hear me now.  I think God DOES care about me, and my happiness.  That’s why he’s blessed me with coffee, and walks through cold, crisp air and by leafy green trees.  I’m living in abundance.  But, this latest knowledge I’ve received is also proof He cares.  I think I was receiving a message this summer.  God wanted me to know that I can live in confidence.  He rules the Universe.  I may not understand my circumstances, but I can trust He does. This fear that has ALWAYS plagued me in my life is optional.

I thought about all that, and then I told God, “Thank you.  I don’t know what ‘the worst’ is, but I thank you for it.  I thank you for this new opportunity, and the secret wisdom you’re hiding there for me to discover. Thank you for my life.  I trust you with it now.”

Then I fell asleep.

The next day I visited the surgeon again. He told me that he had been concerned that I did have inflammatory breast cancer, but that the results were negative.  He said he wanted me to have one more biopsy on the tumor to be completely certain.

The next biopsy was negative again.

I don’t have cancer.

I can’t believe the scripture that popped up in my automated email feed last week.  Please read this:

Ecclesiastes 7: verses 1,2, 3, 8 and 21

A Good reputation is better than expensive perfume; and the day you die is better than the day you are born.

it is better to go to a home where there is mourning than to one where there is a party, because the living should always remind themselves that death is waiting for us all.

Sorrow is better than laughter; it may sadden your face, but it sharpens your understanding.

The end of something is better than its beginning.

Do you think that is depressing scripture?  I really don’t.  I totally get it.

I’m a party girl.  I like nothin’ more than having a good time.  I’m not very serious.  Guess what happens when people you love die?  Guess what happens when you think you might have terminal cancer?  Guess.  Exactly. You think about death.  You remember that everyone is dying.  Every single one of us.  There is an end.  We are temporary.  Then, you ask yourself  why you weren’t making better use of your time.

Thoughts of death can bring a person into focus.  Thoughts of death can bring clarity, perspective and the understanding God promises us in Ecclesiastes.

When I found out I didn’t have cancer I was giddy.  I wanted to hug that gal at check out in the grocery store.  I wanted to do a song and dance number.   I wanted to tell everyone how much I loved them.  And, I mean EVERYONE.  Even if I’d never seen them before.

I’m still kinda there.  I’m just happy. Can we hug?

I know so many girlfriends who’ve had health scares.  My story is not new.  I’ve had girlfriends get Doctor phone calls delivering bad news.  I’ve had girlfriends who had to walk through “the worst”, and then they had to leave their families behind.

You just can’t know what life will bring you next.

I’m so glad I was given an opportunity to contemplate the end of me.  Thank you for this tumor, God!  Thank you.  Wisdom was hidden there.  I confidently embrace the future.  Knowing God is bringing me to a place where double jinxes and reverse psychology are no longer needed.   Keep showing me YOU, God.

family pic maureen

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