Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tests

Yeaterday I had my appointment for follow up tests as a result of my mammogram.

I saw the purported abnormal densities that showed up in the original test. There they were, two dark spots on one breast, one in the other. I was scheduled to have a spot compression and a breast ultrasound. Luckily, the spot compression test cleared any concerns over the so-called densities, and I was told by the radiologist to go home, that there was no need to do the ultrasound. I expect that my doctor will get the results either today or tomorrow.

Instead of a celebratory post, this is a bittersweet one. While I am very happy and relieved by my results, last night I found out that one of my "mommy board" friends, Suzy, was diagnosed with breast cancer yesterday. She will undergo surgery and lose one of her breasts. She will also have to take three courses of chemo. My heart goes out to her, for she is about to embark in the fight of her life.

My mother survived breast cancer. I am hopeful that Suzy will come out on top of this too.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

An ordinary life

I have not been inspired to write lately. I have been quite busy with work and daily life, and I have not found much time to either blog or read my favorite blogs.

We continue with our efforts to lead a healthier life. We are eating veggies and fruit everyday. We are eating breakfast and small snacks. Our dinners have gotten smaller and we are not snacking uncontrollably in the evening. We are buying organic whenever we can, and we are avoiding ready-made foods as much as possible. We are also walking at least four times a week. We are bringing a lunch bag to work every day and have not eaten out in a long time, other than the ocassional skinny latte from Starbucks. I don't miss it.

Other than my heel pain, I have been feeling pretty good about all this. Every time I check my blood sugar, it is within the normal range. I feel calmer and more energized. I am excited for what the future holds for us if we continue on this track.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Photos: Food

Bird food, that is.

Bird Feeder- July 2008

Birdie

Ugh

Every time the phone rings and my caller ID says it's my doctor's office, I cringe a little.

I had a mammogram on Wednesday. Because it is my first, and they are trying to establish a baseline, I was warned that I may get called back for more images or different tests, but that it does not necessarily mean they have found something wrong.

So when I got the call yesterday afternoon, I was calm and collected. I understood. But shortly after I hung up, fear and worry started to creep up.

"Abnormal densities" is not a phrase you want to hear uttered in reference to your breasts.

So now I have two more tests I have to make, an ultrasound and something about spot compression.

I called my mom almost in tears. She told me not to worry, that sometimes if your breast tissue is dense it makes it hard for them to search for possible cancer, so they like to do more tests to understand what is there. She had to do this years ago, because she was told one of her breasts was dense. And it wasn't even the one where she ended up developing cancer. She reassured me everything will be alright. But will it? Am I worrying too much, should I just chill out?

My mortality, the fragility of my body, are painfully obvious these days. I am only 39, yet I feel so old. I am 55 lbs. overweight and it's hard to lose the excess pounds. I am pre-diabetic, my estrogen levels are on the floor and my damn heel hurts all the time. I am trying to make changes, to eat right and to exercise. But is it too little, too late? Am I doomed? Should I even bother?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Stage Fright

I am nervous this morning. I have a big presentation this afternoon.

I always get apprehensive when I have to speak in public, especially when it is in front of the big bosses. And the review is about a big issue that we have been working on for months, one that has a lot of visibility and about which there are strong, conflicting positions by two groups.

I can't shake the feeling that, no matter how fair and diplomatic I am, I will end up pissing off someone. Not much I can do about that, other than accept it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Quiet

The last few days, I have felt strangely quiet, both at work and at home.

Thanks to everybody for the encouraging comments and well wishes I have received the last few days, both on my previous post and via e-mail/IM.

It feels better to know there is something concrete causing my symptoms (low hormone levels), but in the end there may not be a definitive explanation as to what causes this drop. My doctor had mentioned that more and more they see cases like mine and it could be related to our diet, environmental conditions, etc.

I do not know the results of my ultrasound yet. Yesterday I met with a dietician. I had requested a referral from my doctor because I needed a human being to advise and coach me through these changes we need to make. It is not easy. It will require effort and to learn again what is right versus what we do.

The dietician was smart and suggested we start small, with only three major goals. She left me to choose two of them and she suggested the third one.

First, I picked "having breakfast every day." She stressed the importance of having breakfast. This is something I have heard before, but it is something I have never been able to consistently do. My goal now is to ensure I have breakfast every day. I am also supposed to have snacks during the day. This should eliminate some of the compulsive nibbling I do at night, which according to the dietician is my body's way of preparing for starvation in the morning.

The second goal is to learn what are proper portion sizes, and adjust my eating to fit this. Living in Texas, the land where everything is ginormous, it can be quite an eye opener when you realize what a normal portion size should be. She gave me some great suggestions about keeping shelfs in the fridge and cupboards with snacks in the right portion sizes, something we can all reach for easily.

Last, she wants me (and Gabe) to keep a diary of what we eat. This may be the hardest one. I have tried doing this in the past, with certain online tools. I have never been able to stick with it, partly because they were all about calorie counting. The dietician said not to focus on calories, or on how foods are cooked. My focus should be in my major goals and nothing else.

I am cautiously optimistic. This is not the first time I have attempted to change my eating habits. Wish me luck, my friends.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Just another day

I woke up with a dull headache. Must have coffee.

Ever since I came back from my doctor's appointment, I have been concerned. I haven't had much time to dwell on it, but I am a bit concerned.

I know now why I feel the way I do. It is not my thyroid. All the thyroid tests came back normal. But my estradiol levels are low, very low. I do not know why. The doctor wants me to take birth control pills to regulate my hormone levels. But first she wants me to do a pelvic ultrasound, because I complained of pelvic pain during my checkup. I go for this today.

I wonder if they will find something, and if they do, what it will be. I am a little apprehensive today.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Day from hell

It's been an awful day. I had intended to take the day off, so I could go to my doctor's appointment and do any follow up tests she ordered. Fat chance. I was at the doctor's office when the phone rang. It was work. Fires to put out. Drama. I am so tired. If it wasn't for the salary and benefits, I would have walked out on the job today.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Domestic Saturday (Maybe)

I woke up around 9:30 AM, after going to be around 1:00 AM. Gabriel and Isabel are still asleep. Left to their own devices, those two could sleep until 1:00 PM. Like father, like daughter.

Of course, as soon as I wrote that line, the door to our bedroom opened and Gabriel came out. Way to shut me up.

I may continue this weekend with my domestic pursuits. Last weekend I finished the living/family room and got all toys out of there. This weekend I may tackle our front room (library/office), which is looking pretty cluttered and shabby right now. It is the first room you see when you come into my house, and right now it is full of leftover storage boxes, mountains of paper and toys, tons of toys. It's a big project, so I do not think I will have it ready in one weekend, but one has to start somewhere.

We also want to go to the movies this weekend. Hellboy II is playing.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Blah Thursday

I had a hard time waking up this morning. I am feeling well beyond tired. I am quite moody (last night I was so angry). The dry eyes/blurred vision is not going away anytime soon, and to the list of symptoms you may add complete brain fog.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Tuesday afternoon

My eyes are bothering me. I think they are kinda dry, and my vision has gotten blurry, so I am wearing my glasses today. They are reading glasses for when I work on the computer, but usually I do not need them.

Along with my eyes, my brain is fuzzy today. I have been flirting with a headache all day. I feel quite tired. I am definitely going to bed early tonight.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Shopper

I see them at the store, and I have to have them. I have so many of them, and I can't seem to part with them. Some are old and full of creases where I have abused them. Others are brand new, waiting for my first touch. I love them all. I can't live without them.

What do you think I am talking about? The answer is hidden in the line below. You will see if you select the whole line with your cursor.
IT'S BOOKS!!!
This will not work if you read my blog through a reader, so sorry about that.

Overcast, 30% chance of freakout

Last night my cycle started. I felt it necessary to warn Gabe.

I said: "If I am freaking out and cranky tomorrow, you will know why."
He responded: "Or it could be that it's Monday and you'll get grumpy because Mondays always suck."

I loved that answer. It makes me realize I should not take this so seriously. I do not want self-fulfilling prophesies.

I went to the lab this morning. My doctor had wanted me to get some blood tests done to measure all kinds of hormones. We'll see what they find.

I feel funny this morning; not mad or sad, just strange. Maybe a bit on edge, maybe just more mentally tired than usual.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

End of the weekend

I have really enjoyed cooking the last few days. One thing I am really proud to have prepared is empanadas de yuca. If you do not know what they are, you can find a recipe here, and another one here (this one has pictures).

I did not follow these recipes, but rather went by instinct. I had one large yuca that I peeled and cut into pieces. Then I grated it, first by hand and then using a food processor. Once the yuca was ground thin, I scooped it and put it on a strainer lined with cheesecloth. This is done to separate the starchy liquid from the yuca dough. The two empanada recipes I linked to above are missing this step (I took it from a pasteles de yuca recipe), but it is imperative to do so, otherwise your dough will have a very bitter taste. Trust me, you can tell when someone does not know how to prepare yuca well (or does not want to go through the trouble), because the bitterness will eclipse any other flavors in the empanadas, pasteles or alcapurrias.

After grating and squeezing all the starchy liquid I could get out of the yuca, I was left with about four cups of dough. I mixed this with 2 small grated and pureed yautías (taro root) and two small potatoes, also grated and pureed. I added some of the annato oil I prepared the other day, to give it a nice color, and seasoned the dough with a bit of salt. Then I proceeded to prepare the empanadas. I stuffed half of my empanadas with shredded chicken, and the other half with picadillo, which was basically sauteed ground beef with sofrito and green olives.

The empanadas were delicious, even better than the alcapurrias I prepared the other day. Gabe loved them, especially the ones filled with picadillo. I am definitely making them again.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A month of politically charged holidays

I grew up in a place that is highly politicized, where the choice of holiday to celebrate in July said a lot about one's position regarding Puerto Rico's political status and its relationship with the US.

You see, there's July 4th, known on the island as "U.S. Independence Day." And then there is July 25th. Also known as "Constitution Day", it commemorates the day in 1952 when the Constitution of the Commonwealth was signed. Both are official holidays. Everybody has the day off, and there are official government and political party events to either celebrate or protest.

The three main ideologies on the island are: pro-statehood, pro-commonwealth and pro-independence. The pro-statehood sympathizers privilege July 4th above July 25th. The pro-commonwealth group makes a really big deal about celebrating the 25th. The pro-independence contingent rejects both and protests US presence in Puerto Rico on those dates. Especially anathema to them is July 25th, for the date (not coincidentally) is also the anniversary of the invasion of Puerto Rico by US troops in 1898 as part of the Spanish-American war.

Add to the pot two other local holidays during the month, celebrating the birth of two famous historical figures (one of whom is identified with the pro-commonwealth cause, and another with the pro-statehood ideal) and it makes for one politically hyper charged month.

However, all that I remember now is the joy of being free from school or work on those days, and the ability to go to the beach and/or goof off. And I think most ordinary folks on the island just love their holidays and will take any days off they are given, regardless of where their political sympathies lie.

Thinking of the holiday gets me back in good spirits

Tomorrow I have the day off. I will get to do a few of my favorite things (cooking on the grill, going to the pool, getting time off from work). Just thinking of that makes me joyful again.

... and as easy as it comes, it goes.

Imagine you are a snowglobe. Now imagine someone grabs you and gives you a soft shake. All of a sudden thoughts and feelings shoot off in different directions, and you are unable to tell where they are going or to rein them in.

Imagine you are forced to walk all day wearing a veil over your face, completeley covered, so that your perception of the world is skewed by the gauzy material covering your eyes.

Yesterday I was in great spirits. This morning I was OK until I experienced the first stirrings of a dark mood coming. I am not in a dark mood yet, mind you. But it was strange, to be able to pinpoint the precise moment when a feeling of dread or uncertainty clouds your mind, unexpectedly and momentarily. It happened at 9:13 AM, and now I feel as if I have gotten out of the ocean. I am waiting to dry out, with the salt sticking to my skin.

I am still OK. I am not despairing just yet. This is just an attempt at recording this morning's occurrence in the best way I can express it. I keep a separate log of the physical symptoms and the hormonal cycle. I am reporting the emotional manifestations here.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Three Word Wednesday #93

The Three Word Wednesday words for today are: Indifferent, Pour, Reason

I woke up early again today. I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down at the computer for a while. It is nice to have this quiet time to myself. Then I woke up Gabe and brought him some coffee, and I woke up Isabel to get her ready for bed. It's Splash Day today at daycare, so she was excited. She wanted to make sure we brought Mr. Octopus to school, because he is her friend. Mr. Octopus is a baby towel, one of those with hoods. There is an Octopus design on the hood, complete with tentacles that graze her forehead when we put the hood on. She's had Mr. Octopus since she was born, and she loves him.

I suppose I could work from home if I wanted to. My boss is working from his home today and I could take advantage of that and work remotely. But I am indifferent about staying home today. I can tell I am not in the midst of one of my depression spells, becase I do not mind at all going into the office today. In fact, I am looking forward to being on campus today.

Days like this are evidence that my dark periods are not the product of reason, but are bio-chemically driven. There is nothing different about my circumstances today than what they were a few weeks ago. We are still dealing with the same stresses at work and daily life, but somehow the looming terror of being shamed and destitute is absent from my mind. I do not want to run away screaming if I go to the cafeteria. I just show up, do my job and kid around with my cubicle neighbors.

I am feeling happy today, and it is not due to anything specific. I just am. And it's a great feeling.