Category Archives: Healthcare

One lifetime in a day

One day can feel like a lifetime if you let it.

That’s how it was today.

I was up at the crack of dawn to make sure I made it to my appointment on time. I was even early, and for a split second, I thought I was too early, early enough to be the first. But no, the waiting room was packed.

The good news is that there was good news. The second mammography screening showed nothing but fatty tissue. As in nada, negative: when relief is spelled with an 8-letter word.

Chester met up with me afterward, we took the train to Soho for breakfast.

Bleecker street was alive and kicking. We stopped into LPQ for coffee and a croissant and on our way to his salon, we passed the KITH store on Broadway and Bleecker with a line around the corner, a posse of urban skateboarders and street artists waiting for the doors to open.

New York City is proof that life is one continuous breath.

Back home, I took a nap and then worked on one of my ghostwriting projects before getting ready for girls’ night out.

We bought tickets for World Masquerades Presents at Hudson Terrace and found ourselves in a penthouse lounge overlooking the Intrepid Museum.

 

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View from Hudson Terrace, @prez13

 

Guests were dressed in black tie and masks. I forgot mine at home and improvised with a lace hair tie purchased at Duane Reade. Oh, and the red-nose they sell to raise funds against child poverty.

Jack and Ginger, my drink of choice, served in an old-fashioned lowball glass. Lots of ice. For $17 each. This is one of the reasons I prefer entertaining friends at home. For $17 you can get a magnum of whiskey; enough for a dinner crowd.

Ah, dinner, if only I had eaten before going out the day might not have felt so long.


Strength, Balance, A Rock

You live a healthy life and hope you are doing the best that you can. There’s always room for self-improvement, and you make a promise to get better with each day. You go to Western doctors, you practice Eastern medicine. You eat kale and consider going gluten-free. You meditate, swim, do yoga.

And then the call comes, the one from the nurse at the radiology lab telling you the mammogram was indeterminate, that your left breast needs to be rescreened. In that moment you are stirred awake as if you were asleep, your eyes are wide open.

fullsizeoutput_1bddI wonder about the medical assistant (or nurse) on the other end of the phone. Who they are, how they do it every day. How they process the information and manage to inform all those patients on the brink of uncertainty.

I try not to think about (aka Google search) what it may or may not mean to have an indeterminate screening. And instead, I call the health insurance hotline to confirm coverage benefits.

My internist leaves a voicemail reassuring me that initial screenings like this are common in women over 40. Breast nodules are not necessarily an indicator of cancer. She notes that the nodules could be fatty tissue or a cyst that requires drainage. It also could be nothing and that it was better for me to wait for results from the next screening before getting ahead of myself.

I take a deep breath, try to calm my mind. The fear of the unknown can be exhausting. I reschedule my afternoon so that I can take a nap.

Finn comes in from outside as if he knows that I need him nearby. We cuddle side by side and drift into our dreams.


That Six-Letter Word

Fact: Women in the U.S. have a 1 in 8 (or about 12%) lifetime risk of getting breast cancer. This means that for every 8 women in the U.S. who live to be age 85, 1 will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime.

Early detection is the first step in prevention and treatment. And that is why the waiting room at NYU Langone Medical is full at 9AM on a Tuesday. It is my annual diagnostic mammogram screening, and I pray that the radiology report comes back clean.

I know a handful of women in my life who have had breast cancer and survived. One had a double mastectomy before she turned 30; the second, a lumpectomy in her 40s; and the third, a scare in her 50s.

Cancer is the six-letter word no one wants to hear from their doctor, the word no one likes to say out loud. Because like those furry creatures from Gremlins, the word multiplies the minute it’s enunciated. No one speaks about cancer until they do. It’s still taboo until it happens to someone you love, someone they love, someone they know, someone they knew.

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Flower bud @juchjn – Pixaby 2017

My mom was diagnosed with lung cancer in March 1999. Chemo. Radiation. All those toxic chemicals killing the bad cells and the good cells, weakening her immune system, making it extremely difficult for a frail 71-year old woman to prepare for battle. We lost her the following January.

Seventeen years later, I lose count thinking of friends and family who have been diagnosed. For every one person who survives, there is one who does not.

I pray for them all.

Benefits of a Mammogram Screening


unrequited undertow

swimming the action of propelling oneself in water by natural means using arms and legs, can also be used abstractly as both a negative representation of a sensation, where one is floating or reeling and a positive one where one proves to not go under and surmounts difficulties in their path. a lot of meaning for one word isn’t it?

swimming, i’ve been in and around water since I was a child. the ocean and its surroundings a part of almost every childhood memory. in each memory there is sun, sea, sand. the sun’s appearance dictating a Saturday beach outing where we would pile into the dusty green Datsun and drive east toward Rockaway. On longer weekends we headed west toward the Jersey shore. And during the weeks of summer vacation, my mom and I would travel by subway to Coney Island or by bus to where the end of Oriental Boulevard meets the sea.

Rocky shoreline of Orient Point, LI

It was the draw not only of the sun on the sea but the sun and the sand, and depending on what shoreline we found ourselves, each experience of the sand beneath my feet, defined by its texture, shape and size was like time traveling. From the bay shores of Coney Island to beginnings of the ocean near Riis. The eastern shores of Long Island where the granules near Montauk Point are slightly larger and mixed with ground seashells to the north shores of Orient Point dotted with shiny smooth stones that glimmer like black and silver diamonds on the horizon, to the white shores of the lido in Sicily where the best swimming holes to be found are nowhere near sand.

swimming, if one were to ask me I would undoubtedly claim to have been swimming since the very first moment my feet touched sand all those years ago. And that would be a half-truth.

At a young age, my Mom and Dad dutifully taught me how to swim in a seaside kind of way. They introduced the ebb and flow of the sea gradually, first building sandcastles and moats, then splashing in caches of water near the surf, slowly leading me closer and closer to the frothy water’s edge. With each visit to the beach we ventured a little further, and one day I learned to float, the next time the doggy paddle. I can still see their young faces full of pride, laughing. As I got older they flanked me on either side holding my hands, as we jumped over the crashing waves, eventually finding a spot where we cleared the sea floor enough to sail with the breaking waves body surfing along the surface. In this homegrown adventure I learned to swim.

And then one day years later on the beaches of Cancun, I unlearned how to swim.

It was a gorgeous day, my friend and I were staying at the Krystal Palace and after a day of touring the ruins made our way to the hotel’s private beach just steps away from the infinity pool. The sea was translucent and turquoise, the sky above us clear with rolling puffy clouds way, way off in the distance. The water refreshing and cool in the Mexican heat, there was no incentive to leave the water and so I lingered. Nearby a few other beachgoers were looking out onto the horizon, it seems they had spotted something unfamiliar. Upon looking over I saw it too, a cloud far off in the distance with what seemed to be a tornado like spout touching the ocean.

Example of water spout (c)http://myturksandcaicosblog.com

These funnel, or water spouts, as they are traditionally called, can induce storm like conditions and its advisable to not be in the water when first sighted as they can move swiftly. Completely unaware, I continued to tread water and swim, watching the water spout casually from my location, and was quite taken by surprise when the undertow shifted. Caught in a tumbling wave like a rag doll, I lost all sense of gravity, and emerged disoriented and shaken with sand burns on my skin, a torn bathing suit and a heap of sand in my hair.  I left that beach seemingly unscathed only to find myself weary of any undertow or swirling current. Since that day I rarely venture beyond my comfort zone, preferring my feet to touch the sea floor regardless of what beach I may be on from the frothy surf waters at Ditch Plains to the mild green seas of Antigua, Barbuda, Aruba and Puerto Rico.  This unrequited fear of the undertow has put a damper on any ocean side endeavors.

I finally decided enough was enough, a fear of the ocean is just not feasible for someone who loves the beach. There are so many things l want to do that involve the sea, like surfing and kayaking and even in my wildest fantasies I dream of selling off all my worldly possessions and buying my own private island.  I can’t do any of that if I’m too afraid to swim! And so I’ve enrolled myself in a crash splash course at the Y, a swimming boot camp if you will that  meets (1) hour a day, 4 days a week for a month straight. The instructors test you on your ability and place you in a group of students with similar swimming strengths. Then they teach you the basics starting with the swimmer’s form, or streamline position, and begin introducing you to each individual stroke, i.e., backstroke, freestyle, butterfly, et cetera.

Classes started last week, and I’m happy to say that I survived basic training. It takes some getting used to wearing a swim cap and goggles but it certainly makes for quicker, less invasive swimming. I would say the breath has been the hardest adjustment and a complete 180 after a dedicated yoga practice (in through the nose, out through the mouth); it’s no surprise really that I resorted to holding my nose all these years.  I can already feel the benefit in swimming as a form of exercise, and as one friend mentioned it’s the one sport where you use your entire body. My upper body feels more awake and open, and even though my muscles are sore from under usage, I’ve never felt healthier. I’ve also noticed a change in my diet where I crave protein-rich foods more than sugar/salt/starch.  And last but not least is the added benefit of sleep. After a full day at work, I swim vigorously for an hour, shower than relax in the sauna for a few minutes before heading home for a long uninterrupted slumber. A full night’s sleep is anyone’s dream.


if i had known the signs

sick to my stomach,
its all there in black’n white
all those early signs.

The Natural Cat
lists them all. I should have known.
but how could I know?

that weight loss mixed with
lethargy, vomiting and
digestive upsets.

Foamy yellow bile
and lightly colored stool. That
the random pee sprays

were anything but.
mood swings: good to bad. the trots
and all of that stuff

are symptoms, symptoms
symptoms of liver disease,
pause before next steps.