Friday, October 28, 2011

Photo of the Day

Brutally honest cereal boxes courtesy of artist Ron English.      My favorite is Sugar Frosted Fat. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Battle Within

The battle to lose weight isn't easy, but the battle to keep that lost weight off is the bigger battle.   A new study out of Australian shows how our bodies kick in hormones to make us feel hungrier after we shed weight. 

Here's what it says:
In a small study published in the Oct. 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Australian scientists found that after overweight and obese patients followed a low-calorie diet for 10 weeks, their appetite and hunger hormone levels changed. While some hormone levels increased and others went down compared to before they dieted, nearly all of the changes favored the body's efforts to regain the lost weight.

The scientists used blood tests to measure levels of nine different hormones at the start of the study, at week 10 when the diet period ended, and again a year later.

The hormone levels did not revert to baseline values within 12 months after the initial weight reduction, said study senior author Dr. Joseph Proietto, a University of Melbourne professor of medicine at Austin Health in Victoria.

For example, in follow-up blood tests, one hormone called ghrelin, an appetite stimulator produced by cells in the lining of the stomach, increased after weight loss and continued to do so throughout the study. On the other hand, levels of the hormone leptin, which suppresses appetite, went down.
It's studies like these that I think demonstrate the most clearly why crash diets don't work.   Your body just responds by doing everything it can to put back on any weight you lost.

Making gradual permanent changes to your diet--in the direction of eating less processed food, less meat and more fruits and vegetables--leads to longer term weight loss.  It may take a year to lose 20 pounds, but the 20 pounds that comes off, stays off.  

Call it the Tortoise diet.   The Hare may take off weight faster, but it's the tortoise that keeps it off.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Doctor Diva

Having cancer is stressful.   Even though I know the prognosis is good. I had a successful surgery and a great pathology report.   I still have this huge uncertainty hanging over my head.

That uncertainty is my overall treatment plan.

So, when I have one of those doctors who is supposed to be helping me through this somewhat stressful time adding to that stress, it's not a good thing.

Let me digress.   A few weeks ago my breast surgeon gave me the name of an oncologist.

Now the good news was that although my cancer was invasive, it was caught at a very early stage--stage 1A.   My surgeon's opinion was that she did not feel that chemotherapy was necessary.  Whether or not chemo was off the plate, however, had to be confirmed by an oncologist.

Needless to say I wanted to get into said oncologist's office ASAP to either confirm the good news (lifting a huge cloud of doubt over my head), or get the bad news and move forward.

Getting an appointment to see said oncologist, however, required more maneuvering than turning a cruise ship around in the high seas.  

First there was the problem with actually getting the doctor's peeps to pick up the phone.   I called the telephone number on the card my surgeon gave me, but was told that the oncologist my surgeon wanted me to see was in another office and was given Telephone Number 2 to call.

So I called Telephone Number 2 at 2 pm on a Wednesday afternoon.  Although the message indicated that office hours were 9-5:30 Monday through Friday, no one picked up the phone.  I tried several more times that day to get through to no avail. 

So Thursday morning I started to try again, and I couldn't get through.  Finally I called the Telephone Number 1, and informed them of my difficulties of getting any actual people to pick up the phone at Telephone Number 2.   I got a receptionist who asked me to hold while she tried to get someone in the office.

After holding for a few minutes the receptionist got back to me and indicated that while their were receptionists, nurses, etc. in the other office, since the doctor wasn't in they decided to not pick up the phones so that they could get paperwork done.

Looking back, I now realize that I should have right then and there hung up the phone, called my surgeon and demand the name of another oncologist.

But, I'm a woman, I have cancer and I didn't want to make any waves.

Instead, I was told that the oncologist's office would get back to me by the end of the day. 

I should of asked "Why not now?"

A few hours later the oncologist's office called. 

Hip, hip hooray!!!

A nurse asked me a bunch of questions and then said that they would request my records from my surgeon and get back to me by Tuesday to set up an appointment.

Tuesday at 4:45 I still hadn't heard back.  I called the office, and guess what?  

They didn't pick up the phone.

I once again called Telephone Number 1, got a person, and asked what was going on.

Quote "the doctor wasn't in, so they decided to leave early."

Huh???? I started to think that this was one office where I'd really like to get a job.

I'm already really irritated at this point, and emotionally distraught since I'm dealing with cancer, kids, autism, work and all the other daily stresses of a a modern day, 21st century working Mom.

The receptionist at Telephone Number 1, however, assured me that she would see that someone would get back to me first thing the next morning.

At 11 o'clock the next day they finally called me (that's first thing?).

"Dr. X will see you at 11 am Tuesday, October 25th," the receptionist told me in a tone that seemed to indicate that she was setting up an appointment to let me see the Queen or the Dali Lama.

"I can't make that time," I told her, "I have another appointment with another doctor at that time."

"That is the time the doctor will see you," I was told.

I booked the anointed appointment, and cancelled the other doctor.

Well, today was the appointed day to see the oncologist, and guess what?

I got a call this morning.   The appointment was canceled.

And, I was given a new appointment, Friday at 10.

"Um," I said, "I already have another appointment at that time.  I have already cancelled one appointment to accommodate the doctor's schedule and I'm not going to cancel another one."

At this point I got a tirade about how this doctor was the "number 1" breast oncologist and that he has a very busy schedule and that I was lucky he was willing to fit me in.

All I could think about was that scene from Sex in the City where Samantha Jones is trying to get in to see some fancy oncologist and she has to deal with the snitty receptionist.

Well, I am not Samantha Jones.   I'm not some single woman with no other responsibilities except satisfying my libido.   I can't just sit around some fucking doctor's office hoping that at some point they will look down favorably on me from their exalted positions and deign to favor me with an appointment (or at least a telephone call).

I've got cancer, dammit and I don't expect to treated like some peon by some diva doctor and his obsequious staff.

Jesus, fucking Christ, am I really supposed to beg and be grateful for treatment????

Who the hell does this doctor think he is???

So I told diva doctor's receptionist what she could do with the appointment, hung up the phone and called my surgeon. 

I got her nurse and explained that me and diva doctor were not going to cut it.   This ship was sailing, and diva wasn't going to be steering it.

The nurse told me that it was understood and that she would ask the surgeon for other recommendations.

Well, long story short, I think I found a new oncologist.   He's already deemed me worthy to speak to me directly on the phone, and his staff is working on getting me in for an initial consultation.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Breast Cancer Update

Where am I?   Feeling a lot better these days.   The post surgery trauma, aches and pains are pretty much gone, and I was able to both take a walk and do a full yoga practice today.

I am, however, sleeping quite a bit.

How much sleep?  Well yesterday I work up at 8, took a 1 1/2 hour nap in the afternoon then fell asleep at 9.

I took another nap today.

So, you can say I'm sleeping my way back to recovery.

But, of course, just as I'm feeling better, stuff looms in the future that's pretty much guaranteed to get me feeling like shit again.

Tomorrow I see my oncologist and he'll tell me if I need chemotherapy.  

Needless to say the idea of getting pumped full of  poisons and chemicals and losing my hair doesn't make me want to jump up and down and yell "hooray!!"

My surgeon thinks I don't need chemo, but it's up to the oncologist to make the final call.  

Wish me luck.

Chemo or no, I will need radiology, every day for 4-6 weeks.   I'm seeing the radiologist on Thursday, and based on what the oncologist says, he'll tell me when and for how long I'll need radiology.

Radiology is also not something that makes me want to jump for joy.   I have to go EVERY FUCKING DAY for 4-6 weeks.   That alone is a drag, but I'm told that after a while your boob gets so burnt you can't wear a bra.  

And, did I mention that I'm going to essentially get zonked with huge doses of RADIATION????

I've come to the conclusion that no real progress has been made in the treatment of breast cancer.

Huge strides have been made in detection, leading to fewer deaths from breast cancer.   Huge strides have also been made in reconstruction.   But the actual treatments are just as barbaric as they were 10, 20 or 30 years ago.  When I talk to women who've had breast cancer in the past, the amazing thing is that what I'm going through is pretty much exactly what they went through.

The idea that a full mastectomy was still on the table for me boggles the mind, as is the idea that the only available post-surgery treatment options are still pretty much only chemo and radiation.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Your Choice is Their Profits

As always Marion Nestle has an excellent post on the latest corporate marketing drive directed at keeping you sick and fat.

It is not taking away YOUR choice to have Federal food safety regulations, so that YOU don't get sick after eating a slice of cantaloupe.

If you search down through the comments you'll see that the Washington Legal Foundation, which appears to be so concerned with individual freedoms, is actually funded by big corporations such as Pepsico.

Believe me, Pepsico couldn't give a shit about your freedoms, the only thing they're concerned about is profits.   Corporate conglomerates don't give money to advertising campaigns promoting "individual choice" because its the warm and fuzzy thing to do.   They do it because they're afraid that additional food safety regulations will cut into their profits.

Ads like the one Marion mentioned in her post generally never arise from real, individual, grass-roots concerns.   They're corporate propaganda, pure and simple.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Pain of Tai Chi

Over the weekend, the pain from the incision where they took out lymph nodes under my arm finally subsided.   I am happy to report that I can once again move my arms up over my head without pain,and that ongoing low throbbing pain is gone.

But, I had to hit the Motrin again on Sunday.

It started rather innocently.   On Saturday I went to my Tai Chi class and was grateful that my instructor focused the Qi Gong part of the class on developing lower body strength.

Now, Tai Chi is deceptive.   You're doing what seem to be easy movements, slowly and repeatedly.    You feel fine.  You're not uncomfortable or tired at all while you're doing them.

But then, you wake up the next morning and can't move the area you worked because your muscles are in too much pain.

Sunday morning when I woke up, I realized that moving my legs was a problem because the muscles running down the front of my thighs were spent.   Walking up and down stairs, actually just walking in general, was shear agony, and several doses of Motrin and a hot bath did little to relieve the pain.

I still hurt on Monday, and I'm still feeling the residual effects even today.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Quote for the Day

 "If a "food" is flooded with so many preservatives that it can withstand a full year in both sub-zero and 100 degree-plus temps without decomposing, what kind of havoc might it be wreaking in my body?"
This was written about a package of Hillshire Farms Deli Meat left in the trunk of a car for over a year. 

Here's the story:
Three years ago, the time came to sell my trusty red Mercury Cougar. She'd lasted me a full decade, ever since my parents bought her for me as a college graduation gift. At the Honda dealership, we were given a large garbage bag to empty out our trunk before trading her in. Back there, I found a Best of Britney Spears Beta tape, some old sports bras, a beat-up Locker Room Diaries manuscript and... a package of Hillshire Farms Deli Select sliced honey ham.

The expiration date on the ham was February of 2008. It was currently October of 2008. Now, fat-free packaged deli meat is generally so pumped full of preservatives that the expiration date tends to run about five months ahead, which means I had likely purchased said pork in October of 2007, a full year earlier, when it must have fallen out of my grocery bag without my noticing. It languished there during a Chicago summer, when the temps often climb to Bikram Yoga levels.

And yet, this ham was not moldy. It did not smell at all. It was perfectly preserved. My husband turned to me and said, "I hope you never, ever eat this crap again."
I have to agree.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Just Breath

Today I did my first led Ashtanga practice since the surgery.  Earlier in the week I went to my shala and did a self-led practice.  My regular teacher, Val, helped me to adapt the vinyasas  and asanas for my limited range of motion.  

I'm still having problems with the incision area where they took out lymph nodes, and, according to my surgeon, will continue to have issues for a while.   I can't follow extend my arm up over my head yet, and the swelling in the area makes it uncomfortable for me lie on my right side.

My stamina is also still not back.   I'm tiring pretty easily, and finding that I've had to pull back on all my physical activities.

The Friday morning led practice at my Shala is the advanced primary series.  Even though I had to adapt and modify the asanas and vinyasa pretty extensively, and even though I had to sit and breath while my fellows yogis did all the vinyasas during the seated portion of the practice, it still felt good to just breath and stretch in unison with my fellow practitioners.

I had the same experience in my Tai Chi class.   Last night I went back to my first Tai Chi class since the surgery.   During the early Qi Gong portion of the class it just felt good to stand and breath with my fellow students.  

When we went into our Yang long form, however, I found I had to stop during the second part to take a break.   My incision started to bother me from all the arm movements, and I just got plain old tired.   I was able to rejoin towards the end of the second part (the entire form takes between 15 to 20 minutes to complete) and finished.   I decided to forgo any practicing of my sword or saber forms for a few weeks, since my sword/saber arm is, of course, my right arm (where the incision is).  

But, as in yoga, it was still just good to move and breath.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Losing Tony the Tiger

I don't have a lot of time to blog today but wanted to give the heads up to this interesting post by Marion Nestle on her blog about Congressional Hearings on nutrition standards for marketing food to children. 

In commenting on the various governmental nonsensical maneuvering, Marion makes a good point:

"This, as I keep pointing out, is about protecting corporate health at the expense of children’s health."

As I always point out, be aware of marketing, and do not be a slave to it (and don't let your kids either).

I do not allow my children to eat any processed breakfast cereal unless it's a special occasion, e.g., we're on vacation. Never mind the character-driven varieties that are loaded with sugar, I won't even buy the "healthier" versions.    They may have less sugar and overly processed ingredients then Frosted Flakes or Captain Crunch, but they still have enough to be a nutritionally unsound way for children to start the day.

And, you know what?  My kids are fine with it.   They get bagels, toast, eggs or oatmeal and they're content. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Breast Cancer Fighting Foods

I have been pretty much going out of my way to avoid anything regarding Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I'm more aware of Breast Cancer than I really care to be THANKYOUVERYMUCH, and don't need to be bombarded by a barrage of pink ribbons.

But I have been somewhat obsessing about why I get breast cancer.  

I've gone over the risk factors time and time again.  There's really never been any breast cancer in my family.  I don't smoke.  I'm relatively lean and I eat a mostly plant based diet.  And, while I like a glass of wine or two a few times a week, I'm not exactly guzzling down Martinis or Scotch on a daily basis (in fact, I pretty much don't drink hard alcohol and never drink beer).

So when I saw this article on foods to eat to avoid breast cancer, I thought I'd take a look despite my "avoid Breast Cancer Awareness Month" articles at all cost.   Here's what they listed as the "8 Foods that Can Avoid Breast Cancer Risk," and how I stack up:

1.  Plums and Peaches:   Now I'm not the biggest fan of plums and peaches, but I eat a fair share of each when they're in season:

2.  Walnuts:  I love nuts, and was actually eating a salad with walnuts in it as I read this article:

3.  Broccoli:  I eat a ton of broccoli.  It's one of my top favorite veggies.  In fact, dinner tonight for me is a baked sweet potato and steamed broccoli.

4.Salmon:  Another food I eat a ton of, generally at least once a week.

5.Olive oil:  I'm Italian.  Need I say more?

6.  Parsley:  I grow parsley in my garden every year, and it grows so abundantly actually go out of my way to add it to just about everything I cook.  Whatever remaining parsley which doesn't go into my food immediately, gets dried and added to food until the weather warms up and the parsley grows fresh again.

7.Coffee:  My morning cup of coffee is one of the highlights of my day.

8.  Beans:  See number 5 above about being Italian.

So, once again, the reason why I got cancer eludes me.   

BTW, I guess the ultimate breast cancer avoidance meal would be salmon sauteed in olive oil with broccoli and beans and sprinkled with chopped parsley followed by a plum and walnut tart for dessert with coffee. 

On a positive note, I stepped on the scale this morning for the first time since I was diagnosed.  

I lost three pounds in the last few weeks without watching what I ate, and despite my not exercising at my regular levels.

It's the stress diet.

Not a diet I'd recommend to anyone, however.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Yesterday, I decided to make dinner for my family for the first time since my surgery.  I prepared the food, cooked the food, and served the food.  As I was cleaning up the kitchen my husband walked in and said "there's some left-over chicken, could you make me a sandwich for lunch tomorrow?"

I told him what he could do with the chicken.

I've been recovering fairly quickly.  I pretty much slept the first two days, as the anesthesia worked it's way through of my system, but by Friday I was up and about, and took a long walk down by Long Island Sound, where it's flat. 

On Saturday I took another Sound walk with my mother and kids, and did a brief treadmill walk at a 0 incline.   By Sunday I was able to do my regular 3.5 mile "hilly" walk around my neighborhood, but it took a lot longer than usual.    I also was able to do the first section of my Tai Chi long form. 

The incision where they took out lymph nodes, however, is right under my right armpit and it starts to bother me whenever I move that arm about too much.

Yesterday I used the treadmill at a 5 incline, and my arm was feeling well enough that I was able to practice my entire Tai Chi long form which takes about 15-20 minutes.   I'm not quite confident yet to wield my Tai Chi sword or Saber yet, but I'll get there.

Today I again took a Sound walk, this time with a girl-friend, and we added in a fairly steep hill so that we could get a fantastic view of Long Island Sound from the top.

I'm hoping to try an abbreviated, self-guided yoga practice tomorrow which will mark my one week surgery anniversary.   That incision under my armpit, however, is still bothering me a bit, so I'm not so sure how much I can do at this point.   Just to get back to the Shala, and breath with all my fellow yogis, however, is all I really need right now (although a little stretching would feel great as well).

Food-wise, I've never really been off track, but I haven't been completely on-track either.  With my mother staying with me and cooking, I still managed to remain on fairly healthy diet, albeit a bit more meat-based than I usually eat.   After she left, I began to work through much of the food my friends brought over, just grateful that I didn't have to cook.  

I swear that after this is all over I don't want to see another bowl of chicken-broth-based soup for a long, long, long, time.   Over the last few weeks, I've eaten gallons Jewish chicken soup, Italian chicken soup, Matzo bowl soup and even Wonton soup. 

By last night, however, I felt that it was time to take control of my food again, and when friends call asking what I need, I tell them the greatest thing they can give me right now is their friendship.

On another note, I still haven't gotten my pathology report back, so it's still up in the air as to whether I'll need further surgery or chemotherapy on top of the radiation. 

It's all rather disconcerting to have this hanging over my head, but I'm trying to remain positive.   When friends ask about chemo I tell them that if I do have to go through it I'm getting a wig with the hair I always wanted but could never achieve.   It's going to be the straightest, shiniest hair ever.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Junk Food is Not Cheaper than Real Food

I always love reading the New York Times' Mark Bittman.   He really appreciates good food, but at the same time knows how to blow bunk out of the water.    This column on why junk food is not cheaper than "real food" shows how it is cheaper to cook then run to McDonalds.    First he notes that it costs a family of four $28 to eat at McDonalds and then says:
In general, despite extensive government subsidies, hyperprocessed food remains more expensive than food cooked at home. You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9. (Omitting the bacon, using dried beans, which are also lower in sodium, or substituting carrots for the peppers reduces the price further, of course.)

He also has the same opinion of the "junk food is cheaper by the calorie" argument as I do--in a world were obesity runs rampant, people NEED to be eating fewer calories, so the "cheaper by the calorie" is nothing but pure bullsh!t:
Another argument runs that junk food is cheaper when measured by the calorie, and that this makes fast food essential for the poor because they need cheap calories. But given that half of the people in this country (and a higher percentage of poor people) consume too many calories rather than too few, measuring food’s value by the calorie makes as much sense as measuring a drink’s value by its alcohol content. (Why not drink 95 percent neutral grain spirit, the cheapest way to get drunk?)

Bittman also goes on to note that the poor can eat well, without resorting to organic, free-range, grass-fed, etc. The point is to get real food and cook it, not pick up ultra-processed foods on the fly.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

If Only the Republicans were Like the Tories

David Cameron, the prime minister of Great Britain, backs a Danish style "fat tax."   In case you didn't know, the Tories are the party of Margaret Thatcher, the equivalent of our Republican party but far more pragmatic.  

As Cameron sees it, this is an fat is economic problem for his country.   Unlike the US, Great Britain guarantees health care for all, having the largest single payer system in the world, and he knows that costs are going to soar if obesity soars. 

According to the  Daily Mail:

The tax – being considered at a time of rampant food price inflation – could put 25p on the price of a pack of butter and 8p on a packet of crisps.

Although no details have been worked out, the levy would target products such as milk, cheese, pizza, meat, oil and processed food.

Mr Cameron said drastic action was needed because by 2050 more than half of the population is predicted to be obese – so fat their health is in danger.

But many of his backbenchers will criticise the move as an example of the ‘nanny state’ his party is supposed to oppose.
If you didn't already know the Danes already has a fat tax, which Mark Bittman writes about here.


I'm home.  A bit tired and sore, but home (which is always good).   The surgery went well, but I won't know until next week if more surgery is needed (hopefully not), and what additional treatments I'll need (hopefully few). 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Surgery Today

I'm having a lumpectomy today.   Needless to say, I doubt I'll be doing any posting today or tomorrow.  

I'll get back into the swing soon.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Marketing Makes Us Obese

An interesting cover story from Kogod Magazine, the magazine of American University's Kogod School of Business.

The article focuses in on how marketing, particularly marketing to children and minorities, fuels the obesity crisis.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Comfort of Food

This is breast cancer awareness month, which really, really sucks when you've just been diagnosed with breast cancer.   Those damn pink ribbons are everywhere, so I can't even run into the grocery store to pick up a roll of paper towels without being reminded that I have cancer.  

I guess that after this is all over I may take some comfort in this annual breast cancerthon, but right now it just plain old sucks.

I have taken comfort in two areas, however.   First, I've surrounded myself with flowers (many courtesy of my friends who know I love flowers.)

Two, food.    Now, I don't mean I'm gobbling down 7 layer chocolate cakes, but food can be really comfortingl, and you can be food comforted without breaking the calorie bank.

Last Thursday after seeing my surgeon for the first time I took my kids out for lunch.   The kids had the day off for the Jewish holiday, so they tagged along while I discussed the how, when and where's of my surgery.

So, I'm sitting in this diner on the Post Road in Westport about to order my usual salad when my eyes focused in on the Mazto ball soup listed half a column up.  

I had this enormous empty feeling inside of me, and the IDEA of Mazto ball soup just seemed so warming and filling.   I got the soup and slowly drank in the broth while keeping up my happy front for my children. 

I think I'll remember every spoonful of that one bowl of soup for the rest of my life.

The other "comfort food" I keep turning to is oatmeal.   After an endless September of hot, muggy weather, we are finally getting Autumnal coolness here in Connecticut.   

At night I go to bed thinking I'll just have fruit in the morning, but every morning I wake up knowing I need the warmth and comfort of a bowl of oatmeal.

BTW, my friends and family threw me this incredible party on Saturday.  It was actually a "surprise" 50th birthday party, but it turned  into so much more.  

I did tell everyone, however, that they are never, ever to attempt to pin a pink ribbon on me.