Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fitness Update

It’s been 6 weeks since my final surgery and my commitment to a healthier, stronger me.  To keep me honest and humble I am documenting my progress publicly.  


I am eating substantially healthier and have lost a little over 6 pounds.   I had actually lost more than 6 pounds but graduation weekend put a couple right back on.   Backpacking is happening in about 2 weeks so that is just extra weight for me to haul around.  But I refuse to do any crazy diets for radical weight loss.  I am shooting for a pound a week and I am pretty much on track.


- This has been my greatest area of improvement.  After each breast surgery I lost a significant amount of strength.  So much that I could not open a medicine bottle or pull open a door or close the hatch on my car.  I have regained most of my original strength in my chest, which is still tight but much improved.   

-My daughter explained that a lot reps with less weight is good for endurance but to build strength I should do less reps with more weight. And so I have been alternating these strategies - some days for strength, some for endurance. I have amazed myself at how much weight I could handle (if I only had to do it 8 times)

-  Because of my bad knees, I had been having trouble standing up out my kayak, or from sitting in any low position.  I assumed this was just the way it was going to be because I have declining cartilage and increasing arthritis.   However, my athletic trainer daughter told me that I could train my muscles to help compensate for the joint deterioration.   I have been doing all the exercises she gave me and wow, I can now stand up out of my kayak!  It’s not pretty or smooth, but it is up.   I can now also get up off the ground without holding onto something.


Because of these last 3 years of surgeries, I have done very little aerobic activity and boy does it show.  

- I started a walk/jog program - one lap of walking, one lap of jogging. 20 minutes was my original plan but I still often die around 12 minutes . . . while elderly people race past me with their walkers.

-  I tried this new machine at the gym.  It is much harder than I imagined.   My first time on it I climbed the equivalent of 6 flights and thought my heart was going to explode.  I now add 2 flights each time I use it and I’m up to 16 flights, blasting “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” for inspiration. Still, this only takes me about 4 minutes and I need to be able to hike, uphill, with a pack on, for at least 5 to 6 hours.  

- I am seriously in poor aerobic shape.  


- I have totally sucked at doing any yoga or stretching.   I've already lost whatever bendy gains I had made taking a yoga class a few months back and have reverted to a balled up stiff, achy mess.  

- I did sign up for another yoga class, went to one, and then have allowed something to interfere every week since.   I need to make this a priority.


-  I tried putting 30 pounds of weight in my backpack and strapping it on but the foobs still haven’t fallen or softened enough to get them out of the way of the pack straps.   Frustrating.  I am going to have to find a hack to get around this problem.

Overall, eating better, losing a few pounds and being more active by ignoring my phone and internet has made me feel a kazillion times better.  I have much more energy and my mood and attitude seem to have also improved.  However, in terms of getting in shape - especially backpacking shape - I have a long, long way to go.  

My daughter had me take another internet quiz - what should be my theme song.

I got Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin”

back to the gym . . .

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Full of Grace

So much to be grateful for this week, but heading the list was Beaner’s college graduation.  Of course, I wasn’t so grateful that someone thought it would be a good idea to have graduation on Memorial Day weekend, but I’m over it now.

1.  That Beaner has made such good friends.  The 10 girls in her freshman dorm are still the same 10 girls she has lived with for all 4 years.  They all graduated with some kind of academic honors. They all were heavily involved with community service and leadership programs.   They are all remarkable young women.  They have watched over and supported each other through sickness and bad boyfriends and all-nighters and spring breaks and hangovers.   I am so thankful she has had these women in her life.  I hope she always will.

2.  That these 10 women arranged a beautiful dinner for all the families the night before graduation. They presented a slide show of their years at college and wrote a poem about their shared memories.  I don’t remember it all but it ended something like this:

We are grateful for all the memories we have made
And for all our parents . . . who paid.

Although it was a little too many people in one room and way too much commotion for me, I was quite touched that these women, while their other friends were out partying, wanted their families to celebrate and be together.   If they have learned nothing else in college except the value of friends and family, I think the money has been well spent.

3.  That the forecast was for heavy rain and yet that morning the sun broke through and it was a beautiful day.  I can't imagine the mess it would have been for this outdoor ceremony.

4.  That Beaner’s boyfriend flew up from Florida to see her graduate.  But I was really happy he was there on Sunday when we drove back down with a U-Haul to pack her up.  Martha’s nephew came along also so we had a couple of young men to do the heavy hauling.   We, being able bodied women, could have managed it, but sometimes it’s just nice to have younger, stronger backs do the heavy lifting.   

5. That I was able to give Beaner a graduation card from my mother.  Before she died my mom gave me cards and gifts for my daughters' 21st birthdays, their graduations, and their weddings.   She wanted to make sure that my children got everything her older grandchildren had received.

All in all, a week filled with love and pride and tears. Lots and lots of tears.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Full of Grace

1.  That Peachie is LOVING her internship working in cardiac rehab - or as she says - mending broken hearts.  She will most likely be the one taking care of me in my old age, so this is very good news to me.

2.  Another good oncology report.  I hate that I live from one appointment to the next but I am always grateful for a clear report.

3.  Crunchy almond butter - my new obsession.

4.  Taking care of my 17 month old grand niece for 3 days while her mom was having her new baby brother.  What a joy to swing on swings, play in mud puddles, blow dandelion seeds, cuddle at bedtime and eat entire meals with my fingers.  I think playing with a toddler should be required for every adult. Perhaps it would nudge some of them out of their perpetual grumpy state.

5.  Mostly this week I am grateful that our new grand nephew was safely delivered after a tenuous and difficult pregnancy, and is happy and healthy and making everyone smile.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Exposure Therapy

Trigger warning:  This is an article about exposure therapy for rape survivors and contains some details about one patients experience.

I am reposting this article for information purposes only.  This is last type of  therapy I went through.  It was extreme and difficult and also the one that was finally successful.   Your mileage may vary.

Watch part one and part two of Lori Jane Gliha's report
With her eyes closed and a nervous smile, Tyhira Stovall wiggled uncomfortably in the swivel chair at her therapist’s office in Philadelphia.
As part of her treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) five years ago, the then-17-year-old had been asked to revisit a terrifying experience that she had tried hard to forget.  
In the video recording made by her therapist for research purposes, she tugged on the fashion beads hanging from her neck with one hand, while she rubbed her face and eyes with the other. Slowly, she began to recount what happened to her more than a year before on the afternoon she skipped high school.
“He’s kissing the inside of my leg,” she recalled of the man who raped her that day. “It feels so weird. It sucks because I don’t want him touching me. Oh my God.”
As details started pouring out, the teen – with her eyes still shut – squirmed in the office chair, covered her face with her hands and rested her head against the wall, shaking with sobs.
“Great job, Tyhira. You can do this,” said her therapist Dr. Sandy Capaldi. “I know it’s hard.”

Stovall was an outgoing teenager before her rape. Afterwards, she described herself as a “walking zombie.” She couldn’t hug anybody, or look at her father, who she said had a similar look to her rapist. Her mother started homeschooling her, because she was too anxious to go to school. And she stopped dancing.

“She lost her dance, she lost her joy. She just became like a shell,” said her mother Juanita Sojourner. “I remember I used to tell her, I wanted to see her dance, because I knew somehow that was how she had to fight back.”
Stovall tried various types of treatment, from group therapy to medication. And then she tried something unorthodox.

Prolonged exposure therapy requires rape victims who suffer from PTSD to repeatedly recount intimate details of their attack during a series of therapy sessions. For years, Virginia hospitals have used the therapy to treat veterans with PTSD. And a new study has now revealed it's effective on another group with even higher rates of PTSD than war veterans: adolescent rape victims like Stovall.

How it works

The therapy isn't easy.
The patients are asked to relive their rapes in as much detail as possible, over and over and over again in a single 30 or 45-minute session. According to Capaldi, a clinical psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, it often takes 14 to 17 sessions before a patient finds success.
“What we know is that by engaging with the memory, really feeling the way that they felt when it happened is really part of what helps [them] to habituate or get used to it,” Capaldi explained.

“The idea is that we want them to keep one foot in the past and one foot in the present," Capaldi said.  

But it’s also important that the patients, while gripped in the emotions of their memories, know that they’re in an office, and completely safe.

The patients must also carry out various anxiety-evoking tasks associated with their rapes, on a gradual basis. Capaldi instructed Stovall to keep her bedroom door open at night, because she only felt safe when it was closed. Stovall also went on walks to the house where she was raped, not far from her own home.

New hope

Dr. Edna Foa, who developed the therapy, regularly teaches her methods to doctors from around the world.

Developed in 1980 by Dr. Edna Foa, a professor of Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, prolonged exposure therapy has been used by the Department of Veterans Affairs for more than a decade to aid adult service members in their battles with PTSD. Multiple studies have found the therapy successful in helping veteransand civilians alike.

“About 85 percent [of patients] are being helped, but there are about between 10 and 15 percent that are not helped,” she told America Tonight. “But we also know from studies that we’ve done that nobody got worse.”

In 2007, Pennsylvania researchers, including Foa and Capaldi embarked on a five-year study of adolescent girls who had been raped and suffered from PTSD, like Stovall, to see if the results would be similar.

Doctors compared prolonged exposure therapy with a more traditional counseling approach in which patients are not pushed to remember traumatic incidents.
“I thought we were going to see at the end of the study that everybody got better and there was no difference [between the two types],” Foa said.

But that wasn’t what they found. The study, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in December 2013, concluded that 83 percent of the adolescents who received prolonged exposure therapy no longer had PTSD at clinically significant levels, compared with 54 percent of patients who received traditional, supportive counseling.

Doctors assessed patients multiple times throughout the project, including halfway through the therapy sessions and at the end of treatment. Capaldi said researchers also conducted assessments at three months, six months and 12 months after treatment.
“If we can disseminate…prolonged exposure into community centers, clinics, centers for child sexual abuse, rape crisis centers," Capaldi said, "we’re going to help these people [be] cured.”

Despite the research showing the treatment’s success, many doctors don’t currently use the therapy. A lot of them aren’t trained in the technique. Some have said the treatment is so repetitive that it becomes monotonous, while others are hesitant to witness their patients enduring such a stressful treatment.

A success story

Stovall, now 22, said of all the treatments she received, prolonged exposure therapy helped her the most. At first, she didn’t want to relive the rape, and said that closing her eyes made it “all too real.”
“I would have moments where I’d cry, and I would have moments where I was like, ‘You know what?  I don’t want to talk about this anymore,’ and I’d stop," she said. "But at the end of the day, the more I talk about it, the more I’d get used to it and the more I’m comfortable with sharing what happened."
Now, Stovall is preparing to graduate college and expecting her first child. She also started dancing again.
“This move right here, that’s like washing the shame off, washing the fear off, washing everything I felt off,” she said, watching a video of her performing.
On stage, Stovall spins, wraps her arms around herself and then extends her leg high into the air.
“In this moment, I claim myself as not being a victim,” she said. “But I am a rape survivor.”

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Full of Grace - Mother’s Day

This was my second Mother’s Day without my mother.  I thought it would get easier, but no.   With the passing of time, I realize more and more how much she taught me, how much she influenced every aspect of my life.  And how much I am like her - the good, and the pain in the ass stuff.    Still, to balance the missing ache, both my daughters made their way home.  

Here are some of the highlights of my day:

- An early call from my sister. We made each other cry talking about our mom and how much we miss her.   I am so glad to have someone to share this sorrow with.

- Peachie, who came Friday night, told me she couldn’t afford a present because she had to pay a $175 ticket for having an open container.   Yep, she always makes me proud.

-Instead she gave me a personal training session at the gym on Saturday, including measuring my VO2, which meant me pedaling a bike at a higher and higher resistance while she took my heart rate.  And then, after I was a sweaty mess and fearing a heart attack, she did my body fat calculations.  Just what every mom wants - her kid pulling lumps of fat off her body and measuring it with calipers.  I completed her testing (except the push ups which my recent surgery fortunately prohibited) and was pronounced fit. . .

. . . for my age.

Why does that phrase now linger after every health diagnosis?   But I digress . . .  

Her gift also included a lot of strength and endurance exercises and suggestions, especially designed for my hiking/backpacking training.  She had put a lot of time and thought into her work-up and I was very impressed.

-Beaner came only for Sunday.  She was supposed be home in the morning but was still hung over from Daiquiri Day on Saturday.  (Yup, so proud my daughters have learned to drink heartily in college : )  She rolled in around 1 pm.  But she did make dinner - spaghetti squash with homemade tomato sauce - to accommodate Martha’s WW diet.   Very good.

- Texts from the boyfriends wishing us a happy day.  I do like boyfriends who suck up the parentals.   

- Planting flowers and vegetables. Finally! I think Spring has at last arrived.

- My family gave me a gift of a Magical Bullet (thanks e for the recommendation)  and we all made fruit smoothies.    This will get a lot of good use in my household.   And I found whole websites full of Nutella smoothie recipes.  

-  Mother’s Day cards that made me cry.    I am a sentimental fool.

All in all, a bittersweet day.   So much missing my mother.   So much love from our daughters.  

I know so many people who struggle with Mother’s Day because they had hard or non-existent relationships with their mothers or their mother’s died so young.   Martha’s parents had both died before she was 14.  I was blessed to have my mom well into my adult life.  And I am grateful for every moment of it.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The First Hurdles

I have started to look for ways to regain my strength and stamina which seem to have been completely depleted over the last couple of years.  My goal is to shake myself out of this sluggish, lazy, blah state I have drifted into and to get back to a healthier, stronger me.

I have always been within the range of healthy weight for my height.  Except I am now on the high end of that range rather than the low end.  I had originally wanted to lose 10 pounds, but then I gained 5.  Go figure.  So now my goal is 12-15 pounds.   I do confess to being rather weight obsessed right now.  Not because of some arbitrary number or self image issues but because I want to get back to backpacking.   Carrying extra weight on your body is like carrying extra weight in your pack.  The older I get, the less weight my back and knees tolerate.   So to haul my butt up those mountains, my butt needs to be smaller and the legs stronger.  The extra pounds must go.   

Here are a few of the easy changes I have made so far:

1.  Added more fruits and vegetables to my diet.  

I would rather add healthy stuff to my diet than deny myself treats. Luckily, Martha has started Weight Watchers, and although she is driving me nuts with all the points for this and points for that, most fruits and vegetables have no points so we are eating a lot of those.  I am not doing any specific diet, but my eating has become much healthier because their are so many more options in my house. Martha preps a lot of the fruits and veggies so all I need to do is grab and go.  I am bringing a supply into work because this kind of stuff shows up every day.  

Now I first eat an apple and some almonds. If i still want the donut, I'll eat it. but the healthy stuff has to go in first. My junk food intake has diminished considerably and I don't really miss it.

2.  Leaving my cell phone in another room when I go to bed.

I have always woken up with the sun, this time of year around 5:30.  In the past I would get up by 6 and either go to the gym, take the dog for a long walk, or do some yard work.   And then came the insidious phone.  Instead of getting up, I started to check the weather, then my emails, and maybe play a few rounds of Scrabble.  And before I knew it, an hour had past and it was time to get ready for work.  Thankfully I am not on FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.  Sometimes I look at other people’s pages and they are literally on the entire day.  And night.   I wonder if they ever move away from their devices.  

From the movie Wall-E, a prediction of life in the future.
I know many people who are already there.
Thankfully I am not addicted to social media, but still, the phone still has had me riveted in bed rather than moving first thing in the morning.  Now that that temptation is gone, I am once again hopping out of bed and doing some form of exercise. Which also sets my tone for the day.  A lazy morning in bed translated into sluggish behavior all day.  Getting up and moving gives me energy for the whole day.  It is amazing the difference in my attitude and mood.

3.  Something to work toward.

My hiking buddy and I have set a date for our next backtracking trip.  Having a date to work towards is a great motivator.    So I have some timed goals for weight loss, leg strength and stamina.  I am still having difficulty with my backpack straps and the new foobs but I am hopeful that more healing time will take care of that issue. I picture myself on a mountain top and I am motivated.

It has been 2 1/2 weeks since I made these small changes.  I have lost almost 5 pounds.   I pop out of bed in the morning and do something - bike, gym, yoga.  Nothing too strenuous yet.  I am easing into it.   I walk my dog every day.  I am now training on a stair stepper to build both my legs and my aerobic capacity, which right now would allow me to hike maybe 1 mile with a pack on.   Pretty pathetic.   But I have 4 more weeks to train.    A goal is a very good thing for me.   I am feeling good, I already have much more energy, and I  am feeling much better about myself and my ability to get myself whole again.

Life is Good.

So how are you all doing?  Any inspirational, motivational or other fitness tips to share?  


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Full of Grace

It has been a rather uneventful week.  Busy at work, doing things to get stronger, and trying to get my garden started during the very rare moments of sun and warmth.   But thinking about what has been in the news lately, I have had much to be thankful for.

1.  I do not live where there are tornadoes.  Tornadoes and earthquakes have got to be the scariest weather things to experience.    We deal with snow and occasional flooding.    I will take snow any time over tornadoes.  

2.  I can afford to eat healthy.  Martha and I have been changing our diet which includes many more fruits and vegetables.  My grocery bills have gone up.  There was a time in my life when I survived on ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese.   Having a hot dog was considered a “roast”.   Healthy foods are more expensive than cheap carbs.   I will never forget where I came from and I am very aware now blessed I am now.

3.  That the federal government is starting to seriously look at sexual assault on college campuses.  The university campus where I was attacked is one of the top 55 institutions being investigated.  This is long overdue.  And on the flip side, I am immensely grateful for the immediate and appropriate response from Beaner’s college when she was assaulted.  

4.  And while I do worry about my daughters safety on their college campuses, I generally do not worry about them being kidnapped and sold to sex traffickers.  I cannot begin to imagine what the families of those Nigerian girls are going through.  I feel impotent on this but have contacted my US senators hoping that our government can help.   I am oh so grateful to live in a country where girls are free to pursue an education.

5.  Lastly, and still my biggest point of gratitude these days - health and healthcare.    Both for physical and emotional problems, I have been taken care of by incredibly caring and professional people.   For the first time in a very long time I feel on the brink of wholeness.   To whatever force or energy I owe that to - “thank you”.  

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Be Careful What You Ask For

Well it’s May 1st.   And if you’re a parent of a high school or college senior, you know that this is decision day.  The day the students have to commit to whatever college they have chosen.

Beaner has always known she needed to go to grad school.  And she has done well in college.  She double majored in psyche and criminal justice, did a minor in sociology and will graduate magna cum laude.   (I think I can brag a little, especially since she has none of my DNA)   And she got accepted to all six schools she applied to that have the rare combination of study she is interested in.

And then she panicked.  How was she going to decide?  Two of the school were in Florida where her boyfriend is now working.  One school is on Long Island, close to my sister.  One was in North Carolina where she loves the sports.  One in Boston where her best friend will be living.  And one is 7 miles down the road.  

My advice was to start by eliminating the bottom choices  -

1.  Start with the schools that don’t have the exact program you want to study.   This knocked out Long Island since it did not give her the certification she would need to accept insurance should she go into private practice.

2. Next - thinking about actually living where these schools are located, how would she feel about living there.  Having recently spent some time in Florida, and sharing space with NC students on her senior spring break, she eliminated all the southern schools.  Beaner said that she did not want to live any place where confederate flags were acceptable or where her parents would not be considered equal.  (I am proud of my daughter for many things, but maybe none more than this)

She was down to Boston and her home university and she has been agonizing about it for weeks.

Frankly, where we live is not a great place for young people.  There is not much to do.  Most of her friends went away to school and have now have jobs elsewhere.   In my heart I really think she would be happiest in Boston, a great city for young people.  But I had to have a serious talk with her about money.  Boston’s tuition  is almost 3 times what she will pay as a resident of her home state university, plus she would have housing costs which are astronomical in Boston.  And then there is the fact that our state university’s program is ranked the highest, for this particular program, on the east coast. But she is footing the bill for this, so the choice was entirely hers.

And so yesterday she made the final decision to come home to go to school.   A very mature decision - the best education with the smallest amount of incurred debt rather than living the dream with her friends in Boston.

We are just awakening to the reality of this situation.  Beaner will be living at home for the next couple of years.   Not just coming home for a weekend, or even the summer.  Home for the duration.  With all her accumulated furniture and crap that has no room in our tiny house.  With her college time schedule, getting up around noon, then up til all hours.   All her newly acquired dietary preferences. And all of her noise.

And for us - loss of our privacy.  Loss of our space.  Loss of bathroom time.  Loss of quiet time.  It’s funny how you miss them so much when they first leave, but then you settle back into your original “couple” roots and life is very good.

I am very proud of my eldest daughter.  She has worked hard and made good choices.  I like to think that I had some small part in her becoming the amazing young woman she is.   But now it is coming back to bite me.  Be careful what you ask for, for you will surely get it : )