Sunday, July 28, 2019

Reading goal met (and passed)!

First, an update. The day after the dick across the street backed up without looking and crashed into my son's car, he parked one of their vehicles directly across from our driveway, and then moved the other out there, too. To "make a point," he said. The point being, presumably, that he's a dick. Interestingly, both members of that couple openly admit to various dodgy behaviors, including the husband trying to skirt city regulations in his business and the wife pocketing money from their joint business and hiding it from her husband. Just, you know, upstanding folks all around. But the good news is the insurance investigation placed him at fault and the guy's insurance is now paying for my son to get his car repaired and a rental car while that is happening. Sweet justice.
After much of last year spent reading while recovering from surgery and chemo, I definitely have re-caught the reading bug. I decided to up my usual Good Reads goal this year from 52 books to 60. But I'm a bit ahead of schedule again. The Hobbit was my 60th book, finished last week. This is the actual copy I read back in 5th or 6th grade, and the the Lord of the Rings trilogy after that. It launched me into a fantasy and sci fi phase of reading through high school. But I tell you, my feelings about it have changed in the past 45 or so years since I last read it. I decided to re-read this one after discovering that Tolkien was smitten with the Norse Sagas and based much of this work on Icelandic Vikings and Norse mythology. And indeed, now that I know that, the parallels are very striking. For instance, the charcter Beorn who shape-shifts into a fierce bear is just Bj√∂rn (Icelandic for bear) and is clearly meant to be a berserker - the wild viking warriors who wore bearskins and fought like madmen. Even Gandalf is a name pulled directly from the sagas. But I don’t actually enjoy reading the sagas because they are insanely violent, and I didn’t really enjoy re-reading the Hobbit. It might be because the narrative style feels so dated. I think of it as a “intrusive narrator.“ The sort of book where the narrator announces that he won’t go into something until later in the book or makes some other comment about the characters separate from the story. And this may be entirely MY problem. I don’t like storytelling festivals, either. What I want is to be able to immerse myself fully in the story without the overt presence of a narrator. There was some nostalgia value for me, but I got bored with all the stabby bits and the song lyrics.

While I was at it, I read a compilation of Icelandic short stories from the 19th and 20th centuries that was a pretty comprehensive collection with an overwhelmingly grim vibe. In one, the subject was suicide: “When I was a young girl people often hanged themselves down there simply out of bad temper.” She goes on to say of her grandparents, “They were constantly scaring each other by threatening to commit suicide. Probably they didn’t know of any other way to get each other’s sympathy and to keep their love alive, and it lasted them all their lives long. I never noticed any other sign of affection between them than this.” Yeesh. The majority of the stories seem to have the following plot: The main character is either a desperately poor person or a well-regarded person in the village. Bad things happen to them, including being mocked or tormented by other villagers. Often there is violence done to them. The story ends either with the person dead or weeping on the side of the road. Feel-good stories, basically.
And in unrelated news, I made paella last night. Just look at all that oceanic goodness. I think we irritated the seafood store guy by requesting 8 mussels and 8 clams. This morning my husband took some of the leftovers and made them into cakes and served them with poached eggs.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Sunday funnies.

I have a fondness for the weird little coincidences in life. Like the day I was reading this book at work and a patient brought me a cupcake that almost exactly matched the one on the cover.
Or the day I bought this eggplant to make ratatouille and found a card from my sister waiting for me in the mailbox with an eggplant on it.
And not a synchronicity, but I was struck by the amazing savings advertised - from 4 for $4 to 4 for $3.99! I considered buying some just so I could invest the savings.
A package store nearby has had this sign posted since 2014, after Russia's invasion of Crimea. Apparently he pulled about five thousand bucks worth of Russian liquor off the shelves because he feels like they are bullies. I wonder how he feels about the Russian meddling that helped put Trump in power?
I was driving somewhere with my son, who is part of what he describes as the not-straight community, when we saw this sign. He laughed and said, "The Queer Agenda."
And there's apparently a magazine for everything. But did you know that women's marijuana is pink? We are too girly for the green stuff.
And finally,  just a thing that made me giggle - this guy's pants. I can't even imagine having a day when I thought, "I know! I'll buy pants with peacock feathers on them!"

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Integrated care.

The first person I met with following my diagnosis last summer was my breast surgeon. She said, during that initial discussion, that cancer has physical, emotional and spiritual repercussions. She stressed the importance of tackling all aspects of care. Cut to a couple months post-chemo, and I was sitting in this soothing office, meeting with the integrated care doctor. I went in knowing he was vegetarian and encourages a plant-based diet. I was pretty stoked to tell him about my changed diet and he was really pleased with it. But the tweaks he urged on me were surprising. Eat more fat. Increase the amount of fatty fish I'm eating. Lay off the raw vegetables and salads. When I do eat salads, load them up with fats like avocados, nuts and fish.
Him: "And you need to eat more than you probably think you do."
Me: "I already eat more than my husband."
Him: "That's good, keep doing that. If he ate as much as you need to, he'd gain weight. You're a hummingbird."​

So there you have it, my diagnosis is "hummingbird."
My personalized wellness plan started with "Great job on your super healthy pescatarian diet." Based on my Aryuvedic body type, he wants me to eat a "vata pacifying diet," which means eating and drinking things hot or warm as much as possible. I'm supposed to eat warm, moist, heavy, nourishing meals. Even water should be no colder than room temperature. Obviously I will make an exception for beer. Veggies and greens should all be cooked. Will that make a difference? I'm skeptical. But it turns out I actually like having a cup of warm water in the afternoons at work and I figure it can't hurt to try it.

I'd told him I wasn't interested in taking a bunch of supplements, so he suggested I add a teaspoon of spirulina 3-4 times a week. I struggled with how to take that with something warm. I'm here to tell you that you do NOT want to mix spirulina into oatmeal. That's just nasty. Finally, after some experimentation, I discovered that if I dissolve a little miso in hot water and mix in the spirulina, it makes a tasty broth. Spirulina is blue-green algae and jam-packed with nutrients, apparently. And also, I'm to eat a sheet of nori seaweed every day, to help lower estrogen. No problem there, I love seaweed. And for lifestyle, he gave me a handout and then wrote in my plan to also "Continue your awesome PMA (Positive Mental Attitude)" and "Keep Living out your Mantra :)" I'd shown him my appointment book where I'd written this years mantra for me: "I am fierce. I am strong. I am healing. I am grateful for this day." He LOVED that. And at our second and final visit, he hugged me, and said he loved me. He has a real young hippy vibe but you know what? It's sweet and you definitely leave feeling cared about.
As I was researching something for a friend, I read a huge NCBI meta-analysis about environmental links to breast cancer. When I was first diagnosed, I used to joke that maybe it was caused by running in the mist of the DDT truck spraying our neighborhood when I was a kid in Boston in the '60's. According to the article, DDT exposure has been definitively linked to breast cancer. Oh. It got me thinking about other carcinogens I might be exposing myself to. In particular, I was taken aback by the research about phthalates and parabens in many cosmetic products. I went through everything I owned. See the little set with three items? That's what passed. Everything else got tossed, along with a bunch of shampoos, conditioners, lotions, sunscreens, and anti-perspirants, It was a little sobering. Now I use coconut oil and olive oil as moisturizers, baby shampoo, and zinc-based sunblocks. I have very limited cosmetics, all of which got safe ratings from the Environmental Working group. It's exhausting being careful about what you are exposed to! Of course, I can't control the environment, but since the effects of carcinogens are cumulative, I will control what I can.
I think community is also vital for recovery and well-being, and I've taken advantage of two groups in town. One is the Cancer Support Community where I attend various programs. In one, we made gorgeous silk scarves. I picked out sea-like colors and a wave pattern for mine. And best of all, every program is free to people with cancer and their families/support people.
Pretty cool, huh? My husband and I have also gone to a cooking demonstration, live music, and various talks. The informative programs count as continuing ed credits for me, which is a sweet bonus.
Additionally, I go to survivor hangouts with Breast Connect, a local breast cancer group. They provide dinner and a speaker at get-togethers every couple of months. In the last one, we heard about breast cancer research and had wine and appetizers (really good bread with hummus and salmon spread). The dinner was chicken so I took the option of requesting their vegetarian meal. I had a really great salad when I waited for it, and then was thrilled when they brought me roasted butternut squash with caramelized onions and spinach. It was so good that I came home a re-created it for my husband a few days later.
It's not that I'm focused on cancer all the time, but I figure I might as well do what I can to minimize my risks. Or at least, to stay as healthy as I can for as long as I can. And it's hard not to think about it.  For one thing, my crazy hair is a daily reminder. Lately, my husband has been calling me Mrs. Heat Miser.
And he has a point. I know it will go back to being straight eventually, but for right now, my hair just gets wilder by the day. Rather than fighting it, I've decided I'm just going to ride this train wherever it takes me.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

I know, I keep disappearing.

Spring has morphed into summer and still I feel an overwhelming compulsion to work in the yard. I have spent more hours than I should probably admit pulling ground ivy (AKA creeping charlie) out of the back yard, in an effort to allow grass, clover and other weeds I like to grow. I want my yard as bee-, butterfly- and bird-friendly as possible. And besides, there is something wildly satisfying about systematically purging something invasive and damaging. Cue the "oh, it's a metaphor" music.
In other news, we are embroiled in a surprising dispute with a neighbor who is the epitome of an entitled, rich, white guy. Last weekend, my younger son was at our house using his forge to do a little blacksmithing. He'd wrapped up and was having dinner with us on the back deck when we heard a crash. Turns out the neighbor across the street had backed out of his driveway without looking and bashed into my son's car. That's my son walking back to our driveway after getting a photo of the damage, and the neighbors' driveway is across from us, on the left side of the photo. See how very far away my son's car is? First the neighbor said my son's car was "so small" he couldn't see it. It's a standard four-door sedan, but the neighbor and his wife both drive what my husband calls "urban assault vehicles." And neither of them are good drivers - she's knocked over our trash bins a number of times. It was bad enough that he couldn't be bothered to apologize, but worse that he called the police hoping to prove it was my son's fault for being parked on the street. Which, for the record, is NOT illegal as he is claiming. The guy's just being a dick because he said his rates will skyrocket if the claim goes on his insurance. Right - that makes it okay to try to screw over the neighbors' kid. He's like a spoiled child who breaks another child's toy and then blames the other child for having a shoddy, breakable toy. At any rate, we're not rolling over on this one and the neighbor is mightily pissed. He's started doing things like parking their behemoth vehicles directly across from our driveway to make it difficult for us to get out. And yet somehow, we're able to do it without crashing into them. Why? Because we freaking watch where we're going.
Deep breath. In happier news, the 4th of July is also our engagement anniversary. So rather than doing the standard patriotic thing of barbecues and so on, we stayed in and cooked. Let me tell you, I make a mean seafood risotto. This one had Argentine red shrimp and crab and it was the kind of dish that makes you saying things like, "Holy fuck, that's good." Seriously. I'd also made a loaf of sourdough bread that day and my husband put together the salads and served as my sous chef for the risotto.
And the previous day I'd soaked strawberries in bourbon and then coated them in dark chocolate. We sat out on the deck eating them and drinking prosecco, and watched the fireflies emerge from the ground while the bats swooped above our heads. As it got darker, we could see fireworks set off is several directions around us. And felt lucky. I'll be popping in and out through the summer, but I am enjoying having my life be too full to spend much time in front of a computer.