This blog chronicles my life as I try to balance healthy lifestyle habits with my husband's penchant for pizza rolls and my daughter's desire to watch iCarly 8 hours a day. It contains a mostly humorous, kind, and somewhat spiritual look at everyday life and the people who live it.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
If you know anything about Boston you know that we criss-crossed that entire city. We walked a lot of it, but we also took a lot of subways, in fact we took all the subway lines except the silver line which only goes to the airport. Even our Boston Duck Boat was retro-fitted to run on vegetable oil. It was a Green Day.
Now as a Midwestern girl up until 2 years ago, I didn't even know mass transit like this existed except on TV. I didn't know anything about subways, trains, or buses. In fact my only experience with the public bus was getting on the wrong one to go home from the mall when I was 12 and ending up in the "wrong part of town", trying to find a pay phone, and having a tearful conversation with my mom as I begged her to come get me. Since I've moved to Massachusetts it's a whole different story.
First of all I live in town which means I can walk or bike to the library, post office, dry cleaner, pretty much anywhere I want except the grocery store which is too far away and on a wicked busy street.
Secondly I now regularly go into a big city with an advanced, practical, easy, cheap, and reliable mass transit system.
Thirdly I live in an area of teeny tiny little towns that have to be self sufficient because they are so small and so scattered and so walking and biking is more common as opposed to the midwestern suburban sprawl I was used to.
All of this has me wondering if all of this dependance upon mass transit, my own legs, or my bike are a result of my new geography or of a growing shift in perception about the way we travel?
What do you think? In your area are there viable alternatives to your car? Have you considered alternatives to your car in the past, oh say 2 years or so? If you have considered alternatives, is it because of gas prices? Car prices? The environment? All of the above?
My legs are t-i-r-e-d tired from yesterday's jaunt, but my heart is happy. We spent 10 hours traipsing around Boston leaving lots of footprints on the old bricks. But our carbon footprint? Pretty small.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
I try not to dwell on "the tumor" in this blog because I (hopefully) have a lot more dimension to me than just a 5 yr old diagnosis but I certainly don't mind talking about it, so here goes.
Five years ago my left eye began to twitch. The twitch didn't go away after a week or a month or even 2 months. Steve and I thought it was stress. Finally it was bugging me so much that I went to a neurologist who prescribed 5 mg of valium to see if the twitch would decrease or even go away. I took the valium for 3 days. During those 3 days the twitch didn't stop. In fact I was starting to feel an odd "pulling" sensation on the left side of my face, as if the muscles were pulled down just for a second and then released. The neurologist ordered an MRI for the following week. By the time the MRI came around I was experiencing a "zapping" sensation in my face. Have you ever walked across carpet in socks and then gotten a shock when you touched a light switch or another person? It felt exactly like that.
The MRI revealed a squash-shaped mass that was wrapped all around my brain stem and extending toward my left ear. They gave me an injection of dye to check for cancer. The center of the tumor lit up with the dye (which is bad) so my initial diagnosis was of an inoperable cancerous mass surrounded by necrotic (dead) brain tissue.
That was not a good day.
Later testing and evaluation revealed that what was originally thought to be cancer was actually an artery that had been completely surrounded by the tumor. The tumor was thought to be benign and the diagnosis was an epidermoid brain tumor. Very rare. No known cure. Surgery is best treatment. Because I was exhibiting symptoms but was in overall excellent health I was considered an excellent candidate for surgery. I had a brain tumor, but at least it was benign!
That was a good day.
By this time the left side of my face was mostly paralyzed. It took massive effort on my part to talk, blink, eat, drink, and swallow. Our family took a trip to Chicago and we ate at the Cheesecake Factory restaurant. The paralysis was so bad I was unable to chew my food because I couldn't make my mouth work properly and the food kept falling out. I was embarrassed, scared, sad, and angry.
That was not a good day.
Three months after diagnosis the decision to have surgery was made and the date set. I was terrified because I knew going in that the surgeon wouldn't be able to remove the tumor, just "deflate" it because of its proximity to and wrapping around of the brain stem and a major artery. At that time I wasn't worried about living with the tumor long term, I was just worried about surviving the surgery.
That was not a good day either (I threw up a lot from the anesthesia, which is hard to do while not moving your head).
Well survive I did and so here I am today with what you could call a chronic condition. I believe that I have complete control over whether or not the tumor grows because I believe that diet and exercise play a significant part in abnormal cell division and our bodies' abilities to control cellular overgrowth (which is all a tumor is when you think about it). I have not yet met a brain surgeon who agrees with me about this, but I know deep in my bones that I am right. When I discovered the "cure" for everything is a mixture of diet, exercise, and attitude I felt empowered. Strong. Able to defeat all obstacles.
That was a good day.
Life is made up of many days, however, so sometimes my diet is pristine and I am a model for healthy eating, exercise, and stress management. Sometimes my diet is a mess (as you well know), exercise is sporadic, and stress is managed by consuming sugar. I have to be very careful to limit the bad times because I don't want to promote abnormal cell growth.
So what is it like to have a brain tumor? Well, it's like life always is: there are good days and bad days. I feel a strong sense of being on the right path and have tremendous faith in my game plan: research what causes abnormal cell growth (ummm...SUGAR causes abnormal cell growth), limit my exposure to as much junk food, chemicals, toxins as possible, and exercise to keep the lymph circulating and my overall level of health high. But isn't that life? Call it a brain tumor or high blood pressure or diabetes or a heart murmur or arthritis or depression or whatever else ails you. Everybody has something that scares them, challenges them, reminds them that life is precious, sacred, and brief.
So much of what you read in this blog is my continual search for balance, health, laughter, and love and I know how critical the search is because I remember how I felt in those early days after diagnosis when I thought my life would be numbered in months, not years.
I love my life. I wouldn't change a single thing, not even the brain tumor because I have learned so much from the experience and it continually grounds me, helps me to re-focus on what is really important. I recently celebrated my 40th birthday, a milestone I didn't think I'd make just a few short years ago. Along the way I think I'm gaining a little wisdom:
Every day that I am alive, my family and friends are alive, the sun rises and the stars shine is a good day.
My wish for you: Have a great day!
With Love, Beth
Sunday, June 13, 2010
And it rained.
And it is raining still.
Now I live in a shabby-chic-half-sanded-half-peeling-house. I am the bane of the neighborhood. The eyesore. The house everyone talks about: "aren't they ever going to finish painting that house?" I have complained about houses in neighborhoods where they didn't finish the paint job in what I considered to be a timely fashion. Now I'm that house.
So this week I'm going to try something new. I'm not going to plan to do any painting. I am going to focus on everything but house painting hoping to fool the gods of exterior painting into thinking I no longer care.
We began the TMPP with my confident statement: "yeah, it'll take about a month. We should be done by end of June." Mother Nature had a bit of a different schedule. She always wins.
Cost of paints and supplies so far: $500.
Cost of professional painter to do the work for me: $5000.
Ability to actually perform said work because the weather cooperates: priceless.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Finally after using the iPad as a coaster for a few days I decided to try and do one of the simplest daily tasks I perform on my PC: blog. No go on an iPad. It's keyboard is too similar to that of my iPhone (which I adore) and without the sensation of striking a key I tend to have a lot of typos. So I wondered...what is this oversized, overpriced piece of equipment good for? Could it save my life?
It can't make a phone call, so I can't use it to dial 911.
It's too small to be effectively slammed into my solar plexus if I'm alone and choking.
It's too big to put in my mouth to bite down on to keep me from biting my tongue if I'm having a seizure.
It's too light to use for chest compressions, should my heart stop beating.
It's too heavy to use to bang myself in the head to keep me awake should I already be concussed.
I could use it to search the web to diagnose and hopefully get treatment for whatever ails me, but with the oversized-yet-still-too-small-keyboard I might end up getting a misdiagnosis.
I could also use it to watch life-saving-technique movies.
Or youtube videos.
Or read life-saving-how-to books online.
Verdict: I don't think the iPad is going to save my life, but I think it may change it. As I watched my daughter instantly take to the latest technology gadget I realized that for her, as for many in her generation, it's not about what the latest gadget can do, it's about the constant quest to make things bigger, better, smaller, more advanced, less costly, and have more functionality.
I don't think the iPad represents all that big of an advantage over the iPhone, but I do think it represents what is best about our society's consumerism: the push to invent, create, push the boundaries, think outside the box, and create an instant "need" for something that was unknown just a few months earlier. Statisticians constantly warn that our students aren't ranking high enough in math and science. Critics predict dire consequences for the problem-solving abilities of our youth. Politicians get elected on platforms that promise more focus on education. I'm not saying they are all wrong, I'm just saying that in order to sell over 2 million expensive oversized iPhones that can't make a call you have to have a population of people who are curious and in the famous words of Albert Einstein:
"It is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for what this delicate little plant needs more than anything, besides stimulation, is freedom. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty."
And that, my friends, is what every single one of those 2 million iPads is doing for our country. Inspiring curiosity. Inspiring new ideas. New apps. New ways to use this piece of equipment about which so much is heralded yet not a lot is yet discovered. If you are worried that your kids can't think. Can't dream. Can't imagine, create, or learn, buy them an iPad. Leave them alone. Let them explore.
Let them be curious.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Why would AmEx be defrauding me? I'm their customer! Heck, I've been a huge spokesperson for how much I enjoy my card and its benefits. So I search back statements. I am able to go back online to May 2, 2008. Well, well, well, isn't this interesting? In May of 2008 AEPC for 79.90 appears. May of 2009 AEPC for 89.90, and May 0f 2010 AEPC for 89.90. Guess what I would probably find if I could search back to 2007, 2006, and 2005 when I first got the card?
And now for the kicker: AmEx agreed to refund the 2010 charge, which they did on June 2, but they are deciding whether or not they want to refund the ones in 2009 and 2008! They said it would take them about 30 days to decide whether or not they would give me back my money that they, without my permission, fraudulently took. I can't even search back far enough online to see how much money they have really stolen and here they are deciding if they will give back the money they stole that I can prove? Are they kidding? Then they emailed me an online survey to rate the customer service I received. Customer service? I'm sorry where in the words 'customer service' do they feel that 'defrauding', 'stealing', 'lying', and 'underhanded' fit in?
American Express I was always so proud to carry your card. I have faithfully paid my bills, used your card whenever possible, touted its virtues, priveleges, and rewards to all who would listen, and, most of all, trusted the good reputation your name carries. Now I find out you've been fleecing me every year for the past 3 years (probably more) and you didn't even have the courtesy to show remorse when I called you on it.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
As I've mentioned before I am allergic to dairy. Being allergic to dairy is not the same as being lactose intolerant but unlike other food allergies, it can be very similar to "seasonal" allergies. Lactose intolerance occurs when a person's digestive tract does not secrete enough of the enzyme lactase which is necessary to digest the protein lactose. Symptoms that you are lactose intolerant include stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, and/or gas after eating foods containing lactose (milk sugar).
That's not what happens to me. When I first consume dairy nothing much happens. This is probably why I went until about the age of 33 with no idea I was allergic to dairy. My entire childhood was spent with my throat feeling itchy, my tongue feeling "funny", hives mysteriously appearing and disappearing on my face and upper body, and oh yeah, my stomach cramping and lots of diarrhea too. I drank milk with at least 2 meals a day, frequently ate ice cream, and loved cheese. Because dairy was such a big part of my diet it never occurred to me that what I was feeling wasn't normal. I also had strep throat and tonsillitis at least 4 times a year and tonsil stones all year long. And constant sinus congestion. Inflammation was my middle name. Oh, and even my acne had acne. More inflammation.
As the years went by I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome and seasonal allergies. Sinusitis and rhinitis. Things got worse. My seasonal allergies went all year long, my face was always broken out, my lower abdomen bulged even in high school and college when I thought I looked best when I weighed under 100 pounds. Believe it or not, the bad skin, bad bowels, and bad sinuses weren't the worst part: it was the endless itching. Hives would appear in waves from my scalp to my stomach. That is what it feels like to have a dairy allergy. Does this sound like you?
So let's talk about leukotrienes (I swear I don't make these names up!) Leukotrienes are fatty molecules that are part of the immune system and are usually accompanied by histamine and contribute to inflammation. The production or overproduction of leukotrienes is directly influenced by arichidonic acid, a molecule found exclusively in animal products. In other words, it wasn't just the dairy products contributing to my overall poor health, it was probably the dairy products, the meat products, and the egg products! When I decided to become vegan every single "allergy" symptom disappeared and my face cleared up. Hmmmm...
Over the years I have become a very lax vegan. I got tired of preparing 2 dinners: one for me and one for Steve and our daughter. I got tired of being "high maintenance" at restaurants. I got tired of never being able to just "stop for a burger" -- it seemed like everything took so much planning. I still don't eat dairy products (mostly because of the hives that I still get, even inside my mouth and throat!) but I've noticed a gradual but persistent return of "seasonal" allergies as more and more animal products have crept into my diet. I have a feeling I know the culprits: it's those darn leukotrienes!
Now I have absolutely nothing against becoming a dedicated vegan again, but in case you do I have some other suggestions: Omega-3 fatty acids are the most effective at keeping those pesky leukotriene levels in check. You know the sources of Omega-3s: salmon, walnuts, olive oil, supplements, etc. but did you know about the connection between sugar and leukotriene levels? Ah yes, the evil warlord sugar rears its ugly head again. Apparently sugar is so effective at causing inflammation in the body that it puts the immune system into overdrive and kicks those leukotriene and histamine levels waaaaaaay up. Thus even if you eliminate all animal products and take truckloads of Omega-3 supplements if you also knock back a few completely vegan Cokes, you're undoing all the good you've done. Imagine what my former ice cream consumption did to me? No wonder I spent a week every 3 months suffering from tonisillitis!
It just doesn't seem fair, does it?