Is it helpful?

Today was my therapy appointment. It had been three weeks since my last session. I’d been patting myself on the back for doing really well over the past few weeks. Seems when life is mellow, it’s rather easy to be optimistic and light hearted. Two weeks ago, I was told I needed to have a breast biopsy and it had me feeling very nervous. It was decided the spot our radiologist been watching needed further investigation. (See my post titled “Leftie”)

Now, I don’t know anything yet and my appointment is set for this coming Monday. Since getting the news that more tests were needed, I’ve been in various stages of logic and panic. Last night was the worst. I had trouble sleeping due to stabs of panic in my chest. Just as I’d get settled down, fear would hit. I’d become restless and struggle to find a position which made me feel comforted. I was rehearsing my therapy appointment over and over too. I was all in knots and couldn’t wait to get to therapy just so it could be over.

We talked the entire session about all the fear and stress I’d been having over the past two weeks. I was not wanting to admit where my mind had been. I didn’t want to admit how scared I was. I didn’t want my feelings dismissed. I didn’t want to cry about this. I wanted to prove to myself that I was as strong.

Having the reaction I did to this sort of news doesn’t make me weak. It is a normal reaction and that was the parting words from my therapist after our session. My therapist is great and I am really glad I found him. He’s the most optimistic person I’ve ever met and he told me why he’s that way. His mindset is to always look for the good, even in rotten situations. We talked about how even if I do need surgery, any scar is a reminder how surgery helped me. That was definitely as spin I hadn’t thought of. I even got to thinking about what if I did end up with a scar. Maybe I could do a photo shoot about the experience? Definitely a better mindset that what I had moments before.

I was happy my feelings and fears were not dismissed. They were validated and by the time I left, I was feeling more positive and strong. The big action point from today’s session was: Do not label a thought as “good” or “bad”. Ask yourself if the thought is helpful. There are no good or bad thoughts, there are just “thoughts”. But there are definitely helpful and unhelpful thoughts. Taking the labels of “bad” or “good” away gives our brain less absolutes. The brain likes absolutes. By removing the judgement of a thought, it allows for more room. It allows for more “gray” area in which the mind can play. Is it good or bad to be thinking about what if I have scars? No. Is it helpful? Not at this juncture, no. I haven’t even gotten my biopsy done! It could quite possibly turn out to be nothing at all. We’ll know on Monday.

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In it for the long haul

In a few weeks, my company is having it’s “biometric” screenings for employees. We get a discount on our health insurance if we do the biometric screening. It also gives a benchmark to gage our overall health. It’s a great tool and I actually look forward to this sort of stuff. A few weeks ago, I was reviewing my results from last year. My lab work was not great. My cholesterol was high. My blood pressure was high. I weigh 10 more pounds than I did this time last year. Along with the results of the screening, we are provided information about health risks when our readings are outside of normal ranges. My personal risks included heart disease, increased risk of stroke and an increased risk of obesity related illnesses. Diabetes has touched 3 of my 4 grandparents! My family’s medical history is that of cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease and several other scary things I do not wish to encounter.

After reviewing my results from last year and knowing my results this year might not be improved, I took a long look at myself. I thought about my diet and my lack of exercise. I saw the faces of everyone in the family who has dealt with or who has passed because of illness. I don’t want to die earlier than fate determines. It was one of several kicks in the ass I needed to make me take my health seriously.

I found a great YouTube channel called The Kilted Coaches. Stephen Clarke and Rab Shields are both personal trainers from Scotland and their message is “health and happiness”. I absolutely love these two guys. Their positive outlook on health was so refreshing and their approach is unlike any other I’ve found thus far. Watching their videos made exercise fun and achievable. They also have a series called Mindset Monday. The Mindset Monday videos had me hooked on their channel. I look forward to Monday now because these videos encourage, promote thought and action. (Lord knows I do enjoy introspection and analysis).

A link to today’s video here: An Important Life Lesson is to Continually Sharpen Your Axe

(Take a moment to watch this video so the rest of what I’m going to say will make more sense. It opens in another tab.)

So briefly, today’s video was about preparing for life’s long haul. Since the Kilted Coaches are about health and happiness, the question posed at the end was, “What are you doing to sharpen your axe?”. In other words, what are you doing to prepare your body for the long haul? How are your stress levels? Do you get enough sleep? How is your nutrition? Do you take care of yourself or do you abuse your body and simply hope for the best?

After watching today’s video, I thought of my dad. My mom passed away in June of last year. They were never a health conscious couple. The meal portions were large. The food was tasty, carb heavy, fattening and hearty. There was little thought of cholesterol levels, sodium, carb intake or fat content. My parents were very much “live in the moment” kind of folks. After my mom died, my dad started taking his health seriously. My dad has started walking and watches what he eats. He’s cut way down on the sweets and only has a small serving of dessert, if he has any at all. I am encouraging him to start a bit of resistance training as I know it will help his overall strength. He is active and volunteers with the local sheriff’s department so he needs to be physically able and agile. My dad has taken small, positive steps towards preparing for the long haul. He’s sharpening his axe. (and like Rab said, no innuendos please). I’m actually quite proud of my dad. He’s looking fitter now, he has the energy needed to go on his patrols and he’s reduced his stress (retirement helped that!). He does still enjoy his cigars and the occasional dram of  Glenlivet but overall, he’s improved his quality of life by making these changes.

So of course, I had to reflect on what changes I’ve done so far.  I also reflected on what else I need to improve. First I’ve started monitoring my blood pressure each morning. I have remembered to take my medication most evenings and I’ve only missed about two days this month. I’ve started logging all of my meals to get an idea of what I’m using for fuel. Doing this has made me very aware of my eating habits and it shows me where I still need work. (Damn you, Pizza Hut) I’ve also been tracking my water intake. I need to keep working on the water intake, however. It’s a difficult one, oddly enough, despite my living in the desert. I also signed up for the Kilted Coaches online fitness support called The Clan (NOT the Klan, wise asses!!). The Scottish clans were groups of families which came together and helped each other. The Kilted Coaches’ Clan is a nod to the old days. It is made up of a bunch of folks from all over the place, all with a singular mindset of improving their health. The Clan is a supportive group and being a part of this group has encouraged me and made me accountable (a good thing). I have wanted and needed something like The Clan in the past because I did not have a support system in place. Another thing which motivates me is this which I see every time I log in:

Screenshot_2017-09-18-05-14-25-1

This little reminder lets me know I have no one else to blame for my fitness downfalls. Yes, there are outside variables which may hinder my progress but ultimately, it’s all up to me. I am in control of what I put into my mouth. I am in control of how much I move my body. I am in control of how much alcohol I consume. I am in control. Period. I took this reminder as an empowering statement. If I don’t reach my goals this month, I will “sharpen my axe” a bit more and keep at it.

 

 

Leftie

I had my 6 month follow up mammogram on Thursday of last week. The radiologist has been watching a spot which was found on my very first mammo. After my annual check this year, a 6 month follow up was suggested. This time around, they decided the spot isn’t doing anything but it isn’t going away. The bloody thing looks concerning so a biopsy is my next step.

Since I tend to panic about any curveball, I’ve been trying to not think about what lies ahead. I’ve never had a biopsy though I know it’s relatively simple (a simple poke with a needle in the offending area) and straightforward. I am nervous of the result. My mom had a lumpectomy the year before she was diagnosed with a brain tumor (an unrelated diagnosis we’re told). Will I need surgery too? Is this a more sinister spot which could spread? Will I need a mastectomy in the future? If so, can I handle reconstruction?

The mind races well ahead of step two. Always. It is my default setting as a person who is anxious (but desperately trying to stay low key about it all). The male ultrasound tech was the most understanding. He walked me out after my exam and mentioned one of the biopsy facilities is where he’d send his wife. His concern actually more scared. Not so much for what he said per se, but more for what wasn’t said. I know he’s seen malignant and benign spots on his screen more than once. The techs get a sense for these things. Same went for my doctor. I received a call from him the next day, asking how I was feeling. I asked him if the report was worrisome and he simply said a biopsy was recommended. My doc is a friend and he knows I get anxious. A referral has been written based on the radiologist’s report. I need to return a call to my doc’s care manager as she needed to verify my insurance (not sure why, she could simply call the insurance and leave me out of it, but I digress.)

I had my cry last night. I felt cranky and irritable all weekend but couldn’t place why. I started down a bad path mentally when I thought about the scary possibilities which may lie ahead. I did myself no favors with my train of thought but I had to let it play out. Logic was standing on the sidelines, coaching me through it so this morning I feel better.

I made myself work out this morning, even though I wasn’t feeling it. Worry won’t solve anything and I’m doing me best to keep that in mind. I am eager to get on with this biopsy, simply so I know what’s next.