FOUR YEARS AGO

My boobs are officially pre-schoolers.

Four years ago, I had a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy. And while my recent posts have been about the absolute roller coaster ride I have been on related to my bilateral salpingo oophorectomy, my mastectomy was the inspiration for this blog and for my Marathon before the mastectomy.

Many women who are BRCA positive have asked me which surgery was the “easier” of the two. For me, it was the mastectomy. But, very little points to that being the easier of the two. The mastectomy surgery took about 8 hours (plus reconstruction); the oophorectomy took about 15 minutes. The recovery period for the mastectomy was about 6 weeks; the oophorectomy SHOULD have been about 1 week (I had some serious complications). With the mastectomy, I was on pain medicine for at least 2 weeks straight; the oophorectomy, I was off pain medicine after a few days.

But, for me, what made my mastectomy a positive experience was the time I took to prepare myself and to steady the ship. My mastectomy anniversary reminds me of love. When I think about that time in my life, I’m overwhelmed by a feeling of love, community, support, pride and care. It took a village to keep me lifted; it took a village to make me whole.

Though I had lost parts of my body — parts that not only helped me identify as a woman, but parts that also fed my infants and sustained their lives — I had gained immeasurable self-confidence and faith in the goodness of people.

On a cold January day in 2010, I strapped on my running shoes — shoes that had mostly just taken up space in the hallway closet — and took my first steps outside. It was freezing and rain was beginning to fall. On that afternoon, I had taken my first steps towards training for a  marathon before my mastectomy. I still remember sitting on the couch at my mom’s house, figuring out how to build a WordPress site. I had felt a small lump on my breast, and I was terrified. And that’s when Marathon B4 Mastectomy was born. I was tired of being afraid. I was tired of being scared. I was going to begin a journey of health to prepare for my mastectomy.

On that cold January day, my friend Eric had joined me. We talked about the surgery and what I was thinking about doing. I was going to run two 1/2 marathons before my mastectomy. But I didn’t want it to be about me — I wanted it to be about empowering others to pursue their goals and to follow their dreams.

The following week, two more co-workers had joined me in the stinging cold air: Christina and Alice. They, too, strapped on their shoes and began walking.

The next week, two students joined me. Two students who had been trying to get in shape and who wanted to take control of their lives.

The next week, I asked for people to join me virtually. And more people joined.

And more. 

Throughout those months, the winter cold became the spring breeze and rain. And, soon, the summer heat kicked in as we were all getting in our last training runs before the 1/2 Marathon. For me, and many who had joined me during those months, this 1/2 Marathon symbolized strength, endurance, commitment, and confidence. I am forever grateful for the people who ran with me that day, and for the people who posted photos online who had run their own 1/2 marathons in their own towns.

31665_10150212788480179_4865602_n

Team Marathon B4 Mastectomy, June 2010 

And, I’ll never forget that feeling — of being the very last one to cross the finish line at the Worcester 1/2 Marathon. I crossed nearly 2 hours after everyone else had finished. And, there they were. There was my village, waiting along the course, cheering me on. They were friends, parents of friends, friends who just had babies and who had driven out to cheer me on the course, co-workers, neighbors, friends of neighbors. They all could have left, soaked their legs in ice baths, and gone on their way. But, they waited.

After that race, people ran more races. They trained for their first 5Ks; 10k; 1/2 marathons; and even triathalons. They felt stronger, more alive, and more confident.

Emily running her own 1/2 marathon

Emily running her own 1/2 marathon

“Ohana. Ohana means family. And family means no one is left behind … or forgotten.”

And just as that village came together to run with me, another village came together to send me on my way.

The week prior to my surgery, friends from work organized and participated in a huge event. While the event was to celebrate my achievements and my surgery, it had a much more profound effect. It brought together a community. It created a new village. It created a shared sense of meaning, of belonging, and of responsibility towards each other.

my friend Anne who organized the community event

my friend Anne who organized the community event

After surgery, a new village came together to help me heal. They brought food every single night, helped with my children, and listened to me as I cried.

And, the village stayed with me, read my posts, and sent me messages of encouragement when I needed it.

While I could not have done this without the support of my many villages, I am deeply moved by how much Marathon B4 Mastectomy has been able to support others in this journey. I have always believed that my calling in life has been to leave this world better than I found it; but the truth is that the world has left me better.

I am thankful for all of you who have read my words on your screens for the past four years. You have built me up when I was feeling small; picked me up when I have fallen; and walked with me when running labored my breath.

Post-surgery with drains still in place

Post-surgery with drains still in place

Together, we have created something special. 

May peace, peace, and peace be always unto you.

Love, joy, and health,

Liza

Thanks to all those who have run virtually, and especially thanks to the original Mb4M team who ran with me in June 2010: Jim, Donna, Liz, Tina, Jon, Beth, Heather, Julie, Aleta, Chuck, and Christina (and a few other friends of friends). Thanks for sticking with me on those hills!!! 

Posted in reflection | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

BEFORE I FORGET

I meant to write this blog last night, but, seriously, I forgot.

No, really.

Not kidding.

Like, not just forgot — but forgot that I even wanted to write it.

Something is seriously f’king wrong with me.

For the past few weeks  — like 5 weeks — I have been bleeding (I’ll simply link here to spare you the in-blog details). Now, I’m not actually supposed to be bleeding. See, back in January, I had a prophylactic bilateral salpingo oophorectomy my lady parts removed. I had all the parts that would make a woman bleed, from down there, removed so I shouldn’t be bleeding. And, yet, here I was.

I finally went to the doctor and she put me on another a new hormone pill which would supposedly stop the bleeding. In fact, one of the reasons I am taking daily hormones is to help curb some of the side effects of menopause, especially to ease the adjustment from immediate surgical menopause.

Some of the symptoms I — and others — may feel include weight gain (especially in the mid-section; check), moodiness, hot flashes, fatigue, and … what was the other one … oh, right, memory loss.

Now, what you can’t tell just by looking it me is that I have a ridiculously amazing memory. It’s seriously good. I remember everything. I remember names, faces, experiences. I remember people’s family members, the stories they have told about them, where those family members have gone to school, and any major information about them. It’s good.

So, when I started to not just forget, but even forget that I had remembered, yesterday, I was really upset. I felt like I should have woken up from a bad dream, all day.

8:10am: I brought my daughter to the bus stop, and she, at that moment, realized she had not done her homework. She pulled out the worksheet that had her math problems, and she began to ask me questions. On any other day, I would have put on my teacher hat and walked through the process with her. That morning, I didn’t even know what the question on this 3rd grade math sheet was asking me.  It wasn’t that I forgot how to solve it, I just didn’t even know that I knew how to answer it. Get it? Not yet? Me neither.

8:45am: my co-worker brought in some replacement labels for my multi-line phone. On each of the little rectangles were the names and numbers of my colleagues. “Kevin?” I asked. “Who’s Kevin?” I couldn’t figure out who this person was. My co-worker laughed. She thought I was joking. “No, really, who’s Kevin?” (Kevin is a long-time friend, colleague and classmate of mine). She reminded me who Kevin was, and I laughed it off ….until she handed me a rectangle that said “Amanda.” Only 10 seconds had passed and I had already forgotten my embarrassment. “Who’s Amanda?”I said. I looked up and saw a combination of amusement+confusion on her face. “No, really,” I asked again. “Who’s Amanda?” Right. She’s the angel I just hired as the Assistant Director — the one I have been bragging about for weeks.

9:30am: my co-worker came back in for me to sign some papers. “Oh, look,” she said glancing out the window. Looks like Campus Police are about to ticket cars. “Oh, no!” I replied. “I have Jorge’s car today. Do you think they’ll ticket it?”

11:30am: feeling like I was off of my game, I decided to email my professor and confirm a meeting we were having. “What time shall we meet tomorrow?” I typed. “Tomorrow? We aren’t meeting tomorrow. We are meeting on Friday,” he typed back. I began to type and smirk, “Um, Prof…. it IS friday” but then I thought, “Wait? Is it Friday? I don’t actually KNOW if tomorrow is Friday? Huh? Is itFridayIcan’tTellwhat’sGoingonrightNow..”

2:45pm: I packed up my belongings and began to leave the office for a dentist appointment. “Don’t forget that you have Jorge’s car today, Liza,” said my co-worker. I looked at her suspiciously — in a side-eye kinda way. “How.Did.You.Know.I.Had.Jorge’s.Car?” You told me this morning. “No, I didn’t.” Yes, Liza. You did. Remember, the whole thing about parking and ticketing? “Nope.” 

4:00pm:  made a list of about 10 things I needed to pick up from the store. Got to the store and realized I had forgotten the list. Left with 10 things I totally didn’t need at all (including a toe-nail clipper. #wtf)

5:00pm: drove home from the store. totally missed my street. then couldn’t figure out where i was.

5:15pm: made it home. took off my boots. threw my jacket over the chair. Kissed Joli. Kissed Jada. …. Kissed …. shit. I forgot to pick up Evan.

5:16pm: went to pick up Evan.

6:00pm: ate dinner. fell asleep.

7:30pm: totally was going to blog.

7:31pm: forgot I even thought I was going to blog.

8:30pm: opened the flap of the plastic blue envelope; pushed against the round, peach pill and popped it out the back of the thin aluminum protective backing

8:31pm: Another day. Another hormone.

Peace, love, and living in 2-D,

Liza

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Break Through

I just thought it would eventually stop.

Ten months ago, in the early morning hours on a cold Friday in January, I walked into Mass General Hospital to have my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed in an effort to reduce my risk of cancer. After the 15-minute surgery, I immediately went into surgical menopause. This surgery meant that I would no longer have monthly periods, that I would need to increase my calcium intake to slow down any menopause-related osteoporosis, and that I would be on daily hormone pills to keep symptoms such as as hot flashes, mood swings and … (wait, what was the last one?), oh, memory loss at bay. I remember buying my last pack of pantyliners, thin pads that barely protect my underwear from tiny amounts of blood.

For nearly ten months, the top of the pantyliner box remained glued shut and was slowly collecting dust on the top-most shelf of the linen closet. “I’ll buy these just in case,” I remember saying as I grabbed the store-brand pantyliners, “but I’ll never need these ever again! Hallelujah!” Whenever gal friends of mine complained about menstrual cramps, getting their periods, or even talking about pre-menstrual cravings, I smiled politely and replied, “Yeah, I don’t get my period anymore.”

Though I had years of experiences relating to their 28-day cycles, I often felt alone in these good old menstrual talks. But, hell, I wasn’t complaining!

Mid-way through the summer, I needed to adjust my hormone levels to a slightly higher dose. Because of the switch, I did bleed a little bit. Not enough to crack open the box, but just enough to think, “Hmmm… okay.” A quick Google search told me this was called breakthrough bleeding. No biggie.

In the beginning of October, I started to notice spots of blood again. “No big deal,” I told myself. Maybe it was the increase in exercise. Maybe it was stress. Maybe it was the cycle of pills I was taking. “I’m sure it’ll go away soon.”

Soon became days. Soon became weeks. Soon became unbearable.

“You should call your doctor,” Jorge nudged me.

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll call her,” I assured him.

Two more weeks passed.

The bleeding never stopped.

And then, yesterday, I woke up to so much blood that even I was startled.

I drove to work, facilitated a workshop, and then made the call. Keeping busy has always been my defense mechanism.

“You need to come in right away,” said the nurse practitioner at the gynecological-oncology clinic. I guess that’s the benefit of having a lengthy medical history at one of the country’s leading hospitals.

I ended the call and went into the bathroom knowing that I may be stuck in traffic. And, as I pulled down my pants, I started to cry. I had bled, again. This time, I had bled enough that I needed to go home before heading to the hospital.

“G*ddamnit, I just bought these pants!” I said aloud, hearing my voice echo against the rectangular metal doors.

I was angry. 

Angry at my body. Angry at the bleeding. Angry at the pants I had just put on that morning.

But most of all, I was angry I was alone. 

“I f*cking hate this!” I yelled. And then I felt guilty that I was actually in a bathroom right outside of the chapel at my work. Part of me wanted to yell, “Oops, sorry, God.” But all I could feel was anger. I wasn’t sorry. I wasn’t sorry that I was mad. I wasn’t sorry that I was angry. I wasn’t sorry that, maybe, God had heard me. (Okay, I was a little sorry when I realized there was a student trying to study just outside of the chapel lobby and only a few feet from the bathroom doors).

I grabbed my bag, walked to my car, started the engine, and began to cry. “This isn’t fair! This isn’t FAIR!” I banged on the steering wheel.

The 30-minute drive in to the city helped me collect my thoughts. In a very twisted way, I couldn’t wait to get to the oncology clinic. I couldn’t wait to see the brave women who were facing battles, and who could remind me that the worst part of my day so far was having a pair of stained underwear. I knew, as selfish as it was, that their pain would set my own pain free. The women who were not as fortunate to know about cancer ahead of its grip would remind me of how little I suffer. I needed to see them.

“Lobby.. 2… 3 … 4 …..9, doors opening.”

The sunlight beamed in through the glass hallway. I already felt myself breathing easier, feeling more relaxed. Even the anticipation that their warrior stares would shake the panic from my mind made me feel better.

Except, as I entered into the office, it was overflowing with emptiness. Space was suffocating with rows of upholstered chairs.

I was alone.

“Good to see you, Liza. It’s the lunch hour, so no one’s here. You’ll just have to wait a minute or two. Have a seat.”

There were too many seats to choose from.

I backed away from the desk and I began to cry. I felt my fear rising up from my damaged pelvis into my twisting stomach. Soon, I could taste my frustration. My anger. I was angry I was alone. I was angry there was no one else here. I was angry that I needed these women so badly. I was angry about my selfishness that their pain could make me feel better.

I felt like a horrible person and shifted in my seat. And, g*ddamnit, I was pretty sure I had bled into my underwear. Again.

I was angry I was crying. I was angry I was being weak. I felt stupid, pitiful, pathetic for being so selfish.

The emotional pain I felt in that waiting room made the physical pain of the exam room and a 2-position biopsy even worse. “This might hurt, Liza,” the nurse warned me. It couldn’t possibly hurt more than I do right now, I thought through the smile. I was wrong. It hurt like hell.

After a few hours of cramping and pain and exhaustion from crying, I’m finally home. Surrounded by three kids who have dumped out buckets of candy (from two days of pre-Trick-or-Treating events), a husband who lovingly bought me my favorite steak-and-cheese sub, and a dog who seems to think that the curve between my butt and my knees is Nirvana, I am home. And, every time my left wrist turns as I type, I see the glimmer of my pink-and-teal ribbon tattoo. I see the words I had etched into my skin.

I realize that this whole “bleed through” might actually have been my pathway to a “break through.” I had to stop relying on the women in the cancer clinic to get me through this. I had to stop being so brave. I had to stop being fierce. I had to stop being so grateful for being BRCA, for knowing and stopping cancer. I had to stop asking warriors to take away my pain.

I had to just let it happen.

“Brave.”

For me, today, brave was about sobbing in a cancer clinic waiting room. It was about watching my blood pressure reading rise above normal when the nurse took my vitals. It was about seeing my heart rate blinking on the screen and knowing I could feel the thumping of my heart all the way in my throat. It was about crying when the nurse took, not one, but two tissue samples. Brave was about me getting back into my car. Brave was about letting the emotional and physical pain break through.

Peace, love, and patiently waiting for lab results,

Liza

IMG_0537.JPG

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

So, yeah, it’s October

Hello there! Well, it’s been so long since I’ve written that I actually forgot my log-in to the site. No kidding. Totally serious. After going through the 101 different options, I’m happy to say that I’m here and ready to write today!

So, yea, it’s October. 

My entire world (and by “world” I mean my Facebook newsfeed, Twitter, Target store, and grocery) will become awash in Pink. Pepto Bismal has nothin’ on October.

You know, before my family was thrust into the world of cancer, I was actually okay with the whole world turning Pink. I loved the feeling of people getting together to support a cause, to wear pink ribbons and clothing, and to purchase all new Calphalon pots and pans in pink.

Then my sister got cancer.

And, I wanted to burn all of that pink stuff down. I wanted to rip down the ribbons, scream for the football teams to go back to their original colors, and pull out the television plug showing yet another survivor. I was angry. I was angry that she, my big sister, had cancer. My big sister, who slammed my face in her bedroom door when I was a kid during her hormonal-Goth-teenager phase. My sister, the one who shaved one side of her head 10444435_10152565894958594_2104910139041255313_nand left the other side long, spiky, and crusty with Aqua Net spray and who you feared whenever she looked at you. My sister, the one who carried her thick, black leather jacket with metal spikes in one hand and her cello in the other as she made her way to a prestigious symphony rehearsal in Boston. My sister, the one who babysat me and who carried me on her back banging on neighbors doors to help me when I was bitten by a tick. My sister, who looked me in the eyes the night before she left for college and said “Don’t let anyone f*ck with you” as I was just becoming a teenager.

Those pink items didn’t help her. Those pink items didn’t raise the level of awareness of her doctor who had misdiagnosed her for months, telling her she had a clogged milk duct despite her protest and her gut feeling that “something was wrong.” The pink didn’t help her son who spent most of his first years of life watching his mother lay lifeless on a couch. The pink certainly didn’t help when she fainted at his 1st birthday party, her body ravaged by cancer, chemo, and radiation; when the screams of the ambulance replaced the “Happy birthday” song for her son.

So, yeah, it’s October.

It’s October. When we praise women for “fighting like a girl” but forget that men can get breast cancer, too. In fact, I’ve met more and more women whose fathers have had breast cancer (mostly due to the BRCA gene).

So, yeah, it’s October.

It’s the month where I feel especially out of place. As a previvor, I am not a survivor. I am also not un-affected by cancer. I am a healthy woman with fake breasts, mastectomy scars, packages of hormone treatments, and no ovaries. There is no beauty-pageant pink sash for that one. But, each day, I am reminded of the privilege I had to know about my genetics. I had the privilege of not getting cancer; of not letting cancer get me. Cancer didn’t surprise me, I got the jump on cancer. As I guest lectured in a college class today on women’s health issues, I stood up and said, “Boobs and vaginas. Boobs and vaginas. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.” No one flinched. No one giggled. Because of our awareness of breasts and breast cancer, we are no longer afraid to talk about these parts of our lives. There is no shame about breast cancer, about boobs, about mammograms and self-exams.

Though October is also LGBTQ History Month and DisAbilities Awareness Month (and probably many more “months”), when I asked the class what October was, they all said, “It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”

So, yeah, it’s October. Thank you, October. 

10153914_10152798019313594_8563307621097374908_nIt’s a month-long celebration of fighters, winners, warriors, and our fallen warriors. October is a reminder for me not to say people “lost their battle with cancer” but rather, they were war heroes. They were killed in battle. They fought until it was no longer their choice.

October reminds me that I am not just lucky but privileged. I had the knowledge to make choices, the financial means to take charge of my health, and the family support to heal. October reminds me to fight for those who don’t have the choice, who don’t have the means, and who do not have the support.

When I choose to donate money or participate in the pink, I do so in honor of those who cannot.

So, yeah, it’s October.

Fight on.

Peace, love, and warrior wishes,

Liza

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

PRINCESS LEIA

I felt completely out of place, but Jorge really wanted to go.

Within moments of entering into a shop that looked like an episode of Hoarders, Jorge disappeared in the stacks of paper thin books that were carefully slipped in between a white cardboard backing and a clear plastic film. Rather than follow him into the depths of Superman or the Hulk, I chose to stick near the toys close to the door. I knew about action figures. I had played with them growing up. 

I remember inhaling the stale smell of the comic book shop that mixed with the smokey New York “right-above-the-subway-grate” odor every time the glass door opened. I wasn’t really looking at the action figures. I was more like standing there next to something that was familiar. In the crowded store, where more people were browsing than buying, I dodged backpacks and shopping bags that nicked my sleeveless arms whenever someone tried to fit more than 2 people into an aisle. 

I could feel him next to me. He stood there, admiring the action figures, but lingering. I glanced over at him, giving him my hardest New York City “if you’re creepy, back off” look.

“Do you like Star Wars?” he asked. 

“Excuse me?” I sounded more confused than angry and turned my head slightly to the side to look at him. He seemed “normal” in that kind of geeky, comic book guy way.

“Do you like Star Wars?” he repeated, his voice shaky, as he pointed at the packages of Han Solos and Death Stars hanging in neat rows from display hooks in front of me.

“Um, I dunno. Sure. I guess.” I mean, who doesn’t like Star Wars? 

Not wanting to move away from the door, I turned my head around to look for Jorge but couldn’t find him. I  stayed put. There was no way I was venturing further into the store to go find him. I didn’t move.

Neither did he.

I heard him inhale deeply, and I wondered whether he tasted the staleness of the comic book shop or the pungent NY subway steam.

“Well,” he began.

“You’re, um,” he continued. 

“Well, um … you’re much prettier than Princess Leia,” the final part of his sentence moving faster than the A-train express.

I have never been one to yell in a grocery store or even draw any attention to myself in a public crowd. I hated people who did that.

“JORGE? JORGE VEGA! IT IS TIME TO GO!!” as I became one of those people. I felt the humid New York City air hit my face.

I’m not sure how long it was before Jorge darted out of the store and onto the sidewalk where I was standing. Probably seconds. It felt like minutes. 

“What happened?? Are you okay??” he asked quickly. 

I retold the story, horrified. Jorge doubled over in laughter, grabbing his stomach and stumbling down the sidewalk yelling for me to wait for him. 

He finally caught up to me and put his arm around my shoulders.

 “Liza, you’ve finally arrived. You’ve been hit on by a comic book geek.”

I walked away smiling, knowing that it was actually the second time. 

The first guy was my future husband.

e99c731d5f0998c4185031911a744ce8

Peace, love, and Princess Leia,

Liza

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Strength Within

Hi friends! It’s been a while, I know. Since my oophorectomy in January, I just haven’t quite been the same. And, now, 7 months later, I’m just finally coming out of the “fog” that I think has really been brought on by surgery: lack of hormones, dosage of hormones, a difficult recovery from an infection, fatigue, slow-thinking. But, of all these, I have been really impacted by the weight that has piled on since my oophorectomy. It’s not the most popular, nor pleasant topic, but one that has really kept me from fully engaging in blogging and writing about life post-hormones.

I’ll be real here: I’ve gained 15 lbs in the 6 months since my surgery. That means I’m heavier than when I was pregnant with my son. Heavier than I’ve ever been non-pregnant. And, my body has been feeling every pound-per-pressure. In the cycle of hormones-fatigue-weight-hormones-fatigue-weight, it has been a difficult road to walk. The good news (and my friend Maria Sullivan will be happy to read this) is that I have, yes, made an appointment with my doctor to see if my hormone levels are too low, affecting my body’s metabolism and ability to keep off weight. Update to follow!

But, as life has always sent me the right thing at the right time, I got a text message from my friend Denise last week. Denise and I met at a Cancer Fitness Program — one that was designed for women survivors (and those impacted by cancer-like surgeries) of cancer to regain strength and fitness after and during treatments. The group, for me, has always been more than just increasing the number of sit-ups or the time in a spin class. For me, this was the one event that really turned my brain around from being a physically-weak survivor of a bilateral mastectomy to someone who could tap into my inner-athlete. In fact, just 6-months after my bilateral mastectomy, I found myself nearly 20 feet high up a ropes course climbing my way on a shaky rope ladder, relying on nothing but my own mental will and the confidence I had in my body to do its job.

“Hi there. It’s Denise from Fitness Unlimited. Come out to drinks with us after our Tuesday night class,” she wrote. I called her back immediately.

Though it had been nearly 2 years since I last saw Denise, she has always been a special part of my life. After her mastectomy and battle with breast cancer, Denise always kept me thinking positive thoughts about my strength and fitness. One day, she had told me that, after her surgery, her one goal was to “lift my arms high enough over my head so that I could make a snow angel this winter.” After her mastectomy, and mine as well, we had limited range of motion in our chest and arms.

By that following winter, I made a snow angel.  And though the image quickly melted, that feeling has stayed with me to this day. 

I grew stronger after my mastectomy, easily reaching above the refrigerator top where I kept my children’s favorite cereals. I could carry my son, age 4, to his bed after he fell asleep on the couch. I could easily lift heavy air conditioners in and out of our windows.

After my mastectomy, I grew physically stronger and emotionally stronger. I took up running again, running faster, harder and longer throughout the summer months. I grew more brave — auditioning for a band and singing back up, then learning how to play the guitar, and then launching my own solo work. I grew more confident — enrolling in a doctoral program, producing original research, and presenting all around the country. I grew more courageous — talking more about myself publicly which led to speaking engagements and even a small part in documentary film on race and racism.

I had reached the top of the mountain, and on the other side was my next surgery: the oophorectomy that would save my life from the risk of ovarian cancer but would launch my body into a soft, tired, and older version of who I was just months prior.

“I’m not just meeting you for drinks,” I texted back. “I’m going to go to the class!”

I hit “send” and knew I was locked in.

When I arrived at the spin class, I began to make excuses. “Go easy,” said Laury, the incredible trainer, friend, and  cancer survivor who started the program. “Be kind to yourself.”

“You’ve forgotten, Laury. I don’t know how to ‘go easy.'” I talked a tough game, but really, all I wanted to do was lay on the floor and cheer on the 10 women who not only survived cancer but who were taking back their strength and lives.

“Just pedal,” she said.

I slowly pedaled, feeling my stomach fat block my thighs from hitting a 90-degree angle on the bike. I felt my back slouch, my shoulders tense, and my feet tight in the stirrups. I cracked a few jokes, bobbed my head to the music, and shifted in my seat to avoid the sore spot on my butt that was developing on the hard bike seat.

But then, something happened.

I felt my abdominal muscles tighten. I felt my arms reach out into 2nd position as my legs quickened in cadence. I watched my hand reach out to the gear shift and increase from 10, to 11, to 12, to 13 and felt the wheels tighten. I heard my lungs fill with air and then send out a strong breath.

And I felt the strength within me awaken.

As the class ended, I felt a cool chill on my shoulder. It was an icy breeze that sent a shiver of warmth through my body. I turned around, and there was Denise, on the cycle behind me, smiling.

And, I knew, that whole time, my Snow Angel was watching over me.

Peace, love, mental will, and confidence,

Liza

20140702-103812-38292699.jpg

Moving Towards Wellness Group 2014 (Denise is pictured smiling over my left shoulder)

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

HorNormal

“Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, hey mom, mom, mom,” she kept on. 

“Whaaaa…t…tss..hh.,” I muttered back, my eyelashes stuck together. I have to remember to remove my mascara at night. My eyes cracked through the Fort Knox of Maybelline. 

“Oh, you’re awake. Cool,” she said. “What do you think of my outfit?”

I reached out, my fingers splayed to make up for the fact that I couldn’t open my eyes to see, and banged the nightstand in search of my phone. “6:03am.”

“It’s 6:03am, Jada. What do you want?” I was not happy.

“I just want to know if you think I should wear this blue dress as a dress or as a skirt. I’m thinking skirt, but I wanted to know what you thought,” she said excitedly, as if she drank the 3 cups of coffee I had automatically brewed for the morning. The coffee which wouldn’t even start dripping for another 27 minutes.

“Whaaaaatever, Jada. Just, whatever.”

I was already feeling it coming on, and it was barely morning. 

 

deep breath. deep breath. 

 

I spend most of my time lowering the rage-o-meter. I find myself pausing more between sentences, though my mind is racing with words of anger. It’s not real, I keep repeating. It’s not real. You aren’t really angry. This is not actually upsetting.

 

it’s just the hormones….

 

It’s just the hormones….

 

On January 17, 2014, I had an oophorectomy — a surgical procedure to remove my ovaries. And, with that came surgical menopause and a complete destruction of the hormones that regulate my body, my moods, my thoughts, and my weight. I’m fatigued. I’m irritable. I’m angry. I’m in desperate need for some alone time.

All of those things: Impossible. 

With three energetic young children, a full time job, a full time doctoral program, a looming dissertation and multiple research projects, I just can’t. I just can’t.

I admit, I even mildly experimented with some of my hormones, which, yea, that was not a good idea. (note to others: do not experiment with your hormones…baaaad. baaaad idea.)

So, I’m heading to the doctor. I’m heading to the doctor to figure out what’s “normal” and what’s “hormonal”.

Or, what’s hor-normal. 

For all you “hor-normal sisters”, I’m right there with you. I’m putting on a good show when I’m out of the house, but collapse into a mess as soon as I walk in the door. I’m on the verge of crying nearly all the time. I use up all my energy to just get out the door and make it back in one piece. My body aches from the rapid weight gain that seems to just keep piling on no matter how many bare-dressed salads I eat and how many measured steps I take on my pedometer (which aren’t many because I’m so fatigued). 

 

You’re not alone. And, I know I’m not either. 

 

But, I’m hoping that the doctors can help me figure out what I can do, and that I can accept the changes that are simply the new hormonal normal. 

 

Peace, love, and remembering to breathe, 

Liza

Image

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment