Get Your Flu Shots

Today’s message is short and sweet:

GET YOUR FLU SHOTS!!!

Why? Because you don’t want to get the flu. You don’t want the people around you to get the flu.

The flu SUCKS. It kills people every year. Our Bear had it when he was nine months old, and it was SCARY. He had to have an inhaler for a year after because it had inflamed his bronchial tubes.

You don’t want your kid on an inhaler.

GET YOUR FLU SHOTS.

Because of the Pandemic: Get Your Flu Shots

This year especially, you’ll want to get a flu shot.

Assuming they get the mix right and it’s an effective vaccine this year, you want to make sure you’re protected from influenza.

The coronavirus is still out there. People are still dying of it.

It’s bad enough that we have a pandemic, we don’t want to also be dealing with a flu epidemic. If you get symptoms of fever, headache, etc., you don’t want to ask yourself whether you’re dealing with flu or coronavirus.

Eliminate the possibility that it’s the flu.

Get your flu shots.

Show How Much You Care

Do you care about your neighbors? Your family? The people in your local grocery store?

Do you care about your elderly relatives? Your small children? Your nieces and nephews?

Then WEAR A MASK.

Oh psych! You thought I was going to say get a flu shot! What the hell!

DO BOTH!

WEAR A MASK. GET YOUR FLU SHOT.

You don’t live in a bubble. Your choices (or refusal to make a choice, which in itself is a choice) have an effect on the people around you.

Don’t be that person. Don’t give grandma the flu OR the coronavirus.

Do what’s right.

Wear a mask. Get a flu shot.

You’d Think, Wouldn’t You?

You’d think that staying home with my kids would be enough.

Neglecting my own career, letting myself fall into complaisance and inaction on that front (Praxis exam in one month? Studying? Nope.)…

You’d think that would be enough, wouldn’t you?

You might even think that spending each weekday with my kindergartener, facilitating his distance learning, helping him out and participating in ways previously unplanned would be enough.

What about meal planning? Making sure the fridge is stocked and we know what we’re going to eat?

Managing doctors appointments, dentist visits, haircuts, new clothes as needed…?

Shouldn’t that be enough?

Apparently Not.

No, evidently I am somehow not doing enough.

How do I know?

Because when I want to take the time to blow dry my hair… Or sit down and read a book… Or study for my Praxis exam… Or get on my exercise bike…

Or even (for Pete’s sake!) go to the gynecologist!

What do I feel?

Guilt.

This morning, for instance, I had a follow-up appointment with the gynecologist. (I still don’t have my genetic test results yet, by the way.)

When I got home, the first words out of my mouth as I walked in the door were, “I’m home, I’m sorry!”

I’m sorry.

Why was I sorry? Sorry because the appointment had taken longer than expected. Because I was away from the house long enough for it to potentially be inconvenient for my husband and son.

At This Point I Should Say…

That this supposed inconvenience does not exist.

This is all in my head.

My husband was quietly getting work done in the next room, while listening in on our son’s class.

He was not in any way inconvenienced, and his first concern when I got home was to know what the doctor had said and how my appointment had gone. He hadn’t even noticed the time.

Even on Sunday evening, after a nice weekend, when I had a headache and just wanted to sit in my chair, drink water and read my book, I felt a stab of guilt when I asked my husband to make dinner.

He had already seen I wasn’t feeling well. He was already on it. I didn’t need to ask. Much less feel guilty.

So, Why?

Why does the thought of taking time for myself make me feel such guilt?

Back when I used to meet up with people, why did I feel the need to apologize for wanting to spend an evening away from my family?

Most of all: Why do I feel like all that I do, is not enough? That it’s nothing special? That it’s not worthy of praise or being valued?

And I’m Not The Only One

A girlfriend recently told me she felt guilty for planning a weekend away to visit a friend.

When she asked her husband which weekend would be best for him, he literally responded with, “Whenever you want to go. I don’t care.”

Such nonchalance! Such unconcern!

How can we get that? How do we kick this guilt?

It Needs To Be Kicked

I feel like it’s important for me to kick this guilty feeling. It eats away at my mental health. It makes me feel like no matter what I do, it’s not good enough.

How can I possibly live up to these impossible standards I’ve set for myself?

I can’t. Because they’re not standards. They’re demands.

Unreasonable ones, at that.

What to Expect From My First Mammogram

Oh hey I got my first mammogram today!

At age 35, I was actually long overdue for my first mammogram, considering my family history of breast cancer (maternal grandmother, mother, maternal aunt…).

But today, I finally picked up my skirt, grabbed my balls, and got myself to the radiology lab.

How to Prepare for a Mammogram

If you’ve been ordered to have a mammogram by your doctor, you’ll call and make an appointment wherever your doctor refers you (or, if you have strong feelings, to the radiology center of your choice).

The radiology center will schedule your appointment, and give you one key piece of information:

Do not apply lotion, powder, or deodorant before your mammogram.

This point was driven home to me several times.

Also, it’s a good idea to wear an outfit comprised of a separate top and bottom. No dresses, jumpsuits or overalls. Wear jeans and a t-shirt (or if you must, a blouse).

I was also asked to bring the doctor’s order for the mammogram with me. I forgot, but you shouldn’t. Bring the referral/order from your doctor’s office!

When You Get There

After doing the usual rigamarole of checking in, filling out forms, and (in this time of Covid) having your temperature taken, you’ll be asked to wait.

When you’re called in, the radiology technician will ask you to undress from the waist up and put on a robe that opens in the front.

It’s always super awkward to walk around wearing a garment that’s liable to flap open and expose you to strangers, so try to keep your sense of humor. Heck, have a little laugh and flash someone in the hallway!

(I’m just kidding; don’t.)

The radiology center I went to specializes in mammograms, and was staffed exclusively by women. This made me feel a lot more comfortable. If this is a concern of yours, call ahead and ask if you’ll be seeing a male or female technician.

The Mammogram Itself

The technician called me into the room. She had already introduced herself to me, and she was a very calming, reassuring presence.

She was clearly a seasoned professional and knew that this could be a frightening and emotional time for her patients. She did a good job making me feel as comfortable as possible.

The technician put a lead apron around my waist, and when directed, I was to remove one arm from the robe and approach the machine.

The mammogram machine reminded me a bit of old dental x-ray machines. It’s a vertical machine with a kind of tray sticking out of it.

On this tray, the technician places your breast. She asks you to stand just so, so that the maximum amount of breast tissue is on the tray.

There’s a lot of pulling and prodding at this point, and your breasts will be manhandled (or, in my case, womanhandled). It’s uncomfortable, but it’s normal. The technician then smooshes the breast down with another tray lowered from above the first.

It is not comfortable. Your boob is squooshed like a pancake between these two plastic trays, and you have to stand, holding your breath, while the technician takes the image.

Then, she has to take the vertical image. That’s the worst. The whole tray part of the machine rotates to about a 45 degree angle and your breast is then compressed somewhat vertically.

This one was especially uncomfortable for me, and the pressure caused such pain that I gasped and had trouble holding my breath for the duration of the imaging.

Luckily, the whole process is quick, and as I said, the technicians are professionals who (hopefully) are good at setting people at ease.

The Ultrasound

Then, the doctor came by and said that as this was my first mammogram and because I have dense breast tissue, she wanted to be extra sure all was well and do an ultrasound.

The ultrasound was very much like the ones I got while I was pregnant, just higher up on my torso!

(And the ultrasound gel they squeeze on was kept in a warmer–a very nice touch!)

The doctor followed the same pattern as I do when I do my home breast exam: she moved from out to in on the breast, going around in a circle to check the whole surface.

The Results of the Mammogram

You’ll get your results before you leave the radiology center.

If you’ve been told you have cystic tissue or dense tissue, you may want to make sure you’ve gotten a 3D mammogram. These will ensure lesions or tumors aren’t lost in the dense tissue.

In my case, the technician came back and said she had to get one more image from my left side, but after that the doctor took a look and was satisfied that all was well.

I was sent home relieved and happy, with an order to come back in one year’s time.

What To Do At Home

In the meantime, I need to be a lot better about doing my home breast exams after each period.

How can I remind myself to do them?

Any ideas?

First Time Volunteering

Today I volunteered for the first time with the Loudoun Medical Reserve Corps.

What is an MRC?

Your town or county almost certainly has one.

It’s a volunteer program where medical professionals and other, non-medically qualified people can register to volunteer.

MRC members will be called upon to do any number of things:

  • Staff testing facilities for disease;
  • Be present at small & large public events to help with health information;
  • Man call center helplines to answer health questions;
  • Provide logistical support to medical professionals in an emergency;
  • And more.

I originally signed up for the MRC because I figured I could make calls for contact tracing from home.

A First Time for Everything

Today I participated in my first MRC volunteering activity, and I felt like the most useless, least qualified person there.

It was a door-to-door COVID-19 testing drive in an apartment complex. Earlier in the week, volunteers had put door hangers on all the apartment doors, and our job today was to make contact with residents who had indicated they wanted to be tested.

I was not qualified to administer the test, nor was I even qualified to handle the samples. I wasn’t even trained to be on the registration team, gathering people’s information before the test.

Most of the other volunteers were either experienced medical professionals or long-term volunteers who had way more training than I did.

I was on logistics: sweeping the buildings to identify which apartments had door hangers, restocking supplies when needed, and helping the testing teams move their kit to the different apartment buildings.

By the end, though it didn’t seem like I had done much, it felt like my hands had contributed to making light work.

More is Needed

Our local MRC will be called upon to continue staffing these pop-up testing sites.

Also, with early in-person voting starting on September 18th in Virginia, the elections board has asked the MRC to be present at testing sites to provide COVID-19 awareness guidance, ensure social distancing and provide hand sanitizer and face masks if necessary.

If you’re looking for ways to contribute in this time of crisis, this might be a good way.

Remember, you don’t have to be a medical professional (I’m certainly not!), and you can start off with a pretty basic level of training.

If you want to be able to do more jobs, you can always complete further training.

Planning to Return

As the MRC is called upon to help out, I will sign up whenever possible. Every little bit is helpful, and these groups need volunteers!

So please consider joining!

Waiting, waiting, waiting

I went.

I listened to my mother’s voice nagging in my ear. I listened to the kind and concerned advice from family and friends.

I went to the gynecologist.

The Diagnosis

Well there wasn’t really anything to diagnose, but the doctor did have a couple of concerns.

His first priority was that I schedule a mammogram (my first). From now on, I will have to do them every year.

His second priority, upon looking at my family history, was to recommend the genetic test for the mutation of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

Luckily, my insurance covers the test and they were able to take a blood sample right there in their lab.

What This Means

First off, I have to wait three weeks to know the result. That’s hard.

And secondly, the result terrifies me.

If the test is negative…

It could mean very little. My mother tested negative, and she still got breast cancer.

Her cousin had it, and she also tested negative for the gene mutations.

According to the CDC, “most breast and ovarian cancer is not caused by genetic mutations” anyway. So getting a negative result doesn’t mean I won’t get breast cancer.

Hardly comforting.

If the test is positive…

I guess if it’s positive at least we’ll know, right?

If the test is positive, then we can start looking into options and discussing possibilities.

Maybe it would just be easier if the test came back positive. It might make things more straightforward.

A Terrifying Emotional Load

A friend very eloquently said that all this comes with a terrifying emotional load.

I couldn’t have described it better.

Knowing my family history as I do, it almost feels like there’s an expiration date stamped on my butt.

Use by June 2050

Feeling that way can sometimes spur me into action (Life is short! Grab the bull by the horns!) or freeze me into depression (Is my life already more than half-way over?).

And I can go back and forth between the two (and be anywhere in between) several times in one day.

Talk about a rollercoaster.

Is this what a mid-life crisis looks like?

Terrified

65. Telephone: Write about a phone call you recently received.

ThinkWritten.com

Most of the phone calls I get are spam bots. But I have been making a lot of phone calls recently.

Mostly to doctor’s offices. The pediatrician, the GP, the dentist.

The gynecologist.

Yup, that’s right! I’m writing about the gynecologist!

(Don’t worry, there won’t be any gory details.)

Tomorrow, I have my first gynecologist appointment in nearly three years. I know, I know, I shouldn’t have left it that long!

The last time I saw the lady doctor was six months after our Bear was born. When the following year rolled around, life was crazy. We were planning our move from Germany, and I just never got around to it.

And since then? I’ve been putting it off, I’m not going to lie.

My mother died of metastasized breast cancer.

So did my maternal grandmother. Another maternal family member has been diagnosed.

Yeah. I know.

I’m 35. It’s time I at least started getting mammograms. And, as my very best friend (who is a physician) has told me more than once, I should get the genetic test done.

But honestly?

I’m terrified.

I’m terrified that I will learn to feel afraid of my own body.

In moments of extreme worry, I think of Angelina Jolie and wonder if a doctor is going to recommend I do the same.

So, if I’m honest, I don’t think about it.

I push it away from me and call it “living in the present.” I’ve even been known to go long months without doing a quick self breast exam.

I know.

It’s probably not something I should be worrying about. But it is something I should be monitoring.

Which I have not done up until now.

I’m pretty good at living in denial. (It ain’t just a river in Egypt!) But continuing to do so would be irresponsible. I have a family. I need to be proactive and take whatever preventative measures the doctor suggests.

But I’m still scared.

And if I’m honest?

I miss my mother most at these times. Though God knows she’d administer the dope slap and tell me to get to the gynecologist.

I can just hear her. “Jane. Get over it. Go to the doctor.”

Okay, Mom, okay. I’m going.

Is It Okay to Feel Like Crap?

We all have those days, right?

It might be an isolated day, or it might be a couple of them back-to-back.

Where you just feel crappy.

Sometimes you feel physically crappy, like when you’re sick or injured. Sometimes you’re just mentally pooped: tired of everything.

And let’s not even talk about how emotionally drained we all feel with this pandemic.

Unproductive Thoughts

When I have days like this, I often feel like I should “snap out of it.” Like my failure to make myself feel better is somehow a personal failing.

I also start to make a mountain out of a molehill. If I feel this bad more than one day, what does this mean? Am I always going to feel this way? Will I ever feel better?

These thoughts, as you can imagine, do not help.

So… What to do?

Why do I have to do anything?

Why do I need to change the fact that I feel like crap?

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to just let yourself feel crappy for a day or two. Usually, for me, it passes soon enough. (If it doesn’t pass, that’s another kettle of fish.)

After a couple of days, I’ll wake up and feel like getting out of bed. Maybe I’ll even feel motivated to do something I know will help me feel better.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember in the fog of a bad day, but when the fog starts to clear, I try to remind myself:

This too shall pass.

Handle with Care

60. Handle With Care: Write about a very fragile or delicate object.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

OUCH!

Having children under the age of five can be exhausting.

Our three-year-old is especially… Physical.

We’re pretty sure he’s at least bruised (if not broken) Chico’s ribs. The other day, after spending an afternoon in the play room with him, I felt like I’d been in a full-out brawl.

He doesn’t stop jumping on me, climbing on me, and otherwise being ALL-OUT ON ME.

The Kato to my Inspector Clouseau

The other day, when describing this state of affairs to my friends, one of them said,

“So, he’s the Kato to your Inspector Clouseau?”

It took me a second, because it’s been years and years since I’ve seen any of the Peter Sellers “Pink Panther” movies. Then I started laughing until I had tears in my eyes.

Yes! That is EXACTLY IT!

Yup. This is pretty much how it goes in our house.

Mama is Fragile!

I feel this is very true today.

I had a dermatologist appointment, and different parts of me were frozen, sliced, prodded, pressed, scraped, squeezed and sewn up.

The last time I had any kind of anesthetic was in childbirth three years ago, and everyone feels pretty drained after giving birth.

When the dermatologist told me this morning that I might feel tired and woozy after having a local anesthetic, I mentally brushed her off.

By noon, however, I had realized what she meant.

It’s probably age catching up with me (like it’s been doing for a while, now), but man! I feel completely drained.

Handle With Care

I’m lucky to have natural strength. I’m no delicate flower. But I’ve been particularly struck in the last few weeks at how my body, while still incredibly strong, experiences stresses differently.

Whether it’s the stress of lack of sleep, an attack-child, or a local anesthetic. My body feels these more acutely, and seems more sensitive than in former years.

This is why I am that much more grateful that I have taken the step of adding exercise to my routine.

With this small change of 30 minutes every couple of days, I feel more equal to the physical demands of parenthood, and of life in general.

My body is naturally powerful. Now, it feels like that power can be sustained. And it feels amazing.

Mirror, Mirror

45. Mirror, Mirror: What if your mirror started talking to you? What might the mirror say?

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Why hello again!

It’s you! It’s been a while!

Honestly, I’ve felt neglected since the pandemic began. You barely even give me a second glance these days.

I mean, I know you haven’t worn makeup in months and you’ve shamefully neglected your eyebrows.

(About that, by the way, you’re about to remember why you started plucking in the first place–you’re dangerously close to having a unibrow again.)

If I’m honest, though, mostly I feel hurt. Hurt by that critical look in your eye when you glance at me.

How you scowl! How you grimace! It’s like you only look at me to find fault!

So you’re looking for faults, huh? I can tell you some faults! Where do I even begin??

  • Your belly sags. Not to mention your tits.
  • You’ve got crows feet (they say they come from smiling, but I call BS).
  • Let’s be honest, your hair is pretty much gray.
  • You’re developing quite a ‘stache.
  • We’ve already covered the unibrow.
  • Those freckles were cute as a teen. Now not so much.
  • When was the last time you combed your hair?

I could go on, but honestly, why bother?

Because I know you go through this same list of “imperfections” every time you stand before me.

An Invitation

I’m asking you to look past those things. (You’re 35 now, darling, your tits aren’t getting any perkier, barring surgical intervention.)

I’m asking you to see what I see when you stand in front of me. I see a woman who is more herself now than she ever has been.

You may see a woman whose looks are fading. I see a woman who is blossoming and blooming, who is lovelier than ever. Though your skin is wrinkling, you wear it better than you ever have before.

And I love you better than ever.

So please spend a bit more time with me the next time you stroll by. Stop and look with me at all the beautiful imperfections that make you perfectly you.

Ordered Off Knitting!

Stop the presses! I have been ordered to take a two week break from knitting!

I’ve given myself a repetitive movement injury in my right shoulder. Though it’s not terribly painful, it’s wise to nip this in the bud before it gets to be a big problem.

This is, as you can imagine, a blow. Over the past few days I’ve really come to appreciate how important knitting is to my well-being.

Knitting is therapeutic

Between caring for kids, job hunting and running the household, life can get a little dull. Let’s be real, many of these tasks are downright tedious.

Knitting gives me a break from that tedium. Because it’s easy to pick up and put down, I can seize a free moment to go into that meditative and calming trance. Usually I have the radio going, and knitting allows me to keep my hands busy and better focus on what I’m listening to.

But without knitting?

Well, contrary to what I would have expected, my productivity has fallen dramatically.

I thought that without the distraction of knitting, I’d use the time to fill out more job applications, get the chores done and devote myself to my children.

But actually, I’ve found that without knitting, there is no promise of relief from the tedium.

Suddenly all the chores seem so onerous, and the job applications seem too hard. And honestly? I’ve felt more depressed than I have since the period after my mother died.

While there certainly are other factors contributing to that, it seems that not being able to knit has magnified these negative feelings.

Toughing it out

I’ve been reading more, which is great. But while reading is a favorite activity of mine, it’s not as easy to do with kids in the house. Reading requires complete focus, and I can’t engage in conversation or listen to something informative while I read.

*Sigh* I keep telling myself this is temporary, and that with help from an excellent physical therapist (hooray!), I should be able to get back to knitting before long.