I have Malignant Melanoma in one area on my upper arm, a few inches from my elbow, right by my tattoo.
These pics are after the biopsy, not the spot itself.
Showing size off biopsy.
Close up after biopsy, it is infected, but healing now.
I have another spot that is a hair-breadths from being Melanoma on my right scapula. I do not have a picture of that yet.
How Did I Get This?
Let’s see… grew up in Florida, sun tanning since I was about 12-years old, using Crisco on my skin to burn faster (and that was the goal), swimming outdoors until about 10-15 years ago, being a lifeguard and swim instructor, always outside, sun tanning nude in San Diego… and I never, never once, used sunscreen.
USE YOUR SUNSCREEN!
How Did I Find It?
Well, actually, I went in for a different spot that turned out to be a capillary thing, but the night before my appointment, I saw this place in the mirror as I was leaving the bathroom. It was flush with my skin and looked like a light cafe au latte birthmark. All the same color, but the edges were not completely solid. I forgot to get a picture, but the Derm has one, so I will get it for my records.
At the Dermatologist’s office, the PA was awesome and told me what the red spot was and then pointed to the one above and said, “Now that one I am worried about.” She also found 3 others to biopsy and 2 were in trouble, 2 were normal.
The one pictured above got infected, and my Dermatologist said she was not surprised being it was the one with the melanoma, so I am on Doxycycline and using Mupirocin ointment. 24 hours after beginning, I feel so much better already.
The PA told me that I need to have surgery (her word) on the 2 spots. I will have an almond-shaped chunk of skin removed, 4×6 inches and then sutured together again. The one on my back should be a tad smaller than the one shown above. They will be looking to see if they got it all, looking for “margins” of healthy tissue.
Blessedly, I already have an Oncologist (for my Iron Infusions) and she will get the results of the surgical chunk-ectomies, send me for an MRI or CT to look inside to see if the buggies have gone anywhere else and we will go from there.
How I Feel
I feel really positive! With a little gallows humor, I am not losing weight so it can’t be that bad, can it? I also told the PA it was good my arm was huge so they could take great gobs of flesh if they wanted to. They thought I was weird. I just laughed and laughed, wiping a couple of tears at the same time.
I read and read before ever trying that first loaf. I’m sure I almost memorized the Basic Recipe by the time I poured the first packet of yeast into the bowl of warm water. After a few months, I never had to look at the recipe again; I could feel the different amounts and measurements.
It’s been 30 years since I’ve baked a loaf of bread, yet I can still smell the scent of yeast as it was mixed with the warm water. I tried lots of different sweeteners to “feed” the yeast… sugar, honey… but settled on dark molasses.
When I learned yeast was a living being, it changed how I saw raw dough. I began treating the dough with more purpose and attention. I respected the yeast more, hence also the dough.
I learned that adding flour (I always used whole wheat flour, spring wheat if possible), even to the counter so the dough didn’t stick, wasn’t the best idea, that dough stops being sticky after kneading until you feel like your hands are going to fall off. Then you knead that long once again.
Before learning to respect the dough, I plopped it into any ol’ bowl, even plastic ones. Forgive me! I didn’t know any better! Once I learned more and shifted my attention, I bought 2 enormous glass bowls, specifically for rising dough. Learning to cover the dough with plastic wrap was an epiphany, but I also got myself 2 white cotton dish towels to protect the dough as it rose. I didn’t realize it, but I’d developed a Bread Baking Ritual.
I always had to set some dough aside for the kidlets, so they could knead at the dining room table. I’d sprinkle flour over much of the table and the kids would be busy for an hour, creating their dough shapes, letting them rise and then waiting to eat them after they came out of the oven. Oh, how I wish I had pictures of those times. I can see it clear as day in my mind, though. It’ll have to reside there forever.
When it was time to “punch” the dough down after it rose the first time, I did just that… punch… finding it amusing to watch the dough curl around my fist. After my this-stuff-is-alive realization, I began being gentle pushing the dough down again. I would use my hand like a spatula and slide against the side of the bowl, watching the (gluten) threads stretch then snap back to the mother-dough.
I nudged the dough down before folding it neatly, then covering it with plastic wrap again and placing the white cotton dish towels on top, allowing it to rise (in half the time as the first rise!) once again.
Into the Oven
After the second rise, I hand-spatula’d the dough down once again before separating it with a plastic scraper into the proper sizes for the bread pans. Over the years, I tried a variety of ways to keep the baked bread from sticking to the pan: oil (yuck), Crisco (not bad), but finally settled on Pam spray. I curled the raw dough into the bread pans, covered them with plastic wrap and the dish towels yet again, allowing them their last rise.
I wanted slashes in the top of my bread. It took at least 100 times before I didn’t deflate my dough trying to get a lovely slash in the top. I tried sharp knives, serrated knives, forks… even razor blades… and always struggled with that part of baking. Eventually, I learned to zip the knife through fast, not slow and deep. Just pull the knife quickly. Poking around for pics, I see there are now dozens of tools to make beautiful scores in your bread. But back in the olden days….
My Nose Knows
It was when I began baking bread that I realized I had an interesting cook’s gift; I can tell when baked goods are finished cooking with my nose. I need no timers, there is a distinct scent that wafts around the house and I’m able to get the bread or brownies or pie out of the oven before any burning occurs and without any under-baking.
Out of the Oven
There is no smell so heavenly as fresh baked bread right out of the oven.
It was a red-letter day the first time I tumped a loaf out of its cooking pan without it falling apart. Once the loaves were out, I put them on cookie racks to cool.
As with the slashes, I had to learn how to cut the bread. This was a shorter learning curve, quickly passing on the dinner knife and non-serrated knife. A sharp serrated knife is definitely the way to save your loaf from looking like crumbs. If you have the capability to let the bread cool even just a few minutes, it won’t fall apart as easily as right out of the oven bread.
And then the butter. Ahhhhh, butter. Not margarine… ever! The fresher the butter the better. Slathering it on, watching it melt into puddles on the bumpy surface, air bubbles holding the creamy sweetness aloft, just waiting for your first luscious bite.
Types of Bread
Besides the Basic Whole Wheat Bread I made every day for years, I experimented with other types, rarely finding success.
I could not ever ever ever get Sourdough Bread right. I tried a dozen “full-proof” recipes, believed the promises that grandma’s 100-year old starter would be The One to give me a lovely loaf of sourdough bread. Nope. It never happened. It was worse trying to make starter myself! It reminded me of how I could never keep a plant alive… cultivating living things just was not one of my fortes.
In Laurel’s Bread Book, she waxes poetic about Desem (Day-zum) Bread. It is a massively complicated process that includes burying your small starter loaf in a 50-pound bag of whole wheat flour for a few weeks, taking it out for air every few days, taking away some of the dough, replacing it with new flour… on and on. And on. (I have not looked at the recipe in 30 years so I could be telling you something totally false, but this is how it was for me trying to make the Desem Bread.) How I thought I could make Desem when I couldn’t even keep sourdough starter alive was beyond me. But I tried. More than once. Failed every single time.
Where I did find success was in Laurel’s Banana Bread recipe. I started with hers, but quickly altered it to my tastes. For real, you need 6-8 ripe (not over-ripe!) bananas (“the bread will only taste as good as the ingredients”… great life lesson right there.) to make this 85-pound loaf of bread. 6-8. In each loaf. Not kidding.
I usually made 2 loaves; one with raisins and one with nuts. I like raisins, Zack liked the nuts. You can put cranberries in there… cran-raisins, chunks of chocolate, cherries… anything your banana heart desires.
The scent of banana bread in the oven is exquisite. (I could smell when it was done as well. No timers for me!) Eating hot banana bread with gobs of butter… I’m nearly weeping remembering the taste.
Passing It On
All of my kids have made bread. I like to believe I had something to do with offering fearlessness when trying those first few times.
Technology has given us bread makers, but I know I would not use one because of the hypnotic deliciousness of kneading the dough, watching it rise, punching it down, watching the second rise, then into the pans for their third rise… all before baking.
Looking from this vantage point, there is something special about the length of time it takes from yeast proofing to butter on hot bread. Lessons in patience, small attentions and watching the making of a staple of life humbles me.
Hmmm… didn’t know I would say so much! Hope the kids enjoy this.
The last 2 weeks have sucked even worse than when I wrote on July 13, 2017. Tears. Tears. Never-ending tears. The suicidal ideation is coming more often and is more vivid than when I started the Paxil. And the damn hallucinations are back.
Almost all of my time is in bed, either curled in pain (another post), staring at the ceiling or sleeping. I leave I Love Lucy on in the background. Sometimes Friends. I’m listening to Mists of Avalon (a book I love), but when I listen in bed, I fall right to sleep. I’ve replayed Chapter 6 four times already.
An Odd Sorta Depression
When looking for images about depression lying, I came across several pieces like this one below:
Not sure if I’m just more familiar with my depression than when I was younger or if it has really shifted, but I do not hear the lies the girl in the image does… nothing negative about my body, how alone I am in the world, how fat/ugly/sick I am. I did when I was younger, but not anymore.
I just feel sad. An overwhelming sadness. A pall of melancholia that separates me from the rest of you. I cannot even touch what I am sad about except for the endless distress I have about our country because of 45. But this joylessness is deeper than the fear-for-our-lives kind. I feel like I’m under the thick glass of my Nana’s cake pedestal, so close to others, but unable to penetrate the barrier of dreariness to make a connection.
The psych doc upped the Paxil to 30mg after 2 weeks on 20mg. He said he still might have to increase it when I see him in 2 weeks. For fuck’s sake, can’t this stuff take effect already? I hate this waiting part.
I have weaned off the Cymbalta. Is that the reason for this huge dip? Who knows anymore. He wanted to increase my Risperdal, but I refused; the eating is out of control with more Risperdal… can’t abide by that.
An aside: I despise the new packaging that seems to be taking over the medication world. I am not stupid, can follow directions, but they are incredibly difficult for me to get into. I’ve asked the Pharmacy to open them for me and then I rip the inner blister pack out, throwing the outer box away. If you haven’t see them, let me introduce you.
I’ve had lots of suicidal thoughts. My cub stayed with me one night when they were especially bad, reminding me every few minutes that Depression is a Liar. Hearing that, knowing it for certain, is what kept (keeps) me going. Hearing that so-and-so loves me doesn’t do much for my mindset because I rationalize that away easily. Depression Lies, however, works wonders.
The thoughts of suicide are so enticing. They call to me seductively as if they were sirens on the ocean’s rocks.
“A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted. People who take their lives don’t want to die—they just want to stop hurting.”
When I had my first serious clinical depression in my late teens, I didn’t understand the “wanting the pain to stop” aspect and teetered really close to the edge of death.
As I got older and had some decent therapy, I was able to verbalize the inner turmoil and excruciating emotional pain that was drawing me towards dying. Understanding that I didn’t really want to die, but just to stop hurting… a pain that went so deep as to injure my soul… I was able to cling to those brief seconds of “medication will help remove the pain… hang on a little bit longer.”
Medication and therapy have not failed me yet.
Work has been nearly impossible the way I feel. I can do one call, then need 2 hours off to regroup. The calls are easy, mostly with regulars, but the energy expenditure exhausts me. Even writing this post has taken 4 days so far. Ugh. I need to be able to work!
Okay, I need to get this out to you all. It is not a cry for help, I promise. I will not hurt myself, have no plans to. It’s just those random thoughts that flow through my mind… sometimes like heavy cinder blocks and others like wafting vapors. As long as they continue moving on the conveyor belt, I think I’m okay and headed towards healing.
I’ve done dozens of diets, been prescribed Black Beauties & other speed (starting at age 8), belonged to many gyms, taken Phen-Fen (with success, but with heart valve damage), tried Topamax (fail), used Wellbutrin (fail), had a Roux en Y Gastric Bypass (with fabulous success, then epic failure), done hypnosis & acupuncture (fail & fail), become a daily Mindfulness Meditation fanatic (fail for weight loss/huge win for pain relief), have tried to have anorexia, then bulimia, hand-written hundreds of thousands of journal pages, letting them “hold” my pain, shame, revulsion, self-hate, wishes, fears, hopes &, eventually, resolution with my size.
I remain in resolution.
I will never diet or take diet drugs again. Ever.
Time & Money
Thinking about the masses of time and money I’ve spent trying to lose weight makes my head spin.
Going to the gym
Writing out menus
Researching rules and techniques for success
Real life or online support group meetings, including social networks talking about losing/gaining weight
Shopping slower to read labels and make sure food is “appropriate”
Learning new cooking methods
Fighting with family about the change in foods in the fridge and cupboards
Probably eventually buying more “bad” food for my family because they whined so much about foisting my diet on them
$28,000 cash for RNY gastric bypass (GB)
Can I include the time and money (including the taxpayer’s) for the years of therapy discussing and crying about all of this?
I was a Fat Activist in the mid-late 80’s, mostly in the lesbian community. I’ve written about being fat-positive for almost 3 decades.
In the beginning, when I was in my 20’s and early 30’s, I was healthy… labs were fine, no diabetes, my joints or feet didn’t hurt. I crowed (bragged, was arrogant) about how it was the fat-hating that made fat people sick and die, not the fat itself.
Now, at 56-years old, I see how delusional I was. I am well on the road to dying before most people in my family did, and they all had diabetes, too. My future resides in my memories of my Cuban relatives & the diabetes complications they endured before dying. Heart attacks, going blind, having toes, then feet cut off, eventually dying in a coma because the body just gave up.
I see it coming as if it was a roaring train heading right for me.
Litany of Pain
Here are my fat-related illnesses and issues:
Type 2 Diabetes (diagnosed at 34 years old), now on 2 insulins and metformin
I heal terribly because of the diabetes, often needing antibiotics for residual infections
Stage 3 Kidney Disease from the diabetes
Pain with every step I take
Osteoporosis and arthritis in my feet, which have broken 3 times just from walking for exercise, and one foot breaking while swimming
Broke one foot falling off the Wii Fit Board trying to exercise… needed 3 surgeries to repair
Arthritis in my lower back, was on opioids for 8+ years for the back pain, becoming incredibly addicted, finally getting clean 3 years ago (yay me!) Now I use Mindfulness Meditation for pain relief, though many times I wish for some Norco.
It took me years to find surgeons I felt safe with to get my 4 hernias repaired (one surgery) and then my gallbladder out (a separate surgery, with 3 hospital visits afterwards because of infection)… several turning me away because of my enormous belly size (blessedly, I found the docs and those issues are resolved)
Bone loss from possibly 2 main sources: lack of exercise & the GB
Walking with a walker, but should be in an electric wheelchair, my feet hurting so badly
Using an electric wheelchair when I shop
My world has gradually become smaller and smaller. After 32 years in birth work (where I hurt daily as well), I am now a sedentary Phone Sex Operator. I live in a small space and leave the house only for doctor appointments, physical therapy, shopping and seeing my doggies at mom’s house.
Writing that makes me sad.
Part 2 On Its Way
In Part 2 of My Wall-E-esque Life, I will talk about the place the Fat Advocacy Movement does have in our lives. While it might not be health (despite the incessant refrain that it does), it is most assuredly have an enormous place in our physical and emotional world.
My beautiful cub, as you read through this and the articles I’ve shared, one of the most important things is to breathe and let go of any stress/tension you feel building because of the instructions. You do not… WILL not… be doing everything at once, so allowing yourself grace for the learning and ongoing practice (the Be-ing) of Mindfulness is really good for your spirit. Even I work at Mindfulness. Even Buddhist Monks practice (the act of learning a new skill) Mindfulness. There is no “end” to show you have completed the task for the rest of your life, no test at some tangible end. It is an ongoing experience like breathing. Seeing it as the waves in the ocean can help a lot… they come and go, unbidden, but in a rhythm that does not cease.
So it is with Mindfulness.
There are several avenues to Mindfulness. It seems each teacher has a different way of explaining how to do it. What ends up happening is we take bits and pieces from the ones that resonate, creating our own unique style. If one person’s description makes no sense, look at the next and see if that adds to your own need for information.
The Path to Mindfulness…
There is no Mindfulness without Meditation,
nor is there Meditation without Mindfulness.
Even as I said there is no end goal, there are pieces that are required (and that word can be stressful, but you will see in a moment it does not need to be). I could have put any number of these pieces together in another order, but it makes no difference as I explain because they super-impose themselves onto each other. So, in no particular order:
The “Goal” of Meditation (the Definition of Mindfulness)
The purpose of a (Stillness) Meditation session, one path into Mindfulness, is to empty one’s mind, bringing your thoughts directly to your breathing. Sounds like such a simple concept, but takes a lifetime of practice that never ends (like the ocean’s waves).
It is this attention to breath that we do in our private Meditation sessions, that we also do when we are walking down the street, when someone annoys the crap out of us, when we are scared or anxious or angry. Or when we are changing a diaper, showering ourselves or sitting and reading a book.
While it can seem like its own activity at first, taking a lot of concentration while ignoring the actual life activity at hand, it quickly becomes a soft hum in the background of our waking lives.
Even doing it (as we learn) for a very short time gives immense relief from difficulties going on around us. It brings us back to “our Center”; that which is Divine in us all. For you, that might be Allah.
Note: As you read, you will see there are a variety of types of Meditation. Typically, new folks concentrate on Mindfulness Meditation and Stillness Meditation… mostly those two combined. There is another you might find helpful that I love, and that is Guided Meditation. When I struggle with doing a solo practice, Guided Meditation often helps me to let go of the pain. There are an endless supply of Free Guided Meditations both in regular Google searches or on YouTube, Amazon Music, in Amazon Prime (tv) and Netflix. Do not think too hard on the other kinds of Meditation at the moment, just the 3 I mentioned above.
Non-Judgment is a main cornerstone of Mindfulness. Being in a high stress profession, I am sure you have a certain definition in your mind about what non-judgment entails. With Meditation, it takes on a broader meaning.
As you Meditate (which I will elaborate on in a moment), you’ll find your head filled with thoughts. THIS IS NORMAL! We all have our heads just stuffed full of thoughts, feelings and plans. Do not ever ever ever berate yourself for having random thoughts floating through your mind as you learn, try and practice meditation. We all have them! Forever. There is never a time thoughts are not flowing through our heads. Not even for the most practiced of Monks, ALL of us have this experience when Meditating.
Especially in the beginning, people can get very frustrated with this phenomenon, this “intrusion” of thoughts, disturbing our practice of Meditation.
The opposite, however, is true; without the thoughts, one would not have the Meditation to practice. Recognizing them is exactly what is supposed to happen! The moment you recognize a stray thought, that is the exact moment you have become Mindful. It might only last that second, but you have, for that fleeting moment, been Mindful. So beautiful!
When you recognize the random thought in your mind, instead of seeing them as annoying or terribly distracting, it serves us much more to… see the thought/feeling… say hello to it… even hold it for a moment if you need to… and then set it free to float away once again. I see the thoughts as clouds or soap bubbles floating around, some coming closer, others stay far away. As they come into my direct attention, those are the ones I admire, then release, returning to my breath.
You will, as all of us have, sometimes spend your entire Meditation session in thought. Thinking, planning, saying, “When is this over!?” to yourself. I encourage just shaking your head and laughing about how intrusive your thoughts have been and try again in a awhile.
It is the ebb and flow of thoughts, their presentation, your recognition, then their release, moving back to breath, that is the very definition of Mindfulness Meditation.
Time to Practice
You will read in most places that your Meditation should be at least 20 minutes long. 20 minutes can seem extremely daunting at first, so just shoot for 2-3 minutes and gradually, at your own pace, work your way up to 20 minutes. It could take a year to get there. Who cares!? This is your walk, no one else’s.
At least once each day, you will set aside a minimum of 10 minutes, even if you are only doing 3 minutes, setting the scene in your body and mind walks you towards the actual breathing. Those minutes are without the tv on, without answering your phone and hoping you have no one knocking at the door. If there are interruptions you have no control over, just start again when you can. No judgment, no getting angry at the interruption or person who knocked. A gentle thought of love towards them moves your practice forward.
Making time for Meditation can seem daunting at first, but if you are able to recognize the ritual as a great few minutes of Self-Love, you will soon grow to welcome the time apart from your harried life.
Timing Your Session
I’ve found several wonderful free apps for Meditation Timers. Most are bells, chimes or gongs, but there are some with music as well. Googling “Meditation Timers” brings up many choices. I have one on my computer and one on my phone.
An amusing, pretty universal, action seems to happen, especially as we are learning our way around these practices. We all seem to be intensely curious about 1) how long we have been doing the Mindfulness (thereby dragging us right out of it!) and 2) how much more time we have before we are finished. Time either flies or is interminably long. While non-judgment is important, do your best to recognize the urge to open your eyes to see the time as one of those stray and passing thoughts. This does get easier with time.
I found removing my watch and turning the clock around helpful at first, depending only on the timer. Otherwise I was half inside and half with one eye on the clock. Not so peaceful.
Where Are the Benefits Already?
In the beginning, many, many, if not most, of us find great resistance to practicing Meditation. We often look for any distraction we can find to avoid it. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NORMAL and, I believe, a required part of the process.
Recognizing the resistance, chuckling to yourself, then doing the Meditation, is an enormous success and one to be very proud of. Each time you cross this hurdle, you remove some of the future struggle towards practicing.
Just like there is no end to practicing, no end to the intrusion of thoughts, so too is there no delineation between practicing and Mindfulness having an effect on your behavior and life. The first time you sit quietly, breathing, you have already created a monumental shift in your Universe. There may be moments of recognition (“Oh! I breathed instead of wanting to throw a book at the wall!”), but more often, the effects are subtle and cumulative. One day, you will realize things have shifted and you will probably think, “Wow! When did that happen?”
It happened when you sat quietly that first day. It’s happening this very second as you read through what I have written!
I will share a couple of articles about HOW to actually do the breathing and practice Meditation. Those are the technical parts. I wanted to share with you my own learning curve specifically so you could see what the possibilities were, but mostly, that this is an amorphous experience and to not expect any concrete outcome. Ah, but those things along with monumental changes in your life.
Does this make sense? I would be shocked if any of it did!
I love you so very much. Have fun with your new activity, your new thoughts, your changes in behavior and allow utter confusion to wash over you at times. It is absolutely normal… you are absolutely normal… well, actually, I think you are absolutely amazing!
If you ever have questions or want to share your thoughts or experiences, feel free to talk or write to me.