Tuesday, June 14, 2011

No, I Don't Want To Try It On and Yes, I Will Eventually Return It

I am a horrible shopper.  I can go to a store looking for one specific item and leave with a bag full of crap I already own.  I should not be allowed to shop alone.

If you looked at my shopping habits, it would appear that I am not only an avid golfer, but I am also addicted to exercise.  Both of which I am not.  I golf and I jog but to be avid at either, I would need to spend less time shopping and more time golfing and jogging.  However, every time I go in T.J. Maxx, I leave with new golf clothes and a sports bra.  My theory is...I might not be good at golf, but I want to look good at golf.  I might not be a good runner, but I want to look like I should be running.  I have two weeks worth of golf skirts.  During a good week, I golf once.  I love golf skirts so much that I thought about just wearing them around town.  My delusional hope is that everyone would think, "Oh, she must be a golfer."  Just like if I was walking around Target in scuba gear.  Everyone would just say, "Oh, she must be a scuba diver."

Might I also mention my obsession with vaccuum cleaners.  This year alone, I have bought two.  I will research which vaccuum cleaner is best and know for certain where I should go to get the best deal.  Yet I always buy the cheapest one with the hopes that it will magically make me love vaccuuming.  I know for a fact that Dysons are the best.  I also know that the amount I spend on those two vaccuums could have been combined to buy one Dyson.  Alas, I buy the junk vaccuums and regret not spending the money.  Did I mention we don't have carpet. 

There is hope.  I was once a flip flop fanatic.  At one point, I owned over 25 pairs.  I have learned that happiness cannot be attained by having a pair of flip flops in every color.  Today, I can leave Old Navy without a bag full of cheap flips.  I have come a LONG way. 

Truth is, flip flops make running impossible and look funny with golf skirts. If you see me at a store and I have a golf skirt, flip flops, or any vaccuum other than a Dyson, please intervene.  If I have a sports bra, please don't intervene.  That might just be the sports bra that makes look like a runner.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

New Ink and a 10k

I am celebrating my 5 year cancerversary this month!!!!

Each year after I was diagnosed with melanoma, I decided to do something new, different, or out of the ordinary.  My first year I asked friends to join my Relay for Life team.  Many friends and coworkers walked for the team and several die-hards (Melissa, Mary & Paula) even spent the night on a cold football field to raise money for cancer research.  I promised them I would never do that again. 

The following year I ran a 5k.  The next year I went to Hawaii.  Last year, I ziplined through the rainforest.  When I look back over the years, I realize I really wasn't doing anything for others.  How did going to Hawaii help others fight cancer?  I'd like to think that a melanoma survivor going to the most beautiful beach in the world and still being able to enjoy the sun SAFELY set a good example for others.  I'm pretty sure that is a stretch.

This year I wanted to do something for others as well as being a little selfish.  I am running a 10k for the first time ever and several dear friends have signed up to run as well.  A dear friend has even designed shirts for us to wear that say PEACE, LOVE, & SPF on the front.  I'd like to think that this is not a truly selfish bucket list item.  Maybe with all these shirts- someone will say, "I need to have my ugly mole looked at" or "I need to put on more sunscreen".  Boom- saved someones life.

I also plan to donate my hair to Locks of Love.  I had hoped it would be long enough by now to donate but I'd look pretty funny with a buzz cut.  My hairdresser assures me I will have plenty by December.

I am also going to get a tattoo.  Well.....another tattoo.  I've had great fun thinking about what I should get.  I think others have had fun, too.  One person suggested I have a mole tattooed on my scar in honor of the one that was removed.  Chris thinks I should have STFU tattooed on my hand.  That's more of a personal joke but I bet most people can get it.  Another friend said I should have my rectangular skin graft site made into an iPhone since it looks like I left one on my leg while in the sun.  Since I won't be getting my tat until after my run, I still have a few weeks to decide.  I am open to suggestions but it has to be happy and tasteful- no Melissa I am not having your face tattooed on my tush.  Yours either, Shannon. 

I also plan to give out sunscreen.  This sounds a little looney in my mind but that is one way I feel like I can say- I did what I could to help others.  Now- I just need to know where I can get a box of sunscreen at a good price. 

Another bucket list item is to speak up.  Ha- like I don't already do this.  I guess what I mean is to be more vocal about my experience and how it can help others.  While I don't plan on protesting at area tanning salons- I do plan on telling others the importance of sunscreen and seeing a dermatologist.  Don't be alarmed if I tell you that you have an ugly mole that needs to be seen by a doc.  On second thought- do be alarmed.  I will only tell you that because I care.  However, please refrain from showing me any moles that you are worried about.  My opinion is always the same.  Get it off your body as quickly as possible.  The way I look at it, scars are great stories only survivors get to tell.  I'd rather hear about your scar than your tan line.


My Melaphukanoma Story

I'm not really sure what my official Cancerversary is.  I don't know if I'm supposed to mark the day of my diagnosis, my surgery, or my "all clear" day.  So what the heck- I'll celebrate all three.

I was dreading April 25 for silly selfish reasons.  I planned a personal day to register Henley for kindergarten and spend the rest of the day feeling sorry for myself because my first born would soon be starting school.  My plans and my life quickly changed.

A couple weeks before, I had an appointment with a dermatologist to look at a "suspect" mole on my forearm.  As soon as Dr. Russell saw it, she knew it had to go.  I remember her words, "I don't like the way this guy looks."  I was not terribly concerned because I had diagnosed myself before the doctor came in the room.  According to the posters on the wall, I believed I had some basal cell or dysplastic mole.  She took it off, and I thought I was done.  On April 24th, she called and asked me to come by the next morning.  Since I was already taking the day off, I said I would stop by before registering Henley. 

The next morning, Chris asked me if I wanted him to come with me to the appointment.  I don't remember being alarmed, but I agreed.  I was still focusing on my upcoming pre-kindergarten depression.  Dr. Russell did not waste any time.  She said, "I'm glad you were able to come Chris.........."  That's the exact moment I realized something was wrong.  He listened while I watched my suddenly short fragile world flash in front of me.  She said I had melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.  She went on to say that people with melanoma have an 5 year survival rate of 80%.  As a "B" student throughout school, that number didn't bother me until Chris clarified.  He said, "So you mean, there is a 20% chance she could die from this?"  Suddenly, I wanted to be an "A+" student.

The next thing I knew, we were in the surgeon's office discussing how much skin was going to be removed, how to determine if the cancer had spread, and what further treatments would need to follow.  Because my cancer was deep (a Clark level of 4 out of 5) and in a awkward spot, I would have a very large scar that would require a skin graft.  While most skin graft donation sites come from your tushie- I couldn't come to terms with having skin from my ass grafted onto my arm.  To this day, I still think this was a wise decision.  I decided to have a patch of skin from my thigh grafted to my arm.  The selected patch included a mole I suddenly hated and wanted to show it who was boss.  (On a side note- the mole on my thigh grew back- I'm apparently not the boss.)

After several hours at the surgeon's office, it was decided I would have surgery in two days.  I remember looking at my calender and saying, "I can't have it Wednesday because I have a module test and Friday isn't good because it's my daughter's birthday, Thursday isn't good because I have a softball game that night."  Cancer didn't fit in my schedule.

Once the surgery was scheduled, I had to tell my principal I would need to be off work for two weeks.  It seemed a little unfair to have to go to work on my personal day.  My assistant principal was the first one I saw and bless her heart- she was as far as I made it.  She was so reassuring.  She seemed mad at my cancer and told me not to worry about work.  While I was telling my boss, Chris was telling my family.  My family has had a tough time medically with my dad's death in 1985 and my mom's brain tumor in 1999.  I couldn't bear to give them the news. 

Did I mention all this happened before noon?  In a fog, I drove around for awhile before I remembered I had something to do.  I drove to the elementary school and was greeted by smiling faces.  I knew these teachers from my student teaching.  They were excited to hear that Henley was going to be there in the fall.  As I filled out the forms, I came to the Social History questions.  I read the question, "Are there any family medical situations at home?" I wanted to put, "Yes, AND I DON'T HAVE THE ANSWERS!!!!"  Instead, I sobbed in the little school chair and felt pretty damn sorry for myself. 

On the day of my surgery, the attending nurse asked me if I knew what I was there for.  I told her I was there to get the ugly ass cancer out of my body.  She laughed and said, "You will beat this because you have already decided not to let it beat you."  On Thursday, April 27th 2006, I had a section of skin above my wrist removed that measured a diameter of 4.7 cm with a diameter of 1 cm.  Two sentinel nodes were removed, and a skin graft the size of an iPhone.  The nodes came back clear which meant the cancer had not spread.  My oncologist recommended an eight week course of interferon to prevent the melanoma from returning.  After learning how sick the drug would make me and the benefit it "might" provide, I decided not go through with the treatment.  For five years I have debated that decision.  Did I make a decision for convenience only to hurt me in the long run?

Cancer has not beaten me.  I have made cancer my bitch for FIVE years now.  To anyone who thinks skin cancer is not a serious cancer, I would love to show you my twelve scars and my pile of medical bills.  While most 5 year survivors get a clean bill of health, melanoma doesn't play the same.  Melanoma hides better than other cancers.  Skin cancer does not show up on CT scans or bone scans and is often only detected my a dermatologist.  I will continue to have CT scans, bone scans, blood tests, and skin checks every six to nine months.  I will continue to slather on an SPF 35 on sunny AND cloudy days.  I will continue swimming and loving the outdoors but will remember to reapply every sunscreen every two hours.  I will continue to get my tans from a bottle.

Have you had your moles checked?

Did you know melanoma can develop in your eyes, on your palms and even on your nail beds?  Did you know that one serious burn as a child significantly increases your chances of developing melanoma?  Melanoma is the most common cancer in people ages 25-29.  It is the second most common cancer in adolescents.  It is estimated that 1 in 5 people will develop a form of skin cancer in their lifetime. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Surely I Can Outrun a Pregnant Lady

One of my biggest fears in life is running in public.  It is a fear I am "working on". 

I have only been running (sporadically) for a little over two years.  I honestly don't remember what caused me to start, but I'd be willing to bet it was a cute pair of running shoes.  I have learned to love running, but as with most relationships, running and I have a few issues we need to work through.

Things I hate about running:

sports bras
how bright red my face gets
the first 1/4 mile
the amount of food I devour after a run
how silly I feel for being proud of how far I ran

After my first 5K in 1999, the paramedics at the finish line asked me if I needed assistance.  A paramedic wanting to strap an oxygen mask to you kills a runner's high immediately.  Three hours after the race, my face was still as red as a fire hydrant.  That might explain why it took me 8 years before I ran again.  Eight years and a couple of kids later....

I started running at the health club on the treadmill.  That worked for a couple of weeks until a trainer asked me to check my heart rate because my face was so red.  I decided I'd explore outdoor running.  I liked it so much I convinced myself to try another race. 

*Now, let me state the obvious here.  I do not run in races to win.  I run to finish.  This doesn't mean I'm not competetive.  I am VERY competetive.  This creates a quandry.  I'm not a good runner, but surely I'm better than someone.  I fully understand how tacky that sounds, but it is the truth.

My next race was the Toad Suck 5K.  I thought my competition was a fellow teacher who happened to be a "few" years older than me.  At the gun, I lost her and was forced to find new competition.  I tried to find someone around my age and build.  That worked until I was passed by Senator Gilbert Baker and his entire family.  They were running with a banner and American flags like a parade on speed.  My running suddenly turned political.  I did not want to be passed by a family of homeschooling Republicans.  (I will probably lose some readers because of this statement- before you leave my blog please note that they beat me, by a lot)  I crossed the finish line and ran straight for my car.  I did not want to be approached by any paramedics or well intending race officials. 

My oldest daughter has shown interest in running.  She is in the running club at her school.  Last year, she ran a 5K at school, and she asked me to run as well.  I knew I would have to hold back my competetive nature.  I encouraged her to run as much as she could and tried not to feel "held back".  I tried by best to encourage her and other runners and not fret over my lagging pace.  I was proud to watch her cross the finish line well ahead of me.  I am not proud of the desire to kick in the afterburners and smoke the two kids in front of me.  At the finish line, I hugged my kid and left before I had to pose for pictures (remember the red face).

Last Friday, I decided to run in a 2 mile race the next morning.  Immediately after registering, I did what all experienced runners do the night before a race.  I carb loaded.  Alright.....no one carb loads before a 2 mile race, but it was a good excuse to stuff my face.  Never EVER should you eat catfish, a baked potato, hushpuppies, bread pudding, banana pudding, and a couple bites of chocolate cake the night before any race. 

As I was waiting for the race to start, I began the search for my competition.  Everyone was so skinny!!!  Everyone except for the pregnant lady.  She would be my competition.  Remember, I had bread pudding.  That made it an even match.  As we lined up for the race, I looked for her in front of me and since I didn't see her, I assumed she was behind me.  That meant I was ALREADY winning. 

I made sure I was not passed by anyone resembling a pregnant lady.  I allowed anyone with professional running attire pass and refrained from spitting on them.  At the last 1/2 mile, I was regretting every french fry I ate the night before (did I forget to mention the french fries???).  That was when I was passed by a kindergartner.  I thought about hopping in the ambulance that seemed to be following me.  I then noticed a shirtless man running the opposite direction.  He met up with who I assumed was his kindergarten daughter, and they ran the rest of the race together.  I decided it was not fair to consider her my competition.  Her parents probably never let her eat a banana split for dinner.  Bless her heart.  I can safely say I did not let any pregnant ladies pass me.  After I crossed the finish line, I forced myself to "hang around".  I received some strange looks that could only be due to my rosy red complexion.  As I was cruising around, cooling down, I saw my pregnant competition.  She looked very relaxed.  She had not run the 2 mile!!!  She apparently had entered the 1 mile Pet Walk.  I then realized that not only had I NOT beaten a pregnant lady in a race, I was smoked by a kindergartner.  Yea, me.

My next race is Thursday.  It is my daughter's race.  It is about her.  I will not be looking for pregnant women or kindergarteners to beat.  I might even stick around for a picture or two.  Wish me luck!  

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

This is My Brain on Samoas

I went into this year's "Girl Scout Cookie Time" with a plan.  I would not succumb to the dozens of obligatory orders from current and former students.  I limited our inventory by consolidating the order process.  The Masters family would only buy one box of cookies from the first Girl Scout to ask.  No other boxes would be purchased....anywhere....anytime....under any conditions.  This was the plan.

This is how the plan has failed:

#1  The first Girl Scout to ask was actually the scout's mother (whom I know well).  She lured me to a Mexican restaurant and bought rounds of margaritas before the order form appeared.  Ordering under the influence= four boxes of Samoas instead of one.

#2   The cookies arrived Friday.  On the day before, against all odds, I posted a substanial weight loss of 0.4 ounces in our Faculty Fit Club.  0.4 ounces is nothing to scoff at since my dramatic weight loss came after a week's worth of snow days.  I privately celebrated my accomplishment with an entire box of Samoas.  Technically, I let Abby and Henley have one.  Each.  They each had one.  I considered forcing them to share one cookie but knew it was wrong.  I'm a good mom.

#3   Chris fished all morning Saturday and left me home alone with boxes 2, 3, & 4.  I was a bad mom.  I told Henley she could not have Samoas for breakfast because it was not a healthy food choice.  So as I made french toast from scratch, I ate box 2.  Three things you should realize at this point.....I blame others for my lack of will power....I apparently believe french toast is a healthier breakfast than cookies.....and cookies make me stupid.

#4   I needed a new plan.  If I would hurry up and eat the rest of the cookies, they would no longer be a temptation.  Apparently, Samoas kill brain cells.  Box 3 disappeared in record time when I realized I could eat two at once.  I did share some of box 3.  While I was gone, Chris allowed Abby to have some.  When I returned and surveyed my remaining inventory, Abby quickly pointed out she ate some.  "Daddy let me have FOUR!!!"  After teaching her a quick lesson on proper portion control, I finished the rest of the box before I was forced to share with anyone else.

#5  Chris has been NO help.  He has not and will not eat any of the cookies.  He swears he has found a protein rich granola bar that tastes just like Samoas.  I've tried them.  When I say I've tried them, what I mean is I have tried to hide the Samoas behind the granola bars in the pantry.  Box 4 is currently surrounded by a fort of nutrition.  Nobody will look for them there.  Unfortunately, I'm the one the cookies need to be hidden from.

#6  Those damn cookies are for sale on every street corner.  My problem does not simply go away after I polish off box 4.  I have to avoid every grocery store in town for the next two weeks.  And these girls are trained to recognize cookie addicts.  They are dressed in cute little cookie costumes and use  such strong language in their advertising.  Help Support our Troop.  Send Us to Camp.  Buy Cookies Or We'll Cry.  They even earn a badge for their high pressure sales tactic.  Chris will have to do the grocery shopping for the next two weeks which means we will have plenty of high protein granola bars.

What message are we sending to these young girls?  Are Girl Scouts really selling these cookies or is this an elaborate plot by some terrorist organization?  Do I really need to gain five pounds so some girl I don't know can go to camp to learn about self control and self respect?  Nay nay, I say.  I never went to Girl Scout Camp and I have plenty of self control....

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I'll Never Buy Metamucil

I am not old.  Old age is relative.  I am younger than a large number of people, however I am very aware that each day that number goes down.  Each day, more people are added to this world, and they will always be younger than me.  With age comes experience.  From this experience, I realize I've added a new food group to my diet.  This food group contains all the things my younger self said I'd never do...like buy Metamucil.

Evidence that I am old:

Instead of counting beers, I count grams of fiber.
I keep Tums in my purse, glove box, and desk.
I have trouble reading the directions on the back of packages.
I'd rather have a new vaccum, than perfume or jewelry.
I feel wild when I stay out past 10pm.
Buying items in bulk gives me a sense of security.
In my contact list, I have more doctors than friends.
Kroger Pharmacy sends me a Christmas card.
I say, "We didn't have ________ when my kids were little."
All my pants have STRETCH somewhere on the label.
I own more SPANX than lingerie.
I enjoy Southern Living more than Glamour.
Victoria's Secret officially took me off their mailing list.
I complain about loud music.
Elastic pants aren't as ugly as I once thought.
Comfort trumps style.

When I married Chris, I owned a 1987 Dodge Shadow (The Cher-dow).  It was on life support after I abused and neglected the poor thing throughout my high school and college years.  By the summer of 1997, the ceiling fabric doubled as drapery, the air conditioner worked only on odd days after 6pm, the glove box mysteriously popped open at 55 MPH, and the windshield wipers worked independently when they were not tangled behind the side mirrors.  So needless to say, I looked forward to a new(er) car.  I was 21 and my standards were understandably low.  We bought the first car we test drove.  Truth be told, I was too nervous to drive such a nice car, so Chris was the driver.  Let me tell you, that 1995 Ford Taurus was one hot car.  It was maroon with gray fabric seats detailed with rainbow trimming.  It had 4 doors, a trunk that latched, a horn that worked, windows that rolled both up AND down electrically, sunglass holder, a cassette player that successfully ejected tapes, and........a cup holder!!!  I .thought I was the bomb diggity.  Several weeks later, I was "rolling" in my new, sweet Taurus when a guy in the car next to me caught my attention.  He turned down his radio and said, "Nice car, Grandma."  At that exact moment, I became the oldest 21 year old on the planet.  I also said I would NEVER drive an old lady car again.  I ate those words when I drove off the car lot with my first full sized Suburban with my two car seats and a double stroller taking up the oversized cargo space.  Then I went back for seconds when I traded that one in for yet another full sized Suburban.  I am now the proud owner of a very sporty, Jeep Wrangler 4x4 in Red Rock with the Freedom Top.  I like to think it makes me look 10 years younger  Well....maybe 5 years younger since it does have those two extra doors, but no car seats or strollers!!!

Last week, Chris and I took the girls sledding on a nearby golf course.  We stood at the top of a hill alongside a group of college kids.  In an attempt to prove my youth, I grabbed the sled and was the first one to zoom down the hill.  As I neared the bottom of the hill, I realized I had no control over the sled as a pine tree threatened to split me in two.  I bailed off the sled, arms and legs flailing, and flopped into a snow drift.  If I had been younger, I would have laughed and bounced up immediately.  Instead, I laid there for a second and did a quick scan for broken limbs.  During my quick scan I noticed that the crowd at the top of the hill was oddly quiet.  Proof that I am old.  If I had not been a mother of two in my mid thirties, my fall would have been hilarious.  When I finally made it back to the top of the hill, one of the college kids asked me if I was okay.  She had an honest look of concern.  To add insult to injury, at that moment, I realized she was one of my former 5th graders.  We soon left to embarrass ourselves with people our own age.......and their kids. 

I know I am not yet over the hill.  I am however approching the crest of the hill.  I certainly home when I get to the top of the hill, my decent to the other side will be a little more graceful than the last hill I attempted.  If it is painful and ugly, at least do me the favor of laughing.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I Don't Want Gifts

Is there anything more awkward than opening a slinky pink negligee in front of your friends, your mother's friends, and even your grandmothers' friends?  The answer is yes.  Open the pink negligee in front of all those wonderful women and have the present be from your future mother-in-law.

I have no problem speaking in public.  Dressing up in a fruit costume in front of students and parents is a breeze.  Leading a group of strangers in singing "The Arkansas Fight Song" comes quite naturally to me.  However, opening a present in front of people is as uncomfortable for me as drinking a Kryptonite smoothie is for Superman. 

Since when did opening gifts become a spectator sport?  Think about bridal showers, birthday parties,  and baby showers.  A crowd of people (the fans) watch one person (the star athlete) open gifts.  Just like any sporting event, the fans even prefer to eat while watching.  The fans wait to see what's in the box.  The fans secretly await the awkward moment when a duplicate crystal rose bowl is opened.  How will the "athlete" handle this?  Will her reactions be critiqued in the post-shower game by the professionals?  Don't forget the "star athlete" often has a coach or trainer sitting next to them, calling out the plays. 

It is NOT that I don't like the gifts.  I just don't like the pressure of having to like the gifts at the exact moment.  That still sounds rather ungrateful.  Maybe its just the crowd factor.  Any bride can understand this.  Open a box of yellow bath towels and you are somewhat limited on what you can say.  Of course you say "Thank you", but when you are sitting in front of the gift giver, its as though another comment is expected.  Since you registered for the yellow bath towels, "They're just what I wanted" seems silly.  "They are beautiful", is redundant since you wouldn't exactly register for hideous towels.  "I can't wait to use them" forces an unwanted visual. 

I'm rarely speechless, but I just couldn't find the right words when I opened that pink negligee.  "I can't wait to use it????"

To be honest- I never actually said I don't want gifts.  It just isn't the language I speak.  Our Sunday School class is discussing The 5 Love Languages.  Each couple completed an assessment which revealed how we prefer to be loved.  My score showed I prefer "Acts of Service" with "Receiving Gifts" as my least preferred.  Chris said the test had to be invalid.  At first, I did too.  In my mind, it was like I speak a language I can't understand.  I can speak "gifting", I just can't understand "gifting"???

I love to give gifts, and I want the gifts I give to be meaningful and heartfelt.  For me, watching someone open a gift is just as uncomfortable as opening it myself.  That's why I prefer to use either the "Hit and Run" or the "Drive By" approach to giving gifts.   I'd rather the recipient "find" the gift than watch them open it.  I'd actually prefer to remain anonymous when I give gifts.  I once worked with a person that was so good at gifting that it became a game.  She was the best and I wanted to be better.  Competetive gifting.  She spoke my language and we played by the same rules.  Gifts mysteriously appeared without cards.  The gifts were so unique and thoughtful, a card was unnecessary.  You don't need a card that reads "You Are My Friend" when you open a beautifully wrapped box to find a plastic french roll with sesame seeds. 

I realize in posting this, I run the risk of never receiving gifts again.  According to my Sunday School test, my Love Tank does not depend on gifts alone, so I should be fine.  I guess my Love Tank is  some kind of  eco-friendly, flex fuel, hybrid type.  I do hope that the next time you give a gift, you give the recipient some slack when it comes to their reaction.  Not everyone is a professional in competetive gifting.