Body


At one point in early August, I’d had two finalist interviews, one phone interview, and surgery to remove a lump from my breast, and I was just waiting to hear. On everything.

Luckily, that only lasted two days. Labwork came back totally benign, and just last week I accepted a position as a full-time academic advisor at a bigger, richer university, in a bigger (more expensive, but new salary totally workable) city.

It’s pretty much a dream job and a perfect fit—luckily, since I had turned down an offer that would have been a fun job in a very small town with a big pay cut, in order to hope for this one (and the third job hired someone else. I sent out six applications total. So I was optimistic enough to roll the dice. I actually had one more year with my current school, but it’s past time to be moving on, although I would have used it if I had to).

They need me asap, so I’m moving real fast. Scrambled ! find an apartment, cleaned out my office (see recent twitter feed) and now a week to pack my house.

New job, new town, new life!

Per usual, I have a multitude of drafts brewing in my mind, and have not intended to abandon this blog. But for those of you not on twitter, a quick update—-

This week offers me two extended final-round interviews for jobs (one of 4 candidates, and one of 2 or 3 candidates after passing phone interviews of 6 candidates, so that feels good even if I don’t get anything, and I’ve got to prepare some presentations that will be a whole new world), and a consultation with a surgeon to probably remove a lump in my breast that has substantially changed from last year (yeah, that doesn’t feel so good, but the internets say it’s a very high probability of being benign). Busy week!

Looking forward to Saturday.

So I have dry eye. When you hold your eyes open without blinking, your tears are supposed to take about 10-15 seconds to evaporate. Mine take 2.

The eye doctor says she’d like to see 7 seconds for me to be able to safely wear contacts without risking infections, etc, although she hasn’t told me to stop wearing contacts (which I wear as-needed for exercise, glassblowing, going out, not full-time). With a previous course of medicine, I got up to about 6-7 seconds two summers ago, but have since fallen back.

So I’m going back on Googleproofed Medication, which is eye drops twice a day for at least six months, which is supposed to convince your eyes to make more tears. It’s expensive—$130/month. In addition, it comes in 60 little vials for a month, each of which holds about 8 drops of medicine, but you are only supposed to use 1 drop in each eye and then throw the rest away, because “there’s no preservative”. (My eye doctor explicitly said I could use a vial twice.)

So now they have this rewards program—$25 off each prescription, your 7th prescription free, a gift card after the 4th prescription.

Now, I have a good job, with good insurance. But we just changed insurance providers, or that is, we shifted from a big company to a management company that will run a self-insurance program. And I was all pissed, because the previous company just allowed the medication, but the new company made me try some over-the-counter remedy first for two weeks, and then go back to the doctor for a check-up, to prove the expensive medication was needed.

But the old company assessed a $50 co-pay, and the new company only demands a $15 co-pay. Which the rewards program covered for me. Maybe I should believe “there’s no preservative” and use a vial only once.

The financial infrastructure of health insurance in this country is all screwed up.

Considering trying to make quiche practically sent me into a mental breakdown, how in the world is it that I can deal with sewing, which everyone agrees is frustrating and where I am equally as ignorant?

A few things:

The first try in sewing is done in cheap fabric to identify potential problems, not in an attempt to get something edible that night (sometimes under the pressure of hunger). Unsuccessful projects can be recycled, or at least added to the scrap bag for eventual re-use, not just tossed in the trash or choked down.

Sewing takes longer, yes—but at the end I have something that will last, that I can use more than once. And I’m happier to repeat a skirt/dress pattern in three different fabrics than to eat varieties of quiche for three solid weeks.

After cooking, I have something that is edible, but I know would have tasted better if I had gone out to a restaurant and ordered it. Sewing only since February, I’ve managed to produce about 10 skirts and 1 dress that don’t fit me any worse than the clothes I buy, and are in colors and fabrics that I picked because I really liked them.

It’s much easier to move between sewing and my computer than cooking and my computer, since I don’t have to be washing hands or moving into another room. So both research and taking notes for next time are quicker and less annoying and less of an interruption to the process.

Sewing instructions take less for granted than cookbooks. There is a LOT less decision-making required, at least at the novice level. Patterns are very specific about the things you need and what you should do, including how much fabric you need at 45″ wide and how much if the fabric is 60″ wide (as opposed to basil being sold in ounces but measured in cups, and so forth). There’s none of this assumption that you know what difference it makes to throw in a quarter-cup of dill or basil or thyme—I learned the difference between a regular zipper and an invisible zipper by April, and that’s about the main choice I need to make.

Sewing turns out right. Yeah, it seems weird and crazy along the way, just like cooking, but when it’s done, I see how it works. It’s not as complicated. I see where I need to add a dart to fine-tune the fit on the next one or lengthen the skirt. When I finish cooking, I’m left with “this tastes bland, but I have no clue which spices or herbs it needs to improve.” Or I don’t like the texture, but don’t know which ingredient will change it.

If I can’t figure it out, I can take it to my weekly sewing studio to ask for advice. I can’t describe tastes over the phone to my mother or sister.

Learning to fit clothes teaches me to accept my body, to know it better, to conquer its flaws. Trying to eat healthy—um, doesn’t. Just doesn’t. At all.

Cookbooks say “this is easier than you think!” and they lie. Sewists say “yes, this is tricky, but you can do it!” and they are right.

Sewists remember their own frustration in learning something for the first time, and try to pre-empt it in tutorials. The catchphrase is “ask me how I know” (that doing X will fail. Because they tried it, and it failed). They say things like “okay, this is going to look really weird, but trust me, it works.” Cookbooks do not. I am very reluctant to cook something unfamiliar, when I don’t know how it’s supposed to turn out. I can look in my closet to see how some things are supposed to turn out.

(It’s possible that I am just reading the right sewists online, and not the right cookbooks or cooking blogs. The one sewing book I bought, Sew What! Skirts, I did occasionally find frustrating in the same way as cookbooks. There’s a sense of betrayed trust in my quiche post, and that’s a situation I tend to overreact to—for one reason or another, I don’t feel like I encounter it as much in sewing.)

Because sewing is not an expected skill, every functional achievement deserves pride, even if it didn’t come out exactly the way I wanted. Cooking always provokes a sense of trailing behind, desperately trying to catch up to where a 34-year-old woman ought to be.

  • Four dresses I’m perfectly happy with, just waiting for a good moment to wear them. Pictures taken so I can start cataloguing my closet in an iPhone app.
  • One dress and one skirt jettisoned.
  • Three dresses and two skirts in the “refashion” pile. The dresses and one skirt to be converted into long tanktops, the other skirt to go from ankle-length velvet to knee-length velvet with a kicky ruffle.
  • Two dresses I can jettison as soon as I know I can sew something better for myself.
  • Next year’s Halloween costume, as a bridesmaid.

My eye doctor has taken me off progressive lenses. No more feeling like an old lady! No more paying $800 for super-thin lenses made in Germany!

Unfortunately, I did the glasses hunt in August, when I expected to get progressives (meaning I could not get teeny frames) and before I cut my hair to ear-length instead of past my shoulders.

Now I have to redo it, but at least I know there is really only one store worth checking, since I’m committed to buying glasses that come with magnetic sunglass clips.

Cut off my hair in August. Short hair requires thin headband. Thin headbands are basically just big rubber bands.

I have a big head—not excessively big, but at the top of the average range for women, as far as I can tell.

Every day, between about 3pm and 5pm, I pull off my headband because it is making my head feel tight.

Every morning, I can’t find a headband because they are scattered around—in my office, in my jacket pocket, my jeans pocket, etc.

Periodically, I buy more headbands.

Mammograms leave me depressed. I’ve reacted this way before, even in mid-summer. I feel poked and prodded, and all I want to do is curl up in a ball and let my mama rub my back.*

However, I got a nice little nap on the ultrasound table—a few winks during the ultrasound, and then some minutes while I waited for the tech to come back and tell me:

“oh yeah, we know all about that third lump your doctor found—there’s definitely something there, they’ve seen it before, they just hadn’t documented it. But it hasn’t changed, not a problem, looks like the same type of fibroadenoma you came in for before.”

Another one for the annals of WTF is up with our medical system: HADN’T DOCUMENTED IT? HADN’T MENTIONED IT TO ME? I mean, I’m pretty lackadaisical about my health, but not that bad, and my doctor went through the earlier reports from the mammogram people before she sent me for an ultrasound two days later.

And actually, when I said “well, nobody mentioned it to me, six months ago when they found the second cyst and told me about it, and my doctor looked at the file” the tech was all “well, that’s what I understand, that it shows up on earlier pictures, I think that’s what they said, they’d seen it, but I’ll check what they sent to your doctor.” Because, you know, you don’t get to talk to the person who actually knows the images mean.

For fuck’s sake.

* The virtue of buying at the natural foods convenience food cancels out the self-indulgence of junk food, right?

The best dancer in the halau just brought her eleven-day old son to practice. I’m pretty sure she only missed last week’s class, meaning she was in class three days before delivering.

But she’s not in my class. She’s in the advanced troupe, and only comes to my class as an apprentice teacher. Her other children are 8, 7, 5, and 3, and she does hula two nights a week, with occasional performances. Wow.

A woman who is in my class—her husband just died two days ago. She was in class, helping organize for the concert in two weeks, offering to let dancers from the halau an hour away stay at her house. I mean, she says she needs to keep busy, but my goodness!

Also, my arms are seriously sore. Here, try this. Hold your hands up to your chest, with your elbows straight out, below your shoulders and about level with your breasts. Now, you can do whatever you want with your hands, but don’t let your elbows drop any lower than that.

For about the next ten minutes.

On and off for two hours.

This is totally not about my career. Rather, it’s about my hair.

I cut it all off. So, I went from long (past my shoulders) dark curly hair to short (ear-length) curly hair, a length I have only seen on my head in baby pictures. And from wearing it off my forehead to having bangs.

Anyhow, it’s not just that I have to move the accumulation of hairsticks and hairclips into a box since I will not be wearing them for a while. And switch out wide headbands for thin ones.

It’s also that, with less hair, I seem to need less eyebrow. And more earring, and more necklace.

And also that, for the first time in my even remotely professional life, I have few options. Previously, I was able to wear my hair up in a bun to seem older, adding chopsticks to seem edgy, letting it down to go out at night, adding decorated clips for special occasions, putting it in a messy ponytail for the gym, and so forth.

Now, no matter what, I’ve just got a mop of ringlets. Insouciant, a colleague said.

IMG_3651

Incidentally, I have the same skirt in turquoise-on-turquoise, but that’s harder to match up. Also, turquoise is my favorite color. Partially because I don’t really have to pick a single color.

While googling for a picture of the standard mix-and-match “17 outfits with six pieces!” for comparison, I came across this page. I especially enjoyed the description of the Magic Square.

I found a lump in my breast when I was 19. This is stressful at any time of life, of course, but I was 19, it was winter, and my mother was really far away. I wasn’t just at college, but doing my junior year abroad in England. Bonus: first-hand experience of the NHS!

I got a primary care appointment within a few days (January), and although the doctor gave me a little spiel on how young girls often imagine they feel something in the normal matter of the breast, he stopped very fast after actually checking the little pebble in my left breast.

He promptly sent me on to an actual hospital, a bus ride to the outskirts of the city, where it did take a few months (March) to get an appointment to check out a smooth, rounded, painless lump in the breast. And the appointment started late, too, but they stuck a long needle in my breast, sucked out some of the pebble, and told me to wait a bit for the same-day results.

All fine. A fibroadenoma, which is to say, benign fibrous mass, as opposed to a fluid-filled cyst. These are apparently the main options for smooth lumps. I said “oh, but it waxes and wanes.” They looked at me oddly and said, “well, fibroadenomas don’t wax and wane.” But had me come back in May for another needle biopsy, which still said fibroadenoma. It still waxed and waned, which I was very confident about, because for the first six months or so, it was pretty fascinating to have a lump in my breast.

Then I forgot about it until grad school, and since my records were in England in all, and I was pretty vague about things, the grad school clinic sent me off to the university hospital to have another needle stuck in it. Still a fibroadenoma. “It waxes and wanes.” “Fibroadenomas don’t wax and wane.”

Neglected for another few years—my doctor here was surprised: “So you’ve never had a mammogram?” “No, just the needle biopsies.” (So reassuring when doctors roll their eyes about what your previous doctors did.) And sent me off to the clinic to have my breast squished and squashed (back in the US, on a good health plan, still took a couple of months to be fit in for an appointment).

Results suggested it was just a fibroadenoma, I said, “well, you know it waxes and wanes.” Quizzical looks, and the decision to do a follow-up ultrasound that day. The ultrasound is rather cool—the technician slides a tool around in some goop on the breast and you can watch the results show up on the screen. Still a fibroadenoma.

A couple years later, next check-up, this past fall. More squishing, another ultrasound. Ooh, look, what looks like a second fibroadenoma, one that I can’t feel. But the original still waxes and wanes.

Anyhow, last week, back for the six-month followup on the ultrasound. Nothing has changed with the two lumps since December, apparently. Finally, FINALLY, I said “well, it waxes and wanes and I’ve been told fibroadenomas don’t do that” and after fourteen years of asking this question, someone FINALLY explained to me why a fibroadenoma might wax and wane.

I’ve forgotten the answer already, but luckily it’s in the breastcancer.about.com page I have linked above. Guess fourteen years is the price of not-googling.

I was composing this post in my head for the last few days, but reading Bardiac’s post about mammograms convinced me to actually write and publish it. Plus jo(e) tweeted about her appointment. Must be the season?

Still blind. But not as blind as I thought. Only about 20/30 at present (ETA: that’s with my glasses on), and a slight uptick in my prescriptions.

Problems with dry eye, exacerbated by wearing contacts. She said that it wasn’t that my vision has gotten so much worse, but that the dryness in my eyes made the light fly away and therefore signs in the distance were really fuzzy (I think it made sense when she said it—but it doesn’t now. There was definitely something about light involved. And I was definitely able to correlate the sudden deterioration in my vision (which really had me worried) to suddenly switching to wearing contacts for a few hours every day, so the ability to see is definitely tied to the dry eye, which is going to require six months on Restasis, at least. But she said I should also have my doctor check for thyroid and other things that could be causing dry eye).

This may explain why I felt totally able to read some road signs in the fog driving home. The light didn’t fly away?

She gave me a PSA: don’t try to read books on an iPhone. You can turn it to landscape, dial back the brightness, and take an eye break every twenty minutes, but it still just isn’t a good idea (even though she does it too sometimes: “is that Stanza“?). She recommends the rumored Kindle 2, if I must have ebooks (I don’t usually think of my eye doctor as a tech nerd—the office uses shiny silver iMacs, too).

Up next: the joy of picking new frames.

Teach a class, and then discover the stain right on the front of your shirt. On the one day this week when I am not wearing a decorative scarf.

About six years ago, in grad school, I bought a floor-length purple velvet gown, quite fitted, just because it was $22 (which was more money then, but still cheap) and was really pretty, and looked good on me, and hey, you never know when you’ll need a fancy dress, right? (there was a department Christmas party once where I outfitted two other women from my closet)

Tuesday some friends threw an inaugural ball and I finally whipped it out my closet.

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