Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Grace, Favor and Mammograms

I have BMNB's stomach to thank.

A few weeks ago, BMNB ate something that didn't sit well with him for a few days. Finally, I told him he needed to go to the doctor to make sure there wasn't something seriously wrong. I went with him because BMNB doesn't always remember to ask all the hard questions of our doctor. Like a dog at the vet, he just wants to get in and get out with as little pain as possible.

So since we were at Kaiser Hospital, I remembered that 1) I had not had my annual birthday mammograms; and 2) Kaiser does walk-in mammograms. Once our family doctor determined that BMNB probably had a stomach virus of some sort, I decided that since I was in the building, why not kill two birds with one stone and get my mammograms done?

A week later, I received the call that no woman wants to receive: "We need you to come in for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound." I was told that since the mammograms I had were my first digital ones, the machine might be overly sensitive and may have picked up something that wasn't serious. But just in case, I needed to come in. They told me to clear my schedule for the entire morning of my appointment because the doctor was going to need time to examine all my tests and give me my results that same day.

My grandmother died of breast cancer before I was born. My aunt had breast cancer. My mother survived cervical cancer only to die from adrenal cancer that spread to her lungs. I have two uncles, one on each side of my family, who died of stomach cancer. Another died of lung cancer.

You can imagine how I felt when I got the call.

BMNB, ever the cool cucumber, was decidedly unalarmed. "That's not the vibe I get," he told me when I voiced concern that this might be serious. You see, BMNB and his family are psychic AND prayerful. He didn't see anything serious in my future, he went to church on Sunday and prayed on it, and, as far as he was concerned, there was nothing serious that would be discovered during my follow-up appointment.

I wasn't as certain.

After waiting a week after getting "the call," I went in today. I was hoping the diagnostic mammogram would clear things up. As I sat waiting for the x-ray tech to tell me there was nothing serious, all the while wearing the "special" three-armhole mammogram hospital gown, I quietly prayed:

"Lord, I need a little grace and favor today."

I hadn't slept well the night before, thinking of all the things I hadn't done. I hadn't had kids. I hadn't traveled as much with BMNB. I hadn't started that charter school my best friend and I had been talking about since the '80's.

The x-ray tech returned. "We need to do the ultrasound. Could you come this way?"

Not the result I'd hoped for.

The ultrasound tech explained that if the ultrasound came back negative, the doctor would let her tell me. If not, the doctor would come in to discuss my results.

"So, if you return, I'm good, but if the doctor comes in, I've got a problem."

She tried to soften the blow. "Well, sometimes the doctors come in to tell good results."

I didn't believe her.

After she finished the ultrasound, she told me I could wait on the diagnostic table. The ultrasound room was dimmed, almost dark. She must have read my mind. "Sometimes, people even take a short nap while they're waiting."

There was no way I was going to be able to sleep.

"Lord, I need a little grace and favor today."

Needless to say, I've never been so happy to see an ultrasound tech in all my life.

"It's a cyst. Cancers aren't as round as cysts . . . ." As she continued explaining the differences in appearances between a cancer and a cyst, all I could hear was, "It's a cyst."

The Lord granted me grace and favor, at least for today.

So I'm writing this to encourage all women over the age of 40 to get mammograms, especially if you're overdue. And get a DIGITAL mammogram, not one of the old kind. Travel if you need to, but get a digital mammogram. As for recent medical guidelines telling us that we don't need to get mammograms as frequently as we were told in the past, I say forget them. Everything is a statistic until YOU'RE the statistic. So don't become the statistic.

And, for God's sake, don't wait until your husband has a stomach virus to get a mammogram.

PS Thank you, BMNB, for being with me every step of the way.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Just Because You Can, Doesn't Mean You Should

It was a petty thought.

I saw a lady crossing the street today wearing a beautiful flowery empire waist blouse. I thought, "How pretty" -- that is, until I looked down and saw that she was wearing black Lycra leggings. With thighs the size of tree trunks.

I thought, "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should." How many times had I and my college girlfriends said this among ourselves when we saw some poor fashion victim?

Then I had to laugh, because this applied to me, too. So, in the interest of personal honesty, I'm going to disclose things I don't wear under the rule of, "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

Skinny jeans. For one obvious reason -- I ain't skinny -- and one not-so-obvious reason: I'm knock-kneed. I'd look like a walking X chromosome if I wore skinny jeans.

Leggings. For reasons different than the flowery blouse lady. I have cellulite more powerful than Lycra and Spandex. My behind refuses to be contained by artificial constraints.

Bras without underwire. Because after forty, even the little ones begin to sag. Sorry to share that, my young, small-breasted sisters.

Military-inspired jackets. I had a guy friend once tell me I had the shoulders of a defensive lineman. Another told me I had swimmer's shoulders. East German swimmers, that is. Not something I'd like to highlight.

Gladiator-type shoes of any kind. Imagine the sexiest gladiator-style stiletto sandals. Now, imagine those same shoes on a cow. That cow's hooves? My ankles. Nothing sexy about that.

Tattoos. One, I'm middle-aged. Two, because I would have, say, five, maybe ten years tops before that tattoo starts to wrinkle. A wrinkled tattoo is not sexy.

Low v-neck shirts. Alaska has its "Bridge to Nowhere." Me in a low v-neck shirt is the "V-neck to nowhere."

So the next time I have the audacity to judge some woman's poor fashion choice, I will remind myself that, "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should" applies to me, too. And I have no excuse because I know better.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Because I AM Shallow and Insecure

Let's start by saying I'm glad no Qu'rans were burned last week and I'm sad that people were. I hope that my former employer, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (which, in my father's view, was the best employer I ever had because both my boss and my secretary were black) makes it as right as it can for all those families affected.

That said, allow me a moment of shallowness. Okay, perhaps a day.

I don't normally check out my husband's Facebook page. Why? Because he normally doesn't. It's the Facebook equivalent of a vast wasteland. He doesn't check it very often, never posts, doesn't check messages. BMNB is not a social media kind of guy.

Well, at least I thought he wasn't. Come to find out, there are a couple of women he's "friended" on his FB page whom I don't know, one of whom is single and clearly lists one of her interests as "men."

Mind you, I try to be open-minded about a lot of things and more evolved than the men in my family. My father and brothers are of what I would call the "old-school" school of thought: Married women don't have single male friends. Single male friends are what you give up when you put on that ring, in their opinion. Growing up, I don't recall my mom ever having any male friends, single, married, gay or straight. None. My dad didn't believe in it.

Mind you, I do have single male friends, but the only ones my husband doesn't know are professional colleagues I've met along the way. Other than professional colleagues, he knows every man on my Facebook page.

Mind you, what torqued me more was that my husband does not have his relationship status listed as "married" on his Facebook page. You can see where he went to college, where he works, but his relationship status, no. This from a man who will not allow any man I've ever been intimate with to enter our home because, as he puts it, if they say something inappropriate about "the past," well, in his words, it's on and crackin'.

So, because I AM shallow and insecure, I Googled and Spokeo'd this woman who is my husband's Facebook friend whom I don't know, whose interests include men. I stopped short of ordering a full report on her from Spokeo. I wonder whether she knows my husband is married. She wouldn't know it from his Facebook page.

And I asked my husband to change his FB relationship status to "married." Fair is fair.

Because I AM shallow and insecure.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

If You Fail To Plan . . .

My best friend always says, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." She follows that one up with, "Plan your work and work your plan." She's right.

I'm abysmal at following through on my plans. I think the problem is that I don't have kids. Bear with me.

When you have children around you, you have a visual prompt as to the passage of time. You see them grow and gain skills over time, and it's a reminder of time passing and how much time you don't have with them.

Without kids, the only prompts you have as to the passage of time are gray hair, wrinkles and infirmity. Well, I'm genetically blessed in that department. I don't have a lot of a gray hair, the only wrinkles I have are laugh lines, and despite high cholesterol, my biggest infirmity is self-imposed -- obesity. Long story short, I don't feel as old as I am. I don't realize how much time has passed until I find myself in the presence of children.

I had the pleasure of attending a family barbecue yesterday, and I held my 7 month-old great nephew, my late mother's great-grandchild. He looks just like one of my late uncles, and he's already trying to crawl. He eats nonstop and eats just about everything in sight! (He comes by that one honestly -- my late mother referred to my dad as a "gut bucket" because of his voracious appetite.)

It was then that it really hit me -- time is flying by. And I want more for myself and my family.

I've made the huge mistake of chasing fulfillment most of my adult life from my employment when I should have been seeking it in relationships -- marriage, kids, family. I look at my nephew and his desire to get his family settled in a home of their own and I realize that my focus needs to change. Now that I have more years behind me than in front of me, I need to really start thinking about leaving the next generation of my family better off than my generation. The financial goals that seem to have come more easily for my parents' generation, such as buying a house, seem almost out of reach for the generation behind me. And we all know that a house is the bedrock of wealth for most middle class families. I want to leave this earth knowing that the generation behind me is at least solidly middle class, not teetering on the edge.

But more than that, I need to lay a foundation for them to dream. I achieved my dream of being a lawyer. For the generation behind me, having a dream seems almost like a wasteful indulgence. It's almost as if they're afraid to dream, much less reveal any such dream to anyone.

I learned that my nephew dreams of becoming a writer. I had no idea. To say the least, I'm over the moon with the possibility of seeing his work shared with the world. He's afraid that he doesn't write well enough, and I've encouraged him to start blogging and, when in doubt, send his drafts to his auntie, The Writing Diva, and she'll edit them for him like she edits my work on occasion. More than anything, I hope he comes up with a plan for achieving this dream and his dream of home ownership.

In the meantime, I need to really sit my butt in a chair and plan for the future -- not just my future, but my family's. Most of us work for the state of California and have weathered furloughs and, for one of us, layoffs. We've been rocked hard, like most families, during this "Great Recession" even though we didn't engage in the financial foolishness that brought our economy to its knees. We all agree that our family needs a business, another stream of income, so that we will never be subject to the financial wrath of another stupid and despotic governor as we have with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I just need to figure out what that business will be. My hope is that this will be what we leave to the next generation so they will indeed be better off and, above all, able to dream.

And it all begins with a plan. Like my best friend says, "If you fail to plan . . . . "