Not long ago, my routine mammogram came back suspicious. I examined myself repeatedly and found nothing out of the ordinary. But there was a certain sensitivity I somehow hadn’t noticed. Was it in my head? I distracted myself with a mantra: I am fearless and therefore powerful.
Two weeks later, I endured a repeat procedure, a more thorough and painful flattening of my left boob, followed by an ultrasound, performed by a technician, and again by a doctor. The doctor told me to come back for a biopsy the following day. He scrunched his mouth to the side and locked eyes with me. He said, “I’m sorry. We caught this early. It’s tiny.”
He didn’t say cancer. I reasoned with myself. I’ll be okay…I’ll be okay…I’ll be okay…
At home, I told my husband about the biopsy and failed to mention the rest.
Kody drove me to my appointment the next day and waited. In a back room, they took the tissue they needed with a needle and inserted a tiny titanium post to mark the spot of the tiny tumor.
On the way home, I said, “It’s cancer.” There was silence in the pause. “I mean, I don’t want this to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I know.” All of this happened on a Thursday.
Friday. Saturday. Sunday. Monday. Tuesday. I waited for the official word.
On Tuesday, the second day of school, I received a call that went to voicemail. A call from a voice who requested a return call.
It’s cancer, confirmed, tiny, and we caught it early.
At my first appointment for repeat testing and a second opinion, I met a woman, three years cancer-free. Similar diagnosis and situation caught early. She had flown to Houston from South Carolina for a follow-up. I have a quick drive across town.
And I have treatment options. Not all include surgery. One of my doctors, I can’t remember which one, said, “If you had to pick a cancer, this is the one.”
Bleh, bleh, bleh, bleh,
Bleh and bleh,
worry and fear,
sad and mad,
shame and guilt
I have the power
to rewrite my story.
My words and thoughts
have creative power
I think on noble things:
health, wealth, and love,
faith and gratitude,
peace and hope
What if I believe?
Life is good and generous,
and miracles are in motion
beyond my wildest dreams.
What if I say?
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
A week ago last Thursday, I awoke not to the sound of an alarm, though I am quite alarmed. I awoke to the sound of a person with intestinal issues in the bathroom down the hall, not a new sound, instead a very familiar sound that has persisted months too long unchecked. How does one insist that another adult sees a doctor when that adult is averse to seeing doctors? I suppose one could wait for another health issue to arise, like blindness.
And so that is how I finally insisted that my thirty-two-year-old son see a doctor, or at least let the doctor see him. After having chicken pox last summer and refusing medical attention then, my son has experienced hearing loss, chronic bowel issues, a fungal infection, and eyesight loss. Last Monday, I accompanied him to an appointment with a general practitioner, who referred us to five more doctors, including a psychiatrist. I was able to schedule appointments with the ophthalmologist and the dermatologist within the month of June, the gastroenterologist for July, the ENT for August, but for a psychiatrist, we are currently on a twelve-month waiting list. I literally laughed out loud on the phone when the scheduling assistant disclosed the timeline. This is just one of many problems in the US for seeking mental health help.
So, on the first day of my summer vacation, I headed to the island for fish tacos and fresh air, the sun and the sand and the sea. The waves rolled in and retreated, rolled in and retreated. And that is life. Situations come and go. We inhale and exhale. We live and die. Everything is a cycle. In four hours, I drove there and home, and I promised myself another trip tomorrow, four hours, there and home.
June turned July, and I committed to a ten-day cleanse. I said to myself, I can do anything for ten days. Even so, it took me a minute to commit. The unsaturation diet idea came from a book I read listened to on Audible, Dr. Habib Sadeghi’s The Clarity Cleanse.
As a twenty-one-year-old medical student, Sadeghi was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He ran into his anatomy partner right after receiving the news. His friend said something like, “You don’t look so good.”
Sadeghi told him about the cancer.
His friend said, “Let’s go get lunch.” During their conversation, the friend asked Sadeghi how he was feeling.
Sadeghi thought he was going to die.
His friend said, “I don’t know the God you believe in, but the God I believe in is a loving God. You’re going to be okay.”
During that lunch, Sadeghi’s entire perspective changed.
Sadeghi took a medical school sabbatical and traveled the world studying the power of thoughts, words, and alternative medicine. He studied the psychology theories of Wilfred Bion, who coined the terminology of container and contained. Every element of thought or emotion has either a projective/masculine component or a receptive/feminine component, so when a baby (or anyone) is angry, hurt, fearful—all they need is someone who understands. And when a container is there, the cycle of emotion is complete. I’m fascinated by this idea.
Sadeghi studied eastern and western medical practices and later studied Spiritual Psychology with Emphasis in Consciousness, Health, and Healing. He started paying attention to what he put in his mouth and how he processed his emotions. He started an exercise called PEW 12 (Purge Emotional Writing, click here for more). He learned self-containment in this way and the belief that thoughts have power and that anything is possible. He practiced forgiveness, mindfulness, and slowing down. Do you see why I like him?
Through CAT scans every three months, Sadeghi monitored his levels of cortisol. Increased levels of cortisol prepare our bodies for fight or flight responses. Too much cortisol plays a role in inflammation and stress. As his cortisol dropped, he produced a higher level of immunity.
All of this leads me to my ten-day cleanse or Intentional Unsaturation Diet. I only have one body. I might as well take care of it. The ten days are heavy on lemon water, red or pink apples, sardines, and brown rice.
I had never tried a sardine in my life and didn’t care to start. I kept an open mind and read about the benefits of sardines. I’m no expert. I learned from Dr. Sadeghi. Purine proteins support cellular reconstruction, enzymatic function, and DNA repair. Calcium (from chewable bones) and Vitamin D support bone health, nerve and muscle function, and regulation of cellular activity. Vitamin B12 supports cardiovascular health. Omega-3 fatty acids are an anti-inflammatory. They reduce cholesterol and triglycerides and reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. They support fluidity and integrity of cell membranes, building blocks for hormones.
Apples reduce cholesterol and risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and diabetes. They function as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and aid in hormone balancing (help correct estrogen dominance). They provide energy and tissue hydration. They detoxify, reduce gallbladder stress, reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, increase HDL (good cholesterol), reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and help maintain healthy body weight.
I think I’ll stop typing and go eat an apple. My favorite is the Honeycrisp, but I’m liking the Pink Lady apples, too. Dr. Sadeghi suggests slicing (or grating) your apples and allowing them to turn brown (or oxidize). I think he said that oxidation breaks down the sugar. Don’t quote me.
As for the brown rice, it digests slowly to keep blood sugar levels stable and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. It also helps protect against from free radical damage and reduces cancer risk. The fiber detoxifies, reduces gallbladder stress, cholesterol, risk of cardiovascular disease, and helps to maintain healthy body weight.
For lemon water. Wash your lemons and chop. Add to boiling water (one lemon per quart or litre). Cover and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and steep for 15 minutes more. Strain and drink all day long.
Ten days of lemon water broke my morning coffee habit. I didn’t even miss my coffee, which I normally drink with added decadence. However, I did lay off of all caffeine for about a week before I started. Benefits? Lemons stimulate better digestion. They cleanse your liver, kidneys, and blood. They are a good source of vitamin C, folate, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
More than anything, I write this as a note to self. I actually love the lemon water. I could go the quicker route, and I have, no boiling, just squeeze the lemon, but I especially like it hot.
Ten-Day Intentional Unsaturation Diet
Other than the emphasized foods above, the diet includes all poultry (white meat), fish and shellfish, egg whites, all vegetables (no legumes), all fresh fruit, olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs.
Days 1/2: Anything listed above.
Day 3: Avoid animal proteins. Anything else listed.
Days 4/5: Only brown rice, apples, and sardines. Use in moderation: herbs, salt and pepper, lemon, Bragg Aminos, ginger, garlic, scallions, onion.
Day 6: Fast. No food. Drink lemon water. I fasted 24 hours and ate around 8 PM that evening. I had never fasted in my life. Until now.
Day 7: Brown rice, apples, and sardines as above.
Day 8: Avoid animal proteins as above.
Days 9/10: Anything listed above.
I liked Dr. Habib Sadeghi’s The Clarity Cleanse quite a lot. During the ten days of the diet, I was energetic during the day and slept like a baby at night. I lost a few pounds and noticed a decrease in my belly fat. My mindset shifted. Now I’m eating more apples and trying to pay attention to what else goes into my mouth. I’m monitoring the thoughts in my head. I’m thinking about Shakespeare.
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
I clicked into the online class because the title said, “20 Minute ZUMBA Fitness.”
I said to myself, “I can do anything for twenty minutes.”
From the first downbeat, the instructor Ayhan Sulu is high energy. His sleevless shirt says, “EGO IS NOT YOUR AMIGO.” And his smile—well—you might just need to click play to see for yourself. Better yet, stand up wherever you are, set your ego aside, and give it a try.
Let me warn you, at about the seven-minute mark, I nearly cried mercy, but I couldn’t stop smiling. Just when I found myself almost dying, the music switched, and we slowed down. Not for long. The intensity built once more. But if this guy’s energy doesn’t make you smile, then picture me—a 51-one-year-old woman who has never ever Zumba-ed, trying to keep up with his moves. Maybe you had to be there, but I’m still tickled.
Around fourteen minutes, I hit pause and went to pee for the sheer excuse of taking a time out. The workout would be over at 22:17. “I can do anything for eight minutes,” I reminded myself. Just as I hit play, there was another slowdown. And then another speed up. And then somewhere in the nineteen-minute range, we started cooling down. I had made it! Through the class. Through my A-Z blogging challenge. Through my month of action. Miracles do happen. Bring on May.
Once upon a time, I went to a yoga class. In fact, two different classes kept me balanced for about four years. That was probably at least seven years ago. I just realized I miss it—the strength, the flexibility, the relaxation.
The class begins in child’s pose, my knees on the mat, belly between thighs, hands stretched in front of me, forehead and chest resting downward, and from there a flow to downward facing dog. I can do this, I thought.
The class progressed with a walk to the top of the mat, a slow roll to standing. Sarah Beth says, “Consider what kind of a practice you would like to have today. What is the intention you would like to set for your practice? You don’t have to think too hard. Just let it be the first thing that comes to mind and let that set the pace of your flow and intensity.”
And sometimes that’s all we need—a little guidance to remind us of our intentions—that we don’t need to think too hard—but we do need to choose our purpose. That seems like common sense, but sometimes I forget. Clearly, I need more yoga.
All it takes is a step,
then another and another,
until momentum takes over
and propels you forward.
The steps we don’t take
are the ones we regret.
Just take the step.
Don’t worry or fret.
Our paths, like our steps,
always lead to the next.
Billions of us on journeys
with paths that intersect
Plan all you want.
At some point you’ll see
what happens in life
might be destiny.
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” (Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene III, L. 140-141).
Cassius in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene III, L. 140-141
The truth is — my clothes weren’t fitting, and I refused to buy bigger ones. I even noticed being short of breath from time to time when doing simple things like laundry. Something needed to change. April seemed as good a time as any, and so I chose to take some action.
My eighty-one-year-old father wakes up around 5:30 each morning and does a whole routine of calisthenics, and I mean seven days a week. Weekdays he still works full-time, and knowing him, I’m betting on some major overtime. He’s the picture of health. I’ve asked about the particulars of his workout, and he has told me. I would’ve needed to write it down to remember. It’s a lot, but I know he exercises in sets.
On the first day of April, I decided to come up with a routine of my own. I wanted to keep it simple and doable. Situps, pushups, and squats. “I can do that,” I said to myself. I had a plan. I started with ten situps, ten pushups, and twenty squats. Each day, I would add five. After the first Sunday in April, I decided to take Sundays off. On another day, I decided I would quit adding five when I reached one hundred repetitions. Modifications are sometimes necessary. Progress is progress. By April 14, 2021, I was up to seventy situps and pushups and eighty squats. The squats were not a problem. The push-ups were harder. And the sit-ups were f-ing ridiculous. I broke them down into sets. If it took me all damn day, I would do them.
But, I sort of hated my life mid-situp and needed some motivation. You know what I did? I Googled the benefits, and Healthline.com gave me nine great reasons to just keep going:
Core strength. By strengthening, tightening, and toning your core, you reduce your risk of back pain and injuries.
Improved muscle mass. According to research from 2016, older women who were able to do situps were less likely to have sarcopenia, which is the natural loss of muscle due to aging. Women who were able to do more than 10 situps had higher levels of muscle mass and function.
Athletic performance. A strong core gives you proper posture, stability, and form, allowing you to perform at higher levels during any sport or physical activity.
Better balance and stability. A strong core helps to keep your body balanced and stable. It helps your pelvis, lower back, and hip muscles to work together with your abdominal muscles.
Increased flexibility. Situps make your hips and back more flexible, which increases mobility and relieves tension and tightness. Increased flexibility improves circulation and concentration, reduces stress, and boosts energy levels.
Improved posture. A solid core improves posture, and good posture includes less pain and tension, increased energy levels, and improved breathing.
Reduced risk of back pain and injury. Situps also build strength in the lower back, hips, and pelvis, making injury less likely.
Diaphragm strengthening. Situps cause compression of the abdomen, which can have a positive effect on your diaphragm. A strong, healthy diaphragm can improve your breathing patterns, alleviate stress, and enhance athletic endurance.
Academic Achievement. Studies link high fitness levels to high academic achievement levels.
On Monday the 19th, I reached one hundred squats, and yesterday, I reached one hundred situps and pushups. I must admit — I feel stronger, my shape is slowly morphing, and my lower back pain (of the past few years) has improved. Benefits aside, I’m not sure 100 situps a day is sustainable. April is proving I can do anything one month at a time. When May rolls around, I may reassess.
I don’t have too many memories before age five, but sometime in the mid-70’s, I remember my Granny standing on her head. She would’ve been in her mid-sixties. She was a feisty one, my Granny. One of my favorite stories is the time the neighbor boy squirted her with a water hose. The details are a little fuzzy, I think she was dressed up and headed somewhere important. Anyway, she nursed her grudge and waited out her revenge. One day when he was all dressed up for church (or was it the prom?), my Granny had her water hose ready and soaked him down.
When Granny stood on her head with my sister Liz and me, I seem to recall her crashing down. I texted Liz about it recently: “Do you remember? Did she hurt herself?” In my blurry memory, Granny broke her toe.
Liz confirmed the head stand and speculated on a melodramatic, “Ouch!” I could see where a five-year old might equate that reaction to a broken toe. Maybe Granny even shouted, “I think I broke my toe.”
For the next ten years or so, I stood on my head. And for a couple of years in the last ten or so, I picked it up again in my yoga class. I haven’t practiced in a while, but I do remember some benefits—you know, the type of benefits a person forgets and must Google and the type that might motivate a person to just do it.
On my first attempt in years, I started with a pillow and hands flat on the floor, placed the top of my head on the pillow and my knees atop my elbows. Since I was in the middle of the floor, I held the pose for about ten seconds without extending my legs. This was before I Googled benefits. Based on what I read about fluid retention and core strength, I moved my pillow next to a wall beside the couch. With the top of my head on the pillow, I walked my feet up the side of the couch and allowed my heels to rest on the wall. I counted to ten and then used the couch to assist in returning my feet to the ground. I might add that I felt empowered and focused, happy and not a bit stressed.
On another day, I Googled—proper headstand. YogiApproved.com listed more benefits such as stimulation of the pineal gland, hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which causes the other endocrine glands to coordinate and function better—as well as improved condition of the brain, eyes, and ears by the increased blood pressure. This website recommended not practicing against the wall lest you use the wrong muscles.
And so I set out to stand on my head properly. This time I laid down my neglected yoga mat. As recommended, I brought my hands together and interlaced my fingers, “making a basket,” with forearms flat on the floor in a triangle shape. Then I placed my head on the floor with the back of my head in my cupped hands. Here, I departed from the steps listed by YogiApproved.Com and used my ottoman to help lift first one leg and then the other into a perpendicular position. And you know what? I am stronger than I realized and maybe a little feisty like my Granny.
I appreciate you for reading my A-Z Challenge post today. After a year at home, I wanted to mix it all up a bit and thought you my like a few suggestions. This April, I’m sticking to a theme of action: mental, physical, and spiritual, things I might already do or haven’t attempted in years or maybe never. You know what else I’m doing this month? Click here to see: Abstain, Ballet, Cartwheel, Devote, Encourage, Forgive, Google.
I danced from age three at Ada B. Coons, School of Dance, and then with a series of teachers until my first year as a modern dance major at the University of Oklahoma. All of that seems eons ago. These days I sometimes dance in my living room. Before the lockdown last March, I thought about finding a class for adults. Just recently, the idea of virtual classes occurred to me. My point (no pun intended)—ballet might not be your thing, but the world wide web has so many things. Carpe diem.
When I decided to take some extra action this April, I Googled—ballet lessons youtube. I looked no further than the video from the Royal Academy for Dance at Home. Just over seventeen minutes, this lesson sounded perfect for a fifty-one-year-old woman, who hadn’t done a single plié in years. Instructor Sarah Platt coached me through a warm-up and shared tips on posture and pliés before a cooldown complete with eyelash batting practice. Now I have eight more classes to try. By the way, these classes are targeted at the 55+ crowd. Lesson number two includes tendus and battements glisse. Lesson three—ronde de jambs and port de bras. Lessons four through nine—new sequences.
Thanks so much for reading today. For this April’s A-Z Challenge, I hope to stick to a theme of action—I’m thinking both mental and physical, continued current activities, those of days gone by, and possibly a few never attempted. You might not want to try this at home. Then again, maybe you do.