Category Archives: hysterectomy

Beauty Underneath

Do women still lie about their age?  When I was small I was taught to never, EVER ask a woman’s age.  “That is rude and inconsiderate,’ my mother used to say.  A woman telling you her true age was about as likely as a woman telling you that she was wearing her natural hair color.  It just wasn’t done.  Some things fortunately do change though, and from my experience women are more comfortable sharing their age these days and don’t bat an eyelash about going from blonde to brunette.

Some things though haven’t changed.  Every so often I receive an email from someone asking about how I deal with loose skin from losing over 100 pounds.  Recently one woman wrote saying that she was embarrassed about her body after losing weight and that she felt unattractive and unworthy of love. How I wish that women would embrace their bodies regardless of what age they are or what battles they’ve gone through.  In such a ‘beautiful’ society it’s not acceptable to talk about the real world that we live in.  Why?  I believe its because the truth is sometimes scary and people don’t want to be burdened with it so they continue to strive for the unattainable: photoshopped models and the leggy, gorgeous exercise instructor at the gym.  But the truth is, our bodies are not designed to look voluptuous and taut throughout eternity.  That is simply not its job.  The body is designed as a vessel to serve us as we pass through this life; its bound to get a bit worn, a bit bruised and beaten.

 

 

One of the best photos ever taken of me (in my opinion) happened to be at the art show I participated in earlier this month.  From this photo you would never know that underneath I have excess skin from my weight loss or that I carry a pretty prominent scar on my belly from my hysterectomy.  Nor do you see the scar on my breast from a lumpectomy or the multitude of scars on my shoulders and back that removed cancerous cells which saved my life.  Yet my smile, my look of contentment – my happiness is genuine.  I am, for the most part, comfortable with my body.

I recently came across an article from The Huffington Post about a woman who has launched a project called Under The Red Dress.  Beth Whaanga is a cancer survivor that bravely and gracefully speaks out about the physical toll that cancer takes on a human being.  The link above will take you to her story.  The following link will take you 7 images of Beth.  The first one shows her in a beautiful dress, hair done and wearing makeup, however as you scroll through the photos you see another side of Beth – a woman whose body has been through cancers, surgeries, rapid weight loss, reconstruction.  The images are not meant to shock but to educate.  You can see these images here.

While the Under The Red Dress project is to bring awareness to cancer survivors I felt compelled to share Beth’s story here on my blog for anyone who believes that she is is somehow ‘less than’, whether it be loose skin from weight loss or heavy scarring from major surgeries.  No body is perfect.  We all have flaws.

I hope the above photos, though they may look extreme, shed some light on what’s hidden beneath and that we continue to break the stereotypes that manipulate women into believing that we have to be perfect in order to be an accepted part of society.  I commend Beth Whaanga and fully support her project.

 

My definition of a Family

It’s no secret that my dogs are a very important part of my life.  Even if I could have children I feel that my relationship with animals would still be a special one.  I understand that not all people are animal lovers and there are those who flat-out don’t like dogs in general, just like there are people who don’t like the color green or straight-legged jeans.  Call me crazy, but if I do happen to like straight-legged jeans, the last thing you’d find me doing is making a thoughtless comment about someone because they prefer khakis.  Sounds crazy, someone being insensitive about another person’s clothing.  I mean, who cares what people wear, right?

Many years ago I was having a conversation with my best friend at the time.  I can’t remember the exact details of the conversation anymore but will never forget a comment she made when the subject of dog owners came up.  She made a flippant remark about how ridiculous it sounded when pet owners discussed their pets as though they were their kids.  ‘I mean, it’s an animal,’ she sighed.  ‘They’re not ‘family.’  Thank goodness you know that your dogs are just dogs.’ 

My friend had a family pet growing up; she had children of her own and yes, she knew that I could not have children.  Do I feel that her comment was malicious?  No.  I do, however, think it was incredibly insensitive.

Does this mean I’m called a crazy dog fanatic behind my back? When I ask someone about their kids do I immediately become offended when I don’t get asked about my dogs in return? Of course not.    But like a parent would for her child, if one of my dogs became sick or needed an operation you can bet that I would spend every spare dime I had in order to give him/her a fighting chance for survival.

Sometimes when I don’t express my opinion to another person whom I feel has spoken insensitively or out of line it’s not because I don’t know how to stand up for myself, rather it’s because I’ve been so stunned by what’s been said that it feels like I’ve just experienced an emotional sucker-punch to the gut.  By the time I’ve collected my thoughts and figured out a proper response the moment is over and I’m left feeling awkward about revisiting the subject.

 

I rarely have time to indulge in television shows, therefore I’m pretty selective – and you can forget about those reality shows.   Well, except for one…..

In late 2011 or early 2012 it wasn’t uncommon for me to spend a solid 5-6 days out of every month on heavy narcotics and curled up in bed, suffering from years of endometriosis that was growing worse.  It was during one of those spells that I perused Netflix and came across the first season of a reality show called Sister Wives.  The series follows a polygamist family as they tried to navigate through life while practicing their faith despite social prejudices.

I became hooked on this show from the beginning and finished the first season within two or three days.  When season 2 was added I quickly devoured that as well.   The series went on hiatus and I eventually forgot about the lives of these strangers as I dealt with my own ups and downs which included an abdominal hysterectomy in the summer of 2012.

To my surprise early last week I noticed that more episodes of Sister Wives had been added to my queue on Netflix.  Yesterday while on the treadmill I picked up where I left off last year: the fourth and youngest wife announced to one of the other wives that she was pregnant, which for those counting, would be the 17th child added to the family.  I watched as the 40 minute episode unfolded with the news being shared among the remaining family members while excitement grew and plans were made.   I watched as the wives described what it meant to be a family – that children made a family possible; children were the backbone of any marriage.

As the credits rolled I turned off the tv, powered down the treadmill and went back to my studio to paint.  Within minutes I felt like I was going to cry.  It didn’t take long to realize what was happening – the last time I saw the show was before my surgery, before my fate was permanently sealed.

I believe that the definition of a family is at the sole discretion of each and every one of us.   I am perfectly comfortable stating that my family consists of my husband, myself and our two dogs.  If we didn’t have dogs we would still be a family, even though we don’t have children.  I am happy with the life that I have, truly; but there are times when I ache to be a part of something larger and still, sometimes, it saddens me.

I have endured more backhanded remarks about members of my family than I can count for things that I simply consider being a responsible pet owner.  Leaving a party early because my dogs haven’t been let outside all evening have been followed with a remark.   When our dog was very ill and we used our vacation money to treat her instead, we were given an alternative opinion of ‘allowing nature to take its course’ instead.

Back to that conversation with my friend.  When I think about it even years later, the thing that troubles me most about it wasn’t so much what she said, but the fact that I didn’t speak up for myself.  I didn’t let her know that I disagreed with her opinion or that her words hurt my feelings.  Instead, I uncomfortably and halfheartedly nodded my head in agreement and sat in silence as she continued talking. I didn’t speak up for me and my family.

Isn’t it a wonderful thing that we are all different, that the word family can mean anything we want it to? No one should have to feel inferior just because they don’t fit society’s description of what a family should consist of.  Before my surgery I had a unique description of family, yes – but especially since my surgery I have felt free to further redefine my use of the word family.  I don’t limit it to who lives in my house or whom I call Sister, Brother, or Mom.  To me, family can be defined as friends in LA or Box Elder, my blog family; even my oldest friendships from high school. Anywhere I feel love is where I feel family.

Family is whatever YOU define it to be.  Don’t let anyone ever tell you any different.

 

 

 

Working things out with paint

Last week I went into my studio with certain things on my mind.  Usually when I pull out my paintbrushes I’m able to push those things aside and just be in the moment.  I thought I was accomplishing this quite well when I completed my last painting.  Until, that is, I realized I had just painted a self portrait – in the form of a tree:

 

Windswept

 

At first it hadn’t occurred to me that that’s what I’d done.  In fact, I had no particular vision of what the end result would even look like.  I just knew as I progressed that this subject had faced turmoil. The end result shows a mature and weathered tree as opposed to one with lovely leaves and/or flowers to look at.  There is no new life springing forth from its branches, either – not that its beyond repair, but rather awaiting a sign from Mother Nature.

This tree is waiting for its new life to begin.   And so am I.

 

I’ve discussed my surgery enough on this blog.  You get the idea of how much I’ve struggled in my recovery; how difficult its been to see the forest through the trees (no pun intended).  What I’ve been too embarrassed to share until now is that even though I’m noticing small amounts of progress, I’m feeling less and less attractive.  Grateful for the colder months, I am taking comfort in knowing that I can hide my body; the swelling and bloating at my incision site is something I simply cannot stand to look at anymore.  I’ve started wearing scarves or turtlenecks all of the time as well.  Hiding my neck, of course, because of the cystic acne that’s become a problem since surgery.  If I keep this up, I’m going to be wrapped up like a mummy by Christmas.

 

Windswept

Sometimes a girl just needs to to think positively about herself even though she doesn’t necessarily believe what she’s selling.  The quote I chose as a finishing touch to my painting depicts what I am trying to embrace about myself.   I can certainly use a bit of positive reinforcement right now.  And who knows; maybe when Springtime comes around and I’m forced to peel off all these layers I’ll paint this tree a second time, with tiny leaves and flower buds – just to make it pretty again.

Progress Report!

It’s been a while since I’ve given an update post on my physical health, so guess what?  Today is your unlucky LUCKY day!  Actually, I’ve been waiting to post about my health until I’ve had something good to report.  Recovery can be so incredibly slow, sometimes it feels like you’re not making any progress at all until one day you wake up, put on your jeans and find that HEY, today the zipper is going up while the swelling is going down!  Yay!!

Actually, more importantly than jeans fitting (I’m loving my yoga pants too much these days) is my stamina increasing.  This week I achieved a milestone and captured it on Instagram:

 

This is a photo of me wearing my giant Elton John-style sunglasses along with my hiking companions.  We just finished my longest walk/hike since surgery: 2.75 miles!  Brulee was particularly excited for me – can you tell? 

The best part?  Very little fatigue afterwards.  Translation:  no zonking out on the couch as soon as I walk back through the door.  Progress!! 

Here are a few more shots on the trail over the past week or so:

 

 

The above shot was taken earlier last week, before the rain from Hurricane Sandy sent the remaining leaves falling to the ground.  (By the way, if you’re on Instagram and like me to follow you, just leave your username in the comments section. If you’d like to follow me, my username is:  ellenbrennemanstudio)

 

All in all, I am happy to be feeling more like myself.  I still have to plan carefully, though.  I can’t seem to get to yoga class on the days that I hike; it’s simply too much.  I’m incorporating both back into my life, but alternating accordingly. 

Taking these long walks has been great for my mind as well as my health.  I think about new ideas for paintings, listen to music, and when I’m ready to focus on something else, I’ve been listening to Rob Lowe’s book, ‘Stories I Only Tell My Friends’.

Initially, I wasn’t really interested in this book. Despite the fact that he’s been around as long as I have, I just recently became a Rob Lowe fan thanks to Parks and Recreation.  The audiobook I wanted was checked out, so I grabbed this one instead.  I have to tell you, this book has been such a great read.  Narrated by Rob, he is a master storyteller, and he leaves no stone unturned.   Even if you aren’t a fan, I think you’d enjoy it.  I just finished it today and was sorry that it ended – a sure sign that you’re reading a great book!

My plans for the weekend are pretty much laid out for me.  I’ve been painting tiny three by three inch canvases and turning them into ornaments for Christmas by drilling a hole through the stretcher and stringing through ribbon.  I decided that I’m going to paint them until I no longer enjoy doing them; then that will be it.  I don’t know how some of these Etsy sellers can churn out identical wares over and over again.  I admire them, but I’d go mad working that way.  Anyway, this is the result of what my weekend will look like:

Anyone else have specific plans this weekend?  I hope you all have a good one!  See you back here next week Smile

XO,

Ellen

Best Walk Ever

Earlier this week I gave a hint at some exciting news around my house that was making not only me happy but also my dogs. Vickie wondered whether a new cat had moved in next door (she was awarded the prize for the most interesting guess, btw)

My news is absolutely HUGE….. to me.  You probably won’t have any trouble dialing it down a bit when you read about it, because – well, it IS only my ability to take the dogs for a walk…a 2 mile walk; by myself!!

Yes, after over four months of living in a bad scene from the movie Groundhog Day, I can finally say that I am making great strides in my recovery.  Strides. Get it?  (Yes, I know it’s corny, but I’m high on life right now so let’s pretend that was funny). 

It’s been over a month since I tried walking the dogs by myself. The last time I ended up with a terribly swollen abdomen and incision pain for days afterward. What a difference a month can make!

So, to commemorate this next chapter in my life – the one where I begin the slow journey back to that physically strong woman I vaguely remember, I leave you with some photos that I took on what I’m now appropriately referring to as ‘The Best Walk EVER’.

 

 

The official Start of our walk together:

 

The beginning of our walk!

Some beautiful foliage along the way:

 

We came to one of Brulee and Emmie’s favorite holes.  I don’t know what lives under that uprooted tree, but the dogs always, without fail, pay a visit.

 

 

This photo came out a bit fuzzy because Emmie was getting frustrated that we were stopping to take so many photos and she jiggled the camera a bit.  Still, look at those colors!

 

 

And finally, on our way back to the car.  Is it any wonder why I’m painting nothing but trees right now? 

 

Being able to take my dogs for a walk is a goal that I’ve been waiting to achieve since the beginning of summer.  Being able to actually do it and suffer no consequence makes me feel like my body starting to forgive me for allowing this surgery.  

I’ve been so inspired by my progress and the colors of the trees lately, that I’ve begun a series of inspirational quote paintings.  Here is one I finished earlier this week:

 

2tree

It reads: 

“I am still standing.  Through wind, rain or drought.  I am rooted, still.”

And that about sums things up right now. 

Have a great weekend, everyone. 

~Ellen

Once, Twice, Three times upside the head

I know you’ve done it before, too.  You’re reading blogs and you come across one that seems as though it was written specifically for you.  That happened to me when I sat down to read my friend Kyra’s blog last night over at The Never ending Adventures.  This was a milestone post because she unveiled a painting that she’d been working on since April.  Yes, April.  A painstakingly intricate, detailed labor of love that is now, finally complete. 

Kyra and I have communicated about this painting and other goings on in our lives, with one of us always wishing that certain things would just ‘happen already!’  But we both know from experience that anything worth doing is worth doing right.  What struck a chord with me was this particular sentence:    

How many things in our lives are we not giving permission to ourselves to spend the proper time on?

I think if I had a secret decoder I could wave it over that sentence and find an underlying message that reads:  Ellen, you big Goofball, why are you constantly fighting yourself?  You’ve already been down this road once – have you learned nothing?  (although Kyra would find a much gentler way of telling me, I’m sure of it). 

I have been through this before.  I took the slow and steady route of losing weight. The many years it took to lose over 100 pounds was the correct way for me and my life and I haven’t regretted it once.  In fact, taking my time and doing it slowly and naturally has, in part, been what’s helped me keep it off for over 7 years. 

But, since my surgery?  Yeah, you’d never know that patiently devoted person ever existed.  I have been having internal battles with myself for the past 4 months.  I’ve been at war with my body to heal faster; anxious for my new business to pick up speed; desperate to find direction and get moving already!! 

I’ve been so caught up in the ‘want it NOW’ mentality that I haven’t been appreciating the slow and steady route I’ve been granted which, by the way, has always proven to be the better choice for me.  (Sometimes a good thwack across the head is the only thing that will reset the brain).  Any takers?  lol

This week I’ve learned that no matter how quickly we want results, it just isn’t likely going to happen on our schedule.  Whether it be the desire for business success, weight loss or in my case in particular right now: physical strength.  We do what we can and have to let time run its course because really, we have no other choice. 

I received doctor results from my visit last week regarding my extreme fatigue.  Surgical menopause patients (those who go through the process surgically rather than naturally) are hit with the usual symptoms all at once instead of easing into it the old fashioned way.  As a result, we can go through radical side effects.  My fatigue is a direct result of my hormones being shifted so quickly and dramatically.  The doctor has given me new medication and I am praying to the Estrogen Goddesses that I will see improvement within a few weeks.  In the meantime, it’s slow and steady – and that’s all there is to it.  I must be willing to look at the progresses I HAVE made instead of the ones that will come in due time.  And really, if I want to be completely honest with myself – if my art business was a raging success like I dream about in my mind, I’d be too fatigued to keep up with it all right now, wouldn’t I? 

Speaking of art, here is this week’s painting.  I have been posting progress photos on my Facebook Fan page because I’ve found that not only do people like to see the creative process behind the finished piece, but it’s good for me to see that it takes patience and hard work to evolve into a beautiful and worthwhile sense of completion.  I think we can all relate to that on some level. 

 

 

…and speaking of art:  My friend Laura, who is another weight loss maintainer and an amazing athlete is holding a giveaway on her blog beginning today, AND she is giving away one of my enhanced art prints!   Head on over there to check it out the details!  You can find her fabulous blog over at Laura Lives Life.

 

Have a great weekend, everyone.  I hope it’s slow and steady :)

Where were you a year ago?

I truly heart the many Words of Wisdom from the Wise that I’ve been receiving , lately (doesn’t that phrase just beg to be capitalized?) This here – this is one of the many reasons why I love my blog and my readers: at any given time there is someone out there who has been through similar events and can share a thing or two about how to put life back into a better perspective.

Last week I found myself feeling overwhelmed because of my slow recovery from surgery and general discontent.  Cammy from Tippy Toe Diet made a comment that I’ve been thinking about on and off all weekend:

Not only am I not who I was five years ago, I’m not who I was last week, or the week before or even yesterday. To really complicate things, today I’m not who I’ll be next year or the year after. All that’s left is to be who I am today and to try to the be the best version of that that I can be.

Nothing would help solidify Cammy’s thoughts more than reading this for myself, so today I decided to go back and revisit my posts from the last week of August, 2011.  This week last year my husband and I happened to be having necessary work done on our home.  It was in an upheaval from construction workers coming and going and I was immediately reminded about how hectic life was, how busy my household was (workers were here on and off for three months!) and how I longed for some peace and quiet.

During the week of August 27th last year I had just taken my 5th yoga class ever, and was beginning to grab a hold of my inner strength by wanting to move from beginner’s yoga to a higher level class.

Also, this time last year I was succeeding in maintaining my weight while keeping far from my scale (not an easy task).

Finally, in a post from this time last year I introduced the newest addition to my garden – Shaylee:

http://www.fatgirlwearingthin.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/DSC01127-8x6.jpg

She was named by Tim from Fat.Boy.Thin who told me that Shaylee was Celtic for ‘Fairy Princess of the Field’.  How perfect was that?!

Fast-forward an entire year and here I am:

  • sitting in a peacefully quiet home.
  • Yoga is currently on the back burner for now but I know that I will eventually get back to attending my favorite classes –  Gentle Yoga and Hot Yoga.
  • Even though it doesn’t look or feel like it due to the ebb and flow of my swollen tummy, I actually weigh less than I did this time last year.
  • Not only is Shaylee still guarding by creekside, but she has been the subject of a couple of paintings during my recovery:

 

This one is still on Etsy.  The other painting is being lovingly displayed in a home somewhere in Los Angeles.

I am not the same person I was last year or last week, nor should I expect to be; I will be different tomorrow than I am today.  Next year I intend to look back on my life right now and know that I will have lots of advice, support, and my own Words of Wisdom for the next person who needs it.

Do you ever read back through your blog or journal, if you have one?  What was happening in your life this time last year?

Hysterectomy Blues and Self Acceptance

Alternate title:  Patience, Patience! PATIENCE!!!!!

 

Let’s face it: since my surgery I’ve not been the most patient of patients. Maybe you’ve noticed that I’ve been off my game lately.  Certainly not posting quite as often; responding to emails seems to be taking a wee bit longer than usual.  Catching up on the blogs I love has been daunting (Google Reader reminded me today that I am more than 100 posts behind).  It’s certainly been no secret to me that I’m stuck somewhere between ‘Here’ and ‘How in the hell did I get way over there?’  

I have made every attempt to avoid turning this blog into a post-operative complaint log for hysterectomy ramblings, but I still find myself dotting posts with bits and pieces of information that refer to the obvious frustration, fatigue, swollen tummy and just plain ole’ blahness that I’m feeling. 

Blahness: Friday’s Word of the Day.

The things I want to write about  – that this week has been especially difficult; that I am having trouble coming to terms with the fact that I am no longer woman that I was before my surgery; that I don’t know if or when she is coming back – all boils down to one sentence:   I am totally sucking at practicing self-acceptance. 

I didn’t really comprehend how bad my mental attitude was until reading the last couple of posts by the lovely Karen at Before and After where she has been discussing this very subject.  I realized that I have been at war with my body over the past few weeks and I’ve been losing, big time. 

My expectations going into this operation had me thinking that once the surgery was over, that would be the endpoint.  When I was told that I could resume normal activity as tolerated after six weeks, I thought that meant I’d be feeling markedly better and just continue to improve from that point forward.  I was so ignorant confident that I made plans for all the great things I wanted to do from mid-summer on. 

The reality, however, was something completely different.  Once the surgery was over the real work was just beginning:  healing.  When I was released from care after 6 weeks it wasn’t because I was free to resume my old life.  I was simply graduating from being a patient at risk for infection and complications to a patient that was now ‘in the clear’, meaning there wasn’t much that my doc could do for me beyond that point.  The rest was up to me.  It’s been two and a half months since my surgery and I’ve been trying to force my body into complying with how I think I should be feeling and behaving.   Instead of accepting what is happening, I’ve been busy with the why of it all.  As in, Why am I still so tired all of the time?  Why is my stomach still terribly swollen?  Why am I still experiencing pain?  Why, why why? 

The days of me running around like clockwork mastering yoga,  gardening, bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan – are gone.   Now, my day looks something like this:  At 7:15 AM I literally peel my body out of bed because I’m determined to maintain some kind of schedule.  The rest of my day is pretty much made up of me trying to force myself into doing anything other than shuffling around and wanting to take a nap.  Earlier this week I got wild and crazy and decided to take the dogs on a short walk AND go grocery shopping for a few items.  By 9 PM that night my belly was so swollen my stretchy shorts felt like a tourniquet.  I had gained 5.2 pounds since stepping on the scale that morning.   Not kidding.  I looked like I was carrying a watermelon under my t-shirt. 

The next day I had to make the difficult decision of suspending my yoga account for the second time.  My body is simply not going to be rushed regardless of what I have to say about it.

I just recently learned that I won’t be quite 80% healed until six months post-surgery.  That puts me into December.  My body won’t be considered completely healed for almost 12 months. 

It is easy to get down in the dumps after a major surgery. It’s also easy to have doubts and all kinds of negative energy if you don’t know when you’re going to get better.  I was sharing my frustrations with my sister and when I was done she said, ‘Now, I want you to tell me all of the things you’re grateful for.  For every bad feeling, give me an equal reason why you are thankful.’   As soon as she said that, I started laughing. I can’t believe I’ve become the kind of person that has to be reminded to be thankful!   I make a point to keep my distance from negative people because I’m easily affected by them – and here I’ve become one of them!   

Uh-uh. 

No way. 

Not me.

What a wake-up call.  I’ve been writing a gratitude list every night since.  Here is what I’m grateful for today:

  • I am noticing improvements – I can vacuum the floor once again, and lift 6-7 pounds with minimal pain.
  • I am building a business from scratch; pouring my heart and soul into it and the paintings I’m producing/listing on Etsy. 
  • I have this blog and all of you for support and even a kick in the pants when I need it. 
  • I have a supportive and very patient husband who understands me and what I’m going through.

While I’m at it, here’s another reminder for myself: self-acceptance and the ability to embrace the nature of change go hand in hand.  One will not work without the other.  If I can’t acknowledge and accept that change is going to occur in my life, then I’ll never be at peace with myself;  I’ll never have that sense of self-acceptance and will probably be delaying my recovery even further. 

I may be stumbling, friends out there – but I’m inching forward. 

Have a good weekend, and thanks for reading today. 

Starting Over

I am not a runner. 

Heck, I’m not even much of a walker right now. 

I’m sure you’ve seen this photo in some form or another.  Maybe on Pinterest or around the Net, but in case you haven’t:

 

Right now, I would love nothing more than to run like the little girl on the bottom.  Seriously. 

When I went to my post-op appointment my doctor said that I could begin incorporating my normal routine back into my life as tolerated. ‘Yoga? Sure, you can slowly begin doing that. You can even do some light jogging!’ he said with enthusiasm.

Light jogging?! Is he joking?  I know for a fact that if I even attempted something like that, well…..let’s just say the outcome wouldn’t be pretty.

 

I’m having déjà vu moments these days.  When my mind tells me that I must try to get up and exercise – any exercise, my body simply fights the idea.

I’m tired.

It’s too hard.

It’s physically draining.

How about I don’t but say I did? 

These are the same phrases I used when I was 100 pounds heavier.  In many ways I have never felt more like the fat girl wearing thin than I do right now.  My circumstances may be different – I need to put on some weight due to the post surgery blahs, but  thin doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. Or strong.  Or competent.  Or physically stable, even.   I may not be carrying the weight this time around, but I feel as if that healthy gal I long to be, is far,far from my grasp.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I am making progress, though my definition of progress is the fact that I’ve mastered the art of rolling out of bed without wincing.  Pain and fatigue seem to be my BFFs right now.  I encountered a minor setback this past Monday when I fell going up the stairs; no serious damage done but I’ve been pretty uncomfortable all week long thanks to that little spill. Still, I simply couldn’t allow any more time to pass without doing something physically productive.  So, I started forcing myself to walk on the treadmill.  Currently, it takes about 30 minutes to walk 1 mile.  I do the majority of that walking with one hand on the machine, the other hand gently holding onto my stomach.   

This is certainly not where I thought I’d be five weeks after surgery.  Hearing from other women who have had this type of surgery provides a bit of comfort in the way that at least I don’t feel so abnormal.  Almost every woman I’ve been in contact with has said that it’s taken anywhere from six months to a year before they started feeling really good again. 

If that’s the case then I’m officially placing myself back at the starting line; square one.  It’s been a while since I’ve had to start over.  I thought that part was behind me, but clearly life hands us surprises now and again, and we either face them or we don’t.  My body was far from perfect before my surgery, but I felt healthy, strong.  I want that strength back, no matter how long it takes. 

So, the million dollar question is: how do I start?  Well, I’ve done this before so I should know, but what I needed was motivation.  I started pouring through old journals, hoping for some entries that described what I was doing in the beginning.  I didn’t find anything relevant so I went to Sahar’s FatFighterTV and read through the amazing stories of my fellow maintainers like Jane, Lynn, and Cammy.  Then I  reread my story.  It was a very emotional read.  In one sense I was deeply saddened because I’m clearly not at the level of health I was when that article was published.  It was as if I were gaining strength from someone else’s story.  The following words were the ones that jumped out at me:

…I focused solely on one thing: moving my body. I bought a pedometer, attached it to my waist, and kept track of how many steps I was already averaging; then I aimed for 500 additional steps every few days until I reached the recommended 10,000 steps a day.

Wearing the pedometer gave me instant gratification because I could see my progress at any given time.

Moving my body was the key to my success all those years ago.  Here today over a decade later, it’s still the one thing that’s going to be critical if I want to get back in shape and stay that way, so I’ve got to get back to basics: dig out that pedometer, and literally take it one step at a time.

 

How do you keep a positive attitude when you have to start over?

Lavender Fields Forever. A post-surgery field trip.

Nothing could keep me away from the lavender farm on Saturday.  

Nothing.

Not the record breaking heat.  Not the bumpy car ride.  Not even venom-injecting insects could keep me from gazing upon, touching and smelling this:

Mmm…..smell that?  That’s the scent of sheer bliss. 

I was so happy to be outside.  Walking around. Looking at pretty things.  Talking to other people!

Me: (sounding like a kid eating his way through a life-sized chocolate bar): ‘I’m so excited to be here!  This is so great! Where are the chickens??’

Lavender Farm Worker: (first glancing at Craig, then certain he must be supervising me on my field trip from the local psych ward) ‘Um…Okay. Thanks.  Um, they’re right outside in the henhouse.’

Knowing that there were indeed chickens on the property I decided to spread out my excitement a bit and head for the lavender field first.  Craig gathered the bucket and I picked up our pairs of scissors and twisty ties and we picked our spot to hunker down among the lavender.  Being the exceptional photographer that he is, Craig was on his game.

Craig:  ‘How about I take a photo of you first?’ 

(translation):  We have about 20 minutes before this heat, walking, and bending plasters itself all over your face.  How about a couple of decent photos before you start complaining of swelly belly?

Me:  ‘I feel great!  Let’s do it!’

How can you not feel like the luckiest gal on the planet when sitting among lavender? 

Time to get to work!

While working on my bundle, Craig set off down the hill for a better look at the beehives he spotted when we first arrived. 

Ever-helpful, fearless husband:  ‘I’m going to get some really good pictures of the honey bees for your blog, okay?’ 

Me: (mesmerized with my current task) ‘You’re right. It is getting hot out here. Would you bring me a bottled water, too?’ 

Less than ten minutes later I heard an ‘aaAAAUUUUGGGHHhh’ sound and turned to see that it was coming from Craig.  I stood up and watched as he tried to contain that high pitched scream for a second time, flapping his arms around and running back and forth in the field.  His sunglasses went flying God-only-knows where.  Suddenly it dawned on me that he didn’t go after something to drink. 

We met somewhere in the middle of a row and while rubbing his head, he swore that he was at least 10 feet away from the hive.  Apparently the bees didn’t think that was far enough.  Thankfully he’s not allergic to bee stings.    From what I can gather, one of these photos provoked the attack:

 

See how devoted we are to this blog?  Craig is willing to march off into venomous stinger territory for a good photo, and I am unknowingly more than willing to let him!  That’s dedication, folks!

 

After the excitement wore off (I wish I could say the same about the two throbbing knots behind his ear – yes, he was stung twice!) Craig took over the cutting while the camera and I nestled in among the bees.  They were literally everywhere and didn’t mind sharing the lavender blooms with any of the harvesters.  (personally, I think it’s just when someone tries to get all up in their business that they become aggressive, but don’t tell my husband that).

 

Have I mentioned how much I LOVE digital cameras?  I must have taken close to a hundred photos.  Here’s just a few which also gives you a sneak peek of what to expect in my notecard shop on Etsy once it opens :

 

 

Once satisfied with my snapshots I gathered my husband, who’d by then found his sunglasses and we took our lavender inside to pay.  Since I’ve been unemployed for 2 months I’ve been extremely careful about unnecessary spending, but I simply had to add another purchase – a total impulse buy, right next to the cash register:  a lavender brownie. Mmm……

After we paid for our goodies I went in search of the chickens.  It was so hot outside by that point, they weren’t too eager to entertain me with their presence.  However, one must have felt sorry for me (or got tired of listening to my bellyaching about how miserably deserted the chicken run looked) and came out for a swift strut before heading back inside.

Figuring that was a smart idea, we decided it was time to get out of the heat and head for home.  Remember last week when I mentioned that I didn’t have much of a sweet tooth after my hysterectomy surgery, which left me wondering what the surgeon ‘did’ to me in the operating room?  Well, let’s just say that the lavender brownie never made it past the car ride home.  And I didn’t have to share it, either.  Craig tried lavender infused chocolate once and though I loved the unique taste, he never quite got over it so he didn’t even ask for a bite. 

I’m not yet sure what I’m going to do with my two bunches.  They sure look pretty, and they smell fantastic. 

Even my serenity frog thinks so!

 

Did you know that you can use lavender in lots of edible goodies?  If you like the smell of lavender, it tastes much the same way.  Try substituting the leaves and stems in recipes that call for rosemary. Ask to be sure that the lavender you use has not been treated for pesticides and remember, a little goes a long way.  Lavender iced tea, anyone? 

 

Have a great Tuesday and for all of my US readers,  Happy Independence Day tomorrow!

 

~Ellen