Posts Tagged ‘health’

Five years since my surgery

What I wrote on my Facebook status on Sunday, November 25, 2018, and wanted to share here as well:

It’s now been five years. On November 25, 2013, I had open abdominal surgery for what turned out to be a borderline ovarian tumor. At a doctor’s appointment less than two weeks earlier, my doctor had expedited my surgery and told me that the tumor on my right ovary had grown and that it was either cancerous or borderline.

For me, this date is a marker of not only the surgery but also of change. I consider the surgery and the events surrounding it to be a turning point in my life. It’s been a very full five years. If you had told me in October 2013 where I would be now, I may not have believed you. Post-surgery, as I found emotional and physical healing, I left dreams behind and gradually accepted that what I wanted – and needed – was changing. I walked through a deep depression and made it out the other side. I discovered Nia. I found out I had sensory processing disorder, and it was a revelation that changed the way I see myself and my experience of the world. My love and I renewed our relationship and became closer than ever.
…and much more.

I don’t really believe that everything happens for a reason. Some things in life just happen. I do know that I am grateful for what I have now.

My surgery story, parts I and II.

Poem from one year after surgery.

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Health results, past and present.

I remember when I first found out I had some sort of cyst or tumor, nearly four years ago now. At first, it was tangible — it showed up in X-rays and an ultrasound, and I could feel it when I touched my abdomen — but it wasn’t quite a real thing for me. I was determined. I was determined to be fine aside from that; I said to myself and everyone around me that I was otherwise healthy. I was finishing up a healing and empowerment program and I felt alive and powerful. While I did things to mitigate the occasion sharp pain and continued with the trajectory of making doctors’ appointments, I also pushed forward. I was determined that it was not going to interfere with the goals I had for myself.

I didn’t consider how much energy the mass took up inside me. Nor did I consider the power of denial. Which is not to say that the feeling of empowerment and hope and idealism was not very real for me — it was. But I didn’t even really think about the potential realities of a mass growing on my ovary. I continued as if it were not a factor.

Also, I had not had this experience before. I simply was lacking both experience and information. Phrases like complex cyst and borderline ovarian tumor did not yet have meaning for me, even if and when I heard them. It wasn’t really until after my surgery where those meanings hit me and I understood.

The present:

Saturday, I stared at the letter: my most recent pelvic ultrasound results. I get an ultrasound every six months or so to make sure that I am tumor-free. My results up to this point have been negative — nothing abnormal found. This time, there is a small cyst on my left ovary. The letter said to wait about three months and get another ultrasound and see if it resolves itself or if I need to take further action.

I froze, putting the letter down, motioning for my love to come over. He took the letter away from my shaking hands.

And I realized this weekend: While I am afraid, it’s important to not let my fear paralyze me. I can acknowledge the worst-case scenario while also acknowledging that that may never come to fruition. At the same time, it’s important not to bury myself in denial. I don’t have to present myself as a pillar of strength and push forward and try to make everything okay whether or not it is. I can be vulnerable and strong. I can be scared and concerned while still moving forward with creating my life here. I don’t have to push; I will take one step at a time.

This could be something. It could be insignificant or nothing. Many cysts resolve on their own. I’ve had one that did not. This one is small, just over one centimeter.. The one I had was nearly 13 cm. For now, I will do what I can. I will try natural and herbal remedies, ask for healing thoughts or prayers.

This weekend, I re-felt some of the trauma from that time, where I did not receive the support I needed from my community during my health scare and following crisis. I reminded myself that my support network now is strong: husband,  parents, parents-in-law, other family, friends. I allowed myself to feel the fear and the grief while also holding the reality of my current experience. In the past few years, I have created a safe space within myself to feel what I need to feel and also move through it. I have developed and strengthened relationships.  No matter what happens, I have a strong foundation.

My healthcare story and reflections on the American Health Care Act bill.

Okay, I’m going to get personal and political about healthcare coverage.

My story:

Over many years in infrequent doctor’s visits, I omitted the fact that my family has a history of depression. I did this partly in order to avoid receiving a diagnosis, to avoid the stigma of the label, and also to avoid having a “pre-existing condition.” My parents were both self-employed and had to buy private insurance, so any diagnosis (especially one I was not seeking conventional medical treatment for) might put that at risk.

After college, I generally had several jobs that included health insurance benefits. After I got laid off in 2011, I was able to apply for private insurance without much of a hassle. At the time, insurance carriers seemed to look for any reason not to cover people — or at least charge more for their care. I was relieved and grateful that I didn’t fall into this category.

But then something else came up: in the late summer of 2013, I discovered I had a tumor on my right ovary. This discovery, along with the subsequent open abdominal surgery, meant that I would have a pre-existing condition. With the beginning of the Affordable Care Act in 2014, I was able to easily get coverage. And with my recovery from the surgery, I also struggled to recover emotionally and fell into a deep depression. I decided to seek further treatment, which included hospitalization and taking medication and later an intensive therapy program.

When I moved back to New Mexico, I qualified for Centennial Care, their Medicaid Program, under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. Under this program, I was able to get my Dialectical Behavioral Therapy program covered as well as occupational therapy for my sensory issues. It also covered my preventative care visits, pelvic ultrasounds, and follow-up appointments to make sure the tumor hadn’t returned. I felt so grateful to have these needs met.

These days, I am pretty healthy. I still take antidepressants, and have not had another major episode of depression. So far, my tumor has not returned.

Today, the House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. This bill includes changing the current guaranteed protections to pre-existing conditions.

A recent quote from an Alabama congressman: “My understanding is that (the new proposal) will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool. That helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people — who’ve done things the right way — that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”

I see quotes like this and I get frustrated. Honestly, I get frustrated anytime I hear or read something from any side of the political spectrum that implies that people have full control — as if merely being responsible will ensure their good health — whether they’re talking about potential healthcare law changes or holistic healing. In my perspective, yes, there are things I can do (and do do) to help keep myself healthy — but that doesn’t guarantee my continued good health.

Yes, there are people with pre-existing conditions who don’t take care of themselves. There are people out there who have pre-existing conditions because they didn’t take care of themselves. There are also people who can’t afford to take better care of themselves — they do what they can, but they may prioritizing caring for others, and/or need to work two jobs to provide for themselves and their families, etc. And there are people who take care of themselves and do everything “right” and still end up falling ill. And sometimes “pre-existing condition” just means that a person sought out treatment for something they needed medical help with, which resulted in a diagnosis. This can run the gamut of regular, human life experiences, including childbirth. In this so-called healthcare bill, the list of what qualifies as a pre-existing condition goes on. 

Hearing and reading about all these potential changes does scare me on a personal level — it would be a huge financial burden for my husband and me if our healthcare costs went up in order for me to at least get preventative coverage, and that’s not even looking at potential serious health issues in the future. We are currently both covered through his employer, and this bill would likely extend to these benefits as well.

However, I am young and currently healthy. I am concerned for others. There are others whose higher cost or loss of coverage could be the difference between life and death. There are children who are born with pre-existing conditions whose parents might have to make hard decisions. Many people will lose coverage.

The Senate is said to be considering creating another version of the American Health Care Act; in any case, the review of the bill in the Senate is likely to be a longer process. 

If you are concerned about the future of healthcare coverage in the United States, here are some things you can do:
Call, write, or e-mail your Senators.

Write thank-you notes to Congresspeople who voted against the bill.  If your representative voted for it and you disagree with them, let them know (for reference, these are the votes).

Share your story. Write in your social media channels, share in a blog post. Personal stories can make a huge impact.

Friday link roundup 10/14

In Arizona, drive-thru restaurant Salad and Go provides a quick and easy alternative to traditional fast food.

Ever heard someone say, “I’m being so OCD” or something along those lines? This article describes the real experiences of people living with obsessive compulsive disorder.

Women respond to men who told them to smile.

On October 13, Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in literature. This page from The Guardian includes responses from various sources on this momentous occasion.

From Upworthy: A dad reflects on Donald Trump’s comments in a letter to his young sons, and makes powerful points about men and masculinity.

An obituary to the Great Barrier Reef has gone viral on social media channels. Scientists protest the article’s message and argue that while it is damaged and dying, it is not dead, and there could still be hope.

Friday link roundup 10/7

Moving, redecorating or rearranging? 8 ways to help make your your home feel like a sanctuary.

How often do you think of your feet? 4 Steps to Happy, Healthy Feet.

On the U.S. and maternity leave (and lack thereof).

In Poland, which already has strict restrictions on abortion, a proposal to ban all abortions (including in case of rape and incest) will be dismissed due to protests against the ban across the country.

The peace deal in Colombia was put to a vote, and despite the anticipation of it being passed, 50.2% of Colombians voted against it, resulting in a defeat.

Wednesday, October 5 was World Teacher’s Day. The United Nations estimates that the world needs 69 million new teachers by 2030.

On the psychology of victim-blaming.

Hurricane Matthew has devastated Haiti and other areas of the Caribbean and is approaching Florida. Live updates here.

Tracking daily steps.

For the past three weeks, I’ve been doing a “Step-Up” challenge – it’s a program through my health insurance that gives incentives and rewards for doing activities and appointments related to maintaining health. I was sent a basic pedometer that counts my steps. For the first week, the goal was 5,000 steps a day; for the second, 7,500, and for the third, 10,000. The goal is to do that number of steps roughly 6 out of 7 days a week. As a reward, I get points that I can put towards buying items in a catalog.

I’ve been doing some extra exercises and weightlifting (hand weights) in anticipation of my wedding. I figured that it might be a good opportunity to try this challenge to increase my level of overall fitness.

What I’ve found:

  • This particular pedometer isn’t the most sensitive to movement other than basic forward steps. This means that it was erratic when counting steps during a Nia class, where I step forward, back, to the side, etc. Maybe other step-counters and exercise monitors are more accurate. However, they also aren’t free.
  • This challenge gave me more reasons to spend time outside. Since Nia is my primary exercise form, sometimes I don’t get outside much, except for maybe a weekly hike. Also, since it’s summer, I tend to spend more time inside due to the heat. I would sometimes take walks around the neighborhood and in local parks in the cooler mornings or evenings. There are a lot of beautiful flowers around the neighborhood this time of year. When I see another walker, it’s almost like we share a kind of kinship, even if we’re still strangers.
  • I’ve had past experiences where people would say things like, “you need to step up!” when I was struggling. Doing something called a step-up challenge helped soften these past associations.
  • It was easier for me to do the 5,000-7,500 range. I had to be more creative during the week with the 10,000 steps/day goal. That meant some random pacing in the house in addition to other walks and forms of exercise. It was fairly easy to meet that goal on days where I would hike, but less on others.
  • I read here that 10,000 steps is more of an approximation, that at least 7,000 to 8,000 steps per day is the recommendation to receive increased health benefits.
  • The more I move, the more I want to move. I have been feeling a little more restless. I would say that my amount of exercise the past three weeks has increased my stamina and endurance overall. I also subbed three full Nia classes and it was easier to keep my energy up.
  • I would say that the benefits of the Step-Up Challenge outweighed the downsides, although I sometimes noticed myself concentrating more on how many steps I was taking than on the actual activity. I was consistently checking the pedometer. I sometimes had to bring myself back to being mindful and noticing the details of the world around me.

There’s an option to do a nine week challenge. For that one, I’d get to choose in the beginning between three options for my daily step goal. Based on my knowledge from the past weeks, I’d probably chose 7,500 . For now, I’m going to give myself some time without the pedometer. I haven’t worn it today and I keep feeling like I’m missing something. It’s also been a relief not to worry about how many steps I’ve taken today. It’s also gratifying to know that in the course of 3 weeks, I averaged around 8,200 steps per day and gained more strength and endurance.

Friday link roundup 4/8

The benefits of napping.

Self-Care Ideas for a Bad Day.

An artist created and installed small rooms in abandoned manhole covers in Milan to make an important statement.

Ever been told you are “too much” or “too sensitive”?  On embracing vulnerability and “muchness.”

April Love 2016:  Daily prompts for love letters for the month of April.  For more information, go here.  I’ll be posting some of my letters and art soon.

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