You’re so vein: when seeking a medical treatment feels like self-betrayal

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What my inner left thigh looks like. Aging ain’t for sissies, people.

When you’ve kept a specific part of your body hidden for years, it’s terrifying – to say the least – to make arrangements to expose it to a series of strangers, and have that area not only studied from close up, but touched, repeatedly and extensively.

Yet that’s what I did a few weeks ago. I called a medical office that specializes in varicose and spider vein treatment, made a consultation appointment, and said nothing more about it. To anyone. Because I felt ashamed and embarrassed.

Not just about my left leg – the area most plagued by the errant veins – but also because I’ve spent my life thinking that I’m someone who embraces the idea of natural aging. I always wanted to be Helen Mirren, not Cher.

Yet after several years of sheathing myself in leggings, pants, capris, and long flowy skirts, something I couldn’t look away from so easily arose, which is: now when I go running or do yoga, I feel some achiness, some pain in those varicose areas. Plus, I’d seen ads that suggested that health insurance companies usually covered varicose vein treatment, so I thought: “They wouldn’t do that if it was just a cosmetic procedure, right?”

With this in mind, a couple of weeks ago, I did a web search for local options, took a deep breath, called for an appointment. Continue reading

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Making peace with the egg: Accepting my postpartum, post-40 body

rippedpantsA few weeks ago, I had a “wardrobe malfunction” – but it was way, WAY less sexy than the infamous Janet Jackson Super Bowl nip slip.

No, my clothing mishap involved a pair of body-hugging capri pants that pre-dated my first pregnancy.

You see where this is going, don’t you?

Yes, when flopping down into my chair at work one morning, I felt the pants’ seam strain – maybe even rip a little. But I happened to also be wearing a long, lightweight cardigan that day, so I thought, “Well, even if there’s a small tear, I’m covered. And maybe I can fix it.”

But then, later in the day, after going to get a carryout meal for a friend recovering from back surgery, I heard (and felt) a more decisive rip occur up my backside as I climbed into my Fiesta.

Oops. (Thank God for that cardigan, because I still had the meal to drop off, and I also wanted to chat a bit with my housebound friend. Which I did.)

Upon arriving home, I lifted the cardigan and looked over my shoulder at my dresser mirror, assessing the damage: my underwear was visible in a straight line down my backside.

So I took off the pants, wadded them up, and threw them in the trash.

And that was it.

No tears, no gnashing of teeth, no dark night of the soul, no impulsive pronouncements of dieting. Just acceptance that I no longer have exactly the same body I did before I had children, and before I turned 40. Continue reading

How this shlubby, un-athletic kid ended up being a runner

I earned this finishers' medal at the Dexter-Ann Arbor 10 K this past weekend. Yay!

I earned this finishers’ medal at the Dexter-Ann Arbor 10 K this past weekend. Yay!

The other day, I thought about why I run – while running, of course – and my thoughts splintered off in myriad directions.

Initially, this frustrated me. Why couldn’t I define running’s pull on me more definitively? There’s a good reason for this, though: my reasons for running, and what I get out of it, have evolved and changed in the same way that I have over the course of 42 years of life.

My first brush with running came in fifth grade – a hard year for me. I sprouted large breasts I didn’t want; began menstruating (and had no idea what the brown stain in my underwear was or meant); had acne on my back; stank from body odor; had no friends, and thus wandered the playground alone at recess; and while I my school shuttled me to a “gifted” program once a week, what I really wanted was to be athletic, despite being painfully uncoordinated and slow. Though everyone seems to remember being picked last for teams in gym class, I really was – and I couldn’t even blame my classmates. They didn’t want to lose.

Neither did I, of course. And I tried my hardest, whatever the sport. But whether the game of the moment was softball, kickball, relays, dodgeball or basketball, I sucked.

Then my gym teacher announced a program with a hopelessly square title: Run for Fun and Fitness. With each mile you ran on your own, outside of school, she’d place a small sticker dot next to your name – which was on a long, green-and-white printout list of students, taped on the gym’s cinder block wall.

At that age, I loved visual symbols of achievement (I was that girl who earned 10 badges during my one year of Girl Scouts). They helped counter my lack of self-esteem in every area but academics. And besides, I told myself, unlike the gym class games that invited my classmates to despise me even more, because I failed to perform at a certain level, running was something I could do by myself. I wouldn’t let anyone down, no matter how slow I was.

So, at my request, my father measured out a half mile marker from our house that I could jog to, and then run back. Though my pace could be categorized as “plodding,” I ritualistically stopped at that halfway mark to catch my breath, and I even stopped once between that point and home, too. So I struggled. This was not something that was going to come easily. (It still doesn’t, after all these years and miles logged.)

But not being scrutinized by my peers, or even adults, while I clumsily ventured into running freed me. I got to experience an endorphin rush (though I couldn’t identify it), and feel kind of athletic and virtuous (albeit temporarily). Though all the other things happening to my body made me feel powerless, running made me feel strong. Continue reading

Run, Mommy, run! Exercising (and drawing stares) through pregnancy

Maintaining my regular running regimen – which ideally involves going on 2.5 to 4 mile runs a few times a week – since having Lily has been challenging enough; but since becoming pregnant, it’s become damn near impossible. (Shoving a bunch of doctor’s appointments and tests and screenings into already-overstuffed days? Please.) But I’m trying my best.

It was much easier the first time around, of course. While pregnant with Lily, I “ran” quite regularly until 10 days before my due date, adapting as my belly grew so that by the end, I alternated stretches of slow jogging with walking. 

And during that first running-while-pregnant experience, the responses of those around me varied widely. There was the woman who stood in her yard and drily asked me, “Are you trying to induce yourself?”

And there were naturally lots of double-takes and stares at the gym when I ran on the treadmill. (I got the distinct impression that the employees were secretly terrified that I’d spontaneously give birth during their shift.)

But then, there was also the woman who, while I stretched with Joe after a gym workout one evening, approached to say that she and her husband were thinking about having a child; but because she’d previously been quite heavy in the past, she was nervous about putting a lot of weight back on during and after pregnancy. Continue reading

“Tri, tri again” follow-up

 

This is pretty much how I looked while crossing the triathlon's finish line.

Readers of my “Tri, tri again” post will be (hopefully) pleased to hear that I met my physical goal for the summer last weekend, on August 15, when I completed a triathlon sprint in Novi.

Not that I was remotely organized. I signed up only days before the race, vacillating between the Novi race and one scheduled the following weekend in Brighton (but since Joe and I would be out celebrating our upcoming seventh anniversary the night before that one, I thought better of it); I got lost trying to find the packet pick-up place the day before the race, while Lily was napping, and then I helped Joe’s brother’s family move into their new home in Ann Arbor; and minutes before my heat got into the water for the swimming leg, I heard about a chip we were all supposed to have on our ankles – there had been no such thing in my packet. Oops.

“Just shout your number wherever you’re making a transition and see one of us with one of these,” a woman said, pointing at what looked like an adding machine. Um, OK. Seemed unlikely to happen, but I nodded and thanked her anyway. Continue reading