You’re so vein, part deux: What the treatment’s really like

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One almost-healed leg next to one in the post-procedure stocking phase. (Pro tip: if you happen to share my painfully pale Irish skin tone, get the beige support stocking. No need to draw extra attention to your temporarily crazy leg situation, especially during shorts/skirt season.)

To follow up on my last post: last Thursday, I had the varicose veins in my right leg ablated, so I’m just going to tell you a bit about what the procedure is like, and what it involves. (Ablated = shut down. Arteries carry blood from the heart to the legs, while veins with “one-way” valves help the blood defy gravity and travel from the leg back up to the heart. When a valve leaks, the blood pools and enlarges the vein, causing varicose veins. Since the affected vein isn’t functioning properly anyway, the treatment involves using heat to cauterize/close the varicose vein. And that’s one to grow on.)

the more you know psa public service announcement the mo you know

First, after filling out even more paperwork, you’re led to a room with a few lockers, where you remove and lock up your super-valuable pants and pull on a big, stretchy pair of shorts and a robe. But don’t get too excited. It’s not a luxe spa or hotel robe; instead, it’s the fabric version of quilted paper.

2. You’re led into a patient room, where you read the same issue of Popular Science, with Obama on the cover, that you read at your last appointment until a nurse comes in, gives you a black Sharpie to write your initials on the leg they will be working on – to avoid any confusion, I guess?! – and asks you to stand with that leg extended in front of the other. With that same Sharpie, she marks up each varicose vein that they will be ablating on your leg. Which just feels odd.

I’d been through this before with my left leg, two weeks earlier, and because that leg had the lion’s share of visible varicose veins, I’d thought that the right would be a breeze. But then she kept marking. And marking. Crap. This might be slightly less intense then the first time, when they ablated 38 veins, but … not by as much as I’d expected. Shazbot. Continue reading

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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

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

Field notes and follow-ups

* Joe and I took Lily to see “Tangled” this past weekend at the nearby, second-run theater, and the basic premise, of course, involves a witch stealing Rapunzel as a baby from her parents (who are the land’s king and queen). In the movie version, the beloved king and queen, as well as their subjects, release glowing lanterns that float up into the sky each year on the girl’s birthday, in hopes that she will return. By Rapunzel’s 18th birthday, after being shut up in a high tower her whole life, she ventures out to see this ceremony in person; and simultaneously, we see the king and queen briefly behind-the-scenes, just before they step outside to release a lantern once again.

It’s probably about 30 seconds of film, and involves the father looking inconsolably sad, while the mother touches his cheek in comfort. And at this point, I completely fell apart, quietly crying while Lily sat attentively on my lap.

This throwaway little scene that would have passed me right by a few years ago. But the difference, I’m sure, is that while I would have empathy for these characters before, and would have vaguely imagined what the loss of a child might feel like, Lily makes these kind of scenes powerfully concrete rather than merely abstract. There’s not a blank, faceless child in my mind; it’s Lily’s face, and cry, and laugh, and smile, and voice. The thought of her, and the very specifics that make her who she is, being suddenly taken away is too devastating to even imagine. 

Hence my turning into a weepy mom during a Disney movie – despite the fact that in the past, I established a reputation for being pretty stony while watching movies and plays. (The phrase “dead inside” has surfaced more than once.) But apparently, my falling head over heels in love with this little girl has endowed me with a new Achille’s heel. Continue reading

Because who can resist the chance to wear those super-stylish maternity clothes one more time?

This is a Google Images baby, not our baby. Duh. I mean, it doesn’t even look like us!

Yes, for those who have read the blog for a while now, we are, indeed, closing our eyes and jumping – which is to say, in the face of all that could go wrong, and after somehow surviving Lily’s babyhood and slowly re-claiming some of the little pleasures we’d had to temporarily give up, we’re starting from ground zero again. The second (and definitely last) Grekin-McKee is currently scheduled for an early July arrival.

This was not an easy decision for us, obviously. Nurturing a baby is hard enough, but add onto that constant responsibility the need to engage with and love the child you already have, who will inevitably be a little heartbroken initially, and you’ve got a recipe for emotional and physical exhaustion.

So why are we doing this? (No, it’s not because it’d make for better blog material.) As with all tough choices, there’s no one answer that wholly satisfies. Both Joe and I felt that having a sibling, on a basic level, provides you with a person who bears witness to your life from its beginnings and shares (and thus understands) your history; as well as someone who might share the burdens, emotional and otherwise, that arise as parents age or grow ill and die.

Admittedly, that’s a bit bleak. So on the lighter end of things, I’d note that the other thing that finally tipped the scales for me was thinking, whenever Lily raced across a room to hug the stuffing out of me, how amazing it is to be loved so completely by a little person. “Who wouldn’t want to be loved like this even more?” I thought. “And how can I resist the chance to love another child in the same way?”

Cheesy and overly romanticized, I know, but it’s nonetheless true. The answer to “Why would I do this all again?” was ultimately: to feel and receive more ridiculously all-consuming love. Continue reading