My Cancer Story: White Pants and Worry

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White Pants Up Close

Brace yourself for some TMI.

On a recent trip to Dallas that featured several mother-daughter shopping outings, Laura pulled white pants from the rack. “I bet these would look good on you,” she said. “They can be dressy or casual and are great for summer.”

I tried the pants on. Laura nodded her approval. Next came the underwear discussion. My child is a  pro on what to wear under white pants. I found it difficult, though, to plunk out a chunk of change for two inches of fabric.

But that’s not the TMI part of this post. This is:

“We can wear white pants without worry!” menopause types like to say, honoring the fact that periods are over. But blood, and the fear of blood, means something different to me now. Blood, several years into menopause, was the red siren that launched my journey into endometrial cancer. (Please don’t panic if you see blood. There’s only a one in eight chance it’s cancer, but DO see your doctor.) In my case, the blood was bad blood.

My surgery and recovery went well, and as Cliff reminds me if I get mopey, my prognosis is quite good. Yet I live daily, (actually many times a day) in fear that I will discover blood. Every bathroom trip, every change of clothes, brings on the possibility. Cliff’s suggestion is not to look each time. I’m trying that and am having some success; however, habits are hard to break. For now, the NOT looking reminds me there’s something scary I could be looking for.

To those of you who are cancer survivors: how do you deal with the fear it will return? Any tips?

And thanks to Laura for suggesting I buy white pants. Hate cancer! Love my new pants!

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Cancer recurrence: I found this article on Cancer.net. I had a light bulb moment when I read the heading: “Accept your fears.” I was able to accept the cancer, especially since the prognosis is good. I never really wondered why me? Stuff happens. Instead of trying to figure out how to banish all fear, maybe I can have an easier time if I accept it like I did the cancer. Worth a try!

Tai Chi and Arthritis: Dr. Paul Lam and Born Strong–A Book Giveaway!

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Born Strong Cover

Just off the presses! The story of Dr. Paul Lam and his breakthrough work with tai chi.  Here’s what the publisher writes:

Born in Vietnam, Bon Trong—meaning “born strong”—was only ten months old when he was left with his grandmother in China. Little did anyone know that soon thereafter, the Communist Party under Mao Zedong would overtake the country. For sixteen years, Bon Trong suffered abuses and terror from the Communist rule and narrowly escaped death from starvation during Mao’s disastrous Great Famine.

At sixteen he escaped to Hong Kong, terrified of leaving his family behind, and later made his way to Australia, where he adopted the name Paul. He became a doctor and was determined to help people…unaware that he would someday make positive changes around the world.

The years of starvation and malnutrition had left their mark.  He began studying tai chi with his father-in-law hoping to ease his painful arthritis. Moved by the art, he became an avid learner and expert in tai chi. Feeling he could help others, he started workshops to teach those who wanted to learn, and also instructed others how to teach the methods he had developed. 

The Tai Chi for Arthritis/Fall Prevention (TCFP) program is identified by the Administration on Aging as a highly effective program for health, and the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends Tai Chi for Arthritis in their official guide for falls prevention.

Read more about Born Strong on the website of the Tai Chi for Health Institute.

Here’s an article on tai chi by the Arthritis Foundation and another on WebMD on joint pain and tai chi.

Giveaway! For a chance to win a copy of Born Strong simply leave a comment by September 1 saying you’d like to be the winner. U.S. and Canada only, thanks!

Author Photo Lam

The Ladies Room Door Art Series: Part Twelve

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I found some great doors on a visit to daughter Laura and son-in-law Matt this summer.

Above, the names of famous Texas women on the ladies room door of Stampede 66 in Dallas. And check out the  confident dude below who greets you as soon as you swing open that door.

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I found this one at the Warwick Hotel in Dallas. The sign on the door is an elegant green marble pattern. (I had problems properly catching it with my phone.)

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The ladies room at the Company Cafe in Dallas boasts a big old W on the door.

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The stall doors are created with a funky wood pattern.

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And the prettiest bathroom floor I’ve seen (not that I’ve been noticing them for long.) The floor at La Duni Latin Kitchen in Dallas.

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A final shot from our trip to Texas: Cowboy boots on the door at the Eureka!

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From reader Lily, who wrote:”Sending you this interesting photo of an industrial style Coffee Cafe that shares the same building/warehouse as Ecclesia Church near downtown Houston, TX. Designers cut this section of the existing wall out, giving you a peek through!”

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From reader Carol, after a visit to the Eisenhower Regional Recreational Center in The Villages, Florida

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.From my friend Justin, who teaches English in China. The door should read “Female.” They’re off  by one letter.

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And this sign, which Justin says is at the entrance to the toilet areas. He writes: “The Chinese actually reads ‘Danger: Slippery.’ However, due to the unique morphology of Chinese, the same word can interchangeably mean ‘danger’ or ‘careful,’ depending on its context.”

Slip CarefullyJustin wins the prize for sending Friend for the Ride a door from so far away! But near or far, looking for interesting ladies room doors can add a jolt of excitement to any outing. Keep your cameras ready!

Women Backpackers: Pee Rags and More!

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In July, I went with Cliff to the Appalachian Trail Conference. We each selected the workshops that intrigued us most.

My favorite featured four women who had thru-hiked the trail. All TWO THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY MILES!  Three of the women took their hike when they were over forty. Wow!

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I’m not a backpacker, and my words wouldn’t do justice to the magnitude of their experience. I won’t try to recount the mental and physical challenges they faced or what their hikes meant to them. Instead, let me share some of the nitty gritty.

The presenters gave us tip after tip such as cut your hair short and “Hike commando,” so you won’t get wedgies and won’t have to wash underwear. Most intriguing to me was: “Bring a pee rag.” (The trail isn’t dotted with ladies rooms.)

So what exactly is a pee rag?

A pee rag is a bandanna that hangs on your pack. Pee is sterile and the lady backpackers promised the rag won’t smell. It’s handy when nature calls and doesn’t clog the wilderness with toilet paper.

The shovels below are for poop, a bit trickier to deal with.You use them to dig what they called “cat holes.” The colored ziplock bags are for modesty. Your wipes/tissues can be zipped inside and your pooping secrets are safe.

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Turns out menopause can be useful on the trail.  One of the workshop presenters took great advantage of her hot flashes. That’s when she’d leave the tent on a freezing cold night to pee. She explained that by the time the flash was over, she was toasty again in her sleeping bag.

Hot flashes had to be good for something! Too bad you have to hike the trail to take full advantage of them.

I could have listened to the women speak for hours. I loved hearing tales of their perseverance and ingenuity. But even more, I love knowing, that even though Cliff plans to do the big hike, I am NOT going. I can continue using real ladies rooms (and looking for fun doors!)

To finish, here are more tips:

  • Make sure you get fitted for a pack especially styled for women. Hips are an issue, and most packs are designed for men.
  • Baby wipes are good for wiping you-know-where, but they’re also great for cleaning up the rest of you. Take hygiene seriously; skin infections can send you off the trail in search of medical help.
  • Eat well and prepare food in the manner you do at home. If you like to cook, cook on the trail. If you’re into eating in a hurry, bring nutritious foods that take less prep.
  • Choose merino wool for your socks. They won’t stink after a few days like synthetic fabrics do.
  • Hiking skirts work well on the trail and make for easy peeing. (Note “Hike commando” above.)
  • An underwire bra can be trouble if your pack’s straps rub against it.
  • And most of all, don’t forget the mantra of the trail: Hike your own hike. Listen to advice, but in the end, do it your way!