A slight bump in the road occurs, occasionally, when I go off the deep end and slide into sugar and wine oblivion. Sometimes it is just a slight curve and I put my hands on the wheel and do a quick course correction. Then there are the times when I head straight down the bank and end up in a ditch hoping someone will find me before it is too late.
This sounds dire. I sound like there is a cause for an intervention. It is not that bad. Really. Because the one thing I know about me better than anyone is my own slippery slope. I used to blame it on PMS, but I can’t do that anymore since there is no more of that. There is definitely a time limit on using the C word too, coming up on two and half years already, I think I have used that excuse for going off the deep end enough. “Enough already,” I can hear my grandmother’s voice in my head say.
So what is it? Why do I have this constant yo-yo where I can feel so incredible and unstoppable, not drinking any wine or eating any sugar that it causes me to almost self-sabotage, like there is some force greater than me saying, “Oh yeah? You feel this good? We’ll fix that.” I know every time I break my flow with “just one glass of wine” or “just one brownie,” I am off and running. Before I know it, I have eaten like an entire cake and drank way too many bottles of wine on the front porch.
Why does this happen? A normal person (if there is such a thing) would say, “Well, Alayne, if you know this is your pattern, then why must you incessantly rewind, repeat?” Sounds so simple. I am a smart successful and generous entrepreneur. I “live life to the fullest” following my brother’s instructions from his death bed like there is no tomorrow. I know better. But yet, I slide.
I have worked incessantly on myself for years trying to understand this pattern of mine.
The funny thing about twists and turns is that I only realize the ‘why’ part after the deep dive. During the dive, when it would be most advantageous to catch myself, is too late. I am ALL in. Whipping up blueberry cake, chocolate babka and cheese-ladened Mexican lasagna filled with dairy that surely would make my breast cancer doctor wince with estrogenic pain.
What I have realized with this last wild ride is that this happens when I am stressed. It is not some self sabotage at all. In fact, I like myself, I am happy with my world, why the hell would I need to sabotage this life I have made with my own two hands? But yet here I am. The weekend after too much wine and too much babka.
High stress=High Cortisol levels.
High cortisol levels=constant fight or flight mode. But there is no fight and there is no flight except to the refrigerator and thus the fatigue subsides as soon as the first sip of wine or the first bite of cake.
It is immediate. And it is satisfying- this temporary fix that no amount of self talk can persuade otherwise. Cortisol is pure power. It is what has made humanity sustain itself. But humanity, these days, is not the same as it was when survival was literal. Survival these days is dealing with the stressors that our bodies and minds could never be prepared for. On top of this, there is the constant brain workings of my mind with thousands of ideas and trying to execute many at the same time.
My mind holds the ideas, but what I lack is the reality of how much time each idea is really going to take. This is where my stressors are. So much work, SO little time. I am convinced that as much as we talk about nutrition as being a precursor to cancer, my gut tells me it is cortisol’s constant production in my system. This is why I exercise and meditate- to attempt to create tools to wind down this overactive brain of mine. And it really helps.
But sometimes I just need to eat cake and drink wine. This really helps too. Except that after a few days of it, my heart starts to race and my head starts to think negative thoughts that were definitely not there before I did my deep dive. The effects of meditation and exercise and healthy eating are cumulative. The effects of wine and cake are immediate and sometimes I just need immediate.
Now off to right my wrongs with a bike ride, and a protein shake. Day one. Monday. Again.
(If you want a good article on cortisol, I enjoyed this one.)
After a ridiculously fun night out on the town with live music, lots of dancing and three gigantic scoops of ice cream to top it off, the morning followed. And it wasn’t as fun as the night before because the night before also included wine. Needless to say, “Not Drinking Today,” is taking a brief hiatus. Only for a few weeks, though, as the town I call home is July fourth festive almost 24/7 and wine is once again part of my nightly party.
Part of the morning after of the night before, is the morning bathroom. Without getting too detailed, (even I have my standards), I headed in for a much needed bodily function. On the way, I passed by my phone that I had made a conscious effort to leave face down since I woke up, and unconsciously grabbed it to take in with me. I’m guessing here- for the purpose of multi tasking. I can’t even believe I am saying this aloud. Multi tasking in the bathroom? Have I lost my fucking mind? Part of the routine of a night before is to load up on fat and carbs with a fervor. I hopped on my bike to get to the bagel shop at the speed of light and as I was waiting for my order found myself standing next to a woman also waiting for her order. She had her phone on the counter and was scrolling through messages missing the order taker’s repeat question of “What size did you want your coffee?” I finally answered for her, “Medium,” I stated because my waitressing skills from thirty years ago never seem to disappear.
My answering, “Medium,” caused the distracted woman to actually look up and quickly apologize confirming her request for a medium sized coffee. The young girl getting the coffee for this lady barely looked concerned as I am sure this is a regular occurrence at the counter in the morning with all of the sleepy customers ordering bagels coffee with barely a glance up from their phones for eye contact. Have we all lost our minds?
I recently heard a statistic that people are spending more time on their smartphones than television and this number is supposed to keep rising. Besides phones being phones, phones are now our cameras, video recorders, computers, radios, education, movies and television all wrapped in one small little, carry with us all the time even to the bathroom, package of convenience.
People are looking down at a rate that frightens me. From a physical perspective, our heads are perpetually down without moving our heads up and back for the counter balance of our poor necks, and from an emotional perspective, the lack of eye contact and smiling at one another. We are capturing every waking moment of every waking thing as part of our daily routines that is unprecedented in any human experience we have seen in our lifetimes.
What I notice about my own use is how sidetracked I can become in a nanosecond. I am a typically sidetracked person anyway, so clicking and moving around a screen is probably not helpful to my very sensitive brain. I wonder how much all of this bluescreen is negatively affecting my body. When I pay attention to the way I feel, it is usually a bit fragmented and staticky after a run with the screen for too long. Physically, mentally, spiritually, these elements of who I am, are hyper challenged when I am on the screen too much, not to mention the disconnect I feel in this false sense of connection.
I was at the beach yesterday and watched, between the parade of non stop thong wearing booty, hundreds of young people from middle school to college, looking down at their phones as they walked together. It used to be that we just walked the beach with a Dels Lemonade in one hand and the other hand free. Now every single hand has a phone, mostly iPhones, easily each one a minimum of a thousand dollars.
As I left the beach, I walked by adults on this packed hot pre July 4th weekday also on their phones, reading, texting, scrolling, trolling and some outright personal phone conversations like their beach spot was their own private phone booth. It is not. Everyone can hear the one sided conversations. Everyone can hear the bings, the swirls, the dings, tings, pings and every other distracting and inconsiderate noise polluting sound these tiny three by six inch lifelines make. Without so much of a deeply considered thought, we seem to have adopted these machines as an additional member of our families. Phones have taken the place of our time away to be with our thoughts alone.
Daydreaming used to be this pause in our busy lives. Now I find that when I do give myself over to daydreaming, as a thought enters my mind, instead of allowing it to move around the way day dreaming does so magically, I often interrupt its flow with the need to Google an idea.
Here is an example. I was sitting looking at my garden and watching the birds and bunnies forage for food, peaceful and quiet as I nursed my subtle hangover waiting for the bagel carbs to kick in. A question popped into my head. “If I could make a radical change in my life, what would it be?” The desire to sell everything and have a minimal life is always nagging at me. I like the extremity of this thinking. As I begin to consider the small rv I would need to get, I think about my friend’s little van she just reconstructed with a bed and some shelves and how handy she is. This thought leads me to thinking about if I could possibly figure out how to set up my own little space in a van and that lead me to thinking about where I might find someone who could do this for me. My brain immediately thinks, “Google it, Alayne.” And I have to fight the temptation. But like a pint of ice cream in my freezer, the call to Google beckons and I have to work at resisting. This would have never happened ten years ago. I would have just thought about the idea and let it flow the way ideas are supposed to. Then later, when I made my way to my office, maybe if I remembered, I would look up the how’s on the computer somewhere.
Phones have changed our human condition. Humanity has changed and simple day dreaming has become melded with technology where every click, snap, and search feeds the illustrious algorithms of big tech information about us so they can make our lives “easier.”
“Easier” seems to be the go to tagline to get humans to perform like circus animals. I remember when I was a little girl and TV dinners came out right along the time where kids were getting mini black and white televisions for their rooms and their own phones. Getting my gourmet cooking mother to buy a TV dinner for my brother and me took a lot of convincing. She had her standards, thank goodness, in retrospect. I also remember begging my parents for my own phone. It was a big deal when I got one and my father limited the amount of time I could spend talking on it because back then there was no call waiting in the seventies. If my father tried to call, there would be a busy signal and he would not be able to get through. This would not make my father very happy causing the threat of complete disconnection from my new phone. Leverage was what he had and most times I obliged the rules.
As I watch more and more people, especially our young people, with their heads down in their phones rather than a book, as I think about the future of actual television sets and going to the movies as a possible relic in the future, I feel worried about humanity. Will people actually stop trying to capture every moment when they realize they are actually missing every moment?
Humanity and technology is an awkward dance. Like the invention of the washing machine and dryer to make the washing of clothes much easier, we cannot imagine living without them. We have become dependent on their convenience and the thought of going back to using a washboard and a tub to clean our clothing seems ludicrous to our modern American way of life. This is the same with technology now; there seems to be no going back. Our entire lives are on our phones and I am afraid because of this, we must figure out how to co exist and still have human connection beyond a text.
Human connection feeds my sense of well being. I love a good deep hug, a serious sensual kiss, dinner in the garden, a dance on the front porch, spontaneity. I enjoy a beautiful book from the library trying to give my busy mind over to it on a breezy afternoon without looking at my phone for at least an hour. I am finding more and more that this break from technology must be a new habit I have to work on.
I know I do not need a phone by my side at every waking minute. I have to sometimes force myself to remember this as Apple would not want us to ever be away from our phones. I need to remember to look up, put my head all the way back in the opposite direction that it has has evolved into, downward like the pictures of the evolution of humans over time- head bent forward looking for food.
This time though, instead of feeding us for survival, we are looking for the human connection, but what we seem to have forgotten is that it is right in front of us if we would just remember to look up at the person standing right next to us.
We drinking chicks love our wine and our cocktails. We love our rituals of choosing the perfect bottle of Proseco knowing that the front porch on a warm summer eve calls us at 5pm for that first sip of sparking delight. What is it about that first sip, the tiny sparkly bubbles headed from your tongue to your throat that automatically cause a big happy sigh? Or a robust red on a cold winter night after a long day sitting by fire recapping the events from work or life with your partner?
For so many women I know, drinking and its box of rituals
have been the norm. We talk about it, we plan around it , we gather together to
imbibe with it. Cocktails take the edge off. Off of what? I don’t know because in
my circle of acquaintances for the most part, the edge we speak of is life coming
at us. Besides the inevitable twists and turns that make up what life is, our
edges our pretty mild.
We, of course, have our struggles, but no one said life was
supposed to be anything less. Struggles are what make us rebound, strengthen and
stand taller. No one wants them, but for a majority of the pain give or take
extreme situations, we usually can look back and say the struggle was worth it.
With the exception of losing a child, or a person in your
life who is far too young to die there aren’t extremes in the world I get to
live that causes a pain so deep one can’t climb the mountain. But this is me.
And most of my friends. We were raised resilient and we power on.
I have had my share of struggles and have had my share of wine. I have quit drinking on more than one occasion and one time I quit for a full seven years. This was one of my proudest accomplishments because it wiped all of the cobwebs from my foggy brain that I didn’t know what foggy and allowed me to think clearly about my future. Drinking puts a (pun intended) cork in the ability for me to flourish and make serious decisions. Drinking alcohol allows me to put off those decisions, keeping them at bay and removing the emotions that sometimes have to come with those decisions. But none of this is even in my radar at the time. I only have this wisdom when I cease and desist.
I was walking along looking for somebody, and then suddenly I wasn’t anymore. – Winnie the Pooh
You know when you have a plugged drain? But before it gets
to the point when you have to call the plumber, you see that the water is taking
more time to leave the sink and go down the drain? You let that happen for a
few weeks hoping that it will miraculously just go down with a few plunges or
some Draino. But we all know that this is highly unlikely. At some point the problem
of the clogged drain will need to be solved or else you simply will not be able
to use the sink. The residues of toothpaste and face cleanser will leave a
circle of film in your sink and the need to clean it will become an almost
daily grind because you didn’t take care of the clog when you first noticed it.
This is what drinking is like for me. I come from a family
of alcoholics as so many of us do because drinking is just so much damn fun. It
is so much easier to pour a glass of gorgeous Brunello instead of sitting on a
mat and meditating. Life is short, right? Enjoy the wine. Fuck all these self
imposed rules and regulations, right? Just eat the cookie and drink the frickin
wine, right? Well not so fast, though I have a lot of friends who can just have
one glass of wine and sip it slowly, this is not my gig. I wish it were. My
grandfather has two glasses of red every single night at five pm. Without fail.
And he is 101. Some people can just have the wine and call it a day. For me, I have
the wine and I want more wine. Then the next day I want it again. And the ritual
turns into a self talk garble and each day I get foggier and less clear about
my purpose. The cobwebs re-enter at a slow barely noticeable pace until one day
a few weeks in, I just don’t feel good. I feel imbalanced and emotionally
unsteady. I find myself questioning my core. I never do this when I am not
drinking alcohol. So I decided the day after my son’s 21st birthday,
that I would apply the one day at a time mantra to giving up drinking today. My friends say, “are you drinking
or not drinking?” Instead of the black and white yes or no, locking me into the
corner, I say instead, “I am not
Because this is true. Today is all I know. And what I know
is that when I don’t drink alcohol I feel a sense of inner power and direction
that allows me to get the creative juice ideas headed in the right direction at
the speed of light. With no detours and dead ends. I feel good, great, better
when I don’t drink. So I am not drinking today. And as life comes at me and the
universe tells its story to me the way it is supposed to I come across the article
yesterday about this “movement,” this new “thing” called elective sobriety because
God forbid everything doesn’t have a branding possibility. Women are
consciously not drinking alcohol and cutesy names are popping up all over the
place. Mocktails. Soberinstagram. Sobercurious hashtags and websites and pop up
gatherings are apparently now a trend. Because in our world we live in, everything
seems to need to be something. But in this case, I wholeheartedly agree. Why do
we feel the need to escape from our luscious brilliant selves? As Glinda the
Good Witch said, “You’ve always had the power, my dear.”
The more we connect with our own true selves and learn who those
selves really are, we march forth rather than stay stuck. Sometimes staying is
stuck is necessary as it is part of the discovery process, but drinking for me
keeps me there. Keeps my foot in the quicksand and the other foot trying to run
So for today anyway, I make my own mocktails, drink my hot
tea by the fire and figure out ways to enjoy the festivities of holidays and
gatherings without feeling the need to mute the edge. Because when my edge is
sharp, it makes cutting a tomato way easier than trying to use a dull blade. I
like the sharpness the gift of not drinking gives me. This alone is what makes
the day be the next one and the one after that. So for today, I try again because
I have always had the power.
This is the article I read that prompted this writing today. Great post. Thank you @Virginia Sole-Smith
The days that come our way in little staccatos during our winters I refer to as tease days. Those luscious days after a freezing cold spell where the temperature magically climbs to 35 or 40 degrees causing elation and jubilance among fellow New England comrades. It is not unusual to see an immediate surge in the roar of motorcycles, convertibles out and about with their drivers wrapped up like they are headed on an expedition to Mt. Everest. Shorts and an extra pep in the step of people who had previously thought they were hunkered down for the long haul and bike riders trying to appreciate the glorious bonus day of some added warmth and brighter light.
We New Englanders so willingly get sucked into that tease. When the slightest increase in temperature makes it feel positively balmy outside almost making us want to pull out the gardening equipment to clean up the yard. But we seasoned souls know that this is only a lure of nature, playfully provoking us to think that this is a reliable temperature. We shut down our heat, open our windows, change the sheets on our bed and lean full force into what we know is temporary. After all, it is February and though we have not had even a drop of snow, we have been here before. That year not too long ago when we thought we were home free, barely a snow plow bill and just like that- snow in record amounts every day for almost an entire month. Mother Nature as usual made fools of us. It is we who choose to live in this environment rather than a larger space of a state offering sun and fun most of the year.
I have been on a mission this year to pepper my fitness routine with bouts of nature. Hikes, walks, climbs, outside no matter the temperature instead of the gym running like a hamster on a treadmill among the tribe of the fabulously fit. My love for the crazy gym workouts is still pure, but I have found my body desires less of that potency and more of outside walks so I honor this as often as I can. Walking to the library to return my latest read and hoping that another great book awaits fills my soul as much as fifty burpees, (well maybe 20 burpees).
Because I have the luxury of two spaces I get to call home in two glorious locations, both near large bodies of water, the beach is easy access especially on my way from one to the other in the early morning light. Recently I have been stopping at the beach, leaving my phone in the car so as not to be distracted by feeling the need to take it out of my pocket every five minutes to capture a picture that will never look as good as the real one in front of me. The sound of the waves, the tide, the shrieking of the seagulls, the wind in my hair and in my lungs and that deep smell that wakes a very tired olfactory system up from its dormancy that has been locked up in forced heat and closed windows makes my heart open wide.
I make my way from the parking lot, locking my car and feeling the change of scenery in my shoes as they move from pavement to sand and I am home. The beach is my happy place. I have figured out much about my life and who I am in these tender moments. I have released old stinky stale thoughts and welcomed new bright sun-filled ideas that seem to pop at rapid fire. Problems solved, anxious thought cast out to sea, heart rocks avail themselves at every turn and nature bathes me like a baptism. Outside never disappoints and whether it is freezing, blustery, humid, baking, misty and everything in between, the beach right in my backyard in a fifteen minute drive is a reward beyond pushups and ab crunches. Though my body may not be as rock hard as those pesky movements create in my muscles, the deep breaths, the contemplation, the change in scenery and aroma in my hair is enough to compensate.
As I walked yesterday in what seemed like a 60 degree rare day in February, I did a lot of soul searching, I sat on a piece of driftwood that had made its home from goodness knows what journey and meditated for a good fifteen minutes breathing in and out at the pace of the wave. When I opened my eyes I looked ahead, I looked to my right and to my left and I was the only one on the beach. My private moment deep within witnessed only by me and I smiled at my good fortune and appreciation that I was able to veer off my course and take a right into the parking lot instead of saying I will do a walk when I have more time. Because really what does this even mean, how do I know that I will have more time? How does anyone know this? The power is in the present moment. We just forget to look. Yesterday I didn’t forget and today I will try again to remember the gifts of every time I do.
“You know this is elective surgery,” Dr. Hottie said to me over two years ago. I love Dr. M almost as much as I love Dr. W. Almost. But let’s face it, Dr. M. is a male doctor and no matter how progressive, how much of a male feminist he may (or may not) be, he is not sitting in the chair across from me with having to make the painful choice of no breasts or reconstructed ones. He is a man. He is also a plastic surgeon and that alone should create a bias in the arena of female body parts.
Though I appreciated his candor at the time, I had four doors to choose from, two of which did not seem like options at all.
DOOR # 1 Do Nothing and Die at some point.
DOOR #2. Have a single breast mastectomy and wear a prosthetic like my grandmother.
DOOR #3. Have double mastectomy with no reconstruction.
DOOR #4. Have a double mastectomy and have reconstruction, (the “elective” surgery Dr. M. referred to back at paragraph one.)
I am guessing if he were about to face having his penis cut off and having no penis or one put on so that when he looked down at himself in the shower he wouldn’t look so different, maybe he would choose to omit the word “elective.” The word elective should not be a choice word anyway, though I appreciate the intent reminding me that if I really consider this as elective perhaps I may choose to be totally flat chested and remove all traces of the very female part of who I am. Call me vain, I don’t care, as I have said on more than one occassion, I like my breasts, I like the shape, the form, the wonder woman activation that a proud set of pointed boobs give me.
I fully understand what he meant now that I am facing the two year mark and though I am not facing the horror show of what I may find if I typed in bad breast reconstruction in the Google search bar, my experience is much more subtle. Subtle in the way I would imagine that my comments would invoke maybe an eye roll or maybe the thought that wouldn’t be said aloud, It’s all in your head.
In the recommendations of drinking celery juice on a daily basis (SEE IS CELERY JUICE THE NEW KALE? for clarity if you are scratching your head here) I found the medical intuitive, Anthony William. Now before you start to want to punch me for even taking the word of someone who calls himself a Medical Intuitive, hear me out. He was recommended by a really credible and incredible Doctor I know and his advice, though not conventional in the least, has some legs because of his vast success. Believe what you want, but last I checked, the medical community as it relates to credible scientific research doesn’t always get it right. Think DDT, smoking, low fat, eggs, dairy, food pyramid, opiates just to name a few pesky mistakes. I like to think I am open to all possibilities when it comes to health, but more often than not, it is the knowledge of my body as my own personal science experiment that informs me.
And I have not been feeling right. Tightness in my upper body, bloating that has changed my lovely flat stomach into something I no longer recognize, weight gain, intense headaches out of the blue, gas, indigestion, joint ache and a racing heart, a little dizziness, a little nausea, sharp pain like cramps that come out of nowhere on the left side of my fake boob and lastly if this is all not enough, washing machine head on the spin cycle, not symptoms I regularly identify with, well maybe the last one. If I had to draw a figure of myself on paper, I would draw a scarlet red rectangle from my upper chest to my belly button. When I am meditating, the image that continues to appear is the middle of my chest opening up and red cardinals flying out of it. Is this all in my head? And more importantly what are my options, medically? I suppose I could beg for MRIs and body scans and go digging for problems. Who wants to live like that? Not me for sure.
I decided to look up to see if Anthony William had any podcasts and no surprise here, of course he did. Lots of them. And as “luck” would have it, I landed on one called “Breast Implant Illness.” I did hesitate albeit briefly before I hit play, yet being a glutton for punishment, I proceeded. Probably not the best idea because Anthony, who by the way readily admits that the information he is sharing is not even discovered by science yet, and claims he is being informed by Spirit, a guide who speaks to him regularly. Roll your eyes here, I know, but you can also see my predicament of having to bring my new information to any doctor. He said something that struck me though so be patient with me and hopefully keep reading.
When there is a foreign object made out of synthetic material such as silicone, your liver sends out an army of enzymes to see what the hell is going on. The enzymes make their way to the implants and latch on looking to protect and get to the bottom of the enemy invader. Because the silicone is encased in some type of material, (I find it amusing that I don’t know the answer to this off the top of my head), the enzymes stay on the shell and this energy coupled with my body heat over time creates a slow porosity in the impants slowly seeping gasses from the silicone into my unsuspecting body. Now for you scientists out there- I have not a clue if there is any medical evidence out there that supports or denies this, but what I do know is that ever since these new additions have been placed in my upper half, I have had under the radar symptoms hard to put my finger on. Coincidence?
When it comes to history as it relates to science and the female body, I am not overly confident in our past. Though birth control has revolutionized a woman’s control of family planning, why is it that it is one of the top three questions I was asked after we discovered the breast cancer the first time? Women have been short changed in the health research department compared to our male counterparts for sure, yet we are so accepting of the words, They are totally safe, when it comes to the due diligence we think we are giving ourselves by timidly asking the question. When Anthony William said this on his podcast, it struck a chord with me and frankly it kind of makes sense.
Boobs are one of those body parts that seem to get a lot of press. When I did a quick google search the CDC only had leading causes of death since 2014, but the number 1 was heart disease and the number 2 was cancer, not breast cancer, but cancer. That is a lot of cancer. Heart disease isn’t sexy, it doesn’t sell lingerie, it is not as innocent and traditionally female as the color pink. Breast cancer gives permission to let the talk about tits and breasts and tatas and boobs out of the bag. When my son was at La Salle, a Catholic school in Providence RI, the kids were all wearing pink rubber bracelets that said I LOVE BOOBIES. This is the same school that took down the picture of our current Governor Gina Raimondo for allowing Planned Parenthood to support her. Mixed messages? I’d say.
Call me crazy, call me hysterical, call me an alarmist, but there can’t be a coincidence that I am having these subtle symptoms. And that when I bring them up, I feel guilty because frankly I am one of the lucky ones, I chose to have implants and I am alive. I didn’t have chemo, didn’t lose my hair, didn’t really worry about dying unless I had chosen Door #1 at the beginning of this party.
I am not a scientist, I have never done research in my life, the last biology class I took was in high school. I fully realize the frustration that real scientists must have when they read these assumptions by lay people like me, unfounded in their own profession. I also know that by looking up regulatory history of breast implants in the U.S. on go to Google, some worrisome history came up relating to long term studies of silicone implants. More interesting is that the silicone implant doesn’t seem to have been studied for any length of time. When I say length of time, I am speaking what I would consider reasonable, more than ten years surely. This timeline in particular and the panels and votes raise my eyebrows. 2005 wasn’t that long ago. Though the implants were introduced well over 20 years ago, is that really enough time to develop a what if this happens, what could happen in the future? What is in silicone anyway? Who are on these panels anyway? Men, women, doctors, pharmaceutical executives? What informs them? All worriesome.
What shocks me here is I never thought to ask. Perhaps knowing all of this would have made me make a different decision, I will never know. But even when I did ask, these subtle symptoms wouldn’t have been given much credence anyway because first of all, I don’t think many women are as in touch with the way their bodies tick and even if they were, there are so many factors that could explain this away. Menopause, empty nesting, emotional changes due to life events, death, divorce, previous thyroid issues, family history, not enough exercise, too much exercise etc. I could also add here the radiation dose I had from my first surgery, goodness knows what that did to my upper insides. After signing away my life in some hospital document that said that radiation could cause heart lung problems later on in life due to its close proximity, I am sure we can add this to the list as well.
Breast cancer is big business. For profit hospitals, for profit pharma, for profit doctor’s offices, what a woman is willing to do to keep the wo in woman is pretty shocking now that I have made that choice. What defines woman anyway. Breasts are certainly only one part of the recipe, but clearly they have been significant enough to warrant all of this writing. I am not sure where this will all take me and frankly I had never considered the possibility of their voluntary removal until I listened to this podcast. For now, I will continue to write and talk and see who writes and talks back. First step is awareness. And for sure these tatas have done nothing except made me aware.
2005 – April
The FDA held an Advisory Panel meeting to review Allergan’s updated PMA and Mentor’s PMA. In a 5 to 4 vote, the panel did not recommend approval of Allergan’s PMA (due to a concern with one style in the application). In a 7 to 2 vote, the panel recommended approvable with conditions for Mentor’s PMA. The panel recommended that FDA require conditions including a minimum age requirement for augmentation and Post-Approval Studies.
2006 – November
The FDA approved Allergan and Mentor’s PMAs for silicone gel-filled breast implants. This was the first time silicone gel-filled breast implants were available for augmentation, in addition to reconstruction and revision, since the moratorium was established in 1992. As conditions of approval, each manufacturer was required to conduct 6 post-approval studies to further characterize the safety and effectiveness of their silicone gel-filled breast implants and to answer scientific questions that the premarket clinical trials were not designed to answer.
2011 – January
The FDA issued a Safety Communication on anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) in women with breast implants. Based on a review of the scientific literature, the FDA believes that women with breast implants may have a very small but increased risk of developing this disease in the scar capsule adjacent to the implant.
The FDA held an Advisory Panel meeting to discuss and receive recommendations on postmarketing issues related to silicone gel-filled breast implants. Also discussed at this meeting were innovative methodological approaches to postmarket studies regarding silicone gel breast implants, as well as key long-term safety issues associated with silicone gel breast implants in the real-world setting.
“Have you tried celery juice?” my beloved Dr. W. asked me at my regular breast check in this past Monday. “No.” I replied with a straight face. “But funny you should ask, because my new favorite nutritionist Amanda Rigbyjust recommended this to me. Something about cleaning out the liver…” I suppose I should feel grateful that I have a doctor in my direct inner circle who would even know about this. A doctor who would be willing to speak the blasphemy of ….. shhhh, quiet here……functional medicine…. in her office while BIG PHARMA BROTHER looks on waiting like a predator to pounce on every unsuspecting person in America to get them on their plethora of pharmacopia.
I love Dr.W. like a sister and I am so grateful for her brilliance, but also for the kinship we share in trying to navigate through the bullshit of what we really have control over when it comes to recurrences. She has seen it all in the world of female cancer and I trust her completely. That being said, I have to make my own way through the maze and hard work of deciphering what I am willing to commit to when it comes to preventative vs reality. I have done my own research for the past almost thirty years.
I read a book by AnneMarie Colbin called Food and Healing written in 1986 when she was talking about fat and nightshades and the challenges that food brings to our health in both negative and positive ways. This book set me on a path of studying on my own any food modality as it relates to healing the body and for the most part I feel I have been way ahead of most of the doctors and nutritionists I have met since. This may read arrogant after all I have no credibility as far as initials after my name, but what these books have taught me is that we are all are own science experiment. I know my own body like a slick leather glove that fits perfectly.
But celery juice? I get it. I get the need for a healthy gut, for a better liver to increase functionality in our bodies filled with toxins and goodness knows what else. I get the need for the consideration of prevention. Prevention is that pesky word we consider often after the fact. Usually the P word comes in the thousands of articles everyone who thinks they are being helpful sends along with the “FYI” caption. But how much is just out of our control?
I am not the type to put my head in the sand ignoring all of this influx of information coming at me every time I open my computer screen. Sometimes I get sucked into the rabbit hole of over thinking everything that goes into this body of mine. This unnecessary stress is not helpful for sure. It causes lots of guilty feelings everytime I decide that Macaroni and cheese instead of a kale salad is the dinner of choice. And I think often, does it really fucking matter?
Twenty years ago I had the pleasure of meeting a woman, Dr. Pamela Peeke . I had invited her as a guest speaker to an event I planned. At the time, she was doing extensive research on the how the effects of stress in our lives was showing up as the inordinate amounts of illness now part of the human race caused by its regular presence. She planted the seed in my mind about the importance of movement and other stress reducers even more so than food. She has gone on to write books and speak at Ted talks around the globe. In my experience it is stress more than most other factors that create illness. Of course, stress from bad eating is definitely one of the many elements of stress as a whole, but there are so many causes of daily stress I am sure play an even larger part of the puzzle.
Family relationships, financial worries, evolving friendships and catostrophic events all plant their little seedlings along the way sometimes growing ever so slowly or sometimes like dandelion weeds after a four day rainfall. I do believe that learning to settle down, slow down and make peace with your past are all helpful ways in our control to change the growth pattern that has been planted. Meditating, writing, art, creativity, reading, walking, exercising, cooking and not drinking alcohol are definitely the top ways I work on my own stress and past traumatic events. Focusing on these things that bring such joy to my life helps me heal and march forth in ways hard for me to describe. But I do. I march forth.
As I made my way to the second Dr’s appointment of the week to have my plastic surgeon inspect his hard work on my upper half, he reminded me that I am still swollen. It has been almost two years since the first half of my surgery and almost a year and a half since my last one.
“Swollen? Still? Really?” I asked, perplexed. “How could I still be swollen?”
“Totally normal, he replied matter of factly. And you will feel joint pain and tightness too, so don’t be alarmed.” It was here at this very moment that I freed myself from thinking that the mac and cheese from Sunday’s football extravaganza was the root of all evil. I am swollen because I had two of my breasts taken off, fat sucked out of my stomach that I didn’t ask to be sucked out for said breasts, muscle from my back brought to my front to support the fat and allow the new breasts to have a permanant home. Why the hell would I not be so swollen? I was thinking that it was my workouts, my body, my food intake, causing my fingers to be slightly swollen so that some of my favorite rings no longer slide on.
This is the bad part of being a resillient half full kind of chick. I had forgotten about the stress that my body has gone through in the last four years. Four surgeries in four years. And I was one of the lucky ones, I didn’t even have to have chemo. I would say that counts for stress, wouldn’t you? I don’t think buying endless stalks of celery and putting them in my three hundred dollar juicer every morning before I start my day is going to be a game changer for this body. I also don’t know if daily celery juicing is going work the same type of magic as a good deep breath at the mat with myself breathing in light and out darkness. I am willing to try it maybe. No scratch that. I am not juicing celery stalks, fuck that.
Simmering and hiding in the closet are where all anxieties sit and wait. And Wait. Wait while I drink my cocktails, eat my cheesecake, fry up endless grilled cheese sandwiches on a range of delicious breads and binge watch Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Last week, last month, the last three months, frankly, the free for all that I greatly enjoyed in going south with my health has come out of the closet and begun its bubbling over. This is the direct result of my cease and desist this past week of all fun food and drink. Yes please roll your eyes, (again), total permission. Truth be told, I had to do this. My joints were aching beyond belief, the tightness I felt in my mastectomied reconstructed upper body was causing me great discomfort and the only solution based on numerous prior experiences was to stop the inflammatory insults I was directing at my body.
There is so much confusion over health, what to eat, what not to eat. A glass of wine every day is good for the heart, wine is bad for cancer, sugar causes cancer cells to multiply, meat is bad, meat is good, dairy is necessary for calcium so our bones don’t break off like a delicate shell on a sandy beach, dairy is filled with estrogen so therefore shouldn’t be eaten if you have had estrogen positive breast cancer. Vegetarian, paleo, low fat, full fat, grains and bread, no grains and bread, intermittent fasting or eating every three hours. You go to the doctor for any ailment and are never asked what your diet is like. You speak to a nutritionist or a dietician and your answer will depend on the directive from who their boss might be.
Then there is the internet. And health podcasts and magazines. Everyone has their own take. But where is the science? Like the law, there seems to be broad interpretations of science as it relates to nutrition. After studying on my own for over twenty years, what I do know is that we are all unique and no one food is good for all. What I also know is that when I am not eating certain foods, I have no joint pain, I have reduced tightness in my chest and back and a mental clarity that is unstoppable. Here is what I also know, that the deep dive down the rabbit hole is an excuse to numb out from stress and anxiety-life coming at us in whatever form has vestiges of stress. Just trying to read one article on the internet and getting slammed with five ads in between every paragraph is a form of stress, minor yes, but distracting. This seems like a silly example but pile them up and they are significant. A glass of wine at the end of a day really softens the blows of life, but with my personality, as I have written about on numerous occasions, I am just not a one glass of wine kind of gal. For me it is all or nothing. So when I stop, the simmering pot gets turned up on high heat and boils fast. My heart starts to race, crazy thoughts begin darting and my energy feels unleashed. All part of the detox process that I am completely comfortable with because I have been down this path many times.
The stuff I have been trying to escape or numb out from jumps out of the closet, but the upside is that the joint pain goes away.This in itself is worth the flying monkeys in my head because I know that those flying monkeys only have their power for the first week of my detox, then they head back out to torment someone else. Having a mastectomy and reconstruction, almost two years later, has a set of issues that I hadn’t considered. I have spent the first full year healing and getting used to this new addendum, but now the reality of it is a daily reminder in my back, in my arm and my breasts. I don’t want to feel joint pain or numbness. I don’t want to feel my lower back tweaked every time I do a vigorous workout. I know that certain foods cause inflammation in my body and I know this because I am in tune with my body. Inflammation in my body shows up as heartburn, swelling, bloating, and joint pain. I know that sugar, dairy, wine and pretty much anything delicious causes inflammation in my body. I know this because when I stop eating these items, all of the problems go away in my body. I don’t think this is a coincidence because I am my own science experiment. I am also not willing to give my life over to Big Pharma. I refuse. Many people I know who struggle with inflammatory issues are not willing to give up the foods they love and I totally understand this. It is hard to say pass to the delight that dairy, sugar, bread and wine gives to us. But I also know I feel so fabulous when I am free from the role they play in my life.
January 1 every year is that glorious date that cleans the year before. I mean every day is a new year when I think about it, but there is something about NEW YEARS DAY. That chance to get it right again. It is neat and tidy and filled with hopes and dreams. When I did my reflection on what was missing this past year, I decided it was spirituality. I have definitely been slacking in that department. I am speaking of daily consciousness to a power greater than myself. The While the Coffee Perks meditation has been a glorious awakening for my spiritual self and once that pandora’s box opened, I am jumping in full steam ahead to see what other cobwebs I can clean out of this old soul. It’s only Jan 4, but I am confident that this New Year will be a pleasant one and one I very much deserve.
Milestones, traumatic events, celebrations, births, deaths and everything in between. This is what the closing of one year and the opening of the next gives to me, the unique opportunity to reflect back and look ahead. I like the neatness of the New Year. The cleaning of the house so to speak. Cleaning cabinets, closets, drawers as the outside clean and cleaning out my body as the inside one. Anyone who has read any of my writings has likely been able to surmise that the indulgence of sugar, wine and shopping are my perpetual nemesis.
“Are you drinking, or not drinking these days?” I can hear my friend and workout partner, Morgan, ask me as regularly as if she were asking me what I did last weekend. She knows that if I say yes, this means on. Again. On the wine, on the sugar, on the bread like an ant on a freshly dropped piece of coffee cake. With a sense of wild abandonment that keeps all my friends guessing at what could possibly be wrong or right with this complex organ in my head called alayne’s brain, I move back and forth, zig zagging from complete mental clarity to a Zenith console of static depending where I fall on the spectrum.
I so wish I was the person who could just do everything in moderation, like my grandmother Isabelle belted out on more than one occasion as she watched my on again off again with nutrition. If I did drugs, I would be an addict, definitely. I like the escapism of the first bite of a homemade chocolate chip cookie, soft warm morsels sliding into my stomach. I love the automatic and immediate ease that my blood feels when I have the first sip of a beautiful glass of red on a cold night by the fire. There is a vein calming that takes me away on a vacation without leaving the couch when I am eating sugar, drinking wine or shopping. Buying 28 typewriters like the world was coming to an end this past year would be an indication that I am trying to distract myself from dealing with myself on some level. The question at the moment though that I finally ask is what am I trying to distract myself from? And why on earth would sugar, shopping and wine be the distraction?
I finally came to the realization through my practice of while the coffee perks meditation that I have been one hundred percent focused on for the past month. Every single day no matter what, while the coffee is perking, to the mat, sitting down cross-legged, palms upwards resting on my legs and settling this busy head of mine. Connecting with my heart, my breath, my blood, organs and whatever else is in perpetual high gear unless I am sleeping. Leaving judgment, criticism, and the barking brain at the door along with my shoes. While the coffee perks meditation, without asking, has provided many answers to my non-questions. This is the thing about meditation and mindfulness, just breathing in the moment and using the moment to bring me back when my mind wanders has been enough. This simple quieting has been an asset and I didn’t realize its full power; I had expected something magic to happen, but it has been more just learning to be still. I have found through this that now is the uniqueness and the now part of the experiment is getting more intense each day I get better at this exercise.
While I am busy trying to quiet my mind, the snap crackle and pops of my mind start going off like fireworks, the what ifs, the what was’, the thoughts and ideas. This is definitely why people don’t meditate. That simmering pot of a brain is not used to taking a big chill. It has to be trained to do so. It is painful and uncomfortable when you sit down uncomfortably on a mat to the expectation that this is going to be some happy time. But it passes, the breath kicks in, the heart slows, the mind eventually calms and I am getting better at remembering to find my breath more often when my mind starts crackling. It turns out the crackling thoughts are the gifts of all of this quiet. It is these very thoughts that offer glimpses into the whys of my life.
Why do I feel the need to escape and numb on occasion? Is it possible to just lean into them and not beat myself up like an abusive relationship judging, scolding and feeling bad? It is not just a piece of cake or one glass of wine or one or two typewriters. I wish it were that simple. What I do know from this morning mindful ritual is that this trifecta is deeply connected to the way my mother and I interacted. When things get rough, let’s go shopping, lets have a glass of wine, lets eat some delicious chocolate cookies. This was her way of showing love, like so many other families, food especially is deeply connected to that bond between hearts. For the first time in my life, I am not blaming her, I am understanding her and this feels healing. I like healing feelings; they certainly serve my health more than the opposite, anger, resentment, and frustration.
It should come as no surprise that the more these three facets of this love triangle I was raised with allow me to numb out and distract from whatever feelings, complex or simple, those very feelings lay dormant, in a waiting position. They do not go away. They stay right where I left them, simmering at a low, barely noticeable heat until I make the concerted effort to cease the easy way out. Then those very feelings that have been lying in wait unbeknownst to this unsuspecting chick start boiling up and over. This is the interesting challenge with feelings. One must go through them, like grief, there is no avoiding the pain, there is no stepping around the center hoping to avoid the crack, the crack in fact is where the juice is and where the lessons are.
When I decide to actively walk through instead of stepping aside, I am always rewarded. The reward is not always fun like winning the lottery or getting the first place prize in a contest, at least not during the walk through. This is when it is easier to just avoid the pain and head back to the fridge or to ebay for another happy purchase of a shiny bright red typewriter. My morning ritual is teaching me to be okay with the pain because the pain is not permanent or life threatening. It is just pain. Each time I consciously choose to cultivate my inner quiet with mindfulness, it has become easier for me to settle down into the now of knowing that this too shall pass.
As I embark on my New Year’s resolutions that I don’t need to bore anyone with, I want to learn the roots of my behaviors and try to change them. When I am not drinking or eating sugar, I feel powerful and centered beyond measure. It is like what Wayne Dyer once said in a lecture he gave about his choice of being sober. That his work with his divine connection is inhibited by outside distractions, and to be able to wholly do his work that he was called to do, the connection could not be a rusty one. That always stuck with me as I know this to be true for my personality. It is so much easier to step off the path on to the sugar train because it is immediate gratification. But sugar makes my brain wacked, I have practiced my own human experiment for over twenty years with what happens to me when I am eating sugar. Fun at first, but a few days later, I sink to a low that is not healthy causing me to have thoughts of doom and gloom that is not normally how I roll.
I have had a lot of trauma, but because of my resilience I put on a brave face and march forth often at an emotional price. As I move into my fifty fourth year on this planet headed towards a two year anniversary of hopefully being cancer free, I know that the best way for me to celebrate is to try again, to get back on the horse and lean in to my pains and former crisis.’ There is a rawness and vulnerability to exposing my core to the storms, naked, free. This new year I hope to see what consistency feels like for a change. We only get one chance at this life and all of the good and bad lessons can only be overcome when I tackle them literally head on, learn from them, and feel the power I know each and every one is there to teach.
So Happy New Year To Me and To You. I am happy I get another chance to make it right. Let’s see if I can make it the first week and I hope this inspires you to try out the while the coffee perk meditation. See you on the mat and at the gym. (You know who you are).
Ps. I have decided to add posts on WordPress as I begin to start writing my book. Please follow me here if you are interested. www.alaynewhite.wordpress.com
My phone and technology is getting to me. It has been for quite sometime and I fantasize regularly about discontinuing it completely. Before you start throwing your belief systems at me, “You own a business!! How will your son get in touch with you? !!” and the many other memes that have been planted in our brains by Big Tech I am fully aware that the notion of even contemplating this seems unrealistic, even radical these days. But a girl can dream, can’t she?
What I know about all of this technology and I am speaking for me here in my quiet little corner of the world, is that it does not serve my sense of inner connection. I feel at times on the inside like the fuzzy screen on my grandparents old Zenith console when there was nothing on television because it was one in the morning. My insides feel a little sizzly, fragmented, hot, and not in a good way. It is like a disconnect with my spirit and these time sucking instruments I find myself checking regularly for no apparent reason are the culprit. It used to be television that I thought was the great time waster, sitting on the couch watching mindless shows. The Boob Tube we used to call it back when that was the only form of technology that had the potential for the incredible waste of our days. Like George Orwell predicted in 1983, Big Tech is our version of Big Brother as every single movement from the time we wake up until the time we lie down is tracked and recorded. I know I sound like a conspiracy theorist, I am not at all. We consumers have created this condition by our love and zest for new and shiny and all things tech. Our behaviors have changed with the times, like Pavlov’s dog and here we are. As I write this very piece, I am fully aware that my car is running so that I may enter a warm cushy space because of an app on my phone. I am writing on the very technology I complain about. I post on a site that allows an audience for my writing making it much easier to communicate my love of writing to more people than I certainly could if I were typing on one of my 27 newly collected typewriters.
But my insides have not been feeling the calm joyful peace I crave. I miss that feeling that is like a velvet quilt on a cold day with the fire going and a fresh hot cup of tea by my side. When I was visiting my grandfather a few weeks back, we went to temple and as I was singing next to him, he said to me, “You seem to love coming so much, why don’t you attend services at home then?” My reply was quick. “I don’t have anyone to go with and it is kind of a bummer always being solo at synagogue.” But he planted that seed and I realized I haven’t been purposeful in connecting with my spirituality. Deliberate and conscious connection with my higher power is something that always brings me the AHHH I know is necessary to move through my busy life. Why do I step away when it usually brings me such joy? I guess this is the perpetual quest. Like exercise and eating right, saving money, meditating, creating, reading, writing, learning, all these elements that feed my personal soul, I wonder why I step away when they all make me feel so enlightened and happy?
I decided for a change rather than overwhelm myself with some new hard and fast rule that I would most definitely break and then feel like a failure, I would pull out of my box of quotes, ONE DAY AT A TIME. I never really understood this mantra until I applied it to each day, ONE DAY AT A TIME. So last week, I decided to get back to conscious meditating, but without some long term plan where I would start doing meditation classes and offer it to the world resulting in no meditating as usual. Instead I put my coffee on and decided that I was worthy of the time it took to completely brew the pot to sit down cross legged facing a beautiful pastel my brother drew of a sun before he died and close my eyes and just breathe. While the coffee perked. For the entire pot. My coffee pot beeps when it is finished which in the past I considered a silly extra feature, but in this case, it was a helpful reminder that I could stop. I think the whole pot brewing took about seven minutes but it may as well been five hours because I had a really hard time adjusting, sitting cross legged, breathing, staying focused on my breath. It pretty much sucked. But I felt better when I got up, soothed, relaxed. So I did it the next day and it still sucked, my brain was spinning, I couldn’t get a deep breath, my heart felt racy, my hips were tight and I was uncomfortable. But I felt better when the pot beeped again and I got up. So I did it again. And it was easier to breathe deeply, to sit to come back to breath every time my mind spun and took me away from it, and when the pot beeped I stayed put enjoying the velvet vibe. I stretched for a few minutes some downward dog, some cat cows, some rising up and breathing in.
And I felt better. I could take a deep breath. My heart slowed. My mind calmed. And I did it again the next day and the day after. ONE DAY AT A TIME. And I went to temple and sang with my tribe and I felt better. All because I have a coffee pot that beeps. All because my 101 year old grandfather reminded me that my joy is as important as work and that my religion and culture and its freedoms are a gift that I take for granted without even having to say it aloud. And I feel better. And it’s free. Seven minutes of coffee perking, I deserve the time. Technology will be there later, back to my present moment for today anyway.
The first time I seriously went to a gym was about 22. The image in my mind is the varying shapes and sizes of the women in the changing room. Modesty, blatant nakedness absent of inhibitions and in between bodies of women of all ages. The locker room of a gym is where you see the vulnerabilities, the insecurities, the confidences and the beauty of women. It is one of my favorite observatories, but it must be done in a subtle way because the unspoken rule is not to glare, stare or gawk. This is difficult. I find the energy of it all such a study of the interesting ways women are.
When I was this age, just beginning my young adult path, the locker room was a wakeup call of what can happen to our bodies as we get into our older years; at 22 this was about 40. At 22 I remember the little girls who shamelessly walked into the group shower with their little bodies staring at the multitude of bodies and vagina hair. I loved the group shower. There was something so uninhibited about the experience of showering with strangers. As I caught glimpses of the older women, it barely occurred to me that one day I would be standing amongst them crown and cape on knowing that I would be them.
The distinction between youth and age is found in the locker room. The scars and the victories show up there. The abuse and the care show up as well as the histories of significant times in our lives. The warrior wounds and the self-care are evidence of the lives we have lived in the rawness of the light of the locker room. For example, tattoos and their placement on the body usually show the era of a woman. Perhaps their tattoo is on the shoulder or the ankle or the hip, all signs of a life change for a 40 something. Maybe it was a divorce, or a death of someone close. A tattoo in this area is a way to give voice to the pain or the changes that are relevant to the event. Tattoos all over the body are often the 20 somethings where tattoos have become a sport with vigorous competition on quantity, uniqueness and color.
There are the children, innocence abounding, smiling, giggling, gawking, starting to feel their worth of their own appearance as they begin the entrance into the constant comparisons of how they think their little bodies should be.
There are the crones with their saggy breasts and their carbohydrated bellies getting out of the pool in their one piece bathing suits and their bras that are more like soldiers in battle holding up breasts that have fed a multitude of children over the years, the hands that have ironed their husband’s shirts and their fit bodies, despite the sag, of tennis clubs and learning to care for their cardio later in life. I am the young body next to them as I was the young body next to me 25 years past. I cherish this tribal experience that has no spoken word.
Yesterday it happened. The transition in the locker room happened. I was standing naked surrounded by 20 somethings and I realized that it happened. The torch was passed to me as I saw a little girl sneak a peak at my shape. The torch was passed as I watched a 25ish girl get ready for her workout with her tight fit oh so perfect 25 year old body fixing and fidgeting her sassy workout clothes as she looked in the mirror more than twice to make sure the snugness was snug in the right places. She hadn’t had a child yet, hadn’t lost a sibling, or a parent, hadn’t had an extra 27 years of sun exposure or had seen the way her hair color would be changing and deciding what to do about it. She probably never had any type of vagina hair as brazillians had been in her generation the moment the first hair sprouted. She hadn’t yet seen the changes that would happen to her body from the varying diets and food stories living for 52 years brings or the changes in her once perfect and firm breasts from surgical menopause and two lumpectomies. The innocence was affirming. Satisfaction of a life well lived with all of its cuts and scrapes as its teacher affirmed the cape and crown well deserved.