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Friday, June 29, 2012

we come bearing gifts

I recently celebrated my 25th year working for my employer. Well, according to them. Actually I was hired in January 1986, which is 26 years, muthafuckas, but the hospital I work for has gone through so many mergers and changes in affiliation in the past 26 years of changing health care climate that somehow my "anniversary date" has mutated. They can say whatever they want; they've had 26 years of my life.  All the best years, I'm sure.  1986...I was practically a young, pretty, full of hope and ambition and faith in human nature...


ANYWAY, since they think this year is my silver anniversary, I was invited to an honorary banquet which I did not attend.  As many of you know, I am deeply antisocial and going to some stupid function to get a free bad meal and a congratulatory piece of paper was not, y'know, high on my list of things to do.

Some of my co-workers who were also celebrating anniversaries did however attend and they encouraged me to at least GET THE FREE APPRECIATION GIFT to which I am entitled.  In the interoffice mail this week, the certificate which I did not pick up in person arrived, along with--yes!--a catalog with the gifts to which my 25 years of service entitle me .  I have until the last week of August to pick one. I spent some time this afternoon perusing it.  I was deeply disappointed that, apparently, 25 years does not rate a big screen TV.  (Rumor has it that's 30.)  I was deeply disappointed in all the offerings in fact.

It was a weird assortment. Everything from the trademark colonial rocking chairs that the hospital seems to bestow on everyone they wish to honor (and which, frankly, I would not put in my home if they paid me) to jewelry to cameras (too bad I just bought one) to a plethora of iPod docking devices (too bad I'm happy with mine) to deep fryers to deeply ugly vases and bookends to chainsaws (seriously!) to desk chairs to leaf blowers to knife blocks.  Weird and random.  I finally decided I'm probably going to choose a watch. The majority of the women's watches are fairly gaudy and overly blingy, but there's one kinda sporty one I liked.  Never mind that I haven't worn a watch regularly since 2005.  It's better than a pressure cooker or one of those godawful rocking chairs.

But then I was thinking, huh.  Of this weird assortment of random items, why aren't there any sporting goods?  Couldn't the hospital buy me a bike?  Or at least a heart rate monitor or a new gym bag?  It's like they don't want me to be healthy. No, they'd rather gift me with a turkey fryer which would probably explode if the deep frying didn't clog my arteries first.  I see their game. They don't want me to live long enough to qualify for that 60inch flat screen.

I came home to find another missive from the hospital in the US mail.  This one from the financial counseling office.  Seems they have determined that the portion of my upcoming first surgical procedure that *I* will be responsible for is 250 bucks. Please pay up *before* your surgical date, bitch.  Payment plans available if you cannot afford the whole thing in these difficult financial times!

Can I just trade them in a fucking rocking chair for that?  I don't even...

Spend less money on useless award banquets and wave the co-pays for your employees, assholes.

Yeah, I know. They just don't want me to live long enough to collect the TV.


President Obama, help me.

This post may have been written under the influence of intoxicating substances.  Speaking of which, I didn't see any fine cognac or Irish whiskey or beer-of-the-month clubs in their stupid catalog either.

Monday, June 25, 2012

sun's out, guns out! I there yet??!!?

My youthful inspiration and ideal, the cultural touchpoint that implanted in my brain that a beautiful woman with muscles is both sexeh and badass and just totally awesome in every way:

Well, it took just over 20 years***, so I am no longer anywhere near as pretty as a young Linda Hamilton, but my arms, shoulders, and upper chest now look exactly the way I always wanted them to.  Here are some recent non-flexing pictures:

I told y'all you'd rue the day I bought the new camera.


***If only someone had told me about the concept of high weight/low reps + progression in 1992.  Sigh.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

in honor of my dad

It occurs to me that if this post was really in honor of my father (RIP, Dad, we miss you <3), it should rightfully have squat video to showcase the Bulgy Polish Catcher's Thighs he gifted me with being put to good use. Unfortunately that was not on the video agenda today. There is plenty of footage of me walking around in leggings, showing them off in all their chunky glory, however. That'll have to do.

What was on the video agenda today? First up, rack pulls!

Some notes before we begin, eh? You'll notice that the camera angle changes from one side to the other in the course of these. Here's the thing. I haven't done these in a good three weeks because of my lil hip problem and also?  Any time I do them it's a crapshoot whether I'm going to feel strong as fuck and rip out a PR or whether I'll inexplicably not be able to move weight I moved easily a week or two before. No rhyme or reason. I figured that today I would video my set at 165 so that even if it became apparent this was gonna be a crap day, I'd at least have that. I set up on the incline bench press bench.  Bueno!  165 felt easy peasy. Gonna try for the PR, but no need to video all my sets. So I took my camera off the bench. Then some guys camped out there to, y'know, do incline bench. The nerve!  Thus the rest of the rack pull video is from my non-preferred side.  (It's tough to be me.)


(205x2 would be a PR, but I just couldn't get that second rep locked out completely.)

If my head wasn't out of the frame, I'm sure you'd have been able to read my lips.

Third time's the charm!

Not really happy at all with my form. There's entirely too much back rounding. It was bad enough when I played them back on the camera at the gym, but looking at them on my computer? Eek.  Definitely need to video these again the next time I do them.  And I'm going for two plates.

Next up!  Weighted dips!

Before I show you this first video, I want to stress to you just how crowded that corner of the weight area is and how flummoxed I was trying to figure out where I could set up my camera.  I put it on the seat of the leg press and this was the result:


Ha!  Yup, you can't actually see my upper body.  I left this video in, though, so you could see me set up. Nothing, uh, phallic about strapping that plate between your legs, is there? I feel my metaphorical balls grow every time I do it.  So then I grabbed my Y employee accomplice, Steve, and asked him if he could film.  I did another seven reps only to find out that I hadn't actually instructed Steve how to start videoing. Oops. But I had another set left in me!

Once again, third time's the charm!

These look like maybe I could've gone a little deeper, but I'm hoping that's just the camera angle, because Steve told me they looked good. In fact, he told me that most of the guys in the gym couldn't do those.  I didn't tell him that's because my metaphorical balls keep growing. Just KIDDING.

I should really stop discussing testicles in a post dedicated to my father.  Sorry, Dad.

Hope y'all had a wonderful Father's Day!


Monday, June 11, 2012

technical difficulties and updates

I really, seriously tried to post up pictures and the recipe of my cheesecake last week as promised.  However I cut and pasted the recipe into my post and, though I could see it in the draft, it was coming up blank on the actual post. I do not know if blogger is attempting to foil me from using cut n' paste as an anti-plagiarism device (ha!) or what my damage is, but I just could not make it work. Then, somehow, because I am so very technically proficient, I erased half the post and couldn't get it back. Then I was really busy for a couple/few days and didn't try have time to try to figure it out.

Basically what I'm saying here is that I've lost interest in the whole shenanigans now and you're never getting that recipe. However, it's just my own personal riff on this cheesecake recipe and since there are pages and pages of other people's adaptations in that thread, if you're really interested, you can just experiment. The main change I make is that instead of using all fat free cream cheese (which is an oxymoron, not to mention a crime against nature) I use one part fat free cream cheese to two parts neufchatel/farmer's cheese. This does increase the calories but it makes it yummier. And less against my own ethical, moral positions.*** Ahem. I also decrease the splenda but sub out the milk with DaVinci 's sugar free syrup (which comes in very many different flavors--since I used banana flavored whey protein in my last cake, I used coconut DaVinci's syrup for a tropical vibe.) I leave out the salt and the vanilla extract. And decrease the baking time at 325 from 30 to 28 minutes and then turn the oven temp down.

See, that's basically a recipe right there. How hard was that? God.

And you don't need to see a picture, because my food styling sucks anyway.

You'd much rather see a cute picture of a doggy. Trust.

Updates, if you are keeping score:  I (Zercher) squatted and (Romanian) deadlifted yesterday morning for the first time in almost two weeks and since I can walk, sit, and stand today, I'm assuming my piriformis is a-okay now.  And my initial (small, diagnostic) surgery is scheduled for July 9, so apparently my gynecologists and their office don't think I am on the verge of dropping dead.  Cool.  That gives me a whole nother month to hit the gym hard and get my affairs in order. (Kidding. Mostly kidding.)


***In my religion, that I have just made up, fat free dairy products are a sin. Fat free Greek yogurt is only a minor venial**** sin.  Fat free cream cheese is verging on a mortal sin. Fat free half and half is so heinous I'm not sure you can confess your way out of it.

****Do people who weren't brought up catholic know the difference between a mortal and a venial sin? Look it up!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

perspective, and oh yeah, screw you, interwebz

A couple things you need to know before you decide to read this blog entry:

1.) It's a Boring Medical Story and only tangentially related to the subject matter of this blog.

2.) Lord knows I'm down with the black humor, but some of this just isn't funny, so if you only read my shiz 'cause it cracks you up, you should probably next this muthafucka. I'll do better next time.

Something you should know if you do decide to read this blog entry, but you don't already know it:

I have a wee, tiny ::cough:: bit of an anxiety disorder, and one of the ways this manifests is in occasional bouts of cyberchondria.

Basically, with the help of the internet, I'm pretty much able to convince myself that the worst case scenario of any possible diagnosis is in fact imminent.  Even though I know I have this tendency, it isn't enough to a.) convince me in my heart of hearts that I'm not going blind from eye chlamydia and that that weird rash isn't probably scabies or b.) get me to stay the fuck off WebMD.  In fact, during a bad patch I once more or less begged someone who cared about me to forbid me from googling my symptoms, because I didn't have the strength to refrain from it myself.  

Note: Instead of agreeing to act as my Cyberchondriacs Anonymous sponsor, my loved one instead sent me a clip from The Big Bang Theory wherein Sheldon asks for a full body MRI. Why yes, people do tend to find my crazeeness hilarious.

Further Note: Just FYI, I have never turned out to have either eye chlamydia or scabies. That doesn't mean it couldn't happen. God.

Okay! Disclaimers and prelude outta the way.

As I have said to everyone who has heard this story so far, when your doctor calls you on a Saturday to discuss your test results, it's never anything you want to hear. And so when the gyn called me while I was at work this past weekend, it was with trepidation that I called him back.  He told me that there were atypical cells and hyperplasia on my endometrial biopsy and that, instead of the in-office procedure we had already scheduled, I was going to have to go into the hospital and have a d&c, so they could get more tissue to look at.  And then, after, most likely, a hysterectomy.  "Is that cancerous, pre-cancerous, what?" I asked.  Pre-cancerous.  I told him both my mom and my grandmother had endometrial cancer and, as far as I was concerned, good riddance to my uterus, it's a ticking time bomb anyways. "We need to get more tissue, make sure we're taking out the right organ," he said.  "Most of the time this is treated surgically. Sometimes medically, but usually surgically. But we'll talk about that..."  And responding, I guess, to the tone in my voice, he told me it was good that I had reported my symptoms, that we had found this.

I was kinda stunned. I had assumed, despite my jaundiced view of my womb, that this was going to be just a return of the polyps I had removed 3 years ago or else just my hormones outta whack. I didn't expect anything serious.  After all, my mom died in her mid-60s after ignoring her symptoms for far too long. My grandmother made it into her 80s before her uterus rioted. I thought I had a good 15 or 20 years before I actually had to worry about this.  And when my mother was dying, I had asked her MD about the family history and if there was anything I ought to do. She told me that, because it was an estrogenic cancer and fat women have more estrogen, I should try not to let myself get fat.  And I haven't!  That was another response, after my initial shock: I was fucking pissed off.  

I haven't let myself become obese or, at worst, more than borderline overweight, and now I'm what most people consider thin. I'm fit, I exercise hard and often, I go to my medical appointments and get every damn test they tell me to get, I eat my fruit and vegetables, I've never smoked, I don't use recreational drugs other than (despite my joking about it) very moderate amounts of alcohol, I can count my lifetime number of sexual partners on two hands and have fingers left over (and I'm old, yo).  I practice good health habits, damn it.  I do mostly everything right.  Wah, wah, it's not fair!

And then I was depressed when I realized what these two surgical procedures meant in terms of my lifting.  I was already depressed that I have to rest my piriformis for a week or two.  The prospect of not lifting for months?  All my muscles were gonna atrophy.  There went my goal of squatting 185 before my birthday or pulling two plates by the end of July. And, needless to say, bulk over!  No lifting, no eating. I felt so sad over this.  Just when I was starting to get kinda sorta legitimately strong.

Because I did not have the actual pathology report, I couldn't do much googling beyond "abnormal uterine biopsy" and some of that was reassuring.  Endometrial cancers grow slowly, or so I read...somewhere.  Four or six weeks after a hysterectomy before you can lift anything heavy.  See above.  Then last night I started actually googling hysterectomy itself and that was a little more alarming.  It was more like, four or six weeks before you can do anything.  Wait, wut?  Like, go to work?  Like, function?  No way, I can't do that.  And 3-5 days *in the hospital* after the surgery?  I didn't think anyone got to stay for that long these days.  And I have no one to help me. I'm single, my parents are dead, I have no siblings, my only child is disabled himself, my ex-husband/father of my son is beyond useless, and my close friends all have jobs and responsibilities and none of them live really close.  I pretty much rely on myself for everything.  I'll admit I went to bed and cried a little last night.

Cut to today.  Oh, I got home and in the mail is the pathology report from the gyn.  I have ATYPICAL COMPLEX ENDOMETRIAL HYPERPLASIA/ENDOMETRIAL INTRAEPITHELIAL NEOPLASIA WITH EXTENSIVE BREAKDOWN.  Yeah, it's bolded and all caps like that. Woohoo. Back to google I go.  It's like one of those horror movies where you're yelling at the slutty teenagers to, for god's sake, not go back into the house, right?

Because I had the technical words now, I got more medical/less laymen-oriented results.  After I searched the first half of that slash "atypical complex blah blah" the first study I pulled up told me that slightly less than half of the women who had that on endometrial biopsy turned out to also have cancer found (either on d&c or when the actual uterus is yanked).  Pissah.  Hence my MD's "we need more tissue to look at." Okay, it makes sense now.  Fifty/fifty. Flip a coin.  Either cancer is growing in me right now or it's not.  Then, somehow, I came across a page that listed which of a number of uterine pathology results should be considered cancerous or not. And there, squarely in the cancerous column, was the second half of that slash, "endometrial intraepithelial neoplasia."  Okay, stunned again and sick.

Why would my doctor lie to me and say pre-cancerous if it's not?  Why was his office taking their sweet time about setting up the d&c?  What if I need chemo?  Who the fuck will help me with that? Am I going to die?  What will happen to my son if I do?  (I instantly started making a list in my head of all the things I would have to do in the next few weeks to settle my affairs if I was gonna die.)  Should I call/text/email one of my friends while they're at work and say, "Hey, apparently I have cancer"?  I didn't. I baked a cheesecake.  I petted the new cats.  Then I googled the "endometrial intra...blah blah" itself.  Whereupon the first two results told me very clearly that EIN (it's got an acronym, yo) is precancerous.  If you have it you're 45% more likely to develop cancer, but it's NOT cancer. So, fuck you, whatever website made me think I'm gonna die sometime in the next few months. And my gyn didn't lie to me. Whew.

Of course, it's still 48-52 that I have cancer anyway, but that's better than a 100% chance.

I'm not worried about growing my lats anymore, I am even less concerned than ever that I have cellulite, and I'm not pissed I have to rest my piriformis.  Perspective.

Send some white light my way that I'm in the 52, not the 48, category, and that I don't need to be outta work for 6 weeks after my hysterectomy.  And that my fear of cancer and imminent death will turn out like the eye chlamydia and scabies stories.  In return I will post up pictures of the reduced-calorie, high protein cheesecake I made with the recipe and macros later.  That seems like a fair trade.  Namaste, bitches.


Friday, June 1, 2012

a pain in the a**

As some of you all may know from previous internet whining (the best kind, because no one can reach through their screen and slap you and tell you to man the fuck up), I'm in pain. 

It started out innocently enough. Last Saturday afternoon I was walking from my office to the gym when, for no clear reason, my hip flexors locked up.  They loosened a bit by the time I got there and I was able to lift just fine (and even PR'd on my rack pulls...210...because bragging is just as attractive as whining, y'all). I didn't however squat, because I felt like my hips were just not flexible enough for that at the moment.

Sunday a friend and I took a day trip to Portland (east coast one, in case you forgot where I live), a little endeavor that required about 4 1/2 hours total in the car. Sitting in a car is not kind to one's hip flexors, as we're probably all aware. On the way home, I ended up sitting crosslegged in the passenger seat, as that was the only way I could get my hips comfortable.

Monday a.m., I foam rolled every part of my body that could be foam rolled.  Tuesday I lifted again and Zercher squatted, then went to the Sox game.  The seats in Fenway are also not kind to one's hip flexors and it was a long game with a rain delay. By the time I got home, I was really stiff. Went to bed and had a hard time getting comfortable.  Woke up feeling stiff and uncomfortable all over, but took some ibuprophen and didn't think much of it.

Then Wednesday afternoon I had an appointment at the gynecologist, which is a whole nother boring medical story and right now we're sticking to this one. You're welcome.  I decided I would walk there. About half a mile from my house, my left lower back, hip, and upper leg started to really hurt. This was not the "hip flexors stiffening up" that I'd had walking on Saturday. This was pain, and I wondered if I would even be able to make it all the way there. I did, and actually started feeling better while I was there. So much so that I stuck to my original plan and went to the gym after for some cardio on the elliptical, some farmers walks, chinups, and stretching. I spent most of Wednesday evening sitting on my sofa doing some stuff online while watching the game. When I got up to go upstairs, ow.  Hip and low back were screaming again. Hard time getting comfortable in bed again and only able to lie on one side.

Thursday I woke up a mess.  I desperately tried everything I could to get my left sided hip and low back pain to lessen so that I could, y'know, walk and stand and go to work. I foam rolled and found a really, really tender spot right below my rear pelvis. (Piriformis? I thought. But since it's hard to palpate oneself, especially when you can't see what you're doing and you're in pain, I wasn't completely sold on what muscle I was in.) I put an ice pack on my back/hip while I was blowdrying my hair. I took a handful of ibuprophen. (We'll worry about my liver at a later date. It's not like I don't also love beer.) And I made it to work. Where it soon became apparent that neither sitting, standing, or walking was comfortable. I made an emergency massage appointment after work.

Where, yes, it was determined that my piriformis and piriformis tendon are inflamed. Massage, ice, rest, and, yup, ibuprophen were the recommendations.

Do y'all know why a tight or inflamed piriformis hurts so much? Here are some helpful diagrams.  Google image search is back to being my biatch.

Yes, that's correct. When your piriformis is acting up, it presses on your sciatic nerve. Your sciatic nerve doesn't like that shit and it tells you all about it with PAIN. In the ass, literally. And the leg, the hips, the low back.

I knew all that from massage school. As a matter of fact, I once upon a time did a group project on piriformis syndrome. It was supposed to be multimedia. My friend Sandy who was in another group (and whose type A tendencies once earned her 200 points on a paper where the theoretical max was 100) did a powerpoint presentation. My group had an abstract model of the pelvis, femur, piriformis, and sciatic nerve made out of coat hangers and string by the former art school grad in our group. We also demonstarted stretches. We got a better grade than you might think.

Where was I?  Oh, yeah. So even though I knew about piriformis syndrome, I was hazy on the details of what causes it and what you're supposed to do about it. Last night while I sat with an ice pack down my pants (as a friend said, just another typical Thursday night at Andrea's house!), I did some research. Turns out a lot of things can cause a tight and/or inflamed piriformis. I narrowed down a few that I thought were applicable to me. Tight hip flexors!  Tight medial hamstrings!  Leg length discrepancy!  Actually, I'm not completely sure my legs are different lengths, though many many many years ago, a friend's sister who was studying PT and using me for homework said they were. What I do know is that my pelvis is higher and twisted forward on the left and that contributes to my hip flexors tightening up.

What kind of things aggravate piriformis syndrome? Oh, walking, sitting a lot, running, biking.  Well, I'd done a lot of the first two in the past week.

And what do you do to relieve it?  Massage, ice, stretching, REST. I may have mildly freaked out when I read the recommendation to rest for 2-3 weeks.  How am I supposed to go 2-3 weeks without squatting and deadlifting, not to mention cardio?

Also, I refreshed my memory on the various piriformis stretches, some of which, I will admit, I kinda forgot about and have not been doing.  But then I came across this video.

That's an advanced piriformis stretch? I DO do that one.  Like every single time I stretch. I never ever leave it out. I have to admit, it kinda pissed me off.  Like, why is my piriformis misbehaving when I do the "advanced" stretch regularly?  But I might just have been cranky. An ice pack down your pants tends to promote that.

Here's hoping all your pains in the ass are metaphorical, kids, as well as few and far between!