Haircuts and Anniversaries

I have a haircut coming up with Bledi-with-Scizzors. Bledi has been my hairstylist for at least fourteen years now, which is ridiculous. By now he owns the salon, and I’ve had three jobs since we met at Starbucks. Also by now we’re comfortable enough with each other that sometimes he will tell me what he thinks I should have done to my hair, and I will tell him I don’t care what he thinks or if it’s stylish, I just want long hair. But sometimes I get bored with the long hair (recently, I just haven’t had the patience to dry it–or the time, because we moved and my commute in the morning is 15 minutes longer). And so, when contemplating my upcoming haircut, I thought, “I think it’s time to get my occasional bob.”

Also because it’s October. If I ever get a bob haircut, it’s in October. There are two reasons for this: 1) By October it’s cold enough here I don’t feel the need to pull my hair off my neck in a ponytail; while I like to braid my hair in the summer. 2) October (appropriately, as it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month) is when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I had my hair cut in a bob to take an incremental psychological step toward readiness for shaving my head for chemo. Then I didn’t end up needing chemo, but sometimes I still get my hair lopped off in October.

2008 cancer haircut

I was thinking about this the other week, which is why I suddenly remembered that today is the tenth–tenth–anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. I don’t often talk about my cancer because honestly, most of the time I feel like a “fake” cancer survivor, since, at the end of the day, it wasn’t really that bad for me. I had surgery and radiation, but no chemo. I had to take a hormone suppressant which gave me migraines with which I still struggle. I went back and read the relevant blogposts from my Original Blog and discovered that at the time, I really was pretty freaked out and it was a tough process emotionally–but it also was a pretty quick one, relatively speaking, and I had some amazing support around me.

Meanwhile, I have a friend who’s still trying to recover after a year of harrowing treatment, and another friend who has had cancers of various types at least 11 times. (I’ve probably lost count, I’m ashamed to say. It may have been more, at this point–but I hope not.) Also another friend was diagnosed within the last year; her diagnosis sounded really similar to mine, but she does need chemo, and she has a husband and two little boys and the chemo is doing a number on her. Stories like these brave women’s make me sad, and also make me uncomfortable about publicly celebrating the fact that I have basically been cancer free since they cut it out of me, and officially so for five years now.

On the other hand–I’ve been cancer free since they cut it out of me, and that’s ten years. And while I don’t understand why the above, and other, friends of mine haven’t gotten through their diagnoses as easily as I was able to get through mine, and while it would be ungracious of me (particularly since I had nothing to do with it) to brag about it, it would also be ungrateful of me not to note and celebrate it. I don’t take my cancer-freedom for granted. I know I could get it again. But I haven’t yet, and I’m deeply thankful. And so, in honor of my diagnosis and celebration of my current freedom from it, I’ll be pampering myself next Friday–and getting a haircut.


The Cucumber Patch

Family Friday

It’s kind of too bad Friday doesn’t begin with a D. Or that Domestic doesn’t begin with an F. Because it seems that most of my Friday posts have to do with domesticity more than family, per se–plus I can talk about courgettes or zucchini, for example, without telling tales or offending anyone. But Domestic Friday doesn’t alliterate, and ever since I discovered what alliteration was, as an approximately four-year-old, I have had a need for things to alliterate. Particularly titles. (It might also be genetic–pastors are known to alliterate their main sermon points, and I have a lot of pastors in my family.)

Anyway. Today I mostly just wanted to update you on the state of the garden. Every year we have some crops that are dismal failures (usually because other animals enjoy them at less mature stages than we do, and so we don’t get to them before they have been gnawed into nonexistence–but sometimes because that crop and our soil just can’t seem to get along), and some crops that provide a delightful but fairly unmanageable overabundance. It’s kind of like a surprise party every summer, because, while there are one or two things we persist in trying every year which never really take off (onions, mostly), usually the failures and successes are different every year. This means we never know ahead of time what we’re going to end up buying at the supermarket after all (onions, mostly), and what we’re going to have to find creative ways to preserve and/or offload share. For example, last year, you may recall, we had a table-full of bell peppers (also known as capsicums). And carrots (pretty much universally known in English as carrots). This year we have one carrot, and the peppers have all but died . . . although our first attempt at cayennes appears successful.

After that first garlic disappointment, I went online (because why would you take the advice of a garlic farmer in front of you when you can get it off the internet?) and learned that it might be better to harvest in July rather than in June, so when all the travels and visits in July were over, I pulled the rest of the garlic out of the ground, and what do you know? We got some!

Garlic on pallet. We also have a pretty enormous pallet harvest this year, but that, as you may recall, is because of the turtles.

Garlic on pallet. We also have a pretty enormous pallet harvest this year, but that, as you may recall, is because of the turtles.

Actually, I think I picked it on the day we had our big 12-hour family cookout, which didn’t exactly lend itself to garlic braiding, so I did that about two weeks later.

Probably not THE most beautiful garlic braid you (or I) ever saw, but considering I had no idea what I was doing, it's not so bad.

Probably not THE most beautiful garlic braid you (or I) ever saw, but considering I had no idea what I was doing, it’s not so bad.

I thought it was going to take us forever to go through that much garlic, because we don’t usually, but I wasn’t counting on the cucumbers.

I also wasn’t counting, since I am new to preserving and this was the first year that cucumbers were our bumper crop, on the fact that pickles often require garlic. I was very proud that my first batch of dill pickles were made with cucumbers, garlic, and dill from our very own garden. Then I made a batch of bread and butter pickles. Then I made another half batch of dill. (That time we had to buy dill seed from the store, because although our homegrown dill did very well, there wasn’t a lot of it.) In total I made 32 jars of pickles.

We have also eaten many cucumber salads, fried cucumbers, tossed salad with cucumbers . . . I’m getting ready to experiment with cucumber parmesan, and I was kind of wishing for the opportunity to dump some Hollandaise sauce on the cucumbers so I could say we had a Benedict Cucumberbatch.

Gratuitous brooding Cumberbatch photo. You’re welcome.


But we have no Hollandaise sauce and I wasn’t really going to make any just for the purpose.

After all that, we still have (and I know this, because I counted them this morning) 30 cucumbers without a determined destiny. And two zucchinis. Which, by the way, are also known as courgettes.

Drinking the “Kool-Aid”

Whatever Wednesday: Workouts

Does this look like Kool-Aid to you?

Does this look like Kool-Aid to you?

Coach-Melissa and I met while working at Starbucks, when she wasn’t a Coach and I wasn’t a Director of Faith Formation and Outreach and neither of us were entirely loathe to drink lattes with syrup in them.

I do seem to remember Melissa reacting with horror to the posted calorie count of whatever new food or beverage item Starbucks invented at any given “roll out” period, and my being completely unimpressed because I have never counted calories so I don’t even know what that means, and actually, at the time I was frighteningly underweight and so from that standpoint might have benefitted from a few more syrupy drinks. I also remember that Melissa started getting into running the Boston Marathon and my thinking I never could nor would I be inclined to attempt something so crazy. But I also think she might have liked white mochas or something. I liked specialised con pannas, where I would fill up the little cup with whipped cream and pour three shots of espresso on top of it (instead of the other way round) and then drizzle half a bottle of caramel sauce over that.

Mmmmm . . . healthy.

Well, it is pretty delicious.

But fast forward a few years and I got cancer, and then Melissa was diagnosed with MS. She got married. I got married. Other stuff happened. Then our paths recrossed last year when, fed up with the “marriage 15” I had gained and couldn’t get rid of, and with my newfound back problems, I accepted her invite to join a seven-week fitness group she was running for free. On the first day we did an Insanity workout. It was . . . insane. I couldn’t move for about three days, but I was completely hooked.

Well, almost completely. I wasn’t going to spend any money to buy the workouts for myself, of course, nor was I going to drink any of the associated nutrition drink, Shakeology. Stuff’s expensive. I could go to Melissa’s workouts when I had a chance, and do some Jillian Michaels workouts I had at home in between. We had some protein powder at home if I wanted to make myself breakfast shakes. I didn’t like the idea of some kind of processed product I had to drink every day–and if I was going to do that, I would just drink what we already had in the house, rather than wasting it. I lost a little bit of weight, but the workouts at home were not any more inspiring than they had been before I started going to Melissa’s group. I didn’t do them all the time.

About nine months later, though, I was finally free of my Tamoxifen cancer meds, had used up all the protein powder for better or worse, and in the meantime had learned that Shakeology is naturally sourced, and loaded with 70 superfoods.

That was a good day.

That was a good day.

Also, Melissa’s story was pretty compelling.

Because I had also paid off a loan I had taken out for seminary, I decided to buy a challenge pack–a workout system with a month of Shakeology and see what I thought. I chose P90X3 and Vanilla Shakeology, and after a few false starts (the almost broken arm thing and a crazy stomach bug), I did that workout and drank those shakes every single day and feel better than I ever have in my life. I’ve been to the chiropractor once in about three months, when before I was stopping in at least every two weeks. I no longer have exercise-induced asthma attacks like I used to every time I exercised. Oh, also? I used to get multiple colds every winter, and Paul got a few, but the only one I had was at the beginning of my Shakeology “journey” lasted all of three days. Now I’m excited to try PiYo, the new pilates/yoga hybrid workout that Beachbody just launched last week.

You have to know (you might know, if you know me) that I’m not a bandwagon jumper. In fact, as soon as something I like or enjoy becomes a bandwagon, it usually takes all my fortitude to remain loyal to that thing. (I confess a lot of times I don’t even bother, although I suspect that shows a lack of integrity.) So you also have to know what a blow it was to my skeptic’s pride to like the workouts, but especially the Shakeology, as much as I absolutely do. But I really do. So much that now I’m selling it.

Even if I weren’t selling it, I’d probably talk about it here a lot, because I am such a fan, but if you were to send me a comment or email me at to ask me about it, I wouldn’t say no, either. I’m probably not “rah-rah” enough for this–when I’m looking forward to something I say, in monotone, “I’m really excited.” And I am really excited, but I don’t know how to be genuine and appear excited at the same time. All the same, I can tell you, I genuinely believe both the shake and the workouts are amazing. They’ve helped me too much and I’ve seen enough other positive effects, that I truly believe it can benefit other people, too.

Coach-Melissa made this graphic for me. Emerald only means two customers, though. You could be the third!

Coach-Melissa made this graphic for me. Emerald only means two customers, though. You could be the third!

Giving the Boot

Saturday Snippets

I would just like to take this opportunity to apologise for the appearance of a fake tan I have been inflicting on the universe for the last month or so. It’s so false it’s not even a real fake tan. Some of the Readership who know me in real life are now thinking, “Ah–at least she’s aware of it. We didn’t want to say anything.” The rest of you will now be enlightened as to the source of the vague sense of something extra that has become wrong with the world. But it’s not my fault. Not really. I blame boots.

No, not these boots.

No, not these boots.

THIS Boots.

THIS Boots.

I suspect most of my American The Readership aren’t even aware of this product, but back when I was in London and a large percentage of my international friends would come up to me with concern and ask me if I were aware I had “spots,” I discovered Boots No.7 foundation make-up. Boots is the name of a chemist–i.e., drug store–chain in the UK, kind of like CVS or Osco, but classier. Obviously, since they have their own line of up-market make-up. Their foundation never actually cleared up my acne, but it remains the only one I have discovered which doesn’t actually exacerbate it. So although it’s not all nice and “natural” like some of the mineral things they’ve got out there right now, I was pretty happy when CVS and then–after a fall-out between them and Boots, apparently–Target started carrying it.

Then, about three months ago, the Boots shelves at Target were all in disarray and I thought, Oh no! Are they discontinuing carrying it, too? But no. It turns out that all that was happening was that the good people at No.7 were reformulating and repackaging it or something. I discovered this about a month ago, when I was completely out of my last little bottle of the stuff. But there were no samplers, and all the names of the skin-tone colours had changed. Who does that? I stood there for about fifteen minutes trying to figure out which of the two lightest colours was my colour.

All that to say, I bought a bottle one shade darker than I should have, but once you use the stuff, obviously you can’t bring it back to the shop, and this stuff is too expensive simply to replace and not to use one if it happens to be the wrong colour. Adding insult to injury, of course, is the fact that there’s no chance at this time of year that I could be sporting a real tan. But I am going to use this vial of make-up until it’s empty. So there. And so . . . so sorry, everybody.

A Sunday Post

Seeing as I never post on Sundays, there’s not even a category to put this post in, but it seemed appropriate to write it, all the same. You see, I woke up this morning, and all those side effects I told you about yesterday? Were gone. I mean, like, not even here a little bit. G-O-N-E, gone.

I still plan on visiting a few doctors in the near future, and I know, it could have happened like this even if nobody had prayed about it, but . . . personally, I don’t think it would have. So, if you prayed–thank you.



Saturday Snippets

I haven’t written a “snippet” in so long you probably forgot about them, but I’ve been planning this one all week. It was going to be about make-up. Today I changed my mind. It’s going to be about cancer. ‘Cause . . . you know. Make-up. Cancer. Interchangeable.

Okay, maybe not.

My What’s a Jenn Story? page frankly tells you that once I had breast cancer. In 2008, to be exact. What it doesn’t tell you is that, while I was able to avoid (refuse) chemo, I agreed to take a hormone suppressant called Tamoxifen for five years. If you do the math (but don’t worry–you don’t have to–I don’t like math, either) you can guess that I’m almost done. During my five years, however, studies have shown that women taking Tamoxifen have even more benefits if they take it for 10 years! Woohoo!

Here it comes, to save the day?

Here it comes, to save the day?

What previous studies (and people’s lives, doubtless) have also shown, though, is that sometimes? Tamoxifen causes other kinds of cancer. Uterine, specifically.

No. I don’t have uterine cancer. At least, I am choosing to believe that at this moment, I don’t have uterine cancer. Or any other kind of cancer. But I am having side effects. I’ve had them before. The most debilitating ones were migraines, which we talked about last year, and which went away for a while, though they’ve come back. But they’re still not as bad as they were, and therefore, they are not what’s concerning me right now. What’s concerning me right now is “Aunt Flo”–also known here as “the monthly visitor”–who arrived two weeks early, has been visiting for two weeks now and doesn’t look anything like she usually does. (Please don’t make me spell out what I’m actually saying here. This is bad enough.) She’s freaking me out.

A while back I observed that “everybody’s going through something,” and offered to pray for you if you are. Now I’m asking you, if you’re a praying kind of person, to please pray for me. I’m not sure for what, exactly. Maybe that I just not be worried. I’m not really afraid of cancer–or of dying–but I still don’t want to have it, and I love my life and my husband and guess I just want to stick around a while.

My Hair Is Falling, My Hair Is Falling (Out)!

Saturday Snippets

In contrast to the smiley man in the previous Snippet, I think I might be losing my hair. I’m so certain of it that I’m not even going to post a photo of the back of my head to prove it to you, because it’s too embarrassing.

Back when I got diagnosed with cancer and it was assumed I would be having chemo, I actually went wig shopping with a friend of mine, and then went to Bledi-with-Scizzors (I didn’t spell that wrong) and had him cut me a bob just so I could start getting used to something different. But then I didn’t end up needing chemo, so I simply kept the bob for a while and then grew it out.


Although I’ve never had an easy time with my hair, I wouldn’t want to be without it, and it’s always been nice and thick. Every so often I’ll go through a phase where I seem to be shedding more than usual, but it’s never constant and I’ve never noticed much of a decrease in mass or volume . . . until recently. Recently, I’ve been pulling out handfuls of hair in the shower, in the way that women who have lost theirs to chemo describe it. I’ve also not been blow-drying it, but simply braiding it wet, because it’s been so hot here this summer. A couple of times, when I used a handheld mirror to see how the braid had come out in the back, I noticed a little queasily that the crown of my head seemed to be showing through my hair. I was hoping that it was just how I had pulled the braid strands, but yesterday I took a better look and have pretty much decided that that is not what is happening. It’s starting to make the passage where Jesus says not to worry because “even the hairs of your head are numbered” sound more ominous than I’ve ever thought it sounded before. And hey–I wasn’t worried. Until I started realising the hairs of my head are numbered.

“I’m going bald!” I cried out.

“Let me see,” said my Paul from his recliner in the living room. I went over and knelt down so he could look at the back of my head. “Oh,” he said soothingly. “It’s just your part. You just happen to have . . . an inch-wide one.”

I wailed again.

“Don’t comb over it,” he said. “Shave your head. You’ll look cute.”

He seems charitably unaware that if I did that I would look like Dopey of the Seven Dwarves, because my ears stick out and my head is the wrong shape to pull of a successful Sinead O’Connor look.

Then he started fantasising about the kind of wigs I could get. I guess it’s comforting to know my husband will still love me if I go bald, but still. I’d rather not.

The Cold Shoulder

Family Friday

Okay, so this isn’t so much about my family, but it is about Just Regular Life at Home–which doesn’t flow as well as “Family Friday,” so let’s just be a little open-minded, okay?

Once when I was on a high school choir tour, I got a neck-cramp that made it really difficult to turn my head. Someone (I no longer have any idea who), said, “Oh, you have a cold in your neck.”

I was like, “What?” (It was the 80’s. We have to narrate like that when we’re talking about the 80’s.)

“You have a cold in your neck.”

For whatever reason, I decided this now anonymous person knew more than I did about this sort of thing, and so I took their diagnosis on board and started telling people I had a cold in my neck. But I kept wondering about it anyway. How did they know it was a cold? What made it a cold? It wasn’t like my neck was coughing or blowing its nose or anything–oh, because it didn’t have one. (That’s a weird visual . . . ) My doubts were furthered many years later when I had a similar neck spasm and told someone I had a cold in my neck and they looked at me quizzically and were like, “What?”

Thursday last week, as you know, I came down with a cold. (Or a clu. I’m still open to the idea that for once I had a clu.) (Heh.) Speaking of which, this is great opportunity to remind you that YOU SHOULD BE PLAYING


C’mon. Give the other two contestants a run for their muffins.

Anyway, two days after this cold thing started, I woke with an excruciating pain in my right shoulder, and I thought, I do have a cold in my shoulder! This proves that Whoeveritwas was right! It was only fleeting satisfaction, though. Because the pain in my shoulder has proven to be less fleeting. It is now one week later and it still hurts just as much as it did that first day (more, in the mornings) and has made itself at home by spreading out and radiating down my arm and into my butt. I am trying ice. I am trying a heating pad. I have totally given up on painkillers (why would I medicate when they’re not doing a flippin’ thing?) I am trying to convince myself that I can afford a massage.

Also, it’s my right shoulder (and arm. and buttcheek). I am right handed. Fortunately, typing isn’t too strenuous. Everything else, though? Laundry? Washing dishes?

Hey, honeyyyyy . . . ?

Maybe I need some of This. Whatever This is . . .

Maybe I need some of This. Whatever This is . . .

Oh for a Smile!

photo by jennwith2ns 2012

. . . and a nice burgeoning double-chin as well!

I was going to tell you about how I finally got my tooth crowned on Tuesday, and then I thought I would include a disclaimer: “I know you don’t come here to read all my health whinges, but bear with me for one more post and then we’ll talk about something else.” After that I thought that I also always assume you don’t come here to, for example, read reams of ramblings when I get on a theology jag. And then I thought, “Why do you guys come here, anyway?”

So while I’m waiting for you to answer that question, I’m just going to tell you about my tooth after all.

Let’s just say I finally understand why some people don’t like going to the dentist. Don’t get me wrong. I used not to like to go to the dentist as a child, but I wasn’t afraid of it like some people are–or like I was of “getting shots.” (You end up submitting to a lot of seemingly tortuous vaccinations when you’re a small child about to go to a Latin American country.) My dislike of the dentist stemmed from the fact that flouride treatments were long and onerous and horrible-tasting, and I drooled far too much, and it was gross. But even as a person with a pain-phobia, I never feared the dentist–because I never associated the dentist with pain. Plus there was a pay-off. I’ve probably always been at least as approval-seeking as I am pain-phobic, and until 2008, I had never had even a hint of a cavity. Must’ve been the flouride treatments. (Even in 2008, the cavity was so negligible, no painkillers or drilling or any such things were necessary to repair it.) Anyway, ever since those stopped, I almost relished going to the dentist: I would leave with my teeth feeling shiny and new, and with the dentist’s usual quip (“Your teeth look great! We never make any money off of you!”) ringing in my ears.

But then my dentist retired and I simultaneously came under Paul’s insurance for which my dentist was not a preferred provider anyway. And I broke my tooth. And suddenly I had to find another dentist, and they wouldn’t do anything for me until they had done an intake and initial cleaning first.

That was about three weeks ago and I discovered that when you go to a dentist from the time you are eight years old, if you ever have to switch there are certain things you discover you were taking for granted. Such as:

1. Up-to-date x-ray equipment.

2. Having a normal sized mouth. Evidently mine is child-sized, which is weird, because both my smile and my head are kind of big. And yet I never knew how freakishly small my mouth was until about three weeks ago when someone who had never worked on it before tried to put the x-ray slides in between my teeth.

3. A quick but thorough x-ray and cleaning process. Because the hygienist wasn’t used to my tiny mouth and the x-ray equipment was archaic and bulky, it must have taken at least 20 minutes just to do all the x-rays. It was kind of agonising.

4. Not having cavities. Apparently I have another one.

At the beginning of that initial visit, I was so non-plussed about the hygienist’s inability to figure out my quirky mouth that I was writing blogposts in my head in which I ranted about how I was never going back there again, whether they take my Paul’s insurance or not. But by the end of it, my teeth did feel shiny and clean, and even though there was a cavity to worry about, the dentist himself seemed like a decent guy and the hygienist had at last shown herself competent. Plus I had just gone through 20 minutes of x-rays and filled in a ridiculously nitpicky intake form, and I wasn’t ready to do that anywhere new anytime soon, unless I felt like I really wasn’t going to get good care. Which I’ve only ever felt like at dentists’ in the UK. (That might be a subject for another post.)

Now, a month later, I’m practically a regular. Two weeks ago they put a temporary crown on my chipped tooth, and Tuesday, as I said, they did the real thing. In part, I am delighted and impressed. Ever since the first tooth remake in Honduras, that tooth has been capped crookedly, so it’s always stuck out from the other a little. I’m not sure why, when it was redone in my teen years, they didn’t try a little harder to straighten it out, but they never did. Now it’s straight!

Another plus: I don’t believe anyone has ever put an actual crown on this thing before. In any case, I know I’d never had novacaine before this, nor was this ever a two-day process. It isn’t cheap, but I’d like never to have to replace this again, and I think I won’t. Also, the old tooth used to be yellower than my other (already yellow) teeth. This one’s whiter. (I chose it to be, in case I ever, somehow, miraculously, receive a financial donation specifically to whiten my teeth.)

The downside is, like I said: I have a tiny mouth. I think whatever lab made this tooth assumed a normal-sized mouth in spite of a mould having been taken first. So now I have this giant white tooth, dwarfing all the others, in the middle of my head. I guess you could still call me “Snaggle.”

Can I Take It Back?

It took me about two weeks to decide in the first place to post “Twisted Nostalgia.” Intellectually, I’m not superstitious; I know the cause-and-effect of magical thinking is a fallacy . . . but I still think magically. On a more gut-than-head level, I think about jinxing myself all the time. For those two weeks I thought, “If I post this, my cancer’s going to come back and I’m going to have to eat my words.”

Well, so far I don’t know that that has happened–I don’t believe that that has happened–but The Oncologist finally got back to me about my migraines yesterday, and this is what she said:

Why don’t you stop taking your meds for a week. If the migraines get better, we’ll know it’s related to the Tamoxifen, and we’ll work out another course of action. [Let me say, for the record, I’m not looking forward to learning what that might be. I’m pretty sure it’s not roots and berries.] If they don’t, I’d say we owe it to you to do a brain scan.

Owe it to me? Did you say brain scan?

Neither of those options sound good. Nor did becoming inextricably addicted to ibuprofen (which only sometimes works on my migraines, but the fact that it ever does is kind of helpful–and surprising), but from this side of the conversation, that’s almost sounding better. Don’t let that Twisted Nostalgia yadda fool you. I’m kind of a wimp. I don’t actually want to do any of this again. I just wanted to want to do it again. Without that particular fulfillment. Can I take it all back?

Taking it back with a smile