Sunday, January 31, 2010

Judaism and control

I do not feel as good about Sisterhood Shabbat this year as I did last year.

I had the strongest feeling that we were entering into a world of men, and that we were playing at doing the things that the men do. It was not a good feeling.

Maybe it had to do with the three men - regulars - who arrived first, and who were chatting in the sanctuary with smirks on their faces. I do not think I imagined it. They were smirking, as if to say: these silly women, taking over our service for a day, what will they screw up today?

Judaism belongs to all of us. The Temple belongs to all of us. The bimah, the ark, the Torah. We should feel comfortable taking part, leading, doing an honor. The service is not just the purview of the men, the regulars, the Rabbi. It belongs to all of us.

The rigidity, the need to control, "it has to be done a certain way"...this is really starting to rub me in the wrong way.

I know that control is a big issue of mine. Feeling like others are controlling me. It's always been a big issue of mine, as long as I can remember.

Here's another example. Last night, we were at a program at J's school for the fourth grade. The kids sang some songs in the gym, then everyone moved to the classrooms. They did some things in the classrooms, then we moved back to the gym. There was a lot of: stop, wait, line up, do this, do that, don't do that yet. The whole thing made me very uncomfortable. It was so rigid, it had no spontaneity.

Maybe Judaism is just -- at its core -- about things being done a certain way. It's not particularly spontaneous. It's about order and control. Maybe that's why I feel always feel a bit uncomfortable at temple, with certain Jewish practices. I'm always resisting that control.

Hmm. Why has it taken me so long to figure this out?

Thursday, January 21, 2010


So I've made a decision. I'm going to drop out of the research study.

I've been getting shots (triptorelin) that make me menopausal since last May, and I've been in pseudo-menopause since about August. I'm not sure what regular menopause is going to be like, but this kind of menopause, in short, sucks.

Since being on this study, I've had insomnia, which I've never had before, and a constant sense of tiredness and lack of energy, even when I do get enough sleep. Hot flashes... don't even get me started. "Flash" doesn't even begin to describe it. Then there has been the whole changing my anti-depressant thing, which has been a disaster. In addition, for the past few months, I've had some other uncomfortable symptoms like rapid heartbeat, and a need to eat very frequently or I feel nauseous. I don't know for sure if the study is causing these symptoms, but no one seems to be able to figure out what else is causing them, and I've been feeling kind of awful. It just makes sense to me to try to return my body to its natural state, instead of the state it's currently in, which is hyped up on 4 or 5 different medications.

So I'm not going to get my shot next week, and I'm going to wait for my body to get back to normal, whatever that is. Tampax, I'm comin' back... did ya miss me?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


The place I'm really noticing it is in the eyes. The sagging. "Hooding," it's officially called. I call it "I no longer have a place to put eye shadow."

Also under my chin. There's a kind of puffy strip under my chin that wasn't there before.

And my hands. Can these be my hands? So many age spots. So dry.

I don't know if these changes are just changes that would have happened anyway, or if being in artificially-induced menopause is pushing them along. But I don't like them. Not at all.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Living with uncertainty

I received the official report from yesterday's mammogram today. Here it is:
INDICATION: History of right breast cancer, status post excision and radiation therapy in January 2009. First post-treatment mammogram.
COMPARISON: Presurgical mammogram from 2009 and printed copies of digital mammogram from 2008.
The breast parenchyma is heterogeneously dense. There is new focal architectural distortion in the right upper central quadrant and retro areolar region at the site of recent surgery. Bilateral scattered calcifications remain stable. No new spiculated mass, suspicious clustered microcalcifications are seen.
IMPRESSION: Interval right breast postoperative changes. A six-month followup right diagnostic mammogram is recommended to assess stability/resolution of the postoperative changes. Findings were discussed with the patient.
BI-RADS 3 - probably benign. Short-interval followup with six-month right diagnostic mammogram is recommended.
I find this pretty hard to understand, and somewhat scary. Suspicious what? Probably benign? Luckily, I know someone who is a radiologist, and he read the report and reassured me that a) the changes mentioned on the report are normal after a surgery, and b) that the fact that the micro-calcifications are scattered and on both sides is a good thing. So they are in fact not suspicious.

Now I have to follow up every 6 months with a breast MRI or a mammogram. Every 6 months.

So I guess you are supposed to live your life, and then get scared just every 6 months. I'm starting -- just starting -- to understand why some women choose the bilateral mastectomy. Because of the "every 6 months."

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

First mammogram since surgery

The machine is hard: metal and plastic. My breasts, my body, are soft. The technician keeps telling me to relax. "Turn your head, bend at the waist, put your shoulder down, relax!" How can I relax when I'm pushing my body against this hard machine? She pulls my breast, squeezes it between plastic plates. I don't feel pain, exactly, but it's uncomfortable. "Don't breathe" she commands, and takes the x-ray. I try not to breathe. Seconds pass. "Okay, now you can breathe."

Next is the waiting. I sit with six other women, all dressed in pants, winter boots, and incongruous light blue dotted hospital gowns. We all read magazines about the beautiful lives of movie stars. I really have to pee. I wonder: Do the stars have mammograms? Do they mash their beautiful breasts in between plates of plastic? Do they have to wait?

One by one, the women are called in for their turn with the machine and the technician. One by one, the women are called in for their results.

Finally, it is my turn. "Everything looks fine, but I'd like to see you again in 6 months," the radiologist reports. I guess that's reassuring. Kind of.