“Be Your Own Advocate”

I’ve been hearing a certain comment over and over lately and its severity really resonated with me today.

“Be your own medical advocate.”

That’s a pretty heavy load and one I’m not entirely sure I’m excited to tackle. I grew up, like many people I’m sure, with a reverence for doctors. Until recently, I would have never thought to actually question a diagnosis, load myself up with information before visits or double-check a doctor’s prescription. I believed that a medical degree afforded a certain amount of confidence and, of course, knowledge.

But, I heard a story today that chilled me to my very core and reminded me that doctor’s are human, and therefore capable of human error.

A friend of mine found out this spring that she has Stage-2 rectal cancer. As daunting as that is alone, the part of her story that really scared me was the road she took getting to that diagnosis.

Eighteen months ago, during a routine annual exam her gynecologist found some suspicious pea-sized nodules in her rectum. Not suspecting anything particularly harmful the doctor sent my friend for a closer look with a specialist. A colonoscopy deemed her free and clear. She was told the lumps appeared to be scar tissue and the doctor saw no need for further inspection. A note was sent to her gynecologist explaining the situation and away she went feeling slightly unsure but comfortable with the doctor’s decision.

One year later my friend began experiencing strange symptoms and went back to her gynecologist with questions. Given the nature of her symptoms the doctor referred her back to the gastroenterologist she had seen the year prior. This time the news was dire. The specialist was 99% sure my friend had rectal cancer and in her words, as told to my friend, “It’s bad. You know…the kind that Farrah Fawcett had?” Two months later, after a battery of tests and a slew of procedures she was officially diagnosed.

Cancer. The same cancer she was already suffering with twelve months before the diagnosis. The same cancer whose symptoms drove her to see a specialist. The same cancer that had been written off as “scar tissue” the first time around. The same cancer that had advanced from what would have been considered Stage-1 had she been diagnosed correctly the first time.

My friend has now endured 23 weeks of radiation and 2 rounds of chemotherapy, suffering burned skin and complete hair loss. Her determination is strong and her faith in God is stronger. She will find out in the next few days whether the brutal treatment she endured actually worked. She already knows that this was most likely her only chance at this type of treatment and the next step could possibly result in the removal of her rectum.

After telling me her incredible story she encouraged me to “be my own advocate.” Had she went with her gut reaction over a year ago and pushed that insensitive specialist to have the lumps biopsied, there’s a chance her cancer would have been caught at a much earlier stage leaving her more options for treatment and a better chance at beating the disease.

I have nothing but optimism that my friend’s check-up will go as planned and her cancer will have receded. But her encouragement to advocate for myself really struck a nerve.

For a whole host of reasons I’m not about ready to get into, the medical community is changing and it is now, more than ever, in our best interests to take an active role in our own health. It’s important to do our own research from reputable websites or books and magazines and arm ourselves with questions and concerns to be discussed at appointments. Gone are the days of just accepting a diagnosis at face value when our guts are telling us there’s reason for distrust. We have to be our own advocate or that of those we love.

So, there you have it. Remind your loved ones to get all necessary tests and screenings. If your doctor doesn’t order it, request it. Arm yourself with knowledge. And do not be afraid to question anything. Our health is precious and worth the extra effort.


“Do You Think You Can You Keep It Like This?”

I’m a fairly clean person. And, although I pride myself on squeaky clean bits’n pieces, it is not of a hygienic nature that I am speaking today.

I’m a bit “Type A” when it comes to keeping my house neat and tidy. I’m not so much concerned with the nooks and crannies as I am making sure that at first glance, things look put in their place. And, as I’m sure you’re already aware, I have a 7 year-old daughter and a 3 year-old son who, I feel, have been placed here as cohorts to some super-spy conglomerate who’s sole mission is to determine the point in time at which the mixture of teensy lego pieces stuck to the bottoms of my socks, Barbie cars placed throughout the house in precarious ankle-breaking positions and Pop Tart edges glued to the remote control will cause me to spontaneously implode (or explode, obviously whichever is more dramatic.) To simplify it: my kids are trying various methods to drive me cuckoo. And they’re getting close.

That all being said, there have been places in my house that have been grossly neglected. If it can be shut behind a door it has most likely been thrown to the wayside until I am ready to fully deal with the disorder. I have had to come to terms with the fact that my “super-spy” children take up 23 1/2 of my 24 allotted hours on a daily basis, and therefore, some things have to be pushed to the back burner. And I was 100% certain that Jer supported me in this belief.

Apparently, I was wrong.

Have you ever sent your husband to Costco for milk and contact solution and he comes home with milk, eye drops (hey…he thought you meant eye drops) and a set of 15 plastic organizational shoeboxes? Well, I have.

Jer decided he simply had to “do something” about the pantry. He couldn’t stand the mishmash of Kellogg’s cereal boxes and antacid tablets. And I will admit, the pantry is a wasteland. It’s four shelves containing anything from cookbooks to cough syrup to Swiss Cake Rolls (these being a problem entirely unto themselves, but I won’t get into that.) And, I kind of agree with Jer that it’s a hot mess. But. As I mentioned before, I’m a busy lady. And as far as Jer having a huge opinion on the matter, the dude has zero credibility in the “clean and orderly” department. His monstrosity, also known as the garage, has a reputation for swallowing household items and could qualify as a front runner for any episode of “How Clean Is Your House?”. The dude really has no room to preach.

So, basically, here’s my “disorderly” husband attempting to school me on previously unrealized organizational opportunities. In my kitchen. My ‘hood.

Jer spent approximately 3 hours moving various sundries and dry goods into plastic shoeboxes, throwing an occasional smirk my way. There was groaning and tsking and verbal disdain. There was sweating and cursing and a whole lot of flying cardboard.

It was painful. And oddly, kind of sexy.

And, when it was all said and done, as if to pour salt in my already festering wound, Jer brought me into the kitchen for a formal tour of my new pantry.

“And this and this go here…blah…blah…blah…pfft…pfft…pfft.” I managed to tune out most of what he said until I heard the following statement.

“Do you think you can keep it like this?”

Oh no he di int!

But, yes. He did.

“Um, Jer. Are you seriously asking me if I can handle maintaining the pantry?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I am. This took me a lot of time. I don’t want it messed back up.”

People. I could barely look at him with a straight face. I could have began a lengthy explanation of how I clean things daily that get ‘messed back up’ without a backward glance. I could have reminded him that he still hasn’t cleared off his desk which has so many dishes piled up it could double as a restaurant pass-through. I could have gone into numerous pending grievances.

But I didn’t.

I looked at his hardwork, displayed proudly and prominently by macaroni-filled shoeboxes lining the shelving and then I looked at his face, expectantly looking back at me.

And I answered, “Sure, babe. I’ll do my best.”

There’s still empty shoeboxes left, waiting to organize some other part of my home. I noticed Jer eyeing my makeup drawer today. This could get ugly, folks.


Friday Photo of the Week

Avery "On Top of the World" in Utah

For this week’s “Photo” I pulled out a previously unseen (by me, that is) picture obviously taken without my permission, approval or consent. This photo must have been snapped while I was throwing back a Xanax because there is no way on God’s green earth I would have EVER allowed my precious, innocent, fragile baby girl to perch atop a gargantuous mountain of rock without wearing some sort of harness, protective head gear or at the very least without a giant mattress securely placed below said rock foundation to cushion any potential fall.

Gorgeous picture? Yes. Maternally vomit-inducing? You betcha.

Happy Friday!


The Dreaded Picture

I’m fairly certain that most everyone has experienced this at one time or another.

How about you? Ever been featured in a photograph in a not-so-flattering manner? And upon discovery of said photograph a shock of shivers (and not the fun kind) trickle down your back at the realization that members of the public have not only seen you looking like this but it is now forever in existence thanks to digital media, a’la Facebook?

For some, perhaps the picture showcased a particularly unkind double-chin. For others it could have been a visual red-flag revealing one’s need to permanently remove a collection of turtleneck sweaters and acid-washed denim jackets from one’s wardrobe. Or, quite possibly, that small-rod perm you swore would transform you into an America’s Next Top Model jumps off the photo paper with a less than attractive effect.

For me, the picture only solidified a pressing feeling I’ve been unable to permanently tamper down. And God knows I’ve tried.

The picture reminded me (in a not so kind way) thatI have got to drop some pounds. I’m talking serious butter here, people.

The denial by which I have heretofore managed to utilize as a replacement for any real commitment to dieting has now forever been squashed due to the mental image now imprinted on my brain.

The dreaded picture.

So, you might be asking yourself, Mindy, haven’t you already made such revelations in previous blog posts, such asthis? And, didn’t you, in fact, enlist your husband to act as your Weight Watchers weigh-in coach?My answer would be a resounding yes. And that was a big fat ton of fun. Not. Weight loss is a process, people. Apparently, for this suburban wife it’s a long one.

So, what am I going to do with this newfound motivation-via-humiliation?

Well, I plan on taking a big, deep look at why I overeat and what I can do to work on that problem. And I also plan on finishing my recent Amazon purchase, the book, “If I Am So Smart, Why Can’t I Lose Weight?” by Brooke Castillo. I’ve only read a couple of chapters thus far but I really like the tone of the author’s writing and her attempt at bringing humor to an otherwise depressing topic.

And I’m all about the humor. I’m also all about finding the positives in negative situations.

Yes, I’m a bit of a chunky monkey. And, yes, I like to eat Cheezits. Lots of them. A weakness. But, I’ve got a host of other attributes that make up a whole lot more of who “Mindy” is than my pant size. Which, admittedly, is a little bigger this year than last year. But, this is why they make yoga pants. See? I’m all about the positives.

And I’m learning that it’s a lot more effective to focus on your attributes than to dwell on your negative characteristics. It makes much more sense to remind yourself what’s particularly “kick-ass” about you and once you’ve mastered the whole “loving” yourself situation, the rest will fall into place.

I admit that this post has been a bit therapeutic with some psycho-babble thrown in, but in true “The Suburban Life” form, I’m telling it like I see it.

Changes are afoot, my friends, and when I’m able to crop a proud “After” picture beside it, I’ll share the Dreaded Picture with you all.

P.S. Happy Birthday to my mom! Love you tons (no pun intended.)


A Little Summer Fun

A couple of years ago we made a purchase that, at times, we have regretted immensely, and at other times we’ve declared it as The. Best. Idea. Ever.

Jer and I, along with my brother and sister-in-law, bought a 25 year-old 19 ft Party Barge. For you non-nautical folks, that roughly translates to a busted old tin can on pontoons. But she’s ours and we proudly named her the ‘SS It’ll Have to Do’ a.k.a. The Amazon Queen.

Contain your jealousy...The Amazon Queen

On a good day she pulls about 12 miles per hour. On a bad day, a lot less. She’s aged, she’s broken-down and she’s a bit costly in repairs, hence the occasional immense regret.

The highlight of Jack's life thus far...driving the boat.

But, she also provides us all with a cool swim on a very hot and sweaty day. The swim ladder off the side allows the kids to climb up and down with relative ease, at the same time allowing the adults to sit comfortably with our beverage-of-choice in hand. (Disclaimer: we DO NOT drink and boat, unless we’re merely passengers in which case we drink like fish…on account of our environment and all.)

Jeremy getting a kick out of himself (or perhaps by my awesome 'running man' behind the camera)

Being that The Queen has almost zero-pulling capability we are able to maintain that slightly “windswept” look without any real damage to our hair and makeup. However, my hair somehow manages to absorb every drop of humidity in the air after about an hour on the water. So, I will only pose for photos within the first fifteen minutes of boating. Yes. I’m vain.

Thought I'd get a picture before my hair went all to hell.

We’ve had some great times out on the “The Amazon Queen.” Once we learned how to ignore the pitying glances from fellow boaters as they speed by in their shiny watercrafts leaving a wake behind threatening to capsize our beloved boat causing us all to hold on tightly lest we be left with nothing but two pontoons and a motor, we started having some real fun out on the water.

There's something about a boat that brings the "kid" out in the grownups.

And then suddenly, The Amazon Queen’s attributes became glaringly obvious. Spill your beer? No worries. Crush a Cheeto? Can’t make her look worse. Accidentally step through the rotting floor? Step around it. There’s something very relaxing about owning a real lemon. While our Bayliner-buddies are hovering around their babies with polishing cloths inspecting every flaw, we have come to realize that scratching the paint job onThe Queen could only enhance her natural beauty.

The "other" highlight of Jack's life...fried chicken.

And, although summer is quickly winding down, I look forward to many more trips to the lake on “The Queen.” Any time we can make memories for the kids is valuable time spent in my book.

Avery was made for boating.

And by proudly claiming our old, busted down rusting pontoon boat with each and every launch into the water, we’re also instilling in them a very important lesson: lower your standards.