Tuesday, May 22, 2018

When "Ugly" Becomes a Medical Condition or "Raise Your Voice, Woman"

We've previously established that I'm old, haven't we? Because I am. Old. Getting older by the day, and developing old lady problems.

Specifically problems related to being an old lady that's crapped out a child or two (or three). These are my legs.

Let's talk about them.

I have ugly legs. They've been ugly most of my life. Don't jump all over me for that statement. I'm not talking about their length, shape, or size. All of those things are perfectly normal. They do all the leggy things a person's pins are supposed to do (except dance, they don't do that). They're just ugly. In addition to my clumsiness leaving me with constantly evolving bruises and scars, I developed spider veins and varicose veins pretty early on. Every job I've ever had has involved many hours on my feet. That combined with a genetic predisposition to varicosities, left me with little squiggly blue marks all over my right shin by the time I was 17.

Bruises, scars, and spider veins. Hawt.

The varicose vein at my ankle appeared in college when I was a waitress/pharmacy technician, working on my feet 40-60 hours a week. I wore capris and pants for many years to hide the ravages of time and genetics. My attitude has been much more "Eh, fuck it" in recent years, but it doesn't change the baseline ugliness.

These are my legs without their camouflage. 
The right leg is way uglier than the left.

After college I got my first job as a pharmacist...again working on my feet 60+ hours a week. A little purple mark appeared at the back of my knee. A little purple mark that was constantly remarked on (by my own boyfriend/fiance/husband no less) with "How'd you get a bruise there?" Well, it's not a bruise. It's a spider vein, but thanks for noticing. My first pregnancy bought me a lovely blue number that runs down the back of my knee into my calf.

FUCK! There's new spider veins back there, too!
It's a nice calf, though, yeah? Meaty.

My third pregnancy? Two little branches at the top of my thigh. This is where shit gets real. A couple of years ago the branches got bigger, one got a little squiggly. About a week and a half ago I felt something give in my pelvis when I stood up out of a chair. Now I've got a situation. My little non-issue branches have become a big damn problem.

Don't worry, you're not getting a picture of my ladygarden.

Suddenly sitting, standing, squatting, deadlifting, walking around, riding in a car, and just about everything else had become uncomfortable. Something was wrong. Lying down is the only time it's not visible. The only time I don't feel it, but I can't just spend my life lying down. I have shit to do. My hormone cycle makes it exponentially worse. The awful bloating I get once a month is worse, too, and never seems to fully go away.

So I did what I do. I researched. I researched varicose veins and spider veins and vulvar varicosities and pregnancy related varicose veins. (Don't Google that shit, you'll regret it). I ran across a condition called Pelvic Congestion Syndrome that explains everything I've been experiencing, including symptoms I didn't even recognize as related. Pain, pressure, heaviness...even the goddamn bloating. Shit, even back pain could be related to this.

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Being a woman is total bullshit sometimes, you know? Not only do you have to bleed for 25% of your life and all the associated pain that goes along with that, you may also have to gestate humans which literally tears you apart from the inside out. In ways you can't even imagine. PCS is most often reported in women who have had two or more pregnancies and vaginal births.

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Ok, so I have a starting place. Fucking now what, right? I know what it is...but how is it treated? Who treats it? A surgeon? A radiologist? A gynecologist? 

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Because everybody is a specialist, but where do you start?

Let me first say this. Once you use the words "varicose vein" as a woman, you're pretty much going to get dismissed as a nuisance. Everyone assumes you're just being vain (homonyms, bitches) and because it's summer you think your ugly legs are an emergency. The veins in my legs don't concern me at the moment except as they relate to the larger problem. They're ugly, but no uglier than my scars and cellulite. Offices only see "vein patients" once or twice a week. I was reduced to hissing "The varicosity is in my GROIN, and it is GETTING WORSE" in order to get scheduled to see anyone.

I already do all the shit you're supposed to do to prevent/alleviate varicosities. I wear compression stockings when I fly and when I'm going to be on my feet and for recovery. My body weight is utterly normal. I don't smoke. I exercise. I'm the goddamn poster child for health. AND YET.

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Tell me again all the things I should be doing to prevent this. I'm taking notes.

Last Wednesday I saw a surgeon. A female surgeon. She was...mean.  Cold, unfriendly, and worst of all? Dismissive.  "I'll cut it out. Make a couple of incisions and just pull it out." Really? You don't want to do any diagnostics? No vein mapping? No CT or MRI to see if there's a larger issue? Just cut it out. I'm a powerlifter. You don't think it could just recur?  "Well, I guess it could recur." So I should pay you to flay open my mommyparts and yank out the vein...just so it can come back? And you can do what? Cut it out again? Sounds sexy. Also I'm pretty sure there's not an unlimited amount of vascular tissue down there.

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Yeah, ok. Thumbs up.

I don't need touchy feely. You don't have to be nice. But for fuck's sake, you will address me as an equal. I'm a highly educated, skilled medical professional in my 40s. I'm not a child and I'm not a dummy. Beyond that, I am a human being who has come to you for help with a painful, somewhat delicate problem. I just had to sit here in a goddamn drape so you could prod me and then basically tell me to suck it up. "You've had kids, you know what pain is, you can handle it. It doesn't even look that bad, and your legs look fine." She says after examining me lying down

Thanks a heap, sister suffragette. Excuse me while I get appointments with literally anyone else. I got an email with a patient satisfaction survey yesterday. I can't wait to fill it out. 

Friday I went to a vein center. They only do legs. No help there. Can't really blame them I guess, ugly is where the money is.

Monday, though...holy shit. I hauled myself to Neenah to have a consult with a radiology group. I wasn't hopeful. I thought I'd probably get another "we only do legs" spiel.

But sweet chocolate Christ...they listened. I met with a NP who looked at my veins and asked me a few questions. She then began to explain PCS. I stopped her and said "You're describing Pelvic Congestion" and she looked at me and said "You have a medical background". I told her what I do for a living and she went into a detailed description of exactly what the practice can do for me. They'll set up an abdominal MRI at my very own hospital, and if it shows what I think it will, a simple intervention will occlude or ablate the abdominal varicosities, and by extension fix my pelvis. As in the veins may simply disappear on their own. No surgery. My ugly leg can be dealt with at a later date whenever it's convenient. Because I already understand what's up, I may not even have to have another visit with the Interventional Radiologist prior to the procedure. They'll just call me to discuss the findings and set up a date. 

This could all be over soon. Pending insurance approval, of course. Fucking insurance. Truthfully, I don't even care. I'll make payments until I retire to have this fixed. 

Praise Jesus girl

My point in relaying all of this to the internet at large is that you have to be your own best advocate when it comes to health care. Especially as a woman. The medical system is patriarchal and paternalistic. It's a lot of "Listen here, little lady, you just do as I say" and most doctors don't take kindly to questioning, especially by female patients. I mean, we're just dumb girls! WTF could we possibly know about our bodies?!? The proof of this is in the treatment for everything even remotely gynecological. Oh, you have an icky uterus problem? You should see a gynecologist, or better yet - just take these birth control pills. That'll fix it. We think. There's not a lot of research on it...or really anything else that goes on in your demon abdomen, but hey it's worth a shot! 

Even a female surgeon didn't want to offer me more than a "I'll do this, make an appointment". I had to make her sit down and listen to my concerns, while I sat half naked on a paper covered table, because that is a position of power. 

I have been very fortunate in my OB/GYN. I lucked into his practice when he was just a little baby doctor and 18 years later we still have a strong doctor/patient relationship. He can't retire until I die because he is amazing and I don't ever want to see anyone else. What sets him apart is that he listens. Find a provider who listens to you. It is so important. 

Another reason I dump all this shit into cyberspace is that so often we don't seek help for problems we see as embarrassing. Me? I'm not going to beat around the bush (TWSS, also how excellent of a phrase is that for this situation?). There could be any number of women reading this who have a similar problem and don't want to talk about it, or don't realize it could be a symptom of a larger syndrome. So I'll talk about it. I've got no one to impress and nothing to lose.  

You don't have to settle for sub-standard care. There is nearly always someone else to consult. Make them listen, and if they won't? Find someone else who will. Get a second opinion. A third. A fourth. Ask for recommendations. Don't be afraid or embarrassed. Bodies are weird and messy and gross and stupid and wonderfully magically complicated. The first answer isn't always the right one. Keep pushing. If you know that something is wrong, keep pushing. 

All I want is to be able to do the things I love to do without pain. I want to lift weights, and ride my bike, and run, and wear shorts. I want to stand on the sidelines at my kids' rugby games and not hurt. I want to be able to sit in a chair or drive my car without my damn leg swelling up or feeling like my pelvis is bruised. I'm done using my uterus, but I'd like to continue using the rest of my parts for another 40 or 50 years thank-you-very-much. I don't think that's too much to ask. 40 is the new 20...except with more wrinkles and a hip that can feel the rain coming.

If all goes well I'll have some fancy pictures of my inner workings and a couple of embolization coils. Like jewelry for my ovaries (you thought your belly button ring was hard core). What I won't have is pelvic varicose veins. 

And maybe I will have those spiders and leg veins ablated. It might be kind of nice to only have bruises and scars. 

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Friday, May 4, 2018

72kg and Holding or "Refeed Me, Seymour"

It's been about a month since my powerlifting meet, which means it's been about a month since the end of my cut. The lowest weight I hit was 70.7kg (155.5#) about 3 days before the meet when I was so paranoid about waking up above 72 that I wasn't eating a calorie out of place. Rigid AF. The morning of the meet I weighed in at 71.2kg in my granny panties and sports bra (sorry, coach). I have never been so relieved in my life.

This morning I woke up at 71.7kg, and I feel pretty fucking good about that.

Flex Friday, bitches.

After the meet I took a week off of counting macros and measuring everything. My only directive from Alex was "Don't eat like an asshole". And I think I did pretty well. My weight didn't change appreciably, and neither did my measurements. Miraculous.

My reverse diet started at the end of that "free" week. My macros have been increasing incrementally so we can see where my tipping point is. I don't need to be exactly 72kg every day of my life, but I kind of like where I'm at aesthetically and I'd like to stay within striking distance of competition weight. 72kg is a good place to sit for Strongman and Oly as well since 75kg is the top of my weight class for both. Competing without cutting? Sign me up. 

Now that I've been at this a few weeks and my food numbers are ticking up, it's time to add a *gulp* refeed. At the conclusion of my cut I was eating 145g of carbs, 43g of fat, and 120g of protein every day. That is some high protein starvation level shit. It's almost miraculous that I wasn't a husk of a human on those numbers. Now I'm at 175 carbs, 60 fat, and 135 protein.

135 protein. That's a lot of fucking protein.

In addition to these new numbers, every Friday I'll be doing a refeed. In simple terms, I'm carb loading. On Fridays I get 275g carbs. TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY FIVE GRAMS.

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So I whipped out MFFP and tried to figure out what the hell I was going to have to eat to hit these numbers. 

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It was like a game. A delicious game.

So what did refeeding look like today? 

WELL. I woke up and got the news via email so I promptly made myself a lovely cup of coffee with half and half plus some delicious maple syrup.

Can't carb all day unless you start in the morning.

I went to hot yoga this morning, and I generally keep what I eat before yoga on the small side. Full belly is no good in the upside-down and there's always the chance of that. 

Just a little bit of something.

After yoga I came home and got my shit together for the day. I'd decided that pancakes sounded nice and carby. Turns out you also have to add a shitload of fruit to make the numbers work out right. I also included a bunch of egg whites because 135g protein is a lot of fucking protein.


It took me quite a while to eat this. That's good though, because it kept me from feeling weird and overstuffed afterwards. Kodiak cakes made with milk and egg white, a banana, a cup of strawberries, and a third of a cup of maple syrup. 

I let that settle for a bit and headed downstairs to lift. I had some Oly shit to do today, but my outdoor platform was a bit wet so that was postponed and I worked on some power stuff instead. It was cold as fuck in the basement. Even in two layers with my sweaty-knees gear it was tooth chattering down there. It's the dampness. Makes the cold sink into your bones. And I'm old, so I feel that shit.

My standard coconut whey mixed with cold brew and creatine.

One downside to multiple layers and a lot of food?  Trying to close your lever belt without ralphing.


My program today was heavy triples. I managed to triple at 180, which is about 90% for me. It was painful, but I haven't done that in quite a while so it was also kind of exhilarating. Then I had to push press. With my power bar, because my Oly bar is in the garage. I scraped the shit out of the back of my neck doing Klokov presses a few days ago. That center knurling. Ouch.

Does push pressing make anyone else feel like they're going to puke? Every time I push press...actually it happens when I jerk, too now that I think about it. Something about it makes me gaggy. I think the nerves in my collarbones are wired wrong or something. Heart openers in yoga make me feel barfy, too. Yep. Miswired for sure.

Funny woman screaming surrounded by cables not able to make them work

After my basement session I showered. I even washed my hair, which is a big deal. My sons had a mother/son event this evening and I wanted to at least look clean, because my overall appearance has the whisper of white trashiness about it. 

I had some lunch.

Barley risotto. Deliciously carby.

Then I headed off to Costco. I bought a bunch of veg and a shitload of shrimp. Because 135g of protein. Have I mentioned that's a lot of protein? Because it's a lot of protein.

I did some studying when I got home and prepped the fruit and veg for the kids' dinners. For myself I made salmon, broccoli, and rice. A whole cup of rice. I even had enough fats left over to put some butter on that fluffy white shit.


So how did I do hitting my numbers today? 

Check that out. I'm fucking impressed with myself.

Hot damn. 

I imagine it was a tiny bit easier because breakfast was more like brunch so each meal wasn't too far off the last one. It'll be interesting to see what refeeding on shift will be like. Along with this is a day each week without tracking at all. Estimating portions, minding my hunger level, and not getting my food scale out at all.

It's a little scary, but exciting too. Because maybe I can really do this. Maybe I can stop going on and off diets. Maybe I can eat like a reasonable person instead of an asshole. A girl can dream.

After dinner I walked the boys over to school for the mother/son deal. There was kickball and floor hockey. Moms vs. boys.  We lost at kickball, because little boys are sneaky little shits. Kicked their asses at floor hockey, though. I scored 3 goals. My sons and I may have alarmed some people...we were the only ones trash talking each other. Everyone else was being very supportive and enthusiastic. I may have shouted "You're mouth's writing checks your ass can't cash" and "I'm not above stiff arming a child" at my boys on a couple of occasions. I am an excellent mom. Nurturing AF.

I'm glad I wore black. I sweated straight through this shirt.

I was wearing jeans and slippers as shoes. Lesson learned. Next year I'm dressing for athletic business. I spent fully one hour running around a middle school gym. Hustle I've got. Also total disregard for the safety of children.

I'm going to say refeeding today was a success. I never felt like stuffed poultry, which I think means I did it right. My lifting session was aces, and I felt good all day. I'm not supposed to weigh myself the day after refeed, but I've weighed myself every damn day for the last 5 months so I probably will tomorrow from just force of habit. I'm also interested to see how I feel in the morning with the extra carbs on board. Power club is early to accommodate an event at the gym, and I wonder if all this glycogen will carry over to tomorrows lifts. I never really did much carb loading when I was a distance runner, so I honestly don't know. 

Only one way to find out. n=1 and all that.

Got 10 hours of sleep last night and I'm looking forward to another 10 tonight. A little powerlifting in the morning and some Oly in the evening. Sounds like a fantastic little Saturday to me. 

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Monday, April 2, 2018

It's Never Over or "Show Me How the Humans Eat"

Hi. Remember me? The shrieky old woman who unloads all her bullshit into cyberspace? Well, I'm back. You're welcome or I'm sorry, choose your own adventure.

You may remember from our last little digital tete a tete that I had just competed in a powerlifting meet following a dismally unsuccessful cut (I was shooting for 72kg). During that cut (a soul-sucking foray into salad eating) I gained something like 4 pounds? Yeah, you read that right. I ascended from my usual 75kg (165#, MAGA) to 77.1 on meet day and to north of 78kg in the day or two following.

Here I am in all my 170# glory.

On the recommendation of a friend, I signed on with Stronger U and was assigned to a coach with powerlifting experience. He gave me some macros and everything in my being rebelled against weighing my food, tracking every single morsel, and weighing myself every fucking day.

Weigh everything! Youself! Your food! Random household objects!

Measure everything! Egg whites! Oats! Motherfucking blueberries!


I have a checkered relationship with the scale. I think a lot of people do, women in particular. I've been on so many bloody diets over the course of my life. When I'm feeling self destructive I weigh myself when I know I'll be the heaviest. You know, fresh off a night shift with a belly full of breakfast. After dinner with a belly full of water. Whenever will make me feel the worst about myself. I've learned over time that if I'm feeling really, really body positive that I should absolutely not step on the scale because that number will wreck me. I'll go from feeling like a goddamn siren to feeling like a fucking hippopotamus in one fell swoop.

Neurotic you say? Well yes, yes it is. I'm batshit crazy, but I'm nothing if not self-aware. 

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So. Cutting with Stronger U. I filled out a spreadsheet every day. Macros consumed, weight, self assigned "grade" for the day, hours slept, waist measurement 3 times a week, workout, and general notes. I hate to admit it, but that spreadsheet was what kept me on the straight and narrow. Not My Fucking Fitness Pal (who named that app...they couldn't think of something less insipid?). I actually stopped "completing the day" in MFFP because I couldn't stand the judgy little messages anymore. I sent the spreadsheet in every week with my progress pictures. Front/side/back.

Week one. Just kill me.

I hated taking those pictures. Every week, I hated it. Especially because every other week? I had to take them fresh off the night shift, all bloated and pasty. I can't pinpoint exactly why I hate the photos so much...maybe because I've taken so many "before" photos and never any "afters"? I mean god knows I don't fear the selfie, but something about putting on a swimsuit and photographing my cellulite made me cringe. 

You know, it's the back view. That's why I can't stand the progress photo of it all. I cannot stand to see myself from the back. Hideous. I swear, if I could discover the cure for cellulite I'd make a mint. I'll wear the hell out of some booty shorts, but Jesus Fuck, don't photograph me wearing them unless the lighting is right. Ugh. 

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Sing it.

I struggled a lot initially. I was very resistant to preparing and eating the same damn thing every single day. I despise salad and I cannot abide the standard chicken/rice/broccoli that seems to be the standard for cutting. I would rather be heavy. That whole "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" saying is utter, total bullshit. Plenty of things taste as good as skinny feels. 

I don't remember what they are anymore, but plenty of things.
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I seem to recall these tasting pretty good?

Eventually I caved to that, too. I meal prepped. I tracked. I photographed. I spreadsheeted (spreadshot?). And the number on the scale started going down. Here's some of the shit I made. I also ate a fuckload of egg white oats and something I call "depressing cake" made from casein powder. Every time my macros got cut I died a little inside, but I adjusted my meals and carried on. 

Taco bowls, I ate these a lot.

Wheat pasta with home made marinara

Shrimp and broccoli with chickpea noodles and cauliflower alfredo

Jerk pork loin with sprouts and potato

Shrimp stir fry with cellophane noodles

Vietnamese lettuce cups

Tomato marinated shrimp with quinoa and roasted eggplant.

I got on the scale every goddamn day except one because we were out of town (and I am NOT obsessive enough to bring my scale and weigh myself in a hotel). And one day, this happened.

I actually did it. Also? My house is disgusting. 

And I took a final set of pictures.
Ugggghhhhh, the back view.

If I'm being completely honest, I don't see much of a difference. I feel different. My clothing size is different. There's less flesh squashing around, but even 12# lighter than the first picture, I don't see it. Neurotic AF, bitches. Right here. I took one set of photos that actually made me feel proud. These. 

In a weightlifting singlet that I'll never wear outside my house.

So I made weight. I'm fighting to stay here. I have to keep myself below 72kg until 0900 on Saturday morning, because I'm telling you right now that if I weigh in at 72.1 I'm going to set some shit on fire.

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I feel better about competing this time around. I'm pretty sure I'm going to beat my total from last time, and a higher total is always a good thing. Don't misunderstand, I'm not going to win anything. I'll probably have the lowest total in the comp, but it'll be better than the last one. Ultimately I'd like to hit a 600# total. In theory that shouldn't be a problem. Hell, most of the people who started around the same time I did (and after me) hit that right away. Well, I'm not athletic. It takes me longer to master things. It takes me a LOT longer to build strength. Fortunately or unfortunately for me I'm also pigheaded, and that makes me tenacious as fuck. There are many people more talented than I am. Stronger. More powerful. But I am relentless, and that's just as good. 

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I am a Tenacious B.

So after this meet, what's next. Well, first I'm going to take a breath. I've been hard driving towards 72kg for so long that I've forgotten how to relate to food like a normal person. This assumes of course that I've ever related to food like a normal person and that's debatable. I need to back away from tracking and the scale for a week or so and try to get used to my body again. I need to assess what I've done and what I need to do to either stay here or not. I need to un-diet so that I don't end up stuck on these starvation level macros for the rest of my life (I'm not kidding here. 145c/43f/120p or roughly 1400 calories a day, and I've been here for over a month). I need to reassess my goals and decide what works for me to maintain the aesthetic that I like and build the muscle that I need to pull a semi (not kidding here either, #goals).  

And because I'm a neurotic asshole, I'm going to need help. So I got some. 

 Hey that's me!
This is Alex. He talks a lot of sense. Hopefully he'll be able to talk sense to me without wanting to bash in my skull.

You can find Alex on his website at www.alexmaclin.com We had a little chat last week and I dumped all my crazy onto the floor for him to sift through, and he didn't block my number so that's a good sign. 

My challenges going forward are mostly about reframing the way I look at food and how what I eat and how I track (or don't) relates to my real life. I went from structured program with NH to free for all to cutting with RP (and fuck you, RP! Fuck you very much!) to hard core cutting with Stronger U. All these methods were learning experiences, but now it's time to find my own method. The one I can work long term.

For the next four days I'm going to drink all the water and curse the clearance candy and turn down treats. Saturday I'll give my all on the platform and hopefully walk away with a shiny new deadlift PR. I'll enjoy a few beers and some type of previously forbidden food...and then I'll go back to eating normally.

You know what I can't wait to eat? Whole eggs. Egg white are bloody depressing. You know what else is depressing? That whole eggs sound like a treat.

It's been a long cut, y'all. 

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                                                             Even Miss Piggy slims down occasionally. 

You may see blogs more frequently as I try to figure all this shit out. Apologies in advance.