Friday, October 29, 2010


When I was a kid, I thought I had blackheads on my ankles. Specks of dirt were ingrained in the pores behind my ankle bones, and I thought they were permanent. At night, however, some of their permanency lost their hold and became affixed to my sheets. By washday, the foot end of my bed was lower from the weight of dirt ground into my sheets.

Barefootin’ was the way we lived during the summer in Minnesota. Rich, black dirt begot thick, healthy grass and clover that felt luscious underfoot. Of course the dogs felt that way too, so when we rolled in the grass we first looked where we were rolling.

As the population grew, so did asphalt, concrete, and less porous surfaces to walk. Our opportunities to walk barefooted became far fewer and more treacherous. It seems disease runs rampant, so any crack in the skin is a breach to test the immune system.

A recent story in the Colorado Springs Gazette talks about the trend toward barefootin’,* so I immediately asked my trusted friend of 25 years what he thinks of the idea. He runs almost daily, training for almost every race in the Pikes Peak Region and beyond. Always an excellent athlete, Don ran the 2009 Boston Marathon in 4:00:08!

Here’s what Don, who now sells running shoes, has to say about running shoeless:

The vast majority of people are not going to be running barefoot anytime soon. No worries there! We do get lots of requests for the Vibram FiveFingers** shoes, but we don't sell them. I have VFFs, as do a couple other footwear associates, and we often wear them to work.

Many people seem interested in them because they are unique; however, most people don't seem to understand that the VFF requires a much different running technique than is typically employed. Since there is no cushioning, people who run with the standard overstriding, heavy-heel striking method will receive instant feedback that these shoes can't be used in that manner. They require a forefoot/midfoot landing with the foot being almost directly under the body. This is the same way a foot would strike the ground if a person were running in place. Forward momentum is made by a slight lean, and instead of swinging the foot forward, the knee is moved forward with the lower leg/foot hanging down—sort of like a much less pronounced lunge.

After I mention these things to people, they seem less interested. Plus the typical shoe buyer seems more interested in the color of his or her shoes than if the shoe is a good fit for running style and gai and the VFF tends to be kind of ugly.

For me, the VFF is utilized as a training tool to reinforce good running technique. Because they require good form and weigh almost nothing, I often find myself running faster than normal. Due to this I tend to use them for my speed workouts.

Our ancestors who ran barefoot didn't have to deal with modern hazards. Concrete, asphalt, and all kinds of debris make barefoot running something most people won't be doing. I see broken glass on almost every run as well.

There is a movement toward minimalist footwear. This article is one of many. Runners World magazine had a lengthy article in November’s issue.*** There are other shoes that look more traditional but are designed to be used like the VFF.

That may have been more than you wanted to know. Anything else?


Thursday, October 28, 2010


I feel like a dandelion would, if it had feelings.

Like the weed, my taproot is long and grows deep, so I can draw nutritious knowledge and sustenance from the environment surrounding me. And like its bright yellow, sunshiny face, I maintain a cheery outlook with a good sense of humor—unless I haven’t slept enough or feel used up.

Like this daisy family member that gives up its leaves for creatures to enjoy, I give a lot of myself to those important to me and feed on appreciation. But when I sense toxicity around me, I cringe and shrivel up like a weed doused with chemicals. And I want to hide my face when I feel the long daggerlike instrument used to cut me from the rest of the world, my existence and talents dismissed before I’m tossed onto a weed pile with all the other rejects.

Like sucking marrow from the bone of life, I love learning and have garnered a repertoire of skills and abilities that I offer others to access. My curriculum vitae doesn’t describe exactly who I am and certainly not all I am capable of. Nevertheless, it can be found on servers throughout the States. Hoping that companies’ search engines will linger upon the special words in my document that will carry my potential to the next step in the job-acquiring process, I keep dispersing more of the same as I wait, anticipating a call or e-mail or invitation.

If God energy would give me what I truly desired, I would continue working from my relatively quiet home writing, editing, and becoming better at both. My clients would continue appreciating my detail orientation and extreme pickiness, and some godsend who receives my writing, either through me or others, would have a whoosh or aha! moment when reading my stuff and ask me for more.

Until then, I keep pursuing. Yesterday Kathi said, “You’re a survivor.” It’s true. I have survived huge negative events throughout my life and still smile. ’Course, I was dropped on my head when I was little and don’t know any better.

You know, I could really let all this rejection bother me…if I had feelings.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The C Word

Part 1
Some things are just difficult to talk about, even for me. My friends always say, “Go ahead, tell us how you feel,” after I’ve blurted out some intimate detail that most would never mention. Friends are accustomed to me, though, and some have been around since 1972. That’s tenacity!

I despise circumlocution. “Just get to the point,” is the thought that spills past my lips. But the point that follows hasn’t dribbled out as a public display—till today, because now it’s happened four times. It’s the C word.

We probably all know others who have heard the word directed toward them, but when it’s aimed at you, its implications deeply permeate the soul. The word pierces the mind like a knife, and there it remains, knowing that once impaled, the knife can turn again. But I believe, with good planning and luck, you can avoid receiving C news. Read on.

Strike one was in late September 2008 when I had an abnormal Pap: atypical, squamous cervical cells. My mom had a hysterectomy at a young age, though she was never clear about the disease causing such a drastic excision, e.g., cervical, uterine, or ovarian dysplasia, so naturally, I became concerned. But being a healthy person with a positive attitude most days (I was hiking when my doctor delivered her news), I figured my doctor scraped the only dysplastic mass in my body. After all, I was 49, and not all 50 trillion cells are going to be perfect at that age.

Three weeks later I went to a nurse at a gynecological facility for a colposcopy, a surgical procedure that mimics a Pap test but is less fun. Additionally, without my knowledge or my primary care physician’s order, the nurse took cells for another Pap test that I later had to pay full price for. That still burns me.

The costly Pap results were negative (good), and the colpo indicated two sets of my cells were mildly to moderately suspect and should head directly to the executioner: in this case, surgery again (strike two). Initially, the nurse wanted me to have LEEP (loop electrosurgical excision procedure), which I heard as a razor-sharp, bloody, scalding, scraping procedure with an anticipated healing time of six months. I slept little for two weeks contemplating this torture. When I met with the gynecologist himself a week before excoriation, I asked what he would recommend for his wife, also a gynecologist, and he said, “Cryocautery.”

Sold. In mid-November I wiggled in to be frozen like a Popsicle in the hottest part of my anatomy. Though this was considered surgery, it didn’t feel like it, particularly afterward when my face flushed like a lobster in boiling water. I hoped the carbon dioxide snow killed any nasty cells, but it probably took a bunch of healthy ones too. Unfortunately, four days later my body reacted negatively, but I stayed away from the doctor anyway. One appointment alone cost $800, and that was with insurance, so rather than calling on my guardian angel, I treaded alone.

Seven months later at my follow-up colposcopy and Pap, more atypical, squamous cells were discovered: this time, glandular uterine (strike three). How many organs can be squished into such a small area, anyway? So two weeks later I had my fourth surgical procedure, one I would only wish on a couple of people, and they’re guys. Oh my God, what an immense, excruciating pain. Gals, if you can avoid having an endometrial biopsy (EMB), do. If you’d like details, click the link on your right, Stirrup Queens, where I met Melissa, head stirrup queen, who extended her kindness and love from New York all the way to Colorado, wishing me well before and after surgery.

The results from that removal proved negative (good again!). So now I shall share with you why I believe women can avoid hearing the dreaded C word. This has not been proven by anyone but me, to my knowledge.

As we age, our cells have more potential to form and grow abnormally. If we expose ourselves to unhealthy habits for extended periods of time, our chances increase that we will acquire a disease. Now think about the menstrual cycle. Monthly, women slough off unneeded cells that are dying, so chances are, they will appear dysplastic, particularly from a more mature woman—me, on most days.

Around day 14, our body begins tidying things up again, so our cells tend to be cleaner, healthier—even at an older age. My recommendation, therefore, is to have Pap tests done after day 14 and before day 26 in your menstrual cycle.

When my cells were taken on days 7 and 11 in my cycle, dysplastic cells existed.

When my cells were taken on days 21 and 22, my cells were fine.

An interesting note is this: The nurse who performed my colposcopies and endometrial biopsy said, “We can send your cells to four different labs and get three different results.” It depends on the person testing cells, the cleanliness and newness of chemicals, and other factors. Imagine that!

I firmly believe, after comparing notes with other women, that we are overtreated. I believe that had I not endured any of those surgeries and additional tests, I would still be fine. Why wouldn’t your doctor tell you these things? It would muck up their schedules and provide them and the labs less income.

Part 2
In early 2007 I noticed that a white, waxy dent, resembling a scar, had formed on my upper right forehead, seemingly overnight. For the next three and a half years I treated it with a friend’s precancer elimination ointment, vitamin E, triple antibiotic, and a dry-skin prescription. The dent grew.

I knew I should have gone to a dermatologist immediately but was concerned about the costs. When I finally made the appointment for Friday, August 13, 2010, the doctor walked in 35 minutes late, shook my hand in greeting, asked me what the problem was, took an alcohol-moistened pad, and rubbed my dent.

“You’re blue-eyed, blond, have fair skin, and you have cancer,” he said with the bedside manner of a guy who’s seen too many blue-eyed blondes with cancer. Strike four. Tears welled in my eyes as I stared at him in semidisbelief, hoping he’d slap me on the arm and say, “Just kidding.” Instead, he left the room while his assistant began injecting lidocaine into my forehead.

After a while, the dermatologist marched back into the room and declared that I appeared not to respect the medical profession, probably due to the prior shocked look on my face. Again tears erupted, and I cried, “I’m not aging well.”

He proceeded to use an electric grapefruit spoon to scrape away my dent, leaving me with a small landfill. Bandaged head and numb scalp, I paid my $50 copay and left. Cancer. Found in a building right next door to the gynecologist’s.

About a week later, a dermatological surgeon’s assistant called to set up my Mohs surgery for mid-September. The more I talked about my news, the more people shared their Mohs surgery experiences, so though I felt deeply sad, I felt as if I joined a club—one I wanted to be booted out of and not through death.

A friend of 25 years who had also had Mohs surgery offered to take me and stay by my side all day. When we arrived at the same dermatology clinic, different office, I requested a pain reliever for menstrual cramps. Eventually a gal handed me halcyon. Whee! I floated around on a cloud all day. Definitely couldn’t have done my taxes.

When the surgeon walked in, I felt immediate relief. Dr. Sniezek is young, bright, intellectually sharp, and knowledgeable. He patiently answered my list of questions and responded to my crazy comments with his own. I thought of cancer as a growth, yet I had an indent. It is still a tumor that is growing inward. Had I read that fact years ago, I wouldn’t have allowed the cancer to grow further. He asked if I noticed that the cancer was larger than the first dermatologist had noticed. I had.

Dr. Sniezek kindly asked my friend to return to the waiting room then drew lines around the cancer, which his assistant photographed. With lidocaine injected into my forehead and halcyon flowing through my veins, the surgery began.

After the first deep dig, hair cutting, and cauterizations, I floated to the waiting room for a couple of hours with a massive gauze bandage affixed to my head so my brains wouldn’t spill out. The way I was acting, though, I’m sure my friend thought it was too late. When I was finally invited back into the surgery room after noon, or maybe 10:00, he said they needed to remove more of me and that it was the rare, aggressive morpheaform type of basal cell carcinoma, invasive, fast-growing, and potentially disfiguring, since it can seep into and kill muscle, nerves, and bone. Insert halcyon number two.

After that excision, I think I stayed in the chair and thought about heaven and angels. At one point, Sniezek walked in and played with my forehead (pictured left). “What are you doing?” I quizzically blurted.

“I’m deciding how I’m going to put you back together and stitch you,” he answered. He described his artistry plan and left the room to go dig into someone else.

An eternity seemed to pass, so when he entered, I sadly said, “You abandoned me.”

Equally downcast, he slowly replied, “That’s a very strong word,” and he transmogrified into a seamstress.

Looking as if I were nursing a huge hangover, I stumbled to the front desk and scheduled my one-week follow-up visit and headed to Jim’s car.

For five days, frozen peas and my bed were my friends. It’s hard for an active person to rest midday, but I found it better than the dizziness I experienced plucking weeds. My hair has fallen out in sheets for three weeks, a condition Dr. Sniezek termed telogen effluvium, caused by a traumatic event. The guy knows everything. I even missed seeing him this past Friday following two post-surgery visits, but not enough to need him again.

If anyone has any questions or comments, write to ol’ Auntie. She’d love to hear from you. It’s pretty lonely staying at home looking like Frankenstein’s ex-wife.

basal cell carcinoma

Mohs surgery and morpheaform BCC

telogen effluvium

African sky © 2002 Bob Groat