Seeing What You’re Made Of…or, Mr. Bubby, Part 2

I think sometimes we are tested just to see what we’re made of.  In the case of Mister Bubby, he’s been tested and that little man is full of heart and gumption!  Last I wrote, we were waiting on results from a biopsy to determine whether or not my baby had cancer.  Unfortunately, the results came back positive: he was diagnosed with stage 2 spindle cell sarcoma, which is a localized cancer and one that doesn’t metastasize (thank God). Upon receiving the results, I immediately made arrangements to meet with a surgeon who our vet referred us to.

I was highly impressed by the doctor and facility, but the means of getting rid of the cancer left me nonplussed. Amputation was the only way. After a tour of the operating and recovery room, I felt slightly better though; Mister Bub would have excellent care through this big surgery (three people in the operating room during surgery) and I would have 24 hour follow up advice via phone if I needed it post-op through both the surgery center and the emergency clinic associated with the surgery center.

I spent the weekend before surgery with my little lovey, taking him wherever I went and giving him his favorite treats of bacon and ice cream. Sunday evening rolled around and it was time to make the trek from Culpeper to Manassas, so I loaded him into the car with my Dad and off we went to the surgery center. Leaving him overnight was awful; he looked at me with a shocked face as if to say, “Ma, what…where are you going?!” If that experience was bad, the next day was pure torture as that was surgery day.  The day dragged on and on and I was finally able to call and check on him at noon: Mister Bubby had made it through surgery just fine and was resting.

Tuesday rolled around and I was anxious to get the little man home to rest in the comfort of his own bed, so that afternoon, I drove up to pick him up. Seeing him for the first time was a shock, adorned with his little blue e-collar (or as I like to call them Cones of Shame) and his shaved hind end. We walked outside with a very sweet tech from the surgery center so she could so me how to use a sling on Bub so he would have an easier time walking. Much to my surprise, he walked (or rather, hopped) right out of the sling and hightailed it to the car, anxious to get home!

We were sent home with pain medication and an NSAID and my sweet boy took his medicine well, but I noticed that whenever I would dose him with the pain medicine, his heart rate would increase and he would start panting heavily.  This only got worse over time and we made a hasty visit to the emergency clinic in Manassas again on Sunday.  Mister Bub was given new paid meds, put on an antibiotic due to a fever and had staples put in to secure his incision as he somehow managed to pull out about three sutures.  After a day at the clinic, we were free to go home!

I’m happy to report that Mr. Bubby is doing much better since the change in medicine and I believe we’ve turned a corner and he’s on the mend.  He felt so good in fact that he spent some time outside with my Dad yesterday, hopping around in the grass, moving about easily with his tail wagging. He’s my trooper, my brave little boy and my miracle.

Now, the only hurdle we have to jump is getting more biopsy results.  Our surgeon sent off Bubby’s leg to be biopsied where the leg was taken off to make sure that the area is free of cancer.  If this comes back as cancer-free, then we are in good shape and cancer-free!

Here’s to the health and happiness of our constant companions and fur babies everywhere!

Mr. Bubby, The Day After Surgery

Mr. Bubby, The Day After Surgery

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When One Thing Goes Right, Another Goes Totally Wrong…or, About Mister Bubby

So here I am, plugging along, focused on working out and being healthy. And I’m actually succeeding; since April I’ve lost a good bit of weight and have increased my cardiac stamina and have started feeling pretty good about myself. But, wouldn’t you know that when one area of my life starts going well, another part falls to shit?

One day a couple of weeks ago, I notice that my baby, Mister Bubby wasn’t going down the deck stairs or bearing much weight on one of his back legs.  I was unconcerned at first; I thought perhaps he’d taken a little tumble while scrambling down the stairs, which would make sense for him to have developed a fear of those stairs. But more time went on and I realized there was something definitely wrong; his whole gait changed: instead of the cute little butt-wiggling walk that he normally had, he was almost swinging his left leg out to the side in order to propel himself forward. So, I finally called Mister Bubby’s doctor yesterday and was able to get him in first thing in the morning.

After a little exam, our good doctor looked at me and said that he felt a large lump directly above my baby’s knee. Said that it “felt funny” and wasn’t quite sure what it could be, so in order to be thorough, the best thing to do would be to get an x-ray.  In order to get the proper angles that he needed, I had to leave Mister Bubby at the doctor’s office in order to receive a mild narcotic so the leg could be manipulated. Dr. B promptly gathered up Bubby while we spoke at length about how much time he’d need to complete the task. Before leaving, I looked at my son who looked at me wide-eyed as if to say, “What the hell!? Ma!?” but was a good boy as I told him I’d be back and gave him a scrub on the head.

Mister Bubby

Mister Bubby

A couple of hours later, I made a phone call to check on my Mister and see if I could pick him up. It was then that I received the most upsetting news that I could possibly have gotten. The doctor believes the large knot he felt in the leg and saw in the x-rays to be a tumor. I promptly started sniffling and crying, stating to the doctor that was the one thing I was hoping it was not. Upon picking up my boy, the doctor did say that there is a very slight chance that the knot is there because of tearing of ligaments and/or tendons. At this point, that is what I’m hoping for.

Bubby is eight or nine years old; he’s become an old man over the past five years that I’ve had him, and because of this, the doctor wasn’t willing to give him more medicine in order to do the biopsy yesterday. So, upon picking him up, I scheduled the procedure for Wednesday. And here I find myself today, the day after receiving this news, trying to concentrate on work, and I realize that that just isn’t going to happen today.  Instead, I’m focused on the fact that my baby could be very sick, and will be biopsied tomorrow. I’ve never been a patient person; waiting to find out if my dog, who I think of as my child is healthy or sick is killing me. The only thing I can do at this point is to ply him with his favorite cookies and make him happy.

The plain truth is that I simply don’t know what I’d do if I Mister Bubby wasn’t around anymore. He’s been my companion and my best friend for the last five years. He’s stuck faithfully by my side through the good times and the not so good times. And, he knows when I’m sad or sick and does his best to make me feel better.  Here’s to the mysterious lump being caused by injury to his leg rather than a cancerous tumor, and to Mister Bubby living many more healthy years by my side.

 

Meeting Goals…or, Being Brave Instead of Vague

I’m eight weeks into my transformation/weight loss journey and things are going remarkably well. After having several meltdowns and moments (ok, ok…days) where I wanted to throw my hands in the air and eat my feelings, I think I’m finally past all of the hysterics. And, I’m ecstatic to report that I have surpassed a weight loss goal!

I began doing Weight Watchers again about two weeks ago after hitting a weight loss plateau on my previous plan. Don’t get me wrong, the plan that my FES (Fitness Extraordinaire Sister) put me on was great and it helped me lose about ten pounds in a week’s time, but after some time, I felt it to be restrictive and after about six weeks of following the plan (albeit with cheats) and working out five days a week, I still wasn’t losing any weight. So, I decided to give ol’ WW another go of it and see what would happen. What happened was I started losing weight again! I weighed in on Tuesday and was astonished that I finally surpassed a weight loss goal; it was a small goal, but a goal nonetheless.

I realize that I’ve been rather vague about my weight loss thus far, never actually mentioning a number. Part of that is because this journey is intensely personal to me. Part of it is because stating a weight that I’m not proud of makes me self-conscious. And part of it is because actually stating my weight to an audience of people is a daunting and scary task.  But after thinking about it, we’re all friends here, so here goes nothing. I’ll start at the beginning.  When I started this journey, I was a whopping 238 pounds (I’m only 5’5”). Somehow along the way, I’d eaten my way to an unhealthy and uncomfortable weight. I became increasingly self-conscious about my looks and downright uncomfortable in my own skin. I wasn’t happy with the me that I’d become. This is why I decided to start this journey. I want to be a more confident, healthy version of me. I want to feel good and look better.

So, now that that big matzo ball is out there, I can happily say that I’ve dieted and exercised my way to 224 pounds. That’s a fourteen pound loss since April and I’m quite proud of myself. I’ve been trying not to look at the big picture when it comes to how much weight I’d actually like to lose because it makes me feel like I may never achieve that goal.  I find that it’s the small victories that make being on the weight loss journey bearable. I think breaking a big weight loss goal of 80 pounds into smaller, more achievable goals of perhaps five to ten pound increments helps. Hell, I even celebrate each one pound loss.

Different things work for different people and I believe one of the big hurdles people face when decided that they need to make a change and start the process of losing weight is to figure out what works best for them. Some people like working with a trainer at the gym, while some people need just a little bit of guidance when it comes to working out. As far as dieting goes, some people need a very restrictive set of rules when it comes to diet (a forbidden list and an allowable list of foods), and some people need a little more wiggle room when it comes to diets because they end up going home at the end of the day feeling deprived and end up in a pool of their own tears.  In my case, I hate going to the gym, but I do it because my personal trainer sister told me to. And because I’ve started to see results.  I go and I sweat intensely (as I like to say, I sweat like a man) for 45 minutes a day, five days a week. As for diet, for me, I need wiggle room. I need to be allowed wine and treats and fruit…otherwise it’s me that ends up feeling deprived and crying hysterically at the end of the day, feeling utterly hopeless and like I’ll never achieve the big goal that I’ve set for myself. Now that I think I’ve got what works for me figured out, all I need to do is to keep plugging away at it and see where I am in another week’s time.

I Did It!…or, I’m Starting To See Changes

I did it. I achieved what I believed to be the impossible. It started small…and turned into a huge accomplishment. My last blog post, I wrote about how I was finally able to stay on the stair climber (AKA The Beast) for a total of thirty minutes, climbing for fifteen minutes then stopping for a moment and continuing on for another fifteen minutes. Well, this past weekend (as I type this, I’m grinning a grin so big it hurts) I was able to climb for thirty minutes straight!  And then something even bigger happened. On Monday, I climbed my way onto The Beast and kept going, past the thirty minute mark all the way to forty-five minutes! I’ll be totally honest, I don’t kick up the speed. I keep my hands on the heart rate monitor handles and watch my heart rate, trying to keep it within the fat burning range, so slow and steady is my style on this machine. But slow and steady is what got me through forty-five minutes of heavy breathing and sweat and wishing I was at home on the couch. When I was done, I was disgustingly sweaty. Seriously sweaty. Like my whole shirt was a sweat stain. I had sweat dripping from my hair, down my face and into my eyes. But damnit, I did it! Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I could stay on that machine and keep moving for that period of time. Never.  Because it’s hard.  And because it hurts. But I did it. And now I know I’m stronger than I thought I was and have way more determination than I thought I had (because I was ready to get off that machine about five minutes into it!). And do you know what I did yesterday? I forced myself to attempt it again, and I climbed for another forty minutes.

I don't know if the stair climber will ever be considered my "warm up", but I'll stick with it!

I don’t know if the stair climber will ever be considered my “warm up”, but I’ll stick with it!

I’m now in week six of my transformation. I call it a transformation, not a diet because I am changing: the way that I eat has changed and my relationship with food is slowly changing. Sure, I still want ice cream and cake and pizza and wine and all of the crap that I was allowing myself on a regular basis. I won’t lie and say that I don’t occasionally indulge and allow myself those things, but the frequency and the amount of any food I eat has changed drastically. I want a better me more than I want the food, which is why I live on a steady diet of grilled chicken and field greens and veggies. It isn’t fun. And it isn’t easy. But I’m doing it. Another big change is my activity level; I went from literally doing nothing, to spending forty-five minutes a day, five days a week at the gym. That’s a huge change. I still can’t say that I “love” working out, but I tell myself that it’s a necessity, so every day after work, that’s where I am, pushing forward and imagining myself a whole lot littler as I huff and puff away on the stair climber. After four weeks of not seeing any progress on the scale, I’ve had very minor weight loss over the last two weeks. I’ve decided to take each one pound loss as a victory rather than thinking You’ve only lost a fucking pound and you’ve been killing yourself at the gym and eating rabbit food!? Ok, ok, I sometimes think that…but then I tell myself this will take time and I suck it up and move on. The major things I’m noticing six weeks into this journey is the way I look naked and the way my clothes fit. My body is changing! Clothes are starting to become too big! I’ll take those changes with a smile and keep on keepin’ on! I’ve decided to set little goals for myself and crush those little goals, one at a time until I get to my major goal. I’m realizing that in order for me to get to my big goal, I’m going to have to stick to this new way of eating and living for an extended period of time – that there is no overnight fix. And I know myself: I burn out and lose interest in things and move onto the next thing that is shiny and new and peaks my interest. I’ve just decided that this time around, that isn’t going to happen. So, everyday, I’m going to remind myself that I have to keep going until I meet the big goal and transform myself into the person who I want to be.

Seeing Progress…or, Achieving Milestones at the Gym

It really is something special to achieve an unknown fitness goal. Over the last several weeks, I’ve been killing myself at the gym, forcing myself to workout hard in an effort to aid in my weight loss goals; I walk through the gym door with a little bit of dread every day, wondering Am I going to be able to push myself hard enough? Will what I’m about to do actually help me to lose the weight? Rereading the last two sentences, I realize that I’m putting a tremendous amount of pressure on myself for something as silly as a gym workout. But anyway, I digress…

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been forcing myself to once again tackle The Beast, the ever dreaded stair climber machine.  When I worked with a trainer back in 2012, I worked on this machine and hated every minute of it, but was so proud of myself when I was able to increase my time on the machine to twenty minutes. So, this time around, the first time I approached the machine, I did so in the women’s only area of the gym. I wanted to sweat and curse under my breath and make strained faces only in front of my fellow female members. I believe the first time I tackled The Beast, I was able to do about ten minutes before feeling so exhausted, winded and sweaty that I simply couldn’t do it anymore. As the past couple of weeks have gone on, I’ve challenged myself to gradually increase my time, pushing myself a little harder each time. Ten minutes turned into twelve, and twelve turned into fifteen. And then, one day, fifteen turned into twenty. The next day, I thought I’d push myself a little harder and try for twenty-five minutes; alas, I hit my limit at twenty-two minutes and went onto the next machine to complete my forty-five minutes of cardio. But then, something magical happened. Wednesday, I surpassed my goal of twenty-five minutes. I climbed onto The Beast in the main area of the gym (onlookers be damned, they’d have to watch me grimace and listen to me inhale and exhale deeply) and began climbing. I was able to climb for fifteen minutes before pausing my workout to grab a quick drink of water and catch my breath. Feeling disgustingly sweaty and hot, I then began again, climbing and climbing and climbing until I reached a goal that I never thought I’d actually reach. I climbed for a total of THIRTY minutes on The Beast! As I watched the numbers blip from 29:55…29:56…29:57…29:58…29:59…I smiled. I smiled and inhaled and exhaled deeply… and then I immediately hit the big red Stop button on the machine. I had done it! I’d climbed for THIRTY minutes! I descended the stairs of the machine, inhaler and water bottle in hand, with elation. I did it. I did it and I lived!

The Beast

The Beast

Then, something even more impressive happened yesterday. I did it again. That’s right: I climbed on The Beast for another thirty minutes. And you know what? I might even try for another thirty today. At first, I never imagined I’d be able to work on that machine for an extended period of time because…well, because I’m not exactly in shape. But now? It’s kind of like a game. A really painful, sweaty, curse-inducing game called How Long Can I Do This Today?

The longer I force myself to go to the gym, the more I realize that all of the work is paying off. If I hadn’t forced myself to at least try The Beast a couple of weeks ago, I would never have accomplished thirty minutes on that ridiculously sadist machine. Granted, I still loathe working out, but now I realize that it’s working. I’m able to work harder without feeling out of breath, clothes are starting to fit a little differently and I’m starting to get comments about looking different at home and at work. Now, I just need to be able to keep up the momentum and continue to force myself to do cardio. Ugh. Cardio.

Week Three…or, The Moment of Realization

I’m nearing the end of week three of the Do It or Die Plan and as time wears on, it’s become more apparent to me that I need to look at myself rather closely and discover what on this earth brings me happiness other than food.  This has been a sad realization, but a necessary in order for me to continue the weight loss journey. After a multitude of melt downs (that my Fitness Extraordinaire Sister has put up with) because I couldn’t have _________(I’ll let you fill in the blank), I feel that the only way I’ll be able to continue successfully is to re-examine what exactly brings me joy.

Food has always been the center of gatherings with friends and family in my life, and something in which I’ve always taken great pleasure.  Therefore, in these past 3 weeks when I’ve had to deny myself simple pleasures like a glass of wine or pizza on Friday nights, I’ve gotten mad. Mad because I feel I’m depriving myself of the one thing that has always been a source of joy.  Is that sad? Or, am I simply a normal person who takes a great interest in savoring food? Logic tells me that anyone depriving themselves of something that they enjoy is bound to get cranky. Logic also tells me that when I get cranky in this instance, I become resentful and want to throw in the towel. So, the question begs to be asked: is all of this work for naught? Will I, after a week of 45 minute cardio sessions, six days a week become so disillusioned by it all that I say fuck it and quit because I feel like I’m killing myself and depriving myself at the same time? If I did decide that this just isn’t for me, will I then feel a ridiculous amount of guilt because I quit? Would I then try yet another weight loss plan with limited success?

I’ve thought a good bit about what other things in life I could focus on that bring me joy when I’m pissed that I can’t have popcorn or a glass of wine. Time with family, time with my friends, and music are the obvious three.  Hiking and gardening once brought me joy, but I haven’t been out once this year for a hike and I have planted absolutely nothing this season.  I know what you’re thinking: that can be remedied. You’re right. In fact, I have a hike planned in the very near future with my kindred spirit, Lady Di with whom I always have a good time. And I think I’ll head to the store to buy some plants this weekend.

But, what else is there? I think the reason I have such a hard time listing the things that make me happy is because I have never spent a real good chunk of time alone with myself. I’ve always tried to focus on other people and have placed a great deal of significance on other’s happiness. One of my best friends tells me that the reason I don’t like being single is because it forces me to be alone with me and the fact of the matter is that I don’t really like myself all that much.  Perhaps she’s right. I mean, we could always learn to love ourselves more, right? Or, perhaps the thought of being alone with myself and being forced to find out more about myself is a daunting task.  I have friends who are completely at ease with being alone, and actually relish the time and these are the people who, I believe, know themselves the best. They have distinct likes and dislikes and are very comfortable within their skin.

I think this is a time of transformation for me. Not just physical, but emotional and mental as well. I’m pushing myself far harder than I ever have in the past physically and mentally. Every day is a battle with my self from the time I get out of bed until the time I’m back in bed at night: do I force myself to drink the gallon of water a day? Do I have egg whites or do I eat what I want for breakfast? Do I make myself go to the gym and do 45 minutes of cardio or, do I do what I really want to do and go home and have a glass of wine? For the past three weeks, I’ve been changing the way I live my life.  This morning, I watched a vlog that a friend and former yoga teacher posted and a piece of a sentence that she said echoed back to me: become comfortable with being uncomfortable. I think that I’m in this uncomfortable place and I’ve not yet become comfortable with it. Living your life in a completely different way is uncomfortable. But maybe, if I start to become comfortable with being uncomfortable, if just for a little while, it’ll make this transformation period a little bit easier.   This is my new mantra. And I’ll continue to repeat this to myself as I’m on the treadmill walking on an incline and my legs just want to quit. And something tells me that I won’t quit; not just because of impending guilt if I do, or possibly disappointing my sister who has done a good thing by helping me, but because I want this transformation. And being uncomfortable for a little while is a small price to pay for that.

Dieting at a Beer Festival…or, I Can’t Eat BBQ and I Want It

On Saturday, I picked up my honorary aunt, MaryMary and we went “over the mountain” (as folks ‘round here say) and headed to the 4th annual Rocktown Beer & Music Festival in Harrisonburg, VA. This year, they had 31 breweries/cideries and three bands, four local restaurants set up in tents, and, thank God, enough portapotties for everyone in attendance.

MaryMary and I left Culpeper around 1 o’clock on Saturday while threatening looking rain clouds (or as my Grandma “Bill” would call them, “weather clouds”) started to roll in. As we climbed the mountain, the sky got clearer and it looked as though we would escape the threat of rain. I was excited just to spend time with my kindred spirit and to be out in the sun. I was not, however, looking forward to the temptations that I knew awaited me when we arrived: bbq, burgers, and lots and lots of beer and cider. I was prepared though: that morning, I drank my powered chicken, er…protein smoothie, and had my lunch of stuffed pepper and noshed on almonds on my way over the mountain. I also prepped a protein shake and threw that in my purse along with carrots and hummus.

By the time we found parking and arrived at the end of a very long line of waiting ticket holders, I thought it best to try to choke down the protein shake. Much to my chagrin, the damned thing had leaked in my purse and was warm. Nothing better in life that a warm protein shake. I guzzled as much as I could stomach as MaryMary and I waited in line behind a ridiculously annoying group of early to mid twenty-somethings. I wouldn’t go back to that stage in life if you paid me. Aah, to be older…and kinda, somewhat, maybe a little wiser?

First TasteThe first vendor we hit was Bold Rock, out of Nelson County, Virginia; not my favorite cidery, but a decent replacement as I couldn’t find one of my most favorite brands, Crispin. If you’ve never had Crispin, you simply must. They make a delightfully refreshing, light and flavorful product in two varieties: apple & pear.

After MaryMary enjoyed a ridiculously good looking bbq sandwich from Clementine’s, we hit Devils Backbone (Roseland, Virginia); they offered a tasting of pear lager which was interesting and very dry and had light elements of pair in the finish. We were fortunate enough to meet up with MaryMary’s son, Jamie and his beautiful girlfriend Kate at the festival and they were able to lead us to the Crispin tasting spot and because he was part of organizing the event, got us samples without having to stand in line! Crispin2

Jamie has been a part of the beer world for years and before moving back to Harrisonburg, announced that he will be opening his own brewery with partners, Pale Fire Brewing Company . We were able to tour his new brewery space while at the festival, and though right now the space is lookin’ a little rough, Jamie has a vision and I’m sure that his hard work and perseverance will pay off and Pale Fire Brewing Company will be a big success.

While at the festival, I was able to catch a great band out of Connecticut, Bronze Radio Return. They’re touted as an American roots music band, but they sounded to me more like a crossover band with American roots music influences. Their band included a banjo, a harmonica, both sounds that I love.

Rocktown Beer & Music Festival

Beer festivals are an interesting thing: they bring out all walks of life. Hippies and CEOs; young & old; stupid and not so stupid; drunkards and connoisseurs. They merge drink and food and music, three of my favorite things. Perhaps at the next beer festival, I’ll be in a position where I can splurge and enjoy the drink and food a little more than I did this time around. But this time around, I went home knowing that I was sacrificing for a better body the next day. And that isn’t a small feat.