Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gym Rat: Part II

Did I mention that the shower at the second gym is awful? I went by today and asked to check it out. One of the girls walked me back and showed me that, yes, one of the two stalls does have enough water pressure to rinse shampoo out of hair. The other shower has no water pressure, but it has hot water. So, if I join, I can take a shower with just enough pressure to rinse my hair OR I can stand under a trickle of hot water, but I can't have water pressure and hot water at the same time. Bummer.

I spoke to the manager and asked him if he was aware of the plumbing issues. His responded that yes, he was well aware of the issues in the women's locker room and that they have had plumbers out several times. Furthermore the owners are aware of the issue. He then told me that the showers in the men's locker room are "perfect." Somehow that was not reassuring though I think he meant it to be. Despite this, I'm 99 percent sure I'm joining. While the family center would be nice for the swimming pool (and swim lessons), it is too easy for me to make excuses not to go.

Now I have to decide between a two year contract that is $29 a month or a one year contract that is $39 a month.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gym Rat

Okay, I'm not a gym rat yet, but I plan to join a gym. Believe it or not, this doesn't have a lot to do with vanity or not being able to find jeans that fit. It is about health. My bones' health, specifically.

Nine and a half years ago I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It was really no big deal. I had surgery to remove my thyroid and radiation to kill any lingering thyroid or cancer cells. Since then I have been on a fairly high dose of thyroid replacement hormone. The idea is to suppress the production of TSH which can fuel any cancer cells that escaped radiation. The problem with long-term suppression of TSH is that it can lead to accelerated bone loss and osteoporosis. The problem with not doing long-term suppression is that thyroid cancer can be tenacious and come back even after 15 or 20 years. A definite balancing act is in order.

Unfortunately for me, I have risk factors other than thyroid treatment for osteoporosis including my build (small boned and thin*), family history of osteoporosis (my father has a hump now), and European descent. Even nursing can leach needed calcium and lead to bone loss. Because of my risk factors, I've had three bone density scans since my initial thyroid cancer treatment. The first, my baseline, came soon after treatment and showed that I already had comparatively low bone mass for my age. My second bone scan was similar to my first; I still had ostepenia, but it looked like I was holding my own. My third test, done last winter, was dismal. I had lost bone mass in both my hips and my spine. In fact, I had lost over 20 percent of my already low bone spinal bone mass in just four years: I'm closing in on osteoporosis.

At my appointment a few weeks ago, my endocrinologist/ oncologist said that she was alarmed by my results. She wants me to think about using one of the bone building drugs and to increase my calcium intake (my blood calcium is always a bit low which is common for thyroid cancer patients, particularly if the parathyroid glands were traumatized during surgery, which mine were). She also backed off my thyroid replacement dose a bit with the stipulation that if my labs change (protein cancer markers), then they will have to be amped up again.

I'm not wild about the bone building drugs. I've pored over the research, and it seems that this class of drugs is not the best idea for premenopausal women. Instead, I want to make a concerted effort to increase my calcium and vitamin D intake. I also want to get religious about strength training and weight bearing exercise, both of which preserve bone mass. Thus, my desire to join a gym.

I have narrowed my gym search to three facilities, but I'm having a hard time choosing among them.

The first is a family wellness center not far from our home, but about six miles from my office. We were members there for a year, but we let the membership lapse because we weren't using it enough. The center is large, has a pool, and there is a free nursery. There are free weights, two sets of nautilus equipment, plenty of cardio equipment, and a wide range of classes. The problem with this center is that to use it, I will either have to drive to our downtown campus to drop E off and then drive back out to the gym or try to leave her in the gym nursery. She used to flip out about the gym nursery so I'm just not sure if this will work.

The second facility is only a block from my office. It is sleek and new. The cardio equipment is awesome and the weight equipment is easy to use. It is incredibly clean. There is no pool, no childcare, and fitness classes are limited, but that doesn't concern me too much because of the convenience. With it so close to my office, it would be easy for me to work out several mornings a week. The biggest negative (and possible deal breaker) is the shower in the facility. I signed up for three free visits over the summer and was horrified at the shower situation. There was no water pressure and the water temperature was unpredictable--lukewarm one day and scalding hot the next. Those were the worst showers I have ever taken. I told the staff about them, but an acquaintance told me that nothing has been done. I'm not sure that I can join a gym where I can't get a decent shower.

The last gym is a few blocks from my office. There is no childcare and no pool, but there are yoga and pilates classes. The facility has a ton of cardio equipment as well as free weights and nautilus. The showers appear to be functioning well. However, there are several problems with this facility. First, it is the most expensive of the three. Second, the cardio equipment is situated along a window that overlooks a busy sidewalk and street--to exercise there is to be on display. Third, it doesn't seem like they are fastidious about making sure the machines are wiped clean and disinfected. Given the surge in nasty superbugs, I prefer a clean gym. Finally, this gym is very popular with the student set and I'm not sure that I could work out there without feeling self conscious and old.

So I'm stuck. I just can't make up my mind. Will I really use the family center if I have to take E downtown to campus and then drive all the way back? Will I use the beautiful center a block from my office and just deal with the trickle of water and unpredictable water temperatures? Or will I take stock in purell, get over my self-consciousness and join the gym where there a lot of student types? What would you do?

*Yes, yes. I have been complaining about my weight, but extra pounds on a small frame make a difference.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Public Service Announcement

Is it possible that those pounds I have lost have all come from my chest?

I ask because I spent much time trying on new jeans this weekend. Twelve pairs to be exact. None fit. None flattered. While my weight is back near its prepregnancy state, my hips are not. I've decided that jean shopping is a close second to bathing suit shopping on the things-to-do-to-feel-completely-demoralized list. Bra shopping runs a close third. As it happens, grading senior research papers is up there. *

The jean shopping made me realize that 1) my weight loss may not be proportional and 2) my chest is going to win my body's biggest loser-a-thon. You see, M is barely nursing anymore; she likes a quick nip at bedtime and when she wakes, but she isn't getting much. These days it is all about comfort and not much about nutrition. My boobs have responded to the decrease in demand by doing the incredible shrinking tits act. I have gone from a 36DD just two months ago back to my prepregnancy size of 34 C. I suspect there may be more shrinkage once we are truly done with the comfort nursing. I don't really mind the shrinking-- after all, exercise is easier with a smaller chest--but I do mind that my nipples aren't pointing the right way.

That's right. You heard me. My nipples can no longer be counted on to point straight out (remember the headlight jokes in middle school?). Nope. They tend to point to the sides a bit. Sometimes they stare at each other, cross-eyed. Other times, they look away from each other as if repulsed by each other. It isn't pretty. In fact, I find it somewhat alarming. My friends warned me that after nursing I might droop or sag; in fact my sister-in-law had implants after nursing two children left her with "two empty tube socks." But no one told me that nipples can end up out of alignment.

S0 here is a public service announcement. In addition to shrinkage, droopage and stretch markage, nipple misalignment is a very real possibility. Consider yourself warned.

*Holy Mother of God, whose class have they been sitting in all semester? Why can't they write? Did their English teachers give them multiple choice essays? Why can't they form simple hypotheses? How am I supposed to grade these? Why me? Why me? Whaaaaa.

Monday, November 05, 2007


Do you remember how in old movies the passage of time is shown as a the whirling hands on a clock or as the pages of a calendar flipping by in staccato? October went by like that. Supersonic. How is it already November?

November is OK. It's no October, but the month has its charms. The cool weather is lovely, and wearing flannel pajamas is delicious, if not sexy. I don't much care for the shorter days and for getting home after dark, but I do like the smell of wood smoke from neighbors' chimneys and sleeping under a pile of quilts. In November, my impulse is to hunker down and ready myself for the long pause of winter. This November, I'll fight that urge.

Last month, I vowed to lose weight. The baby pounds were getting old, and I felt disgust every time I pulled on my fat pants. My weight loss plan was simple: eat less and exercise more. I stayed away from sweets and tried to take walks whenever I had a few minutes to spare. By October 30th, I had dropped six pounds and was back in my favorite jeans.* Yes, I overindulged a bit around Halloween,** but I'm back on the wagon and I'm hoping to drop another three to four pounds by the end of the month and to be back at my pre-fertility treatment weight by year's end.

As silly as it sounds, my confidence was boosted by being able to reach my weight loss goal. I've had a down year professionally, my three-year-old has started copping serious attitude, and my 14 month old isn't speaking; it's all been a bit much and I've been feeling downright glum, out of control, rudderless. Losing the weight reminded me that I do have some command over my life. And that is a good thing.

I've decided that setting one manageable goal a month may be just the thing to keep my outlook more sunny, which is why I'm declaring November the month of the FROG. For those of you lucky enough not to live in suburban hell, that is Finished Room Over the Garage.

My FROG is the dumping ground for the entire house. It is supposed to be my home office, and indeed, my computer, printer, fax and other office gear are here. But it isn't a peaceful office because there are boxes, scattered paperwork, toys, books, and various odds and ends. It is so disorganized and cluttered that I have put off having the roof fixed because workers would have to pass through the FROG to get to the trusses. For about a year, I've been promising myself that I would clear it out, but I've put it off. It has just seemed too overwhelming.
I'm ready now. By the end of the month, I want this to be a peaceful and organized office/ playroom. My plan is to spend at least 15 minutes every day until I get it in order. I hope that I can chip away at the task bit by bit until I can report mission accomplished.

*OK-they are still a little tight, but it isn't scandalous.