Magical Peach +

 

magical Peach

This is a reminder to all: There is much magic in the world and you never know where, how, or in what shape/form it might reveal itself.

The above is a typing that occurred when Peach, our cat, walked over my keyboard. I don’t think this was a mistake.

Just a moment prior to this configuration of syllables, I saw the correct spelling of the word,

“magical”.

LightBoxPeach

 And Peach, is, most certainly magical.

This month, we have had her for two years, she was a rescue, a city cat, she had kittens, she got caught with her babies. Her babies were placed in homes. Peach caught ring worm at the veterinary office, which placed her in solitary confinement for two-months-straight, this caused her to modify or shorten, her tail. She had plastic surgery (her tail is very cute!), she healed.

Then.

We found one another. We all fell for one another immediately.

When we met Peach, she was a charmer, whenever someone, a new person, came into her presence, she would charm them. It makes sense that if she were in ‘solitary’, that charming people would become necessary. She must have been lonely.

Everyone needs love and care.

In the last two years I have worked with her to lessen her fear of loud noises. Peach is becoming interested in sitting in our laps. She shows trust and love. She is much less a charmer. I appreciate this, as I prefer her needs are met and that she knows it, without feeling as if she needs to charm anyone.

GenQ

Now, I will change subjects.

Over the last year, I have been working to write a book with a good friend. It has been a lot of fun, I am learning new things. Making great art. Learning to collaborate. Unfortunately, the book was cancelled a few weeks ago. We retain full rights to our materials (no worries there). I will not go into details as to why this occurred, let me just say, the publishing industry is changing quickly. I have mentioned the book a couple of times here on my blog and I reference ‘the book’ in the article about me and my studio in Generation Q (Issue 14). The book will be published, in some form. I/we will not stop working to promote it. But as Forrest Gump says, “That’s all I am going to say about that.”

Life happens. 

Even still! This interview about me, my studio and use of space, is quite interesting. I do hope you will purchase a copy and share your thoughts with me. I have been putting a lot of thought into what a home printing studio ‘needs’ in order to function well. 

StashBuster

Pardon me for the less that awesome photograph. This quilt top is a few months old. I have been sitting on it and waiting for quilt #2. (I am making two sided quilts.) The quilt I was working on over Holiday Break is the mate to what you see here. I am not ready to talk about that one yet. I will clue you in soon.

But this, one.

This is fun right? This is a total stash buster. I cut swaths of squares at 4″. Commercial fabrics, hand printed, I chose fabrics from my entire stash. I grouped these together and randomly sewed. Playing with light and dark was a bunch of fun, I wanted it to sparkle and think it does. I love loosing myself in mindless, though highly rewarding, tasks like this.  This quilt is about 7o” square, I did not make it as a bed quilt, not for my bed, which is a king. It is just that my bed is the largest flat place in the apartment. 

A four inch square stack of cut cloth is so rewarding. I want to use my stash up completely and start acquiring when needed rather than stashing and storing. I think this part is great. (Use The Stash–). I have been printing cloth for quite a few years, but I have not been using it. Using the things you have and make causes you to make more, doesn’t it? It is a complete circle.

I like circles.

And dots.


 (Hey! I have begun using Instagram!! Friend Me, please. This year, I will communicate more through photograph, than words, I am going to start using Instagram a lot this year. Let’s have fun together and hook up over there. Shall we?

Oh, and Quiltography for iPad? Best 15$ I have spent in a very long time. Christopher Oxley? Brilliant!!! And again, that is all I am going to say about that. Buy it. I am not making money for saying so. But, I am sold; hook line and sinker.

Oh, AND!!! I have mentally bought Jen Sinkler’s Lift Weights Faster 2 already. I anxiously await it. March 10.

Winner Announcement? Sonja Mclane

That is all the news that is fit to print.

 

 

 

4 years ago today: the vista

Four years ago today, I heard the words, ” I am sorry to say, you have breast cancer”. 

Wow. Glad to see the tail end of that one!

Today I am immersed in a quest to exercise. I want to give my body a little something extra, something to grab onto, something more than popping a pill or settling into a passive groove. In my case, lowering body fat is a good thing. I had 100% ER/PR+ breast cancer. Fat and estrogen levels are related. I have been using kettle bells and it has become a bit of a hobby for me! 

I found Artemis last year, after the need to store my plate weights and bars (New York City apartment problems). I’ve watched/read Artemis train for the Iron Maiden, an exciting journey to be sure. I am wowed. The Iron Maiden is 3 movements, a press, a pull-up and a pistol squat. Women must do this using a 24kg bell. That is 52 pounds!

Um, yeah. Wow.

I use an online training service through Iron Body Studios and WeightTraining.com. I love it. I even bought a tack-on program called Attack the Bar. I do this at home.  I use kettle bells, a Jungle Gym XT, Valslides, a door mounted pull-up bar and elastic bands. I am training Turkish Get Ups, Pull ups, presses. I love it, really. I feel confident. I experience a connection between mind and body, I am becoming aware of my food choices. Slow and steady makes the grade, small changes daily! I have all the time in the world to commit to my program. Thank goodness.

I gladly exchange a love of lifting heavy things and a new more streamlined physique for the stress of doctors appointments. Any day.

Happy Anniversary, Melly! Good going.

In the meantime, I was invited to donate artwork to Virginia Spiegel‘s The 100 Fundraiser to Fight Cancer. The above piece of artwork is my offering for the cause. 

The 100

I do hope you might consider bidding 100$ for this piece. I would love for you to own it.

Swinging and lifting, I feel good.

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This year I needed to put my plate weights in storage, they were smelly and my landlord asked for me to address the problem. I did. This action reverberated and made me reevaluate my workout abilities and needs. I chose to move back to using kettlebells, which I have a small collection of. This change also made me change the online workout program I was committed to. I am really happy to say that I found Artemis Scantalides, Iron Body Studios and their online workout program though Weighttraining.com.

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I have been working to inform myself on programing and good form with the goal of creating a sustainable, enjoyable, workout program that I gladly commit to. In the above photo you see my Jungle Gym XT and my ragtag array of kettlebells.

I love working out. I appreciate the strength and confidence that lifting and swinging kettlebells offers me. I like feeling my glutes activate while walking. I love the way my body looks. I appreciate that lifting has the effect of making me want to eat the best I possibly can. I also really appreciate that it helps burn fat. 

IBSwDavid

So, when Artemis and Eric came to NYC to give a workshop on using kettlebells, I signed both David and I up. David has been watching my interest in lifting with, at first, hesitation, then with interest and now, he begins to think that perhaps lifting will help him build his core muscles up to such a degree that he can do the exercise he loves, running. (Evil grin on my part!). Either way, I love the above photo where you can see David’s hand resting on my shoulder and all of our big grins!

IBSwDavid2

Artemis gave me some swing corrections during the workshop, which has inspired me to join her Holiday Swing Challenge. I started doing it today, in addition to my regular workout. I seek to improve my swing.  I am jazzed about working with these folks.

random acts of kindness are real.

Lifting weights, challenging my body and mind to work together to complete my workouts, watching my muscles grow and my shape change is quite an adventure. Being proactive and engaging with my body and its needs has helped me to feel grounded and clarifies my mind, especially after the rigors of breast cancer treatment. I know it isn’t guaranteed, and nothing can prevent cancer, but exercise is inexpensive, non-invasive and well within my ability to accomplish. It provides great benefit, acts as an antidepressant, it helps level out hormonal levels, it helps keep my body fat low (I had estrogen dependent breast cancer and fat stores and creates estrogen). 

While surfing my favorite fitness blogs last week, I noticed that Jen Sinkler is coming out with a new product called Lift Weights Faster and is building interest for her new offering by doing a give away. Jen Sinkler owns a gym with her husband, she is really straight forward in her fitness approach, and she is badass, goofy, and fun (all of the things you want in a person who inspires you to exercise). Jen had a scheme where you got one point for entering yourself in the drawing, and 10 points for every friend you refer. The grand prize to this giveaway, is a home gym set up.

I took a screenshot of all the swag, just so you could see it. 

And, ohmygoodness, I wanted it! I began to use my social networking feeds to get my points up to winning levels, I told my friends that I wanted that grand prize and asked them to sign up for Jen’s email list, just so I could have a chance at winning all that loot. My points started racking up and I was excited to get detailed messages describing how many points I had earned in my email box. Pretty fancy. 

But then…

An unnamed admirer went and bought the entire grand prize offering and had it shipped directly to me. Just typing out these words, almost a week afterward, makes me tear up. All of the items, and more, were on my ‘wish list’. I had just been shopping for them and trying to find good deals.

Here I am with my newest kettle bell, a heavy bugger that I look forward to swinging soon.

But what really touches me about being given this gift, this random act of kindness, is the note that came with it. Which said, ‘Simply because you are an inspirational woman.’ 

This touches me deeply. I am honored to receive this generous gift. I feel gratified that my actions are received in the manner I had hoped. I have decided to live out loud, in all of my Flat and Fabulous glory, and to advocate for us Flatties as much as I am able. Talking about this topic, putting an image of my body on the web challenges me. It does not come easily. But at the same time, I feel passionate that women need this information and perspective, so I choose to do the work anyway. I know that if I am able to affect a single person, it was worth it, even if it is difficult to do.

So when this kind act was given to me, it was as if I had received physical confirmation that I am doing good work. It also feels somewhat permissive, as just last week, I was reviewing topics I would like to discuss on this blog, and one of them is fitness, my new hobby. So, rest assured, I will be talking fitness in the weeks and months to come.

And as is the hope when giving and receiving Random Acts of Kindness, I will be looking for a way to ‘Pay it Forward’, when the time comes. 

And in the meantime, I choose to allow myself the love and kindness and generosity that was given to me along with the physical aspect of this gift. Thank you universe. Thank you very much. Some very heavy items will arrive this week and you gotta know, I look forward to lifting and writing about them.

Oh! And, I bought Jen Sinkler’s Lift Weights Faster eBook/video compilation, I love it! I have been studying it (and trying new lifts out) in downtime all week!

Breasts, and then no breasts. Year 2. Two years.


IMG_1317

Two years of soul searching, deep, personal work. I am healing. My body is changed. I have experienced a calyx of emotion, intellect and bodily presence.

Everything feels different. 

 Two years ago today, I had bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction due to breast cancer. I am now a flat chested woman. For the first half of my life I had breasts, now I do not. These last two years have been a lesson in bodily acceptance, body love and appreciation. It has been an interesting journey. 

IMG_1336When I made the decision to have bilateral mastectomy, I asked myself what I thought needed to occur in order to feel confident, strong and secure in my decision to be a flat chested woman, who does not see herself wearing prosthesis. The answer, exercise. Really, the week I was diagnosed, one of the first things I said to my breast surgeon was, ‘I guess I need to start exercising’. She laughed at me and replied, ‘You get diagnosed with breast cancer and the first thing you think about is exercise?’ Yes. Exactly. There are few things we actually have control of in our lives and physical activity, the ability to use the body we are given, is one of them. For the able bodied, that is.

 I have begun exercising consistently. For the first time in my life, I am aware of my body as a physical presence, not just a carrier of the brain, but a functioning participant in the process of living. Body. Mind. BodyMind (I made this up, it sounds appropriate). I have been stretching, working with kettlebells, experimenting with Jungle Gym. 45 minutes, 3 times a week. Easy. I am working with Marianne Kane, whom I adore. Marianne designs my workout programs and I purchase corrective skype sessions, so that I can be assured that I am using good form.

Then, I walk. I am eating more salad, cooking more vegetables  (we are members of a CSA) and I am experimenting with new and exciting recipes. I like to a try one new recipe a week which makes food exciting again. I have gained some weight, some muscle and some fat. I am alright with this. This seems like a good weight. I feel healthy. I am eating good food, learning what amount of activity feels right, and embracing a balanced approach to encouraging my body and mind to be as healthy as possible.

IMG_1348Being breastless and not wearing prosthesis, bucks the norms and societal expectation of even the breast cancer survivor. Most women who choose mastectomy without reconstruction wear prosthesis. This helps clothing fit better and alleviates the appearance of physical difference. I choose not to engage in presenting an appearance that is not true to my being, my self, the shape of my physical body.  I cannot honestly say that this choice has been easy, there are moments when the difference in my physical appearance has catapulted me into a roller coaster of emotion that felt overwhelming and dysfunctional. That roller coaster contains fear of judgement, fear that my gender presentation will be mistaken to negative consequence, fear of being different.

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On the flip side of this, opting out of reconstruction has made me appreciate that I am strong, mentally strong, it takes courage and strength to be different, to walk the streets as a flat chested woman. I know many women are small breasted. I know I present a female, feminine picture, and that my body, perhaps, appears slightly different than my small breasted sisters. But going from a 34DD size bra to no bra at all is, on a personal level, life changing. And it isn’t like there are many role models of well known women who have chosen not to reconstruct their bodies after cancer treatments. I mean heck, I used BreastCancer.org as my go to informational site while in active treatment and they are just now updating their content related to opting out of reconstruction after breast cancer treatment, and do you want to know why? Because -I- asked why this choice is not being acknowledged on their site.

IMG_1403I would not change a single aspect of my journey to rid my body of cancer and to embrace the beauty and stealth nature of my new shape. 

Two years ago today, I had bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction.

Cancer treatment showed me the resiliency of the human body, it has shown me that my body leans toward health and healing. Cancer has made me embark on a journey of fitness that serves to strengthen both my mind and my physical being. Cancer has helped me to accept that this is my body, my self, my one chance at living as fully as humanly possible. And most especially, that the only standards that I need to live up to are my own.

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I embrace my strong, independent spirit. I love this body, scarred, flat and stronger than it has ever been before. I celebrate my beauty. I am thankful to my body and glad to be connecting my bodily experience to my intellect.

This is a journey of a lifetime.

 

Many Mellys

Brace yourself, this is a long one.

MellyBehaved

In the above photo I am wearing a Handful Bra with padded inserts and the camisole I am wearing says,

‘Well-behaved women seldom make history’.

This week, I read Stephanie Forsyth’s post called, ‘I Yam What I Yam‘, where she talks about being a potty mouth, beer guzzling, super-rad, quilter chick who doesn’t want to put on airs to please anyone else. Well? She stirred the pot and now I want to write a similar post.

I have kept this blog for many years, I was an early adopter and was blogging when few quilters had blogs. I published Inspired to Quilt in 2009 and my latest book in 2012. For years I thought my ‘audience’ was traditional quilters who had an artistic side that they wanted to indulge. I don’t think this anymore. I think I have gathered a community of artistic people and that I am a member of an artistic community who are interested in expanding and growing visually, many of these people know how to quilt traditionally, but only do so occasionally or under duress. 🙂 (I am kidding about that part.)

I have a personal history of catering to a ‘presumed audience’, with biases and traditions that do not apply to me or my work. In the face of this, I have held my tongue in fear of offending a potential reader of my blog and books.

Want to know some of my thoughts?

I don’t like the term quilt art. I think that the focus remains on quilt in the traditional sense and not art. When we show ‘quilt art’ in quilt shows, it separates us from the art world. Quilt shows provide space to show (which is wonderful), but degrades the ability of the quilt artist to be taken seriously in the art world because the focus is on conjuring as many categories as possible, so that as many quilts as possible can be shown. At the same time, quilt art is often judged by traditional quilt standards, when it does not seem that the judges are well versed in art history, tradition or technique. Many quilt shows also run along side consumer events which is an engine in itself, and a bit of a distraction from the event itself.

I argue that traditional quilting is a fabulous craft (This is not a bad word! Rather it is a respectable word used by people who hone their skills to high standards, to present beautiful and functional objects), and that art is art, non-functional in use, perhaps inspirational or confrontational and artist’s must learn many skills too, drawing, composition, color theory, history, materials and how to use them, to name a few. Artists cannot and should not work in a vacuum and I fear that many quilt artists work in the vacuum of the traditional/quilt art community.

I think it is great to have quilt shows (I both participate in and enjoy them), and understand that quilters have gone unnamed and and created works in anonymity for much too long, perhaps our need to fit as many categories as possible into each show is as a result of this. I don’t mean to say that I don’t understand how difficult it is for female art to get seen either, these shows do wonders in this respect. I just wish that the cross over between the quilt art world and the art world was not so vast and I question weather we do ourself a disservice by showing our work in insular, mixed focus environments. It is almost as if we parallel play with both the traditional quilt world and the art world.

And don’t get me started with ‘crafty art supplies’. I want my pigments and paints to mix to the color I-intend-to-mix and use, and so I want them labeled with pigment names and numbers so that I can get the repeatable results no matter what sub straight or media I use the paint on. I do not like using supplies whose real intention is getting me to purchase brand name refills.

Phew.

MellyKWest

Now onto some other topics that I would like to open up and explore in this space. It is no secret that I had breast cancer and that I opted out of ‘reconstructing’ my body. Choosing not to reconstruct and not wear prothesis is an interesting proposition. If you look at the numbers, 1 in 5 American women have (immediate) reconstruction after breast cancer treatment. This means that 4 out of 5 women are… wearing prothesis? I don’t know. If these numbers are right, there are a fair amount of Very Quiet Unobtrusive Women out there. Luckily for me, there are also a good number of women who are banding together to create community based on our Flat and Fabulous perspective. If you are flat and would like to join a private group for some support, comment and I will hook you up.

It may be a good time to read my Role/Reboot article on this topic.

So I wonder, why are all of these women being so quiet, where are they, why can’t I see them? Why are there such expectations for conformity and body image? After surviving breast cancer treatment, why is the human body, with all of its beauty and will to remain healthy, not enough? Must we put on the prothesis and carry on like nothing happened? Must we hide behind a body image standard that is no longer possible as a result of this disease? Is it because breasts make us female, womanly, feminine and without breasts we are…inadequate?

Recently I have begin to think that perhaps I am gender queer. I do not think similarly to the mainstream, I do not think you are either male or female. Gender is not a two way street. I don’t think this is a discussion about gender at all, but rather one of being human, open, compassionate, willing to accept difference and if need be to celebrate that difference. What makes this a discussion of gender is that mainstream society, and even the breast cancer community does not question the ‘breasts make us female idea’ often or thoroughly enough.

Are my scars, gotten through battle with breast cancer just too scary to contemplate? Is it freightening to know, to see, to understand that women get scarred from breast cancer?

Please watch this video:

The Scar Project from Sara Dehghan on Vimeo.

I really like and appreciate the work David Jay has done with The Scar Project. He has opened the door for a more thorough discussion of breast cancer, reconstruction and opting out of reconstruction. The above video rubbed me wrong when I first watched it. Now that I have had some time to think it through, I understand that what rubbed me wrong. David Jay was shocked to see the removal of a breast. Women’s breasts are sacrosanct, revered, used (and abused). David Jay made me realize that society is not acclimated to seeing women have scars, get scarred, or be scarred. As more women like myself begin to talk about our experience, and embrace the choice of Going Flat, as I like to call it, this body image will gain greater acceptance. And hallelujah! (When one of the plastic surgeons I interviewed said that ‘reconstructed breasts looked good in clothing’, he meant it, and to me, the amount of time spent on creating the look of breasts without the sensation or function is not worth the risks).

All of this is to say, my feminist head had been reared and I don’t feel like holding back anymore! Breast cancer is not going away any time soon, unfortunately. If I can be a voice for a simple, noninvasive and really quite beautiful result-bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction, I will and gladly. (In fact, I am actively doing this, the breast cancer support forum I use has no pages on what to expect when opting out of reconstruction, no pages on what to discuss with your surgeon, if you need a plastic surgeon, or what testing proceedures to expect after having bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction. I asked why this is and now they are creating content that says more than, “Some women decide not to have reconstruction and opt for a prosthesis instead.” And I got myself invited to a luncheon presented by City of Hope where I hope to make connections and to network on behalf of women who opt out. Doctors and nurses fall prey to societal expectations of the female form too! And I have the energy to speak out.)

MellySassy

And last but not least, goodness gracious, have I been having fun lifting weights! I have never been into exercise, but when I was diagnosed, I knew it was the one thing that might help me fight disease, it is an action that I can accomplish to help my body function as well as it possibly can for as long as possible. This space will not become a fitness blog, not by any means, but I will discuss my gains, how it makes me feel and I may well show my ‘guns‘ every now and again.

I am tired of not being fully present to myself. Not voicing my thoughts, needs, concerns. I have faced my mortality and do not want to live by half. So, thank you Stephanie. Thanks for speaking up on your own behalf and helping me do the same. And hey, if you, dear reader, don’t agree with me? Speak up! Minds are made for changing and my opinions and thoughts are no more important than yours.

Strong Curves

Strong Curves

The week I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I realized the only thing I wasn’t doing to be the healthiest person I possibly could, was exercise. When I told my breast surgeon that it was time to start, she laughed at me and said, “you get diagnosed with breast cancer and you think it means you should start exercising?” I raised my shoulders in a shrug, ‘Yeah!’  

I have never related to running and have no interest in spending time on tread mills. I started reading about how to lift weight, the effects on the female body, and I started surfing the web for women’s weight lifting and fitness blogs. The results I saw in women who have been lifting weights for a while were amazing, muscle definition, strength, pert pretty butts, who knew! I found Marianne Kane’s website, myomytv and began working with her over the internet. We use skype to work on proper form, email to ask questions and now, after 6 months or so, I too am seeing some great results in my own body.

During this time, Marianne turned me onto Bret Contreras and Kellie Davis who just recently came out with Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body. Bret calls himself the Glute Guy, which is his area of study in sport science, he is passionate about The Bum and this book is a testament to his passion. Beside which, how funny is it that he calls himself the Glute Guy? And Kellie? She is awesome, her body is gorgeous, and if you check out her web site, she wasn’t born with perfect genes and gorgeous glutes, she earned them with hard work.

This book is a veritable bible for training women (although it could be used by men too). Strong Curves is 320 pages long, it is filled with full color photographs of each exercise, contains several 12 week programs to get you started. It also explains how to use the information within the book to maintain and build upon what you have learned. I admit, there are a few paragraphs that might have been edited out, but (or Butt-as the case may be) even if they were edited out, the book would not be much shorter for having done so and the information it imparts is well worth the read. If you are looking for an exercise program that will help you get the results you want? I thoroughly suggest you purchase this book. I love my copy so much, I had the binding removed, the cover laminated and a spiral binding placed, now my book opens flat.

And if I ever have a question on what exercise to substitute for a Romanian Deadlift? I know where to turn (and so does Peach, who wanted to be included in this post). I may even join Marianne, Kellie and Bret’s online community called Get Glutes.

 

Mish Mash.

I bought an album by Sophie Hunger. She is worth a listen. Check her out.


 

I really like Kellie Davis of Mother Fitness Revolution. I was introduced to her web site by Bret Contreras site (who calls himself The Glute Guy-which I think quite charming, albeit goofy) 😉 The two coauthored the upcoming book, Strong Curves, which I preordered, I never pre-order! I am quite excited about this book. Marianne has worked with Bret. In the fitness world it seems that people mentor and teach one another, it is quite an interesting place.


 

I own one piece of jewelry from these folk. I check them out now and again. Lil’ shopping. Then I head over here. I own a pair of boots from CYDWOQ. She says shyly. Riches! Honest to goodness riches. Those boots were comfortable from day one. Amazing. And they will last for quite a long time. These boots can be resoled, and there is a great cobbler in the neighborhood. My Man bought me a shirt sold at J Crew, made of Liberty of London cloth yesterday (I wish you could actually see the print). There will be many a fun day in that shirt! 


 

The Graffiti Breast Pockets are coming along. They need a super shift, a change, an intensity of color, additional motif, something. I have begun to push them in a new direction.

In Episode 6 of the last Mad Men season (4?), Peggy has this print by David Weidman hanging in her office, which I love. I am embroidering my version of these daisies onto the pocket at upper right.

Today I have a doctor appointment in the morning, then I plan to take my sewing supplies to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to stitch/draw. Excitement.

Bethany

Last week I put a post up on Facebook, asking if anyone knew of a uniboober or flattie in need to a pocket. Jennifer West responded, asking for a single pocket to be made for her cousin Bethany.  Here is what Jennifer said about Bethany:

My dear cousin Bethany died of breast cancer on Sept. 15 of this year. She was a brilliant soul: sweet, spunky and fearless. She had one breast removed and was in remission when the cancer returned with a vengeance and spread to her brain. The world will miss her.

It is so very sad to hear that another woman has died from this crazy disease. Rest peacefully Bethany, we will not forget and we miss you.


In the first few weeks after being diagnosed, I wondered, Geez, I am vegetarian, I am a healthy weight, what more can I do, should I do, to be even healthier? I looked at my breast surgeon and said, “I guess I need to start exercising”. She laughed at me and said something to the effect of, being diagnosed with breast cancer makes you want to exercise? And, well, yeah. I already eat healthy, I walk a lot, and as far as a life threatening disease goes, the one thing I can control is what I do with my body and how I eat. So exercise has been a major focus for me since I was diagnosed.

Months ago, I asked on a breast cancer board, what sort of exercise the other women were doing. One woman pointed out a website that, at first, was a boon, but then turned out to be a bane. The great part about finding that site was that it taught me that in terms of exercise, you are the person you need to compete with. You exercise because it makes you feel good and over time, you will also look better.

I fell in love with the host, I loved her gangly body and sheer excitement in cheering us on and encouraging us, but then…she got a boob job. And a lip job. And hair extensions. And a nose job. And now she still cheers folks on with excitement but I can’t see her anymore.  I watched with fascination as she made these changes to her already fantastic physique. Was she making these changes to get more followers? Did she have to get such big ones? I couldn’t get past the idea that she did it in response to the patriarchal demands that our society places on us as women, especially if we don’t know how to parse and separate ourselves from our culture. So I moved on. (No links to that site, she doesn’t deserve your attention.)

So, I started to get serious and began researching exercise after breast cancer, and you might think that with all this ‘awareness’ going on that someone would have an exercise program suited to the 12% of U.S. women who will be diagnosed in their lifetime. I found a research paper on weightlifting for women at risk of lymphedema after breast cancer treatment on the Journal of the American Medical Association. Then I found Marianne at MyOhMyTv. I watched her videos, read her posts and decided she was on my team, she is a feminist, who is smart and savvy, knows how to introspect about her own fitness goals and she is a founding member of Girls Gone Strong (here is the Girls Gone Strong Facebook page), all of the members of this group are on my fitness blogroll! I contacted Marianne, telling her of my needs as a survivor, and asking if she would be willing to work with me as an online client. I emailed the study results to her, she read them over and agreed.

I haven’t been working with her for long, but I am being consistent and I am seeing some initial results. Just this morning, as we were snuggling and waking up, David said, you are feeling tighter! And I have to say, I also feel more balanced, centered in my body, my endurance has improved, and yes, I am tightening up all over the place. It feels good.

I will be talking more about body image, society and the female form in the next few posts, and I do hope you are interested.