Friday, November 21, 2014

Get a mammogram, man!

In my previous post I talked about my recent annual check-up and all that changes when one starts rounding 50. I purposely left out one thing as I wanted to wait until some more information came my way.

There's a lump in my chest.
One of the benefits of Streamlined Ska Librarian lifestyle is that I'm seeing a new body unfold and appear after years of flab. But a decrease of flab also means I'm seeing things that may have long been hidden.

A few months ago I noticed a bump on my smaller, firmer chest (from man boobs to DAN boobs, I always say!). At first I assumed it might be a contusion of some sort. I'm sort of clumsy and sometimes the barbell or cable may hit me as I'm weight training. But then it never went away. Months later there's still a lump.

Just next to that little inked petal....

So, during my annual checkup, I point this out to my doctor. He pokes around, confirms my family cancer history (both sides, lots of breast cancer) and hands me a referral for a mammogram and ultrasound. "Make an appointment as soon as possible," he said (which was not what he said about getting a colonoscopy, so I noticed.)

Fun Fact #1: While breast cancer in women is over 100x more common than in men, there are still about 2,400 new cases in men each year.  (via the National Cancer Institute)

Yet another 1% of which one hopes to not be a part ...

It's shocking news to think you might have cancer. What would happen next? Would this blog be taken over by a whole new journey of my body?  I had one week between the check-up and the mammogram and I did the wrong thing. I made the rookie mistake:

I looked up stuff about the disease on the internet. 

And I'm a librarian! I should know better!

So this entire week, I read forums and research on treatment, side effects, mortality rates. It was not time well spent. All I could think about was that surgery and hormone therapy would make me lose my nipple and my libido, both of which I was very fond. Not to mention chemo, lymphedema, mestastasis, watching what friends and family went through...Basically I went down the hole I would have smacked someone else for doing. I was a wreck. And I began to think the worst.

And after a fitful and scary week, it was time for the exams.

Fun fact #2: Mammograms for men are ONLY covered by insurance if it's for diagnostic purposes (i.e. if you're symptomatic) and not just for check-ups. (via your insurance company of choice).

It is very odd going into a women's health area of a radiology center and being one of the only men. It turns out the other guys were there for other radiology issues, so I already felt very awkward. For the most part, the staff was great, although the forms to fill out were pretty much gender-specific and not really answerable. (Questions about pregnancy, lactation, the perky breast drawings to show where you had issues). At least it wasn't all pink!

The mammogram tech was wonderful. She walked me through everything, told me what she was doing, prodded and maneuvered me, felt the lump and marked it to make sure it was scanned, compared it to my other Dan-boob, and had a generally good attitude for someone who does a procedure associated with a nasty health issue. 

Fun fact #3: Mammograms hurt!!!  (via my man boobs)

Perhaps having more material to slap onto those plates would be easier, but my Streamlined pecs got squeezed and pressed so freaking hard. I have even more respect for women for doing this. All we men have to deal with is a finger up our butt to feel our prostate for less than a minute. Can you imagine if our little fellas got this treatment?

I'd give credit but it's been Pinterested so many times without a citation. Shame!

Anyway, that took about 30 minutes and then I returned to the waiting room half dressed for my sonogram.

Over 30 minutes later, the ultrasound tech called me in. She asked where my lump was. I showed her.

She looked at me derisively. "I don't feel anything," she snorted.
"Well, my doctor did or else I wouldn't be here," I responded.
She pressed around some more."Show me."
"Is that it?"
*snort* "That's all?"

All good feelings I had went out the window. THIS is how you treat someone coming in for a possibly scary diagnosis? Aren't most lesions and tumors only 2-3 cm.? Could you show SOME compassion?

She began the scan. "That looks like a lipoma. Lipo means FAT!" she said as she looked at my stomach.
"Well, better safe than sorry. I've had a giant cell tumor before, so even benign items need to be looked at." (And why am I defending the need to be here?)
"Stay here. Don't get dressed."
A few minutes later, she came back. "I'm giving it to the radiologist. I think you're fine. You can go."

Fun Fact #4: I looked up some reviews of this diagnostic center. All good except for the waiting and this one tech. I can only imagine what those pregnant women coming in for ultrasounds had to endure. ("THAT'S your baby? *snort*") (via Yelp)

But after all that, the radiologist confirmed with my primary doctor that it was indeed only a lipoma: a benign tumor of adipose tissue. My doctor wants to monitor it to see if excision will be necessary at a later date, or if there's any change to it's composition. But as of now, no surgery, no nipple or tattoo loss, nothing but relief!! And no major changes to our regularly scheduled blog theme!

But perhaps there's also a new found sense of awareness for my own chest. Breast cancer can hit men and those of us who come from breast cancer stricken families should check ourselves on a regular basis.

If nothing else comes from this, I make it my pledge to talk about this issue. Get checked. Do it. Do it now.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cheesy Diets and Sweet "Life" Choices

My annual physical used to be a non-event; check the BP and cholesterol, be appraised of how healthy I am now, talk about what may lie ahead...nothing special. But as I get older, it seems my body has begun to develop other issues...those along the "oh, you're just getting older" meme.

But these changes may have led to one mystery, that of my new gouty condition. My uric acid levels are way up (gout cause!), but it seems my Vitamin D levels are now really low, as well.

My doctor was not happy.

Hashing this out with my doctor, we realized that I have been getting mega dairy cravings for the past few months, something I never really had before. I mean, I am a fan of a piece of cheese & some fruit for dessert, but looking back on recent times, I've been scarfing large amounts of cheese, keffir, skyr, sour cream, Mexican crema, ice cream, get the idea.

And it turns out that excessive dairy products can increase the uric acid in your system which can lead to gout episodes. Which means my lack of Vitamin D meant more intake of Vitamin D rich foods which led to an increase in gout prone blood.

So have we found the culprit?
© Evan Dorkin

It's a good possibility, although there has been some research that a uric acid increase in and of itself may be responsible for Vitamin D deficiency among gout sufferers.

Which means my new found dairy addiction is purely based on my own shortcomings. Or getting unhealthy uric acid levels THEN led to dairy cravings, which is sad. Or maybe gout was just a bad timing sort of thing as I get older. (Age is also a common factor for Vitamin D decrease in the body, too).

So now I'm on Vitamin D supplements AND uric acid reducing drugs. Probably on both until...well, until forever. This sort of lifestyle change will get me so ready for my 50th year in 2015 (helped along by the referral the doctor gave me for my first colonoscopy. Yay!)

But I also look at this as another way of seeing that even "healthier" foods do not necessarily mean health.  Perhaps eating goat brie and yogurt is better than boxes of fudge, but it still comes down to portion control and sensible ways of eating. Thanks god I stayed away from the "fat free" cheeses, with all the added sugars and fillers.

Which brings me to my next rant. Chronic gout has meant my running activities have been way curtailed. This weekend, I finally managed to go out for a chilly 5K run, which felt great. But I came across a billboard for a product I hadn't heard of before this week: Coke Life.

I guess it's been on the shelves for a bit, but I don't tend to wander the soda aisles as of late. What gets me is that they're marketing this as a healthy drink and putting "cane sugar" in the same phrase as stevia, showing them both as natural, healthy ingredients.

OK, they both come from plants but "cane sugar" is SUGAR! YOU'RE DRINKING SUGAR! It is a processed product that isn't good for you in excessive amount! Is it healthier than high fructose corn syrup (which, technically, also comes from "natural ingredients")? Perhaps, but you're still drinking sugar water. You might as well just drink Coke non-Life (I won't even touch that one.)

Why do we continue to fall for this crap and why do they still try to push this on us like this? And in what world is sugar a "green" choice? If my toe wasn't all gouty, I'd get up and write an old man letter of complaint to the company.

But for now I'm just gonna cut back on the dairy. Because it's bad enough being grumpy from idiotic health marketing. Not being able to exercise or walk as I get older isn't gonna diffuse that grumpiness.

Who wants to buy some cheese?


Takahashi, Sumio, Tetsuya Yamamoto, Yuji Moriwaki, Zenta Tsutsumi, Jun-ichi Yamakita, and Kazuya Higashino. “Decreased Serum Concentrations of 1,25(OH)2-Vitamin D3 in Patients with Gout.” In Purine and Pyrimidine Metabolism in Man IX, edited by Andrea Griesmacher, Mathias M. Müller, and Peter Chiba, 57–60. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology 431. Springer US, 1998.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Full on workouts lead to half assed research

Hmm, so in my last post, I did say I was not concentrating on the usual healthy paths to nutrition and "wonderful rainbows of advice" type of articles that have been the inspiration for much of this site.

Which means I've been reading less things that make me sputter so much that I have to blog.

I have thought about yet another blog makeover (this is,after all, the 3rd incarnation of this). Perhaps one that is more library-centric, but then again, this journey of Streamlined Ska Librarian is still a work in progress and therefore I guess I do have more to say, I just don't get pissed off as I usually do from research trolling....I mean trawling.

But much of my Streamlined concentration of late has been on the return to hardcore gym time:

To be fair, the music in the gym was much better back then...

And with the return to this much gym time is the return of annoyances at the gym. I had hoped to find some actual research and analysis of gym attitudes or issues of gym attendees. And while there's no shortage of general blogs and entertainment websites on gym personalities, it was a wash in finding something along the lines of a systematic literature review or meta-analysis.

I did find other interesting tidbits, such as a study on crisis or trauma as a motivation for regular gym use, and another one that (not surprisingly) shows that exercise improves body image, as opposed to actual body shape.

I guess I should take a cue from that positive reinforcement and not try to dwell, even in a scholarly way, on folks who might annoy me when I'm trying to get my work done. And it does sheepishly remind me that my looking for such research is exactly the sort of project plan I try to dissuade younger librarians from doing; Don't start a research project just to show something sucks. Try to formulate a more objective topic.

After all, we can all get along at the gym, if we just try...and perhaps wear mules and garnet earrings while doing it.


Appleton, Katherine M. “6 X 40 Mins Exercise Improves Body Image, Even Though Body Weight and Shape Do Not Change.” Journal of Health Psychology 18, no. 1 (January 1, 2013): 110–20. doi:10.1177/1359105311434756.

Stewart, Bob, and Aaron C.T. Smith. “The Significance of Critical Incidents in Explaining Gym Use amongst Adult Populations.” Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health 6, no. 1 (February 12, 2013): 45–61. doi:10.1080/2159676X.2013.766814.