No, Kathy, That’s Not a Tumor

Posted by Kathy on September 25th, 2015

250px-Xiphoid_process_frontalHow well do you know your own body? I don’t mean the stuff you can actually see, like fingers and toes.

I mean the stuff lurking inside.

For the last few months, I’ve noticed a “thing” at the top of my rib cage, under the skin, that I could only guess was a golf ball-sized tumor. Because that’s what you always think weird new things are that show up on your body.

I’d notice it after a shower when I raised my arms to put on deodorant.

Hmmm. Right. Probably a tumor and I’m dying.

If you’re like me, and you think you have a tumor and you’re dying, what do you do? Well, you wait months thinking the tumor will just go away.

Then when it doesn’t, you turn to Dr. Google.

You enter things like “What’s that knob above your rib cage?” Or, “What organs are protected by the rib cage?” Or, if you think Dr. Google will understand your meaningless symptom, you ask “Do I have a tumor? It’s golf ball-sized. Am I dying?”

You will, of course, get no results you want to read because they’re all about people with actual tumors and how they found them and then you get all sweaty and nervous and end your relationship with Dr. Google immediately.

Then after weeks of continuing to ignore it, you finally have a wellness visit with your doctor.

I went yesterday.

“So, doctor, I have this thing. It’s probably a tumor. You’re going to tell me I should have come in sooner for this and that because I didn’t, I am now actively dying from it. Here, have a look-see.”

I took off my shirt and bra and raised my hands over my head.

“See it? Tumor, right?”

He felt around. I waited for the ax to drop.

“No, Kathy. That’s your Xiphoid process.”

“The Xiphoid what?”

“Everyone has one. Here, feel mine.”

My doctor gestured to the same area above his rib cage where my knobby thing is located and he asked me to press it. His was harder than mine. He probably has a tumor.

He went on to call up the Xiphoid process on the Internet and show me pictures. In a nutshell, the Xiphoid process is a small cartilaginous extension of the lower part of the sternum which is usually ossified in the adult human (which means it creates new bone over time).


I then asked my doctor when he goes out to happy hour with his doctor friends to please not mention the “stupid patient who came in today and doesn’t know jack about her body.” But he probably will and he probably should because hell, I would.

The only reason why I figure I noticed this now is because I’ve lost over 50 pounds in the last six months and I’m guessing my Xiphoid process had previously been concealed by a thick layer of fatty fat.

So, folks, you have stuff in your body you may not know about. And you have a Xiphoid process that you might want to poke around for just for fun. Do not be alarmed. When you find it, it’s not a tumor. Probably not.

Admirable or Insulting?

Posted by Kathy on September 21st, 2015

So today as I was changing clothes after my lunch time walk, I noticed this as I was slipping on a new pair of jeans I bought this weekend.

Right there on the inner waist band is a declaration from Lee Jeans that I am beautiful.

You are Beautiful Lee Jeans

At first I was like “Aw, that’s nice.”

And then I was like “Waaaaaitttt a minute.”

I’m not inclined to appreciate my jeans company tossing me compliments every time I put my pants on.

I’m more inclined to be annoyed that it’s basically a marketing ploy to make me feel good about myself, and perhaps by extension, the company that thinks I’m beautiful. You know, so I buy more jeans that love me.

I’m onto you, Lee!

And question – did they put these cutesy reminders in the waist bands of mens jeans, I wonder? Like, “You’re one handsome man!”

Do men need a reminder how wonderful they are, or just insecure women who hate trying on jeans and having them not fit right and then feel like crap about themselves? What’s the message to woman here?

Let’s have it. Tell me how you feel about “You are beautiful” in the comments. Love it or hate it?

Spotted the Coolest Technology Today

Posted by Kathy on September 16th, 2015

iphoneEvery day at lunch, I take a 2.5 mile walk through campus at the university where I work.

It’s especially hectic right at the Noon hour when classes let out and students spill out from every building and converge on every square inch of sidewalks, streets and walkways.

Often, I’m battling trying to either pass slow walkers or not get run over by students, heads bowed and oblivious, reading their smartphones.

Ugh. Smartphone walkers. They’re the worst!

Today I noticed one student in particular who was walking along a pathway, reading from a very different kind of device. So cool!

You can hold it in one hand or two. In his case, he was slowly walking with it in his left hand.

The device opens fairly flatish and his was medium-sized, on the order of an iPad.

He walked along reading it and then when he needed to advance through the material, he swiped his right hand along the right half of the device and part of it physically moved! Came right up off the device and covered the material on the left side.

It was amazing. It didn’t appear to need batteries and he didn’t connect ear buds to it.

He just keep reading it and turning it and enjoying it. It didn’t make a sound. Didn’t ring. Didn’t beep.

It just displayed non-illuminated words permanently affixed to what I assume to be paper.

That’s right. This student was actually reading a good, old-fashioned book and it made my heart sing.

Thank you, random student, for reminding the world that some things can still be engrossing, yet not one bit digital.

How refreshing!

I’m Convinced All Product Designers Are in Their 20s With Perfect Vision

Posted by Kathy on September 14th, 2015

Huge rant on the way. Buckle up.

A couple weeks ago I turned 50 and as a sort of gag gift/serious gift, my sister Marlene gave me a magnifying glass.

Har har. You’re old and blind as a bat. But you know what? I am and the gift is extremely helpful. I used it twice at work the following week and then again today.


Because people who design product packaging all have perfect vision and I’m fed up with how hard it is to read anything.

Ingredients on food, instructions on medicine bottles, expiration dates and product codes. How is anyone over my age supposed to read important information without a magnifying glass?

By the way, isn’t it pretty?


I used it last week to get serial numbers from the backs of computers and today to read an expiration date on a cup of yogurt.


Why on God’s green earth is it helpful to make everything tiny? On the Dell computer product label, they save, what? One one-hundredth of a cent on ink and making the label smaller?

On the yogurt label, the designers print the expiration date in blue on purple background. Black on white, people. Black on white.

I want to be invited to a focus group on how to make packaging easier on the eyes of older people. But nobody cares about us. No one thinks how they can develop and produce things with universal design in mind so that everyone can use a product or device, disability or not, with ease. What’s the harm in doing so?

The reason I had to determine whether my yogurt was expired was because I opened the container and it was all liquidy and weird.

Next time, if I can’t read the label, I’ll just eat it anyway, get sick and wind up in the ER, where I’ll be given prescriptions when I leave that I also won’t be able to read. How do the elderly get their meds straight if they have to read them? OMG!!!!! Someone fix the problem!!

[/rant over] Carry on.

The Kathy Weight Loss FAQ

Posted by Kathy on July 9th, 2015

32 poundsGreetings, peeps! The Junk Drawer may be on life support, but we ain’t dead yet!

I thought I would write a bit about my recent weight loss because people are noticing it and peppering me with questions about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it.

I’m all about lazy, so the next time someone asks me, I can just send them the link to this post.

So, what’s been going on? Well, I was fat and now I’m not so fat anymore. I’m down 32lbs (14.5kg/2.3 stone) since getting my crap together and taking weight management seriously. I have been at it for 15 weeks. I’m halfway to my goal.

I thought I’d approach this post as an FAQ, since I get asked the same kinds of questions repeatedly. So here we go.

How are you doing this?

I am mainly counting calories, using a product called My Fitness Pal. They have a website, as well as an app. For my age, height and starting weight, MFP determined that to lose 2lb/week I should limit my calories to 1,200 per day.

My Fitness Pal boasts the world’s largest food database. I simply enter the things I eat and it does all the calculations for calories and nutrients. I also enter exercise type/minutes there. When I’m finished entering my daily foods, I submit my entry and that’s that. No more eating.

The program works for me because it holds me accountable to everything that I shove down my gullet. It also makes me hyper-aware of how many calories are in everything. That’s the key takeaway: Awareness of calories encourages you to budget carefully and make better food decisions.

Are you also exercising?

Yes. I do 60-90 minutes of something every day of the week. Typically a combination of 30 min. cardio (using hand weights) coupled with about an hour of walking. I have two walking buddies – my sister Ann and my friend Leslie. We walk 2-4 miles, every day.

I also have a virtual buddy in my hair stylist. We have a pact where we message each other right after we’ve exercised to keep each other committed. Having a support system like this is extremely helpful.

Are you cutting out certain things like carbs or sugar?

Yes and no. I don’t believe in diets that have a name, like the South Beach Diet, which limits carbs. For me, that’s simply not sustainable. I want to eat in a well-rounded way and I want to eat normal foods, just a lot less of it.

I have a decent amount of carbs per day, but my added sugar intake is almost nil. I’m getting sugars only from fruit and whatever is in things like cereal or vegetables.

I was a committed sugar junkie for years. That is, until I discovered during Week 5 of this process that suddenly I didn’t crave it anymore. This surprised me because I wasn’t even trying to cut sugar.

But when you eat cleaner and better, the cravings subside. At the start, I used to peruse the bakery aisle, pick things up, put things down. Later, I’d glance at the bakery, asking myself if I could get away with it. Now, I don’t even look at the bakery. No desire.

I do have an occasional sweet, like French macarons. But only once a month and it’s enough.

Don’t you just lose your mind sometimes and want to eat a half gallon of ice cream because you’ve had a crappy day? I mean, come on!

Nope. What I’m discovering as a former stress eater is this – I will have stress every day of my life and eating ice cream does nothing to make the stress go away. If anything, eating it creates more stress because it makes me fatter. Vicious cycle, right?

And I’m working on such a relatively low calorie count, that I’ve become an expert at making the calories I have count. You don’t want to blow a whole day’s worth on ice cream because it won’t fill you enough and that sugar spike isn’t good either.

Are you worried about regain?

No, but it’s scary to think about the statistics on long-term weight loss. It’s estimated that nearly 80% of the people who lose a lot of weight gain it all back (and sometimes more) within two years.

What’s different about my effort is that I’m treating weight management like a disease, as my mother had to do with her Type 1 diabetes. My mother had to micromanage every single thing she ate. She had to test her blood glucose multiple times per day and take insulin shots.

When I think of how hard her life was having this burden, I think of how easy calorie counting is by comparison. I’m reminded of Mom’s struggle as I do this and it makes me stronger, more mindful and more dedicated.

I often read that people who reach their goal weight stop counting calories because they got too confident and then the weight crept back on.

The people who keep the weight off most successfully are the ones who keep tabs on their weight. They weigh themselves daily and react quickly at the sign of even a small gain. I plan to calorie count the rest of my life. I don’t consider it an imposition or burden.

Aren’t there days when you lose your willpower?

No. I like to put it this way. Most people think you have to maintain willpower to make weight loss work. But willpower is a fair weather friend and there’s only a finite amount of it before you cave.

What I’m doing is using discipline to manage my calories and exercise. Discipline and willpower are two different things. Discipline kicks in when willpower lets you down.

Don’t feel like working out today? Tough. Come on discipline, help me out here.

Want that 800 calorie take-out meal? Not happening. Discipline comes to the rescue.

Someone offers you treats and says “Come on, you deserve it!” Nope. Discipline keeps me focused and on track. I don’t need the extra food. I do need that extra exercise. Discipline gets me there. Willpower can suck it.

What would you tell someone who wants to lose weight?

Calorie count! Know the numbers. It’s said that weight loss starts in the kitchen, fitness begins in the gym. About 80% of weight loss comes from reducing calories, only 20% comes from exercise. So even if someone can’t exercise, their chances of losing are as good as they are for someone doing both diet and exercise.

I exercise because it feels great, reduces stress, builds muscle and offers a host of other benefits I want. But if I was injured or couldn’t exercise for some reason, I can still lose due to the reduction in calories (only a little slower).

So that’s my story. If you have questions, ask away!

p.s. I want to give a special shoutout to all those who’ve managed their weight wisely or who have maintained after weight loss. You have my admiration and respect. Give yourselves a high five!