Tag Archives: Rants

How to fake being an old lady at exercise class

So I joined a new gym recently and I love participating in the exercise classes. Like Full-Body Toning and BodyPump and Step Like You Mean It.

Just kidding about that last one. That’s not the real name. It’s a step class just like I used to do in the ’80s.

Oh my god. Has it been that long?

Yes. Back then, I had my own step, I inserted a videotape into my VCR and Jane Fonda barked me into exercise submission while I sweated away in the middle of my living room.

The instructors at the my classes nowadays probably don’t even know who Jane Fonda is.

And they certainly don’t know what a VCR is.

But there are some benefits to being one of the oldest women in these classes filled with young suburban mothers. Let’s call it Red Hat Syndrome.

Surely you’ve heard the poem that begins “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple/ With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.” An entire sorority of women has been formed around the ethos of that poem: When I get old, I won’t care what other people think.

It’s an especially useful attitude in exercise class.

For example, I don’t care if you can see the cellulite on my butt through my tight spandex capris. And I don’t care if I’m using baby 5-pound weights during the biceps routine, and I really don’t care when I give up doing sit-ups half-way through so I can catch my breath or if people have to walk around me after class because I’m still in the way stretching my Achilles tendon.

If anyone is judging me during exercise class, I don’t care. Because I know I’m better than 90 percent of the rest of the population who are still in bed or sitting in the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through.

So when I show up to claim my 6-by-6-foot spot on the exercise floor, I take the one up front and by the mirror.

Because I don’t care!

A bonus benefit of being the old lady up front is I think people actually feel a little sorry for me. The teacher loudly mentions, “It’s OK not to use weights for this one — you can use your body weight.” And the girl behind me isn’t looking at my measly weights and even measlier biceps — she’s thinking, “Oh, good for her! I hope I’m still doing exercise classes at her age!”

And because I don’t care if I wear my hair in a ponytail and I don’t have any makeup on, I might even invest in a red baseball cap to wear to class.

Because that’s how old ladies roll.

Or step.

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Feet of clay

Forget my knees, running is detrimental to the health of my feet.

With the help of Google, I have diagnosed myself  with insertional Achilles tendonitis (if you’re concerned this blog will increasingly discuss my petty aches and pains as time goes on, I am, too).

Runners nod knowingly amongst themselves when non-runners say things like, “Running will ruin your knees!” Actually, evidence suggests this isn’t true. But a lot of non-runners like to believe it is because it’s a good excuse for not running.

But I’m pretty sure my semi-regular but excruciating slow practice of running (jogging? very fast walking?) is ruining my feet.

Regular readers will recall my complaints about plantar fasciitis and Morton’s neuroma. Both conditions have improved (I know you were waiting with bated breath for that update).

Now it’s my left heel that hurts. Not my Achilles tendon, exactly, but the place where the tendon connects to my foot. I discovered the exact location while giving myself a foot massage last night during “Bar Rescue” (never a dull moment around here, friends).

Causes of Achilles tendonitis? Age and running farther or faster than you’re supposed to. And, according to Runner’s World, “The cause [of slow healing] seems to be the collagen fibers.”

OMG. Not collagen as a cause again!

Treatment? It’s the most boring, old-person prescription ever. Avoid weight-bearing exercises. Like running. And practice copious amounts of calf stretching.

Oh, and ibuprofen and ice can’t hurt.

This is why runners give up running. People in general give up running because it’s boring and hard — genuine runners are the type of people who do it anyway. But constant nagging injuries deter even true believers.

OK, before giving it up entirely, I will try to spend more time spinning and swimming and stretching.

But I don’t have to like it.

A little rant about health care, mammograms, paranoia and unfounded faith in technology

When someone blames Obamacare for their high  health insurance premiums, I want to scream.

It’s not politics that increased my health insurance premium by $78.37 in the middle of the year (yeah, I didn’t know they could do that either, but my monthly premium  — for the exact same plan that covers me alone — went up 34% in July, the equivalent of nearly $1,000 a year).

At least, it’s not only politics. It’s wiz-bang innovations that patients demand and/or doctors recommend for no reason other they sound good.

Image by Prevention magazine

Image by Prevention magazine

Need an example? How about computer-aided-detection, aka CAD, for mammography. Computers do everything better, right?

Wrong.

CAD for mammography, which aims to double-check radiologists’ screening results, didn’t improve accuracy by any measure, according to the largest study to date of the controversial tool, published Sept. 28 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. I’ve been seething about the report shared in the Star Tribune ever since.

The JAMA Internal Medicine report found that CAD for mammograms added at least $400 million to the nation’s annual health care tab. Someone is paying that $400 million, people, and if you think it’s not you, you don’t know how insurance premiums are set. Insurance companies are out to make money, and they don’t pay for procedures out the goodness of their hearts — they pay for them out of your premiums.

You might be tempted to blow off that $400 million number, but think of it this way: There are about 35 million women in the U.S. between the ages of 50 and 74 (the age frame of women recommended to get mammograms). That $400 million means $11 every year for every middle-aged woman in the country. For just one unnecessary type of procedure among dozens, if not hundreds.

Not only does CAD not improve a radiologist’s accuracy in finding cancers on mammograms, it actually reduces it, probably because they’re depending on the computer as a crutch. “Radiologists’ sensitivity, or the proportion of times they correctly identified cancer, was 83 percent when they used CAD — and nearly 90 percent without it,” reporter Jonel Aleccia wrote.

Aye yi yi.

I’ve been suspect of mammograms since my last one three years ago, preformed after I found a lump in my breast (it was more of a bump, actually). It turned out to be a harmless bruise, but I paid $517 for an unnecessary ultrasound that discovered nothing except peace of mind (read that outrage here). In most cases — not all, I get it — but in most cases, a woman or her partner finds the lump first and the mammogram just confirms and pinpoints it. It’s one of the reasons breast cancer screening guidelines changed a couple of years ago from beginning routine screening (i.e. mammograms) for women of average risk at age 40 to age 50 and from being performed annually to every two years. Mammograms simply aren’t the be-all, end-all of breast cancer detection.

Some women are still insisting they want mammograms more often than the guidelines. The science just doesn’t back it up for healthy women (i.e., no family history, not taking hormone therapy, not at high-risk of carrying the BRCA gene, etc.). News flash: If you want a mammogram before age 50 or more often than every other year, you can still get one — pay for it yourself! Why should my insurance premium bear the cost of your paranoia?

So what can a logical woman do about health care procedures that do nothing to actually improve her health? Well, for starters, we can take control of our health care by being informed. Ask how much a procedure is going to cost before going ahead with something just because you’ve met your deductible for the year. As for CAD for mammograms, you  have a right to ask for a CAD-free mammogram, which is not only good for the community bottom line, it’s good for you because it encourages the radiologist to be more careful.

And the next time you’re tempted to blame politics for the cost of your health care, look in the mirror. I’ve seen the enemy, and it is us.

Floater

I curse you, Collagen!

Yesterday’s post was titled “Flutter,” in which I promised to go with the flow more often. Today, in “Floater,” I shall unironically complain about the vitreous compartments in the back of my eyes that are not aging well. I demand my money back! (As if I paid for this ability to see the keyboard upon which I rant. If the human eye and the miracle of sight are not evidence of God, I don’t know what is.)

The eye doctor today proclaimed my eyes to be healthy, if a bit near-sighted. Those floaters about which I complained are irksome, not evidence of anything serious except my inevitable trudge to the grave. Floaters, it turns out, are caused by collagen fibers in the gel-like substance of my eye shrinking and becoming shred-like. At 50, the eye doctor said, that jelly in my eye is like a lava lamp, all lumpy and uneven. By 70, I can look forward to looking through an orb more like a snow globe.

Ah yes, the squiggly lines that fall gently through my vision as I view my computer screen now will inevitably disintegrate into a field of snow. How perfect for a native of Minnesota: Year-round blizzards.

The loss of collagen I lament everywhere else–my face, my thighs, my hands–is now draining lumpily out of my eyes. Sigh. Babies with their plump skin (and, apparently, eyes) don’t appreciate what they got when they got it.

What can I do but … go with the flow. The lumpy flow.

$2,569: Another lesson in the healthcare maze

Regular readers may recall my rant about the hidden costs of American healthcare when I discovered a lump in my breast a couple years ago and felt rushed into getting what turned out to be a completely unnecessary ultrasound. Because of the way the procedure was coded, my health insurance was conveniently (for it) let off the hook to pay for it—but I didn’t discover this until after the procedure.

Lately, I’ve heard a lot more about how consumers have no idea how much their health care costs because of the way healthcare providers and insurance companies handle the labyrinth process, which makes the story I’m about to bring you all the more relevant.

Uncle Al wrote up the following story after he regaled me and my Beloved recently with the details of a mysterious little tube of medicine he had on his coffee table. When I read it, I suggested the world needed to know about the sneaky ways American health care gets its money so I’m sharing his story here on Minnesota Transplant.

Please welcome guest blogger (and entertainer) Uncle Al:

$2,569 — always ASK your doctor

I’ve had this little mole shaped like a pencil eraser right in the smile line of my right front cheek for a while. It was a problem because I smile a lot and I also managed to nick it with my razor on a regular basis, too … ouch! With its plentiful blood supply, the mole—once nicked—bled for about 10-15 minutes … and then would start bleeding again if I touched it later in the day. How embarrassing for someone else to tell you over lunch that what you are eating is making your face bleed!

So in January, I went to the dermatologist for a “whole body” mole check (something my sister recommended—she’s a retired RN), and they found a suspect, possibly precancerous mole on my shoulder. I also asked about that pesky facial mole, and another mole right in the middle of my chin (which I have almost successfully shaved off over the past many decades—I won’t say how many!). And I also mentioned that I have this seemingly overly-sensitive spot on the very top of my head which I cannot see (girls: I don’t have a hand mirror) so I asked the nurse to look at it. Minutes later “Pssst!” went the liquid nitrogen on three of those spots up there and after a bit of slicing and cauterizing, both those facial moles were gone. Other than a little pin prick to numb things, all went well as far as any pain. Gone. Thank you, Lord!

The nurse practitioner (never saw the dermatologist) is the sweetest, nicest lady. She performed the two facial mole-ectomies. She also suggested a cream to prevent any future cancer spots on top of my head. I thought, “Cool, I better pay attention.” She commented that it was expensive. Since I opted to go directly (no referral) to this dermatology clinic (based on an excellent experience my son also had with them about a year ago), I asked how much the medical cream would cost. She didn’t know and said not to worry—that my medical provider would cover it: “No problem … since you have a precancerous mole and these tiny sensitive spots on the top of your head, it will be covered. We will do a biopsy so we know for sure.” I thought, heck if it is that expensive, maybe I’ll just pay for that ointment or cream today, write a check … what’s a couple hundred bucks for some ointment and no hassles from my insurance provider (since I did not go there on referral from my primary physician).

Again, I said, “I understand there’s a deductible, and it’s expensive. How about I just pay for it today?” I’m still thinking a little tube, the size of a Chapstick container cannot cost that much money, now can it!?

So she suggested again that I just allow the dermatologist’s office, to submit it to the pharmacy and my medical provider will likely cover it completely and then I can deal with any questions later. Seemed logical, so I paid my doctor visit portion of the bill and walked out the door with just a little circle Band-Aid where that pesky “used to be bloody mole” was located … a new man! I felt so good!

A week later, the doorbell rang. I had to sign for the prescription, and I eagerly opened up the box, slid out the 30-gram tube of medication (for us Americans that is 1 ounce) and read the instructions and side-effects carefully. I put a dab on my finger after I opened it (no returning it now you know) and … no pain. Hmmm…not bad. I continued treatment.

Two weeks later I got a notice from my healthcare provider. Yep, they paid it all! Phew! Good! Then I read the second page of the billing statement dated January 22, 2015. This is 10 days after my appointment. I read that with one prescription I had almost exhausted my prescription drug plan coverage and with another $131 of prescription medicine expenditures in 2015, they will move me into the next higher class of coverages (meaning I pay much, much more for any medicines needed in the “remainder of the year.”) WT*? (Pardon me!) What the hell has just happened? I’m only into the 22nd day of the year. The bill for one ounce of CARAC CRM 0.5% costs … get ready …

$2,569!

Can you hear the expletives still echoing?

Yes, $2,569 for a tube of Chapstick in cream form! OMG. I wish she would have said, “Be sure to bend over when the postman arrives!” because that cost would have caused me to rethink my decision to get the medicine!

I think Americans, including myself, have lost sight of what medications actually cost out there in the market place. We are all “neatly hidden” from the actual costs of medicines, and we are allowing drug companies and insurance companies to screw us over. Ditto to the hospitals that charge us for each tissue, Q-tip (excuse me, “sterile swab”) and every time our blood pressure gets checked (by a machine nowadays).

Anyway, nothing I can do about it now. The minute I signed for that postal package, I was screwed. I can’t return it. I didn’t have a bill yet to even know what I was actually signing for when the medication arrived at my door. I learned a valuable medical life lesson in this little mole-ectomy experience, and I hope you now did, too:

Always ask how much any medication actually costs!

I am not convinced I really need to put a little $85 dab on my head each morning (then, like a good beer, in minutes it’s gone!)

Are you kidding me? Ask!

__________________

Minnesota Transplant note: Uncle Al is a dear man living in a beautiful place where his head is regularly exposed to sunshine. Let’s hope his ridiculously expensive skin balm does the trick in one tube. Because there won’t be a second!

Please standby … we are experiencing technical difficulties

full moon

The full moon is wreaking havoc with our technology this week.

We move 168 miles and poof, nothing works like it did yesterday.

I was reminded of a similar moment in 2009 when phone calls to service providers (can you hear me now, Comcast?) caused more headaches than solutions. …

Where, oh where, has my internet gone?

Sorry about not having an entry yesterday. We can thank Mediacom for that.

Mediacom is my “dependable” internet provider. They have some sort of monopoly on Hampshire. There are other options apparently, but they provide even spottier service.

It’s crazy how dependent I am on something that didn’t even exist 15 or 20 years ago!

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Ode to inertia

We’re heading into the weekend. It’s a new month Sunday. Maybe you’re mourning your unfulfilled New Year’s resolutions.

Time for a pep talk.

Maybe you didn’t get done in January what you wanted to get done because you needed a break.

Maybe you needed some do-nothing time.

Maybe life isn’t about getting stuff done.

This is a difficult-to-swallow prescription for a Minnesota-born girl with Scandinavian and Germanic blood in her veins.

Sloth is sinful.

It’s one of the seven deadly sins you know! I’m sure you know. Anyone’s who’s seen Morgan Freeman crack the serial killer’s code in the movie Se7en knows how deadly sloth can be.

Wrong!

While wasting one’s talents with inaction may be unfortunate if not deplorable, I maintain there’s a difference between sloth and rest.

God created us to rest as much as He created us to work.

For eight hours a day, our bodies are rendered immobile by sleep. If one goes long enough without sleep, one dies, that’s how important sleep is.

If God created us to rest for eight hours a day, he certainly intends for us to rest at other times, too.

There are many examples of this yin and yang (if you’ll permit me to mix my spiritual metaphors).

We breathe in. We breathe out.

The sun rises. The sun sets.

Plants grow in spring and summer. They freeze in autumn and winter.

We are born. We die.

Rest is actually a gift. To feel guilty for taking a break is wasted emotion. We should relish rest, appreciate it for the gift that it is. Rest reinvigorates us for the work ahead.

Watching the clouds drift by is important work. Reading fiction is a creative distraction. Binge-watching HBO television series is, well, it’s sort of inconsequential but not completely worthless. You get my point.

So if you’ve gotten through January without accomplishing anything in the first twelfth of the new year, if you’re wrapping up your week thinking you were entirely too unproductive to deserve a whole weekend of lethargy, I think you’re being too hard on yourself.

You deserve a break sometimes, too. Be fully present for your rest. Savor your inertia.

My work is hereby done. Time to take a break.