Author Archives: Leigh Porter Cutrone

LESSON #61 – A BUMP IN THE ROAD

 

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It was one of those years.
 When I began writing this blog I decided to share the ups and downs along the way.  I have been amiss and have fallen short.  I absolutely did not want to draw undue attention to myself.  A poster child I am not.  Plus I didn’t want to relive the drama that unfolded from my diagnoses.  Call me weak I suppose.  If you have been through it, you get it.  Yet, people have been through much worse experiences than this!  I write this only to draw attention to misconceptions that I definitely had.

My first hurdle I confronted this past October.  I was very good about having a yearly visit to my Dermatologist for my all over body check.  I had the Basel Cell and the Squamous Cell dug out of my thumb and my leg.  No problem.  After my yearly visit to my Dermatologist, I received a telephone call from her PA telling me she felt I needed to have my cheek biopsied.  She  was my Angel.  She took it upon herself to look at my chart, compare it with the previous year and was concerned.  She told the Doctor she wanted to have a biopsy done on my cheek.  I thank her because she was, perhaps, a life saver.

My Dermatologist had never taken a biopsy of the spot on my face….it looked like a large old age spot (or liver spot if you will) and, in fact, she prescribed bleaching cream, laser, and zapped it (I like to say) by burning it off with CO2 over the years!  Five years of everything BUT a biopsy!  Surprise!  The mark still was there.  It bothered me and she knew it since I could not cover it up with makeup.  So every year I would ask her about it and she would then laser or burn.

After the biopsy I was diagnosed with Melanoma on my face I went into a bit of a tailspin.  WHAT? A good cry.  Why me?  Why not me?  Now what?  Surgeon?  Who?  Plastic Surgeon since it was on my face after all!  MOHS or Excised?  How deep will it be?  Will it already be in my lymph nodes?  Will it be in my Bloodstream?  Why didn’t the damn Doctor know about this years ago?  Anger, self-pity, annoyance and hours and hours spent researching (thank you Daphne) and ‘interviewing’ surgeons!  It was a nightmare.  Stress city.

So why write about it now?  It doesn’t hurt to give more attention to this type of cancer in my opinion and to read about experiences.  After all, Melanoma can very well be deadly and every year the number of people getting Melanoma increases.  In fact, 91,000 new cases will be diagnosed in 2018 and close to 10,000 people are expected to die this year from it. (cancer.org)  I wish I had been more proactive with my concerns.

In describing Melanoma the script may read something like…”Melanoma may appear as a dark spot or wound that does not heal, or one that grows, changes shape or bleeds.”  Really? (www.cancercenter.com/melanoma/cancer) I’m sure many Melanomas may be described like this but NOT in my case.

Think about this.  I had this Melanoma on my face for five years.   My highly rated Atlanta Dermatologist wasn’t concerned obviously since she never biopsied it.  I could have gone another year with it lingering and could very well have had a different outcome. My conclusion…Doctors don’t always know.

Melanoma can look like many things.  Mine looked like an old age mark dealt by the sun. Be aware of marks etc. that may look like mine.  It was not black.  It was brown.  Flat, not raised as a mole with an irregular border.   It never changed shape nor did it bleed. It was not growing larger as far as I could determine.

What’s my point?  I have had two dermatologists let me down.  Both with excellent ratings.  We must be diligent checking our own bodies and ask and then tell our doctors what we think we need.  Question diagnoses if it just doesn’t sound right.  Tell doctors that you WANT a biopsy.  Don’t assume they are always right!  We know our bodies better than any doctor that may only see us once a year during a checkup.

I am happy to report that my surgeon got it all and it had not progressed to lymph nodes.  It was surprisingly deep but not life-threatening.  A heartfelt thank you again to the P.A.

Next time…..my second ordeal!  Knee replacement.  Two weeks post-op.  A blow-by-blow.  Ain’t life a ride??

Thanks for reading.

Leigh

 

 

 

 

 

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LESSON #60 – FRIENDS INDEED!

Stop and look around.  Interesting people are everywhere!

Republished here with the approval of AROUND WOODSTOCK, “Our Woodstock Neighbors” April issue, 2018, by Leigh Cutrone.

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Once in a while we meet someone with whom we just click.  That was the case when I met this dear woman.  We just happened to be next door neighbors when I moved to downtown Woodstock.

Simply put I was fascinated by her.  She is quite a lovely lady.  She has the most gorgeous blue eyes which are full of life along with a sense of humor that would make anyone smile.

Her full name is Marita Hallberg Walsh.  Born in Sweden in 1943, she was the only child.  She still remembers the food shortages resulting from the German blockades.   But her parents came to the United States looking for a better life which they found in Brooklyn, NY. where Marita grew and began her love of art.  Her father was a fresco artist so, perhaps,  Marita inherited that flair early on.

Parsons School of Design accepted Marita and with several scholarships under her belt she graduated with a Graphic Arts degree from Parsons.  This is impressive since today only about 35%* of applicants are accepted.

Graphic art was Marita’s forte’ which took her into the advertising world.  In fact, her first job was in an advertising firm in NY in the 60’s.  Remember television’s, ‘Madmen‘??  Was this world accurately depicted?  Actually, Marita said the men were.  The women, in her experience, not so much.  Women were typists and stenographers.  Not any room for a Peggy becoming an advertising executive in those days nor for a Joan Holloway rising to part owner of the firm.

The young and married Marita lived in the West Village of New York.  She ‘painted’ me a picture of the West Village as an area where the aspiring musicians, actors, and young artists lived and socialized.  Marita, in fact, knew Bob Dylan‘s girlfriend, Susan Rotolo.  Suze and Dylan lived around the corner. Suze actually was pictured on Dylan’s 1963 album, ‘The Freewheeling Bob Dylan’.  It must have been fascinating living there then.   I can picture Marita with her blonde hair and bright blue eyes walking along Bleeker St and running into Suze and Dylan.

Marita has always had a love of traveling and adventures.    Marita has been to 19 or 20 countries (but who is counting?).  Always independent with a sense of purpose.  With each move (and there were many) came a “new adventure”.  “It was fun” and along the way she has met Woody Allen and Woody Harrelson.  With a bit of wistfulness, Marita mentioned she may not have actually worked FOR Any Warhol but she was close enough to “touch his robe!”

Marita and her husband moved to downtown Woodstock about 6 1/2 years ago and has had no regrets.  Woodstock suits her lifestyle and she has no plans to move anytime soon if ever.  Today she paints and is humble about her work as she pointed to a painting she was working on in the corner of her living room.  The easel was beautiful as was the painting.

I asked Marita if she had any advice for the younger people starting out in their careers.  She was quick to answer.  “Work hard and put down the phones!”

Any regrets?” I asked.   “Anything on your bucket list?”   Marita had to think.  Maybe not a regret but a ‘wish’.  She still wishes she had landed that job with Lou Dorfsman.   She explained that Dorfsman was a graphic designer who was hired as the Director of Design for all of CBS in NYC. Marita informed me that Dorfsman was responsible for everything and anything that had to do with design (print advertising, marketing communications, etc.) for CBS…”down to the design of even the pencils”.  We agreed she may not have had half the adventures in her life if she had landed that job!

As Marita enjoys everything Woodstock, we all should be happy to have her living among us.  Cheers Marita!

 

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LESSON #59 – “BY THE SEA BY THE SEA BY THE BEAUTIFUL SEA”*

th.jpegIt is so interesting to walk the beach on a beautiful sunny Spring morning.

It is a study of human behavior to be sure.  A great place for people watching.  Can’t help it.  That’s me. A studier of behavior.

This morning my husband and I walked along the shoreline to the Pier about a mile from our Condo. We have to watch the tides and only venture out for our walk when it is quite low.

This time of year there are mostly people who fall into the “Senior Class” genre as schools are in session and there are no vaca days.

Most people are walking two by two.  However, every once in a while there is an exerciser walking very quickly and swinging their arms while connected to earphones. I imagine they are listening to their kind of music.  It is definitely a motivator as I once ran to music that got me going too!

Most of us are meandering and just enjoying the smell of the ocean and maybe seeing a dolphin every so often.  I’m not sure the exercise is the reason for the walks or during our walks we just happen to get some exercise.  But, then, who cares?

There are some shell enthusiasts who very well may get a sore neck peering downward in hopes of finding that perfect shell.  Not many of those along our shoreline in Myrtle Beach.  I’m unsure why we have so little of the beautiful whole shells here.  There must be a reason but I don’t feel like researching it.  We only have a few different types of shells and even less are whole specimens.  But these searching souls keep at it and go home with a nice bag full of samples.  These people are very patient and driven in their endeavors.

We used to be like that.  But, in our case, we always searched for shark teeth.  You know those tiny, shiny, black shark teeth? We have been told that those Great White sharks have left behind a few of their rather large teeth that have slipped up onto the sand.  Never have found one of those!  I suppose we are no longer driven this way.

There are those folks who have a hefty cup of Starbucks coffee in their hand enjoying that first cup of necessary morning java while strolling. These people are not walking very fast since that coffee would spill and they walk with a larger group…more than just a spouse.  My imagination takes hold as I picture them out the night before probably partying at a local bar and grill.  Hmmmm.  I wonder where they went?

The dog walkers.  We had a dog when we first owned our little Condo.  Coach didn’t like the Condo much.  The idea of being on the 7th floor didn’t sit well with him.  He wasn’t comfortable sleeping anywhere and he hated the elevator ride necessary for his morning and night-time walks.  He would hug the wall down the corridor and cower in the elevator.  Poor thing.

These dog walkers I see on the beach have dogs that don’t seem to have a bit of trouble with anything beach.  They play in the water or play fetch and go up and down the elevator with no cowering!  Dogs have their likes and dislikes, too, I suppose. Since having a dog here was a poor experience for us, I love to watch other dogs walking along with their owners.  Most are well-trained and won’t say, “hello” to me either.  So sad.  No dog fix for me.

There are the sun worshippers with their chairs and blankets already plopped down facing the ocean and trying to get a bit of sun on their white February bodies.  We definitely used to be these people too.  I think the melanoma on my face which I recently had dug out has given me pause to ever sit on the beach again.  I have to say I will forever miss the warm sun on my face and how it, alone, will completely relax me.

Ahhhhhhhhh the beach, the ocean and a warm sunny day.   There really is nothing better on most days.  I get lost in my thoughts on my walks.  Even when I am hand in hand with my husband, my mind drifts to other things.  It is a time to breathe in the salt air and just to watch the shell people, the Starbuckers, the dog families and the sun lovers.

These retirement years can yield the best of all worlds!

Leigh

*BY THE BEAUTIFUL SEA, 1914, Harry Carroll and Harold Atteridge.

 

LESSON #58 – SEX MAKES THE WORLD GO ROUND

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SEX.  YES SEX!  I have hesitated to write about sex for fear of embarrassing my children but alas here I am writing about S E X.

I read with interest that STDs are on the rise in the Senior Class crowd.  I know.  My reaction is the same…..SAY WHAT?  REALLY? NOOOOOOOO, CAN’T BE TRUE!

According to the Center for Disease Control, among our senior citizen population, especially in ‘homes’,  sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are spreading like wildfire. “BETWEEN 2010 AND 2014 among adults 65 and over:  Chlamydia infections increased by about 52 percent.  Syphilis infections rose by about 65 percent.”*

Why the trend?  Sex enhancing drugs for men and hormones for women (that may be the long or the short of it).  As a spouse may sadly become a single again and find themselves in the over 70 age group, they are having more sex.  No one thinks they should wear condoms and so it goes.  STDs rise and no one is the wiser.*

Apparently, Medicare offers free screenings of STDs but Medicare recipients scoff at the notion that they may pick something up!*

But what about couples who are still married happily and together and haven’t reached the age when ‘homes’ are necessary.  They have not yet gone back into the ‘single, swinging group.’  Are we who are part of the happily married, retired or soon to be retired group still having sex?

Yes and No.  I am going to guess that some couples are and some couples are not.  Some have desire and others don’t.  Sorry…..but I haven’t done an in-depth study.

Sex is very personal, of course, but it is part of who we are.  Sex was and always will be important.  It’s not everything of course.  All I’m saying is that those Seniors who are now in Senior homes may know something we don’t!  Congratulations to them.  They better, however, get to a Doctor.

My husband wants me to say that this blog is NOT a story about us.  Understood.

Leigh

*(Paula Derrow, Seniors, Sex and STD’s, BERKELEY WELLNESS, Univ. of California)

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LESSON #57 – MEMORIES

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I have been waiting for this opportunity for a long time.

This was my home so long ago and yet it was just yesterday when I reached my 21st birthday here.  A milestone.

Someone asked me how I knew our home in Loveladies on Long Beach Island was available to rent.  For the life of me I just can’t remember. But learn I did that ‘our’ house was available to rent during the summers and into the Fall.

As it turns out here we are and just in time.  Our house from long ago is up for sale.

We have been here for two weeks and so many memories have been revisited. The smell of the Bay, the sights of the boats heading North, perhaps, to fish, or just to tour around Barnegat Bay.  Sailboats fluttering their wings as the seagulls glide by.  The water gently hitting the bulkhead as it lulls us to sleep each night.  The sky as blue as only a New Jersey shore sky can be in the Fall.  The stop lights all flashing yellow with the summer crowds no longer.  We used to say that LBI rose over two feet each year with them gone.  It was a happy time!

I am thankful for the visions of my family, especially of my Mother and Father, as they come back to me as if I am looking at a movie of my life.  My father sitting in the bar having a drink.  My mother in the kitchen preparing dinner.  My Aunt and Uncle waving to us as they come closer from across the Bay ready to moor their boat outside our house.  Clam bakes, the houseboat rocking outside, my sister catching crabs in her traps hanging into the Bay from the bulkhead.  The family parties that never seemed to end.

My 21st birthday dinner at the table in the same spot as this table.  The precious gift my Father presented me and my surprise when I saw friends driving up the Lane for my birthday party.  A wonderful surprise and a wonderful memory.

Christmas here with the tree beautifully decorated which could be seen by boaters.  Holiday cheer on the water.

Memories are beautiful and memories are good for the soul.  We need to remember from whence we come.  Memories are not all happy but my memories of this house are awe inspiring as I look across the Bay and watch this sunset.  I see my family everywhere here.  Memories that I thought I had forgotten.

My parents are still with me as we enjoy this house that my Father built so long ago.  I realize I appreciate the beauty and the calmness the Bay has always brought to me more today than yesterday.  Somehow I feel closer to my parents within its walls.  I have gone back in time.

I fear this house will be torn down for a new and improved version of a bayfront house.  If I return to Long Beach Island this house will truly be just a memory.  The realization makes me sad.  For now I am thankful I am here.  I am thankful for all the memories that are freshened in my heart.

Thanks Dad.  I see what you saw all those years ago.

Leigh

 

 

 

 

 

 

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