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Jul 19 2013

The Best Rap About Cancer You’ll Read All Day

By at 12:01 pm

aly viny cancer rapAly Viny is an actress and writer in New York City.  She has appeared on stages throughout New York City and across the country. She maintains a site of Jew girl raps at www.jap-rap.com where she raps poetic about everything from her frustrations with her husband leaving empty Splenda packets around the house, to Costco trips, to Passover. She loves the crap out of her husband and in this particular rap, she gets more personal as she shares a bit of his incredible journey from being healed to becoming a healer. She sure is lucky she could be along for the ride.

It’s summer and you think I’m gonna rap ’bout somethin’ lotional

Today’s a little different, y’all, forgive me if I’m ‘motional

Let’s take a little breather, slow it down and maybe park it

Put away your kale from your co-op hipster market

Let’s gather like it’s Pesach, all my sisters and my brothers

While I tell you why this night is so much DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS

So let’s all listen up, just relax or take a pill

And I’ll tell y’all the story cuz this shit ’bout to get RIL Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 16 2013

I’m Totally Guilty of New Mom TMI

By at 2:15 pm

placenta, fetus, tmiPrior to becoming pregnant, life was certainly different: I got more sleep. I ate whatever I wanted. I had some wine with dinner… and if “some” wine turned into a bottle of wine, it was just a sillier night. I got more sleep. I went on a vacation on a whim. I wasn’t legally responsible for the life of another human being (yes, I am legally bound to my husband… but I don’t think I could be put in jail for not feeding him. I cook for him of my own free will… and he’d better like it!) And yes, I got more sleep.

But in addition to the expected changes, there was another big transformation. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, it was as if a button were pressed in my brain where not only was it accepted, but it was expected that I discuss all of my personal business.

I have become no holds barred in divulging TMI to any and everyone. When I was just about four months pregnant, I was put on bed rest for six weeks due to a low-lying placenta. PBJ (no, not peanut butter and jelly, PreBaby-Jessica) would have been perfectly content to just tell everyone that I was put on bed rest for medical reasons. And yet, there I was, telling everyone from my parents to my middle-aged, childless male coworkers that I had a low-lying placenta. It’s like I would look for reasons to get the word placenta into conversation.  “What a nice summer breeze. It reminds me of my low-lying placenta.” Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 25 2013

I Became a Kosher Vegan

By at 12:04 pm

fruits and vegetables on wood tableI’ve written here before about the carefree approach I had to food in my 20s: I ate and drank with abandon, just shy of gluttony, with a penchant for trying new cuisine in new places (thus, I went on a month-long, semi-solo sojourn to India to try the food). I come from expert meat-grillers, and the art of the old-school, dairy brunch that could render a person immobile for two days was not lost on me. Didn’t everyone’s grandparents put sour cream in cottage cheese with dill and radishes?

And then, in my 30s, I married an awesome guy who happens to have always kept kosher. That we would keep kosher wasn’t necessarily written into the ketubah (marriage contract), but an agreement we made that I was, and am, just fine with honoring. I missed cheeseburgers, and now don’t really even give them a thought, like an old boyfriend I know in hindsight was a lot of fun, but bad for me. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 5 2013

Doing a Mitzvah Can Be Quite Painful

By at 9:49 am

give blood blood drive signThis past Memorial Day weekend I was inspired to do a mitzvah after seeing a friend on Facebook placing American flags on soldiers’ graves to commemorate the day.

On my drive to Starbucks for a rare treat, I contemplated how I could make the world a better place when I literally saw the sign. It was for a blood drive and it was posted in front of the Shriner’s temple. Perfect! I will donate a pint of blood to an anonymous person facing an immediate crisis as a symbol of my gratitude for the men and women in our armed forces who have shed their blood for my freedom.

As it turns out, however, the anonymous person was not so anonymous. His name is Owen and he is 2 and suffering from a rare disease that requires continuous blood transfusions as part of his immediate treatment. In exchange for my donor paperwork, the blood bank worker handed me a picture of this beautiful child in the form of a thank you card from his folks. My pride in my mitzvah and the resulting joy was extinguished instantly with the realization that a family was in pain. Lying on the portable table with a needle in my arm, I stared at the various light fixtures overhead trying to make sense of the thoughts and events that had led me to my current state.  Read the rest of this entry →

May 30 2013

How Worried Should We Be About Flame Retardants in Our Furniture?

By at 11:50 am

couch with flame retardantsI am a champion worrier, and I do not limit my worrying to the logical or the likely. I worry about there not being enough food at Shabbat dinner, and about stranger danger. I worry about my step-daughter refusing to eat vegetables and becoming anemic, and about animals escaping the zoo. But these days, I spend most of my time worrying about two big, terrifying environmental dangers: flame retardants in furniture, and fracking. Read the rest of this entry →

May 21 2013

Eight Things to Know About Breast & Ovarian Cancer

By at 11:44 am

angelina jolieLast week, Angelina Jolie disclosed that she had a preventive double mastectomy after learning that she carries a gene that sharply increases her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. I absolutely applaud her decision to share her experience, as I am a strong believer in the power of telling our stories, both for others and for ourselves.

And then I tried to stop thinking about it, or anything else related to the C word or the inevitable D word. But I couldn’t. In the back of my mind, I wondered if I am at an increased risk for breast or ovarian cancer as I am both of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, and my paternal aunt died of breast cancer when she was just 45 years old. I finally decided I needed to learn more. I called my aunt, Dr. Elizabeth Naumburg. She’s a Professor of Family Medicine and an Associate Dean for Advising at the University of Rochester Medical School, and she sees patients just like me on a regular basis–women who might have questions about their own risk for breast cancer, and what they should do about it. Read the rest of this entry →

May 13 2013

Let’s Stop Fat Shaming at the Bris

By at 12:40 pm

tray of home baked cookiesLast Monday morning, my family gathered for the bris of my new nephew. He’s the first in his generation, and after several rough years with many funerals, my family was really ready to celebrate. I had offered to bake for the bris, and my sister (the proud mama) accepted, so I spent Saturday night baking up a storm, making some classic family recipes that are delicious, and that would bring the memory of my mother and aunt into the celebration.

Standing around before we got started, the women of the family looked at the trays of goodies that I had baked, and immediately began the traditional recitation of guilt. “Uch, this is SO BAD. I should NOT eat any of this.” “Don’t let me have ANY of this.” “This isn’t going to help me stay good.” And on and on.  Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 29 2013

Overcoming My Eating Disorder & Raising a Healthy Daughter

By at 5:07 pm

scale on a plate with knife and forkI gave birth to my daughter six months ago, and, a few sleep-deprived weeks later, I realized it was right around the 10th “anniversary” of when I was admitted to a hospital for an eating disorders inpatient program.

When I try to reconcile the memory of my scared, enervated teen self with myself today, as a (somewhat) confident mother of two with visibly muscled biceps from lugging around a giant purse, a diaper bag, a breast pump, a baby, and sometimes a 38-pound 3-year-old, it’s difficult. But I still vividly remember the feelings of insecurity, self-doubt, and physical weakness. As it turns out, you can be too thin after all. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 23 2013

10 Questions to Ask Your Child’s Doctor

By at 11:49 am

baby doctorMy son has been sick a lot during his life. Fortunately, it hasn’t been anything too severe, but especially during the first two years of his life, it seemed pretty constant. And while some of it was totally normal, typical childhood stuff, we also saw our fair share of specialists.

You know that it’s bad when the doctor says that your son has conjunctivitis and you’re relieved. Yeah, he has to be out of school for a day, but it doesn’t have a huge impact on quality of life and there’s a relatively easy treatment for it. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 4 2013

Interview with Interesting Jews: Rachel Zaslow of Mother Health International

By at 11:35 am

rachel zaslow mother health internationalRachel Zaslow is a midwife and Executive Director of Mother Health International, an NGO that supports high volume midwifery model of care centers in areas of extreme need. We talked with her about MHI, how a rabbi’s daughter ended up delivering babies in Uganda, and how midwifery has impacted her own child-rearing. Below the interview, learn how you can help MHI fund a new ambulance for their Uganda clinic.

1. How did a girl from Brooklyn end up delivering babies in Uganda?

It’s a long and twisty narrative, but the short version is that I was invited to come to Northern Uganda almost seven years ago to volunteer in a government-funded hospital, just as the war was ending. What I witnessed there was devastating. The hospital was functioning at what the WHO estimated to be over 10 times its capacity. Formerly abducted women were turned away in labor or sent to walk home minutes after giving birth, with a great likelihood of bleeding to death on the road home. Because the hospital was so busy, women who were admitted to the labor ward were often treated violently by the staff midwives for not pushing fast enough or failing to bring their own piece of plastic to give birth on. These conditions made for a traumatic and dangerous place to give birth in an area that has been ravaged by war. I founded the birth center in Uganda with a group of 30 traditional midwives and my partner midwife, Olivia Kimball, the next year.   Read the rest of this entry →

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