A Visit to the Dermatologist

As part of this summer’s countdown to my 70th birthday, I scheduled a series of doctor’s appointments. I’ve been fortunate health wise. I have no chronic conditions; I’ve never been hospitalized, and I’ve never had surgery. My intention is to keep it that way. I wanted t make sure that if there were any potential problems, I’d catch them at an early stage.

In the last two months, I’ve seen my eye doctor, general practitioner, dentist, and gynecologist. All delivered good news. “The cataract in your right eye hasn’t changed. No need for surgery.”“ Marian, your test results are good. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing.” No new prescriptions. No problems.

My most recent appointment was with my dermatologist. I was nervous before this one. I wondered if the stupid use of a sun reflector when I was in college and the endless hours I spent in the blazing sun during my years representing the scuba diving industry had done more serious damage than the freckles that dotted my skin. Were the hated bumps and blotches that had sprouted on my body like a garden out of control more than an annoyance?

Marian Rivman - poolside in the Caribbean. Photo Credit: Pechter Photo
Marian Rivman – poolside in the Caribbean. Photo Credit: Pechter Photo

My concerns were not unfounded. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

Dr. Lisa Travis at Upper West Side Dermatology listened to my concerns and patiently answered all my questions. Then she pulled out a magnifying glass and examined my body head to toe, inch by inch.

She determined that the blotches and bumps I loathed were Seborrheic Keratoses, common, non-contagious skin growths that can appear anywhere on the skin in middle-aged and older adults. (An unwelcome gift of aging????) Some people get just one. Most people have many. Too bad, I’m in the latter category.

Seborrheic keratoses - a common skin growth.
Seborrheic Keratoses – a common skin growth.

According to the AAD, most Seborrheic Keratoses do not require care. However, they recommend you see a dermatologist if:

  • The growth grows quickly, turns black, itches, or bleeds (possible signs of skin cancer).
  • Many new skin growths suddenly appear. This can be a sign of cancer inside the body.
  • Your skin growth does not look like a typical seborrheic keratosis.
  • Your growth is dry, flat, rough, and scaly. It could be an actinic keratosis, which can progress to a type of skin cancer.
  • The growth is easily irritated, such as from shaving or clothes rubbing against it.
  • You want the growth taken off because you do not like how it looks. An option I may consider some time in the future for the blotches beginning to develop on my face.

There was only one spot, the size of a pinhead, which Dr. Travis said could be problematic and she wants me to watch. To me, it looked like just another freckle. She explained that it was much darker than my other freckles and that color was an important variable.

The suspicious dark spot that needs to be watched.
The suspicious dark spot that needs to be watched.

Before I left the office, I asked Dr. Travis the most important things people my age should do to keep our skin healthy and hopefully, cancer free. She said her recommendations would be the same for people of any age.

First and foremost, be sure always to wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. She also said that everyone should examine his or her skin regularly. She suggested that I visit the Skin Cancer Foundation website that has an excellent step-by-step guide for skin self-examination. I did that as soon as I got home, and I encourage anyone reading this to do the same.

All-in-all, it’s good to know that I’m as healthy as I feel.

I hope you will continue to follow me on my countdownto70.

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Home Sweet Home

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It has never been easy to find an affordable rental apartment in New York City. Snagging one was always considered a major accomplishment and the subject of many a dinner party conversation.

Decades ago, the shortage of available housing led to a series of laws aimed at stabilizing the Big Apple’s real estate market. Though there’s been a weakening of those laws over the years, there are still currently close to a million apartments in New York City that are stabilized. These prize apartments offer perks including a guaranteed right to renew your lease and limits on how much your landlord can hike up your rent each year. It is my good fortune to live in one of them.

It most definitely was not my plan to spend my entire adult life in the same one-bedroom upper westside apartment. However, that is what happened. I have the dubious distinction of being the longest continuous tenant on my block, which runs between Broadway and Columbus Avenue.

Marian Rivman's block - West 68th between Broadway and Columbus Avenue
Marian Rivman’s Block – West 68th between Broadway and Columbus Avenue

I moved into my apartment in November 1968. I’d been staying with my best friend who had an apartment on West 83rd Street, which was a seriously seedy area at the time; Columbus Avenue was neither stylish nor safe. My friend’s apartment had been robbed multiple times, and she was having a new lock installed. The first thing the locksmith said was “What are two nice girls doing in a place like this?” He was the super of a building on West 68th Street and said there was an apartment available. We signed the lease the next day. My friend left two years later to move to Israel. I remained and have been there ever since.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my apartment this summer.As I develop the financial plan for my retirement, I realize just how blessed I am to have affordable housing.

Related Post: A Financial Check-up.

There have been many changes since I moved to the block. There were years of blasting and drilling as high-rises went up all around me. I used to envy the people in my building who had apartments with windows that faced 68th Street because they had unobstructed skyline views. No more. Thanks to the 47 story building that was erected directly across the street, they now face a brick wall.

For the most part, I embraced the changes. The Loews AMC multiplex was a welcome addition; I joined the Sports Club New York before it opened. However, the cost of commercial and residential real estate in the neighborhood has reached astronomical levels, and we are losing needed services.

For virtually all the time I’ve lived in my apartment, there was a supermarket on the corner of Broadway and 68th Street. No more. The Food Emporium left because it was more lucrative for them to sell their long-term lease than to sell food. Now Lowe’s Home Improvement is anchoring the corner.

Lowe's Home Improvement - 2008 Broadway NYC 10023
Lowe’s Home Improvement – 2008 Broadway NYC 10023

Lowe’s will be having its Grand Opening on September 12th, my 70th birthday. And on the same day, for the first time, the West 68th Street Block Association will be holding their Fall Party on my street rather than the block between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue.

How very thoughtful of my neighbors. I hope you will join the festivities. There’ll be partying from 11:00am-4:00 pm.

My Home Away From Home – The Sports Club New York

Fitness experts advise people that when choosing a health club, convenience should be their number one priority. So, when it was announced that the 47 story building that was being constructed directly across the street from my apartment would include a health club, I joined before it opened. The Sports Club New York, first owned by Reebok now by Equinox, has been my home away from home for more than 20 years.

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While I have used all the facilities of the Club at different times, it is the mind/body classes that are the core of my workout routine. The yoga studio is my dream come true. Big windows allow light to pour into the room, and the view of the Manhattan skyline is the antidote to my closed-in apartment.

Yoga studio at Equinox Sports Club New York
Yoga studio at Equinox Sports Club New York

Though I had taken many a yoga class before I joined the Club, I had not been exposed to Iyengar Yoga. It turned out to be just the right form of yoga practice for me. It is slower; poses are held longer, and props are used to help students achieve proper alignment. Depending on my schedule, I take 3-5 Iyengar classes a week. I also throw in a couple of gentle yoga classes for good measure. I have been taking the same classes, with many of the same students for 20 years. We are a community. During the decade that I was my mother’s caregiver, my yoga classes kept me sane.

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In the last couple of years, I’ve added two additional techniques to my weekly list of classes. The first is Melt, which helps to rehydrate the connective tissue, rebalance the nervous system, and restore space to compressed joints. The other is  Floor-Barre, which helps with alignment, correct muscle usage, and strengthening joints. I’m such a floor-barre fan that for my summer pre-70th birthday shape-up, I’m taking a Wednesday evening class that my instructor teaches at another studio.

I want to take this moment to thank all the teachers past and present who have helped to keep me flexible and grounded. They are Carol Foster, Cheryl Malter, Michelle Hill, Eve Holbrook, Robin Simmonds, Kavi Patel, Whitney Chapman, Jeanene Garro, Suzanne Taylor and Jodi Moccia

Related Post: Milestone Birthdays

In addition to the yoga studio, I am grateful for the outdoor track at the Sports Club where I have logged thousands of steps the last couple of weeks to meet my daily goal.

The track at the Equinox Sports Club New York
The track at the Equinox Sports Club New York

It is hard for me to imagine my life without the Sports Club New York.

A Walk Across the Hudson River

In designing the plan for my pre-70th birthday summer shape-up, I knew that I had to move more. I was becoming sedentary and isolated; I needed to nip those behaviors before they became more entrenched.

For years, I had followed the American Heart Association’s recommendation that everyone should aim for 10,000 steps a day for overall health and to decrease the risk of heart disease. This summer seemed like a good time to reintroduce the 10,000 Steps habit back in my life.

New York is a great walking city, and I’ve enjoyed logging steps in Central Park and along the Hudson River. But, I could do more than walk the streets of New York. Logging 10,000 steps a day was an opportunity to have mini adventures and reconnect with friends.

I did just that last week when I took the train to Poughkeepsie, New York and walked across the Hudson River.

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The Walkway over the Hudson is the longest (1.28 miles), elevated pedestrian bridge in the world. Since opening as a state park in October 2009, millions of visitors have enjoyed the unparalleled views from this bridge that was built for freight trains after the Civil War.

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The Mid-Hudson Bridge and the beautiful Hudson Valley

My companion for this adventure was my old friend Didi Barrett, who is now a member of the New York State Assembly representing parts of Duchess and  Columbia Counties.

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New York State Assemblymember Didi Barrett and Marian Rivman

Didi and I met years ago when I was starting out in public relations, and she was a staff writer for US magazine. Our business relationship quickly turned into a friendship. While raising her two children, Didi was a community activist and a leader of not-for-profit organizations. At an age when most people are afraid to take on new challenges, Didi was elected to the New York State Assembly in a special election in March 2012 and re-elected to a full term in November 2012.

She is a passionate advocate for her constituents. We were stopped by people several times as we walked back and forth across the river. They wanted to ask about the latest legislation or to discuss problems in their towns. I watched with pride as my old friend gave each of them her full attention.

I’m looking forward to more adventures with more friends as I Countdown to 70…and Life Beyond. Marian Rivman

Me and My FitBit

Marian Rivman always wears her FitBit and her WORD Inspire
Marian Rivman always wears her FitBit and her Intent Project word INSPIRE

As my 70th birthday loomed large in the September horizon, my intention for this summer was to devote my time and energy to getting my body, mind and spirit in shape for that milestone. I intended to walk more, eat less, drink plenty of water, have check-ups with my doctor, dentist, financial consultant and spiritual advisors. In short, I was going to get my shit together.

Ah, but we all know the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Would I keep the commitments I made with myself??

There were good days and not so good days. People may think of me as a human road runner, but my couch potato, ice cream and carbohydrate loving self-lurks just below the surface.

Several friends suggested that I get a FitBit to help me keep track of my steps, food intake, calorie output and water consumption. They said the device was helpful and kept you ‘honest’. I resisted until one of my FitBit using friends was hit by a car as she was crossing the street. She went flying through the air and spent the next ten hours in a hospital emergency room where she was checked head to toe. She was badly bruised, but nothing was broken.

When I spoke to her the next morning, I assumed she would take to her bed for a couple of days to recover. Wrong!! She had her FitBit on and was going out to run errands and log steps. She did 10,000 steps a day, every day. No excuses, no exceptions.  Now that was the commitment and motivation I craved. I ordered a FitBit the minute I hung up the phone.

It’s now been 30 days since I strapped on my FitBit; it has become my BFF. I wear it all the time. Unfailingly, I’ve met or surpassed my daily goals. I’ve lost weight, increased my stamina, and am looking more toned. I’ve been feeling so self-empowered that I even started this blog.

There’s a whole community of ‘FitBitters.’ It’s commonplace to have people point to mine as I pass them on the street and have them give me a thumbs-up or a high-five, and I return the gesture. My new fun activity is planning when and where I’m going to log my 10,000 steps.

For the record, I have ZERO connection with FitBit. I’m just in love with mine.

Hope you will continue to follow me on my Countdown to 70. Marian Rivman.