If at first you don’t succeed, fail, fail again

What is self-esteem anyway? Feeling good about oneself? Feeling competent and confident? Who knows. That’s why many years ago psychologists reconsidered the construct and came up with domain-specific esteem. For example, I view myself as a competent psychologist (i.e., I have high work esteem) and writer but do not consider myself a capable athlete or artist.

That’s the theory driving my graduate thesis in a nutshell. I promise never to talk about any aspect of my boring research again. You needed this background to understand today’s post on baking esteem, however.

I held myself in high regard as a baker, until last week. I had mastered bread and cookies and cakes and squares and I felt fairly competent in this domain. My challah was coveted far and wide by Jews and non-Jews alike.

Then I was tasked with baking two kinds of cupcakes for a birthday party. I decided I would try to replicate my friend M.’s renowned sour cream chocolate cake with mocha icing–her cake has an even larger following than my challah–in cupcake form. Let’s just say the batter was to die for. (What am I doing eating raw egg? I know, I know. Are you expecting me to give up batter just because I have leukemia?)

You know this story isn’t going to end well. I overfilled the muffin tins, not realizing there was spillage until I smelled burning. Yes, my batter runneth over. A cookie sheet strategically placed beneath the muffin tin stopped further oven-floor coverage, but the darn cupcakes would not set in the middle. I left them in the oven as long as I possibly could, but not long enough. I’m first to admit they were an abject failure.

Undeterred, I tried to bake my second batch, this time lemon flavoured. The batter was spectacular, a perfect balance of sweet to tart. Although they baked through, again the cupcakes sunk in the middle. I was becoming increasingly frustrated.

Onto the internet I went–I may not search the internet for health information, but I’m on there constantly researching recipes and cooking methods–first for tips on baking the perfect cupcake, then for a fail-safe chocolate cupcake recipe. I found the aptly named “Easy Chocolate Cupcake Recipe”, which by now we’d all agree I needed. Easy or not, these also sunk in the middle.

The Crisis Manager arrived home while I was mid tantrum. She took one look at the first batch, choked down one underbaked bite, and turfed the whole lot. This turn of events was particularly upsetting because the batter had been so darn tasty.

Then the C.M. whipped up some excellent cream cheese icing, which she used to fill in those sunken middles before frosting the tops of the remaining two batches. A few strategically arranged edible flowers, some fresh raspberries, and a bit of toasted coconut later, the cupcakes not only passed muster, they garnered praise.

Following this trauma, I may need some time to rebuild my baking esteem. I’ll attempt a few fail-safe recipes like cookies or squares to start, but I’ll be leaving the cupcakes to the experts.  Thankfully I have my work and writing esteem to fall back on. All is not lost.

Three types of cupcakes, one with flowers, one with raspberries, and one with toasted coconut


Am I the pot or the kettle?


Picture of top half of Barbie made up, hair back, in a black and white swimsuitI was at the grocery store a few days ago and happened upon a woman I used to see every morning at the pool. I never knew her name but for the sake of convenience, let’s call her “Barbie”.

I’d estimate Barbie as a few decades older than me, but she always dressed to the 9s, as much as you can dress for swimming. It appeared she had been surgically nipped and tucked and lifted, and she took tremendous care in how she presented herself. I could count on her being fully made up and beautifully coiffed (her pool activities kept her head above water), and she was by far the sharpest looking one in the pool.

That’s why it was such a shock to see Barbie at the grocery store with a younger fellow, likely her son, who was helping her with her weekly shop. She was hooked up to an oxygen tank and was not getting around with the same ease she had when I’d last seen her at the pool. Although she still presented herself well, she looked liked she had aged considerably in just a few years.

Barbie glanced my way and I have no doubt she recognized me–we’d crossed paths for years–but we were a bit too far from one another to say hello. Once she saw me, she looked down as if she were ashamed of the signs of her aging. Of course I’m making assumptions here but that was the sense I got, and you know I spent years in school learning how to read people.

When I got home, I recounted the story to J. She listened carefully, egging me on, as I described Barbie and her apparent shame for the decline in her functioning. Why would this woman feel ashamed about her declining health? “She didn’t bring it on herself or anything; she was just aging,” I said.

J. smiled, her manipulation complete, and said: “Pot, meet kettle.” I hate it when she does that. She sets a trap and I fall right into it. How often do I express discontent with my bulging belly, my pale face, the perpetual dark circles under my eyes, my slowing body and brain, and the various bruises and rashes that are all part of having leukemia? My self-consciousness knows no bounds, even though, except for my overconsumption of those Ghirardelli brownies, I have little control over this body of mine.

This incident reminded me of a celebratory dinner with dear friends several years ago. So jubilant were they that day that they started imbibing before we arrived. When we got there, S. exclaimed, loud enough for the whole restaurant to hear, “It’s Angelina Jolie!” (Yes, he meant me, in case you were wondering, even though I bear a much greater likeness to a Jewish Ellen.) If I’d been drinking too, I’d have relished a moment of air-brushed perfection, but I hadn’t.

I can’t be the only pot out there. Admit it, kettles, you’d fall for J.’s entrapment as easily as I would. Maybe it’s time we all let that go. I’m game, right after I do something about those dark circles.

Cancer on board

Car decal: "No baby on board feel free to drive into me."J. and I were driving behind a car with a “Baby on board” decal yesterday. Please trust I mean no offence, but I laugh whenever I see these decals. I’m glad you have a baby, a bit jealous to be honest, but do you think that declaration is really going to change how I drive near your car? Baby or not, I will not speed, I’ll merge properly, check my blind spot regularly, and stay home when I’m too fatigued to be behind the wheel.

I will avoid hitting you whether or not you have your baby on board because: a) my insurance rates are sky high since my trio of accidents a few years ago; b) I wouldn’t want to hurt you, whatever your age (hopefully you, dear driver, are old enough to have a license yourself); and c) I wouldn’t particularly want to get hurt myself.

Remember, I’m the self-righteous one who scorns people for applying make up/texting/eating breakfast cereal while they drive. And don’t even think about getting behind your wheel if you’ve had too much to drink. I trust you’d never do any of those things while your babies are on board. If you drive distracted or impaired, I may want to slug you but I still wouldn’t want my car to hit yours.

Upon seeing this decal, affixed uncharacteristically to a sporty BMW rather than a family van, J. and I discussed what kind of decal I might put on my car to ensure no one bashes into me. After that near miss with the funnel cloud last week, a harsh reminder that anything could kill me at any time, I’m not eager to die in a car accident.

Creative thinkers that we are, J. and I came up with a list of reasons why you shouldn’t hit me if I’m driving. I have a newer, unsullied car, for one, and I’m trying to keep it that way. Also, my insurance company will accuse me of lying if I claim the accident was not my fault, even if that’s true, so spare me the unnecessary humiliation. And then there’s Jelly, who is often on board but whose short stature renders her invisible to other drivers. “Basset on board” does have a nice ring to it, though, don’t you think?

How about this? Do you think a “Cancer on board” decal would work? Don’t hit me out of sympathy; I’ve suffered enough. Or don’t hit me because my platelets are so low I’m more likely to die from internal bleeding than you are. In other words, “Thrombocytopenia on board”. (I don’t make up the words; I just try to use them appropriately in a sentence.) There’s also my ginormous spleen, which could shatter if those airbags were to deploy. Can you envision a decal with “Gross splenomegaly on board”? Bet that gem would have drivers thinking twice about tailgating me.

Of course, this vocabulary might stymie you so much that you’d be compelled to search the definitions. Even if you own one of those newfangled cars with wifi–whose dumb idea was that?–please pull over before you Google them. Thanks.

Beware the nectarine pit

Picture of 4 nectarines, one cut in half with pit exposed

I’ve been throwing a lot of psychology jargon at you lately, but I know you can handle it. I’m not trying to educate you, mind you. Rather, I’m ensuring I don’t forget everything I learned in school since my psychology brain is a little underutilized of late.

I’ve been thinking about one-trial learning this week. I’m sure you can guess what it is. Let’s say I eat way too much at the buffet, for example, I feel really sick, and I never overeat at a buffet again. Who am I kidding? I don’t learn from experiences like these. Neither does my friend, M., but she’s the one who’d steal the other kids’ marshmallows like I would, so I’m not surprised.

And, it turns out, neither do dogs. That’s why Jelly is not feeling well again, having likely ingested too many sticks at the park. Until she rids herself of such stickage, she will remain under the weather. Because I am not a first-time dog parent, and Jelly is not my first relentless scavenger, I have not yet rushed her to the vet.

But I was once a new parent to my furry first born, Grover, who experienced a similar constellation of symptoms, including restlessness, tummy upset, and odd sounds emanating from his belly. He was really sick. J. and I were newly together and she was certain he had just eaten something untoward. So was the vet when I took him in. “Are you sure there’s nothing he could have eaten?” she gently asked this first-time parent. “Oh, no,” I replied, “Nothing. I’m sure.”

But a few more days and nights passed, and my beloved Grover did not seem to be improving. I was becoming increasingly worried, so I returned to the vet for the dreaded,  i.e., expensive, x-ray. “Let’s make sure there’s no intestinal blockage,” she advised.

But first the vet checked Grover over one more time. We won’t go into details here, but suffice it to say her physical exam was fruitful. She came running out from the back room with a broad grin on her face. “I found it!” she said.

Yes, Grover had eaten a nectarine pit that I had left in my car. Turns out those creaky sounds were caused by this object’s slow movement through the length of the dog’s intestinal tract. You might exclaim, “Annie, you were eating in your car!” Well, that was two cars ago. I can hear you mutter, “Why did you leave the pit in your car?” That I can’t tell you. I didn’t yet have the leukemia which I now blame for occasionally forgetting my wallet or phone or brain at home. Without leukemia to blame, I can only acknowledge I was a careless slob.

I don’t think Grover learned from this traumatic experience, but I certainly did. I never left a nectarine pit, or even a nectarine, within reach of any dog again. And I beseech you to please dispose of your nectarine pits, if for no other reason than the safety of my scavenging dog.

Thankfully, Jelly’s condition is slowly improving, even without expensive veterinary intervention, as evidenced by her checking for food on the counter this afternoon. The fruit bowl was well out of reach. Yes, it took one trial for me to learn this lesson.

Psychologist, heal thyself

Sorry for the short absence there, folks. J. and I were lucky enough to be granted our first glamping experience. Generous friends, good food, beautiful surroundings, no internet access, and an RV roof over our heads. Who could pass that up?

But I’m back now, and ready to share more failures and inadequacies with all of you. How else can I keep this blog engaging?

People often use imagery to help them through cancer treatment and recovery, envisioning the radiation blasting the bad cells into oblivion, never to return. Me? Not so much. I am an abject failure at using visual imagery to manage my stress. I guess that’s not really true: I can visualize, but not in a way that helps me to cope. Some psychologist, huh?

I had a perfect opportunity to use imagery during that little health hiccup a few months back. During this episode, I experienced bone pain for the first time. Of course I did not look up possible sources of bone pain on the internet; I made J. do it. And she found that there are many possible explanations, including infection (the most likely cause in my case) and, of course, cancer. According to the internet, every symptom under the sun can be a sign of cancer, remember?

Around this time, Dr. Blood had been talking to me about my no-longer-dormant polycythemia, and the possibility that, if the disease progressed, I might develop fibrosis, or scar tissue, in my bone marrow. The tissue would take up the space where new blood cells are produced. Ultimately, my marrow would have a heck of a time keeping up with my blood cell production because there just wouldn’t be enough room in there to do the job. I’ll leave it to you to figure out how this story ends, but let’s say that it’s not happily ever after.

Imagine my hearing this news while I was dealing with this unfamiliar symptom. What kind of visual imagery do you think I came up with? Of course, I envisioned an army of minions building permanent residences in my marrow. Were I an effective visualizer, I’d see minions obliterating any structures that the bad pac men were trying to erect.

Men putting up complex scaffolding

Fibrosis in the anxious mind’s eye.

When Dr. Blood reviewed my recently discovered genetic anomalies with me last week, she dug the knife a little deeper: she noted that my constellation of mutations is associated with fibrosis. So of course I had to share with her my laughably ineffective visualization. Without skipping a beat, she responded: “You probably had them putting up scaffolding, didn’t you?” Wow, that’s a great image!

Now, some may consider Dr. Blood’s statement unempathic, but not me. I was thrilled. She wasn’t trying to make me more anxious; she was acknowledging my anxiety in her own empathic way. And in her way, she was giving me permission to be anxious about this potential progression. Or at least that’s how I chose to interpret what she was doing.

Funny enough, I’ve been feeling less anxious about the fibrosis since we talked, partly because the bone pain has subsided. Maybe it also helped to laugh with Dr. Blood at the craziness of my imagery. But even before our exchange, I knew, deep down, that those adorable minions would never want to hurt me.

Is 51 too old for a belly shirt?

I owned a cropped top once, until it caught on fire while I was wearing it. Thanks to the era of high-waisted pants, the shirt barely exposed my midriff. I was in my mid-twenties then, living on my own, and I wore said shirt while cooking dinner. All of the sudden, I smelled burning. It was my shirt, which was at the perfect length to fondle my stove element. Somehow I removed the shirt, flames and all, without burning myself, but I kept my shirts long after that. (You can understand now why J. refuses to buy me a gas stove.)

My current upper-body coverage is not really cropped, per se; my shirts are just rendered short by the size of my belly. Imagine a pregnant woman wearing a t-shirt not made to accommodate her expanding girth. That would be me with my massive spleen. The combination of my huge belly and my outie make me a tiny bit (hugely, really) self-conscious, so for the past several years, I have been wearing two shirts, one under the other. This way, if my outer shirt rises up, my unseemly midsection remains covered.

But during our recent heat wave, I decided to let loose a little and try going shirt-solo. I can keep my bulge covered if I’m hanging out at home or going out for errands. I’d even feel okay about the lesser coverage had that woman at the coffee shop last week not stared repeatedly at my belly as I ordered. Mind reader that I am, I know she pegged me as a wanna-be post-menopausal mom who had undergone fertility treatment.

Yoga is another story. I know, I know, people only care about their own bodies in yoga, but I’m self-conscious about others seeing my disproportionately large midsection nonetheless. And in some classes we spend a lot of time with our arms over our heads. As it stands, I’m worrying about matching my underpants to my yoga pants; do I need to fret about my belly peeking out from under my shirt too?

But I thought: I’m a big girl now (no pun intended) and it’s time I practice what I preach. I’ve watched those Dove commercials. I will love the body I have and stop trying to hide it under multiple layers. (It’s not like the second t-shirt hides my girth; it just covers it.) So I went to three yoga classes with only one shirt on. I picked the t-shirt carefully, hoping it would keep me adequately covered in all poses, and for the most part it did. But I caught the odd glimpse of my naked protrusion in the mirror during class and I didn’t like it. Even in a class without a mirror, my potentially exposed belly was all I could think about. Yes, I failed in my attempt to feel more comfortable with my body.

So I’ve decided to keep wearing one shirt when I go out (small steps are better than no steps, I say), but I’ll be adding an extra layer for yoga. Or maybe I’ll buy some more t-shirts that I can trust will cover me even in wheel pose. Who am I kidding? I can’t even do half wheel; I’ll never master full wheel.

Woman in full-wheel yoga pose

I can assure you this will never be me.

Blood takes flight

J. and I have been talking about our annual September vacation. I happened to forget the conversation where I agreed we’d only go away for one week rather than two. Oh, and the decision that we wouldn’t go very far. I’m going to have to negotiate those decisions a bit more, since I aspire to an adventure in foreign lands if I continue to do well. Maybe I could borrow your travel insurance. Is that considered insurance fraud?

We may be staying put for the rest of the summer, but my blood went on a trip without telling me. I found out during my visit with Dr. Blood yesterday that a sample of my blood had flown to Vancouver so some learned geneticist could take a peek. This is what I learned: I have not just two but four genetic mutations. Any more and I will become an adult mutant ninja turtle.

I guess it’s not uncommon for some of these mutations to hang out together. And my particular constellation of genetic anomalies is associated with the slow-progressing polycythemia that I seem to have. Then the doctor admitted that this blood analysis was “an academic exercise” and didn’t add any new insights to her arsenal.

Enough about the travelling blood; we moved on to my new chemo. My kidneys and liver aren’t rebelling against this medication, and even my red blood count is holding up. But my platelets are dipping to dangerous levels again, which might explain the very prominent and growing bruises I have, one on each arm. An excitable dog caused one but the other is of unknown origin. I must have run into something in my leukemic stupor. Hopefully my fly was done up that day.

Dr. Blood gave me the rest of the summer off, except for a blood check in three weeks to make sure my platelets don’t sink any lower. Time to pray for proliferating platelets, folks. If the sticky cells decline any further, I’ll have to cease and desist this new chemo. That would be sad. As it is, I’m on a lower-than-therapeutic dose, so its effects may be negligible.

Did you know that, when your liver isn’t functioning all that well, drugs become more potent? That means I need a lower dose of a drug to obtain the same effect as someone with a healthy liver. So I’ve decided this lower dose may be enough for me. I happen to be on a lower-than-average dose of my other (leukemia) chemo and it’s working just fine.

How will I know if the new chemo is working? Take out your magnifying glass because my spleen may shrink. With this shrinkage may come increased energy and improved well being. (I’m choosing to ignore the potential side effect of weight gain, so you can too. Thanks.) Improved well being would be great, don’t you think? Less whining from me, more writing about topics other than my health, fewer visits from Sadness and Fear.

Hopefully I’ll find something to write about or I’ll be back to soliciting stories from you. I guess I could always take a blogcation, but what fun is that?

Why I don’t have orthorexia

Brown basset hound eating carrot.First a quick update on some important matters: 1) I am still flossing. I don’t understand it either; 2) I am still matching my underwear to my yoga pants most days, although I forgot today, which was unfortunate because downward dog can be a compromising position; and 3) I see Dr. Blood tomorrow, but so far so good on the new chemo front.

As the latest heat wave abates, I’ve been given permission to use the oven again. I was going through baking withdrawal. If you were here, you’d smell the Ghirardelli brownies (yes, from a mix; I was tired) wafting from the toaster oven. I’d share some with you but I’m not good at sharing so I haven’t invited you over.

Those brownies are just one of many signs that I don’t have orthorexia. Have you heard of this latest unofficial eating disorder? Orthorexics restrict their eating to foods that are healthy for them. A lot of us do that, but to be orthorexic, the behaviour must interfere with your life or impair your functioning in some way. Perhaps you become obsessed with eating “good” food (check), you judge those people who don’t eat like you (check), or you lose pleasure in eating (Are you kidding? Hurry up, brownies!).

I’m sure I have some features of orthorexia. I wander the aisles in the grocery store, looking at labels in the prepared food section, eyeing the baked goods, and fawning over the dips and cheeses, all the while mourning the sodium counts. Then I fill my basket with vegetables and fruit, and go home to cook bland food.

It would be a challenge to be orthorexic because the nutritional advice out there is always changing. I’ve heard that some nutrients may be good for my liver and others for cancer. Oh, and I should fit in probiotics for my gut. Coffee, the ultimate healer, was touted recently for reducing liver damage (in alcoholics, mind you; I’ll have to take up drinking to benefit), yet its consumption may damage my esophagus, which is fragile because of my blood clot. Can I mainline the stuff and bypass my esophagus altogether? Would IV coffee still make me perky?

Then there’s all the conflicting information I’m facing. I’ve read people with cancer should eat a high-protein diet to keep up their strength. How do I reconcile that with the high-carb, mostly vegetarian diet recommended for liver disease? I can’t do both simultaneously.

So sure, I’ll aspire to be orthorexic; I just need some clear guidelines. And then I’ll need to make sure I don’t get fat. Were I to consume all the foods reputed to be healing, I’d be eating constantly and would most surely gain weight, which would only necessitate more careful matching of my underwear to my yoga pants, downward dog or not.

Until I sort all this out, I’m applying the twofer rule: if a food can help me on both the liver and cancer fronts simultaneously, it’s in. Otherwise, I’ll have to pass. So far blueberries, asparagus, and my beloved coffee are on the list, at least to start. Hopefully, I’ll be able to add a few more foods soon.

Oh, there goes the timer. Don’t want those brownies to burn. I’m sure if I scour the internet, I’ll find a website that will justify my adding brownies to my accepted food list. If not, I guess I’ll just have to share after all.


C’mon, you’d eat the marshmallow too

Little girl with pigtails looking longingly at marshmallow on a plateThanks for all the support after that last post (recall Ms. Persistently Pushy). Thanks to those of you whom I offended with my opinionated opinions for not telling me. I spend half my time writing about topics that are inflammatory and the other half worrying that I’ve offended people. Then I remember that anyone who taked offence can always stop reading.

On a completely different note, my dear friend, M., was reminding me yesterday of the marshmallow experiment we all learned about in Introductory Psychology. Many years ago, 32 preschoolers were given the choice of eating one marshmallow immediately, or receiving two marshmallows if they could hold off for 15 minutes. The researchers left the children in the room with their one marshmallow. Of course, some of these kids–I would have been one of them–could not hold out, and downed their marshmallow as soon as the researcher left the room. Others were able to wait for the larger reward.

Then the kids were followed into adulthood on a range of outcomes. Turns out the ones who could not delay gratification had lower university entrance exam scores among other things. There were even differences in brain activity, including more activity in the brain region associated with addiction for the kids like me.

Delay of gratification is a wonderful thing, I guess. I can manage it in some areas, just not around food. I’ve paid off my mortgage (J. helped with that), I have money in the bank, and I even managed to complete my schooling somehow. If those things don’t suggest ability to delay gratification, what does? If I were in the experiment and was offered something inedible, say a loonie or an ‘A’ on an exam, I could have held out for the reward.

Really, if there’s any merit to this study, it’s amazing I’ve gotten as far as I have. M. and I agreed that not only would we have eaten our marshmallows within seconds of the examiner’s leaving the room, we would have stolen the other kids’ marshmallows too. Without a doubt, J. would have been able to hold off long enough to earn at least 5 marshmallows, and then she would have saved all five until they were stale. We are so different it’s amazing we ever hitched up. Hey, maybe I should have married M.! Oh yeah, she straight.

I was somewhat comforted this morning when I tried a similar experiment on Jelly. Okay, let’s admit the study evolved naturally while I was showering. I overheard Jelly rooting around in my shorts, which housed a wayward dog treat. I had dumped the shorts on the floor (something I would never do if J. were home by the way), and Jelly sniffed the treat out. She then proceeded to rip my pocket to shreds in a few short minutes.

Given what I’ve shared about the marshmallow study, you will not be surprised to learn that Jelly dropped out of high school, she can’t afford to rent a dog house, let alone buy a home, and she has an addictive relationship with kibble and other food stuffs. I guess M. and I aren’t alone in our challenges.

Turning up the volume on my broken record

You may be surprised to know that when I was studying to become a psychologist, I co-led assertiveness training groups. Sure, I may appear meek and mild–my co-leader was a better role model than me–but I do know how to stand my ground when I need to. Despite my assertiveness expertise, I’m in a situation that I’m not handling well.

A person whose path I cross on a fairly regular basis has been trying to offer some healing nutritional advice of late. Every time I see her. Without fail. Let’s call her Ms. P. (P for Persistent? Pushy? You choose.) And no, it’s not you. The intervention she suggested today is supposed to purify my blood. It’s a little late for that, don’t you think?

Ms. P. is not picking up on my repeated and direct feedback that I’m not interested. I leave each interaction feeling both stressed at the pressure she’s exerting and worried that I have offended her. This is not good.

I am not trying to malign this lovely woman who certainly means well. I do not like being rude or cutting anyone off because I’m just not that kind of person. And I need to learn to deal with Ms. P. since we will have ongoing contact over the next while.

I also know that I bring my personal biases to this situation. I am closed minded and rigid on health matters. It’s Western-medicine way or the highway. I listen to what my physicians tell me and no one else. I figure if my doctors struggle as much as they do to keep me stable, I can’t mess things up by throwing anything else into the mix. No nutritional supplements, no herbal medicines, no vitamins, nothing that my doctors haven’t prescribed. Heck, sometimes I won’t even follow my own doctors’ directives before checking with the other doctors involved in my care.

If your beliefs differ from mine, more power to you. You’ll have more tools in your health arsenal than I have. I just warn you that I’m not open to those tools for my own reasons, and I hope you can understand and respect that.

You’ll appreciate that, however well meaning Ms. P.’s advice is, I’m going to decline it. As I tried to explain to her today, my body is very complicated, and I won’t use methods that aren’t suggested by my docs. I’m also not going to run her ideas by all of my doctors, which I would need to do before I initiated anything new. I’m being pretty direct, aren’t I?

LP record broken in piecesI’ve given this woman the same message four times now, each time reaffirming my position. In assertiveness speak, we call my response style the “broken record”. (I’ve inserted this picture for you young pups who have no idea what a record is.) That is, if the person isn’t getting my message, I calmly repeat my position again and again until she hears it. Try this with an aggressive salesperson sometime. It works like a charm.

Except that my broken record isn’t working, maybe because I’m too worried about offending Ms. P. to be firm with her. If Ms. P. suggests any more alternative interventions, I’ll tell her that I do not want to talk with her about my health anymore ever (I’ll say it in italics so she can hear it). Hopefully that will be the end of that. If not, screaming and yelling may be my only alternative. Funny, I don’t remember teaching those methods in my assertiveness groups.