The Cancer Lifers

This week I just want to share this video by Holley Kitchen.  She lost her battle with metastatic breast cancer last January. I was too afraid at the time to watch it and really think about it because I was also initially diagnosed at Stage 3. But her message is too important so I’ve watched it several times and now I need to share it. I would have liked to know you Holley.

 

 

Stop, Drop and Fluff?

It’s been two months since my expander-implant exchange. I recently heard the term “Drop and Fluff” bandied about on RealSelf.com which is a plastic surgery social media site. I had never heard about this term and it created really weird pictures in my mind. Apparently there is a lot going on behind the scenes in your body when you get implants, either with a boob job or reconstruction. After implant placement there is swelling of the tissues combined with tightening of the chest muscles. This can cause them to look tight with the upper portion of the breast looking somewhat like a hump and then constricting the tissues causing the implant to look smaller than it actually is. It can also make them look a bit further apart and even kind of upside down. As the swelling goes down those tissues loosen and the implants settle into a lower, more natural position which in turn makes them look softer and more rounded. So it’s the Drop and Fluff that The Boob Whisperer was talking about when he said it could take up to six months for my foobs to reveal their true shape.

Unless you’ve been under a rock lately, you will have seen talk on the news about repealing and replacing the ACA or “Obamacare.” A few months ago I was concerned there would be no insurance companies in Maricopa County offering individual health plans because they were all pulling out of the market. Well as it turns out there is one company, HealthNet’s Ambetter. It is an HMO and my plan has a $4,000 annual deductible and $7,150 out of pocket maximum. On top of this, my monthly premium is $530 per month which includes a $178 subsidy so my premium would actually be over $700 per month. This is just for me. My husband and daughter each have their own plans which they’ve had since before the ACA went into effect which are much cheaper. In 2013 I reduced my hours to 30 (my choice) and went from employer based coverage to individual which made me subject to the ACA or Obamacare rules (and before you say wait-30 hours-employer has to cover you. Nope they called me into HR and said they needed me to work 29.5 so they didn’t get fined.) One positive thing the ACA did for me was prohibit insurance companies from dropping me or refusing to cover my cancer treatment due to it being a “pre-existing condition.” If I had gotten cancer prior to the ACA I would have had to get a full time job with benefits or be totally screwed. People shouldn’t go bankrupt trying to pay their medical bills and I know firsthand working in bankruptcy and collection law many years ago that it happened. A lot. It happened to wealthy people who became not so wealthy because of a catastrophic medical event. So the idea that individual coverage, like employer based coverage could not be discriminatory against someone with a pre-existing condition was a very good one to me and a no-brainer. The problem was there were way too many one size fits all mandates and regulations piled on the law. I think my plan had to have maternity benefits even though chemotherapy put me into menopause last year. Doctors I know have said that the ACA has made it more difficult and expensive for them to treat their patients and run their practices. Here in Arizona and some other states premiums have more than doubled.

I am dubious of politicians crying about how repealing and replacing Obamacare will “make America sick again.” Let’s face it, promises were broken. I couldn’t keep my plan and I couldn’t keep my doctor. I don’t care whose fault it is, it happened as a result of this law. And if Obamacare was so great why don’t you congressmen and women have it? And why did y’all immediately rush to exempt yourselves from it? They have the gold standard in health insurance that WE pay for. I guess we’ll see what happens in the coming months with the repeal and replace.  Okay rant over.

My Foobs, My Scars and My Bra Ambivalence

My new foobs are feeling better and better you guys. The soreness is still there on the left side whenever I do something with my left arm and there’s still lots of numbness but they are really softening like real boobs. And the last vestiges of my stitches have finally dissolved. I think D cups were wishful thinking though. The Boob Whisperer thought I could have them but with the maximum volume silicone implant sold in the U.S., (800cc) I’m about a full C. A very perky C. I was reading some comments in a private breast cancer Facebook group and there were women taller and heavier than I am saying with 800 cc they barely fit in a B cup so it’s really about your height, frame and body type. I am 5’6, have broad shoulders, am medium to large boned and moderately plus-sized. 800 cc will look different depending on your body type. This makes sense because I’ve seen plastic surgery stories on RealSelf and women were always asking “how many cc to get to (whatever bra cup size)?” The doctors would always reply that it varies from person to person and this is true with augmentation and reconstruction.

Now because of the little bit of extra skin on my right side, which he already trimmed during my exchange surgery, it doesn’t look perfect but he wants to watch it for another few months. If it doesn’t resolve on it’s own he will make an adjustment, which I knew might be a possibility. In clothes they really look great and with a bra they look magnificent. BUT! I don’t think I can ever wear a bra again. I put one on for the first time the other day and it was comfortable as far as bras go and I’d been professionally fitted with it, but I couldn’t stand it. I can’t explain it but I felt like “Gah!  There’s something suffocating me, GETITOFF!” Like when you accidentally go to bed with your clothes on after a night of partying and wake up feeling like you’re in a straight jacket. I took it off after like three hours although I reverently hung it up in the closet rather than smash it into a drawer. This was the first time I’d worn a bra since my mastectomy last May so maybe I will get used to it again eventually. I tried a sports bra and that was actually worse and looked awful. Or I could just skip it, which The Boob Whisperer prefers anyway, at least for now.

I’ve done some research about this bra business and as far as I can tell, the boob-stifling has been going on for centuries. But about a hundred years ago, Mary Phelps Jacob designed what would become the modern bra. It was mostly just just like two handkerchiefs sewn together and fit like a loose halter top. She created it as an alternative to the whalebone or metal corsets women were stuffing themselves into at the time. Apparently there was a French study done a few years ago-of course it’s the French-wherein the benefit of wearing a bra was called into question and ultimately debunked. Of course there were plenty of criticisms of the study and it further stated if you’ve worn a bra for years there’s no benefit in suddenly ditching it now.

One thing this bra situation has made me do is examine my scars and really take them all in. Sure I’ve seen them on a daily basis but I don’t think I fully absorbed the magnitude of them. There is about a two and a half inch scar from my chemotherapy port below my right collar bone. There are six inch mastectomy scars below each foob and two inch scars near my underarms where the lymph nodes were removed. There is an eight inch scar on my back from the flap surgery and an oval scar on my left foob where that tissue and muscle from my back was transferred. Also, my entire left chest (minus the white-skinned flap) is a darker color from radiation a year ago. The scars are ugly for sure but they are also a beautiful reminder of my strength.

You Might Think You Know, But You Don’t

I participate in a couple of social media breast cancer groups, and one thing I’ve been seeing over and over are stories of women whose co-workers, family and/or friends say things like “oh I know so and so went through this and she didn’t miss any work” or “so and so was back to normal after (fill in the blank).” I’ve read so many stories about women being bullied and made to feel weak.  Just reading all of these makes the steam bubble up and spew out of my head.  I’m sure there are people who when they have an illness might milk the sympathy card but this is not what I am talking about.  My own coworkers have been lovely, supportive and kind so I’m lucky, at least nothing untoward was ever said to my face and if it was, I would probably do bodily violence.

The trauma caused to your body by a mastectomy is unimaginable and horrific and you cannot even fathom it unless you’ve gone through it. There are all kinds of tissue, muscle and nerve problems because they’ve been sliced through.  This pain and discomfort hangs around for months and years.  And if you’ve had reconstruction too you can just compound that pain.  In my case, I went into chemotherapy four weeks later.  My breast cancer compatriot at work who was going through chemo at the same time, had to have six rounds, while I had four.  Her chemo cocktail was also slightly different from mine.  There are many different types of breast cancer and they all come with varying treatments, including different types of chemo.  A third woman at work who’d undergone chemo ahead of us didn’t miss any work at all, not a single day.  I am going to say right here and now, that is NOT the norm.  It’s great that she was able to do that and I would say she is a strong woman, but that does not mean that my compatriot and I were not as strong, by any stretch of the imagination.  It doesn’t mean we weren’t able to just suck it up.  Number one, not all chemotherapies are alike.  Number two, not all human bodies react the same way to chemotherapy. There are so many contributing factors you can’t quantify. This leads me to number three which is do not ever tell someone going through chemo that “my friend so and so said it was a breeze.”  Or that “my friend so and so was curled in the fetal position vomiting for three months.”  I would say that I personally did better than some, and worse than others.  I think my slow recovery had a lot to do with undergoing chemo, coming off the heels of a bilateral mastectomy.  Radiation also causes fatigue, and in some people it’s extreme.  Some people burn badly like I did.  Others may get a mild sunburn.  My hormone blocking pills cause me some substantial fatigue and joint stiffness.  For other women, it can be severe.  Women whose cancer was estrogen positive, which mine was, need to block the estrogen because it feeds the cancer.  There is no standard answer for how much time you need to heal or to recover from cancer treatment.

I can only speak from my own experience but I worked as hard and as long as my body would allow and I am still not where I was before all this started. Please don’t judge any of my pink sisters (including me) based on our ability to bounce back from breast cancer treatment, because unless and until you’ve been there you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

A Breast Cancer Poem, or Maybe Limerick.

I didn’t really have any strong inspiration about what to write about this week so instead I did something a little different.  I wrote a poem-limerick thing.

One day I found out that my breasts, were going to be chopped off my chest. It was cancer you see, that invaded me, so I knew that the chopping was for the best.

Chemo was hard, and my chest it was scarred, then radiation really made me feel burned. But it was frying the cancer cells deep inside and I was convinced that the tide would soon turn.

My head had no hair and I honestly didn’t care because there were many worse things than hair loss.  I covered my head with hats that were cute because itchy wigs and slippery scarves I did toss.

I found I can be funny, brave and strong. How had I not known this all along? God has been with me, so have my family and friends and so many amazing pink sisters, on whom I can depend.

One lesson I’ve learned is that life is not fair, but there is so much beauty and love and humor, that I can appreciate now and it’s because of that tumor.

A Year Later, and Hairier, and Thankful

What a difference a year makes. I’m actually keeping it like it is now since it takes all of three minutes to style it. My hair has been on quite a journey. I do miss not having to shave though, that was awesome.

At this time of giving thanks I consider just a few of my blessings.

1. I am here to celebrate another Thanksgiving and Christmas with my wonderful friends and family.
2. This holiday season I have breasts and hair (although I honestly didn’t care about not having them last year).
3. I haven’t gained back any of the weight I lost during treatment (although I don’t want to jinx myself when I’m going to be bombarded by sugar in the coming weeks).
4. I am still off alcohol (so all you guys on Facebook flaunting your drinks-you totally suck).
5. Although I have many new fears, I am trying very hard not to let them interfere with living my life and appreciating all that God has given me.

On the reconstruction front, I’m still a little sore but it’s improving. They are softening too. It feels so strange to have boobs again, but in a good way. There is still a lot of numbness which may or may not go away. I go back to The Boob Whisperer in three weeks, so I’ll be interested to hear how he thinks they are shaping up. I still have a fair amount of fatigue and I’m sleeping more than usual, although it’s pretty dark and cold now in the morning too. This morning it’s 63 degrees in Phoenix and if you’re not from Phoenix, understand that for us that is COLD. We have extremely thin blood here so anything below 70 requires at least a light jacket. We’re like reptiles who need to lay on a rock in the desert sunning ourselves.

Flaunting the New Boobs and the Evolution of My Fear

A while back during my time of booblessness I wrote that it seemed like boobs were EVERYWHERE. It still seems like that to me. I’m very conscious of any boobs I encounter. But now I have my own and I’ve been wanting to show them off (in a tasteful, not slutty way of course). They are softening too, which is nice. The Boob Whisperer is a magician. I’m hoping that the spot on my right one fills in like he says it will, but in clothes you can’t tell it’s there. I find myself touching them all the time, even at work so I just hope nobody catches me copping a feel. It’s a very weird feeling because everything is still very numb. My breasts don’t really have any sensation but the muscles are still sore from the exchange surgery two weeks ago.

I was talking with my coworker who had a boob job from The Boob Whisperer a while back and we went in her boss’ office and shut the door so she could see mine and I could feel hers for comparison. Hers were softer but I think I still have swelling. As we were coming out of his office her boss was coming down the hall and saw us and raised his eyebrows and said something like “uh oh that doesn’t look suspicious at all” and we started laughing hysterically. I thought to myself that I haven’t laughed like this in a long time. I hope this means I’m slowly getting back to normal (actually my new normal) which leads me to my next thought.

One thing I see from my pink sisters frequently is that once chemo or radiation is completed there is this sudden feeling of vulnerability. The safety net feels like it has been yanked out from under you. The other shoe is ready to drop at any moment. You’re thankful to be done with chemo and radiation but a part of you feels the loss of that frequent connection with your doctors and nurses. I felt this way very strongly and touched on it here several months ago. I’m feeling it somewhat again now that my reconstruction is almost complete (aside from 3D nipple tattoos and possible minor “adjustments”). I’ve been seeing The Boob Whisperer every week for seven months. Looking back to a year ago when my radiation was completed, I realize that my fear is still there but it’s softened if that makes sense. I wrote about needing vampire mind control to prevent cancer from being my first and last thought every day. I know now that those thoughts will likely always be there but the fear is not as acute as it was a year ago. I still get nervous with any new ache or pain but it’s not the abject terror it used to be. I want my friends and loved ones to know that our fight does not end when treatment does. We don’t wake up one day after treatment is over and say to ourselves “okay I’m cured” and just pick up our lives where we left off before cancer. It has become a part of ourselves and our daily lives and though the fear may fade somewhat into the background it will always be present.

Can I Feel Your Boobs?

Because I don’t really remember what my old ones before cancer felt like and I would like some kind of basis for comparison. My unveiling was last Monday and to say I am pleased would be an understatement. The first thing The Boob Whisperer said when he removed the bandages was “now remember this isn’t the final result.” And I knew this, they are going to “settle” and that could take up to six months and I may need minor adjustments when all is said and done. Honestly my first reaction was elation. I could work with this. They don’t match perfectly but they are the same size and look great in clothes. The right side that had the floob has a slight pucker in the lower right corner but it was WAY worse when I had the coconuts (expanders), and he said that the pucker should fill in. They seem to feel somewhat firmer than the old boobs and definitely perkier.

As of right now I am absolutely satisfied with the results and I am so glad I chose to have reconstruction. There were some rough patches where my resolve wavered because as I’ve said repeatedly, the seven month expansion process was PAINFUL, but in the end I’m so glad I hung in there. To the women who choose not to have reconstruction, I totally get it. It’s like, enough with the surgery already. I could have easily been a Flatty Patty for the rest of my life and there was much about flatness I embraced. It’s a deeply personal decision and I respect and admire all breast cancer survivors whatever their chosen path.

Reconstruction was not all about how I look but also how I feel. Let me tell you what else reconstruction is not, at least for me. It’s not a panacea. I still worry about cancer returning. I still see the scars every day from three surgeries and my chemo port. I see the overly tanned from radiation left side of my chest, even a year later. Reconstruction has returned a piece of me that was taken by cancer and I don’t just mean “well yeah, my boobs, duh.” There are so many seemingly insignificant moments that once you’ve lost your breasts, now become noticeable. Like tying my shoe laces. I used to bend over and feel my breasts against my arms and leg as I was tying. Sleeping without breasts felt different. Standing in the shower, all of a sudden there was my stomach when before I looked down and saw breasts. Just little movements and actions that I’d do throughout the day felt different and each one was a reminder of breasts now gone. Now I feel more like my old self and I don’t automatically look away from my silhouette in the mirror. I was pissed at my family yesterday because when I started talking about the 3D nipple tattoos they were all “why do you need those, who’s even going to see them?” ME that’s who! The 3D nipple tattoos will be my denouement. Monday I go back to The Boob Whisperer and I hope he’ll remove the steri-strips, and perhaps I’ll get some more information about what to expect over the next few months.

One Leaky Coconut and Two New Boobs

Wednesday morning I noticed I sprung a leak in my left expander. The reason I know this is that it no longer felt like a coconut and was ever so slightly squishy. I went in to see The Boob Whisperer and he confirmed my fear and said we should probably bump up my implant exchange surgery to the next day. The danger in waiting until the 8th, the original date, was that there was no way to know if I would lose some of the expansion on that side. It was already starting to look somewhat deflated so I was freaking out. I was thinking, shit by Tuesday I’m going to be monoboobular and I’m going to need some strategic wardrobe planning. The other concern I had was that Monday and Tuesday I had been a bit coughy and sniffly but by Wednesday afternoon I was pretty much back to 100%. So Thursday was the third and (hopefully FINAL) operation in The Great Breast Quest of 2016. I know however, with breast reconstruction there is a good chance I may need some “adjustments.” I’m wrapped in bandages until Monday so I can’t see them yet. My hope is that they just look as symmetrical as possible. I am not expecting perfection. It’s strange not to have my coconuts anymore after having them for seven months. The pain I have now after surgery is different from the expanders, more bruisy and less flesh-being-peeled-away-from-my-body burning sensation. I can’t shower on my upper body so Tomas put the detachable shower head/hose back so I can at least half-shower. I can’t drive until Tuesday either so I feel trapped. There’s not anywhere I’m really anxious to go but it’s the knowing I can’t if I wanted to unless someone drives me.

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I once thought that after I was through with treatment my thoughts of cancer and the fear of it returning would subside. That didn’t happen. Then I thought, okay maybe after the reconstruction process. I don’t see that happening either. The scars are there every day to remind me. My hope is that one day it won’t be my first thought when I wake up and the last thought before I fall asleep. One thing I’ve learned from reading survivor stories from women who are several years out from their diagnosis is that it never totally leaves you. You just learn to live with it. I once thought that it wouldn’t be possible, that I would need some kind of vampire mind control trick, now I just hope it will get easier as I get farther away from it and learn to live my life again.

I’ve Learned To Be a Cancer Pinball Wizard

Reading about so many different breast cancer stories on social media lately has led me to realize how unexpected my path has been. In the past year and a half I realize my thoughts and feelings have ricocheted like a pinball machine. They evolved and changed so many times throughout this journey I was frequently confused by my emotions and reactions, like I was living in the Bizaro world. When people ask how I felt about this or that, my answer would depend on when you asked. When I first saw my breast surgeon and he said he recommended a mastectomy and radiation I was mostly relieved because now there’s a plan of action. He sent me to the plastic surgeon who explained he would be placing tissue expanders immediately following the mastectomy to start the reconstruction process. At my pre-op appointment my breast surgeon said that the plastic surgeon likely didn’t know I was having radiation and that he would recommend waiting on reconstruction. He called my plastic surgeon right then and there on his cell phone and we all had a discussion about why it was important to wait until everything had healed after radiation. My stomach clenched in disappointment (what?! I have to wait like a year?!) but only for an instant. Deep down I knew it was the right decision but it was a let down.

In the hours prior to my surgery I started freaking out, how’s this going to work exactly? Will it be like slicing flank steak? But when I woke up, maybe it was the drugs, I felt relieved. I was nervous about the pathology report but I was at peace with having my boobs gone. That was unexpected.

Prior to surgery I was positive that I wanted breast forms to wear in my bra, at least to work. Well after the mastectomy I was not allowed to wear a bra for a long time and so by then I was used to going au natural. I honestly didn’t care. I was getting ready to start chemo and I was laser focused on that and all it entailed like hair loss and sickness. So no prosthetic bra or breast forms for me but I did stock up on peasant blouses. Plus news of my cancer diagnosis and mastectomy had already traveled throughout the office. I didn’t try to keep it secret. I would have felt very conspicuous showing up all of a sudden with boobs.

When my hair started falling out a couple of weeks after my first round of chemo I thought it would be calamitous and heartbreaking. My husband buzzed it down to a 1/4 inch and as it turns out, it wasn’t traumatic it was freeing. I was taking control of something. I went to work with it like that for a few days too. A week or so later it was so patchy I shaved it shiny bald. Prior to chemo I looked at lots of wigs and was dead set on getting one and wearing it. But comfort won out because it was Phoenix in July. I had scarves and wore them for about a week but then switched to hats because for me the scarf was saying “chemo patient.” It was just a psychological thing because you could still see I was bald in my hats but I just felt a little bit closer to my old self in them. I went commando at home or in my car. It was actually awesome to get those WTF looks from other drivers.

During the months following my mastectomy I actually pondered the idea of foregoing reconstruction. I didn’t want more painful surgery and recovery. I just wanted to be done. But by January 2016, eight months post mastectomy, I was getting tired of camouflaging my chest and admitted to myself I wanted breasts again. The reconstruction process has been long and painful and more than once I questioned my original decision to go forward with it, but now that I am preparing for the next phase – my implant exchange surgery November 8th, I am confident in the decisions I’ve made however arduous the process.

I’ve learned that until you’re living through an experience first hand, you can’t really predict how you will feel or react and your feelings may even change several times. I would have never thought I could blog about or put a humorous spin on my situation but I’ve been doing just that and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ice Cream is Not Recommended for Breast Cancer and Other Soul Crushing Truths

As I was reveling in my Saturday night bowl of ice cream with Hershey’s syrup I was thinking about my diet and how I’ve become kind of half-assed about the changes I vowed to make following my cancer diagnosis. I’ve improved my diet considerably and lost a fair amount of weight during treatment, but it’s reached a plateau. I am a size 16 and that is about 3 sizes bigger than I should be. These past few months it has been very hard to exercise because of the pain from my expanders. But there is no excuse for not tightening up my diet. I’ve even tried to justify to myself that I deserve a reward after all I’ve been through, if I want a brownie I’m having a damn brownie. I may not have that many brownies left in my life. I gave up alcohol you guys, I’ve got to have SOMETHING. But in the end it’s not really a reward if I’m not at a healthy weight and in turn, increasing my risk factors for cancer recurrence.  I don’t want to become a vegan but I do want to be more consistent with eating clean. Some changes I’ve already made include no more frozen Lean Cuisine type meals and limiting canned soups, or other prepackaged foods with artificial ingredients and preservatives. I very rarely eat fast food. I buy organic or natural chicken and deli meats, eggs and olive oil or natural cooking spray, I rarely have soda, and I also buy organic produce as much as possible. The nutritionist that visited me during chemotherapy gave me this list which indicates which produce you should strive to buy organic. It’s called the dirty dozen-clean fifteen.  I may have already posted this, but I think it’s helpful and I do try to adhere to it.

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There is so much information about cancer causing foods and toxic products sometimes I wish I just lived off the grid. Everywhere I turn I’m inundated with ads pushing natural this and organic that. And it’s not just food-it’s candles, shampoos, deodorants, makeup, household cleaning products and the list goes on. Let’s examine the food. As a cancer survivor it is recommended I forego sugar, meat, certain produce exposed to pesticides, grapefruit, white flour, polyunsaturated and saturated fats just to name a few. According to breastcancer.org, “research is needed to better understand the effect of diet on breast cancer risk. But it is clear that calories do count — and fat is a major source of calories. High-fat diets can lead to being overweight or obese, which is a breast cancer risk factor. Overweight women are thought to be at higher risk for breast cancer because the extra fat cells make estrogen, which can cause extra breast cell growth. This extra growth increases the risk of breast cancer.” In my case the cancer was estrogen driven and with my body mass index those cells were executing a sneak attack and hostile takeover of my left breast and plotting occupation of my right. I found a website where you can click on a food and it tells you whether it’s good, bad or indifferent to cancer.

http://foodforbreastcancer.com/foods-to-avoid.php

Just about everything I clicked on said stuff like “bacon is not recommended for breast cancer” and “cheese is not recommended for breast cancer.” It looks like a plant based diet is recommended. It’s really a lot of information to absorb so I’m going to try and continue to make changes a little at a time like baby steps. I do know there is very little chance I will observe a 100% white sugar-white flour-dairy-gluten-gmo-animal protein free diet but I don’t think it has to be all or nothing.

Next stop-surgery. The next phase of my reconstruction which is the expander-implant exchange, is in two and a half weeks. My pre-op with The Boob Whisperer is Monday so I need to start writing down my questions to be prepared.

There’s No Crying in Baseball! But I’ve Got to Let Myself Cry Sometimes.

It’s official. I’m all “filled up.” Or at least as full as I can get. I’ve had 800 cc each of saline injected into my expanders and 800 is the largest size implant legally sold in the U.S. Before y’all freak (the largest?! WTF?!) Remember I was starting with NOTHING. Complete flatness. Less than even what a man has-a man with no pecs. My daughter told me I didn’t have to expand them as large as I am, and I thought about that. She’s right. I could’ve stopped at a B cup and called it a day. My reasoning was twofold. First, I’m a fuller figured girl. I want symmetry with my hips. Second, I do feel like after all I’ve been through, I deserve to look the way I want to look. I was a small C cup before cancer, and I will probably end up with a full C/small D so it’s not like I’m becoming Dolly Parton. My surgery is set for November 8 so goodbye coconuts, it’s been fun but you’re so outa here. My breast quest is almost over except for my 3D tattoo nipples which are a few months down the road.

I had my last fill on Monday. On Tuesday I went to work and by 3 pm I was slowly melting down. I was hurting so bad. I think knowing that the end of this painfest was within reach kind of gave my this bittersweet weepiness. I have not really cried all that much over the last year and a half. I cried after I got my diagnosis, and when I had to tell anyone I had cancer, and also a few times at night when I would beg God not to take me from my little girl. But really I was so busy kicking ass and taking names, I didn’t really feel like crying all that often. Tuesday it all came to a head and I had to leave work early. I felt a bit like I was wimping out and having a pity party. I thought about how strong I’ve been up until now. But maybe that’s why the tears came when they did. Maybe I kept shoving them down until the dam broke. Maybe being in pain 24/7 just pushed me over the edge. Maybe I needed all my physical and mental strength to fight and crying had to take a back seat. For most of my adult life, when I would feel a crying jag coming on, I had a little trick to stop it. Especially if I’m doing the choke-sob ugly cry face. I would say to myself “there’s no crying in baseball!” And then I would cry-laugh like a giggling psychopath. (Side note: your life is not complete if you don’t know who said that and in which movie-okay hint):

img_7063I laugh when I feel like laughing so it stands to reason I need to allow myself to cry when I feel like crying.

Since it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month I’m going to ask that everyone who reads this blog tell at least two people something about breast cancer they learned here. For a disease that affects 1 in 8 women or 12%, we need to spread the word about all aspects of breast cancer, including the reconstruction process.

Breast Cancer Awareness Has Gone to the Dogs

Ow ow ow ow ow. That’s me-All. Day. Long. And getting up from a laying down position is like I’m a beetle stuck on its back. It requires a strategic rocking motion to get the momentum to heave myself up. I’ve got one maybe two fills left in my expanders. The Boob Whisperer is going to check my bra again on Monday so Hallefuckingluja. Forget water boarding, these expanders would have terrorists spilling secrets like WikiLeaks.

October is breast cancer awareness month. If I’m being honest I don’t think I even knew that until last October, or if I did know, I didn’t pay attention. I was busy living my life and worrying about everything but breast cancer. I think that unless you or a loved one has experienced breast cancer, it’s fairly easy to not think about it. Let’s face it, it’s scary to think about it. Something I’ve noticed is there are a lot of opinions about the pink ribbon campaign, whether it’s actually having a meaningful impact or it’s just a big empty pink promises gimmick. I honestly don’t know the answer to that but what I do know is a lot of people know way more about breast cancer than they used to because I educate anyone who will listen, and probably some who don’t want to listen. I did my own research to determine what organizations spend percentage of dollars to funding and how they spend their funding, i.e. research, treatment, care and financial support, etc. and I encourage anyone who is interested in supporting any cause to do the same.

Recently this photo appeared on my Facebook newsfeed from The Animal Rescue Site.

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Animals and animal causes are very near and dear to my heart and when I saw this, I thought how cool it is that one cause is supporting another cause. My gut reaction when I first saw the photo was joy followed by laughter. Who doesn’t love dogs, right? Well I started reading the comments and some were positive, some informative-did you know dogs can get breast cancer? They refer to it as mammary cancer. There were also many who said it was inappropriate or insensitive. That breast cancer is not about saving breasts, it’s about saving women who are dying. I never thought people did not understand that the boobs are attached to the women. I never thought anyone would be more concerned about the breasts than the women they’re attached to. But some commenters said there is a pervasive sexualization of this disease. Maybe there is and I just don’t recognize it. There were Stage IV women who commented that there is nothing humorous about cancer. I absolutely agree, but it’s the little opportunities life gives us to laugh and smile that are so important for the soul. I’ll take those opportunities wherever I can. I was diagnosed at Stage III, maybe I would have a different outlook if I was Stage IV but I don’t think so. What I saw in this photo were adorable Rescue dogs wearing pink balloons giving me a much appreciated chuckle. For me, it is just that simple.

Talking Cancer With My Daughter

Many people who learn about my breast cancer diagnosis last year ask me how my daughter handled the news. She is 13 and she handled it much better than I expected.

When I got my diagnosis Tomas was in Nepal and had sketchy Internet access. I didn’t tell my daughter until Tomas got back and we had been to the breast surgeon and had more information. I actually didn’t want to tell her at all because her life was all kittens and rainbows and I didn’t want to darken it with my ugly cancer juju. Well I had no idea that not telling her up front would backfire. She had been really obsessed lately about heaven and hell and what exactly determined who ended up where. A kid at her school ticked off a huge list of transgressions that would supposedly send you to hell. Based on things he told her, his parents appear to be a bit fanatical because according to them it seems 90% of the population is going to hell. I told her over and over about our family’s beliefs and that God is loving and merciful. One night she was obsessing and being all neurotic about going to hell and I was already feeling stabby because I hadn’t taken my anti-anxiety medicine. I kind of snapped and said I couldn’t deal with her OCD fire and brimstone crap right now. I then told her about the cancer and not at all in the way I planned. Of course I apologized and hugged her and told her it was wrong of me to minimize her worries and that I was just under a lot of stress. Surprisingly though she was very circumspect and actually asked if I was going to die (and if I did die she probably wondered where I was headed). I told her the truth, that according to the surgeon “probably not.” I explained how I was going to have a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation and what that entailed and while my outcome is optimistic, there are no guarantees in life. I admitted I was terrified because the cancer could return. I told her we would pray about it and if she ever wanted to talk about it we would, and I wouldn’t keep things from her in the future. It turns out she had an idea something was wrong all along. Kids are more perceptive than we think. Since that day she has been compassionate, helpful and so supportive. She made chemo beanies for me, cooked, did laundry and of late, listens to my endless complaints about my tissue expander pain. I was wrong to keep my cancer from her because she is a part of me and it affects her too. We have always been close and this cancer battle has only strengthened that bond.

Monday I have my 16th fill at The Boob Whisperer and after that I’ll have just two left. The pain now has a burning sensation like my flesh is being peeled from my body. This reconstruction process has been the most painful experience of my life but I will come out stronger for it and hopefully with some nice perky new girls.

This picture speaks to me as a mother on so many levels.

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Photo: Attempted Essays 

francis.hunt.blogspot.com

They’re Boobs, Not Secret, Mystical and Mysterious Appendages

So fill up number 15 was Monday and The Boob Whisperer said 3 more fills. Gah! So 3 more fill ups until my D cups. Okay that was pretty lame. My strength and resolve is wavering you guys, but in for a penny, in for a pound. Or in for boobs, in for D cups. The pain isn’t even diminishing now after a few days like it would after my prior fills. I have such empathy for those of you out there living with chronic pain. After the last fill on October 17, I have to wait 30 days for the implant exchange surgery. Then I will need to wait 6 months until I can get my 3D nipple tattoos.

I want to confess something. I’m all about talking about breast cancer and telling my story with jokes and sarcasm. I follow breast cancer social media sites like My BC Team and Living Beyond Breast Cancer. I like learning about other women’s experiences and knowing I’m not alone in this. But if I’m being honest, when I come across stories about Stage IV and metastasis or “mets,” I tend to look away.  Like closing your eyes with your hands over your ears going “lalalalalalala.” I know I do this because there is a chance that could be me some day and even though I’ve faced many scary things throughout this journey, I haven’t had to do it with a Stage IV or mets diagnosis. I came across the story of a young woman with mets, who still had her breasts but was not having them removed because the cancer had already spread to several other places on her body. I stopped reading and tried to scrub all thoughts about that from my brain. But these women deserve my attention and support, so no more “see no evil, hear no evil” looking away for me. I will read their stories and pray for them and their families. Every person’s journey is worthy of my support and compassion. Whether you have Stage I or Stage IV, lumpectomy or mastectomy, chemo, radiation or no treatment, we shouldn’t measure experiences by degrees because for each woman the fear is real and not necessarily mitigated by a Stage number or surgical procedure.

Something else has been on my mind. I’ve noticed that when some people ask me how my treatment is going, or if I’m “done” with treatment, when I start talking about my expanders and my lat flap surgery, some people lose eye contact and say “oh but you’re done with your treatment, though, right?” I guess for them, it’s okay to talk about your knee or torn meniscus surgery but boob surgery is taboo.  Guess what people? They’re JUST boobs. It shouldn’t be so uncomfortable to talk about them. But I guess we can’t even look at breastfeeding moms’ boobs so why should we be able to discuss reconstruction of boobs? (And I’m not advocating naked breasts all hanging out with a suckling babe attached posted on Instagram, but if a woman is discreetly feeding her child, then you offended dipshits need to get over it.) But I digress.  Yes chemo and radiation are over but I am still going through the exhausting and painful process of reconstruction. Shit can still go wrong. Know this – if you ask me how my “treatment” is going, or how I’m feeling I will probably tell you and it likely won’t be a brief “fine thanks.” It will be the unvarnished truth.

Obamacare Shat on Me. Yep, I Went There.

Monday was fill up 14 at The Boob Whisperer so I am definitely in the home stretch you guys, which is good because Jeez Louise this is SO painful.  I’m supposed to bring a bra next week so he can see how things fit #Dcup

Now I’m going to get up on my soap box because this ACA health insurance situation has gone totally fubar on me and others like me. According to my insurance broker, there may be only be two companies next year offering individual health plans in OR out of the marketplace in Maricopa County (the largest county in AZ and the fourth most populous county in the U.S. and also where I happen to live), and those two companies will have very limited networks, and 60% premium increases. They also may ultimately decline to offer anything. This means people like me who do not have insurance at work will not be covered. I NEED insurance. I am still going to need to see my oncologist and plastic surgeon. I’m going to need imaging tests for the foreseeable future. I had cancer last year for fuck’s sakes. This goes beyond politics. I am a real person who works hard, pays taxes and who may be without coverage next year because I may have NO access to health insurance. My experience is real, not political spin. There are many people like me who have gotten individual coverage after the ACA law went into effect and could be screwed, like my friend who’s a single stay at home grandma, people who are self employed, people who are retired but not yet eligible for Medicare, part time workers and independent contractors. We could be up the proverbial creek with the proverbial paddle up the ass. Yes I could work full time and get coverage but I like working part time and I should be able to buy my own health insurance like I have been doing for the last four years. Especially with my recent cancer journey, I’ve found working part time brings me less stress and more time with my family. Can I please get more news coverage of this shitstorm and how it can be fixed before I see any more crybaby anthem protesting athletes or Target shoppers with their knickers in a wad about who can or can’t use the ladies’ room?

I was worried about my doctors being in network next year, now I’m worried about even having a network. Just what a cancer survivor needs-more stress about her healthcare. This legislation was supposed to bring more people into the insurance system, not kick existing people out. Who do I see about that?

Deja Phew

A week and a half ago I found a pea sized lump just under one of my scars on my left foob. Finally I was able to have an ultrasound done and its just an oil cyst/fat necrosis. I know, EW. But for the last 10 days I’ve been having all manner of horror-show deja vu and panic attacks. And I think the radiologist today was even the same one who did that fateful ultrasound last April.  Today I actually managed to stave off my freak out until I was actually lying on the table and she put the probe on me. Then all hell broke loose in my brain. After a few minutes she said it was an oil cyst. But let me tell you, in the span of those few minutes prior, I had the following thoughts:

1. My eyeball is sore when I move it, oh my God is the cancer back and in my brain?
2. Can they even biopsy this thing with my tissue expanders in?
3. If it’s cancer does that mean removal of my expanders? Am I done with boobs altogether, and will it even matter?
4. Will I have to have another PET scan? Those are totally claustrophobic.
5. I’ve been having bowel issues and I haven’t had my colonoscopy yet-is it in my colon?
6. Would I have to do chemo again? I still have my hats.
7. How can I (and my family) go through this again?
8. If I die Tomas better plan an awesome funeral.
9. If I’m going to die I need to start making recorded video messages for Lili to view as she gets older, but can I even do that without blubbering?
10. Wow I’m 37 lbs. lighter than I was last year according to their records.
11. Wow I still weigh a lot.
12. Wow I better pick out a photo I approve of for him to blow up (and get airbrushed) and display at my funeral.
13. Wow this is getting way too ghoulish.

Yes I am being a drama queen but that’s how my mind works, one thought leads to another which leads to another, etc. Sometimes I wish my brain worked like that episode of SpongeBob where you could see inside his head and it was all rainbows, his pet snail Gary and crabby patties.

The only way to cope with this stuff is to take a deep breath and realize that whatever happens I will handle it and I will get through it.

P.S. No fill up at The Boob Whisperer this week due to the holiday which may be a good thing because they are still SORE. My right coconut sticks out on the side and is totally bruising my right arm.

There’s a Bump On My Coconut Dammit

On my walk this morning I saw a guy jogging really really slow, like maybe I could even pass him by, so I thought maybe I can jog too. Well maybe I will jog one day but that day is not today. The coconuts rub up against my arms and the jostling just feels majorly stabby. Plus I think I need an ass-bra because there’s waaaaay too much flopping around back there. So, I just kept on trucking with my goofy fast walk.

But seriously, Monday was fill number 13. Unlucky 13, and not because it hurts which it does, but because there is a pea sized bump right below one of my incision scars where the lymph nodes were removed. And right where I got blistered and fried from radiation. The Boob Whisperer said he did NOT think it was a cancer recurrence but it would be irresponsible for him not to tell me to have it checked. I totally get that. He suggested I see my breast surgeon who performed the mastectomy because he has an ultrasound machine in his office. Great idea, except because my insurance policy from last year was cancelled, he is no longer in-network. The policy I have now is the only one I could get that had both my oncologist and The Boob Whisperer in-network, and I figured I probably wouldn’t have to see the breast surgeon again. So now I have to see my PCP, get a referral for an ultrasound, then hope they don’t want to biopsy it because then I’m really going to have some shitty flashbacks of the ultrasound and biopsy that changed my life forever. Recalling that day, these were my immediate thoughts. First, who will take care of Lili? Tomas is a wonderful father but a teenage girl needs her mother, she still calls me Mommy for God’s sake. I have to be there when she has my grand babies. Second, I need Tomas except he’s on a mountain in Nepal for three weeks. Third, what if it spread? Like to my brain? And I lose cognitive function? I had all manner of horrifying scenarios pin-balling through my head.

What I’m thinking now is, I need a fucking drink because that’s what I used to do in stressful situations, drink a glass or six of wine. Can’t do that now because alcohol reduces the efficacy of my tamoxifen (which is an estrogen blocker due to my cancer being estrogen driven). I know some of you are thinking OMG no wine?! I know! I could load up on my Ativan, except I need to be able to drive. To work. Where I actually have to perform work.

So I guess I have to suck it up until I see the doctor next week. In my heart of hearts I don’t believe it’s a recurrence and more likely it’s scar tissue or some other benign thing-but the not knowing SUCKS ASS you guys.

I Did a Major Face Plant. The Good News is the Boobs Are Okay.

So THIS happened last week.

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This is my knee. I was walking with my husband and daughter downtown after renewing her passport and I tripped on a curb, face planting in a bunch of rocks and dirt. Oh yes. And there was blood. Tomas was like “did that really just happen?” Lili was a little more compassionate about it. “Oh Mommy are you okay?” I was mostly just “oh God protect the boobs!” So my hands and knees got scraped and bloody. The thing is, they are used to my spastic clumsiness because stuff like this happens all the time. Some of you who know me, know that in 2004 I was hospitalized with bacterial meningitis and that I am blind in my left eye as a result. Living with monocular vision is doable but some things are just a little bit harder. For instance:

-pouring things
-seeing steps that go down and any obstacles on the ground (you can’t look straight ahead and on the ground in front of you simultaneously with one eye)
-changing lanes (yes scary they let one-eyed people drive)
-putting on eye makeup
-taking selfies (left eye wanders)
-seeing movies in 3D (actually this is impossible, it’s just 2D)
-not bumping into people/walls/shopping carts/poles/signs/parked cars/cabinet doors/furniture legs/AC units sticking out of the wall at forehead level and various other stuff I may not see on my left side. Yes I did actually crash my forehead into a metal box sticking out of a wall in a parking garage resulting in a wicked scar and a migraine.

Tomas walked around the backyard with a patch over his eye for 20 minutes while picking up the cat poop and proclaimed it “pretty easy.” I’m pretty sure that’s not a scientific test but whatever. Try driving and going about your entire day like that. Meningitis is scary. I am asked if the blindness bothers me and mostly it doesn’t, except like when I face plant on a public street. But really I’m okay with it because people die from meningitis, they get brain damage, they get blindness in both eyes. When I woke up in the ICU my left eye was frozen shut. I was like okay I’ll just grow out my bangs to cover it, long side swept bangs are in, right? The eye eventually opened but the eyeball was frozen looking left. The doctors said they could fix it surgically but fortunately it moved back into its normal position on its own. It does kind of look “off” sometimes though. Recovery from this was long and arduous. I had some short term memory loss like 50 First Dates. People would call or visit and then if we spoke later I would be all “huh? You were here? When? Who is this?” After I recovered I fell into a depression where I could not talk about it or think about it without crying. Cancer has been so different. Thinking about my cancer gives me some anxiety, but I would not characterize it as depression.

The point of this post really has nothing to do with cancer but is just an FYI – if you see me trip, fall or bump into stuff like a drunk person now you know why.

Painful Lopsided Rockboobs. Part of God’s Plan?

Yes I KNOW they are lopsided/uneven/crooked. And yes, I know not everyone (in fact hardly anyone) understands how this process works. And unless you or someone you know has been through it, how would you know? I didn’t. I am happy to explain the process because-the more you know-but in the back of my mind I think “did they think I’m just okay with lopsided boobs? Or that I’ve been botched and don’t realize it?” And that’s okay because hopefully by November or December, when all is said and done and I’ve had my implant exchange plus any necessary revisions, they will no longer be lopsided/uneven/crooked (or so the Boob Whisperer assures me). I have seen photos of some other patients who have had the same procedure (latissimus dorsi flap with tissue expanders) and they look great. I just cannot fathom that my rockboobs are going to get even bigger and harder yet. I had read a few Internet stories about how painful the expanders were and after my first few fills I was all “pft, no sweat, easy freakin’ peasy.” Okay that cockiness is now gone because after my 11th fill today, this is an entirely different state of affairs. They are starting to stick out on the sides so when I walk it’s sore when my arms touch them. I feel like I have to hold my arms out a little bit away from my body and then I’m like holy shit, I’m walking like Hanz and Franz.

I can pretty much only sleep on my back, and when I do switch positions during the night it feels like I’m being staked. Someone asked me why it’s so painful but numb at the same time. Well now that’s the question, isn’t it? I was wondering about that myself. I got a B- in high school anatomy/physiology so I’m pretty sure it’s unscientific, and simplistic but it seems to me the pain is coming from the expander being situated under my pectoral so it’s stretching the muscle and the numbness is coming from all the missing nerves, lost during two surgeries.

I feel like I’m in the home stretch though, and the pain kind of feels good in that it reminds me that I’m alive, I’m still here and that most things in life worth having don’t come easy. #rockboobmasochist

Top Ten Pretty Good Things Cancer Gave Me

So fill-up number ten was today and it fucking HURTS. It’s like someone is trying to shove cantaloupes under my pectoralis major. On both sides. I asked The Boob Whisperer if we (I say we because we are on this boob journey together) are at least half way done and he said “a little more than half.” As soon as I got to work I got out my calculator and started figuring out based on an 800 cc implant, factoring 50 cc per fill, how many I have left. If my calculations are right, I have nine fills left and I should finish sometime in October. I don’t know for sure if he’s giving me 800 but that would make sense if I’m a little more than halfway there. I recalculated too, like four times, hoping the end was closer. Nobody told me there would be math involved.

Since I’ve been mostly just griping about my rockboobs, I thought maybe I should try and identity the positive things cancer has brought to my life.  Off the top of my head here are just a few:

1. Stopped drinking alcohol (yes I had a slight, okay not so slight weekend wine habit)
2. Lost 40 lbs. (overindulging in food and liquor had me headed for numerous health issues and some really big pants)
3. Got to be bald in the dead of summer in Phoenix
4. Got to see myself bald (you know you’re curious how it looks and feels)
5. Got brand-spanking new curly virgin hair several months later
6. Learned to take better care of myself. Or really, take care of myself in the first place
7. Learned to be less judgy. I know, shut up I’m still working on that one
8.  Feel more compassion for others with health struggles, and any struggles in general
9.   Learned I am so much stronger than I give myself credit for
10. Became more self-confident and outgoing (if you can walk around bald and boobless, ANYTHING is possible).

In some ways, I feel like cancer may have actually saved me.

9 Fill Ups. I’m Thinking About a Prank.

This morning I had my 9th fill up at The Boob Whisperer.  While I was waiting I played with the sample implants on the counter which I do almost every time.  They feel really nice, much better than the rock boobs I have presently.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt any boobs except my own.  I vaguely recall feeling a coworker’s fake boobs after a boob job a long time ago.  I wanted to feel my daughter’s cute little boobettes but she squealed in horror, “Mommy!”

I noticed the syringes he had ready for me were each filled with 50 cc of saline so I started trying to do mad calculations in my head. I told him about how I had tried on a B-cup bra and it was totally just, NOPE.  I’m like “how am I going to be able to tell about the size I want if bras won’t go on correctly?”  He said it is because the expanders are not shaped nor do they have the consistency of breasts or implants, but he will help me figure shit out.

He told me to bring in a bra at the end of the month that I would like to ultimately fit into and he would take it from there, which means I have to go pick out a bra. The bras I have are C cups and they’re ratty granny bras that have been in my drawer gathering dust for the last 15 months.  I am considering a prank where maybe I’ll get the biggest bra I can find, like one that would fit over my ass cheeks and bring it to him.  Another thing I found out is that he will keep the expanders in for one month after the last fill.  So I’m hoping neither of us has to cancel any more of my appointments because I’m running out of time to get everything done this year (in this insurance cycle) because God only knows what my insurance will be next year.  So far since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, every insurance plan I’ve had has gotten canceled with the new policy’s premium increasing in price by like 30% making it oh, LESS AFFORDABLE.  I do know that there will no longer be any individual PPO plans, so does that mean HMO?  I don’t even really know how those work but I do know I haven’t heard anything good about them.  I am hoping I can get my most important doctors in-network, like my PCP whom I’ve had for 22 years, my oncologist and of course, The Boob Whisperer.

Warning-My Coconuts Will Bruise You

I think I’m up to my 8th fill. I was supposed to have my 9th this past Friday but The Boob Whisperer had to cancel. The receptionist (who is one of those really sweet girls with a sing-songy voice that always makes me want to sing-song too) offered to reschedule. I explained that that’s not really possible because he’ll only do one fill per week and I’m booked through the next few Fridays. Anyhow, they are feeling very sore and very hard. I was hugging this girl I hadn’t seen in a while and she was like “ow” because my rock-boobs can be bruisy if you’re not careful. So if I give you a weird straight-armed air hug like you have BO or something that’s why.  They look and feel pretty much like this:

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This is actually realistic too because one side really is higher and bigger.  I was actually wondering why they were so hard, and then it occurred to me, duh, they need to STRETCH the skin. Sleeping positions can be tricky. The expanders stick out on the sides a bit, so just rolling over can feel stabby. It’s manageable though, and my chest has been sore for 14 months now so I’m used to it, if that makes sense.

Insurance Cogs Are Bringing Out My Inner Howler Monkey

I have a rule when dealing with customer service people when I’m dissatisfied with products or services, and that is to be assertive but polite because my first few jobs were in retail so I can relate to the frustrations inherent with customer service jobs. For the first time (okay maybe not the first time), I am pretty sure I broke that rule. I received an EOB from my health insurer stating they would not pay for the leg compressors my anesthesiologist put on me immediately following my breast reconstruction surgery, at a cost of about $400. Anyone who’s had any kind of surgery knows that most doctors put them on you afterward to aid circulation and help prevent blood clots. So when I saw this EOB, my first thought was “fucking seriously?”

So I called the insurance company and said WTF? The cog lady said that the leg compressors were durable medical equipment that were not covered.

Me: Hey, under federal and state law you are required to cover all aspects of my reconstruction. This is smelling a lot like bad faith to me.

Her: Your reconstructive surgery was covered.

Me: Except for the part where I was unconscious and put in leg compressors like any other human who has had surgery so they don’t get a blood clot and die.

Her: Well you can appeal it.

Me: This equipment was obviously medically necessary!

Her: That doesn’t matter, it’s not covered in your plan.

Me: This is why people HATE insurance companies! You would rather I get a blood clot and die, then you don’t have to pay for the remaining reconstructive procedures.

Her: . . . . .

Me: furiously stabs at the “end call” button, because it’s my cell. That’s the bad thing about cell phones. They’re great for hunting Pokemons (Pokemen?) but I can’t get the satisfaction of slamming the phone down.

Well I haven’t yet received a bill for this and the billing lady at The Boob Whisperer’s office said the anesthesiologist would most likely write it off. I don’t know why I called them even before I got a bill, but I thought to myself, the doctor shouldn’t have to eat that cost either. The insurance company should pay for it. It’s the principle of the thing. I felt bad, albeit briefly, for shrieking like a howler monkey at the poor insurance company cog, but I have had so many problems and screw ups with my insurance, I just snapped.  And she was super cold and unsympathetic too.  I know the call was recorded and while I hope someone over there takes notice of how shitty it is to not cover this, I am not holding my breath. In fact they are probably replaying the call around the office laughing about the crazed breast cancer banshee. So probably my fit of pique garnered me nothing except high blood pressure. And if they weren’t out to screw me before they might be now.

On a more positive note, I’ve had my 7th expansion fill and I think I’m getting used to the discomfort. I was wondering why bras were still too big and apparently because the tissue expanders feel harder and are positioned higher than breasts or implants, they don’t properly sit in the bra cups. And really this is just fine as I am in no hurry to put on a bra.

Who knew, fupa nipples were a thing?

I mentioned to The Boob Whisperer about watching Botched which is a show on E! about people who have had plastic surgery gone wrong and the then the Botched TV doctors save the day.  And mostly he rolled his eyes kind of like in horror, but I love that show even though some of the people are total train wrecks. On a recent episode, a woman had a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy because she tested positive for the BRCA 1 gene mutation, which if you don’t know, means she has like an 80% chance of getting breast cancer and a 50-60% chance of getting ovarian cancer. A lot of women who test positive for a BRCA mutation choose to have a prophylactic mastectomy, (for example Christina Applegate and Angelina Jolie). Thankfully I tested negative for both BRCA 1 and 2 because testing positive would have dangerous implications for my daughter. But I digress. This woman on Botched had breast reconstruction and “nipple banking” done where her nipples were stitched to her lower abdomen or “fupa” area, to be later restitched to her boobs after the final implant exchange. I’m thinking now I’ve REALLY seen it all. The Boob Whisperer said that it’s actually a thing. Aside from her fupa nipples, her original plastic surgeon had jacked up her reconstruction boobs bad. Luckily the TV show Doctor fixed the boobs, 86’d the fupa nipples, gave her 3D nipple tattoos and her boobs lived happily ever after.

Recently I came across this photo on Facebook posted by Rodney Frelix and it really hit home with me.  Sure enough there were some dickhead comments but most were positive and supportive. When I saw it I felt such a rush of overwhelming love and pride for these women because they are me.

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A Boob and a Floob

Earlier this week The Boob Whisperer gave me my sixth fill. I asked how many more and he said “we’ve got a way to go.” I’m thinking that doesn’t answer my question at all, but I decide to leave it be. That’s what I get for not framing my question properly. I should have asked him what month he thinks I’ll be done. He was right about the fills becoming more painful, especially first thing in the morning when I first start moving around and it feels like someone is bouncing bowling balls off my chest. During the day it’s pretty manageable because I’m busier and distracted from the pain.

On the upside, they are taking shape. Even the hideous right side manboob is starting to fill out but the expander on that side also sits higher than the flap/expander side so they’re uneven.  Note the side floob (floppy boob).  The Boob Whisperer keeps telling me to trust him.

imageMy 13 year old is slowly sprouting some cute little boobs of her own now so we’re like growing boobs together. And that doesn’t sound weird at all.

My Chemo Birthday Anniversary

Sometimes it’s tricky to get certain information from The Boob Whisperer. I usually kind of sneak up on him with my questions, framing them in an inconspicuous roundabout way so as not to spook him, like approaching a skittish rabbit. At my 5th fill last Monday while he was injecting me with saline I said “yeah, so what size do you think I’ll be able to end up with? I was a droopy C before all of this.” He said “how about a perky D?” Since I’m medium to above average height, fairly large boned and pretty curvy on the bottom I was so totally hoping he would say that. Otherwise I would just be a giant pear.

Yesterday I turned 50 and it was also the one year anniversary of chemo round one. One thing that surprised me about chemo is that I had steeled myself for worse. Yes it was very rough, and it took so much out of me, but I can honestly say I thought it would be more painful, more nauseating, more SOMETHING. I think I really psyched myself out beforehand. After all is said and done though, I feel so much stronger for having gone through it.

As far as my hair is concerned, it’s mostly trying to grow. It is still very curly and the back is in dire need of a trim because I’ve got this Cindy Lou Who flip-out thing going on. Sometimes in the front I have a Betty Boop/Superman curly lock. Here’s me before my cancer diagnosis, when that asshat tumor was probably already percolating (I don’t know why I look kind of pissed off). Then there’s my hair now. After being able to do my hair in about three minutes there’s no way in hell I’m growing it long again. I think I had some shmexy cleavage before cancer so rudely invaded my body.

Don’t Be An Ostrich About Your Boobs

Think about eight of your female friends or family members. One of them is likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Prior to my own diagnosis I had no knowledge of the statistics, even though my own mom had breast cancer in 1999 at the age of 53. Fast forward to 2015 and at 49, I’m in the same boat. I thought I was informed and vigilant about my health and risks for breast cancer but that was really a bunch of BS and result of the ostrich effect. I thought I had abandoned my ostrich ways back in my early 20’s, when I thought just not going to the mailbox would eventually make by VISA bill disappear. Or if I ignore the photo radar ticket and act like I never got it they’ll just let it go and no way would they issue a bench warrant. Even though I don’t pay them, GMAC wouldn’t dream of coming to my house and taking my car. Although I had mammograms faithfully, I never did self exams and never really thought about my breasts except during pregnancy and post partum. I would ignore unpleasant topics like lumps and bumps and cysts in breasts. My head was firmly in the sand.

According to the CDC, each year in the United States, about 220,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women and about 2,000 in men. About 40,000 women and 400 men in the U.S. die each year from breast cancer. Not counting some kinds of skin cancer, breast cancer in the United States is—

  • The most common cancer in women, no matter your race or ethnicity.
  • The most common cause of death from cancer among Hispanic women.
  • The second most common cause of death from cancer among white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native

* About 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime (about 12%)

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women (not counting melanoma). I can’t believe I didn’t know that. I think I thought lung cancer was. There are always people on TV and the Internet championing funding research for various cancers and other diseases. It’s hard because you can’t support and fight for everything. But to think this year we will lose 40,000 of our mothers, grandmothers, sisters and friends to breast cancer is pretty staggering.  Talking turkey about these statistics scares people  and there are a LOT of women who say “oh I know I’m late for my mammo” or “I know I should do self exams” like admission makes it okay. There are no guarantees in life but I WISH I had paid attention and knew then what I know now and I’m telling everyone until they tell me to shut up. And probably not even then.

I’d Rather Be Bald than Dead *gasps*

Yes.  I totally fucking would.  I feel I need to climb up onto my soap box now (which I would say I’m loathe to do except those who know me would immediately call bullshit). Lately the recent Taxotere class action lawsuit has been appearing on my Facebook newsfeed. Taxotere is a chemo drug that apparently can cause permanent hair loss and the suit claims that the makers of Taxotere knew about this possible side effect and failed to disclose it. Women were then allegedly (I say allegedly because who chooses potential death over potential baldness?) unable to make informed decisions about their treatment. It is also the drug that oncologists prescribe for most of their breast cancer patients, because of its effectiveness in stopping the cancer cells from multiplying and dividing, thus, resulting in a higher survival rate. It is on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines, the most important medications needed in a basic health system. One study I saw prior to receiving my first round indicated anywhere from 6-9% of women taking this drug will experience permanent alopecia. My oncologist also told me about the risks, including alopecia and you know what? I didn’t fucking BLINK. Because guess what? Hair does not grow on dead people. The comments on the Taxotere suit FB thread are mostly in line with my opinion. There are some women however who are commenting about having permanent hair loss and sticking it to the drug company. I feel for them, I really do. I even was lamenting here that shit, what if my hair doesn’t grow back? And if it didn’t, that would be unimaginably distressful. But I actually had a plan for such an eventuality. I was going to get a beautiful tattoo on my head. I went on line and saw freaking amazing photos of beautiful bald women. And then I honestly made peace with the knowledge that that might be me.

I cannot fathom there are women who when told that a drug is their best chance for survival but there’s a small risk of permanent hair loss, would choose not to take the drug.  I’m calling total bullshit on that. So while people may say “don’t judge, everyone’s feelings and emotions about cancer or hair loss are their own, we are all brave sisters and warriors, blah blah blah,” it makes me sick to my stomach to think about what if drugs like this didn’t exist? I had Stage IIIA ILC and had a significantly worse chance of survival without it. So instead of hopping on the class action gravy train, perhaps these women would be better served by turning that negative energy into positive. Be thankful for every Goddamned day that chemo drug gave back to you. Now here is something beautiful and awe-inspiring:

My Fourth Fill Up and Confessions of a Flasher

Yesterday I had my fourth fill up. That’s what The Boob Whisperer calls my expansions. He comes in and says “fill ‘er up?” Except it’s like filling up your gas tank 10 teaspoons of fuel at a time. Many people ask me how the reconstruction process is going. Many women are curious about how my boobs look and feel during this process. I have found that the best way to convey this information is to show them. So yeah, I’ve basically become the office flasher. I show them the scar on my back and then the scars on my chest, explaining how the tissue was moved from back to front. I also let them feel the tissue expanders, but the left side still has a lot of numbness so I can’t really feel it.

Visually I would describe the left side as starting to resemble a boob, but feels firmer to the touch. The Boob Whisperer assures me the final implants will look and feel much more natural. (I have felt the silicone implants that were sitting on the counter in his office and they do feel very authentic and boobyish). The right side is a different story. It does not resemble a boob. At all. It also feels very firm, except for the part on the side that feels floppy. My dilemma is, I could get a bra that would maybe camouflage the floppy manboob but sadly my new boobs (okay maybe more like boobettes) are not large enough to fill a bra cup yet. And honestly a year of going braless has spoiled me. Plus it would irritate the still-fresh scar on my back which is right on the bra line. I totally get why those women burned their bras in the 70’s or whenever that was.  I must be a child of the 70’s – flashing and going braless.  #freetheboobs

Mastectomy Day-a Year Later (and Flatter)

It occurred to me that last Saturday was the one year anniversary of my bilateral mastectomy. In some ways it feels like it’s been way longer. I can barely even remember my boobs or what it felt like to have them (may they rest in peace). In a lot of ways it was not what I expected. I expected to be inconsolable. I expected to have debilitating depression. I expected to feel like a freak and get a prosthetic bra. But in truth, none of those things happened. Everyone has their own journey and mine took me to unexpected places. I did not expect to find such strength within myself or to be able to put a humorous spin on my experiences. I found unexpected love and support from people I didn’t know that well before cancer and I found avoidance from a few people I’ve known longer. Apparently talking about cancer and mastectomies makes some people twitchy. But that’s okay. There’s no roadmap for this stuff.

Here I am a year later at The Boob Whisperer on a weekly basis, in the process of reconstructing my boobs (gentleman we can rebuild them….). I recall Mastectomy Day clearly though, and waking up and wondering aloud through the morphine stupor, where might my boobs be now, and my husband writing that on my hospital room white board (he’s very literal).  I’ve posted it before but it always cracks me up.

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Smooth Moves and Man Boobs

This expansion/fill up process is going to take FOREVER. I’ve only had two fills and it feels like I should have had at least five. And, they are lopsided because the flap side looks like a manboob and the right side looks like a bigger manboob. I’ve been assured all will be right in the end. I guess I’m just a generally impatient person. Take shopping for example. Shopping is like crack to me but, if after taking hours choosing items I can’t live without, there are more than three people in line, I will leave the store empty handed. Same thing with the drive through except reduce that line by two.

I think I’m feeling pretty good, all things considered. I’ve limited my narcotics intake to evenings and it’s a good thing I am taking fewer pain pills because (warning-spoiler alert-I mean graphic constipation discussion). Opioids cause constipation. We know this especially now with all the laxative and Linzesse commercials. I’ve taken laxatives in the past (like last year during chemo) without a problem, (yes, I know they are not good for you). But what happened last weekend scared me straight. I forgot to take the laxatives at night so first thing in the morning I took two. I developed pain and cramping like someone was playing cat’s cradle with my intestines. Or tying them into a double fisherman’s knot. All I could do was lay in the fetal position. I was cramping so bad I thought I would faint, and then my family would call 911 not knowing it was just my bowels trying really hard to move. And then the hot paramedics would come and find me on the bathroom floor in God knows what kind of disarray. And then my family would be all embarrassed and deny knowing me.  There is a natural tea that supposedly helps move things along called Smooth Move and so if I have to wait in line it should probably be to purchase this.

Are Phantom Nipples a Thing?

Like a phantom lost limb?  I swear I can sometimes feel this phantom pain in my nonexistent nipples. I’m sure it has something to do with my flap and/or expanders but it’s freaky. Sometimes I can feel a brief pinchy tweak in the area where nipples would be. Makes me kind of melancholy for my lost nipples. Be thankful for and celebrate your glorious nipples, girls.

I’m recovering well, despite my pain and discomfort. I can only raise my left arm about half as high as my right, and that’s probably not going to change. I had reduced mobility after my mastectomy anyhow. Tomas put a positive spin on it, “well it’s not like you’re dusting high shelves.  Or playing tennis.” So I’m thinking now with my useless left arm I might need assistance with:

1. Grocery shopping (can’t reach heavy stuff on high shelves)
2. Unpacking groceries (arm too tired and sore from shopping)
3. Making the bed (too much arm dexterity required)
4. Folding laundry (same reason)
5. Ironing (wait-no, that’s my right arm. And I haven’t ironed in four years)
6. Landscaping chores (wait-no,Tomas does all the yard work)

This list is subject to amendment and/or supplementation.

P.S.  And if you happen to fall off the edge of a cliff, don’t expect me to be able to haul your ass back up.

My First Fill-Up at The Boob Whisperer

My first expansion/fill was Monday and I would say it was uneventful. The Boob Whisperer said that the fills will be more uncomfortable further down the road when the expanders really get stretched.  So I suppose that will compound the discomfort I already have? The left (cancer) side which has the lat flap is actually starting to resemble a boob. It looks weird though because my skin is still somewhat tan from the radiation then there’s an oval of white skin from my back.

One thing about The Boob Whisperer that makes me twitchy is he won’t answer specific questions about the later stages. He’s explained the general process but I have questions, like what about the man boob on the right side? I mentioned that it doesn’t look like it will match the other one because so much skin was removed.  He says “we’re not there yet.” That seems to be his stock answer when I ask questions about anything that’s further down the road. I know that we have to take things one step at a time though, but patience isn’t one of my virtues lately.

In other news, my hair is growing out quite a bit so it’s morphing into a borderline afro. Or jerrycurl. I have to use this sleek and shine gel goo to make it presentable. #curlyhairprobs

I May Temporarily Have Mongoloid Boobs

The good news is the drains came out Monday so I had my first real head to foot shower since April 6th. The not good news is that the tissue expanders are not comfortable, especially the left one. If I palpate under my armpit I can feel the edges of the expander which is freaky. Percocet helps somewhat but I’m guessing The Boob Whisperer is going to cut off my supply soon, thus, I’ve been cutting them in half and hoarding them like magic beans or something.

I’m getting my first “fill” or “expansion” on Monday. I was wondering how that actually works. I’m like, okay how do they get the saline into my boobs?  I found a YouTube video that explained it.  What happens is the expanders have a fill port that is built into the front of the device. This port is accessed with a needle through the skin. Expansion takes about one minute, and the amount of fluid that is placed is limited by the tightness of the patient’s skin. A typical volume for each expansion procedure is 50 cc’s of saline (an equivalent of 10 teaspoons). Or at least this is what the Internet told me. This is what the expanders look like:

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When I googled images of “tissue expanders” there was a photo of what could only be a real live mongoloid (google it, you know you want to). But then I read that it’s actually a procedure. Apparently there are scalp tissue expanders that are used to stretch the skin so a bald area (like from a big scar or something) can be covered.  I was like okay, no more googling. The photos of boobs with tissue expanders were kind of disappointing, they sit higher on the chest and do not look natural at all, like mongoloid boobs. But, ultimately the final silicone implants should look and feel much more natural.

I’m STILL Draining, Ugh.

These drains are becoming like new appendages. The Boob Whisperer said they can’t come out yet, not until each one is putting out less than 30 cc in a 24 hour period. Right now they are like 50-60 cc. I said “oh man you totally suck.” Luckily he has a good sense of humor. This has put the kibosh on my return to work on Monday. I can’t go in there with these gross drains. I must be producing an inordinate amount of fluid and I told my husband as we were driving home, it must be because I’m extra juicy. He cough-laughed and looked at me like “ew.”

I came across an article on Facebook recently about what not to say to someone going through breast cancer. I’ve seen a lot of these types of articles and I have to say I do not agree with most of the admonitions. One was “don’t offer prayers” (go ahead and pray but don’t tell the person you’re praying), another was “don’t tell me I look good” (when we both know I look like shit). I personally welcome prayers and anyone who wants to tell me they’re praying. Ditto if someone wants to compliment my appearance. I think there are so many “rules” out there people are reluctant to say anything for fear of saying the wrong thing. For me, I prefer it when you say what’s on your mind and ask me questions.  I can’t think of anything that would be off limits. I had one coworker ask how the mastectomy actually works, you know, does he just slice them off? I showed her the scars and we talked about it. I’m sure there are others in my shoes who may prefer to be more private but I’d rather put it all out there. Whatever you want to know about my experience with breast cancer, chemo, baldness, radiation, reconstruction, etc., I will talk about it. That’s not to say that cancer is ALL I want to talk about, it’s not. And I don’t want to get all up in people’s faces about it. It’s just a part of who I am now and it helps me to be open and honest about it instead of talking around it like some pink-ribboned elephant in the room.

Back to The Boob Whisperer

I saw the Boob Whisperer today and he said the drains can’t come out yet which I kind of knew because they’re still draining a lot. Which means more strategic showering.  Ack.  Sigh. I go back again next Friday at which point they either come out or I can’t go back to work. The good news though is that the wounds look good and the flap from my back that’s on my chest is pink and healthy. Also he said he can start filling the expanders soon. He anticipates 3-4 months to get them filled to the desired size. I can go in for fills as often as once per week.

Certain movements are still pretty painful. I read somewhere that the expanders feel like carrying around bowling balls on your chest. That is a pretty accurate description. My MacGyver husband gave me a camelpak tube for my cup of water on the nightstand because I can’t twist my body around. He also installed a hand held shower head so I can shower without getting the surgical sites wet. I have to hang the drains on the shower caddy hook thingy being careful not to get them wet, or my upper body wet, and then I wash my hair in the sink.

Today marks the one year anniversary of getting that phone call with my cancer diagnosis. I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime in the last twelve months.

One Painful Step Closer to Boobs

So it’s been two days since my surgery. Wednesday night I could not conceive that that I was not in a hospital with a morphine pump. That’s saying something when Percocet can’t get the job done. Thursday I was seriously questioning my decision to do this reconstruction. I could not move in any direction without feeling like I was being savagely stabbed repeatedly with a machete. I was feeling very sorry for myself, like after all I’ve had to go through I now have THIS. Just so I can look and feel normal. I don’t remember having this much pain after my mastectomy, but Tomas thinks I am probably just not remembering. Today is a new day however, and I feel much better.

I had my follow up appointment with The Boob Whisperer this morning and he took off the bandages. I told him I’d been cussing him out behind his back and he said he’s cool with that. He also said my wounds look as good as he could hope for. I saw the flap of skin he took from my back that’s now on my chest and it’s kind of freaky. Makes me think of how they replace a missing thumb with a toe, now I have my back on my chest. I have two drains like I had after the mastectomy, which hopefully will come out in a week. What also sucks is I can’t shower so I’m feeling pretty funky. Oh and my left arm and hand keep twitching involuntarily. I think this has been the most physically challenging part of my journey but I’m optimistic in the end it will be worth it.

I Am a Breast Cancer Survivor. And a Hypochondriac.

I’ve been wondering lately if I’m considered a “breast cancer survivor” now and it appears I am. The National Cancer Institute defines a cancer survivor this way:
“An individual is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis, through the balance of his or her life. Family members, friends, and caregivers are also impacted by the survivorship experience and are therefore included.”

People often ask me if I’m in remission or cancer-free or even cured. Well there is no “cure” for breast cancer but the way it works is, right now I can say I have NED-no evidence of disease. Having said that, please know that statement doesn’t really allay any fears. When I get a headache now, thoughts creep in like brain cancer. And those thoughts lead to other thoughts like dying and my funeral (what songs do I want played and will people be crying?) and thoughts of all my stuff, and I think I should organize my stuff because someone’s going to have to go through it (do I have anything embarrassing anywhere?) And then I’m crying and feeling all dramatic. I know it’s macabre but that’s what I’m dealing with you guys.

I read that a sign of ovarian cancer can be frequent urination. Wait, am I peeing more? Should I keep track of my pee now? I went to the doctor last week because I felt like I was wheezing with a constant tickle in my throat. So for the two days I was waiting for my appointment I was thinking it could be lung cancer or thyroid cancer and then felt like a dipshit when I walked out with a prescription for Flonase. All I can hope for is that this state of constant hypochondria will ease up over time.

P.S. I came across this cool inspirational picture/sign/or whatever these things are called.

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I Might Need Vampire Mind Control

My greatest wish lately is to wake up one morning and go through one day without a cancer thought. Right now I can’t imagine such a day. I would have to be so busy and distracted and probably ADD or under some kind of vampire mind control for that to happen.  Because I see the mastectomy scars every day. I feel them.  I see my oncologist every three months, so it’s always there. It is a constant struggle to not allow the fear and anxiety to take over my life.

Every night I pray to God that my cancer does not return and I know that it might. I try and rationalize my fear, and tell myself none of us knows what the future holds, perfectly healthy people can die suddenly in car crashes. I can get hit by a bus crossing the street. It’s way easier said than done though. The thought of not being here for my daughter as she grows into a woman, gets married and has babies terrifies me. It’s my biggest fear. I watched as Joey Feek faced exactly that, eventually losing her battle with cancer and leaving behind a sweet little 2 year old daughter. I pay tribute to her and others like her for inspiring me to try and live life as an active participant instead of a frightened cancer victim, to face life head on and give the grim reaper the stink eye and the middle finger.

Commencing Count Down, Engines On Baby!

Yes I’d like a pair of Ds please. Or Cs or even Bs. Because Monday I was back to see The Boob Whisperer and I was pretty sure he was not going to say what he said, which was that the inflammation from radiation is healed. I am totally cleared for take off. My skin still has a definite tan demarcation on my left chest and back so I assumed it was still inflamed. Last month when I saw him he was feeling the left side, then the right and going back and forth, and then he said “almost,” so I was cautiously optimistic. Sunday night I was talking to my husband about it and I said I was thinking about stuffing an ice pack in my shirt before my appointment. You know, kind of like the opposite of the thermometer trick of sticking it in hot water when you needed a fever to stay home from school. He said this is probably not the right situation for that kind of trick, and he was pretty sure that’s not how it works anyway.

So, I am happy to report my surgery is April 6 and he will be doing a Lattisimus Dorsi Flap with tissue expanders. As I’ve mentioned before, it will be a process, probably over several weeks, even months. It’s not like a boob job where you stroll out with a sweet new rack the same day. The expanders (which stretch the skin) will be incrementally filled with saline then finally switched out for silicone implants. Here is a good blurb that explains the lat flap procedure because I suck at explaining it.

http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/surgery/reconstruction/types/autologous/lat-dorsi

Once the final implants are in, and everything is healed, then I can deal with the nipple situation (I may be the first person to coin the phrase “nipple situation”). As I posted back in December, I’m not having nipple reconstruction surgery but instead, getting 3D nipple tattoos. I know what you’re thinking but I swear they look awesome and real.

I also want to mention that yesterday I hit 1,000 views on this blog, with almost 250 visitors. I don’t know 250 people. I probably don’t even know 50 people, so thanks to all who have supported me through this ordeal and visit my blog and give me such positive feedback, I appreciate it.

I Need More Peasant Blouses-On Account of My Moob

I’m kind of getting tired of wearing baggy shirts you guys. I lost a fair amount of weight throughout my treatment so I would like to maybe wear something besides peasant blouses except I actually kind of love peasant blouses. Finding shit to wear every morning is challenging. My wardrobe since my bilateral mastectomy has pretty much consisted of loose fitting tops with a tank or cami underneath (because if I lean over people will get an eyeful of something that is NOT cleavage). Dresses are almost impossible and look super dumpy. I put on a more fitted (not tight mind you) shirt the other day and it was a freakshow. The left (cancer side) looks pretty much flat, like a guy. The right side however, looks like a moob, which if you don’t know, is a man-boob. No offense to guys out there with moobs. Way more tissue and lymph nodes were removed from the cancer side so the skin is pulled very tight but on the not-cancer side, there’s droopy, floppy skin.

People are curious about my scars and I’ve shown them to a few of my friends. I might show them here some day. They’re not pretty. They mostly look like Frankenstein’s forehead but worse. And the left side pulls and hurts now that the nerves are all “awake.” This all creates a big knot of tension in my shoulder. So things should get really interesting when I have my surgery, which will hopefully be in the next 2-3 months because apparently I was “almost there” at my visit to The Boob Whisperer last month. I am seeing him again on Monday and he had better not rain on my boob parade.

I Have Hair. And it’s Glorious.

Okay maybe it’s not exactly “glorious” but considering my hair situation last Fall it’s pretty damn nice.  I can finally say I have a real hairdo, and that’s not to say I didn’t rock The Caesar, but I no longer feel like strangers might be giving me the side eyes. My post-chemo hair is way curlier than my before chemo hair too. Apparently “chemo curl” is a thing. Most chemo patients get this soft curly baby fine hair. I’ve googled to try and see if I might keep the curls but the internet as usual has no definitive answers.  As most of you know I was lamenting the fact that my hairdresser wouldn’t color my new growth of battle-ax gray hair until last month because she feared it would be all fucked up after chemo, and even then she said we should do a conservative brown. But, I trust her judgment and better to be safe than sorry with orange hair. Well today I threw caution to the wind and she made it kind of red.  I’ve gone to her for about 16 years and she always does an awesome job so she’s not allowed to move or retire.

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If I’m keeping it real, I was actually okay with being bald.  I really didn’t give two shits. When it fell out and Tomas shaved my head I was all “BFD you can have my hair, asshole cancer.” Same thing with the boobs. “Good riddance.” But when treatment concluded I was like “okay I’ve pretty much lost everything that makes me a woman. Eff me.”  I want my hair and I want my boobs.  In theory I know it’s what’s inside that counts and hair and breasts aren’t the sum total of my femininity but I’m telling you, in reality, IT’S HARD. So with my new hair, I can feel just a little bit more like a normal girl again.

Let’s Talk Tumors-Ladies Feel Yourselves Up

One thing women ask me all the time is “how did you find it?” Because they’re really thinking, “holy shit I want to know what to look for because I don’t want fucking cancer.” It’s a question I would ask too because even though most women can find irregularities in their breasts, there are many things that we may not recognize as a problem. Not all breast cancers present as a “lump” like you picture in your mind. I always pictured something round shaped like a marble or the little ball you play Jacks with. In my situation, the tumor was lobular (invasive lobular carcinoma or ILC), which means it’s in the lobule and presents more like a thickening of the tissue. Picture a spider web that spreads out and the webby part all interconnects and thickens. Lobular masses can be more difficult to see on mammography for that reason.  I found my tumor 10 months after my last mammogram and it was 8 cm. That’s a big fucking tumor. It grew behind the nipple where there is already a firm little area where the ducts are. One day I noticed the nipple was flat and I felt the firm area behind the nipple was larger on that breast. I had been pretty lax with self exams but I would occasionally feel around for any “lumps.” I’m telling you ladies -that’s not good enough. You need to pay attention to anything that’s different, which in my case was a flatter nipple and thicker area behind the nipple. My nipples have always been pretty flat anyway (in fact I had to pump breast milk because my daughter couldn’t properly latch on). I realized, too late, that the left nipple looked different than the right one. I really had fallen into a false sense of security because I was always vigilant about getting my mammograms on time.

I saw recently that Shannon Doherty (who was diagnosed with Breast Cancer) is suing her business manager for allegedly not paying her health insurance and the cancer spread to two lymph nodes while she was uninsured so she couldn’t seek treatment and it’s his fault. I have no idea if she has a legitimate cause of action but it’s my personal opinion women need to be their own first line of defense. Take charge of your own personal healthcare – I mean come on Shannon, are you really that busy? Hasn’t Charmed been over for like 15 years? I pray for her and wish her and her family all the best in her cancer battle but I personally could not point the finger at another human being and essentially blame them for my cancer or the spread of my cancer because of some financial snafu. If you can afford “people” to manage your money you can likely afford a mammogram or other scans/tests. Most providers will even work with you if you can’t. It’s your body, your health, your life.

Addendum: I see Shannon has since settled her lawsuit and I am glad for her as litigation is stressful and she does not need that added strain in her life right now. I also admire the way she has shared her breast cancer battle publicly, it’s a brave thing to do.

Countdown to Boobs

Warning – breast diagram below- So I was back to see the Boob Whisperer this morning, and man did I have a bunch of wrong information. This time I had my questions ready. First, he said there is still inflammation from radiation so “we’re not quite there yet, but almost.” He thinks probably in another month or two.  The main wrong thing I thought was the procedure-I thought he was doing a DIEP Flap which takes tissue from the abdomen to form the new breast pocket, but no, he is doing a Lattisimus Dorsi Flap on the radiated side, in which muscle and skin taken from the upper back are tunneled under the skin to the front of the chest to form a pocket for an implant. So sadly no tummy tuck but apparently this procedure is a better choicd for me, with fewer risks of complications.  At the time of the flap surgery, he will put in tissue expanders, then fill them every week or so with saline until the desired size is achieved.  After the last fill the expanders are replaced with the silicone implants. I’m sure there’s some kind of waiting period after the last fill. The first procedure is a couple of hours and will be done at his surgery center. He said I will need two weeks, to recuperate. I don’t know if he changed his mind about which flap procedure he was performing because I could swear he said something about taking tissue from my abdomen but he says the Lattisimus Flap is what he prefers in instances of radiation. This is a diagram I found.

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I’ve been googling stuff about tissue expanders and it’s mostly not good news as far as comfort and pain. One lady described feeling as though you have bowling balls stuck in your chest, and the expanders stick out making it impossible to sleep on your side (which is of course how I sleep). At least I can say I’m actually starting the countdown to boobs, and I can perhaps see them on the horizon – maybe if I squint really hard…

Post Script: I wonder if this means I will have weird uneven back fat.

Some Things I Learned from Cancer. And My Dog.

Last week I mentioned thinking about my mortality and burning the cancer chart of doom (I was afraid I might accidentally burn down the house too so I actually put it in the shredder). Cancer has obviously prompted more of these types of thoughts, and I dislike getting sentimental but what I didn’t mention at the time was that something else happened recently to make me think about life and death. My dog died. My grief was so acute I couldn’t even fathom writing about it. But I realized that she taught me things and I’m a better person because of her. A few things I’ve learned from my dog over the years is that unconditional love and loyalty are never in short supply. And that something that scares or upsets you will usually not be a big deal 20 minutes later. Sometimes supporting someone means just licking their face. And if two strangers sniff each other first, they’re likely to get along better.

I want my life to matter, and I want to be remembered fondly but also with infinite humor. To do that I think I need to make my life about more than just surviving because just surviving isn’t the same as living. I wrote an entry for The Rainbow Bridge in honor of Sammy. It’s nothing prolific, just my own stream of consciousness, unedited.
http://www.rainbowbridge.com/stories/Kelly-WeRememberSammy-635893325466267847.aspx

Burning the Cancer Chart of Doom

I’ve been thinking about my future lately, or more specifically, how long of a future I might have. A lot of people ask me questions about what doctors say now that chemo and radiation are finished. Basically they tell me to take my tamoxifen and watch for any symptom that is new, persistent, and a third thing I can’t remember right now. What I haven’t told many people (because talking about it makes that shit real) is that during my oncologist visit after surgery he used this on-line prognosticator program and based on tumor size, number of positive nodes, and being estrogen receptor positive, my chances of being alive in ten years were 52% if I had no treatment, and 76% with combined hormonal therapy and chemotherapy.

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I don’t know how radiation figures into that equation so I guess there’s another question for my next visit. Looking back I wish to hell he hadn’t given me this stupid chart. I was prepared to undergo whatever treatment he recommended, but I guess it’s his job though to present me with my prognosis based on the data. I stuffed this chart away in my closet right after I got it but over the last 8 months I’ve pulled it out several times, stared at it, and gotten depressed. And scared. Well I’ve decided my future is not a pie chart and I am more than just a statistic. Accordingly, I’ve decided to burn the chart of doom. In ten years, my daughter will be 22 and I will NOT be fucking dead. I will be there when she gets married, and I will be there when she has babies, so that cancer chart of doom can just fuck off. Now excuse me while I go find some matches.

The Nerve Reawakening

You might think nerves waking up are a good thing, but you would be wrong. My mastectomy scars and my chest in general, were largely pain free, however now the left side feels like muscles pulling very tight like rubber bands and it has created a big stress knot on the back of my shoulder and trapezius. I talked to my surgeon’s nurse and this is some of the nerves “waking up.” Apparently there are exercises to help. I liked it better when they were “sleeping.” Because then I didn’t have discomfort that reminded me of things like, breasts no longer there and cancer that may or may not return (because cancer is an asshole). Even driving is a reminder because the seatbelt doesn’t stay in the middle of my chest like it used to, now it seems to ride up the side of my neck. Sometimes when I’m getting dressed I think how much better I’d look with a prosthetic bra. I think I’ve mentioned it before that I always thought I would want one until I could get reconstruction, and I was given a bunch of brochures, but I just can’t do it. First, it wouldn’t be very comfortable. Second, I would feel ridiculous because everyone KNOWS. If I showed up to work with boobs tomorrow I would feel like an idiot. It’s hard enough sometimes to walk around knowing people KNOW. And I act all blasé about it but in truth sometimes it’s hard to know people might be looking at you and thinking about the fact your boobs are gone. I know if I’m talking to someone missing a leg I can’t help thinking about how he’s missing his leg. Or the person with the lazy eye, you can’t help trying not to stare at it and end up looking rude for not making eye contact.

Last week I saw my oncologist who said my blood work looks good-I always forget to ask him what bad blood work would be and what it would mean. For some reason I become a half wit at the doctor’s office. Same thing at the plastic surgeon, I had questions but they all fled my brain when I was there, like, I don’t know maybe “how many procedures will there be?” And “how long will they take, and which ones will require a hospital stay?” Or “how long is the recovery time?” “What are the risks?” I’m writing them down now so when I’m struck dumb next time I can whip out my list. Maybe I should just memorize by chanting it over and over like I’m Arya Stark chanting her death list.

Cancer is an Asshole Whose Ass I Shall Kick

It’s been almost six months since my hair first fell out.  I must admit after reading some horror stories on the internet about women who were still bald or “patchy” even a year later, I was like, shit what if it that’s me?  But, even my little Bobby Hill bald patches are filling in nicely.  Sometimes googling health stuff is a bad idea.

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I’m going to see my hair dresser about my grayness in about a month.  I get lots of compliments about the gray, “oh but its a pretty gray!”  And “it’s so classy!” Nope.  No offense to all the silver foxes out there, but I’m not ready for the silver fox club.  I am going to keep it short though, just the thought of having to bust out all my styling tools in the morning gives me the heebies. Continue reading

#christmasfatty

A Visit to the Boob Whisperer

So I met briefly with my plastic surgeon Monday. I can’t recall everything he said but nothing’s going to happen for a few months as I’m still pretty inflamed from radiation. He wants to see me again in February. It sounds like he’s maybe going to do a flap with an implant. Maybe a DIEP or Lat Flap? What he has to do (and I’m paraphrasing, barely, as I don’t have a medical background) because I lost so much tissue with the mastectomy and the radiation roasted what was left on the cancer side, is create a new breast flap by harvesting tissue from my belly or Lattisimus Dorsi to create the breast pocket. Then he’ll stick the expanders in there. But, it’s not like getting a regular boob job where it’s like wham bam here’s your boobs ma’am. It’s a several months process. I should probably find out what the deal is and maybe even take notes next time. Apparently most doctors prefer silicone over saline with breast reconstruction because they give a better result and feel more like natural breasts. We’ll see.

WARNING- Graphic nipple discussion below. Continue reading

Farewell Thy Chemo Port

Today my portacath was removed. It’s the end of an era or something. Or maybe just a step further away from chemotherapy. Except that vein thingy is still raised at the base of my neck like a sleestack from Land of the Lost. It went fine, got there at 6 a.m. minus any water or coffee so I was dehydrated and tired and the dude checking me in had to be sucking on a giant latte. It freaks me out a little to get anesthesia – one minute you’re babbling, probably about random crap because you’re all high, then bam you’re out, and waking up what seems like only moments later (unless you’re Michael Jackson, RIP).

I am seeing my plastic surgeon next week but I already know he’s going to say I am looking at like six months before he can do anything. And I’m assuming he can do something, but seriously people the left side is pretty jacked up. I’m hoping he’s got some new boobs for me in his bag of tricks. And I’m still going braless y’all. Some women get prosthetic bras and stuff but right now I mostly don’t care. And it would be like, at this point who am I trying to kid.

Thanksgiving with a side of hormone therapy

I might be getting the hang of this tamoxifen thing. Or not. It’s probably too soon to tell for sure. It’s been about a week and a half and I think not taking my afternoon dose too late is key. For some reason if I take it closer to bed time I have what I perceive to be restless leg syndrome. I don’t actually know what restless leg syndrome is but I imagine it feels like your leg muscles get all tense and spasticky. There are some hot flashes but it’s getting so cold now that it doesn’t bother me except at night when I can’t ever be satisfied with the covers on OR off, or even half on/half off. I also feel kind of joint achy or arthritic, especially first thing in the morning when I’m doing the zombie shuffle-walk into the kitchen. I’ve been trying to take walks (not zombie) because that seems to help with the achy joints. This Thanksgiving weekend though has been mostly about watching tv and movies. I love Disney movies, but my daughter says I have an unhealthy obsession with watching Tangled which is so not true, I’ve only seen it about twenty-two times. I hope everyone had a wonderful carb loading tryptophan extravaganza like I did.

So speaking of my new hormone therapy which I will be taking for the next ten years, this is the list of potential side effects associated with Tamoxifen. I saw weight loss on there and got all excited but then saw weight gain lower down the list. Bastards. It’s a pretty shitty list really.

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Regarding my smashed up Friday the 13th car, it’s looking like Tomas will be able to fix it.  I never doubted it because seriously he could construct an Optimus Prime out of any five random items found in the kitchen junk drawer. Before the crash I asked him what he wanted for Christmas and he said give him something to fix. Ask and you shall receive.

Eff You Friday the 13th

The only thing this Friday the 13th was missing was Freddy Krueger. Apparently fate believed cancer was not enough of a challenge this year so on Friday the 13th, fate saw fit to allow me to crash my car. I rear-ended a minivan half a mile from home. I don’t remember anything about it except slamming on my breaks and the impact and freaking the fuck out. Everyone says “well at least nobody was hurt, that’s all that matters.” Who are they kidding? That doesn’t stop anyone from freaking out. It’s traumatic and scary and depressing. With the exception of bruises on my arm, stomach and knee, I am fine but I feel as though this was some cosmic reminder that my life is precarious, like some promissory note from hell that can be called due at a moment’s notice.  And like the fates are warning me not to get all cocky now that chemo/radiation is over. I guess I’m lucky because somehow my airbag didn’t deploy so I could have been hurt worse, and thank God my daughter wasn’t in the car. She doesn’t know it yet but I’ve decided she can get her driver’s license when she’s 25.

Shifting gears to my health (see what I did there?), I’m mostly getting stamina back and the radiation burns are healing but I wish my hair would grow faster. Maybe I need some Rogaine (holy shit I did NOT just say Rogaine.) Is there a Hair Club for women? And before you say Biotin I need to find some without soybean oil. I’m boobless, kind of hairless, and now carless. #effcancer #nocar

The Finale and My New Baby Bird Feathers

Well today was the grand finale and I even got a diploma.  I wanted to cross out radiation and put “third degree burn” therapy based on my armpit from last week.

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I was all proud and happy and when I texted Tomas he said “cool now you can get a job as a radiation patient.” I saw my oncologist Monday and he said I will start Tamoxifen (hormone therapy) in two weeks and will be on it for several years. I asked about follow up scans and he said not unless there’s a problem. And what constitutes a problem you may ask? Any symptom that is new, unexplained, persistent or progressive. Huh. Well since I’m pushing 50 I notice all that stuff ALL THE TIME. I was hoping for something a little more specific but I guess this is my new world and I’m going to have to find a way to live in it.

On the hair front there’s good news, bad news and worse news.

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The good- it’s growing in pretty fast now, the bad- it’s all gray and still kind of bald at the temples, not unlike Bobby Hill (and it’s kind of growing in fauxhawkish too). The worse- my hairdresser said I had to wait a few more months to color it or it could come out orange. Right now it looks and feels like baby bird feathers.  Gray ones. I suppose I don’t want to end up with a head full of orange bird feathers.  She texted me a bunch of photos about gray hair being all awesome and trendy.  Who knew? Here’s an interesting article: 

http://news.yahoo.com/grannies-setting-tone-gray-hair-trend-140310353.html.

However, I’m still coloring it as soon possible, as soon as I’m out of the orange danger zone.  I guess I’m not that trendy. #grannyhair

My armpit and the radiation Death Star

Okay so this is my underarm. When I saw the doctor this week he said that the rash shouldn’t get worse than it is right now on account of something or other having to do with my “plan” or some such thing I don’t really remember.  All I know is that those radiation laser beams better have fried the shit out of any remaining cancer cells by now.  Actually the machine sort of reminds me of the Death Star when it’s moving around and the panels are sliding open and the red laser beam shoots out.

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I’m not trying to gross people out, although my daughter frequently thinks I am (“ew Mommy!”) But I also want people to know what happens with radiation although my reaction is not necessarily indicative of everyone else’s because I have fair skin.  I can’t even imagine what a really fair and freckled person would look like.  I want to put deodorant on because B.O., but really who’s going to want to stand near me with this rash anyway.

This is more than a mild sunburn

Well this isn’t exactly the “mild sunburn” I was told to expect, what a total bait and switch. And you can’t see it but it’s on the back side too. At least I’m about 2 weeks away from the finish line so there’s that. The cream helps but I still walk around the house all itchy with the back scratcher in my hand.

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My stamina is returning so I’m trying to walk and also eat healthier. One risk factor I had other than my mother having breast cancer is being overweight. So you guys, I’ve been permanently on the wagon since April and trying to eat healthy.

Incidentally today is Back to the Future Day, the date Marty McFly traveled to from 1985. First of all, where are all the flying cars? We were led to believe there would be flying cars by now. Well at least we have a pizza emoji. If I had hair I might celebrate by teasing my bangs all big with Aquanet and listening to Night Ranger.

A radiation rash for me.

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I’m hideous look away.  If you looked then you’re seeing my lovely new radiation rash and it itches like crazy like chicken pox or a thousand mosquito bites. I have OTC stuff to put on it but the pharmacy won’t have my prescription cream until tomorrow. I want to hide it under a shirt but that just irritates it more so I’m trying to wear scoop necks. My doctor says to slather it with the cream and be shirtless to let it breathe whenever possible. Wait, what? Yes you heard me right. It’s like when your toddler has diaper rash and you let them toddle around naked except toddlers are cute.

So far I don’t feel more fatigued but I still have about three and a half weeks to go so time will tell.

Did I mention that I’m a total sweat hog…

I just need to vent about this hot flashy business.  I don’t know if it’s totally menopause or what but I didn’t have it before. I’m 49 but my doctor said chemo would activate the menopause.  So I’ll just be sitting there with a totally normal body temperature, minding my own business, watching Judge Judy, then wham!  I feel heat starting to simmer inside my body and spreading to my extremeties, then my face is on fire, my body is on fire, and it feels like I’ve been wearing a full length down parka for the last hour.  A good fix for this is sticking my head in the freezer followed by eating a popsicle.  Or bowl of ice cream with extra chocolate syrup.  I tend to think its the onset of menopause because of this (and no visit from my red-headed cousin since June-I know, TMI, get over it people.)

p.s.  Here’s where I might insert the red face emoji to punctuate my hotness but he’s too frowny.

A Hair and Radiation Status Report

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So most of my hair is growing back but as you can see, the sides are conspicuously still VERY bald. WTF? And it’s mostly grey, although there’s still a lot of brown in the back. The internet says my hair may come back in totally different than before. Other unnecessary hair is slowly coming back, like my upper lip.  Btw, my eyebrows are an illusion and made up of about 75% eye shadow.  Looks great when I get sweaty and it starts running and smudging.  I’ve been kind of weepy lately, tearing up at dumb stuff like during the Amazon commercial where the guy is carrying the little broken leg dog in the Baby Bjorn. I think it’s because the enormity of everything is kind of settling in and am I going to be on constant pins and needles wondering if the cancer will return. And with chemo over I’m ready for my hair-I mean HEAD hair please-to come back, like now. Maybe it’s hormonal since I am extremely hotflashy.

I’ve had 7 radiation treatments and so far I’m just a little sunburnish in that area, no big deal. I saw the doctor today and he said he’ll have to give me a steroid cream in a couple of weeks. My radiation oncologist is super nice.  He’s a little guy and today I had on some 5″ wedges and towered over him like a bald lady giant.

Chaos at the radiation oncologist

Radiation day one was supposed to be yesterday only that didn’t happen. When I got there they realized they needed to adjust my “plan” which meant that things weren’t lining up right. So today I show up and everything is ready to go only they also need to get some films first only they can’t because technical issues. This wouldn’t be a big deal except their computer took a crap after I’m in position and I found myself trying not to cry when my arms started going numb and then burning after 45 minutes of holding them over my head. Plus, I will tell you that as soon as you are in position and can’t move, that signals all the little itches to break loose like on the side of your nose and your eyebrow (or the place wear an eyebrow used to be). The technicians were very apologetic and swore it wouldn’t be like that for my other visits which I hope is true since I have 32 more visits. The actual treatment part was pretty uneventful and the techs really are super nice.  Although I have a bunch of black drawings on my skin I need to scrub off.

On Monday I had the first of 3 epidural injections for my pinched sciatic nerve and it already feels awesome. I just didn’t know that it’s not just a quick shot, but rather a process where I’m actually in a gown, laying on my stomach with my face pressed into that donut thingy like a massage table but sadly there’s no massage.

Radiation and My New Tattoos

So it’s been a couple weeks and I’m still feeling pretty beat up. Like I’ve run a marathon, no actually more like I’ve run a marathon followed by several hours of Christmas shopping where I had to stand in really long lines with slow-witted cashiers. Wednesday I did some cleaning on my day off and by the afternoon I was ready to drop dead. Same thing yesterday, I had radiation simulation at 9 then worked from 10 until 3. By the time I got home I could barely move. When I stopped at Safeway on my way home I was seriously giving the electric scooter-baskets the side eyes. But then I pictured George Costanza tooling around in a scooter that time he was faking being handicapped and I started laughing at myself.

Speaking of radiation, the simulation was pretty uneventful although I don’t think I was actually radiated yet – they just put two tiny tattoos where the laser beams are to be aimed. They are only doing the cancer side. Supposedly there are not really any bad side effects of radiation except perhaps some mild skin irritation like a light sunburn but I have to do it every week day for 6 and a half weeks. Doctor said I will likely get progressively fatigued and be worn out by half way through. Really? MORE fatigue? I already feel like I have chronic fatigue syndrome and narcolepsy. But I digress. So I’m laying on this giant CT scan bed type thing (it’s not a another tube thank God, if I had to be in a tube every day they would need to knock me out or give me some serious happy pills) with my arms above my head holding these handles. Then I can see this red laser beam out of the corner of my eye. It wasn’t painful except for a second during the tattooing. I asked for a rose but that is not what it looks like which is more like a freckle or a blackhead. It was all over pretty fast. Parts of my head hair are growing back and Tomas said it looks like a baby chick. Aw how cute. Not.

In Other News Unrelated to Cancer

Yesterday was National Dog Day so here is Sammy, our sweet 14 year old Aussie Cattle Dog/Shepherd mix whom we’ve had since she was a puppy.  Her nickname is Donkey because she used to have a habit of laying on her back with her legs in the air like Donkey from Shrek.  In the second picture Tomas caught her sneaking onto the couch when she thought nobody was home.

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Sammy couch

Final Round is Done, Phew!

Round 4 of 4 is done! Holla!

I’m so glad to be done, if I didn’t feel like total crap I’d be doing the Carlton dance.  I had my last chemo at their new location. The new place is very nice but the rooms don’t have doors and there was a lovely elderly couple from Wickenburg across from me that were shout-talking. They had a 30 minute conversation with the dietician about whether the husband/patient could eat fat free turkey chili in a can. I wanted to yell out Just Eat The Damn Chili and Shut The Fuck Up! I am usually not so hostile but by then I was pretty cranky because of the lack of privacy and not being able to read or sleep with the noise. And with the steroids I have to take the day before, day of, and day after, I get no sleep, so my only chance for sleep comes with the Benadryl they give me. I can already tell this round is hitting me hard but I am just focusing on getting through radiation which should start in a couple weeks and being done. Oh, and hoping for my hair to grow back soon. Baldness is kinda cool in a futuristic edgy kind of way but the novelty is beginning to wear off.

Nose hair is actually important.

So, hair is continuing to vanish. The eyebrows are barely there, nose hair is completely gone (which makes for uncomfortable sniffing and icky dry boogers all the time, sorry TMI), but a few of the eyelashes are hanging on like little troopers. My eyes are watering more though. Without makeup I have to admit I’m looking like a sick person. While we’re on the subject of my appearance, I’d be remiss in failing to mention one ugly side effect I imagine is from the steroids. Big painful red tumor looking zits on my face and back. I got home from work one day and noticed a giant whitehead right in the middle of my neck. And NOBODY mentioned it – seriously? How about “hey Kel you got a little something there in the middle of your neck….” Thanks guys. I don’t know what kind of fuckery this is but for about 7-10 days after chemo I look like Woogie from Something About Mary. About the time it’s clearing up, it’s time for another dose of steroids. So no boobs, no hair and Woogie zits. Thank God only 1 round left.

Physically I am fatigued and achy but it’s bearable and for that I am truly grateful. What’s not bearable is my sciatica that has flared up with a vengeance – it hurts to lie down and there are nights I can’t find a comfortable position to sleep because it feels like there’s a stabby charlie horse in my hamstring. Yet another doctor to see, hopefully soon. God I’m such a whiner. I like to think it’s the heat.