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.

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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 invasive 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 late teens and 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 when I needed them to pump breast milk. 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 loath 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