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.
So THIS happened last week.
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:
-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.
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
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.
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.