Navigating the Carcinogenic Bubble

So I saw The Boob Whisperer earlier this week. He seems very pleased with how my foobs are shaping up and so am I.  There is still the little dog ear extra skin thingy on the right side so he wants to see me again in three weeks to reassess it, and he can fix it in a simple outpatient procedure if necessary.  He has done such a phenomenal job and I am amazed at how good they look and feel.  Yes I’m still obsessed with feeling them all the time, I can’t stop myself.  I test different spots to see if the numbness is gone too.  I wish I could feel them with someone else’s hands.

Since we are almost at the end of January I must face the fact that I am doing kind of pretty very bad with my new year’s health resolutions.  I still need to lose weight because being overweight is a risk factor for breast cancer and I have not cleaned up my diet as much as I should.  Since my cancer was estrogen receptor positive-which means that the cancer feeds off of estrogen, I take medicine to block the estrogen in my body; but there are foods that are high in estrogen, especially conventional meat and dairy.  I strive to buy organic meats (no beef or pork) and dairy but I need to be more vigilant.  I’ve actually switched to almond milk because it has no dairy or soy, but I still eat the sugary Greek yogurts.  I have avoided pre-packaged foods for the most part but not completely, and the same goes for hair care and personal products.  I bought some natural deodorant (not patchouli which smells like Raid) because there are conflicting reports about the aluminum and parabens in deodorants being linked to breast cancer.  My oncologist believes in moderation when it comes to dietary dos and don’ts, but is it enough?  I mean if I don’t make these natural/organic changes across the board 100%, is that going to cancel out the changes that I have made?  If I switched from CoffeeMate to Almond Milk but then still eat Chobani Flips, cream cheese and margarine am I taking one step forward and two steps back?  I drink diet soda at the movies and we all know what kind of crappy chemicals are in that, so if I switch to water but still eat the popcorn with the suspicious-not-really-butter-but-butter-flavored-substance is it a wash?  I also have a vent clip in my car that my friend says is toxic which I keep forgetting to remove.  I don’t know what the answer is.  I know people who feel very strongly about using natural products and eating natural and organic foods and who live their lives this way, and this is by no means an inexpensive endeavor.

Before cancer I felt like the worst thing eating poorly would do was make me fat. Now I have this manic view of everything in my life, like I’m trapped in a carcinogenic bubble. #everythingwillkillyou

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Boob Jobs and Salvage Jobs

Believe it or not something commonly said during breast cancer discussion is “hey at least you get a boob job out of it.” Or even “at least you get a free boob job out of it.” There are boob jobs and there is boob reconstruction. They are not even a little bit the same. Yes I have implants but that’s where the similarity ends. A boob job or BA (breast augmentation) basically takes what God gave you and enhances it and it’s a cosmetic choice. You still have your original boobs and your nipples. Breast reconstruction after a mastectomy starts over from square one, from the ground up, often characterized as a salvage job. If you’ve had a breast augmentation, please know that nothing about your experience even comes close to mine. I have nothing against boob jobs at all and I’m fine talking about your boob job, as long you understand I can’t relate because I didn’t have a boob job.

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Some mastectomies are skin sparing or nipple sparing. That was not an option for me. Once the nips are gone, so is any sensation. You know how good your nipples can feel ladies? That zing that can go from your nips to well…..other places? Yeah well, GONE. But hey if nipples are part of the price to stay alive, take them, but I’m pretty sure you get to keep your nipples with a boob job. And it’s not “free” if you have to pay insurance copays and deductibles. Most ladies that get boob jobs go home and after a short healing period, will admire their new boobs, buy new clothes, and celebrate. Cancer survivors go home after reconstruction and see more scars and wonder if or when their cancer may return.

As fabulous as they are, because The Boob Whisperer is so awesome, my new breasts are sore, numb, nip-less and scarred. And though they feel pretty good they’re still not like real boobs. I would trade them for my old (albeit without the tumor) God given breasts in a heartbeat. Am I glad I have boobs again? Very. Do I view it as “getting a boob job out of it?” No, that’s just dumb. I’ve previously mentioned how I frequently see articles about what not to say to cancer patients and survivors and how I don’t agree with many of them but comparing a boob job to reconstructed breasts is something I can safely say JUST. DON’T.

I’ve been doing pretty well with my anxiety and living with my fear of recurrence. I was starting to think maybe I was getting a handle on it. Then a couple weeks ago I started getting some mild lower back pain. I had two epidural injections for a pinched sciatic nerve in 2015 and I’ve read that sometimes stiffness and pain can return to the spine, especially in a not super active 50 year old. I also know that when breast cancer recurs it usually shows up as metastasis in other places like your bones. My four month oncologist appointment is in a few weeks so he’ll do blood work and if my back is still sore I will tell him. This shit is really keeping me on my toes you guys.

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. 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. Maybe that’s what mine have to do, I have no idea.

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.