Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy thanksgiving! I am greatful for my family & friends & feeling well! Oh yeah, and to hair growth!;)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Finally showered! Feels great! Yeah!


After you get your final implants, you have to walk around 24 hours a day wearing a bra to make sure that the stitches heal well.  Okay, that's fine, but it's not so easy to meet all the other requirements:  no underwire (because you don't need it and it will rub the stitches underneath the breasts), the bottom of the bra cannot touch underneath the breast directly (because that will hurt the stitches underneath the breasts) and it cannot too tight (because they said not too tight).

I was going to spend this post bitching about how hard it was to find these types of bras and how I felt lost going into a number of stores unable to find what I needed, but I just got off the phone with my cousin and all those mild complaints went out the window.  (Plus, I was able to go online and buy some bras that will work, so really no reason to bitch).

My cousin just recently learned that her teenage daughter suffers from bulimia.  They decided to put her in a facility for a month to help her deal with this issue.  While all seems to be going well in the facility (so my cousin says) she had an awful phone call with her daughter yesterday where her daughter told her she hated her, and that she was conceited and looked down on other people.  My cousin sounded so distraught while telling me about this.  She said she was sad.  Oh, and might I add that this is the same cousin who went through a double mastectomy with reconstruction a few years before me?

You never know what is down the road, and, unfortunately, even though you might think your situation is horrible and couldn't get much worse, you don't have to look far to find someone in a more difficult situation than you!  So, I'll continue to focus on the good things in my life, be thankful that my dad was in town this week to help out with the kids so I could recover and be grateful that I felt well enough today to take a nice long walk with my dad.  Things are looking up!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My many faces of breast cancer

Okay, at the risk of never leaving the computer and never sleeping again, I am going to just post some pics the old-fashioned way.  I really wanted to show you the many faces of me during the cancer treatment process via a slideshow, but I'm having a hard time doing that (I just cannot figure this blogger thing out!)  So, I'm just going to try and post some pics in a regular posting.

This first picture is sporting the dude-rag, schmata, bandana...whatever you want to call it...I still hate having no hair.

Here is me in the height of my baldness.  I just could not go out in public looking like this.  I cannot go out without something on now and I have a substantial covering all over my head...

Okay, so I'm not wearing any make up, but disregard the face and please notice the hair.  I just still cannot go without a wig...I just hate myself without hair.  Have I mentioned that before???

Do blondes have more fun?  Well, I thought if I had a few wigs to use, I could change my look according to my mood.

This is the brunette first, I loved this one, but lately I've been all about the blonde...and now, the piece de resistance:

Which one do you guys like the best???

And they're out!

Just wanted to let you all know that the drains came out!  I will be able to shower in 36-48 hours!  You will not have to smell me any longer, New Jersey!!!  (Or New York or Connecticut!) 

I have to say, I am totally shocked that when I went in to have the drains taken out and to see my plastic surgeon this morning, he didn't even TOUCH me. He barely looked at my scars, just said everything looked good, told me that I shouldn't do anything "high impact" for  the next five weeks and he'll see me in two to three months.

As much as I wanted more information about my next steps, I don't think you can get much better than "everything looks good, see you in two months".  Less is more with this guy, I know that about him.  He is not known for his bedside manner.  In a previous blog, I referred to him as "the troll" because he is short and grumpy and has a bad bedside manor, but I have to say, everyone I spoke with about him said he was so wonderful and did great work.  My boobs look good.  That's really all that matters now.  Maybe one of these days I'll get him to smile.  Now that's a good goal for the next visit!!!

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

This is me doing live band karaoke at a cancer benefit this fall. My husband kept showing the video that he made to the kids and asking them if they wanted to see their "rockstar mommy"...what a sweet guy!

My husband took this picture of me during a chemo treatment over the summer...he said, "maybe you'd want to post this on your blog?"  So, here's the good the bad and the ugly...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Uncomfortably Numb?

I think I have spent the last 9 months in a weird sort of haze and now I might be coming out of it.  Ever since my diagnosis, I have been on cruise control, or crisis control, just getting stuff done that needed to be done without really figuring out how all of this new information I'd been inundated with was affecting me.  I think that I was just happy knowing that I was facing the cancer head-on and wasn't questioning my decisions, I was just going with my gut reactions.

But now I sit here at my computer, drains waiting to be removed from the tissue expander exchange procedure, stitches poking me uncomfortably under my new breasts (that I have yet to fully examine because I'm waiting for the doctor to tell me that he thinks everything is healing well and to tell me they are really sticking around before I start to relish in their perkiness!!!) I am starting to wonder what I do now?  Especially in light of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's (USPSTF) new guidelines, I feel like I need to do SOMETHING.  I have started looking on websites and blogs of fellow breast cancer patients and survivors to get some grounding, get some guidance and get some support.  There are a bunch of incredible women who have been through and are going through what I am going through, it just amazes me.

While I am searching for my own answers, I am comforted by something a friend's mother told me a few weeks ago.  When I was first diagnosed, my friend told me that if I want to talk with someone about what they went through, her mom had said she would talk to me.  At the time, I didn't call her because I was looking for women my own age, in a similar circumstance, to try and find some connection and support.  AND it was so tiring, and so draining to have a conversation with a current patient or recent survivor because I'd be on the phone for an hour with some stranger (with whom I now shared some awful bond) to try and find a parallel story and digest the information, I just didn't talk to that many people.  I found that too hard for me to handle during this period of crisis.

About a month ago, my friend's mother died.  My husband and I went to pay a shiva call and I sat and spoke with this woman about everything else BUT cancer - how her father was doing, about her new grandson, about my friend's kids - and then she went to talk with her other guests. 

As I was getting ready to leave, she stopped me and just said, "I just want you to know that I never thought there would be a day that I didn't think about breast cancer, and then, a few years after my treatment, I noticed I didn't think about it every day.  It got less and less."  (She is a ten year survivor.)  I just stood there as tears welled up in my eyes and said, "thank you".  It is hard to explain how wonderful it was to hear her say that, to know that while right now it seems so all encompassing, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that life really will go on.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Task force opposes routine mammograms for women age 40-49 - are they for real???

I just read this CNN article tonight.  I cannot believe what I just read.  Some task force, under the umbrella of the US Dept of Heath and Human Services, just said that mammograms aren't necessary every year for women age 40-49.  This changes the previous guidelines which recommended mammograms as early detection for women over age 40.  The article goes on to say, that "...[W]hile roughly 15 percent of women in their 40s detect breast cancerthrough mammography, many other women experience false positives, anxiety, and unnecessary biopsies as a result of the test, according to data."

Please, provide me with the percentage of women who experience false positives, anxiety and unnecessary biopsies as a result of mammograms.  Is it more than the 15 percent who saved their lives by detecting breast cancer?  And, even so, having a mammogram didn't kill them.  Neither did the anxiety or unnecessary biopsies.  But what would have happened to the 15 percent of women who detected breast cancer had waited until they were 50?  What data shows how many of those women had a history of breast cancer in their families or felt a lump?  What if they just went in because they knew it was good to have a baseline for future mammograms and were surprised with the fact that something did show up on the mammogram and that they did find out earlier rather than later?  What percentage of those women were able to, or decided to, save their breasts and just have a small lumpectomy?  What percentage of those women who had mastectomies and were able to prevent the recurrence of breast cancer?  What percentage of those women who detected breast cancer in their 40s were able to avoid chemotherapy because the cancer had not yet spread to their lymph nodes or, worse yet, some other part of their bodies?  OR, worse yet, what percentage of those women STILL had to undergo chemotherapy because the type of breast cancer they had was so aggressive that it would have spread, even if it had not yet done so?  What percentage of those women were able to save their lives because they went to doctors who trusted these guidelines and sent these women for mammograms accordingly?

This is a very hard article for me to read given the fact that I am still undergoing treatment for breast cancer at age 38.  For those of you unfamiliar with my blog, go back to February & March 2009 articles which discuss my breast cancer discovery ON A FLUKE because I met a new doctor who gave me a breast exam and said I had lumpy breast tissue so I should go get a mammogram.  She felt no lump, I had no history.  In fact, my OB/GYN who I had seen regularly for two years before then never even MENTIONED a mammogram because there was no reason for it.  When I read an article like this, it is hard for me to FATHOM what I would have gone through if the guidelines were set for a higher age to begin mammograms.  If the recommendation is to wait until age 50, would my internist still have thought to send me for a mammogram?  I highly doubt that. 

This doesn't even begin to discuss what health insurance companies might decide to do based on this task force recommendations.  Okay, while I want to believe that insurance companies will still fully cover mammograms, who knows?  Everyone is cutting costs.  Maybe insurance companies will deny mammograms for women who do not fall under a "high risk" category.  I don't know, I don't want to think about that.  Because I assure you, if the test had not been covered by my health insurance, I GUARANTEE you that I would not have gone for a mammogram.  No way, no how.  Before my diagnosis, I would have told you I was 100 percent healthy.  Some tests might be considered unnecessary, but I just don't see how this task force just pushed back the age for women to get annual mammograms to age 50...oh, and I know this isn't well thought out or well written.  I am still recovering from my surgery of having breast tissue expanders exchanged for final breast implants.  Not even a week old.  I am still on pain medication and have drains running out from under my arms.  This just hit a raw spot.  More to come later when I can properly articulate how PISSED OFF I am.  Congress, here I come!

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Welcome Ladies!

Well, the new ladies are in! The expanders are out and my new high-tech tear-drop shaped silicone ladies have made their debut! Had the surgery on Wednesday and to be totally honest, it has not been as bad as I had expected! Well, given the fact that after the last surgery I was not able to lift my hands above my head, this is much better! I have much better mobility and the drains aren't bothering me half as much as they did last time! I'm sleeping much better at night, and can move pretty well during the day. I am taking it easy though, because I don't want to screw anything up with the new ladies. I have uncomfortable internal stitches that bother me more than anything else to the point where I have to lie down every few hours to get more comfortable. BUT as of day 4 after surgery, I can go during the day without serious pain meds and only save those for night time! I know, I know, why not take the drugs, Dali Mamma Lama, isn't that why the doctor prescribed them? Trust me, I take them when I need them and if I need them during the day, I take them. But they make me tired and it makes it harder to sleep at night, so I'd rather save them for night time!

My 4 year old still wants to see my boo-boos. I have told her no. She asks, "Why?" and I tell her that I don't want to scare her. Honestly, I am so glad that I had to go through this when she was 4 and not 10...I don't really want her to remember this ordeal, but I am glad she has a place to go back and read about it (if she ever wants to) and know what this was all about! My 2 year old is pretty clueless except that I don't pick her up right now when she cries. No, I don't leave her on the ground laughing at her expense, but soon enough I'll be back to picking her up so I'm not too upset about that. And, my 5 year old boy still gives me hugs and treats me like nothing has changed. That makes me very happy!

Having said all of that, am I thrilled that the heavy duty surgery is over? Yes! Am I excited to have the rock hard expanders out of my chest? Yes! Am I excited that one more phase of this ordeal is over? Yes! Am I excited to be able to work out and get back into shape in a few weeks? Yes! Do I wish I had nipples? Yes! Will I get those soon? Yes! I know, I know, too much information, but it's true, I have no nipples and the doctor will have to make those for me. Again, I am hoping he'll use some of my c-section scar tissue, but we'll have to wait and see. He's not the kind of guy who likes to be told what to do so I'm not sure how this will all pan out, but enough of that for now! But seriously, if it grosses you out to hear about it, imagine how I feel. The whole thing FREAKS me out, but since I don't have a choice, I'll just tell it to you like it is. But, please know, the fact that someone has to "make" nipples for me is truly disgusting.

So, now I will heal. I cannot wait for this Thursday when the drains come out and then 2 days after that, I will be able to take my first shower since surgery. Yeah, I know, another gross one. Good thing you can't smell me...yet!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Twas the night before surgery

Twas the night before surgery to get my new boobs
Both my parents came up to help keep me subdued
But my mother was complaining of her little finger ache
But at first said, "Don't worry, it's fine, it'll be great!"

All the backpacks were ready for a few days to come
Cause I won't be focusing, I'll be sleepy from drugs!
Me, with my Ativan, was keeping me calm
And not a bit worried of all else going on...

Suddenly, my mom was not feeling so sure
Her finger was hurting and hurting some more
Away to the ER we went in her new beemer
And I dropped her off to come back a bit later.

The new ER facility was really top notch
Made me feel a bit better about dropping her off
When on the dashboard it appeared, all alone
My mother had forgotten to bring in her iphone!

But I was busy, had a quick job to do
My eyebrows growing back had to be waxed, oh, it's true!
so the iphone would wait, and so would my mother
In the lone waiting room (while I bought some Godiva:

Got extra dark truffle, got peppermint too
Got dark chocolate raspberry and one key lime goo)
Then back into the beemer I rushed back to the car
And dashed away dashed away straight back to the ER!

I just wanted to run in and give her the phone
But then thought better that she not stay alone
So hesitantly, I gave the valet my keys
And ran into find what was my mom's disease...

And then I heard her talking to the radiology tech
Wonderd what they'd done to her just yet
As she drew her head in from the talking she'd done
And come from the X-ray she had on her pinky, not thumb!

She was feeling some pain from the way they had turned it
The nice black and blue becoming more prominent
We had to sit and wait a bit more
But sitting with her is never a bore!

Then the nurse came in mumbling "hand specialist"
And we knew that it wasn't the best
A little fracture and perhaps a tendon torn
She might need some surgery, but that you can't bet on.

"You need to go see a hand specialist tomorrow
To find out what is wrong with your pinky" (what a bother!)
We said that's not possible 'cause it was my turn for docs
And then we told her about my little boob op

She said Thursday would be fine and then was away
And mother and I did not know what to say
So, back to the beemer went Mom and me
What a way to spend time the day before surgery!

New boobs!!!

Okay, here's the latest update: T minus 6 days until I get my stylish new more natural-feeling silicone implants! I cannot wait to get these rocks out of my chest! When I went to the plastic surgeon's office, I had the opportunity to molest the sample they had on the desk. I have to say, they felt very natural! I'm hoping they feel that way when the surgery is completed!

Good news is that I will not lose mobility like I did last time. Here's the only positive thing about not having much hair...last time I had surgery and lost the ability to raise my hands over my head, it was very hard to take a shower and wash my long, I don't have to worry about that! And, though I'll smell a little bit since I cannot shower for a week again, at least my hair won't look like a nappy mess. I can just throw on a wig and feel a bit better! Yeah...I think? Okay, so if you are in the vicinity, please do not come too close. Let me be appealing from afar!

People keep asking if this is the last big haul from the whole year's ordeal. The answer in short is yes, the really hard part is over. The long answer is that I continue to take an IV medicine every three weeks and I still have a "procedure" to get nipples made...I know, gross, huh? I have no nipples now (my husband calls them "frankenboobs") so they will somehow make ones for me. It sounds totally gross and disgusting, but perhaps the doc can take some of my c-section scar tissue for that...get a little tightened around the belly for a teensy weensy bit more upside? (I'm always looking for more bright side of things).

Sorry if I gave you so much information that you now want to barf, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it! I just cannot wait for life to return to normal. What is normal? I don't even know anymore...but I know that all is well and I have things very good and I am lucky and blessed. 2009, while full of wonderful things for my friends and family cannot end soon enough for me!