Tuesday, July 03, 2012


It's summer.  We are in the groove.  It took me a few weeks to get to a comfortable place where the girls and I are spending every day all day together.  I love having them with me, and I also completely appreciate the finer points of public school.  The finer point I am speaking about is the one where they swallow up your kids 5 days a week on a huge yellow bus and then that same yellow bus comes back 7 hours later and spits them out on your driveway.

In our togetherness time this summer we have been busy.  I have contemplated simply hanging a sign on the side of the station wagon that says Ava and Olivia's personal taxi service.  Call to inquire about personal rides for your family.

There are small success mixed with bug bites and ice cream this summer.  Here is a small success.

Blue Belt!

 This is one of my favorite Liv looks.  She knows she did good.  Snapped that board like a master.
 But then she can't remain cool any longer and cracks a smile.  All 43 pounds of her.
 Next up, Ava.  She also snapped that board with her soon to be registered as lethal weapon foot.  I'm only agreeing to Tae Kwon Do so that she can kick some teenage boy's ass in a few years. Or get him in a head lock to give him a kiss, whichever comes sooner.
 She takes the coveted prize home.  Next belt level.  I love the way the Chinese kid, standing under the American AND South Korean flags wraps a new belt around her American self.  Might be my favorite photo this summer so far. I guess it's not that much of a competition since the others are of me sipping cocktails by the pool at 5pm on vacation.
I spent an hour on this creative endeavor this morning outside while drinking coffee, trying to finish the second Hunger Games book.  Little hangers on wouldn't let me read in peace.  Why they wouldn't agree to red and blue with a touch of white, I'll never know.  Got to be more original with purple and electric blue for the 4th.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

All Things Not Foob Related

As it is right now 11 weeks after surgery, I find myself only seeing my plastic surgeon once a month.  This feels somewhat like being sprung from the chain gang.  The verdict is still out on whether I will elect one more surgery to try for a softer more natural feel with silicone.  Dr. Surgeon seems to feel that I should be patient and wait to see how the skin takes to all the changes several months after the initial surgery.  This is of course mostly due to the radiation I had eleven years ago. If I had known then what I know now...it's one of those times in life.  If I had known I was BRCA positive I would probably not have chosen radiation.  But that is why they call it a Monday morning quarterback right?  Can't stuff those grains of sand back in the hourglass.  So, I wait only seeing Dr. Surgeon once a month for the next several months.

This magically leaves time for LIVING. The last year has been at times more of a stunted stall in regularly scheduled programming of my life. I've obsessed about choices and their consequences.  Surgery or surveillance?   Now, near the end of the surgery road, I can choose to focus on all things not related to cancer, foobs, and surgical menopause.

I've distracted myself sufficiently the last several weeks with countertops.  I know, it's the stuff of great higher thinking reminiscient of Voltaire and Descante.

Spoiler alert, I chose New Venetian Gold. I'm aiming for a more contemporary look. The Muffin Man is leaving the coordination of this project to me.  Because we all know that in my own head I am a design queen.  The measurement guy came today.  Installation could take place in 2 weeks.  Goodbye, 1996 with all your frosty white laminate.  I am hoping for something in the realm of fabulous because it will be here in the house until about 2050. 

I'm also pretty darn happy to be working again after sort of falling off the map and into my ipad's library book collection the last few months.  I'm 3/4 of the way through Victor Hugo's Les Miserables.  It is a tome. I might need a blue ribbon for finishing it, should that day ever come.

These baskets of baby bibs, burp clothes, blankets, and key fobs are going to a local boutique tomorrow.   I also have a home dec. consultation on Friday morning.  I see some decorator pillows and perhaps a duvet cover in the sewing room soon.  Also on the docket...redesign of the sewing room.  Before and after photos to come.  When, I haven't a clue, since I'm still merely collecting ideas.  But it shouldn't be hard to improve with a coat of paint to say the least.  It is currently a bit of a cave.  I'm not a fan of caves. 

With exactly 1 month until the end of school I'm plugging in as many custom orders as possible. Because who am I kidding?  The girls will somewhat derail and distract me again until mid August, that is just how it works around here. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Craft Casserole

This morning I went to craft class. I'm all for school if it is filled with coffee, friendly ladies, and crafty goodness. We made fabric rosettes. I think I might be making them and putting them on everything now. Strips of scrap fabric and a glue gun, heavenly time and my idea of sheer bliss.

First fabric rosette project, an embellished headband. Ava saw it and immediately claimed it as her own. That didn't take long.

Then Liv picked up my new rosette ring. It goes nicely with her fireman's hat, today was field trip day to the fire house.

The only thing left for me is a pin. It might end up on a jean jacket soon.

A local artist/ illustrator/ designer named Lori McDonough is having these classes in her home studio. If you are local in the Indianapolis area and think you might like to spend a very happy and creative few hours, give her a holler and say you want to be a part of craft casserole. http://www.freshpickedwhimsy.typepad.com/

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Friday, April 06, 2012

Spring Break

Admittedly, Spring Break did not used to be so fun.  The kids were little and traveling was sort of like riding a roller coaster with cats.  But then a miraculous thing happened.  The grew up a bit.  They like to travel, they are excited to learn new things in different cities and are willing to forego their favorite home meal in lieu of strange and wonderous things on a dim sum menu. 

This week we've been to Chicago, seen Chinatown, eaten dim sum, seen a world class museum, learned all about Ghengis Khan, walked the Miracle Mile, biked several miles to an ice cream shop and home again without complaint, spent 3 hours in a local park, ate lunch under a tree, seen The Lorax, went out to lunch in our hometown downtown area, went fishing, went to the dollar store, went to the zoo and slept in late!  Now that is my idea of good times during spring break!

There was also just a bit of time to take a few photos in the backyard.  They are getting so big.  I sometimes feel a twinge of nostalgia for when they were babies, but then again they are just so much darn fun now!  Six more weeks of school and then summer.  I am counting the days. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Shiny New

Last time I posted I alluded to the fact that the stars were aligning for me in the kitchen department. Here are some photos.

Old oven range and microwave

Nice lightening bolt that appeared after it zapped the Muffin Man and his french fries. The Muffin Man loves his french fries.

And, the new....

Why yes, that is a gas range that replaced the electric. The plumber who tapped our existing gas line, that we didn't even know we had until a few years ago (thus the electric range to begin with) left the pipe 4 inches long. Standard new gas ovens need a 2" or shorter line. It was not a fine moment for anyone involved when I realized I'd have to bitch, I mean calmly call the plumber back to the house before the oven could be hooked up and pushed back into it's spot. To make a long boring story a bit shorter, ( is it too late?) 6 hours later I had my new microwave and range oven installed. And, yes I had to get assertive. Assertive was a euphamism for what happened during about 4 of the 6 hours.

In other shiny news I'm now 5 weeks out from the surgery. The foobs are feeling pretty good. I do often feel as though have a size 10 chest that is squeezing into a petite size 4. It's tight. When I get up out of bed I often feel them sloshing around. Odd to say the least, since they are a bit like wearing geodes on my front. How something so hard could be sloshing is beyond me.

I'm also following Dr's orders by "actively managing my scars", this means purchasing the ridiculously overpriced mederma tube of scar fading gel. Everytime I paint my scars with this gel, I wonder if this is all for not, since there is a good chance I will be swapping the rocks for silicone fun bags in a few months. Thus opening up the scars again. The verdict is still out on this one, as my doctor thinks the fillable saline is working for me now. Although, he reminds me each visit that he is reserving the right to change his mind in the silicone direction at any time. I get that, I'm in the "as a woman I reserve the right to change my mind" camp myself. Perhaps he likes to see neat fading scars each time I hop up on the table. Perhaps he's in bed with the Mederma people. Maybe they are all getting rich on the fact that I paid $20 for the tiniest tube of proprietary scar cream. Come to think of it I've only known this surgeon for 8 months and he is on his second vacation since we've met. These are the things you spend time with in my state.

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Monday, March 05, 2012

Why I'm Pretty Sure God Wants Me To Upgrade My Kitchen

When we built this house back in 1995, I was sure my kitchen would stand the test of time. I carefully selected natural maple cabinets, genuine simulated medium colored wood flooring, the very best frosty white formica counter tops $16.00 could buy and painted the whole thing a nice shade of light sage green.

It's stood the test of time rather well if I don't say so myself. Back in the mid 2000's, I don't remember when exactly, we replaced a refrigerator when it died and a dishwasher too after it almost burned the place down heating up an old chicken bone in it's motor. But that's it. The whole place is still an homage to light sage green and all of it's peaceful calming effects while cooking tacos in a crockpot.

Several weeks ago the Muffin Man pounded his chest and announced that his company was going to pay him a bonus. A bonus? What the hell is that? The last time his company paid him a bonus we took a trip to China and got Liv out of the deal. The kid is now almost done with kindergarten. As you can imagine now several weeks later, still no actual bonus safe and snug in our bank account, I have announced to the family that if and when there ever is this amazing cash cow that appears on our front lawn, we will be upgrading the kitchen.

After hearing this the Muffin Man said we could go look at new ovens and microwaves. One small step away from granite countertops, but I would take it. I felt slightly guilty since neither one was technically broken. But I was about 2 weeks post op. from this mastectomy business and was eager to kill a few hours in the high end appliance store where we couldn't afford to purchase anything. About 20 minutes into the trip standing amidst Viking and Wolf appliances one of the foobs started to ache in pain and I could hear nothing the salesman said. I announced to my family I needed a couch and a vicodin, and that was the end of new appliance shopping.

Or so I thought.

The other night the Muffin Man is baking some french fries when I hear a loud Zap. Then I hear a loud expletive followed by a wimpy groan. "The oven just shocked me," I hear him say. After pressing several buttons and hearing a few more shocks, he proclaims the oven dead. At this point we see a lightning bolt appear where the time used to display on the top of the range.
The oven is officially dead. We can bake nothing, no slice and bake cookies, no casseroles, no shrinky dinks.

Amped up with a little advil before the tour of appliance stores to look for new ovens this time, we drag the two children around town until we find the perfect GE Profile gas top range with double ovens, and a GE stainless steel microwave to match. They will be delivered this week. Or so the chubby hubby salesman says.

Still no bonus has appeared in our bank account, but clearly a higher being has spoken. You, my small midwestern family, do indeed need to upgrade your kitchen and I have given you the almighty zap of a mid range oven to start you off on the right foot. Thank me later in the form of good deeds and kindness to all mankind.

And this is why I think God wants me to have a updated kitchen.

I need only one more small act of freakish weather or locusts, or parting of salt water and I'm a shoe in for granite countertops with glass block back splashes.

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Sunday, March 04, 2012

One Month Looking Back

Tomorrow marks the one month'aversary of my bilateral mastectomy. One month, I hardly know where the time has gone. One month ago I was determined to get through this new and hopefully temporary phase of my life to insure that I never get cancer again, but I was scared to willfully sign up for such big surgery. Waiting for the surgery was the hardest part. Dealing with the known is so much easier than where your mind can go with the unknown. Especially for those of us with creative imaginations and a flair for the dramatic.

Over the past month I've had a little time to reflect on this BRCA1 gene mutation, the sole reason for my choice of prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. My body's genetic marker mutation was the reason I had a triple negative breast cancer at the age of 31. This genetic code typographical error that I carry is the reason I chose to have my ovaries removed in August 2011, as BRCA1 is also directly related to a significantly higher risk of a deadly and not easily detected ovarian cancer.

Here is what I didn't know. Some BRCA1 gene mutation carriers experience premature ovarian failure with infertility as the only symptom. Despite our enthusiastic and at times unrelenting attempts at getting pregnant, the Muffin Man and I were never successful. We unhappily settled into that lack luster category of unexplained infertility for many years. But now, I wonder did my BRCA1 status rob us of our chances of biological children? Even though we may never know for sure, I have this queasy feeling that it is probably so.
I love my two girls more than anything, and I honestly wouldn't change the way they became part of our family through adoption. But it does in some small way feel like yet a new and stinging loss brought to us via this BRCA1 status.

There have also been some happier revelations this month I've spent moving at a snail's pace recovering from the surgery. When I was diagnosed with cancer 11 year's ago, I questioned if I had brought this to myself. Certainly not in a conscious way, but I wondered if the cancer was a result of my not handling stress well and this was my body's way of revolting. I wondered if my cancer was a direct result of some infertility treatments we chose and my fragile emotional state while pursuing these treatments. (I was diagnosed with cancer only weeks after losing an early pregnancy following IVF.) I wondered if my body crashed in the form of cancer because I was mentally or spiritually weak.

Here is the happy part. I now know all that was crap. I got cancer because I am BRCA1 positive. People with this genetic mis-code do not always have the ability to fight tumor growth. A malignant cell appears in a BRCA1 body and the body does not know how to fight it off, it ignores it and that little malignant cell multiplies furiously until cancer is detected and cut out, or chemically treated with chemotherapy. It has been tremendously empowering to now know that my cancer was indeed genetic, it was not becasue I lived near a power plant in upstate NY while in 1st grade. Nor did I cause my cancer with any wavering emotional state or high stress job.

As I look back over the last decade, I now see what an impact this little defective gene has had. It has taken body parts and it has made me driven to find my children born on the other side of the planet.

Good, bad and indifferent I look forward to the closure and finality of the impact this little gene mutation has had on my life. Perhaps now is not the time to hog the story and hope it can have positive impact on someone else's life.
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Monday, February 27, 2012

We Had To Share

This past week my family took to heart all that they learned in kindergarten, share and share alike.

Only it was a rotten head cold. Ava got it, shared with the Muffin Man, who gave a mild case to Liv and then because no one truly likes to be left out...someone shared it with me despite the fact that I wouldn't touch anyone in this house without a clorox wipe first. The kids have rebounded nicely. My husband and I, not as much. Craptastic.

When I last reported in, I believe I was all excited about getting off the cul-de-sac, kissing my car while seated in the driver's seat, and a visit to my plastic surgeon for more foob juice, or saline fill as he likes to call it. That was a week ago. I can spare the gory details but I will say all that sunshine and roses stuff you can read on any plastic surgeon's website about how reconstruction using implants to stretch the muscle and skin are most often tolerated very well by patients. Sometimes patients will take a couple of tylenol if they are uncomfortable. Tylenol...right, maybe mixed with a little codeine and a pair of gin and tonics.

Who writes this? It's clearly some band of merry brothers plastic surgeon team who has never had the pleasure of this experience. Suffice it to say, a couple of tylenol wasn't cutting the mustard. The mastectomy was a trip to Disney compared to expansion.

But, onward and upward. Chin up. Back straight and foobs up. Goals, goals will make me feel orderly and in charge.

Goals for this week.

1. Summon immune system to conquer head cold.
2. Appear in kitchen promptly at 4pm to start something in the kitchen that will ultimately resemble dinner by 6ish. Or grab something from freezer at 5:30. Don't want to aim too high too quickly.
3. Brow beat children into making their own beds. The stretching and bending required to make beds doesn't agree with my temporary physical shortcomings.
4. Download more library books on ipad. This is making me happy, lots of time to read library books on ipad.
5. Show up appearing sane and well adjusted at next foob fill appointment which is scheduled for Thursday. The thought of ranting and raving to plastic surgeon about how much this part of the process seems to me like being drawn and quartered while showing him the ugly cry, doesn't appeal to me. It might end up in my permanent record. I will smile sweetly, and go home to big drugs if needed.

There it is, a week's recap and goals for immediate future stated. Tomorrow the girls get a new Tae Kwon Do belt. I will take pictures and share. We might have to register their little hands as lethal weapons soon. Now THAT is family fun.

Updated: After consulting both Dr. Internet and the nurse at my plastic surgeon's office, it appears that some folks tolerate the expansion process a little better than others. Everyone is different. My right breast with it's 33 radiation treatments 11 years ago probably isn't doing me any favors in this process right now. This was the site of most of the pain. And, now I have muscle relaxers in my small arsenal. Whew.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Off The Tuffet

Today is off the tuffet day. I've felt a bit like Little Miss Muffet the last few weeks, not moving too far off her tuffet, eating all the curds and whey. Her friends have brought some seriously gourmet curds and whey, by the way.

That is a short nod to the amazing group of lady friends who have cooked for us the last week. There are a few of you who could take executive chef jobs if you wanted to. I'd like to personally thank you for showing my children what a mediocre cook their mother really is. You gals rock.

Today, my little gal Chloe (sporting her readers in the photo above) will hopefully have more alone time on the tuffet she's been kind enough to share. I am headed in to the doctor's office to have the last two drains pulled out. Ahhh. They have been doing their job, for which I am grateful. But they need to go. They are cumbersome, don't do much for you in the wardrobe department, and too closely resemble jellyfish tenticles for my personal taste.

When the drains go, I also get my car keys back. I have new respect for folks who for whatever reason, lose their mobility via car transportation. To be so dependent on others for the simplest of necessities is to say the least, humbling.

Take for instance when we needed toilet paper last week. I told the Muffin Man, dude running low could you help a girl out and pick up some toilet paper? He forgot. Next day comes along and we have no toilet paper in 2 of 2 1/2 bathrooms. I again ask for him to stop off and pick some up so I don't have to call a neighbor to ask if they can spare a square. He forgot. I'm left contemplating calling one of my girlfriends, explaining how my husband can remember steak sauce but not toilet paper and how I need her to go run my most basic of needs errands for me. But, then I had a flash forward moment about how this would be hilarious fodder for the next 16 years worth of girls weekend topics of discussion when we'd all be sitting up at the lake sipping too many skinny vodkas. I had to lean a bit harder on the Muffin Man.

Next morning rolls around and he is all bright eyed and bushy tailed in his nice work button down shirt getting ready to head downtown. I meet him glaring in his office, toilet paper is now in an emergency situation. I don't care if you have to go to the CVS one mile from our house making you late for work and spend $37, just get some! To which he promptly hopped in his jeep and did just that, over spending on emergency toilet paper at the convenience store. Good God, I miss my Volvo.

In addition to saying sayonara to the drains promptly at 11:40 this morning, I will also be getting another foob fill. This is the second session of foobs meet giant needle with syringe filled with saline. I am liking this weekly inconvenience to a "got to pay to play" scenario. If I want a reconstructed chest area, that might be the way give me the best looking "girls" at the nursing home in about 40 years, I've got to pay in the form of a few needle sticks and skin stretching days.

I leave in 15 minutes. Wish me luck. Then I can read comments in a valium or percoset haze later today.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Toothy Dance Party Diversion

To lighten the load around here since I cried about 6 times yesterday, one of my kids finally did something spectacular. Just in time I might add. I suppose when you really assess her accomplishment it isn't exactly a Rhoades Scholarship come to think of it. But since I've been watching this stupid tooth dangle by a thread since Christmas, and that is not an exaggeration, the week before Christmas I told her that the tooth fairy would indeed come and work time and a half if a Christmas visit was necessary, it is a big deal around these parts.

Jump ahead to Valentine's Day people, and she finally dropped the bit o' enamel.

What? You can't see a toothless hole in the front of her mouth? That's because there isn't one. The new tooth is about 75% grown in. Who does this, who can seriously resist the obsessive wiggling of a loose tooth until you have aggressively tugged and pulled enough to leave a large bloody hole about 6 hours later while you wait another 4 weeks before you see the new tooth sprout up? Type B personalities baffle me. Her older sister man handles her loose teeth with the precision of a surgeon. This is the scary obsessive compulsive behavior I can identify with. The lacksidaisical attitude of Liv's means she going to have baby teeth until she's 20.

The girl's decided to celebrate by getting hopped up on a bag of Valentine's candy. Apparently Valentine's is the new Halloween at school and the take home loot is impressive and extensive. Surely expensive next time at the dentist too. They took their sugar buzz to the garage for a roller skating dance party. Complete with very loud Lady GaGa music.

Not the best lighthting out there. But since my 6 year old was throwing gang signs, I had to snap and share. Where do they learn this stuff? And will the Crips and Bloods be vying for her loyalty at my doorstep this weekend?

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I finally cried...

I haven't cried one time through all of this BRCA nonsense since last summer. Ok, that isn't entirely true I did embarass myself by crying in front of my oncologist last summer when she told me my BRCA test came back positive. Towards the end of the meeting I realized that this would change my life and I might be looking at having my ovaries removed and choose a double mastectomy. It seemed so huge and daunting, months of doctor visits, painful decisions to make, telling my family. Honestly, it felt a lot like when my surgeon told me I did have cancer almost twelve years ago.

But then I just did all of those things. I saw a lot of doctors. I gathered opinions. I researched surgical menopause, ad nauseum. I scheduled surgery to remove those little ill functioning egg makers that might develop ugly tumors. I had the surgery, then I had hot flashes. I never cried. I had some more hot flashes and pushed on to seek opinions about a long surveillance approach with regard to the breasts that one day really might betray me again with another tumor vs. a more aggressive approach to remove all breast tissue before anything like that could happen. I scheduled my choice and then waited an excruciating eight weeks for that surgery. I didn't want to have the surgery but I never once questioned my decision, I knew it was right for me. I had days where I could think of nothing else but the surgery and how hard reconstruction might be. I still never cried. I sometimes thought, wow this is kind of stressful, but I've dealt with stress before and I'm strong and in charge, and don't honestly need a good cry.

But today is different. I cried. My dear father who traveled to be with us during this past week to help with keeping the house and children's needs met finally left today. It has been nine days out of his life that he selflessly gave to us. He cooked, he doted on the girls, he cleaned, he took me to lunch, he shopped for anti-constipation medicine for heaven's sake. And, as much as I would have liked to keep my personal nanny, cook, house cleaner and overall sweet confidant...life goes on. This of all things made me cry, the ugly cry.

Maybe it is Dad's leaving plus coming to a realization that normal life might once again be in my near future, or maybe it is that plus a deeper understanding and appreciation of my life the past eight months and what this means for my future that brought the waterworks today. Maybe I couldn't cry because I was in task mode, steeling it up. Now I'm forced to be still with my decisions so I can evaluate what this means. Or maybe my dad left to go home and I just like having the old guy around.

Overall, it doesn't feel like a particularly sad day, as the constant tears might suggest, it feels like a much needed release. Release from stress, worry and anxiety and a moving forward towards whatever else is next in this little journey.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Two Steps Forward One Step Sideways

I went to see Dr.s Cut Them Off and Build Them Up this morning. They are both doing well, I can tell by the number of patients in their waiting rooms and by the number of minutes late they show up to appts. Really, it wasn't too bad compared previous experience, the ratio of time spent with Dr.s versus waiting for Dr.s was at about 15 and 10 minutes seen in face to face time versus 45 minutes spent waiting.

First up was Dr. Build Them Up. He asked if I was ready to get rid of some drains or would I like to keep them for a while longer? Deadpan, no silly grin or anything. The guy is a real jokester, I can only forgive the lack of magnanimous personality because of the highly impressive degrees on the wall and the appearances in numerous Best Surgeons off The Year magazines. I gave him my most sarcastic "Seriously? Are you kidding me? I'm all done impersonating a jelly fish with tentacles. Remove them all." He replied, "Oh no,only 2 today and 2 next week." Ugh, I explained that since I am the overacheiving patient, I thought they'd be removed today. He once again appeared academic, and explained something about chronic puddling of painful liquid drainage if drains are removed too soon in mastectomy patients. You had me at chronic puddling of drainage, I concede.

I am still a jelly fish. But only for one more week.

These are my remaining tentacles. Complete with a little bit of my lymphatic fluid. You aren't eating lunch are you?

After 2 drains were removed he whipped out about the biggest needle with syringe I've ever seen. Oh God, I just knew he was going to stick that in each foob to fill her up. Now, it is a somewhat surreal experience to be sitting in a Dr.s office with your husband there while a pedigreed but still stange man stands over you weilding an immense needle and syringe pointing it directly at the chest area you have spent a solid week sheilding from even the slightest brush of a touch because it is just that sensitive.

On one hand I couldn't believe the Muffin Man would simply sit there and let this guy aim that huge needle in my breast direction without getting up from the chair to give him a black eye. And, on the other hand I am so freaking vain that I was sitting there sceaming in my own head, "I don't care how much it hurts, just fill up the foobs so I don't look like a freak forever," Dr. Build Them Up from Princeton.

And then it was over. Foobs filled. Dr. most happy with his work. I left feeling like in addition to my 2 leftover tentacles, I also had the addition of an elephant sitting tightly on my chest. Dr. Build Them Up asked if I had any narcotics left. I said, "Yes lots, I am the superachiever patient whose been on advil since Thurs remember?" He said, "Good, go home and take one."

I then hopped off the table, stuffed my tentacles into my mastectomy tank top and headed on over across the hall to Dr. Cut Them Off.

It was anticlimatic. He apologized for leading the Muffin Man to believe that he had saved my nipples on surgery day when he talked to him right before Dr. Build Them Up took over. The Muffin Man and I told him, no worries much the same as if he had told us, oh, sorry the wife and I couldn't make it to your bar-b-que. Cest la vie, right? Nipples, easy come easy go.

Then he told me since my path reports came back 100% clear, I have taken my risk from another breast cancer from about 60-90% down to about 1%. Oh, and he never wanted to see me again. That is why I love that guy, and let him have another opportunity to work his magic after he did my lumpectomy in 2000.

Right on, never see him again. Closing up A Cancer Story, Chapter 2. I told the Muffin Man to take me home and feed me a percoset.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Good Bye Pain Ball - I Am Woman Hear Me Roar

A few weeks ago while chatting with one of my Dr.'s nurses on the phone she casually mentioned that I would wake up after surgery with 2 drains sewn to my sides that would drain excess fluids away from the wounds, allowing me to heal quickly without all that fluid surrounding the incisions from the inside. The drains would only be in place for a week or two and the Dr. would take them out during a followup visit.

Gross, but I'd read about this seemier side of this surgery before. Drains happen. Standard faire, get over it, move on.

Then the nurse mentioned that I would also wake up with a numbing medicine pain ball hooked around my waist to be used for about 5 days. The pain ball which would send medicine to the inserted site in preprogrammed increments was attached to me via two very skinny tubes that had been inserted below my chest subcutaneously. At the end of 5 days the medicines would run out and the pain ball could be unattached from me and be tossed in the trash. If I felt up to it I could simply pull off the dressing and gently pull the pain ball tubes out of myself. If I was squeamish, I could travel to the Dr.'s office and a nurse would do the honors liberating me from the pain ball. If I could tolerate this surgery in the first place I sure as heck wasn't going to give the honors of tube pulling to some nurse I hardly know.

No nurse needed. I was determined that I could suck it up, and pull the tubing out from under my skin. The nurse said something about it not being painful, famous last words lady. I was at 7:30 am this morning very motivated to ditch the pain ball, it's tubing and carryall fanny pack. There was no way to discreetly hide the darn thing under a layer of drains. Dressing was a bit complicated and the contraption, although I am grateful for it's ability to deliver numbing medication and keep me in a stage of perpetual word slurs, had worn out it's welcome strapped to my waist.

I did it all by myself! There was a high creep out factor as I felt the several inches of tubing freeing it self from under my skin, but there really wasn't any pain. Who knew, listen to those nurses.

So there she is, RIP, little pain ball. Thanks for the memories.

If I can single-handedly liberate myself from the pain ball...I surely can continue on for drainage evacuations, and foob fills.

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Thursday, February 09, 2012

Post Operative Entertainment

It is day 3 post mastectomy, and I have remained for the most part virtually pain free during this whole process. Who would have guessed you could lose a few body parts, have their new junior varsity replacements inserted behind the chest wall pectoralis muscle, and have a little bit of cadeavor tissue added for good measure and still only have short bouts of minor pain episodes.

This has been of course possible due in no small part to the involvement of some very good narcotics. For the first 3 days I allowed myself just as many of those glorious little white pills as I liked. I would pop 2 little white oxycodones from the brown bottle with the tamper proof lid sitting never more than twelve inches from my swollen fingers. As most overly good things, this relationship had to end starting today. Although they controlled pain, they also induced a perma-buzz that filled my head with clouds and induced constant sleep. We had to break up, even though it was a sweet whirlwind relationship. The reality is if I didn't start this break up, stating clearly it was me not them, the medical community would indeed force us to part ways amicably next week anyway. Moving on is inevitable. My new friend is the slightly less ominus little buddy advil.

Because every relationship, even short lived ones leave an impact of some sort on your psyche why would my little white pills be any different? Today I started feeling like eating again, and by lunchtime, I was rather filled up. The food was going down easier, but wasn't vacating the premise shall we say. Both my dad and the Muffin man were sent on two separate drug store missions for digestive clearing agents.

By early evening the children were fully engaged and watching me eating prunes while chasing them with a cocktail of fruit juice miralax. They couldn't help themselves but giggle uncontrollably as the Muffin Man hopped in the car yet again for bigger guns at the local pharmacy. It has become very clear to me why my children have truck driver fascination with potty humor, I blame him for this obscene fascination in otherwise proper little girls.

Around 7pm the fam was watching me gulp grape flavored magnesium citrate. Everyone had helpful suggestions on how to chug the horrid tasting syrup. It was not lost on me, as I suggested that the children be put to bed, that this might not be the healthiest of family group activites, and yet my children also like to watch as I milk the post operative drains as well so, oh well. Welcome to the new normal.

Tonight I will sleep, in the morning pain ball will have run dry and I can pull the tubing out from under my skin. Anything to beat the post operative boredom around here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Notes From The Other Side

I'm here, I made it, surgery was successful and this blog post will be sponsored today by high street value narcotics. Overall, I probably wouldn't advise anyone to add this mastectomy life experience to their bucket list. It just wasn't up there with trip to Machu Pichu or seeing Stonehenge. Yet it seems to be shaping up as an integral part of my own personal bucket list in that there was great likelyhood that if I didn't embrace this one, my bucket list days might have run out before I would have liked.
My family and friends are letting me act like the Queen of England. Since the sitting on the throne bit has it's advantages, I'm rolling with it.
I do feel pretty darn bad for my little Olivia. When she saw me for the first time, she asked boundlessly and full of 6 year old happiness, "Mom you are home, can I give them both a big squish?" Perhaps she didn't sit still for the whole reconstruction conversation over the last few weeks. She took one look at my chest region and the poor thing was almost reduced to tears. Not enough squish for her. I had to explain again that squish will be a process. I offered to let her attend a doctor's appointment so she can see how the reconstruction will take place. She said she would consider my offer but I might have to encourage the girl's interest since they've both been giving me the hairy eyeball any time the topic of my 4 drains or soft needle pain ball comes up. I am trying to have them think of this early stage of recovery as advanced science class, homeschool style.
I'm formulating some good tales from the dark side this week. All about nipples coming up soon. For right now, I'm fine...the girls are fine, the muffin man is fine since I'm emptying my own drains and his personal contact with my blood is extremely limited.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, February 03, 2012

The Banana Scam

There might be a banana scam going on here on the cul-de-sac. I ask the kids each week what fruit they would like from the grocery. Bananas get mentioned frequently. Then they make their way into lunch boxes only to come home in that same lunch box. Often, I act like I didn't see it and simply resend that same banana the next day. As you can imagine a few rounds of this game and we have old brown bananas quite quickly. It is at this point I get surly and ask, "What the heck, girls. You two are wasting bananas!"
Having a depression era grandmother who saved drawers full of string and tin foil, this isn't cool.

It is at this point that Liv usually chimes in, "Well, you could make banana bread." The banana bread is misnamed, it should be called banana cake. It is that sugary and delicious. This week when it happened again, this banana scam, I decided to cave. I figured if I was going to rock their little worlds with the surgery next week, well I could be the nice mom and make banana bread, cake, whatever. When they come to me in 20 years needing therapy for the reason du jour I fully intend to say, "Yes, I know you are traumatized, but remember when I made you banana bread?". Then we will laugh together and they will drop the therapy discussion.

As I was making banana bread, cake this morning I took a good long look at the nutmeg that was going into the bowl.

Looks downright vintage right? I turned the tin, yes it is a tin, not a plastic container looking for an expiration date. There is none. On the bottom there is only this.

When was the last time nutmeg cost 0.59? I'm afraid to google it. I have been using antique nutmeg, to feed children. Can I tell you there is still plenty of nutmeg in the tin too?

So, here it is, banana bread/cake, whatever made with vintage nutmeg. You thought I was going to say I went right to the store and bought a new plastic container of nutmeg didn't you?

Chloe is my constant companion in the kitchen. Not because she loves her person (that's me) so very much. I am a messy cook, and she feels it's her duty to lick up messes on the floor. Had I met Chloe before she had already been named, her name would be Hoover.

She tried to wrangle a banana peel from the trash can. She looks like a guilty mug doesn't she?

Some women get their breasts professionally photographed before mastectomy surgery. I bake banana bread/cake, whatever. I will leave you with a photograph. I feel it can sum up my last post before surgery, toes painted bright pink in honor of breast cancer survival and difficult choices we women make in our lives? No, toes painted the darkest shade of bad ass purple you can get in an Opi bottle. Toes that say, you can't knock me down. I will survive for my banana eating kids long enough for them to be cajoled into making surgary banana bread for their own kids.

See everyone on the flip side. I will try to resist the temptation to blog on the good drugs.

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, February 02, 2012

A Crafty Break

Yesterday it sort of hit me...damn I'd better make sure sheets are washed, floors are scrubbed, dusting complete, library books are returned, vaccuming is done, kids toys put away, grocery shopping to stock the pantry shelves.
Because next week, I won't be able to do those things. I'll be spening time popping percosets like they are M & M's and entertaining myself by watching gooey bodily fluids drip out of long tube drains sewn into my sides.
So, I decided to make a Valentine's wreath craft with the kids instead. Denial, a river runs through it. Want to see what we made?

Tissue paper hearts! Very therapeutic for the mind that keeps wandering to thoughts of surgery. I found this idea on the internet and decided to try it with the girls. If your kids can squish lots of tissue paper squares and use elmer's glue (or hot glue if you are making one) this one could work for you.
Here's what you will need. A card stock heart, lots of tissue paper cut into 5" squares and a piece of ribbon for the loop hanger.

Simply start at the edge of the heart and squish your paper squares into little flower'ettes, dab a dot of glue and repeat. Over and over until you have rows and rows of tissue paper flower'ettes covering the entire surface.

Ok, Ava got a little distracted with origami. She is really getting good at it. Last night she left me a silver swan. Love that kid.

Keep working all the way around the heart. Then glue a ribbon to the top on the back and hang your adorable creation.

There is dust everywhere and the floors aren't mopped, but we have tissue paper Valentine's Day heart wreaths.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, January 30, 2012

How My Boobs Got Us $300 In Free Stuff In Vegas

As promised a true story about my trip to Vegas this past November. I like to think of it as the perfect homage to my current boobs, may they rest in peace with only 6 more days to protect and serve.

A bit of back story:

1. Early on in life I started off with pair of breasts. They were a little lackluster, not sparkly, not cheerleader material as I noticed in 10th grade. But they were real. So, I would have been most happy with them had they been destined to stick around and do mundane tasks like sustain life for the child I always wanted. It was not to be. May they rest in peace and for the sake of this entry be called, Set 1.

2. At 31 years old, precisely 19 years into Set 1's existence the right one tried to kill me. She developed a decent sized triple negative malignant tumor and was immediately reduced to half her original size via what was the latest and greatest breast oncology had to offer, the lumpectomy. Followed by a couple of rounds of chemotherapy (I should dig for the bald photos shouldn't I?) and over 30 radiation treatments. (It sounds dramatic doesn't it?). In the end, I was left with a diagnosis of remission. Hooray. I was also left with a right breast that simply wouldn't hold a small prosthesis with the help of a good under wire bra. Gravity would tell you that this combo should have worked, but I am living proof to tell you it didn't. On more than one occasion I attended a business meeting eagerly expressing my opinions full of vim and vigor only to be horrified to notice 20 minutes later, " I gave that speech in front of a room full of people and the falsie is now wrapped around my neck." It was at this point three years into remission that I opted for reconstruction. It was paid for by my insurance company, It was perhaps, strong armed by my state's Bra Law. The result, which I am wearing right now for another 6 days shall now be known at "Set 2, The Girls". I'm sorry to see them go. I feel as though I've worked hard for them. They, in their glory days looked presentable in a bikini for heaven's sake. I wish I could say the same about my thighs. It's neither here nor there, I like "The Girls". However, as fate would have it they were only meant to serve for about 8 years.

If you are still reading...How The Girls Got Us $300 In Free Drinks In Vegas...

This summer, when we found out I was swimming in the BRCA 1 gene pool instead of inheiriting bone structure like Halle Berry, the Muffin Man was nice enough to invite me and a few dear friends to Vegas with him to tag along on a business trip. We would party, he would work. Who could turn this down? Looking back, it was a good consolation prize.

My friend L'Mac (pronounced El'Mac) needed to see Barry Manilow. No one else on the trip would acquiesce. I was feeling generous, just happy to be in Vegas, and off the cul-de-sac. It's all about perspective. I might have preferred a more trendy show, something from the 21st century, but L'Mac is a persuasive gal. We bought Manilow tickets at the Paris Hotel. The rest of the crew refused and agreed to meet at the bar afterwards. Manilow lip synced the whole gig and I needed a stiff one 2 hours later. Good God, what were we expecting? The little dude is about 70 years old.

After the show L'Mac and I belly up to the Paris Hotel bar. The others were to join us an hour later. The bartender is darling and asks us what we would like. We toss out a few drink orders and playfully say while rolling our eyes "We've been to the Manilow concert." He laughs and fills our order. As he comes to deliver that drink order he stops and says looking at me, "Wow, nice rack lady where'd you buy them? Local?"

L'Mac almost spit a vodka martini with blue cheese stuffed olives in his face. With her eyes saying to me, do you want to take this one or shall I? I gently turned to him and said,
"Yes, you like these girls? So do I. Just so you know The Girls have been purchased by the state of Indiana Bra Law circa 2004. You know the Bra Law right? The one that makes it illegal for insurance companies to deny health claims for breast cancer patients and their rights to reconstruction? They are nice, but I came by them the hard way."

I have to give the guy credit, he didn't miss a beat. He didn't apologize, he didn't stutter, he simply filled our order and came back to chat with us as if nothing happened. He was attentive without being obnoxious. He made some polite and some impolite jokes as our friends and spouses joined us over the course of the night. An hour later he said he had to leave, his shift was done. We tipped him out, commenting he was more entertaining than the show we'd seen. Then we got a new server.

When it came time to leave, our party had grown to at least 6. We had been there for ahem, a while. When we asked for the bar bill to pay it upon leaving the new bartender told us...no, your bill is paid.

I turned to L'Mac. "Holy Cow, that bartender paid our huge tab. My boobs got us a free night in Vegas!"

I love these people that get "it". My friends, strange bartenders in Vegas, my kids, family members willing to sign up for a rather tough week, my darling muffin man.

I salute you "The Girls". Thanks for the good times.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Anybody Out There

Hello, is anybody out there?  Do you have the Pink Floyd song dancing in your head?  It's been a while.  I concede.  It's not that I haven't wanted to wanted to share my combination of mediocre writing skills, adorable kid photos and lovely handbag and overall crafty concoctions with you, the internets.  I have.  However,  this fall I found myself stunted, lost for voice. I'll admit even retreating into the perceived safeness of my home.   Over the last several months I've learned that my health is perfect.  This time has given me once again, after my cancer diagnosis eleven years ago the opportunity to step back and truly appreciate what it means to "have your health", and to be grateful.  Truly grateful to God and the Universe that everything is ok, because I also know what it feels like for things not to be so great.  What it feels like when you've had your nose pushed up against a brick wall until you almost can't take the pain anymore while there is a loud voice booming, "Life might not always turn out the way you have planned it. So, make something of what you've got." Deal with it or don't....your choice.

So, I'm dealing with it.  I am BRCA 1 positive.  I carry a DNA genetic mutation that makes it more difficult for my body to fight tumors in the breast and ovary areas.  This means my chances of another breast cancer by the time I turn 70 years old are somewhere between 60%-90%.  The chances of an ovarian cancer are somewhere around 40% give or take.    I suggested to my doctor one day that since I have already beaten one breast cancer that my chances for some other problems must be dramatically lower right?  I've already had it, for heaven's sake.  Take my dice off the table, woman!  "No", she said "Your body has shown you up close that people with this mutation do get cancer at a higher incidence than the general public." 

Oh, right.  What are my chances of buying a winning lottery ticket?  I'd seriously like to know.  Because it sort of feels like I won the crappiest lottery ever made.  Here is your bonus prize babe, surgery to remove tissue that might become cancerous and try to kill you.

In another odd twist I did win a lottery.  I know the answer because I got tested.  I'm in control.  I'm not a victim.  And, if I have the, forgive me here, balls to withstand a few surgeries, my chances of getting sick from breast or ovarian cancer plummet to almost nothing. Then, I can go back to enjoying mediocre writing, two adorable but somewhat ill behaved children who are incapable of picking up dirty underwear up off the floor and a  puggle who likes to snuggle.

In late August the ovaries went.  Broken little girlie bits tossed in an operating room bio-hazard waste basket.  It was relatively uneventful. Now I am a hot flashing mama wearing cotton tee shirts in the middle of winter, while keeping my house a crisp 64 degrees.  All in the interest of saving a few bucks on gas heat this season, I'm taking one for the team.   

And, I just bought this tee shirt.
 I'm planning on wearing it to my next surgery coming up in a week.  The old girls, well, they have to go.  But, no worries...I'm getting new ones.  Cancer proof ones, if you must know.  Does the thought of this make you squeamish?  It's ok if it does.  It makes me wiggy too.  I'll spare you the details and the meat grinder surgery I felt the need to watch on You Tube a few weeks ago, oy.

Ultimately, I feel good about my decisions.  I know they are the right ones for me and my family.  I have some serious graduations to attend, weddings to butt into and maybe grand kids to boss around in my long term future.  

Right at this very minute my kids are blasting Gloria Gaynor "I Will Survive" on their stereo while folding origami valentines for their classmates.  Coincidence?   I think not.  Here's some other things they've been up to in the last few months.

School play.  It was a part time job, for me and them.  But when you have a skunk and a blue good witch...what are you to do?
Two vampires and their bat minion.  They were rewarded with lots of peanut butter cups.  Then the bat minion barfed.  And we called it a night.
Six.  Death by chocolate.
An office Christmas party with the fam.  After this shot was taken, I started drinking heavily took my top off and proceeded to swing from the ceiling tiles while wearing a lampshade as a hat.  Nobody can rock a veggie tray like I can.

The annual feeding of the reindeer, Christmas Eve.  Don't ask me why my children chose this photo opportunity to dress like Russian peasants.  I have a hard time getting them to brush their teeth too.

Nothing like an event commemorating the birth of out Lord and Saviour as an opportunity to break out some lottery tickets.   I know, I know again with the lottery references. 

Oh, and Ava turned 10.  And I forgot to take any photos.  We ate Chinese and she got ipod speakers.  No photos of the milestone that had me choked up for 3 days straight?  This is mother of the year stuff. 

And that my friends is my life, the last 5 months.  See, you missed not one thing.  You are caught up in the riveting and unparallelled happenings of "These are the days of our lives."  

Perhaps 1 week from my mastectomy surgery I'm getting my voice back.  I'm seeing light at the end of the tunnel.  I'll try to blog a little bit more about how fun a mastectomy can be.  Actually, I have a fabulous Vegas story that shall be titled "How my boobs got us $300 in free drinks at the Paris Hotel." Now you are going to tune in right?  Some fools will do just about anything to improve their blogger stats.