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 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.
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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.

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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.
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