Wednesday, October 12, 2011

new girls on the block

Too be honest, I'm getting a little tired of this blog. But I want to keep sharing for a little while longer, for those of you whom are contemplating the flat side of life. There are plenty of blogs out there that talk about reconstruction but not so many for the unconstructed.

What's life like without breasts? Very empty. As in, when you look at your chest, it is like a blank canvas (with a red line drawn across it). All the tissue is gone. It is hard and flat. You can see your muscles jump if you flex. When you hug someone tight, it hurts them and it hurts you. There is no protective fat tissue left to keep your sternum from pressing into you and the person you're hugging.

We (dw and I) can live without them but we do miss them. She misses them because... well you can fill in the blank. I miss them (because of that too) and because I was so used to them being there. Like you would miss your nose if you looked in the mirror and it was gone one day. I miss cupping them in my hands. Yes, I admit I'm a fat grabber. Like your old man who sits on the couch with his hands gripping his fat belly. I like to do that especially if I'm laying in bed and can't sleep. I like to hold on to my boobs, or my belly fat. Don't ask me why. A comfort thing I guess.

I don't mind so much what I look like in clothes without my boobs. It's not a blank canvas then. So when I picked up my prostheses at Imani's the other day, I was surprised how excited I was! It's like playing dress-up. It's fun to slip on the fake boobs once in awhile even with just a t-shirt. I've worn them to class and just to walk down to the shops. I don't think I'll be wearing them to work because they are fragile and I do a lot of leaning up against the med cart and have to help residents sometimes and I don't want them getting ruined. Besides, it is more comfortable not having to wear a bra. I did wear them to the gym the first day though because I picked them up on my way to physical therapy. One of the bras I got was a sports bra so I tried it out. Much better than I imagined it would be. No slipping or anything. I wondered whether the boobs would ride up but they stayed in place. I wasn't doing anything like zumba or gymnastics. Just basic stuff like the elliptical and some weights but they felt good.

I haven't gotten any comments with or without the fake boobs on, so those of you who are afraid life without boobs will be embarrassing, people don't really notice. I'll post some pics later.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

And the mastectomies were because...?

The pre-employment physical is always a nerve racking time. Used to be the drug test that made me nervous even though I've never done any illegal drugs. You wonder if eating a poppy seed bagel may cause you to flunk it or maybe hanging out too close to someone smoking a happy cig might rub off on you. But ever since I got discriminated at one of these things for my diabetes, I hold my breath until I get the official word that I passed. And as I get older, I have more and more things to hide worry about.

My blood sugars have been really good for the last few months, but of course this morning it was high. This was the day I needed to go get my physical for my new job. Yeah, I'm going to be doing the same thing, but much closer to home. A 5 minute car ride away instead of 40+ minutes. Turns out my boss took a new job right down the street from me, at a place I had tried to get into before I got my current job. They wouldn't take me then, but now I'm in like flynn. So anyways, I have to pass a physical before I get the job. This time the paperwork didn't say anything about a drug test but you never know so I was worried when my sugar was high because if they make you pee in a cup, they might test for sugar. So I stalled and drank a ton of water in hopes of flushing any sugar and ketones out of my system while I loaded up with some insulin. Not sure what happened because it proceeded to get even higher, so continued to drink and wait until it finally came down to a respectable number. Sure enough, when I got there, they made me pee in a cup so they could test for sugar and protein. Doctor didn't mention anything about it so guess it wasn't too off the charts.

Now, my job is pretty physical so they test for a little more than just seeing if you can bend over and touch your toes. Although I did that as well. The paperwork this time wasn't so bad. They did ask if you've ever been hospitalized but they didn't ask why. Most of my surgeries were outpatient so I didn't have to write down "a billion times." Just 2 (because I forgot I was in the hospital when I got diabetes, that was so long ago). It did ask if I had surgeries but it was just a yes or no answer so I didn't need to divulge anything about my thumb surgeries or my most recent broken ankle. I had to take 2 eye tests. Both long distance and near distance. My eyes are changing and if I just wore glasses I'd be in bifocals but it's a little trickier with contacts so it was a little challenging to pass that test. One of my eyes sees better far away and the other sees better up close. And the high blood sugar this morning didn't help matters since it makes my vision worse. But I passed it.

So I'm sitting in the little room wondering what doctor will walk through the door. It always seems to be some old guy that should be retired but must need the money. Today I was blessed with a fairly young female doctor. Went through a battery of tests including walking in a straight line, standing on my heels and then my toes, gripping her finger with my hands, doing some fast movements with my fingers. All stuff that I was able to do since my ankle has loosened up a lot and although my fingers are sore, they aren't locking up most of the time. So time to lay down on the table and get my heart listened to. I could tell that she must have gotten a look at my scars because it seemed like my gown was coming up too high. Don't know why you have to sneak a peek to get the stethoscope over the heart, but whatever. She announces that I have a heart murmur and wonders if I've ever had any problems with it. Um, no. No one has ever said I had a murmur before. And then the question, "And the mastectomies were because...?" Either she knows people get prophylactic mastectomies sometimes or she was wondering if I was going through a sex change. Anyway, I think I passed the physical despite all my physical shortcomings because she congratulated me on my new job. Or she doesn't have the guts to flunk me to my face, like the old dude many years ago who told me I could do anything except be a pilot. And then he told the plant not to hire me because my diabetes could cause me to pass out at any time. Yeah, and so could a bottle of tequila but neither one has yet.

Friday, September 23, 2011

if you can't outrun it, overthrow it

I heard some statistics on the news the other day: 1 in 2 American males and 1 in 3 American females will get some form of cancer at some point in life. And 1 American dies every minute from cancer. Odds are great that you or someone in your family has/had or will have cancer. Sounds pretty hopeless doesn't it? Especially when you take into account that cancer isn't even the leading cause of death in the U.S. (heart disease is).

So what are we supposed to do with this information? Sit around and worry about every ache and pain, lump, cough, odd mole or bruise that pops up? Screw that. Well...please do take precautions such as annual checkups and screenings and do go see your doc if something unusual is going on. Heck, not everyone dies from cancer. The ones that find it early usually fair well. But in between time feel free to follow my 3 step plan to overthrow cancer:

1. Enjoy Life
Do something fun. Today. Follow up with more fun tomorrow. You deserve it. And when you're at work or school or whatever, daydream a little about the next bit of fun you're planning.

2. Love Your Loved Ones
You know those people you used to hang out with all the time before you became an adult and started the 9-5 drudgery and forgot how to enjoy life? Give them a call, or better yet, a skype. Send an email, or better yet, a letter! Spend some time with them, enjoying life together. Remind yourself why you love them and then remind them why you love them.

3. Get Insurance
When cancer hits or some other illness, you sure will appreciate having health insurance! Even better if you can find decent health insurance. It may not seem fair, but even when you have cancer, they expect you to pay for it. And it sure takes a load off your already blown mind not to have to worry about how you are going to pay for surgery or medicine or chemo or radiation. A lot of insurance these days are 80/20 or 70/30. That means you foot the bill for 20 or 30% of a lot of things. I have been lucky to have had a ppo or hmo that paid for 100% for most of my surgeries or tests with small copays.

Now that I look back at things, I think I prefer to stay with an insurance that will pay 100% even if it means I have less doctors to choose from. This broken leg cost over $21,000 (not including the 8 weeks of lost wages). Our out-of-pocket cost has been about $125 so far which includes the visit to the ER, 4 doctor visits and 2 xrays, surgery, crutches and a wheelchair rental, 1 physical therapy session and an ambulance ride. Yep, loving the hmo even more so because it is the cheapest plan offered. Go figure. Now I just need to look into buying some disability insurance because State Disability Insurance doesn't cut it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

guest post: a few words from wondertwin

Today's post is written by my wondertwin. The term "wondertwin" comes from the superheroes cartoon we enjoyed growing up. People often ask me what it's like being a twin. Picture your imaginary friend coming to life. We shadowed each other for the 1st 18 years of life before we went our separate ways to college. We had the same friends, shared a bedroom, birthday cakes and presents and now we share diabetes and a brca mutation.  

Thank you, wt for sharing some of your feelings with us, and your wonderful photos!

A Flood of Emotions
There are some things that we can prepare for and some things that we can’t. I like to think I’m a spontaneous, carefree kind of person, especially since I am young(ish) and single and easily amused. In reality, I am the kind of person who plans ahead… Far, far ahead when I can. When my wondertwin was diagnosed with breast cancer and subsequently found out that she was BRCA2+, I started drafting my game plan before I even had my blood work drawn. Part of my decision to jump right into prophylactic surgery was my 33 year history of type 1 diabetes. I felt that with my extensive family history together with my BRCA2+ status, it was going to be when I get breast cancer, not if I get breast cancer… And one of my thoughts was, “What if I wait so long that when I get cancer, my gastroparesis (diabetic complication) is so bad that I’d aspirate on the table and they won’t let me have surgery?” (Did I tell you that I am a nurse? With an old, though mostly kicked, habit of anticipatory doom?) And so I prepared for avoiding cancer.
Before each surgery (BSO, then PBM, then expander exchange), I planned and planned and planned. At first I thought this was a bad thing even though it wasn’t interfering with work or my social life, but my counselor explained to me that in fact, it was a very good thing for me to be doing. I am prone to anxiety, and by making plans and discussing the procedures and logistics and follow-up, etc. with my physicians and support people, I was able to take some control over what was about to happen to me. The more control I took, the less anxiety I felt. (Which was really needed before the PBM, as my anxiety was batting about a thousand.)
One thing I did between the BSO and the PBM was to get a tattoo! Growing up, I never could imagine myself with a tattoo because I thought I would get bored with it too easily, but then I came across some blog entries by people with diabetes (PWD) who had gotten medic alert tattoos. Since I have evolved greatly since childhood and made peace (mostly) with my diabetes, this really sparked something inside of me. The 1st thing I said when I made up my mind to schedule the PBM was, “If I’m going to get my breasts cut off, then I’m getting a f@*ing tattoo 1st!” And so I researched tattoo artists and diabetes tattoos and came up with a plan. When I described my idea to the artist, this is what he came up with…

Very cute, but definitely not what I was feeling in my heart, and so I hit the drawing board and this is what I ended up with… My tattoo warrior. She is brave and strong and helped me honor my own courage. It was indeed empowering, and I still love it 1 ½ years later. (Side note: the warrior is ripping apart the medical staff and stomping out breast cancer while holding diabetes at bay.)

So when it came time to consider nipple reconstruction, the possibility of 3 D tattoos rather than skin grafts was a consideration. At 1st, I really thought that I would be doing a disservice to any future partner if I failed to get “real” nipples, even though the grafts would never be quite the same as the real things.  But after discussing the pros and cons with friends and family (is that love or what?) and discussing options with my plastic surgeon, I decided it was way more worth it to me to never have to wear a bra again than to have nipples permanently poking out! And it’s my own body, right? More research and more planning (but only a 2 week wait!) and these beauties are what I ended up with… Before tatts, 1 day after, and 1 week after. (Still peeling and healing.)


So where does the flood of emotions come in, and what is it that we can’t always prepare for?
Despite all of my planning and prepping before each surgery, of course there were elements out of my control and unforeseen circumstances that nobody could have completely prepared for. As the day of my tattoos approached, I was so excited I thought I was going to wet myself, yet there were times that I was nearly overwhelmed with sadness. I mentioned to wondertwin that I must be reliving the feelings I had before my PBM, as if I was starting this whole sad mess over again instead of getting my gift wrap and celebrating the end of it all, cancer free and cancer won’t get me.
That morning, I had my purse packed with measuring tape (and instructions from the plastic surgeon on anatomically correct nipple placement), some 3 D temporary nipple tattoos (to assist with size and coloring), my favorite diet Snapple (The Amazing Race), and a snack in case my blood sugar started dropping. I had my glucose meter handy and was even wearing my brand new continuous glucose monitor (CGM) that had arrived the day before. My blood sugar quickly started climbing from a fairly low number in the 70s up into the 200s. I wasn’t anticipating this, but quickly realized that I was feeling as if I was headed off to yet another surgery (and my last one started with a very bad pre-op experience with the anesthesiologist) instead of to my friendly neighborhood tattoo artist who is very, very kind to me. So I wasn’t prepared, yet I was… I was equipped with the knowledge and power to respond to the threat. I calculated a correctional insulin dose and upped the rate on my insulin pump. I tested again when I got to the tattoo parlor and took another insulin dose and guzzled down my diet Snapple to help flush out any ketones that might be lurking about. I checked my CGM receiver often and took my blood sugar reading when my tattoo artist stopped to mix new colors. It took some time, but eventually everything evened out. (The peach dumplings that night certainly didn’t help. Oh yeah, the dough was made from potatoes!)
We can’t anticipate everything that is going to happen to us in life, but we can take what has happened to us in the past and learn from it and apply it to the future. I am lucky to be surrounded by people who love me enough to share their experiences with me and who allow me to share mine with them… Sometimes the best laid plans really DO work out.

The hospital where I had all of my surgeries had to be evacuated in 2006 during the “100 year flood”. A plan was developed which involved erecting a 7 million dollar flood wall around the hospital, which was completed earlier this year. A week after my tattoos were done another flood, even more damaging than that in 2006, hit the area and 20,000 people in the county were evacuated. The hospital was saved and remains open during the state of emergency.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

guest post: David Haas on the Benefits of Cancer Support Networks

Today's post features a guest post by David Haas who blogs as a cancer patient advocate on the Haas BlaagDavid's post talks about the many benefits of cancer support networks and includes several links to places where you can find support. On a personal level, I've found message boards, blogs and cancer sites a great place to sound off, seek comfort,  find hope, gain knowledge on treatment options, share advice and learn about new research. 

Thank's David!

Benefits Of Cancer Support Networks

Cancer is a hard, ugly disease. Dealing with a cancer diagnosis, painful symptoms, and aggressive treatment can take a huge toll on a person’s physical and emotional health. Whether someone is facing a treatable skin malignancy or a grim mesothelioma prognosis, it can be hard to cope with cancer alone.

The cancer experience is different for everyone, and no two cases are alike. But the common thread among cancer survivors is the need for a strong support system. No scientific evidence supports the claim that cancer support groups can extend survival time, according to the
American Cancer Society. But research suggests that support groups can enhance a person’s life quality.

Relationship And Rapport

While most patients have doctors, family members, and friends who support them, they can most benefit from the support of someone who has been there. Talking to other cancer patients offers a relationship that cannot be established with someone who has not gone through the cancer experience.

Cancer support groups provide the special relationships and rapport that patients need to cope with their disease. Group members can exchange firsthand advice, suggestions, and tips that doctors and supportive loved ones simply cannot share.

Hope And Optimism

Talking with someone who survived cancer to live a healthy, vibrant life offers hope. It helps patients feel more optimistic during treatment and recovery. Support group members describe their discussions with cancer survivors as encouraging, uplifting, and inspiring.

Anonymity And Honesty

Community support networks meet in hospitals, schools, churches, community centers, and homes. They are ideal for becoming more involved within the local cancer community. On the other hand, online support groups offer unique benefits that in-person groups cannot provide. People with cancer often prefer online networks over face-to-face groups. Online cancer support takes the form of blog posts, discussion forums, message boards, and chat rooms populated by cancer patients and survivors.

Since the Internet is an anonymous venue, many people with cancer prefer this type of support. Anonymity enables people to get comfortable enough to share their feelings honestly and openly. The Internet also requires writing, and the process of writing about cancer is an excellent therapeutic tool.

Cancer support groups are ideal for people with any type of cancer including colon cancer, rare aggressive diseases like
mesothelioma, breast cancer, or other malignancies. Not only do these groups teach valuable coping skills, but they also provide some emotional stability for those struggling in an unsteady world of cancer.  Below is a list of some great online cancer support groups:

By: David Haas

Thursday, August 25, 2011

shaken up

I got a text yesterday from wt saying she "felt" it but everything was fine. She's in NY and felt the VA quake. Then last nite we felt one here in CA and felt another one just a few minutes ago. I know a lot of west coasters are making fun of the panic on the east coast because we are used to tremors but c'mon, they are scary! Yeah, I am not a true west coaster having only lived here about 6 years out of my life. I also feel very vunerable right now with the broken leg. Although I finally started walking yesterday without the aide of crutches I still can't get around very well and still need the crutches outside on my hilly street. As I cower under the door jamb, I am reminded that we have no evacuation plan. We've got no emergency cash on hand, our important papers are scattered around, not much extra water, medicine all over the place. I need to at least put together a grab bag of extra diabetic supplies which is easy enough to do since I order everything in a 90 day supply. I can't live without that junk and big quakes and fires have happened here so best be ready.

The past few weeks I've been shaken up on another level. I had my annual eye exam with dilation. This is where they check my eyes for diabetic changes among other things. I've had some retinopothy in the past. Not a great thing to have but nothing too serious and as my eye doc said, it would be unusual for someone who's had diabetes for 26 years not to have some problems. But this time they saw something that looked a little worse. A possible neovascularization. This is when the eye starts making new blood vessels because it isn't getting enough oxygen. The problem is that the new vessels are weaker and can leak and damage the retina and cause blindness. So they wanted me to follow up with another doc in 6 weeks. I only waited 3 weeks cuz I was so scared. Blindness is my biggest fear and something that always lurks in the back of my mind. The doc told me today that not all diabetics get serious problems. Maybe 1 in 10. I'm not sure if that statistic is proven but it does give me some hope. The great news is that my eye problems are not advanced. I'm still in the watch and see phase. Keep my blood glucose in tight control and this spot may dry up on its own. So I'll go back in 6 months and have it checked again. And in the meantime, I have to step up my game. I already do the right thing by checking my sugars several times a day and never skipping a shot but now I have to make some sacrifices. Clean up some bad eating habits, log my carbs and glucose numbers, work on consistency and maybe even make the move to an insulin pump. Lots of hard work but I'm too young to lose my eyes.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

life in the slow lane

It's been over two weeks now since I broke my leg and nothing much has changed since my last post. My ass is still sore and I'm still bored. I think boredom is relative. Once school starts again and my leg is healed enough to go back to work, I'm sure I'll long for these care free days of being a couch potato! I do have some productive things I could be working on but instead I watch garbage tv all day, play computer games, surf the web, watch movies and netflix streaming, play with my legos (thanks wt) and read.

I do manage to get out on occasion for some fun, thanks to the wheelchair provided by my insurance and my loving driver, dw:) Did she once write a guest post saying that I wasn't good at asking for help?! My how times have changed! This will be the 1st time ever in her almost 40 year existence that she will be happy when summer "vacation" is over!

Since I've been on the crutches and in the wheelchair, I've learned some stuff. Like people are pretty decent. Lots of them give me smiles and rush to get the door or give me some words of encouragement. I've even been prayed for twice. One man said "Dear Lord, please heal this guy's leg." Uh, thanks? Can't get too upset with that since I was disguised as a guy in my hat, shades and unbumpy chest.

I am lucky in that being stuck in a chair is temporary. While we have scored a couple of nice parking spots because of the leg, it is not an easy life for those with permanent challenges. Yes, the stores and restaurants have to have a handicapped bathroom but try squeezing through a crowded cafe to get to it in a wheelchair. And try getting through some heavy doors on your crutches when there is no magic button that will open them for you. Try getting around in the hills of oakland or streets of san francisco. I won't even try that! It's kind of scary being pushed around in a chair. Now I know how one of my residents felt when she said "I feel like I'm in a horse race." She wanted me to slow down when I was pushing her chair. The world moves fast when you're on oxy!

It hasn't been all bad. DW and I have never had this much time together before. She's by my side almost 24/7 and we are still on excellent speaking terms. She has been so patient with me and I haven't acted too badly, mostly. We look forward to watching ellen reruns every day at 4 and just laughed our asses off at the halloween episode of modern family.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

my ass hurts

Ouch. I've been sitting on my ass for three days now. Ever since I broke my leg on sunday. Yeah I broke my fucking leg. How? I was jogging. Yeah. Fucking jogging. I've played sports since I was practically a baby. Skating, sledding, skiing, rugby, soccer, softball, basketball, volleyball, tennis, snowboarding, street football, british bulldog, mountain biking. I've tried just about everything and I've never broken anything (besides a couple of toes). I didn't know it was even possible to break a leg by jogging. I asked the ortho if maybe my bones are soft from menopause but he said they look fine and it was the force that broke my fibula, not weak bones. I guess it is possible but why couldn't I have broken it by doing something cooler, like mountain biking? I went biking twice last week and that would have made a better story.

So now I have to hobble back to the damn hospital and have surgery. Then nurse the damn thing for 4-6 weeks. I have a transverse, displaced fracture of the fibula. Not supposed to put weight on it so looks like I will be out of work for awhile. That is the problem with having a physical job. When you get hurt, you can't work. My doctor wants me to elevate my leg at least 45 minutes of every hour. I am on my feet all day at work and even if I just pass meds, I need to stand in order to get the meds out of our cart so it isn't going to work out. I hope to be able to get disability while I'm off. I wasn't able to for my june surgery because I hadn't been working in california long enough but now that it is july, I think I will qualify. Even if I didn't have to worry about work, there is the stress of sitting around for 4-6 weeks doing nothing. What to do? I played wii, watched tons of stuff on netflix, wrote in my journal, made some phone calls, read, colored and played computer games. That was all on the first day. Now what??? I'm bored and dw is getting tired of me asking for things every five minutes. Yeah, used to try and do everything on my own and not ask for help. That was like three surgeries ago. I am worried about getting fat and out of shape. Please give me suggestions if you know how to work out without standing up. I need to do something! Maybe I will take this time to learn spanish. Maybe. I do hate studying but maybe if I mix the books in with some spanish soap operas it just might work.

So how did it happen? I hadn't been running since before my boob surgery for one reason or another. Tired from working, blister, lazy, etc. We went biking on saturday and dw is training for a triathlon so we decided to go for a run on sunday. We chose to hit the trails instead of the paved route around the lake. We have some beautiful trails nearby that are great for hiking or running in and go there pretty often. It can be steep and full of tree roots but it hasn't been a problem before. Even for dw who has bad ankles. We walked into the woods for the first five minutes to warm up then started jogging. My ankle actually rolled a little right away and I laughed it off and said to myself that I never get ankles are so tough! Then ran another ten yards or so downhill and my ankle rolled so bad I didn't think it would stop and the pain was immediate. I hopped on my right foot until I came to a stop and haven't put the left foot on the ground since. So there we were, maybe 1/2 mile from the car in the middle of the woods, at the bottom of a hill. I tried hopping back to the car with dw supporting me, and then with a passerby helping but it was too hard. DW wanted to put me on her back and carry me but I wouldn't let her. I was in too much pain and didn't want her to hurt me or herself. I asked her to please just call an ambulance. That is a good sign of how much pain I was in because I hate asking for help but there I was begging for an ambulance. She had to go run back to the parking lot and try and get reception. Luckily, someone was there with a verizon phone and was able to get help. As I lay on the ground waiting, I wished that I had been carrying my pain meds left over from my last surgery.  Many people walked past me and asked if I had help coming. A couple people just ignored me. Nice. Finally, the parks people rolled up in their mule (fancy golf cart) and carted me off to the parking lot where an ambulance came to get me. I was their second victim of the day and they treated a third as I got looked at by the paramedics. Busy day.

Once again, I have many people taking care of me. Especially my dear wife. I was already wondering what I should get for her for taking such good care of me in june. I was just starting to help out again at home but now I can do even less than before. She is waiting on me hand and foot. Kind of hard to even cook for yourself when you need crutches to get around. And I can't even take the dog out. It's hard enough for me to get myself down the stairs. Thank goodness she has summers off from work. I don't know what I'd do without her.

Seriously, I need to find some kind of cushion for my ass. It is killing me.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I am the lucky one

I've always felt that one day I will win the lottery. It is my destiny. I lead an enchanted life. Always have. When I'd go to the carnivals and play the roulette games, I'd clean up on prizes. Once I went to see a college basketball game and bought a raffle ticket and won a $500 scholarship for college. Good things happen to me and bad things mostly bounce off of me. One time I was riding my bike home when I noticed a car up ahead barreling down a side street towards the road I was on. I had the right of way but decided to stop because I had a bad feeling. The car slammed on its brakes and came to a stop 2 lanes into the oncoming traffic. I have been hit twice on my bike by cars but both times it was just a tap and not enough to hurt me.

One year I almost died 3 times in a matter of months. I say almost because if things happened slightly different, I might not be here. The 1st was as I was just starting to turn left into a parking spot in a narrow alley when a car blew by me out of nowhere, passing me on my left. Saved from impact and sure death by a mere split second. The second time was when I was riding my bike to work and flew over my handlebars landing head first. Thanks be to something it was a rare day in which I was wearing a helmet. I may not have died but I'm sure it would have at least fucked up my weekend! (I have worn a helmet ever since). And the third was the bank robbery. Woman on my left killed, man on my right shot. I walked away with a bandaid.

Just yesterday I avoided a potential accident on my way to work bright and early in the morning. A cop car passed me with their lights flashing and then started swerving all over the highway. No one was in front of me and I was afraid he was trying to pull me over in some strange manner but turns out that he/she was just trying to stop traffic. Up ahead, in the lane that I had been speeding in was a car that had spun out and was blocking one and a half lanes. It was dark and the highway was curvy. The cop did succeed in stopping traffic and we all passed the accident safely. Luck runs through my veins.

And of course when it comes to cancer and this brca mutation, I am one of the lucky ones. My cancer was found so early that I always clarify to people, when they find out, that it was not "serious." Of course it was serious to me and my family and resulted in doing some things that I didn't want to but to the general public it is not the cancer that one thinks of. I did not lose my hair or throw up from chemo (just pain meds and anesthesia). I was never sickly. It hasn't spread. No one told me I was going to die. I didn't have radiation. I didn't even sacrifice any lymph nodes. I had just a touch of cancer in each boob. Just enough that I don't have to do much explaining when people find out about my double mastectomy. I just say I had cancer. And if they ask why I got rid of both boobs I just explain that I had it in both breasts. They accept that answer without any questions. My wondertwin and others like her don't have it so easy. They don't always know how to explain their surgeries. They even get some people treating them rudely because they don't understand why someone would cut off their boobs if they didn't even have cancer. Some cancer survivors or their families treat them harshly because they think they are trying to steal some of their sympathy, I guess? Who is to say whose pain or suffering is worse than another's anyway?! I have to thank my sis-in-law who always supported me during my diagnosis and surgeries despite the fact that her cancer was much worse than mine. Her "lumpectomy" ended up taking most of her breast and her cancer was stage 3 which led to radiation and some awful chemo. She never denied me my pain and anguish.

My poor sis just did a breast cancer walk and when asked at the registration if she was a survivor, she replied that she was a previvor. They looked at her like she was some kind of idiot and she walked away feeling very bad and alone in a sea of pink. But then she remembered that her friends, who raised $20,000 for the cause, were there because of her and for her. My sis and others like her have my utmost admiration. She may not get a pink t-shirt at the walks but I got her a much better shirt that I found at target. We all make tough choices in life. They are choices we have to live with and no one needs to judge us for them. Here is an article that some of you may find inspiring or help you justify your  surgery decisions to others. And hugs to all of you going through something difficult.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

post-surgery pics: unconstructed

It's been 5+ weeks since my surgery. Wow, time does fly! I've already been back to work for over a week now and things are going well there. I was worried that I might not be ready for physical labor because I still haven't reached my full range of motion and I still have some sensitive spots left over from surgery. But I have to say that I think work loosened up things a lot. I haven't been stretching diligently so being active has helped. I don't know if it is a coincidence, but the loosening up also coincided with a decrease in sensitivity. Post-surgery, my skin around the scar, as well as in the areas that tissue was removed was painful to the slightest touch. I still have a couple of sore spots which could be bruising or maybe adhesions and just a little bit of tightness left across my chest. I go to physical therapy tomorrow and hopefully will get some exercises to do so I can get all my range of motion back. Other than that, I think I am all back to normal. Normal. As in pre-brca normal. I feel normal. Normal, normal, normal. It feels good to move on. No more doctors, no more tests, no more cancer boobs to check. Well, still need to feel the leftovers up once in awhile but really not much to worry about anymore. I do miss them in the bedroom but c'est la vie. It has not affected me mentally as much as I feared. I have not been horrified to look at myself in the mirror or walk around my house without a shirt on. We (dw and I) are already pretty used to the new look. It is a leaner, harder look. No fatty flesh up top. I look kind of like a prepubescent girl (with a middle age gut).

I have attached a bunch of pics, mainly for those who are also considering the no reconstruction route. I have taken some in a swimsuit and swim shirt because of something my previous surgeon said. She told me that many young women are not happy without reconstruction and that one of the things they were uncomfortable with was how they would look in a swimsuit. Ha! How many women really are comfortable in a swimsuit regardless of breast surgery??? I can say I've never been overjoyed in a one -piece. I only wear those to the gym and then pull my towel off at the last minute and melt into the safety of the water. Once in the water, I figure the distortion will make everything look fine. Don't correct me if I'm wrong. Other than that, I like to wear board shorts and a bikini top or shirt at the beach. I've tried on my bikini tops and don't think even the tightest sports bra type will stay put with much movement because there is nothing to hold it there. I think a tankini will work just fine and the surf shirt is a definite go. You can see my scar and drain scar sticking out from my one-piece but the fit is still good over all. If showing scars concerns you, look for a suit with more coverage. Also remember that the scars will flatten out and fade with time. As for t-shirts, the ones that were a little too big before are way too big now. My belly is more noticeable now, at least to me. It always stuck out a little. I think my sternum juts out a lot now but I know what to look for. I haven't noticed too many people staring at me like I'm a freak so that is a good sign.