Sunday, October 31, 2010

No Boo Hoo-ing Allowed!

from our house to yours


I know I left you hanging, and will finish the rest of Flopsy and Mopsy's journey to The Kingdom of Lost Breasts.  It's Halloween though, and I had to show you the surprise that waited for me when I got home from the hospital.

Batman and Baby Bear put out the Halloween decorations and vacuumed and tidied up the house before we arrived home.  A fire was burning in the fireplace, and the entry hall mirror was decorated with a sign that said "Welcome Home Mom."




Batman took full responsibility for the Halloween setup this year, something I usually do with a passion, for each holiday.  It was great to pull up to the house and see everything out in the yard.  Today he added the finishing touches, and I admit, I watched him from Robin's bedroom window which overlooks the front yard.  It was great to see him out there, fussing over everything, just like I would have done.  Occasionally he'd stand out in the street to get a full view of his handiwork, just like I would have done.

I imagined him doing this for his kids someday, and was really proud and tickled with him.





The Nightmare Before Christmas has always been a favorite in our house.



As children walked up the path to trick or treat at our house tonight, all kinds of sounds greeted them - Michael Jackson's Thriller, Disney's Haunted Mansion, and Oogie Boogie's Theme from A Nightmare Before Christmas.

It was the first year I didn't do a thing, the boys did it all.  Husband bought the candy and picked up our dinner tonight and shuffled Robin around.  Batman and Baby Bear answered the door and handed out the treats.  Robin's contribution was trick or treating with friends, and filling half a pillowcase of all our favorites, in miniature.

From my room upstairs, which is right above the living room and front door, I could hear the kids exclaim "trick or treat!"  I got up to peek a few times, and happened to catch the most adorable toddler, dressed as a little skeleton, held up by his Mom's fingers on the front step.

I remember our first Halloween in this house.  Batman was only a week old, and I pushed him in his stroller around the neighborhood while his cousins trick or treated.  Crazy lady, after just having a C-section but I was on a cloud that night.  Tonight my now 6 foot baby greeted trick or treaters in his Batman snuggie.

It was great that the traditions of our house, which I am usually the President of, went on without me, without a hitch.

It made me very happy.  Very happy.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Farewell Two Fat Bunny Sisters

First of all,

I missed you too.

Second of all, (she laughs maniacally),

I thought five months of chemo was a test of my endurance and will.

Third of all,

Remember what Nietzsche said "That which does not kill us strengthens us"?

I am getting pretty close to the threshold.

Having survived the wait, we headed in to the hospital Tuesday morning.

Miraculously, with a capital "M," I woke up resolved.  I did not feel any lingering grief.  My "git her done" mode, the one I'm famous for, kicked in big time.  We arrived at the hospital, waited to be checked in, then waited to be check in to surgery after that.

A nurse came in to ask me a few questions, making sure I hadn't eaten or drank anything since midnight.  I hadn't, well except for a piece of sugarless gum a few minutes before she came in the room.  She seemed slightly perturbed at the gum thing.

Come on, sugar free!

She got her tray of torture ready to start my IV, then started her search for a good vein.

Good luck Lady.

"I think I will have my Charge Nurse start your IV, I just don't see anything good."

That would become the omen for the day.

Soon after, a very young resident who would be assisting The Wizard with my surgery, came in to introduce himself.  He sure reminded me of 6C, Midge's fiance, who is a Disney animator.  I wasn't listening much to him, his mannerisms were so much like 6C.  He talked as I imagined The Wizard cutting, while his assistant, 6C, sketched Pooh Bear in various poses all over Flopsy and Mopsy.

"Any questions?" he asked.

Nope.  It was hard to take him seriously!  Where's your beanie, man?

Husband and I waited, painfully, until they finally came to get me.  Surgery was scheduled for 12:30 p.m.; it was about 12:40.  They lead Husband to the surgical waiting room, and he gave me a quick peck and said "Good luck."

"Wait I wasn't ready..." I thought.

That's what I always used to say when he'd give me a kiss, just to get a second one out of it.

They lead me through large double doors that swing open into the surgical suite.  It seemed weird I had to walk there myself.  Soon enough I'll be in a wheel chair.  The nurse showed me into a small room divided by cubicles; all kinds of surgical patients filled the labyrinth, all waiting their turn.  She showed me into the cubicle all the way at the back, and said the anesthesiologist would be right with me.

I sat in the little cubicle, about 4'X4', and that's when it hit me.

You are doing this.  Right now.  You are alone.  This is happening.  It's up to you now.  You have to rely on you.

I do what I always do when nervous.  I hummed.

"Think of a wonderful thought, any happy little thought, think of Christmas, think of snow..."

From Peter Pan, you know, You Can Fly.

I took a deep breath and was about to lose it, I don't know, bawl or vomit, one or the other, but the anesthesiologist interrupted me.

He was cute, mid-forties, dirty blond curly hair, a nice watch on one wrist, a little macrame rope on the other.  Seconds away from getting her boobs scooped out, but still noticing the smallest details about this man's hands.  That's how I roll.

He was nice.  We chatted.  I made him laugh.

I could probably make the lynch man at my hanging laugh.  That's how I roll.

He left and the OR nurse came back to lead me to the operating room.

I had to walk there too.  What the hell?

Roll me in people.

Roll me in and drop pieces of lobster dripping in butter into my mouth, for what I'm paying for this little spa visit.

I walked in to the party that was already in progress; they were all laughing and having fun.

You people are at a funeral for two cute fat bunnies, what in the hell are you laughing at?
 
The Wizard sat on a stool to the left of the operating table, and introduced me as I walked in.

"Everyone, this is Mrs. Clay, and she likes me" and he grinned sheepishly as they all laughed louder

He got a smile out of me with that one.  It wasn't long though, they would all stop laughing, and my veins would ruin their little party.

The anesthesiologist was in charge of starting my IV.

"Ah" I thought, "This will be a piece of cake and I'll be asleep before you know it.  Thank you Jesus!"

Fast forward forty-five minutes, he couldn't find a vein, and not for lack of trying and torturing me, all up and down my hands and arms.

When they started checking my feet, tears rolled down my face.  I remember looking up at the OR ceiling and bright lights, and thinking "This can't be happening..."

The Wizard rubbed my foot, stood up, came over to my left hand and gently turned it up and over to search for a vein.

The last thing I remember was The Wizard's voice saying he got one in, but it was only good enough to get me asleep...

Husband would later tell me he waited nervously as the time passed long after I should have been done.  When The Wizard finally came to talk to him in the surgical waiting room almost two hours late, he explained to Husband they had a hard time finding a vein.  They got me asleep using the one he started, and while prepping me for surgery, moved the IV to a better spot.

My neck.

Are u effing kidding me?  Wasn't my little thumb used in chemo enough?  My neck?

You ever had an IV in your damn neck?  It sucks.  It still sucks a few days out, and looks like one of the vampires got me good.  It hurts.

Husband says they got me into my room a little after 6 p.m.; he says I was awake.

I don't remember any of it till I looked up at the clock in the room; it was 10 p.m.

The first conscious thought I could remember was "What the hell is this in my neck?"

I got my bearings, realized where I was, realized it was done.

I lifted up my hospital gown and saw drains where once two fat mischievous bunnies lived.

Holy mama.

Flat as a countertop.

Miraculously, I felt relieved.

Flopsy and Mopsy were left behind in the Kingdom of Lost Breasts.  I loved them.  I did not miss them.

I felt relief, and

what the hell is this thing in my neck?

Can I eat now?



 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Stirring

I have thought about you so often since early Tuesday morning.

There is so much to tell you, my friend.

I have been there and come back from my journey to The Kingdom of Lost Breasts.

I have not had the strength or the focus to tell you the tale. 

Some of it was lost to me, only slowly recalled, recounted to me by my body.

For now, I can only let you know I am here, regrouping,

wings still wet.

Monday, October 25, 2010

First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, Then comes Baby in a Batmobile

My favorite photo of us, shopping in Mexico, freshman year of college



It was our Senior year in high school, and we were good friends when he declared his feelings for me in a letter, handwritten on lined college rule paper.  He was quite chivalrous, saying he would give me space from our friendship because his feelings had changed, into something romantic.

I said "Let's see what happens..."

It's hard to find the words to thank a man who has been my companion and closest friend for thirty five years, married twenty four of those today.

He knows the best of me.  He has seen the worst of me. 

In the best of times, created a home together, had two wonderful sons, travelled to places we dreamt of like New Zealand, and Tahiti and London and Paris.

We thought we were invincible.

In the worst of times, we faced financial hardship, buried my Mother, and years later his Father.

We lived and tested and succeeded and failed every vow; we aced some; we are still recovering from others.

We have known for richer and poorer, and back again, and back again.

We have known the blessing of health, and the fear and uncertainty of sickness.

My Mother lived with us in the last days before she died of renal cell cancer at age 46.  Husband did everything he could to help her and help me.

I have vivid memories of him gingerly carrying my Mom up and down the stairs of our small Sausalito apartment, when she could not walk.  He was very patient with her, and believe me, her wounded child self  required a deep well of patience.

Twenty years after my Mom's death, we faced another cancer diagnosis.

One we never imagined.

Mine.

Sometimes I don't know which one of us has the harder job facing this challenge.

He cannot do this for me, but would if he could.  I can't imagine what it must feel like to see your partner go through something so challenging and often gut wrenching and can do nothing but be there.  I don't know what it must feel like to fear a future that could be lived without your partner.  I don't know what it must feel like to lose a part of your partner's body that was one of your favorites.

All I know is he keeps showing up, day after day, year after year, treatment after treatment, he gets it right, he gets it wrong, through the glory and the devastation.

He keeps showing up.

For me.

For his family.

A deal is a deal.

He is the real deal.


Today is also our son Batman's twentieth birthday. I'd like to say we planned it that way, but I suppose it was planned for us.  Seems like yesterday he was tiny enough to bathe in my bathroom sink, and I could hold him in one hand while rinsing with the other.  Look at him now.





He is the drummer in the video on the far right with shades on, buff black body with my blond highlights, wearing the white shoes his Dad and I bought him when mid tour he said he needed new ones, the turquoise shorts and hands getting ready to move lickety split.  

That's him, my baby, Batman, and he turns twenty today.

Batman is a snare player extraordinaire, one of only nine on the World Champion Concord Blue Devils.  Who would have imagined he would surpass his Dad's licks on a drum?

He is all kinds of man, but this is what I love most about him.

He is the kind of big brother anyone would dream of - protector, teacher, consoler, leader.

He has a heart of mush for animals; that toddler who constantly sought kisses from the cat grew up to be a man who will not hesitate to go out of his way to rescue a lost pet.

He is a kind and thoughtful and committed boyfriend.

He is a silent warrior who is still Peter Pan at heart.  What a joy to see all six foot of him tonight in his birthday Batman snuggie, carrying his favorite present, a Nerf gun given to him by Baby Bear.

It amazing to see our children a composite of us.

Their best is way better.

Their worst is better too.

For all that we have done, none of it was ever done better than these two boys, Batman and Robin.

I think it was another miracle that the day that proceeded tomorrow was today.

A family day.

A reminder of what is sacred and ordinary and perfect in all its misses and imperfections.

A family.

Amen.











Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Flopsy and Mopsy Chronicles

My Mom took me to Sears to get my first training bra.  I was so excited.  It was white and rather industrial, except for some small fabric flowers in the center between the cups.  I was proud of it and that I had something to put in it.

By the time I got to Jr. High, or what they now call Middle School, I was already stacked.  Having ample breasts at that age was brutal; I did everything I could to downplay them, and continued do so well into my forties.  I was shocked and embarrassed the first time an adolescent boy pointed towards one of my girls and said "Is that something on your sweater?"  As I looked down to see what was there, he said "Right there" and gave my breast a sharp poke with his index finger and laughed mockingly.  I was so hurt and ashamed.

It only happened once.  There were a few times that school year I slapped some hands away who really were trying to tell me something was on my sweater and would not ever have poked.

I remember early in high school, the first time being felt up, having my bra hooks undone by someone other than myself, feeling excited and afraid in his room.  When he saw my girls and touched them, he cried, and I felt so moved and yet, POWERFUL.

It was not until college I bought my first lingerie, having always been modest and covered up, it was exciting to see myself look SEXY.

When I was pregnant, my feelings about my girls changed from identifying them as sensual to some kind of mother holy.  Breastfeeding is not easy to learn, it requires a fair amount of patience, and a considerable amount of pain in the beginning.  I don't think I ever felt more complete in my life, having one of those baby boys cooing and gurgling away on my nipple, a little hand resting gently on me.  Something primitive and instinctual came on strong; I felt completely satisfied.  During pregnancy and while nursing was the most beautiful I ever felt, one of the few times in a lifetime of zaftig I embraced my voluptuous curves and jiggles.

Breasts made me feel sexy and grown-up, other times motherly and pure.

Flopsy and Mopsy have been a large part of identifying myself as a girl, and a woman.

Without hair and buxom bosom, it feels as if I will walk through the world in a way foreign to me, more human than woman.

I think every woman understands the ways we rely on them to say something about us, and enchant those we hope to enchant.

Enchantment is based on illusion, and men are visual creatures.  You do the math baby.

As women, we use all kinds of illusions to enhance and hide our truest selves.  Our hair, our clothes, our makeup, our body shape and weight.

Are we afraid without these, who would love us?  Desire us?

We've been trained we are not deserving of love and adoration without them.

I know the first time I look at myself, breastless, will be a blow.  I'm not ashamed of that or need to make apologies.  Flopsy and Mopsy have been very important to me.  I grieve   losing them.  I will not grieve cutting out the vessels of my cancer.

I realize there is a me that is me, that my body has no claim to.

It speaks to you in this blog.

Bodyless it weaves words into poetry, and strings notes into melodies, revealing its truest self.

I know there is nothing I will lose on Tuesday that will diminish this writer girl that dreams.

It's just I will miss them.

Flopsy and Mopsy.

Mine.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chutes and Ladders

"It's my party and I'll  cry if I want to" she sings out loud.

I did some of that today.  A little crying party.  Husband and Batman were at work.  Robin was riding around as the Headless Horseman in World of Warcraft.  I felt myself getting really sleepy, needing my bed.  I went upstairs to my room, crawled in between cream flannel sheets, hugged my pillow and cried.

It's weird the things you think about, like last night when I thought "My last Friday night with Flopsy and Mopsy."  Goofy.

Today I did not have a specific thought that called me back to bed, just the need to hide under the blankets on this gray rainy day.  I cried for a little while, and eventually fell asleep in my self pity.

I had some strange dreams, only one I vividly recalled.  In my dream everything was just as it was; I thought I was awake.  I was in my bed waking from a nap, and looked up to see the rocking chair in my room, gently rocking.  There is no rocking chair in my room, but in my dream there was and it belonged there.

On its own and with no one in it, the old fashioned wooden chair rocked back and forth.  A slow steady rock and I watched it, the me in the dream, and the me watching the dream.  I wondered who it was, that I could not see, rocking there.  I woke up and looked for the chair, then realized it was a dream.

Most of today I felt very sleepy and groggy, and only revived when my cell showed Midge calling.  She and her fiance, 6C, are here to scout places for their wedding in the Napa Valley next Fall.  I answered and the happiness in her voice gave me a respite from the little black cloud that followed me today.

There is nothing specific to this worry or sadness, it just is.  It is not easy, the waiting for what is still so hard to believe is so.  The waiting is the worst.

I am doing my usual MO during stress; I get small and quiet and spare of movement. I find myself drifting in many melancholy directions.

Today I thought about the five stages of grief, as written about by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying.  I first learned about this twenty years ago; the book recommended by a hospice worker when my Mom was dying.

The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

The order was a little different for me, I started with bargaining in the two weeks waiting for my diagnosis.

"No God, no, don't even tell me this is cancer.  Please.  Please God.  No."

Panic. Panic. Panic. Sh-h-h. I hear a voice say. Sh-h-h. I get quiet. Yeah, I said all kinds of prayers. I focused on white light. I tried to bargain with God. I talked to my boob. I told myself the good ol don't worry about what you don't know until you have somethin to worry about. You know like when you were little and your Dad says for the millionth time to your brother "Don't cry or I'll give you somethin to cry about."  from one of my early blog posts

Then denial was the next stop.

"What do you mean I have breast cancer?  Huh?  What?  That can't be right.  I drink green tea.  I breast fed my boys.  I  eat my vegetables and almonds and take my vitamins.  What EXACTLY do you mean when you say I have breast cancer? As in, I have cancer?  That can't be right.  I don't get sick.  I have always been a healthy person.  I hardly ever catch a cold. 

What do you mean I have breast cancer?  God, this can't be right, this can't be right.  Are they right God?"

Next stop, anger.  That's when I developed such a taste for the eff word and hollandaise.  I couldn't stay there long.  It didn't help.  It didn't change anything.  It made me even more miserable.  I vowed to switch to gratefulness every time I felt anger coming on.

Depression followed each time the bliss of denial was laughed at by reality.  Every diagnostic test, every poke, every time receiving chemo or whipping out Flopsy and Mopsy to get felt up again, was like hearing the diagnosis all over again.

"You have cancer."

Reality cannot be denied as your blood fills a tube to be tested if you can still receive chemo to kill a monster that lurks in your body.

Reality cannot be denied when you attempt to draw in eyebrows, or try to comb hair that really isn't long enough yet to comb. 

Denial runs with its tail between its legs, as reality holds the door open for depression.  Come in.  Little bits.  Little bits I cried leaving the lab, leaving chemo, looking at myself in the mirror, trying on a wig.  Little bits.

Even the good things, another card or blog comment received, sending me love and prayers, triggered tears, gratefulness and then reality again, and opening the door to greet grief.

It will be some time before I reach acceptance.  It will never be ok.  I will learn though, in time, how to live with it, how to embrace what has happened to me and my new life and body.

Many Sisters have said acceptance is a lifelong path.  I can understand that.

It's how I feel about the people I love who died.  You never get over it.  You learn to live with it.  Some times you can be so far out and then the smallest thing happens, a sound or a smell.  You land on that square and you feel solid ground leave as you slide down the chute, and land several spaces back.  You continue on, sometimes landing on a space that leads to a ladder, but more often I think in life, landing on a square attached to a chute.

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

When you look at the whole board that represents your life, it's not really about the chutes or the ladders, but those moments when you are standing on a square and committed, despite how the game has gone so far, to move towards the next square.

Sometimes, it is an amazing moment of grace, when what you thought was a chute was actually a ladder, you just didn't know it at the time, cause it felt and looked so much like a chute.

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Maybe,

just maybe,

the purpose of this sacred ordinary human life

is about getting to a place of spirit

where you can view every single thing that happens in your life

as a ladder.

A ladder.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Please Check Your Arrogance, What size Humility do you Need?

I met with The Good Witch today, to talk about where I am physically, one month out from finishing chemo.  All my favorites were there today, Hello Vonda, and I was able to hug and talk to Kitty for the first time since finishing chemo.  It was great to see everyone.

It's strange now, going there, as if I don't belong anymore.  I am not sure how to articulate this; for awhile the Cancer Center felt like a second home, so familiar.

I felt like an outsider today.

I suppose that is a good thing.

It was strange though.

The Good Witch bounded into the exam room, I think my blood pressure drops 15 points any time I see her.  I talked about where I am at this point physically, and my concerns about it.

The only progress I've made is regarding my menopausal symptoms.  I believe the Sam-e has almost completely alleviated all my menopausal symptoms.  I am not flashing everywhere, no more night sweats, no more manic mood swings, no more fantasies of making contact with a cast iron skillet in my hand.

The neuropathy is stubborn and has not budged.  Although I had one toe wake up, the pain and numbness in the pads of both feet is chronic.  My hands too.

Even the doggies in this house know "Lay in the kitchen at your own risk when Mama is unloading the dishwasher."

I still have swelling in my hands and right arm.  The eye twitch, which seemed better for awhile, is back and sometimes involuntarily closes my eye.  It's a weird sensation.  It's like someone has a string tied to my eyelid and pulls it shut against my will.  I am able to open it, but sometimes it slams shut again!

I have muscle fatigue every day.  It's similar to that feeling you get before the flu, when you feel achy achy all over.  The muscles in my arms and legs feel very sore and tired.

The Good Witch listened and made notes and basically affirmed what I thought she would probably say.  I need to give it more time.  It may be several months before these symptoms let up; nerve damage is slow to heal.  She said there are medications she could prescribe, but those all come with their own side effects.  She felt it best if we just give it more time and see what happens.

She concurred that exercise is always a good thing, and that some of the muscle fatigue could be from the months of being mostly sedentary.

I told her I thought my spirits were very good, but I've been surprised and disappointed at my general tiredness and feeling so sore. 

My feet are great, as long as I'm not on them... 

She recommended we try a diuretic for relief of some of the swelling; I will start that tomorrow.  She said it might give some relief in my hands.

It was good to touch base with her, I always feel better when I see her.  The appointment was uneventful, she confirmed what I was already thinking.

I just finished five months of chemo.  There is collateral damage.  It's common.  It usually goes away.  No one can predict when that will happen for me, or what might remain.

It does me no good to worry about it, or try and plan when I will return to work.

This is out of my control.

I do though always wonder about this strange balance, wanting to surrender with grace to what is, and yet not wanting to just roll over and be compliant!  I struggle to find that place every day, and still not sure where the sweet spot is.

I am doing the best I can, trying to be as proactive as I possibly can be, and yet really putting into practice letting go of what I have no control over.

It's hard hard work for an over thinking, fix-it, get her done, does not delegate, kind of girl!

I used to think I needed to pray to be lead where I need to go.  I don't think that anymore.

You are going where you are going baby!  You are going places you never thought you'd go, and not going places you hoped you'd go!  Welcome to Life baby.

Lord guide my response to wherever this life takes me, and send backup!

Amen!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why I Chose a Prophylactic Mastectomy for Mopsy

I think one of the most difficult decisions during this whole "cancer experience" as they call it in the bizness, was regarding Mopsy, my healthy right breast.  Good ol Mopsy and the right side of my body sure took the hit for Flopsy, my cancerous left breast.

For some time, I was so focused on Flopsy and what might happen to her, it never even crossed my mind I would have to decide Mopsy's fate.  Holy crap.

As I progressed into the rigors of my diagnosis, and the lengthy chemo that followed, I started to consider what is called a prophylactic or preventative mastectomy.  These are some of the reasons why I decided to go ahead with it:

The likelihood of a recurrence in my "healthy" breast, based on the type of breast cancer I was diagnosed with.


Cancer in the other breast.  Invasive lobular carcinoma is more likely to occur in both breasts compared with other types of breast cancer. If you're diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma in one breast, your doctor may recommend examination of the other breast to look for signs of cancer. 

click here complications

The likelihood of a recurrence due to my tumor size, and because my sentinel node was positive.


For breast cancer survivors, factors that increase the risk of a recurrence include:



Lymph node involvement. Finding cancer in nearby lymph nodes at the time of your original diagnosis increases your risk of the cancer coming back. Women with many affected lymph nodes have a higher risk.


Larger tumor size. Women with a large tumor face a higher risk. Women who have very large tumors (more than 5 centimeters, or about 2 inches) — especially if lymph nodes are involved — have a very high risk of the cancer recurring in the same area. These women should talk with their doctor about the role of radiation therapy, even if they undergo a mastectomy.

click here factors


I considered a breast reduction for some time prior to my breast cancer diagnosis.  I did not realize in wanting one, as part of that surgery, I would have lost sensation in the nipples anyway.  Large breasted women, such as yours truly, often require a free nipple graft where the nipples are removed and then sewn back onto the breast, in the new correct position.  In other words, several feet higher than now baby.  You've heard this joke I'm sure.  "I used to be a 36 D.  Now I'm a 36 Long."  Free nipple graft almost always results in loss of sensation because the nerves are cut.

If I had decided to keep Mopsy, as a breast cancer survivor, I would have been subject to not only an annual mammogram but a breast MRI to keep constant surveillance on her.  I am sure, if any little blip occurred on Mopsy's radar, they'd have me in there lickety split to biopsy the hell out of her.  I been there done that.  The anxiety associated with those screenings and waiting for the results would have been unbearable for an over thinker like me. 

The type of reconstruction I will be having also factored into my decision.  I will not be having implants put in.  I will have what I've discussed with you before, the DIEP procedure. In this procedure, the tissue from a "tummy tuck" will be used to make my new boobs.  If I had left Mopsy untouched and had a future recurrence of breast cancer, you better believe I wouldn't just have a lumpectomy!  Off with her head!  If it was likely I'd have to get another mastectomy anyway, Mopsy would have needed an implant since the DIEP procedure is a one shot deal.  I just decided, and based on my plastic surgeon's recommendations, a better cosmetic result would be achieved if both girls were starting over, together.

All of these factors were a big part of my decision.


The deal breaker for me?  I wasn't willing to risk any possibility of gambling my life for Mopsy's.  Too many factors were not in her favor, and I've wanted a breast reduction anyway.  You think it's easy carrying these big girls around on this 5'2" frame?  Yes, you heard me, 5'2" - that's what my driver's license says!!  Not to mention, after two "C-sections" the tummy tuck will be a bonus.


I want you to know that I am very comfortable with my decision and feel I've made the right one for me.  Sure, do I wish I never had to decide this in the first place?  Duh.

The reality is, I did have to decide.  On April 21st of this year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, a 5 cm tumor, and positive sentinel nodes.

When your oncologist recommends FIVE MONTHS OF CHEMOTHERAPY right out of the gate, it's a pretty good indication baby, you are dealing with some heavy duty shit.

I believe I made the right decision, and even if I have another recurrence of cancer, I will still believe I made every treatment choice I could to stop this thing in its tracks.  I did everything I could to give myself a fighting chance.

I will never regret that.

I do regret that any woman has to voluntarily choose to mutilate, poison and burn her body in HOPES of surviving this bitch.

Well cancer, YOU picked the wrong bitch,
  
and even if some damn day I become one of those nameless statistics,

please do not ever say about me "She lost her battle with cancer."

Say this.


"Let me live as she did.  Love.  Love.  Love."

















Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You love me bad, don't you...

I hit the mail lotto today!  Pillows and cards and a book and a bookmarker and love love love.

I sure appreciate it, I know you are all worried about me, and I certainly love the extra TLC being sent my way.

You love me bad, don't you?  Aw shucks...

Thank you, muchas gracias, for all the love and prayers and good thoughts and encouragement and pep talks and hand holding and patting me!  And especially a card or letter in the mail, or a comment on the blog!

It means so much.

Along with the starlight in my pocket, I will be taking all of you with me.  You can't go the whole way.  I have to go to The Kingdom of Lost Breasts on my own.

It is a real comfort to know, when I wake up and come back from there, you will be waiting for me.






Thank you Chelsea Girl




She drifts off in a daydream,
remembering a classic Flopsy and Mopsy moment.

Remember the time you wrote a birthday card for Husband
using squeeze tube icing in all different pastel colors,

all over your naked body?

Flopsy and Mopsy were beautiful in all their glory that night,
covered in little edible hearts
and daisies
and flourishes.

















Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Off To See the Wizard

Yesterday was my final meeting with The Wizard, prior to my surgery next Tuesday.  Husband and I didn't wait long to be called in, and his assistant asked me to get undressed so he could examine me.

Gosh I hate those paper vests at the doctor's office.  Most of the time they rip, either when you are trying to open it up or try to get it on.  Annoying.  I can't get them to fit around my girls.  I usually find myself, sitting on the edge of the exam table, trying to hold closed the tissue paper and feeling like a child, a little shy, a little scared.

The Wizard came into the room and made his greetings.  I felt immediately relieved and at ease.  He has a way about him (will you just relax, everything will be ok).

"I didn't wear my wig today, because I wanted you to see me how I really am.  I was afraid you'd come into surgery and say 'Who is this Lady with the Easter chick fuzz?' "

"I know who you are, with or without your wig!" and he patted me and gave a big smile.  I think he gets a kick out of me.  I know I sure do out of him.

He started out with an overview of what will happen during the surgery.  I will be under general anesthesia while he makes an incision under each breast, removing all of the breast tissue inside.  He will leave both nipples for now.  If the pathology comes back later that there is a problem with the tissue that was directly underneath Flopsy's nipple, it can be removed later.  He will also try to use the scar from my sentinel node biopsy to do a partial axillary node dissection.  The whole surgery should take him two to three hours, and I will be staying the night since my surgery is not scheduled until 12:30 p.m. on the 26th.

We chatted a bit and then he was ready to examine me.  First he listened to me breathe, front and back.  Then I laid down on the table, opened my paper gown, raised my left arm, and prepared for the rigorous exam of Flopsy I knew was coming.

He jumped right in, once again kneading, squeezing, making circles in my skin and soon started exclaiming "Oh this is good, this feels very good, I am very happy about this!!!"

I always wonder how Husband feels, sitting there in a chair next to me in the exam room, as another man, albeit surgeon, gets very excited feeling up every inch of my boobies and armpits.

I know I have never gotten used to it, all the people, mostly men with the exception of The Good Witch, feeling me up.

After awhile, you get the modesty of a stripper.  "Ok here you go, here they are."

The Wizard then examined Mopsy, not as energetically but gave her her due.  The Wizard patted me and said "You have had an excellent response to chemo and I am very happy about this."

He sat back down on his little stool on wheels, and I sat up, legs dangling off the table.  He reviewed that he would be trying to save Flopsy's nipple, depending on what he saw in surgery.  He reiterated the nipple would have to be removed later if cancer cells were found in the tissue that used to be directly underneath it.

We chatted for awhile longer, I had a few more questions.  I feel very fortunate to have him as my surgeon.  I feel reassured just seeing him and talking to him.  He wrote me orders for blood tests and an EKG, which I needed to do after leaving his office and before going home.

One of my questions was would I need tissue expanders?  These are an implant that is left in place to "hold the spot" until reconstruction.  I couldn't recall True North mentioning I would need them, but so much of what I read about delayed reconstruction talked about the use of them.

He seemed surprised and said no, he was not going to put them in, and had I discussed this with True North?  He said if I did need them, we would have to move things around on the calendar.

He asked me to check with her, and he would too.  [I did send her an email, and she replied I would not need the expanders put in; he had called her as well.]

He said I would be staying the night, and we'd check how I was doing the next day before he'd decide if he wanted me to stay another night.

We wrapped up the appointment, and went to complete my pre-op stuff.  For as busy as this large hospital is, we got in and out quickly.

I'm all set.

This time next Tuesday I will be laying in my hospital bed, boobless, high, and probably craving Chinese food.

For all these weeks I wanted time to fly by, up until tonight.

Now that it's only one week away, part of me wants to just get there, get her done!   Cut this bitch out of me!

Another huge part of me wants everything to slow way down, while I wait and hide inside this chrysalis, before it's time for Flopsy and Mopsy to go.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Not all Original Parts

Oh no, with a chestless chest, my ass is going to look huge!


I wrote this in last night's blog.  It has been confirmed.


We love you for your heart and head and don't really care if you are boobless or big assed.  Yulie


Laughed my big ass off about that one Yulie.


Yes, I often look back to see the parade following behind me, making sure you are all there as I march some steps like the Saints, and crawl others.  When I log in to write my blog, my heart always sinks a bit when there is no reader comment.  I know you are there, but every once in awhile when you are quiet, I begin to wonder, you still there?


U there?  I know you are.


It really helped me to move forward saying what I needed to say, knowing what I have to do, and talking to that scared kitty.   I think it is true when you name your fears and sadness, when you write things down, they seem so much more manageable and contained.


Journaling has also been a helpful therapy for me; I get things out of my head when I release them to paper.


That is a huge part of what this blog does for me; thank you for listening, even to what is lurking.


Despite what lurks, it is not the focus.  I am generally feeling calm and peaceful as I wind down life with Flopsy and Mopsy, and wait for the news of what is in there when they open me up.


Whatever the losses this whole cancer gig brings, the love and generosity and grace that constantly comes my way helps fill the places that are so forlorn and empty.  Fills them to overflowing.


One of my Sisters messaged she made me heart shaped pillows and sent them out priority mail to make sure I get them before my surgery.  She says to use them under my arms as a cushion, and under the seat belt when I come home.  No matter how I use them, I will always think about the love sewn into them.


Another Sister and I are pen pals now.


Another Sister, who recently had a BLM with skin sparing and one nipple taken, another nipple spared, offered to send me photos so I could see what it looks like.


I can't say enough about the community of Sisters out there, and how they have taken me into their fold.  Women I don't even know and will probably never meet, showing up for me, telling me their stories and listening to mine.


There has been so much love and concern sent my way, and prayers too, some from the most unexpected places.  Believe me, it makes a difference, a huge difference.


I keep thinking about all of Flopsy and Mopsy's years of service.  Sure, there were some great romantic sexy moments, but mostly what I think about is the best thing they ever did.  Nursing my baby boys.  Looking back now, I was so lucky to be able to do that, and what beautiful memories.


There are so many young young women out there who are diagnosed before even having children.  I feel very fortunate this did not happen to me until now.  Where I am in my life and where I am spiritually, this was the best possible time, if there is such a thing.  My children are older and very independent.  There were so many other times in my life, if this had happened I would have been REALLY DEVASTATED.


It is a blessing that the place I am in my life, at 51, has helped me do something I never thought I could, and never imagined I would have to.  Gradually my brain shifts towards surrender and acceptance.


I said out loud some of what I am afraid of, what worries me, what makes me sad.


Let me tell you though, I am not walking around crying my eyes out.  I am still so in love with my life.  I am still so grateful.  I am still so blessed.


My appreciation for myself has blossomed.  I am proud of me.  


Yes I am anticipating the first few days, that first look, will be difficult and painful, and baby, nobody does melancholy like me.


I'll figure it out.  I'll learn how to live with it.  I will be ok.


As my friend CreativeLady wrote:


You will get through my dear friend, you will get through. We will all stand on the other side. A little worse for wear, not all original parts, but whole again because we have each other. We are there for you.


"Not all original parts, but whole again because we have each other."


Cancer sucks.  I do not recommend it.  


There is though a blessing and a lesson I found that is specific to when you really get for the first time, your life has an expiration date.


I found out what I'm made of, and realized that life is just one lesson after another after another, and what matters is not so much what happens to you, but rather your reply.


Yes.


A zealous yes.


Yes to everything that makes this life and shapes this woman.  Who can say which contributed more to my unfolding good?


The moments soft as eyelash kisses?


Or the grit that revealed a pearl?































Sunday, October 17, 2010

Boo! Scaredy Cat

You must do the thing you think you cannot do.  Eleanor Roosevelt

Sh-h-h, come in closer, I want to tell you sumpthin.  Come in, crawl inside this fuzzy brain and take a look around.  Don't be frightened, this is my nightmare.

Are you ready?  Here I go.  I slowly open the closet door.  Invite out what is under the bed.  Pull back the shower curtain.  Let in the wolves at the door.

Hello all of you, fear and worry and sadness.  What would you like to say in this week prior to my bilateral mastectomy?


It's hard to let go of your familiar.  These boobs have been my familiar my whole life and for over 30 years for Husband.  We both liked them.

I'm afraid of what they will find when they go in.  How effective was the chemo?  Has it gone into the chest wall?  Will The Wizard, my surgeon, be able to save Flopsy's nipple?

How many more of my lymph nodes are cancerous?  If they are, what does that mean for my overall survival after treatment of this breast cancer?  Have breast cancer cells spread to other parts of my body I just don't know about yet?  Did the chemo kill those?

I am worried about the operation itself, one more assault on my body while trying to regain my strength and stamina after five months of chemo.  How much pain will I be in the first few days and then weeks after my surgery?  How will the next assault, radiation, affect me?

What will my body look like?  How will that feel when I put clothes on and go out into the world, especially when I swim or go back to work?  How bout when I stand in front of the mirror naked, will I still see me? 

How will those that knew me big busted see me or think of me now, "sans breasts"? 

Will I still feel like a girly girl?

I've needed to buy some new bras but figured why spend the money now heading into this surgery.  I'm sad about that.  I'm sad I won't be doing any new bra shopping till sometime next summer and have no idea what size I will end up.

How will Husband feel when he sees me?  How will my boys feel?  We are all used to me looking a certain way.  How will I feel when I see me?

Oh no, with a chestless chest, my ass is going to look huge! 

I am worried about the residual side effects that may occur due to this surgery and removal of a major portion of my lymph nodes.  I never anticipated the extent of collateral damage from chemo.  Will I be affected by collateral damage from the surgery?

I'm worried about the overload on my lymphatic system without all those nodes that will be removed.  If my body couldn't fight cancer as it was, how will it do it now?

How did I get cancer in the first place?  What combination of things first tipped the balance in the wrong direction?  I understand that hormones fed production of my cancer, but what happened in the first place?  I am sad and worried I will never know the answer to this, which makes the future seem scary and uncertain.  How do I prevent a future recurrence of cancer, blind?

I'm really sad about the people who are family members and friends who don't read my blog, and/or distanced themselves from me since my diagnosis.  I hear the worry and dread when they talk to me; I can hear it, they think I'm going to die.  They are really scared.

I'm worried about the financial strain this has put on my family and the many things we've had to do without since my diagnosis and me going on short term disability.

I worry about Husband and my boys, they are my first line of defense and are trying to be as brave for me as I am for them.  I worry about what they think about in their quietest most vulnerable moments.

I am sad about losing the pleasure and sensitivity in my breasts and how they sure filled out a sweater like Lana Turner.

I worry about not waking up.

I'm sad that breast cancer treatment is still at such a primitive place that many women, like myself, must submit their precious body to being cut, poisoned and burned to try and get rid of it.  Despite all this, many die anyway.  They say every 69 seconds somewhere in the world, a woman dies of breast cancer.

Sheesh, don't tell me I will go through all this shit just to die of this bitch anyway?

So there you have it.  Ok, everybody back in the closet!  Back under the bed!  No more bump in the night!  Not you silly.  Them!

Now what?

Can you find a way to be grateful, despite everything?  This is what embraced me in these early morning hours; Grace landing on my fuzzy head like a butterfly.  This buffet that is my life.  You can't get here unless you go there.  I will trust that the going creates the getting.  See me?  I'm still going and despite everything, getting.

Getting the love I needed.
Getting the validation I needed.
Saying the words I needed to say.

Feeling the things I needed to feel.
Grieving what I needed to grieve.
Letting go of what pleaded to be let go of.

Fear is no match for Love.

I take one more step into it, sometimes crawl into it, sometimes shoved into it, sometimes bawling into it, and Love waits there for me.  Love and grace and Debbieness.  I am precious.  I patted my own head tonight. There there now. It's ok. It's ok baby.

Let me live this sacred life that is mine, this way.  Let me teach this to my children by example.

Love. Love. Love.

I wrote that.

Fear is no match for love.  That is what I will do.

Love.  Love.  Love.

Despite the scaredy cat roaming around in my head, I will do the thing I think I cannot do.

with love.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Thanks for the Mammaries

I'm sorry, I had to do it, really, I'm sorry, I just had to.

It has been brought to my attention that there are still those of you, some very close to me, who are still procrastinating on the mammogram and in general, being proactive with your health.

You have read blow by blow what I've been going through, and let me tell you, this would be a very different blog if my tumor had been detected even a year or two ago.  I have met so many Sisters who were diagnosed early and only had a lumpectomy -  no chemo, no radiation.  Big diff.  Miss a day of work then get on with your life.  It ain't the diagnosis that is so hard, it's what happens next.  It's the treatment and the worry and the uncertainty.

What a difference an early diagnosis makes.

I have been going at this since early April.  It's now October.  With the exception of a few shifts in August, I have not worked since May 1 and have been on short term disability since then.  I will probably be on disability through January if not longer.

I'm asking you, this Monday morning, call and schedule your mammogram.  Get your annual physical if you need it.  Get your Pap Smear if you are due.

Get her done.

If it were your kid, would you delay?

If it were the dog, would you delay?

Get her done.

Please.
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