Thursday, June 30, 2011

Of Mice and Boobs

Today was the Mastectomy class.  My husband came home to go with me because you are supposed to take your caregiver with you.  We were *almost* late because 2 hours before we were supposed to be there, the children found a mouse in the house and F-R-E-A-K-E-D!  Nothing like a teeny tiny mouse to incite screams from a 9 and 7 year old.  Unfortunately, we could not locate the mouse before we HAD to leave - so the children were quite appalled that I was leaving them and their grandmother here with, what they were convinced was, an ax-wielding, man-eating rodent.


We arrived to the cancer center and found the right conference room - which was a little confusing, because the paper said, "CLASSROOM A-B" but it was actually "CONFERENCE ROOM A-B."  Teachers notice these kinds of discrepancies (there is also a typo on the paper by the way...).  Anyway, we walked in to greet two other women with spouses already there.  I was asked if I wanted a free pillow that was polka-dotted or pink plaid.  So thankful I got the pink plaid one (free item #1) because the polka-dotted one was really hideous.  Anyway, I was a little sad that the other two ladies there were much older - grandma age - I was so hoping there would be someone younger that could relate more to me.  But, that's okay, because one of the "grandmas" turned out to be really nice.  In fact, all three of us have surgery the same day!  Next Wednesday - I think that's nothing short of amazing. The other two ladies are opting to have a single mastectomy, so I was also the only double mastectomy.

So, the one "grandma" was super nice and we talked after everything was over.  The other "grandma" was (how can I put this nicely?) "interesting" - she was just so woefully uninformed that it was frustrating.  There's just no reason in this day and age to not know what is going on in regards to your health.  She blamed everything on her doctors and was very bitter because she said her doctor didn't tell her anything!  In fact, this woman has the same surgeon as me and she said he didn't tell her anything.  Well, I can tell you it's HER fault because I asked him everything under the sun and he told me everything very clearly and explained every detail and spent as much time with me as I wanted. I even went in for a second appointment to ask more questions! So, please let me tell you, on behalf of doctor's everywhere, that they are not mind-readers!  Research for yourself - take charge of your health and treatment and find out what to ask and who to ask!  There are so many sites online about breast cancer and zillions of lists about good questions to ask your surgeon, oncologist, etc.  I referred to all of them before my appointments and wrote down the questions to ask, it was so helpful.  Doctors today expect informed patients - do your part.  

Anyway, imagine my utter GLEE when the Angel Joy walked in to lead the class!  Yeah!  Angel Joy in charge!  She's so stinkin cute, even if she hasn't gotten around to reading my blog yet!  Haha!

Over the next hour and ten minutes, we went through all of the items you should have on hand after the surgery (gauze, scissors, Motrin, etc), what to expect immediately after and weeks after. Angel Joy also went over how to maintain the drains of which I will have FOUR!!  Unfortunately, I already know all about drains from my stomach surgery last year and the renal surgery in January.  I am a drain expert - or, I should say, my husband is a drain expert.  I don't really look at them too much because they are super icky!  Seriously - SUPER ICKY!  <shudder>

At one point, the uninformed grandma announced to the group her current bra size (38DD) and then asked mine.  I really didn't want to announce that to a roomful of women and MEN that I don't know but fine - I said it.  I figured I'm not going to have them much longer anyway.  I don't know WHY she wanted to know that but okay.

The funniest part was when Angel Joy said that is was totally normal to start looking at everyone's breasts.  Oh thank goodness - I'm normal.  Really!  I am!  Joy said so!  I was a little concerned about one part of the information given though - that you should not start driving again until you are a safe driver.  My question though was, "What if you weren't a safe driver BEFORE the surgery?  Then how long should you wait?"  Joy thought that was pretty hilarious - why did they think I was kidding?  

Angel Joy had to leave and two ladies from the American Cancer Society stepped in to take us to be fitted for a camisole.  But not before I got a hug from Angel Joy (free item #2).  :)  

Pink Wig!
Lady Gaga
The two ladies, both breast cancer survivors, led us to the area of the Cancer Center where the American Red Cross is set up.  There are tons of books and materials about all different cancers and there were hats and head wraps there.  All for free!  There were tons of cute hats, about 100 to choose from!  I'll definitely be visiting there if I need to!  The next room we entered was filled with wigs (also all free!).  Hundreds of them, in a lot of "normal" hair colors which made me ask, "Where are the pink ones?  I want pink hair!"  They don't have those on hand, you have to special order them.  I guess most people don't want to wear bright pink wigs around when they lose their hair.  How odd. However, you can order any color or style you want - I told them I'd bring in some pictures of Lady Gaga.  They looked a little scared of me at that point. 

Wigs!

They did have black, brown, blonde, red, gray.  I wouldn't mind be a red head or blonde!  I'm not sure I'm a wig kind of gal though, seems odd to me.  I don't really want to wear someone else's hair.  I don't know where that hair has been!  One of the grandmas (the nice one) was brave enough to try on some of the wigs - she knows for sure she's having chemo she told us because her cancer is the most aggressive.  I couldn't try on the wigs, not yet.  I couldn't imagine that yet.  We could have taken some home if we had wanted but, again, I'm just not there yet.

We were fitted for a camisole to take home for after surgery (free item #3).  It's sooooooooo soft!  Like softest thing ever!  It velcros up the front and has pockets for up to 8 drains (EEK!) and then pockets to put foam boobs in for while you heal.  They said it's good to wear the foam boobs because they protect your incision site, a little extra cushioning.  It's actually really pretty and I was so happy to get it.  I think it'll be a life-saver for those first few weeks, though it's pretty long and bulky so I think it'll be pretty hard to hide under clothes since it's summer time.  At least this time I have a reason to dress like a goober.

After talking for a bit and asking more questions, the husband of the uniformed grandma came looking for his wife, he was impatient.  He broke up our party.  Which, actually, was really rude because we should have been able to spend as long as we needed visiting and asking questions.  But, I know where to find them now and there are so many services they offer there (acupunture (no thanks!), massage (yes, please!), psychiatry (well, maybe...)) and I'm so thankful to know about them all.  I want to go back tomorrow and chat with everyone and maybe take a nap on the comfy couch out in the lobby.  That's not at all weird, right?

This class not only provided a lot of great information but also FREE stuff.  The things I got for FREE are:

Free pillow!
1. Cutest heart shaped plaid pink pillow.
2. Many brochures and catalogs for hats and wigs (no pink - bummer).
3. Camisole with foam boobs.
4. Cancer Center lanyard (I really have no idea what I would use this for, but okay).
5. Measuring cup for measuring drain output.
6. Mini-pillow for use in the car.
7. A pen (but I'm pretty sure I accidentally stole that).
8. A hug from Joy.

Mouse visitor
And, yes, we found the mouse soon after we got home. We named him Chester. He was just a baby - he was released into the wild of our backyard.  The household is safe, for now.


Boob Count = 93

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

At Least I Don't Have Gout!

Yesterday I went to the last official doctor appointments before the surgery.  First I had to get blood drawn before the surgery, I've had so much blood drawn lately that I'm starting to get suspicious that this whole operation is being run by vampires.  But, I complied and did as I was told and showed up the vampire office...er, I mean, lab.  Once there, they couldn't find my paperwork so I had to wait for about 45 minutes.  I had forgotten my book but there was a very informative TV program on about diabetes.  Fascinating.  I watched for about 5 minutes until a couple of loud-talkers came in.  You know the type - the whole office can hear their business.  I could no longer hear the diabetes show and had to resort to reading the brochures on the table beside me.  One was about Gout.  Gout appears to be a big inconvenience because, according to the pictures, if you have it, you have to carry around a huge beaker with green liquid in it.  So glad I don't have THAT!  *Whew*  I also do not have rheumatoid arthritis.  Again, I was thankful because from what I could tell from the brochure, it makes sparks come flying out of your joints.

I was finished with both brochures and still could not hear the TV program so I just had to wait and listen to the loud talkers.  I was elated when they got called back and I could hear all about the syringes people use to control diabetes.  That part I could have done without.  Thankfully, I was saved by a 3 year old entering the office.  She was much more entertaining than gout, arthritis or diabetes.

Finally, they found the paperwork and I was able to get stuck.  Only one try to get a vein - a huge success for me.  After the blood draw, I crossed the street to the Cancer Center for my last oncologist appointment before the surgery.

I found out that my iron levels are a little low.  Not as low as they have been in past (when I was severely anemic for a time) but still borderline and too low for a big surgery.  I like to decide things using math so I asked for the percentages.  I'm pretty low risk for a transfusion anyway - about 10-15% if I don't get the iron infusion - but if I do get it before surgery, it'll bring that risk down to almost zero.  I needed to think about it.  I'm really too busy feeling sorry for myself to be bothered by this.  My husband had other ideas and told me I needed to do it.

I'll only be getting a half dose which takes 3-4 hours.  But, of course, there's a needle involved again.  Suspicious.

I think it hit me yesterday that those were the last appointments before the surgery.  It's really going to happen.  And I really don't want it to happen.

I had a mini-nervous breakdown yesterday when I got home.  I don't want any of this!  I don't want to lose my breasts!  I don't want to have surgery!  I don't want cancer!  No No No!!!  I just want to crawl under a rock and pretend none of this is happening!  At this point, I'm FORCING myself to go through with it.  I know I have to.  My husband was able to talk me down from the ledge and remind me why I am doing this - why I have to do this.  He wants me around for a long time.  My children want me around for a long time.  We don't want to have to worry about breast cancer ever again.  I hate it when he's all rational and right!

The oncologist asked me yesterday what I had decided as far as my surgery options.  I told him a double mastectomy and he asked why I chose that.  First of all he and the surgeon recommended it.  I chirped, "Two out of three doctors agree!"  He laughed.  I told him I didn't want to do it but I thought it was the smart decision and he said, "Yes, it's the smart decision."  That did make me feel better.

So, on we go.  I'm just sort of surviving right now.  I don't really feel like doing anything - I'm trying to keep up my regular routine but I don't really enjoy anything, not really.  I feel like I'm in a fog.  And my breast is hurting more and more all the time.  A good reminder, physically, of why I'm doing this - but sometimes it's not enough to reassure me.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Chemo? Yes, Please!

I want chemo.  I really do.  Bring it on!  It's not because I would like to buy some cute hats or learn how to tie a kerchief on my head.  It's not because I think I'm going to rock the bald head look (I'm not - trust me on this - I'm pretty confident that I have a really ugly head).  It's not because I think I'll finally look good in hats - I won't. It's not because hats will maybe finally fit my big old noggin when I don't have hair...it's doubtful.

It's because I want this cancer GONE GONE GONE!  I want to be as aggressive as I possibly can.  I want to do everything I can to make sure that I don't have any more cancer lingering in my body.  I'm willing to put myself through the torture of more needles, of being sick, of being exhausted, of losing my hair...just get rid of the cancer.

I'm told that after surgery, the pathology reports will tell the true story of whether or not I'll need chemo.  At that point, they'll know the size and exactly how invasive the tumors are.  We know from the MRI that one tumor is under 1 cm and the other is 17-18 mm -- 20 mm is 2 cm.  The oncologist says that MRI measurements are usually a bit smaller (we are talking mm here) than the actual tumor and if it's 2 cm or more, then chemo is for sure.  Also, the pathology of the tumor will tell a lot.  They take all this information and put it into a computer and the computer decides if you need chemo or not.  The computer gives percentages.  So it might say that I'll only benefit from chemo 2% or it might say I'll get a 20% benefit.  I'm so hoping that the percentages are clear - that it's a for sure for chemo.

I'm not too thrilled with putting my fate in the "hands" of a computer.  I find computers to be a little sketchy at best.  They kind of have a mind of their own.  What if my computer is like that crazy computer in that 80's movie where the computer falls in love with the girl and tries to ruin the guy's life?  That would be just my luck - to get a computer that doesn't like me.

Anyway, I suspect that WANTING chemo may be crazy thinking.  Who WANTS to torture themselves with chemo?!  A cancer patient, that's who!  Because when you have cancer one place in your body (or two places in 5 months like me!), you want to do everything you can to make sure that's it's nowhere else!  Chemo seems like a good idea under the circumstances.

I wonder if they have special hat stores for big-headed bald people?

Cancer Doesn't Hurt

I hope I'm not repeating myself (just humor me) but I've always heard the saying that "Cancer doesn't hurt."  Though that may be true for some people, it's not my experience.  I'm not talking about emotional pain here (we all know cancer takes a hellish emotional toll) but physical pain.

Ohhh, pretty colors - but not on a boob.
My breast is so tender, so painful.  It took me a long time to recover from the biopsy.  The biopsy wasn't terribly painful but my breast was definitely sore for quite a while after and bruised for much longer (oh, the pretty colors).  I'm recovered from that now though - and my breast really still hurts.  It's sore and tender and even hitting it with my arm makes me wince.

At this point, I can very easily feel the lump.  At first I could barely find it!  Now it's very prominent.  I'm trying to not be paranoid - but I'm pretty sure it has grown.  It's freaking me out!!  The primary lump (there is another that I can't yet feel) is now very noticeable.  I would have definitely found it at this point - and, I would have known something was up because of the pain too.  My 9 year old daughter wanted to feel it so I let her.  I let her feel on my breast where there is no lump and let her feel where there is a lump.  She needs to know this for future reference too. (I just so wish she didn't have to learn it at 9)

My first run-in with cancer hurt too.  The only reason my renal cancer was discovered is because I was having severe pain in my side and ended up in the ER (on Christmas Eve!).  I'm so lucky to have found it (Stage I) because renal cancer is one of those cancers that rarely hurts and isn't found until it's too late!

In a way, the pain justifies everything.  When something actually hurts, you can sort of better come to terms with the fact that it needs to go!  You just want the pain to stop.  With my kidney, I was ready to do anything to never again experience the pain that landed me in the ER!

I'm starting to feel that way about my left breast.  It hurts.  I need some bubble wrap or something because I keep hitting it and bumping into walls with it - things I'm sure I've probably done for years, but now it hurts. So, it makes it real to me that there is cancer there and that getting rid of it is justified. It's harder to lose the other breast - it doesn't hurt, it's healthy.  But for how long?  The arguments for keeping it are few.

I feel as though as my surgery approaches, I ramble more and more.  The thoughts in my head aren't really coherent and I fear my blog is reflecting that.  I hope I'm not repeating myself (I do know I said that already).   I never want to be one of those people the repeats themselves and people just humor them because they respect the elderly.  Maybe I am one of those people already and I just don't know it?!

Oh well, just smile and nod.  It appeases me.

Boob Count = 90

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Flat as a Board

I'm trying to picture what I'll look like after surgery.  Flat.  I know that.  I spend time each day trying to imagine this - I take my hands and smush down my breasts as much as I can and try to see how that looks.  It really doesn't work.  I'm trying to prepare myself so it won't be as much of a shock.

When I asked the surgeon what I would look like, he smoothed his suit jacket and said, "You'll look like I do..." Since he's a middle-aged man, I was a little concerned - but I knew what he was saying.  I'll be flat.  Like a man - flat.  Now I look at my husband's chest and try to imagine myself like that.  It's hard to do.  It's just so different looking from myself and well, let's face it, it's a LOT hairier!!

Can you imagine not having breasts?  I can't.  Breast cancer was never on my radar as something I should watch out for or be particularly concerned about.  Since there's no cancer in my family, I never seriously considered that I might get breast cancer. It never occurred to me that I would face the choice to lose my breasts and I never gave any thought as to what my life would be like without them.

As we lead up to the surgery - the day when I will lose my breasts, lose such a large (haha - no pun intended) part of me...I feel well, nervous and sad.

At this point, I'm more nervous about the surgery itself (and the plethora of needles) than I am about cancer.  I've sort of forgotten about "cancer" and I'm more focused on the fact that I'm losing my breasts.  That I'm going to wake up from surgery without them.  How will I feel?  Not pain wise - but emotionally?  How will I FEEL?  Because I don't think anyone can really prepare themselves for that - not really.  As much as I close my eyes and try to picture it in my head, I just can't do it.

And, I'm sad.  Just plain sad.  I don't spend too much time wondering "why" it happened to me - it did.  It's here.  It happened.  I just feel overwhelmingly sad about it.  Not really sorry for myself but sad that I or anyone else has to go through this - has to make these terrible life-altering, body mutilating choices.

Last night, I noticed that my favorite bra was broken.  The underwire snapped.  In a way, it was my first goodbye.  I stood and stared at the bra for quite a while, I felt like crying.  Over a bra!  A year ago, I would have been so irritated when a bra would break, especially a favorite - because it's just so hard to find a bra that you love and want to wear everyday and never want to wash because then you'll miss wearing it a couple of days. It fits perfectly, it's broken in but not old looking, soft but not ratty enough to where your husband gives you weird looks.

When this bra broke, however,  I knew it didn't really matter.  I don't have to run out and hope that I'll find another "favorite."  I don't have to rummage through my drawers hoping that there is another bra that I like as well.  I don't have to scour online stores to see if I can find that specific color again.  Because, in 13 days, I won't need it again - ever.  It was the first tangible evidence that my life really is going to change. That my body really is going to change.

The first real reminder that soon there will be nothing on my chest that needs a bra to hold it up.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Growing of a Boob

Today was my first meeting with the plastic surgeon.  It still boggles my mind as to how many steps and possibilities there are!  So many things I never knew and never cared about.  I really wish I didn't have to care about them now!  I was very happy in my cocoon of ignorance. But, care I must...

First of all, it's TWO surgeries after the mastectomy.  Sometimes with a mastectomy, they will put in expanders at the time of your mastectomy, but with someone with a large cancer or more than one cancers (me!), they don't.  Too much chance of infection - too much chance for something to go wrong. Darn.

An expander is like a little deflated balloon boob with a port hole.  The port hole is magnetic (MAGNETIC! HA!  Cool!) so that once the expander is in your body, they can find the port hole easily with a magnet (still think that's hilarious!) and then fill it.  So, this expander goes behind your chest muscle.  They put it in during a surgery that lasts about an hour and then you recover from surgery for about a month.  Then, every week you go in and they USE A MAGNET (Haha - I can't help myself) to find the port hole and then take a needle to fill the expander.  They just put in a little each week so it stretches the area in preparation for the implant.  So, each week you go in and you basically watch it grow!  (Kind of reminds me of those toys that I bought for my kids at the dollar store where you put them in water and they grow...but I digress...)  Then, when you have the size breast you want - you go in for another short surgery and they switch out the expander for the implant.  So, each week, you decide - bigger or big enough.

I am a little concerned about the port being magnetic.  Can I expect magnetic items to start flying at my body?  Will all of my refrigerator magnets come hurtling at me when I walk in the door?  Thank goodness my braces aren't magnetic, that could really be a disaster!  Imagine walking around with your mouth "magneted" to your boob.  (Yes, I made up the word "magneted" - I have that power)

I got to hold an implant too.  It was a gel type.  There are two types, gel and saline.  There are pros and cons to both and I'll need to research them to get a better idea of which I think is better for me.  I asked about failure rates for both and they are both about 1% a year.  The saline type - if it bursts, your body absorbs the saline and you instantly know that it has burst because your boob DEFLATS!  Aahhahha!  So, you can just be out somewhere - for instance, singing on stage on TV (because I do that all the time you know) and SPLOOSH, boob gone!  Oh, I had a good laugh over that visual.  The other gel type doesn't burst like the saline ones, they crack and you might not know until you have an MRI or something feels a little off.  So far I'm thinking that I like the sounds of the gel ones, though walking around with the possibility of an instant deflating boob would add excitement to my life. Tempting.

A major concern for me, according to my plastic surgeon, is that I have underarm fat.  Nice.  He put it very nicely but that's what it is. It's not part of the boobage and it's just fat under the arm.  There's nothing that can be done about it and right now it's not something you would even notice because my large boobs are more, uh, "prominent."  But, once I have no boobs and they are filling things up to decide how big I want them, it's possible that I may look like I just have one uni-boob.  Just one long rectangular boob from underarm to underarm.  That's really not the look I was going for.

I think that the most upsetting thing is that I'll lose most of the feeling in my breasts.  They'll be pretty much numb.  It's an advantage for getting the port fills on the expander because you really don't feel the needle but it kind of just sucks for daily life.  It's a good thing they can't make them too big.  Since there is no feeling in them, I wouldn't want to get them caught in a door or something and not even know it.  That would be awkward.

People Outside My Family Who've Seen My Boob = 16
Boob Count = 89

Sunday, June 19, 2011

BOOBS! What Are They Good For?!

Remember Flashdance?
It was pointed out to me yesterday (Hi Julie!) that a person doesn't look at her boobs all that much.  I have to agree.  I didn't spend a whole lot of time looking at my boobs before I got breast cancer.  They were just there.  I strapped on the bra device every morning and then lugged these things around all day.  There are days I couldn't wait to get home and rid myself of the bra - I even learned that cool trick like the girl in Flashdance where you can take off your bra with your shirt still on.  I'm just that talented.  Then, once a month, I'd sort of half-heartedly do a breast exam, poke around a bit here and there.  I had a hard time feeling the lump even after the doctor showed me exactly where it was!  I guess that's why he's the professional...

Beyond breastfeeding, boobs are really more of a nuisance than anything.  They are kind of heavy and they get in the way.  They aren't good for much (I hear men around the world disagreeing).  I will admit that sometimes a plate can fit nicely on them when you eat dinner on the couch.  But, beyond that, they really are a lot of trouble.  My husband suggested that I'll probably feel a lot better without carrying these things around all the time.  When he first told me this (right after I found out that a mastectomy was recommended), I was a bit offended!  How could he suggest I'd feel BETTER after losing my breasts!  But, as I've come to terms with it more, I've realized that he could be right.  (Oh boy, I'll never hear the end of that - yes, my husband *might* be right).  I guess my back, shoulders and neck do hurt a lot.  But, when they are part of you, you just deal with it, it doesn't really occur to most women that maybe you'd be better off without them...

Pam Anderson
I started out my adult life with a perfect C cup and now, after two pregnancies, two kids, weight losses and gains and 41 years...well, let's just say I'm no cute C cup anymore!  If things get any bigger, I'm going to need a bra that looks like a wheelbarrow.  The surgeon told me that there's no way that they'd be able to make me the size I am now.  Well...he explained, there IS a way - you can have TWO implants!  TWO!  But, no reputable plastic surgeon would do that.  Oh darn.  I so wanted to replicate the Pam Anderson look.  Seriously though, I ASSURED him that them being much smaller was FINE!  No problem AT ALL!  Please!

I've gone from the breast envy I had when I first found out I'd be losing my breasts to breast comparisons instead.  Now I'm looking at everyone's breasts (oh yes, I'm still looking!) and wondering what size they are? I need to know what size to choose!  Isn't that crazy?  I'm going to CHOOSE my boob size?!  Haha!  How cool is that!  I mean, I had to win the cancer lottery to get this choice so I wouldn't recommend it - but since I'm here, it's kind of exciting to get to choose exactly what I want.  I'm like a kid in a candy store...uh, except, I guess it's a boobie store.  Wow, that sounds really demented and wrong.

It's too bad that my new amazing perky boobs have to reside on the rest of my 41 year old body.  They deserve so much better!

Boob Count = 78

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Eyeing the Couch Cushions

After the mastectomy, I'll be having reconstruction surgery...eventually.  My surgeon refuses to do reconstruction at the same time.  He says the chance for infection is just so much higher that it's not worth it.  I'm okay with that.  In a way, I think I'd like time to mourn the original boobs.

I had an important question about this and who better to ask than a middle-age male surgeon:

"What do women do in the meantime about boobies between mastectomy and reconstruction?"

If I have to have chemo, that'll be for 2-3 months after surgery and then at least another month before they'll do reconstruction because they want the chemo out of your system.  If there is no chemo, they still won't do reconstruction for 3 months after the mastectomy because they want your body to completely heal.  I just don't know how I'll feel about being "boob-less" for several months.  I'm not sure if it'll bother me or not...

Back to my question, his response was:

"Well, you do what you probably did in Junior High..."

I was a bit confused by this because I didn't do anything in Junior High.  I never wished boobs on myself!  I was perfectly happy without them.  But, I quickly put 2 and 2 together and asked:

"So, are you saying we should buy kleenex in bulk at Costco?"

He laughed, "Well, yes, that or you could put some foam in there..."

FOAM!?  FOAM?!  Um, really?  Like I should cut a couple of chunks off my couch cushion and stick them in a bra?  Hmm...

He said to not spend a lot of money on them because they are just temporary.

I came home and consulted my favorite expert "Google."  Wow!  I had no idea!  You can get all different colors and shapes and sizes and price ranges and materials!  Seriously!  There's quite a market out there for fake boobies.  If I had known, I'd have bought stock.  The official name for them are "breast forms" or "breast prosthesis."  I like calling them fake boobs better, but to each his own.

I think the most shocking revelation is that they are all advertised as being ideal for "Mastectomy Patients AND CROSS DRESSERS!"  I mean, I never really gave this much thought I suppose.  I guess, um, MEN that want to look like WOMEN would need something.  I'm intrigued.  A little scared, but intrigued.

Cross dressing is not a cheap "hobby" from what I can tell.  Breast forms (AKA fake boobs) can run from the cheap $40 all the way up to a pair I found for $1,000!!  There are all different uses as well - sleeping boobs, traveling boobs, swim boobs, etc.  Plus, you can buy different tapes and adhesives and then you need some sort of bra.  Some of the bras come with built in pockets for the fake boobs - that seems like a good idea because you don't want to be walking along and have a fake boob pop out and go bouncing down the sidewalk.  I found another set of boobs that is its own bra!  Seriously - it's bra shaped with a couple of boobs.  You can also order them to match your skin tone, have freckles, moles - all kinds of personalized boob selections.  Those were the $1,000 ones.

Suddenly, my couch cushions don't look so bad...

Boob Count (includes "boobie") =  71 (15 just today!  Woot!)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Unknown Mutant

Today I saw the Angel Joy and found out that I'm BRCA-.  BRCA is the breast cancer gene that means there is a certain mutation that makes you very susceptible to breast and ovarian cancers.  I do not have this gene mutation. But, never fear, I'm sure I'm still a mutant in other ways.

Joy actually called yesterday to tell me this news so I would know before the meeting this morning.  I had really mixed feelings about it.  She said a lot of people have the same reaction!  Going through it now, I totally understand.  See, on one hand, I'm so so glad that my children don't have the gene (or at least it's very unlikely unless they got it from my husband which would be doubtful since there's no history there either).  On the other hand, it'd just be nice to have an answer.  To be done with it and say, "Yes, Laura, you ARE a mutant and this is what kind..."  However, if I had been positive, it really wouldn't have explained the renal cancer and rare thyroid tumor.

So, what is going on?  I don't know.  But, now I'll get to schedule with a geneticist.  I'm really excited about this!  I find the whole thing pretty fascinating.  They'll really be delving into my history: medical and family.  It's hard because I don't know much about my dad's side.  My dad died nearly 13 years ago.  He was the youngest of 6 and then had me when he was in his forties.  So, all of my first cousins are in their 60's and 70's and have kids even older than me!  I was closer in age to my second cousins and even all but one of them were older than me.  So, growing up, even though I had all my aunts and uncles, all of my 1st cousins were grown too and had kids.  Now all of my aunts and uncles (the brothers and sisters of my dad) are deceased.  My Mom is easy (you can tell her I said that) because she's an only child.  But, trying to unravel the rest of the history might be a little daunting.  I was told to bring my Mom with me because she might remember more.

Since I don't have the BRCA gene, there are a few "syndromes" that are genetic that I may have.  I don't think they would be pursuing this so fervently had I not just had renal cancer.  And the fact that I had two cancers in one kidney and now two in one breast...very odd indeed.  However, there could also be some environmental reason...low Vitamin D?  Low iron?  It's a lot of speculation at this point.

So, this means that I might be able to keep the inner lady parts.  I have a very low risk of getting ovarian cancer - though I remember that the oncologist seemed to think that since my breast cancer is fueled by estrogen, it still might be advisable to have a hysterectomy.

So, again, I feel confused about the lumpectomy vs. mastectomy but I think I'm just kidding myself.  I think I'm just *wishing* things could be different - wishing I only had one lump and could have a lumpectomy.  Having the BRCA gene be positive would have been a slam dunk for the mastectomy and there would be no questions.  Having it be negative puts a little doubt in my mind.  But, I still think it's the best choice and when I asked the Angel Joy what she thought about my decision - she also pointed out that I have young children, I'm young - I should do what gives me the best chance at a long life.

So, here I sit - I still have no answers.  I may never know.  Could all of this cancer just be a fluke?  My hunch says no.

I AM a mutant, darn it, I AM!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Final Countdown

Things are looking brighter these days.  First of all, I've gotten so much support from people who have or are going through what I'm going through - it's an amazing fellowship.  One person called it a "sisterhood."  I really didn't ask to join a "sisterhood" and I hope there are no more initiation rituals beyond getting breast cancer...but, okay, now that I'm a member, I'm happy to have the new friends and support.  (So, Neener to all of you that said NO CLUB would ever take ME!  Hahaha!  Showed you!)  Secondly, I've just gotten so much support and prayers from everyone else!  Even people I don't even know!  It's amazing!  (Feel free to send cookies)

Third, yesterday I made the appointment for my surgery.  July 6.  I'll be having a double mastectomy.  The countdown begins.  Now that the decision is made and the surgery is scheduled, I feel more at peace.  I'm not happy about it and I certainly have moments where I wonder if I'm doing the right thing - but I really think it's the only sensible choice.  It gives me the best chance at a long future to stay around and become a burden to all those who know and love me.

Before scheduling the appointment yesterday, I was able to visit with the surgeon again and ask all the questions I could think of.  I'll be having a skin-sparing mastectomy so that, later, when I have reconstructive surgery, it's much easier and more natural because some of your skin is still there.  In the meantime, until reconstruction, I'll be looking like a Sharpei.  I've heard it's not a good look.  The doctor said that anyone that sees it might laugh.  Does he think I'm going to go around showing this to people just to get their reaction?  Well...maybe...  However, my husband has strict instructions to not laugh if he ever has any hopes of seeing me naked again...EVER!  He didn't seem to take the threat very seriously...I don't know why.

The name of the type of surgery I'm having is a "Simple Mastectomy."  Obviously an oxymoron because it certainly doesn't sound "Simple" to me.  The surgery takes over 4 hours.  They'll remove all of the breast tissue as well as a good part of the skin, some lymph nodes on the left side (to check for cancer involvement) and my nipple.  (I'm sure you really wanted to know that, but, yes, I'll be nipple-less).  They can do surgery after you get your "new boobs" and MAKE a new nipple.  I'm quite intrigued by this...  Also, if you want the areola back (that's the ring of color around the nipple), you can later have it TATTOOED ON!  Yes, really!  Fascinating!  I wonder if they only do color - maybe I could get a picture of like a Snoopy or something cool instead of just color around the nipple.  Would that be weird?  Don't answer that.

Perhaps the cruelest part of the surgery is that before I go into the hospital that morning, I have to stop by another hospital and get a SHOT in my left breast!  A SHOT!  Like with a NEEDLE!  I think we all know how I feel about needles - I do not like them.  I just think this is cruel and unusual punishment!  To have to get a shot in the boob and then go have it chopped off!  That's just mean.  Anyway, they do it so they can put in the dye for the lymph nodes so that by the time you have surgery they can see where the nodes that are most likely affected would be and remove those.  Still, a SHOT!

After speaking with the doctor, I scheduled the surgery with a lady named Laurie who told me she had just had a double mastectomy a year ago!  I, of course, tried to NOT look at her boobs, but I sneaked a look and she looks amazing.  I didn't need to do that though because, later, she just showed me one anyway.  Haha!  Well, only part of one - but she looks great.  She had the surgery because there had been so much breast cancer in her family and she found out she was BRCA+ with an 83% chance of breast or ovarian cancer.  I think that's such a brave choice to make.  She said that for her, it was a "no brainer."  She also told me about a class given by the hospital for mastectomy patients where they go over everything you need to know and give you a bunch of free stuff.  Well, she had me at "free stuff."  I'll be there!  I'm scheduled to go to that on the 29th.

Tomorrow, I meet with Angel Joy to find out the results of the genetic testing.  I'm so  interested in what they found!  I hope it's something cool!  Something that could get me in the Guinness Book of World Records preferably.  I would use my 15 minutes of fame so wisely!

So, now, mostly we wait.  I have several more doctor appointments in the meantime and some tests to do (most involving needles of course - lucky me).  On July 4th it will have been 6 months since I lost 25% of my kidney to renal cancer.  I am to have a whole battery of tests to check and see how my kidneys look.  I'll have to try and fit those in.  I'm terribly busy with the whole "having breast cancer" thing right now.  How inconvenient.

Keeping up with a normal routine (even though it's so hard) helps keep my mind from obsessing.  For instance, today was Field Trip day for my 9 year old daughter.  I didn't want to go, not really.  I wanted to take a nap, but I knew my daughter would be devastated if I didn't go -- and I'm so glad I did!  Though it wasn't without its perils.  Some crazy person (Jessica, I'm pointing at you!) tried to get me on roller skates at the skating rink!  Really Jessica?  Are you trying to kill me for goodness sakes, I already have breast cancer you know.  No need to put some wheels on my feet too!  ;)  Then, another parent tried to pull the candy machine down on top of me (Kris, you know it's you).  I have now determined that school field trips are nearly as dangerous as breast cancer!

I am feeling more like myself now, though it comes in waves.  I feel happier for the most part, but there are also times that I just sit around and hold my breasts and I cry.  I'm saying goodbye to them.  I apologized to them.  I thanked them. Wow, this sounds just as ridiculous as it was.

I wonder if my doctor ever put in that referral for a psychiatrist...

Boob Count = 56

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Okay, I'll Say It...

I'm depressed.  I finally gave in today and just admitted it.  I'm depressed.

This is kind of new for me.  I'm pretty happy generally, not much gets me down for long.  I get mad, I yell at my kids, I have a bit of road rage at times - but, for the most part, I'm definitely a "glass half full" kind of person.  I like to joke and laugh and I can always come up with something ridiculous to say or do.  I don't think I've been really depressed since I was a teenager and I spent as much time as I could in my room avoiding people who might ask me ridiculous and pesky prying questions like, "How was your day?"  How Dare They!!  But, for the most part, I've lived my life happy, happy, happy.

Until now.

Nothing makes me happy.  Nothing makes me feel better.  There's still laughter in every day of course.  But, I'm also on the verge of tears all day as well.  But, I haven't cried in days.  It's almost like I'm too depressed to cry.

I just want to sleep all day, I'm struggling to get up in the mornings and get the kids to school on time.  (Admittedly, however, this isn't too new - I hate mornings!)  I'm having the hardest time concentrating. I can't focus on anything.  Nothing is fun, I don't want to go anywhere or do anything or talk to anyone or see anyone.

I have to absolutely force myself to go through the motions of my day.  When, really, I'd just rather be in bed feeling sorry for myself.  Keeping it together for my kids so they don't freak out takes everything I've got.  But, of course, my 9 year old daughter is very focused on my moods and how I'm feeling.  She is so worried about me, it's heartbreaking. I'm worried about me, but I'm worried about her too.  She draws me endless pictures and makes me cards, all with pink ribbons on them.  I HATE that, at 9 years old, she knows first hand what a pink ribbon is and what it means!  It absolutely kills me!  Today she drew me a picture:

It says:
When you found out you had breast cancer, you cried
But remember I will always be on your side
No matter weather
Or mood
I will always love you all sky high

<sigh> Best note ever!

Looking forward, I'm hoping that tomorrow, talking to the surgeon again and making the appointment for the surgery will help.  At least I'll feel like I'm taking action - moving forward, instead of the limbo that I've been in.  Because now that I've made the decision to have the double mastectomy, it's not that I want to "get it over with" but I want to start moving in the right direction.  Because walking around with cancer lurking in your body isn't a smart move for long.

I hate complaining, I hate being "weak," I hate asking for help, I hate needing help, I hate being felt sorry for, I hate it all!  This is not ME!  This is not who I am!

For now though, it's all I can be.  Just keep breathing - keep moving through everyday - just try to survive.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Future

I planned to go to the gym today.  Instead, I think I'll take a nap.  I'm tired, of course.  The stress of what I'm going through is exhausting.  Also, even though wallowing sounds easy, it really does take a lot out of you.  However, today being Monday means that the "wallowing period" is officially over.  Or maybe not.

It's hard to see a future when you have cancer.  Even harder when you get it twice in 5 months.  This is why I'm struggling to make it back to the gym.  Even though I really enjoy going - the benefit of going, the reason I went - was because I was getting healthier, I was making sure I was in better shape, I wanted to have a great summer of walks and hiking with the kids.  And long term, I wanted to be healthier and live longer.  And now I have cancer (again) and it seems so futile.  I *know* it's not and I know you'll all post to me and say, "You are going to beat this!"  and it's not that I think I won't...it's just that it's hard to see beyond tomorrow and next week and next month when your future seems so uncertain.

I'll have better boobs though.
I think we, generally, take for granted that we will live until we are old.  I certainly never questioned that I would live at least as long as my parents or my grandmother (who was in her mid-90's when she died).  I planned to become one of those crotchety old lady types.  I planned on having a cane that I could smack people with on a whim.  I never questioned that I would meet my grandchildren and someday move into one of those cool old folks homes where they play Bingo and take art classes (even though, I really don't like art...).  Having renal cancer was quite a blow to my optimism and it was even hard for me to make summer plans, I just couldn't see that far ahead...  Right when I was starting to see a future again, I found out I have breast cancer and it's all gone again.  When I look into the far away future, I just see darkness, it's all so unknown.  Because, let's face it, cancer kills.

Laura Ziskin
A woman died of breast cancer today.  Actually, I'm sure several women died of breast cancer today - but one made headlines.  Her name was also Laura - Laura Ziskin to be exact.  She was a Hollywood producer - Pretty Woman, Spiderman, As Good as it Gets - she produced those movies among others.  She found her breast cancer in 2004 - Stage III.  She was "cured" but it came back again as Stage IV last year.

Why her?  Why me?  Why anyone?  No one knows.  My Mom told me she saw on the news that researchers are close to a cure for AIDS - I hope a cure for cancer is next.  Everyone wants a shot at their future, I know I do.

(Tomorrow I have another appointment with the surgeon to ask questions and schedule the surgery date.)

Boob Count = 53 (Only One Today)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Only the Good Die Young

I heard that Billy Joel song on the radio the other day, "Only the Good Die Young."  I really like that song, always have.  This time, however, it really got me to thinking.  No one wants to be in danger of dying young and, if the song is right, then it is reasonable that a person shouldn't be "good."

This scared me.  Perhaps all this time I've spent being "good" and trying to be a good person was a bad idea.  At this point, I'll do anything to make sure I live a long life so I've made a list of some activities I'm going to start to make sure that I stick around by not being good:

1. Talk loudly in movies.
2. Kick puppies.
3. Make scary faces at young children to make them cry (already do this inadvertently).
4. Practice more Road Rage.
5. Learn to flip people off.
6. Loudly talk on cell phone in public.
7. Stop using deodorant.
8. Wear big hats to movies and sit in front of people.
9. Talk with mouth full.
10. Drink directly out of the milk carton.
11. Strt speling things wrng jus ta anoy pepple.
12. Exceed the speed limit (more than I already do).
13. Spend time at the library putting the books back in all the wrong places.
14. Never recycle again!
15. Trip old ladies.

It's not a very comprehensive list, but it's a start.  Maybe adopting these activities will get me to at least 50?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Boob's Day Out

As I make the phone calls today to schedule the mastectomy, I've been thinking about ways to honor my boobs for their years of service.  Because, even though they gave me cancer (Boo!), they have served me well for nearly 30 years.

The Boobs in their Heyday - 1999
I remember their first appearances at the age of 13 or so, I wasn't too thrilled to see them.  And they quickly garnered way more attention from boys than I wanted. I also had to start wearing a bra and, let's face it, those pretty much suck.  So, I definitely didn't appreciate them right away.  Soon after is when a lump was discovered in my right breast and had to be removed (benign).  My first surgery - I was convinced I'd been cursed!

As years went by though, I began to get more used to the boobs - and maybe even appreciate them.  I'm tall and having big boobs made for a pretty good figure!  Despite always thinking I was fat (bhaahahahahahaha!), I still thought I had pretty great boobs.  But, really, I never REALLY appreciated them. I never did anything cool with them. They never got to go to a nude beach, experience a wet t-shirt contest or topless modeling. They never got to flash someone for beads at Mardi Gras. They never got to ride a bike without a shirt and experience the wind in their face...uh...face?  Well, you know what I mean. Boo for having high morals!  Hmph!

As we near the end of their days on earth, I've been trying to think of a way to really honor them for their service.  I wish I could take them to Disneyland or something.  I think they would like that!  Or experience weightlessness in space!  They would appreciate that I bet!  I imagine they would have liked sky-diving or bungee jumping too.  Alas, it's too late now.

Since society really frowns upon boobs having a day out - I'll have to honor them privately.  Maybe the three of us will take a bath (me and the two boobs).  Perhaps I'll watch TV more naked.  I'll find something to make sure they enjoy their last days.

In light of this, you should probably call before you come over...

Boob Count = 52

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Taking Care of Me

I've read a lot over the last few days about taking good care of yourself when you have breast cancer.  Things like eating well, exercising and sleeping well seem to be really important for more reasons than one.  I've really taken this advice to heart.

Yesterday I had a cupcake for lunch.  The day before that, I had Ben & Jerry's ice cream at 10:30 a.m.  Today, I'm considering popcorn and it's 10:42 a.m.  Also, I have gotten dressed for the gym twice and I even drove through the parking lot once this week!  As far as sleeping, I've taken a nap every day this week and I took two yesterday.  I'm doing really well.

You see, I think every crisis should be allowed some wallowing.  Sometimes being good to yourself means just letting yourself be.  Just letting yourself feel and be in the moment and not try to be "good."  I will admit that I'm good at wallowing. The thing about wallowing though is that you have to have a strict "end date," otherwise you just become pathetic.  I have yet to figure out my end date but it will be soon.  Maybe tomorrow, maybe Monday - everyone likes to start things anew on Mondays for some reason so that's reasonable.  Monday is the universal start over day.

In case you are new to wallowing, I have some tips:

1. During the wallowing period, you do not have to do anything you don't want to do.  Pesky things like cleaning the kitchen, laundry, making sure your children have matching socks, etc - no longer priorities.
2. The wallowing period should be filled with copious amounts of naps, TV and reading People magazine.
3. No healthy food (unless it's what you really want) shall enter the wallowing period.
4. Sleeping is the main priority.
5. Two Words: Ice cream.
6. No make-up is allowed in the wallowing period.
7. Comfortable clothes and looking like you just rolled out of bed are advised during the wallowing period.

I truly believe that sometimes it's okay to just let yourself be sad.  Let yourself go and feel sorry for yourself and think about how much life really sucks sometimes.  Just don't make a habit of it!

As for me, I've got a few more wallowing days on my schedule.

I wonder if there are any cupcakes left...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Hot Wife

I told my husband that when this was all over with, he was going to have a really hot wife.  I don't know if the look on his face was excitement or fear.

See, not only will I have new boobs, but I'll also have straight teeth.  Yes, I have braces...on my teeth, not my legs.  Yes, I really am a 41 year old woman with braces.  Why are you laughing?  See, I didn't get them as a teenager though my parents really hoped I would.  But, my older brother ruined it all for me because he had braces and he was such a big baby about them that there was no way I was subjecting myself to that type of torture!  (He now says that he was faking it for attention - typical!)  Then as an adult, I grew to hate my teeth - ugh, I became more and more self-conscious about them and, finally, I got up the courage in September of 2010 to get braces. I now look like a total dork and I have a severe drooling problem but by the time December 2012 rolls around, I'll have straight teeth! (I really hope the world doesn't end that month as predicted - otherwise I'm going to be TICKED!)

Also, I've heard stories about women who have chemo, lose their hair and then their hair grows in totally different.  I kind of like my hair, but I figure this might be my chance to finally be blonde!  Or a red head!  (Though, let's face it, with my luck, it'll all grow back in totally grey.)

Anyway, so let's add this up - straight teeth + new hair + new boobs = hot wife.

It's a good thing my husband already snatched me up because I'm going to be a hot commodity.  Too bad he has to live through the interim when I have no boobs, no hair and braces - not such a hot look. On second thought, maybe it's a good thing I made sure HE is committed to ME!  Poor guy!

Boob Count = 45

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How Are You?

It's possible that I may have some pent-up anger lurking just below the surface.  Today at Safeway when the cashier asked me how my day was, I had an almost uncontrollable urge to say, "Well, I have breast cancer and I have to have both of my boobs chopped off - how is YOUR day going?!"  Actually, the urge was to scream it.  Instead I just answered, "Um...okay...."  My first answer probably would have been inappropriate, but I'm not sure.  In fact, I don't know what to say when anyone asks how I am.  How am I?  I don't even know myself.  Right now, "How are you?" seems like the most difficult question I've ever heard!

Perhaps one of the hardest things about cancer is that you LOOK fine and, really, I feel fine too.  I don't look sick (well, no more than usual).  So, it's hard to come to terms with the fact that there is something in your body trying to kill you. It's difficult to know that you are basically going to mutilate your body when, essentially, you feel okay.

However, today, my left breast is really hurting.  It doesn't help that I'm STILL sore and bruised from the biopsy that was over 2 weeks ago (My boob is now yellow in case you were wondering.  You weren't wondering?  Oh, well, now you know anyway.).  But, now I'm having shooting pains in my breast.  And it makes me realize that I HAVE had this pain before - recently!  Over the past few months I've been having shooting pains in this breast.  Not all the time, not everyday even - just randomly.  And I never gave it a second thought - because, let's face it, I'm getting OLD and I have aches and pains - nothing to run to the doctor about.  I don't want to be one of THOSE people.  I spend enough time at the doctor, I don't need to invent things to go see him about.

However, they say "Cancer doesn't hurt until it's too late."  At this point, maybe I'm just "inventing" pain because it still seems weird that it doesn't hurt.  How can it be in there, invading my body, and not HURT?  But cancer doesn't have to hurt physically to do damage of course.  I guess my heart hurts enough to make up for it.

At this point, it's just so hard to go on.  I'm lonely all day but I don't want to talk to anyone. I don't want to be alone but I don't want anyone to come over.  I don't want to stay home but I don't want to go anywhere.  It's hard to live my life day to day just waiting but I don't want the future to come too fast.  (Confused?  Ya, me too)  One of my friends that recently went through Breast Cancer (shout-out to Shelly - woot!) and had a lumpectomy said she just wanted the bad cut out.  For me, I'm not so anxious.  I wish I could slow time down - just a little longer please - just a little longer living with my body the way it is.  Because, for me, cutting the bad out means losing my breasts.  And as much as I try to face that everyday, I just can't. I stall going to bed every night because going to bed means getting to the next day faster and one less day when I have my breasts.

Little Kidney
And now I'm the one going around looking at everyone's breasts wishing I was them.  I don't even care who they are or what they look like, I just want their breasts and their body - a body that isn't turning on them. I don't want to live this life of cancer anymore.  Five months ago when I had to make a choice to try to save part of my kidney or not - it was easier.  Easier!  I made the decision in about 5 minutes in the doctor's office!  Even though trying to save part of your kidney is a much more difficult operation, that is what I opted to do.  You see, you NEED your kidney and it seemed smart to try to keep it if I could.  And it worked out - I lost 25% of my kidney to renal cancer but the other 75% seems to be doing the job just fine (as far as we know...tests are in July).  Why then, is it so much harder to cut off something that you really don't NEED?  My breasts serve no real purpose except to be a couple of lumps under a shirt.  But, to me, they serve a huge purpose, obviously.  Obviously, I'll be the same person after the mastectomy, but I know I won't feel the same - maybe I'll never feel the same.  Maybe, in the end, I'll feel different in a good way, I'll grow and change and be happy - but that's a long road to get there.

Right now, I'd really just like to lay in bed everyday all day in the fetal position.  I tried it for a while today but then I got a cramp in my leg and had to pee.  I can't even do depression correctly.

So, I go on.  I take the kids to school, I go to the grocery store, I run my little business, I feed the dogs, I make dinner.  I live life, knowing that my life is soon going to change forever in drastic ways.  If you see me, you can ask me, "How are you?" but just expect a look of utter confusion in return.

Boob Count = 42

Monday, June 6, 2011

Good Things About NOT Having Breasts

I have compiled a list of ADVANTAGES to not having breasts:

1. NO MORE BRAS!
2. A career in gymnastics is now much more do-able.
3. Can now jog without fear of being slammed in the face with a boob.
4. Back fat much easier to hide without those pesky bras!
5. Boob sweat no longer an issue.
6. Less stains on shirt since spilled food is now more likely to fall to ground instead of being stopped on the way.
7. No bra straps to cut off circulation to shoulders and arms.
8. May be able to buy a smaller size in shirts - especially button-ups.
9. Less money spent on soap in the long run since less area to wash.
10. No pesky telltale nipplage when cold.
11. Seatbelts fit better
12. No finding food in the cleavage (popcorn seems to be the most notorious for getting lost in there FYI).
13. Better able to see feet.
14. Can now take advantage of shorter lines for Men's bathrooms (this is especially true if chemo makes your hair fall out - a bald flat-chested person is totally not going to be questioned about this!)
15. Can finally run for Presidency and have a chance of actually WINNING!


Boob Count = 40

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Weekend to Forget

Little Hand Out the Window
I've had some trying times in my life - I'm no one special, everyone has hard times.  I've had several health scares and I'm, unfortunately, no stranger to the operating room or emergency room.  If I look back on my life, I can  identify a few really trying times in my life in regards to my health.  One was when I was pregnant with my son (now 7) and a test came back marking him as having Down Syndrome.  I was rushed into an amniocentesis and then had to wait days to find out.  Those days were some of the darkest in my life - I was devastated.  It ended up that I got a false reading and he was a perfectly healthy baby.  Other times that have been difficult were when I found out I had renal cancer and when the doctors *thought* I had thyroid cancer.

The days I'm living through now will rank right up there as some of the darkest in my life.  As I see it, I have no good options.  Either I have a lumpectomy and spend my days WAITING for the cancer to come back - because, let's face it I don't have a very good track record.  Or, I have a mastectomy and lose my breasts.

As much as I go back and forth and as much advice as I get - it just keeps coming back to, "What would my kids want me to do?"  I mean - if my kids are looking back from the future would THEY think it was okay that I had a lumpectomy and rolled the dice with my life or would they be thankful that I had a mastectomy and did what I could to be around to see them go to Prom, graduate, get married, have children...  Will they care that Mom doesn't have breasts for awhile? Will they care that I eventually have breasts that aren't really my own?  Doubtful.

This is what 7 Looks Like
As I looked in the rear-view mirror on the way home today, I watched my son put his little face out the window and watched the wind blow his hair back.  I thought about that innocence of being 7 and I thought about how I can't leave him, I just CAN'T - I can't shortchange him or his sister just to keep a couple of big boobs on my body.  I have to do everything I can to make sure I'm still here for them.  Because, it's not really about boobs, it's about my life.  I don't want my kids to look back and say that their Mother died when they were young, but hey, she had her own boobs!

I know what I have to do but I'm far from having accepted it.  I'm in mourning for all that I'll lose.  I have to learn to celebrate all that I'm keeping.

Boob Count = 38

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Sidekicks

The Love of my Life, Greg
Yesterday was a difficult day, no secret about that.  Thankfully, I had TWO friends with me to journey through the day.  The first one, as you already know was my husband, Greg.  He held my hand when I cried, hugged me, made me laugh at all the right times and assured me he'd love me if I had both boobs, a uni-boob or no boobs at all.

Don't get me wrong, he drives me absolutely bonkers half the time!  He can't fold a towel properly to save his life, he ALWAYS rolls his socks into little balls and throws them in the laundry that way and I refuse to share a toothpaste tube with him.  But, when I need him, he's there for me and he knows just what to say and just how to be my rock.  I love him so much.

The other friend with me yesterday was my puppy.  Oh yes, I'm one of THOSE people.  I have a puppy that fits in a purse.  (NO!  DON'T CLICK OFF!  REALLY!  I'M NORMAL!  COME BACK!!!)  See, I've wanted a little Yorkie for a couple of years ago.  My 9 year old daughter struck the deal that if I got a puppy then Daddy should get an X-box 360.  I'm totally fine with that.  My husband was willing to forgo his X-box 360 in order to ensure that no more animals entered this household (we already had 2 dogs and cat).  But, when you get renal cancer and live through it, your husband is so happy to have you and have you be okay that in a moment of weakness, he'll agree to anything!   (I should have asked for a Ferrari!)

Two months ago, I found the cutest YorkiePoo puppies and I had to have one!  I talked Greg into it and the kids and went to visit and chose a girl puppy.  Since I can't have anymore human babies (due to health problems, well that's probably obvious by now - HA!), she has become my baby.  And YES I have one of those cute purses to carry her around in.  I don't take her often really - because I don't like to take her places that I think her presence might offend someone like restaurants, grocery stores, doctor's offices, etc.  Even though she's totally confined in her little purse and you can barely see her, I know some people might still have a problem with it.

Yesterday, however, we were going to be gone for at least 8 hours - from 9 am to 5 pm.  We've never left her that long before and she needs to eat every couple of hours - she's only 2 pounds.  So, we loaded her up in her cute purse and my husband had strict instructions to ignore her so no one would notice her.

Now, Molly (that's her name) doesn't mind the purse for the most part.  She feels cozy and safe and she usually falls asleep.  Our first appointment was with the surgeon and I had to stand and wait to check-in at the counter for quite a long time.  In the waiting room was a 3 year old.  If anyone is going to blow your cover, it's going to be a 3 year old.  As I'm standing waiting, I hear him loudly tell the entire waiting room, "Hey!  There's a puppy!!"  As Greg and I glanced at each other and laughed, I tried to ignore him.  Well, anyone who has spent any time around a 3 year old knows they will.not.be.ignored!  So, he was soon by my side repeating "There's a puppy!"  I said to him quietly, "Yes, but it's supposed to be a SECRET."  This is when he turns around and announces to the entire lobby and office, "IT'S A SECRET PUPPY!"  Great kid!  Thanks for keeping it on the down-low.

Molly
When we made it back to the exam room, Molly was a bit more anxious than usual and she started to whine. As we were waiting, Greg had her in the purse on his lap and he was petting her trying to not draw attention to himself.  When the surgeon came in, Molly was asleep but Greg continued still petting her - you can't really see in the purse so we didn't think anyone would notice.  The surgeon did the exam, we talked for a good 20 minutes and THEN when the surgeon got ready to leave he said, "Well, I see your husband is just perfectly happy to sit and pet the puppy."  LOL!  Darnit!  The jig was up!

We went through the rest of our day and never heard a peep from Molly and no one else noticed her at all.  It really helped me to have her.  I didn't have to worry about her and she was there to cuddle and love when I needed her.  Wow, I sound like a huge freak now.  You're welcome.

Anyway, it's my two "friends" that got me through yesterday - thank you.  And, for those of you wondering, my husband still doesn't have his X-box....soon honey, soon!

(And yes, I realize that I just used 2 paragraphs to talk about my husband and then 6 about my DOG - Sorry honey!  Haha!)

Boob Count = 35

2 Out of 3 Prefer Open in the Front!

Lovely Pink Paper "Vest"
Today was the day when I would get ALL the answers - I would have three doctor appointments and at the end of the day there would be solid plans for my treatment and I would know everything.  Too bad it didn't work out that way.  After the three appointments, I'm more confused than ever and I have determined that at some point during the day; I officially crossed the line into having TOO much information.  I might need that OTHER Valium!

The day started early at the surgeon's office.  We arrived late at 9:40 for our 9:30 appointment (we told them we would be late because we have kids to get to school, they said that was fine).  Checking in took a long time and we waited a long time in the lobby - 40 minutes passed (and everyone that came in went in before us...) before I got up and said, "YoooHooo, I'm still here."  :)  Turns out they still had me on the schedule for a 10:50 appointment despite them calling the day before to beg me to come at 9:30 instead.  Ugh.  We were quickly shuffled back into a room where we got to wait a really long time in confinement instead of in the lobby.

Upon arriving in the exam room, I was given the flimsiest piece of paper I've ever seen (pink of course!) that I was supposed to wear - "Open in the Front!" the nurse chirped.  My husband and I had a good laugh at the sight of me in this get-up.  It didn't close in the front and it didn't even cover my poor sad boobs!  And I was supposed to meet the doctor for the first time in this get-up?  AND have a serious conversation with this doctor?!  Um, my Mama didn't raise no fool, thank you very much!  I quickly searched around for something to preserve the last shred of modesty and dignity I had.  I found the pillow.  The pillow and I became best buds.

Oh ya, I touched it!
This is the point where things got really silly.  We were bored.  We spent a lot of time laughing about how the surgeon is named "Gallagher" just like that comedian who smashes watermelons. As we waited and waited some more, my ever-entertaining husband got goofier by the minute.  He started daring me to do things that you aren't supposed to do like TOUCH the thermostat that had a sign on it that said, "PLEASE DON'T TOUCH!"  Well, I DID touch it - SO HA!  I'm a rebel, yep, that's right - R.E.B.E.L. is my middle name.  As we got more and more bored, my husband started tapping out morse code on the wall in hopes that someone would decode it and come in.  I made him stop and told him, "OH!  This is SO going in my BLOG!!"  I'm sad to say that being threatened with public humiliation did nothing to deter his bad behavior.

Thankfully, I was saved by the doctor coming in - FINALLY!  The doctor introduced himself and then laughed at my death grip on the pillow.  He asked why I was holding on to his pillow for dear life and my husband blurted out, "SHE'S COLD!"  Haha!  So, I said, "Well, yes, I was cold, but also, I just felt really immodest..."  The doctor seemed totally shocked by this!  Like how could I possibly have an issue with sitting around with my boobs hanging out?

The doctor took away my friend, the pillow, and examined me.  My husband takes great issue with his examination (and all of the doctor's examinations on this day) because he doesn't think anyone should be having to touch the GOOD boob!  I told him it's for comparison sakes - my husband continues to be skeptical about this.  After the doctor completed the exam, he gave me back my buddy, the pillow.  What a pal!

Doctor #1 (Surgeon) Recommends: Mastectomy.  He feels that since I have TWO cancers, the same type of cancer but not the same cancer - two separate events - it's too risky to keep the breast.  He could do a lumpectomy if that were my choice - but it makes him nervous.  Too much chance of recurrence.  AND since I have been "blessed" with large breasts - it would be best to do a double mastectomy.  We could just take one, but then I'd be looking at several reconstructive surgeries on both breasts to make me even close to even again because they'd have to reconstruct the left breast that would be gone and they'd have to totally redo the right breast so it would be smaller to match the other "new" and improved breast.  Not to mention that if I left just one breast, I'd have just one breast during the whole time of my treatment - could be months.  There are prosthesis but they are difficult to wear, etc.  So, imagine me walking around for months with one boob - oh ya, that's not at ALL weird!

You don't really realize how attached you are to something "silly" like your breasts until you look down and try to imagine yourself without them!  I kind of like my boobs!  They aren't perfect, let's face it, I'm 41 years old - they've seen better days.  But they are MINE and they are part of me.  I can almost wrap my mind around losing my left breast (the one with the cancer) but it's just heartbreaking to think of losing the healthy right one.

My husband tried to soothe my fears by saying that, for instance, if he had testicular cancer, HE wouldn't mind if they took BOTH testicles!  I said, "That's ridiculous!  No one sees your testicles!  What does that matter?!"  He pondered this for a moment and then said, "Okay, so say I had 'Butt Cheek Cancer,' I would say 'Just take both Butt Cheeks and get it over with!'"

Wow.

After leaving the lovely paper vest behind and saying goodbye to my pillow friend, we had a quick lunch at Ihop before heading to appointment #2.  This one was at the Cancer Center.  Appointment #2 was with the Radiation Oncologist - the person that would be managing my treatments should I have radiation treatments.  First I met with the nurse who asked almost a million questions.  Then, once again, I striped down and put on a hospital gown.  I was so thankful to see a hospital gown!  Woot!  Open in the back this time - Weird!

Smallest Exam Table Ever!
The doctor came in and chatted a bit about my history before examining me on the teeniest exam table I've ever seen in my entire life.  After the exam, he let me get dressed before returning to chat about treatment options.

Doctor #2 (Radiation Oncologist) Recommends: Lumpectomy.  He says that since the two cancers are close enough together, they can just take the lumps (and some tissue) and lymph nodes (4-6) and then chemo (maybe - though he feels it's very likely given my age and fact that there are two cancers) and then I'll have 7 weeks of radiation which he feels would bring my risk of recurrence down the same as if I had a mastectomy.  He doesn't see the need for a mastectomy but says it's my call.  He is confident that the oncologist (my next doctor appointment) will concur.

Now Greg and I are feeling kind of silly for getting on board with the whole "Let's just chop them off!" train.  If 2/3 of the doctors say Lumpectomy - well, duh, that seems like the way to go, right?  Unfortunately, the next doctor did NOT concur with his colleague.

Before moving on, I must impart the best part of this second doctor appointment.  This doctor, the radiation oncologist, was an older gentleman, probably in his 60's.  He was very irritated that the IT department had installed pictures on his exam room computer - so that whenever the computer went to sleep, the pictures of staff would scroll through.  He was very distracted by the pictures and he kept getting off topic in the middle of sentences.  He wondered aloud if they were real people or if the IT department had just gotten pictures of people off of Google (LOL) and when a picture of a bunch of Nuns came up, he said, "See!  Aren't they scary?!"  LOL  So, as the doctor once again got distracted in mid-sentence by the pictures of the scary nuns scrolling by, Greg reached over to the computer and tapped a key so it would come out of sleep mode and just be the regular "Windows" screen.  This is where the doctor looked at my husband like he was the smartest person on the planet! A GENIUS!  His mouth was agape!  It was hilarious and we all burst out laughing!  He really was just so amazed at what had just happened and asked Greg to please tell him what he'd just done!!!  Haha!  Before we left the room, Greg changed the screen saver to come on only after 60 minutes - so hopefully that nice doctor can avoid the scary nuns in at least one of his exam rooms...  I'm sure he's a very good doctor but he really knows nothing about computers!  ;)

Now, we moved up one floor for our appointment with the oncologist.  We checked in and this is where we first found out that TODAY was National Donut Day!!!  Why did no one tell us this?!  We would have totally celebrated!  This is a holiday I can fully support, thank you very much.  Anyway, much to our dismay, there were only 3 sad little donuts left on the table and neither of us felt brave enough to "celebrate" by eating one of the crusty donuts.

We waited a bit and then were called back and seated in a conference room with comfy couches.  Greg was thrilled that, finally, we'd found a doctor that I wouldn't have to take my clothes off for!  I told him it was only a matter of time...and I was right.  The Oncologist entered (and I already know him because I've had struggles with anemia in the past and he's my anemia doctor) and chatted with us a few minutes before leading us to an exam room and giving me a hospital gown (open in the front!).  This one was lavender!!  Or, at least it used to be lavender before it was washed about 1,000 times...  I was just happy to see a different pattern.  The same drill followed, exam, poking, prodding - and by this time my poor left boob is getting really sore because I'm STILL bruised from the biopsy 12 days ago and still sore.  Get dressed again, doctor comes back.

Doctor #3 (Oncologist) Recommends:  Mastectomy.  He does NOT agree with the Radiation Oncologist. Since there are two cancers, unrelated to each other, in the same breast, 6 cm apart - one considered small, one considered medium - this warrants not trying to keep the breast.  He feels that there is likely something "wrong" with this breast that is making cancer grow.  Too risky to try to keep it.  I'll be somewhat protected by a cancer drug I'll be put on for 5 years - but it only works for 5 years and after that, my chances of getting cancer again, especially in this same breast. are really high.  Double Mastectomy is up to me.  But, he agrees that there would be no way to get a matching "pair" without taking both and then starting over. Plus, I'm at a higher risk for getting breast cancer in the right breast.  He also brings up that I should have a hysterectomy (not the first time I've heard this - it was also suggested at the Breast Center) because I'm producing too much estrogen and I have the type of cancer that just LOVES estrogen.  Again, increasing my chances of getting breast cancer again.  If I have a mastectomy, then the hysterectomy (ovaries too) is not AS important but probably still inevitable at some point.  We won't know about the chemo recommendation until after surgery when they see how big the largest tumor really is (it's measuring at 17 mm on the MRI which is just under 2 cm).  If it's 2 cm, then chemo is for sure.  If it's in the lymph nodes, chemo is for sure.  The MRI shows that my lymph nodes are swollen which can indicate cancer there, but that could also be swelling from the biopsy still hanging around too - so we won't know anything for sure until after surgery.

To say that it was a day of confusion and crazy emotions would be the understatement of the year.  It's now 3:00 a.m. and I've been up since 8 a.m. after barely sleeping.  My head is spinning and I can't think straight.  I had dinner with BFFs tonight and they all say, "Go for the Mastectomy - Get great boobs!  We want you around for a long time!  Do what is going to be safest for your future!"  (And then SOME people just wanted dibs on getting to fondle my new boobs *cough* SHEREEN *cough*).  They are right - BUT wouldn't you want to save YOUR boobs?  How can I cut off something that is such a part of ME?!  I know it's silly and I know it's just a BOOB (or two) but, wow, I never thought I'd be faced with this choice at 41 years old!  I never thought I'd be faced with this choice at all!

To break it down, my two choices are:

#1: Lumpectomy, maybe chemo, radiation for sure, hysterectomy for sure
#2: Mastectomy, maybe chemo, maybe radiation, maybe hysterectomy

Who in their right mind can even MAKE that kind of choice?

So, where do we go from here?  I find out the results of the genetic testing on the 16th.  I have an appointment with the plastic surgeon to discuss reconstructive breast surgery options on the 21st.  I'll need to make a decision within the next couple of weeks so as to schedule the surgery end of June or early July.

Now, where did I put that Valium?

People Outside My Family Who've Seen My Boob: 14
Boob Count: 32