Thursday, July 28, 2011

Good Things About NOT Having HAIR!

I will, for sure, lose most of the hair on my head (enough to shave the rest off).  Some people lose all of the hair on their entire body!!!  Never fear, I have come up with a list of Good Things About NOT Having Hair!!

Goodbye Favorite Hair Clips!  <sniffle>
1. Savings on hair styling products.
2. No more shampoo and conditioner.
3. No more mascara clumps!
4. No more precious moments wasted by daily brushing.
5. Electric styling aids no longer needed (hair dryers, curling irons) = SAVE ELECTRICITY!
6. Opportunity to try different hair styles via wigs. (Does not apply to me)
7. Less to no hair in the drain!
8. Opportunity to become a "hat person."
9. NO chance of lice!
10. FREE bikini wax!
11. No leg shaving!  (Woot)
12. Any unwanted hair - GONE!
13. Can make money by posing as the NEW "Mr. Clean!"

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wigging Out!

Trying on Mom's New Hats!
Today was such an adventurous day full of so much information!!  Because, today was the day that I finally got to meet with the geneticist!  I am absolutely fascinated by genetics!  (I'll stop using exclamation points any time now!)

I took my Mom with me to the genetics appointment since if there is something wrong with me, it is surely her fault.  The doctor (who was just so nice) came in and first took a full family tree history.  My Mom's side is easy, she's an only child!  My father's side is messier, he was one of six children and I have many cousins.  The interesting thing about my father's side is that Parkinson's was so prevalent.  My father died from a stroke due to Parkinson's and his mother and several siblings had it.  I show no signs of Parkinson's and it's not something I'm really concerned about at this point.  I'm too busy trying to figure out what variety of cancer I'm going to get next...  Which is weird, because I always thought the Parkinson's was going to get me.  However, at 41, I would be showing signs of it by now, and I'm not.  I don't want to say I'm "safe" because I don't like to tempt fate...

On my father's side is also a disease called Ehlers Danlos.  My family has a "milder" form of Ehlers Danlos which includes double-jointedness and weak joints.  I likely have this and it's something I've known for a long time.  I have very loose joints and I'm very double jointed.  Other than that, it's not something that really is a problem for me.  I have a very mild variety of it.  I had a cousin that had it quite severely and broke bones constantly.  I'm lucky that, for me, it's just a mild nuisance and a few aches and pains here and there.  Well, that and I'm not going to be a professional athlete any time soon (darn).

That's a lot of "junk" on my Dad's side.  But, little did I know, my problem is something I didn't even know about and never imagined.

After taking the family history, the geneticist zeroed in on a rare syndrome called "Cowden's Syndrome."  This syndrome causes (are you sitting down):

Breast Cancer
Renal Cancer
Thyroid Cancer and tumors
Fibroid Tumors
Uterine Cancer

There are a few other things the syndrome causes that I don't have but those are the most serious and I have ALL except the Uterine Cancer.  Great.  I've always said I'm an over-achiever.

Oh ,and one of the main symptoms of Cowdens?!  MOOO-ing!  Okay, I'm kidding - not really.  But, it is a BIG HEAD!  See!  I told you I have an abnormally large head!  Hats don't fit me!  Finally, I have a reason for my big noggin!  Well, besides the fact that geniuses normally have larger heads.  Nah, I made that up too. Ha!

One of the markers of CS is little bumps on the body and especially the face.  I do not have those.  But I do have this calcium spot on my eyelids which the geneticist feels are related to the disease.  And who else has that same thing on their eyelid?


Wig #1
See, it really IS always your Mother's fault.  My mother not only has the eyelid thing but also the fibroid tumors.  My grandmother had the fibroid tumors as well.  However, neither my mother nor grandmother had any cancers.  So, it's possible I'm still just a first generation mutant, however, signs are pointing to my mother as well.

It was fascinating!!  The geneticist got really excited when she figured it out.  What's even more interesting is that my Mother and I had both found it online and read about it but had disregarded it a bit...  What does the internet know?!  My Mother actually found it first!  I guess the internet IS good for something.  My Mom and I have some other "skin" similarities that are interesting and, I wonder, related?

So, I'll have a blood test next week which will be sent off and evaluated.  90% of people with CS are identified through genetic testing.  10% are not.  That 10% can't be found just because they don't quite know what the mutation is.  The geneticist feels really confident that this is what I have and if I get a negative - it's a false negative.


Looks Better on Him!
Even though, there are some unanswered questions and more to find out - I feel so happy and so relieved to have an answer!  There will be a lot of screenings in my future and we make sure that I don't get the other cancers associated with CS (Colon Cancer is a bit of a concern as well).  But, I'm so thankful to have an answer.  So thankful to know what to look for!

We spent 2 hours at the geneticist and then went to lunch before heading to the Cancer Center.  I was going to get some hats today and maybe try on some wigs.  I was apprehensive about going and I wanted to say that I was too tired but I knew my Mom would be one of the best people to go with me.  One of the most fun!  I forced myself to go.  I'm glad I did.  I thought I might lose it once I got there but I was okay.

Upon arriving, I saw a familiar face.  One of the ladies that had helped in the Mastectomy class was there to help and talk to.  I looked at and tried on several hats and found about 6 that I like!  Some of the hats even fit my huge gigantor head!  Success!  I really think I'm going to be a hat person - scarves underneath maybe.  It's what I feel most comfortable with.

Hot in the City Tonight!
After perusing the hats and choosing some (ALL FREE!), I talked myself into trying on some wigs - maybe I would like them!  Maybe it would be ME!

I do not like them.  I look totally ridiculous as the pictures show.  Really.  It's bad.  It upped my "dork quotient" by A LOT.  It made me question whether I even look good with the hair I've got!  It was fun though and we had a good laugh.

I met a lady there that IS a wig person.  The first wig she tried on looked so amazing on her that we all talked her into it and she was so happy with it.  This woman is going through radiation treatments for Stage IV breast cancer that has moved to her brain.  I thought she was the nicest lady!  We all had some good laughs!

Which made me wonder....why are the people with the most to deal with, the most upbeat?  I see/hear people complain daily about what is wrong in their life and once you have cancer, so much of it seems so trivial.  I try to not judge, everyone has their cross to bear, don't they?  But...when your life is in jeopardy, when you aren't sure you are going to see your kids grow up, suddenly, so many things seem very very petty.

Anyway, I had a great day.  A great day finding cute hats, thinking about how I'll look, planning for losing my hair and getting answers.  I couldn't have asked for more...well, maybe to look good in a wig....


I think that I've maybe figured out the whole posting snafu.  You should now be able to post by using the "Anonymous" setting.  I had originally disabled that option because when I first started this blog, I wasn't sure where I was going with it or how big it would be or if I would even share it with anyone else.  I couldn't imagine that people I don't know would be reading or commenting - but now I see that they are - and I'm so glad.

So, post away - and use "Anonymous" but please sign your name so I can keep all of you straight!  :)

Thanks ~ Laura

No "Boobs"


I'm looking into MOVING my blog elsewhere.  I'm so frustrated that people try to comment and can't.  I'll keep you posted!  Look for more info!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Finding Out About Chemo

Yummy Pink Drink
Last Thursday was the day I found out that I'd have to have chemo.  I was so nervous for the appointment.  Once I was through the surgery and feeling somewhat lucid again, I started to obsess about what the pathology would say.

My biggest concern was that chemo wouldn't be a clear choice.  I had several dreams about it.  The percentages were always either really low or borderline.  Would you have chemo if it would only help you by 4%?  I'm not sure I would.  I was so afraid I'd have to make a choice like that - an impossible choice.

It turns out that I didn't have to make that terrible choice but the reality was worse than what I'd imagined.  Because, even though the choice was clear, I was smacked in the face with the reality of the cancer that I have.

The chances that cancer remains in my body after the double mastectomy = 50%!  FIFTY PERCENT!  I hadn't even dreamed of a number that high.  The pathology was also upgraded to a Grade 3.  After the biopsy, I was a Grade 2 - meaning the cancer was a mid-high risk.  Mid-high aggressive, mid-high moving.  After the surgery, Grade 3.  Extremely aggressive, extremely fast.  Combined tumor size = 3 cm.


That scared the crap out of me.  Cancer is so fast, so aggressive, so scary.  How did I get this?  That's the million dollar question isn't it?

So, while I'm thankful that I didn't have to make a terrible impossible choice to have or not have chemo, the percentages are way too high for my comfort.  After chemo and on the cancer drug, Tamoxifen, my chances come down to 10-15% of recurrence.  I'll have an 85-90% chance of survival.  I was shocked by that too.  I'm not a gambler, I don't take chances.  I like 100% odds.  And now I have to live with 85-90% odds.

Because if it comes back, it's Stage IV and there is no cure.  None.  I asked.  I'm doing everything I can to make sure that doesn't happen but, beyond this, I don't have a lot of control.

I hate not being in control.  I guess none of us are really in control of what happens to us...not really.  I could walk across the street and get hit by a bus (though, I do look both ways when I cross the street like my Mama taught me so what are the chances?!).  But, having cancer, makes my life feel more out of control.  More precarious.

I was stunned by the results but I was more stunned to learn other news.  My doctor is leaving.  LEAVING ME!  Well, he's leaving everyone but I like to take things personally.  He is leaving to take a position in Seattle to work on a vaccine for cancer!  A VACCINE!  Isn't that the coolest?  It really is and I think he's a very talented man and brilliant but he's such a great doctor and I'm devastated to lose him.  In fact, I didn't cry until he said he was leaving - then I lost it.  Because when you are sick, you kind of expect some consistency, you find a good doctor and you hold on for dear life - they are your rock.  And now my rock is leaving.  He'll be around until end of September and I have the choice to stay until then or switch now.  I chose to stay until he leaves.  I've actually known him for a few years because he's the same doctor I saw for my anemia.  I'm sad to see him leave but I hope he'll become famous for finding a cure for cancer.  He might be the one to crack this mystery.

French Fry on Floor
After all of this information, I was feeling pretty numb.  Weird things were popping out at me.  Like how there was a french fry on the floor when there is nowhere even close that sells french fries.  Or the extreme pinkness of the Italian Soda I bought at the little coffee stand there.  My husband thought I'd lost my marbles for taking pictures of these things but he humored me, as usual.

I made the appointment to have the port put in.  I don't have to have a port, it's just 4 chemo sessions (one every 3 weeks for 3 months) but it's so hard to find a vein on me and I'll have to have blood tests too - so it's just smart.  I'll be having the port put in at 7 am on August 10.  It's a simple surgery, 20 minutes or so and then they let you go home.  They'll be leaving a connection in so that I will have my first chemo the next day at 11 am.  The first day of poison coursing through my body.

Afterwards, I wandered down to the first floor to look at hats and scarves, but like I said yesterday, I just couldn't do it.  I started sobbing and had to leave.

Today, I have another appointment with the surgeon and I'm confident I'll lose two more drains, leaving just one.  I'm so thankful!  I'm so sick of the drains!  I knew I would be.  Drains are not fun.

Tomorrow is the appointment with the genetics counselor.  I'm so excited for this appointment.  I think it will be so interesting!  I'm just sure I'm mutant enough to be famous!

For now, it's 16 days until I start chemo.  I've started blaming things on chemo brain already.  Unfortunately, no one is falling for it yet.  But I plan to milk this whole chemo thing for all it's worth - who wouldn't?

Monday, July 25, 2011


I haven't written lately because I've been so busy - in a really good way.  See, a bunch of friends came to town this weekend and I got to do a lot of fun touristy stuff that you only do in your town when people come to visit. Like going to the Space Needle.  Always there, always available, walk by it several times a year, but it's just more fun to go with people who've never been.

And the best thing about the last 4 days.  I forgot I have cancer.  Like...a lot!  Many times.  Once I went to practically jump in the car.  That was not wise and I wouldn't recommend "forgetting" about cancer that well.  But, it was so wonderful.  If part of healing is healing the soul, then I did a lot of that this weekend.


Everyone left.  And after a good nap, it was back to reality.  Back to trying to coordinate where the kids will go during my appointments this week.  Back to realizing that in 2 weeks, I start chemo.  CHEMO!  Ugh.

Me - 4 years old - Look at the gorgeous hair!
And because I'm a totally rational woman, I'm completely freaked out about losing my hair.  Poisons in my body?  Meh, that's okay - but don't touch the hair!  I really really love my hair.  I'm not really one of those people that always wished they had different hair.  I've always, for the most part, really loved my hair.  It's really thick, it's really soft, it's curly but I can make it straight if I want; and, at 41 years old, I've never even colored it yet.  I have some gray to be sure (more are popping out daily, I'm sure) but not really enough yet to justify coloring my hair.  And, though, I've gone through times of hating my hair color, I've come to (mostly) love it.  It's dark dark brown.  Yes it is!  It's not black!  Dark brown.  People never believe me until I put something black up to it and then they say, "Oh, okay, you win - dark brown..."  I always sort of wanted a little bit lighter brown, but I haven't spent any sleepless nights over the color that I do have.

But, now - Goodbye.  I know there are good things about losing your hair - think of the shampoo savings!  No more hair in the drain!  But, it's hard to focus on those for more than a second - because then I just think again, Oh My God - I'm losing my HAIR!

I don't have much to call my own anymore I feel like.  Cancer has taken my breasts and now, it really is taking over the rest of my body.  I'll lose the hair on my head and I may lose all of the hair on my body.  And while, the thought of a free bikini wax and not having to shave my legs, is tempting - for the most part, I really like the hair on my body.  And if my double rows of eyelashes don't grow back, I'm going to be TICKED!

I remember that one of the ladies from the cancer center said she lost the hair in her nose!  In. Her. Nose!  She said that was the worst.  It's painful when you don't have hair to protect your nose!  And anything in your nose just runs out without abandon.

Boy, Cancer is lots-o-fun!

The consolation is that there are a lot of cute hats and scarves these days.  There are whole companies that specialize in head coverings for women who have lost their hair and they really are fashionable.

I'm concerned though. dirty little secret is...oh gosh, this is so hard...

I have an abnormally large head.

There, I said it.  *Whew*  I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted.  I'm not kidding either.  When I try on cute hats at stores, they are often too small.  I always hope that maybe, just maybe, I'll look cute in a hat!  I want to be a "hat person."  Someone that can wear a hat and look adorable.  But, I'm not and I don't look cute.  Never.  I look like a dork.  I mean, more of a dork.  And, usually, 9 times out of 10, they don't fit.  It's really pathetic.

In fact, I went down to the Cancer Center first floor and looked at some of the free hats after I found out about the chemo and I even was brave enough to try one on.  It was so cute with a little brown buckle.  And yes, it was way too small. Do average women have teeny heads or what?!  I would have tried on more but I started to cry with the gravity of the realization that I was trying on hats because I was going to lose my hair and I just couldn't go on.

My mother said it's a little premature to be thinking about hats.  But, really, it's not.  I start chemo in just over 2 weeks and your hair starts to fall out 7-10 days after the first treatment so I'm really only about 3 weeks from losing my hair.  Not premature to start planning, to start thinking about it, to start trying to accept it.

How much more can I give to appease cancer?  What else does it need from me?  What more do I have to give?

I guess, in the whole scheme of things, when you look at it as trading hair for life - it's not so bad.  But, I still like my hair and I'll miss it dearly.  I'm about to become a hat person, whether I like it or not.

(Thank you Renee, Viki & Yvette for a great weekend!)

Friday, July 22, 2011


Yes, I NEED Chemo.  Big time.

My chances of getting Stage IV breast cancer (for which there is no cure) are 50% without it.  The cancer drug Tamoxifen (which I will be on for 5 years) and chemo will bring my chances of no recurrence to 85-90%.  I was hoping for 100%, but I'm greedy.

Pathology showed that I have Grade 3 breast cancer (this is an upgrade from the biopsy) with a score of 8 out of 9.  Most aggressive, fastest growing cancer.

Port will be put in on August 10, first chemo August 11.

Yes, I'll lose my hair.  Yes, I'll be on anti-nausea pills around the clock.  Yes, I'm going to be exhausted.

I tried to look at hats today but I just couldn't do it.

More later...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pity Party

Today, I threw a party.  A pity party.  Everyone was invited but really only my mom and husband came.  In fact, they were unwilling guests to it.  I can't even remember how many times I cried today.  One time, I looked at my daughters sweet face and said, "You are so beautiful," and then started crying.  I would blame it on the drugs but I didn't take any today.

Which...was probably part of the problem.  I have been trying to ration my pain pills a bit.  I feel like such a wimp that I still need pain pills at 2 weeks out.  I heard stories of women who went home and only took a few Motrin after their mastectomy or they took one pain pill and that was it or they took up gymnastics the day after.  Okay, I made the last one up - but I was expecting to be in a lot less pain by now.  I'm just so uncomfortable!  These stupid drains do not help.

Oh, the drains, I only lost 1 on Tuesday at the doctor.  Just one!  I was so hopeful.  Especially since both the drains on the left side are really not putting much out at all.  But my doctor totally burst my bubble when he said, "Don't get your hopes up - we never pull out both drains from one side at the same time..."  I asked him if he enjoyed raining on my parade!  He didn't look at all sorry.  He did say, "Well, I can pull them both out today but then I'll have to stick a needle in your side next week to drain any fluid that's there...  Well, gee, when you put it that way.  Darnit.

So, I did lose one drain and, really, I was happy with that but, maybe, I was a little disappointed too.  I was also upset to find out that I had infections on both sides.  Not in the drains but in the leftover skin.  The extra skin that is left in preparation for my new boobs.  I can't feel any of this, I'm completely numb - but both sides are pretty infected I guess.  I made the mistake of accidentally looking at one side where it's infected and I really wish I hadn't.  Ugh.  I won't even describe to you what it looks like.  You don't want to know.  Anyway, my poor husband has to help change the dressings now twice a day.  I cried tonight when he had to do that.  No man should have to do that for their wife!  I felt terrible.  I apologized.

No husband should have to see their wife like this!  I know everyone will say - he loves you, he does it because he loves you...  I know.  But, I just feel so guilty.  So guilty for getting sick. So guilty for getting breast cancer.  So guilty for ruining our lives - even though, only short term, I hope.

I hope.

Only short term, I hope.  But, I don't know, do I?  I don't know how long this ordeal will go on.  I don't know if I'll be cured.  Or if one day I'll find out that the cancer did spread.  Stage IV breast cancer seems like a death sentence if you ask me.  I'm "only" Stage II and I'd like to keep it that way.  But, there are no guarantees...

"Someone" who loves me.
Tomorrow, I find out about chemo.  Will I need chemo?  Are my chances good even if I don't have chemo?  I have such mixed feelings.  One part of me wants to have chemo to make sure that it's gone - any rogue cancer cells in my body = obliterated!  The rest of me doesn't think I can take much more.  I have moments of wanting to give up.  Moments where I simply feel I can not go on.  I can't endure any more of this!  Just forget it!  I'm done.

But, then, I remember - this life isn't just about me.  This life.  The life that I've happily created involves many people who love me and rely on me.  Rely on me to keep fighting and to be okay.  Giving up would be the ultimate in selfishness, wouldn't it?  I have to push on, even though I don't think I can.

Boob Count = 108

Monday, July 18, 2011

What a Drain!

Drain, Oregon
Three years ago, my mom and I took my kids and drove down to Southern Oregon to the dunes there on the coast.  My brother and his family were up visiting from Southern California on vacation.  After about 10 hours of being cooped up in the car together, it was starting to get dark and we were, officially, in the middle of nowhere. We came across a town called, DRAIN.  Drain, Oregon.  This is where the nuttiness began.  You'd be surprised how many words rhyme with drain.  My mother and I spent the next 30 minutes or so making fun of Drain Oregon.  A town that took us less than 3 minutes to drive through provided us with a lot of entertainment.  We made up such jewels as "I wish I could take a TRAIN out of DRAIN!"  and "You have to STRAIN to even see DRAIN!"  Yes, we were on a comedy roll.  I laughed so hard, I cried and I thought I was going to crash the car.  The children were petrified that the big people in the front seat had totally lost it.

Unfortunately, we soon learned that our experience in Drain was a "you had to be there" moment.  We gleefully told our Drain story to anyone who would listen and always were met with the same confused glassy eyed response.  To this day, whenever my mom and I mention Drain, Oregon, we start to giggle and people around us question our sanity.

Sadly, when we talk about drains today, we talk about the ones attached to my body.  Four of them to be exact.  I hate drains.  I know I've said that before but it's my blog and I like to repeat myself.  At this point, I'm not in much pain from the incisions - just a little phantom nipple pain here and there.  It's the drains that are painful.  If I try to do anything much at all, they pull and hurt.

We are down to emptying them once a day now and one side (the left) is looking really good.  The output is next to nothing and the color is really light.  The right side seems to be putting up more of a fight.  It's still very dark red and the output is still quite a bit (though much less than at the beginning, of course).

Tomorrow I have my second appointment with the surgeon and I'm hopeful that I'm going to lose at least 2 drains, maybe 3!!  I was told that some people have drains in for as much as 5 weeks or more!  I don't want to be one of those people, thanks.  I'm not looking to make a name for myself as the most "drainiest" woman.

I'm still taking pain pills once or twice a day (along with the anti-nausea pills) and mostly it's because of the drains.  It's frustrating to feel like you could start to do some things - like you could start to live a normal life again, but the pulling and pain of the drains, something that is external to your body, holds you back.

I'm still having some pain from my arms to be sure, but I had a huge success the other day in that I was able to actually apply deodorant!  I was able to lift my left arm just enough to get the deodorant sort of close to where it should be.  That was a huge relief!  Even I wasn't liking the smell that was emanating from my body by that point.  And, under the category of TMI:  I can only shower my bottom half because of the drains - so I've got to have *something* to cover up my "natural" smell.

So, appointment with the surgeon tomorrow and then appointment with the oncologist on Thursday.  The Thursday appointment is when I'll find out the recommendations for chemotherapy and where we go from here.  I'm feeling anxious about that appointment but I'm ready to just know.

For now, I'll just be so happy when Drain is, once again, a town in Oregon that I once drove through.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

10 Days

It's been 10 days since surgery.  10 days since I lost my breasts.  I don't really feel any different.  I don't feel any less feminine and I doubt anyone is really noticing for the most part.  Though, to be fair, I haven't been out and about much.  Today, in fact, was my first real outing.  I first went to the cancer center for a blood draw and then to the last Harry Potter movie with my husband and daughter.

Getting dressed for the movie was a little harrowing since a new shirt I had bought before surgery didn't fit right now.  Since I still have all 4 drains, they take up a lot of space around my abdomen area and the shirt wouldn't button around them.  I feel like they are really noticeable but, probably few other people notice.  I just look sort of bulky around that area of my body - not to mention the whole "boobless" thing.  However, I doubt anyone is noticing the lack of breasts, if they are going to notice anything, it's going to be that I look like I'm smuggling something in under my shirt.  I bet the people at the movie theater really wanted to frisk me for contraband candy and drinks!  Boy would they have gotten a surprise!

At this point, I'm not in too much pain.  I do take pain pills every morning and then once or twice during the day.  I don't *need* them at this point, but since I don't have to go anywhere or do anything it's nice to be comfortable.  I'm also taking the nausea pills since the pain pills seem to make me a little sick to my stomach and, unfortunately, this seems to really hit me in the car.  I've thrown up in my husband's car twice now in the past week.  I don't recommend that.  My husband doesn't recommend it either.

The pain I'm having at this point are from three things.  One is the irritation of the drains which just hurt and are annoying.  As I start to move around more, they pull more and become more of an annoyance.  I think I'll be able to get one or two out next week though so I'm really excited.

If you've never had drains before (I have, unfortunately), they are not fun!  It's a grenade shaped device.  Part of the drain tubing is left in your body after surgery to...well, drain the fluids that you don't want left in your body after surgery.  You have to empty these drains twice a day (in the beginning, we are down to once a day now) and then measure the output.  Trust me when I tell you that it's gross.  Really gross.  There are things about your body and things that come from your body that you truly just don't want to know about.  Really!  And the array of colors that you find in the drain are...well, disturbing.  So, each time after you empty a drain, you measure the output and record it on a grid for the doctor and then you squeeze the drain before closing it so it works as a suction to suck out the unwanted fluids from your body.  This is the third surgery that I've had drains.  My in home nurse (AKA my husband) empties the drains and I don't look.  Though, after this surgery, I have looked some.  I've gotten braver - either that, or the pain pills have just made me stupid.  I'm not sure.

Once the amount in the drains is below about 20 cc a day, and the colors are clearer (it starts out dark red...ugh), then you are usually ready to have the drains removed.  I was told I would have drains in as long as 5 weeks!!  I have 3 now that are under 20 cc a day so I'm really hoping that I'll get at least 1-2 out next week at the doctor visit.  Happy Dance!  Now, taking the drain out is not supposed to hurt - it's described as feeling like a snake coming out of your body (such a comforting image) but the drains I've had pulled out hurt like hell.  A LOT!  The first time I had a drain removed after my stomach surgery last year, I was screaming in the doctor's office.  They said, "Hmmm, that's weird, it doesn't usually hurt...."  Whatever!  It was agony!  Needless to say, I'm not looking forward to having these drains pulled out, but I'll just be happy when they are gone!

Now that I've thoroughly grossed you out about drains (and trust me when I tell you to NOT Google "surgical drain" - TRUST ME - just DON'T!), I'll move on to nipple pain.  The second source of my pain at this point is nipple pain.  Now, if you are paying attention you are pretty confused by now because you know that I no longer HAVE nipples!  A-HA, you got me!  However, I am having "phantom pains."  My husband and I talked about this before surgery and wondered if it would happen.  Just like a person that loses a limb but still feels pain in it - I am feeling my pain from the incisions as pain in my nipples!  I'm not in a lot of pain from the incisions and most of my chest is horribly numb (so disconcerting!) - but the pain I do feel from the breast removal is registered in my body as nipple pain - little shooting pains through my nipple!  It's not all that weird until I remember that I no longer have a nipple to feel pain in.

However, the main source of my pain right now is from under my arm.  Especially my left arm where the lymph nodes were taken.  It's very sore.  I really can't reach with either arm, I can't pick things up off the floor or take things off of shelves. I can't scratch my back or even the top of my head.  In fact, I don't have much movement in my left arm at all.  It hurts a lot.  Try putting on deodorant when you can't lift your arm!  Ha!  Seriously, go try it right now and let me know how that works out for you.  So, not only do I have the drains pulling but I also have this pain under the arm.  I can only describe it as a pulling - so that whenever I try to move my arm, it's like a sharp agonizing pulling pain under my arm that extends down my side and then down my arm.  I was told I'll need physical therapy after I get the drains out to make sure I get the full motion of my arm back.  I think I was told that they took 4 nodes which is not very many - but those 4 sure make a difference!

All in all, I think for 10 days out, I'm doing really well.  I'm not really missing my breasts.  It's weird to not have breasts, that's for sure.  But, it's okay too.  I haven't really missed them, but then, I haven't really been living life either - I've mostly been at home on pain pills.  So, I might have a different perspective when I'm "sober" and out in the world.

In the meantime, though, I'll stick with my haze of pain pill happiness. Breasts?  What breasts?  Who needs them?

Boob Count = 107

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What Does a Boob Weigh?

If you have read my blog, you will know that I had a failed attempt of weighing my boobs on the scale in my kitchen.  It started as a way to gauge how much weight I'd lose from surgery.  I figured if I could at least lose some weight from this whole thing, that would be a advantage. Sometimes you really have to LOOK for the good in situations.  Is there a special BMI category for the boob-less?

Beyond calculating weight loss from the surgery, it then became a matter of curiosity.  How much do these things weigh that I'm lugging around all the time?  Since I wasn't going to have them much longer, I became really curious.  As curious as I was though, my husband was dying to know.

Since they are gone and they aren't coming back, I will tell you that I was a DD bra size.  Even though it's only been a week of being boob-less, when I looked at one of my bras today I was shocked by all that...SPACE!  I put the bra up to my body and kind of laughed that I had boobs that took up all of that real estate in a bra!  Wow!

Which brings me to another point.  I feel so weird walking around without wearing a bra!  It's just so WRONG!  I can probably count on one hand the amount of times in my adult life that I've left the house without a bra!  I have been on my way to the ER, in agonizing pain, and, still, I've made sure I was wearing a bra!  And now, there is no need for a bra, but I keep feeling like I'm missing something - I keep stopping myself to make sure I'm fully dressed.  Something is missing!  Pants? Check. Shoes? Check. Bra?  Oh ya, don't need that - I look down my shirt just to confirm...

Another good method
Anyway, back to boob weight.  I weighed myself the morning of surgery.  I used the "proper" weighing technique - first thing in the morning, after squeezing every possible drop of pee out, totally naked, blowing all air out of my body.  It's the only true weight!  This is why I can justify deducting anywhere from 10-25 pounds off the weight I am at the doctor's office ("I had clothes on!" "I didn't pee!" "It's after 10 am!" "I forgot to breathe out!").

So, I knew how much I weighed right before surgery.  When I got on the scale yesterday, I was 9 pounds less.  According to my math (adjusted for drains, clothes, non-peeing, etc), I estimate I've lost 15 pounds since surgery.  But, how much of that was boob weight?

I was willing to go through the rest of my life not knowing for sure.

My husband was not.

At the surgeon's visit, my husband actually asked the surgeon if they weighed them!  I was mortified!!  Well, okay, I was mortified for about 10 seconds and then I, too, was pretty curious.  The surgeon said he didn't think they usually weigh them, but he'd check.  He came back victorious!  They DID weigh them!!  My husband and my surgeon were absolutely giddy!

Dr. Gallagher asked my husband to hazard a guess at how much he thought they weighed. His guess was frighteningly close!  In fact, when he said his guess, I blurted out, "NO! That's ridiculous!"

So, how much do DDs weigh?  Would you like me to hum the Jeopardy theme while you think about it?  Remember to write your guess in the form of a question!


What is 4.5 pounds?


FOUR AND A HALF POUNDS EACH!!!   Nine pounds total!  I was carrying a newborn baby around on my chest everyday for goodness sakes!

My husband's guess?  Four pounds each.  That scares me that he was so close.  I'm suspicious that he was rigging up some sort of pulley system to weigh them while I was sleeping...  I guessed around 2 pounds each. Boy, was I off!

Regardless, I'm off to recalculate my new BMI!

Boob Count =  106

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Finding Happiness

A few nights ago, I slept really well.  I woke up once in the middle of the night when my phone alarm rang to take pain medication then went right back to sleep.  When I awoke in the morning, I was really happy and content and I had totally forgotten that I have breast cancer.  I woke up with a smile on my face, so content, so pain-free.  Sadly, it didn't last long before reality slapped me in the face again. I remembered.  I looked down and I almost cried.  I know that my life will once again have more than 30 seconds of happiness at a time, but I'm not there yet.

Where am I now is just survival mode.  I sleep a lot, I set my phone alarm to take medications, I sleep some more.  I watch TV and then I fit a nap into my busy schedule of sleeping.  My household somehow manages to continue to run around me.  The children flit in and out playing in the fleeting sunshine that is the Seattle summer - they kiss me gently as they go by.  They say, "Mommy, I love you so much!" and  "Mommy, you are so beautiful to me."  It all makes me smile and I'm happy...for a moment, maybe longer.

Puppy totally unconcerned that her Mommy is a Nutcase.
Despite this, yesterday, I hit bottom.  After trying to switch from the pain medication to Motrin (too soon?), I realized that I can't take Motrin anymore and I got really sick.  So, I was in pain and horribly sick to my stomach.  It was hell.  I slept about 20 hours.  Somewhere in my haze, I remember uttering such intellectual gems as: "I don't want to do this anymore" and "Go get my boobs and sew them back on!!"  Thankfully, I'm pretty sure I only said the last one to the dog and she didn't seem too concerned about my sanity.  Last night, I had my husband sleep on the couch next to me (I'm sleeping downstairs in the recliner) because I couldn't stand to be alone anymore.  He snored loud enough to wake the dead (as usual), but I didn't care.  I just wanted him nearby.  Though what I really want to do is have my old life back and sleep in my bed with him next to me.  I'm tired of all of this.  Breast Cancer was fun, thanks, I wanna get off the ride now.

I remember one of my friends telling me that they remember the day that the news STOPPED being bad.  Today, was my day I think - I hope!  Today was the first post-op appointment with the surgeon.  I absolutely had to drag myself there.  I was so sick and so dizzy.  I was so out of it!  I've been dreading this day too, the day the bandages come off.  But I was excited to get the pathology results - so hopeful.  (Hopeful!  Isn't the human spirit amazing?  Why should I even have cause to "hope" at this point?!  But, HOPE, I did...)

I don't really remember much about the car ride there or going into the office - but I do remember the pathology report:


Very good news!!  The best possible news at this point.  The largest tumor was 2.1 cm and the smallest was just under 1 cm.  This puts the cancer at Stage II.

I don't know what this means for chemo and I won't know until I see my oncologist next Thursday.  I do know that he said that anything over 2 cm was a "for sure" for chemo - but with such clean lymph nodes, I'm not sure.  I'm feeling pretty beaten up by cancer right now and the thought of chemo is just completely overwhelming.

After hearing the pathology, it was time to remove the bandages.  It's pretty clear where I still have feeling and where I don't.  The bandages coming off of the front didn't hurt at all, but off the back = YEOUCH!  I kept my eyes closed.  My husband was pretty fascinated by it all and he and the doctor talked about the incisions and my husband asked some questions.  I still didn't look.  The doctor said everything looked great and he re-bandaged portions with smaller bandages.  I still didn't look.

The doctor gave me more pain pills and something for nausea (thank you!) and we made an appointment for next week.  I still have all 4 drains and I probably will for a while but they look good and are doing their job.  We left and headed to the pharmacy.  I threw up on the way home.  I don't know why my husband keeps a trash bag in his car door, but I'm thankful he does!  I felt so much better after throwing up but it didn't last long.  I continue to have waves of extreme nausea mixed in with waves of extreme hunger.  It's not a good combination as you can imagine. It's clear now that the pain medication is also making me sick.

I did look at the bandages on my chest when I got home.  Once I was sitting down and thought I could handle it.  It was okay.  I'm okay.  Instead of being all bandaged up, I just have two small bandages over where my breasts were.  There's nothing there, it's pretty obvious.  It's kind of surreal really.  I look down and I feel like I'm looking at someone else.  This can't be me.  I don't look like that.  I've looked several times now and it still hasn't really sunk in - who is this person?  Not me, surely.  But, it's all just an outer package isn't it?  It's what's inside that counts.  Those words were always just a nice adage to me until now.  I just hope the adage is actually true.

How do I look?  The best way I can describe it is that I look pregnant!  There is a point in your pregnancy where your stomach becomes larger than your breasts and you cross the line of looking just maybe chubby to actually looking for sure pregnant.  That's how I look.  In fact, I wonder if someone will eventually ask me, confused by my body ratio, if I'm pregnant.  It would be an honest mistake.  Not only do I already have my lovely chubby stomach, but I also have the drains in pockets in front which makes my stomach area appear even larger.  With the drains and the chubby stomach and the no breasts, I'd say I'm in about my 5th trimester.

So, on I go.  Trying to find the fleeting moments of true happiness as they come and holding on to them so they become more frequent.  I'm counting my blessings to be sure and remembering all that I do have to be thankful for.  I'm hoping the good news continues.  But, I'm also trying to gather my strength to continue to fight.  I want to be around for many more years of my children telling me that they love me and that I'm beautiful.  In fact, I want to be around to hear my grandchildren say those words.  I think I can make it!

For now, though, a nap is needed.

Boob Count = 99

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Boobless Wonder

Me before surgery - looking goofy.
Well, it's done.  I was released Thursday around noon.  I still can't believe that they keep you only one night after a mastectomy- and some people go home the same day!  Crazy!

Surgery morning started off well.  I had to go to one hospital at 7:45 a.m. to get the radiation shot into my poor suffering boob.  Only in the left breast since there is no known cancer in the right breast.   It didn't hurt at all and it was over in probably about 60 seconds!  The part that hurt the most was when he vigorously cleaned off my breast - my breast was so sore and touching it at all hurt.  After the torture of being *gasp* cleaned - I had a shot to numb the area right by my nipple - just a pinch and then I felt nothing after that.  He put the radiation in and it was done!  Easy!  Unfortunately, by the time I got to the car, my breast was KILLING me - so painful.  That lasted for a couple of hours before it calmed down a bit.

I really liked the doctor who did the injection - he was a lot of fun.  He told some jokes and said a bunch of funny stuff like, "Don't worry about me here, this doesn't hurt ME a bit!"  He also told me, "I don't get a lot of Christmas cards...I don't know why..."  Haha - Well, *I* know why and after the pain started, I crossed him off of my Christmas Card list too!  Ha!  I asked him why he decided to become a doctor instead of a comedian, he replied, "Pays better."  He was a hoot.  Such a good way to start the surgery day.  I was also very amused that his name was GEORGE GLASS!  If you've seen my new favorite movie, Bridesmaids, you'll know why!

Anyway, once I was finished and dressed, the technician led me back to the lobby.  He told me that I didn't have any "restrictions" since I got a really low does of radiation.  I asked him if I should stay away from the microwave, just in case.  He said that microwaves are fine.  I think I'll keep my distance anyway, just to be safe. He did tell me that some people have larger doses and then they have restrictions for several days - things like not holding babies or sleeping next to someone because you are emitting so much radiation that it's dangerous.  I wonder if they glow in the dark...I wish I could try that out and see.  Any volunteers?

The reason I got the shot was so they could find my sentinel node.  That's the main node that drains from your breast.  During surgery, they can identify that node and then take it out (along with 2-3 more) to test for cancer cells.  I asked how they knew which node to take?  Did they use a black light? Strobe light?  Disco ball?  They do not use any of those but what they DO use is a Geiger counter!!  How cool is that!  I didn't even think of that - I was too busy imagining the surgical team discoing while looking for the right node.  Geiger counter is pretty cool too though.

After the shot, we headed to the other hospital where the surgery would be.  They are only about 10 minutes apart.  We arrived there just before 9 am.  I was told my surgery would probably be about 11:30 - I was the last (and longest) surgery of the day.  My doctor was running behind though and I didn't get wheeled back until after 12:30.

Thanks for the Memories!
It was kind of hard to wait.  But, at least I got a chance to say Goodbye and Thanks for the Mammaries!  (I totally stole that "mammories" joke from my friend Jacquie!  I so wish I'd thought of it!).  I was calm while waiting, I felt ready and just wanted to get it over with at that point.  My husband came back and sat with me after the IV was in.  We did a lot of goofing around and playing with our phones to pass the time.  My husband threatened to take pictures of me in my drugged state to post on FaceBook.  I threatened him with bodily harm which must have worked because I don't see any crazy pictures of me lurking around the internet.

The "drug guy" came a little after 12 and gave me a shot to relax me.  Oh, how I love the "drug guy."  He said I wouldn't remember anything from then on but I DO remember (so HA) kissing Greg goodbye, saying goodbye to the boobs once more and being wheeled out the door.  From there, I remember nothing.  I was gone.  Which is weird because, in all of my other surgeries, I remembered getting to the OR and having to move to the operating table, counting down from 100, etc.  This time, though, nothing.  I think the exhaustion finally caught up with me.

I next woke up in recovery.  I quickly secured ice chips.  They gave me quite a bit of pain medication because I was really in pain.  However, I am one of those people that gets itchy with the pain meds.  So, I had to have Benadryl as well.  I remember the nurse asking me if I really wanted the rest of the pain medication - "It will make you more itchy," she said.  This really didn't compute to me in my groggy state and I snapped, "I want ALL of the pain medication!"    Duh lady, don't withhold the good stuff!  The hardest part about recovery is that it's a small area and the nurse kept bumping into my bed!  Every time she bumped my bed or moved it (she did that a lot too) the pain was excruciating!  I really wanted to get up out of bed and strangle her.  I did say something and it got better but not great...she still bumped me quite a bit.  She's off my Christmas Card list now too.

I don't know how long I was in recovery - an hour or so - I slept through most of it.  They took me up to my room at around 6 p.m.  I was on the same floor as when I had my renal cancer.  I meant to go say Hello to my old room, but I couldn't walk that far.

By this time, 6 p.m., I was STARVING!  Nothing to eat since midnight the day before and I was so hungry.  Someone from food services came to ask for my breakfast order the next morning.  Breakfast?!  I hadn't had dinner yet!  I told her that I was hungry and she said I had missed the dinner service but there would be leftovers and she would bring me some.  I never saw her again. Hand me my Christmas Card list...

By 9 p.m., I feared I might waste away from hunger so the nurses brought me the only thing they stock at the nurses station.  A turkey sandwich.  It was disgusting!  Bleh.  Do you think they are trying to give the patients food poisoning so they can keep them longer?  Job security!  Well, I did eat about half of the sandwich - "eat" might not be the right word - I "choked down" half of the sandwich.  Then I ate about 15 packages of graham crackers.  I complained to the RN in charge about this before I left.  There obviously needs to a better system - you can't expect people to go that long after surgery without eating (unless it's the type of surgery where you have an eating restriction, obviously).  The RN was pretty mortified - but I don't know that anything will change because one of my nurses told me it happens all the time.  Ridiculous!  So, if you have a late surgery, it might be a good idea to pack something to eat for after!

I dozed on and off throughout the night, watched a bit of TV here and there.  My phone was threatening to die so I couldn't do much with it.  Thankfully, I was too drugged up to really be bored.

When breakfast arrived the next morning, there was a delicious bran muffin (okay, I was really hungry) and a HUGE plate of scrambled eggs!  There were enough scrambled eggs to feed my entire family!  Probably about 8 eggs!  Crazy!  What a waste!  I ate a few bites of egg and gobbled up the bran muffin.  Then I had some more graham crackers (I don't want to see graham crackers any time soon in case you were wondering).

The doctor visited and told me everything went as expected, no surprises.  He said that, to the naked eye, the lymph nodes looked healthy but the pathology will tell the truth.  However, it's good that they looked healthy. I asked how big the tumor was and he said they never see it because they cut so far around it.  They send both breasts to pathology to be studied.  That's kind of interesting and kind of gross all at the same time.

We were leaving right as lunch was delivered.  We all shared the gingerbread cake which was actually delicious!  The rest of the meal was really scary - mixed vegetables (ick), mashed potatoes (bland!) and an open-faced roast beef sandwich (SUPER ICK).  I was very suspicious that everything was covered in gravy.  What exactly are they trying to hide?  I don't want to know.  Greg took some bites of the roast beef sandwich, he said it was okay.  There was no way I was touching that mystery meat!  He's brave (or maybe just really hungry).

It was about 2:00 by the time we got home.  I have looked down at my "boobs" but I'm all bandaged up.  And, so far, I've felt okay about it.  I have't cried or had any breakdowns - I thought I might.  I guess I got it all out of my system beforehand.  It is really weird to look down and not see breasts there though and now my stomach looks Huge!  Great.  Super attractive.

All in all, it's just a huge relief that this big part is over with.  I'm in some pain but I have good pain drugs and I'm keeping up with them so I don't get to where I'm in too much pain.  I'm sleeping a lot (Thank you pain pills) and enjoying the company of people who stop by.  After my renal surgery, which was SO painful, it was hard for me to entertain people or talk to them much when they came.  I was just in so much pain.  But, with this surgery, it's definitely easier and I'm a little bored.  I can't do anything because I'm in pain when I move - but I feel pretty good just sitting.  Though, I'm still taking Benadryl for the itching.

Just so relieved - I feel like I made the right choice.  My 9 year old daughter said to me yesterday, "Mom, we are kicking cancer's butt, huh?"  Then, she said, "Wait, does cancer HAVE a butt?"  I replied, "Well, if it does, we are kicking it!"  She's so cute.

I go to see the surgeon on Tuesday and they will take off the bandages.  I think that might be emotional - we'll see.  I'm trying to prepare myself for it and I've seen pictures online of what it will look like.  I'll find out a lot of the pathology results on Tuesday as well.

In the meantime, I'm just working on my Christmas Card list.  I have some revisions to make after all.

People Outside My Family Who've Seen My "Boob" = 27
Boob Count = 98

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Today is the last day of having my own breasts.  Well, I guess that's not really true, I'll have breasts again and they will be my own, but they won't exactly be "home-grown."

A lot of people have been asking how I'm feeling.  I don't really know how I'm feeling.  It's just so many emotions all rolled up in one and I can't even pinpoint just one - plus how I'm feeling changes from minute to minute.  I still wish it weren't ME!  I still wish it weren't TRUE!  I still wish I could DISAPPEAR!

Disappearing isn't easy though.  I tried it.  I sat in my favorite chair downstairs and put a blanket over my head. I even whispered "Shazam" which, as far as I know, is the official disappearing word.  My husband thought I was napping and didn't say anything but my 7 year old son found me and started laughing hysterically.  It's really hard to concentrate on disappearing when someone is laughing hysterically.  I told him to hush, "I'm trying to disappear," I said.  He found that not at all alarming and laughed harder.  Then he took my blanket and tried to disappear himself.  The magic was gone then and me and my boobs were still here.

I've come to terms with everything as much as I can I think.  I have prepared myself as much as I can.  I'm trying to prepare myself for the devastation of it all.  Trying to prepare for the surgeon marking up my breasts before the surgery.  Trying to prepare for the time when they take off the bandages and I really see my body.  Trying to prepare for looking down and seeing my stomach instead of my boobs.  It dawned on me a couple of days ago that my chubby stomach will now be bigger than my "non-existent" boobs.  That made me cry.

I have to be at the hospital at 7:45 for the shot in the boob (cruel, I tell you!) and then I head right over to the other hospital in town to get ready for surgery.  They told me 10:30 - 11:00 for start of surgery, but I have 3 surgeries in front of me so I really think it'll get pushed later.  Oh joy.  I hope they give me some good drugs while I wait!

I did call the surgeon's office today and ask about taking Valium - I still have one left from the MRI.  I can take it tonight but not in the morning.  Apparently, you have to be "sober" when you go in for surgery so you can sign the release.  That rules out the Vodka I was going to down in the morning too.  Darn.

A lot of friends have also asked me how much I think I'll lose (weight -wise) after the surgery.  How much do these things weigh?  I already thought of that.  After I thought of it, my husband also brought it up.  I tried to weigh them on the kitchen scale but it's not as easy as you might think.  I didn't get an accurate reading really. (No one will ever want to eat at my house again now, I'm sure).  A friend (Hi Kathy!) sent me an article about a woman who is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the largest breasts and each of her breasts weighs 56 pounds.  I'm pretty sure mine are a little less than that so that wasn't really a good guideline.

It's now less than 14 hours until surgery.  At this point, I'm just focused on getting there and getting the shot over with and getting the IV over with and just surviving without having a mental breakdown before they put me to sleep. It's at least a 4 hours surgery so it's going to be a long day no matter what.  I'll just be thrilled to wake up in recovery and be ALIVE!  I'll deal with the rest later.

That is, of course, unless I succeed in disappearing tonight.  Bring me my blanket!  SHAZAM I SAY!!!  SHAZAM!!!!

Boob Count = 95