Monday, October 7, 2013

Surgery After All

Hello, blog, long time no see.  I just read my last post, from last January, and since most of it has changed I thought I'd post an update.  After many months of thinking I did not want to do the extra surgery, I then started shifting over to wanting the improved results again...and now I have ended up scheduling the reconstruction touch-ups PLUS extra liposuction!  What was I thinking, you may ask?  Well, I'm not quite sure at this point.  I don't like going under, and the last thing I need is more medical bills.  But there was a time when I was sure I wanted to look better, and felt this is my one opportunity to do it, and that I just want this to not be hanging over my head anymore so I can be finished with it all, and the longer I put it off the less likely I am to ever do it...I know I still have those thoughts, but I've just gotten nervous and doubtful as the surgery day has approached.  This has been a much harder decision, even though it's a minor procedure compared to everything else, because it's optional...but I am trying to think of it as if my plastic surgeon is an artist, and I am his work of art, and he wasn't quite done and truly believes he can make his work of art more beautiful...I really do want to look better if I can.  There are uneven dents and flat areas that don't look right to me, and a bit too much asymmetry, and I'm also hoping he will be able to fix a few scar issues...and, I will be losing a bit of unwanted fat here and there.  Anyway, my blood pressure issue is much improved with the medication, so I'm hopefully good to go.  The surgery is in two days, on October 9th. 

All else is well...I saw my breast surgeon over the summer and everything looked good...she treated me for a small sebaceous cyst, but that's all.  I see the oncologist in a few weeks, and the radiation oncologist in November, for my regular check-ups.  So far, still N.E.D. and hoping to stay that way.  A bit of lymphedema still, but wearing my night-time sleeve seems to keep it to a minimum...I really hate the day sleeves, they are so uncomfortable, so I don't wear them.  I feel healthy, most of the time healthier than I used to feel before...although occasionally I feel extra tired and stiff/achy.  Oh, and big news: the hot flashes stopped abruptly in May, just stopped overnight...instead of several intense ones per hour, I now get maybe one or two mild ones per day if any.  Weird, and I worried at first that it might mean the tamoxifen wasn't working anymore, but my oncologist says not to worry...and I sure don't miss them.

I just walked in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk for the third time, with my wonderful family and some friends.  Although it was relocated to Six Flags, instead of downtown DC, because of the stupid government shutdown, we still had a great time and raised some money to help the cause.  Each year at the walk, I have taken a picture in my 'survivor' can see the progression of my hair re-growth:

                       This is two years ago at the Richmond Making Strides...I'm on the left.

                        This is one year ago at the Richmond Making Strides...I'm on the right.

    And this is yesterday, at the DC Making Strides...two years of hair growth without a single haircut.

That's all for now.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Surgery Cancelled

Friday (Jan 18) was supposed to be my last bit of reconstruction surgery...a lift of the left breast and fat grafting for both.  Got up at 6am, went to the hospital, checked in, changed into a gown...and my blood pressure was sky-high.  It's been high-ish in recent years, and really started creeping up this past year, but had never been this high as far as I knew.  On Friday they were getting 170's over 130's, way over their safety threshold.  The anesthesiologist cancelled my surgery...too much risk for stroke.  So I am now on blood pressure medicine.  I feel weird about the surgery...I was anxious about it, as usual, even though it was a minor procedure compared to my other surgeries...and spent so much time preparing for it mentally, emotionally, as well as practically...and then to have it suddenly not happen was a big adjustment.  I felt like I was playing hooky all weekend...having fun and getting stuff done, instead of lying around recovering from the surgery.  I decided to take the cancellation as a sign, however...I was not totally sure I should be having that surgery, since it was for cosmetic purposes only...not sure the risk of going under anesthesia (and the nausea/vomiting I always get afterwards, not to mention the extreme bruising/pain caused by the fat grafting) was worth it just to achieve a little more symmetry.  So I'm pretty sure I won't be rescheduling it.  They are fine, there are little things I'm not happy with, but I can live with them the way they are. 

I saw my breast surgeon last week, Dr. Golesorkhi...I had been feeling a shooting pain off and on in the right breast, and thought I felt a little lump...turns out it was nothing, just my rib and possibly a muscular spasm (?).  But while there, I found out Dr. G is leaving the practice to move to another one pretty far away.  I'm so sad I won't get to see her anymore...she was the doctor I saw first, who did the biopsy, called me with the diagnosis, and performed my mastectomy...she was always so caring and concerned about me...we've been through a lot together.  The other surgeons in the practice are wonderful too, so I'll be well-cared for, and I only need to go there once a year now anyway.  But I'll miss Dr. G for sure.

On a positive note, the lymphedema I had in my hand is gone now.  I haven't worn the compression glove in several weeks, and it seems fine.  The physical therapy sessions and compression garments helped a lot, I my injured finger, which triggered the lymphedema in the first place, finally healed.  Hopefully it will not flare up again.

President Obama's inauguration today made me so happy and relieved...four more years of a great president, and four more years at least of Obamacare!  I think he's going to do great things this term.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cancerversary #2...and Hairy Business

I'm coming up on my second cancerversary, on January 18.  I'll be in surgery that day, getting my left breast lifted a bit and some more fat grafting to round them both out.  What a way to 'celebrate'.  I feel so thankful right now for my excellent team of doctors, for still being here, for feeling healthy, for being NED, and for another year spent with my husband and kids.  The approach of the day has  had me thinking through it all yet again.  I guess each passing year will allow me to feel a bit more removed from the trauma...sometimes I do feel pretty matter-of-fact about what I went through...other times the fear, sadness, and shock strike again.

I came across the one picture I have of me I thought I'd post some hair pics just for posterity.

Here's me "before", when I was pregnant with Griffin.  Hair was long and pretty straight, but had developed a tiny bit of wave especially with a layered cut.

And here's the bald one...which was taken right after my last chemo treatment:
Here's what I usually looked like back then, with scarf or hat on:
Here is me with my new stubble, during radiation treatment:

And here is a more recent shot...with my new curly hair (plus some pink sprigs):
I'm currently trying to decide what to do with my hair...on the one hand, after being bald for so long, I am loath to ever cut my hair again...but on the other hand, it's getting longer, and looking a little flat and thin on top.  Emma tells me my hair looks like a triangle.  So I think what I'll do is keep the overall length, but get some layers cut so it will have more shape.  I did get very excited recently, when I was finally able to put it up in a bun (with only a few clips to help keep the wisps up)...small victories.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hello Blog, I haven't seen you in a long while!  I just suddenly felt like writing a post today.  It's a little over a year since I finished neighbor is about to start her radiation treatments tomorrow, so that got me remembering again.  Not that I ever really forget! 

I am feeling good these days.  Here's what's new: 
I'm working full time, as a Kindergarten assistant at India's school--I love it, but do miss being with Griffin, and miss being able to go to support group; 
I have seen everyone from my team over the past few months, and all seems fine and good--I'm seeing my oncologist twice a year now, but now need only an annual visit to the breast surgeon and radiation oncologist; 
Not quite done with the plastic surgeon, though...I'm scheduled for one more little mini-surgery coming up in January, for a bit more 'fat grafting' to round out the breasts, after which I can finally have the nipple tattood;
And...suddenly last week I started to have lymphedema in my hand and arm--I'm now wearing a compression bandage to get the swelling down, and then will be fitted for a sleeve/glove that I'll have to wear all the time, at least for a few months.  It's rather hard to function with this bandage from finger tips to upper arm, but I think it's working...along with a manual lymph-drainage massage that the physical therapist does, and that I do myself at home.  This is what comes of losing 27 lymph nodes, I guess.

Emma graduated from college and now has a job, a shared house, and a new boyfriend...she seems very happy.  Lily is in middle school now, and loves it...she's doing so well there.  India is rocking second grade...she has a great teacher.  Both Lily and India played soccer this fall, and are enjoying their contemporary dance class.  Griffin is now at a Montessori preschool two days a week...he cries a little when we drop him off, but then has a lot of fun there.  The other days he is watched at home by Dad and Grandparents.  We are all feeling very lucky to be healthy and blessed...and very very lucky to have escaped any damage from hurricane Sandy.

I have to say, I was tremendously relieved that President Obama was re-elected!  The threat of 'Obamacare' getting repealed was very stressful to me...I was very worried about the possibility of losing my health insurance.   Not to mention all the other horrible possibilities if the teapublicans gained control.  So, lots of happiness and relief here lately. 

Peace, love, and health to all,

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Old Tummy, New Tummy

Just thought I'd post a before-and-after comparison of my 'silver lining'.

Before the DIEP:

After the DIEP:

When you're feeling lonely, lost and let down
Seems like those dark skies are following you around
And life's just one big shade of gray
You wonder if you'll see the light of day

Behind the clouds, the sun is shining
Believe me even though you can't quite make it out
You may not see the silver lining
But there's a big blue sky waiting just behind the clouds

I've heard it said that this too shall pass
Good times or bad times, neither one lasts
But thinking that your luck won't ever change
Is like thinking it won't ever stop once it starts to rain

Behind the clouds, the sun is shining
Believe me even though you can't quite make it out
You may not see the silver lining
But there's a big blue sky waiting just behind the clouds
Yeah, there's a big blue sky waiting just behind the clouds
-Brad Paisley

Thursday, March 8, 2012

New Nipple

Here's another nipple update: yesterday I had my one-week post-surgery appointment, and saw the new nipple for the first time.  The nurse warned me it would look a bit scary at this point...and she was right.  It is probably the most gruesome thing I've seen on my body.  I don't think I can adequately describe's purple and white, scabby, with sutures sticking out all over.  Me no like-y.  After removing the dressing and revealing the thing, the nurse then proceeded to poke it all around with a needle, to make sure it could bleed (which would indicate that it was getting good blood flow) did.  I am told it will look much better with time, and eventually can be tattooed so the color will look more natural.  The bruising from the lipo is much better this week, it's turning yellow and there is a lot less pain...and my tummy scar looks a lot nicer now (the doctor did some revision to smooth it out).  I'm feeling quite good this week physically, nearly back to how I was before this surgery.  Looking forward to:  Emma coming home for her spring break (and celebrating her 22nd birthday), getting back to Zumba class next week, planning Griffin's 2nd birthday party (train theme), and trying out some hypnotherapy courtesy of Tammi McKinley (my awesome midwife) and Sunflowers Healing and Wellness (hopefully will help me process the emotional stuff I'm going through).  Also looking forward to a life with no more surgery!
Love to you all,

Friday, March 2, 2012

Nipple News

Just a quick update to say that my surgeon called with the pathology results on the removed nipple...all clear, no sign of cancer.  A relief, since I was a bit worried that keeping it for so long would turn out to be bad.  Meanwhile, I'm finding out just how painful recovering from liposuction is...and realizing that I can feel pain in my nipples, even though I thought the whole area was completely numb.  But I'm able to get by without the percoset (which was making me loopy), just taking some Tylenol and trying not to move around too much.  Hopefully in a few more days I'll be back on my feet.