Thursday, December 29, 2011

It Looks Worse Than it Feels

Warning:  I have included a picture of my new, boobless chest.   It is very bruised and might be disturbing/triggering to some.

Yesterday I had the drains removed. Holy effing ouch ! 

That's all I'm going to say about that.

Having the majority of surgical tape removed has given me a much greater range of motion but I have a long way to go before I will be able to raise my arms over my head.  Physical therapy a la Peachie begins today.

The pathology report was good.  No metastasises in the lymph nodes.  I still need to see the oncologist, but at least there is no immediate red flags. 

I can now shower!!!!  I can't reach up to wash my hair or reach down to shave my legs and I think it will eons before I can shave my pits.  Argggghh.    But hey, Rome wasn't built in  a day. 

The deep bruising close to my armpit had been all over my chest so this is a major improvement.   And perhaps most meaningful to me is that I have now been able to look my body and not go into extreme trigger mode.  As much as this visual brings me back to a day the had the shit kicked out of me, I have been able to stay in the present without flashbacks.   I consider this a major victory and a very real confirmation that I am healing in many, many ways.

I apparently also need to get back to the gym and work on those abs.  

Monday, December 26, 2011

Full of Grace

This week it would be very hard for me to limit my gratitude to just five items.  It has been an amazing week so here goes:

- For my sister who left her family on their major holiday to come and help me get through my surgery

- About to be wheeled in to the operating room, the nurse who said "I believe in good luck kisses."  My sister kissed me, then Martha kissed me, and then the nurse kissed me too, which made me laugh.

- The nurse in the recovery room holding my hand and asking if I was Beanie's mom.   Seems her daughter and mine were basketball rivals for years.   She brought me back to the present by sharing some of her memories of Beanie on the court. 

- Ice chips.   Amazing how such a simple thing can be so wonderful.

- To all those folks who work in the medical profession.  I am in awe of their knowledge, patience and compassion.

- On my first night home my sister thought my bandages were leaking.   Martha called a friend who is a doctor who came immediately, with his supplies in a Build-A-Bear bag, and checked me out.  He changed some of the dressing and all was okay.    Do any doctors make house calls anymore?

- Martha's niece's daughter who made me a whole tin of their secret recipe xmas cookies, knowing I would miss the xmas eve celebration.

- Peachie who has changed my drains, washed my hair, and has been an incredible caretaker.  

- Beanie, who can't do medical stuff at all, has kept me laughing and entertained. 

- Martha who has anticipated every need and made sure it was in my reach.  And has let me cry without question.

- Friends who arranged for food to be constantly delivered so that my family had one less thing to worry about, filled my house with flowers and have kept me smiling with loving emails, well wishes and gifts. 

I generally try to go through life with an attitude of gratitude because I understand how very blessed I am.  But when something happens that reduces me to helplessness,  I realize that I have not begun to scratch the surface of how abundant my life is.  My heart is overflowing with appreciation and love for you all.

Do these drains make me look fat?

First couple of days were a little rough but every day I have a small victory.

Every day I gain a little more mobility in my arms - it is very frustrating not to be able to reach the toilet paper, comb my hair, scratch an itch, get dressed or get anything out of the fridge. 

This morning I could finally reach the toilet paper.  Yay!  Up til now it might as well been 3 miles away.

My drains are slowing down and I hope to get them out this week.   By far they are the most disgusting and irritating thing about this operation.

Yesterday I took a walk around the block. 

Still, for as good as things have been going, I have my bad moments. 

I am getting cranky from trying to sleep sitting up and every movement wakes me.    The cranky sometimes leaks out to my family who are really being so good to me.

I still have not looked in a mirror.  I am told that the bruising that originally came up to my collar bones is receding quickly, but that first glimpse  was enough to keep me from looking again.

And I keep having these short random crying jags.  I mean, is there any reason to start uncontrollably sobbing when Ralphie gets his Red Rider BB gun?   

But I am so much better than I thought I'd be at this point.  I was able to enjoy Christmas with my family, opening gifts and eating entirely too much junk.  I  have had incredible dreams being visited by both Lauren and Daphne in very calm and loving scenarios.  (I hope that continues)  And the anesthesia is finally starting to clear so my family has stopped laughing at all the stupid and repetetive things I apparently kept doing. 

Now I just need some snow.

I hope you all were able to find some joy in whatever you celebrate.   

Friday, December 23, 2011


I am so happy to be home.   I was in recovery for over 4 hours so that wasn't so good but I am past it now.  

I am up and walking around although laying down is the most comfortable for me.   I am managing with just Tynelol.   Whoever gave me the suggestion for a camisole with the pockets for the drains - it is a god send.  The drains are really gross and I can't even look at them.  Fortunately my sister and Peachie have been able to do the dirty work.

Tomorrow a home health nurse will come and change the bandages.  I am not looking forward to that.  I have not looked down yet.   One thing at a time.

Thank you again for all your prayers and support.    You will never know how much that meant to me.

Wishing you all a happy and joy filled holiday.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Surgery Set

Surgery time is set for 10:50 am. EST.    Should take about 2 1/2 hours.

And then recovery for as long as it takes.

I had the nuclear dye inserted today.  My boobs are not glowing.  I am disappointed.

But my sister and my daughters are going to decorate them tonight.   

I'm ready.

Hopefully I'll be back here soon.   Thank you again for all your support.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Full of Grace

1. Having my daughters home for a 5 week winter break.

2. Making Christmas cookies with them (always the jokesters)

3. Having Beanie make me cry when she shared her birthday wish with me.

4. Brown paper packages tied up in love.

5. My home overflowing with well wishing cards and chocolate. I am blown away with the love.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

For My Age

Today I am feeling a little bummed. Not depressed or anything, just a little melancholy.  I think it started when I got a lovely card from a friend that said "I'm sorry you're sick."

Sick? I have not really thought of it in those terms. I am very rarely sick. In fact, most people are surprised when they learn how old I am because I stay pretty active - back packing, skiing, kayaking. If anything, its my sun damaged, weather beaten skin that gives my age away. True, over the years, I carry less weight in my back pack and more ibuprofen. Getting up from a skiing wipe-out has become an aerobic activity in and of itself. White water kayaking has given way to being content to explore the tributaries of calm mountain lakes.

Last year I tore my meniscus. I wish I could say I did it skiing a black diamond course at Lake Placid. Or hiking a steep trail in the High Peaks. But no, I slipped on a wet leaf. Not very glamorous. That injury and the following surgery took away my entire ski season last winter and also the spring/summer backpacking season. And I wasn’t very pleased when a doctor told me that my knee joints were pretty worn out. But that I was in great shape - for my age. For. My. Age. How effing depressing is that?

Next week I will have a bilateral mastectomy. I am generally feeling okay about that, yet some things are niggling at me:

- I had hoped to go skiing at least once before the surgery. But no. We have had no snow and the temperatures are so warm, ski resorts can’t even make it. Very unusual weather we’re having.

- Although gravity has certainly done its dirty work, my breasts are still pretty perky. It will be sad to see them go.

-Everything I normally do to keep my PTSD at bay will be impossible for me for the next few weeks - exercising hard, sauna time, being outside, sleep, etc.  I am deeply concerned about how I am going to manage the symptoms.

-I appreciated the suggestion that I ask if Martha could be in the recovery room with me as, the thing I am most terrified about this whole ordeal, is coming out of anesthesia. Unfortunately, Martha is having a great deal of difficulty with this whole cancer thing, and would not be the right choice. Lauren, my therapist, would be the right choice. I am missing her something fierce.

- I recently found out how much volunteer work Lauren did which breast cancer patients. Really? Let’s pour a little salt into that wound.

- Martha will go to her niece’s for Christmas Eve. I will sit at home, draining my chest.

- Every year, the day after Christmas, we do a traditional roast beef and Yorkshire pudding dinner with Martha’s best friend and family. That is now being postponed because, really, no one wants to see me sitting there, draining my chest. Including me.

I keep looking at this card saying "I’m sorry you’re sick. I will never forget how kind and helpful you were when Rob was sick. If there is anything I can do to return the favor . . ."

Rob, younger than me, had cancer and died within one year.

So today I am feeling a little melancholy. Next Wednesday I am having my cancerous breasts removed on the same day, in the same hospital, where 20 years ago I watched my oldest daughter being born. It just seems surreal to me that that much time has passed. That my body is starting to fail me.  That I am starting to feel old.  Well, at least old . . . for my age.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Full of Grace

1. All the wonderful and helpful advice I got from my last post. Wow, you guys really came through.   And with each problem solved I feel a little less anxiety.

2. Holiday presents all bought/made, wrapped and shipped.

3. A partner who will have me for better or worse.

4. A ridiculously lazy day.

5. The frozen grapes I found buried under some other unidentifiable frozen thing -  a surprise taste of summer.

PS - Does anyone know if, after the mastectomy, I can legally go topless in public?  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Getting Prepared

Surgery date for the bilateral mastectomy is set for December 21st and I have been using this time to get myself prepared.
- Copies of health care proxies and power-of-attorney documents. ( I will never be caught in a "you have no right to visit your partner" crisis again)

- Zip up hoodies and button up shirts. I have been told it will be a long time before I can put something on over my head.

- Cut my hair much shorter for easier care

- Strength conditioning. Lots of ab work to help me sit up from bed without use of my arms and lots of chest opening yoga stretches. I am hoping this helps.

- Loaded the iPod with upbeat songs.

- Got a pile of books to read and a friend bought me a Kindle in case even turning pages was a problem.

- Stocked up on Nutella and put it at waist level (must always be within reach)

- Got a pillow wedge for the bed but will probably be in a recliner for a while.

- Scheduled my massage (hot stone) and facial.

- My sister is coming up to help since Martha cannot get off work (except day of surgery), friends have already committed to bringing dinners, and my daughters will both be home from school.

If you know anyone who has been through this and have other helpful hints, I would be happy to hear them.

And then there’s the weird stuff -

- Someone told me how you can’t raise your arms to shave your armpits for quite a while (gross) and she suggested having my pits waxed.  Okay, even the thought of that has me cringing. But I honestly don’t know what’s worse.  Has anyone done this?  I am very fair and have never had anything waxed in my life.

And the fear -

- I have always had a difficult time coming out of anesthesia.  Not only from the nauseousness but mostly because, for some reason, it triggers me into horrific flashbacks, which are then made worse by the not being able to rouse myself from under the sedation, which brings on more anxiety, which triggers more flashbacks, and so on. And this will be my hardest surgery and the longest time under sedation.  So while I think I’ve prepared myself for the physical and emotional impact of the surgery,  I know that when I hit the recovery room, I will be reliving the worst terror in my life, over and over, with no way to make it stop.

And how do I prepare myself for that?
 Well, there is this
which both my daughters put on their Facebook page with a message that says "stay strong mom"
Yep. I’m trying.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Full of Grace

1. Health insurance. This bill is for only one of the three biopsies I had. $4,575 !!!    I can’t imagine what the surgery itself must cost.   My total out-of-pocket cost will be $75.   Yes, I’m very grateful for health insurance for which I have never paid a penny.

2. Finishing all my outdoor work before the snow flies.

3. A day that started with a friend and a big bunch of laughter

4. Leftover chinese takeout

5.  Sloppy dog kisses to wake me up.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Decisions decisions

A friend recently gifted me with a certificate to a spa. I have never had a professional massage so I am very excited by this. Also, the gift was so generous that I can do massage and something else. I can’t stand to have anyone touch my feet, so a pedicure is out.  I thought maybe a facial since I have been a sun worshipper since birth and my skin is more than showing it.

Anyway, the brochure had at least 20 different massages and facials to choose from. I weeded it down but I really have no idea how to choose, so if any of you have any experience with these kinds of things, I would sure appreciate a little advice. What would you choose?
Massages -

You will slip away to Eastern Asia when you experience our Oriental influenced body treatment and massage. This extraordinary massage and body treatment is performed using two heated "dumplings" made up of the highest quality essential oils, fresh herbs, coconuts, and limes that give off an exotic, warm fragrance. These warm dumplings are passed quickly over the body using various massage techniques, and as they cool, they move more slowly. Pressure is applied to the muscles, and the herbs and essential oils are released onto the skin leaving you relaxed and glowing.
The Swedish is a relaxing and therapeutic massage that incorporates the full body using traditional long strokes combined with kneading techniques. This is the best technique to increase your circulation, improve the skin and muscle tone, and soothe tired muscles.

The Essence Massage is 75 minutes of pure indulgence. We start by creating a customized blend of essential oils that you help choose depending on the results you are looking for. The oils are then incorporated into the massage to bring relaxation, a total de-stressing, or revitalization...whatever you need. A gift of essential oil is included.
This one-hour massage is designed to target specific areas deep within the muscle tissues assisting in the removal of lactic acids allowing our systems to work more effectively. This is the perfect massage to relieve that stress and tension.
A full 90 minutes, this massage combines tension-releasing techniques with smooth river stone therapy. The stones are gently warmed and serve as an extension of your therapist’s hands, as the weight and heat relaxing muscle tissues to allow for true, deep restoration.
Facials -

These luxurious facials are anything but fluff. More than just a tasty treat, these facials contain antioxidant properties that fight free radicals. Our fantasy facials include a layered mask that enhances the anti-aging effects. Diminish sun damage, fine lines and wrinkles as well as firm, lift and tone the skin. Savor the sweet aroma of radiance. CHOCOLATE SOUFFLÉ | MANGO PARFAIT | CRANBERRY CREAM

This facial is specifically designed to wipe away the effects of dehydrated or fatigued skin and will leave you looking and feeling refreshed and renewed. French seaweed is incorporated into this facial providing the benefits found only in French seawater, waters which are known to be rich in trace elements.

All of the soothing benefits of our Signature Facial along with a special peeling mask. This unique mask provides a gentle exfoliation, leaving the skin free of dead cells while restoring its suppleness. Enjoy the refreshing benefits of this treatment that will leave you positively radiant.

FOREVER YOUNG FACIALFrance’s Pasteur Institute developed the revolutionary firming and lifting agents used in this facial. A combination of Epidermal Growth Factor, red wine, lactic and glycolic acids, vitamins A, C, E and K minimizes wrinkles, and gives skin a lift beyond compare. Recommended for normal and dry skin.

Problematic dry, sun-damaged and aging skin, this is your answer. Boost your facial with a Glycolic Grape Veil mask to help regain your ultimate complexion.

While your body is immersed in our warm and soothing hydrotherapy tub, relax and enjoy a face, neck, and shoulder massage using a special blend of pure plant extracts. Move then to a comfortable room to enjoy the application of a mask with nourishing moisturizer.