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Monday, July 18, 2011

Negligible...

Evidently my boobs weighed nothing.  I weighed myself last Sunday and weighed myself again this morning and I weigh exactly the same.  That's a bummer.   Oh well.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tomorrow is the big day...

Well, big boob fans, tomorrow we say goodbye to two of our favorite girls.  They have entertained and brought pleasure to many over the years, but it is time for them to go.  No matter how pretty some things are, when they do evil, they must be punished.  I saw a t-shirt online that says, "YES, they're fake!  My real one's tried to kill me!"  While I doubt I'll ever don such an obvious - I had breast cancer and now have fake boobs - message across my new chest, that pretty much tells the story of my adventure that begins / continues tomorrow at 5:30 a.m.

You know how, in the movie The Mummy, the inscription on the magic book says, "Death is Only the Beginning," or something like that?  In my situation,  my inscription has become... "Chemo is only the beginning."  I thought it would all be well and good once May 6th had come and gone, but now I'm preparing for part 2.  I won't even go so far as to say that this is the final part of my BC process, cuz I don't want to jinx it, but I REALLY, really hope that this is it.

Anyhow, I'm off to my last supper...  Dad's burgundy beef stew (yeah baby!) and to finish watching the Giants game.  The surgery will last about 6 hours, so I'll take any good thoughts and prayers all day tomorrow.  I'm not picky, any time of day you want to throw one (or more) my way, I'd appreciate it.

I'll be at my parents' house for the rest of the week, but will have my laptop and phone with me.  Let me know if there's anything fun going on.  I hear that some people are ready to go out for easy activities a few days after surgery... and I plan on healing very, very quickly so I can get on with my summer.  I won't be able to drive or lift stuff for at least a month, so if you are a fan with a car and the ability / desire to feed me peeled grapes, let me know so I can pencil you in!

By this time next year...  I will be traveling through Europe, SCUBA diving in Hawaii, hiking in Mc Kinnleyville with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece, catching a movie with friends, or hanging out at my house with Kitty and Sam.  I will have lovely, wonderful, perky, non-cancerous boobs, and this will all be a distant memory.

By this time six months from now... I will be thinking about how lucky I am to have made it to my cousin's house for Christmas eve dinner.  Everyone will be telling me how much they missed me last year because I was recovering from surgery #1.  I will have my permanent implants in and be able to sleep on my side instead of my back.  I will have celebrated New Year's Eve appropriately - by dressing up, having some champagne, and getting my bootie shaking.  I will be looking forward to my family vacation over winter break in Kona and wondering what SCUBA diving will be like with my new boobs.

By this time three months from now... I will be preparing for Halloween.  Yes I will be one of those crazies who dresses up on a Monday for the big day.  Who knows, maybe I'll be planning for a fun pre-Halloween Saturday night in San Francisco...  I will be just one month past turning forty and grateful for having been able to live such a magnificent life with such caring and loyal friends.

By this time two months from now... I will be almost forty.  I'm planning on celebrating on 9/10/11, and YES, that's a Saturday!  I don't know what we are actually going to do or where we'll go, but it will be a super fun celebration.  I will be eight weeks out of surgery.  I will have started getting my tissue expanders filled with saline to gradually stretch my chest to an appropriate size.  I will be uncomfortable, but well on my way to being healed.  My surgery incisions will be almost healed and I will be able to raise my arms above my head and feed myself.  I will be able to feed myself, sleep through the night and cuddle up with Kitty and Sampson in bed. 

By this time one month from now...  I will be receiving my first expander fill to stretch out my chest.  I will still be weak and need assistance with a LOT of things.  I'll still be limited to lifting things no heavier than a plastic cup, fork/spoon, and a paper plate.  I might still be staying at my mom and dad's house, but I'll most likely be back at my house with Kitty and Sam.  My mom will be doing my laundry and trying to hang up my pajama bottoms, and my dad will be making me yummy meals to keep me healthy.  I will be feeling an overwhelming feeling of gratitude towards my friends and family for keeping my spirits up.  I will have seen tons of movies and watched a LOT of T.V. and be well rested and optimistic about the next few weeks and the start of a new school year.

By this time two weeks from now, my drains will be long gone and I will be up and about, doing my rehab exercises, and eating nutritious foods to speed my healing.

By this time two - three days from now, I will be "home" and in my parents' care.  I will be thinking positive thoughts.  I will probably be in pain, but I will be focused on how things will be two weeks, two months, six months, and one year from now.

Now if I could only find my ipod charger...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I know, I know


OK, OK, I know… It has been two months since my last blog update.  I keep thinking about it…  Then it was three weeks and I still hadn’t done any writing so it would be really long and rambling, so I didn’t write anything.  Then it was five weeks and I thought, how do I make up for my five week absence, so I didn’t write anything… and so on and so forth.
After my 5th chemotherapy, things were going fine.  I met with my surgeon, Dr Bitar and had my 3-month surgery follow-up.  She checked out my rack and said it looked really good.  She sounded a bit more surprised that I expected when she said how good it looked.  I guess she thought it would appear more concave with all the tissue she had taken out.  Ummm, OK, thanks, I think.  Later that week I met with Dr Santoro, my plastic surgeon and we discussed the various options for reconstruction after chemotherapy.

Let me go back a bit.  In my particular case I have two routs I can take.  Option one involves a lumpectomy (which I had in December) combined with radiation therapy.  Option two is to do a mastectomy and reconstruction.  If I do a mastectomy I can have reconstruction one of two ways -  an implant under the chest muscle, or something called a TRAM flap procedure.  The TRAM procedure is where they take a tummy tuck sized piece of flesh and tissue from the abdominal area and mold it into a breast and reattach it underneath the skin at the breast.

I'd really rather not do radiation because I am terrified of the long-term side effects.  Even though the breast is radiated at two different angles so it misses most of the chest muscles and non-breast tissues, it still hits a part of the lung tissue and part of the heart muscle.  The radiation scars the lung tissue and part of the heart muscle which, long term, can lead to all kinds of (rare) problems.  I’d rather skip radiation and not have to deal with this type of damage, especially when I’m older and my body is less able to handle it.


What to do?  What to do? 


One of my doctors finally pointed something out to me that helped sway me towards my final decision.  She pointed out that the cancer cells had found a way to grow in two separate places in my breast tissue.  This small but important fact gives me a higher chance of recurrence.  So I decided to do a mastectomy and reconstruction… but what TYPE of reconstruction?    

When I first began thinking about reconstruction options in December, I was dead set against an implant for a couple of reasons.  An implant would be a foreign object in my body, and it would look and feel different from my natural breast as gravity takes its toll.   

And with the TRAM procedure, I'm worried about the seriousness of the surgery and the pain involved in recovery.   I've read blogs of women who have had the implant surgery and some who have had the TRAM surgery.  The TRAM surgery has me really worried about the amount of time I'll need other people to basically do everything for me.  And, did I mention the time for recovery?  There are just so many variables that can cause problems...

With the implant procedure, I'm worried about leakage and having to do additional surgery down the line if there were problems.  I think, weighing everything together, I started considering the implant reconstruction much more seriously because it has a shorter recovery time and will be less traumatic for my body.  

So, after a lot of careful consideration, I have decided to do a mastectomy with an implant.

Now, the doctor will have to do reconstruction on my right breast, too, to make it match my left breast.  Now I needed to decide what to do with that.  A few things weighed into my decision for my right breast.  I had to consider that the cancer had found a way to grow in two separate places in my left breast, increasing my risk of recurrence.  I also had to consider how stressful the chemotherapy process had been on my body.  I do not want to ever do that again.  I also needed to consider how I would feel with one implant on the left and not on the right, feeling lopsided, and feeling self-conscious about them being different.

So, I decided to have a bilateral (both sides) mastectomy with implants.  It may seem like a drastic decision, but I know it is right for me.  By removing the breast tissue from both sides it leaves me with an all but zero chance of the cancer coming back.  If I don't have any tissue for the cancer to grow it, it can't, well, grow.  By having both sides reconstructed with implants, they would be more similar than just having one done.  I could heal all at once.  And I wouldn't worry about every little bump or inconsistency in my right breast.

That's all for now.  I'll write more later - there's a lot that goes into this whole breast implant procedure (for breast cancer patients, at least)... tissue expanders, drains, bleah! 



Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chemo #4 ? Get outta here!

Went to chemo #4 last Thursday with Aunt Mary and Aunt Judy (visiting from Massachusetts, thank you very much) and it was SO... exactly the same as it has been.  I had a private room again so I didn't feel too badly having my entourage with me.  It was a little interesting, though... Aunt Judy tried teaching me how to crochet... As it turns out, crocheting is more of an exact science than I thought it would be.  You actually have to hit ALL the little holes in order to keep the pattern looking good.  You can't skip an opening and pick it up later or fix it the next time around.  Not a whole lot of room for loosey goosey crocheting, here.  Ah well...  if I finish the scarf I started it will definitely have "character".

A quick Thank You goes out to Lois for getting me out of the house today - lunch was really nice.  And, yes, even though I told you I was going to Home Depot, Staples, and Fry's afterwards... I really only made it to Home Depot.  See what happened was...  I accidentally walked into the nursery section and it was so sunny, and the flowers were so pretty, I just couldn't resist.  Now I have $100 worth of plants and flowers in my backyard waiting to be planted...  I think I brought home too many purple ones, but no biggie!

Well, I'd better get going!  Carpe Diem!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I have noticed a trend...

It seems that, for whatever reason... I turn into a real biz-natch the day before and the day of chemotherapy.  I'm in a bad mood, everyone around me is an idiot, and my eyes get sore from rolling them after every dumb statement I hear (which is most of them).  I can see and feel myself turning into a total raging wild-a-beast, but it is SO hard to maintain a pleasant outlook and refrain from saying all the nasty comments that stream into my mind. 

It doesn't help that I am completely unmotivated to get anything done, so, as I survey my room and house in general, the clutter of it all makes me even more annoyed.  Now, not only and I in a pissy mood, but seeing the clutter around me makes me feel frustrated, plus I have no motivation to fix it, and that lack of desire makes it even more worse! 

I SEE all the stuff going on, but my body does nothing with it... leaving me annoyed and annoyed at being annoyed. 

Annoying, huh!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Chemo Round 3 - Finito!

Just a quick update...

Chemo #3 was on March 3rd...  11:30.  It only took 4 1/2 hours (much better than the 7 1/2 hours the first time around, and 6 1/2 hours the second time).  Dad hung out with me, we sipped our Starbucks, and surfed the web. 

I learned how to give myself neupogin injections so I could prevent another bout of neutropenic fever.  Seven days - once a day - tiny little needle, punched into my belly... It is now seven days later and I think I did a splendid job, if I do say so myself.  The shots are a MUCH better option than a hospital stay.

Things are going well.  I'm at my low white blood cell count stage of my third post-chemo round, so I'll be staying in for the next few days.  I was super energetic the last few days so I visited a bunch of people and got a LOT of one on one time with friends I haven't seen in a long long time.  Everyone seems to like my gray hat with the 1920's bow on it.  Everyone says I look good, and am in good spirits, so that's a plus.  Of course, I remind them that I only go out when I'm feeling well and in good spirits.  Trust me, you WON'T see me on a day where I'm feeling yucky!

Anyhow, I think that's all for now.  I'm looking forward to seeing Little Shop of Horrors in a week, working on a new website, an finally cleaning out my file cabinets.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Neutropenic? What the heck is neutropenic?!?


I haven’t thought much about germs until recently.  Well, let me clarify that…  I haven’t thought negatively about germs until recently.  I mean really recently.  Even after my cancer diagnosis and subsequent chemotherapy treatments I have still been pretty neutral on their existence… until recently.
I’ve always been of the general philosophy that, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.  I’ve never felt I was putting myself in danger by skipping the hand sanitizer, going over the three-second rule, or letting my cat lick some of the butter off of my toast.  My dog “kisses” my face, my cat sleeps across my chest, and I wash my hands only after I use the bathroom or spill something on myself.  I figured that exposing myself to germs, in small amounts and not obsessing over every little thing, would help me build a defense against those germs and, if exposed to them later, I would be less vulnerable.  I don’t go dipping my hands into garbage cans and rubbing my face, but… you get what I’m saying, right?  I know a lot of people think the same way.  Granted, I am single, have no kids, and have free reign over most areas of my life, so I don’t NEED to worry about germy people being around, my baby for example. 
As I said, though, even after my second chemotherapy treatment, I was still pretty blasé about the whole germ issue.  I know, I know… They are everywhere, and I’ve been washing and sanitizing my hands more often, but not really paying 10,000% attention to everything I touch and carry.
So , as I sit in room 4353 of Kaiser hospital two and a half days after experiencing the wrath of germs and the havoc they are playing on my immune deficient body, I must humbly accept the power of things impossibly smaller than I, and their capacity to destroy me.   The oncologist that visited me this morning was excited that my voice had come back above the whisper it has been the last two days. She said my white blood cell counts are improving… slowly, but as long as they are above 1500 tomorrow, I should be able to go home… tomorrow. 
“What are they now?” I asked.
500. 
“And what were they when I came in on Friday?” 
Below 100.
“Oh.”
Long pause…
Oh.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
When I was admitted to the hospital on Friday, I was told I was neutropenic (new-trough-PEE-nik), that I would be on a neutropenic diet while in the hospital, and that neutropenic precautions were in place for anyone entering my “isolation” room.   Anyone coming into my room must don a plastic gown, mask, and, if they are planning on touching me, gloves.  I quickly surmised that being neutropenic was somehow dangerous  / not a good condition to be in.  So what the heck is neutropenic?  (Besides being one consonant change away from describing a super phallice…)   Neutropenia is a decreased number of neutrophils in a person’s blood.  Neutrophils are white blood cells that help protect the body against infection by destroying bacteria.  So a white blood cell (neutrophil) count below 100?  Yep, I was right… bad.  No wonder I became sick so quickly. 
Likely cause?  Um, duh… chemotherapy. 
And that’s me right now.  Above everything else, being a female, being 39, being a teacher, a daughter, a sister, being Madisen’s Che-Che, being a friend, a brilliant mastermind and future entrepreneur… the word that describes me is neutropenic.
I have a cartoon vision in my head, either from a Sunday TV educational spot (along the lines of Conjunction Junction or I’m Just a Bill), or a middle school health “film” about the immune system, of nutcracker-like “soldiers” marching into a tube, shrinking in size, and being injected into the human body.  These soldiers were being sent in to help the body fight off an infection, a virus, or some other yucky muck that needed to be destroyed. 
This vision keeps coming to mind as I lay in my little hospital bed, my IV machine clicking along next to me, delivering fluids and antibiotics to my weak, immune impaired body that I thought was SO strong and SO capable.  I imagine looking into the cartoon version of my body and searching desperately for white blood cells, and only being able to find a few… hiding.  So few, in fact, that they are just specks in the gigantic scheme of… me.  Knowing that I need at least 1500 of those to go home… and that at one point I had fewer that 100?  Not a good feeling.  Not a good feeling at all.
It is now 9:30 p.m. on Sunday February 20th and my neutrophil counts are up to 750.  Feeling better…  MUCH better!