Sunday, December 29, 2013

The "Other" Side Effects of Breast Cancer. A blog for ALL women!

Breast Cancer is a true gift. It gives us many things:


Just to name a few. And if ever there was a time when a woman needed her self-esteem to help her through this B-Busting time, it would be now. However, many of us are already "in the hole" with our low self-esteem, so once we get a disease that robs us of our feminine qualities, we're in trouble. We put ourselves down even more. We feel ugly, weird, different. We are afraid to go out in public. We hate being stared at and we dread others' harsh or stupid commentary on our looks. It doesn't happen often, but enough to make us fidgety and on alert.

So, after dealing with all of the harsh side effects of treatment, one would hope a woman would say to herself,  "I've been through so much. This really isn't the time to dwell on my appearance and feel bad about myself." One would hope that this woman is being gentle and kind to herself. However, quite the opposite happens. 

Instead of Self-Loving, she turns to Self-Loathing. 

"I'm so fat"
"I hate the way I look bald, or the way I look in a wig"
"I hate my man chest"
"My boobs are lopsided"
"I'm too skinny!"

The list of flaws is endless. She will even invent some that don't exist. And it slowly erodes at her soul as she continues sending her subconscious these horribly negative messages. 

And if someone were to compliment her, she would just scoff at it and act like a defense attorney. "No, I do not have pretty eyes and teeth. See, look at that space right there." She will try her best to prove you all wrong, even though she has the face of a super model. She just doesn't see her beauty. 

So ladies. I'm here to try to stop the madness. Even if you do not have breast cancer, chances are good you are unhappy with at least one thing about yourself. When did our self-worth become so dependent on our looks?  Men do not waste this kind of time and energy looking in the mirror, frowning, crying, fixing, straightening, tweeking, and twitching about it all. 

But we do! And it spirals out of control. We are just never satisfied. And I have to say, it makes me sad. And it makes me mad. 

I am admittedly a vain person. I guess everyone has some vanity, to a degree. After going through this last year and so many physical reinventions; long hair, pixie hair, bald head, mastectomy, Puff Mommy body, I have always tried to look nice through it all because, well, I'm vain. My hair is growing back  like a Chia Pet in progress. There's no easy way to grow out a bald head so you just have to let it do its thing, and put on some big ass earrings to detract from the hair!  Normally, if I am seeing someone for the first time in a while, I would make comments about my hair, like "Oh, it's growing and I can't do much with it", almost in an apologetic way. WTF!? Why do I have to apologize or feel shame about the way I look? What if I did chose this gruesome hairdo? Who gives a good shit, as my mother would say. Sporting a Chia head certainly gives you a thicker skin, or it can break you. I chose to be tough.

I reached an impass last week.  The day after Christmas I did something VERY brave. I stepped on the scale. I knew it wasn't going to be pretty but I did anyway. As soon as I stepped on, these words rolled off my tongue like I had been possessed by the ghost of Stuart Smalley:

"I love you no matter what"

And the number on the scale was quite frightening and an all time high for me. I should have been crying but instead, I just shrugged my shoulders, silently told myself, "It's ok",  and stepped off. And I moved on. I then undressed to take a shower, also another adventure in sight seeing. Again, I would usually glance quickly then look away. But that day I said:

"I love you no matter what"

And you know, I think I have found my mantra, my self-affirmation, or whatever it is I need to get me through my middle age and beyond. As much as I will try to take care of my body, there will be jiggling, there will be rolls, there will be wrinkles on my face. I will never be an airbrushed version of myself, nor do I want to be.  However, I can tell you that I will have the perkiest boobs in the nursing home when this is all said and done. 

To all my sisters, both near and far, with or without breast cancer:  I pray that you all accept yourselves "As Is", no matter what your imagined flaws are.  In the end, looks and beauty mean absolutely nothing. I can also say that I have never been happier. I am more at ease with myself and I'm not "wasting time" dwelling on what I should or could look like. Again, it is what it is. It doesn't mean I am surrendering to a lifetime of obesity. It just means that in this moment, I am accepting myself, no matter what. 

So, the B-Busting gifts that cancer brings? I'd say that is one of them. Learning to love myself, no matter what. If you dare, hang this sign up on your bathroom mirror. Say it out loud every time those negative thoughts start creeping in. It can set the entire tone for the day. And just before bed, make sure you say it again a few times as you drift off. It will bring much needed peace to your sleep. You might actually start believing it and then you can spend your precious time on this earth on the things that truly matter. 


Saturday, December 7, 2013

The New Normal

Recently I wrote about the "Now What?" after treatment and surgeries are over. I expected myself to be back to normal. What was I thinking? And what is normal anyway? I haven't written in over a month because I have really not been myself. Adjusting to Tamoxifen, instant menopause, lack of sleep, Christmas, and not being able to form sentences out loud or on computer have impaired my blogging abilities!

If the new normal means wearing granny panties, sporting a Max Headroom haircut, farting and snoring more than Frank Barone, weighing more than my husband (almost), acting like a morose teenager, and grunting every time I arise from a seated position, then yes, I am completely normal. 

Many of us go back to our routines, at least to some degree. We are at the grocery store, the gym (if we are lucky), our kids' activities, in many cases our jobs, family gatherings, housework, etc.  We look ok, for the most part. We put our makeup on every day so that we don't look sick or tired and we tend to make an extra effort than before to look presentable. The world sees us as highly or moderately functioning beings of society. We appear, on most accounts, OK. 

I'll give you a little hint though. We're not all OK.

We are bordering on wanting people to ask us how we are to getting aggravated if they do ask us how we are, because we just don't know how to answer honestly. It's a slippery slope and we are a moody bunch, sometimes. I personally try to be honest and tell the truth, without TMI and drama spilling out. We may feel awkward in social settings and making small talk can be very daunting.

I realized the New Normal is anything but and most of us hate the expression. It's kind of a slap in the face to some and they don't want to accept that things are never going to be the same. They don't want a New Normal. They want their Old Normal. It's not easy to deal with but as one wise sister always points out, "It is what it is". (It's funny how I've always hated that expression but it has never been more relevant to my life than it is now and I use it more and more!) So coming to accept the baggage that comes with breast cancer, even long after treatment is over is a process. I've come to accept many things "as is" and try not to put so much pressure on myself to be "back to normal". This only makes things harder, trust me.

I try to mindread those who have not travelled this road. I wonder if some look at cancer as a single event that simply occurred and now it's over. It's like when you have a party in your house. People come over, make a mess, and then leave. It's your job to get out the dust pan and toss all the crumbs into the trash. Then you carry on with daily life.

Well, cancer is certainly no party and the crumbs that are left behind keep showing up in places you didn't expect them to. As hard as you try to scoop them up, they keep sticking to the floor, or in the corners of your mind, haunting you when you least expect it. 

I've tried telling myself, "You need to put this entire experience behind you. You need to move forward". My mantra since my diagnosis was "Keep moving forward, don't look back." But this is not easy, especially since it's constantly in front of me.  If I had ass cancer, sure, it'd be easy to put it behind me! At times, I have completely avoided the bathroom mirror or I let it fog up so much that I couldn't see myself. And that was fine with me!

But now, things are changing and I no longer hide from myself. One of my fellow pink sisters named Natalie really expresses it best here and I'd like to credit her with helping me be able to look at myself with pride every day:

"When I look at my scars and my changed chest, now I feel pride and happiness. I am proud of all that I endured and I'm happy to be alive. Scars don't form on the dead....only the living. So now I've learned to look at them in a completely different way."

Well said, Natalie! You are helping me and so many other women by sharing this perspective. My hope is that all women who have been scarred by breast cancer will be able to see themselves as beautiful and strong survivors who have overcome and prevailed. You are all warriors and you are stronger than you think!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

My Meltdown

I'm home today. I was going to meet my chemo pal, Elayna today but I had a lousy night's sleep and my expanders are holding me down. Just feeling heavy and sore today.  And everything is making me cry.

I seemed to get through so much stuff over the last months without breaking down. I don't know if I was just in the fast forward mode of "getting it all done", the chemo, the surgery, and now the recovery. This is the time now to think. I have not been thrust back into working (yet) and I have down time to recoup.  

And think.

If you didn't know already, I am a thinker. My brain just doesn't ever not think. Sometimes, I'll ask my husband, "What are you thinking about?" and he replies, "Nothing". I'm like, "How can you be thinking of NOTHING? How is that possible. Even thinking about NOTHING is thinking about something. The fact that you are thinking period is thinking, right?"

See? It's torturous being inside this head. Sometimes I wish I could just turn a switch off and stop all of it. 

Anyway, having this down time to rest, stretch, take care of myself, etc. is odd but I know it's necessary.  The problem is, I start to really think about all that has happened over the last year and it's still hard for me to grasp. Before I was diagnosed, I was in Worrier mode and then quickly jumped to Warrior Mode. I had a job to complete and I'm almost done. I have my final "exchange" surgery in March when my tissue expanders will be removed and replaced by permanent implants. So, the worst of all of this is definitely (and hopefully) behind me. 

So, why do I feel so blue? Shouldn't I be happy? Well, for starters, I think my whole being has been messed with in more ways than one. About 2 weeks ago, I started the Tamoxifen and Effexor. The first is an Estrogen blocker (see prior blog), and causes menopausal symptoms. The Effexor is an anti-anxiety/anti-depressant and that is supposed to also help relieve hot flashes.  

I am not ashamed to say that I take stuff for depression. I think there is such a stigma in this culture about mental illness and if you need something to help you cope, you take it. Personally, I'd rather not have to take it and eventually my goal is to get off it. This period in my life has been wrought with many emotions and trying to "keep it together" for my kids, my family and myself is not easy. A little help is ok if you need it.  I've learned that many people take this stuff and don't have life threatening illnesses and just have trouble coping with every day life or have an imbalance. I get it.

It's important to mourn, cry, let it out. 

I had just written up to this point and took a break to read a message from a fellow Pink Sister who is a long time survivor. She knew about my teary week and said she was glad to hear I was "finally crying" because it really is necessary for the entire healing process.  I think she was starting to worry that I was handling this too well! No one gets out of this one without crying, no matter who you are.

After my tearfest today, I finally decided I needed to shower. It's amazing how the armpit smell evolves after weeks of not wearing deodorant.  I started to undress for my big event. I love the hot water, the stretching in the shower, the feel of the water on my scalp, and the freedom to cry where you can't see the tears.

First, I lifted up my cami, which has become a post mastectomy fashion staple. I was just looking for a Foob Update to see how they were doing today and this is what I found:

My first reaction was a gasp, thinking I somehow shit myself in an odd position.  And then I realized that my late morning "snack" must have ventured down my chest, but because most of it is numb, sort of like when you have novacaine, the chocolate just smooshed right into my brand new, $2.46 Old Navy camisole. And then my six year old caught on after hearing my hysteria.


In times like these, it's handy to have one of these, but because I don't, I let the shower do the trick.

I had given up sweets recently and it didn't last long. I'm glad it didn't because this little wardrobe malfunction gave me just the belly laugh I needed today and my blues quickly turned into the browns.

The Browns helped to turn my frown, upside down. Just the therapy I needed today!

(Oh, and the culprit? Trader Joes new chocolate chunks! You must try them!)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Do These Foobs Make My Stomach Look Big?

If you are tired of my breast cancer posts, I'm not sorry. You don't have to read this blog, you know. But I promise to make it worth your time, even if breast cancer has absolutely no effect on your life. 

What the Fuck? It's all I can say this morning.  I went to bed around midnight and had constant chills. I left the bed so I wouldn't annoy my husband, and went downstairs to the couch.  I am now taking Tamoxifen (for the next 5 years) because my breast cancer happens to be "Estrogen receptor positive", which basically means that my cancer is/was(?) fueled by estrogen. Tamoxifen is an estrogen blocker and is supposed to do some magic in my body and somehow prevent future cancer. Ok, then. I'll take it if it's like a little insurance policy. 

However, there are side effects. One of which is hot flashes. I've had flashes before, however, I didn't know that with hot flashes comes major, major chills. Why do women only speak of the HOT part and not the cold part? Did I miss a memo or a meeting?  I spent the night covered under 5 blankets, 1 Thomas the Train, 1 Snowman, 1 with Trucks all over it, and 2 plush ones that make you want to float on a cloud, you know the kind I'm talking about? Ya, those. I also had a hat on my head (which by the way is sporting some pretty cool hair!) Even though I look like a female inmate now, it's fine.  Pink may just be the new Orange.

This is how I felt:

So, long story short, I was freezing my ass off for hours, chills chills chills and couldn't get warm to save my life. I was running out of infomercials and almost caved at some Home Shopping Network 2 piece polyblend outfits for the holidays. Then suddenly, the thermostat in my body skyrocketed and I needed to strip. I finally dozed off around 5 a.m. at which time I had crazy dreams about being in some parallel clown universe and one of the clowns was actually really cute and started shaving his head, just for me.  Gosh, I miss romance!  Just when things were getting juicy, the Mr. came down to make the morning coffee. Damn, no telling where that dream was going!

Since sleep was definitely not in the cards for me, I got my fanny up and got busy making lunches, breakfast and sucked down my coffee.  I'm usually pretty high functioning the day after a No Night Sleep but it will hit me around 3 p.m for sure and I'm going to be a vegetable. 

For those of you who really had no interest in reading this blog but did anyway, I thank you for your time. Here is your reward. This is what I look like in the morning, before walking the kids to the bus stop:

So, my million dollar question.  Do my Foobs make my stomach look big

I'm sure many of you are saying to yourselves, "How could she post such a dreadful picture of herself on the interweb for everyone to see?! Doesn't she know that picture can land just about anywhere?"

In the words of my mother, "Who gives a good shit".  (I love how she says it instead of asks it, so no question mark is needed).  I truly don't at this point. I'm too tired and unhinged to care. And I also figured that some poor soul is trying to give a good shit right now on the toilet and perhaps this blog was good reading material to facilitate that whole process.  

You're welcome. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Now What...Tits and Champagne? Not so fast......

This is how I felt yesterday, 

Just like Julie Andrews in her potato sack clothes. I was on top of the world; joyful, posting on Facebook how happy I was, and I got almost as many likes as Sinead O'Connor's Open Letter to Miley Cyrus after her twerking episode. 

My Facebook friends were almost as happy as me, too. It was a great day! I also spoke with my uncle who was a bit out of the loop, and when he heard my voice he was just flabbergasted at how "good" I sounded. I think he was expecting me to sound like I was on my last breath. Not this girl. I really made his day. Funny how Cancer can somehow make you the most optimistic person in the room. 

This is the picture that made everyone "Like" me.  

Why was I happy? Because I had that moment that I think many women with Breast Cancer have had. The one after she is finally done with treatment and surgery and has the uplifting conversation with her doctor (hopefully!!!), that all of the cancer is GONE (or, mostly gone and now we cross our fingers) and are told to now go and " Live your life."  

I was that girl. Yesterday, I was so happy, I was obnoxious and I couldn't understand why my husband wouldn't play Ring Around the Rosey with me.

And then I woke up today and the whole picture had changed. I had learned late the night before that one of our Pink Sisters in our Facebook group had died. Or,  she "took wings" as my Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer friend, Ann Marie calls it. Anything,  but "She lost her battle." Somehow that "lost battle" insinuates she didn't try hard enough or she's a loser.  I won't have any of that talk. No. No.  We all fight and we fight as hard as we can.  Some of us start the battle a little too late when too much damage is done or there's just no way to fight certain beasts. But that doesn't mean we lost. Got it? I didn't personally know this sister, but her battle was mine too and I was sad. 

To add to this, I learned of Good Morning America's Amy Robach's recent breast cancer diagnosis and her upcoming bilateral mastectomy this week. I watched the video of her announcing how this all came down and immediately I was brought back to May 3, 2013, the day I learned of my diagnosis. It was like Julie Andrews had suddenly morphed into Eeyore. I just couldn't stop crying.  All of the emotion she was feeling was heartfelt and unscripted. All of the familiar words flowed: "Brave, anxious, shocked, fighter, this is the worst part.....the not knowing".  Yup. I remember those words well.

Why was I so upset over a total stranger's diagnosis? Well, for starters, I have watched Amy for years on TV and always enjoyed her down to earth, breezy and sweet personality. She seemed like a regular girl, someone you'd want to have coffee with. She's a wife, a mom, a step mom and have you seen this girl do a hand spring? Anyway, seeing someone who is so healthy, eats right and has so many years ahead of her (that's many of us in the B/C group!) just makes me sick, every time I hear it.  I felt complete devastation today for her. I suppose it's a Pink Sister thing. You know exactly how they are feeling. You wish you could call her, hug her, do something for her just to let her know she's not alone in this fight. Everything she is facing, you've already faced and you just want to make it better for her. And most of all, you are just plain ANGRY, that this is happening again, and again, and again.  And at the end of the day, she is not a celebrity. She is someone's wife, mother, sister, friend.  She is the center of someone's universe. 

All the Julie Andrews Joy I was feeling yesterday landed right in the crapper, just like that.  My scars are healing nicely after 3 weeks, but obviously the emotions are still raw. I got in my car (for the 1st time in over 3 weeks) to buy a few groceries at Trader Joes.  The song, "Brave" by Sara Bareilles was on. Ironically, that is the song that Amy Robach loves and her co-workers happened to mention it at the end of her announcement. I absolutely loved this song before, and now I love it even more. Amy, you will be brave and you will beat the BEAST, I am sure of it.

So, the moral of this story? The Breast Cancer Journey never ends. Many BC survivors say as time passes, they think less and less about it and it's not so much in the forefront of their brains. I hope this is true for me too.  I am forever changed by this journey and it has affected how I want to continue living my life from now on. For that, I am grateful.

I'll keep the scars. Thank you very much.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Anjelina Jolie didn't wake up with new boobies either! Becky's moving forward blog.

Yesterday marked 3 weeks since my bilateral mastectomy.  I try to remember certain things about that day and the days following and it's very hard to reclaim because of all of the medication. Before the surgery, I was in the usual holding area with my husband and best friend, Michelle. The I.V. had been inserted and it was then where my tears started flowing. I had to tell the poor nurse that I was not crying because of the needles (I was used to that), but because of what was going to happen next.  I couldn't stop crying. I just let the tears come out. After so many procedures, tests, surgeries, I have never cried. But on that day, there was nothing left to do. I just felt like there was no turning back. I knew I was making the right decision but that didn't mean I didn't have the right to mourn what was happening. I never once doubted my decision to have the double mastectomy, but now I felt like a scared little girl, helpless and sad.

I wasn't scared of dying on the table. I wasn't scared of the pain that would follow in the coming days. I wasn't scared that the doctors were going to mess up.  I guess my crying was a culmination of everything up to that point. The feeling like my body was to be forever altered. It would never be the same again. A big (actually quite small) part of me was going away forever.  I was also afraid of looking in the mirror for the first time after the surgery.  I had seen pictures before, thanks to Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer's blog. She too, had a double with reconstruction and was brave enough to photograph her post mastectomy pics and share them with the world. Viewing these pics before hand, really did help me with the unknown, but I have to say, I was still scared about the emotional impact of being boobless. Many people think when you undergo a double with reconstruction, you wake up with new boobs. Well, this is not always the case and Anjelina Jolie didn't wake up with new boobies either. One more thing we have in common. 

But I digress.

Michelle and my husband sat by my side and for once, neither one of them cracked jokes or tried to "cheer me up". They both knew this is what I needed and I'm sure they felt like crying too, the poor things. The last thing I remember was the crying and then I went into that wonderful La La land of anesthesia, or as I call it, "Mommy's Vacation".  Shamefully, I must admit, I was looking forward to a few days of room service and ordering everything off the menu, even if it meant body altering surgery, I'll take it!

I woke up in recovery to wonderful nurses who kept my pain to a minimum. I was finally wheeled to my room that evening, my husband still by my side. The bandages did not stay on for long so I looked down and thankfully, was not as traumatized as I thought I'd be. (Thank you morphine). First of all, when a mastectomy is done, all of the breast tissue is removed but the skin is still in tact. And because I opted for reconstruction, temporary tissue expanders were placed under my chest muscles and then the plastic surgeon injected some saline so that when I woke up, I had some pre-pubescent boobies. However, my nipples had been removed because my doctor does not believe in "nipple sparing" due to any cancer that may be in the nipples, kind of defeats the purpose of this whole procedure. Here is what they look like inside, picture on the left.

Eventually, the tissue expanders will be removed after having saline injected into them over a certain time span in order to stretch the skin. Once my Dolly Parton boobs are acheived, they operate again and swap out the expanders for permanent silicone implants, see picture on the right. And then I'm done! Amen!

So, getting back to the Foobs, as the Pink Sisters like to call them (Fake Boobs). There are incisions going straight across both breasts. It looks like 2 closed eyes so every time I look in the mirror, I want to say, "Wake up and open your damn eyes!" I would show you a picture of them here, however, my mom would be mortified if I publicized them so if you are really interested, just Google it or click here for Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer where this wonderful gal Ann Marie sends Bravery Bags all over to women with breast cancer. She is one of the wonderful gifts breast cancer has brought to me. A kindred spirit and a crazy Italian girl, just like me!

So, fast forward to today. It's been three weeks. I am still not driving and I cannot lift anything over 5 pounds. I'm not in pain, per se, however it feels like there is something heavy strapped to my chest at all times and at the end of the day, it is all so damn tight, I do need to take muscle relaxers. I finally got off the heavy pain killers and I just went to my plastic surgeon yesterday for my second fill up. I am currently up to 190 ccs of saline, or really what my previous size was.  I could stop now but you know, I'm not going through all this shit to have little boobs again.  I deserve a Boobie Prize after enduring biopsies, 2 surgeries, so much damn stress and anxiety, I think I have the right to "trade up" now to at least a B cup, don't you think? My plastic surgeon used the word "cleavage" yesterday and I had to look it up in the dictionary.  I have to say, I'm pretty excited about getting some!

Best of all, (and I had to save the best for last because the boob talk is really all the superficial stuff), remember the reason why we did all this? Breast Cancer! BINGO!  I met with my breast surgeon a week or so after the surgery and my pathology report shows no traces of cancer. YES, you read that right.  The boobies are clear! The right side was taken because I did not want to worry about it in the future and it was not going to match the unhealthy side after recon, so that's that.  Thank you, Thank you! The 4 rounds of chemo are behind me and that was performed because one out of 3 lymph nodes had tested positive. So, if any cancer was let loose into my system, hopefully, the chemo stopped it in its tracks. 

I am so overjoyed by this news but I don't know if it has really registered yet.  In the mean time, I'm doing my stretching exercises at home, trying to eat healthy, catching up on my blog and just being so damn thankful, to the wonderful doctors, nurses, my parents,  all of my family and friends, and to my husband who is always there by my side. I would not have made it this far without all of them.

And the emotional impact of all of this? I have to say, I haven't cried since that fateful day, 10/18 when my body was to be forever changed. Yes, it's changed, but for the better. Sure, my breasts look a little creepy and are a work in progress, but they served their purpose and saying goodbye to them in my previous blog really helped me tremendously.  If a Pink Sister is reading this right now and has to travel the same road as me, I highly recommend it! You can do this and you WILL survive it.

It's time to move forward. There is no point in living in the past because I'm not going there, ever again.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bye Bye Boobies. Another Open Letter......

Lately there seems to be an overabundance of "Open Letters" to people.   Everyone has something on their chest and it appears they feel better by writing an Open Letter to help alleviate what's bothering them. I, too, am guilty of the Open Letter Syndrome (OLS). As you may recall, I wrote one to the CEO of Kelloggs to complain about the lack of chocolate in their chocolate Mini Wheats.  I can say from first hand experience, this letter got me absolutely no where. No one gave a shit about my diarrhea from eating too many mini wheats in the hopes I'd find more chocolate.  Really, these letters are just USELESS!  Is everyone but the intended target reading the letters and "sharing" them, just to feel good about spreading the "word".

I think someone should write an open letter to people who write open letters.  Just a thought.

Since I am having my double mastectomy tomorrow, I decided I needed to write an open letter to my boobies.  I am never going to see them again. Like ever.  I'm sad, I'm anxious, I'm still in shock about the whole thing, even after all this cancer nonsense.  Yes, it's still shocking and I often feel like I'm talking about someone else when I talk about my cancer journey. Some fucking journey! 

Here goes nothing.....

Dear Boobies,

You and I have known each other for a LONG time.  It took a while for you to grow. In fact, I don't think you ever truly reached your full potential, but that's ok. When I was a little girl, I used to pretend I had boobs by putting these under my shirt, one on each side, perky as can be.

I would prance around the house with my L'eggs eggs, hands on hips, feeling really lady like. And one was always bigger than the other because that's how the L'eggs people made them; uneven, just like real life boobies.  

I finally started growing the real versions of you around 5th grade.  There were no "pre-teen" bras back then so I just went au naturale. This didn't really cause a problem until the city wide spelling bee when I was up on stage wearing a blue terry cloth shirt. The air conditioning was on full blast and you suddenly perked up and out, standing at attention. To this day, I blame you for my dashed dreams of winning the spelling bee crown. Well, screw you because now we have spell check.

Then there was the time during softball in the 6th grade when I was pitching and a line drive hit me square in the boobage. It knocked me right to the ground and my male coach did not know how to handle such an injury. Those painful moments on the mound were the first time you let me down and I realized you could actually bring me grief and so much pain.

My teenage years were sort of uneventful in the booby department.  You didn't grow very much AT ALL and bra shopping was depressing. You were like 2 outcasts, trying to fit in but never quite making it into the cool crowd.

And then came my junior prom night. I wore a dress that required a strapless bra but in true Becky form, I was either too cheap to buy one, or just didn't want you to be strapped in. I thought you should enjoy yourself that night so instead, I placed 2 of these over you and it worked beautifully. That is, until I had to tear them off at the end of the night.  
When I was engaged to be married at the age of 24, I found a lump on you. It scared the shit out of me. I had my first mammogram then. The technician squeezed you and your lump so hard, I fainted right there on the cold hard floor.  She redid the mammo 3 more times and you and I were both not very happy. It turned out to be nothing, but now I wonder if that was really true or was it just the beginning of this whole mess?

Moving right along. I had my first baby at the ripe old age of 35. I desperately wanted to breast feed and my mother would always mock you and ask, "Are you sure you can, you don't have much there. The baby might starve!"  

Then there were the hours I tortured you like a poor cow, hooked up to the breast pump. I can still hear that repetitive humming motor sound it made. And remember that one time it took me close to an hour to pump 2 measly ounces of milk and then, in my sleep deprived haze, dumped it down the drain? 
I sobbed like a baby.  Don't cry over spilled milk I thought. Sorry you went through all that work my little boobies!

For the most part, you had a good life. You were often the butt of many jokes but you were strong and confident and I'm so proud of you for staying true to yourself. You never asked for one of those crazy water bras from Victoria Secrets, or the Wonder Bra, or the Push Up bra. You  were content and so was I. We grew to like each other over the years and I'm grateful that you nourished 2 wonderful little boys who often clawed at you when they were hungry and one of them even bit you a few times.  You took a lot of abuse over the years, both physical and emotional. 

You did your best and that is all any girl could ask for.  I'd really like to thank you for your service and mostly, I'd like to thank you for telling me there was something wrong. When you started looking different with your little dimple, I knew something was up.  You saved my life!

Since then, you've endured a lot between mammos, biopsies, MRIs, surgery, and tomorrow you're going bye bye for good. After all you've been through, you look very different. One of you looks the other way now and is scarred, like it's giving the healthy one the cold shoulder. Well, listen Lefty, don't be mad at Righty because you are both traveling the same road tomorrow   It's ok though. Well, not really, but it has to be.  Making this decision was not easy, but I know you will understand.

And in a few more months, the final surgery will be completed and the New Boobs on the Block will start making their own mammaries with Becky. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Yes, Angelina and I were separated at birth

Holy smokes, it's been over a month since my last blog. Sorry! Here's an update.

I finished chemo on 9/3/13. I am so glad it's over and now it seems like a distant memory, thanks to chemo, everything is!  Chemo did everything it was supposed to. I lost my hair, some of my eyebrows and lashes and BEYOND, and hopefully, I lost any trace of cancer that may have been running amok in my body. I felt sick for about 7 days after each treatment, lost my sense of taste, was very tired, sometimes weepy, and had crazy epic dreams (like a Homeland episode!). Now it's done. In hindsight, it was not the horror show I thought it would be. It wasn't fun, but thanks to anti nausea meds and no unrealistic expectations, I did ok.  I've learned to deal with the baldness however, I still instinctively try to avoid getting my hair wet in the shower. Oh, and I've gained 25 pounds. I know, I know,  "You have more important things to worry about than your weight!"  Well, ok, pass me the Doritos. 

Now we move on to bigger and better boobs.  I've had about a month to recover my immune system before my double mastectomy this Friday. I've had a busy month with lots of fun and inspiring activities (while also trying to rest and recover). My friends Kristen and Todd had a Casino Night to benefit our Making Strides against Breast Cancer team and we raised over $1400. My friend Michelle and several other Zumba instructors held a Zumbathon for our team and raised almost $2000.  I am in awe of how much my friends and family have all pitched in to help us deal with the Breast Cancer journey/tornado. To date, our team has raised over $10,000! So thrilled about this and I could not have done it alone. Thank you to everyone who has supported our team in any way, big or small!

I've had several speaking engagements too, and for a girl who was petrified of speaking in public, "Now she won't shut up" (in the words of my BFF). I know many people are tired of Breast Cancer Awareness  month already but in a Pink Sister's world, it's always Breast Cancer Awareness month.  This fact was actually pointed out to me today at Providence College by, of all people, a nice young man who was in the audience.  I don't know his name, but I already love him and the way he sat there and listened to my stories, watched me demonstrate a mammogram in action, and laughed at all my "jokes". Can I adopt you? It would be one more thing Angelina Jolie and I have in common.  Adoption and new boobies!

I have officially overcome my fear of public speaking. I never in my lifetime thought this would happen. When this B/C journey began, I heard people say stupid things like "Cancer is a gift!" It used to piss me off. Well, it's partially true. Cancer itself is not a gift. It is rotten and stupid and it robs people of their important people. However, the gifts it brings to you are priceless. I already knew I had phenomenal friends and family but I didn't know just how phenomenal they are. And I've met so many new friends on line  and in person because of Cancer. All gifts that are irreplaceable and precious to me now.

The "Now She Won't Shut Up" tour has begun, thanks to the Gifts of Cancer. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

My Chemo Eve Blog and Why Alyssa Milano is on My Hit List

Tonight is the Chemo Eve of my last treatment (well, it better be!). I can't sleep because of the steroids and anxiety. The chocolate cream pie is almost gone, so the only thing left to do is write or watch another Wen haircare commercial where I give Alyssa Milano and her posse the finger every chance I get.

Even though chemo is ending tomorrow, my journey is not over. I still have the double mastectomy in October with another surgery following that for the final reconstruction. At least I can finally check the chemo part off the list and that feels really great!

But the boobs. Well, they've been with me for a while and saying goodbye to them is going to be sad and strange. I'll never forget the day I announced to the awesome moms at my kids' school, "Momma's getting new boobies!" They all squealed with delight and hugged me hard. I had made the decision to go for the double so that I could avoid future worries about the "healthy" breast. (Side note, who knows what the pathology report on this healthy side will show when this is over? Either way, it's going Bye Bye!) Anyway, I went through a little honeymoon phase about getting new boobies and many friends kept trying to make me feel good about "getting the ones I always wanted".  And I was joining in, too. Yay me!

After my honeymoon phase was over, of course I analyzed it in true Becky form. I thought, if I was getting my leg amputated would people say, "Oh, you'll get a new one!" Having your breasts removed surgically is, in fact, an amputation, right? In the end, yes, I will have new breasts. The skin on the outside will be the same, however, the feeling will be mostly gone and I will not have my own nipples, but some pretty real looking ones in the end.  I will have taken the measures needed to save my life and ensure the beast does not come back to haunt me years from now. A small price to pay in the end. It is the only solution, in my opinion, to live a long healthy life and give breast cancer the final FU. And the silver linings?  I will no longer be an A cup, thank you very much. If I'm going through all this torture, you better believe my girls are going bigger....not like Dolly Parton, don't worry. ANYTHING is bigger than what I currently have!  Also, I hear you can go braless! This girl is going wild  just thinking about that because I hate bra shopping more than I hate watching the Wen commercials. 

Even still, I sit here after downing more chocolate cream pie. I'm almost 20 pounds heavier in just over 2 short months. (And sadly, none of this weight gain has gone to my boobs. One more reason to give them the boot. Why don't they join in with my ass and my stomach?)  I've gone up almost 2 sizes. I learned that only fictional characters on TV lose weight during cancer, but real life women with breast cancer explode from the steroids, the anti-nausea meds that prevent you from puking your weight loss, inactivity, and eating what makes you feel good or tastes good because most things taste bland, sour, or like metal for weeks. I now call myself Puff Mommy. My rolls now have rolls. Someone pass the butta!!

It's not easy looking like the Pillsbury Doughboy when you get out of the shower. So now, I just let the mirror get as foggy as possible so I don't have to look. I decided that this version of me just represents everything about Breast Cancer. No matter what I do, or how I look, I will be forever changed by this on the inside. Gaining weight is really not the end of the world and I know it's temporary.  However, the  internal effects are permanent and transforming me every day. 

To all of my Pink Sisters who feel bad about themselves right now I say this. Stop it right now! Please. We all have enough shit to endure right now and making yourself feel bad because you're a little plumper, a lot balder, or just sooo different than the old version of you, is not going to help you heal and beat the BEAST. Be kind to yourself! If that means buying some new clothes to make you feel better, then do it. Put on some lipstick, a cool hat and get out there and have some fun.

OR, if it means eating a little more pie, then fork it in. Because after your next chemo treatment, you know that you won't enjoy it.  Ooops, I think we are talking about me now. Gotta go, that white box in the fridge is calling Puff Mommy. 

My kiss goodbye to chemo. FUBC!!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Going Bald Down South

The life of a chemo patient can be a little dull and sometimes depressing. To combat the Chemo Crapfest, she needs to blog about certain topics to entertain herself and her Pink Sisters; the underground world of women who are all going through this journey together. They are ALL over and you should never, EVER eff with them. One thing I learned about all of the Pink Sisters out there? They pray. A LOT.  But they swear even more. It's really par for the course.  If they didn't swear or pray before their diagnosis, you bet they are doing it a lot now.

We swear, pray, laugh, share, cry, tease, encourage and talk about things that no one else talks about. Take, for example, Pubic Hair loss.

Yes, you heard right. Pubic. Hair. Loss. It's time we talked about the Pink Elephant in the Room.

It goes without saying that us Pinkies lose the hair on our heads. We learn to deal with it by either wearing a wig, scarf, hat, or many just go bald now. Thanks to the ones who paved the way and made it ok to be bald in public, many women are not self-conscious anymore and go au naturale. And honestly, if my head wasn't always so cold or at risk of sunburn, I'd go bald too. It really doesn't bother me the way it bothers the people who have to look at me.  Poor things.

In addition to going bald and getting used to looking at ourselves like Q-tips, we lose hair in other parts of our bodies. Makes sense, right? But I bet you never thought about this until now.  Now, to preface, I am historically a hairy Italian girl but thanks to chemo, I have not had to shave my underarms for over 2 months. Yes, I have totally hit the jackpot! And one morning I woke up and you'd swear the Sally Hanson Fairy had made a trip during the night because my moustache had magically disappeared. Oh joy! My legs however, are still clinging on to stubble and it seems my Italian roots are just way too strong for me to be completely out of the hairy woods. Nevertheless, I don't have to shave much at all anymore so that, too, makes me joyful. You see, there is always a silver lining!

Now, when all the above hair goes, it's nice. One less thing to "do". But then, the friggin eyebrows and eye lashes start to disappear. Not so funny! In fact, losing those seemed more traumatic to me because they were like my last ditch effort to look like somewhat of a female. Do you know how awkward it is to put mascara on 5 eyelashes? And drawn on eyebrows? Can you say "No wire hangers!"

 I officially gave up on mascara yesterday and decided that I would go for the Albino Qtip look. Plus, my mucus ducts are also messed up and don't really enjoy eye makeup, so whatever. If you see me looking like Sissy Spacek in the movie Carrie, have no fear. I really don't feel as sick as I look.

And then there are the pubes. I was excited when my bikini line no longer needed attention. One LESS thing to attend to. My beauty regime was shortening by the day. And then a few Pink Sisters, who shall remain nameless, forewarned me about the "Pee Stream" and how wayward it gets without the pubic hair there. I thought, "Oh Shit! One more thing for me to worry about, peeing down my leg!" I know this sounds totally wacky, but apparently it happens to many woman and not just the ones with gigantic urethras.  Allegedly, there is a group of elite hairs which help to keep the pee in the right direction!

Which harkens me back to something my wise dad always said to us growing up, and that is, "The pubic patch is there for a reason." Yes, I grew up in a very progressive, forward thinking household. Some parents kept everything "hush hush" while mine were extolling the virtues of pubic hair.  

Father knows best. The pubic patch IS there for a reason. I am not going into any more detail about why, just trust me on this one. I now have first hand experience.

So, this leads me to my final inquiry. If they have prosthetic boobs and "cranial prostheses" (wigs),  then why is there no Pubic Patch Prosthesis for the Pink Sisters? It could be like a mini wig you attach down there to help with the wayward pee stream and uncomfortable friction.  Like a Twidget Toupee or a Baby Bush. Ok, so they're both working titles. All suggestions are welcome below. Please help me launch my new million dollar idea! Do it for the Pink Sisters!

Disclaimer; I'd like to hold my chemo brain responsible for the content of this blog. Ah, who am I kidding? We both know that's probably not true. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Becky's Bald Blog

"I began to  learn that losing your hair is like watching a big line being drawn in the sand, separating your old life from your new one. It's usually the first visible sign of your illness to the outside world, and it's a shock to see yourself in the mirror or as you pass by a shop window." Taken from "Any Day with Hair is a Good Hair Day" by Michelle Rapkin. 

This week, that line in the sand was drawn for me, or rather, I drew it myself.  My hair started falling out in clumps and I couldn't stop pulling it out. It was becoming an obsession! Everywhere I went, I left a trail of DNA and was starting to worry that if I committed a crime, they would easily trace it back to me based on the hair droppings all over the state. So, I decided to have my friend shave it 2 nights ago. 

Like any good friend, she fed me and gave me a glass of wine. Then we sat on the back deck for the final cut. She took out her electric clippers and went to town like Edward Scissorhands. As she mowed through my scalp, I repeated the mantra I have been saying throughout this whole breast cancer débâcle,  "There is no other choice, I have to do this, there is no other choice", just to reassure myself.  

It really was THE only choice. My scalp was so itchy and annoyed from the impending hair loss, like someone was constantly pulling on a pony tail. These feelings were reminders of what was to come, fueling the anxiety even more. What would I look like bald? Can I handle not having any hair? How will my family cope with this? I felt victimized by my hair and it was slowly torturing me. It was time for me to take control.

The fear of the unknown is always so much worse than the reality, isn't it?

Once Edward finished her work, I breathed a sigh of relief. My 5 year old son had been watching and all he could do was giggle. (He actually handled this way better than my short hair cut 2 weeks ago, go figure!). My scalp was very dry, so we cleaned it up and then Edward applied some overpriced, "too good for someone's scalp" cream. Ahh, it felt beautiful, clean, cool and comfy. I decided right then that all women should shave their heads once in their lifetime, just to shake things up and see how good it really feels. Honestly, ladies, this could be the tumors and the chemo talking, but you must try it!

Part of me thinks I should be crying, but I don't feel like it. Perhaps I am slightly numb to all that has happened and I've just learned to accept things as they come now.  Or, maybe losing my hair just isn't the big deal that I thought it would be? Or, I'm just so effing hot that now it's a welcome relief! And all my Pink Sisters who have been through this have said, "It's only hair, it doesn't define you. It will grow back".

Looking in the mirror is very strange, but then it's not. It's just me, only balder. I'm still me. 

Sadly, so many women are going bald as we speak and most are probably traumatized and embarassed to go out in public. The day after the Big Cut, I went to the most public place on Earth, the Mall. I'll admit, I spent a little too much time adjusting my head scarf, for fear that someone would yank it off my head (who does that and why would I fear it so much?).  But once it felt secure, I just ventured out with my family and tried to act normal, well, as normal as an abnormal person can act.  I went about my business as usual and life went on. In the big scheme of things, there are a lot freakier looking people roaming around the mall than a 45 year old with a pretty pink scarf with dangling beads on her head.

It's a funny thing. Of all the yucky side effects of chemo;  the nausea, diarrhea, body aches, fatigue, and hair loss, the one that stays with you the most is the hair loss. The other symptoms come and go and can even be remedied with a pill.  But the hair loss stays for many months and hair regrowth doesn't guarantee you will be back to your old self when the cancer nightmare is over. I may be in for a head of kinky gray hair 6 months from now!  Who really knows?

And that old self I was before is already gone and forever changed anyway. So, any hairdo that rears its ugly head will be welcomed by the new me. After all, it's only hair, right?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow.....

My to do list from the previous blog told me to get a haircut like Nurse Jackie. Here's how that went.

On the day of my first chemo treatment, I decided to go for the haircut. The last thing I wanted was to have long clumps of hair on my pillow so I decided that short wisps of hair would be more tolerable. I have had short hair in the past but never this short. The thought process behind "The Nurse Jackie" is that once the hair starts falling out, it's easier to shave when it's at a short length. As you can see, I'm trying to minimize the trauma!

Here is the before, during and after:

Getting it all chopped off was a very liberating feeling,  You see, every summer I bitch and moan about my thick mane and how hot it makes me. I've said in fits of rage, "I wish I could just shave it all off!"

Well, now my wish has been granted.  This is the new me, for now. I was elated for a few days about this haircut.  

And then suddenly, I wasn't. 

Everywhere I turned, especially on TV, all I could see was HAIR and how beautiful it was. It was suddenly like a rare that I no longer had.  And then I remembered what my friend Michelle said as we discussed my new, short do. "Let's face it, you were never really happy with your hair!"  And we both laughed. She's right.  As much as everyone would tell me I was lucky to have such thick, wavy hair, I never really enjoyed DOING my hair. I am just not good at it. I hate fussing with it and in the summer, it gets so frizzy. I am convinced God gave me 2 boys because I am not good with doing even a simple barrette on a kid, let alone myself!

We women stress way too much over our hair, don't we? Mine is now on borrowed time and I keep checking my pillow each morning. My scalp is getting prickly. I look in the mirror and don't really recognize myself anymore. My youngest son couldn't really look at me for a few days after The Big Cut.

It's ok, I get it little boy. Momma understands! 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

How I'll Spend My Summer Vacation

Last summer, precisely at this time I was blogging about the upcoming CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) via Confreda Farms and Gardens. I was all hyped up about all of the fun and interesting produce I was going to prepare and eat. I spent each Tuesday opening up a big box of bounty, "Oohing and Ahhing", and then photographing it all with my kids. And when the kids weren't looking, I'd put some of the veggies in precarious positions and amuse myself.

This summer, I will be blogging about a different kind of CSA.  Same letters, different topic.

Cancer Sucks Ass.

Yep.  Who knew? My Breast Cancer diagnosis came in May, followed by a partial mastectomy and now we are faced with 4 rounds of chemo, starting tomorrow.  Come October (ironically, Breast Cancer Awareness Month), I will be having a double mastectomy with reconstruction. My house is going to look like the Pepto Bismol Invasion! Pink Pink Everywhere! Damn, it's a good thing I like pink.

So here it is, a full turn from corn, lettuce and zucchini to nausea, mouth sores, and diarrhea! If I were you, I'd find a happier blog to read.

I was trying to come up with something lighter and fluffier for CSA, like Cancer Sails Away! But let's be honest, Cancer really does suck ass. Even if you've never had Cancer, I know you know someone who has had it, and you know from their experience, it sucks, right? Sure, you can say Cancer brings you many gifts and changes you for the better and makes you stronger! Blah, Blah, and BLAH.

But it still sucks. I'm as ready as I'll ever be and just want this first treatment under my belt. The nurse gave me an option to wait another week and I was like, "Uh, no! Sign me up NOW before I go all Shirley McLaine on your ass!" (Well, I didn't say that exactly because her name was Heather and she is a "Nurse Navigator", and anyone who can help me navigate Cancer is ok in my book! (Ooops, I almost typed BOOB instead!)

Whew. No time like the present, right?

Hence, my Pre-Chemo To Do List:

1. Get a haircut like Nurse Jackie 

2. Go wig shopping with my posse and hopefully laugh instead of cry. (We will probably get kicked out.)

3. Research chemo side effects and proper nutrition. (Check, and dOnE!)

4. Wonder if, when my hair does fall out approximately 14 days after my first treatment, if my bald head will make my neck look fat. Will there be a 666 tattooed on there like Damien in The Omen? And how will I hide my flaky scalp? 

5. Buy false eyelashes and figure out how to draw on eyebrows so I don't look like Uncle Leo in Seinfeld

6. Research apps that show what you would look like bald. Call me crazy but I really don't want my kids freaking out when the time comes so that's what I did.  Check, and DONE, thanks to my overzeolous 10 year old, we've all been "Baldified". Will spare you the pictures until the real thing happens, if I'm THAT brave.

7. Set up my Caring Bridge support site so that family and friends can help us through with meals, transportation, etc. ChEcK and dOnE! (Ps. My family and friends rock!!)

8. Get my Pink Big Girl Panties on cuz it's gonna be a wild ride!

Thanks friends for all your words of encouragement and please share this with someone you love!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Thank You Sisters, Pink and Brown

The last 2 weeks have kind of sucked. Remember when I said long ago in a prior post that I was not bitter or angry? Well, I think I lied, but not on purpose. It all started to hit me; the diagnosis, the upcoming battles, the unknown, PMS, and the wretched thing FOLLOWING the PMS. Seriously, God, why do you not give women a break? I have to believe that there is a special heaven for women because there is just too much shit we have to go through. (Don't get me started on the whiny men on Facebook complaining about their damn sniffles!). Can you tell I'm in a mood?

So, my mood has not been good. Usually, when I find myself in a funk, I can snap out of it in a day or two, but these last 2 weeks have found me getting down with my bad self, but not in a good way. I'm constantly anxious and tired, and the anxiety keeps fueling itself, creating more anxiety. I've been crying a lot more too, which is probably a good thing because I haven't really cried much since this all began just 2 short months ago.  I mostly cry at night, when I am alone in the bathroom, where there is a big fat mirror staring me in the face.  (And to my mother, stop crying this minute and go eat a Zeppole!) Sometimes I talk to myself and have some spiritual Stuart Smalley time. I am so sure I have reached beyond the point of over sharing and to my friends, family and neighbors, if you are reading this, don't freak out.  This blog is therapeutic for me and I know someone out there understands exactly how I feel.


Too many women know exactly how I feel. And that brings me down too. So many, so much younger than me who haven't even gotten married or had kids, are dealing with too much, too soon.  (And what the hell.... right now I'm listening to Pandora radio and "Live Like You are Dying" is on, like really?)

ANYWAY! Friday night I had the chance to go out with my best friend and meet up with a bunch of high school friends. Or, I had the chance to go to a Young Survivors Breast Cancer group where I would know not one person. It was a cookout at a friend of a friend of a friend's house. We connected on FB just this week. 

I chose the party where I would know no one. I just knew it was the right thing to do. I didn't have the energy to put on a "Happy Face" at the other event, although I'm sure no one would expect me to. Another recent and unexpected feeling lately is one of isolation, not because there are not enough supportive people around me. Trust me, I have love, family, and friends who would drop anything for me. But lately, I have been feeling like an outsider looking in and I can't relate to the world. Everyone says this is normal and will pass with time. 

So I went to the Survivors party. Nicole, the hostess, literally welcomed me with open arms. We hugged and kissed like we were sisters.  I consider her my Pink Sister, having endured 2 tours of duty with Cancer, chemo, and numerous surgeries. To Hell and back and now Cancer free for 7 years!  She is a trooper and an inspiration to me. One day I hope to help other women the way she is now. 

Meeting the survivors and hearing their stories, feelings, anxiety, and mostly their "happy endings" was what I needed that night. I am so happy to have found some local Pink Sisters to balance out my life with my "Brownie Sisters" (They know who they are!) Who said women can't have it all?

I really am blessed to have perfect strangers welcoming me and all my woes, AND family and friends who still love me, even though my left armpit, thanks to the absence of deodorant, now smells like hot wieners.

Lucky Me!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Becky's Big Decision: Make Mine a Double!

It's been 3 weeks since my lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy. Since then, I have seen a plastic surgeon, a medical oncologist and a radiation oncologist. My scar is healing nicely and my third boob is shrinking (see previous blog), thank God. 

The goal of the surgery was to get what they call in the Breast Cancer world, a "clear margin". My doctor removed the 2 tumors he was going in for and then found 2 others in between that had not been detected on the other tests. He got his clear margin by removing a good chunk of tissue (6 cm on an A cup girl) in the surrounding area, meaning, it was cancer free.  Sounds fantastic, right? Well, there's more, meaning, there's MORE. Just outside of the margin is another issue called DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ), which is more cancer waiting to happen inside the milk ducts and it's spread around in 2 other locations. Also, out of the 3 lymph nodes removed, 2 were negative and one tested positive for micrometastasis. 

So, here are my options.  Go in for more surgery to remove the DCIS and then do radiation. Or, do a mastectomy with no radiation. Chemo is also on the table and a very high likelihood due to the aggressiveness of the tumors and the lymph node issue. 

Based on the amount of tissue already removed, I have had what is really called a Partial Mastectomy and not what a lumpectomy is (no more than 10% of breast removed). Now, to remove MORE tissue and then to radiate it, will leave this already sad breast in a deep state of depression. 

My breast surgeon doesn't know it yet, but I decided he's going to be doing a bi-lateral mastectomy on yours truly. This decision did not come easily but for me, it's the only one that makes sense. My female radiation oncologist completely agrees that to further destroy the breast and then try to rebuild it makes no sense. And even though I tested negative for the gene, I have a strong family history and there could be another genetic component to this we don't know about. I have an option to do a single mastectomy with reconstruction, keep the "healthy" breast and have it augmented to match the other one. However, I will need to have mammograms every 6 months on that side. And to be honest, I have major trust issues with the mammograms, considering my experience. This does not mean you should not have a mammogram. Don't misinterpret what I am saying. 

My feeling is, I do not want to go through this HELL ever again. I am living in a constant state of anxiety already. I do not want to have a future of more biopsies, more needles, more waiting, more living in a holding pattern, more living appointment to appointment. More feeling like I'm living in constant fear of an act of terrorism. I'm not exaggerating. If you have ever experienced something like this, you will understand. It is no way to live. And the sad thing is, there are millions of women who feel like this every day and keep on going. You may not know the angst they are feeling, but believe me, it's  there. But they try to put on a happy face. When they do get some alone time, they are falling apart inside.

So, enough of that. My Pity Party is coming to an end. 

The bottom line is, I have to make the decision which will give me peace of mind and no regrets down the road.  When I tell people about this decision, the response is a resounding,"Good for you!" That, and a sigh of relief and a, "I was hoping you would do that!"  Now, I am not saying  that my decision is what every woman with breast cancer should do.  Breast Cancer is so complex and no 2 cases are the same. There are phenomenal treatment options which include preserving the breasts with good prognoses.  

Thanks to research, technology and a bunch of wicked smart people, there are so many options available and Breast Cancer no longer means a death sentence. I plan on being here to harrass you all for a VERY long time. Don't worry. My new knockers may require a change in my blog site to "Becky's Big Boobs".  Stay tuned.....

Thursday, June 6, 2013

It's My Cancer and I'll Laugh if I Want to

"Laughter is the best medicine."
"Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone."

"Cancer is probably the most unfunny thing in the world, but I’m a comedian, and even cancer couldn’t stop me from seeing the humor in what I went through. — Gilda Radner

Call me crazy, but I have never laughed so much in my life. I discovered that throughout this journey, I like laughing a lot more than crying. Don't get me wrong, the fears, the tears, the insomnia and the depression all take their turn. Sometimes, one has to stand in line while the others skooch to the front. And often, all four of the above are body slamming each other like Sumo wrestlers. 

I have come to accept that this is ok and every day is different. I find that making time for these emotions is a good thing, but I try hard not to let them overcome me and ruin my day.  Life still goes on and I don't want my household to feel like a dark and dreary place. Thankfully, I am surrounded by comedians and my family and friends all understand my twisted sense of humor and know just how to make me laugh. Thank you!

Endless doctors appointments, needles, biopsies, surgery, pain. All not fun or funny. Take, for example, my post lumpectomy body. No one really prepares you for the "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall" moment. Now, even though my breast is still in tact, it looks like a victim of a hit and run (and the guy did not have insurance so I'm not sure how my dents are going to fix themselves!) There is a 5 inch scar which is healing rather nicely but then there is this area between my armpit and breast which is swollen up like an orange. It's puffy, still numb and I can't get comfortable so if you see me walking around like I'm doing a salute, then you will understand. 

My husband affectionately calls this, my "Third Boob", or as I like to call it, "My Big Fat (sometimes) Hairy Armpit", coming soon to a theater near you.  See, that's funny, right?

And then there is the most exciting fashion accessory ever invented for post Breast Cancer surgery. 

The Tube Top. Or I call it, the Boob Top. I feel like a sausage in its casing, but it's my saving grace!

Other things are not always "Ha Ha" funny. Like the time I called a doctor's office for some crucial test results. I had been waiting the alotted time, very patiently. The front line office gal answered the phone and I spent approximately 82 seconds explaining my need for the results, I was borderline sobbing. After I finished my dissertation, her best, immediate reply was, "WHATCHYERDATEOFBIRTH?" Yes, this is the best she could do. 

Really? Someone is crying on the phone and that's all you got? You can't acknowledge this person's fears and say something like, "Oh dear, this must be a tough time, let me check on this for you." That's all I really needed to hear. Not, "WHATCHYERDATEOFBIRTH?"  Are you an EFFING robot? 

At that moment, I was furious and annoyed. But now, I find it very funny that someone is that ignorant and really has no other weapons in her arsonal. I discovered that "WHATCHYERDATEOFBIRTH" is the universal pat response from every health care professional just trying to do her job.  "Funny, Ha Ha"?  Not one bit. In fact, that's another blog all together.

Finding humor in dire situations has been one of my best coping mechanisms so far. If laughter is the best medicine, then my Cancer is going to be cured sooner than I thought!