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.