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16 posts from January 2012

January 29, 2012

One step forward, three naps

back.

Yes, I took three naps today, no, I think I took three naps today.  I may have taken more, if I included those moments where one just randomly falls asleep sitting up straight in a chair with activity all around.  I feel at times that I have reached that limbo area of recovery (or at least I think I have), where I am not sure when I am crossing the line.  What is too little? What is too much?

I think last night's 2 mile walk told me what was too much.  I was so proud, as I am back to being taller than Cait (I was three inches shorter when I came home from the hospital).  With my Spanx on, I can walk around without my hand on my stomach the entire time (due to the irrational fear that my incision will suddenly and inexplicably open without warning).  My feet are no longer so swollen so that I can wear normal socks AND shoes.  Bending over (most of the time) does not have me running for a pain pill and I can read a whole book to Nicholas without keeling over from exhaustion.  Oh, sure, sneezing is still dreaded and laughing literally makes my belly ache, but it's getting better over time.

Since I felt so good last night that I thought I would push the walk a bit further and faster.  I was once again ahead of Pete (okay, maybe he was walking slowly on purpose) and my pace seemed better.  I did have the usual amount of pain, but nothing I couldn't handle.   Sadly, however, this morning I woke up in near agony.

I was swollen,  could barely move, and promptly fell asleep again as soon as I ate breakfast.  Peter luckily took all three kids to church, as the girls had to sing at mass.  I was able to sleep on and off and not feel guilty.  He had them back in time for Kelsey to meet up with her friend and hurry off to her Girl Scout Sing-A-Long (I'm still on Girl Scout Co-Leader sick leave) and I managed to keep Nick engaged (translation: we did a puzzle and he painted a 'stroyer) while Peter took Cait to find new pants for church, as it was a special evening:

 

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Tonight was her Rite of Enrollment for Confirmation.  Peter acted as a proxy for Cait's sponsor's proxy (is that confusing enough?) and I had really hoped that we could all be there.  Oh sure, Nick would only last a few minutes (or we'd get a sitter), but I didn't even have the energy for that.  As much as we wanted it to be a family event, it simply wasn't to be.  Nick and Kelsey stayed home with me and I'm honestly not sure if I took care of them or it was the other way around.  At one point, I finally just threw in the towel, curled up under my afghan and took my whatever snooze of the day while they watched a movie.

I forgot that while I know I need to not be a total slouch, I still have to give myself more time.  I can't have a repeat of last January, when I thought I would be 100% one week after the implant exchange. Oh, and don't forget this whole debacle;  I certainly don't think that helped me recover any faster!  I don't know what I was thinking, especially considering I was really only two months out from my first surgery. I ended up doing too much too soon and it backfired (no, sledding a week after surgery, even 'just' an implant exchange really is not a good idea). 

I am going to keep up the walking (every other day), but I'm not pushing it in any respect.  Typical (minimal) recovery time is 4-6 weeks for my type of procedure.  I 'm only 3 weeks out and given that I am going to be on duty 24 hours/day, 7 days/week for a year beginning May 21st....probably best I give myself a break and a real chance to heal now while I can, right?  

 

January 28, 2012

So Halloween 2012 is covered...

Not only is the boy now the proud owner of two lightsavers (in Nick speak) but now also this fantabulous Darth Vader helmet.  The Little Guy was outside playing Star Wars with his sisters (Yoda, Obi-Kenobi and 3 7 PO are HUGE in our house right now), when our neighbor's son happened to see them. 

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I should add that our neighbor's son is likely older than I am.  Therefore, I was absolutely flabbergasted when he saw Nick playing, and offered him not only the Darth helmet (which just needs eyeglass adjustment and batteries), BUT another, even fancier lightsav(b)er.  The Little Guy went nuts.  Cait went nuts.  Kelsey got very excited.

I went a little nuts when I heard about it as Neighbor Dude had planned to Craigslist, but saw how much free-range fun our kids were having outside, beating each other upside the head with lightsabers (and no parents in sight to say no to the offering*).  He then said, "Here you go!  I was going to sell it, but I know you will have fun with it!"

An immediate (slightly friendly) battle ensued and by all accounts, it looks as though the LG will be reprising his role as Darth Vader (previously seen in 2008), only this time in a little more mobile fashion. He originally thought he might dress as Luke Skywalker, but he just can't so no to this incredible (and free!) costume option.

 

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If you are wondering, yes, the rest of the family may be involved.  Nick has decided that I am now Princess Leia and I should dress accordingly for Halloween.  This sounded like a stellar idea, until I realized that Leia has more than one costume and realized after mentioning the idea to Peter, that we might have entirely different ideas about which costume I should wear.

 

*As if we would say no.  We are children of the 80's, for heaven's sake, that helmet is going to be insured ASAP and someone will just have to have another 80's party so Nick can wear it...or Peter..or Cait...

January 27, 2012

Today I had the honor

of being a guest poster at Being Cancer.  The site has an amazing amount of information, blogs and useful tools for anyone dealing with any aspect of this issue.  Dennis Pyritz runs the site (in addition to working as an RN) and I am very impressed at how he is able to corral so much information without it being overwhelming.  If you ever have the need to visit, I highly recommend stopping by.  The site is also permanently listed under 'the blip' blog roll to the right.

The post of choice, if you are curious,  had to do with my decision to have the DIEP as a means of reconstruction and how it was truly the right choice for me.  If you haven't had the chance, you can read the original post here or on Dennis's website.  Should anyone be curious, as it has now been 3 weeks (nearly to the minute) since I was rolled into recovery, and I am still just as satisfied with my decision, if not more so.  Each day, the swelling in my abdomen goes down and the feeling and sensation in my breast increases.  I still have some pain and exhaustion (to be expected), but it is nothing I can't handle.  

I've said it before and I'll say it again:  one of the best decisions I've ever made.  I will forever be grateful for the support of my family and friends and, of course, the talents of my amazing plastic surgeon. I never thought I would type that particular phrase, but considering the situation, amazing might even be an understatement...

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. One photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. 

 

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Idea courtesy of Soulemama.  Technically the photo is from two weeks ago, but still a moment I treasure. 

January 25, 2012

"But it will give you lift with that!"

Today I did the unthinkable:  I went to the mall.  I did this not to torture myself, my child or my husband, but because I needed Spanx and I needed them NOW.

No, I've not gone all porno on everyone, as many (not all, but probably a good number) women know, Spanx are those marvelous Spandex items that manage to help you squeeze into a tight little number and still breathe.  Or, in the case of my not quite 3 week post-surgical self:  a size 10 pair of jeans.

Now, one might say, why not a traditional girdle?  Why not one of those Futuro binder things you find right next to the Ben-Gay at the CVS?  Why?  Well, not only did the Futuro binder not work (fits a size 32-45 inch waist my a**), but it left me in quite a bit of pain.  It kept me in an upright position, but did nothing for easing clothes on or off.  When I removed it, my stomach looked and felt like I had fallen asleep on a set of Venetian blinds.

Perhaps the best question of all is why am I doing this in the first place?  After all, I had a tummy tuck, right?  I should be super-slim and ready to hop in a bikini (umm....).  Well, there is the post-surgical swelling.  I have not had the time or inclination to do an in-depth study, but everything I have read about swelling post-DIEP indicates that weeks to months are involved in the reduction of swelling.  

There is also the school of thought that the binder (or Spanx, in my case) might offer a bit of support. Sure, if it doesn't cut off your ability to breathe.  Now, to defend my doctor, once the drains came out, he recommended, but did not require, the use of Spanx.  I was told, especially by his assistant, that they were far more comfortable, would not "bind" me as much, but would still give me support and perhaps expand my wardrobe (guess they are a little tired of the old housepants?).

In fact, my doctor said, "Oh, you aren't wearing your regular jeans yet?"

No, I just didn't have the inclination to try to shove my larger than whale self into my size 8 jeans (with a drain still in).  Also, given that my daily activities consisted of napping, eating and maybe a walk, I really didn't have, say, the need to torture myself in such a manner.

After the binder incident, I realized I needed something. Some sort of magical suit that would allow me to not feel as though my stomach is falling out of my body every time I stand up and yet would not cause me to run for the Percocet.  I took the assistant's recommendation and started researching Spanx.

It turned out that she was quite correct and I found at least one plastic surgeon that extolled the virtues of Spanx on his site for those who were post-tummy tuck.  On line of Spanx in particular was   quite popular.  So, today I found my Nordstrom gift card, we loaded up the car and off we went.   

The best part of the trip?  Running into a friend at lunch.  We had a late lunch, so it was not crowded and we were able to get a booth (far more comfy). We then headed to Nordstrom.  Originally I was tempted to just send Peter, but I realized that if I didn't try these items on, it would just be a ton of back and forth.

No fewer than three times did Peter mutter on the way from the restaurant to Nordstrom, "I forgot this is why we never go to the mall!"  It's true...we never do, at least not with Nicholas.  Everything is eye candy and while we have no issue saying 'no' (it's more of a "Oh, you have a birthday coming up, we'll see") sort of thing, it's just annoying.  I realized after living in Iceland that although malls can occasionally be convenient, they just aren't my cup of tea and definitely not my son's.

We shuffled along and finally made it to the store and up to the hosiery department.  No sooner had we arrived than Nick found several mannequins in a state of undress.

"Look, Mom, they are NAKED!"  Well, yes, so they are.  Pete might have been a bit embarassed, but at that point I couldn't care less.  Peter finally found a table for Nick to use for his Legos (oh, yes, we took the Fire Bag and Legos...we may be crazy to go to the mall, but we aren't stupid). I found the EXACT Spanx I was looking for and headed in for the showdown.

Thank God I decided to try them on.  Turns out all the swelling makes me two sizes larger, so the "one size smaller" that I am supposed to purchase is really one size larger than I normally wear.  Now, I had a nice motherly type helping me and she was happy to help.  She came to check on me and I had just figured out that the size large Incognito was going to work perfectly.  It offered support, but didn't strangle me and with the gift card (thanks, Dad & G!), it would cost but a pittance.

She asked how I was doing and I said, "Just fine."  I hoped she would walk away, but then came the worst possible question:

"Would you like to look for some bras to go with those?"

I snarkled (snarkily chuckled) that I was just fine.  Then she went one step further:

"But it will give you such lift with that!"

I just about died with laughter.  I mean, really, I am still recovering from my "lift," hence the reason I am there in the first place.  I finally choked out that I just had surgery and only wish I could have seen the look on her face.  A year ago, I would have been absolutely mortified and run from the store screaming and crying at the thought of all that had gone on.   Maybe I've just gotten to that point that I just don't care anymore.  If you are going to tell me I need lift, I'll tell (or show - eep!) you exactly why I don't!  Heck, I could pull up the massive EOBs from our insurance company on my iPhone.  If that doesn't scream lift, I don't know what does.

I won't even going into how she then tried to sell me bikini underwear that was "on special." Did the whole Spanx + surgery thing just completely pass her by?  

We managed to make it out of there intact, I didn't spend a fortune and Nicholas earned his 15 minutes in the Lego store.  We came home, I napped for an hour (I think I should take up napping professionally;  it's really quite satisfying!) and then woke up and figured I'd give the ole Spanx a go.

Ten minutes later, I had the Spanx on and had to admit, I actually felt as though my stomach was not going to collapse.  I then went a step further and pulled out the jeans I hadn't touched in 2.5 weeks...and slid them right on.  Even threw on a nice sweater for good measure and voila, I am ready for dinner.  

Now, don't be getting your hopes up for a picture.  As anyone who has seen me recently can attest, I still have the beached whale look and that's fine with me.  I was just getting a bit tired of the 'pants and sometimes it's nice to, uh, dress up, if you will.  

Oh, and I almost forgot the best part of the whole trip.  Was it the pain of walking?  Was it Nicholas managing to get a mall pretzel after all?  Was it Peter hanging out in the lingerie section, pretending to take important phone calls while I tried to navigate that section that frightens me on a not so post-surgical day?

No, it was leaving the lingerie section.  There was a nice selection of rainbow-colored cotton panties for the ladies.  Nicholas took one look at the "Commando Cotton" and said, "Oooh, those are SO pretty, we should get some for Kelsey!"  

Peter nearly slid under the table, I said, "Wouldn't that be nice?" and we headed out on our way.  In fact, I spent the whole way home grinning ear to ear, thinking about how life just wouldn't be as entertaining without my Little Guy.

 

 

January 23, 2012

Swap Til You Drop!

That's right, it is time for the annual Foreign Service Swap!  For those in the FS, this is yet another chance to make a new friend and swap crafty items, tasty treats, or anything that might be unique to your current home. 

Does the idea of making a new friend via the FS Swap tickle your fancy?  Are you super-crafty? Are you posted to an area where there is an overwhelming amount of craftiness going on?  Are you in the DC area with easy access to a Trader Joe's or other stores that carry treats that those not currently State-side might miss while overseas?

If you answered yes to any or all of the above questions, then please consider joining the 3rd Official FS Swap, led by my friend A., at Crafty Foreign Service.  If you are interested, please click over to her blog and leave a comment on this post.  See you at the Swap!

 

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January 20, 2012

"That's a parent!"

Yes, it is.  A parent who decided he wanted to surprise his daughter with a truly fun lunch and found himself at the Harris-Teeter at midnight on a Thursday night.  He had to get the right kind of organic turkey and the cheddar cheese sticks vs. the mozzarella (no cheddar at home).

Naturally, we did not have any sprinkles in the house (you know my penchant for that healthy eating and all)....weeeelll, we do have sprinkles, just not the uber-brightly colored ones (you know the ones with dye numbers instead of names? I'm overlooking that issue this one time...), so Peter had to buy a few of those, too.  Now, why might you ask was he doing all of this?

It's all due to Kelsey being BentOnBetterLunches .  We found this blog way back when and immediately put it in our bookmark bar.  Kelsey LOVES to make her own lunches, so she checks the blog daily for ideas.  Now, lately, we were in sort of a rut.  She would do well with making fruit kabobs or cutely arranging her snacks, but unless we had leftovers, the main 'course' sometimes ended up being pasta or Annie's mac and cheese.  Organic, yes, but the healthiest option?  Not so much.

Tonight she was looking at the site and found this post.  She desperately wanted to have these for lunch tomorrow, despite the fact that just last week she complained that she was the "only one who ever brought a healthy lunch."  Peter had to run an errand anyway (I mean, who doesn't at 10 p.m. on a Thursday) and offered that he would do his best to provide this lunch treat for her. 

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Provide he did.  I don't know whether I'm more excited that he is getting turned onto the blog or that it is just such an incredibly sweet dad gesture.  So, if you are wondering, we are saving our 'this moment' for tomorrow, as this picture definitely needed a few words of explanation.  Oh, and in case you are curious, Peter used paper instead of silicone cups.  We have silicone, but he feared they wouldn't make it back home, yet he was making lunch for the child who takes real silverware to school each day and brings it home, to boot!   Whatevs, it's a darn cute lunch, right?

 

January 18, 2012

"You still have your

blood, honey!"

Nicholas made this statement to me last night as I ambled down the stairs after a 4 hour nap (please don't judge).  I had gone upstairs late in the afternoon as I was utterly exhausted and I knew the kids would want to play in the living room.  I cocooned myself in bed so I couldn't possibly roll over and had a variety of nightmares and/or weird dreams.  If you know me, nothing unusual about that.  

Now one might think something was terribly wrong with Nicholas noticing blood, but he was really just remarking on my remaining drain and its accompanying tube.  Did I say "remaining?"  Yes!

Monday was my first post-op visit to the surgeon.  It was a slightly painful drive, but I made it and for the first time, was truly glad to be in his office.  As you know, I very much like Dr. X., however, the primary reason behind my visits was not a good one.  But....I'm moving beyond that.

I was so excited to be there that I actually thought I might hug the doctor.  I mean, I dressed UP for the appointment.  Okay, I was clad in my standard button-down sweater, housepants, wool socks and Crocs (I'm all about comfort right now), but I wore earrings!  I (sort of) did my hair!  I actually have started to feel like I might want to expand my wardrobe once all is said and done and maybe I'll wear lipstick (or at least naturally-tinted lip balm)  twice a week.  Well, I shouldn't go nuts yet.  Now why did I feel so good?   Dr. X.

He did nearly the impossible for me.  He took a portion of extra skin from a place where it was not needed and moved it to an area that allows it to function as a near perfect breast.  No, it's not a truly working breast, but the look and feel is incredible (I just can't stress that enough).  

Not only is the shape nearly perfect in so many ways, but one can already see the outline (okay, Dad, and skittish readers, avert your eyes) for my new nipple.  Since my previous surgery was not nipple-sparing, a new one must be fashioned for me and then the color will be tattooed on my skin.  I can't say I'm looking forward to the pain, but I am quite curious to see the final product.  No worries, there will be no show on this blog, only tell if I am truly happy.

After he checked all of the areas that were involved surgically, Dr. X. allowed that I could have two drains removed:  the one from my right breast and the one closest to my right hip.  The output for both was next to nothing, and it was time for them to be adiosed.  The drain on the left side of my stomach incision is still putting out quite a bit, so it will be at least Friday before it is removed.

I can't say the process was painless, as there was quite a bit of burning, but such a relief to have those suckers out.  Band-aids were attached and I was given the green light to go.  I felt so giddy, I would have skipped out of the office would that be possible without me going into paroxysms of pain.  Oh, and boo on those of you all fancy-schmancily dressed in the waiting room giving me that "Why aren't you wearing your stiletto leather riding boots to the plastic surgeon's office?"  Don't be hating on me just because you have no legitimate excuse to wear housepants in public for the next two months.  Sorry, Botox injections don't make the cut.

I now have only one drain and I am supremely happy about that.  Even better?  Somewhere along the way, I missed the fact that Dermabond was used on my belly incision.  I knew something was glopped on there, but didn't quite catch the name nor did it occur to me it would slowly slough off.  So each day, I would look in the mirror (you know, when I was trying to arrange the drains and tubes 'just so') and see this angry red scar.  I was ignoring it for now, hoping it would one day disappear and then realized last night that it already has.  The Dermabond has started to peel off and take some of the angriness with it. In its place is skin that looks normal, pink, healthy and a nearly invisible scar.

Now this is where I say thank you once again.  So much appreciation to my dear friends who encouraged me and reminded me I could do this. Everyone who texted me until (seriously) I was headed into the OR and had to hand over my phone.  Thank you, thank you, for the push I needed.

Now it's recliner time, since Peter has totally revamped my corner of the living room by installing a new TV that is hooked up to our Apple TV.  I know, lazy, lazy, lazy, but I might as well convalesce in comfort, right?  Plus, I have the added bonus of getting to watch Little Guy play, play, play all day long (oh, the imagination....I LOVE it!)...okay, and an occasional episode of Celebrity Wife Swap (much tamer than the real Wife Swap, BTW) and my comfort movies from our library...and enjoying the yummy food our friends bring over daily...reading books on the kindle...actually having time to do the WaPo crossword...playing words with friends....healing in comfort;  I can't ask for much more than that.

 

 

January 17, 2012

I can't describe it as anything other than sheer

glee.

Well, that might be a *wee* bit strong for now, but I honestly think it is what I have been feeling for the past week or so.  In other words, that first post-surgical blog post was not just the meds talking.  If you remember, I was a bit stressed about the surgery, so much so, that I took a 'relaxation' pill the night before.  I kept the stiff upper lip and tried to be positive, but also allowed myself to think that the surgery could fail, the worst-case scenarios would happen and I would end up regretting everything.  Given that I did not expect that my world was going to improve 1000% overnight, imagine when it did?

Okay, okay, we'll leave it at 990% for now.  After all, I do have a follow-up surgery and some tweaking, but overall I am so content.  I KNOW without a doubt that the DIEP was THE best procedure for me and I am so glad that I have so many friends who would not let me skip this opportunity.  

Do you know what I did last week?  When it was finally time to take that first, real post-surgical shower, I looked in the mirror.  I gave a long, hard look and do you know what I saw?  I saw resolution.  I saw (and felt) a decision that will never, ever be regretted.  Despite what some people say, despite that there are entire groups who feel that reconstruction is a waste of time and money, I will forever be grateful for the foresight I had to research my options and go with my gut.

You see, there are many people out there who believe that reconstruction is useless.  There is the idea that breast cancer is over-sexualized and it's all about "saving the ta-tas."  Trust me, by the time you get to my point (and remember that I was only Stage 1 and am doing just fine), there was little or no saving to be done. There rarely is at that point and all of the awareness in the world is fine, but it won't necessarily prevent you from losing body parts that you have come to appreciate.

Now, one might say, "But, my God, you get to live!"  Well, it's not as if I went off on a bender, driving down the wrong side of the road or spent my days living in an otherwise reckless manner.  As some people like to say, it was a complete crapshoot.  However, that begs the question:   Why are those who are stricken suddenly supposed to hate a body part and want to immediately part with it?  Why are we supposed to be grateful to have our chests mutilated, our skin burned and perhaps our bodies filled with toxins?  If we didn't do anything wrong, then each additional "fix" just adds insult to injury.

Yet each and every day, I read of someone who decided against reconstruction because she doesn't need a breast to be a woman.  No, I suppose one doesn't.  So, then, many women who opt for reconstruction are made to feel as if they are somehow desiring to be pin-up models or are trying to enjoy that size C that God forgot to give us in the first place.  So, here is my question:  If a man had to undergo something similar (say a slightly different type of cancer) and he wanted reconsctructive surgery, would he be made to feel like less of a man?  Would he be told to just cut it off, that it doesn't define who you are, so just get over it already?

Somehow, I think not.  So why can't women enjoy the same privilege?  Why is it assumed that we are aching for a Playboy contract (let's face it, that's not happening) or that we don't feel whole without body part that so many deem to exist solely for a sexual purpose?

Maybe, just maybe, it's like any other body part.  Would you not be upset to lose an arm or a leg?  So, why are we so quick to decide that this is so much less necessary than any other limb?  

For many women, the breast is much more than just a sexual object, as it is also a primary source of nourishment and comfort for wee ones.  I don't know how I would have gotten through the feeding and comforting of three children without them.  Yet, because a miserable cell invaded one of mine, I am supposed to discard it like yesterday's trash. I was supposed to look in the mirror and feel whole again despite the fact that there was a blank slate where one of my primary tools of early parenting was cut off, poked, prodded, tested and thrown away.  I was supposed to feel stronger and more self-assured because I lost a body part?

No, thank you.  If there is an option to make me look and feel whole again, I will take it. I look in the mirror now and while I don't see a perfectly matching set (but never did), I do see a work in progress.  I have cleavage that looks and feels natural.  I feel pressure, pain and hot and cold in growing amounts each day. Nicholas can snuggle up against me (okay, not right now, but one day soon) and he will be able to rest his head on my chest as we read books or tell stories and it will feel as natural and normal as it did in the past.  However, decidedly, the best part of the whole situation is how I feel at the moment.

I feel Glee (yes, with a capital "G").  Glee for making the right (and only) decision for me.  I feel sorry for those who feel as though they have to continue to push the idea that reconstruction is somehow bad or wrong.  I would never tell someone that they should or shouldn't (though would give my experience if asked) and think that the needs of the person dictate what should happen.

I also do not think that it is correct to imply that anyone who pursues their surgical options naturally has less self-confidence.   In fact, I feel quite the opposite.  I took a huge risk and had to have not only an enormous amount of confidence in my doctor, but also in myself....and thus far, nearly 11 days later, I do not have one regret nor do I expect I ever will.

January 15, 2012

Honey, I haven't ruined the kids!

When you are in the Foreign Service, you worry about many things. You worry about having enough, but not too much insurance, enough, but not too much stuff (from consumables to furniture), having enough time to explore your posts and enough time to visit on home leave, R&R and postings back in the States. You fret about kids adjusting, re-adjusting, moving, not moving, and fervently hope that one day they will throw you a giant party as a thank you for giving them so many amazing opportunities (translation: forcing them to traipse around the world).  One thing that is not always worried is sickness.

Now, I don't mean the common cold or even an allergy.  I'm not talking about a known entity that's managed and dealt with and doesn't threaten one with a different class of medical clearance. I'm not even talking about the kind of illness that causes oodles of discussions over which vaccinations and/or preventative medications to take.  The kind I am referring to would be the one that comes out of nowhere, takes over your life (temporarily or otherwise) and makes you a cranky, self-absorbed, self-doubting wonder.

The past 15 months...well, if you know this blog, you've read about them and you are well aware of the ups and downs.  Like any parent, I have been freaked about the kids, worried that something would happen to them and/or I was somehow royally messing with their lives (yes, by unintentionally being 'sick').  I vowed to do my best to ensure that didn't happen, yet still felt that I was parenting by the seat of my pants for the past year or so.

I forgot things, had my cranky moments, procrastinated on things and in general, felt like the laziest mother in existence.  We didn't do half of the activities that I only half-planned last summer, I would find myself at the grocery at 5 p.m. instead of making dinner at that time and I basically let bedtimes go (except for the Little Guy).  I know now that much of this had to do with me trying to get through the difficulties of the months before the summer.  The months of so many appointments, so many decisions and so much disappointment in myself for the changes I wrought upon our lifestyle, accidental or not.

Then things began to look up.  The new school year started and while I was not always as physically active as I should have been, I was up and moving and involved in things.  I had fewer doctors and those that I had were kinder and caring than the previous set.  I also had a goal of finally getting rid of the implant in my right breast (say what you will, it's still a breast to me) and having the new 'me' finally come to fruition.

Throughout all of this, the kids seem to hang on. They each had ups and downs, but not one teacher ever called us, other parents didn't know about my recent past unless I mentioned it and the kids never talked about 'it.'  The surgery was a whole different ballgame, though.  Once again, we would need care for them for an entire weekend.  Then there is the follow-up care and me being out of commission for 4-6 weeks.  I still can't lift a dinner plate, much less a 40 lb 3 year old.

I discussed the surgery for weeks in as much detail as I felt each child could handle.  When my new La-Z-Boy (yes, we splurged) arrived, we reminded Nick how it was a chair that I wouldn't be able to share with him for a while.  He could stand nearby and give gentle hugs, but that would be it. We reminded all three that  I'd need quiet at night and help with everything from standing up to lifting...anything.  I worried that it was too much for them and nearly canceled everything so that they would not have one more stressor in their young lives.

Then the day arrived.  We had everything planned:  the kids would spend the weekend with Auntie Shannon, much fun would be had and she would basically be in charge from the wee hours of Friday morning until Monday a.m. school drop-offs.  I knew they would have a good time, but was pleased beyond belief when we have a Skype session Sunday evening and Nicholas was his happy, excited self. Kelsey had nothing but fun weekend events to discuss and the call ended when my voice became too froggy (ever tried clearing your throat after abdominal surgery?  Darn intubation) and Nick had to run off to take his bath.

The big test, though, would be my arrival at home.  It was nothing short of....normal.  We had a surprise snowstorm that day, so Kelsey (who had been playing at a friend's house), ran in the house, said, "Hi, Mom, I love you!" and ran back out to play.  Cait stopped to say hi and then alternated between doing homework and visiting with me.  When Peter brought Nick home from school/daycare, he immediately came up to see me and very cautiously sidled up to the chair and gave me the sweetest, most gentle kiss.

And thus it has continued.  The kids have been helpful by not only handling their chores, but assuring I have help whenever I need it.  They get clothes from the laundry, bring me breakfast/lunch/dinner, clear my plates, bring me books, pillows, blankets and the like.  They spend time with me in the living room whether watching a movie, playing with toys or just reading side by side.  They argue less (I said less) and are more independent with each of his or her own needs.  If I make a move to do anything I shouldn't (lifting said dish...), they practically fight over who will take the dish for me.

Here I was worrying, stressing and losing sleep over this surgery.  Not only did I fear I would not be happy with the outcome, but I feared I would be miserable over how it affected my family.   I could not have been more wrong in my assumption that this would make our lives harder.  In fact, in some respects, it has made it easier.  Each person (minus said invalid) is pulling at least twice his or her own weight and it has clarified for me that this was truly the right time for this surgery to take place.

I really shouldn't be surprised at the course of events, but given that I get the "our lives are ruined by moving so much" every so often (generally just a bad day), I wasn't getting my hopes up.  In the end, I found that not only did I not have any reason to worry, but had many reasons to celebrate.  I've been given many gifts over the past year or so, but I have to say that my kids' resilience is by far the one that I will cherish forever.

January 10, 2012

Look over there!

No, it can't be...but it IS!  Jen updated her Daily Mile log to include a 'work-out' (in the loosest sense of the term) today!

Given that my doctor stressed walking as soon as possible and I do have of summertime 5Ks rolling around in my head, I figured I best get a move on.  So, after Nick was all snug and asleep in his bed, Peter helped me change into my 'gear' and 20 minutes later, I was ready to hit the streets.  

From my crocs (feet still too swollen for anything else) to having to wear Pete's jacket (the drains add that oh-so-elegant bulk that I simply must cover, for fear of everyone being way too jealous of their utter chic-ness), I was FLY.  Oh, yes.  I strapped on my GPS, we headed out the door, and 10 minutes later reached the bottom of the steps.

We set out on a cool, crisp evening, with the neighborhood still aglow with Christmas lights.  Now, sure, I had to grab Pete's arm, a stop sign and a speed limit marker, but I did it.  We reached the end of our main drag, turned around and headed back.  I only had to stop those 3 times and managed to do a whopping .6 miles in 26 minutes!

Hey, baby steps, right?  Well, no, a baby would have been miles ahead of me...but I did it and am not so exhausted or in pain that I can't try again tomorrow.  Oh, and if you happen to be in our neighborhood and see what looks like a rather elderly woman shuffling down the street, grasping her husband's arm for dear life, throw her a thumbs up, will you?  I bet I, I mean she, will really appreciate it...

January 09, 2012

Did you miss me?

Wait, don't answer that!

I know I blogged fairly soon after first major surgery nearly two years ago (it's a new year, so can't say "last year" anymore), I decided to give myself a bit more time.  Well, that and no wifi in the ICU made it a very easy decision.

As this is hopefully my final major surgery for a very long time (barring a bit of tweaking in April), I wanted to ensure that I took full advantage of the time given to me to heal.  From recovery to the step-down unit of the ICU (when I could take part in Words With Friends), when I slept, I slept and that was that.  I did not try to force myself to stay awake or push myself too much.  I only used the pain meds as needed and should not have worried about using too much.  Turns I used out only half of what is deemed average on both days!

The morning of the surgery was fairly uneventful other than three tries for the IV.  Finally, the nurse anesthetist took charge and slid it in quickly and painlessly.  Within half an hour, after being visited by anesthesiology, having markings made all over my stomach and chest and being rolled back to the ER, the surgery began.

8 hours later, I was rolled into recovery.  I was there until 8:30 p.m. or so only due to a need to get others to their rooms first.  Peter was allowed to come back and visit with me and that made the time go faster (when I wasn't having crazy, morphine-induced dreams).  The transfer to the ICU was uneventful and Peter stayed with me until I was settled, which did not take long.  I was not allowed anything by mouth until 3 a.m. the next day (and then just ice chips), so no reason to do anything other than rest...and that I did.

I was woken up frequently throughout the night to have doppler scans of my new breast (to check for arterial blood flow and ensure the flap was 'taking'), as well as my temperature and blood pressure.  There was also the daily anti-coagulant injection in my stomach (okay by me, especially if you know about my family history with blood clots during hospital stays), frequent emptying of the drains (I still have three, two on my right side, one on my left) and checks of the stitched up area of my stomach to ensure that it was healing rather than becoming infected.  

By 3 p.m. on Saturday, I had the green light to go to the step-down unit of the ICU.  Still the ICU, but much more freedom (if you will) and wifi!  I knew I would have more wakeful moments and wanted to reconnect whether through WWF, Facebook or Skyping with the kids (which Nicholas loved...the guinea pig just seemed confused when Kelsey had him participate).  I didn't actually arrive until 5 p.m. or so, with the most interesting parts of the trip being standing up (if you will) and sitting down twice with in 30 minutes.  I did very well, though, took it slow and had no issues with nausea or dizziness.  

The only sad part of the stay in the ICU was that Peter could not spend the night.  He also likely would not have slept well, since I had nearly hourly checks the first night and every 3-4 hour checks the second.  Since it seemed to be a good idea that one of us get a very good night's sleep, he drove the whopping 10 minutes home each night to sleep in our bed or on the couch.

I can't say that I have truly examined the areas that were altered.  I do very much like the look of my new breast, but won't really get a good look until tomorrow.  Size wise it seems perfect, and feels (to the best of my ability to tell) quite real.  Then again, I am being extremely cautious, so not really gung-ho to disturb too much in either area.  I thought about posting after photos of my belly, but really...not much to see, though it might be an interesting comparison when the swelling has gone down.

My days in the ICU were fairly uneventful.  We had one brief scare when a doppler acted up (indicating that the blood flow was not like it should be), but it was the machine, not me.  I lucked out and had two visitors on Saturday and was extremely happy to be able to stay awake for both of their visits!

Sunday found me with enough strength to tackle my first walk around the unit.  I managed not one, but three laps around the unit, with a visit to the upstairs lobby area.  My nurse constantly remarked (as did my surgeons and night nurse) and how quickly and well I seemed to be healing.  (I'll tell you, those comments helped as well...nothing keeps you on the right track like hearing about it!).  I had no bizarre nurse interactions, no one suggesting unnecessary support groups and the experience was as about as positive as one could get in a hospital.  Okay, the coffee needs a bit of work, but we remedied that with Peter bringing me a cup from home.

The best part of the entire experience?  I truly feel like this was a good decision for me.  I know there are some folks who might shake their heads and say, "Why have such an invasive procedure?"  Well, the first procedure I had was even MORE invasive.  It shook me to the core and robbed me of a body part that I truly appreciated, as it had nurtured three children.  As far as I was concerned, there was no reason its time should have been up or that I should be punished by having to be breast-less for 40 or 50 years.

I know there are those who choose not to have reconstruction and that is completely a decision that one has to make on their own.  If I were older, perhaps I would have chosen that route. But not yet at the big 40?  No, thank you.  I know there are also people who believe that those who choose to not have reconstruction have "a special kind of self-confidence."  Yes, someone actually had the nerve to post that on a website.  So, it does not take self-confidence to go to doctor after doctor, to ensure that you are getting exactly what you want?  It doesn't take self-confidence to strip to less than nothing for grueling before and after pictures?  It doesn't take self-confidence to want to be the person you were before and NOT feel that you need to take away some sort of lesson in personal growth from the whole event?

Can you believe that?  Someone would go out of their way to criticize those who are simply trying to get back to their old normal, simply because it was a different choice? Mind you, some of these women are using breast substitutes, just not having reconstruction.  I'm not sure in the scheme of things that the method makes a difference....it's still a substitution and every choice needs to be respected equally.  Please note that the line about self-confidence is a direct quote and I will not take credit for it, but also cannot I link to the website and give them unneeded publicity.  I feel that this site, like others, inspires some to feel that most of us only undertake reconstruction because we are forced to or because we have to do to the way breasts are perceived in today's society.  Neither one could be further from the truth for me.

As far as I am concerned, right now, I know that I truly made the best decision.  In fact, in this entire affair, this is one of the two decisions I have made that I am most happy about.  Not because I want to look perfect for bikini season or feel like flaunting Daisy Dukes come summer (not likely!), but because I did not want to look in the mirror for the next 40 years and wonder what on earth I did to deserve the punishment I had received.  So, I flipped things around and made the situation work for me in the way that was the most natural and would make me feel the best in the long run.  

Starting to tear up a bit (and I CAN'T cry, too painful), but owe a huge debt of gratitude to more than I can mention here.  Every Facebook like, every message by email, every comment on-line (and off), every dinner, oodles of childcare and cup of coffee has meant the world to me.  I'm thrilled that Peter has been able take so much time off, but we honestly would not have gotten through the past 1.5 years without all of YOU.

Thank you so much and know that I only hope I can be there as much for you if and when you need it, as you were for me (well, us)!  And now to test out the new recliner....

 

 

January 06, 2012

I know

and, no, I am not channeling myself from a hospital bed.  It wasn't quite that time when I wrote this, but feel I have a general enough grasp to know where I'll be about now.

In all likelihood, I've checked in, gotten my bracelet, waited, waited some more, played a few games of WWF and finally headed back to the presurgical area. I've changed into nothing but that slinky (ha!), no, skinny thin gown and I'm prone on the gurney.  

I'm sure the IV has been started and maybe there's a little relaxing cocktail flowing right about now. Pete's looking at me, holding my hand and waiting for the moment that the nurse guides him to the waiting room.  He's prepared, probably moreso than me.  He has healthy snacks (trail mix, no less), his Latin textbook (which had gone missing...Cait had borrowed it, go figure) and both phones so that he can send text, Facebook and Twitter updates.

Now, they are probably ready to go.  I'm slightly tired, maybe a bit more relaxed and while I won't say giddy, well, maybe just a bit?  After all, this has been planned for so long and it's falling into place just as it should.  I may have a few weeks of slightly painful recovery, but I have the best family, awesome friends (everywhere) and a recliner to beat all recliners (can't wait to take my first snooze in it).  Then there is the year away, which will not be filled with sadness due to Pete's absence, but excitement about our upcoming tour and maybe a few fun trips here and there.

What can I say? It's been a rough road, but I've had so much help along the way.  And, now that I am drifting off, I can only think of how lucky I am in so many respects and thank all of you who have been so supportive, whether planning meals, taking my gaggle for the weekend or just sending me message after supportive message...and now I think it's time for that nap.

See you soon!

January 05, 2012

Well...

it's a good thing the 'ogram business went well, as the visit to the oncologist yesterday was a total waste of time and just left me feeling chastised for no good reason.  I had to see the nurse practitioner instead of my normal doctor and the complete lack of respect was amazing.  It made me wonder how the practice has any return patients, should they have to deal with the NP in any way.

We were 10 minutes late (thank you, DC traffic) and when we arrived the doctor was running behind. Twenty minutes later, a receptionist said, "Oh, since you were late (um, what happened to the doctor being late?), would you mind seeing the nurse practitioner?"  Sure, no problem.

I knew we would have to go over a bit of information, but this visit was nothing short of an inquisition.  The weight check and blood pressure check were fine, but then all of the sudden we delved into my history.  I thought we did that the first time and that it was understood that I:

  • Exercise
  • Eat right 
  • In general, take good care of myself

I was asked questions like, "Do you eat a low fat and low calorie diet?"

Well, first of all, I don't diet and don't need to diet.  Yes, I eat carefully and the foods are eat are naturally low in fat because they are not overprocessed and filled with sugar (excepting the occasional treat of course).  My answer?

"I eat whole and unprocessed foods."

The response was nothing short of a blank stare.  My thoughts?  If you know so little about nutrition that you don't realize that whole, minimally (or un) processed foods are best, then don't ask useless, ridiculous questions.

Then she harangued me for not having a particular test done and that had me at the end of my rope.  Good grief, I had just finished with the 'ogram business, wasn't that enough for one week?  Apparently not.  I then made the mistake of mentioning how I had blood work done recently to test my Vitamin D levels.  Instead of just offering to check for the results, she then snarkily asked, "Well, how can we get you to do things in a more timely manner?"  

I won't get into the fact that the test was far from crucial at this juncture, but had several good answers:

  • watch my kids for me while I have said test done
  • help ensure my nerves aren't destroyed while having said test done
  • help me get over my fear of going to doctors in general (getting better, but still)

Needless to say, I just stared at her.  For someone who theoretically wants me to have a return visit, she was not very good at enticing me to come back.  I don't know if this is how she treats everyone or if she just had a bad day, but I won't be testing those waters again.  She had little to no interest in my upcoming surgery (whereas the actual oncologist was very encouraging about me taking that step) and didn't seem to understand that being there was not exactly my cup of tea.  As if I want to spend half an hour being berated when I haven't actually done anything wrong?

Whatever.  I've come to realize, once again, that there are doctors and nurses who truly care and then there are those who are simply doing a job.  It's extremely important to quickly discern which one is which and avoid the latter.  And if you ever need to know which is which, just ask me...I certainly have a good list of both types!

January 03, 2012

Forget about Friday,

today was my day of stressing beyond belief.  This afternoon, at 2:30 p.m., was the yearly exam that I had been dreading.  I had managed to put it off a bit, but realized I needed to get it out of the way prior to surgery and thus arrived just in time for the annual 'ogram at Sibley this afternoon.

I was a wreck.  We went to the wrong imaging department at first and I could barely choke out the reason I was there.  While then waiting for the elevator to get to the right wing of the hospital, I remarked how I wasn't even supposed to be there yet.  Really, this type of exam doesn't start until one (well, a woman) hits age 40. Lucky me, I started two years early.  Peter nodded and agreed, but it didn't change the fact that I was scared beyond belief.  I knew nothing was wrong, but God forbid there was a false positive...

We finally arrived in the right location and I filled out all of the necessary forms.  Oddly enough, we had passed by my breast surgeon on the way to the check-up...you know (to me) that was a bad sign. Surely, I was destined to get bad news, especially as at that particular moment, Peter and I were actually laughing and joking.

A few minutes after our arrival, the receptionist called me back.  I changed, put my clothes in a locker and sank into a chair in the gowned waiting room.  Unlike in October 2010, I couldn't even touch a People magazine or any other guilty pleasure.  After all, wouldn't it be my luck to come in and find out (only three days before surgery) that yet something else was wrong?

Not 10 minutes later, I was called back.  Due to the fact that I still have an implant on the left side (for cosmetic purposes only), there was much manipulation involved and two extra shots.  Oh, and did I mention the confusion over why I was there?  For whatever reason, the script incorrectly said I was there for a pre-radiation mammogram...shudder.  No, just a normal screening.  I clarified for the technologist and she went on with her work.

I do have to give her credit.  I never learned her name, but I know she could tell I was nervous.  She didn't say too much, just gave me gentle direction and went about her work.  Not too much chatting and when we were finished, she gently guided me into yet another waiting room.

Which would have been fine, except I was already worried.  It was a general waiting room, so a grandmotherly type was also seated, waiting for her results.  She started chatting about my shoes, how they looked so comfy (could she tell I was ready to...?), and just kept talking.  I couldn't help but engage in the small talk until a nurse walked in and told the woman she was in the clear and free to go. However, I still had to wait until they could review my films, compare them to the old films and give me the results.

There was lots of action in the background and someone was having an issue somewhere.  I could overhear a conversation and then drifted off.  The next thing I knew, in my mind, I was being directed to another room, they had called Peter in and everything went downhill.  I saw myself being biopsied and just as I was imagining myself curled up in bed, hugging Nicholas and bawling my eyes out, the nurse bounced in.

"Here's your paperwork, you are all clear and good to go!  See you next year!"

Photo-9
I sprinted back to the changing area.  As I was changing, I responded to a friend who had texted me that all would be fine...and let her know she was right.  I managed a slightly furrowed brow as I headed into the waiting room, but broke into a grin before Peter could get too worried.  In fact, I was so giddy that I was simply going to walk out until I realized that I still had my balled-up gown in my hands.  I walked back into the waiting area, handed the gown to a nurse and we both had a good chuckle.

I had a good chuckle...after a mammogram...picture that.  Then, I left.  No, I BOLTED out of the door. Even better? The more time that passes, the more I realize I need to quit worrying, as I am reminded again and again that this was just a blip.  In fact, I'm *almost* excited about Friday and having a stellar reason to test out my new recliner (and perhaps not stress about tomorrow's appointment with the oncologist?)!

 

January 02, 2012

I don't normally

go for New Year's Resolutions, but managed to make two (very informal) promises to myself.  

1. Declutter big time.

We have too much stuff, plain and simple.  Not way too much (no, we wouldn't qualify for Hoarders), but just too much that we don't need.  Some of it is due to the fact that some items are waiting to be Craigslisted, eBayed, Freecycled, you name it and there just isn't enough time in the day.  Then there's the stuff that just needs to be better organized.  Last, but not least, there is just that extra little bit of stuff we could do without.

Instead of waiting until the new year, I started on that project last week.  I sold 4 items on Craigslist to the tune of nearly $200.  I tell you, that's motivation right there!  I then took three boxes to Goodwill on Saturday, but really only itemized 1 box of books.  Sometimes it's nice just to give away for the sake of giving away (and way too much random stuff to Freecycle). 

Last night, I tackled our bedroom and tonight tried to get through more laundry (well, that won't ever truly go away).  However, bit by bit, progress is being made and I don't feel like I will be completely behind once Friday arrives and I am out of commission for a while.

The second resolution?

2.  To make it until Friday, January 6, without becoming a complete stress basket.  I still question whether I am doing the right thing or not, but realize I MUST do something.  Right now, this is the most natural surgery I can do and the only way I might truly feel better.   So, my #2 goal, well, really #1 goal for 2012 is simply to make it to the hospital on Friday without being a nervous wreck and just get this out of the way.  

No more implants, bikini season might be even easier next year (though, seriously, if you think that's why I am doing this, then....) and a sense of being whole once again. If I can do that, the rest of the year is gravy...and, yes, that includes Peter departing for parts over there in late May.  Quite frankly, I think that will be a piece of cake in comparison.  Wish me luck!