Monday, June 17, 2013

Surgery Day

It's after midnight here (though not by much) which means it's surgery day.

This both makes me giddy beyond belief and completely terrifies me all at the same time.

I've been waiting to get my tissue expanders out, well, on the left side for 25 months now. To be fair the right tissue expander already came out once, but that was because of an infection and it wasn't replaced with the final implants. So needless to say it's been quite a road to get here. I'm beyond thrilled to get final implants. It's going to be so nice (or so I'm told and I'm believing everyone who tells me that!)

But. I'm also terrified. I'm nervous something will go wrong. Infection is my biggest fear. Or that the implants will leak, burst, rupture, etc really soon. I realize none of this is likely. I do. But the fear is still there. I worry the surgery will aggravate my arm - which we've been working so hard to make better. Although, I'm less worried since we have been working so hard.

Regardless, it will be milestone. I will be almost done with reconstruction (with only minor things to go but we need healing time before moving on). This should be ::knock on wood:: my last surgery for quite some time. Anxious or not, surgery will happen.

I was going to try to have some posts scheduled for the next week or two but alas the last two weeks have been crazy and so sorry, I have nothing ready to go (which is a shame because I sure have a lot of things to say LOL!)

Anyway, I'll see you all on the flip side!


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Letting Go

Today I did something I probably should have done long before now. Although, I wasn't ready before today, and really, I don't know that I was fully ready today, but it was time.

Today I finally threw away all the bras in my drawer.

Yep. I haven't actually worn one of them since May 18, 2011. That was the day I had my breasts removed; the day that I woke up, kissed and hugged my three children and went to the hospital with my husband and mother to get a double mastectomy. Not even one month after learning I had breast cancer.

{Side note: last year I did have to wear a bra after losing the implant on the right side. However, it wasn't a regular bra because the left side still had an expander in. The expanders do not fit into a regular bra. I had to purchase what is known as a post-surgical bra and that is what I wore during the time I needed to use a prosthetic}

That's more than two years. Two years I've been holding onto them. Knowing the whole time, I'd never be able to wear them again, but holding on. Just in case.

Let's be honest though, just in case what? Did I think my boobs would magically grow back and be what they once were? I knew from day one the implants would be smaller. I knew I would be advised to not wear under wire. Deep down I knew I didn't need them, that I'd never need them.

But I kept them. In the drawer. To just sit. Because it was too hard to look at them again, to see them, this reminder of what I used to need to wear. Every. Single. Day.

Let's be honest. There was no just in case. It was really me, holding on, in my own way. A small way to deny to what was going on. One less truth to face as I was left facing so many truths. One less task to do while I was just trying to survive - survive chemo, radiation, infections, surgeries.

Now? Now, it's time to let go. I get my permanent implants on Monday - 4 days away. Definitely time to move on - out with the old, in with the new, and all that jazz. And it is time to move on. But that doesn't mean it was easy. It doesn't mean that as I cleaned that drawer out today I didn't feel sad, or blink back tears, or wish it wasn't something I had to do. Because I sure as heck did.

Look. It's hard. So much of this whole process has been hard. That's not to say there haven't been good things, or bright spots, or easy things. That there hasn't been laughter and good memories. This doesn't mean that I'm not grateful to be alive or to get the treatment I did. It doesn't mean that I wished I had picked a different form of reconstruction or treatment options, or whatever. But it is hard. There are so many things, that seem like they should be simple and easy (like throwing away bras) that leave me in tears.

The tears, though, pass. The task is done. I can stand in this moment and know it was time. I can find a certain amount of peace in finally getting it done. I can even smile as I think about that upcoming shopping trip I will both need and have earned. After all, I have a mostly empty drawer just ready to be filled again!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


IMAG1021{warning: this is long, ranty, and whiny. Sorry about that}

So. Here I am. Once again, feeling completely stuck.

I think my hormones have shifted, but I didn't get the headaches this time that warn me of this so I'm also feeling caught off guard. It started about a week and a half ago. The mood swings get more intense, the stress/anxiety level go off the chart, my hot flashes have changed very dramatically, etc, etc.

To be fair, there is a lot going on and I do not in general tolerate stress very well.

But. I can't lie. I'm stuck. And also, I'm feeling frustrated and angry and bitter.

Let's back up a few weeks. I had an appointment with my breast specialist. I complained to her about my right arm, which has been getting progressively worse (by that I mean it's tighter, I've been losing range of motion, more achey/crampy/pain, etc). In hindsight, I should have complained about this much sooner. However, I've been able to compensate for this pretty well and didn't realize just how bad things were. Anyway, doctor did exam and said I definitely needed to get some therapy - she felt there was probably some webbing, maybe some cording and we needed to get things going ASAP as we should treat as much as possible prior to surgery (which is now next week).

So I came home and called the therapist I have worked with twice now since the original mastectomy. Therapist #1 (T1) was no longer working where I had been treated. So I called doctor back and asked for a recommendation as I knew there was another therapist who she referred her patients to. She was able to get me in right away and we did the initial exam and whoa - I hadn't realized just how affected my arm was. She was pushing (gently) to check range of motion and I was shocked. As I said before, I had been apparently able to compensate and I think had just assumed this was how it was supposed to be.

Anyway, in that first appointment we talked. We went over history, and talked about T1 and how that therapist had treated me. And well, it's never simple is it? Basically, T1 didn't treat me how I should have been. T1 didn't give me proper care instructions. T1 didn't have me doing things I should have been doing. Right away I was instructed to start using my compression sleeve, like more than once ever in my life.

On the second appointment, I brought the said compression sleeve to learn that it's not even the right one. Awesome. Despite being wrong, it is currently helping (but not as much as a correct one, which I will be getting hopefully by the end of this week).

So, late last week I went back, after the Avon walk and the achy, heavy feeling I had been feeling was back. Turns out my arm was swollen. So the new therapist did some massage/manual drainage technique and it helped. Which can only lead me to believe I should have been wearing (a properly fitting) compression sleeve more often than say, oh, never.

I can't lie. This is so frustrating to me and I'm so angry. I feel like if I had proper, or maybe just better, care from the beginning I wouldn't be dealing with all of this. And maybe I would be. Who really knows. But it's hard to not think that things might be different now.

As long as I'm venting: I HATE my compression sleeve and gauntlet (hand piece). I'm told the correct one will be much more comfortable and work better. I really hope so, because the one I have now sucks. I don't like wearing it. I will wear it despite really really disliking it. I am going to order the new ones and I will now wear it whenever I am doing "risky" activity (which seriously, is things like gardening) or when I'm exercising. I will wear it when my arm feels achy and heavy. For a while though, I might be pretty darn crabby about it.

I'm trying not to be. We can't go backwards, only forwards. I know this. It sounds hollow at the moment though. And of course everyone has been great about it (especially Eric who has had to deal with more than his fair share of me crying and being upset and complaining). Some awesome friends gave me a gift certificate to get a fun compression sleeve.

It helps to have good people around me. I think, though, I just feel so done. And so over everything. Also, I'm feeling anxious about surgery. Because I'm starting to feel like something is going to go wrong with surgery as well. (It won't. Probably anyway. And yet the worry is there).

So there you go. I'm stuck. Once again. It's like the same old song, stuck on repeat. And while I know the song will eventually change, this cloud will lift, I'll get used to the compression sleeve, um, is there a way to fast-forward to that point now? 

Monday, June 10, 2013

14 years

Today is Eric's and my 14th wedding anniversary.

I could gush for hours about my guy - I won't go on for hours, but I could easily. Because he deserves it and so much more. Let's be honest, most everyone enters marriage and the whole "for better or for worse" is so hypothetical you just can't imagine going through the for worse, or even what that really means. I know, at least, this was the case for me.

And then the punch in the gut comes and you are standing there facing your for worse. And whoa. It's hard. You know me, I'm not into cliches ... you won't hear me saying things like "Cancer made our marriage stronger. We've never been closer."

I suppose in some ways those statements are true - I love my husband so much more now than when we were wed 14 years ago. I think I would love him more today with or without cancer though. I firmly believes he loves me. I actually joke with him I know he loves me because he wouldn't put up with all my crap if he didn't! ;-)

But I'd be lying if I said the last few years have been easy or a breeze. If I could change them, I would. In a heartbeat. That said, we're here. We're still here. We're still in love. We still like each other and we can laugh and cry together, depending on the day!

Not everyone goes through the for worse times and can say that. I know too many people who went through worse times (whatever they may look like) and ended up leaving the marriage they were in (or, worse, yet, being left). Marriage isn't really a fairy-tale. It isn't an automatic cure-all for the bad in life. And happily-ever-after doesn't usually involve riding off on white horses into the bright future without a worry or care.

Marriage is work. It's holding your partner's hand when they need it. It's doing most of the housework sometimes because the other one can't. Look, anyone can stop and by flowers, but not anyone can hold your hair back when you are sick. Or drive you to doctor's appointments, or carrying too much of the load because the other person can't. That's not to say I don't like getting flowers, I do. But marriage and love is so much more than that.

And I lucked out. I have a husband who understands this. Who is there by my side, to do what needs to be done, even when it's not fair, or it feels like too much, or it's not fun. He is my rock. Even when so much is pulling at us it's hard to fit us in. And even when it's hard. Because it's not always easy. I knew this even before cancer - some days it is easy and wonderful and other days you have to work at it.

Look, I know that Ben Affleck was criticized for saying essentially the same thing in his acceptance speech. Maybe I will be too, but I stand by it. Marriage is work. Some days it's easy work, some days it's hard work. But it's work I'm committed too. It's work I love. It's work I wouldn't trade for anything else in the world.

And after 14 years, I can say I am more in love with my husband every day. I love him. I love him as a husband, as a father, as a man, as a wonderful human being. I'm lucky he's the one walking beside me in this life. I'm lucky he's the one I have such a great family with. Today does not look like what I picture 14 years ago - and I'm not just talking about the not great things, some things are so much better than I could have imagined!

14 years. Ups. Downs. Highs. Lows. We've done it all. I hope we continue to do it all for many, many more years to come!