Thursday, February 09, 2006

Yes, Tessa, that's right.

Today I read Tessa a new book, the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty. After the incredible success of The Nutcracker, we are going to return to the ballet, and this April they are doing the full production of Sleeping Beauty, and they will have children's matinees where the children are encouraged to come dressed like princes and princesses. This is too good to miss! We have started reading "Sleeping Beauty" as a means of introducing the story and helping Tessa to build excitement for the big day.

I bought two editions of the book. One is the Disney telling...not my favorite, but it's written at Tessa's level, and so I thought it was worthy on that regard. The other book has gorgeous illustrations (really, it's like an art book) and tells the tradiational version, not the Disney version, complete with language like "whenceforth" and "heretofore". Tessa didn't seem to mind the elevated language, though she did interrupt me dozens of times to get clarification on some of the words.

Well, at the beginning of the story, we are introduced to the King and Queen, and informed that they have been barren for three long years, and that they yearned for a child of their own. Tessa, in wisdom and innocence, turned to me and said, "Mommy, do wishes make children?"

I didn't have to think long about how much I had desired this beautiful child in my life, and how joyful I was when I learned that I was to become a mother. This is a much more eloquent explanation than any discussion of the birds and the bees that I could ever imagine...and it's just as true.

"Yes, Tessa, that's right. Wishes do make children."

I love my daughter for reminding me of what's important, and for melting my heart on a regular basis.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

More hair pics

Here are some pictures taken today. I think that not only is my hair growing, my face is getting slimmer from weight loss. I'll take whatever I can get!

The eyebrows in these pictures are not officially my own. Today, feeling frustrated and unfeminine, I headed to Sephora (a make-up store downtown) and had them give me a makeover, and then I bought a bunch of their products. (In these pictures, I'm not wearing anything on my lips, so just ignore that part.) I'm tired of not feeling feminine, and I'm trying to seize control. Maybe make-up will help!


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

More on plastic surgery

I have been searching the web, and I found some pictures of before and after for breast reconstruction. I'm putting links here - don't look if you don't want to see!

DIEP and GAP reconstruction:

A variety of reconstructions:

A walk through of different kinds of reconstruction:

More pictures of breast reconstruction:

Blisters and surgery

(Now that's a dim title...!)

Today I have added blisters to my list of complaints. They're okay, and I can deal with it, but I have a 4" line of blisters on my chest by my arm. (This is a typical place to have problems, as I can't help my arm or shirt from rubbing against the radiated area.) Yuck. Hopefully not much more will happen to my chest in the next 24 hours because this has gotten really old really quickly. Today I bought some soft tank tops at Target, and I will wear them under my clothes with the hope that they will treat me better than my regular clothes have in this regard.

Today I also met with my surgeon, Dr. Dawson. I have tentatively scheduled my second (and final!) mastectomy for March 20th.

The surgery is tentative because I am getting conflicting information about what type of plastic surgery is best. Dr. Dawson (whom I admire and respect, and has a stellar reputation, and who did fabulous work on my left side doing a mastectomy) thinks that I can do a skin sparing mastectomy on my right side, and then have a plastic surgeon reconstruct it at the same time. This conflicts with what Dr. Welk told me, but since Dr. Welk's bedside manner was imperfect, and since I have a longstanding relationship with Dr. Dawson, I tend to believe what Dr. Dawson is saying. I have an appointment with another plastic surgeon for later this month, and I'm hoping that I will feel more settled with the other plastic surgeon and that I can get my questions answered. Hopefully, I will not have to delay reconstruction on the right side. I think I like being a uniboober better than having no breasts at all.

Side note: It was relatively easy for me to make the appointment for the mastectomy this time. MUCH easier than the first time. The first time, I had a tightness in my chest, a lump in my throat, and tears in my eyes as I learned how the surgeon would remove my breast. It was terrifying, and though I might have had a brave face on, I was awash in fear. This time, I'm resigned. I've done this before, and I know that I can handle it. I don't like it, but I can deal with it. Maybe this is because I no longer worry about losing parts of my femininity; having already lost most of my outward femininity (through mastectomy, hair loss, loss of eyebrows & eyelashes, and weight gain...heck, I don't even have estrogen any more!) I don't value the little bit that I have left nearly as much. On a less negative perspective, though, I also know that it's temporary. Hair grows back, weight can be lost, and breasts can be rebuilt. Just like that, I move from terror to resolve. Amazing. (End of side note.)

I'm very conflicted about what kind of surgery to do on either side. On my right side (non-cancerous) I can choose between a lat flap with implant and a plain implant. The lat flap involves a longer surgery and more difficult recovery, but is supposed to have better results. On my left side, I thought I wanted a DIEP, and then I thought I wanted a TRAM, but now I'm leaning toward the lat flap with implant on that side, too, because it doesn't involve a 12-16" scar on my abdomen and the removal (and replacement) of my belly button. (The scar on my back/side would be about 4", which is a piece of cake by comparison, it seems.)

Sigh. It's really up to me - plastic surgeons all have differing ideas about what is best, and if I was really sold on one of the techniques I could undoubtedly find a plastic surgeon with a good reputation who would agree to it. It's nice to have some control over my destiny, but it's also frightening because I have no idea what the "right" thing to do is and I am sadly lacking in medical credentials.

I'll figure it out.

And one more note...
After all I've been through, doing an MRI shouldn't bother me in the slightest. Well, I have to do another MRI before the surgery, and I'm really bugged by the prospect. The first one, last June when this started, was truly unpleasant for me emotionally, and I don't look forward to a repeat performance. Time to suck it up... again.

Tessa is with my parents, and so Ryan and I are going to go on a cheap date. Hopefully some wine and relaxed conversation will clear my head of all of these thoughts.


Monday, February 06, 2006

Good news and then OUCH!

Getting dressed today, I discovered two things:

1. I can fit into some pants I bought at the beginning of the fall, and then outgrew. HURRAH! I'm also wearing a sweater that didn't fit a month ago. Things are improving!

2. As I slathered on Biafine under my arm, I felt something rough move under my fingers. I smoothed away the Biafine to find that my skin has degraded and now there is a piece of skin that completely rubbed away (the rough bit, as it turns out, was the top layer of skin lifting off...!), leaving a raw area underneath. ACK! Now my underarm is tender and I'm not thrilled about it, as you might imagine. I guess I am not immune to this, as I'd hoped.

I started to title this post "good news and bad news" but then I backed up. "Bad news" is something significant, like a recurrance, which I do not have. This is merely a setback, so doesn't qualify as bad news.


Sunday, February 05, 2006

A sunny Sunday

Today, for the first time in months, it was gloriously sunny outside. Beautiful! The three of us (with Tessa in the jogging stroller) walked to Starbucks, and then down to Lincoln Park to give Tessa some play time (4.7 miles round trip). We ran into friends at Lincoln Park, and Tessa loved playing and climbing on the play structures, but even more I think that she loved going down to the beach. Ryan gave Tessa some lessons on how to throw rocks into the water, and Tessa and I hunted for seashells together. The sky was blue, there were lots of people, we all got exercise (Tessa walked some of the way), and it was just a great way to spend a morning. If it's sunny tomorrow, I might just do a repeat of the experience because it really felt good.

Now, Artie & Anna are over, and the girls are playing while Ryan & Artie watch the Seahawks (Go Hawks!) in the Superbowl. I put out football foods - chips, salsa & guacamole; BBQ potato chips; beer....and then I heated up some Trader Joe's mini-quiche, crabcakes, and spanokopita. I have looked up the Weight Watchers point values for all of these items, and I must say that I may never eat another potato chip again! Some things (chocolate, bread, cheese, a good steak, pasta) are worth spending lots of points, but for me, potato chips just aren't that thing. I had 3 before I looked up the points and all I can say is thank goodness I didn't eat more!

My thoughts these days drift more and more to diet and exercise, and much less to cancer. I'm tired of cancer. It's taken so much of my energy that I just don't want to deal with it any more. Of course, I am dealing with it, on a daily basis. I still dream about it sometimes, and every time I get out of a chair I feel like a 100 year old arthritic woman because of the joint pain in my legs...and my chest is getting more and more sore and red, so I live with that minute to minute, too. But I don't think about cancer all the time like I did for months, and sometimes an hour passes without me thinking of it.

Anyway, back to diet and exercise...I am a woman possessed! I am just so tired of the downfalls of my body that it feels incredible to whip myself into shape. Every time I stay within my points range I'm proud of myself; I make good eating decisions most of the time because it's important to me. I love walking (though I wish I had more time for it), and I love that my body is registering these changes. I think that the changes are starting to show on the outside (thank heavens I'm back in my pants I can't wait for them to be too big!) but on the inside, I feel like a different person. I don't feel like I'm on a diet, I feel like I'm on a lifestyle change. I really think that I am going to hit my diet & fitness goals, and that in doing so I will have the figure (except breasts!) that I desire. I feel more energetic than I have in ages (though I can't remember the me before cancer any more...what was that like?) and I'm soaking it up.

In the evenings, I am more and more tired. The other night, I got a bad night's sleep and not enough sleep, and the next day felt like a good chemo day (and if you've read this blog then you understand that even a good chemo day is a bad day). I will have to be careful not to lose sleep like that, because I hated how it made me feel.

I am thinking more and more about what the next steps of treatment should be. I am resigned to the idea of another mastectomy in the near future...I feel that I simply need to get it over with. I also think that I'm ready to commit to removing my ovaries, and maybe doing a complete hysterectomy. I'm saddened more than I can say to think that those operations will knock the wind out of my newly-filled sails again, but I try not to focus on that, and instead to just think about the here and now and how to keep my energy with diet & exercise.

Believe it or not, something that I've thought about in terms of diet is that if I'm in the hospital for surgeries, how will I stay on Weight Watchers? I know, that's crazy, and if I'm having operations then WW is the least of my concerns, but it's something I've wondered about. (It's much easier to wonder how to keep losing weight than it is to wonder how the surgeries will feel, or if the cancer is going to recur.)

That's all from me for now - cheers.