Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Post-Reconstruction Surgery

It's been just about 3 weeks now since I've had my final reconstruction surgery where the expanders were removed and the implants were put in.  It was pretty simple and pain-free for me.  I took some time to recover from the anesthesia but not nearly as long as last time and I had no pain right from the get go.  In fact, I even went to my daughter's lacrosse game that afternoon!  The recovery has been pretty easy as well.  I didn't need to use any of the oxycodone that was prescribed to me and only used tylenol for the first 3 days after surgery.


The first surgery was pretty rugged now that I can look back on it.  I just plodded through at the time, because really, what else are you gonna do?  But it was rough compared to this second surgery.

The implants feel a little softer than the expanders but not much.  Everything is still pretty hard.  But overall, I'm satisfied with the results.  They aren't giant tits (which I never wanted anyway) but they sure are high and tight!  No bra needed other than to calm the one nipple I have left.

Fun Fact:  When I touch the top part of my breast where the edge of the implant is, I feel it in my arm.  Not sure what that's all about, but it's pretty weird.  Only on the right side though.

I've not had any pain and it's been really difficult to follow the "no exercise" rule.  I think I may have broken that rule a few times.....

light spin and some weights

 3 mile run 

23 mile bike at Acadia National Park!

I cannot sit still when I feel good, making it very hard to listen to doctor's orders.  I'm looking forward to Friday when I get my full clearance to exercise and I won't have to feel guilty about it.  Still gonna run tonight shhhhh

Which brings me to the latest joy that breast cancer has brought me.  I'm hoving near/over 150lbs. (I don't even know exactly because I can't bear to step on the scale and see that number.)  Which is 8-10lbs over my regular weight.   I have never ever in my life weighed more than 150 lbs except when I was pregnant with my kids.  And then, the highest I got was 160.   I realize that I'm not exercising like I used to because of surgeries and restrictions from the surgeries so I hope that is the reason.  I'm gaining weight around my belly (which is highly unusual for me) and I'm just plain ole bigger than I was.  Pants don't fit.  Pants and shorts that I have worn every single summer for 8 years.  It's depressing af.  But I as read about the side effects of the tamoxifen, it appears as though taking the tamoxifen is at least partly to blame.  

Since it blocks the estrogen (which is what feeds my cancer), it causes my body to act like it's going through menopause.  Isn't that just great.  I honestly don't know if taking the medication is worth it if I'm going to gain 20 lbs.  I might just take my chances with the 15% recurrence rate vs. 20 lbs overweight and 7.5% recurrence rate.  

So anyway, I've chosen to clean up my diet--shooting for no sugar, very little wheat and dairy, and no alcohol (pretty simple since I don't drink anyway).  I'm gonna give this a month or two and combine that with getting back to regular exercise and hope that that gets my back to my happy weight and back into my clothes.  If not, Ms. Dr. Oncologist and I are gonna have a chit-chat to figure out how the hell we are going to manage this without me losing my shit over being heavy.  

So if you see me and think my ass looks bigger, it is.  Don't mention it unless you want a throat punch.  It's a bit of a touchy subject.  

Oh and PS--if you want to see or touch them, just ask!  Just don't be a friggin weirdo about it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mother's Day Madness

So Sunday was Mother's Day and I had made plans to run with my best running buddy for a section of the Maine Coast Marathon while she makes an attempt to qualify for Boston.  The heat got the best of her at the Boston Marathon and she missed her qualifying time and she was pissed.  So she promptly signed up for the Maine Coast and asked me to join her.

I was planning to run with her for the last 9-10 miles of the race and so I signed up to volunteer on the course at the beginning.  I found a slot that lasted from 7:30-8:30 and would give me enough time to drive to mile 19 and wait for her to arrive.

Rewind to Saturday, the day before Mother's Day.  This was the forecast:

in case you can't tell, that is garbage.  A shit ton of rain right smack where the race is.  Boo.

But being the good friend that I am and the fact that I had actually signed up to volunteer, I decided to go ahead and go down anyway.  Race direct from 7:30-8:30, then find Stacey at Mile 19 and pace her to the finish.

It was a lovely day for a marathon--pouring and 43*.  I was stationed at mile 4 and would be directing runners to stay to the right.  Easy peasy.  Actually, the hardest part was finding where I was supposed to be.  I am directionally challenged you might say.  And thankfully, I had nothing to do with the extra mileage that most of the runners ran due to a directional error.  Not me! lol

I was pretty prepared though.  #allthegear

thermal, lined running pants, sports bra tank, lined running top and rain pants and jacket

I hate being cold and wet and I was prepared to be neither.  Although Mother Nature had different ideas as I ended up being both cold and wet.  C'est la vie.

Directing folks to "bear right up ahead" was pretty simple and I really enjoyed it.  So many runners took the time to thank me for volunteering and that was awesome.  I mean, it was shit weather out there, they were at mile 4 of what would turn out to be a 26.8 mile run and they were still nice enough to thank the volunteers.  I love runners. <3  Volunteering at a race will definitely be on my list of things to do in the future.

After my hour at my station, I returned my flag and vest (sadly) and went out to find a good spot around Mile 19 to meet Stacey and get her to the finish.  I met my friend Sarah (who is also battling breast cancer and just had chemo on Friday!) and Lesley and we yelled and cheered for the runners as they passed us.

Maybe I should add that I had my tits cut off 4 months ago!  Running in the rain is a piece of cake!

I met my friend, Stacey, and off we went.  First thing she said is "the course is long".  We were at Mile marker 19 and her watch said 19.5.  It had been off for awhile she said.  I told her maybe she didn't do her tangents properly.  Turns out she was right.  After the race we found out that at Mile 12, a volunteer/course marshall had directed runners down a dead end for an out and back that wasn't actually part of the course.  There was an actual out and back at Mile 20/21?, but not at 12.

Anyway, the last 7.2 miles were a bunch of suckage.  It was rainy, cold (although I did warm up!) and windy af.  The stretch of beach that was such a relief 2 years ago when the weather was 90* was just a nightmare this year.  The wind was so bad and rain was pelting in your face.  I tried to run in front of Stacey so she could draft behind me.  I'm not sure how much it helped, but I'm sure it didn't hurt.  I wore exactly what you saw in the picture above.  Rain gear and all.  haha

may as well have worn grundens... trying to block the wind for Stacey behind me

I turned off just before the finish and let Stacey finish on her own.  I also didn't take anything at any of the aid stations or use any of the services.  I didn't take or try to take a finisher's medal, t-shirt or any other such thing.  I did change in the locker room afterward, but I would imagine that was ok.

For the record, she fell (literally. and broke her pinky) at the finish line at exactly 4:00.  So she squeaked in under her qualifying time.  YAY!  Mission accomplished.  Her husband and daughter had our dry clothes all ready for us and we found a locker room to change in.

The locker room experience ended up being a little weird for me actually.  I have no problem changing in a big locker room in front of a lot of people so I went about my business and started stripping down.  When I got to my sports bra, it kinda stuck on my hard ass boobs and I struggled to get it off.  And then all I could think about was my nipple-less breast, my scars and all that went with having the mastectomy.  I hesitated for a moment, feeling self-conscious for probably the first time ever.  I wasn't embarrassed for me, I was just worried about making someone else feel uncomfortable.    Then I said fuck it, and if they are uncomfortable that is their own problem and not mine.  I'm not sure anyone even noticed, but it was just a weird moment because it was the first time I'd ever been embarrassed or even conscious of what someone might think of my body.  We all have lumps and bumps and rolls that we don't like, but not everyone has one nipple and scars all over.

So to sum up my Mother's Day:

1.  Running with friends is the best.  Even in shit ass weather.
2.  Pay attention to directions so you don't fuck up 30+ people's BQ time.
3.  I am capable of running 7+ miles in full on rain gear in a hurricaine.
4.  I don't want you to feel bad for me or pity my boobs in any way.  I quite like them, scars and all, but I don't want you to feel uncomfortable around me.  I'm not uncomfortable.  I'm quite comfortable with my new parts.
5.  My friends are all badass.  All of them.  The BQ ones and the fuck you cancer ones.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Monthly Update

I'm not sure how I used to be able to blog 3 x week because I can't seem to come up with much to say more than monthly lately.  I think part of it is that I used to write about my kids a lot and now that they are older and teenagers, I'm not allowed to write anything that might be even remotely embarrassing to them.  Obviously, that takes away a lot of blogging material. haha  Oh well, soon enough they will be out of the house and I will be missing their bitchy faces.   So on to things I can talk about.....

I have my final surgery planned for 5/24!  Expanders are coming out and implants are going in.  Woot!  I'm not super excited about having another surgery, but I am super excited about getting through the recovery and going back to a normal life.  I'll need general anesthesia again (ugh) but this one is a much shorter and easier surgery.  I don't have to stay overnight and I should be able to go back to work on Monday.

Back before all the cancer business, I had signed up to run the Sugarloaf Marathon and make a BQ attempt.  That is clearly not happening this May, either the BQ or even running a marathon, so I opted to drop into the 15K race instead.  So many of my friends are going to be there and running that I didn't want to miss out.  So I planned to have my surgery directly after the Sugarloaf weekend so I could still participate, but have my 3 weeks of no exercise recovery not mess up my entire summer.

I'm imagining that this surgery will not be nearly as involved as the first one.  The plastic surgeon said he planned to use the existing incision sites so I won't have any new scars.  It sounds like it's just a matter of removing the expanders and placing the implants.  We had some discussion about what type of implants and of course, I have no idea now what we decided on other than I know it's not the "rough" ones that have some incidents of a secondary blood cancer (no thanks) and it's a type that isn't completely round--more teardrop shaped?  I think?  But not super tear drop shaped because those ones needed drainage tubes and no way, no how, did I want those again.  They said I'm scheduled for 75 minutes (which is literally nothing compared to the first!) and a couple of hours in recovery and I'll be able to go home for lunch! woo!  My daughter has a lacrosse game that night I was hoping to be able to see so it looks like that will probably happen!


I've been taking the tamoxifen for a bit now and haven't had any side effects that I know of.  Unless weight gain is one of them.  Well, I haven't really gained any weight but I haven't lost any either.  And one would think that I would go back to my normal weight of 143-5ish after I started running and exercising again.  But here I am still at 150.  So maybe I need to monitor my food a little better, I'm not sure.  Or maybe it's because I'm 46 now and getting old. Whatever it is, I don't drop weight as easily as I used to. Also, I have been getting pretty warm at night while sleeping and one of the side effects is hot flashes.  I wouldn't call them hot flashes, but I do wake up and I'm sweating.  But that isn't a big deal. I just throw off a cover and go back to sleep.  So I guess tamoxifen will be in my life for a while.

As I said, I have been running around 5 days a week, always at least 4 miles and sometimes more on the weekend.  The weather is starting to get a little bit warmer--it's kinda spring here in Maine.  Full on summer on Easter and then back to winter two days later.  ugh.

sporting my Boston Marathon visor my friend bought for me.  I LOVE it.

So anyway, that's whats going on in my world right now.  I just want to get back to the business of living my boring, normal life.  And on that thought, I will leave you with this picture of the ugly town I live in.  Poor me.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


So here I am in limbo.  The waiting zone.  The already-started-but-not-quite-finished yet zone.  That time in-between the first surgery and the final surgery.  It's where you feel mostly normal, but not completely because you know you aren't done yet.  There's more fun to be had right around the corner.

I've reached the point where the expanders are filled as much as I want them to be.  And holy hell, I don't understand AT ALL why anyone would want to get implants or really large breasts.  For example, I have a hard time shaving my armpits because the side boob is so round that there's this valley of pit that is hard to reach.  On the plus side, I guess if I ever wear a backless dress, my side boob will be fantastic.  So there's that.

Also, it's impossible to sleep on your stomach.  Even side-stomach is hard.  And perhaps that will be better when the implants are in, but these damn expanders are hard as shit.  (well, actually more like hard as books... shit is kinda soft but you get what I'm saying.)  It's a bit like sleeping with two softballs under your chest.  Like princess and the pea but on steroids.  So that sucks.

And cleavage is overrated.  I've never had it before so I've never had the pleasure (?) of sweating between my boobs while exercising.  I can't say that I care for it.  Also, food drops down in between them now which never happened before.  Snacks for later, I guess.

In other more depressing news, a good friend of mine recently got diagnosed with a similar, but much more aggressive cancer than mine.  She's currently preparing to start chemo this week and then double mastectomy in a few months.  I am forever thankful I don't need chemo but sad beyond belief that she does.

All this cancer showing up everywhere with no rhyme or reason has really got me thinking.  Thinking about the time we have here on this planet and how to make the most impact.  Thinking about the type of person I am and how I want to be remembered.  I think, for the most part, I am a good person and do my best to help others when I can.  But I know I can do better.  I know I fail far more times than I succeed and I often think about things I'd like to do better but then life and work and kids get in the way and I fall back into my old ways and habits.

I'm making a list of the things that I fail at in hopes that I can look at it on occasion to remind myself where to do better.  Here goes....

1.  I fail at calling and visiting my parents.  I need to do better at this.  In my defense, they both did move far away from me but I still need to make more of an effort to visit them.  Calling is easy.  I just need to do it.

2.  I fail at calling and visiting my friends.  I need to take the time to call not just when I have something in MY life that I want to talk about.  It shouldn't always be about me.

3.  I fail at putting the needs of others before my needs.  (Except my kids.  I'm really good at putting their needs first, even in those times when I shouldn't!) Even when I'm struggling, I have so much more than a lot of people and I should be better at sharing--both my time and resources.

4.  I fail at birthdays and Christmas.  I'm horrible.  It doesn't always have to be about buying a gift--in fact, it should be less about the gift buying and more about spending time or calling or sending a card.

5.  I need to volunteer more.

This list is by no means all inclusive--I'm sure there are plenty more ways I could be a better person, but it's a start anyway!

Have any of you had something happen in your life that makes you think about things differently or try to be a better person?  Let's all pick one thing and try to do better just for today.  I'm going to call my dad tonight on my way home from work.  Share what you did, I'd love to hear. :)

Monday, March 13, 2017

6 week update

Six weeks?  Has it really been six weeks since my surgery?  It's hard to believe because I am in such a different place than I was just three weeks ago.  So here's what's been going on since my last post--about 3 weeks ago.

--I'm back to work.  Thank goodness, because I am seriously broke.  Self-employed and about 5 weeks out of work is not a good combination.  The first week and a half back, I worked mostly half days partly because I wanted to ease back into it, and partly because I still had a shit-ton of doctor appointments. All these specialists are over an hour away so it's really a half day off for one appointment.  It's a full time job to have cancer.  I will say, if I have learned anything from this adventure, is that anyone, I mean ANYONE, is just one medical condition away from being in financial duress.  No one is immune to this. And I even have health insurance!  For me, it's not the medical bills that are the issue (although I haven't seen the brunt of those come in yet), it's the fact that I never counted on me not being able to work.  It never once occurred to me that I could have something happen that prevented me from working.  My financial goal going forward, is to put myself in a better position in case I have a recurrence.

--I'm back to running!  After the 4th week post surgery, the doctor gave me the clearance to exercise again!  It's been so great to be able to move my body and sweat and exercise again, I can't even tell you.  I've probably gained around 5-7 pounds and it will be nice to work that back off.  The area under my breasts hurt the most when I started exercising again--the surgeon tells me that's where they sewed in the alloderm (cadaver tissue used in breast reconstruction).  That pain has since gone away and I really have no pain at all anymore.

--I've had two fills to the expanders and even though my breasts feel bigger than they were, the surgeon tells me they are not.  (Because clearly I know more than he does, right?)  I didn't really believe him until he showed he took out X volume of tissue and we've only put in Y volume of fluid.  Huh.  Well, ok then.  It must just be because they are higher and harder.  But seriously, they are like hard gel-filled mounds.  It's really a weird sensation.  I think I'll probably choose one more fill and call it good.  I want to be at least a little bigger than I was prior to surgery, right?  And I would totally show you a picture but this is a family friendly blog, so sorry!

--I don't need to have chemo.  What a relief that was.  Initially, it wasn't even on my radar since no one had previously suggested that I would need it given that it was not in any lymph tissue on any biopsy.  Then I met the oncologist and she wanted to have the Oncotype Dx test done on my tumor so she could make better decisions about what treatment she would recommend to me.  I WAS NOT happy about hearing that chemo was a possibility.  Fuck that.  Basically, the Oncotype Dx looks at the genetic characteristics of my tumor and then assigns a number on a scale that will tell you if chemo might be beneficial in reducing recurrence rates.  I had already decided that I was going to decline chemo even if the testing showed that it could be helpful.  That was not a road I was prepared to go down.  And we were talking reducing recurrence rates from 15-12% to 8-7%.  I just didn't think it was worth that.  But anyway, my number came in such that chemo would not be beneficial, so Yay.  I started tamoxifen and have been on it for a week and haven't had any side effects yet.  <crossed fingers>

--I did give up the idea of running the Sugarloaf Marathon in May.  I clung on to it for a little thinking that maybe the recovery from surgery wouldn't be that bad.  It wasn't that bad, but I am in no way prepared to run a marathon.  Half marathon, yes.  But full?  No way.  So rather than defer my entry to next year, I decided to switch to the 15K so that I could run with all my Boothbay friends who are signed up this year.  My BQ can wait.  Maybe until the next age bracket.... lol

So basically, things are back to normal ish now.  I'm working every day, I'm running or exercising almost every day, kids and husband are back to letting me do most of the housework <roll eyes>.  I keep trying to play the cancer card, but it doesn't always work.

Everyone keeps asking me when I'm going to have my implants put in which drives me crazy because I don't know.  I literally have no idea.  I guess when the surgeon says it's time, then we decide.  I guess I choose a size and then when I get there, we choose the date.  I'll let you know though! ha

Friday, February 10, 2017

on doing nothing

So apparently, I suck at post-op recovery.

I pride myself on being able to take care of myself.  I don't need help.  I don't really want help.  And apparently, that is not the way to recover from this surgery.

I went back on Tuesday (in a snowstorm, of course!) for a follow-up appointment with the plastic surgeon.  I was supposed to have the last set of tubes removed and be able to wear a regular sports bra.  Unfortunately, the fluid output was too high for him to remove the tubes.

He started to say something about scheduling an appointment for next week and I almost lost it.  That means another weekend in this stupid bra with tubes sticking out of me.  Another weekend of no shower.  Another weekend of shirts that are big and bulky and another week of being out of work.  I swear to God I'm going to kill someone.

He went through the exam and said that everything was healing nicely and I looked good.  But in order to reduce the fluid output, I have to do less.  He asked if I was doing housework and increasing my activity.  Of course, I was.  He said the fluid won't decrease output until I slow down and stop doing things I shouldn't be.

I don't sit down well.  I don't "do nothing" well.  It's almost impossible for me to sit and ignore the dishes, laundry, dirty floors, whatever needs to be done.  It makes me crazy.  But that's the way to get these tubes out.

He made an appointment for me to see one of his associates on Friday and if I behave, I will be able to get the tubes out.  So for three days I'm going to do NOTHING.  If my family wants to live in a shit hole, then I guess we will live in a shit hole.  If no one does the laundry, then I guess they will just have dirty clothes.  Dishes?  They can eat with plastic forks and paper plates.  I don't care.

Fast forward three days.

My output of fluid has been down to less than 30 each day.  I have succeeded in not doing anything, nothing at all but watch tv and read.  It has been horrible and boring and shitty but these tubes need to be out.  There is laundry waiting to be folded.  There are some dishes on the counter.  But for the most part, the family has stepped up and done the work so I don't feel like I have to.

And I got the tubes out!

So happy! 

That's a regular sports bra and NO FUCKING TUBES!!

I got myself a little bit of a belly roll, but what do you want when you're sitting around for 2 weeks.  Still no exercising, no heavy lifting and only light housework.  ugh


Oh, and even funnier, I think my temporary boobs with just the expanders in, are bigger than my previous boobs.  I haven't even had a fill yet.  lmao

Friday, February 3, 2017

Post-Surgery Update

Happy February first!  It's a new month and I'm looking forward to moving on.  Last Friday I had my double mastectomy and now I'm at home enjoying (?) my recovery.

Friday we had a 7:00 am arrival at the surgery center down in Scarborough, which is over an hour away from my home.   I had to shower the night before with special soap and then again in the morning with the same soap.  I assume it was super-duper bacterial killing stuff cause it dried me all out and made me a little red and itchy.  

Anyway, we arrived at 7:00, right on time and proceeded to sit around until 7:50 before they took me in. This would be my only complaint about the whole experience.  Why not give me a 7:45 or 7:30 arrival time?  There is nothing worse than waiting and waiting chewing the shit out of my cuticles and waiting more to be taken in.  

Once they took me in, things moved along pretty quickly.  I met with the plastic surgeon and he got me marked up, the nurse got my IV going, the anesthesiologist came in with her nurse and started my block, my breast surgeon came in to mark where she was taking out the lymph node and then we were ready to go.  They gave me something that "relaxed" me, which it did, but it also got me all emotional and I was crying and saying how I didn't want to do this.  Thankfully, the kids were at school and it was just my husband and my mom there.

Fast forward to around 4 in the afternoon and I started to wake up.  Not very well, I might add.  Super restless, super irritated and just wanted to go back to sleep.  I think the surgery itself lasted around 4.5 hours and then I took another 2 or so to come out of it.  Time hop for sure.

They wanted me to get out of bed to pee.  Um yah, that wasn't happening.  So dizzy and faint every time I would sit up, let alone stand up.  That didn't happen until around 11 p.m.

They had me pretty rigged up with this bra that was like a bullet proof vest.  I had wires, batteries, pads, tape, and a shit ton of tubes to drain excess fluid.  Super uncomfortable.

 Post surgery--feeling no pain! ha

 Drain tubes sewn into me.  Yah, that's super comfortable.

And the whole thing.

It's kinda hard to find clothes to wear because I don't have a lot of zip up things and I don't buy clothes big so they aren't big enough to tuck all this junk into.  I've been wearing my husbands t-shirts  so I end up looking like that trailer park old woman whose size EE tits hang down to her waist and she gives no fucks and doesn't wear a decent bra.

Thank goodness I'm mostly staying home.  haha

I did have my first follow up appointment with the plastic surgeon yesterday and that was great!  They took out 2 of the 4 tubes and what a relief that is!  He also removed all the tape, batteries and wires so I'm much less encumbered now and oh my god, it feels so much better.  Next Tuesday the other drains come out and I get to wear a regular sports bra.  I cannot wait!

I also met with the cancer surgeon doctor yesterday (there are a million doctors to treat just this one breast cancer--they each do a different thing.  Jesus, it's hard to keep them all straight).  She went over the pathology report from the surgery.  All is as we expected--lymph node clear, Stage 1 (although the tumor was larger than they thought), and I should be able to move forward with my normal life.  I now have another appointment with a medical oncologist--probably to manage the tamoxifen I will take going forward--genetics to see if I have the genetic marker for breast cancer and still appointments with the plastic surgeon.

This is a full time job!  And of course, all the appointments are in Portland which is about an hour away from my home.  #annoyed

But so far, I've only missed one week of work and I think I'll be able to go back after next week.  Unless all these appointments mess me up.  I wish they would be a little more accommodating with regard to how far I have to drive and try to work around my schedule a little bit more.  It's frustrating to have to take a whole day off to get to one appointment.  Especially, going forward, I won't be able to afford to keep missing work.  I'm sure I'll figure it out, but boy, that is stressful.

So double mastectomy isn't as awful as I thought it might be.  People in my small town have been incredibly supportive and helpful.  It's overwhelming how kind people are.  We have had dinners made for us and delivered to our house every night for the past week and for the upcoming week.  You cannot imagine what a relief that is.  It seems like a small thing, like maybe you aren't doing much for the family and you want to do more, but believe me, having food ready each day is huge.  It has been such a help.  I haven't had to worry about getting groceries (that I can't carry or drive my car to), I haven't had to cook, there is very little clean up and new and different food is awesome!

I am so thankful for each and every one of you that has helped our family.  Again, it's overwhelming and I have gotten teary on more than one occasion.  (I don't cry, so that's a big deal.)

my collection of flowers

My dog has been my company this week and I have watched too many episodes of Hoarders (seriously, how do people live like that???).

her and my usual spot on the couch

Looking forward to updating next week with NO TUBES and a regular sports bra!  Stay tuned!