Monthly Archives: October 2007

What a Difference a Week Makes

I know I just posted a hair update, but I received a lot of feedback that confirmed it’s something a lot of people are watching. So guess, what? I (already!) have another photo update. I reassured several anxious/frustrated people that they’ll be shocked to see how much difference a week can make when your hair is growing out. As if co-operating to prove me right, today is the day I’ve been looking forward to for a year: I actually would have chosen this haircut! 🙂

hair 31Oct07

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Filed under breast cancer, hair, recovery, this time THIS year

5 Weeks Out

So I haven’t told you how I’m doing recovery-wise in a while.

Two thumbs up. The incisions have been upgraded to closed-scars for two weeks. I have one stubborn little healing spot on either side, but these are smaller than the eraser on a pencil, so I don’t foresee any complications from this.

I’ve been standing completely straight for probably a week and sleeping in bed for two. The stomach is still tight when I am board-straight, but still this doesn’t hurt. It’s sort of like having a piece of Scotch (or “cello” as the Brits call it) tape on the back of your hand and tugging on it. Except it’s a big piece of Scotch tape on my stomach. No pain though.

I have been in England for 2 weeks getting pampered back to health by my bf’s lovely parents. I had a really lovely stay and indeed, was just delivered home yesterday looking much better than I left it. I’m walking about 20 minutes a day (though just today the autumn rains have set in and I’m not sure I’ll be walking anywhere). I am doing gentle stretches everyday and though my range of motion is quite good, I’m still working on it. (I can lift my arms pretty much all the way above my head, but lifting them above my shoulders from straight out to the side is another matter.)

I’m home alone for several days until Del returns from a business trip. I actually miss his parents’ company, but I will enjoy a few days of my house to myself. Technically I have one more week during which I am supposed to me “waited on hand and foot” (words of the doctor) but I’m happy to say, folks, that I see the end of the story in sight!

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Support

Just a weekend note to encourage you to vote for Law Mom as she competes as a finalist for a blogging scholarship. Not only does she deserve it, but it’s for a good cause (as the money will help with the finances associated with treatments).  Best of luck to her!

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Scar Wars

When I was 20 I moved to France for 8 months. My best friend and I went to London for our Spring Break. While there, she pierced her nose and I pierced my belly-button. It was big drama in the family, as someone leaked word to my father, who detests piercings of any sort and thus thought I was rebelling. To this day I contend that it wasn’t rebellion; we had a great relationship. Simply, I was in college and in London and it was just something that college kids in London do. Anyhow, a falling out ensued that eventually healed. The ring eventually grew out. All the way out, as if it were a splinter or something. And it left a scar detailing the path it had taken. I remember someone saying, “Aren’t you sorry you got that now? All that fuss and now you have a scar.” I merely retorted back, “What does it matter? It’s not like I’m a belly-button model.”

It wasn’t pretty, but I just grew accustomed, ignored it. (After all, I wasn’t a belly-button model!) But then yesterday, here I was looking at my new, underwhelming navel, again suspiciously wondering how in the world it could be my old one. And then I saw it.

A part of the old scar! And I loved it! It was me! It was mine! I never knew I could have such affection for an imperfection. And now, it still doesn’t look like it did, but I have a new found respect for the navel I have, knowing my old one is in there, even if it has gone through some transitions (like the rest of me). And that made me think about my new scars…

When I was struggling with which type of reconstruction to choose, the expected scars were no small matter. My chest was already going to be heavily scarred, did I want my stomach to be cut up too? I liked my tummy. I didn’t need a “tummy tuck”! I’d rather have he scars above my bum where – frankly – I could ignore/forget about them.

But if I chose the bum-scar option (SGAP) I’d have to have 2 major surgeries 6 months apart. There’s only one place in the world (that I know of) that does both sides all at once for SGAP and, besides requiring me to go to New Orleans, I wasn’t all that hot on that idea either. (Props to the women who do it all at once. You’re some motivated, tough cookies!) I was also told that recovery from SGAP is tougher than from DIEP and that belly fat gives a better result (in terms of mimicking the original breast tissue). So, while I dreaded the belly scar, I chose it. I wasn’t happy about it, but I just tried not to think about it, to keep life in perspective.

And guess what? Since having the surgery, I’ve felt proud of the big ol’ stomach scar! It shows what I’ve come through. And it might sound wierd but, there’s something “right” about a physical marker that parallels the mental and emotional healing I’ve gone through: closed, discreet, but never to disappear completely. I never would have expected it (and of course I’d prefer not to have to have had to get the scar), but just like my old piercing scar, it tells a story about me. It’s a story that might not be pretty, but it’s a story I survived, and it’s mine all mine. They always will be and, for that, they have earned my affection.

P.S. For those interested, the hair has reached another stage and there’s a new picture in the photo “flow chart” to the right. 

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Filed under breast cancer, if I'd known than what I know now, life, reconstruction ("upgrade"!), surgery, this time THIS year

Tsk Tsk! (Can I still claim ‘chemo brain’?)

Somehow I have almost managed to let the entire Breast Cancer Awareness month go by without so much as a nod! Well there’s some great information to nod at. I’d like to mention that Sam over at WhyMommy has been featured in Fox 5 reports on Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) and will be doing a webchat tonight as well (click the link to her site for details). Fox 5 has also done two other features, one on 21-year old Colleen Capon and one on 8 year IBC survivor Elena Whiddler. Check them out if you get a moment. Three cheers to Fox 5 for their attention to the cause and helping get the word out there.

In another oversight which seems to reveal today’s theme as “forgetfulness” (or what I like to call ‘brain farts”, if you will), I also want to give a cheer to a website that I found indispensable throughout my own treatments. Breastcancer.org has information on everything you will want to know about, provided in such a way as not to be overwhelming. I found its discussion boards to be more helpful than I can say. If you have a question, are feeling scared, or just need to whine, head over there and the other ladies (and gentlemen) will sort you out with a welcoming dose of support!

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Picks and Pans

First I’d like to give a big thumbs-up to the newly up and running breastreconstruction.org. A woman I “know” vis the discussion boards of breastcancer.org – a spitfire named Beth – has been working tireless in her new job to get the site going. And I must say I think they’ve done a wonderful job. If you have any questions about reconstruction, start there.

Meanwhile, there is one thing I have been underwhelmed by from my surgery. That is my belly-button.

I did have quite a nice one, if I do say so myself. Technically, the one I have now is supposed to be my original one. I’ve heard some doctors “make new” ones. My plastic surgeon seemed to think this was a horrifying idea when I asked him how the whole belly-button part would go down. He said, “Um, no. Your navel is attached to all sorts of organs inside. There is no making you a new one.” What he would do, is cut around the original one in order to use that skin for the surgery, then resew the belly-button into the skin that would be pulled down (from higher up) to cover my tummy. Fair enough.

But it doesn’t look like my old belly-button. I’m sure it is. I don’t doubt him. But instead of a sunken dime-shaped dimple, it looks like a slash now. And oddly the stitches go around in a three-quarter moon shape. Strange. Oh well. I’m sure it will be more dapper as it heals. And I’m sure I can sacrifice my “classic” navel style for a new one and breasts. I’ll let you know how it shapes up.

I wrote the second part of the above about 2 weeks ago and never posted it. Tomorrow, I’ll let you know how it’s coming along.

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Filed under breast cancer, reconstruction ("upgrade"!), recovery, surgery, this time THIS year

Headlines

Today cnn.com has posted a story with the headline “Breast Cancer Chemo Raises Heart Risks“.

I find articles like this a little strange simply because, well, doesn’t anyone getting treatment know that? They should. It’s not new information is it? It seems a little like posting a headline such as, “More than One Kind of Chemo Available” or “Breast Cancer Patients who Have Lymph Nodes Removed Risk Swelling in the Arm for the Rest of their Lives” or “Hey, Breast Cancer Sucks!”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking anything that works to keep the issue in people’s minds, keeps them thinking, keeps them realizing (as much as it is ever possible) that it can happen to them so to be aware. Maybe it is just to keep the cause in the headlines. I’m all for that! But if that’s not it, then it just seems odd to pick something like that feels like “old news” out of all there is to say on the matter.

I’m simply curious. Or am I missing something? (Quite possible.) Cause right now it seems the only thing I’m missing is a cush job writing breast cancer articles for CNN! Where do I sign up?!

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