Monthly Archives: December 2007

The Loose Ends of Healing (literally)

(Hi friends – a quick one here as I am in the US with my family for the holidays and on borrowed computer time.)  

I had an appointment with Dr. Fabulous a couple of weeks ago. He’s pleased with everything, but he did ask again if I had been able to start swimming. I was guilty of not having done so, though I’ve started to pick it up a bit now. He stresses that it will help everything “heal smoothly, so that it’s more supple.” Hey, sounds good to me. I am so pleased with the results, but I can admit that everything is very firm. In particular I wouldn’t mind a softening of the ligaments of my armpits. The left one was mostly back to normal (from the mastectomy) before the recontruction and it has now tightened up a bit again. On the right side the ligament is actually a tough knot…I know from last year that swimming is the best thing by far for recovering range-of-motion.

Indeed, the first time I went the other week, all the movements felt a little awkward. Nothing hurt but I could feel things pulling everywhere, making my strokes a bit tentative and choppy. Just 3 days later I went again and presto! Already about 90% improvement. Just thought I’d share for others doing this. Swimming is key! You will thank yourself later.

Dr. Fabulous also gave me some stuff to make my scars better. It’s a sticky silicone bandage type thing called Scarban. In Brussels style the entire city (apparently) only has one pharmaceutical stockist, who had a “rupture of stock”, so I got sent to 4 different stores looking for the stuff before this was explained to me. In the end my awesome pharmacy tracked some down one box.

It’s pricey stuff, but I’ve only heard rave reviews of it. You cut it into strips and wear it on your scars everyday (for about 6 weeks). When the sticky is gone you hand wash it with special soap and rinse, and when it dries the sticky is magically back. It’s pretty crazy stuff.

It is a little bit high maintenance for my lazy self, but it’s not so bad and I hear the difference will be worth it. Have any of you guys used this stuff? (I’m curious as it seems hard to find and I can’t imagine why given how popular I should think it would be – even Google doesn’t have anything useful on it – and also I might need to track down more). 

I will keep you up to date on any results. Until then, Hope you guys are gearing up for happy holidays! I’m off to make the Christmas bread (from scratch, impressive for such a lazy girl huh?).  



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


When I was little (I mean really little), I had the idea that getting engaged one day would be a moment of spastic enthusiasm. A kind of excited frenzy that most adults don’t ever quite feel unless, say, winning the national lottery or being called down for “The Price is Right”. I imagined Mr. Man would ask me and I would be so shocked and thrilled that I’d literally jump into his arms as if it were a sweltering day and he were a pool of cool fresh water. (Seven year olds – Scheesh!)

When I got older and was (inexplicably) more romantically suspicious, I decreed that I would date Mr. Someday for at least five years before considering marriage. Apparently I felt that after a certain amount of time couples were “safe”. (It should be true!) As I got yet older and began to consider marriage as an anthropologist, considering its political, religious, feminist, cultural and historical characteristics, I became a sort of “marital agnostic”. How I felt about it depended on the perspective from which you were looking at it. Certainly I would never join the ranks of 30-something single women who talk as if their “time was up” and they were some social pariah. All that seems so silly nowadays!

The reality? Was at the same time a little and not at all like all of those expectations above. I was not shocked to the point of knocking him over. (Duh, it’s not like we’d never talked about it. And I dare say a man would not propose to a woman that he had no idea of her thoughts on the matter!) I was certainly happy, but in that “adult” way where instead of squealing you are rather numb with a little bit of shock. Lots of hugging. Some teariness. No concern that I was “giving in” to old-fashioned attitudes. And no concern at all that I was bucking the five year threshold. Not even from that normally cautious, doubtful little voice in my head that often tells me to be careful.

I suppose that when I came up with the five year rule, I never foresaw that Mr. Man would have the opportunity to prove his loyalty, his fearlessness of the “sickness and health” bit. At least not quite so literally and certainly not so soon. I guess there are many sides to the things we can’t predict. If I have nothing else to thank cancer for (it’s a figure of speech – you’ll never actually catch me doing so), it has done me the service of satisfying a burdon of proof of him and I. I wouldn’t ask for it again, but there it is. I can recognize a diamond in the rubble when I see it.


As you know I’ve been thinking on the question of whether to stay here on Killer Boob or to go. Gratefully, I am occupied with so many things at the moment. It’s wonderful! But I can’t quite bring myself to say completely say goodbye here. It’s such a good blogging home. Besides, goodbyes never were my style! So I am going to take off the pressure to write most weekdays, but I won’t leave altogether. I might not be here tomorrow, or the day after. I might not even be back this year. But I will be here and I hope that’s enough. And I look forward to seeing you.


Filed under life, this time THIS year

The “C-Bomb”

That’s what my “cancer twin” Jess and I called it.

It refers to the effect of cancer on the social life. Regardless of the question of whether or not you feel like going out, sometimes you have to. And when you are wrapped up in treatment, how do you not not traumatize the flow of “normal” social conversation?

Picture this: Your best friend has a 10th anniversary party and it means a lot to her that you attend. So you go. There’s going ot be a mix of people you know well and not so well. Some know about your illness, some don’t. There are some people that you have no idea whether or not they know. How do you make the evening not about you, but about your friend?

First, you don’t want to walk in looking like a “sick person”, so you chose to wear a wig to remain more “anonymous” than your baldness allows, and you actually fix up quite nicely. You see someone for the first time in months. Here’s a sample conversation:

Him: Hi! Great to see you (yada yada yada)…So what have you been up to?
You: Oh, you know. This and that. How about you?
Him: Like what? I haven’t seen you around! Tell me how’s life?
You: Um, not so interesting really. How’s [insert partner’s name here]?
Oh, fine…I imagine you’ve been traveling a lot with work. How about those new security rules. Has it been a pain in the butt for you to get through every day?
You: Oh, it’s not so bad.
Him: Oh come on. It looks impossible to manage. They must have special rules for flight crew, what are they?
Ahh…well, I don’t actually know. I haven’t flown recently.
Him: Really? I didn’t know that. Why not?
You: Er…I’ve had some things to attend to here.
Him: Nothing bad I hope…? [chuckles, and waits.]

Hmmm. This is awkward. Obviously this person is clueless. He doesn’t seem close to giving up/catching on though.

You: Just some medical stuff.
Him: Is it serious then?!

I’m thinking: Now what? Do I lie? That will take some elaborate effort to keep up. Do I not lie? That’s awkward too.
He’s thinking: Do I show concern and interest? Or will I look nosey? I don’t want to appear disinterested in her problems, but am I prodding? Anyway I
am curious…

Eventually you look like you’re hiding something, or being weird. So you have no choice, but to drop….”the C-bomb”.

You: [as casually as possible] Well, it does involve chemotherapy. But it’s not very interesting to talk about.

But then it’s all over. No one has a conversational stronghold on that one by comparison. And worse, either the chat is now awkward and stilted in the person’s embarrassment for not having known, or there are a million obligatory questions for them to ask you, either from a service of polite interest and/or out of raging curiosity.

Where do you go from there? “I’m having chemotherapy, but enough about me. How’s that marketing account going?” just doesn’t work.

Although, these days, when trapped in a 40 minute conversation about the ins and outs of current mortgages (or such) I can be humerously nostalgic for the power of the C-bomb. Of course, I can’t tell him that because – waitor could I?

[*evil laugh*]

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Filed under breast cancer, life

Good Old Post…Er, Mail

The last week has brought me many surprises in the mail. I recently find myself often calling it “post” by habit of hanging out with Brits all the time, not to mention the fact that “post” works in a handful of European languages, which makes for a really handy shortcut when living in a country with three offical languages (not including English, spoken at least as often as the others). I try not to use it back in the US, as it inevitably sounds snooty. (I slip from time to time and use one of these “continental English” words, giving my family much ammunition for teasing!) But today it is appropriate because calling it something a little different makes it sound special – which is just what I want to say.

First came the little “giveaway prize” from Sherry over at abreastintheworld. A baggie full off goodies to cheer my day, for no reason but to be thoughtful. Sometimes I forget how nice it is to get real mail! Then today Del and I got the nicest surprise package from my soon-to-be sister and brother-in-law: a wedding planning guide! It’s a super book great for those just starting on the whole process and we were both touched at the gesture!

But most of all, last week the post brought the surprise of the perhaps nicest letter I have ever received. There was no name on the envelope. We’d just come in from a long day of ring shopping (whopee!) and I ripped it open sure to find some medical form letter or perhaps a nice card that I could read while I took my winter gear off. But tucked inside was a 5 page letter! And I began to read…

At the end of the first lovely page, about the time I was thinking, “Who in the world is this?” she said, “I bet you’re wondering just who the heck this is!” It was from a woman who reads the blog. We do have some connection to each other, a “friend of a friend” so to speak. First she said lovely things about reading Killer Boob everyday and then went on to explain that because she reads here she knows so much about me, and she thought she would share some in return.

I finished the letter cozied up on the sofa with a cup of tea. I cannot say how much her letter touched me. This woman shared some very personal experiences and thoughts and I was very deeply moved by her own fascinating story and I am so honored at her decision to share it with me. Del came back in the room to find me sniffling heavily.

Most of the loyal readers are a mystery to me. I see the numbers but I have no idea who most of you are. You log in day after day, quietly reading, supporting and caring. Every once in a while someone I know will shyly say in a moment off to the side, “you know…I read your blog.” And I am always surprised and sincerely touched. This letter somehow gave body to that feeling for me. It made tangible the conversation that I never get to have with most of you, the one in which I get to receive the gift of your story too. The one in which I get to support you back.

There are so many interesting lives reading here today that I don’t know about in return. Many lives much more interesting than my own. Yet for some reason you give of your time and your caring to come here and follow mine. It’s hard to give back to you all what you give to me in this gesture, but I want to say thank you, a really…real…thank you.

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Filed under breast cancer, Cancer Blogs, in praise of true friends, life

Good Reading

Today a weekend pop-in here just to suggest some really good reading. WhyMommy has been doing a series of posts about how to help a friend with cancer. It’s not your average vague suggestion to “make yourself available”; she’s done several posts now, all full of concrete and detailed advice and suggestions from someone who knows. I couldn’t have said any of it better (or perhaps even nearly as well) myself. If you now someone with any kind of cancer, give it a read. If not, bookmark it for later. (I don’t mean at all to sound morbid, but chances are good you’ll want to know it someday – because surely you’re the type of friend who would want to help!). Well done, WhyMommy!

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Filed under breast cancer, Cancer Blogs, in praise of true friends

Weird Dream

Last night I had a strange dream. Remember I said once before that sometimes it’s not so much what’s in the dream that’s remarkable but how it makes you feel? Well it was one of those.

ribbonI was an actress in a movie, filming in front of a large, live audience. A female co-star was introduced all the sudden, put on stage with me. She was young, in her 20’s, and I noticed right away that she had a small tatoo on her cheek of the pink breast cancer ribbon, and dots leading from her eye down to it, as if to insinuate the ribbon had taken the track of a teardrop. This was intriguing and I was positively bursting to talk to her.

But I couldn’t because we were live on stage. Finally the director came to introduce her officially, tying up his long speech with the announcement that she had indeed just finished her own breast cancer treatment. When we could finally talk, she and I connected instantly. I felt a very strong emotional bond to her; we became joined at the hip, becoming the best of friends. I asked about her choice of tatoo and I remember her saying “Yeah, I kind of wish I hadn’t chosen such an obvious tatoo, but hey – what can ya do?”

See, it’s not that exciting. But I was so taken with her and she was so important to me. That’s what I woke up remembering. I also find it interesting that I had dreamed that now. I haven’t dreamed anything overtly BC related in, well, I’m not sure ever!

On a completely unrelated note, I went out with friends tonight. Del had gone to an ATM around the corner. A very drunk homeless man started following me and my 4 other (male) friends around. The boys kept moving us along and the guy kept following, shuffling up with a basket that had only an empty plastic cup in it. Finally I just spoke to him. I didn’t even really know what he wanted, but (assuming it was money) I said, “I’m sorry, Sir, not tonight.” He mumbled, “Not tonight?…oh…Tomorrow?” I said, “Yes, maybe,” as kindly as I could. He seemed to take a liking to me then and kept calling, “Madame!” The one and only time I turned to see what he wanted he looked at me, wagged a finger and said “pas de marriage.” No marriage. Isn’t that creepy?! [*cue music from The Twilight Zone*] We had a good laugh over that one.


Filed under this time THIS year