Monthly Archives: November 2008

New Oncologist and Killer Boobs (a different kind than I started with)

Yesterday, I finally got in to see my new oncologist. And I’m happy to report that I really like him. The whole office, actually. Aside from waiting one hour to get a 2 minute blood draw (in an independent department), everything went smoothly, down to friendly desk staff and nurses. Don’t forget that I chose this place blindly, without any personal recommendations. I simply googled for university hospitals in the area and chose the most accessible, inviting, patient-friendly website. And voila – a fabulous new oncologist is found.

They spent a generous amount of time with me and listened to me intently, not giving me feeling I should gloss over any details in interest of time (which is what I automatically expect, to some degree, especially from a doctor that is only taking over my care well after the “crisis” has passed).

Best of all, they oohed and aahed over my reconstruction work. I knew that I have fabulous new ones and that my plastic surgeon couldn’t be any more wonderful if he gave out free bars of gold with every surgery, yet it’s another thing to hear it from other professionals. When the oncology nurse took a look, she immediately suggested that they provide access to one of their breast surgeons for removing my latest stitches because "the work is just so perfect, you don’t want a GP to deal with this intricate work and risk any blemishes". Later, when the oncologist came in, he said that the nurse had been talking about it to her colleagues after leaving the room. And when he took a look he said “I’ve been in the business a long time, and this is easily among the best work I’ve ever seen”, and “to, further, do this work on a slim young women with limited fat to harvest, that’s tricky…wow.”

Obviously I can take no credit for the work, but I feel like I’ve just won the breast lottery! Who’d have thought – after all this I have the Aston Martin of boob jobs! 🙂 (Specifically, the one in Casino Royale, perhaps the most beautiful car I’ve ever seen.)

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Now, if only some charity would decide that I deserve the car to match…!

P.S. I must say I’ve had unanimously enthusiastic feedback about the calendar idea. I have no idea how to actually do it, but perhaps I’ll give it a try. Anyone with relevent connections or suggestions, you know how to reach me. Maybe my little fantasy will come true yet!

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Filed under breast cancer

Finishing Touches

I’ve been moving nonstop for weeks it seems. Del and I were in England for a week or so doing wedding stuff, then I had to go to Belgium to get some finishing touches done with my plastic surgeon. I’m not going to go into great detail as, at this point, my natural instinct is to treat my revamped body parts with the same modesty as I did my old ones. If you know me well, you might be laughing now. But, yes, I do have some modesty. But yes, the thresh hold always was pretty low.

But this got me thinking…A close friend once asked me what it felt like to be reconstructed. “Would you be embarrassed to take your shirt off in public, or no? Is that instinct different now?” It is a brave question, but one that I might have secretly wondered myself, were our positions reversed. Well, having said that I never quite understood the idea of embarrassment over ones body (OK, at least not since I was indoctrinated to the topless beach scene in Europe back in college. After that, I was never able to think anything more than, “We all have the same parts, what’s the big secret?”), it’s still an interesting question. Is it different? Well yes and no.

It is different for a couple of reasons:
1) By the time you’ve finished breast cancer treatment, you’ve undressed in front of an army of people. Simply, you get used to it. Especially in Europe where doctors don’t do the “modesty gown” thing. I’m so accustomed to just stripping down with the doctor sitting there at his/her desk that in my recent American medical visits, I find it more awkward to use the gown while they step politely out. Now I just sit there in my skivvies, the gown left sitting there folded and sterile on the bench instead of pretending like they’re not going to just come back and move it aside. I mean, what’s the point? Doctors find that pretty funny.

2) It’s true – at least initially – that I didn’t feel the reflex to “hide” my top after surgery in the same way you do your “original” parts. Like the rest of my treatment, I considered my new body from a sort of scientific perspective. It was something I observed more than felt. We are taught to cover certain parts, and then those parts are gone…and replaced. Then of course you’re so amazed at the results that you do get that urge to become one of those BC survivors who’s notorious for flashing everyone she knows. (You know her.)

However, it is the same too in that:
1) For a long time, I felt modesty with my changed body more akin to what I would assume is normal (American) modesty. You might remember that the first time I went to Turkey, I was extremely reluctant to go to the hammam because one is usually naked. I was suddenly, extremely uncomfortable with that idea, and when a friend pressed me on this I once even teared up. This modesty, however, was a about the fact that suddenly we didn’t “all have the same parts”. And that’s not embarrassing in itself, but one look at me and people – perfect strangers – would be privy to information about a huge part of my life. They would suddenly know one of the most traumatic things that ever happened to me. They could see my emotional scars. Most people at least have to buy me dinner first. But suddenly being topless meant having no control over strangers’ access to my most private struggles. That just didn’t feel right. Talk about feeling naked. (Eventually that feeling faded, however, and my 2nd time to the hammam I went au natural and it felt awesome to not give a damn.)

1) As I have sat with my body changes, they come to feel more and more natural. So whereas I might have once felt like I had new parts built to resemble natural ones, I no longer feel that way. They are mine now, they are more and more “natural” to me. And my instinct to treat them equally to my original ones has grown with time.

Actually, I have this crazy fantasy where I leave my mark on the world by producing the first BC-survivor pin-up calendar. One the one hand it perhaps sounds terribly inappropriate. But to me, the thought of introducing to the world “sexy cancer survivors” is awesome. The idea isn’t to be an exhibitionist nor promote objectification. It’s to put it out there that cancer is not the end. That your life can come full circle. To break the remaining attitudes and taboos. To show that cancer doesn’t define you forever. To show the world that breast cancer doesn’t make you any less of a woman. It sure tries. But these days? It fails with a capitol F. I’d just love to pin that on the wall in all its glory!

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