Muscle Weighs Heavier—No Really.

A while back I posted about how I’ve been doing Zumba a couple of times a week in hopes of trimming some flab.  Of course, all that gyrating was thwarted by my lack of willpower, coupled with a big, fat chocolate cake.  And so, I was a little anxious about the upcoming weigh-in & measuring session, scheduled for the first of the month.  Since I was nearly dying every Tuesday and Thursday night, I was going to be really disappointed if I found out that I’d gained weight. 

 The good news is that I did not gain weight or inches.  Whew!  In fact, I lost 1½  lbs, in addition to ¾ of an inch.  (Shut up!  Something is better than nothing.  Besides, I’m building muscle, which we all know weighs more than fat.  So there.)  Jamie, my Zumba instructor, tried to encourage me by saying things like, “That’s not bad.”  But when I lamented that I’d hoped for a little more, she was quick to point out that if I’d just stay out of the chocolate cake, I might see more progress.  Some folks might have been offended by having their fatness thrown back onto their own lack of willpower, but I just laughed.  Yup.  I know.  Chocolate cake—bad.  Zumba—good. 

 I’m apparently the kind of girl that makes folks feel like they can just tell me about myself.  Because this is a fairly regular occurrence these days.  Just the other day I was talking to Molly and had a similar experience.  Molly is one of my besties, and our relationship is pretty much one big long episode of telling ON ourselves to each other, and telling each other about herself.  So in our conversation the other day, I was griping to Molly about how I’d picked up this new shower cleaning stuff because it was on sale, and it didn’t work very well.  “I hate that!” I griped, “I spray it on, and it’s supposed to cut through the soap scum, but it doesn’t!  I’ve done it, like, 6 times and it’s barely made a dent.”  To which Molly replied, “Well, I think that stuff works if you don’t wait ‘til you’ve got ¾” thick soap scum before you decide to clean the shower.”   

 Wow.  So, between Jamie & Molly, I’ve gathered that I’m both flabby and nasty.  Go me!

 It’s actually been almost another month since that weigh-in, and I’m feeling a little more confident this time because I think my pants are looser.  Not, like, a size looser or anything, just looser than they were.  And I feel like I’m just all around less flabby and more firm, which is good because it indicates that I’m building muscle (see, I told you that was why I only lost 1½  pounds!) which is important to anyone whose been through breast cancer treatment.  All the surgery and chemo and what-not tend to cause an increase in body fat.  In fact, evidence has shown that chemotherapy changes body composition—causing a loss of lean body mass.  Muscle being replaced by fat!  And more body fat increases the risk of cancer.  So this exercise thing is way more than just vanity for us, girls.  And I’m only half kidding when I talk about that muscle weighing more than fat thing—I really AM building, or rather re-building muscles lost to treatment.  So, if you needed another reason to exercise, here it is…now get your Zumba or whatever on and don’t give The Cancer a chance to sneak up on you.

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Hair I Am…18 Months Later.

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Today is exactly 18 months from my last chemotherapy treatment.  I thought that there might be some folks out there who wonder what 18 months worth of post-chemo hair growth looks like, so I snapped a picture.  That’s my “I have HAIR!” face.  I’ve also had, if I remember correctly, 5 haircuts, not including the few times that I shaved my head post chemo to get rid of that chemo clear fuzz.  Yes, my hair IS naturally curly, and yes, it was that way before chemo.

 Also, check out the noob.  What, you can’t tell which one it is?  Mission accomplished.  And speaking of the noob, while I am still not allowed to really exercise, the noob has it’s own regimen prescribed by Dr Grasee.  No, the noob isn’t on the elliptical or taking a zumba class.  Instead, I have to push it around twice a day.  As Dr G put it, I’m supposed to shove it “north, south, east and west.”  Sometimes I even sing it song while it works out, like maybe a little Matchbox 20 or Salt N Pepa. You know I’ve got a whole medley worked out of push themed tunes. 

 I’m sure you’re wondering why I have to exercise the noob.  Well, all expander/implant reconstructions have a risk of capsular contracture.  The body forms a capsule around the implant, just as it would with any foreign object, and that’s fine.  But sometimes, these capsules decide to turn to a life of crime.  And so they contract, and become hard and painful.  When that happens, the implant has to come out, and we start over from scratch.  Since I had radiation, I’m at increased risk for this.  Like, there’s a 50% chance this thing might go bad on me.  So, I have to exercise my noob twice a day as opposed to the standard once a day. 

 Mini Me finds the idea of noob exercises disturbing to say the least.  But then again, Mini Me is disturbed by a lot of this, especially my willingness to show the new construction off to my girlfriends.  At church a couple of weeks ago, Angie wanted to see the newpple.  So, I say come on into the bathroom and I’ll show you.  Mini Me started to follow me, because she hadn’t heard what I was actually doing.  Unfortunately, Hubster gave her a heads-up.  I think it would have been way funnier if she’d have come bopping into the restroom and then actually asked why Ang and I were in the handicapped stall together.

 Last but not least, check out my cool-beyond-words necklace, sent to me by Shirley in South Africa.  Is that not awesome?  I have the coolest readers.

The Pink Parade, and Why I Won’t Be in It.

Saturday is the day of the local Race for the Cure.  Last year was my first year participating in this event, and I have to say, it was a good time.  When I did it last year, I was still mostly bald from chemo.  When I did it last year, it was the weekend before my mastectomy—in fact, I had the mastectomy date bumped out just so I could attend.  When I did it last year, I had only had two surgeries.  When I did it last year, I was another month away from beginning radiation. 

 

I didn’t participate in the survivor activities.  Didn’t go to the breakfast.  Skipped the survivor parade.  At the time, it just all felt really weird to me.  I was in the middle of my various treatments, and I didn’t feel like I’d survived much of anything yet.  Several of my survivor friends asked me, “Hey, where were you?” when they saw me after the parade, and I told them I’d just been hangin’ with the fam.  I was way more comfortable watching the parade than I’d had been walking in it.

 

Fast forward.

 

I’ve now done the radiation.  I’ve had three more surgeries.  I’ve been cut, and fried, and poisoned so much that people long ago got bored with my drama and stopped sending cards.  (Probably couldn’t afford to, what with the price of postage these days.)  My hair is long enough that if you didn’t know, you’d never know.  I suppose I’m probably an official survivor now, but I still don’t want to do the parade. 

 

This time last year, I thought maybe I’d feel differently the next time around.  I don’t.  I know that it’s supposed to be a celebration of survival, but to me, it still feels like “Woo hoo! I’ve got the cancer!”  You know, I’m not special because I’ve had to go through this crap.  I’m just me.  And I’ve gone through some crap.  That’s all.  And I don’t like the squirmy feeling I get inside when it seems that people are admiring me for simply living.  “Look at YOU!  We thought you were gonna die, and here you are breathing and everything!”

 

That’s not to say that I want to be all in the closet with my cancer experience or anything.  Obviously, that’s not the case.  If nothing else, I’d wear my pink shirt just because I think people need to see that there are a whole lot of young survivors.  (Isn’t it cute how I’ve somehow convinced myself that I’m still young?)  Maybe one of these days that will result in some better options for post-mastectomy garments.  The kind that say “Grrr!” instead of the kind that say “Grandma!” 

 

So, I’ll be at the Race, but I’ll pass on the survivor celebration.  I celebrate every day by living a normal life. 

 

p.s. Tomorrow is October 1, the official start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  (What?  Breast cancer?  Who ever heard of breast cancer?) Check in to see the first of my readers’ favorite pink ribbon products. 

Rejected

A while back I submitted an entry for the Under Armour Undeniable Survivor contest.  According to the website, they were looking for three BC survivors to become representatives for the 2008 UA Power in Pink Campaign.  So, I thought what the heck, I’ll submit an entry.  After all, writing is kind of my thing, right?  Problem was, they wanted me to write my “story” in 1000 words or less. Oh yeah, and it was supposed to “illustrate why a physically active lifestyle is so vital to a healthy life with or without cancer.”  And, they were looking for examples of “undeniable courage”.

First of all, you know how word limits chafe me.  After all, it was the 4000 character limit that drove me from my former blog home.  Secondly, who are we kidding?  I’m no super fitty.  Not to mention that I could either write my BC story, or write about the physically active lifestyle thing, but 1000 words did not give me enough space to write about either of those well.  I did try to weave it all together in 1000 words—I even mentioned my blog.  But undeniable courage?  Not so much.  I guess I just have a hard time saying “Look how undeniably courageous I am” when the truth is, being told how brave & courageous I am totally makes me squirm.

Yesterday I received my official rejection letter.  As rejection letters go, it was a good one.  The lady even told me how funny the dragon boat entry was.  I guess they weren’t looking for undeniably funny, though, since I didn’t make the cut.  (And really. how ironic would it have been if I’d become “the face” of somebody’s promotional pink-o-rama?  You’d probably all be posting comments telling me what a sell-out I was.) 

It’s just as well, because I don’t know that I qualify as having “undeniable courage”.  It’s not like I killed a gator with my bare hands, dyed its hide Komen pink and made a set of luggage out of it.  I’m just, you know, living.  Nothing exotic.  No undeniable courage goin’ on.  I did open up the fridge the other day and smell some undeniable spoilage, though. 

Does Arm & Hammer have a contest I can enter?

Speaking My Love Language: Disco Therapy

So the dreaded wire localization wasn’t nearly as bad as the last time. It was also done differently, but I don’t think that’s why it hurt less. I say that because this time instead of using ultrasound to guide the needle into place, they used mammogram. Yeah, you read me right—they put my boob in the mammogram machine, squashed it, and THEN inserted various needles, wires, etc. through a little window that was cut in the plate just for such purposes. At one point, the nurse told me, “You can breathe normally, Moody.” Uh, no, I really can’t because you’ve got my boob in a vise! Hello! But, like I said, it still wasn’t nearly as bad as the last time. In fact, it really didn’t even hurt as bad as some regular old mammograms I’ve had.

Part of this was, I’m sure, because when I told the nurses how awful the last experience had been, they decided to call Dr Dicke (pronounced dickie). Dr Dicke uses lots of numbing meds. Dr Dicke is also a woman. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not hatin’ on male doctors. All of my regular doctors are male, and they’re great, love ‘em to pieces. But, I think that when it comes to something like having your boob placed in a vise, and then impaled, a woman doctor might be able to empathize a little better.

And so, my experience was no big deal at all. When they told me I was done and asked me how I was feeling, I said, “I feel great. You rock, Dr Dicke!” I had to wait for films to be printed, so I went to the waiting area, which is where I logged on to give you the update yesterday. The nurse came out to give me my films and told me how well I did. (And after my whining about last time, too.) I asked her, “Do you normally have people freaking out?” and she said, “Oh yeah.” I was wondering how that plays out with someone who has her boob in a vise. Not like she can go anywhere. The first thing it makes me think of is in high school when I worked at the animal hospital and had to bathe cats. We had a little slip lead that was mounted to the wall that you slipped over the animal’s head to keep them from jumping out while they were being bathed. It worked great for dogs, but cats tend to freak out. And since they were tethered to the wall, what transpired was that a freaked out cat might climb the wall, pivoting around the anchor of the leash repeatedly, in big, wet, hissing, clawing circles. The other mental image was of Flick getting his tongue stuck to a frozen flagpole in A Christmas Story. I’m sure somewhere in between those two scenarios lies the description of a mammogram freak out.

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Surgery was no big deal. You know, I was asleep for that part, so it was pretty uneventful as far as I was concerned. Won’t have any results for about a week. One of the fun things yesterday was that Nina came to see me before surgery. She had an appointment with Dr Birhiray, so she used her bounty hunter skills to hunt me down like a dog at the surgery center.

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I feel good today. In fact, I went to the Y earlier and walked three miles with Susie. Of course, I wasn’t allowed to shower this morning, so I’ve got a nice layer of funk going right about now. Makes you all wish you could be right here with me, doesn’t it? Thanks to everyone for their prayers, and to my friend Tanya for the disco therapy cd. I am very blessed to have you all along with me on this ride.