Doctor Day – Part One

Normally I go to see Dr Birhiray at his office up at the Breast Care Center.  In order to do that, the appointment has to be on a Tuesday or Thursday, because Dr B spends the rest of the week at other offices. I like going to his office at the BCC, because it’s all breast cancer patients, and I usually go in and show off my long hair and generally be a poster child for life after breast cancer.  Another reason I like it is that it doesn’t have a TV with which to blare soap operas like the Hux Cancer Center where I did my rads. And I think I’ve mentioned before how I do not like going to the main oncology place because it’s full of people in all stages of a variety of types of cancer, and it really just weirds me out.  I much prefer to go to the BCC where, for the most part, you don’t see anybody who looks like they’re on their last leg.  Bald, yes, but that is a temporary thing, and we can handle that.

 However, the last time I scheduled an appointment, it was going to fall in the same week as my follow-up with Dr Grasee, so Hubster said, “Can we schedule it for the same day so we don’t have to make two trips?”  Well, we *could* but that would mean that I’d have to go seen Dr B in his office in Noblesville.  Despite my whining about not being able to go to the BCC for my appointment, Hubster insisted that we kill two birds with one stone and schedule the appointments on the same day.  And since I didn’t have any better argument than to whine, “But I wanna come heeeere” we made the appointment when Hubster wanted it.

 The appointed day arrives and first stop is Dr Grasee’s office in Carmel.  This is the follow-up visit where they will take to official “after” picture of my reconstruction.  Dr G is very pleased with how the recon looks, smiling and commenting how it’s really not obvious that the tissue has been radiated.  If you remember, I had to sell the idea of the expander/implant to Dr G, who wanted to do the LD flap procedure because of the radiation.  I take pleasure in reminding her of that as I sit there looking all fabulous.

  So, now that I’m all super-fabulously reconstructed, I asked Dr G about getting the newpple tattooed.  Because the newpple is just regular skin color, many cancer girls elect to have it tattooed—in my case it will be matched to the color of the remaining nipple.  So, Dr G referred me to a woman who specializes in such tattoos.  Her name is Cricket Hemp. 

Cricket.  Hemp. 

Given the name (is there even a remote possibility that it’s her real name?)  I’m pretty sure a Janice Joplin wannabe is going to be doing my newpple tattoo.  Should I be worried about this?  I mean, what if she tattoos a peace sign on there, or worse yet, a smiley face?  You know, I get kinda grossed out by needles, so I probably won’t be watching.  And forget Hubster—he’s really squeamish.  My only comfort with this deal is that she works for Turkle and Associates rather than Cricket Hemp’s Groovy Booby Tattoo Palace.  Dr Turkle is top notch, so I’m clinging to the hope that she wouldn’t hire some crazy hippy.

 I guess I’ll know for sure when I see her on October 29th.

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I’d Rather Have a Butterfly Hand Than a Crab Arm

Yesterday I had my check-up with Dr Birhiray.  The worst part of that these days is the blood draw.  Lymph node removal on the mastectomy/reconstruction side dictates that  blood pressure cuffs & needles are forbidden on that side forever.  For-ev-er.  The reason being that any sort of infection in that arm could lead to lymphedema, a condition in which the lymphatic fluid doesn’t drain out of the arm like it should, and causes the arm to swell.  Permanently, in some cases.  This always makes me think of the fiddler crabs we saw a few years ago on Little Tybee Island, and while I thought they were neat, I really don’t have any desire to sport the fiddler crab look.  So, I try to avoid punctures and other arm trauma at the doctor’s office, although I only sometimes successfully manage to avoid such things in the kitchen.  So far so good, though.  No crab arm yet.

 Anywho, the end result is that any time blood needs to be drawn, it has to come out of the right side.  And these days the right side is putting it’s foot down and refusing to give the requisite blood.  You can only poke the same place so many times before it forms a shield of scar tissue not unlike the armor plating on the Batmobile, or at least as tough as that really sorry excuse for Indian flatbread I made the other night.  (No wonder that cookbook was on the clearance rack at Half Price Books.)  Yesterday was the second time in the last three visits that I’ve had to have my blood drawn via the little butterfly needle in the hand that is normally used to administer chemo.  More than once I’ve suggested that they stick my foot.  The foot has nice, plump veins that look up at me and laugh as I’m sitting there for 5 minutes waiting for an adequate amount of blood to be drained from my hand.  But, for whatever reason, they never take me up on that. 

 After my blood was drawn, I could have gone back out to the waiting area like a normal person.  But I like to visit my chemo nurses.  Maybe because we bonded during chemo, or maybe because they always tell me how great I look.  Okay, probably the latter.  So, I went back to the chemo area to say hi to Leslie and Karen, and I told them that I started chemo on May 8th, so it’s been almost exactly 2 years.  As usual, they commented on how much my hair has grown, and then they said, “Come out here and meet some of these ladies.  They’re just getting started, and they’d probably be encouraged to see you.”  As is often the case when I’m visiting back there, I’m like their poster girl for good attitude and good health.

 So, I got to meet some of the ladies on the chemo floor.  Nurse Leslie pointed out to one group of ladies that I’ve “been through everything you guys are going through and look how great she looks.”  I then explained to them that I’d been through chemo, radiation, and 6 surgeries, so indeed, I had done it all within the last couple of years.  They asked me questions like “Did your hair come back the same color?” and “How soon did you hair start growing again?”  Hair, as you can see, is a hot topic with chemo girls. 

 Soon, though, another nurse came and fetched me.  For once, Dr Birhiray was only half an hour behind, and my exam room was waiting for me.  But, I’m so glad I got to spend some time talking to those ladies—even if Hubster did wonder what had happened to me.  I am so blessed to have the opportunity to encourage folks by sharing my experiences.  I enjoy doing that in person, as well as here on the blog, so please don’t ever hesitate to ask questions.

 While I was there, I showed Dr B his fan club page on Facebook.  Not being on Facebook himself, at first he was a little confused—he thought I’d moved my blog or something.  But I soon had him straightened out, and he read the messages and got a big kick out of the whole thing.  So thanks to those of you who joined the club and left him a little note.

Come on Barbie, Let’s go Party…

After my last post, reader Lizz suggested that perhaps the talking object featured at the wisdom circle could be a Cancer Journey Barbie or Ken.  Well, Lizz, you’ll be happy to note that Mattel is right there on the cutting edge of wisdom circle accessories with Pink Ribbon Barbie.  

pink-ribbon-barbie

(I can’t believe no one submitted this back in October!)

 The description for our plastic pink ribbon pal reads as follows:

 “For more than 20 years, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation has been leading the fight against breast cancer and now Barbie doll contributes to the cause. Wearing a pink gown with a signature pink ribbon pinned to her shoulder, Pink Ribbon Barbie doll is both a tool to help those affected with breast cancer talk to girls, and a way to support the cause!”

  See, Lizz, it even says right there that our friend Barbie is a TOOL to help those affected with breast cancer talk to girls.  Because, you know we’ve got all this pent up wisdom that just can’t get out without Barbie’s help. 

 However, I’m not quite sure that think Barbie should be all fancy like she is.  I think that sends the wrong message.  I mean, there they go making cancer look glamorous again.  Next thing you know girls will be trying to get The Cancer so they can look as cool as ol’ Pink Ribbon Barbie. 

 So, I’d like to suggest a more realistic Pink Ribbon Barbie.  Remember when you were little and you cut Barbie’s hair?  Well, that’s exactly what my hair looked like the day I had Hubster cut it off for Locks of Love, before we actually shaved it.  I think that’s the hair Pink Ribbon Barbie needs—not some Texas pageant hair like she’s got going on now.  And what’s with having two boobs?  Oh sure, they do kind of look like she’s got expanders, but if we’re trying to educate the youngsters, I think they need to know that sometimes The Cancer makes you have to have a boob lopped off.  Of course, we won’t let Barbie walk around lopsided, though.  She’ll need to have her own little foob and mastectomy bra. 

 Then there are the accessories.  Forget the Barbie Townhouse and the RV, Pink Ribbon Barbie needs the Barbie Breast MRI & Manicure Machine and the Barbie Radiation Station.  She’ll have a little tube of goop to put on her burnt chest and everything.  It’ll be great.  And don’t forget that Pink Ribbon Barbie mustn’t have any eyebrows, so she’ll have to come with a little pencil for drawing those on.  And of course, she’ll need an assortment of do rags and hats.  And a wig that looks just like B-52s hair—sold separately.

 I’m sure I’m missing something.  What else does The New Pink Ribbon Barbie need?

My Fate Rests in Your Hands

So, the other day I got this letter in the mail inviting me to a breast cancer powwow.  The letter and event brochure came in an envelope with my name and address on it.  You may not think that’s significant.  You may be thinking, “Well, Moody, how else would they address it?  Surely you wouldn’t expect them to just send out a mass mailing addressed to ‘current resident’ would you?”  I’m not so sure that I wouldn’t.  Because the letter itself opened with the greeting: Dear Person with a Diagnosis of Breast Cancer.

 Gee, how do they make it feel so doggone personal?  Amazing!  I feel so loved.

 The letter is signed by Patsy, who took the time to actually sign her name along with her impressive alphabet of credentials, which is obviously more important than taking the time to address me by my name.  Now granted, my name doesn’t normally have a bunch of fancy pants letters after it, but thanks to ol’ Patsy, I can now call myself Moody Foodie, PWDBC.  That is my identity these days, right?  Person with a diagnosis of breast cancer?  Or current resident.  It’s kind of a toss up.

 These items came from Union Hospital  in conjunction with The Maple Center in Terre Haute.  I did my radiation at Hux Cancer Center, so I’m assuming that’s how I got on their list.  Ironically, Patsy makes a point of telling me to “Rest assured that your name and address has been kept confidential.”  My name, you say?  And what might that be?  Hmm?  Current resident?  Person with a Diagnosis of Breast Cancer?  Shhh! Someone might steal my identity!  (And, Patsy, it’s HAVE.  They HAVE been kept confidential.  Good grief, you’re making us sound like illiterate hilljacks.  Dang.)

 I know you’re all anxious to hear about this cancer powwow I’ve been invited to.  It’s called “Celebration of Life”.  Okay, not bad so far, although I have most often heard that phrase used in regard to funerals.  But, I can get past that if it’s going to be some super cool event, right?  Says it’s a “one day seminar to pamper inspire, energize and teach.”  So, it sounds like it has potential.  I mean, pamper sounds like pedicures and hot stone massages, right?  And that thing about teaching sounds good.  I’m all about education.  I bet they’ll be doing sessions about breast reconstruction techniques, and post-chemo fertility issues facing young women, and all sorts of relevant stuff.  

 Let’s take a look at the brochure together, shall we? 

 Oh.  Wow.  One of the first session options is “Cultivating Support on Your Journey: Using Collage.” Dude, they just used the J word.  And collage?  Collage?  Seriously?  I realize that I am biased, in that I have always and forever considered collage to be the lamest form of art (and I use the term loosely) known to man, but this makes me want to go straight for my eye-poking spork. 

 But it’s got to get better, right?  Surely there’s a pedicure in there somewhere.  Let’s look at our options for the second session.  “Wisdom Circle (Sharing insight): Using guidelines from the Wisdom Circle Format inspired by councils of indigenous people, this circle discussion using a talking object allows us to share wisdom and compassion.”  What kind of Mickey Mouse new-agey crap is that?  Because we all know that there’s no wisdom or compassion without a “talking object”.  <insert eye roll here>  But, hey, if we must use an object to talk for us, I volunteer The Foob.  He may not be wise or compassionate, but doggone it, he’ll sound French as he says, “You do not need Zee Foob, or zee wisdom circle, you need a zinnamon latte—now zuck it up!”

 I’m torn.  Going to this thing would no doubt give me SO much material.  Yet, do I really want to spend a day collaging and getting my weirdness on in the wisdom circle?  This thing is March 7th, so I have a little time.  Perhaps I’ll leave it to you to decide. 

Hair I Am…18 Months Later.

me011409

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. 

We Now Return to Our Regular Programming

So last week I got this in the mail.  Note that it’s due in 7 days.  You know what I’ve got to say to that?  HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA HA HA HA!  Notice also that for my convenience, they’ll let me pay by credit card. That would indeed be convenient—but so is Hamburger Helper, and I ain’t doing that either.

Really, is there anyone on the face of the earth that thinks that putting 33k on my Visa would be a good idea? 

You might be wondering if that bill was for a surgery, hospitalization, etc.  Nope.  It was for radiation.  Now, it wasn’t for the doctor, or the therapist, or any of the other people.  This bill is apparently for the use of the lovely facility.  You want to talk about high rent.  I’m thinking for 33-grand I should have been able to watch the stinkin’ Food Network instead of those horrible soap operas.  And for that kind of money, I’m entitled to open the blinds and let a little light into the joint.  But I suppose it doesn’t really matter, because all that stuff has moved to the new building anyway.  I hate to think what radiation there would cost.

Now before you all freak out and plan a chili supper to raise money for me or put a can with my face on it by the cash register at the Mexican restaurant, I have to tell you that upon further investigation we discovered that the hospital submitted the claim to the insurance under my SSN instead of Hubster’s.  So, the insurance company declined it, and consequently, the hospital billed me.  They are resubmitting that and the insurance should pay it all.