It’s Like Deja Vu

Wow.  Okay, so apparently Feedburner has lost its mind.  Those of you who subscribe to the email list probably thought I’d reached new heights of slothfulness when you got an email yesterday containing a post from February.  You were thinking, “Dang, Moody, if you’re going to try to recycle some old post, the least you could do is pick one that was more than 3 months old.  That way, you know, you might have a chance of passing it off as new material.  Or perhaps if you’re too lazy to actually write, you should consider plagarism.  Sure it’s intellectual theft, but we don’t care if you regurgitate someone else’s work as long as we have something new to read.”

 Alas, I did not try to Jedi Mind-trick you into thinking I’d posted something new Wednesday.  And have no idea where that feed has been spending its time since February.  The Bermuda Triangle?  Area 51?  Walmart? 

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 About that old post…um, yeah, I didn’t go.  I know, I know.  I got you all worked up with that poll and everything, and then I just couldn’t make myself do it.  Even Hubster was like, “Don’t go—why should you burn a whole day on that?”  That was all the enabling I needed to blow it off.  I’m pretty easy to enable.  Sorry.  I guess if you want to know about the wisdom circle, you’re going to have to go to one of those things yourself.  What was that?  You say you don’t want to actually have to go participate and try to keep a straight face all stinkin’ day when you could be sitting at Starbucks or yard saling?  Yeah, well, me neither, so I guess that’s one juice box worth of wisdom we’ll never have.   Amazingly enough, the absence of this knowledge doesn’t make me feel the least bit incomplete.  Shocking, I know.

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 Note to Union Hospital: While it didn’t bother me in the least (in fact, it gave me blog material), some more sensitive types might get a little freaked out by being asked if they have a living will prior to a routine, non-invasive procedure like my recent ultrasound.  I realize that you have your standard battery of questions, but seriously—living will? 

 Of course, it’s not the first time I’ve been asked that.  You know, when you have a surgery, they ask you stuff like that just in case they somehow scramble your brain in the process of making your newpple.  “Gee, we’re sorry that your wife is now a vegetable, Mr Foodie, but we did have to harvest tissue for the nipple from somewhere, and since your wife obviously doesn’t use her cerebral cortex much, we thought that was as good a place as any.”

 And, we are talking about me, here, she for whom everything is a blog post.  So, you know, they really could be concerned that I might not make it out of there alive, and I’d still be taking mental notes for a later entry.  But, some folks are kind of sensitive to that whole brain death thing.  So, Union Hospital, you might want to re-think the necessity of some of those questions.  Just sayin’.

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.

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…

What is wrong with people?

What thought process is involved in deciding to tell your horror story to someone who is facing a scary situation, anyway? Is it just lack of social skills? Is it your way of trying to convince that person that you know what they’re going through? Can you just not resist the urge to try to one-up the person in question? Do you really think it’s helpful to tell your so-and-so died from story?

I’ve dealt with my share of those folks over the past couple of years. Fortunately, I’m just stubborn enough to think that the rules don’t necessarily apply to me. You say your great aunt Millie puked for 12 solid years from chemo? Well, that doesn’t necessarily mean I will. I might, but doggone it, I’m going to try to figure out how to avoid that. Your 3rd cousin’s uncle’s sister died from The Cancer at exactly the same age I am? Thanks for that nugget of encouragement, but I really don’t have time to be getting killed off right now.

Like I said, it kind of rolls right off of me, and gee, at least I have something to blog about, right? In fact, if you ever see me dealing with someone like that, just picture a cartoon thought bubble over my head that says, “I am SO blogging you when I get home.” So, it doesn’t really bug me when that stuff happens to me, but it does send me over the edge when I see it happen to someone else. Especially when it’s done in a public forum so that their family has the opportunity to be collateral damage.

A very important person in my life is facing a big, scary surgery tomorrow. Pastor Mark is in his early 50’s and on Wednesday, he’ll be having open heart surgery. He has a page on Caringbridge where folks can keep track of his condition and leave messages of support. Unfortunately, some folks’ idea of support is “Blah, blah, big scary, surgery, blah, scary, painful surgery, blah blah blah. Did I mention scary and painful blah blah blah?” I’m sure Pastor Mark will let stuff like this roll right off, and so will his wife, Debbie. But they have 3 kids, who I’m sure will probably read this stuff, too. And that’s upsetting to me. Because the situation is tense and scary enough on it’s own without help from the drama mongers.

So again, I ask, what is the thought process involved in deciding to tell your horror story to someone facing a scary situation? I’m all about telling someone the truth, but maybe some folks need to wait a minute before they open their mouths. Just sayin’. If you’ve been through the same thing, tell the person, and then wait for them to ask for details. And if you’re not sure whether you should say something that you’re thinking or not, then you probably shouldn’t. Let the person know you care, but keep it light, okay?

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I’m sure that Pastor Mark would appreciate any prayers y’all would want to offer on his behalf. If you’re praying for him, please leave a comment saying so. Debbie reads my blog, and I’m sure they’d both be encouraged to see some love on here.

Comfortably Numb with a Side of Cheese Fries

Although The Noob fills out the bra and at least appears pretty normal while camouflaged by clothing, the fact remains that it is not an actual boob.  One of the primary reminders of this—other than the weird contortion thing it does when I lift weights, implant being under the muscle and all—is the fact that it has no feeling. 

 Now you might think that, having owned a set of boobs for a good many years, I wouldn’t need to actually feel danger in order to keep my boobs out of trouble.  However, since having The Noob, I’ve discovered that apparently having nerves that work is what kept my boobs safe and intact for so long.  For example, I’ll often find myself holding something in my hand, only to discover that it’s also resting on my boob.  This happened just last night.  As I stood there holding a ginormous vanilla Coke, and chatting with a couple of friends, I suddenly realized that my cup was meeting some resistance.  That resistance was The Noob, which was just hanging out minding it’s own numb business.  Oddly enough, I don’t ever recall this happening on the boob side, or for that matter ever happening when I had two boobs.  I moved my Coke away from The Noob, only to feel the same resistance again a minute later. 

 So I’m thinking, perhaps there are some things that I just should not be allowed to hold in my hand anymore.  Especially not when being distracted by conversation.  The big Coke cup was relatively harmless, but you know, the same cannot be said for things like an ice cream cone.  Granted, this is probably not going to be an actual danger, but it won’t look real cool to have a big smear of DQ crunch on The Noob.  Not to mention that it would be a waste of crunch. 

 Or a torch.  You know, the old school, explore the catacombs type.  Not that I’m often carrying  torch, but I’m just sayin’.  Bad idea.  Especially if silicone is flammable.  Wouldn’t want to spontaneously combust. (buh dump bump)  And maybe I should not attempt to use a Sharpie.  Although I did have to write on my boobs prior to surgery, and I did discover that Mr Clean Magic Eraser will remove surgical marker from skin—-I think I should leave the permanent markers alone.  I have a bad enough track record ruining things I can actually feel.

 An ice pick, hatchet, and a set of Ginsu knives are all off limits, as is the sharp edge of the can that the Ginsu knife just cut in half.  I’m thinking I may also want to avoid other sources of open flame, boiling pots of water, cans of paint, big plates of cheese fries, Kung Pao Chicken, or anything else that I might accidentally dunk The Noob into. 

 Surely I’m not the only reconstructed cancer girl who has had this type of experience.  Anyone care to share their numb noob stories?

So Not a Sausage

I went for my post-op check-up with Dr Grasee a couple of days before Christmas.  I know you’ve all been anxiously awaiting the report from that visit, wondering what sort of crazy newpple I ended up with.  As I’ve often found with this whole breast cancer deal, the reality really doesn’t live up to the hype.  This newpple isn’t as big as a Vienna sausage—it’s not even as big as a cocktail weenie.  It doesn’t look like my big toe—why, it doesn’t even look like my pinkie toe.  What gives?  I mean, after the post-op instructions made this big deal about “do NOT be alarmed” by the freakish way your newpple looks, I was all psyched up for something that would actually be worth writing about.  Why do you think it’s been so long since I last posted?  I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to figure out how to make this thing sound funny.

 But, alas, it’s really not all that freakish.  Dang it.  Well, other than the fact that it’s a piece of my groin skin sewn onto my chest.  So, I guess if you actually *think* about it, it’s kind of freaky after all.  But just to look at the thing is kind of a non-event.

 As far as my recovery goes, I have to say that it’s been a piece of cake.  The pain has been minimal, with the groin incision being the most annoying aspect of the entire deal. 

 Of course, I’m relegated to wearing a sports bra, day and night, for the first 4 weeks.  That’s getting on my nerves, but it’s still better than the surgical bra I wore for the first week.  A surgical bra is like your grandma’s sports bra.  Yeah, I know your grandma doesn’t wear a sports bra, but if she did, this is what it would be like.  Big, white, stretchy, with unstretchy straps which are padded, slide through loops and Velcro back onto themselves.  It also Velcroes in front.  Move over Victoria’s Secret—and make way for Myrtle’s Mystery.  The mystery being, how on God’s green earth is a girl supposed to wear clothes over this thing without looking like she’s a body-armor-sporting member of the SWAT team? 

 As you can imagine, it was very exciting to graduate to a sports bra.  However, I’m getting pretty tired of wearing it to bed.  Add that to the list of things that make me feel sexy.  It’s growing by leaps and bounds.  Biohazard undies, greasy newpple tent, 5″ groin scar, 10″ chest scar, newpple made out of aforementioned groin and sewn to aforementioned chest, and to top it all off, so to speak, the 24/7 sports bra. 

 As I said before, it’s a good thing I’m not too sensitive about all this.

Of Noobs and Newpples

All I can say is that it’s a good thing I’m not too sensitive about this whole breast reconstruction gig. 

 Okay, first off, a week or so ago I got an email from a well-meaning friend asking me how my “breast augmentation” was going.  Yeah.  Um.  That’s not exactly what I’ve got going on.  See, ’cause augmentation is what people do who aren’t satisfied with their boobs and think they need to add to them.  Reconstruction is what people do when they’ve had one lopped off because it tried to kill them, and they want to attempt to look halfway normal again.  Minor differences, I know, but please understand that more sensitive types might have been completely offended by being asked about their augmentation.

 Then there’s the matter of having my underwear come back from surgery in a sealed bag marked “biohazard”.  You have no idea how feminine and dainty that makes a girl feel.  Now, I know you’re probably thinking I soiled my britches and that’s why they handled them like a sample of the black plague dipped in anthrax.  In fact, I did not poo myself, or anything of the sort.  All I did was wear my undies to surgery—like they told me to.  I guess I should have asked, because I knew Dr Grasee would be making an incision in my groin area (more on that later) but the nurse told me to put on the gown and leave on the drawers, so that’s what I did.  But apparently I shouldn’t have.  And so, per Department of Homeland Security regulations (or something like that) my undies and I came back separately from surgery, me on a gurney and my underwear in a baggie, hermetically sealed for the safety of the population at large. 

 Now that you’re all curious about that groin incision, let’s move on to creation of a noob and its corresponding newpple.  Okay, as you all know, since August I’ve had the expander (aka angry boob wallet) under my pectoral muscle.  This week’s surgery was to replace that with a nice, soft, friendly silicone implant, and also to construct a nipple, or newpple, as I like to call it.  Well, the material for that has got to come from somewhere. 

 A few weeks back, I asked Dr Grasee where she was planning on taking the skin for the newpple from.  Pointing to the area where my leg attaches to my torso, she said, “Well, I’m thinking about taking it from here.”  “You’re not going to make me a nipple I have to shave, are you?” I mean, I knew that line would get a laugh, but seriously, I really don’t need some high maintenance nipple with a built-in perpetual sweater.  While Tricia, Dr Grasee’s nurse, was doubled over with laughter, Dr Grasee remained totally on-task, still examining my skin while matter-of-factly stating something about removing nipple hair all the time.  Ah, the wonders of cosmetic surgery.

 And so it was that my newpple was constructed from a hunk of skin from the crease between my leg and my belly.  I’m not sure how long the actual incision was, but I’m taped up for about five inches, which has got me wondering: good gravy, how big is this thing? You see, I haven’t seen my newpple yet, because it’s under the big top.  Indeed, the newpple is currently protected by a kind of greasy gauze tent that is sewn to the noob—which makes me feel almost as sexy as having my underwear handed to me in a biohazard bag.  This sewn-on dressing will be removed at my post-op visit next Tuesday.  I can’t wait.  For a couple of reasons, but mostly because of the comic potential.  You know you’re in for a laugh when your post-op paperwork says “The nipple will shrink by at least one-half its size over the next few weeks.  Please do NOT be alarmed by the initial appearance!”

 So, you know, I’m like expecting something that looks about like my big toe, or a hot dog or something.  Awesome.

Bye-bye Angry Wallet!

Tomorrow’s the big day—my exchange surgery is scheduled for 9:30.  Woo hoo!  I’m getting’ a new boob for Christmas! 

 Of course, I have to be there and hour before surgery, and where I have to be is normally about an hour and a half drive.  However, this afternoon it began to rain.  I know, you’re thinking, “Rain?  So what?”  Well, I’ll tell you what:  It began to rain—and it was 24 degrees outside.  Needless to say, the stuff pretty much froze on contact.  In fact, I ran in to Walmart for about 5 minutes and when I emerged, the door to the Jeep was already trying to seal itself shut. 

 Driving home involved participating in what can best be described as vehicular icecapades.   At one point on the way home, I saw a guy whose truck had slid off the road, spinning around until it was resting on an embankment, perpendicular to the pavement.  Both I, and the truck ahead of me, tried to slow down and see if the guy needed help, but as soon as we started to brake it was obvious that there weren’t gonna be any of that thar stoppin’ going on, unless it was the kind that involved spinning out of control and coming to rest on an embankment.  So, we both kept on rollin’.  Sorry, Mr Man out on the side of the road, I can’t stop, but I wish you all the best!

 All that to say that I have to take into consideration the driving conditions, and the distinct possibility that I may have to thaw out the Jeep before I can even leave.  So, I’ll be getting up earlier, and leaving earlier, than would normally be necessary.  Wouldn’t be a big deal if it weren’t for the fact that I’m not allowed to eat or drink anything after midnight.  Do you know what that means?  It means no coffee.

 (panicky freak-out voice) No coffee!

 I hate that.  You know, the surgery is not a big deal to me.  This will be my sixth…I said sixth…surgery in the past 22 months.  And you know, I’ve been pretty busy lately, so I’m kind of looking forward to the nap.  Plus, I’m excited, because I almost have that punch card filled up, so I think my next surgery is free.  But, man, that whole no coffee thing is a drag.  I need, like, a caffeine patch or something. 

 So anyway, by the time some of you read this, I’ll probably already be over there getting ready to go to surgery.  I may have Hubster update for me while we’re over there, or we might not get it done until we get home.  It is an outpatient thing, so I’ll be home later in the day.