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.

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.

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.

Things are Going to Start Happening to Me Now

In the movie The Jerk, Steve Martin’s character, Navin R Johnson, gets super excited upon the arrival of the new phone book. Jumping up and down, he shouts, “The new phone book’s here!” Navin is psyched because finally his name is somewhere in print, and the scene ends with him declaring, “Things are going to start happening to me now.” That’s kind of how I’m feeling these days. Many things have happened since I last blogged.
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Whew! In less than one week I have two brand new nephews. Little MacGyver was born Monday night a little before 9:00. He weighs 8 lbs 10 ounces, which I think may consist entirely of skin stretched around a big lung. I don’t know him very well yet, but I can tell you one thing—he does NOT like taking a bath. And when he doesn’t like something, buddy, you know it.
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I had an appointment with my oncologist, Dr Birhiray, Tuesday. For those of you who haven’t been around very long, that’s pronounced Beer-Hurray! (Now, isn’t that fun to say?) I love Dr B for a couple of reasons. First of all, he laughs a lot. There’s never doom and gloom at Dr B’s office. There are only things that need dealt with. We deal with them. We move on. We laugh along the way. Secondly, he never makes you feel rushed. Got questions? Ask away. Got more questions? Ask those, too.
After I got done meeting with Dr B, I went back to the chemo room to visit the nurses. Oddly, there’s a special bond that forms between chemo patients and the people who inject them with poison every other week. So, whenever I’m there, I stop in to see Karen and Leslie. Little did I know what was in store for me.
You ever have an experience that would be traumatic, were it not for the fact that it was so stinkin’ over-the-top crazy that it makes for a great story? The kind of incident where you’re laughing on the inside while thinking, “I can’t believe that just happened” and simultaneously trying to stay cool? And if you’re me, you’re also thinking, “I’m so gonna blog this.” What happened next definitely fits into that category. Leslie asked about my reconstruction plans. I told her that since I had rads, I’d need to have the lat flap surgery.
At this point, two women who are sitting there—hanging out, not doing chemo, just hanging out–interject themselves into the conversation. “No, you don’t! You don’t have to have the lat flap.” Then they start telling me I need to come to some informational meeting they’re having about reconstruction using the DIEP method. I don’t remember what it stands for, but basically it’s where they make you some new boobs out of your gut fat. Anyway, I’d read about it before, but it’s a relatively new and complicated technique and no one around here does it. These women had traveled to New Orleans to have this done.
So, they’re telling me how great it is, and suddenly the one woman, looks to be in her 50’s, whips up her shirt to show me the results that she was obviously so darn proud of. There she is, holding her shirt up while pointing to various features like some sort of breast reconstruction weatherman, “Tomorrow’s forecast should see highs around my collarbone with lows in the mid-torso region. Chance for blinding, white skin is 100%” The whole time, all I’m thinking is, “Wow…I’ve just been flashed by some middle-aged woman. I gotta blog this.” Things are going to start happening to me now—indeed!

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Last Saturday, I celebrated a milestone: My First Post Chemo Haircut. Woo hoo! Now, I’m a little less butch. Yea me. And, you wouldn’t believe how many compliments I’ve gotten on it, even though it can’t possibly have changed by more than a ¼” at the most. I guess that’s where having a professional involved really pays off.

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Okay, now that I’ve told you about all the minor happenings like flashers and haircuts, I need to tell you something that you might find upsetting. The Foob has decided to retire. You’re shocked, I know. If you need to have a good cry, that’s okay. There, there. Let it out. Take a deep breath. Through your tears and snotty sobs you’re probably saying, “But, I thought The Foob would always be here for me. What about Foobhog Day? If he retires, he won’t be able to look for his shadow and then we’ll have 6 weeks of excruciating uncertainty about the weather!” Take heart, my friend. The Foob is not leaving you high and dry. He has already hired a successor. We thought about giving the new foob his own name, to distinguish him from the original foob. First, we thought we might call him Noob. Then we considered Foob Two, or Toob, but we didn’t really care for the shape that implied. In the end, we thought it best to pass on the name, rather than come up with a new one. Think of The Foob as the Dread Pirate Roberts of the prosthetic world—each one inheriting and carrying on the name and reputation. And in plenty of time for Foobhog Day.