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?


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.

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.

Back Home Again

I suppose I should have posted before now to let you all know that I was finally able to stop puking and go home.  It’s pretty bad when my dad’s calling and saying, “Hey, how are you doing?  I haven’t seen any new posts.” 

 During the 14 hours post-op that I spent throwing up, I managed to puke everything from my anti-nausea meds (they don’t work so well if you can’t keep ‘em down) to the small amount of water and 7-Up I ingested, to the whopping two saltine crackers I’d eaten, before erupting into my grand finale which involved the aforementioned beverages, and approximately 1 teaspoon worth of cinnamon crunch bagel. Oh yeah, and because I’m such an overachiever I did this while simultaneously shuffling back from the bathroom and pointing mutely to the puke pan. 

 It was great. 

 Nothing says, “See how cool I am” like tossing your cookies (or bagel as the case may be) between your fingers and all over the floor because your Hubster and nurse aren’t quite speedy enough at charades.  They’re over there guessing, “Uh…George Washington crossing the Delaware?….No, no, I’ve got it, you’re Michael Jackson in the Thriller video!” And I’m all: Must. reach. puke. pan. *bleechhrrghh*  

 I eventually managed to stop throwing up, but not until the night shift nurse offered me the option of taking my anti-nausea meds intravenously.  What a concept!  After that, and a change in my pain meds, I was actually able to stop throwing up and go to sleep.  When I woke up the next morning, I was no longer nauseous, and very much ready to go home.

 And, so here I’ve been, because I’m not allowed to drive yet.  You’d think I’d have been writing since it’s one of the few things that fall within my current restrictions, but being an invalid makes me pretty doggone crotchety, and I just haven’t been in the mood. 

 Now, there are parts about this can’t-do-anything-for-myself gig that I don’t mind so much, like not doing laundry or dishes.  On the other hand, there are many more things that are just a pain in the bum. One of the most annoying things to me is that I can’t hold the phone to my ear with my left hand.  At least not without causing my pectoral muscles to completely spazz out.  I know, you’re wondering what the big deal is.  You’re thinking, “So hold it with your right hand.”  Well, this is one of those quirky little Rainman sort of things that I can’t explain—I cannot stand to hold a phone to my right ear.  Don’t ask me why—I told you, I don’t know.  It’s like the telecommunications equivalent of wrong side up saltines, I guess. 

But, I’m able to do a little more each day, despite the fact that I’ve shunned all of the narcotics Dr Grasee prescribed in favor of extra strength tylenol.  You may think I’m crazy, but all those pain meds make me nauseous, and there ain’t no way I’m goin’ back to that summer camp, Skippy.

Good News

I got the results of my biopsy today, and they are benign! It’s about daggone time I got some good news out of this stuff, too. When Tana called me today and told me my results, my reaction was, “Reeeally?” That’s not a squealing, excited really, but more like the type of really you say when you learn something interesting, unexpected, and maybe a little strange. Like, if I said to you, “Hey, I’ve got a boil that looks just like Elvis” you might reply, “Reeaally?” So, anyway, Tana says, “Had you prepared yourself to hear bad news?” I laughed and replied, “No, I’ve learned not to draw any conclusions until I actually have the information.” And seriously, what was the worst thing they could tell me? That I’ve got cancer? Sorry, that really doesn’t have much shock value anymore. Now maybe if they told me, “You’ve got cancer, and this cancer doesn’t feed off of estrogen like the previous cancer. This one feeds off of caffeine” then I’d really be wailing and gnashing my teeth. “What do you mean only decaf!?! Where will I derive my personality if not from caffeine?!”


Susie and I have been hitting the gym pretty hard the last week. Of course, at this point I’m limited on what I can do because of my lifting restriction. Fortunately, Susie doesn’t mind sticking to walking and stationary biking. I’m getting a little frustrated, however, because it seems like every time I work out I weigh more. I’m beginning to think that it’s because I’m building ginormous calves from all this walking and biking. That’s great for the old self-esteem, ya know, to have one boob and legs like Popeye.

Which brings me to the subject of The Foob. Right now I have to wear a sports bra and so The Foob is riding around kinda loose in there, rather than having his own little compartment. This isn’t that big of a deal, except when we’re walking at the Y and I’ve got on a tank top. As we walk, The Foob likes to creep up and try to peek out. “I want to zee where we are going” he says in that annoying fake, French accent. “Get back in there, we’re just going around the track,” I tell him. But he’s quite persistent. “No! I want to zee where we are going. Bezides, it is zweatty in here, and I need to breathe zee fresh air.” I poke him back down. “We’re at the Y—there IS no fresh air! Don’t make me pin you in place next time!” The Foob laughs, “You cannot pin me—I am zee zilicone model.”

I am SO ready to be reconstructed.

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.


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.


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.

Carol Brady

I know there are probably some of you who are a little upset right now. You were anticipating that last Saturday, amid much fanfare, the Foobhog would emerge to look for his shadow. I tried to wake the Foob up early to take advantage of the first rays of morning sun. However, the Foob is not a morning person. Not at all. In fact, the Foob refused to budge, mumbled something unintelligible, and pulled the covers up over his head. In my most soothing voice I attempted to coax him out, “But Foobster,” I implored, “your fans are waiting! I’m getting comments on the message board, and emails asking for you. People are suffering in your absence. Please come out and look for your shadow.” The Foob, perturbed by my persistence, threw off the covers and said in his snotty French accent, “Zilly woman! Zee Foob does not awake before 9 AM! Because you are zo inzensitive to wake me up zis early, I will not go to see zee zhadow! Now be gone!”


Today is my surgery day. The good news is that when I talked to the lady from the surgery center, she told me that I could indeed eat breakfast. Not dry toast, but a real breakfast. Woo hoo! This is almost as exciting as when Dr Haerr told me I could wear deodorant! Of course, I had to do this at 6 AM. Which meant I got up about 5:40 to cook myself some bacon & muffins. The other good news is that both tea AND coffee are considered clear liquids, as long as the coffee is black. So, I’m drinking my usual quota of coffee, and plan to make some sweet tea to take with me to drink until my 11 AM beverage curfew.


I had Tabytha trim my hair again. Now I’m sporting the Modified Carol Brady ‘do. Remember when she had the cut that was shorter on top and sides, and then kind of longer and wispy in the back? Well, that’s sort of what I’ve got going on, except her hair was blonde and straight, and longer, and mine is brown and naturally curly, and shorter. So, in essence, it’s the same, and yet completely different.


Dry Toast

My surgery is scheduled for 4PM next Tuesday, and will be preceded by the dreaded wire localization, which is by far the worst thing I’ve had done over the past year. Really. The procedure is used to locate what the doctor needs to remove when it’s something too small to be felt. It involves first sticking a needle in the breast to inject numbing medicine. That hurts, but it’s necessary because the next step is injecting dye into the spot to be removed. The dye is very painful. And this is all guided by ultrasound, so the ultrasound wand is also being pressed into the area in question at the same time. But wait, there’s more…after that, a wire is inserted through the needle (does that give you any idea how freakin’ big the needle is?) and hooked into the spot. The other end is flopping around on the outside like a CB antenna. Anybody remember the theme from Convoy? (“Now we’ve got a great big convoy, rockin’ through the night…”) They tape the wire down and just about the time you think you’re done they lead you to the mammogram machine.

I’m no weenie, but this was traumatic enough for me that I A) had to lay down for a while because I was literally about to fall out, and B) had a meltdown immediately upon leaving the place to check in for surgery. Needless to say, I’m NOT looking forward to doing this again.

To make the potential for meltdown even worse, I am not allowed to eat all day. Pam, at Dr Schmidt’s office, told me I could have a piece of dry toast at 7AM. The question is…why would I want to? A piece of dry toast would not pacify my stomach. In fact, I’m pretty sure that it would only make it angry. I’m allowed to have clear liquids up until 11:30, though, which is some consolation, because I’m pretty sure iced tea is a clear liquid. If you disagree, I don’t want to hear it.


I had a follow-up with Dr Haerr yesterday. I started to tell him about the upcoming surgery and he already knew. He thought maybe Dr B had sent him a note, but I told him I wasn’t sure that Dr B even knew about it yet. Dr H looked through my chart, and wondered aloud how he knew that. Then he said, “Did you put that in your blog?” I just started laughing. Actually, Dr Haerr has never visited my blog, but Kelly the radiation therapist does, so in spite of the fact that she blew off the email I sent her, she’s evidently filled him in. (Yeah, Kelly, I’m talkin’ about you.)