mailchimp

Sep 9, 2009

having a night where i could really use a hug...

I am tired of breast cancer. I know things could be worse. I admit that I have been remarkably blessed throughout this ordeal. But it is an ordeal. And I'm tired tonight.

Sick of aches and pains. Sick of wondering what I did wrong this time. Sick of trying to guess whether something is a major problem or a minor issue. Just tired. So really tired.

I've been thinking a lot about what I've learned along this journey. My line when asked, is that I've learned to be softer and kinder to myself and to be more relaxed. I have actually learned a lot of things. One thing I have learned is to be a bit more bold and a little less concerned with other people. I don't mean that I have learned to be a jerk (or maybe a bigger jerk). But I mean, I have learned that sometimes it is okay to think about what Nicole wants first.

I'm in a sour mood right now. I'm hoping it will pass soon but right now... I'm a little down. I had a wonderful weekend. I laughed until I cried so many times. So many times. I acted a pure fool and it was good. But the after effects of the flight home are really dragging me down.

My body is swollen and a little achy. My toe that was simply throbbing and tender last night... got much worse today. At one point, I looked down at my feet as I was walking through the office and realized that my toe was bleeding and it wasn't my imagination that it was hurting. I was stunned. A week ago, I was getting ready for a holiday weekend of fun. A week later, I'm at work wondering whether or not this issue was simple enough that a bandaid would be sufficient or if it rose to the level that I needed to alert the medical team about my latest little dilemma.

I called the oncologist's office and tried to speak to a nurse. That turned out to be a big deal. Having an infected toe is a cause for alarm -- but only a little alarm. It wasn't alarming enough for my oncology team to care. They suggested that my primary doctor would be a greater help. So... I decided that I didn't need to incur another bill... so I took myself to CVS and pick up some hydrogen peroxide, some neosporin and some bandages.

I felt better when I got back to the office with my supplies and worked on my toe problem. My limp was still there but I was still scooting around the office. No one really noticed and that's good. Right now, the pain is about a 2 or a 3, which is a good thing.

I have chemo next week and I'm already feeling a little anxious about it. I am coming to the end of my treatment. Its a blessing...but it scares me. So many things can go wrong and I don't know whether its a good thing or something to be worried about. However, I have to keep pressing on. I can't stay in the negative space.

I'm rambling... which means my ambien has kicked in and its timed for bed. I need a hug, a good hug. But I also realize that sometimes you have to make do with what you have. Or in my case, don't have.

Sep 8, 2009

Wonderful weekend...but feeling a little swollen and a little frustrated


I decided to go to Houston for the weekend and it was a good move. I had a wonderful time and definitely found Houston to be a really enjoyable city. I didn't do everything I had planned but I enjoyed everything that I did. It was great.

However, I'm having some swelling issues that I had not really anticipated and I'm not exactly sure how to handle it. My ankles and feet, and also my left arm are really swollen and puffy. I read that breast cancer patients should wear compression sleeves when going on long flights but (of course) I didn't do that and now I'm a bit concerned. Because of a mix-up, I didn't get to come right home after the flight and lay down as I planned. I did get to lay down within a few hours but I'm not sure if that was enough. I know that I need to elevate my feet and my arm to help facilitate the movement of fluid in my body.

I had a pedicure last week before I left on my trip and now my toe is starting to hurt -- thanks to the swelling. I don't know. Its all very weird and strange...and scary. If I can't get this under control by tomorrow, I guess I'll be spending a little time at the emergency room.

I have to figure it out because in the month of October, I am planning to travel out of town by plane three different weekends. I don't want to cancel because I'm having issues. I want to go to all three events.

I will keep you posted about how I handle the swollen toe/foot/ankle/arm.

.....

I have been trying to figure out how to deal with (and discuss) an issue that I've had for a few weeks/months now. Honestly, I think that all I can do is to put it out there and see if this too helps somebody out.

Right out front... I am SOOOOOOO sexually um, frustrated?! Not sure if that's the best descriptor but some of my elder relatives follow the blog and I don't want to embarrass them (or myself) anymore than necessary. Boyfriends (and husbands too I suspect but I don't have one, so I don't know for sure) are useful for more than just a drinks, dinner and movies. I don't have one of those anymore. And while I didn't have much (okay, any) sex drive during the early days of my treatment... it is certainly coming back strongly now. And I'm all alone.


That presents a challenge for me. There are a lot of factors at play right now -- I am really single; my desire for dating ebbs & flows; I am still wavering about sharing my body with someone in its current state; and on and on.

Let me start with...yes, I can and do help myself to myself. But that's not the same thing and it doesn't satisfy the deeper yearning I'm trying to balance. In my reading, I've learned that it is not uncommon to lose sexual interest during treatment. And it is expected that your libido returns once you're beyond the harshest chemo treatments and all that. So, in that regard, Nic is right on time for what she's experiencing.

However, I have to say that feeling this way with no outlet is really making things interesting. I'm going to keep it really real... I know that I am coming into a season where my sexual energy is going to be really high. I just turned 40 and I've been looking forward to this for many years. (laughs) But, the challenge of trying to figure out how, who, and whether or not to try to resurrect (or create) a sex life is overwhelming just a bit.

Lately, I find myself practically drooling at cute men every where I go. Its ridiculous. On the subway on my way to work, when I walk out of my building to go to lunch, walking through the mall... shoot, I found myself staring intently at this asian brother in the Detroit airport the other day. Part of it was that he was cute, and he had an afro...but another part of it was that I had a moment where I simply drooled over his attractiveness. And that happens so many times a day that I am starting to be concerned.

Truthfully, sex with anyone in the DC metro area sort of scares me because our HIV rate is really high. And I know that a lot of folks don't believe in getting tested and consistently practicing safe sex. But even if I go outside of my area, that part of the challenge still exists. So, I am trying to convince myself that maybe celibacy is the way to go.

Gag.

I know all of my friends who are practicing celibacy are sitting there saying..."come on over to the other side, its not that bad". But sheesh... I don't want to. (laughs) We will see what happens soon enough. My guess is that it will continue because I'm just not going to give it away... so I have to wait until someone shows up and then shows himself to be worthy of that type of connection.

Ugh. This is annoying, embarrassing, frustrating and so on.

The other "side effect" of my hormone treatment (tamoxifen) is that I am gaining weight. I think I'm gaining like 3 pounds a week or something. It is NOT cute. I mean, I am still adorable (laughs) but this chunkiness is messing with my swagger, my style. It is hard to feel sexy and attractive, with all this going on in my head. I don't know what to do but I will have to bring it up to Dr. S when I see him again. Because this is getting ridiculous.

My energy level is better, but still not great. I've been told (not by any doctors mind you) that I just need to get back to exercising. Maybe weight training. I'm going to look into it this week. I have to do something different and soon. Because I cannot get fat -- I can't afford new clothes.

According to the breast cancer site (www.breastcancer.org), weight training will help me. So, I'm going to look into that very soon.

Gotta run...feeling the ambien kicking in. Plus I'm tired and a little frustrated tonight. Not sure if I will be able to make all the trips I have planned in October. And I really really want to go...especially Las Vegas for the blogging conference.

PS. If you know any beautiful, single brothers who might make a good catch (single, single, single) please feel free to introduce us. I'm a bit of a challenge right now, but I'm adorable and somewhat smart. I can be a good girlfriend. :)

Sep 2, 2009

All over the place…




I am mentally all over the map these days. I realized this morning that I haven’t read anything breast cancer related (not including articles on the internet) in a little while. A few days, maybe even a few weeks. That’s pretty major for me.

My weight is picking up which is both good and bad. Good because my appetite has certainly improved. Bad, because my appetite has certainly improved. (smile) One of the nurses told me recently that the weight gain was due to the drugs I’m taking. The herceptin is significantly reducing my estrogen production in my body and along with that for some people, comes weight gain.

Oh joy!

Considering how little I ate during the early chemo days, I’m excited and happy that I am able to eat whatever I want, whenever I want now. But, I am starting to realize that I do not want to change my diet – even though I know that it would be good for me and better for my cancer. I have been dragging my feet about doing the detox my friend shared with me, and also about eliminating meat, sugar and refined flour from my diet. I do little things, here and there but I haven’t made that all sweeping change yet.

It is a little scary to think about changing everything I know not knowing whether it will truly guarantee me more years of living or not. I still have the “Nicole-math equation” rattling around in my head. You know… 30 to the 40th power divided by 5 = ??? How long do I really have left with this beautiful life?

The breakdown: 30, represents the percentage that my doctor told me that it’s likely my cancer will return. 40 represents my age. 5 represents the magical 5 cancer-free years that I’m hoping to reach once all of this treatment is done.

Since I am no math major (in fact, I was a lousy math student) I have no idea whether my equation makes any sense to anyone besides myself. But it is rattling around in my head, causing me to make crazy decisions and leaps of faith that I normally might not do. Like… deciding, un-deciding, and then finally deciding to go away this weekend. Or, asking a friend on a whim if I can visit him and ending the conversation with the cancellation of one trip and the unexpected addition of a separate trip. In the span of about 6 hours, I went from thinking about taking one trip this weekend, and one trip in October… to buying a ticket to Texas for day after tomorrow, cancelling my tentative trip to Atlanta and instead rolling out to Vegas for something entirely different. Plus a little get-away to Baltimore squeezed in the middle.

Normally, I would have found lots of reasons to talk myself out of all of these excursions. But, yesterday I had a brief conversation with someone about my decision to cancel the trip I’m taking this weekend…she reminded me that in order to have the life I keep saying I want to live, I have to actually live it.

Profound, right? (laughs)

Breast cancer has made me rigidly self-conscious and a little shy. Neither of which are natural states of personality for me. I am wearing my brain out over-thinking every detail of my life because I am so anxious that I may make the wrong step and bam! I’m back in somebody’s hospital wishing I had just been more careful.

Who am I fooling? I am not this scary girl. I’ve been her for a little while and it’s gotten comfortable here but really, I’m that girl that everybody always wants to laugh with, joke with and have a drink or a meal with. I am THAT girl with the bright eyes and winning smile who makes people comfortable because she’s just so comfortable. I am a little annoyed that breast cancer has made me the girl who looks over her shoulder; under the bed and then wishes she had a flashlight – before she even walks down the hallway to her own bathroom. All of the admonitions to take care of myself now – wear a compression sleeve if you travel, don’t allow any injuries to your arm to protect against lymphedema, sunscreen and bug repellant, no chemicals in your hair or on your skin, blah blah blah – are ruining my easy-going nature.

At any rate…I’m going away for the weekend to celebrate my cousin’s birthday and to see what Houston has to offer a single girl from Maryland in terms of fun and laughter. And next month, I’m going to Vegas to participate in a conference about blogging that should be eye-opening and inspiring and I’m taking a friend with me… just because he was open to the experience. I hope that come November, when I’m lying in bed recuperating from my surgery...I hope that these memories will sustain my joy and keep me focused on the living part of life.

Aug 29, 2009

Cancer really makes me sick.

Cancer really makes me sick.


I was going to write a funny post about the possibility of waking up from surgery without a belly button (yeah, I know, right?) but just as I was working it around in my mind... I read the most heart-breaking email and I got good and angry.

The nephew of one of the women in my email group sent a message about his recent surgery. He had a tumor removed from his brain, and it turned out that the tumor was cancerous.

Right up the road from me at John Hopkins Hospital, there is a 6-year old little boy battling brain cancer.

SIX!

Teddy Kennedy just lost his battle with brain cancer and was lain to rest today. He was 77 years old. And while his death is a tragedy and I am sure that his struggle with cancer over the past year or so was hard... Ted Kennedy had the chance to live a very full and long life.

Meanwhile, a 6 year old baby is fighting for his life.

I HATE CANCER. I hate cancer. i hate cancer....


Where is the fairness? I know God is a healer and I am praying fervently for Elijah's full recovery but damn. Damn. I am absolutely stunned and stuck right now. Cancer really and truly makes me sick.

I just finished reading a really good novel, “The Living Blood” and one of the characters in the story was a 12 year old boy who had leukemia. The author (Tananarive Due) did an incredible job of describing his illness and how hard the struggle was for him to get through his treatments. Naturally, any discussion of cancer (real or imaginary) catches my attention and holds it for awhile.

The book I picked up yesterday morning to read is “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. This gentleman was a college professor who had terminal pancreatic cancer and decided to give a last lecture as a way of memorializing his career and to leave a visible legacy for his small children to see when they got older. I’ve only begun to read “The Last Lecture” and already I am humbled by the effort. Randy wanted his last message to the world to be one of hope for LIVING instead of a “how-to” book on dying. I found that so very commendable and it made me reflect on my blog and what perspective I am sharing with the world.


I hope that I am leaving a legacy of hope and persistence in my writings but a day like today, when you learn that a little child has to deal with something as devastating as brain cancer makes you wonder just how we manage to get through all the tough times that life throws our way. And that’s when I realized that cancer makes me sick. I’m not talking physical pain but just heart-wrenching, emotional anguish. I’m not typically a “why me” girl but I can’t help but wonder how much suffering will be enough?

I keep having thoughts and brief visions of my last visit to the cancer center. I tried very hard to really plug into the moment and focus on the details. Now that my physical pain is lessened and my emotional turmoil is quieter, I try to make sure to acknowledge within myself that each person there is an individual whose path crossed mine for a reason. But it is difficult when I look at some patients and they look like they are dying. As though they are fading from sight right before your eyes.

Every time I hear about someone losing a loved one to cancer, I wilt a little. After learning earlier this week that one of my sistagirls lost her mother to ovarian cancer (on my mother’s birthday no less), I had to really sit down with myself and think about death, dying and the possibility of a terminal cancer diagnosis down the line. I didn’t stay there long but I had to look at the possibility squarely and tell myself that if I ever hear those words, no matter what else happens… I am going to be okay.

Just like I know that little Elijah will be okay and I know that now Khadijah is okay as well. I suppose that no matter how long your life is, it always feels short in hindsight because you realize that there was so much more that you could do. If only you had just a little more time.

But all you have is what you have and none of us knows how long that will be.

Just before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I prayed to God and made a resolution in my mind that I wanted to live to see 100. Seems foolish now, my vain wish. Something like a child trying to out-scream a tornado. I have just as much time as God sees fit to give me, and not one second more. Death doesn’t frighten me, never has really, but it does make me wonder how history will swallow up my memory.

I think I could manage another 60 years. That’s enough time to forget all the foolish mistakes I have made as a young person and still enough time to venture out and see the world, learn new things, meet new people. But even if all I have is another 60 months or even 60 days... I hope that I leave behind a little more love than I accepted and a little more hope than is ultimately needed.

Cancer is a hard burden but its not impossible to deal with. Its just hard. At the end of the day, cancer or no cancer... Nicole is going to be okay. I just have to keep working at making sure all of my friends and family members know that I love them and its all going to work out in the end. No matter what that end is.

Aug 26, 2009

the last day at the cancer center...



Today was one patient's last treatment at the cancer center. Her last chemo drip. I didn't actually meet her but her name is Rachel. Seems that she and the guy sitting next to me built a fun camraderie during their treatments. They would "race" to see who could finish their chemo drips first. I think the race tickled the nurses more than it gave those two cancer patients something to look forward to.

I had to admit, as an outsider to their competition, it looked like fun. It was especially fun for me considering, I finished before both of them. (smile)

Rachel had her husband with her and Brian (my neighbor) had his mom with him. And I was alone. It has not bothered me for a long time to sit in chemo alone but today, I felt like I was missing something. But what really made me envious of Rachel was that she had CUPCAKES delivered to her today. Georgetown Cupcakes.

It was lovely. And quite funny because I had just mentioned to my neighbors that I was overdue for having cupcakes with my chemo. But it got me to thinking about my last day of chemo. I mean the last, last, LAST day. When there's no more herceptin, no more shots... nothing. Just follow-up visits every 6 months.

What's that day gonna be like? I think I may follow Rachel's pattern and have some yummy cupcakes delivered. But I'm not sure.

Watching my neighbor deal with his chemo was really difficult. He has lymphoma and it seems like he has had a rough road with it. Difficulty being diagnosed, delayed port implantation (he didn't get a port until they could no longer find his veins), trouble with the actual chemo drugs, no tastebuds...and on and on. His anxiety started from the moment he walked into the cancer center and from what I could tell, it was going to be a bumpy two weeks until he came back for his next (and his last) chemo drip.

It was so hard. He was a really nice guy and very friendly. The staff seemed to love him. Rachel and her husband seemed to have created a strong bond with him and his mom. But he was really in pain. Emotional and physical pain. And even though I was sitting right beside him with drugs going into my body the same way -- and for the same reason -- for some reason, I felt sadder for him than I did for myself. How is that even possible?

I felt badly for him. I was envious of Rachel. And I was perplexed because I know that the transition from going to the cancer center regularly to not going at all is going to be traumatic. The cancer center has become like a sanctuary for me. Its a safe place. Its the one place where I know that something is being done to help me get rid of this threat to my life. And I realized that its the one place where I don't worry about my cancer. I know its crazy but its true. I can turn over the worry to other people for the few hours that I'm at the cancer center. I can relax and be at peace...

I will be thinking of ways to ease myself into and through the transition. I expect it to be difficult but I have been through difficult things and come out okay. But I do think that cupcakes will be a part of that special celebration.

I may get some cupcakes this week... just to make myself smile a little and remember that its the little things that make life so sparkly and wonderful.

mmmm.... cupcakes. :)

Aug 25, 2009

Pink ribbon warrior? Me?




My mind is still circling, trying to figure out the meaning and purpose of all this. Before I was the one with the crisis, I looked to politics to provide me with hope for change necessary to move forward in the world. I was passionate about the collective power of voters and the abilities of our elected officials to bring change to the world. Now... it seems that even politics can't fix things. At least not in a timely fashion for millions of people.

One of the things that I told myself at the beginning of my cancer journey was that I was not going to become one of those women who constantly wore pink and always screamed about breast cancer. I just wanted to move past my personal issue and return to my life. Pick up the pieces that I’d left behind and pretty much act like my life wasn’t any different.

The problem with that type of thinking was that I had no idea how much different my life would become. And by default, how different I would become. I blame some of the difference in myself on my age. I am 40 now. But I know that the biggest agent of change has been the cancer.

I hated the thought that there was something within me that didn’t belong. I hated the thought that the something might eventually kill me. But what I’ve come to hate more is knowing that there are others… always others… coming right behind me who will have to experience all the negatives and all the pain of this experience. I feel that my pain should have been sufficient. But it is not. There is always another sister or brother experiencing this painful journey.

So, I write this blog and I talk about breast cancer. A lot. To anyone who asks. Even if they don’t ask. And I think about breast cancer every moment of every day. It is too much even for me sometimes…but this has become my life.

As I walked into my office this morning, running late and feeling slightly rushed, I realized that although few people may really love what they do, a lot of people enjoy the satisfaction of productive work. What’s different for each person is which work they find joy and fulfillment in. My day job is a good one. But it doesn’t bring me that deep satisfying joy that writing does. This blog has opened up possibilities that I would not have imagined a year ago. And while it does not pay any bills (yet), I could see how just the work of it could continue to bring me deep joy for a long time.

That revelation led me to accept that despite what I thought initially, I was becoming one of those pink ribbon warrior women. I’m slowly starting to realize that all of those women (and men) keep fighting because there’s always someone who cannot. The Susan G. Komen Foundation was started because one sister was left behind to fight when the other sister lost her battle with breast cancer. Team Heather – which has raised over $250,000 for breast cancer awareness – was started when a brother lost his younger sister to breast cancer. And so forth. Some of us fight because we’re happy that we can fight. And some of us fight because someone we love cannot fight any longer.

I am fighting because right now, I am still here and able to do so. My aunt Vinnie Lee is not. I fight for her. My aunt Sarah Alice is here. And I fight for her. I fight for the mothers of my friends who are fighting this cancer and other cancers. I fight for the sista-girl friends who are fighting this cancer. I fight because… tomorrow is chemo day and I have to keep fighting to stay alive.

Hug somebody you love today. And fight for their right to live cancer-free too.

I read a quote recently that made me smile:

When asked if her breasts were fake, she replied… “Why yes they are. The other ones were trying to kill me.”

Aug 20, 2009

ISO: deeper meaning to life

I knew that transitioning back to work would be a challenge. And I suspected that I would have to do lots of work to keep my mind straight and my emotions in check. However, I was not prepared to be facing an existential crisis.

I do not want to complain about my job or to seem ungrateful for it. I am truly blessed – really and truly blessed – to have this job with this company. My health benefits are outstanding and I do not know where I would be in the midst of my health crisis without them. My colleagues have been kind to me and I am grateful that I had a position to come back to. In light of the current economic situation in the nation, I know that I am lucky and privileged to be right where I am.

But I have to be honest when I say… “Is this it?” I get up early and make my way to my fabulous and shiny downtown office, to sit at my fabulous and shiny new desk… and spend the next 9 hours doing a variety of tasks – some mindless, others a little more challenging – only to head home to sleep to wake up and do it again.

My job does not save lives. My job does not happily entertain people and take their minds on a trip. My job basically makes other people’s jobs a little easier. And that isn’t a bad thing at all. But I’ve been wondering…

Not a day goes by – actually not an hour – when I don’t blink my eyes and see the cancer clinic around me. I think about the faces of all the people I have seen and made cautious friendships with over these past few months and I wonder. What about their lives? What happens after cancer?

The nurses, technicians, doctors and students all work toward healing sick people. But the sick people themselves… what do they ultimately work toward?

I was discussing my cancer-journey with a colleague yesterday afternoon. I was trying to explain to her that if I were faced with the notion that I would have to have cancer in my lifetime but given the option to choose when I had it – there isn’t much that I would change. Well, one thing. I would have had a child before now. But even that one thing doesn’t fill me with regret.

When I review all that I’ve been through – and I review it often in my mind – I would not change one thing about my treatment so far. Even in the hardest days – those early days of chemo, the times I ended up in the hospital because of neutropenia, or because I kept passing out – I would not change a thing. I would still cry all those tears and laugh every chance I could.

I would do it all again. Every step. I never thought I would feel this way about something so cruel. But this is how I feel. I would still start the relationship that ended halfway through my treatment. I would still go along with the radiation treatment that took an extra 2 months I had not planned to spend at GW Hospital. I would still have my mother call the ambulance the day I passed out in the kitchen, not once but twice. I would still talk to several surgeons before agreeing to relinquish my entire breast. I would still do everything I have done, to save my life from cancer. But after doing it all again – if I had it to again – I think I would still be asking… “is this it?”

So now, I am sitting at work wondering… is this all that there is to life? A million people everyday scurrying to work to do jobs they may or may not like, to earn money to live a life that they really never get to experience because they are so busy working. It’s tragic really.

Meanwhile, in hospitals across the world, people are in various stages of dying. Most are wishing for another chance to get their lives back. I was that way. I sat in that reclining chair in the cancer clinic, week after week, begging God to heal me so that I could get my life back. And now that I have it back… it seems, woefully insufficient to be here. Sitting at the pretty desk, in the pretty office… answering phones, typing letters, responding to inquiries, conducting research… meanwhile, I know that just 7 blocks from here… people are sitting in chairs hooked up to tubes that they are praying will save their lives.

Is this it?

Medicine is not my calling. I know that. I am squeamish at the sight of blood – even after seeing it pulled out of my body and forced into little tubes week after week. Dealing with sick people is a calling of the highest order because sick folks are not always kind. They are often cranky and rude because they don’t feel well and they are scared. And many are worried about how to pay for the treatment that they desperately need to save or salvage their lives.

But is this it?

Did I pray and beg and rush to get back to my life only to find out that my life is one of fake deadlines and false emergencies? It is difficult to get riled up and excited about deadlines when my mind constantly fades back to people dying of cancer. Dying while in treatment no less.

I don’t know. I just have a big question mark over my head right now. Is this it? Is the end goal just about how much stuff I can accumulate with my job? Can I keep up with the neighbors or my friends?

It seems so ridiculous that I want a purse that costs nearly $500. But I do. It seems so ridiculous that I want a new Jaguar – but I do. (I can’t afford it but I do want it) It seems so meaningless that I work with the mindset of buying this and that and nothing more.

Meanwhile, just a few blocks from my office… people are dying.

I cannot believe that this… is... it.

Aug 17, 2009

my second visit with the plastic surgeon


Well, I will say this... prayer changes things.

I went for a follow-up consultation with the plastic surgeon this morning. And although we've had some issues in the past -- unfriendly staff, missed appointments, etc. -- today's visit was actually quite pleasant.

As pleasant as could be expected when you're discussing major surgery and all of the risks that go along with it. To start, it seems that I will be having at least 2 more surgeries and two in-office procedures following that. The first of the two surgeries is very serious stuff. But that's the most exciting one because I will emerge with a new fabulous boobie!

The second surgery is less major but still serious... the reduction of my natural breast. Then there are the two procedures where I get a nipple and aereola.

sigh.

It is a lot to absorb. I wish I felt better about just having one breast. It would make the decision to have any of this done, simply moot. But I don't feel great with just one. And though I'm sure no one else in the world cares about it other than me, I care enough to go through some serious stuff to feel whole again.

The thought of all this surgery is frightening and overwhelming. For my reconstruction, I will be in the hospital for about a week. In the intensive care unit for at least 2 days... and that's hoping that nothing goes wrong and I don't have to go back into surgery for any corrections. That is frightening to consider but I will be okay. I know that I will.

What I learned today, that I did not know, was that they cannot do both the reconstruction and the reduction at the same time. That is a bummer. I was counting on coming out of this surgery complete. But once again, not going to happen. So, while my natural breast will remain an H cup, my new boobie will be (prayerfully) a DD cup.

That's a pretty drastic difference. (not as drastic as what I'm looking at now) And even at that size, the plastic surgeon seemed concerned that she could construct a breast that large.

(That large?? Considering that a DD cup is about half the size of my natural breasts, I am dumbfounded)

So, I will become less lopsided with my new boobie. And then after the second surgery I will be more even. I know already that there is no way that they can guarantee me that I will be perfectly even and symmetrical after the surgeries are done. It is still wishful thinking on my part. But I continue to wish and hope and pray for balance (pun intended) to get me through this whole ordeal.

Here is the thing... large breasts run in my family. I am related to lots of wonderful women with FABULOUS BOOBIES of all sizes but I learned to embrace my large breasts because so many women in my family have them. They are not unusual. Its just how some of us are built.

As much as its sometimes difficult for me to fully accept, I do understand that every woman isn't endowed with so much and some women truly wish that they were. I understand that -- I don't fully get it but then again I do. At least, I do now.

Just over a year ago (before any of this began) someone could have stopped me on the street and offered me a free breast reduction and I would have seriously considered it. I thought of my breasts (my fabulous boobies) as somewhat of an inconvenience and a nuisance. A part of me built to satisfy others more than myself. Fast forward a year and now I'm practically begging my surgeon to make me a boobie as large as she possibly can.

You never know what God has in store for you.

It probably sounds silly for me to feel this way about my boobies, but its true. It is difficult for me to picture myself with small breasts. Small-ER breasts, yes. I am coming to a place of understanding with that. But not small. Not A or B cup small. No. I cannot picture that for myself. Not with my body structure.

I mention that because when I discussed the size I wanted with the surgeon today she seemed surprised that I wanted to be as large as a DD. I don't think it initially occurred to her that I consider a DD to be rather... well, middle of the road size-wise. Not too big, not too small. Just juicy enough that I still feel like me but not so big that I still struggle to find lingerie that is both pretty and supportive. Her perspective is different from mine. And I think that it is that difference that I have to really work on.


When I think of how Nicole looks... big boobies aren't the entire picture but they are definitely a part of the landscape. My paternal grandmother was tall like me, and built like me (or rather, I am built like her). She was a beautiful mahogany brown with long, black hair cascading down her back. I didn't get her skin complexion or her hair... but I got her build. On my maternal side, my grandmother was petite but curvy with high cheekbones, thick eyebrows and a curvy shape. I missed the petite part (laughs) but the curves and the eyebrows... Yes!

When I look in the mirror, I see generations in me. I see both sides of my family tree in different body parts. My legs -- from my momma, my height -- from my daddy and so forth.There were two reasons why I hesitated to have a reduction done in the past. One, I was waiting until I had children so that I could breast feed my babies. But the send part was because I felt that these breasts were a part of my heritage, a part of who I am. I did not want to turn my back on that as though I wasn't appreciative of the gifts I had been given.

My mother and I have discussed big boobies, breast reductions and breast feeding for many years. (shrug... its what we do) My mom helped me to come to accept my breasts and learn to enjoy them, appreciate them. I guess now, I want to replace what I was given. When I think of me post-cancer treatments... I still want to resemble the me it took me nearly 40 years to fall in love with. That me had two tigolbitties... two fabulously large boobies and while they didn't define me, they certainly were a part of my distinctive landscape.

But, today's visit with Dr. L reassured me that I will come through all of this okay. I will feel more whole again with my new boobie. My sexy-meter will be off the charts -- what with my new tummy tuck and all.

-----

I have spoken with the plastic surgeon's office and have scheduled my surgery. I will be having my reconstruction done on November 11th. Say a prayer on that day. I would say send flowers but I will be in ICU for a few days and they don't allow flowers. So, save the flowers for about a week and then send them to my house!! (smile)

I know you think I'm joking, but I'm not. :)

Aug 14, 2009

frustration... changes...


I had a moment today at work when I felt like slapping somebody.

Seriously.

Someone asked me something really trivial and I lost it (in my head). In hindsight it was rather innocuous but at the time, it was close to setting me off.

sigh. (keep praying for me)

Honestly... it wasn't a big deal. Even though I felt put out in that moment, I was painfully aware that I was getting riled up over a very pitiful and small issue. But in my mind, that little thing quickly became something else. I felt almost violated, taken advantage of... something. And it really wasn't that serious. Not that you could tell that by the way I felt inside. I am embarassed to even think about it now.

I've been feeling "some kind of way" for a couple of days now. I don't know if its being back at work, the actual job, or something else but I'm not right. I'm close to the edge. I'm not happy. I am too emotional and its not a good thing.

Now that I am aware that my anger is out of balance, I know what to do to get it together. I've got to get back into the practice of regular meditation. Meditation really helped me in the past when I felt out of sorts with my moods.

sigh.

I've been studying this detox program that my friend shared with me and its making me a little crazy. One, its not well-written. Trying to clearly understand all of the directions is frustrating. Two, its going to cost a GRIP to buy all the food items necessary to do it. Maybe that's why I'm a little twisted inside -- I can't afford this. But I cannot afford not to try it either.

Being sick is really ridiculously expensive. My frustration grows every week when I realize that something else I need or want is expensive and I may not be able to afford to do it on an on-going basis. Its really tired.


I have read several things that claim that juicing fresh vegetables and fruit daily and incorporating lots of raw foods into the diet is the way to get your body into a healthier state. And while it makes sense, I realize more and more that food is expensive and I (like many other Americans) am not really in the best position to always afford the best food.

Its a tragic cycle. Poor people eat poor quality food because that is what is plentiful and affordable. But that poor quality food is horrible on the body. Insanity...

I really have to wonder...Is there a conspiracy at work here?

We live in one of the richest countries in the world yet I'm beginning to wonder whether our advancements could be killing us. Most of us live on a diet of genetically modified food, prepackaged products, food that is combined with chemicals to keep it shelf-stable, meat that is filled with hormones, steroids and antibiotics. Is this stuff really killing us slowly?

I don't know. During the past year, more than a few people have come to me with their conspiracy theories about cancer and its treatments. Primarily, the consensus has been that its a grand conspiracy between "big corporate", the government and the medical association... to keep many of us sick in order to make money from the treatment of our illnesses.

I think that's crazy and illogical. But there is something going on here that's not quite right. Just a few weeks ago there was a story in the news about a 10 year old girl with breast cancer. How utterly crazy is that? Something really isn't right... but what exactly are we talking about here? And will it be fixed by drinking beet juice every morning?



Also, I have to contemplate... what is the mind-body connection when it comes to disease? I read an excerpt from a book that asserts that it is our thoughts that contribute to our diseases. And some of these thoughts are passed to us genetically through generations. That what we hold in our minds as true and as possible really does come to pass.

That resonated with me and scared me because as I've said previously, one of my darkest fears for many years was that I would have breast cancer. Now that I'm here, I wonder whether I ate myself here, drank myself here, believed myself here or what.

I often replay (in my mind) a scene from Sex and the City where Samantha remarks that her "horrible" lifestyle is to be blamed for her cancer. I feel that way too. The connection to alcohol consumption, obesity etc. is not to be forgotten.

Which leads me back to where I was. Is this some grand scheme in which female empowerment, women's lib... has only served to leave me cracked and bruised? I truly do not know.

I do know that somehow I will try the detox program. I do know that from this point forward, I will work diligently to guard my thoughts and focus on my health -- rather than wonder about my illness.


All in all... as usual I have a lot on my mind. A lot to digest.

Is it really possible that my embrace of the "American way" -- complete with artificial food and negative thinking -- has led me to suffer from cancer? And... is it true (as the detox program suggests) that the way to wholeness and health isn't through western medicine, chemotherapy and radiation... but simply through eating a more natural diet?

If it really is that simple to cure cancer why hasn't it been done already? Which way is the right way? It seems that once again, no easy answers are out there. But I will continue to read and learn and hopefully grow.

Aug 13, 2009

feeling the burden of perfection

I returned to work full-time yesterday. I received a phone call on Monday evening from my disability services informing me that my oncologist had released me to return to work. I was unaware of that. So, I came into the office yesterday and hung out all day. By the end of the day I was tired, but not so badly that I couldn't make it home okay. And I crashed as soon as I got in the house.

I definitely am stronger now than I was a few weeks ago when I tried to return. But I do sense that it will still be a bit of a struggle to fully transition into work. Like right now, its still morning and I am wishing I was back in bed. Getting up early has never been a favorite thing to do.



I am feeling particularly burdened today. Partly attributable to a book that I'm reading (one of the characters is a little boy dying of leukemia -- ugh cancer strikes again) and partly attributable to the fear that I may not be able to handle all of the responsibilities that I have at work.

My work isn't particularly challenging on an intellectual level, but it does require a level of dexterity in dealing with a variety of personalities, shifting priorities and deadlines... all with a smile. If you know me, you're aware that I do not have a poker-face. Whatever I'm thinking or feeling shows up on my face. I don't "fake" very well. But, like everyone else in the world, sometimes you have to be what someone else needs you to be rather than what you may want to be. I do not have the luxury of not working. I have been really blessed and fortunate that I was able to be out on disability for as long as I was. But reality has struck and my bills are piling up in a serious way. I have to be ready for full-time work because my life requires my full-time pay. (and then some)

Its funny dealing with a major illness in a work environment. I am not the employee who tends to share a lot of personal business at the office. Usually because being the single, childless woman at work gives people the impression that you have no worries in your life. Rather than apologize for my life and my lifestyle, I stopped sharing who I was at work a long time ago. And it has worked for me for many years. But now I am being told that I have to share some sort of explanations about what I may be feeling in order to balance expectations in the office. At the same time, I am told that I should not feel burdened to share too much of my personal medical issues with my colleagues.

Seems like I am in the proverbial hard place. They want to know what they feel they need to know to understand what I'm dealing with (as it affects them) but they don't want to know too many details (I suppose to protect my privacy and probably to ease their minds too). The less you know, the less you're responsible for.

It will be a challenge to balance those two objectives. Tell them a little, but not too much. Try hard to be what they need, but not at the risk of my own health. Stay tuned in to what you need for yourself while balancing what they need at the office. And all so that you can keep getting that paycheck.

Sigh.

...and while I'm sighing... why is our new office right down the block from McDonalds? (laughs)

I was warned that transitioning back into my life could be difficult and emotional. Today I understand that acutely. Not sure who I can talk to about this though but I may need to work through my emotions surrounding this. I am terribly aware that my life is different, that I am different. I feel very burdened that I am not the me I used to be.

As frightening as it all was in the beginning -- going to the hospital every few days for this or that -- the routine of seeing people who were responsible for my care became a real comfort. They are very smart and well-trained people who know what to do to handle my illness. While its new to me, its not new to them. I rested easy because I felt like I was in good hands.

Now that the burden of care is falling back on my own shoulders, I'm afraid. I don't know what I'm doing. I have never cared for anyone with cancer (laughs). I have never had cancer before. I am unsure when I should push myself and when I should give myself a break. There's so much information out there -- I read no less than 5 articles every day about breast cancer -- and it all conflicts with each other. What I read on Monday will probably be refuted in another article two weeks later.

Its overwhelming at times. Its days like this when I am not happy with being single. Today is a day that a good bear hug would make me feel better. But that's not likely to happen. (shrug) So instead, I will bury my nose in this book and get caught up in the adventure of finding the "living blood" that may save the little boy from his blood cancer.

I wish somebody could save me.