No it’s not breast augmentation!

I realize that I do not write nearly as much as I did before. I do love writing but I have now returned to work full time and trying to maintain my healthy lifestyle is so exhausting. Also I have decided to start my own business. Doing all of this while trying to still have a life and doing the things I enjoy is close to impossible. I generally don’t get enough sleep anymore. For me not enough sleep means less than 8-9 hours. Well, I will have lots of time to sleep soon enough … I am having reconstructive surgery in 10 days.

I am a little anxious about the 3-4 hour surgery as it’s longer than the mastectomy (90 mins) and I am in the hospital overnight. Then there is the 3-6 week recovery depending on how things go. I will be off of work for 6 weeks which at least is now in the summer so I can go for walks, sit on the balcony etc. Recovering in the winter would be depressing … Netflix binge watching!

It’s the latissimus dorsi flap, but muscle sparing breast reconstruction. A strip of my lat muscle will be moved around to the front under my chest and reattached. Then a tissue expander will be put in so that my skin can be stretched. Stretching the skin … that just sounds painful but it is what it is. Once that is done, there is the second surgery 3 months later to take out the expander and put in an implant so by Christmas everything will be done. It’s an elective surgery that I chose to have. I know some women opt to forego the reconstruction but I want to be able to wear a normal bra with no more prosthesis, wear my normal clothes again and just feel closer to myself.

So this is nothing like breast augmentation, actually part 2 is closer to being like just getting an implant but this is a 6 month process … Surgery part 1, stretching the skin, surgery part 2. A lot of people assume that it’s just like getting implants and it’s far from that. Because I have radiated skin the flap needs to be created using my lat muscle. Then, aside from the obvious where I have no breast – no breast tissue, no nipple, there’s also an emotional component that people forget about. Oh and did I mention that a nipple has to be created! The last part of the process but still a part nonetheless. This is all still part of the breast cancer treatment plan.  Being back in the hospital, doing rehab and physio, being off of work to recover … it all brings back memories of the last (close to) 3 years. Wow, it’s been almost 3 years since my diagnosis!! 2 years and 3 months in remission 🙂

I just want the surgery to be over, I will be relieved once it is done. My left side may look like the bride of frankenstein after but at this point I really don’t care.

 

Lymphatic Cording

Does the post op trauma never end?! It’s been just over a year since I had surgery and my arm and shoulder have had issues on and off ever since. Recently these issues have gotten worse. I’ve been dealing with FROZEN SHOULDER for the past few months. I’m still going to physiotherapy and massage therapy. It’s getting better but it’s a slow process. Last week I noticed pain in my wrist area, which progressed and when I straighten my arm there is pain from the axilla all the down my arm to my wrist. This happened several months ago and resolved in a few weeks with stretching. It’s now come back and seems to be a bit worse than the last time. My forearm is swollen and in pain. It seems to be from LYMPHATIC CORDING or AXILLARY WEB SYNDROME. The below explains a little bit about what it is.

“Axillary web syndrome (AWS), also known as cording, sometimes develops as a side effect of sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) or axillary lymph node dissection (ALND). Both procedures involve removing just a few (SLNB) or many (ALND) of the axillary, or underarm, lymph nodes. Most people with breast cancer need to have at least one of these surgeries. Scar tissue from surgery to the chest area to remove the cancer itself also can contribute to cording.

If you develop axillary web syndrome, you’ll often be able to see and/or feel a web of thick, ropelike structures under the skin of your inner arm. Lymphedema therapists often call these “cords.” (In some cases, you may not see or feel the cords, but sensations of pain and tightness will tell you they are there.) You may first notice them when you’re doing something that involves raising your arm to shoulder level or above your head. If it happens, cording typically occurs anywhere from several days to several weeks after your surgery, although there have been individual cases where it appears many months later.” – breastcancer.org

I’m trying to exercise 3-5 times a week but when in pain with arm/shoulder issues it can make it very difficult. I’ll try to continue my modified workouts and hopefully at some point things will get back to normal or should I say my new normal.

All of this is exhausting. Every time I start to feel better and feel like I’m making progress something else happens. If it’s not one thing it’s another. Since November I’ve been sick (cold/flu) every few weeks. Each time I get sick it takes me forever to get better so then it feels like 1 step forward 2 steps back. On top of all that, the emotional effects of everything are also there to deal with. SIGH … Right now I feel drained. Part of that is because I’m physically really tired. Didn’t get enough sleep last night. That never helps.

At the end of the day, I’m still here living my life and I’m happy! 🙂
Looking forward to dinner with a friend tomorrow and also excited planning my trip to EUROPE in August. London Paris Milan Rome and Florence! Can’t wait!!

Is PLASTIC the New Beautiful?

Before I start, I just want to say that I have insomnia. A lovely withdrawal symptom of one of the drugs I was on. I’m weaning myself off of this drug and it’s been terrible! Insomnia and nausea are the withdrawal symptoms I’m experiencing, which is brutal while being sick with the stomach flu! Oh well, it will pass eventually so moving on …

Within the Hollywood community it seems to be the norm to have had some sort of plastic surgery. I saw an old picture of Halle Berry (who I love and was already beautiful) but couldn’t believe how different she looked. You could tell it was her because certain things were the same but it was the whole Michael Jackson (who I also love) let me shrink my nose deal. Then there is Kim Kardashian who was already very pretty but lately started looking a little weird to me, as if her nose got smaller and slightly thinner. What’s up with that?! Now I get that these women are in the limelight and a big part of their fame is their beauty but how is it that old Hollywood actresses looked stunning without all that plastic surgery? Have our ideas on beauty changed? Is PLASTIC the new Beautiful??

With today’s average woman (who can afford it), it seems to be commonplace to have had breast implants, nose jobs, eyelid lifts etc. This is very sad. We have become a society so obsessed with superficial beauty that women (and some men) will go to great lengths to attain that look which they and society deem to be beautiful. Yes there are some some women with bigger breasts, some with smaller noses and some with bigger butts, but whatever each of us has, I think we all have something. The issue is that what some of us have is great intelligence or talent, instead of physical beauty. So yes some are physically more attractive than others but there are also some that are more intelligent than others. Intelligence doesn’t seem to get the same attention that physical appearance does and in some realms almost devalued. Why is there so much focus on the superficial? Maybe it’s that there are ways to change things physically but not intellectually? Hmmm I don’t know about that. While some are smarter than others I think there are a lot of people who could further their mental/intellectual capacity if they focused their energy on education and learning (I don’t necessarily mean formal education) instead of what some celeb is wearing or doing. Especially the younger generation who is part of the new “instant everything” generation. The generation that texts more, talks on the phone less, has far less social face to face interaction and is exposed to so much more of everyone online, on tv, and in magazines looking perfect. What that must do to one’s self esteem. Thank god I was born in the early 70s! Dodged a bullet there.

When women who are already beautiful feel the need to have surgery to change their appearance, what does that do for the average woman. Having average sized breasts seems to be rare in certain communities. An average sized nose is probably considered big. Looking less than perfect is not being up to par. Good lord how is the average woman supposed to manage looking perfect all the time??? Oh and she’s still supposed to feel good about herself?! Now add Breast cancer on to that. You lose your hair, eyebrows and eyelashes. Then your breasts are either distorted or completely removed and you’re left with one or no breasts. Traumatizing!!! Believe me I know, I have one Breast at the moment. I somehow managed to come out still feeling pretty good about myself. It wasn’t easy, I have quite a few battle scars but I feel emotionally stronger each day and see myself slowly getting back to who I am. This I am so grateful for.

So this whole fake plastic phenomenon … is it the women feeding into this or the men driving it, a combination of both??? I really don’t know. I do know that there are those women who do feel good about themselves and are happy with who they are. They’re confident, self assured and don’t let society define who they should be or what they should look like. Those are the women we should aspire to be. Where BRILLIANCE or BRAINS or TALENT and INNER BEAUTY is the new Beautiful!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t appreciate someone’s beauty/physical appearance but our physical appearance should not become the priority in our lives. We should absolutely take care of ourselves and take pride in our appearance but not let it take over. So always LOOK YOUR BEST, DO YOUR BEST and BE THE BEST PERSON YOU.

Quote I read recently: “There is an industry making money out of making people feel inadequate.”

In Vegas Surrounded by Fake Boobs!

It’s early Tuesday morning and I’m on my way back from a weekend in Vegas. It was a great weekend! My cousins birthday. We flew in from different cities and met in Las Vegas to celebrate. Got there Friday afternoon and I was exhausted since I had the longest flight and biggest time difference. Not to mention that I’m recovering from treatment and getting over a cold. We were having so much fun the Friday night, that by the time we went to bed I was up for over 24 hours!! I should have left a few hours earlier and just gone to bed. I was beyond exhausted but part of me wanted to still be part of the festivities. Well the next day I pretty much slept the entire afternoon. What was I thinking?!?! Oh well it was Vegas and YOLO! (You only live once).

The party continued and on Sunday we had a cabana by the pool. My cousin and I were getting ready, putting on our swim wear. Her in a bikini and me in a bikini but wearing a cover up on top. Wearing a swim suit with one breast isn’t easy. I mean, I’m over the emotional part and it’s no longer traumatizing to look at myself but I’d still like to feel somewhat normal in public. No one wants to advertise that they’ve had a mastectomy. So I bought a padded bikini top from Victoria’s Secret and it’s OK. From far you can’t tell and although it’s not flat (because of the padding the cup holds it’s shape), there’s no cleavage on the left side. I honestly didn’t even care. I’m at the point where it is what it is and if someone if close enough and notices … oh well. I do however notice my cousins breasts and they look BIG! For a split second it makes me feel self conscious but then in an instant I’m over it. I thought ‘were her breasts always that big??’. I guess they were. I probably didn’t notice before because I wasn’t paying attention but now I’m staring at everyone’s breasts haha. Oh and I haven’t seen her in a bikini in several years. Maybe she just gained a bit of weight. Whatever, no big deal. I’ve somehow become very comfortable in my skin, when only 9 months ago I felt like an alien …

We are now going down to the pool and in the elevator my cousin says “I had surgery”. Being the clueless chemo brain fog girl that I’ve turned into I respond with “you got a breast reduction?”. She says “no I got implants”. Implants?! Omg!!! I think I said breast reduction because I cannot imagine having any sort of surgery unless it was necessary! And then I felt dumb for thinking she’d have her breasts reduced when she wanted that D cup! Wow!! At least I wasn’t imagining things when I thought her breasts looked big. I don’t even remember what I said after that. I think I was in shock and speechless. Especially since I have one breast and just went through hell.

We now get to the cabana where the rest of my peeps are. I’m hungry, thirsty and have a headache. I generally don’t drink but did have a few drinks the night before. It’s VEGAS! My other cousin said she had some Advil in her room. Her breasts btw also looked HUGE. Again it’s probably just me staring at everyone’s breasts. We went up to get the Advil and on the way back down she says “don’t tell anyone but I got breast implants”. WTF is going on?! Both of them tell me within an hour of each other and neither knows about the other one. I feel like I’m in bizarro world. Again I think I felt stunned and didn’t know how to respond. This cousin is a physician and went on to tell me they put the implants under her pecs and that’s the better way to put them in. I will ask about that at my next appt. with plastic surgeon.

Note: alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer. I don’t remember the exact amounts and by how much your risk increases. Will follow up with that info later.

Now back at the pool I relax for awhile. Order some food and then lay in the sun for a very short while. Afterwards I get into the pool. The water is warm and feels great!! The weather was perfect. I swim to the edge where my cousin and her friend are sitting, only to find out that the friend also has implants. I thought she might have as well. She’s super thin with decent size breasts. Our breasts are made up of a lot of fatty tissue and she has no fat on her … Hmmmm. The fake breasts did cross my mind but I didn’t think much of it, but apparently I should have!

I couldn’t believe that all three women I was with had implants. I’d like to know why they made that decision. I know I never would if I didn’t have a mastectomy. Maybe there environment, living in LA ANC Dallas … I really don’t know. That was crazy!! Between the four of us, there was only one real boob. How crazy is that?! That’s Vegas for you!

Don’t know how to deal with all the punches

I just had surgery yesterday morning. Left breast mastectomy and axillary nodes removed. I’m sore but can still move my arm pretty well. The emotional part seems to be harder than the physical. I’m worn down from months of chemo, moving in with my parents, having been in a stressful relationship which ended the month before being diagnosed and realizing that I will never have my own children. Oh and also just dealing with having breast cancer and wondering what the future holds.

Looking at myself in the mirror was hard today. Just seeing part of me that I had for so long cut off. I know it had to be done but the reality is sinking in now. I am relieved that the surgery is over but now just dealing with the loss of my left breast and trying to recover. I feel like an alien with no hair, sparse eyebrows, very little eyelashes and one boob.

I am also exhausted because being in my parents home it’s difficult to sleep. They wake up and talk in their normal voice which is not quiet. I’m a light sleeper and wake up and then cannot go back to sleep because all I hear is noise downstairs. I was so frustrated and overwhelmed that I had a meltdown today. Then I started getting hives on my face. I don’t know how to deal with everything that’s happening. I feel like I’m swimming in the ocean, trying to get to the shore but the waves keep pulling me back out to sea. I’m swimming against the tide and the more I swim the more tired I become. I don’t know what to do anymore … Someone else wrote on their blog that breast cancer is not all pink and fluffy, it feels like everything just turned black. That’s exactly how I feel. I may have started off a little pink and fluffy but then when reality set in and I had processed things it really did feel like I was swimming in the black ocean unable to see the shore.

It’s difficult to see people all happy with their children, especially young children, knowing that I will never have that. (Not my own anyways). I’m trying really hard to just be grateful that I’m alive and to just be happy to stay alive but when people talk about their kids and are showing you endless pictures, it’s very difficult to know that you will never have that. I thought I had accepted it and thought I was ok with it. Today I realized that I’m not. I wish I was one of those people that didn’t want children. Instead that’s all I’ve wanted for the last few years, making this all the more difficult. Well such is life UNFAIR but you play the hand you’re dealt.

So I’ve been thrown into the black ocean and I’m not sure how to get to shore … I’m a little closer than I was before but today a huge wave came and pulled me under. I came back up eventually but felt like I was drowning for a minute. I’ll start swimming again but I’m tired. At times I feel like I can’t swim anymore. I need a raft, a small something, anything that’s floating so that I can find some reprieve.

I need sleep. That will make things a lot better. Lack of sleep day after surgery is very bad. Lack of sleep at any time is bad. Going to try earplugs. Fingers crossed.

Rough couple of days

Since sat night I’ve been feeling like crap. Pain, fever, mouth sores, and exhaustion. Have been more or less bed ridden. Only getting up when I have to. HORRIBLE! Then my mother left me alone for 3 hours for something which wasn’t an emergency which just emotionally made me feel worse. I’m already so emotional and vulnerable and depressed half the time I just can’t handle much more. Everything feels so much bigger than it is!

Was again thinking about my choices and they were not all bad however if I could do it again a lot of things would be different. I still feel that I could have made much better choices with men and friends. I also think I would have made different choices with my career. That part is still somewhat unclear to me. The men and friends I have complete clarity all of a sudden but career is still in a bit of a fog. I guess I’ll figure it out.

Surgery has also now changed. New date is dec 19th. Mastectomy and lymph node removal of left side only. The reconstruction will be done after radiation. I actually feel much more comfortable this way. This was based on the opinion of the surgeon doing the mastectomy. Final decision was mine but I was not 100% on doing implants before radiation so feel better this way. My oncologist also did not want to wait 6 weeks for surgery. This way we are waiting 3 weeks and a day. I feel far more comfortable doing things this way and really the reconstruction is the least important thing to me. It will get done after everything else.

Today a friend texted (she doesn’t know the details of what’s going on with me) but she told me that her ex who I know she still loved died of liver cancer. Ugh. Not what I wanted to hear right now but that’s life. She mentioned 2 months ago that he had a couple of weeks to live … I guess he really did. I thought he would outlive the timeline they gave him. Scary. If I had a timeline I don’t think I’d want to know. It would mess with my head too much. Anyhow I felt sad for her and gave her my condolences. We will talk in a few months when I’m closer to the end of my treatment and she’s had some time alone to deal with things. That’s what she wanted, time alone. I can then tell her what’s been going on and at least at that point things will be closer to the end of treatment and more positive for me.