Booby Trap

Before I jump into this blog entry, let me update you on the hair color situation.  I spoke with a few survivors and they all told me that they held off on coloring their hair for awhile for fear that it would turn out green.  Remember I mentioned that chemo re-growth hair can take dye strangely? Well, I certainly don’t want to make matters worse on my head, so I cancelled my appointment and will wait it out. Who knows, maybe it’ll start to come in darker after chemo is done. I’m done trying to guess what’s going to happen to me at this point — I’m just along for the ride and trying to navigate the bumps as best I can!

On to the actual blog post…

I met with my plastic surgeon on Monday.  He didn’t fill my expanders any further.  In fact, we are officially done filling them. Not because either one of us is completely satisfied with the size of my new boobs. But because filling them will only expand the tops of them where my tissue is getting thin. I used to be a big C/small D, now I’d guess I’m a B, maybe even a small B.  All in all, I’m generally happy with the where we are. At least they are relatively symmetrical and most of my surgical scars are hidden.

We spent the entire appointment discussing the type of permanent implant that I’ll get once I’m done with chemo.  He showed me three different “gummy bear” implants.  Gummy Bear implants are silicone-filled and are all the rage now because if they get punctured, nothing will leak. Their consistency is that of a gummy bear, hence the name 🙂

OK, moving on! One was a generation 4 model and was very squishy — I loved it.  It felt really natural (not that I really remember what real boobs feel like anymore). Gen 4 is the type of implant they use for breast augmentation.  They can use it for reconstruction, but it can be tricky because we don’t have much tissue or any fat to really hold the thing in place.  According to my doctor, the aesthetic of this squishy model can end up being far from desirable for recon patients.  Some of the draw backs for mastectomy patients are (1) you can have permanent rippling (usually around the edges of your boob) if your tissue is too thin (b/c this gummy has no structure on its own — it’s just a bag of fluid — so if your own body doesn’t hold it in place with a thick enough layer of tissue/muscle, you will be able to see the ripples in the bag), (2) it can look like a tennis ball sticking out from your chest (again, this gummy has no shape to it, it’s just round) and (3) if your tissue is weak, this gummy can spread out under your armpit pretty far, which really bothers some women.

The other two were generation 5.  Gen 5 are FDA approved as part of a study.  I guess the studies are based on the size of implant you’ll get. The size that I will need, just closed it’s latest study.  My doctor thinks that they’ll open a new one by the time of my swap out surgery (late June) and if they don’t, he said we have to push my surgery and I live with my expanders for awhile longer. FML.

Both of the Gen 5 models are tear-drop shaped. Which is good for mastectomy patients because it allows for a “natural” look when we don’t have any fat and little tissue.  Because they are shaped, they are less likely to ripple (ripple-free is still not a guarantee with these puppies, it’s just less likely because they are stiffer and more structured). Some drawbacks are that the Gen 5 won’t move at all and they’ll remain fairly firm to the touch. I mean, yes sure you can grab and squeeze them and they’ll move a bit and be smooshy. But they will still be pretty hard. Also, the Gen 5 are pretty thick, so it’s hard for your body to transmit heat through them. So most likely, my foobs (fake boobs) will be cool to the touch.  This strikes me as really odd and something that will really bother me. But, according to doctor Hong, this is very common with post-mastectomy patients and is hard to avoid — no matter which implant you pick.  I suppose there is a chance that my tissue and skin will do a fab job and this won’t happen to me.  Glass half full, right?!! Also, right now, I have a decent amount of sensation/feeling left in my chest. I’m not sure I’ll retain that after my swap-out — which is sad to me.

So, at the end of the day it sounds like my permanent implants are going to be a lot like my expanders — which doesn’t make me jump for joy that much.  The one thing that will be different and that I’m psyched for is the hard metal disc at the top of my foobs will be gone — so the perm implant has to be softer in that respect!  Dr. Hong and I talked about how some patients are actually sad after their swap out b/c they liked the look of their expanders more than then the perm implant. I’m betting he told me this story to help me set realistic expectations for what’s to come. Oy.

End of day: I trust Dr. Hong implicitly. He did a phenomenal job with my mastectomy scars and he continues to keep my best interests at heart (even when I don’t because vanity gets in my way). So, we will go with the Gen 5. He said he’ll do some minor nips and tucks that I’ll be happy with. For example, he is going to lipo that fat bit of skin right under my armpit. YES! Haha! No, in all seriousness, that part of my body was changed for ever after the mastectomy and it’s huge and bulgy now. I suspect it had something to do with pulling my pectoral muscles over and down to make my new boobs, but I’m no expert. So I’m glad he talked to me about the small little things he’ll be able to do to help me feel better about the final outcome.

Here are some photos of all the implants. The first pic is of all three implants. From left to right is the Gen 4, small Gen 5 and then big Gen 5. I’ll likely need the big Gen 5, but Dr. Hong won’t know until I’m on the table.  It will depend on scar tissue, how big a cavity the expanders made, how thin my tissue is and all sorts of other doctorly things. Oh the things I’ve learned in the past 7 months!

Inspiration Central

As I’ve mentioned countless times before, all of your messages — via in person, snail mail, phone, text, Facebook, IM etc, are doing wonders at keeping our spirits up! Thank you from the bottom of my heart — your notes fill me up and keep me going. Please keep ’em coming — it truly is my fuel.

If I have to be totally honest with you — you all get see the best side of me. I only sit down to blog when I’m feeling well, good and happy. I obviously have my shitty days where I’m in a lot of pain that is indescribable unless you’ve been there. So, I don’t want anyone out there to think cancer is a breeze. Nah, I just blog when all is good and try to keep it positive, because having a bad attitude won’t get me anywhere (though Paul has seen plenty of my bad; nee, sad, hurt, exasperated side late, late at night — those are the witching hours for me. Things get really tough and my body gets really tight overnight — which is no fun at all).

So I have two fun stories for you today, the first is from PT and the second is a story from a colleague and friend.

The first story took place at PT today.  I met a woman who was lucky enough to dodge not only the chemo bullet but also the Tamoxofin bullet (WTF? lucky duck!). I found myself feeling a little bit angry toward her (in a sort of — ‘you didn’t really have cancer then lady’ sort of way. How fucked up is that, I ask you?) — then I quickly got myself under control!

She said a few things that made me really, really proud. When we started talking she asked how far along I was. I replied “I’m 4 weeks post op and just had my second spacer fill yesterday.”  Then I was ushered off to start doing weight lifting (which is a HUGE graduation up from resistance bands, BTW — they already moved me to 2 pound weights! yippie!) OK, so back to the story, when asked if I could lie on my stomach to work with the weights, I said “No way — I can barely lie on my side with these spacers, no way can I be on my stomach.”

My new friend overheard this conversation and interjected, “I hate to tell you, but it will be that way the entire time you have spacers in.” Little did I know that she’d already had her permanent implants put in and didn’t have to suffer through chemo with spacers in the entire time — like I will have to — we are talking 4 to 6 months, thanks for rubbing it in lady! So, again, I got a little bit mad at her when I found all this information out. But, compassion kicked in very quickly because she is having some complications with her permanent implants which cannot be fun.

Again, I digress, sorry. OK, point of the story was — a few minutes later, she looked at me and said:

“Wait — you are only 4 weeks post op of a double mastectomy?”

“Yes.”

“Holy crap — I rented a barca lounger (sp? you would think someone who grew up in Buffalo would know how to spell barca lounger, but amazingly, I do not!) and lived in that thing for literally months after my surgery. I cannot believe all that you are able to do so quickly and only 4 weeks out, wow.”

YAY ANDREA! And, hate to admit it, YAY mom and dad and Paul for pushing me in those early days (I was very skeptical of them when they made me go for a daily walk, I am not going to lie to you!). YAY PAMF for telling me to get my ass into PT two weeks post-op — not every practice encourages that. And, last but not least, YAY Dr. Hong for also pushing me and assuring me that I can’t possibly break anything — so it was OK to be as active as humanly possible!

The inspiration/revelation point here for me is that I think I really am doing well! Despite the pain and constant ache-y reminders that I have cancer — I think I just may come out of this after all! YIPPY!

PS — I got a picture with Dr. Hong and my PT gang to share with you all! I’ll attach them at the very bottom of this post.

The second story comes from a colleague and friend, Josh Roberts. Josh and I both work for Stella & Dot Home Office. He works in the UK and is essentially my counterpart across the pond (though he wears many more hats than I do!). So we worked fairly closely before I went out on leave.  Greatest thing about Josh is that I told him I did a semester abroad in London and that I fell in love with Digestive Biscuits during that time — so after that, he’d always send me and my team some DB’s.  He’d either do it in person when he came to the US for a work trip or force others who went to the UK from the San Bruno Home Office to bring them home to us (lol) — he even got our SVP of Ops to ferry us some biscuits and gummies! hahahaha! Awesome! Thank you Josh & Tom!

A week or so ago I got the following Facebook message and picture (see pics below) from Josh and it literally brought me to tears. I asked his permission to re-print it on my blog and he said yes. So here goes:

Hey Andrea,

How are you doing? I’ve been thinking of you… and reading your awesome blog. So glad that you’re making good progress and they managed to catch it early.

I’m currently in Cozumel, Mexico ready to race Ironman Cozumel tomorrow. In case you didn’t know – an Ironman race consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run (yeah, crazy I know)… I wanted to share one of my race tactics with you since you feature in it…

The 26.2 marathon at the end is always where I need to dig deep and think of some positive and happy thoughts – and this race I decided to write down a few things that will make me smile no matter how painful the run feels, and stick them to my energy gels which I will have on my fuel belt, taking one every 25 mins for the 3.5-4 hrs that I will be running.

I think I’m going to save yours until mile 18 – which is always a tough point.

Keep kicking cancer’s ass and get better soon! Should be in San Bruno early 2013, so we should catch up!

Josh

I mean? For real? Are there any words after a message like that? And that is only ONE example of the amazingly generous, kind and loving things people have reached out and said to me.  If you would like to read about Josh’s Ironman experience, check out his blog write-up at: http://www.triathloneurope.com/index.php/eng/Blog/Josh-Roberts/Ironman-Cozumel-2012

Also, I’ve included below pictures of Dr. Hong and I, the PT gang and I and Josh’s energy gel pack. Enjoy peeps! I don’t know why some of the pics are HUGE and others aren’t — I’ll have to talk to husband about that and get the WordPress team on it stat! lol!

Josh's Energy Gel

Josh’s Energy Gel

Dr. Hong!!!!

Dr. Hong!!!!

PT Gang!

PT Gang!

Picture Post!

Thought you might enjoy some pics from the past week:

The real deal!

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Vicodin makes me pretty!

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Still have my appetite!

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Ready to go home

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A girl and her dog

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Still eating — but this time at home!

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I’m Baaaaaack!

Hello Blogosphere! I’m back! Thanks to Paul for posting on my behalf during surgery. He did a great job, didn’t he? Before I really get into this post I want to send a huge thank you to our WordPress family.  The night we got home, they filled our fridge from Whole Foods and then they ordered us dinner for the next three nights. I’ve never seen so much food in my life. It was wonderful to have so many healthy, clean foods to choose from during those first, crucial days home. Thank you Automattic!

So much to report, I have no idea where to start.  Let me back up to the morning of surgery.  As scared as I was for surgery, I could tell my family and Paul were even more scared. We checked into the Surgical Center (I got a private room with an outside patio — sweet!) and things got underway really quickly.  Within an hour, all of my doctors stopped in to discuss the surgery with us.  We met with the Breast Surgeon, the Plastic Surgeon and. last, but certainly not least, the Anesthesiologist (my new best friend!). The thing is, I had it easiest of all of us. I was going to be put under general. I didn’t have to sit and wait for HOURS wondering how everything was going — nope, I got to sleep through the whole damn thing. I felt really badly for my family and husband. I can’t imagine how sucky those 7 hours were for them.

When I first came to in the recovery room, I immediately asked for Paul. Though I was still groggy, they let him come in because I was the only patient in recovery.  Apparently, the first words I mumbled to him were “Am I still pretty?” he heard something else and responded, “Huh? You want pudding?” hahaha. He makes me laugh even when heavily sedated! The second question I asked was whether I got to keep all my lymph nodes. The answer was the best I’d heard in weeks, “Yes”. Whoot whoot!

I’ve gotten a number of questions from my friends about, what, exactly, I had done. So let me try to briefly explain from a layman’s perspective since I’m really not an expert on any of this.  I had a bi-lateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. That entails a bit more than the name may lead you to believe.  First of all, my tumor was (love being able to say “was” — thank god that thing is out of me for good now!) located in the upper, outer area of my left breast (right underneath my armpit).  Just keep that information in the back of your mind for now.  So, recall in my last post I mentioned that I had to meet with the Nuclear team the day before my operation so that they could inject a substance into me that would help my surgeon locate my sentinel node? Well, that is the very first part of the surgery.  My doctor used a small Geiger counter of sorts to locate the node (which is actually fairly close to where my tumor was located) and then she removed it.  That node sample was analyzed immediately (while I was still on the table), if any traces of cancer came back, my doctor would have removed all of my lymph nodes on the left side (which I really, really, really really did not want to have happen). Thankfully, the node dissection came back negative  for cancer so I got to keep all of my lymph nodes except foe the sentinel. YAY!

Next, the surgeon went on to remove the tumor. Her goal was to get clear margins (ie. cut the entire thing out and ensure that it hadn’t spread any where else). Since my tumor was so close to the skin — she did end up taking some skin, just to be safe. The tumor was then sent off to the lab for a full pathology analysis. After that, she removed all the breast tissue in the left and the right breast (I’m sure this was also sent to the lab for analysis too).

The type of incision she used is called “skin sparing”.  That means they were able to preserve my areolas (I know, TMI — but if you don’t want TMI, then you shouldn’t be reading this blog at all!) which is HUGE.  If all goes well and heals properly, my scars will be unnoticeable because they will be underneath the fold of my new bionic boobs AND I won’t have to have areolas tattooed on — because I got to keep my real ones. Yay!!

As for the “immediate reconstruction” part. It’s not like I have my bionic B cups right now. No, no! I have two prosthesis’ in place which my plastic surgeon will slowly fill up with saline over the next few months. We have to do this slowly to allow the muscle and skin to stretch and adapt. I will keep the prosthesis (also known as “spacers”) in until I complete chemo.  Once chemo is done, I’ll go back in for another surgery where the plastic surgeon will replace the spacers with my actual implants. The real implants might not go in for another 4-6 months.

So, what that means dear reader is that I am as flat as a little boy at the moment.  It’s somewhat shocking to look at since I was a C cup just a few short days ago. But PAMF and Jennifer Glover (my amaze nurse coordinator) did an excellent job mentally preparing me for this. End of day, I am just so happy that they cut that friggin’ tumor out of me.  I hated having it inside me. I don’t know about other people who have had breast cancer — but I could feel my tumor every second of every day.  It throbbed — literally. So, I’ll take my temporarily flat chested self over gross tumor any day!

The worst part about recovery by far are the Jackson-Pratt drains and grenades.  I have two tubes snaking through my chest and coming out either side of me.  At the end of the tube is a bulb that collects all the stuff that drains out (we lovingly refer to the bulbs as “grenades” because that’s their shape).  We have to “milk” the tubes (this is exactly what it sounds like, you basically pull on the tubing to help any clots etc move along through the tube and fall into the grenade) and empty and measure the drainage a couple of times a day.  I can’t have the drains taken out until each one produces less than 30cc’s for two days straight. I am nowhere near that 😦

Fortunately, somebody invented the softie (I mentioned this in an earlier post as well). A softie is a cotton tank top that has a pocket/pouch on the inside where you can store your grenades.  This helps avoid any tugging or pulling on the drains. I’ve been living in my softies since I got home!

So far recovery has been pretty good. I am hesitant to say easy — because I have definitely had my moments/breakdowns. Our plan was to stay ahead of the pain the entire time — but we fell behind it two or three times so far — and that was no fun at all. Like I said to Paul, I am not trying to win the award for toughness here. I am a wimp and I want the drugs. So I am still fully medicating every 4 hours. I am not ashamed to admit it. There is no prize for gritting your teeth here! If you are about to undergo this surgery, just take the drugs.

Also not sure about other people’s experiences, but my doctor took my dressings off my chest the morning after surgery. He doesn’t believe in binding the area and keeping it wrapped up tight. So I’m sporting the au natural look (OH! speaking of au natural — let me tell you — my natural stink is disgusting. My armpits are SMELLY!!!!!). I was allowed to shower 48 hours after surgery, but I since I can only raise my arms to shoulder height (or a 90 degree angle) I can’t shave my armpits. I also can’t put deodorant on because that can cause skin infections during the healing process.  OY! I feel sad for Paul, he has to sleep next to such a stinkpot! lol

There are a few things I wish I had known prior to the surgery. I am going to list them here for anybody who is about to go on this journey themselves:

1. Abdominal Muscles. Make sure your abs are in good shape. Since you can’t really put pressure on your hands to help prop yourself up or scoot back in bed, you need to rely on your abs to do a lot of the work.  Mine are in bad shape and am I ever regretful about that!

2. Pillow Talk. Take a pillow with you to the hospital because you will need it for the ride home. You will want to put it in between your chest and the seatbelt when you go home.

3. Shelving.  Move everything you will need to a lower shelf.  Personally, I keep all my toiletries (contact lens solution, toothpaste, moisturizer etc) on the top shelf behind our bathroom mirror. You won’t be able to reach that high when you get home — so move all that sort of stuff pre-surgery.

4. Reading. I saved all of my magazines for the past 6 weeks. My plan was to flip them while laid up in bed.  That plan back fired royally. I get really dizzy whenever I try to read (which is one of the reasons it’s taken me so long to post anything to this blog). I assume it’s all the drugs and the dizziness will pass — but if you were planning on doings lots of reading, I’d suggest you rent a movie or two instead.

OK, that’s all I can think of at the moment. I’ll post again soon.

Thanks to all for reaching out and supporting us. It means the world to us, and to me especially! xoxo

Sick with Worry

This post will be a quickie.

Ever heard of the saying “Sick with worry?” Yeah? Well, me too. But, I’d never actually experienced ‘sick with worry’ until my diagnosis.  It’s terrible — horrible. Three words that seem totally innocuous.  However, when you are actually sick with worry, you will be on your ass. Or the bathroom floor, in my case. Just dry heaving and spinning. I’ve not figured out a real solution to this problem. Right now my best defense is Paul. I just let him rub my back until it’s over and then I hug him and cry into his t-shirt.

Sick with worry…. You’ve probably read those three words, and/or said them a million times in your life. I now know what it means and I hope none of you out there reading this ever experience this feeling.

Now, back to reality — get out there and VOTE, today is ELECTION DAY!

Guest Post: Paul chimes in..

Aloha – Paul here…like all of you, I’ve been following Andrea’s blog very closely..and am continually amazed (but not at all surprised) by her great writing.  I’ve heard a lot of you say that when you read her writing, you can hear her reading the post in her own voice…totally true.  Among her many charms, she’s an awesome writer – and think she should totally keep this blogging thing going long after this cancer thing is defeated!

In any case, a lot of you have been nice enough to ask about me and how I am doing through all of this…which is really nice, but not at all necessary!  I’m doing fine – but do want to chime in with a quick guest post to talk a little about my experience by Andrea’s side over the past few weeks.  So bear with me – my writing may not be up to the high literary standards established by this blog.  In some ways making this post feels like hitting a few balls at the range…in a stall next to Phil Mickelson.

So where to start..I guess at the beginning:  October 11, the day we learned the news.  I was working from home, as usual, and in a good, productive zone.  I knew about her mammogram, biopsy, etc…which had taken place the previous day, but was honestly not terribly worried about it.  She told me that she had a very similar, but benign, lump a while back and we were just getting it checked out of an abundance of caution.  After all, what are the odds that someone our age, in great health, would have cancer??  Zero.  Or so I thought, until the call came.  When I picked up the phone, I immediately knew something was wrong and she almost didn’t even need to say the words to tell me what it was.  I wish I could paint the picture of those moments in detail, or recount the exact emotions or thoughts I was feeling or thinking at that time.  But I really can’t – they’re just blank now and think it was the same, as it was happening.  I guess you would call this being “stunned” – which sounds just about right.  Think of a time when something you’ve seen or heard made you think “this can’t possibly be happening” – that’s what I felt.  Andrea posted about a few of the things we talked about during this conversation – but I honestly don’t remember any of it.  I do remember hanging up on her pretty quickly and then, just trying to remain upright.  My legs felt unstable, like someone had just hit me across the back of my knees with a golf club (or other stick like implement…what can I say, when I need imagery or an analogy, I usually will revert to golf..).
I next remember grabbing on to the side of my desk, closing my eyes, taking a couple of deep breaths and then, before I knew it, my brain churned back to life, like a light flickering back after a power outage…and the thoughts just started coming.  Mostly in the form questions…what is the diagnosis?  are we sure?  what is the treatment?  is it covered by insurance?  questions, checklists, action items, plans, timelines, probabilities, angles – that’s where I’m most comfortable, so that’s where my mind went.  First order of business was to clear the calendar for the afternoon so we could go to the doctor’s appointments, to learn some more facts.  Soon enough, Andrea got home and I gave her a big, giant hug.  I didn’t yet know the details of how we would get through this, but I was 1000% sure that we would, somehow.  We just needed to figure it out.  Piece by piece.  Calmly, rationally, without getting overwhelmed.  And if we got overwhelmed, we’d manage that too!  Calmly, rationally…

Over the next week or so, I learned more about cancer than I could ever have imagined.  We went to a lot of doctors appointments, I took a lot of notes and stayed up late reading the books that they gave us.  I secretly LOVE to learn, and in a way, it was oddly satisfying to cram so much new knowledge into my head.  It felt like I was studying for the bar exam again!  We both had a lot of feelings of fear and helplessness and I thought the best (and probably only) way to combat them was to learn what we were up against and attack it step by step.  The more I learned, the stronger I felt.  This was not a death sentence, not by a long shot.  But it was most certainly a long, painful road…understanding all of this, in detail, was the best thing I could do for Andrea at that time.

As all of this was going on, the rest of life continued to move forward, as “normal”.  Which was totally and completely weird.  We would get out of a doctor appointment and I would check and respond to emails about various work things, lawsuits mostly…which now seemed so banal and trivial.  It became increasingly difficult to concentrate on things – not because I was a distracted, basket case…but because it all seemed so irrelevant.  Like obsessing about my fantasy football team in the middle of a busy, M&A deal, or something (maybe not a great example – my fantasy team is just as important as any M&A deal..).  Anyway, I took that first weekend away from work as much as possible – and then went back in on Monday to try to resume a semblance of normalcy.  This was really hard – because of the aforementioned distraction, but also because it was the first time since the call came that I was away from Andrea.  I didn’t expect this at all – but I was at the office, in a meeting and needed to step out to take a quick lap around our balcony.  I had a sudden and overwhelming feeling of saddness – for her – like I just needed to be back at home to try to help her.  It made no sense, but I definitely felt better whenever I was with her rather than apart.  I think being around Andrea, with the attitude and spirit you see on display on this blog, actually gives ME strength…not the other way around.

And so it has gone.  I’ve been doing what I can to keep things on an even keel, to help us make good decisions and stay in a positive frame of mind.  Only one thought that keeps nagging at me, one that I can’t get rid of, despite all of my efforts at rationalization:  I really, really wish that I could just do all of this in place of Andrea – the surgery, the chemo, the sickness, the recovery, the hair loss (because let’s face it, I look a heck of a lot better than she does with a buzz cut..), the discomfort, all of it.  I want more than anything to take this bullet for her, to spare her from it.  And it kills me that I can’t do that.

OK – that’s all for now.  I’ll probably be posting more over the next few weeks to keep you up to date on Andrea and her progress.  In the meantime, thanks again to everyone for all of your great support, friendship and uplifting messages.  They really do help us keep going and stay strong.  Thank you all again…you’ll be hearing from me soon!

Addendum to the Last Post

Paul got home last night and I told him that our surgery date got moved up by a week. Not gonna lie, I started to tear up a little bit.  He said, “So, let’s go to Hawaii this week instead.” So calm and even keeled (he is such a good balance to my fiery, uncalm ways!).  So, he re-arranged a few things at work and booked the trip. I am so excited to say that we’ll be feeling the Aloha spirit this Monday through Friday. Then it will be back to reality.

Since we are losing so many of our “prep” days, I’ve decided to ask for help. So many of you have offered, and we won’t be able to do this alone. So my brother, Bob  and sister-in-law, Sarah are going to run around town this week to help secure a few last-minute items.  I’ve started learning about the tips and tricks to recovery from a bi-lateral mastectomy.

I was fortunate enough to be put in touch with Michelle McBride, President and Chairperson of the Noreen Fraser Foundation.  Katie Sann, Stella  & Dot’s PR genius, and my friend, told Noreen and the folks at the NFF (Noreen Fraser Foundation) about my blog and my recent diagnosis.  I’ll post more about the amazing work the NFF is doing in a later post.

Michelle reached out as a resource for me as she also had a bi-lateral mastectomy with reconstruction.  She and I had a phone date yesterday afternoon and she told me all sort of tips, for example, I’m to buy 4 baby ice packs from target (princess, hello kitty, dinosaur — pick your favorite theme) because normal ice packs will be too heavy and these small ones slide right in your bra. She also said to buy a $10 electric razor from Walgreen because shaving the pits will become difficult post-surgery.  Zip-front sports bras saved her life — but they are very hard to find. So, if you need a few, check out JC Penny online (and remember to buy a size larger to take swelling into account). We also need to buy a ton of pillows to help prop me and my arms up comfortably in bed.

Anyone getting dizzy just thinking about this? I know I am. Well, like Scarlett O’Hara said, “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.” Diddle-dee. So for now, I will concentrate on getting as much done as I can in the next two days, then off the Garden Isle we go!

Drinking and Blogging

I wrote this post late last night, it’s raw and unedited. I’m too tired (and a bit drunk —  Yes, I’ve been day drinking today. No I didn’t get cancer because I drink too much. Yes, the doctors mentioned that waiting to have babies until I was “older” may have contributed to this (just like they said to Samantha on SITC)) — so I’m going to post without filtering, enjoy!!!

I don’t have any witty/funny stories for this post. So without getting crazy detailed about what’s going on (I am WAY too tired and overwhelmed to recap all the info we’ve been told and have had to ingest), so I will summarize Andrea style!

There’s no two ways around it. I have to have surgery and chemo. Looks like I’ll be on the TAC chemo cocktail.  A real good time! Not (remember that one? NOT, hahaha, well, I crack myself up!).  I hear the “A” in TAC is particularly shitty. But since I’m triple negative, I likely don’t have a choice. I just have to suck it up and take it.

Surgically I have a couple more options. At my age, I can do one of two things (1) lumpectomy + chemo + radiation OR (2) Mastectomy (single or bilateral) + immediate reconstruction (which isn’t truly “immediate”) + chemo.

My chemo regimen will knock me on my ass for 4 months assuming that I can withstand the treatments every other week. If my body can’t take it, they’ll move me to every three weeks, which simply prolongs the time to closer to 6 months of chemo. If I opt for Lumpectomy + radiation — I have to do 4-6 months of chemo PLUS an additional 5-7 weeks of DAILY radiation.

We still have to await my Bracca (sp?) 1 and 2 test. That test will tell us if I am genetically predisposed to cancer (we have family history of cancer on my mom’s side). If that test comes back positive, the recommendation will be for a bilateral mastectomy.

We met with lots of experts today. Learned lots of facts and statistics. We are now contemplating whether I  just go for the bilateral mastectomy + immediate reconstruction (which, again, isn’t really “immediate”) + Chemo (NO RADIATION!) even if my Bracca test comes back negative.

As a relatively young person who has an aggressive cancer growing inside of her. Sitting through all of these appointments before I’ve even started treatment, I know one thing. I NEVER WANT TO GO THROUGH THIS AGAIN. I want to get healthy, have babies and never, ever, look back. I have so many more years to go. I want to be healthy for my family.

Paul may have put it best — he said that right now, the cure is worse than the disease — but if we can get through this, we’ll be a-ok.

Now it’s time to focus on thinking through what we want to do. This is a big decision!