The Cancer Booty Call

Uh huh. You read that right. The Cancer Booty Call. It really exists.

When I was first diagnosed, so many friends and family rallied around me, did their own research and scoured their social networks.  Many of you sent me private notes offering to introduce me to your mother, aunt, co-worker, or a friend similarly situated to me.  I read and re-read all of your offers and had to decide for myself if I wanted to reach out to a total stranger to talk about what was about to happen to me.

In the end, I took two of you up on your offers (thank you Bess and Katie). I ultimately decided that the people you were going to introduce me to were not really “strangers”, rather, they were just like me — and they’d already weathered the storm — so why not take their advice? They must’ve done something right, right?!!!

I placed those outgoing calls and am ever grateful I did.  Being able to talk to somebody who’d “been there, done that” helped give me perspective. Helped me to understand what was about to  happen. Helped me mentally prepare. Helped me realize that I will live and life will go on. They were living proof of that.

At this point, I’ve been on the receiving end of many a cancer booty call from you and/or your friends, moms, aunts, sisters, coworkers and college friends.  It saddens me to think how many of these calls I’ve had with you and your loved ones — cancer is just so stupid… and mean… and everywhere.  But, nothing makes me feel better, as a person and as a survivor, than to help your loved ones as they begin their own cancer battle.

It makes me happy to think that I am now the person that weathered the storm — someone out there weighs the pros and cons of talking to me, a quasi-stranger, and decides to go for it. I know it’s not an easy decision, or one that’s arrived at without much consideration. Just know that those of us on the receiving end of this particular booty call are flattered and happy to help in any way we can.

PS. My check-up with Garrett went well. My white blood cell count was elevated so I had to behave myself on our cross country flight to Andrew and Katherine’s wedding (and at the wedding itself). I don’t have my tumor marker results yet, so nothing to report on that front. Other than that, we talked a lot about the fact that my left implant (cancer and sentinel node removal side) pocket is stretching and my implant is sort of floating out toward my arm pit — leaving rippling and ribs exposed around my fake cleavage. I’ll have to talk to my plastic surgeon and physical therapist in greater detail about this as it’s not G’s forte. In the meantime, I’ve started wearing sports bras to try and keep the damn thing from drifting any further out of the pocket.

Plastic Surgeon Update

Just a quick update for ya’ll. I met with Dr. Hong yesterday and he said all is well with my implants.  The hard bit I felt was indeed scar tissue and he said that’s normal and actually needed to some degree because the implants are really bottom heavy — so when he closed me up, he had to make sure the stitches/incisions would be strong enough to hold the implants in place.

We also talked about the shooting pains I’ve been having. He said those are a separate, but equally normal issue.  The pains are just my nerves regenerating and coming back to life.  He said I might experience those for as long as six months.

The other big update is that I no longer need to wear tape to cover my scars. He wants me to let them breathe, scab over and do what they need to do. I suspect keeping them covered for over two weeks contributed to some of the localized pain I was feeling.

Then I asked for the all clear to go to Vegas. He said I’m good to go, but if I lay out by the pool, I have to fold a towel over my boobs. He said the skin isn’t right yet and will burn super easy (then he scolded me for wanting to lay out in the sun at all! Oh Dr. Hong, how I love your paternal ways!).

So, now that I’m armed with the reassurance and peace of mind that I needed, I’m 100% on for Vegas. Whoot, whoot. Can’t wait to see all my S&D peeps!

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

So I decided to color my hair. Depending who you talk to, this was a really good idea, or a really bad idea. Some say you should wait 5-7 months post chemo to color your hair, others say you need to wait until you have at least two inches of hair growth to color, and still others say, F it all, color it whenever the hell you feel like it.

My oncologist was in the third bucket. He said go for it while I was still in chemo! I also consulted with my fellow TNBC sisters in my Facebook group, many of whom dyed early on, and everything worked out just fine.

The reason many people wait a bit longer is because, as you know, chemo basically poisons your body. While the half life of chemo is pretty fast (it leaves your body within a day or so of entering through the IV) the lingering effects hold on for quite some time after chemo is all done. There are women out there who have colored their hair and it turned orange. I suppose the assumption is that the hair follicle still had poison in it, so it took the color funny.

I decided to chance it at 8 weeks out. I just was tired of looking in the mirror and seeing all that silver hair starring back at me. Plus, I turn 38 next Wednesday, and I really didn’t want silver hair for my birthday. I want to feel my age after all I’ve been through.

So I dyed it. I was terrified the whole time I sat in Kelly’s chair. I was scared all my hair would just fall out, or turn orange. In the end, all was fine. My hair didn’t fall out and is light brown and silver now! She trimmed around my ears a bit and them she used a semi-permanent color to start. Neither of us wanted to push our luck. Since we used a semi — I didn’t get 100% coverage, so my hair is still salt n’ pepper — it’s just brown pepper!

So that is my “one step forward” part of the story. Now for the “two steps back” part.

I’ve been noticing a lot of pain underneath my right implant. At my one week post-op appointment, Dr. Hong said all looked good and I didn’t have to see him again for three months. I felt like I graduated to big girl land! But, at two weeks post op, I keep getting stabbing/shooting pains at the bottom of my implant right along the surgical incision.

This morning I woke up and was feeling around my new boobs. My left one felt pretty soft and supple everywhere, including along the surgical incision. But my right one has a hard lump about an inch and a half long running along the bottom. This can’t be good. DAMNIT.

I called Dr. Hong’s office and his week is completely booked, but they are going to squeeze me in this Friday. Please cross your fingers that this is no big deal. I can’t, nee, don’t even want to entertain the thought that there might be something wrong. Maybe it’s just scar tissue that I need to massage?

Ugh, I guess I’ll know more on Friday. Until then, here are some pics of my hair appointment.

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Milestones

Well, I feel like I can finally exhale. I had my swap out surgery earlier this week, and am on the mend from it. For me, the swap out truly signified the beginning of the end of this journey for me. I can stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. I can start to rebuild my strength and life! Words cannot express the sense of relief I feel right now.

My chest is pretty soar and swollen at the moment, so I don’t really know what my new rack looks like. I have to wear a big, supportive post-surgical bra for the next three weeks. Only time I can take it off is to shower and launder it. But, that’s fine by me. I’d rather follow instructions than risk having one of the implants float or twist into a funny position. So, for the near future, I will be sleeping a propped up on my back (no side or stomach sleeping for me).

Dr. Hong did quite a bit of liposuction around both of my armpits as well as my side boob. The tissue expanders caused a lump to form near my armpit (ladies, you know what I’m talking about — the armpit flab!). The expanders also caused a pretty sever fold of skin along the side of my boob. As a result, I am pretty soar and swollen from all the lipo. I haven’t noticed any significant bruising yet, but then again, I always have my surgical bra on — so who really knows what’s going on under there. The front of my right breast is pretty ache-y. I can feel the outline of the gummy implant a bit. But I’m sure that’ll settle in soon enough.

For any of you reading this out there who still are living with your tissue expanders, take it from me, the day WILL come when those pieces of cr** will be removed. Those hard edges that poke at you 24/7 will be replaced by soft. mushy material. I lived with my expanders for 8 months. 8 months! It felt like a lifetime. But the day came and they are gone! I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to write this post!

It is going to be a banner weekend here in SF. Not only does Pride weekend kick off this afternoon (on the heels of the SCOTUS rulings earlier this week) at 3pm at Dolores Park (which is just a few blocks from our house), but we are throwing my “I kicked cancer’s a**” party on Saturday. I can’t wait to gather with my friends and family and celebrate.

I can’t wait to reminisce about how damn far I’ve come in the past 9 months and how much further I’m still going to go. Nothing is going to stop me!