Friday, April 29, 2011

Plaster Princess

How many people get to celebrate three years in remission with a baby? At the end of today (exactly two weeks after my remission anniversary), we will have a little baby girl--our miracle and our princess.

I always do belly casts of my pregnancies ever since my BFF Lisa gave me a belly casting kit (I'm such an expert now, I just buy plaster). We are off to the hospital in an hour, but Anton and I spent some time this morning belly-casting Moxie. She's the only one that got to be casted right before she's born.

Here's a picture of Moxie's cast, on the left, next to Chloe's cast. The difference is remarkable. And while Moxie is being born at 36 weeks today, Chloe was born at 37 weeks (and I think Chloe's cast was done at 35 weeks). According to the sizing ultrasound we did two weeks ago, Moxie is even going to be as big as Chloe was, around 7.5 pounds. So imagine how squished she felt in there with the tram-flap mesh...and how things were mega difficult for me! But we will both get relief very soon!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A royal birth

April 29th is a special day. And it's not because I give a crap about the royal wedding--cuz I don't. But it's the day our baby is scheduled to be born. As I mentioned previously, this month has been pretty heavy with meaning and thought, from reflection on the third anniversary of my mastectomy to the question of when to have this baby, given the literal confines of my reconstructed body. Lots of hoping for the best, but realistically, it also means fearing the worst. I can't help it. I'm not one of those people that can turn a blind eye of denial to my fears. One example is that in preparing the house and our lives for a new baby, I have also factored in the possibility of losing her. It has only been one year and one week since we lost our son, Veo, to birth defects. So when I began unpacking all the new baby stuff we got, I didn't take some of the stuff out of the original packaging, or if I did, I collapsed the boxes and kept them safely in a pile in case I'd need to return the stuff to the store. Luckily, a friend of ours also gave us a ton of baby stuff, so if we don't end up using it, we can return it to her or donate it. But I just can't give the stuff a place, or count on having to use anything, just yet. I'm too scared to be that confident.

On Tuesday, when we found out the date scheduled for surgery, we were also told that what everyone had been planning all these months might not happen. When we found out we were having a baby, we began having appointments with both the OB and the plastic surgeon who has been involved with my case for over three years. The two of them were eager and happy to team up for this delivery, especially since it has never been done before. My plastic surgeon said she was especially excited because more and more of her breast cancer patients are young woman, who still want to and are capable of having kids post-cancer, and she wanted to see this experience through so she could tell them what to expect if they wanted to carry a pregnancy even if they've had a Tram-flap reconstruction. So the two doctors watched me grow and documented how my body has responded to the pregnancy over the past 35 weeks.

The last week and a half has been a rush to schedule a mutual day when the two doctors could do the surgery asap because my body is in quick deterioration from the strain of the baby's weight on my abdomen. But of course, it's not just about their schedules. They also have to find a time when the operating room is available. Their receptionists have been talking to one another; the docs have been talking to one another. On Tuesday, at our appointment with our OB, she nonchalantly told us that our plastic surgeon might not be able to make it at all. We were in shock. And no alternative was discussed. So the past few days, we've been tortured by waiting and unknowing. It feels to me like those horrible days when I'd wait and wait to hear word about when I was going to start chemo, or when I'd wait after getting some sort of blood test or scan done to tell me if my cancer metastasized. I emailed the surgeon's coordinator to see if I could get info from her. But nothing. I emailed her again to follow up, but all she said is that she hasn't been able to talk to the doc about it, and she hopes I have a nice long weekend. Then I thought, fuck, it's a long weekend! Everyone is off til fucking Tuesday! Does she really think I'm gonna have a nice long weekend when I'm worried out of my goddamn mind? I see the OB on Tuesday anyway, and then it's just three more days til the surgery.

I'm starting the process of accepting that things aren't going to go as planned, or at least I'm trying to accept that. I have to hope for the best, but now, even more so, I'm fearing the worst.

However, my body has been through so much, and despite all that, I'm still able to walk and mostly function as if nothing ever happened. There is something to be said about that. So things don't always go my way, so what? It's silly of me to expect that they would go my way, after all that has happened.

What do I dream of? Having a healthy baby girl, and having the strength to make it through the surgery and recovery process. What am I grateful for? My two happy, healthy, beautiful endlessly loving, patient, handsome soulmate friends and family...and the fact that I can still laugh, even though I cry sometimes too. I guess my gratitude ends up trumping my fears. I don't regret how I've spent my time. And if I end up having more time to spend, I will cherish it all the more.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Freaking. Out.

So...I can't seem to escape April being my uber-high stress month. Three years ago, on April 15th, I had my bilateral mastectomy and Tram-flap reconstruction. Two years ago, my husband at the time said he wanted a divorce. Last year, I gave birth to our son Veo, and he died because of all his birth defects. This year, Anton and I are having a baby! This, of course, is a monumentally joyous occasion, unlike the last two years, but I'm still losing my mind, just a little.

With my mastectomy, I totally freaked out. I obsessed over my death for a few months before, working out and away all these morbid fantasies with an art therapist so I could calm my wild mind. I got depressed over the thought of my kids growing up without their mom, and all I could imagine was going under and never coming back again. But obviously, everything turned out fine, and not only did I come back, but I've been cancer free for almost three years (as of Friday).

Now, I'm starting to do the freaking out thing again, and I keep thinking about how at least with the mastectomy, the surgeons have done it so many times before and knew exactly what they were up against. With this c-section, they don't have an exact idea since it's never been done before. I try not to think about the scenario where they take out the baby, see the mesh and the damage, and say to themselves, "Now what?" or "That's worse than we thought." I think about how the worst would happen, and I'd be leaving my new husband with a new baby, and there would be three kids without a mom. I try not to think like that; I focus instead on the excitement of having a new baby--a baby who's a little pioneer on the landscape of having a baby after breast cancer.

But at night, when everyone is sleeping--that's the hardest time. I'm alone with my thoughts and my body full of pain. I look at Veo's tiny footprints on our shelf where I honor the people who have died--those who have made an impact but whom I have never really met, like my Vietnamese grandmother and Vietnamese half-brother.

I need to remember that with heartache and loss come motivation and inspiration to survive and to be grateful for what we have now. I have a husband who brings me laughter and love every single day we are together. I have two kids who impress me with their imaginations and wonder, and who make me feel good about being a mom. And I have a baby inside, fiercely kicking and living up to her name, Moxie. I like to think she's trying to tell me something along the lines of, "Don't worry, Mom. I'm a fighter, and you are too. And we'll all be together soon, safe and sound."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Growing Pains

Here is me with my eight-month-old baby belly! Eight months! Not that huge, thanks to my Tram-flap mesh.

This pregnancy has sure been a ride. The last trimester has been increasingly difficult and painful. I knew that no one, including the doctors, knew what would happen to me as the baby continued to grow. But what I didn't anticipate is that the doctors could not really understand what it feels like, and hence, were at odds about what to do with my pain.

First, I started having burning sensations in the lower part of my abdomen, which is where the sutures for the mesh are. It felt like my flesh was tearing, and in fact, that's exactly what has been happening. The pain comes and goes, but now when it comes, it's pretty intense, like somebody stabbing me from within.

Another issue is walking or sitting or moving from one position to another. I feel like my pelvis and joints are locking up, and I get stuck mid-air, afraid to move because I know how painful it will be when I complete the movement. But obviously, I can't stay like that, so I take a big deep breath, and just move (and scream).

So my family doctor prescribed me hydromorphone for the pain. I asked her about how it would affect the baby. She said that the baby would go through a little bit of withdrawal for a week during which she would be cranky, but it wouldn't be that big of a deal, since we had to weigh the circumstances of the intensity of my pain because me being in pain isn't good for the baby either.

For a few days, I took the pills, and it helped a little, but my OB wasn't happy about that. So I took Tylenol with codeine instead when I had pain at night, and that gave me a tiny bit of relief. Now, I've become used to being in pain and don't take medication that much.

Everything is compressed. There is no room. My OB noticed the appearance of my belly, which is like a muffin, with a band where the mesh is, and then a roundness at the top where the band is not. Breathing is always difficult in the last couple months of pregnancy, but it's even more so now. And my doc gave me Ativan because I've been feeling claustrophobic within my own body and having panic attacks.

Now, my plastic surgeon has ordered me to bed rest because the weight versus the constriction has become a bit worrisome. And my OB is considering moving the delivery date up at least a week early. I asked the OB if they will put me under general anesthesia after they deliver the baby via c-section in order to repair the mesh, and she said she doesn't know. The part where they don't know what they are going to see scares me a bit, but I trust that they are the best experts to do the job.

I have all the usual pregnant mom instincts like nesting and feeling restless, but I also have new fears, especially not knowing how the surgery and recovery are going to be. However, when I feel the baby move, whether in a small or big way, I am happy that she seems okay, if not a little concerned about how much space she has in there. We are in this together, she and I, and I can't wait til we have our own space.

Location:Vancouver, BC, Canada