Friday, January 30, 2009

12 days and counting

It's only 12 days until I get boobs, again. This isn't like the first time I got boobs, when I was about 14 years old (late bloomer), praying to God every night (still a believer back then) to give me boobs--any boobs--so the junior high ridicule would stop (it didn't). I stared at my flat chest in the full-length mirror in the bathroom, rub the small nubs and do some ritualistic chant after my Christian prayer. Eventually, I got boobs, but dammit, for all that anxiety and work and concentration, all I ended up with were barely-B's? Well, beggars can't be choosers, so they say. But this time, I get some choice.

I met with my plastic surgeon a week and a bit ago. She took a look at what I gots, and she said that full B/small C cup would probably be the way to go. For some reason, I felt bashful and didn't pipe up that perhaps I wanted to go up a size or so...I thought, heck, she's the expert, she knows best. So she showed me a saline implant that would be about my size, and I said, "Looks good to me." I don't know why I felt like I didn't have a say in this; it wasn't the way the doc was acting or anything. I think it was just some weird thing of mine. I didn't even talk about what kind of nipples I would like (mental note: remember to tell her I like them pointy when I go in for the surgery).

Anyway, I agonized over this for a good part of the morning after my appointment. I kept thinking, "What's wrong with you, girl? It's now or never...get the big boobies you want, dammit!" So I sheepishly sent the doc this email from my iPhone:

Hello Dr. __:

I was just in to see you this morning concerning my surgery scheduled for February 11th. You had talked about giving me saline implants to make me a full B/small C cup. I was giving this some more thought, and I was wondering if I could get more volume to make me a full/bigger C/small D? I just keep hearing my girlfriends say in my head, "Go for the gusto!" so I thought maybe now's not the time to be bashful, especially since I know very well that you only live once.


A few days later, I got this reply:

No problem. Dr. ___ has ordered you bigger implants.
Ms. Assistant

So I'm like, great, big boobs! But a part of me was a little weirded out that the size of my boobs was just decided over email, just like that. Oh well.

And here's some other weirdness...I thought of how Chloe and Mylo have gotten used to see my nippleless chest, with the big scars and mottled tissue. I think it's kind of cool how that's their normative view of the female body, but I guess I'm just going to go back to being the stereotype in less than two weeks. As much as I enjoy the radical feminist notion that I had a chance to subvert the female body ideal, I pretty much have grown up with that ideal and desire to achieve it if I am able to. That admission makes me kind of sick, but I have to acknowledge that. But I'm still grateful in a way that I exposed my children to my body images issues rather than hid it from them, and that we were able to communicate about it. Chloe still asks me now and then if my boobs feel better or if they still hurt (her words), and we talk about it.

I just read a really good book called Lopsided: How Having Breast Cancer Can Be Really Distracting. I think there's this new trend in cancer memoirs to talk frankly about how one deals with the pain and self-pity rather than giving life advice on how to buck up and accept the journey. I found this book to be humorous and heartbreaking, and it really spoke to my experience.

Another book I'm reading is Lymphedema: A Breast Cancer Patient's Guide to Recovery and Healing. It's useful in its clear explanation of the illness, and gives great advice on self-massage and exercises to help clear out some of the lymph. Even Dude is reading it so he can see how to give me a massage. Fun for the whole family!

So I think I need serious makeover. DH said to me the other morning, "Now that your hair is getting longer, you should do something stylish with it." It's not as mean as it sounds; he was saying, like treat myself to a salon appointment or something. But I don't know. I'm tired. And I guess I'll have to buy new clothes and bras when I get the new tatas. That's exciting!

So FUCK YOU CANCER, Brandy's almost back in town.

Friday, January 23, 2009


just got the call that the biopsy is clear--no cancer!  yeah.  just the old body doing its usual mostly-harmless weirdness.


Here I am again, waiting for biopsy results.

I've talked to some of you readers in the past couple months who said that you look at my blog and when you don't see an update, you're happy because it must mean I'm doing well.  Well, yes and no.  It means that I'm hiding, and that I have nothing that I think is exciting enough for people to read, and that I'm doing okay otherwise.  But the funny thing is, despite me not giving a daily or more regular update on my blog, I've got a million unposted entries in my head.  I often walk around in life with a picture of the blog and what I would write if I sat down to do so, but they just kind of evaporate into the rot of my brain before I reach a computer.

So, since I mentioned the biopsy, let me talk about that.  When I saw the doc about the lymphedema on my right arm, she also checked out my left armpit, which I told her was sore.  Sure enough, she felt a lump.  So then she told me to get an ultrasound, which I did this week.  When I got the ultrasound done, the radiologist was concern about the images, and she ordered me to come back in a couple days for a fine needle aspiration, which is a way to get samples from the lymph node.  So I had that done.  I watched them stab the shit out of the poor lymph node, sticking in the needle and wriggling it around like crazy (don't worry--they administered freezing to the area, so I didn't feel anything).  They got a few samples they were happy with.  They thought the image of the node changed a bit after they sampled it, so the doc said it could be a hematoma, but I'm like, how in the world would I have a hematoma on the lymph node?  Anyway, I gave my doc a heads-up on the results coming in, so she said she'd get the results on Monday and give me a call asap.

As for my lymphedema--last week was a pain in the ass, or arm, I guess.  The compression bandaging was awful, excruciating torture.  I really, honestly wanted to cut off my arm.  I really wanted to just be over with it, and get a hook.  One of my professors from UCLA has a hook arm, and I always thought it was pretty cool.  I want one of those.  Better than having this arm that's going to cause me pain and discomfort for the rest of my freakin' life.  Anyway, the massage part of the treatment was actually good and relaxing.  It's a gentle massage that's used to move the lymph fluid so that it doesn't pool as much in the arm.  After each massage treatment, my RMT would bandage my arm in a compression wrap that looked like a cast.  That pretty much sucked.  When it's bandaged like that, I can't really use my arm at all (except maybe as a bludgeoning weapon).  Then after five treatments, I went to a medical supply store called Regency in Burnaby to get fitted for a custom sleeve that extends to a glove.  I'm supposed to wear this every day, forever.  While I'm waiting for the custom to get made (it's gonna take a month or so), I got an off-the-shelf sleeve and glove, which I wear all the time.  And I also bandage on top of that for extra compression.  So I'm learning how to manage wearing these things and keep typing and doing stuff around the house.  It's a new challenge.

I have my moments when I just keep going at life, things are fine, I'm doing okay though still battling fatigue and chemo brain.  Then I have my moments when I wonder how much of Chloe and Mylo's growing up I'll be here for.  But I can't go there.  I just need to be in the Now.  Speaking of, here comes Mylo now, wanting me to see a robot he made.  Oh, there he goes again.  They're too fast to keep up with, but I try. 

Friday, January 9, 2009

A New Year for Moving On

I've been in hiding mode again.  I've got a bad case of denial.  It's actually bizarre.  Lately, when I see people I haven't seen in a while, they kindly make a comment about how good I look, especially when they see my full head of super curly hair.  I look healthy, robust, normal.  And I realize it's quite a contrast to how I looked a year ago--bald, sickly, at death's door.  I also thank people for their kind comments, but inwardly, I feel embarrassed.  It's kind of the same reaction when I see pictures of myself from last year--I cringe.  I feel sick.  I feel repulsed at how I was.  That probably doesn't make sense to most people--why would I feel embarrassed?  It wasn't my fault.  But to remember my vulnerability and sickness--it's the opposite of empowerment.  Again, this is quite a contradiction, I realize logically and intellectually.  But my honest reaction is that I just don't want to see myself as that seriously ill person.

Nonetheless, I have to deal with life as a cancer survivor.  Currently, I have lymphedema.  On Christmas eve, I noticed that my arm was swollen, but I thought it would just go away.  My arm has swollen a bit in the past since the surgery, but it would go down if I put my compression sleeve on and kept my arm raised a bit.  This time, it didn't go down and in  fact kept swelling.  After almost a week of this, I went to the doctor.  She ordered an immediate ultrasound because she wanted to see if I had a blood clot.  It was a scary moment, because I thought it was no big deal--just a nuisance to have a big arm.  But now, I was dealing with a potentially urgent situation.  So I got  my ultrasound, but luckily, there was no clot to be seen.  Still, my arm was huge.  And now, it was starting to feel sore.  The doc said that was because blood vessels were breaking from the pressure of the lymph fluid building up.

I went back to the doctor after the ultrasound.  What's difficult is that lymphedema is still one of those conditions that's not well understood, and therefore, treatment options are still very limited.  But while I was there, I also told my doc that I'd been experiencing pain on the left side, which was the side that didn't have cancer.  I've been having throbbing pain in my armpit, which is the axilla lymph node area.  She felt under there, and there was indeed a hard round ball under my pit.  So I'm having an ultrasound for that in a week and a half.  It's probably scar tissue, but now, we have to make sure--for everything.  Thank god my doc is on top of things and tells me she'd rather be on the side of paranoia than not worrying about things.

Lucky for me, I have access to one of the few registered massage therapists who specializes in manual lymphatic drainage massage.  So I'm starting a daily treatment on Monday for five days, during which I will receive a one-hour treatment on my arm, followed by a wrap to try to get the swelling down.  Next Saturday, I'm going to get fitted for a custom compression sleeve that will extend down to my fingers.  Hopefully, this treatment will work.

And I finally got my reconstruction surgery scheduled for February 11th.  The original plan was to get implants and nipple reconstruction, but now with my lymphedema, I'm not sure about that.  I have an appointment with the surgeon two days after my ultrasound, so I'll have the opportunity to discuss that with her.

I'm wondering if this is normal--continuing to deal with cancer even after it's supposedly gone.  Will I ever be able to live without having to think about cancer?  Is it possible to move on?