Is it Spring yet?

Well, hello everyone! It is officially one month yesterday from the date of my double mastectomy surgery. I can officially say that it is no walk in the park, but I am recovering very well. Everything went as well as it could. My sister came into town for the surgery and stayed the whole week and that was great. She picked a super cold week though and was happy to get back to Vegas where they were having unseasonably warm 70’s for this time of the year! Wish I could have gone with her!

So… after 3 nights at Good Shepherd Hospital (BTW my favorite hospital… and where Jake was born and my surgery 10 years ago took place) with awesome nurses who took very good care of me, I was home on the afternoon of Friday, December 29th. I was confined to home for the first week as I had drains in and I slept in the recliner (ugh… hate it) but the pain was minimal. I continued to feel better each day. I was able to stop taking the pain medication after just a few days. Docs were so pleased to see that there was no bruising. Of course that is a pat on their backs, not mine! Surely this tells them they did a great job! But, hey, I’ll take these small victories anyway I can get ‘em! I got my drain tubes out after 13 days. OMG. Let me tell you that was the most freeing moment. It was just really gross and these bulbs are tethered to your body and about the size of a hand grenade, hanging down from each side. And, you can’t shower! Ugh… These things would fill about half way with a bloody fluid within a 24 hour period. Just gross! I have a pretty strong “stomach” for these things and I was grossed out.  Now that they are out, I have resumed almost full range of motion with small limits due to some tightness. My left side has some additional tightness and stuff going on because the lymph nodes that were removed there. I can’t lift more than 20 lbs for a while. It’s actually a good feeling in a way. Feels sort of like you worked out doing some bench presses at the gym a couple days ago. You know, that good feeling in your muscles… the feeling that makes you aware that these muscles are there. That your muscles are getting stronger (wishful thinking). My skin is numb in many spots and the incisions have healed well. The feeling will likely not come back, but least of my worries, right? So… I now have expanders (aka balloons — haha) under my pec muscles that were filled with about a quarter cup of saline to start. I have started to go each week to get “fills.” I get 50cc in each side, and for those who are not in the medical field, that equates to about 1/5 cup. My plastic surgeon prefers to fill each week with this small amount so that the muscle and skin stretches slowly. I’ve heard others go every 2 or 3 weeks and get 100cc or more in each fill. They also take Vicodin and muscle relaxers because it is painful to recover from that much expansion at one time. So… I am fine with my plastic surgeon’s approach!

I’ve also gone back to taking Tamoxifen (which needed to be stopped while going through surgery as it can cause blood clots). I am adjusting to it once again with some minor setbacks. I get headaches… I feel nauseous… I have muscle pain in my legs, hips and thighs (I hear magnesium will solve this if it continues). But, all in all, it is not horrible…  just noticeably different from feeling “normal” – Oh wait, that is with the exception of HORRIBLE hot flashes that seem to be getting worse, instead of better. Now, with each one I feel a wave of nausea and dizziness. I just feel sick. What the hell… thankfully they only happen a few times a day (and at least 4 to 5 times at night!!) and I can only hope that most are not while I am driving. That is an awful feeling to have while you are operating a motor vehicle. Ugh… So each time I count down in seconds… the 2 to 3 minutes until it passes which it always does but, boy, during those moments it is a bit uncomfortable.

Oh yeah… and I hate my hair right now – while so so so grateful to have it back, it is a bit of a mess as it grows in thick and curly (my hair has always been pin straight, go figure!) and although people who know me realize that this “hair style” is certainly not my choice, those who don’t know that I was recently bald must be thinking… “why in the world does she go out of the house with bed head” – my hair has a mind of its own and sticks up in all different places! I seriously try to use mousse and hair spray to get it to lay down and nope… it does what it wants! Oh well… it is growing fast, so I am sure I’ll feel better about it soon. More of a worry for me is that I keep gaining weight and have to get moving more. Let’s face it, I have had a lot of downtime…  but it is so hard to get motivated. I always find something else to do and find excuses to avoid the gym. Plus… I truly enjoy all the meals that people have brought and love going out to eat. I have been trying to make some meals at home too. Good ‘ol comfort foods like chilli (with lots of cheese, crackers and sour cream!) and beef stew with dumplings (my favorite way to have beef stew!!) okay, now I am hungry!! Well… Doc has released me to exercising but just not lifting upper body weights. So really, I have no more excuses. I know I will feel better once I get going. Wish me luck!!

And now a few quick updates on some other things not related to my surgery. John and Jake are doing well. John has had a setback with his Remicade treatment and will move to a different medication called Cimzia soon. Apparently Remicade just did not work for him! Ugh… Blood test revealed that there was a very low level of it in his bloodstream and he built up antibodies to it. So it is just not working after all this time!!! So… he’ll be moving to another treatment that he will inject himself every 2 weeks to start and then every 4 weeks after. We will know a couple months into treatment if it is working. He’s feeling okay and some steroid and other medication are keeping his symptoms at bay in the meantime. Stay tuned!

As for Jake… well, hockey continues to keep us all busy with games on weekends and three practices during the week. He continues to love it and we enjoy the games as well. His team is really coming together and they have won 5 and lost 5 and tied 1 game so far this season. Not great, but not bad. He’s keeping up with school work and has had a chance to ski a couple of times. We are planning our Spring break trip to Vail (3 nights) and Breckenridge (2 nights) at the end of March. I will not be skiing of course, but rather will enjoy Kathy’s “spa week” while we are there! A massage, mani/pedi, facial, swimming, hot tub and reading a couple good books… I think I can fit all that in while we are there. Can’t beat that, right? Then evenings with the family for dinner and more swimming / hot tub at night. The beauty of the mountains is so healing, so I can’t wait! Turns out we will arrive in Vail for Pink Vail day which is March 24th. Apparently it’s a big cancer fundraising event for Vail Hospital’s Shaw Cancer Center that started out in 2012 raising money for breast cancer patients and now represents ALL cancer. They raise money to give patients the opportunity to receive free exercise training, nutrition coaching, emotional support, massages, acupuncture, outdoor adventures and much more. These unique services can dramatically impact a patient’s quality of life, but are not typically covered by insurance. This sounds a lot like the services that Cancer Wellness Center here in Lake county provides and it is pretty cool. We will also be there on a very special weekend for the 3rd annual “We Ride For Lanphere” day. Mike Lanphere died at age 29 from a form of lymphoma. The Lanphere family is near and dear to us and we look forward to seeing them in Vail.

In summary… some good times to look forward to! And… physically I am doing pretty well! Emotionally, it has been tough. While going through this process, from diagnosis through chemo, and surgery…  it’s like you put yourself in warrior mode and just go through the motions in order to survive. It’s like you know in your heart that this is something you have to do to save your life, so you do it and you don’t complain. You just do it. Complaining and whining does not help anything or anyone. It just makes misery for yourself and those around you. I truly feel that way. At the same time, a little part of me is saying “well, keeping things in can have its own issues and letting your thoughts out more could help in the long run!” Still… I will continue daily to keep any negative emotions to myself. I prefer to be positive and in the scheme of things if I can live a long health and happy life after this with my family and friends by my side — then the fact that I feel horrible about losing a part of me, feeling ugly and disfigured, and how I feel about looking like a short fat man right now (nothing wrong with being a short fat man, of course, if indeed you are a short fat man. I am not.). I know this will soon fade as I look to the future and the fun, the beauty, the laughs, and all that is really good in life that my future holds. So, aside from writing a bit here about the realities of this shit… any ugly thoughts, depressing emotions, and my “feeling sorry for myself” feelings will remain locked up. Trust me, it’s not easy to remain positive, but it can be done. I am alive and I thank God for guiding me in this positive direction, despite moments of being down. I choose JOY, because, well, let’s face it – the alternative sucks.

Thank you for caring, praying, and providing support! I leave you with a parable that resonates with me at this time in my life:

The Seasons of Life

There was a man who had four sons. He wanted his sons to learn to not judge things too quickly. So he sent them each on a quest, in turn, to go and look at a pear tree that was a great distance away.

The first son went in the winter, the second in the spring, the third in summer, and the youngest son in the fall.

When they had all gone and come back, he called them together to describe what they had seen.

The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted.

The second son said no – it was covered with green buds and full of promise.

The third son disagreed, he said it was laden with blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful, it was the most graceful thing he had ever seen.

The last son disagreed with all of them; he said it was ripe and drooping with fruit, full of life and fulfilment.

The man then explained to his sons that they were all right, because they had each seen but one season in the tree’s life.

He told them that you cannot judge a tree, or a person, by only one season, and that the essence of who they are – and the pleasure, joy, and love that come from that life – can only be measured at the end, when all the seasons are up.

If you give up when it’s winter, you will miss the promise of your spring, the beauty of your summer, fulfilment of your fall.

Don’t judge a life by one difficult season. Don’t let the pain of one season destroy the joy of all the rest.

Persevere through the difficult patches, and better times are sure to come in time.