Jan 29, 2013

Being beautiful (FBtF)

I'm the biggest proponent of seeing beauty from all aspects. No matter what size you are, what your outward appearance is...I honestly think beauty shines from within (and a nice lipstick doesn't hurt). But honestly, me, of all damn people, has had a problem with it lately.

Trying to find the words for this post is difficult.

When Chris and I got together, I was so paranoid. Paranoid because I ALREADY had scars. A big one on my back. A pretty sizeable one on my left breast. Both from cancer. I knew he thought i was beautiful, but when I took of my clothes, I wanted the lights off or I would place my hand 'just so' so he wouldn't see the scar on my chest. He finally confronted me about it. He said that he doesn't even SEE the scars--he just sees me, and i'm beautiful.

When I came home from the hospital after the mastectomy, that first night i got into the shower, I wasn't afraid to look at my chest, but I was afraid of what he would think. I had mentally prepared myself for the ugliness, but I just wasn't sure if he had. I have mentioned before that I took off my nasty, 1920's-era holster they had me in, and just looked at myself in the mirror. I didn't feel like crying about it. I wasn't shocked at what I saw. It was ugly. Just like I expected. I didn't look at Chris.

I got into the shower and just stood there. Chris was standing right outside the shower, with the curtain opened, just making sure I wouldn't fall. I couldn't do anything. I was completely incompetent. I couldn't pick up the soap. I couldn't OPEN the soap. I couldn't pick up or open the shampoo. I just stood there and let the water wash over me. And he stood there. And he washed my hair. And he helped me wash my body with all those damned drains coming out of it. And he told me I was beautiful. But when your boobs look like Quasimodo cast offs, your mind doesn't hear it.

And, now that i'm mobile...now that i can get dressed and I can put on makeup and I can fix my hair (because i couldn't for a long time), I thought that would fix it. I thought my mind would catch up, and I'd go...woo! I'm beautiful. But I don't feel that way. I don't look in the mirror very often. If I do, I'm scrutinizing these lumpy rocks on my chest. I'm checking out the skin peeling away from the 5.5" scars I have across each side, or the bright pink holes I have on my sides where the tubes were. I see the dark, purple ink that stained my skin and is being protected by the glue that still hasn't been shed. It's not pretty. At all. There's nothing pretty about it.

The hurt from it is ugly, too. The pain of it...it just makes it uglier. I've never in my life been through anything this painful. Somedays, I seriously just want to lie in bed and cover up. But lying down hurts. I know it's temporary...but this is a long temporary, and it starts to weigh on you. I've been taking baths at night, because the hot water helps to relax my chest muscles. I keep a wash cloth over my chest because I just don't want to look at it. And I get out, and i dry off, and i get dressed. Because I don't want to look at it. I'm not trying to ignore it. I know it's there. But sometimes, if I don't look, I forget. And I feel normal. For just a minute.

My daughters stare at me. I try not to get dressed in front of them...not because I don't want them to see what cancer is, but because I don't want them to hurt any more from this. Jenna's getting better, but just seeing my chest...you can tell it makes her uneasy. Clairey did a Family Tree for Girl Scouts. Underneath each person, she had to write something about them. Chris' said, "He likes football!" Jenna's: "She loves Monster High!" Mine:
"She has cancer."
 I want them to see me like they did before.

This is awful for them, just as it is for me. Chris has had to take on so much. SO MUCH. And he hasn't complained at all. And through all this ugliness, every day, at least once, Chris tells me I'm beautiful. Not because he has to, but because he believes it. And because of him, I'm starting to believe it, too.

I know i'm beautiful on the inside. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. But for the love of all that is good and holy. I'm so ready for this shit to be over with.

Cancer. It's such a pain in the ass. And can you believe, after ALL this crap we've gone through, it STILL feels surreal???

I'm ready for this summer...when this will all be behind us, and I'll be floating in my pool with my SPF 500+, and foobies in place of these stupid tissue expanders.

Jan 28, 2013

I'm back! (FBtF)

For those of you that know me, you know that i'm a hardcore health nut. I'm a certified personal trainer and a Beachbody coach. I love, love, LOVE working out--the more difficult, the better. It gives me a huge rush to be able to do a workout, or an exercise, that I couldn't do before. So, when this whole 'cancer' crap happened, THAT part of me--the part that knew I wouldn't be able to exercise for a while--got hit the hardest. It seriously made me want to cry. THAT part of me, is a huge part of who I am--it makes me happy, keeps me sane, and as a bonus, keeps me in shape and healthy (except for cancer--go figure).

I haven't been able to really work out since November. I had a biopsy gone bad, then a few weeks later another biopsy, then, to be honest, I just gave up on myself. I was irritated with cancer and felt that I didn't want to invest any more of my time in our gym if I was just going to have to give it all up after the masectomy. In retrospect, i was being a huge wuss. I'm of the "Go all in, or don't bother" camp. I love HIIT. I love pushups and pullups and heavy weights and cardio 'til I puke. I love eating clean and baking cookies and testing myself to see if I can make it without eating any. So...when I stopped working out and then found out that I was UNABLE to, my mind did something it hasn't done in years: It said, "F#@K IT." From November until today, I seriously used that term in my head. Repeatedly. (And I hate that word!!!)

This past Saturday, I got a Facebook DM from the CEO of Beachbody, Carl Daikeler. He told me, "Keep living smart: What you eat (and DON'T eat) is as important as anything. Don't let this define you in any way. I know it's a very big deal, but I think some people let it define them. They become "survivor" - almost like they refuse to move on from the trauma... You have more going for you than that, and while this is part of your story, you are showing everyone that it is going to be a minor part... WELL DONE!!!!"  I needed to hear that. Then earlier today, I paid a housecall to one of my friends. She asked me this past weekend if I'd measure her body fat with my calipers. I said okay...but in my mind, I felt horrible. I mean, i'm pretty close to what I would consider my elite weight, but i am NOT in my 'elite' shape (I'm 'skinny fat' right now). Not by any means. I've lost so much muscle during this process, that I look at my arms and want to cry. ANYWAYS, I sucked it up, went over there this morning, and calipered. And...something happened. That spark that I love came back. My bad word mentality popped up and I heard it, then I said, "F#@K YOU"  to my brain.

I came home, and I answered some emails, and I looked at my 'challenge' page--to the women that come to me for advice on their fitness and health, and my brain didn't say a damn thing. So I went into my home gym. I looked at my yoga mat. I found my weight balls, my bands, my ankle weights. I looked at all my weights on the rack. And my brain started to speak up, and I said, "Shut the hell up." And then my 25lbs weights looked at me and said, "You can't even do lawnmowers any more." I told THEM to "Shut the hell up," too.

And I put on my shoes, and I put a red band around my ankles, and i picked up my 3lb weights and introduced myself to them. Then I popped in my earbuds and started doing side squats...with my wee, 3lb weights. And even though they're light, it felt good. Then my mind started in with, "You're a wuss. Grab the 15s." And I'm totally proud of myself (or maybe i'm just afraid of the wrath of Chris) but I said, "Screw you. The 3's and I are building a relationship." So I squatted. And I squatted Then I squatted some more. And my freaking legs were on fire. And it was awesome.

Then I decided to try abs. That's tricky...a lot of your upper abs are directly associated with the bottom of your rib cage, which, when you have hard-as-a-rock tissue expanders, makes that area of your body really, really sore. But sometimes, sore just needs to be stretched. Gently. So, I got on my yoga mat and sat in an A-frame position. And I proceeded to do mason twists and A-frames for an entire song. Then a little bit longer. And it was awesome.

When I was doing lunge presses (get in a really deep lunge--one foot out in front, one way behind you--get up on your toes, and start dipping), I started to get all choked up and teary-eyed. I was just SO HAPPY to be able to treat my body like that again. And I had a thought:

I get to start from square 1. I can build up and be even BETTER than I was before.
A new challenge.

And you guys KNOW I love me a challenge.

So get ready, world. I can do whatever the hell I want. And my mind can't stop me. I'm back. (Just with more body fat and extremely hard boobies.)

Jan 25, 2013

Rotting grapefruit and tshirts (FBtF)

Is it wrong that I don't want pink ribbons? Is it wrong that I don't want to whine and bitch and moan about this? Is it wrong that i'm more pissed off and irritated than sad and forlorn? I think a lot about this...particularly, when lying in bed at night.

I've come to the random conclusion that I don't want pink ribbons because I don't identify with that. I, personally, tie the 'pink ribbon' image to a woman who has had to battle cancer--hard. One who has gone through chemo and lost all her hair and all her strength. Not me--who has gotten her boobs cut off and was delivered the amazing news that "That's it! All the cancer's gone!" Yes, i realize that cancer is cancer. Breast cancer is breast cancer. I would've had to have gone through chemo and/or radiation if I would have waited just 'that much' longer.

I also don't want people to see me as that. I don't want people to feel sorry for me, take pity on me... But then I realize i could use that pink ribbon. Use it as a voice to let others know that you CAN get through it, you CAN do this. It's so confusing. I mean, really, it's a damn ribbon. I've had melanoma more times than breast cancer, but I don't feel the need to even THINK about a black ribbon. Breast cancer is just so highly marketed.

There's a part of me that feels like I should be more emotional about this whole thing. I mean, I lost my boobs--GASP! But, to tell you the truth, I really don't give a flying monkey about it. Like I said before: THEY'RE JUST BOOBS. My natural boobs were there for a reason--to feed the babies. Which they did. Then, their whole purpose was, apparently, to remind me that African tribal women share the same genetics as I do. Because I saw pictures of African tribal womens' boobs in a National Geographic once. To me, mine looked like that. But just really white. Go figure.

My boobs were a part of me, but after nursing, they were just there to add a womanly curve. To fill out a bra. A pillow for my kids to lean back on when watching tv. And that's why i'm getting new ones. Not because I NEED them to feel whole, but because I want them. I love having a curvy shape. It doesn't define me, but I love the way it looks. I want my kids to lean back on me and feel comforted--not get hit in the head with a sternum and ribs. And...let's get real...I need to balance out these hips! 

I'll admit--i'm excited about the foobs. I'm not a scantily-clad dresser, or a provacative dresser by any means. I don't need to flaunt 'em to feel sexy or pretty. My daily wardrobe consists of t-shirts, jeans, and Converse; in the summer--tank tops, shorts, and flip-flops. But, i'm excited to have that curve back. Right now, the tissue expanders are so uneven and lumpy, that i have to wear loose, flowing clothes to try to cover it up--lest it look like I have a rotting grapefruit under my shirt. Everything is comfy...but i want to wear my favorite tshirts: 'Riverbottom Nightmare Band', 'Do What Matters', and 'Flogging Molly'. All of which are more fitted. I want to be able to pull on my jeans, and slap on a favorite tee. Is it odd that this is what's important to me? It's just weird to NOT feel like myself. To wear clothes that I normally wouldn't, but HAVE to. I am low maintenance. This whole process makes me feel high maintenance, and it's annoying.

I do believe i've rambled on long enough!

Jan 22, 2013

New Orleans----Tissue Expander style (FBtF)

This weekend, I was able to get out of the house. And by 'get out of the house', i'm not talking a trip to the grocery store--i'm talking a TRIP. We went to New Orleans.

The Munch had a gymnastics meet on Sunday in NO, so we left on Saturday morning. Word to the wise: I do NOT recommend a 6-hour drive when you're only 3 weeks out from getting your boobies lopped off and replaced with tissue expanders. Did you write that down? Okay, i'll wait. I assume you're writing. Okay, moving on...

That ride was awful. It started out okay--mainly because i was so excited to be going somewhere. I felt like a dog in a pickup: If Chris would have rolled down the window, I most likely would have hung my head out and let me tongue loll about in pure bliss. However, about 2 hours into the ride (read: Still in Texas), I had had enough. I was uncomfortable as all get-out, even though Chris and I were listening to Air Supply and acting out the songs for the girls. They kept ignoring us. I don't know why.

Also note: That 18-mile-long bridge in Louisianna?? Yeah, they need to refurbish that thing. It is really bumpy. And, although the tissue expanders don't move, I CAN feel the saline inside swishing around--it made for an odd sensation. For 18 miles.

We finally got to the hotel, and I immediately lied down with my heating pad. After a bit, we went and got something to eat, and found out where the convention center was for Clairey's meet. (It was really close to the hotel--thank God!) That night, we just played it safe and watched tv in our room. It really kind of sucks being in such a fun city and not being able to do anything.

Sunday, we got up and went to Clairey's meet. She did a great job! We were worried about the seating, and how I was going to sit comfortably for 4 hours, but the chairs weren't bad, and as long as I leaned back into the chair, I was alright. Afterwards, I was feeling alright, so we took a walk down towards the Quarter and had dinner at the Gordon Biersch brewery. The walk back was slightly painful, but it just felt so nice to be out and moving! Again, back to the hotel, showers, and tv. :) I know...we're wild and crazy.

Monday morning came quickly, and thank goodness, the ride home went by quickly, as well.

I am now 3.5 weeks out from the surgery. I have to say that the worst part--even worse than the boob removal--is the tissue expanders. I can see how, if I wouldn't have wanted a rebuild, that i'd already be back to normal. One of my breast-cancer friends' plastic surgeons said, "The difference between a matectomy, and a mastectomy with tissue expanders is narcotics." With the tissue expanders, it's just constant pain and uncomfortableness. I'll admit that there have been days where i've thought, "Ugh. I should've just NOT gotten a rebuild and just wore fake boobs for the rest of my life." But i know, ultimately, i wouldn't have been happy with that decision. Dr. Boobenstein says 3 more fills...I go for another tomorrow, which will knock that number down to 2. The day of the fill, and the day after, is pretty uncomfortable. But can I do it? YES, I can!

From boobs to foobs...almost there...

Jan 15, 2013

Healing, healing, healing... (FBtF)

And it's boring, boring, boring. I want to drive, and I want to exercise. Two things that i've always taken for granted. BUT...i'm being a good girl and not doing either. I'm hoping I can drive by next week, and i'm pretty sure Chris is at the point where he hopes I can, too. :) I'm going to try to talk him into letting me take a spin around the neighborhood later this week. I know...crazy.

For the most part, 90% of the pain is gone. I have one odd spot on my left foob--actually more in towards my armpit--that, if I use that arm JUST RIGHT, sends a horrible, sharp, burning sensation from that area on my body to my left foob. Actually...they're not even 'foobs' yet--just tissue expanders. So I have to be really careful. I can't exactly use my arms to lift my body yet--they're weak, and  because the tissue expanders are UNDER my pecs, it's just weird. If I use my pecs, they press down on the expanders and the sensation is just...odd. It doesn't really hurt, but it sure as heck isn't comfortable. And, since i've had my drains removed (still so glorious!), my chest lumps are holding fluid. So now, it looks like I have water weinies at my 'under boob' area. Always something. But, i've been assured that it's completely normal and my body will reabsorb the fluid. I hope so, lest I 'slosh' when I walk.

I still have no strength with certain movements--again, like opening child-proof medicine bottles or changing a roll of toilet paper. I do, however, have really good mobility! I can almost hold my arms over my head, and nearly hold them all the way out to the sides. My muscles are still learning. So strange, because i've always been flexible in every way.

I go in for my second 'fill' on Thursday afternoon. It doesn't hurt, but what IS weird is when Dr. Boobenstein wipes the area on my chest with rubbing alcohol. My skin is totally numb, but my MUSCLE can feel that there's something there--so again, totally odd sensation. It's so strange that it almost hurts--does that make sense? Another weird thing(s)--At the beginning of this week, my skin hurt. Mostly under my arms and on my upper chest. I found out that it's because my nerves are refiring, and finding out that i'm burned from the inside out. When they removed all my breast tissue, they cauterized as they went--so inside, i'm burned. As the nerves refire, you start to feel it. It's like a  bad sunburn. The nurse also said that this is why, when I drink something cold, I can REALLY feel it across my chest--because i'm burned on the inside, cold drinks feel really chilly as they're going down. How weird is that?? Chris and I have also noticed some marks on my skin where the cauterization came through to the outside--they're little burn marks, although I had one blister under my arm. Super strange.

The tissue expanders, in case you were wondering, are extremely uncomfortable. They feel like rocks--very hard, with super-tight skin/muscle over the tops of them. They're lumpy and uneven, and one is bigger than the other, but when I'm wearing clothes (well, pajamas), it looks like I have boobies. Just really hard, uncomfortable boobs. I can only sleep on my back. I tried to sleep on my side, and the expanders are so non-pliable, that they push into my sternum and my ribcage, and it hurts. So, on my back it is. I'm developing a weird callic (sp?) in my hair--like the kinds that babies get from sleeping on their backs all the time. It's sexy. Chris makes me a 'pillow nest' every night, then helps me crawl into it. It's one of those U-shaped full body pillows, with an additional 3 pillows stacked on the back where my head/back goes then another pillow under each arm. It looks comfy, but when you've been sleeping like that for nearly 3 weeks, not so much. I desperately want to sleep on my belly, but that's MONTHS away...for sure, not until i get the foobs put in, and not until I heal completely from THAT surgery.

This has been, and continues to be such a strange journey. But i'm good to go. As soon as I can get out of this house a bit, I know i'll feel much better and time will fly by. From here on out, it's one doctor appt per week until the tissue expanders are the right size. Then another surgery to place my permanent foobs. Then I heal from that...

Jan 9, 2013

DRAIN FREE! (FBtF)

This morning, at the bright and shiny hour of 730am, I had all 4 of my drains removed!! WHOOP! That means I no longer look like the Predator. [And I can't make that noise either--although I try my hardest. In fact, I just had to ask Chris, "Hey, who's that guy from the movie? You know, this one (insert really crappy Predator noise.)" Chris said, "huh?" So I said, "You know, that guy from the movie where I can't make his noise? Not Chewbakka, but the other one." "Predator," he says.) But really, I had two drain tubes coming out of each armpit, then these bottles that looked like grenades strapped around my middle. Sexy? Not so much. In fact, I can't decide which is LESS sexy--the drain grenades or the half-filled foobs. It's kind of a toss up.

Anyways, this morning, we went to see Dr. Boobenstein and he removed all my drains! And guess what? It really didn't hurt at all. Which I was super excited about, becasue really, I don't like pain. At our last meeting, when he said he would remove drains, I asked, "Does it hurt?" To which he replied, "No." So I asked, "Are you lying to me?" He assured me that he was not. So he didn't lie--two thumbs up for him. But, let me tell you--it was the most disgusting thing EVER. I felt no pain, but I could still feel the 12" drainage tubes coming out of my foobs.

Grossest. Thing. In. The. World.

I had two that started in my armpit, then went in my body around the bottom of the foob, and up into my sternum. THAT WHOLE THING PULLED OUT OF MY CHEST. (Excuse me while I gag.) I had to turn away because all I could think about was National Geographic and something I saw where a nasty worm tunnels into your leg and they have to make a slit in your ankle and lure it out with bacon then start wrapping the worm around a stick. Disgusting, right? I mean, if I were a worm, I'd leave a leg for bacon, but that's kind of beside the point.

Seriously the most 'gross' non-pain i've ever felt. I shall gag about that one for a looong time.

Regardless, I feel SO much better without those damned drains. Annnnddd...I got my first fill (actually, my second...my first was done when the tissue expanders were put in). I'm in a bit of pain right now, but just so stinkin' happy those crappy drains are gone! WOO HOOO!!

Milestone obliterated. Cancer can kiss my ass. That is all.

Jan 8, 2013

Catchin' ya from the flip side (FBtF)

Here I am, ladies and gents--a week and 4 days out from Boobmageddon. I'd say I fared quite well.

On Friday the 28th, we arrived at the hospital at 6am. Shortly after checking in, I was brought back to 'pre op,' where I received 2 lovely injections into the killer boob. The injections were prefaced by a warning that the first shot would hurt...a lot. The nurse talked to me for a while about how much that first injection would hurt--because it's a big needle, it has to go to the center of my breast...and so on. She said the second shot is just superficial, with an itty bitty needle, and it won't hurt at all. Great. So I was already about to pass out before the first shot. I just kept thinking, 'This will be nothing. THIS is nothing..." The nurse said as soon as she 'stuck' me, she'd count backwards from 10, and when we got to 1 it would be over. SO...deep breath...stick...10, 9...i don't feel a thing...8, 7...waiting...6, 5, 4...really...i feel nothing...3, 2, 1...over! I didn't feel a darn thing! She couldn't believe it. On to the little needle. It was so tiny and skinny it was laughable. She stuck it in, and HOLY SHIT. That little thing burned like a mother f$%*er. I don't know if the lady was trying to use reverse psychology or what, but that itty bitty needle hurt like hell. Then, I had to wait...for 2 hours.

My family was allowed to come back and visit me, which i was happy about. I really wasn't nervous...i still had the feeling that 'this really isn't happening'--which, honestly, I still have today. Even boobless. Before we knew it, it was time for me to go. The nurse came in and put something in my IV...then it gets REALLY fuzzy. I remember being wheeled into the OR by a male nurse...i remember going through the halls. I also remember that I didn't have a cap on (and that I was supposed to). I remember going through the big, double doors...and i remember saying, "Well, THIS isn't very impressive." Then I woke up to a nurse saying, "That's it! You're in recovery--great job!" The first words out of my mouth were, "Where's Chris?" She had to ask me a few times because I was having a hard time talking (because my mouth was so dry from the tube). I finally got through to her and she went to get him. *He only stayed for a minute, then they moved me up to my room and he met me there. I really don't remember much of that first day at all.

On Saturday, they decided to feed me. Which I was happy about. But it was a liqud diet--in case the medicine made me puke. Which it did not. I never felt queasy at all. Really though--2 thumbs up for St. Luke's chicken broth. That's some good shit. It was hard to eat though--I couldn't lift my arm, so Chris had to feed me. Then we got smart and just put a straw in my broth. :) Saturday afternoon, they removed my catheter. I wanted that thing out, but afterwards, decided that I should have rallied to keep it in. Because with it OUT, i had to get out of bed. Getting up was difficult, to say the least. Even with Chris' help, it felt like meat ripping off a bone. That's the most accurate descriptor I can come up with. It felt like meat ripping, then my sternum with catch on fire. It was absolutely awful. It still hurts like that with certain movements. That day, everytime I moved, I'd sing, "Meat RIPPER!!"

Sunday, we got to go home. I was absolutely ready to get home to our house. The ride was okay. I brought a pillow to put between me and the seatbelt. I'm pretty sure Chris wanted to kill everyone on the way home. He was so worried that he would hit a bump or make a quick stop and it would hurt me.

...and i'll have to finish later. It hurts to type--holding your arms at a 'typing angle' is rather difficult--who knew?

*Note: Chris read this and corrected me. I was in the recovery room for THREE hours before they wheeled me into my real room. And, my dad even came in to say 'bye'. Jeesh. I really can't remember crap.