Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


The white-haired lady in the pink coat is my mom, flying in to save the day.

Here is my in-box at work, EMPTY for the first time ever, I think. I wish the surgery were first thing tomorrow morning, so I could get it over with. If I stop to think for even a minute, I go queasy with fear. I don't have to be at the hospital until 1:00, though. I wonder how I'll pass the time in the morning? I keep telling myself to get a grip. If this is a step-by-step process, then I can just look at tomorrow for now. And all I have to fear tomorrow is pain. They will help me manage the pain; therefore there is nothing to fear, right? Right? So why do I feel like puking?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hamburger Bun

OK, the reality is starting to sink in.

Up until this week, I had been pretty cheerful. Hey! Mastectomy and reconstruction: no big deal! I will go to sleep and wake up with a new set. Better than ever, in fact.

Oh, uh-uh.

I met with the plastic surgeon on Wednesday. News flash to Kate. Not one surgery, but two. And an itty-bitty scar on the underwire line? Think again. More like a huge honkin' scar that runs horizontally right across the front of my boob. In the first surgery, they basically fillet my pectoral muscle and stick in a thing called an expander. They use that to stretch the muscle out enough that an implant can go under there. Why does it have to go under the muscle? Why can't it go on top of the muscle like a real breast does? I looked at photos of other reconstructions: big, red, angry scars galore. And then there's the nerve damage. I was told to expect permanent numbness; or if feeling returns, only a little feeling.

I was taking that on board, though. I had a little cry, but I was getting used to it. Then, people I know started telling me how it's really going to be. One friend told me, "You need to manage your expectations. Think on a scale of one to ten, with ten being a reconstruction that looks and feels normal. This will be a four."

The worst was from the friend of a friend who had this same procedure fairly recently. She told me that she was not happy, either. When she flexes her pectoral muscle, this big diagonal crease shows up across the breast. She said that the shape is basically "a hamburger bun". She wears a prosthesis in her bra, since the hamburger bun doesn't fill her out properly.

I manged to accept the scarring, and even the limited feeling..well, I guess I could come to grips with it. But a hamburger bun?

The truth is that I'm going to look like the bride of Frankenstein.

I'm definitely sliding into a "woe is me" phase.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What's Wrong With This Picture?

So, in this country, there is a federal mandate that a mastectomy reconstruction has to be covered by insurance; but no similar mandate applied to prosthetic LIMBS?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Could Really Be Spring

The monkeys have started swinging from the trees.

Here, we have the Long-Haired Screamer...

This species is known as the Snaggle Tooth Howler.

And it's time to get the gardens going. I finally put chips down on my Utah native plants garden. Maybe this year the plants will actually grow? If you were to examine this garden with a magnifying glass, you would find: native grasses, three yucca plants, two sage bushes with Indian paintbrush, yarrow, echinacea, evening primrose... Let's hope it does some growing this year!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

My mom has decided to come out from Wisconsin and spend a week taking care of us after my surgery. Part of me is relieved; part of me is anxious. Will the downstairs bedroom be warm enough for her? Won't she be bored hanging around while I snooze in a Lortab coma? Will I be able stock up on enough Diet Pepsi and that disgusting diet sliced cheese that she likes?

I will be working right up to surgery day, so I do worry that she will come too early and then be at loose ends. We were trying to decide on a date.

"Well, I could come out on the Sunday before..."
"Sunday? I think that's too early."
"Well, I need a day or two to get used to the kids' schedules, practice driving your car.."
"Yeah, but my surgery isn't until Thursday."
"No, I have it down as...oh! [Snorting] Never mind. That's the Methodist Church Soup and Salad Dinner."

She is able to come because Dad is not dying. There are signs that his prostate cancer, in remission for about five years, may be back; but it isn't showing up in his bones, where it often metastasizes. Of course, this doesn't rule out the possibility that it is thriving in some other part of his body. He told me (without a hint of irony) that Mom is concerned that it may have spread to his brain. Not having been present to hear Mom's tone of voice when she said it, I can't say for sure whether this is truly a concern. He has also had gout, but he called me today to tell me that Mom feels like he could probably be left alone for a few days.

"How's your gout?"
"Better. My doctor is going away for a few weeks. Back to India, the land of his birth. While he's gone, I think I might try eating some ...richer foods."
"That doesn't sound like a good idea. What does Mom say?"
"That she might indulge me with a little bit of lean chicken breast."

[He will drop her at the airport in Milwaukee, drive home and immediately make himself a hot fudge sundae. I know it.]

Monday, March 9, 2009

Nipple in the Spotlight

Whee! We got wireless Internet: I can blog upstairs, downstairs, on the porch, in my bed...

If I blog more frequently, I can blog about other things that are on my mind, not just the stupid cancer. Thank God, there really is more to life; even now, as surgery looms ever closer.

And considering that I'm about to get a body part taken off, I have to say that the news there is all fairly good.

Good News of the Day

  1. I have Ductal Carcinoma in Situ, which is a form of cancer that is 95% curable with a total mastectomy.
  2. It's only on one side.
  3. I can have reconstruction on the same day as the mastectomy, and insurance includes any work that needs to be done on the other side to even things up, so to speak. I'm not sure, but I think this may be surgeon language for "If you ever wanted anything done, now's your chance!"
  4. I get to keep my nipple.

Actually, the whole nipple thing is a major distraction to me. Saving it is a concession granted by my surgeon, provided I am willing to have a short course of radiation, to make sure there isn't any cancer hiding in there.

At first, when I met with him, he said they wouldn't save it; but when I pulled a face, he said, "Well, we can tattoo one on for you."

What? I don't want a drawn-on one.

"Or, we could fashion one for you about of skin taken from your thigh or your labia." Wha-? Oh, ouchie. Yeah, let's mutilate me a little MORE!

You know, what other chance does the nipple get to take center stage? Existing under wraps, while hands and face get all the attention. And talk about being type-cast. There's this big Madonna/whore role, but that's it. Now, it will be my only body part to actually have taken a journey. To be detached and go...somewhere, returning later. I find myself wondering, where will it go? Will there be a special tray on which to lay it? Or a surgical assistant whose only chore is to hold it and not drop it, rather like holding the lug nuts while someone helps you change a tire? Or will they just set it on my belly until they need it again? Maybe it will be a lot more boring than I imagine: they don't quite detach it, but just push it to one side like a manhole cover.

A friend asked me about radiation. I believe they start that after I am all healed up from the surgery, so the nipple will be back in its original location. Which is good. Better than the surgeon and the radiological oncologist trotting off the the staff room and popping it in the microwave.