Wednesday, April 29, 2009


That is the number of Americans who died last year of the plain-old, seasonal flu. If another person tells me that I should beware an ugly death because I regularly share germs with Mexicans, I am going to get annoyed.

Monday, April 27, 2009


A Eulogy for My Nipple
Please, a moment of silent contemplation for my left nipple, which has finally gone to a better place. If I had known that our time together would be cut short so soon, I would have gone ahead with that piercing I always talked about. Thanks for being so good about helping with the kids; and I forgive you for all those cold winter mornings in the school cafeteria when you elicited crude comments from teenage boys. We all know that you were never one of the big, flashy body parts like the finger or the ear; yet, your absence will leave a void. I hope you will go to the special paradise I have in mind, devoted to all of the things I have lost over the years: there I will someday be reunited with you, as well as lots of earrings, money, sunglasses, scarves and that really good rope that dropped out of my backpack in Alaska and washed away in the Resurrection River. [Gasp!] How appropriate!

So, yeah, I was good and put medicated gel on it and covered it carefully in gauze, but certain parts of it just never got viable. When I went to see Doctor Perfect the other day, he said he'd debride it and explain a new bandaging method he wanted me to use. He wielded his scissors while I looked away, as always. After he was done with everything and had hooked up my boob-armor, he warned me that I would "lose a little prominence". I braced myself when I took off the bandage. My head began to swim when I saw it. Loss of prominence?!? Is that a nice way of saying"hole"? Ack!

I tell you, I can't believe I went to so much trouble to save a body part that not only left me, but left such an obvious vacancy. It's like a lover who leaves and takes the dishwasher.

And how come I didn't feel a thing while he was cutting, but the thing hurts like a b***ch while it's healing up? Good news is that it's healing shut. I...think. I don't look too carefully.

Would a jewel fit in there?

My friends have been very kind, offering up all sorts of excess tissue. Skin tags, moles, etc... "Hey Kate! I almost forgot about this wart! Want it?" My buddy R. has a very annoying, perfectly round scar that stands up from her skin in a way she finds unsightly. Hmm... Now that could work...

I know what I want, though. It's the perfect solution. Simon has been blessed with a third, tiny, vestigial nipple, hanging around uselessly on his ribs. Perhaps if I could lure him in to the plastic surgeon's office under false pretenses...

No, I should just demand that he hand it over. I deserve his nipple - he lost my wedding ring.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Living Up To The Stereotypes

[Look out. I am starting to feel better, which is restoring some aspects of my personality that are not very refined. Here, I reveal my bigotry toward charming, rich, attractive doctors. To my warped and whithered mind, this makes perfect sense.]

So, I heard something nice about my plastic surgeon the other day. I was in a mastectomy boutique (which deserves its own blog entry...) yesterday, buying a camisole to wear when I want to launder my hospital-issued corset thing. Did you know that foundation garments for the newly boobless are covered by insurance? No kidding. So, the owner was taking down my insurance info and asked who my doctor was. I told her and she looked up sharply. "Dr. S.? Well, you ARE one of the lucky ones! I have to tell you that I have seen a lot of reconstructions come through here. Some are horrible, some are OK, some are really good. But Dr. S. does incredible work. His reconstructions are nothing short of miraculous." I thought, "Alright, alright. No need to have an orgasm. Geeze!" But it did put a little spring in my step, for sure. Reassuring too, to think about it today when I was in his treatment room (again) (I'm starting to feel like a fixture)looking carefully in the other direction while he debrided the NOLS (Nipple On Life Support) ("Great! That is bleeding a lot! Blood supply is a good thing!"), picked out sutures and shot more stuff into the tissue expander (AKA Boob-Stretcher/The Anvil /The Turtle). I thought, "You should tell him. What a nice compliment!" Then I thought, "I wonder of fawning women tell him how marvelous he is all day long."

I wish I would find out something about Dr. S. that would overturn my prejudices about the poor man. But all the evidence points in one direction: he's a smug frat-boy:
  1. He's REALLY good-looking. Fit, tan, blue-eyed, about 55 years old. Southern accent. (The angel of my better nature wants to know how I can hate a person for being beautiful. It's not his fault.)

  2. His practice is in Draper. People from Utah will understand that a well-known plastic surgeon WOULD have his practice in Draper. More boob-jobs per capita than any other community in the Intermountain West. (Well that just makes him practical...)

  3. His offices are pretentious as hell. I mean, when Mom was here and took me to an appointment, we walked into the waiting room and she said, "Oh, my." Flagstone floors, 8-foot doors, fireplace, throne-like chairs in distressed leather, lots of wrought iron. It just needs some big, drippy candles and a jacuzzi, and he could rent it out for porn shoots. Mom didn't even see the second reception area. It has a fountain, objects d'art and a bronze of a perfectly proportioned woman dipping her toe into some non-existent pond. "Please. Doctor Frat-Boy, make me look like the woman in the statue! I don't care how much it costs!" He didn't get this office by reconstructing mastectomies. He must do a booming business in cutie-pies. (HAH! The angel has no rejoinder?)

  4. Although my "medical name" is Katherine and I have asked him to call me Kate, he persists in calling me Kathleen. I don't really care. I don't bother correcting him. (So, why berate him for it now?) Yes, I know. The sainthood train has left the station. I missed it.

The thing is, we have to spend rather a lot of time together, so I'd like to like him. I try to perceive some sort of appealing dorkiness, but it's hard work. This is the best I can come up with:

  1. He wears shoes with tassels. With his scrubs.
  2. He perches his readers on his forehead, and they fall down on to his nose whenever he raises his eyebrows.

I just sat here for about 5 minutes trying to think of other humanizing factors, but have come up dry. He is fairly god-like. This is a good thing in a health-care provider, but it makes me want to find fault in order to equalize the relationship a little. After all, this Adonis is picking my scabs off.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Sure Sign

I must be recovering. The nails of my unused left hand, grown luxuriously long this past month, are all starting to break off.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Reclaiming the Ordinary

In an attempt to get my head back to normal, I will play my old game, 'High Point, Low Point". It's been awhile, so I'll review the rules. I have to think of the best single moment of my day and the single worst moment, no matter how mundane. If you want to play along, please comment on the high point and the low point in your day.

High Point

I was able to take the kids to see Monsters vs. Aliens today and survived sitting up that long. Since specificity is important in this game, I most enjoyed rating the previews with my kids. We watch each preview and than vote on how much we want to see the movie, using special hand-signals.

On a snarkier note, I was also awe-struck by the kind of gawky young man in the row in front of us who, in returning to his seat with a flimsy cardboard drink tray, managed to dump an entire Sprite on the head of the kid in front of him. You don't see that every day.

Low Point

After the movie, I had to stagger, moaning, back to my sofa and take a nap. When I am well, I am never going to lounge on this sofa ever again. Any place but here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I have never been really depressed. The worst I can say for myself is that I have had a couple of gloomy days now and then. But this is it- I've arrived. I cry at the drop of a hat. I can't stand to get up in the mornings. I lie on this god-awful sofa by the hour, trying to think healing thoughts. For impatient me, this is kind of like, "Heeeeaaaaallllllll......heeeeeaaaaallllll. Oh, for God's sake, just heal up NOW, would ya'?"

I know what would cheer me up. I would feel better if:
  1. The pain would end. Sometimes, if I lie perfectly still, I can pretend I'm OK. Then I move. For a person who was like a perpetual motion machine before, this is torture. It's always something: the armpit pain from the lymph nodes that came out; the tissue expander under my chest muscle; the horrible nipple and its attempt to stay with me; the nerve-damaged skin.
  2. The progress were faster. Sometimes, I feel a little better. Maybe I stagger out to inspect the (increasingly weedy) gardens and peer muzzily up at the sun. Maybe I sort of prepare a meal. Then I collapse on the sofa to hang out with my pain for a while. If I'm lucky, I find the oblivion of sleep there, which then makes me feel guilty for wasting the day away. Soon, it will be 3 weeks. How much longer does this go on?
  3. I could be at work. At work, I can at least do paperwork, handle phone calls, solve problems, speak Spanish. I feel competent and it's a distraction. My boss, not understanding, keeps telling me that I should go home. At home, everything I look at is a reproach: the yard, the house, the kids. Especially the kids. Everything here requires movement. And I am particularly low because it's Spring break, and I've been stuck at home since Thursday with my poor kids. I still have to make it through tomorrow before I can go back to work.
I am also glum because my very good friend E. has just been diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. She's having a lumpectomy on Wednesday, to be followed by radiation. If she's lucky, that will be the end of it... I hope that luck will be hers. I am still such a mess from my own surgery that I will be about as helpful to her as a screwdriver and a handful of nails.

AND I'm glum because I met with the radiation oncologist a few days ago. In order to be absolutely sure that the cancer will not be back (some of it was rather close to my skin), they would like to treat me. The surgeon had warned me that, in order to keep the reluctant nipple, I might have to have "a couple" rads. There is no partial treatment, according to the oncologist. This would be something like 35 (?) sessions. Radiation reduces the chances of a successful reconstruction to just 50/50. I am going through agony to be reconstructed, and I don't like 50/50. The chances of a recurrence are only about 5%. Yeah, I'd like to be 100% sure we are finished with cancer, but that 5% is a pretty expensive margin of security. The oncologist was careful not to try to push me one way or the other. I will need to decide. I started crying in her office when she told me that I would have to undergo a full series of treatments. I told her that I couldn't make this decision right now. I need to heal up a little more. The pain makes me all weepy and stubborn and irrational. Maybe the pain will be less soon and I can be clear-headed about the choice.

THEN there's the medical oncologist next week. They want me to go on tamoxifen, which should prevent the cancer from showing up in the right breast. It's an estrogen inhibitor. Will it send me into some sort of early menopause? I guess I'll learn more when I go in next week.

Summer is coming. I can see that hiking, camping, backpacking, all the things I love to do, may be out of the question this year. I can't even pull a f***ing weed at the moment. I can't even sleep in my own bed (I have to sleep propped up on the sofa). Run? I can barely walk. I can barely drive. The thought of going to the supermarket is daunting.

I don't want to have a cancer blog. I try to find other things to write about, but cancer is the 900 pound gorilla in my living room at the moment, and I think about little else. To the detriment of all the things I used to take an interest in. Surely this will come to an end? Will I eventually have other things that catch my eye? This should be a lesson to me. The boredom of the suburbs was a blessing, and I will be grateful to plod along through it, if I get that chance again.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Or as Nate calls it, "Grammy-oma". Well, one of my blog buddies was reading my previous post and wanted to know what I was referring to when I mentioned the "Bitten-Off Granuloma". My friends in the real world have all heard the story too many times (sorry, real-world friends) but I'll record it here for posterity.

So, when Nate was 3, he got this thing on his arm that looked like a blood blister. I paid no attention to it for a few days, thinking he had pinched his arm somehow. But when I finally got a good look at it, it looked kind of lumpy and not very blister-like. Hmmm... I waited a few days, but it remained on his arm, pinkie-nail sized. Finally I called my physician father and described it over the phone. He told me it was a granuloma: a spot on the skin where a little cluster of capillaries rises up to the surface. His pronouncement was basically, "Get thou to the dermatologist." I offered to lance it. "NO!" he said. "It'll bleed like a stuck pig."

OK, OK. I called the dermatologist and got an appointment for something like two months from then. Groovy, except Nate got tired of waiting. One morning, I was in the kitchen listening to him prattling to himself in the other room. Suddenly, he made a startled little noise and came to find me with blood dripping off his chin and gushing from his arm. When Dad said "stuck pig", he meant it. I applied pressure and asked Nathan what the HELL? I don't like it, so I bit it off, was the explanation. Yes, of course! That's what we do with things we don't like. OY. I put a Band-Aid on it. Well and good, but for five days, every time I took the Band Aid off to change it, it would gush forth afresh. As soon as the pressure was off it, glub, glub, glub.

We went to the pediatrician. She lifted the Band-Aid and said, "Well, this is a mess." "Can you cauterize it?" "No, I don't have the tools for the job. Go up to the Emergency Room and they'll get someone to take care if it. They'll prioritize you because of the bleeding."

Great. We went to the ER. When the triage nurse lifted the Band-Aid, which had been keeping him from bleeding to death for the last 6 days, I said, "See, it just keeps gushi-" It had stopped. So we waited. And waited. Six hours, with nothing to eat or drink for Nathan. Six hours alone in a thick-walled examining room, during which time, I saw a nurse maybe twice. I have never been so stir-crazy in my life. I would lift the Band-Aid and plead with the slow ooze, "C'mon. Gush!" Finally, we were sent up to dermatology, where, in five minutes, they had it cauterized and we were on our way. The staff there were very sweet to Nathan. They used a cute little puppet to help explain the (20 second) procedure. Wouldn't want the little guy to be traumatized. HIM? What about ME? I was freshly sprung from the ER. I felt like I had just been released from a Turkish prison.

At any rate, this went into the annals of family history as "The Most Blood I Have Seen as a Mother" for several years, only recently to be replaced by the cut head. Now, any little sore or blemish that shows up on Nathan brings a chorus of, "Don't bite it!"

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Most Blood I've Seen as a Mother

Poor old Nate whacked his head against his bed-head, resulting in a gusher. I would have liked to get a picture when we were "in the moment", but I think he would have resented that. He probably would have had stitches if my mother hadn't been here. The old nurse poo-pooed them in favor of butterfly closures, gave Nate a Creamie and said he looked like a Jedi warrior. She went home yesterday - I think Nate is going to miss her.

We have an on-going pursuit: the most blood Mom has seen. Nate has broken his own record twice, now, pretty much leaving Sara in the dust: His claims to family fame now are the Tuna Can Episode, the Bitten-Off Granuloma and the Bed Head....Head.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Good, The Bad and the Dusky

Well, it's been a few days. They have been filled with:
  1. Lortab;
  2. Lying flat on my back;
  3. In a bizarre parody of lingerie, thigh-high pressure stockings and a corset-type thing that I would call a bustier if I still had a bust;
  4. Shuffling, shuffling, like I'm 100 years old, from the bed to the sofa to the table and back to the sofa;
  5. Prune juice, which I chug as fast as I can while holding my nose.

I have good days. On good days I focus on the positive.

It looks like they got all the cancer. Every day, I am able to stay awake a little longer. I am off Lortab and managing with Ibuprofen (which means I can drink, and I sure do). The pressure stockings are off and the drainage tubes have been pulled out. I have watched a lot of movies. I can pretty much dress myself. I am enjoying my mom's company. My friends have been incredible. Amazing! Meals and flowers and a huge basket of funny gifts and loads of visitors who laugh and drink and talk about other things most of the time, so I can forget about it for awhile. I drove the car yesterday (although it was hard) (and wearing a seat belt SUCKS!). I can't make a bed or fold laundry, yet; but I can pick up stuff and put it away. I can brush my hair.

I have bad days, too. I can't work out, which is driving me out of my mind. I feel restless and blob-like. By the time this is over, I will have only one boob, but an a** like a blimp. I handed my wedding ring to Si as they were wheeling me into surgery, and he lost it. I am sick to death of pain. It is unrelenting. Every breath I take hurts, all day long. Pain gets old really fast (believe it or not), and I'm not a patient person. It seems like it is going to hurt forever. I am touch-starved, because it hurts to hug or hold anyone. Even if the kids just sit next to me and they are wriggly, the movement of the sofa hurts. Right after surgery, Si would hold my foot. Now we lie in bed with our fingers touching. This is totally unsatisfactory, but the idea that I could wrap my arms around anyone is as remote as the moon. I'm pissed off at two-breasted women, which pretty much means that I'm pissed off all day. I open my underwear drawer and see a pile of old familiar bras in there; I think, will I ever wear any of these again? What will I wear?

I have only really had one full-fledged pity-party, though: on Thursday night, one week after surgery. The surgeons told me I could take off the corset-thing, shower and change my dressings. I procrastinated for a long time, laying out my pajamas, flossing; but what could I do? My hair was dirty and my pits were smelly. Eventually, naked has to happen. It was indeed a horrifying sight, which I chose not to commemorate in a photo. You are grateful, believe me. Basically, there is an enormous piece of surgical "duct tape" that goes from my scapula over my shoulder and down over my breast, holding it up in a "perky" position. Or it would be perky, if it were still really...there. It is still my same old skin and they did save the nipple, but I'm as flat as an 11-year-old. The expander under my pectoral muscle has just 50 ccs of fluid in it, which is fine, 'cause my pec feels as tight as a drum and twitches painfully and constantly. The tape has been cut into a sort of a "Y" shape at the bottom, splitting to go on either side of the nipple and thus cover almost all of my stitches. The nipple, which I was so keen to save looks..frankly...ungrateful. Shrivelled and angry, it is almost black. The surgeons say, "Well it's a little dusky. You'll probably lose some skin off there." Dusky. DUSKY!? I look at it and think, "It looks like it might decide the trip wasn't worth it and just drop off."

Boy, did I cry, once I was in the shower. After one appalled look at myself, I averted my eyes; I looked up and to the right, and didn't lower my eyes even once. I sobbed and moaned like the spoiled brat that I am. I balled in the shower, sniveled while I was drying off. I really balled when I had to put antiseptic cream on Mr. Dusky. I used a cotton ball. I can't bear to touch myself because the whole surface of my ex-breast is numb and this numbness scares me. Then I went to bed and cried some more, but it's really hard to sleep with a stuffed-up nose. I already have a hard time sleeping 'cause I can't curl up on my favorite side; so I decided to adjourn the pity party, blew my nose and pulled myself together. Today I took a shower again and didn't avert my eyes. I need to be an adult, and it makes leg-shaving easier.