Two Good Appointments

A great week so far.

Dr. Woods
It’s official – I’m a big fan.  Tuesday, I felt much less like a blow-up doll.  I had a ton of questions and Dr. Woods gave me all of the time I needed.  He was also the right combination of sympathetic (“you have been very violated and I’m not sure we appreciate yet the effects of this kind of surgery”) and encouraging (“you’re really doing great for 3-1/2 weeks after surgery”).  Exactly what I needed.

He explained that the cords under my arm are backed-up lymphatic vessels.  My lymphatic system has been interrupted and the lymphatic fluid can’t go the same route it once did – lots of traffic analogies.  He also said the numbness I still have and the extreme sensitivity of the skin on my upper chest is nerve damage and could take 6-9 months to resolve.  And he heartily endorsed Turning Point.

By the way, did you know that implants come in 3 shapes?  Round, flat and in between.  Most customers want round.  But if you’re having reconstruction after a single mastectomy and want to match the unaffected breast, or if you’re just partial to saggy breasts, you might choose flat.  Who knew?

Turning Point
My first impression is that this place is a godsend for breast cancer survivors.  Well-worth the 45-minute drive.

I met with a physical therapist for an hour.  She measured my range of motion, confirmed I had cords, or axillary web syndrome, down to my left wrist, swelling on both sides and “angry” pectoral muscles.  After some gentle massage and a few exercises, she measured my range of motion again – amazing how much it had improved (although it tightened back up again this afternoon).

Anyway, she was terrific and I’m sold.  She also reassured me that I’ll eventually get back to normal – Zumba, mountain biking or whatever else I want to do.  I’ll see her twice a week for at least the next few weeks.

Thank you for checking in!  Onward!

Nicole

Frankenboobie

That’s what I think every time I see an ad for the Frankenweenie movie!

Months ago, a few of my reconstructed friends offered to bare their chests so I’d know what to expect.  I marveled at this sweet (and odd) gesture.  Now, I get it.  Not only do I feel disconnected from my top half, but it’s like a laboratory experiment I think others would have to see to believe.

But don’t be afraid to scroll down!  Everything here is G-rated.

Oct 12 - sunken chest #3My upper chest looks sunken 3 weeks after surgery.  Dr. Woods says the hollow areas will fill out a bit when I get permanent implants.  Port scar on my right.

Cording after axillary dissectionTight bands of tissue have developed under my left arm.  They pull and hurt when I move, so my range of motion is still limited on the left (although gentle stretching seems to make it better).  I can feel this big one down past my elbow.

Apparently, this cording, or “axillary web syndrome,” is a possible side effect of axillary dissection and a risk factor for lymphedema.  This week, I have an appointment at Turning Point for physical therapy.

Hair 2 months after last TaxolAs for my hair, I’m clearly brunette again.  My eyebrows are out of control and I have eyelash stubble that makes me look like I’m always wearing eyeliner.

Emotionally, I still have some bad days.  You’d think I’d be happy as a clam now that the worst is over!  But we’re all just worn out.  Joey said he knows I’m getting better because he used to be exhausted all of the time and now he’s only exhausted most of the time.

The kids struggle, too.  Our son wants to know when I’ll be able to ride bikes or play tennis with him.  Our daughter asks when I’ll teach Zumba again.  And if the cancer will come back.  These same questions play in a loop in my own head.

It’s an ongoing lesson in being grateful for what we have.  Which, of course, is plenty and a lot more than most!

So, on that note, here are a few recent developments we’re celebrating:
– Except for occasional numbness in my toes, my feet are back to normal.
– I can apply deodorant under my arms if I use a cotton ball (many people are thankful for this one!).
– I can sleep on my side again.  In fact, I was so comfortable this morning that the kids nearly missed the bus.
– I was able to reach for my latte in the Starbucks drive-thru today.  Priorities, right?
– Prozac!

My next appointments:
10/23 Dr. Woods for Expansion #2
10/24 Turning Point for physical therapy
11/1 First follow-up after surgery with my oncologist, Dr. O’Regan

Nicole

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

First, I have to point out (again!) that I’ve been cancer-free since my 9/28 surgery.  But I still look like a cancer patient, which has made this month, in particular, a little surreal.

Cheeky Mexican TaqueriaI felt like a minor celebrity last Saturday when we went to a restaurant, where the walls were plastered with pink donation cards.  Certain a giant arrow was pointing to my bald head, I stood in front of them while we waited for our table.  The poor waiter was nervous when he gave us his fundraising spiel and Joey couldn’t help but point out that we are plenty aware (!!).  We did leave a big tip to try to make up for it.

And, then, incredibly, the couple at the next table – whom we didn’t know – bought our dinner!  We were informed of it only after they left, so, whoever you are, thank you!Atlanta 2-Day Walk

A really big thank you to my friends Stacy and Kim, both of whom fielded teams and raised money for the Atlanta 2-Day Walk this month.  And best wishes to Jill and Team Princess Warriors who have raised $36,619 for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day this weekend – we will be thinking of you!

Beaubeau scarves from 4women.comI, on the other hand, have been spending money.  Too much, perhaps, at 4women.com, purveyor of the awesome BeauBeau® head scarves.  It’s probably my extensive collection that earned me the title of “October Beaudiva of the Month.”  Click here for my testimonial.

Philanthropic HensFinally, as a former ad exec, I was well aware of the marketing juggernaut that is Breast Cancer Awareness Month long before I became a spokesmodel.  But even I was surprised to see pink ribbons on our eggs.

Happy October!
Nicole

Meals on Wheels

54.  That’s roughly how many meals have been delivered to our home since my cancer treatment began.  One friend set up an online Care Calendar.  Another volunteered her plug-in cooler for our front porch.

Neighbors, Joey’s coworkers, our parents’ friends and our children’s teachers.  The mothers of the girls in Sara’s Brownie troop.  The parents of the kids our kids go to school with.  People we’ve been friends with for years and people we hardly know.  They conspired to feed us, and it has been so incredibly helpful.

There have been salads, breads, pastas, chicken dishes, fish, quiche, a pot roast, home-made Chinese and IHOP pancakes.  Take-out so we could try new restaurants.  Gift cards to use at Instead of Flowers.  Micro-brews for Joey, treats for the kids and special drinks and soups especially to soothe my stomach.

Meals were sometimes left quietly, even anonymously, so as not to disturb us.  Often, they included cards made by the family’s children (scroll down to see some of those treasures!).  Once, our own son answered the door naked.  Another time our daughter asked “Did you bring dessert?”  Oy.

Somehow, at least twice a week, for 27 weeks, dinner has miraculously appeared at our doorstep.

Yesterday, the calendar was shut down and we gratefully accepted one last meal from our dear friend Selena.  I’m driving again and we have the time and energy to grocery shop and feed ourselves.

But our hearts are already full.

Nicole

Enjoy the Meal & Feel Better!

10 Days Post-Op

I am drain-free!

I also have quite a bit more feeling in one side than I did a week ago, so when Dr. Woods pulled the drain out on the right, I cursed like a sailor.

Before that fun was my first expansion.  My male doctor inserted a huge syringe into the middle of each of my boobs and pumped saltwater into them to make them bigger.  While my husband watched.

What?!

Yes.  It’s like medieval torture.  For feminists.

Then there’s my new eyebrow stubble.  If I have a uni-brow in a month, it’s because I can’t bring myself to wax away the new hairs.

In the meantime, I’m taking walks, trying to keep my upper body still and learning to live without Hydrocodone.

Thank you for checking in!

Nicole