One Year After Chemo

Wishing that all cancer fighters could be so lucky.


Follow-Up with Dr. Woods

2-1/2 weeks after my exchange surgery, Dr. Woods cleared me for physical therapy and the swimming pool.  Next week, I can run with a tight bra and sleep without one.  He wants me to wait another month for “extensive use” of my arms.

Regarding the unevenness, it’s too early to tell if it will get worse – there’s still some swelling and the radiated skin may loosen up.  The fact that I can feel the implants move when I bend or twist sounds like something I’ll have to get used to.  Dr. Woods said that gaining another 10lbs would rectify that, and I’m sure hoping that doesn’t happen.

Finally, he suggested liposuction to fill in the sunken areas above the radiated side and my port scar on the right.  I won’t say never (it would be insurance-covered, after all!), but standing naked in front of someone while he chooses which part of me is fattest?  Torture, plain and simple.

I did laugh when he said, “I haven’t seen your bottom, but…” And then described how you stand with your legs spread and your hands against the wall – the fat is removed – then they turn you over….

I wanted to plug my ears and yell, “Blah, Blah, Blah!” to drown out the rest.

Enough with the plastic surgery talk!  I really like Dr. Woods and highly recommend him.  I just want a break.

We agreed to meet again in late August, after I’ve had some time to live with things as they are.  We’ll talk then about what, if anything, I want to “fix.”


Dead Fat & Clay Pigeons

I went to Emory yesterday to get 2 new lumps on my left side checked out – one between my skin and tissue expander and the other on my upper chest, near the site of my original tumor.  Dr. Torres said they’re likely “fat necrosis” or scar tissue.  I go back next week for an ultrasound to confirm.

Only someone who has had cancer would be hoping for “deposits of dead fat cells” in her body.

I found a good article at about local recurrence and all of the different benign things that can cause new lumps.  My goal is to be vigilant but not paralyzed by the fear of my cancer coming back.  So far, I give myself a 5 on a 1-10 scale :)

Before driving to Decatur, I went to physical therapy at Turning Point, which I’m doing weekly until the kids get out of school.  (Happily, these medical-heavy days are few and far between now).

Other than that, the kids and I are busy with end-of-school-year festivities.

As for Joey, he’s skeet shooting today with his peers at work.  He wondered this morning what he should wear.  My response?  “Neon!”

Happy Mothers’ Day weekend!

“We can go anywhere you want”

That was my amazing husband, after a challenging 2012, as we discussed taking a vacation this Spring.

I’d finished 6 months of chemo in August.  Had both breasts removed and tissue expanders implanted September 28.  The last of 30 radiation treatments was January 4.   I was getting fills to stretch my skin every two weeks in February and March.

Our kids’ Spring Break fell in a sweet spot after my last expansion March 26, but before my exchange surgery scheduled for June.  As my Chase cousins like to say, Carpe Diem!

I chose Costa Rica.

Nature is therapeutic.  Being outside, surrounded by trees, helps clear my mind like nothing else.  And the benefits for children?  A wonderful book called “Last Child in the Woods” explains it far better than I can.

Anyway, my idea of the perfect vacation is being active outdoors, surrounded by green, far away from the physical and head space that we occupy day-to-day.  I’ve always known I’d love Costa Rica.

I was right.

I can’t possibly explain how restorative this trip was.  Or share enough photos to do this beautiful country justice.  I will share my gratitude to Joey for, well, everything, and to our children for being such joyful adventurers!  Also, Thomson Family Adventures and our local guides for making it all so easy.

As for these photos, they’re meant to show what I was physically capable of 3 months after finishing treatment.  I can’t help but add that our 7-and-8-year-old kids did everything we did, and usually first!

Nicole rappelling through waterfallRappelling into a canyon near Volcán Arenal

Family SUPSUP at Playa Danta in Guanacaste

Whitewater rafting down the Sarapiqui RiverWhitewater rafting on Rio Sarapiquí

Ziplining through the Costa Rican rainforestMy tissue expanders, defying gravity, while the rest of me (the 42-year-old parts)
hangs over the rainforest, trying to impress my kids.

Nicole jumping into Sarapiqui RiverJumping – not so gracefully – into Rio Sarapiquí

Pacific OceanTough work in the Pacific Ocean

Nicole and kids at FlamingoAnd at Flamingo Beach Resort in Guanacaste

Now, on to two really inspiring women.

While I was looking out for #1, Kim, a cancer survivor and (luckily for us) our children’s teacher, was busy planning a truly special event in her home to raise money for those with breast cancer who don’t have nearly the support that she and I have had.  Click here to read Kim’s story or here to make a donation to the Atlanta 2-Day Breast Cancer Walk on behalf of Team K.I.M. (“Kick It’s M’Ass”).

Another friend, Carri, ran 23.73 miles of the Boston Marathon on April 15.  Carri, who is safely back in Atlanta, has become a wonderful ambassador for the sport of running, the city of Boston and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  Check out her blog Run.Mom.Repeat. and be inspired to do something.

Thank you, Kim and Carri.


Easter blessings

13 months after my diagnosis, my blessings are great.  Including, finally, a decent hair-do ;)

If you celebrate Easter, we hope it was a happy one!


Happy Easter Easter morning
Easter impsDecorating EggsLittle blessings