Breast Cancer

Five Weeks in Vermont Postpartum

I thought we were crazy. Sure it sounded good, leaving New Orleans when it’s blazing hot to be in Vermont at the B&B (as we affectionately refer to my parent’s home), but packing up a toddler and a 3 month old baby was insane right? My motto with baby #2 was ‘how can I make it easier’? Every decisions from doula to dockatot to k’tan to king sized bed was guided by this and here we were, getting ready to leave this carefully crafted nest of comfort with our two dogs and two kids. Crazy.

I wasn’t even sure we were really going to do it. Every time my aunts checked in about our plans so they could meet us there there I’d remind them that it wasn’t in stone and I had Southwest tickets and it was all depending on how BabyG was doing. She was having some stomach issues that had already led to one late night emergency room visit so I wasn’t keen on leaving our pediatrician in another time zone. But I was trying to stay open to it while really being ready to bail at the first sign of trouble.

But somehow through my anxiety and fears I found myself getting on a plane with baby, toddler, and my Dad while A. started his two day journey with a packed car and our two dogs.

I was a wreck. I think we were both wrecked. We had spent the last two months with two kids on two different disrupted sleep schedules and A. I were like two ships passing in the night, occasionally sleeping in the same bed. It was not a good scene. We were exhausted.

And here I was, on a plane, leaving behind my carefully crafted nest to uproot to my parent’s house, extremely jealous that A. was about to have a night without any kids waking him up and two driving days where he could call friends to catchup or listen to books on tape/music to his heart’s desire. It sounded like heaven.

The first days were hard. Nono wailed that the room at my parent’s “isn’t my roooooooooom” and continued with his middle of the night wake-ups that now required A. to go downstairs and comfort him instead of next door. I started work again and had my baby, toddler, husband, Mom, four dogs, three cats, and a chicken in the background, as well as my Dad, my brother, and my brother’s dog intermittently coming in and out. I hopped off one call with co-workers exclaiming “I think my dog just attacked my Mom’s chicken, I’ve got to go!” (The chicken lost some feathers, but was fine.)

The weeks were carefully scheduled to accommodate my work needs and keep Nono busy since he was out of daycare and they flew by.

Suddenly it was time for my aunts’ visit which had seemed so far away, and then that was over too. Suddenly there weren’t weeks left, but days, and then hours.

And then it was the last full day.

Things had calmed enough for me to reflect on things by the end. The time was incredibly precious because of the family time on multiple levels:

For many family members, it was the first time they got to meet BabyG

For me, it was much needed time with Nono after a tough pregnancy made A. his primary caregiver and then the first couple of months kept me very busy with BabyG. Having Nono out of daycare was exhausting, but it gave me so much time with him after not enough for so long. And he is a hilarious and crazy little kid.

The four of us got to be together so much, when Nono was born A. took a month off after my maternity leave ended and I went back full time to an office. This time I used vacation to go back part time for June and I work remotely so we got to have 5 weeks of all of us together

My parents got to experience the amazing changes that happen in one of the early months with their grandbaby, the BabyG who left was a very different baby than when we arrived and they were there for all of the little moments of progression

My parents gave us support and a safe place to be while we figured out how to become a family of four and we got out of a very difficult period, we arrived a bit of a mess and we left ready to get back to our new lives

We got to reconnect with old friends and spend quality time with new friends. There is a big piece of my heart in Vermont with the friends I have there and the friends there span from childhood to college to San Francisco to in the last couple of years of when we’ve become friends

I spent a very important anniversary there. Five years ago I turned 30 and shortly after was diagnosed with some pretty lame cancer. We’ll never know if it was caused by the rhinestone birthday tiara my Mom gave me (I’ve never worn it since and I’ve never had cancer again, so I think evidence is pretty strong), but we arrived about to embark on a new chapter in our life in New Orleans involving kids and house and careers and instead got a frequent flyer membership to the hospital (just kidding, hospitals don’t give membership perks because the American healthcare system sucks). For my specific special snowflake diagnosis, the two significant anniversaries to reach without recurrence are two years and five years. It meant something to spend my 35th birthday at my parents (I think my Mom finally threw out the tiara) and be there with the family I have now in spite of what happened five years ago.

We’re going back in three weeks for a week. But who’s counting?

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Nothing Tastes as Good as Skinny Feels

Post written around early May.

I never thought that getting pregnant would make me have more in common with Kate Moss. I’m currently almost 12 weeks pregnant and haven’t weighted this little since high school/early college. Even months of heavy chemo didn’t make me this skinny. It’s darkly funny.

I’m not puking my guts out (although there have been a few times), it’s mostly the hours I spend every day feeling nauseous and mostly being restricted to only being able to eat small meals and then of course having the tiny alien growing inside of me and sucking away my nutrients. That’s all.

A. said I should give Maury a call and pitch a “Pregnancy Made Me Hot” episode. If only my boobs weren’t totally different sizes…

Most of the time I am a sad panda due to the nausea and the inability to even wear a loose waistband because it makes me feel more sick. I can’t wear those skinny clothes I’ve foolishly held onto and let’s be real, post-pregnancy bod is unlikely to go back to hot pregnancy bod. It’s just wasted. I could wear freaking lycra right now and instead of I’m wearing baggie dresses.

I have rare moments where I revel in how skinny I feel. Like 99% of the time I feel miserable, but that 1%! A few moments where I don’t feel completely horrible and get to concentrate on my ANTM prospects. Sometimes it really does feel like good ole Kate really knew what she was talking about. Feeling skinny feels amazing.

I have a flat stomach because of my cancer related surgeries, I’ve never been able to naturally achieve a flat stomach, even when I was a teenager and playing basketball every day. Now it’s even more pronounced due to the baby weight loss. Is there a market out there for this kind of body shaping plan? Botched cancer reconstruction & debilitating pregnancy: how to become the skinnier you! My before photos could be a sad looking healthy person outside and the after photo could be someone posing on a couch (because they’re too sick to stand) in a bikini with the scars out. Instant money maker.

So even though I’ve felt like I’m being tortured, for over a month and a half, daily, at least I look good.

Well other than the occasional pregnancy acne because you know, that’s apparently a thing too.

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At least someone is enjoying my invalid status

The Distance From Here to There

I’ve tried not to dwell on the anniversaries that are popping up around me. They’re not on my calendar, and although the scars are always there, they don’t have dates engraved in them, just a general sense of time they appeared. But then there’s social media. Facebook has a nifty feature to look back and see the things that happened on a date all through the years you belonged to the site. You can see where I’m going with this.

Usually it’s fun and interesting because I think I joined in 2004, so there’s a lot of years on there and a lot of different life stages captured that are fun to look back on. But August is a tough month for this, the last week in particular. I don’t re-read my posts because it’s still too fresh, but I have re-read the last couple that were a year ago and it’s a sort of out of body experience.

The person writing them is me of course, but it’s me at my worst/best. It’s me in an impossible situation that is so far from my normal day to day that I can recognize it’s me but it’s a very different me. I imagine that it’s sort of like if you had a baby, you’d look back at yourself in the delivery room and what you did to get through giving birth and you’d know that was you, but the way that you dealt with it and reacted to it is so outside your normal thought and emotional realm that it’s like looking a different person.

I read a couple of those posts and I remember people telling me how strong I was for writing them, but I marvel at how angry I was. I’m still angry about certain things, I’ll let you know if that ever goes away. But there’s a difference between a simmering anger that normally takes the back seat with other life things going on, and a raging fire of anger that was consuming me that I see in those posts. Albeit watered down by pain meds. I have a temper that burns hot and burns out quickly, but in those posts I see someone on fire with no dampening in sight.

Having never lived alone because I stayed with and ended up marrying my college boyfriend, there are few things that make me feel more self sufficient than traveling for work. I have to go to somewhere I’ve never been or am unfamiliar with, figure out how to get where I need to be. Be completely self-reliant while also convincing those that I’m going to see that I’m someone they should rely on and trust with whatever we’re discussing/working on. There’s no one to bail me out or to hide behind. It’s deeply satisfying to succeed.

That’s what I was doing a few days ago when these unpleasant anniversaries reared their heads. I was away from my friends and family, but working 13 hours day and being a BOSS. A year ago I felt helpless and choice-less and so so angry. A few days ago I felt in absolute control and so very capable, and it couldn’t have been a better contrast.

Addiction and Flaws.

It’s been almost a month since I last posted. I could lie and say it’s because I’m moving on or because work is keeping my busy or some other legit sounding excuse, but like I said, that would be a lie. The real reason is because I am a gamer and I have fallen through the rabbit hole with Heroes Charge. I’m pretty sure with the hours I have spent playing that I could have cured cancer instead. But instead I’ve been building my army of fantasy style creatures and battling. It’s a sickness.

I get it from my Mom. The first time I ever heard her swear involved a serious game of Mario Kart where Princess cut her off and an emphatic “Bitch!” escaped her lips. There was also a “shit happens” button above her desk for several years before she finally decided to take it down due to me being able to read it. It was pretty funny given that she ran the office for my Dad, a plumber.

Work is good. It is wonderful to be back in advertising, and better yet, be at somewhere I really wanted to work at. It’s a strange feeling that I’m building a future here. It’s really the first job I have felt that way because I always knew we’d leave eventually and come to New Orleans before this. Here there is no next step, this is it. It’s kind of awesome. I don’t feel this pressure to achieve something in a set amount of time before we leave, I can just take things as they come. I also missed the people and process of advertising, it’s just wonderfully absurd and inappropriate. Those of you that wonder about Mad Men, yes. I believe it was like that and worse back in the day given how we behave now. There are 5 bottles of whiskey above my desk that belong to one of my co-workers. In a recent internal meeting reviewing work, a very senior person was giving their thoughts and prefaced that what they had to say may not be worthwhile with “you can call me a fucking dildo head” if we thought it was dumb.

It’s also weird and nice to be surrounded by people that have no idea about the big C. Some do, but I work with over 100 people and most don’t. I get complements on my short hair and I’m stunned. It’s going to take some getting used to to not be responding in cancer mode. I’ve had a couple more doctor’s appointments and all have been good. I need to get through my two years to be in a safer shape. (not really good or safe, but significantly better odds). It’s two years from the surgery date so I’m not so far off from year one. My plan is to celebrate year one with a trip to Harry Potter world because I am a huge dork. I also wanted to do something silly and fun that wouldn’t take a bunch of vacation time and that fits the bill.

It was tough for a bit today because I was going through stuff that my Dad recently drove down from Vermont for us and came across a big pile of cards from our time in VT. These ranged from 30th birthday cards to anniversary cards to cancer sucks cards. I was to out of it and tired to sort through when we were packing so they all made it down. The 30th birthday cards are the ones that got me. I was diagnosed a little over a month after my birthday and before then it had been so built up as a big birthday. It was a rite of passage that my friends and I were all going through and I had a lot of feelings about what my 30s would hold as I closed the chapter on my 20s. The cards reflect that with lots of wishes and hopes from friends and family for my 30th year to be full of great things and adventure. It’s hard to read those knowing what happened so shortly after and is something I’m still recovering from and learning to survive. It wasn’t the 30 that any of us wanted. 31 is close and I look forward to leaving 30 behind.

On a related and sarcastically funny note, it is super hard for me not to say or write to friends turning 30 “can’t be worse than mine!” or “hope you don’t get cancer!” But I resist and you’re welcome for that.

Footloose & Fancy Free

On a scale of a regular person, I am totally not footloose and fancy free, but I broke that scale 8 months ago. Fuck that scale.

I got my last drain out on Wednesday which was excellent. I get to resemble a normal person at my friends’ wedding next weekend and not look like a science experiment. I got it out early because I’m local and I can come in next week and get a giant needle stuck in my booty/hip to drain the excess fluid there. Glad you read that one right? What kind of fucked up world am I living in that I actively chose to make an appointment to get a giant needle stuck in my ass and am happy about it? This is what cancer does to you.

I am doing well though. My comparison is of course not a healthy/normal person, but my first surgery and chemo for 4 months. I’m doing awesome compared to both of those. I have had 5 surgeries since this all started, not counting the biopsies. I really am in crazy town.

I’ve also been only taking advil the last few days so I am back driving again. Miracle upon miracles. I am still wearing my slutty superhero costume, but it’s a lot easier to hide under regular clothes without tubes. I am going to have to start taking something to sleep again as a consequence of not being on pain meds anymore unfortunately. I’ve got these crazy leg things that are like a blood pressure cuff around each of them and squeezes my legs on and off throughout the night to prevent blood clots. I also need to sleep on my back propped up a bit. Totally not how I naturally sleep so it’s a bit tough getting there naturally. Side sleeping is still weeks away unfortunately.

I also stepped up my prematurely 70 years old life style with an elderly person’s shower chair. Pretty tight right? My parent’s shower is huge and has a seat in it so I was good there, but our bathtub doesn’t have that option and I’m not quite dependable to stand that long or be able to bend over and wash my feet easily so I’m rocking the shower chair. Also in the beginning, showering was super complicated right after surgery and I had to sit to do it.

My hair is actually thick now, which is just lovely. Waiting for it to get a little longer so I can actually get it shaped into a style instead of it’s current “Look I have hair!” status. I’ve also got full-blown eyebrows and eyelashes again. Looking like a person more and more.

Walking is still pretty rough, I can go 3-4 blocks currently, which isn’t enough to accomplish much unfortunately. However, we live a couple of blocks away from a lot of things so it’s enough to get what I need in the neighborhood (ice cream, sandwiches, chocolate cake, etc).

Anyways it’s Friday and I’m doing pretty good, so have a beer for me. I’m still on antibiotics, so I need y’all to step up.

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First Checkup Report

So I had my first post-op appointment a week after surgery (yesterday). It was actually with my surgeon and not a minion (unlike my first surgery experience). My Mom came too which I’m sure was a treat for her (only partially being sarcastic here).

Everything is looking good per him (I think I look like frankenstein’s monster personally, if frankenstein had a boob and butt fetish).  In case that’s not clear, bruising has started with a vengeance. Even having done this once before, it’s been a rough road. A. said the first time was still much harder, but it’s hard to have that perspective when it’s happening to you. Having four drains that require twice a day maintenance is really stressful. It’s painful too, but mostly it’s overwhelming. The first at home shower was a horrifying experience. I took an anti-anxiety med afterwards and A. had a big drink.

The good news is that yesterday I had 3 out of 4 drains removed which takes the stress and care waaaaaaaay down. I know because I had a shower last night and didn’t need to medicate afterwards to recover. I’ve still got my slutty super hero costume on (still taking name suggestions), and will for another week. Then I can stop wearing the top part and just have the bottom. The last drain is in my hip which can stay for a month or so, hoping to be a fast healer on this one because that sounds really lame. I’d also really like to attend my friend’s wedding without having that fun accessory.

Mom is here and being a huge help. She feeds me and helps with my dressing stuff. She’s also Cinderellaing the laundry, dishes, and animals. We occasionally have to discuss puppy raising techniques, but Wally is over the moon with the walks and attention he’s getting. It’s hard for me to be so limited with him, he’s got a big part of my heart. The cats staged another song protest in the middle of the night last night, but we’ve got a broom in the bedroom now so we win.

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Mom and Wally hanging out on the porch with me

On The Road To Recovery

I’m out of my fancy hospital and back at home. I was welcomed back by an hourish-long songs of protest from the kitties around 5am in response to their banishment from the bedroom. Mostly Nero. We will now be sleeping with the broom by the door.

I received excellent care at the hospital. It was as good as it could be. It was also mostly a blur due to the pain meds and recovering from that much physical trauma at once. Thursday was Wednesday to me all day. It felt less like torture this time since I’ve done this before, when they were making me get up and walk the day after surgery and urging me to sit in the chair. I get it, blood clots are bad.

I did have some rough spots because that’s just the way it goes. Thursday and Friday I had migraines and nausea and ended up throwing up a bit which was lame and led to an IV of fluids to help bring my blood pressure up. I was initially concerned that throwing up would suck due to the abdominal surgery, well good news, that actually wasn’t so bad. What was bad was the feeling that my head was going to split open from the migraine. oof.

Fortunately the staff got me fixed up and Saturday I was doing ok and was able to go home. My surgeon came to see me every day I was there, even Saturday. I go back and see him on Wednesday to check in on how I’m healing and if any of my drains can come out. I’ve got four of those suckers this time, hoping to narrow it downs to two on Weds if at all possible. Funny how they leave drains out of Grey’s Anatomy or any TV/Movie dealing with surgery and recovery. You can google to see what these fun things are if you’re curious, I’m living with them and that’s enough detail for me.

Thus far I think I’m in less pain than I was from the original surgery. Basing this on the pain pills I have. Early to tell of course, but hopefully I can get through this with less pain this time. The biggest challenge in this so far is stress. Having four drains that need to be cared for a couple of times today (painting iodine on them, changing bandages, etc), getting up to walk, showering every other day, and feeling so damn fragile is very stressful. I get overwhelmed easily right now and shake sometimes. It’s tough.

Having seen myself the first go around, I was prepared when they moved the bandages back and I saw the not so pretty side of this, but it’s still stressful. There’s that voice in the back of your head “does that look normal?”. Luckily I’ve got a pretty strong stomach when it’s my own injury I’m looking at so that’s not the issue, but it’s still stunning to see yourself so banged up and know you have so far to go before you can be in the clear of healing properly.

Some of the new things this go around are a sports like bra that clasps in the front and basically spanx. Fortunately they’re both in black so I just pretend that they’re part of my super hero costume, taking name suggestions. I’m a slutty superhero though because they’re crotchless spanx because I’m supposed to leave them on at all times other than showering. They’re actually pretty comfy and I applaud whomever chose black over tan, black is always sexier. It also helps that my scary parts are covered all the time except for the drains themselves and when we clean/change bandages. Unfortunately due to the tubing, I’ve got a bit more in common with Bane than Poison Ivy.

My Mom is on her way here and will be staying here until I’m good to be on my own while A. is at work. A lot of that will be taking care of Wally. Since I have drains hanging off of me, he’s a bit of a liability so someone has to make sure he’s getting out and in when he needs to and taking him for walks. A. brings him over to me in the bed so I can get a kiss every now and then from my adorable puppy. It’s a mild form of torture not getting to interact with him.

I got some lovely flowers while I was in the hospital that are decorating the room. Since the cats are banished for the time being, they can be up without any fear of getting knocked over. A lot of my pirate gear and get well stuff is in VT because my Dad is going to drive it down in the spring, but I do have my pirate flag up and my get well card from BSSP hanging by my bed.

Today I start getting better.

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