Monday, July 29, 2013

"My Breasts Don't Define Me". Gag.

Rant of the morning...

I was reading someone else's breast cancer-related Facebook page and someone had commented (regarding reconstruction), "breasts don't define me". Oh, how I loathe that. 

If it were reconstruction of any other body part, people just wouldn't say that! Your body is your body. If you choose not to reconstruct, that's absolutely your prerogative, but don't play the "I wouldn't be so vain as to reconstruct - GASP - breasts!" card. (I know that not everyone does this. I'm just venting!)

My breasts didn't define me but they sure were a big part of me. (Snicker. Pun not intended.) I am more than my funbags but it doesn't make me love them any less. 

I'm sure I'll have a longer post about this at some point but just really wanted to get this off my chest. (Snort.) 

Hoping off my soapbox now... 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Happy Dancing

I'm going to say something that will probably piss more than a few people off. 

Cancer may have threatened my life in unimaginable ways but strangely, I think it may have saved it, too. 

(Let the backlash begin...)

In the few years leading up to my cancer diagnosis in March of 2012, I dealt with a variety of significant personal and work-related issues. My stress level was at an all-time high. The migraines that plagued me for nearly 30 years had gotten so frequent that I had to switch medications twice in a matter of weeks. They wouldn't simmer down.

The depression that I had battled off and on for the majority of my adult life had also decided once again to rear its ugly head. I bit the bullet and made an appointment with my family doctor to rule out any other possible issues and to begrudgingly ask for a prescription for Prozac - my happy pill of choice.  

The bottom line was that I wasn't happy at all. I felt useless and hopeless and drained of emotion. I could be silly and laugh and joke, but when I was alone, my brain wouldn't calm down. It was a downward spiral that I had been down before and was afraid of heading there again.

After describing all of my woes and symptoms to my doctor, she ordered blood work to see if I was actually pre-menopausal, which would explain quite a bit of my issues. This was in December of 2011. 

Two months later, I found the lump in my breast that would ultimately lead to my diagnosis of stage IIB, triple negative breast cancer. I would have to endure  13 rounds of chemo, 30 radiation treatments and removal of both breasts. 

Now that I am nearly 8 months post treatment, I've had plenty of time to reflect and do what I do best - over-analyze. 

I have had one pretty minor migraine since I started chemo about 16 months ago. ONE!  I haven't gone a stretch like that in decades. I rarely get headaches now, period. Those that I do get are usually knocked out with a couple of Advil. No prescription meds!

Given all the shit I've gone through mentally and physically in the last year and a half, my stress level is a fraction of what it's been the last 5-10 years.  I am still taking my happy pills like a good little girl and clearly, they're working. 

I appreciate life in a different way now. I hold those that have been there for me very close to my heart and try to tell them often how much i appreciate them. All others? Well, I don't waste my precious time worrying about them. They didn't worry about me! 

I'm eating better. I'm sleeping better (finally!). I'm making better and more thoughtful decisions. I'm trying to be a better person overall. 

I will never cop to thanking cancer for any of these good things. I wouldn't rather have those things back in my life at all but cancer was placed in my way and for whatever reason, I was able to recover. Regardless of what my future holds, right now, I'm stronger, healthier and yes, happier, than I've been in a very, very long time. 

I'll say it again...

I am happy. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

19 years and counting!

To my most awesome husband, Matt, 

Someone was clearly looking out for me when they put you into my life over 20 years ago. From the best of friends to our lives as a married couple, we've certainly seen our ups and downs. 

We've had all of our vows played out in brilliant technicolor. For better, for worse... Check. For richer, for poorer... Yep, got that. In sickness and in health... Oh hell, yeah. We're stronger for the obstacles life has given us. 

I'm proud of you and I'm proud to be your wife. Thank you for being the man you are and loving me for who I am. 

Happy 19th anniversary, baby.  

I love you. 

-- Nancy


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Cleavage!

I am pleased to announce to anyone that cares that cleavage is back in da' house!

Whoop, whoop!

During my expander phase, I had a weird wrinkle in my skin that made my "cleavage" (using this word very liberally here) look like a freshly shaven vagina. Yep. I said that. Nope, you can't unread it. You're welcome. 

Thanks to McBoobie's handiwork, the weird clea-vagina is gone and I have just one chestal crevice. While my boobs are still not perfect by any stretch, they're more normal for sure. His main concern at this point was to create an attractive "V" area on my chest. I'm pleased! 

I'm not ready for down-to-there shirts quite yet but I will freely admit that I've checked my cleavage out many times over the last two days. Interestingly, it's also just about the only area on my chest where I have any sensation at all. That little valley is all I get. 

I'll take it. :)

Excuse me. I have to look down my shirt again... 


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hair, hair, hair

"Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair"

To me, hair is just hair. I've never been too emotionally attached to it and always had the opinion that it would just grow back if it was too short or a bad cut or whatever. 

Enter cancer. 

Like many people, I cut my shoulder-length hair short in anticipation of chemo. I had always said - WAY before my own cancer - that if I ever got it, I'd shave my head rather than waiting for it to fall out. I did just that once the first clumps started to fall through my fingers and didn't look back.

I've said before that I never shed a tear over it. Welllll, that's a bald-faced lie. (See what I did there?) I did cry. I cried that first day, not for my hair, but because it was real. Chemo was affecting me. That was just one of cancer's many sucker punches. 

It's no secret how much I loved my mohawk. I'm such an attention whore and that shit got some attention! It was fun and unexpected and one helluva conversation piece. If I hadn't lost my hair, I would have rocked that fucker for the duration. No lie. 

Being bald was also no biggie. It was empowering and freeing and so convenient - especially in the brutal Texas heat. I didn't mind it but didn't want to stay bald. It did invoke the "poor you" look for sure. I was definitely happy when it started to grow back. 

I wore my short, choppy hair like a badge of honor. I was a cancer survivor and this was part of my visual proof. I'd see people with like 'dos and feel a sense of camaraderie. It's like bus drivers or motorcycle riders; I wanted to do the "you're one of my people" nods. 

In the 10 months since I finished chemo, I've had six trims and have colored it a few times. People would compliment me and would ask if I planned on keeping it short. I couldn't imagine long hair again. It was just so convenient short. Why would I ever go back?

Yeah, I've had a change of heart. 

My hair is currently in an in-between stage. I feel like it either needs to be a little shorter or a little longer. The color looks like Joan Jett - The Frumpy Years due to a bad bottle job choice. I finally came to the conclusion that I want to let it grow. I want to be able to tuck it behind my ears and have style options. Most importantly, though, is that I don't want the constant reminder of cancer. It's the sole reason that I sport this 'do and I'm over it. 

I'm not going to go all Crystal Gayle or anything and will likely not go past my chin but it's time for a change. Shedding one more "skin", I guess. 

I'll be sure to post pics of the really cute awkward stages. I dread the thought of clips and pins and - oy - headbands to keep my wazzy tresses under control. I may lose patience and buzz it all off but I will try. I've been through FAR worse than letting my hair grow of course. 

It's only hair. It'll grow back. 

Cue the hairy, naked hippies...

"Gimme head with hair
Long beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming,
Streaming, flaxen, waxen

Give me down to there hair
Shoulder length or longer
Here baby, there mama
Everywhere daddy daddy"


Sunday, June 2, 2013

It's National Cancer Survivors Day!

Today is National Cancer Survivors Day. I've seen a mixture of reactions from the cancer community. There are some that are so thankful of their survivor status - regardless of what the future may hold. There are others that are now faced with the devastating diagnosis of stage IV/metastatic breast cancer, which has no cure. Fortunately, at this point, I belong to the former group of people. 

I consider myself a survivor. 

I survived the initial diagnosis.
I survived 16 rounds of chemo.
I survived 30 rounds of radiation. 
I survived two surgeries; one of which, required complicated microsurgery. 
I survived losing my breasts. 
I survived being bald - all over my body. 
So far, I've survived CANCER. 

How this is NOT a survivor? I understand that everyone's experiences are their own and I don't begrudge people for going through this awful journey in whatever way they need to. I do believe; however, that you can be a current-state survivor. In my humble opinion, if you're living, you're surviving. Perhaps that's too simplistic. I like simple. It doesn't make my little brain hurt. 

As Destiny's Child said:

"I'm a survivor
I'm not gonna give up
I'm not gonna stop
I'm gonna work harder."

This is my life. I'm gonna rock it. 

Survive on, my friends. 




Tuesday, May 28, 2013

And the surgeries keep on coming...

Happy Tuesday!

I saw McBoobie today for another follow up to my DIEP/prophylactic mastectomy surgery.  He was a chatterbox, which is unusual, but we had a lot to cover! I think, too, that it's because this is his element. The expander was too, of course, but it's really just a piece of the cancer puzzle. The reconstruction is his big gig. This is full on plastic surgery. 

He said that my scars were all healing well and noted that my tummy was still swollen (whew... I was worried that it was chub overflow!). Now that my incisions are healed, I need to make sure that I keep them moist. (Yes, I said that word. Blech.) While Aquaphor is my "lube" of choice, he said that I can really use anything, from lotions to scar creams, etc., at this point. He reminded me to massage the scar along my stomach to help keep it smooth and help break up scar tissue. He ran his finger down the incision in demonstration and I grimaced at the grody factor. It didn't hurt but it just feels so... nasty. And no, not in a good way. 

I've known that I'd have to have another surgery after this one. As I've mentioned previously, it's fat grafting, which is basically lipo on my stomach, hips - or wherever else - and then replacing that fat into my fledgling boobs for contouring and symmetry. 

As it stands now, Frank looks to be a good two cup sizes smaller than my healthy side. The radiated skin really won't stretch further so the left side will need to be lifted as well - again - for symmetry. I have divots on my upper chest on both sides from the removal of tissue. It's more prevalent on the right side because the radiation effectively zapped it. 

This surgery will take approximately 2 1/2 hours or so. It's outpatient surgery this time. Recovery is expected to only take a few days, which is a welcome change. I'm really amped to look like I was dragged behind a Greyhound bus, but given when I've already gone through, this should be much easier to manage. The best part? NO DRAINS! Woot!

I was told that I may need another fat grafting session after this one. He can only move so much fat because each fat cell needs to have a healthy cell to live. Too many fat cells could mean that they may die and get absorbed back into my body. Sounds yummy, right? 

I'm thrilled that I'm healing well and can do most normal things now. I'm still not lifting anything but my minions have been more than helpful in that area. I'm NOT so thrilled to be a science project, though. I trust McBoobie and am looking forward the the finished product. 

In other news... I will return to work next Monday. While I am absolutely stir-crazy, I'm so glad that I had the time to recover as stress-free as possible. I'm anxious about finding clothes that I'm comfortable in.  I am the same size that I was pre-surgery. I may have a flatter tummy and smaller boobs but my weight is the same. Of course, I haven't tried on any pants yet, so we'll see. 

The uber insecure part of me doesn't want people to look and me and think (or God forbid - SAY), "She's still fat! What kind of tummy tuck is that?" Of course, they can fuck right off, but I hate feeling like I need to explain - even though I really don't. That probably doesn't make any sense. Sigh... 

At this very moment, I genuinely am happy. Happy for my life and the support I have. Happy to be healthy. I know I'm a work in progress and as McBoobie told me, this is really an exercise in patience. We all know that patience is a virtue that I struggle with but I'm trying... 

Okay... These Sex & The City reruns are confirming my stir-crazed state. Off to find something more interesting and productive. 

Ciao, peeps! 


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Now on Facebook!

I'm now on Facebook!  I'd love it if you "liked" my Tales of a Broken Boobie page! Feel free to pass it along! 

Thank you!! Xoxo

Monday, May 20, 2013

Goodnight, sweetheart...

It's currently 2:49am. I went non-stop all day today and am nowhere near tired. I took an Advil PM and I might as well have eaten some Pez for the zero effect it's had.  

Wait! Holy epiphany!!!

I just remembered that had a carafe worth of iced tea at dinner tonight. Yes, an actual carafe. Of my very own. Shitfire. I'm so sensitive to caffeine now and I really haven't had much at all since surgery 3 1/2 weeks ago. Hell, I haven't even had Diet Coke in 2 weeks or so.  Dammit, dammit, dammit!!! I'm so annoyed with myself. What the hell was I thinking?

I'm wide awake and bored silly. I had started watching "House of Cards" on Netflix last week at the suggestion of a friend. Perhaps I grab the ol' iPad and earbuds and fire up a few episodes. 

I could seriously run around the block 52 times right now! I swear - I thought my restless leg shit was back. No - it's the FUCKING CAFFEINE. I am such a wuss. 

Something keeps ribiting. I already escorted one toad out of the house this week. A frog? NOW? While I'm in hyper non-sleep mode? Slimy asshat. 

Anyway... I digress. (And I sound like I've lost my mind, which could very well be the case.) Time to see if Kevin Bacon and his kinda awesome South Carolina drawl can make me fall asleep. Ugh. Kevin SPACEY. Not Kevin Bacon. 

Mmmm. Bacon. 

Okay, okay. Enough for now. Praying this doesn't make me too bat shit crazy... 

Peace out. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Welcome to the Jungle

I've told this story before but after talking to a good friend tonight, suddenly, it seemed to take on new meaning... 

The year was 1992. I was 21 years old and was loving life. Some friends of mine invited me to see Guns N' Roses/Metallica/Faith No More at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. I had never been to a stadium show but since this was during my Metallica "phase", I jumped at the offer.

The concert was sold out, which meant that there were 55,000 strong ready to rock and roll. Soon, we reached our seats, which were in the second row.  One of my biggest fears was to get trampled if the stage were to get rushed.  My friends, Todd, Mark and John, took me under their wings and acted almost like personal body guards. "Don't worry... if anything happens, we'll just throw you up on stage", Mark had told me. Swell. 

This was a dry show, so we were sober as can be (this will be important to note later). We rocked our hearts out during Faith No More and even through torrential rain during Metallica.

After I had gotten to the point where I felt like I had doubled my body weight just from being soaked to the bone, Todd and I went inside to get a quick bite and buy a concert tshirt - simply to dry off. My bra was soaked and gross, so Todd graciously offered to let me put it in his pocket after I had wrung it out. Such a gentleman. 

We made our way back down to our seats and sang and headbanged our way through the end of Metallica's set. The set change between Metallica and Guns was long; it was a good hour. By then, the clouds had broken and the sun was starting to shine. 

As with many shows, there are usually large screens around the stage. This was no exception, and we were treated to three jumbotrons. Cameramen were scanning the crowd and of course, shenanigans ensued. One girl after another flashed her boobs for the crowd. Interestingly, nearly all were blonde, Barbie-types. SO not me. 

I happened to be in a sea of guys. I told my friends that I'd totally flash the crowd - and would do it better. Some of the guys nearby overheard. My friends and strangers were frantically trying to get the attention if the nearest cameraman. 

They got his attention. "We've got one right here! She'll do it!!" It was showtime. I am proud to say that I got the longest "airtime" out of all the flashers. No one was harmed in the flashing of my boobs. Everyone around me was having a blast. The crowd went wild. 

Before anyone gets their panties in a bunch, understand that I actually felt empowered. I didn't feel cheapened or demeaned. No one twisted my arm. I remember thinking that I was young, had nice perky boobs and this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to shake what the good lord gave me in front of a stadium full of rockers. I remember thinking "I'm doing this now while I can because someday, I WON'T BE ABLE TO." Oh, how true those words were. 

I've made no secret about the fact that I loved my rack. That was the one and only grand flashing gesture I had ever made. Sure, friends had gotten flashed at some point or another but it's not like that was a common occurrence and certainly not for any type of crowd.  

Right now, those boobs are gone. What I have now are post-surgery, nippleless, misshapen mounds on my chest. They're not sexy. They have zero sensation. Between radiation and the expander, I have a big divot in my chest. Hopefully, fat grafting will help even things out. 

I'm not proposing that people go out and flash the neighbors or Maroon 5 or whatever, in case cancer takes their boobs away but what I AM saying is that it's okay to live a little. This isn't so much about the boobs; however, there's obvious irony. You're allowed to do wild and crazy things once in a while. If it makes you happy and no one is getting hurt - why the hell not, right? No regrets!

I realize that by posting this story on my blog, my daughters will hear it for the first time. (Hell, so will a bevy of others that I never planned on sharing it with!) This was half a lifetime ago for me. I was a legal adult. Do I want them to do the same thing? Not necessarily... Do I begrudge them letting a little wildness show through? The mom in me says, "OY! Just don't tell me and be careful!" The cancer survivor in me says, "Go for it. Let your freak flag fly."

"And be careful."

Rock on, my friends. 






Sunday, May 5, 2013

She can't hit... She can't hit... She can't hit...

This time around, my pain pills have given me some pretty graphic and detailed dreams. Several have been downright trippy. A few have bordered on nightmares.

I woke up about 20 minutes ago after having a dream that I had somehow ended up being "recruited" (I use this term very loosely) for a men's baseball team. It wasn't a professional team but still had a good-sized fan base. Oddly, we played in what appeared to be an indoor training center/gym that was nowhere near as large as a normal baseball field.

Without question (which for me, is a clear enough indicator that it's a dream), I began putting on my uniform, which included pin-striped baseball pants and mis-matched, well worn black socks. One was a short faded sock that I found embarrassed me a little. The other was darker black, knee-high and had a dollar coin sewn into the top of it, presumably for superstition/good luck's sake. Both were floppy men's socks.

As I suited up, I realized that I had never attended a single day of practice and had also missed the first inning or so of the game. I figured I should hurry up before I lost my shot. I laughed knowing that I likely wouldn't be able to hit the ball - much less round the bases, but I'd be able to cross this adventure off my bucket list.

I was overly worried about my hair. I had shaggy, curly hair that was a great deal longer than it's current length, but still too short to pull pack into a ponytail, despite repeated attempts. I opted to wear a plastic headband to tame the curls since clearly, that made sense under a baseball hat.

I made my way down to the bench. Since this was in the training facility/arena, it meant that there wasn't a dugout - just a green waffle bench (that later turned into red laminate - like a countertop). I brought with me my cell phone, a wide-banded black headband (in case the one I was wearing broke, I guess) and a brush and placed them on the bench. All very useful items, of course. My teammates told me if I brooded and snarled when I walked, my curly hair sticking out of my hat would be totally badass. I practiced this walk and decided they were right. I WAS totally badass this way.

The men on the team welcomed me with open arms but we didn't know each other. As we chit-chatted, I realized that my too-big pants were on backwards. I debated whether I should drop trou on the sidelines to fix them or run into the locker room. A teammate told me not to worry; that he takes his pants off right there all the time and that he's smooth as a baby's bottom. "Wanna see?" I shook my head and walked away. (What the hell kind of dream is this!?! Walked away???) I decided that ripping the tag out and dealing with a poofy front (back) of my pants was best.

One of the men told me that he'd gladly be my pinch hitter. I thanked him, said no and told him that I really wanted to take a swing myself. I knew, though, that since I was out of shape, running was a comical thought if I DID happen to hit the ball. He told me that since he had recently come to the aid of a teammate in a bar fight, I should instead consider him for a pinch runner then. Given his act of bravery, I gave him the job.

My jersey number was 5. I had no idea what the lineup was but was told to wait until they called my name - much like a food order at a restaurant. I wasn't particularly anxious or afraid. I was really only mildly excited but knew I'd get to cross it off that bucket list...

I ran my hand through my curly hair and waited. And waited. And waited.

And woke up.

Woke up annoyed.

I didn't get my chance at bat.

This was by no means one of my more wacky dreams lately, but it was just as vivid and "real". I've always had fantastic dreams but in the last year, in particular, I seem to not have as many or remember them for as long. It's like I can literally feel them fading away like a puff of smoke when I wake up.

This is also the first time that I've actually written down (thumb-typed?) a dream right as I've woken up. With all these druggie dreams, I should have done it sooner, but some could have prompted a visit from the little men in the white coats, so perhaps it's good that I didn't have this epiphany until today.

It's about 6am here right now. The house is dark and I all I can hear is Matt breathing next to me and the ceiling fan whirring. Maybe there's still some dream power left.

Hoping for a good one...

Friday, May 3, 2013

Happy, Happy Friday!

Today is Friday, May 3rd. I am sitting outside on an unseasonably cool day here in Texas. It's 55, breezy and sunny out and couldn't be more wonderful.

I came home from the hospital a week ago today. In that period of time, I'm nearly completely weened off of pain pills, am pooping like a champ and the grumpies are gone. I may have kicked cancer to the curb months ago but the effects are clearly far-reaching. With each recovery, my "FUCK YOU CANCER" fist pumps higher into the sky faster than a Jersey Shore reunion.

My recovery will be a long one but I'm up for the challenge. I refuse to be a victim. I may piss and moan and swear like a sailor (wait - I do that normally), but I AM a tough cookie. My spirit is bigger than my frankenboobs. Much bigger!

Today, as I took a normal (albeit hunched over) shower, I sang and sorta/kinda shimmied my heart out to one of my favorite guilty pleasures. Boy Bands. The Song du Jour was "Don't Turn Out the Lights" by NKOTBSB. (That's New Kids On The Block/Backstreet Boys for the uninformed...) The song doesn't relate to me or my situation in any way - I just love the hell out of it. Be a hater if you will but it gave me a much-needed spring in my step.

Enjoy your Friday! Partake in that guilty pleasure!

Peace, love and boy bands. Xoxo

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mornings with McBoobie

I saw McBoobie today for my post-op follow up. The best news is that all four of my remaining tentacles/testicles/drains have been removed! I feel like Pinocchio when he became a real boy except that my nose is smaller. And I have some semblance of boobs. And I'm not a boy. But aside from all THAT...

He thinks things are progressing well and I'll see him again in about a month to discuss some final tweaks, which will involve fat grafting (aka - lipo) and lifting the flap skin on my "good" boob to make it more even. Since the flap skin is so new, he didn't want to compromise it by doing too much to it and end up literally killing the skin. Fair enough. In 3-6 months, we'll have the nipple discussion. I'm not convinced that I want more than a 3D tattoo but he has told me that I'll feel otherwise. We'll see.

I told him that is love to see a reconstructed nipple up close and in person and not just a photo. He laughed and said that it's kinda tricky to ask his patients to do something like that. Can you imagine? "Hey, I know you! You're that lady from Starbucks!" Oy.

Today, I bought some binding/compression garments (you know - like Spanx) to keep my tummy all tucked in and some more sports bras. It wasn't really a fun shopping trip. Beige, black and white. This shit could not be more boring.

My reconstructed boobs are not pretty or normal or symmetrical. I know it will take time for them to get there. I have to keep reminding myself that the rack that I knew and loved is officially gone. Such is life. My life.

Time for a druggie snooze. Ciao.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Everybody Poops... Except Me

The one thing that it seems is discussed very little about this whole surgery thing is how much all the meds and anesthesia tend to plug you up. Add to that the fact that I had abdominal surgery, too, and a good solid poop is all but a distant memory. It's a part of the process and good lord does it suck.

For those keeping score, I was admitted into the hospital last Monday. While I'm a pretty regular kinda gal, I hadn't made a daily deposit before things got going, so I hadn't pooped since last Sunday. I've taken my little prescription poop pills and have eaten fruit and fiber and all that good stuff. I was rather gassy on Thursday and Friday, which gave me some mild hope but no... Still not time for the Big Show.

It's a delicate balance since the last thing I want is to go from constipation to diarrhea - especially since I can't exactly hop up and run to the bathroom right now. Matt's a wonderful man but dealing with a barrage of squirty trails to the bathroom just might be the final breaking point.

Finally, after 7 long days, my body decided that today was the day. Matt helped me walk to the bathroom, then gave me privacy to carry out my mission. I assumed the position and prayed to the poop gods. Please, please, PLEASE give me something - even if it's a mere rabbit pellet!

I felt that familiar churn but dared not to get too excited since I've been disappointed before. Low and behold... I finally dropped the kids off at the pool. I took the Browns to the Super Bowl. I snapped off a monkey tail. I pinched a loaf. I told my sister that I found Jimmy Hoffa.

I POOPED!


Hope your day is as blissfully satisfying.

Peace, love and poop.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

It's finally time.

Tomorrow, I'll embark on the final major phase of this cancer "joyride". I have my reconstruction surgery. I'm having a left prophylactic skin-sparing surgery along with a DIEP flap. The tissue from my tummy (the DIEP flap) will be transferred to my chest for a brand new rack.

My love/hate relationship with Frank will end tomorrow as he's finally laid to rest. In his place will be Fancy Franks, as Hannah calls them. I'm really tempted to ask McBoobie if I can have Frank for a proper burial but I'm not sure how creepy that really sounds...

I'm excited and nervous. The recovery period isn't fun but I know this time that I'm already cancer-free. This, while significant, is basically cosmetic so that I can feel and look whole.

If one more person tells me that they're jealous of my "boob job and tummy tuck", I will karate chop them in the trachea. The way I got here sucks big donkey dongs and lets face it... I'm not going to look like a Barbie doll. Far from it. I'm hoping for a shred of normalcy. Jealous of that? Keep it to yourself, thanks.

Please pray that my doctors have steady hands tomorrow and that my surgery and recovery go as smoothly as they did last time.

Peace, love and boobies.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Strength = Weakness?

I saw a quote the other day that really struck a chord with me:

"Sometimes the person who gives you strength is also your weakness."

Whoa. Deep, right? When something life-changing happens, you tend to rely on your closest friends and/or family to help you make sense of it all. Frequently, you don't need or really want any advice or input; just an ear (well, or eyes in this technology-obsessed world).

Many times you find the one or two people in your life that just seem to "get it" - whether they shared your experience personally or knew of someone that did. They can say, "I understand what you're going through" and truly mean it. You can let your walls down and show your tears and your anxieties and fears when you'd put on your sassy brave pants for anyone else. You can speak candidly and frankly and know that they'd tell you the truth even if it was to say "I don't know whether to laugh or cry at your Mohawk!"

Is there a point, though, where you cross that line and realize that you rely on them TOO heavily? It's hard to feel like you're a burden to someone, but once you let them inside of the deepest parts of your heart, all bets are off. You've poured your heart out and for whatever reason, their niceties and genuine concern have made them a superhero in your eyes.

I have some amazing friends that have seen me through my darkest days. Some have shocked the socks right off of me. Some drifted away slowly. Did I push them away because I was too needy? Were they going through their own tribulations and just couldn't be "that" person anymore but didn't have the heart to tell me that they needed someone, too? I know that cancer made it all about ME and I apologize from the bottom of my heart for that.

I have tried my best to be a good friend, sister, wife and mother. I like to think of myself as a caring and loving person. I also know that my brain has been clouded by this cancer bullshit and I've latched onto whatever I've needed to to make me feel safe and protected. Maybe to a fault.

I guess the lesson learned is to be patient with people - whether you're the needy one or the "superhero". Let people breathe. Give yourself a chance to breathe, too. If they genuinely care, they're still going to be there. If not - it's okay.



Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Caregiver's Story...

Hi! Remember me?

Following is a guest post by Cameron, whose wife has battled mesothelioma. This is his account of what it took for him to be a caregiver.

Caregivers play such an invaluable role. I couldn't have done it without my rockstar, Matt, and my awesome daughters. They need support as well.

Enjoy Cameron's story.

How I Learned to Be My Wife's Cancer Caregiver

Malignant pleural mesothelioma were the three words that we heard on November 21, 2005 when my wife, Heather, was diagnosed with cancer. I immediately assumed the role of caregiver in her life, but I had no idea what I was doing. This news came three months after my daughter Lily was born. Instead of sharing our first holiday celebrating with our new daughter, we were spending it with family figuring out how we would get through a battle with cancer.

After the diagnosis, our lives were chaotic. Heather and I worked full time prior to her diagnosis, but now she was not able to work. I could only work part time while caring for her and Lily, and I had numerous other responsibilities that I didn’t think I could handle. Between my wife’s doctor’s appointments, trips to Boston to meet with a mesothelioma specialist, taking care of my daughter, and making travel arrangements, I was overwhelmed, and my thoughts began to race.

I tried to remain positive through this whole struggle, but often my fears and anxieties would get the best of me. Sometimes I could help but picture the worst, Heather passing away and me being left a broke widower raising a daughter who would never really know her mother. I was in utter despair, and some days I would lie on my kitchen floor and bawl uncontrollably. However I never allowed Heather to see my fears, despite having these moments of weakness. I always did my best to remain strong in her presence.

I don’t think I could have done it without the help of friends, family, and even strangers. They offered everything from comforting words to financial assistance. We advise all cancer patients to accept any help they can get no matter how big or small. I learned the hard way that there is no room for pride in a fight with cancer.

Being a caregiver is stressful and full of uncertain days. It was the most challenging experience that I have ever had. Some days will be difficult, but no matter how hard it gets, you can never walk away from it. During the difficult times, just use all of your resources to help you remain sane. Above all else, never, ever give up hope, and always keep fighting for the one you love.

After Heather’s surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, it took many years for life to return to normal. It was the most difficult struggle of our lives, but today Heather is cancer-free, and has been for seven years. Mesothelioma is no longer a part of our lives. We hope that by sharing our story of success over cancer, we can help inspire others in there own battles to never give up hope, and to always keep fighting.


Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance
http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/cameron/

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A year later, I'm still standing

A year ago today, Matt, the girls and I were on our way to Alabama to see my sister and my mom.  About two hours into the drive, I got a call from my nurse practitioner that changed my life - and the lives of those closest to me - forever.  While she didn't have all of the path report results yet, she confirmed my biggest fear... I had breast cancer.  Motherfucking cancer.  A year later, I'm still standing.

I started an aggressive chemo plan on April 5, 2012.  I lost all my hair (yep, even there).  I lost my energy.  I lost my ability to focus and remember things.  My hands and fingers ached from the chemo-caused neuropathy.  I never lost my wit or my undeniable charm.  (Snicker.)  A year later, I'm still standing.

On September 17, 2012, I had my right breast removed.  Cut off.  Amputated.  I had a crazy milk jug-feeling tissue expander sewn into me and some lovely bruises and scars that earned the nickname, "Frankenboob."  I had drains that looked like testicles coming out of my side.  The bruises faded, the drains came out and Frankenboob's scars have healed quite nicely.  A year later, I'm still standing.

I began 6 weeks' worth of radiation treatments on October 15, 2012 that left me with Texas fried skin.  I was crunchy, burnt and peeling and experienced the worst fatigue since chemo.  I still have some darkened areas of skin, but it's pretty much back to normal now.  A year later, I'm still standing.

In 39 days, on April 22, 2013, I will have my final reconstruction surgery to give me new, cancer-free boobies (and a flat tummy to boot!).  It'll be a longer recovery than the first surgery and I may be hunched over while my incisions heal, but you know what?  I'll STILL be standing.

All of the things I've experienced in the last year have made me a more determined person.  I'm stronger than I ever knew I could be.  Cancer couldn't take that from me.

Fuck you, cancer.  Fuck you where it hurts.  You smacked me around and tried to make me tap out but guess what...

I'M STILL STANDING.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

No more Grammi-locks!

I finally decided to color my hair back to "Nancy" brown. Sure, the grey was lovely and all but for God's sake... I'm only 42. The next person that said, "oh, you should keep it" was going to get a chop to the trachea. Really? I'm pretty sure that not ONE of my friends that are around my age would dream of letting their hair go grey. My own mother is 62 and her hair is still colored! I'm glad that they were being kind but come on...

The lack of maintenance was a great but looking like Matt's frumpy sugar mama cougar was not. Yes, I'm vain like that. Now I just look like his little dorky brother. Even better.

I love when people ask if I'm going to keep it short. Um, do I have a choice? In the six months since it's been growing back, it's still only about an inch and a half long at its longest. Even if I let it grow back to the shoulder length I had previously, it would take a couple of years. Ain't nobody got time for that!

I really do like having short hair. I can get up, take a shower and get all dolled up (yeah, I snickered just typing that) in less than 30 minutes. That's fan-damn-tastic. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night messes up my hair. My hair is like the fucking mailman sans the goofy socks and attitude.

Just like my boobs, my hair certainly doesn't define me but having post-chemo shorty short grey hair made me feel like I was still in transition mode. Now I feel - and think I look - like I got this 'do on purpose.

Look out... The old Nancy is peeking out!




Saturday, March 2, 2013

This is me.

Tomorrow, 3.3.13, is Triple Negative Breast Cancer Day. I refuse to celebrate this cancer. I choose to celebrate life.

This is my right breast now. It's scarred from a mastectomy. It's darkened from radiation. It's unnaturally shaped and uncomfortable from the expander within.

We need awareness for cancer of all kinds - not just breast cancer. As I always say, be vigilant. Listen to your body. You're your own best advocate.

Praying for a cure.



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mud!

I love my sister! She organized and participated in a Dirty Girl Mud Run this past weekend. Their theme is breast cancer awareness. There's one in Houston this coming October that we want to sign up for! Fingers crossed that all of my incisions are healed by then!

Check them out! www.godirtygirl.com

You know it's a good time when you get mud in your teeth!

Xoxoxo, Jenny. You're the shit.



Friday, January 25, 2013

Tonight was Maddie's Pink Out Game for basketball.  Her head coach asked me to speak before the varsity game about my breast cancer journey.  While I've done singing publicly, I've ever really talked about myself like this before.  I've gotta admit - I kinda dug it.

Please excuse my pink linebacker appearance.  Since I'm in a transition phase, let's just call this the "before" video. :)

Enjoy.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ugly Duckling Phase

I know, I know... I suck. I haven't posted in a while. I just haven't been interested in talking about myself. Hard to believe, I realize, since I AM such an attention whore and all.

Since my last post, I've had three saline fills in frankenboob. It's largely uneventful. I've been fortunate so far and haven't experienced any pain or discomfort. Granted, I have no feeling in frankenboob itself, but I expected that heaviness/iron bra feeling that I had shortly after surgery. Nope. Not yet. Supposedly, I'll only have a few more sessions and then we can talk surgery. It's still on point for April/May.

I feel like I'm in this weird limbo stage. I had cancer. I went through chemo and radiation and had surgery. My fatigue comes and goes but other than that, physically, I feel pretty darn close to normal. I'm very slowly losing weight, thanks to my trusty Weight Watchers app but just when I feel like I'm making some progress, I see a picture of myself and realize how far I have to go.

I'm anxious for my surgery so that I can be finished with this whole mess but I won't lie... Part of me hopes that it will be that final thing that makes me feel pretty. I will be thinner with a flat stomach and perky boobs. Will that help my badly damaged self esteem? I don't know. I'd rather hide and not draw attention to myself right now and that's something that I'm just not sure how to handle.

Cancer didn't just steal my breast - it stole my sense if self. I'm so painfully insecure now. If it was just the fact that I have one boob - I'd deal with it. Interestingly enough, that's the least of my issues. Relying on my fantastic wit and charm alone can be exhausting.

This is pathetic but I miss being checked out by the dude with the gold tooth at the McDonald's drive-thru or the pervy old man at the mall. I know I'm putting way too much emphasis on my appearance but dammit - I'm still a red-blooded woman and like to feel attractive, even if it's validation from odd characters.

I am happy with my life and love those around me more than I knew I could. I have a new outlook on life but my esteem took a nosedive. These next few months will be my ugly duckling stage. I am busting my flat little ass to get healthy and feel good - physically AND mentally. I hope to transform into a swan soon. Well, one that laughs at potty humor and can't dance and swears like a fucking sailor.

Sorry for unleashing the cry baby on your asses. I will be fine. I just wanted to feel sorry for myself. Thanks for letting me.

More of my inane-ness (I'm sure that's not even a word) soon. Promise.

Xoxo

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year to me!

Today, I had my first mammogram/ultrasound on my left breast since all the fun started on my Frankenboob side. My annual exam wasn't actually due until next month; however, I had found a small pea-sized lump.

My first reaction was annoyance. "Give me a fucking break" just may have been uttered out loud. I waited for a few days. I didn't tell anyone. Not even Matt. I know I'm prone to lumpiness and I was 99.9% sure this wasn't anything to worry about. Finally, common sense got the best of me and I sucked it up and made an appointment. I hate to feel like a hypochondriac and, while I definitely didn't want something to be wrong, I felt like I was maybe over-reacting.

The mammogram actually pinched more than usual today. I'm not sure if it's maybe because my skin around the expander isn't the same now and there's less give or what. That was a non-event otherwise and shortly thereafter, I was ushered into the ultrasound room.

This tech wasn't the most pleasant woman. Side note: I get that people have bad days but crabby people that deal with the public? No bueno. Anyway... She felt around and as soon as I looked at the monitor, my heart rate increased and my eyes welled up. I wasn't afraid of what she would find, but I didn't realize how traumatic the last year has really been. When I was in the midst of it, it was GO GO GO... Now my brain is finally processing it. I didn't like it.

The radiologist came in and took a look around, too, and concluded that between my mammogram, the ultrasound, and prior images of that breast, I had nothing to be worried about and all was clear. I could have passed out from sheer relief.

I don't want to live my life in constant fear. I don't want to relive the last year in any way. I said earlier today: Fear is paralyzing. Relief is euphoric.

Fuck you, cancer. I hate your mind games.