About Me...

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In a nut shell : I'm a wife, a full time working mom, a teacher, a Star Wars geek, comic book nerd, Disney enthusiast, hockey Mom, a decade long breast cancer survivor, and oh let's not forget such a happy, sassy, southern mess!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Reconstruction

Well, getting a new pair of whatever you prefer to call them is not all it us cracked up to be, let me tell you! Oh my, what was I ever thinking? Oh wait, I wasn't thinking, it was the fun loving cancer that decided to take away my breasts. So here I am 5 days later looking somewhat between the Bride of Frankenstien and Sally from the Nightmare Before Christmas and feeling as if a train just hit me going 200 miles per hour at the same time a cement truck poured its entire barrel over top of me and sped off! There is a lot in there to expand upon ... later when I have actual full use of my upper body. But for now I will just leave it at that.

As for how I am holding up? I am doing my best. I am getting past the 'upfront costs' of both the plastic surgeon and the medical facility and the idea of a nipple tattoo. Truthfully, I am just plain tired and in pain but I am still up and doing what I can. I guess I am finally admitting that my body just isn't able to bounce back as it was 7 surgeries ago. I have broken down in tears and actually started taking my pain meds on time round the clock. I feel like I look ... bruised and beaten up. My left side is not as bad as the right, but then I have very little feeling on my left side, so I guess that is a blessing. My right side is cute up, down, sideways and around. I developed a blister as well and now I am watching it for any infection. I am still not keeping much food down and I am running a low grade fever. Basically I am not feeling like me yet. It is hard because I am so used to just dealing and going and moving. I am done for a while I think but that doesn't change my plans to walk! I still plan to walk in the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure on October 6th. I have made that commitment to both my boys and to myself, so no matter what I have to do, I will be out there!

I hate to admit it but the bottom line is that my body is in some of the worst pain I have ever felt before. I have to say this feels worse and even looks worse than my mastectomy. But then I was still fresh and not so worn out when all that took place. My surgery went well, but my first 2 days at home didn't. I ended up with a high fever by Sunday and started with some fluid build up on my lungs which I am now trying to completely get rid of. I came out of the bandages and wet into a bra on Monday. A mixed blessing in my eyes, but a step forward.


In all, if I had to choose this surgery just because... I wouldn't get near it with a ten foot pole. But the cancer did this to me. The cancer took my breast away and left me uneven, unwomanly and maybe even unwell in some eyes, definitely UN-whole in mine. So surgery it was. I know that when I have recovered from this, which honestly is not going to happen over night this time for me. When the bruises are gone, the stitches are out, the cuts are long gone and once the scars have finally started to fade, I will be OK with it all. In the end I will look more like me again. I will never look like the Christina I knew for 32 years before this monster was let loose on my body, but I will be closer than I have been in the last 2 years. In the end, I will be whole and I will have closure.

Love to all,

Christina

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Surgery Tomorrow

Christina Is FINALLY Saying Good-bye to Her Lop Sided Boobs!

The day has finally arrived! This Friday, September 21, 2007 at 11:30 AM I will go under the knife hopefully for close to the last time. I will be in the OR for 3 1/2 hours which will put me back out around 3 PM and then I will go to the Recovery Room for about 2 hours.

I have a new plastic surgeon, and he is on the ball. By the Grace of Heaven our insurance is working with us, and even though the cost is a bit more than we really have right now and I have had to put payment down already, it is manageable in the long run.

So here I go, into surgery 7. Wow! That just amazes me really. To think I have gone under that many times in 20 months and that I will finally be asclose to whole as I will ever be is breath taking. I don't really know what to think about it all actually. One part of me is thinking to myself, "no biggie, it's just another surgery" and then the other part of me is screaming out loud, "another surgery, are you crazy? Are you out of your mind?" I guess I could forgo the whole thing and truly I have thought about it. But I really trust this doctor and quite honestly it is past time. I need to do this so I can start putting this beast behind me. This surgery is pretty much the next to last thing on my "Kick Breast Cancer in the Forth Point of Contact Check List."

Hopefully, I will be up and on my feet fully by Sunday so that Johnny and the kids don't have to suffer through Mom being off her feet again for too long.Life has been a bit of a roller coaster ride the last few weeks with my dad's cancer diagnosis so I want to do my best to be up and on my feet ready to take care of my family before the weekend is over if I can. My parents, my boys and Johnny have just seen plenty enough of upside downs and downward spirals that I do not need to put them through anymore. I also really need to be back up and on my feet so I can help my dad through his surgery and be there for my Mom too. Life generally gets a bit touch and go around here before a surgery, but typically we get everything back in place and in working order before we actually take the plunge. It would almost seem as if this surgery is happening all too fast, but then after waiting 20 months to finish what we started it seems way too long in coming too. This will be good for us in the long run, though I think we are all just plain sick and tired of doctors and hospitals. It will mark an end to at least part of the journey and though I hate going under the knife again it is really time to get on with the business of at least "resembling" normal. (All right now, no heckling from the peanut gallery, lol! I know I have never been considered quite "normal," but we can all pretend, can't we? LOL)

I don't think that it is easy for any women to live without a breast. But I do know this, once you have looked yourself in the mirror morning after morning without one, you do adjust to seeing your body reshaped without a breast physically attached to your body. Still as "used" to being without my left breast as I have become, I need closure. At this point in my life I need to either have them both removed or to have this mess cleaned up and put back together again. I am tied of this "in-between" stuff. This last year and 8 months and has been a real eye opening experience for me on many levels. My vanity has taken several hits, to say the least. In all honesty, I do believe that what chemo takes away from you (hair, eyebrows, taste buds, youth, sanity, etc.) it generally restores to you given the right amount of time and patience. The reality is that chemo did not take my breast away, the cancer did.

My own personal experience with this demon is that the problem with loosing a breast is that you can't just rub some miracle-grow on over it and just sprout a new one back. I really, really wish it was that easy! But it just doesn't work that way.Then there is the other side of that coin, the side is that you just can't have another one reattached over night either. The art of having a breast reconstructed is a process, a long, painful, grueling, character building and yes, tiresome process. It really is painful and there is o other way to put it. Honestly there are just times you wish you could unscrew the blasted "thing" off and forget about it! As for most, I think we learn to overcome it mostly by just keeping to remind ourselves that getting to anyplace worth while is always worth the trouble of getting there in the first place.

Over the last almost 2 years my experience has been that most people don't realize (though most mean no harm) that restoring a breast isn't just a quick in, out and pouf you are good as new process! With breast enhancement, there is already a breast there to work with. It just isn't a simple matter of placing an implant under already natural existing breast tissue once there is none left. No, when you have to have one rebuilt most if any of what was left behind after the mastectomy has to be has to be stretched and is really thin. So after you get that out of the way, have let the expander has do its job, an implant is finally put in. You would think at this point that a breast would be there. Well, not exactly. At least it hasn't worked that way for me. It is still just a lump, or as one doctor called it, a wing,( I am thinking I should have tried flying lessons, lol) with an eight-nine inch now purplish scar across your chest. What is a reconstructed breast? Well, to be honest, it is an internal prosthesis.

So when we are done Friday I will have a "breast." It will look for all necessary purposes real and that is precisely the point. I have gotten used to having no feeling in the area though I can say I have finally been able not just to feel an itch under my skin, but actually somewhat scratch at it, lol. Sad really that that is a major hurdle for me to be excited about jumping over right now. It will be strange to have a breast again, but a good strange I think, far better than living the rest of my life as Cyclopes. So, I am going into this surgery with a grateful heart. I have had 20 months to get ready for this. Just as it was an adjustment when I first lost my breast this too will be another adjustment. I am ready to look and feel whole again physically and yet I feel if I had to live without it that I have been able to make peace internally with my life. So I am ready to stop being under reconstruction and actually be completely reconstructed!

I will end this with a great quote that I have carried in my heart through this whole process'; Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.

Still a survivor, still a fighter, still aware, still facing the beast and always a uniboober in my heart...

AKA 'Christina, Soon to Be, Breast-Less No More' (Well, maybe.)

Monday, September 17, 2007

I Wanna Be Brave...

I was blessed this weekend by having the opportunity to speak for many young woman facing breast cancer during a live news interview. I was beside myself and a nervous wreck, but the truth is that I had my wonderful husband and my closest friend there with me. True I could really see the affects of this cancer on my face, but I was sitting there, alive and able to speak for those that can't. So this morning in the midst of all that is happening with my dad and even with all these new, costly tests I am being put through, I offer this part of my inner thoughts to you, my friends.

I wrote this some time back on a really bad day. In my day to day struggle, and as I watch others struggle through their own battle with this beast, I know that I speak not only for myself, but for many others in how CANCER rips away at your spirit some days. This entry is for all CANCER SURVIVORS. I really feel it hits the nail right on the head in respect to even the strongest survivors along the Journey.


I Wanna Be Brave

I wanna be brave today even though I feel like crying. I wanna be courageous this morning even though I am scared. I wanna be strong this afternoon even though I feel terribly weak. I want to believe today that there is a tomorrow and I want to know that hope is strong enough to carry me even though my faith has been crushed.

I don't want my heart to fall apart or let the world see my bandaged spirit. I want to be in control even though I know that I cannot hold back this beast forever. I want to smile easily and forget, even if it is just for now, how sad I really feel. I wanna be me again.

I wanna be brave, really I do. I don't want to be afraid. I don't want to think about dying, I want to live. I don't want to be just a number on a schedule even though I know I really am. I want to think about tomorrow, but all I can really do is plan for today.

I wanna grow old enough to see silver line my hair. I want to be healthy and strong. I don't want to feel this pain within my body anymore and I don't want to worry about my children living their lives without me. I don't want my hair to fall out again or lose another breast. I want to live life as I once did, unafraid. I want to laugh and feel sexy once again. I want to feel uninhibited and wake up without feeling the reapers sickle at my throat. I want to be spontaneous and silly again, carefree without worry.

I wanna be me again. I want to live without fear, smile without hesitance. I want to be strong, full of courage and oh how I wanna be brave.

Christina

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Living on the Island of Mis-fits

Living on the Island of Misfits

Most definitely there are times when living in the aftermath of breast cancer feels a lot like living on an Island of misfits. You really do understand that there is just something a little off, a bit different about you now. Still you want to believe if just for a moment, that even with your square peg you will fit into that round hole sitting in front of you. Point in case, my most recent moment off the island came last week in the hour I spent in a mall fitting room. Talk about feeling like a misfit as you try carrying in bra after bra, filling in only half of it and falling completely out of the other half of it! Talk about being a true mis-fit!

Then there was the little problem of who was this person staring back at me from out of the other side of the mirror? I finally just began telling myself that I must simply be going blind. After all, this whole new me, well it simply wasn't me! I certainly didn't recognize this woman and the reflection that I saw in the mirror. I honestly did grasp the situation fully, really I did. I just didn't like having to accept it as I was trying on intimate apparel! I fully did understand and I do get that this surely must be my body, but do I really have to claim it as my own, is what I want to know?

So here is the picture as I was standing there in the fitting room. My dilemma was this; Do I squash, shove and squeeze myself into one side of the bra while sliding in, out and under the other side of it or just go with the cut and splice thing? Seriously maybe I just needed to run and hide or scream 'FREEDOM' as I burned the blasted thing right there in the fitting room! Well, that is what I am talking about as I try to push my way into a round hole when I am clearly a square peg! But what else can I say about standing right there in that small little room in what can best be described as my own personal hell? Well, I did catch a glimpse of the woman I was before breast cancer ever made it's mark on me and she was still smiling as if life wasn't so bad on the Island of Misfits.

True I miss the days when I could just grab a bra out of my drawers and go. Yes, I miss the mornings when I didn't feel so old, even decrepit or see so many deep lines inset on my face. But, these mishaps, large and small physical defects as we will call them, have made me unique. Truth is, not everyone can live on the Island of Misfits comfortably, because first you have to be willing to admit to being a mis-fit and that isn't so easy after all.

I know, believe me I know that I don't own two breasts anymore and maybe I never will but at the end of the day, I still have the best part of who I am left. This is the part of me that has been here all along. It doesn't matter how long I reside on this island, my strength, not my physical difference, will always be the best part of who I am even when my days here are long gone.

So the truth is that even the best of weeks are going to bring a day your way and mine for that matter that is going to leave us ready to run for the doors, tearing every strand of new hair out of our heads and every bra we see in half. But once we have made our way through the doors, past an obviously over due tirade, and back to the safety of our own private island of misfits, we can and still will revel in the strength of those that love us.

At the end of the day, as hard as it is living in the aftermath and as overwhelming as it seems, even cancer with all it's hang ups can't keep you from smiling. What has made us feel misfit, a little different from everyone else, what has truly defined us, making us stronger women has honestly given us a home, a family of support. Yes, this breast cancer, seemingly two little words, that all too many and yet all too few really understand in the end has brought us here and made us feel right at home on this strangely beautiful and wonderful Island of Mis -fits.


Christina