Monday, November 28, 2011

Blog Shmog

It's possible that you've noticed that I'm not blogging as often as I used to, and I'm feeling guilty about it.  While I love writing and I'm beyond honored that anyone wants to read what I write, I'm having difficulty finding the time to do my writing.  And yes, somehow I find the time to play Words with Friends every day, but my blog has not been taking priority.

Nick's Mom Virginia, who was just here with Rusty on a perfectly wonderful Thanksgiving visit, may have put it best.  She suggested that maybe I don't "need" to blog as much anymore.  I definitely used blogging as a form of therapy, an outlet of sorts, and now that I'm out of the immediate woods cancer-wise, I'm feeling healthier, body and soul.  Looks like I'm allowing myself to ease up on my blogging therapy, I think that's a good thing.  

All that said, I am committed to this blog, and I will see it through. The exciting part is that seeing it through might mean that I can be done at the end of the year.  I should be able to finish my reconstruction, the tattoos, before year end.  That really is my final step in my cancer journey.  Of course I am still fearful of recurrence and will always have lingering terror over dying young and leaving my family motherless and lost, but life now is generally tranquil. Putting aside this blog is another step toward normalcy.

But I'm not done yet.  I know I left things hanging with my Fembot boobs, my weekend home to visit my Mom, and Virginia and Rusty's Thanksgiving visit.  Here's the very brief overview, and I apologize for not doing any of these subjects justice.  First, I made it through airport security with limited embarrassment, weird boobs and all. Upon returning home from Wisconsin, my plastic surgeon allowed me to ditch the Madonna boobs, thank God!  I even went shopping for pretty new bras.  I'm a 36 C!  Nipple wise, things are still a bit swollen, but I'm optimistic things will be in good shape a few weeks from now.  

My quick trip home to visit my Mom was truly fantastic.  I was able to see her perfectly appointed new home and feel a sense of relief that she is settling into her new life, sadly without my Dad.  My sisters Claudia and Diane were home too, which gave us an opportunity to be silly and do lots of giggling including our gut busting experiences with oddball airport employee Joseph W. in Milwaukee.  We even fit in a visit to the incredible Calatrava designed Milwaukee Art Museum.  Thank you Claudia, for this gift of this special trip home.

And our Thanksgiving weekend with Virginia and Rusty was fun and funny.  We share a peculiar sense of humor with these two, so weird and comical goings on are the norm.  An example?  A tiny two-inch baby doll joined us for Thanksgiving dinner.  You really don't need to hear more about this, truly.  The kids love their grandparents to pieces so the six of us really gel whether we are bobbing in the hot tub, out to dinner at Arribas or hiking the mountains around Boyce Thompson Arboretum.  We miss you G.G. and Rusty!

So we are caught up, right?  I will continue to blog on a weekly basis through the month of December, but I think it will be pretty brief as I am a Christmas machine and cannot avert much attention away from the ribbons and bows which I adore.  And after that?  We'll see where this goes.  It may be time for me to finally get to work on that Kick it Kiki book.  Not a bad idea for a New Year's resolution.

with love,

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Channeling Madonna

I wish they looked this good.
I am a Fem-Bot. Not really this bad, but close.
Well, this definitely was not in the brochure.  As I sit in front of my computer, I am completely distracted by the extremely pointy plastic covers over my breasts, or shall I say new nipples.  It’s a complete joke and somewhat horrifying.  
Here’s what went down.  Just hours before my nipple reconstruction surgery on Monday, I called my nurse at the plastic surgeon’s office to ask her if I can expect any serious discomfort after the operation.  She said no, it’s fairly painless, but the nipple covers were kind of obnoxious.   Um... nipple what?  Seems my skilled yet detail sparing plastic surgeon neglected to tell me that after this reconstruction surgery, I’d be donning crazing protruding nipple protectors for a WEEK!  Holy shit.  
There is no clothing that hides them, except my puffy winter vest and/or a well placed scarf with double-sided tape to hold it in place.  If you think I’m overreacting, I’m not.  They are beyond ridiculous.  Have you see the Austen Powers movie where the Fem-Bots have guns pointing out of their bras?  That’s EXACTLY what I look like.

So how did the doc do it?  He actually used my own skin, cut a small round circle where a nipple should be and folded the skin into some kind of mound. I now have to protect these mounds with the aforementioned plastic guards until they can heal into what will look like new nipples.  Too much info?  Sorry.  At least I didn't mention that they are really scabby and gross looking now.  Oh, sorry again.
The good news is that the surgery was easy peasy and I have almost no pain from recovery.  Monday was foggy because of the anesthesia, but yesterday I felt perfectly normal, except for you know what.  I look like a freak!!  Plus I get to travel to Wisconsin on Thursday for the weekend with these pointy beauties.  At least my sisters and Mom will get a good laugh on my account.
So of course on my surgery day, Fisher once again tries to show me up.  In school Monday, he not only let the adorable teacher’s assistant pull out his loose tooth, he then had a collision in PE that resulted in a serious fat lip. Poor kid had to spend a couple hours in the school nurse's office because she could not get ahold of Nick nor me because we were in the surgery center.  He’s fine now and a dollar richer from the tooth fairy.
And a quick update on my latest speech I gave to the Midwestern University Alumni Leadership dinner.  It went great!  I felt very comfortable speaking and the audience was warm and receptive, at least no one left while I was talking, and that’s about all I can really hope for.  Do I want to do more of these?  I think so, but maybe it’s time to start making some money.  We’ll see.  
I probably won’t write again until I get back from Wisconsin on Sunday.  I see the doc on Tuesday to have my pointy things removed, and then Nick’s Mom Virginia and Stepdad Rusty arrive late Tuesday night for the holiday.  Yippee!!!  What fun to be able to see my family and Nick’s family in one week.  Our list of things to be thankful for is very, very long.
with love

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Nipple Fairy

I know better than to start writing a blog post at 10pm.  So I'm going to give you the brief skinny on what's going on around here so that I can get to bed at a decent hour and still have time to allow a dozen of my smarty-pants friends to kick my butt on Words with Friends (it's on-line Scrabble, silly).  

Tomorrow night (Thursday) I have yet another speaking engagement where I get to perform the "keynote speech".  Yikes, that always sounds so intimidating.  This time it's for the annual Midwestern University Alumni Leadership dinner here in Phoenix.  I'll be addressing doctors, physician assistants, pharmacists and other various healthcare professionals.  I have been asked to tell my story and provide my opinions of how I was cared for by the diverse medical community that I interacted with throughout my treatments. They really want to hear the good, bad and ugly of my experiences. What a good opportunity for me to tell my flashing story again!  Oh, it never seems to get old.  

Nick will be joining me again for support, sweet guy.  It's being held at Coup de Tartes, a fantastic restaurant in central Phoenix, so if nothing else, we'll get a great meal out of it.  I've been practicing my speech and I'm feeling pretty comfortable with it.  This time I'll be speaking for about twenty minutes and have a question and answer session after.  Wish me luck!

Then on Monday, I am scheduled for my nipple reconstruction!  Oh yeah, it's that time already.  I think I'll save the details of this procedure for a post on Sunday night. I've gotten many funny reactions from friends who know I'll be going in for this minor surgery.  For example, my postal carrier Sonny was wondering if I'll be having a nipple transplant, um... no.  No cadaver nipples for me. And my Kappa sorority girlfriend Jen asked if I'll be putting a pretty bra under my pillow for the nipple fairy.  Hmmm, I like the sound of that one.  

I promise to fill you in before I go under the knife Monday afternoon. Recovery is going to be easy this time.  It better be, I'm jumping on a plane next Thursday to visit my Mom and see her new home, yippee!!  Thank you sister Claudia for this amazing birthday gift.

Nighty night!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Wonderful Things

Trick or Treat!

A strangely cute combination

Maddie, Connor, Debbie join came all the way from Wisconsin for this!?
You thought I was kidding when I said monster truck?

Where on God's green Earth has the last week gone?  Seriously, it's been a non-stop, fun filled adventure.  First, let's address the photos.  Halloween was a blast. Yes, that is Jenny-Jane as the cutest Strawberry Shortcake central Phoenix has ever seen.  That hot pink wig was fantastic, and the strawberry purse? Too much. I think it was the extra freckles we added to her little cheeks that really sealed the deal. Fisher was an authentic "army man" which required three trips to the army surplus store on the way west side of town.  Who knew they had genuine fatigues for kids?  And that "shooter" is as obnoxious as it looks.  He loved it.  

The "Ostrich Fishin" photo is such a crack up.  Our visit with my friend Jenny's kids and sister Debbie culminated on Sunday with an hour long drive down the I-10 towards Tucson to the Ostrich (and deer, goat, donkey and lorikeet) Ranch, where we endured a dusty yet informative desert romp aboard the Picacho Peak Monster Truck.  Our driver mentioned that they had not gotten rain at the ranch in two years!  I believe it.

Aside from successfully ticking off all the Arizona tourist highlights on my agenda for this visiting crew, we also managed to spend a great deal of time just hanging out in the hot tub.  I have a feeling these special Wisconsin kids had a great mini-vacation and took home plenty off-the-wall stories from their fall break adventures with "Aunt Kritter and Uncle Nick" in Phoenix.  

I have to admit, that in my own mind, there was an unspoken reality that haunted me during their stay.  Here they were, two kids who lost their mom when they were just five and nine years old.  Could this be my kids someday?  I'm painfully aware that my disease is life threatening and that my family could face the same situation.  That's the heavy stuff.  It's always there, always lurking.  It's that radio on in the background that I can't turn off.  Sigh.  It's really hard.

So I try to fill my days with the wonderful things.  Strawberry Shortcakes, monster truck rides and orange and black striped Tammie Coe birthday cakes (thanks Nick!).  Strangely, living with a constant reminder of your mortality can be a blessing.  It's life in technicolor that my friend Krista told me about.  Too bad it often takes something as scary as cancer to for us to see it.

with a extra special hug to Maddie, Connor and Debbie back in Wisconsin,

Monday, October 24, 2011

Birthday Week

Let the fun begin!!  

I have always loved having a birthday right before Halloween.  When I was little, my parents threw great trick or treating parties for me every year, complete with my Dad's super spooky laugh and family room horror show of cold spaghetti brains and peeled grape eyeballs.  As I got older, I always allowed myself to have a bit more fun than probably legal around Halloween because heck, it was my birthday week too!  I think we are still recovering from the wild Halloween party Nick threw me about five years ago.  Photo below- that's me as a cop, Nick as Teen Wolf (oh yeah, really) and our friend Jen as Pamela Anderson.  And yes, we do look tall because we are standing on the coffee table.  We can throw a good party, no doubt about it.
My wild birthday, not so long ago.

So what is in store for my big birthday week this year?  It's decidedly more mellow, but infinitely more special.  This year, Debbie Reinhart Schleicher, my late best friend Jenny's big sister, is bringing Jenny's kids Maddie (age 13) and Connor (age 9) from Wisconsin to stay with us for a long, non-stop fun filled Arizona weekend.  I cannot wait to get these three under my roof.  It's time that Jenny's kids and my two little ones spend some real quality time together.  It is so important to Debbie and me that these kids really get to know and love one another. Jenny and I had always planned on raising our families together, and even if she can't be here, I will hold up my end of the bargain for both of us.  

So what do we have planned?  A costume parade at Jenny-Jane's preschool, a special candy shop excursion, a sunset desert hike, a day at a fabulous local resort, pumpkin carving, lots of hot tub time, a wild West night at Rawhide, a Halloween carnival at our club and maybe even a monster truck ride at the ostrich farm just south of Phoenix.  Oh yeah, that's just the beginning.  I'm crazy excited.  I cannot think of a better way to spend my birthday this year.  Thank you sweet Debbie, for bringing yourself and the kids to Phoenix.  I know Jenny will be overseeing every single, wonderful moment of our time together. 

And no, I do not have a costume this year.  Well, maybe I'll try on the cop get-up one more time just for fun, but not in front of the kids!

Happy birthday week to me (its the big 41),

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Your Man Reminder

My Boy Reminder
Fisher from the back seat of the car Saturday night on the way out to family dinner:  "Mom, did you know that whenever you see someone you know, you say 'Look at my boobs!'  Don't you know, those are your private parts!?"

Well, looks like he's paying a little more attention than I originally thought.  That's a good reminder for me to try to be a little more stealth in the future, but please, still feel free to look at them.

My Man Reminder
Now this is something to write home about!  A dear friend of our family and former employee of Nick at Kitchen Sink Studios, Marc Cattapan, created a truly fantastic and potentially life-saving app for your iPhone or iPad.  The app is called Your Man Reminder and it's a tool to remind women to perform their monthly self breast exams, brilliant!  And get this, you get to choose the studly man who pops up every month to do the reminding.  Not a bad deal!  If only he could come over and perform that exam for you.. now that would be an app!!

And something very special is printed in the Credits section of this app.  It says "This app was developed by Marc Cattapan and is dedicated to his friend Kristin Hower, who writes the blog Kick it Kiki." I tear up every time I see it.  Thank you sweet Marc, I am truly honored.

Please download it and pass it along to your friends, it's free, click here for Your Man Reminder on your iPhone or iPad.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Planets Align

Up until now, I hadn't taken either of the kids to any of my doctor's appointments.  That's quite a feat considering the countless exams and procedures I have endured. We never really gave our kiddos the actual skinny on my condition so keeping them away was to protect them from hearing things that might scare them and to keep the peace in my medical waiting rooms.  Now that I see my doctors less frequently and my visits are much more upbeat, I figured it would be ok to take Jenny-Jane along to my second post surgery follow-up appointment with my plastic surgeon.  I knew it was going to be a quick in and out where he surveys my new boobs and sends me on my way.  I was also hoping that by bringing in the cute little lady, the office staff might see it in their hearts to forgive my flashing incident from several weeks ago.

Sometimes the planets align and Jenny-Jane behaves exactly as I hoped she would.  This was one of those days.  Tuesday she charmed the pants off the plastic surgeon's office staff and even gave my doc a big "Mooo-shaaa-raaa-fffaaa!!" when he entered the exam room.  (That's his name by the way, so it was a good thing to say.)  She complimented me my on my "pink vest", the half-gown that opens to the front, that I wear when being examined and sweetly answered the doctor's questions about her own little pink outfit.  It was one of those experiences where it could have all gone horribly wrong, but it didn't.  I'm learning to trust myself and my kids a bit more, both very good things.  

What I also learned at this appointment is that I will be scheduled for my next surgery in mid-November.  This is when my doctor will create nipples for me.  I know, it sounds soooo very weird, but that's what happens next.  It will be a quick half hour procedure, under anesthesia, with little recovery time.  I'm still not exactly sure how he does this, but once I find out, I promise not to spare any details.  And then in December, I get to see the office tattoo artist who will tattoo the rest so it looks natural. How crazy is all this?  Who knew that this is what breast cancer mastectomy patients endure?  Aren't you glad you know me so I can tell you all this strange stuff?  

So that's where we stand right now. I see my oncologist next week for my 3-month check up and I'm expecting him to say that I'm still doing great.  I'm truly feeling strong and healthy and optimistic.  It's been a while since I could say that.  All's good.

with love on a full moon in October,

Friday, October 7, 2011


I have to just blurt it out... MRA results came back clear, all is good in the hood!  Huge sigh of relief, huge.  I am so sorry it took so long to get this information posted.  Believe me, I would have loved to announce it sooner, but I did not get the call from my doctor's office until 3:30pm this afternoon.  My MRA was Monday morning, what the what?  I was about to march into the neurosurgeon's office and look at the films myself. Hell, I would have flashed my new boobs again if it would have helped. It took a total of five panicked phone calls to finally get the results.  I was not going to wait through the weekend not knowing.  They are very lucky they finally called today.

So this is what he said.  "Your aneurysm has not grown or changed, so plan on a follow up MRA in three years."  Nice!  So I remind him that I'm a Stage 3 breast cancer patient and what I really want to know about is any evidence of tumors in my brain.  "Oh" he says, "Right. Well, we really should have done an MRI along with the MRA to really get a better look for tumors."  Come again??  "But" he says, "if there was anything significant, we would be able to see it with the MRA."  Aargh!  Was I not clear? Deep breath. So, let's just take it at face value and say all is fine.  Which is wonderful and perfect news. Next time we will be doing both MRI and MRA, oh yes we will.

I feel a little ashamed to be boasting about my great test results, especially today.  Today my sorority sister Stacey Walker, who lives in the state of Washington, underwent brain surgery to remove two of five breast cancer tumors that metastasized to her brain. One was small, one the size of a golf ball.  Her surgery was successful and last we heard, she is recovering in ICU tonight.  Stacey and her husband have three young children.  I cannot allow myself to even think of how Stacey said goodbye to her children this morning as she left the house for this surgery.  

Stacey is the ultimate survivor.  When she was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer two years ago, she was given an 8-10 month prognosis. While she has crushed that original prognosis time frame, I know she must have lived every moment with it looming in her heart and mind.  Stacey's reality is my scariest nightmare. It seems almost ironic that my MRA results hung in the balance this week while Stacey prepared for this incredible surgery.  While I want to celebrate my good news, I cannot forget for one moment, what Stacey and her family are enduring.

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for me and my test results this week.  I ask that you now share your prayers with the Walker family.  As my Mom said to me when I asked how she and my Dad raised five children, "You focus on the one who needs you the most at that moment."  It's not my turn right now.

To follow Stacey's journey, read her husband's blog at


Monday, October 3, 2011

Wait For The Sigh

What you lookin' at?
Here they are! I mean, here I am! Nick snapped this picture of me as I was heading out to a play with the kiddos on Sunday afternoon.  As I said before, my new shape looks pretty decent with clothes on, and I'm still optimistic that clothes off will look more natural as things have time to settle.  

Just for the record, besides the whole boobs thing, it still freaks me out that I'm a short haired brunette.  I mean, nothing sucked worse than being bald, and I don't dislike this new short dark do, but it's definitely weird.  In my head, I'm still a gal with long highlighted blond hair.  I swear, I'm still surprised at my reflection every time I look in the mirror.  Will I keep it short and dark?  Probably not, but it's been kind of fun to have this alter ego.  

So this morning I finally had that overdue MRI (actually MRA, but same same).  As you may recall, the docs found a small 2mm aneurysm in my brain in the Circle of Willis area (don't ask me) the day I cracked my face open when I passed out in our bathroom while I was going through chemo in June 2010.  That whole last sentence seems like a joke- was that me?  Anyhoo, I now have to get annual MRA's to make sure that aneurysm isn't growing.  As long as it stays the same size, we can ignore it.  Fine with me.

What I am most scared of is finding out that I could possibly have breast cancer tumors in my brain.  Breast cancer definitely likes to metastasize to the brain, the cruel disease that it is.  I begged the technician today to take a quick peek at the scan and tell me secretly if there were any tumors.  As you can probably guess, I was heartily denied.  I've got to wait 2-3 days for the doctors to review the films and get back to me.  Seriously?  Agony.  

Sweet Nick was not able to go to the hospital with me this morning because he was heading to Santa Monica for the day to meet with clients.  So he covertly texted every family member he had in his phone to ask them to contact me with encouragement.  I know he's worried too, but pretends not to be, just to help keep me sane.  

I of course will update my blog with the results as soon as I get the all clear from my doctor later this week.  I truly think everything is just fine, but I would like to be able to remove this one worry off my very full plate.  If you hear a sigh of relief coming from central Phoenix later this week, you'll know it was me.

With love on a Monday night as it finally begins to cool off in the desert,

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Flasher

Nurse Wendy kept us afloat over surgery week

Happy 3rd Birthday Jenny-Jane

That's a donut in her her hand and another on her pie!
Naturally the whipped cream fight ensued

Diane's Barbie masterpiece
Were you expecting a big frontal photo of my new boobs?  Well, I did consider it, seriously.  But let's wait until the swelling goes down a bit before I start in with the Internet porn.  Playboy Magazine will just have to wait a couple more months.

In the meantime, I'll update on the unveiling, nurse Wendy's visit, and Jenny-Jane's wild birthday weekend.  First up, the unveiling Wednesday was a bit of a let down.  Had my doctor given me any clue what to expect, I think I wouldn't have freaked out so badly.  As you can imagine, after three days in an unimaginably tight bandage, they were really, really squished. I was expecting something significantly more perky.  I kept saying "I waited 18 months and endured those horrible expanders for this??"  Lots of tears, lots of stomping around. So Thursday I decide to take matters into my own hands and I paid an unscheduled visit to my doctor.  Of course he was not there, but I demanded that the office staff call him and tell him that I was NOT HAPPY.  I then, in a move that surprised even me, lifted up my shirt in the lobby and made the front desk gal, the office manager and the doc's assistant stare at my newly operated chest.  "You tell him that this is what I'm dealing with!"  Not a proud moment.  I can't believe I flashed the plastic surgeon's staff.  I later learned that I was the first in the practice history.  Can I blame the percocets?  

In subsequent phone calls with the doc's assistant, who assures me that my results are actually very good, I have been heartily reminded that reconstruction is not augmentation.  Playboy will not want me. Things will look really good under clothes, but naked?  Not all that natural looking.  Remember, I still don't have nipples, they were removed in the first surgery and will be recreated in three months. My left is bigger than my right because of the radiation on my right. And I need to give the implants and my skin a good 2-3 months before any true judgements can be made.  Sigh.  I see the doc for real tomorrow morning for my first post surgery appointment.  I've got lots of questions in need of answers.  I guess that means I have to face the office staff tomorrow too, ugh.

I have to give a HUGE shout out to Nick's sister Wendy who left her oh-so-busy family and career in North Carolina to be with us for my surgery week.  Once again, she kept us afloat during this storm.  Not only does she cook, clean and love our children like her own, she is a true friend to both Nick and me.  As Nick's only sibling, they are incredibly close and share a great sense of humor and lots of silly memories.  As a sister-in-law who really should take her brother's side in most matters (but most often sides with me), she has become one of my closest confidantes and beloved friends.  She sips grapefruit cocktails with Nick and makes him laugh when all he wants to do is cry, and indulges my silliest desires with TrueBlood vampires and chocolate brown pedicures.  Dear Wendy, thank you for selflessly putting our burden on your shoulders.  We are forever indebted to you.

Last but not least, let's quickly review the Jenny-Jane birthday extravaganza, now with photos!  Nick snidely noted that I was giving her three birthday cakes this year.  I pointed out that one was a pie, so actually, no, only two cakes.  I previously mentioned the purple Rapunzel cake at preschool which was a tremendous hit.  Next came the chocolate pudding pie dessert on her actually birthday, which she adorned with white powdered sugar donuts, of course.  Finally, the piece de resistance, a truly glorious Barbie cake (seen above) created by my personal cookie and cake artist sister, Diane.  I've never seen anything like it, it was crazy gorgeous!  Six layers of pink strawberry deliciousness under that skirt.  Please call me if you need cookies or a cake for any event, I'll hook you up!

That's all my news for now.  I'm off the pain killers, but back on Xanex for now.  The pain is lessening every day, but I'm still really pooped.  I'll let you know what the doc says tomorrow.  I still have not ruled out showing off my new figure, maybe with clothes on for the time being.  I'll have Nick take a photo and post it soon. 

Thank you to everyone for the calls, flowers, cards, meals and love. Every little bit is appreciated more than you know.

with love and gratitude,

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Oh This Bandage is Tight!

Sorry to leave you hanging after Monday's surgery! In a nutshell, it went as well as expected and I was able to get those 650cc implants of my dreams. My doc was right, the operation took a little more than an hour and I was home around noon. I'd love to say I was on the treadmill this afternoon but recovery is proving to be less pleasant than advertised.

Here's my list of complaints, in no particular order. The bandage. Holy crap is it tight. It goes over my right shoulder like a sassy top and squeezes my chest to kingdom come. I'm having a hard time sitting or laying down because it's cutting into my ribs making breathing a tad challenging. Then there is the right shoulder blade pain. Did they have me laying weird during surgery? Is it an after effect of the anesthesia? I don't know, but it kept me up all last night. The fever. It's not too bad, still under a hundred, but it's making me chilly, achy and super cranky. The creaking. I have no idea what it is, but my left implant is making loud creaking noises when I move. That can't be normal. The helplessness. Once again I am forbidden from opening the refrigerator, emptying the dishwasher or any general household task. Feeling sick and useless=depressed in my book.

So the good news. Doctor told my family that during surgery he sat me up right after placing the implants to see his handiwork and the OR staff burst into applause (or something like that). Tomorrow morning I am allowed to remove the boa constrictor of a bandage, check out my new girlie figure and take a shower. Not sure which I'm most excited about.

I've got Wendy by my side until Saturday and I don't know how we'd be getting along without her. Thank you to Dylan, Emma and Troy for loaning us your superwoman once again. Jenny-Jane and Fisher are handling it all quite well and Nick is content as long as I take my meds on schedule.

I'm a tad drugged so I hope this post is coherent. I'll write again soon with a report on the big reveal tomorrow morning. Wish me a better night's sleep and positive vibes for a great new figure!

With love

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Surgery Day!

I've done a good job of avoiding it up until now, but I can't deny that I'm definitely feeling the anxiety of tomorrow's surgery.  Let's back up to the avoiding it part.  This past weekend has been all about Jenny-Jane, Rapunzel and Barbie, in that order.  Jenny-Jane turned three on Friday and I worked in her preschool classroom where we celebrated the little lady in grand style with a big purple Rapunzel cake.  We then progressed to chocolate pudding pie Friday night and a glorious Barbie cake on Saturday, courtesy of my ever-so-talented sister Diane.  Presents consisted of everything Barbie and I think I counted seven new dolls on her floor this evening, all naked as jay-birds, of course.  

Unfortunately, as of 10:57pm tonight, Jenny-Jane is still awake.  She is an intuitive little thing and knows that Momma is up to something again.  I gave the kids a quick speech tonight during dinner that "Mommy is going to have another operation tomorrow, and I won't be able to pick you up for a while and I will need to rest in bed, but I'll get better quickly so please don't worry.  I'll be just fine."  Jenny-Jane quietly hung on every word, while Fisher interrupted me before I finished speaking with "Are there rats under our house?  Let's go look!"  I knew he'd handle it just fine.  Jenny-Jane is worried and won't go to sleep.  I just sent her to cuddle with Nick in our bed and hope we can get her back into her own bed before morning.

If you talked to my plastic surgeon, you would think I'd have nothing to worry about.  He said surgery is at 9am, it will last an hour and I'll be home by noon to make Nick lunch.  Yes, he's kidding about lunch, but seriously, I'll be home before noon.  This is true outpatient surgery.  How can they cut me open, remove these horrible hard tissue expanders, get the implants in, sew me up, send me to recovery and then get me home in three hours?  Just doesn't seem possible.  

But none the less, I am worried.  Not about how the surgery will go, but about the recovery.  I have such difficult memories of how much pain I was in after the last surgery, how depressed I felt, how I could not raise my arms for weeks, how I couldn't brush my own hair or stay awake for more than a couple hours at a time.  I've been told that this surgery is far less taxing than the last, but the memories haunt me.

I was told I'll wake up from surgery with a great feeling of relief to have my expanders out, and I really, really look forward to that. Eighteen months in this internal iron bra has been more than enough.  I'll be wrapped like a mummy around my chest for two days and get the bandages off on Wednesday at the big reveal.  I was also told that I must be up and walking two hours after surgery and then pretty much continuously when I get home.  My surgeon warned "If you lay around you will get blood clots in your legs that will travel to your lungs and you will die."  No mincing words there.  So look for me on the treadmill at the club come Tuesday.  Jeez, I was hoping for a little more R and R, I'm getting gypped!

Oh, and what bra size will I be upon waking from surgery?  That's yet to be seen.  Doc said he ordered implants ranging from 400cc's to 700cc's.  He is under my strict orders to shove in the largest ones that will fit.  Nick is horrified, but I'm psyched.  

So we are off to St. Joe's at 7:30am tomorrow morning after dropping Fisher off at kindergarten. Wendy (who gently glided back into our family routine after arriving from North Carolina last night), my sister Diane and Nick will all be at my side as I get wheeled down that long white corridor.  I expect that Nick or Wendy will be posting tomorrow with an update of how it all went down.  I hope to be too loopy on pain medication to be writing myself, but then again, that could be fun too.  Wish me luck, here we go!

with love

p.s.  I just noticed that I've got 99 followers on my blog.  How cool is that? Who wants to be lucky 100?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

One Week and Counting

All smiles before heading to school

Ok, maybe a little nervous

Off she goes!
Can you stand it?  She is such a little spit fire, that Jenny-Jane.  Her first day of pre-school was Thursday and she totally rocked it. She looked cute as a bug in her navy dress, white tennies and Barbie backpack.  I left her happily swinging on the playground and ran to my car for a brief sob.  My little girl!  It was a combination of "my little girl is growing up" and "how lucky I am that I'm well enough to see this day". When I picked her up at noon, sweet Teacher John said she did great and she couldn't spit the words out fast enough about her exciting day. Yay.  

Unfortunately, Jenny-Jane missed her second day of school due to a stomach bug that had me washing sheets, blankets and bunnies, and tossing her into the shower late Thursday night. That same bug kept Fisher in bed all day Saturday and me in bed today.  I think we are all coming around, but it was quite a dreary weekend. The kids shuffled from ipad movies, to tv shows to DVD movies for two days.  I think they kinda liked it.

This little bug was my first true "sick day" since I ended chemo last September.  I told Nick this morning that I now realize how much chemo feels like the flu. Super tired, headache, body aches, lack of appetite and upset stomach.  It actually put me in a bit of a depression.  I did not want to remember how horrible I felt for those five months. And staying in bed most of the day was a memory trigger.  Today and back then, the kids played around me and I just willed myself to feel better.  

My experience today reminds me that I need to start preparing myself mentally for my reconstruction surgery, just one week from Monday.  I will again be in bed on my back and unable to lift my arms for some time.  I really blocked out most of my immediate post surgery life last April, and I'm nervous that I will start remembering all the sadness and pain I endured.  While I'm of course super excited to move forward with this surgery, I'm scared.  I know several women who have needed additional surgeries after their reconstruction because things just didn't look quite right or because of horrible infections or (this is true) the sutures failed to due radiation damage and the implants fell out!! Oh my.  I just have to stay optimistic that all will go well.  All will go well... all will go well.. say it with me, please.

I meet with my plastic surgeon on Thursday for a pre-op review.  I'll write about his take on everything before I head into surgery on Monday.  In the meantime, we've got Jenny-Jane's third birthday to celebrate this Friday where I get to work in her classroom and share birthday treats with her little friends.  Tonight I think I'll focus on Barbie balloons and pink cupcakes to keep my mind off the big stuff. I expect the freaking out to begin Sunday.  Until then, I'll renew my Xanex prescription and start my prune juice pre-op ritual.  No, I'm not kidding, sigh.

Next post I'll need to start thanking the angels around me including Nick's super-sister Wendy who is coming for surgery week to keep our household from imploding, and my NCPG girls who already have a meal delivery schedule in place.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

T-minus 8 days and counting,

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Show and Tell

As we readied Fisher for his first kindergarten Show and Tell this week, I thought I might report on my own recent Show and Tell adventures.

When people get cancer, it's often in a place you can't see or feel from the outside of the body ie: lung, liver, bones. But with breast cancer, the location of disease is right out there. Even though it's supposedly a "private area," from the moment I was diagnosed, I had no hesitation to invite my family and friends to really poke around and feel the lumps. And then after my mastectomies, every visitor I had was subjected to viewing my scars and newly flat chest. I'd lead everyone I knew by the hand to the nearest bathroom to lift my shirt and see the freak show. When I started receiving saline to fill my tissue expanders, it gave me yet another reason to share. "Look! I'm getting bigger!". My diagnosis has been a modesty buster, a Get Out of Jail card of sorts. I never considered myself to be such a exhibitionist, but that's exactly what I've become.

Strangely enough, it's not only me. My friend Krista had no hesitation to show me her mastectomy results just days after my diagnosis. And just this week I was feeling up another gal pal's lovely new reconstructed breasts in the bathroom at Chelsea's Kitchen. Two nights ago I was at it again in the Humble Pie bathroom (ironic name, huh?) with two girlfriends who graciously held back tears at the sight of my overly firm expanded chest. And yet again this morning I found myself in the bathroom of Vincent's on Camelback, tank top lifted to show another friend who is facing surgery in just three weeks. I'm sure making my rounds around town.

So the question I ask myself is "Why am I so willing to share this intimate experience with every one I know?" I've said this before, but I feel a strange duty to be an ambassador for my disease. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer throughout their lifetimes. If it's not you, and I pray it's not, someone you know will be diagnosed. I truly believe that if I can help demystify what a breast cancer patient endures and feels and looks like under her shirt, then I'm helping future patients be more understood and better cared for emotionally by those who love them. We fear the unknown and if you really don't know what a friend or family member is going through, I think you might be afraid to put yourself out there to help them. Hence, I've become the neighborhood restaurant flasher.

So yes, please expect to be invited into the nearest bathroom with me once again for Show and Tell after my surgery in September. At least the "Show" is getting better!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fisher's First Day

All smiles on the first day of Kindergarten

Hand in hand, I'm a proud Mama
No first day jitters here
Mrs. Martin leads the way to class
Ok, I know this post has nothing to do with my cancer or recovery, but I just had to share Fisher's first day of Kindergarten photos.  

Our big 5-year old donned his new St. Francis Xavier uniform, new shark backpack, new black Nikes and joined his kindergarten class for the first day of school this past week.  

We could not be prouder of him.  He's taken to the new 6:15am wake up call like a champ, says goodbye to us each morning without a single tear and is all smiles upon pick up.  His teacher, Mrs. Martin, emailed today "Fisher makes me smile! He is generally happy and cheerful and even greets correction with acceptance and a desire to do the right thing.  He will have to work on over-chattiness but I can tell he makes friends easily." How awesome is that?  

Since St. Francis Xavier is quite obviously a Catholic school, he is also getting his first exposure to organized religion.  I attended Catholic grade school (St. Eugene's) for eight years in Milwaukee, and knew deep in my heart that I wanted our kids to have the same experience. Fisher has religion class every day and I love hearing what he has learned.  Today he told me that "God created everything, and before he made anything, he was all alone in the dark.  It was really, really dark." Ok. Yesterday he said "When you feel the tug on your kite, that's heaven."  Huh.  

I'll be sure to post any new divine revelations that he comes up with over the next year or so.  Once they get to the whole Jesus dying on the cross stuff I think we will be in for some very interesting conversations.  

Ok, now that I think about it, I guess I can tie this back into my recovery.  One of the main reasons I pushed for St. Francis is because frankly, my future is uncertain.  I have every intention of sticking around for the next 20+ years, but truthfully, my disease is unpredictable.  If and I mean a BIG if, anything should happen to me, I want my kids to have a foundation of faith to support them, as well as a wonderful church and school community to embrace my family.  Hey, I'm a planner, I can't help it.  

So one kid down, and one more to go.  Jenny-Jane starts preschool in two weeks. I'm sure I'll have photos to share of that big event too. I already have her new navy sailor dress all ironed for the first day. It's that planning thing again. I just wish I could plan for the rest of our lives too. 

with love on a school night,