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,

Monday, August 15, 2011

East Coast Recap

Grandpa Larry's patio in sunny Rhode Island
Just one of about 200 fish photos
Got Crabs?  With Nick's Mom Virginia in Massachusetts
Every day at the beach in Hull, MA
Nothing makes me happier than Pete with our kids
Finally, I've managed to organize our East Coast trip photos into a sensible mass and I've chosen a very select few for you here.  Yes, we've been home for several weeks now, so this is kind of ridiculous, but please indulge me.  I'm going to give you my five (or so) word overview of each of our three stops, and a blurb or two of my favorite moments in each location.  

Wickford (North Kingstown), Rhode Island visiting Nick's Dad Larry and Cyndy-  "It's all about the fishing."  Here I loved our hot day at the beach where the boys cruised up on the fishing boat to meet the girls for a picnic in the sand. Live lobster dinner too!

Hull (Spinnaker Island), Mass. visiting Nick's Mom Virginia and Rusty- "It's all about the beach."  Here I loved arriving late-night to homemade soup and lots of hugs.  I cherish the memory of our beach chairs in the ocean with Jenny-Jane effortlessly flying a red kite over her head.  Oh and Nick's and my kid-free escape on the ferry over to Boston for the day, shopping and lunch!

Mountain Lakes, New Jersey visiting our favorite pals Pete, Mellissa and August Moser- "It's all about friendship." Here I loved seeing where our dear friends have started their family in a gorgeous neighborhood right outside NY City.  I love how Pete took Nick and Fisher on a 90 mph cruise in his Porche 911 (ok, they loved it) and organized an epic "roof top" night out in NYC with four of our favorite couples.  

If you want to see more of our trip, I did create a Shutterfly album with an edited 50 of the 400+ photos taken on our adventure.  Click here to see them.

Back to the present, Fisher started kindergarten at St. Francis Xavier school in central Phoenix this past week.  So far he loves it and I tear up seeing him doing "pledge and prayer" with the entire school every morning in his cute uniform.  Next post I'll include first day of school photos, I can't help myself.  

All is status quo on the health issue, which is great.  Nothing new to report except I had to postpone my brain MRI (for that little aneurysm thing they found last year) until after my tissue expanders are removed during my reconstruction surgery next month.  I wish I could get that scan done now as previously planned just to put my mind at ease that the aneurysm is not growing and that I don't have breast cancer tumors all over my brain.  As I've mentioned, breast cancer likes to sneak into the brain and start growing tumors.  Not that it will happen to me, of course, but I'd like a confirmation that every little headache or twinge is nothing to worry about.  Oh, the life of a cancer survivor, fun fun. 

Ok, that's it!  My new 6:00am wake up call to get Fisher to school is quite an adjustment for the both of us.  Early birds we are not so I'd better get my butt in gear with earlier bedtimes for all of us.  

with love to all,

Thursday, August 11, 2011

One Year

It's one year to the day since we lost my Dad. I just miss him so much.

Howard B. Knotek
February 12, 1931 - August 11, 2010

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Here we go again from the iPad. Our big computer is still at the Apple shop so no East Coast photos yet. I do have to give props to Nick who took the thing apart on our kitchen table to try to fix himself. Amazing it was not destroyed in that operation. Have you seen the inside if a home computer? Crazy.

So tonight I've got fun plastic surgery news! I'm scheduled for my reconstruction surgery on Monday September 19th. This morning Dr. Mosharraffa tells me he can work a few miracles for me. At this point I have 500cc's of saline in each of my tissue expanders and he knew I wanted larger, but my small boned frame cannot handle one cc more. No kidding. The hard snow globes on my chest feel like they are indenting my ribs, which I learned, they probably are. So, he tells me he can make more space once he's "in there" to put in 650cc saline implants on each side without any problem. Yippee!! He said they might be a little firmer than normal boobs, but they won't be anywhere as horribly solid as the ones I have now. Plus, no sagging! He said I'll be sixty with the boobs of a twenty year old. Fab! Considering I was an A-cup before this whole nightmare began, I'm kind of enjoying this unexpected cancer upside. And of course I'm going to be just like any self respecting gal with new surgically enhanced breasts; I'll be wearing inappropriately revealing tops at every opportunity.

My surgery will be performed on an out-patient basis and will be far less painful than the mastectomies. The recovery should be much faster too. The weird part starts about three months after surgery when the doc creates my new nipples and then the rest is tattoo'd on. Oh, yes, what a freak show. I really don't understand that whole process but will report as it happens, of course.

So for now I'm concentrating on getting Fisher started in kindergarten next week, then Jenny-Jane in preschool in September, then Jenny-Jane's 3rd birthday, THEN I can focus on the surgery. Thank God we have these little people (and the BRAVO channel) to keep our minds off the heavy stuff.

With love,