Thursday, June 28, 2012

Three Months and Counting

It's been three months today since my bilateral mastectomy with tram flap reconstruction (also known as the tit-ectomy and tummy tuck to some). In some ways, it seems like it's been much longer than that; in others, it seems like only yesterday.

The majority of the healing was quick and not terribly painful. But the parts that are still healing? Ouchie! For example, I was at a water park with the kids, playing my favorite people-watching game of "Fat or Pregnant?" when the heat (106 degrees of it) finally became unbearable. I decided to get in the wave pool while the waves weren't waving and get wet, including my hair. I walked out to the deep end and prepared to lie back and douse my head up to my forehead, but before I had leaned back more than an inch or two, I had to stagger back up. Those tight-as-a-drum tummy muscles don't allow me to lean backwards anymore. Huh. Who knew? I had to bend my knees and dunk myself all the way under the water in order to get the job done, which caused water to stream down into my eyes and the part in my hair to become totally jacked. Totally. 

My tummy incision still pulls when I stand up, as do those stomach muscles, so I still look like half a parenthesis when I first rise, although I straighten up faster and, well, straighter, than I have been. It is still numb across the front of my stomach, and the ends of the incision, above my hip bones in the back, sometimes itch like crazy. The new boobies are also still mostly numb. However, I have had an itch deep inside the right one, but I can't scratch it, because everything between the scratch and the itch is numb.  I mean, I CAN and DO scratch it, but the scratch can't soak through to the itch. Maddening!

The nipples are looking quite lovely, I must say. I was a bit of a nattering nabob on that when I first saw them, but I will admit that Dr. Geter was right and they ARE shrinking to a normal size and no longer resembling cockleburs. I'll tell you what, when I had my first consultation with him, and he told me when the reconstruction was complete, no one would be able to tell they were fake if I were in a wet t-shirt contest, I was excited. Then, after seeing the massive cocklebur nipples, I thought he was going to prove to be a big ol' liar. Now, I think I'm going to have to take it back. (In fact, if he's right and I'm wrong, I'll take a picture of them inside a wet t-shirt and post it on here. Consider yourself warned.)

So many friends are still sending thoughts and prayers my way for continuing recovery, and I can not begin to tell you what that means to me. My deepest, warmest thanks for that. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hot Fun In The Summertime

Know how to get a very busy plastic surgeon to call you personally? Leave a message at his office that Homeland Security found something suspicious in the breast he recently constructed.

After the Airport Incident, I decided it might be in my best interest to call my plastic surgeon's office and ask why my left boobie would set off the body scanner at the airport. I had to leave a voice mail message for the nurse, who returned my call later in the day, telling me Dr. Geter was in surgery all day, and she would talk to him the next morning.

The next morning, I was driving home from my walk at Wildcat Park (which, by the way, has had a couple of REAL wildcat sightings recently and which may make me reconsider it as a walking location) when my cell phone rang. It was Dr. Geter, himself, wanting more details about my experience at the airport.  When he realized it was a body scanner and not a metal detector, he became less concerned about it. He swore no metal was used to shore up the new girls and that it was probably some scar tissue. Since my oncologist ordered a chest x-ray that I had done in May, I told Dr. Geter I would tell my oncologist about the Airport Incident and have the chest x-ray  scrutinized for anything, well, metallic. 

On Friday, I had an appointment with a general and colorectal surgeon about my colonoscopy. Remembering my first visit to the oncologist, I was ready for him to have a look-see at anything he needed to see, but he just wanted to talk. I can never second guess when these guys want to talk and when they want to look. He asked me who had it in for me to send me to see him (that would be Dr. Croy). Then, he explained the procedure and then sent me to his scheduling nurse to set it all up. The next available date was July 5, so I took that so I could get it over with. Mistake. As the nurse began giving me my instructions, she said "Wow, this will really make your 4th of July stink." She was right.  I might as well kiss 4th of July goodbye for this year. Starting when I get up on the 4th, I will be on clear liquids only. Nothing with red, pink, or purple dye in it. At 3:00 that afternoon, I will take four (FOUR!) laxatives at once, then start drinking a gallon of Gatorade laced with Miralax (as long as it isn't red, pink or purple Gatorade, the only flavors I might possibly like). I don't really care that much about missing fireworks on the 4th, especially since I can see the fireworks at Landreth Park from my bathroom window, and on any OTHER day, the clear liquid diet wouldn't bother me, either. BUT our neighborhood has a wonderful, corny, patriotic 4th of July celebration with lots and lots of yummy food, and I WON'T BE ABLE TO EAT ANY OF IT! 

Next stop was the oncologist's office. He said my blood work all looked good and explained again about why I had a FREAKING PERIOD three weeks ago. I asked if it would happen again this month after my Zoladex injection, and he said, "It shouldn't, but if it does, let me know,"  to which I replied, "Oh, I'll let you know, all right...." He looked a little skeptical when I told him I had not experienced any side effects from the drugs (other than the FREAKING PERIOD), but I reminded him that I don't plan on having side effects. He shrugged it off, mentally chalking me up to be a complete nut case, but I'm going to hold tight to the Think System and remain symptom-free.

Last, I went to the infusion center for my Zoladex injection, where I have discovered a flaw in the system: I have an appointment with the oncologist. I also have a time scheduled afterwards at the infusion center. When I get to the infusion center, I have to wait for the pharmacy to deliver my injection. I can maybe see where the pharmacy doesn't want to send it on the assumption that I am going to show up for my appointment, but once I am checked in at the oncologist's office, shouldn't that somehow trigger them to send the injection and have it ready and waiting for me when I get to the infusion center? Seems it should be doable, but, as usual, no one has asked me for my opinion. My nurse was SueAnn, and contrary to anything she might say about the procedure, I did NOT cry like a baby when she stuck me with the Lidocaine and the Zoladex injections (she is threatening blackmail so that I present her favorably in my blog - don't tell her, but she's probably going to be a big part of an upcoming blog, because I absolutely adored her). I did find, however, that I either have a liiiiiiitle more feeling close to the incision than I used to, or else the location was a little outside the numb-zone, because it did actually hurt a little. 

Oh, I did tell Dr. Croy about my curious airport incident, and he pulled up my chest x-ray to show me there didn't appear to be anything there that shouldn't be there, and he agreed with Dr. Geter that it was probably scar tissue, or possibly a hematoma or fluid that would eventually go away.  I guess if I'm still not convinced, then my alternative is to go to the county courthouse and walk through the metal detector there and see what happens. If it sounds like a fun way to spend your afternoon, feel free to join me....

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Blame It On The Sea Urchin

Apparently, an unplanned side effect of my surgery has surfaced....

My son was on a mission trip to Puerto Rico with the church youth group, and he and a friend were scheduled to return two days early so that they could attend Missouri Boys State. I was to pick them up at the airport in Tulsa and bring them home, and the friend's mom would take them to Boys State the next day. In the meantime, however, my son managed to step on a sea urchin on a beach outing and had to be taken to the ER on the little island on which they were staying. Sea urchins, by the way, are nasty little bastards that leave their spines behind when stepped on and cause a great deal of pain.

The mission team leaders made arrangements for my son to have a wheelchair take him to the gate for each of the three (yes, three) flights that it took to get them home, but, as he could not put any weight on his left foot, he would need crutches to get around once we left the airport. After a plea on Facebook, I found a set of crutches we could borrow (thank you, Jennifer!), so I loaded them in the car and set off to pick up the boys.

At the airport, I carried the crutches inside and roamed around a bit until I figured out where the boys would arrive. Looking at the map, I saw that it was a long haul from the gates to baggage claim and didn't know how far the wheelchair service would take him. There was an information desk nearby, so I asked if there was any way I could go to the gate and be there when the boys got off the plane, in case Kyle needed the crutches there. The information desk attendants said it shouldn't be a problem, since he was only 16, and sent me to the American Airlines ticket counter.

The agent at the American counter could not have been nicer and gave me a pass to get inside the gate area. Still lugging the crutches with me (and wondering why I didn't leave them in the car until I found out whether or not the wheelchair could be taken to the parking lot), I went to the gate area and presented my pass to the poker-faced Homeland Security agent on duty. He gave me the stink eye, which I nearly called him on, because I hadn't even said a WORD, but then I remembered a little incident where I got smart-mouthed with a surly Border agent at Niagara Falls and, wisely, kept my mouth shut.  (Now that I have had some time to cogitate on this, I concede that it is entirely possible that he looked at me like I was a freak because I was, after all, carrying crutches and not using them. Just a thought.)

Next, I continued to the screening area. Shoes off, purse on belt, crutches on belt. No problems.  Me in full body scanner. Problem. As soon as I stepped out, I was stopped by security. The image of me showed something suspicious in the boobular area. I looked at the screen, and there was my silhouette, with a blotch on my chest.  For crying out loud, I thought we had RESOLVED all suspicions in that area! A female agent, rather apologetically, said she had to pat me down, meaning she had to feel my boobs. Which she did. (I resisted the impulse to say, "Aren't they AWESOME?") Apparently, I passed that test, as well as the one where my hands were swabbed with a little towelette to check for traces of explosives. 

May I just take a moment to say WTF?! Why did one of my boobs light up the body scanner? And why only one? (I thought it was the left one, because I was seeing it as a mirror image, but now I don't know which one it was.)  Did Dr. Geter leave some kind of surgical detritus in there? Did one side need to be shored up more than the other? Is this going to happen to me EVERY FREAKING TIME I go through airport security? This was NOT on my side effect list (but neither was the insanely unfair period that surprised everyone except the oncologist). 

In retrospect, I could have easily met the boys where they exited the gate area and taken the wheelchair all the way to the parking lot and avoided the whole airport security experience. But how much fun would THAT have been...? I blame it all on the sea urchin.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Chemo: It's A Walk In The Park....

Three weeks into my oral chemo treatments and still waiting to experience side effects. Or am I?

I got to spend a few days last week in Nashville with my friend Terri, helping her move back there from Branson (this isn't the first time I have helped her move - we go waaaaaay back, but I digress). I dutifully packed my exercise duds so I could keep up my weight-bearing exercise, also known as walking, since my zumba teacher is still on her sabbatical (shout out to Crystal - I miss claaaaaaaass!). 

Terri told me there was a greenway trail nearby that I might enjoy, so with vague directions that it was "only about a quarter of a mile down the road" to a trailhead, I set out to do my two miles, not realizing that I would have nearly completed them just getting to the flipping trailhead. I'm really not complaining (much), though, because the greenway is gorgeous, and I would walk there every day of my life if I lived there. But it's another two and a half miles from the Kohl's trailhead to the Y, and another quarter of a mile or so from the Y back to Terri's house. So, all in all, I walked about five miles instead of the two I had been accustomed to walking. And I did it three days in a row, feeling very healthy and self-righteous doing so.

But the last night I was in Nashville, my left hip joint started aching as I laid in bed. It was uncomfortable enough to notice it, but not so uncomfortable that I couldn't sleep. Flash forward a week and back to walking two miles a day, and the hip still hurts. Still not horrible, but noticeably uncomfortable, especially when sitting or lying down. It does not, however, hurt particularly as I walk.

And the big question is, does it hurt because I overworked it with my five mile walks in Nashville (plus riding/driving in a car for 8 hours each way) OR is it hurting because of the Arimidex, which can cause bone and joint pain? And how will I know? I kind of imagined that IF I had bone and joint pain, it would be symmetrical somehow. I have absolutely no scientific basis for this, however. (If you suggest that it might hurt because of my advanced age, I will cut you.)

And that brings me to ANOTHER possible side effect: hot flashes caused by the Zoladex pellet that was inserted under the skin in my (very flat) tummy (had to throw that in BECAUSE IT'S AWESOMELY FLAT!). It is summer. I live in an old house that makes climate control a bit of a challenge. My husband generates heat like a furnace year-round, which is helpful in the winter, not so much in the summer. He is also a tightwad who thinks the upstairs thermostat should be on 80 degrees or higher in the summer. When I think about it logically, then I can recall how nearly EVERY summer night, I wake up about 2:00 a.m., dripping with sweat, and have to get up and turn the thermostat down to (gasp!) 75 degrees or risk dehydration. It's not a hormonal hot flash - it's cause and effect. My friends who DO suffer from hot flashes describe them much differently from what I am experiencing, and I truly believe I am hot only because the thermostat is set ridiculously high. 

I'm still holding out hope that I won't suffer ANY side effects beyond what I have already experienced (and that means that stupid period that I never want to see again), and the hip and the hot are just an aberration. Here's hoping so.