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Monday, October 29, 2012

Frankenstorm meets Frankenboobs

All this talk about the Frankenstorm, which is made up of a hurricane, a noreaster and a pack of lemmings, has got me thinking about the odd, piecemeal bits of flesh I've got attached to my chest: the Frankenboobs.

I know, I know, Frankenboob's Monster is the correct way to say it. But give me a break, I've got cancer.

Reconstruction after a mastectomy is something I didn't know anything about, because, well why would I? And when I was in the throws of the first days of diagnosis and surgery, it was kind of the last thing on my mind. When I visited the plastic surgeon, it was the day after I had been diagnosed. He basically said he'd take care of me, I'd be okay. And I said yes, whatever you say sir, I don't really care about this right now. You know, cause I was afraid I might die.

I woke from my bilateral mastectomy wrapped like a mummy, and pumped full of Dilaudid. My breasts were gone, and tucked under skin and muscle were tissue expanders -- balloon-like devices that would gradually stretch my body to accommodate implants at some point in the future.

Over a period of weeks, I made frequent trips to the plastic surgeon, during which he would magically inflate the expanders to stretch out the muscle and skin where my breasts used to be. And by magically, I mean that he would take a magnet to locate the inflation valve under my skin, and then inject saline into the tissue expander. I didn't watch the actual injection, but could feel the saline flowing in, and when I opened my eyes, I could see the newly inflated lump of pretend breast.

In addition to the expanders, I also drains sewn into my skin, designed to suck swelling fluid out of the body over time. I had mine in for three weeks after surgery. My body had crossed into science fiction territory.

Once the boobs are inflated to the right size, then you have what's called an exchange surgery, where the expanders and switched for permanent implants. The afterward, there are additional surgeries for things like nipple reconstruction (my plastic surgeon referred to the technique he uses as "like origami with the skin." I guess I should challenge him to paper crane folding contest to make sure he's up for it.)

I'm still at the expander stage, (and found out last week that my exchange surgery won't be able to be completed before I do radiation, so I will remain at this stage or the next several months) so my body has taken on a decidedly cubist appearance. The right side isn't too bad, it's basically the proper shape, though the balloon part of the tissue expander has some weird folds that make pokey sharp angles under my skin. It's kind of an octagon. The left breast, the bitchy, cancer-y one, is more of, I don't know, a rhombus or something. Sometimes I call it "the squished hamburger."

To complete the Frankenboobs, it will take at least two more surgeries, possibly more. When they are done, they will be made of plastic, silicone, tattoo ink, fat, and possibly skin from another part of my body.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Let's blow this prescription drug stand

This is how I leave the chemo ward every week:

I should get a Snape wig to terrify children.

Halftime in the Chemo Ward

Today was Taxol #6 -- the halfway point for this drug. (I'll continue my other drug, Herceptin, for a year.) As usual, I went through my list of side effects with the nurse.

"I almost forgot -- I've been feeling extremes of temperature. Really hot, then really cold."

"That," she said."Is your body going into menopause."


"Have they talked to you about that?"

"Not much," I admitted.

So we talked about it. I knew that it was possible my period would stop (temporarily), but I guess I wasn't really thinking about it right. I was imagining just a really long time between periods, like that three month long birth control injection, which I was pretty okay with. Na-uh. It is full blown menopause, guys! Hot flashes, mood swings ::whispers:: vaginal dryness.

Who said that? Maybe Mabel:

Apparently another symptom of menopause is you have to live in a fun house mirror. 

Needle sticks: 2
Recorded heights: 72 inches (??), 68 inches, 68 inches again in case I my body lied by growing really fast.
Pumpkin muffins eaten: only 1, but it was heavenly.


I'm a 90's bitch.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

Whisker Therapy

After chemo this week, I decided to take part in an experimental new treatment: Whisker Therapy. The goal is to make you say "Squee!" so hard that any and all cancer cells commit cellular suicide.

Butseriouslyfolks...this weekend I went with my family to Meet the Breeds at the Javits Center.

And oh, I met some fuckin' breeds.

Here I am with a Newfoundland boy who was given up by his owner to a Newf rescue. Luckily he has found a very nice forever home, but I did consider tucking him into my purse and sneaking out. It would have worked.

AHHHHHHHH! The squeezability.

It was a great day. There's just something about the way animals look at you that makes you feel okay. They don't see you as your gender or race, your clothes, or any of the other things we humans take note of. They just see a friend, or in the case of certain cats (cough cough Lydia) someone to disdain...but to disdain equally to all others. Animals don't see you as a sick or a healthy person. Or maybe they do, but they don't let you know it. For the first time since I lost my hair, and really, since my diagnosis, I forgot that I have cancer.

The bond I have with my pets has been instrumental for me getting through this cancer nonsense. I mean, just look at this pair of bread loaves:

Total professionals.
This experience made me look into again getting Pancho to be a certified therapy dog. He just doesn't have the temperament, unfortunately. He's a little too nervous. He gets that from me.

Chemo number: 5/12
Number of needle sticks: 2
Neutrophil count: 1.9

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ambien Thoughts

Subtitle: Things that pop into my head when sleeping pills are pulling me into the abyss.

Last night, I wondered: does Joe Biden know that Toastie is sick? If so, does Obama know too?

Monday, October 15, 2012

On this day in history...

Sometime in the last fall, in a fit of weird nostalgia, I signed up to get emailed every day with a reminder of what I posted on Facebook one year earlier.

So I get a lot of emails with status updates about finishing papers, photos of my dog, and nonsequiters about TV. There is something so sad, so far away seeming about my life just one year ago. Like, "look at that stupid girl, she's got no fucking clue."

I got one of these emails this morning, after a very rough night.

It did not have a status update that said "I shouldn't have gotten out of bed today."

There was no comment about the qualities my shaved head shares with Velcro.

Not a picture of my little cat, who we sped to the veterinary emergency room after midnight, thinking we might lose her on the way.

There was no running count of how many times and in how many doctors' offices I heard the word "oncology."

Instead, in the email there was this picture of my sister and me, and a status update about artisanal chocolates.

That was last year.

Getting this reminder of my old life sometimes feels like self flagellation. But other times it's something to strive for, to return to, or find anew.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

It's Britney, Bitch

And by Britney, of course, I mean this:

Had a head shaving party for one yesterday. I started with a regular razor, and an hour and three razor blades later it still wasn't all off. I had to leave for chemo with a very strange looking head. It was covered, but still. You never know when an ill timed gust of wind feels might blow off your scarf.

The chemo nurse suggested I try an electric razor, which was totally brilliant. Matt has one, so when I got home I went to work on the rest of the fuzz.

Now it's all gone, and I feel...okay. It was actually a lot more upsetting to have hair falling out all over the place. Now it's just all gone, because I got rid of it. Pancho has regained his title for number one shedder in the house.

Chemo was uneventful. No more weird lung thing. Got some work done, got some sleeping done, came home and ate Indian food. Not too bad.

Number of needle sticks: 2
Minutes in traffic: 50
Number of people who felt my fake boobs: 4

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Didn't your mother tell you not to stare?

Day one of wearing a headscarf.

So much of this shit reminds me of being 12 or 14 or some horrible age when I couldn't look anyone in the eye and my body was a traitor and I was invisible yet exposed all the time. No one saw me, but everyone saw me. I felt like I became these changes...the too big boobs, the greasy hair, the zits. Now it's the lopsided boobs, the lack of hair, and cruelly, still the zits. (Thanks steroids!) These changes has given me this other-ness, that others can't see past. I'm cancer girl now, and that's all.

That's how I felt then, in middle school, looking at the floor when I walked through the halls. Now of course I know that that wasn't true, that no one was looking at me and judging me, at least not more than they were judging themselves. But now I'm not sure.

It's the time of the week when the chemo side effects mess with my taste buds. Dessert is the only category of food that doesn't taste like metal. So cookies for dinner? Under consideration.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Buzz buzz


Friday, Friday, FRIDAY! It's chemo, chemo, CHEMO

The wackness.

Today was my third chemo session. These guys just keep getting more and more eventful. This time I had down weird pain in my lungs, and my heart was beating like, whatthefuck! whatthefuck! So I was there all day, had a million tests, and possibly it's just anxiety. Hrrmph. It's a little embarrassing.

Embarrassing because I think my anxiety in this moment is caused by the fact that my hair started falling out last night. It's not in big clumps, and you couldn't tell it by looking at me, but it has started. Going for a buzz cut tomorrow. Hoping to rock a GI Jane look for at least a week before the chrome-domia fully sets in.

I feel stupid being so upset and afraid about my hair. Until now, no one has been able to tell I'm sick if I didn't tell them (with a couple exceptions right after surgery, when I looked like a Gashlycrumb Tiny).
Also me.

It's not even so much about having no hair. Being bald means that now everyone will know something is wrong with me. It means I'm officially a sick person. My friend Ben Kingsley said it best:

I bid thee goodnight.

Number of needle pokes: 3
Number of hours spent: 5.5
Number of hairs lost: Unknown

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

On Banality and Triscuits

Typical Triscuit enthusiast
Something weird about having cancer, or really living through anything that sucks: you don't spend all your time freaking out about it. You might think that as a 28 year old with cancer, you'd spend all your time doing this:

But you don't. You get on with it. You go to work and school, the store, and the bar. And yeah you obsesses about shit and read too much on the internet and everything, but you adapt to the new normal amazingly quickly. So quickly that your new situation becomes really boring really fast.

It's boring because you can't think about much else -- but not like you're thinking about dying all the time, more like you're thinking about stupid, very specific details, like your red blood cell count or the amount of ginger tea in your kitchen cabinet or the location of your emergency hair loss hat.

Or the fact that because of your new taste buds, the only snack you now like is Triscuits.

Triscuits.The most boring fucking snack.

Monday, October 1, 2012

It starts

They call it "Pinktober."

In case you've missed any of the lead up, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, the time when breast cancer's pink awareness ribbon really gets to shine. Stop into almost any store, and you'll be able to load up on beribboned chips, maxi pads, envelopes, you name it. You should definitely buy these things, cause you know, it means you're aware and stuff. (Seriously, though, try not to fall for the pinkwashing.)

Sometimes I have a real hatred for the pink ribbon. Like when Teresa Guidice wears a rhinestone encrusted baseball cap proclaiming her awareness-ness. Ugh. Makes me feel like this: