Back to Reality

During pregnancy and while breast feeding, a woman’s body is working overtime. I once read that the body during pregnancy requires as much energy as running a marathon, everyday. I was sure to remind my husband of this fact a lot and also noted that it was the only marathon I’d ever be running so he should applaud my efforts daily with zeal. Luckily, nature gives you a break in only one way: no period. I hadn’t had my period for almost a year and a half…. until last night.
Its return is marked with the usual progression of discomforts. However, it is now a milestone that I must mark with a yet unknown discomfort. My first mammogram.
I was told that I had to wait two months after weaning and 7-10 days after the return of my period to get my first mammogram. Now that the time has come, I called the breast surgeon’s office to tell them the awesome news. I guess in some ways it is a good thing because eleven days from now when I have the mammogram and MRI, I will no longer be in the dark about my current breast health. Ok, that is a really good thing. I will remain positive and tell myself that there’s probably nothing going on there yet. I am going to get a good report and have the luxury of setting a date for my double mastectomy at my leisure when the timing is right for me and my family.
Worst case scenario could be pretty bad so I’m not going to think about it. I will cross that bridge when I get there because there’s nothing I can do about it until I get those results. There’s no good that can come of me obsessing and worrying about a horrible what-if. Ok, I sort of just let myself go there for a minute, feeling a little pukey and now I’m done. Moving on.
This is what’s going to happen. I’m going to go to the appointment by myself (because after yesterday’s meltdown I can’t be worrying all day about the girls being upset), my husband will take off work and stay with them. They will be thrilled with Daddy on a weekday. I’m going to go get my boobs squished, x-rayed and felt up. Luckily, the doc will give me the mammogram results right then and there and call me the next day with the MRI results. And then I’m either going to go to Serendipity and get a big ass frozen hot chocolate or go to Bergdorfs and pretend I’m a Kardashian cousin (speaking of big a… well, just know that as I turn around, it won’t be hard to convince them). I’ll try on pretty shoes and clothes. Then I will hem and haw as I turn this way and that in the mirror as if I don’t know if they’ll look good enough when Kim and I hit the club (throw head back, wide-mouthed laugh, hand on hip, pose for paparazzi). As I see it, I will then walk out of the store empty-handed but not disappointed because I will have already gotten my fabulous results from the doctor and I’ve got a little more time on my side (and money left in my account). I will take the next train back to reality, hug my little family and feel happy, grateful and blessed. A girl can dream, no?

BoobyMoon

Our honeymoon was awesome.  We needed that downtime after our amazingly fun wedding.  The wedding planning and weekend debaucheries tuckered us out and got us ready for the nothing-to-do beach vacation.  Sure, I was so run-down that I had strep during the entire 2 week break, but that didn’t stop us from having the most relaxing, romantic trip ever.  We also took a “babymoon” before our first was born.  That was also a smart move.  Being a Mom is the hardest, most demanding job I’ve ever had.  It’s also the most rewarding, fun and worthwhile title I’ve ever held.
I saw a flier in the library today that was for a seminar called, “The Terrific Twos.” My friend said, “Who calls it that?”  That’s not how I’d put it either. It’s more like a rollercoaster of amazing moments of wonder as you watch your just-a-year-ago baby learn how to be their own independent individual with very specific likes, dislikes and multiple personalities.  Well, that mixed with ridiculous frustration when they (and you) grasp for the right way to handle any given scenario: how to use a toilet, how to solve a puzzle, how to express the endless frustrations. Maybe it should be “The Trying Twos.”  Terrible seems kind of mean as there are really awesome times.  However, after a few weeks of not having any help (due to circumstances beyond  my control: my mom, my mother-in-law and my babysitter were all away at the same time that my husband had to be at work until midnight almost every night), I’m ready to lose it.
So today, I had it all arranged so I could have an hour to myself to go out and basically walk around town and do nothing, maybe get a coffee?  So as I saw the white light of my exit shining brighter and brighter, my two year old threw a fit!  It was like we had gone backwards 9 months to when she went to her school for the first day without me.  The tears, the hysterics, the tantrums, oh my!  She isn’t used to me leaving her with anyone other than her daddy.  Ugh, I couldn’t do it.
It got me nervous (yet again) for when I leave for the surgery.  So now I know that I have to start preparing them for when I’m not around.  And what’s the best way for that to happen?  A BoobyMoon!!!!  I am going to plan a vacation, somewhere relaxing, gorgeous and complete with spa services.  A few months before I have the surgery, my husband and I will have to get away for at least a long weekend and let the girls stay with their grandparents.  Hopefully this will get them used to the idea of us being gone for a few days and give everyone a trial run.  And give me a much desired break!!!  I cannot wait!  It will be the last time the old ta-tas go to the beach.  Bon Voyage Boobies!!!

Housekeeping

I got my teeth cleaned today (picture me smiling like the brunette version of the Orbit gum chick).  It had been over a year and a half.  Yikes.  My dad is a periodontist and would be appalled if he knew how long it had been.  Even though I inherited that pesky BRCA gene, I also got his very strong teeth.  I didn’t have any cavities.  Kind of a shock since… let’s just say my flossing regimen leaves a lot to be desired.  So as I was making my appointment for 6 months from now, it occurred to me that I’m really going to have to time that appointment around my double mastectomy date.  I should get my next teeth cleaning soon before going in for surgery.
I started thinking about my other medical housekeeping and then all of my pre-op to-dos.  What should I do to prepare for surgery?  I’m starting to make a mental checklist, but thought it would be best written down.  I have a serious case of Mom brain and am likely to forget everything as soon as it enters my conscience.
– Teeth cleaning
– Trans-vaginal ultrasound: although I haven’t discussed this yet here, due to the heightened risk of ovarian cancer, part of my medical housekeeping now includes a trans-vaginal ultrasound every 6 months. 
– Miscellaneous household things: change air filters in the girls’ humidifiers, change the air filter in our HVAC system, run the auto-clean cycle of the washing machine.  Sure, these are things that someone else could probably do, but I don’t want to have to think about reminding anyone or giving instructions to already busy people helping me.
– Seasonal Closet Change:  If my surgery takes place in September/October (that’s my ideal timeline, but who knows), I need to switch the girls’ closets to fall clothes and get their jackets out and think about Halloween costumes (although my husband always buys backup costumes because he thinks the ones I pick out are “janky” or super lame)
– Playdates: make sure I have several weeks worth of playdates scheduled
– Medicines: stock up on all of the necessary medications that I like to have around for the girls, like ibuprofen, acetimenophen,  benadryl, and adult tylenol, etc. and of course the prescriptions I will need too.
– Grooming: haircut, waxing, nails (will I choose 3 coats of Jumping Junkanoo or Fiji for my toes? these are the very serious decisions that I have to face)
I’m a firm believer in lists as living and breathing organisms.  This one will have to grow and develop over time.

Log Out and Live

My friend and her husband started a new venture. It’s called Log Out and Live. They’re encouraging people to put down their mobile devices, step away from the computer, don’t freak if you can’t find a wi-fi hot spot. Get out there and be active. Obviously, there are very important uses for our devices and how we use them. I wouldn’t be doing this blog and reaching out to everyone without being logged in. However, this weekend while I was celebrating all of the holidays, I actually left my phone in the car for once. It was a baby step, as almost all of the people who might need me were already with me. That gave me peace of mind enough to log out and just enjoy my extended family and friends. I really loved it.
Remember back in the stone ages (the ’80s), when people weren’t constantly connected via technology? You actually had to call a friend to find out what was going on with them instead of just checking their Facebook status. It was a simpler time. I wonder if our kids are ever going to have the interpersonal skills that generations before them have needed to do business, forge friendships and express themselves in a way other than ridiculous abbreviations. OMG, they will never understand how we did it without cell phones!
It gives me major anxiety not to have my cell phone on when my daughter is at school. I want to make sure I can be reached if she’s hurt or upset. Of course I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I won’t be able to do much for anyone when I go into surgery and then for a few weeks post-op. It might feel like the olden days when our parents weren’t always reachable. I don’t like the idea of that. It might be a good thing for my kids though, not to be helicoptered by me for a little bit. Not that they won’t be in the very capable hands of their father and grandparents but I hate the thought of not being able to do things for them. That was the hardest thing about having our second child. I stressed so much about not being able to be there for our older child for the two days I was in the hospital. She was perfectly fine and my parents, especially, keep saying that I need to give the girls space so they don’t wind up feeling like the universe revolves around them. Well this should be the perfect time for that lesson. And the perfect time for me to log out so I can live longer.

Organizing

I love organization magazines. Buying them is a supermarket compulsion that is so hard for me to resist. I succumbed to the lure of mudroom organizing on the cover of the most recent issue I saw. I’m severely disappointed with my purchase. I know that peg boards are a great way to hang coats up and baskets are awesome for shoes. I need some better ideas because our baskets runneth over.
This is just one spot that desperately needs my organizing attention. Since I’ve become a mom of two, my prowess in this discipline has taken a backseat to, say, my sidewalk chalk artistic ability (which is getting better every day). When we had our destination wedding 5 years ago, I had clear storage containers full of wedding items for the venue to use. I had typed, detailed instructions (complete with photos) on how it should all be set up. They laughed at and applauded me at the same time.
Today I am shocked at how badly I’ve fallen off the organizational wagon. I’m feeling tremendous pressure to clean up my act (and my home) before I go into surgery. It will give me peace of mind to know that everything has a place and hopefully a spot that makes sense so no one has to wake me up to find something important. I think it will be easier for everyone if my girls things are in order; playroom games, diapers and wipes, clothing that actually fits. When I was getting my tests done the other day, my husband desperately searched for a jacket that fit our little one. It probably delayed their outing to the park by 15 minutes. Not a huge deal but every minute counts with these two.
Now, my hurdle is going to be finding the time to tackle each room. So my goal for myself is to tackle one room a week and thoroughly organize it. I’m giving myself roughly until the end of June to complete this task. Wish me luck!!

Yummy Dangers

My husband and older daughter are in the kitchen making pancakes right now.  He’s rarely seen dabbling in the culinary arts, but he makes the best pancakes (and he rocks french toast too).  Of course, our little chef wants to be involved.  So with Wonder Pets on in the background, they’re measuring and pouring.  While she loves being like “Ratatooty” (what she calls the little Disney rat who disgustingly takes over a French restaurant with his Epicurean prowess), she is really a musician at heart.  She has a guitar, a ukulele, a banjo and about 3 toy pianos. We’re trying to encourage her passion for music.  So as they’re cooking, I hear her making up a song (to the tune of the Wonder Pets theme song, if you know it): “Sour cream, sour cream, you’re on your way, to make the pancakes and save the day.”  Rock on!
Not only was it pretty friggin’ cute, but I LOVE sour cream.  It’s like she created a theme song just for me.  I eat a lot of baked potatoes.  I make a whole meal out of it.  There’s generally more sour cream and cheese than there is potato on my potato.  I am so proud of this moment in her musical life!
It reminded me, however, of a little tidbit my parents told me after their appointment with their endocrinologist this week.  She said that patients with insulin resistance (ie. diabetic or high glucose) and/or high fat diets or obesity are at greater risk for cancer. She believes that sugar and high fat diets are the environmental factors that can trigger cancer, especially the genetically based cancers.  According to my parents, she is a big researcher.  I, on the other hand, have not looked for studies to support this, but it does make sense.  There are lots of cookbooks out there for cancer patients with antioxidant-rich recipes for those trying to ward off cancer.  I don’t think any of them are high in fat or sugar. 
Of course, this weekend for Passover and Easter, I’ve made macaroons with sweetened condensed milk, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and baked french toast with cream.  I’m not really doing my part to protect our already genetically compromised family.  I guess we’ll start diet modification after this weekend.  Happy Holidays!

What Lies Beneath

As I was driving today, some lady in a gold Maserati cut me off.  She pulled one of those, “I’m just going to plop myself in the middle of your lane while I try to make a left turn into the opposite lane.  Oh what’s that?  That lane is totally stopped and now I’ve stopped you and everyone behind you?  Ooops (shrug).”  She waved to me and mouthed, “Sorry, just trying to go there (pointing to the other lane).” Yeah, no kidding.   So before I flipped her the bird (just in my head, Mom, I promise. It was like less than a mile from my house and the girls were with me.), I thought what’s going on with this lady?  You can’t pull such a move like that with that kind of car without knowing you’re going to receive some backlash.  The direction  her car came from was right next to a doctor’s office.  So whether this is the case or not, I told myself, “Self, she may have just come from getting bad test results from the doctor.  She is distracted and can’t drive for shit.”  So I just smiled and nodded at her. 
Obviously, there’s no way to know what was really going on with her, but it got me thinking, what lies beneath?  A lot of us don’t know our family history.  My father-in-law, for example, is adopted.  His family history has some blind spots.  So I called the genetic counselor that works at the hospital where our youngest was born.  We had met with her when doing our first trimester screenings.  I asked her what tests she recommends for people who are adopted or those who just want to take whatever genetic tests are out there.  She said there are really only two that effect the general population: BRCA and LYNCH.  LYNCH is a hereditary cancer syndrome for those with a family history of colon , uterine and endomitrial cancers. She said that they don’t recommend testing just to test.  For people with a “limited family structure”, you would test only if there is an unusual or early onset of a cancer.  Unfortunately, that kind of means that you have to wait and see (unless you want to pay out of pocket, then I think you can test for whatever you want).  There are other genetic cancer syndromes that you can test for but most are quite rare and the tests would only be covered by insurance if there’s an unusually high frequency in your family.  Obviously, if you’re concerned about getting tested, I would recommend doing some research yourself and speaking to other informed health professionals.  I’m not a researcher, so the extent of my information above stemmed from one phone call where I took notes and my 2 year old mimicked my note-taking from across the table in her playroom. It’s not like I wasn’t paying more attention to the phone call though, because as I looked up I found her calmly writing with red pen all over her face and hands with quite impressive penmanship for her age.

Private Parts

Today, I took my two girls, my niece and her wonderful nanny to the aforementioned crazy-town kids’ museum.  Maybe I was in a zen place or maybe because there were no domineering big kids today, but it wasn’t a complete disaster.  One of my best friends and her two boys met us there too (they’re the same ages as my girls).  We each had one kid strapped to us and the other running around getting soaked at the water tables.  Thanks to the water table and the glass of water I gave my older daughter in the cafeteria (wishful thinking as she spilled the entire contents all over herself, the chair and the floor), I was that mom who rips off her kid’s wet shirt and changes her right at the table in the cafe.  Breasts as a private part have not yet been discussed. 
But are breasts really that private anymore?  Aren’t they being flashed in front of your face all day long?  There’s a Victoria’s Secret on the corner of the main street in my town.  I walk or drive past it almost daily.  There are life-size posters in the window that have photos so provocative I’m surprised there aren’t more accidents at that intersection.  But no one seems to be complaining.  Aren’t the breasts the highlight of what makes a woman’s body so much better to look at than a guy’s?
Yes, I’m straight, but I’d rather go to a stripclub to see women shake their things than see a man shake his.  I’ve been to both sorts of establishments.  Once, in the weirdest “super” club (there were at least 5 dance clubs in addition to a male strip joint in this establishment) on the outskirts of Boston, I saw a dude pour hot wax on himself.  It is a sight that I will never be able to un-burn from my retinas.  (Dad, I’m just joking.  Everyone else, I’m totally not kidding and it was nasty).  I also saw (thanks to my college roommates’ birthday wish, not of my own volition) a show called Puppetry of the Penis.  The name alone should shock you enough, I will spare you the gag-worthy details.  Then one office Christmas party gone horribly wrong, my husband and I wound up at Scores in NYC.  Very awkward, but also enlightening.  I encourage all wives or girlfriends to go to a stripclub, it will demystify the experience for you and perhaps you’ll feel a little more at ease when your partner wants to go.  At least, that’s what it did for me, but I digress. 
My point is the woman’s body is a beautiful thing, much nicer to look at than the more utilitarian male form.  So how do I teach my daughters that I don’t want them to go flashing their boobs for beads at Mardi Gras, while at the same time to be proud and not ashamed of their bodies?  I want them to have confidence in themselves no matter their shape or size, but also to respect their bodies enough to cover them appropriately? 
I undress freely in front of my daughters and encourage naked time at our house.  I am trying to set a good example of being comfortable in my own skin.  I truly don’t know how to approach this post-op.  In my head, I’m imagining some really bad scarring.  My older daughter is sort of obsessed with boo-boos.  My mom had a mole removed 6 months ago and the little one is still saying, “Nanny has a boo-boo on her nose. She went in the sun too much without lotion.”  My mother-in-law burned her hand at least 4 months ago… “Gammy has a burn on her hand.  Don’t touch the oven.  So very hot!”  Obviously, we’ve all tried to show her the consequences to teach her not to do those things.  So what do I say about my scars?  They’ll be a consequence of something that could not have been avoided… genetics. I’m searching for the lesson to teach both of my girls.   I hope when I see the scars I think more about how they represent strength, courage, and health.  I just have to figure out the right way to help my little girls understand that.

To Facebook or not to Facebook

Obviously the answer to that question is ‘to Facebook’. Welcome Facebook friends. I debated whether or not to post a link to this blog because I’m not really a status update kind of person. Yeah, I do it occasionally, but this is more than just a status update.
In person, I’m an open book and an occasional over-sharer. Not so much on Facebook, a platform with a much wider audience than my everyday crowd of mom friends (hey ladies!). However, I’m sharing this blog and my journey, because I want everyone to gain knowledge from my experience and is there a better place to start than with the friends I’ve made throughout my life? 
As I scanned my friend list looking for people that I might be a little uncomfortable sharing this with, I couldn’t find any.  I hope that none of you or anyone you love is positive for the breast cancer gene. I’m sharing my journey here, so that I may be able to encourage a friend or a friend’s relative or a friend of a friend to find out for themselves if they are at risk, if they are positive, and if they want to do something about it.
Alas, with a hint of sarcasm, a bit of profanity, and some first-hand knowledge, I hope this blog helps you or someone you know.  That includes you dudes out there, you’ve got boobs and genes too.  If you’re the least bit intrigued, please start here with my first post and then work your way forward to today: http://atitillatingtale.blogspot.com/2012/03/titillating-tale.html . If you like it, if you find it informational, if you just want to hear about boobs a lot, please enter your email and subscribe (you’ll only be emailed if I have posted a new entry).  Now, if you only want to read this post and never look back, no problem… I just leave you with this: take control of your breast health or the breasts of someone you love.  Ask someone to feel you up frequently (preferably a medical professional, but that’s your call, I won’t judge).

Insurance

I like Chris Rock’s bit on insurance. “They shouldn’t call it insurance, but “in case shit.” I give a company money in case shit happens.” Well, shit just happened, so even though I’ve complained about how much money our insurance costs, I’m thankful to have it.  I got two bills in the mail last week from the two initial visits I had regarding being BRCA+.  One with the breast surgeon and one with the gynecological oncologist (to discuss my plans for dealing with the ovarian cancer risk).  I opened the bills with trepidation thinking, “here we go.  the first of many outrageous bills.”  They were both $10.  Phew! 
Getting these bills reminded me that I need to call the insurance company to go over what they will cover and what I should expect to pay out of pocket.  I don’t want to be surprised with a crazy bill and have to deal with the anger, frusturation and ridiculous amount of time it takes to settle insurance claims.
Dealing with insurance is sometimes like dealing with the law.  They don’t accept “I didn’t know” as an excuse. Since when has a policeman let you off the hook for ignorance sake?  “I’m sorry officer, I thought a stop sign with a white line around it meant you could simply pause. I didn’t know you actually had to stop.  How about a warning?”  (true story: that’s what my brothers told me when I learned to drive. Thanks guys!) That usually doesn’t slide with police and I don’t think it slides with insurance when you say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that the lipo for my thighs wasn’t covered with my breast reconstruction.  Let’s say you get this round and I’ll get next?”
One thing I already crossed off my insurance to-do list before I even got tested for the breast cancer gene was making sure that my life insurance was up to date and for the amount that I wanted.  I was advised to do this because if I got a BRCA positive result, I may not have been able to be covered under a new policy.  I think because it’s viewed as a high risk pre-existing condition.  I’m not sure, but I believe once I have the prophylactic surgery, I will have reduced my risk so much that I will again be eligible for a new plan.  In the meantime, my old plan is set in place and it’s one less thing to worry about.