Procrastination

I was never really one to procrastinate. I don’t like the feeling of some to-do hanging over my head. At times, this impending surgery can feel like that. Then I start thinking, “well, I really don’t HAVE to do this now, I could wait and put it off a little”. I know I won’t do that, but it’s sort of a fantasy.
When is the right time? I suppose it’s now before I have to face cancer and everything that comes with that. Decisions are far easier to make when things are black and white: you have cancer, you need surgery. My situation isn’t exactly a gray area though. I know that one day I will get cancer. I know I’m going to go through with the surgery as planned in September, but as the heat of summer blazes on, I realize the chill of fall is not far.
I used to love the post Labor Day feeling of school starting. Thinking about new notebooks, pens filled with ink, a new year laid out in front of me. Potential to accomplish something great (although I quickly became complacent and was happy with my own mediocrity). But now, I’m trying to stay in the moment and enjoy summer and throwing my girls high up in the air while they splash and giggle in the pool. I won’t be able to do that for a while. As I see my little one get closer and closer to pushing herself up to stand, I think that was a milestone I was waiting for as a green light for surgery. I want her to be walking before I go under because I won’t be able to pick her up. It was easier to be brave when the date seemed so far away.
I have to remind myself to stay in the moment and enjoy life now. I still have time to procrastinate and relish in feeling good in my own skin for now. Even if that means rocking a bikini with my current saggies.

Away

This weekend we celebrated the wedding of one of my husband’s best friends. He was one of the best men at our wedding and now my husband was in his friend’s wedding party. We went down to Washington DC for the weekend to participate and delight in the nuptials of the bride and groom. It was our first trip away from the girls. When we arrived on Friday, everyone asked my husband how I was holding up. He would say, “she’s great right now, but the waterworks are going to start later”.
I’m happy to report that I didn’t cry over our separation at all, not once. All of the status reports from my parents (they took on the babysitting responsibilities) were glowing. The girls were happy, fed and mostly well-behaved. My brilliant mother had done her homework. She read The Happiest Toddler on the Block the night before and has been trying her new techniques on the big girl. I look forward to lessons when I get home.
Of course, what I’m most excited about is squeezing my little girls. I can’t wait to walk in the door and see the baby’s smile and her legs kicking as if she’s jumping on an imaginary trampoline in the air. She does this when she is so excited she can barely contain herself. And I can’t wait to see my older daughter run up and hug us and then give us an animated run down of her trip to the “cow store” for ice cream and the zoo with Nanny and PopPop.
I was a ball of nerves leaving them. The white board in our kitchen is a sight to behold. Instructions, tips, “don’t forgets” outlined in bright colors. I went a little overboard in my effort to make things easy for everyone. Going through the preparations was a primer in planned child abandonment. I hope it will come in handy when I go for surgery. At least now I know that they can do it (both the girls and my parents). It sounded like they all had fun!
Although the hospital stay won’t be the raucous and relaxing good time we had with friends this weekend, it will be something else of its own. Rejuvenating in a different way. A release from future anxieties. Not just the release we felt after many mimosas, mudslides and martinis over the past forty eight hours. Instead, perhaps, the relief of knowing I will be breast cancer free for the next forty eight years.

Braless

There are definitely a few perks to having a double mastectomy. I am really looking forward to not having to wear a bra. We are going to a wedding and I got a new dress. It was on sale and I love it. It looks cool and is a much needed departure from my everyday mom gear. Ya know, the jeans and tees or shorts and tanks combos that I’ve been rocking for the past three years. The only problem with the new hotness is the old boobs. Sure, I have a strapless bra, but it’s sufficient, at best. Since I’m getting a new pair soon, I haven’t invested in one that’s the right size after breastfeeding the youngest. I may have to go with my backup dress and just play it safe tonight. But I know that one day next year I am going to be able to wear my new dress and not have to worry about my undergarments. Now that’s a luxury I haven’t had in 20-plus years!!

Booby Board Book

Of course my big girl has been obsessed with boobs lately. I think it’s due to the change in weather. It’s pool season which means I’m frequently wearing a bathing suit. Particularly when I’m suspending her over the potty, trying to have her hold on to my shoulders instead of touching anything in the public bathrooms, she’s at direct eye level with my boobs. She’s like the grandmother in Sixteen Candles; taking the liberty to grope away. As long as she’s not coming into contact with the drippy, ebola-ridden surfaces around her, I’m cool. Then it’s time for a 3 year old anatomy lesson. “Mommy, these are your boobies? These are mine, and here are my ribs and this is my belly…” and so on.
I’m not bothered by her wandering hands, I mean she was attached to them for over a year of her life and she’s at least half responsible for their current shape and appearance. What does get to me is my constant inner monologue of questions; what to tell her about my surgery. I don’t know if it’s best to prepare her with just the basics ahead of time or if it’s better to keep her in the dark and then let her ask me questions after the fact. I keep wondering what is the most effective way to present information to 3 year olds?
She loves a book called “No, David”. It illustrates lessons about a little boy misbehaving and at the end shows his mother’s embrace. Even though he’s naughty, she still loves him. We are constantly telling her “No, David” as a gentle reminder that she needs to cease and desist whatever illegal activity she’s in the midst of. So maybe a simple children’s book is the best way to illustrate what she’s about to see? I missed the double mastectomy section in the kids area of Barnes and Noble. Perhaps Harper Collins would be interested in this?

Some boobies are like cantaloupes
Others are like torpedoes.
Some are just mosquito bites
And more are in between those.
Some boobies start off really big
And then get really small,
Then they grow and grow some more
And feel like tennis balls.
Now whisper, whisper, tippy toe
While Mommy gets her rest.
Soon she’ll get to play again
‘Cause Mommy loves you best!

For the millionth time in the past three years, I think a degree in child psychology would have served me better than the degree I got in computer engineering.

Nip slips

Once again, I’m watching some really horrible tv. There is absolutely no sugar coating this one. (Bye Dad, I know my viewing choices aren’t approved of, so time for you to stop reading today’s post. I got you a really good Father’s Day present and this is definitely not it). In my defense, regular programming is on rerun for the summer. So I watched the finale of Don’t Be Tardy for the Wedding. What? You don’t know this show? Good for you, add 10 points to your IQ. I have to deduct 10.
It was the wedding of a Real Housewife of Atlanta to an Atlanta Falcons football player. When the show was over, Kathy Griffin’s late night show started. She is a foul-mouthed, only mildly entertaining comedienne. Still, I was like a moth to a flame. After her monologue, in which she was bleeped more times than I could count, she went on to talk about nip slips. You know, when a celebrity nipple suddenly appears and sends a tsunami sized wave through modern media. This week was Rihanna, Madonna and Jessica Chastain at the Tony’s. One of her guests said he thinks they are all done intentionally for publicity. How many nip slips do you see happen in real life? He might be onto something. Amongst the most famous incidents was Tara Reid’s indecent exposure years ago. She said that she actually didn’t feel her dress slip off her shoulder because she no longer had sensation in her nipples after having her breasts surgically enhanced. No one bought that for a second. Now I do.
As a mom, my kids are always tugging on my shirt. My mom friends are always signaling to one another in our special sign language – “boob out, yank that shirt up, lady”. A stiff wind might also let us know we are exposed. It’s probably the distraction of watching our kids that makes us unaware, but after my surgery I am going to be like Tara Reid. No, not a drunk party girl, but someone without nipple sensation. I hope I don’t have a rogue nip slip in my future. Especially when mine are going to look much different than normal nipples. That won’t be fun (or even funny) for anyone.

Tact

If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll know that I read the same publications, monthly. These have changed over the years, but I remain loyal to those I find most intriguing, informational or entertaining. Leisure time for reading is at an all time low for me. These magazines are now stacked in my bathroom. In fact, my potty trained daughter loves to read InStyle in there (she is scary good at predicting what’s in fashion).
This month’s Real Simple just came. I love this magazine. It always has thought provoking articles, useful tips, wonderful (and simple) recipes, and a hint of fashion. This month, there is a one page article that offers expertise from five individuals on how to tactfully speak your mind. I’ve been accused of being less than tactful at times. Aren’t we all? Hasn’t there been a moment you wish you could rewind and do over because you didn’t express yourself in the best way? I can identify.
Three of the five pieces of advice on this topic spoke to me. The first: to remain calm. Hysteria creeps up and takes away any power your voice may have. Guilty. The second (by Madeline Albright): not to wait. If you let the moment pass to express your opinion on a topic of conversation, everyone will move on and your talking point will no longer be “germane” (her word, I had to look it up and now I love it). How many times have I thought of the perfect thing to say only to have it be too late to make any sense? The last (by Katie Couric): be concise. Now here’s where I am really subpar. For as long as I can remember whenever I have started to tell a story, one or both of my brothers look at their watch and say “ok everyone, get comfortable, this is going to take a while”. It’s been a challenge for me to keep these blog posts short but I’m making a concerted effort to be concise.
To prove the point, I think about all of the professors who I learned the most from and the doctors I’ve met with recently who have made me feel most at ease and secure in their abilities. They have been concise, calm, empathetic (another piece of advice in the article) and addressed all of my questions in a timely way. I will try to keep this wisdom in my mind as I explain information to my current audience. At 9 months old or 3 years old this advice is just as appropriate. It doesn’t only apply to interactions with adults. Every point is perfectly apropos in my latest job function as it was when I was a paid engineer.

Advice

My friend from high school is due with her first child in a few weeks. She started a Facebook group of all of her friends who are moms or moms-to-be. It’s been a wonderful way for preggies to get advice from the seasoned veterans as well as a way for us to relive the excitement and anticipation we felt just before the birth of our little ones. As I responded to one woman’s question about what essentials she should include on her baby registry, I was reminded of how important it is to share knowledge.
I have always believed that the passing of information and the honest portrayal of experience is one of the greatest gifts you can give a friend. A family friend very generously offered to talk to me about her experiences during her own double mastectomy. I hadn’t really seen her much in the past few years, but she looked the same as I remembered her. That alone was comforting because she looked natural and like herself. I would have never guessed that her boobs weren’t the ones she had had so long ago. She prepared for our chat by typing up a list of things she thinks will be helpful for me to best prepare myself and my family for surgery. It’s incredible (and printed on really lovely, floral paper). I am so grateful for her advice and her willingness to share with me. While I hope none of my friends have to go through this, I will be sure to pay it forward and do as she did for me. For now, I will dole out the mommy tidbits to help the new moms assuage their fears and plan the best they can for their impending arrivals.

Ballet Class

Today was the day!! The big girl’s first ballet class!! I was nervous that she wouldn’t be comfortable leaving me to go into the classroom that she’s never seen before with a teacher she’s never met. I was more than pleasantly surprised. She went right in with the crowd of little girls in pink. She sat down directly in front of the teacher (that must be a genetic thing), and glanced back at the door to give me one final ear to ear grin before the door closed.
After the hour-long class, she emerged still with that huge smile. I was pretty crushed not to be able to watch her, but I’m happy she had the opportunity to be independent and develop her own feelings about studying ballet without looking for my expressions of validation. She continued to ask until bedtime if she could go back again next week. Hooray for my little ballerina!
While she was twirling, I was talking to other moms in the waiting room. I never intend to bring up breast cancer or the BRCA gene in a conversation with people I’ve only just met, but it always seems to come up. Is it that it’s just always on my mind in my subconscious? I suppose it was meant to be because one of the ladies lit up when I was talking. It was like a light bulb went off and she said, “I just decided to get the BRCA test last week”. She said her OBGYN had suggested it because her aunt recently died of the disease. She had forgotten about following up after checking in with her insurance company about their coverage of genetic tests. I told her about the place where I got tested who took care of the testing, the insurance, etc.
Even though I was so looking forward to this ballet class as a wonderful moment for my daughter and for me, one that would have nothing to do with breast cancer or surgery; I’m happy that I could impart some life saving knowledge to another mom. I don’t want anyone to miss out on improving their chances for a long and healthy life. I hope she’s negative for the gene, but either way, I know that she has the information she needs to take care of herself. I look forward to watching our little girls dance together for a long, long time.

Friends

Add this to the list of what I love about wedding season. I get to see old friends who live far away. It seems like via this blog, my friends are catching up with me, but I’m missing out on their status updates. It’s not for lack of interest, Facebook just isn’t cutting it.
I was talking with a really old friend this weekend who lives far away. It’s the type of friendship where we could not see each other or even talk in months, but it’s effortless to pick right back up where we left off. We were discussing the value of friendship and how with a truly close friend, you almost tell more of the negative things than the positive. A person you can lean on when life is down in the dumps is a true friend. It made me examine who, in my life, I think would really be there for me if I needed them. And vice versa. Who can I count on? Who do I want to know that they can count on me? I would hope that I could be that rock for all of my good friends.
Sometimes I’m disappointed when someone I expect to be there isn’t. It’s not really fair of me to have expectations of anyone but myself (and my husband, who is unfairly expected of most all of the time). I’m sure that I’ve let people down too. At times, I know I’m caught up in my own day to day drama (or a dramedy starring my 9 month old peeing on me and my two year old screaming, “I’m being difficult!”, cut to my exacerbated face trying to mask a laugh with voice-over of inner monologue: “no shit!”).
I’m probably not there for my friends as much as I would like to be. I know it’s hard enough to contain my own everyday catastrophes, I’m sure my friends are just trying to keep a lid on theirs as well. We can’t always be there for each other. I have to cut myself and my friends some slack. No expectations are great expectations.

Bravery

As payback for making him watch the Jersey Housewives, my husband just made me watch Call of the Wildman. It’s a show on the Animal Planet channel that follows a “backwoods” trapper. He catches vermin that are a bother to people. I think this is ridiculous programming. Who wants to watch a trapped raccoon climb walls and hiss at the “Turtleman” (that’s what they call him, perhaps because that’s what he looks like)? What he lacks in teeth, he makes up for in bravery.
Being brave is not easy. I often ask my daughter to “be a big girl” and do something she’s afraid of. What I’m really asking of her is to be brave. Is this really fair? Are “big girls” all brave? Is it realistic to demand that someone else exhibit bravery when encountered with something they truly fear? I can barely walk through grass without being afraid of snakes potentially slithering by. What would I do if someone asked me to garden? After my big girl gets over her fear and shows her bravery, she’s so proud of herself. She says. “look Mommy, I did it!”
In most cases when I’m frightened of something I ask myself what I will be missing out on if I don’t suck it up and overcome. I have a fear of flying, but I took two 14 hour plane rides for my honeymoon (plus several smaller flights including a helicopter). I didn’t want my aversion to flight to hold me or my husband back from experiencing our dream vacation. It’s so easy for me to be brave facing my double mastectomy. There are too many positives that will come out of this procedure, how could I not suck it up and do it? I am a big girl. I can do it!