Thanksgiving weekend was full of family time, visits with friends and peep shows. I think I flashed someone every day of the long weekend. If any of these peeping Toms had had major surgery, I’d want to see some scars too. They were like intrigued students ready for their Thanksgiving science lesson.
It seemed like the general reaction was surprised non-chalance, like, “oh wow… Yeah, I guess that’s not so bad. In fact, that’s pretty good.” At first the lack of nipple and the 8 inch scar across each boob is a bit of a shock, but then it quickly seems almost normal. When my best friend in Cali asked my husband for a description, he put it perfectly. “Ya know those paragraphs where the middle of every word is jumbled, but you can still read everything perfectly? It’s like that. You know there’s something missing, but you can glance right over it. A boob is a boob”.
After the demonstration, the Q and A began. I realized that I haven’t really explained the whole process here. Since my surgery, I have had tissue expanders where my breast tissue once was. These expanders are sort of like beach balls. Every two weeks or so, I go back to my plastic surgeon’s office and he injects them with saline to pump them up to a volume and size that I’m comfortable with. Initially, since they still had room to be expanded and because there is very little between my skin and the expander itself, I could see the rippling under my skin. I could press it, feeling the plastic bubble and hearing its sloshing fluid inside. It was both disturbing and kind of hilarious. A fun party trick for my own party of one.
Now that I’ve reached the size I like, my doctor knows the volume that my implant will be. Today, I got my first of two final over-fills. This will stretch my skin just a little bit more to make way for the implants. That is my next procedure: the implant swap.
I will wait roughly eight weeks from final fill until I can swap these bowling balls out for some supple silicone gel implants. Those will hopefully feel and look more natural (not that I mind looking like Jewish Barbie for a while. Huge boobs, big ass, brown hair). My plastic surgeon will use the same scar that I already have to put the new implants in and once that heals, the nipple process begins. He will use some of that scar to manufacture the profile of a nipple (the turkey’s done part). I don’t want a lot of elevation there. I prefer not to high beam everyone all the time. We will see how that goes. After that, a nipple will be tattooed on to look like an areola. Finally, the icing on the cake is a little lipo. He told me today, to help pad around the implant and give a more natural slope and appearance to the breast, he just wanted to “plant the seed” that doing a little lipo would help with that. I’m like, “go ahead and plant that seed, I’m on board, lipo away!”.
Apparently, that fat will also help with some of the side effects that I’ve experienced so far. Now that all of my natural insulation has been removed, I get a lot colder up top. And ya know that shivery feeling when your insides are warm and you drink something really cold? It feels like an icicle trickling down your esophagus? Every time I drink a beverage that’s colder than room temperature, I get that feeling. I can’t wait for summer!!! That feeling will be helpful (and so will the lipo).
I wouldn’t categorize myself as a TwiMom. Robert Pattinson doesn’t do it for me and if someone asked if I was Team Jacob or Team Edward, my reply would be “who gives a crap?”. That being said, I read all of the books; one right after the other, quite quickly. I have the distinct memory of sitting on my bed when my oldest was an infant, pumping breast milk and reading these books. It was the only activity that distracted me from the unpleasantness of pumping (a task that I never enjoyed, but instead found mostly frustrating, sometimes painful. I hardly pumped for my second, and now will never have to do it again. Another silver lining.).
I have enjoyed seeing almost all of the movies in the theater. This weekend I saw the final chapter of this tale at the movies. I thought it was really well done. A particular quote from the main antagonist struck a chord with me. Of course I can’t recall exactly what it was nor can I find it online, but it was basically the following: We are fearful of the thing we don’t know and that thing should be eradicated.
At first, I thought, yes that’s exactly what I did. I got scared knowing that something was lurking in my DNA. Would I get breast cancer or wouldn’t I? It seemed the odds weren’t in my favor, but ultimately it was still unknown. It wasn’t necessarily fear that motivated me to act, but perhaps that had a small something to do with it.
Then, as they always do, my thoughts spiraled further out of control, truly, this is a powerful statement meant to speak directly to the history of all evil. Isn’t that exactly why this world has known genocide? Or any and all breaches of peace? Or even bullying? It seems to always be a lack of knowledge, understanding and acceptance of anything different or unknown that causes fear and then a powerful reaction to fear. After all, aside from love, what else do people act so vehemently in honor of?
All of these thoughts so quickly started flooding my mind until someone’s head was ripped off (literally) in the movie and I came back to the nonsensical ridiculousness of what I was really meant to think of: vampires, werewolves, and when will Jacob take his shirt off gain? It is a strange day, indeed, when you realize Twilight evokes the deepest thoughts you’ve had in weeks. It might be time for an intellectual intervention.
Ahhh Thanksgiving, a most beloved holiday. One of family gatherings, bountiful gluttony and a chance to reflect with gratitude. Nothing says let’s kick off the holiday season quite like pigskin and devouring a huge bird.
This is our first year hosting. We practiced cooking a turkey on our grill last year and we have the menu all planned out. Fortunately, it is a potluck affair with our three sets of parents and an adored family friend. So we don’t feel overwhelmed at all. Couple that with my parents Friday night Thanksgiving (a tradition that affords my siblings and myself the ability to be with our in-laws guilt-free on Thursday) and we are feeling really good. There is so much to be thankful for this year.
I could go on and on listing everything I’m grateful for, but most would be the usual health and happiness of loved ones. It’s my birthday wish every year and I use caution when I say it’s the truth right now. I don’t like to jinx myself, but living in the moment and rejoicing in this state of being is as sweet as the cranberry sauce I just made (and I may have put in too much sugar).
I’m exhausted from running errands and chasing the girls all day, but I’m also feeling invigorated by the fact that only 7 weeks post-op I’m able to toss my baby in the air and hear her delightful giggle. I can lift the big girl up onto my hip with just one arm and give and get a big squeezey hug. I can host Thanksgiving dinner and carry the twenty pound bird to the counter for its own breast manipulation. Last year when I practiced the turkey prep, I lifted the skin and massaged compound butter into the breast. I didn’t think that just a year later, my skin would have been lifted and all of my breast “meat” removed. Yes, that makes me feel like one lucky bird. Happy Thanksgiving!
I never want to offend anyone. Whether it’s via my blog or during an in-person interaction, it is never my intent. Inevitably, it happens.
One of my oldest and dearest friends recently told me that she is sometimes offended when reading my posts. First, I love that she can be open with me and start this conversation. Second, of course, I would never want her to feel this way. Third, it gave me an opportunity to examine what I’m projecting. Is it positive? Is it negative? I imagine it must be different for everyone reading.
When I read opinion pieces on other blogs or news sources, my reaction often depends on my own mood or sensitivities. When I write, I aim to be totally authentic. I feel I’m doing you all a disservice if I’m not. Isn’t this about sharing truthful information? My posts are derived solely from my own personal experience. Everyone else’s experience is one hundred percent their own.
I understand that by writing my views, thoughts and feelings here, I set myself up for judgement. My opinions and decisions are likely criticized. That’s the price I pay. I don’t want anyone to think that my comments are a reflection of judgement I’m passing on them or anyone else (unless it’s on the Real Housewives, because I totally judge them for the train wrecks they are and I love them for it, too).
So it came as a huge shock and took me by surprise when my friend admitted her feelings. We have led dissimilar lives since we graduated college. I went into a scientific field, she did not. She got her masters, I did not. I got married and popped out two kids. She hasn’t crossed that bridge yet. In no way do I judge her for not making the same decisions I made. I was lucky enough to meet my husband in high school, so it was somewhat inevitable that we would get married at a younger age than most of our friends. We also wanted to start a family early. Is this the only way to go? No. Is it the right way to go? Maybe for some, but not for others.
I don’t regret any decision I’ve ever made (except my prom dress that was totally ill-fitting and pretty hideous). I don’t wish I could turn back time and have a do-over. It’s like the Time Travelers Wife or even Back to the Future (I prefer the first and original version). You can’t go back and change things because life could take a totally different course if you had made a left instead of a right at that last intersection. If I hadn’t married my husband when I did, had our children when we did and pumped blood when I was breastfeeding, the timing wouldn’t have led me to having had the double mastectomy already. I could have already been too late. I could have already had cancer by the time I found out about the BRCA gene. It’s incredible heady and bizarre to think of it that way.
I truly believe that everyone’s path has its own purpose. You make decisions that are right for you and hopefully act with good intentions for everyone else. As long as you don’t harm yourself or anyone else, there’s no judgement from me.
Turning thirty was no big deal. Thirty-ONE, however, feels over the hill. I always say that I’ve aged ten years with each birth and maybe five more just from marriage. My girls and my husband bring me more joy than I ever could have imagined, but they’re a lot of work. Add in a double mastectomy at 30, and my biological age doesn’t nearly match my emotional age. I’m really approaching 60.
My mom has always said that with each decade she has a new and improved attitude. It’s kind of like ‘don’t sweat the small’ stuff ‘meets who gives a crap’. (She’d put it more eloquently, less crass). I’m beginning to see what she means. As my emotional age approaches her biological age, I’m feeling the same.
It’s not that I’m in love with myself, there’s still plenty of work to be done… plenty. But I have a new confidence that has grown and matured as I have. Especially since faced with this BRCA gene ordeal and all it’s taught me, I feel I can handle anything that comes my way. I’m strong and I can overcome. I have a new respect for my body. Sure, I’ve never loved my hips, but their width helped childbirth go rather quickly. I didn’t love my breasts or nipples (especially after nursing), but now they’re perky and pretty awesome. Between childbirth and the removal of my breasts, my body has been through a lot. And though I don’t really like to dawn on it negatively, yes, I’ve been through a lot too. Certainly I’ve been tested as much mentally as physically, maybe even more so.
Now that I’m 31, I’m going to embrace myself. My 60 year old inside wants me to. After all, if I can’t appreciate what I’m capable of, who will?
I have never lived through a natural disaster on the scale of Hurricane Sandy. It has been an eye opening experience in many ways. I’ve seen a community come together and strengthen. I’ve gained a new appreciation for the luxuries that keep us comfortable in our own homes. And most recently, as the dust settles, I see something totally different: Opportunists.
The scrappers are out in full force. I see them all driving up and down my neighborhood streets sifting through piles of debris. They’re ripping the metal trim off of my neighbor’s ping pong table. Things that aren’t valuable to some anymore, now are quite valuable to others. I’m conflicted. These are people who benefit from others’ losses. Or is it the other way around? Our piles of debris need to be picked up, so are they helping us make our piles smaller and less obtrusive?? Or are they vultures clawing through carrion?
My internal conflict on this issue is similar to the debate that is often discussed regarding “pinking”. The barrage of pink ribbons and merchandise across the country (particularly in October) can be quite overwhelming. Are these companies simply benefitting off of a disease that has taken so much from so many? Or is the awareness benefitting the future of breast cancer?
We watch the movie Ratatouille a lot. The little rat chef laments to his father that he doesn’t want to steal food from garbage cans anymore. And his father’s response is, “it’s not stealing if they don’t want it anymore”. There’s some truth to that. What would i do with corroded nails and screws? If someone can use them to make a buck, why do I care if they take them? In some ways, I feel a bit violated and in others I’m glad I’m helping someone else who is obviously in need. I think I just wish it wasn’t happening right in my neighborhood.
The other day, my friend gave me a new book for my girls entitled I Had a Favorite Dress. It has now taken a spot on my list of Top 10 Children’s Books. The illustrations are perfectly adorable and the message so beautifully articulates one of the core values I hope to teach my daughters.
The little girl in the story has a favorite dress that is, one day, just too small. She’s initially devastated that she won’t be able to wear her favorite dress anymore, but her mother takes it, shortens it and it becomes her new favorite shirt. Soon enough, the sleeves get too tight. With a “snip, snip, sew, sew” it’s now a tank top. It goes on like that until the dress is in tiny little scraps. The girl makes a collage portrait of herself in her dress that she can admire forever.
As I read the story, so many valuable lessons popped into my head: the ability to adapt, not becoming attached to material things, but most of all, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. The latter is something my grandmother used to say a lot. This is a lady who had cancer four times: both breasts, stomach and thyroid. When she died of a heart attack, she said, “at least it wasn’t cancer”. I guess that was her own personal victory, her lemonade.
I love how this new book will help me teach this lesson to my girls in a way that’s age appropriate. They can’t relate to my positive BRCA test results as the reason why I’ve got new boobs. But perhaps, I can demonstrate that I’m kind of like the girl in the story. Her mother told her she couldn’t wear her favorite dress as a dress anymore. My test results told me I couldn’t keep my original set of knockers. The little girl and her mom got creative and she got a new tank top out of it. My doctors and I got creative and after my own “snip, snip, sew, sew”, I got a new rack out of it. No matter what disappointments life throws at us, we just have to get creative and change things up to make them work for us in a new way.
I haven’t watched SNL religiously since Mike Meyers reigned supreme. But every now and then, I catch it. Sometimes on Weekend Update they do a bit called “Really?”. Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler comment on some ridiculous piece of news and the only response appropriate is “really?”.
In order of importance: greatest to smallest. Hurricane Sandy devastates my community. Really? A few days later, we are covered in snow. Really? My face is broken out like a 15 year old and my hair is rapidly approaching Monica Gellar on vacation status. Really?
Yes, this is truly unimportant in the grand scheme. Seriously though, I need a keratin treatment right now like Romney needs a prescription for Prozac. I’m turning 31 next week and I’m going to have facne when my girls approach puberty. (facne = fucking acne, yes, I made it up). I am convinced it’s hormonal, so there’s a silver lining. I get a hysterectomy and oophorectomy in a couple years because of the BRCA gene. I’m clinging to the desperate hope that that will mean relief from all of the wonderful (read: horrible) things that come along with having a uterus and ovaries.
Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful to have had the luxury of getting pregnant, carrying my babes to term and not having any issues there. But after we go for número tres, the ump calls the play. You’re outta there!! No more period, no more PMS, no more facne!!!
My three year old is obsessed with Mary Poppins. She watches it all the time. So it wasn’t surprising that she marched around the house yesterday randomly yelling out, “Votes for Women!” Appropriately timed for someone who has no idea what voting is (let alone the name of our president which I tried to teach her today).
I am not politically minded. I hated history, social studies and government classes as a student. Why on Earth are kids required to memorize the date Colonel Custer died? Was it in the closet with a candlestick? I’m getting confused again. Government was actually a useful class as I do think it’s important to have a basic knowledge of how the system works. If only so we can bitch and moan about how fucked up it is.
In all seriousness, I rocked the vote today. With my two girls in tow, we walked to our voting location and we all got our stickers for casting my ballot. I crammed twenty minutes before to make sure I knew at least a little about all of the candidates. One town rep got my vote because her husband very sweetly asked me to vote for his wife before I went inside. Another guy who talked to me at the local BBQ competition this summer got my vote because he was friendly, kind and served in the Navy. My favorite Facebook status update today was a friend saying a candidate outside of the polls told her to vote for him because he promised “to never hate [her] uterus”. I missed that ad on tv but he would’ve had my vote too. I try to vote for the candidate instead of the party and I’m proud to say that my ballot was truly bipartisan. I don’t often participate in political conversations because I don’t think I’m politically educated enough to comment. And because when people start talking politics, I start falling asleep.
One thing is not lost on me though. I vote to protect my freedoms. I vote to ensure that I can continue to act on my own behalf and have the power to do with my body what I want or need to do. How fortunate we are to live in a country where women’s health issues are as important to our representatives as they are to us. The candidates may not sugar coat their points of view, but those who care will prove it. After all, just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
When I was little, I would complain to my mother about trivial crap. Of course I thought whatever it was was so important. I remember her telling me to think of kids who never had xyz-stupid-thing-I-was-bitching-about. I found it extremely annoying. I always thought, “can’t I just be annoyed that I don’t have it? Do I always have to think about those kids who have nothing?” Yes and no. Wisdom is so often wasted on the youth. I see now exactly what she was trying to do. Teach me to gain perspective.
My older daughter’s preschool was wiped out by the hurricane. They were completely flooded. Pictures of the classrooms are heartbreaking. All of the other moms I’ve talked to have the same reaction, “oh gosh, isn’t it horrible? What can we do to help? What the fuck am I gonna do with my kid until they’re back up and running?” Can you hear the panic in their voices? It’s there. And these are people who have no heat and power in some cases, but damnit they need those three hours, three days a week. Maybe more than power? You can’t begrudge them the opportunity to complain (even though they all feel guilty doing it). They know others have lost much more than they have, but being honest with themselves and recognizing their own losses is just part of the process.
While my husband and I sorted through the debris in our garage (seeing what was salvageable and what had to go), I came across a large cardboard box. The contents were completely soaked. As I recognized things like cherished photos, old letters from my mom, a yearbook, I stopped. I knew none of it could be saved and I asked my husband to just take it away. I didn’t want to see what I lost. I let myself feel that sadness for a bit and then moved on.
I look in the mirror everyday and see what I lost right on my chest. I see the scars and know what I gave up to secure my future. Had I been home during the flood, could I have saved those possessions that meant so much? Maybe. But my family is safe and they are all I need. It seems lately, I have lessons in perspective on a daily basis.