New Baby Boobies

I took my last Percocet at 6:45am yesterday morning.  For a mere three days post-op, I’d say I’m doing pretty well.  Yes, I absolutely have pain, but it would be weird if I didn’t and Tylenol is doing the trick for now.  Still, I vastly underestimated this recovery.  I thought I rocked the last one, the major part of my double mastectomy.  I figured that the actual removal of my breasts was way worse than simply swapping tissue expanders for implants.  I was kind of right, but also kind of wrong (isn’t that par for the course of my life?).
The experience of this second surgery has been much less intense, emotionally.  I said goodbye to my little ones and my parents in the morning and sat on the couch with them again that same evening.  My husband and I drove into the city to my plastic surgeon’s office, I kissed him goodbye and went into one of the regular exam rooms that I’ve been in so many times.  It was a familiar setting in which to be drawn on, like a human canvas or block of clay, ready to be shaped and molded.  Pre-op pictures were taken while the office manager and I joked about the latest celebrity nonsense.  As they left me alone once more, they asked how I was feeling. “I’m good now, but I’ll probably be crying when you walk me back to the operating room.”  Their smiles told me that was normal, typical.
To my delighted surprise, I didn’t shed a tear.  I guess I was more ready than I thought.  Well, it was that and the slight shock I felt when I saw what was behind curtain number two. Behind the otherwise normal door that I’ve passed so many times in the office, there was a very high-tech, sterile and, dare I say, beautiful operating room.  I couldn’t help myself when I blurted, “This is some Bruce Wayne stuff you’ve got back here.” This Bat Cave was much brighter, fancier, and cleaner looking than the operating room from my first surgery (and that had been in one of the country’s best hospitals).  I did not look closely at anything in there; I didn’t catalogue the room, I didn’t take any mental snapshots.  I just went in, sat on the table and laid back with my head on the oval cushion, my arms out in the now familiar crucifix operative pose and most notably, I laid back on the sterile pad that was beneath me.  Although I was trying not to take everything in, knowing that pad was there to catch copious amounts of my blood was not lost on me nor soon forgotten.
One of my biggest fears heading into this procedure was the anesthesia.  I had no reason to be particularly concerned, I’ve been put under several times in my life without incident.  Nevertheless, I was worried about whether or not the anesthesiologist would be competent.  Indeed, she was; and she was also personable and funny.  She had the drip in my arm on her first try and I was knocked out in no time.  I never had to count backward, I never had to hear her say “check ya on the flip side”; we were chatting and then I was out.  Seemingly, in the next moment (not the actual 2.5 hours that had passed), I was in the recovery room.  I know I asked the nurse if my husband could come in yet and if I had said anything stupid while under anesthesia.  “Soon” and “no”.  Exactly what I wanted to hear.  After about an hour of coming to from sedation, we got in the car and headed home.
I am sporting two drains this time.  They are annoying, but I also have two new implants which are already feeling much cushier than before.  It really is like a weight has been lifted.  Most fortunately for me, I still have no feeling in my breasts so the incisions that run across them do not bother me at all.  My pain, however, exists on the sides where my surgeon did a lot of “lateral tacking.”  Apparently, this is the reason why my new boobs don’t point East-West and instead stay where they are supposed to, facing forward like good little soldiers.  I remind myself of this benefit every time I reach for something and wince at the ramifications of such a simple action.
I keep thinking, “This feels worse than last time.  Is this recovery really harder?” But I think I’m forgetting that I had two days in the hospital after the last surgery with a lovely IV drip of pain meds.  And when I got home, I was, indeed, in pain.  It’s like when you have a baby.  After you’ve given birth and you go through the nasty, painful recovery “down there” you wonder if you’d ever be able to do it again.  And after some time, of course, most do.  How easily we forget the agony for the joy.
Although my first surgery was only six months ago, I have conveniently forgotten how to reposition myself on my recliner using only my feet and stomach muscles or how the nausea after 48 hours of Percocet feels similar to the first trimester of pregnancy.  I forgot because I was so relieved not to have breast cancer looming over me.  And I know I’ll forget again when this is all done, because already I can tell that these new boobies are soft and comfortable. They are my newest babies and I will forget this discomfort once more feeling nothing but happiness as I move on breast cancer free and with fabulous fake boobs.

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Marking Milestones

Throughout my life, I have tried to mark as many milestones as possible in the most meaningful ways. Making mental notes of my feelings, I have catalogued important moments with snapshots of my senses. It’s a good thing I have an almost photographic memory and fairly good recall for sounds, tastes, smells, etc.
Today is the day of my second surgery in this long process. I tried to make the most of yesterday, spending time with my girls and making it light and fun. The big girl seems excited to start “taking care of Mommy”. After all, it means putting blankets on me, singing to me and reading me books (it seems Thumper’s Summer Day is her book of choice. Bunnies are everything to 3 year olds around Easter). Best of all, Daddy will be home for an extra day and Nanny and PopPop are having sleepovers here. What could be bad about all of that? For the little one, I’m more concerned. She has not been sleeping well (understatement of the century) and only wants me. She’s nursing an ear infection and she had a major tumble today (it certainly freaked me out more than it did her). I’m sad that I won’t be able to cuddle her when she cries for me in the middle of the night. The irony isn’t lost on me. This is the very thing that has been annoying me for the past several weeks when I haven’t gotten more than 2 hours of continuous sleep. However, tonight every time I pick her up, I wistfully think “this is my last snuggle for a while”. When I put the big girl to bed, I felt the same way.
I know I felt this before the first surgery too, it didn’t do me any good last time either. So, I have consciously tried to stop myself from making memories of these emotions. This isn’t what I want to remember of this milestone. Instead of wistful melancholy, I’m going to wipe that away and replace it with the joy of a lighter load. Both mentally, knowing that I’ve eliminated the risk of breast cancer that was nearly a certainty, but also literally, I can’t wait to feel my new boobs! These weights shall both be lifted in just a few hours.

Deja Vu

We had a great weekend. Finally, the sun was shining, so we took a walk outside with the little ones all bundled up in the stroller.  It felt great to be out in the fresh air and enjoy some exercise. Gosh, we were just the vision of health and happiness.  (Of course, no one watching knew that we were going to get bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches at the deli and coffee so light with half and half it may as well have been melted ice cream).
While we were walking I started feeling nostalgic, remembering how I felt right before the last surgery.  You know how a certain smell, taste or sight can trigger the same emotion that you’ve felt before?  It’s like deja vu for the heart.  It was a sinking feeling, but also a grateful one.  It is hard to imagine that in just a few days, I’m going to willingly go under the knife while being totally healthy.  Not many get to enjoy that opportunity.
It’s as unsettling as it is reassuring. I have to keep reminding myself that this odd feeling of being totally healthy and in a few days being almost totally helpless comes with many perks (and perky boobs, of course).  I feel fine, I’m not a sick person who needs surgery, I choose to do this. This is just one of the necessary steps in this long process to remain healthy and breast cancer free. It is also the welcome break that I’ve been looking forward to.  All of the sleep, the relaxation, the chance to catch up on TV, books, magazines, etc, the meals I won’t have to cook, the diapers I won’t have to change.  I have to stop dwelling on the things I will miss (picking up the girls, having our alone time together, snuggling with them and my husband).  Those luxuries will be back in the blink of an eye and I will be bitching once again that the little one is waking up in the middle of the night and it’s my turn to get her.  (No, really, she just woke up again! Oy! Happy Passover Little One! I’m pretty sure those Jews got to sleep longer than I do and they were fleeing the Pharoah!).  I’m going to try to see this is as an opportunity for more pre-op cuddling and remember how fortunate I am.  I am healthy and have the choice to do this. This, like freedom, is not something to be taken for granted.

Artistic Sensibility

My surgeon is an artist. A sculptor, of sorts, he molded my skin around these foreign lumps to make breasts. He did a fantastic job.
When I saw images of reconstructed breasts post mastectomy, they all looked like they were facing out to the sides. Before I went into the operating room last time, my plastic surgeon asked me what my concerns were. I told him and I was shocked at the results. They were pointed in the right forward-facing direction and looked pretty awesome.
Over the past nearly six months (has it really been that long?), I’ve noticed some small imperfections. I think I can attribute them mostly to holding 24 pounds of baby constantly on my left side. As a righty, I need to have my right hand free to do everything and therefore always have one of the girls perched on my left. So I’ve noticed that side is slightly lower. It’s so minimal that my husband doesn’t even notice the difference.
My doctor is going to reinforce the elements that support the implants when he goes in this time. He said I will “feel his footprints” around my ribs and chest on both sides like last time. I’m happy he can fine-tune everything, but also a bit nervous that this is it.
All this time, I’ve been thrilled with the initial results but I’ve also known that part two offers some opportunity to tweak. After this time, that chance is gone. Yes, I will still have the lipo procedure to pad around the area and make it look more natural, but this is it for lift and placement. It’s a good thing my surgeon seems to have an incredible eye and an artistic sensibility. Once again, I’m putty in his hands and have to give up control and simply trust. Never an easy thing for me to do (just ask my husband about my backseat driving).

Yagoogaly

With the clock ticking before my next procedure, I’m starting to get nervous. Could everything really go as smoothly as it did last time? Could I really be that lucky?
This should be easier than last time. It’s an outpatient operation, so I will go in in the morning and get to go home that same afternoon. I’m going to be at my doctor’s surgical suite in his office instead of at the hospital so I will be able to avoid all the hoopla there and the potential myriad of germs floating around. He won’t be cutting through muscle this time so the recovery should be easier and faster.
Despite all of those advantages, I’m still feeling a bit uneasy. Of course, that’s to be expected. Any occasion where general anesthesia is at play and you open your body up for manipulation is unsettling, I guess. In my gut, I feel that it will all be fine and go smoothly, but in my head, the over active imagination runs wild once more.
As I laid in bed the other night, I thought the worst “what if’s”. I even thought of who might deliver my eulogy (I can never think of that word without conjuring the image of Ben Stiller as Zoolander saying “yagoogaly”). Who would do it? It would be too much for my husband to take on while dealing with the girls and his own grief (which better be like Steel Magnolias/Beaches/Terms of Endearment style theatrics complete with hands thrown in the air, melting to knees and yelling “Why?! Why?!” at no one in particular). My parents and siblings shouldn’t have to do it either. Come to think of it, I think a funeral service would just be too heavy and I’m not religious anyway.
Instead, to pay tribute to my love of weddings, I would like a reception. I’d like dancing. A lot of it. A DJ playing a continuous mix of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and basically all of the awesome dance tunes from “the 80s, 90s, and today” is a must. I’d like really good passed hors d’oeuvres please (good meaning yummy, not necessarily gourmet, like pigs in blankets, crab cakes (gotta have crab cakes), etc). Please make a life size cardboard cutout of me and place it by the door to the kitchen. Anyone who really knows me knows that is where I would park myself so I had first dibs on all the food coming out. I would know every server by name and they would know me. Then I would like a baked potato bar (also with potato skins optional) and tons of toppings. And one of those guys who does pasta to order and maybe an omelette person too, why not? (Maybe some steak with chimichurri… did I go too far?) Finally, for dessert, all of the family favorites including jelly beans for the big girl, chocolate for the little one, and Costco Halloween assorted chocolate candy for my husband and my mom (don’t think I’m not still finding your wrappers everywhere, you two). Lastly, it’d be cool if everyone could say a really funny memory they have of me (and maybe a few that showed I was a good person), so everyone laughs.  Keep it light, have fun.
I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to express my wishes here.  It’d be weird to put this all in a legal document.  And truly, I’d like to avoid having any legal paperwork that mentions both me and Michael Jackson.

Sunscreen & the Errant Husband

Since becoming a mother and especially after finding out that I’m BRCA1 positive (which means I’m at a greater risk for developing skin cancer), I’m even paler than I’ve ever been.  That’s saying something.  My brother used to call me Chez Whitey and my husband used to call me his Albino Princess… sweet, right?  Although in my teens, I wasn’t thrilled that I couldn’t tan without getting a horrible burn first, now I really don’t care.  I would rather be safe than sorry (I think I’ve more than proved that point by chopping off my boobs, no?).

These days, I count a vacation as a success if we come back as white or nearly just as pale as we were when we arrived at our warm weather destination.  My Husband The Invincible is not really on board yet.  Although he could be as much as a quarter Native American, he looks more Irish/Scottish/English than anything else. Since he doesn’t know of an elevated risk in his genetic profile, he throws caution to the wind and tries to get tan.  It’s a running joke when we are on vacation.  Me: “Hey Babe, you are so red!  Did you not put sunscreen on?”  Him: “Who me?  This is tan!”  Mind you, he’s one shade away from lobster.
So maybe I was a tad over zealous when packing his sunscreen, which may have made it less enticing for him to use it.  He wasn’t too happy when all he found was SPF 50.  “Mommy’s more aggressive than I thought!” he said to the girls.  Yes, yes I am.   I slathered myself and the girls in SPF 60 several times a day, so we didn’t burn.  Grossed out, the big girl asked him why his skin was peeling on our way home.  He may as well have a scarlet A.  He has now been made an example of and I will continue to use that gruesome image to persuade her to be diligent about skincare. I’m happy to report that not a single person would suspect that the girls and I have just spent a week south of the border. (Patting myself on the back and feeling great about that.  Smack the big guy on the back, he will wince just a little bit.)

BoobyMoon Part Dos

This past week, we took a family vacation to Mexico.  Just us, our little family of four.  It was another BoobyMoon (as my second surgery is imminent), a chance for us to create lifelong memories, a way to unwind together, and a respite from this long, cold winter.  It was wonderful!  The kids were happy, loved having Daddy for a whole week without work, they swam, they made sandcastles, and we enjoyed our time with each other away from the normal everyday stresses of life.  We actually relaxed thanks to the all-inclusive resort and my husband’s prowess at ordering every vacation libation known to man.  Each time I started to even remotely worry about something (the kids needed more sunblock, the little one was running too fast on the walkways, the big one had a rash), he’d flag a waiter and say, “I’ll have a …., she’ll have a ….” (fill in the blank with any of the following: mojito, mudslide, margarita, mai tai, etc).  It took the edge off, especially since I had been so reluctant to go in the first place.
I was intimidated and scared for so many reasons.  First, the flying: especially with my precious cargo in tow, I loathe any bump or sway of the aircraft.  The flight home yesterday was incredibly turbulent the entire way.  There’s nothing like having two little ones look at you, scrutinizing your expression for reassurance, to make you feel like an Oscar worthy star.  “Hey! Look at Mommy, it’s just like I’m riding a horse!” (cue the William Tell Overture and bounce up and down).  Second, we had never vacationed with just us and the kids.  We have always had the great fortune to be accompanied by grandparents.  I didn’t think this would be a relaxing time.  A “vacation” with a 3 year old and a 1 year old is simply a delightful change of scenery.  I thought it would be more work than pleasure. I was only kind of wrong about that. Third, I did not want to go to Mexico.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely country with a lot to offer.  I had been there at least five times before, but add my kids and that’s a whole other ballgame.  I researched the local hospital, the TSA security reports on the area, and any recent news of kidnappings, abductions, etc. The travel agent literally laughed at me when I said I didn’t want to bring my kids down there for safety and security reasons.  (I thought that was a tad rude, by the way).  Lastly, I was worried about going so close to my surgery and having us pick up some virus or other disease and risk postponing or having to cancel my new tatas.
Needless to say, we are back in one piece.  Of course, not without some bumps along the way.  10 hours of travel time proves too much for our kids.  On the way there and with only 15 minutes left to go, the little one got carsick.  I’m not talking any little spit up situation.  I mean Poltergeist style upheaval.  All over herself, my husband, me, the carseat and the car.  We had to pull over on the side of a Mexican highway to clean up and try desperately to keep the gagging big girl from letting her chunks rise too.  While I was feverishly wiping down the little one, some random man wandered over to the driver and asked for a ride.  As he reached into his pocket I thought for sure he had a gun and we’d have our first family hijacking.  It was a cell phone.  We got back in and held our breath until we got to the resort (from fear and the smell).
Fortunately, the rest of the vacation was really pretty smooth (discounting the bumpy plane ride home on which I was doing my meditative exercise of counting until turbulence stopped.  The kiddos got a great lesson in really high numbers on this flight).  Actually, I would say US Customs was a bit too smooth for my liking.  No wonder people can bring so much stuff in here.  In Mexico, the airport was teeming with security.  I’m talking officers with machine guns AND dogs.  When we landed here, not so much.  Our last line of defense is a guy with a stamp.  Seriously, US?  That’s what we’ve got to keep contraband from entering the country?  My grandmother could do a better job! No, really, my grandmother would be amazing at this.
The TSA just had massive layoffs, but these are the goofballs they kept?  All these guys can do is count.  When we entered last night, the Customs agent simply said, “There’s 4 of you? Great, go ahead.” (stamps the paper form).  My grandmother on the other hand would probably have said, “You look dirty.  I don’t like that look on your face.  Go see that man over there with the rubber gloves.  Guess what?  He’s not a doctor.  Move it, Sonny!” TSA, take note, octogenarians are your perfect employees.  They are really great at “see something, say something”, they are always racially profiling everyone, working the graveyard shift is ok because they “don’t sleep anymore”, and they already have Medicare so they won’t need benefits.  Good for you, good for them, good for the country. Win, win, win.  Think about it.  Even my own grandmother wouldn’t have let me pass last night. “Hey not so fast. Your breasts aren’t hanging as low as they should be after having those two kids.  I know you’ve got something in those fake boobs and we’re going to find out what it is.  Go get those things felt up before you get to come back in here.”