Archives for posts with tag: Gratitude

I have been terribly remiss about keeping my blog updated; I apologize.  Life happens, a lot, as it turns out.  On last Friday we left for a weekend in Las Vegas.  It wasn’t a drunken wild west weekend where everything that happens in the 702 stays there.  It was quite the opposite, actually.  My entire immediate family was there for a small and all too brief reunion.  Our Grandma, Mary Lou, was in town for the first time in probably 13 years.  After she retired, she decided to move to a small town in Minnesota.  The last time I saw her, I was still in high school.  Our Grandma hadn’t met my husband or our girls.  I think she’d only met 3 of her 8 great grand children prior to last weekend.

My grandma, mom, sisters and our kids.

Our dad and brother were also there with us (Dad quietly endured us celebrating his birthday).

Dad & Tessa

Grandma, Tessa, Chance

Last weekend was the first time we’ve seen everyone since my surgeries, and I really wanted to show them that I was feeling and doing great.  It was also great to see everyone and be the big, noisy family we intrinsically are for just a few days.  I sat and talked with my grandma as much as I could while still getting to visit with everyone else.  I told her as much as I could spew out about the grown-up-me, my husband, and our girls in brief spurts.  Being that I’m 1 of 5, I couldn’t hog her.  But I really wanted to.  I also wanted to let her know what a difference she’s made in our lives.  It’s hard being so far away from family, especially when we grew up seemingly stacked atop one another for what felt like an eternity (at times).  These past few years have taught me so much about family and love.  I’ve missed being surrounded by both.  This is our family get-down song.  Or, at least, one of the many.  I’m inserting this in the middle of my post to really force you to listen to it.  I can be am pushy.


We returned home on Sunday, and life as we know it resumed from there.  On Monday I returned to Dr. Louie’s office for my follow-up/pre-op visit with him and Dr. Liu.  We combined my final stage 1 follow-up and noob revision/nipple reconstruction pre-op visit.  My recovery is going just fine; stage 2 is just under a month away and I need to be thinking “newpples”.  I really wanted to wear my prosthetic nipples to my appointment just to ask Drs. Louie and Liu what the differences would be in size, shape, appearance in comparison.  But I couldn’t remember where I put the prostheses and had to leave without them.  My left noob will be reduced in size so that it is symmetrical with the right, and Dr. Louie will origami my newpples using what I think is called a Cylindrical flap.  Dr. Louie made me this cool paper version, which I will now insert for your complete awe and future party trick bag.  In the first photo, you’ll see where Dr. Louie drew a nice set of noobs with the nipple sites indicated.  At the bottom of the page is the sketch and cut out of the cylindrical flap.

Newpple Origami Step 1

In Step 2, the flap is “lifted up” (or “peeled back”, depending on what you’re reading):

Newpple Origami Step 2

In Step 3, the “wings” of the cylindrical flap are brought together:

Newpple Origami Step 3

In Step 4, the top of the cylindrical flap is brought down to close the cylinder:

Newpple Origami Step 4

In Step 5, the negative space left from the skin used for the nipple reconstruction is brought together:

Newpple Origami Step 5

And then it is stitched closed:

Newpple Origami Step 6

There are so many methods for nipple reconstruction; I was really surprised when I happened upon this article.  I am a horrible geometry student.  I couldn’t even fold notes well in school.  So none of these methods would have ever occurred to me.  And that, people, is why someone other than me is making the big bucks.

Hopefully, this will be my first and only revision surgery.  While it is easier to reduce the size of one noob instead of increasing the smaller one, there is always the possibility that additional revisions have to be made.  I have had the pleasure of meeting other women who have gone through this process because I’ve published this blog.  One of those women is approaching her seventh surgery due to complications, heavy scarring, and necrosis of 1 nipple.  Another reader is recovering from her fourth revision surgery because her reconstructed breasts ended up so dissimilar after her first revision.  I have incredible faith in my surgeon’s abilities but appreciate the challenges associated with breast reconstruction.

Unlike my initial surgery, I have very little anxiety.  I am a little worried because I think we’re going to try and fly solo as a family for this recovery and hope for the best.  If I do have more pain than expected, we’ll be watching a lot of Disney movies with the girls, eating frozen dinners (or take out), and phoning in favors.  So I’m just trying to stay positive and start planning for June 22…and beyond!

The update photos posted below are a few days old but, as with before, there are no dramatic changes.  (Other than more natural light in our bathroom because Seattle actually got some damn sun, which has since left us.)


Cuidado!  Peligroso!









05/22/12 – Frontal on Day 69

05/22/12 – Noobies on Day 69

05/22/12 – Abdomen on Day 69

05/22/12 – Left Flap on Day 69

05/22/12 – Right Flap on Day 69

I was all ready to blow up this ish last night with a new blog post…and then ALL of our utilities were on the fritz and conspired against my new blog post.  There were several times during last night and very early this morning when nothing in this house was working; no water, power, phone, internet, magic box.  So, no blog post yesterday but nothing Earth shattering happened.

Yesterday I had another workout with Paul.  Since my physical therapy re-check wasn’t until today (after my workout), he took it easy on my upper body so I wouldn’t be super sore at my PT appointment today.  The obvious conclusion is that my lower body is now stiff as a board and creaky today.  I have always had pretty strong legs, but I felt like I really dialed in my leg strength and muscle tone before my surgery because I was preparing for being unable to use my upper body for strength, balance or anything really post-op.  So trying to get back to where I was before surgery now is really hard.  My balance, strength, endurance, and cardio feel so lame right now.  I knew well beforehand that I was going to have a long way to recovery, but I did (and still do) expected more of myself, I guess.  I just wanted so badly to not have to work this hard to get back to me.  I hoped/thought/demanded it would be easier and faster because I am unreasonable impatient and eager to move on with life.  I guess it’s better than being where I worried I might end up post-op, which was deep in self-image depression.  But, luckily, I had none of that.

Today my physical therapy appointment was ho-hum.  I gained about 15 degrees of motion on my left side since my last appointment, and I was given a few exercises to do over the next two weeks with only 1 or 2 lbs of weight added to start building my strength back up.  2 lbs doesn’t seem like much when I’m hauling our almost 30 lbs daughters around.  But it feels significant in different positions or while going through certain exercises.

Tomorrow…whew.  Tomorrow I have a busy day.  I have to see my breast oncologist at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for (hopefully) my last visit to a breast oncologist EVER.  How exciting is that?  But after that I have to go into work for the rest of the day and (at some point later on), I need to make dinner for us and a couple of dinner guests, clean up, and pack us up for Vegas to see my family on Friday!  This will be the first time we’re going on an airplane together as a family.  We leave on Friday morning, so send me all of your good-traveling-juju and sage advice about being on planes with toddlers.  Please and thank you!


And now…




05/16/12 – Frontal

05/16/12 – Flaps

05/16/12 – Left

05/16/12 – Right

05/16/12 – Abdominal scar


Happy Mother’s Day!  The weather has been so amazing here this weekend, I hate to even mention it for risk that it will notice and run away (which seems to always happen in Seattle).

We’ve had a busy weekend full of fun, sun, and accidental midsection exposure.  It’s interesting how sometimes you (I) put something out into the universe, and it comes barking right back.  In one of my more recent entries (day 57) I discussed my abdominal incision and mentioned that no one has ever noticed or asked me about it.  Well, yesterday and today it went noticed and also got mentioned.  Interesting, right?  Yesterday I was with our daughters at the park and helping one of them onto a platform that leads to a slide.  My t-shirt crept up as I raised my arms, and a mom next to me said, “Wow!  You have the worst c-section scar I’ve ever seen.”  I was distracted, caught off guard and didn’t know what to say.  So, how did I respond?  I said, “Oh; thanks.”  That’s right.  Oh; thanks.  But what was I supposed to say?  How do you appropriately respond to someone making an incorrect assumption about a surgical procedure.  “Well, yes, I have this very large scar on my abdomen and twin toddlers.  Deductive reasoning might lead you to that conclusion…but really I lopped my tits off in hopes of beating cancer to the punch and replaced them with my muffin top.”  Better to live with the assumption, right?

A similar situation happened today at the park.  I was helping one of our daughters climb on a sculpture and my shirt crept up.  A little girl and her dad were next to us; she saw my scar and asked me if I was ok.  I said I was great and asked her how she was doing, at which point she decided I was a monster and ran away.  I thought it was funny (and a little encouraging) that, for her, the social interaction was more bothersome than my scar.  Like I said, it’s a little scary looking still.  I know it will improve a little bit more, but it’s definitely approaching what it will look like for the rest of my life.  So half shirts and bikinis are off the table, but that’s pretty much been my story since 2008.  I’m breast cancer free.  “NBD” as you young people say.





05/13/12 – Frontal

05/13/12 – Noobs

05/13/12 – Abdominal scar

05/13/12 – Right

05/13/12 – Left



Today I decided that since I had close to nothing newsworthy going on (just the POTUS cruising around my ‘hood), I should provide some additional photos beyond the typical 5 photos I upload.  I decided to post a few more photos of my abdominal scar because the focus here, and on most other women’s blogs on this subject, all focus on the breasts.  Or, at least the ones that I came across did.  But the abdominal incision is a pretty sizable one, and that isn’t a scar that will go unnoticed, should it ever slip out of its secret lair.  Whenever I am reaching for something and really have to extend myself, I worry that someone will see part or all of it if my shirt creeps up.  I don’t know why I worry about it.  It’s not like someone has seen or noticed it and asked me about it.  Seattle is way too passive aggressive for that.  It’s just a big, scary looking scar to anyone who didn’t see it at the beginning (for comparison purposes), but it’s healing quite nicely.  All of my scars have decreased in both size and color.  Everyday I am still so grateful to all of my surgeons, the physicians, and the other healthcare workers who have helped me so much through this process.  Again, my surgeons did such a great job with my prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and DIEP flap breast reconstruction.

So basically I just wanted to provide some visuals for how far I’ve come along now that 8 weeks into recovery from Stage 1.  Stages 2 and 3 will be combined since I only have a minor revision (to reduce my left noob and make it the same size as my right).  I’m interested in how I will feel seeing my body again after being healed from nipple reconstruction. I forget what my natural breasts looked like.  I guess I should’ve taken a lot of pre-op photos, but prior to this blog I wasn’t really one to take semi-nude photos of myself.  All of my semi-nude photos were typically of totally unsuspecting, unaware strangers.  I keed, I keed.  Maybe.





Day 3 in the hospital.

03/18/12 – Day 4 in the hospital

Right side of my body, 5 days post op.

Left side image of my body, 5 days post op.

Week 1 / Day 7


05/10/12 – Frontal

05/10/12 – Flaps

05/10/12 – Abdomen

05/10/12 – Right

05/10/12 – Left

05/10/12 – Right edge of abdominal scar

05/10/12 – Left edge of abdominal scar

05/10/12 – Belly button

05/10/12 – Nipple site




Glorious, glorious sunshine today.  The girls and I got it together this morning and headed out, just the 3 of us, to the Mobile Food Rodeo near the Fremont Market.  It was such a great adventure filled with delicious new foods to try, a lot of interesting people watching, and herds of people (see what I did there?!).  As is often the problem on a beautiful day in Seattle, everyone pours outside – particularly to where food is offered.  We spent the better part of 20 minutes trying to find a place to park our family bus, and I finally decided that since it was such a nice day, we had the jogging stroller, and I was feeling pretty good…I’d take a bit of a jog!

We parked a couple of miles away from the Rodeo itself along the Burke-Gilman Trail.  I got the ladies out of the car, into the stroller, tightened my “bralette” as tight as it would go, and we were off for my first post-op run!  EXCITING…but slow.  Running is one of those things that is tough on its own, so adding some sensitive areas post-op made it more challenging than the usual huffing, puffing, anaerobic duty it is.  I still haven’t been able to comfortably wear any of the sports bras I own, which has precluded me from running prior to today.  Most women would go out and try a couple of different ones on and, possibly even, buy a new one.  I haven’t had a chance to do these things though.  So, off I went, unexpectedly running with improper support.  It was uncomfortable, but not painful.  My slow pace in combination with the thankfully flat, easy trail made it tolerable.  There’s no way I’ll be doing any significant distances this week, but it felt GREAT.  Our girls LOVE being in the stroller when I run.  They constantly say, “Mommy go fast!”  To which I always respond, “Puuuuuuuuuuuh!”, followed by fainting.  But today was no exception.  I ran quickly for maybe 50 yards and decided to save the speed for another day when I wasn’t carrying 30 lbs of back pack and was actually properly dressed for it.

Again, the food rodeo was great.  If you live in the area and have a chance to go when they do something similar in September, GO!  I was so glad I took the girls.  They both tried new things, although one more eagerly than the other, and had fun being out with me.  It  made my heart so full.  The mini donuts, mini corn dogs, and sliders we ate made my arteries full, too, but that’s a different story.

Round trip, I probably ran just under 3 miles today while pushing our cutie pies in the stroller, carrying a back pack full of “just-in-case”, and all without incident.  Great news, right?  THOUGHT SO.  Tomorrow I hope to ride my bike to/from work using the Interlaken Trail.  I don’t think that riding my bike will present any issues with my arms or chest.  But I don’t know anything, really.  Wish me luck!

What a day!  Today I went back to the torture chamber with Paul.  It was hard work, harder than it was when I started working out with him.  I spoke with my physical therapist the other day after leaving her a message asking if I was clear to go back to the gym.  She had to make a few additional phone calls herself, but then got back to me.  We discussed things that I could do, what I might be able to do, and things that I should avoid.  Yesterday I was super excited to get back into the gym.  When I was walking into the doors, I was excited.  When I was done working out, I was totally exhausted.

My range of motion is so much more limited than I anticipated.  I think it’s from, in part, how much I have been guarded about fully using my arms.  Even though I’ve been keeping up with  my physical therapy stretches and exercises, I didn’t think I’d struggle so much with the simple things.  Despite having a few dashes of cardio in my workout, the things that got me sweating the most involved me trying to raise my arms.  It doesn’t hurt to raise them, I just have a lot of tightness in certain areas that prohibit me moving them freely and without worry.  It’s a slow and steady work in progress, but you may have guessed I am not a creature of patience.

It was also surprising to find that doing certain motions with my legs (like raising my knees up high and attempting pistol squats) really caused a tugging, strange sensation along my abdominal scar.  We did a few things that included trunk rotations in which I expected to feel a tugging or pulling sensation along that scar, but I didn’t anticipate so much of it while doing leg exercises.  Everything was a challenge, but it’s good to be back at the gym.  I worked so hard to be in tip-top shape prior to my surgery in hopes that it would decrease my recovery time.  I don’t know if it did or had no impact at all, but I’m glad I did it.  Since I feel like the time before my next stage of surgery is quickly approaching, I’m hoping to be in better shape before I have to ease off again (albeit for a much shorter recovery).

Another surprise today:  a little unexpected oozing.  My dreams, like yours probably, are sometimes only loosely tied to my actual, awake life events.  Sometimes, they’re spot on.  This morning, before I got out of bed for the day, I kept dreaming that my abdominal scar was ripping open at different points during my workout with Paul.  In my dream my skin would split open neatly along my incision, but only little drops of blood would come out.  No doubt this had more to do with my fear about getting back into a regular workout and my limitations, but when I finally crawled out of bed I noticed a little bit of blood over my right hip.  I pulled up my pajama top and I have a very small spot (I think where my last drain was pulled) that has opened up a little bit.  There is a small bit of puss coming out of it and it is slightly tender, but it is not like a raging infection.  I was able to send a message to Dr. Liu on Twitter asking him about it.  I wasn’t overly concerned due to its small size, but I also didn’t want to risk leaving a potential hazard for the whole weekend.  Amazingly, on a Friday night after anyone’s normal office hours, he immediately responded.  It sounds like this is just an irritation from a dissolving stitch and should be watched to see if redness developes around it.  If so, then I can call for some antibiotics.  But basically “NBD”, as the young people Tweet it.

Again, totally amazing that I can communicate with one of my physicians about concerns after hours using social media.  AMAZING!  I also bumped into my breast surgeon, Dr. Sara Javid, who performed my prophylactic bilateral (skin sparing, but not nipple sparing) mastectomy.  Dr. Javid is so kind, sweet, and skilled.  We stood in a bakery and talked for a little over 5 minutes about my recovery and how I was feeling and doing really, really well.  She was and is so great to work with; it was really nice to see her again so I could tell her how thankful I am to have been her patient.  I know that this probably sets the bar pretty high for other women who may have upcoming surgery, and I apologize for that.  But all through this experience, I have found that all of my physicians and their staff really want nothing more than to be great at their professions and treat their patients well.  In reading about the experiences of other women who had bilateral mastectomy and DIEP flap breast reconstruction, it seemed like they were rarely able to get helpful communication OR information from their physicians or the physicians’ staff.  And thinking about those women now in contrast against my experience, my heart really goes out to them.  This process is very intimidating, emotional and complicated.  I can’t imagine going through all of this and feeling like my surgical team didn’t or couldn’t support my after care needs.  So, I am grateful to all of my physicians – but as of late Dr. Liu has been Man of Steel quality medical super hero.  So THANK YOU DR. LIU!

I discussed on one of my recent posts the possibility of ordering some prosthetic nipples to see if they would get me a little more solid on nipple reconstruction.  They should be here in 3 – 5 business days, so stay tuned for some false, detachable nipple excitement! My daily dose of medical wonders is below, as always.  Today I included a picture of the sometimes visible dip just below my abdominal scar.  I’m not sure what makes it more noticeable some days versus others, but I tried to get an aerial view so that you could see where the little dip is.  I am doing scar tissue release massages at home which were prescribed by my physical therapist.  Hopefully these will loosen this area up a bit.  Because it’s not as visible every single day, I will only post pictures of it when it seems like someone else would be able to see it.



04/27/12 - Frontal

04/27/12 - Flaps

04/27/12 - Abdomen (see the scar dip?)

04/27/12 - Scar dip just to your lower L of my belly button

04/27/12 - Suture abscess?

04/27/12 - Right

04/27/12 - Left

I am totally guilty of being a prime example of our generation of immediate satisfaction.  We are all (mostly) spoiled rotten with access to (just about) a litany of information and an entire world (“www”) of potential connections.  So it may seem odd that I was totally floored today when one of my surgeons (Dr. Liu) sent me a message in regard to my concerns about my swelling.  Sweet, right?!  AMAZING!  I exchanged messages with Dr. Liu and have some clarity about my swelling.

I know now that my swelling probably isn’t due to fluid on my left side, which was what I was thinking.  Since Dr. Liu drained some fluid from my left side not long after I was discharged from the hospital, I thought that my left side might have more fluid hanging around there.  But it sounds like my swelling is tissue related and not due to fluid.  Dr. Liu let me know that the swelling will improve when new veins grow into my flap, and that process takes several weeks.  So, game on!  Not that I was giving up on or anything, but feedback and information is so helpful, comforting, and solid.  Nice guy, right?  Again, AMAZING!  And you thought doctors didn’t listen.  Pfffffffft.

Speaking of amazing, today was it for Seattle; such a sunny, gorgeous, fun day today.  We started our morning off with family breakfast at home (just like everyday), and then we headed over to our friends’ house for a play date and brunch.  Our friends, Heather and Jonathan, have an amazing house in Magnolia with an unbeatable view of Puget Sound.  They also have a specimen of a cutie pie son whom our girls had a good time playing with.  These are newer friends to us but we really, genuinely enjoy their company.

We coordinated this play date before I had my surgery.  We put it tentatively on the books because 1) we wanted to get together again and needed it scheduled, and 2) I had no idea what I would feel like at this point when we set the date.  I told our friends that I was having surgery, but I didn’t tell them what kind of surgery.  I am a fairly extroverted and open person, but I feel like discussing and taking people with me through this process isn’t for everyone.  It is very personal and some people are put off by the gory details of surgery and recovery.  Being that we’re all just getting to know each other, I didn’t want to unload this on them.  So when we were getting ready for our play date today, I found myself slightly anxious.  I tried on a couple of things and was thinking, “Does this outfit say post-op, nipple-less, reconstructed noobs?  Do I look like myself when I’m wearing this?  Do I look like I feel well and frisky and not patched together in this?”  I ended up wearing a jumper that kind of matched the girls’ outfits, which wasn’t at all embarrassing until I typed that just now.  In short, we had a great time together.  We didn’t talk about my surgery, because we (Mike and I) are helicopter-ish parents and our kids were being normal kids and we were trying hard not to freak out.  (This all has a point that I will get to when I’m done blabbering.)

When the girls awoke from their afternoon nap at home, we went back outside and took them to play with our neighbors’ two sons.  The husband, Allen, was in a skiing accident about a month before my surgery and his Achilles was ruptured.  So we’ve both been in some stage of recovery for at least 5 weeks, but him much longer than me.  Betsy (the wife) and I got a chance to briefly talk about my surgery and recovery.  She didn’t know which type of reconstruction I decided to do, and I told her about the DIEP flap and showed her my abdominal scar.  We discussed the sweet, sweet benefit of having my “marsupial pouch” surgically removed and turned into noobs.  She was also kind enough to tell me that my noobs looked “fantastic”.  Being that I was wearing a probably-too-tight-for-31-tshirt without a bra, I took this as the highest of compliments.  The conversation went on for a bit about the steps I have left to complete and the decisions to be made, but it was a nice chat between women.

When we came home, I knew that I wanted to really emphasize something in my post tonight.  Pre-surgery, I was so sad and anxious about what my reconstructed breasts were going to be like.  I went through a period of mourning for my natural breasts (and nipples) and was terrified that no one would ever say a nice thing about my boobs.  Actually, I was more worried that they would notice that these are not my natural breasts.  Not like I planned on walking around topless or anything, but I was seriously worried that everyday, in my clothes, people would be able to see and tell that I have reconstructed breasts.

And now that I am on the other side of it, I feel so excited about not having to worry about WHEN I will have breast cancer and the fact that my surgeons did such an amazing job with my mastectomy and reconstruction.  Other than a few extra pounds, some nipples and sensation, and an elevated risk for breast cancer – I don’t feel like I’ve lost much.  I certainly don’t feel any less feminine or sexy, which were big concerns of mine pre-surgery.  I feel I’ve gotten a lot of benefits out of this process.  Again, I no longer have a frighteningly high lifetime risk for breast cancer.  I no longer have the pocket of twin skin on my abdomen, and my previously full – then flat – and now full again – boobs look good.  Or, as Betsy said, “fantastic”.  Or, as I like to point out, smaller; firmer.  While I do have a large scar on my abdomen, I don’t mind it.  I have a sufficient amount of stretch marks to keep me in a one piece.  So, in closing tonight’s post, I just wanted to follow up on my first few, fear riddled posts and let women know that this is not as scary, freaky, alienating, un-sexy, or ugly as I thought it was going to be.  Day 3 in the hospital was a little bit of all of those things; but Day 39 is pretty damn good.

P.S.  I am still undecided about my nipple reconstruction.  I will touch on that tomorrow.

“I’ll take the Daily Double (dose), Alex.”

04/22/12 - T-shirt time!

04/22/12 - Frontal

04/22/12 - Flaps

04/22/12 - Abdomen

04/22/12 - Right side

04/22/12 - Left side

Don’t get the wrong idea!  Today was my first day of physical therapy, where I learned about the “Self-Administered Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage Technique” (herein after “SAMLDMT”).  I will return to this later and tie up my reason for my post title and why I thought of the Divinyls during PT.

First off, I am still unable to add any new progress photos to my blog.  I have been trying to add my progress photos from yesterday and pictures of my post surgery swag, and all I’ve been getting is this screen where it shows my new media is uploaded but “Crunching” followed by “Internal Error Message” then a sea of nothingness and frustration.  I will keep trying, though.

My physical therapy is at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.  My breast oncologist and surgeon, Dr. Javid, and I thought it would be best to have PT there since they deal with post-mastectomy and reconstruction patients all the time.  As I wrote in my post last night, I made my physical therapy appointment for first thing in the morning today.  This was mostly because I was worried that PT was going to be physically taxing, I would have pain and/or more swelling in the time after, and I would want to call or get in to see someone at the UWMC.  I couldn’t have been more wrong, which is nice. My physical therapist, Rachel, had me lie on the table and go through several arm movements so that she could measure my range of motion and limitations.  She also had me push and pull against her arms to test my strength on both sides.  She then slowly took me through a series of stretches and motions that I should do at home over the next few weeks to increase my range of motion.  She also showed me how to do “Scar Tissue Release” massage for areas where my abdominal scar is very restricted.   And then we went over the lymphatic system and the SAMLDMT.  I will focus my massages on the axillary lymph nodes, but at times when my swelling is increased (or I just want to move more of my fluid around), I should include the Inguinal lymph nodes.  Here is a reference image:

I didn’t hear the Divinyls until this point.  I remembered when my sister, Alyssa, was talking to me about her troubles with her seemingly incessant lymphedema and how she’s supposed to do these massages to decrease her swelling.  (NOTE:  I don’t have lymphedema; my lymph nodes were not involved in my surgery.  I simply have excess fluid in the area surrounding my lymph nodes on my left side.)  She told me that she was at home doing her Inguinal massage in bed one night and her husband walked into their bedroom and gave her a sideways glance.  If you’re lying down, in bed and doing this massage, the Divinyls will start playing in your head.  Not because you’re doing anything other than Inguinal massage, but because to anyone other than you that is exactly what it looks like you’re doing.  Don’t believe me?  You try it out and let me know how it goes.  I digress…

Rachel finished up giving me my instructions and reviewing the movements, massages, and techniques with me.  We decided that I would come back in two weeks for a progress check and to see how my ROM improves.  If it is much improved, I get to add strength building to my next appointment.  If that goes well, I get to go back to the gym (with limitations), but still have to go to physical therapy for 2 more sessions after that appointment.  If I don’t show much improvement after 3 PT sessions, then I will continue going to PT and not go back to the gym.

While this all seems like a long and drawn out schedule, it really isn’t long after my currently-scheduled-final PT appointment that I’m probably going to have Stages 2 and 3 of my surgery process done, which takes me back out of the gym and physical activity for a few weeks.  Time flies.

I wanted to announce that today I learned of my first non-family member or friend blog reader and follower!  She is just beginning this process and has a blog herself.  It is so strange that, to me, my recovery has gone so fast these past few weeks.  But when I was in her position (trying not to lose my mind and start planning), it seemed like this day (5 weeks post-op) was an entire lifetime away.  In some ways, it was another lifetime away.  I am now breast cancer risk reduced, through the initial hurdles of recovery, and on my way to semi-normalcy before the end stages of my reconstruction.  Then again, 35 days is a flash in the pan.  I can clearly recall and even feel the anxiety and heaviness in my heart in the last few days before my surgery.  The morning of my surgery I even got up earlier than I needed to just so I could cry before my husband was awake.  I felt alone in a lot of those moments despite knowing full well that my family and friends were here for me.  I was so worried about what life would be like in this reconstructed body (pretty good!, BTW).  I was also so worried about the impact all of this was going to have on our family as a whole and not just myself.  But here we are, making it through the recovery process and getting back to our day-to-day.  And it feels SO phenomenal.  So, maybe read along with her as well and pass the word on in case there are more of us out there scouring the Internet for information late at night, losing our minds, and planning for the rough days to come…

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller, wise young/old man.

Today was great!  Since all of my incisions are completely healed I was able to go with the girls and Cate back to our parent & tot swimming lessons.  The girls hadn’t been in weeks because the class requires 1 adult for every child in the water, and we simply couldn’t find anyone free on Tuesday mornings to take the girls with Cate.  It was phenomenal in so many ways.

Everyone knows about the joys of buoyancy.  I didn’t know that being back in a pool with my kids would buoy my spirits so much.  It felt great (emotionally) doing another “normal” again together with the girls; it felt awkward (physically) trying to get used to the feeling of so much movement from me and our munchkins.  I felt the pool was a safe re-entry into physicality with the kids because I didn’t have to rely on my own physical strength 100% because we were in the water.  I swam with Olivia; she typically refuses to swim with anyone else.  She always wrestles me a little bit when she is bored with the swimming practice drills and wants only to play with the pool toys; today was no different in that regard.  It was different to try and manage her (physically) while still not having my full range of motion in my arms.  We do a drill where we (the parent) prop one leg up on top of the knee of the other under water.  We make a table top this way to lay the child upon.  They rest their belly on the parent’s thigh, so they’re partially immersed in position like they’re swimming but your leg is just below them to support them in the water.  It sounds easy enough, but trying to get a toddler that is learning to swim used to this posture and relaxed is a challenge.  Limbs are flailing, water is splashing everywhere, and you’re trying to control midget chaos while keeping your kid afloat.  It’s a workout, usually, and today even more so.  I still cannot raise my arms straight up, move them behind me, or too far out from my sides.  So trying to control Olivia’s cyclone was super difficult but we all survived.  I also took several body blows, punches to the noobs, and am happy to report that I’m not in any more discomfort that I have been since my recovery got easier.  The middle of my back hurts constantly these days, but I think that has a lot to do with how my posture has changed since surgery.

All morning I was entirely grateful for how strong my legs are.  Paul and I worked really hard on building leg strength before my surgery since we figured they’d be working overtime while my arms were out of commission.  I can’t tell you how well this has served me.  You probably don’t think about how much you use your arms to get up from the bed, a chair, the floor, out of the car, etc.  I have either been using my arms on a very limited basis to do these things or not at all.  I’ve also been using my legs to complete the motion of opening a heavy door (by way of the inner thigh against the door frame), to close heavy doors (kung fu style), and I use my simian toes to pick things up off of the floor and kick them up to my hands.  (Handy trick you can also learn in Vegas between the rush hours of 10 p.m. – 4 a.m. in some places ;).)  Since I’ve been trying to pick up or carry the girls as of yesterday, I ask them to put their arms around my neck and hold on tight to me while I’m in a squat position.  I then make sure I have a good grip on them, and vice versa, and use my legs to propel our weight up instead of lifting with my back.  It makes a huge difference in how my arms and chest feel when I do this correctly.  In short, if you’re getting ready to go through this process, work on your leg strength prior to the big day.  You’ll need it and be glad that you did.

Tomorrow is my first day of physical therapy.  I’m excited to learn why I’m having pain in different areas, the muscle groups involved and implicated in my surgery/recovery, improving my ROM and strength, and how soon I can get back to my usual self (and working out!).  I am terribly nervous about how much pain and/or discomfort is going to come with PT.  I have my appointment in the early morning, which I planned just in case I need to call my doctor’s office about pain issues later in the day.

I keep trying to upload my daily photos but am getting an “internal error” message during the upload process.  I have been at this for 41 minutes now and am giving up in the name of sleep!  If I can resolve it tomorrow morning, I’ll update this post with tonight’s photos.  Wish me luck in PT!!!!

04/17/12 - Frontal

04/17/12 - Flaps

04/17/12 - Abdomen

04/17/12 - Nipple site

04/17/12 - Left Side

04/17/12 - Right Side


Today was another surprisingly, fortunately nice day sans precipitation…after a few hours.  The girls went out and about (in their best princess  gear) to play, and I stayed around here being gimpy.  Well, I was gimpy for a while and then I tried my best to get myself together and do something productive.  I managed a few, small chores around the house (put some laundry away, put some more laundry in the washer, straightened up the kitchen) and headed out for my exercise.  Today I decided to get back on the hills and make sure that I’m doing my part to keep what’s healthy, healthy and to get what’s healing healthy. I gathered some inspiration from Mike, my husband, after he told me he ran up this huge hill by our house TEN TIMES this morning before work.  I managed to walk up it once today, and was pretty proud of myself for that accomplishment.

04/04/12 - Up big bad Lee Street

I took Lake Washington Boulevard around our neighborhood and through the “loop” which is a popular pedestrian and cyclist path.  It was a bit chilly out, but it was a nice temperature to be walking in, and there was sunshine to make everything better.  I made it to a lookout point on Lake Washington Boulevard and decided it was time to take a breather and rest up for the long walk home.

04/04/12 - Lookout @ Lk Wa Blvd

I decided, after much consideration, that today would be a good day to try to get back into the driver’s seat.  I successfully drove myself to and from my brow waxing appointment without incident.  Not to say (write) that it wasn’t without its challenges, but I came home collision free.  First and foremost, I embarked on this journey pain medication free to ensure my safety and that of of my road warrior companions.  Secondly, I drove for probably a total of 3 miles.  I had to complete 4 turns to get to my destination and had no crazy parallel parking challenges, which would’ve certainly done me in.  My range of motion is well enough that I can keep my hands and 9 and 3 (instead of the old school 10 and 2), but it’s not well enough that I can turn the wheel round with only one hand.  I felt like a rookie driver doing the hand-over-hand turns you learn in Driver’ Ed classes, but today old school worked well for me.  So, everything with my reintroduction to driving went well.

Today I also decided I would try to forgo my mid afternoon nap I’ve been taking since my surgery, which hasn’t worked out so well for me.  Now I feel so overly tired that I can’t sleep (it’s currently 11 p.m.).  I’m hoping that this is just a slight hiccup in my sleep schedule, but I’ve never been a really good sleeper.

I received a return phone call today from Dr. Louie’s office trying to follow up on the physical therapy scheduling debacle from yesterday.  The nurse that I spoke with couldn’t tell me whether or not I was cleared to start PT this soon, so I am waiting to hear back from the nurse after she gets in contact with Dr. Louie, which I think is going to probably be about 48 hours since he has surgery on Thursdays. To be honest, I’m not in any rush at this point to add more discomfort and fluid build up to what I already have going on here.  I think that when I first spoke with Dr. Louie at my consultation, he said that patients typically start PT around 4 to 6 weeks.  Even though that sounds like an eternity away from right now, I can manage some patience and hope that fluid absorption on my left side comes with that as well.

As far as pain today, I’m having a lot of discomfort and a little bit of pain.  I’m trying to only take my pain medication when I go to bed for the night, and am alternating ibuprofen and Tylenol during the day for pain control.  It’s not horrible, but it’s not without its drawbacks.  I still have pain in my sternum and sound a little breathy when I talk too much or too fast (because it’s still uncomfortable to take deep breaths sequentially).  My fluid build up on my left side is very uncomfortable, tender and has me very guarded on that side.  But, I’m making it through the days.

And now, your daily dose of medical magic…

04/04/12 - Frontal

04/04/12 - Flaps

04/04/12 - Abdominal incision

04/04/12 - Left side

04/04/12 - Right side