Monday, August 22, 2011

Long hot summer

I have been meaning to sit down and play a little catch up. I have not known where to start. No news is good news in the blog front. The cancer update is good thus far. In June I had a six month check-up with my oncologist and all tests seem to be good so far. I have a nine month check-up in September.

My health seems to be improving steadily. I have been exercising more and more. It seems nearly impossible to lose the weight I put on during chemotherapy. Honestly I have not been able to get a handle on my eating, working in the restaurant and being surrounded by great food doesn't help much. I am sure my hysterectomy has some hormonal responsibility in the weight loss equation. I am not giving to much power to this situation as one cancer lesson that I have picked up on the way is to give myself a little grace. These things will come in time.

Cancer is still a monkey on my back. Though cancer free thus far I still find myself looking over my shoulder a bit. Every nerve spasm, cough, sore throat, pimple, any strange physical ailment sends my mind to the C zone. Usually for a second and I move on. I am pretty sure I am having some wicked hot flashes, or I have ZERO tolerance for the heat. I have given up wearing eye make-up for the summer, mascara running down my face is not a pretty sight. Then of course there is the chemo-brain. Sometimes I find it hard to put my thought in order. I have a lot to say I just can't find the words. It is really frustrating to remember someones name 2 hours after you spoke with them. I am thankful the information is there, just having a hard time accessing it on demand.

Next month I will enter into the final stage of reconstruction. I will have my nipples tattooed. That is right flesh colored tattooing for my nipple and areola. This will be my 1st time being inked....they say once you get one it becomes sort of an addiction. If you would like to reserve some space on my virgin canvas please impress me now :)

I have found a new love this summer. This love has been a integral part of my healing, and self discovery. This love has connected me to numerous new wonderful people. My new relationship has deepened my connection to old friends and to this magical place I call home. This love is not a person it is my Haro mountain bike. I do however now expect all this and more from my next romantic encounter as well. Mountain biking has been so much fun I am certain I don't have the ability to put it into words. It has been so much hard work, I have taken some crazy falls. Every time I get off my bike after a ride I am blissed out over what I have accomplished. Biking forces you to be present. I am privileged to have some amazing lady riders in my life who encourage me along the way. The pure joy of riding through the forest on a single trek simply stated makes you feel like a kid again. The wind rushing through your hair, the speed, the camaraderie, the challenge. In the beginning I would walk a lot. I am getting stronger and my skills are improving. My body is SLOWLY recovering from all that it has been through, my soul and spirit are on the fast track :) My bike has already taken me to some amazing places, mentally and physically I look forward to all the places we will go.

Insomnia is frustrating but sometimes can lead to some midnight blogging which feels good, and reminds me to drink water and breathe................

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Love to Your Mother

They are an extraordinary breed. We can all celebrate this day by giving a big thank you to our mom's. The pains of labor are only known by her, the amount of work it takes to bring a human being into this world is enough of a reason to say thank you . Then try to keep that little being alive when the only way they can communicate is crying or the ever effective screaming. For those uninitiated this is a "TALL"order, and there are no take backs. Slowly Mom figures out the ins and outs of what it means to be you. You grow, she grows becoming a personal library of what it means to be your mom. Adaptation and survival are two words not listed in "What to expect when you are expecting". There is no "REAL" guide book, Mom is left to sort out the details on her own. Just when Mom figures out what it takes to keep you happy and grooving in life, it is time to start letting go. This process seems to last a life time. Motherhood is a game of ebb and flow, that takes place on the field of unconditional love. The good thing about this is there is not a score card in love. Motherhood is a road riddled with potholes, smooth downhills, long climbs, pretty much everything life has to offer can be reflected in this one relationship. Complicated? You bet! Only a mother can make sense out this.

I would like to give a special shout out to all the mother's that I have raised my children with. My own journey of motherhood brought into my life a long list of amazing women who I am proud to call friends. Together we celebrate the joys and pains of motherhood. We do it with grace (sometimes), love, humility, frustration (often), laughter, and style (always):)) Thank you to all these special women who have helped me become the mom I am today.

Of course this is a special weekend that I will be spending with my boys, Corbin and Mason. I have learned so much just being their Mom. I was showered with special crafts made by them in school. Tomorrow I will go on a Mother's Day bike ride to celebrate my own momness.

Today the boys and I will be going out to my Mom's house to give her a special Mother's day gift. We will be stacking her firewood, 3 cords I believe. Only my Mom would strategically order firewood in conjunction with Mother's Day. Sadly only my brother would understand how unique and calculated our own mother is. The good news is stacking firewood is cheaper then flowers unless of course you count the blisters.

So whether it is firewood,or flowers take some time to give it up to your Mother and all the other Mom's you know. They are special, unique and deserving of all the love in the world.

Drink water and's to all the momma's.

Monday, April 4, 2011


I would post a picture, but I am still adjusting to them myself. On April Fool's Day I went in for the last of my scheduled out-patient surgeries. I had truly debated on the need for nipples. Had I been 90% happy with the results of the reconstruction up until this point I might have skipped the nips all together. Dr. Berardi being the perfectionist that he is wanted to revise one incision and do a little FAT grafting, which of course would involve some liposuction. I figured the revisions were necessary to get my bust line in to tip-top shape so I opted to have the nipples done while I was under.

The week prior to surgery is busy as usual. Non-stop work, kids, school, and life nothing out of the ordinary. My friend Jen is my surgery chaperon, she has gotten quite good at it. It seems as if "California Girls" by Katy Perry is our boob run theme song. I don't know why, I am not thrilled with this as a theme song but it is ALWAYS playing when we do our little Scottsdale trips. We leave P-town around 6:00 AM in order to check in by 8:00. Surgery is scheduled for 10:00 AM. Just past Sunset Point there is a semi-trailer hauling cattle turned over on it's side. We don't see any cattle but the guardrail and posts are decimated. A single lane of traffic was open at this point so we cruised on down the mountain.
I arrive early and they take me in to pre-op quickly. Sandy is my pre-op nurse, this is the 2nd time she has administered my IV. Sandy makes my veins disappear, they just don't like her. So she numbs me and tries to find a vein on my wrist, to no avail it retreats. As you all know I have a short window for these things and she was about 30 seconds past my personal threshold.
Sandy kind of talks like a granny from the south, I think she said "Shucks I will have to try 'nother..." I was about ready to come screaming out of that pre-op room. Just as she pulls out the failed attempt that is still stuck in my arm, she manages to somehow pull off a cap to the saline bag and sprays saline all over me, my pillow and the hospital bed. Now at this point my fight or flight response is saying "get the F out of here". Nurse Sandy gets me dry linens and we try again. I am sure she is going to screw it up again, but I breathe through the next jabbing and miraculously she finds a vein. Did I mention I couldn't drink water, nothing after mid-night on surgery days. I have been waiting for my saline hydration since I got up that morning. Finally I am connected and she has the drip on high which turns my arm into an icicle.....but I am hydrating. Now Sandy will finally go away, I want to wait in peace. Please go get Jen. The IV is the worse part, now Jen and I just wait for my cocktail. The wait is a little long. Jen is cracking jokes about being a fat donor for my procedure. My pre-op neighbor thinks it is funny and pulls back the curtain to tell us ALL about her procedure. She volunteers to be a fat donor too. No matter where we go we are always making friends. Dr. Berardi doesn't show up until 10:20, he quick whips out his marker and goes to work on my body. In about 2 and 1/2 minutes he decides where my new nips are going to be along with where he is going to graft my fat. Dr. Thuley(anesthesiologist) comes in and quick puts 2 syringes of something into my drip and it is lights out, I think I said goodbye to Jen. After surgery I am much better then the last time. I don't puke until I see Jen and they move me out of the hospital bed to the recliner. The good news is I only puke once. I am very groggy though and have an ace bandage over my shoulder and an abdomen brace of some kind. My lip hurts like I bit it, what exactly happened to me in there? The nurses quickly pour me into my car and Jen runs me up the mountain. I sleep to the top of Black Canyon City. Traffic on the southbound lane of I-17 is backed up from Sunset Point to Cordes Junction. Apparently they closed the highway shortly after we went through in the morning for 8 hours. So I guess my timing is getting better. I try to sleep off the surgery most of the weekend. I don't even sneak a peak at my new nipples. There is so much gauze, tape, foam donuts and ace wrap. I am afraid I might harm my new appendages. So for once I take the Dr.'s advice and sponge bath only until I saw him today. The fat grafting seems successful the indentation from my mastectomy has been filled up. Dr. Berardi slowly takes off my ace bandage. Underneath are these foam donuts taped over my new nipples. Dr. B not so gently takes off the tape and reveals my thimble sized nipples with black suture strings sticking out everywhere, TOTALLY FRANKENSTEIN!!!! Placement is good, I knew that they would be big and then shrink down. I was totally fine with the exam until Dr. B had to poke one of them with a needle to make sure it had proper blood flow. Then my ears start to ring and I have to lay back before I pass out. I may never out grow my phobia of needles. Hopefully I will be spending less time around them. So the down low on the whole surgery is that due to the liposuction it was a little more invasive then the prior surgeries. I will have to keep my chest wrapped, without smashing my new nipples. I will also need to wear abdomen support to prevent any swelling from the liposuction. He didn't even take enough belly fat to notice and it is oh so tender. Again I am on the road to healing.... Drink water and breathe.......

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Where have I been???

Hooray I have hair !

Okay I have not posted since January 31st what in the world has been going on with me?

That is a very good question. February ended up being a rather long month, even though it is the shortest month of the year.

The boys and I spent the ENTIRE 2nd week of February home sick. That is right no school, no work, we all just sat around the apartment trying to get well. Whatever strand of virus that we had just seemed to cling on forever.

I followed that week with a couple of days in divorce court. My days of being a married woman are numbered. Those couple of days were the most costly financially and emotionally, of my life. Watching Steve sit on the stand and lie made me crazy. I have a legal pad full of scribbles, it was like I was fighting with my demons and scratching them out on a note pad. The low-lights of my 27 month union are aired before a wonderful woman judge. Who will ultimately judge what my stake in our life was after hearing both of our "stories". This forum is not my cup of tea. I like to refer myself as a "forgetful optimist". I have had so many BAD stories with Steve if I held on to all of them I could possible lose myself in something akin to a black hole. Now don't think for a moment that I am so evolved that I couldn't tell you 100 rotten stories about Steve. I could it is just not good for me my big job is to let those go. Needless to say I felt everything in court was kind of ridiculous. His vicious attorney was questioning me about my surgeries and treatment? How much time did I actually spend at Dr.s appointments? Why I made so little money last year and why didn't I apply for a full time job at someplace like Jack in the Box. Somehow this has to do with Steve's defense. I think I finally realized he will never have one. The whole time I am trying to figure out how and why our country has divorce set up like this. How does a system that is suppose to arrive at justice revolve around such cruelty and lack of humanity? It beats the hell out of me. The worse part about all of this is at the end of the day and all the testimony the judge rules that both parties will submit closing arguments by March 11th and she will decide shortly after that. For those of you as confused as I was that means I was told I had to wait another month for her to rule on our case.

Is this a cruel joke? NO! Another lesson in life to hurry up and wait.

My favorite divorce quote is "Divorce is like getting hit by a bus, every day for two years" Elizabeth Gilbert.

Steve was served on March 31, 2009. It has almost been 2 years exactly, I have said before that I have uncanny timing :) That means my daily impacts are coming to an end.

The good news is that I am almost there. I believe the next chapter of my life has amazing things in store for me and I am excited to close the pages on these last few years. Though I gained a lot of wisdom, the journey has been long.

So on the cancer front I have been having monthly blood tests. I will have my 3 month check-up with Dr. Vu next week. I am scheduled for NIPPLE RECONSTRUCTION ( I wish knew how to add sound effects to my blog as this would be an appropriate spot) April 1st. Another outpatient procedure with general anesthesia. I almost opted for NO nipples. That way I wouldn't have to worry about them poking out and such. I also had such a horrible time waking up at the last surgery. However, there is some touch up work that I think is necessary for the long term look of my implants. While I am having that done I might as well have the nipples done to. Dr. Berardi is also going to be moving some fat to fill in my mastectomy indention. Another fun filled day in Scottsdale.

The first week of March found the boys and I sick AGAIN! This is getting to be ridiculous, only this time it is strep throat. Kind of good because it can be treated with antibiotics, kind of bad because it sucks to be sick so much in just a couple of months. It does however feel good to be sick like everyone else, instead of sick with cancer.

Next week is spring break and I am starting to feel that spring tingle in the air. Growth and change are blowing on the wind. I look forward to this new season and hope that it is full of love, healing, health and promise for everyone.

Drink water and breathe.............

Monday, January 31, 2011

Recovering nicely and the next big thing......

There just doesn't seem to be time enough to blog. I am recovering nicely from my implant exchange and with each passing day I feel stronger and stronger. My new breasts are looking better every day. I feel more like me with each passing day.

I am so thankful for the return of my strength. Instead of spending weekends on my couch I am able to get out and live a little. The boys and I have been hiking. I have had time to catch up with friends, someplace other then the chemo chair. Life has been pretty busy and ordinary. The laundry piles just aren't quite as high as they have been. It is about time I start addressing the things that I have put on the back burner.

The universe has a funny way of timing things and my divorce happens to be one of those details that has been on my "to do list". Just as I finish the majority of my cancer treatment, I get to follow it up with divorce court. Not exactly the chaser I was hoping for. Yes that's right for those of you who did not know I am still not divorced and am on my way to trial. My wonderful soon to be ex-husband has decided anything we acquired together is all his. So on February 14th (I am not making this up) we get to go to trial where a judge will decide on all the things we can't agree on (everything). To be honest I am thrilled that this time has finally come. I am so ready to close the chapter on that part of my life as well. What a way to celebrate Valentine's day! For the first time my head and my heart seem ready to face this. My separation from Steve were the darkest days of my life. I was a broken battered woman. I recovered, healed and just as I was coming out of that fog I was diagnosed with cancer. Timing is everything, mine is extraordinary. In some ways the pain of separation gave me the strength to cope with cancer, honestly cancer might have seemed easier to understand. It isn't discriminating, it doesn't lie to you, you don't have expectations. Cancer has taught me patience and acceptance like nothing else. So I look forward to my trial with a calm head and heart. I am amazed at how I have grown in the last year. These two HUGE events have taught me to love and nurture myself. Now that I think about it, it is a pretty great gift to have on Valentine's Day.

So I reckon it is going to get a little heavy in the next few weeks. I am blessed and surrounded by love. I will of course need to drink water and breathe....

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Implant exchange

Just when I think I've gotten used to all these procedures one throws me for a curve. A million thank yous to my dear friend Jen for taking me to my latest surgery.

We left for Phoenix around 5:00 PM on Thursday. Surgery was scheduled for 7:30 AM which means arriving at 5:30 AM for paperwork and pre-op. This is not like the airport, when a hospital says 2 hours early I take them seriously and do just that. So isn't Jen a peach for getting up in the wee hours of the morning to hang out in the waiting room with me, then in pre-op, then sit around and wait for me to get out of surgery.

While they are prepping me for surgery there is a little confusion. The OR is booked for 2.5 hours, but the procedure is listed as nipple reconstruction. AAAARRRGGH that is for future blog posts, I need an implant exchange and port removal. It was such a pain to coordinate this trip and I was soooo ready to have all those things out of me. The nurse waits to put my IV in while she checks to make sure my implants are in stock. Are you kidding me????? Thankfully they have them and the surgery is a go. I guess they don't run out of the DD. I have never been so thankful to get an IV. My pre-op nurse is a 7 year breast cancer survivor, she referred to me as her sister in pink, such a small statement filled with so much understanding. I of course take this as a good sign. My anesthesiologist happens to be young and gorgeous another good omen. Everything is coming together nicely. I say goodbye to Jen.

The next thing I know I am semi-conscious surrounded by scrubs and vomiting. I am more looped then I have ever been. Surgery is over people are talking to me and I am vomiting. Every now and then an alarm goes off and from a distance someone says "Sarah take some deep breaths". I pass out again. Apparently I do this for awhile because Jen didn't get called back until 1.5 hours after she talked to Dr. Berardi. It usually only takes about 45 minutes to come to normally. I finally get moved to the 2nd stage of post-op and someone dresses me. Jen arrives at this point and I take some more time to clear my head. They wheel me out in this weird recliner wheel chair, which kind of looks like a chemo chair. I decide I have to go to the bathroom before we depart, so I get wheeled back in. I pee and then proceed to vomit some more. Now I am really having fun, I hate being sick to my stomach. So Jen and I park it in the recovery room until I feel I can try again. Another 10 minutes goes by and we try again. This time I make it to the car, I am armed with a damp washcloth, puke pan, crackers, and gingerale for the ride home. Can you imagine the fun Jen is having at this point?

I drift in and out of consciousness the whole way home. This is why they say don't make any major decisions after anesthesia. I felt like a raving lunatic, out cold one minute, then talking about random stuff the next. The ride home was not memorable, coincidentally neither was the entire day.

Of course I am semi-alert by the time we get back to Prescott which I think is sometime after 2:00. I curl up on the couch, at some point on the ride home I arranged to have Dani come over and "watch" me. I even had the sense to have her pick-up Resident Evil : Afterlife, science fiction usually speeds up my recoveries. I sleep waiting for Dani to arrive. I of course am not sure of what my post-op care should be. I know what prescriptions I should be taking, but am I allowed to shower? How soon can I peek at my new boobies? I call the Dr.'s office and I am told to stay bandaged up until Monday, only sponge baths until then. Sure if you say so.....

So we watch Resident Evil, which is LAME beyond my wildest expectations. So horrible that I am adamantly refusing to watch the next one they so obviously are going to create some day. The Vicodin does not even dull the pain of a weak story line coupled with knock-off special effects. This was by far one of my larger movie disappointments. Just bad.............

I of course wake up on Saturday feeling a little curious about my implants. Kate stops by for a visit. Then my mom. I lay around while they help with the chores. I am ever so thankful for all the help that I get. They all leave and I finally decide I need to take a look at my new chest. If I had been thinking clearly I would have done it with Kate or my Mom here. Wrapping 15 feet of ace bandage around my chest with the pain from the surgery was kind of tough. So my new boobs are soft, they kind of looked flat and smooshed???? I really wanted small and perky...maybe Dr. Berardi didn't understand me. I am kind of like oh well, you get what you get.

Thankfully my friend Dina gives me a call. She had an implant exchange in November. She wanted to explain to me that hers kind of looked flat and left her wondering what was the point. She said after the bandages were removed and they "dropped" into place they would look much better. I thanked her for her wisdom and waited to here what Dr. B would say on Monday.

The kids come home from their Dad's Sunday morning. We run to the grocery store. The boys are very helpful because they want to go to Walgreens and spend their allowances directly after shopping. We go home, unload the groceries, and make lunch. The boys decide they want to meet a friend at the YMCA pool for a swim. It sounded like a good idea to me. I could knit, they could get some exercise. Being at the pool filled me with anxiety. The cleanliness of that place always has me wondering. I felt particularly exposed due to my recent surgery. I was fighting off air born MERSA germs with my knitting needles. I kept telling myself what a dummy I was for taking one of my bandages off and exposing my skin to this hot humid germ filled air. Clearly the drugs were still clouding my judgement. About an hour or so later we depart nothing like the Y pool to make you appreciate fresh air.

So Monday afternoon I have a follow-up with Dr. Berardi. Kate drives me down and we make an afternoon of it. Hanging out with all of my girlfriends is a perk of the cancer trail. When I see Dr. B he seems pleased with surgery. I am like but......Then it is like I don't have a brain at all. I had a million questions to ask him some how I am totally thrown off subject. He then starts showing me how I am supposed to massage my new implants. This massaging will help shape the muscle pocket they are in. This part is painful and I am writhing in the exam chair. Why is it I finally have a hot guy touching my "breasts" and I am wanting him to stop. Needless to say I do feel super self conscious around my hot doc. I just hope and pray I don't say something really obnoxious when I am put under for surgery. So I am sent home with orders to massage firmly 3 times a day. Then I see him in 2 weeks to see my progress. I thought for sure this part would be easy, but like everything else on this journey it is always a process.

I returned to work today and I am doing light duty. No lifting some light chopping I am still trying to shake off a little surgery fog, sometimes it all seems like a dream.

Drink water and breathe....................

Monday, January 3, 2011

My 5 o'clock shadow..........

No this is not the recent lunar eclipse this is my new hair that is growing back.

If you look closely you can see my eyelashes returning!

Even my eyebrows are starting to return. Unfortunately I will have to start plucking and shaping them soon. There are some perks to being hairless :)
I will spare you all the images of the rest of the hair that is growing on my body. The great news is I feel better and stronger each day. I do experience numbness and tingling in my hands and feet. The arm that had all the lymph nodes removed is just different, lots of odd sensations not really painful just weird.
This Friday I am scheduled to have my implant exchange. I am so excited to get these rock hard expanders out of my chest and get some nice new squishy, perky, bouncy did I say perky? breast implants.
Life is moving forward toward recovery and healing. This past year has been so hard, yet so full of blessings. I am hoping the year ahead will be a little smoother then the last. In the year ahead I am focusing on the good things and appreciating every single one to it's fullest. The "not so good" things I will accept as such. I also feel like we need to pass on all the blessing that we have. Which leads me to a Christmas gift I received this year from a dear friend whom I share a lot with but do not know so well. My friend dropped off a gift at the restaurant. I did not have time to open it so I moved it out of the way. I guessed by it's shape that it was a candle, after lifting it I decided it was the heaviest candle I have ever held. I opened it a few hours later and it was a medium sized glass container full of change and a few bills as well. I thought to myself "that is the most peculiar way that I have received a monetary gift in all my life". I was in no way not appreciative because in these times every little bit helps. I did however think it was a little odd. My friend calls me the next day to give me an explanation of the jar of change. She says it is a "pay it forward jar", someone gave it to her last year at the holidays. She spent what was in the jar and proceeded to fill it the rest of the year with her change. My friend passed it on to me this year. Now through out the year I will throw change in this jar each time thinking of my dear friend and this simple gift knowing that next Christmas someone special will come into my life that I can pass this jar on to. Now the reason that I am blogging about this little story is that I think maybe we should all start little jars at the start of this New Year. It seems like a little goodness can go along way and the world could use some more of it.
Of course my New Year's Resolution is to drink water and breathe.......