Archive for March 2014

Self Portrait- Wk33-34

 

Lymphedema flared up then went down again after two days.  Using my old glove and sleeve though they do not fit correctly, as the custom ones were made wrong yet again.  It’s been over 12 weeks since the original sizing.  I’m very fatigued and do not feel recovered enough from the last reconstruction surgery one month ago.  I’m in physical therapy every week but the pain around the scar area is still very painful when I lift or move my left arm.  It’s worse than last week.  I tried to lift a light in my studio yesterday and cried out.  My back is also keeping me awake at night as there is one spot that hurts badly.  I hope it is only part of the recovery process and not doing my normal activity for over a month.  The bruise on my stomach is from the last hormone-blocking injection I have once a month now. Tired. Just tired today.

SelfPortraitWk34

SelfPortraitWk34

SelfPortraitWk34

SelfPortraitWk34

SelfPortraitWk33

SelfPortraitWk33

SelfPortraitWk33

SelfPortraitWk33

 

 

 

Lymphedema SHOOT by Paige Stoyer

 

Lymphedema, 4 days Post final reconstruction surgery. Brother Calvin

Lymphedema, 4 days Post final reconstruction surgery. Brother Calvin

Lymphedema, 4 days Post final reconstruction surgery. sister in law Denise

Lymphedema, 4 days Post final reconstruction surgery. sister in law Denise

 

Brother Calvin, 4 days Post final reconstruction surgery

Brother Calvin, 4 days Post final reconstruction surgery

Lymphedema, 4 days Post final reconstruction surgery. New friend from blog

Lymphedema, 4 days Post final reconstruction surgery. New friend from blog

Lymphedema, 4 days Post final reconstruction surgery, new friend from blog

Lymphedema, 4 days Post final reconstruction surgery, new friend from blog

Lymphedema, 4 days Post final reconstruction surgery

Lymphedema, 4 days Post final reconstruction surgery

Lymphedema, 4 days Post final reconstruction surgery

Lymphedema, 4 days Post final reconstruction surgery

 

 

The Special Message

The Special Message

And I say to her, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t there.  I have breast cancer and can’t get in.”  And the woman on the other side of the line tells me how hard it was to find parking near my studio.  She is frustrated and angry.  I understand.  I am, too, sometimes.  “I’m sorry, I have breast cancer and am­­ not there,” I repeat, thinking she didn’t hear me the first time.  She’s huffs and signs and says she’ll take care of it.  Meaning the auction donation I’ve made, the event is this weekend, she will try to arrange for another school mom to pick up the photography package from the front office.   I want to reach through the phone and grab her by the shoulders.  “Did you hear me lady?  I’m you!  We have breast cancer.  You could be me tomorrow!  You are one moment away from being in my shoes and then YOU are the woman who’s not in.  One day away from the news, ‘you have cancer,’ and it’s your life that has changed completely.  No, she hasn’t heard.  Not one word.

I understand.  She can’t fathom what I’m saying.  It’s as if I’m speaking a foreign language and she has no recognition.  I remember that feeling learning Danish, watching lips move, but not yet comprehending.  “Bla, bla, bla” and the dots in my head not connecting until finally, magically, one day they did and I understood.  A new world opened up.  She doesn’t know that she was asked to come to my studio, instead of me delivering the expensive gift certificate to her school, because I’ve just had the space of my amputated breasts surgically refilled with implants.  I’ve just been through my 4th surgery in 9 months and I’m still donating to her kid’s school fundraiser.  I’m speaking Danish to her.  “Bla, bla, bla,” is what she hears.  Her life is about appointments and children and racing to the next destination. Maybe she’s balancing a career, a husband and stepchildren.  I am a box on her agenda left unchecked for the day and she is mad.  I know, I raced around like her, too.  I didn’t get the special message either.  The one that said, “Listen more. Read the details, it’s an easier path.”  The one that said, “Pay attention to your choices – life is not later, but right now, this moment.  Each new moment is another right now and then another right now.  Think about to whom and what you give your attention and time.  It’s the only time you have.  It’s Right Now!”  The one that said, “You’re missing your life being pissed off about the parking, lady.”  I know, I was too.­­

 

From beautiful to bald in 4 weeks.  “It could be you,” I think.  How your perspective will shift when your eyelashes fall out and you are too sick to worry about being bald.  Finding a parking place will no longer anger you.  You will be glad you can drive, if you can, and you probably can’t.  Your children’s school will still be as important; however, whether you’re a good committee mom doing your part for the school auction will not.  You won’t make the auction this year.  You’ll be asleep, if you’re lucky.  Or worse, you’ll be sitting on the coach, wide awake from the steroids, in a state of neither this nor that, here nor there.  Can’t sit still, can’t accomplish anything, your mind in a fog from chemo, your bones aching from bone marrow shots, your stomach churning.  You won’t want to go this year, no matter how much you smile.  No matter what you think you could or should be able to do when it’s you that has breast cancer.  Some days you won’t be able to rally and it’s going to be okay.  You just won’t have it in you when you’re 6 weeks into chemo.  Too bald to look lovely, too hot to wear a wig, too tired to give a damn.  But then you’ll suddenly understand and all the “bla, bla, bla” will come together and the foreign tongue will make sense.  You’ll get it.  Wish them luck, the show will go on without you as you realize the world may, too.  It will be okay.  The many small things that upset you before will become much less important.  What will be important?  Your children, your family, your friends.  The people and things you love the most.  A single note reverberating from an upright piano, the afternoon light falling across a friend’s face, a child laughing with abandon…

I’m sorry, there was no parking for you today, lady.  Be pissed off.  You didn’t get the special message.  Maybe tomorrow will be your day.  I hope not.

Self Portrait- Wk31-32 Post final reconstruction & Lymphedema

March 16, 2014

OMG! These photos are from nearly a week ago.  In that time my hand has nearly gone back to normal!  Thank you primary surgeon for confirming that expanders can make lymphedema worse.  I knew it!!  The implants are smaller and there’s more room for fluid to flow. I’m out of this huge blue soft cast and wrapping, except at night, and into a small glove and sleeve.  This is huge!!  THRILLED.  My scars are healing nicely, although a well-meaning friend inquired and then told me his part-time girlfriend has Frankenstein scars from a breast surgery.  Hmm.  He could choose to see them as love lines.  Not very sensitive with words, this friend, though I love him and won’t throw him out with the bathwater.  She should, however.  I bet he doesn’t complain when he’s feeling her up.  I also had an 80-yr-old guy write to me from the newspaper article before the surgery telling me he didn’t need to see my photos, as he knew all about breast cancer from his wife’s ugly scars and how that effects his sex life.  Excuse me, but fuck right off, Grandpa.  Anyone who calls his wife’s hard-won scars ugly can kiss off.  She earned them.  You still have her because of those scars.  Show me a scar that matches mine, and the balls it took to get it, then I’ll listen.  Choose to see beauty even if you have to try hard.

Much happier and no longer in constant pain now that drains have been removed. Drains suck!  Still hurts to sneeze. Trying not to sneeze.  Damn cat, makes me sneeze.

Self Portrait Wk 32
Self Portrait Wk 32

Self Portrait Wk 32

Self Portrait Wk 32

Self Portrait Wk 32

March 8, 2014

These photos are from March 3rd, 5 days after surgery where the plastic surgeon exchanged the rock-hard expanders for softer silicone tear-shaped implants.  It’s 10 days post surgery today and I’m still in pain, although it’s much less than the original bilateral mastectomy where they amputated my breasts and placed the plastic expanders under the chest muscles.  The 2 drains on either side are filtering off the fluid that might otherwise make my lymphedema in my left hand worse. I had 5 of these after the mastectomy.  I have to empty and measure them every 12 hours.  Once they are below 20ML per 24 hour period they can be pulled out.  So far they hover around 24-30 ML, so it may be up to another week.  There are no nerves or feeling left in my breasts now since all of the tissue was removed with the mastectomies.  I cannot feel touch to my breasts or nipples.  It’s all just numb.  Somehow they do manage to itch inside where they are healing, but when I scratch I can’t feel it.  Very frustrating sensation.  I don’t know what cup size I am, although many people have asked.  It would hurt to put a bra over the incisions right now and there would be no point.  These girls aren’t going anywhere.  No need for a bra ever again.  That’s the good news I suppose.  The implants themselves are still settling into place and I have to massage around them so they will drop down a little more.  The concrete curb that went over the expanders has relaxed some and hopefully will continue to fall into a more gradual slope of the breast line.  It still looks weird to me right now. I think these breasts may continue to be much higher and certainly much harder than the my real ones.  Altogether amazing that breasts can be built where there was nothing, however.  My plastic surgeon is a master at her craft.  I am working to get to the point where I accept and embrace these new breasts.  I know I will get there eventually.  Right now that’s difficult, as I would not have done this had I known what I know now.  I want to feel good and go live my life full out instead of spend even more time recovering from surgery.  It will be almost 4 months of total surgery recovery time soon. Self Portrait Wk 32 -1 wk post final reconstruction surgery

Self Portrait Wk 32 -1 wk post final reconstruction surgery
Self Portrait Wk 32 -1 wk post final reconstruction surgery

Self Portrait Wk 32 -1 wk post final reconstruction surgery