Gratitude and $22,000! That’s what together you raised during the FUNdraiser on 11/15/14 and surrounding month to help pay back some my breast cancer costs. Thank YOU is only the beginning of what I could say and how I feel. I was (and still am) so overwhelmed by the support, love, generosity that, perhaps the first time in my life, I’ve had to put some of my emotions into boxes as I could not process them all at once. The photo below caught the moment when that happened during the special appeal part of the auction. Nearly 200 people came out and my heart simply got too full and could hold no more. I didn’t know that could happen. What an unusual situation to have so much goodwill coming in at one time. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. I could only watch, from a distance outside of myself, and try to hug you if I could that night. I am now beginning the process of writing thank you notes and emails one at a time. I’m realizing that each little box of emotion I set aside holds what I feel about each of you who has been there for me, in one way or another, this past year and a half. I open the little box with your name on it and look inside to find a world of feelings for you and acknowledge what you contributed, in the special ways you could, with the gifts that are your own. This is truly an amazing process for me. To take the time each day, as I can emotionally handle it, to acknowledge you within myself by simply sitting with what you mean. Certainly, your notes and emails may come late at this rate. I move like a slug right now, enjoying my slow journey. And an apology to those I will miss completely as so much of my time was foggy during chemo, 5 surgeries & the chronic migraine. I simply don’t remember all of the things you did and all of the people who helped. I do a little meditation in the mornings and thank all of the ones I don’t remember. So for now I just try to sit with my tiny boxes each day, with the names of those who were written down scrolled across the top, and open them up as little jewels I can take out and shine in the window light to appreciate fully, as I let it sink in, just what a difference your piece has made in my world. Photos by Paige Stoyer and Diego Diaz
Please join Kimberli, her family, friends and clients as we celebrate recovery from breast cancer! See you there as well as back in the studio soon!! Yes, she’s taking select appointments for holiday photos now as well. 503 234 8111 More info & tickets https://friendsofkimberli.com/fundraiser-111514/
Photo by Colleen Sparks Fall 2013, Dress Sophia Chang, Makeup Kirstie Wight
Tomorrow I will have my 5th & hopefully final surgery. 11 months with a little beast called breast cancer. What can you do for me? First, put on your red lipstick, the one my grandma said would make you feel better. It does. Then put your hands on your boobs and squeeze. Go ahead, cop a good feel! Guys, ask your wives and girlfriends to do it, too. Volunteer to help. Promise to do a breast exam today. You know your peaches better than the doctor who sees you once a year. Better than the mammogram that didn’t see mine. Invite your officemates and neighbors, call your sister and mom. Everybody touch your boobies today!
PS – post your red lipstick smiles on my FB page as well! I want to wake up knowing you did it.
I’m still documenting myself weekly through the 1-year mark to be used in a final project, but will not longer post them weekly. I’m not changing that much anymore expect my hair is getting longer. I’ll compile them all in one large print for the art show in the future, or a layout in a book.
They are starting to look like real boobs! Pain is decreasing, swelling in hand has gone down, overall much more happy. Extreme tightness of connective tissue all along left side is getting better. I can lift my arm now!
The scars under my breast, in my armpit (lymph nodes) and along my sides (drainage tubes) are healing and becoming lighter. I will report a better image at a later date. They are actually more visible than this one shows, but much better than I expected them to be.
The “curbs” that once came up so high with the expanders in have now fallen and softened with the permanent implants in place. Thank god!! Note that when you flex your chest muscles, however, there is still a strange little separation at the top you can see in the detail pic above. This will not go away, or so I’m told. Not a big deal and okay with me.
I felt like hell in the photos from Wk 24. See the big bruise on my stomach. That’s from a shot to shut down my ovaries. The shot itself did not cause that, but the shot to make it not hurt did. Done with that one! It hurt much more than the real injection.
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.
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.
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.
My treatment plan has been changed up completely due to new information. I have my final reconstruction surgery in 5 days. No radiation now. Lymphedema still raging. I’m very upset by new developments and still can’t do much writing due to left hand being in a huge Pillsbury Doughboy glove for lymphedma. So frustrating! I’m taking meditation classes, breathing, exercising, crying, laughing, spending time with family and letting it all sink in. I will be SO happy to get these expanders out and hopefully be finished with reconstruction. Perhaps the hand swelling will also go down. Cross your fingers and make a toast to softer boobs and a normal size hand.
The scars are fading!
Did you develop lymphedema in your hand or arm after breast cancer AND before radiation? Evidently this is pretty uncommon, and yet I have it. I’m supposed to do radiation still (now postponed by one more month), which is known to cause damage that can cause lymphedema. I’m trying to find others who had it prior to radiation to see if it made them worse. Apparently, the are no research studies on this. I am in a huge soft cast from fingertips to shoulder. Typing is difficult! Send me an email via Contact page please.