Thursday, March 29, 2012

From OBB to NoBB

Just a quick post op check in with everyone. So here is how yesterday played out.

Alarm was set for 7:00am but my nerves and a garbage truck woke me at 5:45am! Nice start. After some yoga, I felt oddly calm and relaxed while we prepared to head out the door. Knowing our little monkey was tucked away at her grandparents having an absolute ball and most likely eating ice cream for breakfast helped ease our worries. We then headed the 10 mins down the road to the hospital and made our way to the Day Surgery Unit. Having been there twice before, I knew the ropes and what was the come. It was so nice to see the three same nurses who had looked after me the two previous operations. They greeted me like old friends and it instantly put me at ease. They said it was great to see me but that they didnt like that they had to see me under these circustmances to which I couldnt agree with more.

Next up was changing into the highly attractive hospital outfits and a final goodbye to my old leftie friend in the mirror. Then waiting...lots of waiting. I was starving and nauseous at the same time which was a fun combination. I signed off the deeds to my boob in the name of research and had my pre consult with my surgeon. It was so nice to have someone I knew talk to me as my previous surgeon had been alittle too direct for my liking. Of course this surgery was much more straightforward and they assured me that the recovery would be much better.

Finally it was time to go in. Deep breath!! I walked in and there was a handful of green clad people running around in green masks prepping. It is always so bright in the operating suite - almost like a sports stadium at night. I of course briefed the anaesthetic nurse about my IV anxiety but she brushed my worries off. As I lay there and they fiddled and missed my vein (great start), just like the last time - the enormity of the situation hit me. As did the tears. I started crying but in that way where you are trying so hard to stop. A nurse came up to me and asked if they could do anything for me. My answer "No I will be ok but please lets start as soon as we can." I took one more glance downwards at what would no longer be there when I was awake. Oh the sacrifices we make to stay alive!

I remember having a very vivid dream about my daughter and then quite literally being pulled out of my narcosis back to reality. I was back in the recovery room and it was over. I could immediately feel the absense on my left side and that something was missing. I had truly gone from OBB to NBB. The nice thing was that I felt much better then the previous surgery which was a nice surprise. I was fussed over by my husband and the nurses which was nice and we chatted through most of the afternoon. They also made sure I was in the least amount of pain possible and didnt skimp on the painkillers!

Now I did have a special visitor towards the end of the day which touched both my husband and I. One of the breast surgeons I first met in February (we both couldnt believe our paths hadnt crossed before as I was quite well know on the breast and endochrine surgical floor!), had been taking special care of me. She always took as much time as I needed to explain everything, she called me personally as soon as she got test results and she genuinely seemed to care about me and my situation. She was originally going to do my surgery but had a last minute switch due to a course she had to attend. Well this surgeon (and we know how busy surgeons are) took time to come from her course to visit me in recovery to make sure I was okay. She also brought with her a gift she had brought back for me from the European Breast Cancer Conference in Vienna the following week. I had spoken to her about my concerns over how to eventually explain to my daughter about the whole cancer bit and she clearly remembered this. She had brought me a childrens book written by 6 women who had had breast cancer that helped children understand the situation. I was so touched as was my husband. This is definitely going above and beyond and it made us feel so special. Now I dont know whether this would happen in many other countries where healthcare is much more like a business. I feel so lucky to have met and been looked after by some truly amazing people. They are the ones who have the power to make you feel safe, ease your worries and just be there when things are rough. And for that I am eternally grateful.

So in terms of my recovery, today I am more fragile then yesterday as the local anaesthetic wears off and most things are challenging for me. I am already impatient though and just want to be myself again. So in the meantime I will entertain myself with trashy tv and the Daily Mail gossip section.

Thank you again for all your phone calls, emails, texts and facebook messages. I read them all and appreciate the support from around the world.

So I have officially transitioned from OBB to NoBB but I am of course still me - though perhaps a little lighter!

PS: If you havent already checked out Aprils issue of Foreldre og Barn please do as there is a wonderful article about my cancer story. It is only available for print in Norway and is written in Norwegian so google translate will be needed for most of you! I hope to scan a copy here for those who dont have access to it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

My Mommy Has No Boobies

"While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about." Anonymous quotes

I have started and stopped a number of blog ideas this week and have had trouble settling on just one coherent train of thought. I am tired this week and my body is hurting which is never a good thing. Like I have written a hundred times before – pain signals concern, pain could be my evil nemesis knocking on my door again – no pain is ever nothing. But I do hope mine is nothing and I am instituting the 2 week rule. If it hurts for more than 2 weeks then it is worth a look see. For now I need to just relax.

My blog is inspired partly from a devoted blog reader and person I have known since I was a tiny little person. She wrote me an email following last week’s post and told me about a memory she had of me as a child. I won’t go into exhaustive embarrassing detail as it is a personal story but it was about a time she was babysitting me and my toddler curiosity prompted me to make quite a funny and direct remark about a certain body part of hers. Yes we are talking about the boobs people. When do I not really? My life is defined by those two lumps of fat these days. Well it got me thinking about how smart and observant children are. They rarely miss a trick and often tell it like it is or how they see it. My own daughter has become increasing interested in her own body parts and others people too. She is talking about them and pointing them out – in the privacy of our home of course! I realized that after next week, she will also realize that there is something different about her mama. I don’t think she knows that I am different already as she really has nothing to compare it to but she will be exposed to more and she will notice soon enough. How will I deal with that question when it comes? I can see it know – a full blown little people discussion at daycare about peepees, bumbums and boobies and my monkey blurting out that her mama has no boobies! I used to dread the time I would be asked to explain the birds and the bees but suddenly I have to think about how to explain cancer to my child? How did we get here?

I know she isn’t close to ready in terms of being able to understand it and I honestly don’t want her to. I always said that if I had to get cancer young while I was a mother then I picked a good time. She wasn’t so tiny that being away from her would break my heart or hurt our early bond but then she also wasn’t big enough to understand what was happening and will likely never remember any of this. But now I am thinking a lot about how to deal with this issue when it eventually arises. I want to maintain her innocence as long as I can but I also want to be the one to talk to her about these sorts of things. I mean who knows when she will jump on Google – seeing as she can maneuver the Ipad better than me already. So if anyone else has been there before me please send your pearls of wisdom. From what I have read it is important to never lie to kids and provide information but leave out the exhaustive details. It will only confuse them. So I guess I will do just that. Tell her that because mama loves her baby and pappa so much she had to get rid of some icky stuff that wasn’t good for her so she could be happy and healthy for them both. Easy in theory right? It is a delicate balance seeing as my own experience has its own impacts on her life later on. I don’t want her to afraid. We already have an utterly horrific conversation to have much later down the line which I am already dreading and that will be hard enough so for right now I think I want to keep things as light as possible for her. At the end of the day, we just want to protect our babies and just make everything right in their worlds.

I even feel like she is already picking up on things already this week. For the first time ever, she has told me the last few days that she wanted to stay home and not go to daycare. I almost teared up when she said “Mama – Ida home.” What was worse was that I didn’t have the physical capacity to stay home with her. I know most people would tell me that I am looking into things too much but maybe she is sensing both my husband and my own anxiety and worry over what will happen next week. Maybe on some level she knows something is going to happen and that she will be away from her mama for a while. I don’t know but what I do know if that I am going to make the next few days matter for her. It will be non- stop quality time with mama and there will be dancing and there will be cake! Lots of it!!

So this might be my last post as OBB (I am keeping the name cuz it is cool) so if I don’t check back in before operation day please send all your happy and positive thoughts my way around 10am next Wednesday morning. As each day goes by, I am growing more afraid of going through it all again. The waiting game is a real killer and I have never been the patient type. But I have learned over the past year that the things I am most afraid of never seem as scary after the fact. It is the build- up that is the hardest to swallow. On the upside I will get lots of really good drugs so I can dance with the unicorns up on the clouds up in the sky. Will write more when I have made my descent!

Your OBB

Friday, March 16, 2012

Goodbye old friend

I should have been on an operating table yesterday morning. I should have been in a deep narcotic sleep blissfully unaware of what was coming next. But here I am this morning doing what I do every day and sitting in front of my computer thinking about what to write. Seeing as I got a very bad flu last week my surgery date of yesterday was moved to March 28th so yesterday instead passed by quietly. Now I am hoping to have a week or so of rest and relaxation while my body gains strength before it is beaten down to ground zero again. It is funny that nearly a year ago, I was in the exact same situation and was waiting for the same operation to happen. But a year ago, I was much more innocent and na├»ve about the whole thing. I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know what to feel and I didn’t know how things would be after. But now I am a veteran of the game which brings with it both positives and negatives. I know I can get through it but I also know that there are about a million other things I would rather do. I remember that morning so clearly – it was early and I was so hungry!! I was so cold and my legs were shaking while I tried to flip through a magazine I didn’t even understand. I remember the surgeon coming in to talk to me before and what he said to me by accident that made me so scared. I was already scared but his word translation mix up didn’t help the situation. “What is so exciting about your cancer is that it is aggressive.” Oh really? Exciting…not what I would call exciting by my definition. New dress? Exciting. Salary increase? Exciting. Tropical holiday? Exciting. Cancer? No way in hell. It really shifted the mood of the room and hearing out loud the scariest aspects of my case really made me want to throw up. But I didn’t. I tried to keep it together. I managed to stay intact until I was lying on the crucifix table (I don’t know why they let you walk in and lie down on that thing – why can’t you be asleep?). It makes you feel like Frankenstein getting his arms sewn on. Creepy! As the nurse tried to get the IV needle in and I told her how I hated it so much, the tears started to flow. The reality and full impact of the situation suddenly hit me. What was happening was happening now and I had no choice in the matter. I remember telling them to please put me to sleep now so the pain could stop.

So I will go through the same motions again and this time I know what to expect. Or perhaps I don’t? At least there won’t be any suspense at the end of this one. No lymph questions to be answered. But how weird is it to remove a perfectly healthy part of your body and not by accident? I never had any doubt or indecisiveness over this surgery – there was no choice. But suddenly now that I am so close to it, I am becoming quite melancholic over the whole thing. Even though I was OBB, I still had one breast that allowed me to maintain some sense of my feminine form. Something to remind me of the woman I was. But now there will be nothing but blank space and scars. Even with reconstruction which will happen later on, it will never be the same. It will never be the way it was and I find that really quite sad. These things I took for granted for so long, and who I think were quite a spectacular pair, will now simply be immortalized by a few saucy bikini shots taken on various summer holidays over the years. But I was thinking though perhaps this might improve my golf game seeing as there wont be anything in the way of my swing? Here`s looking on the bright side…

A funny thing happened this week – one of my surgeons called me to confirm my earlier request to donate my breast to research. I had figured I didn’t have any use for it so why not give it to something that might help advance breast cancer research. She asked whether I still was ok doing this – to which I replied of course as it wasn’t like I was going to let it sit on my mantle in a jar of formaldehyde (seriously gross!). She said great and that they would need to organize transport for my breast. I told her I only wanted first class for my friend! No cargo class please. We both laughed and she said it was so good that I could still find a reason to find humor at a time like this. Well what choice do I have? I have had those moments when I have cried and they have been often but it feels so much better to laugh. To laugh at my VIP boob being taken by chopper across town!

So I will try to enjoy my last week with my leftie friend before she heads off to the big bra in the sky.


Monday, March 12, 2012

A Confession

Ever since I was little, I have been someone who worried and was pretty much scared of everything. I still remember that Halloween so many years ago when I went to my neighbor`s house (literally next door) to watch scary movies and had to call to ask my dad to meet me halfway at the hedge. I like to chalk it up to an active and creative mind; others may tend to classify it as neurosis. I have been thinking a lot about fear and what makes me scared which is no new theme in this blog. I thought that maybe if I wrote everything down it might make it just a little less scary. Rocket science concepts here on a Monday morning eh! I am realizing how destructive fear can be and also how easily it can be transferred onto the people closest to us. I had conversation with my mother while I was visiting her about my obsessive fear over personal safety and where it came from. This began when I was very little when I would lie awake at night mapping out different escape routes through the house depending on where the intruder came in. Not normal child thought patterns and it wasn’t like I was living in a war torn country where bombs and invasions were part of the daily landscape. I grew up in a nice and safe suburb where the kids played outside day to night, where you could walk to the store by yourself for a candy bar and where bad things rarely if ever happened. We never even had a house break in and I was never involved in any traumatic events. So where did this come from? This fear that would keep me awake at night. Well my mother had some interesting things to share with me on this one. She grew up in Hungary and witnessed the Soviet invasion of 1956 when things literally fell into chaos overnight. She lived through the bangs on the door in the middle of the night when they dragged people away into the dark, never to be seen or heard from again. She thinks that she possibly projected this trauma and fear over personal safety onto me – subconsciously of course! She would never knowingly want to traumatize me in any way and she is a psychologist as well! It got me thinking about me and how I process and project my own fears especially given there is a little sponge the size of a two year living and breathing my every word 24/7. What am I passing onto her without even realizing it? I don’t want her to lie awake at night scared of what might happen in the dark, I don’t want her to be afraid of every disease in the world, I don’t want her to be afraid of big dogs, and I don’t want her to be afraid to live life sometimes un-carefully because that is really when you experience the real juice of life. I think there are enough things for her to worry about that I can’t change so why not lessen that burden for her and be extra conscious of what I am passing onto her. It might be good for me too.

So here is a little list of what scares me:
1) An intruder coming in through the window in the middle of the night – fairly self-explanatory.
2) Something bad happening to my husband or daughter or anyone I love.
3) Ghosts (for those non-believers I have a couple good stories to prove otherwise)
4) Big dogs – if they can tackle you, you are in trouble.
5) Rabid squirrels (thank you Lara for creating this one for me when we were like 7)
6) Snakes – can’t even look at a picture of one without feeling nauseous.
7) Dying before I am ready to go – a fear I try to manage every day.
8) Any movie or TV show involving serial killers in cities where the sun never shines!!

So now that I have written my list I realize it isn’t too long (I am sure I missing out on some key points) but it helps to be aware. Aware of what I am potentially passing onto other people who are fresh canvases with the world at their fingertips. I don’t ever want fear to hold my daughter back – I gave her wings when I gave her life and I want her to fly.

Now for some reason lately I have been trying to scare myself. And here comes the confession – My name is OBB and I have been internet trawling for all things cancer. I had been so good and disciplined for so long to not read too much about my diagnosis, as the tiny things I had read (by accident) had forced me to pop a valium from the palpitations I got. And after coming across a terrifying statistic in a book a month or so ago, you would think I would have learnt my lesson. Sadly no. Perhaps I am being a little sado-masochistic or maybe it is just morbid curiosity? I don’t know but I know it needs to stop. I look for other breast cancer blogs that might inspire me but often find old blogs of people who have since earned their “pink wings” which only depresses me or news stories about people having cancer. Because these stories are there – Cancer is touching everyone in the world and much of it is news worthy. There seems to be someone famous dying of or being diagnosed with cancer every day. I even was shocked to see the BRCA gene addressed in last week`s episode of 90210! So why this sudden obsession with the dark passenger? Maybe it is time to start to get out there and work again. I clearly have too much time on my hands and it is becoming dangerous. I do feel better telling you all about my little confession as seeing it written out makes me realize a) how unproductive this activity is b) how it is something I can so easily alter and change c) fear is not going to make me happier or healthier. So there will be a cancer ban in my house this week and hopefully for many weeks and months after. Anything malignant please stay out of my way. I have some very important living to do.