Thursday, April 19, 2012

I Made it to 40!

Yesterday, I got to celebrate my 40th birthday, and it was the best birthday I ever had. Not only did I get a surprise phone call from the Shawnee High School Choir singing Happy Birthday, but I got flowers, decorations, candy, cake, cards, and lots and lots and lots of love.  It made the whole day even more special.

I didn't know I would make it here five years ago.  I was determined to make it, but if determination and prayers helped everybody survive cancer there would be few cancer deaths.  I have become closer to the people I already love in my life, met new friends who kept me sane through the cancer circus, and lost friends to this disease.

I wish I had some awesome words of wisdom I found through the past five years but I don't...I just try to earn every day I get to wake up.

Monday, August 9, 2010

DIEP Flap Surgery for Dummies

I am now 2 1/2 weeks out of surgery and still love my new foob. I had a little bit of post-surgical fogginess and depression from the anestesia that made me question if I made the right decision to go through a tough surgery and recovery for basically a cosmetic reason, and I am now totally comfortable with that decision. I know in the whole scope of cancer and death caused by cancer, a boob is nothing. It was difficult, though to look in the mirror day after day looking at a hole where one of my favorite body parts used to be. Since I had radiation that basically fried my skin and tissue under the skin an implant would be out of the question. Fried skin and tissue no longer stretch without trouble to accommodate a foob. Locally I had two options and one was to take skin and muscle from my back (LAT-flap) or take skin and tissue from my belly (DIEP flap). Trust me, the decision wasn't hard.

I had to wait a year after radiation was complete to allow my skin to heal before the surgery. When it was time to find a plastic surgeon, I already had one in mind: Dr. Anu Bajaj. First let me say that all my doctors could easily go straight to Hollywood to play doctors. For some reason I have a great looking bunch of medical professionals taking care of me. I know it doesn't matter, but I'm gush all the rest of the time about the awesomeness of my doctors. Dr. Bajaj spoke to my SHOUT Cancer Support Group a couple of years ago and was very passionate about helping survivors have a degree of normalacy and finding some happiness after the Big C. She brought pictures of her work and I remember wishing she did my original reconstruction. Not only is she a brilliant surgeon, but she has a wonderful bedside manner that totally puts patients at ease. My surgery was scheduled to take from four to six hours, and I think it was on the outside of six hours. The reason it takes so long is that microsurgery is involved attaching arteries and veins together to feed the transplanted material. According to my family, she looked exhausted when she spoke to them after my surgery.

The only negative thing happened before the surgery. When the nurse was placing the IV in my hand she had a very hard time finding the vein. Because of the lymphadema risk if any part of my left arm is injured I have to use my right arm for all bloodwork, IV's and blood pressure. Anyway...the thought of the nurse forcing my vein to pop up started to make me queasy and I became faint. When I felt a little better I begged to go to the bathroom because for some reason I was afraid I would lose control of my bladder. She walked me to the toilet and the next thing I remember is laying on the floor looking at shoes and wishing everybody would leave me alone and enjoy the coolness that was the tile floor. My next memory is in my bed getting an IV in a different spot on my arm. I think I scared a few people...I haven't passed out since college before I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia.

I remember little of the next 48 hours. I remember waking up in recovery and being very happy to look down and see a foob there. I remember eating ice chips, pushing my morphine button, and watching lots of TV. I was asked to get out of bed to eat the next day and that was about all I was capable of. I don't remember, but I also posted to FaceBook and sent pictures of my new foob to friends and family...something I'm not proud of.

I thought I would put my thought in writing what worked for me just in case I ever need to pass this information along.

DIEP Flap Surgery for Dummies:

Before Surgery:
  • Exercise and eat right. Your body is going to go through lots of trauma and it needs to be in good condition to survive what you are going to do to it.
  • Freeze meals. Unless your caretaker is a cook, you may end up eating a lot of pizza and takeout during your recovery.
  • Clean the house VERY WELL and do laundry. I would love to believe my husband could take over these duties, but no...if yours does, you are very lucky.
  • Put the clothes you will wear after surgery in an easy to access place. Many people recommend front button shirts, but I like v-necked t-shirts two sizes too big. I like to cut the neck out of the v-neck to make more room and easier to put the shirt on. Personally, it is more flattering. I like elastic waist yoga pants.
  • Prepare your nest for after surgery. When you get home you will not feel up to doing much. You need to have the things you want within reach. My nest includes Klenex, the remote control, my iPod, my phone charger, my laptop and a book. Do not try to read anything very intellectual during this time. I'm currently reading the Southern Vampire series.
  • Get your hospital bag ready. Mine was very basic: elastic hairbands, toothbrush/toothpaste, a phone charger, slippers and a lightweight robe. I wish I remembered my iPod. I wore the clothes to the hospital that I wore home: V-neck T-shirt with neck band cut out with elastic yoga pants. You will not need more than this.
When You Get Home:
  • Take it easy. You do not need to resume Mom job. If the house gets messy...who cares?
  • Take stool softeners. If you do not move bowels within a couple of days move to a laxative. Pain killers cause constipation, and the longer it takes the worse it gets. Truse me.
  • Wash your hands and take care not to get an infection. Don't create a nightmare out of something that should be happy.
  • Move onto anti-inflammatories as soon as you can. They will help promote healing and why stay on constipating pain killers longer than you need to? I take Alieve since I only need to take it every 12 hours.
  • Take picutres. It will be nice to see how things change as the swelling decreases and the brusing go away.
  • Take it easy. I know that it is hard. That is why I put it twice.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Reconstruction...I'm back to a pair!

I'm back to a full load again...not my marbles (they're still lost) but "the twins". I had a DIEP flap surgery on July 29. In normal people speak, the plastic surgeon used tissue from my tummy area to build a new breast mound. It is a long surgery because it includes microsurgery connecting blood vessles...I was in the OR from 8:30 to 2:30. I spend 48 hours in ICU because the staff needed to monitor the new breast and make sure it took. I spent another day in the hospital to make sure things were going well and have been home getting better every day. When I came out of surgery, I had four drainage tubes: two from the breast and two from my abdomen. I left the hospital with three, and now have only one tube. I get to wear a very unsexy and uncomfortable surgery compression garment for six weeks.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mending Bridges

I've had a wonderful spring. Although I hate testing season, it went by faster than normal and we've had another graduation and celebration of the future for our students. We've had another addition to our family, Miss Tiffany. She has had a tough life and was kicked out of her house just before her nineteenth birthday. She has been a blessing to us and it is a joy having her in our lives.

Angel is now a mother of a beautiful little girl named Alexis Ann named after her Aunt Lexie. We have been in contact through the telephone and FaceBook and I have got to meet her baby girl. Time heals all wounds and we've moved on from the pain and want to be a part of each other's lives. Getting back in touch with each other has been a very good thing for both of us.

In other news I'm having a big reconstruction surgery on July 29th. It is called DIEP Flap reconstruction and in short it takes belly fat and skin and makes a new breast out of that. (I *know*!!!) I will spend the first night in ICU to make sure the flap isn't rejected. I will probably spend four nights in the hospital and have four to six weeks of recovery.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Rest In Peace, Sharla

One of my beautiful friends, Sharla Schooley passed away last week. Her Celebration of Life was today, and was as beautiful as she is. She has two beautiful boys, and her cancer was found when she was pregnant with her youngest, about four years ago. She had the type of personality that made every person who she came across feel like one of her closest friends, and I had the pleasure of walking on her brother's team, Sharla Schooley's Angels, when I walked the 3-Day Walk. The picture is of the OKC girls in Dallas at the Young Survival Coalition Conference in 2009. Sharla is in the do-rag. Her smile was contagious, and her warmth was inviting. She was a woman of true faith, and her funeral today was a testimony of her life. God Speed, Sharla. I miss you!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Sky Is Crying

There is a song of sadness by Stevie Ray Vaughn named "The Sky is Crying" that names my mood on a beautiful, sunny day. My Uncle Ray passed away yesterday morning. My heart hurts, especially for his wife and children. I can't imagine their pain.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Uncle Ray

Anyone who knows me know how much I hate cancer. I don't hate it as much for me as much as what I have seen loved ones go through when our bodies betray us on a cellular level that can kill us. My Uncle Ray has been dealing with leukemia for a while now and his immune system as well as the rest of his systems are showing major signs of wear and tear and he is now in the ICU with a ventilator. He has been in and out of ICU during his time in CancerLand, but this is scary as hell, and it is a time for prayer. Please keep him in your prayers.