Wednesday, September 27, 2023

15 years: the silicone anniversary

Dear Nick,

When the hospital assigned me a surgery date and time two weeks after my consult, I was relieved.

Then I realized that it was our wedding anniversary!

And then I did math, and realized it was our 15th anniversary! Fifteen seems quite like a lot, doesn't it?

I can't remember if we promised each other sickness and health til death us do part. 

Probably? We went simple but fairly traditional.

Although in truth I didn't actually think about it that way until I really thought about it.

Yes, it's true that I no longer joke about stabbing you in front of you, because it upsets you, but you know I don't fully trust women who don't admit to occasionally feeling this way.

But most of the time I go through life with the approach that you and I will be together until one of us is no longer here in corporal form.

I just didn't think we'd be confronted with more than your deviated septum and Achilles heel business for quite some time to come.

Breast cancer was definitely not on my Bingo card. (I shot the clerk?)

At least neither of us are terribly sentimental about our wedding anniversary. I loved our wedding so much, you'd think I'd be into the anniversary.

I don't think we've ever exchanged gifts for it, have we? Not even a wee vacuum cleaner or bread knife. (I do love my birthday bread knife. Such a good one.)

Still, it seems auspicious, if surgery can be considered so, to do something life-saving on a big anniversary.

A friend recently asked if you were a breast man, and I was like, maybe he'd like to be? But if that were a top priority for a person, I wouldn't be the woman for them.

Still, when I decided to get implants, you did sneak in that the only regret you'd ever heard from friends who'd had implants was that they should've gone bigger.

At which point I was like, "Maude is coming to the plastic surgeon appointment with me."

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous, because it's a big surgery. And I've never had general anesthesia. I've never been intubated.

I saw my dad intubated plenty of times, but those were always under emergency circumstances.

I love my surgeon, and I feel confident that it will go fine. But still.

India asked if I was scared, and I said that what I'm most scared of is not being able to do things for myself. The hospital is amazing, and the surgeons are fantastic.

I asked her what she was scared of, and first she said she was afraid of me losing a boob. I told her that was the whole point. But I'm getting new ones!

She's scared of something going wrong. She's scared of losing me.

I told her that's not going to happen. Because it's not.

Me, I'm scared of not being able to take care of myself. 

Pain sucks, but I can handle it. We're getting Hulu so I can binge Buffy.

But I am so used to doing all of the everything.

My only frame of reference for surgery is my C-section, the recovery from which was horrendous. But since this one does not involve the severing of my abdominal muscles, and because I won't also have a new baby to care for, this should be less traumatic.

Still, and obviously, this is not how I'd choose to spend our anniversary.

In high school, when we did the play Our Town, our parents wept. I played Emily, the female lead, and of course, I thought it was our stellar acting abilities making them cry.

But now I understand that we were just too young to really get it. Adults, who'd lived through so much more than we had, who'd experienced time going by too fast, who'd lost loved ones, felt the message. 

In the last act, Emily, who has died young, has the opportunity to go back for a day and visit loved ones, so she can move on from the living. And she wants to pick a special day. 

The advice she's given is, "Choose the least important day in your life. It will be important enough."

It's easy, for me at least, to find our daily lives prosaic. Sometimes I long for adventure. Something to shake things up.

But then something comes along and shakes things up.

And reminds me that I like the safety and comfort of routine.

I so wish this 15th anniversary could just be a normal day, where you make me tea in the morning, and we text each other our Wordle scores, and you come home late and walk Wanda for the night, and then we sit on the couch and watch an episode of Midsomer Murders with our running commentary.

Instead, we'll be arriving at the hospital at 5:30 am, and I'll be in surgery at 7:30.

When I asked my breast surgeon in the consult if it would take a long time to get on her schedule, she gestured at my chest and said, "Your breasts are very small. It'll take an hour. I can fit this surgery in easily."

Like, with my small boobs, we could squeeze this all in between a Starbucks run and a manicure!

And in fact, my total surgery is 150 minutes. Then a couple hours in the recovery room, and then home. Where you can wait on me hand and foot. Hurrah!

Happy silicone anniversary, sweetie!



Friday, September 22, 2023

Isn't it rich? Are we a pair?

When I told my dear friend Leigh I had breast cancer, and was considering mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, she said, "You get the booby prize!"

She'd gotten in touch about the flowers for my mom's memorial. And I had to be all, oh, hey, I love dahlias and also: I've got a wee touch of the cancer. 

We cried together and then she brought up the booby prize.

You can see why we're friends.

Let me not pretend that I haven't sobbed my guts out, because I've cried so hard I've hyperventilated and retched and nearly fainted.

But apart from that kind of sobbing, so often it's laugh or cry. Two sides of the same coin.

At least, that's what I think.

We did a meditation exercise in yoga teacher training where we had to stare into a partner's eyes and send them loving energy.

I was partnered with this kind, beautiful, truly luminescent young woman. We both started laughing. It started small, and built and built. We shook with laughter. We laughed, and laughed. 

Quietly, not in a disrespectful way.

We kept trying to stop, and then one of us would start laughing again, triggering the other. I had tears of grief streaming down my face at the same time.

It's one of the best, most cathartic experiences I've ever had.


Maude went with me to the plastic surgery appointment.

My breast surgeon got me a last-minute appointment, and Maude and I decided to walk. Since it was a couple miles, I needed to wear sneakers.

It was a beautiful morning, and I put on a pair of bright turquoise capri pants. I think they might've been normal pants when purchased, but my mom lopped them off to capris. Which is a shame, because the color is fabulous, but the length is a little weird. I wear them anyway.

So I donned them, and decided to add new white running shoes with turquoise soles and orange details.

I looked in the mirror, and with these particular pants, they looked like clown shoes.

I turned to Nick. "Do I look like a clown?"

"Yes. Those pants are weird."

And I was all, I *have* to wear a good outfit. At least on the bottom.

Meeting a plastic surgeon is akin to meeting a new hairdresser, really.

I've known my lovely hairdresser so long it doesn't matter what I turn up in, although when I have time, I do try to dress cute, because she appreciates it.

But meeting a new one, I'd try to look like a person who fits the hair I want to have. You know?

So I was running around the house all, "I have to look normal! I can't look like a clown! What if I end up with clown boobs?"

And Maude was all, "Ooh, maybe they could honk when you squeeze them!" 

You might imagine that we went into the appointment in this mindset.

The nurse practitioner complimented Maude on her hair, which is currently blue and aqua. Very mermaidy.

She said though I thought I knew what I wanted, I could change my mind back and forth. She said, "You didn't choose to get cancer. But you get to choose what happens to your body."

This was so empowering.

We discussed implant sizes. I said I'd like to have what I had before two babies sucked the life out of my boobs. And I'd like them up where they used to be.

The plastic surgeon proffered an implant in my proposed size.

Maude put a hand on her breast and held the implant to compare sizing. It seemed totally reasonable.

It was very malleable. Nice and comfortable. It's the gummy kind. I thought it might feel like a gummy bear, but it's much softer.

Obviously, there was more to the appointment. These are the highlights.

When I asked the surgeon if I could take it home, he seemed surprised. "You want to take this with you?"

"Could I, please?"

"Well, you can't take this one, but I can get you another one..."

"That would be great!"

So he left and returned with a bigger, slightly less malleable one that I could take home. He said, "This is different, but you can have it. You really want to take it?"

I said, "Oh, yes! Thank you!" And popped it in my bag before he could change his mind.

Because who would take back an already-bagged boob?

It's nice to hold. Calming You can smoosh it, turn it over. Like a fidget thingy.

I had a house filled with guests last weekend for my mom's memorial service. 

We chatted and passed the implant around.

Sometimes I tuck it into my sweatshirt pocked and carry it around. Kind of like how men play with their whatevers when they're just sitting around.

Hashtag not all men? Because it's true that my sample size is not huge.

But realizing this made me think that if I were a guy, maybe I'd sit around with my hand in my pants while watching TV, too.

It's my emotional support boob.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Although it is true that in the immortal words of Rob Base, it takes two to make a thing go right.

Ever since I got my breast cancer diagnosis, I keep thinking of Ralph Macchio in My Cousin Vinny. 

"I shot the clerk? I shot the clerk?"

I mean, it's been 13 days since the radiologist told me I have breast cancer.

He walked through the details with Nick and me. The oncology addendum gives specific details of said cancer. 

I've now met with two breast surgeons and a plastic surgeon. I've had an MRI.

Still, regularly, I am all, "I have breast cancer?"

Today I turned to Maude all, "Can you fucking believe I have cancer?"

I shot the clerk? 

I already had the practice of going into Rock Creek Park with the kids and yelling. We started doing this in Covid. 

I need to take Maude so we can have a big bellow-fest.

Yesterday morning I asked Nick what he thought I should wear for my breast surgeon consultations.

I did this because when he has something important, I'm always all, "What are you going to wear?"

And he always says something like, "A suit. And a shirt. A tie. And shoes."

So I asked, and he was like, "Something breezy."

I love it when he plays along.

Also: Georgetown breast cancer center gives you a lovely waffle-fabric robe to put on.

Also also: when I told the surgeon about the T-Rex arms post-surgery, she was like, "We most certainly do NOT want you completely immobile! You can get frozen shoulder!"

Which I said was a relief, because I'd been worrying that maybe I wouldn't be able to wipe my own bottom.

She assured me this would not be the case.

Today I had an MRI. My doctor ordered it September 1, the day after I got my diagnosis, and I made the appointment that very day.

So, 12 days ago. And still, as of right before my appointment, my insurance hadn't approved it.

Because, they said, they'd only gotten the request yesterday, and they need 72 hours to review and approve. So they might not cover it.

I didn't ask them why they're a relentless bag of dicks. 

I know why. In America, the only entity that benefits from our private health insurance industry is the health insurance industry.

But I wasn't going to not get the MRI, because it's fucking cancer. And it's the next piece of information my surgeon needs.

So I put it on the credit card, and hopefully they'll reimburse us.

Health care professionals keep telling me to lower my stress level, relax, etc. Everyone except the insurance industry, which is like, let's ratchet up your anxiety at a vulnerable time.

I was nervous about the MRI and also really wondering what would happen, because they said I couldn't eat or drink anything for two hours ahead. Nothing. No water, nothing.

And I was like, they're not putting me under, are they? They'd have said.

But then the morning was hectic and Maude and I rushed from the plastic surgery consult to the MRI appointment and I wouldn't have had time to ingest anything in the two hour window anyway.

I will have to blog about the plastic surgeon appointment. Maybe tomorrow. 

He let me take an implant sample home. It's quite soothing.

At the MRI place they asked me in the paperwork and then again in person if I was claustrophobic and I said no. 

But they asked so many times that I was like, AM I?

Kind of like when you say a word over and over and then you're like, is that even a real word?

Maybe I'm claustrophobic? (I shot the clerk?)

Reader, I am not.

The tech running the machine was lovely, and truly, the whole thing was easy.

The only thing I regret was the music.

Despite the provided earplugs and noise muting headphones, there was still a tremendous amount of noise.

I didn't realize it would be like this.

She asked if I would like some music, and gave me a choice, and I immediately thought of my go-to and said, "How about 80s?" 

But then I was face down, boobs dangling in this big space tube with the clanking and clonking of the machine.

And layered on top was, "I wanna rock right now! I'm Rob Base and I came to get down!"

So if you have to do this, I might go for soothing classical.

I shot the clerk?

Saturday, September 02, 2023

Wake me up when September ends

Dear Mama,

When I was a kid and I had a nightmare, I'd crawl in on your side of the bed. 

I'd wake you up and whisper, "I had a bad dream."

You would always pull back the covers, and I'd snuggle under, safely tucked in against you, shielded by your arm. (The same arm you'd fling in front of me when you braked the car suddenly. Vestigial behavior from pre-seatbelt days.)

That particular feeling of safety, of being ensconced in protective maternal love, love that requests nothing in return, is one I crave so badly right now.

Today is your birthday, and ordinarily, your birthday post would be about you.

This date has loomed large since you left us. Birthdays hurt.

And it's not that I don't miss you, because my gosh, I do. I occasionally smell you as I pass through a room. I cry. 

It's not that I don't think about you and all the things I love about you.

It's just that in the most brutal year of my life, a year I could not imagine getting worse, it somehow did.

I've been diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Because I needed one more club to be in: dead dads, suicide loss survivors, dead moms...

I fully intend to be in the breast cancer survivors club down the road. Right now I'm in the havers club.

The lucky/awful thing is, it's a very popular club. There are lots and lots of incredible women in it. Loving, fabulous women who are generous with time and information.

But still. It's scary. And devastating. 

I don't yet know all the details for necessarily treatment, but I know I'll be having surgery.

I just keep thinking, I need my mama. I really, really need my mama.

You'd hug me and kiss me. Make me food, bring me drinks and snacks, pick up my medication. You'd comfort and love on and distract the kids.

But more important than physical assistance--and I know at some point I will need a tremendous amount--you'd just be here. 

You'd worry about me and love me and wish you could make it all better.

You'd mother me.

Since reaching adulthood, I've not needed maternal comfort more.

I have Nick, of course, and he's going to take good care of me. I have the kids, who are loving and terrific.

You wouldn't believe how much they grew over the summer, both physically and emotionally. Jordan towers over me, and India is almost as tall as I am.

They've become so competent and, while not totally self-sufficient, really heading in that direction.

Who'd have thought we'd be able to make a grocery list and either one of them could run up to the store?

India was concerned about choosing radishes when I sent her yesterday, and I said just to make sure they didn't look like the poor unfortunate souls in The Little Mermaid.

And then she chose nice ones and I made salad.

I've told them both the news, and assured them that I'll be OK. Jordan asked, and I said yes. I will be find.

I'm trying to normalize conversation around it, because we're going to be living with me in treatment for some intense period of time.

Honestly, I don't know what's going to happen. I have consults with surgeons the week after this coming on. 

I'd decided in January that if that biopsy showed cancer, I'd go the most extreme and have a double mastectomy.

Eliminate the potential constant fear of it happening on the other side. Although now that I'm researching, I don't know if that's the approach that makes the most sense.

Obviously, I have to talk to the doctors about risk and benefits to that approach.

Maude told me that a friend of hers took this approach, and for some period of time after surgery, you're restricted from using your arm and chest muscles.

"So," she said, "you basically have arms like a T-Rex for a while."

Which sounds extremely inconvenient. T-Rexes couldn't do anything with those stupid little arms. 

And they didn't even have to wear pants. Or use their hands to eat.

I guess I could hold a sippy bottle in one arm. I have one that's tall enough to hold in my hand wtih my elbow tucked to my ribs, and I can still drink out of the straw.

I just tried.

It's helpful for me to focus on things like that. And I'd rather the kids focus on ridiculous image of me having T-Rex arms than focus on fear of losing me.

I'll feel better once I know what the deal is, and what I need to do.

I know too well that even in huge trauma, I put one foot in front of the other and plod forward. 

What else can I do?

It sucks, it super sucks. But I fortunately have such a loving, generous community. I have recommendations for great doctors.

And the week of my appointments, Maude will already be here. Thank god. And so many friends will be coming for your celebration of life.

It's going to be a party filled with people you love. I've encouraged people to dress joyfully and wear hats. We'll have beautiful music and gorgeous flowers.

I sure wish you could be there.

Happy birthday, mama.