Tatted Up

My last pre-rad appointment got moved up to today which means rads will be starting sooner than I had thought. May 31 to be exact. But it’s all good. Get ‘er done, yeah? 

Just like chemo, I was the youngest person in the waiting room by far. I feel like I don’t belong there but I’m sure no one feels like they belong there.  I do love, though, how HGTV is always on the tv while we wait. It’s like a universal love language, bringing us all together.  

Today was X-rays and tattoos. The first guy who brought me back went over my schedule and some precautions. Like don’t wear any lotions on the area that’s being radiated prior to each appointment. Oh and no underwire bras. I said no problem man, I’ve got no boobs. We both laughed way too hard at this. 

Then they sent me back to change into my gown and I headed in to meet Viv. I don’t know if that’s really her name but that’s what I’ll call her. Viv is the bad mama jama who will be zapping me each day. She resembles a massive microscope from freshman year science class and lives in a room called ‘Harmony’. 

The nurses positioned me on the board, arms above my head and told me not to move. They had some nice jams playing on Pandora- some Fleetwood Mac, Jack Johnson, Alicia Keys, Spanish Guitar, Mary J Blige, Crosby Stills and Nash, Billy Joel…. Sting. I had them skip Sting because- no thank you. 

The nurses began lining me up with lasers shooting from the ceiling and the machine. They work in millimeters which means they sometimes had to shimmy me to get me into just the right spot. I chuckled pretty  hard and told them how funny it would be if I still had boobs! Jiggling all around 😂They seemed to enjoy it. The joke, not my shimmy. 

The pens they used to make new marks tickled super bad which made it difficult to stay in the exact same spot. I wasn’t even supposed to take a deep breath because it could screw things up. Have you ever tried to hold in a laugh when it’s super quiet and you don’t want to make a scene? Then you start to make weird fart-like noises with your mouth because holding it just can’t happen? I suddenly felt that way with the pens. And as soon as they told me to just breathe normal, my body was like “oh, yup, now’s the time we need to yawn and really get some oxygen up in here.” Figures right? And then, of course, since I wasn’t supposed to move, I started to itch. All over. First it was the top of my head, then my left eye, then my right eye, my right shoulder blade, left nostril, pinky toe, right nostril…you get it. 

After about 20 minutes, they came in and told me that the machine messed up and they had to restart the computer. This meant, yeah you guessed it, we had to start ALL over. 

Once they finally got all of the X-rays they needed and had the final spots located to line me up, it was time for the tattoos. Those little jerks were way more painful than I thought they’d be. In total, I was given four freckle like marks. The last one felt very Pulp Fiction-y. Stabbed right in the center of my chest. And then I was done! 

I’m so ready to start this part of treatment, I’m ready to let Viv do her thang. Mama’s got things to do, places to go, people to see! 
So I’m gonna get on that. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of the term ‘bucket list’. Basically, I try NOT to think of kicking the bucket. I can’t like it. So instead, I have a list of rad shit I’d like to do- sonner than later. 

For the last two months or so I’ve been craving Hawaii. Maybe I’ve seen Moana one too many times. But hell, that sea, 🎵it calls me🎵. It’s not just Hawaii I need to get to, but France- to tour the vineyards, New York- to meet Hoda and the whole Today Show gang (obviously), Machu Picchu, Sedona, Big Sur, Greece… and then some. But it’s Hawaii that’s really calling me right now. Maybe it’s because relaxing on a warm beach, listening to the waves crash with sweet Hawaiian music playing just seems so therapeutic. I’m visualizing the kids playing in the sand, enjoying a luau as a family, swimming around with some big ass turtles. This urge is something fierce. So to continue with my never ending quest to heal mentally and physically- along with my supplements, yoga, acupuncture, meditation, Drs visits, crystals, visualizations, and so on- I want to brave the flight with two littles, to soak up those healing Hawaiian vibes. 

So, I guess I’ll say this- if you have a bucket list, a rad shit you want to do list, or any other list written on a sticky note somewhere in a drawer, get on it. Don’t wait until something comes and lights a fire under your butt. 
I’m officially adding Hawaii to my comeback tour. 

Comeback tour, wait, what’s that? …. I’ll get into it later. 

Fun fact: because my appointment ran so late, I got to see a beautiful sunset on the way home. 

Pre-Rad Appointment #1

Back to reality today and right back to Kaiser for my first pre-radiation appointment. But it was nice to forget all about the big C for a few days while celebrating our friends getting married in New Orleans. And boy, did we celebrate! I ate (and let’s be honest, drank) my way through The French Quarter and then some, so it’s safe to say my appetite is back and better than ever. Seriously, some of the most amazing food I’ve had in my life!

Coming off of such a fantastic weekend, I feel recharged and high on life. This feeling is unexplainable, not sure if I have written about it before but I’ve meant to. I love the energy I get from being with family and friends, even if only for a couple of hours- their love and positivity gets passed on and it’s powerful! 

But like I said, back to reality. The appointment today was pretty simple. The nurse completed a CT scan so they could see what they are working with- AKA looking at the thickness of my chest wall, getting dimensions and what not. My nurse is 4 year survivor and her sister is 10 year survivor. She was so sweet, comforting and exactly the kind of person I needed to help guide me through this next step. She’s been where I’m going. 

The next appointment, on May 30th, will be a dry run and tattoos based on the CT scan. I think I talked about a mold being used to keep me in the same position for each “zap” but I was wrong. Many facilities do use this method but my Kaiser uses a board situation along with lasers and the tattoos to line me up. I was able to take a picture of the CT machine and board to show what’s up. The machine for radiation will be different but the board set up will be the same. 

When I left my appointment, I threw another seed ball into the open area because sadly, we lost another mama early this morning. I won’t get into it now but something needs to be done about this damn disease. I know you’ll all agree. My previous tosses have not yet sprouted up but there were some beautiful poppy looking flowers all around. They made me feel an overwhelming sense of promise. It began to sprinkle as I drove off and it made me smile, those flowers are getting the love they need. 

Fun fact: I could have slept for days on that weird board because I am so exhausted from celebrating the Fosters but I had a stupid sneaky sneeze that couldn’t come out because I wasn’t allowed to move. I’m sure the nurse was questioning the face I was stuck in. 

Frosted Tips and a Fade 

Last Friday, I had a follow up appointment with my surgeon. She said all looks great! There are a few lumps where my port was but she confirmed they are just scar tissue and should soften over time. I will be seeing her again in 6 months for another follow up. Woot woot! I freaking love her. At my very first appointment, she took the time to explain my diagnosis to me and explained why she wanted to go the route she was suggesting. Unlike the first surgeon I saw. She has eased my fears along the way and I am so thankful for her. She really cares about my wellbeing as well as my family. Again, a badass member of my rad lady posse. 

Dr. Formichella, my surgeon. Wyatt, always looking for his big bro. 💙

Also while at Kaiser on Friday, Harlon and I threw a few of our seed balls. There happens to be an empty lot next to the radiation parking lot and it just seemed like a perfect place for some wild flowers. If all goes as planned, I should see the blooms pop up while I go to daily radiation starting up soon. Reminder: I have my first PRE radiation appointment on Monday the 15th. I will post once I know when actual rads will begin. 

After Kaiser, I took the boys to Nordstrom to pick up my new boobs and bras. I met with Sterling again and she fitted me with some perky new girls. Kaiser covers 2 prosthetics and 3 bras and Nordstrom sews the pockets into any bras I choose for free. What doesn’t Nordstrom do, right? It felt oddly comfortable to be wearing a bra again. These new boobs will be a fun option when I feel up for it. 

Fake nip and all 😜 Even comes with its own carrying case. Fancy like that.

It’s been about 10 weeks since my last chemo and I am feeling really great. Strong and healthy. A bit fucked up in the head but that seems about right, given….everything. Anyways, my hair, brows and lashes are really coming in and I am pumped! Like I’ve said before, losing the hair on my head wasn’t too hard. It was losing my brows that really got me. I felt like an alien if I didn’t fill draw them on. My hair is growing out to be much lighter than before , not sure if I’ll get the signature ‘chemo curl’ though. Still too short to tell. It’s so light, I look like a teenage boy from the 90’s- frosted tips and a fade. But I loved the 90’s so it’s all good! And I’ve been styling it into a bit of a faux hawk which is fun and easy. Who knew I’d love this part so much! 

Left pic: frosted tips and no mascara. Right pic: mascara ✅

Fun fact: no hair/super short hair means that those typically naggy sales people at the mall with hair straighteners and styling crap, finally leave me alone. 😜

Additional Thought

Also, if you don’t follow me on Facebook, you would never know how I accidentally ate a booger yesterday. So, there’s that.

Find the fun in ALL things. Even if it makes you dry heave like a mo’ fo’. 🤢

Love and Loss 

In my last blog, I reminded us all that another day is never guaranteed. This last week was a seriously fucked up reminder. If you follow my Facebook or Instagram, you may have seen that two of the mamas in my group passed away. I was a mess. It made everything so real again. Especially since they both were diagnosed with Triple Negative BC, like me. They were so inspirational, sources of love and light. And will forever be in my heart. 
We all process loss differently. As I age, my processes change. I know several people have been worried about me and how I am handling it all. I am ok. Hurting but ok. I allowed myself time to cry, sit with it all. But now, I am focusing on my healing. Acknowledging my feelings and then making sure I release them because holding onto to the pain won’t benefit me. Or anyone else, for that matter. Instead, I must keep on so that I can share their stories. I want to be a source of support for others like they were for me. And in order to do that, I need to get right here (points to head) and here (points to sky). Feel me? 

When my mom passed, I remember feeling like I didn’t know how I could go on. When my dad passed, the same feelings consumed me. Now, I look for them in any way possible. Songs, birds, butterfly’s, the wind… And I find comfort in know that they really are always with us. Losing these mamas brings up familiar feelings but I feel like I am able to process loss in a more positive way now. 

Yesterday, Harlon and I made seed bombs: balls of clay, potting soil, flower seeds and love. We plan to toss them in places that don’t have a lot of beauty and need a little love, in honor of those who now visit us in different ways. May those who have passed, help nurture the seeds like they did us, when they were on this earth- now in forms of sunshine and raindrops. 

I hope that these seeds will bloom into beautiful flowers, even in not so wonderful circumstances. I’ve never made these before but I believe they will “bloom where they are planted” because they were made with love for those we love. 💜

Exit From the Anger Zone 

I’ve let too much time pass in between posts and now my thoughts are so scattered, so try and hang in there and follow, k?

I’d teetered on boobless tears for a while after surgery. It’s whenever I try on my old clothes or when I try on something at a store that I’m pretty sure will look good and it does not. Well, a couple of weeks ago, it hit me hard and the tears came rushing when I was trying to find something to wear for an outing. I felt so silly for crying. I mean, I should be happy because I’m over here alive, kicking ass and taking names. Yet, my lack of boobs has some stupid power over me. I ate a butt load of Reese’s Peanut Butter eggs to make me feel better that night. I know, refined sugar. But COME ON! I guess I’m not as strong as I often portray. But that’s ok. No one is strong all of the time. I get that. 

What really brought on those tears? That night, I tried on the camisole I got from Kaiser with the “kitties”. I was still in so much pain at that point and wearing the tank was a constant and uncomfortable reminder of how royally fucked up this all is. And I couldn’t hold them back any longer. 

Once I pulled it together, I tried again. My next outfit test was with Knitted Knockers in a t-shirt bra. It was way more comfortable and looked pretty natural. But I knew it wasn’t me. I felt like a fraud. I wore them anyways and even forgot about them a few times. I think I have only worn them twice since. I feel so confident in my shorts and t-shirts or my yoga pants and tanks. But as soon as I try to look less casual, I feel super vulnerable. It’s all just so silly. 

Knitted Knockers

Even with the tears, people often tell me that I am strong and that they “don’t think they could do it”. But really, when faced with with it, and without many other options, anyone one can find their true strength. Especially with the kind of support I’m surrounded with. Though, I have realized lately how lucky I am to have only positive support. I hear many stories of peoples’ friends or family being difficult, unsupportive, and overall assholes. Thanks guys, for not being assholes. I truly appreciate it. 

I saw my oncologist on Tuesday for a follow up. She said she was thrilled with my response to chemo. It made me feel so great to hear her say that, since I had been a little bummed that I didn’t have a complete response. Tuesday also marked the first time, since being diagnosed, that I saw a random pregnant woman at Kaiser and not felt a twinge of anger and envy. I’ve finally let that shit go and it feels good.

Today was my first day back at yoga since surgery and it felt amazing. I still have work to do with my range of motion but it was all good! I also got my first haircut since losing it all. I went to the barber for a clean up because, yup, that stuff is growing in real nice. 😉 

Maybe you can’t tell but I can!! Left is before, right is after my barber shop trip.

Physically, I am feeling so much better. The pain is so minimal and I can do most of the stuff I could before. Mentally, I am feeling outrageously positive and ready to take on my new normal. Each morning when my eyes pop open, I am grateful for another day because we all know- another one is not guaranteed. Let us never forget it. 

A few fun facts about being flat: 

I am able to hug those I love so much closer. No boob sweat. No bra, duh. No scrambling to put a bra on when someone comes to the house. No massage chair shimmy for all to see when getting a pedicure. No potential nip slip when yoga gets a little crazy. I feel lighter and like I could run really fast…. zooooom! 🏃🏻‍♀️

Rads, They Are Coming 

Today was my follow up Radiation Oncology appointment. And I’m sure this will sound odd, but I left pumped. I’m excited. I’m so ready. 

We went over what I can expect as far as side effects: a skin burn, fatigue, a dry cough, other cancers….. umm what? Yeah, the radiation may cause other cancers down the line. Obviously, the benefits outweigh the possible risks but it’s still creepy as shit. So I’d rather not think about it or talk about it. Ok? Ok. Thanks. 

Alright, so the plan is: on May 15th, I will have the first of two prep appointments. Not sure when the second one will be yet. At these, I’ll get scanned or X-Rayed- honestly I can’t remember. Itty bitty tattoos will be marked on me so they know where to line me up in the machine each day. I was also told I’ll have to be able to put my arms above my head while on my back, so I have some serious work to do there. 

After these appointments are complete and they have all the info they need, I will begin my 5 days a week for 5 weeks rads. I’m told that the radiation itself is quick, like 10 minutes, but overall I’ll be there about an hour each day. 

So yes, I am happy that I am almost done with treatment. And it sounds like this will be the easiest part- compared to chemo and surgery. But I want everyone to remember this: while I’ll be glad that treatments will be over, I can’t simply put this all behind me. I am not the same person I was before August 23, 2016. I’ve changed for better…and for worse. I’m not sure if I’ll ever reach a day where I don’t think about C or where I won’t worry about reoccurrence. I mean, the scars will be a daily reminder them selves. This new me will just have to go forward with all I have learned. 

So be gentle. 

A Quick Update 

I feel naked. Not totally nude but like when you forget your phone at home, naked. Like I forgot my bra. But more like I forgot my bra…. with my boobs in it. Turns out though, I’m more self conscious about my Buddha belly than not having boobs. And not having boobs totally accentuates my belly. It’s cool though, once I can, I’ll be working on that. 

John has got to be the best husband. He’s been super supportive through everything and when I asked if he was embarrassed of me, he said something along the lines of “if someone had a problem with it, fuck ’em”. He says that I need to own it and I’m trying. Man, I love him. I have not used any of the ‘kitties’ in my shirts yet, I’ve been flying flat for my outings and haven’t felt any self  consciousness or noticed any obvious stares. And John’s right. Fuck ’em. 

I have phantom boob. A never ending sensation where they once were. Sensation is being kind. It’s a burning and tingling that never fucking stops. Even with pain meds, so I don’t take them any more. The pain in my right arm is even worse. It’s a constant raw/burning feeling that goes down the back of my arm and into my arm pit. The pain makes me irritable and pissy and increases (the pain and pissiness) anytime either area is touched. So, that’s how I’ve been doing. 

I was able to feed Wyatt for the first time on Tuesday. I protected my chest with a pillow and had Val set him on me since I still can’t lift him. It was glorious. Harlon has been a trooper through it all too. For the most part, he understands that mama can’t wrestle and that I have owies. When he first saw my chest, his face was literally this 😧 so I guess it stuck in his brain that he needs to be gentle. 

Today, I had a follow up with my surgeon. All looks to be healing well. The burning and tingling in my chest and arm should go away when the nerves die. Yikes. What I thought was swelling on my sides, is actually left over boob fat. Side boob. I should have rocked that more while I had it. My chest is now concaved, so along with toning my belly, I’ll be bulking my chest. 😜 Really, I can’t wait to get back to yoga. Im ready for a good stretch. Oooohhhh and a massage. 

I have a radiation oncology appointment next week so we will have a better idea when rads will start. Then I will meet with my oncologist later this month for a follow up. 

These babes saw the Easter bunny today and it was a total success 💖🐰🐣

Pathology Report 

I saw my surgeon this morning for a follow up. She removed my drains and for this, I am so happy! But I hadn’t put a lot of thought into this process until the drive to the appointment. The nurse described it as a ‘weird sensation.’ Well, okay…. The doc said it wouldn’t hurt, that it would feel like a worm moving under my skin. Gross. I would say they both were right and so wrong. John wanted to film it. I almost wish he had because it was one of the most freakish things to happen to my body. Ever. And I’ve had 2 kids. 

First she snipped the stitches, this pinched a little. Then the main event. With a quick pull, I could feel a tube, much longer than I imagined was shoved inside of my chest, sliding in a circular motion out of my body. Then I felt weak. Most likely from being completely grossed out. I wanted to cry and puke. Then it was on to the right side. Same shit. Barf. I can’t find the words to describe exactly how it felt or looked. Maybe that’s why the nurse just said it was weird. 

She said my swelling looked normal and that I was healing well. I asked for reassurance- this looked “normal and well??” Yikes. I also asked if it would look better later or if this was my new normal. This is my new normal. 

Onto the pathology report. There were residual tumor cells in the right breast. This means I did not have a complete response to chemo but it’s still good. And they cut those remaining cells out. So, yay! 

Radiation is next. Depending on how I heal, this will begin about 4-5 weeks after surgery and the goal is to take care of any of those residual cells. I’ll be going daily, Monday- Friday, for 5 weeks. 

My right arm is still in the T Rex stage but I was given some exercises to begin ASAP to get me stretched. Those suckers hurt but I will lift my arm above my head again one day, damn it. 

Waiting…. for the worms to exit my chest 😳

Surgery Follow Up Rescheduled 

Yesterday, John removed my bandages. I thought I was ready to share a picture but I’m not there yet. The day will come and I’ll give a warning, as it will for sure make lots of you uncomfortable. I’ve always said I’d be honest… I just have to do it on my terms. 

The bandages had been making me feel extremely claustrophobic and they were uncomfortable. So I took some Tylenol and an Ativan and sat down… for fear of passing out. John removed the bandages away from a mirror. I had him describe what he saw. Where were the incisions and stitches? Was there blood? Was I swollen? What did he think? 

When I finally got the nerve, I stood up and walked towards the mirror. I wish that I could say it was easy to look at. I’m not proud of the first words I said or my first thoughts. Thank goodness for John. He reminded me that I would never say those things to any of my survivor sisters and he was right. Instead, I would see their strength and be proud of them.  I allowed myself yesterday to pout, cry, and be upset. Today is a new day. 

Also today, I was scheduled to see my surgeon for a follow up and to get the pathology report. Unfortunately, my surgeon was held up in another surgery and, last minute (like we were going to walk out of the house soon) we had to reschedule my appointment for Wednesday. 

These drains are driving me nuts so I’m really hoping they can be removed when I see her. They are itchy and they tug on my skin. I also have to “milk” the drains to keep them flowing. Go ahead, puke a little, I do. The area above my incisions is swollen. It actually feels like a thick rubber band runs underneath my arm pits and across my chest. My left arm has a better range of motion than my right. My right side (lympnodes were removed on the right side) is stiff and really uncomfortable. My arm pit and back of arm are numb. I’ve read this is normal. I spoke to a nurse today, I am to keep an eye on the swelling and will go in tomorrow if it increases. 

Sleeping is still a pain. I was able to sleep in our own bed last night which was nice. Having to stay on my back all night is crap. I look forward to my first night sleeping on my side, or hell- let’s get crazy here- my stomach! Then I’ll really be living.