Archive for the 'reconstruction' Category

03
Jun
09

I’m being deported on Friday

I reminded Brian that my appointment with the surgeon to have my chemo port removed is on Friday afternoon, and he said, “Oh, you’re being deported.”

This time, perhaps because the port went into the same place and there was scar tissue built up, I haven’t noticed it too much. The first time, it was uncomfortable, and I couldn’t lie on my right side at all for most of the time I had it in.

Also, last time, after I was done with the chemo, I couldn’t just have the port taken out in the usual office procedure – I was on warfarin at the time, so the surgeon would only do it in an operating room. So I ended up having it removed when I had my reconstruction/ovary-removal surgery.

For some reason, I’m a little nervous about having it removed in office, and totally concious – but lots of people do, so I’m sure it’s not a big deal. It just seems as if, when you’re taking something out of one of the major veins, that it *should* be a big deal. Even knowing that they do angiograms and other procedures where a vein or artery is entered under non-operating-room conditions doesn’t really make me less nervous.

I faced major surgeries with less nervousness, so I’m not sure why this bugs me. On one hand, I’m looking forward to getting rid of it, because it is nearly the last thing related to having cancer that I still have to deal with – the other thing being the anti-hormonal pill that I have to take for the next five years (and the quarterly follow-ups with the oncologist, and the yearly bone-density scans, and the – oh, never mind). On the other hand, I think there’s a superstitious part of me that is afraid that shortly after it’s removed, I’ll find out I have cancer again. It was only three months between the port being removed and finding the lump this last time – but then, it was only three months between my reconstruction surgery and finding the lump; three months between having my ovaries removed and finding the lump; three months from starting the anti-hormonal treatment to finding the lump.

But I could also say: it was three months between flying down to visit my mother-in-law and finding the lump; three months between having my first bone density scan and finding the lump; three months from our eleventh anniversary to finding the lump.

Intellectually, I know all of these things are unrelated to getting cancer – that doesn’t stop me from having irrational fears.

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26
Apr
08

April 26, 2008

Not a lot going on the last couple weeks – I was down on the 18th with a headache that was as bad as a migraine, but was different from the way I usually experience migraines. It actually started on the night before, and kept me awake most of the night – I even took some of my left-over pain pills from the surgery, and they didn’t touch it at all. It eventually subsided to a bearable level Friday evening, but lingered through Monday, more like a tension-style headache.

This week, I worked late most nights making up the time I missed on the 18th – I have been extremely tired all week. Once I get home from work, I need to wind down, no matter how tired I am, so even though I was tired enough to want to sleep, I wasn’t sleepy. This meant that I ended up going to bed very late, and not able to sleep in much. So today I am lolling around in my sweats and slippers, reading, writing, beading, maybe napping.

Tomorrow I want to go to the Art & Elegance in Beads show at the Oregon Convention Center – I am particularly interested in finding some focal beads – typically they sit around for a while and tick around in my brain until I come up with a plan to use them – there’s not usually a specific thought process on “What am I going to do with this?”, but I’ll see something in a magazine or online, or even in person at a store, and it will trigger the thought of a particular bead I have, and I begin designing something. Sometimes, though, I just buy some beads that will go with a particular focal bead, and just sort of make something happen with them. Of course, then there are the projects for which I specifically choose a pattern and follow the supply list religiously – usually so I can learn a new technique. I have more projects than I know what to do with.

I also have a sort-of sculptural diorama project I’ve been contemplating, involving some carved animal-shaped stones that came in a surprise package I ordered from Fire Mountain Gems – I’ve gotten some strands of stone-chips to use for the project, but I haven’t been able to figure out what to use as the base of the diorama. My mother-in-law saw a shell-shaped bowl and suggested it (the theme is ocean-related), and it hit me that a plate or platter of some form would be perfect for the base. So now I have to start keeping an eye out for the perfect platter to use – I have to get out more, obviously, because I’m not going to find it just going between home and work ;-}

My weight started back down again – I’ve been really working hard, especially this week, to get back on track. It can be frustrating, when I know I’m following the plan closely, to have little movement, or even to gain a little. But so far I’ve managed not to fall into the trap of giving up when I have a bad weigh-in. My previous weigh-in was two weeks ago, and I went up; I missed the 18th because I was sick (but my weight didn’t seem to have shifted at all, at least according to my scale at home); so this week it was a pleasant surprise to find out I’d gone down 3.4 pounds for two weeks. I got an “Ooo” (an *impressed* “Ooo”) from the group when I mentioned that this had included a meal at The Melting Pot. My total lost so far is 15.4 pounds, and I’m within 2.2 pounds of my first mini-goal of losing 10%. I hope to achieve that in two weeks. This drop also meant that I had to recalculate my daily points – I was just getting used to the relatively new level of 22 points per day, and now I’m down to 20 points per day. That means I have to eat more 0 point snacks (veggies, veggies, veggies!) and really focus on planning my meals so that I don’t get taken by surprise. I could save points by giving up my half-and-half in my coffee, but I’d rather give up so many other things, except maybe chocolate. . .

Another thing I need to work on is increasing my activity. I bought the Weight Watchers pedometer that calculates how many points-worth you walk, and because my job is so sedentary (pretty much sitting in front of the computer, typing all day), I rarely even make it to the level where I start earning one point – how sad is that? I’ve been trying to get out of the office for a walk, at least when the weather is not completely uncooperative. The week before, I was very good about getting out for a walk with Robin after I got home from work, but with the late nights last week, I didn’t get out once. The office building where I work has just added a fitness room, free to the building tenants, that opens up for use on Monday, so I’m going to try to drag myself into work an hour early to see if I can get some workout time in – I am so not a morning person!

The other day, I had the odd experience of being surprised at remembering that I have had cancer. For the first time in a long time, it wasn’t an ever-present background thought, or being kept as a focus of my attention through pain, fatigue, lack of hair, having to take time off for doctor appointments, or being limited in what I can do physically. What a weird feeling – getting back to “normal”.

Julie

14
Apr
08

April 14, 2008

Friday was disappointing because my weight was up – only 0.6 pounds, but still. . .

Friday was great because we had beautiful weather, and I had to leave work early for a doctor appointment, so dang! I had to lower the convertible top. I hate it when that happens ;-}

Saturday was *hot*. I had to put the top down Saturday, too. Plus I went to a trunk show at Beads at Dusti Creek, and found some brilliant bargains, and have all sorts of new beading projects to work on. Dang.

Robin got a couple really good walks this weekend – on Saturday we went with the poodle and her mom to Bethany Lake park, and the only problem there was that it was firmly dusk coming back, so the gnats and mosquitoes were rising. We saw a miniature Australian Shepherd – I’d never heard of them before, and thought she was a puppy, but she was about three years old. Robin was intrigued, but didn’t stray from his poodle-love. On Sunday, we walked through the greenspace park north of our neighborhood (again with the poodle and her mom), and got to practice not freaking out on the busy street when cars come up from behind. We’re getting better about that ;-} Our next-door neighbor Arno, who’s around 5 or so, came over Sunday to ask if Robin could play, so they ran around the front yard, only it was hard to decide which one was chasing the other – I think they both thought they were in the lead.

I also power-washed part of the driveway – it is filthy, and had moss growing on it. It wasn’t too hard on my arms, but I realized too late that I was bending forward just slightly most of the time, and it made my back problems act up. I took an Epsom Salts bath when I came in from the yard, and I’ve been stretching and focusing on my core-strength exercises, trying to get it to clear up – I’ve also used an ice pack periodically. Unfortunately, I can’t take any anti-inflammatories, because of the blood thinner. I’ve got one month to go on that – I will be very happy to be done with the whole blood-clotting thing. But Brian gave me a nice massage last night, and that helped a lot. As long as I remember to get up and walk around periodically during the day at work, it seems to be maintaining, and not getting any worse.

Not much else to update – this was my second weekend after starting back to work, and I was not nearly as exhausted as I was on the first weekend. I still get tired, and my evenings after work consist of dinner and some reading, but I definitely see improvement in my stamina.

Interestingly, I don’t think I had a single hot flash today – either that, or I’m getting so used to them that I don’t notice them – nah, I definitely notice them!

My hair is really getting an attitude – it thinks it needs to be very curly, but it’s so short that it pokes out all over rather than laying flat. I don’t think I could get it to do this if I tried – oh, the wonders of chemotherapy! I see the plastic surgeon on Thursday for my 7-week check-up on the reconstruction. There’s still some swelling, but for the most part, I think he’s going to be ready to release me to doing whatever I feel like with lifting, etc., after one more week.

A reminder – there’s still time to join our walking team for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event on May 10. We’d love to have you walk with us – the link takes you to my page where you can either sign up to walk with the team (you don’t have to be a coworker – all friends and family are welcome), donate online, or print out a form to mail a donation in. There have been several extremely generous donations, and in addition to making a donation, my employer, Schrodinger, is buying our team t-shirts for the employees who sign up to walk. I still feel a little overwhelmed by how many people are showing their support by either walking, donating, or both. Thank you all – and know that as well as my gratitude, you have the gratitude of those who benefit from the American Cancer Society’s research, even if they can’t thank you in person.

Julie

21
Mar
08

March 21, 2008

Had my second follow-up with the plastic surgeon yesterday – after talking to him about my concerns regarding the right breast, we’ve agreed to wait five months before making any decisions about whether there is a need to try any corrective measures to even it up and potentially reposition it.  I wasn’t particularly surprised to hear him say that in spite of my dislike of the positioning, he considers it to be a job well done, and that there isn’t really a lot that *can* be done to change it.

Part of the problem is that there’s still plenty of swelling in the tissues (on both sides, but particularly on the right), and that because I’m right-handed, there’s additional fluid accumulation on the right side, which appears to all be accumulating under my arm.  Also, another part of the problem is that I have fat tissue under the arm – he showed me how to feel where the edge of the implant is, and sure enough, it is much farther to the left than I would have guessed.  As well, the flatness is being caused by the tightness of the overlying muscle – it has loosened up on both sides, but less so on the right side.

Thus we wait until the swelling and fluid accumulation have dissipated, and allow the muscles more time to relax and adapt to their new state.  The five months is to allow complete healing before we proceed with creating nipples (typically thigh tissue, I think); at that time, if I’m still unsatisfied, we can look at trying some liposuction of the fat tissue.  He doesn’t feel that there is anything he can to with the muscle – one’s muscles have a built-in tightness that can be affected by exercising and stretching, but surgically there’s really nothing to be done to make it looser – it could only be drawn tighter, which obviously would not be something I want done.  I haven’t decided yet if I want to have nipples made – that would be a purely cosmetic thing, for me and Brian to decide if it is worth the trouble.  At this point, I’m tending against it, but we’ll see.  I’m still considering whether a nice dragon tattoo might not be more appealing. . .

I drove for the first time yesterday, and last night started having some sharp, tingly pains in my right breast.  Even though I have been released to drive and start extending my range of motion, shifting is a little more than I really should be doing yet.  Unfortunately, I have to drive myself to another appointment this afternoon, so we’ll see how that goes.  It may be that short trips will build up the range of motion, or may make the pain worse – just typing here is starting to bring on a little sharp jab now and then.  I’m on light duty for the next 5 weeks – not allowed to lift anything more than 10 lbs, no pushing or pulling heavy doors or grocery carts, no reaching and lifting of anything more than very light stuff.  At 2 months, I can do anything I want, but in the meantime, I’m only allowed to do weight-bearing exercises that involve my legs and abdomen.  Once I return to work on the 31st, I will have to be careful to stick to the restrictions – hopefully by then driving won’t be causing any difficulties, or I’ll have to figure out how to get downtown without driving (from my house, taking all public transit means a 1-1/2 to 2 hour commute, each way).

The new medication, Femara, doesn’t seem to be causing any increase in my menopausal symptoms – I have started having some pain in my left knee, and a little bit in my right hip, but I wouldn’t expect it to happen that quickly – it started on Monday, after only my second dose.  So I suspect that the knee pain is a recurrence of an occasional problem I’ve had prior to this, and am attributing the hip pain to not getting enough exercise.

Last week my weight was down – this week, based on my home scale, I’m expecting that it will hold steady, or perhaps go down a little bit.  I’ve been sticking to plan, but haven’t done as good a job as usual at getting the right balance of foods in.

Have a happy Easter!




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