Sunday, October 30, 2011

Whole lotta nothin'

No news is good news, I always say.

The swelling is back to baseline - lefty still a little puffy, righty pretty much "normal." But I've had to sit on myself all week to get here. No walking, no exercise. I'll start working my way back this week, just a little, to test the waters. I'm seeing the PT twice a week now, and she is helping to reduce the swelling and to increase my range of motion. Thanks to her and the silly exercises I do twice a day, the pain from the node biopsy is pretty much gone. Not bad for one week of PT.

I'm able to concentrate and read again, so I'm reading like a fiend (a lifelong passion) . . . trying to look at this as "fun" - when does a stay-at-home mother get to read all day and not feel guilty? Unfortunately, only when you-know-what hits a fan . . . but I'm trying to be positive here.

The best news is, I'm feeling a lot better. My spunk is back. I'm darn good during the day: still pooped in the evenings. Although I've given up my second nap altogether, I still rest frequently. I'm going to try driving more this week - new chair twisting exercises from the PT have made me feel more confident about backing up.

So the report from the week is trending positive. Not "there" yet, but as friends reminded me last week, that's gonna take a while. It's a good sign, all this frustration I feel. I'm primed, excited, ready to go . . . just have to pace myself, 'cause I don't want to get tired too early in the race to get my real life back again. Feels like it's been a long time, but really, I need to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.



Monday, October 24, 2011

My mind is ready, but my body is not

Here at the almost 5 week mark, frustration is setting in. This is exactly the point my breast surgeon flagged for me, months ago, when discussing my recovery. She said that around now, I'd start to feel much better physically, and that I'd want to do more, but that I would still have restrictions, and I'd need to "sit on my hands."

And how.

After being cleared for cardio last Wednesday, I took a decent-sized (all things being relative here, it was about 1.25 miles which is a small fraction of my former distance and intensity) brisk walk. No arms swinging - they were locked at my sides. I had my workout mix pumping, Map My Run (or Walk, as the case may be) tracking my time and distance . . . I felt AMAZING. Saturday, less so. I felt like I had a grapefruit under each arm - swelling. Plastic surgeon told me that swelling was a sign of overdoing, so Saturday I lay low. Sunday, swelling down - what better way to celebrate than with a power walk? So out I went - this time I did a little more distance, less intense. Today, a veritable fruit salad under the pits.

I just came back from PT, where my dear friend Nancy set me straight. Reminded me that in the "olden days," I wouldn't even have been out of the hospital for that long at this point. That just 'cause I'm home and set "free" by the docs, doesn't mean I'm OK to go about my business. This is not the time to push through. This is the time to coddle. She pointed out that I only have one shot at a good post-op recovery period, and if I blow it, I'm screwed (Nancy is much too refined to use that word, that's me talkin'). So no walkie for me today and tomorrow while we let things simmer down. Then we do less distance and do alternating days of intensity. That way, I "trick" myself into thinking I'm exercising every day ('cause if you know me, you know this is a thing of mine), but I honor my healing body.

Those of you who know me know I'm very into the mind-body connection, but that I have a hard time slowing down. It was far easier when I felt like junk. I had no choice but to be slow. Now I feel like I "should" be OK, and yet clearly I'm not. Swelling is the body's way of protecting a fragile area, and of signaling that something is not right, says Nancy.

I mean, I love fruit, but not under my arms.



Saturday, October 15, 2011

The deliciousness of being horizontal, and other developments

Another week down. Another hash mark on the wall of my mastectomy prison. All in all, a good week - few(er) complaints. I feel like last week was a meaningful turning point for me. I'm celebrating my 4 week surger-versary. My energy has been more consistently up, I'm feeling physically and mentally better. The strange feelings in my foobs come less frequently, although moving a little more is bringing new sensations. I off Tylenol; down to only antibiotics. And although last Wednesday's revision has set me back mobility-wise, it's healing up nicely. My swelling's way down on the right, and although Lefty is still swollen, it's much better. In sum, all baby steps forward, which is the only direction I want to travel.

So much has happened since last week! Where to start?

Saturday morning, I tried something new, and it was terrific. After breakfast I was beat and needed to go back to bed. How many times have you wanted to take a nap after breakfast? Well, having a bilateral mastectomy gives you just the excuse to indulge . . . as I scooted up the stairs Dave muttered "jealous" under his breath. (I need to find a way to treat that man to something nice, but I digress.) The sleeping at 45 degrees thing was good for the foobs but bad for the back: The upper back had been killing me the past few mornings. This naptime, I decided to try something radical. I stacked two of our king-sized bed pillows one in front of the other and lay down. I still used two smaller pillows on either side of me to support my arms (yes, people, since home from the hospital it's taken no fewer than 5 pillows to comfort me in bed), but I was NEARLY HORIZONTAL, and it felt DIVINE. I dozed and slept for more than an hour like that. Lying on my back, wondering at the feeling. Supported. Cozy. Less like a victim. More like myself again.

Saturday evening marked my first non-essential outing in a month: an early dinner at Super 88 with Dave and Lilah. I did fine, I was out! I was tired by the end (nighttime is still not the right time for me), but it didn't waste me and it was nice to be back eating at our favorite Vietnamese place, even if it was at an early-bird special hour.

Then maybe it was precipitated by that delicious Saturday nap, but Sunday morning I got up and felt noticeably more energetic. I had a little spark that I hadn't had since 9/19. Saw our neighbor for the first time since the surgery and he asked, "so when did you feel like yourself again after surgery?" and I answered, "today!" That feeling has continued and has brought so much hope. I can honestly say that I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. It's still a longish tunnel, but there's a pinpoint of light down there.

Also Sunday, I made Dave accompany me for my first driving experience. He authorized me to go "around the neighborhood," which as some of you know, is a very, very limited distance. Backing out of the driveway proved to be the most difficult - it's long and skinny and twisting around to look behind me (no, I don't trust that gimmicky back-up cam) was tough. Driving itself and turning corners was easy - this car is power-everything. I think with time and physical therapy, I'll grow more flexible and comfortable, but for now, I'm not driving much . . . although tomorrow I'm going to make a break for it to get waxed (3 minutes away). It's been almost 6 weeks and I'm usually on a every-three-week schedule. 'Nuf said on that one. It's time to take action.

Monday, I saw an old friend, a physical therapist who specializes in women who've had breast surgeries. Her job is to help us regain range of motion, strength, and to ward off or treat nasty side effects like lymphedema (the swelling of limbs or even the trunk after lymph nodes have been removed). Nancy is such a sweetheart - one of those caregivers that causes you to exhale as you leave the office. She's on your case, she's measuring and monitoring and not pushing too much, but just enough. She is your cheerleader. I now have some very very simple range of motion exercises and another set of eyes on the swelling - she is not alarmed by the swelling and will help me with some massage in the coming weeks that will help take it down further. It truly sucks to be reunited with her under these circumstances, but here again, Cancer Round I has served me well - she fixed me up right after those three lumpectomies and sentinel node biopsy messed with my left arm, and she's going to bring me back from t-rex-dom now.

Today I followed up with my plastic surgeon. Lefty looks great to her - I'm going to continue with antibiotics for another week, but all systems are go. She showed me the simple massage I need to do now to prevent too much scar tissue from forming around my implants. Twice a day I need to squeeze and push the heck out of these puppies so I can feel them move. It's a bizarre feeling - for now, indescribable. It doesn't hurt, it's just friggin' weird. Any woman w/implant reconstruction will understand. For the rest of you, just take my word for it.

But the best news, the most exciting news from today's visit with PS is that I AM CLEARED FOR CARDIO. Yes people, I can get the ol' heart pumpin' again (and not just from fear of someone coming at me w/a scalpel or a needle). I can break a sweat. That is the great news. The bad news is: no arms. No arms for 3 more weeks 'til I follow up with her again. So no refrigerator, no cooking, no lifting, no pushing, no pulling, no swinging of those arms during exercise . . . so still quite limited, but I can stationary bike (recumbent), do the elliptical or the ARC trainer (no arms), power walk (no pumping of arms), etc. Been very jacked up about this all day, but just had a thought that tempers my glee: I still cannot put my hair in a ponytail. Sigh. That alone will probably limit my activity a little. Who wants to get really sweaty with long hair?? Thankfully, this is my biggest problem today.

So about half-way there, I'm struck by how the mundane gets elevated to the sublime after an experience like this. First it was just getting out of bed and standing, then shuffling across the floor at MGH, then brushing my own teeth and washing my own face. Then the DIY sponge bath and leg-shaving . . . moving into a real shower (albeit still with t-rex arms and hair hanging over my face to wash). I've walked alone through my neighborhood, popped popcorn, gotten my daughter ready for school, spent entire days alone, moved to a horizontal position, gotten down on the floor and back up again (no arms - those UFCs (a la Jackie Warner) I did during my pre-surg. workouts paid off, peeps!). Every time I make a stride forward, I'm rediscovering some tiny, long-lost joy.

My world was made very small by breast cancer, but this past week, I feel like each day it's widening a wee bit. Although I will confess that I can't wait 'til driving, walking, erranding, exercising and tasking are all mundane again, I want to remember and appreciate this deliciousness, 'cause it's been hard-fought and I'm better for the experience.



Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bra 911, part deux

Just back from my new fav place in town, Lady Grace, where I scored what seems to be the perfect solution to my uncomfy bra issue - nursing camisoles!? OK, so I never thought of this 'til last night when cruising the 'net for tanks with built-in bras, I saw someone on some pregnancy forum talking about how great they were - better than regular tanks with shelf bras because more supportive.

Those of you who know me know that I never nursed - our daughter was adopted - so this solution never, ever occurred to me. The straps on these things tend to be thicker, there adjustable, and the chest band is wider, so more comfortable.

These are the ones I got, I can step into them and they are cotton. Highly recommend to anyone going through a similar issue post-BMX! So I'm giving myself a kiss and rewarding myself for my effort by tucking into bed with a movie. Tanks are in the wash. (and no, don't worry, I didn't bring a load down in a basket from upstairs, I am committing an eco-crime by washing *just* the cami's!) I am bushed.

Thanks to my fabulous friend for ferrying me over there in the rain . . . mwah!



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Nipped & Tucked & Pooped

The Weeble is exhausted.

Quick update tonight: Saw my plastic surgeon this afternoon and she is unconcerned about the swelling. She said she'd be worried if it extended into the breasts (it doesn't, it's under my arms and down my sides a bit), or if I had a fever, it was hot to the touch, etc. This looks normal to her. It's worse on my left side because of the radiation I had 10 years ago - apparently it's harder for the fluid to absorb over there. So we'll watch it. She took a very careful look, felt it, and I'm seeing her next week again so she'll get another look.

Then she did a revision - just what it sounds like - she revised my surgery on the left side. I had a little bit of black along my scar on that side. If you remember, they went in through my old scar from my lumpectomies in '01. That skin was dead, and she was worried that it might not scab off and that the scar would open up at some point. Yuck. So she shot me up with lidocaine, cut out the black spot and stitched me up. The last time I was sutured while awake was when I was 13 and cut my chin open sledding. Still not a fan. No pain, just pulling and pressure and weirdness. At least I had the good sense not to look up at the lights, where I'd see my reflection. Then, I might've passed out. 20 minutes later I was out of the office, making a follow-up for next Wednesday. No fuss, no muss (let's hope - had so much fuss & muss that even her secretary was asking about The Rash).

I'm relieved about the swelling - between her and the lymphedema PT on Monday, this will be followed. My fingers are crossed that the revision takes - she thinks it'll be just fine; because this skin is over muscle now (my mighty mighty pec), it's got a good blood supply.

Now I need to set about finding a comfortable tank top with a shelf bra, STAT, because when I confessed that I was jettisoning my bra at night, she told me she wanted me in something, 24/7, for the next 4 weeks, most likely.

Suggestions? Bonus points for adjustable straps, wide straps and something made of cotton. Free overnight shipping or availability in Boston might get you a kiss. But not a hug.



P.S. Editing this post to remind you guys that I need to be able to STEP INTO this camisole. Not glamourous. But necessary. No arms overhead! Low-fives, only . . . .

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Clawing my way back to normal

You know it's bad when Suzy Sunshine checks outa here. Suzy was hating life for a stretch there and disappeared, but Suzy's coming back. And although Debbie Downer's taken up residence in Suzy's stead, I see her fixing to pack her bags, and I'm not sorry to see her go.

What's changed? Well, Sunday I phoned in a Bra 911 to a good friend. She took time out from her own family on one of the more gorgeous days of the year, on a long weekend, no less, to drive me to that bastion of frump and fit; Lady Grace Intimates. Some of you might not be familiar with LG. It's not where you go for sassy, sexy bras that impress, but these ladies know their stuff. I knew I needed a bra change, STAT. I looked up a few choices on the LG site and called their Waltham store to see what they had in stock. They had one that would work and could order the one I really wanted, so my Savior drove me across bumpy hill and dale to get relief.

Marlene met me - she was the one I'd spoken to on the phone, and by the number of times she called me "honey" and "dear" during our 5 minute conversation then, I knew I was going to be well taken care of. She is one of their certified post-mastectomy fitters. Calm, resolute, reassuring . . . well, you'd wanna hug her if you could hug anyone. She measured me up (still same size, even though I feel like a marshmallow, so that's reassuring) and whisked me off into a dressing room with a potential replacement bra.

So . . . so far, the only people who've seen my foobs are my docs, nurses, husband and daughter. There are many women who're open about showing their reconstructed breasts - I'm not one. I think that it's because I have my own outside parts, so really, aside from shape and size changes, these really still look like me. And as unabashed as I am about posting on the 'net about all this, I draw the line at flashing the goods. Anyway. It's hard to try a bra on without flashing the goods, so there was this brief awkward moment in the fitting room with Marlene, where I realize I'm going to have to get waist-up naked, and I said tentatively, "You want me to take this old bra off? You'll be able to fit me better." And she smiled gently and said, "I will. I do if you're OK with it." I said, "If you're not going to fall over backwards, I'm game," and she replies, "Honey, I've seen. it. all."

Off went the bra, hitched up into the new one I got, and we inspected the situation. This is the ugliest thing I've ever worn, but it's FAR more comfortable than anything I've worn post-BMX. Sold. She snapped off the tag so I could wear it home. She ordered up the super-comfy one I want and told me to make sure she or Roseanne, the other certified post-MX fitter was around when I came back to try that one. "We know what you're going through and we know how to fit you best." And how. By the way, Marlene is 3 years out from chemo for ovarian cancer (the "silent killer" it is a Varsity-level cancer). We knocked on wood together. She gets how shitty all this is. Makes me want to hug her more.

Anyway. The new bra has made me more comfortable the last few days. I still can't wear it to sleep - I'm too swollen for that, but my swelling has shifted and changed, so while I'm still quite uncomfortable, especially in the evenings and at night, I'm less afraid of lymphedema. I also sent out a distress email to my old lymphedema physical therapist, who emailed me back last night. She reassured me that there is a huge range of post-surgical swelling that's normal, but said yes, I should be checked out. I'm calling her secretary this a.m. to make an appointment.

And tomorrow is my follow up with the plastic surgeon. My intrepid husband is going to ferry me there. He's been on the front lines with this and between my list of questions, his sharp mind and ability to recall the progression of the swelling, we'll get to the bottom of this.

Today, I will rest more, and walk more. I'm finally feeling like I might have the energy to get into a book. Yesterday I watch a mindless but fun chick flick in the a.m. I am taking it easy, but have relished being able to do more for myself and my family. This morning, I got teary as I mixed Lilah's pasta with basil pesto and loaded it into her Thermos. I am clawing my way back to the mundane, everyday tasks of living, raising my daughter and caring for my family. It feels so. damn. good.

So I urge you all, today and in the days going forward, to take a minute to give thanks for what you've got. It can be trying, or boring, or downright awful to be you on any given day, but it could probably be worse. I know it could for me. So today, I'm giving thanks for small improvements, and for all the other things that are going so well in my life. Join me.



Sunday, October 9, 2011

Free floating anxiety

It's 4:24 a.m. I was still awake at 11:30 p.m. last night, then again at around 3 a.m. this morning. I have been anxious, restless. I have been in pain.

The great thing about not having to see a doctor for a while after treatment, any kind of treatment for breast cancer, whether it's surgery or chemo or radiation, or some other form of intensive treatment is just that: you do not have to see a doctor for a while. And for anyone who's been on the doc circuit, you know how gratifying this is - you are free. Free! Schedule your life around YOU! It feels awesome, for a while.

The bad thing about not having to see a doctor for a while after treatment is that you don't have anyone checking up on you. You are cut loose. You've been through major medical, in some cases a life and death situation, and you are on. your. own. And when stuff changes, and things comes up, you're left to your own devices with your mind, and Doctor Google at your bedside.

Since last Wednesday night, I've had weird swelling. Pretty uncomfortable, painful swelling in a band around my upper chest. My once comfortable bra feels like a tourniquet, mostly at night. Wait - let's back up here - did you know that you have to wear a bra 24/7 after this surgery? You do. So that means while you're sleeping, and for you men out there, that may not make an impression, but I don't know many women who relish sleeping in a bra. Oh, and I think as an aside to my aside, I should mention that you also cannot sleep horizontally. Nope. I haven't slept lying down since I was knocked unconscious by general anesthesia on September 19th. Yes, that's right, you gotta be strapped in and at at least 45 degrees for comfort. Lately, I've preferred close to 90. Forget all about how I used to sleep on my side and stomach. That's a ways off, people. But I digress.

Back to my ever-expanding torso. The feeling is of a thick and tight Theraband being stretched around my chest, around under my arms to my back. The only thing I can point to that I did differently is that I bent over on Wednesday a few times - picking very light things off the floor. I am being honest when I say they were light. And if you noted my activity level - to a person who had not had a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction - it'd come across as minuscule. Ridiculous to even note. But apparently that level of activity can make one swell.

I know, because after it got worse on Wednesday night, and better Thursday morning, I called into my plastic surgeon's office and had one of her nurse practitioners call me. Jill said that I must've overdone it a bit on Wednesday and that all would likely be fine. You see, anytime you move around, your body creates more fluid, she explained. (Remember those drains? They took a ton of fluid out, and the docs did warn me I'd see an uptick in fluid if I moved around more). My body is getting used to having a foreign body implanted in it - sending more fluid to that area. I asked her if it was OK to remove my bra, and while she said they'd much prefer me to wear a bra, it was OK to take it off if I felt like it was cutting off my circulation. OK, makes sense. I wore my bra Thursday, and although the swelling got worse Thursday night, it was better again Friday. I decided not to call and to wait it out over the weekend. And now I'm worried.

One of the things that makes you a good litigator is the ability to think situations through to various end points. The ability to think of all case-scenarios for your client, good and bad, is an asset. Particularly the bad case-scenarios, because that's what they want to avoid, right? The ability to think of all case-scenarios, particularly the bad case-scenarios is NOT a great quality in a cancer patient, because when stuff starts to hit the fan, your mind is at that nasty Point B faster than a jackrabbit. So in the last 36 hours my mind has gone all kinds of scary places with this. And the swelling has increased since yesterday. My unscientific measurements (how badly I feel like my foobs might explode outa my body, the contour of the sides of my torso) say it's worse.

Now, I have been eating saltier foods. I had half of a delectable whitefish salad sandwich on Friday that could only do bad things to a girl who's retaining water. And ate the second half of that Saturday for breakfast. A little leftover pizza, a yogurt (neutral) and some fruit (good) for lunch, and then some takeout for Saturday dinner that under normal circumstances makes me feel like junk day 2. Not good on the diet front. You see, when I haven't recently had my breasts removed, I cook most all our food from scratch. Our sodium intake is LOW. We eat so little processed food, we can control it easily. So eating all this "foreign food" can only be compounding the swelling. Duly noted. Today, that's going to change for sure.

But what could it be? Well, as Dave has pointed out in desperation, it COULD be normal. (It might not be a surprise that I haven't been all that easy to live with this weekend.) I would be so excited if this pain were normal. If it's a part of the process I will delightedly suck it up and soldier on. But it also could be lymphedema, a chronic and painful condition that can occur after the channels that carry your lymph fluid are messed with: like say, having your breasts removed. It could also be the start of a painful and complicated bad surgical outcome called capsular contracture - where your body makes too much scar tissue around your implants and they get tight and stiff and they hurt and have to be removed. My fingers have been flying over the keyboard and Dr. Google has shown me all the nasties. I've sent out a few SOS emails to contacts I have from Breast Cancer Round I to get going on an eval for lymphedema. I should anyway. But it's the weekend.

Today is Sunday. My swelling is not reduced in the way that it was the last 2 mornings. I am awake early, determined to do one thing today: eat almost no salt. To drink a ton of water. To reduce what bloat I can. To do my part. And probably to meditate a bunch. Put my guided relaxation on an endless loop and plug in my ear buds. I'm paranoid. It's hard to stop. That follow-up Wednesday can't come soon enough.



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Taking the bitter with the sweet

Well, just when you're on a high, the smack-down comes. Today, I got taken down. By fatigue, a rumbly tummy, the sniffles. I don't know if all my fun of the last couple of days caught up to me, or if I'm fighting off a cold, or if somehow seasonal allergies have snuck through the double-doses of Allegra the allergist still has me on to fight The Rash. But today, I've been in bed. Wrapped in a fuzzy fleece robe with rainbows and peace signs and little Weebly-looking creatures that a friend made for me. Watching bad daytime t.v., feeling shitty, and feeling a wee bit sorry for myself.

As my mother-in-law darted around, tidying and helping with laundry, she imparted some good, firm bits of wisdom - I am ONLY two weeks and three days out of major surgery. No matter how good I might look, I need time to recover. It's as simple as that. Her diagnosis is "over-do." I hesitate to think she's right, but she has the wisdom of experience on her side. I've got nothin', and a bad over-doing track record to boot. I might well be guilty.

I have perked up since this a.m., and I attribute it to: 1) rest; 2) protein consumption; 3) a vat of hot-buttered popcorn I managed to make myself; and 4) my FIRST REAL SHOWER.

That's the sweet - but there is still bitter there, too. My drain holes are closed enough, says Doctor Dave. I'm still going to take my antibiotics for a few more days, just to be sure, but this afternoon, I needed to be clean. So I jettisoned the Shower Shirt and ventured in. I will admit to you, I was a little scared. Excited, but scared . . . what would the water feel like on my incisions? My abused upper-body? Well, the water on my back was delicious. All the fine scrubbing by a well-intentioned husband cannot replicate the feeling of the shower water, beating on your back.

But the incisions - this is where my "new normal" came rushing in. Because, well, I'm numb. Although I have pressure and weirdness and some swelling and zings and zaps from nerve regeneration, I am numb in a big band around my upper body. I look like I have all my parts, but they are not MY parts, and these replacement parts have no sensation. So when you ask me what it felt like to take a shower, I can say, "It was great not to hassle with the shower shirt!" or "I finally was able to soap myself up because I'm done with The Rash, and boy, did that feel fabulous." But there was some sadness there . . . because I'm not who I was. I never will be the same. And today it hit home more acutely than ever. One, because it was a down-day for me to start. And two, because I feel nothing on my upper body.

Yes! Yes! I hear you now: I am cancer-free. This was the right choice, the only choice for me. I have the best doctors, a great family, things are trending upwards and it's ALL GOOD. But anyone who's been through this knows that sometimes, you gotta have a little pity party. You need to acknowledge that it is hard, it hurts. It just sucks.

So today sorta sucked. I'm clean and my hair is washed, but there are still miles to walk before I'm "me" again. And that's OK. It's a process, I know. I'll get there. Today just felt like a "two steps back" kind of day. Hopefully tomorrow I'll move forward again. Somehow, I think I will.



Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Walk around the block

Not a long post, but a significant post. I just came back from my very first outdoor walk since surgery. Around the block. In the sunshine and fresh air. It was transformative . . . not only because I was freed of the house, but because I miss, so much, the smell of the air, the feel of the sun, the freedom of moving my limbs . . . and because, well I CAN DO IT.

Let's flash-backward to my first walk after surgery. The morning after. Thank goodness Meredith, my slightly weird but incredibly friendly and knowledgeable night nurse with the strange Celtic tattoo, warned me what it'd be like. She said, "Tomorrow, they'll pull your catheter, and they'll want you to walk. And you will feel like you're 101 years old, and you'll be unsteady, and you won't be able to pick up your feet. You will shuffle. Day two is the worst - you will feel awful. But don't get discouraged, because day three, day three is when it all starts to tick up." Oh Meredith, I will never see you again (God willing), but I'm throwing thanks into the universe for that . . . the image of you, milking my catheter drain, giving me physical and psychological relief as you squatted beside my bed at 3 a.m., that's etched in my mind forever. I might've looked three-sheets, but I was taking notes.

One of the women on my breast cancer message board likened her walking the day after surgery to that of the "Old Man" character Tim Conway played on the Carol Burnett show (example here - and if I were cooking day two, I'd be slicing just like that). Between that hysterical image and Meredith, I was prepped. And it came true. Dave had to help me. I couldn't make it all the way down the hall. I needed to hold on to him, to the wall rail. I had to stop along the way. Along the what? The 40 foot way. I am a 7-day-a-week-exerciser. A heart-rate-monitor-wearing, calorie-torching machine. And I was in serious danger of falling over.

I kept at it, as I am wont to do, and worked myself up, 'til by discharge on day three, I could walk around the square that was the ICU/Burn/Plastics unit on the 13th floor at MGH (Taylor Swift's lucky number, and maybe mine now, too). But I was still weak, and tired. And itchy and greasy. Not yet ready for the big time. I was wheeled out in a wheelchair and home to bed.

But ladies and gentlemen, two weeks later and I'm pulling out. This old horse is out of her gate. And while I fully understand the limitations I'm under for the coming weeks (no heart rate up, no arm swinging, no repetitive motion, no lifting), in my mind, I'm flying . . . 'cause I can leave the house and ambulate around my pretty neighborhood. With real clothes and lace-up shoes, just like a big girl. These are my training wheel days . . . then'll come my two wheeler, then my motorcycle, then my big, friggin' jet-engine airplane.

Watch for me as I fly over - higher than ever. Six weeks, and I will be free, again!



Saturday, October 1, 2011


I dunno what made me do it, but Dave went out to the market and I decided I was gonna shower, dammit. Maybe it was the fact that I woke up again last night, drenched in sweat (WHAT is causing this??). Maybe it was the fact that my hair hadn't been washed in 4 days (smarm-o-licious). Maybe I was just high from my tea-drinkin', yogurt-eatin' adventure at 5 a.m.? I went for it.

It was all going so well - still need to sponge-bathe because my drain incisions are not quite closed, so I did that, shaved the legs - at these tasks I am now a pro. It's not graceful or pretty, but between our trusty teak shower bench and the hand-held shower head thingy, I can get the job done.

But then I decided to get fancy.

I dried off my top, and suited up in my Shower Shirt - click on the hyperlink if you don't know what this thing is . . . basically a shortened, super-tight, waterproof windbreaker - complete with pink ribbon (ugh) that allows you to shower without getting your (upper-body) incisions wet. It's genius. I only wish I'd get more use out of it - but wait! don't get me wrong - I'm psyched to have my drains out so early.

Anyway. I get the shirt on, no problem, ratchet in the neck and away I go - bending over, washing MY OWN HAIR for the FIRST TIME IN WEEKS. Scrubbing my scalp, working up a lather, just like I like. I rinsed, and then I even conditioned. Oooh, I was feeling so good. Yes I can!!

I'm done, turn off the water, manage to wrap my hair up in my fav microfiber towel (faster drying for those of us with thick, long hair) and am feeling victorious. I'm tired, but still standing. Now I need to get the Shower Shirt off, dry off, get dressed, and probably take a nap. No problemo.

Oh, but there was a problemo - the zipper on the Shower Shirt broke. I'm alone. I'm struggling. I cannot get the damn thing unzipped. It's super tight - remember, this is supposed to keep water out . . . and between the the fact that someone has drunk the last 2 in my six-pack of abs and the tautness of the jacket, I'm straining to right the zipper.

I step out of the shower and yell hopefully, "Dave!!??" No answer. Not home yet. I briefly consider cutting the shower shirt off of my body with a pair of nail scissors. That seems tragic.

Finally, after much straining and a multitude of f-bombs, I got the zipper back on track and the shirt off. And then guess who gets home? Dave. He finds me red-faced, but triumphant.

Cheers to independence, however hard-fought! Now, time for that nap.