Friday, April 30, 2010

A Month Out

Today marks one month since my mastectomy.

Today I did the following things for the first time in a month:

1. Put on a bra. I know that may seem amazing, but really I just haven't wanted any part of the bra situation.

2. Put on eye makeup.

The thing is, apparently it takes one month for me to forget how to apply eye makeup. Over thirty years to finally learn and then one month to forget. I had to settle for a drowsy raccoon look.

I had not forgotten about the bra.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

PET Sounds

I had a full-body CT/PET scan this morning. And what did you do, busy bee? 'Cause I do more lying motionless before 9 am than most people do all day.

There was no reason for this scan except that my doctor wanted to establish a baseline. And I think that they bought the machine.

The good thing about a PET scan is that they let you wear your own clothes for it. So I didn't even change out of the ten year-old fleece pants I'd slept in. I don't want no scrubs.

The bad thing about a PET scan is kind of everything else. Or nothing really bad happens, it all just takes a while. Compared to mammography, which involves standing around topless for free, PET is almost restful. The only weird part is that, after you're all checked in, and they've given you an injection of the radioactive stuff through your IV, they want you to sit and relax for an hour, but you're not allowed to read. That's right. You have to sit in your own little room, in a comfy chair, and let the radioactive sugar work its way through your system, going to be metabolized wherever things are getting metabolized. Apparently reading would involve using your arm muscles and your eyes and whatever part of your brain you use to read, though I told the guy that the book I'd brought doesn't actually involve my brain. If you are using those areas, they would take up the sugar and light up on the PET scan instead of letting the sugar go to possible areas of interest, like cancer cells.

Like, I guess if you sat in the PET thingie doing a bicep curl with a heavy weight, the PET camera would be able to see nothing but your arm. Or that's how I understand it. Please now confer upon me an honorary Doctorate in Nuclear Medicine.

So I said, "What if I don't hold the book and instead put it on my lap?" And he still said no. And Matt couldn't come in there and read to me. But I could listen to something. So they tucked me into the magical chair of relaxing and gave me a blanket, and then I fired up the "This American Life" app on my iPhone and started listening to a show from couple weeks back about a hedge fund. I made it through about ten minutes of that and then it was sleepy time. I paused the playback, worrying that I was using too many muscles to do it, and dozed a little bit.

Did I mention that this whole PET camera was not actually in the hospital? But was in fact in a big truck pulled up behind the hospital? We were up at the satellite hospital near our house, not the big serious hospital downtown, so they have this roving PET camera that's there only two days a week. Like the Bookmobile. Or, as Matt said, the Girls Gone Wild bus.

Yeah, so I was resting in the bookmobile until they were ready for me, then they made me get up and walk to the bathroom, and I'm all, what was the point of all that muscle relaxation if I'm hoofing it to the toilet before hopping into the camera? But what do I know? And one of the techs was playing solitaire on one of the computer monitors. I said, "Solitaire, really?" And he said, "Well, ya gotta do something."

So I got to lie on my back for the scan, which was good, and the PET machine is really quiet. MUCH quieter than an MRI, which sounds like lawnmowers having sex really close to your head. And it was only twenty minutes, really. So nothing much to complain about.

I just lay there willing every part of my body to score awesome on the test. You know what I mean. If you're someone who has made an identity or even a career out of doing well in testing situations, it's hard not to want to earn gold stars in medical screening too. And then it turns out that your body parts are just average, or even worse. (Yes, I'm talking about you, former boob.) Like, if someone would just give me my A+ in being a patient now, and have it certified by the proper authorities, I could relax. So could we do that please?

And now also I would like a hot dog and a cosmo.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My White Jeans Make Their Debut

hank and me on couch

Of course I waited until after Easter like any decent Southern woman, but then I had a lot going on with the whole post-op recovery thing and I didn't bust out my white jeans until today. This not-so-great phone pic was snapped at the furniture store. The jeans performed just fine, though as you can see they are "distressed"--whatever. The fact that I had on pink underwear, which I realized only after I was fully dressed, did not deter me from sallying forth.

Oh, and why were we at a furniture store? Well you may know that slipcover-tucking accounts for about 80 percent of the metabolic energy consumed by my body. I decided that I do not have to live this way. Life is short and all. So I bought two new couches. That is not one of them. I got two of the JC Penney knock-offs of the Pottery Barn Basic slipcovered sofas. You can see 'em here. I know, JC Penney! They have furniture! I haven't been in that place in ages, but these couches have gotten good reviews and they really look just like the PB ones, for much less dough. I went to actually flop on them before making my decision. The flopping was good, so I went for it. I got the "natural" color.

I think that my life is about to improve dramatically because of this move. And in the time I recoup from the tucking and retucking, I may brush up on my reading French or sequence the human genome, who knows.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hair Today

playing cars

Whew, where were we? Oh yes, with me on my first day of chemotherapy, high on steroids, and in love with everyone. That was sort of awesome. I was a real Dexy's Midnight Runner. Wednesday night my sister got to town, so of course we went to Target and closed the place up. As we were leaving, I shouted, "Shut her down!" And they turned off the lights. Then we took my mom to a tequila bar, just for one drink. That was our absolute limit. We stuck to it, and as we left these guys smiled at us and said, "Don't get into any trouble, ladies," and I thought, "Dude, you have no idea what kind of trouble I represent. Just my uninsurability alone would keep you busy many a long, long night."

So then, the bad news: couldn't stay on the steroids forever.

And now, the good news: I have yet to feel really bad or nauseated from the chemo. That is, I know, a great boon. I'm hoping my luck holds. I mean, it's Sunday night, I had that infusion on Wednesday, it seems like I should have been upchucky by now? On Friday afternoon, feeling cautiously optimistic, I said, "Why don't we just head up to to the mountain house for the weekend?" Others packed and drove. I took a pharmacopoeia of meds with me, just in case, and lots of reading material. Now we're back and we had a lovely time.

Saturday morning I woke up early and felt a little. . .unsure. Then I remembered that Ativan wants to be my new best friend, and I took a half tab. Then I took another half tab Saturday evening. And that's been my schedule. It's got me feeling a little flat, but not really sedated either. No queasies! So I'm going to stick with this plan for a few days.

Lots coming up this week, including some physiotherapy for my arm, which has decided to give me no end of botheration in the last week. Details, whatever. I have a crack support team arrayed to take me to appointments, laugh at my jokes, and watch "Arrested Development" with me on Netflix. (Amy wanted me to say that she needs to be blogging too, but she's in my kitchen making her trademark sticky chicken.)

Oh, and the whole real point of this post was to tell you about telling Laura about my possible (probable? certain?) hair loss. Last Tuesday night, the day before my first chemo infusion, before anyone arrived, we were sitting in the sun room and she brought up an old friend of hers from preschool days. She said, "Remember how Faith had really short hair, like a boy?" I thought that she had heard me discussing the hair issue and that this might be her way of bringing it up. So I jumped in.

I said, "Well, you know how now I have to go a few times and get extra medicine for the tumor they took out of me, to make sure it doesn't come back?" I reminded her what a side effect is, and I said, "One of the side effects of this medicine they'll give me is that it can make some or all of my hair fall out."

Her mouth fell open. Absolute shock. She said, "You're going to be bald?!?" I said, "Well, maybe, yes, but not forever, and not all at once. I will have some scarves and hats to wear, and if all my hair falls out, I'll get a wig to wear until it grows back." She didn't look upset, exactly, but I realized that she'd had no idea and this was totally new information to her. I added, "You know, it's not that big a deal, it is a bummer but the hair will grow back." And I watched her. I think that, much more than when I told her about the surgery, this was a moment when her feelings could have gone either way, and it was all down to how I was reacting to it.

I just repeated myself a little: "When and if it happens, it is not going to seem like such a big deal. I'll just get myself a wig and wear it." I could tell she was still processing.

And here is a big parenting lesson that I learn over and over: when you are telling something new, surprising, or big to your kids, and they stop asking questions, stop talking. They are at a saturation point and they need to work on what you've said. Don't answer any further questions that they aren't asking, just clam up and wait.

Then she said, "Hey, I think you shouldn't tell Hank this is going to happen, and then when he sees you with no hair, he'll be so surprised!" And she laughed. I took that attempt at levity as her desire to close down the conversation for the moment, so I said something like, "Whoa, that might be too much of a surprise for him."

Then we went along with what we were doing, but when Mom and Dad came in a little later, Laura rushed to the door and said, "My mom is going to be bald!" She wanted to be the first to tell. And since then we've talked it over a few different times, with talk of wigs and whether or not she can get one too. I think she and I will both be fine with the whole thing. I'm sure you'll hear more about this later, gators.

As of today the hair is hanging in there. I am really enjoying it, truly.

And here's Amy and her niece up at the mountains. I hope y'all had lovely weekends. Sorry I'm all like, "me me me and what about me some more?" I need to get around and get properly caught up on what y'all are doing. xoxox-B

Amy and Laura

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Y'all! I Almost Forgot!

Just got home from my first chemotherapy treatment and it was long but fine and blah blah blah, but guess what?

Today Suburban Matron is two! I started blogging on April 21, 2008. Thus making it the longest-running hobby (or is reading a hobby? or old boyfriends?) that I've ever undertaken, and the most wonderfully satisfying.

Last year, I did a big year retrospective post, navel gazing at my first year of blogging and picking out my favorite post from each month. I totally want to do that but there is this whole boob business, and the wifi was broken at the chemo place, so I didn't get to liveblog it. Maybe I will still pick out my fave posts. I swear I have forgotten some of the stuff I've written. Anything y'all particularly remember?

Anyway, I got home from the doctor's office just now and found a lovely bouquet of flowers from the lovely Michele in my house. Her husband, if you read her blog, is said to be a great horticulturalist and now I have the proof. Gorgeous. You want those two on your team, people.

The treatment took about forty forevers. Yet somehow I only managed to read one In Touch magazine (terrible) and start a Country Living (note: empty frames hung on the wall are not art, or have we discussed this already?), and I chatted with my neighbor and ate half a sandwich that Matt brought me. Nothing hurt and nothing was uncomfortable. I don't feel sick, but I am so full of anti-nausea meds that I could probably win Fear Factor right now.

Also, and maybe you can tell from this post, I started yesterday on this drug called dexamethasone, which I take for three days before and after treatment. It is a steroid and it is designed to tamp down any allergic reactions I might have to the chemo, but mostly if makes me feel totally amazeballs and like Miss Chatty McChatpants. The nurses told me it would do this. They said, "It will give you a lot of energy. A lot." And I was like, "Duh, in the same way that they should make entire airplanes out of that stuff the black recorder box is made of, because that sucker always survives the crash, why don't you give me this wonder drug for the entire course of treatment?" And the nurse blinked and was like, "Are you already on something right now?" Then she said a bunch of stuff about how it is bad to take steroids all the time and Matt chimed in that it would shrink my testicles. So only three days of this miracle pill at the beginning of each cycle.

Last night Mom and Dad got in and they said, "Wow, you do seem peppy." But I'm always pretty talkative, so I didn't believe that the dex had really kicked in. Then, then: My brother Dave had called and said, hey, call me after mom and dad get in and we'll discuss my coming down there while Amy is in town. I was like, okay dude. So later the parents arrive and I'm all, let's call Dave. So we did, and we talked to him for about three minutes. That was all the time we needed to agree, yes, come down next weekend, goodbye.

Then about thirty minutes went by and I thought, "Oh, we need to call Dave to talk about his coming down." So I rang him and it went to voice mail. "Darn," I thought. About ten more minutes went by. I thought, "Hmm, I'll try Dave again because we need to talk about him coming down." This time his phone seemed to be turned off. I thought that was weird since he was expecting my call. I complained to Mom and Dad. They were like, "Um, okay . . . yeah we talked to him not an hour ago. You spoke to him. You. With your voice."

I had totally forgotten that because I had moved down along the river of life since then. And Dave had turned off his phone because it was 11:30 and he actually works for a living.

After that, anytime my hand would stray towards my iPhone, Mom or Dad would say, "Don't call Dave!" So that could be the drugs.

After that, as I chatted everyone into weariness, I said, "Next cycle we are having a party the night before treatment, because we are wasting this. I am killing this room and it is all wasted." They nodded blearily. Are you nodding blearily right about now?

Ooh, so Amy is on her way here from the airport. I will update you on all things, including the talk with Laura I had about my chemo treatment and side effects and hair. That was interesting and another parenting-learning moment for me.

I love you guys and it is not the pharmaceuticals talking!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Heaven Help the Mister Who Comes between Me and My Sister

(You know that song? From some old movie but I can't remember.)

Amy and I just had one of those text message exchanges where it's supposed to seem like we're joking, but really what we are saying is just the absolute truth. It was this:

Amy: At the Sydney airport. The countdown begins!

Me: OMG, I can't believe it. I better straighten up around here!

Amy: For real, I like things really neat.

The funny part, to me, is that when I said I'd straighten up, it was supposed to seem like a joke, because I'm starting chemotherapy in the morning and maybe I could just chill on the couch, watch "Lost," and not worry about the state of the house, and I would expect someone to read that text and think I was therefore joking about the cleaning up, but in truth I WILL straighten up before she gets here, even though I will act like I didn't really do much.

The other funny thing is that Amy DOES like things really neat and is being perfectly honest, even though she is also trying to sound deadpan and is, on some textual level, joking. Yet I know that if she walks into my messy house, she would understand but she would also clean it before she could relax.

So, you know, sisters.

It will take her twenty four hours to get to the ATL. I am so, so glad she is coming and grateful that it is possible for her to be here. She has a post up today about how, when you get to travel without kids, a 13 hour flight seems like a spa weekend. Believe it, childless people. Hear me now and believe me later.

But what her post does not tell you is that this sister weaned her baby early to come on this trip. Grace is ten months old and I know Amy was going to nurse her for a full year like she did the others. Amy could have brought Grace and we encouraged her to do so--I thought it was way, way too much to ask the mother of an infant to leave her for two weeks--but she thought she could be of more help if she were here solo, with no kids of her own to care for. So she weaned her--she started a few weeks ago and it has all gone fine from what I hear. Then she marshaled her tribe (God help you if you don't have a tribe) her husband, friends, neighbors, and her mother-in-law--who is crossing the Pacific in the other direction to go help with Amy's kids--and she is on her way right now. So complicated! Such a web of generosity and help.

She sent me a few more texts from the airport that made me think it has been so long since Amy traveled without kids that she didn't remember airports have gift shops. She was like, "There are books here. And a buttload of t-shirts!"

We are a go for chemo to start in the morning, bright and early. It will take hours and Matt will be with me. Meanwhile, in a different part of town, Hank's school is having its annual Trike-a-thon, which I was supposed to help organize before all this boob stuff came up. No fear, my mom and dad will be there to represent the family and cheer Hank on. Oh and Laura has her Girls on the Lam running club and swim team tomorrow, but it's all covered.

Speaking of tribe, my neighbors have stepped up with the meals. Stepped It UP. Or well, Frenemy only brought a store-bought pie, but she tries. (Okay I'm doing that thing where I seem like I'm joking but I'm telling the absolute truth? She does try and the pie was yummy and it got eaten, you betcha.)

Thanks so much for all your comments and lovin', guys. So tomorrow, the first session of chemo takes forever. Maybe I will live-blog it! 'Cause I have whole bunch more random crap to say. As usual. xoxo-B

Saturday, April 17, 2010

They Don't Deal in Guarantees

(Advance apologies for the high level of oncological details in this post. There will not be a test.)

We had the first meeting with my medical oncologist last Monday, after the episode with the squirrel. She seems to be from the same bright and super competent sorority as my surgeon. Multiple people have told me she is the absolute best in Atlanta, and so far I'm willing to believe it.

At this point I want an expert to take me by the shoulders, look deeply into my eyes, and say, "Yes, you are going to be completely 100% fine. You are going to beat this, have no recurrence, and live until the age of 102, when you will die peacefully from having eaten too much risotto." Nobody will quite tell me that I'm definitely going to live to see my children grow old. I no longer ask because it starts to seem impolite.

That said, it was encouraging to meet with the oncologist and learn that she stages this cancer as a IIA. For any of you cancer nerds out there, here is some more info (the rest of you can skip to the next paragraph): Stage IIA, multiple foci with largest area of infiltrating ductal carcinoma 9mm, one lymph node involved, strongly estrogen and progesterone-receptor positive, not her-2 overexpressing, a high cell proliferation rate as indicated by a Ki-67 measurement of 32%.

So that up there is what they took out of me. The oncologist liked the small size of the largest tumor, she liked the strong hormone receptivities, and she did not like the high cell proliferation rate. She said this cancer is "a mixed bag." Small but potentially nasty. She also said, "Thank God we got to that early, because it would have been several years before anyone made you get a mammogram and by then you would have been screwed." Those might not have been her exact words, but that was the gist.

I was confused by the whole tumor-size issue, because the surgeon had said I had a 4-5cm mass. Apparently that was a mass of ductal carcinoma in situ (the kind that stays put in the tubes), which she wanted to get out, and the parts the oncologist was more worried about were the littler bits that were starting to grow up, get rowdy, and move out of the house.

So, stage IIA. That puts me in a very pleasant bracket with a 92% five-year survival rate. I am happy to be there. But even though that 9mm tumor and that bad lymph node are sitting in jars downtown, and they can't hurt me anymore, the doctor is of course worried about what they might have gotten up to before they were taken out. She had a lot of metaphors involving trains and buses. The lymphatic system was the train line and you know where all the stations are. Blood circulation is the bus system and who knows where it goes. There were more metaphors. But the point is that we now have to do something to round up any cells that may have hopped a bus and be in there riding around, and that something is chemotherapy.

On metaphor: if you read this blog you know that I am a word person and that words matter to me. We live our lives in language. If you have a complicated thing wrong with you, or if you are just interested, I highly recommend the book How Doctors Thinkby Jerome Groopman. It talks about doctor-patient communication--Groopman says that although a doctor's tools are medical, she meets her patients in language and language is the first tool. As a patient, you must use language to be your own advocate, to help your doctor avoid certain cognitive pitfalls (that the rest of the book about), and to get better care. You do it by active listening and by asking questions. Ask questions to find out stuff you don't know, or to clarify stuff that isn't clear, but also ask questions that make the doctor say what she thinks in several different ways. If something seems tacit in what the doctor is saying, ask a question that makes it explicit. I tend to ask lots of questions that start, "So you are saying that. . ." or "What would be an argument against [what you just said]," or "What would be another way of saying what you just said?" It is kind of exhausting.

But we learn. Every time we meet with another person, we get a slightly different window onto this whole complex disease process. The surgeon's view and the oncologist's were quite different. We left our surgical consult thinking, "OMG, this is a whole mastectomy with a large mass and there are two funny-looking nodes." Then came the surgery with its news of only the sentinel node involved and clear margins. Then we left the oncologist's office thinking, "Okay, she told us that one node is not 'falling off a cliff' and it's an early stage cancer and we're just trying to hold down the odds of a recurrence. I am going to make it out of this."

Probably with no hair, but I'm going to make it out.

A lot of the question right now seems to be how aggressive to be with the chemo. A nurse said to me, "It's funny--the better the prognosis, the more aggressive the treatment." The onc said she "agonized" over whether to do a so-called "dose dense" regimen where I get chemo with adriamycin every two weeks, or a different regimen that is only every three weeks. She doesn't like how aggressive that small tumor seems. She is also trying to weigh the risks associated with the dose dense drug--risks of cardiac damage, secondary leukemia, and who knows--because I have to use this body for many more decades. She decided on the conventional every-three-week course. She said that in her training, they called adriamycin "the red death." So, not getting that is good, I think? She also said that in her experience, young mothers were willing to "call in airstrikes on themselves" if it meant guaranteeing they'd be around for their children. I guess the dose-dense adriamycin would be that airstrike, and I told her I would do it if she thought it best. But she went with the other thing, four to six cycles of Taxotere/Cytoxan.

I know, details. So get this, I am starting this on Wednesday. As in, in four days. What the HECKS? I thought we were, you know, just talking this stuff over. But, um, no, I actually have to do all this crap. We had a meeting with the nurses yesterday about what to expect and side effects and all that. I am sure you'll be hearing more about this, but now I will bring an end to the longest and most poorly-structured blog post in these United States.

But I am serious when I say that everything is fine. I told Matt last night, "Is it weird that I feel really happy?" Not weird I guess. I am not happy about the hair issue but we can talk about it later.

I'm happy because I got my second surgical drain out yesterday and there were no rodents involved. Phew. And Amy is coming! Wednesday!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why Don't We Talk about Me Some More

When last we checked in on my physical condition, I was griping to anyone who would listen about these two surgical drains I had in. Yesterday we went down to the plastic surgeon's office, toting the log sheet of drain data that Matt has been meticulously keeping. My hopes were high. The nice physician's assistant took our log sheet and studied their output. Then she said only one drain would be coming out, but the good news was that it was "the big one." I think it was called the big one because from the way it felt when she pulled that tube out, there was a squirrel on the end of it. You know I like to keep it light here at SubMat, so please forgive me when I say that it hurt like an absolute motherfuck.

I had saved my last percocet for this event. That was in the top twenty smartest things I have ever done.

Matt held my hand, of course, and as he pointed out later, the PA did not warn me, "This is going to hurt," but when they give you that "Take a deep breath and then let it out" line, I know what they mean is, "Yeah, this is going to hurt." So I took a deep breath and let it out, and out, and I got afraid that I would run out of exhalation before she finished pulling and I did not know what I would do then. But then she was finished. And it felt so good that she was finished that I was actually happy. Pain is weird, y'all. She says the other one is "the little one" and in a couple days, it will be "a cinch" to take out. So I've got that going for me.

I told her that I just wasn't sure if it was normal for me to be in such constant discomfort and pain at the site where the little tube comes out. She said my skin did look irritated, "as though it really doesn't like that," and that I must be extra sensitive. Just like the Princess and the Pea. I'm a real princess, y'all!

Then today I saw a picture of Heidi Montag in a magazine, looking all Barbie beautiful, and the caption reminded us that she had ten plastic surgeries more or less simultaneously. And I thought, "That girl needs a doctor who will put down the knife and fix her brain. A really good doctor."

Twenty minutes after my drains/exhale/tube-pulling/squirrel/massive endorphin release experience, Matt and I had our first sit-down with my medical oncologist. That was a good meeting and there is more to tell. But I will spare your blog-strained eyes and tell you tomorrow. It is time for the horizontal mambo. By which I mean I am going to sleep. xoxo-B

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cut-Off Jean Shorts

Yesterday afternoon I came downstairs wearing denim cut-offs and Laura said, "Whoa, Mom, you cut your jeans?" I was like, "Yes honey, but it's been a while. I cut these into shorts a long time ago." She looked confused. I broke it down for her: "They used to be jeans, but then I cut the legs off. And made shorts." She had an amazed look on her face, like I'd told her I could turn lead into gold.

I said, "Go get all of your jeans with holes in the knees and we'll make shorts." I don't know why I hadn't thought of doing that for her before. Increasingly these days, she gets holes in her jeans and I hate for her to wear holey jeans to school. So she brought a pair of jeans out onto the back porch with some scissors. She put them on and pointed to where she wanted them cut, right above the knee. I fixed them up for her and made sure they were even, and she loved them. Loved them so much she had to go stand on the end of the driveway and sing songs for several minutes. Thou once were jeans/but now are shorts/t'was blind/but now I see. (That wasn't the song.)

My question is, do you think cut-off jeans are appropriate school attire for a third grader? We are fast approaching shorts season here. We don't have uniforms here. I don't think the school dress code prohibits cut-offs, I think its only rule is about shorts/skirt length. But do your ideas of propriety prohibit them? I think Daisy Duke shorty cut offs or ragged ones would be an automatic no for me, but these look so tidy on her that I'm just not sure. I think they are preferable to holey jeans but I'm not sure by what mom logic I've arrived at that feeling.

These are the burning questions of our times.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

It's Spring up in Here: A Few Pictures

Baby Carter with Pansies

One great thing about babies at this age (Carter is five weeks old) is how easy they are to just stash places. Just set him right there, oh, and we'll move these pansies too so the chips can be in the middle of the table.

Dwell Tablecloth

When she brought my kids home today, their wonderful grandmother made some little bud vase arrangements using my hydrangeas (people, my hydrangeas are blooming again!) and some flowers that had survived my hospital bouquets. Flowers really make me happy. And mixing them up and rescuing still surviving blooms from amidst their fallen comrades is something I like to do.

Hydrangeas in bud vases

Oh, and the tablecloth. I know, would I shut up for one minute about the shopping? And I do have a rich inner life, I swear, but I was at Target (lord I know how predictable and boring I am at this point but indulge me) this afternoon with Matt's mom Betty, and on an endcap I noticed that Dwell now has tablecloths there. This is one of them, and clearly it's a version of the pattern from their Chinoiserie bedding. Which you can see here. And also in my bedroom if you get really lucky. I am the genius who bought the Dwell bedding just before they started doing the lower cost line for Target.

ANYWAY, the point is that I had not been informed that Dwell was now doing tablecloths for Target. Stop screwing around and go look at them! And tell me which one you like best. I like them better than the Dwell for Target bedding--the online pictures don't do them justice. I also got the Suzani pattern one. Go ahead and mock if you must. I know but it's my life.


Here I'm starting to get my spring mantel arrangement worked on. I am showcasing another piece of Laura pottery. I think this one was meant to be a self-portrait. Blue eyes, check. Blonde hair, check.

As I said, the kids came home today from their week in Chattanooga, and they have both grown two inches and talk twice as fast as they used to. I knelt down in the front door and Hank just barreled into me with a hug. Even Laura was a hugger and huggee. Hank told me he loved me over and over again. They were both happy as the grass is green. These are the times that you want to bottle up, save, and uncork in the last moments of your life. Then Hank asked if I was all better from my surgery or if I still had a bandage. I told him I was still sore but much better than before. I told Laura about my recuperation in a little more detail, including the fact that I still have my drains, and she nodded knowingly. She said, "Yeah, I held my ear to the phone when Daddy was talking to Grandmommy."

In five short days, I forgot how much energy they take, but also how much energy they give back. Parenting, man.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Okay, I Know I Said We Would Speak No More about This

I am blogging about this because it's on my mind today and maybe it will help inform somebody, somebody who wants to be informed about something yucky. These were my words the other day:
"I am only going to say one gross thing. That thing is: surgical drains. Now let's not speak of that again."

I didn't think that I would need to speak of them again because I thought they wouldn't be hanging around long enough. I have two, and they are still with me. The nurse said, "You will probably keep these for 7 to 10 days." But when you hear something like that, don't you automatically think, "Oh, well I will be done in like five days because I am very advanced"? That's what I thought. Or certainly that I would be closer to the 7 days than the 10. Well.

If you don't know what a surgical drain is then I am glad for you. Maybe skip the rest of this post and go get a FroYo. If you want to know what a surgical drain is, it is a plastic grenade-sized bulb that is attached to your body with a thin little tube. The little tube disappears somewhere inside you. That plastic bulb is draining extra fluid from your surgical site, fluid that would otherwise build up somewhere or ooze somewhere or do something unpleasant. Something even more unpleasant than collecting in a grenade-sized bulb that is attached to your body.

I think I am a typical mastectomy patient in that I have two of these things: one drain is for my boob and one is for my armpit, where the surgeon took out some lymph nodes. They both come out under my arm and are sutured (and kind of taped) under there, and then there's a few feet of tubing and then the bulb. The trick is where to stash these babies while you go about your day. You cannot ever let them dangle from your body, obviously, so they have to be attached to your clothing somehow, but preferably somewhere out of sight.

Here's where I think I might be able to be of help to someone: I have heard that some women wear a fanny pack and put their drains in that. A fanny pack. Remember those? That is certainly a utilitarian solution, but can we do a little better? For one thing, I don't own a fanny pack. I asked my sister if she had one that maybe I could borrow, and she was like, um, what? I think I offended her. So no fanny packs.

Another solution is just to wear a big blouse and safety pin the drains inside. This didn't work for me--I could feel the bulbs against my skin and it just looks frumpy. Or feels frumpy. I don't know.

In the hospital, these awesome ladies from the auxiliary breast cancer support network visited me and gave me some gifts. One of them was a black jacket that has pockets on the inside for tucking the bulbs into. I was very grateful to them for all their kindness, and this jacket thing was on the right track. However, it was a big one-size-fits-all, kind of a hot fabric for the weather here, and just not a good look for me. That didn't work, but it got me thinking.

I have two down vests from Lands End. They look like this.
It's hard to tell in the pic, but they have slash pockets on the sides. It dawned on me that these vests (I have this pink one and another green one) look exactly the same inside out as they do right side out. I figured out that I could just wear a loose t-shirt, or really any shirt I want, put the vest on inside out, and tuck the drain bulbs into the pocket, which is now on the inside. Then I pin the bulbs to the pocket for security. Even when the vest is unsnapped you can't see the drains or any tubing, because the vest is just slightly longer than your shirt hem.

Then I look totally normal, and what's more, I feel like I look totally normal, because this is what I wear all the time, as you can attest if you know me. A tee, puffy vest, and jeans is my uniform. Though today I wore shorts. The puffy down has the added benefit of camouflaging any asymmetry you've got going on with the bosoms, and of making you feel a little more protected from the world. The last couple of days, when it got really warm here, I switched to a zip-front Gap vest I have, in a lighter cotton material. Same principle though--turn it inside out so the pockets are on the inside. If you find yourself or someone you know in this situation, remember the magic of the Inside-Out Puffy Vest.

So anyhoo, the drains and I am tired of them and I can get rid of them plz? Their output has not tapered off like I wanted it to, and my armpit is bugging me, so today I called the surgeon's nurse. She listened to me and said, "Have you increased your activity with that arm?" I said that I was walking around my house some but definitely not doing any housework. Plus, Matt keeps an eye on me. He won't even let me pick up my purse. I told her that I didn't think I was being too active with it but that I guessed I could be even less active. She said, "You know, no wiping your counters or sweeping." I was like, "Oh honey, BELIEVE me when I say that I'm not doing any of that." But we said we'd give it another 24 hours and I would check back in. So I dunno. The more active I am, the more these tissues will produce fluid, which at this point, apparently, is not good and is slowing their healing. And it is slowing me getting these tubes out of my body.

And who is dealing with these drains and emptying them and keeping track of their data? That would be Matt. Dude can do anything, carefully and well. Except complain, I handle all of that.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

You Didn't Think This Surgery Would Keep Me out of Target, Did You?

Hey Honeys. I had a very mellow day here at the homestead. It was just Matt and me, except that my newly affianced cousin Patrick and his bride-to-be came by. They were on their way up to the mountain house and stopped in for a short visit. A short visit is about all I am good for. I am thrilled to see people and hungry for chat, but then I get tired. At one point I kind of lost the thread of a story I had started, and Matt turned to them and said, "See? High as a kite." Which I am most certainly not.

Earlier tonight I felt restless and a little bonk bonk, so I went into Matt's office and said, "I think I am kuckoo." He said, "Let's get you out of the house." Matt's mom had left her convertible with us, having driven the kids to Chattanooga in our van, so he loaded me into the passenger seat and away we went. It is so warm here--even warm-at-night-in-an-open-car warm--so we drove in a big lazy quadrangle around our burb. Looking at the sky and feeling the wind made me feel better.

As we got closer to home, Matt drove into the Target parking lot and said, "Would you like to walk around in here?" Does this man know me or what? I wanted to say, "I marry you," three times like in Cold Mountain. But I said, "Yes, let's just go in and get some fruit." I secretly wanted to check and see if they had stocked any more Liberty of London stuff. Not because I need another speck of it. But because I don't want to let my post-op recovery keep me from covering my beat, you know?

So, they had restocked a bunch of stuff, including the pillows. The Target website says they're "in stores only," so you might have to make some sorties to find 'em. One disappointment was that I have yet to see a single lady's swimsuit in my Target. There is a tankini on the website that is the only possible thing I might still need from this collection. If we take "need" to mean something totally different from what it means in normal discourse.

Then I started yawning in the store and now I am tucked onto the couch sipping green tea and watching "Weeds." Y'all, I know some of you have told me to watch this show before and you were so right. It is like watching a TV show of my blog, if I sold pot. That would be the best blog in the world.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Lady of Leisure

Well. It got quiet around here today. Let's see, since last we spoke, nothing much happened. That's the short version.

The expanded version is: the kids and I were very well tended to by Matt, my parents, friends and neighbors; the weather remained gorgeous; I felt a little stronger and less ouchy every day; I tried to read a People magazine but it was too narratively complex--who is that guy in all those pictures with Sandra Bullock?--so I dug into the Anthropologie catalog instead; I slept an astounding twelve hours a night; I took a couple of short walks; we dyed eggs; lots of "30 Rocks" were watched; and I ate an unseemly amount of candy.

Seriously, Matt tucks me into bed around midnight every night and I sleep until noon the next day. I am not kidding when I say that it feels awesome.

Also I have gained four pounds since my surgery. What the what? I blame all of the people, medical professionals included, who keep exhorting me that I need to eat to heal, and who keep putting Chick-fil-a milkshakes into my hands. Possibly, sleeping half of the day could be implicated as well.

Today marked a change in the routine because Matt's mom arrived last night and took the kids back up to Chattanooga with her for a few days of spring break fun. Mom and Dad also slipped away to their mountain citadel. I am pretty low maintenance these days, so with the kids gone, I told them to go have a little break and that Matt could handle my naps, TV channel changes, and tantrums for food.

So today I found myself in a quiet house with no children and no obligations except to just be. I tried to think of when the last time was that I was supposed to just exist, with nothing expected of me. I couldn't remember. The closest thing, I think, is after you bring home a new baby. But at that time people kind of expect you to take care of the baby.

It is a strange feeling, but I am liking it. I think I will enjoy it even more tomorrow, now that I'm getting used to the idea of just getting well and resting up for the next thing. Plus I might be up to reading an actual book. I know for sure I need to get around to everyone's blogs and see what y'all are up to.

Also, I have been studying myself in the mirror, looking at my surgical site and all, and while some of the books I've read warned me to expect a confusing avalanche of feelings of grief, or disgust, or a desire to turn away, honestly what I thought was, "Huh, that's not so bad. Really not bad at all." Maybe I already got that sadness out of the way. I know it hasn't even been a week, and maybe I'm still in shock a little. Who knows what's to come. But it's like I can already sense my usual happiness with my own body just waiting in the wings. Like, "Okay, when you're ready, let's get this show back on the road."

Speaking of happy, my mother-in-law brought me that yellow Liberty of London coat from Target. I love it so much that I want to take it behind the high school and get it pregnant.

(That last sentence is a quotation from "30 Rock," because you know that I would never be so vulgar all on my own.)

I hope y'all had wonderful weekends. I love and appreciate your thoughtful notes so much. And also your blog comments. My parents read the comments aloud to me throughout the day in case I missed them. Y'all continue to be wonderful. And I'll keep you posted on any important happenings with all my junk. xoxoxo--B

Friday, April 2, 2010

I'm Not One of Those People Who Can't Stand To Be Waited On

Yoohoo, am I on the internets? It's been so long that I feel technology may have advanced while I was kind of out of it, and now instead of blogging we're all raising chinchillas or something and communicating by exchanging pelts. But in case that chinchilla revolution is not complete, I thought I'd pop in and say hi. Thank you, Amy, for updating everybody after my surgery. I loved reading everybody's hellos and well-wishes. I missed you all and I missed typing my little words to you.

So right now it is Friday evening, and I've had what seemed like a busy day. That is, I actually left the house, wearing shoes, and went to the plastic surgeon's office for a post-op exam. They said I was looking great and sent me back home. Obviously that was the most exhausting feat of human endurance ever and I had to take a two-hour nap in bed to get over it.

But to rewind a bit, the surgery was about three hours on Tuesday afternoon. Matt and my dad were down there with me. Everything went well and I woke up without a lot of pain. I spent the rest of the evening in a comfortable state of dozing and chatting. The nice nurse gave me a magic button that I could press to get a dose of pain medication. While she was showing me how it worked, I pushed the button about fifty times, which prompted her to explain that it would only give me a dose every ten minutes. Okay, we can play it your way if you want.

That was a great button, and I was really conflicted when they told me that in order to go home, I had to leave the button there. Button!

The surgeon told me after I woke up that the sentinel lymph node was positive for cancer cells, but that we would know more later. I wasn't really surprised, but it still wasn't great news--that there is chemotherapy in my future.

Even so, I was feeling much better by Wednesday evening and eating like an absolute horse. I don't know if that hospital has a Clean Plate Club, but if they do, my picture is on a bulletin board somewhere. Matt and I both managed to get a lot of rest in that hospital room. I'm telling you, it was much easier than being in the hospital taking care of a newborn baby.

This was a sign that Matt made and taped to the wall over my bed. It never hurts to remind people.

Matt brought me home and my whole house had been transformed into a cozy nest of flowers, pillows, thoughtful notes, and home cooked food. The kids appeared to have flourished in my absence, thanks to my mom, and I have not had to do a thing. There is no button but there are pills here. Pills!

I am only going to say one gross thing. That thing is: surgical drains. Now let's not speak of that again.

Oh! And good news today: when I was on the way home from my check-up at the plastic surgeon's offfice, the oncologic surgeon's nurse called. The doc was out of town but the pathology was back and she'd reviewed it. That sentinel node they took out was the only positive one. All the other fifteen or so nodes were clear. And the tumor margins were clear. Guys, this is the first piece of news that has gone our way, and it means that I am probably definitely going to be fine, even if I have to do a bunch more crap first. We are, all of us, so relieved.

So, I am tired and my tummy is full and sleep is imminent, so let's review: Matt and Dad were with me, surgery went well, Button!, Clean Plate Club, I get intimate with my La-Z-Boy, just one positive node, relief breaks out, I love you all, more to come. Good night!