I decided to pop in here while my energy levels are on a rebound to give you a brief update. Are you sick of hearing about this cancer business yet, because I know that I am! It’s the illness that keeps on giving, and giving… ugh.
It’s been 9 weeks since my surgery and I’m adjusting to the new normal – my new temporary “under construction” body which won’t be completed for many months. What’s the new normal you might ask? Well, on the plus side I don’t need to wear those medieval torture garments more commonly referred to as underwire bras, or any kind of bra for that matter! I may have given them up for life, which is a very good thing. On the negative side, there’s this weird numb feeling in my chest and armpit area and there’s no way to tell whether it will change over time. Some people have recovery of their nerves, while others never do. Right now I’m going to pretend that the numbness is more a result of the expanders in my chest than the surgery. You see, while the double mastectomy is done, there won’t be reconstruction until sometime next winter. In the meantime expanders have been put in my chest to hold a place for reconstructed boobs.
I could smack myself every time I think about why should I even have cared about reconstructed boobs, which I’ve been wondering ever since my surgery. There’s no perfect solution to reconstructing boobs, each comes with potential risks and hassles. But it’s too late now to debate that and since the expanders have to come out anyway, I may as well replace them with something. Conventional norms will make us do things without even thinking about it, until it’s too late. This is something I wish that I had thought about in advance, because, on a bad day, my expanders feel like there’s a permanent underwire in my chest that can’t be removed. Fun times. If you have a choice, I’d avoid expanders, unless you really, really care about restoring the look of blobs on your chest. I seriously don’t mind the flat-ish look I’m currently sporting. And if you’re wondering why the delay in reconstruction, it’s because the next stop on my cancer treatment train is radiation, and most surgeons will wait until that’s over to perform reconstruction. You might sometimes hear about surgeons who will do it before radiation treatments, especially the surgeons of celebrities who can’t afford to delay their careers with a flat-ish bosom. My cancer team doesn’t do that because radiation can change the skin and the underlying structure, which could mean future plastic surgery to correct the damage done by that radiation. And who needs more surgery? Not I. Despite the convenient electric beds and room service meals you get at the hospital, or even the opioid narcotics that, as far as I’m concerned based on recent experience, do more to cause constipation than to cure pain. Therefore, while radiation is scheduled to start on August 14, I won’t be reconstructed until six months or so after treatments.
During these 9 weeks I read a book, a cancer memoir to be exact, called “The Bright Hour”. I highly don’t recommend it for anyone going through cancer treatments because the book doesn’t end well, if you catch my drift. On the other hand, it’s a well written book for anyone interested in understanding the breast cancer experience better. I followed that up with a slightly more comedic and entertaining show that also dealt with a character undergoing breast cancer treatments called “Playing House”. I would say that show pretty accurately describes the feelings about the cancer experience for both the patient and family members supporting her, although it kind of glossed over the realities of the treatments. But who really needs to see that anyhow? Any other good breast cancer entertainment you can recommend? Because I’m a glutton for punishment. Just kidding.
I began physical therapy last week to learn how to prevent lymphedema since I had 14 lymph nodes removed during my surgery. You don’t want lymphedema, the permanent swelling of your limbs. It’s not pretty or comfortable from what I hear. I’m also working on regaining the 30% loss in range of motion that’s developed on that side. It’s amazing how quickly the body loses what it once could do. The doctor assures me it will return if I’m a good patient and do my prescribed exercises, despite the upcoming fatigue and discomfort expected from radiation. It’s hard to be a good patient though when you keep forgetting to do the exercises until moving the arm hurts again because everything is tightening up. C’mon, don’t blame me. It’s summer, and there are distractions. Like both girls are home, working varying part time hours. And Louisa is heading to college in three weeks – let’s not even go there in this post – and we have a lot of dorm room shopping to get done before she goes.
By the way, my hair is growing back. But we’ll save the hair discussion for my next post.