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One of the hardest part of a cancer diagnosis is the physical change in a person. For the most part, I’ve been emotionally ready for each physical difference a treatment or surgery has made to my appearance.

Last November, on the eve of my first chemotherapy treatment, I was fully aware that my hair would fall out within the next two weeks. I had on standby a bunch of hats I had knitted myself and a few head scarves that I had purchased. When the hair began to come out, I took the bull by the horns and shaved the rest of my hair off myself. As it turned out, the scarves looked pretty good on my very round head and my wooly hats came in handy on cold winter nights. I didn’t mind my bald self all that much and had fun with different colored scarves and coordinating make-up. So many people came up to me and would say “you don’t look sick at all.”

Now though I’ve gone through a different transformation. Last week I had surgery to remove all my breast tissue, both sides. Tissue expanders were implanted and will be slowly expanded over the next few weeks to form hopefully a small C cup breast. In the meantime, I’ve gone from a full C to almost nothing. And since I’ve always carried a bit of extra weight in my middle, I’m totally off balance. Add to the fact that my hair is growing back in what looks like a GRAY color and you have the perfect chemistry for bad body image 101.

I’ve literally gone from a curvy, full breasted, long curly haired women to someone I now don’t recognize. I’m looking for that boost I need to bring me back to feeling good about myself again. I may have found it.

While at the doctor’s office yesterday, my father started a conversation with one of the patients in the waiting room. She is a cancer survivor like myself, having been through the same treatments and surgeries as I have and is now ready for the second reconstruction surgery where the tissue expanders are replaced with breast implants. She then blurted out “I can’t wait for the tummy tuck ” and that’s when I found out that for an extra out of pocket fee, the plastic surgeon can perform a tummy tuck during the implant surgery.

All of a sudden I had images of myself, full breasted, flat tummy, chic new silver euro-hairstyle with a stylish wardrobe, all of which I can wear without a bra. My self image went from blah to smokin’ in a matter of seconds.

Next week, during my first expansion session, I will be meeting with my plastic surgeon to check on my post surgical body. I plan to inquire about the tummy tuck. Since I won’t have the second surgery until sometime mid-summer, I’ve got plenty of time to think about whether a tummy tuck is worth the money. Then again, with the worst year of my entire life almost behind me, maybe I owe it to myself to do something that will make me feel like a total woman again.

Cross posted at Mothers with Cancer

Today I had lunch with my daughter at her elementary school. When I sat down, her classmate (and little neighbor who I’ve known since birth) said to the lunch lady “This is Leah’s mom – she’s almost done with cancer.”

Hmmm, couldn’t say it better myself.

I’m heading into the hospital tomorrow for a two night stay for my double mastectomy/reconstructive surgery. This is what I’m having. Just one more step towards getting better.

Out for a beer

OOPS!

If you stopped by my blog yesterday, you might have seen an image of a half naked girl in this post – this was obviously a mistake. I originally had a picture of a beer that I pasted into the post, but for some weird reason I can’t explain after I posted it the picture changed to some scantly clad lady! Thanks to my Dad who asked me what the heck was on my blog!!

It’s been a few weeks since my final chemo treatment and I am starting to feel a little bit more like myself each day (with the exception of constant NASTY hot flashes).

Tonight I am heading out for dinner with two girlfriends who insisted on taking me out to celebrate the end of chemo. I plan on partaking in one of these:

 

Yep, it makes me smile!

A chance meeting

It finally happened. After many weeks of walking around with a bandana wrapped around my bald head, a woman approached me yesterday in the organic milk isle at my supermarket to ask about my treatment. You see, with exception of a few little kids, most people either don’t notice that I walk around with a headcovering on, or at least pretend not to notice. This woman, on the other hand, was in the same boat as I am in. A really beautiful woman with long, dark, curly hair, she told me that she is a four year breast cancer survivor.

It was really nice to speak with someone face to face about my treatment, her surgery and being a young person with cancer. She too had two little kids while going through treatment and knows what a struggle that can be. It was nice to talk to someone who understands what I have been going through.

Luckily, as I told her yesterday, I only have two more treatments of Taxol to go! March 13th is the date of my last chemo and I am counting the days! I also meet with a plastic surgeon that same week to discuss my reconstructive options. Finally, I feel like I’m coming to a bend in the road. I am so ready to be done with all of this and be healthy again!

NOTE: I wrote this post almost two weeks ago, the morning of my chemo appointment, so my mood was gloomy. I don’t like to be a complainer, but just needed to get something off my chest.  Just so you know.

Honolulu trip2On Monday night my husband and I got to have a real date night. Using a very generous gift card that someone anonymously gave us from my daughter’s first grade class (I know, can you believe we had a secret Santa) we ventured out first to the bookstore then to a very fancy restaurant not far from home. I had the oven-roasted duck breast which was just heavenly.

Before getting to the restaurant, I brought up the subjects of vacations. Due to my Mother’s illness the first half of 2008 and then my own diagnosis shortly thereafter, we didn’t go anywhere as a family. Having been used to either taking one big trip a year or a few smaller ones, this was a disappointment for the year. But when I brought up where we should go for vacation this summer*, when I am finished with my treatment, my husband right away said “don’t get your hopes up, we might not be able to afford one in 2009” and in very grown up fashion I began to cry. I know, not very adult like, but the tears just came.

Let me mention here that my husband is very careful with our money. When we were both working full time we made double payments on our mortgage and now have a monthly payment similar to most people’s car payments. So, he is frugal and it has gotten us a lower mortgage payment and peace of mind when it comes to our finances. He pointed out that there have been medical bills that we’ve had to pay lately and not to mention the extra help we have hired to take care of the baby during the day while I recover from my chemo treatments. All in all, we finished out the year with a few thousand dollars flying out of our wallets.

But, when I found myself upset, I didn’t think about how much money we’ve had to spend since I became ill, but just thought that after having to endure the crappy year that 2008 has been, after watching my mother become ill, after having to speak at her funeral the day before my 35th birthday and going through multiple surgeries and now chemo, well then, don’t I deserve a vacation?

Shouldn’t I be able to put my feet in the sand, put on a wide brimmed hat and watch my kids play in the waves someplace nice and warm for a week? Can’t I go someplace where no one knows that I have cancer, or that I lost my mom last year?

* please don’t feel all that bad for me – in 2007 we traveled on vacation to Jamaica and then found ourselves in China a few months later. Plus in the last six years I’ve been to Hawaii three times (the picture above I took at Hanama Bay on Oahu). Not so bad, right?

Or so says my husband…

Over a week ago my hair started to slowly fall out, so we borrowed a razor from my neighbor and Joe gave me a buzz cut. Just this morning some of the little hairs from my short cut started falling out so I’m sure to be fully bald within the next two days.

monk

To be honest, my head is pretty round and my ears don’t stick out, so I figure I don’t look all that bad with a bald head. I didn’t buy a wig and so mostly wear the hats I knitted awhile back around the house and a scarf when going somewhere.

My second treatment was over a week ago and on the two days afterwards I felt surprisingly good and even went to my girlfriend’s Christmas party. By Monday morning though I felt pretty lousy and spent four days lounging around the house, not in the mood to do anything. When I was pregnant with Leah I had morning sickness for two months and the same thing happened – I didn’t go anywhere or felt like doing anything. This is probably not the healthiest approach and by Friday I was pretty frazzled. Luckily my husband had taken the day off and insisted I get out of the house to get some fresh air. We spent some time driving around and even stopped by one of my favorite restaurants to have lunch. That put me in a much better mood and since yesterday I’ve been up and moving around, doing stuff around the house. I am even hoping to squeeze a book in between now and my third treatment next Friday. Luckily, I received a copy of Kelly Corrigan’s memoir The Middle Place directly from the publisher and I am really looking forward to reading it!

Hope you all had a great holiday. I’m off now to clean my desk – obviously I should have thought of that before my husband took this picture!

Inspiring video

Just when I needed a little boost, I read about this video over at one of my favorite book blogs. From the author Kelly Corrigan’s website, the above video is a beautiful tribute to women, strength and enduring friendships. Kelly’s memoir, The Middle Place, is being released in paperback next week. You can read a description of her memoir from Publishers Weekly below:

Newspaper columnist Corrigan was a happily married mother of two young daughters when she discovered a cancerous lump in her breast. She was still undergoing treatment when she learned that her beloved father, who’d already survived prostate cancer, now had bladder cancer. Corrigan’s story could have been unbearably depressing had she not made it clear from the start that she came from sturdy stock. Growing up, she loved hearing her father boom out his morning HELLO WORLD dialogue with the universe, so his kids would feel like the world wasn’t just a safe place but was even rooting for you. As Corrigan reports on her cancer treatment—the chemo, the surgery, the radiation—she weaves in the story of how it felt growing up in a big, suburban Philadelphia family with her larger-than-life father and her steady-loving mother and brothers. She tells how she met her husband, how she gave birth to her daughters. All these stories lead up to where she is now, in that middle place, being someone’s child, but also having children of her own. Those learning to accept their own adulthood might find strength—and humor—in Corrigan’s feisty memoir.

I think this book sounds like a really great read and I plan to purchase a copy for myself for Christmas (who says you can’t buy yourself a Christmas present anyway)?

Cross posted over at Mothers with Cancer