Happy Halloween: Avoiding that Candy Like a Plague

run done
Got My Run Going On!

I did it!  I went for a “run.”  I had to add quotes because that was one of the slower runs I have experienced.  In fact, I did a mix of jogging and walking and I only made it two miles before I felt like I was going to spew.  My legs were great! I could walk 500 miles, and I could walk 500 more… (had to throw in a 90’s music reference there).  My lungs, well, that’s another story. I have lost all aerobic capacity.  I’m going to get there.

On a good note, I did run!

I mean, check out those goods!  I strapped them in that new sports bra and took off.  As a reminder, here is where I was just a few weeks ago:

September 17th, 5 days After Surgery
September 17th, 5 days After Surgery

My chest was basically flat.  Actually, it wasn’t that far off from where I was before the mastectomy.  Here is a photo that is a couple of years old now, but this is how I used to look in a sports bra, back when I was in awesome shape and did the Tough Mudder with my awesome husband!

Tough Mudder Pre-mastectomy Shape
Tough Mudder Pre-mastectomy Shape

Notice a bit of a change?  Yeah, it’s quite cool…except for the out of shape part. I have faith that will change.  My pants will fit again…someday.  Note, I am never doing another Tough Mudder; mud is not my thing, especially when it’s mud in a cow pasture.  Enough said.

running…from the candy

I am staying away from the Halloween candy.  I promise.  Hear that, world?  No CANDY!!!!  I cannot exercise and then give in to the holiday binging.  Take that, sugar, I’m committed to a healthier me.

So, now the question is, are you?

 

Moving Forward

I am sore.  I had my last, yes LAST, fill on Wednesday.  I also scheduled my switch surgery for January 24th. I’m the size I want to be, in spite of the pain.   Check out the glory of the magical growing tatas. Left was my fill two weeks ago.  Right was after Wednesday’s.

In all honesty, I have no idea what to do with them.  Ha!  I’ve gotten them caught under ledges as I bent over working at my bar counter.  Lesson learned: no more hunching. 

On another note, I tried on some sports bras because I can start running again (not that I feel like it now, but I will!).  I don’t need to wear a bra since these expanders are going no where, but athletic tanks aren’t the most modest and I should likely cover up these girls. I mean, check this out.  I actually fill out this (only slightly padded) bra. It’s 36C!  When I started this process I was a 32B. I have cleavage.  I am looking forward to buying some new clothes to, tastefully, show it off. 

I’ll keep you posted about my progress.  I can see a run in my future!  

What They Don’t Tell You

I’ve learned a few things throughout this journey that they don’t tell you when you start.  I mean, the docs are good at asking you if you have any questions but if you don’t know what to ask, there’s a big void surrounding your knowledge base from the very start.  So, here’s a short list of the the info that may not come up during your appointments.

  1.  Sneezing hurts.  That is all.
  2. Phantom itching. It happens, and you can’t locate the source.  And it stinks.
  3. Wearing a bra to cover incisions won’t feel ideal, even if it doesn’t have a wire and you don’t have incisions where the band hits.
  4. Random pain.  Sometimes they hurt, which is weird since you have lost nerves.  But, nerves can regenerate, so maybe that’s it.
  5. Sleeping is awkward and will continue to be so until you ditch the expanders.  Get used to sleep deprivation.  This too shall pass.

I’m looking forward to today’s appointment.  I can’t tell you how much!  The end is in sight!

 

Coasting: Mastectomy Recovery

I slept much better last night…and in my own bed!  Yahoo!  It’s the little things, people.

I’m in a lull until I meet with my plastic surgeon next Wednesday to determine when my next surgery will be, so I’m feeling better but still can’t lift or do a whole lot.  What does that mean?  Crafting and reading, of course.

BRCA RibbonYesterday night I had the lovely opportunity to get together with some of the teachers from my school and craft, combining two of the things I love best!  All of the other teachers painted wood turkeys to hang in their homes for the holiday, and I painted an awareness ribbon!  It was funny that this social event materialized, because I had asked my friend who owns her own business if I could buy a blank wood awareness ribbon last week and, and here I was, blessed with the opportunity to not only procure my ribbon but to paint it in good company!  If have to say, it looks fabulous on my front door (ignore the dirty door).

This morning, after a good night’s sleep (hallelujah!), I took a walk with my awesome hubby and our crazy dog.  I got in 4mi in some nice cool weather (“cold” front, yippee!!!).  About 2 miles in to the walk I found this lying in the street:img_6801

How funny is that?   It’s a pin, so, I’m sure someone lost it off a shirt or bag.  Of course, I had to keep it.

In other news, I started a healthy living/eating challenge on Facebook and was surprised when so many of my friends wanted to join.   I’ve created a simple Google Docs food diary and am tracking what I eat.  If I have to write down what I put in my mouth, I’m make much healthier choices.  I have a desperation to get back into my pre-surgery clothes, especially my jeans!  I’m really tired of always wearing athletic wear, no matter how comfy it may be.  I’m hoping for good results.  My goal is to lose 5lbs from around my middle as that’s what I put on since August.  I think I can do it!  I am the Proactive Previvor, after all.  If I can tackle these surgeries, I can tackle anything!!!!

 

A Day Off

I had the day off yesterday from my weekly fill visit.  Instead, I spent the day with one of my best friends.  We went shopping to look for an outfit for her family pictures (I picked out the winner!) and met a working friend for lunch at a fantastic restaurant in town.  I loved every minute.

This was the great part of my day.  The bad part of my day began, as it has the last two days, when I tried to actually get some sleep in my bed.  I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get comfortable and I couldn’t toss and turn with my poor husband trying to sleep next to me.  I can’t spend my life in the recliner, but I can’t give in to the sleep anxiety that I’ve dealt with for years simply because I’m trying to remember what “normal” feels like.

Insomnia isn’t any fun.  It’s horrible, in fact.  And, whenever I’m wide awake at bedtime one night, I start to obsess about sleeping and then I’m really awake.  That’s what my body does.  I’ll be fine all day and then freak out at bedtime.  I haven’t had any problems sleeping throughout this whole process other than being uncomfortable and waking up frequently.  This “can’t sleep” and wide awake feeling is one I dread.  And, worrying, of course, makes it worse. Yes, I’ve tried sleeping pills.  I take a daily anxiety drug.  And, I hate taking sleep aids.  I would rather work through it with meditation and good sleep habits.

So, an an effort to head off another episode tonight.  I spent two hours in my bed this morning trying to make it comfortable and attempting to nap.  I dozed off once (I know because I drooled…eeeeew) but didn’t stay asleep for long.  I think I have my pillows and blankets situated in a way that will work.  Now, all I have to do is get my head to cooperate.

I’m also cutting out coffee for today.  I realized I’d been steadily increasing my caffeine dose as I’ve been home and I’ve been tired due to interrupted recliner sleep.  I’m hoping this helps.

If you’ve read all of this, say a little prayer for me.  More than dealing with pain, a slack of sleep is a really scary problem for me.

 

 

Reconstruction: Jessica Rabbit

Anyone else remember the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”?  Well, Roger Rabbit’s cartoon girlfriend looked something like this:

Jessica Rabbit
from http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/File:Jessica_rabbit_art.jpg

This is what I felt like after my fill on Wednesday minus the sexy vibes.  I had muscle spasms galore.  I hurt so much that I took muscle relaxers during the day and called in a friend to bring me some lunch.  I would not have survived without one of my best friends bringing me my favorite fast food!  In truth, I didn’t stop feeling sore until yesterday (Saturday!).

Reconstruction through the week

Me Before You movie
Vegging at Its Finest

I spent Wednesday and Thursday glued to the couch.  Truly, I could’t do much else.  This has been a roller coaster ride.  One day I feel fine.  The next, I have a fill that hurts and have to spend two days recovering.  I’m taking one day at a time and learning to appreciate the time alone to indulge in chick flicks, rest, and heal.

Chilling with chili: a reconstruction meal go-to

I’ve needed to come up with some meals that are low-maintenance and lasting that the whole family for those days when I know I won’t feel up to traditional stovetop cooking.  Most importantly, these meals can’t require a lot of elbow grease in the prep department.

Recovering or not, I think meal time is a challenge for most people. When I need an easy meal for hurried dinner times, I turn to my crockpot.  I’m also into pretending it’s fall and fall means warm, hearty food.   So, here’s my recipe for my Chilling with Crockpot Chili!

crockpot chili
Chilling with Crockpot Chili
Chilling with Crokcpot Chili: Meal make-ahead
  • 4 (14.5oz) cans Diced, Roasted Tomatoes
  • 1 small (4oz) can tomato sauce
  • 14.5oz can of either red or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp chili powder (or more to taste if you like spicy)
  • salt to taste
  • Fritos or chip of choice for garnish
  • shredded cheese or sour cream for topping, if desired

Brown the meet in a large skillet along with diced onion and garlic.  Once browned and onion is softened, add to a large crockpot.  Add canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, and spices.  Stir ingredients and set crockpot temperature to low.  Let chili cook for several hours to blend flavors.

I like to make this in the morning and leave to cook all day.  We like to eat the chili topped with shredded cheese and serve it with Fritos Scoops.

 

 

Mastectomy: 4 Weeks Post-op

Today’s post is all about the stuff that’s helped me survive the past four weeks.  I came home from the hospital four weeks from today!  I can hardly believe I’ve been in recovery mode for that long!  I feel much better than I ever anticipated.  Aside from my weekly fill every Wednesday, I’ve felt a-ok.  Here’s a fun list of the things that helped me get through! S

Support of friends and family!

Ok, so this one is obvious, but has to be my #1.  My in-laws helped my family and I survive for three weeks.  I’ve had visits from friends and lunch invitations to keep me sane.  And, I keep getting gifts at random to totally cheer me up.

Thanks, Aunt Cindy!!!
Thanks, Aunt Cheri!!!

Support in other places

I have incisions straight across the chest.  They aren’t that smooth thanks to the glue they used to seal them shut.  Stupid globby glue…better than a bandage but quite unsightly.

Anyhoooo….I decided to deal with the unsightly bumpiness by covering them up.  Enter, the lined tank.  I stumbled upon these tunic length tanks in Kohl’s.  The key is, don’t buy one that’s too tight so you have room to expand in the tank and you should be able to get into it by stepping in rather than struggling to pull it over your head.

lined cami
A Lined Cami

Preventing mush

Staying home has had a degenerative effect on my mental capacity.  Working keeps your brain stimulated.  Having an empty house during the day sounds like paradise but you do have to work to keep your brain from turning to mush.  Enter, online training!  I may be out of the classroom, but I’m trying to keep my pedagogical knowledge up to date!    Make sure you find something to keep your mind fresh–online classes, books, games, etc.

img_8131
Keep That Brain Strong!

On that note, time for me to wrap this up.  I may be staying home but I still have responsibilities.  Mom duty calls!

The Inflatable Me

I wrote about the beginning of my expander process with “Puberty in Your 30’s” and now, one more fill down, I can tell you I feel a bit like this:

blow-up doll
Want one? Check out Amazon.

Yes, truly.  Each time I go in for a fill the expanders (especially my left, which sits higher) grows in the shape of a grapefruit.  These are not natural, people.  They feel hard as rocks.

Fill ‘er up, expander style

The first day is painful, as I’ve already indicated; the next day is better.  Here is what I looked like before my first fill at 50cc’s.

50cc's
Before My First Fill at 50cc’s

Here is what I look like now, at about 250cc’s on the right and 220ish on the left.  Why uneven?  The position of the expander on the left is higher under the muscle.  If we filled it up to the same as the right, I would look quite lopsided.  Please pardon the messy bathroom shot.  Not the best photography skills here.

250cc's
About 250cc’s post second fill.

I am already pretty happy with how I look, honestly.  Although this look does not have a natural shape, I have cleavage and I can tell I’m getting there.  Plus, I am not experiencing any pain or discomfort.

fitting in: round expanders in “natural bras”

bra pile
My Cups Runneth Over…Or Not

My PA ordered me to go try on bras during this process so I could gauge how much bigger I’d like to be. I felt so much larger after this last fill that I decided it was officially time for a  trip to the lingerie department.

I headed to Kohl’s because of their large bra selection.  I grabbed a stack of wire-free bras (of which they had several rows) and took them to the fitting room feeling proud and ready, convinced they were going to fit.

I tried on the two three bras in this pile and promptly realized that this was a lost cause.  I feel big, I think I look big, but clearly my perspective is jaded.  As I mentioned, I was a “deflated” B when I started this process.  I could swear when I look down that I’m gargantuan but obviously not.

expanding until I see a “c”

I do not fill out at 34C, and that’s my goal.  Why this arbitrary size?  Well, at a C-cup you can find bras that are not push-up and that aren’t heavily padded.  To me, this is the ideal.  I don’t want to look like that blow-up doll when I’m done with this process.  I just want to look like a natural me.  And, I run.  Why wants to run with too much bounce?  Not I!

I am in truly a unique position.  As long as my skin cooperates from the strain of expansion, I can keep filling up to that desired C.  There is power involved in this process.  I can craft what size I’ll be for the rest of my life, which appeals to the control freak in me.  I regret that I am BRCA2+, but I’ll never regret the opportunity to shape myself as I wish to be.

Thinking half-full: that’s the proactive previvor way!

 

I’m Here: Reflections of a Warrior

Love Warrior
Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

I’ve had a lot of time on my hands lately during my forced idleness, so I’ve been reading more than usual.  Per the suggestion of a friend, I just finished reading Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton, which was not a book I would typically read (in spite of it being an Oprah’s Book Club pick and the fact that Melton is author of a well-known blog called “Momastery”).  Number one, it’s a memoir.  Number two, the storyteller, Ms. Melton, is not the type of person with whom I identify.  I finished this book because my friend gave it to me, pure and simple, and while it left a bitter taste in my mouth, it did spur some reflection.

stop pretending

Love Warrior is a story about Melton’s problematic journey towards self love.  Her story begins in adolescence.  Melton writes that she grew up sending her “representative” out into the world to portray herself as she believed others wished her to be.¹  In truth, she lived with bulimia, struggled with substance addiction, and fell prey to constant self-abuse.

Motherhood helped Melton get sober, but adulthood did little to change her self-loathing.  Only after therapy and yoga does Melton claim her attitude shifts.  She describes this shift when she writes of “unbecoming” and “a peeling away of costume after costume” (p. 223), through which she claims to find herself.

What in the world does this have to do with me?

Going through the process of finding out I was BRCA2+ and upending the normalcy of my life could have broken me.  I could portray myself as having my shit together but be crumbling inside.  But, unlike Melton, I don’t feel the need to hide behind a costume and, frankly, you shouldn’t either.   My life is messy and I’m damn proud of it; there is no pretending here.

I choose to see life as a process of “becoming,” and I recommend you do the same.  We are who we are because of our life’s experiences, messiness and all.  If you don’t put on a costume, you don’t have to deal with taking it off later.  Own your crazy from the beginning.

surrender?  Ain’t no body got time for that

I can’t shake the feeling that Melton sees life as something that happens to her rather than seeing herself as an active participant.  Even after a series of epiphanies, she defines her growth in a language of  “surrendering” (p. 206). Surrender, by nature, implies submission.   Submission implies a lack of control over your response to life’s challenges. There is no room for the language of surrender in my life.   I refuse to submit.

Speak with courage

Self-love means taking control of our problems and using them to grow, and we need not bottom out melodramatically in the process.   Skip the language of surrender altogether and reframe your life in a language of courage right from the beginning.

I am a previvor.

I am proactive.

I am a warrior.

I refuse to surrender.

This is who I am.  Who are you?

 

 

¹Melton, Glennon Doyle.  (2016). Love Warrior. New York: Flat Iron Books.