Where I’ve Been….

I’ve come a long way since my last post at the beginning of March.  Hello, it’s May now?!!!  Good, gracious.  Since then, I began and finished physical therapy (though I should definitely be doing more with stretching than what I am currently).  I have also started training for my next half marathon; I’m not going to lie, that’s been a challenge.  I’m not sure why returning to fitness after this last surgery has been so difficult.  I’m just finding my heart has not been in it as of late.  Given that I’ve registered for a race, though, I have no choice but to step it up.

I may not have been exercising in the traditional sense, but I’ve been active in general.  In fact, life has pretty much looked like this:

active March to May
A Snapshot of the Past Few Months

If two trips to Home Depot and landscaping with 20+ bags of mulch doesn’t count as exercise, I don’t know what does!

Home Sweet Home

In general, I’ve enjoyed my time at home this year.  Recovering isn’t fun, but the projects I’ve been able to accomplish have lent to a general sense of satisfaction.  In fact, my house has never looked so good, which is fortunate because we just listed it for sale!  Eek!  We are in the process of transferring back to Michigan.  My hubby chose to take job back in our hometown so we can be closer to family.  He has not been a fan of the Houston area commuter life and has said, many times, he feels like he lives on the freeway; I can’t say that I blame him.

Our house has been a labor of love.  This is our fourth home together.  On June first, we will be closing on our fifth.  When we purchased this house it was a rental in its past life.  It had old carpet, an old roof and A/C, a dated kitchen, etc.  I’ve learned how to remove old caulk and apply new, refinish kitchen cabinets, and perfected my mad painting skills inside and out.  I’ve invested a lot of love into this property. It’s here that I watched my kids grow from littles into big kids.  Now, it’s been staged to sell and I have my first showing in an hour!

office staging
Staged to Sell


Saying Goodbye is Never Fun

I had a going away girls’ night on Saturday.  My Texas friends have become my family.  These women have seen me at my best and worst.  They’ve seen me grow as a mom and person.  They’ve had my back when I had my surgeries, and they’ve become like aunts to my kids.  I know I can count on them to be there for me, and I am so sad to be leaving them.  In fact, I have been so stressed about going that I burst into tears in front of my realtor and home photographer yesterday.  I don’t cry much, but this process has made me very emotional.

friends dinner
Some of my Texas “Family”  (sorry for the crappy resolution)

I had these surgeries so quickly because I didn’t want to feel like a ticking time bomb, but also because I knew my time was limited to be so close to such a fantastically skilled medically community and with such fantastic friends as a support network.  My hometown is rather in the middle of nowhere, and you can’t beat the experts in Houston.  I can’t say enough for the staff at MD Anderson. They took excellent care of me, and I can leave Texas knowing I have my health under control.

To New Adventures

I’m not done posting about life as a previvor.  In fact, I have plans to become more involved in the previvor community.  I’ll be sure to post when those become official.  Let’s just say, that I feel I want to give back to my BRCA community, and I’ll looking into some volunteer work after I’m settled in my new home.

As always, if you have questions about my experiences as a previvor, comment away!


Mobility in Recovery

Although I’ve been given the clear to resume normal activities, I’ve found myself doing so with some hesitation. I want to resume kickboxing classes but I fear I lack the mobility to engage properly. I’m not a very flexible person by nature; I have to work at it.  Throw in something debilitating (like this surgery) and I’m even worse.

arms outstretched
No Snow Angels for Me

Here I am, lying flat on my yoga mat.  A normal person could sweep their hands across the ground, snow angel style, to rest above his or her head.  This “t” shape is as outstretched as I can get.   My chest muscles won’t let me reach any further.

overhead stretch
Barely Reaching Overhead

Reaching directly overhead is not much better, as you can see. Sorry for the crappy quality of the above image, but you can get the gist of what I was trying to portray.

Breast Implant Anatomy 101

I’ve taken the image below from How Stuff Works: Science in an article entitled “How Implants Work” by Robert Valdes (2004) so you can see why I’m lacking flexibility.  As the image shows, my implant is sub muscular, placing particular stress on the pectoralis major muscle.  I don’t have the natural breast tissue shown in the image, thanks to my mastectomy, so the muscle helps hold and smooth out the look of my implant.

Image from http://science.howstuffworks.com

The muscle suffered trauma during the surgery since it had to be cut to remove the tissue expanders and get the implant in there and is still adjusting to having a large foreign object placed under it.

Physical Therapy Here I Come

I called my doctor to request physical therapy.  I’m rather surprised he did not prescribe it to begin with, but perhaps he thought, given my active nature, that I would be able to work through the issues on my own.  I am not comfortable, however, making assumptions on what exercises I should and should not  be able to do, nor do I wish to hurt myself trying to accomplish my goals.

I have my consult with the therapist at MD Anderson on Monday.  I am lucky in that I met my out of pocket max for this year (thanks to my implant surgery) so my physical therapy should be covered in full.

I’ll keep you posted on how this process goes. I anticipate lots of pain and swearing.  But, as the expression goes, no pain, no gain!

Recovery: In the Clear…Kind Of

Just a quick update today. I saw my doctor yesterday for my four-week postoperative appointment.  I’m clear to do my “normal activities,” but I was told not to sweat too much.  Hmm.  That’s hard for a runner. Power walking it is…

Cleaning My Way to Strength

Upper body strength has never been my forte.  I am easing my way back into normal activities.  What does this mean?  Well, the mop is now my intro to body building, lol.  This weekend I may even go crazy and try to vacuum.

Recovery Fun

I’ll keep you apprised of my recovery.  I have some fun with the family planned this weekend, and I can think of no better way to celebrate the clearance to resume being me.

Also, I’m plotting some projects around the house, including landscaping.  I see that as a great way to get the bod back in shape.

Until then, I’ll leave you with this fun little selfie (pardon the bad photography).  For the first time in my life, I’m ready for bathing suit season!!!  I’m digging my new cleavage.  This process has been a drain, but finding a suit that fits has been a welcome development!

                            Swim Season Ready


Recovery: Let’s Sleep On It

Sleeping during recovery is a mixed bag.  I’ve struggled with insomnia during my adult life.  My insomnia induces anxiety.  My anxiety creates more insomnia.  Repeat…

I decided to go off my anti-anxiety drugs back in November.  Even though I faced all the stress of surgery and recovery, I think this was a good choice for me.  I still experienced occasional bouts of insomnia even while on the meds, so the drawbacks of the medicine weren’t worth it.  I realize that medicine may be the correct choice for some individuals, but I am a firm believer that lifestyle choices are the better choice for me at this time.

Rest and Recovery in the Healing Process

When I’m just lazing around (typing this blog, for instance), I feel like I’m fully recovered.  I loathe the support garments and I feel like I should be able to go out for a run without a second thought.  This, however, is fiction.  I still need to rest during the day (take my endeavor into folding from yesterday) and I am still under physical restrictions.

Since I want to speed up my healing process, I know that rest is a quintessential part of my routine yet getting a good night’s sleep has proved tricky.  Sleeping in my recliner left me waking any time I needed to adjust position, which I had to do frequently because my butt cheek, and sometimes even an entire leg, would fall asleep.

With permission to finally side sleep from my doc last week, I moved to the bed with a great deal of enthusiasm only to find sleep allusive.  I decided to stop the sleepless nights and put into practice what I preach by establishing a good bedtime routine.

Sleeping During Recovery: Adults Need Routine, Too

I realize most of this is common sense.  You don’t need a degree in psychology to understand the importance of good habits.  As adults, we often skimp on sleep due to this or that activity that it seems we can get done only at the end of the day.  Throw in a physical condition that makes falling asleep uncomfortable, and you are opening up a whole new set of issues for catching some zzz’s.

After several weeks of stressing about surgery, restlessness of sleeping in a recliner, and trying to adjust to sleeping, once again, with a new set of boobs, larger and firmer than those I was born with strapped to my chest, and I found myself awake until 2am several nights last week. Something had to change.

Here are my suggestions for getting the rest you need.

  1.  Put down your phone, damnit.
    • Set your phone aside at least an hour before bed.  I realize your phone may have “night mode” or some nonsense, but staring at a light before bed while soaking up social media or news is not good for settling the mind.  Throw politics or work into that mix, and you have a perfect recipe for staying awake for hours.

      iPhone 6+
                                Put Down Your Phone
  2. Find an activity that relaxes you that does not involve technology.
    • I love a good cup of hot tea before bed.  I found a non-caffeinated herbal tea that is touted to help induce sleep.
    • Take a hot shower or a warm bath.
    • Listen to some relaxing music.
    • Put on your favorite pajamas.
    • Snuggle with a pet or loved one.

      herbal tea
                      Find What Relaxes You
  3. Pick up a good book or keep a journal.
    • I love to read before bed.  But, if you do this, make sure you are able to put that book down when it’s time for lights out.
  4. Make sure your bedroom is a relaxing environment.
    • Dim those lights, set your thermostat to a comfortably cool temperature, and prepare a clutter-free space well before bedtime.  Rushing around to clean a space that is supposed to relax you will not help at the end of the day.
    • Avoid watching tv in bed.
  5. Try melatonin or another sleep aid after discussing your options with your doctor.
    • I’ve been taking melatonin this week and it seems to be helping.  I can’t say whether the positive changes I’ve experienced are due to the melatonin, the deliberate changes to my bedtime routine, or a placebo effect, but I’ll take them. I haven’t felt this rested since my reconstruction surgery.

I hope you find these recommendations helpful in getting a good night’s sleep during recovery.  Take control over your routine like you have taken control of your health.  Your body will thank you.

Happy Home Life: An Exercise in Folding, Pun Intended

Recovery means a lot of time at home.  I am able to drive now, so I spent the morning out roaming around with my friend, Alli, but I really didn’t have an excuse or inclination to spend all day away from home.

I’ve written about my new obsession with podcasts, my tv watching habits, and my obsession with maintaining a clean, uncluttered house.  Well, today I took all of those things and let inspiration take hold in the form of a linen closet redo.

Pinterest in Practice: Linen Closet Redo

I’m going to assume you have some knowledge of Pinterest and that you haven’t been living in a bunker somewhere pulling a Kimmy Schmidt (if you don’t know who Kimmy Schmidt is, check out the show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix–it’s full of good laughs).  Most of the time I use Pinterest for recipes and eye candy (stuff I would like to have in my home but can never afford).

This time, I actually took a Pinterest-recommended post and put it into practice.  I stumbled on this post by Leah over at Code Red Hat: Survival Skills for the Modern Mom.  Leah wrote a great tutorial on “How to Fold Towels To Fit Any Shelf” back in 2012.  Boy, I wish I had seen this post back then!  I fold my towels neatly, but not like this.  I know this sounds mundane, but if you open your closet and towels fall out any time you try to pull a clean one, the situation can probably be improved.

And, once I had all of my towels in a non-toppling position, I had to keep going and tackle the sheets.  A quick Pinterest search turned up this 2011 blog post by Kelly at The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  Kelly has a neat, effective way to corral sheet sets.  I highly recommend checking it out!

Happy Closet: The Reveal

I removed extra pillowcases for donation, one top sheet without a matching fitted sheet, one set of stretched out sheets, and one old beach towel.  I also relocated my daughter’s stuffed bears to her room.

Even with the few items removed, you an see that folding makes a HUGE difference. Here is a little side by side before and after:

Linen closet re-do
                          Left: Before, Right:After

Who Knew Folding Used Muscles?

Organizing complete, my chest muscles are now telling me that all that folding was hard work.  You forget how simple tasks like folding sheets and towels uses muscle, but there’s nothing like a recent surgery to remind you that even the easiest appearing of tasks can be taxing on a healing body.

So, if you undertake a linen closet makeover in your post-surgery boredom, consider using it as a workout.  I would suggest doing the folding in spurts over a couple of days and not in a single afternoon.  My ta-tas are TIRED.

Post-Surgery Entertainment: Exploring New Frontiers

As you all know, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands.  No lifting, pushing, vigorous exercising, or reaching has put a damper on my daily activities.  Since I’m fortunate enough to be a stay at home mom of school-aged children, I’ve had a very quiet house from 8-3 each day.

I’ve extinguished most of the series I yearned to watch on Netflix and Hulu and, frankly, I’m just sick of tv.  I’m proactive, the stress being on the “active” part of that word.  Sitting in front of a tv takes more patience than what it’s worth on most days.

Behind the Times: Jumping on the Podcast Bandwagon

My husband has been listening to podcasts for years, but he spends a great deal of time in the car on his commute and doesn’t have children vying for his attention.  Up until these surgeries, I haven’t had the ability to enjoy listening to anything that requires mental attention.  Now, I find myself walking instead of running, and able to focus on listening for the first time in what seems like a decade.

Entertainment Roundup: Podcasts I’ve Enjoyed This Week

This American Life is a podcast produced by Chicago Public Media.  It’s host, Ira Glass, is an amazing storyteller.  The show is a collection of journalistic essays revolving around a themed episode.  Occasionally humorous, and sometimes heartbreaking, these stories will have you riveted.

The Minimalist Podcast is a collaboration between Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, known as The Minimalists.  I enjoy listening to their message, and each podcast has a different theme.  I recommend you pick and choose your episodes based on a topic that appeals to you. I will give them credit for having passion for their message, but there is a lot of repetition between episodes.  As even they have pointed out, you could play a dangerous drinking game with the amount of times they say the phrase “adds value to your life.”

Young House Love Has a Podcast is a spinoff of one of my favorite home decor and renovation blogs.  When home blogging became a thing back in the early 2000’s, this was one of the first blogs to which I subscribed.  Started in 2007, the Young House Love blog is a product of John and Sherry Petersik; known for their home renovation and DIY projects.  In June of 2016, they jumped on the podcast bandwagon and released their first episode. I listened to two podcasts this morning and found I really enjoy the lighthearted discussion and the simple format.

Recovery Entertainment: What’s next?

I’m on the hunt for my next podcast.  I’m intrigued by the self-help category; I’ve taken care of my body and now it’s time to take better care of my mind.  I’ve heard about the Good Life Project by Jonathan Fields.  The Good Life Project website states that the podcast includes interviews with “some of the wisest, most-accomplished teachers, creators and leaders, learning at their feet, then sharing their wisdom.”  Call me intrigued.

I’ll let you know my thoughts on that podcast in my next post.

On the Podcast Bandwagon image via Rob_L. on Flickr


Finding Inspiration in Essentialism

Given my mobility limitations, I’ve spent a good deal of time on the couch.  When I haven’t been watching junk tv, I’ve been reading.  I am addicted to a series by Darynda Jones.  I love the books because I find myself laughing out loud at the witticisms of the protagonist. Jones’ series, however, is little more than brain candy; it’s fun without a lot of substance.  I decided my brain needed a beefier workout than my usual paranormal romantic fluff.  I went to all of this effort to keep my body healthy, I shouldn’t let my brain slide.  I turned to a category of literature that interests me in a genre I usually avoid: nonfiction.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

finding the essential in life

Free time means lots of self-reflection.  Let’s examine my situation.  I found out I had a life-threatening genetic condition May of 2016, and I faced this knowledge with the understanding of what could happen to me if I did nothing with it.  Having faced my mother’s cancer, I had the prior knowledge that doing nothing wasn’t an option.  I faced multiple surgeries this fall, any of which could have been disastrous.  I pushed through each one and its set of challenges.  Each of these experiences meant facing my mortality on a level in which no one should have to face before a ripe old age.  Facing mortality irrevocably leads to an examination of life’s priorities.

When I stumbled on a reference McKeown’s book, Essentialism (2014) in one of the blogs I read, I couldn’t help but check to see if it was in the possession for my local library.  I got lucky.  I picked up the book before this last surgery, knowing I would have enough time on my hands to comb through it.  What I didn’t realize, was that I would be enthralled by McKeown’s message.

try not to worry

I deal with anxiety but made the effort this year to stop taking medication and instead focus on other techniques for curbing my anxiousness: blogging, exercise, and meditation.  McKeown writes that, “every second spent worrying about a past or future moment distracts us from what is important in the here and now” (p. 217).  How many times this fall did I worry unnecessarily or let my worry control my daily experience?  I’ve lost so many hours deep in worry.  Instead, I need to remember to focus on the essential when nervousness takes  hold.

what is essential?

An essentialist maintains focus on a given priority and recognizes that we can’t do it all.  For the past several months, my priority has been my health.  McKeown indicates that at any given time we can focus on only one given priority (p 16).  Now that I’m nearing the end of my recovery, I have the opportunity to reflect on more than just getting better and to evaluate how my actions going forward will be indicative of my values.

McKeown coins the phrase “less but better” (p. 5).  So, the question we need to ask ourselves, moving forward, is in what is important? My list looks like this:

my essentials
Finding the Essential

Given that I can only focus on one priority at a time, I need to be kind to myself and realize there is no such thing as perfect; being an essentialist takes work.  But, I can come back to this list regularly and ask myself  whether I am still actively pursuing these goals through my daily actions.

If you have correctly identified what really matters, if you invest your time and energy in it, then it is difficult to regret the choices you make.  You become proud of the life you have chosen to live. (p 287)


I am inspired to invest time and energy into my list.  I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to take a long timeout and reflect on my goals and I suggest you use your recovery to do the same.  What do you want out of life going forward?  You’re in the unique position that you  must take the time to heal your body, so use this opportunity to care for your spirit.  If you focus on what you see as essential, you’ll find a life that really matters and that is worthy of all the work.

McKeown, Greg. (2014). Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. New York: Crown Business.

Post-Surgery Emotional and Physical Support

I’m nine days post implant surgery.  I’m healing up nicely in spite of the nagging pain under my left breast.  Due to this pain, I’ve returned to lazy mode and my laptop.  In my research,  I stumbled upon a Facebook group mentioned on someone else’s blog and have already fallen in love.

Post surgery: finding emotional support

You need emotional support during recovery.  While family and friends are important, they cannot empathize with you.  If you want empathy, turn to the Facebook group “My Destiny: Prophylactic Mastectomy.”  It’s a closed group, so you have to be approved to join; send a request.  From what I’ve seen, this is a great group of ladies.

I’ve already done some responding to others’ questions and asked some advice for myself.  For example, how weird is it that there is a spot I can touch on my sternum and then have phantom feeling in my arms?  Doesn’t work backwards, though.  I can’t touch my arms and feel it in my sternum.  It’s a one-way nerve circuit.  Weirdo foobs (fake boobs, for those of you not up on the slang).  Unless you have been through this process, you have no idea what I mean!  Don’t isolate yourself.  You aren’t alone.

Finding a sense of community has been fantastic given that I’m stuck at home and don’t want to pester my doctor with non-emergency questions.  Protect your mental health during your healing time just as you care for your body.

support under it all…post-surgery fashion

"Ice Cream Break," 1944
“Ice Cream Break,” 1944
Taken from: http://i-cherski.livejournal.com

Let’s talk about physical support in the literal sense.  Did you know I’m a 1940’s pinup girl wannabe?  Truly, if I changed out the fabric for polkadots and curled my hair, I could seriously play the part.  Everyone I see comments how good I look.  Well, yeah….I’m tucked in like a pig in a blanket.  Though, seriously, those bathing suit models had some serious guts to wear a bathing suit cut like that.  It’s not a look I would sport, especially given its lack of comfort.

compression garments
Mastectomy Pinup Girl?
Compression Finery

These Maidenform Control Hi-Waist Boyshorts aren’t the most comfortable bottoms nor are they particularly flattering to the thighs (I’ll spare you that image).  It’s hard to sit comfortably since they go almost all the way up to the foobs.  Then, I have to wear this lovely front-close post-surgical bra because it’s the only thing I’ve found with a wide enough band to be even tolerably comfortable given the under foob pain I’m experiencing.  This particular bra is made by YIANNA and retails on Amazon  for $18.99.

There are many types of post-surgical bras and compression bottoms out there, if you need them.  Your doctor should hook you up with a surgical bra and your insurance should cover it.  I wanted an extra so I turned to Amazon because I have a Prime membership and at that price, it couldn’t be beat.

What’s squishy, swollen, and yellow all over?

IV Bruising
IV Bruising

Yes, me.  You guessed right.  If you don’t look too closely, you couldn’t tell I ever had surgery.  I do look so much better than what I did just two days ago, but I still have some swelling (probably will for several weeks) and lovely bruising.  The bruises are fading, though.  I bruise really easily, so take my status with that thought in mind.  You may heal much faster!  Whenever I try to do too much, like I did on Monday and Tuesday of this week, I remind myself that I’m not healed by looking at the back of my right hand; on that hand lies the evidence of my IV.  If I can still look this nasty from a simple IV, what must my body look like inside?  Yes, that question is rhetorical. I don’t really want to know….

From the outside, my chest, hip, and liposuction scars are healing really well.  I only hurt if pressure is applied to any of those areas.  Just sitting around, I don’t have any pain.  Truly, it’s just the left under-foob pocket that hurts, and even that goes away when I take off the surgical bra.  If I could spend all of my time in the shower, I would, since it’s the only way I get to experience the relief of being braless.  I can’t wait for that burning pain to go away; it’s not pleasant.

Healing 9 Days Post Surgery
Healing 9 Days Post Surgery: Chest, Hip, and Liposuction Incision Site

Post-surgery reflection: I’m lucky

Since I joined that Facebook group for Prophylactic Mastectomy, I have a new appreciation for the simplicity of my experience.  Not all women have had these surgeries free of complication. These women spoke of infection, necrosis, multiple surgeries, etc.  I have been very blessed with my limited pain experience and my textbook healing.  My heart goes out to these women.  I hope they find strength in the community, just as I hope my voice helps my readers realize that they are also never alone.  There is always someone out there who understands.  You are never alone.

Previvors In the Media

I stumbled past the “New Book” section at the library and came across this title:

Breast Cancer Surgery and Reconstruction
by Patricia Anstett

After a quick scan of the table of contents, I realized there was a whole chapter entitled “Previvors.”  The previvor sector of the cancer populace lacks representation in literature, at least in terms of my investigations.  For example, if you go to Barnes and Noble, you’ll see a approximately two small shelves of books relating to cancer.  And of those books, you’ll be lucky to find one that deals with the uniqueness of the previvor situation.  So, imagine my surprise that Breast Cancer Surgery and Reconstruction by Patricia Anstett has an entire (though brief) chapter dedicated to previvors.

pREVIVoRS choosing the path to health

The chapter on previvors introduces one of the youngest American women to have a preventative double mastectomy at the age of 20.  Her name is Kelly Rothe.  Once I read Kelly’s story in Anstett’s book I decided to google her.  Of course, she has a blog: https://themutantdiaries.wordpress.com  I couldn’t stop reading her story.  She, too, lost a mother to cancer.  She made the decision to take charge of her health but at a much younger age while dealing with the desire to be married and have children one day, but she loved herself enough that she tackled her fears.

Anstett’s book references two other resources that benefit the previvor community: BRCA Sisterhood, a private Facebook group founded in 2010 by Karen Lazarovitz and a documentary called Pink and Blue released on 2015 which should be available for purchase on iTunes in December.  You can bet I’ll be watching it.

pREVIVoRS: You are not alone

If you are a previvor, you may feel like you’re alone, but you are not.  There are many more of us out there than you know.  We are both young and old, but we are survivors.  We will persevere.  And, if you have any questions, you can always ask!


Bras are the Devil

I haven’t worn a bra in months.  My tissue expanders stayed in place even while running so I gave up wearing a bra when my expansion process finished.  

My skin under the “breast” has been hypersensitive since the mastectomy. I think this sensitivity is due to the formation of a border between connected nerves and lack of nerves where they removed the breast tissue.  

The implant surgery included a slight lowering of the left implant for balance.  I’m not sure what all this process included (and I really don’t want to know) but I can tell I’m cut and sore inside under the bust near the cleavage area.  I can tell you that having a bra band touch that area is uncomfortable and having a bra band rub that area is awful.  

I took a 3mi walk today just like I took yesterday.  Today I’ve logged over 12,000 steps where yesterday I logged over 20,000.   Today, I hurt.  Per the advice of a friend with self-proclaimed “porn star boobs” (as I said, her words and not mine), I tucked my tank top into my bra band.  It helped!  But I have to say, I’m not a happy camper.  I’m feeling sore and tired from a general lack of sleep.  

I hereby resolve that tomorrow I will be a couch potato. I will be proactive in my healing process.  Sometimes, or okay, all the time, I think I can do it all.  I want to get out, be active, and carry on with life but my body has spoken and I clearly cannot do that.  

So, if you are going through this process, be proactive in healing and don’t rush yourself.  Even if you feel better, ease up.  As my nurse said,”be caution” [sic] and “careful.”  I hear you now, Nurse Elaine.