Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pre-Op, Post-Op: It's All Good!

To digress slightly, there have been some medical appointments as of late that have seemingly come in a pack of 3 - like socks, iTune gift cards and a really nice set of pens.

Doctors, follow-up appointments, pre-op surgical consultations and the post-chemo early Herceptin Echocardiogram to make sure the 'ol ticker is still in good shape has been on the menu. A cornucopia (excuse the Fall, but timely reference), of all-important appointments in the land of cancer and surgery.

First stop, Dr. Grafton, my general surgeon, whom I see every 3 months for the post-mastectomy show-and-tell where she inevitably brings another professional into the room to say the predictable "See, isn't this wonderful? Look at that!" And she doesn't, at all, do this out of the need to boast or brag about her uber-surgeon-skillful-work but rather, to connect with her patients and show her sensitivity towards the aftermath of a double-mastectomy. And also as usual for her was the mid-sentence conversation we had the second she walked through the door - "So, I just came home at 1:00 this morning, guys because I had to go back East on a college tour for my oldest..." aaannnnd we're off! Accompanying her was my 'Nurse Navigator' (I do not make these titles up!) whom I call my 'Nurse GPS' - Tammy Stockero from the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara (LUV her!!) who happened to be in Dr. Grafton's office so she popped in on the post-mastectomy-surgical-party! 20 minutes later, we were all laughing, joking and hugging-it-out and forgetting all about the Big C!

Next stop, was my pre-op final breast reconstruction appointment with the ever-talented Dr. Julio Soares, plastic surgeon. Yep, the time has fallen upon me as I'm going in to get these #$%&!# breast expanders and magnet ports removed once and for all and to have the new FDA approved breast implants, AKA, the 'New Girls' (which I've already named), take up residence in my post-mastectomy chest. FDA regulated this, 425cc's that, skin sparing this, blah, blah surgical-talk blah. BUT....the silver lining (yes, that's how I'm calling it) is that this is my final surgery and BOOOONUUUSSS.... I got thrown in a complimentary Latisse eyelash prescription treatment (my other choice was Botox - noooo thanks!) to help these chemo affected eyelashes grow and thicken. But in all seriousness, my appointment with Dr. Soares goes as it always does - with sensitivity, kindness, respect and a heart-to-heart about the breast cancer journey. And as always, Dr. Soares and Hil get into a deep but enthusiastic convo about cameras, lenses, lighting, megapixels, filters and the like, all the while I stand there getting my breasts measured with some cold metal instrument as he declares my numbers for the nurse to record. AHEM.... helllllooo people, I'm in a gown, with it opened in the front - can we move the Canon 60D dialogue along and out into the hallway?! Yeah, thanks!

Last stop, was my post-chemo, 6-month cardiac follow-up with my previous technician Kim who loves to distract my wooshy doppler ultrasound experience with stories about her teenage daughter and the challenges of pubescent technology and the lack of face-to-face communication (and I thought breast cancer was a challenge? - ha!). But, 30 minutes later, she said I had a "beautiful heart" and that there was absolutely nothing for me to be concerned about. So, we bid each other adieu with a "See ya in 6 months!" and that was that. But, all in all, it was good to know that the Herceptin hasn't done a thing to my favorite bodily organ! And in fact, laying in the dim light on a massage-like table was kind of like taking a mid-afternoon nap which apparently me and my heart needed.

In the end, I hope to marvel at the new me. Walk proud. Be courageous in all matters of importance and carry on as if this were a tiny blip on the radar screen of my life. Can I hear a big Woot! Woot! please?!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Herceptin #10: Meet Chris!

I knew right out of the gate that I wanted to dedicate this treatment to my second cousin, Chris (and Aunt Charlotte's grandson), who was recently diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. The son of my fabulous, first cousin, Deidre who lives 'one canyon over' from my mom up in the Monterey area - Chris is a true champ in every sense of the word.

A 15-year old teenager and a boy of few words, Chris has already shown quiet determination (totally genetic!) as he just completed this week's first round of 7/8 days of chemo (insert a loud round of applause here!). And of course, he is amazing and blowing away his team of doctors and medical staff up at Stanford already! Surgery - check. No nausea - check. Good appetite - check. Great attitude - double check.

Instead, Chris prefers to occupy his time with matters of great importance for a teenage boy, like listening to music, watching TV and gaming on his iPad during treatment. And while he and his family spend nearly 4 hours each day driving up to Stanford for his chemo, not a peep or a complaint is heard. Instead, Chris is simply doing the job that's been set before him by his fab medical team along with a great spirit.

And as I continue to stay in close contact with my cousin, I realize that I can really learn some things from my chemo comrade, Chris - like doing what I need to do right now and taking myself less seriously. I even told my cousin Deidre that I wish I could face my own life with cancer like a 15-year old boy - maybe I can. So, I will most definitely make every attempt to channel Chris a little more as I enter into another surgery next week and 7 more months of infusions.

So, join me in honoring Chris - an inspiration and a 15-year old force to be reckoned with!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bald Solidarity!

I finally gave in and shaved Hil's head after months of her begging me to allow this act of solidarity. I simply couldn't bear it at the beginning of chemo as it only represented illness to me. But now that I'm on the other side of that part of treatment and feeling much better physically and emotionally, I volunteered to give her the Buddha look she was desiring a few nights ago (thank you Amy & Matt for the shaver!).  I am over the moon with her new look and this immense act of love and support! Here's a few more pics that I captured of her today. WOW, right?!

A nod to a true beauty...

In contemplation as always...

With our backyard Buddha. Lots of prayers these days...

Thanks to Buddha for answering our prayers...

I've been so touched by Yog's bravery throughout this entire breast cancer journey and especially her willingness to embrace her beautiful baldness by walking out courageously in public without any hair covering.  Throughout this process, I have noticed how people, both young and old, would stare at her and I just wanted to protect her and shield her from all judgement.  So when in choosing to shave my head, I wanted to not only provide a buffer for her but to also walk in unity with her in as much as I could, not having gone through the experience of cancer, myself.  I also wanted to know what it was like to walk in her shoes, if only through the semblance of a bald head.  And since last Thursday, which was B-day (no, not birthday but rather my personal Bald-day) I have undergone an enormous emotional and spiritual change.  What was intended as a supportive gesture to Yog has ended up being a wonderful gift to me.  I feel stronger, more powerful as a woman, more vulnerable, and feel stripped of some of my ego. I never expected to receive the gifts I have from this simple act of a head shave but I'm glad I did it and am glad that Yog was the one to shave it for me....She is the brave one!