Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Some Kind of Normal

I received a call today from one of my nurses. There are two of them who call to check up on me every couple of weeks. I can't keep track of which is which or who they work for, but they're both nice and so I try to make time to chat with them when they call. Today's nurse pointed out that today was my one-year anniversary.

Apparently I had my biopsy a year ago today.

WooHoo. Break out the party hats.

I wanted to verify the date so I just went back and read the entry I wrote a year ago. Don't think I should have. Living it once was good enough. But I'm glad it's behind me.

My last few posts have been kind of downers. And I've been intending to post something a little more upbeat about how I'm doing. Then I had the friends with cancer trauma that foiled that plan. But now that I know it's my anniversary, I guess it seems appropriate to post a one-year-mark entry. of Sept. 15, 2010, my life has gotten back to some kind of normal. I have a new job doing freelance editing for Papercraft magazine, which it turns out is a really sweet gig.

I also have a new head of hair. It's surprisingly dark, and looks like this:

On the day I took that picture, Maura Tierney was on the cover of Parade Magazine styling a similar do:

If you don't recognize her (I didn't), she used to play a nurse on the television show ER. At the time she had long hair, kind of light brown. Kind of like me. Then she played a patient in real life, also like me. Personally I think she looks way better with her short locks. Kind of inspires me to maybe keep mine this way. Except the only way I'd look that good is if I had a fortune to spend on a stylist. And then got hit hard with a pretty stick. Plus I have this huge desire to run my fingers through my long hair. But I don't know. I guess I'll decide when and if the hair gets to a point that I decide I liked it better short. That's a luxury most of us never dare try. So score one good thing from this cancer.

Another part of my life that's totally different a year out is my arm. It's hard to be upbeat about that. But there's some good with it. In case you don't know, shortly after my mastectomy it swelled up like a balloon. It's called lymphedema, and sometimes happens after lymph nodes are removed. In my case, the arm just kept getting bigger.

They gave me a compression sleeve to wear during the day, and taught me a massage to do at night. At first I tried to just wear the sleeve during exercise, like a lot of people do. But it was obvious that wasn't enough, so I started wearing it for a couple hours, then a few, and eventually I realized I just had to break down and wear it all day. It's a pain, but less of a pain than having a swollen arm. And for a while that was good enough, but eventually it wasn't. So then I got to start wrapping my arm at night. Every other night actually, just to keep it under control. It's pretty ridonkulus. I don't even know how many layers. Three rolls of gauze, two rolls of styrofoam, three different wraps. Takes like half an hour, and another half hour in the morning rolling everything back up. Here's the pic:

I know. Seriously, who thinks up these things?

But the good news is I've been able to take the sleeve off for a couple of hours every day. Which means I don't usually have to wear it to places like church. And I'm doing some weight lifting. So maybe some day I'll get back to just wearing it for exercise. I know that doesn't sound very impressive as a dream, but for me it sounds huge.

Let's see...what else? Oh, there's hormones. Or lack of hormones. They've all been shut off. Every last one. It's called chemopause. My cancer happens to be a kind that feeds off of estrogen, so that's part of the treatment. Amazingly it hasn't been too bad. In fact the doc was worried for a little bit because I don't even have hot flashes. But I guess I just lucked out that way. Don't get me wrong, I do have issues. Mostly aches and pains and kind of wild, random mood swings. And dry skin and acne. But that just keeps life from getting boring I guess. Besides, I now have a boat-load of excuses for being forgetful and irrational.

And finally...there's the whole reconstruction thing. If you've been following this blog, you know what a huge disappointment that was. And how anxious I am to move forward. So here's where those hugely miraculous blessings start to kick in. I've kind of been afraid to talk about it, like I might jinx it or something.

My plastic surgeon told me about a procedure he's been following with interest. The results of a study were just released, and in my humble opinion it is beyond impressive. It's amazing. Incredible. Exciting.

Long story short, he's actually offered to fly to Florida next month to do a training, and then use me as a guinea pig. Which I know sounds really crazy. Except that he knows how to do the basic procedure, it's just a particular way of doing it that he has to learn. This has the potential to be the next big thing in mastectomy reconstruction. And I'm really, really excited to be bringing it to Utah. If you're interested, here's a video that talks about it.

Exciting, isn't it? I'm sure I'll be talking about it more in the future.

But for now, that's me, one long icky year after diagnosis. I'm not sure how to type out the sound of a party horn, but just imagine it with me: Pllllbbbbblllll!


Ms. Maxwell said...

Yay for "some kind of normal," yay for your new Paper Crafts gig ;-), and DOUBLE YAY for this revolutionary new procedure!

3 Cowgirls & Our Cowboy said...

Congratulations on your 1 year anniversary! That is awesome I am glad that your life has some kind of normalize! I am especially as a mother glad that you are here for your kids! Way to fight Mama:) Given'em heck!