Monday, October 24, 2016

Fall Cancer Updates

     I have been so unmotivated to blog lately. But I figure now that it's the end of October, I should put on paper what's been going on lately. Developments have occurred!
     At the end of July I had my last saline injection for the tissue expanders. Dr. Klausmeyer said that Kaiser would be in touch with me to schedule surgery, and that it would probably take at least a couple of months. In my mind, I was hoping that somehow the date could be scheduled while it was still summer break, but of course that was not going to happen.
     Went back to work August 5th, and the kids started back to school that day, too. It was nice to be back at work. We had new student orientation one day that week, and during the tours, a couple of my students announced to the new students that I was the teacher with breast cancer. I thought -- shit, I guess that's my label for the next year or so.
     I saw Dr. Abdullah, my oncologist, in September, and she said I was officially in remission. Which is not as exciting as it sounds. I mean, my mom was in remission at some point, and her cancer still came back. Then I saw Dr. Leung, my breast surgeon, the following week, and told her about the remission. She said that while I was technically in remission, I was in active treatment and taking tamoxifen for nine and a half more years, so it's not quite the same. Which made sense.
     At support group that week, I mentioned my ambivalence about remission. John, our leader, said that really, plenty of people can be in remission for years, and then their cancer recurs. Another guy in group had also been labeled in remission. We talked about how that should be a huge relief, but it's really not. I guess it's still nice to hear?
     I did hear from Kaiser about scheduling surgery, and told the lady that I would love to have surgery as soon as possible, or during Thanksgiving break. She said she would get back to me, but we were looking at late October at the very earliest.
    So I was super shocked to get a call from the Kaiser surgery scheduler in late September, telling me that Dr. Klausmeyer could do my surgery October 10th, if I wanted that date. It was at Kaiser West LA, but if I wanted that spot, I could have it. I said yes! (Actually, I didn't realize it was Kaiser West LA til later, but I wanted to get this over with.)
     West LA is Beverly Hills, and a pain to get to, with terrible parking. But I got through it.
     The next morning I let Gina, my boss, know that I had a date, and she made arrangements for my sub. Dr. Klausmeyer said I would need at least three days off, so that was my plan, by Gina really didn't believe me and she had the sub lined up for the whole week.
     I got through the next two weeks at school, and got all my sub plans in order, and on Indigenous People's Day (Columbus Day for Trump supporters!) I got up super early and took a cab to West LA. I was the first surgery of the day, so I had to be there by 5:45. I was about an hour early.
     Got through surgery -- my anesthesiologist was very nice and did not suggest my lifestyle choices resulted in my cancer -- so I appreciated that.
     Hours later, the nurse woke me up and asked if my husband was there. I said that he was waiting to hear so he could pick me up. That's when I felt the pain. Just sitting up was shockingly painful. I had forgotten what that pain was like.
     Hung out waiting for Todd. He went to get the car, and a very sweet evangelical Christian orderly wheeled me out to the parking lot. He was a sweet man, and he wanted to talk to me about Jesus. I just smiled and nodded.
     Todd thought we should get lunch at Shake Shack, since it was right there and there was no line. This was crazy ambitious. Todd suggested I wait in the car, but I thought I'd be ok. So we got in line, and I ordered a milkshake and a cheeseburger and a Coke. All I really cared about was the Coke. Having a breathing tube during general anesthesia results in such a painful throat! I drank maybe three sips of the shake -- as the nausea from post-anesthesia started to take hold. I could not eat any burger. The Coke was delicious.
     We got home, and I got in bed, and really felt the pain. I took a norco (narcotic pain pill), but then I had to throw up. Throwing up hurt so much! I took another norco, then threw up again. I threw up every hour on the hour til 12: 30AM. Once the vomiting was done, I did start to feel a bit better, and I could sleep, at least.
     Tuesday, I decided to not even bother with the narcotic pain meds. I hate the way they make me feel, and I was still thinking maybe I could go to work on Thursday, so I didn't want to be addled. I took some OTC painkillers throughout the day. Todd went to work, so I was on my own and had to take care of myself. This mostly consisted of sleeping, with a nibble here and there.
     Wednesday it was obvious that I would not be up to work on Thursday. I called Gina and let her know, and she was relieved. Then I went back to bed. I had to get up, though, a few hours later, because I had stupidly scheduled a parent conference with Emiko's teacher. My rationale was I would actually be able to make the appointment, since I wouldn't be coming from work. His last appointment spot was 3, which was going to tough for me to achieve in a normal circumstance.
     Anyway, I made it to the kids' school, via my car, and toddled to Mr. Bemus's room. His earlier appointment was still there, so I had to wait. I found a chair and sat in it. Finally it was my turn -- I was a hot sweaty mess. I had forgotten that I would not be able to shower before this meeting. I tried to dry shampoo my hair, but I think I looked pretty terrible. I felt even worse.
     But the meeting was good and I was so glad when it was over. I got the kids and drove slowly home and went back to bed.
     By Thursday, I was feeling a bit more like a regular person, and the pain was intermittent and not constant, so that was an improvement.
    Friday Todd was off work, since the kids' school was closed for parent conferences. Turned out my former student Erk G the rapper was in town, and I really wanted to go see him! So Todd and the kids and I got in the car and made our way to Hollywood to see Erk G. I looked ok, as I had had a shower the night before. I didn't feel great, but it was so wonderful to see Erk! He was tickled to see me, too. It was fantastic. He took some footage of us for his video, which was hilarious. I'm so happy I got to visit with him for a bit. Once we got home, I had to go straight back to bed. Worth it!
     I went back to school Monday the 17th. It was pretty brutal, but I managed. Luckily I was able to show videos most of the week. But the first half of the week was not pretty. By Thursday I was better, but every day the kids and I would get home, and I would go to bed.
     Today was two weeks since surgery. I had pain at work today -- so I know I was up and walking around too much. But the girls are writing paragraphs and they are having all this trouble and they don't listen so I wasn't able to just sit and look at them, so I felt it. Got the kids home and went to bed. But I'm feeling better now, so that's good.
     I saw Dr. Klausmeyer last Thursday and she said I'm healing beautifully. I will see her again Dec 1, and then we can think about nipples. She asked me if I wanted nipples. YES! I miss nipples!
     OK, that's enough for now. I'm tired!

Thursday, June 23, 2016


     I can't believe it's already the end of June, and I haven't blogged all month. I do love summer vacation. The kids and I joined the YMCA, which has been wonderful, and keeps us entertained so we don't kill each other. The kids started swim lessons this week, and this afternoon they go to their first martial arts class. I'm hoping I can make it to the mat pilates class at the same time -- otherwise I guess I'll hang out on the stairclimber for awhile.
     We've been going to open swim in the afternoons, which is not super fun, because it's super crowded, but the kids don't mind, and I try to move around a lot so it counts as exercise. My goal for this summer is to get in shape.
     The other day I remembered that my job offers incentives for employees to improve their fitness. When I got the email in January, my response was -- fuck that, I've got breast cancer. But now that I've gotten over the initial shock of the cancer bit, I decided this wellness plan was a good idea. And I can earn up to $450 just for filling out some forms and talking to a health coach.
     Friday night I worked on my health inventory. I was feeling pretty good, and I think I'm pretty healthy, but then I remembered the cancer part. But hey -- 50 bucks is coming my way just for filling out the form! And Saturday I'm having blood drawn so that my job can know my cholesterol and other health markers. I know  -- I appreciate that people don't want their employees knowing so much about that -- that's a fair concern. I am just thinking about what I can buy myself with my 450 bucks!
     I also remembered that as part of this employee wellness initiative, I can get WeightWatchers online for free. I have been tracking my food on MyFitnessPal, because it's free. But I liked WW well-enough -- and free is free. So I signed up for that, too. I'm not interested in being as thin as I was when I initially did WW. I would like to lose 20 pounds, though. So that's another goal.
     My main objective, however, is to be fit and hopefully cancer-free for the rest of my life. I am still running, slowly -- have to get to work on that. I've been doing a lot of yoga, and Emiko has been doing some yoga with me. I've gone to some yoga classes at the Y, too. I do love yoga.
     I've been meeting my friend Suzanne at the Rose Bowl to walk in the evenings -- that just started this week. We are aiming for Mondays and Thursdays at 7. Our goal is to run more than walk -- it was 108 degrees Monday night -- so we just walked. But I think we'll try to run more tonight. And it's nice to have adult conversation!
     My breast reconstruction is moving along. I had an injection last Thursday, and I go again tomorrow. I don't think I need much more pumping up -- I wonder what size I am right now? I'm anxious to get the surgery over with -- and wondering when that might be.
     I definitely look forward to not having the tissue expanders any longer -- they are a pain and feel awkward and get in the way. The permanent implants are supposed to just become a part of you. I am wondering if I'm still going to be able to wear my eShaki dresses -- as I will know longer be able to shimmy them over my boobs -- these boobs are not going to squish down like my real ones did. Another reason to lose a few pounds -- will make zipping the dresses up the sides easier. We'll see how that all plays out.
     I find myself still dealing with feeling insecure about my cancer boobs. Sometimes at the Y I will change in the changing room -- other times I just change at the bench and not worry about it. I've been encouraging Emiko to not worry about changing in the locker room -- that no one is looking at her. So I should set a good example. But my cancer boobs are alarming to look at -- which Emiko understands.
     Swimming is awesome because when I swim, these boobs feel natural and don't get in the way. It's a nice feeling.
     I saw my oncologist last Friday --  it was a quick visit. I have to see her every three months for the first two years, and then I'll see her every six months for three years. She examined my chest area and we discussed how I was adjusting to tamoxifen, and that was that. She gave me a hug when she left -- which doesn't usually happen with doctors!
     I guess those are your updates for this month. I need to blog more regularly. I keep telling myself that! But it's summertime! The living is easy!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Ready for Summer!

     I have my next saline injection next Friday. I'm looking forward to it -- my wound looks like it's completely healed, so we can do a full injection. I've been wondering how much longer the reconstruction process will take. I googled it, of course, and came across this article. Very interesting, and I can relate to what the people interviewed say. People often remark on how fun it will be to get new boobs, and I know that they are being nice, but I feel pretty conflicted about it. I would much rather have my actual breasts and not have breast cancer. I know that new breasts seem like a perk, and I am sure I will enjoy having perky boobs, but that was never something that was important to me.
     I sometimes wonder if I should have opted for surgery without reconstruction, because then I'd be healed and done already. But I do think that I would have been unhappy with that choice. I still feel super self-conscious in t-shirts. Today I wore a super cute skirt, but I didn't have a scarf that matched it, so I had to wear my top without a scarf. So all day I worried about my sad little boobettes. I definitely feel less feminine with my current breasts.
     At any rate, it's happening eventually. I know that I will continue to adjust and evolve and all that good stuff.
      I'm still attending my cancer support group on Wednesday nights. I do think it's helpful, but I do continue to feel a bit guilty about being less sick than many of the other members. When it was my turn to share, I mentioned that I've been thinking about recurrence a lot lately, and how will I ever stop worrying about breast cancer?
     John, the facilitator, said he struggled with that, too, as he had stage one lung cancer. He said that you will always worry, but you also have to live your life. More adapting and evolving for me!
     I am looking forward to summer break. We are going to join the YMCA, so the kids and I can swim all summer long. The Y provides childcare, so I can take a couple of yoga classes a week and not worry about the kids. I think we will all really enjoy that.
     The kids and I are hiking on Sunday mornings. It's so fun to hike with them -- they'll fuss about walking with me, but they hike like little mountain goats. We've been going to Eaton Canyon, which is beautiful and super close to our house. I think we'll keep going there on Sundays until the kids decide they want to try someplace else. There are a ton of beautiful and not-too-challenging trails near us.
     I didn't run any last weekend, but I'm still calling myself a runner. I did sign up for the Awesome 80s 10K in July, and the 10K at the Grove is June 12th. Emiko and Hideo are doing that one with me, so we'll be walking and there might be some fussing. We'll see how that goes.
     Sunday night Todd and I got to see The Cure at the Hollywood Bowl. It was fabulous and I loved every minute! Robert Smith still has it! They played for almost three hours! Which was amazing, but it was a school night and I was tired. I think I'm still recovering, but it was worth it.
     Tuesday night, Todd and I went to Amoeba Records to see The Muffs play a free show. Then last night, Todd and I went to the Hollywood Improv for Outtake-O-Rama, featuring the actors from Futurama. Todd and I do not usually go out so much ever, much less in a week! But it just worked out that all three of these events were happening this week. It's a good thing that I was just reviewing for the final exams and giving the final exams this week, as I have been super tired and kind of crabby as a result of my lack of sleep! Memorial Day weekend will help!
     Next week will be busy, too, as I am a chaperone for the 8th grade Disneyland trip on Thursday, and Friday is 8th grade graduation. I'm going to miss my first 8th grade class. This has been such a great school year, other than the cancer stuff!
     Today I got my blood drawn for tests that my oncologist wants run on me prior to my next appointment with her on June 17th. Hopefully that will all be good.
     We are going to the beach Monday. My first thought was -- I can't go to the beach looking like this! But I decided that was a stupid attitude. I will wear a sports bra underneath a rashguard, so I don't think my boobettes will be that noticeable. Get over it, Amy.
     OK, that's enough for now.