BRCA Surgeries: 11 Days Post-Op and the Bitch is Back

Once a crab, always a crab.

Being cranky is not one of my finer attributes, but like my crappy BRCA genes, it is part of me. Following my initial mastectomy/reconstruction surgery the plastic surgeon counseled my husband and mother that I would likely be very irritable over the course of the next 48 hours. Jim and Mom broke into uncontrolled laughter. The surgeon, who has never seen crabby Lee in action was mystified by their reaction. Me irritable? Baby, I was born to be a crab.

It has been eleven days since Stage II breast revisions and BSO surgery and while I’m so pleased not be a total wreck like I was last time, I’m peeved to be caught in no man’s land, somewhere between sick and well.

James is in Salt Lake City today. Lucky man. The cats are the only critters in my orbit and like all cats, they do not give a rat’s ass about human problems unless it interferes with their food.

I guess my biggest gripe is not that I’m still fatigued and need frequent naps. Nor is is it the pain level, which no longer requires my friend Vicodin. I even drove for the first time yesterday and that was no problem. No, my biggest complaint is the stupid Spanx. I HATE SPANX!

Not to disparage this fine product. It is helping my liposuctioned, bruised, scarred midsection heal nicely. Two weeks the doctor said. I’m counting the minutes until I can be rid of these things. Twenty-four hours a day is a long time to wear any garment, particularly one that squashes one’s guts. Shapewear is meant to be worn for an evening under something slinky, not ’round the clock. So what is so horrid about a pancake flat tummy and a nicely lifted fanny?

Let’s just call it digestive disturbances of a volcanic nature and leave it at that. No wonder I’m crabby.

BRCA Surgeries: Doing the BSO Happy Dance

One week ago today I said farewell to my ovaries and tubes in addition to completing revisions on the breast reconstruction surgery I had in January. Today it is official. The pathology report confirms all tissues were normal. No sign of cancer.

Here is how my Mom and sister reacted:

My family does their version of the Happy Dance.

This month marks fourteen years for me as a breast cancer survivor. Had I known my BRCA status sooner, I’d have had these surgeries years ago. I’ve been holding my breath since last Fall, hoping beyond hope that I had not waited too long.

Here is how my guy feels about this fabulous news:

James does the Seahawk version of the Happy Dance.

And me? Well, it took a while for it to sink in and although I feel so very lucky, I also feel sad. I’m sad for other family members who have not dodged the cancer bullet. I’m sad for those who do not wish to take the genetic testing that might save their lives although I understand why and respect that choice. I’m sad that I had to lose both breasts, even if they were big, saggy and lopsided from radiation treatment.

I know these feelings are temporary and I have not recovered from last week’s surgery yet. It won’t be long until I feel more like myself again:

My Happy Dance at the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman Shop.

Home Sweet Home

There are three lazy cats in my household who sleep around the clock. They each have their preferred spots. The old geezer cat likes sunshine or anywhere warm. The girl cat prefers hidey-holes away from the boys. The young male likes plenty of elbow room. He’s a rather large fellow. I believe I am turning into a cat since I have slept more than the Three Musketeers these last few days. Boy am I tired.

On Thursday it will be off to the plastic surgeon’s office. I plan to do nothing more strenuous than a short walk or two until then. Things are healing well and compared to my last adventure in surgery, I feel great. Just pooped. Only 39 more days until the Oregon Ducks football season gets underway. I must get my rest.

Miss Bubble is not amused.


BRCA Surgeries: Stage II is History

Fair warning. I am drugged and this is a very good thing.

Ovaries and tubes are toast. Various boob defects repaired, scars revised and I’m sandwiched into the compression garment. They took fat from my hips and upper belly to graft. Yanking up those Spanx over the bruising hurts like hell, but that is why aforementioned drugs are so good.

Had the usual IV nightmare. Chemo left me without much to stick. At least I did not have to get a central line.

Oddly enough I wound up on the same ward in the exact same room that I spent most of my twelve days in last time. Everyone recognized me, right down to the cleaning lady. They were glad to see me do so well this time and that was very nice.

Now we wait a few days on the path report. I’m keeping my fingers crossed there’s no sign of ovarian cancer. In the mean time I’ll keep popping pills and enjoy Jim fussing over me.

Thank you to everyone who phoned, e-mailed, texted or stopped by. I am a happy camper.

BRCA Surgery: 48 Hour Countdown

48 Hours was one of Eddie Murphy’s funniest movies. It’s also the name of a long-running TV show and the exact amount of time before my next surgery. Yes, I am feeling a bit crazy and that is to be expected. Last time I disappeared down the surgery wormhole it took a long time to surface again. The closer it gets, the busier I get. Who says avoidance is not a good thing?

Yesterday’s distractions included cleaning the oven, laundry, shopping and some dark chocolate covered almonds from Trader Joe’s. 73% dark Belgian chocolate is good for the soul if not the skinny jeans. James is on a road trip to the Midwest and this gives me license to watch weird stuff at night on Netflix that would put him to sleep. Another good time killer.

I wish sleeping was easier.Less than six hours last night. Been up since before 4AM.

Today, it’s off to treadmill land, more work around the house and lunch with a friend. Writing a single word other than this blog and a to-do list is just not happening. I will survey my nest and purchase anything else I think might be needed. Last weekend I bought Spanx to wear after surgery. Doctor’s orders. Shapewear they call it. I call it a high-tech girdle. Less onerous than what my mother’s generation wore, but the thought of a bruised belly being squashed twenty-three hours a day in a compression garment is not pleasant. Still, if it helps the lumps and bumps created by fat grafting settle better, I will be a good girl and do as I’m told.

My husband had never heard of Spanx. His dyslexia took over and renamed them. They will forever be known around here as Skankies. I hope we will be laughing about this when he has to help me put them on.

Spanx Girl Shorts aka “Skankies”



BRCA Surgeries: Alcohol and Dem Bones.

Summer has arrived in style here. Gloomy weather has departed. Our backyard is an oasis of lush green calm where we sit each evening until well after the dinner hour. Only one night this week have we left Eden, and that was to attend an outdoor concert at a local golf club. As much as Jim and I are enjoying the bounty of summer in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon Ducks football season is on the horizon. Although we are rabid Duck fans, today I’m giving a nod to their rivals, the Oregon State Beavers. New research from OSU has found that post-menopausal women may be doing their bone density a favor by sipping a glass of wine or slurping a beer. Booze is good for bones? Sounds too good to be true.

In this morning’s Oregonian newspaper the research results are summarized. Click here if you want to read the article:

The gist of the research is that moderate drinking (1 or 2 drinks per day) slows the complicated process of bone remodeling in post-menopausal women. Be careful though. Heavy drinking in any form has been proven to weaken bones beyond a shadow of a doubt. Still, this is good news for wine-loving women like me who went through menopause at an early age due to chemotherapy or for BRCA positive previvors who elect surgical menopause to reduce cancer risk. Heck, it is good news for all women who are past menopause.

I would toast these new findings with a glass of wine but I’m on the wagon until after next week’s surgery is just a memory. Oh well. Go Ducks! Go Beavers!

Lord Cotswold plays with both Beaver and Duck toys.


BRCA Surgeries, Breast Cancer, Angels and Strangers

Somewhere in South America a man named Sergio watches over me. We have never met. He saw me just once some fourteen years ago. My head was bald from chemo. During a tour of the manufacturing facility where I worked, Sergio had passed by my office on his way to visit the president of our company. He left behind a gift for me. A tiny pin of a winged angel. The president’s executive assistant delivered the angel to me along with instructions from Sergio that I was to wear the pin every day. I accepted this gift with pleasure, attached it to the collar of my winter coat and forgot about it.

Many months later with treatment completed the only visible sign of breast cancer that remained was a head full of curly hair that was way too short. The company’s Italian distributor remarked on my fashion sense and nearly crawled under the table when I had to tell him it was cancer, not the latest trend. His big brown eyes welled with tears as he described his closest friend’s struggle with lung cancer. For reasons unknown, I removed the angel pin from my coat, attached it to my business card and asked the distributor to give it to his friend. It had served me well I told him. My treatment was successful. Perhaps it would bring his friend luck. He thanked me effusively with a kiss on each cheek and a bear hug.

I do not know how the Italian distributor’s friend fared. It felt right to pass along Sergio’s gift to a stranger in need on the other side of the world. While I’m not a religious person, I do believe in the power of positive energy. That little angel pin had good karma.

The following year I heard from Sergio once again. He’d tasked the executive assistant with a check on my welfare. He wanted to know if I was wearing the angel pin. When she relayed to him that I’d given his angel to a cancer patient in Italy who needed it more than I did, an identical pin appeared in the mail from Brazil for me.

Ten days from now I will take Sergio’s angel pin with me to the hospital for my next surgery. I cannot say that I have worn it every day in the last fourteen years. But Sergio was right. I still need an angel in my camp. Another lucky charm of mine will carry the angel for me while I’m in surgery. With the power of an Oregon Ducks sock monkey and the angel, I’m all set. Muchas Gracias mi amigo, Sergio.

Duck Monkey sporting the angel pin as an earring.