Moving On

Blogging about the world of BRCA decisions, surgeries and recovery has been good for me. Now it is time for a new chapter in life, in more ways than one.

Recently my spouse and I made a huge decision. We are going to relocate to Green Valley, Arizona. Jim will continue to work for a few more years, but all he needs is to be close to an airport now that his accounts are spread out all over the country. We are going to build a new home in a community that should suit us nicely today and in retirement. After fourteen years in our present home and decades in the Pacific Northwest it is time for a change.

Change is hard even when it is good.

The house I live has been my home for longer than anywhere I have ever lived. I will miss this beautiful place. Last week our handyman discovered the crawl space under the house had been invaded by raccoons who destroyed virtually all of the insulation. Just to keep the party lively, a couple of squirrels and some mice joined in to add to the mess. Guys in hazmat suits will invade my crawl space for three days to repair the damage, remove the carcasses and piles of poop. Oy!

Today we bid farewell to the oldest of our three cats. We have known for some time this was coming. Not that it makes things any easier. Just less of a shock. Another big change. I am crying as I write this.

Time to move on.

I will see the medical tattoo artist on the 24th and that will be the very last step in the lengthy process of breast reconstruction. No doctors or other medical types for a while. That is a very welcome change indeed.

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Count Catula loved to cook himself in front of the fire.

She Freidman’s right on the mark, as usual. I am grateful she works so hard on behalf of families just like mine. Please take a look at her latest blog post.

Thoughts from FORCE

Recently a dear friend sent me a link to an article in the February 1996 issue of Nature Medicine. The article by journalist Adam Marcus covered a media event and panel of women’s rights advocates expressing concern about Myriad’s impending patenting of the BRCA1 gene. Panelists declared unregulated genetic testing to be the coming century’s foremost threat to individual liberty. Incredibly, 17 years after the publication of Adam Marcus’ article, the debate is still ongoing—the issue of gene patenting and the consequences of lacking regulation regarding gene patents are still present and as relevant as they were then.

Admittedly, I missed this article the first time around. In 1996, I was more likely to be reading the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association than a human medical journal. With a toddler, a budding veterinary career, and no significant family history of breast cancer, my focus was not on…

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Nipple Tats and Old Cats

The icing on the cake is how my plastic surgeon described it. Nipple/areola tattooing, that is. As I drove to the medical tattoo artist’s office, it did not feel at all like a moment of celebration or even an opportunity to mark the end of a tumultuous chapter. It has been 14 months since my initial bilateral mastectomy/reconstruction. Today was just another dang medical procedure that I have not been looking forward to one bit. The tattoo artist, one more stranger who wanted to mess with my mangled personal anatomy.

What a pissy attitude, I told myself. Be glad you have decent health insurance and are alive and cancer free. Put a sock in it and go finish what you started, I thought as I waited.

So, I did just that.

No offense to those who love their ink, but I really do not like tattoos. Garish tats and piercings other than normal pierced ears (not those barbaric plugs) make me want to look away. I find them disfiguring. As someone who has been carved up from stem to stern, I have a strong appreciation for Mother Nature’s work and think people should not mess with it too much. Merely my humble opinion.

What I was really thinking about while the tattoo artist’s needle buzzed in my ear was my old geezer cat, Count Catula. We had yet another vet trip this morning. For the last day or so he’s been clawing at his mouth. Sunday night he scarfed down his dinner but puked it right back up a minute later. Not at all the typical kind of barfing he does on a regular basis. His weight continues to decline and his once silky champagne colored fur is drab and clumpy. He will no longer tolerate me combing his scrawny body. So be it.

I let the tattoo artist work her magic, feeling oddly disinterested in making important decisions like size, shape and color. In passing, I asked her if she could fix something that has bugged me for nearly fifteen years. A reminder that I had extensive radiation treatment for breast cancer even though I no longer have those breasts. Four permanent marks that radiation therapists made on my skin to line up the machine that zapped the cancer. Only in my case, three of those marks disappeared in my surgical adventures and all I was left with was the biggest, ugliest most prominent blob of bluish ink that anyone could see if they looked.

When she was done I had to admit that despite the skin being all raw and angry, I could see a more normal looking appearance. That is what medical tattooing is all about. The removal of that annoying radiation tattoo was a bonus.

It will be a week or so before the top layer of skin sloughs off and I can really see what these new nips look like. I’m in no hurry.

Count Catula is sleeping soundly in my chair in the family room where he’s been for nearly six hours. I am in no hurry for the vet to call with test results.

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Goodbye Baby-Poop Brown Recliner

Today I said goodbye to the motorized recliner that helped me through last year’s BRCA surgeries. No tears were shed. I hated that thing. My neighbor was happy to purchase the chair at a bargain price. He is having hip replacement surgery soon. I wished him luck and waved farewell to the chair as it headed down the driveway.

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So long my friend

Now, if I could just get the hospital to fix their billing error from more than a year ago, my life would be complete.

 

 

 

Saguaro Cacti and Valentine’s Day Gifts

Random thoughts in no particular order:

A few days in Tucson has Mr. A. and me ready to pack our stuff and move there. The Sonoran desert is calling my name.

On Valentine’s Day with my sweetheart on the road, the highlight of the day will be showing my Frankenboobs to yet another stranger. A medical tattoo artist.

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Green Valley, AZ on a fine winter’s day.

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Ritz-Carlton at Dove Mountain. Only the hamburgers and the view were affordable!

BRCA Surgeries: 1 Year Later

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In two days time it will be one year since my initial mastectomy/reconstruction surgery. What a year. And the adventure continues. A visit to the plastic surgeon is on the calendar in a few days to check the new nips and give me (hopefully) the go-ahead to schedule tattooing. Not everyone chooses nipple reconstruction or the tattoos that make the nips look flesh colored. I cannot say I am looking forward to the needle treatment but being really, truly all done will be marvelous.

In the mean time, it is tax season and around here that coincides with retirement planning. It is very nice to worry more about 401k stuff than boobs.

Allyn Rose: Mutant enters Miss America Pageant

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Allyn Rose
Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Hollywood Gossip

Miss America contestant Allyn Rose, a 24-year old college graduate with movie star looks is so much more than another pretty face. Although she did not make the cut to be a Miss America pageant finalist, her DNA made news around the world. Morning talk shows and tabloids gobbled up her story, eager to label her health dilemma and decisions as controversial. Strong opinions, even hate mail, have followed Ms. Rose in the weeks since she announced her intention to have a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy.

Welcome, Allyn Rose, to the path that anyone with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation knows so well. Our mutations are more famous than your very rare Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome but hey, I am certain those with Cowden’s, Li-Fraumeni, Peutz-Jegher or the host of other known hereditary genetic defects that predispose one to breast cancer will welcome you into the mutant fold. We need you in a big way.

Why do those in the hereditary cancer community need Allyn Rose? It’s simple. There is work to be done to educate people everywhere about the risks and choices involved in familial cancer. Allyn Rose has stepped up to the plate and said to the world she wants to make preventative health care her mission. I applaud her efforts on behalf of those everywhere grappling with the same difficult decisions her family faces.

Thank you Allyn Rose. I am certain your Mom, who died from breast cancer at age 50, and the many generations of women in your family who suffered the same fate, would be so very proud of you.