I Have Breast Cancer… and other tales of horror

I’ve been really remiss in taking care of my blog for the last year. Seriously, though. The last half of 2016 was mostly just trying to keep my head above water. I didn’t have the time or the energy to devote to my blog or even basic maintenance of the site in general.

That’s what a breast cancer diagnosis will do to you. Rearrange priorities. Right quick.

I’m losing my hair. I’ve lost a boob. And I’ll probably get radiation positioning at some point. The trifecta of shittiness. It wasn’t supposed to be like that. Me getting the whole package. Originally, when they first told me, I was only getting the basic package- surgery and then drugs and monitoring. But once they opened me up and took a look, it was more serious than the diagnostics indicated.

Listen, go get your boobs checked out. If you catch this shit early, you too can get away with minimal treatment. But if it’s more serious, you need the deluxe package and STAT at that. But this isn’t a service announcement for awareness.

Nope. It’s just a little heads up. And to tell what I’m doing. So. I originally had a surgery set and decided to cancel at the last moment. Believe me when I tell you that the people around you get REAL concerned REAL fast when you cancel a surgery to cut cancer out of your body. But I had a good reason. I wanted less surgeries. And the way my local surgery team wanted to do things didn’t align with the way I wanted them done. Plus, I’d found a team and surgical center willing to do it the way I wanted and who did the types of reconstructive surgery I wanted. The only downside was that I had to travel to obtain access to what I think of as THE preeminent DIEP team in the country… maybe in the world.

I wanted a DIEP flap for my new boob. I didn’t want plastic or silicon or anything foreign put into my body. Cutting cancer rout of my body was and is all about getting what doesn’t belong inside me out. Why would I put something else that doesn’t belong inside me in? The DIEP flaps allowed me to use my own fat- who knew all that baby fat was going to come in handy… and no, baby fat doesn’t mean MY baby fat, but rather, my babies’ fat acquired during gestation lol- to make a new boob. Some call it a foob. Fat boob. Fake boob. Whatever you call it… it’s mine. My new boob will gain weight when I gain weight and lose weight when I lose weight. It’s warm and jiggly and soft to the touch. Not that it can feel anything, but my hands can. And my eyes can see. One day, doctors will be able to grow us a new boob just like a new heart or lung or whatever, until then? Getting the fat cut from my belly and then shaped into a boob is about the next best thing. And the docs I flew to do these routinely. In fact, this is their specialty. They do these all the time. Which is important since DIEPs are microsurgery. Sometimes, lasting seven to eight hours for one boob and eleven to twelve hours for two boobs. And you want someone who does these all day everyday. Not someone who does things occasionally. I couldn’t be happier with my new foob.

So, I had my cancer cut out with immediate reconstruction. My local team wanted me to delay reconstruction, which would’ve added another major surgery to the two I was already slated to have just because I have breast cancer and I wanted reconstruction. My away team told me they would do it at one time and add in some extra fat to guard against the damage that radiation might do to the tissue. This was the crux of the issue with my local team. They wanted me to do radiation with a place holder in my chest- basically a temporary air filled boob. Wait a while and then do reconstruction. My away team told me they would pack my boob with extra fat and tissue so if there was any damage to the skin or tissue, the extra would take the brunt of it leaving healthy tissue underneath. And one less surgery.

I took the one less surgery.

The only thing my away team couldn’t do was save my nipple. They saved all of my breast skin, however. It was just that my tumor was too close to the nipple to get clear margins when they cut it out. This makes me sad. But I’m okay with it. Now. I realize I wouldn’t be able to feel anything anyway with my old nipple. So having a new 3-D one made later isn’t going to change things too much. But my skin was spared. So I am able to have some sensation where I wouldn’t if I hadn’t spared my skin. And maybe, over time I will get more sensation. That possibility is open to me because of the type of surgery I opted to do and the fact I invited on immediate reconstruction.

Because I opted for immediate reconstruction, I was spared the psychological smackdown of not having a boob or looking at a mangled boob. Because that’s what I kept finding. Women who needed radiation who had it with the temporary expanders who looked like burn victims. I never once looked at my foob and turned away in disgust or sadness. I look at it now and see the scar running vertical- just like a normal boob job patient, not a just a cancer patient. My scar is similar to women who’ve had plastic surgery to improve their boobs. And once the nipple is placed, it will look just like them.

Not everyone will focus on mental state or status. But I think when you are fighting a disease like breast cancer having the best state of mind is necessary. Mental status being good is KEY to kicking cancer’s ass.

Which is why I’m cold-capping to try and save my hair. It’s not working so great. In that I’ve lost a LOT of my hair to chemo. But I have hair after 4 dense dose AC treatments. And from far away, it looks like I have a full head of hair. So there’s that.

If you feel my head, it’s quite apparent that I have very thin hair right now. With patches of balding. But from a few steps away, it just looks like I have thinning hair. And from some angles, it doesn’t look funny at all.

Cold- capping is a commitment. It’s unpleasant. It’s not guaranteed. It’s a pain in the ass.

But I don’t look like a cancer patient. I don’t look like I’m going through chemo. And if I can get through my 4 dense dose T treatments, I will have walked through my cancer treatments mostly on my terms. With minimal impact by cancer.

Yes, I know I will be forever a cancer patient. Always needing to be monitored. But if I can move through my treatments- surgery, chemo, radiation- on my terms, my mind and body will do well. I’ve always believed that the body supports the mind and the mind supports the body. By making the choices I’ve made, I feel integrated thus far. And I know cancer is getting it’s ass kicked!

A good mental state is the reason why I didn’t cancel my reading in Baltimore. I’m pretty sure it’ll be a good time. I might or might not have hair at my Baltimore reading… come see me if you can, but I will have all my snark. I also didn’t cancel my erotic gothic horror over at Romance on the Rocks. I did decide to do it quarterly instead of monthly, however.  And I will have met cancer on my own terms. With a foob, thinning hair, and reading ALL the smut!


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