Monday, December 31, 2012

Good Riddance 2012!

I can't say I'll miss ya 2012, you weren't too kind to me.

No, no, I don't want to beat up all of 2012. For what it's worth, 2012 wasn't THAT bad. Sure I found out I had breast cancer. Sure I lost my awesome boobies. Sure my anxiety was at an all time high. But once that was all over, it was actually quite pleasant.

I still can't get over the fact that I am ending 2012 with a new rack. I never, in my wildest imagination, believed this would happen at such an early age. But it did. I dealt with it, took care of it, and I am still here to tell the tale.

Like I've said before, I am still hyper-aware of my implants. They still bother me. They still get in my way. They will never look quite "right." I can't get any damn cleavage to show off. I am still frightened of people bumping in to them. Buuuuuut, these pesky implants do have some "perks" (heh). They are a bit bigger than my previous pair. They will forever be perky. They have some pretty kickass scars. They don't have any nips. And if I fall overboard I have my own built in life preserver (this theory has yet to be tested out).

So 2012, to you I say adieu! I am excited for what 2013 has in store for me. I have concerts to rock out to. I have vacations where I can relax. I have a wedding to plan. And much, much more. You may have knocked me down for a couple of months breast cancer, but I just got right back up. You may have altered my body a bit breast cancer, but I will use it to my advantage. Don't think you got the best of me breast cancer, because you didn't, and you never will.

Happy New Year to all!

- J.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Share My Road

December 27, 2011.

I can't believe it's been a year. I can't believe it's been a year from the day my body gave me the wake up call that I just couldn't ignore. After ignoring the clear discharge for months on end, it decided to smack me across the face. "Don't ignore me any longer!" It shouted to me. It turned bloody and I could no longer ignore what I kept deeming, "just a normal discharge." I made an appointment that day for a mammogram and ultrasound. I still find it absolutely crazy that after I was officially diagnosed with breast cancer the discharge just stopped. What was up with that?! Seriously. Is that something that happens? Did my body say, "Hey, thanks for listening ass. Now take care of me." I'll never ignore you again body! I swear!

Some days the year feels like it flew by. Other days it seems like it crawled. I've been thinking about this time last year more than ever as the one year anniversary of my diagnosis approaches. I think about going to different doctor appointments, wondering if I was OK. I think about that exact moment in time when I was told I had breast cancer and I begin to tear up all over again. I think about telling my friends and family about my diagnosis when I couldn't even believe it myself. I also remember everyone being strong for me when I needed that the most.

You've all been following my journey for a year and I thank you every day for your support. I couldn't have done it without all of you in my own personal cheering section. I still feel overwhelmed by my diagnosis, even though I've been stamped CANCER FREE. It's only been a year. Only a year. And yet so many things have changed. I started the year with a breast cancer diagnosis and I end the year breast cancer free. I started the year with my own breasts. Now I have these implants on my chest that I still need to get used to. I am still so hyper-aware of my implants and I hope that fades over time. I know it will. Or at least I hope it will.

My emotions are running wild as I am able to reflect on this time last year knowing what I know now. Last year I was just on auto pilot as I fought hard to regain my health and kick breast cancer outta my life. I didn't know what was in store for me, and technically I still don't, but what I do know is that I fought my hardest and had the most amazing people by my side.

- J.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Finding Humor...

I have a much lengthier post coming up on the horizon, but I had to post this for a laugh.

A friend of mine sent this to me (holla!) via email and I got quite a kick out of it.  It's nice being able to find the humor in my situation, and with my one year anniversary of my diagnosis coming up, I could use some laughs.  Technically things didn't start to "go down" until December 27th, but I can feel all the emotions beginning to start.

More to come, but for now, lets all have a laugh.

- J.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Reporting Back

My new OBGYN was very nice and my appointment went rather smoothly. It was an intense appointment though and he gave me a lot to think about.  He seems very concerned about my ovaries. He wants to be proactive with them and he gave me three different options to ponder. None of them really appeal to me but I will do more research and acquire more details.

  • The first option is the least invasive. He wants me to start birth control pills. Now this seems like a bad idea because why would I want to add more estrogen in my body? It seems counter productive. Especially since Dr. Blackwood wanted me to be very aware of my soy consumption. And that's just estrogen in soy! He said he would put me on a low low dose of estrogen. About 10mg. I have read that women who take birth control for 5+ years lower their risk of ovarian cancer, but what if I have rogue breast cancer cells floating through my body?! I certainly don't want to feed them estrogen!
  • The second option is only based on theory. I'm sorry, I love research, but I am not doing something to my body based on theory alone. That theory is that ovarian cancer does not actually start in the ovary. Some are saying that the cancer starts on the little phalanges at the end of Fallopian tubes. It then presses up against the ovary and the tumor grows in to it. Some women are having just their Fallopian tubes removed.
  • The third option is removing both the ovaries and the Fallopian tubes.

Now the last two options would require that I freeze eggs or embryos and obviously consult with an IVF clinic. At this moment in time those two options seem just a bit extreme to me.

And to be honest this whole ovaries thing angers me. I'm 30! I want to have kids, but not yet. I hate that I feel pressured to have kids because my ovaries may be little ticking time bombs. I have stuff I need to do. I want to be financially stable. I don't want to rush anything just because something may or may not happen. As pointed out to me. When my mom and aunt Jeanne had their ovaries removed there was no sign of cancer, so that leaves me hopeful.

This whole little "but this isn't my plan" rant makes me think of a quote by Joseph Campbell I saw posted on a blog, "We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us."
For now I am waiting for test results to come back. I also need to get an ultrasound done and a couple more tests. I will see him again in six months and by then I should hopefully be well versed in ovaries and ovarian cancer.

- J.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

New Doctor Time!

It's been awhile my dear blog. I do miss posting here, but no posts means nothing crazy is happening and I totally prefer that. It's not you blog, it's me!

Tomorrow I have an appointment with a new OBGYN recommended to me by my breast surgeon. She really wants to keep an eye on my ovaries. Keeping an eye on one's ovaries is difficult because it is very hard to diagnose ovarian cancer. But this new doctor is very specialized and I have the utmost confidence in him (though I haven't met him yet...). I know Dr. Blackwood wouldn't send me to just anyone.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. No, I'm not nervous because he will be my first male OBGYN (although that is strange to me). I'm nervous that he's going to find cancer.

Thanks to this whole breast cancer experience I am now that person who thinks every little pain is CANCER!! I can no longer hide behind the lame excuse of "I'm too young to get cancer." I get a headache? It's CANCER!! I get a stomach pain? It's CANCER!! My knee hurts after running? It's CANCER!! I know it's silly but I feel like that will be something that follows me around for awhile, if not forever. But it's ok, I've gotten used to it already.

So I am ready for this new doctor! I have all my reports in order and all my paperwork filled out. He is located in the same building as my plastic surgeon so I've got this! After my doctor appointment I am heading north for Thanksgiving. I am looking forward to a low key, relaxing vacation.

I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving holiday!

- J.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hold Myself Up and Love My Scars

I learned something new today. Today is BRA Day. BRA Day you ask? Yes! Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day. It's a day to celebrate me and my new boobies! Yaaayy!

No, really. According to the website, My Hope Chest, "...nearly 6200 women a year lose their breasts and are uninsured." I couldn't even imagine. When I was going through the planning for my double mastectomy, not once did I think, maybe my reconstruction won't be covered. Reconstruction was part of my recovery and my insurance company didn't even blink an eye. I never worried once, but many women do. When uninsured or under insured women hear, "you have breast cancer," that may mean a double mastectomy with no insurance for reconstruction.

I believe every woman deserves the chance to decide if she wants reconstruction. I wish insurance did not have to be the deciding factor. There are many strong women who decide to opt out of reconstruction on their own accord. I went with reconstruction and I'm personally glad I did, though I can have mood swings over it. Sometimes when I look at my new boobs I think, maybe I shouldn't have done this because they just don't look like mine. Then other days, I look at them, scars and all, and think, fuck yeah I took matters in to my own hands and I'm proud of them!

It makes me sad to think that there are women out there who feel breast cancer has made them incomplete because their only option was a double mastectomy with no reconstruction. That's just not right. Dealing with the diagnosis of breast cancer is enough trauma. My Hope Chest is the only national organization focusing on treatment for uninsured women.

This is the Breast Reconstruction Awareness ribbon My Hope Chest has created. "The colors in the breast reconstruction ribbon transition and transform, just like the survivors My Hope Chest helps to become whole again. The ribbon goes from pink - the original breast cancer color, to white - known as the "light" or the power of healing. The white blends to yellow, the color of hope, sunshine and new beginnings."

One day, hopefully every woman will love her body and her scars, reconstructed or not. But it should always be her own decision.

- J.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day

In the haze of pink ribbons and breast cancer awareness / prevention this October, only one day is "dedicated" to the patients whose breast cancer has metastasized to other parts of their body. Seriously? A day? Just a day? Why isn't this whole month dedicated to ALL aspects of breast cancer? Of course it's uplifting to hear the stories of women who beat breast cancer in its early stage, but let's also hear the stories of women with Stage IV breast cancer. There is NO cure for Stage IV breast cancer and boy isn't that a downer. Who wants to hear that? Well, I do. And I think everyone else should!

I have many opinions on October and this whole pink ribbon campaign now that it has directly impacted me. But I will always have a special place in my heart for the pink ribbon. My mom embraced it and it makes me think of her. Not in a sad way, I like seeing the pink ribbon! I am currently rocking her pink survivor ribbon pin this month and I am so proud of it.

I just think we all need to be a little more aware of where our donations and monies are being spent. No more donating money to charities where it goes to awareness and prevention, we get it! I want to donate to charities that are researching a cure for Stage IV patients. I want to donate to Planned Parenthood so that women who can't afford mammograms will be screened no matter what.

While you are here, I highly recommend signing this petition that is asking to change October to "National Metastatic & Breast Cancer Awareness Month." You can also help the movement here. I say let's not only recognize Metastatic Breast Cancer... what about the men who are affected by breast cancer? What are their feelings towards the pink ribbon? What about people who have other cancers? What do they feel about the pink ribbon explosion during October? This is a great article about the problem with pink. It's an interesting read!

This is my first October being a breast cancer survivor. Seeing all the pink ribbons doesn't make me think of my battle with cancer any more than say in February or August. I think about it a lot. I assume this will change as the years go by. Will I get angry when October comes around for reminding me of what I went through? I don't know. I think it will always follow me around. And that's fine.

- J.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Check Up!

Last week I had my four month check up with Dr. Spiro. I was kind of nervous about this check up because I knew we would be discussing nipple reconstruction. I made up my mind that new nips are just not for me at this time but I thought maybe he would try to talk me into them.

He did no such thing. All of my nipple excuses I thought up were for naught. When he came in to the room he examined me first and said I was healing really really well. He said my skin was reacting nicely and that my scars looked great too. No fat grafting is needed! He then went on to explain how he does nipple reconstruction (since there are many different ways). What he would do is he would pull up some of my skin on my breast to form the nipple part. Then he would take a circular patch of skin from my lower abdomen to create the areola. He would cut a hole in the patch of skin so the nipple could peek through. This would be done under local anesthesia. The nipple would have to heal for about a month and then he'd tattoo the pigment to the newly reconstructed nip. All very very intriguing in my opinion, but I'm still not interested.

He told me whenever I was ready to do it I could make an appointment. And it can be done whenever! Weeks, months, years later. Or never. Whatever I decide. The nurse then took pictures of my progression and I was done! I walked out of the office with no next appointment scheduled. A first! Now it's just up to me and my body to keep up the good healing.

My next doctor appointment is with a new obgyn. Since I am BRCA2 positive I've got to keep my eyes on my ovaries. I'll probably get yearly ultrasounds and they'll then get removed after I am done having children. Let's keep the least amount of estrogen in my body! For now I am just looking forward to only regularly scheduled doctor appointments. No more surprises, ok body?

- J.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Today is the day...

Not that I don't always blog with love... but this is with some capital letters here. Today, I Blog with Love to introduce all my readers to a very special online study. An online study with the intention to find the CAUSE of breast cancer.

A couple posts down I blogged about the Army of Women website (did any of you join?), which is a program of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. Today, I am joined with many other bloggers as we all Blog with Love. As some of you may know, and some of you may not know, many breast cancer foundations use our donations for promotion and awareness campaigns. Seriously? How many more awareness campaigns do we really need? We get it. Breast cancer is here. No one is denying that fact.

Today is the day we need to take this awareness and turn it into action! Today The Health of Women Study has been launched. HOW to be short. This is an international online study for both women AND men, with or without breast cancer. This is a study that collects information about your health, your family history, your job, your diet, etc. Are you a fan of filling out questionnaires? I know I am! Periodically you will be sent questionnaires and by filling these out, it will hopefully lead researchers in the right direction to what causes breast cancer.

I feel very passionate about this organization and this cause. All of us can come together and find a cause together. THIS will lead us towards a cure, not promotion, not awareness campaigns. We have enough of that. We need this.

I am doing this for me. I am doing this for my mom. I am doing this for the women and men who die every day from breast cancer. I am doing this for the women and men who are diagnosed every day with breast cancer. The list goes on, and this is why I am participating. Why will you participate?

- J.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tempur-Pedic Boobs

Remember last post when I mentioned that I had a red bump on my left breast where a stitch was peeking out? Well, since that post the red bump became worse. It was actually a pretty nasty pimple that formed. If you have been unlucky enough to experience pimples it was that deep, underground pimple kind of hurt. I could tell. Luckily I couldn't feel it. I began to worry that it may get infected so I did a quick Google search to see what I could find out about it (because we all know Google is the new expert medical professional of our time). I came across a lot of breast augmentation forums where women were describing my exact problem - a stitch would be peeking out from the scar line, which would then cause a pimple to form. It seemed like it happened a lot so I was less worried.

I made an appointment to have the nurse at Dr Spiro's office take a look at it and to pull out the stitch. She explained to me that some people's bodies do not dissolve all of the stitches. If this happens, your body will push out the remaining stitches and it happens around this time. So perfect! This is normal! The nurse grabbed the tiny stitch with tweezers and pulled it out. The tiny stitch was actually 6 inches long!! It was comical to see what that little stitch produced! Now my left breast is stitch free. No irritations and no more pimples! Success!

You may be wondering, what does this post title have to do with any of this?! Well, I made a new discovery. My new boobs remind me of a Tempur-Pedic mattress. They conform to what ever bumps or wrinkles are in my bra. I wore a balconette bra the other day that doesn't get much use. I was doing laundry and needed something... Anyway, it's a strange bra, it has a lot of padding and underwire. It's comfortable enough but not my favorite. I wore it all day. At the end of the day when I removed my bra, my boobs were all lumpy and weird looking because of the way they were stuffed in to the bra. It was freaky!! Cartoonish even. I freaked out for a second but then I remembered that they will return to their original shape. They are my handy dandy Tempur-Pedic boobs after all!

- J.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Standing Strong Together

My blog has been a little quiet because all has been quiet on the eastern front. Even though a new red spot has formed along the scar line on my left breast, I am not too worried. A lonely, clear stitch has been left behind and I think it may have caused said bump. OR, I am fighting off a cold (or allergies, not sure which) so it may be just my immune system fighting everything and anything it can find. Other than that I think my scars are healing nicely. I am still a bit sore, but I know that will last for quite some time.

I am going to use this blog post as an opportunity to make you all aware of some new things that I've come across recently.

  • Remember that bra store I was RAVING about a couple posts back? Well, they are doing something kinda awesome. Intimacy is running "Bras for a Cause." Every Intimacy store is accepting gently used bras for donation. They then pass on the bras to women all over the world who desperately need them. I think this is a great idea, especially for me since I have a couple of newer bras that I no longer fit in to since my surgery. It's great that I can donate them to women in need and not have to throw them away. And as a special bonus, Intimacy gives you $10 off each new bra you buy for every bra you donate (up to 3 bras).
  • An amazing young breast cancer blogger, Ashley Blair Doyle, posted information about the website, Army of Women. This website offers breast cancer patients and survivors the opportunity to partner with research scientists to move breast cancer beyond a cure. They are looking for volunteers with or without breast cancer to help out. Peruse the site and see what you think. Volunteer if you like. I know I already signed up!
So that is the end of my advertisements and shout outs. I feel strongly about certain organizations and causes so if any of these opportunities tickle your fancy, please don't hesitate to help out.  No act of kindness is too small because it could mean the world to someone else.

- J.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Chest Depth Perception

There is one thing you all should probably know about me - I have an awful sense of depth perception. I am pretty sure I've just coasted by when it comes to parking by closing my eyes and praying. Sure I've scraped a couple of cars/garages but no one has been injured as of yet.

Now that I am basically a cup and a half bigger, my chest depth perception is completely off and I feel ridiculous as I bump into people and inanimate objects with my boobs.

For example -

  • I was in a workshop, sitting in a row, when I had to use the bathroom. I hate making a scene so I held it as long as possible. Once I came to the point of bursting, I stood up (stupid me sat all the way on the inside of the row) and I excused myself. I had made it all the way to the end of the row and when I turned my left boob smacked a poor unassuming man in the back of his head. I apologized and hoped it didn't hurt too much since I didn't feel a thing. 
  • When moving to my new apartment, I kept standing too close to Kevin and he would elbow me in the chest when he picked stuff up. This happened way more than it should have. I still don't think I learned my lesson about standing too close to people (I can be quite the creep when I want to be).
  • I can also take turns a little too close. When leaving a room I sometimes smack the door frame. I've always been a fan of making tight turns around corners, but perhaps no more. I feel like a dog wearing one of those cone surgical collars. It's always so funny when a dog tries to take a corner wearing one of those. I can only hope that I am as amusing when I do it.

I have at least learned to protect my boobies in crowded situations. I don't care how silly I look as I hold my arms up to my chest! I will protect them at all costs.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Creative Cups!

My coworkers and I have decided to enter a bra in to the Creative Cups fundraising project.

Creative Cups?! you ask. It's this great fundraising event that supports Adelphi's breast cancer support hotline. One can enter and then decorate a bra however you like! The bra can portray how you conquered cancer. It can be in support of someone. It can be in memory of someone. Whatever your little creative heart desires!

I was inspired recently and came up with a great theme for our bra. I am so excited to design and create it. The bras are put on display and auctioned off at a gala reception in March.

If you want more info about Creative Cups, or if you want to sign up, go HERE. Let your creative side shine in support of a great breast cancer support program!

- J.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

To Nip or not to Nip

OK, so bear with me on this post... I'm going to be discussing nipple reconstruction.

I have an appointment with Dr. Spiro in a couple of weeks and he is going to ask me if I want nipple reconstruction. I know that he highly recommends it and he thinks I will feel great after it, but I just don't know. Even thinking about getting new nipples seems completely ridiculous to me.

First off, let's all be honest with ourselves here, regular nipples are freaking weird! Why would I want fake weird nipples on me? Secondly, (here comes some tmi info) my nipples were the cutest things ever and can never be replicated to my high nipple standards. Thirdly, I will never have to worry about headlights trying to poke through my shirt ever again! Ha!

Now, don't get me wrong, if I felt incomplete or that the new nips would make me feel better, I'd do it in a heart beat. But as I stated before, my scars are pretty badass so why would I cover them up with weird new nips? Yes, I will admit that I sometimes glance at my reflection in the mirror and have to do a double take since something looks "off" for a moment, but it's no big deal.

I am interested to see what Dr. Spiro will say on behalf of nipple reconstruction. I hope he doesn't try to push new nips too hard. I can't be swayed. For now.

Oh, and PS, I am back to being a commuter, and yes that's me in the train station during rush hour protecting my boobies. It looks like I am trying to set a basketball pick. Please everyone, be careful of my poor boobies!

- J.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lessons Learned Pt1

I figure I will learn many new boob lessons as I navigate through life with my new implants / reconstructed chest. For example, I've learned two new things this past week -
  1. Sleeping on an air mattress with already kinda hard implants is less than fun and quite uncomfortable.  Don't try to sleep on your side. It just won't work.
  2. Trying to close windows kinda hurts.  You know those windows that you pull down and then latch at the top?  I can get them to go all the way down, but then when I really need to slam down on them to make them stick, that part hurts. And it may not be so much a hurt thing, but the way my muscle moves for that action is just very, very unpleasant.
So there are my first phase of lessons learned with my new boobies. I am sure I will have more to add as my life goes on.

My exercising has been going slowly but surely. Running has been a bit of a challenge so I try to break it up with gym time. I haven't started lifting weights yet because that thought just paralyzes me with fear. Everyone says to start off light with 2 pound weights, but that still sounds scary. I have to be mentally ready before I am actually physically ready.

I also can't believe I've got to that point where I complain about working out. Wasn't it just posts ago where I was complaining about NOT working out?! Someone on the Inspire website that I frequent made quite a motivational statement. She said she just did not feel like working out but then "made a deal with myself to do it anyway, and carry the strength for another cancer patient who couldn' kept me going." I found that statement to be so motivational and I will keep that with me for those moments when I just don't feel like working out.

So with that... I'm off for a run!

- J.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Reccuring Dream

I've always heard about the reccuring "pantless" dream. You know the one right? Where you leave the house with no pants on and either people notice or don't notice and either you care or don't care. There are obviously many different interpretations of this dream depending on your emotions during it.

I've never had this so-called "pantless" dream. But as of recently, I've been having an "out in public whilst shirtless / braless" recurring dream. I'm in a different arena each time. Once I was at a pool, once I was at the mall, once I was at work. My emotions during the dream are different each time. When I was at the pool I didn't care and had a whatever attitude. When I was at the mall I was ashamed and tried to cover myself up. In all of the dreams I've had my double mast with the reconstruction and my scars are prominently on display. No dreams have been with my old boobies (though that would be nice).

Obviously my new boobs have been consuming my thoughts... and now they are consuming my dreams!!

- J.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Putting my New Boobs to the Test

This past Friday I went to see Dr. Blackwood in the morning. Like I said before, I couldn't wait to show her the new implants. She was very impressed and thought they looked great. She said I was healing well and everything was going according to plan.

She taught me how to do a self examination. It's basically the same from what I was doing before, but this time around I need to make sure I feel the implant and that it is nice and smooth. I don't want to feel any lumps or anything else that may be funky. She spoke to me a bit about my eating habits. She's a big fan of salmon, almonds, fruits (especially blueberries), mostly things that one eats when trying to be a healthy little eater. But with that healthy eating, there should be NO soy products. Soy = estrogen, and we all know how bad estrogen is for someone like me.

Also, NO multivitamins! Multivitamins help cancer become strong. She explained that cancer is lazy, and when you take multivitamins the nutrients go straight into the bloodstream where cancer can grab them and become stronger. I need to get my vitamins from food sources, which I think is a good idea. I never took multivits anyway, so now I don't feel as bad about that.

My next appointment with Dr. Blackwood is in a year! Woo! She wants me to make my very much delayed OB/GYN appointment and to also meet with an Endocrinologist about my vitamin D deficiency. So, I still have doc appointments in the future, just none with my breast surgeon.

After my appointment I put my new boobs to the test. I had a wedding to attend in the city at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. I planned to wear a strapless dress and just feel all around fabulous. Well, mission accomplished!

This was the first time I wore something really nice with my new boobs and I felt fantastic! Now, I know Dr. Spiro said I could freeball it for a couple of hours if I wanted, but I just didn't feel comfortable enough to do so. I wore a strapless bra and I am glad I did. I felt protected, and I also had this crazy fear that if my strapless dress fell a bit I would be blissfully unaware because of my numb boobies. Well, my boobies did their job, held up my dress perfectly and just made me feel super great.

I was even able to perform my "famous" elbow dance with the knowledge that my boobs would not go rogue or be uncomfortable.

They certainly passed their first real test. Even though these new boobs still don't totally feel like mine, they are definitely "growing on me." Yuck-yuck.

- J.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

There are Wounds that are not Meant to Heal

This Friday (July 27th) I have a morning appointment with Dr. Blackwood, my breast surgeon. I haven't seen her since the week after my double mastectomy and I am pretty excited to catch up with her. I need to show off my new rack! I am not sure what the appointment is all about - perhaps she will teach me what I am suppose to be looking for now in case any remnants of breast cancer tries to rear it's ugly head. It is always a possibility and I need to know what to look for. I will also have a yearly exam with her so I'll have back up since I can't rely on mammograms any more.

It's still difficult getting used to my new breasts. They feel awkward, and even heavy at times. Sometimes I catch myself hunched over when I should be sitting up straight. I started lifting and moving things around at work and that is an odd sensation in my chest at times when my pec muscle flexes and then relaxes. I assume I will get used to that in time. And when I get a chill?! That's the worst because my muscle will twitch from the cold. Now, THAT feels weird.  The skin on my left breast still ripples a bit and it annoys me on a daily basis. Hopefully that will go away or can be solved.

My scars are looking great! The lymph node scar is adorable, and my drain scars are fading each day. The long scars across my breast seem to be fading too. I mean, not fast at all, but I think they are getting better. They don't really bother me that much, like I've said before, they are some pretty cool battle wounds. I've been using Mederma Advanced Scar Gel every morning on all my scars. It seems to be doing a great job!

Next post, Dr. Blackwood update!

- J.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bra Connoisseur

I have always been that student who has to have an "a-ha" moment to completely understand what the heck is going on in class. These moments mostly happened in math and science classes. (Alas, I never had those "a-ha" moments in my language classes or coding classes... but that's a whole different story).

I finally had my bra "a-ha" moment and I have finally found THE bra that fits me the best and makes me the most comfortable. It's been difficult to find said bra. I am still not comfortable with my implants, but I know I will in time. I can definitely tell they are getting softer so this pleases me. I am no longer scared to properly place the implants in the bra and to try to form cleavage, but the cleavage isn't happening yet. I wonder when that will happen?

Anyway, the bra I bought from My Intimacy is great, but only in small doses. The underwire is a bit uncomfortable and I noticed that it was making a bruise on the side of my right breast. It was pinching and digging in to the skin a bit too much. Now, I know Dr. Spiro said I could start wearing underwire bras, but I don't think my body is there quite yet. They just don't feel right and are certainly not comfortable enough.

The winning bra for me is... (drumroll please)... Wireless Bra - Body by Victoria's Secret! It's so comfy and it makes no indentations in my skin. The shape of the underwire is there, it's nice and sturdy, but the actual hard, uncomfortable underwire is not there. I feel supported and not in pain. I think that constitutes a winner!

Now, I know this bra won't work for everyone out there. I've done so much research on bras for reconstruction patients and EVERYONE has a different suggestion. It's really whatever works for you and what makes you feel the most comfortable, but I wanted to put my two cents out there as well. These bras are a great investment. I bought two!

C.D. pointed out that while I was in Victoria's Secret I went around to each bra and felt them, as if doing a bra "wine tasting." I knew what I wanted and I just had to feel my way to it. It's taken awhile, but this bra is definitely the right fit for me.

- J.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Every Day I'm Shufflin'

It's the post you've ALL been waiting for... I've started running again! YAY! Praise Jesus! It feels so awesome to be running again. I haven't exercised since February and it's definitely much needed.

I did my first run on Saturday with Kevin. I wanted to run with someone because I had no idea what to expect. I was so nervous that my bra would not hold up, or that I would feel terrible. None of that really happened. I started running... or... more like shuffling along. Hey! It's been awhile, give a girl a break over here! It wasn't too bad. I had to walk a bit, but nothing horrible. I did about 2 1/2 miles of shuffling / jogging (but mostly shuffling).

On one of my breather walks I noticed that my chest felt pretty tight, almost like it was just expanded. Also, my chest felt a bit heavy. I don't know if it was in my mind, but it all felt strange and new. I wonder if it's because of the new placement of my pectoral muscle. Gross!

Thankfully, I haven't felt any tightness or heaviness on my Sunday or Monday runs. I'm still shuffling and jogging along slowly, but it feels so good to just be moving again. I get a little bit of pain in my armpits, but that's to be expected. Otherwise, I feel muscle pain every where I am suppose to when starting up running again. It feels awesome!

- J.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Balls to the Wall

Yes, that's right. That blog post title means it's been exactly six months since my breast cancer diagnosis. Six months! And the second I found out I went balls to the wall to make sure this will be my first and LAST cancer diagnosis. I don't ever want to feel the way I felt six months ago.

It was just six months ago when I heard those dreaded words, "the biopsy came back positive for cancer," and I just broke down and cried. It was six months ago that I had to call my family and friends to tell them. It was six months ago when I took the genetic test. It was six months ago when I had one of the worst panic attacks of my life.

It was also six months ago when I knew I had to take back my life. The official diagnosis may have come six months ago, but it's something I've been preparing for for years. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 29 years old, now I am 30, cancer free and with a new set of boobs. That's just how I roll.

I am so happy where my life is right now, and I am so relieved that everything has worked out. I know I still have doctor appointments and I still need to keep on top of my health, but breast cancer is no longer looming over my shoulder (or hiding behind my nipple like the creep that it was).

I just want to say to anyone out there who may have just found out that she or he has cancer... Stay strong! Fight back! Don't give up! Don't hang your head! It may seem like you have a tough road ahead of you (and you do, don't get me wrong), but you'll make it through. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. It may look like the teeniest tiniest dot in the distance, but before you know it you'll be running through that tunnel to find yourself basking in the glory of the light you fought so hard to get to. I believe in every single one of you!

- J.

Monday, July 2, 2012

I'm Trapped in a Glass Case of Emotions!

Today was THE day. The day I finally got to wear a normal bra again. I thought the day would be a lot more epic than it was, but I still am very happy with how I felt in a normal bra. Although, I am constantly afraid that I will somehow do damage to the implants. I am worried that the fabric of the bra may be pressing too hard into the implants. I know that this fear is silly, but I can't help thinking that they may pop! What if the bra I am wearing isn't enough support? What if what if what if?!

And of course I am still counting down the days when I can start running again. But as the day of reckoning approaches I am becoming more nervous and less excited. What if I don't find the right sports bra? What if while I am running I am doing some sort of damage to my implants? What if running feels too weird and different now that I have these strange numb blobs on my chest?

It's crazy how my emotions shift back and forth between excitement that my life is going to get back to normal to what if I am getting back to my normal life too soon? Maybe I still need time to heal? AHHH!

I know what you are all thinking... it's just the fear of the unknown! It'll all be OK! Once I get back into my running routine it'll feel like I never left it. 

But first, I'll start with some walking.

- J.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

We'll Take Care of It

That's what my Dad said when I told him my diagnosis back in January. I think about this phrase a lot. "We'll take care of this." When horrible cancer reared it's ugly head, I had NO intentions of backing down. Take care of it I will. I also knew I had all my friends and family behind me. I took care of it. We ALL took care of it.

Now we can all have a good laugh at cancer's expense -

Four more days until I can wear normal bras like a normal person! I can't wait to be done with this surgical bra. It's the worst! I bought 4 pairs of awesomely amazing bras to make me and my new boobies feel fabulous. So excited!

- J.

Friday, June 22, 2012

New Scars

I had an appointment today with Dr. Spiro to get my bandages off and stitches out. I was very excited for this appointment mainly because I knew I'd be able to shower again without saran wrap and lord knows I needed a normal shower badly!!

My appointment was bright and early in the morning. I arrived on time and saw Dr. Spiro. When he went to take off the bandages he told me that my reconstruction was the best reconstruction he's ever done. (Oh Dr. Spiro... I bet you say that to all the ladies!). He is very very happy with the results and said that he has even out done himself this time.

When the bandages came off I looked down at myself immediately and I must say the new scars look great! They aren't as prominent as the mastectomy scars. They seem quieter somehow. I don't really know how to describe them. They are very thin and still have some scabbing but I just know they will heal perfectly. He said the rippling on my left breast should heal over time, it just so happens my skin is extra thin there. But there is no more redness or creepy muscle peeking through my super thin skin. Gross!

In two weeks I'll be able to run again and swim. In about one week I can start putting cream on my scar. I have to wear my surgical bra for one more week and then the world is my oyster. In regards to my homework assignment I'd say I got a B. He said the bra was ok in general but the band was too tight. I told him the woman said I was a 32 but that I've always been a 34. He said some stores give you smaller bands so you have to be a bigger cup size. So in reality I am a 34C, which I figured all along. I will just return my bra and get the correct size. I'll have to wear a bra all summer (no free balling it just yet), but that's ok. Certainly not the worst of my problems.

All in all this appointment went great. I am currently extremely happy with the results. Also, I don't have to see Dr. Spiro until after Labor Day. That gave me a good sense of accomplishment. I'll have the whole summer to get my life back on track. I can. not. wait!

- J.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Busting Out

I was given a task by Dr. Spiro at my last appointment.  I have to bring in a couple of bras to my Friday appointment for him to check out and see if they'd be appropriate for my new girls.  I put off bra shopping for as long as I could, but I couldn't put it off any longer.

I didn't know where to go.  I needed help desperately.  I didn't know what size I was.  The one thing I did know is that my new boobs are fuller than my home grown boobs, therefore I needed cup sizing help badly.  I mentioned to a co-worker that I had to go bra shopping and she immediately recommended a store called My Intimacy.  She said there was one in the city, and I was NOT up for a city trek, but, BUT, lo and behold, a new My Intimacy store opened up at the mall right by me!  She told me that they have "bra specialists" and that they are very helpful.

Yes, "bra specialists."  I rolled my eyes at this phrase too.  Previous "bra specialists" that I have dealt with have been less than knowledgeable, but I tried to keep an open mind.  After work I headed right to the mall and made a bee line for the store.  I felt extremely nervous about explaining my situation to them, but I needed to know if this was something out of the ordinary for them.

Upon entering, a lovely sales woman greeted me and asked if I needed help.  I said yes and told her the briefest of brief story about my situation and what I was required to do for my next doc appointment.  She couldn't have been any nicer.  She said that she'll set me up for a bra fitting.  She told me that many other women who have gone through what I go through come to the store.  Doctors have even recommended patients to go to My Intimacy.  Whew, so I won't horrify an unsuspecting "bra specialist" with my newly constructed boobs.  Excellent.

I filled out a little form about myself, what I was looking for in a new bra, and if any new changes have happened to my body.  (Changes indeed!).  I gave the form to Lauren who introduced herself to me as my "bra specialist."  And what a bra specialist she was!  She was so nice, so knowledgeable, and so fantastic.  She took a look at me, brought in a bunch of bras, and I tried them all on.  It turns out the first one she recommended was the one I picked, a beautiful black bra with embroidered straps in a 32D.

Yes, you read that right, a freaking 32D.  Who am I?!  That's so BIG!  But, they don't look that big!  So I was confused.  She explained that each bra will be different for me and I'll probably fluctuate between a C and a D.  I'm probably still a bit swollen too so in the end I'll probably be a C.  But like I said before, my breasts are fuller.  When I put my arms down to my side, I can feel them, and I never could. I needed the D because it covered the whole breast.

The bra was SO comfy and it felt SO awesome to actually be wearing a real bra, even just for a minute or two.  I purchased the bra and explained to Lauren that my doctor had to approve it first.  She said that would not be a problem and I could return it with no questions asked.  The whole thing was such a pleasant experience and I am so happy.

Now I am starting to realize this post is basically an ad for the store My Intimacy, but I don't care.  If you need a good bra specialist (not in quotes) go to My Intimacy.  Lauren was so helpful and made me feel so comfortable that I am just thrilled with my purchase, wether I keep it or not.

- J.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Panic Attack!

I think my body / mind did not get the memo that all the hard parts are over.  Last night I had a tiny panic attack and I'm not sure why.  It certainly was no where near the panic attacks I experienced in the beginning of January right after my diagnosis but it was still no fun.

Panic attacks are fascinating to me.  It's like your body is rebelling against you.  When I feel a panic attack coming on I just try to breathe and tell myself that everything is fine, but alas, my body doesn't listen.  My heart races.  My mind races.  I shake.  I can't lie down.  My arm gets numb.  My stomach gets upset.  I have to use the bathroom.  It's insane!

It may have come on from lack of sleep, but I was having lack of sleep because of the panic attack.  I just couldn't win last night!  I then felt horrible this morning / afternoon.  My stomach was upset.  I had a horrible headache.  I felt disconnected and my brain was so muddled.  I was a real life, walking, talking zombie.

After work I decided I couldn't go back to my basement apartment since I was beginning to feel better.  (I took some Advil since I was feeling a bit sore and made sure to drink a lot of water during the day).  I went out to dinner and then got myself some delicious self serve frozen yogurt.  I wanted to enjoy the nice weather outside and it made me feel great.  I feel much better than last night and I am going to head to bed shortly to catch up on some much needed sleep.

So the moral of this story?  If you have a panic attack, eat some delicious froyo outside.

- J.

Friday, June 15, 2012


I'd like to preface this post and say that I am updating my blog for the first time using an iPad so I am sure there will be glitches abound. So with that said...

Today I went on a judging spree of my new implants after I took a bath. This came about because as I was lotioning up my arms I noticed that when my left arm reached to the right a ripple effect was created a bit on the top area of my left breast. I got really annoyed by this. I then started to judge how the implants were looking. They still just don't look right. They aren't as round as I'd expected and they still kind of look lumpy.

Now, to be fair, I probably shouldn't be judging them quite yet. It's only been a week and a day. But I AM judging and I can't help it. There is a bit of significant bruising happening along the incision line, which I am sure is just my body healing.

I know that the implants will settle. I know that the implants will never be like the breasts I once had. But when you have an image of the final product in your head and they don't exactly look the same you can't help but be a bit disappointed.

Hopefully soon I will be taking back everything I have just said in this post. I am looking forward to it actually. I trust my doctor and I trust my body that the implants will look right in time. For now I just need to focus on being careful to help them heal right.

- J.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

New Boobs!

I think I was on some crazy after surgery high because I felt like I could do and conquer anything.  I felt great considering I went under anesthesia, had my expanders removed, and my new implants placed in.  I think it's all catching up to me now because I have been feeling pretty tired all day long.  It also may be this nasty hot weather, I've never been a fan of that either.

My Dr. Spiro appointment on Friday went well.  He had to unwrap me from two layers of ace bandages.  I then had gauze packed tightly around my chest that he had to cut off.  Once I was free he had me stand in front of a mirror so I could look at everything.  From what I could tell the implants looked great!  They were round and full now.  Not deflated and lumpy.  My skin had a lot of indentations on it because of the gauze so it was hard to fully take in how everything actually looks.

Even with the new surgical bra and the gauze between my bra and the bandages on my skin it all still creates indentations.  But they DO feel much better.  When I touch them they feel better.  They still feel a bit hard, but Dr. Spiro said that over the next couple of weeks the implants will soften.  If I shower I have to wrap myself in saran wrap again to make sure the bandages over my stitches don't get wet.  It's not the easiest of things to do, but it works.  I'll probably take a bath tomorrow cause it's a bit easier that way.

I've been off of Valium and Perc for the day and I am just on Advil.  I feel the soreness in my armpits again a bit and around the outer part of my breast area, but nothing like last time.  I can totally handle this pain.  It's nothing!  I see Dr. Spiro in two weeks and I am sure he will have all new information for me.  But for now, I am going to rest.

- J.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Phase 2 Complete!

So I am feeling well enough to update my blog and I can't believe it.  I am starting to feel pretty sore though.  I took a Valium this afternoon and I plan to take another one + Perc tonight to help me sleep.  It's all back sleeping again until I hear otherwise from Dr. Spiro.

The surgery went very well.  At the moment I am being held together by an ace bandage thingy so it is pretty uncomfortable and tight.  Tomorrow I will see Dr. Spiro and he will take of the ace bandage and put on one of those itchy annoying surgical bras.  I am so interested to see what they look like now that the hard expanders are out.

I saw Dr. Spiro before surgery and he drew some more on my skin.  He showed me the markings and his plans for when he is in surgery.  The hollowness in my skin should no longer be there and the valve will be gone too (of course).  He was very comforting and reassuring.  He told me that this surgery will be about an hour and a half.  A piece of cake to what I previously went through.

NOW, here comes the kicker.  I then meet with the Anesthesiologist.  She says hi and asks a couple of questions.  She seems nice enough.  Then she asks how I did coming out of anesthesia at my last surgery. I mentioned that I had a high heart rate and fever when I came out.  She got real nervous when I said that. She asked how I was treated and I told her they just kept an eye on me.  She said that that usually happens when someone has a condition and that I could die from it!  OH!  Thank you.  I can die from it?  Now if I wasn't scared of the anesthesia, I sure am now!  I started to get upset, I may have cried a bit, and I may have had a tiny panic attack after she left to try to find my charts.  I feel like that is something you should probably not tell a patient before she is 5 minutes away from surgery time.

She comes back and tells me that she has changed her anesthesia concoction.  I said fine, whatever, let's just get this show on the road.  I walk to the operating room, climb on the table (which has warming bedding on it.  Love!).  The Anesthesiologist then tries to get a vein for IV and that was a hot mess in and of itself too.  My confidence in her is now at an all time low.  But I went under, and I came out of it perfectly!  I actually felt great!  I ate a bunch of ice chips.  I had to pee like crazy.  I ate food.  I drank some more.  And then I was discharged home.

Now I am at Kevin's relaxing.  Tomorrow is my appointment with Dr. Spiro I will update you all and let you know how lovely my new boobies are!

- J.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Am I on the Breakfast Menu?

That will be my first question when I come out of anesthesia.  As Kevin pointed out the other day, when I wake up after surgery it will still be super early in the morning.  I'll still be able to order an egg mcmuffin from McDonalds (if that was something I actually wanted, which I probably do not after being in a deep anesthesia sleep).

A nurse from the hospital called to check in on me this morning and ask me some pre-surgical questions.  She was very nice and told me that Dr. Spiro has me blocked off for a 2 hour surgery.  I should be done by 9:30am.  I then spend a couple of hours in the recovery area.  She said I will wake up in a bed and then I will move to a chair.  Once in the chair they will give me something to eat and drink.  If I am able to keep everything down and go the bathroom then I will be sent home.

Seems easy enough!  I'll see you all soon!  Phase 2 activate!

- J.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I'm going to ROCK this T-Shirt

This t-shirt was brought to my attention today -

It has already been purchased (from and I am all set to wear it proudly!

- J.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Why I don't read...

Years ago I remember reading a story about a man who was undergoing surgery.  The anesthesiologist put him under but he still had his senses about him.  He could still feel and hear, but his body showed signs of being under.  He could feel the pain and hear what the doctor's were saying.  He finally passed out from all the pain.  When he awoke, no one believed him until he repeated what the doctor's were saying during surgery.

Now, if this story is true or not, I don't know.  But when I read it, I believed it to be 100% true and I thought, this could totally happen to me!  (Even though I had been under anesthesia before with NO problems at all).  So of course, even though I just was under general anesthesia for 5 hours this past February, I am thinking about this story all over again.

WHAT IF IT HAPPENS THIS TIME?!  OMG!!  I should be excited about getting these uncomfortable expanders removed.  And I am.  I've been having trouble sleeping again and I think it's because of them.  (I'm sure it has nothing to do with my irrational fear of anesthesia).  I am excited to get the implants in and see how different they are, and how comfortable they can be (at least they better be or I am going to rage).  I am just super nervous about the general anesthesia.  Though I could use some sleep...

I know what I am really afraid of - the unknown.  But aren't we all?

- J.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Remember that time I had cancer?"

I like to say that sometimes as a joke, and I'm glad most people are able to laugh about it.  I said it at work today and my co-workers got quite a kick out of it.  It's nice to be able to laugh about the whole thing.  I might still be in the midst of my double mastectomy / reconstruction phase, but at least when it comes to the cancer stuff, I'm in the clear for now.

I got this tattoo in 2006 to remind me of my mom, her strength, her love, and her fight against breast cancer.

When I was designing the tattoo I was concerned about getting the breast cancer survivor ribbon tattooed on me, since at the time I wasn't a survivor.  But the tattoo was for my mom so I got over that and was always happy with my choice.  In the back of my mind I knew that I may be a survivor one day so it may become relevant to my life.

I was thinking the other day that I've now become a "survivor."  It's a pretty awesome word.  I'll take it.  But just like how I felt about my tattoo, I feel like perhaps I don't deserve such a fierce title.  When I think of a survivor I think of my mom.  Not only did she have to deal with breast cancer, but she had to deal with the chemo, the radiation, the stem cell transplant, losing the hair, the everything!  For 12 years!  I had breast cancer for 3 months.  Yessssss, I had to have my boobs removed, I know, but in the overall scheme of things it's relatively small to what other brave women have to deal with.

So to all you survivors out there who have dealt with cancer in all of its evil evil glory, just know that I salute you and look up to all of you!

- J.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Song for my Road to Recovery Pt.2

Another beautiful song that compliments the Mumford and Sons, "Ghosts That We Knew."  Feeling down?  Have a little pick me up courtesy of The Shins.

"I know that things can really get rough, when you go it alone, don't go thinking you gotta be tough, and play like a stone."

- J.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hurry Hurry Hurry!

I had my pre-op consultation with Dr. Spiro tonight and it went just as I expected.  His nurse gave me ALL THE MEDS!  More nausea medication before surgery, more antibiotics, more Percocet, and more Valium.  You can never have enough of them apparently.

The nurse then took pictures for staging purposes and then I met with Dr. Spiro.  He examined me and he is still saying the same thing - be as careful as I can possibly be.  The red marks are still there (as you all know) and he is aware that my skin is not reacting well to the expanders.  But, as long as I am careful and I don't overdo anything, I will make it to surgery just fine.

My second surgery is scheduled for Thursday June 7th, first thing in the morning.  He explained the procedure to me and if I understand him correctly, he will make a new incision above the scar I have now.  This one will be smaller.  He will remove the tissue expanders and place the silicone gel implants in via a funnel of sorts.  My old scar will basically be removed and I will have a new baby scar.  This is all quite intriguing and confusing.  He told me I could check out the procedure on YouTube, but I think I'll just let him do his thing.  I don't really need to know what's going on whilst I am away in anesthesia land.

This time, instead of being scared and nervous for surgery, I am SO looking forward to this one and it can't arrive soon enough!  I can't wait to get these expanders removed and get those implants in.  I can't wait until my skin heals and looks normal again.  I can't wait until I can run and exercise again.  I can't wait until I am back to normal. Whatever normal is from now on...

- J.

Monday, May 21, 2012

I think I've finally got it!

I know you've all been waiting for the day to come when I post about how the red mark on my left breast has finally healed.  Well, this isn't the post.  Sorry to disappoint!

It's still there!  The damn thing won't heal and I think I've finally figured out why that is.  I am slowly becoming braver and I can now touch my skin / scar area without a buffer.  I still can't rub lotion on the scar without a makeup pad for protection, but I can at least touch it and see what's going on.  When I press gently on the red mark I can feel the expander clear as day.  There is a bump on it that is pressing right into my muscle / skin.  I think the "pointy" area from the expander is just irritating that one spot and it's not able to heal properly because it's not given a chance to do so.  It kind of makes sense to me.  Does it make sense to you?

So I will continue to do everything I am suppose to.  No running.  No walking.  No exercising whatsoever.  And now I understand why.  I just need to be super careful for 17 more days and then I'll get these horrible expanders replaced with the nice smooth and soft implants.  Then I will finally get my life back!

I went this morning to get blood work done for my second surgery.  Tomorrow I have a pre-op appointment with Dr. Spiro.  I am very interested about what he will say.  I know he is confident that my skin will heal properly once the implants are in.

Oh, and the comedy fundraiser went really well!  I had a lot of fun and there was a great turnout.  I sent an email to Caroline to ask her if she felt it was a success.  I will update you on that and my Dr. Spiro consultation in a later post.

- J.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Don't Forget!

Don't forget to purchase tickets NOW if you are able to go to the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program fundraiser at Governor's Comedy Club tomorrow night (May 16) in Levittown, NY.  It should be a good time and we'll all have a laugh for a good cause.  Also, it's my birthday, so ya know, you owe it to me and all...

Call Caroline Mulcahy at 516-877-4315 or go HERE to purchase tickets online.  Hopefully I'll see some of you there!

- J.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Deflation Redux

This past Friday (May 4th) I went back to Dr. Spiro in the hopes of him inflating my left side back to where it was before.  To be honest, the red mark was still there, so I was unsure of what his course of action would be.  Also, to top it off, another red mark was appearing, but this time on my right side.  Like I told you all before, I was becoming quite frustrated because I am being SO careful, yet these red marks still keep coming.

He examined by left side a bit and then I mentioned the red mark appearing on my right side.  He said that my skin is becoming very thin and that is why it is getting all marked up.  He decided to deflate my right breast to be even with my left.  He has taken out 90 cc's from both sides now.

I guess that just goes to show you that I was never meant to be a c cup.  Sorry if anyone out there is disappointed.  I am quite happy though.  I didn't want to be a c cup anyway.  I wanted to stay a b and a b I shall stay.  My skin is very, very sensitive so the stretching and tightness of the expanders was just getting to be too much.

After the deflation Dr. Spiro ensured me that I would still get good results.  Hey.  It doesn't bother me at all that I will be a b cup so I'm certainly not disappointed.  It does bother me that I STILL can't run, and I won't be able to until the implants are in.  He needs me to be extra careful, and I figure I only have a month left so I can wait.  He says I will be much happier when the expanders come out and my skin will be happier too.  I am counting down the days to June 7th... I can't wait for these suckers to come out.  I am very much looking forward to the next step!

- J.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sunrise Rounds

This was written by oncologist James Salwitz, MD on April 17, 2012 on his blog, Sunrise Rounds.  I think it's so beautiful and wanted to share it with all of you.

On the day we cure cancer I will rise in morning dark.  I will stand in last night cold, and watch stars fade.  The light will come and a following breeze blow.  On that incredible dawn, there will be brilliance.  I will make sunrise rounds on the day we cure cancer.
I will stay late and breakfast with my wife.  We will talk about flowers, kids and books. I will stand out and see children with parents laugh and scurry almost late to a bus.  Mothers on porch steps.  Grandfathers there for early stroll.  Families whole.  I will see life on the day we cure cancer.
At the hospital, we will drink coffee and eat donuts.  Make new syringes into trash. Pour harsh drugs down drains.  Turn radiation monsters into kaleidoscopes and planters.  Dull scalpels.  Plan vacations.  Have wheelchair races.  Give out beds to homeless.  We will smile quietly on the day we cure cancer.
I will call the insurance company and wish them well.  Thank the lab tester, blood drawer, x-ray taker, pharmacy mixer, front desker, researcher, bill sender, educator, social worker, floor cleaner, food cooker, CT scanner, doctors and every disease task doer.  Congratulate all on victory day.  I will salute the soldiers on the day we cure cancer.
I will cry, I will cry, and I will finally cry.  I will recall fallen millions.  The men and women and moms and dads and sons and daughters and leaders and followers and smart and dumb and good and bad and weak and powerful.  I will curse waste, loss, pain and fear.  I will replay battles fought and won or lost.  Honor the harsh bravery of victims. I will remember them on the day we cure cancer.
I will call survivors.  Make sure they are all right.  Tell them it is OK to come out.  No need to cower.  They are whole.  It is safe.  On the day we cure cancer.
I will fish. I will read. Fix the swing.  Hold warm earth.  See art without darkness.  Enjoy a lunch meal.  I will live without struggle.  On the day we cure cancer.
At end I will be home and walk in joy with those I love.  We will hold hands too tightly.  Feel the emptiness of the loss, the fullness of the saved and the hope of not again.  I will not watch the setting of the day.  I will hold the brightness.  The glory of the day we cure cancer.
- J.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Have I mentioned yet...

...that I have a date for my implants?  I can't remember.  I mean, I guess I could check back through my last couple of posts, but that'd be too easy and make too much sense.

The date for my second surgery is Thursday, June 7th.  That's when these awful tissue expanders will come out and be replaced with Mentor MemoryGel Silicone implants.  I received a little booklet in the mail yesterday that told me all about the implants.  I also did a little research on what other people have said about Mentor MemoryGel and it seems like so many women are pleased with the outcome.  A lot of reviews are by women who had Saline implants and switched over to the Silicone Gel implants.  Many of the comments are about how natural and real they feel.

I am so excited for the implants.  Yes I've gotten used to the expanders, but they are still very uncomfortable and wake me up in the night.  It's not that big of a deal, but it will be nice to have "normal" breasts again.

In regards to my little red mark that I told you all about before, it's still there.  I think it may be getting better; it's just hard to tell.  My skin has always been very, very sensitive and it gets red a lot, so it may just be my skin and nothing I can do about it.  I found new little bralets and I am wearing one for the first time today.  I don't know if it will help, but I am trying everything and anything to get the mark to heal.  I am slightly worried about what Dr. Spiro may say on Friday when I go back to his office to get re-filled.

I still have those feelings of frustration because I feel as if everything looked better right when I got out of surgery.  My skin didn't look that bad and I did not have much bruising.  Now I have this red mark, and a couple of other marks on my right breast.  I just don't know how to keep them safe until the implant surgery!

- J.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Comedy for Breast Cancer!

I have always wanted to volunteer for the breast cancer cause.  As we all know, this disease has always been part of my life and I've always felt like I should help out in some way.  So I FINALLY reached out to the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Group.  I wanted to do this before my diagnosis, but never did, so I finally got the push I needed.

I met with a really nice woman named Caroline.  We talked a bit about what I've been through, and then we talked about how I want to help.  I told her the hotline is probably not the right thing for me to be doing at this moment since I am going through my own issues, but I'd like to help out in any other way possible.

She told me they have a fundraiser coming up where all proceeds go to the Adelphi Breast Cancer support program.  I told her I'd love to get the word out, and so I shall!  The fundraiser just so happens to fall on my birthday so that will be fun for me.  I'll be laughing and having a good time, all to support the Adelphi breast cancer program.  That sounds like a good birthday to me!
Tell 'em Jessi sent ya!

- J.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Deflated but not Defeated!

Kevin may disagree on the defeated part since I was all mopey on Friday when Dr. Spiro decided that he needed to deflate my left breast a bit.  (How STRANGE does that sentence sound?  I mean, really).  I was getting upset about the whole thing after leaving the doctor's office, but I think I am over that emotional outburst.  I have now come to accept my partially deflated boob.

I made an appointment on Friday to see Dr. Spiro about the red spot on my left breast since it wasn't getting any better and I was really concerned it was an infection.  I started an antibiotic on Thursday just to be on the safe side.  It can't hurt to cover all my corners right?

When Dr. Spiro came in to my room he checked out my red mark by pressing on it (hard, though I didn't feel a thing) and moving it around.  He said it wasn't an infection and he still believes it to be irritation from rubbing on my clothes and from my skin being stretched too tight.  He said he had to deflate the expander a bit to allow my skin to breathe which will help the redness go away.

I was very bummed to hear that he was going to deflate me a bit.  I was concerned about my progress and how my breasts would look being noticeably different sizes and all.  It's not that bad, especially in clothes.  In the shower the left breast is considerably smaller, but still there.  I can also tell it's deflated a bit because it bends and moves a lot easier.  If I am washing up and flex my muscles the skin kind of bends and folds.  It's a bit creepy, but I just try not to look at it.

Dr. Spiro told me to finish up my antibiotics and then come back to him in 10 - 14 days for him to fill me back up.  I just took a peek at the red mark and it does seem to be getting better so everything is working as it should.  Hopefully when my left breast is expanded back to where it was, the skin will be all healed and ready to accept the stretching.  I think it will be ready... like I said before, leftie has been through a lot, you can't expect her to do everything perfectly!

- J.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My Kingdom for a Bra!

I really didn't think it would be this difficult to find a bra that could contain my expanders!  Well, to be honest, it's not the expanders that need containing, it's my poor skin that is having the problem.  My left breast (which had the cancer in it!  Why so difficult leftie?!) still has a bit of red irritation in the middle of it and on the scar.  The skin is chafing and it's not a pretty sight.  The irritation is also warm to the touch so that's not fun... I am HOPING that it's not an infection.  I've been so careful!

I've found two bras that seem like hopeful contenders and I'd like to share them in case other women are having trouble finding a good bra.  As of right now they are both very comfortable, but I will give a better review to them if my redness and chafing goes away.

This is the Bali Wirefree Bra, Comfort Revolution Sure Fit bra.  I like this bra because it clasps in the back, the straps are away from my neck, and the material just pulls up and molds over my chest perfectly.  The clasp in the back is a little scratchy, but nothing I can't handle.  There are no seams so no indents!

This is the Underscore Cotton Bra, Front Zip Cotton Sports bra.  I like this bra because it is mainly cotton which is hopefully allowing my skin to breathe a bit.  This bra does not feel as tight as my other zip up bras and it doesn't leave any indentations.

So I finally found seamless bras!  Are you happy Dr. Spiro?!  But now I am pretty sure the redness is an infection.  Since writing this post, I've been told that it could possibly be cellulitis...  Oofta.  I don't understand why this has shown up about a month and a half after my surgery.  I thought I was in the clear for any sort of infections!  I've been doing so well!  I don't want a set back.

- J.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Never ran away for the sake of scars...

A woman whose blog I follow posted this postcard secret from PostSecret and I found it to be very eye opening...

I've been thinking a lot, and talking a lot, about the scars on my breasts and how they will always be a reminder of the short time that I had breast cancer.  Will they always haunt me?  Will they always remind me that I'm not indestructible?

I know these expanders are not my permanent breasts and that the implants will be much more comfortable and natural, but at the end of the day, they are still not mine.  There is a foreign object in me, posing as breasts, and I'll never have mine back.  It bums me out to think about sometimes because I was always a fan of my girls, but at the same time, I always knew that if something were to happen I'd have to get rid of them.  And that's what I did.

I don't mind scars.  Never have.  I have tattoos, so I think scars are neat.  They remind you of a certain period in your life; but is this something I really want to remember every day for the rest of my life?  The scars are the first thing I see in the mirror every morning, they will be there, always.  I am just going to assume that one day down the road they will become like my sun tattoo that I have on my tummy. I barely notice it nowadays... I got it 11 years ago... it's a part of me.  Just like these scars are a part of me.  They will "fade" over time, and I will hopefully be able to look at them not as scars where my breasts once were, but as the day when I took charge of my own life and did not let cancer dictate the outcome.

- J.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

This One's for you Mom!

It is hard to believe that it has been 9 years since my mom passed away.  Sometimes it feels like it was only yesterday, and other times it feels like it's been forever.  I miss her and think about her every day.

I know I wouldn't be who I am today without her.  Her strength and courage has always been an inspiration to me.  I was able to do what I did because of her.  She prepared me for this exact moment in time and because of her I was able to see it through.  I feel her spirit around me always and I hope that I have made her proud.

I will never forget you mom.  I will never forget everything you taught me.  I will never back down from a fight.  And when things start to feel like a little too much, I've always got this to remind me that it's not so bad...

- J.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fill 'em Up!

Yesterday I had a super early appointment with Dr. Spiro.  8 am.  Rise and shine for the plastic surgeon's office!  I knew I'd either get my last expansion or he would tell me that I was all done.  Well, I received my last expansion.  I was filled up with 50 more cc's for a final total of 390cc's.  Not bad, not bad at all.  I wasn't really in the mood for an expansion, but I guess I really didn't have a choice.

The expansion didn't hurt at all.  I could feel my chest expanding a bit, but nothing too crazy.  It feels like I am wearing a super tight sports bra again.  They didn't get super hard, they are still as squishy as before, just a bit bigger.  I popped some Advil throughout the day yesterday, and some today too.  I am feeling a little uncomfortable and sore, but it's not too bad.  I am feeling a bit cranky from the expansion but that'll go away (I hope for everyone's sake!).

Dr. Spiro is no longer happy with my bra choice so I went out today to find new ones.  The little red bump on my left breast is from my bra and it's irritating my skin.  He said I need to be very careful because he doesn't want it to become an ulceration.  I can't feel it since I am numb so he wants me to find a different bra, one with no seams to be exact.  Right now I have surgical padding in my bra as a barrier and I think it's working.  My sports bra made some pretty horrible indentations last night when I was sleeping so I am hoping that these new bras will be better.

I was also told that once the redness heals on my left breast I'll be able to run and lift again!  YAY!  I am super excited for that.  I went out for a "brisk" walk today since it is so beautiful out.  It felt good to be outside and on the move.

I really hope these new bras that I bought today work.  I'm tired of buying bras!

- J.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

So Far So Good

Yay!  I am back to being a normal, productive member of society!  Two work days down and many, many more to go.

Work was just as I expected it to be - it felt like I never left.  I played catch up with some of my co-workers, it took me a bit to get adjusted, but I am now good to go.  I do feel pretty tired at the end of the day, which is weird, but I know that will go away in time.  I am trying to be very aware of my 5 pound only rule.  One of the teachers yesterday went to hand me the teacher's laptop case and I felt kinda bad telling him I couldn't carry it.  He (obviously) didn't mind and said, "you look so good that I completely forgot!"  I am really, really, REALLY hoping that Dr. Spiro lifts this 5 pound rule soon.  Or at least gives me a date of when it will be lifted.  I feel so constricted with it!

OH!  Look what was waiting on my desk when I came back to work on Monday...

This shopping bag was FILLED with goodies, both healthy and unhealthy.  It was way over my 5 pound limit, so I separated the food in to two piles, one to leave at work and one to take home with me.  I think I have enough snacks to last me half a year!  It was an extremely nice gesture to come back to.  Shall I add another, "how lucky am I?!"

- J.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Back to Work I Go!

First off, Happy Easter, Happy Passover, Happy Happy everyone!

I am back in Long Island (lameee).  I arrived back here around 7:15 and brought everything in that I was able to carry.  It's a little strange being back in my basement home, but it's good to know that I will be going back to work.  I'm not anxious or worried about it.  I have this feeling that it is going to be just like I left it and I won't even miss a beat.  I know I'll have a lot of gentle air hugs to come back to, and I'll probably have to tell some stories, but after all that dies down it will be like I never left.  The months leading up to my leaving were a little hectic since I had doctor appointments I had to keep running to, but now I am ready for a sense of work normalcy again.  (Though I will be running back to Dr. Spiro on Friday, but that's another post for another day!).

I must admit that I was getting quite spoiled living at my sister's house.  It was so nice and comforting and made my recovery SO easy.  I truly believe that I recovered so rapidly because I felt so safe and at ease there.  I was taken great care of and of course my nieces and nephew were always a great source of entertainment.  I will miss them!  It was also super awesome being so close to C.D. again and all my family and friends!

I need to get my butt back to living in NJ.  This Long Island lifestyle is certainly not for me!

- J.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

This is why I can't have nice things...

As we all know, I've been complaining on a regular basis about how hard my expanders are and how strange they feel.  Well, now they have become squishy and I don't like that either!  What is a girl who had a double mastectomy to do?!

I have noticed in the last few days that my skin / expanders have been a bit squishy to the touch.  At first I was alarmed because I know the expanders can deflate and god knows I do NOT want a deflated boob!  I called up Dr. Spiro's office and told the nurse Mary Beth what I felt and what was going on.  I told her the expanders do not feel super hard any more and feel more like a barely deflated kickball that needs a lil extra air.

She asked me if I have lost any volume and I haven't.  She asked if I saw any rippling in my skin and I do not.  She reassured me that all of my "symptoms" are normal.  My skin / muscle / soft tissue are becoming more resilient and that is why they are a little squishier to the touch.  She said if I see any rippling to give her a heads up, and to call her if I have any more questions.

I swear I hated the hardness of the expanders, but I was getting used to it!  Now I have to get used to this squishiness?!  MY LIFE!!  DRAMA!!  I haven't had a fill since 2/27/12 so that makes sense too.  I guess when I see Dr. Spiro again next Friday he'll either fill them up and they'll be hard again, or he'll just leave them be.  This feeling is probably what Dr. Spiro wanted when he wanted to fill me up last Tuesday.  I don't know.  I may be making things up now.  Soon I will be a plastic surgeon!

- J.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Take that Sucka!

Guess who has MORE good news for all of you out there?  ME!  This girl over here who was diagnosed with breast cancer in the beginning of 2012 has MORE good news.  How can that be?  Well it CAN be.  I saw my oncologist, Dr. Michaelson today to go over the pathology report and decide a plan of action.

Well, the plan of action is...  NOTHING!  That's right!  I don't have to do a single thing besides get better from this double mastectomy / reconstruction.  The words coming out of Dr. Michaelson's mouth were like music to my ears.  We went over the timeline of my diagnosis and what transpired.  He then examined me and was really impressed with how everything is progressing.  Once back in his office he shared his thoughts with me.

He explained that Tamoxifen, chemotherapy, or radiation would probably do me more harm than good at this stage of the game.  The 1mm of cancer has been taken out, there is no lymph node involvement, and all is going well.  The side effects of all these other cancer drugs / procedures would probably affect me more than any benefit that it could possibly do.  He said why put my body through something like that?  It's already been through enough.  And I agree!

It was great to see Dr. Michaelson again (under the circumstances of course).  I have always thought of him fondly, just as my mom did.  My mom simply adored him, and I think he is such a wonderful man.  He fought so hard for my mom and I know he will always fight hard for me.  I was ready to follow what ever treatment he recommended, but I would be lying if I didn't confess that I was hoping for this recommendation.

After my appointment with Dr. Michaelson I headed over to physical therapy.  It was good to see Rita again after having the last week off.  She was SO impressed with my improvement and that almost all of my range of motion has returned to my arms.  She was actually so impressed with my progress that she discharged me from physical therapy.  I just need to continue to do the stretches she taught me and all will be well.  I can reach out to her any time I want, so that makes me happy.

As you can see my day has been pretty productive.  My emotions have been running high all day and I am so happy that I can just focus on getting better from the surgery.  I feel like a big weight has been lifted from my shoulders.  I can't believe that at the beginning of 2012 I had breast cancer.  It's already April and I am cancer free.  I could not be any happier.

- J.