May love and laughter light your days, and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures.
May all life's passing seasons bring the best to you and yours!
~ Robert Frost


Welcome to my blog. This is my story of how I faced my risk of breast cancer, the decisions I made, the support I received and my week by week recovery from surgery. I chose to have a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy with immediate DIEP reconstruction at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston (March 2010). For more information on my 'Medical Team' please see tab above. I also have a wonderful circle of friends who have supported me throughout. They have provided us with lots of delicious meals and desserts. Many of those recipes are included above under "Feed the Flap" recipes. "Feed the Flap" is a term I coined when trying to increase my abdominal (fat) flap to ensure that I was a good candidate for the DIEP procedure. This was not something recommended by any medical professional, it was just something that made sense to me. I think it worked!! Feel free to join me on this journey and feel free to post comments.

Select the tabs on the left side marked Week 1, Week 2, Week 3..... to go immediately to the surgical/recovery part of this blog.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Week 5 - Day 4 - ONE MONTH AGO!!

One month ago today I was being wheeled into a 14 1/2 hour surgery to reduce my risk of breast cancer. Today I am sitting at home (after a 45-minute workout) typing on my computer and feeling great. I am so happy that I did the surgery. I am relieved and ready to move beyond the waiting and wondering. There are still two more procedures for me to fine-tune my 'canvas', but nothing like the big surgery. So today is a very happy day!!!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Week 5 - Day 3

Today, I am feeling so much better. Yeah, I did get up at 5:30am to WATCH Mike do his workout. Baby steps. Getting out of bed. Maybe tomorrow I will actually do the workout with him again. Still getting adjusted to the lack of energy. BUT not for long. I just put a pot of coffee on - YIPPEE!! I admit I NEED IT. Hopefully caffeine will get me over this low energy hump. I can always quit - again.

On the recovery front - my scabs are falling off along with the glue that has held me in place. I am excited about seeing what I will look like without the brown scabs. I am also gearing up for Stage II. Realistically that won't happen until the fall, but I really want to move forward with it.

Although I have been wearing jeans and a sports bra, I find that I am so much more comfortable in a cami and sweatpants. Oh, I am so much more comfortable. So, today it comfy clothes all day. Since I plan to do some bookkeeping and cleaning it will work out just fine. I do worry about when I have to wear work clothes again and how that will feel. My original plan was to take 6 weeks off from work (I work for myself) so I think I will stick with that plan. Luckily some of my work is online, so that's been easy. It's the face-to-face career consultations and the traveling that I do that will be a bit more challenging. So if I give it another week and a half I should feel that much better.

Last night was my first night without Percocet. I took two Tylenol at 8pm and made it through the night. I was a bit uncomfortable, but not enough to wake up and take another pill. I also slept on my stomach - wow. I love sleeping on my back, but found that I had rolled over and if was fine. So, I guess these are some of the baby steps I am taking.

Last night I was so happy!!! Three of my favorite nephews stopped by with three of their friends on their way to a canoe trip on the St. John River. My oldest nephew said that this was something on his 'bucket list' and was excited about checking it off. They will be camping in snow at the start of their trip as they canoe 120 miles to the very northern part of Maine (Allagash). How exciting for them!! One of my nephews is a Registered Maine Guide and two of the friends have hiked the Appalachain Trail, so I think they are in good hands. However, when I asked about the temperature rating on their sleeping bags, they were talking about Walmart sleeping bags with a rating of 40 degrees. Yikes. It's going to be much colder than that at night. I gave them my LLBean bag with a much lower rating. They were impressed when they saw just how small it was once it was pushed inside the attach sack. Hopefully it will keep someone warm at night. Here are some pictures of my 'boys' with their little cousins.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Week 5 - Day 2

This week I am trying to follow my normal routine. So today I volunteered at JieJie's library. When I got home I realized that I am not exactly up to par. I am a bit tired and still a bit sore. Even though I want to be full strength, I am not really quite there. Yesterday I forgot to wear my binder and was quite sore at the end of the day. Maybe it was the 3 mile walk I took!! I am feeling like I am having a coffee withdrawal, but I gave up coffee months ago. So I guess it's just that I am tired. I would much rather post about all the fun stuff I am doing, but this blog is meant to be a resource of others who find themselves on a similar path at some point, so I need to be accurate.

Yesterday I talked to friend about her breast cancer and the choices she is facing regarding reconstruction. It's ironic because she was an inspiration to me as my surgery date was getting closer and whenever I was doubting my decision I would run into her and she would tell me that I really needed to move forward with the PBM. Now that my surgery is over, I am able to 'give back' with information, suggestions, etc that may be helpful to her as she makes reconstruction decisions. One of the things I can do now is direct people back to this blog. Hopefully it will help others see what the choice of PBM + DIEP is all about.

My original plan for my blog was to update it everyday for the 6-week recovery period, but there just isn't that much change from day-to-day so I am going to do a couple of updates each week instead. I will also update after follow-up medical appointments and will do daily updates as I prepare for Stage II of my reconstuction surgery.

I still need to call the bra-fitting, post-mastectomy specialist, but just don't have the energy yet. With summer coming and swimsuit season almost here I really need to get moving on this, but I am not ready yet. Maybe it's just that it is cold out again. Spring in Maine is so unpredictable. We can go from 80 degrees to 40 degress in the matter of hours. So, in the absence of warmth outside I am posted some pictures of my pretty flowers (taken with new Nikon D5000 camera).

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Week 4 - Day 7

Okay, so I still need Tylenol and Advil. Today I tried to go with only a couple of Advil before church, but by 2:30 pm I was reaching for the Tylenol. Not sure if I am weak, or if it's pretty normal to still need some pain meds 4 weeks after surgery. Other than the numbness and tightness in my core I feel pretty normal. Today I even wore a sports bra. Yippee!! Not sure when I will move beyond a sports bra, but it certainly is a milestone. Again, feeling more like myself. For the past few days I have been getting away from all the elastic waist pants and moving into stretchy jeans. It works as longs as the waistline isn't on my scar.

All the scabbing seems to be flaking off now. Yeah, gross, but I want to detail some of the milestones for others who someday may be reading this as they face their own surgery. For me, as I was anticipating the surgery, hearing from others who walked this path before me was the most helpful of all. Knowing what the recovery was like was a key piece in having confidence that I could do this. Of course, I expected more pain and discomfort than I have had, but I think I paid the price in the hospital those first 2-3 days.

There are a few things I will have to get used to. The first is the numbness of my breasts. Actually my whole core is numb now, but most of that should return in time. With my breasts I am not expecting to be able to actually feel them again. Well, I can feel them but in a different way. Maybe in another post I will try to really describe the feeling. One other thing I need to get used to is my new "designer" bellybutton. It's not the same one I was born with. It's different. I am sure that in time I will become accustomed to it. Same with my breasts.

Tomorrow will mark the four week anniversary of my surgery. Wow, time has really flown. It really does seem like yesterday that we were heading out to Boston and I was wrapping my mind around the fact that I was having a bilateral mastectomy. Now four weeks later I have breasts and even wore a tank top today. Also, really loving the flat belly. I do need to ask my plastic surgeon if it will stay flat even if I eat alot!!! I got some of the Feed-the-Flap recipes from friends and have been making them myself and feeling the 'stretch'.

Tomorrow I plan to start working out with Mike at 5:30am - and hopefully will get back into my pre-surgery routine. I also need to do my arm stretches - I have neglected these and find it hard to reach for things up high.

Well, Week 4 is a wrap!! Tomorrow Week 5 begins. I don't have a plan on posts, but will come up with something.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Week 4 - Day 6

With school vacation this week, things have been a bit hectic. Today JieJie is off to Augusta for dress rehearsal for her baton recital next month. Thankfully one of the other moms was happy to take JieJie along with her own daughter. Recovery is good, but not good enough to drive an hour+, hang out for 4 hours and drive an hour+ home. So, instead I am watching MeiMei while Mike and two of his friends build the Sky Fort for the girls. Here are some photos from today.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Week 4 - Day 5

Today I woke up exhausted!! Not sure if it's because JieJie was in bed with us and was so excited about getting up and making Blueberry Buckle (see Feed-the-Flap recipes) for her Daddy's Birthday Breakfast. So for a couple of hours I just kept telling her it would be a few minutes, so finally, around 6am we were up and cooking in the kitchen. Then while the Blueberry Buckle was cooking, we headed upstairs with breakfast in bed for Daddy. After all that I really was exhausted. Hmmmm, seems some days I can do alot and others I can barely get out of bed. Not sure if that's just me or part of the recovery process.

Now it's 10am and I feeling a bit more normal and energetic. It's Mike's birthday and in all the pre-planning that I did before surgery I neglected to pre-buy birthday gifts. So, now we are all headed out to do some birthday shopping with the guest of honor. I do plan to make him an apple pie and Taco Soup (also under Feed-the-Flap recipes) for dinner. That's probably all I will be up for, but on my list is making chocolates for my Aunt, cleaning the house, the basement, preparing for a yard sale, paying bills, organizing finances, tinkering with my work website, cleaning out the garage, redoing the girls' rooms, dejunking, making Shutterfly books, doing MeiMei's lifebook and video.....well you get the picture.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Week 4 - Day 4

I feel great!! This morning I did most of my old workout routine with Mike. Stopped after about 2.5 miles to work on my arm stretches. It is beautiful outside so I plan to grab my camera and watch Mike work on the Sky Fort with the girls. Pictures will follow......

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Week 4 - Day 3

Who would have thought that just barely three weeks out of surgery I would be doing some hiking in Acadia? Certainly not me!!! Granted it was light hiking - like walking around Eagle Lake and picnicing by the water, but it still counts as hiking in my book!  I've been wearing a binder around my middle which seems to make me more comfortable when walking. The binder is like a giant velcro band that covers my entire middle section. Not sure what it is for, but it feels good. I am down to taking just Tylenol and Advil now, with an occasional Percocet at night. It seems to be working.

Last night I did find that there was something I couldn't do. I just couldn't wash the girls' hair in the tub. I can't bend over very easily. Trying to get them to move from their tub to my shower so that I could help was torturous. In the end they did it, but it wasn't pretty. Mike realized when he came in from building the new swingset that maybe I am not 'totally' back to normal. I've fooled him into thinking I can do everything I could do before the surgery, but my secret escaped me last night.

My energy isn't really what it was before, but it's not bad. I am starting to think about spring projects. In time I might even feel like cooking again. Although that might be a ways away. We still have a couple of Feed-the-Flap leftovers, which I hope to stretch. I am so glad that we had that pre-surgery party. I had planned to cook up a bunch of food before surgery, but never had the time or the inclination. So, now, because our friends so generously provided potluck meals at our Feed-the-Flap party we still have food around. It is wonderful.

Here are so photos from our day at Acadia National Park. You've gotta love living an hour from Acadia. We ended our day with ice cream cones from Bill & Bob's in Bar Harbor.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Week 4 - Day 2

More monumental improvements today!! I mowed the lawn this morning and drove this afternoon. My brother, Tommy, and his son, Joe, stopped by for a nice visit today! He was funny. He remembers me telling him last summer about the surgery I was planning to have (PBM + DIEP) and didn't give it any further thought. I think his words were, "That's so far out there that no one would do it." So when he heard that I was in the middle of my surgery 3 weeks ago, he was quite surprised, to say the least. I liked the gasp when he saw my abdominal scar!! Now I can sit back and say, "Yah, I did that and I lived through it!" My recovery is going very smoothly. Mike says it's because he had me working out every morning for a few months before the surgery. You know, I might just be able to start doing that same workout again - maybe tomorrow!! Here I am mowing the lawn this morning.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Week 4 - Day 1

Update - Just added photos to Week 3, Day 4 (Drain Pull Day):
It was three weeks ago today that I had my surgery and I am proud to say that I am now taking real showers - no more sitting down and no more Marsupial Pouch. Getting the fourth and final drain out made that all possible. I would highly recommend the Marsupial Pouch to anyone and everyone who has hip and armpit drains.

I am still quite sore and tender. The little bit of pain that I have seems to be moving up from my abdomen to my chest. Still not really hitting the 1-10 pain scale - just discomfort. But, I have been able to do so many more things. For example, today I wore jeans for the first time in 3 weeks. I also rode my Green Machine very slowly around the driveway. And I have lost almost 10 lbs from my pre-surgery (feed-the-flap) weight. Oh, and my stomach is flat. Sure there is a scar across it that is 38 centimeters long and I have new designer belly button, but my belly is flat. My breasts seem to be loosening up each day and becoming more like breasts. For a while they were getting quite hard, but seem to be adjusting to their new placement. It is hard to imagine that my belly fat is now sitting in my breasts. It's also hard to imagine just how uncomfortable I was just 3 weeks ago -- the phlegm ball in my throat that seemed to be suffocating me, the hallucinations from the morphine and the steady stream of medical professionals checking on me.

I am pleased with the results - even if I have only done Stage I. Stages II and III are to come. I can do Stage II this summer, but think I will wait until Fall. Although, I would love to have my new body ready for summer. But I am a bit worried about undergoing surgery again. I can remember everything and there is nothing pleasant about the recovery area. Waking up from 14+ hours of surgery was tough. Waking up from 14+ hours of surgery with a phlegm ball was even tougher. Waking up from 14+ hours of surgery with a sensitivity to morphine was toughest of all.

So, other than a little bit of nerve pain down my left arm I feel pretty good. I still get tired mid-day. I get as much walking in as I can and feel much better after exercising. My armpits have been uncomfortable, but with the arm exercises they are feeling a little bit better.

On the homefront, we are still benefitting from the generosity of friends. Yesterday we finished up Brenda's lasagne and chicken/broccoli casserole. We still have some leftovers from the Feed-the-Flap party that will carry us for a few more meals. We are truly blessed to have so many kind and generous friends.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Week 3 - Day 5

Another little difference is understanding my limitations and accepting them. When we were planning our trip to Boston this week I wanted so much to keep heading south to RI or CT to visit with a an old friend who was so suppportive and a key piece to the puzzle when I was on the fence with surgery. She and I talked for a couple of hours the night before I left for Boston for the surgery and she was just exactly what I needed at that point in time. So, I thought that if we could just head south a bit after my last drain is pulled then we could visit with her. Plus my nephew lives nearby and we could squeeze a visit in with him. BUT, I am now accepting my physical limitations. So, instead of RI and CT we are staying put in ME. That's okay. I realize that I can't burn the candle on both ends or my recovery will be very slow. Even now, everything takes a bit longer. With the drains (even one) I dreaded the whole shower routine. A slight pull on the drain and pain would shoot through my body.

It's very tough to do less. I feel like I should be able to do everything I was doing before, but when your entire core is sore, tight and funky feeling it makes movement difficult. One thing I can do without much difficulty is sit at my computer, thus all the blog posts.

On our little mini vacation in southern Maine we have been able to enjoy the things we love about Maine. We love lighthouses and beaches. My favorite beach of all time is Pine Point Beach, so we always make a point of going there, especially when the tide is out. This beach makes me very very happy!!! So even though I have had to realize that I can't do all the things I used to do (for now) I can still enjoy so many things, particularly when I am with my family.

Just want to thank my friends again for all the things they have been doing. We truly are appreciative of everything and the food is always delicious. I need to add more of your recipes to my Feed the Flap page. Thank you!!!

LIVE UPDATE: By now you have figured out that I pre-post sometimes. Anyway, today was my first drain-less shower - heaven!!! No twinges when the drain would pull or I would accidently drop the drain. No more marsupial pouch for me. I will post photos from yesterday's visit to Dr. Tobias' office when I get home. This morning's breakfast was absolutely wonderful. I consider today to be the first day of my recovery......I really can't tell you just how nice it is to be without that last drain. I have a binder wrapped around my mid-section, but it feels fabulous and the best part is that I can pull my waistband up over the binder - again, like a normal person. Ahhhhhhh.......

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Week 3 - Day 4

Since today is the day I will get my fourth and final tube out, I want to once again thank my medical team. (See "My Team:" at top of blog). My girls are going with us on this trip and are quite excited. They know we 'go to Boston', but they don't really know what that means, so on this trip they get to 'go to Boston'. They probably won't go in while the drain is pulled, but they will get to meet some of my wonderful team.

So today, let's see how I have changed. Well, when it comes to medical care, my experience has taught me to shop around. There is certainly nothing wrong with going local; however sometimes sacrificing the convenience of local for the expertise of a place like Boston (Beth Israel) is worth the trade off. I have learned to keep looking for what you want or need until you find it. Just because you have a consultation with someone and you like them does not mean you should stop there. Find out where they were trained and then have a consult with the person who trained them. Keep going until you feel comfortable. Don't settle. Again you will see photos of my medical team!! Dr. Tobias was prepared for the photoshoot this time!! And Maria straightened her hair for the event!!! We have an exceptionally long wait for the drain pull, but it was worth the wait and once again, Malika did a super job!! I felt a little twinge (not pain) on the opposite side of the where the drain was located and Maria said that it was the drain on the inside. That thing must have been a foot long on the inside!!! Soooooo glad they are gone!!

It's not like I have a crystal ball, but I am wondering what might have happened if I hadn't been at Beth Israel when I had the bad moments coming out of anesthesia and the whole day I was on morphine. I don't even want to think about it. I do worry about my next operation (Stage II) which is much shorter, but I know I have the best medical care in the world. They got me through the first operation and I am confident they can do it again.

So, yes, life is different. You can face life's challenges. You can be gutsy. You can choose your medical team. You can do it!!!

JieJie took lots of photos on Final Drain Pull Day. She is becoming a very good photographer. One picture I have been waiting to take is me with a chocolate frosted doughnut and a coffee coolata. The doughnut was delicious, but the coolate did not meet expectations. So, maybe I don't need caffeine after all.

We also got to enjoy a meal at Souper Salad. They had stopped serving beef potpies for the season, but the clam chowder was still good. It was very nice, so once again we got to enjoy a nice meal on the patio.  The last photo is of JieJie, our official photographer for the day!!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Week 3 - Day 3

Today my post is dedicated to Mike, the unsung hero in all of this. This week I am looking at how life is different now. Again, most of the changes are subtle, but this particular one isn't quite so subtle. I can no longer look at my husband without seeing and feeling the love he has for me. Anyone who knows me knows that I have always shared that Mike is the most wonderful husband in the world, because he cooks, cleans, does laundry, takes great care of our girls, but he is so much more. He is genuinely caring, loving, tender, patient and gentle. Those are just the words I can come up with, there are other qualities that I just can't wrap words around.

During all of this he never waivered or made me hurry up with my decision or persuaded me in any way, he is caring is such an unassuming way. Protective even. The night in the hospital when he pulled the plugs off the machine I was hooked up to and got me into the bathroom is one thing I will never forget. He knows exactly what to do when I am in need!!! He has had to strip and clean my drains since leaving the hospital, he has been so gentle when doing this. It's really tough for me since the drain is coming out of MY body, but I don't have to worry that he is going to pull on it and cause me pain. When I am achy or tired or simply lazy he carries all the weight. He gets the girls dinner, gets them ready for bed, reads to them, then takes care of me, my drains, my bed (my pillows have to be just right for proper sleeping!). Over the years I have certainly tested his patience, but the depth of his patience seems unending. Right now he is living with 3 needy girls. AND he is hanging in there.

When you get married you don't always realize just how important that decision is until you are tested. Is this the person you can trust to walk you to the bathroom in your johnny? Is this the person who will endure night after night on a cot when he could be staying in a first class hotel? Is this the person who won't leave your side in the recovery room so that he can get something to eat after a very long night of waiting for you to come out of surgery? Is this the person who gives you backrubs when his back is the one that really needs it? Is this the person who gives you the last piece of his favorite pie? Is this the person who will take six weeks off from work to make sure that you are doing what you need to do to recover? Is this the person who will go out and get you new milk after you take a sip of milk from March 31st and it's now April 10th? Is this the person who can laugh with you when you are being dramatic or silly? Is this the person you can trust with your worries and fears? Is this the person you want to sit with on an old porch watching the sun set? When I look at Mike I can say, "YES!" to each and every one of these questions. I hope that I am never tested, but if I am I certainly have a great and caring role model. Again, my gratitude to his mom. He is my unsung hero. He doesn't get the cards or the flowers or the hugs or the phone calls. But he did have a friend come over to get him out to go golfing!!! And what a difference that made!!

"Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pathology Update:

My breast surgeon called with my pathology report. Although I wasn't worried about having invasive cancer (yet), I still wanted to know. So, what I had was LCIS in my right breast, which is not the breast that had endured 3 previous biopsies. My right breast hadn't given me any problems and I had assumed that it would be clear of an non-invasive or invasive cancer. I know that my path is not the right path for everyone, but I am certainly relieved. It was a big decision and the recovery is big, but worth the peace of mind.

Week 3 - Day 2

I may have mentioned this "Brave Me" canvas before; but it certainly deserves mentioning again. As I reflect on the subtle differences in me as a result of my decision to choose a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy with immediate DIEP reconstruction, I can't help but think of this canvas and the friend behind the canvas. When she gave this to me it was two weeks before my surgery. I was 'almost' ready, there were a few puzzle pieces that needed to fall into place, but I was more ready than not. BUT one thing I didn't really feel was 'brave'. Another friend has said that I was an 'inspiration'. All these were before the surgery. I really just felt like it was my own way of dealing with high risk and that most people when faced with this would choose to do the same thing (sooner or later). I didn't feel special, or brave, or inspirational. PLUS I hadn't actually done anything at that point and knew that I could back out right up until they sent me off to surgery.

Well, now it's been two weeks since my recovery began AND I feel brave and proud and happy and at peace with my decision. And maybe in there somewhere is some inspiration. I can honestly say that once I came off the morphine (to which I have a sensitivity) I have never once doubted my decision. That day, two weeks ago, when I was dealing with the phlegm ball and thought I would never leave the hospital alive I had some doubts, many of them morphine induced. My body is different - which is still pretty uncomfortable and ultra-sensitive, but that's okay. I don't have to worry about my risk of breast cancer. I don't have mammograms, MRIs, ultrasounds, biopsies, etc. I sleep well at night, even if I am propped up on pillows so that I won't roll over.

In the end, I am at peace. Others could see something in me that I couldn't see until I had come through the surgery. I am proud. BRAVE ME! And I hope that through some of my blogging or my openess that I can serve as an inspiration to others who are facing a similar journey. I just got a get-well card from one of my beloved aunts and she called me 'gutsy'.  I like that!!!

Physical Update: Today is already better than yesterday. The only percocet I get during the day is in the morning, so when getting up and showering that eases some of the discomfort. For the rest of the day it is Tylenol and Advil. I do feel the ultra-sensitivity all day long which is rather bothersome, but can deal with it. MeiMei asked this morning when she could give me a 'real' hug. Right now they give leg hugs and shoulder hugs, but not belly hugs. Maybe when the drain is pulled. It stills feels so funky and weird and uncomfortable, but maybe a few good hugs with my girls will make it all feel better!!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Week 3 - Day 1

This was me a few minutes ago. It's cold here. Or at least I was cold. Plus, if you look closely you can see that I am pained a bit. Uncomfortable is the best word I can come up with. The pain doesn't really rate the 'official' pain chart of 1-10. But uncomfortable works. It might be the 2 foot tube sticking out of my hip. It might be that I am taking only Tylenol and Advil during the day. It might be simply that it is cold out. I was trying to watch Mike put the SkyFort together, but decided it was time to blog. This week I want to talk about some of the ways my life is different.

Of course there are no major revelations, but some more subtle things that are different. From the beginning of this blog I have talked about how important my friends and family have been to me during this journey. I could never have gotten this far without their limitless support and encouragement every step of the way. I will be eternally grateful to them for all they have done for me and my family. I think I have the best circle of friends. When your friends become your family and your family becomes your friends you are truly blessed. And I have been blessed a thousand times over.

So just how have these wonderful people helped us? That's a great question since it is always hard to know what to do for others who are in a tough situation - UNTIL you have been there. It's the big things (thank you Aunt Dot) and the little things. It's thinking about what might ease the burden a bit, like preparing a home-cooked meal; offering to watch my girls; cleaning my house; sending a note or card or even a heartfelt message on FB; making a phone call or a special visit; sending a bouquet of flowers or fruit; creating art; or sending prayers. All of these things make a huge difference. And I am grateful to each and every one of our friends for all they have done to help us. I will certainly know better how to help next time I have the opportunity to help one of them.

Just this morning at 7am one friend dropped off tonight's dinner (chicken, mashed potato.... comfort food) for us along with some delicious blueberry crumb bars (I couldn't wait Marcy). I know how busy everyone is and I am so appreciative of what they are doing for me.

Last week I went in to get my long awaited haircut from Debbie (Options Spa) and she gave me the cut. I never would have expected that. She said that she couldn't make a casserole, but that she could cut hair and she did that for me.

I still get tears in my eyes when I think about all the thoughtful, heartfelt things that people do. You wouldn't believe the incredible food that my friends have sent our way. I am including the recipes at the top of the blog so that everyone can enjoy them.

So, today my life is different in the sense that I am aware of who my friends are and just how much they mean to me. Sometimes life gets busy and you lose touch with those people you truly care for, so this has served as a reminder not to let that happen.

Week 2 - Day 7

Okay, so it's been a few days since I have posted. Let me see if I feel any different from the pins and needles of Friday's post. No, not really. I think the whole numb feeling will pass in time, but it's a funky and wierd feeling and I don't like it. BUT, this feeling didn't hold me back from attending the annual auction at my daughter's school on Saturday night. Here I am all dressed up with my new do, while still sporting one drain, hidden under my size 2x top. I had a blast at the school auction; HOWEVER I paid the price the next day. I was exhausted, tired, cranky and very sore. Thank God, for Gary and Brenda, who came over with dinner all prepared and pitched in with the girls and helped Mike work on the girls' SkyFort!! I watched Brenda play with my kids and wished I had the energy to do that. I enjoyed seeing them happy and carefree. Here's a picture of Brenda doing some planting with them. One of the many things I am grateful for is my friends. I cherish them and could not be managing my recovery as well as I am without them (and Mike).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Week 2 - Day 6

I have been home for over a week now. Am feeling good, but also starting to feel lots of numbness in chest/abdominal area. From everything I have learned this is normal, but it just feels funky and weird. Numbness, I have learned, is not something you can actually convey to someone else with words. People will associate it with novacaine, or tingly feet (pins and needles) or an old scar, but really none of that fits this. Just odd. My assumption is that some of this will dissipate and the rest I will become my new normal. Right now it isn't my new normal and it's rather uncomfortable when clothing touches it.  Next week I plan to post each day on some of the ways my life is different now, almost 2 weeks after surgery. I also plan to include more real live photos to track my healing progress (no pictures of incisions or anything awkward so don't worry). Have a nice weekend.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Week 2 - Day 5

Last Week: Going home day!!! We knew on Thursday that we would probably be ready to go home on Friday. We told the girls first then called everyone else. Plus our friend, PA, stopped by on Thursday night when we Skyped the girls to tell them. They were thrilled and we felt ready to move out, even though we loved the staff. So, Friday morning started with a 5am walk around the nurses' station, a shower unassisted by nursing staff, getting dressed in street clothes, packing up and heading home. It was a very exciting day. We had requested that we leave between 10 and 12 and we were out the door by 10:30. I had always understood that discharge was this time consuming, very delayed event, so we were thrilled.

We did have to do some picture taking of Dr. Curtis, Maria and Petrya before we left. They were all so wonderful. I didn't say much about Tamara, but she was an angel too. When Petrya left on Thursday, Tamara took over, then Petrya returned on Friday am to help us get ourselves together. Hopefully each and every one of the nurses (as well as Maria and the doctors) who cared for me on CC6 know that they are always welcome to our home!!! I think I promised Petrya that we would find some very good hiking trails for her in Acadia. On my last walk around the nurses station the department manager (I think) stopped us and was shocked. She lit right up and said something like, "You look sooooooooooooo much better than when we met. I didn't even recognize you!" I may have paraphrased wrong, but it was a great compliment. I had on street clothes and no longer sported a johnny. I had on make-up, well under eye corrector (good-bye bags) and lipstick. My hair was clean and I was happy. Mike was by my side. A few minutes later he wheeled me out to the car and we headed home. On the way home we stopped at Aunt Sally's house in Freeport, where I felt a bit odd. It was sensory way too much sunshine and movement. But that passed by the time we got back to Bangor. The girls were happy. Dot was relieved. And were finally home. This had been a year and the half in the making and now we were on the road to recovery.

The photos I have included: my last breakfast at BIDMC. It was oatmeal and English muffins. We didn't know we had to ask for brown sugar and butter. Every meal had been great, so when this one didn't hold a candle to the others, we knew it was time to go. Here's a picture of Mike working. Poor guy slept on a cot for three nights and never ever complained. Then there is me in street clothes. I was so so happy!!!! Next is the room number. Then you will see me with Dr. Curtis (Dr. Tobias's Breast Fellow) who will be setting up his own practice when he is finished with this assignment. I feel blessed to have crossed paths with him. In this photo is Maria, a true Godsend. No one can put you at ease like Maria. She is funny, caring, knowledgeable, helpful and always available. The last photo is with Petrya, who was outstanding in every way. My other 'team members' can be found under MY TEAM at the top of the home page.

This Week: Today I woke up for the first time in a week and a half with ONLY ONE DRAIN. I am thrilled. I am still quite sore and numb, but I assume that that will last for quite awhile. I will go back and post pictures from yesterday's visit with Dr. Tobias, Maria and Malika (my new angel) on yesterday's follow-up post. Today I am finally going to get my hair cut!!! I will post the new do!! For over a year I have been growing my hair out thinking that if I pulled it back in the hospital it would be easier and look better. The reality is that if I had had a short cut it would have been easier. Looking better isn't really a concern during those first few days when you are simply trying to adjust. Greasy hair, bangs pushed up to the side and the rest just hanging there is not a pretty picture, BUT they do not have mirrors in your room. And Mike didn't seem to mind how I looked. He was just happy that I wasn't seeing things or imagining things anymore. I plan to post more FAQ today. More pictures coming!!!

Mike's office staff had this fruit bouquet delivered today!! Wonderful. You will see MeiMei's hand reaching for it...... I also had my hair cut and my hair stylest 'gave' me the cut. She said that she isn't so good at casseroles or things like that, but she wanted to do something nice for me. Of course, it made me cry!! It is amazing how kind the people in our lives have been. What people do is across the board from cards, to flowers, to food, to phone calls, to visits, to Mass cards, to sending along special prayers and quotes, it all means so much to me. I have a much greater appreciation of the things I can do for others now that I have been the recipient of such a wonderful outpouring of love and support. Thank you all!!!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Week 2 - Day 4 (updated)

Last Week: Okay, so I am pre-posting this before I leave for Boston so that I can stick to my schedule of comparing each day last week with each day this week. Last Thursday was April 1st. Patty had called on Wednesday night to see if she could visit on Thursday since she had already planned to take the day off and come to Boston. I still wasn't up for visitors so Mike asked that she call back in the morning. On Thursday morning she called back, made the 3-hour one way trip and wasn't disappointed. Just after Mike left to take a walk to his hotel room for a shower, Patty arrived as did my entire 'plastics' medical team. She met Dr. Tobias, Maria and Dr. Curtis. I think Petrya was my nurse that day, so she also got to interact with her and help me take a walk around the nurses station. Thursday was a good day, a very good day. I wasn't ready to leave, but it was good. Petrya had helped me with my shower that morning and I felt a million times better. Remember I grew my hair long for the hospital stay, thinking I would pull it back or put it under a ballcap. Well, I can't lift my arms up to pull my hair back, but Mike did buy me a pretty BIDMC ballcap that he could help with. I am so proud of my 'team' at BIDMC that I wear my hat with pride!!! I must say that I am very proud of myself for being able to make the toughest decision of my life and have no regrets. Thursday was the day I got unhooked from the VIOPTIX oxygenation machine (hopefully I got that right). So I was no longer hooked up to anything that moved. I still had the drains and still had vitals taked every couple of hours, but was unattached. What a wonderful feeling.
I have posted pictures of me in my bed, where I spent much of my time, when not walking around the nurses' station. Here's another picture of where Mike spent most of his days. He did keep himself occupied with work, Suduko, Nintendo and some reading. I spent my time blowing into my spirometer 10x/hour. It did keep me somewhat occupied. Patty left some magazines which helped, but my eyes felt funky and reading was tough.  The calendar says that it is March 31st on the wall behind me, but it was really April 1st. I love my bouquet of flowers, too. They were nice and bright and cheered me up along with my visit from Patty.

This Week: This morning we are waking up in Boston at the Best Western, once again. Today I will see Dr. Tobias and Maria at 9am at Beth Israel. Since I am pre-posting I am assuming that I will be nervous and excited. Nervous because I have never heard anything short of dreadful when it comes to drain removal and excited because at least one or two of my drains will be removed. They don't really bother me, but this procedure puts me one step closer to full recovery. I will post pictures of today after we take them.
UPDATE:  So we made it to Boston on Wednesday evening just in time to get a quick meal at the cafeteria and then a walk down toward Fenway. I got a bit tired so we stopped to sit on a bench and watched everyone going to the game. I know how much Mike would have loved going the game!! Instead we watched people in 95 degree temps.

So, on Thursday morning we did a bit of a walk down memory lane. I will post pictures of the hotel, the hospital, the plastic surgery team!!  Here is the Best Western at Longwood. For the night before surgery, this is the place to stay (make sure you get a clean room with internet!). The next photo is of Mike with his cup of coffee. A week ago, he whe was trapped in my hospital room and didn't get out much. And, while he waited for me in surgery/recovery it was pouring so hard that he could't spend much time outside. Although I do undertand that he did take a long walk in the rain on one of those long days. The other photos are a bit jumbled and I can't seem to be able to move them to the right spots, so you will have match them up with the descriptions. One of the photos is of me (with four drains in my pockets) in front of the West Clinical Center at Beth Israel. That's where my surgery took place. That's were you go the morning of your surgery, sign in and wait with all the others having surgery that morning. You wait on a circular bench - reminded me of traveling with a tour group. There is also a picture of the hospital from outside my room. I had a great room (#620). From the inside I had great views and great sunshine pouring in.  Next are up-to-date photos of my "Plastics" Team: The first is with Dr. Tobias. It is actually taken in his office, oh, I am sitting in his chair!!! I am pretty sure most patients don't do  this, but then again most patients probably don't travel with a camera with the purpose of blogging either. Anyway, he was very gracious. I told him that the first picture with him the morning of surgery my eyes were closed so we needed an update photo. Next is a picture of my newest angel - Malika!!! Oh my!! She has always gotten me settled during each and every appointment to Dr. Tobias' office, but this was the first time she did something to/for me. I knew I would get my drains pulled today AND I knew it was supposed to hurt - like 20 seconds of torture. WELL, I DIDN'T FEEL A THING. Malika has magical fingers. On the first drain, after she clipped the stitch, I felt a little something, but nothing that would even it a pain scale. She had me take deep breaths, then told me it was out!!! On the next two, I didn't even feel anything. I took my deep breaths and it was over. Mike said that it looked like about 8 inches of tubing came out of me. How cool is that? Then there is a picture of me with Maria, Dr. Tobias' nurse. Again, I can't say this enough - she is a lifesaver!! She is able to diffuse anxiety and clarify, clarify, clarify when I ask endless questions and provide the kind of support only someone who has seen lots of other women go through the same thing can do. 
. And last, but certainly not least is Jean. Jean is Dr. Tobias' office manager. She was the first point of contact for me with his office and remains the voice on the other end of the phone whenever I call. She remembers me each time. I will post these 'staff' shots under "MY TEAM" as well. I can't say enough wonderful things about my team. It took alot of work to find them and I will forever be grateful for all that they have done and continue to do for me.
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