Wednesday, June 03, 2015

The Finish Line!

Sometimes, I just feel lucky.
 Well, tomorrow is the big day for my final breast reconstruction. For those of you who have stumbled on this blog, I had breast cancer, they managed to suck out every single morsel of cancer in my biopsy, and then when they cut off my boobs, the techs were like "Hey? Why'd this lady have her boobs cut off?" Okay, it was significantly more professional than that. You might ask, "so, do you regret having your boobs cut off when you could have just gone for the lumpectomy?" NOPE.

Those bitches were ticking time bombs (see my previous post if you want to argue with me). Not to mention, my nipple was going regardless, so why leave one rotten tomato when I could just get rid of both. Matching set right?
The night before my surgery with my dad and sister.
Kelly just had HER boobs cut off too. All the Newsom girls are doing it.
Waiting and waiting and waiting at the hospital. To be honest,
I had a good time, except for the crippling hunger and the fact that
they wouldn't let me wear underwear.
P.S. I'm not wearing underwear in this photo.

At the hospital. I did two miles around the hallway
before they finally kicked me out. Also, notice my
adorable little ballerina boobies.

God damn drain tubes.

Tomorrow around 11-ish, I report to the surgery center to have these ridiculously uncomfortable tissue expanders removed from under my pecs and replaced with heavenly squishy soft silicone boobies. I try not to complain a lot about them, but since they are leaving tomorrow, let me take a second to tell you how I really feel. When they placed the tissue expanders under my pecs, I assume they thought I wanted the worlds biggest boobs, because these stupid things are roomy. And by roomy I mean they are entirely too big for the tiny space they shoved them in, not to mention they can go up to 700cc each! I can feel their edges, their weird plastic-y edges. It's creepy. When I run, they gurgle. It feels like I have phlegm rattling in my lungs when in reality, it's saline sloshing around in my breast mounds - that's what they call them, breast mounds. They currently contain about 350cc of fluid each. When I run, my pecs tighten (because apparently I flex them constantly) and it makes it extremely difficult to push those water bags in and out. I can swim about two laps before I am gasping for air because I can't take a full breath when my arms are extended while swimming; ironically, I can breast stroke fine. After running or swimming or actually even wearing clothes all day, my skin is so tender it feels like it is simultaneously being burned and twisted. There are these one inch metal discs on the front of them into which the doctor would stab a giant needle to inject more saline, which feel like they are slowly pushing their way through the muscle to the surface. All of the running and swimming and lifting I have been doing has woken the muscle and skin over the front of my previously numb breast mound which really just means it whines and hurts all of the time. And to be honest perfectly honest, my boob things sort of look like poofy hamburger buns right now, but those hamburger bun boob things don't have cancer.
60CC all around! They fill them 60CC each at a time.
When I was diagnosed, in addition to feeling terrified and worried, I was really pissed. Not at the world, not at any one specific deity for throwing me this curve ball, but at the fact that this dumb cancer was going to get in my way. My husband can vouch for the fact that I HATE it when people slow me down. My way to deal with that was to do all of the things I had planned to do anyway. One of those things was to run Dam to Dam again this year. Last year I ran it three months after my shoulder surgery. I trained for weeks strapping my gimpy arm tightly into a sling while I ran mile after mile. Last year I ran it in 2:30, just so you aren't too impressed, its a HALF marathon, the fastest guy finished in 1:07, but I felt AWESOME about that time. In October, I ran the Des Moines Half and shaved another 10 minutes off my time (2:20:52). Going into this spring, I had every intention to run Dam to Dam and to set another PR doing it, and then they found the cancer.

So I decided to run it anyway. My initial surgery was February 12th. I had a bilateral mastectomy with primary rebuild; they cut off both my boobs and shoved some fancy painful baggies under my pecs. I was told not to run for 6 weeks. SIX WEEKS! So I did everything else I could. I "ran" on the elliptical. I "ran" the bleachers daily for a couple of weeks. I did squats and lunges and frankensteins. I couldn't do arm work aside from stretching, and it hurt like hell to work my abs. When I started back in on my abs, I could barely do five crunches. The surgery strained the tendons that connect my upper abs to my rib cage (or where ever they attach), so I had to take that slow too. I got released a week early from my running hiatus, which was amazing, until I started running again and realized exactly how hard it was. Every time my boob things got filled, it made it even harder to breathe. I finally told them to stop just so I wouldn't have to deal with any more expansions.  I'll have a decent B cup when we're all done, and I'm fine with that, my previous DD was just too much anyway.
Close to perfect tape job. I used less white tape for the final round,
it gets hot having your feet taped for two hours!

Training for the race wasn't easy. Every time I added a mile, it felt like I was dying. The other complicating factor was that since I started my new job in October, I've been sitting more, which my butt doesn't like, so I started having serious hip, glute, hamstring, and heel issues. I saw Shane McClinton at Des Moines University's Running Clinic and he helped me determine the source of my issue, and he gave me some exercises and release points to work out the kinks. I also made my desk a standing desk permanently. After figuring out the best foot taping method and working on a faster cadence, I had a couple of decent training runs. But the bad runs were so bad, I really didn't think I could finish Dam to Dam. But I got on the bus anyway (you know, because the bus took me to the dam to start the race).
The buses. In the dark. Because it was

My friends Nicole and Stephanie. We are way colder than we look.
The race was this Saturday. It was great running weather, cool, tail wind, misty rain. The race started out pretty good. The first mile I ran in 10:43. Meh, not TOO  bad considering my last training run included a few 13 minute miles. The second mile 10:18. "HOT DAM!" I thought. Third 10:34 Fourth 10:19, the fifth 10:07, the sixth 9:54! And THAT is when I started thinking that MAYBE I COULD get that PR I had planned back in January. I really only flirted with the idea, because I have a tendency to crash hard. But every mile after that was spot on the pace I needed. Somehow I was doing it. My lungs were feeling okay, the gurgling had finally stopped, my hip was loose, my heel felt great, the weather was pleasant. I hit mile 11 and turned into the "whine out loud giant baby" that I always seem to become at mile 11, but I told myself that I could either slow down or just keep going, so I just kept going. The miles after that are a bit of a blur. I did a lot of math just to be sure I always understood that I COULD still walk and beat my previous course time, but really, would I be happy with that when I was SO CLOSE? I remember feeling so happy to turn the corner into downtown, if my glucose deprived brain was doing the math right, I stood a very good chance of at least matching my PR from October. When I saw my husband and my girls, they waved and I turned the corner into the final 200m. They were running alongside me to try to catch me at the finish line. I gave every little bit I had left to push to the finish line. I truly was the robot who not only couldn't feel pain, but also didn't really need oxygen. As I crossed the finishing mat, I stopped my Garmin and looked at it in total shock. It said 2:18:56. 2:18:56!!! The lady at the finish line thought I needed some medical attention, but I pushed past told her I was ok and tried to comprehend that in spite of EVERYTHING I had dealt with in the last three months, all that stupid shit, I finished my race and I beat my best time. I fucking WON. When I finally found Scott and the girls, I was an emotional wreck until my overwhelming desire to drink copious amounts of chocolate milk took over.
I'm DOING IT!!! This was around mile 8.
I had already eaten FOUR energy gels.

This is my happy crying face. My "You Guys! I DID IT!" face.

My little people. I run so i can be a better mom.
So I drank my weight in chocolate milk, took the girls camping with some friends that night (because why the hell not), and dealt with the traditional post Dam to Dam quad soreness. Today I got out and ran a 5k, and specifically to toot my own horn, I ran it 12 seconds faster than my previous best time.
See. Camping. We also did hiking.
I hurt like hell the next day.
 I think I am ready for this surgery. I'm glad this time around I only have to take three weeks off (I'll see if I can sweet talk my surgeon down to two...), because frankly, I've got some big goals for this year, you know, like growing my stash of tube tops in time for the state fair, getting my first tattoos - of nipples - on my boob things, and training hard so I can beat the pants off my next race time, because i don't see any reason why I can't run it faster.

Monday, February 09, 2015

A Farewell to Bras

So some of you may know that my little sister was diagnosed with triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma in late October of 2014. She has been amazing through her chemotherapy and her tumor is shrinking nicely. When she was diagnosed, I was encouraged to go get a mammogram, so early this year, I did.

My baby sister is totally fancy.

I had my mammogram on a Tuesday in early January. That Wednesday, they called me back for some magnified scans on my left breast. It seemed that there were just a few micro calcifications present, and they wanted a closer look. So I had that done as well. The radiologist who reviewed my magnified scans decided that since my little sister had breast cancer, that they would go ahead an biopsy the spot, it did not look "highly suspicious" and I got her to admit that if my sister hadn't had breast cancer, they would have taken a "wait and see" approach.

So I got to show up the next week for a stereotactic needle biopsy. I will not lie to you, it was one of the more horrible medical experiences I have ever had. They had me lie face down on a table with my breast dangling through a hole while they smashed my boob and programmed the computer to stab me in just the right spot. It was done under local anesthesia, so I really felt no pain from the actual procedure, what really made it suck was that the table I was lying on was not well padded, and the hole was way too big, so my lower ribs were being crushed the entire time, and my arms were going numb, but I COULD NOT MOVE OR THE COMPUTER WOULD STAB ME IN THE WRONG PLACE. So I summoned my favorite coping mechanism, the "Robot Who Can Not Feel Pain", and this time I also programmed her to enjoy strange medical procedures. It totally worked until they informed me they needed to go in for just one more sample and would squirt in a little more lidocaine, which my nerve addled brain decided would immediately stop my heart (complete nonsense) so I had a mild panic attack which set off my adrenaline, which sparked an even bigger panic attack ("why am i getting an adrenaline rush?!?!?!?!"). I talked myself down, turned the robot back on, and made it through the rest of the procedure. I'm pretty sure they were just out of lollipops, because i TOTALLY earned one. 

Partial results came back the next day (a Friday), "There were some abnormal cells". So I ask, "what does abnormal cells mean?" To which the radiologist replies "cancer". Well FUCK. Just say cancer if you mean cancer.

See those tiny white specks in the red circle?
That's what cancer looks like...
Also, that's what an X-ray of my boob looks like.
You are welcome.

The results turned up a triple POSITIVE 2mm "single locus" of intermediate grade ductal carcinoma in situ.  This means that the cancer was still in the ducts (not freely roaming around) and it was growing not fast but not slow. It has hormone receptors and the unfortunate HER2 receptors, but I'll take the positive hormone receptors. They also turned up a 1mm low grade lobular neoplasia. The fucking thing was sitting directly behind my nipple which meant I would at very least lose the nipple (boobs without nipples are still boobs right??) Lobular neoplasia means that I am now at a much higher risk of developing cancer in my other breast as well. So guess what? I'm cutting the traitors off.

We had a good run, my boobs and I. I can never thank them enough for feeding both of my children for 2 years each. They have nicely, if not excessively, filled out my tops since I was a teenager. But seriously ladies, cancer? Fucking cancer? It's time for us to break up. This won't eliminate my risk, but it sure as hell reduces it.

I am scheduled for a double mastectomy on February 12th. That's in just a few days. My guts have been in turmoil ever since that first call back on my mammogram. The good news is that I can be the trial run of the surgery for my sister, I am just that thoughtful! I am anxious to get this over with, and terrified by what else they will find hiding in my overly abundant breast tissue. I won't get the complete results until after the surgery. They will check my lymph nodes with a sentinel node biopsy at the time of the surgery, and hopefully we will find that my little tiny DCIS has stayed put.

I'll be having a rebuild at the time of the surgery. They claim they will put my boobs back even better than before and they promise I will never have to wear a bra again, and seriously, they better not be lying, because that is a major silver lining in this whole thing for me... and I get nipple tattoos. Who's jealous? Seriously, google nipple tattoos.

We are hoping that after the surgery, there will not be much else to do treatment wise, but I won't meet with the oncologist until they've rummaged through my breast tissue. If I do need further treatment, I should be spared chemotherapy, and may instead receive hormone treatments. I just have to wait and see. Wait and see is my favorite...

I'm nervous, and scared, and super duper pissed off, but mostly I am in awe of how my little sister has been dealing with this since October. This shit is scary. My stomach hurts constantly. It's hard to not see everything I feel in my body as a sure sign of more cancer. It's hard not to worry that I'll miss one of those major events my girls are sure to have in the future. I'm being tested for a genetic factor that could explain our family's recent flurry of cancer, and should i test positive for any of those, I'll get to have a hysterectomy as well. At which point I will cease to be a woman and can therefore use whichever restroom I want, which is actually awesome, because ladies take WAY too long to pee.

Me after finishing Dam to Dam spot on my goal time of 2:30,
not yet three months after my Bankhart Repair on my right shoulder.
I'm running the pants off this thing this year,
current half marathon PR stands at 2:20...

All I can do is keep moving forward. I plan to get up out of that hospital bed running (or at least briskly walking) and get back to work as soon as I can. I WILL run Dam to Dam (Half marathon 13.1 miles) again this year, i did promise my surgeon not to run for six weeks, but there is plenty of cross training I can do in the meantime. The race is in late MAY, which will give me about 8 weeks after I get the all clear to get trained up, AND I've asked for faster boobs, so look for a PR people. Before you declare me insane, remember I did it last year after my shoulder surgery, AND hit my goal time.

Excellent example of vintage motivational cat poster.

I am not looking forward to my new hobby of hanging out in oncology for the next five years, but I am very hopeful that I will put this stupid bullshit behind me. You can ask me questions about my cancer, I might answer you. My answers lately have been sarcastic and snarky, so try not to get your feelings hurt. If you want to pray for me or any of that, feel free, but promise to add my sister in as well,  her treatment is way more intense than mine. And seriously, SERIOUSLY, anyone who tags me in one of those breast cancer memes gets immediately blocked and unfriended and I might tee-pee your house, in a totally mean way, like a "I might also put sugar in your gas tank" kind of way... The only encouraging posts I am accepting are vintage motivational cat posters.

Also, don't feel bad if I didn't tell you until now. I barely told anyone, and honestly I still wouldn't have told you if I thought you wouldn't notice me running around with smaller perkier boobs, which you will totally notice, because I'm only wearing tube tops from here on out.