Letter to my January 25, 2008 self (throwslikeagirl)

January 24, 2011

Dear Nicole,

I know it’s been an exhausting time.  After two weeks of doctors appointments, biopsies, mammograms and several assurances that it couldn’t be cancer, your doctor is going to call, on a Friday night, and tell you that it is.  Cancer.  You are going to calmly hang up the phone, start to hyperventilate, leave the children with your friend and get in the car and drive to your inlaws.  In retrospect, driving was probably not the best plan, but it happened so we’ll leave it at that.  And the inlaws were comforting, so since you didn’t get in an accident on the way there, it was probably a good place to go.

I know what you are thinking.  The possibility of death is stifling and it’s so hard to imagine a time when you won’t be cancer mama.

But here’s the thing; life will go on.  It will bring you the people you need, when you need them.  There will be people to help you with treatment.  People to help you with the family.  People to help you with your spirit.  And they will come from everywhere.  Close to home and across the internet.

You will feel like crap.  And then you won’t.

The hair will go.  And come back.

Reconstruction will be a pain in the butt.  Ask me in 2012 if it was all worth it.

You will have friends who move on with their life.  You will have friends recur.  And you will have friends who die.  And this is hard.  But it’s not your fault.  Some people will respond to treatment and some won’t, but there’s no rule that says just because you’re fine someone else has to not be.  There’s no bell curve for cancer.  So no wallowing in survivor’s guilt.  It doesn’t help them or you.


Knit some hats.

Share your gifts with others.


And heal yourself.



Those three little words. by throwslikeagirl

July 24, 2010

“You’re no fun.”

A couple of weeks ago, my oldest child said this to me, followed closely by, “You never do anything anymore.”,  not realizing at all how that cuts.   Some of you are probably thinking, “Big deal, Nicole.  Kids say stuff like this all the time ”

But it is.  The last three summers I haven’t been any fun.  Surgery/Chemo.  Surgery/infection.  Surgery.  And in this case she wasn’t referring to some parental comment like “Our sofa is not a jungle gym, please sit down.” (Which she has heard on occasion.)  She was sad because she couldn’t go somewhere due to my inability to drive post surgery.

When I was first diagnosed, I worried about how she would cope with all the weirdness of having a mom with cancer.  At first, I thought she’d be afraid.  But she wasn’t.  I thought she might be clingy.  But again, she was her usual gregarious self.  She would talk to anybody and everybody about my cancer.  (I’m sure she gets that from me.)  There is no playground conversation stopper quite like, “Hi there!  Did you know my mom has one boob?”  (And no, I’m not  exaggerating.  She actually said that.)

So then I worry that my children have become intolerant of my medical issues.  The boy still cuts me some slack, but man, the girl is giving me a hard time.   “Do I have to do all your jobs for you?”  Let me tell you how well that one went over.  😛  Thankfully, my mama friends say that their 7 year olds are the same way, which makes me feel better.  I’m hoping to chalk it up to my horse blinder theory in which kids (and some adults, heh) can really only see the world as it relates to themselves with little regard to the bigger picture.  One of our job as parents and educators is to help our children learn the empathy skills that enable them to see the world outside of themselves.

I don’t want you to get the idea that the girl is nasty all the time.  She’s not and is generally very helpful.  I think it’s just those well-timed zings that she doesn’t truly understand that prey upon my fears as a parent. 

Am I no fun?  Has cancer made me a bad mama?

Of course not.

But I think it’s time for empathy training boot camp.  🙂

Crossposted to Throws Like A Girl

Frankenlefty has left the building.

October 26, 2009

crossposted from ThrowsLikeAGirl

Or will have by 8 am tomorrow.  Same problem as last time.  Infected skin, no bacterial growth in cultures.  They took about 200 ml of fluid out of frankenlefty this morning.  Brought it down in size from a freakish stripper boob to a normal stripper boob.  Can’t tell you how much better that feels.  It had actually started to migrate to the right so I truly would have been uniboobed.  PS says I still have options.  I have to wait another 3 to 6 months to stabilize and we can work up a new plan.  Maybe one that doesn’t involve implants, depending on how frankenlefty looks without the expander.  That’s fine by me.

I have to admit there is just a tiny part of me that is glad to see it gone.  It’s been ridiculous, as I’ve mentioned before. I have to actually haul the thing up and out the window to reach things in a drive thru.  Definitely not going to miss that.  I will also be able to sleep on my left (once the drains are out.  Again.) without feeling uncomfortable.

Oh and I’ll have drains for Halloween.  I figure I can go as a Breast Cancer Awareness Borg.

I am 1 of 8.

Get your mammograms.

Resistance is futile.

Reconstruction woe.

October 7, 2009

written by Nicole aka Throws Like A Girl

I have to admit I have been avoiding posting on Mothers with Cancer.  I’m having a hard time with my reconstruction and I don’t want any newbies who might happen by to think that this is going to happen to them. (THIS IS NOT GOING HAPPEN TO YOU.)

One of my expanders has failed due to infection and it’s still possible that the left side could fail if we can’t kick whatever infection it has.  The doctors are cautiously optimistic, but frankly, I just can’t go there with them.

I would love to say that having had cancer has made me stronger, a fighter, whatever.  But to be frank, I can’t get my hopes up on this.  If it happens, it happens.  I might get boobs for Christmas.  Or I might not.  I’m not sure how far I’m willing to go for a nice rack.  All these surgeries and doctor visits that are in addition to the regular cancer doctor visits are starting to seriously affect my life.  I see my plastic surgeon more than my husband.  In fact, next week will be the first week I DON’T have an appointment with him since July.

I can’t make plans to volunteer for anything but bringing food at the kids’ school because I never know when I’m going back under the knife.  Especially when you’re dealing with infection.  Sometimes it’s got to come out.  Right then.  I’m tired of having to ask my friends and family to watch my kids (which they do without ever complaining.  Love them.)  But I’m so tired of being the high maintenance mom.  And for what?  A pair of Barbie boobs with no feeling in them.

And yet I still want to try.  When you’re a girl of (ahem) a certain size, shirts are cut for a nice size rack.  I have 10 different neutral colored tank tops I have to wear under my clothes because the necklines don’t work when you’re missing part of your chest.

I always said that I was not defined by my chest.  I’m thinking that I was wrong.  I’m not necessarily defined by them.  But I miss them.

This was all a whole lot easier before they tried to kill me.


Stage one of the new rack

July 15, 2009

(Crossposted from last week’s ThrowsLikeAGirl)

Today’s blog is not for the faint of heart or stomach, o fearless readers.   So finish your sandwich or latte and come back when it’s well digested.

You were warned. 

So Monday I went to the hospital and spent most of the day under anesthesia while my surgeons did the complete right mastectomy (pathology was clear on that by the way, yay!) and created a couple of  frankenboobs in their place.  Something I did this time around was look for as many pictures of my procedure as I could so I had a pretty good idea what to expect.  There is a thread on the Young Survival Coalition bulletin board that I highly recommend to people that is devoted to reconstruction.  Brave young women post anonymous pictures of themselves at various stages of their reconstruction so that people like me can get a better idea of what it really looks like.  I plan to post mine as well (though I forgot to take a “before” picture).  Paying it forward and all.  So basically my surgeons are very pleased with how the skin looks (I sort of think frankenlefty looks like a baseball.)  And based on the pictures I saw, my recon is right on schedule.

My chest feels pretty tight (ironically like I’m wearing a bra).  The expanders are in place and I’m pretty sure the plastic surgeon said frankenrighty is already 2/3 expanded.  I have a bazillion medicines to take and I have to admit it freaks me out a little.  I made the rookie mistake of taking 4 ibuprofen at the same time as 2 percocet.  My stomach quickly reprimanded me for that.  I have to give myself  a shot of blood thinner every day.  Which also freaks me out a bit.  Better that than clots though.

As usual, I felt like I received great care at our local hospital.  My room was huge.  Corner suite (or “isolation room” as they call it.)  Apparently word got out about what a scary patient I am.  Grins.  By Wednesday I was regularly walking laps around the cancer ward (I started calling it the Poop Loop.  Anyone who has had surgery can figure that one out.)  The hospital was testing their alarm system on Thursday.  Woo.  One time the alarm was Code Red, so I stuck my head out the door and asked the nurses if we were supposed to be walking out single file.  You can take the teacher out of the school and all…

So lots of people came to visit me at the hospital and I thank everybody who came by   I had been trying to figure out whether to put my compression sleeve back on and my physical therapist (thanks for visiting!) reminded me that I actually have 4 drains on that side right now and that my arm is probably at an all time low in terms of edema.  Which it was.  I could actually slip all the identification bands off my left arm without cutting them by Thursday.  

So I have 6 drains that I will probably have for a while.  Last time I only had 2 and I had them for weeks.  I still think it’s kind of weird that we have to drain and measure the liquid every day. 

So anyway, that’s what I’m doing, where I’ve been.  I am glad to be home.


May 16, 2009

It’s a funny thing how things can change over time.

When I was first diagnosed, I blogged about my visit to the plastic surgeon. Weirdly, I was scheduled to see him 2 days after finding out I had cancer. Looking back now, I realize I was in shock. I still HAD Lefty and couldn’t even wrap my mind around the idea that it would be gone in a matter of weeks. Reconstruction was the least of my worries. I wanted to live, and part of my body was trying to kill me. I just wanted it gone. I wrote about how I didn’t care if I was ever reconstructed.

Now here I am, a year later, not dead. With lymphedema. And a cute haircut. And much disdain for my prosthesis. Flefty likes to wander up into my armpit. Which is very attractive. Most people ask if they have anything in their teeth before going on stage. I have to ask if the girls are straight. (Sorry about all the euphemisms, but I’m trying to avoid pRon spam.) Flefty is hot in a non-sexy way. And no longer matches Righty.

I’ve also had a lot of time to ponder whether to get Righty removed. It would help lower my cancer recurrance rate (which is about 60 to 70 percent right now.) It would probably help my stress level since the need for extensive mammograms would be eliminated. One less scan, right? It’s also my best chance for both sides to match, recon or not.

So…I decided to go back to see the plastic surgeon and see what my options were. I had LOTS of radiation which can make reconstruction difficult. I flat out asked him which sort of recon would be the most successful. He said, that in his opinion, making a sort of skin/muscle bra from part of my left back and inserting implants on both sides was my best option. It’s a 3 to 4 hour surgery with a 4 – 6 week recovery. I’d have expanders for a while and then exchange them for implants when they’re ready. I will lose some power on my left side, but I’m not a champion skier or a tennis player, and he assured me it wouldn’t affect my piano skills so I’m think I’m OK with this.

The other perspective change I have is about my plastic surgeon. He was really nice this visit. Funny and supportive. Not like I remember him at all, which makes me wonder if my being in shock had something to do with my impression. I would like to think that I’m a person who fesses up when they were wrong. So here I am. Fessing. So….sometime in July I will be having surgery. Again. But this time it will be because I want it.

Crossposted to ThrowsLikeAGirl

I not OK.

March 17, 2009

One time, when we were walking the girl to school, the boy took a digger on the asphalt.  Not fun for any age really.  I picked up him up and soothed him saying, “You’re OK.  You’re OK.”  He looked at me with a teary eye and stated, very emphatically I might add, “I NOT OK.”  And really he was right.

So today I had to go get an ultrasound of my leg to check for a blood clot.  Thankfully, it was a clean scan, but it got me to thinking (and a minor meltdown),  Why is it so important to be OK all the time?  When people ask how I am, I mostly answer, “I’m fine.”  because I don’t want to ruin their day.

But the truth is, I’m not fine.  I’m tired.  And I’m angry.  I’m angry that I’m still dealing with cancer crap and probably will for the foreseeable future.  I’m scared.  It is so exhausting being scared all the time.  I pretty much have the fortitude to deal with one stressful cancer related thing at a time.  So when this possible blood clot showed up and I’m still trying to deal with the lymphedema thing – I melted.  I cried.  Went to the hospital, got the results.  And cried some more.  Not happy relieved tears either.  Angry, self pitying ones.

I hate that cancer has turned me into Crisis Mom.  I’m unreliable.  I hate that.  Thank God I’m somewhat flexible, or I would have melted months ago.

So I guess, in the words of J, “I not OK.”

And I’m not sure when I will be.  But I think THAT might be OK.


Crossposted to ThrowsLikeAGirl