Thursday, December 17, 2009

Just Say Node

It's Hanukkah which makes the Atkins diet I have to eat the day before my scans even more annoying. It's hard enough having to avoid all carbohydrates, starchy vegetables and beans, but to have to avoid latkes sucks. Granted, latkes really aren't part of the anti-cancer diet, but still. My second round of PET/CT scans are scheduled for 8:30 in the morning. This time I'm prepared. I've told Miles that I'm going to have some tests in the morning and the doctor will give me strong medicine that's not healthy to be around so I will have to stay away all day. He asks a lot of questions and wants to know what "radioactive" means. Oy.

I wake up in the morning and can't eat breakfast, which I hate. I always eat breakfast. I'm hungry but the faster I get the scans over with the sooner I can eat and see my kids. I spend as much time as I can with both boys and then get into my car. I wait for 20 minutes in Tower's waiting room before Jose comes to take my blood and start my i.v. This time there's no pain as he inserts the needle into the crook of my arm. My glucose levels look good so I'm lead down the hall to the imaging wing. The heavy lead doors close behind me and I sit and wait some more. It's finally my turn.

The nurse asks me what flavor glucose drink I'd like. I didn't drink it last time because of my nausea (and I'm assuming the fear that it would make it even worse because it's disgusting ). I ask her what flavor is least offensive. "Orange," she replies. Orange it is. We sit down at a small table outside of the imaging room. She opens a refrigerator and takes out a metal box that says "danger" on it. Inside is a vile of neon fluid. I was so nauseous during my last scans that I must have had my eyes closed the entire time. Otherwise, I surely would have noticed and internally commented on the fact that I'm about to be injected with a substance so dangerous it has to be housed in lead and clearly marked as such. The nurse slowly pushes the neon fluid into my i.v. Then she shows me to the room where I'm to sit as motionless as possible for the next hour. She reminds me not to talk on the phone or text but does hand me the remote control. I never watch television during the day and I have no idea what I'm watching. I'm freezing (a side effect of low blood sugar) and she continues to layer warm blankets on me. After about 40 minutes the nurse comes back in with my orange drink. I have to chug down 1.5 bottles. It's fucking vile but I plug my nose and drink as fast as I can. Then she tells me "to empty my bladder" and come in to the imaging room.

I lay down on the giant machine as another nurse explains the scans and how they work. She also wants to talk about how great my hair is and how much she loved having short hair. It's long now and I just bite my tongue instead of asking her why she doesn 't chop hers off if she loves it so much. The scans last about 40 minutes. It's uncomfortable lying in the same position for so long but otherwise not so bad. When I'm done I leave a message for Dr. McAndrew asking her to call me as soon as she has any results. Last time I had results the same day. I leave and spend the day avoiding my house and my children. I work, work out and lunch. I'm home by 5 just in time to play with the boys for a few minutes before dinner. I've only been gone most of 1 day but I missed them so much it's crazy. I still haven't heard anything from Dr. McAndrew so I call and leave a second message. I keep my phone by my side while I sit with the boys as they eat. I don't want to freak out that I haven't heard from her but I can't help but wonder whether a bad scan is like cancer. Your doctor makes you come in to hear bad news but would have called if there was nothing to worry about. So I worry most of the night. My appointment to get results is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.

The next day, per my new fabulous arrangement with Claudia, Dr. McAndrew's nurse, she calls me when Dr. McAndrew has 1 patient ahead of me. Baron has just woken up from his nap and Miles is still sleeping. I wish I didn't have to leave Baron! I'm listening to NPR as I drive to Tower. A reporter is interviewing a woman who has had what sounds like a zillion different cancers. The piece is apparently about how CT scans increase the risk of cancer. One study states that 1-250 women will get a new cancer as a direct result of a scan. Fucking great. I'll have to add this story to the already lengthy list of questions I have for Dr. McAndrew.

Even though there's only 1 patient ahead of me, I still wait for an hour. Dr. McAndrew does pop her head in briefly to say my scans are clear. Clear! But when she comes in to my room to go through the results in detail it seems that we have different opinions about the meaning of "clear." I think it means clear, as in there's nothing on my scans. Period. She tells me that they're clear even though there's a node on my lung. Huh? A node on my lung? What the fuck? She tells me that she's not worried because the node is located on the outside of my lung in the field of radiation and she often sees scarring from radiation appear this way on scans. No offense - but the last time a doctor told me not to worry because the lump in my breast didn't look like cancer, it was fucking cancer. So I'm not feeling good.

On a happier note, she goes through my blood tests and I'm out of menopause. My hormone levels have returned to normal. Hooray!

And then I unleash the onslaught of questions like I do every time I see her. I had no idea I'd have a fucking node on my lung to ask 9487529 questions about. I ask about the CT scan scandal at Cedars (she quickly corrects me and states that the scandal includes many other hospitals as well and that it most likely is the manufacturer's fault). Regardless, I didn't have the scan at issue. Phew. But she agrees with the cited study on NPR that scans pose a risk for developing new cancers, particularly in young women who are likely to have more scans over their lifetime. And the only way for me to know whether the node on my lung is just scarring from radiation or metastatic disease is to have another scan that may give me a new cancer if I'm alive in several years. What a great position to be in. Her suggestion is that I have a limited scan in 4-6 months without contrast dye to minimize the radiation. If the node is the same size, it's scarring. If it's grown...not so much.

Before I leave, she examines my breasts and comments on how hard and uncomfortable the left one must me (thanks to radiation). She gives me a card for an acupuncturist who also does massage. His wife had breast cancer and complained most about the pain her expanders caused her. He learned to break up scar tissue to relieve some of the pressure and pain and many of Dr. McAndrew's patients swear he's helped them. I'll call in the morning.

I've been at Tower for so long that when I get home the boys are eating dinner. Miles jumps up and hugs me. "I missed you mommy," he says repeatedly. Baron flashes me his amazing smile and tries to climb out of his highchair (one of his new and frightening feats). I want to cry. I don't want metastatic breast cancer of the lungs and death. I put both boys to bed without incident and sit down with Boris who just got home. I start to tell him about my appointment when Miles starts yelling "I need more snuggling, mommy! More snuggling!" I can't resist. I scoop him up in my arms, hold him tight and cry quietly. All I can think about is what if my time with him and Baron is limited? I snuggle with him until he asks to go back into his crib.

I cry most of the night.

I call Dr. McAndrew in the morning and leave her a message. I say something to the effect of "how do I know I'm not going to die and how do I live for the next few months with a node on my lung?" My phone rings around 5:00p.m. It's Dr. McAndrew . I answer the phone and she says "I'm calling to talk you down from the ceiling." We talk for 30 minutes mostly discussing everything we discussed yesterday. She really, truly, honestly isn't worried. I still am but there's really, truly, honestly nothing I can do so I kindof have to get over it. I call Dr. Botnick as well and he's also not worried (although he never seems to be worried about anything).

Over the next few days Boris and I discuss and decide that I'm not going to get re-tested in a few months. What's the point? If the node is metastatic disease, I'm going to die regardless of whether I have a scan or not. If it's not, I'd rather not increase my chances of a new cancer down the road.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Noisy to Baron

Of late, Miles is obsessed with firefighters. It all started when my aunt bought him a book about firefighters for his birthday. We read the book several times a day for weeks. We still read the book often. And now we dress up like the firefighters and put out "fires" all over the house. Miles runs around with a plastic ax yelling "Mattie (our cat), I'm rescuing you from the fire! The fire is really, really dangerous because it's really, really hot!" Other times he rescues Baron or Boris or me. One night before bed Miles and I read the firefighter book and I ask Miles if he'd like to visit the fire station in the morning. His eyes widen. "I want to go now!" he yells. "The firefighters are sleeping now, Miles," I tell him. "But we can go in the morning when they're awake." "Do they have an ax?" Miles wants to know. I tell him that he can ask the firefighters tomorrow. He has other questions for them like "what color is their bed, what did they eat for dinner, where do they sleep, do they have a fire hydrant, and do they have a kitchen."

I wake up in the morning and discover that Laura may have visited. I won't know for sure until I get my hormone levels tested and this time I'm not getting my hopes up. Miles wakes up yelling "I want to go to the firefighters!" I wait until it's an acceptable hour and call the station. We're free to come. Miles is ecstatic. Firefighter Doug greets us and amazingly spends an hour indulging Miles. He answers every question (including "do you pee on a potty?") and opens every door, drawer and compartment Miles asks about. We also meet a paramedic, watch an ambulance respond to a call and a slew of firefighters stock their truck. Miles is beside himself with excitement. After an hour I convince him that firefighter Doug has to go put out fires and we leave. At lunch with Baron, Miles recounts his morning. He asks me what sounds like "are you noisy to Baron?" I'm not sure what he's talking about so I ask if he's remembering when the ambulance siren turned on and it was really noisy. "No," Miles says and repeats what sounds like "are you noisy to Baron?" "I'm so sorry monkey, but I'm not sure what you're asking me," I say. "Are you giving Baron food from your body?" Miles asks. I'm momentarily stunned that a) he's asking me if I'm nursing Baron, b) he knows what nursing is and c) he can define a word when I don't understand him. "Are you asking me if I'm nursing Baron, Miles?" I ask. He nods. I tell him that I nursed Baron when he was very little. And I tell him that I nursed him when he was a baby. And I tell him that my new boobies don't make milk so I can't nurse Baron anymore and that makes me really sad. "Do you want to nurse me?" he asks. I smile. "I would love to Miles but my new boobies can't make milk. He thinks for a minute and then asks "do you want food from my body?" I smile again and respond "yes, Miles. I would love that." He seems satisfied and goes on eating and telling Baron about his adventures with firefighter Doug and paramedic Trevor.

I ask Miles how he knows what nursing is and he says "from the book where daddy and Miles make a salad." I think for a minute and realize what he's talking about. Before Baron was born, Boris and I would read a book to Miles about bringing a new baby home. The book has no words, just pictures. In one of the pictures, the mommy is nursing the new baby while the older son and daddy cook. The picture has lots of vegetables, which Miles apparently thinks is salad. I just worship him.

I get up to make a bottle for Baron. I'm so sad I can't nurse him. I am so thankful though that I have amazing women in my life who are fortunate to be nursing their little ones and who provide Baron with enough breast milk for almost all of his bottles.

The next day I have my round 2 appointment with Dr. Karlan. Miles wants to come even though I tell him the doctor doesn't have candy. We're right on time. The doctor isn't. Even though I'm shuffled off to a room right away, I still wait 45 minutes. If Miles wasn't with me I would have gone ballistic. Instead, I read "Green Eggs and Ham"to Miles 42 times. When he's about to go ballistic, I open the door so we can take a walk down the hallway. Dr. Karlan is outside. "We're going to take a walk since we've been waiting 45 minutes and our tolerance has run out," I say. "Has anyone come in to talk to you yet?" she asks. I shake my head no. "Would you like a blue balloon?" she asks Miles. "I want it!" he responds. Dr. Karlan asks one of her attendees to get Miles a balloon. She introduces herself and follows us back into our room. She says she needs some information to update my file. I'm asked the same annoying questions I get asked every time I see a doctor. I don't understand why I have to answer each time, but whatever. I try to be civil so Miles doesn't think I'm a raging bitch. I do however, tell the attendee that I'm a new patient of Dr. Karlan's and don't know how she operates. "Is it normal that she doesn't call with results from ultrasounds? I'm just wondering what to expect," I say. "Oh. You didn't receive your results?" she asks. "Nope," I answer. And continue "I called and asked Dr. Karlan to call me with results, but she never called. Again, just wondering if she doesn't call people back or if I don't get test results or what." She's not sure what to say so she gives some lame explanation about how she's the attendee and can't really answer that.

Dr. Karlan walks in during the explanation and says that my results are normal. "You did have that cyst on your left ovary but it's common during the menstrual cycle." I haven't had my period in over a year and have no idea what cyst she's talking about. I ask her a zillion questions until I'm satisfied that the cyst really is nothing. She wants to draw blood to test my hormone levels to see if they're normal but I refuse and tell her I have scans at Tower in 2 weeks and will have them test me so I only have to suffer through one blood draw. Before she examines me she asks her attendee to blow up the blue balloon for Miles who needs to get out of the examination room asap. The attendee is instantly turned into entertainment for Miles as she starts blowing up a blue balloon (a.k.a. a latex glove) and drawing faces on the fingers. Dr. Karlan examines me and says everything looks good. She apparently sees signs of "estrogenization" which means my ovaries are coming back to life (which explains why most of my menopausal side effects have thankfully subsided).

Miles and I leave as fast as possible. I want to get him to the park asap but he instructs me to park the car in front a construction site across from the hospital. There are several diggers and loaders in action and a parade of dump trucks. We get out of the car to watch. He runs back and forth pointing and shouting "look mom! It's an excavator! Look! It's a loader! Look mom! Do you see it!?" It also must have been trash day for the area because we see 10 garbage trucks drive by. Miles doesn't even know what to do with himself he's so excited. I spend the next 30 minutes watching him have the best time ever.

On the drive home we discuss Thanksgiving. "Will we have a feast?" he asks. Ever since his first meal, Miles is obsessed with food. He'll eat just about anything and seriously has food radar. No matter where he is, if anyone is eating anywhere in the vicinity he races over to them and asks what they are eating usually followed by "can I taste it?" We talk about all the delicious food we'll eat. And I tell him Thanksgiving is a day for us to remember all of the things we have to be thankful for. "I'm thankful for you and Baron and daddy and I'm so thankful that I'm feeling good," I tell him. "What are you thankful for, Miles? What makes you happy?" I ask him. Miles has long think and then carefully responds "food."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Waiting Game

It's been almost 7 months since I gave birth to Baron. So it's been almost 7 months since a doctor has seen my ovaries. I have an appointment to see Dr. Karlan, an obgyn oncologist and have a transvaginal ultrasound immediately afterwards. I have an early morning appointment so I can get back to the boys as fast as possible. I get to Cedars on time (a feat!) and check in. I sit as far away from other people as possible. I wait. 10 minutes go by then 15 then 20. After 30 minutes I track down one of Dr. Karlan's nurses and ask how much longer I'm going to have to wait. I inform her that I have an ultrasound scheduled in 30 minutes. She thinks I'll make it but still doesn't have an available room for me. I am so fucking over waiting for doctors. I wait for another 15 minutes and then tell the nurse I have to go. Dr. Karlan is in the hallway. She wants to know if I can come back in the afternoon. I want to cry a little I'm so mad. "No I can't come back in the afternoon," I say. "I'll just come back in 6 months," I tell her. "You really shouldn't wait that long. Make an appointment next week. Come at 8:30. It's my first appointment and there shouldn't be a wait. I was putting out fires all morning." As the nurse walks me through the series of hallways that connect the cancer center to the imaging center I tell her that perhaps an hour wasted for her isn't a big deal but since I spent the past year trying not to die and missing time with my babies, it's a really big deal for me. "It's a big deal and I'm so sorry," she says.

Thankfully I only wait 5 minutes before the ultrasound technician comes to get me. She leads me to the changing room and hands me a gown. I change and lay down on the table. The technician asks if I've had an ultrasound before. I have. She asks how old my kids are and I tell her. She wants to know why I'm having one now. "Because I had cancer," I say. "Ovarian cancer?" she asks. "No. Breast cancer. But I'm BRCA1 positive so the doctors monitor my ovaries every 6 months," I tell her. I can see her doing the math in her head. "I was pregnant when I was diagnosed," I say. She nods and smiles nervously. The ultrasound takes about 45 minutes. The technician says that the doctor will have my results within 24 hours. I get up, get dressed and before I leave, I retrace my steps to the cancer center and find Dr. Karlan. I ask if she can see me before I leave. Sadly she can't. I'm super annoyed. My tolerance level for most things b.c. (before cancer) was pretty slim and p.c. (post cancer) it's non-existent. I rush home to the boys.

2 days later I call Dr. Karlan's office to schedule my round 2 appointment. I tell the woman on the phone that I need the first available 8:30 appointment. We set the appointment for the day before Thanksgiving. I also ask her who I need to speak to to get the results from my ultrasound. They should be ready and no one has called me. Rude. She says she'll have Dr. Karlan call me. She doesn't. As I hang up the phone I hear Miles telling his monkey blanket that he has to have an ultrasound. He also tells my parents, Boris and few strangers that "mommy's having an ultrasound." Part of me wonders if no news is good news? Or like with a pap-smear they'll only call me if something is wrong? Or is it like cancer where they only call you if nothing is wrong and make you come in for in person news that you're fucked?

Since my appointment is only a week away, I decide to just wait. What could happen in a few days? Right?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The First Cut is the Deepest

I haven't been to a hair salon in over a year. It's sort of nice given how expensive my haircuts are and how long I inevitably wait for my stylist (which if you know what my hair looked like pre-cancer is weird given that my idea of a good haircut is that I don't know its happened). My hair couldn't look worse the day of my first haircut post-cancer. I went to bed the night before with wet hair sans product. I have crazy bed head and it's kindof an afro. Even though I'm scared to cut one hair on my head, I decide that perhaps a cut will make the grow out a little more attractive. I sit in the waiting area across from a woman with shoulder length luxurious hair. I'm so jealous. I wait. A second woman sits down across from me who looks incredibly familiar. She has a buzz cut that's bleached white. She looks up at me and smiles. I assume that everyone with short hair has had cancer and I almost ask her if she's fresh out of chemo. But thankfully my internal sensor reminds me that some women buzz their hair off on purpose and I just smile back. I wait some more. And some more. After almost an hour of waiting I'm over getting a haircut and remember why I hated having to do it in the first place (at least at my salon). I walk past my stylist who clearly has no idea who I am at first and ask his assistant (yes, he has an assistant) how much longer I have to wait.

I'm ushered to the back where I get my hair washed and my head massaged. Heaven! Finally I sit down at the sylist's station. I wait. And I wait some more. And then I get up and ask another stylist how much fucking longer I'm going to be sitting here. "I've been waiting for an hour," I tell him. My stylist doesn't hurry over but smiles as he approaches. "You're hair is cute," he says. "Have fun with it. Put some bows in it. And headbands." I don't even know how to respond. Me with a bow? I picture a bald baby with a bow taped on her head so people know she's a girl. He starts snipping. He knows I want my hair to get long as soon as humanly possible so the trim takes about 2 minutes. He does thin it out quite a bit since it's so thick. He blows it straight and styles it so that I have tiny bangs.

When I get home I'm greeted by Baron and pick him up. He stares at my forehead and smiles. He smiles at my bangs all afternoon. I'm a little less afro-ish, so that's good. The stylist tells me to stay away until I hate my hair and can't take it anymore. Sometimes I think I feel like that every day, but I know what he means. In the meantime, I try to find products that work for my new do. My old products...not so much. I've found that Boris' hair wax on a stick works best. A little scary that my husband and I now use the same deodorant and hair products, but whatever.

It's certainly better than the alternative.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Scaring My Ears

The doctor's appointments are waning. Now that I feel mostly normal, they're more of an annoyance. I have my first follow-up appointment with Dr. Botnick. My left breast, armpit and part of my back are still flaming red and painful. My left breast has definitely risen up slightly. It's not just me being crazy. Dr. Botnick confirms it. He reminds me that natural breasts are not totally even and the difference in mine isn't detectable to the human eye. Except mine, which is really the only eye that matters. I tell him I'm nervous it will only get worse when I get my final implants, but he says it won't. He thinks everything will always be fine though so I make an appointment to see Dr. Slate.

Dr. Slate has moved offices and so I have to wait longer than usual as his staff is learning the necessary procedures at the Breast Center. I had forgotten how annoying it is to be asked a slew of redundant and irrelevant questions about my medical history. But I answer them and then am led to an examination room. Dr. Slate gives me a big hug before opening up my gown. "Does the left one look a lot higher than the right?" I ask him. He pauses and then responds "I just can't get the past the color, so give me a minute." Nice. He agrees that the left breast is "slightly" higher but assures me that he can make them even during my final implant surgery. Sadly though, the fix comes from making the right side higher so I'll look even more fake than I already do. Sigh.

I notice the fakeness most when I'm exercising, which thankfully I've started doing a lot. I bounce on trampolines and run on treadmills and the boobs don't move at all. Very bizarre. I want to wear a t-shirt that says "not by choice," on it so that people don't think I'm like every other plastic L.A. girl out there. I also start working out with the most amazing trainer (Ashley Borden) who is just a goddess. She has me lifting weights and doing push ups and swears that someday soon I'll do a pull up. It feels so good to use my body again, particularly my arms, and start getting back in shape. It's often incredibly uncomfortable thanks to the rock hard expanders I'm still sporting, but it's worth it.

In the midst of feeling good, I get a bill from Dr. Phillips' office. When I spoke to his financial coordinator (or whatever the hell she's called), Valerie, after being informed a few weeks prior to surgery that he didn't accept any insurance, Valerie assured me of Dr. Phillips' fee and that I was paying in full prior to surgery so I'm super confused. And pissed. I speak to Valerie who assures me I won't get another bill. Phew. But I do. I'm livid. I go back and forth speaking to Valerie and others in Dr. Phillips' billing department trying to figure out what the fuck is going on. I'm told that there was an error (euphemistically called a "misunderstanding,") and I owe Dr. Phillips a shitload of money. When one woman in the billing office tells me she'll speak to the powers at be and let me know how to proceed, I respond "let me tell you how I will proceed. I am an incredibly sympathetic plaintiff. I'm young, cute, recently bald and pregnant, informed 2 weeks before massive, life changing surgery that my doctor doesn't take insurance, induced by one of his staff members to use him based on his fee and then hit up for money I never knew about or consented to." Silence. And then a message from yet another person in the billing department informing me that my balance is zero. At last!

Good thing that Boris and I are on our way to San Francisco for a fuck cancer celebration weekend. We have planned our weekend around eating at restaurants I've been wanting to try - most of them serving cancer inducing foods. In our very chic hotel room (thank you Debbie) the first thing we see is a big card in the sitting area that says "fuck cancer." I can't believe anyone got the hotel staff to write that. It's a beautiful and touching card, accompanied by champagne, chocolate covered strawberries and a cheese plate (hurray!) from Nitasha and Kulmeet and Rachel, another good friend who lives in San Francisco. Such a great start to the weekend which was wonderful. Boris and I did spend half the trip missing the boys, but we had a great time.

We return to shocking news. One of my pregnant with cancer friends who finished chemo about a year ago has a recurrence. She needs more surgery and possibly more chemo. I want to die for her. And I'm terrified for me, too. Selfish, I know, but I can't help it. I know that triple negative tumors (which she also had) have such a high recurrence rate, but never really think it's coming back. We've all suffered enough. And I know that I'm not her and that just because she has a recurrence doesn't mean that I'm going to, but I'm terrified nonetheless. Just another reminder that I have many, many years to get through before I'm truly done with this shit.

We also happily return to our boys who are so insanely cute and amazing it's mind boggling. My baby Baron is already standing up and trying to walk. What!? He's gifted for sure. He spends a good portion of his day pulling up on anything he can get his hands on (including me) and then swaying back and forth occasionally moving a foot in the process. He smiles and drools and claps with excitement. And I want to write a book called "Amazing Things Miles Says," because he is just...well, amazing. As I'm putting him to bed one night we sit snuggled up on his chair. I kiss his arms and head and he says "don't kiss me, mom (sadly, I'm no longer mommy). I'll kiss you." And he dots my arm and face with tiny kisses. I tell him that I love it when he kisses me and he smiles. I kiss him again and he says "I love you kissing me, mom." I melt. Recently while listening to the radio in the car, he said "change the song, mom. It's scaring my ears."

I wish I could just change the channel when I hear something that scares my ears. Like recurrences and shitty statistics. Instead I listen to the louder and beautiful sounds of my boys and my internal voice that doesn't believe this could ever happen again.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Laura's Not Visiting

Candace Silverman was my best friend in the 7th grade. It didn't take long before we spent tons of time together. So much time that soon we were on the same menstrual cycle. Candace liked to have code words and phrases for everything and so she decided that when we got our periods we should say "Laura's visiting." Random. And no one knew what the hell we were talking about so we thought we were brilliant. Laura's visits were always a nuisance. I was crampy and uncomfortable and am pretty sure I said things like "I can't wait for menopause." And so I find it ironic that now I am ecstatic that Laura may be visiting.

I wake up feeling crampy and am overjoyed when I notice some spotting. I call Dr. McAndrew immediately and ask her how I'll know whether it's my period or not. And I tell Boris that if it is my period, I'm having eggs harvested tomorrow. "Let's just take things one step at a time," he says. Dr. McAndrew tells me the only way to know whether the spotting is actually a period is to have my hormone levels tested (i.e., a blood draw). I sprint to her office and willingly extend my vein to the nurse. "How soon will you have results?" I ask. I'm told that I can call the nurse tomorrow.

Exactly 24 hours later I excitedly call the nurse. My spotting has pretty much stopped, but I'm still happy and confident. Until she reads me my results. The numbers are better than the previous time they were checked, but I'm still menopausal. Fuck. I know it's only been 3 months since my last chemo treatment and most women's periods come back within 6 months to a year, but still. I've already made it through the worst of menopause. Hot flashes every second, bitchiness (more than normal), zero sex drive and just generally feeling like an old woman. But I want Laura to visit. Now.

Just before my next appointment with Dr. McAndrew I start spotting again. It's been 3 weeks since Laura didn't visit. Since my hormone levels were tested so recently the nurse doesn't check them again. After waiting an hour (so annoying!) I tell Dr. McAndrew that I'm spotting again (I also tell her nurse that I can't wait hours each time I come to the office so from now on, I'm going to call her and she'll tell me how late Dr. McAndrew is running and when I should actually come in). Dr. McAndrew says the spotting is a good sign and that hormone levels can change so fast. She says that the spotting may be my ovaries waking up, but to give my body time to heal, rebuild and regain strength. "You're barely 4 months out from chemo," she says. "Many people still suffer from chemo side effects after 4 months." I probably am too (in fact my eyelashes which were finally long and thick recently broke off and are growing back. Again.). We schedule my next round of Zometa and she tells me again that as I'm getting closer to being able to get pregnant with my daughter (she swears my period will come back), I'll stop getting Zometa. She says there shouldn't be any issues with with having Zometa in my system. I hope. And we schedule my next round of scans. Generally, she likes to wait 9-12 months between scans to avoid too much radiation, but when I tell her how terrified of a recurrence I am (who isn't!?), she says that we should schedule my scans in December, which is 9 months from last set of scans.

Baron will be 9 months old then. I don't know where the time has gone. He's already standing up and trying to walk and saying "dadadada." Rude. I just smile at him and say "mamama."

So for now I wait for scans. And a report that they're clear. And I wait and hope that Laura will visit soon.

Friday, September 25, 2009

5 1/2 Weeks

I remember that I'm not allowed to eat this morning. I have my planning session at The Center for Radiation Therapy and this time it's for real. I change into a gown and wait. Less then 5 minutes later, Jose, my favorite blood technician from Tower (no, I cannot believe that I've had enough blood draws to have a favorite technician) comes to the The Center to set up my i.v. I had told Marilyn that I am a terrible patient, hate needles and still get nauseous after 1 year of weekly blood tests. That's the 1 negative of post-cancer life without a port. Even though my left arm is usually off limits for blood draws, Jose skillfully inserts the needle into my left arm. Dr. Botnick needs to locate the lymph nodes in my chest area so that he can include them in the field of radiation. We love Jose and the i.v. is quick and relatively painless. I'm led into a large room with a massive machine. A technician whose name I can't remember introduces himself and asks me to join him at the computer in the corner. He pulls up consent forms that I'm to sign. They go through the myriad of side effects that radiation may cause. Exhaustion, nausea, localized pain, lymphedema, and many others that I try to block out. Everyone swears I need this and it outweighs all the bad shit that it could cause (including other cancers down the road).

I lie down in the machine and the technician explains what he's about to do. He's going to flush my i.v. with a radioactive material that will highlight my lymph nodes. He lifts my arm up and guides my hand to hold onto a small bar above my head. It seems to be taking forever. My fingers start to tingle and I know that soon my whole hand and arm will be numb. The technician starts fiddling with the needle and taping layers of tape over it. I don't know what on earth he could be doing but it's ridiculously painful. He tells me that due to the position of my arm, the catheter is pinched and the contrast dye can't get through. He calls in Dr. Botnick's nurse (who we love by the way). She keeps repeating that it's a great i.v. but for the position of my arm. But since it's not working in the needed position I don't think it's so great. There's more pushing and shoving and taping and untaping. Ouch and ouch and ouch! The problem is finally resolved when Marilyn pushes the needle deeper into my arm and tapes it down with yet more tape. I'm bruised for a week. Plus, now that I'm no longer the hairless wonder, getting the tape off my arm is gnarly. But finally the planning begins.

Dr. Botnick enters the room and places some sort of tape around my breast (he explained the purpose but I can't remember it now although I think it was to make a mold that I'll lie in each visit) and I take the opportunity to ask him about ultrasounds and their effectiveness in detecting breast cancer. A week ago, a friend of mine told me that her obgyn does an ultrasound of her breasts at each visit. At her last visit, her doctor detected a very small lump and insisted that she see a breast specialist immediately. My friend started asking me questions assuming that Dr. Funk did an ultra sound of my breasts at my bi-yearly visits. Suddenly I'm livid. I saw Dr. Funk for years before I found my own tumor. She only performed a manual exam even though there was an ultrasound machine in the examination room. I promptly emailed Dr. Funk writing "I'm assuming you have a good reason for not doing ultrasounds of your high risk patients. I'd like to know what it is." I still haven't received a response. But I have been asking doctors about the standard of care regarding ultrasounds. Dr. Botnick explains that it is not the standard of care here. It is in other countries, but not here. There's still some debate about its effectiveness in detection. But he says that I should have had an MRI. Now that I've been asking around, I've learned that many doctors are able to get their high risk patients' insurance companies to pay for MRIs. "You absolutely should have had one," Dr. Botnick says. There's no point in pointing fingers now, but I just don't understand why with my family history, Dr. Funk only performed manual examinations on me.

After the endless taping, the machine I'm lying in starts slowly moving around my body. My arm feels like it's about to fall off. After several more minutes, the technician tells me that he needs to mark me and then I'm done. The "marking" is a tattoo, 3 actually, that the technicians will use to ensure I'm properly placed in the machine during my radiation sessions. He takes out a small pen and draws 3 dots on my chest. 1 on each side of my left breast and 1 on the top. I feel 3 small pricks, 1 over each dot, and then I'm free to go home.

As I'm lying in bed that night, I tell Boris about my day. I'm playing with my hair as I'm talking. It's coming in thick and as far as I can tell, straight. Maybe there's a god after all? Boris tells me how great he thinks I look with short hair. "You're hair was beautiful before and I loved it, but you look so cute with short hair," he says. "Maybe you should keep it." It's so nice of him but there's no fucking way I'm keeping my hair this short. He smiles when I tell him about my tattoos and asks to see them. I can't even find 2 of them they're so tiny. "Cancer's given me a whole new wife," he jokes. "New hair, big fake boobs, tatts. Awesome." Hilarious.

I'm really scared for my first round of radiation. I don't know what it's going to do to my skin. I'm fair skinned and avoid the sun whenever possible and am nervous that my skin will react badly to what's essentially a crazy sunburn. Plus, I've been told radiation is exhausting and I honestly can't imagine being more tired than I already am and have been. I change into my gown and sit down in the waiting room. While I wait, Marilyn talks to me about the possible side effects and what I can do to ward them off. She tells me to use natural products like Dove soap. Huh? I tell her that Dove soap isn't natural at all and that the products I use are actually natural (i.e., don't have chemicals, parabens, fragrance etc.). I ask her what I'm supposed to avoid because I'm not going to start using unhealthy products now (I don't know why since I already had cancer). I'm to avoid anything with metals in them, particularly deodorant (which isn't a problem for me since I already use a natural deodorant - no I don't smell) and she gives me a "special" lotion to use often throughout the day and night. I don't know what I'm expecting, but it's just calendula cream (which I already own).

And then a young woman introduces herself as Iris and leads me to the treatment room. I lay down in another massive machine. I'm told to raise my arm above my head and hold on to a metal bar. The bed is covered with a sheet and Iris and another young woman tug the sheet back and forth for about 20 minutes. They're lining up my tattoos with 2 lasers. One is coming out of the wall and another from the ceiling. Their thin beams slice through my body. My arm is going numb again. And the technicians have to take x-rays that the doctor has to approve before treatment begins. And another doctor comes in to look at my skin and make sure it's okay for treatment (weird since I haven't started yet). He waltzes into the room saying "Hi, I'm Dr. Rose please don't move," in one breath. I don't. He says I look great and waltzes out of the room. I'm ready for treatment. A giant arm on the side of the machine starts moving. At the end of the arm is a huge metal disk covered in glass. Inside the disk are what looks like metal teeth (which I later learned are called levers) that open and close as the arm slowly rotates around my body. Each time the teeth open, a loud siren, similar to an MRI machine, sounds. The whole process takes about 5 minutes. By the end my arm feels like lead it's so heavy and numb. Iris comes into the room and thankfully tells me I can lower my arm. I get up, get dressed and go home. I slather my breast and armpit with lotion and apply it every hour. I swear my lymphedema is worse after 1 treatment. Boris thinks I'm crazy (although I'm not sure that has anything to do with cancer).

After the initial session, the others are incredibly quick (thank goodness since I go 5 days a week for the next 5 1/2 weeks). I'm back home within 30 minutes of leaving my house. The bulk of each session is spent lining up my tattoos with the lasers. After my third session, I go to change back into my clothes in the dressing room and I hear a woman crying to Marilyn. She can't believe she's sick. And then I hear her say that while her husband is very supportive, he's been complaining that she doesn't want to have sex. "I'm usually a very sexual woman," she sobs. "But I feel so terrible." I want to open the door and suggest that she tell her husband to fuck off, but I don't. I remember telling Boris that he could get a girlfriend when I was diagnosed (but I also told him that when Miles was born and he woke me up one night for nookie and I explained that he could get a girlfriend but could not, ever, ever, wake me up in the middle of the night). But I also know he never would and would never complain to me about his needs when I'm not feeling well. I feel sad for her.

I go home to find Miles on the potty pulling on his penis. "You have to point your penis in to the potty," I tell him (since he's peed on me way too many times). But he tells me that he's trying to put his penis in his belly button, and suddenly I'm not sad anymore. I laugh and laugh and am so thankful for him. But as I'm snuggling with Miles before bed he says "mommy is sad." "I'm not sad, monkey," I tell him. "Do I look sad?" "Mommy's eyes are sad," he says. And he goes on "mommy's new boobies sad." I tell him that my new boobies are very happy as am I. "You feeling better mommy?" he asks. "Yes, monkey," I assure him. "Mommy is feeling better." But I'm sad again because my poor child is constantly wondering whether I'm sad or feeling okay and every time I get dressed he asks "you going to the doctor mommy?" And now when he asks to see my "boobies" he says "mommy have new boobies?" And then he'll touch them and say "take these off" or "can I take these off?" and I have to explain that the doctor had to take my old boobies off because they had cancer but my "new boobies" get to stay. And sometimes when he plays he'll tell me that his truck isn't feeling well and he's taking it to the doctor so it can feel better. One of my friends tells me that her daughter asks if she's going to work every time she gets dressed and it's really no different but I'm not so sure. And he recently asked Boris where his nipples were and wanted to know where mine were. Eek.

The next afternoon I go to see Dr. McAndrew after radiation. I wait 2.5 hours and am livid. Apparently the patient before me had a double mastectomy after months of chemo and the pathology report showed numerous tumors. I can't imagine how horrifying that must be and I remember being the patient who Dr. Mcandrew spoke to for hours so part of me understands, but waiting on the other side of the door sucks. I just want to go home to my kids. During my check up, Dr. McAndrew tells me how fantastic I look and now that I'm not pregnant or swollen with chemo agents, she "can't believe how tiny" I am. It almost makes up for the 2.5 hour wait. I tell her about the woman I met at Dr. Slate's office who was misdiagnosed with triple negative breast cancer and is now dying of carcinoid cancer which has ravaged her body. She assures me that I should feel confident that my scans were all clear. She explains that scans detect triple negative cancer very well while carcinoid cancer is much more difficult to detect. She also assures me that I don't have carcinoid cancer. Of course there's no way to know if there's a microscopic rogue cancer cell floating around in my body, but if there was something growing, the scans would detect it. I run home after almost 3 hours to be with the boys. We play for 5 minutes before it's time for their dinner and bed.

Before I know it, I'm done with my second week of radiation. I am exhausted. Crazy, crazy exhausted. My skin starts to hurt, especially under the armpit. It makes wearing clothes uncomfortable and so I spend all of my time at home in loose t-shirts. And I'm very pink. I swear that my left breast already looks different. I make Boris look at it 78394 times a day. He swears they look the same. I also swear that I'm having difficulty breathing and so I tell Dr. Botnick when I see him at my next appointment. He has no idea why that is but it's not from radiation. He suggests perhaps it's because Los Angeles is on fire. Perhaps.

Despite my daily appointments, I feel like my life is getting back to normal. My new almost-post-cancer treatment life. When I was initially diagnosed, the only thing I worried about was cancer. And dying. But lately I feel the everyday stresses and worries creeping back into my life -- little things that I used to worry about but swore I wouldn't post-cancer, like bad naps and getting Miles into my dream preschool. One day I get a call from Dr. Botnick's office as I'm about to pull into the parking lot. The machine is broken and I'd have to wait at least 30 minutes before getting treatment. I ask them to call me 10 minutes before I should come in and drive back home. Baron woke up after a 20 minute "nap," and I want to get home. Plus Miles has been jumping out of his crib and I'm not sure he's slept at all. When I get home, I see Miles heading over the side of crib yelling "I'm awake. I need a book! I'm coming out!" I try explaining to him for the millionth time why it's unsafe for him to climb out of his crib but he doesn't believe me since he skillfully lowers himself to the ground. I try explaining to him for the billionth time why it's important for him to rest his body. He responds, "I'm not sleeping. I'm awake." No nap. I'm stressed. The boys are kindof a disaster all afternoon and I feel my impatience and frustration rising. To make matters worse, Dr. Botnick's office calls to tell me the machine still isn't working and they're not going to be able to treat me. I'll have to add on an extra session. Fuck.

Boris and I lay in bed that night and I tell him about my day. In the middle of my story about Miles hurling himself out of his crib, Boris turns to me and says "I forgot that you used to have arm hair. I think it's darker than it was." I smile and thank him for keeping things in perspective. Who cares about naps when I don't have cancer and my hair is growing back? I haven't had body hair in so long that I forget what to do with it now. And I forget that it's even there. One weekend while swimming with the boys and friends, I notice that my leg hair is back. Exciting. But it has got to go, so the next day before heading to the beach for a birthday party (otherwise the beach and I do not get along) I grab Boris' razor and quickly shave. Apparently I also forgot how to shave because I have razor burn for a week.

The next morning I take Miles to his 2 year checkup with his pediatrician. The past few appointments have been really challenging because he is so distraught at the office that the doctor can barely look at him. Before we go, I explain everything the doctor will do, just like I always do. I tell him that nothing she does will hurt except that he will get a shot at the end, which will hurt but only for a minute. He is a superstar at the appointment. He lets the doctor examine him and says "it's time for a shot?" He wails as he's pricked and the nurse asks him if he wants a lollipop. "I need it," he says. And the tears stop. That afternoon I see him heading over the side of his crib. I give him the "crib jumping isn't safe resting your body is important" explanation but he starts screaming. Baron is asleep and I can't bear the thought of 2 sleepless boys so I decide to take Miles with me to radiation even though I know I should let him scream and enforce rest time. He thinks it's the best place ever because everyone tells him how cute he is and Marilyn gives him a piece of candy (with my permission, of course - and no he doesn't come into the actual radiation room with me). He sucks on a jolly rancher for the next 45 minutes saying "what's Miles tasting?" over and over again.

And so begins the daily fight of Miles wanting to come to the doctor with me. Every time I tell him I have to go the doctor he wants to come. And have candy. I tell him that candy isn't nutritious because it has so much sugar in it, so we don't eat it very often. On several occasions I put Miles down for his nap (which he thankfully started taking again) and he asks if I'm going to the doctor. I try to ignore the question and tell him that I will be home when he wakes up. He repeats his question until I answer it. My answer was totally non-responsive so I'd object, too. One morning my mom comes to take Miles to her house for 30 minutes while I go to radiation. Miles starts crying that he wants to come to the doctor with me so I take him. He asks for a candy the second we walk through the door. I change into my gown and sit down with him in the waiting room. There's another young woman sitting across from me with her young son. He's 4. He and Miles chat while his mom and I discuss our cancer and treatment and how crazy the last year of our lives have been. As Miles is licking his candy he turns to his new friend and says "it's not tritious (aka nutritious). Too much sugar." After treatment I go to see Dr. Botnick. Miles comes with me. Dr. Botnick opens my gown to see how my skin is holding up. "Your new boobies feeling better mommy?" Miles asks. Dr. Botnick starts laughing. He asks if I hurt under my arm since the skin is so raw. It hurts like hell. But my skin otherwise looks good. I ask him if my left breast looks different than the right. I want another opinion besides Boris. He shakes his head no and rolls his eyes. Then he points to Miles and reminds me what my end goal is. To live. "You're gorgeous. I'm not just saying that. Gorgeous and charismatic and you can fix your breasts if you don't like them. But they're not different." I love him.

As my last week begins, my skin gets more red and I get more exhausted. So exhausted that I often fall asleep on the table during my 5 minutes of treatment. I'm okay if I'm in motion, but given the opportunity to lay down, I'm out. And it takes a lot to get me out of bed in the morning. I want to get up, I just can't. My skin gets so red that Dr. Botnick has to see me before treatment to make sure I can proceed. It feels like my skin is on fire. I learn that the symptoms might get worse for a few weeks after treatment ends (just my luck). But I have 2 treatments left. That's it. Then I'm done. Done. Done! Over a year of treatment and it's finally almost over. Really, really over. There's nothing else left except staying healthy and cancer free.

Miles comes with me to both of my appointments on my last day. He gets candy and draws with Marilyn while I'm treated. As we drive to my last treatment, Boris texts me writing "is it official?" I get dressed after my last treatment (fucking finally!!) and leave the dressing room. Marilyn hands me a certificate of completion which is hilarious and cheesy and very sweet. Miles and I hug and kiss and sing Yellow Submarine (his favorite new song) and go home to see Baron. At a red light I take out my phone and write to Boris "it's official."

My brother comes over with a box from Tiffany's. I'm excited. I open the box to find a silver key chain etched with "fuck cancer" on it. It's so fitting I just love it. Seth tells me that the engraver initially protested because they "don't engrave curse words," but made an exception after hearing my story.

My end goal is to live. I want to watch my amazing boys grow up. They get more amazing by the second. Baron is sitting up and crawling and babbling. We all love talking with him as he carries on conversations that make him and us chuckle and laugh. And after months of narrating everything Miles does to Baron, Miles now does the narrating. He spends all day long telling Baron what he's doing and everything he sees. It's a constant stream of "look Boonie, Miles is dancing. Boonie, that's a door. Boonie, that's a tree. See the leaves? See that Boonie? I'm playing with my trucks, Boonie. Boonie, you're near the edge. The floor is far away." It's what pulled me through the last year and will make me fight for each day of the rest of my life.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I Forgot My Anniversary

Miles turned 2 today. I still see his tiny face that I held in my hands for the first time 2 years ago every time I look at him. He's my first love. My baby. The baby who made me want to have a zillion more babies. Me. The girl who had held like 2 babies in her whole life because their wobbly heads scared me. The girl who thought babies were messy and dirty (and they are!) and didn't want any until I met Boris. Me. The girl who hired a nanny well before Miles was born because I thought I'd go back to work immediately. And then I met Miles. And suddenly, I didn't care about the mess and the dirt (okay, so I did but still worshiped him) and didn't want my nanny to come anywhere near him. I wanted to be with him all the time and would cry if I was away from him for more than 2 hours (swear, ask Boris). In college, I remember reading an interview with Madonna in which she was asked what her greatest accomplishment was. Her response was her children. At the time I found that so annoying. This amazing artist and businesswoman was more proud of her children? For some reason I always think about that when I think of my kids and how they are really all that matters and what I am most proud of, grateful for and in love with.

2 sounds so young. Miles is still a baby. And yet he's such a big boy. He has his own thoughts and feelings and can express them all so amazingly. He now routinely tells me "I don't like that," what he "needs," that "Miles is sad," or "frustrated," or "hungry." We had a great morning together. He's so much fun and even snuggled with me without me asking. After lunch, Miles laid down in his crib (with his new red sunglasses on) and I left for radiation. In the changing room I put on my gown like I do every day but today I realize that it's been an entire year since my cancer diagnosis. One whole year. Boris and I had planned a big first birthday bash for Miles last year that we canceled because I had heard the words "it's cancer," just days before.

I forgot my anniversary. I've been in treatment and cancer free (as far as we know) for 1 year. At least that's how my doctors look at it. 2 more years to go before my chances of a recurrence plummet.

What a year it's been. Undoubtedly the worst of my whole life. And the best. I've suffered like I never could have imagined. I've faced death -- something that most people my age have never done and hopefully never will. And I gave birth to a miracle. A beautiful, healthy, ridiculously happy miracle who makes my heart swell each time he smiles at me. Miles makes me laugh a zillion times a day. I have my best friend and love of my life by my side and know that our marriage will survive anything. I can wear anything without a bra.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fill 'Er Up

I don't even sit down in the waiting room before the nurse calls my name. I'm led to one of the examination rooms where Dr. Slate and Toni are waiting for me. I lay down on the table and lift up my shirt. Dr. Slate is pleased with how I'm healing. He explains the expansion process before he begins. Each expander has a port which Dr. Slate will locate and insert a large needle. Then he'll fill the expander with up to 50 cc of saline water each visit until I'm at my desired size (which is still as small as humanly possible). I don't like needles, period, and I especially don't like large needles and I especially especially don't like large needles that are going to be inserted into my boobs. And I don't like pain and have had more than my fair share of late. And forever really. Dr. Slate swears it won't hurt, but I'm wary given that numerous doctors have told me numerous times that numerous painful procedures aren't painful.

Toni takes my hand as Dr. Slate places magnets on each breast to locate the expander. Then Dr. Slate tells me I'm going to feel a sting and some pressure (and we all know what "pressure" means) as he gives me a shot of topical anesthesia. I squeeze Toni's hand as I feel the needle pierce my skin. It stings but isn't too bad. Thankfully I don't feel the larger needle being inserted but do feel my chest slowly tighten. "That's 40 cc's," says Dr. Slate. He asks me if I hurt. I have no idea since pain is relative and it's nothing compared to everything else I've been through. "I don't think so," I respond. "It's uncomfortable, but tolerable." "I think we'll leave it here to see how you do," he says. Toni places 2 tiny band-aids on me where the needles were and instructs me to take them off as soon as I get home. "They'll discolor your skin if you don't," she warns. Goodness.

I get up slowly. As I'm walking towards my bag, Dr. Slate asks me how Miles and Baron are doing and how I'm doing not picking them up. "They're amazing," I tell him. And I can't lie to my doctor so I tell him that I've been picking Baron up here and there and am totally fine. "It only hurts a little," I tell him. I assume that if I tear a muscle it will hurt like hell so I'll know. Not so. Dr. Slate tells me that it doesn't matter how many times I've picked up my children because it only takes 1 time to tear something. He goes on to say that I won't know I've torn anything. I'll just notice that I look lopsided and that the expander has moved. Sigh. I go to sling my giant bag over my shoulder and Dr. Slate raises an eyebrow. "That's an awfully large bag you're carrying," he says. "Is it too heavy?" I ask. He picks it up and starts laughing. "Yes, I would say so," he says. "You're always pushing the boundaries, aren't you?" Me? No. I walk out the door and he instructs me to behave.

The second expansion is a repeat of the first. I'm uncomfortable, but functioning well and not in serious pain (at least most of the time). I still can't sleep on my side and still feeling jarring, searing pain every once in a while, but that's the way it's going to be for the next several months. I inform Dr. Slate that on Thursday it will be 6 weeks post-surgery and I'm picking Miles up. "You've already picked him up, haven't you?" he asks. Um...yes. But it was an accident. A repeated accident. This time it's for real. I'm going to pick him up and run around the block with him. Then I'm going to take him in and out of his crib and car seat 100 times and go to the park with him by myself and I can't wait. "It's best to wait another 2 weeks when your muscles are completely healed," he warns "but I know I can't stop you." So true. Initially when we spoke he said 6 weeks and 6 weeks it will be.

Thursday morning when Miles wakes up I run into his room and scoop him out of his crib. "Mommy's holding Miles!," he yells. Then he goes on to exclaim "Mommy's feeling better!" It's so cute I could cry. The rest of the day he insists that I do all the heavy lifting. Our nanny tried to pick him up to put him in his highchair and he resisted screaming "Mommy do it." Since he often tells me to leave the room I'm thrilled to be top dog for once. Even if I hurt just a bit. I haven't put him or Baron down for their naps in weeks and I spend all day putting 1 of them to bed (their schedules are such at the moment that 1 wakes up and the other goes to bed). Even though the sleeping schedule means I rarely leave the house, I get a lot of 1 on 1 time with both boys, which is heaven. It's so nice rocking and snuggling Baron. He's pretty happy about it, too. When we're quietly walking around his room listening to music, I sing to him and he gazes up at me in awe and smiles (stark contrast to Miles who now says "don't sing, mommy."). Then he'll throw his little head back, open his mouth and pull my face to his. I kiss his bee stung lips a zillion times. Since my surgery I've spent so much time with him. Baron and I spend hours smiling, singing and cooing at each other. He's just so happy. He's rolling and trying to crawl. I often happily tell Miles that Baron's working on moving. "See how he gets his tushy in the air?" I ask Miles. And then the next time Baron caterpillars around I'll hear Miles say "Baron's tushy is crawling."

I need 3 more expansions but only have 2 weeks before I need to start radiation. Dr. Slate suggests that I come in twice a week and he'll just put less saline in so I'm not in terrible pain. So every 3 days I'm filled up a bit more. Each time I look more and more like Pamela Anderson. Not in clothes, thankfully, but naked the ladies are giant. Giant! Dr. Slate swears they're not and they're much smaller than my natural breasts but they point up towards the sky and it'skindof scary to look at them when I'm lying down. Amazingly, Dr. Slate can't believe I think they look fake. I must admit, however, that I love being braless (I'm not sure why it makes me think getting dressed is now much faster) and have been wearing shirts that I would have never worn before (like thin racer back tank tops sans bra) which I also love. I can't wait to buy a new wardrobe when I lose the rest of my Baron weight.

Before my last expansion I go to see Dr. Botnick. He wants to start planning and wants to make sure the expanders aren't too big and won't interfere with radiation. Marilyn, Dr. Botnick's nurse, calls me to tell me that I can't eat the morning of my appointment as I'm going to have a contrast dye scan. I confirm 100 times that I won't be radioactive and barred from picking up my kids. I wake up in the morning and out of habit make (and drink) my morning shake (whey protein, beets, kale, blueberries - sounds gross but is delish and I even get Miles to drink it). I proceed to eat oatmeal about 4 minutes before pulling into the parking lot of Dr. Botnick's office. Marilyn calls me from the waiting room and asks "did you fast?" Whoops. "Good thing," she says because Dr. Botnick decided not to do the scan today. Phew. As I'm being led to an examination room, I see Dr. Botnick walking down the hallway. I smile. He opens his arms for a giant hug like we're long lost best friends. I heart him. We hug, he tossles my hair and tells me I look great. I say something self-denigrating and he responds "I won't lay in to you today. But knock it off." I delve into the myriad of reasons I don't want radiation like lymphedema , future lung cancer or sarcomas, and uneven breasts (for $25,000 the ladies should be fucking perfect). "You'll be fine. You're young, you'll exercise." I show him my left arm and insist that it's larger than my right (Boris and I measured and although it's undetectable to the human eye (except mine) it really is). But he just repeats "you'll be fine." Sigh. He says I can complete the last expansion and that I should come in for scans and planning at the end of the week.

I sit in the waiting room to see Dr. Slate for the last time for 6 weeks. Me and my iPhone are minding our own business when a woman who appeared to be in her late 40s sits down across from me. I barely look up but she starts rummaging through her bag and talking about I have no idea what. I smile but don't respond (I try to mind my own business when sitting in the cancer center because people rarely have good things to say). She continues to talk and mumble and finally asks me point blank what kind of cancer I have. I tell her I do not have cancer (right!?) but had (past tense) breast cancer and she asks if I'm taking Tamoxifen. I explain that I had a triple negative tumor so I'm not. "That's what they told me I had," she says. "But they were wrong." She continues "I had a rare form of cancer called carcinoid cancer. It's spread throughout my body and I'm waiting to die." I am stunned and silent but finally ask her if she had scans after her diagnosis. "Scans don't work," she snaps. "I had PET/CT scans,MRI's and they told me I looked great and was cancer free." Holy fucking shit. I don't know if she's trying to be mean or scare the bejeezus out of me or if I need to drive straight to Dr. McAndrew's and ask if this is true. Maybe I have carcinoid cancer ravaging my body? Thankfully before I can burst in to tears or hysteria, I'm called in by the nurse. "Good luck," I lamely say.

I tell Dr. Slate about the misdiagnosed woman I met and how she's going to die. "Well that won't be you," he says. It can't be. Death is really not an option for me. If this shit comes back I'm going to be seriously pissed off. And somehow even though I know it's a real possibility, I don't really think it is. It's kindof like when I took the bar. I knew that 50% of the examinees failed and that I had a very real chance of failing, but I never really thought I'd be part of that 50% (and I wasn't). Granted I never really thought I'd get cancer in the first place, but way. Dr. Slate fills up my expanders with the last 50cc's of saline, solidifying my Pamela Andersonness. I'm now at 510 cc's which is apparently a large C cup. Given that I was a large D (over 700cc's ) I should be happy, but they look so big it's crazy. "Not in clothes," Dr. Slate says. True. And then I'm done. Dr. Slate hugs me and tells me to call him if I have any concerns during radiation.

I have the weekend to get used to my new, giant, perfectly matched, perky boobs before I get to see what radiation does to them.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Take It Easy

My reunion with the boys at home is amazing for me, but not as I had romanticized. Miles does run up to me and give me giant hug (carefully!) but then only wants to talk about "mommy's new bed moves!" I had a hospital bed delivered so that I could get up and down by myself without crying and it totally upstaged my coming home. Baron remembers me and still likes me which makes me so happy. I sit down with Miles while he has lunch and then give Baron a bottle. I think that maybe not picking the boys up won't be nearly as torturous as I expected. Even though I think I'm doing nothing, the rest of the day Boris keeps telling me to stop doing things, take it easy and sit down. I don't know how to take it easy so it's really, really tough. My mom comes over to help with dinner and baths. I kiss Baron goodnight and my mom disappears in to his room with him. I follow Boris and Miles around as Miles gets his bath and milk and feel pretty useless. Although I'm so happy to just be near Miles, I wish I could snuggle him in his chair and put him to bed. Baron has been sleeping 5-7 hours each night (woo hoo!) so Boris and I are hoping for a good night's sleep. We should have known better. We hear crying around 2:00a.m. It's Miles. Boris gets up and I hear them talking. As soon as it gets quiet, Baron wakes up. Poor Boris! He gets both boys back to bed in a short time and returns to the bedroom. In the morning I tell him how sorry I am that he was up with both boys. He tells me that Miles was just excited that I was home. When he went into his Miles' room, Miles kept repeating that "mommy's here. Mommy's home. Mommy has ouchie. Mommy's new bed moves." But before I can be selfishly happy that my child woke up to talk about my return, Boris informs me that Miles also wanted to discuss the ponies he played with that day at my cousin's house. Oh well.

The following day goes much better than I anticipated. I am in agony, but am able to move around better than anyone expected. I spend my day as usual playing with the boys; it's just an altered, less physical play. Miles and I read books together (without him cuddled up to me or sitting in my lap like usual), play with his trucks and I even let him watch television for the first time ever to keep him still and in bed with me. Thankfully, he's not so interested in the television and after 10 minutes of Sesame Street, he climbs off the bed and runs down the hall. He's way more interested in watching diggers on the computer. He's opened up a new and fascinating world of entertainment for me. For example, this is his favorite video which he calls "noisy trucks" - When he goes to the park I sit with Baron on the floor and play with him and even give him another bottle. He's super social and smiley and we chat and laugh and sing. Boris (who took the whole week off) and one of my nannies (I currently employ a staff. It's very fancy.) keep trying to make me sit down and won't let me touch a thing. I appreciate it but it's so hard to do nothing and while I worship having my house scrubbed 24 hours a day and my meals prepared for me, I feel so strange not even getting my own water. I nap (which never happens) and feel good other than the intense pain in my chest and hand.

I try to explain the pain to Boris. The best way I can describe it is to imagine having jagged plastic cups carving into your flesh. Or the tightest, most uncomfortable corset imaginable around your chest that you desperately want to take off only you can't. Ever. Or like you want to unzip your chest. It hurts to breathe deeply because it expands my chest. I tried rolling my shoulders back to stretch (no, I don't know why I did that) and almost died. Sometimes I'll move too quickly and will feel a searing pain in my chest. So I never know when I'm going to feel something horrifically painful or not. Good times.

That night as I'm following Boris and Miles out of the bath into Miles' room, Miles sees one of my drains. He gasps, points and yells "water! Mommy has water." I explain it's water from mommy's ouchie and will go away soon. He asks to see "mommy's new boobies," and I oblige. He doesn't seem bothered at all. He just smiles. My "new boobies," which Dr. Slate says are about a B cup look ridiculous on me. I look like a body builder with pecks. I now understand why Dr. Slate repeatedly told me I couldn't have small boobs. I'm just not made for them. But as crazy as I look, I can already tell that my new tatas are going to be really good. Really good. I have a perfect cleavage which is fake, but nice all at the same time. Even in all of my pain, I'm enjoying being braless as strange as it feels.

The next few days are spent the same way. Other than Miles wanting to see my new boobies a lot and talking constantly about my ouchie and new bed, things feel almost normal. Well, except for the not really being able to take care of my kids or be alone with them. At all. One night as I'm sitting with Baron and Boris is feeding Miles dinner, I notice I've missed a call on my cell phone. Then I notice it's from Tower and listen to the message immediately. It's Dr. McAndrew. She wants me to know that the results from my pathology report are in. And they're clear. All clear. No cancer. Anywhere! I cry. Boris and I hug. And cry some more. What a relief. At least for now. As Boris and I are putting Miles to bed, Miles strokes my face and says "make mommy feel better. Mommy sad." I tell him that he makes me so happy and that I'm only sad when I'm not with him and Baron. I can't tell him that I'm happy that I'm not going to die. At least for now. It's the cutest most tender thing ever. And then poof, the moment's gone and he asks "papa see mommy's boobs?" The good news goes relatively uncelebrated since I hurt and can't go anywhere anyway and really just need sleep. But that's kindof how things go now.

Our first weekend without our staff sucks. Big time. Poor Boris is exhausted as the boys decide to wake up every few hours. He runs from one room to the next calming everyone down and attempting to ensure sleep for all. On Saturday while Boris is putting Baron down for his nap, I stay outside with Miles and some friends. One of them has a gorgeous 3 year old who tries to help Miles down off a small ledge and ends up yanking him down on to hard stone. Miles starts shrieking and although I'm a few days out of surgery I instinctively pick him up and carry him inside. It is insanely painful but what's a mom to do? Seriously. Let him scream? It's bad enough that he asks to "go to park with mommy" every morning and I have to tell him no. So we snuggle inside and I clean the scratches on his little body. After that, Miles tells me several times a day that "mommy is clean." Initially I had no idea what he was talking about but then realized that each time he hurts himself I tell him we're going to clean his ouchie so it gets better. Now I'm the one with ouchies and I think he's trying to make sure I've cleaned them so they get better. I just want to pick him up and tell him I'm fine.

By the beginning of week 2 post-surgery I'm totally over not being able to pick up my boys. I know that in my hopeful grand scheme of things, 2 months isn't a long time (that's assuming I don't die prematurely) but at the moment it is torture. Torture! I think it's killing me. But so is my chest. I think the pain is worse, but it's been so bad it's hard to tell. I go to see Dr. Slate because the pain is so severe I'm sure something is wrong. Sadly there's not. Dr. Slate and his amazing nurse, Toni, ask me how much pain medication I'm taking. I had been trying not to take too much because they are so constipating, but they both tell me to get over it, drink some prune juice and take more medication. "Two pills a day isn't enough," Toni says. "You just had major, major surgery."

On the upside, they take my remaining 2 drains out. Besides not looking like I'm wearing a holster, I get to take my first real shower in 2 weeks. It feels amazing. Pre-surgery Miles and I would shower together so I'm finally able to shower with him again. We sit on the floor of the shower and chat and snuggle. He points to my ouchies and repeatedly asks "you okay mommy?" "I'm okay, Miles," I respond. "I'll get better every day." He also points up and says "what's this mommy?" "That's mommy's vagina," I tell him. "Eat it?" he asks? I'm constantly telling him and Baron that they're delicious and I'll nibble various body parts and I'll tell Miles that I want to eat him or gobble him up. Oy. Vey.

Miles goes to sleep for the first time in almost 2 weeks without protest and tears. As usual, I don't sleep as well. I'm still in too much pain. I can only lie on my back even though I desperately want to roll over onto my side. It's incredibly uncomfortable to lie in the same position all night long. Plus, I have a splint on my right arm and hand for carpal tunnels and a nighttime compression garment on my left since my lymphedema is acting up. The compression garment is thicker than an oven mitt and runs from my knuckles to my armpit. It's hotter than hell and I'm still having hot flashes every 10 minutes. It's ridiculous. I also haven't exercised in months which doesn't help and one of the numerous, fabulous side effects of chemo is that it makes me feel like I'm 93. My bones and joints are creaky and achy. So me and sleeping don't go so well of late. Or more accurately since last August.

The next morning I go to my last appointment with Dr. Slate before my expansion begins. The ladies look good. No fluid buildup and he's pleased with how I'm healing. Pleased enough to tell me that he'll start the expansion process next week. I tell him that I've "accidentally" picked Miles up twice and that Baron is so little and cute that I "accidentally" pick him up all the time. I want to hold him all the time. Toni looks at me like I'm crazy and shakes her head no. Dr. Slate explains, for the umpteenth time that my muscles are in a weakened state and that if I continue to lift heavy objects, like children, I could tear them and have to start all over again. Ugh. I know I'm trying to do too much but I honestly can't help it. I try to explain, for the umpteenth time, that it's impossible not to lift my kids at all. He tells me that he can't stop me or force me to follow his medical advice. But of course I don't want to hurt myself or worse, have to start this process over again. So I try to take it easy. Easier at least.

While I was in the hospital, Boris gave me a beautiful card that I couldn't read because I was blitzed out of my mind on opiates to which I had an allergic reaction and then needed Benadryl. Once home, I find his card and read it again. Boris writes "I can't begin to imagine how much pain you will simply brush aside in the coming few weeks as you labor to play with and bench press our children." How well he knows me. He also writes "I know this last stretch of pain and hardship comes after a long, hard road, but I can see the top from here." Me too.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Turn Mommy Off

It's the day before surgery. Again. Dr. Slate calls and I tell him I hope he's not telling me surgery is canceled. He's not. He's just calling to check in and see how I'm doing. I ask him if Dr. Phillips is totally recovered. He tells me that he did 3 surgeries with Dr. Phillips yesterday and he seemed okay. "He seemed okay is not a ringing endorsement," I say. "I want to hear that he's amazing and in the best shape ever." "Of course," says Dr. Slate, "I just meant he was already okay yesterday and those surgeries were just practice for yours." I sure hope so. Everyone keeps asking me how I'm feeling and how I'm holding up with this sad tone in their voice and it's driving me crazy. I wish I didn't have to talk to anyone but my boys (i.e. Miles, Baron, and Boris).

I'm incredibly sad all day but spend the day as usual with the boys. They're going to spend the night at my parents' house since I have to be at the hospital at 5:30 in the morning. I have several discussions with Miles throughout the day about my upcoming surgery. As I'm putting him to bed and after viewing my boobies for the last time, he lays in my arms and recounts the end of his day: "Sasha push Miles. Miles sad. Miles cry. Mommy hug Miles. Sasha Sad. Mommy go hospital. Mommy have ouchie. Ouchie go away." Then it's silent for several minutes. I think he's lost in deep thought or processing really complex information. He goes on to say "Green digger. Bulldozer dig deep hole." And he continues to repeat those thoughts over and over again for a long time. We bounce from Sasha pushing him to my ouchie to the bulldozer. I kiss him a zillion times, put him into his crib and tell him I'll see him in a few days. Thankfully it's dark in the room so he can't see me crying. When I come downstairs I am ecstatic that Baron is still awake even though he should have been sleeping almost an hour ago. I get to feed him one last time. I hold him and kiss his tiny face and tell him I'll see him in a few days and that I hope he's sleeping through the night when I get back. I can think positively, right?

Boris and I have our last supper for a few weeks at our favorite sushi restaurant. We come home to an empty and quiet house and take a few pictures of the ladies before they're gone. And then we pass out from stress and fear and exhaustion. I haven't set an alarm in 2 years and nearly fall out of bed when the buzzer goes off. I'm up immediately. I brush my teeth like a madwoman because I remember Boris telling me that my breath was offensive after my lumpectomy and jump in the shower. I can't eat, don't need anything other than some pajamas as I'll be in bed for the next few days so I throw on clothes and wait for Boris.

We arrive at Cedars and register. I cross out the section of the contract allowing residents and students to "learn" on me during surgery and then am lead into the pre-op room. I meet the "anesthesiologist" who is still a resident and cross-examine him about his training and experience. He passes and skillfully inserts my i.v. causing me little pain. The real anesthesiologist comes in to meet me and asks me several questions about my history with anesthesia and whether I'm allergic to any drugs. None that I know of. Boris joins me a few minutes before Dr. Slate enters the room. He's carrying a small briefcase which he opens and empties with great care. He's a perfectionist and you can see it in everything he does. He pulls the covers around my bed and hooks them shut with clothespins to ensure total privacy. I repeatedly tell him that I don't really care who sees my boobs, but he cares and doesn't want me to be uncomfortable. He measures me and starts drawing all over my chest. He makes thick, navy markings from my neck down to my belly button, under my breasts, across the nipples. I keep looking down to watch and he keeps asking me to look straight ahead. "Your breasts hang differently when your head is down," he tells me. "You are the calmest person I've seen before this procedure," he remarks. Dr. Phillips comes in and he and Dr. Slate discuss the road map on my chest. And then they're ready and tell me they'll see me in surgery. Boris kisses me goodbye many, many times and tells me it's going to be okay. I cry as the nurse wheels me away. The anesthesiologist tells me he's going to give me something to help me relax but the next thing I remember is waking up in the recovery room.

I hurt. A lot. And I'm so itchy I could cry. I'm groggy but remember the nurses driving me crazy trying to take my blood pressure and my temperature. I can't help but think who the fuck cares about my temperature? Please just let me be. Boris tells me they're just trying to help. He goes home to put the boys to bed and my Dad comes to take his place as I'm being tortured by yet another nurse. This one keeps trying to do something to do my leg. It's taking forever and when she's done she pulls the sheets over my foot. But the sheets are all tangled up and it feels terrible and I can't get her to understand what the problem is. I keep asking her to pull all the blankets over my foot and explain that she only pulled the top sheet over, not the bottom sheets. She can't figure it out and I'm so annoyed. I ask my Dad to scratch my face since I can't move my arms and am almost crying as I tell him to make the nurse fix the fucking sheets. After way too many tries, she gets it. A group of nurses wheel me from the recovery room to my room.

I want to die as the nurses transfer me from one bed to the other. It's so unimaginably painful. And they're still harassing me about blood pressure and lord knows what else. I just want someone to scratch every inch of my body I'm so itchy and want to be left alone. My Dad scratches my face for an hour. Dr. Slate comes to see me and wants to know why no one else has realized I'm having an allergic reaction to the Dilaudid that's supposed to be easing my pain. "You're flushed and it's not normal to be this itchy. The nurses should have noticed this while you were in recovery," he says. He instructs the nurse to switch me to Morphine instead. And I'm given Benadryl. Thank god. What would I do without him? I complain that I'm surrounded by annoying and retarded people (my Dad excluded, of course) and am so glad he noticed what no one else did. Unfortunately, the insane itchiness lasts all night. I wake Boris up multiple times to have him scratch my face or head or leg or seriously anything he can get to. I'm too weak to lift my glass of water so I have to wake him for that, too.

I barely sleep. The nurses are in and out monitoring my temperature and blood pressure. Apparently I'm running a fever. Rather than give me a Tylenol, the nurse puts an ice pack on my head. I'm serious. It keeps falling down my face or off my head completely and I can't fix it. I have to keep calling her in to the room. "Does this actually do anything?" I ask. "It's really annoying." She swears it does and finally puts it under my head. At 6:00a.m. I realize that not only am I suffering from itchiness, but my right hand is totally numb. I tell the nurse but she doesn't seem to care. She also won't give me another Benadryl because it hasn't been a full 6 hours since my last pill. Are you fucking kidding me? I ask her if it's the same Benadryl I can buy at any drug store. It is. I ask Boris to go buy me some so I can put myself out of this misery. In the meantime, I ask her if she's told Dr. Slate that I am so itchy I'm moving my body in ways that surely can't be good for me so soon after surgery to try to relieve myself. She says "I've told him that you are really itchy." "That is not what I asked you," I snap. "I asked you if you told him that I am moving my body in ways I shouldn't because I am so itchy and have no way to feel better." She says no and says she'll tell him. "I don't believe you," I say. "I want you to call him from my room so that I can hear your conversation with him," I tell her. She agrees to have Dr. Slate call me. I speak to Dr. Slate on the phone an hour later. He tells me that unfortunately, there aren't other strong pain medications that I'm likely to respond better to. My options are to be in less pain but itch like hell, or be in more pain and itch less. I opt for the latter and am taken off the Morphine drip and put on oral pain medication. As fabulous as Percocet is, it's not really equipped to alleviate the extreme pain I'm in. He also instructs the nurse to give me more Benadryl immediately. I don't want to rip my skin off anymore, so I guess that's good. One of Dr. Phillips' residents comes to see me and I tell her about the numbness in my right hand. She says it's nothing and there's nothing that can be done. "So I just suffer in agony and get no sleep?" I ask her. Apparently.

When Dr. Slate comes to see me for the second time of the day (we heart him so much) he tells me there is no way I'm going home tomorrow. Every time I saw him prior to surgery I informed him that I was going home from the hospital in 2 days. He would always respond "I am not going to restrain you, but let's just see how you feel." I know he's right and don't argue. Crap.

As I'm telling my Dad that I've been taken off Morphine thanks to Dr. Slate since no one else around here is competent, he asks me if I remember what happened with the nurses as they were moving me in to my new bed. I don't. Do you remember asking one nurse "what part of don't touch me don't you understand? and telling another 'get away from me?'" Sounds familiar. I think one of the nurses kept touching my boob and she was killing me. "What else was I supposed to do?" I ask my Dad. "Nothing," he says. "I just think it's amazing that you were ordering everyone around and fighting for yourself even in a drug induced stupor that you can't even remember. If I ever need taking care of, I hope I have you on my side." But of course.

2 hours later I hurt less and itch less so things are looking up. Except that my hand is still completely numb and the "pins and needles" in my fingers are excruciating. I complain to anyone who will listen. My nurse thinks it's because I have been in the same position for so long and helps me stand up and sit in a chair for the first time. The tightness in my chest is so unbelievable I can't breathe. I can't believe it hurts this much to get out of bed and sit still in a chair. But it does. My right hand however feels much better. I sit in the chair for 30 minutes which I think is a miracle but the nurse doesn't find so impressive. She wants me to sit there a while longer so that someone can change my sheets but I tell her I might die if I don't lay down 10 minutes ago. I lie down and Dr. McAndrew comes to see how I'm doing. I tell her about the itching and the numbness in my hand, but that it seems to be much better. She leaves and of course my hand goes numb again. This time for hours. I get up and move around but nothing helps. I even take a walk around the floor which the nurse does find impressive. I tell my nurse a zillion times that something is wrong and that I fear my hand might fall off. Boris swears it won't. I can't sleep it hurts so badly. Finally the nurse calls a doctor. Excuse me, a resident (for fuck's sake!!!) who is as equally useless as every other resident who has come to see me. He looks at my arm and hand and touches it. He runs his finger over the bandage where my port was and asks what it is. "It's where they removed my port," I tell him. "What is this?" he repeats. OMFG. Shoot me. "Like I said 3 seconds ago, it's where they removed my port. Is something about that sentence confusing to you?" Jesus. He tells me that the numbness is nothing, that there's nothing that can be done and that it will go away in time.

I wake up after what feels like 10 minutes of sleep to my next door neighbor hacking up a lung. Boris gives me sponge bath and I feel much better. It's been well over 12 hours since my hand went numb again. Dr. Phillips' understudies come to see me and again tell me it's nothing and that there's nothing that can be done to help. A few hours later a woman comes in and introduces herself. She's from whatever department the port installation/removal is in. She starts to ask me some questions about my port. I just look at Boris in awe. He tells her that my port was removed. "Oh. Was there something wrong with it?" she asks. I am dying. "I didn't need it anymore," I say in total disbelief. "Hmm. Well when was it taken out?" she asks. "I cannot talk to her," I tell Boris. Boris tells her it was removed during surgery and this woman actually says "this surgery?" Boris nods and she gives some lame excuse about how she had to check and blah blah blah but um, my chart is on the fucking door and my surgery notes clearly state "bi-lateral mastectomy with port removal from right arm," not to mention everything at Cedars is on a centralized computer. Maybe she can't read? I tell Boris that I think the doctors affiliated with Cedars are amazing but you're totally fucked if you actually have to stay here. I seriously have never been surrounded by such stupid people, asked such stupid questions, period, let alone by people who are supposed to be taking care of me. And this is a good hospital. I seriously can't even imagine what it must be like elsewhere. I just know I wish I was at St. John's. Sad since I much prefer a mazuzah on my door to Jesus hanging over my head, but whatever.

But then that afternoon the heavens part and a beam of light walks through my door. Dr. McAndrew. I tell her that my hand has been numb forever and no one cares. She says the only thing she can think of is that she knows I had a blood pressure cuff on my right wrist for 7 hours during surgery (my right upper arm was off limits due to the port and my left arm is off limits forever) but says that there is medication I can take that might help the pain. Dr. Slate comes in a short while later. He doesn't understand why the nurses didn't call him last night and he's pissed. Me too! He wants me to see a neurologist immediately. He and Dr. McAndrew have a neurologist in my room within the hour. All is well with the world. The neurologist does a series of tests on my fingers, hand and arm and asks me numerous questions. He concludes that I probably had a very mild case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome prior to surgery (hence the numbness in my right hand after chemo). It's quite common with the late stages of pregnancy and can be induced by chemo as well. And then the blood pressure cuff squeezing my wrist off and on for 7 hours worsened everything. Great. Just what I need. Carpal Tunnel. What!? The neurologist says it will go away on its own but he orders a splint for me to wear as much as possible, but always when I sleep. Dr. Slate waits in my room until the splint arrives. He also berates the nurses (in his charming way) and instructs them that I am his private patient and they are to call him and only him should I need anything. The splint doesn't completely fix the "pins and needles" in my hand, but it makes it bearable and I nap for the first time in 2 days. Before the night shift starts, I meet my new nurse. "Just in case I need anything, I want to make sure you know," and I can't finish the sentence because she interrupts me to say that she knows she is to call Dr. Slate if I need anything at all. Phew.

After constantly being told that nothing was wrong when something was or maybe because I was mad for 2 days straight and no one understood why, several people from the "Patient Care" center come to ask what they can do to make my stay better. I'm offered the "deluxe" menu (aka hospital food on glass plates) and parking passes. In addition to being "cared for" by idiots, apparently I waited a long time for a bed. Who knew? The Breast Center also sends a gift basket which is so nice. Even the anesthesiologist comes in to see how my hand is. He reminds me that he had few options for the blood pressure cuff.

I have a computer date with Miles before I have dinner. It's the best. He's so happy to see me he's climbing up on the kitchen island trying to get in to the computer. "I love you, mommy," he yells. I die of happiness. We chat about his day and he repeatedly tells me "mommy in hospital." I feel so much better and happier after seeing him. My mom holds Baron in front of the camera and he has this hilarious look that says "what the hell is going on here?" but I tell him I love him and miss him. I hold court for dinner as several good friends bring Boris and I food and visit. I tell Boris that he should sleep at home so he can get some rest and wake up with the boys. Now that I'm able to scratch my own face and lift a cup of water, I don't need him to suffer on a hospital cot. And so my room empties and I go to sleep. For 2 hours. For some fascinating reason, my nurse wakes me up at midnight to look at my incisions. "I didn't want to disturb you while you had company," she says. My company left 2 hours ago. "So you thought it was better to disturb me while I was sleeping?" I ask her. I tell her to please leave me alone unless she needs to do something that is actually necessary and useful. I can't wait to get the hell out of here. I already told Dr. Slate that I was leaving tomorrow and barring any trauma tonight, he agreed. He said that he'd be in to see me around 11:00a.m.

I sleep for 7 much needed hours straight. I wake up to my neighbor hacking up a lung again. I get up and go to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Dr. Phillips' minions walk in the room and I think look shocked to find me up. I lie down so they can inspect me and when they ask how I am doing, I inform them that I'm much better thanks to Dr. McAndrew and Dr. Slate. I tell them how angry I am that I suffered needlessly for 2 days and that contrary to everything they told me, there were things that could be done to relieve my pain. They should have called someone who knew what they were doing, I add. They're mostly mute and then leave.

Boris calls me and we have another computer date with Miles. This time he's far less enchanted with me. I keep telling him how much I miss and love him and after a minute of me, he starts saying "see trucks. See noisy trucks. See diggers!" After a few more minutes he yells "turn mommy off! See noisy trucks." I can't compete with YouTube videos of construction vehicles so I tell him I'll see him soon. "Bye mommy!" he shouts. Boris assures me it's a sign of his comfort with the situation and independence but it still makes me want to cry. Boris brings me breakfast, I give him a father's day gift and promise that we'll have a better celebration next year. And then as promised, a few minutes after 11, Dr. Slate enters the room. "You still want to go home?" he asks. Absolutely! He removes 2 of my 4 drains (painlessly thank goodness) and says I just have to wait for a wheelchair. The nurses must have wanted me out as soon as humanly possible because the wheelchair is outside of my room before Dr. Slate leaves. It was about the only prompt and on-the-ball thing they did my whole stay.

In less than 10 minutes I'll get to see my boys and I cannot wait!