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.