a slice of my heart

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

I did some work-art-work ----- and a reveal

Hello friends  and lovers.

Thank you all for your kind and loving comments. I'm doing much, much better. The first surgery is done and now the temporary implant is in. It's just called an expander and is slowly filled with saline in order for the remaining skin to stretch. I'm going to show a picture of the initial operation at the bottom of this post, so consider yourself forewarned. If you are squeamish then look away before you get to the last photo. I will eliminate it in a couple of days because, well, it's a bit icky. But I think it is a good thing for people to see what actually happens to a woman when she is faced with a mastectomy. That's such a vague word, it really doesn't convey the impact. It's a medical term that distances. I think perhaps we should just say amputation. Now that I know what happens, I am shocked that there isn't more empathy and real understanding of this process. It is a complicated surgery involving 2 surgeons and months of healing. My heart goes out to all the women who go through this with little support or understanding. I've had great support, I'm a lucky one, from my daughter, my dear friend and my sister - which I desperately needed when I got home. You can not even lift yourself up from the bed to get to the loo.

Anyway, now there will be a second surgery in about mid March to reconstruct the amputated breast (yes, I'm going for an implant) and to redesign the other in order to give balance, otherwise I would be listing to the left for the rest of my life. Because this one will, obviously, involve both sides, the recovery time will be longer so I don't expect to be back to my regular slightly annoying self until mid April. I have become a very quiet and lazy person these last few weeks. I think it's due to the anesthesia and it's impact on the brain. And, fuck it all, I didn't lose one single pound!!

So now I'm going to show you two decoupaged Retablos that I did just before this all happened. Pretty damn sure I haven't done that yet, but things are still a bit foggy. They both represent strength and courage of women to look above and beyond the immediate and to compassionately guide humanity. But I don't hold fast and tight to any interpretation, even my own. So feel free to find your own.




This second on is done on a background of pages from a book called "The Life's of Women". I love that part of it. Something hidden that is only revealed on close inspection. There are lots of them in both pieces.

So now............................................................................the reveal.


You'd think I would be shy about this whole thing, but I'm not. It's just a body. We all have them. This is about a week after the surgery so the bruises are just about gone. The temporary implant is in and that is the bulge at the top and believe me, that sucker hurts. It feels like it has a metal rim that is pressing against your ribs, but it's only a soft plastic pouch. I have the good old phantom pain, it comes from a nerve that was cut and it keeps screaming "what the fuck!" all day, everyday. My plastic surgeon assures me that the big scar will go away after the next operation and there will eventually only be a faint white line. I don't really care. All I want is something that will make a shirt look normal, and no, I won't be showing the final product! I do have a limit.

Again, thank you all for your kind and caring words, you make my life so much richer.


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

And the beat goes on....

Well, here's what I know so far.

I saw the plastic surgeon on Friday, what a doll! He is a gorgeous Korean doc.with impeccable style. Ivory polished linen shirt, not a crease, black silk tie, high end black slacks (you can tell) and Italian shoes (you can tell).  He is very professional but not uptight about it. Thorough is his middle name and he called me dear once. Once is enough, otherwise is seems condescending.

His suggestion is that instead of doing a double, he could possibly do only the right and a reduction on the left. God knows it needs it! The surgeon wants to do both, over cautious is not a bad thing when dealing with this shit. However, Dr. Gorgeous didn't sound real enthusiastic about saving the right breast as the right side has received substantial radiation which makes the skin not want to stretch to accommodate an implant. If he couldn't, then he would have no choice but to take it all the way off....lord! That would mean a prosthesis to balance me out. Not something I would enjoy, having to wear a rubber lump on my chest all the time. (I have a male roommate coming so braless is not an option with only one.)  And the roommate, OMG, the poor guy. He is an absolute doll but this is a lot to ask. He doesn't get here until the 12th and I haven't told him yet. I thought it best to do it in person. I hope I'm not wrong.

Anyway, Dr. G  so sweet. I have to go back for a second consultation to make sure that all my questions are answered and he was very adamant about that, saying that he had a patient when he first started that did not fully explain what she wanted and consequently didn't get what she wanted. He said it "pierced his heart" and that he never wanted that to happen again. That's my guy! He says he will do his best and I completely believe him.

Of course this gets hashed out by the two of them and I will know that on the 11th when I see the surgeon. My god, I have already had 5 appointments, not counting the biopsy and I have 3 more before the surgery which will be on Jan. 22, if you're curious. Just a side note: the mammograms, of which there were 4 different sets plus the biopsy with 2 incisions cost, wait for it............$9,836.00.
Yes, not kidding. Praise God for medicare. My portion of that is only 3 figures. A-fucking-mazing!!!! However, I would estimate that the two surgeries will total in the neighborhood of....$80,000 - $100,000??? More??? OMG. The surgery on my nose 2 years ago was $22,000. And that was just to fix a sinus problem.  There will be 2 because you don't know how much to reduce the left until you know if the right will stretch and that can take as much as 4 weeks, little by little adding saline. I'm going for a B....a small B! They don't use silicone anymore. Now it is a substance that he says is like a gummy bear so that, Gforbid, if anything happened then it would just sit there and could be easily removed. Believing stuff like that is one of the hard parts when considering what to do.

I've checked out tattoo's if it has to come off entirely, Thank You, Ellen! And they are pretty cool, some are gorgeous. But I think I might be too chicken. I have to hold my breath and close my eyes when they draw blood.......

I had a total meltdown day yesterday, pissed offfff and crying my head off when I talked to the medical assistant and she explained recovery time. It's insane, especially since I only have about 4 days worth of care from my daughter and my friend Nina - old friend (20 yrs), they're the best. But I won't be able to raise my arm above my head for 4/6 weeks. Hair! Acckkk!!!  And this is nothing compared to what might happen if they are both sayonaraed.
However, I have heard that there are fabulous women out there who will do a shampoo and blowout for free for women going through this. How cool is that? Just have to find one.

I sound pretty all right now, but believe me I have my moments of complete and utter terror. They pass and they are not that frequent, but they are certainly there. It would be weird if they weren't. I have so very much appreciated your kind comments. Keep 'em comin', Loves, 'cause I need 'em.

Love, love, love

Friday, December 21, 2018

I'm not sure I heard you correctly

I certainly don't want to think I heard that correctly.

I have severe cancer in my right breast, again. It is in the milk ducts which obviously grow throughout the breast....so it is throughout my breast. Seriously?
But I knew it.

I found a lump about 4 months ago. I called and said I needed a mamm. although I was six months early for one. Had it. The conclusion was that there might be something there but there was also much calcification so that was the conclusion, just calcification, a result of all the previous radiation. Whatever they thought they found was too infinitesimal to actually be considered anything of any importance, and maybe it wasn't even there.  Come back in a few months and we will see if anything is actually visible.

Did that. There was some concern that it, although barely visible, might in fact be something worth looking at a little closer. When they sit you down in the dressing room and they tell you that they would like to do a biopsy.....you know.

Biopsy's are hell.  I won't bother describing it, except only to say that it is a mammogram that lasts an hour and a half. You get the picture. Even numbed up, it's not fun and I'm a bit of a bleeder so that wasn't pleasant either. The breast turns green with bruises. With this kind of probing they get a whole different view. It turns out that it was barely visible because it is in the outer lining of the duct. That needs a super magnifier because it is essentially invisible....and he hit it with a needle!! A needle that deposits tiny, tiny little pieces of metal so they can find it if they need to look again.

Then the sweet gentleman who did it also sits down with you in the dressing room. By now you really know you're screwed. Next step, a surgeon who diagnoses the situation and sets you up with a plastic surgeon (they work in tandem) and a surgery date. On January 21st,  although it's everywhere it's a slow grower, I am going to have both of my breasts cut off. Breathe, breathe. You actually forget to do that when they say double mastectomy. There's a lot of talk about implants and a drug (5 years) called Tamoxifen and counseling and nutrition classes (shouldn't have had that hamburger). I have no idea what decisions to make. My daughter says no implants. I say implants but I don't know why. A drug for 5 years? I only have weeks to decide something that will affect me for the rest of my life. And you know what bothers me the most?  The time. The time it takes to do this and the time it takes to heal. If you get implants, I think it takes 3 months from the first operation before you go back for a second to have them put in place. Time suddenly feels very precious. What do breasts mean to us? What would it feel like to have none?

I made a terrible mistake and got on Google and looked up mastectomy. Whhhhyyy did I watch that? I thought I was watching a horror film, what poor surgeons have to go through....guck!!!!!  I keep shutting off my brain. It's not even voluntarily, it's just pure instinct. Something takes over that is stronger than you. And then it doesn't. It all sneaks in through a crack and my breath wavers. What the fuck? What the fuck??!! They say things come in 3's, this is the 3rd time.

OK, I'm scared. I'm really scared. Everyone keeps saying how well I'm taking it. But I'm not. I've said so many times in my life - is this the end? Surely things will get better now. It's so embarrassing. Just one thing after another after another. And if you're thinking - bad karma - then I don't even know what to say to you. And I'm not crying. Why am I not crying?

I so wanted to write a happy post for my next one. But this is what there is, this is what you get.


PS: my windshield wipers just quit working...and I live in the Pacific Northwest..............

PPS: I haven't been reading anyone elses's blog, so I really, really hope everything is alright with you. I truly do.

Monday, November 5, 2018

The River of Time

It is a river, isn't it? Floating along or caught in a snare. Metaphors on that one are endless.

I took some time off in March because of my illness. Sometimes blogging has been stressful to me. It proves that I am often times hard to understand. No need to expound on that, save to say that that is hard to carry. So being away was what was best for my health and peace of mind. And it helped. I recovered more quickly than I thought I could. Thank the powers for that, because what was waiting down the line was shattering.

On May 2nd my darling, beautiful, oh-so-smart, daughter made a very serious attempt to take her life. 60 blood pressure pills and at the last few minutes she thought of her good old mom and was able, in those short minutes, to dial 911. (Sidebar here folks, keep it on your speed dial, you just never know.) I have no way to adequately explain to you what it is like to read a 5 page suicide note. To hear suffering of that depth, which is easy to express in what one thinks are their last hours on earth, felt surreal. There is no holding back. It was so deep, so far down that hole, that I knew I was not going to be able to comfort her enough. I knew that no matter how long my arms were, they could not reach her. All that I could do was to show her that they were reaching down, knowing that she would have to do the rest. There was absolute numbness along with piercing sorrow for her.

I spent 6 days and nights with her in ICU watching her every reaction and every machine hooked to her. There was no brain or nerve damage, but they discovered that she has congenital heart disease.  There is no way to tell if it was the affect of the pills that damaged her heart or if it has been lingering there all along, which would make it even more miraculous that she survived.

There was a stint in the mental health ward at Kaiser and then straight to Rehab. Three trips to emergency, lock down and a lot of heart crushing screaming. Then another stint in the mental health ward.  To say she has been through hell...you would not want to see this kind of hell. What we've both learned over long, hard years is that our country does not have adequate training to really help alcoholics except to say, "will yourself not to drink and say your affirmations". AA just doesn't work for a lot of people, actually for the majority of people. If it did,  addiction in all it's guises would not be savaging our country.  So saying this was her third go at it can't even get close to how devastating and frustrating it is. Try, try and try again. What that insures is that suffering is going to be a constant road without a map. Some of the people going through this with her have been through it 9/10 times, one even 16. It's mind blowing. She finally got the help she needed from a 10 page letter to Kaiser assessing their program and telling them what she actually needed from them and how to really help her. Things changed immediately (this girl is gifted, she would make a phenomenal lawyer!). They brought in a psychiatrist just out of Boston University who literally saved her life. Kaiser does NOT want to be sued. Success can be possible, IF the knowledge of this young and brilliant man, and others, is respected and shared. He would not give up, just try to imagine how very rare that is.

Addiction is not a disease, it is not the result of weak character or a self indulgent nature. It is brain damage. I could expound on that, but not now.

She has now had 6 months of fairly effortless sobriety. I say effortless, because she isn't going mad with cravings, but it's still there...the desire, only now, controllable. Brain damage can only be treated with medication. We can't will brain damage away.  No amount of affirmations is going to heal the brain. Finding the right combination of medication is what her psychiatrist was committed to doing and he got it. There has been a bit of tweeking, but she's doing great and will start back to work in the next couple of weeks. Unaltered. How incredible is that? She is her same sassy, silly and brilliant self and I, well, I am a mom taking a long, relieving breath and getting back to work, too - with eyes wide open, ever vigilant. There are no cures, no miracles but there is hope.

Love, Liv