Margot Update 31

Let's start with a great Flavia quote - "Hope is that one single star we can always find in a dark and cloudy sky." Can certainly relate to that one!

March 6 - What a wonderful day! Went to my painting chapter's meeting as Sophisticated Sophia, I was Sassy Simone the last time, and was again so pleased to be back among so many dear friends. Am feeling a bit swamped with work but did sign up to help paint a huge (almost life-sized!) cow that will be auctioned off at the Cattle Baron's Ball in a couple of months. The proceeds go towards cancer research so how could I not help with that one! I believe they said it was the fourth year they had been asked to paint a cow. They are painting a barnyard scene on the cow so someone will probably have to teach me how to paint chickens! Unless they let me paint the flower garden!

Then - my promised day at the local fantastic nursery. I had promised myself that the first weekend in March I would take all my gift certificates and flower donations and go to buy new plants for my beloved garden. That was my big treat for undergoing the last seven months. I was in heaven wandering amongst all the wonderful selections available there. They sell plants you see in Southern Living and other gardening magazines so I can always find unusual plants. I reveled in the knowledge I could take my time to plant all these things, not be in any pain, have enough energy to finish what I start, not have to try to cram it into a couple of "good days" and best of all to be alive to enjoy doing it! Haven't been able to think like that for seven months! This was an important day to me as it marks what I consider to be the ending of the "bad stuff." Hair growing in is tiresome with the waiting and the nipple reconstruction doesn't faze me at all so I am feeling everyday more like Normal Norma! I believe the nipple reconstruction doesn't bother me because some years ago I had elective eyelid surgery and I feel this is in the same category - making body parts look nicer! The nipple reconstruction will hurt some, my eyes didn't - cross my heart - I looked a bit odd for about a week though after I had my eyes done. Had the upper and lower lids done and he sewed me back together with blue thread. Looked nice against the yellow bruising! I kept thinking, what if the thread breaks? Are my eyelids going to fall off? They were only connected with the rest of my face in two very small areas per incision! In ten days I was wearing makeup again and looked great. Had it done not to look younger - who cares - I am 56 and proud of it - but because I looked exhausted but felt just fine. My dad had these huge baggy areas under his eyes so I knew what the future held! My eyes are just about my only great attribute next to my hair and we all know I am a bit vain, so I told the plastic surgeon (not Dr. J, didn't know him then) I just wanted to not look so tired, not to make me look like I had young eyes in an older face so I still have some wrinkles around my eyes. So anyway, that is why the nipple reconstruction and possible tattooing do not bother me. Maybe, too, it is because you really don't have to have those procedures (nipples, areolas and tattooing) to look okay, unless you are nekkid. Do you all know the difference between the words naked and nekkid? Naked pertains to the human body in general and to statues, etc. Nekkid on the other hand, means you are up to "funny business!" Just thought I'd throw that bit of useless trivia your way!

Speaking of funny stuff, I have a reader who is following behind me in my various surgeries and she is just about to have her implant surgery. She named her expanders, too, Betty and Bob Boob. She is thinking of naming the new implants "Betty and Bob D. Vice" since I wrote that they are not really breasts or boobs, but devices (with their own warranty cards!). She says that then they will be her only vices! I got a real kick out of that one!

Was going to garden this afternoon but placed the plants instead and came in to draw. That is what I felt like doing so that is what I did. I will actually plant things tomorrow. The truth be told, I was also a bit tired. It was very hot at the nursery and I was there for about two hours.

Did I tell you all about this design? If so, forgive me for telling you again, if not - here goes! I have this wonderful box (I adore painting boxes, they are so useful!) that one of the wood companies sent me to paint on, two tiers high with beautifully shaped sides. I decided I needed a prayer box since I have begun this journey and been involved in many other stories of people on their own journeys. I cannot remember everyone when I pray, there are soooooooooo many people that need prayers, so I decided to place their name and what their prayer was for in the top tier. Then I can pray for all my urgent people and not forget anyone! I needed a two tier box because the top tier is where the prayers start out. After a month or so I can look them over and then if the person is well the can go in the bottom tier to still be prayed for but as a thank you prayer instead of an urgent prayer. I decided it needed to be serene and beautiful so the design is for morning glories in various stages of the blooms being open winding their way around this box until they end up as just buds on the lid. I am thinking of soft blue with a soft purple one tinged with pink thrown in now and then for accent. The boxes have nice routed areas that separate them so I will do gold leafing there and then add fancy feet and a brass knob on the top. I have been inspired! I will show photos when it is done but don't hold your breath - I take forever when working on my own stuff. No deadline!

This is a long one, I am Chatty Cathy today! I decided to talk a bit about the Twins. I have ignored them lately since they have been behaving so well! I am very pleased with how they are looking after the swelling has gone down except for two areas. Remember I told you they left extra skin after the mastectomies? Now when I relax or bend way over I have two little pouchy areas that deflate! Place your index and middle fingers touching in the center between your breasts and cup your breasts - men, too! Where your little fingers and ring fingers touch your breasts is where the pouches are. If I am standing tall with chest out they do not show, nor do they show in clothing, but I see them. When I go for the nipple reconstruction, I will see if Dr. J can do a bit more nipping and tucking there. If not, I can live with it. No problems with the Twins when I am sleeping, either, even on my stomach. It feels as if I am lying on a pliable soft object, which I am, and after a minute or so I don't feel it anymore and go back to sleep. Before all this when I slept on my own breasts on my tummy, I would sometimes have to physically move them around to be comfortable so nothing has really changed!

March 10 - Have been very busy playing catch-up with everything these last few days! Sunday I gardened the whole day - just like I used to - felt just great! Planted some of my Luka's Loot (Luka's is the name of the fantastic nursery), hauled around bags of mulch, raked, weeded and trimmed stuff!

Monday and Tuesday went by in some kind of blur! I felt very stressed yesterday so I put down what I was doing and went out in the garden to rake leaves for a while to de-stress. See, I am taking my own advice!

Flavia quote: "Happiness is listening closely to the questions of the heart." Oh, how true that one is!

Got to play nursemaid for Jennifer last night. She fell down a couple of her stairs at home and fractured her big toe. I broke my little toe years ago and still remember how painful it is when your toes are involved. She came over and I babied her and fixed a big dinner and Harold fussed over her bandages. She loved it, too, and used it for all it was worth! She has to pick up a boot today and also see her regular doctor to be sure it is a fracture but otherwise is in great spirits. I must say, it felt good to be the one in the kitchen making something for an invalid instead of being the invalid!!!!!!!!!!!

Sad news this morning. Remember a couple of months ago a friend wrote a whole section on prostate cancer? Her husband had been diagnosed too late so was terminal but battled it for some years. He died yesterday so I will be going to his funeral on Saturday. I cannot imagine how my friend must be feeling to lose her husband to cancer. So, a gentle reminder here, do not let the men in your lives go without being tested. Jaime's father-in-law on the other hand was detected early, was able to have the cancer removed and his prognosis is great. As with breast cancer, early detection is the key to survival.

Had something happen the other night that was upsetting to me as a cancer patient. Nothing directly to me, just what wasn't told to another woman and what was. I held my tongue (for the most part!) as these decisions were not mine to make and the woman was having mastectomy surgery yesterday so was not in a frame of mind to discuss things calmly. She was afraid that she had made the wrong decision to have a mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy. Just really wanted to be reassured by someone who had done the mastectomy and was not regretful. That would definitely be me! I just told her my story, she hadn't read the journals yet so I tried to give her the short version! Of course, we got to talking and I found out that her surgeon would not even consider taking the unaffected breast even if the patient wanted prophylactic surgery and their insurance would cover it! Me again! I didn't say much to that because it was not the time or place to do so. She was already scared about being "mutilated" and coming out of surgery with no breast so I put her mind at ease there I believe. I asked her if her personality was defined by her breast and of course she said, "No," so I then pointed out rather forcefully that the breast she was worried about not having, was actually trying to kill her! She said she had never thought of it that way. I also told her I was not "mutilated" at all, just had a couple of thin scars. I don't know where she got the idea she was going to be mutilated - how terrifying to think that about an upcoming surgery! I suppose in the direct meaning of the word according to the dictionary it may be true - first definition - "to cut off or permanently remove an essential part of" - well, my breasts were not cut off, just a few pieces of skin and then just scooped out permanently, but they certainly were not essential to me! Second definition - "to cut up or alter radically so as to make imperfect" - again, it was definitely surgery and they generally cut you somewhere during surgery and I do not have or ever will have "perfect breasts" however - I didn't have perfect breasts to begin with and now the ones I have are better and are not trying to kill me so……………… Mutilation sounds like an ugly word to me and there is nothing ugly about my surgery so I won't use that word. Second part of the conversation was about reconstruction. Her surgeon recommended to wait for a year and she is following her advice. No problem there except……………..I find out that the only option she was offered was a "Tram Flap" and that is major surgery in itself! They use your own tissue, fat and muscles from your tummy pulled up to fill the breast, but the recovery time is very long. She was never even told about expanders and implants!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Mind you, I am not saying everyone has to have implants because that is what I chose - not at all - what I am saying is everyone should be given all the options to be able to make a wise decision that suits them! I did speak up that time and told her to ask why she wasn't given that option. Maybe it was for medical reasons but I still feel that should have been explained, too, if that were the case. I can tell you that her surgeon was a woman and no, I don't have all the facts from the surgeon's side but I found it hard to accept what she told me especially when her surgeon was another woman. I can also tell you that if I found out I had not been given all the options or been told that the surgeon would not perform the mastectomy on the second breast if I desperately wanted it that I would most definitely find a different surgeon! It is YOUR body and YOUR decisions! If they are not comfortable doing what you want, fine, it is THEIR choice but should not have to be yours! Hearing things like that make me just see red! It is probably the scariest time of your life and you need compassion and information, not just orders! Okay, Soapbox Sue is done for today!

Still haven't gotten my lymphedema compression sleeve! Called yesterday to make the appointment for a fitting and the woman who does that is on vacation and the lady on the phone wasn't sure they did custom orders! Did she tell me that before???????? No, just said this other woman would have to do the measuring since she was the one certified to do so! I will with to speak with the measuring lady on Monday and if she won't so it hopefully she can tell me who does. Geez Louise - who would have thought this part would be so difficult!

Speaking of definitions of words - I looked up the word Intrepid this morning as I was thinking again about my car. It is fate at work again. My car is an Intrepid and the definition of the word is - "Characterized by resolute fearlessness, fortitude and endurance." I think they are probably referring to an explorer but I was on a journey of my own with breast cancer so feel I qualify as the journey I was on required all of the words in that definition! I must say though, that fearlessness was not one of my characteristics then - I was very much afraid - but went on anyway, not much choice really. I wanted to live and have the best possible prognosis. Anyway, that is why I must keep my car - it is indeed fate!

I continue to be surprised at how my hair is growing back. I knew of course, that all your hair does not grow at the same rate but I have some that is 1" and some that is ½"! Some sticks straight up and some cannot be pried loose from my scalp it lays down so flat! Odd to see it like that. Can't bear to cut any of it off just yet, except the areas that peek out from under the different girls (my wigs). I am beginning to see more movement in the hairs so have begun to hope again that I may have a bit of curl! With my luck it will probably be awkward "bends" instead of curls!

I also have been very tired these past few nights. Think maybe Vegas is catching up with me! I must try and pace myself better and get into the habit of doing so. It is just that it feels so good to feel normal that I forget it has not been all that long and that they figure it takes as long to recover as it did for all the treatments and surgeries. That really puts me at the end of July!!!!!!!!!!!!! I really do not believe it will take me that long but I will try to not overdo as I do not want any setbacks!

March 12 - More blur days! I am finding that I have to rest or actually take a nap in the afternoon, again! I believe my body is trying to tell me to slow down more! I am changing my 100% back to 85% back! Not disappointed, just aware of what my body is saying to me. I had been running around all morning on Wednesday?, Thursday?, who knows - and I had just finished a bunch of printing that still had to be put into packets and shipped by Friday and I had it all stacked up in my arms in boxes carrying it to my car. Didn't want to have to mess with taking the shopping cart back! Paper is heavy and by the time I got to the car, I had to stop and lean against the car and just rest before even putting the stuff in the car! Wasn't out of breath or anything, just exhausted! I know it was unrealistic to expect to just pick up where I left off but………..hope springs eternal! So, I am going to slow down again and do a gradual "getting back into the swing of things!" I did so well at Vegas and for that week after that I thought I was fully 100%. I now feel a bit more fragile!

Perfect place for a Flavia quote: "As we turn the pages of time, we discover hidden mysteries and triumphs in each new chapter." How fitting to describe my journey!

Jen's Great Toe, as she has named it, is still red and the bruising has spread but she is not in a lot of pain and going on about her business. She is wearing my Birkenstock Clogs instead of her regular shoes as they have so much more toe room in them. Other than that, she is just fine. Fun news - Jaime is going to join us in Vegas next year when I go out to teach! How fun that will be! Haven't taken a vacation (for them anyway) all together with just the four of us since she got married! Wonder if the hotel will give me that great suite again??????????

It's photo time! Finally! Photographer Phyllis has been busy! This week begins the garden series. I love my garden and want to share it with all of you. This first one is standing on my patio just outside the kitchen sliding glass doors looking to the left. These pathways run throughout my garden in the back. Hope you enjoy it!

Until next week,

Margot a.k.a. Perky Polly, Soapbox Sue, Photographer Phyllis and Chatty Cathy

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