Update 44

September 23 – I know it is still the same day as the end of the last update but I just saw the twins “hats” for the first time while I am standing up! Pretty cool! The areolas are not yellowish at all! They are a nice healthy pink and they are a totally different color than the surrounding skin. The edges don’t curve up nearly as much as when I am flat on my back trying to get a look at them! The nipples do not look like a round pillow at all but more like a very large pea with the bottom cut off. They still look a bit odd with all the black thread around the outer and inner edges, though. And they look different than my “real” ones but way, way, better than nothing at all. I like them! I have to put the dressing back on and I thought I would describe that, too, as he does it differently than other plastic surgeons. He took two pads of gauze, folded them into quarters and cut off the point of the fold. When you open it up there is a nice hole right in the middle of the dressing for the nipple to fit into so it doesn’t get pressed down (they can flatten easily since they are just reformed skin). I then place them over the nipple area and if it does not come up as high as the top of the nipple I have to add another square of gauze with the hole cut out. On top of that goes a whole flat piece of gauze and that is taped down, then the nipple is protected. Other women I have talked to had a “daisy” looking bandage over the whole area for a while. Nurse Martha said those bandages looked to her like cake sections.

Been thinking about my tummy and have decided to name her – Tania the Tummy. Well, I forgot to tell you this part, too. Tania used to have her little (?) overhang going straight across over the so-called bikini line. Now there is a place right in the middle that is much flatter (skin came from that area and then the edges were sewn back together). I told Dr. J. on my first post–op visit that now I have “cat face” there. Of course, he raised his eyebrows and asked why I thought that. Mental picture time – since Tania is a full figured tummy whom now has a flat place right in the middle, she has a whole new look. I told him if I painted a nose right above the flattened area, then painted on two eyes on top of Tania that I would indeed have a cat face. Even that little indented area under their nose for the mouth! He just rolled his eyes, laughed and told me I had a vivid imagination! I have given Tania notice – she is living on borrowed time!

Going to see Counselor Debbie now.

Counseling - Interesting session today. I have asked her to begin with the part of the therapy where we dealt with eating habits and why I use food for comfort. I have always known I do that, but never knew how to change it. She told me at the beginning that all people needed five things, beginning at birth, to mature into healthy adults and she also told me that rarely is there someone who had all five met and is 100% “normal” so that was encouraging! The five things are “Nurture” (growth, love, comfort), “Place” (need to know your place so you fit in the world, home as a child progressing to the world as an adult), “Protection” (you are in a safe place with people to protect you), “Support” and “Limits” (we all need to know our limits as children and adults). If these needs are not met, you will substitute something (at any age, subconsciously) to compensate for them not being there. I told her at the beginning of this session that since I really need to lose this weight and keep it off that that was my primary concern now and could we start with that and what was I to substitute for food? She said, “Well, you have it backwards, as food IS the substitute and we need to find out what it is substituting for you.” That was certainly an “Ah-ha!” moment! So, we begin. I will keep you posted without revealing any of my deep, dark secrets! Did I tell you her method of treatment is not to treat the symptoms but to take each symptom and trace it back to its root and treat it at the root level. Sounds much more thorough to me than just treating the current problem.

September 24 - Good news from a friend who has lost fifty pounds – her Tania the Tummy seemed to shrink along with her weight loss that took nine months! Kind of like a reverse pregnancy!!!!!!!! I will hope that mine does too, but I remember what my mother looked like when she lost a lot of weight (she did it quickly because of illness) and she had hangy skin so I am hoping that if I lose it slowly it will shrink up a bit, too.

Diabetes – last time I went over a normal day’s meal plan. This time I want to break it down further and explain what a Starch is – it equals 15 grams of carbohydrate, a Protein = 7 grams of protein and Fat = 5 grams of fat. These are all based on a serving size. Look at the food labels and if something has 30 grams of carbs it would be two servings of starch. Starch is any carb – fruit, bread, veggies, milk (best ones of course) as well as candy, cake pies, etc (they are higher carb count and can certainly be included but would be a smaller serving size and sometimes they count as a fat serving, too) and has to be exchanged out as one or more of my starches. I cannot take the starch from breakfast and use it for dessert at dinner because I am now diabetic and need to keep my blood sugar regulated, but if you are not diabetic, you can do that. Same with protein if it was 14 grams of protein it would be two servings, 10 grams would be 1 ½ servings, and meat is judged by 1 ounce at a time.

I had a friend write that she read that one in five people who go through chemo end up with diabetes. I have not read that statistic myself, doesn’t seem to be mentioned in breast cancer literature, but reading over the literature for diabetes I have received the same diet that helps prevent diabetes also lists breast and colon cancer prevention, EVERY TIME! I believe based on what doctors and nurses have told me, that these people were probably also predisposed to diabetes before chemo. They all told me that chemo would not give you diabetes only set it off if any of the triggers for diabetes were present. Aren’t I just Cheerful Cherie! Sorry, but these are the facts and I wish I had paid more attention to them earlier in my life.

When I told you I ran a bit high for years with my blood sugar, it was 112 fasting. The norm is 70 – 110 fasting, 100-140 at bedtime. I am still running above this numbers but not dreadfully so am hoping with the weight loss and walking/gardening exercise I will get it under control. Stress can also raise your blood sugar level – didn’t know that. Exercise lowers it.

“Hats” - Walked a mile and a half this morning and put on the speed today. No reaction from Tania’s stitches and the “hats” stayed dry so I am good. I certainly don’t feel as if I had surgery just a week ago! Looking at the Twins again with their new hats, the nipples look out of proportion with the areolas right now and will until swelling goes down and they begin to flatten. Do you remember how he did the nipple? He made a circular cut on my breast the size of the areola, then made cuts up towards the middle of the circle leaving the center skin of the circle attached to my breast. Then he sort of “braided” the strips of skin together to form the nipple. Took some of Tania’s skin and used that for the areola and sewed the whole thing together with nice black thread. He does do a nice embroidery stitch!

September 25 – Just finished hurricane preparations. Jen and her cat arrived a couple of hours ago. Harold put up the hurricane panels over all the windows, strapped down all the patio furniture, got gas for all the vehicles and the generator, gas for the grills, brought in the 110V window air conditioner, etc. so we can have at least one room in which to be cool. I went to the grocery store and laid in supplies, put all of it away somewhere (now that is a job – good way to clean out the fridge and pantry!), did all the laundry, vacuumed, did all the dishes, ran the garbage disposal – anything I could think of that had to have power because by tomorrow the electricity will be out. When I finish here, I will go get my final hot shower for a bit. We had to re-pipe our plumbing some years ago and it now runs through the attic so even with no power by mid afternoon the water in the pipes is hot and we will be able to take quickie hot showers or have them cold to cool off! Harold put my car and Jen’s car in the garage, backed them up to touch the garage door with Styrofoam in between the car and the door and then parked his truck and his work truck right up to the door on the outside. That should keep the door from caving in – it is rated to withstand 130 mph winds but we would rather not test it completely! Hurricane Jeanne is supposed to hit us with 105 mph winds at around eight in the morning. They are supposed to drop to 85 mph by the afternoon! Lordy! I guess we are as prepared as we can be and will now have to wait it out. We are not in a low-lying flood prone area so were not asked to evacuate.

If no one has power here for a while, I wonder what I do about all my stitches???????

Did I just write not long ago, that things seemed to be settling down a bit and that I was happy once again? Maybe I jinxed myself! I am still okay though, what will happen will happen whether I worry myself to death about it or just go to bed! I am sure as it gets close the really bad weather will wake us all up! I am tired and ready for some sleep, as are we all here in Florida tonight. I heard on the news today that it has been 118 years since we had hurricanes like this. We still have until the end of November for hurricane season to officially be over!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was supposed to be home during this time to recuperate from surgery, not go through a hurricane! Hurricane Ivan almost messed up my surgery dates but then he turned and decided to go destroy Pensacola where my in-laws live. I tell you, 2003 and 2004 have not been my most favorite years for a wide variety of reasons! One year ago, yesterday, I had my first chemo treatment - what a journey it has been since then. For the first time since last August, I put my hair up in a clip to keep it off my neck. I had cut it short back then in anticipation of chemo then lost it all, grew it back and finally am able to put it up a bit. I have come full circle. November 26th I will be able to say I am a one year cancer survivor. That will be a whole year since the end of my chemo treatments. I am still technically a cancer patient until then.

I asked Dr. M. the oncologist about my prognosis since I was estrogen negative. I always read bad things about that. He said it only mattered for me when he was deciding what therapy to use after my surgery. Since I was estrogen negative, I couldn’t take Tamoxofin or any drug like that as they are estrogen based and it wouldn’t work for me, so my only treatment option was the chemo. He said that now it really is not a concern for me. Good!

September 28 – Where to start? We have had a hurricane, I had a scare about my skin grafts and new nipples, I went for my first massage, therapy is getting very interesting, and I have had three good blood sugar readings right in a row!

Okay, hurricane first. We lost a couple of shingles this time but no other damage. Power was only out for about six hours on Sunday after Hurricane Jeanne swept through. It ended up turning further south so we only got the outer edges, which was quite a sight I must say! I kept expecting my remaining trees to fall over! The worst of the hurricane had passed by early morning and when the power went out, I went outside on the patio, curled up in the lounge chair up under the porch roof and read all day. Had a nice blanket to keep the rain spray off of me and both Harold and Jen brought me goodies to eat and drink throughout the day. I quite liked that! There are still many places without power and some without water, too, so we were very lucky. Had enough hurricanes for a while, though!

Surgery - Saturday night after all our hurricane prep was done I took my final shower before the hurricane was to come through. I always check on the surgery areas when I shower and I noticed that part of the right side of my right nipple was black and hard, an area on the top of the nipple looked very swollen and the areola next to the black area on the nipple was very much darker than any of the other skin. Of course, I have to see this on a weekend night for one and right before a hurricane is supposed to come through! My timing is impeccable as usual! My next appointment was to have been Wednesday the 29th but I called first thing Monday to find out if Dr. J. thought he should have a look for himself. He did and I went in being a bit nervous. I kept thinking what if…………..the skin graft isn’t taking in that area, what if………….the nipple is dying……………what if, what if, what if……………When he came in the room he looked at me sideways and said, “What is this I hear about you trying to kill off your nipples?” Well, of course, I had to laugh and then I immediately felt better because if he felt he could make a joke, he couldn’t be expecting something dreadful! Well I am happy to say that I will be just fine, there is some skin that is dying but he says that “we” (we who???) will pick off the blisters that will occur (gross and disgust!) and the skin underneath will be just fine. He will remove the blackened area on the nipples (double gross and disgust!) and that will also be fine as they are large now so I have some “extra” to work with and the swelling is due to the area that is drying up making the area where the swelling is, tight, which is actually causing the swelling. Instead of Wednesday, I go back now on Friday, October 1. I will be glad to finally start getting some of these stitches out, they itch!

Massage – That was interesting and it hurt like %$$#@# but my leg feels better even if I do feel like someone has beaten me up! I will go get in a bath with Epsom salts shortly then spend some time with a moist heating pad. She (massage therapist) said I would be sore for maybe a couple of days but that my gluteus (my butt muscles) were very tight and that was part of what was making my leg so sore. She said I might even have some bruising since she went so deep into my muscles. I told her that was just fine as I have been messing with this back/disc/leg problem since the beginning of July! I will go back next week sometime after I see Dr. J. and find out if I can lie down. I had to stay up on my elbows today to not let my full weight rest on the “twins!” so not to disturb the skin grafts. She had me lay on my back and she gave me a partial massage up around my shoulders to help relieve the stress from holding myself up for so long. She wants me back in about a week before those muscles have a chance to tighten up again but that was so hard on my shoulders and arms. Even with that little problem, I felt like a floppy noodle when she was done. Can’t wait until I get to lay down and get the full massage. Everything is so tight and I could feel the tension leaving, it was wonderful even when it hurt. I have some exercises to do to stretch my hamstrings without putting any pressure on my discs. Will let you know if this works. I will try anything to not have to have those shots again!

Therapy - Great session today, I love going there and finding out things. Nurse Martha is going to come along with me next week for a mini-group session. Should be interesting, the two of us together! Not sure the counselor will come away unscathed with both of us there! At my last appointment I told my oncologist how much I felt she had helped and how great I thought she was and she told me today that he had sent a patient to her already. Good, I am sure she will help them, too! I told her last week that I am beginning to feel so much freer and happier now, like a film has been in between all I have been looking at - if you know what solar film is for windows it is like that has been removed and everything still looks the same as it did, but brighter. Can’t say when I felt it first, I think it gradually crept up on me, but one day I caught myself whistling and I couldn’t remember the last time I had whistled! I have felt peaceful, content, loved, – all those things but not “happy.” I still do not feel I am completely back to normal, energy wise, but I feel more energized that I have in a very long time.

Blood sugar – going to go now and see if I can make it four good readings in a row! Time to fine tune what I told you last time about the meal plan. Remember I said that for dinner I get 2 Starches, 0 Milk, 3 Vegetables, 3 Protein and 1 Fat. Let’s do another meal and I will show you how things move around. We had black-eyes peas, some onion, collard greens and ham for dinner. Black-eyed peas are a starchy vegetable that has a lot of protein so each ½ cup counts as 1 starch and 1 very lean protein and I had a cup of those so there went 2 of my starches and 2 of my proteins. Tossed in some chopped onion with the peas, onions are a free food unless you get carried away eating them. Ate a cup of collards (didn’t dare eat any more when I had the peas, too! Tania the Tummy would be sure to complain about that!). Again, ½ cup is 1 serving so I had two vegetable servings. I did eat more than 3 ounces of ham (3 ounces counts as 1 serving) so I had extra protein tonight (and that devil – sodium!) and could have used another vegetable but there was no way I could eat any more. Carbonated water to drink. So let’s see how my blood sugar is two hours after eating that meal.

It was right on after dinner but a couple of points too high the next morning, probably due to eating too much. Should have paid attention to eating the correct portion size of that ham!

September 30 - Yea, yippee, hurray! I had four readings, right in a row, that are right on target and the rest have been off by within 10 points. I know, I know - with diabetes, off is off, but I am getting closer all the time. Haven’t lost any more weight, though, that is a bit disappointing. However, I have had to ditch some of the clothes I have been wearing and go down to the next size in my closet. For all you thin people out there, anyone that struggles with their weight has about four different sizes in their closet at any given time!

I go tomorrow to get some of these itchy stitches out. Of course, the only ones that itch are under Tania, the ones on my boobs I can’t feel anyway! Haven’t been able to get out in the garden either. Dr. J. doesn’t want me to do any activity that I might be brushing across my chest, even with bandages. So, I am having to be content with putting all the plants back out after putting them away in the greenhouse for the hurricane.

Feeling stronger finally – stronger mentally as well as physically. Have spent a lot of time in the past year feeling vulnerable and without direction. The direction part is still a bit haphazard but I am beginning to feel so much more like my “old self” and I like that feeling. Thank heavens the “new normal” after having breast cancer includes being able to feel like your old self.

Massage - I am very, very sore still from the massage, feels like someone punched me there and that I should have a big bruise, but…………..the pain in my left leg seems to have almost disappeared! I even slept on my left side for a while and I haven’t done that since July 3! I still have little annoying “pulses” like nerve endings going off but not the dreadful pulses that continued to escalate in pain until I had to get up and go sleep in the recliner. I will ask Dr. J. when I can lay flat on the “girls” so I can go get another massage before my muscles tighten back up. I have been doing the stretches the therapist recommended, they hurt but I know that will lessen, too, and maybe I can prevent another attack like this one from happening again.

October 1 – Got my stitches out! All of them! Tania protested a bit but the Twins were very calm. A bit of bleeding under Tania and from under the nipples and around the edges of the skin graft areas (areolas) – just where the stitches were lodged. I said, Yuk!”, Dr. J. said, “Blood is good, it means living tissue.” Okay, well then, blood is good! I got a clarification on who is to be picking off the dead skin – him! He said if pieces of skin looked like they were going to fall off that I could do it – hmmmmmmmmmm………………… Not! Still have the black, dead stuff but hopefully that will go away soon. The right one is oozing a bit of yukky looking yellowish stuff – Dr. J. said it is the “mushy dead skin” – Geez! Is that gross or what! Aren’t you glad I am so graphic? I can shower, but not scrub or even wash the nipple areas, just let the shower spray gently hit there and then pat dry.

Pretty ordinary day otherwise. I go back in a week so he can see the progress. I still have to wear bandages on the girls to protect them for a while longer. I want to garden a bit on Sunday and I have to wear a leisure bra over the bandages for some extra protection.

Today is my oldest daughter, Jaime’s birthday. She is thirty-seven. Egads! How can I have a daughter who is thirty-seven? I am not old enough!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I must say, she is a gorgeous thirty seven year old! Takes after her, oh so modest, mama, of course!

Jen is heading up the team from where she works for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Orlando walk tomorrow. I joined her team, too, and she and another gal also sold bracelets, pins, candy, etc., with all the proceeds going to the total donations form CNA Insurance. CNA also matches funds with anyone working there so they really did well. I have another commitment or I would be walking, too. I do get a shirt for my fundraising, though, and I will wear it proudly. I usually donate to the Susan G. Komen foundation but had to support my darlin’ Jen!

Things are beginning to feel “normal” finally. Still the “new normal” but that is now becoming my just everyday normal. Did that make any sense??????????

I still had hair this time last year, it started falling out around the ninth of October. Sooooooooooooooooo glad it is all back now! I have only had it back for five and a half months! Most of the curl is gone, just the hair on the back of my neck is still curly. Have a bit of wave left, though. I just wash it, dry it with my head upside down, run super gel through it, tease it a bit, spray with hair spray and off I go! Love it! I must get a new photo for you before I go to get it cut.

This is getting rather long so I think I will close for now.

Take care…..

Margot a.k.a. Perky Polly, keeper of the now complete Perky Twins – Polly and Dolly and Cat-Faced Tania the Tummy!

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