September 17 – I will be doing a lot of backtracking on this update since I have not written in such a very long time. Let’s start with the present.
The twins now have their “hats”! Nipple reconstruction surgery was on Wednesday the 15th and it was much easier than I expected. Gave the doctors “the recipe” for the anesthesia and once again no nausea whatsoever!!!!!!!!!!!! The anesthesiologist said it was pretty much the Zofran and then the Decadron and that the Reglan was to clean out my tummy of anything that might be lurking to make me nauseous. I can tell you that combo works for me! Can’t see anything yet, just a lot of bandages. No heavy lifting or pulling for awhile so looks like hurricane debris will have to wait a while longer. I can take the bandages off my tummy tomorrow and will report on what the areas look like as that is where he took the skin to make my new areolas. My boobs are not sore at all since there is really no feeling there anymore and my tummy feels like I got cut and is just a little sore. I am taking it easy though just to be on the safe side. I can bathe after today from the waist down. I see Dr. J. on Monday to get the bandages off my chest except for maybe the ones he stitched onto my skin! No typo there! I asked him what happened if the bandages fell off by themselves before Monday and he said they couldn’t because the main ones were sewn on and I said “Sewn on to what , my skin?!!!” and he said “Yes” much to my amazement! I will definitely be reporting in depth on this one! Sounds like I may not get to see the twins’ hats for a while yet! I did ask what complications could occur since he wants me home for a month to heal and he said the chances of these were very low but they still were possibilities – the nipple could die and fall off (Gross!) the skin graft could possibly not “take” and would wither (Gross again!) and the area of the skin graft could become infected. So, keep your fingers crossed for me! Now that I have nipples and areolas again I would very much like to keep them! I imagine I will become a bit emotional when I see them for the first time. I always viewed the twins as not quite finished when I saw myself in the mirror. It already feels good to know I will look more “normal” now. It is only important to the persons themselves how they want reconstruction to be and how it makes them feel – not anything to do with anyone else’s opinion on what they should or shouldn’t do. Lots of women opt for tattooing the areola around the reconstructed nipple, some have both the nipple and the areola tattooed on and some do nothing at all. It is what make the person feel the best about the whole situation that is important, not how or why they chose one way over another. I’m still not sure if I will have any tattooing done as I am still going braless! I told Dr. J. not to give me permanent “frog eyes” and he laughed and said they would be sticking out there for awhile but would eventually settle down.
The hospital part also went really well, had some of the same nurses as when I was there for my implant surgery in January and they remembered me. Do you remember the story about the nurse who made me the wonderful handmade card and gave it to Dr. J to give to me? Well, ordinarily I would never see her again because she works Inpatient surgery so I met her when I had my mastectomy surgery in August 2003 ( can you believe it has been over a year ago now!) and now my surgeries at that hospital are all Outpatient. Well she broke her wrist and is temporarily working the front admission desk for Outpatient Surgery and was there on Wednesday so Dr. J went and got her and asked me if I wanted company when I was in recovery and I figured it had to be her so I said “Yes!” and she came in and we chatted for about 15 minutes. What fun! Now that we have met on a more social basis and have exchanged names and addresses, I feel she will become a new friend. If Dr. J. ever gets the gallery going she and I will be a part of it. He says it is still on the back burner and not to give up on him.
On to back news now. The recent hurricanes left us with no house damage, Jennifer’s was fine too but she was without power longer than we were. My garden was hard hit and we lost four trees. We were without power for four days with Charley and about that with Frances but Harold had gotten a generator before Charley so we had fans, lights and the fridge was always running. I should say “they” instead of “we” since I was gone for both of the hurricanes! I was in Columbus, Ohio at a convention for Hurricane Charley and was in Dallas, Texas visiting Jaime and her family for Frances! Jennifer and her cat came to our house for each hurricane and she and Harold held down the fort! Harold said if I had not made my plans so early he would be very suspicious at my being gone for each hurricane! He was telling people that he lived with a hurricane all year (meaning me!) and that if one came along named Margot he was leaving me here and he was going to leave town! I think that was supposed to be funny!
I am still seeing the therapist on a weekly basis and have to say I look forward to the sessions. It is like spring housecleaning in a way, you look at things you have been storing for years and if you don’t need it or it is harmful you find a way to get rid of it or to neutralize it. It is stressful but very liberating at the same time. I must say it is extremely interesting to see into yourself and I know I never would have done this if it had not been for the breast cancer. I believe I mentioned that the therapist is a breast cancer survivor herself so we started out with that common bond. We rarely talk about the breast cancer though, I told her I really felt I handled that part okay, it was my life and thoughts that seemed to be spinning out of control back in the Spring. The first counselor that Dr. M. sent me to was good but she was a Cancer Counselor and we talked a lot about that and I told her, too, that I didn’t think that the cancer itself was my problem. I must say that the difference in talking to a social worker counselor and a licensed psychotherapist is like night and day. Debbie says her method is not to just treat the current problems but to find the root of them and treat that and the current problems then take care of themselves. If you ever have the opportunity to have some counseling, for whatever reason, do it – it feels great! I used to be one of “those people” who thought that counseling was for “other” people that were not as strong minded as I was. Not the case at all my friends, I am still a very strong woman and that will not change, I am just finding out what makes me strong and how to continue living my life to the fullest. I was not ready at all for this during my cancer treatment and initial surgeries, I guess your body tells you when it has had enough and that it needs some help and thank heavens I have a wonderful oncologist that recognized that when I didn’t see it myself and made me get some help. I think I would have crashed if I hadn’t, so please don’t hesitate to accept or even seek out counseling if you are having any difficulties dealing with your own illness or caring for someone you love.
On to the herniated disc back problem – That seems to have calmed down finally. I finished the series of cortisone shots (nasty, nasty things) and Dr. R. gave me a nerve test (that was nasty, too!) but the good news is that I have no nerve damage and it is now just a bit inflamed and he feels it will dissipate within a month. That has been going on since July 3! Am finally sleeping in the bed again (except for the last couple of nights due to surgery and my tummy hurting) so feel that getting that problem taken care of will take some of the stress out of my life. Lord knows I have quite enough right now!
Diabetes – Am finally getting used to poking myself in the finger twice a day and it looks as though I am getting much better control over my blood sugar. I did the first part of the Diabetes class at the hospital on Sunday the 12th and have the second part this coming Sunday, the 19th. Jennifer is going with me so two people hear what is being said. I must say it was not nice and I was in tears quite a few times that day. The first part of this class is all about diabetes and what can happen to you if you do not learn to control it. The nurse did say that aside from genetics and lifestyle that illness and chemo can bring on diabetes. I really did lose it then. I have felt that this was almost worse than breast cancer since I will have to deal with it every day for the rest of my life. I have been very upset over the diagnosis in July and of course it has preyed upon my mind every minute of the day for weeks now but last night I had an epiphany! Maybe this will turn out to be a blessing in disguise (big, major, mean disguise!). Instead of doing more damage to my body I have the chance to stop it in its tracks and halt future problems. I may even end up with a trimmer figure! I will certainly be much healthier! I already am walking at least 1 ½ miles a day for six days a week and soon I will be able to get back to my gardening. It is no longer an option for me to do these things. I must walk for both my back and for the diabetes to be under control and I must watch what and how I eat to stay alive and healthy. In the second part of the class we are learning all about the nutrition part and will have meal plans designed for each of us, individually. I plan on passing on information in these updates as I feel that diabetes information is just as important as breast cancer information and it affects all of us.
Now for the saddest news of all – we had to have our darling D.O.G put to sleep on August 26th the same day I saw Dr. P for my year check-up after my mastectomy surgery, I was fine by the way. D.O.G had just turned 14 and we have had her since she was two months old. She had a brain tumor diagnosed in June and the vet had given her about two years depending on how fast the tumor grew and how it affected her nervous system. She was taking Phenobarbital for preventing seizures and medicine for her arthritis. She had also lost her hearing but aside from all that was doing just fine on a daily basis. I noticed on Tuesday that she was looking at me with her head cocked to one side and so I petted her asked her what she wanted and then went on about my business. Later on I noticed that her head was still cocked and that her body seemed a bit “off” and told Harold we needed to keep an eye on her. Wednesday morning she seemed better but began to fade during the day – just listless. Took her to the vet on Thursday morning because she looked worse to me and by Thursday afternoon we had to put her to sleep. She never complained her whole life if she was in pain unless he got something stuck in her paw so you never knew she felt bad and this time she had a ruptured spleen and all her blood supply was going there so that is why she was so listless. She also suffered neural damage which was why her head cocked. They could have treated that but surgery would have been necessary for the spleen and she wouldn’t have survived the surgery or been in considerable pain after and not have survived long after that. We chose not to have her suffer and Harold and Jen and I were there as she passed on. I am crying again now as I am writing this, it was so hard to see her go, but you could see in her eyes that she was ready. She lifted her poor head and looked at each of us, right in our eyes, and then laid her head down like she was ready. We all were hugging her as her spirit left. The vet was teary eyed, too. We brought her home and she is buried in the garden next to C.A.T.
It has not been a good couple of months for us here. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be able to talk with someone who is not a friend or family member through all of this. It seems like one thing after another is crashing down on me and I am not one to feel sorry for myself but I must say I have been doing it lately! Sometimes Debbie (therapist) just listens and sometimes that is what I really need.
I guess I will send this one off since I have written four pages just now! I am home now for a month with no travel so hope to get a bit caught up on things. I will definitely report on the nipple reconstruction and on what I learn about diabetes.
Margot - keeper of the now “hatted” perky twins!
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