March 18 – Fourth day after surgery. Am beginning to perk up a bit, finally. After my first bout with euphoria at not hurting and feeling great, reality set in and my poor body said, “Excuse me, but I have had anesthesia twice in a week’s time, one procedure (the Endoscopy) and surgery with cuts and tissue removal and drains and………I am tired and I hurt!” So, I took the pain meds through Friday night and then switched to Tylenol. The pain meds made me sleepy so……………I slept a lot! I know I needed to do that but I usually hate to just “do nothing” for so long. Luckily I really didn’t feel like doing anything so I just watched TV and read and slept. Harold took me to run errands yesterday morning and out to lunch and that was it for the day! Today I am feeling much more like my old self, not feeling so “fuzzy brained” but still the have dratted tiredness. I don’t feel so sleepy today (have slept well these past couple of nights in my own bed!) and think I will be up all day today. Poking around in my studio, nothing strenuous but I am moving around.
Harold has been “manning” the drain collection process. YUK! He empties the grenade and measure the “output” (that is a nice word for disgusting liquid that secretes from inside your body!) The “liquid” looks oily and is reddish and amber colored. It is getting less and less each day s I should be able to get the nasty thing out on Wednesday. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate having a drain????? To sleep, I pin it to the inside of a tank top and then stick the actual grenade down inside the waistband of my panties. Had to secure all of it because the thought of pulling it loose somehow or getting caught in all that tubing and having that yucky stuff get in my bed is just too horrid to think of. This morning I did a big stretch before I even thought and it was wonderful. I haven’t been able to do that for sometime as it hurt just to move around let alone stretch so progress is being made! It is already hard to remember just how much Gigantor Dolly hurt now that she is Just Plain Dolly again! Don’t mind forgetting that pain at all! She is still a bit swollen from Dr. J poking about in there but it really is minimal swelling. If it weren’t for the lovely grenade hanging out of Dolly I could wear my normal shirts again.
Pretty boring, huh. Biggest crisis was on Thursday when the drain clogged twice and we had to clear it. I did that part myself since I remembered how to do it from last time. I should say I remember how Jennifer cleared it last time as I watched. You have to pull and stretch that tubing until it forces whatever is making it clog (I do not even want to think about that!) on through the check valve and it begins to drip again. Biggest production today is getting a real shower. I am not supposed to do that until the drain comes out but I bought boxes of bandages to cover everything and I will be in and out in a heartbeat. A sponge bath just does not cut it! And my hair is gross! Wore my Fiery Fiona wig yesterday on my errands!
March 19 – It’s Harold’s birthday! He is the best husband in the whole world! He usually goes off with his buddies for about four days down to Sebring and they camp out in an RV and watch the Twelve Hours of Sebring race. This is the first year he has missed in I don’t know how long. He wouldn’t even consider leaving me even though the surgery was considered minor. Instead he cooked, cleaned, emptied disgusting drains for me and yesterday he spent all day doing things in my studio and more construction on the new den. I felt bad that he wouldn’t go, it really would have been fine because Jen would have come to stay with me but down deep, I was pleased that he chose to stay with me. Support, especially ongoing support (for years in his case!) is so very important. All of what is happening right now, the surgery and the anemia, can be linked directly to my second go round with breast cancer. We have been dealing with this since July of 2003. A long time, especially for someone to be supportive. I am commending Harold here, no doubt, but also trying to convey how important support really is to the person going through treatment. Mind you, this is not all one-sided. I have a responsibility to him as the “patient” not to impose on his time if not really necessary, not to run around wringing my hands and saying “poor me” all the time (because I am sure he thinks “poor me” to himself sometimes. I would, if I were in his shoes) to try and be upbeat (no one likes to be around someone who is always a martyr to their illness, especially when they are trying to help that person!). Not Pollyanna upbeat though, just Normal Nellie, to try and keep some sort of normality going on with the things you can so the caregiver does not get too overwhelmed and burnt out with all of it because it really is always lurking in the back of your mind even when things are going smoothly. Let them know how much they are appreciated. Ooooooooo…..Soapbox Sue is on a roll!
I just read my horoscope for today and I really like part of what it said. It had to do with your thinking of “What to do with your life.” It said that most people who say they have it all under control really don’t and that having it all under control is really not the important part. What is important is that you be open to anything and ready to put forth whatever effort is necessary to make something happen when it can. I take that as embracing change and moving forward instead of dwelling on what used to be and will never be again. I have had breast cancer twice. Period. I can sit around and feel sorry for myself for all that has happened to me (and I do that upon occasion when Feelingverysorryformyself Francine comes to visit but she is not allowed to stay for very long) and dwell in the past, thinking about “what was” or I can get on with the life I have been given and “live!”. Those choices are open to everyone and you are the only one who can make that choice. I can be miserable and make everyone around me miserable or I can savor the wonder that is “life” and enjoy it with everyone around me. The choice really is yours. I think Wise Woman Winona has joined in today’s journal entry. But really, it is so very easy to get caught up in your own little world of misery and forget about the people around you. If something should happen to me I do not want to be remembered as someone that cancer defeated and was miserable to herself and those around her but to be remembered as someone who refused to let cancer rule her life and lived it fully and was pleasant to be around (most of the time anyway!). To be remembered with love and joy and not “thank goodness that is over.” Not that anyone would say that out loud but they would certainly be thinking it down deep if you were miserable and made everyone around you miserable, too! I know I would think that! Although sometimes you ARE glad it is over for someone who has been suffering but that is a whole different ballgame. That situation a person cannot control, but your daily life actions you can. Geez, Soapbox Sue is still up on that soapbox, isn’t she! I think the following quote sums it up nicely. “Be careful what you think………….Your thoughts become your words….Your words become your actions…….Your actions become your habits………Your habits become your character…….Your character is everything.”
I am feeling really good this morning. No nap at all yesterday, just rested every once in awhile. Drain output is down which is a very good thing, means it should come out on Wednesday. The fluid is still quite red though so I hope that is not anything major. I plan on working all day (paperwork and painting, nothing too strenuous) and going out tonight with Harold and Jen to celebrate his birthday. Nice and normal! I will just have to wear a jacket that I can hide the “grenade” in because I can tell you, seeing that will certainly take away your appetite! I will be so glad to get that thing out. It is a mind game, too. Sick people have drains and the like, people who are well can have a bandage or two and still be well.
March 21 – Morning - Feeling very jumpy this morning. Saw the gastroenterologist yesterday for the results of the biopsy he took on the 7th from my stomach and all is well. I do have to take Prilosec OTC for the rest of my life or as long as I take aspirin products for arthritis (which I imagine will be the rest of my life!) to protect my stomach. He said that taking the Prilosec will cut my chances of having stomach problems from 20% down to 5%. (5%? Did he really tell me 5%??????????. Makes my stomach clench when I hear that as I seem to be a lifetime member in that not so fun club!) He also feels the hematoma had something to do with the anemia and wanted to be sure someone was monitoring my blood (if they monitor it much more I will have to have another transfusion!) and if it started to go back down after the Aranesp treatment is over he wants me back to do more extensive tests. Oh yea. Nice man and concerned doctor, but I have had my fill of tests for a good long while!
The reason for my “jumpiness” is seeing Dr. J this afternoon. I want this drain OUT (I was sooooooooooo uncomfortable yesterday) but am concerned that the liquid is still so red, am a bit nervous about finding out what was in the liquid in the hematoma, where the thing came from in the first place, will it come back, if so is it always an operation to remove it, is something in there still bleeding to cause the liquid to be so red, if so what happens……………….Geez Louise! Nervous Nellie is taking over! Of course I go see him after I go to get my blood checked (please let it be up!) and get another Burning Aranesp shot in the morning! Have to have them use the left side of my tummy for the shot since the disgusting drain is taking up space on the right!
On to a different subject. My friend Jasmin is once again doing the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer on June 2nd and 3rd in my name. (I am so very humbled by that gesture) Last year she walked 40 miles in the Chicago Walk and the total monies the walk raised was around Eight Million dollars. Impressive! If you are interested here is the link to Jasmin’s personal page. Click here to visit my personal page. I am so very impressed by her courage, fortitude and commitment to raising money for “the cause.”
Same day – Afternoon – I am still jumpy but now I am jumping for joy! Went to get my blood work and my shot and…………………..blood was up to 12.1 and when it is over 12……….NO SHOT! I still have to go next week to be tested but if I am still up I will need no shot and then instead of seeing the doctor the following week it will revert to my every three month check-up instead. Keep your fingers crossed! I do really like my doctor but every three months is quite enough to see him.
Then on to Dr. J’s office. I baked cookies (don’t even think I am being Holly Homemaker here, they are slice and bake from the grocery store!) and gave the office staff theirs but when he came in and said “Where are MY cookies?” I told him if he didn’t take out that nasty drain he didn’t get any cookies and I would just take them back home with me! He just laughed! He checked the chart that Harold kept of the “output” and said I was producing less than 20 cc’s so it could come out – Thank Heavens – and he had me breathe in and breathe out, breathe in and breathe out – and out it came on the “out” breath! Just stung a bit. Now, you know all that big explanation I have given about it being a blood and fluid filled “hematoma?” Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeell, I did say I was a bit fuzzy when he was telling me all about it right after surgery, didn’t I! I got the “oma” part right at least. It was a “seroma” which is basically a fluid filled blister! In my case, a huge, fluid filled blister. The biopsy came back negative for even an infection! Yea! Yippee! Hurray! He said for some reason, and he thinks it may have had something to do with all the chemo and stuff, the area under the implant got irritated and then the implant started to move around over the irritated area causing more irritation and it just kept on going. Sort of like when you get a blister from your shoe but much bigger! He said poor ole’ Dolly was twice her normal size (like I didn’t know that!) as the implant has 560 cc’s in it and the blister had 600 cc’s! He said the fluid is still reddish because it is still very irritated and raw (Ouch! The mental picture that produces!) in there and to take it easy on my right side for another week and to stay away from aspirin for another week, also. If it happens again, and I now know the symptoms, he can draw off the fluid instead of having surgery. He also said he only has one other patient with the same problem. I forgot to ask if the chances of that happening were 5%! I will ask next week as I have to go back and get the stitches out next Wednesday. You know…….I did not renew my membership for that dratted Exclusive 5% Club and I really wish they would take me off the roster!
I have to take Vitamin E every day from now on to keep scar tissue soft if it starts to form and I have to press in all around and under the edges of the new implant to keep scar tissue from forming in the wrong place as it is healing. He said the old implant was fine and the saline inside it was clear. Got my new warranty card for the new implant. Fits in your wallet – now, who is going to carry around a card that says you have implants and what size they are??????????????? Maybe it would be a good conversation starter? “Would you like to see my Warranty Card for my 560 cc right boob named Dolly?” I don’t think so!
Oh, I am so relieved that things finally seem to be slacking off a bit. After next week it may be that I don’t have any doctor’s appointments until the middle of April! For me, that is a long time!
March 22 – Oh, what a wonderful morning, oh, what a wonderful day! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the squirrels are chasing each other around through the trees and I feel great! Just a bit sore, that’s it! Would like to be out gardening but aside from the fact I have to be “quiet” for another week, I have a ton of work to do! All this being sick and having surgeries and multiple doctors’ appointments certainly plays havoc with my work schedule.
I can FINALLY talk about a project I am involved in with my friend Patte and three other artists. Patte came up with the idea, (she made me swear on my life not to tell early!) presented it to a magazine, got it accepted then gathered up four other artists and off it went. Her concept was to get a medium sized trunk and have each of us paint a side of it in our own style of painting using a compatible color palette and keeping to a garden theme. She painted the front, and then sent it to the magazine for photography. They then sent it to Bob who painted one of the sides. He sent it back to the magazine for photography. They sent it on to me and I painted the top and then sent it back to the magazine and that is where it is now. It still has two other stops to make before it comes back to Patte for the final touches. It is titled “The Traveling Trunk” and will run in the magazine for about a year. The magazine is The Decorative Painter and comes out every two months. The first “installment” came out this week and it shows just Patte’s painting, the rest of the trunk is just green, and the article tells who the other artists are but the readers have to wait for the next issue to see just what will be added and by whom. It will become part of a permanent art collection when we are all done as it will be quite a “work of art” when completed. Just a note of trivia here, this coming weekend Patte and I are taking a two day seminar from the artist who gets the trunk next! Everyone attending the seminars belongs to the same organization, The Society of Decorative Painters, so they will all have received a copy of the magazine by then and there will be three of the featured artists’ right there in the same room! I have photos of my part but she threatened me with bodily harm if I showed anyone! How fun this is! What a great job I have! Whoowee! Today everything is great!!!!!!!!!!! Grateful Gracie is in full possession of all the other personas today!
March 23 – Still feeling fine although I had a slight mishap last night. I took the bandage off where the drain came out under my breast before I went to bed because the tape was driving me crazy. My skin hurt, not the wound. Over the past few years I have developed a reaction to most types of bandages that are on my skin longer than a half an hour! Oh yea. Anyway, Dr. J told me the wound could “ooze” a bit but I thought I would be okay while I was sleeping. Well…………….I woke up this morning and thought, “Wow that was some night sweat, I can feel it running down my side!” Then in a flash I realized that it would be odd to sweat in just one place and got up immediately to find I had been “leaking” for some time. Gross! Really, it was not as bad as it sounds. I bandaged it up again and it seems to have calmed down. Guess I will keep the bandage on that area just a bit longer!
I came across this quote yesterday and want to pass it on. In case you or someone you care about is grieving for any reason and feeling uncomfortable with the grief pass this on – “Grief is not the sign of weakness, nor lack of faith, it is the sign of love.” Love for another person or for yourself. “They” kept telling me I had to grieve for my lost breasts in the beginning and I would not do it because the one was trying to kill me so why would I grieve for that? Much later I realized it was not the actual breasts I should grieve for, but for my loss of innocence and security about my own body and mind, not just one particular part of it. Facing your own mortality is a very sobering experience. So then I grieved for myself and felt badly for awhile but then got over it and was better for having taken the time to grieve for my “loss.” It is hard sometimes to think about loving yourself, but you really need to do just that, no matter what. I was much kinder to myself after I came to that realization.
Photo of the Week – What you are seeing here is the view to the left of the doorway and it is my sewing/retail/painting area. You can see I am working on a magazine article on the table in the forefront. The hanging cabinet houses all my stuff for making eggs and ornaments and my calligraphy stuff. The wooden chest holds all my oil paints. Colored pencils are on top of the oil paint chest along with some of my artwork. To he right of the chest are brushes to be used and on the left are brushes for sale. Bottom cabinet holds watercolor stuff, more of the egg and ornament stuff and framing mats. Then the sewing machine, then the sewing/needlework storage cabinet. To the far left you see the rack with some of my retail stuff on it. The three of those large lace covered tables go along with the three from the photo last week making six wonderful work tables – all for me!
Margot a.k.a Just Plain Dolly – twin of Just Plain Polly of the Perky Twins belonging to Margot – Keeper of the Perky Twins who are finally a matching “set” again, Gigantor Dolly (not any more!), Fiery Fiona, Pollyanna, Normal Nellie, Soapbox Sue, Feelingverysorryformyself Francine, Wise Woman Winona,Nervous Nellie, Holly Homemaker and Grateful Gracie.
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