Thursday, December 27, 2007

Just Chillin' Out at the Corn Dog Stand

I suppose y'all thought I fell into some sort of hole in the earth. Not so. Just was taking a break from it all. I've been working hard on rebuilding my stamina which seems to be the only residual from my surgery. On days when the weather isn't so depressing, I've been walking along the boardwalk. I walk down to the post office everyday to get the mail. And today I got out to do errands. Everyday I get home, I just collapse though. I'm definitely improving, but it's in very small increments. I start back to work on Wednesday, so we'll see how it goes...

I had another follow up appointment with my doctor today. We discussed the next phase of 'rebuilding' me. There are four things he's planning on doing; two of which are "clipping my dog ears and making my cats eyes smaller." And I swear to you that is exactly what he said!! But I'll break it all down in 'human' language.

  • As mentioned before, he will re-do my abdominal incision to give it a nice small scar. There were areas that opened up during my infection so now my scar is rather wide in a few places.
  • At either end of my abdominal incision (which ends right around the love-handle areas) the skin has formed little triangles. These are what he calls the 'dog ears.' He's going to smooth these out because dog ears coming out of your love-handles is completely unacceptable in most social scenarios.
  • Gravity has taken its toll. (He told me this would happen, but he really didn't have to. I'm well aware of this horrifying phenomenon from past experience.) During my surgery, he had to remove a small part of the 4th rib on each side. The breast mounds have settled a bit and now I have what can only be described as an area that is concaved just over each breast. So he needs to insert a little more fat to make it look more natural and less like a breast implant.
  • Lastly, he will insert my new nipples and decrease the size of the skin islands, which incidentally are shaped like cats eyes.

The surgery should take around 3 hours or so and I'm scheduled for March 23rd. He said I'll be out of commission for a few days, but I should be back to work by the following Monday or Tuesday.

Hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season. Things have been very low key here. Gary had to work Christmas night, so we haven't really participated much in holiday festivities. He made a really scrumptious breakfast on Christmas morning and then we took the dogs on a nice walk. It was actually very nice just to spend time together and not be so caught up in all of the gift insanity or all of the cooking craziness he is usually involved in. Seeing as he is working on New Year's Eve, I plan on doing something completely different to ring in the new year. I'm going to celebrate behind closed eyelids. Usually we are out celebrating, but I figure I'm going to welcome the new year the next morning well rested. Philosophically, I think it's a great start to 2008.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Updates from the Circus

It's been a little while since I blogged, so I wanted to let you know that I'm doing okay. My infection has cleared, but my incision looks like hell. Dr. Rodriguez says he'll be doing the revision, but I'm not sure when. Sections had opened up to drain during the infection, so they are still healing. I'm also still trying to 'stretch out.' I'm walking upright, but my range of motion isn't quite back to normal. My right arm is doing better, so I'm trying to focus on reaching for things with my left. But being a righty, this is taking considerable mental effort.

My dad came up last Monday. He's been helping me going through Mom's stuff and walking the dogs and things that I'm not up to yet. Mostly he's been here for emotional support. My grief over Mom's passing has started to subside, but I miss her terribly. Not an hour goes by that I don't think of her. Sometimes I'll hear something and think 'I can't wait to tell Mom that.'

I'm still working on the details of the memorial and am still trying to decide on an appropriate venue. Still planning for late January though. More details as they become available.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

News from the Big Top

We had a few inches of snow here yesterday. It was beautiful and I was very happy to watch the weather from the comfort of my living room next to the fire. I think I am starting to feel better though. The little piles of clutter all around the house are starting to get to me. I straighten a little here and there, but like mushrooms, every time I clean up a pile three or four pop up in its place. I managed to help Aunt Nell change the sheets on my bed, then immediately took a two hour nap. I'm still trying to get my strength back.

I had a follow-up appointment to check on my infection today. It has started to clear and I have only a few more doses of the antibiotic to take. Dr. Rodriguez was encouraged and removed a few left-over sutures (likely the culprits of the infection.) I'll see him just after Christmas and we'll talk about my revision of my abdominal incision at that time. A few parts of the incision opened up and drained the infection, so he'll have to trim away that tissue and stitch it up again so I'll have an 'attractive scar' (if there is such a thing!)

Getting out this morning to head to Baltimore was another matter. It usually takes about an hour to get to the city, so we gave ourselves over 90 minutes because of slippery roads. Despite planning ahead it took over 2 hours. No worries though. My doctor was trapped in his driveway and arrived only moments before I did.

Aunt Nell will leave us tomorrow. She has been such a wonderful help, both as a caretaker and emotionally. We will miss her and have made her promise to come back when I have recovered and we can 'play.'

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Do Something...

You all have been so supportive, asking what I need done. You are all giving me exactly what I need right now; prayers, love, memories of Mom. I realize that you also feel the need to 'do something' as an outlet for your own feelings and grief. Donate in memory of Carolyn C. Braden... money, time, yourself; whatever you can or want.

If you've followed the blog from the start you may remember my mentioning a website I found early on called the Circus of Cancer. If you've not gone to the site I suggest you do. This was the brainchild of Kelly Corrigan, diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer before the age of 40. The site is filled with a photographic and written account of her journey through this circus. The site also focuses on how to talk to a friend with cancer. I feel this is such an important aspect of a woman's diagnosis because so many people don't really know what to say. Or think they know what to say.

People keep telling me how strong I am, but the truth is that I have derived my strength from the support you have given. I somehow have been able to surround myself with truly remarkable people, but I don't think everyone is so lucky. This education campaign that Kelly has taken on has so much more value and importance to breast cancer survivors than any of you know. If you would like to make a donation in Mom's memory, please do so by sending it to:
Kelly Corrigan's Circus of Cancer
455 Mountain Avenue
Piedmont, CA 94611

Another organization that is close to my heart is the American Cancer Society. I worked there in a breast and cervical cancer screening program several years ago. I am absolutely committed to the ACS mission. And folks, they are one of the best when it comes to utilizing funds. They use less than 10% of their funds on administrative costs and salaries. The rest of the money goes to research, programs, advocacy, and fundraising. You can donate money or time as a volunteer. Go to the American Cancer Society donation page for more information on ways to donate in Mom's memory.

Mom hid her cancer for over a year. I'm living proof that if caught early, cancer can be cured. More needs to be done so that no other woman ever needs to go through what my mother did. There must be more research for cures and treatment, more funds so that every woman can be screened early and receive treatment, and education so that woman (like my mother) don't have to be burdened with the fear of this disease.