Monday, August 31, 2009

"My Breasts are More Important Than Yours !"

So stick that in your pipe and smoke it, breast augmentation babes!

At least, that was what the plastic surgeon, Dr. Venturi, said. Apparently, my surgery gets to bump folks with elective surgeries.

First, the plastic surgeon needs to make sure I have enough abdominal fat (I offered to eat more doughnuts to help out and was turned down.) to make a new breast with-Yes, you understood that correctly...FREE TUMMY-TUCK. My C-section scar isn't helping; it blocks the view and they need to get a closer look at the normal scarring that occurs. So, I'm off to have a CT scan on Thursday.

I'm back at the plastic surgeon's on Wednesday, September 9th for the pre-op consult to finalize what the CT scan says about my eligiblity to have a DEIP "free" flap construction. Assuming all goes well, he'll get more measurements and then conference with my breast cancer surgeon, Dr. David "The Grape Crusher" Weintritt. After that, there will be a meeting of the "peoples"; Dr. Venturi's people and Dr. Weintritt's people will figure out a mutually agreeable time and the people from Virginia Hospital Center will provide the place.

I'll be the person on the gurney wearing a corset.

Moving Quickly

Things are moving pretty fast.

I called the recommended plastic surgeon's office (Dr. Venturi) at 9am sharp this morning. His secretary said they didn't have any appointments this week and I'd have to wait until next week. Unless....unless I wanted to come in today?

You bet. I'm in the "get things planned and done" mode. The waiting is making me antsy. Not that I look forward to surgery or "putting this all behind me," "moving on with my life, " etc. because I just am not that kind of person. My experiences are always with me, a part of me. Why try to forget? They influence who I am. (Notice I said "influence. Not "make".)

I hate waiting. I especially loathe waiting for unpleasent things, like shots. The waiting is worse than the shot. Having your boob sliced off and a new one installed is a darn big shot!

I'll update on what the plastic surgeon says when I get home.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Young and the (Left) Breastless

Yep, I'm having a simple mastectomy. My breast cancer surgeon, Dr. David Weintritt (according to my German teacher friends, my doctor's last name means "grape crusher." It would have been funnier if he had decided to specialize in testicular cancer!), said this would be the most effective treatment for the DCIS and the invasive BC. The DCIS-invaded duct crosses too many quaderants of my breast to make a lumpectomy feasible.

Now I have to call the plastic surgeon that Dr. Weintritt recommended. Apparently, because I want the immediate reconstruction called the DIEP "free" flap,   my choices in plastic surgeons are limited. Think like limited to two, in Northern Virginia. Why? Because it's the most difficult and specialized type of reconstruction. The plastic surgeon must be trained in micro-vascular surgery, as a great deal of the surgery is performed under a microscope. It's a looooongg surgery, too. Like 8 hours long. (I forgot to ask how they handle bathroom breaks. I really want to know! I'll ask the next time I'm at the office.) I told CJ to bring lots of DVDs to the waiting room to play on our portable DVD player.

So, I will get in touch with plastic surgeon's office on Monday. I hope to have an appointment with him early next week. After that, the plastic surgeon and Dr. Weintritt will discuss my case, their surgery scheduling secretaries will coordinate when both surgeons are available and the OR at Virginia Hospital Center is available.

I'm guessing I will know my surgery date sometime late next week. I'll keep everyone posted.

CJ and I are heading out tonight for some much needed alone time. Thanks, Mom!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Breasts Play Good Cop, Bad Cop

The doctor I'm getting a second opinion from, Dr. Habib, called with the results of my bilateral MRI and the mammogram that I had done yesterday on my right breast.

OK-bad cop first. The DCIS is spread throughout my left breast. Which means that a mastectomy is the surgical treatment. If I went with a lumpectomy, I'd be left with a breast shaped like a figure-8, with a nipple waving at the end. No thanks.

Just an FYI-the breast, while viewed by doctors in quaderants, is not like an orange. It does not divide neatly into segments. Milk ducts (where DCIS and most BC starts) are not linear; one duct can weave through many "quaderants" of the breasts. So, while only 1 or 2 ducts might be affected, it's the amount of location of the cancer sites throughout the ducts that dictate whether or not a lumpectomy or a mastectomy is needed.

Now for the good cop news. As I posted yesterday, the second mammogram showed that there is no cancer in my right breast. The MRI that scanned both breasts yesterday confirmed it!!! So, I get to hang on to the right one. For now. Crossing my fingers.

Even better was the MRI showing that none of my lymph nodes are enlarged! Which means that cancer hasn't or won't "brake on through to the other side."

Yes, I'm grateful. It could have been worse. But I'm still upset of the upcoming loss of my left breast. Everytime I pass a mirror, or wear a low-cut top (and you know me-I have lots of those!!), I wonder just how much longer I'll have it.

CJ, Elizabeth, and I are planning on going to the Maryland Renaissance Festival this weekend, when it opens for the season. Renn-geek that I am, have my own, very nice bodices. Yeah, they show off the girls. It's part of the "atmosphere" of the Renn Faire. I'm guessing this will be the last one that both "girls" go to.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Bright Spot (Or a Very Good Lack Thereof)

I never realized how relieved I'd be by the second mammogram of the right breast turning up clear. Hey-this time, I got to actually see the images right after they were taken. (Which I personally think should be the law!)

I just really felt lighter after seeing no calcifications on Ms. Righty. I'm counting on it for a very-much-hoped-for second pregnancy, after surgery to take the left one off, put a new one on, and lots of drugs thrown in.

I have one more blessing to count today. I feel very grateful. (And a shout-out to my friend, Faith, and the healing circle her coven did for me last week, on the new moon. Bright Blessings and thank you.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

As Images of "TRON" Dance in My Head..

At least I've learned to take a nap in the MRI machine. Then I get the mammogram on the right breast. I had my bloodwork today. I'll be able to check three more things off the "You've Got Cancer" list. I always hear that voice of the AOL guy that does "You've Got Mail."

The MRI machine always makes me think of the movie, TRON. The blue lights scanning your body do it. (What can I say? I'm a child of the 80's. Which is a whole other blog.)

Friday is the big appointment. The one where CJ and I sit down and talk to the doctor about what the MRI, second mammo, and bloodwork said, what they mean, and what he recommends as treatment.

Both doctors I went to had the same opinion about me needing a simple mastectomy-they were 90% sure.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Now That I Have Cancer, Do I Have to Fundraise for Pink Shit?

'Cause I'd really rather not. I don't want pink cookies, mugs, t-shirts, anything with a pink ribbon other than the "Save the Ta-Tas". (Because I enjoy that phrase.) Breast cancer research is important, no doubt about that. And thankfully, it's very well funded by private donations.

I am just getting the feeling that there is an expectation from doctors, hospitals, support groups, etc. that when you are diagnosed with cancer, that you will hop on the fundraising bandwagon. Unfortunately, along with that stance is the disapproval of ladies who do not want to "buy pink stuff."

Hey-I figure that charity work/helping out is a great thing. However, pick something that you want to do. You shouldn't be pigeonholed into supporting something just because you have it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Futility of Planning Ahead with Inova

The Inova hospital system seems to offer a lot of great, free stuff for cancer patients. However, they do not offer a calendar of all their classes, tours (How to Get a Mastectomy, etc.), support groups for the next month. Apparently, I'm not the first one to complain to my breast care "navigator" (No, not kidding. That's what they are called. I kept wanting to break out the old, "O Captain, my Captain!" line). about the difficulty of planning for these classes, etc. if the next month isn't posted until the 1st or the 2nd of the month.

I keep thinking maybe it's all part of the plan-they don't know who will still be there to attend class the next month....

Things to Do On My Cancer Checklist

Here's my tentative schedule for the next round of stuff I need to have done:

1. Mammogram of the right breast, Friday Aug. 20th at 11am

2. Bloodwork-probably right after the mammogram as I won't have my 3 year-old running the clinic in a room full of needles.

3. MRI-Tuesday, Aug. 25th at 8am. A bilateral peek-a-boo at both ta-tas, with a concentration on the poor left one.

I guess I'll have to squeeze in breathing and reflection on my changed health status later. After I finish feeling sorry for myself.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The private details of our sex life are "icky?"

Not sure how to take that, really.

Let Me Clarify the " Discussing Our Sex Life" Comment

No, we're not discussing details or anything. More like questions about how breast cancer affects anyone's sex life. For example, post-mastectomy and breast reconstruction, the breast is completely numb. Do you/your partner touch it during sex?

I would never get into the private aspects. That's icky.

If You Have Both Breasts Removed, Can You Go Topless at the Beach?

Seriously, if you don't them reconstructed, can you? You're not showing any nipple.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I had two doctor's appointments this afternoon. Every scrap of info on breast cancer out there says to get two, so I went out and got two. Not that there was much difference, nor did I expect there to be.

So, here is what both doctor's agreed on:

1. I need to have an MRI to get a closer look at the DCIS in the lower quaderant of my left breast and check out the microcalifications in the top section. The MRI will be bilateral, so they'll take a gander at the right one, too.

2. Bloodwork, of course!! My cancer "experience" wouldn't be complete without it.

3. A sentinel node biopsy. To check for more cancer in the lymph nodes closest to my breast. If there is cancer in there, uh, that's bad. Like "you'll need chemo and we'll have to harvest your eggs because you'll never conceive naturally again," bad, worse-case scenario. Or, if the docs are feeling footloose and fancy free about just a few cancer cells having made their way over to the nodes, they'll just remove the nodes, check for more cancer in the next set of nodes, wash, rinse, and repeat. You get the idea.

Eventually, I'll just be out of nodes, catch a bunch of infections, and develop a really big armpit (which is called lyphmadema). Maybe shaving will finally be easier.

4. I'm probably looking at a simple masectomy. There are numerous califications throughout my breast. And unless I want my boob to look like a figure 8, a lumpectomy is most likely out.

Here is the one thing that the second doctor, Dr. Christine Habib added. She wants me to have another, closer mammogram of my right breast, because of the minor califications there. Shit.

To be continued later....

Dr. Weintritt's P.A., Leah, was great. My age and asked me right off the bat how much information I had been given/researched. (Hey, I can't imagine someone my age NOT doing research.)

"I believe you can joke about ANYTHING"

The above quote comes courtesy of George Carlin, whose philisophical impact I personally put squarely between Socrates and Lao Tzu. Carlin went on to prove his point by making fun of rape. Personally, I don't find rape very funny, but dammit if Carlin didn't have me laughing seconds later, as he envisioned Elmer Fudd raping Porky Pig.

See, some of you are laughing right now, and some of you are pinching up your faces, thinking "nope, its still not funny."

That's also pretty much the reaction I would expect to a lighthearted blog about my wife's breast cancer entitled "Gallows Humor." I assure you that the idea for the blog as well as its title were both Polly's. I can further assure you that while she is not at all pleased to be dealing with F-ing CANCER at the age of 35, she also is the last person in the world who would jump in bed, hide under the covers, and pretend it all isn't happening.

Not my wife, sonny boy.

No, in typical Polly style, she's grabbing her cancer by the horns and wrestling that sucker HER WAY, and while yes, tears have been shed and will likely be shed again, overall, she's delt with this the same way she's dealt with everything in her life: straight on. Its part of the reason I fell in love with her in the first place, and part of the reason I continue to fall a little more in love with her more every day.

. . .


Too schmaltzy?

Screw it. My wife has cancer, dude. I'll get as schmaltzy as I damn please about it.

One last note. Polly and I have agreed to be very honest on this blog, so in that spirit, expect future posts from me exploring our sex life, my thoughts on her breasts (past, present, and future), and all other manner of personal stuff that are going to be affected by this. Mom, avert your eyes. Dad, just stop reading now.

How to Make Other People Feel Guilty with Your Cancer

"Andy, if you don't come over tonight to hang out, you better have a friend that more cancer than me. Because otherwise, I WIN!!!"

Der Humour

"The ego refuses to be distressed by the provocations of reality, to itself be compelled to suffer. It insists that it cannot be affected by the traumas of the external world; it shows, in fact, that such traumas are no more than occasions for it to gain pleasure." Sigmund Freud, Der Humour, 1927

I thought having a blog about my having breast cancer is easier on everyone. If I keep using Facebook to update people on what's going on, I'll begin to sound like "Debbie Downer" from SNL. Yeah, no thanks.

Plus, it's a good way to let friends, family, and other interested parties know how to speak to me about having breast cancer.

For example, I'm (so far) a good little breast cancer patient. I toddled off immediately to all of the big sites, Susan Komen,, American Cancer Society, and National Cancer Institute (NCI). Great info, but the way in which these sites, especially the American Cancer Society, uses euphemisms to talk about cancer really brings on some unholy laughter. Like the term, "Managing Your Cancer Experience." WHAT?!? Like the Jimmi Hendrix Experience? Or a Jimmy Buffett experience...which I have had and that was much more fun.