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breast cancer awareness month

time magazine cover sorry for the lack of posts, but the title pretty much feels like that’s i’m doing. if it’s possible to have a negative level of energy and not actually be dead, i think that’s how i’d describe my current state of being. i know i owe calls and emails and drink/dinner/coffee dates – just let me give a blanket apology right now.

we’re halfway through breast cancer awareness month. you all know i’ve got plenty to say about that, but clearly do not have the energy to do so. it’s ruminating though. as a teaser, i have noticed that lots of the “big” media and “big” women’s mags have coverage, but lots of the feminist or lesbian, and sometimes even health mags geared towards women aren’t mentioning much which bugs me a bit.

Time magazine did a kind of interesting set of pieces on breast cancer which might be worth checking out.

more later. i promise. i’m told my energy level will eventually return. in my current headspace, i have trouble believing it. so, it’s just like my last mastectomy. :)

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Today I met up with my Castle Connolly, top rated plastic surgeon, for the 2nd post-op visit. She asked me how I was doing with the pain. I was honest and told her that when I was able to rest whenever I wanted during recovery, I was down to taking the pain meds from every 5 hours to every 8 or so, which was a big improvement. Yesterday I had some appointments and errands to run downtown, so it was kind of my test run day to see how I’d do on the metro, walking all over the place and generally having a more normal day than I’ve had since surgery. As I informed my Dr. this pushed me back down to needing the meds every 5-6 hours again. I told her that I had been doing pretty well but refused to suffer in pain when I didn’t have to. She quickly agreed that there was no reason for me to suffer through it needlessly and that I was smart enough to figure out when I didn’t need the drugs again. I also told her that I’d been taking some darvocet that I had left over from severe back pain that I was experiencing this summer which seemed to knock me out and make me feel a little more out of it which let me sleep (otherwise I would wake up in the middle of the night for meds, or sleep very badly and wake exhausted). So she gave me a prescription for that as well.

Since I was still in pain, she said that she’d wait to fill my tissue expander until next week. I said, “No, no, no!” as I had geared myself up for it, had taken some anticipatory drugs and had the rest of the day off. She asked if I was sure, and I said, “Absolutely – let’s do it!” She called my favorite nurse, who gathered the needle and the saline bag and then used a magnet to find the metal valve in my expander so the saline could be inserted. When she got to 100ccs she asked me if I wanted to stop – I told her, I’m ready, I’ll take as much as you’re willing to give me. She stopped at 150ccs, which, according to my understanding is quite a large expander fill and if I have the conversion correct it’s about the equivalent of about 5oz. So now there’s essentially just over a serving of juice that’s been injected to a silicone container which sits half under and half over my newly split pectoral muscle supported by alloderm, and a whole lotta stitching. orange juice

To give you an idea of what this feels like, it’s as if someone has placed a concrete block on the left side of my chest, and occasionally pokes the outer perimeter with an ice pick. The actual filling process is less intense, but still increases according to the amount of fluid being inserted. If you’re familiar with the Peaches song Operation, where she all but screams, “I can take it!”, that’s what was going through my head towards the end of the fill.

Now I’m safely at home with a nice cocktail of valium, vicoden, and darvocet-n coursing through my veins, and thanks to Joanna, sushi waiting for me in the fridge. You should be impressed that I was able to type this out at all.

it occurs to me that no one would ever respond to a person who’s face had been disfigured in, what say, a car accident that at least they got a free face lift out of it. however the “at least you got a free boob job” seems to be a surprisingly frequent response to women who’ve had reconstruction after breast cancer.

fortunately no one has ever actually said this to me within my range of hearing or in conversation, but if they did, i promise that my response would not be pretty.

It was lost on me until just yesterday that I’ll be recovering from my second mastectomy during breast cancer awareness month.

I have mixed feelings on the month, most of which are summed up in Barbara Ehrenreich’s brilliant essay, Welcome to Cancerland: A Mammogram Leads to a Cult of Pink Kitsch. I’ll be thinking about this throughout the month and certainly posting about it more, as it’s my first BC awareness month after my own first cancerversary.

I will say this, though I don’t think sending in your crusty yogurt lid, or buying a pink blender can be classified as part of a movement and is just another sad commodification of a serious, and life-altering situation.

Sending a check to an organization of your choice, volunteering, or offering assistance to a person who needs your help or a pick-me-up in the form of a card, flowers, a cup of tea and some company is far better in my opinion then buying a pink spatula and feeling like you did your part.

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