June 22, 2007 § 6 Comments
I feel terrific. I figured I should move so I started walking, even pick-up a few light weights. Ten days later I had a follow-up appointment with my surgeon MJH. She reminded me that a mastectomy is major surgery. I forgot. She put an ace bandage around my torso. Like a string on an index finger. A reminder. I need to heal. The skin has to adhere to my ribs. Slow down.
Tell that to the twenty-two ziplock bags that were pinned to the wall in Ms Michal’s first grade class. Each had a wet paper towel along with a kidney bean and a sunflower seed. In less than a week, the beans and seeds sprouted, by the second week the stocks were wild.
My drains came out. Just a quick tug released rubber straws that suctioned excess liquids accumulating underneath my skin. When attached they siphoned off into two small plastic grenades which nestled in the pockets of a camisole made exclusively for this purpose. Even then, they got in the way. Under clothes it look goofy, like a gigantic fanny pack.
It was liberating to lose the entire apparatus.
The bandages came off next. Somehow I thought they’d stay on longer. Just five days. It hardly seemed like enough time for it to set.
Great pecs said the Clinical Nurse Specialist.
The things you can see with a breast out of the way.
I looked down and saw a small dent and then a long incision from my clavicle to my left armpit. Tight stitches, even raw they were smooth. Better than anything I could have done, even in the days when I embroidered flowers on blue jeans. I went home for a closer look.
The scar looked dangerous. Fabulous.
Time for my premiere.
I lifted my shirt for my sisters, then DD, then Marty. Anyone else willing to humor me could catch a glimpse. I had a black belt with none of the sparing.
I threw a bar-b-q for ten, in honor of a second premiere in one week. Confessions of a Matchmaker on A&E.
May 2005. Long before reality matchmaking shows were on anyone’s radar a colleague, Penny Benatovich showed me a pitch tape she produced about a tough talking Harley riding, matchmaker named Patti Novak. Patti called a spade a spade, and a guy overweight a fat guy who needed to lose weight. Together we pitched the concept to A&E. It takes a village to raise a child, and an army to produce a show.
A week and a day after my mastectomy the program aired, but I shouldn’t jump up and down. I just had major surgery.
In 1998 Melanie Perkins worked at Smash. She was a dedicated producer creating a powerful film about her friend, 10-year-old Andy Puglisi who disappeared 22 years earlier. For a period of time Smash provided funding for the film and was involved in pitching it to potential networks. We walked, but eventually HBO paid attention. “Have You Seen Andy” aired on Cinemax earlier this month.
Series premieres, documentaries broadcast, breasts removed and beans sprouting wildly. After I’ve healed I’m going to run in a 5k race to raise money for breast cancer eradication.
You can click here to make a pledge of any amount or register to join me on September 23rd.
There are more then 10 million Americans living with cancer today. Operative word, living. Good thing.
June 11, 2007 § 10 Comments
For traditional meds, there’s the BIDMC, conveniently located near Fenway Park and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Free parking for chemotherapy treatments. Healing and heart, but you must know where to look. Avoid the cafeteria, and avoid any doctor who underestimates the power of nutrition, exercise and the role of humor and compassion in healing. Thank you MJH and Hester.
On the Trip Advisor scale, my mastectomy was a perfect 5.0
I started training early. I worked out with a personal trainer, a physical therapist, and saw an acupuncturist. To release tension I’d get a massage. To gain muscle mass I’d use weights. I even took Merengue lessons. I moved as often as I could and consumed generous amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables. Cancer treatments are challenging, not unlike an Iron Man or Triathalon.
The procedure I dreaded the most, turned out to be the least debilitating of them all.
I had braced myself for feeling wounded from such a visual casualty. I feared waking up to a different me. I expected pain and anguish. Instead, I felt calm and peaceful.
I pushed the button releasing the next dose of the morphine drip.
The recovery room looked a lot like the pre-op room. Maybe they were the same room. I expected everything to be different. I expected to feel miserable. I felt good. I expected anxiety. I felt relief. I expected some amount of sadness, and there was none of it.
Turns out I am not my left breast. I am something else. The mastectomy had been daunting. I was sure some critical part of me was embedded there, some part I couldn’t afford to lose. I was wrong. I can’t help but wonder what part of me removed would actually change me. Then I decided not to go there.
Eventually I braved a peek at the site of all the hoopla. My left side looked like a super model with a boo boo. I was bandaged, flat chested and boney. Just another new look for me to try on this year.
I spent the night in a private room, they brought in a cot for Marty. He was on standby, ready to help, ready to unplug the IV when I needed to dash to the bathroom. I had trouble keeping down watermelon, even water defied gravity. In between my perfect bullseyes in the sink, I woke up to enjoy how quiet it was in the room, to enjoy how utterly the same I felt, and to push the morphine drip just one more time before dawn.
The next morning, my head was a little cloudy the sky equally obstructed. All that grey made it easy for us to sleep in. I had the option of a second night. I considered it. It was so peaceful there in Riesman 1268. We read and napped. We brought in some food. The food stayed down. The afternoon was lazy like a late checkout at the W. We left after 3p. The service was great. Still, I’d take Marty by my side over a team of nurses on the floor.
Next stop radiation.
June 4, 2007 § 12 Comments
We’re all challenged; ears too large for our face, bellies too big for our backs, tender knees, overactive thyroids, and delicate hearts. Any number of afflictions befall us. They can be physical or psychological. I know people with both. They slow us down, they bring things to a halt.
Maybe yours causes bloating.
I integrate my disadvantages by disguising them as fashion statements.
“Fantastic haircut” I heard that recently in the ladies room
I‘ve been out, for business and for pleasure. It’s amazing what a snappy outfit, large earrings and lipstick will do.
“You look so chic” Perfect since I was dining at a Manhattan hot spot.
I have successfully concealed my cancer. My hair is growing. Everywhere. Not necessarily everywhere I want it. I seek out situations with good lighting.
My eyebrows were a surprise. Overnight a rush of charcoal punctuated my face. The reunion with my eyelashes followed. It was lovely.
I forgot I was sick. I started to plan. I planned to take a week off in mid-August. Seven easy days in Maine. Frannie would go to day camp and I’d make art with paper and pulp and images from my recent passage; bandages and bras.
I forgot about the mastectomy, I brushed off the radiation. I planned my fabulous summer. At some point I’d think about a bathing suit, or choose a T-shirt.
Then I received an email from my radiation oncologist and instead of a drive to the north shore, I boarded sonic transport to outrage. I didn’t expect to go there, I barely noticed the mileage. One moment I was at the computer, the next I was out of my mind uttering a language familiar when bleeped.
The mastectomy would mess with my bathing suits, but radiation would undo my vacation plans. Adding insult to injury, earlier in the week my oncologist was flummoxed. He wondered why was I seeing a physical therapist between surgeries. Gaining maximum mobility in my arm didn’t impact survival rates, so what was the point.
Outrage looks like every place else but it feels like fire and a rabid pit bull.
I am trying to live with my affliction. Then, some so and so reminds me that I can’t vacation as usual and worse some other suit with stethoscope seems to think reclaiming my range of motion is extreme.
I entered outrage earlier this week and have stayed here hissing. I can’t seem to find my way back to chill. I may go from outrage to mastectomy and remain in outrage. Since radiation follows, I might just spend the summer there.
While the bluefish are on a feeding frenzy, it may make sense to stay clear of my wake as well.
Short hair and a tough expression, it’s all the rage.