Archive | July, 2012

I can’t stop staring at boobs!

26 Jul

Pump up the jam, pump it up… while your feet are….something…and the jam is something else….

This is the song that comes in to my head every time I go to the hospital to get inflated. I have absolutely no control over it. It’s absurd. I think there may be something wrong with me. I even found myself humming it while I got undressed last time. Seriously, is there something wrong with me?!

I’m up to about three pumps now, three lots of solution have gone in and little Lefty is finally starting to take shape. It’s not quite a fully fledged boob yet, it’s still looking a little like a wonky water balloon, but it’s my water balloon and as long as it keeps growing and doesn’t explode that’s fine by me.

My surgeon reckons I’ve got another two or three more to go then I should be ready for the next operation. It’s amazing how quickly it’s all happening really. It was just over a month ago that someone said ‘you have breast cancer’, a week after that they took my breast and now here I am growing a new one. There are times when it all feels a bit removed, like it’s happening to someone else and any moment I’ll wake up and realise it’s all been a horrible, horrible nightmare. Except it’s not.

The dreams I’m having at the moment are brilliant though, when C-Monkey lets me sleep the drugs have an awesome time kicking up some pretty bonkers stuff. My favourite so far involved me sitting on top of a giant plastic boob taking part in some sort of carnival, I think I may have been the carnival Queen. The boob Queen. My giant boob float passed along the street, music blaring, people cheering. Then I woke up. Complete madness. But who knows, maybe my subconscious has struck on to something, in years to come there could well be a Breast Cancer parade and there I’ll be, on top of my own giant Lefty, cheering and smiling. (Ok, might be time to come off the painkillers.)

The next operation should be pretty straight forward, well, as much as any operation can be I suppose. They’ll take out the temporary implant which has been stretching the muscles and swap it for the permanent one which should look more realistic in shape – so less like a weird water balloon with a side pump thing under my skin. I’m very happy about this, that pump has been quite uncomfortable and strange, especially when I’m doing my exercises and can feel it moving about. Blurgh!

They’ll go in through the same cut as before and then it’s simply a case of whipping one out and putting one in. Then bobs your uncle, new bouncy Lefty. Then all that’s left to do is the decoration, the cherry on top if you like, which should be done in time for Christmas. Jingle bells all the way.

So really, I shouldn’t really be fretting about it at all…..it’s a simple swap the boobie job. But I am. I really am. C-Monkey keeps reminding me of the pain, that horrible pain that I woke up to after the first operation, the weight of it all crushing down on me. How battered, bruised and savaged I felt. How alien and broken my body felt. The sane side of my brain, the one that doesn’t belong to C-Monkey, knows it shouldn’t be any where near as bad, how could it be, surely the worst bit has been done already? But I can’t shake the fear. And it’s exhausting. Will there ever be a time in all this when I’m not afraid? Afriad of the next step, afraid of more news, afraid life as I knew it will never quite be the same again.

Fear is a funny thing. Not really funny ha ha, that would be wrong, more funny strange. It’s probably one of the emotions I’ve felt most during all this. All consuming fear. Yet people keep telling me how brave I’m being. I can’t quite reconcile that as most of the time I don’t feel brave in the slightest, most of the time I feel small and frightened. I think I’m pretty good at being outwardly Ok and maybe that’s the thing that jars because there are so many times when I’m not, Ok. In these moments, I’m a bit of a mess, blind panic, fear or guilt ripple through me and just swallow me up.

Yeap there’s that word again guilt. Guilt and fear. They have become C-Monkey’s evil sidekicks. For every positive feeling I get, every time I feel happy or upbeat, he’ll lob a guilt ball in my face and suddenly I’m covered in it. Horrid sticky guilt over everything, the good diagnosis – why am I ok when so many amazing women aren’t, guilt for making such a fuss, guilty for not being better yet, guilty for not wanting to see people sometimes and just hide away. But mostly, mostly I feel guilty for putting my family through this. I hate that it has upset them so much, that they’ve had to worry so much, that it’s affected them and made them so sad. I wish everyday that it didn’t happen, everyday, not for me but for them.

But I’m over the worst and it shouldn’t come back (touching or rather gripping the wooden table as I write that) so I need to start letting go of the guilt, the fear, the worry and stress and try to be the brave person everyone thinks I am.

I also need to stop staring at other women’s boobs. Yes staring, unashamed starting. It’s something I’ve realised I do now! I’m like a dirty old man, or rather a dirty young man, actually, just a man. Any man. I am suddenly fascinated by them. And they’re everywhere. You can’t move for boobs. I’m serious. Big ones, small ones, perky ones, saggy ones. They are all glorious and just….everywhere! Boobs really are brilliant. Well done ladies. I promise I’m not being a pervert, of course I am looking with a slight envious curiosity but mostly I’m wondering if these women have had Breast Cancer. Because you really can’t tell. My friends keep telling me that they can’t tell, that I look ok, that ‘they’ (my slightly strange not quite matching pair) look normal. Which is crazy considering I feel like I’m walking around with a giant neon sign above my head that says – ‘One boob, she’s only got one real boob’. But they’re right. When I’m dressed and now that Lefty is a bit more pumped up, you can’t really tell.

Think about it, women who’ve faced their own horrible C-Monkey are walking around every day, right now, all around you and you can’t tell! It’s like an amazing secret society of strong, beautiful, determined women with wonderful boobs. Real ones, fake ones and even those that are gone but not forgotten. They are everywhere and it’s marvelous. But you can’t tell. You don’t know who these wonderful women are. And there’s something really powerful in that. One day I secretly hope someone catches me having a good old look and gives me a little nod or wink that just lets me know – yeap I’m one of those ladies and so are you, well done.

Either that or I’ll get arrested for being a bit of pervert…

13year old me = grumpy with one little boob

19 Jul

Why did I have to be such a loud mouth?

Why did I think that writing it all down would be such a good idea?

I mean it’s one thing to keep a private diary but to put it all out there…. just laid bare, every graphic detail, for all to read, what the hell was I thinking?!

Oh hi, my name’s Jodie, you don’t know me world but I’m just dying (sorry bad term of phrase!) to tell you that I have breast cancer, yes I do, oh but it doesn’t stop there, noooooo. Come on in, take a seat, I’m gonna tell you ALL about it, there may even be pictures, a small dance and possibly some mime.

Christ when will I ever learn to just shut the hell up.

You see the trouble is, when you’ve spent the past few weeks screaming from a roof top “FUCK! I have Cancer! Oi you! Yes you – I have cancer!!”¬† hiding away, becomes a little difficult. Not because people pester you, god no, it’s because you feel guilty. Yes guilty. At not being ok, for wanting to throw your own pity party for one, for not returning the texts, phone calls, for not saying thank you for the cards or flowers. I know I should have, I thought about it, a lot. But no. I just hid. I hid from everyone. Family, friends, flatmates, the postman, you name it. Hiding became the only thing I could do.

I didn’t want to hear the get well messages, or the stories that started “You know so and so, who used to live next door to whats her name, well she had cancer and she’s fine now, won the lottery, walked on the moon and married a George Michael look-a-like” I didn’t care and worst of all it made me angry.

I had officially become myself aged 13. Complete with tantrums, general huffing, sleeping for hours on end and muttering only a few grumpy words at mum. What a joy I was to be around. Luckily Mum had the foresight to whisk me away so I couldn’t irrecoverably offend too many people. Running away was the best thing we could have done. I stayed in my PJ’s for days, I didn’t shower, didn’t wear make up, didn’t put in the terrible fake boob they’d given me (oh yes, I said fake boob) I basically didn’t give a crap how truly terrible I looked. And it was such a huge, wonderful relief. I didn’t have to pretend to be ok. I could look crap and feel crap and that was absolutely fine.

The pain was starting ease which meant I could, at long last, get some good sleep. Not having sleep really does send you truly bonkers. C-Monkey loves it when I don’t sleep, he’s like a 3 year old who’s just eaten a bag of Skittles. Not good. I’d also been doing my exercises and noticed each day that I could do a little more. Small triumphs included putting clothes on by myself, brushing my hair and even tying it up in a bun, yeap fancy! I also start to carry a handbag again – it might only contain a wallet and phone but still, I could carry it, for a bit, on the other arm. Impressive I know. It was these small triumphs that kept me going. Each one got me a little bit closer to me BCM (Before.C.Monkey).

The exercises are horrible though. They included moves like ‘rocking the baby’, where you grip your elbows and make a swaying action as if, you guessed it, rocking a baby – The exercises are all a bit ‘say what you see’ or rather ‘do the friggin obvious’. The other one I hated was Incy Wincy Spider. For this I had to make my arm/fingers creep up the wall, as far as I could possibly stretch, which wasn’t that far, then slide my hand slowly back down. AGONY. I had to do this several time a day and it sucked. The other one that was just insane was the windmill, circling my arm around like….a windmill. Honestly, I don’t know how they come up with these names, amazing really. I wasn’t quite a windmill, more a small broken hand fan with a battery that was running down. Pathetic really. Anyway I kept at it. It wasn’t pleasant but totally necessary.

After a few days we had to come back for my first reconstruction appointment. My adrenaline was running on overtime. I wasn’t quiet sure what to expect and couldn’t decide if I was terrified – potentially more pain… or excited – here comes my new boob! The pain wasn’t that bad actually, although at one point I did accidentally grab the surgeon’s hand in a defiant “get..your…hands…off…me!” reaction – complete with death stare. He didn’t look best pleased. For the most part though it was do-able. The worst bit was when they took the dressings off. It doesn’t matter how old you are, ripping a plaster off bloody hurts. Now these were pretty big plasters covering a very, very sore area so multiply the usual plaster ripping pain by 10, no make that 5o or 100, or just try putting a plaster over say the most private part of your body you can imagine, leave it there for a week or so, then rip it off, slowly – yes now you’re with me. PAIN.

The inflation itself was really clever. I’d kind of envisaged some sort of medical bicycle pump thing which would gradually pump me up bit by bit. Obviously it was a bit more technical than that. The best way to describe it is to imagine a popper on a dress. One part is just under my skin, which is connected to a tube, again all under my skin, which goes into the implant. The other part of the popper (I’m sure there’s a much better technical term for it!) is on the surgeons needle. So he just popped them in to place, which was weird but ok, then gradually started to inflate me by pumping in some solution. I was expecting to be able to see the new boob grow, magically before my very eyes, bigger and bigger and bigger until…POP! But no, of course not. They only put a small amount in each week so it’s not massively noticeable but that’s ok, they’ll add more in each week until it’s ready for the proper implant.

I have to say it’s pretty exciting! My small mound is starting to look a little more boob like, albeit a very small and oddly shaped boob. But still, my 13year old self is very proud “look mum, look, it does look a bit bigger doesn’t it, it really does….wow, ah little new boob”

Not one to be out done I have noticed Righty showing off a bit lately. You see, I can’t wear a normal bra at the moment it’s just way to uncomfortable, so I’ve resorted to these soft crop top bras – yes, yes I know, step up the 13 year old again. Where’s my Bros mix tape?? But they are very comfy so fashion goes out the window. The only problem is that they don’t really support me that much, or keep me….warm. So I’ll be walking about then suddenly notice old Righty having a great time, nipple on full alert, just showing off – “Oooo look at me, look what I can do….” It’s just making new Lefty feel bad.

But not for long. The process has started and after a few more sessions of the bicycle pump I should be nearly ready for the proper implant. Look out Jordon, here we come!

I’ve also got a bit braver at seeing the wider world, people, friends, the postman (he really missed me). I’ve shifted the rock I’ve been hiding under and am slowly creeping out. And it’s ok, it’s not too bad. I’m sure there will still be days, weeks even, when I’ll want my rock back, but that’s ok, I’m gonna keep it close by just in case.

Paper pants, drugs and one wonky lady – Lefty finally gets it

11 Jul

You want to know this year’s fashion must have……well, here it is – giant paper pants! Yeap, it’s as much a surprise to me as it is to you but there you have it. Massive, and I mean bigger than granny could ever had imagined, massive, paper pants are very, very now. But it doesn’t end there. To complete the look you’re going to need a backless gown, made from scratchy cotton, with a complicated side tie belt and tight knee high white socks. Trust me, this ensemble is so hot right now. That is, if you’re a girl who’s about to have a operation to remove their favourite Left breast to combat cancer. If that’s you, get this look now. Quite frankly if you’re wearing anything else, they just won’t let you in. I’m serious, they are really weird about it – who knew?!

So there I was. Standing in my paper pants, white socks and backless gown. I couldn’t have been more thrilled (please note the massive sarcasm here). Paper pants. God, those things depress me. I mean really, paper…pants. Why? Why is this necessary?? Humiliation achieved. Thankfully I didn’t have much time to dwell on the horror that was my new wardrobe before the nurses came to escort me away. Old Lefty gave mum & sis a bye-bye jiggle and that was it, off we went. Walking down to theater I took a deep breath. How had this happened? To me? And so bloody quickly?? Yet somehow, here I was. In hospital, stood in a pair of paper pants about to have my breast removed……shit. Proper shit bags.

I don’t really remember much about ‘going under’ as they were pretty quick to knock me out, I think my inane nervous chatter probably hastened up that part of the process. I do remember the recovery room though. Which by the way is sooooo not a recovery room. They need to rename that place. A recovery room implies a place of relaxation, a place to just rest up, chill, take it easy, sniff a little incense, maybe have a herbal tea. No. This is NOT a recovery room. I’ll tell you what it is, it’s a “Fuck me, what the fuck is going on, who the hell are you, get off, help, where am I, ouch, fuck me that hurts, get off you bastard!” room. Yes that’s what it is and that’s what it should be called. The recovery room, bah! What a lie.

Needless to say I woke up with exactly those thoughts running through my drugged out brain. I couldn’t figure out how to get the oxygen mask off and kept hitting myself in the face with my very limp arm, every part of me was floppy and weird. But then I started shaking, shivering from head to toe, chattering teeth and everything. I’m beginning to realise that this is how my body reacts to shock or fear, which isn’t ideal, for one I can’t get a bloody word out and secondly shaking about like a 90’s raver doesn’t exactly do much to bring down the pain factor. Stupid body.

After god knows how long they took me back to my room. I wanted to cry so badly, but even the smallest sob caused a massive stab of pain to shoot through me. It hurt. Sweet Jesus did it hurt. Everything hurt. Breathing hurt, talking hurt, moving hurt. It felt like someone had tied a belt across my chest and tightened it as far as they could, then placed a large acme weight (like the ones in the Road Runner cartoons) on my chest just to ensure maximum discomfort. Sneezing, coughing or laughing was also out. Simply put, it was agony, the kind of which I’d never experienced before – this coming from a very, very clumsy girl who might as well have a loyal card for A&E. Seriously, I’d have so many loyalty points by now I could pretty much buy my own hospital – oh now there’s a thought. The Butt hospital! Hmm, maybe not.

The only thing that helped was the drugs and boy was there a lot of them. It was brilliant! First there was the morphine, which basically sent me mental, which I really enjoyed, but the slurred speech and dosey ramblings made it difficult for anyone else to know what the hell I was on about. It also stopped me sleeping which wasn’t great. Next up was Tramadol which made me puke, so I had to have an anti-sickness pill which stopped the puking but still left me feeling sick, dizzy and light headed. Then there was the paracetamol and the¬†diclofenac to help with the swelling. Oh and not forgetting the anti coagulant I had to have injected into my tummy everyday as I wasn’t moving around enough. The tummy injection was probably the worst, they jab this bastard into you and it stings like crazy for a good hour – I mean really, you’ve just taken off my breast, I’m in more pain that I’ve ever been in in my whole life and now you’re stabbing me in the tummy. Just bugger off will you! Jesus.

I was in hospital for 4nights. With each day and night that passed I got a little better, I could talk more (well ramble on in a drugged up manner), stand up by myself, take a few steps and even laugh a little. Not that there was much to laugh about. In fact all I wanted to do was cry. Cry and cry and cry. But I couldn’t, it just hurt too much. Which just made me want to cry even more. There’s something truly heartbreaking about wanting to sob and knowing that you can’t. It took all the strength I could muster, which wasn’t a lot, to hold on to that lump in my throat, to stifle back the tears that were constantly threatening to fall and just hold on. God, it was hard. All I wanted to do was cry and I bloody well deserved a good cry, I needed it. I had every right to be sad, to sob, to let go, to be scared, to be devastated, for Lefty, for what I’d had to endure and the pain I was still in….but I couldn’t. It just hurt too much.

After a few hazy days I was able to get up by myself – well not completely by myself, I still needed the help of my amazing whizzy bed, which had every kind of ‘up’ / ‘down’ / ‘ half up or down’ button you could imagine. The bed was brilliant. My mum’s operating of the bed however, was a disaster. This is the woman who several years ago took charge of my wheelchair after a pretty bad knee op and promptly wheeled me into the road, leg first. She also thought it was ok to open doors using my leg as some kind of battering ram and regularly wheeled me into corners of shops, leaving me staring blankly at a wall, so she could have a look around. Mum is amazing, but honestly, she needs to be kept away from anything with buttons.

The only problem about being up was that it meant I had to do two things, firstly I had to remaster the art of walking about and not getting too dizzy or passing out and secondly, that I had to have a shower. The shower thing was an issue. I’m not normally a soap dodger but the truth was I just didn’t want to see what I looked like. I mean I really, really did not want to see what it looked like. As much as I tried to prepare myself, when the time eventually came I was pretty mortified at what I saw. My lovely Lefty was no more. I’d had a skin sparing mastectomy so it was still me, still my skin, still my little moles that I could see, but the fullness of it, the shape, was effectively gone. All that was left was a small little flat mound. Inside which was the temporary implant waiting to be inflated. It looked pretty pathetic next to glorious plump Righty. Poor thing. There was a long thin cut where my nipple should have been and another very small cut running under my breast. I also had quite a big cut under my armpit where they had gone in to test the lymph nodes. We found out after the surgery that the lymph nodes were clear and the cancer had definitely not spread, which was simply amazing to hear.

And it was…amazing to to hear, but that’s the thing with all of this, it totally mixes up your emotions. One second you’re over the moon because you know how lucky you are, but then you’re massively pissed off because actually, you aren’t that lucky – lucky would have been not having cancer in the first place and still having your breast. You get mad at the stupidest of things, cry at a moments notice, snap, shout, winge, then try to ignore it all and just shut the world out. Then comes the guilt – oh god do you feel guilty – guilty for making such a fuss when there are so many other amazing people who’ve faced the C-Monkey and had it much, much worse than you. When you mix in the pain, the all consuming pain, well, it’s a total head fuck. No doubt about it.

If it wasn’t for the amazing love from my mum, sister and my close friend TB I know how I couldn’t have got through it. They formed a small army and watched over me every step of the way. They sat, in horrendously uncomfortable chairs, for endless hours, held my hand through the pain, wiped away my tears, shared my frustrations, helped me in every physical way possible, listened to my drugged up ramblings and surrounded me with love, at every single moment. I honestly don’t know how to even begin to thank them, but I hope they know how much I love them.

While the emotional roller-coaster rattles on the next stage in the physical process is just around the corner. Soon, when the bruising and swelling has gone down, they’ll start the reconstruction.

Until then, all I can do is focus on getting through each day. I still don’t like mirrors or the shower or seeing people…. Mainly I just want to hide away, to run away from it all, from everyone and just be by myself. But that’s ok. I won’t hide under a rock forever. Just for a little bit. Then I’ll come out fighting again, vino in hand!

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