Archive | February, 2013

Finally, I get the cherry on top….

28 Feb

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Saturday 16th Feb, Valentines weekend for many, operation number four for me. This time as part of the breast cancer reconstruction they were going to tackle as much of the symmetry issues as possible and hopefully give me a new nipple – finally I get the cherry on top. It was a pretty big day, who doesn’t want a nipple for Valentines?!

The operation itself went as well as could be expected. It’s rarely a barrel of laughs, more like a horrible roller-coaster of nausea inducing head spins, shakes, shivers and painful twists and turns. But as usual Mum was a complete rock, holding my hand, wiping away the tears, holding my hair back when I was sick and using every soothing word in her motherly vocabulary to make everything better. Mums, what would we do without them!

For all the awfulness of the operation I really did feel like this was it, this was the last big one. The one that would get me back to me, pre BC, nipple and all. So despite the general exhaustion from the three previous operations and knowing the pain that was ahead of me, I was actually pretty happy to be going back in.

That excitement was justified when days later I got to see my new nipple for the first time. Wow. Talk about sight for sore eyes. I have missed that little guy so much! It’s been just over 7months now since the mastectomy last summer, since Lefty was removed along with my nipple, so to finally see it, to finally see a whole beautiful boob complete with the cherry on top was amazing. Truly amazing. I felt like a proud new mum.

It really is very clever how they do it. Essentially they do a little butterfly cut on your boob and use the skin on your breast to shape into a nipple. Same skin, same colour, same you. So it’s very much a part of you, like a nipple should be.

I guess I’d had a few horror flashes imagining them growing it in a dish somewhere and sticking it on…you know, like that mouse with the ear on it’s back. Imagine that. A little mouse with a nipple on it’s back – seriously, that is just disgusting. Horrific. Dam you stupid brain. Thankfully, this one is all mine – no mice boob bits for me.

Despite the dressings, stitches, swelling and overall bruising (aka rainbow boobs) I can see that the symmetry has been corrected and they both now sit exactly where they should. Which is such a relief. Leftie has been shuffled over a bit and some clever internal stitches will now ensure it doesn’t make a break for freedom under my armpit again (back boob crisis averted). The fluid under my arm has been removed and Righty is now perkier than the boobs I had as a spritely 21 year old! All in all, they look pretty good.

I got my first look at them properly a few days after surgery. Since coming out of hospital my dressings had gotten rather, well, gross. That word doesn’t really do it justice but I’ve decided for once to spare the gory details (hooray! I hear you cry!) – manly because when I described this event to a male friend of mine he ended up in a curled heap, rolling around on the rug claiming his balls had retreated to such an extend he couldn’t breath….I also don’t want people to think of them as horrible frankenboobs as they definitely aren’t! So no, I’ll skip some of the gory details. Suffice to say the dressings needed to be changed.

As I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, I took in the reflection before me. The birds nest hair (complete with small animals and twigs) stood pilled on top of my head, bruises covered my right arm from numerous drips, making me look like a competitor from the Chinese Burn World Championships (pretty sure I’d lost). My pale face was puffed up from the anesthetic and peppered with small scratches from the post morphine face flailing that I seem to love to do so much during recovery. Big dark bags hung below my blurry eyes completing the look. What a vision I was. The bags had gotten so big I could have packed my whole flat in them and relocated to the other side of the world. Which didn’t seem like too bad an idea given what I was about to do.

The lovely nurses had sent me home with all the stuff I needed in case this situation arose. So there I was, stood in front of the mirror, in a white stretchy crop top, covered in bruises, cuts and scars, feeling every inch the female equivalent of Bruce Willis about to tend to my wounds so I could continue to kick the bad guys ass. In this case C-Monkey. He’d taken on a Russian look for this moment in time, complete with dreadful accent and fur hat. Ever the drama queen, he never misses an opportunity to dress up.

The process of removing my dressings was again, gross. Blurgh, in every sense of the word. But with my inner skyscraper saving hero shinning through I persevered, using scissors to help ease off any particularly stubborn bits. (oh yeah I did….balls…..are they still with you? I know mine have disappeared just reliving it!)

Anyway when the deed was done, I was all cleaned up and feeling very brave. Take that C-Monkey, yipee-ki-yay right in your smug face. There was just one problem. I’d run out of dressings for Leftie. Righty was all clean and sorted but Leftie had nothing. There were no dressings left. Bugger.

There was no way I could leave my new nipple just out there, all tiny, fragile and ….exposed?! What if it fell off?! How would I explain that to my surgeon! “Um yes, sorry about that, I seem to have let my lovely new nipple…drop off….have you got another one I can have?”

No, it needed something to cover it up until I could get to the hospital and get it dressed properly. So I improvised and used the only thing I had available to me. It wasn’t my proudest moment but I’m sure Bruce would have done the same, given the circumstance.

Needless to say I felt the need to warn my surgeon when I next saw him. I needed to prepare him for what he was about to see….

So while striping off the layers I hastily explained, in a manner akin to verbal diarrhea, what I’d done; I’d had to change the dressings myself due to the whole gross thing….. but that despite said grossness I’d been very brave, Bruce Willis-esq even (nervous laughter), taken all the dressings off without fainting, used my scissors for the tricky bits, again without fainting and put the clean dressings back on…..so all in all I’d done very well. Except… I ran out of dressings. So when it came to Leftie and covering my amazing new nipple, I had to improvise, use the only thing I could find at the time, the only thing that might work…..

At this point my surgeon and the nurse were staring at me blankly. There was a brief pause while I removed my bra crop top thing. There, covering my newly made nipple and protecting it from any harm was a very, very small plaster.

Not just any plaster, oh no. That would be too easy. This particular plaster was a child’s plaster, which meant not only did it just, very much only just, cover the nipple but it was also decorated with small…cartoon…monkeys. Yes. I had covered my new, extremely fragile nipple in a child’s plaster, a plaster covered in small dancing smiley cartoon monkeys….

I’m not sure I can do his reaction justice but I’m going to go with bemused laughter. I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m bonkers.

And the irony of having a plaster covered in monkeys on my new nipple hasn’t been lost on me. I don’t know where they came from, or why I had them in my flat but I’m pretty a certain C-Monkey had something to do with it. He really does work in crafty ways you know; it’s the Russian in him. The plaster incident has his name all over it. I mean, quite literally his name and face all over it, on my new nipple! How very dare he!

I’ll say it again, my new nipple is a thing of wonder. Although it’s still tucked up under the dressings I’ve seen it and know its there. A real nipple. Back where it should be, sitting proudly on top of my now very symmetrical perky boobs. I know I’m essentially gushing about a weird bit of skin that sticks off your boob and repeatedly using the word nipple in the process, which is getting a bit weird, but seriously; you have no idea what it’s like to not have one.

If when the dressings come off and the swellings go down everything is as good as I’m hoping the only thing left to do will be the tattoo, which I’m very intrigued by. I’ve never had a tattoo before and weirdly feel quite excited about having one. It’ll definitely confuse people when I admit that “yes, I do have a tattoo actually, two of them. You will never (!) guess where they are….” (smug face)

So all in all things seem to have gone well. Physically I’m good..I’m happy, if a little sore, bruised and tired, but I know that will pass soon enough.

Emotionally…..well we’ll save that battle for another day…

Yipee Ki Yay C-Monkey!

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Flat on my back waiting for cupid….. in a pair of paper pants!

15 Feb

Stupid Cupid

Ah Valentines Weekend, here you are.

A weekend where everything seems to pass by in a bit of a dreamy loved up haze. For us ladies it’s an opportunity for the men in our lives to pay special attention to us, to shower us with physical attention and an array of little treats – like morphine and paper pants.

Yes, like most other girls my Valentines weekend will be spent flat on my back, wearing not very much at all, hoping that the man in front of me can make all my dreams come true…. Or to more specific, I’ll be wearing a surgical gown, some paper pants, enjoying a bucket of morphine and hopefully my dreams will come true with some nice boobs. Because this Saturday I’ll be in for operation number four. The forth in a line of operations to remove the breast cancer that had taken residence and rebuild me to resemble some form of my old self.

I’m not sure it’s exactly what cupid had in mind but this being Valentine’s weekend and all, I’d very much like it if this year he could make the object of my affection my new boobs.

Whilst I appreciate this is slightly outside of the buxom love baby’s usual tricks, I’d really, really like to wake up fully in love with my boobs, and I mean completely over the moon smitten. New boobs Mark 4. Possibly the best valentines gift ever? Well I certainly think so. For one they’re going to last a lot longer than those heart shaped chocolates and they’ll probably offer way more enjoyment in the long term – although I’ll never say no to a choccie.

With it being the fourth operation I know exactly what to expect now. I’m like a boob op pro. My pre operation habits and rituals will be the same and I know exactly how to prepare myself. For example, I know that I like to work from home the day before so I can have some ‘me’ time, get my flat ready, do some work and allow my distracted brain to wonder when it needs to. It’s much better than randomly bursting in to tears in a client meeting or being caught doodling big boobs and nipples on my notebook. Not very professional and a bit unnerving for the juniors. No I’m best off by myself in the haven of my little flat, doodling away.

I’ll pack my hospital bag with the essentials; some comfy clothes, iPod, toiletries, phone charger, headband, earplugs and eye-mask – I’m not a princess but hospitals are loud, bright, busy places so the ear plugs and eye mask is a must. When everything in the flat is done, the bed has been changed, I’ve had a hoover round and it’s all nice and clean, I’ll then treat myself to a night out. This is officially known as the distraction method, the ‘break here in case of emergencies’ wine button or simply the ‘get me very drunk now please’ approach.

The very first one was the night before the mastectomy, the now infamous Bye Bye Boobie party with the boob shaped cookies and as much alcohol as I could possibly consume until the midnight cut off point. Apparently after midnight you turn in to a cancer pumpkin or something?! The pre operation night out has become as much as an essential as my red spotty headband. Side note here to say don’t judge the headband, I know they are normally the domain of children under the age of 10 but you never know when a hot doctor or guest might stumble in to your room, and trust me when I say that my hospital bed head is truly dreadful. I’m not quite sure what happens in surgery but every time I emerge it’s like I’ve spent five hours rubbing my head against a giant balloon, backcombed the life out of it then rolled around in glue. I’m sure that’s not what they do to me when I’m out cold on the operating table but nevertheless, every time I wake up my hair resembles an out of control birds nest, of gigantic proportions. There are small animals nesting in it… twigs and everything. I’m the hair equivalent of Worzel Gummidge (anyone under the age of 30 might need to look that one up). No, the headband is absolutely essential. As is the night before fun.

I’m sure lots of people will disagree, they’ll believe that I should stay in, be centered, be true to my emotions, eat healthy things, drink green mush and prepare by body for the surgery ahead. Bollocks to all that. Don’t get me wrong I love a juice and Quinoa is my new best friend. But the night before the operation… oh hell no. What I need then more than anything else is wine and giggles.

I need to forget what I’m still in the middle of dealing with, what I’m just about to go through. Again. I need to forget how it’s going to feel when I come round – the shakes, the pain, the discomfort – all of it. Just for a few hours, I want to push it all to the very back of my head and hide it there under a rock with a sign that says, “Oi you, yes you, piss off, there’s nothing to see here”. I need to drink a lot and laugh even more.

Then at 6am when my alarm goes off and my pounding head kicks in the first thought that will run through my head won’t be ‘Jesus I’m scared, I don’t want to do this… again’ it’ll be “Bugger me my head hurts. What the hell am I doing awake at this stupid hour? Where am I? Has something died in my mouth…” Then I’ll start to dream about coffee, even though I can’t have any. I’ll grab my pre-packed bag and me, mum and my thumping head (her’s too) will get the tube up to the hospital.

Then the real fun begins. After I’ve been signed in I’ll go into my room and see the wonderful gown, socks and paper pants waiting for me. The lovely nurses will come in to go through my charts, they’ll put a red thing on my wrist for the stuff I’m allergic too, and then they’ll weigh me (it’s always a joy to feel fat the day of surgery!). Then they’ll stick one of those long cotton bud sticks up my nose. Yes this actually happens. I really don’t understand what a snot sample is needed for (boobs, noses… nope lost on me), but they do it every single time so it must be important.

When the time’s right I’ll hug mum goodbye, walk down the corridor, get into the lift and go down to the operating floor. I’ll go in the little room that’s connected to the theatre by big swishy doors and lie on the trolley that’s waiting for me. It’s a very white, sterile place with lots of gleaming metal surfaces and beeping machines that you can hear but can’t see. I hate this bit. Lying on my back in the scratchy gown and paper pants, staring up at the mottled ceiling tiles above, as nurses and doctors come in and out, busying themselves with other things. I feel so exposed and alone in those moments. But then the lovely anesthetist will arrive and we’ll have a little banter about how he’s going to trick me in to being to be knocked out. The first time I totally fell for the “Now we’re just going to give you something to calm you down, then we’ll do the proper injection.” Needless to say I was out like a light. Clever man. Or maybe I’m just very gullible… yeah sounds about right.

That’s it. That’s everything until the moment I wake up. This is thing I dread most. Obviously I want to wake up, of course! It’s just that the waking up bit is the most frightening, which I know sounds backwards but it is. I’m all disorientated, the violent shaking kicks in, my face gets all itchy from the morphine and I do the smacking myself in the face action over and over again like a drunk buffoon. And the pain… even with the morphine it’s there. Every time.

Once I’m back in my room things calm down a bit. But at some point I know the tears will come. In the hours and days following surgery the resolve I normally have is completely gone. The ‘I’m fine’ banner, hat and matching jumper are discarded on the floor. C-Monkey has set fire to them and is doing a tears inducing rain dance around the smoldering ashes. He loves it when I have an operation. He gets to run riot through my thoughts. He barges through my emotions like a drunken uncle trying to get to the dance floor, knocking aside every ounce of fight I have in me. My once strong defenses, the ones that have gotten tougher over the last few months fall apart in a moment and I’m usually left a crying, snotty mess. Feeling guilty at not being able to hold it together in front of mum, who doesn’t need C-Monkey to have a cry… she’ll be off at the sight of me in the paper pants! (Love you mum!)

Once I’m back at my flat it’ll be all about resting up, getting some sleep and some much needed quiet time. Which sounds easier than it is. Despite being desperately tired and sore I know I’ll be determined to do something, which never really works. But I know I’ll still try. Because when I do nothing C-Monkey wins. My only real defense against him is keeping busy, filling my head with work or friends or fun stuff. When I’m drifting between sleep, semi awake and sleep again, he wins. There will be nothing in my head apart from him, what he’s done to me, to my life, to my body. In those days I am completely at his mercy, again. Unable to ignore the pain, unable to distract myself from the hell of the last seven months and the weight of it all just pushing down on me.

So come on Cupid, what d’you say, could you spare a few arrows for me this Valentines weekend? If you could aim them at two slightly rounder targets… then maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to love myself again and be all the stronger for it.

Happy Valentine’s! x

Boys, boobs and a whole lot of honesty

3 Feb

The carrie affect

Recently someone told me that I had to keep writing and that I should keep being as honest as possible.

Whilst I wholeheartedly agreed, nodding repeatedly whilst sipping on my red wine, I was shamefully hiding the fact that sometimes it’s hard to keep it up. Don’t get me wrong there are days when I could talk about it non stop but then there are other days, more quiet, reflective days, when I just want to shut up. Put on my ‘I’m fine’ hat and just ignore stuff. But, as I’ve said before, the main problem with being such a loud mouth with a massive “oh crap, I’m overcoming Breast Cancer” banner and a pet C-Monkey in tow, is that when you want to be quiet….you kind of can’t be.

The other thing that struck me was the word ‘honest’. At the beginning I was brutally honest, there was a rawness to it all. I think this was partly because of the shock at everything that was happening, the Cancer news, the appearance of C-Monkey, the mastectomy and the aftermath of it all. Back then I just couldn’t stop blurting it all out, loudly, to anyone, in graphic detail….I look back at that now and know it was the right thing to do because it massively helped me at the time. It gave me an outlet at 4am in the morning when C-Monkey was doing cartwheels on my pillow and ripping up my bras. But now, well now lets just say I’m a bit more self aware. I know that people are reading this, that there are opinions being made, judgements even. The effect of that has meant that I’ve unwittingly started to self edit. I didn’t mean to, but I am. I’m more cautious about what I write, even to some extent what I say to people. I don’t want to offend anyone. I want my friends and family to continue to be proud of me and not be horrifically shocked or embarrassed by what I say or do – I think they’ve had enough of that with the TV appearance and boob cookies?!  I’m also acutely aware that my Nan will be reading this (hi Nan, love you, promise I’ll try to keep the swearing down!)

I shouldn’t worry what people think of me but yes, I admit it, I actually do. It matters a lot. So maybe my writing, my brutal honestly has eased off somewhat, maybe I have been waiting until I can write positive things rather than just wailing “EVERYTHING IS STILL CRAP AND I AM SO TIRED OF IT!” whenever I want. Seriously though, who wants to hear that? I’d be bored of me. Wailing is not fun. So no there will be none of that. But maybe I should go back to being a bit more honest. Afterall when I first got the news all I did was frantically search for someone like me, someone I could talk to and although there were endless forums I just found them all so deeply depressing. I just couldn’t engage with them.

There didn’t seem to be anyone like me, someone who just wanted to life as normal as possible, didn’t want to wallow but kind of was. Someone who could keep laughing at the crazy ridiculousness of it all, drink a little, cry a bit, talk about boys and jobs and how the hell anything would ever be the same?? I had a million questions from the stupid and inane to the serious and heavy, but just couldn’t find anyone to help me answer them. So I started writing. Being honest.

So here I am giving myself an honest kick up the bum and starting over. Deep breath, and go….Ok, so, my next operation is now mid Feb. It’ll be my fourth within a seven month period. Lots of poeple don’t understand why I’m having another operation, my usual brush off response is that things just need to be sorted, things haven’t quite gone as well as expected but that I’m fine, it’ll be fine, I’m fine blah blah blah…yawn. That’s probably what I’d be writing right now actually.

But the honest truth is, boobs are bloody complicated. There I was happily bouncing about before the whole C-Monkey accident thinking that boobs were nothing more than lovely big lumps of jigginess with bits on top. But no, they are seriously complicated things. This is something I have hugely underestimated.

I mean when I was little it was pretty easy to make boobs. All you needed was a few pairs of socks to stuff down your top, or anything that you could mould into two lumps… play dough worked quite well, as did sand, little boob shaped sand castles complete with shells for the naughty bits. You see, easy. In real life though, not so much.

So then the operation, numero four. The problem is this, essentially leftie is still a bit too small. This feels like a ridiculous admission given that I feel like I have a giant jelly tot stuffed in me, but he is. The skin has stretched even more and he needs to be made a bit bigger. There’s also the problem of him….um how to say this….migrating away somewhat… You see this Leftie seems to a bit shy, he is rapidly making a bid for freedom and is trying to hide under my armpit whilst doing do. In short he’s just sort of nudging me under my arm, which is really uncomfortable, and needs to be firmly put back in the right place. If he isn’t sorted out god knows where he’d end up? Who wants a boob on their back, that is a scenario I’m not willing to even think about.! So he needs to be made a little bit bigger and with the help of a few internal stitches (ouch) hopefully he’ll stay put.

But it doesn’t end there. This will actually be the first time I’ve had both done at the same time. Yeap even Righty isn’t quite right, yet. Despite the lift and the little implant that’s been put in, Righty is still….well, flagging somewhat. My own boob is quite literally, letting me down. (Sigh). So he’ll be lifted a bit more and reshaped a bit too. The hope is that eventually, with a little bit more attention here and there, they will both match and I really will have the best boobs possible.

I say possible because they still won’t be my boobs, not completely. That’s still a hard pill to swallow. As much as I quite like the new perkiness and the way they’ve suddenly made me look a bit slimmer (oh yeah, random but true!) they still won’t be my old boobs. I can’t even say they’ll be better because they probably won’t. In truth, the real honest painful truth, is they wont. They will have scars and even after those fade they will still be a bit different. The reality is that I will always have one real and one fake. Actually I’ll have one fake and one who’s identity is a bit confused…half and half if you like. To the casual observer they won’t look any different, if anything they’ll look pretty perky and amazing, but I’ll know the truth. I’ll know what it took to get them.

On the plus side, one other life thing that’s been suffering from all this has had a nice surprise. Boys. Now boys and boobs have had a love affair for as long as the world has existed. Boys are seemingly mesmerised by these two dangling things, the mere sight of them can bring joy into their life and make the world a better place.

This always proved to be quite handy for us girls. The hypnotic power of our greatest assets could get us out of most situations and in to lots of others too, if you know what I mean. And I loved mine. As I’ve said before I think they were my best feature. Anyway, one of the things that goes through your head when you hear you have Cancer is how your love life will be affected. Well, it went through my mind anyway. As a thirty something single girl, this was a major concern. I mean, for a start I could rule out the next 6-9months at least! Love life officially cancelled. No Mr Right or any Mr Wrongs. Just me, alone, single and bored. Only C-Monkey to cuddle up to and he hates to cuddle, and he snores, badly.

But after that, well then what? What happens when life starts over? How would I tell someone I wanted to be with that I may have to do a bit of a Carrie Bradshaw for a while? How do you even start that conversation? For those of you who know SATC you’ll know that Miss Bradshaw was a fan of the bra in the bedroom approach. Miranda, Sam and Charlotte regularly got their boobs out in many a sex scene, but not Carrie, she was a bra in bed kind of a girl all the way. So I decided a while ago that should the situation ever arise again (?!) I would adopt the Carrie way.

But in order to even give that a go I’d have to get my confidence back, get out there, find a boy to like me, then face telling him….then do the Carrie thing. I appreciate this all sounds very superficial and stupid, but when you haven’t had ‘fun’ in a really long time (thanks C-Monkey) and you really do want to meet your Mr Right eventually, it does occupy an awful lot of your thinking space.

Recently I got to put the Carrie in to action. I’m not quite ready to be that honest, just yet (hi again Nan!). Suffice to say that the guy in question told me that not being able to have something, just makes you want it all the more. So maybe Carrie was on to something, sometimes it’s ok to hide the goods away. It seems boys actually quite like it.

So if I could go back in time and relate some of this to the freaked out, frightened and totally confused me, the one frantically searching the internet at 4am in the morning searching for answers and just becoming a sobbing mess… I’d say this – No it won’t be the same, they won’t be the same, but that doesn’t mean it will be awful. It’s all down to you. You will find the strength to hold on to who you are, and that’s what really matters. Keep writing, keep being honest, oh and keep a nice bra handy too ;0)

Honesty and boobs, who knew it could be so complicated!

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