Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Missing My Mom

Hi Everyone,
There are too many moments to list, when I miss my mom. I hate how you only miss someone when they are gone, appreciate someone when you have lost them. No matter how much you know you will miss them in the cerebral way, it's hard to feel it in the emotional gut wrenching way before they are actually gone. It's hard to find that place inside yourself to realize it when they are here. Life gets in the way. Or maybe it's some sort of survival instinct. If we all walked around not just knowing, but feeling loss, I guess it would be a bit of a constant downer. Finding happiness would be sort of elusive with that emotional umbrella hanging over you.
This is why I do not hold it against my friends when they complain about their own moms. When their moms let them down, or they are cavalier about the help and support they get in their day to day life. But, oh how I wish my mom was here to enjoy the babies Nina and I have made. I think Amara hitting that one year milestone has brought how much I miss her to the forefront of my thoughts. When I look at this picture, of my dad, with us at Amara's party, I just want to photoshop her in that blank spot on the right. It's like we left it for her.

Or maybe it's because Dan's mom Gill has been visiting with Dan's dad David for the past two weeks and I see the joy she gets from Amara and I think how lucky Amara is that she has a grandmother (even if she lives very far away) and how unlucky my mother is for missing all of it.
The other day at Nina's house I changed Sadie's diaper and freaked out when I saw a little blood. Like burst in to tears. This isn't something you ever want to see in your baby's diaper, or anywhere on their body for that matter. Gill was there with me and talked me through my fear. And just for a moment, I could imagine maybe she was my mom and just that comfort alone kept me from totally losing it.
Turns out my poor kid has been affected by some hard poop. The actual diagnosis is horrible. Anal Fissures. How can someone so beautiful have something that sounds so ugly.

Her little butt is totally raw. It came on so suddenly. Or maybe what I thought was diaper rash wasn't. Ugh. I feel like a terrible mom, and needing my mom to tell me I'm not. I took her to the emergency pediatric clinic and thankfully it's really no big deal. I just need to keep her on only fruits and veggies for awhile and leave out the cereals. She's really OK as long as I am not trying to wipe her with rough baby wipes. She was pretty hilarious at the clinic.

Playing with my phone and finding the noise the paper sheet made hysterical.

All in all, not a tragedy, but still, I wish I had my mom.


Friday, September 26, 2008

PT for the Boobies....and more!

Hi Everyone
I've been going to physical therapy for my breast reconstruction issues for almost a month. Julie Wong is the PT.

That ugly bulky oatmeal shirt is the 'gown' they make you wear.

She's pretty amazing, as a person, and a PT. She had cancer a few years ago, and after her lumpectomy she couldn't believe how much it changed the way she could move her body. This inspired her to look in to working with breast cancer surgery patients, to help them get back their range of motion as well as working on the scar tissue associated with the surgery.

But I don't need to ramble to much on this, you can click here and check it out yourself. Watching this makes me feel so lucky I have the opportunity (read health insurance) to get the help from all these great people.

When I go there, I know I should be concentrating on getting my strength back and my flexibility, but mainly I just ask her when they are going to look better.

I have to admit, I haven't been great about the exercises she prescribes. It's like homework, and I am a bad student. Honestly, I don't see how sitting up and slowly stretching my neck to the left and right thirty times with deep breaths will help my breasts look better. She does her best to explain to me that when you get a mastectomy, they take your pectoralis muscles and stretch them over the implant so that there is something between the skin and the bag of silicone (otherwise the silicone bag would be more vulnerable to rupturing). They don't do this with regular breast augmentation because those ladies still have all their breast tissue and milk ducts to protect the implant.

Anyway, because these muscles get stretched, they are tight and they pull your neck and shoulders down, like they are trying to go back to where they were. Oh, my poor body. It must be so confused. So you do these stretches to lengthen the muscle which I guess is somehow supposed to help with the appearance of my breasts. She also prescribes some serious breast massage. Well, massage really isn't the right word. It's breast wrenching. Breast twisting. Breast major maneuvering. It's all to break up the scar tissues that formed around the implants because, in Julie's words exactly (and she reiterates this to me every time I go), Your body is saying, Hey! There's something foreign in here and it sends scar tissue, so you have to go in and break it down over and over until one day your body says, Ok, I can live with this foreign object. It's OK with me.

In Julie's world, my body talks to itself. Which is fine with me as long as it's also saying, Hey, let's not let anymore of those stupid malignant cancer cells grow in to tumors, and also, it's probably a good idea if we tell those fat cells to shrink a little because Rosalie just brought a new pair of jeans that are just a tad too tight. Seriously, all that weight I lost during chemo, it's baaaaaaack. It was weird anyway to be smaller post pregnancy than pre. So now I just feel like a normal new mom trying to lose baby weight. I even joined a gym. The local hippie lady gym in Fairfax. It's so low key. Ladies are lifting weights in flip flops. I love it. Getting there when I go back to work will be difficult, but I'll cross that bridge, blah blah.

So, after Julie does some work on me, her assistant Joe teaches me some new stretches (which hopefully I remember to do) and then he has me lie down with heat on my back, ice on my chest and electrodes attached to my upper and lower back sending electricity to the muscles.

I'm not 100% sure what the electrical doodads are for, but the ice and heat are to keep me from being sore (after all that stretching) and it works. I get to control the level of zapping I get with a little remote. It goes up to 60, but I can only take it to 5 before I get the heebeejeebees. It just feels freaky.

After that, I am inspired to keep the scar tissue Julie broke down with her strong hands from reforming, so I drive home hoping nobody is looking at the strange lady feeling herself up in the car next to them.
Something I thought I would never think, but the day I have to wear a bra again to keep my boobs from sagging will be a great day.

In other news, for those who just want to see baby Sadie (Hannah and the Great Aunties)....

Greg and I took Sadie to the Fairfax Farmer's market the other night. Greg said it was like a park in 1968 with the music and the crowd. I thought it was great. We ran in to my new neighbors, Andrew and Liz and their 18 month old son Henry who just so happened to be crashing the blanket of my other friend Susanna (no not that Susannah, but it would have been nice to see her too) and her husband Greg and Lorelei (I think that's how you spell her name).

Here's my little family on the way to the market.

Oh wait, you want to see her a bit closer? I don't blame you. Here you go.

Andrew and Liz came over tonight to watch the debate. Eh? I thought it was boring. But Greg didn't. He's enraptured. Not sure how Sadie felt.

We successfully celebrated Amara' Jay's birthday last Sunday.

Here's my dad, his girls, and their girls at the party...

Yeah, that's a sucky picture of Nina, so I'll make up for it here

And here's a good photo of us with our cousin Whitney.

And me with cousin Judy

I had an MRI on my chest. Hannah was so great and met me in the city to help me with the baby.

Though she was pretty perfect.

But me, I hate these tests. I hate the IVs. The hot rush of of the dye injection that makes you feel like you peed your pants. The laser that scans your body like something from the Terminator movies.

They were following up on something they saw on my lungs in my original MRI right after I got out of the hospital after having Sadie. I was a mess. I had a cough I couldn't get rid of so I think that's what showed up on the scan. But still, the day of the test I thought, what if? It's not like I don't have reason to worry, right?! Got the results yesterday. All is well.

Then we went to lunch. I stayed to pay the bill and Hannah disappeared with my kid. Found her flirting with some firemen. Because what's cuter than a fireman holding a baby?

After that we met Dan and his parent's at the MOMA to see the Frida exhibit. I love Frida. Both of them.

Hannah snapped this of me and the baby with the original, but we couldn't do a redo where I didn't look sleepy eyed with Sadie facing forward because we got in trouble for using a camera. Oops.

Phew! That's a lot of action. Sadie needs a drink.

No. I don't usually take my kid to a bar. This was an exception. I ran in to my neighbor Stacee and her baby, Parker (8 days younger than Sadie, but weights probably 10 pounds less) after I picked up Sadie from daycare. Here we are at my dad's work in Fairfax.

Her husband Adam manages Perry's Bar in Fairfax so we stopped to visit. Bringing a baby in to a bar in the middle of the afternoon? Hilarious.

And one more to leave you with. Look at my big girl. In the city. Having dinner with the Lee's. With her cousin. Sitting in a high chair.

So sweet. I almost feel like going in to her room right now, waking her up and taking a bite out of her cheeks.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

She looks just like....

Hi Everyone,
Is this normal? To stare at your kid endlessly picking apart her features trying to figure out what she got from who?
I have this obsession in trying to figure out everything before it happens. And this obsession leaks in to every aspect of my life. I remember as a kid staring in to the mirror, wanting to know what I would look like all grown up. How would I change? The answer is I didn't. I look exactly the same. Just grown up.
And with Sadie, this little girl at one moment looks just like her daddy. Especially when she's grumpy and she knits her brows and pouts. And then sometimes she looks just like my dad when he was a baby, with her little nose and fair skin. And then, sometimes, in the light I think she has green eyes (though I believe they will be turning brown shortly, because they now have the colors of the fall trees, a hint of green, but mostly brown) and when this happens, she looks like my sister Hannah. She has my lips, I think, which means she has my mom's lips and this makes me happy, that she has something of my mom, because to look at her now, you would never know she is a relation. My mom had olive skin and dark brown, almost black curly hair.
Unfortunately, I never met Greg's dad, but I have seen a few pictures and I only met Greg's mom once just for a moment, but we have pictures of her as a kid and a young woman in the house. It's hard to see them in Sadie because I never got to be around them.
When I was pregnant Greg always said he didn't want her to look to much like either of us. He wanted her to be herself. And she is. A little mixture of everyone. She shifts and changes and I am giddy with anticipation on what and who she will become and then freaking out at the same time at how fast it's all going. Where did my little tiny baby go? The one that fit right in to the crook of my arm and disappeared in to my robe?

Who is this jumbo sized hunk of love that I can barely keep up with in outfits that fit her. Seriously, she's officially in the 12-18 month size and she's only 8 months! Check out this shirt riding up over little belly (taken at Hannah's salon).

One thing though--those eyes. Those sleepy, heavy lidded, does she need a nap, or did she just wake up eyes.
I think I know where she got them. I think I need to go back to the mirror and look at again at myself.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Happy Birthday Amara Jay Lee

Hi Everyone,
I've been lazy with my postings. Lately I don't feel like I have anything to say.
Well, I always have something to say, but is worth your reading time, not sure?
Anyway, today is my niece Amara Jay's 1st birthday. I can't believe how fast it has gone.
Here's a little photo montage. A year of Amara.
Happy Birthday little Scooter!

Here she is. Fresh to the world. I was there when she was born.

An amazing birth. My sister is my hero. All natural. My mom would have been so proud

She made us Aunties!

And she made them Uncles

And these guys Grandparents

She wasn't always happy....

But she was always loveable...

Most importantly, she loves 'baby' Sadie...

They are going to have so much fun together...

As long as they don't fight too much over toys...

Lots of Love...

Happy Birthday Amara!!


Sunday, September 14, 2008


If you weren't able to stay up late enough to watch this (I barely did), here it is.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Hi Everyone,
Ok, I have figured it out. I can write about my boobs now. I have been feeling pretty petty about being so upset about my breasts. In comparison to what could have gone wrong with my cancer, my imperfect breasts are nothing and I know this. My tumor could have not responded to chemo. I could still be on chemo right now. The cancer could have spread to a vital organ in my body, my liver, my lungs, my pancreas, my brain. I know this too. I am so lucky. I sit here not yet a year later and I am cancer free with a head full of hair that I cannot get enough compliments on (seriously, I have friends who tell me never to grow it out!), a beautiful baby sleeping in her crib, a husband out working his ass off to make money for our family while I take a long extended maternity leave, a job that is putting no pressure on me to come back before I am truly ready, a sleeping puppy at my feet, a beautiful sunny day, and nothing in front of me today but playing with Sadie and enjoying my life. Yet still, I sit here and am upset.

Part of this is my personality. I have that never satisfied streak that I think my mom passed on. That tickle in the brain that says there is more you can do, have, get, learn, accomplish and on and on making it almost impossible to appreciate what is right in front of you. But then part of it is this: Expectations. I am not good when I have expectations that are not fulfilled and this is why I am so upset about my breasts.

Here's the deal. When I started this cancer journey, I had the deepest fears about the experience. I thought I would be lying in bed all day, no strength, nauseous and weak, throwing up, in unbearable pain without the energy to hold my newborn baby. I thought getting chemo would render me this chemical infested freak itching to get out of my skin and end it all. It's not that it was easy, no, not at all, but really, when I think back on it, it wasn't that bad. I still functioned. I still got up every three hours at night and fed Sadie her bottle.

Even at the worst of it, even when my feet were in pain from neuropathy and I was weak because I couldn't eat due to sores in my mouth, I still laughed at Greg's jokes. I still enjoyed the silly antics of my dog and was happy to see my friends and family who visited me.

I was still living. I still had a sense of humor.

And this surprised me in that wonderful way when you think the worst, but get something better. This is how I do best.
What I don't do well with is the opposite. When I have an idea of how things are going to be and it then they go the other way. This is when I lose it. This is why I like to know the endings of movies before I see them, especially if a main character dies. I hate the shock of sadness, the disappointment of something not working out. I hate being let down. And my breasts, my breasts are really letting me down. I never would have been this upset if it hadn't been for everything I had heard. When I would go to the breast care center, all the nurses would tell me how Dr. Foster was a miracle worker, how they had seen the most amazing breasts come from his work. That my breasts would be beautiful. So all along, I have been running on this idea that I would end this experience with Playboy boobs. A sort of consolation prize for having cancer. The award for surviving the nightmare that is chemotherapy and being bald and losing every single hair on my body. Beautiful breasts. I would have rather been handed a check for a million dollars or at least enough to remodel my kitchen, but Ok, nice boobs, I'll take it.

Clearly fake, but nice, right?

So to end up with what I have has been hard. Embarrassingly hard to admit how hard it has been.

Not me, not even close to me (my scars aren't that bad) but you get the idea.

I am more upset about these breasts than I was when my nails turned yellow and started falling off because they were dying from the affects of chemo. I am more upset than when I had to shave my head because my scalp was in so much pain. I am more upset than when my chemo nurse, Pauline, had to restart an IV because my veins were so stressed from being stuck so many times. I am more upset than when I had to hobble around the house and wear thick socks because my feet felt like tiny needles were poking through them at every step, the bottoms peeling ribbons of skin. I am more upset than when I hung my head over the sink, drooling saliva from a mouth in so much pain I couldn't chew, and could barely talk. I am more upset than when I contracted a fungus (yes fungus, like athletes foot) on my inner thighs because my immune system was so low. I am more upset than when I was so constipated from chemo that I cried every time I had to go to the bathroom.

Me, pretty upset after getting my head shaved

And see? Doesn't that seem silly? I went through so much and now, now I am angry because why? Because when I lean forward I have these cavernous indentations on my upper chest. Because there are folds under my nipples (well on the left side where my nipple should be, but isn't) from scar tissue under the skin pulling the skin inward, because one breasts, the breast that had the infection, sits higher than the other and is round and and the other, the one that doesn't have the nipple, hangs more natural like a semi circle, yet is hard at the bottom. Because they aren't soft, but firm and when I touch them I can feel the silicone bag, the crinkle of something foreign under my skin. Because when they are touched, I feel nothing. And this is the saddest part of all. It's not that I didn't know this would happen. They took everything out and only left the skin. Everything. That includes all nerve cells. Of course I can't feel anything. But to really experience this is different than just knowing it. There is numbness when before it was the most sensitive and responsive of areas. I ache for feeling and there is nothing there. I had Sadie on me the other morning, lying in bed and my nipple was poking out of my tank top and she grabbed it with her tiny hand as if it was a toy and pulled so hard any normal woman would have screamed out in shock, but me, well me, I didn't even register it. And this isn't saying anything about what it does for your sexuality, which I won't elaborate on because that's private, but you get the idea. Breasts are a major erogenous zone and to have that zone removed, it's like your favorite dish being taken off the menu of the only restaurant in town.

I asked my doctor what woman complain and worry about more during the reconstruction process, the way their new breasts look or feel. He confirmed that we start out caring way more about how they look. Only when we lose the nerves do we realize we will never feel the sensation of our breasts being caressed again which is so sad because it means we all care way to much about what we look like on the outside, than how we feel on the inside which only makes me feel worse because I am suffering from both ends of the spectrum, how I look and feel.

So that's it. That's the deal. That's what's been bottled up for a few weeks now. My oncology nurse Brigid just called to check up on me and I told her what's going on. She said she read in my file that Dr. Foster had put in a note about being super aggressive with the scar tissue and how I am going to get physical therapy. My first appointment is tomorrow with the physical therapist. Brigid started to tell me how wonderful this woman is, how she is a miracle worker and I quickly shushed her and said, 'No. Don't tell me that. Tell me she is a quack and that it's a waste of my time'. In that way, even if she helps just a little, it will mean a lot.