dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s

I had nipple surgery today you guys.

Yep, this marked my 6th surgery in 11 months. I deserve some kind of present from my dear, dear friends (nurses and doctors) at CPMC Davies. A commuter mug? A commemorative key chain? My own monogrammed IV Kit? I continue to marvel at the level of care I have received and how amazing they all are with my silly requests, strange observations, light chit-chat and random questions.

[One nurse, upon me inquiring what blood type I was and what was the universal donor/receiver type was, went the extra mile and looked it up online during her break and handed a print out to me – wow, just wow.]

Woo-woo! The surgery was the last stop on the reconstruction train. They did the nipple recon on “lefty” and then they did some fat grafting (sounds hard-core it’s just taking fat from one part of my body and putting in another….hello lipo) and adjustment to “righty.” I’m sore, but I’ve been to this rodeo before. Like a gazillion times. Okay, just 6, but you know what I mean.

Chalk it up to my mental state approaching this last surgery (eh, another one, oh okay, no biggie) or my feeling that you guys have maxed out on your bandwidth for my CJ (another surgery, ummm, didn’t we just read about one?), but I may have kinda-sorta-maybe failed to broadcast the news of today’s event. So….sorry. I underestimated you guys.

What’s next? A lot of resting in my CCC and watching the NLCS – GO GIANTS!

And…. of course, online shopping (Er, I mean BROWSING). Did you know that Shopbop is doing 25% off this week with the code FAMILY25? And Saks is doing their 25% off this week for Friends & Family with code FRNFAM? Don’t forget to use code FREESHIP at Saks.

Happy Shopping!

xo

JG

one year ago(ish)

I’ve purposely been vague about marking the date that I was first diagnosed last October(ish) in 2013(ish). In the cancer world, the diagnosis date is known as the “cancerversary.” And while I’m not intentionally knocking those who have acknowledged theirs, I’m not in that same boat. Why? Because I see no reason to celebrate, memorialize, acknowledge this date as significant in my life. What do I have to gain from marking this date in my mental and emotional calendar?

I remember that day very clearly. It was a Tuesday. Like every mom I know I was smack dab in the middle of sherpa time: shuttling my crew of three to various activities all over Marin (#drivingalloverkingdomcome….right RC?). After my annual mammogram in February 2013, they had asked me to come back in 6 months to check something out they were sure was normal, but “just in case.” So like any rule follower, I diligently made the appointment for September to get another mammogram. This mammogram revealed 2 abnormalities – one of which was the one they identified 6 months prior, and a new one. (That was the one that turned out to be the cancerous tumor…go figure). The next step was to undergo two different kinds of biopsies to get a more accurate reading of the two growths. So there I was on a Tuesday. Waiting for the results of Friday’s needle core biopsy and 1 day after Monday’s stereotactic biopsy. (Due to scheduling constraints, they could not do the two back to back, unless I wanted to wait three weeks out. I did not.)

Like any mom who’s guilty of dabbling with enabling her children when they forget things – You forgot your trumpet? Lunch? Homework? Baseball cleats? Sure I’ll bring them to you! – I was not quite finished with the mission that required me to pick up the guys from school in Larkspur, take them to baseball in Terra Linda, drive back to Corte Madera for said forgotten cleats, and return back to Terra Linda when I stopped for a moment to answer the home phone when it rang at approximately 5:05 pm.

I remember the shock, sharp pain, momentary loss of breath that I immediately felt upon hearing the words “It’s malignant” followed by an adrenaline rush which promptly pushed me into asking a myriad of questions – how big, what’s next, who do I call, how quickly can we take care of this. I remember that after all of this – taking in the severity of the news, scribbling down my notes from the phone call, calling M and my mother, I still had to – OMFG – take the cleats to Terra Linda where an 11-year-old boy who didn’t yet know his mom had cancer and who’s biggest worries were the absence of these cleats.

Which I did.

How I managed to drive back to Terra Linda, deliver the cleats, make small talk with the other parents, and watch the rest of their game, I’ll never know. So much of what I was feeling was raw and unformed at this time.

So instead of marking the milestone of that fateful Tuesday – I prefer to acknowledge a different date in my CJ – November 14th, 2013. That was the date that the tumor was surgically removed from my breast, the date that I had no more cancer growing inside of me, and the date that my recovery and my journey as a survivor could officially begin. That is the date I want to remember. And celebrate! And offer gratitude to the friends and family who pinch hit for us: driving kids to school, walking the Intern, dropping off meals, and so on and so on.

I can’t possibly predict what the future of my CJ holds – and I would be lying if I were to say that fear doesn’t fill my mind frequently – but on the holiest day of the Jewish Calendar, Yom Kippur, I’m trying to find a place of acceptance. Wish me luck. And Happy New Year!

xo

JG

 

pap smears and past crushes

When I heard the news that my OB/GYN was retiring, I knew I had to make an appointment to see him before he left the practice. I’ve been seeing Dr B for 18 years and in that time we covered: birth control pills, infertility, 4 pregnancies, a c-section to deliver the twins, 2 miscarriages, IUDs and of course my CJ. We’ve had some interesting conversations while I’ve been heels-down, toes-up in the stirrups, and his head laser-focused on my Southern Hemisphere. From sobbing in his office with the fear that I’d never be able to have kids,  to celebrating with him when we heard two heartbeats, and hearing his voice on the other end of the phone last October with the unfortunate news that the “growth” (as we called it back then) was malignant, you could say we’ve run the gamut.

But there’s something funny about going to see your OB when you’re no longer pregnant or trying to get pregnant. The office that you used to go in for weekly visits, has undergone a massive redesign: new chairs! new colors! free WIFI! It’s changed, but it hasn’t changed.

[A friend and I had always joked that it would be a great business strategy to open up a traveling beauty bar whereby waxing aestheticians trolled the hallways at OB/GYN offices with carts so they could give you a quick “Brazilian” while you were already in the stirrups. Just watch. This will totally take off. Add it to the list of “shoulda-coulda-woulda” business ideas.]

Going to the office felt like visiting your old teacher and classroom during lunch – everything looks different, yet there’s a familiarity there somehow. And speaking of old familiarities…guess who happened to be in the office waiting room with me? My BFF from middle school (and fellow Durani – she was going to marry Nick. I was a “John Girl” all the way.) There we were, LH and I, both stuck waiting for Dr B after being informed that he was running 40 minutes late, (What are you gonna do…reschedule? Kinda impossible with his retirement situation and all…so we both just…waited.) giggling like the 12-year-olds we used to be, discussing old friends and old crushes, and the fact that my boys are now the age that we were when we were Officially Boy Crazy.

It was fun taking a trip down memory lane, and just for a few minutes, we were transported back to 1982 – our journey even more poignant given that the guys are now dipping their pinky toes into the girl pond. I previously shared all of the most intimate deets about my first boyfriend in 5th grade, who asked me “to go” one minute before the bell rang on the last day of school here, and it kinda feels like I’m reliving it now.  Only – slight difference – I’m the carpool-coordinating, birthday-party-driving Mother instead of the actual 6th grader who’s taking a chance cause luck is on my side or something.

This Freaky-Friday-esque (Seriously, wasn’t it just 1982 for christsakes?) scenario enables me to offer up such golden morsels of advice, such as:

“If a girl asks you something personal and promises – swears! – that she won’t tell anyone, don’t fall for it. She will tell people. I was a 12-year-old girl once.”

And this little gem about avoiding entrapment aka a 6th grade Sting Operation:

“If you are going with a girl, and her friends ask you who would you like if you didn’t like the girl you do like, don’t do it. This will never end well. And it will always, always, get back to the girl you like.”

I didn’t want to leave the safe confines of the World of 1982 that we’d created by reminiscing, but it finally came my turn to go in, so I said my goodbyes and we made plans for a middle school reunion.

“We’ve had a nice run, haven’t we?” said Dr B when he first walked in. We hugged. Where does the time go, we both wondered. His kids are now grown, parents themselves, making him a grandparent. Mine are blooming into teen and tween-hood.

Yes, it has been. From babies to breast cancer, I’m glad he was in my corner. And I’m grateful that – thanks to him – I get to be in my children’s corner for as long as they’ll let me.

xo

JG

 

is it hot in here or is it just me?

I’ve never been someone who sweats a lot. I know what you’re thinking, “Well goody-goody-gumdrops for her!” But the point is, I gave little thought to my own micro-climate. Seat warmers for morning car rides? Yes, please. Cashmere sweaters? Why not? Cashmere Turtlenecks? Bring. It. On.

I’m suddenly constantly roasting. I mean sticky, clammy, flushed, and hot. It’s a constant and never-ending rotation in hell. (My own personal summer.) I have Tamoxifen to thank for that.

[This segment is brought to you by the Letter T]

Adding to the loveliness that is my ever-present “dewey-glow” is that I no longer wear antiperspirant. In my quest to quit using any products which contain toxic chemicals, ingredients linked with cancer or endocrine disruptors (i.e those that fuck with my estrogen, bad, bad), I have had to make some personal sacrifices. And one of those sacrifices is my deodorant.

My friends AT and HB warned me when I first started out using Soapwalla that it may take some getting used to because it’s a cream. Once I quickly got over the ick-factor, I was sold. I loved its clean scent, plus I felt good about its organic and vegan ingredients. And while I think my deodorant kicks ass over Tom’s of Maine and other so-called organic products, it still doesn’t do quite the same job as my clinical strength whatever-brand I used to get from CVS. Oh well, I figured, I’ll just mask any odor with a little essential oils (I don’t wear perfume anymore, just mixed essential oils in a little glass container) and that will do the trick.

But here’s the thing about my crazy hot flashes. It’s not like in the movies when someone suddenly is dripping with sweat down their face and everyone makes a joke – it’s not pretty. Like at all.  I was at a fancy-schmancy party this weekend sweating profusely all over: down my back, under my arms, and yes, in my nether-regions. There I was, mingling and having a nice time thankyouverymuch, and yet totally scared that at any moment someone would lean in for a hug and notice my body drenched with perspiration. The horror!

It’s hard to accept that I just “run hot” now. I’ve had to make some adjustments and say goodbye to some old friends: Goodbye chunky cardigans I’ll miss you; farewell turtleneck sweaters, it was nice knowing you; arrivederci flannel pajamas, may you find happiness elsewhere. It’s not you, it’s me. 

xo

JG

intersection

Britney Spears famously sang “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman.” And while you’d not be completely out of bounds if you thought I was talking about Miss J in my house, you’d also be wrong. So partial points to you for that guess. (Can you tell I’m knee-deep in Fantasy Football Hoopla?) I’m actually talking about myself and in an attempt to search my brain for the proper pop-culture reference to describe the “in between” place I feel these days, Britney fit the bill. I’ve wanted to write this post for awhile, and I’ve been slowly writing it in my head the last few weeks. So here goes.

The thing is: I don’t have breast cancer anymore. Ta Da! Can I get a HOLLAH? (or is it Mandy Patinkin Challah? Remember? Claire Danes at the Emmys a few years ago?) I feel somewhat hesitant to deeply connect myself with the cancer community. But I’m also not 100% better or who I was pre-BC. No matter how far the original diagnosis, subsequent tests, waiting, waiting, waiting, getting second and third opinions, determining and deciding on treatment is in my rear view mirror, it still all happened. To me. But there’s a part of me that feels, I don’t know, maybe a teeny weeny bit guilty. That I had it much easier than others. That I didn’t have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation. That my tumor was classified as stage 1, when it could have stage 2 or 3 or 4.

I’m reminded of another quote – this time from Woody Allen that likely rates much higher on the pop-culture richter scale: “I’d never join a club that would allow a person like me to become a member.” He says this in the opening monologue in Annie Hall (one of my all-time faves!) and while he’s really speaking to his own insecurity and low self esteem issues, he’s also talking about the concept of BELONGING.  Where do I belong exactly? I’m kind of at a loss. Do I belong in the community of cancer survivors who bravely and boldly share their CJ’s like war veterans who “won the battle”? Do I join support groups to discuss the “aftermath” of the CJ and the non-physical scars that still remain? Or do I start fresh, put this terrible year behind me, and resume my old life? Who will have me as a member? And more importantly, and pressingly: where do I feel most comfortable being a member?

Before my CJ, I was more carefree, less anxious about my future, less conscientious with the cleaning products or personal products (cosmetics, etc) that my family uses, and less timid. But I also lived a life plagued with so-called first-world problems navigating such pressing issues as: the heartbreak of not finding the brand of organic milk we buy at the market, arriving at Comforts to pick up Chinese Chicken Salads three minutes after they closed, or having a really shitty tennis game. (uh, hello, where did my backhand go?) If you think I’m trivializing my life to make a point – yes guilty as charged.

[For a irreverent look at FWP, click here]

Nowadays, what’s changed? While I don’t sweat the small stuff as much as before, I’ve also learned a great deal about patience and flexibility. I’m trying to live a more deliberate life.  This may mean stopping and smelling the roses. (How many bad idioms can I use here?) Or it may mean saying “no” more often, or being more honest with myself.

The point is I feel different. Not different-bad; and not different-good. But I’m at the intersection between “cancer girl” club and “non cancer girl” club – and it’s the underlining question I deal with every day. Maybe one day I’ll figure it out. So bear with me.

xo

JG

 

 

10 Days Post Op

I spent the good part of my first week post-Op assuming “the position”: ensconced in my chair, remote in hand, stack of mags on my right, laptop on my left, and the Intern at my feet. Lucky for me, the little people in my house were at Mountain Camp and not due home until Saturday (3 days after), and then only home for a brief pitstop until the next morning when headed to Idaho to visit their grandparents. This afforded me just over a week of recuperation without having to run interference and solve such pressing issues as who ate most of the cookies, who’s hogging the computer, and who took someone’s i-Touch charger.

And now, 10 days later, the little people are back! And I’m feeling much better. I’ve been off of pain pills since day 4 during the day, drove for the first time last week, and went on a long walk today with the Intern.  And I may have even broken a personal record of not leaving the house – so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. M knows I have an extremely high tolerance for resting around doing nothing. I mean, really, really high.

(For those interested in my TV escapades: thumbs down for LeAnn and Eddie – thanks to LS for her intervention I had to quit them – and thumbs up for Dating Naked)

I’m still sidelined and on the DL, which means no tennis, running (who am I kidding? My plan to become a runner post big boobs hasn’t exactly taken off), lifting weights, yoga, etc.  Most of those things I don’t do anyway. Ha! I’m also doing the Massive Pillow Routine at night – since I have to still sleep on my back: You put your two pillows in back, a neck pillow in front, two pillows on each side, and you shake it all about. Add a pillow under my leg, eye mask, earplugs, ambien, and that’s what it’s all about.

I see Dr K again later this week. So far I’m very happy with the results of this last surgery – which was reconstruction revision – and I hope I continue to heal nicely.

Tomorrow is September. How can that be? That marks 11 months of my CJ. Grateful by all accounts to be where I am. But, what a strange trip it’s been. True that.

xo

JG

 

 

 

 

boobapalooza

I’m not gonna lie. The 5:00 am alarm for the 5:20 am departure (shout out to MR – cuz that’s how I roll) was, in a word, BRUTAL. I didn’t go to bed early the night before as planned, so I was definitely in major sleep deficit mode. M and I crushed it heading to the city in 25 minutes. Remember this is CPMC Davies campus so it’s deep Divisadero. We were checking in by 5:50 am and Dr K gave us kudos for the on-time arrival because he says that patients who are scheduled for the first surgery of the day who arrive late are his biggest pet peeve. I wouldn’t want to put him in a bad mood before he sports sharp objects in his hand. Whoa.  Can you imagine?

But, being the first surgery on the schedule does have its perks:

  1.  Like instead of getting taken to the 3rd floor and then later transferred to the O/R waiting room, I was taken directly to a private O/R waiting room and then wheeled in when they were ready. Easy peasy.
  2. And we started on time.
  3. And M could stay with me the whole time until I had to go into the O/R, which also meant I had my magazines with me! Instead of being trapped and forced to read Sunset and Family Circle from 2006, I caught up on the latest from Entertainment Weekly. (The best gift evah VMD!) Oh happy day!

And while the surgery itself went well and I was out of there lickety-split, (Bonus – “The Closer” Nurse Ursula fresh off her trip to Ireland administered my IV with zero drama. She’s 3 for 3. Sweet!)  I did spend a longer time in “recovery” – chalk it up to a possible different kind or dosage of anesthesia or whatever – but I was really out of it for a solid 2 1/2 hours before I was released to go to my “day” room on the 4th floor. Once there,  my Wonder Mom stayed with me for nearly 3 hours while I gathered enough strength to get out of bed and use the bathroom (their litmus test for release) and listened to me babble on and on while I floated around on a puffy cloud filled with dilaudid and fentanyl.  To put it simply: my mom rocks.

I’m sore. Relieved to be on the other side of this surgery. Looking forward to healing and putting this past me. And to my dear friends from the IBTC who took me in, granted me a temporary membership, and supported me, I say farewell to thee as I move up the cup size ladder. It was a lovely ride with you and I will cherish the time spent together. Always. MUWAH!

Alright, alright, alright. You can imagine how psyched I was to come home to see The Intern and be back in my Command Center Chair. In an spoof of the ubiquitous “vacay leg photos with water view” – here’s our own version of that photo.

IMG_2626

xo

JG

 

 

Miss me?

Guess what? I’m back! And guess what again? I’m heading into surgery tomorrow. Yep, that’s right, I just can’t stay away. I think after 5 surgeries you get a free latte. Or something. Friends ask, “Are you nervous?” or “Are you excited?” and either it’s the 20 mg of Lexapro talking or I really am kinda “over it.” I got this. Surgery. No big deal. Meh.

But, of course, it IS a big deal. The cancer part is gone, which is the tremendous good news, but the reconstruction/revision cycle keeps going. I’m not looking to win any bikini contests anytime soon and I’m not searching for perfect breasts …just real-looking…um, breasts. Sigh.

People say “How’s your summer been?” and I’m not gonna lie. It kinda sucked. Bookended by two surgeries (June 23 and August 20) left me little time to enjoy outdoor activities, adventures or much travel. I was on the DL again for 6 weeks (disabled list in baseball terms) and had a 10 day break and now on the eve of my surgery, I’ll be back on until October. Me and Brandon Belt have been watching Housewives together.

(He doesn’t like Tamara either.)

Pity party for one, your table is ready.

I’m aware that I sound a bit bratty. I don’t have cancer anymore! The tumor is gone! I didn’t have to do chemo! I’m only 2 of the three B’s (boob-less and bloated..but not bald!) The irony is my kids had like the best summer of their lives. I kid you not. C said “Can we stay home again next year?” They’re at sleep away camp right now and the timing couldn’t be better – I’ll have a couple of days to rest in bed and binge-watch crappy TV while they’re making lanyards and s’mores.

And while I have chunks of memory from this year missing – the good news is – the kids don’t define this year as “the year mommy had breast cancer” for which I’m incredibly grateful. I’ve managed to drive field trips, coach the Odyssey of the Mind Team, manage the Foundation’s events, remember to feed the Intern, and occasionally heat up something warm for M when he gets home. I’ve been present for them – as much as I could be given the circumstances – and my hope for them is that this year becomes a distant memory for them.

As for me and my aspirations? I wish I could tell you that when I last wrote sometime in June or July and pledged to get back on track with health and fitness that it were true, except I’m shoveling peanut m&m’s in my mouth at the moment. By the handful. M has been incredibly patient and understanding as I practice my nightly routine of helping myself to a heaping bowl of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream before bed.

“Is this on your healthy eating plan?” he asks not-so benignly.

“Yep,” I say proudly. “Absolutely,” with a don’t-fuck-with-me-face.

So there you have it. The honest answer to how my summer has been, my progress on my healthy eating plan, and the update on my surgery plans. I report at 6:00 am tomorrow morning and everyone who knows me knows that this is nothing short of a miracle. Wish me luck.

xo

JG

 

Mending + Healing

I’ll lead with the best news ever – Z was cleared Tuesday to play baseball! The look on his face – pure joy. He practiced with his all star team on Tuesday afternoon and played in last night’s game. He’s incredibly grateful and so am I.

We’re down to 1 drop 2x a day. He’s become an expert at handling eye drops. And he can resume all activities. Yay.

I’m also on the mend. I’ve managed to take a few adventures and leave the house 3x. Woo hoo! I’ve also cut down on my meds too – and I’m saving percoset for the afternoons so I can drive in the morning and have a clear head. Still, I tire easily and I’m sore in more than a few places, but every day is an improvement. And also – big news – I got my drains out on Monday – which as you know, also has opened the door for wardrobe options tremendously now that I don’t have to hide these hideous things that were attached to my body on each side. Huge victory.

And more good news. Dr G (breast surgeon) called and said the pathology on the remaining tissue she took was clear. Happy dance. So she doesn’t recommend any further treatment and wants to see me in 1 month. I’m still taking Tamoxifen – which my oncologist Dr M has prescribed for me – and I will take it for the next 5 (perhaps 10) years.

So all in all, it’s been about 9 months from diagnosis to this point. I may have a little small revision surgery in a few months (no biggie) but let’s dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s if you know what I mean…so carry the one, add the four, and it will be about 12 months. One year. Wow. In this “lost” year I’ve missed out on a milestone events for friends and family, presentations and performances at school, little league games, CYO tournaments, my tennis team, and an entire ski season. But they pale in comparison to what I’ve gained: perspective, gratitude, tolerance, and flexibility.

xo

JG

4 days post exchange op

Tra la la ….I’m back in our “summer house” in a make-shift Command Center. For those who aren’t in the know, every June we happily housesit for my in-laws who spend the summer in Idaho. Dubbed “Rosscation” it’s like a staycation on steroids. We have all the advantages of being at home – but get this – a few added luxuries we don’t get at home like a ginormous backyard, epic tree swing, pool, warmer weather and walking distance to great trails. It’s the highlight of our summer every year that’s for sure.

I’m healing slowly but surely. The stabbing pain has subsided and in its place is achy muscles, sore limbs and some itchy skin. And – ta da – my drains are back! It’s one thing having drains in the fall, winter or spring (me, me, me also) but the summer adds a stickier element to this dog and pony show that is the Jackson Pratt Drains. The warmer weather makes it more challenging to find adequate wardrobe options to hide them. But me complain? Nah, never.

Since this isn’t my first time at the rodeo, (if said Rodeo were called “recovering from breast surgery rodeo” doesn’t exactly slip off the tongue now does it?) I’ve got this rest-n-recuperate thing down pat. I’m also well aware that:

  • swelling will take 1-2 months even more perhaps to go down
  • my breasts are not perfect and they won’t resemble the “finished product” for some time
  • it’s not unusual to do some reconstruction revisions down the road if needed and wanted
  • Dr G took what was remaining “very little tissue” left in my left breast and doesn’t expect it to be anything but I will be totally relieved when the pathology report comes out clear
  • I can resume walking around 10 days.
  • No strenuous exercise for 6 weeks.
  • No lifting anything more than 5 pounds on each side.

I’ve also figured out a trick to sleeping on my back. I use my airplane neck pillow so I don’t get sore. Now picture me: earplugs in, eye mask on, neck pillow wrapped around me. Gorgeous I tell you!

I’m also ready to turn my attention back to healthy eating. I’ve changed my entire beauty products routine with chemical free, organic and natural body and beauty products. I’ve incorporated daily (almost) walks with the Intern as part of my lifestyle. And I’ve dramatically reduced the amount of dairy and alcohol. But now it’s really time to walk the walk and no longer just talk the talk. I must do a better job of eating healthier and reducing access to refined sugars. It’s hard because a) I have such a sweet tooth and b) this spring as I was juggling all of  my insane demands, combined with health hiccups, I fell off the wagon. But now that this surgery is behind me and my volunteer job in the rear view mirror, I have the bandwidth to focus on me and my pledge to have a healthier lifestyle. And now that I am a small(er) chested woman, I may pick up some sports that I felt were previously off the table for me: golf…running….better tennis player?

In the meantime, here are a few of my summer faves, as soon as I’m able to say goodbye to muumuus and JP drains, (and leave the house!) I’ll be happily wearing my summer go-to’s all over town.

xo

JG

ps. For those inquiring about Z man, he’s still couch bound, poor kid. He’s missed 3 all star games and at least 1 more, we’re crossing our fingers he can play next week, but for now he’s still on the 7-10 day DL.