2nd day post op update

I’m home resting in my CCC and watching exceptionally bad TV. A new low – at present I’m catching up on behind the scenes footage of M and my fave go-to show “Naked & Afraid”. I’m also fired up for Jenni Garth and Tori Spelling’s new series which debuts tonight “Mystery Girls.” Set your DVRs!

Monday we checked into the hospital at 8:30 am and were brought immediately up to the 4th floor. I changed into the ubiquitous purple gown, green socks with tread and settled in for a long wait. Rookie move – forgot my trash mags so when I was wheeled down to the OR waiting room I didn’t have anything to read. But a really nice nurse brought me a stack of newish ones so I could keep busy.

And guess what? It only took 5 surgeries and 6 hospital stays for the staff at CPMC bring the “closer” to me right away, courtesy of my newly minted frequent flyer sapphire status. (Membership rocks) Ursula is the Wonder Nurse who inserted my IV with zero drama back in April, and they called for her again and she once again delivered. I took a picture of her.  M is in the background looking amused.

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The Closer

I ended up staying the night and I’m so glad I did. I was in a significant amount of pain that first night, and not terribly handy taking care of myself. Despite the doses of percocet and other drugs in my IV, I somehow managed to stay awake until 5 am and only slept until 7:30 am when they woke me for my morning check up. I was enjoying my large room, with the windows open, and the peace and quiet too much for sleep I guess.

[Insider’s Tip: If you’re going to CPMC anytime soon, you must remember to order the green tea ice cream. So delicious I had it for lunch the next day!]

Part of the surgery involved my breast oncologist “scraping” any remaining tissue on my left breast since the DCIS was so close to the skin. Dr G left a message for me yesterday saying that there was very little tissue left from the bilateral mastectomy in November and sent what she did manage to collect to pathology – but expects no surprises there.

My dad picked me up in the afternoon and brought me back home where I’ve been reunited with my comfy chair and The Intern who has not left my side. I’m sore, tired, grateful, happy to be home, relieved to have reached this milestone, and looking forward to recuperating and relaxing this summer.

And lastly. File this under the category: When it Rains it Pours. Z had an accident at All Stars practice Monday night when a baseball hit him square in the right eye. Massive blood everywhere, Coaches and parents sprang into action, he was driven to the ER, and then Mike was able to take him to an Ophthalmologist. I didn’t find out about this until hours later when he was firmly and safely ensconced at my parents’ house. Luckily, with the help of Nurse Nana, he received TLC, eye drops, super cool sunglasses and lots of love in my absence. For the record, Nana slept on the floor in their room at her house in a sleeping bag that night to make sure he was okay. Further good news is how fast his eye is mending and while baseball practice and games are on hold for him right now (he can’t do any physical activity and nothing that requires moving his head), his vision has improved, the pressure in his eye has improved, and his retina was not affected.  Last night he suited up and stayed in the dugout to cheer his team on. Tonight he’ll do the same.

I can’t express how grateful M and I both are by family and friends in our amazing community who have reached out and let us know they’re thinking about Z – along with the friends who have picked up things, dropped off things, or driven carpools for me when I’ve asked. I’d normally have my Intern handle all of my thank you notes, but all he seems to want to do is nap and watch Real Housewives on TV.

I think I’ll join him.

xo

JG

5th night free

Watch out people, I’ve nearly hit the ultimate sapphire level at CPMC. They punch my card everytime I come in for surgery. 5 surgeries = an adorbs clear plastic title clutch with swag (with ear plus, face mask and Chapstick!)  I’ve heard a rumor that at 25 they give you a pony!

Hello old friend percoset. It’s kicking in now.:) More surgery Deets tomorrow but can’t get through it now but it went great. Buh bye expanders!

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the countdown is on

Funny thing while I’ve been counting down the days until my exchange surgery (June 23rd), the little people in my family have been counting down until the last day of school.  Both share the same nervous anticipation and dreaded excitement.

But what’s interesting to me is how in the last 48 hours since school officially ended, and they each advanced one grade level (6th graders and a 4th grader – how did THIS happen?), they’ve suddenly grown, well, older too.  Exhibit A: C&Z went to their first boy-girl pool party two days ago. As you’d expect, the intel I get from the guys is very minimal. Despite how hard I try to give off the Cool Mom vibe – not being afraid to talk about touchy subjects, letting them pick the music in the car, and singing to said music in the car – I end up giving off the Dorky Mom.

“Mom,” they say in unison, “You’re so…(what I’m thinking cool? awesome? totes rad?) weird.” Followed by ubiquitous eye roll expressing utter digest and embarrassment.

Miss J asked for a training bra. My 9 year old daughter who shows no signs of needing one. I told her that she didn’t need one and could we table the subject until the end of summer and that I didn’t wear a bra regularly until 7th grade. “Mommy,” she explains to me like one talks to a small child, “Everybody’s bodies grow differently. Just because you didn’t wear a bra until 7th grade doesn’t mean that I won’t wear a bra until 7th grade.” (She was thisclose to following this up with a “Duh” for added emphasis.)

All of this talk of development, and growing up has me thinking a lot about time and how we perceive it. In many ways, it’s easy  to say when going through something unpleasant  – I wish time would go quickly. And for other things – a family trip, childhood, – I wish time went more slowly. At any rate, I’m incredibly grateful that I get to experience these moments (moody tweens, heartfelt talks, greater independence) in the first place. I know my CJ has been less challenging than others. That fact has never been lost on me. When I look back and think of the years 2013, and the last 8 months, (almost a school year in child terms) my CJ has dominated my memories and taken up so much of my mental and emotional bandwidth. But here’s where it gets interesting – in those same 8 months, their mom having breast cancer didn’t nearly take center stage for the little people in my family as it did for me. If you were to ask them about what are their strongest (best and worst, naturally) memories from this time, they’d mention a myriad of activities and adventures starting with sports, plays, performances, trips, and personal milestones. I didn’t want their definition of this time to be marked the same way it is marked for me. And for that, I am thankful.

I ran into a friend when I was hiking with another friend last week. We chatted for a bit and she inquired about my health and I told her how I was doing, and I inquired about her separation and asked how she was doing. She said, “It’s okay to ask me about it. I’m happy to talk about it.” And for a moment, our experiences were the same. We’d both been faced with something difficult and painful but were both nearing the other side of it.

“I know,” I agreed. “People say ‘It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it,’  and I’m always thinking this is one of the biggest things that has ever happened to me and of course I want to talk about it.”

I know that’s not everyone’s motto and I respect those who want to keep personal details, well, personal. But that’s not been me. And so I will continue to share my CJ as it unfolds.

Monday is the big day. I report to CPMC at 8:30 am.

xo

JG

15 things about breast cancer

Many of you might remember my online friend from the East Coast whose fashion blog I was inspired by and who was diagnosed with breast cancer just 4 months before I was.  Her own CJ paved the way for me to understand what I was up against and what was coming next. Our emails and phone calls were a safe haven for me, filled with language and acronyms that only breast cancer patients can relate to, and I often likened her to a “big sister” – like a Breast Cancer Welcoming Committee Member. She’s also the reason why I’ve been so forthcoming with my own CJ – in an effort to “pay it forward” I wanted to share my experiences and shed some light in an otherwise dark and unknown place with the hopes that it may help others like her been-there-done-that stories helped me.

And so just a few days ago marks the one year anniversary since her diagnosis. In the cancer world it’s often referred to as a “Cancerversary” – and provided her with the opportunity to reflect on this last year.

Here – in her words – taken from her blog are some of the things she’s learned:

1.  Doctor’s appointments = date nights.  Make it happen.

2.  If you are going to get a breast lump checked out, think PANTS.  NOT DRESSES.  Otherwise you could find yourself clad in only high heels and a thong while clinging to metal bars high above your head as two icy metal plates squash your boobs flat in a room with the same variable temperatures as Antarctica.

3. It’s normal to think your doctors are making this shit up just to f*ck with you.

4. Flirtatiously asking the “Chief Breast Imaging Specialist” if his title is really “Chief Breast Inspector” because that’s all you can read in the folds of his lab coat while he positions the world’s longest biopsy needle above your breast is really not funny, apparently, to anyone else but you.

5. Recovering from a mastectomy is NOT like recovering from a c-section.  Like, AT ALL.

6. Losing eyebrows and eyelashes is worse than losing hair.

7.  If you are going to use this Brian Joseph Lash and Brow Gel to keep your eyebrows through chemo, be sure to follow the instructions exactly and use it for THE FULL 60 DAYS POST-CHEMO.  Otherwise, they’ll fall out within a few days.  Trust me on this.

8. It’s OK to start hating the color pink with a surprising passion.

9. If you are out and about wearing a head-scarf, you will be like an invisible person.  Even if you otherwise look healthy and happy and are wearing lipstick and a cute outfit, no one will look at you because you are a BUMMER.  So ditch the wig on days you need to do errands without interruptions.

10. It’s OK to not feel strong.  Strength has absolutely nothing to do with it.

11. It’s OK to be annoyed when everyone tells you how strong you are.  They obviously haven’t witnessed your tearful ‘why me’ Dynasty moments while you gazed at your bruised, bandaged, alien reflection.

12.  It’s OK if your reflection makes you cry.  It won’t always be the case.  Promise.

13. Even if your pre-cancer life was all organic, paraben-free, hippy-happiness, it’s OK if you want to throttle those who suggest that vitamin C could take the place of chemo.  I’m PRETTY SURE that if Vitamin C ACTUALLY WORKED, doctors WOULD USE IT.

14.  It’s normal to start seeing “signs” of your impending death.  As a wise woman once told me, you can’t believe everything you think.

15.  It’s normal to want to see pictures of other’s massacred, post-mastectomy boobs.  And it’s OK to think of these things dramatically, using terms like “massacred”.

And lastly, I want to link to her page for this incredible video she made which commemorates a year of breast cancer. Warning: it’s got some “graphic” images and I guarantee it will make you cry. But it’s incredibly moving and while I didn’t have to do chemo like she did – I’d say what she expresses in this video is spot on.

Video here.

xo

JG

Miss me?

Yep, it’s been awhile and I’ve had a whirlwind spring. Instead of talking about the online auction, spring fashion show and other Foundation related events I had a hand in, or the fact that after nearly 6 years on the Board (and a couple as President), I have “retired,” or my trip with seven 11-year olds to Odyssey of the Mind World in Ames, Iowa, let’s talk about my boobs.

[for the video, click here]

I am officially done with my fills! My last visit pre-exchange surgery was this past Monday. They filled me one more time (a little past my comfort level, but I’m taking them out for a spin and if I like them I’ll keep this size, otherwise we will adjust) and sent me on my way!

Dr K walked in and said, “Okay, so you’ve been coming in weekly for about 6 months and today’s the day where we finally talk about what you want.”

I said, “I want a pony.”

Without missing a beat, he says, “I want a pony and I want it now.” And we laugh. He’s awesome that way.

So here’s the deal. My surgery is June 23rd. They will take out the expanders and put in the implants. They will also do other reconstruction type things.

Last week when I went for my appointment when I arrived they told me that Dr K wasn’t out of surgery yet, and they he’d be an hour. So I decided to pop over to this beauty salon Veer & Wander – which I’d read about that carries European non toxic beauty products. Stocked up on a few essential items from my new have lines RMS and Ilia and headed back to CPMC. When I arrived this time, I was told they were still not out of surgery and that it would be another hour. My appointment was for 1:00, it was now 2:15. So I walked down the street to this adorable Cafe – Duboce Park Cafe – and got a smoothie and read my book.  When I returned around 3:15, I waited for about 10 minutes and then was seen.

Not once during my 2-hour wait was I annoyed, outraged, frustrated or angry about the delay. And neither were the other 5-7 people in the waiting room. We all “got it” – if it were me on the operating table and my surgery went longer for some reason or another, I’d want the Dr to stay and be there, instead of rushing back to his office to be on time. A few decided to reschedule for another day; others like me simply waited it out without complaint.

I’m hopeful about the future. I’m looking forward to this being towards the end of my surgery journey. And I’m looking forward to being able to spend more time focusing on my family and my health. While it’s been incredibly rewarding and challenging (in a good way) to have been as busy as I have been these last 6 months juggling all of my volunteer commitments (not to mention a lifesaver at times to have it as a welcome distraction) and CJ, I’m ready to change lanes into the slow lane.

xo

JG


 

drain, drain go away

I finally got my drain out on Monday! Thrilled not to have my co-pilot with me anymore and have the difficult task of having to “accessorize” with it. When I was there, they also did a fill on my left. So I am getting close to being done. Only 2 more fills over the next 2 weeks (cross fingers) and that’s it! I can see the finish line. It keeps moving, but it’s there. Phew.

My recent surgery however, did push back our timeline a bit. So I’ve had to let go of the June 11 surgery date. My new surgery date is June 23. I’m fine with that. I wish it were sooner, but it is what it is.

Tonight I am going to our school fundraiser Fashion Show. It’s the one I chaired for 2 years and last year was invited to be in. It’s a super fun event where the community comes together to celebrate and acknowledge gratitude for the moms and dads and teachers who dedicate their time to our children’s education. I remember last year the nervous excitement I felt about walking down the runway – and the anxiety I had about my body. It’s ironic to look back on that now, given what “my body” has gone through over the last 6 months. Infact, “my body” is a bit of a train wreck at the moment from all the surgery and the wear and tear. I wish I could say that my CJ has elevated my self esteem about physical appearance in a way that I don’t care about it anymore. Or that I’m so grateful to be alive and moving forward (I am!) that these trivial things such as fitting into my skinny jeans, or wearing short shorts don’t bother me.

I’m trying to forgive myself for the days I’ve spent not exercising recovering from surgery, or because I just didn’t feel up to it; the afternoons that ice cream was way more appealing than carrot sticks; the feelings I’ve had about my body betraying me, first with the cancer, and now with the reconstruction delays and complications. I’m finding that forgiveness and acceptance can be more difficult than you might think. Thankfully I’ve had the benefit of great family and friends who have surrounded me with love and perspective.

xo

JG

 

mother’s day gratitude

Hallmark cards, potpourri, home-made macaroni necklaces aside, Mother’s Day is a sweet holiday and a time to reflect. For many of my close personal friends – and my own mother included – Mother’s Day is a bittersweet reminder that they no longer have their mothers present in their daily lives. As it happens my Nana’s Yahrzeit (anniversary of her passing) falls typically on the Friday before Mother’s Day. I’m both a mother, and a daughter, a girl who lost her Nana at 10 years old, a wife, and a friend to many incredible, courageous, smart and strong women.

I’m grateful to each and every one of the mothers in my life:

– …my own mother who comes tidies up our house in such a way that when M comes home he says “Was your mother here today?” because he knows that even I can’t keep a house that clean. Who models every day to me how to be a good mom.

– …my mother in law who asks clearly and often, “What can I do to help?” and help often comes in the way of home-cooked meals, kid pickups, or the long-loved kid sleepover in Ross.

-…my friends EJ, SM, and AD, who like my own mother lost their mothers way too early, and carry with them daily  spirit and strength to keep memories alive, and are good and present mothers to their own children not to mention great sources of support for me these last 6 months.

-…my (sometimes) amazing, always-loveable children whose tight hugs when they wake up from a deep sleep make me breathe in their scent and the feel of their soft child-like skin is something I’ll savor as they whisper to me, “You’re the best mommy,” and for that moment, I truly believe it.

-…my cousins and aunts who through their kindness and generosity show that love has no bounds and family is forever.

-…my amazing girlfriends – all mothers themselves – who laugh with me, cry with me, share secrets with me, offer advice – unsolicited and solicited – we are warriors navigating and negotiating the tricky path of motherhood together!

– …my own daughter, who is not yet a mother, but someday will be as her aspirations at the tender age of 9 are to be “A mommy and a Pop Star,” and I think that’s just dandy, who thinks I’m beautiful in every way and thinks everything can be fixed by a “huggy.”

Happy Mother’s Day!

xo

JG

full confession

Time to come clean. I’ve been doing more than my fair share of online shopping under the influence (OSUI). Last week the day after my surgery, I had trouble sleeping, and I was up until 5am. What’s a gal to do after she’s popped a few “Perkies” while she waits for sleep to overtake her? Yep, you guessed it – online shopping time!

I wish I could tell you the things I picked out filled my closet and filled my heart with tremendous satisfaction. Or that what I bought were things I had been long looking for and suddenly a-ha! found them so was thrilled to receive them. Or…that they were really even cute.

No, no and no.

Packages have been arriving this week and they’re all going back. I’m not keeping one thing. Sure, some of the things are Just Not Cute. And others are cute, but I don’t really need. So back they all go. The people at the UPS store know me by name. We’re tight like that. Feels very much like Fly-Fishing, catch and release style. So maybe the thrill is in the “hunt” – I don’t know.

I originally subtitled this blog “going through breast cancer one outfit at a time” and it’s still very much a part of my CJ. Going from ample chest to medium small chest changes your whole body proportions in such a way that I’ve found that clothes that used to work now don’t, and clothes that didn’t before, now do. It’s been a learning experience for me – learning to dress my budding breasts. I’m having fun with it actually.

It’s day 10 post surgery and I still have my friendly copilot the Drain with me. I am hoping to get it removed on Friday, but again, it all depends on then output. This means I can’t shower so I’ve become quite adept at the sponge bath scenario, and shaving my legs in the sink. Oh, good times. On the pain front, I’m sore mostly where the drain port is and the side and my back. But I’m able to do most things except lift anything over 1-2 lbs on that side. I’m mostly back to my regular routine, but I’m just so tired. It’s to be expected – my body has endured a lot in 6 months – so I’m trying to be super mindful.

Speaking of mindful…I feel the need to share a sweet story about my other copilot M, after his insensitive and not-at-all-funny comment about my alleged maternity ensemble the other day. I just received a phone call from He Who Doesn’t Remember Anything to wish me a happy anniversary. Yep, it was 27 years ago today on May 8, 1987, that a boy who needed a haircut and wore a Powdermilk Biscuits T-shirt, and a girl who was way too tan for her own good and had yellow hurache sandals first hooked up.

“Wow – can you believe it’s been 27 years?” I asked. “Think about everything that’s happened to us and what we’ve done together.” I was thinking about Grateful Dead concerts, Proms, Backpacking through Europe in college, breaking up, getting back together, Law School, more travel, Business School, babies, house, dog, not to mention a few minivans and pounds we accumulated along the way. I was thinking about how at 16, we could not have predicted our journey together and the milestones we’d celebrate, the challenges we’d endure, and the the memories we’d create.

I won’t repeat his answer here, because it might spoil the touchy-feely moment we’re having here – but suffice it to say, and it should come as no surprise to anyone, that his answer included a little subversive humor about my drain, my wonky left boob, and other ways we’re “doing great.” Funny guy. I think I’ll keep him.

Off to the UPS store to see my friends and return packages….one outfit at a time!

xo

JG

 

circling the drain …literally

Day 8 post 3rd surgery people. That means 8 days of living with is uncomfy drain in my side. It’s cumbersome, painful to the touch and you can’t accessorize with it, let alone disguise it. Last night was one of my first public forays with it and I donned what I thought was a completely acceptable ensemble which was drapey and loose yet comfy and chic.

“Is that what you wore to your meeting,” asked M when I returned home.

“Yes!” I replied immensely proud of the creativity the outfit involved. Tank top with molded cups, long striped tunic tank that covered the drain, boyfriend jeans that were loose enough to fit out despite hm bloated from surgery belly, long cardi to cover the drain bulb and vans.

“You look pregnant.”

Uh oh. May-jah fashion faux pas. Just when I thought I had successfully navigated post surgery attire. Damn. Damn. I was not going for the maternity look.

So it was with much excitement and nervous anticipation that I headed into Dr K’s office today with hopes of getting the drain removed. The required output needs to be less than 30 cc in a 24-hour period. I was borderline ready. But I was also nervous about a swollen part of my upper stomach on my left side which has become inflamed and red and painful. So while I was hopeful, I was also realistic. Dr K agreed that the swollen part is a concern but also offered that it’s also not a big concern. As long as there is no redness or inflammation around the breast or where the expander is, it’s a good thing. So while – yep you guessed it – I am not getting the drain remove today – sigh – I am getting (wait for it) a new prescription for a new type and new round of antibiotics.

For those of you keeping track at home, that’s

– Keflex: gives me a rash

– Clyndomician – doesn’t do its job

Back to the big guns – Septra – and hopefully the inflammation should clear up in a few days.

As for me and my drain? I’m scratching my head to come up with a suitable ensemble that will “go” with my lovely appendage. Wish me luck.

xo

JG

speaking of Groundhog Day

Lather, rinse, repeat.

My days are blurring into carbon copies of the next. I’m not complaining, not at all. Like I’ve said before, I come from a long line of “resters” and I can hang in my CCC like the best of them. But it’s funny to lose track of days just the same.

[See, Morris, Craig, Olympic Sport in Resting]

Monday night was the hardest to get a decent night’s sleep. Maybe I was jacked up from the anesthesia but I had a hard time getting comfy in my bed. So I stayed up and did what any sane person would do in my position: sent online shopping recommendations to friends with links until around 4 am. Luckily, with a little help from my friends… Percoset and Ambien, I managed to settle down around 5:15 and sleep until 11:30 am.

I’m also back with my ol’ friend the Jackson Pratt drain on my left side. Super fun. There’s not a lot one can do to “dress up” the look of the JP drain or accessorize with it, so I’ve been wearing a floral kimono around the house and hiding it there. It’s not the prettiest thing. I have to keep it in until my output is less than 30 ccs in a 24 hour period. It’s the end of day 2 post op and I’m not there yet. Oh – and I can’t shower until the drain is removed. Yay.

My pain is tolerable. Mostly it’s a tightening on the left side, under my armpit, that stretches out to my back, and the top part of my stomach. Mainly it feels like I was hit in the side with a soccer ball. Hard.

I spoke with the PA today and found out that the bad expander had indeed deflated and folded over. That’s why it was all wonky looking and misshapen. Also, and this was interesting, it only had 70 ccs of saline in it when they took it out. They had filled it to 465 – so this was quite a massive loss of fluid and volume. So now they’ve filled me to 300. I’m not sure when the fills on my left will resume, maybe in 2 weeks.

I’m taking my antibiotics like a good girl, taking my pain pills when needed, and drinking tons of fluids. I’m a model patient and catching up on essential TV shows while my mom shuttles my kids to and from activities, cleans out the garage, does a few loads of laundry and helps the kids with their homework. I have tremendous gratitude for my mother who has let me be the daughter for a few days while she plays mother to my kids.

Thank you for all of the check ins, texts, phone calls and emails. I’m overwhelmed by your thoughtfulness and generosity – from dropping off meals, delivering gossip, stockpiling my fave Starbucks refreshers and keeping my mind occupied with important things like outfit planning and packing lists. I truly have the greatest friends and family in the World.

xo

JG