Last night was all kinds of awesome. After dinner, Aaron and I went for a long walk and ended up at Little Rock (you know, the neighborhood bar where we hang out ... a lot). It was the 1st anniversary party of the bar and my first appearance there since surgery. A lot of our neighbors were there of course, and then...
We're very shiny and I have zero makeup but who cares?!
Steph from Insert Classy Here came to town for work and made time for a visit! I had given her directions to my house and then said "change of plans; come to the bar." I told her what I was wearing which she thought was hilarious because duh, she knows what I look like. Plus, who can't recognize Aaron?
It's always fun to say to friends "so, my friend Steph is coming but I've never met her. No, not thatSteph, a different Steph who also blogs."
And let me tell you, you'd never know that we hadn't met in real life. We talked nonstop and she got to taste my company's beer and we gave her a tour of the house before she went to her hotel. Even all the cats came out to show her some love.
Steph, thanks so much for hanging out with me! I can't wait to do it again, maybe next time at your place!
I actually ventured out this weekend. I learned that I currently have about a 2 hour limit on public appearances, but it was wonderful to be out and to see a lot of friends.
It was Pride Weekend in Columbus. George Takei was the Grand Marshal of the parade, which I think is super cool. We were invited to two brunches on Saturday; I made it to one, which also involved walking about a half mile (that was a little rough so we took a Car2Go home). I did not go to the parade.
Our flags; a necklace that I wore as a bracelet
Saturday night a bunch of us went to see Ben Folds play with the Columbus Symphony as part of the Picnic with the Pops series. I wasn't sure how this would go for me, but I really wanted to see/hear Ben. It worked out well for me that I didn't have to walk far at all and I was hooked up with a sweet reclining chair so I was as comfortable as possible. I did make it for the whole show, but I was more than ready to get out of there by the end. (The concert itself was fabulous!)
Photo on left courtesy of Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Top right was my view - thank God for the screens on the side. Bottom right - my peeps gathered around me.
Also on Saturday I was busy following Steph's photos of Relay for Life. I got some texts from her as well to show me these luminaries in my honor:
So cool to have this support from Philly!
And speaking of cancer fundraisers... In late July Aaron is going to ride in the Pan Ohio Hope Ride, sponsored by the American Cancer Association. It's a four day bike ride beginning in Cleveland and ending in Cincinnati (328 total miles). Please don't feel obligated to donate, but if you're looking for somewhere to send your charitable contribution dollars, his page is here.
I'm going to be brutally honest here. A lot of people who undergo major surgery talk about how stir-crazy they get. The resting is too hard for them. They can't sit still.
I am not one of those people.
My surgeon told me to be "lazy but active." I have the lazy part down pat. The active part, right now at least, consists of walks around the block. On Tuesday, still riding the high of having the drains removed, I may have walked a little too far, but generally speaking, there's not much danger of me overdoing.
If you've been around here for any length of time, you know I'm a TV junkie. Here are some of the shows I've been catching up on for the past two weeks.
The Fosters (ABC Family) - I hadn't watched this but the second season started this week. I binge-watched Season 1 and finished in time to watch the Season 2 premiere on Monday. It's about an interracial lesbian couple who have a biological son and take in foster kids (and their last name is Foster - how convenient) and eventually adopt them.
Also, OITNB is the source of one of my new favorite quotes:
“Prison is gluten. Don’t do the crime if you
can’t fuckin’ have flour.”
Longmire (A&E) - As you can tell from my L&O obsession, I'm a fanatic about crime dramas and I'll give just about any of them a chance (which reminds me that I need to add Castle to my watching list). This is about a sheriff in Wyoming who doesn't believe in using a cell phone or any other modern technology. I had watched most of the first season when it first started but then it fell off my radar. Season 3 started earlier this month so again I binge-watched until I was caught up.
Royal Pains(USA) - This is another one that I used to watch regularly but then life got in the way, along with other shows, so I had quite a bit to watch to be ready for the new season, which started last week. I did, however, decide that perhaps I should have reconsidered watching this show while recovering from surgery.
Switched at Birth (ABC Family) - I'm still catching up on this one. The title speaks for itself (two girls switched at birth find out about each other when they're 16) and the twist is that one of them is deaf. Warning: you can't multitask while watching this show because there's a lot of sign language and subtitles.
Petals on the Wind (Lifetime) - Yes, I devoured VC Andrews' books back in the day. This TV movie aired in late May, but I purposely waited to watch it until after my surgery. It did not disappoint: deliciously trashy, a well-cast Cathy, and the awesome Ellen Burstyn who stole every scene she was in. Loved it.
As I mentioned, yesterday I saw the plastic surgeon. I did indeed get those blasted drains removed and I was so happy I could have danced. Except that would have hurt, so I didn't. My new boobs (or "toobs" - boobs made from tummy tissue) are doing great. My stomach incision, not so much. Part of it has separated, which is not uncommon, but it freaked me out. Fortunately it's not infected, but we need to keep it packed with gauze and change said gauze daily. And by "we" I mean "Aaron" and he is oh, so excited about it. This is true love, friends. I go back to see the surgeon in three weeks.
Today I got the best news of all! I saw the breast surgeon. We talked about the fact that there was indeed more DCIS (stage zero cancer) in the right breast and how thankful we are that the mammogram led to the finding of 3 mm calcifications which then led to the realization that there was really 7 centimeters of cancer in that bitch. Since it was all non-invasive and because we took off both breasts, there is no need for chemo and no need even for any hormone therapy or additional treatment of any kind. This is amazing, wonderful news! He doesn't want to see me for another six months.
Last night our niece Jackie posted another of her fabulous drawings of me. For those of you not on Facebook who haven't seen it:
Nice rack, right? She's just awesome.
Again, I can't thank you all enough for all the support and kind words over the last few months.
If you're a morning reader of blogs, as you read this I'm at the plastic surgeon's office getting drains removed and whatnot. Look for that update tomorrow.
Yesterday a lot of bloggers wrote about their dads, but I was too busy feeling sorry for myself because I missed out on a blogger gathering (and a birthday party for one of my favorite little guys - Happy 3rd Birthday, George!). My dad died 2 1/2 years ago and to be honest, my family just doesn't do much for Mother's or Father's Day. But I do have a little story to share.
Obligatory pic of my dad and me, 1991.
Two weeks ago today, my mom was driving me to the hospital for surgery (Aaron drove separately). She said that she could smell tobacco in her car. Now, my dad was a smoker, mostly a pipe, but there's absolutely no reason that her car should have smelled like tobacco. She bought the car after he died.
So thanks Dad, for looking out for me.
And now......I got this in the mail yesterday:
One of my BFFs in blogging and in life, Steph, had this tumbler made for me. You guys, I love it so much I can't even tell you. Steph's friend has a business called Elderberry Designs where you can order all kinds of personalized stuff. You can find Elderberry Designs on Facebook and there's an Etsy shop as well.
When Aaron saw it he said "you have some pretty great friends."
Y'all have heard about Flat Stanley, right? You take a drawing of a person and send it to friends and family and they take pictures of it on various adventures. Well, on Saturday there was an Ohio Bloggers meetup here in Columbus. It was literally (and I do mean literally) 2 miles from my house, but it was too soon for me to make a social appearance. Way too late, I thought I should have sent a Flat Gila!
I was super happy to see all the pictures on Instagram, but sad too, because I couldn't be there. The event was hosted by Shane and Holly. I've been fortunate to have met Holly once before. Some of my other favorite bloggers were also there, including Erin, Kayla, Margaret, Vanessa and Whitney. If I were proficient at all in photo-shopping I'd insert my face in some of their pictures. Ah well, there will be another chance, I'm sure.
More gorgeous flowers!
My weekend was full of a combo of rest and visitors. I got to spend some time out on the porch, and I've watched a lot of TV and movies (that's enough for its own blog post).
OK, now that we're all on the same page, I have more updates for you and a couple funny stories. Hopefully I can get them across to be as funny as I think they are.
Where we left off…
I got home from the hospital on Friday June 6th and pretty much slept the whole time. Saturday I felt pretty good, all things considered (I find that I use that phrase a lot now) and even though I was in bed most of the time, I had many visitors and I didn't even nap!
Sunday and Monday were a little rougher. The drain sites were extremely tender and the drains themselves make me feel less than human. Aaron's been fantastic, just hugging me when I cry over silly things, helping me get dressed, making sure I eat and forcing me to walk. At first it was laps up and down the hallway upstairs but we've graduated to walks around the 'hood. They're very short, but it's something.
Just some of the beautiful flowers I've received
My first follow up with the plastic surgeon was Tuesday, exactly one week after surgery. I had a mini-meltdown at home while trying to dress for my first venture out of the house. I don't want to get too graphic, but I came home with four drains: one in each boob and one on each side of my abdomen, right about hip-level. I'm wearing a weird surgical bra to keep everything up there in place and I have a big ole incision from hip to hip, plus my belly button has been moved so it looks kinda creepy, too. The placement of the abdominal drains make it so that I can't really pull up anything very far. To be honest, at home I usually just wear underwear on my bottom half. So I kind of lose it when I can't figure out anything to wear that won't hurt (and that won't show off my nasty hairy legs). Finally Aaron grabbed a maxi skirt and it worked perfectly because it's extra long, so I put the waistband up under my boobs and it worked like a charm. Off we go.
On this particular morning, it was rainy and kind of cool, but of course I have AHF (Asshole Hot Flashes, for the uninformed) so I have the air cranked up and my poor zero-body-fat, always cold husband has goosebumps on top of his goosebumps. [Sidenote, in the hospital my room was freezing, to everyone but me. Aaron would wear a sweater and jeans to visit me, and the nurses eventually gave him two blankets.]
So we get to the surgeon's office about 10 minutes early. I had taken pain meds before we left the house so I'm feeling slightly loopy. The waiting room was pretty full and we sat right beneath a TV set which had an HGTV show with Lara Spencer about repurposing flea market finds or some shit and it was loud and annoying (probably wouldn't have been any other time). There was a married couple who were just talking, and while they were louder than I would be in a waiting room, they weren't obnoxious, but I'm getting hyper-sensitive to all the noises around me. I'm burning up. I'm in pain. Then there were these two older-than-me ladies who are looking at a phone and bidding on eBay on some fucking Lilly Pulitzer handbag. "Oo, $21, that's a great price, put that in there..." Finally after 40 minutes in the waiting room we got taken back to an exam room. As soon as we walked in there I started crying and telling Aaron all about why I was about to lose my shit.
The surgeon came in and asked how I was and I could hardly talk and all I could say was "please take out these drains." Aaron filled him in on my breakdown and the surgeon said "you should have outbid them." He was great, and while he sympathized with my pain, he made sure I knew that it would be devastating to remove the drains too early. I know. I get it. He took out the two on the right side, and that has made a huge difference. I go back to see him next Tuesday.
In the Facebook updates, Aaron mentioned a funny story about pain meds. The first night in the hospital, when I finally got to my room, I was told about the PCA pump for pain management. All I remember is that the nurse said "when the light on the pump is green, you can push the button for pain meds." I knew there was no chance of overdose, but I think I had it in my head that the time between the green lights would be an hour. It was really 10 minutes. So after about nine hours when the nurse asked me about my pain she said "just so you know, you're allowed 2 milligrams per hour, and you only used 1.6 milligrams all night." Holy shit! You can bet I pressed that button more frequently after that. As my sister-in-law said, "who thinks it's a good idea to give direction like that to someone who's just been under anesthesia for eight hours?"
Things are going as well as can be expected. I'm happy to know that this part is behind me, but I know I still have a lot ahead of me, too. Emotions are all over the place. Sometimes I quite literally think this is all a bad dream and it's not really happening to me. I need to thank you all again (and again) for all the love and support. It is truly uplifting and it helps more than you can even imagine!
We like to joke about Aaron's lack of social media use, but he did a great job keeping people on Facebook informed on my progress in the hospital. Today I'm literally cutting and pasting from FB to bring the rest of you up to speed and then tomorrow I'll have brand new information to share with everyone.
First I have to tell you about the amazing support I received on Facebook. Many of my friends changed their profile pics to the Fight Like a Girl logo I've been using. The day of surgery my sorority sisters wore animal print clothing and took selfies (one of them even took her picture in the dressing room of Lord & Taylor because she didn't own anything animal print). There were hashtags all over the place like #InItToGwenIt and #GammaPhisForGwen and one of my friends coined the term #Gwenning, a la Charlie Sheen. It was overwhelming and wonderful and say what you will about Facebook but I felt so much love it was unbelievable. Now, on with the updates:
From Aaron, Tuesday evening, 6/3 All done! I just met with the doctors who did the reconstruction and they finished up about 45 minutes ago. Gwen did great, no surprises. They keep a very close eye on her the next 12 hours to make sure there aren't any clots, and hopefully tomorrow she'll get to eat and start moving around. I can't wait for her to see the crazy amount of support everyone has sent her way today - we are blessed to have so many wonderful people in our lives. #inittogwenit rocks! Hugs to everyone!
From Aaron, Gwensday, 6/4
Good morning everyone - update for Gwen. She had a pretty sleepless night since they kept checking her new parts every hour on the hour, but we've passed the 12 hour critical watch period so that's good. She has some pain but it is being managed well (funny post about that forthcoming), and she is much more alert and lucid than I expected. Today's highlights should include water, solid food, and perhaps moving from bed to chair. Hopefully that journey won't include a trip by the mirror, because she will disagree that, to me, she is presently more beautiful than she has ever been.
Thanks for the messages and words of support - love to you all! #inittogwenit
From Aaron, Thursday, 6/5
And another beautiful morning in central Ohio - here's the latest for Gwen. She continues to improve, highlights from yesterday included getting out of bed to sit in a chair, followed last night by actually taking a walk around the floor. This morning she had solid food for the first time and took another walk. Today she'll continue that progress - looking forward to more walks intermingled with naps and food. Doctors seem pleased with progress, removed some bandages, and she is tracking for potentially being discharged tomorrow.
The well wishes and support continue to be a source of strength and inspiration to Gwen and me, we are very appreciative! Stay tuned!#inittogwenit
From Aaron, Friday, 6/6
I brought Gwen home from the hospital earlier this afternoon to continue her recovery. This morning included the removal of many bandages, some walking, and a shower! Now that we're home she's basically been told to focus on managing pain, eating/pooping, walking regularly, and getting plenty of rest. Those of you in the 'hood should see us making trips around the block, which I will time to occur soon after taking pain meds so as to keep her scowling to a minimum. Also she has some restrictions like don't lift anything, don't vacuum or iron, and don't cook but I think she'll manage. Feel free to insert appropriate jokes ...
And once again we continue to be amazed at the support so many of you have expressed. It has most definitely made a difference. Thanks everyone!!
From Me, Saturday, 6/7
Hello friends! It's really me, posting from the comforts of home surrounded by pillows and one cat next to me on the bed (Clover/Mr. Handsome).
All things considered, I'm doing very well. I haven't had one bit of nausea, thank God, because that would have been seriously beyond awful. I'm glad that the doctors and nurses all commented on how good the incisions look because I think it looks very Frankenstein-ish, swollen and bruised and with blisters from tape, which was a new experience. I came home with four drains, so Aaron and I are "enjoying" a different kind of intimacy while emptying those twice a day.
As Aaron has mentioned, we are constantly overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support. People I don't even know changed their profile pictures. Even my friends are amazed by my friends, if that makes any sense. I tried to keep up with all your comments and someday I hope to be able to answer messages. Please know that I've read them all and I so appreciate all the love.
In terms of the cancer, I've been told that I won't need chemo and there's nothing invasive, but just in case I needed validation of my decision to remove both breasts, I got it. In my right breast, where we knew there had been cancer, they found even more DCIS(stage zero) and in the left breast they found atypia, which does not always turn into cancer but I think we all know that I made the right choice.
I had not talked about this publicly but the reconstruction route I went with is called a DIEP flap. That means that they took tissue from my tummy to make new boobs so instead of implants, it's all my body (and yes, that means I got a "bonus" tummy tuck out of the deal). That type of surgery is why it took so long - 8 hours, I think - and then I had some breathing issues afterward so it took another 3 hours or so to get to my room. This surgery also requires a longer recovery time but I'm on the right track so far.
I have so many people to give thanks for, but right now, since I've been long-winded and I'm getting tired, I'm just going to point out the Best. Husband. Ever. (Okay, also my only husband ever, but still...) I can't imagine getting through this with anyone else. I love you, Aaron.
Besides the obvious, here are some seemingly insignificant things that piss me off about having breast cancer.
Number one with a bullet is the hormone issue. My cancer is estrogen-receptor-positive, so I had to stop taking hormones and I was thrust into menopause. It's hard to tell if any irritability I show these days is hormone-related or just due to being furious that I have cancer. But the worst part is the Asshole Hot Flashes (which shall henceforth be called AHF).
I've started carrying a hand fan with me. I have this pretty one that I got a few years ago in Japan (and by Japan I mean Epcot). I also have a leopard print one on order for variety.
I posted a few weeks ago about the Chillow and I really like it, but I ended up buying a different cooling pillow called the Gel'O Cool Mat. It's more expensive but it stays put better for me and doesn't get all smooshed up.
I'm the kind of person who loves to curl up on the couch under a blanket. I don't do that anymore (the blanket part, of course) because I get too damn hot. And that pisses me off.
I'd love to be able to think of them this way, but I'm not there.
Moving off of the AHF topic...
In the above picture you might notice that while my nails are "done," they're sans color. That's because the surgeons and hospital staff need to be able to see my nail beds. I rarely have no color on my nails so it's kind of driving me nuts.
I get regular massages, usually once a month, and I have no idea when I might be able to get them again. Fucking cancer.
I've been told that I won't be able to lift my arms over my head for a while, so it's been recommended to buy button-front tops. People, I have DD boobs (for now). I don't OWN button-front tops. And of course because of the AHF, I don't want sleeves. So I was forced to go shopping, and while I generally love me some retail therapy, I resent having to buy things that I wouldn't normally buy.
I know I'm not alone in this, but I generally don't answer phone calls that come through as "Unknown" or whose number I don't recognize. Since being diagnosed I can't do that anymore. I'm forced to answer all the phone
calls because it's probably a doctor's office or hospital or some kind of bullshit that if I don't answer it will be nearly impossible to get in touch with someone if I call back.
Our nephew Jeremy is graduating from high school this Friday. Because of my surgery, we can't go. Just another reason to hate cancer.
1998 - two of my favorite pictures of us with Jeremy (look, Aaron has hair!)
Here's something that doesn't suck: the amazing support system that I have. From childhood friends to sorority sisters to friends from multiple choirs to neighbors and blog friends... I could go on and on. Thank you all! Last Tuesday I went to karaoke and most of the bar was filled with friends and neighbors. I had made a special request for a song to sing and Kevin came through. If you watch Nashville you've heard this song sung by Hayden Panettiere. Her character first sang it as a fuck you to her record label but I thought it was appropriate for me right now, too.
To use a phrase coined by my friend Dru, I'm in it to Gwen it.
Not sure when I'll be back on the blog, and I may not answer comments right away but know that I feel all the love and support and I thank you again.