Wednesday, October 21, 2009

10/21/2009: Saddle Bags?

*deep breath* I rolled the piece of gum in my mouth into a ball with my tongue and pressed it against the inside of my top molars. *deep breath* I walked across the room barefoot and breathed in the smell of the stinging alcohol in the antibacterial hand sanitizer. *deep breath* I reached the pastel pink wall where the sun rays danced along the scuffed surface. *deep breath* I turned my back to the wall, looked straight ahead and dropped my medical gown to my wrists. *exhale*

Dr. Nahabedian and his medical assistant Michael spoke to one another in excitement as they reviewed their “work” from my surgery in May. They have never seen an S-Gap procedure long-term and are pleased with my amazing progress. I shared with them that now that my breast has settled I have a dent that runs horizontally across the top of the left breast.

I stood in front of my surgeon and his assistant in my black and white striped panties (which have been coined my “breakout” underwear since I wear them every time I get out of the hospital). They proceeded to pinch my stomach and thighs looking for fat that they can use to transplant into the dent. It is called fat grafting. Dr. Nahabedian ran his finger in a circle around the outside of my thigh.

“You have a little saddle bag we can use.”
“Do you know how offensive that is to say to a woman?”

Dr. Nahabedian laughed and Michael looked very apologetic. (Michael takes everything super serious and doesn’t really get my sarcasm.) Dr. Nahabedian told me to think of fat grafting as a mini liposuction. I basically can choose different places on my body to have him suck out fat, like my (ahem!) saddle bags and that fat will be transferred into the dent in the breast. Amazing process! I was told that I am not allowed to lose any more weight since I am now a whopping 100 pounds. Dr. Nahabedian said he would actually love if I could gain a couple of pounds prior to surgery.

I am having surgery on November 19.

I am told that your body reabsorbs 50 percent of the fat that is transplanted, so sometimes you have to have this procedure twice. (Hopefully mine is a one-time deal.) At the same time that I have my mini liposuction/fat grafting, Dr. Nahabedian is also doing nipple reconstruction. I should get more details in the coming weeks which I will share with you all as I have every other step of the process.

My friends have asked if I am excited or nervous about the upcoming surgery and honestly, I am indifferent. After each surgery I go through a difficult phase of coming to terms with my body again and making peace with the changes – and it is emotionally and physically exhausting. I know I am moving in a positive direction, but it is still hard. The journey continues ...

9/19/2009: The Fuzz

Standing in the shower I ran my finger across the round white scar next to my left breast. My lips pursed and my forehead crinkled as I desperately searched for the memory that would reveal the reason for this scar. Where did you come from? And why do you look like a shiny pearl now that my golden tan has faded?

At gatherings with my friends we talk about how I have been feeling and my recent health. My response lately has been, “I’m great. I’m on a surgery break.” Other people who don’t know about my journey are quickly brought up to speed and are told that I am a cancer survivor. They listen to stories of my treatment and how strong I was through the process. Words like hero and brave are used to describe me. I find myself listening to the stories as though I am hearing them for the first time -- as though I am having an out of body experience. These stories no longer belong to me ...

I haven’t written in awhile because I wasn’t quite sure how to explain what I have been experiencing. There are huge gaps in the last 21 months that I don’t remember at all, or it takes time to recall the specific events that occurred. I’m not quite sure I really want to remember all of it, to be quite honest.

I know that when people experience trauma in their lives that they subconsciously can block out experiences. I don’t think I necessarily have repressed memory, but there are certainly some moments in my journey that are very fuzzy. Now, the fact that I was on really strong pain pills over the course of nine surgeries can be blamed for some of that “fuzz,” but I honestly believe it is deeper.

Now don’t start worrying, please. I have done some research and am not falling into any of the bad side effects of repressed memory, which can be anything from substance abuse and eating disorders to depression and suicide. I am very happy and am slowly coming to terms with the whirlwind of my journey. Actually, I am taking a vacation to Paris at the end of October. I am so incredibly excited. It is a destination I have wanted to go for a very long time and I deserve it.

I have come to realize that my journey is much bigger than I am. My friends and family retell my stories, because my stories were theirs, too. We all experienced my fight against cancer together. I was never alone ...