Thursday, December 17, 2009

12/5/2009: Porn Star Nipples

"Wow, those are like porn star nipples."

My fat grafting and nipple reconstruction was on November, 19, 2009 at Georgetown University Hospital and took about an hour. I woke up from surgery with VERY sore legs. This is where they did liposuction and removed fat to transplant to my breast. I wasn't able to see what they had done to my nipples because I had these cones on to protect them. I felt like Madonna. I, of course, was in normal silly mode and making jokes about the situation and being able to poke people's eyes out with my massive nipples.

It was my boyfriend, Matt's, birthday the day of surgery and waiting in the car I had a cake, candles and plates. Despite the circumstances, my parents and I lit three candles representing past, present and future and sang happy birthday to him in the emergency parking garage. People must have thought we were crazy, but I didn't care -- we needed to celebrate.

I spent the weekend at my parents recovering and nursing my legs that were black and blue from the back of my knees to my hips. I knew it would end up being my legs that would cause the most issues. It was difficult to sleep on my side or even sit for a long period of time because I was so bruised. On day three I was allowed to remove my cones. My nipples were HUGE. My surgeon tried to warn me that they would be big because your body will reabsorb 50 percent of transferred tissue. It was difficult to get used to, since I have been without nipples for a year and a half, but slowly I started to like them. Once I had my stitches removed two weeks later they shrunk and softened.

I now have an appointment on December 28, 2009 to have color matching done for my tattooing. Everything is skin-tone right now, so I am going back to my original plastic surgeon, Dr. Wendy Gottlieb, to have my color(s) selected and then will have that done in February or March 2010 as the nipples need time to heal. I am looking forward to having everything done and being back to "normal." (Whatever that means.)

My friends who have seen my new nipples think they are porn star worthy since they are quite "perky" still. I am told that they will soften more over time, but they will stay pretty alert. I think I can deal with that ...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

12/15/2009: A Night to Remember

“Remember taking the Neulasta shots after chemotherapy and how badly your joints ached? I think that was the worse part for me.”

“For me it was the pain of my hair falling out – no one told me it would HURT.”

It’s interesting how life let’s you go in different directions, but occasionally it will tug you back and force you to reflect on past experiences. This week our Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure team was honored with a dinner at CafĂ© Atlantico in D.C. We were ranked number three for fundraising for the month of October due to my friends and family aggressive fundraising over the last year. I was truly honored and grateful. Joining me at the dinner was my girlfriend Sarah.

The evening honored the top teams, which meant I was surrounded with fellow survivors of all ages and life experiences – but all amazing women with heroic stories. There were also national and international representatives from Susan G. Koman there and a young woman who works for the company that does all the advertising/registration for Race for the Cure in D.C.

The two women from Susan G. Komen were intrigued with my story and asked me many questions about my experience, specifically focusing on how young I am. Sarah spent some time retelling the hilarious and ironic stories that surrounded my journey – falling down the stairs at work, having her feel my expanders in the handicapped stall at work, getting hit by a car in the Harris Teeter parking lot, dropping my congratulations cake at my last chemotherapy treatment, and so on.

One woman I met, I instantly gravitated toward. Our timeframe for diagnosis and treatment was similar and I could tell that she, much like me, was still struggling psychologically. I explained that a lot of the events that transpired I couldn’t remember. She said there isn’t one moment that she forgets.

“But is there a day that goes by that you don’t think about it?” she asked.
I stopped for a moment as my throat and jaw gripped tightly … “No. I think about it every day,” I responded with a broken voice.
“Me too,” she said. “I can’t wait until I can go a whole day and feel normal again.”

I dropped Sarah off after an enlightening and emotionally evening. I called my mom (still my rock) and recounted the events of the evening. The tears streamed down my face as I told her about the friends and family members who attended the event and how they shared how difficult it was to watch a loved one fight through cancer – the feeling of helplessness. I continue to remind myself that this didn’t just happen to me, it happened to US. My story was not just my own, but one that was shared over and over again by friends and family. I hope that as I continue to heal and become stronger that my story will continue to help others.