Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pink Ribbons ~ Discussing the "Girls"

Pink Ribbons is a feature series I have started that is posted every Thursday.  I am a Pink Ribbon Warrior, having gone through the chemo, surgery, radiation, the year of waiting and recently stage 2 reconstruction...which I find is really the first of many little surgeries.  I am at a place in my life where I am willing to open my journal from that time and share with you my anger, fears, challenges and pain of finding out you have cancer.   These are not current events.  This is me sharing with you from the other side of breast cancer.

August 2010

Well, we bought a recliner. I spent more than I thought was necessary but Mr. R was persistent. This puppy is soft and it is a Cadillac model as well. I mean it has massage and heat as well as a mini cooler. Okay the cooler is basically an insulated well with these ridged chillers. You freeze those and slip them in the well along with my protein shakes and the only reason to get out of it will be to use the toilet.

I balked a little at the price. But Mr. R is aware of my fears about bone pain. He sold me with "consider how that heat and massage will feel if your bones are hurting." And it was something to consider. K told me that I needed some comforts as well as a plain recliner. So it will arrive Friday morning before I leave for the chemo appointment.

It was bittersweet buying the recliner. I mean the salesmen wanted me to be excited. But it was hard when you are buying a recliner because the chemo center tells you a recliner works best for people coping with chemo.  I wasn't just buying a recliner for the world series. I'm getting this to help me recover through chemo and a half dozen horrendous scary surgeries. I'm glad to know I will be in the lap of comfort but I couldn't muster up the will to do a cartwheel for the sales crew. I finally told them I was getting this to help me recover and they quieted down about all the "Aren't you excited? My husband hasn't bought ME a recliner!"

My shoulder is in spasms again. There must also be a nerve very close to the port. With arm movement I get a zinger that moves from the port area down across the shoulder. I was ready to come home and rest again. I still feel like a wienie.

Got a letter from the insurance company. They graciously agreed to pay for the big expensive injections I'm getting. One to prevent nausea....that's $400 but they apparently cover at 100% under major medical. The other...the Neulasta is the bone marrow medicine that is supposed to cause the bone pain - its $1500 at retail. But apparently it too will be covered as major medical.  Thank the Lord for Insurance.

The nutrition stuff with chemo is a little overwhelming. They over stress the importance of protecting yourself from infection. I can't eat at buffets or salad bars. Where I might be able to fight a little bug from unwashed salad pieces or the tomatoes that didn't get washed well, on chemo I can't. So I have to buy processed salads not fresh deli. They suggest no deli at all in fact.

Eating out isn't even easy. I mean the guidelines say to insist that hot food is hot and cold is icy. No medium rare meats, no mayo or dairy based foods. This is gonna stink! I had another word in mind but in diffidence to those of you who don't like crude words...I'm avoiding it. But boy I'm thinking it. Something about this experience is bringing out the potty mouth in me.

Although I still feel modest. They said they will spray the port area down with a freeze spray and I'm thinking...they don't expect me to expose the girls do they? I mean yes... I am getting rid of them and building new ones but for right now...they are still mine.

I was reading a user manual on breasts and found interesting stuff.

The author hates self breast exams as promoted by breast cancer advocates. She's a "fear promoting hunt for cancer" that every woman who does one, does it in self loathing. Instead, she believes women from puberty on should be taught simply to know their own set of breasts. It's okay to touch them without "hunting for cancer" and feeling sick that you might find something. I know I was that way...doing the exam almost haphazardly hoping I would find nothing.

The whole self exam was created by a doctor a couple centuries ago because women were taught it was "nasty" to touch down there...and "down there" meant anything under the chin. So they would finally go to a doctor so riddled with cancer they couldn't ignore it anymore. The doctor came up with the self exam as a way to satisfy the puritanical need to avoid sexuality by making it only a medical exam. It's okay to touch your breasts this way because it's medical....not sexual.

So she believes that our daughters should be taught to examine their breasts...not to look for cancer. From puberty they should be taught to understand what was normal for their breasts.  Then knowing what was normal they can identify changes that don't necessarily mean cancer....but that something changed and  it needs to get checked out.

It wouldn't make a difference to me. Although it does frustrate me that so much emphasis is placed on breast LUMPS. 20% of us have a cancer that doesn't grow lumps. I DO think its interesting that in the early spring or so that I noted to KJ that I wasn't aware my right breast was hanging so much lower than the left. Had it always been that way? He didn't know. Now I find out there's cancer in that one and I can't help but wonder....was that realization a recognition that something had changed?  But I did not know this change in appearance was a sign of lobular cancer.

So what do you plan to teach your daughters about their breasts?

Meeshia:   I am being honest here (don't throw anything at me), but I very rarely have ever done a breast exam.  I guess it is because no one in my family has had breast cancer (lots of other cancers) but not BC.  So, I do it whenever I remember.  So maybe this will be a good time for all of us girls in my house to take some time to really get to know their bodies.

Rosey:  According to my book 70 - 82% of breast cancer diagnoses are those with no family history. It's truly sporadic as to who gets it and when. The other group of women know they are at risk and look for signs. Thus they are more likely to find them earlier than someone like yourself, who mistakenly believes they aren't at a high risk to develop cancer.

My only question for those like yourself or other moms with young daughters, would be how to explain what is a "normal breast". I couldn't recommend this book...Dr. Susan Love Breast book. Mainly because while it does talk of what is normal the majority of the book is about the abnormal. Which as a teenager it would have been ripe data for an overactive mind. I would have read ahead and scared myself. But not all girls would have been as bad as I am.

I've never done an "official" self exam because my breasts are lumpy and it freaks me out. HOWEVER, I do know what is normal for me and what is not.  The left one has always been bigger, etc etc. I do believe I'd know if something was "off". I got to know the girls very well while nursing. I had a lot of infections and plugged ducts and was feeling up myself a lot back then   My ob/gyn actually advocates what you do~knowing your breasts enough to know if something is wrong, but not necessarily doing an official "exam".

I don't know how I would teach a dd how to "know her breasts". Mine have always been nobby and when you press in on the tissue you feel all those nobs and bumps.

Did you know once a woman has breast fed a child she is capable of producing milk at any other point in her life? Once we have breast fed we continue to have circulating prolactin. If you squeeze or suckle the nipple, we release oxytocin which will increase the prolactin production. If you increase it enough you can continue to lactate for years. I knew that but don't think I realized it was so easy. Dang, I could have put K to work.....make me lactate and use up those ice cream calories! bwa ha ha...wouldn't that startle our dh's!  Not to mention some companies out there pays good money for breast milk to sell for sick premies.  Or you can donate directly to a NICU after you are tested.

Abeybabymama:  That must be how they had wet nurses back in the olden times. That seems so odd now to think of someone else nursing your baby.

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