Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Look, Ma, a new boob!

I'm back from the hospital, sporting a brand new boob. I wish I could say it has that “new boob smell”, but, it just kind of smells like the other one. I wonder if that would be different had they used tissue from my butt area. Just sayin!

I'm still having pain issues – big time. The first hurdle I had to get over was the bed in the hospital. When you've slept on a soft side waterbed for over 30 years, sleeping on a hospital bed is like sleeping on a rock. My back has yet to recover from it.

My actual breast area doesn't hurt all that bad; but then again, I have dilaudid. I probably shouldn't judge. My abdomen, however, is hurting. That's the area they took a great deal of skin, fat and muscle from to make my new boob. An awesome new boob.

I have four drain tubes – which are the antidote for sexy. There are two from under my arm for my new boob, and two from my abdomen. I have to “milk” them, which is basically making sure that the line is open. You run your fingers over the tube, down to the collection bulb. Then, I have to empty the bulb into a cup that has exacting measurements, record the volume and the colour. I wish I could use the word “gross” to describe the colour, but I don't think my doctor would find that helpful.

On the bright side – I'm home! AND, I have an awesome family. First and foremost, I have an awesome husband, who does everything in his power to be sure I'm comfortable.

I also have a daughter who has taken it upon herself to be my personal slave. She keeps track of all my medicines on a chalk board, and like clockwork, she appears with whatever it's time for. She also cooks my lunch, and insists that I eat it in bed on a nice tray. I wish I could say that I'm a really good mom who tries to make her stop. I did give it the appearance of trying to make her stop, so I should get brownie points for that.

My other two have taken care of laundry duties, and have been my little gophers – running for everything from medicine to ice cream. Seriously – I saw a commercial for ice cream bars, and thought I'd just die if I didn't have one within the next 24 hours. Those kids got in the car, and I've been sucking back Dove ice cream bars like a kid at a carnival. I should probably stop consider that I'm going to have to return to my workout regime at some point in the future. The eliptical machine we have only supports so much weight. Plus, I don't want to negate my awesome new tummy tuck.

I also have Gretchen, the world's best mom. She went out and got a pillow for under my legs. Plus, she's been praying on those God beads for me. I also have an excellent sister, Teresa. She went to Padre Pio's for me, bought a neat bracelet, and touched it to the healing statue for extra insurance. She's also the one who went nuts making the chemo countdown beads to give away. There's also Michele, the Ethel to my Lucy. She came down with Matt to visit me and of course, made fun of me. Only a best friend will point and laugh when you're lying in a hospital bed - & make you laugh right along with her!

I've also been blessed with a whole big bunch of other family and friends. I pretty much hit the jackpot when it comes to that. I promise you, if you have a support system, it's best to lean on them. They really, really want to be helpful and even though you don't want to be a burden, believe them when they say they want to do something. Please let them; I swear, they want to feel useful. You can tell them until you're blue in the face that their support means everything, but until you let them do stuff, they won't be happy.

Oh, another bonus of my surgery! They took down all the scar tissue on my stomach and under my arms! I'd had a ton of abdominal surgeries over the years – for endometriosis and three c-sections. I had scars running up and down and side to side. That's why when they asked if I'd be upset that I'd have a small horizontal scar that could be hidden by a bikini, I almost peed my pants laughing. I haven't had a thought about wearing a bikini since I was 12.

Also, when I had my original mastectomy, they took out 20 lymph nodes. My underarm was a mottled mess of skin and displaced fat; there were more hills and valleys under there than the Swiss Alps. It's now an actual underarm again. My hills are no longer alive. Yay!

Well that's it for now. I'm going to the doctor this Friday for my follow up. We'll discuss nipple reconstruction and “evening me out”. Old leftie is about a size smaller than my new, proud right boob. They'll sneak in an implant so it doesn't continue on its road to a full blown insecurity complex.

If you're in the mood for silliness, you can read my latest article. It's called, “Try My Product”; which is a Lucy vs. the Video Professor piece. Read it to see who wins – grin!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Why did I just do that??

As I've reported, this Tuesday is my big ass TRAM flap reconstruction surgery at Fox Chase in Philadelphia. Boy, gotta be honest, I'm nervous. It's kind of weird, though, that I think I'm even MORE nervous than before the mastectomy. I guess it has to do with having two surgical sites.

For his part, Matt has been watching the actual procedure on youTube. I shouldn't be surprised because this is the man who watched my c-sections. I think he must have been a surgeon in another life.

But here's what I did tonight that was the height of stupidity. I looked on youTube for someone who'd had the surgery. I found a girl. The thing is, she wasn't very uplifting. In fact, I saw the video of her 11 months after surgery, and she sat down and made a list of horrible things to look out for. So now I'm even more nervous.

I have to remember, though, that I've healed quickly after all my surgeries. Possibly, I'm a little more tolerant to pain than she was. All I know is that I prefer to think about positive things rather than negative.

To that end, I probably won't be posting for a few days after my surgery. I'll let you know what's going on as soon as I'm able, though!

I won't be upset if you send me cards or flowers as well (giggle). OK, that was horrible; yet oddly true. I'm hopeless - sigh.

Feel free to write to me, if you'd like. I can be reached at tamkells@aol.com. Put something like "cancer' in the subject line so I know it's not spam. Please bear with me, though. I'll get back to you as soon as I'm conscious!

OK, here's the link for my latest column:

My Heels are Alive (and are trying to kill me).

Feel free to run the Sound of Music through your head as you read the title!!

Wish me luck this Tuesday!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

June 21st; Boobie day

Yay! Surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, June 21st. It'll be at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. I'm feeling some mixed emotions though; obviously I'm looking forward to it. But I'm not looking forward to having the pain of two surgical sites, plus emptying drain tubes every day again. Ugh.

Matt had looked up what we thought the procedure was going to be like. But when he described what he'd seen to Dr. Topham, we were informed that the procedure I'll be undergoing is different. Thankfully, it's more advanced than the one he'd seen. I'll be having a free flap TRAM procedure. Basically, they're cutting large portions of my abdomen and moving them up to make the new breast. Then, they'll attached blood vessels to keep the tissue alive. I'll get the added benefit of a tummy tuck. However, with this procedure, they have no way of telling me how big my new boob will be. I told them to take as much fat as they could, no need to be stingy! I'll take whatever size they can give me. Of course, I'll also be thrilled with a reduced tummy, so there's that.

I'll keep you posted after the procedure. I should be in the hospital at least four days, then home to lay around in bed. That'll give me plenty o' time to annoy the living daylights out of you. And, as always, I'll tell you every little thing about the new boob. Lord knows, I don't have a shy bone in my body and if I did, I probably talked it to death.

And now for something completely different.

My column is running in 6 cities consistently, and is picked up occasionally by two others. I'm hoping to expand to other states soon, so wish me luck! In the meantime, here's my latest, “As Seen on TV”. If you've ever watched those infomercials, you'll probably relate to this! Oh, and I've also copied one called “Beep Beep”. It's about all the noises we encounter in today's modern world. Feel free to leave glowing comments about how wonderful I am on the website! Or not; your choice (giggle).

Beep Beep

We live in a world filled with noise. It seems that just about everything emits some type of beeping, chirping, whining, bleating or buzzing.
Years ago, when our daughter Aubrie was little, we'd gone down to the shore. We got into our little room, put our suitcases down and went out to walk on the boards. When we got back, we were treated to a loud, high pitched ringing noise reverberating throughout the room. We searched everywhere, trying to locate the source, to no avail.
The hotel sent the maintenance man, but he couldn't figure it out either. Since there was no way we could stay in the room and the hotel was booked solid, we were relocated. More accurately, we were upgraded to a luxury condominium. Later the next day, the sound began anew, but we finally located it. It was one of Aubrie's toys.
When it comes to noise, phones are one of the biggest offenders. If your battery is low, the phone beeps loudly and won't shut up until you've plugged it in or turned it off. It's kind of weird, though, when you think about it. If the battery is low, isn't the constant beeping even more draining on it? I understand that it's meant to call our attention to the fact that it's potentially dying, but one would hope that it would try to save its strength.
Then there's the beeping to alert me that I have a text message. My kids love to text, even though they know I hate it and have one heck of a time trying to respond. Call me old-fashioned, but I always thought a phone was for having a conversation. Now it houses your entire phone book, is the keeper of your ‘to do’ list, gives you a wake-up call and can even give you directions. Add the ability to surf the web and type messages, and it's pretty much an all-purpose miniature computer.
The problem I have is that even though I have a keyboard on my phone, it was obviously made for elves. The keys are tiny, making it next to impossible to compose sentences that don't have a myriad of typos. Thankfully, the kids are fairly able to decipher my typographically-challenged messages; “bting yonr mu;j” means bring home milk. Or meat. If they don't bother to call and ask for the translation, it's a crap shoot to see what it is they've brought home.
Today's cars are also guilty of contributing to noise pollution. If I don't have my seat belt on as soon as I shut the door, my car begins making an obnoxious ringing noise until I either hit a button or fasten the belt. What I'd like to know is who figured how much time the average person needs between getting in the car and securing her safety belt. It's annoying to have your vehicle judge how long it takes.
Hardly any place has as many buzzers, whistles and alarms as the kitchen. And one morning, it became the scene of the perfect storm.
I'm not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, so I have the coffee machine completely ready so that all I have to do is press a button. Usually, I don't eat anything more than a piece of toast, either; big breakfasts are a weekend treat. I wear contact lenses, so in addition to being barely awake before coffee, I'm also fairly blind.
A few months ago, for some strange reason, I woke up famished; I wanted eggs and sausage gravy with biscuits. And, like every other day, I turned the coffee maker on.
Since the sausage was frozen, I grabbed it out of the freezer to put in the microwave to thaw. I pulled a roll of biscuits out of the fridge and preheated the toaster oven. Fetched eggs and a skillet, and put them down on the counter as I assembled all the other sausage gravy fixins.
And then, the perfect storm hit.
The coffee maker buzzed, or so I thought. When I got close enough to see (translation: on top of it), I realized that it wasn't done, so it couldn't be buzzing. My next thought was that the refrigerator door wasn't closed. I opened it and closed it, several times. Still, the buzzing continued.
Next, I went over to the toaster oven, to see if maybe it was letting me know it had hit its chosen temperature. But that wasn't it either; the ringing was driving me crazy. Then, as if God weren’t amused enough, the coffee maker buzzer went off, right when the microwave began to ring that my sausage was defrosted.
Turns out, God wasn't laughing hard enough, because I was able to identify the next sound – the fire alarm.
I wheeled around to see that I'd turned the wrong burner on. My pot holders, which had been stacked on the stove top, were on fire. There was smoke billowing through the kitchen and down the hall. This sent my daughter, Elyse, running into the room. She helped me throw the fire ball that had, until now, been my pot holders, into the sink.
We poured water on the blazing heap of fabric, which only made the smoke worse. We needed to get the doors and windows open – and soon. Elyse pried open one of the 100-year-old kitchen windows and just as she thought she had it open all the way, it came down and smashed her finger.
I was trying to determine if her finger was broken, which thankfully it wasn't. I grabbed ice, put it in a towel and told her to sit down with her arm up. I have no idea why I instructed her to keep her arm up, but you always see that when you're watching first aid videos. I figured it couldn't hurt.
Matt smelled the fire, heard the shrill cacophony, and came running up the stairs to see what was going on. I gave him the reader's digest version as he ran around opening windows and doors with me.
Next, he tried to shut the alarm off, but the button wouldn't work, so he had to open the cover and take the battery out. All the while he was cursing, wanting to know what in the world had possessed me to make breakfast before I had my coffee and without at least my glasses on, what was Elyse doing holding her hand in the air wrapped in a towel full of ice and why I had put pot holders on top of the stove. And what was that ringing?
By now our son Boy and our other daughter Aubrie had come into the room to see what in the world was going on. They were treated to a screaming woman, angry man, wounded girl circus. I half expected Boy to go get the popcorn.
And that's when the toaster oven beeped to let me know it had reached 350 degrees.
Still, we hadn't located the source of the original ringing. With a grin a mile wide, Boy casually walked over to the freezer and closed it, which turned off the alarm.
It's been a few months, and we've all pretty much recovered. To Matt's delight, I've sworn off any type of creative cuisine in the a.m. Thankfully, Elyse's finger wasn't broken, but she did sport a good-sized bruise for two weeks. To this day, I have no idea if holding your hand above your head makes any difference for a badly bruised finger.
The smell of smoke is long gone, and after a few days of heavy scrubbing, the stove top was usable again. Matt purchased a new fire alarm; one that didn't need the battery removed to get it to shut up. As for Boy and Aubrie? Well, let's just say that they had quite the story to tell their friends for weeks.
But when it gets down to it, buzzers that warn you of impending doom are truly a Godsend. Just as long as it isn't a slow day — and He could use a laugh.

As Seen on TV

As Seen on TV

I've said it before and I'll say it again – I'm a sucker when it comes to televised sales pitches. I can't help it; I really want to believe in new miracle products that claim to make our lives easier, cut the time we spend in the kitchen, or make us look younger. The thing of it is, most of the stuff being hocked is just a twist on an old idea.

For example, there are innovative furniture moving pads you place under the legs of furniture (only $19.99 for 16), making moving furniture a breeze! On TV, it looks as if they're gliding over ice. It made me want to buy them if only to join in the fun; they were swinging those chairs around like they were square dancing.

I wonder if folks knew about the moving pads that I used when I was younger. They were called cardboard, and you went to the grocery store to get it - for free. I will admit, there's a bit of labor involved; you have to cut it up. But, to be fair, they probably didn't work as well.

I was curious, however, about a new fashion break through called “Pajama Jeans”.

On TV, they look just like real jeans; and according to their maker, you can go out wearing them and no one will be the wiser. They're made of an exclusive and innovative fabric called “Dormisoft” that moves and stretches with you for a perfect fit. They had me hook, line and sinker; anything that makes me more comfortable is a must have to my way of thinking. Still, I wasn't sure about buying jeans from a commercial.

Enter the Walmart.

I went there last week on one of those dreary days we'd been having and noticed that there was a section called “As seen on TV”. Is it possible that it had been there all along and I hadn't noticed? No, it must have been new because I can smell a revolutionary, breakthrough gadget a mile away. I'd never miss a cluster of them.

I held my breath and hoped that Pajama Jeans would be there in all their splendor and comfy goodness. As if on queue, the clouds opened and the sun shone its golden rays through the skylight directly above the display. It really was a magical moment.

All I could think was please, please let there be Pajama Jeans.

And they were there; my heart was beating fast as I knew I'd just saved $6.99 in shipping and handling fees. A rush of happiness washed over me as I reveled in my good luck. Then I looked at the price tag and my moment of Zen came screeching to a halt. They were “only” $39.95. Um, what?

Now, I understand that they're made of a new and wondrous fabric called Dormisoft, but almost forty dollars for one pair of “jeans”? On the other hand, it was the most comfortable pair of jeans I was ever going to wear in my life, and I wouldn't know how I managed to live without them. Well, that's what the commercial said and we all know I believe just about everything that comes from the wise soothsayer that is the television. I threw them into my cart, when something else caught my eye.

Robostir; it stirs your pots for you.

Have we really gotten too lazy to stir a pot? Well, yeah, I kind of have. Wait, I should amend that – I've been lazy most of my life; so the thought of a robot stirring my pot was appealing. Besides, I've scorched my fair share of spaghetti sauce in my time so if Robostir saved just one batch, it was worth $10.99. And again, I'd saved on the shipping and handling; I'm so clever.

I continued to search this new display of “As Seen on TV” retail genius.

On the other side of the rack, I found a brand new product called “Easy Feet” - no more bending to clean your feet! You put them into a pair of what looks like slippers while over 1000 rejuvenating bristles clean and massage your feet. I pondered that one, but put it back on the shelf as I didn't think I could justify the purchase. I could just hear Matt asking me if I was really too lazy to bend down and rub soap on my feet (sadly, we've established that I kind of am).

I rifled through products that would grow an entire garden in one small space, found lids that were supposed to fit any pot in your house, and saw a pillow that fit the contours of your neck and cradled your head. It was a good thing we'd just bought new pillows or I probably would have been putting that claim to the test.

The next thing to catch my eye was something called “Spray On Foundation”. It's face makeup meant to even your skin tone and cover discolorations. I had to know what miracle I was holding in my hands; I was already imagining how it was going to magically transform the look of my middle aged skin.

According to the packaging, you shake the bottle, close your eyes, and spray a mist of color that will make me look like my face has been airbrushed. Now, really, there's nothing bad about that. If I didn't buy it, I'd never know the joy of going twelve hours looking fresh; like I'd just put my makeup on. It joined the Pajama Jeans and Robostir in my cart; I couldn't wait to try my amazing products.

When I got home, Matt took a look at my booty of wonder products, shook his head and said, “They see you coming. You know that, right?”

Well, I'll show him.

He'll eat those words as I prance around in jeans so comfortable I could sleep in them. Then, thanks to Robostir, I was going to make the best spaghetti sauce he's ever tasted; after I'd applied makeup that would make me look like a 25 year old.

Then reality blew in like a storm in Kansas.

I put on those jeans and boy were they soft. The thing is, they looked nothing like real jeans; at least not to my untrained eye. They looked like, well, pajamas. Worse, they were so form fitting, you could see my panty lines. Not willing to admit defeat, I decided that I probably just needed to break them in; I carried on.

Next I sat down at my mirror, opened up my spray on foundation, and sprayed my face. And my hair, the wall behind me, the shirt I was wearing and the chair I was sitting on.

I'm sure with practice, I'll be able to apply that makeup and look like a model. Until then, I'll use my hands to smooth the streaks running down my face.

It was time for dinner, and since one of the excuses, I mean, reasons, I'd bought Robostir was to avoid burning spaghetti, I assembled my ingredients. I put my AAA batteries in old Roby, positioned him in my pot, and just as Matt walked in, I turned it on.

Turns out, you're supposed to start on low, then graduate to high.

There was spaghetti sauce all over Matt, me, the stove, the ceiling, the floor, and the refrigerator. I seemed to be having a field day when it came to flinging products through the air. Revolutionary, breakthrough products, I should say.

So there I stood; makeup smeared on my face and in my hair, spaghetti sauce all over my shirt, and pajama jeans riding up my rear end, wondering what else in the world could possibly go wrong.

That's when Robostir almost launched himself across the room.

I could tell Matt was ready to laugh out loud; until he saw my face. I don't usually swear, but that day I yelled curse words I didn't even know I knew. They came tumbling out of my mouth like molten lava from a volcano, and were pretty much as unstoppable. Matt stood as still as a statue, probably in fear for his life.,

After my hissy fit, I put my chin up, marched right around Matt, went into the bathroom, and got in the shower – clothes and all. I stood under the warm spray for 20 minutes, peeling off my pajama jeans, and scrubbing makeup and sauce out of my hair. Then, I went into my room and watched my favorite show – TV infomercials and wondered if that foot scrubber would have come in handy after all.

I never learn.

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