Saturday, June 16, 2012

Downey Softness

OK, the title is a play on words.  Of course, you probably remember the commercials for "Downy Fabric Softener" with that cuddly teddy bear.  He would just rub himself with a towel that had been in the softener and look like he was in heaven!  I always got a kick out of this commercial since my maiden name was "Downey (with the "e"), so the spelling above is not a mistake but representative of ME!  And "softness" is the subject of this blog!!

Ahhhhhhh...the relief of having implants replace the extenders!  Funny enough, my appointment to have the extenders taken out and implants put in was on my husband's birthday!  We had a good laugh over that one!  I just couldn't wait to have this done.  The extenders were just sooooo uncomfortable and sleep was hard to do since I couldn't turn over or move without pain.  Somehow, the extenders were just more painful when I was laying down.

Finally, the day arrived and I was eager to see what the implants would be like.  Would they be just as comfortable as others said?  Would I be satisfied with their feel?  

As soon as I woke up after the surgery, I couldn't wait to feel for myself.  And I was so relieved to feel that my breasts were now as soft as pillows!  And I no longer felt like I had two bowling balls on my chest!  Of course (wait for it....) it wouldn't be me without some type of issue or concern.  So, here it is:

You might not remember that the right breast had a load of problems with the extender and I had a few surgeries just to help the skin on that breast.  Also, when the extender on that side was replaced with a new extender, my plastic surgeon put it in so that it wouldn't touch the area of skin that I had so many problems with (and that area was still red as well).  So, of course, it had not been inflating the same as the other breast and during surgery he had to put in a slightly smaller implant on that side.

He told me all this after I awoke and complimented him on his work.  He told me "Not so fast...." and then gave me the details.  However, he is not leaving me like this.  He just wants me to enjoy the summer and says he does not want to "touch me" until October, when he will do a "tune-up" as he calls it and perfect the work he has already done.

I did not realize (although I should have) that he also worried about another infection until I went for my check up the other day, and he said, "Wow...this looks even better than I thought!  You are going to be OK this time."  Those were good words to hear.

He also told me I could wear a bra...not one of the underwires (and do you know how hard it is to find a bra that is NOT an underwire??), but a soft bra that stretched.  I went to get one as soon as I could and it felt so good to put one on and also to look down and see a gentle rise on my chest instead of the harsh indentation and then slope outward that the extenders created with their hardness and shape.

Today I cannot help but keep touching myself to make sure they are still soft (and I have to make sure I'm not doing this in public.  I found myself doing this in the car this morning...much to the delight of the truck driver beside me!).  It feels so wonderful to have this "Downey Softness" once again.  I also can once again wear v-necks (I couldn't with the extenders because I didn't like the look of the indentation they made), and can't wait to try a bathing suit.  

My new breasts are not as large as my old ones and that is half on purpose and half because of all the trouble with my skin and how there was a need to take some of the skin away.  But I am so happy with them!  No more blouses or shirts that open between buttons!  No more searching for something to fit on the top that is too large for the rest of my body!  No more overflow in my bra! 

Yes, Just call me a Happy Camper with my two Downey Soft Pillows!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Getting Closer to Implants!

I just looked at the last post and although I knew it had been some time since I was back here, I cannot believe it has been almost three months! Of course, once you start feeling better, life kinda takes over and your world begins to open up again.  

Since the last post, I have continued to visit my plastic surgeon (although not as often as before with all my complications) and he has continued to inflate the two implants.  Since it has taken a while to get to this point, I had been thinking, "Wow...they talk about this part being painful; but it's not too bad!"  Well, that was before the inflation kept going and let me tell you, it is indeed uncomfortable...especially at night when you want to sleep.  Turning and tossing is the norm until you can finally find a comfortable position.  The last two inflations were the most painful and right now, two weeks after the final inflation, I am still hurting although not as bad.   

My plastic surgeon and I talked about the size I wanted and I really did not elect to go "too big".  I was one of those teens who developed early and developed well.  I wasn't interested in being there again.  So, I am content with an implant of a smaller size than my own breasts had been.  He is so happy that things are now going well that he told me at the last appointment, " get out of here and do your happy dance!"  I did just that!  And went into the room where surgery is scheduled.  And funny enough, the date open for the surgery just happens to be my husband's funny is that?  So June 11th I will go in and FINALLY have those implants inserted and get these annoying extenders taken out.

They tell me that the implants should be softer than the extenders.  And I am glad about that.  The saline that is put in the extenders makes the area very hard.  My surgeon says the silicone implants will be softer...although of course, never like a "real" breast.

I also had my 3 month visit with my oncologist.  Just before this visit, I had horrible allergies (in this part of the country this season was bad!) and developed a sinus infection.  I was also taking Claritin D for the allergies.  At the time, thought nothing of it.  But...after they took the blood and my oncologist came in, I knew with one look at her face that things were not good.  Indeed, my white blood cells and my platelets were low.  She asked me a bunch of questions and when I told her about the sinus infection and Claritin, she said that those could be factors...but just to make sure, I needed to come back in two weeks and do the bloods again.

Now, getting my blood is not easy.  My veins are so tired with chemo and surgeries that it takes a lot to get the amount of blood they need for these tests.  So, I wasn't looking forward to doing this again.  And I was so worried during the two weeks that something was wrong.  Because, of course, now that something "has been wrong", you worry "something" could raise it's ugly head again.  Fortunately, the minute she came to the door with a big smile, I knew I was OK.  And yes, the counts were back to normal so it was just the two factors of infection and Claritin that affected the counts.

As of today, I am waiting until June 11th when the implants will be a part of me.  And I cannot wait to get to that point and will be sure to post when that happens.  Until then, stay well, everyone!   

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Good Morning Sunshine!

Each day now is such a pleasure knowing chemo is done.  I still have years of check-ups and scans before I can consider myself "cured"; but I am a survivor of all that has been! 

Once again (YAY!), at my last check-up at the plastic surgeon's, all things are still going well.  And once again, I do not have to see him until THREE weeks!  What a complete and utter pleasure to have so much time in between doctor appointments now.  I still have a month to go before my oncologist visit also.  I am now, though, in the process of playing "catch-up" with all my other doctors such as my original surgeon for the mastectomy, my dentist, my gyno doc, etc.  All things that need doing and have been neglected for the past year and a half.  I got a card from the place where I get my mammograms and ultra-sounds reminding me that I am due.  It was a bittersweet moment to see that and know those two tests won't be needed anymore; but was once again reminded that now I just look step at a time.

The right extender bothers me more than the left.  I am guessing that this is because it was more recently put back in, and that it was put in vertically rather than horizontally (plastic surgeon wanted to ensure that darn spot was not affected at all).  He is still saying that the implants will be in sometime in May.  I had a chance to talk to my friend who had the mastectomy and asked her if the implants will indeed feel better and more comfortable than the extenders.  She told me they definitely were that is something to look forward to.  Can't wait.  And can't wait to be done with surgeries.

I did have one additional surgery just last week....I GOT MY PORT OUT!  My oncologist gave the "all clear" and said I could arrange this whenever I wanted to.  Since it was beginning to press somewhat on the right extender, I decided to do it now.  While I was in there waiting for the procedure, I started thinking about the last time I was in that room (same room, same bed!) and how frightened I was for the port to be put in and overwhelmed by all that was coming.  I sat in the bed unable to hold back the tears...and the nurse came in.  She told me "Don't cry have so much to go through, this will be the smallest part.  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and don't look ahead.  Just take it one day at a time."  And she was right.  It indeed helped to just survive the next procedure, next chemo, next surgery; and not keep thinking about all of it at once.  God reminds us of the same thing when he said "Don't worry about tomorrow.  Tomorrow will come with worries of it's own.  It is enough to just get through today." (Matt. 6:34)  And it sure helps knowing God is there every step of that day in front of you.

So I wake up today to sunshine and a beautiful spring-like day in February and remember when I so wanted to just be at this point and had so much yet to go.  With a lightened heart I can gladly say, "Good Morning, brighten my day!"

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Things keep going well right now.  My final chemo was January 20th, and this past Friday should have been "the next one" if I had to keep going.  I bet my body was in shock to find it can start standing on its own.  It will be wonderful to watch my body repair itself after all the chemicals put into it through that damn bag hanging overhead.  That final treatment was probably the hardest to get through since I sat counting the minutes until I could officially know I was done.  I now have the "official certificate and pin" of being done with chemo treatments.  Let's hope that remains to be fact throughout the rest of my life.

The new implant continues to do well.  I still have a slight reddish-brown mark (which my plastic surgeon says may never now go away totally) on the side of the "breast" where the infection continued to plague me the last year.  But the good news is that for the first time, I have had two follow-up appointments that have been two weeks apart-----a length of time I have never been able to wait without a problem!  So this is a truly wonderful, healing thing.  My surgeon says that if this continues, I will be able to finally, finally get my implants in by May.

For those who have never had extenders, you need to know that they are uncomfortable.  You never truly get used to just adjust life to knowing they are there and that eventually something better will be put in place of them.  For now, it interrupts sleep as I usually wake up when turning; bending over puts pressure in that area, and temperature changes outside affect how they feel.  There is always a certain uncomfortableness and you just know and are aware that something different is in your body.  Plus, any change in weather or a coming weather pattern....or who knows?...maybe even a full moon...brings with it it's own pressure throughout the breast area and along the scars on my sides.  But I am alive and I am a survivor and that puts all this into perspective.

I have been really busy lately since I am re-entering my life with all it's meetings, decisions, and constant "going" that life gives to all of us.  I do find myself more tired lately, but also find that since I "look well" people assume I feel that way also.  I DO feel much better, but I also do need some rest between session "running the hamster wheel of life".  It's hard for others to recognize this, I know, so I do have to remind people sometimes that I am still a breast cancer patient and in the process of recovering.

My husband and I spent the weekend with family that we have not seen in some time.  My brother-in-law had a milestone birthday party and family came from up and down the coast.  We don't always talk together as much as we should....or see each other often....but we do love and care for each other.  It was so great to have this time together.

During this past week, I found myself just wanting to purge my home from some "stuff" that had to be around me during this past year.  Things such as:  some v-neck shirts that I wore to chemo since they could get to the port easier with them; old medication for chemo nausea; I put bandages and such back in the closet; I got some of my "cancer books" together to give to another person currently going through this; I finally got rid of my "chemo notes and calendar" since this blog really has all I need; and other stuff here and there.  Once I started purging, it seemed I kept going through more and more "stuff".  Things that once seemed so important, I now know to be "just stuff"!

I acknowledge this year and a half to be one of the hardest in my life (and yes, I do know it is not done yet...) yet it has given me moments of great joy; I have shared true feelings of love given and received and it has only strengthened a faith that will not be shaken but will continue to be my rock.

So I purge forward to a "new life" that is, and always has been....mine!

Sunday, January 22, 2012


OK, I've taken a long rest and now it is time to get back to writing.  The holidays have also come and gone and my tree and decorations are back in the garage.  I have to admit, it was good to take a little break from it all.  And by break....I mean any further reconstruction or plastic surgery.  I still had my every three week Herceptin treatment and kept counting down to the last one....WHICH WAS LAST FRIDAY!  I was so happy; yet the last few treatments have been some of the hardest to get through.  Not because they were in themselves difficult to get through, but because it was getting so near the end...yet it seemed so far away.  It just seemed like time dragged waiting for the final treatment. it's here and done!

On January 20th, I had the surgery to re-insert an expander into my right breast.  As of today, everything still looks OK...not like the last six months when my skin just would not cooperate and I couldn't seem to get anywhere with the reconstruction.  
I went to my plastic surgeon a few days ago and he was so excited that nothing had changed (with my skin) and that everything looked like it was healing.  He told me I don't need to come back for two weeks (unless something looks "funny")...which for me is major!!!  I am so happy.! While in the office, (my husband, me and my doctor) were all kidding around (he HAS gotten to know us quite well) and he said my husband could chose my implant size!  I told him if that were the case, I wouldn't be able to walk straight!  But seriously, we are all just hoping it all goes well and the implants can happen.

While all this was going on, I had some decisions to make.  One of them concerned retiring.  I have been a preschool director at my program for 30+ years.  It was becoming evident to me that "it was time". nephew and "old-same" finally received news about a wonderful boy in China that will be theirs very soon.  They were told this would happen in about 11-15 weeks.  I am retiring to be that wonderful child's "me-ma" and take care of him.  I am so looking forward to this next stage of my life and to all it will give to me and my husband.

So right now, things are looking better.  In fact, I got the "OK" to get my port out and I will be making those arrangements soon.  And now it is also time to "catch up" with all the other doctor appointments I need to breast surgeon, my gyno, my dentist (haven't been there since work might cause infection which is not good during chemo), and my eye doctor!  WOW...normal stuff again.  And I am so looking forward to some normal in my life.

It's a long way from last Spring when I thought things would be at this point.  But it IS at this point finally and I am eternally thankful!