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December
16
2019

Getting My Mojo Back

I had the most exciting morning with my daughter, Katrina. We put our fitness level to the test at the Hot Chocolate 5k race in downtown Phoenix and we had a blast! That might seem like an oxymoron but for those of you who know me and my competitive nature, heart disease and breast cancer are not keeping me from lacing up my running shoes. Nowadays, it is more like trotting, but hey, it has only been five months after my most recent surgery. Long gone are the days of setting a new personal best time or placing in my age group. Now, it is about being grateful to God for another day of living cancer free and having the physical ability to simply run. And being able to do so in a race environment with my daughter helped to make me feel like I am getting my mojo back! By the way, I need to brag about Katrina because she finished 3rd in her age group (20-24) out of 214 young women. How awesome is that? Seeing her so surprised and excited made my heart happy and made getting up at 5:30 am on a Sunday so worthwhile. While there is no age group award for me (no surprise there), just getting another chance to create such fun memories with my daughter doing what we both love to do made me feel like a champion!

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September
17
2019

I Got My Wish.....

because I received the green light tonight at physical therapy and started lifting weights. This is progress and brings me hope. And to think I didn't even have to pester or beg my physical therapist :) Granted, I am using 2-5 lb weights, and with that, I have earned the nickname of "Feather Weight" from my friend, Doc Nelson because she is always trying to get me to laugh often. :) And it always works. I had an interesting conversation this evening with my physical therapist. So, even though this surgery was not as involved as my double mastectomy, my chest is affected differently because I am flat.  I will feel unbalanced. Heck, I felt incredibly lopsided before. I will feel awkward. Wow! I can't tell you how incredibly awkward I felt before with a uniboob. So, what IS the difference you ask? Stretching (yuck--runners don't really like to stretch we just like to move forward) is going to be a big deal because who wants to develop more aches and pains in the neck, shoulders, and back. It makes absolute sense as I constantly find myself rolling my left shoulder forward to protect my chest. And, here is probably the biggest difference. Have you heard of phantom limb pain? It is real. I know. It wasn't until post-surgery this time around that I began experiencing it. It happens at the site of amputation (yes, hard to think of my breasts as being amputated but they were) and the nerve endings send messages to the brain believing the amputated limb is still there. For the past few weeks, I have had occasional bouts of tingling and a feeling of a quick zap on my left side. It is the weirdest sensation. It also makes me very sad because it is the abrupt realization of my loss. So, here what my therapist is suggesting. She wants me to stand in front of a mirror and look at myself as I massage my left side with my hand and with materials of different textures. The goal is to "desensitize" the nerve endings. This is called the mirror therapy. You bet I will try this. And, of course, I will remember my stretching exercises, as well. Today, I am grateful to acknowledge something as simple and small like picking up a 3 lb weight and doing shoulder presses. There is truth in this quote from Mother Teresa, "Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies." What small thing are you grateful for today?

September
14
2019

Graduation Day

Two months post-surgery, it is a happy day indeed as my plastic surgeon told me today that I "graduated." Dr. Walsh tells me that my healing is progressing nicely and she assures me I will continue to see changes in my chest area as the swelling subsides (especially on the left side) and as I give my right side about another four months to adequately heal from the fat grafting. My reward for abiding by the doctor's restrictions on physical activity since surgery July 18 is a six month pass until my next appointment:  the end of March. What a huge relief! That means I am free of doctor's appointments until the end of December when I see my oncologist for my regular six month check-up. Meanwhile, I am continuing 2x/weekly with physical therapy, and as my pain decreases on my left side, my range of motion is improving. Still no clearance to begin lifting weights but I am hopeful that by pestering my physical therapist, she will loosen the reigns and let me try 2-3 lb. weights. Perhaps next week if I am lucky enough. But for today, I am especially thankful for the skillful hands of the members of my medical team as well as for my significant other, Jim; Katrina and Kyle and so many friends and colleagues who love me unconditionally, inspire me, and challenge me to continue to find beauty in life. Every. Single. Day.

August
29
2019

On My Way

After a six week absence, I will be on my way to regaining some normalcy tomorrow when I return to work. Finally. I am excited and grateful. Excited because I love the work I do, my colleagues and the population I serve. Grateful because I remain cancer free and continue to build strength physically and emotionally. I started physical therapy last week with the same therapist who rehabbed me last year and that gives me hope and confidence. Hope that I will return to full range of motion and exceed my previous strength level and confidence that my therapist will help get me there partly because she is a breast cancer rehab specialist. I am ready to continue on my way and that makes me very happy.

August
12
2019

I'm Free

Life is good without drains! As of Friday, I am free from my drain. It is so liberating. I can move more freely and sleep without fear of rolling over on my drain. :) My first question to the surgeon after she pulled the drain was, "Can I now begin running?" The doctor kinda chuckled and thought it might be best if I first begin by walking on a treadmill. While that seems logical, that was not the answer I wanted to hear. I suspect in response to my enthusiasm, she gave me very specific parameters:  I have to wear my chest binder and add my torso binder on top of that while I am on the treadmill. This double layer will minimize any swelling and reduce possibility of any further fluid buildup. If all goes as planned, I am hopeful I will receive the green light at my next appointment this Friday to free myself from the chest binder. That would be best news possible. Resting during these past three weeks has undoubtedly tested my patience but at the start and end of each day, I am thankful to live yet one more day cancer free.

August
3
2019

Drain #2

I have a new best friend! Well, at least temporarily. Today, I was at the breast health center at the Banner University Medical Center in downtown Phoenix. Not the most ideal way to spend a Friday afternoon. I had a new drain inserted on the left side where the implant was removed. Too much excess fluid since last Friday when it was initially drained at my surgeon's office. Interesting procedure. I was awake for it. I was not looking forward to being poked and prodded some more but my team was empathetic and supportive. An ultrasound was the first step. Emotionally, that part was the most traumatic because I was definitely having some flash backs to last year during the diagnostic process. I kept reminding myself to focus on my breath and that definitely helped me to keep from blubbering like a baby. After the surgeon reviewed the ultrasound images, he came in and concurred that it would be in my best interest to have a new drain. Yes, he could have simply drained it and be done with it but the fluid would most likely return and I'd have to return next week. Making another trip to a hospital is not my idea of fun. It made total sense to go with the surgeon's recommendation. After prepping, the surgeon numbed the area, and boy, that part stung the most! Then, as he was inserting the catheter into my chest area, there was definitely pressure and I could actually feel the catheter as it was traveling deeper into my chest. Very unusual sensation and one that I don't care to experience again. For now, my BF is back to help my body move forward in the healing process hoping we can soon part ways. For good.
*P.S. I posted a photo below of my new fashion statement following today's procedure complete with breast binder, torso binder and my new BF.  :)

August
1
2019

One Year Mark

First off, I want to let each of you know how much I appreciate the ongoing support. I am so very thankful for having such amazing people cheer me on. It makes a difference. So, thank you. Today is my one year anniversary cancer free! Woo hoo! Thank. You. God.

July
28
2019

Please, Someone Wake Me Up

I am 10 days post-surgery and the fog is lifting. Reality is sinking in, and honestly, it is emotionally and physically draining. I don't personally know any other female who has gone flat so I am feeling pretty lonely and it is having a significant impact on my emotions. Yes, I a member of two social media groups for flatties but that is not quite the same. I wish someone would wake me up and tell me this journey is just a dream. I so miss my body as it was. Last week, I made three trips to the surgeon's office. Those were my 'main events' and the multiple 40 minute, one way drives to Scottsdale were taxing. Monday's visit was the initial post-op appointment. The doctor determined it was a bit too early to remove my drain which I expected so I went back on Wednesday, and thankfully, the drain was removed. Very liberating! Then, unexpectedly, I had to go in on Friday afternoon because I was having fluid buildup on the left side where the implant was removed. My chest is so numb I didn't even feel the needle being inserted to remove the excess fluid. I now have to keep the breast binder on through next Friday; a one day extension. I know it is only an extra 24 hours, but boy, this thing is warm especially because we are in the midst of Phoenix's brutal summer heat. The binder is playing an important role in my recovery, though because it is helping to reduce the risk of hematomas, swelling and bruising. In the meantime, I continue to follow doctor's orders to rest and not lift. Those words are generally not in my vocabulary but they are for now. I know it will not be forever. If there is an ideal time of the year to stay indoors and chill, this is it.