Sally took the picture on the left two years ago when our families vacationed together at the beach. The picture on the right was taken this summer in Old Town. I really do love that dress! Emma Clare saw the older one recently and remarked that it hardly looked like me. “I sure had a lot of hair there, didn’t I?” Her reply, “Well, yeah. And you look a lot younger.” Thanks kid. Anyway, I thought I’d use the two side by side to demonstrate how my taste in earrings has changed. I stopped wearing the big hoop earrings as soon as I shaved my head– with a scarf tied around my head, I felt like a pirate. No thank you. I still held onto my other favorite big earrings, though, I think the fact that the scarf I usually wore had a long tail made it still feel like I had long hair. Now, though, my hair is decidedly short. Every once in a while I try the big earrings again, and I just don’t feel like they’re right. So now, I tend to favor chunky studs– Kate Spade makes several different pair that I love and are actually pretty reasonable. Plus, now that they’re so popular, there are a lot of knock offs around! I think I’ve got two or three pair of Kate Spade studs and a couple from covet, a favorite local boutique. I want them to be big enough to be seen, but not big enough to fall past my earlobes. I’ve got enough basics to keep me happy, but now I’m on the lookout for something new.
I made some new friends last night. My first survivor event. They gave me a pin. I had to wear it. It said survivor. You know how I feel about that word. Apparently the ice breaker at this kind of event is to ask how many years you’ve been a survivor. So not only am I a bit uncomfortable about that moniker to begin with, but I have no idea how to answer that. In my mind, I guess I mark survivor status from the date of my surgery, which puts me at almost five months. One woman thought I should mark it from date of diagnosis, because I’ve been surviving since I heard the surgeon tell me that I had cancer. So that would be ten months. It must be easier when it’s something like five years. At any rate, I suppose it’s official, I’ve got the pin and everything. I’m a survivor now, and I guess I’m going to have to get used to saying it.
That’s sort of the point I am at now. And I guess I’m thankful for that, it’s better than just after I was diagnosed with cancer, when I would fall asleep fine from sheer exhaustion, but then wake around 1:30 am, unable to fall back asleep. (I became rather familiar with the television schedule, I watched Closer reruns at 3am, and Vegas at 4. I don’t ever remember that even being on in primetime…) Now, I struggle to fall asleep, and feel like I’m waking up all the time. Despite the four pillows that I’m now up to, I just can’t get comfortable. It’s really all because of the tissue expanders, and once those are out, I anticipate that I’ll sleep like a baby. One of my babies, who slept through the night almost immediately, not one of those colicky, up-every-hour kind of babies. If they’re the measure, then I guess I sleep like a baby now.
Having just been to the doctor’s office this week, surgery’s back on my mind. Immediately after the mastectomy, of course some pain and weakness are totally expected. Since I’d spent time with the physical therapist before the surgery, I knew that my range of motion would be limited at first. I could raise my arms to shoulder level as soon as possible, and by the end of six weeks I should be able to raise my arms straight up over my head. She cautioned me that I should take things slowly, but that I needed to work to get back a full range of motion. Being overprotective would actually work against me, she said she’d worked with women who couldn’t raise their arms higher than their shoulders years after their mastectomy. Determined not to have that problem, I worked on her exercises to have a full range of motion as soon as it was allowed. At this point, I think my shoulders are as flexible as they ever were. The pectoral muscles are still an issue. They’re always a little tight, when the physician’s assistant described it as my body’s “white noise,” I think she got it just right. There’s always a tightness, but I don’t always notice it. Then there are times when those muscles are definitely spasm-ing (is that a word?) and while it’s not painful, it’s really uncomfortable. Those muscle issues should lessen after my final surgery, though they could continue long after I’m “back to normal.” In chatting with my doctor, I asked if exercise would lessen or exacerbate the muscle tightness. He assured me that stretching is good, but strength building of those muscles might cause more harm than good. So no push ups for me! Can’t say I’m too sad about that! (Though I do miss the plank and push up heavy neighborhood boot camp…) Still, I can work on my arm muscles, and he encouraged me to strengthen my back. Apparently, the way the muscles are pulled causes the shoulders to want to slump forward, so strengthening my back will help naturally pull my shoulders back into place. Right now, I think I’m focusing on getting my groove back on the trails, but after I get the post-surgery green light, I’ll be adding some weights into my running routine to keep my arms and back strong.
I was back at the plastic surgeon’s office today, for my second pre-op appointment. My surgery isn’t scheduled until after school starts, but he likes to do the pre-op appointments early to be sure I’ve had time to ask any questions and get everything I need. I came away with two more scripts– heavy duty antibiotics to prevent infection after the surgery and more lovely percocet (which I probably won’t need). He explained to me that this surgery is much less invasive and all the trauma has already been done, so it should be a pretty easy recovery. The mastectomy involved cutting, moving, and stretching of muscle, and that hurts. But this surgery will literally be a swap out, so no new cutting or stretching. I also got a pamphlet for medical grade compression gear, we’re talking gear so tight it requires multiple sets of hooks and eyes just so you can zip it up. So if your spanx just aren’t cutting it and you want something even stronger, I can totally hook you up.
This weekend an article on the transforming power of lipstick popped up on twitter, and of course, I had to read it immediately! The author was in a rush out the door, but stopped to quickly apply some lipstick and was amazed at how much better she felt about how she looked. She polled some of her blogger friends, including my friend Maria Jose, the Very Busy Mama, on their favorite transforming lipstick. It’s been pretty important to how I feel about how I look, so I wanted to add my own homage to the transforming power of lipstick.
As I read, I had a hard time thinking of a single favorite lipstick. I re-read the post, and the word transforming sort of jumped off the page, and then I knew. Of course, my mainstay through chemo, the lipstick that went on after I tied a scarf around my bald head to announce to the world that I was the healthiest cancer patient they’d ever seen: Dubonnet by MAC. Now that’s a transforming lipstick.