My Little Bs Have the Big C

A Breast Cancer Blog For Young Women


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A Letter To Oliver On His Fourth Birthday

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Dear Oliver,

I think I start every year by telling you that you are the light of my life.  This year is no different.  It’s amazing to me that I can be just as in awe of you, if not more so, as the day you were born. I feel like you are the same incredible little boy that you have always been, but now you are a year older.

This is the year where I feel like you have really become a little boy.  You have strong opinions and wants.  You speak with so much expression.  You are dramatic like me.  Your talents are starting to show.  I’m getting a glimpse of the person you are going to be.

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You still love to make people laugh.  You like to make up stories and words.  You like to dance around making funny sounds.  You like to call people silly names.  Your number one goal in life is to see people, especially me, laugh at your jokes.  And you truly are funny.  When we came home from parent teacher conferences this year, we said, “Your teacher said that you are doing a very good job at school,” to which you replied, “And they said that I am a funny guy?”  They did, in fact, say that.  They said that they whole class laughs at your jokes and that several of your friends said that you are the funniest person they know.

 

You continue to be one of the most gentle, kind hearted people I know.  You are always taking care of me.  After my surgery this year, you never left my side.  You would walk me to the bathroom so I wouldn’t have to walk alone.  “Walk slowly, mama.  Be careful.”  And you wouldn’t leave me until I was safe back in bed.  You always ask about my “swollen arm” and kiss it to make it better.  You are still trying to wrap your head around the fact that I will have this condition my whole life and that a kiss doesn’t make it all better.  But that doesn’t stop you from trying.  You are always talking about friends who have felt sad or angry during the day and how you have hugged them to make them feel better.  Your love is what this world needs.  I think when you grow up, your love and caring for others will be the thing that shapes who you are.  I think you are going to change the world!

This year you have become more adventurous.  You like roller coasters and other rides.  You like to run right into the waves at the ocean, even in your clothes in the cold weather.  You take risks that you have never taken before.  It’s awesome to watch you push your limits and discover that you can do things you never thought possible.  You are beginning to understand that taking risks can reap rewards.

You still are obsessed with trains.  You like other things like blocks, legos and puzzles but you are passionate about trains.  You love learning all about them, from old steam engines to modern bullet trains.  You can’t get enough!

You have learned so many new things this year.  A few of them are…to put on  your clothes and shoes by yourself, to poop in the toilet, to write your name, to begin to read and spell, to add and subtract, to put a puzzle together by yourself, to ask life’s deep questions (“Am I going to die?”  “Why am I here?”  “How was I born?”  “Why does night happen?”  “Why does the mood follow us?”), to use big words like, “frustrated,” and “deflated,” to gallop, to sing whole songs that aren’t nursery rhymes (“Let It Go”), to reenact parts of the musical Oliver, for which you are named, and to make yourself cry on cue.

You love to play with your trains, take train rides, go to the park and run around, ride on your scooter, play with your friends, play with babies, go to school, sing, make up songs and eat sweets.  Your favorite books are The Big Book of Trains, Insects, Snakes, Train Song, The Gingerbread Man, How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?, The Three Bears,  and so many more I can’t even remember them.  Your favorite foods are muffins, lollipops, pancakes, runny eggs, peas, corn, turkey burger, tortellini, ham and cheese sandwiches, ramen (not the cheap, $1 kind but the real stuff), grilled cheese, mac and cheese, ice cream, bananas, grapes and blueberries.  You love to bake with daddy.  You are starting to love the arts; singing, dancing and acting.

I am proud of you every single day.  There isn’t a moment that goes by where I don’t realize how lucky I am to have landed a son like you.  You are my everything.  I love you to the moon and back, the stars and back, the planets and back and the galaxies and back.

Happy 4th birthday!

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The Droopy Boob

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“Droopy boob.”  This is not the title of my new book, my rock band or my porn name.  It is what was described to me this week about my remaining original breast.  The good breast.  The one not sliced off and then fried.  The one with the nipple.  The one that still has feeling and sensation.  The one that, while imperfect, is perfect to me because it’s mine.

When I first started seeing my plastic surgeon two years ago, I remember that after my mastectomy and we starting talking reconstruction, he mentioned that he would like to do a lift on my left breast to make it symmetrical.  He said that my breast was, “a little droopy,” to which I responded, “well, that’s because it’s sad because it misses his friend.” Funny, right?  I thought so.  He didn’t get it.  Or doesn’t have a great sense of humor.  Or both.  I never thought more about it.  The DIEP Flap was such a big surgery I told him that I didn’t want him to touch any other part of my body.  Slicing me in half was quite enough, thank you!

Before breast cancer, I liked my breasts.  They weren’t too big and while they weren’t quite as high as they were when I was 18 (I had just finished breast feeding for 17 months, after all), I thought they still looked pretty good.  It never occurred to me to do anything to my breasts to enhance them in any way.

This past week, almost a year after my DEIP Flap, I went back to my plastic surgeon to discuss a follow-up surgery to make my right breast, the one that was chopped off and reconstructed, look more like, well, a breast!  Because isn’t that the point?  My surgeon did a great job of matching the size and the symmetry is pretty good.  But the top of the breast is flat.  I described it to him as a blown up pancake.  There’s no cone shape.  I want that changed.

He’s not sure that he can get it exactly like that but he suggested that if I want more symmetry, that I do a lift on the other breast because, “it’s a little bit droopy.”  He called my breast droopy again!!!!!!!  For real!

Now, when I think of a droopy breast, I think back to when I was 9 years old and my mom sent me to a babysitter after school.  She was a mom with three children.  She was overweight and had large breasts.  I remember (I’ll never, ever forget this), one day I was at her house after school.  She was in the kitchen cleaning.  I asked her something and when she turned around, I could see her nipples hanging out from the bottom of her shirt. I remember being completely shocked.  I had NO IDEA boobs could do that!!!!!  I remember thinking, “how are her breasts at the bottom of her shirt?”  It didn’t make sense to me!  So, when I hear the term, “droopy boobs,” that’s exactly what I think of.

In comparison to my babysitter, my left breast is alert and perky.  It’s still in the chest area and that’s pretty good.  But according to my plastic surgeon, if I want true symmetry, I’ll have to do some work on the good breast.  He said he could try to get some droop on the right one but “why would I want to do that?”  Really?????

I asked what the lift would entail.  He said he’d have to cut a crescent above the nipple and would do a lift from there.  Another scar.  In a very noticeable place.  I forgot to ask but it seems that if he made this surgical cut, I’d lose some sensation in the nipple.

I want nothing more than to look like myself again.  I thought that was the whole point of reconstruction.  But as I go on and move closer to the end of this cancer experience, I’m reminded that, once again, I’ll never be like I was.  My rebuilt breast will never look like the original.  It’s a fraud.  And now it’s likely that one nipple will be pointing straight while the other a little more south.  I’ll be like a Picasso.

I know that my surgeon kept mentioning this because he is a perfectionist.  As well he should be.  I get it.  But my body is not my own anymore.  I still look in the mirror and don’t recognize the reflection.  I think that another major scar would break me.  What would it be for, really?  Symmetry when naked?  What if I still can’t look at myself without being disgusted?  Then what’s the point of that symmetry?  What’s the point if it’s at the expense of my peace of mind and my self worth?

I am taking into consideration everything he said but my gut is telling me to keep the cutting to a minimum.  I have been through enough.  I have done enough.  It will have to be enough.

My next surgery is scheduled for February 16.  It will be much easier that my DIEP Flap.  He said that there’s even a possibility that I won’t have to be put under general anesthesia.  That would be great.  And barring any complications, I’ll be ready to go back to work in a week.

How many reconstruction surgeries did you have?

Did you have a lift on your breast to match the reconstructed breast?  Are you happy you did it?  Do you regret it?