Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
So surgery seemed like the best option. Or maybe the "breast" option?
But At the beginning of this journey, I had no idea how many options are available for mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
I first visited with three local surgeons. Each one of them kindly told me I was a good candidate for implants, and discouraged me from thinking about other alternatives. They gave me pamphlets to read, and I read them and tried to wrap my head around the idea of implants. Honestly, the thought of an implant didn’t sit very well with me. Mostly, I couldn't picture myself as a 70 year old woman with implants. When I asked the surgeons if I would need to replace the implants as my body aged, they said I would, as if that was a given, and did not seem to acknowledge the fact that it would be a HUGE inconvenience to have to go back for repeated surgeries. Upon further investigation, I found out that many women have complications with their implants, ranging from minor to major. I just didn’t feel confident going that route.
So I decided to widen my scope. I turned to the support group FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered), created for those who are BRCA mutation positive. Through various message boards and posts on the FORCE website, I found out about the DIEP FLAP surgery, where they use your stomache tissue (sparing the abdominal muscles) for the breast reconstruction. It involves microsurgery and reattaching blood vessels, which of course sounds scary and intimidating, but the women who have braved these procedures, overall, seem MUCH happier than those who have opted for implants. Many FORCE members recommended two breast reconstructive centers, one in New Orleans, and one in San Antonio, for this type of surgery.
I reached out to both centers, and got two very different responses. When I contacted the Center for Restorative Breast Surgery in New Orleans, I was asked for my contact information and was told I would get a call back... which never happened. When I contacted PRMA in San Antonio, I was immediately connected with the patient advocate, Courtney, who was incredibly welcoming, informative, and an absolute pleasure to speak with. She made what could have been a very uncomfortable, stressful conversation a very easy, very comfortable one.
Based on surgeon recommendations I saw on the FORCE website, and my two very different experiences with New Orleans and San Antonio, I asked Courtney if I could set up a consultation with Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo at PRMA. We scheduled a Skype consultation in October. I expected to speak with Dr. C, as everyone calls him, for maybe ten minutes (that was about the length of time my other consultations had lasted). Instead, Dr. C spent at least 45 minutes to an hour talking to me about my decision and the DIEP FLAP surgery. I was so impressed with his patience, attention, and care. And he didn't talk to me like I was a PATIENT. He talked to me like I was a HUMAN BEING. One of the first things he asked me was whether or not I have children, and when I told him I have two little kids, ages 2 and 4, he said, "that BY FAR is going to be the biggest challenge of having this surgery." He got it. He understood the effect of this surgery, far beyond the borders of the operating room. And we had only been talking for two minutes. Dr. C also did everything he could to set realistic expectations for what I would go through, and what the outcome would be. He was transparent. He didn't romanticize anything. He was confident but humble. And by the end of the conversation, I knew I had found my surgeon.
Following the consultation was the long and anxiety provoking wait to hear whether my insurance would cover the surgery. I may have emailed PRMA six or six hundred times to check in on the status of the approval. But when the call finally came, and Courtney told me I was approved to schedule a date for the surgery, I truly felt like screaming "hallelujah!"
So I set my date for the surgery. I have gotten my insurance approval, gotten the ok from work (thank goodness for understanding employers!!), booked our flights, reserved a hotel, and rented a car. I have requested the help of my Eema, my stepmother, for the days following the surgery. I have had conversations with brave, beautiful women who have gone through this surgery and have generously offered to share their experiences. I have had a CTA scan in preparation for the surgery. I have had several conversations with lots of folks who only know about prophylactic mastectomies because of Angelina Jolie, which makes me more grateful to her for going public with her decision. I have scoured the Internet for packing tips, tips on how to prepare (mentally, physically, emotionally) for this surgery, tips on what to expect in the days following the surgery, and tips on where my husband can take the kids in San Antonio (though unfortunately a lot of attractions seem to be closed in the month of February).
And now I am actively working on staying calm, staying healthy (a big challenge in this household of tiny children), getting organized, and becoming as well-informed as possible. And being a wife and mommy. And working full time.
It's a lot, but I think I can handle it.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
So, for the first two and a half years of Emmy’s life, she was virtually attached to my hip. Often, she was LITERALLY attached to my hip, clinging to my neck with one arm, shoving her other arm and hand down my blouse to make sure her breast friends were still there, and locking her little legs around my waist.
Friday, April 11, 2014
It's such a crazy feeling, to be on the cusp of this major change. I'm elated, on the one hand, because I got offered a job that seems challenging and interesting in an environment that seems incredibly positive and supportive. I will no longer just be known as "mommy" or "Ember's mommy" or "Oren's mommy." I will have a valid reason to wear something other than sweatpants and a t-shirt. I won't have to fill my co-workers' sippy cups with apple juice every ten minutes. I will be able to have actual adult conversations, and not just daydream about them.
But I'm also sad and worried. In ten days, I will no longer be singing "Let It Go!" with my kids every five minutes. I will no longer be taking the kids to the toddler story times at the library every day. I will no longer be the person who is with my kids each time they reach some huge or tiny developmental milestone. I will no longer have my sweet little hand-clapping, feet stomping, head-bobbing entourage with me throughout the day.
My kids are amazing. They can be difficult to manage every hour of every day, but they are amazing. I am so proud of who they are, even at only 16 months old and three and a half years old. And even though I am having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that the intense period of mothering that I have experienced as a stay-at-home mom is coming to an end, I know they are going to do really well in this next phase of childhood. Because they are amazing.
So this is my SAHM swan song. It was the best of times, it was the craziest of times. I learned a boat load about my children, about myself, about parenthood, and about life, and I wouldn't trade the past year and a half for anything in the world. I wish I had had the time to better document all the adventures the kids and I had together, but I was just too busy being a mom to document anything.
On Wednesday night, while I was putting Emmy to bed, I had one of my (all too frequent these days) spontaneous emotional breakdowns, and tears started streaming down my face as I sang Em her lullabies.
Em looked at me and asked me why I was crying.
"Well, you know how I told you I would be going back to work, Em?"
"Well, sometimes I get sad when I think about going to work and not being with you all day, because I know I am going to miss you very very much."
"Well, mama, you don't have to be sad, because remember that your heart is right next to my heart, and even if you are at work, our hearts are next to each other."
I had used that explanation to get Emmy to calm down one day when she was telling me how she didn't like going to nursery school because the boys would growl like tigers at her. I told her my heart was always next to her heart, even when I wasn't standing right next to her, and that my heart could help her not be scared.
Of course, hearing Em's comforting words just made me bawl even more. So she held out her two favorite stuffed animals.
"Maybe you could bring puppy or pink reindeer with you to work, so you won't be so sad."
And I of course started crying even harder.
"Thank you, Emmy. Mommy is going to be fine. I promise."
And I will be fine, I know I will. It might take me a few days, or even a few weeks, to adjust to not being around my kids all day, but I know I will be fine.
Still, if you ever come visit me at my new work place, and you see a pink reindeer sitting on my desk, don't ask questions. It is there for a very good reason.
Friday, February 28, 2014
So, the kids are asleep and C is at volleyball. I have the option to use this time wisely in a couple different ways:
a) I could go to sleep right now, THIS second, and could try to score more than my average four or five hours of sleep a night. This would make the bags under my eyes look less like, say, carpet bags and more like, say, chic little purses.
b) I could fold laundry. Because there is ALWAYS laundry to fold. I have come to the realization that I will probably spend at least 80 billion hours of my life folding our family's laundry. I don't exactly EMBRACE the idea, but I haven't burned all of our clothes yet, or suggested that we move to a nudist's colony.
c) I could write a very long overdue blog post about this absolutely insane winter, and about my absolutely insane (but hysterical and beautiful) children, and about the many revelations I have had while basically snowed-in during these long, cold months.
Sleep, I guess you are going to have to wait. Laundry, you can fold yourself for one night. This mama has got to blog.
Ok, let me start off by saying that had I known, back in June, that the first winter I would experience as a stay-at-home mom would be a record-breaking, snow-up-to-my-nose, frostbite-within-seconds-of-leaving-the-house, eight-month long season, I probably would have stayed employed.
It's not that I haven't enjoyed bonding with my kids, or getting to see and experience Oren's first year on this earth in such a complete way. I really really have. I feel like I know my kids SO well now, and that is incredibly valuable to me.
But this winter has been the winter from hell, and has proven very clearly to me that I am a seasonally successful stay-at-home mom. In the summer and fall, I would say I do a relatively good job as a SAHM. I find ways of making the days entertaining and educational, while actually ENJOYING my responsibilities. But in the winter? I suck at life AND motherhood. I spend most of the day staring at the window, cursing at each and every snowflake and icicle while the children juggle knives and strangle each other somewhere in the distance. I have TRIED to get out of the house, when possible, but other than outings to the library and indoor play parks and pet stores, there really hasn't been much to do.
But enough about the winter of my discontent. Let's focus on the kids.
The kids. Seriously. They are crazy. And they are A-MA-ZING. And they are COMPLETELY crazy.
Ember is no longer Ember. By that, I mean she honestly spends 9 hours of the day playing the role of Elsa from the movie Frozen. And because Elsa has the magical power to freeze people, I spend 9 hours of the day pretending to be frozen. So if you are in need of a living statue, look no further. I have had LOTS of practice. I'm your gal.
Ember is also EMBER. By that, I mean even though she is only three and a half years old, she is so much her own person and personality. I think it actually took having a second child for me to realize how unique Emmy's personality traits are to her. She is SO creative, and SO sensitive, and SO funny, and sometime also SO difficult. My biggest challenge with her is getting her to LISTEN and pay attention. She gets caught up in her own thoughts and imagination and needs, and it is sometimes very tough getting her to step outside her own circle. We are working on it, though.
And Oren? He's a delight, and he's a joy, and he's a very silly, very mischievous boy. He is very quick to smile and laugh, and is SO good at cuddling. He loves dancing and music and balls and lights and eating crackers and smushing crackers into the living room rug. He also LOVES climbing up on chairs, couches, tables, shelves... and sometimes he loves climbing INTO shelves. He loves finding the most dangerous object in the room and using it as a drum stick. He loves trying to flush large objects down the toilet. He loves running around naked. He loves digging through the garbage to find small plastic items to choke on. In short, he loves giving me small heart attacks on an hourly basis.
Oren is talking - saying quite a few words already, and then grunting to make his needs known the rest of the time. His vocabulary is telling of his personality: mama, dada, ball, uh-oh, kick, cracker, no (with the intonation of "no"), no (with the intonation of "more"), down, and all done. It's amazing how much we can communicate using just these ten words.
I feel guilty (SO guilty) for not having blogged more about his growth, his milestones, and his personality. He truly is a gem, and a love, and I feel like I have cheated him by not recording his first year in a more complete manner. But it is what it is, and I can only try to try harder.
And in other news, we have sold our house and are moving to a bigger home, just about eight miles from where we live now. The whole buying and selling process has been so incredibly stressful for our whole family. It is SO not easy to show a house when you have a one year old and a three year old. I turned into a maniac from the moment our house went on the market, and became vicious about keeping the house clean and tidy. Every time the kids took out a toy to play with, I would get a nervous tic. It was NOT good. But we were incredibly lucky in having our home sell in 15 days (we had multiple offers, which was pretty thrilling considering we were selling in the dead of this stupid winter, and in this rather dead economy). So now we just have to get through the next month of the closing process, which I am sure will feel like the longest month EVER, and then we will be in a new home, with lots more room (and a second bathroom - yay)!
I think the whole country is ready for this winter to be over, so I am in good company in aching for spring's arrival. I cannot WAIT to bring the kids to the playground again, and to feed the ducks and the fishies at the pond, and to not have to dress them in eight layers of clothing every time we leave the house. If, in the future, I ever start to lose an appreciation for the warmer weather days, and start to take them for granted, I hope I re-read this post and pause to give thanks for the grass and sun and flowers and how much easier it is to parent when it is NOT wintertime.