Monday, January 30, 2012

One month away!

According to the ticker over there, surgery is now less than one month away.  I'm slowly checking things off my to-do list--freezer stocked, attened FORCE meeting, told students/parents, and report cards are done.  All of the things left on my list are either things that I am avoiding or things that cannot be done until the last minute. 

I'm going to start talking about it with the girls soon.  Because of a very cute project at school, Aila now has a calendar in her room.  She loves looking at it daily to find out what day and number it is.  We have school days, dance class days, and other special occasions marked on it. Once we flip the calendar to February, I will mark the date of my surgery on her calendar and we'll talk about what's going to happen.

The only previous experience they have with hospitals revolves entirely around babies.  I was very worried that they will be disappointed when come home from the hospital and don't bring home a baby brother.  We've been reading numerous hospital themed books with many of their favorite characters (Grover, Clifford, and Maisy) for the last few weeks to ease us into the discussion. 

My plan is to equate it to getting shots.  We've always explained shots as something that keeps you healthy; something you do before you get sick so that you don't get sick.  I'll probably tell her that I'm going have something like this done, but it's going to hurt a lot more than a shot does.  I'm going to have to stay at the hospital for a few days.  I'll have some owies for a while that might look yucky.  I plan on warning in advance about this because unfortunately there is no such thing as privacy in our house with these two right now and I don't want them to be scared of my scars or drains.  I'll explain that I'll need to rest a lot just like they do when they are sick, and they need them to be very gentle around my owies.

We've been practicing climbing up places by themselves (not bad things just car seats, high chair, toilet, bed, etc.)  We've also been practicing piggy back rides just in case I have to carry someone and I'm not ready yet for a kid cuddling right up next to them.  We'll probably also practice gently hugs and asking before climbing up on me.

I'm probably making this a much bigger deal than it has to be.  The girls will probably listen just fine and then say something like "Ok, can we have a snack now?"  I'll be sure to post aoout their reaction.  I'm sure it will be classic. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Boob Voyage Fundraiser!

Please join us for a pre-surgery soiree to say "Boob Voyage!"

A special 1 hour Zumba class will offered to shake it one last time together Saturday, February 11th at 4:30 pm.

$5 donation is requested to join in the fun.
Donations will be given to FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered and Bright Pink. Both are organizations that helped me in making the life-changing decision to having risk reducing surgery.
Send me a message if you'd like more details!

FORCE (, a national non-profit organization whose mission includes "support, education, advocacy, awareness, and research specific to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer."

Bright Pink (, a national non-profit organization that provides education and support to young women who are at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

What will surgery actually be like?

What will surgery actually be like?  What exactly do they do? 

For me the morning of surgery is going to start in the Nuclear Medicine department.  I am going to have a radioactive tracer injected near the suspicious areas found during my last MRI.  It will take 2 hours for this injection to go through my body and be ready to do its job. 

During this 2 hour wait I will get all prepped and ready for surgery including IV antibiotics, getting drawn on by both doctors, and consult with the anesthesiologist.  I'm fully prepared for this to be the longest 2 hours of my life.  I'm going to be hungry, nervous, super-emotional, and just an all round basket case.  I will take any suggestion you have on how to spend this time and get out all of my nervous energy.

When they tell me it's time, I will walk into the operating room.  I find that quite empowering.  No one is pushing me to do this, I'm walking there on my own two feet.  The anesthesiologist will work their magic and I will be out.  A breathing tube and catheter will be inserted because of the length of the surgery.

Dr. Colette will handle the first part of the operation.  She will make a 6-8 inch incision on my infra-mammary fold, meaning right under the breast where it will be conveniently hidden later.  She will scrape out all of the breast tissue and pass this tissue onto pathologists.  They will slice the tissue like a loaf of bread into manageable sections and further exam each section.  Dr. Colette will also perform a sentinel node biopsy on both sides at this time.  Using the nuclear injection that I had earlier in the day, she will find and remove the first one to three lymph nodes that my breast cells drain into. This part of the surgery will take about 4 hours.

Once all of the tissue is removed, Dr. J will begin his part of the surgery.  He will make an incision low on my pectoral muscle.  He will insert an implant behind the muscle.  He will use alloderm tissue matrix to create a pocket large enough of the implant to sit in because there really is not a lot of space behind the muscle as is. Alloderm is cadaver tissue that has had all of the cells removed out of it basically leaving behind just collagen framework that will be a patch of sorts for me.  My body will work over the following months to weave it self into the alloderm.  At 6 months post-op if you were to exam in original alloderm tissue,  it would be completely made up of my own cells and would be unrecognizable.

Dr. J's portion of the surgery will take about 3 hours as he works to perfect the position, size, and shape of the implant with my remaining skin.  Dr. J might be able to start his portion of the surgery early working on the side Dr. Colette has already finished while she continues working on the opposite side.  The total length of time is expected to be 5-7 hours.  He will insert 2 surgical drains and close up the original incisions Dr. Colette made.

At this point, my breathing tube will be removed and I will be moved to the recovery room.  The amount of time I have to spend here will be dependent upon how long it takes me to wake up probably between 1-2 hours.  The catheter will remain in place until I am able to walk on my own.

When I am somewhat coherent I will be moved into a general hospital room where I will stay for 1-2 days.  While in the hospital, I will learn how to handle my surgical drains and sleep a lot.  The drains will need to stay in until they are draining less than 30cc in 24 hour time period, probably 1-2 weeks.  Mitch and my mom plan on rotating staying with me at the hospital.  I will probably not be up for any guests.  I've read about women saying or doing things in the hospital that they have no recollection of later.  It could be something like insisting a guest brings me a Dairy Queen blizzard and then falling asleep mid-spoonful or major over-sharing of the new goods.  I think I'll be safe just assuming I won't invite any guests, including my kids. I know that I'll miss them, but it's probably for the best that they don't see me like this.

After 1-2 days, when I show that I have pain management under control, reasonable movement back, and all bodily functions back to normal, I will be discharged from the hospital.  I'll be home to sleep in my own bed (or recliner) and shuffle to my own bathroom.  I'll be able to see my kids and give them gentle hugs.  I'll be on the other side at this point.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Nothing much to post lately--bring on some more questions for me!  I'm just trying to get prepared as much as I can. I've crossed out a number of things on my to-do list.  We figured out a pretty solid plan for the girls during my recovery.  I finally received the pre-authorization info from insurance.  Thanks for the pillows, Matt and Lisa.  Thanks for pointing out that I need a back scratcher not stretcher, Kayla.  We've been doing fun things every weekend with the girls.  Last weekend was family zumba with Molly and a Cinderella movie night.  This week it's been all about Stranger in the Woods books and movie.  We even went on a little hike in Sherwood Park to leave some carrots for the deer.  We spotted a cardinal just like in the book.  They loved it!  Next movie night will be Pocahontas so that Aila can see the song she's doing ballet to in the movie.  Right now, while the girls are napping I'm blaring Kelly Clarkson on my ipod ("What doesn't kill you makes you stronger...stand a little taller...makes a fighter...footsteps even lighter...) and working on 2nd quarter report cards (most of the time).  I reward myself with little facebook or blog breaks every so often. :)

I feel remarkably calm lately.  After the intensity I was feeling around Christmas, I must say it feels good.  It's almost as though I kind of forget that this is about to happen sometimes.  I was talking to someone at a meeting this week and right before we left she said something heartwarming about how she'll be thinking about me.  I left feeling great because of a few reasons.  First, it kind of caught me off guard because I hadn't thought about surgery at all that day. It made me feel good that it was not taking over my life anymore!  Second because of the way she put it.  She was sincere, heartfelt, and positive.  It didn't come across as "Oh poor Renee" in any sort of a way which I was really worried about before sharing with everyone.  I was afraid people would think poor pathetic mutant with a mutilated body because that's not how I look at myself at all.  By sharing on this blog, I never really wanted people's sympathy.  I don't have cancer; my journey is nothing in comparison to what someone fighting cancer has to go through.  So hearing the pure support in her voice was great!  Thanks!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My crazy to-do list

I've mentioned it a couple times now and several people have asked about it...What exactly is on your To-Do Before Mastectomy List?

It's a compilation of every thought that comes to my head that I feel like I need to get done before February 27th.  Some things are along the lines of nesting while pregnant, some things are practical needs, some thing are broad statements and goals.  There is no particular order.  It's just what comes to my head each day.  I've always been a list maker.  I always pick a fun font and check things off as I go.  Here's a peek:

1.                 Pray more

On going
2.              Schedule a meeting with Father Sal

3.              Run more
Broken again—I would not recommend purchasing a treadmill from Future Fitness Plus!
Weekday Mornings  & Sundays
4.                Lose weight
Not done yet, but on my way thanks to Chrystal and Energy Fitness
Monday 6:00, Tuesday 6:30, Wednesday 4:30
Saturday mornings
5.              Clean the house—deep clean cupboards, closets, basement
This is kind of my version of Dad’s cleaning the crawlspace out.  It’s just me avoiding doing the things that actually need to be done.
Basement done
Bedroom Closet done

6.               Figure out a schedule for the girls during surgery/hospital stay and two-three weeks afterward
I have to ask for help and that’s very hard for me

7.                 Take family photos
Thank you, Mary Baugnet!
8.                Write about my feelings honestly
Tougher at sometimes than others.  I like to hide things in humor.  I really don’t need to worry anymore about hiding my craziness
On going
9.                Order pictures, backup, and put in albums
Ordered, backed up

10.            Put together a schedule of bills to pay

11.            Sort through girls closets to put away clothes that are too small
Adrienne’s shirts done

12.         Inform Aila’s teachers at school & sign up new people to pick her up/drop her off

13.         Clean the fridge

14.           Clean the house
Going to happen a lot of times in between

15.         Talk about it with my children

16.          Figure out what to say to my students

17.            Finish report cards

18.           Prep for long term sub
Luckily I have lots of stuff from maternity leave still

19.           Send letter home to students’ parents

20.        Take Mitch out for a fancy dinner
I have my ideas!!

21.         Get my hair cut and eyebrows waxed
I don’t think that I’ll be wearing lipstick to my mastectomy like the movie, but I will make sure that I look good for the big day

22.      Get underarms waxed
I hear it’s going to be a challenge to shave there for a while, waxing might help with this

23.      Charge the electric tooth brush

24.        Get the pre-approval confirmation from insurance

25.      Get the short term disability info

26.       Do all my pre-op appointments and tests
MRI done, PS done

27.         Make sure I have plenty of hoodies/comfy pant/ lounge wear for recovery
I picked up the pre-requisite velour sweat suit on clearance at NY&Co.  I feel like whenever you see someone on TV having breast augmentation, they are always wearing one. 
28.        Buy post mastectomy bras
My PS recommended “front closure sports bras” until I am healed.  Do you know how hard it is to find front closure sports bras available in less than a DD!
29.        Teach the girls to safely ride piggy-back in case I have to carry them when I shouldn’t yet
Thanks for the idea, Chrystal!
In progress, every night they love this practice time!
30.        Buy men’s cheap white tanks
I have big time texture issues and if I feel the same way about these scars as I did my C-section ones, I’m going to need to have some soft fabric over them at all times.  Plus Dad always insisted we wear an undershirt.
31.         But a spill proof cup
Great one for Christmas! Thanks Beth and Rick!
32.      Cry when I feel like it

33.      Spend pre-surgery time with family doing something fun

34.        Stock the freezer with premade meals
Each meal we make in January and February is doubled and one package goes in the freezer
In progress
35.      Restock the pantry with necessities
It is a crisis if we run out of mayonnaise, ketchup, or peanut butter in this house!

36.       Write out a calendar of important activities and events that will take place during recovery
I hear that you can become very forgetful during recovery.  I’d hate to miss something important. 

37.         Target shop for other necessities
Recovery would not be the prime time to run out of laundry soap or Pull-ups

38.        Teach Mitch or find someone to update my blog with the vital info post-surgery while I’m out of it.
I won’t be able to nor interested, possibly, in writing just after surgery but will want everyone to know how things went

39.        Buy more dog food
There’s no way I will be carrying that bag for a while post-surgery

40.          Groom the dog
I’ve been putting this off because it’s too cold in our garage to have our bi-monthly “Stella Shearing Day.” Maybe I should just pay Golrusk to do this again for a while? 

41.           Procure more pillows

I like to “procure” things from Mom and Dad’s house.  I always intend upon returning things

42.        Borrow Mom and Dad’s extra recliner from basement & Rearrange living room to make room for it
Some say that’s the only comfortable place to sleep for awhile

43.        Freak out
Because of that MRI scare, I think I’ve gotten this covered.  Thanks Stephanie and Kendal for being the first to help me handle the crazy. 
Done (for now)
44.          Pack for the hospital: comfy clothes, slippers, socks, unds, toiletries (don’t forget electric tooth brush, glasses), blanket, pillow, lifesavers,
Cannot be done until the week before

45.        Buy an iPad
This is just wishful thinkingWe’ll probably be buying a new treadmill instead

46.         Find someone to loan me a back scratcher
Whose house do I remember seeing one at all the time?

47.           Acceptance & Calmness