Radio Silence

There are lots of quirks about my dad that I love, and a few that irritate me to no end.  Right now, he’s being irritating.  My dad has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.  He was actually diagnosed seven years ago and given a very grim prognosis.  It’s nothing short of a miracle that he is still alive and enjoying (for the most part) such a high quality of life.  But things have been getting harder in recent months and he’s doing his thing again.

See, when my dad has good news to report he will call every week and we’ll have a nice chat.  He tells me about his classes (did I mention that he decided to go to grad school for anthropology since he was so bored at home?) and I tell him about my kids and that’s it.  Nothing terribly exciting but at least I know he’s okay.  When things start to go sour, he stops calling.  He stops answering his phone.  He stops returning messages.  That’s when I know to start to worry – which is the exact opposite of what he’s trying to make me do.  The thing is, I know that when he stops talking it means that the news isn’t good anymore.  He doesn’t want me to worry about him but keeping me in the dark is not helpful.  In fact, it only makes me worry more.  The thing is, I know it can’t be TOO serious, because then I’d get a call from my step-mom.  There have been a few times when she has called me – and my dad has told her explicitly not to call – to tell me that he has been hospitalized (the worst time, he’d been in the hospital for a week before she called).

I just hate being at their mercy for information.  I want to know what’s going on with my dad’s health.  I don’t want to sit, waiting for that phone call that will come someday telling me to get on a plane so I can say goodbye.  I’ve gotten that call out of the blue once before and it was not okay.  Even though I think living far away is better for our relationship, it really sucks for being in the loop.  I can’t just drop by for a surprise visit to make sure he’s alive.  I have to wait for them to tell me.  I don’t like it.  I don’t think it’s too much to ask to be kept updated.  I just want to know – good or bad.  It’s the not knowing that is the worst.


Gummi Bear… Boobs?

I think my friends and husband are getting fed up with me and my obsession with fake boobs.  I used to never care about whether a person’s breasts were real or not but now it’s like a fixation.  We were at dinner last night with a big group of our friends and all I could talk about were the newly FDA approved “Gummi Bear” implants.  I mean, in my defense, they were already talking about boobs before I jumped into the conversation.  But it was obvious that I wanted to keep talking about it when everyone else was ready to move on to a different subject.  It’s times like these that I wish I knew more BRCA + people who get it.  Even my best friend who has a significant family history of breast cancer seemed to know very little about implants and seemed grossed out by the talk.  It’s hard and it makes me sad because I feel like there’s nobody I can talk to.

I felt a lump a couple of days ago.  I’ve never really felt one before.  I’m sure it’s nothing and that I’m probably just going to start my period in a few days but it was terrifying nonetheless.  I’m keeping tabs on it though for if it doesn’t go away to tell my doctor.  All I keep thinking is, “Really?  Already?” because I feel too young for this.  25 is too young for breast cancer.  25 is too young to be constantly worried about dying.

Family like strangers

My cousin had a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy today.  I mentioned this previously but I’m not terribly close to my dad’s family.  This cousin in particular.  It’s not that there’s some kind of personality clash or I dislike her or something, we just never really had anything in common and we have only seen one another a handful of times.  I barely know her.  We share some DNA but beyond that I know very little about her.  But for some reason, this near stranger’s surgery has weighed on me all day.

I found out a moment ago that she is out of surgery and everything went well.  I obviously felt relief but I am also feeling an undying curiosity.  I’ve been reading her blog and she hasn’t talked about what kind of reconstruction she’s chosen.  Did she opt for a skin or nipple sparing procedure?  Is she doing implants or a flap of some kind?  I am obsessing about a near stranger’s breasts.  Is that weird?

I’m also anxious to hear how her kids will react to the whole experience.  What will her struggles be like recovering as a mom to two young boys?  I’m sure it will be hard, but I’m dying to know what her day to day issues are.  I think this part of my curiosity is definitely about myself and how having the surgery (down the road) will affect my own children.  Will they still like to lay their heads on my chest if it’s different?  Will they still know how much I love them if I can’t hug them during recovery?  Will they think that having your breasts removed is normal?

I also kind of want to know how it affects her relationship with her husband so I can set my own expectations for my relationship.  T says that he is supportive and he loves me for more than my breasts but I know how much he loves them.  For crying out loud, he couldn’t stop staring at them on our first date.  Will he still love me if I am covered in scars?  Will I love me?    I already basically hate my body, except for my breasts.  They’re not perfect, but they’re mine and I like them.  What does that say about me that the only part of me that I like I am desperate to remove?

Worst of all, I get this guilty feeling like wanting to know these kinds of details is nosy.  Like I have no right to ask these questions of a near stranger.  But the thing is, she’s not a stranger.  She’s my family.  But still, these questions even seem too personal for family that I am closer to.  I shouldn’t want to know the answers but I desperately do.  I wish this was all easier and more common.  I wish that people didn’t try to make me feel like deciding to have a mastectomy was some CRAZY idea that some whacko surgeon put into my head.  I wish I didn’t have to constantly defend the option as realistic and necessary.  It’s making me doubt what I know is right.

Motorcycles Suck.

I found out yesterday that a dear friend of mine from high school passed away over the weekend.  I don’t know many details – maybe that’s part of why I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that he’s gone – but I have been told that he was in a fatal motorcycle accident.  Steve was really more than my friend, it’s no secret that I loved him.  Easily the closest male friend I had in high school and after, I spent pretty much every moment possible with him during my junior and senior years of high school.  While he only thought of me as a friend for most of the time, I had some major feelings for him.  There was a very brief time when we thought there might be more but he ended up breaking my heart.  I moved on, he moved on, and we were able to remain good friends.

Steve had one of the darkest senses of humors I have ever seen.  He would always tell off-color jokes and even though I laughed at most of them, I’d be lying if I said he didn’t offend me a few times when they hit a little too close to home.  Eventually I’d come around though because I knew he wasn’t being serious.  He was kind of awkward socially, wasn’t very tactful, and was even dubbed “Creepy Steve” by a few of our friends.  But I didn’t care, he was my friend.  He was smart, talented, adventurous, and full of life.  He shared my love of cooking and we tossed around the idea of collaborating on a ramen truck after he got back from studying abroad.  He promised me when I went to culinary school that he’d buy me my first catering van.  Obviously none of it panned out.  But he was a dreamer, he believed in me, and I believed in him.

We spent countless hours goofing around at IHOP with Balto, the waiter who always worked the overnight shift.  I helped him get a job at Jason’s Deli when I worked there.  He tried to teach me to drive a stick-shift one fateful night that ended with some yelling and tears.  I still can’t do it.  We spent so many nights just driving around the winding roads of Westlake, zipping around corners and wasting gas.  I remember cuddling with him under the stars on my 17th birthday at Angie’s house.  He was the first person to call me “Kitchen Nazi” and one of the only people I would actually let get away with it.  He introduced me to heavy metal when all I knew was bubblegum pop.  He let me listen to songs that he wrote before sharing them with anyone else.  I listened to some of them last night and cried.  There’s one song that he sent me that I have always known was about me, even though he insisted it was not.  It has always been a painful song to hear but last night it brought me so much comfort.  I forgive you, Steve.

I remember when he bought the motorcycle.  He was so excited.  Brittany and I told him it was too dangerous.  That it was an accident waiting to happen.  That we cared too much about his safety to just stand by and watch silently.  He didn’t listen.  He told us he was careful.  I am deeply saddened to know that it wasn’t enough and he died on it anyway.  He loved it though, so I guess that’s something.

Even though we’d grown apart over the years, we would still get together a couple of times a year to catch up and remember a more carefree time.  He will always hold a very special place in my heart and I will never forget him.  I miss you already, Steve.  My life is a little dimmer without your brightness in it.

Shit’s gettin’ real, y’all.

There are some good and bad things about coming from a huge family.  My dad has six siblings.  I have 17 first cousins on my dad’s side alone.  It makes for really fun and exciting family gatherings and there’s always family news.  Two of my cousins on that side (three if you count my mom’s family too) are getting married in the next six months!  Hooray!  That’s awesome!  But it also means that there’s some less pleasant family news too.  One of my cousins has decided to go through with her prophylactic bilateral mastectomy next month.

As we have come of age, many of us have decided to get the BRCA testing done.  Some are positive, some are negative.  That’s to be expected.  Some of our parents have, or have fought, cancer.  It has come to be “normal” for me that cancer is just what happens to us.  But this is the first time I have really had to confront it in my generation.  It has always been our parents.  Our grandmother.  Not us.  Not yet.

I knew it was only a matter of time before one of us had the surgery.  Honestly, it isn’t even who I expected to go first.  Maybe that’s what has been hard for me to wrap my mind around.  It makes it real.  It makes my considering surgery seem less crazy.  Even though I know it’s not crazy to lean towards cutting off my breasts, it’s different knowing that someone you know and love is actually going through with it.  And what’s worse, I feel like I don’t know her very well.  I want to call and talk to her, comfort her, ask her questions, but I feel like we’re acquaintances more than family.  I guess that’s the other side of the big family coin.

Reading her story made me very emotional.  I was sad at first – mostly because I was sad that she was forced to make the choice – but I wasn’t so personally connected to the story.  It took me about a day before it hit me and I cried.  She’s under 30 and is having lump scares.  She’s a mom to a toddler and an infant.  It’s real.  Cancer is scary.  Sometimes the choice to be healthy isn’t easy.  I read these stories by strangers about having mastectomies at 23, 25, 27… and I think that they’re too young to make that choice.  Surely we shouldn’t have to make that kind of choice.  But now it’s real.  It’s my family.  My genes.  My mutation.

I want so badly to have the surgery and be done with it.  Do it and get it over with.  Take my breasts so I can keep living.  One less cancer to worry about.  But I also want to have another baby.  I want to nurse that baby.  I feel like both options are selfish and selfless at the same time.  I’m giving up my breasts to live a long life and to be there for my children and my husband.  But that means sacrificing nursing any other baby we might have (and are actively trying to conceive).  Or, I’m choosing to wait on the surgery so that I can have that incredible nursing experience with a baby who doesn’t even exist yet, and may never exist.  And waiting means higher risk.  Higher risk of the disease that ravages my family.

The question has stopped being “if.”  Now the question is “when.”  The boobs have got to go.  That’s no longer an issue.  I know that.  The question is only about waiting.  Do I wait to see if we can have another baby?  How long should I wait before I give up hoping?  What if I wait too long?  How long can I go, wondering every day if today is the day I get cancer?

My cousin’s decision has made it real for me.  I don’t have an excess of time to make my choice.  It’s not urgent, but it’s not as far away as I would have hoped.  Time passes both slowly and at light speed.  She is only four years older than me.  That’s how old my kids are.  that time has passed in the blink of an eye.  It seems like hardly a difference at all.  But so much can change in 4 years.  I’m a completely different person than I was in 2009.  Someone once told me that the days are long but the years are short.  I couldn’t agree more.

Time Flies

Today my twins turn four.  When I think back to the day they were born, it’s a weird feeling.  It feels like it just happened, but it also feels like E and J have been in my life forever.  I remember the day in vivid detail – the fear, the joy, the loneliness – and it’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that it was four years ago.  That was the year that Katy Perry released “I Kissed a Girl” and Beyonce released “Single Ladies.”  That was the year that we elected Barack Obama (the first time) and the year that the economy completely collapsed.  That was the year that Michael Phelps dominated the Olympics.  All of these things seem, to me, to have happened AGES ago.  So why do I find it so hard to believe that my kids are growing up?

Sometimes when I hold them, I can still see their tiny hands and feet.  I remember holding those precious 5 pound babies and wondering what they’d be like when they grew.  Now that they’re growing, I only think about how much I miss those baby snuggles.  They’re so smart, so funny, so loving.  I’m so proud of the people they are growing up to be.  I treasure the hugs and kisses they give me now because I know that there’s going to be a day when they won’t want to cuddle with me at all.  I hope that day is a long time from now.

Thanksgiving is Coming

Happy Tuesday!  I’m having a rough day because my kids are driving me absolutely bonkers and I’m running around like a crazy person trying to clean my house for the impending arrival of my in-laws.  I just feel like I have so much to do this week – I’m in charge of baking rolls for the family Thanksgiving dinner, I have to finish a ton of training so that I’m prepared to help my mom and make some money on Black Friday, and I’m in the process of cleaning the whole house because my husband and children are the messiest people I know.  T cleaned the toilets over the weekend and did a few of the dishes (even though dishes are spelled out as his responsibility on our breakdown of household chores) but that’s it.  I have cleaned the entire downstairs pretty much by myself, I have about 10 loads of laundry to do which will then need to be folded, I have to prepare the guest room for my sister-in-law who arrives tomorrow, and I would feel better if I had a chance to get rid of a couple more boxes before anyone gets here.  Oh yeah, and I need to clean my disaster of a car so that we can all fit in it.  And T wonders why I’m having trouble sleeping.  *eyeroll*

Weighed in this morning and pleased that the numbers are cooperating.  I’ve been following the diet pretty well but still not as active as I’d like to be (except for cleaning, that is) so I’m thinking that my weight loss still has some room for improvement.

Starting Weight: 299.5 lbs
Weight on 11/20/2012: 281.5 lbs

Total Weight Loss: 18 lbs!

I’m almost to the 20 lb mark, but I’m sure it won’t be this week since Thanksgiving is in a couple of days and I plan to eat lots of pie.  It’s not Thanksgiving without pie.  🙂

Moving right along

Life has been more stressful but the diet hasn’t been giving me too much trouble. Halloween candy is still lingering (and it probably will be for a while still) so I haven’t been perfect but I’m still feeling good. I’ve been also eating slightly smaller portions and I seem to be less hungry.

Starting Weight: 299.5 lbs
Weight on 11/14/12: 283.5 lbs
Total Weight Loss: 16.0 lbs!

It’s a definite confidence booster seeing the numbers on the scale slowly fall. It’s not as dramatic as that first week, but it’s still headed in the right direction!

Happy Veteran’s Day

Not a lot to report here – we went out for dinner last night with my parents and siblings (minus one!) and all of us cheated on our diets.  I ate a delicious bacon cheeseburger on a pretzel roll and an eggnog milkshake.  Totally worth it!  I’ve been really good about sticking to the diet this last week and it was nice to relax a little bit.  My mom, who is currently eating a vegan diet for health reasons, also ate a cheeseburger.  🙂

I just wanted to take a moment to share some of my thoughts today.  We have a few veterans in my family and I feel so lucky to have them around to tell their stories.  I know that I am thankful every day for the time that they served our country (and our allies, since not all of them are Americans!) but I plan to take a moment today to thank them personally.  I hope you will do the same, or at least, be aware that the amazing rights and freedoms that we often take for granted (can you say “voting?”) were hard won by so many young men and women.

So, thank you!  If there are any veterans reading this post, I am beyond grateful for the gifts you have given me, my children, and our country.

Getting back on track

So, I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks.  Things have been pretty emotional for me since finding out about my BRCA status.  Some days things are completely normal and it’s like I don’t even remember.  Other times it feels like a weight that is crushing me and I can’t think of anything else.  Keeping on the diet through it all has been really hard and I’ve been cheating so much that I basically wasn’t dieting at all for a while.  But over the last week I have refocused and am back on track (I’m sure getting normal results from my first mammogram helped get my emotions in check).  I still cheat with a little piece of Halloween candy here and there but it’s not as bad as it has been in recent days.

I also started seriously focusing on exercising more.  I’ve been doing ballet barre exercises some and started doing Zumba at home again this week.  I’m very out of shape – worse than when I started Zumba the first time about six months ago – but I’m slowly getting some stamina back.  Unfortunately, I don’t know what happened to my Zumba videos after the move so I’ve been using YouTube.  The bonus to that though is that the songs are catchy, current, and the routines are all new.

I weighed in this morning to see how much farther I needed to go to get back on track and was pleasantly surprised to be back to where I was before melting down!  Alright!

Starting Weight: 299.5 lbs
Weight on 11/8/12: 284.0 lbs

Total Weight Loss: 15.5 lbs!

I sewed myself a dress for a wedding a couple of weeks ago and it’s ALREADY too big.  I couldn’t believe how fast my clothes started to feel roomier.  🙂