#2: Surgery and stuff…

August 1, 2017

(Kathy’s Cancer Goes Online)

I have a surgical date — 8/10/17. This thing inside me that I only understand in an abstract sense is going to feel really real, really soon.

I decide to announce my cancer on Facebook because… 1) it’s here, it’s real, I’m dealing with it, and fuck it, I have so many cancer jokes I want to share… let’s all just be on the same page, yeah? 2) I keep different circles of people and I don’t want the first day of the next gig, or the next big gathering of old friends to be spent explaining my “bold” new haircut and making people feel uncomfortable for having asked. 3) It’s gonna get out there anyway. I want to control the information.

As the “likes” and “comments” start lighting up my phone, I get nervous I’ve made a mistake. The first few comments are from people I don’t know well outside Facebook. Their battle cries of “stay strong!” and “you got this!” feel… reductive. Like pinning pink ribbons and muscle emoji band-aids on the most emotionally complicated month of my life. You don’t know me. You don’t know how hard this month has actually been.

But the first few well wishes quickly give way to an avalanche of sympathy, support and love reaching out from every time and place in my life — old co-workers, old classmates, kids I taught, friends I had forgotten about, friends I thought had forgotten me, even people I’ve only “met” over the phone coordinating Travel Channel shoots or casting TLC shows all across the country that I had kept in touch with over the years. They send love and encouragement, share personal stories, write funny jokes and volunteer help. They send gifts and donate to an online fund set up by my breast cancer vet friend Tess to help offset costs related to my stupid cancer - my high-ass deductible, being a freelancer in NYC, having a baby, etc… Having been in my place, Tess knew that people would want to help but wouldn’t always know how.

Fun Fact: Back in 2011, when my dear breast cancer sherpa Tessa was diagnosed I was one of those people. I sent her a fancy box of Eleni’s cookies — I think they were like, “Feel Better” themed. Ugh. While delicious, they did NOT cover any copays. Stupid Kathy.

It’s insane, this outpouring of love and generosity. I feel like Jimmy Stewart at the end of It’s A Wonderful Cancer. I wonder if everyone with cancer has this many friends or if I’m just the kid in 4th grade whose cast everyone wants to sign. A part of me also wonders if in a time of shitty, terrible news that makes us feel powerless to stop shitty garbage people from doing shitty fucking things, do I present a simple narrative of Nice Lady Vs. Evil Disease that people can rally around? Maybe a little column A, a little column B. Either way — I know amazing people. I sometimes feel guilty because there is no way I can ever pay all this love back. And yeah I know, I know, I pay it back by getting better. But still, it’s all very humbling.

August 2, 2017

(a week out from surgery)

A week before surgery, I go back to NYU Cancer Center to sign my left boob and nipple away with a surgical consent form and some blood work. It’s the quickest appointment to date and I’m pleased that for once I‘m getting back to the office earlier than I said I would.

On my way out, I notice a woman in the waiting room about my age. She has cool hair and is dressed like she works in a creative field. She sits by herself with a worried, distant look on her face. I wish I could reach out and tell her it’ll be okay. But what the hell do I know.

August 6, 2017

(A Farewell to Boobs)

The Sunday before my surgery, I invite friends to come cheers my left boob good-bye. Bierocracy in LIC generously loans me their private room (cashing in that Cancer Card, cha-ching!) And despite the last minute invite, we easily pack the back room with over 50 people at any given time. Annie, one of my oldest and dearest, brings a batch of boob cupcakes. She shows me a work-in-progress photo from the night before of a paper plate full of fondant nipples. “Kathleen. I’m never doing this again for anyone else.”

My brilliantly creative friends Karell and Dave and their scrumptious little one have sacrificed perfectly good t-shirts in support of my stupid cancer.

Blessed with creatively depraved friends

My talented and thoughtful puppeteer friend Weston makes me a giant boob cake which we only cut into at the very end of the party with a handful of stragglers looking on.

And it was delicious.

I take all this love and positivity and turn it to courage and strength for what’s to come.

Some missed opportunities on alternative event names…

  • A Ta Ta to Ta-Ta’s
  • Thanks for the Mammaries
  • Boob Voyage
  • Breast Wishes
  • Tits A Wonderful Life
  • For She’s a Jolly Boob Fellow

Hindsight is 20/20.

August 7–9, 2017

(after the party is the pity party)

For all the love and delicious boob cake, I’m still scared.

I am confident in my decisions, in the plans laid out for us and the people whose hands I’m putting my life in.

But that doesn’t mean I’m happy about what’s about to go down.

“Mastectomy” sounds so medical and so sane — but hello, a part of my body is getting am-pu-ta-ted. Not an arm or a leg but still, a big part of my identity. (well, not literally big… #ACup4Lyfe #BOnAGoodDay)

I’m scared because I’ve never gone under general anesthesia, never had any kind of surgery actually. I’m afraid of waking up groggy, in terrible pain and confused and terrified as to why my body has been mutilated. (Mirror…. MIRROR!)

And I’m scared because it’s not over after this — major surgery and recovery are merely the first giant obstacles in a gauntlet of sucky cancer treatment. I’m scared that there’s no looking back after this.

August 10, 2017 : Surgery Date

(Last Looks)

Since weaning, Quinn has replaced her requests for “nilka-nilka” with “malk” and “mommy-snuggle?” — a sippy cup of milk on mommy’s lap at night. In the absence of nursing I get more hugs now, more requests to sit on my lap. When I wear her in the Ergo carrier, she‘ll often rest her head on my chest, wrap her arms around me and relax her body, content to be my little baby koala.

From diagnosis to the day of my mastectomy, I pick her up whenever she asks. I hug her as much as I can. I humor every “dance party” request. Give all the Superman flights. I carry her on the street instead of using a stroller. I mean, I know I’m not different from most any other mom in this but I’m so fucking hyper conscious and grateful for every bit of contact I get to have with her now. Brian, usually the stricter of the two of us, even lets Q and I push ‘snuggle’ time way past her bed time. This is me taking advantage of all the things I won’t physically be capable of for a while. And in a weird way it’s also me trying to stock up a surplus of mommy/Q memories to sustain us through the drought when there won’t be any dance parties. (I mean, there will be daddy dance parties. But we all know who the better dance party-dance partner is. Hint: IT’S ME.) I will lose sensation on the left side of my chest. My soft breast will be replaced by a rock hard tissue expander until March 2018 at the earliest which won’t be comfy for either of us hug with. I won’t be able to carry her for a while.

Before we leave for the hospital, I record this Snapchat Story in honor of some of the things I won’t be able to do for a while after surgery, …

This is the COMPLETE list of things I do with my left boob/arm.

After having a laugh, I go “snuggle” Quinn on her rocking chair in her room before nap. For whatever reason she doesn’t settle into her regular cradled position into the crook of my arm. She goes in for a full frontal cuddle, facing me and hugging her whole little body against my whole body and I soak it up as much I can.

When a baby is born, skin-to-skin contact is encouraged in order to regulate their body temperature and stabilize heart rate. The moment my intense, black-eyed Q was born into the world, she was placed directly onto my chest. I distinctly remember the feel of her tiny little slimy body and how warm it was against my skin as we looked into each other’s eyes for the first time. I’ll never forget it.

So in this pre-nap cuddle, while Quinn is blissfully unaware of what’s to come, I am consciously making this moment a memory, absorbing this hug into every pore. Brian comes in to find me with tears streaming down my face. He tells me it’s time to call the Uber.

(no turning back now… )

All day long I’ve been getting texts wishing me luck. In fact, while en route to the hospital, I get one from the very friend who drove us this exact same route to the exact same hospital while I was in labor with Quinn.

You don’t get your scheduled OR time until the day before your surgery and yesterday they told me mine would be at “3…ish” so we should arrive at “1:30…ish.” So we do.

But we end up waiting so long, my phone eventually dies. I nap sitting up, I look over Brian’s shoulder at his phone, listen to some self-righteous nerd with a goatee and some beach souvenir t-shirt tucked into relaxed, medium rinse jeans drop mad knowledge on his elder relatives about everything from podcasts to politics… my favorite was his explanation as to why the hospital cafeteria ramen his relatives had was doomed to fail. Alright there guy.

Is this the hospitals’ strategy? To get you from “oh god i hope they don’t call my name…” to “come on, let’s just get this show on the road already!!” by the time they finally call you in? Maybe Goatee Souvenir Shirt was a plant for this very reason, who knows.

Around 4pm they call my name. I go in alone at first. I’m put in a tiny room with a big comfy chair. They have me undress and put on like… if 80’s David Byrne designed surgical gowns. It’s paper and gigantic and boxy and there are all these flaps that open and close with some high tech velcro. The OR prep nurse says she’s not a stickler and that I can leave my underpants on. Thanks! (worth noting I chose to wear pink underpants today.)

I get a pep talk from an anesthesiologist who looks like James Marsden with coke bottle glasses. If this was a movie I’d think the producers were nervous no one would believe someone this disarmingly handsome and down to earth was ALSO an anesthesiologist and that’s why they put nerd glasses on him. He explains the process and warns that nausea and vomiting is a common occurrence when patients come out of anesthesia. I ask him how long the procedure will take all together. (I’ve been telling everyone it will probably take like, a half hour tops.) Dr. Handsome says about 3 hours. (whoops, way off.)

Axelrod (aka Axe Lord) the breast surgeon and Dr. Choi the plastic surgeon both stop by to say hi, how are you doing, you’re gonna be fine, OK see ya in there!… like they’re headed first into a party that I just found out my ex-boyfriend is at.

I’m moved to a holding area. Brian comes to sit with me. I get an IV put in by a doctor (played in my mind-movie by Jillian Bell) who tells me I’m Axe Lord’s 6th mastectomy of the WEEK. Well, that’s at least comforting. Then another doctor comes in to tell me he will be filling in for Dr. Handsome who just went off his shift. (worth noting new anesthesiologist is ALSO young and handsome… what is the deal?)

Brian and I were joking and chatting in the waiting room. (when I asked if he could charge my phone while I was in surgery, he took my hands into his, looked me deep in the eyes and gave his solemn vow as if I was making a dying wish. “Yes. I shall charge your phone for you my love.”) But here in the holding area, prepped, dressed and moments away from my mastectomy, there aren’t any more words. No more chit chat, no more jokes. We just sit there and wait. Me and my rock, Brian.

A beautiful, young nurse with bright green eyes (like what IS it with this hospital?) comes to walk me to the OR. I kinda point and shake my left boob at Brian and have it say “Buh-Bye Brian!” in a Mickey Mouse voice. The OR nurse thought it was funny at least. I put on my little surgical hairnet, the piece de resistance to my fun ensemble, and follow her out.

Entering the OR is surreal. It’s kind of small and bare and not as slick and modern as I thought it’d be. There’s a table in the middle with two planks sticking out from it where my arms will rest, Jesus style. There’s some young OR staff busying themselves with pre-surgical… stuff? I say “WELL HI EVERYBODY!” I make some jokes, climb up on the table. Lying down I see so many lights above me. I am aware of someone injecting something cold into my IV. I remember saying, “You guys, this is CRAZY. Bwah!! OMG this is SO crazy, you guys!” And then next thing you know, I am awake in the holding area.

(after surgery)

By the time I wake back up in the holding area, it’s dark out. I was hoping Brian would be there. I guess the hot, young staff all went home. There’s an older, quiet Chinese nurse monitoring me.

I go in and out of sleep. I feel dried out. My throat is scratchy from where the breathing tube was. Luckily, I don’t feel nauseous.

Waking up in the holding area

Brian comes in with my brother Victor. He says that when Axe Lord came out to update him she said the OR staff thought I was hilarious and wanted me to hang out all day. I don’t remember being that funny. I think maybe their typical patient is probably older or maybe more, you know, what’s the word? Oh, respectful.

I’m usually the person who talks and makes jokes to fill awkward silences. But talking is tiring and physically uncomfortable and I’ve been blacked out for hours with nothing new to share. I wait for Brian and Victor to fill the silence, to make me laugh — but they don’t or can’t? Do I look that bad? The nurse tells them I need to rest.

The next time I wake up I’m ready to be rolled to my overnight room. I’m able to walk to my bed. Brian feeds me ice shards and little sips of water. (I haven’t had water or food in almost a day at this point.) The real pain starts to set in. It’s teeth-grittingly bad. I usually handle pain very well. But the Percocet is taking too long. I fall asleep gripping Brian’s hand.

Brian waits until I wake up to leave. He can’t stay overnight because I’m in a women’s wing — this explains all the cries of newborn babies I hear throughout the night. The sounds are actually sweet and comforting. The NYU nurses take good care of me. (like when my IV leaked saline all over me in the middle of the night and I had to change gowns.)

(The morning after.)

The next morning, feeling well enough to Snap

They send me home with Oxycodone and Valium. I think I use them each once, didn’t like the way I felt on them and then switch to Extra Strength Tylenol. After that first ouchy night, the pain is very easily manageable.

I have two clear tubes coming out of my side connected to drains which collect excess fluid coming off my surgical area. They basically look like… you remember the black bulbs that used to pump up blood pressure bands? Those, but clear. I am not as creeped out by them as I thought I’d be. Kool-Aid colored liquid comes out of them with the stray bits of clots or tissue. I need to dump out the contents twice a day into measuring cups and record how much Kool-Aid comes out. Then I have to squeeze all the air out of them before closing them back up to maintain suction.

My mom stays with us a few days to help us watch Q over the weekend, and cook and clean. She has not taken the news of my cancer well. She’s even instructed her friends at church to never bring it up. When I try to explain my drains to her she interrupts me and tells me to finish my lunch. And then when I try a second time later she says, “ok, I’ll just use my imagination, thanks.” She is constantly cooking or cleaning and says she wishes she could do more. I keep having to tell her I’m fine, it’s going to be fine. But seeing her daughter go through cancer, she says it’s broken her heart.

Quinn however adjusts very well to mommy’s delicate state. When she wants to do dance party or be picked up, we tell her “Mommy-Ouch, Mommy BIG Ouch.” She learns quickly. Sometimes she asks to “see?” my Big Ouches. It makes me sad though because I don’t want her to get too used to Mommy not being able to do things with her because “Mommy ouch.”

Showing Quinn Mommy’s “Big Ouch”

We are inundated with gifts, well-wishes, flowers and FOOD. So much food. It’s kind of a problem because I am also suffering from post-anesthesia constipation. So between my new flat-chest and bloated tummy, I cut QUITE the attractive silhouette.

I can’t straighten or lift my left arm too much. I have trouble breathing and taking deep breaths, so laughing for me has turned into a single “ha!” and some thigh slaps, or like shallow breathy inhale/exhales and like a finger point. Laying down flat is uncomfortable, and laying on my side is impossible, so I mostly lay reclined on a gifted husband pillow. The dressing around my chest is wrapped tightly with this magical clingy clear tape which they say I can take showers in, but I’m too weirded out to. Instead, when I’m feeling up to it, I gracefully squat in the tub with my drains clipped to the shower curtain and give myself half-assed spongebaths with Q’s whale scoopy bath thing.

August 16, 2017

(the bandages come off)

We meet with Dr. Julia Smith, who is responsible for my genetic oncology.

The good news: I’ve tested NEGATIVE for ALL known genetic mutations known to cause other types of cancers. Yay!

The bad news: we waited 2 hours in the waiting room to get news I could’ve gotten over the phone :/

Later that day I have my post-surgical with Axe Lord. We’re in the waiting room for a long time alongside a half dozen women all here to see her too. “Oh, but Axelrod’s worth it, she’s the best, oh she’s AMAZING.” The strangers all sort of cheer for each other as their names get called to go in.

Axe Lord takes my bandages off. My chest is just how I had sort of imagined it would be, with the added loveliness of rashes from all the medical tape. There’s a flattened mound where the tissue expander is and a horizontal-ish line of Frankenstein sutures across where my breast and nipple used to be. I also get to see where the two drain tubes are coming out from the side of my body for the first time. Brian gets front row instruction on how to re-gauze them after showers. We were hoping to get at least one drain out but I’m still producing too much fluid, especially for someone my size, probably because I’ve been walking a lot and keeping active too quickly. Axelrod says I’m healing beautifully even if it probably doesn’t look that way to me.

Because lymph nodes were removed, my arm’s ability to filter out baddies has been compromised. This means that for the rest of my life, I have to take care to reduce any risks of infections that could lead to lymphedema — a super gross looking extreme swelling of the arm. This means taking care of any cuts or burns with anti-bacterial stuff right away, no tattoos on the left (there goes my plan to eventually cover up the radiation tattoo i’ll get with with a radioactive symbol. not joking.) and apparently I can’t get my cuticles cut/pushed back at nail salons anymore. (not a problem because i think I get my nails done like, once or twice a year.) They do say that as a slimmer, younger person my risk is not as great as someone who is obese.

I’m given stretching exercises to do after my drains come out. Super easy stuff like walking your fingers up a wall until your arms are stretched all the way up or clasping your hands behind your head and stretching your elbows out… Right now, these all seem impossible.

(somewhere between Mr. Burns and Bob Dole)

Brian and I walk around all day between doctors appointment — running errands, enjoying the rare kid-free lunch out… In my mind, I feel like I’m doing pretty well. But Brian points out that I have a sort of Montgomery Burns posture and gait. My left arm wants to stay bent, my hand in a soft fist by my ribcage — kind of like Bob Dole, another friend points out. Did I also mention that I am experiencing this post-anesthesia side effect of being excessively greasy no matter how much I wash my face or stay in A/C?

In conclusion, I’m feeling super sexy.

I dunno, I think the Bob Dole pen just brings more attention to it.

August 18, 2017

(surgery pathology)

Nurse Robyn calls with the official pathology from my surgery.

Tumor was 2.4cm. Clean margins. Nipple was clean (RIP). They removed 12 lymph nodes and only two were infected. (we already knew about one being infected.)

No bad surprises is a GOOD thing.

(one drain down)

Dr. Choi is also pleased with how I’m healing. She too is surprised at how much fluid I continue to produce, so she recommends only taking out one drain to start. At this point the Kool-Aid has turned to a deep yellow with a tint of red — kind of like how concentrated yellow food coloring looks before you mix it.

The drain slips out without pain. They say they can’t take out the 2nd drain until the drains are only collecting 30cc’s of fluid a day, so to take it easy over the weekend. I was planning to go back to work on Monday but no one thinks it’s a good idea.

(day drinking)

Even though we told the doctor we’d take it easy, we already had tentative plans that day to meet up with a friend in Greenpoint. It’s just brunch, that’s not pushing myself right? Our nanny is watching Quinn with her nanny share twin at his house during my recovery time. And after this week I feel like me and my remaining gross, dangly drain deserve a nice rye. And then an IPA. And maybe one more drink somewhere else? Oh, greenpoint friend says her favorite place for cocktails is nearby? Well, then yeah, we have to right?

For the most part I’ve not been able to have more than a beer or two since before I was pregnant. Mostly because I was nursing, but also because I just get super sleepy after one drink and want to pass out on the couch. BUT thanks to this brunch, I’ve finally figured out the solution to wanting to party like I’m not a mom with a mom’s low nocturnal stamina: DAY DRINKING. We drunk stroll in the sunshine. We drunk try on sunglasses and make Terminator 2 references. I drunk purchase a wrap dress because I can’t pull any clothes over my head for a while. We drunk sing along to Oh Sherie at a bar. (well, I do at least) We drunk ask the bartender about her friend’s successful IVF birth. All before 6pm! IT IS GLORIOUS. Thanks Lesley, I really needed this.

August 19–20, 2017

(like that dumb song from Armageddon…)

Since taking the bandages off, I’ve not been able to sleep well. I can’t get comfortable and I wake up from anxiety dreams at night. The skin on my left side feels weird — mostly numb to the touch with some unpleasant tingling from within like when your foot starts waking up after falling asleep. The prickly pins and needles in my chest combined with the shortness of breath I’m still experiencing makes me physically feel like I’m having a sustained panic attack even though I otherwise feel fine. It’s unpleasant, especially when you’re trying to fall asleep. I wake up tired.

On Saturday I decide to take it easy for real this time. So Brian plans to take Quinn out of the house to let me rest. But it’s so hot out that instead of going to the park, Brian and our nanny share family decide to go to the Museum of the Moving Image. The Jim Henson exhibit just went up and I don’t want to miss out on seeing Quinn see Muppets and a life sized Big Bird and Elmo for the first time. Brian assures me that there will be other MOMI trips and I should just rest. But fuck it. I may be greasy, achey, tired and mono-boobed but I have to rally. I don’t know how many growing-up moments I’m going to miss because of cancer but, dammit, I’m going to try and get them as close to zero as possible.

Q and her buddy R take in some vintage media
“Big-Buh!”

August 21, 2017

(2nd drain comes out)

I’ve been active all weekend and the amount of fluid is still high, but low enough that they feel comfortable pulling out my 2nd drain, the bigger of the two. Thank god. I am so tired of these giant plastic testicles dangling from my side and it’s been so weird trying to conceal them in public.

Yay! No more plastic blood testicles!

Again, no pain as it comes out. But I’m surprised they don’t stitch me back up. Apparently I should shower without a bandage and keep changing the gauze as long as there’s stuff dribbling out of the holes. Lovely! When I mention that I’m glad I ended up taking this extra 2nd week off from work, the nurse says most people take 3–4 weeks after surgery to recover. Whoops.

(fertility confusion)

After I get my drain out, I get a call on my way to the subway.

It’s Nurse Christine at the NYU fertility center wondering what my decision was on whether or not I was moving forward on egg freezing. I’m confused because yes we decided to move forward a month ago when we learned it would be covered by insurance, I’ve BEEN in contact with Dr. Goldman the fertility doctor and the office about it, and also Nurse Christine YOU WERE THERE!

Well, now she has to order my medications, which is worrisome because I’ll need to start taking them on the 2nd day of my next period which is due any day.

Then, even though Nurse Christine doesn’t remember that I was going forward with egg freezing or that my insurance is covering this for medical purposes she says “Oh did you pick up the Letrozole and the antibiotics from your pharmacy?” (the Letrozole is a supplement to help keep my estrogen-positive cancer from reacting to the extra hormones from fertility.)

“Uh, no. Was I supposed to?” “Yes, it looks here like I ordered them July 21. I told you I’d be ordering them.” “Um.” “Well, you were very emotional that day, so that’s probably why you don’t remember.” BUT… why would you have called in meds when according to this phone call that you are making to me right now you didn’t even know I was going forward with the procedure???

Like, how often do nurses use this to excuse errors? “oh cancer baby honey child, you were in a delicate state, I totally told you to pick up that medication, you just didn’t remember because you are a delicate sad cancer thing.”

I already hate that this whole complicated process of freezing eggs has been thrust upon me. Especially since, again, Quinn was so easily conceived and we never thought we’d need to do this. The only reason we’re going through with it is because a) fucking cancer and b) we are lucky enough to have insurance that covers fertility for medical reasons. But who knows if I’ll ever even be able to use them. This is a lot to deal with without communication issues.

**note: Mercury is apparently in retrograde.

August 22, 2017

(Oncologist update)

My Andrea Martin oncologist looks a lot different than I remember. (probably because of my delicate cancer brain) She’s taller when she’s not behind a desk and much more glamorous without her glasses. I haven’t decided who to re-cast her as in the movie of my mind. So please continue to imagine her as Andrea Martin’s taller, more glamorous sister. If it helps, imagine that the beauty of Andrea Martin’s oncologist sister is what drove Andrea Martin to comedy in the first place.

Dr. Myers admire Dr. Choi’s handiwork and remarks on how beautifully I’m healing even though my chest might look like a mess to me.

Given the pathology that came back from surgery, her original plan has not changed.

12 weekly doses of Taxol

4 bi-weekly doses of A/C (aka: The Red Devil. Not looking forward to finding out how it got this nickname.)

3–4 weeks to “recover” from chemo (this is the bit that freaks me out… how bad is chemo that i’ll need a month to recover from it even after it’s done? Damn…)

6 weeks of DAILY radiation. :/ (daily?? that’s more than I floss!)

10 years Tamoxifen. (ugggghhhhhh.)

I ask Dr. Myers if she’s learned anything new from my surgery pathology that might make her feel more comfortable with letting me take a break from Tamoxifen to try to get pregnant? She says no, not really, but MAYBE-MAYBE-MAYBE there could be a break in 5 years, but there’s no promise. I mean, not that getting pregnant at 43 is at all what I wanted either.

RARGH.

I’ve been mentally bracing myself for surgery and recovery so much that I’ve forgotten how much this part feels like a gut punch straight to my soul, the fact that cancer dictates whether I can have another baby.

Also surprise — in the middle of this appointment my period starts. Looks like I’m starting fertility tomorrow.

August 23 — August 26, 2017

(fertility starts… kind of)

The whole egg retrieval process takes about 2 weeks of regular blood work and vaginal ultrasound exams and medications given by self-injection at home. I watch youtube videos to psych myself up for this, but they just sort of freak me out more.

Unfortunately, my cycle times out my egg retrieval date to be during one of the lab’s routine closings. I end up having to take 3 days of suppression injections to put my ovaries on hold until Saturday. The center donates the first injection to me since I don’t have enough time to order it. And since I’m already there, a Nurse Alex administers the first one for me. This is great because I get a first hand demo on how to mix the solutions and which needles are used for what. And when she injects me I see how tiny and relatively painless the needle is. This makes me feel so much better about doing this at home. I tell her if heroin addicts do this surely I can too. She agrees and says that addicts figure out how to inject themselves into the tiniest veins in the weirdest places that even she wouldn’t know how to get into. We joke about heroin junkies giving classes at nursing school. I mean, not that drug addiction is funny. Whatever. Anyway, I like Nurse Alex.

I go home and tag out Brian who goes straight back to the fertility center to give “blood n’ stuff” and sign consent forms (which include intense questions about what happens to the fertilized eggs if one or both of us die.)

Throughout the week there is some confusion about medication — We’re sent letters saying we’re denied coverage for all fertility medication (which in and of itself would be around $8000 out of pocket) to be told the next day we are approved. We’re told to pick up one med and wait for the other, to be then asked why we hadn’t ordered them. We’re “reminded” of meds that no one told us about or put in orders for. We have to remind them a couple times that this is covered under our insurance. And the explanations for all the different medications and syringes and timings and doses etc. are always given very quickly. I often say things like “wait, hold on so…” “no, no one told me that.” “let me repeat that back to you…” “can you write this down?” It’s frustrating.

They’re all lovely people but I think the day to day for these fertility nurses can be monotonous. This is a very controlled medical process that women elect to do— and seeing a revolving door of women taking the same rounds of medicines and getting same routines of blood work and exams day in and day out… it must be easy to take for granted how emotionally charged and deeply personal this process is for each woman — regardless of whether it’s cancer, infertility or because you’re a working woman in your 30’s/40’s holding onto your fertility rights. But Brian and I only have to deal with it for another week and change, so we just have to push through, hope for the best in terms of getting viable eggs on ice and move on to the next thing.

(mental marathon)

I’m starting to see that the greatest challenge for this next year will be managing the mental and emotional stress from one thing to the next. I have gotten through surgery with strength and humor and I’ll get through this confusing and emotional fertility process and then fuck, chemo’s up at bat. From diagnosis to surgery to fertility to chemo to radiation and beyond, it feels like I’m in the ocean trying to stand my ground against one giant wave after another with just enough time in between to steel myself for the next hit.

Lucky for me I have an enormous community of incredible people making sure that I’m standing on two feet no matter what threatens to knock me down.

Brian ends up administering the shots at home for me. The first one is in the bathroom while my mom watches Quinn in the other room. I pinch a bit of belly fat and rub alcohol on the spot while Brian shifts the syringe around in his hand, trying to figure out the most comfortable way to hold it. “OK ready?” “Yes.” “Right there?” “Yep.” “OK I’m gonna do it.” “You’re not gonna hurt me, I promise, go for it.” — In. Press. Out.

We look at each other and both start laughing and then we kiss and hug because life is so fucking weird and I wouldn’t do this with anybody else.

August 28, 2017

(two milestones)

  • I am flexible enough to put on underpants with TWO hands instead of lasso’ing them around my left foot and them pulling them up with my right hand. (baby steps!)
  • It’s my first day back at work today!
Welcome Back Dinosaur and Japanese lego guys

In good news, while I was gone my couple on 90 Day Fiance started to self-destruct…. so I have lots of other people’s drama to keep me distracted from my own. 😛

Stray Observations:

  • I guess I gotta get a wig now?
  • $1,444.73: That’s how much it cost for me to get diagnosed with cancer. (that’s WITH insurance.)
  • I tell ya, as someone who’s been historically averse to seeing doctors and taking medicine, this has been a mother fucker of a month.
  • The fertility doctor who examined me this morning told me that she’s seeing more and more younger women diagnosed with breast cancer. She said she had one who was a vegan/holistic eater and another who was a marathon runner, super fit, both with zero family history. OK good so I can continue to eat Extreme Doritos then?
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