Sunday, November 14, 2010


I love salami sandwiches. To satisfy my craving, I made one this afternoon, even including mozzarella cheese, an additive I usually avoid to save fat grams. The sandwich was made even more delectable when I toasted my favorite wheat bread. Satisfied with my creation, I took the sandwich outside in order to enjoy to sunshine and admire the passing golfers.

Relaxed and content, I glanced to my left and spied my grandma’s, DeeDee’s rose bush. For those who do not know, we purchased my grandma’s house from my parents about 10 years ago and there are certain aspects of the house that will always be DeeDee’s. One of them is this white rosebush. Today, I noticed that the petals on the roses were extraordinarily white, wherein they are usually more of a cream color, were usually brown around the edges and often had pinkish spots on the petals. It was a bright day, but even as I approached, the lily white color reflected the light in a way that I never remember seeing before. I was puzzled. I never care of the rose bush the way I should. Our gardener only trims it back, year after year.

As I returned to my seat on the patio, I had a fleeting thought that the rose, pure and beautiful, reflected my own self. Pure and beautiful. I thought the dots were like my cancer and the not so beautiful cream color with tattered edges that the roses used to be, represented the way my life was prior to cancer. Very symbolic, in my mind. I had a moment.

I was diagnosed with cancer on November 12, 2009. I celebrated my year anniversary of survivorship on Friday. My husband bought me an exquisite bouquet of pink flowers. We celebrated dinner at the Bali Hai Restaurant, where we splurged by ordering hors d’oeuvres and dessert. We talked. We laughed. We reflected on where we have been and where we are going. I shared with him my inner most thoughts about the person I am today. A survivor.

So, the day after this celebration, as I sat and admired this beautiful rose bush. In my yard. At my house, my children inside doing things that kids do. My husband busying himself with chores. All is right in my world. And the image of DeeDee's beautiful white roses will be forever be burned in my brain as a symbol of my past and my future.

Friday, November 12, 2010


The post below was first published on the site where I am a regular contributor, Writing, Writer, Writest. Though inspired through a WWW topic, the piece is deeply personal, so I wanted to share it on Nip It as well. Enjoy.

I have mixed feelings about the mirror. Sometimes it glares at me stonily. Sometimes it boosts my confidence. Sometimes it is indifferent, as if I am just one of its many minions for which it does not have time to pass judgment. Always, though, the mirror reveals the ravaged scars on my chest where breasts once perched. Always, it tells me if my wardrobe choices succeeded in hiding said scars. Always, the mirror shows all, tagging me awake, as if to say, “you’re it!”, as it turns and runs away.

Mirrors have been my enemy this year. They were the impoverished newspaper reporter thirsting for a real story who always settled for the scrupulous scandal where truth was subjective and lies breached even the sweetest memories. When I lost my hair and wore my buttery soft sleeping hat for the first time, I did not recognize the person in the mirror. That person was a cancer patient. I cried. I remember the moment clearly. Months later, a steady gaze in the mirror revealed one remaining eyelash on my lower right eyelid. I became practiced at only employing focused glances to check specific features of my appearance.

However, I love clothes. In fact, I am not ashamed to admit that retail shopping is almost guaranteed to change my mood. Putting together a really great outfit will do the same. You need mirrors for that. Sometimes more than one.

My colleague teases me about my extensive wardrobe. Truth be told, she is right. I have a lot of clothes. However, I work in an industry where appearance is crucial, where shoes are shined and shirts are pressed. I feel justified in always having “the right” thing to wear. It feels good. It helps me walk tall.

I have needed that lately. Clothes fit awkwardly and I consistently misjudge necklines I think will completely hide my scars. That said, dressing usually requires time to try on two or more outfits, my discerning eye for fashion not easily satisfied. For example, a typical flip through my closet reveals an article of clothing that I would like to wear. Sometimes it is a shirt, sometimes just a belt. I then go about deciding if my clothing inspiration covers all it should. As the layering of the outfit progresses, I feel like I am donning a costume, the costume that helps my mind go on, even if my body has temporarily lost its will.

Stuffing my bra is another morning ritual, one I usually complete with haste. Seeking perfection has no place right now. It is an odd thing, really, and it’s further complicated by the fact that I have no nerve endings in my chest wall. As my bra and its contents slip around throughout the day, I don’t receive any sensational warning that something is out of place.

Carefully, I spot check throughout the day, still avoiding the mirror.

I think nearly everyone has a love-hate relationship with mirrors at some point in their life. There is a particularly vindictive ceiling-to-floor mirror residing on the wall with the elevators in the building where I work. It is impossible to avoid, unless you plan on tramping up and down the ten flights of stairs leading to the fifth floor. In the sordid moments spent waiting for the elevator each day, this mirror takes pleasure in reminding me that my clothes do not flatter my shape as I thought they did when I put them on in the morning. I think it also conspires with the overhead lights to accentuate the bags under by eyes, usually making my skin look painfully sallow. I make it a practice to hit the elevator button and then stand five feet back and to the side. It’s a little dance I have learned over the years . . . not letting the mirror have a spot on my dance card.

These days, my bathroom mirror is sometimes kind. I enjoy a sprinkling of good hair days, make-up helps to accentuate eyebrows, and my eyelashes have grown back and don mascara. I think I will always have misgivings with every glance in the mirror; I cannot imagine a woman who does not. But one day soon, I know the scars will not be all that I see.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

To a Grapefruit

My expander was filled with 100 more cc's of saline yesterday. Or as Steve put it, "It went from the size of an orange to the size of a grapefruit." As I am writing this, it occurs to me that I do not know quite what to call "it". It is not quite a breast in my mind. It is more like a section of skin that is slowly expanding with every visit to the plastic surgeon.

I will say that it makes me happy to have "something" on my chest big enough that matches the size of my prosthetic, which I have resumed wearing. Wearing my prosthetic means I get to wear my pretty bras from Nordstrom's. I know my women friends understand: pretty bras just make you feel more feminine.

So, to the surgery....This week, Dr. Scott officially filed paperwork for my reconstruction. He estimates up to a six month wait, but at the same time, was fairly confident that I would be able to have surgery in March 2011. This is my goal month: far enough away from summer to where I will be fully recovered  for our family vacation yet after State Cup, when Harrison will end his soccer season. Of note, I am making special dispensation for State Cup, as it involves at least one weekend of travel. Since we have never been, I did not want Steve to be in a position to have to go it alone. (Plus, I heard the parents have just as much fun as the kids do....and I do not want to miss out!)

I chose my implant: gel. Also, known as the "gummy bear" type. We talked about my options for surgery again. I am confident. I have one more fill on my expander to go, unless we decide to over fill. It still does not hurt or cause me any discomfort.

Finally, Dr. Scott and I spoke of my plan to run a half marathon in February. He is 110% behind the idea as he feels that people who have been through what I have been through desire a sense of physical accomplishment. That, and he agrees that my training will help prepare me for surgery, which will be my most painful, trying surgery to date.

I can hardly wait for both. Today, I am nursing the start of what could be shin splints. I used to run on the Cross Country team in high school, so I am familiar. They worry me a bit.....but I hear that a lot of stretching will help to curtail their painful affects. I will keep you posted....grapefruit and all........