A weighty issue

I received a serious assignment from my doc. Now don’t laugh when I tell you this, because it’s not funny, and don’t say “lucky you” because I’m not so lucky. It’s serious.

He wants me to gain weight. A lot of it. So he can build my new boobs. 

We’ve had this conversation a couple of times and I’ve stuck my fingers in my ears and said “la la la, I can’t hear you” because I didn’t want to do this. I’ve spent most of my life beyond the age of about 15 trying not to gain weight. When you’re five-foot-nothing, there aren’t a lot of places to hide the extra pounds, and I personally don’t like the way my body feels with a lot of extra weight on my frame. I’ve never been a skinny chick and don’t aspire to be, but don’t want to be mistaken for a contestant on The Biggest Loser, either.

I worked hard to prep my body before and after my mastectomy, to gain as much muscle strength and cardio conditioning while fueling myself with a good diet. I also played as much tennis as humanly possible in the weeks leading up to surgery. It all paid off, too, with a shorter surgery, no need for Alloderm (cadaver tissue used to connect and close mastectomied chests), and a pretty easy recovery. Because I was in good shape, I was up and out of the hospital bed the day after surgery, trolling the halls. When I got home, I had a decent amount of independence because I didn’t need much physical assistance. That was, and is, important to me. So the idea of turning into a big blobby girl, even temporarily, scares me.

The first few times Dr S brought it up, he warned me that I didn’t have enough belly fat to build the new girls. At that point, reconstruction seemed so far away that I didn’t pay much attention. But the last 2 times I’ve seen him, he’s been more stern about it. I hate it when he gets stern with me.

When I saw him a couple of weeks before Christmas, I told him I’d been drinking a few beers for the first time in 15 years, and I wasn’t playing much tennis because of a recurring foot injury. That was about as much as I was willing to commit to his “living large” plan. I did the usual indulging over the holidays, but I also went to the gym.

So when I saw him the other day, instead of shrinking from his “examine the fat” game as I have in the past, I told him I’d been working on a big project — a BIG project — and showed him my newly rounded belly. I was sitting on the exam table so my belly even hung over a little bit. I thought it was quite impressive, as it’s the biggest it’s ever been without a fetus inside of it.

He was not impressed. Not even a little bit.

He told me to pull my jeans down a little and gave me the pinch test, then had me bend over to see how far it hangs. So much fun. I live for that game.

Then he made a very stern face and said it’s not enough. It’s still not enough. It’s enough for one side, but not both. And maybe not even enough for one. Since I have impossibly high standards and insist on a matched set, that’s a problem.

Dr Sternface says I’m not really even a candidate for the DIEP flap procedure, but since I have no other options, we have to try and make it work. I was thinking about this later and wondered, if I’m not a candidate but don’t have any other choices (i.e., tissue expanders to implants), what’s a girl to do?

Eat, girl, eat. And then eat some more. Then have a beer. Followed by a milkshake.

People make fun of me for being a healthy eater. I genuinely like oatmeal with blueberries. I love salad. Not being a carnivore eliminates a lot of the unhealthier options for me, and I like it that way. I’m not super picky but I don’t like drive-through food in general, and I don’t get the “all you can eat” places at all. I’m not a big junk-food junkie, and usually whatever I cook is way better than that stuff anyway. Not being conceited, just stating a fact.

I’m not doing a very good job with my assignment. Yesterday I had half a bagel with a piece of melted provolone and a handful of blueberries. It felt pretty indulgent to me. Lunch was two pieces of leftover pizza, with an orange. Cheese & crackers for a snack before we played tennis, then dinner after with the tennis gang at a BBQ place. I had pinto beans with pickles, coleslaw, green beans, some mac & cheese and a few fries. Oh, and a roll. Wish I’d thought to put butter on it. Melanie told me that I wasn’t going to get the job done eating all those vegetables and suggested I get a milkshake. Every day.

Today we played 3 sets of tennis and I was hungry. We splurged on brunch at the club, which for me meant mixed fruit, cheese & crackers, salad with lots of blue cheese dressing, and some tuna. Mimosas, of course. Then some pasta with artichoke hearts, mushrooms & sundried tomatoes. Then a few bites of seafood ettouffee. And a sliver of key lime pie and a chocolate-dipped strawberry.

I feel kinda sick.

My doc keeps saying he just hates the idea of me going through this giant surgery and hard recovery and not being satisfied with the results. I keep telling him that any change over the status quo will be an improvement, and I’m ok being average. At least in this one category. He doesn’t seem to believe me, even though we’ve had the same conversation repeatedly.

He wants me to go see the other surgeon who will help him with my case. I’ll have to see what she thinks about the bulk-up plan. Meanwhile, I need to think of a new t-shirt slogan. Something like the “baby” with an arrow pointing at the pregnant belly t-shirt, only a different kind of “under construction.” Any ideas?

A word about menopause

If you’re a guy, you might not want to read this because it’s, well, about menopause. If you’re a gal who’s not yet experienced the joys of menopause, you might not want to read this because it will scare you. A lot. If you’re brave enough to venture forth, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Because my cancer was fed by estrogen, after we got rid of the cancer we also had to remove its fuel source, to discourage it from coming back. Hence the stoppage of estrogen. The most direct way to stop the estrogen is to remove one’s ovaries in a lovely procedure called oovectomy (which would also be a seriously high-scoring Scrabble word). If you’re still fighting a wily infection, like me, being cut open in a hospital of all places is a pretty risky move. Especially since the hospital seems the most likely culprit in the age-old question of “How the Hell Do You Even Get an Infection Like That?” While it’s unlikely that my infection would travel from the chest wall to the nether-regions,  that’s a chance I don’t want to take, and frankly the idea of another hospital stay gives me the vapors.

Since I’m not ready for the oovectomy, I get the next-best option of hormone suppression, which is a shot of Lupron every 3 months, and a daily dose of Tamoxifen, which is a SERM (selective estrogen receptor modulator) drug. The latter half of that acronym makes me think of  something coming out of the Johnson Space Center instead of a prescription bottle from Walgreens, and talk about some great Scrabble words. Build one of those on a triple word spot and you’re damn close to world domination.

So I’m going along in my cancer journey, minding my own business, doing all the things I’m supposed to do, no matter how unpleasant, and yes it’s really good news that the cancer is gone and the infection is on its last legs, too, but do I really have to deal with menopause, too? That just seems mean. You’re seriously going to tell me that battling both cancer and a nasty infection doesn’t exempt one from the hell of menopause? Mean.

I foolishly thought I’d have another decade before having to face the evil triumvirate of menopause: hot flashes, age spots, and weight gain.  Even more foolish was the idea that, compared to cancer, menopause would be easy. Silly me.

Living in Houston, land of eternal summer, during hot-flash season, is a challenge. Come to think of it, neither Houston nor hot flashes have a season, so it’s game on, all the time. Local ladies, if you have any remedies for this please pass them on. I have yet to come across a mobile AC unit. I’d be waiting on the doorstep of Radio Shack to purchase said item and would wear it proudly, if only it existed.

So as I’m mopping my sweaty brow after one particularly potent hot flash, I notice some brown spots on my face. Little specs, bigger than freckles but not as big as liver spots. I tried to pick one off, wipe it away, flick it somewhere, anywhere, to no avail. These babies are staying. There’s a constellation near my left eye, and a nice fat one on the inside corner of my right eye. There’s a trio on my forehead, a few singles lingering on my jawline, and God knows where else that I’ve been too busy fighing cancer to really notice up close. Thank you to all my friends for not pointing them out to me. I know you’ve noticed, but were too charitable to tell me I was growing a connect-the-dot game on my face. And there’s a travel version of this game growing on my hands. I’m aging quite visibly as we speak. Thanks, cancer. You bastard.

While the hot flashes are unpleasant and age spots are depressing, the weight gain is really making me mad. I hope there is a special corner of Hell for whoever came up with the hair-brained idea that women will not only lose their breasts but also face scary treatments, complications and all manner of pain & suffering and then gain weight too? That is one messed up system.