Thursday, July 22, 2010

New (out)look

Since it had been a while that I had posted anything, I thought this blog could use a new look. After all, my active treatment phase has been over for a while now (thank goodness!)... So I explored the new template design functions within blogger and gave my blog a global overhaul. What can I say -- I think I am moving beyond my "pink" phase in some ways. 

This seems particularly appropriate since on July 20, I finally began the very last phase of my reconstruction process. This meant getting my very first tattoo -- or tatone, as I like to call it (since it is my first one; a second one might be called tattwo...). You may be tempted to think that I am crazy, getting inked and all. But not to worry, this is a medically approved, doctor-executed (thanks, Dr. K!), and insurance-paid (hopefully) part of my reconstruction. 

Let me explain: During my mastectomy, the butcher removed not only all breast tissue, but also the nipple. It didn't have any signs of disease, but this a common precautionary practice. So during my last surgery (see my previous post), my boob man had to reconstruct a nipple with some skin he removed from my healthy breast during the lift procedure that made that boob match my foob. So far so good. The only remaining issue was that the transplanted skin was much lighter than a real nipple, since it was skin-colored (duh!). Hence the need for tattooing, to make it darker so it looks like a real nipple-areola complex. 

So no, I did NOT get a "tramp stamp" or some other ink that I'll change my mind about in a few years and run to get it lasered off. This is a strictly medical tattoo. It came out pretty nicely, only a tad darker than my healthy side. But my boob man said that the pigments fade a bit over time, anyway. So now I am really, really happy with my reconstruction, as it looks remarkably real. That was important to me, as it helps me move on with my life and put that whole breast cancer thing safely behind me. 

It is so nice to be able to focus on living, rather than on being forced to concentrate on getting treatment! What a difference to one year ago. I know that I am lucky things have gone so well for me. I still follow quite a few blogs of fellow breast cancer survivors, not all of whom have been as lucky as I have. In recent weeks, some of those fellow survivors have had to face recurrences, or progression of their metastatic disease. Some other survivors have had to face diagnostic scares, which luckily ended up with benign findings in the end. 

But such is the life of a cancer survivor: Even if I don't think about cancer most of the time, any unusual pain, lump, or bump triggers that deep-seated fear of recurrence, relapse, or even worse -- metastasis. After all, our future is even more uncertain than everyone else's. In TNBC, for instance, survival rates are lower than for any other type of breast cancer, and recurrences are particularly common in the first two years. So as I near the 500 days past diagnosis mark, I realize that I am not past those most critical two years yet, and really should not be thinking about thawing out any of those twelve little embies we banked before my chemo. 

Instead, I try to focus on living as best as I can. Part of that was that I went on a trip that I had long wanted to make: China! We spent three weeks there and came back with unforgettable memories (well, they would be unforgettable, that is, if it weren't for my residual chemo brain), thousands of pictures, and plenty of stories to tell. One more thing to check off my bucket list, then!

Now I can focus on what other things I want to put on my bucket list, so I can focus on living, enjoying relationships, and loving it all -- regardless of what the future may bring. I suppose this is what they mean by the "new normal"???