Thursday, May 31, 2012

Update on Tattoos

I just couldn't bring myself to put the term "nipple" in the title of the blog post. Heaven only knows what kind of traffic it might have brought to my site, though!

One of my angels sent me info that there are, indeed, nipple tattoos and nipple reconstruction. Who knew!? Another amazing benefit of this process: the education value!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Oh, no you're not, young lady!

So here's what I've been thinking about for the past couple of days.

A nipple tattoo.

Stay with me.

When Rhett and I went in for my surgery consult, the CNP (certified nurse practitioner) showed us a picture of a woman who had had a uni-lateral mastectomy (the picture was only from neck down and ribs up).

What was startling to me was not the lack of the breast so much as the lack of the nipple.

I haven't researched if a nipple could be reconstructed, but I gotta' believe it can't be done.

So, that leads me to....

A nipple tattoo.

Here's the catch. I'm LDS (member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...crickets....yes, Mormon!) and our last president (my favorite so far, though I've only been a member for the duration of only 2 presidents), the venerable Gordon B. Hinckley, counseled the members to not get tattoos. The reasoning was along the lines of your body is a creation of God, beautiful as is, don't mar it with ink, etc.

I am on board (no offense if you sport a tattoo). First, because when I converted, I promised to honor the prophets' counsel (by the way, our presidents are also prophets) because I believe by doing so I will be blessed, protected, and happy.

So far, so absolutely good.

Second, I was never into tattoos. Frankly, I am surprised as all get-out that I made it through the latter half of my second decade on earth without one. No doubt the only reason was that there was not a tattoo parlor in walking distance of Water St. in Kent, Ohio, where I matriculated (go look it up; I'll wait).

Water St. was where most of the bars near Kent State University were. I think. I can't really remember. 'Nuff said.

(Disclaimer: I converted when I was 32 and graduated college when I was WAY younger than that. Jumping on the wagon was one of THE best things I've ever done, and I have the Church to thank for that. Best 3-step program ever--1. Faith 2. Repentence 3. Baptism). And all the meetings I could ever hope for. No coffee, though.)

Anyway, back to that nipple tattoo. Tthanks for staying with me.

So, I am left wondering, would a nipple tattoo really count as a tattoo or is it more like, well, reconstruction? Honestly, I am not looking for a way around the prophet's counsel; I am seriously wondering.

And Aunt Piddy, aren't you glad I didn't post any pictures with this entry?!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Garden in! (almost)

Rhett is all about growing some of our own food in an effort to become more self-reliant. Years ago he rototilled the flower garden (the day before I had an outdoor party!) that the previous owner had put in and nurtured to a glorious splendor, and this year he rototilled up a fence-side strip of garden.

Earlier this spring he put the cold weather "crops" in: radishes, broccoli, and green onions.
We've already harvested some of the radishes (seen above on the left).  Big radishes!

Earlier this week, for Family Home Evening, we planted most of the tomatoes.

BonnieBlue loves watering; so far, the only thing about gardening she likes, other than digging for "treasures" in the dirt.

Below are the plants we started with at the beginning of the evening.
After planting the tomatoes, Rhett put in the green peppers. He also put in those plants at the back/top of the picture, but for the life of me I cannot remember what they are. I think more broccoli. I still haven't gotten my geraniums in around front, but I will do that soon.

Here's a view of our garden from the back door before Rhett put in the green peppers. Off to the right, he is going to plant green beans, both pole and bush.
There will be quite a lot of beans and tomatoes this summer! Our intention is to do a bit of canning. I really want to can salsa, but also stewed tomatoes and, of course, green beans.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Where have you been?

Is that what you want to know?

The sad news is that I've been in angry land. I've been in angry land since the day of my last post.

I realized I was in angry land that day because the sweetest woman in the whole world asked me how I was doing and I jumped on her, all angry-like, telling her she can't be asking me that every time she sees me.

Who does that?

Resident of angry land, that's who.

A few hours later, I was sitting alone in a big room waiting for a faculty meeting to start and that's when it hit me. I am angry.

I am angry I am going through this again.

I am angry because I have to wait to excise the boob that is trying to kill me.

I am angry because I have to wait to find out if the cancer has spread.

I am angry because if it has spread, then this is what is probably going to kill me, not old age. I was okay with that 10 years ago. 10 years ago I was ready to die, even willing.

I am angry because this time I have a child, a precious child, and I am not so ready or willing to die anymore.

I am angry because I had to suffer through the loss of a mother to cancer when I was a child, and I do not want to suffer through what terrible agony my mom must have suffered knowing she was having to leave her girls behind to fend for themselves without her. But more than that, I don't want my child to suffer what I have every day since my own mom died.

There's more that I am angry about, but I really don't want to be a downer.

Have you ever heard of a "downer cow"? The term refers to any cow brought to slaughter that is unable to walk under its own power. Downer cows, by FDA edict, are not allowed to be slaughtered, so workers do everything they can to get the cows to stand up and walk under their own power, from prodding them with electric shocks to powerful waterhose blasts to other incredibly inhumane tactics. For the past ten days, I have felt like both a downer cow and a slaughterhouse worker trying to prod the cow to get up.

I'm exhausted.

By the way, the day after I realized I was in angry land, I apologized to the sweet woman and told her to keep asking how I am.

And now, I'd like to tell you a happy story. Maybe I should have started with that. Oh well. Better late than never.

The day I went to the doc to hear the results of my mammogram, I was supposed to stop at a stranger's house right after to pick up some free stuff. This is something I occasionally do because I participate in a practice called Freecycling. If you've never heard of Freecycle, it's essentially an online organization dedicated to keeping things out of landfills by assisting people in passing stuff along to someone else who wants it instead of throwing it away. To find out who may want it, you join the Freecycle Yahoo group in your local area and post an "OFFER" ad. Or if you're looking for something in particular you can post a "WANTED" ad. Rhett thinks I'm going to be murdered at one of the pick-ups, but so far so good. It's really a cool thing.

Anyhoo, I responded to a woman who was offering a pattern, the fabric, and everything else needed to make a summer skirt. Since I have a hard time finding skirts I like (and that fit right), and since making my own clothes is usually not nearly as cost effective as a good sale but I still kinda' enjoy sewing, I thought this fit the bill. The problem was that after finding out at the appointment that I would have to have a biopsy, I forgot about the pick-up and went on to work. "No-show"s are bad news on Freecycle, so when I got to work and remembered that I forgot, I emailed the person...let's call her tell her I was really sorry. And because I didn't want her to think I was a flake, I told her why I forgot, hoping she would forgive me and still let me pick up the stuff.

Turns out, she forgave me and told me not to worry, as she was a survivor herself.

What a coincidence!

Or was it?

There's a reason I call her Angel. I began thinking of her as an angel shortly after that day.

I asked if I could pick up that night, and she responded that that was fine. We exchanged a few more emails after I picked up, and I realized what a genuinely nice person she was. Through this entire process, what had been most troubling for me was that I didn't know anyone who had had a mastectomy that I could talk to. And that is how I get through things best, by talking to people who have been there before.

So, not-her-real-name-Angel is my Angel because, as it turned out, she has had a bi-lateral mastectomy. She was a sanity lifeline for me as she answered questions and gave freely the advice and counsel I so desperately needed.

I have no doubt that Heavenly Father put her in my path at the very moment I needed her to be there.

(Just so you know, none of that anger was directed at Him. I suppose that's what makes it hard to process through. If only I knew WHO to be angry at.)

Interestingly, just a few days ago, I got back in touch via email with the teacher in whose classroom I did my dissertation 8 years ago. I had contacted her months ago to guest lecture in my class but then never followed up with her. She was contacting me to follow up, and in the process of our email exchange, I began to remember that she also had had breast cancer and a bi-lateral mastectomy. I asked her about it and told her why I was asking. I have a lunch date with her soon, another person Heavenly Father put in my path to help me out.

Guess what her name is.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Surgery date set

I'm having a uni-lateral (that means only 1) mastectomy on Monday, June 18.

One day after my 14th wedding anniversary, by the way. What a way to celebrate, eh?

Here are some details I am going to share because so many people have offered to pray that I want to give them the specifics of the prayer (can't hurt, I'm thinking; I gotta' believe God loves specificity).

Although the atypical cells that are showing up on the mammogram are restricted to a duct (hence the diagnosis 'ductal carcinoma in situ'), the med experts have no idea if this is a new cancer or a re-occurrence of the old one. The profile of the cells from this recent biopsy are identical to the ones from the tumor 10 years ago, but that is not conclusive that it's a re-occurrence. It could just be a new occurrence with the same profile.

It's the best cancer, by the way. Isn't that funny? Not in a ha-ha funny kind of way, I realize, but you get me. If you knew you were going to get breast cancer and could choose the type, this is the type you should choose.

Anyway, at some point during my mastectomy surgery, the surgeon will remove 2-3 lymph nodes and biopsy them. Okay, I realize this is weird, but I LOVE the name of this procedure: a sentinal node biopsy. It conjurs an image of little blobs standing guard with full body armor and little spanish army helmets and swords, fighting off cancer cells in the form of arrows. The analogy breaks down a bit, I realize, as I would think it's difficult to fight off arrows with swords, so as I further develop the image, I see them wearing magic bracelets ala Wonder Woman to deflect those nasty little cancer bullets (instead of arrows because I'm not sure WW ever deflected arrows). That latter part, the Wonder Woman part, is more in keeping with the whole 'breast' part of the cancer, so let's go with that.

Hard to credit this pic: I found it on Google images, traced it to a blog, and then spent about 15 min trying to find the original source. I'm going to assume it's in the public domain. If not, may the copyright owner have mercy on me. 

Anyway, the nodes will be biopsied during surgery, and if they find atypical cells in those nodes, we jump to worst case scenario. Atypical cells there indicate 'invasive' which, of course, indicates cancer. We still wouldn't know if it's the old cancer or a new, but it suddenly occurs to me at this point, who the hell cares?

If the cancer is in the lymph nodes, then the surgeon will remove all the lymph nodes on that side (it's the right side, in case I've never mentioned that, 'cuz you know you'll want to look!), which has the potential long term complication of edema (swelling) of that arm. That alone is a sucky outcome but it gets worse.

I'll probably have to do chemo again. Yuk. The upside to that is that I have been REALLY hating my hair for the past few months so I'll be able to get that radical buzz cut I was so fond of 10 years ago (I'm not kidding here. I LOVED having no hair). The CNP (certified nurse practitioner) told me she can't put a percentage of likelihood on this scenario, but if she had to guess, she'd put it at 10-20%. Let me tell you, though, me and Murphy's law, we're like this:
image retrieved from

So, if you're wanting to pray for me (please!), here's the core of the prayer: no cancer cells in the lymph nodes! Thank you!

In keeping with my effort to find the gratitude (see 1 Thessalonians 5:18), the biggest blessing of all, despite the setback of having to wait 5 weeks (!) for surgery, is that my dear sweet sister-in-law (SIL) E (since Scarlett didn't have any brothers, she had no SILs so I'm just going to go with my SIL's initial E) will be coming down to stay and help out with my post-surgery care and Carmen. Yay!

Also, I'm going to go on a 5-week intense workout regimen. Best to undergo surgery as healthy as possible!

Friday, May 4, 2012


I like to think of myself as a calm person....oh, heck, no I am NOT.

I was told at my Tuesday surgery consult that the scheduler would call me the next day (Wed.), but I was free to call her as well. So, at noon on Wed., when I hadn't heard from her yet, I called.

"Oh, I haven't even looked at your orders yet. I'm sure I'll be calling by the end of the week."


Today, at 3:00 p.m., I couldn't take it anymore and called her again. Someone else in the office answered and said I should call her back in 5 min. I called 15 min later (amazed at my fortitude? me too). Same someone else answered. Bless her heart, she put me on hold to find scheduler. Scheduler, bless her heart, said she had all the orders in front of her and would call me back by the end of the day.

4:45! Ring goes the phone. I'm pleasant. It's not her fault. I'm told Monday, May 18. Surgery at 11:30 a.m., injection at 9:30 a.m., be at hospital at 8:30 a.m.

Great! Thanks! Call husband. He cautiously informs me that there is no Monday, May 18.


I am going to strangle someone! I immediately call back (4:50 p.m.). No answer.

So, I am either having a mastectomy on Monday, June 18 or Friday, May 18. I'm pretty sure my surgeon only does surgeries on Mondays and Wednesdays, so it looks like I have to wait until mid-June. I'm hoping against hope that she meant Monday, May 14. I doubt it.

Again. oh. my. heck.

Upsides to a June surgery (I'm working hard on that gratitude thing):
1. Quarter is over, so no need to freak out over getting coverage for class and how to get grading done.
2. Darling sis-in-law, who will be out of a job come June 1, will be able to come and take care of me and help with Carmen.
3. I have plenty of time to complete projects at work.
4. Might not have to take leave.
5. I could go to my niece's wedding in Houston.

1. I'm teaching a summer distance ed. course; I don't know how this works with leave.
2. I have to wait. If there is undetected invasive cancer, that kind of freaks me out that it's going to be 5.5 weeks before we know that!

#2 counts for, like, 100 downsides.

Okay, I'm going to take a deep breath and maybe go to the temple sometime this weekend. That should help.

And I might start a new sewing project.

During the time between my biopsy order and my biopsy, I was a crazed woman so I made this for my new iPad:

 My friend, Mama Pea, made one and reviewed the pattern and showcased the finished purse on her blog. I searched for patterns for an iPad carrier/purse but the one she found was the least complicated (and I still messed up). The pattern was designed by Julie at Intrepid Thread and shared for free at Cutting Corners College by Riley Blake Designs.

I had a really tough time because the pattern was specific to the Sweet Nothings fabric (Riley Blake designs), and I had a hard time mentally translating. I had to work off the computer screen because the pdf of the pattern was 60 pages long (or 90, I can't remember now) so I wasn't going to print it out, and it didn't occur to me to cut and paste right from the blog site into a Word document. Duh.

Anyway, the screw-ups weren't too bad, and it only cost me about $3 for the hardware, $2 for thread, and $5 for the fusible fleece. I already had the fabric. It did take me about 16 hours to make it, though, because I have such a hard time reading patterns. At my consultant rate of $100/hour, that's a $16,010 iPad purse.

Someone did ask if it was a Wang. Before she got up close.

The problem now is that I bought an Otterbox case for the iPad, so it will no longer fit in the bag.

I knew I was getting the Otterbox, but I didn't think it would be a problem to just take it out of the Otterbox occassionally. I should have read the reviews first. It is nearly impossible to remove the iPad once it's in the Otterbox. And, since my 5-year-old often uses the iPad, I think the durability of the Otterbox wins out over the cuteness of the bag.

What I discovered making the bag was how relaxed I was while sewing even though I had a hard time with the pattern. Given how stressed I was anticipating a painful biopsy (which turned out to be not painful at all), that is saying something.

Hence, I think I'm going to make another bag that the iPad-in-Otterbox will fit into. That might get me through this stressful weekend of waiting to verify when my surgery will actually be. Does anyone want the one pictured?

Thanks again for all your prayers and well-wishes!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


I thought I would know today when my surgery is going to be scheduled but apparently, the scheduler will call me tomorrow.

No news is definitely not good news.

So here's what I've been chewing on for the past hour or so.

I have been told by my HR director that, after surgery, I am not allowed to work until the doctor gives the okay that I can return to work. Hence, it is highly likely that I will be on leave during finals week and when grades are due. So I ask you this: Who is going to grade all those end-of-quarter projects and final exams, and then who is going to enter grades?