Tag Archives: shopping

New Side Effects, New Sizes, New Fashion, New Season

Radiation is not fun. Now, on the spectrum of not fun things this year it’s probably not as bad as chemo, but in some ways it’s more insidious than the surgery. With surgery each day was an improvement, now I slide downhill. After surgery, the pain was moderate (when asked what my pain threshold was a friend answered for me – DUDE, she took tylenol a day after her double mastectomy). But, this is uncomfortable, painful, and daily.

I have never had that wonderful skin that bronzes beautifully and glows happily in the sun. I have been blessed with a fair complexion that freckles and burns and makes keloid scars for even a mole removal. Ironic that I thought skin cancer would be my bane. I like my skin in general, but all of a sudden, a curse – red as a lobster on impacted areas, tender from swelling on areas where I would LIKE to wear a support undergarment and rosacea of the face somedays. My doctor proscribed daily rinses – “so it won’t peel” – great, not even a chance of a sun tan after all this? I find myself daydreaming of times naked in one of Davis’ old shirts.

So much has changed – I find shopping therapeutic in ways it never was before. Part of it is I keep trying to find things that flatter my new strange-to-me-shape. I try to find things that work in pixie haircut land. Accentuate the positives, right? Just when I feel like I have a little wardrobe for summer it turns 50 here! I scramble – no pants! Which sweaters? What shirts? I have discovered the magic of tunic shirts and leggings.

I finally took everything out of my closet that I can’t wear right now. It was exhausting but so was the feeling of looking at it every day and wishing I could fit into it again. I’m realistic – there is likely a chance I will, but there’s also a chance I won’t – my five year dosing of tamoxifen may impact my body into fat hoarding.

Regardless I have to say I am thoroughly confused when I do shop – I can figure out what size to get for tops, but is it just me or are the sizes for bottoms crazy? I can’t find something that fits my waist – and my bootie – without falling off my thighs or being two inches too long. I am going to -ack- actually go shopping for jeans and try on different sizes and shapes and models. Does anyone like doing that?

Though I have won the battle against cancer, the war continues – and I want you to remember this. When we are cancer free, we are not always treatment free. When we are done with chemo the hard part is not always over. Hug your survivor friends, love them through and past the first battle because the hits keep on coming., You like your hair – sorry. You like your waist? Cancer will take that too … and forget about the silhouette. How about your metabolism? Mood? Skin sensitivity? Ability to get to sleep? Now I’m left with my sparkling wit and personality. Good thing I have a fantastically supportive husband. Along with adoring friends and family and three amazing children of course.

There it is, the thread back to happy.

And, the news that only 13 more treatments of radiation. 6 of those with the dreaded bolus. In radiation therapy, bolus is a material which has properties equivalent to tissue when irradiated. The bolus is laid on my skin to  increase the skin dose – yup that’s right, to make my skin MORE red. Run cancer baby cells. You cannot hide.


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Crispy on the Edges

I’m not going to lie. I know this is going to be another NOT fun month. I am trying to keep up with the fun stuff (the soccer, the kids, Halloween decorating) but the radiation has already started giving me the burn. And by the burn I mean a full on sun burn over the upper left quadrant of my body front and back.

Yes, I was warned. Yes, I have meds – aquafor, Nivea, specialized aloe, miderma. But I am purposely going each day to lay down and get sunburned. Each day. My days haven’t been as good because tummy sleeper that I am it has suddenly gotten complicated at night. Uncomfortable.

The radiation websites say to “wear loose clothing that doesn’t touch the areas impacted” and to “avoid contacts with binding materials.” UM HELLO. Are we not supposed to wear a bra during this six week thing? Stay at home in bed with an old T shirt on? I did that yesterday but I couldn’t today. And what about kids? I know they are trying to be helpful but there should be a guide for “how to cope with radiation when you HAVE to wear a bra because your boobs are in it and you have three young children you don’t want completely freak out” Now that would be helpful.

As it is, I nap just about every day now – and we are only entering week three – the little bump in energy I had from getting over the surgery is moving downhill. I’m sure if you polled my cells they would be growing increasingly disenchanted with the “state of my body” – probably foreign and domestic both.

And why do they weigh you in every time you go to the doctor? I am sure that I have changed body shape – I am back to a medium sized top consistently, but not my weight number … and I am not a medium on the bottom. It’s an uncomfortable feeling when you put on your 6 foot three inch husband’s shirts and they no longer swallow you up.

But, October 29th is in sight. The end of this part of this leg of this journey. Then a break from treatments and surgeries until at least 2013. Small victories after large ones. I went shopping and got some new jewelry and makeup and get constant comments on that. Along with my fabulous haircut. Gennifer Goodwin totally copied me.

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Two Radiations and Four Pumpkins

I have so many words rattling around in my head that I can’t sleep. I guess that means I’m a bit of a writer now because as soon as I get this down I’m sure I’ll feel better. I have so much joy in my life – the kids are throwing up Halloween decorations willy nilly – with frantic interruptions from the nanny and I to be careful with that! Or don’t use the glow necklace NOW! We are deciding on costumes – Henry will be Darth Vader (again), Emmy wants to be a pirate princess (again) and Carter is deciding between Jengo Fett and an elephant. Don’t ask me.

But, it has been an immensely tiring week. The radiation is tiring not so much because of the light rays, but because it is a procedure – daily – that is uncomfortable. I have to have both hands over my head throughout. My left arm in particular doesn’t like that very much and it’s tight and sore and yet I have to hold it for 20 minutes. Machines whirr and click around me – x rays, the radiation machine. The techs talk to me, but all I can do is grunt a reply because I am concentrating on not moving, not curling my arm into a ball and assuming the fetal position. I am naked on my top half – exposed – as usual. I know that with each day I grow closer to the end. After today I am down to 31 more.

Every working day at 10am I drive to my appointment for the next six weeks. Before that, I will have strapped on my new beautiful comfortable and realistic “forms” from Nordstrom.

In what had to be an incredibly awkward adn hilarious moment, Davis walked in on me having the nanny feel my new ladies. He declined the offer to be next (“maybe later” he said). I brushed beside him in our bathroom on purpose and then he had his turn. How does it feel to me? Weird, funny, but ultimately, I can’t feel.

Because I was so tired today I wore my power outfit. As if I would go do something important and athletic. My Gap Body yoga pants, my Gap body short sleeved sweatshirt in pink, and my new shirt from my friend Dara: “This survivor kicked cancer’s butt”

Somehow that helped me get the twins to school, make my requisite Target run, get radiation, then plan for the creation of four pumpkins for Fall Fest

Making this in black:

Halloween Pumkins

Kids in Carter’s class making these owls: Amelie's House: HOLIDAY PROJECTS 3. Hooty owls with Halloween flavor.

And making this pumpkin with glow in the dark paint. Haven’t decided orange or black.

love the white& black for Halloween..


Maybe after all of the other work I did today, it should be pink.

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Happy Birthday Henry, Happy Radiation Mommy

The most important thing is Henry is seven. He is a gifted, sweet boy – according to his teacher although I am unabashedly biased. His birthday was an overwhelming success, and the piles of robot, Star Wars, and LEGO presents around the house show how well his friends know him. It was an amazing day – we had two soccer games on Saturday and a birthday party in the afternoon – hosted thankfully at a local gym instead of hour house.

But, it was a big day – even without my body still reeling from surgery and chemo and inactivity. And, of course, as a former soccer coach – former not by choice – I couldn’t sit still. I paced the sidelines, kept time, yelled in orders. I am sure I was a terrible parent but I hope I was a helpful co-coach. Don’t tell me if I wasn’t.

Last night I had a realization. I am going to have to schedule naps. I am going to have to put time on the calendar for resting, for blogging, and will have to give up much of what I gathered back. It is the natural order of things for the pendulum to swing from busy to lazy and back again. My pendulum swang too fast.

It’s all about choices at this point – some are not mine. I went to see a gastroenterologist today because with all of the stress and hormonal imbalance I have started having debilitating cramps and IBS. SUPER fun. I was given fiber and a muscle relaxant. Not my choice. I had a meeting with my radiation oncologist. He said “I hope you don’t hate me because you’re doing this.” “I don’t,” I said, “I came back didn’t I?” But it wasn’t my choice. Not really.

Today when I told the twins I would not be able to pick them up at school because I was going to see another doctor. Emmy says from the back seat “Why do you have to go to another doctor, Mama? The cancer is all gone?” Because, honey, I don’t want it to come back. (That’s my choice.)

The radiation oncologist took a CT scan of me to help with positioning. I have red sharpie crosshairs on my body – the kids wanted to make sure that it didn’t hurt. Not yet. I start on Thursday for 33 days of chemo – every morning at 10:20am for basically the next 6 weeks.

In “form” news my boob is wandering around the state of Texas I guess. No word from Nordstrom. I told a friend and she said maybe we should take pictures with the form like Flat Stanley. Here it is on the Riverwalk. Here it is at the Alamo.

I would like to get used to the forms – I am sure that my back will be tired after getting used to nothing on the front. I now understand why some women have to get reductions because of their back. Honestly, the irony is not lost on me.

We got a package yesterday and I was so excited – it was from Nordstrom’s. No boob – just a swim suit and two bras. I was disappointed. For once, UPS had not brought the happiest! How odd for our UPS man that once he brought gifts for our wedding, then for our children, and now I wait for a boob?

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I realized after finishing my post it was a symptom of my mood … After two naps today I was struggling to determine how to voice my moving forward speed. But I didn’t tell of the joys of this week. The small joys, the big ones. The news that keep me going, us all going. Henry and I had a special movie night in his honor Wednesday …SAM seminal moment for any child of our, the watching of the first star wars movie. He had been playing wii Lego star wars and so knew the characters .. C3po “worries too much” he would say in the movie, and I was there when he got worried. What happened to Obie wan? Did he die? Was he part of the force? After, he said it was way more awesome than he thought and less scary, now he is planning for our next movie … I’m hoping we move to Indiana jones 🙂 I also made a decision this week for me. There are some clothes I have in my closet that I save for special occasions … Like china for our wedding. I decided this week to wear the pretty clothes, wear what I want and feel good in because that’s what really matters … Not if the sequins fall off or the thing has to be dry cleaned. Right now we are going with happy, in between the naps …I think it’s a good philosophy.

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Real Life is Exhausting

I was kidding myself. I was kidding everyone. Or maybe I just didn’t want to believe. After all, seven months of forced solitude, forced inactivity can lull you into believing that when you feel good you can go into your wheels fall off. Boy did the wheels fall off today.

Close your eyes and imagine three children – precocious, happy, energetic and independent. Starting school – three different classes, two different schools. Activities: two soccer teams (Dad coaching the twins team), robot building, dance, math pentathlon, cub scouts, art, and cooking. This is 1st grade and preK, mind you. We are operating at full bore after a week and a half.

This would be exhausting for any of us – even with out my previous life, right?

Now imagine, me – three weeks after bilateral mastectomy surgery, finally able to walk, to move and to sleep in my own bed. I have a haircut that people think I got on purpose. I have a wardrobe pieced together from previous purchases and additional elastic waistbands. And, I’m driving. But, I have no battery as a friend compared.

I had so much on my schedule yesterday it expanded beyond the confines of the calendar onto a separate piece of paper. And, it truly highlighted what has now become my new normal – two lives. One, lunch with Pink Ribbon Cowgirls complaining of share issues with radiation (starting next week for me), weight gain, hot flashes, hormone regulation, reconstruction. The other life, curriculum night for school – learning that my 1st grader will have Chinese instruction in his classroom twice a week as part of our elementary school immersion. Ni hao!

It’s an odd place – people I meet think this is my life, I have chosen this hair, I have chosen this body. I look in the mirror and see a work in progress – a paper doll with no identifying characteristics and realize how lucky I am to be standing there. I realize that I don’t like how I look – who does, really – but hopefully it will be transitory.

Then, I learn of the steps yet to take in my journey – the fatigue that will arise, again, during radiation. The hormonal shifts from the endorcrine therapy (tamoxifen) for the next five years. The additional procedures during reconstruction. But, I’m here – and tomorrow, we have two soccer games and Henry’s 7th birthday party. So much for dismantling the care calendar.

Finding the balance between my two lives – between my old life and my new life will become the order of the week this week. How can I shoulder some of the parenting burden while also taking care of myself? And, my beautiful, amazing, talented children – continuing to love and support, engage and learn.

All while waiting for my second boob to arrive in the mail from Nordstrom. It’s on backorder.

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Two steps forward, thirteen new questions

It’s a two week milestone today – two weeks from my bilateral mastectomy for those of you new to the story. Seven months from the mammogram that changed the move to Dubai into a stay and fight … and a week from the cancer free report card.

Today I did 15 things. OK, maybe it was 10 or maybe it was 18, but it was a lot – some seemingly incongruous with normal life (aka buying boobs at Nordstrom’s with my Mom) and some totally normal (grabbing breakfast on the run) and some totally normal but in this new normal somehow special (driving around the block by myself). But the important thing is that it was a list – a big list – and it all happened today. There was a time not that long ago where I dared myself to do one thing a day. To make one extra phone call, to write a blog post, to do just one thing outside of the pure process of living and healing and surviving. How fast things can change.

The oddities start piling up at this stage in the game as well – I am healthy looking and so most people I meet will no doubt believe I purposely chose this haircut, that I look this way physically. Oh how I wish I could tell them.

I have conversations I never thought I would have – just tonight, with my Mom and my husband we had a conversation about when I should put my boobs on in the morning. At Nordstrom’s today, I got my new “forms” – I have a pair for regular use (that sit inside of pockets sewn into my bras) and a swim pair (lighter weight, and able to withstand chlorine – for the Disney cruise and the last few days of summer). The swim forms were a splurge – can you believe that’s what I now call a splurge? But a girls gotta have girls on a cruise.

We showed off my forms – Davis, my Mom, the nanny – they are fascinating (ask if you want to peek). The amount of engineering – lifelike, yet clearly imitation. With wicking components, multiple angles, and yes, even a nipple. They are not real, but they are darn close. In fact, by the end of the day my back hurt – was it from the new weight adjustment?

Anyhow, back to this conversation -about when I need to put on my boobs – and I’m curious about other Moms out there. Clearly, I am not a sight for preschool eyes. unclothed. It’s not like I was parading around naked before, but occasionally Emmy would dress me. Now I have a reluctance to even get out of bed when she’s around in the morning – and she always is – hugging me, loving me. In this totally odd conversation, we decided that as long as no one sees me without my shirt on we should be OK. It’s only six months.

Those of you who think I am brave consider this – each day I grow stronger. I think of putting on my bathrobe each night after these glorious showers and the effort it takes and how it gets easier each day. I think of men and women for whom things get harder each day, and yet they keep pushing ahead. I am reading about WWII and am thinking about the sacrifices so many made for us – for our lives – and how people still do. I think that is bravery. I am just dealing with the hand I was dealt.

In the motherhood column, we are working hard on the settling in of routines – Carter cried when I dropped him off today great big gulping blue eyes brimming. His teacher emailed that within minutes he was fine. Henry is pleased as punch with his teacher’s record card system – each good day we put the card in a jar on the table. What he wanted most for his birthday was unveiled today – a rolling office chair for his room with up and down. They spent two hours putting it together and testing it out. I got it at Costco for $60 and it’s red vinyl and he thinks it’s manna from heaven. Next year he might ask for a cubicle. Emmy drew a diagram of the chair with actual anatomical detail and arrows indicating all its features.

I stand in wonder of my children, of our journey, but most of all of our help. I sit in jammies donated by my friend Sara (they are just TOO stinking cute I hear her say. We enjoyed a meal brought by a Doss family, and accepted a bottle of wine from our new neighbors. I look at my new earrings and think of my friend Jessica, my card today in the mail and think of my sister-in-law.

What you don’t know is that with each act you have given me strength. I will pass it along. Maybe tomorrow – I probably have at least 16 things I can do.


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On a lighter Note

Some of the last few days in laughs:

When Aetna told me to go to Nordstrom’s to get fitted for my new camisole, she says “We don’t want you going somewhere without service – like (I heard her shudder through the phone) Macy’s”

How long does it take a four year old girl to pick out her pencil case … too long when there is an aisle of choices and Mommy’s feet already hurt. (It actually took eight minutes over two trips – does that count as extra double bonus?)

What happens when you put dishwashing soap in the dishwasher instead of dishwashing detergent? Lots of bubbles – and a whole lot of fun cleaning up bubbles with bowls.

“But why can’t I marry Carter?” says Emmy “I love him.”

“When I pick out my wife then I can have kids and live with you.” Henry

Our new nanny, Miss Lauren – to confuse the entire population of caregivers – brought her Australian shepherd puppy over today. The kids spent an hour chasing the puppy around in the backyard. Poor thing was totally worn out. (kids – don’t all attack her at once!)

“I want to go get a pedicure, Mommy. Do they have pedicures in Texas? But, I don’t want them to put pickles on my eyes.” Emmy



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Back to School Back to Surgery

What did you do three days before your bilateral mastectomy? I had a date night with my husband, and took my three kids under six on a Target blitzkrieg. I wish I went to Disneyland, but for them, Target is relatively similar. (And we have a Disney cruise planned for Thanksgiving so I get my cake at the end of the rainbow.)

It felt like old times – adding more to the cart after meager and faint (and futile) attempts to dissuade. Frankly, I was planning on only getting backpacks but those pencil boxes are so darn cute … and then of course we need new lunchboxes. Sometimes you just learn to let it go. The money – the rules.

I am preparing for arguably the most life changing surgery I will have – apart from the C-sections that brought me a different kind of life – and feel good. Ridiculously so. Shopping for an hour in Target kind of good (my evil nemesis throughout chemo). Is it because of my level of preparation – lists, care calendar, nannies, grandmothers? Maybe. Is it because of my support structure? Definitely. But I believe it’s also about what this means to me – no longer about the fight, but about my decision to not let this thing get me again. Or to at least do all I humanly can.

I discovered (or allowed myself to be sucked into) pinterest … I started looking at fall movie previews and trailers (Cloud Atlas, Skyfall, The Trouble with the Curve, Flight) … I signed the kids up for the first round of after school activities: science club, art, cooking, boy scouts, soccer.

Life is back to being about life again – and if it’s strep like last week that’s rough and yet we make it through. But putting things in perspective (Tom Brokaw is good at that if you watched Their Finest Hour before the Olympics), I’m not brave, I’m just dealing with the hand I was dealt. I have not sacrificed my life, or years in the face of danger or an invasion or war, I had a rough six months.

As a final point, I think in the last week, it was that Nordstrom’s visit that was the rejuvenation.  Talking about my journey, my body image frustrations, and how to tackle them with my BFF Christy somehow allowed me to unburden. And, prepare for next. Because that’s what we’re about now: forward. (No I am not trying to insinuate a political ad into this otherwise bipartisan blog).

Thank you to Christy for that wonderful day. If I have my Julie and Julia moment – I will plan on suggesting Jennifer Love Hewiit to play you. Sometimes, I ask myself – what just happened? The truth: I beat cancer’s butt. Our lives will be altered by his year, but not defined by it.

Think good thoughts for us on Thursday – and see you on the flip side.


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