…One Year Anniversary: A Time to Reflect

Today is my anniversary. One year has passed since I had my bilateral double mastectomy. A year ago today, I was up at the butt-crack of dawn and heading to the hospital with Mom, Dad and Liz. Check-in was at 5:15am and surgery was at 7:00-ish am. Two surgeons, along with two amazing teams, and 7 1/2-ish hours later, I was “out” of surgery.    Continue reading

Ragnar Relay Chicago

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Leading up to this weekend, I was extremely nervous. I had trained and felt pretty good, but I also had some training runs that led to some self-doubt. What the heck did I get myself into? Did I bite off more than I can chew?

Rewind back to about October/November…

A friend tagged me in a Facebook post about doing Ragnar Relay as an ultra. I immediately said to sign me up. This’ll be fun! Now, remember, during that time I was about 6-8 weeks out from my initial double mastectomy. I spoke with doctors and they were 100% confident I’d be able to do it. Afterall, they reassured me the upcoming second surgery would be a piece of cake! Ha!

I had the second surgery and had complications – fat grafting issues and nerve damage in my stomach at the donor site. There were several times I wanted to back out of Ragnar.

I didn’t. I started “training” once I was cleared 100% by my doctors back in the middle of February. I remember texting a friend freaking out because I had only been able to run one mile. Then I upped it to two miles. How the heck would I be able to run 31-ish miles. I slowly started getting back at it. My pace was more like a turtle running through molasses. I did a half marathon in April and was two minutes off my PR (personal record). I had only done 9.5 miles leading up to that and most training plans have you doing anywhere from 10-12 miles the weekend before tapering.

Well, my motto for the year is to wing it. I definitely winged that one. It gave me a huge boost of confidence and exactly what I needed. If I could pull 13.1 miles outta my rear, I could certainly train for Ragnar but no pulling that out of my rear.

I continued training and doing double runs in a day and a few times a week. I also signed up for a few half marathons that also fell on back-to-back weekends or every other weekend. One of my teammates said the ultra could be done on simply half marathon runs. She’s done several Ragnar relay ultras, so I had that to fall back on.

I wanted to do Ragnar Relay for myself, team, and as an inspiration to other double mastectomy ladies. I needed to do this to prove to myself that I can do it. There’s nothing holding me back but myself.

Anyway, Thursday afternoon, everyone (but Susie) met at my house. I had the van packed with our food container and cooler. My dad made us some car decals and we were putting them on as people got there. The van looked pretty cool!!!

We headed to Madison and picked up Susie from the airport. From there we grabbed dinner and went straight to the hotel to settle in. I was exhausted. I hardly slept Wednesday night and woke up super early Thursday morning. I took vacations days and wanted to sleep in.

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I was runner one so I got all my stuff ready and organized. When I packed for this, I put all of my running outfits in gallon zip lock bags. Then when I was done I could throw my clothes back in the bag and no sweaty or stinky clothes out. Imagine what the smell could end up being like after all of us being in a van for two days!

Friday morning, we woke up, had breakfast and headed to the rainy start. We arrived, got our race bags, went through the check-in process, and hung out in the rain.

Next thing you know it was 7:50am and I was about to embark on one of the craziest things I’ve ever done! We took a few pictures and the announcer was shouting out team names. Eek! I was runner one and my first leg was 10.5 miles. We decided as a team to do back-to-back legs to have more down time. We all still had three legs to do, just double the miles than your typical twelve person team.

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Leg 1: Run through Madison in the rain!

I started off nice and easy. I put in my average pace as 10:30/mile, and figured that would give me a little bit of a buffet as time went on. It rained/misted for about 6 miles.

Leading up to Ragnar weekend, I never ran in the rain. I would skip running outside and run on the dreadmill. I know, such a diva! My friend Anna laughed at me all the time when I told her I wasn’t running outside. I bumped into her at REI one rainy day, and she said, “what if it rains Ragnar weekend. What’re going to do?” Yeah, WHAT IF!!!! Obviously I would have no choice but run in the rain.

It was extremely relaxing running in the rain. There was this calmness about it and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had to chuckle at myself though. Here I didn’t train in the rain but ran in it. I watched people prance around the puddles delicately and hop over some like they were playing hopscotch. I was already soaked anyway, so I just ran right through them! Can you say the joke was on me? Thanks, Mother Nature!

For the first leg, my average pace for the 10.5 miles was 10:22 a mile, and I was ahead of my arrival time by a few minutes. Yay!

I had a few kills and felt really good. A kill is when you pass another runner. It doesn’t count when you pass an ultra runner, at least that’s what we said!

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I arrived at the second exchange and met Cat who took on the next two legs. I changed and got out of my wet clothes and we got to the next exchange to wait for Cat and drop off Melissa. The rain cleared and it turned out to be a nice, cloudy day which is perfect running weather. We met Melissa to give her water and a snack. She was running over 16 miles total for her first leg. Crazy, huh? Then it was Susie’s turn to run. She ran, and then we picked her up and off Jenni went.

We went to the next exchange point and I got ready. I was next up.

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Leg 2: 8.7 miles on some trail

Prior to this leg, Cat taped up my knee with KT tape because my right knee was bothering me. I started running again around 8pm and the next thing I know, the tape was falling off. Ugh.

I’m totally a fan of running at night because it’s so peaceful listening to nature and looking at the stars and moon. It was overcast and foggy so none of that happened, but it was still an incredibly beautiful and relaxing.

During my double training runs, I tended to do better in my second run. Leg two was no different. I averaged 9:47 for my 8.7 mile run. Yay!!!

Next thing I knew I was arriving at the exchange and slapping the wristband on Cat’s arm. I felt really good and actually wanted to keep running!!

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I felt great for a while afterwards, and then it hit me. My stomach felt like crap. I couldn’t eat anything and only water tastes good. I started downing tums, but it wasn’t doing anything.

We continued meeting at the exchanges to drop off the next runner and pick up the previous runner. We had a blast in the van driving and hanging out. We laughed, joked around, and at one point attempted to sleep.

I still felt like absolute crap no matter what I did. Oh well, I had to suck it up and prepare for my final run.

Leg 3: 12.1 miles.

My third leg was running through Racine and ending in Kenosha. How extremely boring…the only exciting thing was the rain I was running in. Yes, Mother Nature had a laugh at my expense.

I felt okay the first few miles and then it hit me – my stomach hurt and my quads were screaming and cursing my name. Holy crap.

I took a walk break and texted my mom telling her I was dying. She texted back asking if I won the race. It’s a joke between her and I. Anytime I do a race, she always congratulates me and follows it up with “did you win?” We both laugh and laugh.

I started laughing and texted back saying “no, but I’m not winning and am letting my team down.” I was averaging 10:30 and progressively getting slower. No matter how many shot blocks I ate or water I downed, nothing was helping me! I was bonking.

I didn’t want to let my team down and felt I was (even though I know I wasn’t – the games the mind plays).  I texted them saying I was sorry and averaging an 11-ish mile pace. There was nothing I could do but suck it up and put one foot in front of the other.

I got to exchange 25 and the volunteers were shouting my number out. I kept yelling I was an ultra and running through. They didn’t comprehend until I ran to the exchange thing and ran back out to the trail. Everyone started cheering for me and telling me how I was crazy! When they passed me, they all told me I was awesome. It gave me a little boost but didn’t help with my dead quads.

Pretty soon I spotted the “one mile left” sign. Yayyyy!!!! I took a selfie with the sign and got a little emotional. Holy crap. I just ran 31.3 miles in 24 hours! No freaking way. I picked up my pace a little bit and attempted to finish strong. But, that didn’t happen :/

I couldn’t believe it. That run felt like it took me a million years to make it through, but was all a blur when I reached the exchange and passed the bracelet on to Cat.

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My teammates met me and off we went to the next exchange. We received messaged from Cat saying she was hit by a car, okay and going to continue trying to run. She was hurting badly, so we drove and met her and Melissa graciously agreed to take her last three miles. Melissa’s total mileage for the two days was 37plus miles.

We continued dropping and picking up runners. Jenni was the last runner and would take the last two legs to Chicago finish line.

We drove to the finish line area, parked the car and scrubbed the van decorations and sayings off the car. We all hobbled to the finish line and cheered other runners and teams to the chute.

We started getting nervous. Next thing we know, it’s raining and lightening out and no sign of Jenni. The stupid stop lights were interfering with her agenda. Honestly, it’s so hard stopping and going. It’s difficult to get the legs going again especially when you’ve already ran such long distances already.

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Jenni made it and we all ran across the finish line, only to be tossed our medal package and a few pasta cups. We took one picture and were instantly told we had to leave and get to our vehicles! No finish line party or free beers for us!!

Once in the van, Jenni got a text saying the race was called and teams had to get their runners off the road.

All-in-all it was an amazing and fun experience. I learned much about myself mentally and physically and I wouldn’t trade those things at all. I also learned much about everyone else, too! It was an absolute blast and an amazing girls weekend. Who goes on a girls weekend and runs an ultra relay? All of us crazy chicks!

Running 31 miles is no joke on the body. Take that and throw in no sleep and it makes for some delusional and funny moment. In the end, I’m extremely happy with my performance and would do it again in a heartbeat. I recorded most of my runs and between the three I averaged about a 10:30 pace.

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the good, bad and ugly!

short and sweet about what’s going on with the recovery and stuff.

I had a follow up doctor appointment yesterday and received some good and bad news. On Monday it will be four weeks since my expander/ implant exchange and fat grafting surgery. I’ve been frustrated because at this point with the last surgery, I had been doing PT faithfully, lifting my 2/5 pound weights, and walking on the treadmill anywhere between 2-4 miles at a crack. This time around? Walking from my car to house (vice versa), work and that’s about the extent of it.

Its frustrating but I have to listen to my body. It’s best I stop and smell the roses instead of putting myself several steps backwards. It’s key I don’t do much upper body stuff right now so I let the fat grafting from the donor site (belly) adhere/”took root” to the boobs, it’s new site. I needed a lot of grafting done on the left boob to even out dents and ridges. It appears some spots are dying and may need another round of fat grafting. Potentially. Not thinking about that though. Also, my implants are larger than the expanders so I need to let the pec muscles stretch a little more and settle in.

I asked Dr S yesterday when the restrictions would be lifted and why I was still having such terrible abdominal pains at the fat grafting donor site. I sat there topless while he examined me. The new girls look great and he took time to admire his artwork. My chest was a blank canvas that he turned into something I can honestly say I’m growing to like.

He noticed my stomach was still swollen and sensitive to the touch. I’ve been wearing yoga pants and loose bottoms since day one and have only worn jeans a handful of times. Anytime I wear jeans or something tighter, my stomach is in excruciating pain.

After talking about restrictions and things I got some good and bad news…

Good news:

1) I can bike on the trainer, but can only sit upright – no aero position. I only have a triathlon bike so promised him I wouldn’t ride aero and would use my arms to support myself. Just because he said I can bike easy doesn’t mean I actually will…keep reading.

2) no swimming for at least 6 months (ok, just kidding). Not sure when I’ll be able to swim, but there’s no rush. I have no desire to get in the pool anytime soon.

3) I can start running again in two-ish weeks. Tentatively speaking. Depends on the bad news…

Bad news:

1) I can start wearing “normal” bras again. I hate shopping – it’s depressing shopping for new ones so I gave up. Sports bras or nothing it is.

2) I have nerve damage in my lower stomach area at the fat grafting donor site. At this point, we aren’t sure if it’s a temporary or permanent thing. This one sucked to hear, but it’s out of my control and there’s nothing I can do. I’m hoping it’s not a permanent thing.

The nerve damage would explain why my lower stomach area has been swollen still and hurting. At least I have some answers now.

If the spots of fat grafting I mentioned above do fail, I will not be doing another surgery or round of fat grafting. After being in this much pain still from it the first round, I’m not dealing with it again. It’s not worth it to me. I’m fine with debts and ridges. It’s my new norm and there’s a story to tell.

So, with that, I’m excited there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I desperately want to be done with this and move on with my life. I want things to go back to normal…well, let’s be honest, I’ll never have that normal again (which is sad at times and I still tear up about…like right now), but I want to get on with things, figure out my NEW normal and start loving my body again. I’ll bounce back in the multi-sport world, but there’s no pressure or stress to get back in the game. I will race again, but not at the old intensity.  I just don’t have that in me right now. Heck, I might just throw in the towel for the year and come back swinging in 2016!

Anyway, there’s a little glimpse of what’s going on in my world.

There’s times I feel broken with this and everything going on…but…I remember this…

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Cheers to another day! Knowledge is power. Thankful to know and be proactive!

Ahh, Implants!! Phase 2 of a PBM…

Monday morning, December 29th, I had surgery to swap out my rocks (expanders) for nice, squishy implants. I woke up super early and followed doctors orders – shower with this special soap and put this prescription patch right below the ear. Done!

Mom and I arrived at the hospital around 5:30 and I checked in immediately. After that, we went to the third floor to the ambulatory surgery center. The nurse assistant, Daphne, took me back to my room and I changed into the gown, walked to the bathroom for that happy dance (pee in a cup), and back to the room where I settled in. Daphne and I got to know each other pretty well after my first surgery when I had to go to the ER and spend the night. She and I caught up on Monday. She’s a breast cancer survivor herself and I got her to commit to doing Team Phoenix. I told her I’d train with her and help her get back into fitness. She hasn’t done much and was really excited when I said I’d do whatever it took to help her!!

The nurse eventually brought me two pills to help combat the nausea and an Ativan to calm my nerves. Shortly after that the anesthesia doctor came in for a visit and to confirm what he was going to do. He was already aware of what happened last time and reassured me he was going to give me a different anesthesia so I wouldn’t get sick. My favorite nurse came in and we chatted. Valerie is another sweetheart and puts me at ease every time we talk. She’s kind, compassionate, and encouraging. She’s always telling me I made the right decision and how proud she is of me.

Dr. S came in a few minutes before surgery was to start to mark my chest and my stomach for where he’d be taking the fat out. The incision would be through my belly button and he’d pull fat in the general area and transfer it to my left boob area. The left needed the most work; it sunk in badly! He also marked the right and left love handle just in case he needed to pull fat from there as well.

The nurse and anesthesia doctor wheeled me out of the room and down the hallway to the operating room. I actually remembered it this time because I hadn’t had the knock-out medicine yet. He couldn’t give it to me sooner because I needed to be marked and plus my IV needed to be flushed a few times. Speaking of that, it hurts like none other…and as a result my hand has a HUGE bruise on it. Ouch! I made it to the room, met the team, and even made it on the operating table all by myself. They moved me, hooked me up to machines, put a few patches on me…and la-la land I went…

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3 1/2 hours later, surgery was successful…AND, he even got me bigger than anticipated. Sorry, no Pamela Anderson boobs. 2 1/2 hours on the left, 1 hour on the right. The part that hurts the most, believe it or not, is the stomach where he took the fat. He had to take more than anticipated (no arguments there). Originally he was only going to have to transfer fat to the left boob, but the right needed work after the implant was put in.

My stomach from the belly button down and to the right hip is really swollen and bruised. I look like I’m 4-5 months pregnant. It hurts. I can only wear loose bottoms otherwise I’m in excruciating pain. My arms and chest don’t hurt as badly as the first surgery, but there is still pain. A lot of bruising at the fat grafting incisions. Total incisions this time were 8 – one under each boob, 1 fat grafting incision at belly button, 3 fat grafting incisions on left boob, and 2 on right boob.

I’m incredibly thankful he didn’t have to take fat  from my left love handle area. He marked it and the incision would have been right on my tattoo I got shortly after Sarah was diagnosed and I found out I was BRCA1 positive. I’m super elated I didn’t have to have drains this time around. Like I’ve said before, drains suck BIG time.

I had to leave the original bandages on for the first few days, so I didn’t get to take a look. I’ve seen them now and the foobs look good. Actually, let me clarify, I’m happy with how they turned out, but haven’t come to terms or accepted the new girls. I hope, someday, I can learn to LOVE them. Every day I have to put new gauze and tape on over the incisions and wear this Granny surgical bra to keep the girls tucked. I won’t be cleared to do things or go back to “normal” for anywhere between 2-4 weeks.

It is so awesome to no longer have rocks in my chest! I can’t even describe the feeling. This surgery was a breeze compared to the first one. There’s still a lot of pain involved and I’m taking a few steps back, but it’s completely worth it. I’ll be back to working out, eventually. My body needs to heal, considering I had two major surgeries in three months time. There’s no pressure! I’ll bounce back (literally and figuratively)! Ha!

Anyway, that’s all for now. One of the side effects of the nauseau medicine is blurred vision at night. So, with that, I’m going to take a pain pill, get comfortable in the recliner, and pass out for a little bit…hopefully…lack of sleep seems to be the story of my life again.

Sweet dreams,

Tits (aka: Firm Jugs)

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my Grinch face as my mom and sister affectionately call it. I was three sheets to the wind and had no idea they took this…funny though…

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beautiful, huh?! what the stomach looks like…

‘Twas the Night Before Surgery

(A little something I wrote tonight…)

‘Twas the night before surgery and all through the house
not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.
The boob pillows were hung by the recovery chair with care
in hopes that new boobs would soon be there!

I am snuggled up and comfortable in bed,
while visions of surgery and boobs danced in my head.
While Lexi Rat slept soundly close by,
I can’t wait to wake up from surgery and say, “boobs, hiiii!”

And soon enough the alarm clock will go off,
and I’ll spring from my bed, “cough cough”.
Off to the hospital we’ll be dashing,
and soon enough the girls will be flashing.

Oh I can’t wait for these rocks to go,
So I can get on with my life’s show.
New foobs, bras, tanks, oh my!
Wait until you see my new boobs catch your eye.

With my lovely surgeon so spunky,
I know in a jiffy he’ll get rid of the funky.
He’s so precise and meticulous with care,
and claps his hands and call the staff by name…
oh but I don’t remember their names…
Down the hallway we will go, through these doors,
down this way and I won’t remember because sweet dreams and la-la land shall I be.

I’ll wake up hours later oh so high,
down the hallway we will fly.
Up to the recovery room we flew,
with my new Pamela Anderson foobs and surgical bra, too.

Foobs. Foobs. I have new boobs.

And then in a twinkling, I’ll hear them say,
“you’re clear to go, my what a wonderful day!”
The chest is plenty tight
but new boobs make it totally alright!

My eyes how they twinkled. So slap happy I’ll be.
I can’t feel a thing, as my friend Dilaudid helps me.
My chest is chubby and plump,
but thats okay I won’t be a saggy frump.
Don’t be jealous when I’m old,
for you will have the saggy bags I’m told.

I can’t wait to be done with this and give santa a holly jolly kiss.

Recovery will be/should be a breeze.
But don’t worry, I won’t be a tease! T
This will all be a blast in the past,
I can’t wait to swim and be fast… (for these helium-ish firm jugs will keep me afloat!)

I did all of this to avoid the dreaded C word.
My, I hate Cancer, it’s such a turd.
Knowledge is power and I have no regrets.
Happy double mastectomy, rocks and now implants to me, and to all a good night.

Love, Tits