A Farewell to Tits

I met with the plastic surgeon on Tuesday; he’s a funny dude. He used the word “boob” more often than “breast.” He said “shit” about three times, and when I asked him about the possibility of my implant leaking, he took one and stomped all over it to demonstrate that, yeah, that’s probably not going to happen. I respect a man who graduates at the top of his medical school class and who also explains “the nipple tattoo game” as having improved greatly in the past few years. I think I’m going to be in good hands with Dr. Maclin.

Dr. M described the reconstruction process as a tumultuous love affair that I’ll look back on as an arduous but worthwhile experience. Surgery #1 will involve the breast surgeon, Dr. O, removing my originals as well as investigating/taking out some lymph nodes to make sure there were no rogue malignant cells that escaped into the lymphatic system during my five months of chemo. I feel pretty confident that this did not happen, but if it did, I would have to get radiation, and this would slow down the reconstruction process. After Dr. O removes the breast tissue, Dr. M will put temporary saline expanders, as well as some Alloderm, behind the muscle wall to begin the process of creating my new breasts. (Alloderm is human tissue gathered from cadavers. Thank you, whoever you are, for donating your body to the greater good of science so that I may maintain my womanly physique.) I don’t know what size the expanders will start at; I think it really just depends on what Dr. M deems appropriate once he evaluates my exposed chest cavity. This surgery will last five hours, and I’ll come out with four drain bags (Dr. M assured me that I’ll be referring to them as my “damn” drain bags) and some vacuum seal apparatus (I don’t fully understand this, but it’s an extra precautionary step for healing since I will be post-chemo and not working with the best immune system). Eventually I’ll go down to two drain bags, and then none. I don’t remember how long I’ll have to wear the damn drains (1 week? 2?) *God bless my mom and sister who will be the ones to drain the fluid from my nipless orbs. I owe ya’ll a drink.  

During the (roughly) five months following this first surgery, I’ll go in every few weeks and get injected with saline and gradually expand to a D cup (which is where Mother Nature intended me to be). Then, the next surgery will install permanent silicone implants, and they should last a good 30 years. There is a chance that during the expansion process, my tissue could harden/my body could decide it didn’t like this whole process, and so there could be another surgery to take some of my own tissue (probably from my back) and do some sculpting/reconstruction with it. I’m going to plan on this not happening.

Surgery #3 will involve making nipples out of my own tissue, and step #4 will be tattooing my nipples. As mentioned above, Dr. M said that his “nipple tattoo game” has improved greatly throughout the years because there have been many advancements in this area. God bless the pioneers of the nipple tattoo industry.

So there are the details of my near-future. Presently, I am tired. My nails are yellowish and thin, and I occasionally have some slight neuropathy in my toes. I have some mild mouth sores, and the T-zone on my face is dry and red. Even when I constantly put on heavy-duty moisturizer and baby oil, it’s still red. I have more eyebrows and lashes on my left side; there’s not much left at all on the right. This week I stopped filling in my brows because all you see is pencil. Because the body is mysterious and wonderful, I am growing head hair while my face hair is falling out. I have some soft, white fuzz sprouting from the back and sides of my head (actually, there is one dark spot, but it sort of looks like a birthmark).

Here’s how I’ve been mentally preparing for my (tentative) April 15 surgery:

*All the good ones come from my friend Heather:

  • A Farewell to Tits
  • Gone with the Tits
  • To Kill a Tit
  • Of Mice and Tits
  • A Tale of Two Titties 
  • The Great Titsby
  • Little Titties
  • The Scarlet Booby
  • The Sound and the Titties
  • Moby Tits
  • Native Tit
  • Tender is the Tit
  • Tits and Punishment
  • All the King’s Tits
  • Sister Tittie
  • East of Tits
  • The Call of the Tits
  • Lord of the Tits
  • The Fellowship of the Tits
  • Titties Shrugged
  • Water for Tits
  • Brave New Tits
  • Tits of Darkness
  • The Handmaid’s Tit
  • The Tit Games
  • East Pray Tits
  • 50 Shades of Tits

And good news…ONLY TWO MORE ROUNDS OF CHEMO! March 2 and 9 (and Spring break begins March 11!)

 

Out With the Old, In With the New

It’s official, ya’ll: I’m choppin’ off my tits. I’m removing my breasts. I’m cuttin’ off my boobs; I’m getting a mastectomy; I’m eliminating the source of my cancer. The Judas Breast will not go into the desert and hang itself. The Brutus Boob will not throw itself onto a dagger. Therefore, I must take matters into my own hands, and I feel confident and reassured now that I have made my final decision.

I went to see the breast surgeon, Jovita Oruwari, last week. She is the one who removed some of my lymph nodes before I started chemo in order to assess the stage of my cancer; she is well-respected in her field and known as a perfectionist. She can articulately yet simply explain medical issues and surgical procedures, AND the woman’s shoe game is solid. The two times I’ve met with her, she’s worn these bad-ass heels. *Note: I don’t recommend choosing a surgeon based on her sartorial taste, but I think there’s something to be said about a person who embraces science and appreciates aesthetics. The most fashionable woman I know is my dear friend Julie, a pathologist. You can check out her blog here. Julie is a great doctor–> Julie is fashionable–> Great doctors are fashionable. Right? #syllogism

Dr. Oruwari was the second surgeon to tell me that, if she was in my position, she would have a mastectomy. Of course, she didn’t offer this information; I asked her, just like I asked the surgeon I met with the day after my diagnosis, “What would you do?” Both women said that, even though it’s basically statistically equivalent to a lumpectomy and radiation in terms of preventing a recurrence, for emotional reasons, they would have a mastectomy. I didn’t ask them to elaborate on what they meant by ‘emotional reasons,’ but I assume this means preventing the anxiety that may come from constantly wanting to check your breasts for lumps and overreacting to feeling something slightly abnormal and jumping to the worst conclusion. Also, there’s the maintenance involved, such as the mammograms. Dr. O said that, for the most part, and I paraphrase, medical professionals are in agreement that, if they had a breast tumor, they would remove the unnecessary appendage and move on with their lives. Dr. O said that I may live another 50 years, so why have all the upkeep required of my natural, once tainted breasts? I asked her about what Lefty would look like if I had a lumpectomy and radiation, and although the cosmetic effects of cancer are clearly of secondary importance to my health, she said that, typically, the breast shrinks and lifts a bit (not in a good way, but in an awkward one), and it hardens a bit as well. Also, breasts are not necessary. I’ve already decided that I’m not getting pregnant because the risks are too high for me, so I don’t need to produce milk. However, I don’t want to go flat-chested. I wouldn’t like looking in the mirror and seeing two lacerations where my breasts once hung. Dr. O said that there are three steps to the reconstruction process:

  1. Remove the breasts and put in temporary saline tissue expanders which go behind the muscle wall. This is a four-hour procedure.
  2. Some time later (just how long is a question for my plastic surgeon) the doc will remove the temporary saline expanders and put in my permanent silicone implants.
  3. Lastly, make some nipples out of my own tissue and attach them. My original nips can’t be used because they could have malignant cells on them. I can have the nipples tattooed so that they are an appropriate color (I’m a member of the Pink Nip Club, and I’d like to keep it that way). I don’t know if the tattooing would be a fourth step, but I do know that I look forward to meeting the person who tattoos nipples for a living.

I asked Dr. O for plastic surgeon recs, and she provided me with three names. I decided to meet with the one doctor who is outside of the Mercy system because, as my mom pointed out, if Dr. O goes out of her way to work with him, then he must be good. His name is Melvin Maclin, and he has a solid resume and great reviews. Plus, I creeped on his Facebook page, and he seems like a great dad and husband, and again, when choosing a medical professional, I like knowing that he or she is a well-rounded individual. He also has a black belt in Taekwondo, and he’s attractive. Check out his info here. I meet with Dr. Maclin on February 23, and my surgery will be about two weeks to a month after chemo ends (which puts my surgery anywhere from March 23 to April 6). Recovery time is two to six weeks, but since my job doesn’t require any strenuous labor, I’ll probably be out for just the two weeks. I’m a bit nervous about telling my students that I’ll be gone for a while. I imagine that it will go like this:

Me: Well, guys, I’m going to be having surgery, and I’ll be gone for at least two weeks.

That One Kid: What kind of surgery?

Me: A mastectomy

That One Kid: What’s that? (some of the other kids are squirming in their seats)

Me: They’re gonna chop my tits off (I don’t actually say this. Teaching, like many professions, requires you to edit much of what comes out of your mouth.)

Me and What I Actually Say: I am going to have my breasts removed and get reconstruction.

That One Kid: What do you mean ‘reconstruction’?

Me: I’m gonna get new fake tits. (I don’t actually say this.)

Me and What I Actually Say: I don’t want to make things awkward because I’m your teacher, so when you go home tonight, you can look into mastectomy and reconstruction for breast cancer patients.

::the remainder of class is awkward::  (but I would do it at the end of class)

OR I could have this conversation:

Me: Well, guys, I’m going to be having surgery, and I’ll be gone for two weeks.

That One Kid: What kind of surgery?

Me: Well, I don’t want to make anybody uncomfortable, so I’ll let you consider the fact that I have breast cancer, and then you can look into it.

–>I’ll probably go with the second option.

 

Between now and my surgery, I’ll probably be a lot like Kitty from Arrested Development.

 

Sometimes I get a little emotional when I think about losing my breasts, but nothing gold can stay, right? It’s better to cut them off than to let them fade away. With my falsies, I’ll be forever perky. And side note: the reconstruction is free. Clinton signed it into law that breast cancer patients get free falsies. Don’t you love that? How appropriate.

—————————-

Status update on chemo side effects: I have some soft fuzz growing on my head. What I see on the top and sides is white, but people tell me that there is a patch of dark fuzz on the back of my head. My brows and lashes have thinned out quite a bit, and I don’t remember the last time I shaved my legs. The ol’ muff is minimal. My nail beds hurt, and I may lose some of them. I’m tired on Fridays and Saturdays (but who isn’t?). My skin is HELLA dry, especially on my face. I finally put heavy-duty Eucerin hand cream on my T-zone, and that helped a lot. Anal fissures are minimal.

I’m still a happy person. I am blessed to be surrounded by wonderful people. Last Friday at lunch, in front of all the students, there were nine teachers who shaved their heads/cut their hair to show support for me. During the month before that, the school raised money for a charity of my choice (St. Jude’s), and we brought in about $5500. This was all through Project B.A.L.D.—Be A Little Daring—led by two colleagues/friends: Theresa lost her husband to cancer a few years ago. When I reached out to find someone to take over a before-school ACT prep course I was teaching, she volunteered to do it. She. Is. Awesome. Gina, founder of Project B.A.L.D., is a former French teacher of mine. When I was her student 20 years ago (I am an alumnus of the school where I teach), she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She has had two recurrences since then, but she is healthy now, and she has been an invaluable resource in terms of providing me with knowledge, hope, and reassurance. US News and World Report ranked my high school as #1 in MO for its academic accomplishments; however, if there were rankings for the character and integrity of a school’s faculty and students, we’d be at the top of that list as well.

I have fabulous friends, family, and colleagues. Soon, I will have permanently perky tits. What more do I need?

I leave you with a very special performance by Bridget Everett (one of Amy Schumer’s good friends). If you don’t like raunchy, don’t watch-y.