25 November 2012

The Venice expansion line

I just noticed a superfluous post in my draft folder. In a fit of awesomeness, I seem to have taken a bunch of pictures, uploaded them, added captions, and then left the finished product to simmer for seven months. Oops.

While Los Angeles takes its sweet time with the Wilshire expansion, Reese and Zero have completed the Venice line.

Reese digging while Zero supervises.
 Reese testing the hole.
More digging.
A strategic pause for admiration.
Zero surveying the progress.
A non-union laborer.
If I fits, I done.
Reese conducting herding the first train into the station.
It's not entirely clear from the pictures, but the final hole averaged 1' deep, 1' wide, and 2.5' long.

13 November 2012

The monetization of Frankenboob

Late Sunday night, I received an email pleading for speakers at a wine-tasting breast cancer fund raiser in three days. As "desperately" was bold, italicized, underlined, and fully capitalized, I knew the situation must be grim. Being the nice person that I am, I replied that I would "happily blab publicly about frankenboob", assuming I could spend the day up north and they could cover the flights.

No response came on Monday, so I went to bed confident that I had successfully avoided a public speaking engagement. Alas, it was not meant to be, as Tuesday morning brought not one but three emails. The first thanked me profusely for volunteering. The second said that they weren't sure if they could cover the cost and they'd let me know by Wednesday morning. The third implied that someone thought this through a little further and realized that booking flights the day of was a bad idea.

Well, crap. It was time to exert effort, starting with asking my manager if I could spend the day at headquarters. He readily agreed, and even pointed out that I could easily come up with a business reason for the trip, eliminating all remaining obstacles.

It is now Wednesday, I have less than four hours before my adoring public shuns me, and I have no idea what to say. I thought reading through past posts might inspire me, but clearly that just turned into an exciting new way to procrastinate. Bad me!

I tried to work. I really did. But unless "work" is the new hipster word for "fretting," I was not a bastion of productivity. With about forty minutes before my shameful public debut, I decided to head over. Due to my awe-inspiring ability to get magnificently lost in the process of finding my way to a building across the street, I made it with a mere twenty-seven seconds to spare. A personal best!

The person I had been conversing with via email was nowhere to be found, but the other organizers were happy to provide me with two pink ribbon stickers and an empty glass for wine tasting. The extra sticker informed the masses that I was a victim of cancerous masses. The empty glass informed the wine pourers that I was out of wine.

I sampled the wine over and over, right up until it was time to talk. The other speaker went first, at my insistence, and told the crowd how important mammograms are. Her precancerous lump was found during a routine screening, and since it was found so early, she merely needed some surgery and radiation. I refrained from calling her a lucky bastard as she continued stressing regular checkups, a mild feat considering my earlier wine tasting regiment.

Since I was already out of people to speak before me, it was my turn. I started from the beginning, with my mom getting diagnosed while I was in college and her suggesting that the doctor examine my boob eight years later, as she was slightly less qualified. I followed with a brief description of all the things that went wrong, right up to my current state. I made sure to mention that silicone implants are amazingly fun to play with, and anyone with the opportunity to examine an unimplanted pair should not pass it up.

The previous speaker had a message. I needed a message to close with. Perhaps I should have thought about that earlier? Luckily, the wine told me what to say. "The past two years have really sucked. A lot. But you know what would have sucked worse? Being dead." Speaking done.

Afterwards, people kept thanking me for my speech. I received all sorts of compliments on bravery, inspiration, triumph, and other embarrassing things, not to mention countless hugs. The wine rush wore off and I reverted to my normal awkward self, leaving me to wriggle around under their good intentions.

I quickly discovered that once my audience was reduced to one or two individuals, I had no trouble recounting tales of boobular heroism. Of course, soon after that realization it was time for carriage to whisk me away to the aeroport.

08 October 2012

Being a boob, like a boss

The results of my first yearly mammogram (right side only) are in!

06 September 2012

You *can* change the laws of physics

I thought it would be a good idea to ask everyone to remind me to post again. Instead of forcing me to start posting more frequently, I became more inventive with my excuses to not do it. At least I succeeded in increasing my creative output. On that note, it's finally time to bestow my adventures in radiation with the world.

Step one of radiation is alignment. Apparently they take this very seriously so there's a better chance of you not glowing in the dark. It starts with what is essentially a medical-grade bean bag pillow. I was told to lie still in a most uncomfortable position with my left arm above my head. As the air was sucked out of the pillow, the nurse continually readjusted things until the pillow turned into a mold of my properly contorted upper half.

After the mold comes the tattoos. Three dark blue, skin defiling dots about 1mm in diameter. First, the nurse marked the chosen spots with a medical pen. Then, a disturbingly large drop of ink was splattered over each general area. Finally, I was told to inhale, and she viciously stabbed the ink under my skin. Not only did each jab hurt, they also bled profusely.  One even required a band-aid! Where are these marks of the devil, you ask? The first is nearly centered between my boobs, but off to the right just enough to drive me crazy whenever I see it. The other two are positioned on my left side such that I can't see them without a mirror. Which is a good thing considering how much the first annoys me.

As I wasn't sufficiently defaced at this point, out came a black sharpie, with which the nurse drew three "X"s. Each was covered with a semi-permanent sticker that generally lasted two weeks before becoming a gooey mess of insufficient accuracy. Both the tattoos and "X" were carefully placed with the help of imaging machines and green lasers. After all the careful marking, the nurse announced that there was a problem with the placement of the tattoos. EXCUSE ME? YOU MESSED UP TATTOOING ME? The nurse ran off to see if the physics could be changed. I agreed that it was better to change physics than to try to go anywhere near me with the ink again.

Ultimately, the physics were successfully changed. In English, this means that the exact position and sequence of radiation was somehow altered to conform to the problematic tattoos and the nurse wasn't bludgeoned to death in the parking lot.

My daily appointment was scheduled for 920 every weekday morning in the dungeon of the hospital. Matt was kind enough to drive me to every appointment, as I developed a severe allergy to hospitals that causes me to drive directly to work without stopping for treatment. As an added bonus, this meant his car was valeted instead of mine.

Surprisingly, the radiation treatment room actually met my expected level of scienciness. Precisely mounted green lasers beam across the room from three walls and the ceiling. The machine itself, which takes up over half of the room, has a large, circular head looming over the patient table. On either side of the head, retractable imaging equipment is mounted. The table, and often the victim wedged in the mold on the table, is raised, rotated, and slid in various directions until the subject is correctly positioned under the head. When properly positioned, the head can rotate freely around the table. As the head rotates, lead slides in the head move back and forth to limit the block all but the necessary radiation.

Most days of radiation were boring. I'd lie topless on the table while 2-3 technicians admired my spots and rearranged me into the perfect position. After draping a blanket over my exposed parts, they'd leave, closing the bank vault door behind them, and I'd fall asleep for fifteen minutes.

One morning things suddenly got very interesting. The machine suddenly shutdown, mid treatment. The techs couldn't restore power, much less lower the table. Ultimately, I got to climb down with the help of a wobbly chair. The hospital had a new power supply flown in from Las Vegas, but the repair technician wasn't able to get the machine running for two days. Since I couldn't skip most of one dose and the following day's dose, I ended up in the slightly less awesome machine the next day. Why was it less awesome? The alignment lasers were red and the head didn't rotate around my torso. But mostly due to the red lasers.

Most people only get tired during radiation. I got super nauseous. Dr. RadiationOncologist said that radiation, especially the type I was receiving, doesn't cause severe, persistent nausea, and sent me to Dr. Oncologist. Dr. Oncologist put me through a whole battery of tests. CT scan, ultrasounds, blood tests, and whatever else occurred to her. Everything was negative, and I was still randomly regurgitating at inopportune moments. An MRI wasn't possible due to the metal in Frankenboob's expander. And yet, aside from wanting to barf and the whole cancer thing, I was perfectly healthy. With everything else ruled out, Dr. Oncologist reconsidered the radiation as the culprit. She found a case from five or six years ago in which a patient receiving the same type of radiation  was persistently nauseous. The recommended treatment was suck it up until radiation is over. 

I got another round of sick leave, complete with the requisite lying on the couch complaining. At one point I asked Matt if this is what chemo was like. He just laughed and said that I was cognizant enough to complain, so it wasn't even close. After a few vomit filled weeks, radiation ended. A few days after that, I was noticeably better. A week later, my stomach was back to its normal malcontent self and I was happily back at work, having survived radiation, but without any spiffy super powers. Boo.

04 July 2012

One boob or two?

When I get super excited about something, I fail to shut up about it. When I get really pissed about something, I similarly fail to shut up about it. When the moon continues its orbit around the earth, I continue blabbing on and on. However, when something upsets and me and leaves me sad and miserable, I just might close my trap. The most relavent example of this phenomenon occurred just a few months ago.

First, some background. Frankenboob was already inflated to nearly 500cc, the initial volume of the expander. The expander is made of magical stretchy stuff and can hold 1500cc, a disgustingly large size for someone of my stature. My untrained eye was perfectly happy with 500cc, which seemed to match my unmolested right boob. Dr. PlasticSurgeon, who is more versed in choosing boob sizes, pointed out that radiation causes the muscle and skin to shrink, making one or two more inflations necessary.

Anyway, there I was, innocently lying topless on the examination table while Dr. PlasticSurgeon and her minion examined Frankenboob. The horrible latitudinal scar is about 1/3 down from the top. Ergo, the best way for the skin to accomodate inflations is for the skin above the scar to stretch down. But Frankenboob would have none of that. It didn't even stretch the skin on both sides. Oh no, it had to be impudent and stretch only the bottom skin, widening the scar and making everything red and miserable.  As a result, there would be no further inflations.

To top it off, my stupid insurance company refused to authorize the radiation being scheduled by Dr. RadiationOncologist. Why? According to them, the type of radiation requested is "experimental" and not indicated after "breast conserving surgery." That's right, the same people who paid over $100,000 mere months ago for a mastectomy were claiming that I had two boobs.

The situation was by far not worst I'd experienced in recent memory, but it was enough to make me shut down. I stopped caring about writing. I stopped caring about my few remaining hobbies that didn't require me to leave the house. Oh sure, I still complained about doctor stuff when around other people, but I stopped inflicting the gory details upon unsuspecting masses. As one person at work pointed out, I was a lot more serious about my medical prospects.

I won't claim to have freed myself from the ups and downs of depression, especially since I'm currently lying facedown in the bottom of a trough. Despite this week being awful, the overall trend has been upward. Sadly, the contents of my stomach have also shown the same upward trend, but that's a physical problem, not a mental one.

24 March 2012

Reese the Kraken!

A certain puppy decided to inconvenience us by outgrowing her collar while not growing enough to fit a medium Google collar. The nerve! To teach her a lesson, we took the Mutt Brigade to Petco to find a Reese-appropriate collar.

At first, Reese was nose to the floor, enjoying the myriad of smells. And then it dawned on her - FOOD!

Luckily for her, we had no idea where the collars happened to be, so she got to vacuum up the entire store. A morsel of something under a shelf three inches off the ground? That's no problem for the amazing collapsible puppy!

She managed to get in up to her shoulders before she reached her buried treasure. The amazing part? She got back out without any help.

While Zero subtly suggested we buy ALL THE BONES, Reese got into an argument with a cardboard dog food ad featuring a four foot tall dog. At first we thought it was funny, but as we neared the cutout, it became obvious that she was scared of the monstrous dog. In fact, she was so terrified that she refused to get within ten feet of the offending display. Matt end up carrying the distraught puppy until the beast was out of sight.

We finally found the collars, right by the entrance. We only passed them twelve times, but we don't need to talk about that.

Reese carefully inspected the merchandise before selecting a dainty black collar with pink skulls. Much to her embarrassment, Matt tried it on her for size right there in the aisle!

"Daddy! What if the other dogs see me?" But once it was on, she couldn't help but pose for the camera.

You'll note how Zero, like any sensible male, completely ignored the impromptu fashion show.

Before Reese had a chance to change her mind and ask for a skimpy leather collar, we paraded over to the cashier. That's when we discovered that Reese had conveniently left her wallet at home. That little bitch!

As long as I'm sharing photos with the world, here's two more featuring fluffy creatures.

Someone who is not me left an empty carton of cookie dough ice cream in the living room. Someone else who is also not me got her head stuck in the carton. It was too funny to not take a picture before helping her get free. And as soon as it was off, she stuck her furry head back in there! Not the fittest.

Where's Matt? I'll give you one hint: he's behind one of the 53" plush teddy bears. I wanted to bring a few home for the dogs, but Matt said no. He never likes my amazing ideas.

02 March 2012

"Stop it or you might pop another boob!"

That's what Matt said when I refused to stop trying to yank open the stupid car door. He ended up opening the door for me, while I retaliated by kicking the door. It totally deserved it.

Meanwhile, Frankenboob has been inflated a total of three times, for a total of 370cc. It's now more ovular than ever, so I had to go buy a couple of new sports bras that would normally be way too big. For some reason, Victoria's Secret doesn't make anything for the irregularly shaped boob.

A weird bump of skin is poking out at the left end of the scar. It's gotten more pronounced with every inflation, even though I've tried to poke it flat. According to Dr. PlasticSurgeon, it's called a dog ear, and is caused by a pleat forming when the skin was stitched back together by Dr. Surgeon. She made sure to stress the part about Dr. Surgeon causing it. But not to worry, she can easily erase its existence when creating the nipple.

Reese, who finds it necessary to say hello to every dog in a five-mile radius, clearly heard about of Frankenboob's dog ear. Sadly, her version of first contact involved stepping directly on Frankenboob while in our bed this past Monday. Not understanding why I suddenly started screaming, she immediately froze. Matt, sensing something was amiss, came bursting out of the bathroom and removed the offending paw, along with the rest of the puppy.

Reese feins innocence, sleeping with what's left of her favorite toy.
Oddly enough, I woke the next morning to find a multicolored Frankenboob. And did I mention it hurt? As the day progressed, it changed from purple to a nice red. Time to call the doctor!

By that point, I had completely forgotten about Reese's attempt to compress Frankenboob into a singularity. All I could think of was that it hurt and it was an odd color, even by Frankenboob standards. Luckily, Dr. PlasticSurgeon's secretary happens to be my neighbor and knows that both Reese and Zero can be jumpy when excited. Perhaps one of them did it? How on earth I managed to forget that, I'll never know.

Since I already had an inflation appointment scheduled for the next day, I decided that I could wait a day for a thorough medical probing. In the meantime, I could continue taking prescription levels of ibuprofen out of an OTC Advil bottle.

At today's appointment, it took Dr. PlasticSurgeon about three femtoseconds to locate the point of impact. And then she jabbed it with a stick! Or she just lightly touched it to make sure nothing was horribly amiss.

Apparently it isn't the best of ideas to inflate a bruised boob, so that was delayed until next week. For today, her minion was dispatched to fetch the brown tape (as opposed to the white tape). I'm not entirely sure how it works, but a few pieces of tape are holding the bruised area in stasis such that it can heal in a more timely fashion.

In other news, this morning I inadvertently discovered that I can flex Frankenboob! It looks very similar to videos of Chippendale dancers flexing their pectoral muscles, except there's a boob on top. And no, I can't flex the right. Believe me, I've tried.

Frankenboob is a more appropriate name than I thought

Shockingly, I was still taking Percoset the Monday after my first inflation. It was a mere week and a half since Frankenboob's excoriation, and just over two since Frankenboob's creation. Therefore, it was time for something disastrous to happen.

Matt drags me out of the house most days. While he claims it's for my benefit, I strongly suspect he just wants to get himself out the house. On that fateful Monday, it was definitely not me who benefited. The mistake was stopping at a 7-Eleven on the way home. A giant guy accidentally elbowed me in the Frankenboob! He immediately turned around and apologized, so it would have been a bit rude to kick him in the balls.

Somehow I made it make to the car without screaming, though my eyes did tear up. When we finally got home, a visual inspection didn't make me feel any better. A bruise was forming, and there was clearly a dent at the site of the impact.

The new disaster area continued to throb the next day. Time to call the doctor! Dr. PlasticSurgeon assured me that the expander requires much more than a giant elbow infraction to pop, so I needn't worry about that. As for the pain, the area had just experienced two traumatic surgeries and was therefore much more vulnerable. A small bump that I would otherwise barely notice could cause severe pain in these circumstances. I should just keep popping pills, and the extra pain would go away in three to four days. Woohoo.

Later that week, at inflation appointment number two, Dr. PlasticSurgeon confirmed that the world wasn't ending. She also pumped another 100cc of sterile saline into the expander, bringing the total to 270cc. That's when I discovered I was supposed to take a Valium before arriving, not just afterwards. At least I'm running low on things to go wrong. Or so I thought.

I never found out if Dr. PlasticSurgeon ended up needing the allograft, so I made the mistake of asking. As it turned out, my pectoral muscle was a fairly normal length, also known as not long enough to fully cover the expander. A collagen allograft was used to finish the job.

What is a collagen allograft? It's a piece of cadaver in which the actual living cells have been removed, leaving a collagen honeycomb. Since there aren't any living cells, it's technically not a transplant, though it goes through the same screening process. However, it did come from a dead person. That's right, Frankenboob is made with a piece of a dead guy! I just hope no one named Igor was involved in the collection process.

Before I left, Dr. PlasticSurgeon examined the scar. She declared that the was skin finished healing, though I have my doubts. Plus, I'm not exactly a fan of a giant red scar. Not to worry, it will mostly be concealed when the doctor creates a nipple. How? I have no idea. But she seemed confident that it would work.

29 February 2012

A bicycle pump would just be inappropriate

The day after I received the all clear from Dr. Surgeon, I went to Dr. PlasticSurgeon so she could survey the damage. But before she could gasp in horror, her minion had some fun with a magnetic stud finder. The device is basically a magnet suspended in a little plastic holder, with which the minion was able to locate the metal marker indicating the injection site of the expander. Of course the site was under the tape Dr. Surgeon used to hold my boob together, which meant that after a week of dread, I finally got to see the extent of the horror.

Much to my dismay, the scar is about five inches long, and mostly horizontal. While the spot indicated by the stud finder was marked, I poked at the scar, trying to make it go away. I failed.

A piece of medical tape with a daub of topical analgesic was placed over the mark, limiting my poking range. After about five minutes, all poking was ceased as the numbing goo had taken effect. A white surgical drape was placed around the area, which was cleaned with an iodine drenched swab. Dr. PlasticSurgeon further sedated the area with an injection of some sort. Then came the scary needle.

While I watched with a fascinated horror, a two inch needle pierced the muscle and entered the expander. To confirm the needle was in the correct location, the doctor drew out some blue liquid. When she filled the expander during the first surgery, Dr. PlasticSurgeon mixed the initial saline with methylene blue. Bright blue liquid is generally not naturally produced anywhere near the boob, so the blue liquid gave her reasonable assurance that the needle was in the correct location.

Having verified the needle's insertion, it was time to start filling. A 200cc bag of sterile saline was hooked up to a bizarre pump. When released, the pump filled with saline from the bag. When compressed, the saline travelled down a tube, through the needle, and into the expander. Oh, and it made a loud and highly disconcerting noise after every compression.

After only 100cc, the pressure made it uncomfortable for me to breathe on my left side, so she stopped for the day. That more than doubled the size of the expander to 170cc. Though the expander has a maximum size of 500cc, Dr. PlasticSurgeon expects to reach the correct size around 450cc. This will be accomplished over four fillings, though it could be done in just one. By spreading it out over weekly fillings, the skin is less likely to develop stretch marks. Also, filling it at once would create even more pressure, preventing me from breathing easily or comfortably.

The expander is fairly football shaped, though it's not particularly obvious yet. With the latitudinal scar, Frankenboob will look particularly footballesque once fully expanded. While clearly not the ideal shape for a boob, it does the best job of readying the surrounding muscle tissue for the permanent implant. Sadly, I will be stuck with a malformed Frankenboob until approximately six months after radiation is complete. At that point, the expander will be replaced with the permanent implant and a 50cc implant will be inserted under the muscle on the right side. I'm a big fan symmetry, especially when it comes to personal pillow perkiness.

To relax the muscle holding the expander in place, as well as to immediately knock me out, more Valium was prescribed. In other words, I spent the rest of Thursday and most of Friday slipping in and out of consciousness. On the rare occasion that I woke up long enough to be cognizant of my surroundings, I spent most of it begging Matt for pain medicine. Just think, I'll get to repeat this process after each inflation!

Right before leaving the office, I was given an implant card. It has my name, the type and serial number of the expander, and the doctor's information. While I don't have to carry it with me, some people choose to keep their cards in their wallets. Since I had a few empty slots in my wallet, I figured I might as well put it there. Just in case they find my charred body in a ditch. With my wallet. And all the other cards are melted.

For whatever reason, the card made me think to ask about MRIs and other magnetic scanning devices. Shockingly, they are no longer a good idea, assuming I don't want further damage to Frankenboob. Also, the TSA's nude-o-scopes may be able to detect the implant, though the operators are supposed to know what they look like and to not cause a problem. Since I refuse to go through one of those machines as a matter of principle, I guess I'll never find out.

25 February 2012

Haute Cupcake

The following is best when read aloud with a snobby English accent.

This season's biggest fashion trend? Why it's the cupcake! Just take a peek at luxury retailer Louis Vuitton's current window display, featuring a chocolate cupcake with sparkly white icing in a gold wrapper.

Louis Vuitton window display in Century City
While they do not actually sell cupcakes or any products with images of cupcakes, Swarovski more than made up for this author's disappointment by providing mini-cupcakes to all visitors.

Swarovski Crystal Society 25th anniversary celebration in Century City

You'll note not only the glitter in the frosting, but the edible pearls topping each delicious piece. If you are more concerned with how you look than how you dine, perhaps a trip to kate spade is in order.

kate spade in-store t-shirt display in Century City
I assume that since this $58 t-shirt is size XXS, they simply didn't have room for the "CUP" part of cupcake.

The great cupcake takeover is not limited to the high-end retailers. Ubiquitous bookseller Barnes & Noble is filled with cupcakes at prices more affordable to the commoner. This book of platitudes, journal, and notepad are each less than $10.

Barnes & Noble themed display in Marina del Rey
Should you desire something more sparkly with which to contact your dear compatriots, these notecards on a nearby shelf may suit your needs.

A selection of the notecards in the same Barnes & Noble
If what you desire is something a tad more tacky to suit your proletariat tastes, Aahs! has you covered. Where else would you go for cupcake bandages, toothpicks, and stress balls in an assortment of fluorescent colors?

Aahs! cupcake-related display in Westwood
One need not spend a dime to enjoy the cupcake phenomenon. Two industrious girls offered me one of their chocolate cupcakes that they generated in their domicile. Not being a fan of chocolate and having already dined on one of Swarovski's delectable confections, I chose to enjoy my bubble tea sans cupcake.

Homemade cupcakes spotted in Boba Loca in Westwood
Others choose to express their fondness for cupcakes in more artistic ways. After opening a random magazine to a random page, I discovered this model with no less than three cupcake tattoos.

Seventy Arniotis's photo spread in Inked, March 2012
The left photo shows one large cupcake tattooed in each armpit. A close examination of the right photo reveals a third cupcake on the inside of the model's left ankle.

As I encountered all of these cupcake instances over the course of one day, I must wonder where the pervasive cupcake will next appear? I can only hope it is in front of me, preferably in a scrumptious form.

22 February 2012

One good surgery deserves another

Every time some bit of me is cut off, an unfortunate soul wearing rubber gloves gets the highly enviable job of examining the piece of me. In case that wasn't stimulating enough, the hapless lab tech then gets to compile all the minutiae into a captivating missive known as the pathology report. Once it's ready, Dr. Surgeon walks into the examine room with my exponentially growing chart and delivers the inevitably bad news.

During the mastectomy, Dr. Surgeon checked visually and tactilely for anything untoward, but did not find anything unexpected. As a result, he merely excised the nipple and areola and left the surrounding skin intact, per the original plan to save as much boob as possible. The pathology report told a different story; there was a tumor in the subcutaneous fat. The size and location of the tiny tumor left me with two options.

The first option was to remove the nearby skin in case of any cancerous invaders. The expander would be deflated so that the remaining skin could be sewn together. The second was to bombard the area with extra radiation. Dr. Surgeon stressed that both were medically acceptable and that it was entirely up to me. For once in my life, I made a decision instantly. I'll repeat that for those of you in apoplectic shock - I made a decision instantly. Everyone resuscitated? Can we move on? Excellent.

When could I be scheduled for further Frankenboobing? Dr. Surgeon wanted to perform the excoriation before any more healing took place, so he managed to squeeze me in for the next morning. In other words, more surgery before I was even a week out of the hospital! And, as Dr. Surgeon put it, it was a shame to ruin the good work that Dr. PlasticSurgeon had done. But he did agree with my decision. After some phone calls, so did Dr. PlasticSurgeon and Dr. Oncologist. With that, everything was set for the next morning.

And that's how Matt and I found ourselves back at the hospital the following morning before even the sun bothered to get up, much less the valets. Mom, who I ever so subtly told to not to go home a few days prior, stayed at home with the leaky puppy and Zero, since the whole mess wasn't supposed to take more than a couple of hours. I think it was just a rouse to stay in bed. Anyway, I checked in and was lead into the workshop within fifteen minutes, leaving me with little time to dehydrate and shrink every vein in my body.

Along with the standard no eating or drinking after midnight, I was told no pills. This included the antibiotics, which I couldn't care less about at the time, and the incredibly important narcotics that made life worth living. I was told I had to wait until the IV was in and a doctor approved the pain killers, so I was thoroughly shocked when the nurse got the IV in my arm on the FIRST try.

About that time Matt was allowed in to see me. Unfortunately for him, I was more interested in narcotics. Shortly after his arrival, the anesthesiologist came over to introduce herself and check for allergies, a standard practice. The IV was in, a licensed doctor was in front of me. The first thing out of my mouth was, "Can I please have some Dilaudid now?"

Clearly that was not the right thing to do. "How do you know about Dilaudid?" was not the response for which I was hoping. Thankfully Matt was there to explain that I'd had a mastectomy the previous week, complete with a Dilaudid PCA, and that I'd been denied pain medicine since midnight. Still not convinced that I wasn't a druggie and apparently incapable of reading the giant binder at the foot of my bed, I had to wait for Dr. Surgeon'sAssistant for relief.

Per normal procedure, Dr. Surgeon'sAssistant confirmed the doomed side and wrote "YES" above the existing bandages. A few minutes later, Dr. Surgeon himself came to make sure everything was ready. When I mentioned that the "NO!" on the right side was fading, he rewrote it and even underlined it a few times. There would be no tormenting of the behaving boob that day.

Instead of general anesthesia, I was given sleepy meds and local anesthesia. As a result, I was much more aware of my surroundings when I was wheeled into the operating room. My attention was drawn to the whiteboard on wall with spaces to fill in all sorts of information. I remember asking about them, but the only one I remember was labeled "FRED." I wish I remember what it meant, but all I recall is laughing hysterically at its existence.

Presumably I woke up in recovery and Matt drove me home, but all I can recall from the rest of that day is feeling like absolute crap. I planted myself on the living room couch and refused to move, eat, or breathe for the rest of the day.

A week later, I was both off the couch and in one of Dr. Surgeon's examination rooms, waiting the inevitable. This time the bad news wasn't nearly as horrible. There were tumor emboli in the skin they removed, which further validated my decision to have the skin excoriated. However, the margins were nice and clean. Oh, and he removed 180cc of the initial 250cc from the expander. But more importantly, no more surgery! At least none involving Dr. Surgeon! I practically skipped out of the office, with Matt trailing behind me. Okay, that was a total lie. Skipping would have hurt like hell. But I was rather elated at the news. Good-bye for now, Dr. Surgeon!

17 February 2012

Medical grade things I forgot to mention

Before I get into the new stuff in the next few days, there are a few of things of note from the past two months that will certainly amuse the internet. The oldest was my finding a new way to get myself sent to the emergency room. Without thinking, I stretched my arms above my head while sitting at my desk at work. Normally this would make my arms ready to resume typing, but a searing pain in the stupid boob left me fighting back tears. Last I checked, boobs aren't supposed to feel like they popped, much less make a popping sound. While the pain subsided after about ten minutes, my left arm decided to lose feeling. It started near my armpit and gradually crept down until even my thumb was numb.

At this point, it was time to go home and call the doctor. Dr. Oncologist was worried that I might have dislocated my shoulder or caused similar damage and sent me to the ER. My favorite place! At least this time I was able to walk in under my own power, a nice change from my previous visits. On the flip side, the triage nurse looked at me funny when I said that I popped my boob and that I was losing feeling in my left arm.

After much poking and some X-rays, the doctor determined that I snapped scarred tissue inside my boob. Somehow the snap hit my left radial nerve, causing the numbness down that side of my arm and hand. If feeling didn't start returning within a day or two, it would behoove me to return for further tests. Thankfully, feeling was coming back by the time I woke up the next morning. And I got an amusing story.

Having already confirmed that I can still hurt myself in new and interesting ways, I had to show the world that my ability to get truly and thoroughly ill has not been adversely affected by cancer. With just two weeks to go before Frankenboob Day, I found myself feeling worse and worse as a Monday wore on. By Tuesday morning, I was clearly sick. The coughing up yellowy-green phlegm and fever were dead giveaways.

Despite my protests, Matt dragged me to Dr. Oncologist for my triweekly Herceptin dose on Friday. Along with the standard regiment of blood tests, the doctor listened to my chest. I jokingly offered her a tissue full of goop I coughed up, but she actually wanted to examine it for color and consistency. Eww. She also took a look at the less pathogen-infected lab results. My white blood cell count was just over twice its normal value. A week and a half before major surgery and I managed to get sinusitis with bronchitis. This needed to be remedied, and fast. To the Zithromax!

Despite being a five day course of antibiotics, there was no improvement by Monday. Not only did I have bronchitis, I had antibiotic-resistant bronchitis! Per Dr. Oncologist's instructions, Matt called her to say that I was still dying. With little time to spare, it was time for the big guns - 875mg Augmentin tablets, twice a day, for ten days. In case 875mg didn't sound large enough, each pill consisted of 875mg amoxicillin and 125mg of clavulanate. You try getting 1000mg pills down a horribly sore throat.

I went to bed still feeling yucky on Wednesday. Miraculously, I woke up feeling mostly human on Thursday morning. I was still coughing up random internal organs, but I was not contagious and ready to get the hell out of the house. Just in time to spend three days skiing at Mammoth, the perfect place to recover from bronchitis! And yes, the doctor said I could go if I felt up to it. So there.

Fast forward to Frankenboob Day, and I received a patient ID bracelet covered in 2D barcodes. Well, at least the parts without my name, doctor, et cetera were covered. They were all the same code, repeated around the bracelet. Upon scanning mine, I discovered that I am part number AC29113791854. A nice round designation, if I do say so myself.

Lastly, the blasphemous drain is back, and this time it brought a friend. Two drains at the same time, and each one worse than the last. So when Dr. PlasticSurgeon declared it was time to remove the larger, more depraved of the two, I practically threw a parade. Then she pulled the flagitious thing out. My dad, who had set up shop in the waiting area down the hall, heard the scream. Instead of just being the medical-grade equivalent of fish tank tubing, it got wider at the end. The tunnel it was dangling out of had to get wider to compensate VERY quickly. And yes, I was full of happy narcotics, and it still hurt that much.

09 February 2012

The Frankenboob... it's alive!

Hospitals are built on the principal that if you have to wait long enough for treatment, you'll either die or decide that it's not bleeding *that* badly and go home. Either way, that's one fewer patient needing medical assistance. Ergo, I shouldn't have been surprised that arriving promptly at nine, the time they said to arrive, was unnecessarily early. First they decided that my surgery was scheduled for one, and therefore I had checked in a mere two hours before they expected me. Shortly after noon, someone realized that I wasn't due for chopping until THREE THIRTY! I could have, oh I don't know, slept, instead of slowly losing my grip on reality in the waiting room.

Finally, after three days of waiting in the world's most uncomfortable chair, I was more than happy to donate my body to science. One of the nurses gave me the standard unisex gown and asked if it happened to be that time of the month. Of course it was, or I wouldn't have bothered mentioning it. The nurse disappeared for a minute and returned with "the latest from Victoria's Secret." After a cursory examination of the offending garment, I was forced to ask which side was the front. Let's just say the unfortunate regalia was one size fits no one, and I was no exception.

Once I was appropriately defrocked, it was time for the IV to be jammed in my arm. The standard veins in my right elbow are so scarred from chemo that they are no longer valid options. My entire left arm is off the table due to the removed lymph nodes. That just leaves the right forearm. A small shot of lidocaine, and then attempt one. Even with some unsettling wiggling, the nurse couldn't get the standard gauge needle in my vein. After examining my arm, the next shot of lidocaine was aimed at the back of my hand. Coincidentally, so was the next IV needle. Sadly, it was also the second failure. At this point, the nurse was complaining about how thin my veins were due to dehydration. How on earth could that have happened? Maybe it was the doctor saying that I couldn't eat after midnight since I had to be at the hospital by nine?

Apparently lidocaine causes further constriction of the veins, so the stabby nurse tried my hand again, this time with a full dose of agony. An IV in the elbow, when done properly, is not that painful. Everywhere else, well, that's just not the case. Despite my loud opining on the procedure, the nurse failed a third time. Time for the big guns and a smaller gauge needle.

Dr. Anesthesiologist and his minion joined the party. The minion was introduced as a medical student who would be observing. Not wanting to wake up at an inauspicious time, I asked for clarification on his role. In other words, would he be actually doing anything? No. Are you sure? Yes. Any chance of that changing? No. Okay, minion accepted.

With my safety ensured for later, it was time to return to the current predicament. The next venture into my arm was performed by Dr. Anesthesiologist. He, too, noted my dehydration for posterity. However, after failing to properly puncture the top of my forearm, he successfully got the needle in a bonafide vein, near the inside of my wrist! I may have screamed in pain as the sharp pointy thing forcibly reinflated my desiccated vein, but at least it was the last stab. In case you lost count, that was two shots of lidocaine and five IV needles in decreasing gauges.

The first thing the IV was hooked up to was a bag of hydrating something or other. While my veins dilated, I was allowed some time to panic in the company of Matt and my parents. We had some extra time together due to Dr. Anesthesiologist and his minion disappearing. Good job putting the patient at ease.

In the meantime, Dr. Surgeon and Dr. PlasticSurgeon took turns marking me up. Dr. Surgeon asked me to confirm which was the victim boob. He marked it with a giant "YES." But what about the good one? After months of nightmares in which too many boobs were removed, I wasn't leaving anything to chance. He inscribed a large "NO!" on the good boob.

Dr. PlasticSurgeon was much more methodical. She had me standup, then went to town with a tape measure. Between the dots, dotted lines, and solid lines, I looked like a demented runway from an airport requiring the planes to land upside down.

After Dr. Anesthesiologist reappeared and some amount of slicing and dicing, I woke up in my berth. First order of business: how many boobs do I have? Surprisingly enough, the number was greater than one. The right side was still intact, so the total wasn't due to two partial boobs. But the left side wasn't nearly as flat as expected. As it turns out, even after removing the nipple, there was enough skin and room behind the chest muscle to inflate Frankenboob to approximately 3/5 of normal size! In retrospect, of course there was some room behind the muscle, otherwise how would normal people get boob jobs without always requiring expanders?

The less pleasant surprise was that the patient-controlled analgesia would only fork over Dilauded once every eight minutes. The button would helpfully light up when a dose was available, but that didn't stop me from jumping up and down on the damn thing in hopes of getting a more useful dose. The other "problem" was that the Dilauded made me too groggy, so I spent the first day and half barely conscious. Eventually, I was switched to Norco pills, which failed to fully alleviate the pain, but at least kept me aware of my surroundings. Considering I was still stuck in the hospital, I'm not sure that this was the greatest trade-off ever.

At some point during my stay, the IV started to really hurt at the insertion site. A nurse, whose sole purpose in life was to set up IVs, removed the current one and inserted a new one ON THE FIRST TRY. I was in love. Then I realized that the removed IV wasn't where the one from the hour of poking ended up. At some point during surgery or delirium, they had switched the IV location. In other words, I was on my seventh IV, and I had the black and blue marks and holes to prove it.

I spent the next couple of days in my hospital bed, occasionally getting up to pee when absolutely necessary. I was happily discharged after my fourth day of hospital food. The dogs were happy to see me, though confused as to why they weren't allowed near me. While I was happy to see them, I was more happy to see my own bed.

31 January 2012

Time for the rusty spoon

Today is Frankenboob Day, the national holiday in celebration of the stupid boob being replaced with a medical-grade balloon. Having been scarred for life by before and after pictures of the procedure, I can state with reasonable certainty that the result will be a frankenboob.

First, Dr. Surgeon will remove the offending boob. To show it that he really means business, he'll also chop off the nipple. Then, Dr. PlasticSurgeon will put an inflatable implant under the chest muscle (that keeps it in place so the boob doesn't end up around my belly button) and sew everything back up. The highly anticipated result will be a disturbingly flat left side with a horizontal scar instead of the normal protrusion. Luckily, I won't have to see this disaster for at least a week or two as it will be covered with layers of gauze and wrapped in a post-surgery bra that is most certainly not sold at Victoria's Secret.

In six to eight weeks, when the whole mess has sufficiently healed, the frankenboob will be shot up with Lidocaine and a long, scary needle will be used to inflate the balloon with saline. Repeat every two weeks until I can't stand it anymore, and the frankenboob will be declared the correct size.

At that point, the inflat-o-boob will be replaced with a permanent silicone gel implant. The right one will get a 50mL implant to achieve symmetrical perkiness, and all will be done. Well, at least for 10 to 20 years, the expected lifespan of the implants.

Right now I'm sitting in the waiting room, wondering why they told me to show up at nine when apparently the surgery isn't scheduled to start until one. I can only assume it's so they can watch me go into sugar withdrawal and start flailing on the ground like a fish out of water. Just to make things worse, I got a good whiff of pancakes and syrup from the cafe. For someone who was specifically told not to eat or drink anything after midnight, this is just plain cruel. And if the ladies behind me discussing Starbucks don't shut up soon, I can't be held responsible for their injuries due to defenestration.

I really wish Zero was a certified therapy dog. He always knows when something is wrong, and he tries to make it better. His abilities are limited to cuddling and refusing to leave my side, but it helps.

I'll try to post tomorrow with an update on how much fun surgery was. Just don't expect it to be the most coherent thing you've ever read. 

16 January 2012

As it turns out, there was a photographer at our wedding

Due to a myriad of reasons, some of which are obvious and some of which you get to stay up late wondering about, I took my sweet time posting the wedding pictures. But all of that is over now, and here they are!

If you desire of any of the photos in higher resolution, please send a check or money order for US$9.95 per photo, plus $7.95 for shipping and handling. Don't forget to include the photo numbers, or I'll just have to choose for you.

02 January 2012

Puppy prison

A certain creature, who we'll call "NotZero", decided to take all the moss out of a planter and spread it about the living room. Another creature, who we'll call "Zero", took one look at the situation and hid under the coffee table. Of course, he was still able to enjoy the show, since he wasn't the one in trouble.

Reese was less than helpful during the cleaning process, so she landed in puppy prison while we attempted to find all of the moss.

This escape attempt failed, but maybe next time she'll try to dig under the fence or shiv one of guards. Hmmm... perhaps I should go hide the toothbrushes.

While I do that, you will enjoy a game of spin the puppy, preferably before dinner.