This poor body of mine

Yesterday I had a round of fat grafting.  For those who don’t know what that is, it’s part of the mastectomy reconstruction process where they liposuction part of your body, then inject it into your chest to fix any defects left by the implant.  Initially I was going to skip this step, but the past few months have given me quite a bit of cramping on my left side, and this was one of 2 options to hopefully alleviate some of it (other option is a whole new implant. No thanks.) So much for a surgery-free 2015 🙂

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Bruises are pretty cool looking though!

If you give a mouse a cookie

You know the story? The one where if you give the mouse one thing, then it wants something else, which leads to something else, etc etc? I am just like that mouse.

I touched briefly on this subject in my last blog post (almost 3 months ago, sorry ’bout that), but these days it’s hard for me to be content with an average life.  That probably isn’t the best word choice because there’s no such thing as an average life, but I can’t think of a better synonym (I spent 7 hours in the car today, bear with me).  I need something….different.  Hence the jumping out of planes, trying acupuncture, learning a new skill, cutting all my hair off, and this Saturday, going soaring.  The plane-with-no-engine soaring.  Happy birthday to me, from me! I can’t wait.  And lucky me to have a partner who not only puts up my antics but joins in on the action as well.

I’d secretly hoped love would find me easily after what I’d chosen to do, but I definitely didn’t expect to find it 2 weeks after my first round under the knife.  What a dreamboat that guy is.  I was clearing out some files from my computer and came across a video from August 2014 after my reconstructive surgery.  Cody came over and we went on a walk, but I was still drugged and in pain so he pushed my wheelchair.  I think I went through those first few months waiting for sh*t to hit the fan, because really, it’d be hard for a long-term boyfriend to put up with not being able to touch or even hug his girlfriend, or better yet, having to stab her in the stomach with fertility shots, much less one who’d met this chick a month an a half earlier.  That’s even too much for my family to put up with and they have to put up with me.  Goodness. We didn’t have more than a month that was surgery/procedure-free until earlier this year.  Now it’s all smooth sailing, or soaring I should say 😉  average conversation includes “Want to go to Alaska in May?” “What about Ireland in December? Or Israel instead?” “Should we do the Edge Walk in Toronto for your birthday and soaring for mine?”

Just this minute, right now as I was writing this post and sending Cody that video I talked about, I mentioned that he put up with a lot those first few months. He disagreed and I called him a liar. “You didn’t let it affect you much so I didn’t let it affect me much”.  And that about sums up who he is. That and the fact that he was voted “Most Likely To Make Your Day” in high school.  No matter what happens in the future I’ll always be grateful to him for the support and sense of normalcy he brought to my life during those rough months.

Anyway, time to pull myself away from the heart-eye emoji talk and review some things.  Skydiving is awesome, acupuncture is odd and wonderful, I’m never having long hair again, grandma thinks I’m crazy, and my boobs were what was keeping me back.  So many people thought I’d regret having a mastectomy so young, I regret those years spent worrying myself into a depression that kept me from doing all these wonderful things.

If only I’d known what life could be like, if only I could go back in time and shake the teenage Kelly that couldn’t get through a day without a panic attack and convince her that she’d never go through what her mother had to. But I can’t. And you know what they say…if ifs and buts were candy and nuts we’d all have a Merry Christmas.

Bottom line? If you give a Kelly a mastectomy, she’ll probably live a life more incredible than she ever dreamed.

You can age more than a year in 365 days.

It’s May 9, 2015 at 9:36 am.  I intended to still be sleeping right now but life doesn’t always work out that way.  Instead I’m sitting outside in the rain with a cup of coffee watching Penny sprint back and forth through the grass while my boyfriend is sleeping peacefully inside.  At this time on this date in 2014 I was having my first surgery, my mastectomy.  On that day and the days leading up to it I didn’t cry.  I didn’t cry when I woke up and saw my breasts gone, I didn’t cry when I had to say goodbye to my family before they wheeled me back.  Today though? I cry.  My therapist says it’s grief.  Not grief because of my missing breasts but grief for the person I was.  I feel a motherly instinct over that person, I want to protect her and hold her.  She was so innocent and had no idea what the next year would bring.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. I’d do it a million times if I had to.  At the time going through the process of the surgery and recovery I didn’t think it was that bad. Hindsight? That shit was HARD.  Pain, restricted movements, the emotions (which I honestly didn’t start to feel until much later), the toll on my family.  I grieve for what I went through even though at the time I didn’t want anyone’s sympathy.

That surgery (and the subsequent ones) aged me.  I’ve never really been my age, I think I came out as a 25 year old woman.  Even after my mom died I was never really a child.  This process has aged me more than that though, more than the years after my mother’s death, more than my high school graduation or 4 years of college.  Now is when I have to learn not to plan for the future so much. Now is when I have to take it easy and let it happen.  For a long time I would plan because I had to, because that’s the only way I knew how to live.  I did everything I could to make myself feel like I wasn’t vulnerable.

Funny thing is, I feel more vulnerable now than I ever did when I still had my parts. Is this what it’s like for everyone else? Is this life? It’s gonna take some getting used to.

I’m excited for it though.  I’m hoping I can begin break down some walls and enjoy life as a ‘normal’ person.  I don’t think I’ll ever really be my age but I think I’m okay with that. Be patient with me as I learn to live, please. This is a whole new experience for me.

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What a difference a year makes.

A letter to my breasts

Dear breasts,

I don’t miss you.

I know people are expecting me to grieve over my loss of you, to spend my nights up wondering if I did the right thing by getting rid of you.  I did.  A thousand times over, I did.  I live without fear now.  Not in the way that I’ve taken up bull riding or driving without a seatbelt, but in the way where I can look at myself in the mirror and appreciate what I see.  Now I don’t view my body as out to get me, I view it as the thing that’s been through hell and is still, somehow, healthy and thriving.  I view my scars as tiger stripes and delight in the fact that I never have to wear a bra again.  I laugh when I play a good game of “Can you feel that?” with my boyfriend (who, by the way, doesn’t miss you either) when trying to figure out exactly where the scalpel scraped you away.  I never liked you, even before I found out you were trying to kill me.  You were asymmetrical and too big for my body.  You reminded me of the very organs that ended up putting some of my favorite people in the ground. I am grateful now, because losing you has put things in perspective for me.  I can brush it off when the scale is a few pounds heavier or my face has a couple more pimples than it had the day before.  I don’t hold grudges after arguments and smile at strangers.  I eat more chocolate and read more good books, I spend more time with my family and am even more determined to become the best teacher I can be.

You’re in good company, wherever you are.  Joined by part of my right eye and both fallopian tubes.  Other organs that, given the chance, would also try to kill me.  Eventually more of myself will join you in that biohazard dump, but the more of physical self I seem to lose, the more heart and personality I gain.

Breasts, I know you didn’t mean to hurt me, I know you didn’t really have a choice in the matter, it was pre-determined before I even took a breath or opened my eyes.
Thanks for understanding that you had to go.
Thanks for putting up with years of being squished around, poked at, and prodded by cold doctor hands.
Thanks for taking one for the team.  My other organs thank you, too.

Signed,

Kelly

Every day is World Cancer Day

Sorry for the rather pessimistic title, but it’s true.

For those whose lives have been affected by cancer, the day starts and ends with the disease.  I wake up every morning with a part of my heart missing, buried with my mom 12 years ago.  I fall asleep every night after an hour of tossing and turning, the awkward lumps on my breast-less chest making it impossible to sleep comfortably.  Don’t get me wrong- I am grateful every day for the opportunity to get this thing before it hits, but on days like today where the message is about ‘awareness’, it’s frustrating.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past hundred years, you’re aware of cancer.  It can latch itself on to any body part it chooses without mercy.  You’re aware of it, but do you know how to do everything in your power to prevent it? Do you know what to look for, so if- God forbid- it attacks, you can catch it early? Do you know your individual risk?  Lets stop being just aware, lets educate, donate, research, prevent, and stop cancer from taking any more of the people we love and care about.

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Do you know your risk for breast and ovarian cancer? Check here

Do you know how to give yourself a breast exam? Learn here

Need reminders to actually do it? Click here

Need recommendations of worthy charities?

My Destiny Foundationa nationwide not for profit organization providing financial support to those who are at risk of developing breast cancer.

Protect The Pecs  and HIS Breast CancerMale breast cancer foundations.

FORCE– Hereditary cancer organization.

bcsurgerystories.com– Help publish a book about breast cancer surgery and reconstruction.

Bright Pink–  Help educate young women about their breast and ovarian health.

Now go donate and change the world!

Should I be done with the sad stuff now? I think so.  On to some happy news..another article recently came out via The Ann Arbor News!

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And I got a message today from the lovely author that it has been picked up by Associated Press, who will publish it this weekend! I love this article, it’s the only ones that really captures ALL of the preventative stuff- boobs, tubes, and frozen eggs. And and and Cody was interviewed too! I’m so glad that lovely man is finally getting SOME credit for putting up with my crazy.  Pink & Blue also gets a shoutout, and my own personal Genetic Oncologist makes an appearance! It’s quite the article.  Read it in its entirety here

Unexpected joy

2014 had the potential to be the worst year of my life.  5 surgeries in 7 months. Oy! Instead of a year to be forgotten, 2014 turned out to be the best year of my life.  Here I am starting 2015 healthy, in love, and the happiest I’ve ever been.  I’m finishing my last semester of classes and I’m turning in my student teaching application on Tuesday.  I’m still giving speeches, raising awareness and money for HBOC and cancer research.  I’m having the best time living this incredible life with all the people I love by my side.  Lets look at some highlights…

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I had my first press conference, not knowing all the wonderful things it would lead to.

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I met my favorite Red Wing, and was spoiled by the greatest professional sports organization there is.

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I had my boobs cut off.

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And 2 weeks later I met & fell in love with the second best guy I’ve ever known (pops will always be #1).

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I went to Philidelphia to shoot for Pink&Blue at the FORCE conference.

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I froze 17 potential future children.

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And I got my new foobs!

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I ditched my fallopian tubes

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And was spoiled by the Red Wings, AGAIN

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Went to the RISE festival in Vegas for more Pink& Blue

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And had the scare of a lifetime when my doctor inaccurately told me I had skin cancer in my eye.

It’s been a helluva year! I can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store.

When life hands you lemons, and lemons….and lemons

I shared an ambiguous post on my facebook last week about having a tumor removed from my eye.  I suppose I should elaborate on that and other aspects of my life since it’s been a solid 2 months since there’s been a blog post. Oy!

So about 6 or so weeks ago I went to the eye doctor to have my vision checked as I noticed it had been getting worse.  While there, he noticed that the abnormal mass on the surface of my eye had grown significantly the past year, doubling in size.  This doctor has a reputation for being quite frank, and he lived up to it when he decisively announced “it looks like a squamous cell carcinoma, which is a type of cancer, but not hard to fix.  I’m sending you to a cornea expert.”  Uh, waaat??  I had spent the past 5 months removing every body part I could to avoid cancer, and now I get skin cancer…on my eyeball?  To be honest, I laughed.  I looked at the doctor and said, “You’ve gotta be f****** kidding me!” and ended up in tears while continuing to laugh so hard I thought I would pee my pants.  While standing at the reception desk waiting to find out when my appointment with the ‘expert’ would be, I sent poor Cody a text that simply said, “I have eyeball cancer. Ha” and a less sarcastic message to my dad.  Both initially thought it was some morbid joke.  To be honest, so did I.

The following week, I went in to see Michigan’s resident eyeball expert.  I was pretty much told, “Hmmm, this could be a carcinoma. Or a melanoma.  Or a good old nevus”.  A nevus is basically a cluster of weird cells, sort of like a birthmark, but mine took the form of a tumor.  Doc decided that with my body’s lack of cancer-prevention software that most people have, this thing needed to be removed.

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Cue the eyeball surgery.  Apparently my last words to the surgeon were, “I have a really cute boyfriend and I need to be able to see him after this. So you better be careful.”  I have no memory of this exchange, but my nurse said it gave the OR staff a good laugh.

I got to rock an eyepatch for a while, scare young children, and generally look like a badass.  The fifteen (FIFTEEN) stitches in my eye were more annoying than painful, and thankfully that was my only complaint in recovery.  I called the doctor every day asking if pathology had come back yet and was met with disappointment every time, until I went in to see him for a follow up this week.

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See those beautiful words? N-E-V-U-S.  Talk about a weight off my shoulders.  I could punch that first doctor straight in the throat for his complete lack of a bedside manner.  Scared the living daylights out of me and my family.  Can’t be too angry though, life is good, I’m healthy, and I don’t need to remove any more body parts anytime soon. I’d call that a good day. 🙂

This year I’ve made lots of lemonade.

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Post-surgical news

So, surgery was Thursday and I hate to say I underestimated the pain associated with a laproscopic procedure.  I also realized after the fact that I should have informed the anesthesiologist of how quickly I come-to after surgery.  I woke up while still in the OR!  And of course, they weren’t expecting me to so they had no pain medications in the room with them. Safe to say that was a 12 of the pain scale.

For those of you that don’t know, I had what’s called a salpingectomy, which is the removal of both fallopian tubes.  It is becoming more of a typical practice in preventing ovarian cancers, which you can read about here, here, here, and here.  It’s a single-incision surgery going through the belly button, and it should only last 45 minutes.  They ran into a problem when they spotted something odd on my right ovary and had to run some tests to see if they should take that along with the tubes.  They ended up leaving it but the procedure took about 2 hours with that delay.

I had assumed it wasn’t going to be one of those “knock you on your a**” surgeries but I was wrong.  I spent the rest of Thursday, all day Friday, and the majority of Saturday cuddling a bottle of Percocet and binge watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix.  Not Saturday night, though!

That was the Detroit Red Wings game I’d been looking forward too since May! They invited myself plus 3 guests to their Breast Cancer Awareness night at the Joe followed by a post game meet-n-greet with the team.  I got to bring my sister, one of my best friends, and my boyfriend with me to one of my favorite places in the world!  Despite the loss, we had a great time cheering on our team, and got a nice surprise when we showed up and realized I was on the cover of the calendar they were handing out!

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It was great to see Jimmy again and catch up since we haven’t seen each other since my birthday back in August.  He’s such a genuine and good guy and I become prouder and prouder to be his fan every passing day.

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That’s what’s new in my life!  Flying outta Michigan this weekend for some super secret Pink&Blue filming.  Until then, I’m going to sit back and slowly come down from my adrenaline rush that was Saturday night.

Lots of love to everyone!

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You can’t make everybody happy. You’re not a Nutella jar.

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I’ve stumbled upon this picture multiple times the past week and I giggle whenever I see it.  It’s so fitting too, to the post I’ve been toying with writing.  I’ve wanted to share some of the better ignorant and flat out stupid comments I’ve received in the wake of being in the public eye after my mastectomy.  One thing I don’t want people to think, however, is that these comments affected me in any way.  On the contrary, they made me laugh, and sometimes they made me pity those that were saying them.  So I thought I’d share some of the more laughable ones with you and my thoughts towards them.

“RIP to that glorious rack”
Sorry your love life sucks, bro.

“You’re such a pretty girl, why would you want to change that?”
This one came a while back, I actually have a full blog post devoted to it.  Still one of my favorites.

“She just had the surgery because she has PTSD from her mother’s death”
This one is hilarious because it was on a facebook post of an article about my surgery and mutation.  He must’ve not read it at all.  I have a gene mutation from my mother.  Not PTSD.

“She just did it for the free boob job”
At the time of my mastectomy, I was  20 year old woman with DD breasts.  In what universe would I need a boob job?

“Might as well kiss her dating life goodbye”
Tell that to my boyfriend, who met me 2 weeks after my mastectomy.

“Such a shame to lose those glorious funbags”
Sorry for the crass language, but this is a quote.  Yes, such a shame I will live a long, healthy life.

“She’s not brave for having the mastectomy.  She’d be brave if she didn’t get reconstruction.”
What? How? What even? That makes no sense.  I still had my breasts cut off, and endured a second surgery along with the expansion process because mainstream society is so breast-obsessed I didn’t want to have to deal with having a flat chest.

“Why is she being praised for mutilating herself? We don’t clap for cutters”
…. … .. . wat

“She should’ve just changed her diet to avoid the cancer risk. Become a vegetarian.”
1- I’ve been a vegetarian for 12 years. 2- My DNA is my DNA. You can’t re-write it, I am still missing a sequence of genetic material on the 17th chromosome that protects my body against breast and ovarian cancers.  Eating green leafy vegetables isn’t going to replace it.

“Removing her breasts was selfish.  What about her kids? Now they won’t get breastmilk”
Calling me selfish because my hypothetical future children won’t get my personal boob juice? Oy!  Not that formula isn’t an option (it is, and I’ll utilize it) there is a wonderful organization called humanmilk4humanbabies that I plan on working with when the time comes.

“She’s just an Angelina Jolie wannabe”
Right. I love Angelina SO MUCH that I removed part of my body to be JUST LIKE HER.

That’s enough negativity.  I don’t view it as negativity, though.  I view it as comedy.  I’m forever grateful for the fact that throughout this whole  journey, I’ve never had hesitations.  I know that every single thing I do is motivated by my desire to live and to live happily.  I just wish all of the people who’ve decided to take time out of their day to attempt to bring me down experience the same peace of mind that I have one day. Until next time, xoxo Kelly