Sunday, 9 September 2012

90. Pre-Op for the Finale (Phase One)

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After a second night of insomnia and only 2 hours sleep I had to get up for my Pre-Op assessment on Thursday.

What is a Pre-Op?
Pre-operative assessments involve blood pressure, weight, blood, swabs and a chat about medical conditions. I can highly advise taking an 8am appointment if you can, as with doctors surgeries, the team gradually run late by the afternoon. I have, in the past, on a number of occasions now (I am getting old hat at surgery now) spent over 4 hours in a Pre-Op Assessment ward with an afternoon appointment. Hot, stuffy, boring as hell. My 8am appointment was over in an hour and half, brilliant stuff and the best experience of Pre-Op yet.

6.45am  Alarm...eurrghh!
6.55am  Cup of STRONG coffee
7.10am  Lashings of anti wrinkle cream
7.35am  Out into the crisp new autumnal air and into the 8am rush hour
7.45am  Discovered the 8am commuters are grumpier than 9am commuters and way more aggressive.  How rude!
7.58am  Arrived at the hospital and was spoilt for choice with parking spaces, this is a rare, rare event and I liked it.
8.01am  Entered the doors to a gentle world of fresh shift of hospital staff willing to help, smile and direct me to where I was supposed to go.  Felt sad that most would leave feeling knackered and frustrated having walked past some of them clocking off and going home on my way in.
8.03am  Arrived in the peaceful and friendly Erme Ward, filled out my form and took a seat, watched the Paralympic hand cycling.
8.10am  My name was called and the poking and prodding commenced.

Step One: Blood Pressure & Weight
Having just driven there with a bunch of aggressive driving commuters, I wasn't completely relaxed, plus I always get a little anxious entering hospitals. It always baffles me why they do this bit first for that very reason. My blood pressure was fine, 112/75 (blood pressure explained), but apparently I should have been dead with 238 heartbeats per minute!! Holy cow! Thankfully the machine wasn't working properly, so it was the old fashioned wrist and watch beat count = 75bpm. Phew! I was still alive!

The next bit was the depressing bit, the weigh in. I think all weighing scales in hospitals make you heavier than you are. I had an progesterone implant put in 4 months ago, and suddenly put on 8lbs in weight, which is good for my upcoming surgery but highly unusual for my stable weight record. Back in November 2011, comedy surgeon was concerned that I didn't have much fat for him to work with for fat transfer. I can officially confirm that he now has plenty to suck out and juggle around.

Step Two: Chat & Questionnaire
I ramble at this part. Sat in room with a closed door and a nurse, there is a 4 page questionnaire that the nurse goes through with you, asking about eyesight, allergies, previous operations (which I find weird as they have records of these..surely?), mental health etc. It is this stage that I realise I'm pretty healthy at 39 years old and feel lucky to be that way. The nurse was a lovely lady, we laughed a lot and found out that she had never had a general anaesthetic - lucky woman!

Step Three: Bloods & Swabs
The blood and swab nurse was lovely and chatty.  She took my nose, throat and groin swabs for MRSA tests and took my bloods.  A few pokings, a small scratch and a nice compliment about my dress later I was done, free to leave.

9.35am  Walked out of the hospital feeling good.
9.37am  Walked past the medic team waiting for the air ambulance to land.  As it landed about 50 feet away, a sudden upwelling of emotion came over me as I remembered the day my ex-fiance didn't quite make it to hospital in the air ambulance that tried to save him.  He died as it landed on the helipad at Salisbury hospital after a big RTA.  That day I should have been driving, not him, that day I was spared my life or serious injury at least, and although I have endured other battles, I am still here and I can still fight them.  My mortality is very real to me.  Most people don't think of death but I am very much aware that I am alive and I want to feel it everyday, not sit when I am 80 and realise that I sat on my arse, watched tv too much, stayed indoors, never took risks, did nothing with the time I had here on Earth.  I shed the tears that came from nowhere from the moment, wished the person inside made it, and then sat in my car and smiled to myself remembering some good stuff and then made my way to work.

The countdown starts here for Finale: Phase One = nipple reconstruction, back scar revision (part 2) and fat transfer for breast augmentation (amending one flat one to match the other with a little extra pillow plumping).

Weeeeee!! Here we go!



Sunday, 2 September 2012

89. Sporty stuff - the challenges and limitations

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There are a number of posts that I have been meaning to write recently.  This one is about sport.

When I was a kid, I lived on a bike, dangled from trees, swung on ropes, ran like the wind and hid like Harry Potter in his Invisibility Cloak.  As a teenager I hit balls with bats and sticks, threw them into nets, chucked balls and discs and ran like the wind.  There was majorettes, swimming, rounders, cycling and hockey.  I loved competing and being outside exercising.  As a grown woman I had discovered big kites, cycling, snowboarding and sea kayak paddling.  I have always been involved in sport, whether participating personally or team supporting someone else.

Three years ago my LD Flap surgery stopped me in my tracks and left me very frustrated.  For those who have been through the same surgery or are considering it, my journey has been particularly hard, probably because I am an active woman and the limitations, long-term and short-term have been noticed more than someone less active. I thought it would be useful to list all the sporty things that I feel that I can now do, what I have tried and what I have pondered about.

Snowboarding
Awesome!! I had to develop a method to get up on my toe edge as heel edge standing from sitting demands too much from my arms, shoulders and pectoral muscles.  The falling bit freaked me out too, with outstretched save my face arm landing jolts my whole chest and I get horrible spasms for hourse after.  The key is....don't fall over.  Yeah! Right...so..I don't snowboard much but I will come back to it again.  I guess skiing would be far easier and a defo yes!

Mountain Biking
Yes!! I now regularly go out riding cross-country and downhill mountain biking.  The suspension in the forks of bikes now means I don't have to absorb all the bumps.  Push ups for downhill can get a little sketchy on steep parts and I need help so I always ride in a group.  It's so good for you, I can get aerobic exercise, toning and fresh air all in one.  I adore my bikes!  The body armour is comfortable too, which I was concerned about but I wear IXS 2012 women specific armour and it's big but robust.  I have taken a few tumbles and just get minor bruises and I know that my precious boobs and scars are well protected when I fall.

Surfing
Ummm...nope! Well, on a surfboard anyway.  I guess bodyboarding (spongeing) with fins would be okay as your legs do the paddling work instead of your arms.  I had to sell my surfboard (which my hub bought as my wedding present) after I realised there was no way I could board surf anymore.  The strong paddle required to get into a wave is something I just can't do now.  My arm pull is weak and I would spend most of my time frustrated at not being able to catch a wave.  I have lost all desire to be in the water with my lack of swimming stroke strength these days.  Gonna stay safe on land!

Kite Flying
Weeee!! I can still fly a 6ft kite no troubles, but for smaller periods of time.  I have flown a 3.2m kite with a harness to take the pull out of the gusts and this is fun. So glad I can still get excited about the windy stuff!

Swimming
Yippee! I was surprised that a few lengths of breast stroke didn't bother me.  Before my nerve cutting surgery to reduce the muscle spasms, I couldn't have swum anywhere for very long.  Backstroke and front stroke are not ideal and hurt, crunch my crunchy shoulders and I stick to breast stroke or lie on my back and just kick.  It's nice to be able to still swim, I have to say.

Sea Kayak Paddling
Yes! Although I now go with my husband in a double kayak, I am fit and strong enough to take short paddles a few hours at a time, in a single kayak, in less choppy conditions.  This activity always needs lots of planning for tides, wind and general weather conditions anyway but extra planning for locations and routes is now needed to make it safe to cope with.  Too many accidents come to paddlers who don't take time to plan or carry all the right equipment with them.  Stay safe kids!

Tennis
Maybe? Not tried but I imagine it could be okay now that my twinges and spasms are gone.  It's a very strong arm movement kind of sport, those which I actually avoid if I can and I have never had the urge to play tennis, badminton would be much better with lighter rackets and objects to hit.

Yoga
Yes, although I have some restriction on full stretches, this is the best thing I can do for my body to keep it supple and flexible.  Piltates is stronger but also advised by my physio.

Aerobics
Hmm...I haven't attended any but most classes cater for your limitations and it would be good to have a chat before you join to make sure that they can help you get the most out of sessions.


88. Podge, Pondering & Self-Esteem

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For the last 3 years I've enjoyed some hard earned emotional respite and peace from my genetic breast cancer worry.  Facing more surgery in the not too distant future has new and interesting mental challenges.

Podge  Since comedy surgeon gave me strict orders not to change my current weight in preparation for my fat transfer surgery, I've struggled a little.  I am currently fluttering around my trigger weight, the one that normally makes me kick my own arse into action and exercise more and eat less cake.  Looking at the scales everyday and knowing that I can't lose any of those 'oh my god love, sort it out love' pounds is, quite frankly, bizarre!  It's made me learn to accept that being a little fuller figured is okay.  Age may be playing its part here, having recently edged ever closer to big  4Oh my god!  It's harder to maintain it at this level without going over.

Pondering  People are like teddy bears; they are nicest when they are brand new or when they're worn at the ears and nose from years of love with stuffing knocked about from many adventures. I had my stuffing pulled out by my surgeon and it is one of the biggest adventures of my life, both emotionally and physically.  I have lost and gained (not talking the extra poundage here) along the way.

Self-Esteem  Most women struggle with their body image and I was once one of the many. I had such a negative view of my body and I forgot how to be feminine, how utterly sad. In the past, years of school days bullying by boys teasing on the size of my curvaceous rear end and the teasing that continued by a man that I once loved, damaged my body confidence deeply.  It took years of comforting words from my incredibly caring and loving husband to change that, but it wasn't easy, I had to believe he meant it and I had to allow myself to feel it.  The problem with being BRCA+ is that once you know your genetic status you have to choose to either stay as you are or chop your breasts off.  The latter comes with major issues, body image issues involving risks, scars and body changes that some cannot face. I know a lot of very amazing BRCA+ women who have been through the mangle with surgery and their emotions. They are more beautiful than they ever imagined, radiating confidence, living life, loving people and being free despite being scarred mentally, emotionally and physically for life. 

There is something incredibly liberating about facing your own mortality and flirting with your survival instinct. It is utterly priceless - a life adventure. Most people who have pulled a mooner in the face of death tend to live life fuller, love deeper, risk more, are kinder and more forgiving of others.  Thats the way everyone should be, but it takes some major event to scare the shit out of you before you take a long hard look at yourself and what you feel about everything.

What was the purpose of this blog post? Just a vent, another fugly morning mirror look at myself and sorting it out for the day moment. How being a little podgy is not the end of the world, that I've come a very long way and I'm not who I used to be.  What a fabulous thing!  I wouldn't change any of it.


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