I’m Back! A Photo Essay

I have emerged from a long winter of isolation. Two years of recovering from surgeries broke me in places, but where my body and psyche were shattered, I am stronger. Focused. Driven. I am stoked for the challenges that lie ahead. I am ready to take back my Wild Life.susie's knee

For me, skiing symbolizes health, strength, and freedom after setbacks. I looked forward to hitting the slopes again.

I had hiked and biked to get back in shape after a Makoplasty partial knee replacement on January 5th, but my physical therapist instructed me to build strength in my muscles to stabilize the knee instead. I took a few weeks of Pilates and strengthening classes.

Were my muscles strong enough or would I have to ride back down on the chairlift?

I made it to the top! Now for the true test.

The top of A-BasinI would be skiing the heaviest and slushiest snow of the year. It would have been painful to ski with my old knee. How would my body handle it?

Continue reading

What To Do When You Piss Off A Body Part

photo (1)I’m going on seven weeks since my partial knee replacement. I’m still laying in bed taking it easy and elevating while icing. I hate ice. Why can’t heat reduce swelling?

I went to my six week checkup on Monday not knowing what to expect. It’s never good when your doctor starts out by saying, “I expected you to be so much farther along. You’re at least two weeks behind.” He thought I’d be healed up and ready to ski and play tennis.

GAH! What the hell happened?

“Your knee is really angry. You need to calm it down.”

I looked at my pissed off knee and thought, What did I ever do to you? I’ve always loved my knobby knees. Oh yeah. I guess amputating bone and messed up cartilage then replacing it with a metal plate and plastic could put me on your shit list. Sorry! Continue reading

Be Your Own Badass Hero

Being stuck in bed recuperating can be depressing for any Wild Rider. Foggy-headed and cooped up for days after my partial knee replacement gave me too much time to think and by that I mean feel sorry for myself. Multiply that with weaning off the Oxycodone and I had a pretty big crash.

I regretted the timing of my surgery even though the x-ray showed I walked on borrowed time. The desire to get it over with and impulsivity was a perfect combo for, “I’ll take your next available appointment!” Two weeks wasn’t long enough to prepare myself mentally. I was also dealing with the guilt of sleeping so much and not writing.

Being in great shape, I expected to exceed my doctor’s and home care physical therapist’s expectations. I’m competitive and goal-oriented. Instead, a week after surgery, I suffered a setback. My leg ballooned up with blood. I had to reduce the swelling before I could make any real improvements with mobility. (You should see my bruise. It’s amazing. It runs from my hip to the bottom of my calf. Yes. I took pictures.)

When my PT stopped by that Wednesday and told me I wouldn’t be off the walker by Friday since I seemed unstable and added I wasn’t ready to use the exercise bike, it broke me. The funk sunk in and continued to make itself comfortable the next morning.

At 10:00 AM I needed something to eat with the Ibuprofen. I pushed my walker to the top of the stairs and then gingerly lowered my foot one step at a time. I shuffled behind my other walker to the kitchen and turned on the TV. I became transfixed by an advertisement for The Hunger Games even though I’ve seen the movie and read the book. I thought, Katniss Everdeen was the ultimate badass.


AND THEN IT HIT ME WITH A JOLT. “I don’t need a hero,” I said out loud, “I am my own hero. I need to fight for myself!”

Filled with hope, the corners of my mouth formed a smile. The funk lifted. Hope forced funk out of my gloomy recesses and obliterated it.

I ate my toast, took my pills, exercised at the counter, and then pushed my walker to the stairs. This time, instead of starting with my good leg and pulling my bad one up to the same step, I lifted my bad knee and walked up those freakin’ stairs like a normal person. Well, a normal person who grunts while grasping the banister.

When the PT came a few hours later, she saw a huge improvement. I graduated from the walker to a cane. YES! Then she instructed me on how to use my exercise bike.

Now all I need is a top hat.


Can you pull yourself out of a funk?

The Boob Report – Bosom Boosting Buddies

Bosoms. My sister Patty and I broke out in fits of laughter after one of us said that word. We shared a bed when we were little girls and were supposed to go to sleep after the lights went out.

It referred to our private parts; our undeveloped breasts modestly covered up at all times even though we only had flat nipples like little boys. We thought the word was naughty. My mom would hush us and again we would whisper, “Bosoms!” until tears ran down our cheeks and we couldn’t breathe.

There is something very antiquated about the word bosoms these days, but there is nothing antique about the feeling of having close friends or bosom buddies.

A few days before my surgery, a couple of my girlfriends threw a Boob Party Send Off for me. These were uncharted waters, but they responded to my sense of humor.

sweet boobies

Karin, the hostess, went all out and bought everything to make cupcakes. She sent the project to another friend of mine whose daughter bakes. Ale said, “I’ve decorated a lot of cupcakes, but these are my first nipples.” Continue reading

The Boob Report IV – Coming Out of the Haze

after surgeryWell that was a huge load off my chest. Sorry. I’ve been dying to tell that joke. I have to make up for lost time. Life has been a little on the wild side since my bilateral mastectomy.

I will be posting a huge thank you to everyone, but I want the fog to lift a little more.  You are all the very best!  Here’s my update:

I have been in a Jimi Hendrix Purple Haze since the surgery. Dreamless sleep took up most of the first few days. In a slow motion ADD-like state, I would wake up and notice a cloud outside my window. With a growling stomach, I would start to roll out of bed, (the most painful movement of all), then I would give up and lay back down, check my email on my phone, notice a cloud outside my window, hit a few likes on Facebook, realize I was still hungry and force myself out of bed. I would eat something, take my pills, notice another cloud forming in the distance and go back to sleep for a few hours. Then I would wake up and start all over again.

Managing my pain and staying on a pill schedule was and still is the main focus. Thank you Danny!

I lie on my back at a 45 degree angle for proper healing, drainage, and since it’s the only painless position. After sleeping like an Egyptian mummy for a week, I am used to it. Since I am using my ears for ballast, I  shouldn’t get any wrinkles. Bonus!

Four tubes ran from my body into clear hand grenade-like plastic bottles. They collect the fluids. It is very sensitive where the tubes enter my body. I held the bottles while taking my first shower then handed them to Danny and said, “Don’t drop them. This like handing you my heart.”

Drains are used for many kinds of elective surgery as well. Two are at the base of my armpit while the other two collect from my chest. The nurse removed two of them today and the uncomfortable armpit drains will come out on Monday. Yes!

I came up with an idea for my second shower – a belt! I pinned them on then realized the tabs are loops. My doctor wasn’t aware of that either until I showed him my fancy belt yesterday.

The drains look pretty cool actually. I had Danny take a picture after my shower. 

locked and loaded2

Locked and loaded.

My husband Danny has been “stripping the tubes” and measuring the fluids since I got home on Sunday.  Yep. I had to stay an extra night in the hospital. I always have the opposite reaction to drugs. Why is that? I was still cracking jokes and yammering on about my Boob Report while they carted me into surgery. They must have given me a little extra sedative. It took me a whole week to get it out of my system and I am still not close to being clear-headed. This is the first day I have been able to focus and type.

Believe it or not, the most painful part of the surgery was my LEFT EYE! Do you remember my post about how I sleep with my eyes open? Well, the drugs were so dehydrating, my left eye felt like a hot poker had branded it during the 4 hour surgery. The general anesthetic must only work on boobs or the removal of them.

My first bedside doctor was an ophthalmologist!

Dehydration made it hard to talk, but of course, I talked anyway. Danny spoon fed me ice chips for hours to keep my lips from sticking to my teeth.

I couldn’t pee or get out of bed without nausea on Saturday, hence the extra night in the hospital.

They gave me an IV of anti-nausea medicine and I slept for three hours. When I woke up, I ate everything in sight and raved about the hospital food. I savored the Jell-O like an exquisite dessert! Okay. I must have been really out of it.

Danny drove me home on Sunday.  I had to learn how to get in and out of bed without the use of my arms. Man. I use them for everything, but my feet are becoming pretty dang dexterous. I learned that if I lie on my left side and hook my right foot on the outside of the mattress, I can pull myself upright. Ingenious. I know.

The doctors wanted me walking right away to increase my blood flow and rid the drugs from my system. It really does help!

The pathology results concluded I am in the thirteen percentile for recurrence of any kind of cancer. Low numbers are good. The way I look at it, I have an 87% chance for never getting cancer again! That means, …drum roll please…NO CHEMO!!!

Chemotherapy reduces the chances for recurrence by 25%. Since my Oncotype percentile is 13%, chemo would only reduce my stats by 3%. It wouldn’t be worth the side effects. Yay!!!

I will take the pill, Tamoxifen, (a pretty cool drug), for at least the next five years. You see, every cancer thrives on something. My rare lobular cancer thrives on estrogen. This pill mimics estrogen and if any cancer cells start showing up in my body, POW! The Tamoxifin blows them up!

Radiation was never in the cards since my lymph nodes are clear (so is the left breast), and there is nothing left to radiate. No boobs = No radiation.

I would like to nominate myself as the poster child for EARLY DETECTION.  Yeah. I got lucky. I listened to the news about how women don’t need mammograms every year, so I skipped 2012. The cancer would not have shown up on a mammogram last year because lobular cancer is fingerlike. If I had skipped this year, I would be screwed and not in that low percentile.  Scary!

Schedule a mammogram every year during the same month. Some cancers grow very fast compared to mine.  

You don’t want this kind of ride. It was NOT fun.

I had four tumors. They were 1 mm, 2 mm, 5 mm, and the largest was 16 mm. That stinkin’ thing had been growing in me for five to seven years!

Everyone’s cancer is unique. Who knew? There are many different combinations which require different treatment. Remember, I am that 1 out of 5000 healthy women who had (nice to put that in the past tense!), lobular cancer. It has an estrogen receptor, but it could have a progesterone or a non-hormonal receptor. There are 21 genes in the breast cancer’s DNA and all of those are studied along with many other factors to come up with each individual’s Oncotype score. You can’t compare cancer or treatments.

Some cancers are very fast growing and feel like a pea or piece of hard bubble gum. Mine grew at a moderate pace and mimicked the surrounding tissue.

Estrogen is my enemy. I will be avoiding all forms of soy and flaxseed since they raise estrogen levels in pre-menopausal women. I tried to figure out why I got this hideous and dreaded disease. I am suspicious of the soy craze that hit several years ago. Being somewhat lactose intolerant, I loved the taste of soy milk. I drank it until my periods got wonky and my breasts became tender all the time. I began avoiding products with soy and found it was even in our vitamins! It continues to be in many foods including organic bread. My children’s pediatrician recommended never giving any soy products to my daughter and that was many years ago.

Scientists are beginning to study the link between soy and certain types of breast cancer in women who are pre-menopausal. It takes years to get results. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I’m working on healing up and feeling normal again. My normal means kidding around and making dumb jokes. I asked Danny if he liked the “quiet me” this past week. He replied that he loves my crazy off-the-wall way of thinking about things and he missed me. What a guy!

Thank you so much for all the amazing support. I truly believe that the reason I have an amazing prognosis is because of  YOU!

I will be writing a proper thank you when the fog completely clears. The purple haze still lingers, but at least I can see the door. The floor, not so much…

Related articles:

The Boob Report I – Roadblocks and U-Turns

The Boob Report II – Laughter is the Best Medicine

The Boob Report III – Post-op

Breast Cancer


P.S. Typing hurts, so I am reading, but not commenting very much at this time. Thanks again for everything!