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Jenny in Florida

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Jenny in Florida last won the day on August 29 2018

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About Jenny in Florida

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  1. I got distracted and hit post before actually making my point or answering your question about perspective. The actual point I was wanting to make is that I have a general policy of starting with what I can manage and building up when I can. I put things on autopilot when it's possible and develop caring/giving into habits and practices that just become part of my life. I can't do anything heroic, but I can do a little today and a little more tomorrow. I can look for ways to move through my life as intentionally as possible and to make the well-being of others a factor in my decision-making. So, for me, currently, that looks like: I choose paid work that I believe benefits others. I spent three years working for the public library system, where I was underpaid but was able to see and interact with the people I was serving. When I left that job, I landed at a for-profit corporation that still has an educational focus. I still believe that I am doing work that directly benefits people by providing reasonably priced and readily accessible job training and driver education and similar courses. However, one of the ways I made this career move palatable to myself was by committing to giving away at least a certain percentage of the increase in salary I got by leaving the non-profit world. I now donate specifically to the library's educational programs and belong to their friends of the library organization; I have remained active with the fiber arts community based at the library and contributed a fair amount of both time and items to their annual community art project. I make recurring/monthly donations to a other, mostly local organizations. I also contribute annually to and volunteer for one other organization's holiday event. One of my somewhat squishy goals for this year (because I just wasn't up to putting any pressure on myself to get very specific) is to start volunteering with another of the organizations I already support financially. I was just talking to my husband this evening about wanting to get more involved with the community support/volunteering group at my office. Thus far, I have given to a couple of office-based fund-raisers and signed up to walk in a charity event, but I am hoping to do more hands-on stuff, too. As others have mentioned, I have a general policy of being nice to the people with whom I interact. I try to shop thoughtfully and ethically. I have been a vegetarian for 30+ years and a vegan for over 20. I buy cruelty-free household and personal care products. I research before I shop and try to spend my money, when I do shop, with businesses that operate as ethically and sustainably as possible. I have three rescued pets. It never feels like "enough," but it's what I can do right now.
  2. Blast from the Past? I love this movie. I have no illusions that it's objectively a "good" film, but I have loved it since the first time I saw it. My husband and I have been in a "Let's watch a movie" mood for a few weeks, but have been having a lot of trouble finding anything to watch. I am still feeling pretty emotionally fragile following my recent bout of depression, and I don't like most of the frenetic/highly violent "blockbuster" films that have been released in recent years even on a good day. I also have no tolerance for anything bad happening to children or animals. For reasons that will be obvious to anyone who has been following any of my crises from the last year, I have tender spots around a variety of themes, including illness and troubled family relationships. And, while I never like gross-out comedy, I also have a pretty low tolerance for anything saccharine or over-earnest. So, yeah, it's tough to strike the right balance. But we put on Blast from the Past tonight, and it was perfect. I got a little weepy at the end, but it was good. Mostly, I just really want to live in a world with people who are, yes, flawed and sometimes damaged but essentially decent people trying to do right by each other. A world where there may be trouble and misunderstandings, but people take care of each other and get through it with good humor and good hearts. Anyone want to take a shot at suggesting some titles?
  3. I don't watch sports, either, especially football. However, I will share what my husband always told people who scratched their heads at some of our viewing decisions for our kids when they were younger: We sincerely hope that our children will grow up to have fulfilling and happy sex lives and sincerely hope that they never have reason to act violently against another human being. For us, it was a no-brainer which we were more worried about having them watch on screen.
  4. Thank you. I was thinking the same thing, that I really don't understand the outrage and pearl grasping about women wearing some skimpy outfits when the whole football industry perpetuates violent sport for mass entertainment. But your version was a lot more succinct.
  5. I'm impressed with your interpretation of "easy." That sounds rough! For what it's worth, I have the same lack of sensation with occasional itching thing on the underside of my left upper arm. I have been told the loss of sensation may be more or less permanent. Fun, right? Again, I am truly grateful for your generosity in sharing your experience.
  6. Well, no, stating the fact that the reconstruction would be more invasive is just kind of true. Mastectomies are relatively uncomplicated surgeries, as I understand it (and as both the surgeon who did my mastectomy and the one I consulted about reconstruction explained it). However, the DIEP, or really any of the autologous reconstruction approaches, is more complex. It involves surgery on both the donor site -- in my case, it would be the lower abdomen -- and the chest. It involves reattaching blood vessels using microsurgery. One easy way to compare the complexity of a mastectomy to DIEP is that a typical mastectomy takes 2-3 hours and usually requires only an overnight in the hospital. The initial DIEP, on the other hand, is more like 6-8 hours and a five-day hospital stay. And, as ZiMom reminded me, another couple of follow-up surgeries are often required to touch up the abdominal scar and the shape of the new breasts. So, while it is true that I am leaning towards not proceeding with reconstruction for a variety of reasons, the fact that I've mentioned the invasiveness of this process is not about me talking myself into or out of anything. It's just me being aware of the information. As far as being a warrior, although I recognize that these words are offered out of kindness, and I appreciate the impulse, I don't personally connect with the imagery. I do not feel like or aspire to be a fighter. Cancer, for me, isn't an epic foe. It's just a thing that happened to me and that I am dealing with as best I can.
  7. That sounds just exhausting. I'm sorry the path hasn't been smoother for you. I very much appreciate you sharing your story, though. Thank you.
  8. Thank you for speaking up. Yes, I totally get the "NO MORE" feeling, and I do think that's part of my reluctance to sign up for reconstruction. After making it all the way until my late 40s without any invasive medical procedures, I ended up having gallbladder surgery, a thyroidectomy and then the mastectomy within just a few years. Prior to having the thyroid removed, I went through several years of trying various things, including multiple hospital stays and irradiation and medication, to get that under control. And I am still in treatment for one other chronic issue. I'm tired of having my life and my schedule ruled by doctor's appointments. I'm tired of having to go to my managers over and over again to explain why I can't be in that meeting or finish this project on time. It's just . . . enough. And, while I do believe in counseling, at the moment the idea makes me recoil, because all I can see is how it would fill up my calendar with yet more appointments. (Also, I have made a few attempts at reaching out in the past, including when the underlying issue with my kids initially blew up and again just recently when I fell into a really deep depression following the mastectomy. For me, thus far, it has been of very limited help. I realize that the standard answer to that is that I either a) haven't given it enough time or b) haven't found the right counselor. But, for right now, my response is "See comment about calendars and appointments above.") I'm sorry you also fell down the cancer rabbit hole. I hope your recovery is going well.
  9. I really don't want to get into a lot of depth about this, but the issue isn't that they just kind of failed to jump in; it's that they -- one, in particular -- actually created a situation that left me worse off emotionally than I would otherwise have been. That person insisted on "being here" even though some underlying circumstances made it complicated to make that happen, which then led to an extremely upsetting incident that got dumped into my lap to resolve. And I found that, even when I did tell them explicitly what I needed -- and more often, what I couldn't do for them and why -- those boundaries were repeatedly pushed and outright dismissed. I have verbalized these feelings to the one of the two whom I know will handle it with something resembling grace, and have been met with deflection and just short of a shrug. I do believe that person feels badly about the situation, but I have not seen any change in behavior as a result. (I'm trying to be really fair and respectful in the way I write this, recognizing that the person who played a central role in the incident did not intend harm. But that person is so tender on this topic that even mentioning it to them would be problematic.) I am certain they love me in the best way they can. It just really, really wasn't what I needed or naively hoped I deserved.
  10. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. At the moment, I wear a pocketed bra with prosthetics mostly when I go to work or to any kind of "dress up" occasion. Otherwise, day to day at home or just running errands or meeting friends for lunch, I go flat. I have one bra that I was fitted for not long after surgery that does have pockets, but I don't use them that I wear just for a little bit of coverage/security and to kind of hold in place the bit of skin I still have. If I decide against reconstruction, I will likely give up wearing the fakes at all and try to find some simple, comfortable bra-like contrivances that serve the same purpose. I think it will make life a lot simpler not switching back and forth. I've been doing a lot of searching online for swimsuits that might work, and virtually all I have found so far in the way of suits intended for post-mastectomy wear is pocketed suits intended for use with prosthetics. I read one article that suggested Lands End makes at least one suit that is lined but has no pockets, but it seems they have stopped making that one. I'm sure there are options out there that would theoretically fit, but I would like to find something that might possibly be just a little bit flattering.
  11. I have spent a lot of time with my friend Google searching out information about "living flat." There are a number of blogs I have perused. Thus far, I haven't resonated meaningfully with any of them, for a variety of reasons. In general, though, one of the things that draws me towards making this choice is the simplicity of it. I will need to learn how to dress a new body -- although for day-to-day basics, I won't need to make a lot of changes. If I settle on no reconstruction, my intention would be to just "go flat" full time, meaning no prosthetics or fake boobs. I will need shirts in smaller sizes, especially if I manage to lose some weight, as I would like to do (and would benefit from with or without boobs), but I see no need for hacks, really. And, yes, the scarring/scar tissue is a big deal. The way I happened upon that JAMA article was actually looking for photos of DIEP reconstructions to show my husband. The surgeon showed me a few when I went for the consult, and I was trying to describe the scarring and general appearance to my husband. I never did find any really good, clear photos to share with him, but I found enough to make my point. The DIEP surgery does leave a sometimes fairly prominent abdominal scar, as well as distinctive "stitching" on the reconstructed breasts. I've never been a bikini-wearing girl, so that's not a huge issue. However, if one of my concerns now is the existing scarring and disfigurement that I already have, I am beginning to feel pretty strongly that MORE scarring likely won't make me feel a whole lot more comfortable when I see myself naked.
  12. Thank you. And, yes,there are even more risks than I realized. It was only after I had actually said out loud to my husband that I was leaning towards not doing to reconstruction that I stumbled across this study: Of course, the article doesn't clearly state what they considered a "complication," but it's still more than a little concerning.
  13. First of all, thank you to everyone who has replied. As usual, your thoughtful comments have helped me think through and articulate my sometimes swirly thoughts. So, here are some thoughts and feelings I've had in response to the comments posted here: I've always had a contentious relationship with my body. It's not like, prior to the cancer, I felt beautiful and confident in any physical way. I have pretty much always considered my body to be the thing that carries my brain around. Shopping for and putting on a swimsuit was never anything other than unpleasant, despite the fact that I love to swim. My entire goal in terms of dressing myself for the last decade or more has been to appear "presentable" and completely unremarkable, which does make it upsetting for me to now be facing the rest of my life looking and feeling "weird." But all of those feelings of self-consciousness about my appearance aren't new, just ramped up. I am not capable of "just waiting to see." If I make appointments and put things on my calendar, I will know they are there and feel like I am moving towards that eventuality. I can do that with things that don't matter, but not with this. In terms of "restoring" and part of my identity, I think this is my big revelation from the past couple of weeks: I can't. There are simply large parts of myself and my pre-cancer world that are gone now. The me who moved through my days just kind of assuming that I didn't have cancer and had no reason to think I would is gone. The me who hoped/believed that I was well positioned to kick off the next (and final) phase of my career with energy and enthusiasm, that this job would finally be the fresh start I have been working toward since I finished homeschooling . . . that's gone, too. I still have the job, but the opportunity to hit the ground running and really show what I can do is gone. The me who never bothered to question whether her adult children would show up for her when she needed them is gone. The breasts I had carried around with me for the last few decades are gone. They aren't coming back. I can have a doctor Frankenstein some lumps of flesh from one part of my body to another, but they wouldn't be my breasts, the ones that got me teased in junior high or nursed my babies. They would just be . . . there. At some point, I have to accept the new normal that incorporates all of the above. And I can start trying to live in that new normal now, with the body I have now, or I can do it later after forcing myself through an invasive, traumatic surgery that won't actually change any of the things about this that matter.
  14. Not sure why I'm posting, really, except that you all are good at helping me think out loud. I finished my six weeks of radiation therapy, which wasn't fun but not as awful as it might have been. I have some discoloration and tenderness under my arm and on my shoulder and neck on the treated side, which definitely isn't comfortable, but I have looked at photos of radiation burns online and see I got off pretty easy. I had been more or less assuming that, once I got past radiation, I would move into preparing for reconstruction. I knew from the beginning that I was not going to be interested in implants, so I found a surgeon (the only one in the area, apparently,) who does the DIEP flap procedure. I went for a consult with him before I had the mastectomy, and he said I am a good candidate for DIEP. He took reference photos, and we agreed I would think about it and reach out to him after the mastectomy and radiation/chemo when I was ready. (It turns out I didn't need chemo.) A little over a week ago, I went ahead and emailed him saying I was ready to discuss next steps. He explained that he typically waits six months following radiation to do the procedure, but that we should go ahead and get CT scans and schedule a surgery date, since things do book up. And then, I just kind of . . . paused. I'll be honest -- I hate how my chest looks. I am self-conscious whenever I go out without the fake boobs, and I try to avoid looking at myself in the mirror when I am getting in or out of the shower. I also hate wearing the fakes, because they feel weird and sometimes are physically uncomfortable. I often feel like I am wearing a costume. I hate how, when I go to brush crumbs off my chest, I encounter a foreign body there. And wearing them makes me feel only marginally less self-conscious. So, I really thought that reconstruction was my best option. But then I started thinking about the realities of this: One of the things that has been most devastating to me about the whole breast cancer experience is the way it has messed up my ability to be in my life, both work and family. And now that radiation is over, I have this opportunity to try and get back on track. I will never "make up" the ground I have lost, but I could pick up and start moving forward. If I decide to pursue the reconstruction, though, it means six months of limbo, having to put off things or not accept assignments that I can't finish before the surgery. It means being willing to put everything on hold (again) for at least six weeks to have and recover from surgery that is more invasive and complicated than what I've already done. It means taking on health risks that are not medically necessary (which goes against my nature in a big way). And, when all is said and done, I have no confidence I will feel any "better." I would still not have the body I had pre-cancer. I would still have a chest full of scars. (Yes, I've seen photos.) I was struggling yesterday to articulate to my husband -- who is nothing but supportive of whatever I choose, by the way -- why I am leaning against reconstruction. Finally, I explained that, I kind of feel like I'm going to have to accept a permanently sucky "new normal" no matter what. And I'm beginning to be attracted to the idea of just starting that process now, without putting myself and my body through more trauma and risk. There are still specific things that make me queasy -- The idea of putting on a swimsuit, never my favorite thing, and going out in public feels really upsetting. (I'm tearing up tying it.) And, although it's not something I do often, the concept of trying to shop and dress for any kind of formal or dressy occasion is bothersome, too. But, day to day, what I mostly feel when I think about it is just relief. Has anyone been here? Been through anything similar? Have thoughts or experiences to share?
  15. Okay, thanks everyone. We have actually met our out-of-pocket for 2019, and I can't imagine we won't meet this year's within a couple of months, so I suppose it doesn't make a huge amount of difference. I was just curious.
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