I think I miss my fat belly

My fabulous boobies:  I miss my fat belly
I'm still getting accustomed to my new boobies. I have been reminiscing and recollecting a lot about this journey the past couple of days. Realizing just how much I've been through, how much change I'm endured and how emotional this trip has been in its entirety. While I do like my new boobies and I am finding them to be quite satisfactory at this point, I do think about my body before breast cancer and I miss it.

Including my fat belly. I really miss that soft, squishy part of myself. When I opted for the TRAM-flap reconstruction, the largest selling point for me was that my breast would be constructed from my own tissue and I would not have to endure an implant. I know that many women opt for implants and are happy with their decisions. I think that its great that there are options for all of us to consider actually. For me, the thought of going from a natural H cup to any type of implant seemed just above and beyond what I could fathom for myself. I just didn't want any foreign object in my body.

The fact that the TRAM-flap would also give me what amounted to a nice little tummy tuck was a bonus. I figured that it was a pretty good trade-off for the 12+ hour surgery and the 2-3 months recuperation time that I needed afterwards. I had hoped that the new breast and the flat tummy would propel me farther down the lane of recapturing my sexiness. It hasn't exactly done that though.

My tummy, while flatter, is not FLAT. And even all these months later, there is still a significant area that is numb. I have a belly button but I forget about it a lot because I can't feel it. (Although the numbness is making me consider getting it pierced actually.) I guess I didn't really think about what I would look like after the surgery. I assumed that I would be slim and trim with perky new boobies. When the truth is that while flatter, my tummy isn't flat and in order to get my body to look the way that I picture it in my head... I'm going to have to work out and eat better.

Gag. (laughs) I'm starting with yoga and running a couple of days a week. I'll tell you how it goes.

All in all, while I miss my belly a bit I am growing increasingly happy with my breasts. I can only hope that soon I will be happy with everything I see in the mirror and I won't keep having these "remember when" flashbacks.

You never know how folks think about your breast cancer

The other day I received a request from a former boyfriend for my cellphone number. I wasn't surprised to hear from him, since we have remained friends in the years that have passed since we dated. However, I was surprised to see a request for my phone number. Most people who know me well, know that I'm not the biggest telephone person these days. (something I'm sure would make my parents laugh considering how long I used to have the phone glued to the side of my head when I was a teenager)

So the request for my number immediately made me wonder what was going on in his life that he needed to actually speak to me and hear my voice. I was then surprised to receive a text message from him a short while later. This particular ex-boyfriend is rather eccentric. And I don't mean that in a "he's a weirdo" sort of way. But I mean that he has a very unique perspective on life and he finds the most abstract things funny or interesting... or whatever. So, receiving unusual notes and pictures from him is pretty normal. I expect for him to send me something I've never seen or heard of before... something I probably would not have noticed had it not been brought to my attention by him.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the text message and it was a picture of a woman lying on her back -- with her breasts exposed. She was a very pretty young woman with fairly large breasts. There was something vaguely familiar about her look. While I was trying to process why he sent me that picture, I realized that he had sent a message as well.

Subject line was: Reminds
Body of message in the text:  me of you. Hope you're not offended.

(laughs)  Seems that my ex came across this picture -- I didn't ask how -- and the woman in the picture reminded him of me. It would be odd except he and I have had a few conversations over the past couple of years about my breast cancer and how the treatment has affected me (physically and emotionally). I found myself staring at this young woman and I realized that she really did look a bit like me... skin color, hairstyle, and breast size. Well... she reminds me of who I used to be.

My reaction was complicated. I laughed (because only this guy would do something like this). I smiled. I thought that she was pretty. And then I sighed because I realized that I no longer looked like that. She had an innocence in her face (yes, while she was laying there half-naked) that I don't think I have anymore.  And she also had breasts that were significantly larger than what I have now. It made me remember (in a different way) how much I have changed because of the breast cancer.

As I looked at the picture, I realized that I was a little envious of the way she looked. Her breasts were perfect, although large. And they were obviously hers and not fakes because they had a "flow" to them (that's the best way I can describe it). As you age and grow, your breasts lose some of that little girl/young woman perkiness and they soften such that they sort of flow a bit on your body. They give you a softness that I often find missing from women with artificial breasts.

When I did look that way, I didn't appreciate the way that I looked. I had a complaint and a worry about everything. I never thought much about how it may have appeared to someone else... I worried that I wasn't pretty enough most of the time. (tragic waste of time and energy I know now) It was sort of empowering to know that at one time I was so lovely and someone remembered me that way.

I replied by text that it was a good laugh and I remembered when I did look that way. And I thanked him for even thinking of me after all of these years. He then called to hear my voice and to find out how I was really feeling... after all this time with treatment and surgeries and ... stuff.  That made me feel good too because even after all this time, I like to know that people still think about me from time to time.

You never know how your stuff will affect someone else. And something like breast cancer affects you so deeply and changes who you are and who you think you are and who you can be... that when someone takes a moment to remind you that you were (and therefore still are) a beautiful person... its simply a touching moment.

(the picture above is an edited version of the picture he sent me... )

Lingerie shopping... taking back my femininity and my someday

For a weekend where I really didn't do much... it turned out to be somewhat eventful. I felt really happy on Friday when I left work. I was planning to meet a couple of friends for drinks, and hopeful that I would see another friend later in the evening. I had been pondering and wondering whether or not I was ready to be fitted for a new bra.

I decided that I was ready. The swelling has gone down significantly on my breasts from the surgery and I thought that purchasing something really nice -- while getting fitted properly -- would kick off my weekend in a great way.

I scooted out of work with enough time to stop by this uber-chic European lingerie store downtown. I've been there before but I've never ever purchased anything there. In the past, it was primarily because they didn't carry my size. (The sales lady told me that once with sort of a sneer on her face... ahhh... don't you just love being snubbed when you want to spend your money?) But also because the prices are ... well devastatingly outrageous.

This isn't the run of the mill Victoria's Secret shop that you find at every mall across the nation. This store... is "special" (she says with a whisper of awe and a lilt of glee). I won't put the name on this post because I have NO plans to direct any traffic their way. But its still a really nice store.

You know how some people are fascinated by the store windows in New York during the Christmas holidays? This store's window fascinates me the same way. The lingerie in the window is always so very beautiful and colorful. It looks ephemeral... like its as light as an angel's feather. The lingerie never looks trashy or cheap or hooker-ish. It always gives me the sighs... and I look at the window and think...

"if I can get something from there I will FEEL like a lady and it will probably radiate outwardly and guys will treat me more like a girl and less like one of the guys".

Yes. That long azz sentence runs through my mind whenever I see the window of this store.

Right now, I'm closing my eyes and envisioning the beautiful pink and white lacy set that was in the window the other day. (sigh) So, like I was saying. On Friday after work, I felt that since I was in the mindset of reclaiming and celebrating my dreams I should go to this store and feel like a lady for a little while. I walked in and looked around briefly and asked to be fitted. I explained to the ladies that I was a breast cancer survivor and I had no idea what size my new breasts were. Interestingly enough I was not wearing a bra when I walked in their shop -- something that seemed quite distasteful to those two little ladies. (laugh) Whatever.

I went into the dressing room and the older lady came in with her measuring tape. I will give her credit. She did not gasp when I slid my dress straps down. Her face did not reflect any shock or surprise. I figured out later on that she was uncomfortable with my nipple-less noobie. (noobie = new boobie)

First of all, my complaints and concerns that my boobies were small were wrong. I am a respectable F cup (that's a DDD in the US). So, that made me feel a bit better. Secondly, there are some gorgeous items for ladies my size.

My sales assistant brought me two or three very nice but quite non-fancy bras to start with. She chose them because they were smooth and could be worn under all types of outfits without showing. I tried them on and they were definitely prettier than the lounging bras I've been wearing while I'm healing...but they weren't "pretty pretty" like the display items. I liked them but not enough to purchase.

I asked her to bring me something "pretty pretty" preferably an exotic color or something with embroidered flowers... I wanted something that when I closed my eyes to remember what I had on under my clothes... I would smile. I want that secret "my lingerie ROCKS" smile to be a permanent fixture on my face.

She brought me the prettiest lavender lace bra that I've ever seen. It is simply gorgeous. Almost too pretty to wear actually. I asked for matching panties -- though I suspected that they didn't have them in my size. I was wrong. She found something that worked. It is so pretty. I purchased the lavender set and also a beautiful black lacy bra -- I think every woman should have one black bra that is so lacy and frilly that she snickers every time she thinks of it and her lover can't wait to catch a glimpse of it when she is dressing or undressing. I think that should be an adult rite of passage. Anyhoo...

I get to the register, heady with cherubs and hummingbirds dancing around my head... (like I'm in a cartoon or something) and I realized that I was overspending but I didn't dare stop myself. This was more than just buying some bras and panties to get through the day or the week. This was another step for me to becoming more girly and lady-like. I was not going to refuse myself the opportunity to feel great.

So I handed my card and made my purchase. Did I mention that this place was tres snooty? When the receipt printed, there were TWO places to sign. One, the regular signature to approve the purchase. And the other was a signature line stating that you read the return policy and agreed to it.

*blink blink* Whatever...

I was soooo heady and happy that I laughed to myself and signed... twice. (shrug) And I jetted off to the other side of town for happy hour. Now, my evening did not go as planned but it was still good. I was happy with my investment and in a good frame of mind. I showed my new purchases to a couple of female friends at the bar and they sort of made me question my purchase. They thought my items were pretty until they saw the pricetag and then they were shocked that anyone would spend that much on underwear. Especially if you could get something equally as pretty a lot cheaper.

Their thoughts and comments stuck with me for the rest of the night and I started to wonder if I just had FOOL written on my forehead. And then I remembered an email (that has circulated for many years) and I remembered that my purchase wasn't about being appropriate but it was a chance for me to appreciate myself.

The reality for me right now is that no one will probably see me in these beautiful lacy garments anytime soon. But I know that when I do choose to wear them, I will be as pretty on the inside of my clothes as I hope I appear on the outside. I know that when people look at me they don't see a breast cancer survivor. They just see a woman, walking down the street or riding the subway. I don't even wear my breast cancer pins anymore. I am simply... Nicole again.

But on the inside, I am truly different -- even with two boobs again -- and I feel that I have to really honor that feminine spirit within. Truly bow down and respect what it means to be a lady, what it means to be a girl, what it means to be feminine.

I know its hard being a girl today. It is extra hard being a breast cancer survivor girl trying to reclaim her "sexy swagger" while sporting one nipple-less noobie. Its a tall order and whew... sometimes I just am not up to the challenge. But I realized when my sales assistant kept clucking about hiding my scar within the cup of my bra... that I am DAMN PROUD of my scar. No, its not pretty... but so what?. Like I told her, never mind that scar.. what matters is that I'm here. And if that scar wasn't there... I would not be here.

My first instinct was to take my tissue-paper wrapped lingerie and bury it in the back of my lingerie drawer. Pull it out every now and then to fondle and appreciate it but really never wear it. But... I decided that I'm going to wear it this week. Because life is too short to hold out for someday... today is someday.

Below is the email that I thought of immediately after having regrets about spending so much on three little items. I hope that it sticks with you and reminds you... today is your someday.

Free printable download

I made this story into a downloadable file. Click here  [Your life is a gift]  and print this out to remind yourself just how precious life is. Treat every day like a special occasion. Because it is.

let's connect-brown

(where we discuss the breast cancer life)
(where I discuss any and everything!)
(be inspired, laugh a little, follow my crazy life)

Celebrating the return of dreams...

I received an email with this title: Celebrating the return of dreams. And it struck a note with me that sort of summed up how I’ve been feeling the past few days. The email was from the YSC (Young Survival Coalition: http://www.youngsurvival.org/) and it was about their upcoming bicycle ride fundraiser. Just for the record, I’m NOT going to ride 220 miles in the Tour de Pink. LOL… not gonna happen.


But I liked the spirit of the story that opened the email and it made me pause and think. The author of the story was a young woman when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was married and had small kids but still the news of having breast cancer hit her hard and she was really shaken. She mentioned how she lived day by day during the time of her treatment. She never really looked to the future too far because it was difficult enough to get from one day to the next. I really identified with that feeling.


I started looking for cars a few weeks ago because it’s time for me to have a car now. Travelling by public transportation is simply too limiting, too time consuming and becoming too inconvenient and too expensive for me to continue. I am fortunate that I can afford to buy a car. The other day, I also accepted that I was allowing myself to feel strangled by my medical bills. The stack of paper in my room is simply outrageous. Bills, bills, bills… everywhere. I gathered them all up and looked at my savings and said… enough! I withdrew a hefty chunk of change from my savings – it hurt my heart to do it – but I realized that unless I got that monkey off my back, I was going to continue to feel bogged down and stifled.


Getting through the process of writing down all the bills that I owed and making the money available so that they could be paid was difficult. I wanted to cry on Friday night when I got home because I was so angry. But I had made an innocent comment a few days before and it was continuing to resonate with me. “I need little luxuries in life to keep my wheels balanced.”


Once I did the hard part and I knew when the money would be available, I could breathe a little easier. I realized that I was extremely blessed to be able to access enough money to wipe out those bills. And even though they are bills that I never expected, they were mine and they were for a good reason. My life. I’m worth a few thousand dollars. I really am. Writing those checks the other day, freed me in a major way.


I went car shopping on Monday (window shopping) and found the car that I want. It is NOT one of the cars I had on my list. It is a car that I’ve wanted for a long time, I just didn’t think I could afford it.  In fact, two years ago when I was diagnosed, I didn’t think I would ever be in a position to get it. I looked at it, looked at the sticker price, I sat in it… and then I resolved that I could afford it and that I would get it. Not that day, but soon enough. I have a few things to do first but then, with lots of good luck, good fortune and blessings on my side, I will have my dream car.


Since the day I went car shopping… I realized that a lot of dreams have popped back into my head. Like renovating my bedroom. Writing a book proposal and submitting it to a few agents. Finally purchasing my first full length fur coat. And so forth. They are things that probably won’t matter or make sense to anyone besides me, but I am looking forward to hitting each and every one very soon.


When I read the headline of the YSC article, it clicked. I am finally in a space where I too am celebrating the return of my dreams. When I decided that I wanted to buy the Mercedes Benz instead of the cheaper Pontiac or even a little hooptie car, I realized that I was giving myself permission to stop living on hold. To stop holding my breath waiting for the next “cancer” issue to fall out of the sky. I am moving from survival mode… to simply SURVIVOR.


I need a good cover story

I've been wearing these lymphedema bandages for a few weeks now. And I've gotten used to the way that they look. Sort of. They aren't sexy and they do not go very well with my wardrobe... but it doesn't bother me as much because my arm is really going down pretty well. I can see progress and it is making me happy.

My issue is that people I see on the street are amazed at the bandages. I am stopped constantly and asked.. "what happened to your arm?".


I suppose that it is startling to see a gorgeous lady (that would be me) strolling down the street like nothing is wrong with her arm bandaged up to the shoulder. A bit strange to see I'm sure. But it is my reality right now. Here's what's strange about the constant questions though... I simply don't feel like taking advantage of the obvious "teaching" moment.

Normally -- rather, for the past two years, I've taken every opportunity given to me (and forced more than a few) to educate people about breast cancer.  I have had what I call... "breast cancer Tourette's" for the longest time. Just could not help myself from responding to anything that opened the door for me to discuss my journey with breast cancer. But I don't feel like sharing all that right now with every stranger I see.

It is strange for me. I can see the genuine concern in their eyes... but it feels like a chore to say...
oh, I have lymphedema (which just means that my arm is swollen) because I had a mastectomy about a year ago... by the way I am a breast cancer survivor.... yes, at my age. no i don't have kids... yes, its a shame. okay bye.
Who DOES that on the street with strangers? Well, not ya girl. At least not for the past couple of weeks. (shrug) But you know... I have decided that I need a good cover story. Like, I was attacked by werewolves in the dark or something. And I need to practice it every day so that it rolls off my tongue easily.

Because I really will be wearing this sleeve of bandages for another 2 weeks I think. I just don't know what story to tell...


(as you can see, my arm is getting smaller... yay!)

Lymphedema update: The bandages are working

I HATE these bandages. I’m just going to put it out there because its constantly on my mind. Un-sexy. Uncomfortable. Unpleasant. BUT… they work. That picture is of my arm after my bandages were removed during physical therapy on Tuesday. My swelling has been reduced significantly and my arm is just about back to its normal size. As my therapist said… “it may seem like a pretty primitive way of treating lymphedema but it does work”.


Gotta agree with that.


I’m bandaged up again. And will probably be bandaged up for the next 2 weeks. But, progress is being made. My progress would be more significant if I had not had surgery a few weeks after I started physical therapy. But I’m not complaining. Besides, my new boobies aren’t that bad. Still getting used to them though. And I think I’m having some healing issues with the breast that was reduced – its not looking quite right but we’ll see what the surgeon says.


All in all, its an okay day.

Hair chronicles: A follow-up to my Miss Jessie's trial and what's going on with my hair now

So, a few months back I stepped out on a limb and purchased a whole bunch of Miss Jessie's products to help tame my post-chemo curlies. After some trial and error with the application - primarily trying to figure out how much wetness to product ration would produce the best looking curls, and how I could style my hair the fastest way possible, etc. - I fell into a good rhythm with the products.
I learned that I liked a few things:
*         I really like the lather-less shampoo and the conditioner.   They really make my hair feel extra soft and wonderful. Clean, but not squeaky clean. Didn't think I would like that but I really do.
*         Curly meringue is nice. Not too much hold or tackiness but a nice lightweight product. I like the smell of it too.
*         Curly pudding is very nice. I'm not sure how well it will work with my hair as it (if it) changes back to its original level of curly/kinkiness. It provides more curl definition and I like the smell of it as well.
*         The baby buttercreme was nice but nothing to write home about.
*         The rapid recovery treatment was EXCELLENT! Whoo... I can't say enough good things about it other than I really loved it.
That said... a few of the negatives:
*         Miss Jessie's is ridiculously priced. RE-DAYUM-DICULOUS! Ya hear me?? I know that the line just pushed out to Target and I am happy for the two young ladies in this step in their endeavor but on my "breast-cancer-is-my-beyotch-budget" I can't afford to look that cute. Just simply cannot do it. $58 bucks a pop for products is not working for me.
*         The curly meringue and the curly pudding are nice but (for me) they take entirely too long to dry. I knew I was getting in too deep when I purchased a hair dryer just so that I could speed up the styling process. I have this quirky thing about wanting to do my hair every day. I haven't been a part of the once a week, or once every two weeks tribe for many, many years. Honestly, I don't want to go back. I enjoy wetting and/or conditioning and/maybe shampooing my hair daily or at least every other day.
*         Miss Jessie's requires far more work, time and effort than I am willing to give. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my curlies and it was an interesting experiment. But Nic is a rock-and-roll sort of girl... I like my hair to be the quickest part of starting my day, not the longest. And I definitely do not like trying to do my hair at night and hoping that it looks presentable in the morning. I don't have time for do-overs if it doesn't.
*         I was disappointed to learn that Miss Jessie's has mineral oil in it. I'm sure that it's in there for production quality or something like that but you would think that if you were mortgaging your first child in order to keep your curly hair looking fly you could AT LEAST get a product that didn't have bad for you ingredients in the list. (shrug) Disappointing for real.
I am almost out of curly pudding and curly meringue. I have been out of baby buttercreme and rapid recovery treatment (I bought the small sample size of both). I have lots of shampoo and conditioner left. After trying so many items in the product line, I can say that I probably won't bother purchasing more. Maybe the shampoo and conditioner - but that's only if I can't find something else just as nice but more budget friendly. And assuming that I grow my hair out again.
About a month or so ago, I got totally fed up and chopped off all my hair. So I'm back to wearing my uber-low fade and pretty happy about it. (I was very tearful in the beginning but I've gotten used to the shortness of it) I've been using some ridiculously cheap Am-pro clear gel to help with styling my curlies. Less than $2 per jar. And honestly, I'm cool with the results. (shrug)  Guess I really am not a high-maintenance chick after all.
Love ya Miss Jessie's but you're out of my league.  The next step in the hair chronicles is to find a protein treatment that will help to strengthen and grow my hair. Part of the reason I cut my hair way down was because I was noticing some serious thinning in a few spots. People around me seemed to think I was seeing things but I thought I saw bald spots emerging and there was no way that I was going to sport cute curlies speckled with bald spots. Nope. I may be cheap but I'm still vain.
Will let you know how it goes with the protein treatment and what I decide to use. Meanwhile, I can check Miss Jessie's off my list and go purchase more clear gel.

Struggling with anger... still

*Update: June 2016 - When I wrote this post originally in 2010, I was mourning the deaths of my cousin and a woman who was like a grandmother to me. I was angry about being diagnosed with breast cancer and being forced to endure 2+ years of treatment to get my life back. Most days I handled it all in stride but this particular day I was just mad as hell. It happens. Looking back, it happened a lot more often than I shared. My anger (then and now) sometimes embarrasses me. I feel like I should be better than that and capable of quickly rising above it. I know that isn't logical or fair though. Anger is just an emotion. I have plenty in my arsenal. It is no worse than the others. And I'm entitled to feel how I do. This day I was just angry.

The emotional rollercoaster simply does not stop. 

Lymphedema is so very un-SEXY

My Fabulous Boobies:  Lymphedema sucks

Lymphedema is so very un-SEXY!

Been feeling a little lousy lately. Headaches, nausea, a little vomiting (nothing major) and so on. General yuckiness I guess is the best way to describe it. Thought that maybe the heat of North Carolina was getting to me while I was traveling this past weekend. Then I thought that maybe I was dehydrated. But resting in the cool didn’t help much and neither did drinking lots of fluid. I still felt sort of lowgrade yuck.

Today I had two back-to-back appointments – first to see the plastic surgeon so she could remove some stitches and then immediately after I met with the physical therapist so that she could massage my arm and finally wrap it (my bandages arrived last week).

I was annoyed to see that my blood pressure is still elevated… it hasn’t gone down yet and we’re going on three weeks of these high numbers. I’m getting a little worried. But, I didn’t press the issue because there wasn’t a point of discussing it with the plastic surgeon. High blood pressure isn’t her area of expertise. She didn’t really have any smart remarks but then, neither did I. And I think that my quietness surprised her. She noticed some redness on my new breast and thought that maybe I picked up an infection or something – which would explain my general feeling of ick. She wrote me a prescription for two different types of antibiotics and told me to follow up in a week.

My Fabulous Boobies: Lymphedema is so very unsexy
Sigh. I am tired of seeing her face actually.

As for physical therapy… I really had hoped that when this lady said that I would have to wear a bandage wrap that somehow it would be slick. Maybe not sexy exactly but still not crazy looking. Well… I have on a pretty cute new sundress. Was looking forward to taking myself out to dinner tonight to try a new restaurant that I’ve been hearing fabulous things about. Let’s just say, I cancelled my reservations because I LOOK CRAZY!

The bandages go all the way up to my freaking armpit! Its horrible to look at and difficult to navigate with. I came to work with a blazer over my dress. You know, trying to keep things professional. But I can’t get my arm into the sleeve of my jacket because its all wrapped up like the mummy. (sigh)

Oh well. Guess I will check out Founding Farmers some other time… I still feel icky and I’m ready for bed. I had actually hoped to work late tonight but I don’t see that in my future.

Have I told you lately that I can’t stand breast cancer? This isht is for the doggone birds.

What will you do with the time you have left?

Audacity Tees

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