It's a creekmore world

Weeks 25-34: A Post-Cancer World (1 of 2)

.

Trish just went into the Operating Room  for her (hopefully) final surgery to reconstruct her battered breasts. I gave her a short kiss on the cheek as she was wheeled off. We’re pros at this now, no need for elaborate goodbyes.

I sit in the waiting room, with a beeper they gave me in case there is an emergency.  After a few hours of anxious waiting, the Doctor will come out and tell me the results of her surgery.  Until then, I’ll spend my time writing this blog, catching up where we left off a while ago.  Maybe that will make the clock move faster.

Recovery from the last surgery

Halloween with Lily (vampiress) and her friend Mira.
I remember being in the car around Halloween, a few weeks after the double mastectomy in October. Trish was with us in the car for the first time in a while.  Emma was being taken to a rehearsal for her performance of Shakespeare’s ‘The  Winter’s Tale’.  It was a cold and drizzling outside.  Inside the windows were fogged up.

Our cars are not kept clean, we admit. But the condition inside our little red Subaru had become hazardous. The trash in back; old lunches, diet-coke cans, leotards, happy meal toys and school flyers reached halfway up Emma’s leg. Lily, like a dog, circle-stamped a space for her feet and backpack before she buckled in.

Liy and Emma make breakfast for Mommy.  (See the bowl of pills, lawl)
The unkempt, crazy mop of hair in front of my face was plastered to my skin from the rain.  Lily’s eyes had been hidden for weeks under her untrimmed bangs.  We all needed a haircut.

Except Trish, who’s hair was just beginning to come back after the Chemo ended in August.  She still didn’t  look healthy and was on a lot of pain meds.  (The picture above is of our girls, with crazy hair, bringing Trish some breakfast in bed along with her painkiller cocktail.)

Collapsing at the finish line

The moment Trish was cleared of cancer was one of quiet relief. But it was fleeting. Life didn’t just return to normal.

Pus and blood drains are nasty.
You know that feeling when you arrive at the foreign airport half-way across the world? You’re glad to be there, but you’re jet-lagged, hungry, disoriented and vulnerable.  Basic things like eating and getting a taxi seem complicated.

That’s how we felt. It was hard to feel the joy. Naturally, it was good to have the dread and fear lifted, and even though we needed hair cuts, a clean car and a month of homework done, we didn’t really care.  But we were definitely all burnt out, maybe most of all, me.

What happened to the Blog?

After the surgery I had to stop blogging.  It takes about 6-12 hours per post and I needed that time for work, which got incredibly difficult, albeit rewarding, in the fall.   My employer entrusted me with a major upgrade in responsibility and title last October.   It’s amazing that I got a major promotion in the same year as this horrible cancer.  (The universe does some weird shit.) I’m lucky and grateful to work in an organization that does not rely exclusively on the ‘what have you done for me lately?’ school of management.

Tink and Mort when they were dating in NYC in the 90's

During the cancer/chemotherapy phase, getting this blog out on a weekly basis served many purposes. It was foremost an expression of love and commitment to my ailing wife, to whom I have been married for 13 years, and who dearly loves this record I’ve created of our most exciting and challenging moments.  But it was also a way to keep friends and family connected to a woman they also love dearly.  And I didn’t expect this when I started, but it became a creative outlet for my own emotions, fears and anxiety about losing my partner and love of my life.

Tink descends into Hell.  (Mexican cenote 2009)

And man ,did I write. Ms. Sharon Wallworth, my (loved and hated) high-school English teacher would be proud of me.  I wrote almost 60,000 words, the size of a modest mass-market novel.

But I needed a break from the blog, and took a long one; about 20 weeks. So this is your catch-up chapter, faithful reader.  And if everything goes right, I will soon post my last from Cancerpalooza.

Post -op recovery – Oct-Nov

Ham!  Grimmace loves Ham!
Last fall, Trish was released after two nights of hospitalization and began an intense three week recovery period. She had three nasty drains for almost 15 days. The daily ritual of changing your spouses bloody, bodily fluids is creepy and evocative of that sad, but real, point in old age when we become infants again.  It made us both feel older than we are. (I tried to behave childishly to compensate.)

Best. Get-well card. Evah
Trish could manage the pain pretty well as long as we kept the drug cycle up. She was even giggly a few times, once bursting into laughter at a ham sandwich I made her for lunch. Ham sandwiches are definitely funny.

We held a low-key, post-op cocktail party so she could see some people. As always, the outpouring of attention and support helped her recover. Our dear freind Aviva made her this art, which is much more beautiful in three dimensions than this photograph displays.

The back flap we didn't do.

Emma and Lily were pretty upset by seeing their mom look so ill. Even though they knew the cancer was out, Trish looked and acted very sick. Lily responded by needing a lot of attention from teachers and staff at school.   Emma buried herself deeper into other things like her theater program at Lumina.

St. Nick vs. St. Pat: Duel to the Death – Early Dec

The party featured Leprauchauns and Reindeer
Who doesn’t want to see a fight to the death between St. Patrick and St. Nick?  I mean those two guys have been doing the same thing every year with no pressure or accountability.

So I decided to put them to a series of tests and judge the champion of holiday saints.  Friends, and neighbors were invited to participate, eat, drink and have fun.  Creekmore Style.

Best of all, this party was for KIDS!  Kids had a little bit of a harder time enjoying the sometimes macabre boob party last August so the Creekmores owed them one.  Picture left, Emma and our neighbor Wilder square off as minions of St. Pat and St. Nick.

Contest One:  the gross dessert Which holiday had the most disgusting sweets?  Potato pie, which is made from, egg, potato and orange extract or fruit cake, which is made from spare electronic parts?  St. Nick took the prize here.  More people thought Fruitcake was gross.

Contest #1:  Gross Dessert.  Is Irish Potato Pie or Fruitcake the grossest?  Fruitcake won!

Contest Two:  The Pinata Battle: The kids wound up at each pinata and Christmas one won again, putting St. Nick ahead by a score of 2 to 0.  The Creekmores apologize to any small children who were trampled in the Pinata battle.

Contest #2: Pinata Battle.  Last pinata standing.  The christmas stocking wins!

Contest Three: The indoor snowball fight. I bought a great blender that can make snow from ice-cubes, so we crafted a few dozen snowballs, divided the kids up in groups and let them pelt each other with snow in our kitchen.  It was awesome!  And the St. Pat team won.

Snowball fight!

Contest Four:  The explosive foam. Last fall after the surgery, Trish was on the couch watching the Ellen DeGeneris show (it’s at the 5:50 mark).  There was a segment about home chemical experiments suitable for kids.  And I wanted to duplicate the experiments, so I did some research and found that it was some combination of Hydrogen peroxide, soap for the bubbles and Potassium iodide to make it react.

Elephant Toothpaste at the St. Pat vs. St. Nick party!

The experiment was much harder to do that I expected.  It took a fair amount of chemicals, which are apparently difficult to get sent to a home address for various reasons.  Eventually, I got someone on the internet to send me them in the box pictured below.

Actual box that arrived before the party.
And I never could get the foam to shoot 10 feet into the air like on the show.   But I did get a lot of excited kids and party guests.  And St. Patrick won with the most foam created, tying the score evenly.

Contest five: Favorite Cloying Drink: I put equal amounts of Guiness beer and homemade Eggnog out to see which people would drink the most.  And Eggnog won, by a hair.  And I had many quarts of egg nogg left over, which were eventually thrown out.

We had a winner!  St. Nick was crowned the champion and the sexy St. Patrick’s team (pictured below) were sent to a slave labor camp.

Randy and his two elves.

There was a bonus event, inspired by the greatest you Tube Video ever.  As far as I am concerned, this video justifies the existence of the entire Internet.  And in homage, I dazzled the children of Takoma Park with my own Rave toilet.  But I added a twist, the glowstick Blender, from this other amazing video.   Did I mention that I like glowsticks?

The glowstick toilet!

In honor of St. Pats day, I brined and corned my own beef brisket, 16 lbs of it to be exact.  I used an Alton Brown recipe that requires preparation 10 days ahead of time and used free range beef from my favorite grass-fed beef ranch.  It was really, really delicious and worth the time.  It tasted so much better than anything I’ve tasted store-bought.  The best thing is, if I season and cold smoke that corned beef, I can make my own pastrami.  But that will be another party…

Parties with kids are a lot more stressful.  I was pretty tired after this one.

‘The Winter’s Tale’ -mid Dec

A big line
Emma found an outlet for her stress last fall by enrolling in a local (mostly) Shakespeare theater company that performs (mostly) unabridged plays with a mixed-age cast.

She embraced her stage responsibility with ferocity, learning her dozen lines in the first month of rehersals. She practiced her accent at home and was at times, harshly critical of other kids who hadn’t memorized the lines of blocking. (LOLOL. Who do you think she gets that behavior from?)

Drama!

The performance was amazing for a low-budget, community performance. ‘The Winter’s Tale’ is not the most accessable or well-known play by the bard.   The mix of psychological drama and comedy are typical of his late period stuff. We saw all 4 performances and they really brought a challenging plot to life.

Emma in her court costume again.
Emma continued her dominating way on stage, pushing people into the right place and jumping other kid’s lines when she thought they had missed it. She wasn’t alone in that behavior, but she’ll need to go with the flow a little more if she’s going to keep her blood pressure in a managable range.

Emma really benefitted from having the play to focus on.  Interestingly,  The Winter’s Tale performance was dedicated to the founder of Lumina Studio Theater, who herself, succumbed to breast cancer at an early age a year earlier. Jillian Raye would be proud that one of favorite plays had helped Emma deal with her mothers’ fight with cancer.

Blowing up Trish’s boob -Dec

By Thanksgiving, we were glad I hadn’t booked the that trip to the Dominican Replublic. Even if the surgery hadn’t been postponed a month, Trish still wouldn’t have been ready for travel that soon. She dilligently did the stretching exercises but the expander hurt a lot every time it was expanded (weekly).

Boobs, pre-inflation.
The expander is essentially an egg-shaped device made of the same kind of material as a 2 liter soda bottle, maybe a bit thinner. They place it underneath the pectoral muscle on each side and gradually expand the muscle and skin tissue.  The picture at left is her chest a week after surgery. You can see the crinkled expanded underneath she skin.

On the cancer side, the skin is incredibly tight and the muscle is resistant to stretching because of the 2003 radiation. On the non cancer side, everything stretches easily. The cancer side is under a lot of pressure as they stretch it, and it takes twice as much fluid to make the same size as the other one, which lazily fills with fluid and sags down. The cancer one is erect, pushes back into her rib cage, stretches the skin taught, and feels so tight that I was worried it would explode if I touched it.  (And I didn’t.  Expanders are not sexy in any way whatsoever.)

Fully inflated expanders, pre-final surgery.
After 4 or 5 treatments of expanding they were able to get 350ml of fluid into the cancer side (her left) before it was maximally stretched.  The non-cancer side only had 200 ml, but still looks larger to the eye.  And the scars healed nicely, although in today’s surgery they are going back in through those scars to insert the saline implants.  Hopefully it will heal that well again.

There is a physical limit to the amount the non-cancer side will stretch. If you remember, the doctor made the impulse decision to skip the planned back-flap procedure (below) where they take some skin from her back and apply it to the cancer boob for more stretch capacity.  The result is less ability to stretch the cancer-side boob envelope, but we are still very happy with the results.  And she doesn’t have any of the terrible side-effects.

Trish, the day before surgery.

Every inflation of the boob brought pain, althought the valium helped. I gradually came to accept the wisdom of not putting the husband in charge of boob inflation. I would have, well, pushed it too far.

Black Swan Weekend

This was an extra-inning cancer palooza event. Once the 101 surprises were over, I didn’t plan much more. But it was tough to make the queen cold-turkey quit the lifestyle to which she had becomed accustomed.

Downtown we went for some dining and entertainment and an overnight in DC. We checked into Hotel Monaco, our middle-of-the-road favorite. (The best is the Ritz Carolton Georgetown, drool). It wasn’t a great room and they were sloppy with service, but they promised to make it up to us next time.

Hotel Monaco's fantastic hallways
Of course Trisha needed a new outfit and I surprised her with a leapord print by the British fashion goddesses at Marchesa, in which she looked perfectly sexy and chic.

We had dinner at my favorite DC restaurant, The Source which does the most tasty pan-asian menu. I don’t even remember what I ordered. It’s hard to go wrong there, and the downstairs bar is ALWAYS empty with a great sophisticated atmosphere and the same menu. It’s the place to go when you need something awesome but forgot to get resrevations.

The next day we clothes shopped, and she got these cute booties from Steve Madden. Every girl in cold weather shoudl have these, they are so adorable.  (Below)

On the canal in DC.
And of course, we went to see Black Swan, which was fantastic. The psychosis, sexual tension and allegory to the black swan story was so riveting. I am a harsh movie critic, but this is one of the best in years.   Trish, of course, adored that he took an overplayed classic and injected it full of life. She has loved the re-popularization of ‘real’ dance in the past decade with ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’  Black Swan may not make any schoolgirls want to be ballerinas, but Aronovsky pulled ballet a little farther out of it’s hole.

Time for my lunch

It’s about 1pm and I have heard nothing from the hospital staff about Trish.  It was scheduled for 4 hours, and we’re about half way through.  I think I’ll get myself form lunch and finish this afterward.

Here’s an exciting photograph of my world today:  my laptop, CNN on the flat screen in the distance, waiting room furniture, and the nice lady that keeps us from bothering the doctors.

Part Two is coming up after lunch!

That's gotta hurt

3 thoughts on “Weeks 25-34: A Post-Cancer World (1 of 2)

  1. Dave

    Great to see the update! Ever since Trish got the great news, I still check back here off and on and it’s great to see the blog updated.

    Can’t wait for part 2!

  2. hannah holmes

    Holy Hell. Hannah Holmes here, used to work with Trisha in the wild days at Disco.com. That gorgeous smile looks unchanged, but wow! You-all have traveled some hard miles!
    With strong thoughts —

    hannah

Leave a Reply