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Weeks 35-42: A post-cancer world (2 of 2)

Posted by on April 12, 2011
discussion options with the Doctor

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Lunch at the hospital was really gross.  Suburban Hospital’s kitchen and dining room was much better.  I am dismayed that I have formed opinions about the quality of area hospital cafeterias.

Trish, as you remember, is going through her second breast cancer reconstruction surgery.  There is a digital chart with her name on the wall that has read  ’In Op’ for the past few hours.  It will be a few more yet I think.

So I’ll pick up where I left off before lunch, and go over our winter experience.

California

Night on the Arcata square.
By Christmas, the boob inflations are done, and Trish was feeling pretty good.   She went to a few physical therapy sessions, and they taught her some stretches, but it wasn’t as useful as she expected. She only began to make real progress when she began to dance again.

Returning to dance class was a mixed experience for her. Her range of motion wasn’t great but it was not nearly as bad as she feared.  More challenging was the stamina, which came back only gradually. It frustrated her a lot that she would get winded after routines.

Col, wet and mossy green - the north coast is amazing.

As you may have read in one of my last posts before the surgery, we had several great trips scheduled for this year including ones that should be exceptional: China/Vietnam/Cambodia and Peru. Sadly we had to cancel a vacation to Club Med because of a work conflict.   In fact it was supposed to be this week, so it wouldn’t have worked out anyway.

Spooky dead forest at the dunes
But we were able to keep our trip to California, not an exotic destination, but a moderate test for us.  We did a few days in San Francisco with old friends, a weekend with family for Christmas, and a road trip through the redwood curtain to Arcata California where we have friends and work.

San Fran

Colored Elevator's at the Clift
San Francisco is Trish’s ‘home’ town, but in most ways it no longer bears a resemblance to the pre-internet slacker days of the early 1990′s that she knew. We love this town, except for the weather, which was not very accommodating on our December visit. It cold-rained almost the entire time we were in California.

With some great Priceline work, I got incredibly cheap rates at the Clift Hotel, which is a stylized and popular place to stay and be seen.  It’s motif are chairs of all types and sizes. We loved it, although it would not have been as great if we paid full price.  For a hotel that appears to cater to a single or childless crowd, the service was great to this family.

Surprise dinner party for Trish with old friends.
I had to throw one final surprise party for Trish. (After the Cancerpalooza year, she’s going to expect a suprise everytime we go to someone’s house). This time we went to Zeke and Claudia’s apartment.  They are the couple to whom we are indebted for introducing us to each other in New York City in 1994. There she was surprised by a dozen friends who hid on the porch while we arrived and gave her a big jolting ‘Surprise!’

Because of the cancer, we had to cancel a trip last summer to see these friends so it’s fitting that we wrap up 2010 in their company.  Rosanna, Jeff, Elyse and of course Zeke and Claudia;  thanks for making her feel special.

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Next up was dinner for two at Farralon; a dining room that looks a little like Captain Nemo’s Nautilus and a little like the Disney’s Princess dinner with Ariel, the little Mermaid.  An odd place but the quality was good and seafood, caviar and champagne are always romantic.

The girls get advice at the make-up counter in Union Square, San Francisco
The Union Square area of San Francisco is the easiest place in the world for me to shop. It has the flagship Diesel, John Varvatos, Paul Smith, G-Star and all within a few blocks.  Trisha and I both splurged (for the last time in a while) on clothes.  And the girls got some makeovers on Union Square.

Christmas on the North coast

Christmas 2010 in California
Christmas day in Santa Rosa was fun.  There was a lot of family and kids together in the same place eating, dancing and laughing.  We wished we could have stayed longer.

After Christmas we drove up the coast in the rain, which brought out the deep green color of the moss and redwoods. The redwood forstes are really one of the world’s wonders. I don’t know if there is anything like it elsewhere. It was a long drive, but worth it. I’ve flown dozens of times up and back form Arcata, but never drove.

That's Trish at the wheel.
I had to work and couldn’t go, but the girls got some fun time on the georgous shores of the Pacific Northwest, searching for abalone in the cold winter rains. They loved it! On the drive back we did one of those dumb, but funny ‘car through the tree’ things for $10.

Preparation for the second surgery: medical visits

January marked another, hopefully final, phase in her treatment.  She scheduled the surgery that we are at today, the permanent reconstruction. (No fake boobs are really permanent. They all have to be be redone every 10-15 years.)

Having been exposed to the fake -boob world mostly by the porn industry and the endless obsession tabloids have with Hollywood actress chests, we assumed that attaching a pair of boobs to a woman’s chest was a routine process.  It seemed you could simply choose any size and shape you wanted.

Tris gets a little work on her chin at the same time.
Although it may be that way in a few cases, it is more often complicated.  A lot of the ‘bad’ boob jobs we see are not just bad surgeons or dumb starlets, but the result of complicated circumstances.

For instance, you know how some boobs have a huge breastbone in the middle, making them look fake? Some of that depends on that person’s body. Boobs, placed under the muscle, can’t be pushed together any closer than where the muscle is attached to the bone.

In Trish’s case, she has two boob problems (booblems?)  The principle one is that her cancer side is about 2 inches higher than the non-cancer one.   When they cut out her non-cancer side, they left the natural fold or crease, from which it hangs.  But on the cancer side, they cut above. This means that her boobs are incredibly lopsided.

Lily's 8th Birthday with Lena and Ben
The other prboblem is size and shape. Her non-cancer expanded to be ab out 50% larger and dropped lower and lower. The rigid cancer side is high and round, but a little smaller.  You’d think that they could just put more fluid in the cancer side, and they did.  But it remains smaller anyway!  The reason is there is not enough room to expand because there is less skin and muscle.  So even with 100cc’s more fluid the cancer side looks smaller to the eye.  And as a result, it’s under so much pressure, that it pushes back into Trish’s chest cavity and hurts.

The solution is to put smaller silicone bags in the droopy side, staple it high to her ribs to raise the crease more in line with the other one, and try to take out some extra skin, so it doesn’t have as much room to move around.  And they will put larger saline bags in the cancer side to try to even our the shape.  Complicated, right?  It is.  And it’s more art than science.

Not likely

Lily’s thunderous Birthday

In late January, we had another characteristically strange Washington D.C. weather event:  thundersnow!  For several hours it snowed and hailed while thunder and lightning clapped and streaked. Everything was bathed in an erie yellow glow.  We went outside to check it out.  It’s not as epic as 2010′s snowmageddon, but was a memorable event.

Creekmores huddle on the couch in the blackout.
The blackout lasted about 36 hours, but the Creekmore’s comfortably stayed connected with the help of mobile phone internet tethering and a generator.

That weekend was Lily’s birthday party.  We thought we would have to cancel it, but the power came back just in time.  She wanted to have it at build-a-bear in a mall nearby and brought two of her closest friends, Ben and Lena.

Always one to enjoy the spotlight, Lily soaked up every moment of her 8th birthday with glee.  The sleep-over goes late into the night playing Wii and  Littlest Pet Shop.

Yumm, Shasta ginger ale and garahm crackers.

Another successful surgery.

Dr. Huang finally comes out, and gives me the news.  The surgery went as planned, and Trish is in the post-op recovery room.  We won’t really know the results until the swelling ends, and the body heals.  That’s at least a month away, so we don’t have much to discuss now.  But Trish made it through the surgery.

Photo doesn't existI want to hug Dr. Huang, but she extends her arm for a handshake.  To us, her calm and reasonable approach has been a source of emotional strength, but at the same time, we are a patient and hugs are arguably inappropriate.  We have deep respect and appreciation for everything she’s done for us.

I have to wait for them to let me see Trish.  She’s probably vomiting from the anesthesia, trying to eat a graham cracker and wishing I would get there to put Chapstick on her dehydrated lips.  It’s troubling that I know this routine so well.

Going home. Again.

Dr. Huang doing the pre-op markings.
They escort me down the long hall to the outpatient recovery area, where she, the woman I chose to spend my life with and mother to my daughters, is waiting.

The hallway is bright with ambient fluorescent light that washes out any sunlight that tries to get inside.  It’s about 5pm in the afternoon, but it could be anytime of the day or night and you wouldn’t know the difference.  Hospitals are a time warp; a purgatory.  Everything normal stops and you have to endure the process, hoping to get back to the place you call home. But we’re about to get there after a long, long journey silly head bandage that really makes her look pathetic.  But compared to the first surery in October, the

Trish goes around the corner to the OR, bye boobies!
Trish is, indeed, sipping ginger ale and trying to get some thing on her nauseous stomach.  She croaks out a smile and a ‘hi’ but it’s too early to talk.  In an hour she’ll get dressed an go home with one drain and a lot of bandages everywhere.  She got some work done on her chin at the same time and has this wrap on her head that makes her look extra fragile.

And we resume life where we left off a year ago when she was diagnosed with cancer.

Yay.

 

2 Responses to Weeks 35-42: A post-cancer world (2 of 2)

  1. bchew

    w00t! w00t! Go Creekmores, go!!! And whatev – everyone’s boobs are lopsided! Welcome to the club, Trish!! xoxo!!

  2. Rebecca Stoller

    Trash holy shit. Thank you for demonstrating your amazing life force and creativity yet again. I remember our sf in the nineties days myself with hungover frisbee games and hippy feminist lesbian bungie dancing. I luv you

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