Wednesday, March 26, 2014

One Year Update

It's the first day of spring, 2014. What a difference a year makes!

It just so happens that the All City Elementary All School Musical fell right on the anniversary of my diagnosis date this year. The kids pulled off another amazing production, and we had a ton of fun. "101 Dalmatians" was this year's show. Here's me as director at Roger's piano onstage:

That day I felt so special! I also got to do a magazine photo shoot for a local women's magazine that's going to put me on the cover in May for their Mothers Day issue, and KSFY did a follow-up story on me as well. Here's a link to the story.

As I mentioned in the interview, this is the fifth production I've been able to do in the last calendar year, not counting "Jungle Book" which I had just finished when I was diagnosed last year.

I've done a little opera about Pinocchio,
Did this show during chemo treatments on a third week

A story about the Great Gals of the Dakotas, (this is me as a very fancy Calamity Jane)
Also during chemo- on a second week

Played in the pit orchestra, and was rehearsal accompanist for 
"How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying,"
This one was in November- during my birthday, actually

and got to play a small role in a concert production of "Die Fledermaus," where I was this talented girl's (older, less talented) sister.
This was in January, 2 1/2 weeks after my implant surgery

It's definitely been a year of ups and downs. My hair changed the most often:
My real hair pre-cancer

The short version before I lost it

I utilized several wigs...

My "I look just like my mom" wig

Tried short and blonde for a while. Really liked it!

One of my many costume wigs

The transformation I went through in the mornings


Even had a wig that would hold onto my birthday tiara!

At home, I looked just like a hairless princess!

I was excited when I had more hair than my brother!
This was in November.

My first public appearance without a wig. 
This was in January: 5 months after ending chemo treatments.
You can't really see it here, but there was an awful lot of salt in that pepper...

I lasted 3 days, then decided to go white blonde. 
I wanted my short, short hair to look intentional, not like "victim" hair.

My chest obviously changed an awful lot too! I won't show pictures in too much detail, but while it's definitely weird looking, my silhouette is better off!

THIS is what a sports bra did to me before:

And now...
That's in a SPORTS BRA, y'all!

I've got a few new scars, and will never look the same naked again (sorry, no pics of that!), but I've learned a lot through the journey. I hope I am a better person for walking through this trial. I know one thing for sure: I'm an incurable optimist.

Honestly, I don't feel like my suffering was that bad compared to what others have to face. I had the hope of survival from almost the beginning, and when you know you're going to survive something, it makes it a lot easier to fight.

I want to thank you all for your support over the last year. Our family has been so blessed by the generous outpouring of love and resources from so many friends and family near and far. I have definitely learned that everyone's experience with cancer is different, but I hope my story is an encouragement to you.

I probably won't be writing much more on this blog. I feel like this chapter of my life is over, and it's time to move on to new and better things. My little brush with cancer has reshaped me, and will always be a part of my story, but as I've said from the beginning. It is not what defines me. Dan Steevers
God bless you!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Implants & Wig-Free

Well, things have been bopping along here. We just undecorated from Christmas which always makes me kind of sad. And when I say "we," I actually mean my darling husband did all the work while I was over helping a friend paint bedrooms at her new house. You would think I would be grateful when I came home to find it all done, but instead, I put on a sad face and mournfully sang, "Where are you Christmas? Why can't I find you?"

In November, I celebrated my 42nd birthday. Surviving cancer has made it a lot easier to admit how old I am because, hey. I made it this far! I also played piano in the pit orchestra for the musical at the college where I work. We did "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."  I've found I love being the rehearsal accompanist for these shows. It's a great way to connect with some of my voice students in a different environment. Also, I just love musicals. They're fun.

Like everyone else, we had a busy December with Christmas as a highlight. Guess what I got for Christmas! An accordion! My mom thinks I'm crazy. I don't think she gets me. Christmas Eve is one of my favorite days of the year, and I got to play cello for all 4 of our church services. We were also overwhelmed with thanksgiving when our friends unveiled a secret that they'd been plotting for a mere 5 days: they took up a rather sizable collection to help us pay for a replacement car for us! We were stunned. What a sweet blessing!

So here we are in January. I have an opera coming up in 3 weeks. I am doing "Die Fledermaus" as a concert opera on January 25 with Sounds of South Dakota, Inc. (click on the link if you want to buy tickets!)

Oh, and I'm also having implant surgery in a couple of days. My last post was about being done with the expansion phase, then I had to wait 3 months before this next step in the process. It's time to get rid of these hard baseballs and replace them with something more "smooshable." I understand that it's a much less invasive process than the mastectomy/ reconstruction surgery I had in August. It will require an overnight stay in the hospital (I thought it was outpatient. Bummer). My surgeon says I should anticipate about half the time to heal that I took last time. Of course, I only took two weeks off rather than the suggested 4-6 weeks. I don't actually go back to teaching at school until February because I don't teach during J-term, so all I'm doing for work right now is teaching a handful of lessons at home anyway. I cancelled one day, and will take a little time off over the weekend, but anticipate that I should be able to teach my evening lessons by Monday after the surgery on Wednesday.

I opted for silicone implants rather than saline. Silicone was suggested by my surgeon, for my bony body-type, and is what she prefers. It's got a more natural feel to it. The danger of rupture is very small with both kinds, but if a saline implant ruptures, it will be very obvious. You deflate like a balloon- on one side of course, because the surrounding tissue absorbs the saline.  If the implant is not replaced within 24-48 hours, the tissue may have to be expanded again before replacing the implant. If a silicone implant ruptures, the silicone just stays within the scar capsule surrounding the implant, and often you can't tell if it has even happened. This is called a "silent rupture," which kind of makes me wonder how loud a regular rupture is! I will have regular MRIs every 2-3 years to check the status of my implants, so I guess that replaces mammograms for me in the future.  I asked my surgeon how often she has had a rupture, and she said one time in the over 2,000 she's placed, and that patient had a lot of other problems. I suggested she had spiky tissue. That's probably what it was. Or maybe acid blood. That's a thing, right?

I have the option of going in for a final surgical procedure after I'm all healed up from this one: nipple reconstruction. I think I'm going to pass on that. I mean, you spend your whole life trying to cover them up. Why would I want fake ones that aren't even functional? There is also the opportunity to get tattoos to simulate areolae. They call it 3-D tattooing. I like to think of it as trompe l'oeil. Seems fancier that way.

I will have two drains for about 10 days instead of the four I had last time, and I'll be on lifting and driving restriction for a while. I'll be wrapped in ACE bandages for a bit, but hoping to have a nice shape for the opera because hey, fancy dresses!

Oh, and I stopped wearing my wig last week. I have had very short hair for quite a while, but it was just a buzz cut, not a style. I unveiled my short, salt & pepper croppy do on Sunday, but on Monday, I got it bleached white-blonde. It's totally rock & roll now. My hair is so black, thick and growing so aggressively, that I swear I had black roots within 20 minutes! I won't leave it this color, but it's what I wanted for the super-short stage. And when else in my life am I ever going to have "virgin" hair again?! I've been dying it since high school!

So here's another celebrity look-alike photo: Me & Annie Lennox.

See? Rock & Roll!

One last thing, we had an appointment for our son, Xander with an ophthalmologist this week to check and see if his eyes showed any signs of Marfan's Syndrome. We are happy to report that they do not! The only way to know for sure is to visit a geneticist, but this is a very good sign. We will revisit the surgeon in April, and schedule his pectus surgery after that. (The back story on this is located within this post).

Thanks for following my posts. I can't believe how many people read these things. I really appreciate all the encouragement and support from you all. I've learned so much through this process, and if I can be a help to others going through a similar situation, then I am thankful for that.

Happy New Year!