Yesterday I was back at the 'Marsden for the first time in five weeks. It felt familiar and strange all at the same time.
I’d gone in for two appointments, the first of which was to see my Counsellor. Clearly a lot has happened since I first saw her in August, so it was good to be able to chat openly, and positively, about how things had progressed.
In particular, I was able to talk about how - with a few exceptions - my life is pretty much back to normal. I've healed from the operation and my boob is looking good. My hair has grown back and I've finally been able to get jobs done at home and visit friends and relatives that I've not been able to see during treatment.
Indeed my short, wavy hair is proving quite a talking point. Even complete strangers, with no knowledge of my cancer, are complimenting me on my barnet. It's flattering, if unexpected.
However, being the awkward, embarrassed sort when someone says nice things to me I must learn to resist dropping the 'C' bomb as some sort of mitigation for my hair style. I give you 'The Case of the Friendly Neighbour' ...
There is a gentleman who lives on my road and with whom I have been chatting and exchanging pleasantries for the last four or five years. I don't see him that often, and do specifically try NOT to talk to him when he's running in his Lycra onesie, but he is a lovely guy.
However, the embarrassing fact is that I can't remember his name. Worse still, he always remembers mine and too much time has elapsed for me to ask for a 'reminder'. Anyway, it transpires that we can't have spoken for quite a while as the following embarrassing exchange recently took place:
Neighbour: "Kate! Hi! I've not seen you in ages ... Love the hair!
Me: "Thanks ... I've had chemotherapy."
Neighbour: [stunned silence] Oh. God. I'm so sorry ... "
Me: "Oh. No. Honestly, I'm fine ... and at least I've got some hair now."
Neighbour: [long awkward pause] “Yes*.”
*The man is completely bald.
When I’m not shoving my foot in my mouth though, life is going very well and the reconstruction process is now well underway.
After my counselling and a spot of lunch in the ‘Marsden cafe, where I was pleased to find it was music free – (last time I went they had ‘Never say goodbye’ by Bon Jovi on continuous repeat, which I did think was a bit much in a cancer hospital) – I had an appointment to see my surgical consultant and breast care nurse.
And it was all good news. The mastectomy has healed well and the swelling has gone down, which meant that I was ready to be ‘pumped up’ a bit more to stretch the pectoral muscle to make room for what will be a silicone implant in the new year.
I have to say though, apart from surface skin sensation, I have little to no feeling in my new boob so when she jabbed a needle into the tissue expander and started to inflate it with water it did seem a little surreal.
Part of that strangeness is also the fact that they have to put a magnet to my chest to locate the valve. Not any old magnet, I should add – fridge magnets don’t work (we’ve tried) – but the metal in the implant does mean that I can’t have an MRI while I have it inserted, and that my boob needs its' own ID card to get through airport security.
Anyway, post inflation, I’m now looking lop-sided. I’m also feeling sore again, like I did straight after the operation, as the pectoral muscle is being constantly pulled. On the plus side though, it does appear that I will – in the wider scheme of things - automatically get bigger boobs than the ones I started with as they want to to ‘perk up’ lefty to match the shape of my new righty, so I will get implants in both sides. Ree-sult!
It’s up to me how much bigger I go, (probably not that much), but I do have one more injection scheduled for mid November. After that, I’ve opted to have some fat injected over the tissue-expander to try and make it look a bit more natural before I get the proper implants.
That will require an operation, in early January, but a relative minor one I think. Basically, they put a couple of nicks in the back of my thigh – siphon out a bit of fat – and pop it in my chest. How good is that? A boob job and lipo-suction, all in one!
When I’ll actually get my final matching pair though, I’m not quite sure. It would be nice to have them in time for Mr P’s birthday at the end of March ... I think he deserves them. Failing that, mine at the end of June. That really would be one hell of a 40th birthday present.