Category: fitness

The Chemo 15.

I had a sudden realization whilst at the Halloween parade with Penny.  What happens if I go to New Orleans?  Mardis Gras?  How am I supposed to get beads, you guys?

My girlfriend pointed out that I would never have employed such tactics anyhow, but that’s besides the point.  What if I needed some beads to save my life?  Like, a murderer said he would only let me live if I could get some beads RIGHT NOW, and I can no longer do the international signal for “give me a cheap plastic necklace?”  It’s a problem I’m going to have to add to the list.

Sometimes I hope my daughters will never find this blog.  (Just kidding about almost everything I ever say.  Mommy loves you.  Please don’t flash your boobies.  Use your brains to get what you want.)

Anyway, I went back to work last night.  Kind of.  I only worked a four hour shift, and they let me work with another nurse just to get used to being there again and to learn some of the computery things that have updated since I last worked.  I was really nervous that I had forgotten everything ever and that chemo brain would render me useless, but it’s funny how things just come back to you.  Like, I even remembered the IT help desk number, which I called maybe three times in five years.

I was nervous, too, because there was a massive turnover in the months of my absence and a lot of my friends left.  I didn’t want to show up in my beanie, not knowing anyone, and be only known as “the cancer girl.”  I don’t know if that happened, as there were so many new faces, but I guess I don’t care.  It was just so nice to see and catch up with the people that I do know and love.  Plus, I’ve learned a thing or two about holding my head up and/or mentally blocking stares, head tilts, pity glances, and that look people give you when they’re trying to figure out if your eyebrows are real.  (Since I learned how to fill in my eyebrows a few weeks ago, people keep telling me how much healthier I look.  Smoke and mirrors, my friends.)

Overall, it was a good night at work and with friends, but I do have to mention this.  Because this did happen.

After all the pleasantries of being back:

“Heather, have you gained some weight?”

::Mental pause to see if my coworker really just said this to me::

“Why, yes, I have.  About fifteen pounds.  Thanks!”

“I can see it.  Especially in your face.”

To which, I think I launched into a mini diatribe about how breast cancer specific chemo (and the steroids) actually make you gain weight.  Even though my family was worried I would lose weight in the beginning, my doctor assured them that I would, in fact, probably gain 10 pounds.  And I’m an overachiever.  Don’t people know about the chemo fifteen?  Duh.

And don’t people know not to look you straight in the eye and ask if you’ve gained weight?  Aaaaand then proceed to tell you that your face is fat.

What do you want from me?  When I gain weight, it goes straight to the cheeks.  The ass and the face.

Oh, well.  Although I was initially appalled, twelve hours later, I kind of think it’s hilarious.  I also kind of think it’s time to get to the gym.  Remember when I said I got a gym membership and was working out?  You see, about that…  That stopped after about the second chemo.  With my blood counts so low, I got winded going up one flight of stairs or trying to vacuum or walking into the library from my car.  And then there was the inexplicable soreness.   And just all the other things that chemo does.  I am starting to feel better these days, and being called out like that only reminds me that it is time.  Time to bring it back.

I’m just not sure how to fit everything in.  Even working minimally, my life sometimes feels like a circus of laundry, bill paying, grocery shopping, and itsy bitsy spidering.  Some days I feel like the only thing I accomplished was thrice making a mess of the kitchen and thrice cleaning it back up.  I know that I am not unique in this way so how do you guys do it?  Does anyone have a magic system that suddenly makes it super easy to balance all the adulty responsibilities?  (I’m much more of an adult now, you know.)  And please don’t tell me to wake up at 5 AM while my children are still asleep because that’s not happening.

And please don’t tell me my face is fat.  I just don’t like it.

Ladies first.


Do you remember being, like, twelve and just willing your boobs to grow, grow, GROW?  Or if you’re a guy, maybe you willed every girl in your sixth grade class’ boobs to grow.  Do guys do that?  Maybe you just wanted hair on your chest?  IDK.  I just know that, after years of watching my beautiful mother, and by the time middle school rolled around, I wanted my very own boobs and now!  (I wonder if people are searching naughty things and finding this well-intentioned blog because of such frequent boob talk.  Hey there, pervs, and sorry to disappoint.)  Anyway, it takes time – puberty and such.

Well, you guys, Christmas came early, AND I defied the laws of puberty.  My boobs are in.  BAM!  Just like that.  All I had to do was drive to the Galleria and pick them up.  (Twelve year old me is reeling.)  It is the ultimate in bra stuffing, and I love having them back more than I thought I would.  Plus, now Josh can get to second base again, and I don’t even have to be in the same room.


They don’t look exactly like mine did.  I got confused and thought that I was getting two pair of prosthetics so I went into the fitting with the plan of getting a “church pair” and a “going out pair.”  You know, so they could fit my mood and situation.  But alas, I only got the one pair.  After briefly thinking about going bigger, I decided to stick with my size.  When the fitters asked me what size I previously wore, I told them a 34B.  After much measuring and (shirtless) discussion, they told me that I had been wearing the wrong bra size and that I had been a 32D.

First of all, I assured them that I was not a D cup, but secondly, how could you know that without my boobs being here?  They assured me that so many people are wearing the wrong size.  So I went with it.

These falsies are a tad bigger and wider (or more spread out?) on my chest, so yeah, I don’t think I was a 32D.  Ah well, I think I got a little too braggy to my husband anyway, and more than once, I wished that my mom had been here to laugh about the possibility of either of us being a D cup.

Boob placement is hard, yo.
Boob placement is hard, yo.

On a more serious note, I had a lot of good reasons (for me) that I decided against reconstruction, but my life was harder/sadder (I’m not really sure of the right word here.) without, at least, prosthetics.  I definitely felt like a nine year old boy in my clothes.  Plus, I wasn’t aware that boobs balance out even the tiniest pooch bellies until I didn’t have any.  So I started to wear my husband’s tee shirts more and more, and well, I didn’t want to see where this slippery slope was headed.  I did start to notice a decline in general niceties thrown my way.  Things that, for my entire life, I have just taken for granted.  You know, things like opening doors, hellos, big smiles, letting me cut in in traffic, eye contact and such.  And it was ALL about having boobs (and natural hair helps too).  Boobs = power.  Let me tell you how I know.

My husband and I went to the mall to pick up my girly parts, and as I had developed a small bond with the girl who fitted me (re: I cried within ten minutes of meeting her), I asked her if I could “wear them out” — like they were new shoes and I wanted to stroll the mall in them.  She obliged, and I did.  Lunchtime Josh, then, had to restrain me from entering Sephora and pull me out of Lush, and we made our way to the food court.  Josh was very hungry so he was a few steps ahead of me and made his way to the free samples guy first.  He got his sample, and then the guy spotted me as I made my way over to his delicious tray of bite sized sandwiches.

“Oh, hey!” he said and looks to Josh and back to me.  “Ladies first.  Girl, you can have two to make up for it.”  Huge grin.

Now, on a normal pre-cancer day, I would just smile back, take my extra free sample, and be on my way.  People are nice.

But no one (that I don’t know) had been this nice to me in months!  It was such a weird feeling.  I got my boobs back, and ten minutes later, I’m a worthy person again.  People are looking me in the eye and saying, “Giiiirl.”  I wanted to just say, “Men!” and be done with it, but I know it goes deeper than that.  It’s kind of rocking my world.  In a good way.  So yeah, in its simplest form, boobs = power.

Also, Katie (from the fittings) helped me to find a swimsuit that would accommodate my stuffies, and I’m excited to get back in the pool with the girls.  I was not, however, excited to swimsuit shop with so many mirrors around and a stage-like pedestal centered among them.  I would show you the cute coral colored one-piece that we picked out, but my thighs are begging me not to.  It has been a hard four years on my body.  Three pregnancies, two births, two surgeries, two surgical procedures, and chemo.  Yikes.  Before Penny, I hadn’t stayed a night in the hospital since I was born.

Aaaand to the gym I have been going.  Between the cancer and the mirrors, I finally found the motivation, and I keep having the same thought.  What took me so long?  Daily babysitting for $50 a month!  Sign. Me Up.  And why didn’t you other mothers tell me about the miracle that is gym provided childcare?  Unless you didn’t know.  I have been working out, but if I wanted to, I could just go there and shower in peace for once!  I could drop my kids off, sit in the lobby, and watch Big Brother while eating Cheetos if I wanted to.  I’ve even figured out a way to have a date night with Josh at the gym.  We could take a walk together (on side by side treadmills), hit up the vending machines, watch a movie in the lobby…hey, they even have a hot tub.  We are set.  Any girlfriends want to meet up for a coffee date and actually swap fun stories sans all the interruptions and bathroom breaks?  I’ve got the perfect place.  I’ll even wear my boobs.