Tuesday, March 4, 2014

As I was bemoaning in my head the fact that I was frosting Olaf cupcakes at 11 o’clock last night, and reminding myself to tell Miles when he’s 25 or so that he better choose a mighty fine nursing home for me, several other things crossed my mind. Here’s the thread of thoughts:

“Arghghghgh, these stupid Olaf cupcakes A) don’t look anything like the Pinterest picture – and therefore don’t look anything like Olaf, and B) are taking WAY longer than anticipated.”

“Miles better see to it that I am in the World’s Finest Nursing Facility when I’m old and senile. He owes me one.”

“Remember that one time Mom and I made Halloween cookies when I was in college? And we made the icing from scratch? And I ate so much I came this close to throwing up? Yeah. That time.”

“Remember that other one time when Mom and I made Diego cupcakes for Allie? OK so fine Mom made them because I had post-partum depression from Miles, who looked so unbelievably handsome sitting in his bouncy seat while Mom and I squirted melted chocolate in the shape of Diego’s hair onto wax paper?”

“Oh. My. God. Three years ago today, I had my boobs cut off. Dear God, thank you for American Cancer Society’s tagline or mission or whatever to celebrate more birthdays.”

“These look like Olaf’s evil cousin, Johann, who had the misfortune of being delivered vaginally, forcibly with forceps, vacuums, pliers and maybe an allen wrench that came packaged with the instructions to IKEA’s Svornijen shelving unit.”

“Why can’t I decorate cupcakes like all the good mommies on Pinterest?”

“I’ve never been so happy in my life. I love sucking at making Olaf cupcakes.”

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New melons for Melanie

Here's why I'm already getting an upgrade to my new boobs, as illustrated in these photos of my melons.

These are my melons. (I know it's citrus. Work with me here. A cantaloupe would have been an exaggeration.)

These are my melons from the inside. (Different camera angle. Sorry about that.)

These are my melons after the breast surgeon scraped all the tissue out. She saved the skin and trashed the tissue. (And we're back to camera A.)

These are my melons after the plastic surgeon put the implants in. (Another angle.)

A close-up of the implants -- a little wrinkly inside my melons. It's not the plastic surgeon's fault. Plastic surgery, I've discovered, is far more art than science.

Fat from my belly and flanks. (Yes, I said flanks. That's what the plastic surgeon called the junk in my trunk.)

Flank and belly fat grafted to the insides of my melons.

New melons for Melanie!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Whatcha got in there?

Today, while poking my boob, Miles asked me what I had in there. Which reminded me of this gem that my graphic designer pal, Peggy, put together for me.

This, by the way, is the only time I'll forgive someone who knows me well for misspelling my name.

It also reminds me of this book that Matt Hein gave me, although he didn't tell me it was from him. Thanks, Peggy, for fronting Matt out.

How did the HR police not fire us all for this?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It's all OK

Writing about cancer is hard. Lots of people get it and write about it and live through it, so it’s not like I have anything of value to add to the conversation.

But then, that has never stopped me from contributing to the conversation in the past, so I will try to explain what it’s like when your body turns against you in the prime of your life.

You just stop
When your cells go rogue, you change courses really fast. Your mind shuts everything else out so that the only thing there is cancer. Suddenly that coworker who you hated and was sucking all the emotional energy out of you means absolutely nothing. That newsletter you were editing is also meaningless.

Everything around you slowly, gradually grinds to a halt.

You stop the process of signing your daughter up for ballet with her friends because you have no idea if you will be tied up with chemotherapy or surgery or what. You waffle back and forth between sending out the custom-made monster-themed invitations to your son’s first birthday party or just saving them all in his baby book unaddressed and unmailed.

You call your babysitter and ask her if she can keep your kids a little later because you and your husband received some life-changing news, and you thank her profusely when she says “of course” with no questions asked and even says her own family’s home-cooked dinner is almost ready and your kids can eat with them.

You freak out but try really hard not to
You sit on the couch with your husband and two Bud Lights and think through the most likely case, even though you have no basis for knowing what your case will be.

You know you have invasive ductal carcinoma. You tell your husband that the most likely thing that will happen is that you’ll be inconvenienced at some point in the next few months with a lumpectomy. A not-too-terrible surgery. And surely you won’t need radiation or chemotherapy. There’s just no way this has spread or will be all that bad.

But what if it is? Pathology reports are hard to read. What you don’t understand, you Google. And when Google tells you that on a scale of one to three, with three being the worst, yours is a three, your heart starts to beat a little faster.  And you start to breathe a little more rapidly.

You wonder if you’re going to die, and you think, no way. I’m not going to die. I’m not even sick. It was just a lump, for God’s sake.

You Google and change lanes
The pathology report says the cells were dividing at a fast pace and there were quite a few dead cells in your two tumors. Which is not really a good thing. Cancer cells live much longer than normal cells, so the fact that they’ve been in your body long enough to have died is not a good sign.

You and your husband keep Googling and Googling until you can get in to see the breast surgeon, and you do this without talking to anyone else because you don’t want to freak anyone out.

At some point in the purgatory between the indecipherable pathology report and the visit with the breast surgeon, you drive alone in your Jeep, and if you’re lucky, you get the sense that I got at this point.

If I die, it will be OK. My children have the most loving, engaged father imaginable. They have aunts and uncles and friends and neighbors who adore them and will make sure that they are raised in a loving environment to grow up and become happy, well-adjusted people (as well-adjusted as can be expected from the Medina/Trice/Allison/Talkington gene pools).

And they would be OK. I would watch from Heaven as they play soccer and learn the piano and have their first crush.

Who says this? What mother in her right mind says it’s OK if she dies before her kids are old enough to start school? I don’t.

I didn’t conjure up this sense of peace on my own. It was God given. Because no reasonable, rational person says they’re ready to die when they’re 33.

But this peace was real and it was pervasive.

I still cried when I leaned over Miles’ crib and swept his messy hair from his face. I cried when I thought about not being there with Allie when it was time to buy school supplies for the first time.

But I knew that God loved us and would take care of us.

And after that realization, I wasn’t scared. I had switched tracks into my alternate reality.  I was in it, and all I wanted was to find out what I needed to do next.

You bask in God's grace
Thankfully, the breast surgeon, Alison Laidley, put everything into perspective for us. She showed us my mammogram films and explained what was concerning about them. She told us why I wasn’t a candidate for the lumpectomy + radiation protocol, and why I’d need a mastectomy of, at the least, my right breast, and likely both breasts. And why she thought that, even though my tumors were classified as grade three, the cancer was likely only stage two.

She freed up my mind so that, even though I never mailed out invitations to Miles’ first birthday or signed up Allie for dance classes, our family was in a good place to celebrate the birthdays of these two little ones.

The invitation that was never mailed (or rotated properly before posting, because Mario took Photoshop off my Mac and made me use a stupid open source program called Gimp, which doesn't work. Go figure.)

Aunt Chrissy came in all the way from Louisiana for Miles' birthday and for moral support for my mastectomy, which took place the day after the birthday party. And that's Aunt Judy in the background, who was diagnosed with stage IIIB lung cancer right around the time I was diagnosed. Mama Toni (my mom) spent 2011 taking care of both of us. And we are both cancer free today.

I never mailed his birthday invitations, but I did make him a cake from scratch! It was horrible -- in taste and appearance.

It was nice being able to focus on Miles' birthday instead of the surgery. That's G-ma sitting on the right-hand side of the picture. (Pretty sure that's her. It looks like her wedding band.) She and my sister Nicole spent the night after Miles' birthday so that Mario and I could leave for the hospital first thing the next morning.

One of my favorite pictures of all time. My son sleeping on my dad. Life does not get any better than this. On the left is Allie sitting on Aunt Nicole's lap (I have good hand recognition. But poor framing skills.)

Allie's birthday, which falls a month after Miles', was also a lot of fun. She got the Barbie Fairy that she wanted. This was the first birthday party that included friends, not just family.

I'm pretty sure I used Evite for Allie's birthday party, and I didn't make her cake from scratch. But Mama Toni bought her the best cake in the world (from Whole Foods), and I made the cream cheese frosting from scratch for her cupcakes!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Unemployment Opportunities

I have not had a full week off of work since Mario and I got married in 2005. I'm in between jobs for the next week and a day. Here's what I'm going to accomplish:

  • Black coat to the dry cleaners so that my mother will not be embarrassed of me when I wear it in public.
  • Pants & jeans to the seamstress for hemming.
  • Sign my baby girl up for pre-K.
  • Organize kitchen.
  • Organize desk at home. It's a mess.
  • Clean out kids' closets.
  • Coffee with Amber.
  • Lunch with Melinda.
  • Visit with Melissa.
  • Run like crazy. Either treadmill or outside if the weather's OK.
  • Cook real food (not boxed) every night for the Medinas.
  • Cook extra stuff to freeze for when I'm back at work.
  • Shop for upcoming 5-day trip to Cabo San Lucas.
  • Organize family photos.
  • Update blog with more cancer thoughts.
  • Read. Currently reading "Emperor of Maladies: A Biography of Cancer." And "Of Dying...Of Living," a collection of poetry, prose and sketches from a young mother who caught her breast cancer too late.
  • Take the Medina babies to the zoo.
  • Do this "Masterpieces" thing I found on Pinterest.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Goodbye, Friends!

Acts 17:29

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place…”

I always knew I was here at Children’s for a reason, and in 2011, that reason became clear. God knew I would need every single one of you to help me through the toughest time of my life.

I hate for my cancer experience to be what everyone remembers when they think about the almost five years we’ve been together. I hope you also think about my masterful writing and editing talents. My occasional bouts of inappropriateness. My knack for walking in to surgeries at the most inopportune times. Things like that.

But I’ll never be able to look back at on my time at Children’s without thinking of how you carried me through breast cancer.

The earring tree.
Every single morning of the rest of my life, when I open my jewelry box, I will think of my coworkers who brought me earrings of every sort to rock with my baldness. Every time I see a stupid pink ribbon, I will think of the pink ribbons taped to the Paris conference room. Every time I see the big gash in the side of my Jeep, I will remember the state of euphoria I was in while pulling out of the damn parking garage after the mastectomy party you threw for me.

The gash. This is all y'alls fault.

Specifically, here are some other things I will always remember.

All the hard work.

Savvy internal marketing campaigns.

Juan Pulido.

Kristen Janssen.

Sarah Snarkees.

That creepy Elf on the Shelf.

That other creepy elf.

Hard-working coworkers.

Sharp-dressed coworkers.

Fabulous hairstyles.

Testing out the new Macs.

My coworkers' awesome design sense.

And especially their re-design sense.

My buddies helping me keep my chin up.

The competition.

Pregnancy support.

Did I already say sharp-dressed coworkers?

My fashion sense.

Two maternity leaves.

Coworkers who make me feel like I am 90.

My coworkers' fashion sense. Wait. Did I say that already?

Getting smashed with coworkers.

My coworkers' fashion sense.

That time we all got new iPads.

How much you guys really, really like me.

I will miss you guys more than you know.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Trying to remember all the details

It is 3:20 in the morning, and I’m about 20 feet from my front door. I feel like I could take off running down the street because I’m so excited that I finished chemo. I’m not going to write about chemo now because it will literally make me sick to do so. Chemo is evil. It may kill cancer cells, but what it does to the body is pure evil.

I haven’t wanted to write lately out of fear of not being able to fully capture how I feel. And for some reason, I want to remember every last detail of this experience. And truthfully, with the exception of chemo, being diagnosed with breast cancer has been overwhelmingly positive.

So, I’ll just tell it in chronological order. Bear with me, because this goes back a ways.

My late grandmother, Betty Trice, survived breast cancer twice. The first time she had it was in the late 80s. I was in the fifth or sixth grade. She had the cancerous breast removed and reconstructed and went through chemotherapy. One day during the summer, my family was together at my aunt and uncle’s lake house in Weatherford, and my grandmother took off her wig and I screamed. 

My beautiful grandmother, Mary Elizabeth "Betty" Trice. She was incredibly strong. She worked a full-time job as a secretary at Bell Helicopter, while raising four relatively well-adjusted kids.

Granny loved playing golf.

She and my relatives were sitting on fold-up lawn chairs in the backyard while my cousin Lindsey and I were playing in the lake. The sight of seeing my beautiful grandmother bald was shocking. I was 11 or so, and I was way too old to have behaved that way.

That must have been the summer between my fifth and sixth grade years, because I remember in sixth grade having an all-consuming fear that I had breast cancer. I didn’t even have boobs, per say, but I would stay awake at night scared to death that I had cancer. My mother took me to see our family doctor, just so I could hear him say that I did not have breast cancer.

I never really thought about it much more after that, even when my grandmother’s breast cancer came back. I think this happened when I was in high school or college, so, the mid-90s, when I was too busy concentrating on myself.

Later, in May 2010, my grandmother died—not of breast cancer but from complications of Alzheimer’s. During the last few days that she was alive, my grandmother’s great niece, Margie, spent a lot of time with us, helping my mother take care of my poor Granny. We talked about how strong my grandmother was, how she survived breast cancer not once, but twice. Margie also said, in passing, really, that Granny’s sister (Margie’s grandmother), died of breast cancer when she was 35.

Annievieve Mattox Boswell. This is my great aunt. She was at least 10 years older than my grandmother. She died of breast cancer at 35. I love her eyes. My cousin Lindsey has her nose. She was born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1914 and died in 1949. She had two babies.

It hit me that breast cancer runs in our family and that I should be doing breast self-exams, something I’d never done before.

On Christmas Eve day 2010, I was in the shower, getting ready to see the Trices for our usual family get-together at our friend Larry’s house. I was in charge of making asparagus, and I had found this incredible Paula Deen recipe online.

Allie had been throwing what probably ended up to be a two-hour tantrum because she wanted to wear her green-striped froggy bathing suit and tights to our Christmas dinner (we relented). I’m sure Miles was cool as a cucumber, as he usually is unless he’s teething. 

Two hours. For two hours, Allie threw a fit so she could wear this bathing suit to our family Christmas dinner.

And while I was in the shower, I found a lump in my right breast. I didn’t think much of it, but I showed Mario. He didn’t think much of it, either, and we decided to forget about it until after Christmas.

In January 2011, I went to my OB/GYN, Dr. Tovar, about it. I remember clear as day him saying, “I’m 95% certain this is a fibroid.” I was pretty certain it was, too, but I was a little worried that he didn’t say he was 99% certain. He said that because of my family history, he’d like me to get a mammogram.

Did the mammogram. I remember the radiologist coming in to the exam room after he had reviewed the images, and he said, “this looks like a fibroid and smells like a fibroid, but I’d like to have one of my colleagues take a look at it..” Then he asked me an odd question: “Are you OK either way, whether we do a biopsy or not?” And I said sure, that I trusted him.

A few days later, Dr. Tovar called me and said he wanted me to have a biopsy because the images showed a little bit of calcification. Of course I Googled this “calcification” thing and didn’t find anything too alarming about it.

On January 31, I went in for the biopsy. I had on my black Ugg boots, and the nurse and I were talking about how comfortable they were. I had just changed jobs at work (same department, different manager), and I called my new boss to tell her that the biopsy was a little more invasive than I had anticipated, and that I’d need to stay home the rest of the day.

Then the weather went nuts. It iced, like it does in Dallas. The ice was so bad, they nearly had to call off the Superbowl. Our sitter closed, and we were stuck in the house with the kids for several days straight. Now, I love my babies, but it is HARD to entertain an 11-month-old and almost-3-year-old inside a house for more than a day. We must have watched a dozen “Max and Ruby” episodes on Nick Jr. I found a half-eaten banana in between the couch cushions that Allie had stashed. My babies weren’t old enough to go sliding down the streets or make snowmen. It was miserable, really.

OK, so not too miserable.

It was so cold that Spanky Mae couldn’t bare to put her little paws on the ice to potty outside. So, she pooped inside. In the playroom. At one point, praising God for a mere two minutes of quiet time to read a full paragraph from a newspaper, I realized it was too quiet. I looked in the playroom to see Miles mushing something around in his mouth. Dog poop.

We had to get out of the house. I begged our sitter to keep our kids the next day so I could risk my life and drive to the office over sleet-covered highways. This was a Thursday. February 3.

I worked until about 4 and headed out to my Jeep in the parking garage. My cell phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize. It was my OB/GYN calling from his personal cell phone.

He said he’d looked at the pathology report. “It’s cancer,” he said.

That’s all, folks! I don’t mean to be all cliff-hanger-y. This is just breast cancer. People survive it. But I’m too tired now to finish the full story.