Thursday, June 21, 2012

Surgery, You Suck! ( Part I.)

So: It's been a whole full week since I got my left boob cut I think I'm ready to collect my thoughts on it and coherently write about how the whole experience was. It has definitely not been fun and recovery has been pretty tough on me...but what doesn't kill me only makes me stronger right? :)

I wanted to start off by finally posting a picture of my grandma...I had limited movement but I went through my parents' old photo albums and found this one of me and her:

Look at me all prim and proper!

I kind of remember when this picture was taken. My mom used to make me dress up for all the holidays and this was during Thanksgiving. Grandma had come from the old Greyhound bus and came up with my step-grandfather to visit... Many people don't really know this but my Grandma actually lived and settled in NYC for most of her later adult life right on Canal Street in Chinatown. I used to love visiting her and I think that was my first experience that made me love New York so much today. She would let me stay in her room and she always had old Asian perfumes that were in glass bottles with the little rubbery squeeze things for the spritzer. Every morning I would hear the the various sounds- people yelling, screaming, vendors getting ready for the day and  garbage trucks....come dawn, the city just came alive...I remember thinking to myself someday at some point of my life I was going to live here. She also had an odd window in the hallway that just faced the other building and when you looked down it  faced an alley...When I think of that scene in my head it reminds me of the set design for" West Side Story" and I just thought it was the coolest thing. It was a fun time in life. My Grandma used to take little bus trips all the time and she was pretty active in meeting friends in the city and playing Mah-jong. This was before all that shitty Cancer came and made everything into a big empty black hole of just memories...

I thought about her as I started fasting for my surgery and mentally preparing myself. I don't know how she got to the point where she just accepted this whole thing and just moved on with life and pushed through every tough moment. I'm still pretty pissed off and angry with everything in my life right now and I'm dealing with it the best way I know how, but I give my Grandma huge credit for having the strength and grace to go through all the shit I am going through now. She is one tough New Yorker broad!!! LOL. You have to also realize that when she had the cancer she was much older than I am now. She was already in her 60's and her body could withstand all the battle scars. Amazing. It blows my mind away actually. 

I'd also like to randomly point out that my parents still have those chairs in the kitchen still, and actually not much has changed in the house at all.  Also the table in the picture is now at my apt...:) Some things just can't be thrown away because they withstand all types of  the tests of time. Everytime I eat at that table I think about all the good times I've had over the years with my family and also all the food we ate...! HAHAHA

The day before surgery I went and got a massage. It was a little awkward at first because the masseuse was a nice older Russian woman, and she told me to kind of tie up my hair with this weird headband thing. I just used my secret smart  Asian saavy skillz and just velcro-ed it together and made a knot and turned it into a hair band instead so my hair was kind of half up. I told her I had a port and to kind of avoid the area and she didn't ask any questions about it.I had to lie face down at first so she kinda was moving my hair up some more but she moved it so much it basically was coming off at the back and obviously my secret was out....I told her it's my fake weave and she was like "oh it's ok, no problem" and proceeded to tell me I had a lot of tension on my shoulders...NO KIDDING RIGHT? "It's all this bullshit booby burden I'm carrying" I thought to myself and almost chuckled out loud...rather than make the whole experience weird I just kinda told her I had surgery the next day and that I had Cancer and that I needed something to relax besides drugs. She felt bad and by the end of the massage she told me she would pray for me which was nice. I hadn't had a massage in soo long it felt AMAZING. It made me feel like sweet strawberry jam afterwards HAHA!

Anyhow, I was not looking forward to the fact that I couldn't eat or drink after was more so that I couldn't drink. UGH. I was getting over a bad cold and I am the type of person that goes out and buys the 24 packs of bottled water every week and I drink a ton of bottles a day  along with my seltzers and iced teas so this was going to be annoying for me. My mom was also pressing for me to go to her house after surgery and I was not really looking forward to this. I told you all I like my distance and kind of like just being left alone so the thought of being at my house for a week with mommy daddy and my brother was giving me anxiety. I also like to be in control of what I do so mentally to be reverted back to being a teenager again was going to be challenging. I had a good night before the surgery...after the massage I met up with various friends- had a good lunch, went shopping on my own, then I had a fun dinner and I ate ice cream up until 11:30pm...I got home pretty late and I was dreading packing up a bag for both the hospital and then for my parents afterwards...I kind of just threw everything in the bags and didn't really think of  any cute outfits- I mostly threw in loose fitting sweats and like 10,000 tank tops that would mold to my new non existent boob. 

I had to be at the hospital an hour and a half before the surgery start time of 9:30am- which means I'm supposed to get my butt there around 8am for all the admission and prep crap. I had mentally prepared not to really sleep at all since I am already a certified insomniac so I only got like 2-3 hours of sleep. When I woke up not only was I running late, the weather was totally depressing me. It was rainy cold and wet outside! UGH. I took this as a bad sign and I was immediately in a bad mood. I threw on my sweats, my kicks, my glasses and my hair and  in a few minutes my brother came to help me get my bags and my mom drove us over. I think  got there a little after 8:30 am. I was on edge and afraid they were going to yell at me being late but thank GOD they didn't. The main campus building at Beth Israel always gives me random memories. I was born at this hospital so I found it ironic, but so was my brother. I remember leaving with my family the day we brought him home and my grandma had bought  me a coloring book and crayon set from the gift shop to sort of soften the blow that there was this new YONG in the household. YEAH the crayons didn't cut it but I digress...

I had to check in at the front and it was such a pain in the ass system. They gave me a beeper but then immediately took me upstairs and I had to pass the beeper to either my mom or brother to go next but we couldn't go up together. The front desk person told me only one person can go at a time so I figured my mom would just come first. 

When I got upstairs in the prep area they directed me to my little surgery bed. I threw my duffle bag on the chair and just sat there and took it all in. In a few hours I would be left boob-less. I didn't really know how I felt about it quite yet...I had said my goodbyes to it the night before but it's just a weird thing to part with. I never really LOVED my boobs so I don't have a physical attachment to it but it was more of an emotional attachment. This was something that has been my own for 32 years and now it's going to just be sliced and diced and tossed. It was bizarre to me....I tried to just not think about it too much. Plus I was tired and sleepy and THIRSTY as all hell from not being able to have any water so my attention span was low. The nurse came over and told me to strip everything and put the gown on...UGH. I always hate the impersonal ugly hospital gown. It's itchy, really long and super duper UGLY. If I am going through breast cancer, you can at least make it fucking FABULOUS and give me a hot pink one but whatever. 

My mom comes up within a few minutes of me getting undressed. I thought about wearing my wig to the OR, but the nurse told me I had to take it off and gave me a bag to toss it in. If I hadn't told her she prob wouldn't even have know because if I had my real hair they would just make me tie it up anyways so I didn't see the difference but I didn't argue. They gave me one of those HIDEOUS shower cap things to wear and of course being the vain girl I am, I took a pic for all of you to enjoy:

I'm too sexy for my cap, too sexy it hurts!

I KNOW I look vastly different from when I'm all dolled up with makeup and looking all girly cute to looking like a pale, sick, withering gross Jen with glasses and baggy clothes LOL. I also haven't worn these glasses in months and since my whole glamorous sweat pant and t-shirt outfit had a pink and black theme, I did veer away from my usual purple ones and choose the black ones... I did think about this color scheme and decided to rock my intellectual glasses before going under. HAHAA...these are the things that go through my mind when I am about to have the most important surgery of my life- outfit and glasses...I have great priorities, I know. Ah well.

The nurse then asked me if I had other family members around and I told them my brother was still downstairs. ( My dad couldn't make it he had to work and would come visit me later that night) She was really sweet and nice and she told me they usually only let one member of the family stay but that she would let it be okay for my brother to come up right before I go in. My mom went to go get him so it was nice the both of them were there before I was going to be drugged I mean induced to sleep...:)

Time was now moving fast. I got all the anal nurses up in a tizzy because I was supposed to have all my piercings out and I did take them all off at home including my tummy piercing and all my earrings but I had one earring on my right side of my ear where the backing was locked and would NOT budge. Literally 5 nurses tried to get it off of me. I hardly think this little earring would give me an infection but they were hell bent on trying to get me to remove it. One nurse started gossiping to another like I was some Jezebel of the operating room.... hahahaha!!! It made me feel like I was having a child out of wedlock in the South and now I can no longer particiapte in my coming out ball. Oh why I DO DECLARE!

A few minutes later my awesome tumor surgeon- Dr. Houlihan came and she told me I was doing great and to not worry and that everything was going to turn out fine. I was so used to her being in dresses and makeup and  jewelry that I almost didn't recognize her in scrubs. The nurses mentioned my earring to her as I rolled my eyes and my Dr. was like "oh, PLEASE let's not even worry about that, it's on the opposite side anyhow...I'll just put a piece of cotton behind it in case we have to tilt her head and it will be fine...I know you guys are just trying to be preventative, but who knows why we do HALF the things that are so called protocol, anyways?"....
DAMN I respected her even more after that and then all the nurses shut up their bitchings and whisperings and left me alone...LOL

An IV was then place on my right hand. UGH I hate hand IV's sooo much. They freak me out and it always HURTS like a BITCH. Never mind I have a fucking port so why don't you use it?!!! They told me it wasn't allowed or something.  Then the short, unattractive anesthesiologist came over and did his song and dance...blah blah blah you might get sick after and have nausea and blah blah blah your throat might hurt from the tube we stick down your throat, etc. I kind of didn't like him. He seemed nervous, jittery and gave me weird vibes like he wasn't confident in his speech and actions- which is NOT a good vibe when you are about to go under the knife. I also thought to myself : IF I'm going to be brought to life after being drugged/poisoned/accidentally killed/etc. I'd take any of the Disney princes, a vampire OR werewolf or even the Snuggle Downey bear to wake me up with a magical glorious kiss- but HELL NO, not HIM, so I droned him out for most of his lecture. Sooner or later like an annoying gnat, he buzzed off. BUH-BYE.

Oh yes Prince Eric please take me away to your castle!

Also, I didn't get sick when I had my port placed back in November so I didn't think much about the anesthesia at all. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't going to feel or see any of this crap but BOY was I wrong, but more on this later. 

I don't think I have QUITE enough saline in my body! UGH

At this point my mom was on my left side sitting in the chair and she began to cry all of a sudden. SHIT. I felt so bad and I couldn't tell if it was tears of pain for me or tears of joy that surgery was helping me get one step closer. During this whole Cancer thing I have never seen her cry. I mean I know I don't live at home anymore and I don't see her daily so maybe she does at home, but I knew all of  it obviously upset her and she likes to express it by being overbearing and overprotective which drives me CRAZY, but she has never cried about it to me in person. I didn't even know what to do. Dr Houlihan immediately went over to her and consoled her and told her not to worry and that she was in good hands and that all would be well. :) 
My brother Darren was like :
"Come on Mom, don't cry, Jen is the one going through this and even SHE isn't even crying" so that made me feel like an even tougher bitch inside and that I was going to get through this goddamned surgery and get through to the next step.  My mom nodded and patted me, and pulled herself together and gave me a half smile. 

Don't Cry for Me. Argentina! :(

Dr. Houlihan then marked me with a sanitized marker and initialize where she would operate. Then a few minutes later Dr. Lee came over to do the same very briefly. Unlike Dr. Houlihan, he is not as touchy feely, talkative or emotional. TYPICAL MAN! LOL...He barely said 4 words to me and kind of glanced at my brother and then patted me for like 3 seconds. One might think he was stand-offish and stuck up, but I really just think he's aloof and just not good with people skills. Some doctors are just like that- you have the super compassionate ones that act like they are your mother or you get the ones who know their shit and just keep to themselves. I have no problem with either....However, he looked like he was running late since he was dressed normally and not in any scrubs. I said my final goodbyes-for nows to my mom and Darren and adjusted myself on the bed....and enjoyed what little freedom I had left.
Then they started to sedate me and injected some meds into my IV....the last thing I remember is being pushed into the operating room....

To be continued.....Part II soon. 

Thoughts in my head as I was being pushed into the operating room? 

I can't wait to get a freaking unsweetened iced tea because I am fucking thirsty!

I'm a Fighter, Bitches! <3

Also, I know Grandma Yong was there rooting for me in spirit :) 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pre-Op Jitters/Remembering Grandma

So... after 8 months of  dealing this trifling bullshit called stupid Breast Cancer, I am FINALLY scheduled for of this glorious event: Next Wed, June 13th at the crack ass of dawn.  Am I happy? Yes and No. I'm more nervous than anything but I have been waiting for this day for a very very very VERY long time. And I just want to begin the muther effin' healing process already!

If you don't understand what a big deal this is to me, allow me to break it down for you.  I have endured my body through 16 fucking long ass chemo treatments. ALL of them over 3 hrs long at a time. The first 4 chemo sessions which were 2-3 weeks apart were THE most disgusting  I've ever had to ever endure and deal with in my life. Not to mention all this other shit: The switching of health insurance, losing my pretty well paid full time job of over 5 years, a shitty breakup and relationship crap, the addition of a port to my body, the stress of finding a new treatment center, the nausea, the constipation, the insomnia, the drugs, the loss of appetite, the weight loss, the days in bed, the day right AFTER chemo when I would have to drag myself out of bed to get a shot to control the white blood cells in my body...the horrible hair loss, the tears, the pain, the frustration, the loss of my menstrual cycle, the difficult hot flashes... THE FUCKING MOVING of APTS that I had to do in between feeling like shit...the back and forth general bullshit....being sick at Thanksgiving, being sick in the hospital after Christmas, missing New Years and lying in the hospital bed depressed that this was happening...and then during the second half of Chemo- worrying about the constant nausea, the steroids that make you gain weight, the ultrasounds, the catscans, the constant drawing of blood, the going to the hospital every fucking week for MONTHS, and now the continuing of going back every 3 weeks for one fucking year. All the doctor appointments- including the surgeon, the plastic surgeon, the social workers, the oncologist,  radiologists, my 2 PCPS- dealing with constantly driving back and forth to the FREAKIN' Shapiro building....the 50 times I had to pay for parking. UGH. Are you exhausted just reading all of this yet? Besides all the times I've had friends come and the occasional parent, I did this shit ALL ON MY OWN. Drove there when I was sick, Drove back when I wanted to shoot myself.

But most of all - it's the emotions that run in my head daily. I know it's easy to say to someone, "Oh you'll get through it, and you are strong" but this has really tested my fucking strength and endurance. I am still amazed I have not thrown up fucking ONCE. You are talking to a girl that if I even had 2 shots or 1 alcoholic drink, I would throw up. And yet I had the most disgusting mix of cocktails of ALL, and my body took it like a goddamned CHAMP. It's crazy.

Besides having mini emotional meltdowns, and trust me, I have felt suicidal and fucked up at various stages of this, 

 I am a firm believer that all things in life happen for a greater reason- whether happy, sad, or both. I know I have said that in a past post, but it's totally true- in the end it just makes you think about things in a different perspective and it just makes you much stronger. Never in a million years would I have thought that at age 32, I would have to deal with such a life changing illness. There have been many times in my life where I would wish I was sick to get out of doing something, or have like a broken leg to just see how it would feel like. I know this will sound sadistic, but when I was a kid, I used to pound my nose to give myself nosebleeds just to see if I could make myself bleed and then see if I could stop it... I am a truly sick and messed up human I know, LOL, but I wished Cancer was that easy to stop- 'cause TRUST me- I'd like to give it several big freakin' POUNDS with both fists. Repeatedly.

Emotionally, secretly I have been a super wreck over various shitty things in my life that I am unable to control - People not being there, broken promises,  temporary happiness, glimpses of things that could be, but can't at the moment.... restless nights and half filled days, but those are things that I can't change overnight. 

And I NEED TO FOCUS ON ME. In order to heal in all areas, I just have to say FUCK IT. And just DO ME. 
karma is my bitch. And it will rear its head soon. You really see who is there for you and has your back when you go through shit like's almost like it weeds out all the selfish self absorbed assholes and lets you see the light.

Above all, I need to clear my head mentally from all the bullshit. I have to. If I don't, I will forever let these feelings of negativity drag me down. But I am the first to say that I don't ever want to deal with this again. I know that there are no guarantees in life and this will always be a part of the rest of my life from now on, but I REALLY do not, and CAN NOT have this re-occur in my life again. I think I will completely be fucked up if it does later in my life. I'm serious. I will do everything in my power to have a better outcome in the long run. I have seen Cancer slowly drain the life out of my once happy healthy grandmother to someone spending the last days of her life trying to breathe from a tube and looking thin, frail and not the wonderful happy grandma I knew. 

And it scares me. I remember the last time I saw her. It was right around Christmas. Almost about 10 years ago. I never really dealt with death well and I knew my grandmother was sick for a long time. Instead of always being there for her, I pushed  all her sickness away like it didn't exist and  until it was too late. My parents sensed that she was going to pass soon so before Christmas, we all went to the hospital to see her one last time and give her some gifts. I remember I was just frozen in the doorway just staring at her. She just looked so small and sad and covered with blankets I almost didn't recognize her. And it made me feel so sad inside. My dad yelled at me to go into the room to see her closer. I really didn't understand what cancer really was back then and the effect it had. I was just completely clueless. My grandmother had breast Cancer first (then later Ovarian). From what I can remember she only had one side removed but she recovered with flying colors . In fact, instead of having my dad drive her to and from chemo, most times, she insisted on taking the shuttle from her apt (where she lived alone) and handled most of that herself. I remember she was always weak and tired but she still pushed herself to do normal things like  cook us her amazing dinners and try to do family nights with us.  These are the things I remember...and that is how I want to remember her. She was pretty damn amazing. 

But back to that day, at the hospital. I wanted to cry. Somehow it didn't come out right. She saw me and I could see that she wanted to say something to me but because of the tube she couldn't utter the words and struggled a lot. She just smiled at me and blinked at me, but I knew what she wanted to say. I felt paralyzed and guilty that I should have done more instead of being the selfish teenager that I was at the time. I know she wasn't mad at me but I was mad at myself for a long, long time over that. 

A day later, after midnite, the hospital called us to tell us she had passed. (She had Ovarian Cancer and was recovering but it came back  and various other issues so her body had shut down) I heard the entire call but I pretended I was half asleep because I was in shock. I used to leave my room door half opened because I liked the shadow it made against the wall and I could always see a flash of light when my parents passed my door to get to their room, but that night my mom's shadow lingered as she creaked open my door to tell me that yan yan was gone.

I also have never seen my father ever cry in my entire life and that was the first time. 
So did my mom. My brother was really young at the time and he was super attached to my grandmother (she helped to raise him and had a special bond with him)... I remembered that they wanted to soften the blow so they told him in the morning. It was heartbreaking to see my brother so devasted.  It was a tough time. 

I know my grandmother is always with me in I said I am very much like her and I know she is looking out for me and protecting me so far because I feel her presence at times. I often wonder if she would be proud of me if she was still around today. I hope so. I know she was super close to my brother and she would be sooo delighted and happy to see that he followed his dreams and does something he is passionate there really isn't a time where I didn't wish she was here to share in all he good times we've had and to see us grow up into young adults.

Anyhow, I know this is an emotional post but these are the thoughts that are in my head before surgery. The next time I write I will probably be home from surgery and going insane at my parents house....I don't really talk about my grandparents a lot because I don't have any that are still alive and I didn't really know any of them but my grandmother. 

Anyhow.... please give me strength to get through this surgery. I am having my left breast/tumor removed and a tissue expander put in so I can start the radiation a few weeks later then have reconstruction then the right side of my breasts removed as well. Baby steps :)

I will try to be extra strong for you, Yan-Yan/ Grandma Yong <3 I know she would be cheering me on, and remember, I'm stubborn like her, so I will AS SURE as HELL come out of this in one piece....I am, of course a YONG, and we don't ever give up! :)

I wish I can put in a pic of my her here but I don't have any pics at my apt...All our pics were before camera phones and digital cameras so I will post one soon when I find one of her and me :) A project for when I'm home...

X Marks the Spot X