Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Breast Surgeries

At 28 years old, I have already gone through 14 breast procedures/surgeries, more than most people will have to experience in their lifetime. Dealing with lumpectomies, a double mastectomy, and the entire breast reconstruction process (with tissue expanders and implants) requires a lot of patience. It is extremely uncomfortable and frustrating at times. But in the end, it is entirely worth it to be cancer-free and to have a significantly lower risk of recurrence. In addition to that, I was pleased with the final result of my new boobs.

Until two weeks ago.

I noticed that I was feeling achy, hot, and exhausted on our last day of vacation. I figured that I was probably just tired from all of our activities and hot because, well, it was Florida. The plane ride home made me nauseous, but I assumed that it was just motion sickness. It wasn’t until after I came home, collapsed, and slept for ten hours that I realized something was actually wrong. I woke up with a fever and a terrible burning sensation in my breast. It was swollen to almost double in size, and the pain extended up to my armpit. My doctor told me to come in right away.

Because of what happened the last time I had an infection, I was already scared about what the outcome of this may be. But I wasn’t prepared for what the doctor had to say: If this is a true implant infection, it will require the removal of the implant, being completely flat-chested on that side for three or four months, and then going through the entire reconstruction process all over again. Basically, all of the surgeries that I just had this past year, again.

Trying to stay positive, the doctor said that in the best case scenerio, it was a hematoma, which could be taken care of with one surgery, or a minor infection that had not yet reached the implant (although this was unlikely). So, I was told to take antibiotics for two weeks, and then come back to see both my breast surgeon and plastic surgeon to set a date for surgery.

When I went to my appointments today, the doctors were shocked that all of the swelling had gone down, and my breast appears to have gone back to normal. Granted, I am still on antibiotics until tomorrow, so we will have to wait and see if the infection returns when I stop taking them. If I do have symptoms again, I will need to have surgery to see exactly what is going on. But we are hoping that the antibiotics were enough. Please pray for me that the infection and/or hematoma doesn’t return when I go off the antibiotics.

Of course, I am willing to do what I have to, but I can’t help but think how wonderful it would be not to have any surgeries this summer. That would be almost too good to be true!

This was at one of my appointments. Ryan was being such a good boy in the waiting room. :-)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Randomness of My Life

So I just realized that a lot has happened since we came back from vacation two weeks ago, and I'd like to give a quick update.

*I came down with an infection and/or possible hematoma that will most likely lead to more breast surgeries in my near future.  (I will write about this in more detail after my doctor appointments on Wednesday).

*I celebrated my 28th birthday with two of my best friends and then I went outlet shopping with my two favorite boys.  It was a laid-back birthday, which was actually enjoyable after such a hectic couple of months.

*My dad was in the hospital for a several days.  The doctors think that it was kidney stones and that he will hopefully be okay now.

*I tried my hand at gardening for the first time.  I'm not really expecting to be very good at it, but it will be fun if I can get something to grow.

*Ryan now has conversations with us in full sentences.  Kinda crazy.

I hope that everyone enjoyed their Memorial Day weekend! Thank you to all of our fallen soldiers and to those who have served and continue to serve our country.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

Barry's mom and I were fortunate enough to receive these bouquets from our sweet boys on Mother's Day.  There is something so special about the relationship between a mother and her son.  I am looking forward to many more Mother's Days down the road, as Ryan grows and evolves into his own person.  I can't wait to see which aspects of his personality will essentially define him.

We headed over to the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens early Sunday morning, in hopes of getting ahead of the Mother's Day crowd.  We were pleasantly surprised to be the first ones seated in the restaurant, and we were handed a specialty menu with a variety of choices for brunch options.

We started off with mimosas and a small appetizer.  Then, I had an eggplant dish with garlic sauce over rice.  For dessert, I tried Manju for the first time and I liked it.  Manju are ice cream bon bons wrapped in rice paste, and the flavors I that had were green tea and strawberry. Yum!

Ryan tasted regular chocolate ice cream for the first time, but after one bite decided that he didn't like it. (Seriously, a child who prefers bread and avocado to ice cream?)  I think that it was a texture thing, because the ice cream was somewhat frozen and hard to scoop.  By the time it melted, Ryan had already lost interest and was ready to move on.

The three of us spent a couple hours walking around, exploring the bonsai and other beautiful plants, and taking pictures.  It was such a peaceful morning, just spending time in nature together as a family.

There were some engaging exhibits on Japanese art and history at the on-site museum.  I had Barry and Ryan pose for this picture, which represents an elementary classroom in Japan (Through the Eyes of a Child exhibit).  There was also a Japanese house with tatami mats and a train station that children were encouraged to explore.

This pretty much wraps up our vacation to Florida.  I am glad that we were able to do so many things and visit some fun places.  Thanks to Barry's parents for hosting us and for not minding when Ryan (and us) made messes and when things got a little crazy.  We truly had a fantastic time!

West Palm Beach and Delray Beach

As part of my (early) birthday celebration, Barry's parents took me shopping and to dinner in West Palm Beach.  I picked out a beige shirt from a little boutique, and then we ate delicious gourmet pizzas, salads, etc, at a restaurant called Taboo.  Ryan sat in a booster seat without a strap for the first time and he did surprisingly well.  There were so many yummy things on the menu that I can't wait to go back and try something different next time.

As we walked around, Ryan discovered these statues of children that kept him entertained for a while.  He made up a game where he pointed to a statue, said either "girl" or "boy", and named which sport or activity that they were doing.  It was such a surprise to find these little gems hidden between the shops and gardens, but I am so glad that we did!

Ryan was especially interested in looking at this little girl's book.  If only she could read it to him!

The next day was our actual "beach day" and so we enjoyed a short hour chasing Ryan around and watching him play in the sand before it started to rain.  Unfortunately, the sand was very hot and it affected my neuropathy in my feet, so I was ready to go home.

The highlights of the day for Ryan included seeing a big blue truck (in action, up close, and personal) and exploring the beach and ocean with daddy.  Watching these two interact with each other just melts my heart.  Ryan is so similar to Barry and I love it!

Miami Seaquarium

Last week, we took Ryan to visit the Miami Seaquarium in Key Biscayne.  I remember that during our wedding weekend, some of our guests took their children here and they really enjoyed it.  They experienced the dolphin encounter, which includes getting to touch, play, and swim with the dolphins.  We didn't do this, but I think that it will be amazing for Ryan when he is a little older.

This is where "Flipper" was filmed in the 70's, so it is not the newest or most up-to-date place, but it serves its purpose.  I especially like the fact that they rescue and rehabilitate many of their manatees and sea turtles.  The killer whale show was exciting, but we weren't as impressed with the dolphin show. Even Ryan did not seem to care much about seeing the dolphins jump and flip.

In addition to all of the sea creatures, they also have lots of birds roaming around the park.  It is not a super large area, but there are certainly plenty to see.  Before this, I never realized that some flamingos are actually more orange than pink.

This peacock hopped right up onto the ledge so that we could get a closer look at him.  Shortly after this picture was taken, he gave me a peck on the cheek.  It felt like a little pinch.  Thankfully, he decided not to give one to Ryan.

Ryan's favorite part the park was watching the sea turtles and land turtles.  He pointed to each of them and practiced his counting, which went something like "1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10".  (I mean, at least he is starting to get the order and is trying to understand what numbers are used for!)

We opted out of getting our pictures taken while holding the parrots, probably because of a weird experience that we had with parrots on our honeymoon.  (I will save that for another time).  But Ryan was very proud to show off his key chain that we got him with his own name on it!  The medium stuffed dolphin?  Not so much.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Truth About Hair Extensions

Three months ago, I wrote about how I added extensions to my extremely short hair, after losing all of my other hair to the chemotherapy that I went through last year.  I loved the extensions at first, and I would absolutely choose to get them again in that situation. However, in case anybody else is considering getting extensions, I also want to mention some of the drawbacks:

1.  They fall out constantly.  Not just a strand here and there, but rather, large chunks at a time will be found all over the house.  (Whenever Ryan finds them, he makes a sad face and says, “mommy yuck!”).

2.  If a blow dryer or flat iron gets too close and melts the bonds, you end up with weird looking chunks of glue in your hair that are impossible to get out.

3.  They require maintenance every six to eight weeks (which can get really expensive if you want to keep the extensions in for very long).  If you don’t get them filled on time, there will be gaps in your hair in certain places.

For example, here is what my hair looked like before a fill (top three pictures- bleh!) and after a fill (bottom three pictures):

4. You can only use certain types of shampoo and other hair products. You MUST use a special brush, because the bristles on regular brushes will pull the extensions right out.

brush for hair extensions
5. Unless you have a long time to spend on your hair in the morning (which I don’t) it is difficult to perfectly style it in a way that hides the short hair underneath.  For me, the back of my hair near the top is especially annoying.  As they grow out, the extensions look less natural.

That being said, I am still very happy that I was able to get extensions.  It made the whole “hair growing out process” a lot more bearable because I didn’t have to wear a short hairstyle that I hated.  In a couple months, I plan on removing all of the extensions and chopping off my regular hair into a bob.  I am hoping that most of my hair will at least have grown out to below my chin by then.  I know that it will be a lot easier to take care of, and it will be a fresh look to signify a fresh start!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Memories on Mother's Day

My mom was, and will always be, the most influential person in my life.  This will be the first Mother’s Day that she is not here to celebrate with me.  Rather than listing her countless admirable qualities, I would like to reminisce on some of the wonderful memories that I have of her.

Since I was a child, my mom always put me first.  She let me have the “good” stuff, while she settled for whatever was leftover.  I ate the french fries that were yummy (crispy on the outside and soft on the inside) and she ate the burnt ones.  I got the latest toys and cute clothes.  She had stuff that was plain and inexpensive.  She gave me the first choice of seats whenever we went to a restaurant or theater.  Although these were just minor things that came naturally to my mom, they meant a lot to me as a child.

My mom had never taken a vacation in her life, but she made sure that I went on youth trips, summer camps, and beach vacations with my friends.  I was a priority over anything that she may have wanted for herself, including a career.  She chose to work part-time on a lesser salary so that she could be there when I came home from school each day.

When I went to college, my mom would drive thirty minutes to come visit me almost every week so that we could chat and catch up in person.  She would bring homemade meals to my dorm so that I could have something to eat other than the cafeteria food.  She would pick up and drop off my laundry so that I wouldn’t have to scrounge for quarters and use the machines on the other side of campus. 

After graduation, when I was living on my own, I ordered an elliptical that arrived in the middle of a weekday when I was at work.  My mom drove over to my apartment, carried the hundred-something-pound box up the steps, and spent several hours following the instructions to put the machine together so that she could surprise me with it being ready when I arrived home.  I was astonished!

My mom also liked to stop by randomly to play with Lucky (who was just a puppy then) and to clean/fix things around my apartment.  Early one morning, she drove over before I woke up because she wanted to scrape the ice and snow off of my car.  She did these types of things completely on her own, without being asked, simply because she liked to be helpful. 

A few years later, when Barry and I were engaged and living together, we decided to go to a JM concert.  In the middle of the concert, I looked down and realized that my engagement ring was no longer my finger.  I panicked.  My first thought was to call my mom, as I always did when I didn't know what else to do.  She was already in her pajamas and in bed for the night, but she insisted on going over to our place and searching around for the ring.  Around midnight, she called back to reassure me that my ring was sitting on my dresser and that I should relax and enjoy the rest of the concert!

After my mom’s cancer diagnosis, she dedicated the last few years of her life to helping me through pregnancy, caring for a newborn, and supporting me through my own cancer diagnosis and treatment.  I can honestly say that we could not have managed these years without her.  She stayed over many nights to help out with Ryan and she generously offered to stay up with him during the difficult “shifts” in the middle of the night so that Barry and I could get some sleep.  She was there for me the entire time that I was in the hospital, providing positive thoughts, reassurance, and a much needed sense of humor.  She could relate to what I was going through, and stood as a strong role model for me as both a mother and as a friend.  I believe that I am exactly who I am today 100% because of her.  I will always strive to be more like her.

We are spending this Mother’s Day weekend in Florida with Barry’s mom and his family.  So far, we have had a wonderful and relaxing time.  We even got to visit our beloved wedding venue in Key Biscayne.

We signed our marriage certificate on this table almost three years ago:

This is the restaurant where we had my bridal brunch the morning of the wedding:

These are the steps where we posed for pictures with our family and friends:

This Mother's Day, I am so thankful for being a mommy to the sweetest and most adorable little boy in the world:

And, of course, we had to take our annual picture at the gazebo where we said our vows at the ceremony:

I want to wish a Happy Mother's Day to all of the mommies who are constantly putting their children's needs before their own each and every day of the year.  Your actions do not go unnoticed: one day your children will look back on these days with the fondest memories of you and your generosity and selflessness.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Boy and His Dog

Anyone who was fortunate enough to grow up with a pet themselves, or who has watched a child interact with their pet, knows exactly what I mean when I say that a very special bond exists between a boy and his dog.  (Or, of course, it may be a girl, or another type of pet too).

Ryan and Lucky met for the first time when Ryan was only a few days old. They were somewhat curious about each other back then, but their relationship certainly developed into a much deeper level over time. Now, Lucky likes to think that he can protect Ryan. Ryan likes to think that he can include Lucky in snack time by offering him crackers and pieces of fruit. They play ball together, cuddle together, and share the same indented spot on the back of our couch where they gaze out the window together. 

The other day at the park, Ryan walked Lucky all by himself. I watched carefully. I didn’t know which one of them would take off running suddenly in the opposite direction. Surprisingly, Ryan did a great job hanging on to the leash and he was super proud of himself. He only accidentally let go once, when Lucky gave an extra strong tug.

Ryan even shared a stick with Lucky and let him play with it. (This is how I know that they are best friends: Ryan is very possessive with his stick collections). 

The three of us had so much fun and I am sure that we will be taking many more walks to this park together throughout the summer.  This park is a little farther than the one right next to us, but I like it better because they allow dogs and there is much more to do there.

You may have noticed that sweet Lily is missing from the story. Although I am sad to say that we recently had to give her away (having two dogs in such a small living space was stressing everybody out, including the dogs themselves), I know that Lily is much happier living with our friend, C. 

Lucky is absolutely thrilled to be the center of attention again, and he seems to have a better overall disposition now that he doesn’t have to share his space with another dog. From our personal experience, mixing the breeds (Yorkie and Maltese) turned out not to be a good idea because they seemed to upset each other more often than not. We love having Lucky, and we could not imagine our life without him. He is such a huge part of our family and our past.  I think that everybody is happier this way, so I am thankful that it all worked out for the best.

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