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Welcome to the DebiLyn Smith blog site. If you like what you read here, check out her website at www.debilynsmith.com

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Part Two of Breast Recon- Second Fill

 Tuesday morning rolled around full of dark, threatening clouds and cool moisture in the air. I layered my clothing choice, knowing in the back of my mind I was slightly nervous about the next step in the breast reconstruction. That usually spelled multiple hot flashes, urges to urinate at the worst time and a craving for chocolate. Simultaneously.
Silly because I end up dressed in a hospital gown and left on a guernsey in the clinic's procedure room until Dr. V appears. Her small hands are encased in surgical gloves and a smile has settled upon her face. She has been down this road before and although my confidence is lacking, her's more than compensates.
A bottle of saline is opened and a syringe bigger than an entire bonus-size tube of toothpaste appears. Saline is poured into a smaller cup and the syringe held over top to suck up fifty cc's of it.


Below is a picture of the expander that was implanted into my breast four weeks prior in the Prince George hospital by the plastic surgeon. A metal portal sits on top of a bag previously filled with 60 cc's of saline to get me started. Dr. V must use a special magnified tool she rubs across the breast searching for the exact pinpoint where the needled syringe can be inserted to fill the implant a bit more. I will be a total of 200 cc's spread across twelve weeks with four sessions, enough to replace the half cup of breast removed through the partial mastectomies endured during the breast cancer removal.

When the small arm on the blue plastic finder stands straight up, Dr. V knows she has found the exact spot and marks the place on my skin with a felt pen. She then thankfully freezes the breast area, having to go in sideways to the flesh so not to pierce the implant bag. Wouldn't want any internal leaks even though for now it's only saline solution being injected. Eventually this filled bag and expander will be removed in another surgery and replaced with a permanent silicone bag of equal size. It is done in stages like this as the breast tissue has undergone multiple rounds of intense radiation to kill any lingering cancer cells. This causes the skin to lose it's pliability- the ability to stretch as it once did. Or as I tell everyone,I've been microwaved and like a piece of chicken the skin has become dense. One tough boobie- don't you know it! To be cont'd.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Steady On The Boob ...

It has taken close to four weeks for the swelling in my breast to calm down enough to begin the next stage of breast reconstruction.
"Why are you so amazed?" my friends ask.
My previous two breast surgeries to remove the tumour and then more tissue and lymph nodes seemed to heal faster, or is that simply an ADD timeless mind at work. Why do we bother to wear a watch? Time means nothing- I can't tell the difference between a week and a month. And never ask me what day it is on the spot.
But not being able to jump and run feels super long, long enough to find me a bit breathless on a twenty minute sojourn this morning. With three sports bras of varying tightness cinching my breasts to my chest, I put on the most-hip-shaking music I own on my Ipod and wiggled and bounced my way up the driveway, shaking fists at the blue sky in triumph, raising my knees to my mid-section with the beat as the sweat trickled.
Isn't being alive the best? Especially when you put yourself to the test once in awhile. Make your body perform, push it a little, see how it responds. Mine loved it, like a captured horse suddenly freed of the pen. A writer freed from the keyboard. Shake it..shake it..ooh...shake it....shake it.
Tomorrow is my favourite exercise- senior's aquafit. What a great all-body strengthening class. With Sunny Sue and her inspirational tunes lifting us up, it's a marvy way to start one's day. Mon, Wed and Friday at the Houston Leisure facility, 9-9:45.
Tuesday is running with Sandi, now that I'm back to moving faster than walking.
Then Sandi and I meet again at her clinic for the first breast expander filling.
I'll try harder to get pictures!
Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Breast Reconstruction Goes Ahead

"It's fine the way it is," my husband tells me.
"You look in the mirror at it then," I reply, making a face at the disfigured breast and the new way my nipple wanders off in the wrong direction. I pull my housecoat on.
 Between the partial mastectomy and a follow-up surgery to get more margin around the tumour in my right breast it looked like a grapefruit whose bottom had gone rotten. It wrinkled and sagged although the top remained full.
Chances were good that what was left would collapse. It happened to a fellow friend and survivor. We compared notes and the work of our surgeon . Why would hers collapse and not mine?
Answer? Just wait. The bulbous post surgical swelling finally dissipated and I was left with a breast disfigured in a new way. I had almost adjusted to the mis-aligned "headlight"  now facing more toward my armpit than straight. The cause of this? A lymph node "mining" incision under my arm pit. Seven nodes later, a second armpit or hollow was formed beneath my arm. A little difficult to shave as it narrows greatly at the bottom. But I digress!

Once it collapsed. the right breast now resembled a grapefruit with the far right side curled into itself much like a deflated balloon.  Dr. V, my boob doc put in the recommendation to see our closest plastic surgeon, a Dr. K in Prince George. I had seen Dr. K on occasion for a face issue and while there for that, mentioned I was now on her surgical consult waiting list. I was bold, taking my advice about being your own best advocate, and asked if she would take a quick look to see if I would be a breast implant candidate or not to bother with her time.

I scored big that day as the doctor had a spare minute for me to put an examination gown on. The verdict: the loose skin from the collapse seemed supple enough, even after 16 rounds of radiation to place a bag of silicone in to pump it back up to better match my left side. It could be done quickly and the doctor hoped  sooner than later with such a minor infraction.

Or so I understood. We all know who she was dealing with, right?

Personally, I think my deceased mother was once again working her magic. If I managed to jump the quay, it was for a higher purpose. So that I could write about my experience to help the next woman in line. Whether merely to quell her anxiety or to point out options, it was all help in the right direction.

Surgery day arrived. I met Dr. K in the day-surgery area where I was gowned and ready. She pulled the curtains around the bed I waited in and had me remove the draping for close-up pictures of my right breast. The before shot, I figured.

For the first time ever, I walked into the surgical theater and hopped onto the table. Seconds later I was out cold.
Thinking I was waking up to a mere silicone implant, I was surprised to hear there hadn't been enough flexible tissue as Dr. K had hoped for. An expander had been inserted into my breast. An expander is mostly an empty bag with a metal portal on top. After inserted and sewn in, the doctor takes a syringe and finding the metal portal on the top of the inserted bag using a magnetic device, inserts the needle into the bag, pumping 60 cc's of saline into it.

Once home, I had to leave the bandaging on for a week. Once uncovered I noticed the great job the doc had done following the previous scars. It took another four weeks for the incision to heal enough to see my regular Dr. V again for the second "fill."

Once I have had a total of 200 ccs of saline put in over a course of two months, Dr. K will then perform another surgery to remove the saline filled bag and expander for a permanent silicone bag of equal size.

The next blog will be on the stages that followed this priocedure. With any hopes I will get a copy of the before and after X Rated boob shots.

Stay tuned!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Off and Running To the Lake

We're off and running to Francois Lake for a birthday/ Father's Day weekend for Barry. Packed with coolers of seafood for a fave chowder, we're adorned in shorts and t-s in hopes that blue sky holds.
It's the Premier Boat Launch and fresh trout time. If we can just remember to put the plug in the boat and to unhook  before launch we'll be laughing. Then to get all the beds in the cabin made up with tendinitis in the left wrist and a sore post-surgery right-side. Ahhh, but we have all weekend for that. And maybe I won't bother doing the floors this week. One step at a time and that goes for cleaning. Leaving my editing behind. Break time.There's a lawn chair and I have a great book to read. Heck, I think it might even be ice-cream cone time. Gonna juice-it-up! These are the days we live for.
Have a fine weekend wherever you are!

And a Happy Father's Day to my Dad, my number one hero. Thinking of you!! xoxo

Monday, June 10, 2013

Successful First Book Launch/ Tour

Life on the road literally picked me up by the shirt and flew me through the calendar days.
The Grand Launch of my first books anywhere began in Prince George on May 10 at Books & Company. I wrapped my arms around my first customer,  a friend of my sister-in-law's  who had expressed interest in the book. The stream of customers continued and my nervous doubt was eliminated. By the end of the launch, I was an author, complete with cape and sword, ready to save lives from cancer one person at a time.
We relayed in PG on the 11th and went home to launch again in Burn's Lake on the following Tuesday. Burns Lake was a book signing at PharmaSave and my first library reading. An audience of five, which I was told was a good turnout,  was more like a gab session with girlfriends. I read, we talked, I read, we talked some more. It was wonderful.
Houston greeted me with flowers at AquaFit and a line-up at Brewstirs coffee-shop for signings and books. The day ended with a signing at Countrywide Stationary in Houston, a dream come true. Signing books at my local bookstore. I was a bit weepy at times. Thanks everyone for your support! My reading that night was also well attended by close to a dozen well wishers. You could have heard a pin drop as I read.
Off for breast recon surgery on May 23 in PG  before arriving in Quesnel May 25th for a busy book signing at CaryAll Books.The next day relay was cool, but so much fun with my teenager-team the Fighters For Life.
 Terrace saw another busy book signing at Misty River Books and a later library reading with an audience of six.
Prince Rupert was also a great place to be. The people there were so inspirational. I got to give back by doing the Fight Back speech.
But Smithers. Smithers was the best of them all. My team mates were young mother's and babies. So occupied in their everyday lives but still finding time to raise funds and promote a life without cancer. Their team snack table rocked! All fruit and healthy snacks like vegis and dips and wholesome cookies. Together we survived the cold and rain and sun and wind until 11 when I gave a different speech- this time a fight back/ luminary speech. My most powerful of them all. I then had the honour of lighting my candle first from the candle lit at the beginning of the ceremony by a young boy with leukemia, before I left the stage and began to light others. It was a touching moment.
I went home by 1 in the morning, crawling into a soft, warm bed supplied by our close friends from Telkwa. I slept well knowing the relays for me were over for another year.
Today I realized I would be able to sit down and work on editing the first of the two mysteries, Not Just One, which excites me to no end. That book was written possibly 5 years ago or more. I have some work to do before it returns to my editor who's suggestions for changes I'll make before he really gets down to the pro edit part of getting a book to the publishing aspect.
Back in the writer's chair again. It is just so exciting. Now to switch hats from non-fiction to mystery. Now, where was it I hid that murder weapon???

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Different Communities Different Relays

Hopefully you take the time to attend at least one Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life,  not because you have or have had cancer, but because you're interested in what goes on. For many (too many) it is an annual pilgrimage to celebrate their survival of the disease or to honour someone that didn't. Because of the book tour I had the privilege of attending four, this Saturday being my last this season in Smithers.

Celebrate...Remember...Fight Back...

Funny how the spin of this slogan differentiated at each community. Small distinctions, but noticeable.

In Prince George, the only  remaining 24 hour relay, team tents were set-up three rows deep on the one side of the track. The inside track was reserved for team's raising over a certain level of donations, like the Pink Panters team I was on. That tells you the amount of people attending. At the usual invitational Survivor's Tea before our walk began, there were treats piled high, all labelled with their ingredients. The date squares called at me until I relinquished and delighted at the energy I got to run the track with for a bit. It rained and blew hard enough to break my umbrella stand, but still the 24 hour trekkers kept going, about eight people doing the entire day themselves. There were amazing prizes for big earners like a car, a trip to anywhere ( the winner planning to go to NFLD) and helicopter rides. There was plenty going on at any given time.

 In Quesnel I was with a team of teenagers and we walked the only grassy track of the relays, my team captain Kyhla on crutches from a soccer injury. It rained again but more gently. A few tents sold items to raise money but hot dog and perogie/cabbage roll vendors were on site, which cut into other food sales. Our hands were painted for the survivor  banner  I rercall the first time I did this was last year in Houston- my first year cancer free. I made my hand in the shape of "the bird" before blue dye was applied and I planted it on the banner for posterity. .My team had made beautiful tye-dyed shirts to sell, each with colourful cancer symbols that could be further decorated on the spot. I couldn't stay for the Luminary ceremony being fresh from surgery the morning before.

Terrace complained there was a drop in attendees as Kitimat, Terrace and Prince Rupert Relays were on the same day. Still a good crew walked in thesunny panoramic mountain view after giving our autograph's for a banner to be displayed. Extremely original and creative fundraisers circled the track, from quilt raffles to cupcake icing, a message board and fresh hamburgers. We stayed until after lunch and headed west.

In Prince Rupert, I lost my heart. There, a small remainder of walkers greeted me upon arrival mid-afternoon, fresh from the Terrace relay. The bulk of donors and well-wishers had stayed for the opening ceremonies and kick-off then departed, leaving a representative to walk the track. Brian, a man not in the best of shape, walked in long strides in honour of someone still facing their battles. He walked the entire twelve hour, collecting a bead to put on a necklace for around his neck after each lap passed. His face was beet red, his swollen feet sticking to the socks changed every few hours, his face set with determination. But the smile, the smile never slipped nor did the attitude. A standing ovation greeted him after his last lap of the 30 circular  miles. Paper lanterns appeared and we lit them as well as the luminaries, barely visible but enough as twilight began to descend. Being so close to the longest day of the year and further north than the other communities, it never really got pitch black out until long after the last tail lights had left the school track.

This Saturday is Smither's turn. Knowing some of the people will be fun. Being in the shadow of my favourite mountain, the one I stared at from a chemotherapy chair in the Smither's Cancer Unit will be comforting as well. I'm on a team called Bubs and Babes- what is a Bub I wonder and what does it wear? I was thinking Grandmas and Hotties but I'm now thinking it's Moms and Tots. It will be fun no matter what. Especially if babies are involved.
 Maybe see you there?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

One Thousand Hits!


Thanks everyone for getting me to my goal. Hopefully you keep hitting and reading. Now that I'm home, I should be able to get back to a weekly blog of thrilling excitement in the Smith household and their attitude towards health and staying positive ( are you listening Barry?).

I'm in sunny Terrace, after a fun book reading at the local library and a very successful book launch at Misty River Books, despite our lack of newspaper advertising. It's so rewarding listening to people/s stories and how they want to hear more about this disease's effect on loved ones. Why they should try to avoid getting cancer. What cancer treatment is REALLY like!
And, of course, the chocolate macaroons are a big hit!
We camped overnight in my beautiful friend Terry's drive-way in my trailer. Barry will soon get sick of my singing "I LOVE my trailer" ever few minutes. (Thanks again Kelly  for "giving" it to me for my travels on this cause!) Terry joined us at  the new Blue Fin Sushi Bar in Terrace- just as high quality of food, prep and presentation. Great staff, ambiance and service. That Cindy runs a class act!- before coming to the Library Reading. Very informal and a way to talk one-on-one with people trying to understand. I receive so many hugs and I love each and every one.