Happy New Year (and New Boobs)!

And here’s to posting more… or at least attempting to. It seems that this blog is starting to become my post-surgery blog. This isn’t intentional but I do feel like it’s a good place for me to talk about it.

So the end of last year was a little rough on me it went something: migraine, 1 day break, food-poisoning, 2 day break, breast reduction surgery, 4 day break, happy new year! I’m a relatively ambitious person so my partner and I made reservations at our favorite restaurant for a lovely but quiet new year’s eve celebration. Thankfully, the love of my life very sensibly made me stay in bed to celebrate the new year by cursing the people who were screaming, “woo!” as we were trying to sleep and hadn’t noticed that it had struck 12 while we were chatting with each other. Alas, the joys of being in a committed relationship where having surgery 5 days before the new year is ok because no one is upset you missed the big NYE celebration. In fact, not only is no one upset it’s actually a relief because you forgot to plan something until our server had mentioned they were doing a special menu. So the fact that we had to cancel was really not the end of the world. As a person who loves food, I was a little bummed we were missing an awesome menu but I’ll even publicly admit, she was right, I should have stayed in bed inside and I was much happier for it.

Anyway so I think I owe the people of the internets the courtesy to understand my rationale behind getting a breast reduction. I say this because I only wish I had found something like this for myself years ago. I was a horribly early bloomer in the physical sense, I got boobs at 10 and started my period somewhere between 11-12. Emotionally, I was a wreck. I had no idea how to put those two things together. I was a pretty shy and innocent tom-boy that just wanted to play with the boys or by myself.

Unfortunately for me, my first bra was a 32D and my guess is it should’ve been more appropriately a 28F but they don’t really make those sizes and trying to get me into any bra was a challenge so the thought of going to a specialty store might have made me want to crawl into a hole and die. Actually it would have made me want to crawl into a hole and die. By the time I exited high school I was wearing a DD probably more like an I/G if I had gone to a specialty store. And by the time I was old enough to actually go to a store that could size me properly I was a 32H.

I’ve hated my breasts my whole entire life. Not because they look bad, I’ve gotten plenty of comments. But because they’ve brought attention I don’t want and quite frankly big boobs get in the way of a lot of shit! My shirt eats with me all the time, am I a messy person? Not really but I also have a shelf in front of me! Which can sometimes make it difficult for food to find my mouth without also finding something else to land on or brush against. I hated trying to find sports bras, they never fit right. In fact, they fit so poorly that I just sucked it up and they have left a scar under my breasts that all my doctors ask me about.

Needless to say I have been contemplating a breast reduction for YEARS! But having major surgery, especially elective surgery, is a big deal. That said I still found having a breast reduction to be an intimidating prospect. I have to thank one of my closest college friends, who told me that it was super sucky and really painful and has a long recover but if I asked her if she would do it all again, she would. That really helped me think of just how much this surgery can change your life.¬†Having torn my ACL and needed to have that reconstructed, I can say without a doubt that surgery is not something to be taken lightly. I did a lot of research and I found a surgeon that I could trust, he’s one of the best plastic surgeons in Chicago with a focus in breast reductions and I would recommend him to anyone who is thinking about having this surgery, Dr. Robert Galliano. He’s extremely helpful and he doesn’t seem overconfident but does explain all the details about your surgery to you, which I found to be extremely comforting and helpful.

I would also say any surgery where they cut through bone, tendon and muscle is way more painful than a breast reduction. However a breast reduction is not a cake walk. Like at all. Ever. Don’t read my saying that it is less painful as “you’ll be fine in a week” because that’s totally not true. What I am saying is that when I was out of surgery from having my ACL reconstructed I felt like I was going to go blind with pain until they gave me morphine and if I didn’t take my vicodin I felt like I was going to die. So that is blindingly bad pain. With the breast reduction, I could handle being off vicodin, it was not fun and I would not recommend missing your doses your first two days but it’s not blinding pain. I mean even my vicodin doses this time are half the dose that I got for my ACL so clearly it’s just a different level.

What is really different though is your mobility. Knee surgery is annoying because you know it’s hard to walk around and move. But you can use crutches, eventually you learn to put weight on your knee and you’re still mobile. You can shower. Keeping a leg out of the shower is annoying and challenging but not rocket science. The good news with a breast reduction is that they encourage you to shower. The bad news is that you can’t lift your hands. So it’s like ok… I can shower… But HOW?!?!!??!?! Yeah, I totally asked myself that the first 4 days.

I thank my lucky stars every day for my partner because without her I have no idea how I would have made it through my first week. She helped me eat, sleep, take pills on time, take showers, everything. She helped me with literally everything. Oh and the other thing to note is that if you’re lucky you don’t have drains (most doctors try really hard not to have to give you drains). But if you’re unlucky (like me, though my doc had said that I was so big that there was a high chance that I might need them) and you have to have drains it’s awful. They look like weird alien pipes coming out of your skin (they are not as big as this is making them sound). It’s pretty gross: it’s blood and fluid that are draining from the side of your breasts where they perform the liposuction. Until your drains collect less than 30cc of fluid for 2 consecutive 24 hour periods, you have to keep them in. Mine didn’t last terribly long, I got them out on day 4 but still it was a rough weekend to have them in. Showering is terrible, it makes it difficult for your arms to go down to your sides. Fun fact about drains if you get a tummy tuck you also get drains except they are placed just above your pubic hair. Gross! (At least now I know why I never want to have liposuction done anywhere else ever again)

Anyway I am currently on day 9 out of surgery and I feel pretty good. I need painkillers to make it through the night but otherwise Advil does just fine. I can lift my arms mostly over my head. I can’t really carry any weight on them if they’re that high up and even when they aren’t lifted that high I can’t put too much weight on them or try to pull too forcefully. But I can do most things I need to do by myself. So that’s nice. I’ve been showering without help for the past 5 days… there are a few places that I need help drying off, like my feet because they are too far (and my arms are not very long they are well proportioned to my body but if they were only a half inch longer I could reach… and some people have longer arms than legs so who knows maybe you’ll be lucky).

So all that said and done, my surgery took 10!!!!!¬†lbs of tissue off my breasts and who knows how much fat. My breasts are still very large, I’m not sure what size yet it’ll still be a while before I know that — probably 4 or so months. But I feel a thousand times better. I can stand up straight, my back no longer hurts. It looks like I lost 40lbs but I didn’t. My knees don’t hurt anymore. There are just so many benefits to this that I am kicking myself a little bit for not having done it sooner. And here’s the thing, you don’t know until you do it how you’re going to feel about it.

So I’m not at my ideal weight. I want to lose a lot more but having done the surgery I feel better equipped to try and tackle that than I did before. I feel like I’m ready to take on my fitness challenges and not have this weight hanging over me (literally!!) anymore. I am very lucky. I have a partner who supports me and is actively helping me get through this and it makes it infinitely easier. I have a job where I can take the time I needed off and now that I’m ready I can go back. It’s definitely not the thing to do for everyone. But for me, I think this was the right choice and I really wish I had better information before. Even if I still only came around to it now. So I’m going to continue blogging about this so there’s at least a good amount of information about one person’s experience.

One of the ways that I think this surgery helps greatly is not only with just physically being able to do things but also with body image. The size of my boobs have always made me feel fat. And I think perhaps that was wrong. I’m not thin by any means, not even close. But I am also not obese and having boobs that were that big made it seem like my entire upper body was taken up by them and so it made me feel fatter than I was. Working on my body image has been a life long challenge for me but I’m hoping that I can continue to work on it and that this will help me reconcile my body with my own self image and hopefully something beautiful can come from there.

ACL Reconstruction Post-Op: Day 4

So it’s Saturday morning after having had surgery on Tuesday. Overall I feel pretty good. The worst part I think is not being able to sleep consistently. I stopped taking pain killers yesterday and I don’t feel any worse for it so I think that’s a good decision. I am finally able to go up stairs by myself with just crutches. It’s nice that my roommates will still walk me up and down to make sure I don’t injure myself but I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to know that I can actually do at least part of it by myself.

They say that my knee looks really good for after surgery and that I can take the bandage off myself. Personally I think it looks way better with the bandage on than off.

Though they say the scars are healing well and the bandage still looks good on the wound itself so I guess that’s a good thing. I think it looks all gross and black and blue but it could be worse, I suppose.

The hardest part about surgery is not having your independence. To rely on people for a glass of water or food or pretty much anything is a major bummer. It’s been a real adjustment for me because I will get up fully intending on getting a glass of water just to sit back down again because I realize even though I am perfectly capable of walking to the kitchen and filling up a glass of water once I’m there, I can’t actually carry it back because I’m using crutches.

There is also this thing that I have to wear a billion times a day (no joke) that compresses and pumps ice water around my leg. It’s actually pretty cool (no pun intended). It’s called a “Game Ready” and it’s really useful to have around, I’m sufficiently impressed with how high tech and awesome it is. It’s the red thing in the corner of the picture below.

I’m really lucky that my mom came up to take care of me. Even though she isn’t the strongest person around it really really helps to have someone keep track of how much I have to ice and to make sure I eat food. She also helps keep track of how much pain medication I need and to make sure I do my exercises. I’d probably do them anyway but it’s nice to have someone around so that I don’t forget. And I have the best roommates ever who helped me up and down the stairs when I couldn’t manage on my own. They’re pretty much the best guys ever. I thank my lucky stars every day for letting me find them. To be honest it’s kindof nice to have my mom around and my roommates and all of us being able to eat meals and hang out together.

Seriously, 2011?!

For the first time in my life I can truly say that I am a little bit terrified. And I’m not really sure if there’s anything that’s going to make me feel better. Normally I’m not scared of anything. Pretty much at all. But I am a little scared of having to have surgery and 6 months of rehab. In fact, I’m not really afraid of surgery at all. That part I’m ok with, what I’m scared of is that I won’t be responsible enough to do the rehab part correctly. I’m scared of being alone. I’m scared of trying to push myself too hard too fast because I do that a lot. I’m scared that somehow I will make this worse before I can make it better.

Thankfully as afraid as I am of being alone, I have a posse of truly amazing friends that I know are here for me. I always feel silly whenever I talk to one of them because they remind me that I’m not as alone as I feel. It’s just that I don’t need them right this minute so they’re not right here. But they will be when I do actually need them to help out. It is comforting to know that someone will be there to catch me when I fall.

2011, I have now started a list. I’m pretty sure I hate you. And it’s only the first week of March, which by the way is a few days shy of my birthday. Possibly worst year of all time: 1. MIA laptop. 2. stolen bike. 3. dead car. 4. torn ACL that requires surgery. (I’m not counting the crazy month of work crap because it’s too vague and hard to define). And let’s be honest we haven’t even made it a quarter of the way through the year. Clearly this is awesome. You know, generally I believe that life works out the way it’s supposed to. And sometimes bad things happen to good people so better things can come along. Right now, I’m *really* starting to question that.

I keep flipping from feeling really alone and really scared about having to even have surgery to being really angry at the world for all of this happening at once. Every time I keep thinking that this year is going to get better something happens that just makes it worse. I want to believe that that’s not true and that it will get better but for the first time in a very long time I’m having trouble hanging on to hope. I like to view the world through rose colored glasses. It is so much harsher through the cold clear view of reality.

Kids, Don’t Try This At Home

So I’ve decided experiments on your own body are a horrible idea. So if you recall I started the pill about 3 months ago and I thought I was getting better somewhere around the beginning of month 2. I take that all back. I have been horribly depressed and crying pretty much all the time. For no reason whatsoever. Clearly I should be better at observing this but I’m pretty convinced that this is just not working out for me. I’ve given it 4 months and if going through a little stress called moving is enough to have me have an all out nervous breakdown it’s not ok. And I just started crying because I can’t turn off the fan. No, I’m not joking. I really did start crying because I couldn’t turn off the fan and I’m cold. Not that you know, I couldn’t just get a blanket or put on a sweater. But no, crying because I couldn’t turn off the fan. Clearly the world is ending. I really understand what D was talking about now because I feel miserable. And I have felt like this for way too long in a really unhealthy way. There has to be a better solution. I just wish that not every solution takes 3 months to figure out. I mean seriously?

More Than Just Running

I know I sound like a deranged lunatic with all my running updates and sometimes am less than coherent about it. But it’s because for me it’s more than just running. I’m not doing this just because I want to run a marathon. In fact, I totally made fun of both of my group-mates in my econ class just a year ago because they were training for the marathon and were clearly on their way to injury but still running anyway. I just didn’t get it at the time, I do not have that desire to run. And while I like running. It keeps me in great physical shape and I’m happier and healthier having it in my life, it is not my passion. By a long shot.

Let’s be honest, I’m happiest curled up in bed with a good book doing absolutely nothing. I love sports, I enjoy running and I enjoy being physical but they are certainly not the first things that I think of when I think of things that make me happy. I am one of those people where it requires some amount of effort to do those things. So this whole fitness regimen has been a challenge for me. Mentally and physically. Actually I think more mentally than anything else.

So the real reason I’m running… because cancer has touched my life by affecting several people that I love dearly. And when I say family it’s not just about being related by blood there are so many people that have touched my life that aren’t related by blood. It’s my friends, exes, people I’ve known forever and those I haven’t known for very long. It’s the people who touch your life regardless of whether they stay for a long time or are a brief glimmer of light; it’s those people who change you, who will forever be a part of you, that I consider to be part of my “family” too. So I run for Team in Training as a part of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society because in some small way I feel like I’m doing my part to help. And at the end of the day there is so little I can actually do that this is my way to try and advocate for a cause I believe in desperately. So I babble about my shoes and my injuries and how much all of it irritates me. And how I got a tattoo in the middle of my training because that was a brilliantly well thought out plan. (I know, sometimes I’m an idiot). Because I have to keep running. I simply do.

Why Am I Doing This Again?

So my roommate and I are moving, which I am actually pretty excited about. We’ve found a gorgeous new apartment and I’m looking forward to decorating and getting all our stuff into it. What I’m not so into, is the actual move itself. We started moving this past weekend and the only thing running through my head is “Why am I doing this to myself again?”. I mean I have been at my current apartment for a long time (for me). And this new place is really just awesome. And I have been really ready for some sort of change to take place. I know not everyone is like this but I’m not much of a person to set down roots and since I like Chicago enough to not want to run away from the city and look for another job on another continent or at least another state, moving apartments seems to suffice. Also, I find moving to be a cleansing process. Out with the old, in with the new and a time to make changes in your life. Some will stick, some will not but it’s a good time to just reset everything. While I do think there are a lot of positives to this move, I really just wish it were overwith and that lifting heavy things were not so painful. Or that there were some magic fairies that would do it for me. Sadly, this is not a fairytale and I’m pretty sure we just have to suck it up and deal.

Learning To Run

You know, running doesn’t seem like something that is initially incredibly complex but now that I’m training for a marathon I think there is a lot more to running than just putting one foot in front of the other. Such a huge part of training is a mental game, just being able to tell yourself that you can do it. First of all, I don’t consider myself a runner because I’m slow and I just don’t think of myself as a runner. I first started running any meaningful distance (read: more than a mile… ok actually it was like 3ish) in April when a coworker asked me to start running outside with her and to do a 5k. I have these trusty old running shoes that I have come to love a lot.

Since I started training for my marathon these shoes have served me really well but they’ve got a lot of miles on them now. And recently I’ve heard a lot of talk about these new shoes. Ones that are the closest thing to running barefoot. So I’ve decided to take the plunge and give them a try. I haven’t run in them yet, obviously since you can still see the tags.

As much as I deny being a runner and saying how much I dislike it, it’s seriously addictive. After I did my 5k I followed it with a 10k a few weeks later and then a half marathon about 3 weeks after the 10k. This was a pretty poorly planned set of races for someone who isn’t a runner. However, it did make me see that I really like running, it’s challenging in some great ways but it’s also difficult to run the much longer distances by yourself. I find running about 6 miles by myself is a great challenge and I like doing it alone. But the longer distances pretty much anything upwards of 10 miles is really really difficult for me to get through without help. So I am extraordinarily glad that I discovered Team in Training because not only do I have a great group of people that I run with, I am reminded that I’m not just running for my health or to challenge myself but also to help all those people who are battling cancer. I’m doing what I can to make a difference in the world. Perhaps it’s in a very small way but it is what I can do. It also reminds me to appreciate the journey I’m on. Life is one great journey and there is always something new around the corner and you never know what you find.

If Only I Could Move Like That…

Actually in all honesty, I’m perfectly content to not be a ballerina and to simply admire the grace and beauty of those who can perform like that. A couple of weeks ago I went to see the Joffrey’s spring performance, Eclectica, and as always it was absolutely stunning. Though I have to say the older I get the more I accept that I just infinitely prefer classical ballet. I love the lines and the grace and beauty. My favourite out of the three pieces was “Reflections” which was choreographed by Gerald Arpino. The name of the choreographer struck me because I recall in the 2009 Spring Program there was also a piece by him that I also liked quite a lot called “Round of Angels”. I think he has an incredible knack for putting beautiful lines together.


Although last year’s favourite for me was definitely Valses Poeticos, choreographed by Helgi Tomasson. I can’t help but feeling like a child looking at the simple beauty of music and two people dancing so beautifully together. It’s novel for me every time.

Serendipity

Sometimes life can be so totally serendipitous. Today has been like that and I try to cherish these little moments.

The most serendipitous moment today was when my friend, Jason, and I were interested in a chamber concert that the CSO was putting on at the Art Institute. Well let’s be honest, we didn’t know it was at the Art Institute until we showed up at Symphony Center and they were looking at us a little crazy and sent us across the street to the Art Institute. The show was supposedly sold out but we decided to ask at will call anyway. Luckily (or serendipitously) for us there was this woman there with 2 extra tickets! And 1 was even a student ticket which I can totally use since I’m still in grad school. It just worked out so beautifully. It’s like the world intended for us to go to this concert. I even had the exact amount of cash for the student ticket and totally not enough for a real ticket. Sometimes it’s great how life works out.

So Jason and I got to see the Burnham Trio perform Shastakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 67 and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A Minor, Op. 50. It was incredible. The Shastakovich piece was absolutely heart-breakingly beautiful. The theme for the afternoon was Mourning and Memory. And the concert was followed by a short tour through the museum of several pieces that tied in with the theme. It was actually quite a lovely afternoon. I seriously love that the CSO and Art Institute sponsor series like this that promote beautiful music and modern art. It’s just another reason why I adore living in Chicago. Finding little gems like this that the city has to offer.

“Family” Dinners

So a couple of friends and I have recently started a little tradition to do “family dinners”. Which is really just three of us that live a couple blocks apart making an effort to get together every Sunday for dinner and some bad TV (or movies) and just hang out for a little bit on a Sunday night.

This Sunday I was particularly excited because my friend, Case, decided to make Corn and Sausage Chowder, which might sound a little odd but is actually quite delicious. Now, Case calls himself a Kansas cooker and I love it cause he just throws all sorts of random stuff in the pot and it just works. He claims he got this from his mother who would make them help her out as kids by finding stuff in the kitchen that they thought would be good in a soup. I adore Corn Chowder but I have never ever made it nor did I have any clue how until last night, which makes no sense because it falls into that Southern Comfort food category which I just adore. Though for some reason I’m more of a French cooker… like my bible is the Larousse Gastronomique, has been since I ever set foot in a kitchen. I do things like souffle and mousse and braised short ribs (which is on the menu for next weekend). It makes no sense coming from an Indian girl born and raised in Texas. You’d think I’d know how to do good Southern Comfort food or at least Indian food. But no, I’ve got nothin’ on either of those. However, you want me to make you souffle or risotto or anything that involves heavy cream, I’m your girl. Example, next week is my turn for dinner and I’m doing braised short ribs in a sauerkraut sauce over swiss chard, crunchy green beans with almonds & garlic and either pureed potatoes or polenta with mushrooms. Oh and lemon souffle with fresh raspberries to finish. (Well ok the raspberries might not be in season, I forget I am not in Texas and can’t get whatever I want whenever I want pretty much all year round but definitely the souffle).

That being said, I was just stunned at how simple, easy and delicious corn chowder is! Now we made enough soup for a small army (note there are only 3 of us eating this soup, we had enough leftovers for the rest of the week for all of us) but here is the recipe as follows:

Corn & Sausage Chowder
1 qt half/half
2 large-ish russet potatoes
3 bell peppers (in any colors you’d like, we had red & green)
1 large onion
1 can creamed sweet corn
2 cans sweet whole kernel corn
2 large sausages
1 bag flour
Salt
Pepper
and any other seasonings you’d like
(feel free to leave out the sausages and add other miscellaneous veggies as you’d like)

Slice one potato into very thin slices and then dice the other one into 1/4″ cubes. Throw the sliced potato into a very very large pot half filled with water and turn on to boil.

Dice all other vegetables and sausage. Put sausage into a large saucepan and brown. Let cook for about 2-5mins. After that add in the onions. Let those cook until they look somewhat clear. Then add in all the other veggies and saute for another 10-15mins. Once the veggies look just tender.

Pour all the ingredients from the saucepan into the pot of boiling water. Add in about 3/4-1qt heavy cream. Add in all the cans of corn.

In a separate bowl mix together water and flour until smooth. As the soup cooks and you want it to thicken add in the flour-water mixture. Repeat this step as many times as necessary to get the soup to the consistency that you’d like – the thicker you want it the more flour-water mix you should add.

Add in salt & pepper generously to taste. We put in cayenne pepper, garlic salt, all spice and something else. But the spices can be just about anything based on what you like and what you want in it. Also I like to think a little splash of beer gives it some good character. Keep on relatively high heat and check on it every few minutes, stir as necessary.

The whole process takes about an hour to make. It’s really not bad and it’s an excellent meal. Especially in the winter when it’s super cold outside. It was pretty perfect for yesterday.