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God's Cruel Sense of Humor

Updated on July 12, 2009

Belly Button Stitches Taken Out

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Waiting a couple of hours for the surgeon to arrive after mom drove me into the cityStitches still inDr. Foster removes the stitches
Waiting a couple of hours for the surgeon to arrive after mom drove me into the city
Waiting a couple of hours for the surgeon to arrive after mom drove me into the city
Stitches still in
Stitches still in
Dr. Foster removes the stitches
Dr. Foster removes the stitches

Bloody pee and pain

Okay, ladies, have you ever walked into a public bathroom stall, looked at the toilet and, "eew," move on to the next one when you see a wad of bloody tissue left in the bowl? Sure, you could just flush and continue with your business, but when there are more empty stalls, your first reaction is move on.

That's what happened to me at Macy's the other day. Yes, I've begun driving myself around (about two weeks now) and I made it up to Macy's on a mission to find some cute tank tops and perhaps a pair of pants since all my pants are now two sizes too big since my surgery(yippee!). Why specifically tank tops? First, a little story (would you expect any less?).

When I was a teenager, I remember when my mom suddenly began wearing tank tops all the time. Summer, winter, the season didn't matter, she wore mostly light, airy tops. Now, as I go through my own forced onset of menopause after having my ovaries removed in October 2008, I understand why she began wearing these tops during menopause. When your face begins flushing and your body feels like you just stepped into a 200-degree sauna, you want to be wearing these light tops so you can cool down quicker. Then, when your hot flash ends, you can return to a freezing state. Hot, cold, hot, wonder women go nuts during menopause.

Anyway, after my husband convinced me to come along with him and our son to eat Chinese food for lunch (I'm the only Jew who hates Chinese food), my stomach was churning by the time I arrived at my favorite clothing area at Macy's.

"Can you hold this for me for a few minutes," I asked the woman working the checkout counter and hung a skirt on the rack at her station before racing toward the escalator to go to the next floor where the restrooms were located.

And there it was. A bloody wad of toilet paper in the bowl.

Eew. Glad there's one thing I don't have to deal with anymore, I thought to myself before moving on to the next stall, just barely making it onto to the toilet after fumbling with the thin seat covers that kept ripping. This is where God's cruel joke takes over.

That same afternoon (this was two days ago, actually), after a full afternoon of driving the kids back and forth from music lessons, swim team and Sophie's summer acting camp, I was exhausted. We almost went to the store to pick up something for dinner, but the thought of walking around the grocery store for various dinner supplies sounded like a terrible idea that would send me over the edge.

"Would you rather roasted chicken at home, or going out for dinner?" It's not difficult to figure out which the kids chose. By the time we reached the restaurant, I had to go again. I raced back to the bathroom with Sophie so she could wash her hands while I sat on the toilet.

"Ouch!" I was crying out as quietly as I could.

"What's wrong, mommy?" Sophie asked. Since the surgery, the kids' concern-o-meter is more alert than ever.

The sharp-nailed vagina grabber

"I don't know," I tried to say calmly. I really didn'tknow. I just knew I was suddenly experiencing intense pain when I made a pish (Yiddish for urinating). Sorry to be crude, but it felt like I'd just been fucked really hard or someone with sharp nails was grabbing hold of my vagina and ripping it away. (I just read that last sentence to Mark and he's just shaking his head) Then, it got worse. I wiped, and there was blood on the wad of toilet paper. "What the fuck?" Don't worry, I don't think Sophie heard me.

I can't have my period. I have no ovaries. My mind raced. Maybe I hurt myself when I made that turn in the car. On the way to the restaurant, I'd had to pull the car through a tight turn and thought the tugging might have pulled a muscle or some stitches loose or something. No, it can't be that; everything is on the way to healing. I'm not supposed to lift, maybe I caused a hernia or something. They warned me about that.

And then the thoughts got worse. Maybe it's something else completely. Spotting, pain...Oh shit. Uterine cancer! After all the shit I've been through and this is what you're going to throw at me? Uterine cancer? You're actually going to brew up a cancer in my genetically screwed up body to strike the piece of flesh the doctors left inside me? You sick, sadistic, son-of-a-bitch! (Yes, rabbi, I know I'm a shitty Jew to consider God has nothing better to do than fuck around with my life.)

I didn't want to seem upset around the kids, but they could tell something was wrong. What do I do? What do I do?It was already 5:30 p.m. and the doctors' offices were closed. But who would I call anyway? The plastic surgeon who did the TRAM Flap surgery? The oncology gynocologist who took out my ovaries? My regular Ob/Gyn closer to home?

I went outside and called my mom.

"What's wrong, Joey," my mom answered. I explained what was happening, trying to hold back tears.

"You need to call your doctor now," she said. Which one? "Call the one who took your ovaries. Do it now, Joey." I called the answering service. That wasn't much help. There wasn't much they could do.

"Contact your regular gynocologist tomorrow, or if it gets worse, go to the emergency room tonight," said one of my surgeon's partners who was on call. Before she gave me that answer, I had compared the pain to that of as though I'd experienced rough sex and before I could say more she jumped in. "Oh, did you have sex last night? Because that could be what's causing this and..."

"No, I didn't have sex. It just feels really sore as though..." why was I explaining this? Who in their right mind would feel up to having sex so soon after having a TRAM Flap slice across your belly? (If you read this and you did, I can't imagine how it felt. Perhaps it would be like how it's frightening to have sex too soon after giving birth)

I figured, okay, I can deal with this for a night and call Dr. L tomorrow. That plan changed dramatically. By the time the kids were getting ready for bed, things were getting worse and by 10:30 p.m., peeing was excruciating and there was a growing amount of blood in the toilet.

I called the office of my TRAM Flap surgeon and spoke to that doctor on call through tears. He said this likely wasn't associated with my surgery, but I should go to the ER if it gets worse. Once again, I called my mom.

Who would you call?

Would you have called your mom or an ambulance if you'd been in my position?

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Is it time to call an ambulance?

 "I'm coming up to bring you to the hospital," she insisted. I couldn't stop crying from the pain and didn't think it would be smart to drive myself up to the hospital with the kids (Mark was still at work and my mom could reach me faster). "Dad will watch the kids and I'll take you to the emergency room."

It took more than an hour to see a doctor and by then, when I provided a urine sample, my pee was bright pink from blood and the pain was terrible. That evening, I'd already taken two Aleve, an Ativan and a Percocet and nothing was helping. They injected the IV in my arm with morphine to help alleviate the pain and gave me a CAT Scan to make sure I hadn't ripped anything from the surgery and checked for post-op infection (unlikely because it's been two months).

After Mark arrived at the hospital, mom left at about 3 a.m. only after she knew I was safe and the doctor figured out what was going on inside my body. She returned to our house to get some sleep. Mark and I didn't leave the hospital until 5:30 a.m. when the skies were just starting to glow with dim light. Being up so early felt like we should be on our way to the airport to catch an airplane to someplace fun.

Mark took the day off from work to care for me and the kids. He managed to get up early to get Sophie to her acting camp and I slept most of the day away.

Oh, so you're probably wondering what all the fuss was about. If you haven't figured it out, it was a urinary tract infection. I'd had bladder infections while I was pregnant with my son, but I'd never felt anything like this and certainly nothing that struck with such intensity, so quickly. So, no. Regardless of my doom and gloom thoughts, it was not uterin cancer, thankfully.

Some normal activities

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My first post-op hair cut six weeks after surgeryMy wonderful hair stylist and shrink, SheilaThanks for making me feel human again!Getting my toes done with a little bling on top of my favorite toe nail colorBack on the treadmill to nowhereWalking through the garden center to enjoy the flowers and get a little exercise
My first post-op hair cut six weeks after surgery
My first post-op hair cut six weeks after surgery
My wonderful hair stylist and shrink, Sheila
My wonderful hair stylist and shrink, Sheila
Thanks for making me feel human again!
Thanks for making me feel human again!
Getting my toes done with a little bling on top of my favorite toe nail color
Getting my toes done with a little bling on top of my favorite toe nail color
Back on the treadmill to nowhere
Back on the treadmill to nowhere
Walking through the garden center to enjoy the flowers and get a little exercise
Walking through the garden center to enjoy the flowers and get a little exercise

A lovely afternoon on top of Mt. Tam

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The view from Mt. TamalpaisThe mountain play production of "Man of La Mancha"
The view from Mt. Tamalpais
The view from Mt. Tamalpais
The mountain play production of "Man of La Mancha"
The mountain play production of "Man of La Mancha"

Fireworks Fun!

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A two-month update

A lot of people have been asking how I'm doing and I've been neglecting my blog. Actually, that's probably a good thing and likely a sign of my life returning to normal. So here's the latest update:

Pain level: There's still a lot of pain in my chest and stomach; the altered muscles are still pretty tight and hurt the most by the evening. I've cut down my pain meds to Aleve during the day and half or a quarter of a Percocet along with an Ativan at night.

Jellyfish Stings:Starting at about seven weeks after the surgery, I started noticing a different, slightly painful sensation; I began feeling tiny, sudden stinging shooting through my chest and sometimes in my abdominal area. It felt like the time my sister and I were snorkeling in the ocean and accidentally swam through a swarm of baby jellyfish and received several small stings. I asked my plastic surgeon about this at my last appointment and he said this was a good sign that my nerve endings were healing and I may get some feeling back in my breasts and the other areas that feel numb at the surface skin level. Since then, I do feel more in my new breasts, but when I run my hand along the skin of my stomach, it still feels numb to the touch like I just got a bunch of shots of Novocaine at the dentist and you can't feel your lips when you bite down on them.

Daily activity level: I'm not using the cane so much these days, rather trying to walk more and more. In fact, about a week ago, I began using my Wii Fit, doing about five to 10 minutes of aerobic step and another 10 minutes of less-than-brisk walking on the treadmill. That's about all I can take before all the muscles begin tugging tighter and tighter from my stomach up to my chest. It makes me ill to think I was up to a vigorous hour-long workout prior to the surgery and I have to slowly build back up to that amount.

I began driving recently and it is becoming less painful on my muscles to turn the wheel. It's nice to get around on my own (always protecting my chest and stomach with a pillow), but it is more exhausting to drive on tasks more than once or twice a day. When I return home, I need to collapse on my reclining chair.

Because I still become so tired in the afternoon, Jesse has been a great help and making dinner for me and Sophie when Mark isn't home. There's a lot of take-out or easy cooking, quick meals. I'm not big on frozen, pre-packaged foods, but we've done a lot of that lately.

I've tried doing a little light gardening, but I'm a shmuck and this always ends up making me really sore by the evening, by which time Mark gets upset with me for doing too much. Mark isn't one for doing more than mowing the lawn and using the weed whacker in the garden, but lately, he's been having me sit in a chair and tell him what I want trimmed back in the yard. This sounds fun at first, but I find gardening quite rewarding and miss the work. Bending over a few time to trim this or that is all I can do before the muscles begin aching and tugging.

Recovery:I had my belly button stitches removed two weeks ago and it's starting to look like an "outy" the way it's healing. I'm two small scabs away from my skin healing on my new breasts which are softening up. I still have some nasty red scars, but I'm hopeful they will fade in time. I use concentrated lotion (Neutrogena Hand Creme) on the scars twice a day, working it into the gnarly lines to soften them up.

I've begun going to physical therapy. I go twice a week to have a woman massage my new boobs to soften up the new flesh inside. (I'll be going in for one for surgery sometime soon to create more symmetry -- yes, another surgery, but this is a quicky one, according to my plastic surgeon)

Feeling like a girl again: It felt really good to take care of some normal "girly" activities: pedicure, hair cut and color, waxing the legs, a little shopping.

The new boobs:Speaking of feeling like a girl...If you're a woman who has ever worn an under-wire bra, you'll understand this. Before the surgery, I used to come home and the first thing I'd do is take off my bra. It always felt so good to let the girls loose to relax the remainder of the evening. But now, after the double mastectomy and reconstruction, it feels like my breasts are in a constant state of bra-ness. They are tight and held up higher than they have been in years, sans bra. It's a strange feeling and one you have to get used to.

Sleeping: When I am able to fall asleep, I have been able to sleep on my side again. It's a bit of a struggle to get into a side position, but once I maneuver my body with the assistance of a king-size body pillow to hold onto, I manage to find some comfort after my stomach and muscles relax into position. Pain (or a noisy Lucy the bitchy, old, fat cat screaming her meow down in the hallway) generally wakes me up every half hour or so, forcing me to switch sides, but I'm happy to be able to sleep in a reclined position again.

My sister, who is on too much pain medicine from her breast cancers (yes, twice in 15 years), tells me when you take pain meds for a long time, it tends to steal your sleep. I think that is happening to me because I generally can't fall asleep before 1:30 to 2 a.m.

Getting out of the house for fun: The family has made sure I get out of the house for some fun activities. Mom made arrangements for all of us to go see "Man of La Mancha" at the outdoor theatre on Mount Tamalpais. It's one of my favorite plays that always makes me cry at the end (I wasn't the only sappy sobber at the end) and we thought Sophie especially would enjoy seeing it since she loves musicals and singing. Thanks, mom!

And thanks to mom, again, she and dad took me to see "Spamalot" which was fantastic and great fun. It was so good, Mark took Sophie to see it another weekend. (Mark really needed to laugh, so I talked him into splurging a little...after all, laughing is good for your health.) Jesse doesn't enjoy musicals so much. When they show the giant Star of David on stage, little Sophie got all excited and called out, "Look, it's a Jewish star!" They got tickets only four days before they saw it and they were six rows from the stage, in the center. Even the guy at will call was amazed they got such great seats at a late date.

We didn't go to any big Independence Day fireworks display, but we had our own little show in the driveway. Watch some of our videos below. I miss the old style sparklers. The new flare type aren't as fun to watch.

Mark takes me to the hardware superstores now and again. It makes me walk around as I think up new projects for the house (to be completed at a later date, of course) and I love going through the garden center and seeing all the beautiful flowers in bloom.

Thanks! Thanks to everyone who has been sending well wishes my way. I truly appreciate all your good thoughts.

Oops...sideways fireworks

Double fireworks

Fireworks with a little girl


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    • SylviaSky profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      I appreciate your honesty! When it's no fun, why are we women encouraged to smile and pretend it is fun?

    • profile image

      Lisa Nobida Doan (aka Mitsu717) 

      8 years ago

      Yes, I'm going in tomorrow morning for the sentinel node biopsy and scheduled for the OR around noon - didn't sleep much last night so I read up a lot of your blogs....helped so much since I was afraid to sleep because of the crazy dreams I had the night before and waking up every hour or so. I'm doing the double and opted not to do the TRAM - it will be done as a backup if the expanders fail. I'm one of those people that as long as I know exactly what to expect (not as major as yours), it's easier for me to go, I'm at BRING IT ON! Again, Thank you!

    • Joelle Burnette profile imageAUTHOR

      Joelle Burnette 

      8 years ago

      Mitsu, I'm glad my story could help. Are you going in tomorrow? or have you already had the work done? I hope everything goes/went okay and you have/had a quick recovery. Let me know if I can help with any more information.


    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thank you thank you. I came across your blog the day before a double and reconstruction. You're right - there isn't much info out there in this digital age to actually know what to expect after a mastectomy. I love your candid humor and reality. It's helping me deal.


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