pink ink…

I’m baaaack…

I can’t believe it’s been a week since I lost my boobs! Big B has given me 20 minutes to check email and texts, or blog! No way I can begin to look at all those texts & emails, so here I am! Last night, my 1st night home, I was thinking about what I should share.

I could easily post about my “awesomely awesome” (as they say on “How I Met Your Mother”) husband & parents, and how they watched over me in the hospital, and made Christmas great for my baby even though I was wasn’t there. Big B cleaning my tubes could be a post in itself!

I could post about my girl, Soror, & Cancer Mentor Tracey, who might as well have been in the operating room with me! I mean, she beat us to the hospital for our 5:30am call, and stayed at the hospital with me every day, rubbed lotion on me, called my sis with updates, and “checked” a doctor when he wouldn’t listen to my request.

I may still post about my RADIO SILENCE! My complete lack of technology for a week! Y’all know Big B took my phone! Ironically, I did not miss it! I just didn’t have the mental capacity to manage it. Plus I couldn’t move my arms. It does take some energy to text. Who knew?

So I was at a bit of a loss…until I scanned a few of those texts. Most people were asking, “How was it?” “How does it feel”?
So in 15 minutes or less, (yes, he is watching), I will provide your next…MEDICAL MINUTE!

Now in the inevitable Guiliana Rancic E! NEWS special, it will show “G” headed to the hospital, scared, and crying as she heads into her double mastectomy. Bill, her hubby, will be seen pacing in the waiting room, assuring her parents that she will be ok. “G” coming out of surgery, groggy but eventually laughing. It may show her talking to her docs about what her tumors looked like, the size etc. Finally, it will show her at the Academy Awards with new boobs. (Update, she went back to work after 2 weeks! That is NOT normal recovery!!)

In the “Another BWats Production” special on BET (hello..Mr. Armstrong!), OWN, or Lifetime, it will be a bit different. It will be gritty.

SPOILER ALERT! If you are queasy, or don’t really want the truth, STOP READING. Here are some of the things the viewer will learn.

A Bilateral Mastectomy is real surgery! I was on the table for over 6 hours. I will start by saying my doctors were EXCELLENT. The nursing staff…SUPERB! My scars look GREAT. I will be back in a bikini by the summer! I have no bruising, very little swelling and I got to keep my nipples. My margins were negative, so no cancer anywhere else in the breasts. So the overall consensus was the surgery was an overwhelming success!

Now to the other stuff…

Where to begin? Ok, I got expanders, not implants yet. They are like little balloons under the skin. The doc adds solution to them over the course of time to grow/stretch your skin. I was too thin to put in implants and needed more skin to cover them. Also, implants can be affected by radiation. So my boobs are a little bigger than they were, but we will “grow” them over the next couple months, and then switch in implants. Again, b/c of my size, they had to manipulate my muscles to put in the expanders. That is the source of my greatest pain. Crippling muscle spasms! Also, hot flashes, that had sweat dripping between my breasts…that I couldn’t reach!

I cannot lift my arms above shoulder length. I can only lift a water bottle. ONE. Not 2, at the same time. Nothing heavier. I am wrapped tight and have to sleep sitting up. I won’t be able to drive for about 3 weeks.

I was in the hospital for 6 days. They expected 2 or 3. Why, you ask? The pain had to be controlled. That took a minute. My temp rose to 103.5. They couldn’t get it down for a day. My blood pressure rose to 175 over something. I usually hover at 118 over 80 something. I needed another blood transfusion. One of my lungs was starting to collapse, and a fear of pneumonia! So there were chest x-rays etc. I couldn’t get out of bed for the 1st 3 days. When I did, it took 3 people to help me, and I thought that gravity was ripping the expanders through my chest. I actually tried to “hold them in”! And finally, a vein collapsed. Busy week huh?

Did I mention the itching?? That is worth mentioning to any people who end up in the Cancer Lane. There is uncontrollable itching…that you cannot reach. It is due to all the medicine in the body. Totally dries it out. I tried to address it by moving my back up and down the bed as much as I could. Worse thing to do! Big B says I now look like I was in a fight with a cat. Turns out, the sheets scratched up my back. I wore compressions socks. They added to the itching. I know Tracey is now a sister for life b/c she rubbed me down in lotion, scratched me, and kept me in Vaseline as the skin on my lips started to peel off.

Is that enough detail? Ok, I will move on. All the above was made “better” by the presence of Tracey, Gina Bowser, the great staff, and of course my family who were there everyday wiping tears off my face, or just sitting watching me sleep.

Finally, I got to come home. It’s been 24 hrs. It is getting better and I am glad to be home. My new name is “Octo-girl”. You see, I have 8 arms now. My 2 real ones, and 6 tubes with drains, (my “new” arms) that hang from my body. These will stay in for a few weeks. Imagine all that, while I shower…sitting down…not able to lift my arms. I still have to sleep sitting up so my lungs get enough air. I still itch. I am taking 6 or 7 (Zophran, again) types of medicine. My schedule is:
7:30 AM
1:30 PM
1:30 AM
Then we start over. No longer than 3 hours of sleep at a time.

While I love “G”, I guarantee that type of detail won’t be in her special. But it will be in mine, because that is my Life in the Cancer Lane. But like G’s, my special will end on a positive note. We will both enter 2012 with no tumors! People who love and support us will surround us both. We both will have the scars to show for our journey. We will both be helping someone by sharing our stories.

Best of all, we will be both be…ALIVE!

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Delores Crews
    Dec 28, 2011 @ 20:24:35

    The silence was driving us crazy! Happy New Year and hope that you have have a speedy recovery. I had my AKA FB Group praying with me for your courage and endurance. Love Soror Dee Crews


  2. Lori Hall Armstrong
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 14:38:22

    Wow Barb! E needs to hire YOU! The realness, the detail, the vulnerabilities all laid out there are so admirable. You are educating us all while sharing your journey in a way that makes us all feel like we are there with you watching as we all wish we could be. Thank you for that. Through it all you are the rock for all of us which is soooooooo incredible considering what you are going through. You are enlightening and inspiring us all at once between mess and tube gleanings (go Big B, who knew a Clevander could be so competent! Ha ha!). Barb, I love you girl! You are my she-ro! With you all the way. And will keep you apprised of Hollywood juice – like Katy Perry and Russell biting the dust – no surprises there! Rock on!!!!!


  3. Andrea Smith
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 14:38:06

    Wow! I had no idea! Iris just told me this morning. Your blog is amazing! Thanks so much for doing this. I hate that you having to go through this and hate myself for complaining about my big behind. This puts everything in perspective. My prayers are with you and the Bs. I am glad that you have friends there to help you through this. You are defintely an inspiration and you definitely have a testimony!
    God bless you, my friend!


  4. Mr. Armstrong
    Jan 21, 2012 @ 18:02:48

    BWats!! You’re so inspiring. Reading your post is like reading a script. We love you and are with you each day. I was on that operating table five times after being hit by a car at 13 so I know just how taxing it must be for you and the family to go thru. Your attitude is part of the healing and you, my sista, have an AMAZING attitude.


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