Welcome Home 1966

If there’s one thing that wets my gash, it’s old magazines.

Especially old LOCAL magazines.

I picked up two of these Los Angeles Times HOME magazines at an estate sale last week in my neighborhood. I was really excited because they’re a little hard to find and don’t come cheap on eBay. Most people didn’t keep them because they were part of the newspaper, and if they did survive, it was because the lady of the house kept it for a recipe.

Most of the content was indeed home related. Ads for furniture, carpet, and pools were most of it, but there are ads for food and fashion. Because the magazine is so big, I was unable to scan so I used my phone to take pics, so please excuse the quality.

This issue of HOME is from June 1966. I love all of the ads and the overall Southern California style.

Continue reading “Welcome Home 1966”

Gene Gene the Mutation Machine, or “I Have the BRCA Gene Mutation”

 In a comment I made on a Facebook post regarding Angelina Jolie’s latest statement about having her ovaries removed, I griped that non-celebrity women go through the same thing without any kind of support or kudos, that they’re story is never heard and shared.

So instead of bellyaching about the powers of celebrity, I decided to share my story.

I was diagnosed with the mutated BRCA2 gene in August 2013. Both my mother and grandmother died at age 48 from ovarian cancer and after my mother passed in 2006, I kept bugging my OB/GYN for a hysterectomy. The answer was always “no” because I was “too young” (I was in my late twenties).

“But I don’t want to have kids,” I would protest.

“You’ll change your mind,” my OB/GYN would counter.

“But I can always adopt or have a test tube baby if I change my mind,” I would counter back.

“You’ll change your mind,” I was told again.

“But what good is having a kid when I’ll die from ovarian cancer and they’re motherless?”

My doctor never had an answer for that one.

I gave up my crusade to be barren for a couple of years. I had switched to a different healthcare provider (Kaiser) and when Angelina Jolie came out the first time with news of her mastectomy, I hit up my primary doctor about being tested for the BRCA gene mutation.

And I was pleasantly surprised when he agreed and sent outa referral.

I started my first test with the Genetics Department at Kaiser in June of 2013. The doctor asked me questions about my family and we drew out my genetic map. Because my maternal grandfather was of Ashkenazi Jewish decent, I would have to have a separate genetic test done (Ashkenazi Jews have a higher chance of the gene mutation). If that test turned up negative, they would run the gentile gene test.

And it takes forever to get your results back. I found out in July that my Jew Test came back negative. So then they ran the other test and I got my results in August. 

My doctor was surprised that I tested positive for the BRCA2 mutation. 

“Usually you need to have more family members that have cancer,” he said, “but you got it. What are your feelings about the prognosis? Any ideas on how you would like to proceed with treatment?”

I was a little shaken up, but because I had two long months to think about all the “what ifs”, I already had my decision made.

“I want the surgery. All of it.” I said simply.

Kaiser moves fast. I received my prognosis on a Wednesday. The next day they brought me in to meet with the breast doctor and to get a mammogram (now I was officially a Bad-Mamogramma). On Friday I met with my OB/GYN, and on Monday I was to meet with the Plastic Surgeon. Everyone was great and very supportive and all of my doctors made sure to explain and answer any questions that I had. My mammogram came back showing a lump, but after another x-ray and a biopsy, it was proven to be benign. 

Although it was suggested I get my boobs done first, I opted to get the hysterectomy first because of my family history. My doctor suggested that I keep my uterus, but I declined. I just wanted it all out at once so I wouldn’t have to go back later, plus I was paranoid about getting any kind of cancer down there. I figured that if there was nothing left, nothing can get cancer.

I had my surgery in December. The healing from the hysterectomy was WAY harder than I imagined. I was a fast healer, so I assumed I would be up and walking and doing stuff fairly soon. Nope. I was actually grateful to have a catheter because it meant I didn’t have to get up and move as much. A week after the hysterectomy, I started menopause. It comes on like a bat out of hell – I was in the kitchen chatting with my supervisor who stopped by to visit and then all of the sudden, my body was on fire. A couple of days later the crying started. I knew I wasn’t really sad, but any little thing would make me cry. It’s like your possessed, like you’re watching yourself doing these things, but you know it’s not really you and you don’t know why it’s happening. I inquired about getting some kind of hormones, but because of my upcoming breast surgery, I couldn’t take any. 

My mastectomy and reconstruction was scheduled for March. Because I had lost a lot of weight previously (90lbs), we decided to go with the TRAM Flap procedure. Basically, they take your fat and skin from your stomach and use it to make your new boobs. Because I had a lot of leftover stuff from the weight loss, it was decided it was the best option, plus it make for a more natural looking and feeling boob. I seriously love my plastic surgeon. He’s a little brash and “no-bullshit”, but he was very caring and actually pretty nice and funny (and cute). I was his only non-cancer mastectomy patient.

I admit it – the month before my actual surgery I was a complete wreck. The menopause didn’t help, and although I had total faith in my doctor and I was still happy with my decision, I was scared to be knocked out for so long. I’ve had sleep apnea my entire life, so the thought of being under anesthesia for sixteen hours frightened me. Then the Goth in me started to come out – I had that “last time ever” mindset. When we celebrated my birthday, I felt like it was the last time I was going to see my friends. I let it be known that I wanted my cat to stay with my roommate if something happened to me. And the night before my surgery, I insisted that my boyfriend take me to my favorite restaurant, because I didn’t want my last meal to be leftover Roundtable pizza.

I had a total meltdown the next morning while laying in on the hospital bed. I blamed the menopause, although I knew that it was only part of the problem. I was still crying when the anesthesiologist came in. He asked why I was crying and my boyfriend joked that I was “thinking about cats”. Then the anesthesiologist proceeded to tell us that he wife owned and kept twelve cats in their house. I couldn’t even feel grossed out.

My doctor came in and asked me to stand up so he could mark me. Every Lifetime cancer movie cliché came rushing into my head and I continued to bawl as he marked my body with the purple marker. I was embarrassed to be crying in front of him and embarrassed to be crying in front of my boyfriend. I was never a cryer –  I was always the unemotional friend that just wanted to get off the phone whenever a friend called me crying over a guy. But there I was, naked and purple and crying. Despite being scared of being knocked out, I was clamoring for it, just so I could relax and stop crying. At this point, I just wanted everything to be over.

I stayed in the hospital for a week, with the first three days in the ICU. The surgery had gone great, I was only in the ICU to make sure my transplants would “take”. I was on some good drugs, so I don’t remember some of it. I remember my boyfriend running out and getting me a battery operated fan because I was so hot (the room had to be kept at 80 degrees). I remember complaining about the arm cuff hurting and my doctor telling me to “suck it up” (I told you he was “no-bullshit”). One of the nurses came and put VASELINE in my hair to get rid of the rats nest. I ended up putting my hair in little baby buns on top of my head because it was so greasy and disgusting (I looked like MileyCyrus by the time I left the hospital). 

I stayed at my boyfriend’s house to heal once I was released. It was hard – I had drains coming out of everywhere and one of my girlfriends would come by and help clean me and change my bandages. After a couple of weeks, things were looking good, I was healing fine, and I was feeling a lot better. I’m still going through the reconstruction process, but that should be done this August, making it a full two years since I was diagnosed (my plastic surgeon is the second longest relationship I’ve ever had with a man). I’m still going through menopause – the crying has stopped, but the hot flashes remain (now I know what living in Hell feels like) And I am still happy that I have 0% chance of getting ovarian cancer and 5% chance of getting breast cancer. To me, all of the pain now was worth it in the long run. I was excited that I would have the chance to live past 48.

If I can share any advice to any woman who is considering or starting the process of preventive surgery, it’s that you need to BE STRONG. I’ve had a lady at the IRS tell me “well, it’s not like you have REAL CANCER” when I asked for an extension. I’ve had people get all excited when they think I’ve had this done because of cancer and then be disappointed when it wasn’t cancer (sorry!). I’ve people that just can’t comprehend doing something preventative (“but you don’t even have cancer yet!”). And I’ve had a lot of good drugs.

Lots and lots of good drugs.