Updates: radiation, kids, yoga, photo session

Cancer stuff: Radiation gave me second degree burns. In my armpit. Specifically in the crease of my armpit. It hurts badly, so I have a 3-inch by 3-inch gel pad stuck to it now. It’s cool and refreshing but oozy and weird. I hope it doesn’t dislodge itself and fall out during class today…

Tomorrow would have been my last day of radiation, but the oncology radiology doc decided to add a “boost” to my treatment. This means four more treatments, really super concentrated to the area in which the tumors lived. It makes sense – studies show a decrease in cancer returning in younger women with a few “boost” treatments. And the boosts will not affect the armpit area, so it can start to peel and heal. Thank goodness.

Radiation has been pretty easy. Lie down for four minutes while getting five doses of super powered x-rays, then on with my day. Other than a sunburned armpit and some slight fatigue, I’m handling it well. The only outward sign of radiation is the tanned skin my right side where the treatment happens. Overall, it’s certainly better than chemo!

Kiddos: The kids started back to school.

Kindergarten is kicking Lauren’s ass. She can hardly keep her eyes open during dinner, and she’s become super whiny until bedtime. She also sleeps until she’s woken up around 6:15 – completely different than the kid who was up by 5:30 every morning during the summer!

There was a bit of a hiccup in starting the year when I learned – at a parent meeting less than 36 hours before the first day of school – that Lauren would be required to wear a uniform this year. (Previously K4 and K5 did not wear uniforms. Apparently there was a communication that came home at the end of last year, but only three K5 families received it. There wasn’t any more communication from the school over the summer. Some found out through word of mouth and others were just learning of it also.) I spent the summer buying clothes for her to wear to school – and I checked and rechecked the dress code in the parent handbook (which wasn’t updated until VERY recently). I freaked out in that meeting, and I sent the new principal a strongly worded email that night. And… the new principal completely impressed me with her handling of the situation. She called me promptly the next morning (day before school) and offered that Lauren and the kids in K4 and K5 would not have strict enforcement of the uniform policy (so she could wear regular clothes when she wanted), and the school had a few smaller size uniforms we could have. Turns out, Lauren LOVES her plaid jumper. I’m out the cost of what I spent on school clothes, so I’m letting her wear them anytime, anyplace. She’s growing so fast that most will be too small soon anyway.

Ethan’s in fifth grade. He’s trying to find his place among his peers. Most of the boys play a sport or two, but Ethan hasn’t shown any interest in sports since Mike died. In fact, he’s specifically shied away from most sports – Mike was Ethan’s coach for baseball and soccer and helped (a little bit) practice football at home. He’s been reprimanded for talking out of turn during classes or hurting someone’s feelings. On one of the “feelings” situations, I have to side with Ethan. The kids were working in small groups to come up with “rules” for the class, and one kid suggested something like “we will give 110 percent in class.” Ethan called the kid out for the “110 percent” thing, saying it’s impossible to give more than 100 percent AND he strongly believed that in a school environment, they should focus on the facts not “bad math.” We talked about how he could have addressed his concerns in a more suitable way, but I also high fived him for identifying the flaw. (The teacher kept the 110 percent thing in the class rules, much to Ethan’s chagrin.)

Other stuff:

  • Mom and I started yoga. There’s a class at the Y for cancer patients and their caregivers. It’s not very physical, but there’s a lot of focus on stretching and breathing. The woman teaching the class also shows us how to modify some of the positions to meet our physical needs (like not putting too much pressure on the arm on the side where lymph nodes were removed). It’s an open-ended class, so no real beginning or end. Mom is loving it. I’m in it for a while (especially to learn the modifications), but I’ll need something more challenging at some point. Still it’s a cool thing to do with my mom once a week.
  • Friday will be my second boudoir photo shoot, complete with SUPER short hair and lopsided, mismatched breasts. (The first session was right after I started chemo – and still had hair, and the last session will be in the spring/summer – after reconstruction and after I have ((hopefully)) decent hair.) I’m hoping it’s as fun as the first time!

And then I posed in lingerie

I was about 20 minutes away before it hit me: soon, I would be standing in my panties in front of a stranger. This is just not something I do

Right after I was diagnosed, I started thinking of ways to commemorate this process, to celebrate what I would go through and where I would end up. Something to look back on later and feel – dare I say – good about myself.

It seemed obvious: boudoir photos.

In my mind, I knew what I wanted. A story – now, chemo, surgery, reconstruction. I wanted it to be pretty. To celebrate me. Photos of me. For me. Through some of the toughest times. I just wanted the story to be a beautiful telling of…me (and the superficial things that make me…me like hair and boobs).

I started researching photographers right away. Some were sketchy (“rent a hotel room and I’ll come take photos”). Some were too focused on sex (whips, chains, handcuffs, lots of nudes). But there was one photographer’s website that spoke to me.

She profiled ladies of various sizes, all beautifully photographed. I loved that she brought in her own hair and makeup person (instead of going to a salon then the studio). I liked that it was an “all ladies” team.

I sent her a message right away, explaining my situation and what I was looking for. I also told her that I was kind of tight on time since I’d be losing my hair soon.

I didn’t hear back right away, and I started to second guess my idea. But then Jenn did email and was very apologetic for the delay. It was Valentine’s season (dammit – didn’t even consider that!), and she was completely booked. We went back and forth on email a few times, and I was resigned to this just not happening.

On Wednesday, she emailed saying she was having lunch with another boudoir photographer in town who would be able to get me in before I lost my hair. She sent me a link to the website. It was fine. It would certainly satisfy my desire to have photos, but the photographer’s style wasn’t as soft as I wanted. I ignored the email.

Yesterday, Jenn emailed again. She had a last minute cancellation and wanted to offer it to me. I jumped at the chance. I had less than 20 hours to get ready.

There wasn’t time to shop (or get waxed or do any real thinking). I grabbed a duffle bag and tossed some lingerie, scarves and jewelry into it. “Just wing it,” I thought.

Then I fell asleep super early last night, and never gave it another thought.

This morning I had an early doc appointment. (More on that later, but woo-doggy, chemo is working! Cell counts are crazy low, but the doc isn’t placing any restrictions on me.) Then I went to my mom’s for breakfast. She wanted to see my lab work and make me eggs and bacon. An hour after breakfast, it was off to the photographer.

The studio was in an old warehouse building, full of various artist studios. Jenn’s studio was on the fourth floor (with no working elevator). Of course I was early. I sat on the cold concrete floor and thought about what was about to happen.

“In an hour, you will be almost naked, in front of a stranger, posing for photos,” I thought. “What the fuck are you thinking?”

I don’t kiss on the first date (or second….). I’m a suburban mom who isn’t overly adventurous or crazy. I have no piercings (outside of my ears) or tattoos. I drive a very neutral colored SUV. I’ve never dyed my hair an unnatural color. Look up conservative in the dictionary, I might be featured. And I’m okay with that.

And I was about to take off my clothes.

I played on Facebook while I waited. Theresa, the hair and makeup artist arrived. We made small talk while waiting for Jenn. Then it was time.

“What did you bring?” Jenn asked as she showed me into a makeshift dressing area behind a silky purple curtain. She and Theresa stood behind me as I opened my bag. Suddenly, I wasn’t very confident with my choices.

“Um…It was so last minute that I just grabbed stuff I had,” I tried to explain. “No time to go shopping or stuff…”

“That’s what usually happens,” said Jenn. “Let’s just see.”

I took out some bras and panties and set them in a pile. A few camisole/teddy kind of things. A corset. Some scarves. A longer gown. A pair of nude heels. Random jewelry, mostly pearls (as if I was trying to hang onto some sort of innocence through this).

Jenn and Theresa rummaged through the piles. A few things were discarded because of lack of support (“We want the girls to look good.”) The longer gown would cover too much. We settled on a black and white camisole, a purple corset, and a turquoise scarf.

Next was hair and makeup. We talked about what I wanted, and settled on a more polished version of me. A little sexy, but not slutty or sex vixen. Theresa cleaned off my makeup and got started. She noted my super dry skin (which will only get worse), and said it looked like it was dehydrated. (OMG, I can’t possibly drink MORE water!) She got to work. So many brushes and colors and…stuff. Now, I enjoy spending time in a Sephora or a good makeup counter, but I had NO idea what most of the stuff in her kit was. I was turned away from the mirror, so I couldn’t see anything. I could only follow commands (look up, look down, lips slack).

Every few minutes Jenn would come into the room and ooh and ahhh. They both went on and on about my eyes and playing up that feature. They both agreed to do minimal stuff to my hair (“just some boost at the roots!”). An hour or so later, and I was turned around to look in the mirror.


It was perfect. Sexy eyes, but very, very natural otherwise. And I couldn’t believe what a difference false eyelashes make. (Note to self: buy false eyelashes because…hotness.)

Jenn wanted to start with the black and white camisole, and she ushered me back to the dressing room to change. I closed the curtain behind me and stood there. This was getting real – and weird. I looked at my piles of stuff. I slowly took off my shoes and tank top. I started to get self-conscious about my panties. What ones will I wear with the cami? Does it matter?

Full strip. Full change. Toss on heels. I added a long pearl necklace, and I walked into the bright studio. Jenn had me start by sitting on a white couch against white sheer curtains. I felt awkward. Where should my legs go? How could I look casual while I was sitting in panties, a camisole and three-inch heels? And I was very aware that my necklace was hanging between my breasts, calling attention to the reason I was there.

Immediately, Jenn put me at ease. She walked me through how to sit, pose and lay. Where to look, how to hold me head, where my hands should go. And I just went with it.

A few clicks later, and it didn’t matter if I was almost naked, posing for photos. I wasn’t holding in my stomach or worrying about bulges. I posed on the couch, a chaise, and a bed, against the windows. I completely trusted Jenn to make this happen. She showed me a few of the photos on her camera. It was perfect. It was the prettiness I wanted.

We went through the same process with the corset, but with a more sexy lip color and a huge tulle skirt (her skirt added to the corset was FANTASTIC!). For the final look, I decided to go with a high waisted boyshort and completely topless with the scarf covering my nipples.

Then it was over. I changed back into yoga pants and a tank top (yay, hot flashes!), and Jenn and I talked about future sessions. I’m thinking the next one will be in May, toward the end of chemo. She’s super excited about being part of this journey with me, and I cannot wait to see how it all comes together.

I would have NEVER considered a boudoir shoot, but now I’m a convert. Completely out of my comfort zone, but I’m still riding a high from it. So, so, so happy that I did it.