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Jul 20, 2014

Can I talk about vaginas on a breast cancer blog?

From the opening scene in this commercial I am DYING laughing.... Every time I see it I just prepare for a good 20 minutes of guffaws, long after this 30 second video is over. I feel so badly for the daughter - and the husband who slides by quickly so he doesn't get caught in the carnage. She looks absolutely mortified.

I remember the days of my mom trying to talk to me about "girly/womanly" things and the pure terror it put in my heart. To be honest, I still feel oddly uncomfortable talking to my mother about some things. But to her testament, she keeps trying.

Before breast cancer, I wasn't actually shy but I was a bit reserved about discussing some things with some people. And I never wanted to discuss my vagina with anyone... ever.  Just. No.

But now?? Well, I'm accustomed to being stared at by medical staff and talked about as though I'm not exactly in the room. So I'm less reserved now. On a more serious side, dealing with all of the challenges with breast cancer and constantly reading and learning about my disease and my body has made me more open about talking about a lot of things that make other people uncomfortable.

I bring up vaginas today for a couple of reasons, one... I have been thinking about the connection between breast cancer and ovarian cancer and two, I received some samples of a great product and I want to tell you about it.

What is the link between breast cancer and ovarian cancer?  In case you weren't aware, there is a connection between breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Sometimes a woman who has one ends up getting the other. It has something to do with our genes and the mutations of those genes (you know better than to expect me to be able to fully clarify the science behind this stuff, right?). All I know is that I've known a few pink ribbon sisters who ended up battling ovarian cancer a few years later. *sigh*  Highly unfair and yet it happens.

I tried Healthy Hoo Hoo -- and I LIKED IT!

I concern myself with my vagina and my womb now probably more than I did before breast cancer. I have to. And that brings me to my second thing... Healthy Hoo Hoo. First, yes... this is a real product. Second, it is really quite great. (laughs)

I received some samples of this cleansing product and while I love the name and the packaging was adorable... I was sort of blah about it. I mean... I'm not really the sister to go around talking about how fresh I feel down there. *insert screw face*  That's personal.... (whiny voice)  But as I read the information that was shared with me and then strolled around the website, it all made more sense.

This is good stuff. They had me at PARABEN FREE. Parabens are nasty little additives that are in most of our cosmetics and toiletries. Never mind the fact that they are linked to cancer. *raises eyebrow* Seriously, parabens are no bueno. Our skin is our largest organ. What we put on our skin may end up in our blood stream. And the skin around our vaginas is especially sensitive. So much so that some girls were getting drunk by putting alcohol into their vaginas through tampons. Don't remember that story? Read this: http://www.kpho.com/story/15981315/teens-using-vodka-tampons-to-get-drunk

I digress.

So, now that we're clear that our vaginas are really quite special and need to be treated with care... do you understand how fabulous it is to have a product that is designed to cleanse that gentle area well but without those pesky additives that we don't need or want? It is beyond fabulous. Really. There are a lot of things that I don't do (that plenty of other women do) because I'm sensitive. My body reacts unfavorably to perfumed products down there. But this was just pleasant to use. I felt comfortable and fresh. *gosh I hope I don't sound like one of those sappy commercials*

Anyhoo... check out Healthy Hoo Hoo. Good products. I feel comfortable recommending them to you because I tried it and I liked it.

So... what have we learned today... 

Vaginas are NOT for alcohol-soaked tampons. Parabens are bad. Healthy hoo hoo is good. AND... if your mother comes into the bathroom while you're brushing your teeth wanting to talk about vaginas, you most definitely have the right to be mortified.

**I was compensated for the review of Healthy Hoo Hoo with free samples. However, my review and opinions about the products are solely mine. I was not paid to give a favorable review. There are affiliate links in this post.**


What do you see when you look at yourself?

My Fabulous Boobies| What do you see when you look at yourself? Nic Nac Paddywack
Nic Nac Paddywack profile picture

It's all about the optics -- until its not. 

 I just had a lesson in optics -- about myself. I recently changed my profile picture on Facebook to this picture above. I changed my cover photo and I wanted a profile pic that sort of matched. I'm goofy like that... you can laugh at my neurosis. Its okay.

Since Facebook is a giant snitch - (laughs) - as soon as I changed the pic, I started getting these likes and comments from my friends. The picture change was in their news feed. So, they just commented. Same way I comment on their picture changes. Usually no big deal, but today... it became an entire head game that I didn't completely understand at first.

My friends are really lovely people who give me a very inflated sense of self sometimes. 

The comments were very complimentary. However, the voice in MY head was anything but. I remember the day I took the picture. I cropped the head shot from a larger full-length picture of myself. And I had torn myself apart from the top of my head all the way to my feet. Even now as I'm writing this, I am critiquing myself and seriously wondering why the hell I'm sharing this gawd awful picture.

My Fabulous Boobies| Do you see yourself the way that others see you?

At any rate, someone asked to see the entire dress so I posted the corresponding black/white version of this picture and more compliments followed.

*I'm starting to believe my friends all need glasses*

I looked at the black & white version of this picture. I looked at the color version -- which to me was even more horrific -- and I just sat there staring for awhile. I could explain all the things I see wrong with the picture... but it doesn't honestly matter. The truth is that it comes down to me being incapable of seeing in myself what others see in me.

All I see are flaws and imperfection.

I rarely look at myself -- in pictures or in the mirror -- and like what I see. I nearly always feel marked as flawed. You know how you can go to outlet stores and purchase discounted merchandise because it is irregular? That is what I see stamped on my forehead when I look at myself. IRREGULAR. I know that it is both incongruent and not helpful but I see myself breasts first. And it is not a good look.

If I were to talk to another survivor about these negative self-thoughts, I would probably laugh and tease her (to get her to laugh as well) about how beautiful she was. Tell her how her scars (both real and mental) did not define who she was or how her beauty was interpreted by others. Flawed things are still quite fabulous. The uniqueness that a flaw or a scar brings cannot be replicated.

Scars, flaws, imperfections... make us all unique and beautiful. I know this... and yet I still spent about an hour ripping myself to shreds for no good reason.

Buy a shirt. Seriously. Now.
The comments from my friends brought me back to center. They reminded me that when people look at me they don't see my story... they just see my face. My smile. My eyes. The confidence that my short hair conveys. They see a woman who seems confident of herself, her life, her body, her size. They don't see my insecurities, my worries, my fears.

My friends blessed me by reminding me that I am not what happened to me. Today, breast cancer lost another battle to steal a piece of me from me. I may not be as perfect as I want the world to see. But the picture of me that the world sees is actually quite perfect. Just as it is. Just as I am.

 Flawed & Fabulous. 

Send Danny a card for his birthday

Danny Nickerson, 5 years old
My college roommate shared a very touching story about the little boy in the picture, Danny. And while I don't normally write about stories like this... that beautiful face just touched my heart.

Danny is a little boy with an inoperable brain tumor. He is 5 years old and lives in Massachussetts. His birthday is coming up, July 25... and what he wants for his birthday are birthday cards.

It seems that the kind of cancer that Danny has is pretty tough and most patients have a life expectancy of about 18 months. His mother says that he just loves to receive cards with his name on them because he recognizes his name when he sees it.

You can read the story here:  http://www.kgw.com/news/Boy-with-brain-tumor-just-wants-box-of-cards-for-birthday--267802461.html. But if you feel so inclined, drop Danny a birthday card this week. It is a very little thing to make a beautiful little boy smile.

Danny Nickerson, P.O. Box 212, Foxboro, MA, 02035

*I am not affiliated with this child, this story or the news outlet that reported it, in any way. It just touched my heart and I thought I would share it.

Jul 17, 2014

Stuart Scott gave the best speech on the Espys

My Fabulous Boobies| Stuart Scott gave the best speech on the Espys
Stuart Scott, cancer survivor
Last night Stuart Scott gave a truly remarkable and memorable speech at the Espys. As he continues to fight against his cancer, he is also sharing encouragement for all of us. Even though right now I'm going through my own fears about cancer recurrence... this speech really lifted my spirits and made me cry (in a good way).

He said this about fighting cancer, and I believe it to be true:

When you die, it does not mean that you lost to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live. So live. Live! Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight, lay down and rest and let someone else fight for you. 

Tweet: When you die, it does not mean that you lost to cancer. Stuart Scott.

This statement is so profound to me because so often the metaphor for fighting cancer leaves me feeling stressed out and overwhelmed. I feel pressured to be this superwoman some days... and honestly, some days I am just tired. And I want (need) to rest. So I thank Mr. Scott for these words. He gave my spirit some needed permission to be human and recognize my own fatigue. And to honor that. Without feeling as though I'm letting someone down.

As a survivor, I am going to ask all of the readers who are not survivors but who do still care a great deal for us who fight cancer... to be vigilant when you see a need you can fill. We (survivors and patients) cannot fight these battles alone. It takes our entire support system to make it. We need you to be there for us. So that we can continue to fight to be here for you.

Please let me know what you think of Stuart's speech. And leave a comment below.

Tweet this! Tweet: When you die, it does not mean that you lost to cancer. Stuart Scott.


Jul 16, 2014

Life after cancer: PTSD is real

"The depth of the traumatic experience of being diagnosed with breast cancer, and going through treatment for the disease cannot be underestimated. This journey is not easy and it changes you... mind, body and spirit. Do not let our smiles fool you. We are bearing scars from this journey. "

I was recently looking through CURE magazine and came across a brief article about PTSD in cancer patients and survivors. PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, is often diagnosed in soldiers who have gone to combat. According to this article, studies show that up to 35% of us who have completed treatment will deal with PTSD issues too.

*sigh* I've been through some hard stuff y'all. I really have.

PTSD can be debilitating to your life. It can cause nightmares, anxiety disorders, just difficulty in  moving forward with your life. People with PTSD can be jumpy, irritable, angry and have difficulties sleeping.  If you follow me on twitter or on Facebook... you might be thinking... "hmm... Nic Nac, that sounds a bit like you".  You would be right.

As I read the article, I found myself shaking my head in agreement a lot. I recently had a very tough conversation with my boyfriend about my perceived life expectancy. We've been dancing around this conversation a lot. I have a lot of thoughts about it that I just cannot... or rather will not... share with him. But what I have shared with him is that I don't feel like I have a lot of time. Nothing in my medical tests shows that I have anything to worry about. And yet, I feel like I don't have a lot of time left. Worrying about recurrence is my constant state of mind. I just can't help it. I know the facts about my actual health... I've had some very pointed conversations with my oncologist. I am far more worried than he seems to be. I suppose that's good. I am still worried.

"Angry, irritable, sleepless cancer survivor? Might be PTSD. [Tweet this]"  

The article mentioned that people who suffer from PTSD often have avoidance issues. They have a fear of future plans and often feel that some things won't happen... I hate to admit it but I feel that way about a lot of things today. Reading the article made me really think for a long time. And I had to really contemplate whether or not to write this post and how transparent I would be about this topic. As you can see, I opted for the most transparency I could.

I will admit that most days, I find the perky face of the joyful breast cancer survivor just sickening. Especially when it is my own smiling face and the ever perky... "I'm fine, no worries" response. Some days that just isn't the truth but how long do you burden other people with that? How much of your pain/fear do you really share?

I don't share much. I talk to myself a lot though. I need it, to work through my thoughts.

There are some ways to deal with PTSD in order to manage it and improve your quality of life:
  • psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy) - focus on talking through your concerns with a mental health professional and adapting coping skills to help you put things back in balance.
  • support groups - similar to psychotherapy but in a group setting. Sometimes with a qualified mental health professional, sometimes with a group leader who is trained to lead the group.
  • cognitive-behavioral therapy - learning to change your behaviors by changing your thinking patterns 
  • anti-depressant/anxiety medication - you will need to discuss this with your medical team to determine which medication is best for you.
The intensity of PTSD varies from person to person and many people NEVER ever deal with it. Some of us are more susceptible than others to it. But if you recognize yourself in any of these symptoms, please talk to your medical team and discuss your concerns with them. You may not have to take medication to deal with it. There are coping methods that don't involve medicine that can help you to get yourself back to you.

Links for more information:

Cure magazine| The War Within (cancer's traumatic impact can have lasting effects)

Picking Up the Pieces: Moving Forward after Surviving Cancer

This book has been a great help to me in navigating the survivor portion of this journey. I do recommend it.

Follow me on Twitter: Nic Nac Paddywack

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*Random after thought*  

I watched "Return to Amish" the other night and there was a cancer storyline in the episodes I saw. One of the young men (formerly Amish) had fallen in love with an English girl and she found out that her cancer had come back. It was a devastating blow to her, him and his family. I will write a post about my thoughts about that show, but one scene has been bothering me since I saw it.

There was a scene where the young woman with cancer was consoling the sister-in-law of her boyfriend. The formerly Amish young woman was so upset that her friend was going through cancer again. And the cancer patient had to give her a big hug and console her. I watched the show with tears in my eyes and a bit of anger. This isn't politically correct to say but... part of the reason I side eye the perky happy face of cancer survivors is because so often our disease becomes bigger than us. It isn't about us but about the grief that our loved ones have. And we put on the smiles and the perky faces to try to diminish their pain. When the truth is, we're beyond scared shit-less and we don't know how to make you feel any better about our sickness than we do about it. It is our body that is destructing on itself. I can't hug that pain away for you. So we smile to make you feel better. Or we set out to change the world after our treatment because we don't want you to hurt for us. It is all so exhausting. But... you smile and you console and you hug... because they too didn't ask for this intruder and they too are struggling.

Talk to me in the comments. I want to hear your thoughts about this.

Tweet: Angry, irritable, sleepless cancer survivor? Might be PTSD.

Jul 9, 2014

Reasonable Rant: I have a question about fundraising for cancer

I am NOT sure how this will be received but since this here is Nic Nac's world... *shrug* Oh well. I have a question.

Why do we raise money for cancer research? 

Why is the donation model the business model for funding that we utilize? When did that start? Why did it start? Why do we continue it?

Why do we RAISE money via donations to search for cancer answers? Isn't that iffy?

Why isn't it a priority of every nation that is detrimentally affected by cancer -- and I believe that should be all of them -- to spend money to find out why their citizens are dying or being struck with illness that makes them less productive?

I've read plenty cautionary information that suggests the reason there isn't a cure for cancer has to do with the fact that there is a lot of money to be made from cancer.


Let me be honest... I am NOT the girl who buys into conspiracy theories. I know people who work in the government and... well... I can't see it happening. That said, I think I understand that people want to supplement the work and financial incentives that the government provides to search for a cure. I think I understand that. I don't, however, understand why that supplemental assistance is charitable donations. I really don't.

When I first starting writing this blog in a serious way and started working towards being more active as a breast cancer advocate, many people suggested to me that I should start a non-profit for breast cancer awareness. At first the idea was overwhelming but eventually I thought that it made sense. Until I started preparing and planning... and then it didn't make sense to me. I couldn't make sense of functioning based on donations. Or even grants.

Every year, no matter what the economy does... millions of women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.  Every year. I know that every year, millions more women will need information about breast cancer and to be made aware, reminded of the importance of breast health and proactive health care. Every year.

The work and the needs don't stop. So I couldn't make sense in my mind why this was work that was dependent on the kindness of strangers. Now, there are lots of wonderful organizations out there accomplishing great things via this business model. I wanted to emulate them. But it just seems a little odd to me that something this important and critical, is left to the kindness of strangers... and how deep their pockets go.

Is there a better business model out there? Because honestly... I think this way sort of sucks. But what do you think? Am I over-thinking this? Will a cure be found because someone gave just enough one year to keep a clinical trial going?


Jun 24, 2014

Joan Lunden diagnosed with breast cancer

It never stops being hard for me to learn that another woman has been diagnosed with breast cancer. But, because we don't have a cure yet... these announcements are still far too common. This morning, Joan Lunden told Robin Roberts (and the world) that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

I really wish her the very best as she goes through this traumatic experience. My prayers and good wishes are with her and her family. Another pink ribbon sister joins the sisterhood...

ABC US News | ABC Sports News