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Sep 22, 2014

Forever young...

I think a lot about what life would have been like if I'd never gotten breast cancer. If I had stuck with that guy I was dating... if I had kept that job.. Or if I had moved to that country. You know... the what ifs.

But then I look at my life and realize that I have a peace now that I've never really experienced before. And a relationship that makes me happy in a way that I can't say I've experienced before. All that I've been through brought me to this moment.

You've got to love that.

I'm a big Jay Z fan... and I have become a Beyonce fan over the past couple of years. I guess since she's become a mother. Her love for her husband and her child... and her life... is palpable. Jay Z (love that dude) found a match with her that I'm not even sure that he thought was possible before. I relate to that feeling so very strongly.

This clip from their HBO special shows highlights of their life. I love seeing happy couples and families. These two are happy together. And it is a beautiful thing to witness.

I am reminded that no matter how hard it gets some days... and how hard my cancer experience was... all things conspired to bring me to this moment. I won't be forever young, but while I'm here I get to experience this and relish the beauty in my life right now.

That makes it worthwhile.


Sep 18, 2014

I want a new look - PURPLE HAIR!

This is 10 years of me. Why come I look the same?

've been thinking... I look the same. All the time. To be honest... I've looked the same for a very long time. It is somewhat disconcerting that I can share a picture that I took 10 years ago and people are not sure whether I took it a year ago or that day. My boyfriend asked me the other day if I was a vampire.

Talk about awkward.

I guess there are worse problems to have. And I will definitely tell you that the time I was in active treatment for breast cancer was NOT kind to my face at all (or my body... meh). I was puffy and bloated looking for 2+ years. Thanks chemo and radiation!

But here I am, years later... and finally... FINALLY... I want a new look. Yay me, right? Well... not exactly.

I have no idea how to create a new me... new look. 

I need to find a new barber or hair stylist that works with natural hair. I found some pictures and videos online of women whose hair cuts and color I admire and would like to try.

I found these pics of the haircut I want. Now... my hair currently isn't nearly this long but this is a cut that I can grow into. I keep going through these ridiculous phases of growing my hair out and then not knowing what to do with it, so I chop it back down to the scalp.

I am really cool with my super-short hair. I love the way my hair looks freshly cut in a sharp taper. But I sort of dig the curls too and this cut gives me both worlds. And I can let it be as subtle (short) or startling (grow long, maybe weave length in?) as I'd like.

Her name is Veronica and she blogs at Pretty Girl Rock Blog. Definitely go and check her out -- she's adorable and has a nice blog. I found these pics at:  http://kinkycurlycoilyme.com/inevitable-change-a-portrait-of-my-new-natural-hair/  (another great blogger to follow if you're into natural hair and stuff like that).

*Isn't the internet fabulous? I just make all types of friends daily... and they give me so much interesting stuff to think about and look at. Love it!

I'm thinking purple hair will be fun... and funky.

So... continuing on this "I need a new look" concept... I've also decided to embrace my inner bohemian chick and get some color. But I don't want just any ol' color. Oh no... that wouldn't be me. I want PURPLE HAIR!

Continuing to scoot around the internet, I wondered if kinky/curly natural girls rocked wild colors. I've seen sisters with the bright red hair. And blonde of course. But I can't see either one of those on me. I tried dying my hair red... ew. Isn't that just a sad face? On that sad red TWA (teeny weeny afro)?

I think my natural skin coloring will look a little odd with the really bright red hair. So, I'm hoping that purple works.

*There's no logic in this. Don't look for any... I've warned you.*

I found this sister on youtube... and FELL. IN. LOVE. WITH. PURPLE. CURLS. She colors her hair often... and gives product reviews and makeup tutorials. I think she's adorable... check her out: Coloured Beautiful http://colouredbeautiful.com/new-hair-color-manic-panic/

Seeing another natural sister with a short cut rocking wild purple hair... gave me unspeakable joy. I'm going to mimic her flow a bit and color my hair purple too. (I looked at all the color offerings from Manic Panic and... I am going with purple.)


So, now you know the plan. I want purple curls on a funky frohawk-ish cut. Definitely different for me. But, I obviously need a change of some sort. Who looks the same for over a decade?

Well... not this girl. Not anymore.

I'll be grabbing some Manic Panic Purple Haze Semi Permanent Vegan Hair Dye and getting to work very soon. Thanks to youtube and google, I learned that these wild colors aren't permanent and they wash out after a few weeks. Manic Panic is vegan and doesn't have the harmful ingredients that other over-the-counter hair dyes have. THAT made me feel better. Cuz ya know I'm not really into putting icky stuff on my skin or my hair. I feel comfortable trying this out. If I hate it... I can just wash it daily until it washes away.

One caveat though... in order to get that really bright color, you have to bleach your hair first. Yikes. I won't be doing that the first time. I'll just put the purple over my natural off-black and see how I like it. I'm sure it won't show up except in sunlight or direct light but that's fine. I need to ease into my crazy anyway...


  • I need a change. Some FUNK in my look. 
  • I want a new cut (not the same one that I've been wearing since my 20's).
  • I want to grow some hair but not all over. Don't want that kind of pressure. I like short shaved sides.... a lot. 
  • Found a haircut inspiration (see above).
  • Decided that color could be my friend. 
  • Opted to just go crazy and get purple hair. I mean... why not? 
  • Is not above thinking that this may be mid-life crisis thinking... don't care. :D
  • Will be getting a new hair cut and dying my hair purple. 
  • Will be using Manic Panic Purple Haze to get it going. 
  • Will share pics and a video once I'm done. 

What about you? Are you doing anything new with your look?  In a future post, I'll share my clothing inspiration looks. Whewww... totally cute.

I think I can be cute and sexy without jeopardizing my health (using bad dyes) or being boring (wearing the same hair cut for 20 years). 

P.S.  If the purple turns out horrible... you may only get a few sad face pics and no video. Hey... just being honest. Nobody likes to look terrible on the internet forever.

PPS. I will try to take a much better picture than that sad subway picture with the little red fro. (I was heading to the barbershop to cut that mistake off!)

Sep 15, 2014

My lesson for now: You are human. Flawed and Fabulous.

Flawed and Fabulous (My lesson for now) | My Fabulous Boobies
The other day an absolutely spectacular quote drifted through my news feed on Facebook. I had seen it before and yet it sparkled and glittered that day as though it was written with my name on it.

I am doing better with this survivorship thing. For the most part, I'm healthy and whole. (okay, minus lymphedema, arthritis and a reconstructed breast) Despite those few flaws, I am perfectly fabulous. Yet... I sometimes feel so much less than that.

I smile often, I laugh a lot... but I get sad. Not depressed but just sad a bit. I think about the past, what my life was like before the summer of 2008. And I wonder what it will be like in 2018.

When my boyfriend and I aren't seeing eye-to-eye on life... I fantasize about running away... only to remember that leaving means searching for a new medical team and the comfort of my safety net and family support. Which keeps me anchored here. The fantasy of the unknown doesn't draw me as strongly as it once did.

That makes me a little sad too.

Then I saw this quote... and I chose to focus on being alright. Imperfections and all...

I am Flawed & Fabulous. 

I really am. Every day more people are diagnosed with breast cancer. Or some other type of cancer. And every day some people die from this disease too.

In between that living and dying and struggling to beat this disease... life is there. Love is there. Opportunity is there to just finally accept who you are completely... flaws and all.

I've never felt more broken than I do now. And in some ways, I've never felt more free. It is odd. And wonderful too.

The woman who penned this great piece, doesn't get much credit online for her words. As a fellow writer and creative spirit, I feel sad for her for that. I searched for the writer of this piece so that I could give full credit to her. Her name is Courtney Walsh and you can find her here: https://www.facebook.com/dearhumancaw/timeline

Flawed and Fabulous (My lesson for now) | My Fabulous Boobies

Buy a t-shirt!

I created t-shirts for this blog, long before reading this quote. But once I read it... I fell in love with it because it says, so eloquently, what I've been feeling lately. If it resonates with you... buy a t-shirt. (You'll be supporting a great breast cancer blog in the process)

Click here to buy a t-shirt:  Truth Tees store  

Sep 9, 2014

Starting your day with hot water & lemon

Start your day with hot water and lemon |  My Fabulous Boobies

For the past few months, I've been trying to increase my water intake. I purchased this great water bottle that I keep beside me all day long so that I can sip my water in peace while I write. It holds 72 ounces and is easy to carry from room to room. I guess a glass would work too but I used to lose track of how much water I was consuming by the glass. This way... I can glance at the water bottle and then feel guilty because it looks the same as it did two hours before.


I have to trick myself sometimes... I'm rather hard headed. And I can get absorbed in what I'm working on and lose all track of time.

This is the bottle. You should get one (just click the image) because its GREAT!

My goal was to drink two of these bottles each day. I have failed miserably at my goal. But I'm still going to try to get there.

Woops... I meant to drink more water.

But... one thing I've finally learned in life... when you struggle with achieving a goal, you don't give up the goal, you try a different path. So, I'm trying something new.

Hot water with lemon in the morning

I love a nice hot cup of coffee in the morning. With hazelnut flavoring and some creamer... man! That's pure heaven. However, I am a slow drinker (of everything except alcohol) and it will take me all morning to drink a cup of coffee. Well... it could be the jumbo mug I use too but still... all morning is too long. And while I'm drinking all that coffee, I'm not drinking any water. Plus, coffee dehydrates you... so its counter-productive to my goal of increased water intake.

I read a brief article about the health benefits to drinking hot water with lemon in the morning and it intrigued me. So, I decided to give it a try. I've been a bit inconsistent with my experiment these past two weeks, but I have to admit that starting the day with hot water and lemon - and that's it - actually is really refreshing AND it sets my palate in the right direction for the day.

Each morning that I've started with my hot water and lemon, I've been less likely to eat something sweet or bad for me. More often than not, after my drink I picked up a piece of fruit to eat... instead of a donut or muffin.


And I've been more likely to drink my water (from my trusty Arrow H2O on the GO 2.2 Liter Beverage Bottle). So by default, I have been drinking MORE water after starting my day with hot water and lemon, than I did on the days that I started with coffee, or soda (bad girl!) or even juice.

Health benefits

They say that the hot water and lemon cleanses your palate for the day and starts your digestive system. This helps your body with nutrition absorption. It is also supposed to flush your kidneys and your liver... as well as your lymphatic system. *does happy dance* Anything that helps my lymphatic system in anyway... I am all for it. ALL. FOR. IT! Since mine is sluggish thanks to that pesky mastectomy I had to have.

Any hoo... here's a list of how helpful it is:
  • Hydration
  • Helps with constipation (The American Cancer Society recommends warm lemon water to relieve constipation)
  • Weight loss 
  • Helps your immune system (vitamin C from the lemon)
  • Flushes the liver
  • Helps clear your skin
  • Fights against bad breath
  • Balances pH levels in your body
  • Fights inflammation
  • Relieves joint pain (lemon water helps remove uric acid in the body which is a source of joint pain from inflammation and arthritis)

Easy steps (I mean, how complicated is hot water and lemon?)

You don't need scalding hot water... room temperature water or warm water is good too.  Add the juice of half of a lemon (or more if you like the taste or are a larger person) to the water and then drink. If you don't have fresh lemons, bottled lemon juice (organic preferably) is just as good. Just use a tablespoon (or two) and drink 'er down.

Drink the hot lemon water before eating anything else for the best benefits. Lemon juice is acidic so it can be rough on your tooth enamel. Brush before drinking it or wait some time after and then brush. 

That's it! 

I really recommend giving this a try. You don't have to be a cancer survivor in order to see benefits from this little habit.

* If you're feeling frisky... add some sliced fresh ginger (or ginger powder) for an added kick and more health benefits.

Links for more information: 


Sep 8, 2014

Ahhhh.... these back spasms!


Dealing with back pains after a mastectomy and breast reconstruction

So, in another episode of "what they didn't tell me before I had this treatment"... I'm going to let you in on my big secret. Well, one big secret. I live with a lot of back pain. And by a lot, I mean... a lot. My back spasms at irregular intervals. Sometimes I can go for days or even weeks with little to no pain. And then pow! My muscles are cramping and spasm-ing like crazy. 

I don't think the pains come out of the blue. Usually I've done something... lifted too many heavy things, played too much with my guy, sat in front of the computer in one place for too long, too many days in a row (usually tilted at a bad angle)... and so forth. I am very human in the way that I am inconsistently taking care of myself in "new normal".

When I had my mastectomy in January 2009, I thought that I would be getting my reconstructed breast a few weeks/months later. I initially wanted to go into surgery for my mastectomy and come out reconstructed. Basically go under anesthesia with two breasts and wake up... with two breasts (one reconstructed, the other natural). But, thanks to the team of tumors that invaded my body... and the places that they chose to live like squatters in, I was encouraged to have radiation therapy after my mastectomy (and before my reconstruction) to be sure that the cancer cells were eradicated.

Radiation would have been detrimental to the newly constructed breast. So, I had to wait. The process ended up being a 10 month wait, living with one boob. *insert screw face here*  If I tell you that it was uncomfortable to try to move about the world with one big ass boob and flat like the pavement on the other side... I still wouldn't be giving you the real deal about how effing awful it was for me.

You say you have one boob and then no boob? Chile...

It was bad. But I got through it. 

I decided to have the TRAM Flap reconstruction procedure. I didn't want an implant. After 4 months of chemo and endless doctor visits and a mastectomy and radiation... I did not want to put something in my body. Not even an implant. But I wanted a boob. I needed a boob - for my sanity. So I researched and discussed it with my surgeon and decided that a TRAM Flap would be great. This procedure takes your own body tissue from your abdomen and uses it to create a new breast. In 2009 it seemed like a great option. I learned about a DIEP procedure but couldn't find an available surgeon to do the surgery. I couldn't even get on the schedule of the local doctor at Georgetown Hospital to even discuss it. And I didn't have the desire to keep moving about the earth as a lopsided girl. Just wasn't going to work.

The TRAM Flap takes abdominal tissue and abdominal muscles to create the new breast. The surgery is intense... I was in surgery for 12 hours. TWELVE HOURS! I was in the hospital for a few days, in intensive care for the first day or so and then in a regular room for a couple more days. I could barely walk when I got out. Barely walk. Keep in mind, your core - your abdominal muscles - do a lot of work for your body; keeping you upright, giving you the strength to move, to carry things, to lift things, etc.

For a time, I walked seriously curved over and I was off-balance. Majorly off-balance. Prior to breast cancer, my breasts were pretty large. I wore a size 36H bra. Yes... that is an H!  Ya girl had some nice ta-tas. LOL... if you're into big breasts that is. But I was off-balance because while I replaced the flat side of my chest with a newly reconstructed breast, it was not the same size as my natural breast.

One side of me was an H-cup. The other side of me was a D-cup. My new breast was about half the size of my old one. And my surgeon would not do the reduction for my natural breast for a few months. She felt that having both procedures at the same time would have been too much for my body. I was, after all, still recuperating from breast cancer treatment. I wasn't as strong as I used to be.

Eventually I was reduced and my balance was better. (Not perfect because the natural breast wasn't reduced enough and I'm still lopsided - UGH - but its not as horrible as it was)  Yet, I kept having back pains. And after a lot of tests, my oncologist concluded that it was just arthritis and something I would have to learn to deal with. So... I did. Deal with it. Thank you tylenol and motrin (sometimes percocet) and thank you heatig pad!

Your back hurts but you can't pop painkillers like candy... what do you do?

The list of can't do's and shouldn't do's is long

I started experiencing lymphedema symptoms after my radiation treatment, which meant new problematic side effects to cope with. I was told that there is no cure for lymphedema. My advice was to avoid lifting anything over 10 pounds with the affected arm, keep the arm covered/protected from insect bites and to wear a compression sleeve. After the TRAM I was told to be careful with over-extending myself because my core is weaker now that some of the muscles have been moved. I'm also learning that hernias are possible and abdominal bulges are not uncommon for patients of TRAM flap procedures.

*sigh*  I thought I was getting a new boobie with a side of tummy tuck for my 40th birthday. Perhaps I should have thought twice about that implant situation. Talk about a bad gift idea (and to myself no less).

So, here I am a few years later, my lymphedema is manageable but not great. I would like to go back to physical therapy and/or find a licensed lymphatic masseuse and physical therapist that can help me to reduce the size of my arm with that fancy machine they have and to wrap my arm weekly. The compression sleeves help but they aren't as effective (to me) as the bandages. It would also help if I regularly gave myself lymphatic massages. I have a great video... just need to take 20-30 minutes every few days and get it done.

My core is weak. I take the blame for that because I think I need to ignore the fearful stuff I was told and that I read online... and get into the work of working out. But I am afraid. I can't lift much on one side, my belly is weak and hell... I'm not that young anymore.

How to cope then?

This is where it all gets funny. When I was looking for answers to my back spasm problem... I discovered yep, that's a side affect that happens to a lot of women. Yep, its awful and it sucks. Welp... you're alive though. That's my interpretation anyway. #useless 
only a few options. Most of what I read basically said...

Uh... I'll take HELL NO... for $1000 Alex.
However, I did stumble across two suggestions for relief. The first suggestion was botox. Yep... the same botox that people put in their face so that they don't look old, can be used to stop my back muscles from doing the spasm dance.

Uh... I'll take HELL NO... for $1000 Alex. 

We're not doing the botox thing. At least not now. The other suggestion seems more reasonable. Yoga.

From the reading that I've done... it seems that yoga is like the greatest thing in the world for me. Unfortunately, I am the clumsiest person I know... and picturing myself doing yoga seems well... hilarious and unproductive. Hilarity aside though... I will be using basic yoga moves to help get beyond this back issue. I'll keep you updated on the clumsy yoga chronicles.

To recap:  

  • I had no idea that lymphedema was possible after my mastectomy. I was told that since I'm young its not likely to happen to me.  *insert screw face*
  • I was told that there is no cure and the best thing I can do for my lymphedema is not to lift heavy things and to rest my arm. I'm also supposed to sleep with it elevated to give the lymph fluid a chance to move back towards my trunk. *insert screw face* I sleep like a wild woman... that's never going to happen. 
  • I wasn't told that removing my abdominal muscles for my reconstructed breast would affect my core strength (or give me crazy tummy spasms occasionally too). 
  • I wasn't told that hernias or abdominal bulges were a possibility either. 
  • I wasn't told that my quality of life after my mastectomy and reconstruction was going to be marginalized by the side effects that I cope with. 
  • I was told to be careful with exercise, but I wasn't told to look for low impact exercises that would be good for my body without putting too much stress on the parts that were weakened by surgeries. Yoga and swimming... coming right up!
  • I wasn't told that because I was a younger woman, it was more likely that I would have pain problems after breast cancer surgery than my older pink ribbon sisters. 
  • I was told by my oncologist that over-consuming Tylenol would be a problem for my liver. However, I wasn't given an alternative plan of action to cope with or offset the pain. I rarely take Tylenol now, unless the pain has driven me to tears. But Tylenol works! LOL... so, I just don't take it around the clock like I used to. 

If you're experiencing back pains after your mastectomy or breast reconstruction... you are not alone sister. Not by a long shot. I've decided to incorporate yoga into my life. But there are other options dependent on what type of pain you're having. Take a look at the links I've shared below for some good information. And definitely talk to your doctor or medical team about your pain management.

Resources and information:

Mayo Clinic - Information on pain after breast surgery

NY Times article - No easy choices for breast reconstruction

Aug 23, 2014

Don't let your fear stop you from checking your breasts

Don't let your fear stop you from checking your breasts| My Fabulous Boobies

PSA:  Your breast health is important

I know that I'm not telling you anything that you haven't heard before or haven't thought about. Breast cancer stories and fund raisers and information and pink ribbons... are everywhere. I know this. You know this. However, today I'm going to remind you to check your breasts.

You should be giving yourself breast self-exams (BSE's) monthly. There isn't a "rule" per se, but it is a very damned good idea. Very.

As a breast cancer survivor who found her cancer by feeling a lump during a BSE, I cannot stress enough to you just how important it is to know your body, touch your breasts and see your doctor if something is wrong.

No one knows your body better than you. 

Life is hard and complicated sometimes. We are always dodging one problem or another, in between the laughter and giggles and smiles that life gives us. But don't avoid knowing for sure what's happening with your body.

About five years ago, one year after I was diagnosed and into my treatment, a friend wrote a wonderful guest post for this blog sharing her thoughts about how my story helped her find the courage to take care of herself. Div wrote:

I didn't realize why I was so scared and quiet through Nicole's experience. But the only way that I know how to say this is to just say it. When faced with someone else's mortality you are often faced with your own. And I just wasn't ready. I don't know if some of us are moreso then others - I don't know if it's because of guilt or fear of the unknown. It reminds me of people who say that they wouldn't want one of those virtual body scans because they really wouldn't want to know if something was "wrong". If someone could tell you when "the end" was going to be for you - would you really want to know? Well I didn't and I didn't want to think about it. I didn't want to think of leaving my son alone with no family (outside of my husband who is not his father) or just not being. I wasn't prepared to face that. And I don't think I'm strong; Nicole often said that she didn't think she was or that maybe that phrase was annoying in some way, but I have to disagree. Strong is the spirit within you that makes you stand up and face the world and everything that it brings you. Nicole has been and is strong enough to not only face these issues, but to share them with us?! Do you know the gift that she's given you?
So I had my mammogram. It was uncomfortable. It was not painful. And it was not cancer. It was a cyst - fluid filled and taken care of right there by the radiologist.

And I wanted to share this and to thank you, Nicole, because I don't know if I would have taken it seriously or gone to the doctor or had a mammogram or checking myself each month if it wasn't for you and what you've shared.

You can read the entire post here (and you should because she's a great writer and it is a wonderful post): "My ode to Nicole" by Div

I'm sharing this with you today because re-reading this post reminded me why I do this; why I keep writing about breast cancer, telling all my thoughts and fears, sharing what I learn... It is important. Simple as that.

Check your breasts this month. And next month. And the month after that.

Do it.

Aug 14, 2014

Are you following #bcsm on Twitter? You should.

Follow #bcsm on twitter | My Fabulous Boobies

Why you need to join the #bcsm movement on twitter

I confess... I do not spend as much time as I once did on twitter. When I was in active treatment, twitter was my lifeline to connect with other people in the world who understood intimately what it meant to be a breast cancer patient and then a breast cancer survivor. From those early days, I connected with a huge network of caring people via social media. It didn't take long before someone realized that there was power in that connection... and #bcsm was born.

A few days ago, I was in NYC with a few other breast cancer activists at a meeting with Novartis* to discuss advanced breast cancer. While sitting in that conference room I was reminded how much I was missing by not staying plugged in to that social media pipeline about breast cancer. #bcsm is the hashtag that is used to coalesce the breast cancer community on social media. The group is a mixture of patients, caregivers, medical personnel, doctors, hospitals, researchers and more.

I've decided to jump back into the deep waters with my sisters and brothers in the breast cancer fight. My reasons are many but they all come down to...

I really just HATE breast cancer.

It is as simple as that. I want to keep learning, keep understanding and stay connected to my friends and partners in this battle. If you haven't joined the chat, please do. I've posted a running twitter feed of the hashtag on this blog -- so you can see what we're discussing at any time. And I've placed the thread in this blog post as well. I cannot tell you just how great this community is and how excited I am to continue to be a part of it. Please join us.

Learn more about #bcsm here:  #BCSM The intersection of Breast Cancer and Social Media

*Novartis did sponsor my trip to NYC to participate in their first advanced breast cancer advisory council. My travel expenses were covered but I was not paid for my time there nor for my contributions to the conversation. My thoughts about that meeting are my own.