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Oct 8, 2010

300 posts!!

Time marches on. Three hundred posts and I'm still here. And you're still here. How amazing is that?

This journey is not at all what I expected. Two steps forward, sometimes three steps back. Joy in the morning and sometimes tears at night. But I'm here.

And honestly, that's what I thank God for everyday. Thank you for one more day.

Two years later... He's still blessing me.

Awesome!

Oct 7, 2010

Grief -- its always just under the surface

Earlier this year, a friend of mine from college was killed. Though we weren't close -- had lost contact over the years since college -- the news of his death hit me pretty hard. A few weeks later, two relatives passed suddenly and I was rocked to my core again.

Yesterday I stumbled across the Linked In page of my deceased college friend and I just broke down in tears. I had to pause for a moment -- I was on Linked In looking at some other friends/connections and his page just popped up. It was eery. I had to pause for a moment and collect my thoughts.

Maybe I was mistaken. Maybe I had confused him with someone else. He wasn't dead. I mean, here was his Linked In page describing his business... making him sound alive and well. Ready to take on the world.

But then I exhaled. I remembered that yes, indeed he had passed away a few short months ago. And though we weren't close, the finality of his existence hit me hard. Death is a normal part of life. None of us lives forever. I, for one, do not fear death -- for myself. But it does present a conundrum for me when it comes to people I love and care for.

When cleaning up some paperwork in my bedroom the other day, I came across the program from my cousin's funeral... and again, I was stunned and shocked. Yes, I know that she's gone but seeing that paper brought it back to me that it wasn't a matter of we're too busy to connect... she really isn't here any longer.

I recently read a blog post about grieving and it hit me that I am still mourning. I am mourning the loss of friends and family this year. I am still mourning the losses I incurred because of breast cancer. And while I have managed to pick myself up and dust myself off each time I've fallen (or been pushed) down... that pain, that grief is right there just under the surface of my life.

The blog that I read mentioned that grief was broken into three stages... numbness, disorganization and reorganization. {Mamaspeak: co-parenting and grief on losing love and finding yourself}

I feel that I am giving the world my "I've got it all together face"... nearly 90% of the time. Truthfully, I feel that its my job to present that facade to the world. Reading this blog post showed me myself in a new way though. I'm smack dab in the midst of the disorganization phase... there are days where I cannot get it together. If you could see my bedroom -- where I spend an inordinate amount of time -- you would cringe. I am losing things, forgetting things... hesitating to do things that I know that I need to do. Its a shame and more importantly... its not really me. A little messiness is one thing, that's normal. I'm edging away from normal and starting to wonder if I'm really struggling with something major. I suppose that realizing that there may be an issue is a start to figuring out how to fix things.

For every victory and step forward... I am human enough to admit defeats and steps backward. But I'm still pushing forward. I do not know whether or not I'm doing this correctly. But I'm trying to keep moving forward. Even if the pace isn't as fast as I would like it to be.

Oct 6, 2010

Insomnia... still

My insomnia is back -- or maybe it never went away. I've been trying to go without my sleeping pills but its not working. I'm going to have to give in soon and refill my prescription (or get some over the counter pills) because I have been up consistently until the early morning hours for weeks now. I end up getting sleep thru cat naps during the day... but its difficult to function when I'm awake and the rest of the world is asleep.

I cannot blame chemotherapy or any other part of my breast cancer treatment. I am no longer in treatment and yet... my sleepless nights go on and on. Seems like there is no end in sight. As I keep forcing myself to focus on more holistic and natural ways to heal and move on with my life, this insomnia deal is really bugging me. Before breast cancer, I was struggling with over the counter sleeping aids... with pretty miserable results. Over-the-counter sleeping pills take forever to kick in and make me sleepy and then are super difficult to shake off when its time to get up in the morning.

Between me and you... Nyquil was a good help to get to sleep (ssshhhh!) but I worried that taking all of that medicine was just too much. All I wanted to do was sleep. So, when I mentioned to my oncologist that I was having difficulty sleeping while I was in treatment, he prescribed Ambien for me. MANNNNNN... that was the best sleep ever! Well, the second best sleep ever. The absolutely best sleep ever is whatever they give you in the hospital when you're having surgery. I have no idea what type of anesthesia that is but it is amazing.

At any rate... I've been taking Ambien for awhile now and the last time I saw my oncologist he seemed disturbed that I was still taking the Ambien. He wanted me to find other ways to get to sleep. So, now, months later... I'm trying to figure out ways to get to sleep without using some sort of pill to get me there. Needless to say... weeks of sleepless nights are showing me that I need to work harder. Or give up and just go back to over the counter pills.

Suggestions are welcome...

Oct 5, 2010

So sick of the sleeve... compression sleeve that is

Many breast cancer survivors wear compression sleeves to keep their lymphedema in their arm (and sometimes hands) in check. You probably have noticed these women around your town and wondered why they had on what looked like an athletic garment. I never thought that I would be one of those women but I am.
The sleeve itself isn't horrible but its awkward and well, not that sexy. I am supposed to wear it throughout the day and then take it off at night. But I actually keep mine on day and night, unless I'm going somewhere and I really want to look, well, normal. Its hard to be a hottie in a nice dress with a long compression sleeve on. LOL... it totally takes away from the look.

But seriously... I'm just sick of this thing. For one, I ordered the wrong color so it really stands out that I have it. I will say that they come in a lot of colors and patterns. But for my first one, I chose one that was a neutral color instead of a wild pattern or bold color. But its boring and I'm sick of wearing this thing. Plus, I don't think its working really. My arm is still swollen and its not going down. I'm frustrated. I can't afford to go back to physical therapy but I've got to figure something out. I can't go on like this for the rest of my life. Back and forth to therapy, always wearing bandages or a sleeve? Just... ugh. Frustration.

Today I'm annoyed at this sleeve and the lymphedema that forces me to wear it. But, I'll smile and grin anyway because being annoyed means that I am alive ... and that's something to be happy about.

I'm doubly frustrated because this sleeve is relatively new and its unraveling, which means that I need to order another one... sigh. Always more money to spend. Being a survivor is just not cheap nor easy.

Oct 4, 2010

I want to wear a pink wig

October is the month where everything shifts... the weather gets cooler, kids look forward to Halloween... adults prepare for costume parties and masquerades... and breast cancer awareness is everywhere you look.

I am not big on dressing up for Halloween. It has not been one of my favorite holidays for quite some time. However, this year, I'm feeling an itch to rock out with a pink wig. Seriously.

The same chick who refused to wear a wig when she was bald from chemotherapy, now wants to bring all sorts of unwarranted attention to herself by strolling around town in a pink wig.

Yep. That sums it up. So... I'm on a mission to find the cutest and sassiest pink wig that I can. I'll post pictures when I get it.
If you know of any cool Halloween parties that I can crash with my sassy pink wig -- I think I still have my Elvira costume somewhere in the recesses of my closet -- let me know. I'll show up... and show out a bit.

With my hot pink wig!!

PS. Wear some pink, hug a survivor, say a prayer for those we've lost to this dreaded disease... Keep giving so that we can find a cure.

Thank you.

Oct 3, 2010

Its breast cancer awareness month!! Yay for October...

October is breast cancer awareness month. It is the time of year where I see more pink ribbons, more pink shirts ... just a tidal wave of pink, pink, PINK! Everywhere I turn.

Sometimes it is so beautiful that I'm moved to tears. Other times, it feels pretty oppressive. The first time I actually witnessed a sea of pink... was at the Komen Race for the Cure in 2009. I was still in the midst of my treatment. I was emotional. I was tired. I was bloated. But I had to be there. And when I looked around and saw just how many people were affected by breast cancer and were supportive of breast cancer... I bawled like a baby.

How can one disease impact so many people? When will a cure be found?

I don't have the answers... only questions. And a deep faith that a cure is around the corner. I will ask a favor of you this month, this year... wear some pink. Even if you don't know a soul who has been touched by this disease... sport a little pink at least one day this month in solidarity for a cure. If you hear about an event to raise funds for awareness or research... give a small donation. Do one thing... this month to show support for the millions of women and men who are affected by this disease.

And... let me be the first one to say THANK YOU!

Oct 2, 2010

Follow-up to my first 3-day master cleanse

Well, I finished my three days of the master cleanse,[trying-master-cleanse] and I have learned something about myself. First of all, I am full of it -- literally. (laughs)  Second, I LOVE to eat. Third, this is really a good thing to do for my body. Fourth and finally... three days just isn't long enough to really change habits and make long-term changes. But it is a good start.

The master cleanse is pretty simple, but that doesn't mean that it isn't difficult to do. I should have prepared myself to do this before I started but I jumped right in. I didn't want to chicken out, so I figured that I'd leap into the deep end of the pool and just paddle like crazy.

That isn't a very good plan.

I updated my statuses on facebook pretty frequently over the past few days with the various thoughts that passed through my mind as I cleansed. To sum them all up.... quitting eating cold turkey is hard and constantly going to the bathroom is gross.

I decided to only do three days because I have plans this weekend that include eating... and I did not want to change my plans or substitute another activity for eating. I just didn't want to do it. But I have decided that I will definitely do this cleanse again, and soon. And the next time, I will push for the entire 10 days.

I'm hungry right now. And I think that it will be a more difficult road than I imagined to give up processed foods, white flour, white sugar and red meat. It will be equally difficult to reduce my alcohol intake as well. But... I'm pressing on because I have to.

Sigh.

I'm not sure if its related but my lymphedema is acting up something serious. I'm a little freaked out about it. I hope that I can reverse it with some self-massage and a few exercises.

I swear, If it ain't one thing... its another.

Oct 1, 2010

Dear Cancer...


Dear Cancer,

In two years, you have changed who I am completely. Actually, you did it with one phone call. My body is no longer the same. My spirit has changed and once again, the trajectory of my future has shifted. Although my medical team did all that they could do remove you from my body... the ghost of your existence remains in my heart. You have changed me.

In some ways I thank you. You removed some of my remaining naivete and replaced it with a maturity and an empathy I have never known. You gave me reasons to be strong that I didn't have before. You introduced me to people and allowed me to make friends with people that I may not have otherwise known. You have placed me in situations where telling my story to someone helped to save their life because it woke them up to the possibility of your existence.

But in many other ways, I despise you. When I think of people who have fought you multiple times and each time they beat you, you come back in a different way, attacking their body in a different place... I hate you. When I hear stories of relationships that you destroyed, I get angry. You are cruel in that you attack without deference to age, race, culture. There is no way to run from you.

I think of you everyday because there is always a reminder that you invaded my body, wrecked havoc in my personal life and scared my friends and family with your presence. When I get dressed and I look down at my new breasts, I think of you. When I'm trying to sleep and I roll over on my arm that is now swollen with lymphedema -- and I realize that I have to shift positions so that I don't further aggravate it -- I think of you. When the mail comes and its another bill that I don't know how to pay, I think of you. When the phone rings and its another appointment, I think of you.

But you taught me lessons that I needed to learn, like how to stand up for myself. I thought I knew how to do that... and then I learned that sometimes the answers aren't as simple as a choice between yes and no. Sometimes the answers are simply risks with variable degrees of effectiveness. I was faced with the choice between losing one breast because of cancer... or removing both breasts to try to prevent your return. I never would have believed that I would be strong enough to make a choice that difficult and stick to my guns, but I was. You are a vile beast, a squatter who takes up residence where you're not welcomed and unwanted. I kept my breast because I honestly dare you to come back. I dare you!

You taught me that no matter how much of a good person you are, sometimes life just isn't fair. You taught me to roll with the punches and keep getting up. You taught me to have faith when it seemed like the sun wasn't going to shine again. You taught me that this is my body, I have to love it. I have to take care of it. I have to treat it well. Because without my good health, nothing else matters much.

So, dear cancer, I am so very grateful that you are gone from my body. And I look forward to the day when you are no longer a threat to anyone anywhere. I now know how it feels to watch helplessly as someone you love struggles with this disease and I know what it feels like to be the person struggling to defeat you. Neither side is good. It is my prayer that you go away and never ever come back.

This is my break-up letter to you, breast cancer.

Sep 30, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Promises to Keep

A few months ago I was contacted by a publishing house and asked to read and review an upcoming book. Since I love FREE things and I was immensely flattered by the request, I accepted the book and promised to review it here.

I did read the book when I received it, but I couldn't review it right away because it bothered me. I wasn't sure that I could give a good review that wasn't harsh or unflattering. I wanted to be honest because I know how much work goes into the writing and publishing of a book... but I didn't want to be mean.

That said... "Promises to Keep" by Jane Green is a good book. And no, I'm not just saying that because one of the main characters is a breast cancer survivor. It honestly is a good book. It disappointed me because I expected the book to be more about the woman with breast cancer and less about everyone else in her life... but it wasn't.

A little background:  Jane Green is one of the first women to step into the chick-lit genre and really make a killing. Her book sales are large and she has a huge fan following. I was truly excited to read this story that was loosely based on her own experiences losing a close friend to breast cancer. As a survivor, I was looking forward to seeing and learning how this disease affects the people around you. In that regard, it didn't disappoint. I did learn how it affected her parents, her husband, her kids, her sister and her best friend. I just didn't learn enough.

Just a little bit of insight about "Promises to Keep":

From Publishers Weekly


In Green's 12th novel, Callie Perry is a happily married photographer with two wonderful kids, a lovable sister, Steffi, and a best friend, Lila. Problems are minor: Steffi can never settle down, Lila has finally found love but the guy has a nightmare of an ex, and Callie and Steffi's divorced parents haven't spoken in 30 years. But then Callie, a breast cancer survivor, is diagnosed with a rare and incurable complication of the disease. Suddenly realizing that she has only months to live, she begins the painful process of saying good-bye. While the subject matter is intense and personal, it's far from depressing; the characters are warm, funny and realistic. Green (The Beach House) manages to create an authentic tale of a woman who truly loves her life and family and is trying to do the right thing for them before she dies. While Green breaks up her chapters with recipes (presumably because Steffi is a cook), this peculiar modern conceit in women's literature feels like a misstep. Overall, Green once again delivers an enjoyable emotional story. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


From Booklist

Callie Perry seems to have it all: a handsome husband she adores, two adorable children, and a thriving business as a portrait photographer. A battle with breast cancer four years ago only made her marriage to Reece stronger, but the couple faces a major setback when agonizing headaches and a frightening blackout send Callie back to the hospital soon after celebrating her forty-third birthday. While Callie's oncologist tries to determine if her cancer has returned, her family rallies around her. Her younger sister, Steffi, a successful chef, has recently traded a fast-paced life in New York City for a quieter one in Sleepy Hollow in order to reassess her priorities. Callie and Steffi's father, Warren, has barely been able to be in the same room with their mother, Honor, since she left him; but news of Callie's plight brings him rushing to her bedside. Inspired by a friend's battle with cancer, Green's story definitely has the emotional heart and resonance to hook readers of women's fiction. --Kristine Huntley

I know that chick-lit is supposed to be pretty light and fluffy... interesting character sketches that appeal to women. But this story fell flat for me. Maybe I am too self-focused to understand but it was as though this woman's death was almost an inconvenience for the people in her life. Everyone had their own baggage and stuff to work through... and while they were sad that she was dying of cancer, they seemed to function okay. Not what I was expecting.

That said... if you're into chick-lit, if you're a Jane Green fan, and if you are interested in seeing how the caregivers deal with someone they love dying of breast cancer... this is a good story for all of that. I just think (actually, I just wish) that Jane had dug a lot deeper into the emotional baggage surrounding the disease and the anticipation of the death of a loved one. I think it would have made a more compelling story. As it is... I felt that she applied too light of a touch to the story. I felt that the person who was dealing with the breast cancer recurrence was the only one who experienced any real depth of emotions and honestly, I know better.

The people who love you through your treatment and afterwards, go through emotional highs and lows on par with yours as the patient. Please believe that. Chick-lit isn't supposed to be deep, I know that... so I think my expectations were misplaced and that's why I was somewhat disappointed with this book. One story that I read a few years ago, about a mother dealing with a bi-polar child... really took me through the emotional highs and lows of the caregiver of someone dealing with a life-altering illness. I expected "Promises to keep" to be on par with "72 Hour Hold".   But sadly, it didn't go far enough into the pain that I'm sure was felt by everyone.

It was a good story but not a GREAT story. But then again, maybe I'm biased because I've been through the breast cancer struggle and I know the impact my illness had (and still has) on my close friends and family members. Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.

Sep 29, 2010

Almost a year after the TRAM Flap surgery

My Fabulous Boobies| Diagram of TRAM Flap procedure for breast cancer patients
Its been nearly a year since I had my breast reconstructed. The TRAM Flap procedure is the method I opted for and generally speaking, I'm pleased. I ended up having a "free TRAM flap" which is a complicated and intense procedure. I chose this procedure because it used my own body tissue and because I felt that in the long-term, it would be better for me. It would have been easier and faster to have had an implant but after all of the breast cancer treatments, I was really leery about having anything foreign in my body. When I speak to other survivors who have gone through breast reconstruction, I still wonder whether I made the right choice -- or rather, was there an easier choice to make. But, its fine now and I really have few complaints.

My tummy is somewhat flat. It isn't as flat as I expected it to be. I thought it would be just ridiculously flat but a better descriptor would be smooth. I guess in order to get it to flat, I will have to do some work. (laughs)  My breast is amazing. I still don't have a nipple yet, but I will have one soon. Surprisingly, I'm actually okay without it right now. The reconstructed breast looks wonderful in my clothes. And its nice and perky (as is my other breast which was reduced to match in size). I often run around without a bra on... and that is really cool. Hmm... I didn't realize what I was missing all those years I carried those super-large breasts around.

The downsides are few... I still have limited feeling in my tummy area. The numb area is much smaller than it was immediately following the surgery. But all of the feeling has not returned to my tummy area. My abdomen muscles are stronger but still not completely strong. Every now and then I'll do something that reminds me that I had major surgery and had some of my abdominal muscles removed. But it doesn't happen often and when it does happen, the cramps don't last too long. My posture is still rather poor. It is better than it was after my mastectomy but I am truly a work-in-progress in this area. The tightness of my abdomen causes me to involuntarily curl at the shoulders to avoid pulling those muscles too hard. Hard to be sexy with rounded shoulders. (laughs) But I'm working on that too.

The additional surgery around my underarm area totally aggravated my lymphedema. It was very mild prior to the TRAM procedure... now, it is the bane of my life. I am so sick of the fat arm... ugh. But, I can still move it around and I'm just forced to constantly stretch and exercise and massage it. And wear my compression sleeve. I am hoping that as I start to lose weight (I'm changing my food habits now) and start to work out more (planning to incorporate some very light weight lifting into my exercise plan), the lymphedema will get better. I know that for the longest time doctors have been telling breast cancer patients with lymphedema risks not to over-exert the affected arm, not to lift heavy objects and all that. But that seems so off to me (and yes, I have no medical training whatsoever but so what). I'm just going to do what I think is best and hope for the best.

My Fabulous Boobies - a breast cancer patient after a TRAM flap procedure
[This is what a cancer patient looks like after TRAM Flap surgery.]
The other downside of the procedure is that while my new breast is nice... it doesn't actually look like a real breast. And there are times when that matters to me. Also, there's no feeling in it. I can feel around it... but I cannot feel the actual breast. If someone brushes against me, or even reaches out to grab me... I won't notice it unless I see it happen. That is not very sexy. (laughs) But, all things considered, I'm more happy with my reconstructed breast than I was without it.

The pain after the surgery is really a dim memory. I recall that it was the most painful thing I'd ever experienced in my life. And I absolutely hated the recuperation period. But, despite all of that... I am generally pretty happy. I chose the TRAM flap because implants require regular surgical maintenance and I did not want to do that. However implants are easier to get initially, take much less time in the operating room, cost significantly less and your recuperation time is far shorter. So they are truly a good option. TRAM flaps are one time options though. Once they take the flesh from your tummy, they cannot go back and do that procedure again. My plastic surgeon was trying to convince me to have both breasts removed so that she could do the TRAM flap for both breasts at the same time. I just refused to do that. I am hoping that I don't regret the decision to keep my natural breast.

I don't particularly like my scars (on either breast) but they don't make me as crazy as they used to when I look at them. I am becoming more and more comfortable wearing low-cut things that show off my cleavage and my scars. I am less concerned with people noticing my scars and asking me crazy questions. The scars on my hips and across my lower belly have healed well. They haven't disappeared which is what I had hoped for but they are okay. It really looks a lot like a cesarean scar except it stretches from hip to hip. Now that I think about it though, I have slacked off with my vitamin E oil/shea butter massages on my scars. Hmm... need to get back on that. It was definitely helping the scars to look better, my skin to look better and also to soften up the tissue underneath the scars.

I am about 11 months from the surgery and its been a good recuperation. I am confident that I will continue to make progress and feel sexier every day. I do not regret making this choice at all.

Sep 28, 2010

100 Foods Every Woman Should Include in Her Diet

I stumbled across this article many months ago and intended to share it then. I think you should review it and try to incorporate as many of these foods into your diet as you can. Its great information. I didn't change any part of it.
~Nicole
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100 Foods Every Woman Should Include in Her Diet

by Olesya Novik



One of my clients, a nurse, came across a “100 Healthiest Foods for Women” list on a nursing website several months ago. She emailed it to me, and I found it useful enough to bookmark — and email to some of my friends, as well. Now, I must say, I did add my own “footnotes” to those emails, as there are certain foods on here I wouldn’t necessarily recommend for daily consumption (bread and soy products being two of them), and I certainly disagreed with quite a large portion of the “Weight Loss” and “Healthy Snack” lists of foods, but I’ll let you be the judge — and I’d like to hear your thoughts on the different items you see on here, in the comments section below the article.

I hope you ladies begin to implement the below foods into your diets. Remember, it isn’t all about eating “clean,” — health should always come first!

The following article originally appeared on NursingDegree.net, under the title: “100 Healthiest Foods for Women Every Nurse Should Know.”

Women’s health needs range from extra iron during childbearing years to calcium and vitamin D for bone health. The following list provides 100 foods that will help every woman ensure that she is getting the very best nutrition for her body. From delicious avocados to tasty snack treats like pistachios to healthy desserts that are actually good for you, every nurse or nurses assistant should have these 100 foods in her care-giving arsenal.


Overall Health

The following foods are just so good for you that they should be a part of your diet to help you stay healthy.

1. Flax seed. This little seed is a great supplement for a woman’s diet. Flax seeds are high in omega-3 EFAs and lignans, an important type of fiber for women.

2. Kale. This much-overlooked green is full of the B vitamin, folate, as well as calcium, and vitamins A and C.

3. Pumpkin. Not just for pies, the beta-carotene in pumpkin reduces the risk of breast cancer and helps your body repair its skin.

4. Butternut squash. Cook this baked, stuffed, or mashed or throw in a soup for a delicious vegetable high in beta-carotene.

5. Sweet potatoes. Don’t just eat these jewels at Thanksgiving. Sweet potatoes are full of vitamins A and C as well as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and iron.

6. Dark meat. Lean red meat and dark meat from poultry are high in iron, which is a necessity for women of childbearing age.

7. Broccoli. Your mama always said to eat your broccoli. It’s high in calcium, potassium, and B vitamins.

8. Salmon. This super food is high in omega-3 EFAs and protein, low in cholesterol and contains quite a few B vitamins, calcium, zinc, iron and magnesium.

9. Mangos. Mangos are high in vitamin A and C and help guard against cervical cancer.

10. Figs. Discover the flavor and benefits of figs, which are high in fiber, B vitamins, iron, potassium, and calcium.

11. Kiwi. These tasty little fruits pack a punch with more vitamin C than an orange.



Skin Health

From high concentrations of vitamins E and A to anti-inflammatory properties, these foods are all great for keeping your skin healthy and young-looking.

12. Avocados. Delicious and nutritious, avocados have lots of B-complex vitamins and are an anti-inflammatory, which is great for the skin.

13. Green tea. Technically a drink, green tea has polyphenols which are an anti-inflammatory.

14. Carrots. Carrots are full of vitamin A, which helps your skin repair itself.

15. Spinach. This vegetable is absolutely loaded with vitamins and minerals with especially high concentrations of vitamins K and A and manganese and folate. It also helps prevent against osteoporosis, heart disease, colon cancer, ovarian cancer, and arthritis.

16. Cantaloupe. This great fruit has plenty of vitamins A and C–two vitamins your skin needs to keep healthy.

17. Citrus fruit. Oranges and grapefruit are full of vitamin C, which helps keep wrinkles at bay.

18. Bananas. Bananas have the B vitamin biotin, which builds healthy skin, hair and nails and helps prevent skin irritations such as dermatitis.

19. Tomatoes. Like bananas, tomatoes have biotin and also lycopene, which helps prevent cancer.

20. Sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds have lots of vitamin E, which is well-known for its healthy skin properties. Taken both topically and eaten, the benefits of vitamin E for your skin are enormous.

21. Hazelnuts. Another great source of vitamin E are hazelnuts, which also offer protection against cancer and heart disease.

22. Olives. Olives provide both vitamin E and anti-inflammatory properties which help promote healthy skin. They are also very high in iron.

23. Brazil nuts. Brazil nuts are high in selenium, which can reduce the chance of sunburn on the skin, slow down the aging process, and aid in the treatment of skin cancer.

24. Cottage cheese. Eat cottage cheese to get lots of calcium and selenium for your skin. Use in place of ricotta in your recipes.

25. Walnuts. These nuts are packed with omega-3 and omega-6 EFAs which promote skin repair and elasticity.


Healthy Cardiovascular System

To prevent against heart disease and stroke, eat these foods to strengthen your cardiovascular system.

26. Canola oil. Replace the oil in your salad dressing with canola oil for a healthy alternative.

27. Skinless poultry. Leaving off the skin will greatly reduce the fat in poultry, making for a more heart-healthy diet.

28. Egg substitutes. Reducing the fat from eggs will help your heart. If you don’t like egg substitutes, just eliminate the yolk and eat the egg white.

29. Cabbage. This vegetable is a great food for a healthy cardiovascular system. Eaten raw is best.

30. Onions. Another good vegetable for your heart is onions.

31. Grapes. Easy to get and loved by most, this fruit is also a great choice for a healthy heart.

32. Raspberries. High in antioxidants, this fruit offers benefits to your cardiovascular system.


Reduce Cholesterol

Getting your cholesterol to a healthy level is a combination of reducing the bad cholesterol (LDL) and raising the good (HDL) cholesterol. The following foods all play a part in either reducing the bad, raising the good, or both.

33. Whole wheat bread. Get rid of the white bread and switch to whole wheat, which lowers bad cholesterol.

34. Oatmeal. A great food for reducing cholesterol, oatmeal also has lots of vitamins E and C, potassium, and omega-3 EFAs.

35. Soy. Soy has been shown to not only significantly lower bad cholesterol, but to also raise good cholesterol. Use soy milk, tofu, or edamame for the best results.

36. Almonds. With lots of polyunsaturated fatty acids, almonds will help reduce the bad cholesterol in your body.

37. Fish. Find fish rich in omega-3 EFAs such as mackerel, salmon, tuna, and trout.

38. Extra-virgin olive oil. This variety of olive oil, which is less processed, will help lower your bad cholesterol and is high in antioxidants.

39. Unsaturated fats. Replace saturated fats in your diet with unsaturated fats to reduce your cholesterol. Try replacing cooking oils with canola, corn, safflower, or soybean oils.

40. Garlic. Raw garlic (and lots of it) will help reduce your cholesterol. You might want to make sure your partner is sharing the garlic with you, though.

41. Cranberry-grape juice. Cranberries raise the good cholesterol while grapes slow the bad cholesterol’s oxidation.

42. Pomegranate juice. According to a National Academy of Sciences study, this juice reduces cholesterol plaque build-up and reduces plaque in your arteries.


Bone Health

Women who work to create healthy bones experience fewer problems with osteoporosis in their later years. These foods are rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and other nutrients essential for bone health.

43. Leafy greens. The calcium in leafy greens absorbs much better in the body than calcium in dairy products.

44. Sesame seeds. High in calcium to prevent bone loss and have copper, which can reduce the swelling and pain associated with arthritis, and zinc, which also helps keep bones healthy, these tiny seeds are a big source of nutrition for bone health.

45. Beans. Beans are low in fat, high in fiber, inexpensive, and have a high amount of non-animal protein that helps prevent calcium loss.

46. Lowfat yogurt. Yogurt is high in calcium and is easier to digest than most other dairy products. It also contains lots of vitamin A and protein.

47. Tofu. Also high in protein and a great source of nutrition for your bone health, tofu is versatile and delicious.

48. Eggs. Not only are eggs loaded with protein, they are also full of vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium more efficiently.


Weight Loss

Losing weight seems to be a national pastime. Rather than jumping on a fad diet, change your menu to include these foods and see the difference it makes in your life.

49. Tortillas. Low in fat, tortillas make a good substitute for bread. Find whole wheat to really get the best for your body.

50. Water. This should be your drink of choice. It keeps you hydrated, suppresses your appetite, and helps metabolize fat.

51. Fruit smoothie. Add bananas, blueberries, apple juice, and wheat germ or protein powder for an excellent food to keep you healthy and encourage weight loss.

52. Whole wheat bagel. Filled with nutritious whole grains and low in sugar, bagels work for breakfast or as the bread for your sandwich at lunch.

53. Romaine lettuce. Give up iceberg lettuce, which has barely any nutritional value and use romaine for your salads and sandwiches.

54. Veggie burger. Filled with soy and other vegetables, this alternative to beef is significantly lower in calories and healthy too.

55. Dried papayas. Full of iron and vitamins C and A, dried papaya is good for you and the sweetness is a great substitute for a candy bar.

56. Spaghetti squash. Cook this healthy vegetable and replace the strands of it for the pasta in your spaghetti recipe for a delicious meal without the carbs.

57. Watermelon. Sweet and full of hydrating water, this fruit is a great food to fill you up without filling you out.



Nuts, Beans, and Grains

These foods provide lots of protein and are a great substitute for red meat. Find out how to add these healthy foods in to your diet.


58. Lentils. These little powerhouses are super high in iron, protein, and fiber. They also have lots of potassium, calcium, iron, B vitamins, phosphorus and copper. Also, lentils have absolutely no fat.

59. Quinoa. Quinoa is a fun substitute for rice and is a great source of iron, which women need in their diet.

60. Barley. Another grain not frequently used outside of beer, it is full of protein, fiber, potassium, phosphorus and iron.

61. Brown rice. Replace your white rice with brown rice to get tons of health benefits including a reduced risk for diabetes, colon cancer, heart disease, and lower cholesterol.

62. Peanut butter. Not just for sandwiches, dip apples or celery in peanut butter for food high in protein and fiber–and a good replacement for red meat.

63. Bulgur. Similar to cracked wheat, but requiring less cooking time, bulgur is a whole grain full of fiber, calcium, and protein.

64. Chickpeas. Throw these in a salad or make some simple hummus with these legumes full of protein, fiber, and folate.



Antioxidants

Foods that are high in antioxidants help reverse the damaging effects of oxygen on the cells in your body. The benefits of antioxidants include anti-aging as well as prevention for heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.

65. Kidney beans. With these inexpensive beans you get protein, fiber, folate, magnesium, and iron. Try substituting kidney beans for meat in your next meal.

66. Blueberries. Full of vitamin C and potassium, these little berries are full of nutrition and reportedly are one of the foods highest in antioxidants.

67. Plums. Available almost year round, these fruits have plenty of vitamins A, B, C, fiber, and potassium.

68. Strawberries. For a fruit that can protect your heart, guard against cancer, provide anti-inflammatory properties, and help prevent age-related macular degeneration, strawberries are the way to go.

69. Artichokes. Get magnesium, folic acid, fiber, and vitamins A and C with artichokes, which can help with a whole host of medical problems.

70. Blackberries. These plumb little tasties are full of vitamins B, C, and K as well as fiber and manganese.

71. Pecans. Full of vitamin E and great for lowering cholesterol, these nuts are great on their own or baked in a pie, cookies, or brownies.

72. Cherries. Rich red cherries are not only delicious, but are high in fiber and vitamins C and A. They are reported to help with arthritis, heart health, and sleep problems.

73. Honey. Chock full of antioxidants, this sweet treat also has antibacterial properties and works well for sore throats and coughs.

74. Apples. Long associated with healthy nutrition, an apple a day can provide heart and brain health benefits.


Super Foods

Some foods are so incredibly packed with important nutrients that they have become known as super foods. Read about these super foods and you may discover a new favorite food that is great for your body.

75. Acai. Known as one of the most nutritious berries in the world, use this juice in a smoothie or drink on its own.

76. Goji berries. Give this latest super food a try. One of these little Himalayan berries has more vitamin C than an orange and more beta carotene than carrots.

77. Cacao nibs. The heart of the cocoa bean, this little bit of raw chocolate is full of antioxidants as well as flavonoids that help your heart and have been reported to significantly elevate your mood. Try some covered in chocolate for a combination of the raw and finished product.

78. Buckwheat. Full of protein and high in amino acid, buckwheat also helps stabilize blood sugar and reduce hypertension. Japanese soba noodles and buckwheat pancakes are two delicious ways to eat this food.

79. Chili peppers. Packed with vitamin C, these hot little numbers also contain antioxidants and help burn fat.

80. Sprouts. For protein and vitamin C, sprinkle some sprouts on your salad or use in your sandwich along with your leafy green lettuce.

81. Rhubarb. High in potassium, vitamin C, and fiber, rhubarb also helps reduce hot flashes in menopausal women.

82. Pumpkin seeds. These seeds are loaded with phytosterols, which help lower cholesterol, as well as omega-3 and omega-6 EFAs and minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and iron.

83. Cinnamon. Containing polyphenols, the same agent in green tea, cinnamon has been shown to reduce blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.

84. Shallots. Replace or use in addition to garlic and onion to get the benefits of this vegetable that helps promote the good bacteria in your digestive tract and help eliminate toxins from your liver.

85. Turmeric. A popular spice used in Indian dishes, it has been used for hundreds of years to treat arthritis. Use it with chicken or in Indian curry to help reduce inflammation due to arthritis or any other cause.


Healthy Snacks

Making it between meals can sometimes be hard without a snack. Instead of reaching for a bag of potato chips or driving through to pick up fries, try these snacks instead.

86. Energy bar. Some energy bars are specifically designed for women such as Luna Bars, which are organic and have plenty of calcium, folate, iron and antioxidants.

87. Granola bar. Make your own or buy some with natural sweeteners for a healthy between-meal snack.

88. Pretzels. This crunchy snack is high in fiber and protein.

89. Multigrain crackers. Eat these by themselves or put some healthy treats on top for a delicious snack full of whole grains and fiber.

90. Rice cakes. Low in fat and calories and full of the nutritional benefits of rice, rice cakes enjoy a long history in Asia as a healthy snack.

91. Graham crackers. Not just for kids, these treats are sweet and healthy at the same time.

92. Soy crisps. These healthy snacks are full of protein, iron, and calcium.

93. Veggie chips. Toss out your potato chips and opt for some type of veggie chips instead. Made with real vegetables and made with non-hydrogenated oils, these are the chips to eat.

94. Pistachios. This delicious snack is full of potassium and healthy fats.

95. Popcorn. Skip the butter and try any number of healthy touches sprinkled on top such as chili powder, a light sprinkling of flavored sea salts, or Italian seasoning.


Healthy Desserts

Finishing off your healthy meal with a giant piece of pie covered in ice cream may be okay every now and then, but for healthier desserts, chose something from this list.

96. Frozen yogurt. Replace your ice cream with a healthy alternative that provides calcium as well as curbs that sweet tooth.

97. Frozen fruit bar. Look for a bar with no added sugar, just pure fruit goodness, for a nutritious dessert.

98. Fresh melon salad. Mix cantaloupe and honeydew with some fresh mint leaves and honey for a delicious dessert that is very healthy.

99. No-sugar hot chocolate. Mix unsweetened cocoa with stevia and sprinkle cinnamon on top for a healthy after-dinner drink.

100. Dark chocolate. Get dark chocolate with 60% cocoa or greater for a delicious snack that can reduce blood pressure and is full of antioxidants. Better yet, try an all natural version like Innocent Chocolate made with organic, raw, and unprocessed ingredients and sweetened with agave instead of sugar.

Sep 27, 2010

Trying the Master Cleanse

Let me start with this... you know that your girl (that would be me) is sort of vain, right? Well... I don't think I'm overly vain -- I can walk by a mirror and not check myself out -- but I do value my attractiveness and would like to stay in the best shape that I can. Its a little interesting considering that I'm also a bit lazy and a lot greedy...

Not a good combination of traits. Sigh. Its worse now that I'm -- gulp -- middle aged and a breast cancer survivor. Sigh. Thanks to my age and my treatment, it seems that my metabolism has slowed to a crawl. All things considered, its a tolerable problem to have. But I have realized that I simply must do better for myself. I can't be overly concerned with the outside and then ignore the inside... so I've decided to start getting it together.

I like to eat. I like red meat and pork... I eat refined white flour and sugar. I do eat vegetables and fruits but I also eat cakes, cookies and pies. I can eat pizza and french fries nearly everyday. I drink alcohol regularly and occasionally I will have a cup of coffee. Oh... did I mention the love affair that I have with pasta? Yeah... I know. That's not the best way to fuel your body. I've been allowing myself the luxury of eating whatever I want whenever I want it because I can be very soothed by food. I admit that I'm still pampering myself because of the cancer and all of the other stressors in my life. But, I have come to realize that I'm doing myself a disservice. In a big way.

I'm planning to cleanse for a few days and then refocus my efforts to eat clean with less meat, fewer processed foods, more veggies and much more water. My health is actually very important to me and I know that looking good is definitely more than skin deep.  I need to detox and cleanse to get things back on track.

My plan is to detox for 3 days and then add more fruits, veggies and water to my diet while reducing my alcohol intake and severely cutting back my red meat. (So sad... I like steak and bacon -- and sometimes I like steak with bacon) I know that I probably won't ever move to a vegan or a raw food diet, though I know that it is better for me than my current food choices. But I'm hoping that I will be able to make the shift to better eating habits if I cleanse monthly and be more diligent with my daily walks.

I hope that I can make it these few days without food. Wish me luck.

Clues for the Pinktober! Contest

Well, so far, I'm pretty disappointed with the responses for my first blog contest. But as I thought about it, I realized that maybe you could use some hints to help you figure out the answers.

Well, clue #1:

-The first tumor was named after a song by Curtis Mayfield from the soundtrack to the movie Super Fly. "_______'s Dead"

-The second tumor was named from a movie title: Bill and ______'s Excellent Adventure

-The third tumor was named from a catch phrase from the original Star Trek tv show. One of the characters used to say this line all the time... "Dammit _____!"

So... hopefully you can figure out the answers and win those great prizes from Hard Rock Tampa. And if you really can't figure it out... check this out: [So there's more to catch up on]

Sep 26, 2010

I have a dream...

MLK on August 28, 1963
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech in Washington, DC in which he spelled out his dreams for racial equality for our nation. That speech moved so many people to realize that we had a lot of work to do to move from where we were at that time, to a place where we could stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity.

Well... I have a dream today. It is 2010 and we have accomplished a lot in our time on this rock. But we have so far to go. I have a dream that one day soon, the words "you have cancer" will not be heard by anyone. I have a dream that the nightmares of chemotherapy and mastectomies will be relegated to the "old days". I have a dream that one day a woman will not be faced with the choice between saving her life and saving her fertility.

Yes, those are my dreams tonight. I dream that the causes of breast cancer will be found and that instead of teaching women to be prepared for it just in case... we can say with no equivocation that if you do this or don't do that you will never get breast cancer. I have a dream that one day our wonderful government will get on the good foot and  take a stand against all of the environmental toxins in our food and our cosmetics and our lives in general... and say enough. I have that dream.

I know that this world is not perfect and that many times we will go through things because it is our turn to deal with something... but I'm dreaming right now that while I had to make hard choices and put my trust in the hands of my medical team... my daughter and her daughter and her daughter's daughter will not. That they will read my story and realize that they are so blessed to not have to face this monster.

I have a dream that all of the millions of women and men who are living survivors of breast cancer... that all of my pink ribbon brothers and sisters... will rise up and say NO MORE. We want a cure and we want it now. I have a dream that a sea of pink will cover this earth and with it bring on the dawn of a new day where we are told the absolute truth about breast cancer and all cancers. That we won't fear backlash from our employers or our insurance providers because we were unlucky in the cancer lottery. I dare to dream that one day I won't have a job talking and writing about breast cancer because it won't be a part of our lives.

But until the day that my dreams come true... I plan to keep talking, to keep writing, to keep praying and most of all to keep believing that some day, one day... all of these tears will be worth it. I pray that my brothers and sisters who have lost their lives to breast cancer will continue to be angels for those of us still fighting this monster. And I pray and I dream... that one day I will open my eyes and never shed another tear because of breast cancer.

Dream with me.

Sep 25, 2010

I sort of skipped my cancer-versary this year

My cancer-versary has passed. The actual date is in late July. I count my cancer-versary on the day that I actually heard the words "you have cancer". The day I received verbal confirmation that the lump I found a few weeks before was cancerous. Two years later and it still is one of the clearest memories I have of myself. I intended to celebrate the date. But it actually sort of slipped my mind.

I remembered it before the date arrived but I could not decide on a way to celebrate it. So, I pushed it to the back of my mind and didn't focus on it. Next thing I know... it was weeks beyond the date and I still had not acknowledged it or celebrated it. Last year, I forced myself to celebrate it. I wanted to be sure that I replaced the bad feelings that I had about my cancer with good feelings about my survival. But this year, I just had too much on my mind and I could not focus on something fun and frivolous.

So... now its many months later and I'm still a little weirded out that I skipped the date and the celebration. I think part of the problem is the date I chose to celebrate. Instead of celebrating the day I learned that I had cancer... maybe I should celebrate the day that I learned I didn't have cancer anymore. That was sometime in January 2009. I'll have to look through my notebook for the actual date.

I never actually heard my oncologist say "you're in remission" but he did say that there was no evidence of cancer in my body. And the surgeon who performed my mastectomy was super excited that when he removed my breast, there were no tumors found.

Sigh. Wow.

Just remembering that put me in a tight spot emotionally. I wanted my breast back as soon as he told me that. (laughs) I thought that they had all made some sort of huge error and I just wanted my body parts back... but of course, you can't reattach it once its gone. Which is a shame actually.

At any rate... for my followers who are survivors... do you celebrate your cancer-versary? And if so, how? I need some ideas.

Sep 24, 2010

My first PINKTOBER! contest

Alrighty... my secret is out... I'm a rock chick! (laughs) No, not really. I'm not truly a rocker chick but I do like the spit and fire that rockstars have. So imagine my surprise when I was contacted by Hard Rock Tampa to talk about their breast cancer awareness campaign. I have "arrived" at my own level of rockstar fabulous-ness!! Yes!

If you're planning to be in Tampa in Pinktober! stop by the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa and check out their specials. The money raised will go towards the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. This is the third year for this campaign and Hard Rock Tampa will donate 25 percent of the proceeds from its Pinktober “Pink Sheets” guest room bookings, 75 percent of the retail price of limited edition collectible Pinktober Hard Rock pins, and 15 percent from the sales of collectible Hard Rock Pinktobercharm bracelets, t-shirts, leather vests, sleepwear, travel mugs, bandanas, and pink-hued guitar-embossed “Sleep Like A Rock” bedding.


The hotel has a few limited availability “Pink Sheets Rooms” available at no additional cost. In addition to having 25 percent of their room rate donated to BCRF, the guest will also receive a complimentary commemorative Hard Rock pin. The select guestrooms will also be supplied with special collectible Pinktoberbathrobes that can be purchased in the Body Rock Spa and Seminole Hard Rock Retail Store, with a portion of the proceeds donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

You can also check out the hotel bars throughout October and enjoy some of the "Pink-tini" cocktails... partial proceeds from those purchases will also be donated to BCRF.

In light of this wonderful campaign and idea... I'm going to have a contest and give away a few prizes (supplied by Hard Rock). Pictures of the prizes are below -- a cute little doggy-teddy bear, a pocket umbrella and a survival kit.

To enter the contest, just write your response to the contest question in the comments section of the blog. It HAS to be in the comments section or it doesn't count. In the case of more than one correct (winning) answer, the winners will be randomly chosen from the group of winners. The contest will close on: Friday, October 1st, 2010 at midnight EST. Two winners will be chosen and they will receive one of each item (stuffed animal, umbrella, and survival kit). You will have to supply a mailing address (after you win) in order to receive the prize.

Got it? Ready? Here we go:

There's only one question:

Name the three tumors that were found in my breast.


That's it. Please put your answers in the comment section of the blog. And good luck!

(clapping!) I am so excited... my first blog contest. :)
Yay!


http://www.seminolehardrocktampa.com/

Sep 23, 2010

Do you think about breast cancer every day?

Someone asked the question on facebook whether a day went by when you didn't think about breast cancer. My answer was no.

While I may not look like the sister in this photograph (one breast,  and one large mastectomy scar, with a visible port and a bald head from chemo)... I still SEE that sister when I look in the mirror. I still feel like that sister when something aches or bothers me and I wonder whether it is a side effect of the cancer or the treatment or the surgeries... of if its a sign of old age, lack of movement, or laziness. When I question my lack of appetite because I'm not sure if I'm not hungry because I'm sick or something... or I'm so overly concerned with losing weight that I refuse to eat many days. Radiation therapy caused my body to swell and puff in ways I didn't expect. My weight has fluctuated so much over the past two years, that I constantly worry about how I look now. The last thing I want to do is to appear sick -- in any way -- to other people.

Because I write this blog and constantly talk about my experiences... breast cancer is always near the forefront of my thoughts. But, not in the same way as two years ago. Or even one year ago. Coming to the end of the treatment does have its benefits, including being able to feel joy even when you still carry the ghost of breast cancer in your heart.

One of my absolute FAV-O-RITE breast cancer survivors recently stated that she isn't afraid of anything because the scariest thing to her was learning that she had breast cancer. Once she defeated that beast, she became invincible. That kind of strength in spirit is inspiring to me. I cannot say that I don't have fears. I do. Everyday. But I push through them...because I realize that they won't kill me. If breast cancer didn't do that then surely bill collectors won't drive me there either. (laughs) Or my pitiful dating life. (which by the way is looking up these days...)

All that to say... it doesn't ever go away. The thoughts don't. But you can still live with them and still function... and still blossom.

Sep 20, 2010

The other day, my knees buckled...

I received some news that nearly broke me the other day. Someone I love dearly just found out that her breast cancer has returned. When I heard the news... my knees buckled. It took a minute for the full impact of what was shared actually hit me. But once it did... my knees buckled and I fell to the side of my bed and cried.

I wailed. I sobbed. My heart felt like it expanded and then cracked into a million little pieces. This woman means a lot to me (I'm being purposely vague because I'm not sure who else knows this news) and one of our last conversations was about how she had just reached her 5 year mark (surviving-5-years-after-breast-cancer)  and we were excited and happy. I remember big smiles and hugs when she told me.

I was happy for her because her good health made it more real that I would have good health. If she's okay... then I'm going to be okay.

But now, she's not okay. When I say that my knees buckled... I mean that everything started swimming around me, I lost focus, I lost the ability to stand... my chest started heaving... I completely lost it for a moment. I crawled back into bed and just cried. I cried for her. I cried for myself. I cried for all the other pink ribbon sisters out there who have heard similar news and just wondered "why me, why again?"... Mostly, I cried for myself though.

Because, just like many of my readers gain strength from the words that I share here... I gain strength from the women walking this path before me. As I see them continuing to walk into their futures, I feel more confident that my future will be just as good. Their return to health and vitality gives me permission to believe that I will be just fine. And when someone you love finds out that the battle isn't over... you get scared.

I am scared.

Sep 16, 2010

The Wig Luncheon

 If you live in or near Richmond, and are available next week... please consider coming to the Wig Luncheon. The event will be an opportunity to donate wigs (new or gently used) to breast cancer patients who may need them because of their treatment. It is also a fundraiser that will raise funds to provide free mammograms for women in Virginia.


These wonderful folks have asked me to come down and tell my story about My Fabulous Boobies and the journey with breast cancer. I am truly looking forward to the event.

If you can make it, I'd love to see you there.

I didn't know that "Boobies" was a bad word

I didn't know that "boobies" was a bad word| My Fabulous Boobies
Risque picture. Probably poor taste. Yet I laugh every time I see it.

 

What do you think? Bad word or harmless fun?


I read an article recently about some high school kids who are banned from wearing a rubber bracelet at school because it has the word "boobies" on it. The "Keep A Breast" foundation sells various items to promote breast cancer awareness and to raise money for breast cancer education for young people.

Since they are based on the west coast, they seem to have targeted various high schools up and down the coast to bring their special brand of art-education-advocacy to young people. Their goal is to raise awareness, teach preventative measures and generally educate young people about breast cancer.

Everyone won't approve of your efforts


Noble goal, right? Well... seems that some parents and school administrators have decided that the word "boobies" is simply offensive. Of course, you know that when I read this story I cringed. I mean... my blog is named "My Fabulous Boobies" right? Soooo... ya know. I think the word is funny and sort of cool. Yes, I know it is a bit risque but offensive? That never crossed my mind at all.

Awareness at any cost?


You can purchase one. Just click the picture.
I have learned since I've been keeping this blog that the word is definitely one that conjures interesting web site choices on an internet search. I used to be dismayed by that when I looked at the stats for my blog. And then after awhile it dawned on me... that if people were searching for sites that objectified female breasts and ended up stumbling upon my little blog... well, that was wonderful! One more opportunity to bring awareness to breast cancer.

But... kids are silly. So are some adults.


I know that kids are silly. I know that they will burst into a fit of giggles and raunchy behavior over the most simplistic things. However... I also know that breast cancer does strike young women. I know that very often young women don't think that breast cancer is something they should be concerned about. I know that until a young man experiences someone in his immediate circle dealing with breast cancer, he probably never gives it a thought. I would think that administrators and parents would be able to see a larger picture than "its disruptive" and allow the students to show their support for breast cancer awareness.

While you're shopping... BUY A Tee TOO!
I learned about Keep A Breast because I saw a young man on the subway one day sporting one of their bracelets. Because I had been toying with the idea of creating "My Fabulous Boobies" bracelets, I was stunned and surprised. I practically chased him off the train so that I could get a better look at the bracelet and hopefully learn what organization was behind this. He informed me that he had received it at a breast cancer awareness event at his job and he wore it faithfully... mostly because it was funny but also because it had a larger meaning.

Aaahhhh... it did what it was supposed to do.


I was planning to create similar items for "My Fabulous Boobies". I am not a parent and maybe because I'm an "old" (ha!), single lady, I don't get what the hoopla is all about. I really don't. (shrug) I think that raising awareness about breast cancer is a good thing, especially when its done in non-conventional ways. We like to believe that everyone knows so much about breast cancer and awareness... but there is always someone who doesn't really understand. Someone who needs to be taught.

Look... I'm a survivor who has a foul mouth and laughs at inappropriate jokes. *shrug* They don't bother me at all.
They are innocent enough to me. But tell me what do you think? I really want to know.





Links:
http://keep-a-breast.org/blog/federal-court-rules-favor-students-i-love-boobies-/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/03/10/breast-cancer-bracelets-supreme-court/6253017/





 *Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this post. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a small commission on the sale. (...and I do mean small)  

Click anyway. Support a breast cancer survivor.

Sep 15, 2010

What does it mean to be a cancer survivor?

Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, I have connected with a wide group of breast cancer friends all across the globe. Many are bloggers like me and reading their words about their journey with breast cancer inspires me, makes me want to be better, live better and just enjoy life. I recently read an old post one one of those blogs... and it really made me think for a long time.

I am a breast cancer survivor.

Before my diagnosis I thought those words were just carefully crafted branding terms... I did not realize that they actually provide power and strength to the people who wear them proudly. There are a lot of people who have completed cancer treatment and do not choose to accept the label of "survivor". They have their reasons and because everyone's journey is uniquely theirs, I respect that. But Nicole... has warmly embraced the talisman of "breast cancer survivor" in her world.

Here's why:  I don't care where I am... or what I'm doing. I don't care whether I am laughing with tears streaming down my face or quietly reflecting or walking the dog... my breast cancer experience is with me. It only takes a millisecond for me to shift gears and still feel the plastic of the reclining chairs at the cancer center where I took my chemotherapy for months and months. It only takes an absent-minded stroke across my port scar on my chest to remind me that I am a battle-scarred veteran. I don't wear pink every day, and I don't wear my pink ribbon pin everyday... but without any labels, or brands or colors... I wear that armor that says... I'm here because I fought to be here.

I have no idea what it is like to be a military veteran. I have no idea what it is like to experience war, to see that sort of death and destruction up close and personal. But I can tell you what it feels like to walk into a large and crowded room with seats that remind you of recliners but slightly different, slightly less comfortable. To see pouches of medicine hanging on steel poles beside every chair... and to see tubes going into the chests or arms of old people, young people, black people, white people, asian people, latino... all sick and trying to get well. I can tell you what it feels like to walk into that room and realize that your learning curve has been so sharp that you can almost tell how far along someone is in their treatment just by looking at their hair (or lack of), the color of their skin and the way that they move. There is a look... a knowing that cancer patients and survivors share and recognize almost immediately. I will never look at a chest scar the same way. I will always wonder what happened, how they are feeling now.

I have gained empathy in levels that I never could have imagined before this. I have also learned patience and courage. I am comfortable with my fears now. I know that they can't kill me... thought they distract me from the bigger picture, the larger efforts of my life. I know that I can rest with them or push past them... the choice is always mine. Honestly speaking... some days I curl up with my fears and just explore them. And other days, I simply don't give them room to latch on to anything in my mind.

In case you wanted to know: 

“A cancer survivor,” ... “is a term used to describe anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer as well as caregivers and loved ones of those diagnosed with the disease.” The term survivorship was first coined in 1985, but was expanded to include family members and caregivers since “no one can survive cancer alone.”
...the importance of a strong support system because as a cancer survivor, “the most benign things will scare you to death.” She relayed a story about how she recently thought a rough spot on her neck may have been a skin cancer metastasis, when it was only a curling iron burn.  (taken from Journeying beyond breast cancer)
When I met with my therapist some months ago to catch up and check in and just make sure that I wasn't losing my mind... she and I talked about post traumatic stress disorder. These days, we hear a lot about PTSD in relation to the soldiers returning from war. But those of us who have battled and scrapped and cried and fought to get through cancer treatment... often have to deal with this disorder too. When you're jumpy or constantly anxious... always worried or concerned that every little thing could mean a recurrence of your cancer... you could very well be struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

In the beginning, it was very difficult for me to accept the label of survivor. I felt like a fraud because I couldn't be a survivor if I was still in treatment. A survivor was someone (in my eyes) who had gone through the fire and come out on the other side. While I was riding through the storm, I felt like I had no name... I was just "me" struggling to get back to normal. And now that I've sort of arrived back at normal (though honestly, it feels like anything but that)... I can accept and even feel some joy that I am a survivor. I willingly wear my pink survivor t-shirts in public now. I am comfortable talking with strangers about what I've been through, what my scars are from (though not always). For me... the label SURVIVOR is truly a talisman with sacred powers. When I think of myself in those terms, I am reminded of the strength that I had and the strength that millions of other people have to dig deep within themselves and simply push forward.

I had to take a few days off from the blog because I've been hearing hard news lately of survivors who have lost their final battles with cancer. And there is no describing how much it hurts me every time someone I know tells me that someone they loved is gone because of cancer. The pain of loss to cancer is a deep one. I suspect (and hope) that as more time elapses it won't hurt as much, won't slow me down as often. But honestly, its like constantly hearing bullets whizzing by. You keep wondering when it will be your day and your friends and family feeling that deep pain.

But, I shake it off after awhile... and I pick up my mental talisman of SURVIVOR and I push forward. So, this post is my push... I know that millions of us are struggling with this disease right now. I know that a lot of us won't finish this year. But I know that until its my time... I will be here. And that's just the way that it is.

What does it mean to be a survivor?

It means that you are frightened. It means that you are optimistic. It means that you are realistic. It means that your faith is deeper, your connection to the rest of the world is deeper. Things in your body may be different... which changes who you are but it is a refining of who you can be. It... is your new state of being. It means that you (or someone you love) went through hell and came out on the other side. You're different but you're better in a lot of ways.

Survivor.

Just saying it brings me a little more peace than I had a few moments ago.

Sep 10, 2010

unexpected emotions around the return of my menstrual cycle

I tell you... every day is an experience on this journey. All of the constant introspection is crazy... I know... but if I don't focus on what's going on inside of myself, I'm worried that I may miss something and end up in a place I'm not really trying to be.

So... after wondering and wishing for over a year for my cycle to come back... imagine my surprise when I realized that I was a bit emotional about the actual return of my menstrual cycle.

Maybe it was PMS or something else biologically related to the actual menses... but I really had a lot of moments where I was sad, disappointed and all around just not happy. I think part of it was that I felt uncomfortable. I had forgotten what cramps felt like. I had forgotten how yucky you feel when you're dealing with that time of the month. I simply had forgotten a lot of the details about the whole experience. And it came back with a vengence... so I was FULLY reminded that it is not a good feeling. Even though it is for a good reason.

It is difficult to describe -- without going into far too much detail -- but I just was miserable for most of the weekend. Physically not feeling well between the cold issues and the menstrual cycle stuff... and emotionally feeling a lot of turmoil that I wasn't expecting either. I still haven't pinpointed exactly what I was upset about... maybe the thought of being able to conceive and still having to deal with the fact that I'm alone. Maybe the fear that I won't find anyone to take advantage of this return with. Maybe the fear that even though my cycle returned, its possible that my fertility did not. I truly don't know. I thought about all these things and lots of other things too... but I shrugged it off and just accepted that one part of the journey has come full circle.

I am more like I was before... and that by itself is amazing and scary at the same time. Its strange... I just have to remain calm and not get too caught up in trying to force things to happen... or trying to force relationships to take place that probably should not. (sigh)  I am grateful that I have decided not to date for awhile... this change puts a lot of pressure on my mind and I need to come to an understanding with myself that no matter what I may think I want, things will unfold the way that they are supposed to.

Sep 9, 2010

I didn't win the contest

A few weeks ago, I wrote that I was a finalist in a book proposal contest. http://fabulous-boobies.blogspot.com/2010/08/i-am-finalist.html

Well, the winner was announced yesterday and she wasn't me. :)  It is an interesting feeling. A little sad, a little so-what... but mostly a lot of confusion. What's next?

I wasn't convinced that I would win this contest but hearing the news still was a little shocking. I am unsure what to do at this point. But I think that I will continue to work on the book proposal and shop it around to find a literary agent. It is a bit scary because I honestly have no idea what I'm doing... but I suppose that I will learn along the way and I pray that eventually the right doors will open and I will walk right on into my destiny.

Thanks for supporting me this far. I'll keep you posted on my progress.