Entries Tagged 'Breast cancer' ↓

This Does Nothing for Breast Cancer Prevention

There are two things you need to know before I post this picture.

1) It happens to be October, and so I have done a lot of recent writing about breast cancer risks and prevention. (Want to know them? Here’s what Susan G. Komen has to say.)
2) I was shopping for wine when I took this picture. Even though I was well aware that alcohol increases your risk of breast cancer. By a lot. In fact, only one drink a day is reasonable, ladies — if that. And if you have 4 or 5 drinks a day, well, your risk is up by 50%. True Story.

So, there I was, wheely-wheeling down the Target wine aisle in search of some breast cancer causing wine for a nice relaxing evening on the coach with my husband, when I spotted this…

Really? Really.

For all their apparent best intentions, these pink ribbons need to back off. Enough already. They need to be kept for things that actually DO something to prevent breast cancer. Those things that, would you believe it, raise money for research. They should not be about how much better consumers feel about the products they buy when, in real life, only $ 0.000001 of what they spent lands anywhere near any real research.

“Oh GOOD I can buy this Cuisinart because it’s PINK and helps stop breast cancer! Oh and here’s a pink spatuala! And this cereal box has a ribbon too! Good! We’re protecting breasts everywhere with MY SHOPPING!”

Um, no.

(This has all been said before, of course. It’s called “pink-washing“, but I’m saying it here, too.)

“But we’re raising awareness!”

On an enormous bottle of cheap wine? Don’t insult me. Who are we kidding. Keep your pink ribbons off my booze. I know what that wine is doing and I know it has nothing good to do with breast cancer. I KNOW BETTER. And so should all of us.

Needless to say, I did not buy THAT particular bottle of cheap wine. I bought another brand — one without any cheery health-related logos, thank you very much.

Cheers.

The Gift of Sixteen Years

As the month of October comes to an end, I am sharing my mother’s story as one last reminder about breast cancer awareness. Please read, consider, educate yourself and share.

Photobucket

My mother did not die from breast cancer. In fact, she was diagnosed many years ago. We found out she had a malignant lump in her breast days before her 50th birthday in 1993. The lump was small and hidden close to her armpit – she could not feel it no matter how hard she tried. But it was detected and it had begun to metastasize.

We have a long history of breast cancer in our family. My grandmother, my aunt and my grandfather’s sister are all survivors. They were all diagnosed after menopause and they all survived. And knowing her history, my mother marched in for annual screenings. Did she feel that it was only a matter of time? I think so. And so do I.

But here’s the kicker to her story. She only found it because she had two mammograms. You’d think one mammogram would be enough, right? The first screening saw “something” but they had determined it was only a cyst. Not to worry. Yeah, not my mom. So she went and got a second opinion. She sought out the best of the best. And they confirmed what she feared.

It was not a cyst.

After a lumpectomy and further testing, her malignancy lead to six months of chemotherapy and radiation. And hair loss, and sickness, and depression, and a nice schnazzy wig to top it off (that she often muttered “never looks quite right”).

But here’s my point. My mother went on to survive another sixteen years after her diagnosis. She went on to have an amazing career working with food aid, traveling the globe and trudging through rice paddies in Asia. She went on to watch both of her children graduate and marry and have three grandchildren. She went on family trips and work trips – trumping my father’s record number of countries visited. She lived those next sixteen years fully. Sixteen years she may not have had if she were not aware of her breast cancer risks. Sixteen years she may not have had if she never followed up with a second opinion and mammogram. Sixteen years she might not have had if she didn’t get amazing care and thorough treatment (that she could luckily afford).

My mother may have passed this summer but she was a breast cancer survivor for sixteen years. And for those sixteen years, her entire family is extraordinarily grateful.

Find out your family’s history. Do monthly checks. Have annual mammograms if it is recommended at your age. Talk to your doctor. Consider all of your options. Don’t ignore anything. Be your own best advocate.

oct09breastcancermomweb-page-001

To contribute to my my mother’s Susan G. Komen memorial fund, please click on her icon at the top of this post. Thank you.

I’ve Got Their Back

Sometimes I don’t feel like posting. Sometimes, I’m just having a bad day. In fact, if it gets quiet around here – that’s usually why.  Dragging out and rehashing those feelings here every time I have them just gets old. So instead, I’d rather focus my energy on things I want to support! Positivity! For everyone! Including PMSing mothers on the verge of tears because her child is tantruming but not really since it’s really because her mom died a month and a half ago. Yeah them too. Yay!

So stick with me here. I have some shout outs I’d like to give. Pay attention. Because if I do say so myself, they are truly worth your attention.

Never Too Late For College

A good blogging friend and I both have background in college administration. She is from the guidance side of things and I spent many years working in college admissions. So one day we got to talking and she had a fabulous idea of starting a site where she could post content supporting students who have decided to return college. People like us with families and jobs and busy lives who might also be looking to pursue a degree. And like us, these very same people are probably stressed about how they will squeak one more thing into their lives, how will they afford it, how long will it take. Her site is brand new but I do think she is on to something there. I hope to guest post soon and support her any way that I can. If you are thinking about going back to school and are concerned about how you will balance it all – go check out Never Too late For College. Give Mary a shout out – she has some amazing content on there right now.

Savvy Source in Tampa- Join!

If you’ve done any background stalking on me (like checking out the buttons posted to the right), you’ll know I’ve been working for Savvy Source for the past year. I post about events, activities, and general fun things happening in Tampa for preschool aged kids. Recently, our site had a make-over and we are now introducing a very cool option for our readers. For those who join (which is FREE), members can personalize the site to their children’s interests. Also we (well not ME but the Savvy Source brains behind all of this) have added a new social networking feature. In fact we have a Tampa area group and I (clearing my throat, looking quite proud) am the moderator. What does that mean? Well, I’m in charge of the party and will be doing my damnedest to bounce any spammers or lame-os who disrespect any great conversations happening. If you’re a parent living in Tampa – JOIN! I need someone to talk to…

Cancer Sucks. Children with Cancer Sucks Even More.

Did you know that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month? No? Well, its time you did. Click on over there and meet Peyton and her mom Anissa. Cancer happens all the time, and it happens all the time to babies and children who don’t get why they spend months in and out of hospitals, getting poked and feeling horrid. And then when they’re better, no one is ever sure it won’t come back. And have you ever thought of what kind of effects the drugs that put children into remission might have on a child’s development? And how does a mother cope wondering when the next shoe might drop. Remission. It sounds an awful lot like the word dormant. Quiet for now but who knows? Be aware, learn, share, donate.

My Mom

And while I’m having one of those “on the verge of tears days”, I may as well give a shout out to the Susan G. Komen Foundation where I’ve set up a memorial fund for my mom. She was in remission from cancer too – for 15 years. Sure, she didn’t die from breast cancer but she was extraordinarily changed by it. She knew it could come back at any moment. She knew we needed to stay proactive about cancer and do what we can to beat it. She participated in walks, she was a part of many research groups, she did her part. So, yeah, she didn’t die from cancer but she cared about it. So I care about it. And have set up this memorial in her name.
Photobucket

All right, my friends. Thanks for reading. I hope you’ve checked out these sites and learned a little something. Now back to what you were doing and I’ll get back to wallowing for as long as I can before someone who claims he’s potty trained decides – for today only – why bother?

Yes, I Blogged my Mammogram

mammogram

Well, we’re still talking about the girls here on Morningside Mom. As you know, I have been stressing about a mystery pain in rightie, so I went to the doctor last week. Two days ago, I had a mammogram. And in the name of promoting breast health everywhere (well… at least here on this humble little blog), I just gotta do it. I gotta blog the whole dang experience.

Now I shouldn’t get you too pumped up. It honestly wasn’t nearly as heart stopping of an experience as its reputation might lead you to believe. I think it took longer to fill out the paper work than to actually go through the entire mammogram itself. No, in fact, I am sure it did. But I do think it is worth sharing how its done. There are plenty of friends of mine who have yet to have their first. And I also think there are plenty of women who are afraid of going through with one. As my dear blogger friend Ilinap has described it, “who wants to go have a car door slammed on your breasts?” While I had a good laugh at her description, I swear on my left breast (the good one) that it’s really not that bad. So here we go…

Once my paper work was completed, I waited. And there is no doubt about it. Even though this was my second rodeo (I had a baseline mammorgram at 32 due to my family’s history), I was nervous. In fact, I had been nervous all day. What if while their scanning, the tech sees something? What if the tech, calls the radiologist and the radiologist calls a doctor and they all mumble in hushed tones from across the room behind my file, glancing over at me now and then, shaking their heads back and forth? What if? So I was all kinds of worked up.

And do you know the most irksome part of the whole process? I couldn’t wear any deodorant (powders and lotions are not allowed either). So there I sat in the waiting room, my stomach a pit of nerves, and generally feeling “not so fresh”. Thank goodness it is Florida’s version of winter. Can you imagine getting a mammogram in the dead of summer?

But I digress.

So, after staring at the same page in my book for about 10 minutes, the tech opened the door and called my name. In I went and I followed her to a dressing room where she asked me to take my top half of clothing off and put on a pepto-bismal pink gown, opening in the front. Once dressed, she lead me into the room where the mammography machine loomed before me. Ok, I am being dramatic. It was just a machine – a digital x-ray machine actually – that stood taller than myself, and across the room was a monitoring station where the technician can view each digital image.

It was thankfully fairly warm in the room. The technician was very kind and professional. She led me right up to the machine and asked me to lean forward while she adjusted the machine to my height. There is a horizontal plate that is chest hight and then there is a plastic plate above which is lowered down also.

Now, all I did was stand there. She did the adjusting and arranging. To get a good, comprehensive picture, every bit of me needed to be resting on that plate. And… well… let’s just say it didn’t take very long to get me all on there.

Once I was set, the plastic plate above was lowered slowly. That’s where the “car door” analogy comes in. But there isn’t any slamming. Its just lowered enough to… pancake you a bit.

How does it feel? How did I react? Well, it didn’t hurt. At all. Neither mammogram that I’ve had have hurt. But both times, my reaction has been to giggle. Its all a very strange situation, you know? And I would advise you not to do what I did and look down at the plastic square pancaking your chest. Oh goodness. I had to bite down on my cheek to keep from breaking into a long belly laugh. You know that “face pressed up against the glass” kind of look? Yeah, it’s worth a laugh in my book.

She took two pictures of each breast. I got the “pancake” first horizontally and then vertically. After each take, she checked the monitor (I assume) to be sure that the picture was clear. Once she was done, she lead me back to the dressing room to wait while she spoke to the radiologist. She said that she wanted to be sure he didn’t need any other shots taken before she could let me go.

Ok. So I sat again. And my wheels starting turning again and my heart rate jumped right back up. And I stared at the same page in my book. If the radiologist wants to take more shots, that must mean they see something… Right? So they are looking right now. They could see something at this very moment…

“You’re all set!” They didn’t need any more pictures? I was free to go? Ha! As I got dressed, I rationalized that this meant one of two things. Either there was a mass there so obvious that no further pictures were needed. Or there was nothing there that the radiologist could see. Or. The radiologist wasn’t very good at his job and he missed something that is there after all! There goes the heartbeat again. Cheese and crackers, get me home to me deodorant.

So that was that. Not so bad, I swear to you. I am going to call my doctor by the end of the week if I haven’t heard anything. I usually assume that no news is good news – but still. Peace of mind is a very valuable thing. Obviously, since I felt nothing and he felt nothing and the radiologist (assuming he or she is capable) didn’t need more shots, I am assuming all will be well. As always, I will keep you posted.

Now to those of you who have put off your mammograms? Make an appointment already. It’s not so bad. Besides, you could probably use a good laugh.

Further desciptions and FAQs about mammograms can be found here:

 

***UPDATE***

Best words ever to read in a letter from a Radiology facility:

“NO MAMMOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE OF CANCER”

Minding My Mammaries

self-exam

Breasts are strange things. As the ultimate feminine accessory, they make outfits fit better, give us fabulous curves and restore wavering confidence. They can be worn to be oggled or stuffed away in a t-shirt and overlooked. Miraculously, after our bodies mix some crazy internal hormonal cocktail, these “accessories” can become endless kegs of milk at the ready for an infant looking to party into the wee hours. And then of course, they can be objects of intense and sobering concern.

I had a wonderful Christmas filled with family, fun, children and food. Even my breasts got a piece of the action. My mother took me to buy two new bras from Victoria Secret. Now you must understand. My underwear is the least of my concerns. I have two boys – I am focused on them and dinner and bills and keeping gas in the car. Fancy bras just seem silly and frivolous. And I hadn’t bought a new bra since before my two year old was born. I mean, get real. My other ones seemed just fine - they kept the girls in check and who needs all the lace, the fra-la-la and the frippery anyway.

But into Victoria’s Secret we stepped. And I found the BEST. BRA. EVER. I am now the proud owner of two Angel Airbras. Putting one on does not *poof* turn me into Heidi Klum. (Snorting my morning tea as I write this…) Yeah, not at all. But you know what? They have truly given me a little pep in my step. What an unexpected and welcome surprise to be sure. For so long, I have overlooked the shape of my chest thinking there is really nothing more I can do to give the girls any more “oomph” at this point. But whadda ya know. I have got myself a little “oomph” afterall. Again, there is no miracle involved. And similar to my wee but rallying chest size, the change is so subtle it may not be even apparent to the naked eye. But *I* notice a change and *I* feel better about myself. And that is worth its weight in gold. So here I write, smugly puffing out my somewhat puffy – but better shaped – chest.

(UPDATE: Read my post here about this so called “BEST BRA EVER”. Unfortunately this bra has hurt more than helped me.)

However, in the midst of this little breast ego trip, I have been quietly concerned. You see, something seems a little …off… with one of my breasts. It’s probably no big deal. No lumps (phew, phew, phew, phew) but one is sore and just feels a bit different. I don’t understand why there would be any pain in one and not the other. I had convinced myself over the past couple weeks that maybe I had pulled a muscle from coughing or from running. But its still there. One boob. And I’m “aware” of it.

Honestly, I am fairly sure this is an over-reaction. But my over-reaction is comparable with a knee jerk reaction whenever “irregularity” and my breasts are concerned. With my family’s breast cancer history, I am am perpetually on watch – wondering when my turn is up. I almost don’t consider breast cancer an “if”, I consider it a “when”. So if something now seems awry - well, it’s time to ready the girls. Even as they are tucked peacefully in their padded lace, we need to prepare for anything. We’ll see what the doctor says in a few days but, in the meantime, here’s to hoping I am making a mountain out of a molehill… so to speak.

So, if I were to turn this post into a public service announcement, what would it be? Um, how about: “Don’t ignore your breasts”. Breast cancer is a real possibility for every woman. And ignoring something “not quite right” is never the answer. If you’re worried, just call your doctor. Rather walk back to your car after your appointment, hugely embarrassed, but with healthy mole hills than find out too late that your molehills are actually mountains.

And certainly don’t ignore your girls and forget to give them a fancy, fabulously supportive bra once in awhile. It’s good for them, it’s good for you, things fit better, you look better, it’s just a good idea all around.

Be well, my friends. I’ll keep you posted.

**Update**

No lumps. Phew. Next stop? I get to have a  mammogram next week. And I am even kind of looking forward to it. Once again, I’d rather over-react than not react. Plus… I’m gonna blog the whole experience anyway. In an effort to promote further boob health to all my readers, stay tuned for a breast by breast walk through of what a mammogram is really like. Don’t expect any pictures though…

My Baby Belly Battle

strongest-man

I loathe my baby belly.

And all the mother’s out there who have given birth to their children know exactly what I mean. It’s that tire of flabbed out muscle and mushy fat left over from carrying watermelon sized babies around in your abdomen. And even after you’ve breastfed both children (hoping they suck off the extra pounds), even after you patiently wait out the old mantra “9 months in, 9 months out”, even after everything else seems to have gone back to where it was… (eh… pretty much… good enough at least… if you squint with one eye… after your contacts are out) - that baby belly stays right with me like some trusty sidekick. It just won’t quit. It’s as if your abdomen is thinking “Hey, hanging out here in the wind really ain’t so bad after all. If it works for Homer Simpson, it works for me.” And you are left avoiding the empire waisted shirts or anything remotely maternity-ish for fear that if you wander too close to a Babies R Us, you’ll hear a squealed “ooooh, when are you due???” I’m not exaggerating either. It’s happened to me.

So I really loathe my baby belly. And I swear to you. I am not getting all vain here either. Honestly. I am not all into losing weight or getting some hard, Linda Hamilton type of bod. No way, being stacked like that just doesn’t get me that fired up. My body is my body, take it or leave it. All I reeeeally want to do is wear jeans WITHOUT the muffin top - do you catch what I’m saying?

So back to that damned baby belly. I want it gone. And how do I do that? Hold on to your hats folks, its a totally crazy concept for me. Here it comes… Exercise.

BOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Hiiiisssssssss…. virtual rotten tomatoes are being lobbed at such a concept.

But, heres the thing. Or irony of it all. I have a college coach for a husband. And he majored in – of all things - P.E. (For real, he did. Side bar I know, but he actually took college classes in badminton and ballroom dancing and teaching kids how to play kickball. And he ALSO took a lot of nutrition and physiology classes. Hence my perfect resource.) It’s crazy really. I had to marry a guy who is so damn physically gifted - athletics, sports, and physical fitness come as naturally as breathing for him. So, yeah, he certainly knows what it takes to get my flabby midsection back in the saddle again. I have an expert living right along next to me.

But can I also mention WHY I love my husband dearly? Because he NEVER, and I mean NEVER, has suggested I work on my belly by the way. He could care less if I do. He loves me as is. But when I ask questions, he is happy to provide information. Score for me.

So. Finally. I asked that husband of mine what I need to do to get my baby belly to bugger off. And he said two things. Aerobic exercise and toning my ab muscles.

(And then there is a third. Eat better. Whatever. Pass the Halloween candy.)

Huh. Now lets back the truck up a bit here. I hate exercise. (Hence those lobbed tomatoes.) I was the dorky, awkwardly tall, uncoordinated kid in bad glasses who dreaded P.E. I have not one ounce of competitiveness in me. And so when a soccer ball hit me square in the face at age 6 and my glasses went flying – I cashed it in. I mean, ow. That hurt. I could care less which net the ball got into. Exercise, sports, getting all sweaty = NOT. FOR. ME.

Well, at the ripe age of 35 and after having two large boys, exercise is no longer optional. If I don’t want to look like a potato with toothpicks sticking out of it, I better get off my ass. (Note: yeah, yeah, I am sure I am exaggerating. While I may not look exactly like said potato, I feel like said potato – and THAT, my friends, is JUST as bad in my book.)

And let’s not forget that studies have proven that exercise lowers a woman’s risk of breast cancer – which my mother has had. And weight bearing exercise will build my bones now and help me avoid osteoporosis – which my mother has. It’s time to get out the door and get it done.

So after all this whining about my baby belly, what have I started doing about it? How do I get to work on kicking its ass when I have a coach husband who never works regular hours like 9 to 5 and is often gone weekends? When I don’t have the extra cash to join the Y (with the baby sitting included)? When I don’t have any fancy stair master in some personal gym in the basement? How do I commit to cardio and toning? This is what I do.

1) Do I have a half hour? Yup. All I ask myself is to spend a half hour of my day doing something that raises my heart rate above “yawn, stretch, thump, wassup, oh yeah right, thump“.

2) If I am by myself, I get out the door and walk. Fast. With music. Walk, walk, walk.

3) If I am by myself, can I dare myself to run, just a little bit? Yup. It sucks, but I get done faster.

4) If I have the kids, can I drag or push them in any way? I don’t have a jogging stroller but pushing a heavy sit-n-stand or pulling 75 pounds of children in wagon has gotta give me some kind of work out.

5) Can’t leave the house? Out comes my jump rope in front of the TV

6) Ab time? Groan. I ask myself to do 80 sit ups, 20 jack knifes and some minimal core work. That’s it.

So its not much, right? But its more than what I was doing. A LOT more. And the funny part is that its actually becoming addicting. I can’t wait to get out and do it – even if it SUCKS while I’m doing it. But I will do whatever I can to get out there.

This is all so UN-me, I am telling you. Like today, me, dragging that wagon full of my kids. Even trying to run while pulling it. I swear I must have looked like I was in The Worlds Strongest Man (Or World’s Lamest Mom) competition. You know, when they are pulling a car behind them? That was me and that wagon trying to run but really barely getting anywhere. It kicked my ass, I am telling you. And probably offered my neighbors some comedy in their day.

But I’m doing it. I’m trying.

Do I see any difference? Nope, not yet. No idea if I’m losing weight because I don’t care about that (I don’t even own a scale, I think they’re evil). I still have my tried and true muffin top rockin out of my jean top. But I remind myself that it can’t happen over night. (Not with that lovely, delish bowl of Halloween candy sitting right here besides me as I type this. Oh no.)

But I’m doing it. I’m trying.

Join an Army of Women.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and, obviously, I am anxious to spread the word about important causes or new initiatives. This one really caught my eye. Have you head about it?

Dr. Susan Love has recently started the Army of Women initiative. She believes that the answer to finding a cure for Breast Cancer lies entirely in research. Simply doing more research will give all of us important answers – and potentially even a cure.

However, to do research, doctors need participants. The issue? There are not always participants available for research, whether it be the number of women or the right demographic of women available to deem a study’s results significant or successful. And while they would like to see women with breast cancer participate, this project is about every woman. They need women from every background, with or without a history of breast cancer, of all different ages and races, found all over the United States (they do hope to find volunteers internationally in the future).

So, to find the numbers and types of participants needed for research, Dr. Love has started the Army of Women project. It is simply an opporitunity for women like you and I to truly make a difference as researchers find a cure for Breast Cancer. All we need to do is sign up and wait. In a few months, they will email us information about local research projects. If we would like to participate, we can. If we don’t feel up to getting involved in that particular study, we don’t have to. It is always our choice, we self select ourselves for whichever study we would like to be involved in. Regardless, this initiative will offer researchers a database filled with thousands of women. In fact, they are aiming for over 1,000,000 registrants. Pretty cool, huh?

An Army of Women may seem familiar to you. Did you see them on the Today Show? If not, watch it here. Dr. Love does a fantastic job explaining the goals of this project and how get involved.

(Forgive me as I offer a quick sidebar here, it will only take a sec.)

Surprisingly enough, back in the day, I was a science major. I spent hours involved with, participating in or reading about research. At the start of one of my very first research classes, a favorite professor gave all of us wise advice. Reminding me a bit of Gandhi, she said something to the tune of: “If you want to see change happen, if you want to see results, if you want answers - you need to be a part of the process that makes it happen. If you are ever asked to be a part of research, take the time, respond, do the survey, offer yourself. Your time will mean results and evidence. And ultimately, it could mean answers to important questions. Always participate.” And since then, if I get a market research questionnaire, a pop up, a phone call asking me to rate my experience on a scale between 1 and 10, I do it. It is our responsibility to find the answers to our problems. And breast cancer is one heck of a problem. If your involvement in research brings us one step closer to a cure, you would do it, right?

So, I am hoping you are interested. If you would like to sign up and join the Army of Women, click here and register yourself. It’s very quick. Honestly, being the science dork that I am, I’m excited to see what sorts of studies come my way. But more than that, I am excited to actually be able to DO something. No more waiting around, lets all jump in there – a whole army of us – and stop a cancer that kills 110 women every day.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

- Gandhi

Cancer. Get Up, Stand Up.

SU2C

In the spirit of Stand Up to Cancer today (click above and learn more), I am posting the story of cancer in my family. It is probably no different than the stories of cancer in your families. It seems Cancer affects all of us in some way. Daily, we live with screenings, lumps, scares, treatments, survivals, and deaths. My story can be lined up next to my neighbor’s whose sister in law is undergoing serious treatment for breast cancer, my playgroup friend whose husband recently made it through testicular cancer, and my childhood friend who recently and very suddenly lost his mother to breast cancer. My story is just another story; unfortunately cancer is among all of us.

Growing up, my family traveled and lived abroad – at times for as long as 5 years. My father worked for the State Department and, before we could leave to any country, we were expected to endure a litinay of health tests before we were cleared. Once cleared, the government allowed us 2 years of travel before having to come back to the U.S. for another health screening.

In 1992, my family went through the paces of our screening. I have explained before that my family has a long history of breast cancer. My mother knew her chances of finding a lump after menopause would be high. And due to her health history, my mother had her annual mammogram. This time a very small mass was found. These doctors, however, cleared her for travel. They were convinced this lump was nothing to be concerned with.

My mother knew better.

She had another mammogram and sought out a second opinion. Indeed, the lump was something to be concerned with. Not only was the lump cancerous but it was starting to metastasize - there was a threat this cancer would spread shortly. My mother had a lumpectomy and her lymph glands in her arm were removed. She experienced radiation and more than 6 months of horrible chemotherapy. She lost her hair, her body struggled, it was a very difficult time. She beat it, however, and has been in remission now for 15 years. 

But let me be very clear about one point. If she had not been pro-active about her health, had accepted her health clearance, and then lived abroad for another two years with her lump ignored, she may not be with us today. We all must be our own health advocates. Ask questions, get second opinions. This is your body not your doctor’s.

While fairly minor, I have also had my own cancer scare. At 28, precancerous cells were found on my cervix. A quarter sized portion of my cervix was removed. Needless to say, as soon as I was healthy, my husband and I started a family. If those cells were to return, I didn’t want to have to lose anymore “quarter sized” portions of my cervix before my babies were born. And you can be sure that I never postpone my annual PAP smear – and so far so good.

Now that I’ve shared these personal stories of mine, I am guessing you are thinking about your own experiences. Like I said, my story is one of millions, and we are at least grateful for our healthy outcomes.

Tonight, take the time to watch Stand up to Cancer. It’s Friday night for crying out loud. Nothing else is on anyway. Think about what you can do to Stand up to cancer.

What, you don’t think that there is anything we can do?

Watch this amazing story about a cancer survivor who did stand up to cancer. My mother stood up to cancer, she survived. Even if we aren’t fighting with cancer personally, by having annual PAP screenings, doing breast or testicular exams, and following up with our own health care on a regular basis, we are all standing up to cancer.

Wishing you health and peace today.

Holding on to my Breasts.

This week, Christina Applegate shared with the public that she has undergone a prophylactic double mastectomy. A month ago, she confirmed that she did have breast cancer and also tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation, which means she may have as high as an 85% chance of developing breast cancer and a 55% chance of developing ovarian cancer. Yikes. So Christina chose to have both breasts removed to assure her recovery from breast cancer; she is also beginning the long and painful process of breast reconstruction. (An excellent and informative article about Christina’s process of a double mastectomy and reconstruction can be found here. Please read!)

I have to say, reading about her choice has had me sitting and thinking.

(Sidebar: What is it about hearing “real life” stories from a celebrity that makes something like breast cancer more real? I am kind of annoyed at myself for that but, regardless, she got me thinking about my boobs again.)

You all know I have a special little closet in the back of my mind where I store all of my breast cancer stress. So, Christina and her recent news have led me back to my little closet to nervously peer inside there once again.

Hi boobs of mine! How ya doing? Ok. So. Any lumps today? (Quick self exam… no lumps… oh HI, the neighborhood crazy guy is walking by. Yes and I’m in front of the window. Hello, I am feeling myself, now go back to being crazy…) So yeah, breasts of mine, whats going to happen to you? Do you have anything you want to tell me? Any gene mutations you might want to share with me? Yes? No? Do I need to go in there and check for myself?

Now as I have mentioned before, while I have had stacks of breast cancer in my family, it has all occurred post menopausal. And, my understanding is that none of my relatives have tested positive for this gene mutation. But. There is always a but. Does that mean I shouldn’t get myself tested for it? My doctor gave me a little pamphlet about it at my last GYN exam. It’s certainly not an impossibility. Again, we have stacks of breast cancer in my family. Something is up. And even assuming the best case scenario with negative test results, that doesn’t mean I won’t get breast cancer eventually anyway.

In fact, I even happened to check out a little Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool found at the cancer.gov website. And here’s what they told me:

5 Year risk

  • This woman (age 35) 0.6%
  • Average woman (age 35): 0.3%

Explanation

Based on the information provided (see below), the woman’s estimated risk for developing invasive breast cancer over the next 5 years is 0.6% compared to a risk of 0.3% for a woman of the same age and race/ethnicity from the general U.S. population. This calculation also means that the woman’s risk of NOT getting breast cancer over the next 5 years is 99.4%.

Lifetime Risk

  • This woman (to age 90): 19.7%
  • Average woman (to age 90): 12.6%

Explanation

Based on the information provided (see below), the woman’s estimated risk for developing invasive breast cancer over her lifetime (to age 90) is 19.7% compared to a risk of 12.6% for a woman of the same age and race/ethnicity from the general U.S. population.

Not horrible results. Just a 7% chance more than the average woman. But they only asked for first-degree relatives, so they only noted my mother. They didn’t take into account my aunt (two lumpectomies), my grandmother (one mastectomy and one lumpectomy), or my grandfather’s sister who died from breast cancer. I’m just saying. It’s a small, very general internet tool. I should hardly be lulled into a comfy “only 7% increased chance” sense of security.

When friends hear about my breast cancer history, they sit right up and start fretting. And often they do ask me “Would you ever consider a double mastectomy? If it could possibly save your life, if it could mean you wouldn’t have to face even post menopausal breast cancer, why wouldn’t you consider it? Don’t you want to be around for your family?”

(Hmmm, I wonder if this is actually my conscious talking. I’m suspicious. It sure sounds a LOT like her.)

But, ok. Chop my boobs off? I mean, c’mon. Wow. Yikes. Owch. I just. I mean. …I don’t *WANT* to! (Insert “whine” here.)

My breasts, while hardly heaving masses of flesh attracting eyes for miles around, have been really good to me. They fit my frame, they have never been in the way (now THAT’S a “glass is half full” way to look at my size B size A cups), and they are kinda cute. Well, they were at least before I breastfed my kids. But, THAT is their greatest feat yet. My girls, petite as they are, managed to nourish my two wonderful boys for 14 months each. They gave me an awesome supply and they withstood the abuse they endured from freakishly hungry babies. I feel some solidarity for all that we have been through.

Granted, they could just turn around and stab me in the back someday with a sudden small possibly metastasizing lump. Shoot. They could just up and kill me.

Ugh.

So, Christina Applegate has got me thinking about them. And chopping them off. I’m certainly not ready for something so dire and don’t have any current reason to consider it yet. (Like a tree falling in the woods, if you don’t test for a gene, is it still there?)  I suppose I will hold on to them for now. Keep doing my breast checks, getting mammograms and hassling my doctor.

I may even do that gene test after all. I want to know.

And if a double mastectomy were ever something I should seriously consider, I would absolutely weigh the options. So, friends and conscious of mine, I would do it if I had to. 

As long as I could get the perfect size B cups size C cups (which would still fit my frame. Sure. Absolutely. And I bet my husband would agree wholeheartedly).

(Another Sidebar: Reconstructive surgery is not the instant fix for a mastectomy that you might think it is. It can take over a year or more of painful surgery to bring your breasts back to fighting form. In the article I referenced above and noted here, Dr. Avisar is even quoted as saying about reconstructive surgery: “The majority of patients … don’t go the whole 9 yards. …Many of them never come back to have the nipple and areola reconstructed. They are just tired and they have had enough.” Reconstructing two breasts after a mastectomy is not, by any means, your typical boob job.)

Finally, I just want to give a shout out to all of the bloggers out there supporting efforts to prevent breast cancer. I am a bit late to the party here but I would like to spread some breast cancer linky love.

First of all, if you ever want to raise money for Breast Cancer awareness, please visit the Susan G. Komen For the Cure website. In case you have been living on the moon and didn’t know, there are annual runs and walks to raise money for the cure.

Also, a fellow blogger at Toddler Planet has done amazing work spreading awareness about her own fight with inflammatory breast cancer (symptoms for this form of breast cancer are not lumps as you would expect). Please read her story here. She also has a wonderful section of her blog dedicated to how to help a friend who has been diagnosed with breast cancer with excellent links and suggestions. Read this information here. She has a group of bloggers – team WhyMommy - supporting her. Bloggers such as Dirt and Noise raced for the cure in her honor.

And what, in my humble opinion, do I think is the best way to spread breast cancer awareness? Well, blogging of course! Here are some great breast cancer blogs that I found through Jayne’s Breast Cancer Blog. (I am sure there are hundreds more out there too):

My Breast Cancer Blog
Mothers with Cancer
A Different Road Altogether
Biography of Breast Cancer
Can I be Pretty in Pink?
Gotta Keep on Keepin’ On
Reconstruct This
So, is Today a Good Day?

And I am loving the “Save the Ta-Tas” gear found here too, buy something.

Do you have any other important links to share? Post them.

Keep feeling those boobies, girls. I know I am regularly feeling mine. And holding on to mine – for dear life.

(Note: The image above was taken from The Breast Cancer Fund website.)

Blogging for Boobies

Breast cancer is an absolute reality in my family. My maternal grandmother had a mastectomy and a lumpectomy. My mother had a malignant tumor and lumpectomy when I was in college. Her sister had the same not far after her and I am fairly sure she has had more occurrences since then, although they may have been benign. My maternal grandfather’s sister also had a malignant lump. All of these women found their lumps when they were post menopausal. In the next generation, there are four women – myself and my three cousins. None of us are post menopausal. None of us have had any brushes with breast cancer – yet. But we know there is a ticking time bomb amongst us. It seems as if it is just a matter of time.

So today I had my annual gynecology exam. A thrilling day, no doubt. Gotta love those scratchy paper robes and the cold lubricating gel. Ew. But I am religious about going. I also had a cervical cancer scare before T. was born. So pap away, Dr. I have no reservations.

After the exam was over, the Dr. and I got on the topic of breast cancer. I am 35 in a month. (…dramatic pause… 35. Older-than-35 ladies, please don’t be annoyed when I say this but 35 seems like a gateway to “old”. 40 is just years away. What the hell! Ok, I’m over it.) I already had a baseline mammogram before C. was born. All was well. He said we could probably wait until I was 40 (gulp) before we did one again. But he was very adamant about the next bit of advice: “Do your breast exams.”

And you know what? I haven’t been. I know, I know! Its like playing Russian roulette – what am I, nuts? Nah, just clearly in denial. Breast cancer is for old women who don’t get their period. Not me. Not a… 35 year old. Uh oh.

So seeing my face, the Dr. told me a little story. And I want to share it with you all. He told me about a 41 year old patient this past March who got her mammogram, and it was clear. In April, during a self breast exam, she felt a lump. By the end of that month, she was diagnosed with malignant breast cancer. It was early but she probably saved her own life. Think about it – for a lump to show up so fast (also taking into account that mammograms are by NO means perfect) – well, it’s a real lesson for me. I MUST check my boobies. Once a month. When? He said after your period. Or a good reminder is the day you start your first pill pack. So, this is my resolution to myself, heading into 35 in almost a month to the day. I WILL CHECK MY BOOBIES. And if you got ‘em, you should too.

Another point about this. Did you notice how unsure I was about my family’s history at the start of this post? Interestingly, one of my cousins (the daughter of my aunt who had breast cancer) just happens to be in Florida for a conference and is coming for dinner on Saturday. I have decided to hassle her for her family’s entire breast cancer history. And I will get together mine. My plan is to collect it all and compose some sort of document that we four of cousins can share. Its time to buck up.

B.R.E.A.S.T. C.A.N.C.E.R. , dude. Its not just for old ladies, anymore. It’s for people like me.