Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Have Courage

As a breast cancer survivor, its all too easy to let yearly check-ups slide by the wayside. After all, you've been through the mill with endless MRI's Cat scans and blood tests to last the rest of your lifetime.

Your knee-jerk reaction when it comes to visiting doctors is to stick your head in the sand and reason, I'm not up for bad news, so let's just ignore the whole thing and carry on with life like normal.

I managed to do that all summer, when I finally got up the courage to call my general physician--who origninally found the malignant tumor in my breast two and a half years ago--and get an annual check up.

It was funny how she reacted to my new breasts--which are now implants. She gingerly pressed on them the same way she did the examination back in 2008 till I reminded her that there was no breast tissue there anymore, so she needn't worry--my days of annual mammograms are over.

Still, doesn't leave anything to chance. After a thorough investigation of my blood work, she found my liver wasn't working properly and ordered a sonagram. Knowing what I do about how breast cancer spreads, the first thing I thought was: This is it. The breast cancer spread to my liver.

After the sonogram, I had three anxiety-ridden days waiting for the results. Turns out, all I have is a fatty liver--typical for someone who's cholesterol is off the charts--344!

She got me on Crestor, and I have to make a concerted effort to lose weight and exercise. After three months, I have to recheck my blood work, which will hopefully yield more positive results.

So now I'm going to Weight Watchers and doing my best to exercise most everyday. But, it could be a hell of a lot worse. You see, I have some control over these current health issues. Two years ago, that wasnt' the case. I am just grateful that I can steer my health in a better direction through choices I make everyday. I am not a victim of some scary disease--cancer--where so much more drastic measures need to be taken.

So I did it. I went back to the doctor that found my cancer and asked her to give me an update. The good news? My cancer hasn't come back. The bad news? I have to lose weight. And that's not exactly a huge news flash.

My decision to face the music--good or bad, put my mind at ease because now I know the cancer hasn't come back. What's more, it's forced me to be proactive about my current state of health. It has forced me to deal with the fact that I need to take better care of myself to keep any bad news at bay.

Lesson learned? Once you're done with treatment, keep going to the doctor for updates. Your courage will pay off by making you more proactive about your health. What's more, if you're going to get bad news, when it comes to cancer, it's ALWAYS better to get it sooner, than later.

Eric Stevenson's Guest Blog on Breast Cancer

Eric Stevenson recently emailed me and asked if he could be a guest contributor to my blog. Of course, I was happy to do so. Here follows his blog.

Battling Breast Cancer
Statistically, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Almost everyone has a friend or family member that has or will have the disease. Science has come a long way in treating breast cancer, so this diagnosis is no longer fatal in every case. The prognosis for a more favorable outcome begins with detecting breast cancer early and choosing to battle breast cancer in your own way.
Taking a proactive approach with regular checkups, self-exams, and a family history of breast cancer will help you and your physician detect breast cancer early and select the right treatment options. The same is true with other cancers, like mesothelioma. For people exposed to asbestos, especially from the 1930s through the 1970s, it is important to have regular checkups and let your physician know you may be at increased risk of developing this rare cancer.
Methods of Early Detection
Caught in the earliest stage, the prognosis for surviving breast cancer is good. More treatment options are available, and continuing to lead a normal life is possible. You can help yourself to notice the early signs of breast cancer, using these methods:
• Monthly self breast exams
• Yearly mammograms
• Regular medical checkups
• Participation in local free health fairs
• Genetic testing

The first four methods for early breast cancer detection are self explanatory. Most women are aware these methods are available. Genetic testing, however, is a relatively new procedure developed to determine if a woman is more likely to develop breast cancer in her lifetime. The test is not recommended for every woman. But, for a select few, the genetic testing is a lifesaver.
The Mayo Clinic wrote an article about the social and emotional impact of genetic testing, explaining that, while genetic testing is not right for every woman, those with a significant history of breast cancer within the family are appropriate candidates for this type of testing. For example, a sibling or daughter of someone who has had breast cancer may opt to have the test and discover if she too carries a mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. This knowledge provides information that helps patients and physicians fight breast cancer, as well as a serving as a potential tool for earlier detection.
Battling Breast Cancer Your Way
Individuals do not have to be breast cancer survivors to take up the cause in battling against this dreaded disease. Increasing breast cancer awareness and raising money to help fund further research or help offset a patient’s medical expenses can be a fun way to draw the community together for a common goal.
On the blog, Battling Breast Cancer with Class, a group of men recently decided to walk a mile in high heels and dresses, as a means of improving breast cancer awareness. The idea is a pun on the expression “walk a mile in her shoes”. It is a humorous way to fight a humorless issue, while encouraging the community to get involved.
Others have donated their hair to an organization called Locks of Love, as a show of support for women who have lost their hair to cancer treatments.
Early detection of breast cancer can mean a better prognosis and allow survivors, friends, family, and the entire community an opportunity to battle breast cancer together.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Support Your Local Businesses That Recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month

I am so impressed by some of the local businesses in my area that have thought up creative ways to raise money for breast cancer this coming October--which is breast cancer awareness month. One of my customers is participating in a fundraising event called: Walk A Mile In Her Shoes. Carl and many other upstanding citizens from Seymour, CT are going to walk a mile dressed in high heels and a dress. He is asking for donations in the name of Breast Cancer Research so people can laugh at his expense.

A local beauty salon is offering clients a pink streak in their hair for 8 dollars. All proceeds go to breast cancer research. I will be the bartender serving up pink bellini martinis at a cocktail party on October 20th at the Blue Lotus Nail Salon & Spa in Shelton, CT where a variety of vendors will showcase their merchandise and give five percent of the proceeds to the Breast Cancer Research Fund.

I like to participate at the grass roots level when it comes to breast cancer fundraising to encourage local businesses to keep on giving to a worthy cause. These business owners are doing this from the goodness of their hearts, so please support your local businesses next month as they step up to the plate to fight breast cancer. Thank you.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Answer to Jeanne's Question

Dear Jeanne:

Dr. Ott Young has done fat injections during my reconstructive surgeries to help fill out and flatten scars left from surgery as well as to help plump up areas of your breast so both breasts look more symmetrical.

For example, my left breast had an indented area even after the reconstruction that was due to all the radiation. In order to make it more symmetrical to my right breast, I had minor surgery last June where she took fat from my waist and injected it into the flattened area.

In short, Dr. Ott-Young's uses fat injections to tweak the results of your reconstruction surgery so your breasts will look more symmetrical and natural. There is absolutely no harm in it.

The good news is that wherever she takes the fat, you will most likely look slimmer in that area. Since it's your own tissue, you body will not regect it either.

Dr. Ott-Young did tell me that the fat she moves has the "memory" of where it came from. For instance, She used my belly fat to build back my right breast. (I do have an implant in that breast as well.) If I were to lose weight, the fat in that breast would go first since I always lose weight in my waist first.

I hope that answers your question.

P.S. Dr. Ott-Young is an amazing plastic surgeon. People can't believe what a great job she did on me. As I've said before, had I known the end result of how my breasts would look today, I wouldn't have sweated the reconstruction process like I did.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Had I Known Then What I Know Now

I am a breast cancer survivor and proud of it. Before I was diagnosed with breast cancer—back in March 2008—I never thought I’d wear that title like a war metal. But after one year of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and radiation followed by a second year of three reconstructive surgeries, I realized battling breast cancer took me to a new place—in a good way.

When I was forced to eliminate all but the bare essentials of my routine just to get through the day, life took on a new perspective. After things finally got back to normal, I realized I didn’t need all that extraneous stuff anyway. At the dawn of my breast cancer journey, I lost sleep over the prospect of having no hair. Once the inevitable no-hair days came to reality, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I imagined. My doctor was right when she said: You’ve been walking this earth for 51 years. So when you look at the big picture, living with no hair for six months isn’t that tragic in the grand scheme of things.

She was so right. I went to a breast cancer support group at the Norma Pfriem Breast Cancer Center in Fairfield, CT and balked when a five-year breast cancer survivor proclaimed getting breast cancer was a blessing. Are you kidding? I didn’t buy that for minute. As far as I was concerned, being nauseous, and seeing me in the mirror with no hair, eyelashes or brows was far from a blessing—it was a nightmare.

Thanks to the support and kindness of others, even the way I looked didn’t matter. What mattered was getting better. And little by little, I did get better. When all was said and done, two years later, I remembered all the fear and anxiety I went through. It occurred to me, if I knew then, what I know now, I wouldn’t have been such nervous wreck. If someone had walked me through each scary step and told me how to handle it, I would have been able to get through those two years with a little more serenity and style. That’s the very reason I created my blog,, which is the inspiration for this book.

Thanks to early detection, breast cancer is one of the most treatable of all cancers and has a high survival rate. I would rather not get into statistics—you can find them anywhere. I wrote this book to help other women battle breast cancer with dignity, humor and style. Yes, you’ll lose your hair, you’ll get sick, you may lose your breasts, and your illness will challenge all your relationships. But, you can choose to handle this with a good attitude or a bad attitude. If I were you, I’d choose the good attitude. You will get through this, so why not do it like a lady? Why not inspire your co-workers and friends with your positive outlook in the face of adversity?

That’s what I did, and it’s still paying off on so many levels. You can take your bad fortune and work it to your advantage. Let me show you how……