Thursday, September 29, 2011

In Memory Of Daria

Today I was looking at my blog's Google analytics and discovered that the majority of my page views were being funneled through to me through another breast cancer blogger, with a site entited daria-livingwithcancer.blogspot.com.   Of course I decided to take a look at this blogger's site who unwittingly helped the traffic of my blog tremendously.  But when I got to the site, the last post was not from the blogger Daria, but her husband, who announced Daria's memorial service on January 28, 2011.

Apparently, Daria lost her long, 10-year battle with breast cancer just days before her 50th birthday and one day after my birthday on January 22, 2011.  Daria had estrogen-positive breast cancer, just like me. After 10 years in remission, her breast cancer reared its ugly head and metastized to her lungs, her bones and her liver.  Daria's blog followers spanned the world.  And there on her blog's side bar--second from the top--was the link to my blog.  When I looked at her hundreds of followers,  I suddenly understood, how Daria--eight months after her death--was helping me.  All I could do was cry.

Someone who lost her battle with breast cancer eight months ago--with the same cancer I had--is watching out for me. Thank you Daria. Your battle was not in vain.  I will continue to fight along with millions of others to cure this disease. You, my guardian angel, are gone but not forgotten.

Breast Reconstruction Can Be Performed Any Time




Did you know breast reconstruction can be performed at any time, even years after a mastectomy?

"Immediate breast reconstruction" is performed at the same time as the mastectomy and typically provides the most natural results with the least amount of scarring. Unfortunately, for many women this simply isn't an option....

For starters, 70% of women facing mastectomy aren't even told that reconstruction may be an option for them. They undergo surgery only to find out some time later that they could have woken up from their mastectomy with new breasts instead of having to experience a flat chest.

Of the women that are informed, some may not have access to a reconstructive plastic surgeon where they live and have to travel for reconstruction.

Other women are not candidates for immediate reconstruction because unfortunately the disease is too advanced at the time of diagnosis.

Sometimes radiation therapy is recommended as part of the breast cancer treatment. Most plastic surgeons prefer to hold off on reconstruction until the patient is several months out from her last radiation therapy. This allows the tissues to recover and soften up as much as possible to improve the results of the subsequent reconstruction.

As you can see, there are several reasons why a women wanting breast reconstruction may not be able to have it straight away, ideally at the same time as the mastectomy.

Whatever the reason for delay may be, it is important to remember there isno time limit when it comes to breast reconstruction - it can be performed at any time, even years after mastectomy.

Like immediate reconstruction, delayed breast reconstruction is also covered by insurance regardless of how many years have passed since the breast cancer diagnosis.

Dr C
Dr. C is part of the PRMA Plastic Surgery practice in San Antonio, Texas. You can go to his Facebook link by clicking on the icon at the top of the article.
*****


PRMA Plastic Surgery specializes in advanced breast reconstruction includingDIEP flapSIEA flapGAP flapTUG flap and Alloderm One-Step. In-Network for most US insurance plans. Patients routinely welcomed from across the USA. Please call (800) 692-5565 or emailpatientadvocate@PRMAplasticsurgery.com to learn more about your breast reconstruction options. Connect with other breast cancer reconstruction patients at www.facebook.com/PRMAplasticsurgery.
Did you know breast reconstruction can be performed at any time, even years after a mastect

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Think Pink!

October is just around the corner, and that means it's Breast Cancer Awareness month!  Many of your local businesses will be doing something to raise money for the cure of breast cancer. One of my neighborhood salons offers clients a temporary pink highlight in hair that only costs $10 with half the proceeds going to cancer research.

I donate $25 to a former client of mine who walks in pink women's apparel down Main Street, Seymour to raise money for breast cancer along with other men that have local businesses in the area. In fact, the whole town has a night called Paint The Town Pink where the businesses stay open late offering some kind of promotional item with partial proceeds going to breast cancer research.

I try to volunteer or participate in as many events as I can.  I've said it a million times, but it makes me feel good to do this because I feel like I'm making a difference. Beyond my back yard, the founder of Save The Ta Tas foundation, (www.savethetatas.com) invited me to do a guest blog on there website during October. (I already submitted the blog and they will notify me what day it will be posted.) Spy magazine asked me to be a contributor for an article that talks about how I got through obstacles during my breast cancer treatment. Details to follow. Every one of us has skills to offer for this worthy cause.  So get in there and join the fun of Breast Cancer Awareness month!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What Works

There is so much information out there about how to lose weight and how to get into better shape. No doubt about it, it can be overwhelming and confusing. As a breast cancer survivor, I like to keep life simple. I want to find what works and get on with it.

I don't know about you, but going through breast cancer treatment taught me a life-long lesson about stripping life down to the bare essentials because it was the only way I could get through the day. When treatment was over, I thought: Why bring back this extraneous crap into my life when I got along just fine without it for eight months? Now that I've been doing the HOPE exercise study for eight weeks, I'm trying to take everything to the next level.

This is what is working for me, and I hope it works for you too.

1. Get it in your mindset to at least try to walk or go on the treadmill for 30 minutes every day. I know that's a tall order. I've only managed to do 30 minutes of cardio 3-5 days a week. But if I didn't make it my goal to do it  everyday, who knows? My blood pressure is already close to normal thanks to at least going for it. There is no doubt in my mind that it has helped my quality of sleep, too. And just so ya know, the day  I do cardio every day,  I'm going to go out and buy myself something reallly special. Just try.

2. If you like to drink, like I do, trade in your wine for vodka and seltzer with a slice of lemon or tequila with a slice of lime. Wine has a lot of sugar. I don't eat a lot of sweets, but when I drink more than 2 glasses of wine, the end result is the same thing. I might as well pig out on a box of Oreo cookies.

3. Be cognizant of feeding your body protein, vegetables and fruit everyday. Just try to focus on those things. If you are like me, some warm, Italian bread and butter inevitably finds its way on to my plate when I eat out. Try as I might, the carbs still keep creeping in--put some mashed potatoes, pasta or bread in front of me, and it's all over.  So I play games with my mind to limit them. For instance, I just tell the waitress not to bring the basket of bread.  This is where the battle gets tough.

4. Consistency counts. Today my trainer said: Be patient. Just keep coming to the gym twice a week and over time, you will see the difference. I'm banking on that, pal.





Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Consider Pink Ribbon Donations Carefully



This article was written by Pam Stephan, courtesy of Aboutbreastcancer.com
September is quickly becoming the new October.  Instead of waiting till October, the official Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to schedule events and sell pinked-out merchandise, it starts showing up 30 days early.  Right alongside the pre-promotional packages of Halloween candy, the pink-a-thon of perky goodies and offers and specials show up everywhere.  It reminds me so much of how many seasonal items are marketed to us earlier every year - and how much breast cancer has become a marketing and media cause.  To put it bluntly, pink ribbons are being used to sell us stuff - even if those sales don't rack up any benefit to patients, researchers, and survivors.  Turn It Pink - Sell It Sooner - that seems to be mantra from Madison Avenue.
My local grocery store has already started turning pink, and fund-raising events are filling the news and crowding my mailbox.  I don't begrudge this - after all, as a former breast cancerpatient, I have probably benefited from some of these efforts, and I am always thinking about breast cancer anyway.  But I am careful about where my money and my time is spent.  While reading Gayle Sulik's book, Pink Ribbon Blues, I wonder if I am being careful enough!  Sulik spent years in research, looking beyond the pink ribbons at where the money goes, and what percent of really benefits patients. Get the book and read it - read it slowly - and consider what she shows you: we still don't have an effective cure or prevention, despite all the pink-a-palooza that goes on.
Before you agree to make a contribution this year, or purchase a pink bag of potato chips, buy apink bracelet, or sign up for any fund-raising event, stop and do your homework.  Ask questions about the item or organization and make sure that a reasonable donation is actually going to fund the cause.  If you're giving to a pink ribbon charity, research it first.  When you see that bracelet, bookmark, bag, or bikini, read the labels carefully - does it really generate a donation?  If it doesn't, put it back please!  Make sure you understand where your pink ribbon donations are going - and who they will help.  Don't be taken in by breast cancer frauds - no matter how appealing they may be.  Pinkcarefully, and think first!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Get It Together

Yesterday, I went to get my usual coffee at Dunkin Donuts, when the usual girl that waits on me commented: "You look good these days, is everything okay now?"

"Yes." I replied. It's been three and a half years since I was diagnosed. So far, so good."

As I walked back to my car I remember the days I would go in there feeling self conscious of the handkerchief wrapped around my head topped off with a straw fedora (which is sitting in my closet all beat up) and dangling earrings. I was aware I looked like some kind of train wreck, what with the pale face and no lashes too, but what could I do?

Then there was the time I walked into a grocery store one weekend wearing just a paisley handkerchief tied around my held. A number of people looked my way and stared a moment longer than normal and I knew, that they knew,  I was in the midst of battling cancer. It was hard to take those pitiful looks because during my entire 51-year old life I had never so much as had a stitch to a bleeding wound.

And yet now that I look back, the entire period of looking weird lasted all of eight months. Right after treatment was done, I kind of missed the flood of get-well cards, the eagerness of how everyone wanted to help me out, and the free ride my company gave me regarding sales performance. Yup, going through cancer treatment wasn't all bad.

Then again, I realize not all cancer survivors are blessed with a one-shot treatment. When Dr. Ott found seeds of cancerous cells scattered throughout my right breast a year later after my initial diagnosis, she told me if she hadn't removed it, I would probably have had to go through one more round of chemo and radiation again down the pike. All things considered, my brush with cancer was just a bump in the road.

What I struggle with now is getting my life more under control. I do give myself credit for becoming a better friend, a better sister and a better daughter. I put people that matter first, and I believe my priorities are in order. But these shortcomings I have keep glaring back at me straight in the face. I wrestle with my ability to manage money when I overlook an overdue bill. Conquering clutter that threatens to overrun my house is a constant challenge. I try to keep it contained--in one room. When my mother visited last summer, she threatened to report me to one of those organizational experts from the reality show, Hoarders because of my chaotic bedroom. Now that was humiliating. All I can say is, I'm trying.  I grab a brown trash bag and pick through piles once a week and do a Goodwill run. It helps.

I am happy to report I've embraced my Hope Study exercise regime. After almost eight weeks of consistent weight training and walking, I can definitely feel the difference. And for what its worth, I look better. I love my toned arms. I know that's not enough to completely improve my health. I guess I'm a work in progress.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

Ten years ago today, I was looking out my dining room window in my Stamford, CT penthouse and watched the Twin Towers fall before my very eyes. The TV was on, so I kept looking at the live television coverage and then went back to looking through my binoculars--trying to digest the horrid reality that was taking place. My brother worked at Morgan Stanley at the time, which had an office in Tower Two. But I knew he was safe since my sister-in-law called and said he was on his way to Laguardia Airport for a business trip. My parents were staying with me that day. I will never forget my father sitting on my balcony smoking one cigarette after another, strangely numbed by what he was watching. He kept saying: "This is really going change everything, this is going to change everything--your brother's career, the country". Looking back I think he was in a kind of shock. Mom just got on the phone calling her mom, her brother, her sister, her cousin and everyone she knew. Then she would just sit there on the phone line, crying. One of my brother's dear friends, Pete Bennett, was caught up in the whole nightmare downtown, watching people going in free fall towards their deaths, and finally just running for his life. That evening, we all gathered at my brother's home. Of course, Tom's limo turned around and brought him home since all planes were grounded. Pete Bennett and his wife and kids were there. We deliberately kept the conversation somber and to a minimum, since it was too difficult for Pete to talk about what he witnessed that morning--especially in front of all the kids. Before we had our meal together we simply joined hands and prayed. There was a man I had gone on a date with a week earlier who worked in Tower One. But for the Grace of God he took the Path train for New Jersey at 8am to a meeting that September morning and escaped the entire tragedy. He was stuck in New Jersey for days, but he was safe. A friend of a friend was widowed on 9/11. But the neighborhood came together for her daughter Chloe in October, when a brand new car with a ribbon sat in the driveway for her 16th Birthday. For every sad, tragic stories during the weeks that followed after September 11, there were uplifting stories just like that, too. I cringe every year when I have to look at the images of the Twin Towers crashing into white dust. But I loved seeing the two white lights shooting up to the heavens every time I drove around New York City in the months that followed the tragedy. Just like every American, that day changed me. And it's true, we must never forget.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why I Live in Connecticut

I hate this time of year when summer comes to an end. I am a spring/summer kind of gal. Fall and winter are secondary seasons that I just want to get through. Although, since I've been living in New England for 16 years now, I have grudgingly come to acknowledge the beauty of fall because that's what New England does best. Since I happened to love sunny days, old friends and family often ask: why don't you move back down to Florida?

It's a good question. After all, I fled Minnesota in my old Volkswagon Beetle at nineteen years old just to get out of the cold. The best answer I can give is that summers in Florida are horrible. In New England, spring, summer and fall are glorious. It's just the damned winter I can't stand.

Reason number two why I stay in Connecticut? I love New York City. It was my home for seven years and it gives me great comfort to know that it is but 90 minutes away. I make every effort to see my beloved NYC every season. It doesn't alway work out that way, but at least I know I don't have to buy a plane ticket to spend a Sunday in the city. That's VERY important.

Don't get me wrong, I will always be a Midwestern girl at heart and every time I go back to Minnesota I muse, what if I stayed in this beautiful state? But as we all know in middle age, looking back at this point does little good. I truly love New England. I love eating lobsters in the summer, and spending a full day at Hammonsett Beach in Madison, CT. I love taking weekend trips to Cape Cod. Better yet, hopping a ferry to Nantucket. I love looking out my window during the middle of October and viewing a spectacular landscape of fall colors along the Housatonic River.

I love the art festivals, the oyster festivals, the Newport Jazz Festival. When I do my 30-minute walks, I peak into the woods and discover hidden stone walls. I start to imagine what is was like at the very place I am standing back in the 1800s when those stone walls were built. These moments are like fabric patches that make up the entire quilt of my memories over the past 16 years here in Connecticut. I remember when I left Minnesota and moved to Flordia. I lived there for a mere three years. And yet, I haven't forgotten those days when I missed Minnesota terribly. Moving to a new place can be invigorating. It's an opportunity to walk away from the past and start a clean slate. I have done that four times in my life.

I would do it again in a minute, if it were the right place. If I had the opportunity to move to Europe I would start packing my bags right now. It could be England, Spain, France or Italy. I would give anything to experience living abroad. If I got a job offer to move to California, I would say immediately: I'll get there as soon as I can.

But since none of those things have happened, I guess I'll continue passing my days here in New England. I'm looking forward to that riot of color filling the landscape six weeks from now. I will grin and bear this coming winter. And once all that's over, I can look forward to the daffodils and tulips of spring and finally get back to what I love most: the lazy days of summer.

Striving Toward That 8-Minute Mile

Woo-hoo!

At my HOPE workout yesterday I had my second-month timing test for running a mile. I shaved off a minute and 30 seconds from the previous month, which was 16:10. I ran one mile on the treadmill in 14:30 minutes. Scott couldn't believe it! If I could reduce the timing by that much every month, by early next year, I would be running an 8-minute mile! Look out New York City marathon, I may just throw my hat in for 2012.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Stick With What Works

As I continue striving to reclaim my fitness with the help of Scott, my HOPE study trainer, I've come to a realization. When you find yourself stuck in a rut, look back to your past to remember how you got unstuck.

I don't mind the 30-minute weight training I do twice a week with Scott, but quite frankly it's not hard enough. When alternate trainer Dan filled in for Scott one week, he said I was perhaps the strongest among the participating HOPE study women at the Sacred Heart college gym. That said, he promptly started increasing my weights on all the machines, which I appreciated. At least I felt sore the next day. But even after a month, I don't feel my body has undergone a huge transformation.

So I started to think about the years from 1998-2001 when I was in great shape. I remembered how I got that way. When I lived in Stamford, the high school track happened to be right behind my building, so from spring till fall I got back there and ran at least twice a week. Then my ex-sister-in-law turned me on to The Bar Method exercise classes. I usually got to a class about twice a week. Between the running and the exercise classes I remember my body being rock solid and strong, even if I still could have losed some weight.

I felt good in my clothes. I got lots of dates. Men who took me out acknowledged I was in great shape. So I've decided to build upon my past success. I started going back to The Bar Method classes again and got a DVD as a supplement since it's not always easy to go down to Wilton for classes. Of course I will continue with my training with Scott because I made the commitment with the HOPE Study program director. But with these other workout options in place I think I'll start to see more dramatic changes. In fact, just last Friday a store clerk commented: "A few years ago you looked really sick. Now you look healthy and strong." Well that's a step in the right direction.