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Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light

breast cancer let there be light thirties 30's 30s puerto rico mom twins kids young

Before I get to this week’s photo challenge, I wanted to mention that I’ve just been nominated for Healthline’s Best Health Blogs of 2013 Award and I was wondering if you could please vote for my blog?  Voting started a couple of weeks ago & my nomination was just posted so I am quite behind!

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There are many amazing blogs included, so I doubt that I have much of a chance, but I truly appreciate your support and I am honored to even be grouped with the other blogs.

So, to vote:  You can vote EVERY DAY until JAN. 20th. Voting is through Facebook or Twitter.  Click here to VOTE:  http://www.healthline.com/health/best-health-blogs-contest-id?id=714  — or — click on the “VOTE FOR ME” badge in the upper-right-hand corner of my blog.

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

And now, on to the photos…

breast cancer let there be light thirties 30's 30s puerto rico mom twins kids young

The Daily Post‘s Weekly Photo Challenge topic for this week is “Let There Be Light.”  From the original post: “We’re entering a truly light-filled season. Christmas trees, Hanukkah menorahs, and Kwanzaa kinaras are spreading their glow in homes the world over (or are just about to), while main streets and public buildings are being prepared for the winter holidays with an explosion of bright decorations.

Take a look around you. Choose one of the light sources you see, and make it the focus of your challenge entry. It can be a dramatic chandelier or a pair of dying candles; the moon, a row of glaring lightbulbs in the parking lot, or a gaudy lava lamp stored in your attic: anything goes. The light doesn’t even have to be switched on: some lamps are just as fascinating for their shape as for the photons they emit.”

breast cancer let there be light thirties 30's 30s puerto rico mom twins kids young

Sadly, shortly after I finished this post I learned of Nelson Mandela’s death earlier today (12/5/13).  It is my hope that Mr. Mandela’s legacy will endure and that his life’s work, his leadership, and his compassion will continue to have a deep impact well beyond his years on this earth.  

I will leave you with my photos and with a favorite quote that many believe was uttered by Mr. Mandela.  While there is controversy about whether he ever spoke these words (written by Marianne Williamson in Return To Love), I think the sentiment so perfectly relates to my vision of how Mr. Mandela lived his life that I feel compelled to share it here regardless:   

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

The world lost an amazing source of light and life today.

Thank you for visiting my little corner of the world, for voting (if you choose to), and for bringing light into my life.

breast cancer let there be light thirties 30's 30s puerto rico mom twins kids young

breast cancer let there be light thirties 30's 30s puerto rico mom twins kids young

breast cancer let there be light thirties 30's 30s puerto rico mom twins kids young

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If you would like to participate in this or a future challenge, just click here to visit The Daily Post.

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Hello Again…

Safari

Hello dear readers…

Once again I am returning with a photo post after a long hiatus.  I know it is not the ideal way to manage a blog, but it seems to be what I need to do for the time being.

Though this used to stress me out, I am learning to let go a little.  And that is because of you.  From the comments I’ve received from so many of you, I have found that you are forgiving of my infrequent visits and that you’ve even embraced them.  What a lucky girl I am to be able to stop in with some photos of my spirited little boys and my quirky canines and know that you will be here to welcome me back with open arms, to know that you will celebrate the good moments in my life, and to take comfort in the fact that you will offer words of kindness when times are tough.

The past few weeks have been a bit of a mixed bag.  I began to follow up with those of you who left comments on my last post to let you know that the thickening in my chest was likely swelling compliments of the lymphedema that has made its way beyond my arms and into the area where my breasts once were, but I never formally posted about my appointment.  It was a bit of a blow to discover that it was likely an extension of the lymphedema, but MUCH less of a blow than a cancer recurrence would have been.  It’s amazing how cancer puts everything into perspective!  I never would have thought there would be a circumstance in which I’d “welcome” an advancement of my lymphedema, but here I am!

[If you would like to know more about what lymphedema is, what causes it and how it is managed, stay tuned — I’m working on a post that will deal with this important topic.]

Just after that last post, pneumonia came knocking and, as you can imagine, it has been difficult to come back from.  On a positive note, though, I had a nice Thanksgiving break with the boys.  I spent most of Thanksgiving day preparing a turkey with all of the fixings.  I was pretty exhausted, but I’ve always enjoyed roasting the turkey and making Thanksgiving-y foods, so it was a labor of love.  Still, the day itself was a bit sad.  It was an unusually quiet holiday this year.  My in-laws had just gotten on a plane that morning and we had visited them night before, so we weren’t going to be going to their house on Thanksgiving Day.  And we were also not honoring the tradition of spending the other half of the day with my side of the family (usually at my aunt and uncle’s home) because we were missing some very important members this year.  I lost my youngest sister to the Alaskan wilderness (and her Alaskan boyfriend) when she packed her suitcase and got on the plane for a 5-day trip to Willow, AK in February.  5 days has stretched into 10 months because she has yet to return!  And the sister who had always been within minutes of me since she came home from the hospital when I was two years old, moved to Virginia to follow her/our dream to be near the sea.   She and my brother-in-law and my only niece and nephews hugged us goodbye as they drove away in their minivan and a big moving van during the first week of July.  And, sadly, they have not been back and my husband will not allow us to go to visit them (which the boys and I were pushing our hardest to do over the long Thanksgiving school break).  That leaves one sister [I am the oldest of four], but she and her husband [who is not a giant meanie like mine] went down to VA to spend Thanksgiving with my sister/BIL and the kids.  So it was VERY quiet.  My mother came over to eat with us and brought her little Yorkie.  The boys helped me decorate the table with our Halloween lights so we dined by the lovely saffron glow of the twinkly pumpkins we’ve collected over the years.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

Then on Saturday and Sunday we took a quick little road trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Though the kids did their best to cajole my husband into allowing us to go to Virginia to seem my family, he made it clear that it would not happen now or ever, so we ended up “compromising” with Pittsburgh.  We had never been there but had heard that the city had a wonderful children’s museum and science center, both of which we have free admission to because of a reciprocal partnership between our local science center and other museums around the country (including those in Pittsburgh), and we also had a free hotel stay there.  Though the boys and I were sad about VA, we knew that it wouldn’t help to be upset about it, so we were determined to enjoy the weekend.  Though I would have been content to spend another “sick” weekend curled up under the blankets with the boys and dogs, I was the only one who would have gone for this over the long Thanksgiving weekend because the “sick” weekends had just been piling up with no end in sight.

Though it was tiring, I am glad we did it.  As it turned out, I had plenty of time to rest.   We only spent a few hours at the Children’s Museum on Saturday and then The Carnegie Science Center on Sunday, and we got home fairly early on Sunday.  And I just read during the roundtrip drive.  The hotel also provided board games, so we played Sorry! after the museum closed at 5 on Saturday, and then I was in bed by 9.  It was actually pretty relaxing.  At home, unless I am pretty sick, I have a hard time with giving myself permission to really rest.  For some reason it was much easier to do this while in another city or during the long car ride.   And the Children’s Museum was excellent.  There were plenty of activities to keep the boys engaged.  Our favorite section was an art annex of sorts.  The boys and I sat for ages at a long table cutting shapes that they could take up to a screen printing station where our designs would be printed.  I did the cutting and they would take the shapes up to be printed.  We made a nice stack of art that we plan to decorate their room with.  They loved the idea of stringing the pictures we made up on a long twine clothesline with old clothes pegs that were once my grandmother’s.  That will be our next project!

William enjoying one of the activities at The Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA

William enjoying one of the activities at The Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA

The Science Center was a bit more difficult for me.  But there was plenty to keep the boys busy.  And there were a plethora of benches and even some comfy chairs for me to sit in and even lie down on!  It really was chock-full of activities and displays.  We were even able to enjoy a star show (also free!) in their cozy planetarium chairs, located right inside the science center.  And the boys participated in some cooking demonstrations (free, too — and with samples!) in the “kitchen” section of the center.  Yum!

Yay! for The Carnegie Science Center's comfy chairs!

Yay! for The Carnegie Science Center’s comfy chairs!

And then we were back home to our dogs Sunday night, and I was back in to the hospital Monday morning to start off a full schedule of medical appointments this week.  But it was nice to have a change of scenery for a weekend!

Wow, I’ve written far more than I intended and I haven’t even gotten to the photo challenge yet!  Rather than muddle the photos up with all of these words (which have little/nothing to do with the challenge!), I’ll post a separate photo challenge entry in a minute.  I’ll also be requesting your help with a little something in the next post…

See you in a few…

Weekly Photo Challenge: An Eerie Feeling — Is it Cancer?

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When I saw the Weekly Photo Challenge for this week — Eerie — my first thoughts weren’t of Halloween costumes or fake blood or ghouls or goblins.  No, my first thoughts were of the sore spot and the “thickening” in my chest in an area that cancer once called home.

Since my bilateral mastectomy three years ago, I have been checking the area often enough. Monthly, I suppose?  Maybe less?  It’s often enough that I would notice a change.

5 days post mastectomy and axillary lymph node dissection for stage 3c breast cancer

While I rarely have trouble with my right side since the surgery, my left side has been a different story. Because of the depth/extent of my left mastectomy and the resulting nerve damage, I have been plagued with a range of unpleasant feelings, from numbness, tingling, itchiness and dull pain, to searing pain and what they term “phantom pain.”

You may have heard of phantom pain before.  Maybe you’ve known someone who has had a limb amputated.  Or you’ve watched an interview with a war veteran who lost an arm or a leg.  Or you follow Grey’s Anatomy and saw the episodes when Arizona was struggling after losing her leg in the plane crash. Or maybe you’ve never heard of it and just think it sounds kind of eerie.

Well, it is kind of eerie.  And not just because of its name.

“Sometimes after a body part has been amputated, it feels as if that part is still there. This is called phantom sensation. It…is not pain, but is a “tingly,” cramping, or itching feeling where the missing part used to be.

[Phantom pain, on the other hand, is painful.]  The pain feels as if it is in the part that is missing. Phantom pain…may feel like a burning, crushing, or stabbing sensation.”  [UPMC.com]

This is a roundabout way of explaining to you that despite the wide range of sensations I’ve experienced on the left side, none of these feelings have ever prompted me to pick up the phone and call the doctor because I’ve always accepted them as my new normal.

But what I’ve been experiencing recently does not feel like the pain or other sensations I’ve become accustomed to in the past three years.  It feels different.  It feels like the pain I felt before my surgery. Like the pain I was experiencing in my breast when my cancer diagnosis came 3 1/2 years ago.

Now maybe you are thinking that doesn’t really mean anything.  I don’t even have that (or any) breast anymore.  I was thinking this, too.  But then I reached under my shirt and felt the area.  In fact, I’ve repeatedly “checked” the area over the past week.

And it feels different.  Like a thickened “something.”

breast cancer young mom thirties 30s 30's mastectomy

At first I thought maybe it was swelling.  Swelling has been an issue for me since I received my first intervention — months of dose dense chemo meant to make my inoperable cancer operable.  When I was finally ready for surgery, it was a different kind of swelling.  Swelling in my arms from lymphedema.  And despite having surgical drains placed to collect excess fluid/blood that can accumulated following the surgery, in the space where the tumor was, there was a significant amount of swelling in my chest/underarm/shoulder area. While surgical drains are very common with this type of surgery, leaving them in for many weeks is not typical.  But there was so much fluid that it was necessary. Even still, I developed large seromas [a seroma is a collection of serous fluid in the dead space of post-mastectomy skin flap, axilla or breast] that necessitated trips to the surgeon’s office every 2-3 days so he could insert a long, wide needle and manually drain the fluid.

But it’s been a while since I’ve had a seroma or swelling in this particular area of my chest.  And it does not feel like swelling.  In fact, it doesn’t feel anything like what I’ve become accustomed to.

Normally when I touch the area where my left breast used to be, since the tissue and muscle are missing, I feel rib bones (or the spaces between them) through a thin layer of skin.

It’s odd, really, to go from feeling the squishy, rounded softness of your breasts, to feeling the hard, unforgiving rigidity of bone.

It’s a difficult adjustment to make.

And though you may con your brain into accepting the new “normal” day in and day out, your fingers never really forget.  Touching the area where your breast used to be is still just as jarring for your fingertips as it was in the beginning.

So when something is different…less chiseled…more flexible…softer, your fingers notice.

So it is easy to recognize when something is different or awry.

Maybe it’s nothing.  Maybe it will be fine.  It’s probably nothing.  It will probably be fine.  I haven’t even mentioned it to anyone in my life other than “you” because I’m almost sure it will be okay.

But the eerie feeling I had this past week each time my fingers were drawn to my chest was enough of an incentive enough for me to call the office of the breast specialist who diagnosed my cancer.  And it was enough to make me accept (and not cancel) an appointment for 7:30 this morning so I can find out for sure.

I will leave you with my “eerie” photos…

mastectomy drains cancer in my thirties cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com blood bilateral breast cancer

Even more eerie than fake blood is real blood… These are my mastectomy drains.

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halloween orange

Kevin looks for ghosts amid the cobwebs this Halloween

As always, thank you for being here.  And if you would like to participate in The Daily Post‘s Weekly Photo Challenge, just click on this link.

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Daily Prompt: My Little Characters

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's kids twins dog weiner dachshund sunflower young mother

I happened to notice The Daily Post‘s Daily Prompt for today — It Builds Character — and couldn’t resist the opportunity to share some photos of my little characters.

The prompt asks that we show readers a CHARACTER.

Every month, my boys, twins who are in the same class, must do a family project for school.  October’s project asked them to choose a character from one of their favorite books and turn a pumpkin into that character.  M chose Greg Heffley, from Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days.  William chose Darth Paper, from Darth Paper Strikes Back, an Origami Yoda book.

So when I saw today’s prompt, M and I hatched a plan.  We took the pumpkin heads and, well, I’ll just show you:

M wearing the pumpkin head we made -- Diary of a Wimpy Kid's Greg Heffley

M wearing the pumpkin head we made — Diary of a Wimpy Kid’s Greg Heffley

M as Darth Paper from Darth Paper Strikes Back

M as Darth Paper from Darth Paper Strikes Back

During dinner, M also developed a character he decided to name Detective Bacon Mustache Hamburger Head.  Unfortunately, Detective Bacon Mustache Hamburger Head had a not-so-secret admirer in Ginger (our weiner dog) and had to change his name to Detective Hamburger Head when Ginger got a bit too close to his mustache.

Detective Bacon Mustache and his secret admirer, Ginger

Detective Bacon Mustache Hamburger Head and his admirer

And both boys decided to pose for one last photo:

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And this is a terrible segway, but I just wanted to thank you for your kind words when I was struggling last week (Why I Can’t Wait for my Colonoscopy).  And I also wanted to tell you that of all the things they found in my colon (like plenty of scar tissue and adhesions), cancer was thankfully not one of them.   It’s nice to have some good news!

Thank you for helping me get through an especially rough week!

 

 

 

 

Why I Can’t Wait for My Colonoscopy

Photo Credit: abcnews.go.com

Photo Credit: abcnews.go.com

You’re probably wondering what’s wrong with me.  Why would anyone in their right mind look forward to a colonoscopy?

It’s simple.  I can’t wait for the “prep” to be over.  But it may not be for the reason you are thinking…

Of course the prep itself is rotten.  It has been three days since a morsel of food has crossed my lips.  And drinking this God-awful stuff that wrenches your insides and makes you feel as though you are tethered to toilet is no picnic.  And because Palliative Care (see Palliative Care at 30-Something: What Does it Mean? Part I and Part II) has me on around-the-clock opiates, I was required to do the “Extended Preparation” which includes “extra” days of not eating and of a clear liquid diet, a few different types of unpleasant liquid solutions that make you “go” with extreme urgency, pills that also make you “go,” and enemas.  Did I mention I’ve gone 3 days without eating any food and have been consuming only clear liquids?**  Can you tell this one is getting to me

Photo Credit:  pregnancy.lovetoknow.com

Photo Credit: pregnancy.lovetoknow.com

Right now I’m trying to drink the last 4 liters of yucky stuff from the pharmacy in the prescribed 3 hours, but I can’t keep it down.  I have been vomiting so much that I’m not sure there is anymore liquid to throw up — until I throw up again.  I stop drinking entirely this afternoon.  And then I have to give myself 2 enemas in the 2 hours before the procedure, holding the contents of the enema bottles “in” for 15 minutes per bottle before I can go to the bathroom.

If you’ve ever had a colonoscopy, you are probably nodding your head now.  You know how rotten the prequel to this procedure can be.  Or maybe you’ve blocked it out of your mind and forgotten?  If so, I’m sorry for reminding you.

I must admit that I had forgotten.  Tucked the memories of my last “clean out” neatly away in my brain.

Okay, really what happened was that they were replaced by much more traumatic scenes. The last time I did this it wasn’t for a colonoscopy — I honestly can’t recall my last one, let alone the prep.  I just remember waking up shocked that I was dressed and asking who had put my underwear back on.  The answer was “me,” but I was so out of it from the anesthesia that I had no recollection of the day’s events.  Sounds like spring break gone bad!

No the last “prep” of this kind that I am talking about was for my hysterectomy and salpingo-oopherectomy last year.

It’s no wonder the prep is not what I recall about the events leading up to this surgery.  I had complex pelvic masses.  One was so large that you could feel it when you touched my belly.

I needed to have my right ovary removed the day after Halloween two years ago thanks to the side effects of Tamoxifen* [see below].   The ovary was filled with a crap-ton (urbandictionary.com defines a crap-ton as “4 shit loads”) of septated cysts.

And here I was facing the prospect of losing my remaining ovary and my uterus.  At the age of 35.

A part of me wanted to be sure of what they were seeing before I went under the knife again.  This was the part that didn’t want to have to go through another major surgery and recovery.  And this was the part that was still holding on to the hope of giving birth to a little girl, the daughter I had dreamed of having from the time I was a little girl myself.  It was also the part that wanted to be absolutely sure of what they were seeing before I let them cut into me again.  And this was the part of me that was just tired of all of the cancer crap.

And then there was the part of me that wanted to shake some sense into the aforementioned part.  This was the part of me that, after each scan or exam, grew more and more fearful that what I might be dealing with was ovarian cancer [breast cancer increases this risk], or ovarian mets (metastasis) from the breast cancer to the ovaries.  I was also dealing with the concern that I could have a new primary cancer in my uterus.  I say a new primary rather than a metastasis in this case because Tamoxifen upped my risk of developing uterine cancer.  “Tamoxifen acts as an anti-estrogen in breast tissue, but it acts like an estrogen in the uterus. It can cause the uterine lining to grow, which increases the risk of endometrial cancer.” [Source: cancer.org]

In a short period of time I had multiple gyn exams, transvaginal and abdominal ultrasounds, an MRI, and a CAT scan.  Each of these tests confirmed the presence of these complex masses.  And they were growing.

At my last ultrasound appointment, the technician asked me to stay on the exam table while she went for the doctor.  When they came into the room together, my doctor told me that I needed to go to the hospital immediately, and she sent me to the emergency room.  I remember scrambling because it was a Tuesday afternoon and I didn’t know how long I would be in the hospital, but I knew it would be long enough that I would need to find somebody to pick my boys up from elementary school.

Another CAT scan was performed in the Emergency Room.  It didn’t look good.  The thought that these masses could be ovarian mets or ovarian cancer scared the hell out of me.  And there wasn’t really a decision to be made.

After meeting with the leading GYN oncologist in our area, my surgery was scheduled for the next week.

But a part of me wondered if there was any way out of this.

And then I began hemorrhaging just before my surgery.  There was so much blood.  I remember trying to get into the shower before an appointment.  It was just a few steps from where I disrobed to the shower, and just with those few steps, I managed to cover the floor with a large pool of blood.  I was as pale as a ghost.  And I felt like I was a stone’s throw from becoming one.

When I went in to see my regular gyn, she was clearly concerned that this was further evidence that I might have uterine cancer.  She did a biopsy that day and prescribed drugs that would help to lessen the bleeding until my surgery.  They didn’t really help, so I was almost “thankful” that my hysterectomy was just around the corner.

My gyn oncologist removed everything that was left of my female parts, with the exception of the one that starts with a “V,” but even “it” did not come out unscathed.   Since he took my cervix, the surgeon had to use the top of the vagina to create what’s known as a “vaginal cuff.”

Though I had signed all of the consents prior to my surgery, including the special one you have to sign when you are of childbearing age (indicating that you understand that you are undergoing surgical sterilization), I was still shocked to wake up to find that everything was gone.  Everything.

I spent 4 days in the hospital after the surgery.  It was a difficult 4 days, emotionally and physically.  I required blood.  I needed enemas and catheterization.

I could barely get out of the hospital bed, let alone make it down the hall — for days.  {The blood transfusions helped with this, thankfully.}

And I had a massive migraine.  As a chronic migraine sufferer, I am no stranger to headaches.  But this was worse than any headache I had ever experienced.  The consensus was that the cause was linked to the fact that my estrogen levels had soared in the year before my surgery, and then, suddenly, plummeted as a result of the surgery.  And nothing would alleviate the pain.  Not the morphine drip, not the oxicodone or the oxycontin, not the dilaudid.  Nothing.  I needed my hormones back.

A normally positive person who tries to see the good in everything, I lay in that bed, broken and empty, as I awaited the pathology report.  I felt as though I was a shadow of my pre-cancer self.  I pictured Hansel and Gretel walking on that path through they woods, leaving bits of bread behind so they could find their way back home.  I had been leaving bits and pieces of myself behind on the long and winding road since my diagnosis.  But I knew I would never find my way back home.

So doing this “colon prep” has been especially difficult.  Not just because it’s physically rough, but because it has made the memories of my hysterectomy flood back through gates I had sealed shut soon after the surgery.  As the old saying goes, “Denial (The Nile) ain’t just a river in Egypt.”

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There is more to this story.  But I will have to save the remainder until I am feeling better.  Thank you for reading…

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*Tamoxifen is an antagonist of the estrogen receptor in breast tissue via its activemetabolite, hydroxytamoxifen. In other tissues such as the endometrium, it behaves as anagonist, and thus may be characterized as a mixed agonist/antagonist. Tamoxifen is the usual endocrine (anti-estrogen) therapy for hormone receptor-positive breast cancer in pre-menopausal women, and is also a standard in post-menopausal women althougharomatase inhibitors are also frequently used in that setting.[1]

Some breast cancer cells require estrogen to grow. Estrogen binds to and activates the estrogen receptor in these cells. Tamoxifen is metabolized into compounds that also bind to the estrogen receptor but do not activate it. Because of this competitive antagonism, tamoxifen acts like a key broken off in the lock that prevents any other key from being inserted, preventing estrogen from binding to its receptor.

[Thank you, Wikipedia, for this Tamoxifen info!]

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**In case you are interested, here’s the list of approved clear liquids:  water, Sprite, apple or white cranberry juice, clear or yellow Gatorade/Powerade, chicken broth (nothing in it — NO beef broth), black coffee/tea (no milk or cream), Jell-O (yellow, orange, green only), or popsicles (not red or purple).

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P.S.  As much as I’ve struggled with the prep, I know it’s worth it.  IWith symptoms like pain and rectal bleeding (and with my cancer history), I know it’s better to do this than risk the alternative.  Please don’t let my post deter you from having a colonoscopy.  The “extended prep” is usually not necessary, and the procedure and the prep are over before you know it (and I think my reaction to it is rare?).  They are also far easier than dealing with cancer would be.  So please follow the recommended screening guidelines and do this important test (generally beginning at age 50).  In some cases (like mine), a colonoscopy may be necessary before you turn 50 (or in between the recommended 10 year gap from screening to screening).  If you have a family history of colon cancer or if, like me, you are experiencing issues (i.e. rectal bleeding or a change in bowel habits), please consult your doctor to see if you are in need of a colonoscopy.

“Almost all colorectal cancers begin as a small polyp. If a polyp is found during colonoscopy, it will be removed and this prevents the polyp from every turning into cancer. But if you don’t have your colonoscopy in the first place, then you are throwing away the chance to detect polyps when they are easily treated.” [http://www.columbiasurgery.net/five-reasons-not-to-get-colonoscopy]

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On the Radio

W and Lion

Whoa, oh, oh, oh, on the radio.  Sorry, I can’t get Donna Summer’s lyrics out of my head!

Good morning all…

I wanted to let you know that I will be on the radio tonight.

I almost didn’t mention it because I’m a bit rusty on the public speaking front.  Okay, a lot rusty.  But I reconsidered because I have a vested interest in the segment’s subject matter.  I have been asked to discuss breast cancer, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, pinkwashing, and events like “no bra days” on “The Afternoon Fix” radio show with Chuck Pullen on 1230AM WJOB in Chicago.

Just in case you are interested in tuning in, you can listen live on the station’s web site:

http://www.wjob1230.com/

at 6 p.m. Eastern

(As a head’s up, their stream is .pls format (Shoutcast).  You can listen with iTunes.  Or use Windows Media Player, but you will need to install this plugin ahead of time.  Or you can use WinAmp.)

A representative from Breast Cancer Action will follow me to discuss the “Think Before You Pink” Campaign.

I think it will be worth a listen…

If I don’t screw it up, that is!  But you’ve all given me the confidence to continue to stand up for what I / we believe in, so I’ll give it my best shot [she says with a nervous laugh]!

p.s. I know the photo of W running from the cardboard lion has nothing to do with being on the radio, but I thought you’d appreciate a laugh.  We saw the lion and couldn’t resist!

National No Bra Day — An Update

I continue to be amazed by the comments that have been left on National No Bra Day and Breast Cancer Awareness Month — Or — Put that Can of Soup Down and Put Your Bra Back On and some of my other posts in the past few days.  While I am absolutely astonished by how many people from around the world have visited the blog in the past few days alone (over 100,000 people yesterday alone!), what I am most in awe of is the fact that so many people have left such supportive comments or emails.  While I have yet to respond to the comments (with the exception of a few on the first day), I have been reading each and every comment and email.  That little “your comment is awaiting moderation” blurb you saw if you left a comment means that I have the opportunity to read your comment before it appears on the blog.  Reading through your messages has been an incredibly powerful experience.  I am barely keeping up, so if you don’t see your comment yet, this is why.  But I am grateful that I’m having trouble with keeping pace!  What a wonderful “problem to have!!!

I am both honored and touched that you have chosen to share your thoughts and feelings with me and I am so appreciative of the outpouring of kindness, well wishes, prayers, and gratitude for the post and the blog.   And I have been deeply moved by your stories.  So many people have been touched by cancer in some way and have felt some connection with me.  And I can tell you that after reading your comments and stories, I feel a connection to you and I am truly grateful.

While the vast majority of the comments have been extremely supportive, a few have been less than.  In the interest of being transparent, I am approving ALL comments, including the 99.999% that are supportive and the 0.001% that are less than.  And I feel the need to respond in some way to the 0.001%.  I know this may go over as well as a gift-wrapped pair of socks on Christmas morning, and I am normally not a confrontational person at all, but I feel compelled to respond.  I’ll begin with clarifying that my message is NOT that people who wear pink ribbons are bad!  I know this an easy way for people to feel connected and a visible way to show that you support a cause and that there are a rainbow of ribbons out there.  In fact, I often wear a pink ribbon that was given to me from an organization that gave the money from the purchase to cancer research.  One of my messages — and I believe what so many people have been saying in their comments here — is that pink has become a marketing tool that some companies have used to prey on and profit from well-meaning people who are trying to help.  As one commenter whose close friend was an advertising manager for a multinational corporation said, this practice has been referred to as “the marketing of a disease.”   I know that not ALL companies/organizations are profiting from breast cancer (or using the disease as a way to improve their image), but it is certainly enough for it to be a problem.

And, yes, I do believe that breast cancer has been glamorized and cutesied up by all of the pink. I will stand by that.  From the people I have polled — with and without breast cancer — it has become clear to me that when many people think of breast cancer, they envision smiling women covered in pink having a great time on a walk for the cause.

But as most women and men (and their caregivers/loved ones) who have faced this disease will tell you, there is nothing pink about this cancer — or any cancer for that matter.  And these images of pink actually detract from the fact that this is a horrible, often disfiguring disease with harsh treatments and brutal side effects.  The awareness mission has been accomplished — we are aware that breast cancer exists.  But we still don’t have a real understanding of what causes it and why one woman will develop it and another won’t.  Or why one woman will die from it and another won’t.  And with these awareness campaigns we have largely ignored metastatic disease.  And we have ignored the women (and men) who are suffering or the women who are dying or who have died.  Fine, have the pink, but also incorporate the reality.

In my opinion, we need to get away from the message that early detection is the best prevention and focus our efforts on making PREVENTION the best prevention.  And all of this pinkwashing is making that damn near impossible.  You see some of these companies marketing pink products “for awareness” and “for the cause” or putting pink ribbons on their labels once a year, but then some of their products — like plastic water bottles — are made of materials that have been linked to cancer or they sell products filled with nitrates or foods packaged in BPA-lined cans.  And there are so many examples of this, but I would prefer not to name names.

I need to be clear that I don’t believe that all pink is bad.  And that I do not believe that people who wear pink are bad!  I know you have wonderful intentions and want to help.  But I do believe that if companies and organizations are going to pink brand their product (for breast cancer), then they have a responsibility to use that “pink” and their pink profits responsibly and not as a marketing tool to sell more product or to improve their image.  And that we, as consumers, have a responsibility to read the fine print and be aware of where our money (and how much of it!) is ultimately going when we buy pink products or support a cause.  It is unfortunate that this is necessary when we really just want to help, but the simple fact is that it is necessary if we want to make a difference….

It is my hope that if enough of us do this and if enough of us reject the packaged pink image of what breast cancer is and recognize it for what it really is, we might just be able to make a dent in the number of people suffering and dying from this and other cancers.
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Thank you all so very much for reading, for commenting, and for sharing your important stories…