Monday, October 3, 2016

Viagra Commercial Fatigue. Oh, it's real!

 I have Viagra Commercial Fatigue (VCF). Here it comes....

I simply cannot take it any longer. Whether I'm drinking my morning Joe while watching Morning Joe on MSNBC, watching a basketball game on ESPN with my 9 year old, or listening to the nightly network news at 6:45pm in the evening, odds are 110% that I will see at least one Cialis or Viagra commercial.

I realize that the pharmaceutical industry basically owns our T.V stations now and during any show, whether it's the news or your favorite sitcom, you cannot avoid a pharm-mercial. I get that people have Psoriasis, GERD, Cancer (hello!), severe anxiety and depression, Crohn's disease and even toenail fungus. These commercials, I can handle.

However, judging by the number of Cialis and Viagra commercials on the telly, one would think that E.D (I refuse to spell out the words this stands for because I am scared that my blog will be flagged for inappropriate content.) is a national health crisis.  Are THAT many men suffering from E.D on the planet that it warrants commercials starting from early in the morning during my morning news cast? Why must we be subjected to hearing the words "er*ction" and "sex" while we are sending our little ones off to school? I'm just waiting for my 9 year old to ask, "Mom, what's an Er*ction?"

Shouldn't they be in the tub together?

"Having my nether regions harnessed up is such a turn on!"
It just has to STOP.  It's morning, noon and night. It's unnecessary, tacky, and inappropriate. It is NOT a national health problem.

You know what kind of REAL problems women are having nowadays but none of the pharma companies will talk about in the same scope as Viagra? (And none of us are complaining out loud because we just suck it up and deal with it!)
1. Vaginal dryness
2. Vaginal Atrophy
3. Loss of bladder control
4. Loss of sexual desire

Having said that, do you really think we want our men to "last" for a long time?

No, no we don't.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

My Foobs and How They Compare to Marie Barone's Plastic Covered Couch

I've had this blog in a draft for over a year, partly because I am forgetful at times and partly because I've been a little scared to publish it. After a week of hearing about more recurrences in my friends who've already had breast cancer and a few newly diagnosed in my circle, I vowed that I wouldn't post this or ever, ever complain about my Foobs again because I should be grateful to be alive.  However, it all needs to be said, even though I feel guilty about it (must be the Italian in me!). And yes, I am grateful, all the time, even for the stupidest shit like grocery shopping, laundry and taking out the trash. So, if I sound like I'm complaining about my life, I am not. I have a great life but the reality is that cancer and mastectomies change you forever and this all still needs to be said. And there are people like me who need to hear it so that they don't feel so alone on this journey.

So here goes:

Once in a blue moon, I have a serious emotional meltdown about my Foobs. It seems to come out of nowhere and almost always happens in the shower. I just cry and cry and cry. I let it out and then I move on.

When I was faced with a double mastectomy, my plastic surgeon outlined how the surgery would be done and it all looked very simple and in the end, I'd have some perky new boobies. He had pictures of women who had endured the same surgery and I felt really confident that all would be hunky dory in the end. I would be normal again.

I was wrong.

Don't get me wrong, my doctor is a superstar and did a great job. I adore him, his staff and the phenomenal care he gave me. What I didn't know about having this surgery is that I am stuck feeling like there is something stuck on my chest (ha, maybe because there is). I am still numb on both sides under my arms and into my lat muscles. My nipples are gone. I get occasional itches on (or in, who can tell?) my breasts and while this sounds very exciting, if I try to scratch, I cannot find the itch to save my life. I have very little feeling in my new breasts.  They are constantly cold to the touch and yet, they have the ability to sweat underneath. When I am cuddling with my kids, I feel like there is something in the way and I have actually knocked my little one down a time or two.

Reconstructed breasts are NOT what people think they are. The majority of women I have spoken to about this have agreed that their new breasts have little, if any feeling and are definitely not any source of pleasure. They do enjoy the way they look in clothes but they, too get annoyed by the constant feeling of something stuck on them and the way they bump into things.

And then there is the disturbing feeling that I can no longer or will never feel my own heartbeat again.
Or the self-consciousness of undressing in a ladies' locker room for fear someone will see my scars and missing nipples. (Then again, I personally have seen MUCH scarier in the locker room so maybe it's not that bad.).

No one really wants to talk about sex and their mate's feelings towards their new breasts. Let's just say that the top shelf is just overlooked and no one's buying anything up there! If you want a tell-it-like-it-really-is version of what it's all like, click here for Ann Marie Otis' blog of Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer fame. She is my hero for her honesty and candor!

For those women who had their own tissue and fat transferred into their new breasts, the feeling may be a little more natural but again, there is still no sensation up there. No one's buying.

This all kind of reminds me of Marie Barone's beautiful plastic covered couch. You can look at it but you canNOT sit on it. Ever. It's all for show!

Trying to look "whole" again, comes with a great price including numerous surgeries, anesthesia, time out of work and life and emotional healing. When we do finally achieve the look, we still feel freaky. I feel like a prisoner in my own body most of the time. I want to jump out of my skin and run far away, but I can't. I feel trapped and to remove the implants would mean yet another surgery and I just don't have the energy to deal with more emotional upheaval. I, too, like the way I look in clothes, for the most part. But is it worth it? I'm hoping that over time, I will adapt more to these implants.

Will this ever get easier? It's been 2 years. And that's why I have these random crying meltdowns before getting in the shower.  The low grade discontent, day after day, week after week rears its ugly head. Almost like a pimple waiting to pop (if you need to laugh, click the link).

Some women (and more and more) choose to be "flat and fabulous", opting for zero recon. Some of my friends have opted for this and their doctors have questioned them and just assumed that they would automatically want recon. These women are sometimes criticized for their decisions and made to feel less feminine. Shame on the doctors who chastise a woman's right to go flat and fab. However, one friend noted that she feels like a joyful child without any breasts.  Just writing that made me smile so big.

These feelings of guilt just make me feel worse so I'm here to tell my sisters; feel shitty, cry, scream, run far away from that bathroom mirror if it makes you feel better.  Get therapy when you are ready, be kind to yourself, love yourself, do something that makes you feel good and remember that you have every right to your feelings.

As for me, I give myself permission to cry and grieve and realize this is normal.  And I will continue to count all of my blessings and move forward. I try really hard not to let these things wear me down and stop me from living.

I'd love to hear from anyone who has gone through reconstruction and how you feel several years later. Please comment below if you feel comfortable.  I know I can't be the only one feeling like this!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Happy Sugar-versary to Me

Today marks one full month since I gave up sweets. 
I found this entry in my food journal today and felt pretty damn proud of myself:

And I have stopped saying, "I gave up sweets" because it just sounds so martyr'ish and deprived.

Instead, I now look at it as being emancipated from sugar. Being freed from the shackles of sugar is liberating, powerful and extremely rewarding. Who knew it could feel this way? And except for the 3 day headache I had 5 days into this gig, I'm feeling pretty damn good and my mental fog has lifted, tremendously. Yay! Extra brain power is always a good thing.

Today  I will share some tips that have helped me to get through the last 30 days. This is, by no means, any type of medical advice, just what has worked for me:

1. I plan my snacks to heed off cravings. Some of my favorites include: hard boiled eggs, fruit, nuts, apple slices or banana with all natural peanut butter (no sugar added!), and these yummy homemade breakfast oatmeal muffins which do not contain any flour or sugar. I actually use less than half of the amount of honey suggested and they taste great. Eating snacks with protein throughout the day definitely helps to maintain my blood sugar so I don't have highs and lows I would normally have if I was hitting the candy dish at work.

2. Before my morning coffee, I start the day with a big glass of water with squeezed lemon. Here's why. So many reasons!!

3. Speaking of water, I drink it all day long. I keep a large refilled cup with me everywhere I go. It keeps me hydrated and feeling fuller. I've learned not to mistake thirst for hunger.

4. I do not use any artificial sweeteners of any kind. I never have and never will and I am actually shocked that they are still on the market, considering how harmful they are. They also do not really stave off any cravings and can make them worse.

5. Exercise, exercise, exercise. It gives me something else to do (besides baking cookies) and is a great stress reliever and mood elevator. I have also returned to yoga and that has brought me the biggest joy of all.

6. I incorporate extra veggies in my diet wherever possible. They have tons of nutrients, fiber, and water and help to fill you up. Example. I made homemade burgers the other night and mixed in 2-3 diced portobello mushrooms, 1/4 chopped onion and a half of a shredded and squeezed dry zucchini. with some of my favorite spices and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. All of these veggies literally disappeared into the meat  and helped me to get an extra 2 burgers out of the meal. A win win! (the kids had no clue either). I also cut up tons of raw veggies on a Sunday and keep them in a container for the week and grab for a quick snack.

7. I do not drink any alcohol. At all. For some, this will not work. For me, I simply cannot handle any alcohol due to the estrogen blocking, 10 year drug I am on. Alcohol does not agree with me. It's more sugar and calories I don't have to worry about.

Because I have eliminated sweets, my life does not seem to revolve around hunger and food anymore like it used to. Now, I just eat for sustenance and it's sort of odd, coming from an Italian family where everything always revolved around food and treats. I also find myself taking on more projects around the house and have an intense need to clean  out every one's closets and drawers.

My point is, life is still joyful, if not more. I don't feel deprived, ever. And the thought of eating candy is actually revolting to me.  Life is sweet enough and I'm sure I can find another closet to clean!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Going Sugar Free: It's Lent, Only Longer

How does one go about giving up sugar? There is so much advice on the internet and there are a lot of great ideas out there. I'll share what has worked for me in the next few blog posts. This blog is really more about getting your head on straight and psyching yourself up. If I can do it, so can you!!

Here we go:

1. The first rule of Sugar Free Club:  I stopped telling myself "I could never give up sugar." (Many have said this to me lately).  I stifled the old voices in my head that had previously sabotaged my efforts. My new voices say, "I am powerful and sugar is no longer in charge."

2. I told myself that if I dabbled in any way, then it would be over. My version of dabbling means trying "harmless" things like a few chocolate chips in my Greek yogurt or a few chocolate chips on a spoonful of peanut butter. I reminded myself that when I had dabbled in the past, it always led to a relapse of epic proportions. So, no dabbling allowed.

3. I didn't set an "end date" for quitting sugar. This is Lent, only longer. I'm going to keep it going for as long as possible. Do I get a front row seat in heaven for this one?

4. I pretend I have a severe food allergy or that I am like a recovering alcoholic who simply cannot have one drink without falling off the wagon. This is a very powerful technique and has allowed me to retrain my brain. If you keep telling yourself something over and over again, you will believe it, even if it isn't true. This can work in both positive and negative ways, depending on what your self-chatter is all about!

5. When I find myself in a social setting involving sweets, I simply let the voices of Nancy Reagan and M.C. Hammer guide me during these testy times.

My new favorite power couple!
 6. I sought out inspiration from people who have kicked the sugar habit successfully. Hearing their triumphant stories and words of encouragement helped me to get started and keep going. "It gets easier, don't give up", and "If and when you ever do eat sweets again you won't really enjoy them like before." All of this gives me hope.

I know my tips may seem a little unconventional but they are definitely working for me. The next blog will talk about the practical things I am doing to stay on track.  Stay tuned, my sweeties!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Living without Sugar

I have read numerous articles about the damaging effects of sugar on the body and here is a great one written by a nutritionist. This one point: Sugar may be linked to cancer production and may effect cancer survival was the nail in the coffin for me. Please read the article because there are so many more important reasons to give up or at least cut down on the sweet stuff.

As promised in my last blog, here is an update on my progress:

I am happy to report I have been sugar free for 17 days and counting. No desserts of any kind; cookies, candy, ice cream, or even the usual 1/2 tsp of sugar in my morning Joe.

I have scooped ice cream for my kids without so much as licking the spoon, my co-workers have dangled Dove chocolates under my nose without incident, and last weekend  I sat at a child's birthday party where 2 moms devoured Allies doughnut cake right in front of me.  One of them actually snickered when I told her I had given up sugar.  She said to me, "But you have to live!"  It's funny how we associate a few seconds of pleasure with "Living".

I then started rattling off my list of reasons for quitting sweets.  I told her that I now treat myself like  a person with a severe food allergy or a recovering alcoholic who wouldn't dare to dabble in one drink.  I think this made her a little uncomfortable but I think she understood a lot better when I explained my health history and just how lousy sugar was making me feel. She then proceeded to inhale  her doughnut cake in all its glory. I sat there, completely happy for her, yet removed from it all.

I'm allergic. It will make me sick.. 

These are the mantras I hold close and use as weaponry when life gets too sweet.  And you know, it's really working. I have realized over the last 17 days that I can live without sweets and they do not control me any longer. I find myself having flashbacks of Funny Bones, brownie sundaes, chocolate chip cookies, and Twix bars. I can vividly remember the way they taste and then I tell myself, "That's a nice memory, but it has to be enough." And then I move on.

Sometimes a memory of something has to be enough if you want to keep on living.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Breaking up with Sugar....Again

It's been far too long since my last post and I really have missed writing. All has been going pretty well here on the home front, with the exception of some nasty and occasional side effects of Tamoxifen. For the most part, I have adjusted to the drug but on occasion, I have had some major bouts of depression, anxiety, rage, apathy and exhaustion. Thankfully, I am aware that it is the drug talking and not something else. Adding peri-menopause to the mix adds even more excitement!

Oh, and did I mention forgetfulness? The other day, I was driving to work and turned into the Lowe's parking lot which would have been fantastic if I actually worked at Lowe's. In all fairness to me, I was very busy trying to harmonize with Adele on the radio and got mildly distracted. My office was at the next light so I wasn't really off Google maps, just yet.

Being almost 3 years out from my original BC diagnosis, I decided this year to really focus on my own health and wellness instead of fear and anxiety. I have been trying so very hard to take good care of myself. I find myself eating healthier food, exercising, minimizing stress, and reducing the toxic burden in my life by using safer products on my skin and in my home.  Swearing at people who throw cigarette butts outside their car windows also helps. It's all about balance.

With all of this super self-care, there was one area that still suffered, and that was my sugar intake.
Read this for my history on this sugar struggle bus.

Overall, I am OK (at least I was telling myself this). But all it takes is one mother of a chocolate holiday (aren't they all lately?) to derail me, or an innocent night of baking cookies "for the kids" which turns into a gorge fest to "get rid of them" the day after.   Easter is the new Halloween judging by the obnoxious bags of candy adorning the Easter aisles of any Target or CVS and while we really didn't buy the kids much candy, they still somehow landed with enough to fill Olson's Mercantile. And the only way to get rid of it is to EAT IT.

My come-to-Jesus moment came just 1 day after Easter when I found myself on my own personal Easter egg hunt  searching for candy where candy does not bedroom closet and  underneath the bathroom counters (I recall having hidden some Swedish fish inside a tampon box once) and then I stopped in my tracks. I actually stepped outside myself for a  moment and looked at how desperate and crazy I had become. This is what pure sugar addiction had done to me  For once, I am not joking.

This one moment in time proved to me that I needed help. If I was going to get real about giving up sugar then it meant that I could no longer just have a little here and there, or as I call it, "dabbling".

So, I have finally decided to kick my sugar habit once and for all. I know my closest friends and family members are saying, "Here she goes again", but this time is different. (Spoken like a true addict, I know!)

Every single one....applicable!

It's been almost one full week since I have eaten any form of dessert, cookie, candy, or even sugar in my coffee. I have to say it has been so much easier than my other feeble attempts. The difference this time is that I know I have a real problem with sugar and now I simply look at it as something that actually makes me sick, both physically and mentally.

Of course, I haven't lost a fucking pound, but that's OK. I'm really proud of myself for taking this step and finding my inner power. I promise to keep you posted on this one. I know I always say that here, but this time, it's different.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

What National Cancer Survivor Day Means to Me

According to my most trusted news source (Facebook), today is National Cancer Survivor Day. If you don't believe me, you can click here to see what all the fuss is about and perhaps even "like" their page.

I started writing a blog about this special day and then decided to scrap it for something less intense. It kinda said everything that's already been said about survivorship so I thought it best to not reinvent the wheel.

Here's what being a survivor is really like, in my world anyway!

1.  This. Just after diagnosis I felt exactly like this.

2. Enjoying the "glass half full" with having implants: I am completely buoyant in the water and will NEVER drown (see #1), no matter how much I don't try to stay afloat. I can single-boobedly save an entire family from a capsized ferry!

3. Picturing everyone I know with no hair. It's true. When you go bald, it's all you see. A bunch of cue balls! And you know what? People are more attractive with no hair. No. Joke!

4. Saying "yes" to the things that make me happy and "no" to the things that don't.

5. Forgetting everything. My kids' names, where I left my keys, what did I eat for supper 5 minutes ago?

6. Taking great care to shave my underarms because I now have this canyon between my foobs and my pits. It's a thing you have to see to really understand but no, I'm not posting a pic.

7. Enjoying the little things in life;  like watching my kids play, waiting at the bus stop, and even cleaning the house. Cuz I can.

8. Not feeling guilty about ordering Peapod to deliver my groceries, even with my able body. Life is just too damn short to waste time lugging groceries on a nice day. (So I'm blogging instead!)

9. Unfriending people on Facebook because they complain too much about nonsense and how hard their lives are.

10. Friending perfect strangers on FB because they are in the same life boat as me and I feel like I've known them forever.

11. Freedom. Being a survivor for me means freedom. That is what good health is. Freedom to do what I want when I want. It's freedom to let go of the past, look forward to the future and ride this wave, no matter where it takes me. And because I'm so damn buoyant now (see #2), I can go ANYWHERE and be safe.

God bless all the survivors out there. You are not alone! And  God bless all of the doctors, nurses and caregivers who help all of us survivors every day. We would not be here without you all. Having cancer sucked but I'm proud to be a survivor among many great survivors who are not just surviving, but thriving. Peace and love to you all!