Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ovaries are Cute, too

It's a good thing that Butt Cancer does not affect 1 in 8 women.

Can you imagine how very scary the month of October would be?

"Save the A-Holes!"
"Make sure you get your A-Holes checked!"

I envision special fundraisers like, "Putt Putt for the Butt Butts, get your hole-in-one!" or
"Don't use toilet paper today in honor of Butts everywhere. Let's go STREAKING!!!"

Seriously. I think breast cancer deserves attention, but so do all cancers. Because breast cancer strikes 1 in 8 women nationally, it warrants a lot of research and attention. However, the #1 cancer killer of women is actually LUNG cancer.  Sadly, you never hear about this. If I was a woman with lung cancer in the month of October, I'd be pretty pissed off.

And what about ovarian cancer, known as the "silent killer"? Ovaries may not be as cute as breasts but ovaries actually help to perpetuate the species which makes them far more valuable than breasts. And symptoms of ovarian cancer often do not appear until it's almost too late. I remember one day in the infusion center, my chemo roommate had ovarian cancer. She told me that she had been extremely bloated for MONTHS and finally took herself to the E.R.  Well, the doctor sent her home with some Maalox and that was it. After she pursued it further, her diagnosis was grim. Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is in September, yet you hardly hear about it.

Because ovaries aren't cute.  But breasts are.

Don't get me wrong, I want a cure and I want to find the CAUSE for breast cancer just as much, if not more than the next gal. But the whole month of October is just too much for me. I just have to wonder, if breasts weren't so cute and revered, would we be swimming in a sea of Pepto this month? I really don't think so.

It has become such a circus. A big, fat, pink circus and the message is lost. Breast cancer is not cute and frilly and fun. It's the opposite of all of those things, as are all cancers. They suck, all of them.

Yet this month finds people going "braless for a cause". I still don't know how one's sacrificing her underwire for a day, helps those of us who no longer require an underwire! How exactly does your bouncing bosom help raise awareness and find a cure? It only sexualizes a deadly disease. And it causes car accidents.

Or we are subjected to tacky, disrespectful and insensitive PSAs from the Susan G. Komen crew. Click here to see it. You won't believe your eyes. I promise.

So, this month and every month, I want to honor and remember everyone who has or had any type of cancer. To my friends with brain cancer, skin cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, lung cancer, bladder cancer, or cancer of the tushy, you all deserve so much more attention. Every color needs a cure.

Movember can't come fast enough.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

You Say Pinktober, I say......

I am starting to not like the color pink.  I used to (sort of) love it but now that Breast Cancer Awareness Month has started, the color reminds me more and more of the pink stuff you take for diarrhea. So, now I am calling this month....

(After a Google search, it turns out that: "We did not find any results for peptober" so I am proud to call it mine now.

And the name really is fitting because every time I see another story about a woman with breast cancer, I feel nauseous and I might have to hit the John....hard. I just can't take another sad story!!!

So, that is why I'm writing today. You will hear a lot this month about how mammograms SAVE lives! Get your TaTas checked! Go Braless for a cause! Buy this pink can of Campbell's soup and you will help save a life!

Ok, let's all get a grip, shall we? I will address Peptober in greater detail and all of the "PinkWashing" out there in some later blogs. Today, I want to talk about mammograms.

First I will say, I am not a doctor and I do not want anyone taking medical advice from me. I am just sharing my experience and want you all to learn from it and share it with your people.

Unlike Joan Lunden and Amy Robach of Good Morning America, my mammogram did not save my life. In fact, my mammogram lied to me for several years. I never missed a mammogram and every year when I went, I was told I had "dense breasts".  And every year, even prior to age 40, my Ob Gyn would do a breast exam and declare, "You have very dense breasts".  I never once thought anything of this because the doc always just left it at that. In fact, I thought having dense breasts was a good thing so I took it as a compliment!

And then December 2012 came and there were the lumps and the crease on the side of my very dense breast. I went for a mammogram and was told, "All clear, come back in a year!"  Well, if you've been following along, you know that was a big, fat hairy lie, too.  It turned out that my tumors were detectable on the ultrasound I had following this "good mammo", after I pushed for it. (My instincts knew something was wrong.)

Here's the deal with dense breasts, so listen up:

Women with dense breasts (meaning you have less fat in your breasts) have a 40-50% higher chance of getting breast cancer AND  up to 50% of tumors in women with dense breasts go UNDETECTED by the mammograms. In fact, there are now laws in several states which require doctors to tell you about your dense breasts if you have them. And now further work needs to be done to make further tests like ultrasounds or MRIs to be covered by insurance.

Breast density is like mammogram's dirty little secret. Half of women over 40 have no idea that their "normal" mammogram might not be normal at all. It's like looking for a snowball in a snow storm! Cancer is white, and dense tissue is white. So, dense breast tissue can overlap with cancers, masking them from view. Secondly, dense tissue is the part of the breast that gets cancer, not fat, so there is a higher risk of getting cancer for women with dense breasts.

I am angry today and I'm sure it's totally a delayed reaction. But the more I think about this, the angrier I get. Doctors clearly knew of my dense breasts. They knew of my family history and yet, no one ever pushed any ultrasounds for me. I feel like with these kind of cards stacked against a woman, it should have at least been explained to me. At the very least, why were no statistics provided?

Researchers have been studying breast cancer for many years. This dense breast info is nothing new, but it was new to me. It's inexcusable to trust a mammogram on millions of women and give them a false sense of security, especially with these staggering statistics. I'm starting to feel like one of those people who believe there is a cure for cancer and the pharma companies are hiding it. With all of the information available, why are patients not empowered with this information? The paranoid lady in me thinks that this whole breast cancer epidemic is just one big money making business. See what's happened to me? I was never this jaded!

I know I cannot turn back the clock. If I could, who knows if I'd still have my breasts or not. It's too late now. But it may not be too late for you. I'm sure breast cancer is not on your radar and all of the hype this month  may be just an excuse to wear pink, make pink cookies or have pink cocktails with your friends. Am I bitter? Yes. I am. But it's not just me I'm bitter about. I've lost some very dear people to this disease. Enough already! I can't bear to lose one more.

So, call this my way of spreading awareness this month. Sure, get that mammo, but go deeper. Find out if your breasts are dense. And if they are, insist on further testing.  Don't be afraid to speak up and don't ever feel intimidated by any medical professional. I've given you the statistics so now it's up to you to take matters in your own hands. Breast self-exams, in my opinion are EQUALLY important and mine is what told me something was seriously wrong. And look at yourself in the mirror. Get to know yourself!

And if you decide to wear pink this month, please make sure it doesn't resemble the Pepto variety.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right (Yes, it's about boobs....again)

I have a confession.

My last blog was originally written 4 months ago. I finally had the guts to publish it a few days ago, but now I must admit that this whole "peace process" isn't easy. Just when I think I've moved on and life has returned to "normal", I somehow regress.

It's nothing specific that causes this....no awful medical news, no major life events. In fact, life is pretty hunky dory. I've been back to work part-time at my corporate America job by day while freelance writing for a friend, and selling Ava Anderson Non-Toxic products.  (More to come on that one!).  And even though my head is spinning sometimes, I am enjoying working again and keeping busier than ever....proof that there IS life after breast cancer.  Thank you!

Life is moving forward and that feels good. But every so often, I start to feel really shitty about these implants. Having reconstructed breasts is strange and sometimes I feel like a store mannequin with the wrong body parts. Having implants after a mastectomy is not what people think it is.  Dealing with ignorant questions and comments also makes this more difficult (thankfully, this rarely happens). Some people actually look at this as a "boob job" when nothing could be further from the truth. Being asked "Why didn't you go bigger?" or "See, you got the boobs you always wanted!" really does not help. This "boob job" is the result of cancer; not exactly the "fun" kind of plastic surgery.  If I had my way, I'd take back my A cups any day of the week.

I always feel like I have to explain myself here so I'll do it again.  Here is my obligatory declaration of gratitude:

I'm grateful to be alive and cancer free. I'm grateful I could even HAVE reconstruction, as some cannot.

Yes, yes, yes. Grateful, Grateful, Grateful. BUT, it all just feels so......

WRONG. That's the word. Wrong. My body feels WRONG.

It feels odd, out of place, something-just-isn't-right kind of wrong. Like something is always strapped to my chest or I'm wearing 15 bras at once.  And that feeling is never going to go away.  From the outside, everyone says I look great and "you would never know".

But I know. And what I know is, this is not how I thought it would be, even after talking to so many women who have been through it. No one ever mentioned how strange it all feels. Why? I can't possibly be the only one feeling like this, can I?  Could I be THE only girl who feels like a Smart Car with monster truck-sized tires?

(This is no indication of how big my new ones are, just an analogy of something that is ill fitting, got it?).

Which is why I am taking a chance by publishing this blog. To let you fellow Pinkies out there know that if you, too, feel "wrong", then it's OK.  Sometimes we are too afraid to talk about these feelings because we fear that we may sound ungrateful. Well, here's a reality check for you. Having your breasts removed from your body is not normal. Having implants is not normal. Just because thousands of women are doing it to save their lives, still doesn't make it normal.  No one should ever feel guilty for missing some previously beloved body parts that were surgically removed. Give yourself permission to miss them.  And give your spouse permission too, because they are also grieving the old you. And that's OK too. They are allowed, just as you are.

I don't know when my Wrong self will feel Right again. I hope sooner than later.  In the mean time, I will accept this as part of the journey (God, I really am tired of that word!) and I hope that my new tires will help me to keep moving forward.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Let There Be Peace in My Bra

Peace Be With You

These words just spilled out of my mouth a few months ago as I stood there in front of the bathroom mirror, birthday suit and all.  I guess that I'd been saying and feeling so many bad things about my body that my inner child (who was always the peace maker) decided to put an end to it. 

Peace Be With You.  These are the words we always say in church and it happens to be my favorite part of going to church. I did not grow up in a very churchy family. We rarely went but when we did, I always loved the little adrenaline rush I got from saying "Peace be with you".  I still love it and even if I'm in a bad mood, this always brings me out of it, even if for only a little while. 

Accepting the uncontrollable situations in life is hard. We fight, we challenge, we feel so tormented inside. It's a rotten way to live your life, in a constant state of distress.  I just can't do it anymore. It's taking too much of a toll on me and it's robbing me of living the life I was meant to live.


So peace be with me.

After I made the peace sign with my new breasts (and also realizing that I should stop calling them "Foobs" because that, too, makes them feel more irrelevant to me when they shouldn't be), I started looking at them differently and truly, they are now starting to grow on me (pun intended).  

It's sort of like that loud, Italian family who is leery of the fair skinned Irish girl the son brings home to Sunday dinner. It completely rocks their world, just like these Foobs have done to me. But once they get to know her, they welcome her into the family with open arms.

Peace be with you.

It doesn't only apply to me and my boobs. You can use it too....I don't care. It's not like a million dollar patented invention like the Snuggie, so peace out!

Is something giving you grief? Your jiggly thighs, your stomach, your hair, a negative coworker, bad relationship, a sucky job?

Say it with me. Peace be with you. And then move on. Some things cannot be changed, instantly or at all so make peace with it. And then move on. Don't waste anymore precious energy on things that cannot be changed or you have zero control over. Who knew that my Boob Self Talk could be such a healthy step in the right direction in so many areas of my life?

I wish you all peace, every day, in any way you can find it.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Accepting The New Girls on the Block

"If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with. Love the one you're with."

(This quote is about your breasts, not your life partner)

So, when I had the double mastectomy, I was so drugged up, I really did not mourn my breasts and was just focused on resting, recovering, emptying my drains (gross!). Then during the expansion process, I was so uncomfortable for 5 months, I didn't focus on how I looked. I kept looking forward to the "exchange surgery" on April Foobs Day when the bionic boobs would be exchanged for the silicone implants. I was excited as that day signaled the end of a long and painful journey. The new me was about to emerge.

The surgery went great. My doc almost put the wrong size in though, and a courier had to drive to a different hospital to get the CORRECT size for me. That courier thought someone was playing an April Fool's Day joke on him by asking him to pick up someone's new breasts. No joke!

The day after I got home from the hospital, I took a shower.  When I looked down, suddenly I felt normal again. My doctor had fashioned a nipple from my own skin (go to youtube and search "modified skate flap" to see how it's done). Much later on, a tattooed areola will be permanently done by a man named Lenny with a patch over one eye and a tattoo on his forearm that says, "I love Mom".

I have to say that from my bird's eye view looking down that day, everything looked perfect. I couldn't see the scabs and the scars. All I could see were 2 real looking breasts and what looked like my old nipples. For a split second, I felt like the cancer and all that had happened in the previous year never happened. It was quite surreal, just feeling normal again. I felt whole again. I felt like there was hope for healing. I felt like crying, I was so damn happy.

And then weeks went by and the reality set in. I still felt like these implants, as permanent as they are, were just another temporary thing. It finally hit me that I would never see the old ones again.  Then I started feeling stuck and sad, hence the counseling appointments! (See prior blog)

In addition to counseling, I sought out the advice from my pink sisters. Chances are always great that someone relates to exactly how I'm feeling. Well, one bright, shining, half glass full girl named Amber looks at her new breasts differently. She said that her old breasts tried to kill her and she worked too damn hard (between surgeries, chemo, etc) for her NEW breasts, that she grew to like them. She's super happy with the way she looks and she views her breasts as part of her now.  Amber has moved forward.

However, everyone is different and to compare your emotional reactions to someone else's is not helpful.  It just puts more pressure on you to feel happy, causing you to feel like a failure.  Having said that though, many can learn from Amber and I am trying my damndest to accept my new breasts. 

One of my other Pinkies named Pazit, treats them more like an accessory. I call them their own entity. In fact, I have no problem showing people because technically, I feel like they're not really mine. Dear lord, I even showed them to my therapist last week (she's a woman, but still, I'm worried I may have boundary issues now). I may need to get a Groupon for all of these visits!

How do women come to fully embrace these new breasts? I don't know. Should I have some sort of ceremony for them? A coming out party? Should I faithfully tell them how much I love them every day? Should I find a good hypnotist?

Only time will tell.

One more thing. We feel guilty for feeling this way, you know. We always feel the need to say how grateful we are and lucky to be alive and that these things are just superficial. In fact, I was in the shower today and suddenly I heard the Bee Gees singing, to the tune of "You should be dancing":

"You should be grateful. Yah!  You should be grateful, Yah!"

Listen, give it a rest, Brothers Gibb.  We are grateful and we need not feel guilty for feeling sad about some very important body parts gone M.I.A.

In summary: As you can see, if you are struggling with the same feelings as moi, you can tell that I have not been much help. This whole experience is like on the job training. I've never done this before either. I'm like that awful waitress who keeps spilling coffee on your lap. 

But one of these days, I am going to get it right. I have hope that my coffee cup will be half full, just like Amber's.

Now What? Coping With the Aftershocks of Breast Cancer

Some days, I'm so damn happy,  I feel like Mary Poppins with Pop Rocks in my undies. Other days, I feel like a morose and apathetic teenager, slouched over my desk in detention hall.  Such is the emotional roller coaster of the "Now What?" after breast cancer.

My doctors have told me to move forward, live my life, and stop worrying. I have a 90% chance of never having a recurrence. Pretty darn good odds. Cause for celebration. Rah. Rah.

Then why do I feel so unsettled and stuck? If I had a band, it would be called "No Direction". I feel sad, forgetful, foggy, and sometimes I just don't care about anything.  I'm not curled up into a ball with the covers over my head and the shades drawn. No, I am very high functioning and to the outside world and many family and friends, I am just fine.  The funny part is that I'm doing everything humanly possible to help me to feel good. I exercise at least 5 days/week. I take yoga classes. I eat well. I say no to things that serve no purpose to me, and I say yes to the things that do. One would think that all of this tender loving self care would have a positive influence on my psyche but not so much. Imagine if I didn't do all those wonderful things? Yikes!

I have been told that all of my feelings are perfectly normal. Some have compared these post breast cancer feelings to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Like war veterans, we have flashbacks too. We hear of a friend being diagnosed or we reach a special "Cancerversary". It all comes flooding back and we relive everything like it's happening to us again.  That feeling of constantly being under a terrorist attack is hard to break from and for me, the first sign is my throat starts to close up. Then the downward spiral begins, again.
I suppose I could keep these private feelings private. However, I find that when I put it out into the universe, I feel better for releasing it. I also know that at least one other person on this earth also feels the same way. So, I'm willing to take this risk. I realize it's a vulnerable place to be; you knowing my innermost feelings. It's like reading my diary.  If it helps you or someone you know, then I'm willing to share. There's nothing worse than feeling alone with your feelings. It's like standing on an island by yourself but you must know, you are not alone if you are feeling the way I do.

Every day I find myself asking this same question. What. Just. Happened? It's still very hard to wrap my brain around so many events and bodily changes in an 11 month period. Did it really happen? How could I have had cancer? Doesn't cancer happen to other people? You'd think by now, it would feel real, but no. It's all so very weird!

People have joked to me about finally getting the "boobs I've always wanted". While it may sound like a cute and funny thing to say, these really AREN'T the boobs I've always wanted. Breasts should have feeling in them. These don't. Breasts shouldn't feel like they are "attached to you". These do.  I finally realized after my last surgery that I am stuck with these forever, unless of course, I decide to have them removed, which isn't an option for me right now. 

Looking at this very changed body every day is hard. Some days it's OK but others?  I'm very sad that this is the way it has to be. I know I made the right choice to save my life and have no regrets. But it's still hard. And yes, I'm still grateful. (Why do I feel like I need to keep saying that? Isn't it kind of obvious that I'm grateful?)  But I'm allowed to be sad about what will never come back.

After trying to sort everything out in my own head for too long and only making things much worse (that's what anxiety does. It completely spirals out of control if you don't stop it!), I finally took the leap and went to see a counselor last week.  She told me that she sees women who've had breast cancer and never sought therapy until 5-10 years after their bc journey. She said they have a much harder time understanding why they feel so emotionally horrid and don't even connect the dots back to their breast cancer.  Wow. Imagine holding it in for years and years?

I'm glad I took the leap to counseling. My friend told me that the strongest people seek help, so I guess I am strong.  

I am certainly not ashamed of it and I encourage anyone who is struggling with anything in their life, not just a disease, to seek help for it. No one should live a life in pain and silence. And thank you Jesus, I found a therapist who uses the "F" word on occasion. Phew...

One more thing from my therapist. As we talked about the new breasts and trying to adjust to the loss of the old ones, she said, "It sounds like you need to welcome the new ones into your body and accept them as a part of you", (of course, I'm paraphrasing because I can't remember shit anymore!).  I never really thought of it like that and now, going forward, that is on my "to do" list every day: Try to accept things now as they are and learn to love the new and strange parts of me, along with the old and strange parts of me.

I know it's going to take time and thankfully, time is on my side now. In my next blog, I will delve a little deeper into rolling out the welcome mat for my new breasts. Stay tuned!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Putting the "Bra" in Brave

Brave. What is your definition of BRAVE? Is it going out without makeup? Wearing white shoes before Memorial Day? 

People have said I am so brave. I don't really agree with that. I basically have done what anyone else in my position would have done. Throughout parts of it, I screamed, cried, or closed my eyes and knew it would be over at some point. I never really felt brave while going through it.  I just did it and if you think you couldn't handle what I went through, you could and you will if you have to.  I am not that special. It's just about survival.  If you are told your odds of recurrence will be lowered if you do everything in the protocol, then you do it. Don't fuck around with your life, just because you are scared of needles, going bald, or feeling sick for a few months, or longer!

OK, now that that is out of the way. I want to talk about real bravery.

Here is an example. This beautiful woman, Beth Whaanga had breast cancer. She posted this picture on Facebook to show the world, (or simply, her network of friends), what the body looks like after undergoing multiple surgeries and treatments to try and make it whole again. Her surgeries included a double mastectomy, TRAM flap reconstruction and a hysterectomy.

After she posted this picture, 103 people "unfriended" her. 

(By the way, she's had 4 kids! I personally thing she looks friggin amazing!)

Would you unfriend her?  Or would you just scroll down past it because it's too upsetting?

Because I am engrossed in the world of Breast Cancer, pictures like this neither bother nor shock me. They are a fact of my life.  However, there are some out there who just don't get it. They feel these pictures are too disturbing, unnecessary, and not helpful to anyone. I recall one person comparing a mastectomy picture to a car accident victim and why would anyone need to see that? Apples and oranges, my friends! On one recent thread about this very topic, a man said that decency has gone out the window. I think he views women like the above as slutty exhibitionists while nothing could be further from the truth.

The majority of people commenting on pictures like the one above, do get it and offer support and encouragement. They probably had breast cancer or had a family or friend with bc. If they have no connection to breast cancer, then it's easy for them to say that these pictures are not helpful. But I'm writing this blog today to explain why they are, in fact, helpful to everyone and not just the patients.

1. The general population has no idea what a mastectomy and reconstruction entails. Unless they have a close family member or friend who is willing to lift their shirt (like moi), they will believe that a woman goes in for surgery and comes out with new breasts. Having a mastectomy with recon is not comparable to someone who keeps their breasts and simply goes in for augmentation. There are often multiple surgeries and procedures involved and the end result may not even be good.  There is pain, numbness, swelling, inability to lift, stretch, drive. Some women endure numerous infections, causing major delays, more pain, and heartache. It not only messes with the physical self. It damages her spirit and her spark. Some women cannot even have recon due to so many complications. 

She may look OK on the outside, but underneath the clothing she is like a patched up quilt in the beginning. Nipples are gone, sensation in the skin is gone or if she's lucky, it returns here and there. And yes, she is still happy to be alive through it all. Please keep in mind that not everyone has complications and the recon process more often goes smoothly (I am in this category, thankfully!). I am not here to scare anyone who may be facing one of these surgeries. But the reality is, trying to look "normal" again is a work in progress, to say the least.

2. The newly diagnosed woman who is getting ready for a mastectomy needs to see these pictures. Speaking from experience, pictures like these helped me cope with the aftermath a lot better. It completely removed the mystery and fear. Thank you Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer for helping me! Your fearless posts have helped THOUSANDS of women. You are doing a great service to all of those scared women who don't think they can do this. God bless you!

3. At some point, everyone will know someone with breast cancer. Because it is such an epidemic, chances are more than "good" that you will have a friend, cousin, mother, daughter, sister, wife, aunt or co-worker with breast cancer. How do these pictures help you? Well, in my opinion, it helps you to help the patient. It gives you some insight as to what her body has endured and you may also handle her differently. By that I mean, understand why she may be depressed, withdrawn, cranky, angry, or sad. She has lost her previous self and she will never get it back no matter how good her surgeon is.  She may look and act fine on the outside but on the inside, she may be crumbling at times. She still looks forward though, trying hard not to dwell. She has a grateful heart and with time, she will get used to her new self because she is a warrior!

4. Lastly, these pictures are good come  "Pinktober": Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Sure, people can wear pink, go bra less, take selfies without makeup, buy products that claim they are donating a nickel from each sale to breast cancer, but do these things TRULY raise awareness about this disease? I think these "shocking and disturbing" photos are much more effective in getting the  message out there. They are raw, honest, and human. If we wish to raise funds to eradicate breast cancer, then we need to attach a face and a body to it; a body that has endured and continues to fight.

And to those who cannot handle looking at the "indecent" pictures, I encourage you to just scroll past them because clearly, you can't handle the truth about breast cancer and you know nothing of this battle.

But for those faced with this diagnosis? Look at the pictures before your surgery, even if it's difficult. Knowledge is power. Also, talk to women who have been through it, and message me if you want and I'll be happy to talk to you. No one should travel this road alone.  Thanks to Beth in the above picture, many women will be a little less frightened. For that, I thank her!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Rah Rah for Ta-Tas! Becky's New Boobs Are Born

Today is the day! April Foob's Day has arrived! If you haven't been reading my posts on Facebook, here it is. Today is the "exchange surgery". This means that the silicone, temporary expanders inside my chest will be taken out and swapped out for softer, silicone implants. I have had the expanders in since October 18, when my double mastectomy was performed. In the beginning, they were hard to get used to. In the middle, I got used to them. Now, I feel like if I have to go one more day with these mothers in my chest, I'm going to have a breakdown. I can't do yoga anymore, sleeping is next to impossible and I honestly look freaky now. I feel like I have 2 cantaloupes strapped to my chest at all times.

I am so done. And considering today is April Fool's Day, I've renamed it as April Foobs Day. I Googled this left and right and I do not believe anyone has coined this day as such. Now, it is official. You heard it here first, my darlings.

So, I look upon this day as the final chapter in my trilogy of surgeries. First, there was the lumpectomy, then the mastectomy, and now, we've come full circle with making me as whole as I can be with the new girls. I've been very lucky up until this point, having had zero complications, infections, or bumps in the road. I know some women are not so lucky and this process can take much, much longer, causing heartache, pain, and disappointment. I know they soldier on, in whatever way they need to, as there really is no other choice. 

Choice. It's a good thing, right? I made my choice to have the double because my lumpectomy surgery showed there was extensive DCIS still present outside the margins. Despite one of my doctor's suggestions to "do more tissue removal" and radiate it, I concluded (with the help of my awesome plastic surgeon) that I would still need reconstructive surgery either way. It was a hard decision but I knew it was the only one that made sense for me. The doctor who wanted to do tissue removal actually said, "You know, there's something to be said for the natural state of a woman's breast".

Whaat? Did he really say that? Yes, he did. And I was too in shock at the time to even respond. Did he think I was doing all this to get a free boob job? Sure, I'd love to be able to feel my natural breasts once again and have some sensation. However, if those breasts are out to kill me, then they're really not worth keeping now, are they? Don't make me feel worse by saying a natural breast is "better". 

They say, "Don't look back. You're not going there". And, "If you don't bury the past, the past will bury you."  I really love these 2 quotes. There is no turning back time now, and that's cool because I feel that the worst is behind me now and the future is full of hope and promise, even without my natural breasts. 

My previously slightly saggy A cups are being upgraded now. I'm trading up and I deserve it. Stay tuned for the "after" blog and thank you for reading and supporting me. You are all like a great bra! 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Another Blog Where I say F*CK and Fat

Losing weight while taking Tamoxifen is like:

A. Shoveling shit against the tide
B. Cleaning up after your kids while they are in the middle of playing
C. Shoveling snow during a blizzard
D. Being a one legged man in an ass kicking contest
(credit my big brother for that last one)

All of the above, my friends.  

I need to talk about this topic because it's been weighing heavily on me for too long. Well, actually, just a few short months but it feels like an eternity since I was thin. I wish I knew how skinny I was when I thought I was fat, if that makes any sense, because now I am technically obese and way out of my recommended weight range. Forty pounds over to be exact.

I went to my doctor 2 months ago and all we talked about was my weight. He kept trying to drill into my head that I need to "Break through my exhaustion" and exercise because not only will I feel better and lose weight, but I'll start to sleep better too, which helps the exhaustion cycle.  Now, I am not stupid. I have a scale and a mirror, both of which haunt me daily. I have never been this overweight in my life (not counting 2 pregnancies where I gained 42 lbs each time, but then eventually lost it.)  And to all those girls who are trying to shed baby weight? I really have no sympathy for you! Sorry. That was a fucking piece of cake compared to this.

Did someone just say "cake"?

Anyway, with each chemo cycle I gained 5 lbs. There is 20 lbs, right there. There were 3 days of steroids for each chemo cycle which certainly did not help. Then, chemo ended and I had a "break". A month later, I had a bilateral mastectomy and my most strenuous form of exercise was doing arm circles in the shower. Two weeks after the surgery, I started on Tamoxifen and since then, 20 more lbs have been added for a grand total of 40 extra pounds. (Peppered in between all of that was Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, just sayin.)  Now, there are some girls (I know of only 3, and I know a LOT of pink ladies!), who never gained an ounce. In fact, they lost weight. Just so you know, if they weren't such nice people, I'd hate them and I don't know why some gain and some don't. But the majority of women who are in my age group or older have gained weight. We are the peri-meno or menopausal women. The cards are stacked against us. We are thrust into instant menopause and suddenly, we have these fucking bellies that popped out of nowhere. Not a day goes by where I am not grunting and groaning every time I bend over, get out of bed, or haul my ass off the toilet. That alone is a fucking workout! Trust me, all the skinny cancer patients you see in the movies must have another form of cancer. 

I told my doctor, "I'm a skinny person trapped in a fat person's body!" He thought this was hysterical. Sure. He has a fucking 32 inch waist and has no idea what I am dealing with. Twerp.

Can you tell I am angry? I am. I've really not been angry throughout this "journey" but now I am. I could deal with all the garbage this journey put on my lap.  But now, being fat after all that I had to go through, well, it's just a big kick in the tits! And again, I'm speaking for many. It's not just me. We have been through enough already and now, we are supposed to deal with this next mountain in front of us when we are not only sapped of energy and strength but we are dealing with mood changing drugs, unpredictable appetites, strange body aches, crazy cravings, trying to get back to "normal", whatever the hell that is. And yes, sure, let's just plow through and lose 40 lbs now.

So, I'm doing everything I can to lose weight. I joined the LiveStrong program at the Y. I've been working out 4-5 days/week, sometimes more. I've cut way back on sweets, eating more fresh fruits and veggies. I even make my own granola! And do you know what? I think my granola was making me fat. Sure, it was homemade, but it had maple syrup and coconut oil; all well and good, but I am not really known for my portion control so a few too many handfuls during a stressful Breaking Bad'athon and the next day the scale would be scorning me, once again. Sometimes it seems I just look at food the wrong way and I gain weight.

But I am determined. Not only do I HATE being fat, I do not want to spend money on new summer clothes. So, I took my journey a step further and signed on to MyFitnessPal, again. It's a lot like Weight Watchers, only it's free. Plus, you can add your friends and cheer each other on as you add in your exercise for the day and track your food. It's very easy to use and keeps me conscious, once again.

I had this blog in a draft and wrote it when I really was angry. I've since turned my anger into action because  hanging on to anger, stress, bitterness, and "why me", does not do a body good. Cancer cells despise happy people but it loves miserable ones.  

I look back on pictures from the beginning, just 10 short months ago. The girl on the left was skinny and she had cancer. The girl on the right? She is cancer free. Which one would you choose to be?

I choose me. Now.

I can't look back because I'm not going there and that is definitely a reason to be happy!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pink Sisters Going Viral!

I never really ask my readers to do anything for me, except well, read my blog. I always hope that it entertains or gets people to think about things they don't normally think about, like how to use a (clean) peeled maxi pad to unlock a frozen car door in a crisis. You know, the important stuff!

If you are in a hurry and don't have time to read the back story below, just click on this link and watch this video. And then, please share it with at least 10 friends!  Hint: Dancing boobs and some really hot bald chicks to inspire and entertain you! Now just watch it! It's less than 5 minutes.

Today, I'm asking for a favor on behalf of 238 women. They are all Breast Cancer survivors, warriors, and overcomers. They are great ladies ranging from 20's up to 60's. They are from the U.S, Canada, the U.K., Australia and beyond! They are mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, and aunties. They matter to a lot of people, including me. They are my friends. 

We are the Pink Sisters.
(Ok, this isn't exactly what we look like. However, some of us would love these outfits on any given day if we are having a really bad hair/bald day and our old clothes no longer fit us.) If you want to see the REAL PINK SISTERS, watch the video!

I met them on Facebook early on in my BC journey. It happened quite by accident when I got my iPad from my family and friends after my diagnosis. I was exploring apps that might be helpful to me and I found one called "Beyond the Shock".  It was my go to place for answers during a time when everything was so overwhelming and confusing.  From time to time, I would post a question and other ladies would answer me with their experience. What I loved about the group is that no one told you what to do or was giving medical advice. Just shared experiences and I never felt alone.

Then, a few girls on the site mentioned there was a private Facebook page called the Pink Sisters. It was more of a personal group where we could get to know each other better aside from breast cancer. So, I was added to the group by a lovely girl named Leah. Thanks Leah!

Since then, I have remained in daily contact with these girls. Being the Facebook junkie that I am, I check in with them first thing every morning, even before my morning coffee. I've gotten to know many of these ladies virtually. Some of them are from my home state but most are not. I've even Facetimed with a few and have had great laughs getting to know them.  We pray for each other when one is undergoing a surgery or scary treatment. We ask the strange questions we are afraid to ask our doctors and we don't feel so freaky. That's all I'll say about that topic. For now. The Pink Sisters just "get it"; the good, the bad, the ugly. Nothing is off limits!

So, how can you help us? Well, the Pink Sisters would LOVE to meet in person. We know that is next to impossible considering our geographical situation! But, one wise sister thought it would be a great idea to contact Ellen Degeneres to see if she would fly us out there to be on her show during the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness month. We want to fill her audience with breast cancer survivors and their families so we embarked on a letter writing campaign and we also made this YouTube video to show the faces of breast cancer. One thing all of these women have in common is they smile, even during the worst times! Their strength and courage help keep me going when I get down.

We are asking all of our family and friends to watch and share the video. We have contacted Ellen's show already and gone through the proper channels. However, we really don't know if they will contact us. We need to be politely persistent and hope you can help spread the word by making this video go VIRAL! So, please take a moment to watch and share this inspiring piece!

Listen. If Sophia Grace and Rosie can get on Ellen for drinking tea in their tutus, then so can my Pink Sisters! Won't you help us realize our dream? Thank you so much!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Blog Where I say F*CK a LOT

You know what I hear a lot? These words:
"Your honesty is so refreshing!" 

People seem to love the raw, honest truth. I'm not so sure you are going to like hearing my following honesty and if you are offended by the F word, then you might want to find one of those mommy scrapbooking blogs to balance out all the naughtiness you are about to read. 

I do believe honesty is important 99% of the time. For example. I recently bought a dress which was very beautiful and at a great price.  This was for an upcoming wedding. When I tried it on in the store, I tried to convince myself that it looked good on me. Considering I'm dealing with a 35 lb weight gain, I thought this is the way my fat self was supposed to look. Something inside me didn't really love how it looked but I bought it anyway. I later tried it on for my friend Michelle, who should really get on "What Not to Wear" as a consultant. As soon as that dress was over my head, she said, "NO, that's not the right cut on you."  I have to say, for a split second, the truth hurt. But then I got over it. She was so right and then offered up one of her many dresses for me to wear to the wedding. She could have totally lied to my face (like the sales girl did), but a good friend is honest. I think everyone needs a friend like Michelle!

Having said that, I'm now going to be honest about my hair and how I feel about it. I fucking hate it. Yes, I fucking hate it, most of the time. Like 98% of the time.

Before it grew back, people would say: "You know, my friend had cancer and when her hair grew back it was so curly!" No SHIT SHERLOCK! I never heard THAT one before! Thank you for the heads up!! I did not know that it could grow back curly!

I'd like to respond to that statement sometime with:
"Yes, it's amazing how it grows back curly on my head, but did you know my pubic bush is poker straight?"

That'll fix 'em. What is up with that anyway? Pubes are supposed to be curly, dammit! Now it's like they fucking took up residency on my head!

I know what you are thinking and what you would say to me now. 
"Becky, you look elegant!"
"I think you are stunning"

I have just one question for you and please, take no offense.

Are you high? Do you REALLY think this hair do is pretty? Or are you saying that to make me feel good and you're just happy not to look at my bald head anymore?

(And where the fuck are my eyebrows?

A different friend named Michelle (also a Pink Sister), has often said, "No one would CHOOSE to have this hair do if they had hair! Do people think I had it 'done' like this?"  She is right, would you go to a salon and ask for "The Post Chemo Pubey Salt n Peppa Approaching Don King Curly" do? Does this hairdo show up in ANY hair magazine on the planet? If so, I'd like to see it. 

It's fucking ugly. It's not my color either. I used to be a strawberry blond. 

I feel bad complaining about something so vain and trivial like hair. Yes, I am grateful every fucking day to be alive when some of my Pink Sisters are truly fighting for their lives right now. I have hair and life guilt and I know many women feel exactly like me. They, too, hate their hair and feel guilty talking about it. Well, I'm giving you all permission to bitch and moan away. It's ok. Cancer has robbed us of most of what makes us feel "feminine". Now we feel, dare I say this word, Butchy. 

I got myself gussied up for the wedding the other night, doing my best to look like a girl. I look at the pictures of myself from that night and I just don't recognize me. I still have a hard time with this, I suppose.  

A few blogs ago, I wrote about "Loving myself, no matter what".  I still love myself, I just hate my hair. Does that make sense? 

Next year at this time, I'm sure I will look back on this blog and laugh. I will probably be complaining about something new, like how my hair is making me hot or it costs too much to cut! 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Overcoming Cancer's Hairy Situations

I really hate my hair.  

I know, I know, this is something you hear women say all the time. But this lady was recently bald. Her hair is growing back in full swing. I should be happy, right?

Well, at first, I was ECSTATIC. I chronicled every little wisp that sprouted up.  That peach fuzz was endearing and cute. Until it started morphing into a salt and peppa 'Fro. Now, it's just plain Fugly. Yes, that's right. I'm going to sound like a whiny, complaining bitch for having hair on my head. You're probably saying to yourself, "You should be happy it's growing!" or, "It's really pretty on you! If I didn't know you, I'd think you had it CUT that way!"

Oh, really? Do people really have their hair dyed and cut EXACTLY like this? Do people chose  hairstyles like this? Let me tell you, it's only going to get worse if the curls keep curling. I can't seem to gel it, comb it or do ANYTHING with it. And please don't tell me to put a head band on because that's even sadder on this do. And my beloved hats that I loved a few months ago? I can't even stand the feel of them anymore. This hairdo is for the birds. Literally. In fact, I think a bird was nesting in there earlier today but I was too tired to disturb it.

I had counseled myself through baldness by saying to myself and others, "Hair is so overrated. Every girl should be bald at least once in her life, just to feel how liberating it is! I may even STAY bald, or at least keep a very short hair do. I really don't miss my old hair. It was SUCH a pain in the ass to do. Don't let your hair DEFINE you."

Well, I believe every word of that to be true but now I just want to fast forward a few inches. I'm really not asking for Rapunzel. Nurse Jackie will do just fine!

When I was bald, this is what I heard:

"You look great bald! I can really see your face now!"
"Don't ever have long hair again!"
"Your head is just so perfectly shaped!"

And people stared at me in public if I didn't wear a hat or scarf. The looks were mostly of pity, discomfort, or a little sadness. So, one day, while having coffee with my girlfriends, I made this sign. I said, "If I could make a T-Shirt, this is what it would say!"

(God, I really do have a nice head! And yes, middle fingers were intentional.)

Now, when I go out in public, people just stare at my hair. Like, "Dear Lord, woman, who cut your hair, Stevie Wonder?"

And there's no hiding from it. It's pitiful. Yes, I know there are worse things in the world. Trust me, I get it. It's my blog and I'll vent if I want to.

My biggest fears are no longer about cancer. Do you know what I am scared of? That I'm going to look like a 32 year actress who plays a 14 year old Jewish boy named Jacob at his Bar Mitzvah. That is exactly where this hairdo is headed. See below.

Papa can you hear me? 

I guess this hair growing process is another fucking metaphor for the "Cancer Journey". 
There is no easy way around it and you just have to go through it. Things are going to get ugly, and strange, and wild. You can't skip past the chemo crapfest or the awkward curls.

Life, in general is like this. You'd like to fast forward through a Jacob In Progress but you can't.  Keep your head held high, smile, and dab on some lipstick so you at least look like a girl. 

And if that isn't for you, just wear a paper bag over your head until the birds have left the nest. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Becky's Homemade Granola

Love granola but don't like all the added sugar and other "stuff" they put in there that's not so natural? It's super easy and fun to make! And if you buy your ingredients in bulk you will save money and always have everything on hand to make a batch. There are tons of recipes on the internet and luckily, granola is very versatile and you can mix and match whatever kinds of nuts and seeds you like. Don't feel committed to just using the ingredients below. Try pumpkin seeds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, or unsweetened coconut mixed in with the oats before cooking. 

I like this version because it doesn't use brown sugar but takes its sweetness from honey and maple syrup. The addition of cinnamon and vanilla add a nice touch, too.

Here you go! (Oh, I would make a double batch if I were you)

Becky's Homemade Granola

2 cups raw Old Fashioned oats
1/2 cup sliced raw almonds
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
large pinch salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 TBSP maple syrup
1 TBSP raw honey
2 TBSP coconut oil (I buy mine at Trader Joes but I'm sure you can find it anywhere now, it's so popular. It comes in a jar and has many uses! Get some now!!)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 300. 
In a large bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients using your hands.
In a glass measuring cup, combine the maple syrup, honey, and coconut oil. The coconut oil is solid from the jar when you scoop it out. That's ok.  Microwave the ingredients in the measuring cup for about 20 seconds and stir it up so the oil is now looking like oil and mixes into the other ingredients. If needed, micro a little more to melt it. Add the vanilla and stir.

Pour this liquid mixture over the dried ingredients and toss well to ensure all is covered with the liquid.  It won't look very wet and that's ok. Just coat it all evenly. You can also use your hands if you'd like but I use a spatula.

Transfer it to a large rimmed cookie sheet in a single layer. I line mine with parchment paper because it cleans up easier. Place in oven for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes, stir the mixture around so it cooks evenly. Every 2-3 minutes, open the oven and toss again.  It can brown very easily, too fast, so be careful. The mixture on the right is a little too overdone for my liking and the one on the left is just about right. These 2 pans were in the same oven for the same time but the one on the right was on the bottom oven rack, so beware!

When it's done, remove from oven and let it sit in the pan. Every so often, toss it around. It will harden as it cools. Once it is cooled, you can add dried cranberries, chocolate chips, flaked coconut, etc.
Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. 

Enjoy by itself as your breakfast with milk, mixed in with hot oatmeal to make that even more exciting, over ice-cream, or yogurt. It's yummy. Hope you like it!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Not Yo Typical New Year's Resolutions

I generally don't make resolutions but this year, I have plenty. They are in no order of importance.

1.  Use a blow dryer for its intended purpose
2. Refrain from changing any toilet paper rolls in the house just to see how long it takes them to do it.

3. Clean out the clutter in my life. This includes emotional clutter.
4. Touch my toes and get up from a seated position without grunting
5. Find more uses for coconut oil
6. Resist the temptation to buy Hello Kitty panties for my dental-hygienist 
7. Stop hoarding groceries in my house like I live on the prairie and I'm 100 miles from the nearest mercantile
8. Breathe more
9. Try to vacuum up as many Rainbow Loom rubber bands as possible 
10. Delete any friends from my Facebook list who continue to whine and complain about absolute nonsense or are chronic attention seekers
11. Try to stop whining so much
12. Act on every great idea I have
13. Detoxify the house. This includes making my own laundry detergent and cleaning products and ridding of all products that have been deemed toxic for both body and home.
14. Try to keep my car cleaner
15. Pay as little for TV watching as possible while getting the most bang for our buck
16. Get more sleep
17. Fashion a set of sheets that allows the spouse to be warm and me to be cool
18. Become more techno savvy
19. Add more interesting shapes to my pancake repertoire
20. Have more sex dreams about Don Draper
21. Get the farting and VARTING problem under control
22. Keep better contact with friends and family, especially the far away ones
23. Stop apologizing to strangers in stores when THEY bump into me
24. Forgive and forget
25. Learn to accept a compliment by simply saying "Thank You" instead of downplaying whatever it is I'm being complimented for.
26. Educate my doctors more about breast cancer even though they think they already know it all
27. Be fearless

Happy New Year to you all! Please leave your questions and comments below and thank you for reading this year, and last. Peace and good health to all of you.