Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Hardest Part

In preparation of my wedding, my mother and mother-in-law were putting together a picture album of my husband and I throughout our lives. My mother said to my mother-in-law "Oh my god, do you realize how adorable our grandchildren our going to be?" Little did any of us know that this will never come true. When I sat with my oncologist to discuss my treatment options, I never thought I'd hear the words 'you cannot get pregnant.' I knew that if I got rid of my breasts that I could not breast feed, I always found that ritual to be very creepy but to hear you cannot have children hit me hard. It still does to this day even though I have come to terms with it. I wanted to give my husband a boy and a girl, we even had names picked out, Marcus Edward and Olivia Christine. Marcus because we always liked that name, Edward for my grandfather I never got to meet. Olivia after my husband's grandmother and Christine after my mom. I see my friends with their kids and sometimes it just hurts knowing I cannot have that. I want to be the soccer mom, take my kids to the park, have pancakes on the weekends and just do the fun stuff you do with kids. Decorating a kids room would be heaven to me right now, but I know at this time it's only a dream. Right now we just have to be the honorary Aunt and Uncle to our friends children.

Early in our marriage my husband was at Target, he walked out of the store only realize that the cashier accidentally put a blue baby blanket in his bag. We sort of took it as a sign that we would be pregnant soon. A friend of ours, had one of her friends draw a pictures of little sperm in the shape of a sun it was really cool in hopes that we would get pregnant. I still have both items.

There is the option of adoption, however, living where I do, we cannot consider it till I have hit my 5 year mark of being cancer free. At that time I will be 43 and then we can consider it. I see stories on the news about people abusing their kids and I just want to scream! How can you abuse a child or even an animal? I mean the kids didn't ask to be here and people have the nerve to take their anger out on a poor defenseless child. I just want to walk around with a sign that says "If you feel like abusing your child, please drop them off at my house and disappear!" How is it fair that I have to wait to adopt a child and anyone can get pregnant who only abuses their kids?

I have friends who were adopted and I remember what my grandmother said, an adopted child is a wanted child. One day we will have our Marcus Edward and Olivia Christine, until then I can still dream.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

'Cancer, the other 'C' word.

When you hear the word cancer many things come to mind it's sort of like the uninvited drunk cousin who shows up at your wedding. According to the National Cancer Institute cancer is defined as "Cancer is a term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.

Cancer is not just one disease but many diseases. There are more than 100 different types of cancer. Most cancers are named for the organ or type of cell in which they start - for example, cancer that begins in the colon is called colon cancer; cancer that begins in basal cells of the skin is called basal cell carcinoma."

Nowadays cancer does not mean death, there are so many innovative clinical trials and treatments out there it's amazing what doctors can do now. There are not only the traditional medicines but there are great holistic treatments as well. Also it is good to know your family history of cancer, there is not only the BRACAnalysis test but a gene test that you can take it's important to know everything you can. Do you know that cancer deaths decreased 1.6 percent per year from 2001 to 2006 and are decreasing every year! Meaning mortality rate is going down because researchers are beginning to understand more and more on how to fight this disease.

I was lucky enough not to have to go through chemotherapy and radiation but I know many people who have gone through it. Some yes have not been so lucky, but not because of the treatment but because of their stage of cancer. However, the lucky ones have out weighed the unlucky. When you lose your hair from chemo, yes it's awful, embarrassing and not attractive. As one person I know said, I saved a ton of money on not going to the beauty salon paying for an overpriced haircut.

As my doctors told me we really don't know 'what causes cancer', we know how to fight it with treatment. Now that being said, some say there are links to smoking, drinking alcohol and caffeine. While all of these habits are really not good for you anyway, it's probably best to eliminate them so you can begin the process of living a healthy life. In recent studies there were links to soy preventing breast cancer, while this is not concrete nor should you go out and buy every soy product you can find, it is hopeful.

Understanding how cancer works and operates will make you feel at ease once you know the facts. Once the fear sets in, the anger comes along and it is important to take that anger and channel it into knowing all you can about how to fight. Fighters always win, I'm a fighter and I won.

Here are some links which I have found useful.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Minor Surgeries

After having the big surgery one might think that the minor ones were no big deal or did not hurt as much. Unfortunately, I wish I could say that was true. When I had my gummy implants in, I was understandably sore but having asymmetry of the nipples done has hurt. I was talking to the nurse as to why, she couldn't explain it, my guess is because the skin is being stretched in the opposite direction. After having two done, my arms and body feel like they have been moved in directions they are not supposed to be moved. Thank goodness for Vicodin though, I will tell you the pain killers help immensely! It is not enough that I cannot even have a drink to take the pain away but to sit feeling like I just did an episode of the Amazing Race is not fun. Thankfully this was my last one I am not sure I could take much more physically and mentally. I do not mean to be a downer or scare anyone I am just telling the truth. If anyone had told me this was how I was going to feel before hand, I would have been better prepared. This past surgery I went through 5 liters of ginger ale and 5 packages of ramen noodles. Now I am sure some of you are shaking your heads going ramen noodles why? Well it seems to be the only thing I hold down after I have surgery, why I do not know. Sure I know it's salty and not good for you, but it's the only food I can stomach after surgery. Plus the Vernors ginger ale rocks, my husband had to cut me off after going through 5 liters in two days. I had to explain it was the probably the only beverage that made my stomach feel better. Then I advised him that if he should try going through this and let's see how he feels! That didn't go over to well, but he understood my point of view.

Now I have to wait 3 weeks before doing any strenuous activity which stinks on all levels because now I have to leave the housework up to my husband. Do not get me wrong my husband has been a tremendous support and help. I could not have asked for a better husband, he rocks! It's just we all know how men panic when they have more than one thing to do!

So now that I have no more surgeries left, hopefully well that's what I told my surgeon, I begin to worry about other things in my life. I'm a fighter and fighter's win.

Until next time!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Elephant in The Room-S-E-X

One of the reasons I was put on tamoxifen was to ensure that the cancer would not come back. The medication puts your body in menopause which means you get most of the symptoms, irregular periods, decreased fertility, vaginal dryness, hot flashes, sleep disturbances and mood swings. The one thing it does do is decrease your sex drive. This can be an emotional issue for some woman and some it's not all. The subject can be about as comfortable as men discussing erectile dysfunction. For those that it is, there are products that you can use to help you. Such as KY Jelly . The brand has a wide variety of products that suit your needs, it's just a matter of choosing what works for you and what you are most comfortable with using. I have heard from many men that their wives just don't feel sexy after having a double mastectomy. This is very true, who does when you have drains hanging from either side of you and your clothing options are limited. One of things you can do is buy a loose sexy lingerie night gown. It can cover up all the unwanted areas and possibly get you feeling better again. If you don't like wearing lingerie, put on one of your husband's t-shirts, men always find it sexy when we put on their clothes. The same goes for those in a same-sex relationship. My husband did not force the issue, we took it slow and I was happy that we went that route. Don't be upset if nothing happens the first time, it's not you, it's the medication. Keep trying and don't give up. We still are women regardless of what parts we do or do not have. As my mom always said it's important with what's on the inside rather than the out.

Currently, I am recovering from having asymmetry of my nipples. So I do apologize for this being short. I will resume regular blogging this weekend.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Losing My Breasts-Not A Big Deal

As I said before, I never liked my previous breasts they were lopsided and not very attractive. In fact, they were like old lady boobies, probably old ladies have better ones than mine. That being said I was not really upset when I had them removed. I knew that I was getting rid of something that just was not working for me. There are women though who do like and are attached to their breasts that is understandable, however, why keep something that just keeps giving you problems. I know that some women would not for religious reasons. I probably could have kept mine, but I would have had to get a mammogram every 3 months, had to have procedures that would have racked up my insurance to the sky. If you think about it, it's just skin and tissue. I might be more upset if I had to get rid of an arm or a leg. All of my doctors told me they would have done the same thing I did if they were in my position. I was doing myself a favor so that I would not have problems later on in life. No it did not solve all health issues but it put me ahead of the game.

I remember reading a booklet when I decided to have a double mastectomy and it said most of the women who have a mastectomy, want to see something when it is all said and done. I get that, however, breasts do not define a woman and they do not define you as a person. I am still me, my character did not change, nothing changed except my physical appearance which to me I have never looked better in my opinion. It's funny how as a society we have become so fixated on our looks. There are so many products out there such as teeth whiteners, serums, creams that cost thousands of dollars and all for what so we can feel better? Take Heidi Spencer, the girl is in her 20's, she has had so much plastic surgery her own family does not recognize her. In my opinion, she has aged herself about 10 years. As for those of us who have plastic surgery because we had a health issue, we have an opportunity to make our appearance better. Look at people who do botox, I cannot not imagine wanting botox because I have wrinkles, who cares, so you have wrinkles does not make you ugly, it gives you character and alot of the time look worse after having botox.

When it came time to getting rid of my breasts because they had found cancer in the left and calcifications in my right, I decided to nip the issue in the bud. Calcifications in your breast are very small bits of calcium can appear within the soft tissue of your breast. Calcifications are not breast cancer. These aren't always a sign of breast cancer. Sometimes calcifications are an indication of a precancerous condition. They appear as white dots on your mammogram. I realize some people might say why then did you get rid of yours? Answer, I was not going to stand around and watch my doctors poke me every other week and 'wait' for the cancer to show up. Due the fact that I was considered high risk I did not want to give cancer any opportunity to expand itself.

Since having breast reconstruction, my clothes fit better, I do not have to wear a bra and the best part is when I am 80 I will have perky breasts! Unlike my friends who will be saggy maggies, I am perfectly proportioned.

I do not believe you should have breast reconstruction just because, that's just dumb. If you have been diagnosed, my advice is to speak to your doctors who will provide with you the latest information on plastic surgery. Remember you can replace most of your body parts, you can live a normal life without the original parts, but you cannot replace you.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Knowledge is Power

Being treated at The Cleveland Clinic has it's perks and advantages. Seeing as it's been rated No. 1 in Ohio for cancer treatment that made it all the more comfortable for me. I was given information on the latest clinical trials concerning treatment of breast cancer, books that answered all my questions about cancer, they listened when I had found out something be it on the news or newspaper and even would check it out for themselves.

I know that everyone has heard this, however, I cannot stress that prevention and early detection is your best defense against breast cancer and any other cancer for that matter. Doctors are able to do something about and give you the tools you need so that the chances of anything coming back are slim. Obviously nothing in life is guarenteed, but with knowledge comes power.

As we have heard in recent months, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) Recommendations on Breast Screening (Scientific Advisory Board, November 2009) which were completely blasted by the Susan G. Komen Foundation and just about every physician in the US. It is necessary that every woman get a mammogram after the age of 35. I am seeing now that even young woman are getting diagnosed with breast cancer as earlier as the age of 18, which is rare yes, however, it does not hurt to speak to your doctor about your risks and when you should get tested.

The Cleveland Clinic offers these general guidelines for getting screened.

Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines Overview

"The lifetime risk (to age 85) of a woman developing breast cancer in 1940 was 5% or 1in 20; the risk is now 12.6% or 1 in 8. In women 40-49 years of age there is a 1 in 66 risk of developing breast cancer compared with a 1 in 40 risk among women in the 50-59 year age group.

Randomized controlled trials have demonstrated reduced mortality rates (20-40%) from breast cancer among women invited to undergo screening mammography compared with control groups.

Although statistically significant benefits/reductions in breast cancer mortality are delayed 10 to 15 years among women 40-49 years of age at the time of screening, several of the screening trials have reported a benefit (23-44%) from screening women 40-49 years of age.

The benefit of mammography is related to early detection. Regardless of the histological grade of a tumor, a greater than 90% ten year survival has been reported in 40-74 year old women diagnosed with tumors that are 10 mm or smaller in size.

The effectiveness of any screening program will depend on screening frequency, compliance with screening recommendations and the quality of the screening test.

In establishing screening frequencies, breast cancer growth rates need to be considered. The sojourn time (average time for mammographically detectable, preclinical cancers to become clinically apparent) for all breast cancer types is shorter for pre-menopausal women compared with post-menopausal women supporting annual screening in 40-49 year old women: 1.8 years in 40-49 year old women and 3.5 years in women 50 years of age or older.

Women should perform a monthly breast self-examination starting at age 20."

There is a lot of news out there and a lot of misguided information as well. My suggestion is that you stick with the mainstream sites, such as the Susan G. Komen, American Cancer Society and your local hospital.

Next week I am having another procedure done, so the blog will be only be done for a few days, as the rest of the week I will be recovering. This procedure is part of the process of having breast reconstruction which I will explain next week. Until then, remember knowledge is your best defense against breast cancer and anything else in life!!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Products I have grown to love!

When your diagnosed with any disease or condition, it may become necessary to change the daily products you use daily, such as beauty products ranging from hair to skincare and even your makeup. I noticed that when I started taking tamoxifen within a month I noticed my skin started turning red every time I used the cleanser and creams I was using. So I turned to organic products. Now some might shake their heads that these are not as effective as your non-organic products. Not so, in fact they are even better. I did my research and for me I found that Burt's Bees was the best for me. I already used their beeswax lip balm, in fact there is not a floor in my house or handbag that does not have a Burts Beeswax Lip Balm in it. My husband used to laugh at me, but now I have him hooked on it.

Since I have dry skin, I bought the Burt's Bees Cream Cleanser which has chamomile and echinacea to calm the skin. This has been my life saver with taking off my makeup or just using it alone! My skin feels refreshed and soft every time I wash my face. I follow it up with the Peach and Willow Bark Deep Pore Scrub using it only 2 times a week. I would like to try the Citrus Facial Scrub but Target never seems to have it in stock. I then use the Rosewater and Glycerin Toner which feels oh so good, that sometimes I want to pore it all over myself! I then use the Radiance Serum which is royal jelly based, only three drops required, trust me that is more than enough! After the serum, I apply the Radiance Eye Cream which diminishes my under eye wrinkles and dark circles. For morning I use the Radiance Day Cream and the Radiance Night Cream at night. My skin has never looked better, sure I get acne now and again but who doesn't get a pimple?

For my hair, yes even my hair seemed to be dryer after being on tamoxifen. I began reading about shampoos and conditions that contained Sodium lauryl sulfate and/or Sodium laureth sulfate which can dry out your hair even further and make your haircolor fade if you color it even faster. So I turned to an old favorite of mine, called MOP (Modern Organic Products) and Loreal Sulfate-Free Haircare. Since I decided to change to these products my hair has never looked better, it's shinier, healthier and lays so much better I barely have to do much to it.

As for my body lotion, I do use Aveeno Body Lotion. It is oatmeal based makes my dry skin feel baby soft. My husband even uses it and will no longer use anything else!

For my deodorant, yes deodorant, since I had my left lymph nodes removed, my implants and being on tamoxifen which puts your body into menopause, I sweat more! So I use Secret Clinical Deodorant and Dove Clinical which I think the Dove is much better smelling. I have also tried a deodorant I found at GNC where I get my Multi-Vitamins and although it is chemical free, it does not appear to work as well as the others. Now a friend who had a much higher stage of cancer than I, swears by Tom's Cucumber Deodorant which I have yet to try.

As for my nailcare, I really do not do much to them but file them. Only because they break easy and I type 8 hours a day for living, so to have to worry about polish, etc.. I do not.

Tomorrow: The Latest Breast Cancer News