Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Book Giveaway Winner!!

I want to thank you all for entering my giveaway!
And the winner is Rona from New Challenges!!

Congrats Rona!!
I hope you enjoy the book!

Monday, December 6, 2010

10 Random Things About Me . . .

Since I have some new followers to this blog I thought it would be fun to post some random things about me!

Here's my top 10 . . .

1. I love to sing and wish I had a better voice!

2. I love to dance and miss the days when I would go clubbing with friends to Webster Hall in NYC!

3. I am so in love with my pug Bosco that it scares me.

4. I am afraid of flying although it hasn't kept me from traveling. I just hate every second I am in the air.

5. I hate to cook much to the dismay of my husband Lou!

6. I love to go to newport, RI and want to live there someday.

7. I always wanted to live in a house by the beach, hek, I still do!

8. I am a total procrastinator. Always cramming the nite before exams, everything last minute. Why can't I just get it done! lol

9. When I was a kid I saw dead people. They didn't scare me at all. I found out years later from seeing pictures that they were dead family members. I believe in life after death and that those who pass on can communicate with us from the other side. I have been to mediums over the years and find comfort in hearing from those I have lost.

10. I believe that everything happens for a reason even the bad stuff because of what it can teach you about the person you are.

What's in your top 10?

PS . . . There is still time to enter my book giveaway! Tomorrow I will be announcing the winner. If you still want to enter just leave a comment! Check out my last post for more info!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Book Giveaway!!

I am happy to announce today that I am giving away a signed copy of my memoir Breastless in the City to one lucky reader! In the book I share my experience as a young widow dating through breast cancer treatment. You can read an excerpt via the link at the top of the side bar. This giveaway is in appreciation for everyone who has been on this blogging journey with me here at In My Life. This giveaway is long overdue!

To enter the giveaway is simple. All you have to do is leave a comment (and you don't have to be a blogger). If you would like your name entered more than once become a follower (make sure to tell me). And to enter your name a third time mention this giveaway on your blog (tell me this as well). I will be drawing the name on Tuesday December 7!

Good Luck!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Taking Cancer Out On A Date

That is the title of a great article I was interviewed for this week posted in the Philadelphia Daily News. It was penned by Jenice Armstrong. The interview was in preparation for tomorrow's Symposium that I am speaking at hosted by Fox Chase Cancer Center.

In this interview I share what it was like dating as a young widow during my cancer treatment. It is tough enough to navigate the dating scene but it becomes that much more challenging when you are bald and boobless.

Check out the article Taking Cancer Out On A Date. And I hope to see some of you in Philly tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Speaking in Philadelphia at Fox Chase Cancer Center

This Saturday November 6, I will be heading to Philly to share my story on a panel at the Jane Pepper Women's Cancer Symposium being held at Fox Chase Cancer Center. I will be discussing dating with cancer as well as ways that I have fought fear that comes in the life after cancer.

I hope you will join me and the other wonderful panelists for a great day! I will also be doing a book signing after the panel discussion! I would love to see you there! So please come out if you are in the area!

For more information on the event and to register Click Here. Although the deadline says November 1st there are still spaces available!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sharing My Story On WomansDay.com

A couple of weeks ago I was approached by Amanda Greene, an editor at Woman'sDay.com who was working on a story about breast cancer blogging. I was asked to write a narrative of my breast cancer experience and how blogging has helped me along my journey. I was very excited as you can imagine. My piece was included in her article 5 Breast Cancer Bloggers Share Their Stories. I feel so honored for the opportunity to share my voice with so many.

You can check out the article here on WomansDay.com !

Do you have a blog? How has blogging helped you along your own personal journey?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pink Revisited . . . 20 Years of Cause Marketing

I have often shared my issues with the pink ribbon and cause marketing here on this blog. I am a big supporter of Breast Cancer Action's (BCA) Think Before You Pink campaign because they challenge companies that may use pink to increase their sales especially those who produce products with ingredients linked to breast cancer. During the month of October everywhere you look there are pink ribbon's slapped on all kinds of products.

BCA puts out a quarterly newsletter the Source and I wrote an article for the fall issue which came out this week. In the piece I share my feelings about the use of the pink ribbon and cause marketing. I encourage you to read it and share it if it speaks to you.

Check it out here! And let me know what you think!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Great Resource For Cancer Patients Regarding New Health Insurance Changes

It is tough enough to go through cancer treatment but to make the experience more stressful is the need to navigate the mucked up world of health insurance. I remember during my treatment I was living alone and would cringe when I went to the mail box. Luckily I had good insurance but there were still copays and things I had to fight to get covered. I couldn't even deal. So I would watch the insurance statements and hospital bills pile up on my kitchen table.

Recently there have been new health insurance changes that will impact cancer patients and young adults. My friend and fellow cancer survivor Kairol Rosenthal, the author of Everything Changes has a great blog post up with a guide to these new changes which went into effect on September 23, 2010. She discusses everything from insurance coverage, free preventative care, lifetime caps, and pre-existing conditions.

It is so important to educate yourself as a patient and be your own advocate! So be sure to check out Kairol's post here!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tell Eli Lilly To Stop Milking Cancer!

Think Before You Pink is a campaign launched by Breast Cancer Action (BCA) in 2002. It was started in response to an increasing concern about the huge number of pink ribbon products and promotions on the market.

This campaign also focuses on what they call "Pink Washers". These are companies that say they care about breast cancer and promote its awareness but produce products that are linked to the disease! Many cosmetic companies put out products with known carcinogens in the ingredients that have been linked to cancer. This is of special interest to me as I try to avoid using products with bad stuff such as parabens and other chemicals/toxins.

BCA's latest campaign is called "Milking Cancer". Head over there and sign the petition to tell Eli Lilly to stop milking cancer! Please take a moment to watch this video. It speaks for itself!

Milking Cancer from Breast Cancer Action on Vimeo.

Do you think before you pink?

Friday, September 3, 2010

This Is One Inspiring Young Cancer Survivor!!

I am not going to say much about this as it speaks for itself except to say it is a must see! A young cancer survivor gets his chance to sing in a competition despite having lost part of his tongue and being told he would most likely never sing again. He sounds amazing!! I got chills and teared up watching this!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Good News And A Pain In The Boob . . .

So as an update to my last post on scanxiety, my mammo thankfully came back normal once again! Always such a relief. I don't have to go back to see the surgeon till next year and I am off the hook with breast MRI which I am happy about as well. So it was all good news.

Now on to the pain in my boob. Unfortunately I had a bad mammo tech for the first time in 9 years. I am certainly no stranger to mammo's. I have lost count as to how many I have had done over the past decade. What I am sure of is that I have never had pain during one. It is uncomfortable, yes, but painful, no, not for me. Until the other day . . .

I saw my doc first and then hung out for what seems like an eternity in the always fashionable hospital gown. When I was called in by the mammo tech and she proceeded to set me up in the machine I had no idea the pain that was about to ensue. When she clamped that sucker down apparently as compressed as it would go I felt nothing but extreme pain. Then I felt tears well up in my eyes. I was scared and felt as if I would pass out. I literally could not imagine what the hell she was doing that was causing me so much pain. It took my breath away. Not only was the compression excessive but the length of time for the compression seemed much longer. I felt as if all the color drained from my face. She had to sit me down. I assured her that I had never had pain like that before. She spoke to me as if I was a newbie and assured me that I was not the only one to ever have this kind of reaction. Well, let me say that if she has alot of patients ready to pass out then she is doing something wrong!

When it was finally over she assured me that I would now be able to relax out in the waiting room. I sternly let her know that I could not relax until I got the results. As I walked out of the room I turned as I heard her say "I got a really good picture though. . ." Hmmmm...."Goody for you" I thought to myself.

I have to say it was traumatizing. I never feared a mammo because it was not painful . . . that is until now. I hope that next time I have someone who knows what they are doing. The next day I got in touch with my doctor to let her know of my bad experience with the mammo technician. I can only hope it is followed up on as I would hate to see my experience happen to someone else.

Have you ever had a bad experience as a patient and been vocal about it? What happened? How did you feel speaking up about it?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Scanxiety . . . How Do You Deal??

So one would think that after 9 years I would be used to followup visits and tests. I stupidly thought I would get to a point where I would be scanxiety free. In the beginning I went for visits every 3 months, then after 3 years I went every 6 months and then when at the 5 year mark I graduated to once a year. And that included an oncologist visit, breast surgeon visit and annual mammogram along with an annual breast MRI.

Three years ago I went through a scare involving a barbaric biopsy in the MRI machine which thankfully turned out to be benign. But my anxiety reached new heights. Then 2 years ago my father died of cancer and I feared for my own life even more. Its almost like the more time I have where I don't have to go for that stuff makes it harder to go back.

I am sitting here wishing I didn't have to go for my mammo in a few days. Tuesday I will be going in for my checkup with the breast surgeon and then the mammo. I rescheduled this appointment back in March and had to wait all this time which is lunacy to me and yet I felt as if I committed a crime. Now I don't want to go at all. Yes I know I am sounding like a whiny kid. I don't want to think of my life in time to live between tests and appointments.

I need to create. I need to paint and sketch to help me with this fear. It always seems to help. So the next few days I will carve out time to do just that. Hoping it will quell some of my scanxiety. . .

What do you do to deal with scanxiety?

Friday, August 6, 2010

New Beginnings . . .

I have talked many times on this blog about how much creativity helps me deal with my life after cancer and all the fear that comes along with that. Recently I have decided to take my creativity a step further. I have been enjoying learning about painting and mixed media for the past 6 months. I decided to start a new blog just to focus on sharing my creative journey. I will continue to post here at In My Life about cancer related issues and my after cancer life.

I wanted to let you all know about this new blog for those of you who may be interested in following my art! So if you are then come on over and check out Artsy Butterfly!

Hope to see you over there as well!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Beds Causing Cancer?? Now I Have Heard It All . . .

Who would have ever thought that a place we go to find comfort and rest could be putting us at risk for cancer. I recently read an article that says the boxspring in bed mattresses can pick up radiation waves from radio and television. Supposedly it surrounds our bodies while we sleep and since most people sleep on the right side (myself included) the left side will be affected.

Ok, so although my breast cancer was on my left side I am certainly not going to buy into thinking that it was caused by my bed. But I guess I will stick with my sleep number mattress filled with air...

Have you heard about this? What do you think? Is there anything left to not fear?

Friday, July 23, 2010

How Safe Are Your Personal Products??

Its no secret that I started really looking at what I was eating and what I was putting on my skin after my cancer experience. Part of it stems from an attempt to gain some kind of control after going through such an out of control experience. When I started on this journey I had no idea that the FDA does not regulate the cosmetics industry. That is scary to me. The industry can put anything they dam well please in your products. Things like parabens and sulfates are in many products and are chemicals that have been linked to cancer. Whatever you are putting on your skin (which is the largest organ we have) will seep into our bodies. I know it is a new way of thinking but I everyone should be aware and be more choosy about the products you are using. So read your labels and make more conscious choices . . . it will be better for your health and the environment!

Today I wanted to share a video called The Story of Cosmetics put together by the Story of Stuff Project. So take a few minutes and check it out! It will make you think twice about what you are putting on your skin!

Have you seen this video? What do you think? When you are shopping for personal care products do you read the label? Do you look for more natural products?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bloody Flashback

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with my friend. We had lunch and chatted it up for hours. It was a great time. On the ride home I came up on a traffic jam. One of those bumper to bumper deals. As I sat there wondering if it was an accident I heard a loud thumping noise. I looked up through my sunroof and saw the huge chopper in the sky. It wasn't just any chopper, it was the one that air lifts people to the hospital. It was like time just stood still. A chill ran through me and I felt a twinge in my stomach.

Pretty soon before I knew it we were doing the dangerous car dance of shifting lanes from two down to one. In single file at about 5 miles an hour I could see the back of the tow truck as we crawled down the road. I saw the tow truck driver sweeping car crash debris off of the roadway. And then I saw the worst of it. It was the crumpled car up on the flatbed. I tried to hold back the tears as I stared at the twisted front tire and crunched driver's side front end. The metal was so demolished that it looked liked pieces of frayed wire. I could feel the tears well up in my eyes. All I could see in front of me was Paul's car or rather what was left of it.

I remembered going with my dad to see the car the day after his accident. He didn't want me to go but I had to in a futile attempt to make it seem more real. I could hear the crunching of rocks under my sneakers as I stepped slowly through the dead car cemetary thinking about how it was the last place he was alive. The last place they both took their last breath. The windows were rolled down and I could see his Giant's baseball hat sitting neatly on the passenger seat. As if it was in memoriam. The driver's side seat cradled his brother's hat. My eyes scanned around in an attempt to not really see what was there like the dark crimson blood stains smeared all over the head rest and dashboard on Paul's passenger seat. His light blue denim jacket curled up in a ball on the back seat was stained with the same blood. I carefully pulled out that jacket, grabbed the hat, and put them in a bag where they stayed for 2 years at the bottom of my coat closet. Sometimes in my lonliest moments I would wear it as I cried and wailed while I sat rocking back and forth on my living room floor.

The police said it was the worst accident they had ever seen in all their years on the job in Greenwood Lake, NY. His car the most demolished one in a long time. So much so that a local high school wanted to use it during drunk driving awareness week. Although Paul's accident did not involve alcohol or drugs I agreed to have it put on the lawn to increase awareness in young adults about the dangers of drinking and driving. I searched for any tiny bit of good that could come out of the madness that became my life on that Labor Day in 1994.

It was hard to control those bloody flashbacks for the rest of the ride home. It was almost impossible to hold back the tears. I couldn't help but wonder if there would ever be a day in my life when I wouldn't fall into a black hole from doing a drive by of a car crash . . .

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Qigong . . . It Quiets My Mind

I wanted to share with you one of the things I have found that really helps me with stress relief and quiets my busy mind. I never gave any of this a thought until after I went through my cancer experience and began to look at how I was treating my body. I wanted to learn how to keep it well. And not only my body but my mind as well.

Although I do have my photography, writing, and daily walks this practice of Qigong really helps to center me and relax my neck muscles very quickly. It focuses on moving the Chi throughout your body, the energy each of us has around and within us. When our Chi doesn't move it can cause havoc on the body. I hold alot of tension in my neck muscles which causes headaches. I also have anxiety attacks from time to time mostly caused by my busy mind that never shuts off. It is very easy to do and involves breathing techniques combined with flowing body movements. When I am done my neck is instantly loose and I feel a calmness that I wish stayed with me longer.

This video is a good overview of the purpose and benefits of Qigong. Daisy Lee Garripoli is a wonderful instructor and I have used her instructional dvd's for a few years now. For more info on Qigong and Daisy Lee visit her website HERE.

What do you do to quiet your mind and handle daily stress? Have you ever tried Qigong?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Wild Flowers

I hope you all had a great holiday weekend. It has been super hot here in NY but early Saturday morning I grabbed my camera while it was still cool and headed across the street to capture a few shots of these pretty purple wild flowers. This is the view I can see from the bottom of our driveway. I always wanted to live near the water and reservoir or not I love it.

I wanted to get some macro shots of the flowers. I have a Canon D10 with a macro setting. I have been wanting to get a separate macro lens for my Canon XTi but need to save up the dough for that one! I did however get some great macro shots with the smaller D10.

And then I wanted to get even closer. . .

I am very pleased with how the shots came out. These are such tiny flowers but so pretty and what a vibrant shade of purple!

It has been too long since I have grabbed my camera and headed out the door. As I have said on this blog before it is one of the creative outlets that takes me out of my cluttered busy mind and into a colorful moment.

Do you have a creative outlet? If so what is it? How does it make you feel?

All images are © Cathy Bueti and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Favorite Summer Driving Song . . . Do You Have One?

Today in NY we are finally getting a reprieve from the super high heat and swampy humidity. I woke up this morning to cool, crisp, light air outside and promptly opened all of my windows. A nice change from the constant running of A/C. As I felt the breeze blowing in I enjoyed the scent of new air roaming through the house. It was only 6:30 and I knew it would grow warmer later on but I didn't want to miss this cool morning.

It got me to thinking about how much I love to drive with the windows down on a cool day. I like to open the sunroof, roll the windows down and blast the stereo. Back in the day before I had a car with air conditioning I used the dreaded 4-60 A/C. My first car was a '75 volvo with a pathetic radio. That car was a lemon but to me it mean freedom (until I broke down in PA alone on interstate 81 . . . but thats a whole other story!) Driving with the music blaring, windows down on the highway felt freeing to me. It still does.

Certain songs are really good driving songs especially in the nice weather. For me that song was always Pour Some Sugar On Me by Def Leppard. So today when I was out on this beautiful day I played it over and over on my car stereo. I still think I will never get tired of that one!

What is your favorite driving song? What was your first car? What do you enjoy doing on the best weather days?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Going Gray Just For Fun?

In last year's post Gray Area I talk about trying to accept my graying hair. I decided to stop coloring it last year and am in the process of welcoming the gray and just letting nature take its course. I am still not sure how I will adjust to it as it has been strange to see so many grays popping up and taking residence all over my head. However having said it will always be better than when I was bald from chemo. That will always go down as my worst bad hair day (or rather no hair day) ever.

So I was stunned recently when I heard about celebrities like Lady Gaga, Kate Moss, and Kelly Osbourne dying their hair gray just for the hell of it. Apparently it has become a fashion trend these days. There are apparently twentysomething girls going to the salon having gray put in their hair. It has been seen on the runway as well. With all the women dying their hair to cover the gray it is refreshing to see it coming out in the fashion world. I don't know how long this trend will last but I found it quite interesting nonetheless.

You can check out this article all about it in the New York Post.

What do you think about these celebrities going gray for fun? Do you think this trend will last? Do you dye your hair? Would you ever consider going gray?

Friday, June 18, 2010

What's On Your Bookshelf?

Reading has always been an escape for me. An escape to another place, a way to meet new people, laugh, and travel even if it is all in my mind. These days my mind is way too busy so sometimes, actually alot of the time, and I need to shut it down. I try to go for fiction although I do enjoy some memoir. I go for the easy reads, nothing complicated for me, just light and fun. Sometimes though a good Patterson novel does the trick. I really enjoy his books. Such a fast pace, great story, and so easy to read with its 3 page chapters! My fav books by Patterson are Sail, Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas, Lifeguard, The Beach House and Beach Road.

Today I wanted to share with you a new author I recently discovered. She of course is not new but new to me as a reader. She is Adriana Trigiani. She has written many novels. Most recently I have read 3 of her books. Two of them in her new Valentine Series including Very Valentine and Brava Valentine, about an italian american girl who lives in NYC and works in the family shoe business. I devoured those two books and will find it hard to wait for next February when the 3rd installment in the series comes out. I love stories set in NYC and also with characters who are italian probably because it connects me with my italian heritage. Her books are filled with humor and romance set in the backdrop of NYC. Can't get much better than that for me. Another good novel of hers that I just finished is Lucia, Lucia set during the early 50's in Greenwich village that follows the young life of an italian american seamstress longing for romance and that happy ending.

I for one still enjoy flipping pages in a book, using a bookmark and hearing the binding crackle in a new hardcover. I don't see myself ever going to a Kindle. Although that is so the trend these days with the progression of technology. What about you?

So, what are you guys reading these days? Would love for you to share!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sex and the City 2 . . . Breast Cancer Survivors And Hormone Therapy? I Think Not!

I am a HUGE fan of Sex and the City (SATC). So huge that the show was the inspiration for the title of my memoir Breastless in the City. I was pleased to see that the show addressed breast cancer through Samantha's character during Season 6. As a young single woman going through it myself I thought they handled the topic well and portrayed a realistic view of issues such as hair loss and chemo induced menopause. I applauded them at the time.

Having said that I feel that they have let down breast cancer survivors, myself included, with Samantha's menopause storyline in SATC 2. First let me say that I understand it is just a movie and should be fun BUT since they already addressed breast cancer in a show storyline I was disappointed that Hello! there was no mention of it in this movie. It was as if she had never had cancer. Samantha already went through menopause during her chemo and now she is going through it as a 52 year old woman like it was the first time. Every breast cancer survivor knows that hormone therapy is a no no. Most breast cancers are fed by estrogen mine included and that is why hormones are never recommended for us because it can increase the risk of breast cancer.

I wondered what the writers were thinking having Samantha slap on estrogen, other types of hormone creams, and patches to battle menopause symptoms. She became a walking advertisement for Suzanne Somers' book on bioidentical hormone therapy. Not to mention that they could have at least addressed the life after cancer that so many of us deal with. It was as though Samantha's life never changed. There were no checkups, scans, or emotional struggles related to her cancer experience. I really think that the writers missed an opportunity to bring to light the issues so many women with breast cancer face after the treatment is over.

I am only 40 years old but thanks to my chemo 9 years ago I have been in menopause for the past 2 years. Hot flashes galore, night sweats, crazy mood swings, and dare I admit it low libido. I deal with it. Some days not well but I deal none the less. Even on my most hot flashy days you will never see me slapping on hormone creams. . .

Did you see SATC 2? What are your thoughts on the movie? If you are a bc survivor what do you think of the Samantha and menopause storyline?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Twin Titties . . . A New Low In Breast Cancer Fundraising

When I heard about this I gasped. There is a bar in Minneapolis raising money for breast cancer by having women enter their boobs in a contest. I for one am not a big fan of the "T" word. I prefer "Boobs"not that a word change would have helped quell my disdane for this offensive breast cancer fundraiser. According to the Bootleggers Bar website the winner receives a Victoria's Secret gift card (not too predictable) and a bar tab gift card to encourage more alcohol consumption cause that is oh so healthy. The winners will also have their "dual" posted in the bar no doubt for all the men to drool over. Could this be more disgusting? Oh, but wait. . . it must be ok because it is all in the name of breast cancer research.

And I thought that the KFC debacle and the Men For Women Now Campaign were bad enough. I think that the gawking men are the winners here. This is just more exploitation of women cleverly hidden under the guise of breast cancer fundraising. Because what man doesn't want to help a good cause especially if it involves getting to see some boobs? I like to believe that most men are better than that . . .

Check out the complete article here on jezebel.com.

Have you heard about this? What do you think? Are you offended by this "fundraiser"? Do you find the "T" word offensive?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Remembering Dad And Feeling Grateful To Have Made Amends . . .

Today marks the second anniversary of my father's passing. He was only 60 years old. It was pancreatic cancer. He used to tell me when I was growing up that he wouldn't live to see 65 years old. I told him to stop saying that. He never did. And then it happened.

I hate admitting this to anyone but mostly to myself. . . I stupidly thought that losing him wouldn't be as hard as it has been because we weren't that close. His drinking and depression came between us. I can tell you that this has been very tough both as a daughter and a cancer survivor. The survivor's guilt has always been with me even as I just celebrated my 9th year cancer free on 5/31 the same day as my 7th wedding anniversary to Lou. It is bittersweet to have just celebrated the other day and now feeling the pain of loss.
Here is an excerpt from my book Breastless in the City where I share our last conversation on his 60th birthday on 4/6/08 . . .

When he answered the door, I almost didn't recognize him. He had let his short crew cut grow almost as long as his beard. He had lost so much weight that his face was all sunken in. He was there alone. It was just the two of us. We sat and talked for awhile.

After some small talk, he said, "Next time around I will be a better dad."

I wasn't expecting that. I responded, "You did the best you could."

"No I didn't, I did what was best for me."

At that moment all the crap between us didn't matter. I don't remember who hugged whom first. I think it was me. As we embraced, it felt foreign and comforting at the same time. Then he said, "I love my little girl."

And I said, "I love you too."

Then the tears began and I was crying so hard I could barely stop. There were tears in his eyes too, which was a first. At that moment Dad and I had finally arrived at the place it had taken my whole life to get to and we were saying things to each other that we never had before. I don;t think either of us had planned on having that talk. It seemed to come out of nowhere, but I, for one, am glad it did . . .

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

i[2]y . . . Giving A Voice To Young Adults With Cancer!

I have long been a supporter of the Im Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation since its inception in 2007. It is an invaluable resource for young adults with cancer. I wish they had been around when I was diagnosed with cancer back in 2001 at 31 years old. This is a new video they put together about their foundation. Please share! The young adult voice needs to be heard!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cancer . . . Was It Just Part of The Plan?

"Please don't forget to wear your seat belt." I said to him for the millionth time.

"You worry too much Cat. It doesn't matter if I wear my seatbelt or not. If its my time to go I will go no matter what." he said

Paul and I had that conversation the morning he was killed. And wouldn't you know it. . . he got the last word. He was wearing his seat belt.

Some spiritualists believe that you make choices or rather your soul does before entering into this life. You chose your parents as well as the experiences you will have both good and bad in order for your soul to learn the lessons. Some even believe you choose your check out time.

I do believe in that and have always believed things happen for a reason. That there are no coincidences. Even the bad stuff I have gone through has served a purpose. When Paul died I felt as though it was his time, that he had served his purpose here on earth and it was time for his soul to move on. He even believed it too as you can tell from our seat belt talk.

Over the years as a cancer survivor I have spent way too much time trying to figure out how I am still here when so many around me have died from cancer including my own father. Was it what I ate, was it mental stress, or was it the chemicals in my skin care products. Then I think about the people that abuse their bodies and still live a long life. Now it seems as though I obsess over it in an effort to control my fear of recurrence. All of this obsessing is causing me to miss too much of my life, too many moments. It prevents me from living in the now.

Lately I have really been wondering about it all in an effort to just let go. I want to feel free, free of the fear. This is what lead me to wonder if cancer was just part of the plan?

I know it sounds crazy to some depending on your belief system. This is what I am sitting with lately. I would love to hear what you think. . .

Are you a spiritual person? Have you ever wondered why the bad things happen? Do you believe everything happens for a reason? Do you think that cancer could be a part of the plan? Is there a grand plan out there in the universe for each one of us?

Friday, May 14, 2010

These Dreams . . . Heartbreak That Never Goes Away

Those of you familiar with my story know that I was widowed when I was 25. It was the most horrific day of my entire life. I remember pulling up to my house that bright sunny afternoon when my gut sank to my feet as I looked at the police car waiting for me in front of my house. There was no question in my mind...he was dead. It was surreal. It was like everything I had seen in the movies. The police walk the wife into the house and carefully break the news as the she crumbles in tears on the floor. I would come to find it was a head on collision that killed him and his brother. Even as I type these words it still feels surreal all these years later. Not to get all new agey but I always worried about Paul especially when he was driving. I always wondered if it was a premonition type fear.

For years after the accident I worried about everyone I knew when they were out driving. I would call and panic if they weren't home. I began to fear everyone in my life would meet the same fate. And I would wait for the call from the hospital or to see a police cruiser pull up at my house. When I first met my husband Lou 8 years ago truth be told part of me did worry about him. How could I not? That fear had become etched in a deep part of my soul. But as the years had gone by I became less fearful of losing him. And thought I had beaten that fear up until the other day when he was late getting home. Lou will always call me to let me know that he will be late. I know the exact time to expect him home. I feel a sense of relief when I hear the diesel engine of his truck as it pulls into our driveway. So the other day when it was half past five and there was no call nor sign of him I felt a little pinch in my gut. It certainly wasn't full on panic but it had crept into my thoughts with things like "I couldn't survive this again." A few minutes later my phone rang and it was him. Calmness washed over me. He was ok.

I thought the fear was gone. That is until my dream that very same night. All I remember was being in our house wondering where Lou was because he was late getting home. I was pacing the floors in our bedroom. I heard the door open. I smiled and rushed out to see him. I could feel my heart sink when I saw two police officers sitting at my kitchen table. They were in full uniform including their hats. I locked eyes with them as they were staring at me quiet. The next thing I remember was screaming "NO" and I woke up screaming at that moment. I couldn't believe it. There was no mystery to the meaning of that dream. And even 15 years later the fear came busting out from my mind in a dream.

Have you ever experienced something that remained with you and still affected you years later? Do you experience your deepest fears in any dreams? What is the most significant dream you ever had?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fear . . . How Do You Deal?

That is the title of my guest blog post live today over at Jean's Cream Community Blog. Fear is something I have dealt with most of my life and I am sure many of you can relate. In this post I offer some tips on how I deal with fear.

Jean's Cream was created by a two time breast cancer survivor who wanted to help others deal with the side effects of radiation from cancer treatment as well as other various skin conditions. Their community blog is full of tips and inspiration for those affected by cancer. I was pleased to be asked to contribute to their blog.

You can check out my post here. Would love to hear your thoughts and comments!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Lipstick . . . Never Leave Home Without It

When I was little I used to watch my grandma put on her makeup. She would take out her compact, add a little revlon pressed powder to her face, and then apply her lipstick. All her life that I knew her she wore Revlon's lilac champagne in the green marbled tube. And that was all the makeup she wore. She never left the house without lipstick. Sometimes she would add a little "rouge" as she called it back in the day but that was it. She was still wearing lipstick in her eighties. And it was still lilac champagne.

I thought of her yesterday when I was putting on my eyeliner and mascara as I headed out the door. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and wondered what was missing. I don't really wear anything more than eye makeup. I looked kinda dull. When I reached my destination after a long drive I reached in my bag for my lipstick. I quickly applied it using the rear view mirror as my guide. (and yes, I was parked!) My face looked brighter as did my eyes. It just completed my look. There are some days that I run out of the house with a little lipstick and nothing else. And although I don't like to go out without my eye makeup I do notice that wearing lipstick brightens my eyes. Even when I was going through chemo I made sure I at least put on some lipstick. With no eyelashes or eyebrows I sure needed something to brighten up my face.

Right now I am using Burt's Bee's lip shimmer in toffee. They cost only about $5 and the colors are great. It also has a nice peppermint taste.

What's in your makeup bag? Do you wear lipstick? What brand and shade do you like these days? What completes your look?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Favorite Quotes . . . Do You Have One?

When I was writing my memoir Breastless in the City I was already thinking of the quote I wanted for the beginning pages of the book. I wanted something to inspire but also speak to the life I have lived so far. So I decided on a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson. . . "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

Most recently this quote by Miles Davis resonates with me . . . "Do not fear mistakes. . . there are none." I have always felt as though everything that has happened in my life was for a reason. Believe it or not . . . even the bad stuff.

The Serenity Prayer has helped me many times. My Dad taught it to me when he learned it through Alcoholics Anonymous. . .

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

I think that quotes and prayers can help us in countless ways when we are going through tough times. They can inspire us, speak to us, and make us look at our situations differently. At times even lend much needed perspective to help us see through the darkness.

I could go on and on here because there are so many great quotes but now I want to hear from you guys!

Is there a quote has really resonated with you in your life?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Kathy Griffin's Public Pap . . . Did She Go Too Far?

I think it is great when celebrities draw attention to various causes. But I have to say I was a little startled when I heard about Kathy Griffin's "Smear Campaign". She had a pap smear done in public that was filled for her show "My Life On the D-List" to raise awareness for cervical cancer.

Now don't get me wrong, I love Kathy Griffin, watch her show all the time and have see her live twice. I think she is a hysterical comedian. That said I couldn't help but wonder if she went too far with this public pap. Although I do like her statement "Tell Cancer To Suck It!" I am not sure if people watching her get a pap was really necessary. Maybe she did it for publicity? I understand that her original intention was to raise awareness however, I think it borders on bad taste. But that is just my opinion. Then again, wasn't it Katie Couric who started this whole "publicize your cancer screening test" by airing her colonoscopy on TV?

Read the article about Kathy Griffin's "Smear Campaign" in the Huffington Post.

What do you guys think? Are you in support of celebrities airing their cancer screening tests on TV? Do you think that is more effective that just speaking out about it in order to help raise awareness?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Amoco Man Lets Me Know He Was There . . .

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I drove out to PA for a speaking engagement at my alma mater Misericordia University. I was very excited at the opportunity to share my experience with the OT students there. As an OT myself I felt as though I had learned a valuable lesson during my cancer experience being a patient for the first time. That is what I felt would most benefit the students I was speaking to.

It was a great night but I couldn't help but think about my life 20 years ago when I first left home to go to college. And then I thought about my Dad and how proud he was of me even though he didn't always let me know it. I thought about how he would have liked to have been there that night to hear me speak. Then I wondered if he was in some way.

On the ride home my wondering stopped when we pulled into a gas station to fill up. It was a no name station but my husband the mechanic always tells me it doesn't matter. . . all the gas is the same. As he was filling up the car I caught a glimpse of a car that was the same car my dad drove with one of those obnoxious CB antennae's attached to the trunk lid. Dad had one of those too.

As I started to chuckle Lou hopped back in the car and said
"This is an Amoco station. I asked the cashier when I was paying."
"You're kidding me right?"
"No, why? What's the big deal?" he responded with a puzzled look on his face.
"When I was little my dad's CB handle was Amoco Man and the one he gave me was Rose Bud Marie. He worked for a short time pumping gas at our local Amoco station. That's just weird don't you think?" I said after telling him about the car that drove by earlier.
"Yeah, that is weird."
"Well, I guess he was here after all." I said hoping it was true.

When we got home and Lou showed me the pictures he took during my speech we both noticed something weird in a few of the photos. Some weird watermark looking circle on my shirt (see top photo) and that same circle hanging out in midair in another photo (see photo below) I have heard of strange stuff happening in pictures like that and wondered if it was a spirit of some sort. And I thought of Dad again.

Am I crazy or has anyone else heard of this type of thing happening?

I like to think that it was my Dad hanging out around me during my speech.

One thing I know for sure is that if he were alive he wouldn't have missed it for the world. The Amaco man would have been proud of his Rose Bud Marie. . .

What do you guys think? Have you ever felt as though you got a message from the other side? Have you had spirits show up in pictures?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Free Spa Services For Cancer Patients

When I was going through my cancer treatments I tried to keep up with my weekly manicures. Even though I had to be more careful of cutting my cuticles with the new risk of lymphedema I still enjoyed my girl time. For those moments I felt more normal, and calmed. It was something that made me feel better and something I did just for me. And believe it or not it helped with my body image which was all but in the toilet during that time. Certainly a massage would have done wonders with all the stress that I just about carried around via boulders in my neck muscles.

I was excited to recently find out about a great charitable organization that provides free spa services to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Angie's Spa funds hospital programs across the country with the purpose of providing those free services to patients. It is an all volunteer organization with 100 percent of donations raised going toward hospital programs.

Angie's Spa is named in memory of a young breast cancer survivor Angie Levy who battled breast cancer for 9 years and passed away at only 36 years old. You can read more about Angie's story here.

Become a fan of Angie's Spa on Facebook and help spread the word!

What did you do during your treatment that was just for you? Did your hospital offer spa services during your treatment? Do you have a story to share about Angie's Spa?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

KFC's "Healthy Grilled" Chicken NOT So Healthy. . . What Was Komen Thinking?

The Komen/KFC saga continues. Not only is the whole partnership disgusting to make it more ridiculous new information was just released about KFC's allegedly healthy addition to the menu. . . the grilled chicken. The Physicians Committe For Responsible Medicine(PCRM) recently released results of testing that found "substantial amounts" of a carcinogenic chemical in samples of the KFC grilled chicken. So now on top of the unhealthy greasy fried chicken in the bucket that you can buy to save some boobs is the "healthy grilled" chicken that could cause cancer. And these results are not new, they were released in June '09. So how did Komen miss that one?

And lets do the math. . . 50 cents of the $20 bucket o' fat goes to Komen. That is only 2.5%. As I said in my last post. . . KFC is going to make out a lot better on this deal and may even contribute to the cancer epidemic that Komen has been fighting for years.

Were you surprised to hear about the grilled chicken? What do you think of this next chapter in the KFC/Komen partnership?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pink Nausea Hits Fast Food Market . . . KFC Teams Up With Komen to Save Some Boobs

When I heard about Buckets for the Cure it turned my stomach much like fast food fried chicken would. What kind of a toxic combo is this anyway? Ummmm.....yes lets encourage people to consume fried chicken that is unhealthy in order to donate 50 cents to Komen and fight a disease linked to poor nutrition. Eat some fried chicken and save some boobs. Its just that easy! Please Komen be kidding me!

I think this is disgusting on many levels. I am sure that KFC will make tons more money than Komen will ever see. Yet another example of pink washing . As a breast cancer survivor I would much rather see people show their support by donating to an organization such as Breast Cancer Action whose Think Before You Pink Campaign brings much needed awareness to pink washing or to the Im Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation which is a great non profit supporting young adults with cancer.

Have you heard of this new campaign? What do you think? Will you buy a bucket to support breast cancer?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Rescheduling My Annual Mammo . . . Why Does It Feel Like I Committed Crime?

As 2009 drew to a close my boob started to hurt. It happens like clockwork each year as my annual mammo draws near. It was scheduled for March 2. That and a followup visit with my breast surgeon.

In an effort to put myself first and explore new creative interests I came upon a flyer for a painting class at my local arts council. I have always wanted to learn to paint. I am a creative person. Being creative helps ground me and deal with fear. At times fear seems to be my daily companion. The painting class certainly peaked my interest. And then I saw the date of the first class. It was of course the date of my annual mammo. Now when I make these followup appointments it is 6 months ahead of time as I leave another appointment. Who knows where you will be in 6 months. I was pretty bummed. Then I had a thought. . . Why don't I just reschedule? Seemed simple enough at the time. Until I called and found out that I would have to wait 6 months to get one. I have to say that I was shocked the wait was that long.

What did I do? Well, since it had been over 8 years of remission for me without missing one single followup test or appointment I decided to give myself a break so that I could take the art class. I figured that 6 months would not make or break me and the art would help heal me.

I have to say though that I felt as though I committed a crime. That I somehow broke the unspoken rules. I hate feeling this way. I can't live my life in between medical appointments as if that is the only way I will feel ok. It is a hard habit to break. It is the fear that hangs over my head all the time. . .

Have you ever rescheduled a followup test? Ever felt guilty or scared about it? How do you handle your post cancer checkups?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Revisiting The New Mammography Guidelines

I shared my view of the new mammography guidelines on this blog back in November when the USPSTF issued the changes. As most of you know these changes caused quite the stir in both the medical community and those living with breast cancer especially younger women.

I recently had the pleasure of cowriting an article for The Source, a quarterly newsletter issued by Breast Cancer Action (BCA). BCA is a national organization that "challenges assumptions and inspires change to end the breast cancer epidemic." I have often referred to them on my blog in reference to their great Think Before You Pink Campaign. BCA is one of the few in support of the new mammography guidelines. You can read about where they stand on the issue here.

Check out Screening and Mammography: The Real Story written by myself and Angela Wall the Communications Manager of BCA.

Then come on back and share your thoughts!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

OT Relates Experience As A Patient. . .

That is the title of a piece by Josephine Campbell from the Times Leader that I am featured in today. I will be speaking at my alma mater Misericordia University in Dallas, PA this Thursday 4/8 at 6:30 pm about my cancer experience and my transition from OT to patient. I will also be doing a book signing. If you are in the area please come on over! Would love to see you there!

To read the full article and get more details on location check it out here.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Talking To The Dead . . . Do You Believe?

In a recent post "My Doggie Sees Dead People" I wrote a bit about my experience growing up seeing dead people in my room at nite. I got to thinking about the topic again and wanted to share some thoughts about mediums.

As I grew older those visits from the dead slowed down and eventually stopped. If a dead person visited me it would be in my dreams. Possibly that was the only way I could handle it. The only way it wouldn't freak me out. And then I started seeking out mediums who could talk to the dead for me. When my husband died I really got into it. I so wanted to still feel connected to him from wherever he was in the afterlife. I have always believed that our souls live on after we die. I believe that we are all energy and it is our energy that moves on to the next phase of existence.

In May of 2000 I went on a trip to Barbados. It was a psychic retreat headed by none other than John Edward. It was before he blew up and his career took off like a rocket. I feel very lucky to have had that experience. I met many great people looking to connect with loved ones as well as a group of wonderful mediums including Suzane Northrop. There were group readings with Suzane and I had a private reading with John. It was amazing. I know there are many skeptics out there but the things I was told were so specific there is only one place the messages could have come from. . . my dead people.

Since then I have made an annual trip to a medium to hear from my lost loved ones. It is a gift I give to myself. Although they say that each one of us has the ability to communicate with the dead I have too much swimming around in my busy mind to ever be able to hear them. I do get messages in dreams and songs I hear on the radio at certain moments. I know I am always connected to them and it makes dealing with the loss a little easier.

So this Sunday on what would have been my dad's 62nd birthday I will be thinking of him and missing him. I will light a candle that I hope he will see. In a whisper I will tell him I love him. Somehow I know he will hear me. . .

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Vitamins Increasing Breast Cancer Risk . . . What's Up With That??

It can be dizzying trying to follow all the different studies regarding breast cancer. Like some of you I want to do all I can to prevent this horrible disease or at the very least reduce my risk factors. So I was a tad alarmed when I read about a recent study that came out about vitamins increasing the risk of breast cancer. The study was in women aged 49-83 but still. . . this just doesn't make sense to me. It didn't state which vitamin it was just "multivitamins". I always take my daily dose of vitamin D as that has been known to help fight cancer. And I also take the B's and C's. So what is a girl to do? Or man for that matter?

As I live with the fear of recurrence floating over my head like a dark cloud I can't help but try to improve my lifestyle and diet. Although I try hard not to become controlling and obsessive about it as I have written about before on this blog but information such as this makes my head spin. I makes me wonder. . . what are we doing wrong here?

Check out the full article "Multivitamins Linked To Cancer" and let me know what you think.

Do you take any vitamins? How do you handle all the info out there relating to your illness? Does it make you confused? How do you handle the "after cancer" life?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Avoiding Breast Cancer With Lifestyle Choices . . Is It Really That Simple?

A new study was recently released about decreasing the incidence of breast cancer with changes in lifestyle specifically exercise and diet. If women lost weight and just exercised more they could decrease their chances of getting breast cancer. It cites that "25-30 percent of breast cancers could be avoided if women were thinner and exercised more. . . " Fat cells excrete estrogen so I do understand that aspect of it as most breast cancers including mine are estrogen fed. Now while I understand the reasoning I cannot help but wonder. . . Is it that simple? Before my diagnosis I was exercising and I was not overweight. So apparently those two things did not help me avoid a diagnosis. I also was not a smoker nor did I drink which are other lifestyle choices that can increase risk. So where was my benefit?

I think about my grandma who ate whatever she wanted in moderation and lived to be 85 staying out of the hospital and away from doctors until the last year of her life. I think about how when she bought her meat it was not laden with antibiotics and her produce was not drenched in pesticides. That was during a time when cancer incidence was much lower than it is today.

Something I found particularly interesting in the article was this statement regarding genetics and cancer. . . "The genes have been there for thousands of years but if cancer rates are changing within a lifetime that doesn't have much to do with genes." The majority of breast cancer diagnosis' are in women with no family history myself included. I think that what also needs to be explored is the environmental causes I noted above as well as emotional stress and its toll on the body. I am glad to hear there is much needed discussion as to the causes of breast cancer I would just like to see it have a wider view.

I don't know about you but I sure would have like to have "avoided" my cancer diagnosis.

What did you think of this story? Do you think that lifestyle factors can increase risk of cancer? When stories like this come out does it make you want to blame yourself for your disease?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hoarders. . . Way Beyond Just "Clutter"

When I was going through cancer treatment suffice it to say that my apartment was a tad cluttered. My kitchen table was covered in a mound of paperwork, mostly medical bills and unopened mail. I had clothes on the floor of my closet and a bathtub that needed cleaning. I just didn't have the strength at the time nor the inclination. I was physically as well as emotionally exhausted. In my closet there was even a box of Paul's stuff. I couldn't stand to part with it. It included pictures, letters he wrote to me in highschool along with the jean jacket they had to tear off of him when he was being extricated from the car he was killed in.

I understand it is hard to get rid of stuff especially that belonging to those we have lost. I know all about clutter. In a past post I wrote about my clutterbuggin. Hoarding....now that is a different story. I recently caught a glimpse of this show Hoarders. It was deeply disturbing. Have any of you seen it? It is so way beyond clutter. These people literally cannot even walk around in their homes because of all the crap piled up to the ceiling. It borders on dangerous living conditions. Some even disgusting. One woman had dead cat carcases somewhere in the house. Others have cat and dog poop just laying on the floor in the kitchen. One couple was sitting in the middle of their bed eating dinner.

I wonder if these "hoarders" began as clutter bugs like me. It made me feel disturbed but also sad to see people living this way. When it came time for the person to part with all the junk there was a visible emotional reaction to getting rid of anything. I suppose it is not just about the "stuff". It is what the "stuff" represents. That part I could understand but at some point you need to let go of "things" to be able to live.

Have you seen this show? Were you disturbed by it? Have you ever had issues with clutter? Is it hard to part with things that belonged to someone you have lost?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Mom Gene . . . Do You Have It?

I always knew I was missing the mom gene. Ever since I can remember I knew somehow that I was not meant to be a mother this time around. Although I used to play house when I was a kid and loved to babysit as a tween when I got older I wondered if it was meant for me. I was married at 23 and my then husband Paul wanted to have 6 kids or some ridiculous number like that. I would look at him like he was crazy. He loved kids, loved to be around them. I on the other hand was so uncomfortable around kids. I never quite knew what to say or do and felt all this pressure just being in their presence. Looking back now I can say I was on the fence then. But if Paul wanted them I probably would've gone along with it.

After he died I never thought I would marry again let alone have a family of my own. When I turned thirty I started to feel like I really didn't want any children. Then cancer came at 31 and changed everything. My doctors discussed fertility options prior to my chemotherapy and I was well aware that my treatment would most likely leave me unable to have a baby. At the time I really didn't have a strong feeling about having a baby so I didn't pursue saving any of my eggs. Truth be told I was so screwed up and terrified that I couldn't really see into the future. I wasn't sure I would even have one. I think it may have been the missing mom gene.

Chemotherapy threw me into instant menopause and 8 years later I don't think it is going away any time soon given my age. When I met my husband Lou during my treatments I was concerned about whether or not he wanted children. I was pleased to find that he didn't. We were on the same page. I think it is super important for a husband and wife to agree on the baby thing.

Last nite I caught a glimpse of a documentary about a couple who unexpectedly have quintuplets. The husband was found to be infertile and admittedly didn't want to have kids. But his wife wanted to have them. So they agreed to use a sperm donor and had one child. Then she wanted one more. Back to the sperm donor they went and oops....then came 5! It got me to wondering...especially about the husband. He never wanted kids and now he has 6. And not even his own. I wonder what the stress of all that will do to their marriage. More than that I wonder how he feels having "given in" to the pressure from his wife who wanted kids so badly. Its one thing to compromise on a place to live or where to go on a vacation but children? I say you both need to be on the EXACT same page as far as that goes.

I can't help but wonder if the little feeling I had my whole life about not being a mother was something my soul knew. That it all happened how it was meant to be. I lost my husband and then my ovaries went on strike from cancer treatment. I had the odds stacked against me anyway. Maybe that is why I always had that instinct about myself. And then I wonder how often one person in a relationship "gives in" to the other when it comes to starting a family. . .

Did cancer treatment affect your fertility? Did you always know where you stood on the kid thing? Are you and your partner on the same page about having kids?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cosmetics and Skin Care . . . Ever Wonder About The Ingredients?

I remember as a little girl watching my mom when she was getting ready to go out for the evening. I would stand in the doorway of the bathroom studying the way she put mascara on her eyelashes and swept blush across her cheeks just before she would dab on lipstick in crimson. Ever since I can recall she dyed her hair. And to this day at 61 years old she does not have a gray hair on her head.

I wasn't allowed to wear any makeup until I was 15. But for some reason when I was about 13 my mom let me get eyeshadow just to play around with meaning I couldn't leave the house with it on. The colors were baby blue and a light shade of green. Hey...it was the eighties! And then when turned that magic age I invested in my first eyeliner pencil. Nautical blue by Maybelline. I washed my face with ivory soap and used babymagic lotion for a moisturizer. As you can see not much thought went into my skincare routine. When I was in my twenties I started caring more about my face and tried a bunch of different products. What I wasn't doing was giving a thought to any of the ingredients.

After cancer I tried to clean up my act. I changed my diet, drank tons of water, and even tried juicing. I also started hearing about toxic stuff in skincare that could be absorbed into the skin. It is the largest organ we have. Words like parabens and sulfates were becoming things I feared. I became obsessive over it. And that obsession came from fear of recurrence. So as I was in the shower lathering up with my pearberry scented shower gel I started to wonder if it could harm me. This fear began to extend to everything I was using from lipstick to shampoo.

As I miss the days when I gave no thought to the chemicals in my lipstick or face wash I can't help but wonder if there are any others out there like me. I know that part of it is from my cancer history. What I am having a hard time with now is finding balance. The balance between enjoying the little things in life to obsessing over what I put on my skin. Shopping for makeup and skincare is no longer fun for me. I am tired of reading labels and running from chemicals.

Having said all that there is a website where you can check the toxicity of your skincare products. Head over to cosmeticsdatabase.com Just don't obsess over it like I do!

Have you given any thought to what is in your skincare products? Do you fear that your skincare or makeup could make you sick? How do you handle those feelings? What are you using on your skin these days?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cards For Cancer

When I was hospitalized for breast cancer surgery one of the things that helped lift my spirits were the cards I received from friends and family. It may seem small to some but for me it brightened my day. I felt scared, alone, and sad. Reading my cards helped me get through those long and frightening days.

So today I want to tell you about a great organization called Spirit Jump and their First Annual Cards For Cancer Day. Spirit Jump is a non profit founded by Meghan Edelstein a cervical cancer survivor. Its mission is "to provide hope and comfort to the many men, women, and children battling cancer." The way they do this is by sending cards and gifts to those going through cancer treatment.

On April 10, 2010 they will be delivering bags of cards to cancer centers all over the world which will be handed out to those battling cancer. What a great idea right?! For more info on how you can participate in this great event head on over to cards4cancer.org . The cards can be handmade or store bought. Their goal is to deliver 100,000 cards. If you are not able to participate please consider making a donation.

Did a card brighten your day when you battled an illness? What is it about such a simple gesture that can make all the difference? Are you already a supporter of Spirit Jump?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Time To Spring Ahead . . .

This week has been fabulous springy weather up here in NY. I definitely have spring fever. I already feel better. My winter blues are slowly fading. I like waking up to the sun early in the morning. And what I really love is the extra daylight in the evening.

Every year I look forward to longer days. I love turning the clocks ahead. And that we get to do that a few weeks earlier these past couple of years is even better.

I am one of those people who has Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is self diagnosed of course. BTW. . . how appropriate are those initials! Anyway, I always notice my mood changes in the winter with the lack of daylight and the cold weather. My appetite even changes where I eat more as if I was a bear going into hibernation. I miss being outside, I miss having the fresh air blow through the windows in the house, and do not enjoy the potential of slippery roads from the snow. I feel more trapped. Spring brings on more freedom for me if only in my mind.

When I was going through chemo it was during the fall/winter months. So when the spring rolled around my hair was growing back just as the flowers were waking from their winter naps. It felt like a rebirth in more ways than one. I think that the time of year certainly increased that feeling for me.

So this weekend when we turn the clocks ahead I will look forward to longer days, more sunlight, and those sweet little crocuses. . .

Do you ever get SAD? Do you notice your mood changes during the winter? Does the lack of sunlight affect you? How do you deal?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bad Hair Days. . . Do You Complain About It?

We all have bad hair days don't we?  I know I do.  But when I faced the loss of my hair during chemotherapy I swore to myself that when my hair grew back I would never complain about bad hair days again.  Losing my hair was the hardest part of my cancer experience.  Yes, even more difficult than losing my breast.  My bald head was the one thing I couldn't successfully hide.  I was so self conscious about wearing a wig.  I didn't have the confidence to sport the bald head.  

I was so grateful to have my hair back.  Once I had enough peach fuzz covering my head I ditched the wig.  I was very comfortable with super short hair as I have had it many times in my life.  I have experimented with all lengths and colors.  My hair grew in super curly and  I welcomed the change.  Then a few years later after one haircut it became pin straight.  Recently I have even decided to let my hair go gray.  This past fall I cut it short in part to get rid of highlights I had and make it easier to grow out the color.  I have to say that seeing the gray is weird.  But for me I just don't like the all the chemicals from hair color and the maintainence it takes so we'll see how I handle the gray thing.  

As the summer approaches I have toyed with the idea of cutting my hair very short again.  I have hot flashes all day long and just don't have the patience for long hair.  And I thought about what is stopping me.  My husband startled me the other day when he listened to my latest hair rant and said "After all you have gone through with your hair why are you making such a big deal out of this. . . do whatever you want with it?  

He was right.   I have already been bald.  Why do I still obsess over my hair?  Haven't I learned that it is not about the hair?  I should be grateful to have hair adorning my head.  I feel as though having had cancer and experiencing the hair loss that comes with it instantly revokes my right to ever complain about a bad hair day for the rest of my life . . .  

Do you complain about bad hair days?  As a cancer survivor do you ever feel guilty for complaining about your hair?  Why do you think the hair thing so important?  Or is it?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Is It Ever "Just" A Headache Anymore?

The night of my first chemo treatment was one of the worst of my life running a very close second to the night my husband was killed.  I remember being home alone laying on the couch when the worst headache of my life began.  The pain was so intense I was crying.  It was all centered right above my eyes taking over my whole forehead.  I had to turn the lights down and keep my eyes closed.  As the tears ran down my cheeks I was afraid I would die alone that nite on my couch.  I was banned from taking advil according to the oncology nurse so essentially I was screwed.  It was probably from dehydration combined with all the poison pumped into me that day.  

So last night when I had a really bad headache in the same place on my forehead it rushed me right back to that first chemo nite.  It always does.  Each headache I have had since (and there have been many)  unwillingly takes me back to that moment.  All of the fear and even some tears.  The flashback got worse when I took advil and it didn't work.  So there I was on the couch with the lights low holding back tears.  I have had headaches all of my life.  This is nothing new for me.  I have even had this discussion with my oncologist who says that if it is not any different then it is nothing to worry about.  And part of me knows that and agrees with him.  But it is in these moments when all the bad memories come rushing back amongst the pain that another part of me cannot distinguish between the two.  The fear gets as intense as the pain.

I wonder if there will be a day when a headache, a sneeze, or a stomach ache won't scare the hell out of me...

Does this ever happen to you?  Do symptoms you had before cancer scare you now?  How do you deal with the fear?  How do you put it all back in perspective?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Notebook. . . It Just Gets To Me

"I am no one special, just a common man with common thoughts. I've led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me, and my name will soon be forgotten. But in one respect, I've succeeded as gloriously as anyone who ever lived. I've loved another with all my heart and soul, and for me, that has always been enough."  

This is how Nicholas SparksThe Notebook  begins.  It is the line in both the movie and book that I have been unable to forget.   I have watched this movie about 10 times already in the past 6 months and I still never tire of watching it.  It has become my favorite movie ever.  Each time I watch it I am left wondering what it is about it that just gets to me so much.  

Everyone enjoys a great love story and this is one of those.  But when I really think about the story of Noah and Allie I think about that first line.  I think about the simplicity of life back in that time.  I think of how in love they were.  How strong of a love it was to have brought them back together after years of being apart.  Then I think about when Noah tells Allie that marriage is not supposed to be easy, it will be hard.  But that he wanted to share all of it with her.  I think they challenged each other.  Because it was tough it made them both better individuals.  The relationship Allie had with Lon was too easy.  He had money, gave her everything she wanted, but there was no challenge.  She was a different person when she was with Lon.  She lost her spark.  The one she had when she was with Noah.  It was the kind of love that has the power to challenge and change you.  In the end Allie realized where she truly belonged.  

In a world where everyone is looking for their 15 minutes of fame, the big break, the ultimate success, what really matters is love.  I wonder why that is too often put at the bottom of the list.  I think sometimes I focus on all the wrong things.  All that I need is always right in front of me.  And then I wonder why is that not enough?  

Did you see "The Notebook"?  What message did you take away from it? What is it about this movie that gets to you?    What is your favorite movie?