My Breast Cancer Story and Resources to Help You in Your Journey
I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 37 while still nursing my younger daughter. This life changing experience has taught me the power of positive thinking, prayer, hope, family, and friends.
While I’ve always been a positive person, surviving breast cancer, gave me a new outlook on life and how to approach just the everyday craziness of it all….prompting me to adjust my website to celebrate this chaos and to Celebrate the Cocktail of Life!
This page contains resources that helped me during my journey, and a summary of my story with links to more information and bits of wisdom I picked along the way—including Why Not to do Yoga Breaths during an MRI, How to Lose your Hair 80’s style, and How to Pick out the Right Wig (scroll down for all this and more).
Part I: Breast cancer resources that helped me in my journey:
Tiger Lilly Foundation–provides support for women diagnosed under age 40.
Young Survival Coalition–also provides support for women diagnosed under age 40.
Susan G Komen–great resource for all things breast cancer.
My Favorite Resource for those going through chemo:
Look Good Feel Better–As if losing your boobs wasn’t bad enough, you’ll also lose your hair, your eyebrows, and your eyelashes (if you have to go through chemo)! Whaat?! Yes, it’s true. But Look Good Feel Better provides free makeover sessions to teach you what to do so you can look and feel your best even when you really don’t. And it’s FREE!
Five years later, I’m still using the make-up techniques I learned in this class.
And do you wanna hear a secret?
I NEVER really got back my eye brows or eye lashes, and I still have a bare spot on the side of my head.
But no one ever notices because I use the techniques from this amazing class. Yes, chemo sucks, but the Look Good Feel Better class can help!
I took this picture after seeing another cancer patient at the hospital (I was there for a routine checkup). She couldn’t believe how my hair had grown back and it seemed to really give her HOPE and brighten her day. So I took this picture to always remember that beautiful feeling of bringing joy and hope into someone else’s life (especially on those days when I feel sad about not having real eye brows. Seriously, eye brows! We don’t realize the things we’ll miss until they’re gone! LOL)
Part II: My Breast Cancer Journey:
My Breast Cancer was found when I was nursing my younger daughter. She was only around 9 months old at the time. I went in to check on some clogged milk ducts that weren’t going away. At first I was told to just take a nice relaxing bubble bath–which turned out to be bubble-bath from hell (It’s hard to relax in a leaking bath tub!) And then I was sent for my mammogram…
As if going through a cancer diagnosis isn’t scary enough, mine happened right as SuperStorm Sandy was approaching the Eastern Seaboard. I had to be squeezed in before everything shut down. Read more here: SuperStorm Sandy and the Mammogram
Reframe the Way you Look at Things
As I awaited for the results from my biopsy, I tried to come to terms with my pending cancer diagnosis. Fall had always represented the start of ski season to me but now it meant much more. I looked to my 80 year old aunt (a breast cancer survivor herself and still avid skier) for inspiration as I tried to look at my upcoming treatment as a Season of Wellness instead of Sickness. Read more: First Shimmering Snowflake and My Season of Wellness.
Advice for MRI’s
I like yoga and pilates and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of taking these great classes is how important deep breaths are in relaxation.
However–Deep breaths are NOT helpful while taking an MRI exam. It will mess up the imaging and you’ll have to start over!
Also–did you know MRI machines are really loud? I mean STARTLING loud! So, read my post about my experience and my lessons learned on finding your happy place to help you through.
What many people don’t understand is that there are several types of breast cancers. And to put it quite simply-the more positive receptors you have, the better chance you have of finding a treatment that will eradicate the cancer. Listening to my doctor run down the list of positive and negative receptors was like being in a Las Vegas casino at the slot machines, watching the cherries, dollar signs, and other symbols line up all in a row. I prayed and prayed to hear the words Postive Receptor…and after hearing negative, negative-I finally heard the word “positive.” JACKPOT! I would be able to get lifesaving chemo with Herceptin. Read more here.
And so began my year of treatment and lifetime of trying to be a positive role model for my daughters, my family and other breast cancer patients everywhere!
KNOW THIS: Pink Sunsets are the Promise of a Beautiful Tomorrow
My Dad used to always say that if you saw a pink sunset, then tomorrow would be a beautiful day. It was something he taught me one day, when I was very young, after a bad thunderstorm had passed and from then on, he always pointed it out whenever we saw a beautiful sunset.
These words took on new meaning when I got sick, and I began to look for pink sunsets. But sometimes they would just appear when I was least expecting it-like in early December right before I lost my hair. Read more here.
And always remember, if you see a pink sunset, tomorrow is going to be a beautiful day.
Losing Your Hair and Talking to Your Kids about Cancer
People often ask me what it’s like to go through breast cancer with small children.
I didn’t really have a choice in hiding my illness. I had a 2 year old and a baby jumping on me all day long. There was no way they wouldn’t notice mommy’s hair was gone.
Experts say the key to raising a strong, resilient child is to share your experiences with them–good, bad, and ugly–and by doing so, show them how you can make it through.
And that’s what I did.
So, when it was time to shave my head, I tried to have fun with it. Look Cancer right in the eye and LAUGH.
Read my article that was a Huff Post favorite here. I hope it can help you or your loved one get through the hardest part of breast cancer.
Advice for Wig Shopping
I always thought bathing suit shopping was stressful until I had to go shop for a wig. You’re scared, you’re worried, and you’re in completely unchartered territory. At least with bathing suits, you know what looks good and what to cover. But with wigs, you don’t know what kind to get, what length to get, real hair/fake hair? is the more expensive kind worth it? etc. And yes, they’re expensive–good ones start at around $500 for mesh scalps (which means no matter where your hair parts, it will look super natural and they’re lighter and more breathable, all of which are very important).
Go to an actual wig shop! They have a wider selection than a shop you’d find at the hospital. I was lucky to find one that was run by a woman who herself was a wig owner, so she was able to provide customers with advice that came from personal experience. Read more about How to Pick Out the Perfect Wig here.
Here’s a video I did with my wig shop to help honor all the women going through breast cancer. We are all Fighters…Fearless Fighters. And we are beautiful.
Why I Wear Pink
It can be hard to put into the words The power of Pink. So often you hear words like “Pink is so girly” (as if being a girl is a bad thing) or I don’t need a color to define me…but after experiencing first hand, it’s power–I know that it’s not just a color. It’s more than a Movement. It’s more than Hope. It’s more than Movement. It’s Belief in Tomorrow and Belief in a Cure. Read more here.
Do you have questions? Or Comments? Feel free to drop me a line here.
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