my Breast Cancer blog

2004, age 34 — this is my story

Home » 2008 » October

Holy Money!

I’m usually not a money worrier. But I admit, this whole recent economic scare has me pinching pennies like never before. Which is why when someone from my MRI center called me today and told me how much I’ll owe on Monday when I go for my annual boob test, I felt my stomach sink into my toes.

Before I get the pleasure of plunging my naked breasts into cut-outs on a very chilly table, I will have the honor of forking over more than $300. It’s only 20% of the total cost of the procedure—whew, that’s good—but Geez, what a lot of money. It’s a lot every time I get the test but this year, I’m actually paying close attention to our credit card purchases, so it hit me hard. For a second, I even hesitated and thought to myself, Do I really need the MRI?

Of course, I need the MRI. I’m not about to duck out of the medical loop now that I know it so well, and it’s doing such a bang-up job of keeping me well. Three-hundred dollars. Oh well. I’m considering myself worth it, even though I won’t be worth as much because of it.

Click if you can

Something about this seems iffy—I mean, can funding mammograms for women in need really be as easy as clicking on a website? The Breast Cancer Site claims it is this simple, and I’ve received a bunch of chain-like emails over the years pointing me to this very site. I’ve always clicked, because what’s the harm, I figure. Either it works and someone, somewhere gets a free mammogram or it doesn’t work and then, oh well.

Want to register your own click? Head on over here for the 6th Annual Pink Ribbon Challenge. And if things are as they seem, at the end of the month nearly 500 women will get the gift of a mammogram. Can’t beat that.

You gotta be a pit-bull

I once asked a breast cancer husband how he helped his wife—who happens to be a friend of mine—survive her disease. I offered him this statement:

Surviving breast cancer can be a long haul. Be prepared for . . .

This was his response:

Battle. This is nothing short of the fight for your lives. Of course you need to be compassionate, caring, and all those other important things your wife will need, but you need to turn into the meanest, most determined, pushy, and unyielding SOB, all very politely of course, so your wife will feel there is no one doing more to help than you. Example: I have called Dr.’s offices every hour until I was able to get my wife the appt. she needs. Or, calling again and again until instead of voice mail, I get a real nurse to get a script my wife may need. You gotta be a pit-bull, see what I mean?

Enlist in the army

Dr. Susan Love told Robin Roberts yesterday on Good Morning America that she’s trying to recruit 1,000,000 women for the Army of Women, a group of women who on a volunteer basis will be part of research efforts aimed at determining what causes breast cancer. All women are invited to participate. Just sign up here. When you do, you’ll get an e-mail about opportunities for being involved.

Love reports that about 200,000 women have signed up so far. She’s got a long way to go to hit that one-million mark. Just like we have a way to go to find that elusive cause of breast cancer. Help if you can. And thank you.

If I just breathe: A book and a giveaway

Breast cancer normally affects older women, and there is really very little information about how the disease affects women under 40 (that’s why I wrote about the Young Survival Coalition in this post). But here’s the deal: Breast cancer is a devastating blow to any woman. And as new author and young breast cancer survivor Tina Koral says, “young women often face a myriad of unique challenges, including higher mortality, threatened fertility, isolation, and a lack of informational resources targeted to our age group.”

That’s why Tina wrote a book, so that she can share her story with other young women with breast cancer who need hope, and for young women who do not have breast cancer, but need to know what to look for. And that why she’s sending me a book—so I can help spread the word. And why she’s giving one away here too—so you can help spread the word.

Want to win a free copy of Tina’s book, If I Just Breathe? Take a peek at the excerpt below and leave a comment no later than 5 PM on Monday, November 3, 2008 telling me why you’d love to have this book in your hands. Then I’ll work my random-drawing magic and will announce the lucky winner in a post.

In the meantime, check out Tina’s website here. This is where you can order her book.

“The photographs from my wedding day show a joyful young couple, visibly excited to start a new life together. The promise of a happy home full of children shone in our eyes. The thrill of that day, of marrying my childhood love in a city filled with romance, will stay with me forever. What I did not know at the time was that along with something old, new, borrowed and blue, I carried a seven centimeter, rapidly growing mass of malignant cells in my breast. I was twenty-nine years old.”

Exerpt from If I Just Breathe

Pink Ribbon Day

Somewhere, I heard that Pink Ribbon Day is October 27. I’ve done some searching and determined that Monday is in fact Pink Ribbon Day—in Australia. Not sure about here in the United States, but I say we declare it Pink Ribbon Day everywhere.

Tomorrow is Pink Ribbon Day then. Which means you need to do something with a pink ribbon. Tie one in your hair. Pin one on your shirt. Paint one on your face. Dangle one from your rearview mirror. You could also buy a pink ribbon product—read this post first, though, and see how you feel about pink product pursuits. Or host a pink ribbon party. Well, there isn’t much time for that now, is there? I mean, the big day is tomorrow. Come on.

I don’t know. Do whatever you like on this day. Just try to to raise a bit of awareness about breast cancer and its implications. Consider these statistics as you brainstorm: 12,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia last year. In 2008, an estimated 182,460 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among women in the United States. Ouch. In Canada this year, about 22,400 women will be diagnosed. Every year, more than 45,500 women in the UK are told they have the disease. Gosh, I could go and on. But I think my point is clear. Breast cancer is everywhere.

Let’s get the word out.

Sport a pink ribbon.

Tomorrow.

Under 40 with breast cancer? Visit the YSC

I’m almost not young enough to take advantage of this organization. I’ve got two years left. I’m 38 and age 40 is the cut-off. Well, I don’t know if the folks at the Young Survival Coalition are that strict, but the group is intended for women younger than 40 who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

A few years ago, while questioning chemotherapy and what treatment was right for me, I visited the YSC a few times. The bulletin boards were my favorite. I didn’t ever write or respond to anyone. I just visited from afar, soaking up the chit-chat of others and using it for my own decision-making purposes. It helped, to learn about Taxol and who got it, who didn’t. I didn’t want it, you see, and I searched feverishly for other women who didn’t get it, trying desperately to justify that it was not right for me. It turns out it wasn’t right for me—Amen to that—and my argument against the drug came partially from this group of fierce women fighting for their lives.

Breast cancer is not all that common among young women, and you may find that resources and information for the under-40 set are limited. Until you find the YSC, that is. They’ve got it all. Besides the bulletin board, the YSC features programs, events, even retreats. And there are all sorts of FAQs and hot cancer topics on the website. Check it out. You’ll discover that while you may be young, you are definitely not alone.

Inspire me

This is my Danny. He’s five years old, and he can do four pull-ups. That’s four more than I can do. He inspires me. Who, or what, inspires you?

Shabby Apple offers discount to all

My Shabby Apple pals are not only giving Cathy a free dress, valued at $64. They are also giving you a 15% discount on anything in their online store. Check out their dresses and accessories here (they even have little girl stuff) and then get shopping.

To get your discount, just do this: When you are about to check out online, enter the coupon code mybreastcancer15off (case sensitive and one word).

Pictured: Small daisy hair clip. 2 inch diameter. Clip on back of flower to help hold it securely in hair. Comes in chocolate, black, baby pink and white. Price: $12.00, but less if you use your discount.

Shabby Apple has a winner

“What I love most about my body is my skin,” says Cathy in her comment for my Shabby Apple dress giveaway. “I have been blessed with great genetics and protect my skin with SPF so that I always look younger than I am. Now, I am teaching my daughter to take care of her skin, which is also beautiful. I have been every size there is between 8 and 16 and sometimes it is difficult to be comfortable in my own skin, but its mine and I love it!”

And now Cathy gets to showcase her beautiful skin in her brand new jersey dress. Yes, she’s the winner. And I just know she’s going to look smashing and dashing and all things radiant in that trendy yet sophisticated little number.

Congrats to you, Cathy. And thanks to you, my Shabby Apple friend Ashely, for making this giveaway possible.

The doctor is in

If you’re new to the world of breast cancer, you need to see this doctor. I don’t mean you need to actually visit her, but you should consult her. Her name is Dr. Susan Love and she is, like, the expert, the guru, the absolute best. When I was first diagnosed, someone told me to buy her book—Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book—because it’s considered the breast cancer bible. It was my constant companion for a long time. Late at night, when fear raced through my head and panic paralyzed me, I grabbed the good doctor and flipped through her pages. She always set my mind at ease and while some things she told me were scary, she mostly armed me with hope.

You should get her book—check it out right here—and you should visit her website too, right here. I promise you’ll like her. She’s warm, caring, smart, and she just happens to have all the latest and greatest facts on breast cancer. What are you waiting for? Your appointment awaits you.

Just stand up

On September 5, 2008, all three major TV networks aired Stand Up To Cancer. Nearly 170 countries had access to the show, bunches of celebrities participated, and loads of money was raised—like $100 million, to be exact.

Check out this song, titled Just Stand Up and featuring artists like Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Rihanna, Fergie, Sheryl Crow, Melissa Etheridge, Natasha Bedingfield, Miley Cyrus, Leona Lewis, Carrie Underwood, Keyshia Cole, Leann Rimes, Ashanti, and Ciara.

Inspiring. Simply inspiring.

Cozy, Fuzzy socks

My favorite of all cancer gifts was a pair of cozy, fuzzy, yellow socks sent in the mail from a friend named Ginger. Ginger, I don’t know where you are or if you’re reading, but I am so thankful for those socks. They warmed my tootsies and my heart. And every time I look at them, crumpled and stuffed in my sock drawer, I think of you and how those socks are a testament to my survival. They are worn and dirty and the fuzzies are all flattened, which means I’ve had them for awhile, which means I’ve been alive for awhile, which means I am happily surviving the disease that prompted my friend to send me such a special package.

Four years ago, Ginger gave me my favorite socks. And for four years, I’ve been giving the gift of socks to others who need comforting. Need a gift for a special someone? I recommend socks. The cozier and fuzzier, the better. Click here to buy the ones pictured above.

Circus of Cancer

I’ve read her book, The Middle Place, and I tell you: It’s the best. Really, a touching story of her life with cancer, her dad’s life with cancer, and her relationship with one husband, two kids, a mom, brothers, and others. Read it if you can. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll be inspired, by the one and only Kelly Corrigan.

Corrigan also has a cool website, called Circus of Cancer. I’m just starting to find my way around this magical place. Want to join me? Click here and you’ll find all sorts of great stuff—photographs of Corrigan during her cancer days, tips on how to help friends with cancer, gifts and free e-cards, and the latest on Corrigan’s writing endeavors. Even her little girl are getting in on the writing gig—check out this picture book, pictured above, written for mommy’s with cancer.

Cancer won’t win

When I run, I always think the same thing: That I’m conquering cancer. It’s like my mind plays on repeat as I put one foot in front of the other and pound the pavement. Maybe it’s the research clogging up my brain—the stuff that says five weekly hours of vigorous exercise helps prevent a recurrence of breast cancer. Maybe it’s the feeling of power I get from logging mile after mile, the knowledge that my body really is strong—if it were not, I wouldn’t be able to run. Maybe it’s both, or something else entirely. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that when I run, I believe I am leaving cancer far behind. I believe I am crossing the finish line, and cancer never will. Running is my preventative medicine. So far, it’s working.

Chemo and Angels

During chemotherapy, I had a few angels—chemo angels, to be exact. They wrote me letters, filled my mailbox with gifts, sent good wishes my way, and brightened many of my cancer days.

If you’re enduring chemotherapy, you too can have a chemo angel, maybe even more than one. And if you are lucky enough to not be enduring chemo, you can be an angel.

Check out this website
, where you’ll learn that Chemo Angels is a volunteer organization dedicated to adding a ray of sunshine to the lives of those undergoing IV chemo treatment. The angel folks believe people going through the physical, emotional, and mental rigors of chemotherapy deserve some encouragement.

Indeed, they do.

Be an angel or get an angel—I think you’ll be happy either way.

Happy Love Your Body Day

Today is Love Your Body Day. We’re talking about it on That’s Fit, readers here on my personal blog are sharing what they love most about their bodies for my latest giveaway—click here, reveal your most prized body part, and enter to win a dazzler of a dress—and now, I’ll tell you what I love about this 38-year-old body that belongs to me.

To be honest, I’ve always been a bit hard on my body, generally wishing it was thinner, stronger, tanner, tighter, more toned. I’ve even gone as far as reducing my once-too-big boobs and tucking in my sagging-skin tummy. I explain my breast reduction as necessary for comfort—four pounds of heavy, dense tissue were removed—and I justify the tummy tuck too. Comfort again. After seven years, I just couldn’t deal anymore with the excess post-pregnancy stuff hanging from my middle. Comfort aside, though, I admit both surgeries gave me an appearance I wanted: Small boobs and a flat tummy, both better matches for my other body parts.

I love my boobs and my tummy now. Truly love them. There are other parts I love too—parts never reconstructed or enhanced, like my toes.

John told me on one of our first dates that my toes are cute. I agree. They look best in flip-flops, painted just right with my favorite really dark color.

I also love my hair. Never thought I’d say that after shaving off my blond locks nearly four years ago in preparation for the big chemotherapy fall-out. But my hair grew back better. And my hair stylist Trippe cuts it perfectly, which makes me love him almost as much as I love my hair.

Other parts I love: My arms, for toning up so nicely; my legs, for allowing me to run lots of miles; my brain, which is getting smarter by the day, thanks to second-grade homework and four tests per week; the whole darn thing, really. I mean, this body of mine delivered two whopper-sized baby boys and beat breast cancer too. I love it. Simply love it.

What do you love about your body? Name something. Anything. Your eyes, your ears, your lips, your fingernails. Surely, there’s something that makes you happy. Think about it, and share by leaving a comment, either here on this post or on the giveaway post, where you stand to win something pretty.

Jersey Dress Giveaway: Not Too Shabby, eh?

I wish I’d known about Shabby Apple months ago when I was shopping for a black dress for my 20-year class reunion. I couldn’t find a cute one anywhere, which worked out just fine since my generous sister set me on a shopping spree in her jam-packed closet and let me pick out a perfect little number for my August festivities. Next time I’m in the market for something snazzy, though, I’m heading online—check out these everything ebony dresses. Just what I was looking for.

Shabby Apple is the best. Not only because it’s a trendy dress boutique, owned by women, operated for women, and always supporting women but because the folks there want to give away one dress here. Why? Well, because, in the spirit of breast cancer awareness, they want to honor women. How nice is that? They also will offer a 15% discount to readers. Stay tuned for more on that.

Want to win that not-so-shabby jersey dress pictured above? Here’s what you’ve got to do—leave a comment and tell me what you love most about your body. Seems a fitting question since on October 15, it’s Love Your Body Day. Feel free to share more than one loved body part if you wish. I’ll start: I love my calf muscles. And although I don’t come by it naturally, I love my tummy too.

OK, so here’s the deal: Leave your comment before 5 PM on Tuesday, October 21, because after that, I’ll conduct my random drawing, which probably will involve one little boy’s hand pulling a name from a hat. After that, I’ll announce the winner, who will work with my Shabby Apple friends on sizing and delivery of this wondrous dress, which incidentally is called 90 Words Per Minute and comes with the following stats:

Turquoise secretary dress. The dress has ruching at the sides to flatter hips and a tie at neck. The dress’s puff sleeves have a band that hits just above elbow. The skirt hits just below knee. The dress is made of poly/rayon/spandex jersey. To care for this dress, machine wash in cold on the delicate cycle or hand wash. Hang to dry. This dress FITS GENEROUSLY. Price, which you won’t have to pay: $64.

Hip Hats With Hair

One day, while in the midst of chemotherapy and walking for exercise, a neighbor noticed me and waved. A few days later, she told my sister: “That’s so great your sister didn’t lose her hair.” Ah, but I did. My neighbor just couldn’t tell because my wig was pretty darn deceiving.

My pretty-darn-deceiving wig came from a pretty great place called Hip Hats With Hair. I bought something called Underhair, which isn’t a full wig but this really soft cotton thing with hair on the sides and back. Hats, scarves, or wraps go on top. There are other products—the PonySport, the Scarfabulous, the PonyMode, and the SydneySwim. All made from human hair, these cool cancer cover-ups can be cut, washed, dried, and styled. You can even request hair samples and check out various colors, textures, and lengths.

These hip hair options are not cheap (they can cost hundreds of dollars) but for people like me, who want to look not so bald, price might be a non-issue. Looking like I didn’t have cancer was my issue. If it’s yours too, check out this pretty great place, right here.

Oh, get your doctor to write you a prescription for a wig and you might save some bucks. My insurance covered $40 for me.