Skin Cancer Scares Me, Too

I don’t worry only about breast cancer. I’m a little freaked about skin cancer, too. It’s because I spent far to many hours seeking sun in my younger years, and I am painfully aware of the side effects of such behavior. I’ve had several pre-cancerous lesions cut and frozen off my fair skin, I have a one-and-a-half-inch scar where a basal cell cancer was removed a year ago, and just today, my dermatologist shaved off a bit of a mole she didn’t like — it was an odd color, different from the others on my body, she said.

A piece of my mole is on its way to a lab somewhere, and in about a week, I’ll know if it’s cancer or not. If it is, it’s likely one that is common and can be cut out without any serious health consequences. But in the back of my mind, there’s this little twinge of fear that melanoma is in my future. Melanoma is the deadly kind of skin cancer, and it’s real, folks. Just ask Miss Melanoma — she lost a toe, part of her foot, and all 16 lymph nodes from her groin to the disease. And if you don’t think it’s serious stuff, listen to Claire Oliver in the video below.

See why I’m scared? If you are, too, the best thing you can do is cease all tanning, and get yourself to a dermatologist every year for a thorough once-over. That’s how my funky mole was discovered. It wasn’t even on my radar. Ah, and don’t forget your sunscreen.

For more skin cancer facts and figures, head over to The Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society. To check out The Skin Cancer Council Australia (referenced in the video), visit here.

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Jeans Cream Soothes Radiation Skin: Giveaway

jeanscream.com
jeanscream.com

My skin did pretty well during radiation. For weeks, nothing at all happened, and then at the very end of my 30+ days of treatment, a mild burn showed up. No blistering, though, or peeling, or anything else that made me horribly uncomfortable.

You (or those you know who are getting zapped) might not fare so well. Lucky you (actually two of you!), because right here, right now, you can enter to win a free tube of Jeans Cream. It’s a natural and revolutionary product that soothes and protects skin with high-potency vitamins and botanical extracts. And it’s not made by just anyone — creator and founder Jean is a two-time breast cancer survivor, and so she knows first-hand that this stuff really works.

Jeans Cream is good for more than just radiation-affected skin, it can effectively treat eczema, sunburn, diabetes-related skin issues, contact dermatitis, wound care, and you can even use it for daily moisturizing.

What are you waiting for? Leave a comment, and you just might score this valuable gift!

  • Leave a comment and share why you need this cream!
  • Leave your comment no later than 5PM ET on Wednesday, February 10, 2010.
  • You may enter only once.
  • Open to legal residents of the 50 United States, and the District of Columbia, who are 18 and older.
  • One winner will be selected in a random drawing.
  • Two winners will receive one 7-ounce tube each of Jeans Cream (valued at $45 per tube).
  • Winners will be notified by email, so make sure to check next week to find out if you’ve won!

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Hat’s Off to Nancy

Nancy
Nancy

I happen to think bald girls in hats are really very cute, and yet, I never thought of myself that way when I had my very own shiny scalp. I covered that thing with a wig the minute my hair was gone, and I only took it off once my locks were back. I’m sure most chemo-stricken gals would agree: it’s really hard to look at just a face.

I mean, hair is important, just look at the whole industry built around it. We shampoo, condition, straighten, curl, color, fluff, puff and otherwise primp most days of our lives. It’s quite shocking when the hair is gone, which is why I admire those — like Nancy — who can just slap on a cap and proceed with grace.

Nancy has been a breast cancer survivor since June 1, 2009, when she was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma. She’s been documenting her journey on her blog, Milk Dud Warrior, which you really should visit, but in a nutshell, she’s had surgery, chemotherapy and she’s now in the throes of radiation. Her story is inspiring, and I promise you’ll like it. Bonus: you’ll get to see her in the loveliest of hats!

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Navigating Cancer Just Got Easier

Screen-shot-2010-01-18-at-6.34.42-PM
navigatingcancer.com

I’ve got a cardboard box sitting in my bedroom closet, overflowing with breast cancer stuff. It’s been in its same spot for five years, and every now and then, I fish stuff out of it. Sometimes I rifle through for a pamphlet; sometimes I hunt for a business card of some nurse or nutritionist or someone else. On occasion, I grab my wrinkled-up pathology report from the box, and when I want a trip down memory lane, I flip through the little pink polka dot journal I kept for a few days, then tossed to the wayside. While my breast cancer storage system seems to work for me, it could be a whole lot better. It could be better organized, better managed, and in this day and age, it really should be electronic.

Lucky you if you’re in the market for navigating your cancer journey in a much more systematic way, because a new website has just been launched, and I’ve been checking it out. In a word, it’s — great!

Navigating Cancer (it’s free!), is specifically for cancer patients and their supporters who want to create and manage a secure patient health record, keep a daily record of their well being and side effects, and create summary reports that can be shared with their healthcare team. Patients can also connect with other cancer patients.

While you mull over whether you might want to join this site, take a peek at this sample organizer, check out some cancer resources and give yourself the grand tour of the whole site. I think you’ll like how simple and easy the interface is, and it’s a really friendly place, too — happy photos, soothing colors and an overall nice feel. It’s a whole lot better than my cardboard box, that’s for sure. And while I really, really hope I never again have a reason to use a place like Navigating Cancer, at least I know there’s a spot that can make life a whole lot easier in the midst of chaos and distress.

If you’d like to read what others have to say about Navigating Cancer, just click here.

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Digging Deep for a Body Beautiful

Photo: istock.com
Photo: istock.com

Breast cancer made me fat. Well, not fat like being pregnant made me fat (yikes!), but it definitely left me puffy, bloated, soft and about 10 pounds heavier than I like. It’s why I took full advantage of a trip to Canyon Ranch a few years ago — I soaked up a bunch of tips and tricks for eating clean and exercising enough, made lots of lifestyle changes when I got home, and by golly, it worked. I dropped 15 pounds and found a number on the scale that made me happy.

And now, in an ironic turn of events, the very fitness that I’ve worked so hard for is making me fat. Well, not fat, but this 1/2 marathon training is making me thicker, bulkier and about 4 or 5 pounds heavier than I like. I know, I know, it might be muscle, but still, I don’t like it. I mean, I’m burning something like a thousand calories on my long runs, and, well, isn’t that supposed to help me maintain my weight? I know, I know, it might be muscle.

I think the point here is that I’m never entirely content with my body. Why is that? Well, I know partly why — OMG, all those impossible-to-attain media images. All skinny models and actresses aside, though, I’ve got to start loving what I’ve got. Like Danny loves what he’s got.

Six-year-old Danny is a lollygagger. He takes his own sweet time to accomplish anything. It seems like a pretty nice existence (low stress!), but when matters are urgent, his approach is a problem. Take school mornings: rolling around on the floor before he gets dressed and savoring each bit of breakfast just doesn’t work when we’re racing against the clock to get out the door. And today, the guy was in no hurry to brush his teeth and hair. He just stood, staring in the bathroom mirror, completely still.

“Danny, come on!” I urged him. “We need to get in the car!” And then he shared what I’ve been thinking about all day:

“Mom, I’m just checking out my beauty.”

Sigh.

“You are a beauty,” I told Danny, and I let him admire his image for a minute longer (but just a minute, the clock was ticking).

Sometimes wisdom comes wrapped in first-grade packages. Danny looks in the mirror and sees nothing but beauty. He doesn’t see his big tooth growing in all crooked, his messy hair or his clothing that rarely matches. He just sees good. When I look in the mirror, I see gray hair, wrinkles starting to crawl across my face, and the dreaded thigh-ulite. When I really dig deep, I do love my body — gosh, it birthed two humongous babies and beat cancer — but I need to do better at appreciating the goodness on a daily basis. That’s why, starting today, I’m going to take a little more time to look for the beauty.

I think you should, too.

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Fight Fat Now, Prevent Cancer Later

www.goodbooks.com/mayoclinicdiet/
www.goodbooks.com/mayoclinicdiet/

The Mayo Clinic has a lot to say about breast cancer. Click over here, and you’ll land at some pretty good information about biopsies, breast cancer staging, treatment, coping and support. You’ll even learn a thing or two about obesity, because, well, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock lately, you know that being overweight or obese increases your chances of developing the disease. I know, it’s a bummer you can’t eat whatever you want and lounge on the couch all day. But you just can’t — well, not if your wish is to keep cancer from invading your world.

“The good news is that even modest weight loss can improve or prevent the health problems associated with obesity,” says The Mayo Clinic website. And the book The Mayo Clinic Diet, written by Dr. Donald Hensrud and other weight-loss experts at the Clinic, is chock-full of tips for eating well, enjoying life, and, yes, losing some weight.

Now, this is not a scheme to starve you skinny in no time (that’s just not healthy, or sustainable), but the book does feature a two-week quick-start plan, and then lots of material for helping you continue to lose and maintain (that’s key, after all). Think 1 to 2 pounds per week until you reach your healthy weight. Sound good? Good. Here’s more of what you’ll get in this book:

  • How to determine your healthy weight
  • How to break bad habits and create good ones
  • How to control your portions
  • How to best burn calories
  • How to handle slip-ups
  • How to make easy meals

This is a glossy, colorful and friendly book — I’m looking right now at the yummiest picture of a Blueberry and Lemon Cream Parfait — only 125 calories, 1 gram of fat and 9 grams of protein — and I can tell you for sure that the tips for overcoming barriers are really quite do-able: on days when you honestly don’t have time to cook a meal at home, for example, stop at the grocery store for a healthy deli sandwich instead of that fast food burger, fries and large Coke.

It’s still OK to eat out now and then (whew!), and this book offers the dirt on healthy dishes to order at ethnic stops, like Chinese, French, Greek, Italian, Japanese and Mexican restaurants. It’s also got the skinny on alcohol — best to avoid it, lots of calories (and linked to breast cancer, too) — and you’ll love all the charts and tables. Did you know that one serving of cashews = 4 whole nuts? Yea, that’s why I avoid them. Just can’t stop at 4. More on serving sizes in the book. Oh, and you might want to get yourself The Mayo Clinic Diet journal companion, because jotting down everything you do to fight the fat is a good idea.

Time for me to stop, and you to start — losing weight, that is (if you need to). For more book information, visit here. And for the scoop on the guy who wrote the book (and The Mayo Clinic, too), just read on.

About Donald Hensrud, M.D.
Donald Hensrud, M.D., M.P.H., is chair of the Division of Preventive, Occupational, and Aerospace Medicine and a consultant in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. He is also an associate professor of preventive medicine and nutrition at the College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic. A specialist in nutrition and weight management, Dr. Hensrud advises individuals on how to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. He conducts research in weight management, and he writes and lectures widely on nutrition-related topics. He helped publish two award-winning Mayo Clinic cookbooks.

About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world. Doctors from every medical specialty work together to care for patients, joined by common systems and a philosophy that the needs of the patient come first. Over 3,600 physicians and scientists and 50,000 allied staff work at Mayo, which has sites in Rochester, Minn.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Scottsdale/Phoenix, Ariz. Collectively, Mayo Clinic treats more than 500,000 patients a year.

For more than 100 years, millions of people from all walks of life have found answers at Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic works with many insurance companies, does not require a physician referral in most cases and is an in-network provider for millions of people.

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E.D. Hill to Have Preventative Double Mastectomy

Former Fox News anchor and conservative journalist E.D. Hill informed “The View” co-hosts today that she will have a preventative double mastectomy. Essentially,  she does not have breast cancer; she just doesn’t want to get it. And since a strong family history increases her chances of developing the disease, she’s taking action to keep herself as healthy as possible.

Seem too extreme to you? Or would you do it, too?

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1/2 Marathon: Training Trouble

Photo: joey.parsons, Flickr
Photo: joey.parsons, Flickr

So, I’ve been training for a marathon (training: I love that word — sounds so athletic, which I am totally not), and it’s been going really well. Oh, except that I’m hungry all. the. time. which means I’m eating all. the. time. which means my number on the scale is not exactly what I want it to be. But hey, it’s temporary. Once I cross the finish line, I can back off on the hard-core stuff and get back to modest exercise and moderate eating.

Anyway, the actual running has been great, and I know I can conquer all 13.1 miles on February 14, because this past Sunday, I ran 12. And that leaves just 1.1 to accomplish, and I’m pretty sure I can drag my tired old body that distance to finish the race — well, barring any injuries, that is, which is why I’m writing this update.

Today, 4 miles was my goal. But not long after I started pounding the pavement, something like an ache or a pain twinged in my foot, and it wouldn’t go away. I mean, it did go away for a minute or two, but then it resurfaced, and there was just no way I could put running pressure on it. So I walked, and even that wasn’t pretty — it was all limpy and wimpy, and boy am I bummed. This is the first time I have not complied with the training schedule. Just a blip on the screen, I suppose, so I will take it easy today, and I’ll get back out there tomorrow, because I’ve got 5 miles of ground to cover, and I really, really want to run the whole distance.

I really, really want to stop inhaling food, too, so let’s just hope all my dreams come true, OK?

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“Survivor” Jennifer Lyon Dies of Breast Cancer

http://jennlyon.com/
http://jennlyon.com/

Former “Survivor” contestant Jennifer Lyon died on Tuesday night. Breast cancer. She was 37.

And this is exactly why I can work myself into a tizzy about the disease: because very young and otherwise healthy women die from it, and since I’ve had it, and there’s a chance it will come back, it’s pretty hard to not get all worked up about it. Mostly, I have hope, though, and I’m pretty sure I will survive for the long haul. I figure if I have more hope than worry, then life will be a whole lot more fun.

More about Jennifer: According to PEOPLE.com, the reality TV star, who placed fourth on “Survivor: Palau” in 2005 and passed away in her home in Oregon, was first diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer a few months after her “Survivor” season ended. She had a modified, radical bilateral mastectomy, then chemotherapy, then she took Tamoxifen. (Tamoxifen is a drug used to prevent recurrence for those who qualify for it. I don’t.)

Jennifer apparently found something suspicious in her right breast in the summer of 2004, but she chalked it up to scar tissue related to breast implants, and she let it go — for a long time.

Don’t do that, people! Don’t let anything go — if you find something, find a doctor. Right away. Then demand a mammogram, an ultrasound, an MRI — just don’t self-diagnose. The results can be tragic.

If you can remember just one thing about breast cancer, make it this: if caught early, this disease can be stopped. It doesn’t have to grow and spread and take over other organs. Small tumors can be removed, your body can be treated, and you can survive. Really, you can. So check your breasts (forget those who tell you self-exams are unnecessary and mammograms can wait) and report anything — anything — that just doesn’t feel right.

OK?

OK.

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When You Need to Smile

bra-400jd011310

Photo: One in a Million / [ tumblr ]

I’ve always loved inspirational quotes and uplifting passages. Once while in grad school, I wrote down all my favorites and looked at them whenever my spirits dipped. I even have a folder in a filing cabinet with motivational bits and pieces (those grad school quotes are tucked inside). So when 22-year-old Sara shared in a comment that she crafted a blog especially for herself and her mom — who has an extremely rare type of cancer that can’t be cured — I was instantly intrigued. In one swift click, I was on her site, called One in a Million.  It’s “a place to come when you really need to smile,” writes Sara. And she’s right. Pay her a visit, and you will smile. But you also might feel emotional, and a tear or two might stream down your face, but not in a sad way, just in a touch-your-heart kinda way. For sure. I promise.

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I Run For Life

Today, I listened to this song during my 4-mile run, and it’s the very thing that helped me finish. That means it’s definitely going last on my 1/2 marathon playlist, because just when I’m convinced 13.1 miles is way too much for one person to accomplish, I’m going to need a reminder that really, it’s totally and completely do-able. I’m running for life, after all — how hard can it be to pound the pavement for two hours?

(Melissa Etheridge)

It’s been years since they told her about it
The darkness her body possessed
And the scars are still there in the mirror
Everyday that she gets herself dressed
Though the pain is miles and miles behind her
And the fear is now a docile beast
If you ask her why she is still running
She’ll tell you it makes her complete

[Chorus:]
I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother, your sister, your wife
I run for you and me, my friend
I run for life

It’s a blur since they told me about it
How the darkness had taken its toll
And they cut into my skin and they cut into my body
But they will never get a piece of my soul
And now I’m still learning the lesson
To awake when I hear the call
And if you ask me why I am still running
I’ll tell you I run for us all

[Chorus:]
I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother your sister your wife
I run for you and me my friend
I run for life

And someday if they tell you about it
If the darkness knocks on your door
Remember her remember me
We will be running as we have before
Running for answers
Running for more

I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother, your sister, your wife
I run for you and me my friend
I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother your sister, your daughter, your wife
For you and me my friend
I run for life
Ohohohoh

I run for your mother your sister your wife
I run for you and me my friend
I run for life

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Bra Colors Take Over Facebook, Well, Kind of

Photo: morgueFile
Photo: morgueFile

Wondering what the meaning of those “Black,” “Blue” and “Pink” Facebook status updates are? I was confused all morning, figured I’d sort it out sooner or later, and then I broke down and did some Google work. Found out the hues represent bra colors. So, like every good Facebooker, I played along by peeking in my shirt and updating my status: Beige.

What I turned up on the Internet is that the purpose of this color thing is to simply raise awareness of breast cancer. Not sure how it all got started, but here’s what you should do if you’re a girl (or boy who wears a bra): Look at your bra, note the color, type it in your FB status bar, then feel those boobies. Just re-updated my status after my “beige” remark and wrote this:

So, while you’re peeking inside your shirt to see what color bra you are wearing so you can post it in your status update, go ahead and feel around in there, make sure there are no lumps. And if there are, call your doc for a clinical exam!

Are you game? Hope so.

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Giveaway – The Skinnygirl Dish: Easy Recipes for Your Naturally Thin Life

skinnygirldish-200jd010410
www.bethenny.com

If you’re a fan of “The Real Housewives of New York City,” then you know Bethenny Frankel. She’s not only a reality TV girl, though — she’s also a celebrity natural food chef, columnist for Health magazine and best-selling author.

First came Bethenny’s book “Naturally Thin,” detailing 10 real-life rules for escaping a lifetime of dieting, and now she’s written “The Skinnygirl Dish: Easy Recipes for Your Naturally Thin Life.” This is where she shares fast, practical and economical healthy recipes, then teaches us how to live without them. How perfect for those of us trying to live cleaner lives in less time!

Bethenny also dishes on how we can minimize the “cooking noise” in our lives. Keep reading for some inspirational nuggets — and for the scoop on how to win one of her books.

  • Do you hear yourself saying any of these things: I have no food in this house. I don’t have the slightest idea what to make for dinner. There is nothing to eat! I don’t know how to cook. That’s “cooking noise,” and you can stop it, and you can learn to feed yourself without stressing about it.
  • Food is one of the most powerful tools you have for building a healthy body and a calm mind. Food can make you strong or weak, energized or depleted, skinny or fat. You are what you eat — it’s true.
  • Being naturally thin is a practice — you will never be perfect (no one is), but you can choose a healthy path and keep plugging along on it.
  • Recipes are a bit like kindergarten. You learn some basics (how do Whole Grain Blueberry Pancakes, a Healthier Cobb Salad and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies sound?), then you gain the confidence to branch out on your own. When you know how to cook, you won’t need recipes anymore.

OK, I could go on, but then you wouldn’t need the book, and I really think you should get it. Or you could enter this giveaway for a chance to win a free copy. Details follow:

  • Leave a comment and share why you need this book!
  • Leave your comment no later than 5PM ET on Tuesday, January 12, 2010.
  • You may enter only once.
  • Open to legal residents of the 50 United States, and the District of Columbia, who are 18 and older.
  • One winner will be selected in a random drawing.
  • One winner will receive one copy of “The Skinnygirl Dish: Easy Recipes for Your Naturally Thin Life,” valued at $16.00.
  • Winners will be notified by email, so make sure to check next week to find out if you’ve won!

Want another chance to win? Same giveaway going on at Braving Boys. Click here and enter again!

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1/2 Marathon: Training Update No. 1

Race Day: February 14, 2010 / www.lifesouth.org
Race Day: February 14, 2010 / www.lifesouth.org

I promised updates when I announced I’d be running a 1/2 marathon in celebration of surviving breast cancer for five years. (Running 13.1 miles does qualify as a celebration, right? Or should I have gone for the shopping spree, pampered pedicure, yummy dinner at a fancy restaurant?)

Well, here’s update No. 1:

Training is going well, and up until last night when I hopped up quickly from my chair to answer the phone after an 8.5-mile run and realized that for a moment, I could see nothing but darkness and could not respond to the caller (I think that’s called nearly passing out), there really have been no problems — no soreness, tightness, issues with breathing, nothing. Well, my knee is kinda achy today, but I think that’s related to the whole nearly-passing-out thing — here’s the scoop on that:

My tri-athlete-inspired dad sent me some powder recently, and he urged me to mix it with water and drink it after my long runs — I can sip it throughout the run, too, but I must drink it afterward, he said. It’s intended to:

  • Improve energy and endurance
  • Prevent cramping and dehydration
  • Restore electrolytes
  • Improve glycogen resynthesis

And I have chugged back the drink on most of my long runs — but not yesterday. Not sure why, I just got caught up in a family game of Uno, I guess, and never did mix the thing up. I suppose that’s why I got all weak and wobbly when I raced for the phone, and why my knee feels funky today. OK, OK, lesson learned. I’m like that, you know. I do things my own way, thinking everything will be just fine, and then I realize that someone else might actually know more than I do. Like the clothing thing. My sister keeps telling me I need some marathon-appropriate gear so I can get all layered and then shed some skin as I warm up on my cool-weather jaunts — because those short shorts I wore in 40-degree temps yesterday just didn’t do my any favors, and it’s very likely that my 7:00 AM race on February 14 will be a bit chilly.

So, while it may seem like my training is not going as well as I report, it really is. I mean, I once was a 3-mile-only girl, and now I’ve conquered more than 8 miles at one time. That’s huge in my book. Plus, I’m feeling so strong on some runs, I just know I could keep going (but I don’t, except for that one time, because I want to stick to the schedule), and, well, I just feel really good about it all. I can truly visualize myself crossing the finish line, and most important in all of this is that I’m pushing my body to perform — the same old body that was knocked out by chemo and folded onto the living room floor with blood counts so low only a blood transfusion could help. Yep, that one. Amazing what the body can do — as long as the person attached to it follows the rules.

Next run: powder drink and some new functional fashion!

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Thank Goodness for Little Boy Birthdays

Joey, almost 4 / Joey, now 9
Joey, almost 4 / Joey, now 9

I like to chart my progress after cancer by my kids’ birthdays. Take Joey, for example. Today, he turns 9. Significant for him, because he gets a party (it was yesterday, check it out) and presents, plus he’s one year closer to scoring that F350 he wants so badly. A big deal for me, too, because the guy was not even 4 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and his turning 9 is proof that I am still kickin’ — and thank goodness for that, because there were some pretty dark days way back then, and I was not always convinced I’d see my babies grow up.

Yep, January 3 is a big day. So is May 30 — that’s when Danny turns 7, and he was only 18 months old when I found that dreaded lump in my left breast in the shower in 2004. But there are reasons other than cancer that this special day is worthy of mention. Here’s my favorite:

Big baby boy
Big baby boy

Joey made a grand entrance into the world on this very day, weighing 10 pounds, 9 ounces and filling his nursery bassinet like a champ. His pediatrician, upon meeting him for the first time, said to me, “Congrats, you just gave birth to a 2-month-old.” If I had to rank all of my life accomplishments, pushing a monster child out of my body comes pretty close to the top. And to now witness the wonder of my 4-foot, 8-inch, 90-pound son is a true pleasure. (Incidentally, Danny was no small potatoes when he arrived either — 10 pounds, 2 ounces — but I’ll talk more about him in May.)

So, here’s to being alive to enjoy another one of Joey’s birthdays. And here’s to Joey, who keeps growing and growing and is becoming one heck of a great guy.

Happy Birthday, Joey.

I love you!

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