Bald

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I haven’t been watching much of “Grey’s Anatomy” lately, but I do know that Katerine Hiegl’s character Izzie Stevens has cancer, so when I caught tonight’s episode, I was somewhat prepared for the storyline. What I wasn’t prepared for was my reaction to the end of the show, when Izzie pulls fistfuls of hair from her head.

She cried.

I cried.

I cried big, sobbing tears, because even though I am almost five years removed from that same helpless, hopeless feeling, it was still there, right in the pit of my stomach, waiting to be called up.

My cancer memories are vivid. Every one of them. But nothing is as vivid as the feeling that suffocated me the day my hair started falling out, when it washed from my head in the shower and gathered in the drain, and wound around my brush, and then covered my pillowcase when I woke up the next morning.

“That was the worst,” I told my husband as “Grey’s Anatomy” ended tonight and Izzie sat in a hospital bed with a completely bald head. “You survived it,” John said. Yes, I did. But I’ll never forget it.

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The Breast Gifts – Books and Socks

A friend asked me the other day what I suggest she buy her neighbor who is in the midst of breast cancer treatment. I gave her three ideas. First, I suggested this inspirational book by Dr. Bernie Siegel. It’s all about exceptional patients, and it will convince you that the right attitude really does heal.

Then I recommended this book by Dr. Susan Love. I was once told it’s the bible on breast cancer, and now that I’ve consulted it for my every breast cancer question, worry and freak-out, I know that every breast cancer girl should have this book by her bedside. Dr. Love knows her stuff, and she explains it like she’s a trusted friend with all the answers.

And then there are socks — comfy, cozy, fuzzy socks. I got yellow ones in the mail (Thanks, Ginger!) when I was knee deep in chemotherapy, and they really saved the day. There’s nothing like feeling all warm and toasty when the world is crashing down around you.

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Hannah has breast cancer

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I’ve never heard anything like it and apparently, not many people have, because the parents of this sweet little girl are at a crossroads over how to treat their 10-year-old daughter, who was just recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

Hannah Powell has invasive ductal carcinoma, Stage IIA.

Here’s the dilemma: What type of treatment should a child with an adult disease receive? Hospitals that deal with breast cancer usually do not treat children, and children’s hospital do not have facilities for treating breast cancer. Hannah’s family posts on their website, “We have two options at this point; (A) Hannah goes to a breast center that does not have the experience in children or (B) she goes to a hospital that has more pediatric care but not so much in the breast cancer area.”

Hannah’s family is searching for answers, and if you have any information that might help them, please stop by their website and let them know. Do you know of any very young breast cancer patients? Do you know of any doctors who have treated very young breast cancer patients? Even if you don’t know how to specifically guide this family, I know your well wishes would help. So pay them a visit when you can.

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Fine

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At 8 a.m. this morning, I arrived at the oncology clinic at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, FL for a six-month breast cancer follow-up. I sat in a nearly empty waiting room for a short time, then was moved to an exam room, where I had my blood drawn (ouch!), my weight checked (good news), my blood pressure taken (low, but good) and my temperature taken (98.3). Then met with my lovely Dr. who checked my boobs, my lymph nodes, my belly and my breathing.

Everything was just fine.

And then I drove away. And it’s been a glorious day ever since.

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Every Six Months

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You’d think the days would get easier after four whole years. But still, nearly 1,600 days after my breast cancer diagnosis, it still makes me nervous to sit in an exam room every six months, in my pretty blue gown, waiting for my oncologist to reveal whether or not he feels anything suspicious in my breasts and other body parts, whether or not he finds anything wacky in my blood work and whether or not he’ll report that I am still healthy and apparently cancer-free.

The days don’t get easier, because even though my chances of survival increase with each year that passes, there are still people out there who are re-diagnosed after the exact amount of time that has elapsed for me. A woman who visited our garage sale a few weeks ago told me that on the very day she celebrated five years of survival, she was told her breast cancer had returned and was spreading. She was given three to five years to live. Crap. I haven’t even made it for five years. Clearly, this could happen to me.

Will my oncologist tell me on Monday at 8 a.m. that my cancer is back? I really don’t think so. But I really don’t know, either. And that’s why I’m nervous.

Photo courtesy of daveparker on flickr

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Have Hope

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When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Joey was almost four, and Danny was 18 months old. Now Joey is eight, and Danny is almost six. And I’m still alive. How’s that for hope?

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Pink for the Sink

41jy4ciww7l_sl500_aa280_Every time I look down into my kitchen sink, I see this breast cancer strainer drain. A mommy friend gave it to me, way back when I was knee deep in chemotherapy, not a hair on my head. This momma was one of many who dropped by meals for me and my boys, and along with the food she delivered on her assigned night, she brought me this.

If you’re looking for a simple, yet meaningful and not-so-expensive gift for someone touched by breast cancer, this just might fit the bill. Click right here to purchase your very own.

Photo by: Amazon.com

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What Breast Cancer Looks Like – Susan

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Susan, a mother of four and breast cancer survivor for two years and three months, says, “My college daughter, Kait, created this intaglio ink print (etched on a metal plate)  during my treatment in 2007. She never titled it, but to me it is what breast cancer looks like. This print is of our special vacation place, Lakeside, Ohio on Lake Erie. I feel it represents hope, love, comfort and sadness. The picture of myself and my sister (volunteering at the Race for the Cure) “looks like breast cancer,” because we, as patients, get through the treatment with support from those special people around us.

Want to show me what you think breast cancer looks like? Please send me a photo that captures the essence of breast cancer, and I will display it here. Email to jackidonaldson@gmail.com, make sure your shot is at least 450 pixels wide and tell me something about the photo. No blurry pics, please.

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What Breast Cancer Looks Like – Kara

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The first time they accessed my port for chemo. My chest is pretty flat because they haven’t filled my expanders with saline yet.

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My sister cutting my hair. This was soooooo hard. My boys were watching. Very emotional time for me.

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The finished shave. It felt really weird.

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A big hug from 3 of my boys. They were very supportive, even though it was very traumatic for them, having to watch my head being shaved.

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Post chemo. You can see that I’ve lost most of my eyebrows and lashes. My face is a little puffy from the steroids they put me on during chemo. This was a good day – I was waiting at the airport for my son to get off the plane – he was returning after 2 years on an LDS mission in Japan.

Want to show me what you think breast cancer looks like? Please send me a photo that captures the essence of breast cancer, and I will display it here. Email to jackidonaldson@gmail.com, make sure your shot is at least 450 pixels wide and tell me something about the photo. No blurry pics, please.

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What Breast Cancer Looks Like – Iris

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Iris says, “Much more than cancer, are friends with whom you can rely on during the most difficult stages of treatment, they do look as a beautiful field of lavender. I had the privilege of being supported by my friends, who planned for my an amazing visit to flower fields of lavender in Quebec after my last session of chemotherapy.”

Want to show me what you think breast cancer looks like? Please send me a photo that captures the essence of breast cancer, and I will display it here. Email to jackidonaldson@gmail.com, make sure your shot is at least 450 pixels wide and tell me something about the photo. No blurry pics, please.

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What Breast Cancer Looks Like – Madalena

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Madalena says, “For me it looks like a need for extraordinary strength.” This is an enormous sculpture in Lisbon, near the river, in front of a railway and boat station: Cais do Sodré.

Want to show me what you think breast cancer looks like? Please send me a photo that captures the essence of breast cancer, and I will display it here. Email to jackidonaldson@gmail.com, make sure your shot is at least 450 pixels wide and tell me something about the photo. No blurry pics, please.

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What Breast Cancer Looks Like – Sherri Jo

Sherri Jo says, “Until I had breast cancer, I never fully realized what wonderful family and friends I have and how much I am loved. The outpouring of love and support I received was truly amazing. Every few days there was a card in my mailbox, flowers at my door, or something wonderful to cheer me on. People found such unique and creative ways to show their support for me and it made such a difference in my ability to cope with all the stress. One of my most favorite memories came from friends at my sailing club. On a particular race day when they knew I would be present, all of the sailors flew a pink ribbon on the back of their boat in my honor! What a site – to see 30 plus sailboats flying pink – just for me!  I felt loved and celebrated and certain that I would survive the fight against breast cancer. Never underestimate what a simple show of support can do to lift a person’s spirits.

My husband instigated the whole event so he got a few extra starts in his halo. I am a lucky woman to have such wonderful people in my life.”

Want to show me what you think breast cancer looks like? Please send me a photo that captures the essence of breast cancer, and I will display it here. Email to jackidonaldson@gmail.com, make sure your shot is at least 450 pixels wide and tell me something about the photo. No blurry pics, please.

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What Breast Cancer Looks Like – Lisa and her Mom, MaryJoe


Lisa says, “My mom is on her second fight with breast cancer. She was diagnosed this last time near Mother’s Day and I was getting married in September.  Last June she had a bilateral mastectomy, then 18 weeks of chemo, and then 30 treatments of radiation. During her first appointment with the oncologist she told her doctors to do what they needed to do, but she was going to my wedding (in Vegas) in September. I offered to change the wedding and she didn’t want me to do that. It was right in the middle of her chemo and she said it was a goal she set in her mind to get to that point. She went and got her chemo treatment that morning before we jumped in the car to go. She had all her instructions and whatnot in case she needed to go to a hospital out of town. Nothing was going to stop her … through out everything she kept the most positive attitude. She is amazing.

My day was so wonderful and special. I married a fabulous guy, but also a lot of that was b/c my mom was able to be there.  She is the rock in my family and I was so blessed that she was able to attend.”

Want to show me what you think breast cancer looks like? Please send me a photo that captures the essence of breast cancer, and I will display it here. Email to jackidonaldson@gmail.com, make sure your shot is at least 450 pixels wide and tell me something about the photo. No blurry pics, please.

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What Breast Cancer Looks Like – Tracy

Tracy says, “I decided to shave my head before my hair started falling out.  I asked my family and some friends to come with me so that I wouldn’t lose my nerve.  It was an extremely emotional day for everyone as you can see from the picture of my husband and children.  But what I found out in the end is that I still looked like me when I looked in the mirror and once I accepted it, my family did the same.  One of my favorite pictures of all time is the picture of my newly shorn head with the hands of my husband, my mother and my two children on it.  I think it shows strength and acceptance and that has been the story of my breast cancer journey.  Strength from family and friends, strength of my own and acceptance that these are the cards we were dealt.  I have recounted the entire head-shaving day on my own blog and find that it is one of my favorite entries.”

To read more about Tracy and her inspiring journey, visit her blog here.

Want to show me what you think breast cancer looks like? Please send me a photo that captures the essence of breast cancer, and I will display it here. Email to jackidonaldson@gmail.com, make sure your shot is at least 450 pixels wide and tell me something about the photo. No blurry pics, please.

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What Breast Cancer Looks Like

Breast cancer looks like a lot of things. It looks like scared faces, surgery scars, bald heads, ports, radiation tattoos, growing hair, the color pink, after-treatment celebrations and so much more.

What does breast cancer look like to you?

Please send me a photo that captures the essence of breast cancer, and I will display it here. Email to jackidonaldson@gmail.com, make sure your shot is at least 450 pixels wide and tell me something about the photo. No blurry pics, please.

Above photo: My journey through breast cancer, illustrated through images of hair, or lack thereof.

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Fight Pink

If fighting breast cancer is on your mind, you’ve got to go see my friend Stacy and her fabulous “Fight Pink” site. Here it is — take a look and you’ll find that it’s filled with all sorts of good information and inspiration.

Want to know about the seven deadly health sins women make. Stacy’s got the dirt. Motivated by survivor stories. Check out this library of leading ladies. Need some scoop on breast cancer events and campaigns? Here you go.

Get ready. Get set. Now fight.

Photo courtesy of “Fight Pink”

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Weighing on my mind

I admit it, I’m concerned about my weight. Not worried about it, just concerned about in a way that makes me work at keeping it right where it is. But I don’t exercise and eat right (yesterday doesn’t count) for weight reasons alone. I also do it for my overall health, which really is a bigger concern for me than the numbers that stare up at me from my scale each day.

A healthy lifestyle as it relates to cancer prevention gets a lot of press. It’s pretty much a fact nowadays that by eating certain foods, ditching all the junk and working up a good sweat most days of the week, we can ward off all sorts of disease. Simple stuff. Also pretty high pressure.

Now that I’ve had cancer, I know that the way I live my life can quite possibly keep me from getting it again. So I do my best. But when I cheat and eat that plate of chicken nachos or skip a day (or week or month) on the workout circuit, I feel guilty, as if I’m rejecting the medicine that can keep me well. It’s a weird mix of motivation and burden. Knowing I have the key to a long, healthy life makes me want to eat veggies for all of time. But knowing I have the key to a long, healthy life makes me feel like I’m doing myself a major disservice when I steal fries of my kids’ dinner plates.

I know, I’m human, and I can’t be perfect all that time. Still, it weighs on my mind. Which is why today, I walked for 3.5 miles, and tomorrow, I plan to lift a few weights. A fruit salad is on the menu for breakfast this morning, and I’m recommitting to a ban on most packaged foods. It’s the least I can do to ensure I’m here for the long haul.

Photo courtesy of Pink Sherbet Photography on flickr

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Have wig, will send it

Today, I shampooed, conditioned and combed my old wig. It sits drying on my bathroom counter. When it’s all done and pretty, I’ll mail it off to my friend Carmen, who just the other day had her first chemotherapy for breast cancer.

This is not Carmen’s first experience with chemo, and it’s not the first time I’ve sent her my wig. This is her second dance with the breast demon, you see, and so she’s had chemo before, she’s lost her hair before and she’s worn my wig before. She’s not happy she must do it all again. I’m not either. I am happy to help, though, and that’s why I’m eager to get my hair to her, so she can be ready when everything comes tumbling from her scalp for the second time. Hopefully, for the last time.

Dear Carmen,

Best wishes to you. I know life must seem crappy and uncertain right now, but there is one thing you should know for sure: You will look so much better wearing this wig the that styrofoam head wearing it right now. Your eyes are more sparkly, your skin is more radiant and your nose is so much prettier (what the heck happened to that thing?). You are beautiful, my friend — hair, no hair or fake hair. And when you get all your new parts, you will be one hot momma.

Hang in there, Carmen — your battle might be new, but your fierceness is not. Fight with all your might, and you will again emerge from the darkness. And remember these words, because if cancer ever invades my body again, I want you to throw them right back at me.

All my love,

Jacki

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