my Breast Cancer blog

2004, age 34 — this is my story

The Everything Flat Belly Cookbook

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This isn’t a breast cancer book, but it’s related in a kind-of, sort-of way. You know how we hear all the time that eating a clean diet can help ward off cancer, and how breast cancer recurrence is less likely if you feed yourself mostly nutritious foods? Well, The Everything Flat Belly Cookbook is chock full of healthy recipes — 300 of them, to be exact — and the best thing about this handy, dandy book (except that my friend, neighbor and former trainer wrote it) is that you can whip up these eats in no time at all — and for not much money either. There’s nothing extravagant about the dishes you’ll find here, there are no fancy ingredients you’ll need to hunt down and I’m pretty sure adults and kids alike will gobble up these goodies. I mean, who doesn’t like toasted cheese? It’s in there, and you can make it with a mere 177 calories and absolutely no fat. Like taco salad? Me too. Especially the kind with only 233 calories and 2 grams of fat. And don’t worry, you can get your chocolate fix too. A dark chocolate pretzel rod will fill you with just 76 calories and 3 grams of fat. You won’t want to suck these down, of course, but a bit of chocolate here and there is definitely do-able.

There’s no question this book will help you stay healthy. It’ll keep your abs in fighting flat shape too. Now that’s a two-fer you’ve got to like.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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”

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

Makes me want to run

The day after his mom passed away from lung cancer in 2007, my friend Rob started to run. He’s been running ever since. Of his early days as a runner, he says: “During the next year I ran some 300 miles. I ran a series of races: 5k, 5mi, 10k, a half marathon and on what would have been my mothers’ 60th Birthday (January 13th) I ran 26.2 miles across the mild Arizona desert in my first marathon. I ran on sand, on pavement, on dirt, on gravel and even through Camp Pendleton’s mud.”

Rob runs in the morning, in the rain and in bitter cold temperatures. Clearly, the guy is hooked. And he’s starting to write all about his love for the run. “I wanted to start a blog to help others understand how to find their passion and get as much out of life as I do,” he writes. “It took a series of major events for me to find the focus I have today. I’d hope that through sharing my stories and advice that the world will be a better place for you.” Here is where his story begins.

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

PlanetKid – Caring for kids, writing about them too

Those of you who stop by regularly know that this blog is not all about breast cancer. It’s a lot about kids too. My kids. Those two little boys who simultaneously fill me with love and joy and render me a wacked-out mommy most days of the week. My emotional roller coaster aside, I love writing about my beautiful monsters. I hope you like reading about them.

Hopefully, you’ll enjoy reading about kids in general too, because I’ve landed a another writing gig, and I’d love for you to join me on this new ride. PlanetKid is where you’ll find me.

PlanetKid is a Drop-In, Flexible Child Care Center in Melbourne, Florida and also home to a very snazzy Child Care Blog. And that’s where I’ll be, blogging all about kids, for the parents and caregivers who love them. You’ll find me talking sleep, shoe-tying, books, sunscreen, giveaways and more. Every day, Monday through Friday, I’ll give you one post. Come by and take a read, share with others and leave me your comments too. It will be a nice break for all of us. You know, to forget the breast cancer for a while and re-focus on the little people of the world. That’s what I’m going to do. Hope you will too.

Fighting Cancer

I’m still fighting cancer. Sort of. It’s my hair, actually. It’s the hair cancer gave me that causes me to resist. It’s the curl, which really is more like a wave, that makes me plug in my flat iron each morning and straighten every bend and turn in my once poker-straight, once very blond hair.

Yesterday, I let my brownish, curly-ish hair go. I shampooed it, dried it and let every strand do as it pleased. I was OK with it at first. Then I went out to lunch, saw my reflection in the glass door of my favorite Heavenly Ham restaurant and realized I’m a straight-hair kind of girl. Flat looks better on me. Full and fluffy looks better on other people.

I couldn’t wait to get home. First, though, I had to get my boys from school. Joey’s first words when he spotted me waiting for him outside the front doors: “What happened to your hair?” Then I greeted Danny. “Why is your hair curly?” he said in the car after tracking me with his eyes for a while. “I just did it differently,” I told him. “Do you like it?” Joey piped in: “It’s not my favorite.”

It’s not my favorite either. Damn cancer. Why must it give me curly hair? Sure, it’s better than no hair. It’s just not ideal hair. Which is why I fight it. Today, the flat iron comes out again.

Photo courtesy of kaboodle.com

Sick of stress

Stress can make you sick. Cancer sick, I don’t know. But I suspect lingering stress can cause disease. Which is exactly why I don’t want it bottling up in my body. It has been, though, and I must find a way to release it. Because I want absolutely no part of sick.

Way back during my chemo days, I saw a counselor in the Psych Clinic in Shands Hospital. ‘Psych Clinic’ sounds so, um, mental, doesn’t it? Not sure I like that. But stress is mental. It weighs on the mind and travels through the body and if you’re like me, makes you a little bit crazy and a whole lot frazzled. It happens to me when my plate is too full. Like now. There are kid demands. And work demands. And guys who have been working in my house for nearly a week, installing granite countertops, jack hammering tile off my floors, replacing it with pretty hard wood and stirring it up all sorts of dust. There’s anxiety about how often and how much I exercise, pressure to volunteer at the school carnival, a pending trip to see snow and I think you get my point. Stress.

I’m trying to calm down, breathe deeply and employ the strategies my counselor Lindsay taught me all those years ago. One of my favorites, which I’ve been forgetting lately, is asking myself this question: What’s the worst thing that can happen? What’s the worst thing that can happen because dust covers my furniture? Well, it needs cleaning, that’s all. The worst thing that can happen if I don’t exercise today? I guess I burn a few less calories. I don’t volunteer for the carnival? The committee must find someone else. The point is, if it’s not a life or death scenario, well, then, it’s really not worth the stress. I need to remember that. And if I can’t, I can at least remember 8-year-old Joey’s words of wisdom: It could always be worse. Because, you know, it could be.

Photo by dinghyman on flickr

Dog Walking – and Other Life Ambitions

The following article was previously published in Gainesville Parenting Magazine.

Danny wants to be a dog walker when he grows up. He’s had a bit of practice walking his Nana’s dogs and is pretty sure this career path suits him well. If it doesn’t pan out, he has another option.

“When I grow up, I want to be a football guy,” 5-year-old Danny told his daddy the other day. If he ever asks me for guidance, I’ll push him in the doggie direction. It may not be as glamorous a job as football, but it’s got to be easier on the body. Should Danny opt for football, though, and end up needing medical attention, his brother Joey can respond.

Joey wants to be a doctor. He sprang his decision on me one day while we were walking through the parking deck at North Florida Regional Medical Center. We happened to be on the level where doctors park their cars, and we were admiring all the fancy vehicles when it clicked for 7-year-old Joey: If doctors have nice cars and nice cars cost lots of money, then doctors must be rich. On the spot, he named his future profession. He will be a doctor—or a “blogger.”

“I don’t want a job,” Joey declared recently while strolling around the yard. “I want to be a blogger, like mommy.”

I guess blogging—and all the other writing I do—doesn’t seem like much of a job to a kid who just knows his mom is with him all the time. That’s precisely why it’s such an ideal endeavor for me. I get to stay home with my kiddos, write when they are in school, and then seem completely unemployed when they return home. Still, I have a job. Joey will realize this some day, when he figures out the ways of the world. For now, I’ll let him bask in the simplicity of life, until his lease on this gift runs out.

There’s something so innocent and basic about how children approach life, something that makes it easy to dream of walking dogs and fixing bodies one minute and playing football and blogging the next. Wouldn’t it be grand if adult minds could arrive, if only for a moment, at the very place where kids imaginations run wild—the place where everything seems to make perfect sense.

After Joey announced his plans to become a doctor and just before a school drop-off one morning, I noticed a slick, sporty little car driving next to our worn and tattered mini-van.

“Look at that nice car,” I commented to my boys. Looking in the direction of the woman driving this cool ride, Joey said with absolute certainty: “She’s a doctor.”

Yep, life is simple for little ones. And how fun it is to be the mom of two of the greatest dreamers around—and to have a job that allows me the time to marvel at the wonder of my glorious guys.

The first cancer day

~Merete on flickrThere you are, plugging along with your day, happy as can be and fully expecting that nothing can disrupt your groove. All the while, something deadly is growing inside your breast and even though you do your self-exams, perhaps even get mammograms, you have no idea it’s there. But it is. And it continues to grow, sometimes for as long as eight to 10 years before it can be detected. And then the day arrives when it appears, maybe underneath your fingertips in the shower, maybe in a annual exam, maybe in the form of dimpling skin or nipples that suddenly invert, maybe after your infant refuses to breastfeed because it becomes apparent that something is wrong. But there it is. The tumor. The mass. The cancer. And it wrecks the day. Totally and completely wrecks the day. To be honest, cancer wrecks many days. But the first cancer day really sucks.

My friend’s sister-in-law just had her first cancer day. And so I wrote her an e-mail and said this:

Breast cancer is both a horrible and wonderful disease. It might be hard to believe the wonderful part at this moment and I can tell you for sure that in my early days with the disease, there was absolutely no bright side. Now, however, I have this head full of hair I like better than ever, I have a writing career that was born from cancer, I have a deeper love and appreciation for my family and friends, I worry and stress less (well, sometimes) and I have met some of the most glorious survivors who assure me I am not alone.

It’s my somewhat standard message to those new to the disease. And I mean every word of it. Cancer can be horrible, especially on that first day. But the days do get better. They can even return to happy. And then you get back to plugging along, happy as can be. Am I fully expecting nothing can disrupt my groove? No, not anymore. I am prepared for the ball to drop at any moment. I don’t think it will. But I’m ready.

Photo courtesy of ~Merete on flickr