A Year in Reflection

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On August 23rd of last year, I was in the hospital undergoing the biggest decision I have ever made in my entire life…prophylactic double mastectomy/breast reconstruction. At the time it seemed like the obvious choice, in hindsight, it was the most intensive rite of passage that ever plagued womankind.

 

I’m a strong woman. I know women claim that every day and then something trivial throws them into a panic attack of mega-proportions. I, myself, have been there. Where do you think the words Drama Queen came from. But, I digress. I AM STRONG! And as a woman who has idly strolled through several neighborhoods of Hell, I tell you I was not prepared for the emotional torture I would be facing during this reconstruction. It turns out even strong women can have weak moments.

 

They say, “What doesn’t break you makes you stronger.” I hate that saying with the entirety of my being, not because it isn’t true but because it is quoted repeatedly by people who have not been through a sliver of what I have. Am I comparing my struggles to the lack of theirs? No, I’m just reflecting on those moments that transpired along the way. Like I said in the previous paragraph…“Weak. “Drama Queen.” “Hell.”

 

Feelings of inadequacy, self-loathing, comparisons, bouts of deep depression… just a few of the bullshit moments I had in the past year. After all of that work I put into myself in the last few years I was undone by my f**king breasts. That’s right, like a teenage boy, I lost my ever-loving mind over breasts. Apparently, my vanity knows no bounds.

 

When did I, the woman’s woman, turn into an exceedingly breast-obsessed man? If I had to pinpoint it, I’d say roughly between birth and the total hysterectomy 12 years ago but, I am just guessing here. Seriously, though, why the hell are we as a society so obsessed with oddly placed sacks of fat hanging off of one gender’s chest? And why did I get sucked into that absurdity? Because, that is what happens when you make a choice to save your life but still want to have some sort of normalcy… and FFS, I just want to be a woman, something I feel like PCOS, being raised as a boy, and an early hysterectomy robbed from me.

 

But, have I been robbed or have I just fallen victim willingly into the societal princess programming that all females are force-fed?! I’d like to think I am no victim let alone a willing one. But, yes I fell into the world’s biggest trap, allowing society to dictate their idea of what a woman is. Funny, I don’t remember signing up for that in my contract. Yet there it is in all its hideousness.

 

My surgeon told me this was a journey. I knew what I was in for, well, I thought I knew what I was in for. But, I was not ready for all of that. I didn’t know that my breasts were directly tied to my emotional core. An explosive core that was clearly ticking and this “journey” was the detonation. That’s what I get for holding on to 40 years of trauma. There has to be a better way to “let it go.” I’ll work on that.

 

So on Tuesday, I’ll be in my surgeon’s office getting the final touches on my breast reconstruction…purple glitter tattoos on my reconstructed nipples. Because why not? A girl should be a girl any way that she sees fit, not forced into being what society tells her she should be. And that is how you become a strong woman!

 

 

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Keeping Abreast of the Situation

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This image is hilariously true & my first 40 have been, by no means, an exception.

Some of you may recall the heartbreak my family and I experienced in February 2011 when my sister was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and then died suddenly in the hospital after 3 days of admittance. It was then that I jumped face first into breast cancer advocacy.

Then October of that year I had my own breast lump scare, which thankfully turned out to be nothing. However, since then I have been going through my own personal hell trying to figure out how not to get this plague. I had yearly mammograms, I spoke with breast specialists, I tried to get family on board to help me with paperwork so that I could get the genetic testing done to find out once and for all if I am predisposed for this horrendous disease. All to no avail or peace of mind for me.

Isn’t that how life seems to go…

So after years of trying to get my emotional well-being in good working order, I took another leap trying to get my physical health under control as well. In doing this, I found a great RN who got me in touch with a great breast cancer specialist at St. Louis University Hospital.

At first, I was freaking out. Because you know it was not that long after the 4th year deathaversary of Jess, and apparently I was not as over it as I had previously thought. So while retelling the story I broke down, I was an absolute train wreck.

Yeah, so not over it…

After consultation, two exams by two different medical professionals, and a box of tissues; the doctor decides that the best course of action would be for me to see a genetic counselor and find out what my risk is and if I should be genetically tested for the breast cancer gene. Then pending the counselor’s decision I could be given a referral for a breast reduction at my 3 month follow-up.

I was incredibly nervous for weeks leading up to the appointment with the counselor. Nervous and me are like ex lovers, a true love/hate relationship, only, I am the one who suffers no matter what.

Ha, another emotional issue I thought I had conquered and left in my past…

Based on what I knew about my family history (not much really, in retrospect) which is full of cancers, the counselor assessed my risk factor for breast cancer.

The counselor assessed me as high risk at 20-40%. Most women have a risk factor of 12%. The counselor then decided that it would be better for the only cancer survivor in my family to have the gene test done and then if she was positive, I could then be tested too.

I had a lot of emotional baggage brought up by the thought of having to contact family that I had decided to stop having contact with.

It took me a few days but I knew what I had to do, and it didn’t involve reconnecting with those toxic people…

I had spent so much time freaking myself out over something that may or may not happen, that I ended up missing the fact that my risk of getting breast cancer is the exact same since my conception. Genetically nothing had changed at all.

The scariest part of life is always the unknowns and even then, what really was I scared of…

The only thing that could change all of this was to have a double mastectomy and that, without the gene test, was off the table. Or so I thought.

Since I am such a high risk, my doctor has given me two choices going forward in my breast health. I can get a breast reduction, which I have been in desperate need of getting for most of my life. In doing this I can relieve a great deal of my back pain and other issues due to having such heavy breasts. I can then get mammograms and MRI’s every 6 months, and annual doctor exams for the rest of my life. This option doesn’t take away any of the risk of getting breast cancer that I already have.

Being 4 weeks short of 40, I am thinking that option sounds like a really long time to be doing all of that. And in my opinion seems more of a cosmetic fix than a preventative measure.

Or I can get a prophylactic double mastectomy and cut my risk factor way down with no more need of mammograms or MRI’s, just an annual visit and exam by my doctor. This option can lower my risk of getting breast cancer immensely.

After sitting for 2 hours waiting for my mammogram results and then discussing it with my husband, it became a lot easier to chose which path was right for me.

Tuesday June 30th I meet with the plastic surgeon to discuss my options but I am fairly confident in the decision I have already made.

I choose…

the prophylactic double mastectomy because they’re only boobs, my life over bags of flesh and fat any day!

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A Lifetime of Cancer

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As we come to the end of Pinktober for this year, I can only hope that all of my Breast Cancer Awareness posts have brought a new outlook to all of you.

I hope that more of you have taken Breast Cancer more serious and have learned things about it that you didn’t know before. I hope that you all have passed on the information I have given you this month to not only the women in your life but, the men as well. I hope that you do your monthly self-exams and get yearly mammograms if you are of age or have a family history. And last but, certainly not least; I pray that nobody you love becomes afflicted with any type of Cancer or illness.

My goal this month was to raise Breast Cancer Awareness; to reach out to as many as I could, spread life-saving knowledge, and to show the masses that cancer affects us all even if you don’t see the connection. I have heard that awareness has sufficiently been raised and there is no more need for it but, I don’t think enough people are aware of how much Breast Cancer has invaded our families. I have heard it is time for more action. Well, I believe in action but, when I think of awareness it is a given that action is included. I was aware of Breast Cancer before it hit me directly. I have spread awareness to others by my actions, my words, my wish for a cure, etc…

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We can support the companies that are dedicated to Breast Cancer and we can be a part of our own health regimen but, other than that what more can we do? We can give money to find a cure for this heinous disease but, we can’t go marching into the Lab and actually find a cure by ourselves. We can donate our time, money and effort to someone afflicted with the disease but, we cannot remove the disease from them. Just because the things we can do are small, doesn’t mean that they are ineffective or not worth doing. Nothing worth doing is ever easy; all paths start with small steps…shall I go on or do you get the picture?

I started this month off with a challenge for all of you… a Facebook event to wear some form of pink visible on your person all month-long, did you do it? I did! I also offered all bloggers a way to support Breast Cancer Awareness by taking part in Pinktober on Blognostics site; did any of you join in? This post is dedicated to the question Blognostics asked, “How have you been affected by Cancer?”

May 5th, 1959; my paternal grandfather (my father’s dad) William George Babcock Sr. died from Leukemia. I don’t know his year of birth but, I guesstimate he was born the same year as my grandma making him age 23 when he died. My father was 4 years old and I wasn’t even a glimmer in his eye yet. You may ask me how this affects me if I wasn’t even born; well my father grew up without his dad. His earliest memories were of his 18 month old sister dying and a year later his own father was taken from him. My father’s firsthand accounts of dealing with death so early in his life resulted in his mental instability,etc… his lack of skills as a father is partly to blame for who I am today.

October 16th, 1974; my maternal grandfather (my mother’s dad) Leeroy Nichols died from Throat Cancer. He was 15 days short of his 40th birthday. My mother was 17 years old and at the time was in the beginning of her pregnancy with me. He walked out when my mom was very young as well. His abandonment of my mom resulted in her lack of trust/abandonment issues in men which trickled down into abandonment/trust issues in me.

I wasn’t even born yet and there I was, well acquainted with Cancer and what it does to “normal” people. Cancer changes everything in a person’s life when they get it but, it doesn’t just stop there…it has the audacity to change the lives of those who love the cancer victim as well. Cancer can and will break the strongest link in any family.

March 29th, 2001; my paternal grandmother (my father’s mom) Rosalie Mabel Simmons died from Stomach/Liver Cancer. She was 64 years old. It’s not quite certain as to which she had first because she wasn’t diagnosed until she had a stroke and ended up in the hospital; by then it had already effected her weight and was too late. It was only a matter of time until the cancer took her life. I managed to make it to Michigan to say goodbye to her the weekend prior to her death. She was so skinny but, for a little while she was her usual self. She was loud, talking shit about Chicago and how terrible a city it is and why on Earth would we want to live there. That was the grandma I had known my whole life. Then the hospice nurse came in and medicated her. She might as well have medicated the entire room because grandma turned into a zombie, she whined, whimpered, and was in terrible pain… all I could do was cry. I had known her my whole life; she was one of the few people in the world I could trust. She was one of the few people in the world who I knew for certain loved me unconditionally; as I did her. It was a Sunday the last time I saw her alive. My husband, the kids, and I drove to her house from the hotel and a song came on the radio. ‘You’ll be in my heart’ by Phil Collins; you may know this song as the one in the Tarzan movie. I cried out uncontrollably and to this day cannot listen to that song; I make the kids skip it when they watch the movie. My grandma died exactly one year to the day that I miscarried. She was and is still one of the hardest deaths I have had to deal with in my life.

June 2nd, 2002; my paternal aunt (my father’s half sister) Dawn Marie Like was diagnosed with diseased breasts (confirmed Breast Cancer during surgery). She was 39 years old. She had a double mastectomy, upon surgery it was discovered that she had cancer in both breasts which if not for the surgery would have gone undetected and treated late resulting possibly in death. She has been cancer-free for 9 years now. My aunt Dawn is the first and only person to date in my family, who was diagnosed early enough to be treated and be a Cancer survivor!

September 6th,2004; my maternal great-uncle (my mother’s mom’s brother) David McGinty died from Pancreatic Cancer. He was 60 years old. I barely remember my great-uncle David; I only remember meeting him once. My family wasn’t good about staying in contact and my father wasn’t good about letting me interact with my mother’s side of the family. My great-uncle had gone back to his normal activities after the Cancer was in regression; traveling and living life, when he went back home the cancer was back in full swing and he died shortly afterwards.

December 24th, 2010; my step great-aunt (my mother’s stepdad’s sister) Sara Isabelle Upton died from Lung Cancer. She was 68 years old. Now you may say “But Jen she is step family and doesn’t count.” I would reply, “You are right if we were talking about my bloodline and my chances of getting cancer. But, we are talking about how cancer has affected me in my life.” So, my step great-aunt, who I also only remember meeting one time in my life had also fell victim to cancer. I wish I had gotten a chance to know her better.

February 8th, 2011; my sister (my younger, only sibling who shared the same two parents) Jessica Rae died from… I want to say Breast Cancer because the doctors were adamant in telling her over and over and over for 3 days that she had Breast Cancer. I was later informed, that the same doctor who swore it was Breast Cancer and was ruling out other cancers when she died, had put on her death certificate… Lung Cancer. She was Stage IV when they told her it was cancer on the Saturday before she died. This same doctor had given her the run around about what was making her have difficulty breathing for months. She had an X-Ray on Wednesday, Saturday they were telling her Breast Cancer, Monday she was dead. She had 4 lymph nodes popping out of the side of her neck, months before this X-Ray. She had increasing difficulty breathing. They told her she had several lesions on her liver, liquid around her heart, and liquid in her lungs. She was 33 years old. She was the mother of 4, two which had just been born 6 months earlier and were living with her. She went into cardiac arrest when they drained liquid from around her heart for the 3rd time in those 3 days. I could go on and repeat everything I have said since her passing but, I won’t. She was and is the hardest death I have had to deal with in my life to date. She will also be the reason that I continue to spread cancer awareness!!!

Click on the image to read My Sister

October 7th, 2011; I had a sharp pain in my right breast.
October 8th, 2011; I have a 6×8 inch mass in my right breast.
October 9th, 2011; Admitted to the hospital pending an exam by a Breast Specialist.
October 11th, 2011; I get an ultrasound and sent home.
October 18th, 2011; I have a mammogram and another ultrasound and finally told I do NOT have Breast Cancer.

As you can see, I have spent my whole life of 36 years so far, being affected by Cancer. (These are who I remember while writing this, so if I missed someone it was purely accidental.) Not to mention, all the women I have met since February of this year who are still battling the beast. I value these women and am glad to have them in my life! This past year I have met, well not actually met per se, became acquainted with my cousin (my mother’s mom’s nephew) Terry and come to find out he had two lumps removed from his breasts (chest) as well. Proving that this is not a “woman’s” disease, if you don’t know that men can also get Breast Cancer, please read ‘Men are not Immune.’

Cancer is devastating, it breaks families apart, it isn’t your friend; but, I am and I am telling you to stay on top of your health because early detection is key to surviving any cancer. As your friend I want you to be around for many more years to come. So, self-exam, see a medical practitioner, and For Jen’s Sake… spread the word, share the knowledge, and support the finding of cures for all cancers!!!

And on that note: I want to thank everyone who joined in this month for Breast Cancer Awareness, you have all made me proud and may you all have a Happy and Safe Halloween!!!

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: My Mammogram and Me

As I sit here in my semi-quiet house freezing my ass off with a furnace that likes to play “No Heat Today” games, I recall my thoughts and feelings from February.

February 6th, 2011 to be precise; and getting the call that my 33-year-old sister is in the hospital with Stage IV Breast Cancer. Fast forward two days to February 8th, 2011 and another phone call, “Your sister is dead.” Those moments were the most horrific moments of my life… that is until October 8th, 2011 when I spotted a massive lump in my breast. The pain was unimaginable; my paranoia was out of control… all I wanted was the pain to go away and for the lump to recede. All I wanted was a mammogram/ultrasound to tell me the lump was not cancerous. I wanted an answer immediately; that is what Emergency Rooms are for, aren’t they?

It was October 9th before I actually saw a doctor, those of you by my side through this whole ordeal you remember that from my earlier post, Breast Cancer Awareness Month: There’s a Lump in my Breast. I spent all day in a hospital bed before actually seeing a breast specialist on the 10th. Starving and thirsty from fasting, just in case there was to be a surgery, paranoid and restless from waiting to be seen, tired, cranky, in pain and tears… It was a day like no other as it was also the day that would have been my grandmother’s 75th birthday if Stomach/Liver Cancer had not taken her from our family 10 years ago. Just another typical day in the life of an atypical girl. 

Luckily, I was released and sent home with antibiotics for the “we think it’s an” infection that I was diagnosed with. My inner cynical bitch cried; “Bullshit! If it’s just an infection where the f@ck is the pus?” Don’t mind her she has driven doctors and nurses to an early grave for a good part of her miserable adult life.

I was released the same day I saw a breast specialist; still don’t know why she is special when all she did was grope the twins but, hey it’s whatever at this point. I went into hiding for over a week, because that is what I do when I am stressed. I make up bullshit reasons about why I can’t come to the door, the phone, the laptop, or my senses and well most of you believe it so thank you all for that. LOL Honestly, I was tired for a good part of the week; any time I am forced to take a prescription, my brain fights back by telling my body to hibernate. It’s perfectly normal…for me!

I managed to scrape my weak body out of bed on Tuesday for a Mammogram at the breast specialist’s office. And after two hours of erect nipples in a cold office building in nothing more than a hospital gown, I am still wondering why she is so special. Let me start off by saying my husband did his part by taking me to the appointment and sitting there patiently waiting for me to be done. I also have to give him credit for not being a man and going all ape-shit over a chick groping my twins err I mean, his twins. Because Lord knows one comment about that and I would have pulled out a tire iron and dumped his bloody ass in the Mississippi faster than you can spell it.

NOTE: I, Jenni being of somewhat sound mind and not quite sound but close body, swear that I was framed if by some cruel joke of Zeus that my husband, Luis ends up in the Mississippi River. In the immortal words of Jake Blues played by John Belushi in Blues Brothers…“Honest… I ran out of gas. I… I had a flat tire. I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out-of-town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts! IT WASN’T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!”

Anyway, I digress. So, at the doctor’s office I waited for my mammogram where they take X-Rayesque pictures of your boobs with a machine that is 1- cold as a meat locker at the North Pole 2- as comfortable as wringing out your hand in an old-fashioned wringer washer (which I have done by the way), and 3- not intended for any woman with a cup size over C. (Which I have been over since 4th grade) If I ever doubted that my gargantuan bust-line needed a reduction, watching the poor nurse juggle my boob with two hands reminded me that I am indeed due for a reduction STAT! If you have never had a mammogram consider yourself lucky and if you have and you thought it was no biggie… please grow bigger boobs and a painful firm lump before getting your next one, thank you.

The nurse took two standard pictures, one the straight forward kind and the second with the machine angled which I imagine with a woman with normal sized breasts is supposed to catch more of a side view. They do this on both breasts for a total of 4 pictures. It is uncomfortable, it is cold, and it is ridiculously hilarious/embarrassing to watch a nurse juggle a boob that is bigger than her whole entire head. I was asked to take a seat while the radiologist checked my “close-ups.” When the nurse came back she asked me to step up to the machine again because well, my boobs are special and need extra pictures. *Wink wink* After the last juggling session, she told me to sit in the waiting room and wait to get another ultrasound done. By this time, more than an hour had passed and another woman was waiting for her turn at the Boob Camera. By the way, I was the youngest woman in the doctor’s office and in the mammogram waiting room. That alone f@cks with your head!

“Ok Jennifer, we are ready for you.” The woman beside me stands up as I go to stand up. Oh flippin great wouldn’t you know it…we’re both Jennifer’s. Stupid 60’s and 70’s. The nurse apologized to me as I told her that I was there waiting on an ultrasound, she assured me that this didn’t usually happen because well seriously what are the chances that two women in the breast lab would be blessed with the same exact first name? As much as I wanted to tell her, “I am more important, bow down to me now peasant!” my sense of humor was missing in action, because I was freaking out about the length of time I had already spent in the clinic.

Before long I was back in the doctor’s office with my husband, awaiting the 5 words that could make or break my life! Fortunately for me my doctor doesn’t like 5 word sentences and told me I’m all clear. I was instructed to come back in 6 months or sooner depending on the breast lump, which they still believe to be an infection…I however, have come to know it as the illegal alien. Because of my family history with cancers I have to get yearly mammograms now, oh yippie how I look forward to the smashing and juggling of my bresteses!!!

So there you have it folks… I am not afflicted with Breast Cancer. I will be around a long time to talk shit and be a general pain in the ass. Yea me! I once again want to thank all of you who sent me prayers, thoughts, and well wishes during my schizophrenic meltdown into the abyss of paranoia and hypochondria. To those of you who wish to offer me a donation for this extremely comedic post just give me the word; I am a paypal account away. *Wink*

Now, it is your turn… self-examine, mammogram ‘em, don’t be a disappointment just make an appointment and always take care of those boobies!

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Oh and don’t forget to get involved and support Breast Cancer Awareness, preferably all year not just this month.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A Warrior’s Plea

Throbbing, burning,
shooting from within
firm inflammation
piercing my skin.

Weighty and heavy
from night ‘til day
please Lord oh please
just melt it away.

Crying and screaming,
this warrior’s plea
what did I do wrong
for this to happen to me?

Wishing on stars
reaching for an answer
please don’t let this lump
be from Breast Cancer.

Tired and weary
a mother and wife
this wasn’t the way
I pictured my life.

Praying like so many
trying to endure
please Lord oh please
just give us the cure.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: There’s a Lump in my Breast

I have written and written and written…about Breast Cancer Awareness since losing my sister to it in Feb of this year.

 

I have made it my mission in life to do right by her and all women who get sick with some form of Cancer and make sure people stand up, fight, and take charge of their health.

Now here’s the kick in the ass moment:I am writing this post from a hospital bed. Night before last as I got ready for bed I felt a sharp pain in my right breast. I got up yesterday still hurting and did what all good mommies do; I cleaned my house and spent time with my kids. By the time 4pm or so had rolled around I was in agonizing pain.

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Jen you idiot when people say get involved it doesn’t mean get a damn lump in your own breast!

I laid down on the couch and tears rushed down my face. It wasn’t until my husband came home and I took a shower that I noticed a massive lump, yes I said noticed. It was that big. Now normally people would start looking for a connection… I knew that Breast Cancer causes a lump but, not a painful one and oh my God was this painful. It wasn’t until later in the night when the pain worsened that I begged and pleaded for my husband to take me to the hospital. He was apprehensive about doing it, thinking we should wait until Sunday morning. He told me 100 reasons for why we shouldn’t go tonight. But, I, being the jerk that I am, did as any aggressive and irrational human being does and threatened him. “Take me to the hospital or I will drive myself.” I then told my daughter to get ready. Don’t tell him but, that kind of “do it or else” usually works on him. But, hey I am not an evil person; I am a person who had a sister die 3 days after a Breast Cancer diagnosis. I am the one who wrote countless posts after her death demanding that everyone get a mammogram and self-examine their breasts. Now it was my turn…do or die time… “don’t be a damn hypocrite Jen get to the hospital and get it checked out.”

Obviously, I did; arriving at the hospital at 11 pm last night. I know in my own little world I am a very special person, which is why I fully expected to get an ultrasound and mammogram last night. Yes, they pretty much let me know how it was going to be. Apparently they had no idea who InJensMind is, bummer! Just about 1 am the doctor saw me, commented about my Celtics tattoo because he is from Michigan too and well Pistons fans are still butt hurt about losing to us too many times.

“Shut up I am sick and fully entitled to talk shit, thank you.” LOL

Afterwards, I heard him tell a nurse in the hallway to get bloodwork and hook me up to an I.V. oh yippie. An hour later, right before two more nurses came in to draw more blood, the doctor informed me my white blood cells were high and because they couldn’t get an ultrasound done they had no choice but, to follow protocol and admit me as if I had a breast abscess. They couldn’t promise me whether I would see the breast doctor on Sunday or if I had to wait until Monday. Since I am still here in the hospital you can assume I won’t be seeing her until Monday.

I play strong really well, not one tear fell nor did my voice shake as a million and one thoughts raced through my head. My kids are going to take this the hardest. 13 and 16 years old and have been away from me a total of two weeks ever in their entire lives. I am one of those moms that where I go they go and if someone don’t like it well they can f@ck off. My kids always have and always will be more important than anyone else, hence the reason I am laying in this hospital bed. My sister ran through my head and my mom…oh my dear mom there is no way she will be able to take losing another daughter. I looked over at my husband, the one person who has caused me more stress and tears than any other person on the entire planet and his macho ass was balling; he was trying so hard to not let me see those tears as he quickly wiped them with his hand.

By 3 am, I was finally upstairs in my room. I was instructed to not eat or drink anything in case the doctor wanted to operate. Wasn’t much chance of that happening, seeing as they had given me some painkillers that made my head float away and made my stomach nauseous. Sunday, I slept more than I think I have ever slept in my life. My husband brought my kids to see me, they were little red-eyed angels and smelled so good when they laid down in the hospital bed with me and cuddled. Their voices, that still sound like little 4-year-old voices, were shaky and they were holding back tears. If this had happened over a year ago they would’ve probably been ok with me lying here. But, in Feb. 2010 our dog got sick and we said she was fine; we took her to the pet hospital and didn’t return with her. The kids still don’t know we put her down and she is in an urn in my bedroom. I can’t bear to tell them. Then Feb. of this year the loss of their aunt who was in the hospital 6 days before dying and the effects that had on me. Yea the kids are definitely worried.

So while I was lying here, debating on if I go back to sleep again or get up and write this post, I realized something… Things aren’t as bad as I always manage to imagine them to be. Hold that thought, in case the verdict changes when I actually see the doctor. But, I have been such an ass to my husband for being such an ass to me that now here we are hoping, praying, and crying to please not finally be at our “til death do you part.” The love we both thought the other one had lost was sitting right there waiting for us to remember it.

How quickly a tragedy will unite even the ones you think don’t care anymore. I would have thought divorce would happen before anything like this. I’m not giving up though; I will fight this…whatever IT is. And I will WIN. Because, I may not be Charlie Sheen or have Tiger blood but, I have lioness blood and in my opinion it is way better. Don’t let another second pass, go and tell your loved ones you love them. And for Christ sake err, I mean and For Jens Sake… go to the doctor and get a damn breast exam. Thank you all for your prayers and I will let you all know how I am doing on Monday. Until then, may your dreams always come true and may you never walk through your life alone.

You know the drill by now, click on the side bar button and help give mammograms. Get a badge for your blog and go join the Facebook event.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Men Are Not Immune

As I was searching for ways for my husband and son to support Breast Cancer Awareness, I became annoyed.

I don’t mind that everything Breast Cancer related, is pink. I know that my son and husband don’t mind it either, as I am sure many men don’t. After all, it’s not about the color it’s about the cause! But, what bothered me is how everything is aimed towards women…delicate jewelry, frilly, girly items, and “Fight like a girl” slogans. Where are the “I FIGHT FOR my girl” or “I FIGHT WITH THE GIRLS” slogans?

Yes, it is true, that more women are diagnosed with Breast cancer than men but, tell me why there aren’t any clothing, jewelry, gift baskets, etc… for men? Even if you ignore the fact that men also get Breast Cancer, why are men excluded from supporting their mother’s, sister’s, aunt’s, grandmother’s, or wife’s…in a more manly fashion? There should be more items available to boys and men to not only support the females in their life who are afflicted but, to also support the men who are afflicted every year. A little pink never hurt anyone, but how about some man-sized shirts, necklaces, bracelets…something that says, I wear pink because I love and support this person who is battling this horrendous disease and I don’t have to look like a cross-dresser to do it.

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Now as you may have gathered, For Jens Sake is participating in a month-long Breast Cancer Awareness drive. It is the goal of myself and many other bloggers to not only raise awareness about this disease but, to educate as well.

The biggest misconception is that Breast Cancer is solely a woman’s disease. It is not! Men are not immune. Any person who has studied Biology in school or has had a sexual education class should already know that, both boys and girls have breast tissue.

Where breast cancer begins in men:
Everyone is born with a small amount of breast tissue. Breast tissue is made up of milk-producing glands called lobules, ducts that carry milk to the nipples and fat. Women begin developing more breast tissue during puberty and men do not. Because they are born with a small amount of breast tissue, men can develop breast cancer.

Another reason that Breast Cancer is considered as solely a woman’s disease has to do with statistics. There just aren’t as many male cases as there are female cases. But, that doesn’t mean men can’t get Breast Cancer.

What are the key statistics about breast cancer in men?
The most recent American Cancer Society estimates for male breast cancer in the United States are for 2011:

About 2,140 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among men.
About 450 men will die from breast cancer.
Breast cancer is about 100 times less common among men than among women. For men, the lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000. The number of breast cancer cases in men relative to the population has been fairly stable over the last 30 years.

The prognosis (outlook) for men with breast cancer was once thought to be worse than that for women, but recent studies have not found this to be true. In fact, men and women with the same stage of breast cancer have a fairly similar outlook for survival.

The signs and symptoms of Breast Cancer are the same in men and women. This is why it is extremely important to do a monthly self exam on yourself and know your body.

Signs and symptoms of male breast cancer can include:

A painless lump or thickening in the breast tissue
Changes to the skin covering your breast, such as dimpling, puckering, redness or scaling
Changes to your nipple, such as redness, scaling or a nipple that turns inward
Discharge from your nipple

If you suspect that something is out of the ordinary; schedule an appointment and have a doctor examine you. Both men and women are examined in the same fashion, to rule out or diagnose Breast Cancer.

Diagnosing male breast cancer:

If breast cancer is suspected, your doctor may conduct a number of diagnostic tests and procedures such as:

Clinical breast exam. During this exam, your doctor uses his or her fingertips to examine your breasts for lumps or other changes. Your doctor assesses how large the lumps are, how they feel, and how close they are to your skin and muscles. Your doctor will also examine the rest of your body for signs that the cancer has spread, such as feeling for an enlarged liver or enlarged lymph nodes.

Mammogram. A mammogram is an X-ray of your breast tissue. To assess your breast tissue, your breast will be pressed flat as much as possible. During a mammogram, you stand in front of a machine with your shirt off. Two flat plastic plates come together to compress your breast tissue. A radiology technician takes the X-rays. The compression of the mammogram can be uncomfortable. Ask the technician what to expect and speak up if you’re feeling pain.

Breast ultrasound. Your doctor may recommend an ultrasound of your breast to evaluate an abnormality seen on a mammogram or found during a clinical exam. Ultrasound uses sound waves to form images of structures within the body.

Testing nipple discharge for cancer cells. Your doctor may collect nipple discharge if you’re experiencing it. The discharge is then examined using a microscope to look for cancerous cells.

Using a needle to remove cells for testing. A biopsy procedure involves removing a sample of suspicious tissue for laboratory testing. A breast biopsy is commonly done by inserting a needle into the breast lump and drawing cells or tissue from the area. When analyzed in a laboratory, your tissue sample reveals whether you have breast cancer and, if so, what type of breast cancer you have.

If it is determined that you have Breast Cancer the doctor will be able to tell you in what stage your cancer is in and what type of Breast Cancer you have.

Determining the extent of the cancer:
If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, your doctor will work to determine the extent (stage) of your cancer. Your cancer’s stage helps your doctor determine treatment options. Staging tests include blood tests and imaging tests, such as X-rays, computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The stages of male breast cancer are:

Stage I. The tumor is no more than 2 centimeters (cm) in diameter (3/4 inch) and hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage II. The tumor may be up to 5 cm (2 inches) in diameter and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes. Or the tumor may be larger than 5 cm and no cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes.

Stage III. The tumor may be larger than 5 cm (2 inches) in diameter and may involve several nearby lymph nodes. Lymph nodes above the collarbone may also contain cancer cells.

Stage IV. Cancer at this stage has spread beyond the breast to distant areas, such as the bone, brain, liver or lungs.


Types of breast cancer diagnosed in men include:

Cancer that begins in the milk ducts. Ductal carcinoma is the most common type of male breast cancer. Nearly all male breast cancers begin in the breast ducts.

Cancer that begins in the milk-producing glands. Lobular carcinoma is rare in men because men have few lobules in their breast tissue.

Cancer that spreads to the nipple. In some cases, breast cancer can form in the breast ducts and spread to the nipple, causing crusty, scaly skin around the nipple. This is called Paget’s disease of the nipple.

Inherited genes that increase breast cancer risk.
Some men inherit mutated genes from their parents that increase the risk of breast cancer. Mutations in one of several genes, especially a gene called BRCA2, put you at greater risk of developing breast and prostate cancers. Usually these genes help prevent cancer by making proteins that keep cells from growing abnormally. But if they have a mutation, the genes aren’t as effective at protecting you from cancer.

Meeting with a genetic counselor and undergoing genetic testing can determine whether you carry gene mutations that increase your risk of breast cancer. Discuss the benefits and risks of genetic testing with your doctor.

Everyone will tell you how important it is to catch cancer early. It is very, very important to catch it early. Therefore you need to self-exam and get regular checkup’s by a medical practitioner.

Let’s end the stereotype that Breast Cancer is a woman’s disease. Breast Cancer is clearly less common in men than in women but, it doesn’t care which sex you are. Men are not immune so please don’t be bashful, get yourself checked and don’t become a victim to Breast Cancer.

Don’t forget to get involved, support Breast Cancer Awareness and education. Because cancer doesn’t affect one it affects all!

For Jens Sake and Blognostics Joining Forces For Pinktober

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Anger

Faith, Hope, Love, and Awareness

What Breast Cancer Awareness Means to Me

The Pink Ribbon Challenge

Breast Cancer Awareness Pinktober

Pinktober Is Amongst Us

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Anger

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness month as many of you know. Before I even get into this post I want to say thank you to everyone who has taken part in the Breast Cancer Awareness movement this month. So many of you have truly shown your support and respect for me, by placing my BCA (Breast Cancer Awareness) post button on your blogs. A few of you have shown me remarkable love by changing your Facebook avatar to the picture I made for my sister. I am honored to call you all friends!!!

 

I fully intended to write a post yesterday, the first day of October, about my sister’s Breast Cancer story. I wrote and wrote, and the words poured from my soul as they always do in my writing. But, as I was writing there came a moment when the pain took over my fingers and by the time I had realized I was over 1000 words. I stopped and reread the last couple of paragraphs… I can’t post that agony here, because…

Not only is my heart aching for the loss of my sister but, I am still angry. I am angry at a God who claims to love his children but, allows their lives to be Hell. I am angry at doctors who didn’t catch the cancer in time for my sister to be able to fight it. I am angry at family members who instead of pulling us together in our darkest hour, decided instead to tear us apart further. I am angry at myself for not being there with her…for not taking our conversations more seriously…for not having money to pay for an autopsy… for not being able to fight cancer for her…and most of all for thinking that some people who are Breast Cancer survivors and battling it, are still taking their lives for granted. In a nutshell, I AM ANGRY!!!

Click on the image to read My Sister's Keeper

My sister was 33 years old when Breast Cancer took her life, 3 days after being diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer. She’s dead now, do you comprehend that? She is DEAD! She had no chance to fight, no chance at all. I don’t blame anyone for that, it happened for a reason. I am still wondering the exact reason but, it was for a reason. Cancer has affected me… it has taken from me…it has changed me, and I am NOT even the one who was diagnosed.

But, is it not true, that a cancer diagnosis affects more people than just the one who has the cancer? It should but, in most cases it doesn’t. I can tell you this in all honesty, with every bit of my soul showing, that many people on this planet are too self-absorbed to realize; that it is affecting them whether they have a personal relationship with someone who has cancer or not. They fail to realize that if they don’t stand up, unite, and fight with those who are fighting right now…there won’t be anyone fighting for them when their time comes. And believe me when I say, it is much closer than you can fathom.

I don’t expect sympathy for my sister’s untimely death. I expect unity to battle a disease that is devastating our families, our friends, our planet. I don’t want to be known as a hero because I survived my sister’s death to Breast Cancer and wrote a few paragraphs about it. I want to be remembered for my small place among a large group of heroes who fought against this horrific disease. I don’t ever again want to feel like I did when Breast Cancer took my sister’s life. I never again want to tell someone I love; be it family or friend, that I am sorry you have cancer.

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I am pushing this Breast Cancer Awareness movement because the fact of the matter is, nobody is untouched by it. If you think you are, wake up, because you are dreaming. Everyone knows someone who knows someone who has cancer in one of its many hideous forms or another. You, reading this post, are 1 degree separated from Breast Cancer, Leukemia, Throat Cancer, Stomach Cancer, and Pancreas Cancer; because I have lost family to all of those cancers. Just knowing me through this blog post right here, makes you that much closer to the effects of these despicable diseases. That tear that slid down your cheek as you read my anguish, were the effects of cancer, my dearest reader!

Now that you realize how close cancer is to you… what are you going to do about it?

Please get involved! Support cancer awareness in the form of donations; by donating directly or buying products that give. Support sites and organizations that focus on helping Cancer victims and their families. Support it by wearing the cancer colors, i.e. pink for Breast Cancer. Support it by searching on Facebook for the different cancers and liking the pages. Support it by joining in on events such as the Breast Cancer Awareness challenge event that I have going on this month. Support organizations that specialize in awareness, early detection and free cancer screenings. And most importantly support it by getting yourself checked often (men too, you are not immune) and spreading the word to everyone that Cancer is trying to kill us all.

Don’t let it!!! Stand up, unite, and do something about it!

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Before you leave here today, please click on the Breast Cancer Site button in my sidebar and give a woman the gift of a free mammogram.

 

Note: Throughout this post are many links, ones that lead to sites to support and several that will take you to my blog posts about my sister and Breast Cancer. Please find time to check them out and comment. Thank you.

For Jens Sake and Blognostics Joining Forces For Pinktober

As most of you should know by now, October (Pinktober) is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

I support it every year and this year it holds even more significance than it did in previous years.

In February of this year, my younger sister was diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer and three days later she died. So of course that makes me more active in Breast Cancer Awareness, not just because I have lost my sister to it but, because I truly understand how the unthinkable can hit and penetrate your seemingly perfect life. After her death and I could finally face the world again, I started connecting with Breast Cancer battler’s (this just means that they are still battling this heinous disease.) and survivors.

My heart goes out to every one of them even though my sister never even had a chance to battle the beast. I have set up a challenge on Facebook as an event and would greatly appreciate if you would join and pass it on. If I have learned anything in this past few months is that life is more precious than you could ever possibly imagine.

Facebook Events Basics:

I would like all of you who join the event to have something pink visible on your person all month-long in October. The details are on the event so please check that out and join in on spreading more awareness for this horrific disease. Thank you.

Now for the exciting blogger’s news:

I was asked to be a Breast Cancer Awareness Spokeswoman for Blognostics, this site is a new site and was created by bloggers for bloggers. They will be running a contest for Breast Cancer Awareness that will begin on Oct. 1 and go through Oct.31, 2011.

Blognostics Contest Details:

Tell a story about how Breast Cancer has affected you and/or the person diagnosed, also how it has changed your life and/or theirs for better or worse. The story can be your own personal story, a friend, or a family member. It does have to be someone who you know personally, even if it’s just someone you know from a social network. But, they do have to be someone you have personal contact with.

Blognostics will also be asking for donations in the amounts of $1, $5, $10 or more to be donated to the organization that the 1st place winner chooses out of the four that Blognostics has available. Consider the donation to be not only useful for the organization and the people they help but, also a small contest entry fee. Donate what you can!

This contest is open to all bloggers. The only thing that you have to do is be a member of Blognostics, and to be a member you must have a blog. If you would like to take part please go to the site and make your account.

Here is what you will be doing:

-If your blog is a writing one than you will write a story, fiction not accepted (sorry but we want real life stories only), about the person that you have chosen. Tell us their/your story of being afflicted with Breast Cancer and how it has changed them and/or you.

-If you are a poet you can write a poem about the person you have chosen.

-If you are a photographer you can tell the story with photos. Use a photo of the person and whatever other photos you feel tell the story of how their having Breast Cancer affected you. You can write a story as well but, your main goal is to tell it with photos.

-If you are an artist who draws or paints, you will be submitting your original work of art that is either the person themselves or your interpretation of Breast Cancer. Please write something about the art piece so we can understand fully the meaning of it.

Please Include:

All contest entries should include the date when the person was diagnosed, how they battled it, if they are still battling or are now in remission, how many times they have battled it, any organization that they went through for help, and if they died, (R.I.P.) the day their suffering ended.

Prizes:

Blognostics is offering 3 prizes; 1st place, 2nd place, and 3rd place. All which include small ad space for a month on their site. 1st place winners will receive the honor of choosing the Breast Cancer organization that will receive the donations and their name will also be on the check that is presented with all of the donations raised. 1st place winners will also receive a small banner on the Blognostics site to place their ad for one month.
All entries must be in by October 31, 2011 before midnight in your time zone. Blognostics will choose and notify the winners during the first week of November.

So what are you waiting for? Go sign up on Blogsnostics if you aren’t already a member and let’s raise awareness for Breast Cancer. Don’t forget to join the Facebook event as well. If you have any questions please ask me or the Blognostics team. Thank you and good luck.