You fight so hard during your treatment while your body gets beaten up every day. What can you do to make yourself feel better in your daily regime of self-care?
As we've discussed throughout many of our recent blogs, claiming and celebrating who you are is a challenge during breast cancer treatment and recovery. Coming to terms with and allowing yourself to feel positive about how you look, feel, and care for yourself is part of your battle and survivorship journey. Self-care and self-love are just as important to your battle as your doctor's visits are. You might be rolling your eyes as you read that, but think about the days where you felt good or were truly realized through your treatment and recovery. Did you get a good night's rest? Feel like yourself again? Feel good in your skin? Did you take time for yourself and maybe had a bath and a facial?
[Mental Health and How It Feels]
These little moments of good have such a huge and positive effect on your mental health, which is one of the first things affected by your diagnosis and treatment. Improving any part of your health and quality of life during these difficult times can help strengthen your battle. So please, don't turn your nose up at self-care. Before your diagnosis, you had your beauty regime and care that was unique and so wonderfully you. That doesn't have to stop with your diagnosis. It might change and evolve, but that's ok too! In this two-part blog, we are going to be sharing some tips and suggestions on how to have and maintain a beauty regime that celebrates you and is dedicated to making you feel better during and after treatment.
The physical changes that you can see are sometimes harder than the effects that chemo and treatment leave behind. It sinks in when you can see the changes, and not see you looking back in the mirror. Your body hair can be gone, your skin is dry, blotchy and pained, your nails are weak and cracking, the shape of your body can change, and you could have pieces of you removed and then added back, with scars left behind. Every fashion item you used to come into contact with affects you differently than it did before, from how it feels to how it will affect your skin or toenails. Fashion magazines offer little when it comes to positive reinforcements or guidance. Thankfully, designers like Stella McCartney has designed bras for those who have had double mastectomies. Jewelry like statement earrings and necklaces can really pop against scars or bald heads or hide a chemo port. More and more designers are creating comfortable, flattering, and beautiful clothing pieces, head scarfs, and other garments with breast cancer patients in mind. But what about your skin and the rest of your regime?
Chemo affects your skin in so many ways and can leave your complexion blotchy and even change it completely. Chemo also affects your sense of smell, so anything overly perfumed or has a strong smell can make you sick during or after treatment. Try finding and investing in natural skincare that has little to no fragrance and is paraben-free. Nontoxic beauty products can limit the exposure to harmful chemicals and ingredients while your skin and body are so sensitive and susceptible during treatment. They are also much gentler on the skin, which could have become extremely sensitive as a result of your treatments. This goes beyond facial lotions, washes, and toners. Look into all-natural and fragrance-free nontoxic eyeliners, lipstick, lashes, lash glue, eyebrow pencils, and more. Be mindful, there are toxic ingredients that still exist in manufactured makeup and beauty products that can cause cancer. You don't want to put these in or on your body, as you are already at risk with a compromised immune system. Adding natural deep hydrating lotion and healing ointments can combat whatever chemo does to your skin and soothe it away. Add in under-eye patches, face masks, sheet masks, and at home facial kits to help you relax, care for your skin, and give it a new glow.
When washing, make sure all of your skin is cared for, and not just your face. Use very gentle soaps that also have light or very little fragrance. Avoid products that contain alcohol and put away your antiaging creams and products. Many of which, according to Everyday Health, can irritate your skin even more than it is during treatment. Cornstarch can soothe irritation on your skin, and limiting shaving can help avoid irritation as well. Make sure to limit your sun exposure, and always wear sunscreen. Don't forget to cover your head and always bring your lip balm!
In the same safe non-toxic and organic world of beauty products, you can add some fake lashes and brows too. The options are staggering when it comes to these products. You can even professionally have sets of eyelashes put in, and you have the option of stencils, stamps, pencils, and eyebrow wigs to fill your eyebrows. Using bronzers and highlight can help with a natural glow without wearing too much makeup, and quartz colors around your eyes and a bold flash of red can make your lips pop!
Please remember, the choice to do any of this is yours and yours alone. Not societies, not a family member, not a friend. Many of our patients use these tips to feel more like themselves, to feel more feminine, and to care for their skin during and after treatment. But, just like your journey through survivorship, it's unique to your personal needs. In the second part of this blog, we will be discussing tips for your nails, regrowing your hair, and hair care. If you have any questions about this any of our services, don't hesitate to reach out. Continue to fight, be proud of the journey you're on, and be well.
We have several services to make you look and feel exactly how you want, and to provide natural options for oncoplastic surgery. What should you expect when you're about to go through a breast lift and reduction?
In our last two blogs, we've discussed some of our many treatments and services we offer to help your battle with breast cancer and survivorship journey. Each of these services can improve your quality of life mentally, physically, and emotionally. Today we want to talk about and discuss one of our oncoplastic surgery services, breast lifts, and reductions. Oncoplastic surgery is aimed at breast cancer surgery with or with reconstruction to improve cosmetic outcomes for our patients. Our medical providers are trained and certified in oncoplastic surgery as well as Hidden Scar (trademarked) surgery, nipple spanning mastectomies, breast lift and reductions, implant repair, and natural reconstruction. Today, our blog is going to be focused on breast lift and reduction, what our services look like, and what to expect with the procedure. The surgery itself is the rearrangement of tissue after breast disease is removed. It allows the shape and size of the breast to be repaired.
Depending on your needs and what your cancer diagnosis is, you might choose to have both of your breasts removed (a double mastectomy) to remove the breast with cancer and to eliminate any risk of it returning. You also might choose to have both of your breasts removed to eliminate any diagnosis if you are a high-risk individual. Some choose to or only need to remove one breast, replacing it with natural reconstruction or an implant to match their other breast. Some only have cancerous tissue removed from one breast, leaving the shape and size of the breast altered and different from the other breast. This is where our breast lift and reduction services come into the picture.
The removal of the cancerous tumor and lymph nodes, not the whole breast itself, is called a lumpectomy. Breast tissue will also be removed with the tumor that it was connected to that could continue to put the patient at risk. This will cause the shape of your original breast to change during this surgery. This is where the lift begins. Your breast will be reconstructed, along with the placement of your nipple and areola. It will naturally be placed higher on your body and look "perkier" since tissue and skin have been removed to create a smaller firmer breast. Your other breast will still be its original size, and your nipples will no longer be symmetrical. This is where the next step, reduction, begins. Your surgeon will remove tissue from your other breast to match the newly constructed breast and move the nipple as well.
You can have a reduction and lift, or oncoplastic surgery, during your lumpectomy. There are many advantages to doing so. One is that you'll only have to go through one surgery, instead of two. It also helps with limiting or eliminating the risk of cancer returning to the breast that held the cancerous tumor, because it allows for more tissue to be removed. It is easier for a surgeon to achieve better symmetry when doing a lift and reduction at the same time as a lumpectomy. Also, those suffering from pain caused by having naturally large breasts will receive relief from that pain while keeping their risk of returning cancer very low.
Please note that a breast lift doesn't make the breast bigger or smaller. That is done with the removal of tissue or adding in tissue from another part of your body or with the use of implants. The lift itself is your surgeon tightening and reshaping your breast tissue, the removal of excess skin, and making sure your areola and nipple are in the desired position. Our services allow the shape and size changes of your breast to be repaired on both the affected breast and the non-cancerous breast. A breast reduction will allow your non-cancerous breast to be reshaped into a smaller, lighter, firmer breast that will sit higher on your chest. Both surgeries can be outpatient procedures, with a short recovery time. Many women can return to work 2-3 weeks after their surgery. As it goes with any surgery, there are some risks involved. Those risks can include the loss of feeling in the nipple or breast, bleeding, scarring, and infection. It can also inhibit the ability to breastfeed. Make sure to speak with us about your pregnancy plans and plans after surgery before deciding to take this journey.
Your breast cancer battle is tough, but you're tougher. We are here to make it as easy as possible and to stand with you along the way. If you have any questions about breast lift and reductions, or about any of our services, don't hesitate to reach out. Continue to fight, be proud of the journey you're on, and be well.
Early detection is one of the most important life-saving factors when wanting to prevent and fight breast cancer. If you can start on the journey early in your life, it might save and protect that life you've built and created.
We've made it to May, friends! We are so thankful to be here with you today and thankful that there is a little more positive news in the world these days. There is still so much that we need to be cautious about, but as breast cancer warriors, that is not a new idea. We've shared some important facts on the realities of what it's like to live with breast cancer while raising children, personal stories of those fighting breast cancer, and how to better your quality of life while living through diagnosis and treatment. One topic that we are extremely passionate about is early detection. We spend a lot of time educating on the topic, spreading awareness on how to begin early detection, and helping those who could benefit from early detection. In this blog, we wanted to share some of the realities of why early detection is so important, tips on what you should be looking out for, some tips on how to stay as healthy as possible, and what early detection could mean for you.
We know that breast cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer in women and one of the most fatal. At the end of the day, catching it as soon as possible is key. As of now, there isn't a cure for breast cancer, making early detection more important every day. The purpose of early detection is to find and identify any breast abnormalities as soon as possible. If breast cancer or it's beginning stages are found and caught sooner, it can be treated more efficiently. There are more treatment options available to you and there is a higher rate of survival if caught sooner.
We've talked about the reality that breast cancer can appear in women under the age of 40 in some of our most recent blogs. It does happen more often than the general public cares to admit. Mammograms are not efficient enough for women under the age of 40, as the breast tissue is still to firm for the mammogram to penetrate through and provide a clear reading of what's happening inside the breast itself. This is when self-breast examinations come into play and become incredibly important. By the time you've reached early adulthood, you should be doing a monthly breast exam, regardless of your family's history of breast cancer. It never hurts to be safe. Self-breast examinations are the best tool for discovering early stages and signs of breast cancer, and any findings should always be reported to your doctor.
Breast cancer is a risk for everyone. The path you take will just be a little different depending on who you are, what your body has decided to do, and what your family history is. But know that no one is alone on this path. You might need to deal with these realities a little sooner than later, it might become a part of your medical appoints and gynecologist visits every year, but it will keep you healthier longer. Be kind to your body and follow the necessary steps to preserve your life. Stay strong, Lowcountry! We are in this fight and all the fight the world has currently given us, together. Today is another day that we have to live to the fullest.
Thanks to our incredible followers and supporters, we have another incredible survivor story that we are very proud to share with you. We hope these words bring you comfort, peace, and hope.
This hasn't been the spring that any of us could have imagined. But, we are still marching on. We are still here for you as you continue to fight your battle, continue to heal, and continue to carry on every day. A few months ago, we shared a survivor story about Savanna James. Her words continue to echo in our hearts and minds, and we hope they have stayed with you. Just a few weeks ago, another survivor story came into our world, and we are very proud to share it with you here today. We want to introduce Michele Wheeler, her story, and her incredible nurse, Jim. Michele has shared this story on her own website, and we are very thankful to her for allowing us to share it with you here today.
To Be Seen
The birthday party was going to be phenomenal. He stood over me explaining how his wife had to bake three cakes - three! - because they invited all the kids in both classes. I lay trapped in tubes and wires and blankets and gowns while his words passed through the air above me. Some people might think they were going overboard for a four-year-old. Other people might. Not anyone in this room of course. Radiologists rule in this room. I stared at the ceiling thinking What in the ---- is happening here? as the masked techs oohed and awed over those cakes and the balloons and the bouncy house. Trapped, I tried to ignore them all as he shoved a needle into my liver to grab the sample that would confirm if I was dying of cancer or not.
That was three years ago. The sample came back hot. Now, I was back in the exact same hospital, the exact same radiology department, for another biopsy. This time, we were looking for mutations that could provide more treatment options. I insisted on a different surgeon, and I got one, but the stench of frosting and the memory of that big fat needle were still very much with me. They told me, back then, that the meds would give me an I-don’t-care feeling, with a little amnesia mixed in. But I remembered. Oh, believe me, I did care.
And so I told them, now, how the baggage from the last liver jab was increasing my anxiety beyond the more “standard” biopsy stress. I’m just barely hanging on here folks, I told them. Please help me out by upping those I-don’t-care meds and skipping the talk about your outstanding personal plans, thanks so much.
Sounds fair, they said. That’s exactly what we’ll do.
I didn’t used to lay it out that way. I let uncertainty and fear overwhelm me into passive obedience. Because certainly all those nurses and doctors had been through whichever procedure far more times than I have. But after years of cancering, and too many appointments left feeling undervalued, I’ve matured into the realization that I am, in fact, an expert in Me. More so, I’ve come to appreciate how much doctors and techs really do want to get it right and telling them how I want it just makes it easier for everyone.
Does it actually need to be said that you shouldn’t talk about your kid’s happy party during a terminal illness reveal? And honest feedback, the part of me that gets angry every time I see a birthday cake, would readily join you in hanging up that first surgeon.
But the part of me that needs to let go of that anger remembers that not everyone has experienced the sharp side of the needle. And so yes, it does need to be said.
It needs to be said because maybe he was trying to distract me by talking about that party. And maybe it would have worked if he just would have said first, I am sorry that this is happening to you. Then I could have said, Tell me everything about that bouncy house.
My med guy came, Jim, came in then to introduce himself. He managed to strike up small talk that seemed well placed, asking me about my kids a bit, surface questions, with just enough about his own kids to keep the conversation going. He was gentle. He let me know that I’d get my I-don’t-care meds after just a little more prep.
He wheeled me into the biopsy room, and that prep got very active. There were at least another five masked techs hooking me up to wires and hoses. The radiologist came up then and reached across me to adjust the monitor he would use to look for a sampleable tumor with ultrasound. When he started pushing down with the wand on my stomach, just below my ribs, I told him, “Can you move that screen so I can’t see it, please?” As he did, I closed my eyes and said, “And no comments about the size of the tumors either, please.”
I could still feel constant motion around me, and then a quiet voice from just behind me, Jim, “Michele, I’m going to give you some of that anti-nausea medication now, okay?” I nodded, thinking but what about the I-don’t-care meds? Not wanting to sound like a junkie, I tried to be patient.
But I could feel it coming. Like the vibration on train tracks before any sound of the engine, before any hint of smoke coming from its stacks. I kept my eyes closed and wondered which would arrive first: the panic attack or the I-don’t-care meds.
Panic did. And I fought with it to speak, managing only, “I could. Now. The I don’t. Don’t care. Meds. I need them cuz I think I might run. I’m gonna…” I raised my hand just a bit to the radiologist, “So with the wand. It. The. Could you. Wait. Please?” He took it off my stomach and the room got very still. I kept my eyes closed to find the words, and finally managed, in a whisper, “I’m going to have a panic attack. I’m just about to and I need that anxiety medicine right now.”
With that, the radiologist patted my arm gently once, and let me know he’d wait outside until the meds kicked in. The rest of the staff left as well. But Jim stayed. He interrupted the quiet only to give me brief updates. I’m delivering those meds now, Michele. And then a few moments later, They should start working really soon.
It was more like I started leaking than crying. The tears just slipped easily from the corners of my eyes. With all the tubes and wires and blankets and gown twisted around me, I was helpless to do anything but let them fall. But I said nothing, because I thought asking for tear wiping was taking it a bit too far.
I didn’t have to ask. Before those tears reached my ears, I felt a tissue on either side of my face as Jim gently wiped them up. And yes, the tenderness of that did make me squeak out a few more tears. But it was far fewer than it would have been, had those tears fallen unnoticed and been left to soak my hair.
Thank you, I said.
You’re welcome, said Jim. And for the next few minutes, I lied there, leaking tears, and Jim sat behind me, wiping them up.
The meds finally kicked in, enough so that we could carry on with the procedure, but they didn’t erase the reality that put me there. I leaked, intermittently through the whole thing. One click. Two clicks. Tears slipped from my eyes as little bits of cancer and liver were pulled from under my ribs. I kept dripping while I counted three… four... five. I think it was Jim that kept wiping the sides of my face as I silently cried. I don’t know. I kept my eyes closed the whole time. But I do know that not one tear passed an ear, and that was an enormous comfort.
Because still wrapped in blankets and trapped in illness, I felt seen.
Thank you so much, Michele, for sharing your incredibly brave story. Our hearts were with you through every written word and will continue to be as you continue your journey. Thank you for lifting up the people in your journey, like Jim, who has helped you through it all. Thank you for sharing with us the need and the right you have to ask for what you need in every step of your treatment and beyond. You are an incredible warrior. Thank you for sharing this with us.
To learn more about Michele, read more incredible stories like this one, and to follow her journey check out her website by following the link below!
We would be honored to hear and share YOUR story too. We want to share your experiences to help to continue inspiring others just like Savanna and Michele have. If you would like to share, email us your story and a photo of yourself to firstname.lastname@example.org and you may be featured on our social media or in an upcoming blog post.
Receiving the news that you have breast cancer is difficult and life-changing information. But, what happens if you're pregnant and receive this news?
Being diagnosed with breast cancer is the last thing you want to deal with, let alone when you have the happy news that you're pregnant. There is still such a stigma connected to breast cancer that it only happens later in life, and after menopause. But, as we've mentioned in previous blogs, breast cancer doesn't discriminate. It doesn't pay attention to age or sex. Women and men at all stages of life are vulnerable and susceptible to breast cancer, and that includes pregnant mothers. Being pregnant and expecting a child should always be a time of joy and happiness, but a diagnosis of breast cancer changes all of that. What does this mean for you and the baby? How will this change your treatments? What will the next nine months of pregnancy look like? This will be a delicate and complicated journey, one you need to plan very carefully with your obstetrician and your oncologist. You need to be very well informed about your choices and options, and to choose what path is best for you and your baby. These decisions and the treatments need to focus on not just getting rid of or treating your cancer. They also need to be chosen to keep your baby safe and healthy as well. This limits and changes what kind of treatment options are available to you and when exactly you can receive them throughout your three trimesters.
The positive news is that yes, as a pregnant woman, you treat your breast cancer. The tricky part is deciding what route you can safely go to protect your baby and still conquer your cancer. This all depends on a handful of factors. They include how healthy you are overall, how far along you are in your pregnancy if the cancer has started to spread and if it has where it has spread to, the size of your cancerous tumor, and where that tumor is located. For a pregnant woman, two of the safest options are surgery and chemotherapy, while radiation and other hormonal therapy treatments are recommended to be avoided until after you've delivered.
This treatment is safe for babies in the second or third trimester, but not in the first. In the first trimester, some of the most important development and growth occurs, and chemo can seriously interfere in that process. It also runs a higher risk of losing the baby if chemo is used during this time as well. Many of you might be skeptical that chemo is safe at any stage of pregnancy, but studies have shown that when using certain chemo drugs like cyclophosphamide and doxorubicin during the last two trimesters of pregnancy is safe. They don't have the risk of birth defects, health problems, or loss of the baby. The only risk studies have found is the risk of an early delivery. If you do decide or need to have surgery during this time, you will be deciding between a mastectomy or a lumpectomy, with follow up treatments of chemo recommended for the second trimester or later. If your diagnosis comes during your final trimester of pregnancy, chemo is usually recommended after the birth of your child. After week 35 of your pregnancy (out of a total of 40) chemo is no longer recommended. Chemo at this point can bring on early delivery, and it also lowers the mother's blood cell count. This lowered cell count can lead to dangerous issues during birth including infection and serious bleeding. Deciding to delay chemo until after the birth allows the mother's blood cell count to return to a healthy level, so the birth can be as safe as possible.
This is one of the safest routes for a pregnant woman to take while battling a cancer diagnosis. It is the safest to do at any trimester, and you don't have to delay it unless your obstetrician recommends otherwise. Mastectomies are generally the most preferred surgery for a pregnant woman. You can have a lumpectomy, removing just the breast tissue that contains cancer, but it does come with a few risks. A lumpectomy generally requires radiation to follow up that surgery, and radiation is not safe for the baby. But, putting off radiation for the mother, if it is needed, is very dangerous and could increase the risk in cancer returning. The only time a lumpectomy is usually recommended with radiation is if the cancer is found during the third trimester. If the surgery is performed close to the due date of the baby or very shortly after, very small wait time or no wait time at all is placed on the recommended radiation treatments. The removal of a lymph node, or possibly a few, are also needed during surgery. There are two different types of lymph node surgeries, one, in particular, being safer than the other. The removal of lymph nodes under your arm called an auxiliary lymph node dissection, which removes multiple lymph nodes, is the first choice. The second is called a sentinel lymph node biopsy. This uses a small amount of blue dye and radioactive tracers that pick out the nodes that could contain cancer. The blue dye and radioactive tracers come with heavy concerns since radiation is very bad for the baby. This treatment, although it may help with removing fewer lymph nodes, is not recommended during pregnancy. It is recommended to happen after pregnancy or late in your trimesters and without the use of the dye.
TREATMENTS AND THINGS TO AVOID
During your pregnancy, there are some treatments and situations you will need to keep you and your baby safe. Keep these in mind as you move forward. Also listed are a few difficult situations that you might have to face, too.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
During this time, you already have a lot on your plate and a lot on your mind. We wanted to leave you with some closing thoughts to remember as you begin this process.
We know and understand the difficulties you are facing during this time. It is unique, scary, and full of unknowns. We want to help you celebrate the joy of your pregnancy, all while helping you conquer your cancer. If you have any concerns or worries, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. We are here to answer your questions, guide you through this process, and discuss any concerns you might have. Know you are never alone, and there is always hope.
Taking the confusion out and adding the zinc to your sunscreen...
We have all been told at least once the miracle ingredient we need to add to our skin care regimen… SUNSCREEN! SUNSCREEN! SUNSCREEN!
I, like many of us from my “era”, worshiped the sun as a teenager. I cringe when I think about life-guarding 10 hour shifts covered in baby oil; and how every spring break and summer started with a 3rd degree burn. If the SPF in my tropical tanning oil was higher than a 4, and didn’t smell like Hawaii, it wasn’t going in my pool bag.
Turning 40 exposed all those years of abusing my skin with emerging hyper-pigmentation, dark spots, and broken capillaries. Now, the one item that I won't leave the house without is a BROAD SPECTRUM sunscreen with Zinc. Zinc sits on the top of the skin and starts protecting you immediately when applied. Broad spectrum SPF refers to sunscreens that protect the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Even with a high SPF (sun protection factor), if a sunscreen isn’t broad spectrum, you won’t be protected from UVA rays. It’s important to protect from both types of UV rays because they damage your skin differently. Here is a short breakdown:
work! If these reasons don’t persuade you, let the coral reefs be a reason to use an environmentally safe zinc based sunscreen. Chemically based sunscreens break down coral, causing it to lose its nutrients, turn ghostly white or bleach and often die or become unable to reproduce.
Now, you probably envision zinc sunscreen from the eighties… the white gooey stuff more suitable for the circus… well, here’s a welcome update! My all time favorite , ELTA MD sunscreens, are mixed with 9% transparent zinc oxide.
You don't have to worry about a clown like or chalky finish, and it's water-resistant up to 80 minutes, passing the test of beach waves and summer runs. The Elta MD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46 is a fantastic option for your face—particularly if you have oily skin, as the infusion of lactic acid simultaneously kills lingering breakouts, while reducing shine. The formula is also rich in hyaluronic acid, so you won't have to pile on the moisturizer beforehand, and the side of niacinamide can help to fade existing sun damage. The tinted version is like magic, it seamlessly blends into almost anyone’s skin, acting either as a light foundation or the perfect primer!
As far as the rest of your body goes, Elta MD has a full line of products, including a Sport Sunscreen, to protect you and your family...all containing zinc! On a side note, for those of us who began protecting ourselves a little later in life, there is an option to help reverse some of that hyper-pigmentation and those broken capillaries from our previous sun goddess days. My newest treatment obsession, Laser Genesis, uses micro-pulses of laser energy to diminish the signs of vascular facial redness and stubborn brown spots. Added bonus…Laser Genesis also improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles with collagen remodeling! The Breast Place is excited to offer packages of this no down time laser treatment, as well as many other skin rejuvenation packages personalized for your individual needs at your free skin consultation. Call me anytime at The Breast Place, extension 203!