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.
Breast cancer and its treatments leave behind scars of many kinds. Healing from your physical and emotional scars are a part of your healing process. Both need to be looked after with equal amounts of care.
Hello dear friends. We hope where ever you are while reading this, you know you are not alone. Where ever you are on your journey, you are strong enough to fight. In this blog, we will be talking about scars. Not necessarily the scars that are left behind from radiation, chemo, and surgery. We will be talking about the emotional scars that come along with fighting this battle. These scars need to be cared for and healed just as much as your physical scars do. This process can take time, but we promise it's worth it. Not dealing with these scars can make the journey into returning to the life you want difficult or even impossible. A scar is something a warrior should be proud of. You went through the fight, and you won. You are now more aware, realistic, stronger, and wiser.
Your cancer treatments will affect your body physically, but it goes way beyond that. It can affect how you feel, think, and like to do things in your life. Treatment can even change the way your brain works. Yes, chemo brain is a real thing! You could be facing mental changes in how you learn, how well you concentrate, and how well you remember. There is nothing wrong with you, these are common effects for many people going through treatment. Also, how your treatments will affect you mentally and physically is unique to each person. It is important to be informed and educated about what is happening to your body before, during, and after your treatment. Discussing and researching how you can help yourself stay as healthy mentally and physically as possible is also key to this process.
Long term and short term effects of treatment can affect your mental health. Depression, anxiety, and fear can develop during treatment. After treatment a lot of this fear is based on the worry and possibility that your cancer could return. Anxiety can bloom out of the initial shock of taking in all of the information you're given at the beginning of your journey. This can make it very difficult to cope or comprehend what is going on.
While going through and working on your emotional healing, keeping an open line of communication is very important. Make sure to talk about how you're feeling. Express it, work through your emotions, and try to continue past them. Working through these emotions can help you move towards a more positive attitude, and to help you cope with life in general. Make sure to be open with your care team, a medical professional, or a trusted loved one. Holding in these emotions and feelings can be very hurtful. Feeling angry can get in the way of taking care of yourself. Sometimes, it can energize you. Use these emotions for a positive outcome, don't stew inside of them. Prioritize your mental health. You are allowed to feel how you do. They are valid emotions and you are worthy to feel this way. Allow yourself to grieve, but don't let it last forever.
Your body could be facing many different kinds of changes, too. Some may only last for a little while, while others could stay forever. Even if you don't show these changes, you could still see them. Anger and grief are natural reactions to this situation. It can affect your sex drive. It might make you feel that your appearance has changed how your loved ones look at you, respond to you, and will act around you. These natural reactions can also cause depression, anxiety, and fear.
Things That Can Help:
After treatment, it might be strange that you aren't always in panic mode. You're so used to that feeling, that it can be mentally jarring to start going back to some sense of normalcy. But that normalcy can place a lot of burden on you as well. Getting back to your sense of normal can take time. Even with the victory and empowerment that you've successfully beaten cancer. It might take time to feel like you can go back to your life again. Your normal may not be the same again, and it's difficult to adjust to that. Remember, your breasts are not who you are nor do they represent who you are.
Healing doesn't just happen overnight and then you're better. It has many stages and steps along the way. Take the time to do what you need. We are here for you along every step of the way and are always here to talk when you need us. Never 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 email@example.com 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.
Now more than ever, keeping your immune system strong is a necessity. For a breast cancer patient and during your treatments, this can be a very difficult task. How does breast cancer attack your immune system, how do treatments keep it weak, and what can you do to improve its strength and your quality of life?
Having cancer gives your life, and the lives you affect, a very unknown and sometimes scary feeling about what could or couldn't happen almost every day. Cancer treatments are changing every day, how your body responds to your treatments changes every day, and how you feel changes every day. The world today is starting to fill up with daily unknowns, uncertainties, and fear. What can happen, what could happen, and what is already happening is frightening. It is especially very frightening for people with compromised immune systems. Who has some of the most compromised immune systems? You do, my dear friend, as I am sure you have already been told many times before. Your body is already working against you as your cancer sets in, and then your immune system is completely compromised once you begin treatments. How unfair is that? In your daily battle, that is one of the most heartbreaking things we see every day.
But where is the science behind all of it? Cancer cells can sneak past your immune system and the white blood cells used to attack invaders in our bodies because they can look so similar to our normal healthy cells. It's almost like a game of hide and seek inside your body. Some cancer cells can even turn off part of your immune system once they attack, allowing the cancer cells to grow and multiply without being stopped. Cancer can also weaken your immune system if it travels and makes its way inside of your bone marrow. Inside your bone marrow is where your white blood cells are produced and cancer can shut down that production stripping your immune system of its power. But it's not just the disease itself that can lead to your immune system becoming weak, so can your treatments. These life-saving treatments that are needed to destroy the cancer cells can leave your body's immune system weak and not ready to fight. But they are still so important when it comes to saving your life.
Chemotherapy is the leading cause of damage to your immune system, but radiation and surgery can harm it as well. Chemotherapy is designed to kill rapid growth cells, which cancer is. But other rapidly growing cells are found in the most delicate parts of our body like in your bone marrow, blood, hair, and others. This will hurt the production of white blood cells, making your body more vulnerable to infection, sickness, and other issues.
During your cancer treatments and in the state of the world now, keeping your immune system as healthy as possible needs to become one of your top priorities. With that in mind, what can you do to keep yourself healthy and happy, while building up your immune system to whatever dangers are lurking out there? Follow these tips and suggestions to help you in your continued battle day in and day out!
You are fighting a battle inside your body and waging a war on the outside to keep yourself healthy and strong. Now more than ever it is so important to focus on keeping your immune system strong and to be as mindful as possible. It might be hard to not visit or see some of your family or friends to keep yourself healthy, avoiding public gatherings, and avoiding doing things you love doing. But, making these decisions could save your life and keep you healthy. Think smart and stay healthy, it will all be worth the trouble you are going through in the end.
One of the best things we can do as a support group is to tell your stories. You have so much to share with those walking and struggling along a similar path, and no story is stronger than one told by those who need to tell it.
Happy February friends, fellow survivors, and fellow fighters. This month is usually one that celebrates love with candy hearts, cards, and enough rom-com films to drive you crazy. Red, pink, and white everything cover every surface of every drug store, department store, and grocery store that you walk into. But we are no strangers to the color pink. It's not just a color of love and Hallmark Holidays. It's a color of strength, fortitude, determination, and power. It's the color of battle and the color of remembrance. Valentine's Day is just one day, but love is something that should be celebrated in all forms every day. Love is something that keeps us fighting and gives us a reason one way or the other to get up and out of bed and to keep moving. Leave the candy and the cards behind, and let love carry you through all day every day. Don't let one day get you down, let it buoy you in remembering that love and determination are always with you.
In celebration of that idea, we are so excited to open up a new chapter in our blogs. If you have been following us on Instagram and Facebook (which, if you haven't yet, you should!) then you are probably familiar with our posts dedicated to #SurvivorSunday, and asking you to share your survivor stories with us. These are your stories to tell, and no one can tell them better than you. Now that we have had some incredible individuals share their stories with us, we will be dedicating some of our blogs to these people and the stories they have to tell.
We are so very excited to share our very first survivor story with you, and this extraordinary woman might look very familiar. We are honored to share with you the story of Savanna James, who was recently crowned Miss Summerville and will be going on to compete in the Miss South Carolina Pageant later this summer. Her platform is "Breast Cancer Awareness and Prevention." How incredible is that? Her story is unique. It is a story about being a high-risk survivor. We are so proud to share her story because she represents more than half of our patient population. We excited to have her as an advocate for awareness and early detection. We are also very thrilled to announce that she will be apart of our team this summer, and will be a part of several upcoming events. Please keep your eyes and calendars open for that.
Without further ado, we turn this blog over to Savanna James, so she can tell you her story.
"Being 24, I genuinely believed that my "adult" life was just getting started. I had moved to Charleston and started working as Vice President of East West Gem Co. I grew up acting and doing pageants, and even though I knew breast cancer was heavy in my family, I didn't think anything could affect me this early. Unfortunately, this reality was shattered at my yearly OBGYN appointment. I was referred to the Breast Place immediately. After meeting with Dr. Beatty, I was advised that it would be in my best interest to have a double mastectomy. The decision to move forward was not easy, especially at my age, but it is one I am very thankful that I was able to make. I have watched several family members suffer and ultimately pass away from breast cancer. I chose to compete for Miss Summerville, sharing my story, because there are so many people who are unaware that they might be living in the shadow of cancer. It is my hope that others will hear my story and seek help, feeling comforted in knowing that they have options. I do not feel like any less of a woman for going through with the procedure. I honestly feel empowered that I was able to make a strong choice, one that could ultimately save my life. As Miss Summerville, and as Savanna, I hope that others hear my story and are influenced to be proactive, get checked yearly and to do self-checks. At 24, I stand with the 1 in 8.
Dr. Beatty and The Breast Place fully supported Savanna’s decision to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy. This decision is huge and personal. It should be thought out by each individual who may be facing it with education and research to understand the risks and benefits of undergoing a major surgery. A mastectomy can be life changing as it alters the appearance of the body you have known from birth and the decision to undergo one with or without reconstruction should not be taken lightly. Dr. Beatty encourages everyone in a similar position to research the pros and cons of surgery and understand that reconstructive surgery can be difficult but beautiful. Here at The Breast Place, we support our patients making decisions that are best for them as an individual as healthcare is not “one size fits all.
Breast cancer doesn't choose who it claims. A pageant queen, a mother, a doctor, a sister, a friend, it doesn't matter. What does matter is exactly what Savanna shares, and that is to be aware and stay on top of your health. Take control and take your yearly checkups and self check-ups seriously. At just 24, she made a powerful decision, that although scary, empowered her and gave her the power of taking a step in her battle against cancer. We hope that Savanna's story does give you hope to seek help and take comfort in the fact that there are always options available to you. We are very grateful that Savanna found comfort and help with us, and we hope that if you're looking for the same, you know that our doors are always open to you. Don't live in the "shadow of cancer", but come out into the sun.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us Savanna. We are so excited to see where your journey takes you, and to continue working with you in the future. We would also love to hear YOUR stories and to share your experience to comfort and inspire others. 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.
Remember, don't let Cupid's arrow get you down, and don't let it pop a hole in your sails. Love is something that we celebrate daily, and something we celebrate with you daily. Your journey is a daily struggle. It's hard, messy, scary, and frustrating. Remember that you have a place you are always welcome, and please know you are never alone.
Feeling alone, lost, and disconnected from the rest of the world are common feelings while dealing with your breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Feeling like this while raising a family will make it even harder. There are so many resources out there available for those going through the treatments and for those affected by it. Take advantage of them all, they're out there for a reason!
Being a mother with breast cancer is still a surprising topic. Even after the three blogs we've dedicated to the subject, you'll still find people balking at the idea. One of the hardest things is the fact that breast cancer diagnosis usually hit a family when life is already in full swing, and you're already overwhelmed with everything as it is. The treatment will automatically demand your attention when all you want to do as a mother is giving that attention to your children. The battle with giving time and fighting for both survival and your children's livelihood becomes a very tactile one. An exhausting one. A frustrating one. The idea that you have to face the reality of death a lot sooner than you could ever have imagined becomes a daily thought. Even if you do win your battle, recurrence tends to take over the worries in the back of your mind. The battle and worry will never truly be over. Even though you are fighting to beat this disease constantly, your first thought will always be that of your children.
As you fight your diagnosis every day, there are resources out there specifically designed and created to help your children cope. Similar to the resources we mentioned in our last blog, you might need to do some research about what you need and what your community offers. Help is out there, you just need to look for it and welcome it in with open arms.
For the Kids
Summer Camp might sound like the last thing you and your family want to do together or decide to send your children off to during your cancer treatment. But think about it this way - giving them another tool to deal with everything, continue to educate them during the whole process, and introducing them to kids their age going through exactly what they are, can be very empowering. That's exactly what these camps were designed to do. There are many free, low cost, and inexpensive options for summer camps that specialize in helping and connecting children who have been impacted by cancer diagnoses. Again, you just have to do a little research to find what is a good fit for your family. Check out these options below.
For more information visit their website below:
For more information, visit their website below:
Outside of these amazing opportunities to give to your children and yourself, there are still more resources available. Remember that feeling of being alone and lost? I hope these past two blogs have discouraged that feeling. Remember too that these are just the tip of the iceberg. There are more out there than you might realize.
We have talked about what you can do for yourself to make this process as a mother just a little easier on you and your family. Sometimes you need a helping hand, and that's okay. You're fighting a hard enough battle as it is, take advantage of what's out there for you. Please note that there are resources out there like:
We are here to support and guide you, but it is your choice to make this difficult time hurt a little bit less. Step up to the challenge and be willing to say "yes" to these options and more. If you ask for it, the help will come. For even more resources and information, please follow the links below. We will see you next time. Until then, be brave, keep fighting, and know you are not alone.
In this blog, we are going to be discussing the many resources out there for mothers and families dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis. As we move into this new year and you recognize that you might need more help, let go of any embarrassment or shame attached to it. These resources are here for a reason, we urge you to take advantage of them!
Welcome to 2020, friends. We are glad to be here with you, and we are glad that you are reading this blog today. We hope that at this time you are finding solace in your loved ones, fighting hard in your battle, or learning every day from your recovery. In this blog, we are going to be continuing our discussion on how to deal with a breast cancer diagnosis as a mother. We mentioned in our last blog that at times it seems impossible to be a parent and deal with a cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery all at the same time. It might feel that way, but we stress that it's not impossible. One of the first steps you have to take is to throw out any idea of doing it perfectly or like anyone else. You are figuring out a plan that is tailored to your family and your treatment. Just like life and parenthood, this process will be a little messy, hectic, planned by the seat of your pants, and filled with love and dedication.
We focused a lot on surrounding yourself with your tribe in our last blog, the strength to say "no" when you need to and to learn to ask for help when you need it. This blog is going to be about the outside resources that can help you and your family and giving you a break on a lot of things out of your control during diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Choosing to use these resources does take an act of commitment and being confident in using them. There is nothing wrong with utilizing any of them, and no ounce of shame or embarrassment should be placed on you by anyone or yourself if you choose to use these resources. If there is anyone who is giving you a hard time (including yourself!) it might be time to remove those negative people and those negative thoughts out of your life.
There are so many resources out there for you, and what we will be sharing is just the tip of the iceberg. If you require anything during your treatment, there is someone out there who can offer that help to you. Even though this is just a partial list, we are splitting this blog into two parts as not to overwhelm our readers and so you can take in this information as best you can!
Let's start with cleaning. After a particularly long journey of treatment, or even just one very difficult round of chemo, keeping house may be the last thing you want to do or have the energy for. It might be difficult to have a stranger come into your home to clean up. But it can be a huge help and weight off your shoulders during treatment and recovery. Your family will continue to throw toys, dirty laundry, dishes, and clutter around your home, even at the height of your health that can be annoying and exhausting. Let someone else come in and help you deal with that. Plus, a clean and organized home is proven to be relaxing, calming, and guaranteed to provide peace of mind. There are many ways to hire someone or a service to clean your home. If you're in any kind of financial need or want to take advantage of any incredible services available to you, they are out there.
This is where companies like Cleaning For A Reason comes into the picture. They are a nonprofit organization that partners with over 1200 maid services across the country to provide free home cleaning to cancer patients. Their services are open to anyone actively having cancer treatments. It is a highly sought after service, and sadly not every location has partnered with maid services that are connected to this company. But if you can get connected with them, you are eligible for two free cleanings once a month.
For more information, visit their website below:
Next, let's talk about dinner. Grocery shopping, prepping, and making three meals a day for your family 365 days a year is a lot for anyone. This shouldn't be an added stress during your treatment, and with all the resources out there, it doesn't have to be. If you need a service to do your grocery shopping and have them delivered, plenty of grocery stores offer that option. You can also have them delivered through Amazon and Google, along with a plethora of other apps like Shipt, Instacart, Peapod, Fresh Direct, and more! You can also get already prepared meals delivered to your home that you have to assemble or warm up and enjoy. Companies like Blue Apron, Home Chef, Hello Fresh, and Freshly are just a click away if you are looking for something like that.
There are also numerous and wonderful companies and foundations out there who deliver home-cooked healthy meals for free for families dealing with cancer diagnosis and treatment. We recommend looking locally for these resources, as most of them are not nationally based. Start looking at local churches, Meals on Wheels, and other similar foundations. But to start, check out the resources below.
We hope this helped open up your mind to some of the amazing resources out there available to you. They might be the hardest to say "yes" to since they interfere and intervene on some of the most basic and personal household duties. But these are also some of the most important duties that affect both you and your children. Keep that in mind when deciding if they are the right choice for you or not.
In our next blog, we will be discussing some of the resources available specifically for your children during your diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Keep in mind that there are a lot of resources just for them, so please take comfort in that. Until next time stay positive, fight hard, and remember that you are not alone.