While Breast Cancer is something that all of our warriors experience and fight for every day, October is an opportunity to spread this awareness on an even high level and open the world's eyes to what this disease really is.
Hello, warriors! Welcome back to the blog and welcome back to part two of our blog discussing what breast cancer awareness means to us. While we are rapidly approaching the end of October and the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we hope you know how incredibly proud we are of each of you. We know this year's difficult situation has prevented us from doing what we all normally like to do to spread awareness, raise money, and gather with our fellow fighters, supporters, and warriors. 2020 can't cancel our hope, our fight, our journey, or the color pink. We all continue to stand in solidarity together, continue to fight together, and support one another. We know this year might be weighing heavy on you and your family, but please believe us when we say that we understand and we are with you. Please continue on your journey, continue with your fight, and continue using your story to prepare and educate others. Your fight can be a light in the darkness for others and for the rest of 2020 and beyond. Have you been feeling at a loss this month, that you haven't found your voice in this battle, that you're not giving back enough or doing enough? Don't be discouraged. Your voice and everything you're doing every day speaks volumes. To help give our own bit of help and support for the rest of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and beyond, we wanted to create a blog on how to make everyday Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Your voice, your journey, and how you choose to handle and battle your diagnosis is a testament in itself. Even if you aren't particularly vocal or you don't share your experience in a blog or through social media, that doesn't mean your journey doesn't impact others. When you go in for your treatments, consider the people sitting around you. This could be their very first or very last treatment. A kind smile, sharing your experiences with them, or just being a positive presence within this little snapshot of time can cause a ripple effect to those battling around you. How youR battle progresses also doesn't go unnoticed by your doctor or nurses. They find comfort, inspiration, and drive from how hard you fight and in the relationship you build together.
Your journey and battle can bring you closer to your loved ones than ever before and can create a bond that you never expected. How you live in your survivorship and how you share your experiences with a new friend or coworker leaves an impression too. Don't think you have to shout from the rooftops and put yourself in the spotlight if you don't want to. Every step of your journey affects someone. If you want to be public about your experience, that is a welcomed expression too. Writing a blog, documenting your experiences on Facebook or Instagram, being a mentor to someone recently diagnosed, participating in group meetings, and more can also help others and raise awareness. No matter how you chose to share and express your experience, both are just as important and beneficial as the other.
There are many steps you and your loved ones can take to promote awareness throughout the entire year, here are some tips and suggestions to make that possible.
We know that your voice is important. Each of your individual stories is worth telling, saving, and sharing. We know that awareness and what we need to cure breast cancer isn't at the level that it deserves and what it should be. Every day we are fighting to make your voices louder, the cure closer, and helping to educate the world about this horrible disease. While so much of the world just sees Breast Cancer Awareness Month as pink ribbons and fundraisers, we see your stories, your pain, your frustrations, and all that you go through every day. Let us stand together to make Breast Cancer Awareness month more than just a month, and finally beat this disease once and for all.
Every day is breast cancer awareness month, but October is when we all turn pink. During this month, we celebrate those who have fought, those who have lost, and those who stand beside us. One day at a time, we are trying to save as many lives as possible!
Hello, warriors! As you know, October has dawned and brought in Breast Cancer Awareness month. We know this is a daily fight and battle for you and your loved ones, but October brings your reality into the light of the rest of the world. You finally get the attention you deserve, and you really get to share the truth about breast cancer and how truly devastating it is right in front of the eyes of the public. We wish breast cancer, the need for a cure, and the battle you all fight could get this kind of attention every day and every month. Since we only have one month, we are going to make the most of it. It's time to educate, spread the world, and share your truth. Remember that we see you, we support you, we hear you, and we will be here for you every step of your battle!
According to the Susan G. Komen foundation, every two minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, 115 lives are lost to metastatic breast cancer every day, and 2 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. What's even more shocking than those numbers is the fact that each of these statistics is still a surprise to millions of people every day. It's still a shock that it is more common to be diagnosed with cancer before you turn 40 than most people realize, and it is still possible to be diagnosed with cancer during your pregnancy. While these are all topics we have touched on many times in our blogs, across our social media, and as much as we possibly can in our offices, it's still not enough. That is why we must continue to raise awareness every day.
This is the perfect time to use your voice and your story to educate others in realizing their chances of getting breast cancer and what signs they need to be looking for. Use your survivorship to spread the word about early education and to promote self-breast exams from a young age. While this is a battle that you wage every day, when October rolls around, it's time to turn that fight in a new direction. The world needs to hear your stories and your truth, and you deserve to be heard. October goes beyond wearing pink. We are finally getting the opportunity to fight publicly and with the public's attention. To all of our warriors, we are so sorry that you don't get this kind of support and attention every day, and every month, you deserve it. Your fight and the struggles your family goes through every day deserves to be more than a trending hashtag for 31 days that casually gets overlooked by Halloween. Let us join together to change this and continue to spread information out into the world together, and to finally cure this horrible and devastating disease!
While we are standing strong together spreading awareness and teaching about the importance of early detection, what else can we do this month and beyond to make the most out of breast cancer awareness month, outside of wearing our pink tags? Obviously, because of the current pandemic, this year might look a little different. We might not be able to gather like we have been used to. We might not be able to cheer each other on or walk for our loved ones in person or in big crowds, but that doesn't mean you can't make the most of this month and still support the future of the breast cancer cure. We have been doing our research and listening to all of you on how we can continue to support one another. One of the first resources we stumbled upon was Breast Cancer Now. This incredible foundation, set in the UK, will give you an incredible outside look at what the world is doing to help all of us achieve our common goal of curing breast cancer. They have an incredible social media presence and an incredible website. In years past, we might not have been able to attend some of their events, but the silver lining is that thanks to the wonders of the internet and needing to stay home for our safety - we can join together and be a stronger community than ever before. Make sure to visit their website by following the link below!
They also have two very important and inspiring ways of getting involved in your community that were so inspiring to us that we had to share. These fantastic ideas are all things that you can do right now here in the US and that will both be a wonderful addition to our fight this month and beyond. These events are all inspired by their "press play" platform, and we just think it's outstanding. So let's sit back and press play together!
Have you been feeling like you're not giving back enough, doing enough, or that you haven't found the right voice of action for your personal path? That's okay! This month we are going to continue to share more ideas on how all of our warriors and their loved ones can give back, keep fighting, and how to bring awareness into everyday life - and not just in October! Be well out there, we know that you're fighting hard. You are not alone in this, and you never will be!
Early detection is extremely important. During your self-breast exams, you might find a lump or mass that may or may not be cancer. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Hello warriors! We hope this blog finds you happy and well. We've talked about the importance of early detection in almost every blog, eblast, and social media post we've ever made. We can't stress enough just how important they are. With our last few blogs discussing the realities of breast cancer appearing in younger generations more often than many people realize, self-exams continue to become more and more important. When you're young, your breast tissue is denser and harder to penetrate and locate anything out of the ordinary in a mammogram. This makes your self-exams so important. You know when something doesn't feel right on your body or has seemed to appear overnight, and you will know and notice better than anyone else. Bringing these changes to your doctor's attention is crucial, but sometimes these aren't always lumps that are connected to cancer. It is so easy to get wrapped up and scared, constantly asking yourself "is this cancer, or is this something else?". This is why it is so important to understand what the different lumps and masses are that could appear inside and around your breast.
First of all, you need to know a little bit more about the breast tissue and the breast itself. The breast tissue is made up of adipose (fat) tissue, lobules, and ducts. There is a chain of lymph nodes known as the intramammary lymph nodes that run within the breast tissue as well. There are many benign masses like cysts, fibroadenomas, abscesses, and fat necrosis that occurs in the breast. Some should be removed by a breast surgeon and some are fine to let be as long as they don't grow or become painful - always make that decision with a trained surgeon. The density of your breast tissue can also affect how these lumps are to be felt or palpitated. As you age, your breast tissue becomes replaced with fatty tissue that is not as dense, making visualizing these abnormalities on mammograms easier. Some benign masses can increase your risk for breast cancer so even though they are benign, it;s important to notify your provider of any changes. When in doubt, get it checked out!
[Breast cancer lumps]
Let's start with the more dangerous lumps and bumps on this list before we talk about the more benign things you might be feeling. According to Stony Brook Cancer Center, most of the breast lumps you'll be feeling will be benign, won't be cancerous, and most won't have to be removed. If they are, this won't affect the breast's natural function.
The early signs of breast cancer are different for every woman. According to the Susan G. Komen foundation, the most common warning signs of cancer in its earliest stages are nipple discharge, a change in how your nipple looks or feels, or a change in how your breast looks or feels. If you have these symptoms, please notify your doctor.
Breasts themselves have a lumpy texture. Not every unique lump that you feel is a tumor or lump that needs attention, but a part of your natural breast makeup. The lumps that should catch your attention are those that feel different from the rest of your breast tissue, ones that feel hard, and ones that have suddenly appeared.
According to Stony Brook Cancer Center, these lumps or thickenings will appear most often in the top part of the outer breast and into the armpit. The tissue is thicker there than anywhere else on your breast. According to VeryWellHealth, some other warning signs include these hard bumps not moving during your self-examination and that your breast might feel like it has a very pebbly surface. There are a few precancerous lumps that also need strict attention and should be removed right away.
[Benign lumps and masses]
There are many different types of benign masses that you might come across in your lifetime. As we've mentioned, many of them are not dangerous and you might not have to have them removed at all. You should still be aware of what you're feeling.
Knowing your breasts and the lumps and bumps inside them are very important. Being educated on what you're feeling can calm your fears and worries, and help you to action rather than panic. If you have any questions or concerns, never hesitate to reach out. We would rather look and find something benign than being kept in the dark about something serious.
Did you know we will donate $1 for every unit of Botox administered to breast cancer patients and research? We are partnering with various organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Hope Lodge and *soon* Share Our Suzy Lowcountry to give back to the breast cancer community. Be well out there, we know that you're fighting hard. You are not alone in this, and you never will be!
Being diagnosed with breast cancer at any age is difficult. Being diagnosed with breast cancer during your pregnancy can make that difficultly paramount. In this blog, we will be discussing pregnant associated breast cancer and its realities.
We hope that if you've been reading our blog consistently, or have stumbled upon it recently, that there are few things we always want our readers to walk away with; that early detection is key, no one determines how you fight your battle, and to eliminate the stigma that breast cancer only appears later in life. While it is more common to be diagnosed with breast cancer after menopause, we hope that you've seen in our blogs that it is more common than you'd think to be diagnosed at a much younger age. Even more eye-opening, you can be diagnosed during your pregnancy. Just like any condition, there are plenty of rumors and myths floating around the internet. One that we've debunked before is that pregnancy and breastfeeding can cause cancer. While the two are not related, it is still possible to be diagnosed with breast cancer during your pregnancy.
Being diagnosed with breast cancer at this point in your life can come with a huge mix of emotions, ranging from joy of expecting your first child to the fear and panic of what could happen next. Please know you are not alone, and that there are many positive options to keep both you and your baby safe and healthy. Never hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns, and know we are always here for you!
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.
Life after treatment looks different for everyone, but what could it look like for you?
Healing, as we mentioned in our last blog, comes in may waves. Survivorship becomes a way of life, and it looks a little different for everyone. It's a daily battle to deal with but you are strong enough, wise enough, and worthy enough to live with it and through it. You are allowed to claim how you want to live your life. We do offer several services to help your survivorship feel a little easier. After life-changing events, we offer total wellness through IV therapy to help with energy, laser scar revision following surgery, skin resurfacing and rejuvenation using the latest laser technology, dermal fillers for fine lines and wrinkles, body contouring to address unwanted areas of fat with noninvasive treatment, and more. We are here for you in many ways, please never hesitate to reach out.
What else can survivorship look like? For some, it begins when you've finished treatment, and there are no signs of cancer left. For others, it begins with their diagnosis and continues through a long term treatment that helps manage their illness or helps reduce the risk of it returning. It is a different process, because how you physically and mentally respond is not the same for everyone, and that's ok. Here are some tips and suggestions on how to handle what you might be feeling and going through to provide some peace and guidance.
It is common for the first year after your treatment has finished to be the hardest of all the years to follow. Take these tips to heart, and know we're here to help you through your whole survivorship journey. If you are interested in any of our services, please contact us at your earliest convenience and visit our website to request a consultation. We are here when you need us. Your survivorship is as unique as you are, and that is ok. We can embrace it together and give you the best quality of life as possible. 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!
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