Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New Endeavor: It Works Product Introductions

Ever since I was terminated from my job, we've been struggling financially. A friend of I mine read of our financial problems and suggested I sell It Works products like she does. Well, I took the plunge. I'm hoping perhaps some of my readers will too.

I tried the crazy wrap thing for myself. Literally overnight I noticed improvement of my trouble spots - 'wings' left over from my reconstruction surgery. Amazing! The only way to get rid of these 'wings', I thought, was to have more surgery (revision plastic surgery). For a cosmetic problem, I wasn't willing to spend the money or pain. Now with these crazy wraps, I don't have to worry about further surgery. 

There are many different products - not just wraps. All the products are herbal based without complex named chemicals. On my webpage through It Works, you can access each product's ingredients list, how much is in each serving and how much/if it is part of your Daily Value. Pricing depends on your commitment to purchasing. If you're willing to commit to 3 consecutive months of product (each month can be a different product), then you are a Loyal Customer (LC) and get heavy discounts. Retail customers don't get the same discounts but still get the same products. If you sign up to become a Distributor you get free products that you can use yourself, give away, or sell. Additionally, you make commissions off of the products your LCs and retail customers buy. When you get other Distributors signed up, you earn commissions off of their commissions and some really great monetary rewards. The success stories of this company are phenomenal. I'm hoping to be one of them!

Ultimate Body Applicator (4 applications LC $59; retail $99)
Defining Gel Body Contouring Gel (LC $45; retail $75)
Fab Wrap (82 feet LC/retail $7)

I've also been drinking Greens. In each serving is 8 servings of fruits/veggies, the antioxidant effect of 20 cartons of blueberries, probiotics, and pH balancing goodness. Each serving is also an energy boost without any harmful caffeine or other chemical energizers. There are two flavors available: orange and berry. There are several different options for Greens: 
30 serving jar (LC $33; retail $55), 
90 serving jar (LC $79; retail $139), 
30 single serving on-the-go packets (LC $35; retail $59), and 
60 Chews (LC $30; retail $50). 

There are several skincare products as well. The Lip and Eye Moisturizing Cream Gel (LC $29; retail $49) in my next order. This product smooths skin tone and lessens the look of wrinkles, bags, and puffiness. One thing I struggle with is my constant dark circles under my eyes. It's genetics combined with allergies, and not helped my erratic sleep cycles. I have high hopes for this cream.

There other products I haven't tried or investigated yet, but sound wonderful. 
Facial: Deep Hydration Mask (4 applications LC $59; retail $99)
Cleanser: Facial Cleanser Gel (LC $33; retail $55)
Toner: pH Balancing Mist (LC $33; retail $55)
Stretch Mark: Moisturizing Body Cream (LC $39; retail $65)
Hair Skin and Nails: Nourishing Complex (60 tablets LC $33; retail $55)
Preventage: Day Cream Gel (LC $25; retail $45)
Repairage: Night Cream Gel (LC $29; retail $49)

There are many different tablets available for weight loss, colon health, revitalizing, healthy joints, anti stress, multivitamin, bone health, essential fatty acids, nutrition, weight loss energy, and even a menopausal support. 
Advanced Fat Fighter with Carb Inhibitors (60 tablets LC $23; retail $39)
Ultimate Thermofit: Thermogenic Weight Loss Formula (60 tablets LC $39; retail $65)
Regular: Support for Colon Health (60 capsules LC $27; retail $45)
It's Vital Core Nutrition: Cutting Edge Multivitamin (90 tablets LC $29; retail $49)
New You: Body Revitalizing Formula (90 tablets LC $49; retail $89)
Relief: Support for Healthy Joint Function (60 tablets LC $29; retail $49)
Confianza: Anti-Stress Formula (60 tablets LC $25; retail $45)
It's Vital Minerals: Support for Bone Health (60 tablets LC $23; retail $39)
It's Vital Omega-3: Essential Fatty Acids (30 soft-gel capsules LC $23; retail $39)
Ultimate Profit: Advanced Superfood Nutrition (vanilla or chocolate powder LC $69; retail $115)
It's Essential: Weight Loss Energy Bar (dark chocolate berry flavor LC $25; retail $45)
Estrorhythm: Support for Menopausal Symptoms (30-day supply LC $79; retail $139)

We all know that sometimes things are meant to be used in conjunction with other things. Well, these packs put various products together in a way that maximizes effectiveness. 

It's Vital Complete Nutrition Pack: Core Nutrition, Minerals, and Omega-3s (30 packets LC $60; retail $115)
Wrap Pack: 4 Ultimate Body Applicators and mini Defining Gel (LC $69; retail $115)
Skinny Pack: 4 Ultimate Body Applicators, Defining Gel, and Advanced Formula Fat Fighter (LC $112; retail $189)
It Pack: 4 Ultimate Body Applicators, Defining Gel, Facial, Lip and Eye, and Greens on the Go (LC $179; retail $299)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Another Life-Affirming Cancer While Pregnant Story

I am always happy when there is another article discussing cancer while pregnant and that abortion is not an option. When I was diagnosed in 2009, I'd never heard of any one having cancer while pregnant. If I'd strained my brain, I probably could have speculated that it happened, but it was not something on the my radar. I think that's true of most people -- cancer happens and women get pregnant, but those are separate entities. So any awareness of cancer while pregnant is good. Awareness of treatment choices for cancer while pregnant being better than abortion is excellent

Awareness does not always lead to the broadcast of correct medical information about all the viable options - surgery, chemotherapy, or surveillance until the natural end of pregnancy. Many articles give hero status to women who refuse any treatment (including abortion) during pregnancy. It is obviously an excellent decision to continue the pregnancy despite a cancer diagnosis. However, the awareness of chemotherapy's safety while pregnant suffers when pregnant women are quoted as refusing chemotherapy due to its 'risk' to the baby. Obviously, these women are brave for continuing the pregnancy and they are also brave for making the decision to wait until after their baby's birth to begin treatment. I have no issue with women who choose this option. It is equally brave and heroic to continue the pregnancy while choosing to receive chemotherapy. My issue stems from the implied or blatant dismissal of this latter choice. 

Statements like, 

"chemo is safe during pregnancy but “any time you place chemicals into your body you are placing your child at risk and even possible miscarriage.”" (From this article: http://www.lifenews.com/2014/07/18/mother-pregnant-with-her-10th-child-refuses-cancer-treatment-and-abortion/ )
                         are misleading at best and derogatory at worst. Many people will completely miss the admission that chemotherapy is safe during pregnancy due to the wording of the rest of the statement. These people will only remember that this woman was a brave hero for refusing to 'risk' her baby's life to save her own. They'll take her opinion* that chemicals (chemotherapy) increase the risk of miscarriage and other harm to heart. This particular woman had surgery while pregnant -- most likely with chemicals (sedatives and anesthetics) given during the operation -- apparently without problem or risk of her child. Little or no thought will be given to the actual medical facts of chemotherapy while pregnant. That lack of thought can be dangerous and discouraging for women who choose chemotherapy while pregnant based on their doctor's advice and their situation. 

Every pregnancy is most vulnerable during the first trimester. Women have a higher risk of miscarriage in the first trimester. Once the second trimester begins, the miscarriage risk decreases significantly and continues to decrease as pregnancy progresses. The risk of birth defects is also most significant in the first trimester. Most of the vital forming of the baby happens in the first trimester - differentiating a single cell into various organs and putting all body parts in the right anatomical place. Various chemicals, whether in abundance (alcohol) or not enough (folic acid), can create life-long errors in formation during this trimester.  For that reason, to my knowledge, chemotherapy will only be initiated after the vulnerable first trimester of pregnancy. 

I was pretty high risk for miscarriage without addition problems (I miscarried 4 times prior to my last pregnancy), but when I was given the option of chemotherapy while pregnant, I was reassured that doing so would not increase my risk. Both my Oncologist and the Maternal-Fetal OB were asked a bazillion questions about that aspect intentionally. An increased likelihood of early contractions were one of the biggest 'risks' associated with chemotherapy during pregnancy according to the Maternal-Fetal OB that I saw in Houston, TX. She actually didn't bring it up until I told her I'd been noticing contractions ever since my diagnosis. However, she again assured me that a) any time you stress a pregnant woman she's likely to have contractions and b) those contractions are rarely 'productive' and therefore not a true risk to the baby. All other risks during chemotherapy pregnancy were similar whether chemotherapy was used or not. My increased risk of miscarriage remained whether I had chemotherapy or not.

I ran into people online and in real life that told me I made a selfish decision to have chemo while I was pregnant based on this thought. It made my reality even more difficult as people questioned my respect and love for my unborn baby. In fact, at one point I had (a few) someone(s) baldly tell me that my decision was *not* pro-life or even Catholic based on their perceived risk(s) posed to the unborn child during chemotherapy. To them, it did not matter that I had an oncologist who specialized in pregnant patients receiving chemotherapy. Her reassurances and research in this area was dismissed based on their ignorance and perception of what was 'healthy' for me and my unborn child. My referral to a Maternal-Fetal OB specialist and her advice was also dismissed. Constant monitoring, measuring, and visualizations ordered by this specialist amounted to nothing in the eyes of my detractors. Life-long respect for life, adherence to the teachings of the Catholic Church, and my own bio-medical education meant nothing to these detractors as they were obviously more pro-life and Catholic than I. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that while I knew I'd made the best decision for me and my baby, these words of detraction resulted in increased fear, stress, doubts, depression, and anxiety. These derogatory words were probably more detrimental to my pregnancy than the actual chemotherapy was. 

I'm all for awareness of cancer while pregnant and chemotherapy while pregnant. While I hate that women face such struggles, I'm always happy to read an article giving the true life-affirming options of continuing the pregnancy with or without chemotherapy. Such articles will hopefully educate people about this devastating situation and give these women hope for their baby's and their own lives. However, I am saddened when opting for chemotherapy while pregnant is indirectly implied to be as bad a choice as abortion. Nothing could be further from the truth. While everyone is entitled to their opinions, it is crucial that medical realities aren't supplanted by emotional opinions. A devastating cancer diagnosis while pregnant is difficult and stressful enough without adding further confusion to the matter based on erroneous opinions. Let everyone know that a diagnosis of cancer while pregnant isn't a death sentence to either the woman or her child - both can live through chemotherapy, surgery, or the natural end of pregnancy. 

Moral of the story: Abortion is *never* in the baby's best interest. Cancer during pregnancy can be survived by both. Viable options include chemotherapy, surgery, and surveillance until the natural end of pregnancy. Mother and baby can survive and thrive despite a cancer diagnosis regardless of which of these treatment options is chosen. 

*I am in no means trying to denigrate this woman for her opinion or choice. Nor am I trying to lay guilt on her doorstep for her choice or opinion. She is a brave and heroic woman for resisting the oft-repeated option of aborting her child. I give her great kudos for that decision alone. I also give her and her family my prayers as they continue through this struggle. She has as my full sympathy and support during this time of difficulty. May God bless her and keep her healthy. 

Medical and Media References to Chemotherapy During Pregnancy

http://breastcancer.theoncologist.com/article/case-control-study-women-treated-chemotherapy-breast-cancer-during-pregnancy-compared - I'm more than likely included in the number of pregnant women treated with chemotherapy in this journal article by my Breast Oncologist, JK Litton. This one also shows that there is improved outcomes in pregnant patients verses non-pregnant patients.

http://www2.mdanderson.org/depts/oncolog/articles/11/10-oct/10-11-1.html - My Breast Oncologist at MD Anderson is in this one too.

http://connection.asco.org/magazine/article/id/2857/active-cancer-treatment-during-pregnancytwo-perspectives-on-timing-and-drug-choice.aspx - Another article by my Breast Oncologist. The second half of the 'debate' on this page, to me, displays someone desperate to find an excuse to worry. Note the large number of references used by my Breast Oncologist verses the solitary reference used by her 'opponent'. 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2753540/ - Another article by my Breast Oncologist in full text presentation.

http://www.mdanderson.org/transcripts/Breast_Cancer_and_Pregnancy_Transcript.html - Another interview with my Breast Oncologist. This is a terrible transcript with numerous typos, but the gist is the same as the others.

http://www.news-medical.net/news/20120822/Chemotherapy-during-pregnancy-an-interview-with-Professor-Sibylle-Loibl.aspx - The doctor interviewed here said that she hopes no more "unnecessary terminations" are carried out on pregnant women with cancer. 

http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/05/16/pregnant.with.cancer/index.html - Another one with my Breast Oncologist in it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Miracle Journey: Bald, Pregnant, and Living

Click this photo, my hand-drawn logo, to see more of my story.
“You have breast cancer,” the surgeon deadpanned. I glanced at my husband and then my mom, and waited for the punch-line. It never came — the doctor was deadly serious. He had just performed a biopsy (that amounted to a lumpectomy) with me wide awake and all-too-aware of the hole dug into my left arm-pit/breast area to remove the 2.5 cm tumor. The lack of anesthetic was due to my other condition: I was 20 weeks pregnant with my 6th, but only 2nd live, child (the other 4 pregnancies ended at various stages as miscarriages). I was only 28 years old — 20 years younger than my mother at her diagnosis (October of 2005) -- on that July 7th of 2009.

The shock

The surgeon who performed my biopsy/lumpectomy looked so bleak. He did not have any real options to give me. His lack of options was only repeated by the local oncologist, my ob/gyn, and my internist. The options shown to me and implied by these members of the medical profession were twofold: try to live myself by aborting my child OR risk dying from the cancer by allowing my child to live. My ob/gyn and internist knew me well enough to know that the first option wasn’t really an option at all. So we set out to find an alternative.
I was shocked and dismayed (that’s an ENORMOUS understatement) at my local doctors options, so I turned to the WWW. I searched the Susan G. Komen site*. I searched the American Cancer Society site*. I did meta-searches. Almost all gave me the same options: abort my little girl then seek treatment or let my little girl live and possibly die myself. That was UNACCEPTABLE and ABHORENT to me.

The port in a storm

Luckily, my mother had been to MD Anderson in Houston, TX for her breast cancer in 2005. She had my doctor send a referral request down there. Less than 10 days after my diagnosis (6 days after ultrasound confirmed that my unborn child was a girl), I was in Houston meeting Dr. L, a breast oncologist at MD Anderson. I was a trifecta for her — her specialities are 1) Young women with breast cancer (check), 2) BRCA1 mutations (check), and (most importantly) 3) Breast cancer treatment of pregnant women (check). I had tests performed during that week in TX that would have taken MONTHS to schedule locally. I had more expert opinions than I knew were possible! Most of all I had HOPE!!

The plan

As I returned home, I was still frightened, but at least I had a plan. What a plan it was! It began with chemotherapy while maintaining my pregnancy. My first dose found me in the hospital for 3 days just as a precaution. Three times following that I carried a small pump with chemotherapy in it with me for 3 days. Chemotherapy was discontinued after 4 rounds to let me build up for the climax - the delivery of Rachel Eleonore on Thanksgiving Day (her daddy’s birthday as well as her exact due date). A little more than a month later, I began 4 rounds of a different combination of chemotherapy drugs. Rachel was not even 3 months old before I had the first of my surgeries - a modified radical mastectomy with immediate expander implant reconstruction. At that point, I was cancer-free and Rachel was alive and growing quickly.

The deepest cuts

A little more than a year following my diagnosis I had a bilateral salping-oophorectomy (tubes and ovaries removed). However, that surgery threw a huge monkey wrench into my life due to excessive blood loss during surgery and an abscess removed a month after surgery along with my uterus. My implant exchange surgery happened almost exactly a year after my mastectomy. Yet, due to constant pain I had to have yet another reconstructive surgery this time using my belly fat to form breasts, called DIEP reconstruction surgery. After a long struggle, even this last reconstruction was unable to eliminate the almost constant pain. The cause of my pain was diagnosed to be Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Physical therapy and body awareness usually alleviates the problem, but not for me. I went under the knife again to have my left first rib removed to give my nerves and blood vessels more room to move. All told, I had 8 surgeries including my biopsy for diagnosis and installation of my port for chemotherapy.

The survival

I have made it thus far carried by the prayers of family, friends, and even complete strangers around the world. This has been my chance to shoulder my cross and lead the way through a trial. To date, both my children have been in the local Walk for Life every year of their lives, including in the womb. I was a spectacle in September of 2009 when I walked bald and very pregnant (I was due in November) to the half-way point. In a way, I thank God for the opportunity, although at other times I ask God why He thinks I’m strong enough. Yet, through His grace, I am here and I stand strong with my wonderful daughter (and her older brother and their father) to be a vivid example of respecting life. There have been many bumps in the road, but I have NEVER once regretted the decision to keep my precious baby girl who will be turning 5 in November of 2014. Her survival was not a surprise, but a blessing.

The statistics

Sadly, I am no longer capable of bringing more children into this world. As a precautionary action, I had my ovaries and uterus removed since BRCA1 increases the risk of ovarian cancer by approximately 40-60%. In my mind, given my young age at breast cancer diagnosis, a young age of ovarian cancer was probably in my future. In addition, my maternal grandmother suffered alternating bouts with breast, then ovarian, then breast again for the last 5 years of her life. However, my inability to carry children in my womb has strengthened my resolve to help other women know that they can. I am a vocal advocate of the pro-life movement. 
I am also very vocal about the details of my story. Statistics tell us that 1 in 3000 – 3500 women diagnosed with breast cancer will be pregnant. To me, that means that the more I spread the word that women and their baby can live through the cancer, the more lives will be saved. I have recently personally heard about a woman who had brain tumors that received chemo and radiation while pregnant, again with no effect on the child.

The moral

To me, the moral of my story is that being pro-life is not a death sentence for a pregnant woman or her unborn child with a horrible disease like cancer. It is entirely possible to overcome numerous diseases and have a happy healthy baby in the process. Many cite “life of the mother” as a reason for abortion. Well, I’m here to say that many of the times “life of the mother” is cited, abortion is not in the woman’s best interest. As a matter of fact research has shown that pregnant women with cancer who keep their baby have a BETTER survival rate than their counterparts who abort. That is scientific fact that should be proclaimed from the housetops. Regardless, abortion is definitely not EVER in the baby’s best interest!

Pro-Life Lady Ribbon
You can also read about the development of the Lady Ribbon, a pro-life, pro-woman, breast cancer awareness symbol.

My Chemo-Jane hair-style

My Chemo-Jane hair-style
I just had to have my mom buzz my hair because it was falling out so badly.

Pre-op wearing my hand-crocheted cap with my prayer shawl.

Pre-op wearing my hand-crocheted cap with my prayer shawl.
My loving husband is watching me distract myself with a game on his iPhone.

2 days after my BMX w/ 100ccs in the TEs

2 days after my BMX w/ 100ccs in the TEs
I even have a fashionable belt to hold up my drains.

3 weeks post-op w/ 400ccs in each TE

3 weeks post-op w/ 400ccs in each TE
The smile is fake because the TEs were irritating!