Monday, November 24, 2014

Here I Sit

Here I am, a 5 year survivor. Outwardly, I look as healthy as the proverbial horse. Inwardly, I wish I were healthy enough to go outside to work like a horse or even to play with a horse. Instead, I'm trapped inside bearing my cross that breast cancer left me... inexpiable, unpredictable, insurmountable bouts of pain shooting through my left arm and neck extending into my head and chest. Sleeping becomes my only refuge, but even it is tainted by the pain and must be supplemented with medications and ice packs. At least my Faith gives me the option of offering up my pain for the poor souls in purgatory and for those here on Earth in need of prayers. Otherwise, my pain would serve no purpose.

Perhaps that is why people turn towards "options" like the Hemlock Society as recently departed brain cancer/suicide Brittany. If you have no reason to believe your pain adds anything to your life or anyone else's life, whether here on Earth or in the next Life, then why would you prolong your suffering? Yet, anyone who reads and believes the Bible and Jesus' words should know and find comfort in affliction. St Paul took comfort in his affliction. In fact, there are some stories indicating that some early Christians ran almost too willingly to martyrdom in their efforts to take up their crosses and follow Christ to death (I can't find the source where I read that, sorry).

However, even if without a belief in the redemptive nature of suffering, there is always good left in life. Even Stephen Hawking, according to the recent movie about his life, The Theory of Everything, says "Where there's life, there's hope." Hawking is an ardent atheist and supporter of "assisted suicide" -- even though he could easily have been euthanized (had his life support removed) by his first wife 28 years ago according to the laws at the time and the ones he still supports. However, the quotation from the movie (that I've only seen via the trailers on TV) is an apt one for this type of discussion. Life is hope. Without life there is no hope. With my Catholic Faith, I know that with my Life, even as much as I dislike it sometimes, there is a purpose for the bad that benefits others or even myself. Therefore, even a miserable life has hope both in this world and in the next.

So, there, I turned my pity party into a pep-talk. How about that? Now for some random cuteness from my kiddos. They obviously have both Life and Hope in abundance!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

10 Things You Can Do for Breast Cancer Victims/Survivors

Don't Pink for me... In other words, don't purchase commercialized pink items for me as a breast cancer survivor. Here's a list of things that will really make a difference for breast (and all cancer and/or disease) victims. The reason I know how these things help is that is that I had wonderful people go above and beyond for me during my journey. 

1. Pray for us. It sounds so simple. Almost like a cop-out. Unless you're the person who experience a miracle due only to prayer. Unless you're the person who struggles daily to put a good 'face' on, and feels lifted up by prayer. Pray. Pray daily. Pray by name. Pray in general. Pray for a cure. Just PRAY!

2. Tell us you're thinking of us. Again, it sounds so simple. Maybe you're not a spiritual person. However, those of us that are believe that your thoughts can be 'read' by God. So if you keep us in your thoughts, God can lift us up out of our struggle. Just knowing that someone cares is enough to continue the struggle. 

3. Visit us. Another simplistic request, but one that makes so much of a difference. Even in this day and age, some people seem to think cancer is contagious. It's not Ebola, but it can be just as deadly and just as terrible. However, you cannot 'catch' cancer from visiting someone with cancer. Many cancer patients are so tired from treatments, that their daily/weekly (or whatever frequency) doctors appointments are draining. It's easy to feel as if the only thing you are doing is fighting your disease, but the fighting is killing you as much as the disease. Yet, when someone cares enough to come by and visit, it, often even the sickest patient can cheer up (even if only on the 'inside') because they know someone cares. 

4. Bring us a meal or snack. Drop it off by a patient's home or even the cancer center where they get treatments or go for check-ups. If you aren't sure what would be a good things to bring, call the cancer center to ask. Many cancer centers keep snacks in the chemo rooms - cookies, hard candies, crackers, etc. Call to ask what seems to be best tolerated and bring it by. If you know a patient (or know of a patient) call them or someone close to them to ask what their preferences and tolerances. It doesn't have to be home-made or elaborate, just offering is best.

5. Send a card or note to us. This is another simple thing that, in our digital age, is often forgotten. Receiving mail just seems to be a pleasure to most people (good stuff, not junk ;-). A get-well card or a thoughtfully penned note can lift the patient's day. Additionally, if they keep them (I've kept most of mine), even years later, they can feel the love and care from a simple note. Trust me, it's the best thing on a bad day. 

6. Offer us some financial assistance. Cancer treatment is expensive - even with good insurance coverage. If the patient (or care-giver) works outside the home, there a many lost days of work and extra expenses that drain an already decreased pay-check. Surprise cash is always a day brightener. Anonymous cash, gift cards, etc can mean a patient has something to look forward to using. Sometimes, you may even be the reason the patient can afford to go to their next appointment. It doesn't have to be a large sum, even $5 can make a person feel like they're rich. 

7. Offer to drive us to an appointment. If the patient is comfortable, you could even offer to go into their appointment with them. Many cancer centers request, almost demand, that all patients have a support person with them for all appointments, tests, and treatments. Not only is this good for when the patient feels ill or gets bad news, it is also good for more than one set of ears to hear what is discussed. You'd be amazed by the information given to patients who aren't necessarily in the frame of mind to listen and remember. Chemo-brain is a true disorder that affects some people's memory during and even long-term after chemotherapy. Even if a person with chemo-brain repeats the information given to them at the doctor's office, they may not remember it 30 minutes later. Also, we all seem to catch just a little bit different drift during the same conversations. Sometimes what you hear is more important than what the patient will hear. 

8. Offer child-care to us. It's difficult to find a good and trusted babysitter these days. However, it seems more and more young people with young families are being struck by this disease. It may be do-able to bring youngsters to appointments and treatments, but for an already sick and tired person, the youngsters can be the straw that broke the camel's back. Plus, cancer treatments and appointments never seem to be the quick in-and-out visits you hope for. Doctors are called away, they order more tests, the patient feels worse and has to rest, etc. 

9. Offer a service to us. It can be a house-cleaning, an oil change, a manicure, a facial, etc. Cancer patients are people too, but often the treatments make them tired, ill, and just run-down. It's easy to tell someone they look great when they're bald from chemo and retaining fluid from steroids, but few of us believe you. We know we look different and feel different - most often for the worse. One of the best programs I attended as a patient was the local ACS's 'Look Good, Feel Better' evening. As a non-girly-girl, I almost skipped it, but I was feeling ugly - being bald and pregnant... I still use tricks given to me that evening to do my make-up when I'm sick, tired, and even just going out on the town. 

10. Participate in a fund-raiser for us. Many cancer patients need extra money in order to receive treatment. Friends, relatives, and even strangers often organize fund-raisers to generate financial support and to serve as a reminder to the patient that people care. Some people sell barbecue (we're big on BBQ here in KY), some have a fair-type festival (I did & it was fabulous), others sell raffle tickets, t-shirts, whatever. Offer to lend a hand organizing donations, selling whatever needs selling, and/or buy or donate to the cause. It may just be a $5 do-dad for you, but it ends up supporting the patient and family when combined with others. 

While I was also deeply touched by people walking in the walk-a-thon in my name, or the t-shirts with the provocative slogans supporting breast health, the things on my list made the biggest impact on my life as a patient. I still wear some of those t-shirts and I still feel loved thinking someone walked in my name, the things that truly helped me get through my journey are enumerated in my list. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Alphabet Soup (Genetic Mutations), Vaccines, and Cancer

I'm in conflict right now with my children's pediatrician. Basically, my children were "fired" as patients because I decline the Chicken Pox vaccine. Apparently, both children are also one booster behind on their MMR (although I did not decline that). Before I blindly accepted the threat of losing the pediatrician, I had to be sure of the facts. So I began looking into components in the Chicken Pox vaccine (and others). Through Children of God for Life ( I found that both the MMR and Chicken Pox vaccine are created using aborted baby cells and/or embryonic stem cells. I also found that one of the primary drivers for developing and promoting the Chicken Pox vaccine is convenience. Apparently parents can't take off work long enough to care for their itchy and scratchy children. However, my children's vaccination woes aren't huge topic of this post. My specific mutations (that I know of), vaccines, and cancer are the topic. 

While searching for information to give to a friend about her children's vaccinations, I came across some interesting information. Apparently one of my mutations, MTHFR, can increase my already increased risk of breast cancer (thanks to My BRCA1 mutation). In addition to this twice increased risk of breast cancer, vaccinations can increase the MTHFR mutation's negative effects ( I'm not certain which variant of the MTHFR mutation I have. Since it was discovered as a potential cause for my 4 miscarriages out of 6 pregnancies, I do know I have problems from it. 

This mutation creates problems in carriers after vaccinations. Vaccines have heavy metals as carriers in them. Usually, the body can easily eliminate these heavy metals through the normal function of the MTHFR gene ( However, defective MTHFR genes do not effectively eliminate these heavy metals, causing them to build up to toxic levels in the body. Additionally, the MTHFR gene is responsible for methylation or de-methylation of folic acid to its biologically active form-folate. When defective, methylation and/or de-methylation causes either a deficiency or an excess of various chemicals in the body. These chemicals, when built up and not effectively processed can lead to decreased immunity and increased susceptibility to various problems. 

Some indicate vaccinations ( and problems from the heavy metals ( and foreign material can also increase risk of breast cancer in all people, but most noticeably those with a BRCA1/2 mutation. Since BRCA1/2 are genes that code for a particular tumor suppressor gene in the breasts (, carriers have an increased risk of breast cancer. Adding the increased levels of heavy metals, excess or deficiencies of folic acid/folate, to an already increased risk of breast cancer may just explain why I was diagnosed with breast cancer a full 20 years before my own mother. Even my youngest known relative with "female" cancer was a full 14 years older than I was at diagnosis. Along with other environmental factors yet unknown (although many implicate GMOs, processed foods, pollution, deodorants, and other seemingly random factors) and increased vaccinations (with their heavy metals and other foreign materials), these two mutations and their effect on the body my risk of cancer was probably closer to tripled than the average person. Yet, rare would be the doctor (of any sort) that would put all this together and actually say it out loud to a patient. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

It Works Product Reviews

 In my last post I shared that I was sampling two of the products from It Works. My first experience was with the body applicator "wrap". I have "wings" or "dog ears" left over from my last reconstruction that poke out near my hips. They are unsightly and a constant reminder of my body's betrayal. I applied the body applicator wrap around my back covering each 'wing'. I left it on for longer than the recommended 45 minutes because I'm a hard-headed-determined-to-use-up-every-drop-of-product kind of gal (cheap). Here is my before photo and the after photo with hand-y pointers showing my 'wings' in both photos. 

Pretty amazing isn't it?

The second product I tried was the Lip and Eye Gel I've been looking so forward to using. I have dark circles under my eyes regardless of amount of sleep I get at night. They're genetic - practically everyone in my family has them. My husband, in his loving way, calls them my raccoon eyes. I've tried all kinds of different products to at least minimize them: concealers, foundation, under eye creams from various brands, essential oils, etc. Never any real results came from repeated applications. This herbal-based gel was applied over a mineral powder in the parking lot after a meeting in town. It took me about 30 minutes to drive home and get my husband to take an after photo. That's it! Below you'll see the that eye on the left is the before and the one on the right is the after. Again, I used my hand-y pointers to show my problem areas. 


These are seriously my before and after photos. Each photo was taken at a different time and with the eye photos in a different location. The only altering was the color balance and cropping to show only the applicable area. No smoothing, no cloning, nothing was done to alter the appearance of the photos. These are really photos taken using either an iPhone or my iPad and any balancing or cropping was done on my iPad. Genuine change brought about in a ridiculously short time - nothing else!

Let me know if you'd be interested in some change of your own! If you have issues that are different, ask me if there is a product that can help you - chances are It Works has what you need! Comment here, send me an email (, or visit my webpage ( End of sales pitch!

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: )
                         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 - 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. - My Breast Oncologist at MD Anderson is in this one too. - 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'. - Another article by my Breast Oncologist in full text presentation. - Another interview with my Breast Oncologist. This is a terrible transcript with numerous typos, but the gist is the same as the others. - The doctor interviewed here said that she hopes no more "unnecessary terminations" are carried out on pregnant women with cancer. - 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.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

41st Annual March for Life 2014

The sorrowful news about abortion, beyond the death of an unborn child, is the harm it causes women. As many as 45% of some Suicide Hotlines are women in deep grief for the disposal of their babies. Their grief, guilt, and regret can lead to 'less' severe consequences like depression, low self esteem, PTSD, anxiety, and perhaps worst of all, distance from God. God can and will forgive these women of their sin, if they only ask. However, society lies to them - saying there is no need for forgiveness or any negative feelings regarding their abortion. 

Abortion advocates do a much deeper damage to women than physically harming them during the actual abortion. The lies promoted by abortion advocates belittle the negative feelings many women have later about their abortions. Without proper support or recognition, these walking wounded women become bitter, disillusioned, and forced to support abortion or else feel they are condemning themselves. Many times these women publicly say they feel no negative feelings about their abortion. Yet, if they were truly to examine their conscience, mind, heart, and soul - the deep wound of their abortion colors their whole lives. 

As pro-lifers we must not only express our concern for the millions of babies destroyed, but also express concern for the mothers (and families) that 'chose' that option. Even if the woman denies any negative feelings, it is quite likely that she just can't or won't acknowledge it. Abortion is murder and baldly stating that truth can be unimaginably painful for post-abortive women (whether they admit it or not). The abortionists are the ones that commit this murder, while the mother is complicit and a co-conspirator. However, once she asks God for His forgiveness (if Catholic in the Sacrament of Reconciliation), in His infinite mercy, He forgives her. 

It is our job as pro-lifers to pray for these women's hearts to change, encourage women to seek this forgiveness, and offer support for their continued healing. On this evening of the 41st March for Life, let us join in prayer for those who marched, those who prayed, those who participated in huge Twitter-fest, and all of those who's hearts and minds were on the subject. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Guard yourself Against Gardasil

I'm on the fence about vaccines. However, the HPV vaccine (Gardasil) is definitely one vaccine I'm 100% against. Reading the things the  developer of the vaccine has published cements my position. I did my own research & found that Gardasil only 'protects' against 4 strains of HPV that may (research hasn't proven cause and effect yet) cause cervical cancer. Additionally, routine PAP smears have proven more effective at catching and preventing fatalities than the vaccine could. Neither of my children will be receiving this vaccine!

Diane Harper - one of the developers of Gardasil - on its effectiveness and what it means for our children:

Diane Harper - one of the developers of Gardasil:

Dr John LaPook - medical corespondent for CBS News on Gardasil:

There are many more articles dealing in the science behind the failures or over statements of Gardasil. Foremost, even above these I listed is that the strains of HPV Gardasil purportedly protects against are STDs. Morality can and will protect my children from STDs not some 'miracle' vaccine. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

St. Peregrine Novena for Cancer Patients: Day 1-9

Dear holy servant of God, St. Peregrine, we pray today for healing.

Intercede for us! God healed you of cancer and others were healed by your prayers. Please pray for...

*Holly & Jennifer (&/or your own intentions)

These intentions bring us to our knees seeking your intercession for healing.

We are humbled by our physical limitations and ailments. We are so weak and so powerless. We are completely dependent upon God. And so, we ask that you pray for us...

Pray for us, that we will not let sickness bring us to despair.

We know, St. Peregrine, that you are a powerful intercessor because your life was completely given to God. We know that in as much as you pray for our healing, you are praying even more for our salvation.

A life of holiness like yours is more important than a life free of suffering and disease. Pray for our healing, but pray even more that we might come as close to Our Lord as you are.

All Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be.


*The two ladies' names I mention are friends of mine currently struggling with their own cancer journeys. There are several other people I know afflicted with cancer, and I'm sure you know some of your own. For those I don't list, please don't take it as a sign of me ignoring your need for prayers. I have a faulty memory and although I may not list your name specifically, I do remember you in my prayers because I know God has your name written on His hand.

The prayer is the same for each day of the 9 days. So please say the prayer daily.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Miraculous Healing or Lifelong Witness...

This is an awesome story.

In a way, I wish my cancer had been so quickly and easily cured. In other ways, I know that my journey served more of a purpose than just saving me or even Rachel. I firmly believe that in sharing my story, other women and their unborn babies will share a life together that would have been impossible otherwise. This is why I share my story so freely and often. I don't want accolades - I don't deserve them because I just did what I had to morally, physically, and psychologically. I just want to save even just one woman the horror of having to choose between her own life or her unborn baby's. If even one child lives, all the grief I've experienced since July 7, 2009 has been a very small price to pay. 

God bless all women in this situation, their unborn children, and their families. 

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!