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The Three Words You Never Want To Hear…

 

This BLOG is about BREAST CANCER AWARENESS UNDER THE AGE OF 40 and advocating for yourself to get a baseline mammogram.  Early detection is crucial especially for women under the age of 40.  Fewer than 5 percent of women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 40.  Yes, it is a small percentage, but YOU could be part of that percentage, I am.  Often times, women under the age of 40 may have false positives or dense breast tissue, but it is better to know that in advance and monitor changes when you receive a mammogram again when you are 40 years old.  If you are over the age of 40, please get a mammogram.  

My whole breast cancer diagnosis is somewhat surreal and I still cannot believe that I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36 with no signs or symptoms.  Breast cancer does not run in my family.  The reason that I had my first baseecardsline mammogram was because a dear friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36.  I thought to myself, I should probably get my baseline mammogram to check things out on my own.

My husband was going to be out of town on Saturday, January 12, 2017, so I thought, that sounds like a great day to get a mammogram!  I scheduled my appointment online and that was that, so I thought…  I needed to get my gynocologist to sign off on the papers for my scheduled mammogram.  I spoke with the Nurse Practitioner and she asked, “Have you noticed any lumps or changes in your breasts.” and my answer was “NO.”  She also asked, “Does breast cancer run in your family.” and my answer was “NO.”  The Nurse Practitioner said that the Gyncologist doesn’t usually recommend a patient getting a mammogram unless they have answered yes to the questions that she had asked me.

Continue reading “The Three Words You Never Want To Hear…”

Chemotherapy Recommended Item: Nail Time

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This was my last pedicure before I started chemotherapy. My last pedicure helped prepare me for what was to come, even though there were so many unknowns with how my body would react to chemotherapy.

I received Taxol as part of my chemotherapy treatment.  My oncologist recommended that I soaked my nails in vinegar and water daily.  I used equal parts vinegar and water.  I also was not allowed to get a manicure or pedicure due to possible infection of my nails.  I did not have any problems with my fingernails falling off from Taxol.   Continue reading “Chemotherapy Recommended Item: Nail Time”

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Jen’s Story – Anchored in Hope

My post went “live” on i Go Pink: The Breast Cancer Charities of America this week!  i Go Pink sent me a beauty bag filled with makeup and other makeup related items while I  was receiving chemotherapy.  Please read my post below!

Jen’s Story – Anchored In Hope

group-photo-dogs.png The Anchor has meant many things to me throughout various points in my life.  In college, I joined a sorority and our symbol was the Anchor. The Anchor was adopted by Delta Gamma in 1877 and stands for the age-old symbol of HOPE.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36. I focused my energy on spreading HOPE and remaining positive throughout my cancer journey by starting a blog called Anchored In Hope.  Writing posts on my blog was a way for me to express myself and communicate to my support system. I was very fortunate to have such a strong support system that showered me with love and friendship throughout my treatment, and I wanted to be able to give that to others!

Cancer is disease that nobody wants to experience in their lifetime.  Everybody knows somebody that has been affected by cancer.  When YOU are the person diagnosed with cancer your outlook on life changes FOREVER.

I received my baseline mammogram and cancer diagnosis shortly after my close friend and college roommate was diagnosed with breast cancer at the same age.  On Groundhog Day, February 2, 2017, my obstetrician-gynecologist told me the three words that you never want to hear “You have cancer.”  My husband and I just sat there in dismay.  I began to cry but not because I had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.

I cried because I wanted to be a mom so badly.  My husband and I were trying to start a family and had been so far unsuccessful. Earlier, I had two miscarriages and found out that I had endometriosis. And now I knew that cancer treatments could result in infertility.

Telling my mom that I was diagnosed with breast cancer was one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do.  She went to multiple appointments with me for further testing when I was told that my mammogram was abnormal, so when I told her I had breast cancer, she was not totally caught off guard.  There is not a handbook created that tells you how to handle your cancer diagnosis or how to tell people.  You must do what you feel comfortable with.

My dog, Maverick, could sense that something was wrong with me.  It amazes me how intuitive he is.  My husband took this picture the day I received my breast cancer diagnosis.

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I went to many doctors and received many opinions regarding my treatment plan.  I believed that the more information I received would help me choose the best treatment plan for me.  Treatment plans are not “one size fits all”.  My friend’s treatment plan was different than mine, even though we were going to the same facility to receive treatment.  We leaned on each other throughout our treatments which made our friendship stronger.

Navigating life after cancer has honestly been the toughest part of my journey.  Your calendar is no longer booked with various doctor’s appointments and treatment is not your main priority.  I enjoy having more free time, but it isn’t the same as it was before. I attend follow-up appointments and take medication to prevent cancer from reoccurring.  I am a totally different person than I was before my cancer diagnosis.  I have a different outlook on life and know how precious life is.  My HOPE is to remain cancer-free and to be a mom someday…

Anchored in HOPE,

JW

 

Chemotherapy Recommended Item: Germs on a Plane…

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When I traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the summer of 2017 for my cousin’s bridal shower, my oncologist suggested that I wear a mask on the plane to prevent germs. I really didn’t mind wearing the mask and it did work because I didn’t get sick from my travels.

Continue reading “Chemotherapy Recommended Item: Germs on a Plane…”

Guest Blogger: Self-Care and Spiritual Wellness Are Necessities When Dealing With Cancer

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This article is written by Scott Sanders.  Scott is the creator of CancerWell.Org, which provides resources and support for anyone who has been affected by any form of cancer.

If you are dealing with cancer, you’re likely dealing with a lot of emotions. Aside from the physical effects, your mind and soul can be impacted as well. That’s why self-care and spiritual wellness can help you manage your condition. If you need a little more guidance, here are a few suggestions to help you stay strong.

Stress Relief is Important

As someone dealing with cancer, you’re no stranger to stress. Dealing with the diagnosis, pondering your prognosis and mapping out a treatment plan can all make you feel overwhelmed. Add this to the burdens of everyday life, and you have a recipe for a staggering amount of stress. Relieving this stress is at the core of self-care. You have to find simple ways to combat the pressures and positive ways to cope with negative moments in your life. Hobbies can be a wonderful way tame tension. Try starting a small garden or consider adopting a pet to take care of the stress in your life.

Addiction Can Be a Danger

Medications are likely to be a part of your life, but it’s important to avoid addiction. If your doctor prescribes medications to help relieve your pain, be careful with how you use them. Opioid pain medications can be highly addictive, even when taken as directed, and can lead to some very serious health consequences. These high-powered painkillers can be even be deadly when abused or not used carefully.

 Sleep is Essential

 If you’re dealing with the discomfort of cancer, getting a good night’s sleep can be complicated. You may have a hard time getting comfortable or have trouble settling your mind down. Still, sleep is vital to maintaining strength so try to find ways to encourage your body to rest. Some people find softer sheets to be more comfortable on their skin, and cooler temperatures could help your body relax in the evenings. You can try soothing essential oil blends or teas to help tame any tension that is preventing you from getting to sleep. If all else fails, consult your doctor for ways to get the rest you need.

Peace Can Be Freeing

Spiritual wellness is always important, but it can be even more beneficial for those with cancer. Whether you subscribe to religion or seek another form of spirituality, the connected and mindful practices can bring a calm to your life. Attend religious services if that seems to help or develop practices on your own. You can use quiet moments to pray or meditate at home. Meditation can have powerful grounding and pain relief properties, so make it a part of your normal routine.

Exercise is Essential

 Cancer takes strength and energy from your body. The only remedy is to get a little exercise each day. Even something as simple as an evening walk or gentle yoga can help you feel stronger. Aside from building your body, exercise also helps your brain produce valuable endorphins. These chemicals are essential for pain reduction and feelings of happiness, so find activities that boost your happy hormones. If it helps, ask your doctor about working with a physical therapist to make activity easier for you.

Therapy Can Improve Mental Health 

The physical effects of cancer can be obvious. The mental effects can’t be seen but they can be felt just the same. Many times, the emotional impact of dealing with cancer can be even more overwhelming than the physical symptoms. You may feel lost, hurt, angry or depressed after your diagnosis. It can be comforting to talk to someone about all the feelings and thoughts racing through your mind. Find a counselor who can help you work through your emotional pain and think about reaching out to a support group. Gaining mental clarity can be good for your mind, body and soul.

Spiritual wellness and self-care may seem trivial when you are facing something as serious as cancer. But taking care of yourself is the only way to stay strong and positive through this plight. Minor changes to your daily routine can help you feel more stable in your mind, your body and your soul as you travel down this uncertain path.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

 

Chemotherapy Recommended Item: Wiggin’ Out While Traveling

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I was very nervous going through security wearing my wig (garment, as my wigmaker calls it).  I saw horror stories on the news about TSA workers making cancer patients take off their wigs when they were going through security.  I was glad that I didn’t have any problems going trough security and TSA did not ask me any questions.  When traveling with a wig, I recommend this wig stand to maintain the shape of your wig.  The wig stand and is easy to travel with because it folds.  At home I used this styrofoam wig head for my wig and put it on a wig stand clamp  I also used this headbandto help my wig fit better even though it was custom made to fit my head. I also used regular shampoo and conditioner for real hair when caring for my wig since it was made with human hair.  I always felt that the salon did a better job at styling my wig though.
Continue reading “Chemotherapy Recommended Item: Wiggin’ Out While Traveling”

Guest Blogger: 8 Ways To Support A Loved One With Cancer

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“8 Ways to Support a Loved One with Cancer”

This article is written by Scott Sanders.  Scott is the creator of CancerWell.Org, which provides resources and support for anyone who has been affected by any form of cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, three out of four families will include someone who receives a cancer diagnosis. If you’ve got a friend or family member who’s undergoing cancer treatment, here are some of the ways you can help.

Advocate for the best treatment.
Assist your loved one in researching doctors and options. Accompany them to doctor’s appointments; take notes, ask questions. Help research treatment options—and don’t rule out alternative therapies, like acupuncture, massage, nutritional counseling, yoga, meditation, and guided imagery, that help patients deal with treatment side effects and the disease itself.

With the rise in opioid addiction, also be mindful of painkiller usage. Your loved one may express concern that he doesn’t want to rely on strong painkillers, but there are precautions that reduce the possibility of addiction.

Don’t worry so much about what to say.
Just be there. You won’t be able to fix everything—that’s impossible. But be present. Your presence gives emotional, spiritual, social, and even physical support, and that’s invaluable. So is the relief of your loved one knowing they can relax, be themselves, and express their emotions without worrying about how someone else may react.

Offer practical help.
Don’t wait for your loved one to ask—and don’t just ask what they need. Do you have kids the same age as your loved one? Collect them for a playdate. Are you heading to the grocery store? Grab her grocery list, too. If you’re a natural organizer, use one of the online apps to coordinate a meal train. Synch your calendars so you know their chemo and doctor’s appointments and can check in or send a little card or gift as a pick-me-up.

Channel flexibility.
Ask your loved one what he needs—and don’t stress if those needs suddenly (or frequently) change. Ask specific questions, like:

  • Should I visit today? If so, what time is best?
  • Do you want company during your treatment?
  • Would you like someone to sit with you one or two nights a week?
  • Can I take you to dinner/a yoga class/for a massage?
  • Do you want to go for a walk after dinner?
  • Can I bring you dinner? If so, what sounds good?

Put those logistics skills to good use.
Use social media or a web-based app to keep everyone in the loop and updated. Organize a list of helpers who can take your loved one to doctor’s and treatment appointments, help clean the house, bring meals, take care of kids, throw in a load of laundry, run errands, or anything else she might need.

Keep supporting your loved one.
Very often, when people are dealing with a new cancer diagnosis and its initial treatments, they’re surrounded by people offering to help. However, your loved one will need support throughout the entire continuum. That’s where logistics also play a huge part—keeping everyone updated and informed and spreading out help and support among many people so no one caregiver feels overwhelmed and stressed.

Gift thoughtfully.
Food sounds great, but treatments often result in nausea or vomiting that make eating very unappealing. Your loved one might appreciate books, music, magazines or puzzles, an Amazon gift card, or a gift certificate for a massage or float therapy. Consider asking several friends and family to chip in to hire a cleaning service for a few weeks or months.

Take care of yourself.
When you’re worried about and helping someone else who’s fighting cancer, it’s a challenge to remember to take time for yourself, especially if you’re one of your loved one’s main caregivers. However, it’s critical that you do so. You can’t predict the range of emotions you’ll experience: guilt, hope, hopelessness, sadness, worry, anxiety, depression, grief, anger, denial, loneliness. But your mind does need a break. Look for positives and allow yourself to laugh. Check out this resource from the National Cancer Institute for self-care ideas.

A cancer diagnosis—whether it’s breast, lung, prostate, liver or another cancer—changes everything. Everyone plunges into a new world of medical terms and treatment plans. The emotional (and other) support you provide to your loved one is as priceless and valuable as any treatment protocol.

Photo Credit: pixabay.com

10 Tips To Stomp Out Stress

10 Stress Tips

I am a guest blogger for the website Compassion that Compels.  Please read my post about 10 Tips to Stomp out Stress.  I enjoyed writing the post and I hope that it helps others faced with breast cancer.

“10 Tips to Stomp Out Stress”

BY JENNIFER WILSON

Battling cancer is a stressful time. If you’re not careful, the stress can become more overwhelming than the diagnosis. Managing your stress levels is an important priority throughout your cancer journey. You will have added stressors during this time that you did not have before. Here are some tips to help you stomp out that stress.

10 Tips to Stomp Out Stress

  1. Write things down. Your schedule will suddenly be overtaken with numerous doctor’s appointments, and it is important to know when they are. Put them into your phone calendar or write them in a planner. I created a shared calendar with my caregiver, so that he would know when my doctor’s appointments were scheduled. I also scheduled reminders for each appointment. In addition, I added work and social obligations to my calendar, so that I would know if there were scheduling conflicts.
  2. Pamper yourself. Self-care is very important during your cancer journey. Your body is going through a lot of changes, and it is important to take care of yourself. When I was going through chemotherapy and my body was aching, I would take a bubble bath with Epsom salt and a bath bomb. The Epsom salt eased my aching body and the bubbles helped me relax. Make time for a bath and go all out by lighting a candle and listening to peaceful music.
  3. Drink plenty of water. Chemotherapy can make your mouth very dry or even leave a strange metallic taste in your mouth.  Stay well-hydrated throughout chemotherapy by drinking water daily (add lemon for a little flavor!) I drank water with lemon out of my Compassion that Compels cupthroughout treatment. 
  4. Eat well. Maintaining a healthy diet is important although you may not feel like eating if treatment leaves you nauseous. Still, it is important to keep your energy up and fuel your body with good foods. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to give your body the vitamins and minerals it needs.
  5. Get plenty of rest. Fighting cancer in addition to the demands of regular life can leave little room for rest, but it’s very important that you make the time. When I was receiving chemotherapy and working, I worked all day and rested in the evening, then went to bed early.
  6. Exercise. You don’t have to run a marathon, just do something light. Even a little exercise can help strengthen your body and restore your energy. I am sure if I had exercised during my treatment it would have helped me to not feel as tired.
  7. Accept help when it is offered.  Many people will offer to help you throughout your treatment, and you should take them up on their offers. My mother-in-law offered to go grocery shopping for me post-surgery, which was a big help. Someone may offer to babysit your children or bring you meals. Take advantage of these offers; it will give you some time to rest and heal.
  8. Talk to your boss about your treatment plan and what it entails. If you will need to miss work for doctor’s appointments, it is best to be open and upfront with your boss.  You and your boss may be able to work out a schedule that creates less stress for you. 
  9. Enjoy your life. Do something fun every day…call a friend, stop for your favorite treat, read your favorite book again, write in your journal, go for a walk. Your days are full of doctor’s appointments, treatment schedules, and taking care of your body. Don’t forget to do something that brings you joy in the midst of it all.
  10. Pray.  Be strong and courageous during your cancer journey and do not let stress get the best of you. Write out your prayers, or keep track of your prayer requests (and answers!) in your Compassion That Compels Prayer Journal. Remember, God is with you every day and He will help you manage your stress levels when you turn to Him through prayer.