Today is Mothers Day! I am so blessed to have such an absolutely incredible mommykins! She raised not one, not two, but three beautiful, independent, creative, and determined daughters! Without her in my life, I could have never ever ever beat that big scary thing called CANCER. I am also blessed enough to have an equally amazing Mother in Law whom has accepted me with open arms into her family. She is loving and shows my husband and I daily how to love!
Over the past two years since my diagnosis, I have had to make some incredibly difficult decisions that the typical 26 year old may never imagine she’d be faced with. Going from being a carefree, outgoing, motivated young adult whom is just finding her place in the world, to having her world shatter from under her feet is the most difficult thing Ive ever had to face in my life.
Then comes looking towards the future. When you are diagnosed with a condition that ultimately may take your life, it changes everything forever. It changes your body, your attitude, your general well being. But more importantly, it changes all your goals and aspirations and paths you may be forced to take to live the life you’ve always imagined. Cancer is like a major detour, at the time it sucks but eventually, somehow, you will get to your final destination.
Being a twenty something young woman in a committed relationship and having cancer, one of the biggest decisions surrounding our future was not us getting married in two weeks so I didnt lose my hair for the wedding pics, but it was moreso how to preserve our chance to ever have a child of our own. It breaks my heart when friends and family members bring up the whole “oh when are you guys going to be starting your family”, when the truth is WHO THE HELL KNOWS!
So, when going through chemo as a girl in her 20s… one of the most important things to consider is your baby making parts. Ovarian preservation is key to holding on to a chance of one day creating a baby naturally. However, then you add estrogen driven cancers into the mix such as mine, and you have a complete recipe for disaster of any chance to ever conceive naturally. My now hubby and I chose to preserve my fertility by going through IVF, making embryos and eggs, and Ive been placed on a medication called Lupron which basically shuts down my ovaries in hopes that when I am done “treatment”, I can stop taking Lupron and my ovaries will stretch, yawn, and awaken from their nap? Maybe…
I am at the age when most of my friends and older cousins are married and beginning their families. I am so blessed that my hair is growing back, i’m in a job I can handle physically, and I am beginning to live again. I feel like people think my cancer is in the past, but they don’t realize that I will be living with cancer for the rest of my life. I spend countless tears on everything that cancer has stolen from me. When your invited to baby shower after baby shower or my facebook is filled with adorable photos of baby giggles… deep down, its heart breaking because it is something Ive always imagined to be so simple to have, and now– there is a great possibility that it is just not in the cards.
For me, I’ve always dreamt of being a mom. Whenever I was little, I would always play the teacher or the mom amongst my sisters and Barbies. I love kids. I have chosen to dedicate my life as a Pediatric Occupational Therapist to help children become as independent as possible on the daily! When my doctors explained to me that motherhood may never happen for me naturally because of chemo… I felt like a part of my being was gone forever. How am I supposed to be a wife when my lady parts are broken? Isn’t that one of the main reasons people get married to have babies. What is my husband who wants nothing more than to coach his kids in sports going to do when I may not be able to provide him babies?!
In mainstream media and the age of Sixteen and Pregnant or Teen Mom, our society (including myself and John— yes we love our reality TV) is raised upon the idea of “making good choices”, “keepin it wrapped”, and the lovely birth control is the way to beat teenage pregnancy. When I was a teen I was all about pregnancy prevention because we are raised with this idea that “your life will be over” or “you will never amount to anything” once you are young with a baby. Young girls are being placed onto birth control in their early teens unaware of all the horrendous side effects and potential cancer causing hormones they are placing into their bodies as a hope to not get knocked up!
You watch these shows and now pretty much every Teen Mom has multiple babies, it looks so easy… a little wam bam thank you man and wooolah, 9 months later your a mommy…
Then, there is the reality of a young girl with cancer. To put is truthfully, there is hardly any research that says when a good time after cancer it is to try to conceive, especially for cancers driven my estrogen. Researchers don’t want to do the studies because what would be worse than a doctor saying “go ahead have a baby”, then your cancer comes back full force! Basically, if I end up getting pregnant the risk would be that if there is any little inkling of cancer left in my body… the natural rise of estrogen that comes with pregnancy could potentially make the cancer cells multiply and i’ll have a huge issue with a major recurrence. Can you believe that today, in 2017 there is yet to be a test that can detect down to the teensy weensy cellular level to say yes you still have cancer cells or no you dont! This is a mere reason that they will only conduct a Ultra sound, mammogram, MRI, or PET scan if there is something visible on a physical exam— but thats for another blog post…
Basically, my loving hubby and I are going to be faced with yet another decision! (Did I mention I absolutely HATE decisions?) Should we just go for it, live our life minus the serious fears that my cancer can come back and kill me? Should we save every single penny we make and look into surrogacy or adoption? Is it fair for me to want a baby, possibly get pregnant then have a recurrence and have John have t raise a baby and care for a sick wife… again? Or should I be satisfied with my puppy son Izzy?
This Mothers Day, I have a whole different look on what a Mother is.
As per google… mother ˈməT͟Hər/noun 1. a woman in relation to her child or children.
Well, as of now, Izzy is my child. So, I will be celebrating Mother’s day as the pretty fantastic puppy mom that I am! I have raised him to have manners (sometimes), Ive taught him to sit and give paw, Ive cleaned up is puke and poop, Ive cuddled him when he was sad or hurt, Ive fed him, ive woken up countless nights because he cant sleep (and wants to run around like a psycho or go outside a kazillion times), ive given him baths, ive given him medicine, and when he was going through chemo… I was there to hold is paw and give him kisses on his head just like me mom did for me. Most of all, I have given him all my love of my entire heart and he will forever be my first child!
Conceiving a child does not make you a mother. Being a mother is hardwork and it isn’t for everyone. A mother is someone who guides their children, cares for their children, teaches their children, protects their children, and most importantly LOVES their children. It doesnt matter if your child has hair or fur, if your child is adopted, a snowflake baby, or an angel baby… its the Love that you give towards that child that makes you a mother.
So, on this Mothers Day… I would like to encourage anyone whom is unable to naturally conceive a child to never give up. Wipe those tears from your eyes and write out a plan. There are kazillions of ways to give your love onto a child, you may not be offered an “easy” route but you will find your way! It is hard for even me to be okay with saying this but, whether I can conceive or not… we will do what we have to and pay any price to either have a surrogate or adopt a child and with all the love that we have in our hearts, and that child will grow to love their life! Never underestimate a pet mommy because you NEVER know the truth or whole story to their child bearing journey. STOP asking WHEN people are going to have a baby, its none of your business honestly unless they discuss it with you. Oh and Have a very Happy Mothers Day, hold those kiddos of yours close because somewhere there is someone like me who would do anything to have a child of their own.
Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamt of being a mom, a teacher, a vet, a lawyer, and a doctor. I became an Occupational Therapist, then a puppy mommy, then a wife, and truly embraced my life! I’ve always loved helping others and volunteering so my job as an OT was perfect because I get to make a difference in peoples lives everyday.
Once I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2015, all my life plans and goals were lost in an abyss filled with appointments, treatments, and the world of cancer. I had to leave my job as an acute care Occupational Therapist because I was physically de-conditioned as well as had a lowered immune system to be working with already sick patients. It was then that I decided to use my time off from work to continue my life mission of making a difference in the world.
When I was going through treatments, I received many amazing gifts from family, friends and acquaintances that truly made my days. The power of a gift, whether small or large took my mind off of my reality for a split second and kept me going. One common thing I found with “breast cancer” themed gifts (to no ones surprise I’m sure) was anything and everything with a pink ribbon. At the time, seeing that symbol to me, simply meant cancer. It didn’t mean surviving because at that time I was truly fighting for my life, felt insecure, and scared.
Although I am not anti that little ribbon, today I am proud to see it because I am officially a survivor. However, I found a need for cancer gifts to not be so harsh and including that ribbon on every single piece of merchandise that benefits breast cancer awareness…
Thus came the creation of She Sparkles On Boutique.
Going through treatments, feeling the sickest i’ve ever felt, being placed on short term disability, its all completely life changing. But, it also gives you time to think… how can I make a difference in the cancer community? I am a creative person and have numerous ideas swirling around in my chemo curled head that I am so excited to share with the world!
Instead of giving up and just going with the flow of my cancer journey, I have decided to change my fate. My goal is to save lives… but more importantly put a smile on someones face who has been locked in the bathroom staring at their reflection in the mirror and seeing a stranger looking back at them. I spent countless hours in hsterics over losing my hair, and now a days, I am the hardest on myself over my post treatment hormone therapy plump body that is far less defined than my pre-cancer sexy self;) When someone feels lost, I want my Sparkle On line to brighten their day.
Full of wit, humor, beauty, and glitter, She Sparkles On Boutique offers different lines of original themed designs. Split up in different collections, She Sparkles On has something for everyone whether they are going through active chemo or radiation, have had surgeries like lumpecty or mastectomies, are a previvor, co-survivor, or simply wanting to support any cancer diagnosis out there in the world.
In designing my company, I put a lot of me and my style in the work. I rarely wear a classic t-shirt so I really wanted my designs to reflect accessories that are stylish that anyone could wear to support the cancer cause but also be sparkly and stylish at the same time! Incorporating styles like a sexy v-neck fitted tee, a beautiful flowy tank, a light weight t-shirt hoodie, and even some more traditional styled t-shirts for a more generic look, the styles are truly unique and to be an inspirational staple of anyones closet! From shirts, to tanks, to sweatshirts, to blankets that help with those days you just want to cuddle up because you need a hug… this is the line that will encourage you to SparkleOn!
But thats not all! My mission has always been to help others. So, aside from people having an alternative to pink ribbon themed gifts, I am also going to be donating portions of every single order so that these gorgeous designs can be shared and brighten the days of young people all around the world facing the cancer journey! Thats right, I will be making large quarterly donations of products to hospitals and individuals through giveaways so make sure to follow me on instagram: Mego Koziel for details!
How to get to my boutique you ask? Thats Easy! Click the “Boutique” button on my blog header, or check out my direct link to the shop at http://www.she-sparkles-on.myshopify.com I will host many deals and discounts as well as new product so if you would like to bring a little sparkle to someones life with a very special gift designed and created by me, a cancer advocate, survivor, and sparkle enthusiast- head over and shop your heart out!
I am so so so excited and blessed for this launch, I have so many ideas and products in the works. Stay tuned because She Sparkle On WILL be known as THE place to put a smile on a patients face and provide inspiration to #sparkleon
Ps: a very special thanks to my brother in law Dave Koziel of The Beer Life for making all my business dreams come true! Without you, none of this would have been possible!!! Xo
Im totally supposed to be sleeping but I have a headache and my mind is going a million miles a minute! I received a comment on one of my instagram posts that has been really getting to me. Surprisingly, it was nothing really negative, but has made me extremely self conscious about my breast reconstruction. Since my reconstruction in December ive tried really hard to listen to my surgeons advice, wait the six months for my skin to heal and implant to settle, but now im just getting impatient, and for good reason id have to say!
The comment read, “Do you have different implants in both? Or just one side?” In essence this is a pretty valid question I guess because my chest does look crooked. But come on, why would I get two different sized implants? Anybody that educates them self on breast cancer, reconstruction, and radiation knows that your skin changes. You do not get that “glamorous boob job” you’ve ever dreamed of. It was sort of like a slap to the face.
I try sooooo hard to love my body, embrace my scars, show my chest to empower other girls like me, and yet Im upset because deep down I miss my old boobs:( I miss my tiny tatas with my cute little nipples that didnt need to be glued on. I am sick and tired on the pain and discomfort around my bra line, and I crave dressing up in my glitzy Victoria Secret bras:(
I am literally to the point that I want to call my surgeon and beg him to take these implants out and redo them! But then again, what if my skin continues to remain tight and it is all for nothing? What if I roll the dice one too many times and get an infection and lose my boobs all together!! I wish someone would have educated me on the difference of profiles and implants before I simply went with my surgeons recommendation. My gummie Naturelle teardrop shaped implants are just not what I imagined:( they are hard and Its impossible for me to have cleavage. I just want to feel normal and sexy again:(
Ugh… late night brain wandering is the absolute worst. Oh well, this lopsided princess must get some beauty rest…
What type of implants would you recommend? Im thinking of round, high profile exchange…
My entire life i’ve dreamt of getting fake boobs. Literally, I remember being the youngest of ages stuffing tissues or socks in my shirt as I starred in a mirror, readjusting and copping a feel of myself. I had a serious fascination with looking “womanly”, “sexy”, and the look of round perkiness hovering just above a low revealing v-neck was my goal in life. Seriously though, good cleavage is the ultimate of sex appeal! I idolized Barbie. Yes I completely understand that “if Barbie was real, she would be highly disproportional”, however… who doesn’t want to be blonde, thin, with perky boobs, drive a pink car, and own high heels in like every color imaginable? Thats literally my dream come true!
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer and heard the news that my best surgical option would be a double mastectomy to decrease my risk of a recurrence, my first instinct and I believe may have been my direct quote was “sign me up!”. Literally take my tits I do not want to die! In that instant, and in my head I just wanted the cancer out of my body. However, that naive version of myself couldn’t comprehend at the time that this would rather quickly end up being a lifelong journey and definitely not an easy fix to rid the cancer!
There are many different variations of a mastectomy. There are unilateral meaning one breast, bi-lateral meaning both breast. Then there is something known as nipple sparring or non nipple sparring which quite simply means you wake up either with nips or without. In my case, I had a bilateral non nipple sparring mastectomy due to my tumor being so close to my nipple and my genetic PALB2 component making me 30% more likely to have a recurrence.
In lame mans terms, I have no tits or nips! I woke up after my mastectomy with many new lines and drains, but I was missing two of my most prized procession. The two things I waited to grow my entire life. At the age of 26 and whether it be that I had finally matured into my womanly body or just gained a few extra pounds since college, I was finally excited to finally have cleavage (after wearing a Victoria Secret miraculous bra of course) Then boom! Bye bye boobies, thank you cancer!
I almost instantly traded in my Victoria Secret swovarski crystal bras for front opening white basic bitch sports bras from Wal Mart. I was left with two bandages in horizontal lines across my chest. And a few weeks later, once my doctor removed my bandages, I looked down and realized I was the female Frankenstein! My chest was completely flat, to the point that in photos my chest could have been mistaken for my back. Beneath that white tape were two scars that I will have as a souvenir of one of the craziest journeys of my entire life!
Post Mastectomy Decisions
Following a mastectomy you are faced with yet again a TON of decisions. There are decisions for the boobs, the nipples, and the skin care for scarring and each of these decisions will effect your physical and emotional self forever. I chose to have immediate expander placement following my mastectomy which means my expanders were placed under my muscle directly following my surgical oncologist cutting out all of my breast tissue. I then went through multiple expander fills prior to radiation, then about 8 months following my mastectomy, I opted for breast reconstruction.
(Side note: I have outlined my mastectomy, fills, and breast reconstruction details in prior blog posts… check them out for all the nitty gritty details!)
Basically, following a mastectomy your doctor will give you many different options and you truly have to pick the one that will make you feel most comfortable within your own skin. Often times, to get back to a somewhat pre-cancer, quote on quote “womanly” body, you will be forced to undergo multiple surgeries which in return means pain, blood, and tears. There is breast reconstruction, nipple reconstruction, nipple/ areola tattooing, then if you have complications you may opt for adjustments, tattoos may fade, and nipples may diminish, ugh… so which one is the right one for me?
My Quest for the Perfect Nipple
This whole past year, I have been going back and forth between “team” for nipples or anti nipples. I have to explain my personal view then Ill go into my decisions made. Plain and simple, I have grown to love my scars and my flat clean chest. I am a little obsessed with how beautifully my scars have healed (thank you rxcannacare) and simply LOVE going braless (one shout out to Cancer for bringing me convenience in one aspect of my life!) It is pretty amazing to not have to worry about finding my nude bra for when I wear a white tshirt. Also, I get to wear all those really adorable crotchet back tops that require a funky strapped bra or no bra with madonna nipples as soon as they touch the cold air because guess what, I dont have to worry about a bra at all! It is pretty fabulous I must say!
However, all my love for the convenience of not having nips aside, there is still a small part of me that gets a little self conscious about my body. I post topless photos all the time because I dont feel like these breasts are mine. To me they are fake boobies, “foobies”. The will never be my old boobs. My scars cover up anything sexy about my chest. I feel the farthest thing from sexy actually. Its sad because I feel undesirable and most definitely unattractive because of my chest.
I was priveleged enough to have found my knight in shining armor pre-cancer. So he knew my old titty tatas and now my foobies. And although he sayssss I am beautiful and my chest doesnt bother him… Deep down I know it does. I mean, if I dont feel like they are natural, and I treat them as a foreign thing… how can he get turned on by them? I can count on one hand how many times since my mastectomy he has even touched my chest and probably each of those times was me facilitating and guiding his hand to cop a feel. Its awkward all around… and thats when I realized that nipples may be the missing piece to my sexay puzzle!
I have started looking into my next step of whether or not I wanted new nipples, but thought I had finally come to the decision that I feel more comfortable hiding behind my scars, keeping my unnatural feeling breasts and thats just my reality because I had breast cancer at 26 years old. Im married, he says he’s fine with it so thats a wrap, right? I mean, I guess so… but it is 2017, so why not atleast look into different options.
What are Your Options?
So what are the options when you wake up from surgery and are nippleless like an utterless cow? Well its your lucky day, because there are a slew of options, you just have to find the one that works best for you! Of course going nippless is completely fine and dandy if you feel comfortable in your new skin, which I absolutely believed I was… until I tried out some options. There are invasive and non invasive options, Lets start with the surgical approach…
PROS: This would probably be the most invasive option for obtaining nipples because it does involve surgery. All surgeons are different however, my surgeon performs the breast reconstruction with the insertion of implants, has you wait another six months to allow the skin and tissue to heal, then starts to discuss adjustments and nips. Basically a plastic surgeon is able to “build up” and actually form a nipple from underneath the skin to create the illusion of having an actual 3d nipple! It provides you with a little lump that can be played with, flicked, or sucked! Every woman’s dream right?! If only you didn’t have decreased sensation following a mastectomy.
CONS: One of the major downsides to this option is that there is a chance, and many people have reported to me that the nipple that is reconstructed often collapses or diminishes, so you either have to undergo another surgery or live with a flat nipple anyways. You also then have to almost definitely look into areola/ nipple tattooing because its all swell and good that you now have the nipple formed, but “normal nipples” are a different pigment from your skin therefore to make it look somewhat natural, your going to have to get some sort of coloring or pigmentation applied.
3-D Nipple/ Areola Tattooing
PROS: That brings me to tattooing! I have had a few tattoo artists reach out to me and I’ve looked at many options going the more artistic route. If you chose to venture down the tattoo route, I’ve heard artists saying you can undergo tattooing as soon as 3 months following reconstruction! You can do tattooing whether or not youve had nipple reconstruction because the artists are actually able to use contrasting colors to create shadows and an illusion that the nipples are actually pertruding! A great option whether you chose to undergo nipple reconstruction or not. This is a way to provide a more visual normalcy to having nipples again!
CONS: Some problems I have seen going this route are finding a good artist and the cost. One of my greatest fears with tattoos are how permanent they really are. Hellz, if they go to town and my nips come out looking like pepperonis, im stuck with that shit for the rest of my life! Then theres some tattoos that have serious Montgomery gland protrusion. These often look like little spots or dots apples to the areola. Like, I am not okay with my tits looking like they have an STD! So not only am I going to be stuck with unnatural foobies, but now they are a serving platter for some bologna tits! Like, no… wayyyyy to risky for me anyways…
Chest Piece Tattoos
PROS: Then there is the beauty of receiving a chest piece! I have seen some freaking gorgeous tattoos that stretch across womens breasts. From flowers to animals, these are used as a symbol of making it through the journey of cancer. This route is much more symbolic I feel, and to some; this can also be used as a coping mechanism. Others may chose this option when their scars are dark or implants show significant rippling as a way to camouflage their imperfections.
CONS: For me, I have some tattoos but nothing large. All I can think about is what that tattoo will look like when i’m 80 years old. I would want that portrait to last and look like the weeks following its completion, surely not just a blob or bleeding colors. This is also a very permanent option. Especially after those of us have undergone so much radiation, if you do receive a tattoo that you aren’t satisfied with… you can’t just get laser removal. You are pretty much stuck with what you get.
Temporary Nipple Tattoos
PROS: Then, I found temporary nipple tattoos! I figured this was a sure solution to my nippless problem. I reached out to the company “tata tattoos” and they sent me out some samples! Tata Tattoos- Amazon Literally I felt like I was 5 tears old again and ready to apply tattoos all up and down my arms! They sent me a sample pack so I had many different pigments to pick from. I chose a pair I “thought” were close to my natural color. A little lining them up in the mirror, adding some water, peeling the paper back ever so carefully and BAM! I had myself some nipples! Wonderful, creative alternative and even something to try if your contemplating nipple reconstruction or tattooing!
CONS: In theory this was a fantastic option, until I looked up in the mirror. I initially thought they looked a little odd, even for my B-ish sized expanders. The size and shape just looked very small circles. And the color didn’t seem all that right. But then, I walked out and showed my husband and his face said it all. We both just laughed hysterically. Okay, I legit had pepperonis on my chest! I most definitely picked the wrong color! And, the best part… I couldn’t get them off for about a week! Ugh, nipple FAIL!
Basically, if you dont go the tattoo route, you really arent going to be able to recreate the look of an areola or natural colored nipple. Its practically impossible unless you are a seriously amazing makeup artist and can spend the time drawing on semi permanent nipples that wont wipe of when you get a little sweaty during some bam chica wam wam… but still im sure theyd wipe off then your partner will be like, “wait a second, where did your nips go” and that would be seriously embarrassing. Or, you get caught in a rain storm and your boobs get wet then the makeup runs through your white shirt and people are like, “um whats on your shirt?” And you say “omg my nipples”! Like, save yourself the torture!
Finally… Nipple Prosthetics
Lets get to what you have all been waiting for, the story of my new nips! Thats what led me to my next option, nipple prosthesis! I attended the Young Survival Coalition Summit Conference 2017 in Oakland California (full blog to come), and amongst a slew of absolutely amazing vendors laid a table full of nipples. I am not talking pictures of nipples, I’m not talking statues of nipples, i am talking real life freakin nipples!! Okay, they weren’t real nor alive but that were silicone nipples and they were the most real looking nipple alternatives I have found yet!
Pink-Perfect, a company created by artist and breast cancer survivor herself Michal Arbel makes a variety of shape, size, color, and texture of nipples! Literally it looked like hundreds of different types of nipples for all skin tones to create a more natural booby look! For my sisters with one nipple, this is the best part, these are custom, and she is an absolute expert at matching her product to your existing single nipple.
PRO: Pink Perfect creates high quality, realistic, custom-made and easy to use adhesive silicone nipples to make us nippless beings feel beautiful inside and out. Aside from them looking absolutely as real as it gets, they feel real too! The silicone make the nipple squishable, and overall comfortable. And, (this is the best part of all) the glue adhesive can last up to 2 weeks per application! They are waterproof too! They can be worn in the shower or during swimming! Like for real, how incredible are these!
CON: Now in this day and age, pretty much anything that is fabulous always comes with a price tag. Pink-Perfect has two different routes that you can chose from. #1: they make a ready -made tailored for women who underwent a unilateral or bilateral mastectomy. They currently have 3 different styles including Natural, Modest or Bold. Each style differs in nipple projection and areola texture and comes in 8 different color variations. These pre-made nips run about $240.00. #2: The custom version is intended for women who have undergone a unilateral (single) mastectomy.They provide you with an impression kit including high quality silicone. You make your imprint, send it back and in return you will receive an extremely realistic nipple which will resemble your remaining nipple! How flipping cool is that! The only downside to this option is that it will run you $370.00-$440.00 (dependent on if you receive the impression kit or not).
One additional positive about Pink-Perfect is that within the US, they are covered under HCPCS billing code L8032 (“Nipple Prosthesis, reusable, any type, each”). You can contact your insurance company and with a qualifying diagnosis and surgery requiring nipples and many insurance providers will cover them. You may need to talk to your plastic surgeon for a prescription, however it is definitely worth it due to the high cost! The way I see it is if its going to make you feel comfortable and sexy then that is truly priceless!
“Pink Perfect uses a waterproof Pros-Aide® & Telesis® Adhesives which are intended for external prosthesis usage. Both adhesives are from FDA licensed companies, well-known in the professional make-up industry. Based on our research, tests and customer feedback, the complementary Pros-aide adhesive maintains its integrity for a period of several days. However, for some women, the Pros-aide adhesive won’t hold as much as they expect due to their skin moisture/pH level and may need a stronger adhesive. For these women we offer the Telesis adhesive.”
My advice would be plan for prosthetic nipples ahead of time. Get in touch with your insurance, and if they are covered just order a pair because its all about timing and premiums. For me, If I would have purchased prosthetic nipples before the new year, they would have been covered 100% by my HighMark insurance company because my deductible would have been reached. Being the start of the new year and not having as many appointments as the year prior, I have not hit my deductible therefore, the cost came out of pocket.
After trying the nipples, I was surprised by how easy they could be applied and how realistic they really look. The medical grade adhesive allowed me to wear the nipples throughout a normal day, while exercising and showering. I purchased a more natural and less bold nipple so I have a little poke when I don’t wear a bra, but they are still light enough in color that they are visible through a white shirt. I think the silicone nipples would be a wonderful option for anyone considering nipple reconstruction. They are pain free, less expensive than surgery and allow you the opportunity to see if nipples provide you a sense of emotional comfort or closure.
So, how to purchase them you ask? Well its simple, she has a website and she ships internationally! After you finish this blog post of course, head over to http://www.pink-perfect.com and check out some nipples people!
The Decision Is Yours
The bottom line is that no one lives in your body but you. No one sees your naked body except you and your partner unless you are some sort of nudest then hell yes to you my friend! Plain and simple you have to go with the decision that will make you happy, and make you feel comfortable in your own skin! I can honestly say that once I had my nipples glued on for the very first time, I looked in the mirror and cried! Not because I was sad or it hurt… but because I felt like me again, I felt normal, and I felt beautiful!
I have had my nips attached ever since the conference and I am yet to take them off. For me this is the absolute perfect alternative because the days I want to have nipples I can, and when I want to wear a shirt without a bra, I can just peel them off and store them safely in their little box. It truly makes for the best of both worlds! Thank you Pink Perfect and Michal for the opportunity to feel like me again with the absolute perfect pair of nipples! #sparkleon
PS: Check out my videosof my nipples below!
I’ve been a little hush hush… but, about a month ago I noticed a lump along my right side of my throat/ neck. It felt like an enlarged lymph node, it was moving around, squishy, and about the size of a pea. It wasnt painful at all, I mean a “normal” person probably wouldnt have even known it was there!
So, what do I do… the one thing that every Dr. tells me not to do of course, I google it! Well, basically I self diagnosed myself with everything from cancer recurrence to a siamese twin growing out the side of my neck (supposedly that has happened per my research), or even a spider bite with laying of eggs which will eventually lead to baby spiders breaking through my skin and if they hit a main artery kill me! Basically, you can say I really should stop self diagnosing…
Anyways, Ive never felt a lump around my neck before and I had my annual follow-up already scheduled with my amazing surgical oncologist Dr. Cowher, so I figured Id show him and see what he had to say instead of trying to make an appointment with my PCP or oncologist for something that may be nothing at all. That afternoon, I had to leave work 15 minutes early so I could get downtown to pick up John and make it to the hospital in time for my appointment. We literally pulled into the parking garage just in the knick of time!
I truly believe that I am the only person to ever schedule a 3:30 appointment in this office, because I walk in and you could literally hear crickets if there were any! Its a little bit awkward almost, because this was the office where my journey began. And quick side note, its always so weird because back on that first day when John and I were waiting in that office for my mammogram, we were sitting in these two seats next to the window. Do you know every time we go to this office we choose those same exact seats!! So weird, such creatures of habit!
Anyways, I was called back into the exam room. Was instructed to do the usual, change into the robe waist up with opening in the front yadadada. The nurse did my vitals and of course my blood pressure was up! I don’t know what it is, its always perfectly normal at home but you put me in a doctors office and I’m a little bundle of nerves. Dr. Cowher walked in with his lovely assistant and it was so nice to see them! The last time I saw him was about a year ago following my double mastectomy! I was bald! Now I have hair, its all just so crazy to me!
I hopped up on the exam table and he asks that dreaded question, “do you have any concerns for me?”… of which my response was well…
I went on a rant how I felt a lump on the side of my neck, its really small and moves but its scaring me. He immediately switches his focus off of the tatas and begins to palpate and feel my neck/throat. He actually couldn’t even find it, so I did and put his finger on it. He did clarify that Im not crazy and there is a lump. He said it felt like an enlarged lymph node and perhaps I’m coming down with a cold, however… (that lovely phrase “however”)… do to my cancer history, the mystery lump will be documented and must be re-assessed in about a month at which during that time if it changes he would order a biopsy.
Hold up!!!! Biopsy! My stomach did a tumble-salt. I could not believe what I was hearing! After so many of my pink sisters recently have recurrences… now I have a freakin lump on the side of my neck! Like, this cant be my life right now! I am just getting back to life and living! NO No Noooooo!
I was given specific orders to not touch the lump more than once a week to give it time to “heal” and not remain inflamed. He then did a very thorough breast exam which I passed with flying colors, thank God! I made an appointment for the following month, and left the office feeling very uneasy.
John is very good at talking me down from moments of high anxiety, and just hearing that this little lump could very well be something other than a little lymph node literally made me want to cry. It is soooooo scary! And, I didn’t really want to make a big deal about it by telling my family or anything because they’ve already been through enough worrying. Ughhhh
Turned out that following week I got a severe cold, and was actually tested for the flu. I felt awful with a sore throat, post nasal drip, and a fever. I literally slept the entire weekend, I just had no energy to move. I felt for Mr. Lumpy (as I called him) and yup, he was still there! 😦 The following week I was feeling better, still had a runny nose but nothing like the week prior. I felt for Me. Lumpy, and yup he was still there. The next two weeks I was in perfect health, or as perfect as my health will get me! I felt for Mr. Lumpy, and yup he was still there:( No changes in size or pain however this little monster was still poking out of my neck!
One month flew by, and today I was scheduled to follow-up with Dr. Cowher regarding Mr. Lumpy. I felt my neck in the morning and yup, he was still there. I even asked John what should I do, cancel the appointment and keep hoping it will go away? I always go back to, maybe im really just. Razy and over re-acting… but then again if I ignore it and it is something… ugh:( John recommended us to just go and get checked, which deep down made me even more nervous because I really wanted him to just say the usual “Meghan your fine, cancel the appointment”, but this time his response was different…so we went to the appointment.
Once again, we got to Dr. Cowher’s office and it was empty! They called us right in, did the normal change into this gown ritual and I waited for Dr. Cowher. In walked my savior, literally. The man who when I first met him he scared the beJesus out of me because of how upfront he was about my very aggressive form of breast cancer. He was the first one to face me with reality that my tumor is huge and I have a gene so there is no way to save my natural teenie tatas. He completed my mastectomy and got me clear margins by a mere cut of his scalpel. And now, he thoroughly checks each and every lump and bump I find on my body!
I hopped up onto the table and he began palpating my neck. A couple seconds go by and he couldn’t find Mr. Lumpy! I know I felt it this morning, so I then started massaging my neck trying to find the mystery lump. Like magic… poof Mr. Lumpy was nowhere to be found!!! Super weird yet super astonishing all at the same time!
I then had him feel under my right (cancer side) breast where I am tender and also thought I felt a lump this morning. He once again completed a thorough exam and could not find any lumps or bumps, only scar tissue from my recent (December) breast reconstruction. A huge weight lifted from my chest, and of course Johns all like “I told ya so”. But really, how do you really know nothing is there! That is the mindset of someone who has been faced with cancer. Pretty much any slight intention of there being anything odd in my body, its always the cancer is back! I am literally living in a nightmare daily! (Gosh im writing this and thinking perhaps I need a shrink— look what cancer has done to me!)
Then, Dr. Cowher put it this way (ps: I love when he goes on rants and really brings it down to the patients level…) he explained that nobody in my life has experienced cancer like I have, not even him! Sure they were along the journey, and heck he sees it errday! Ultimately, it didnt happen to them. I have fears and anxieties that will probably be with me for the rest of my life. I cant help that Im going to feel my body (and Izzys) like a fein because Im scared okay!
Lumpxiety should be a serious diagnosis. Actually, I’m making it one because holy hells is it real! It causes many obsessive tendencies, high blood pressure, and fear! It all goes back to this awful awful awful fear of the cancer coming back! Like a thief in the night, Its always in the back of my mind that Im going to wake up and have to start this last year all over again:(
After getting the “all clear” by Dr. Cowher, we started talking about many things. First I wanted to see a picture of my tumor but of course the computer wasn’t working. Then, we talked about how there are no young survivor foundations in Pittsburgh, then we started talking about how he performs mastectomies and I asked to shadow one (which Im still working on:), we talked about cancer in general and IVF and when he’d recommend if at all for me to try to carry a baby. By the time we were wrapping up, it was about 4:20 and he had to be in a meeting at 4:00! Ooopsy! See, thats a good doctor though, he stayed and answered every question and concern I had for about a 45 minute appointment, so awesome! The crazy part is that I could literally pick his brain all day! This cancer stuff is truly fascinating to me! Perhaps i’ll go back to school to be an oncologist?!;)
So, in conclusion as per Dr. Cowher’s professional opinion, I do not have anything to worry about for the “lumps” I thought I found. Basically I need to try to stop worrying about recurrence and live life happily and carefree, because I refuseeee to live the rest of my life fearing something I have absolutely no control over! (We’ll work on this;) #sparkleon
Hey! My name is Meghan and this time last year… I was preparing for my tits to get chopped off! Okay, I guess that wasn’t the BEST introduction, but it is 100% true! April of 2016, I underwent a double mastectomy after 12 rounds of chemo and pending 30 radiation treatments following my diagnosis of stage 2B breast cancer. I have been through it all my friend, and since i’ve already been there and done that, here are some tips,advice, and what to expect in the next few months to come…
Okay, plain and simple… its freaking scary. It sucks going into any cancer journey, but when the treatments begin to take away every last bit of the “old you”, it hurts. Emotionally, then physically. My first bit of advice is to celebrate! I am all about throwing a party, and what a greater celebration than becoming cancer free? Legit the cancer filled tissue/ tumor is about to leave your body… and your beloved boobies are simply a sacrifice for your life! Even if it’s as simple as buying yourself a cupcake, lighting a candle and making a wish. This event shouldn’t be a funereal or even somber in nature, but instead a bright, sparkly, vibrant, celebration of life and BOOBS!
For me, my Tata to the Tatas celebration was the first step of closure with the process of my cancer journey. It turned this very difficult and life changing moment into a positive, fun, and joyous occasion. Of course we has a boob cake and cupcakes, a massive bra for everyone to sign, it was fun and goofy, but also so meaningful. It was a chance for my family and friends to be apart of my journey, soend time with me, and get a fee laughs in before a major surgery! I mean, you dont ever truly know what is going to happen during a surgery… so if something were to happen, I was atleast going out with a banging celebration!
Make sure to take one last photo of your precious boobies. I can almost put money on the fact that later on, there will absolutely be those days that you look down at your new chest and try to remember what the old twins used to look like. Even something as stupid as a nipple. I wonder all the time what mine used to look like, what color or size they were— it seems so dumb but this is the post mastectomy reality. In the day and age where mastering the “selfie” is of utmost importance… DO NOT forget to invite your boobies into the photo;)
Surgery day…truthfully, I was scared shitless as I was on the stretcher ready to go back to have my boobs lopped off! As I exchanged hugs and kisses to my family, this was the moment that I broke. I was hysterical. It is completely normal for fear, anxiety, and yes DEATH to cross your mind. My advice is, take a deep breath and hope for the best, it is all you really can do! I sort of kept it in the back of my mind that this is what I had to do to live and get the cancer out of my body, that helped too.
Next, Expect pain. I mean, you are having surgery… and everyone is different. The best way for me to describe mastectomy pain is tenderness, stretching, and sharpness. Initially you will most likely have pain pills, and if your not allergic like me and can take them… DO! Your body will heal quicker the less pain you are in because your body will be able to relax. If you can’t take pain medicine like me, you will be completely fine with extra strength Motrin. The pain is moreso a burning, pulling sort of feeling. You are going to be most limited because you won’t be able to really use your arms the way you are used to. Do not be like me, take a bath when your home alone (without the water touching your chest of course) because you WILL get stuck. It is nearly impossible to get up and out of a tub without using your arms, I dare you to try this pre- surgery… take my advice and do not do it! BUT remember, after surgery you have to keep moving! This may be the therapist in me, but I was up and peeing on the toilet as soon as they got me to the doorway of my hospital room. REFUSE the bed pan, get your butt up and MOVE, thats how you are going to heal.
Ps: Go out and get some comfy front opening pajamas– (wal mart has geeat button pajama sets) I pretty much lived in them for a few days until I was able to move my arms enough to get a shirt over my head. Or, just go topless, I did that a lot as well!
You will have drains, lines, stitches, swelling, bruising, and exhaustion. Your chest is going to look a bit Frankensteinish. At first, you may not want to look down. If you are like me… you may sneak peeks despite the doctors orders to leave the dressings alone! I can tell you that I left the surgical tape along my scars for weeks, and quite truthfully… I was scared to take them off and actually see my scars because it made them real. Take the time to adjust to your new chest, and remember the scars are a souvenir of your journey!
*Something that was a life saver to me was my drain dolly or shower pocket! My friend ordered one for me from Amazon, it is 100% worth the money. It lays comfortably around your neck to hold your drains, I was even able to use it to keep them up when I bathed. Some people have more than 2 drains though, thats when you may want to get creative! I couldn’t really find anything that I thought would work for very cheap… until I decided to use my noggin. Thats when I decided to buy a beer belt. I found a super cute one on amazon for a few bucks and brought it with me just in case I had 3+drains— lucky for me I came out with only two, but this is a good hack if you don’t want to spend 20+.00 on a “drain” specific item.
If you have friends and family who are willing to help, teach them how to empty your drains, for me that was the greatest help. Or how to shoot you in the stomach with a needle if they make you do blood thinner injections. If not, you can do it! Pretend its a dart and JUST DO IT! Don’t pause 😉 Oh, having meals prepared ahead of time is also a great recommendation. One of the BEST things during my recovery from my mastectomy was hiring a cleaning lady. It sounds so ridiculous and I hate to admit it but the extra help was so so sooooooo greatly appreciated and needed at the time.
Now is the perfect segway into my recommendation for scars, healing, and skin care. You 100% must make a plan ahead of time if you want your scars to heal beautifully. Of course drinking tons of water and eating nutritious foods helps. I will make recommendations, however please clear everything with your doctor!What worked for me and I say it all the time, it literally saved my life, is RxCanna Care. Following my mastectomies, I used their canna cream around my newly diminshed breasts— around the surgical tape and not near my drains. Once drains were removed and tape was taken off, my doctor recommended me to use lotions to promote healing. I waited until my scars were healed (with no drainage or open areas) and I began loading up with canna cream! This CBD based lotion is filled with natural healing properties and I swear that is why my mastectomy scars healed so beautifully!
Expanders and Fills.
Boy I bet you cannot wait to get those plastic balls off your chest! Bet you didn’t know that sleeping on your back was so hard either! I remember it all too well. I bet you cant sleep on your stomach, or even your side right now because of how uncomfortable the rocks on your chest make it. Well, one thing I did find that made sleeping a little better was purchasing a maternity pillow (I bought a Snoogle). I was able to manipulate it so my shoulder was supported and my boobs sort of hovered in like a nest— sounds weird but it was the only way I found comfort as a habitual side sleeper the last 26 years of my life!
When someone hugs you, you probably arch a little so they dont get poked by your pokeball titties. It is completely normal to look in the mirror and give them a quick squeeze and wonder what the heck your doctor really slipped under your skin. Each fill is probably more and more painful, well for me it was atleast. Take a tylenol 30 minutes before a fill— and look into reiki or hypnosis I kid you not, it took away my pain to the point I could actually sit up and breath without being in horrible pain following my fills. For me, the expanders were one of the worst 8 months of my life! You will be in constant discomfort and it won’t go away until they are out, so your just going to have to wait… sorry thats the honest truth:( *Rxcanna care CBD oil also has pain relief!
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, hopefully! If you are planning on getting breast reconstruction DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Remember this is NOT a boob job… the difference between breast reconstruction vs. a beauty boob job is the simple fact that the surgeon is building a breast after taking off all your breast tissue. I like to picture it as a sand castle. Its a lot easier to build a castle on top of a hard form than with just sand and water when it tends to crumble. Same sort of thing with breast reconstruction. NOT every breast reconstruction will come out “good”. There are a kazillion complications that could occur. Please start with researching your surgeon. Feel comfortable with your surgical plan, ask questions, and be an active part in decision making.
I know you want to know about whats most important… thats size! The bigger the better is my motto, however with breast reconstruction this is a difficult subject. Plain and simple, Expect smaller boobs. If you get greedy and force your surgeon to place a larger implant, there is a high chance that the surgery will have some sort of complication. Listen to your surgeon. Tell them your wants and needs and meet in the middle. Its all about compromise, ive learned.
There are TONS of different shapes, profiles, and materials that implants are made of nowadays— every person is different and you should always discuss ALL options with your surgeon. My surgeon explained to me that the best material (for me) of implant would be a gummy implant which is a silicone mixed implant. It is a harder consistency BUT this works for me because my implant is under my muscle and I there is less of a chance for rippling. Saline implants tend to be jigglier and you can get easier cleavage however you most likely will see ripples because your skin is going to be thinner— remember, we don’t have breast tissue and fat like normal boob job candidates.
My implants are also a tear drop shape. These are a more natural looking option and literally look just like my old boobs. They lay on my chest as a sort of ski slope style to give that natural feel. For me, I actually would have rathered a high profile type implant where it would have more of a boob job/ barbie girl look however in years to come, and once i’m out of my 20s, I feel like these foobies will be perfect.I just want the big perky boobies, you know;)
Think CC’s vs. DD’s. When you go for breast reconstructions, there really isn’t a way to say I want a DD implant. Implants go by the amount of material inside the implant or cubic centimeters. Your surgeon will be able to provide you a better insight into size that may work for you. I went from 360cc filled expanders to 470cc implants and i’m about a 36C bra. (pre-cancer I was a 34B). Remember size matters, but it isn’t everything.
Ultimately you want implants that aren’t going to fail. If you are planning on getting breast reconstruction in the near future, here are some of my words of wisdom. Be upfront and truthful with your surgeon. I can’t even count how many times I told my surgeon “I want BIG boobs”, “I want them bigger”… etc. I felt annoying and selfish at times but HECK, this is my body and if i’m getting rebuilt, you better rebuild me right! Most likely, you will not go into surgery knowing what size you are coming out. My surgeon went in with 4 different sized implants, and lucky for me… I got the largest size;)
You will most likely not like what they look like when the bandages come off. They will be colorful, swollen, and look smaller than what the final product will look like. Even within the 1st month, my boobs changed dramatically! There is a phrase called “drop and fluff”— and that is exactly what happens! Your implants will look like their sitting really high on your chest at first, as the tissue heals they will drop and look more natural. You have to give them time to settle and heal. They will puff out because the swelling surrounding them will go down and if there are imperfections, your surgeon can always do adjustments. If you went through radiation, that radiated side may seem “crooked” for around 6 months! My surgeon will not even assess for revision until 6-12 months pass.
Don’t be surprised by a pretty quick recovery. Once again, everyone is different… however plan to be back at work within around 2 weeks. This surgery is NOTHING compared to everything you’ve been through so far. Literally they say it is instant relief once the expanders come out and I 100% agree. I think I actually went out to dinner day 2 after my surgery! Now, I’m not saying you won’t be uncomfortable… because you will be for around 3 weeks, but week 4 its like BAM no pain. I went from only being able to sleep on my back to week 3 sleeping comfortably on my side! It is like eating dessert after months of dieting, ENJOY*
Finally, I want to end this letter with a pep talk. We all know that boobs make us feel feminine. Breasts feed babies, cleavage looks sexy, and whether your mate is turned on by boobs or butts… well, you may be faced with a problem once they are gone. BUT, we have to remember that WE are not just boobs! Whether you chose to go flat chested, use prosthetics, or don’t exactly get the outcome with breast reconstruction that you expected… please always remember that as long as your lungs are working, your heart is pumping, and your eyes open the next morning… You are YOU with or without your boobies. Sure we all want to feel sexy and beautiful, but there are a kazillion things that make you beautiful… Go out and buy a pretty sparkly nighty and have some fun because YOU are a beautiful, sexy, survivor! Always #sparkleon
This is a post for all my sparkleoners. Boys, girls, ladies, and gentleman… we are all in this together. Well, most of us anyways. Cancer does not discriminate, and that is exactly why I am writing this blog. I was 26 years young when cancer decided to strike! It not only affected me, but it affected my family, friends, and well… now all of you!
This post is for all the pretty ladies who do not feel pretty. It is for the guys who are going through chemo and have heard something along the lines of “well, atleast your a guy… your hair doesn’t matter that much”. Its for the mother or grandmother who feels the need to shop in one of those gawd awful wig catalogs so their kids/ grand children don’t feel “weird” around you. This is for the husbands and boyfriends/ girlfriends/ wives who have to wipe the tears of their loved one as their hair falls out in clumps or they take a razor to their head to not face the inevitable. We are all in this together.
This exact time last year, I finished chemo! I was as bald as Mr. Clean, and practically wasting all my tears on how I looked. I remember writing an early blog post and quoting Mulan “When will my reflection show, who I am inside”. That is exactly how I felt. I looked in that mirror and could practically make myself feel nauseous because of the reflection looking back at me. I had dark sunken eyes, pimples, a round steroid face, and yes BALDNESS!
Today, I am one year from chemo and it wasn’t until today (one year + one day) that I have felt pretty for the first time throughout my entire cancer journey! I was that girl who hated how she looked, who hid behind my wig and makeup because that was the only way I could hold onto my “normal”. If you are reading this and tears are filling in your eyes… I am here to tell you that is okay! You are completely normal to feel upset about how you look! I questioned myself all the time if I was vain or really that materialistic and attached to my hair. The truth is, God gave us hair… and allows it to grow. If you are anything like me, you spend hours styling, dyeing, cutting, and pampering that lovely mane… you have every single right in the world to HATE cancer and what it has done to you!
I’m writing this blog today to tell you that you are not alone. You are not vain, and even though on the outside you may not feel beautiful… deep inside, that original sparkle still exists! The whole idea of my #sparkleon movement is for people to realize that your outward appearance isn’t what makes you pretty, beautiful, or sparkle! It is truly what is on your inside, what is in your heart that brings on that glow!
I have some very important words of advice, to you that young girl or woman who has recently been connected to a chemo pump and your hair is holding on by a few strands. My advice is shave it… hold on to that inkling of power that you have over your looks. I shaved my head short then straight razored is about 3 sessions into chemo due to follicular pain of my existing hair. Looking back now, It would have killed me to lose my luscious locks in clumps as I took a shower. Shave your head, buy a good wig, style it, and stock up on hats, wraps, and glitter because all those things will make you feel more “normal” until you feel comfortable enough to rock a bald head. Oh, and TAKE PICTURES!!!! I only have a very few pictures of me in my raw form and looking back today, I wish I would have documented more because it is a reminder of just how far i’ve come, and how #imasurvivor!
Get yourself some makeup, the brighter the lipstick the better… and start YouTubing how to apply fake lashes. It is a MUST. I mean, I guess if your a girly girl like me anyways. Once I lost all my hair, my brows and lashes were next. My sisters saved me when it came to having the best products and taught me application of these now hairless regions. Oh ya, after fixating on how upset you are at your new naked mole rat self— cherish your hairless private parts and chocha because… lets just say, it won’t last forever!
Do not feel awkward around friends, family, and strangers for that matter. I remember after I shaved my head… I was so nervous to see my husbands little cousins and go out in public. I felt like I always had to explain myself. The whole “I’m going through chemo” or “I have cancer” quotes were hard to roll off my tongue for a LONGGGGG time! Heck! I still get teary eyed when I say “I had cancer”— simetimes I dont even know what to say! But heck, thats a whole blog post in itself! I hated that I had cancer, I was ashamed in a way. I still wanted to be the old me, and at the time I didn’t want to admit that the old me was gone. Today… I am finally able to see that the “new” me is a much better, polished me.
If you are going through chemo, have a friend that is going through chemo, or see someone on the street who looks a little bald and not old man bald with a cigar hanging out of his mouth… say “hi”, and if they are a girl… tell them they look beautiful, but not in a creepy way;) Pick one thing on that person that you can compliment, “You have the most beautiful eyes”, “that lipstick is such a great color”, or simply “Have a great day”… those few statements will hit them in the pit of their stomach and truly make their day! I remember times when people complimented me when I felt like I was ugly and looked like a sick piece of poo, and it made that day a little brighter!
Right now, the mirror may be your enemy. For me, the mirror has been my nightmare for about a year and a half. Today, one year chemo free and I actually loved looking in the mirror! Read that again sparkleoners… ONE YEAR AFTER MY LAST CHEMO, I FINALLY am able to look into the mirror and accept my reflection. One year is a long time… but your time will come!
I have a challenge for you. And anyone can do this too- cancer filled, remission, friend or family member… Before bed tonight, I want you to take off your makeup, hang up the wig, get naked— this is the most important part! I want you to turn the light on (fan is optional 😉 I want you to take a selfie. DO NOT EDIT IT, DO NOT DELETE IT. Now I want you to find 1 single thing that you find beautiful/ handsome about yourself, your outward self. It can be as simple as I like that I have two working eyes, and a nose that smells! I don’t really care.. but you must give yourself the credit you deserve! You may not be able to find one thing on your outside core that you like right now… but that is okay. Deep down… very deep for some of us, we do still sparkle— it may take you a year and a half to believe me, but I promise… you are still beautiful!
Today I had an amazing experience for the first time getting my hair styled. I woke up, went live on Instagram and shared with all of you a monumental moment of straightening my hair for the very first time since it grew back! After I got it as straight as I could considering the thickness and crazy chemo curls, I looked in the mirror, remembered it was pay day… and decided to treat myself! I am tired of feeling like Meghan stuck with chemo curls in an outside core that I just deal with. So, I packed Izzy up and went to a salon I used to go to pre-cancer. (the amazing Dani’s HairLoft in Mckees Rocks PA- right outside of Pittsburgh)
It is always so awkward for me because Ive gone there to get my head shave fixed and my brows done a few times through my hair re-growing journey… and I always have to prepare myself because I know they arent going to recognize me and I just always get that awkward feeling like they know! Im the cancer girl, i dont know its just awkward right… they look in the computer and see ai havent had my hair done in over a year, not because Ive gone somewhere else, its because I havent had any hair to get done!
Anyways, I went in and asked if they could fit me in for a quick cut. They are always soooo nice and said they could fit me in. I was waiting on one of their adorable wait chairs (councidentally the chair I sat in the day I shaved my hair and had to go get it fixed because it looked like I got attacked by a lawnmower), anyways. The hairdresser finished up and invited me into her spinny chair.
As we started talking I of course had to go into detail about my hair, my chemoversary, my first time straightening it (yes im practically a born again virgin!)… you know, explaining the cancer journey which im sure my cancer fam knows all too well. I got into products that I use… and it was like a firework went off! Turns out, Sandy (my hairdresser) is a Pureology rep— flipping match made in heaven right here. Of course I then go on and on about my love for their products, then she taught me things I didnt even know. Like, Pureology is vegan, and doesnt have carinogens! Awesomeeee… so why isnt every cancer crew member using it?!
Long story short, we have an immediate connection. She did a dry cut on my mane and woolah… I felt like a whole knew gal! For the very first time in over a year, since I was diagnosed and forced to shave my rapunzel pony… I felt pretty, feminine, and like me! A new me, but a good me and I am just so greatful!
February 23, 2016. One year ago today, we were sitting in treatment room #2 of chemotherapy singing “its all about that drip”, a song I made up to pass the time. I remember so clearly how the doctor came in prior to this chemo session because we were changing up my medicine from Taxol which I had an anaphylactic allergic reaction to the week prior, and we were ready to try a drug called Abraxane which is a Taxol derivative. The doctor specifically came in and said “don’t worry, no one is allergic to this drug”. To our surprise I am a rare person that had a “true” Taxol allergy.
I was so nervous for them to administer this new drug, and truthfully I was just waiting for hives, pain, or the worst, to be unable to breath! Up until this point, I have had allergic reactions to all of the drugs that they have tried with me within time. In my pre-chemo concoction, they would load me up with fluids, benedryl, and anxiety medications however soon enough my body built up a tolerance to the benedryl and BOOM a reaction would occur.
You often hear the quote, “its all in your head” and for the first time in my life I realized that isn’t always true. There were reactions that I had literally after being in a deep sleep where I would wake up feeling my throat closing, not being able to breath, and my family rushing to get a nurse to come and help. (Thank you to my sister Jillian, that literally happened). Allergies are scary, your body is reacting and your mind cannot do anything about it!
Side note: and also important for anyone with seasonal allergies! Taxol is a chemotherapy drug that is part of a group called “plant alkaloids”. Basically, it comes from a plant or part of a plant. In the case of Taxol, it is made from the bark of a Pacific Yew tree. Taxol is a specific plant alkaloid that is cell-cycle specific, meaning that they attack the cells before they divide causing cell death and in my case hopefully CANCER DEATH!
What is interesting about Taxol is that I have many allergies to the outdoors. I love flowers, camping, hiking, etc. however come spring I always have a stuffy nose. Another side note, I am super allergic to different fruits with skin especially. It doesn’t matter if I de-skin them, buy organic, or cook them… apples, peaches, and cherries turn me into a ball of itch! So, looking at where this very powerful drug comes from it isn’t surprising that I was severely allergic!
So, basically with four intended chemo treatments left of my initial (16 dose) planned course, my doctor threw in the towel after getting my breathing back and scaring my mother half to death! (literally). Pretty much I exhausted all of the drugs they could try to treat my exact cancer, and she took this as a sign that my body had had enough. And that basically meant, no “last day of chemo” party for me. No making cupcakes, taking pictures with a pretty sign, once again I missed out on yet another occasion to throw a party! (however not a party that most people would look forward to throwing)
My anxiety was so bad that with them simply running fluids through my port my heart rate was sky rocketing! I never really had anxiety before… because I never really had anything to be fearful of. Chemo literally brought the fear out of me.
One year later, I am finally getting my life back. Although I added on to my already serious list of allergies, (knock on wood) I havent had any serious reactions with my concurrent surgeries other than annoying rashes and ichiness. Today, I am finally starting to look in the mirror and see the reflection of a “me” that I love! I have hair again!!!! And a lot if curl I must add! Although I pray everyday it miraculously will grow past my booty… it is crazy to see just how much it has grown in a years time!
For me, losing my hair was THE worst part of my cancer journey. Truthfully, I would say it was even worse than losing my boobies! People may think im crazy… but to me, my hair is on the outside for everyone to see. My boobs are covered for the most part, and I can always do the tricks of my inner 13 year old self and just stuff my bras with socks or tissues right;) Being bald made the cancer real. A random person off the street could see bald therefore see that I had cancer, no matter how much glitter or lipstick I wore.
But really, cancer not only made me fight for my life… but, I was moreso fighting for my identity. I looked in the mirror and cried because a bald beast was starring back at me. It was cancer that I saw, raw, bald, and at the time I felt far from beautiful. My dark circles, sunken cheeks, and fake smile were only some of the outward side effects of chemo. Though these poisonous drugs were attacking all the evil little cancer cells in my body, sadly they cant pick and chose good from bad and therefore the inner side effects were also prevalent.
Of course there was nausea, loss of appetite, and for me allergies… but there were also side effects that the normal person doesn’t want to talk about. Oh ya, I’m talking about my booty! And not how cute and perky it used to be either! Im talking constipation, hemorrhoids, the cancer life is tough let me tell you! And lets not even get into the awkward initial stages of when hair decides to grow back! I can tell you that it doest come back on your head first…
But for reals, this was a HUGE deal— a girls coochie is beautiful bald and I hate that I have to shave/ wax nowadays however… hair growth is hair growth people! AND YES it deserved a group text message to my sisters (and now the world) that my COOCH HAS HAIR!!! *I may have embraced the bush for a few days too… I promise I’m back to naked mole rat now 😉
Luckily, today that is all in my past! Hopefully anyways:)
Although I still have frequent check ups with my specialists. Life now a days is getting back into a routine. It’s forcing me to get up everyday and eat healthy, begin working out, loving my job, being thankful for my family, and most importantly… living every single second of every day to its fullest, because truly– tomorrow is NEVER EVER a guarantee! I wake up each and every day with a smile on my face, I look into the mirror and see a strong, beautiful, determined me! I get to roll over and kiss the most amazing husband and puppers in the whole entire world. And I make numerous phone calls throughout the day to my family and friends! Life is so so so good, and I am just truly thankful!
I am looking forward to where my future is leading me. I was dragged along this path and journey for a reason, and in this year to come Sparkle On Inc. WILL come to life! Stay tuned 😉
I feel like in the past year and a half, my life has become surrounded by my diagnosis. Yes, I had cancer, I had to go through treatments that significantly changed my look, my life plans, view on life, and relationships. My Timehop pops up daily, and my posts from the past year are all bald headed, chemo filled, shit. I look at my posts from 2+ years ago, and I have long blonde hair, am carefree, living the life of just another 20 something year old.
I was cruising my instagram the other day, and went to answer some of my DM’s and it hit me. I am sooooo thankful that because of my journey, I am able to now advocate, counsel, and guide young girls and women like me just entering this journey or whom aren’t as open as I am. I have the opportunity to share tips, answer questions, and inspire women daily, and that is simply magical! Although I am “cancer-free” technically speaking, the thing that many people don’t realize is once you are diagnosed with any cancer… it is with you for the rest of your life! I wonder if my “old friends” are embarrassed, don’t feel like they can reach out to be a part of my life because I’m now “different”. It literally feels like ai have cooties! I’m not sure many of my friends understand this new “me”…
Homecoming court Highschool 2007
Growing up through middle school and high school, I wasn’t the most popular however I was a cheerleader and tried to be nice to everyone. I wasn’t really part of any certain “clique” however I had a lot of friends and aquaintences from all different groups. When I went off to college, I felt like it was a new beginning. I instantly made friends, many I know will be a part of my life forever!
When I was initially diagnosed, I know it was a major shock for many people. Heck, I announced it to hundreds of friends and family through one single Facebook post! I instantly had my inbox and cellphone absorbed in messages from people I would consider my closet friends, and many other I haven’t talked to in forever but once had a significance in my life.
After our magical wedding, and once I began treatments, it was as if my friends and their communication started dwindling away. When at one time, my hubby and I would always be invited out on a Friday night… my days began to be filled with fatigue and weakness and basically I didn’t have the energy to party anymore. Not that drinking was everrrr a big part of my life, however I would drink a “jolly rancher” here or there and have a good time. Once I got cancer, became bald, and “sick” those calls and invites began to dwindle.
I must say, many friends and family gathered around, mailed me gifts and packages and that truly made the awful situation a little brighter, and those special gestures will be forever cherished. However, some of my friends who I would consider the closet in my life began to slowly drift away. I have over 8,000 followers on my instagram– about 1500 of those I had prior to my diagnosis, and I have realized that hardly anyone from my “pre-cancer” life “likes” or messages me regarding my journey. Is it that you don’t know what to say? Are you embarrassed that I flash me scars? Does it seem that I’m not the same me? I completely apologize that this is my life now, and I can tell you I post selfies and my tits because I want to save the life of one young girl like me!!! You truly don’t understand how awful this journey is until you live it… and if I can help one girl feel a little more comfortable in her skin, than I will post away!
There has been times where statements have been made that I don’t “like” to go out anymore, i’m not as “fun” as I used to be, or John and I are stuck in our own “bubble” and don’t like to hang out with people… however that is far from our reality! Please understand that our life simply isn’t the same however WE are the same! (its quite the concept, it is confusing)
I want to write this post not the shame anyone, that is the very LAST thing I would ever want to do because I completely understand that life goes on and its hard sometimes to find the time to check in etc. I do however want to give some recommendations for people with friends or family going through a cancer or any disease journey!
Be supportive: This doesn’t mean just day 1, this doesn’t mean send a kazillion gifts, this doesn’t mean you have to absorb yourself into their journey… however a friendly text now or then goes a longggggg way! While they are going through treatments, a lot of time is spent doing more sedentary tasks, sitting in a chair for hours at a time at chemo, or resting in bed because they don’t have the energy to get up. By you reaching out and saying a simple “hi”, it can make someones day.
Offer realistic assistance: We have ALL been in the situation when someone is going through a rough time and we say the famous line, “if you need anything… let me know”, but do we really mean it? Well, I can be the first to tell you that many people don’t mean that at all. Instead of saying, DO! If someone is going through treatment, bring them dinner, find time to plan an afternoon visit, sit down and watch a movie or paint nails together, just show up… it is truly those little “visits” that mean the most!
Dont disappear: Looking back on my journey, hell it is scary! I completely changed on the outside, but I promise… deep down I am still the fun, carefree, goofy girl I used to be. I may be bald but I still like to break it down, and drop it low ;). I might be tired all the time, but maybe this Friday night we could go out for dinner. If you live far away, check in… a simple “how are you doing”is difficult to answer truthfully because most likely I feel like shit, look like shit, and don’t really want to tell you about my reality. Instead, ask me about my day, familiarize yourself with what is going on in my life. Send me a freakin quote or riddle that is going to make me smile.
**The best gifts are the most meaningful and thoughtful… a handwritten card addressed to me with a memory of when things were “normal” are the absolute best!
I am beyond thankful for my family and close friends for getting through my darkest times; without them, I wouldn’t have the sparkle and strength to be where I am today! However, it truly breaks my heart that I feel like my journey has caused me to lose friends that I thought I would have forever. In a way, it might be me being selfish, and of course I am able to reach out to them… but a part of me remains salty as hell that you couldn’t be there for me during my lows, but yet I jump when people need my help. Grrrr…. I feel so awful writing this but I just simply have to get it off my chest.
Those just entering your journey, know that nothing will be the same. Deep down you are still “you” however that “you” will soon become a much stronger, more courageous, and determined “you” than ever before. If you are lucky like me, you will meet new friends that are or have also been through a journey like yours… and you will be able to text or call them at the wee hours of the morning because you feel an ache or pain because, they “get it”. Many of your “friends” will not understand what you are going through because they have never experienced a journey like “cancer”. Be kind, be patient, and take my advice and speak up and tell them how you feel instead of holding it in like me and holding a grudge.
To my “friends” and family that I talk to daily, thank you! You have kept me going and I forever owe you for that. I promise to see you soon! And to my friends that I haven’t talked to in months… Hello, my name is now Meghan Koziel, and yes I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 26. I went through chemo, lost my hair, had my boobs cut off, and am fearful everyday that my cancer is going to come back… however, deep down, I am still me. I miss you, and I would LOVE to hear from you or go out like the old days.
This year my Martin Luther King day was spent a little bit differently than the years prior. When I was in school, it was a day in reflection, when I worked in the hospital, it was just another day making people more independent in many areas of life. This year working in a school, I get a day off, much needed I might add but also a day where different opportunities can present themselves… and thats is exactly how I spent this past Monday!
“Lifes most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”- Martin Luther King Jr. I decided that I am far more fortunate than some when it comes to spending time and doing special things with friends and family. So, when I was awarded the Fab*U*Wish day of pampering from Guiliana Rancic, Nordstrom, and Estee Lauder, there was no doubt in my mind that I had to share this experience… but with who? It didnt take me long to decide that the people that deserve this experience the most is other young girls going through the breast cancer journey like me!I immediately sent out a post on instagram on a quest to find 3 of the most perfect girls in the Pittsburgh area who 1. Wanted a makeover, and 2. Who was eager to share their journey with me! A day I assumed would consist of makeup and lunch turned into an experience I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life!
I had many women, actually even from outside the Pittsburgh area reach out to me… but in my heart I knew I had to meet Katie, Lissa, and Sarah all young, strong, determined women fighting breast cancer under the age of 35! For the first time in my life since October 2015 when I was diagnosed, I felt a bond and a connection that is different from any of my friends or family. Its like when I was with these girls, they just “got it”. I didnt have to fight back tears, hold in my emotions, or try to sugar coat things as not to offend the general “non cancer” public. I could talk about the evil “c” as much as I wanted without being judged or feeling like the person on the other aide doesn’t really want to talk about the topic and they are just being polite, which happens often!
The day arrived and my incredible mother in law was even willing to share in this special day on her day off! My mom and sister live over 4 hours away and I couldn’t plan a day for my close friends and cousin to attend so, looks like we’ll just have to plan another day of pampering… oh darn!;) Anyways, my mother in law arrived at my house in her mink floor length coat which I am totally jealous over because its gorgeous, so I had to pull out my faux fur coat and away we went!
Our day of pampering took place at Ross Park Mall in McCandelis PA, about 15 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. We found a parking spot and my first stop in the mall was Teavana! Im sort of like a fein for it… since ive moved to Pittsburgh, Ive only been buying their tea and making it at home in my fancy smancy Teavana 200.00 tea maker, however I swear it doesnt taste the same! So, as I grabbed my tea, my mother in law and her hypersensitive nose stayed outside as to not get nauseated by the smells of the fruity teas before our makeover… we just couldnt have that now!
We walked back to Nordstrom and towards the Estee Lauder cosemetics counter where we met our two makeup artists. Sandy Clark is a beauty advisor at this local Nordstrom and was ever so personable, talented, and engaged throughout our sessions, and Cindy Toohey is an actual make up artist from Estée Lauder who ever so graciously traveled over an hour and a half to not just put makeup on our faces, but to learn about our journeys and provide us with a make over experience by educating us on makeup application and products, skin care, and also provided an open ear and heart as us girls were chattering along as she was trying to apply lip stick to a moving mouth (that would be mine if you couldnt have guessed).
Both Sandy and Cindy created a day that truly made each of us feel like individual princesses. They matched our complexions with this awesome doohickey as I like to refer to it as that actually takes the lighting out of the assessment to gain an accurate interpretation of your skin color. They let us look at colors of blush, eye shadows, and my favorite lip sticks! We were encouraged to think outside the box, as a few of the girls dont typically wear as much makeup as I normally do… it was so fun for them to pick the brighter of the two pink lipsticks, or ask for a little more mascara! This experience not only pampered us and made us look hawt on the outside, but towards the end when we were all dolled up, you could tell that we had all found our #sparkleon (that internal beauty that radiates to the outside).
To me, makeup has always been a way to feel more beautiful. Where there are many women in the world whom feel that all naturale or basic is beautiful… I completely disagree. I feel like God created makeup for a reason, and honey if it adds an extra 15 minutes of time onto your morning routine, go to bed 15 minutes earlier because girlllll you look sooooo much better with makeup;). Some may think im a bit vain now, but come on! When I was going through chemo and legit resembled Uncle Fester from the Adams Family, do you really think that telling me my all naturale look was beautiful? Honey, NO! As my sister told me, “put some damn makeup on your face!” Because girl, you will feel so much better about yourself.
To my cancer sisters… chemo and the other drugs that you may be on now from hormone blockers to mood boosters, these all have a direct correlation to what your lovely skin looks and feels like. Not only does chemo attack the good and bad cells of your body, but all these drugs changes your entire chemical makeup, so its especially important to compensate for these changes… when it comes to your skin. There are a kazillion companies out there some thriving off of being chemical free, other high end make-up companies being famous off of their celebrity ambassadors, my advice… go to your local Nordstrom, walk up to the Estee Lauder cosmetic counter and say “hey, I have cancer… fix my face” and im sure they will look at you like your crazy, but im telling you, these ladies have a lot of knowledge that can really help you to look even more fabulous!
Makeup aside, one of THE most amazing moments for me that day, and Katie I hope you dont get upset with me for blowing up your spot here… but, Katie was the one pink sister who I invited who is right in the middle of chemo. Where the other three of us have finished that stage and have our short hair do’s growing and were still sorta trying to figure out the new “us”.
So, this gorgeous girl Katie shows up, head covered like many women who are going through chemo do. Sidenote: When I was first going through chemo I felt like by wearing my wigs, or hats I could somehow hide what im going through, or feel more “normal” with a covered head… i dont know, losing your hair is so uncomfortable, heart breaking, and image degrading as a young woman… you are vulnerable and dont have hair to hide behind. But now I look back and im like Goshhh why didnt I rock the bald look more often, it truly is beautiful…
Anyways, so this beautiful girl walks up to the beauty counter and we start talking yadada… so shes getting her makeup done, and literally Cindy adds just a little bit of foundation and vavooom, Katies face is looking brighter and her smile is getting a little bit bigger etc. Okay, so I think I was in the chair then getting my makeup done and Katie says something along the lines of, “im going to keep this off because Im with you girls”— okay it wasnt those words at all my chemo brain, short term memory loss totally messed that one up. But, what I am getting at is… this day of makeovers didnt just pamper us, make us feel beautiful, and educate us about other young cancer journeys… but, it did something so much more! You see, towards the end of this experience, we all gained something even I deal with on the daily… we had confidence. You know, Katie walked around with us, ate lunch, and as we said our farewells… that beautiful bald head of hers was still out and about! It was an amazing moment I will never forget it.
Estee Lauder treated us to literally fabulous goodie bags, and I know I straight up felt like a celebrity! We were taking pictures and it was just so fun! Nordstrom hosted us for an all inclusive lunch at their totally wonderful Nordstrom Cafe! Now I have never eaten here before, and boyyyy am I sorry I never have because, OMG my mouth is actually watering just thinking about it! The food is so fresh and beautifully prepared, I might have to go there for dinner tonight 😉 and, let me not forget the staff that took care of us! I cant even put into words how fabulous every single staff member I came in contact with that day, so welcoming… eager to meet us, it was definitely red carpet status!
After gobbling down some scrumptious salads, it turned out that our fantasy day had to come to an end. Words literally cannot describe the bond I felt meeting these girls, getting to know about their hardships with balancing work and cancer, kids and cancer, husbands and cancer, owning a Chick-Fil-A and cancer… like seriously, did I tell you how amazing these girls really are?!
It all goes back to a quote that I grew up with and had engraved in my head by a group of British girls… Girl Power! Us girls can do anything, it doesnt matter if our roads are crossed my cancer, failure, heartbreak, or loss… we are girls, we are beautiful, and we are strong, when we stand together, we can make it through anything! I am so blessed to have met Lissa, Katie, and Sarah… thank you for influencing me to keep on fighting and never give up! And the biggest thank you to The Pink Agenda, Guiliana Rancic, Fab U Wish, Estee Lauder, Nordstrom, and the Ross Park Mall and staff for making this whole day possible!