When Symptoms Return


A lump, a bump, a random pain or itch. These are all rather common symptoms that my pre-cancer self may have over looked at first. Nowadays, I search my body daily for any sign that my cancer has come back to take vengence over my soul. It is as if in my brain the cancer still resides. Its just hiding, waiting to make its next move.

Back up to a few months ago…

A few months ago, I was #feelinmyself , and noticed a small bump on the upper part of my right (cancer side) implant. Panic filled every pore of my body and I franctically began performing a thorough breast exam, comparing each sides, and praying John would be home soon enough to also feel and contrast. After a busy weekend, John got home and had to do laundry and get ready for the week ahead. We went out to dinner which got my mind of my new lump for a moment anyways.

We were getting ready for bed as I turned over to my loving hubby and said that dreaded phrase “I found a lump”. Now i’m sure if you’ve been following my story you know… im a little bit of a hyperchondriac with lumps and bumps these days. Whether it be on myself or Izzy, my fingers are like magnets! Ive found inflamed lymph nodes in my neck not too long ago, so this also gave me reservations about telling John and calling a doctor despite knowing what was the right thing to do. You don’t want to be seen as dramatic… but there is always that “what if” it is something really serious!


After I told him about the lump, I moved his hand over the spot that I found earlier in the day. To my surprise, he didnt say its nothing. I instantly got a frog in my throat and held back my tears. Why isnt he saying im crazy and nothing is wrong! Instead his response was “lets just call the doctor in the morning”. Well what the hell does that mean! Then my nightly anxiety kicked in…

A long sleepless night later, and my 6:00am morning alarm was much louder and more annoying than Ive ever realized before. Lumps and bumps aside, life goes on. I got ready for work, had a few meetings, and after running around with my kiddos all morning I was finally able to get a hold of my amazing oncologist Dr. Raymond.

Her nurse “Jackie” made me feel comfortable and also made time for me to come into the office after work. I once again, just like when I found my initial tumor explained to my boss, quite openly because truly I have no shame that I found a lump and had to go to the doctor. My job is soooo kind and understanding that she actually let me leave immediately and I was off to the hospital.


Each and every single time I return to the cancer center and see that welcome sign I want to vom. I remember first walking up upon that sign with John when I went for my ultrasound and biopsy… a huge sign with Cancer Center quite frankly SUCKS and is scary and depressing, and shouldnt be allowed;) 

Anyways… I was taken back and my beloved oncologist Dr.Raymond did a physical exam and explained although she doesnt feel like it is anything serious, she would order an ultrasound to get a clearer look and put my mind at peace. So, I went from her office upstairs to the breast center and because i’m a creature of habit, I sat in the same exact seat as I did my first ultrasound and biopsy. I was the only one there so they took my right back.

The tech could tell how anxious and scared I was as the look of fear had to be radiating from my eyes. What if my cancer was back?! I took all the right steps and just feel good as new and boom! The doctor came in and tried to calm my berves by talking me through the exam. A whole lot of cold goo and multiple swipes with the ultrasound wand and the doctor replied…” i dont think its anything more than a ripple”. 

A part of my body wanted to cheer and do a backflip… however my fearxiety kicked in and I didnt fully trust the phsyician. I requested her to check one more time which she so graviously did and once again nothing! I could partially breath! But I still had that unsure part back in my mind that cancer could be lurking around!

Fast forward to my 3 month checkup…

The past couple of months as been rather busy with training and new advocacy activities! I really havent had all that much time to freak over every bump or pain however still have rather frequent anxiety attacks at night. I was due for a 3 month follow-up with my oncologist and for the first time I didnt really have any pushing concerns! I was feeling good and determined to have a quick in and out “visit” per say vs. checkup.

When I arrived the office staff as always welcomed me with open arms and I was taken right back for vitals. Praise jesus, I finally was happy to see that the scale was reading my pre-cabcer weigt of 124!!!!! Wooty woot! Considering ive been hovering anywhere from 128-130 this was a hugeeeeee accomplishment (even though I have lots of toning that still needs to be done!)

I was taken back and my Nurse Jackie came in and gave me a huge hug! We talked about life as usual and she went to get Dr. Raymond. First a fellow came in and introduced herself. She conducted a breast exam and began asking me questions of which I decided to mention the only thing really bothering me aside from hating my implants, was this intermittent itching on the inside of my breast! And normally I wouldnt be so concerned however… aside from my tumor, itching was m only symptom that I had cancer to begin with!

She jotted down some notes and explained that she would go give Dr. Raymond the run down and they would be right back. In that instant I kinda realized this quick little meet up to say hi and get my foobs felt up may be turning into a once again not so fun appointment with potentially crappy news. Dr. Raymond returned within minutes and once again performed a very thorough exam. She explained that typically recurrence will forst show up around the scar line, which mine look very good! However, because Im not very typical with symptoms and side effects, she wanted further diagnostic testing just to be sure.

My immediate thought was “FUCK”! Like really, this is not the time for this BS! Im leaving for vacation Friday, I feel good, I look good… please dont let any “bad news” come out of this. I gathered my paperwork abd headed downstairs to get bloodwork and tests that my doctor ordered completed. She ordered a whole panel of blood tests, a breast MRI which I scheduled for when I return from vacation, and a test called Circulating Tumor Cell Test of the Breast…

Turned out, the typical lab in the hospital couldnt complete the test so I have to go to the specialty lab today. All in all, this has reminded me of a lesson. You may have beat cancer… but cancer always has a way of returning. Even through distant memory and anxiety, fear or recurrence. Cherish your health, enjoy every single moment in life, live like its tour last, and pray that everything will be okay!

Off to my test! I will write up a quick blog when I know the details:(

Xoxo Meg

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CBD and Cancer: How RxCanna Care saved my life

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That little green leaf, it changed my life forever. Let me explain though. First off, I have never smoked a thing in my life. Never a cigarette, never a cigar, never even a real hookah… and I surely have never smoked that little green leaf. Call it weed, call it marijuana, call it pot, mary jane, or hash… I just never saw the need to dive into this little world of green.

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Living in Pennsylvania my whole life, cannabis had always been illegal to my understanding. Sure, I’ve had friends that played around with this little plant in high school and probably even college, however It was never something I ever felt the urge to be around personally. I have always been the girl to “follow the rules”. Growing up I rarely got into trouble for actions other than being a brat.  I never drank underage, never really partied… call me boring but it just wasn’t my thing.   My parents had it easy with me at least;)

When I received the news of my initial breast cancer diagnosis in 2015 and facing the true fact that I did indeed have breast cancer at only 26 years young, there was never a thought to cross my mind that I wouldn’t be doing traditional treatment including chemo, surgery, and radiation. I get asked all the time, why I chose the treatment regimen I did… and truthfully, it’s because research has shown that the poison I had injected into my veins, the lasers that I had shot through my chest, and the multiple surgeries I had to remove my lovely lady lumps… have proven through research of modern medicine to save lives! The downside to these life saving treatments are the side effects because they make you the most sick. As the chemo or radiation rays are killing the evil cancer cells that have invaded your body, the good cells are also being slaughter in a battle of the body.  That is where lies the problem and reality of a patient going through cancer.

Alopecia, weight loss, steroid induced weight gain, joint pain and discomfort, neuropathy, lymphedema, anxiety, sleep issues, nausea, vomiting and vitamin deficiencies are only a “few” of the side effects that these “life saving” treatments produce. So, in my mind… if I did research and utilize non traditional treatments with traditional measures, I would have a better chance at fighting the side effects and ultimately winning my battle against cancer, right?

So, your probably wondering “okay but why the hell did she start this talking about the little green leaf and now your running a rampage.  Well, back in October 2015 when I first received my “you have cancer” call, my middle sister Samii had an agenda of her own.  Living in California and having a medical marijuana card for her own use, one of her initial instincts was that I had to smoke pot.  Plain and simple the topic was brought up and I immediately shot it down.  One, i’ve never been into “smoking”, I have asthma, to me its not “cool” and the unknown of a “high” is scary to me.  Being that medical marijuana at the time was still illegal in PA, the whole idea was just another headache and I couldn’t deal with her flight of thoughts as I had to worry about potentially dying.

My Introduction to Twompson and Rx Canna Care

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With appointment after appointment and finally getting a plan in place, myself and my family prepared for my battle.  However, my persistent middle sister just would’t drop the subject.  She made a few calls and reached out to her friend and Master grower of over 15 years Twompson.  I truly don’t even know what to say about such an incredible man because he truly saved my life!  Around that time, Twompson was simply growing cannabis in California.  His beautiful sister Alyxis actually suffers from eczema and psoriasis and around the same time in 2015 was begging him to come up with some sort of balm that would help her major out break and stop the spread of her skin condition from worsening on her face.

Twompson being skilled in his trade and always fascinated by science, began his own research into the medicinal practices of extracting the purest form of CBD and incorporating it into a cream (now known as Canna Cream).  Around that exact time was when I was entering my cancer battle.  To tell you the truth, back in 2015 and still to this day… not much research exists on CBD.  But, in my mind… what did I have to lose, I already had cancer!  So, Twompson so graciously mailed me the purest for of CBD oil to begin prior to chemo… and I utilized his magical potion throughout my entire cancer journey.

What is CBD?

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CBD stands for Cannabidiol.  Our bodies actually all have something called an endocannabinoid system in our brains.  Little Snapple cap fact,  the only way to activate this system is 1.  Through women breast milk (so hopefully we are all done suckling on that after around age one or so, and 2. supplementing with CBD just like any vitamin on the market.  HOLD UP… what am I saying about breast milk????

Cannabinoids and Breast Milk

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The human body (and animals none the less) contains cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system of our brains that are specifically designed to process cannabinoids. This system consists of a series of receptors that are made only to accept cannabinoids, especially the most common compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and 2nd common cannabidiol (CBD).  Studies have actually shown that human mothers naturally produce cannabinoids in breast milk and that they play a very important role in infant development.

Cannabinoids are classified as a neuromodulatory lipid.   One of the main functions of these cannabinoids in women’s breast milk is to help a baby to feed by stimulating the suckling process. Basically, if there were not cannabinoids in breast milk, newborns would not know how to eat or have the desire to eat. Similar to when an adult smokes and gets the “munchies”- in babies, the CB1 receptors are being activated through natural breast milk trigger hunger and therefore promoting growth and development.

HEMP CBD

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Hemp vs. Whole Flower Farms

Supplemental CBD can come from two places, the HEMP plant (WHICH IS CRAP!), or cannabis plant.  When looking into using CBD especially during a diagnosis such as cancer, you want to be using WHOLE FLOWER CBD (aka, the oil is being extracted from the cannabis plant.  Why you ask? Well, let me lay out a picture in your minds.

Hemp is a tall growing plant that is typically bred for industrial use in oils, topical creams, and clothing/ constructional fibers.   It grows in rows of stalks sorta resembling bamboo.  When the compound CBD is extracted, only trace amounts are actually found from hemp plants. What is most annoying is that companies have monopolized on the “hemp” industry because yes, it is technically  CBD however the purity of it is garbage!

In the United States, the cannabinoid compound of THC is illegal, but once again that is only 1/80 compounds found in marijuana, how is that fair! This is why companies are able to use the hemp businesses to market knockoff  CBD treatments.  Basically unless people research it like me, these companies claim that they have the same healing power as pure CBD strains and its all a freakin lie! Its sort of like going to the grocery store and buying a hot dog then putting it under a microscope and seeing eye balls, hair, dust, and every other kind of garbage when you ‘think” you are eating pork.  (SO PLEASE STOP EATING HOT DOGS)… oh and DO NOT BUY industrial hemp CBD! 🙂

WHOLE FLOWER CBD

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That leaves us with an explanation about our little green friend…. marijuana!  The cannabis plant is where the purest form of CBD lies.  I already mentioned that marijuana is comprised with over 80 different compounds.  THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol)- the most known compound, is 1/80 of the compounds found in cannabis that has psychoactive effects therefore making marijuana illegal (until recently in many states).  Tell me how this makes sense at all… so there are 79 additional  compounds that come from marijuana but because 1 compound makes you high is it ILLEGAL?! The way I see it… perhaps our little green friend is “illegal” because those other 79 other compounds can actually SAVE LIVES!!!! grrrr… DAMN you pharmaceutical companies!

Did you know that our cells naturally have cannabinoid receptors. When activated by cannabinoids (like THC or CBD) they help protect cells against viruses, harmful bacteria, cancers, and many other malignancies.  Well that makes perfect sense… and why don’t we have the cure for cancer again?  EXACTLY— a big FUCK YOU to pharmaceutical, sincerely, Meghan!

How CBD Works

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Anyways… (sorry for being so heated!) CBD is simply another compound extracted from the marijuana plant.  THC and CBD have been found the have different effects on our bodies and our endocannabinoid systems.  THC binds to our CB1 and CB2 receptors which have direct effects on our central nervous system (CNS), and peripheral nervous system (PNS).  The CNS system consists of two parts including the brain and the spinal cord. Obviously our brain is how we think and interpret our  environment and how we control the movement and actions of our bodies.  So, being that THC has psychoactive effects and its receptors are CB1 in our CNS system, thats why we get HIGH when using THC! OHHHH NOW I GET IT!

Well then, what about the magical compound CBD?  Well CBD has actually been found to have little binding powers to either CB1 or CB2 receptors however, CBD has been found to activate MANY non-cannabinoid receptors. Instead, it binds to receptors, like the “vanilloid, adenosine and serotonin receptors” (you known fancy smancy science stuff). Because CBD doesn’t only bind to one set of receptors like THC, when it finds another binding agent in our body, it plays a role in overall healing like controlling our body temperature, pain perception and inflammation.

Like I said before, CBD does not produce that psychoactive affect that THC does, and that is simply because CBD inhibits the FAAH (Fatty acid amide hydrolase) enzyme in our bodies.  What the heck is that?  FAAH is the compound that activates the CB1 receptor. By binding to this receptor, CBD minimizes the activation of CB1 by THC, reducing its psychoactive effects. AKA, CBD will NOT make you high, therefore it is completely legal!

All the health benefits that CBD has to offer have to do with the particular receptors your body makes it bind to. For instance, when it binds to adenosine receptors, it provides anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory effects… and don’t we all need that! Another science lesson, adenosine receptors are also involved in the release of two neurotransmitters known as dopamine and glutamate.  Dopamine is involved in cognition, motor control, motivation and reward mechanisms, and glutamate sends excitatory signals and is involved in memory, learning and cognition. Woolah, thank you CBD for helping my body help itself! Shame on you pharmaceutical companies for keeping the magic of healing from our society!

Lets dive a little deeper then… it has also been found that high amounts of CBD (aka only found through whole flower not hemp) have been shown to activate something known as the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, which actually has an anti-depressant effect on the body! Why I want to mention this, is because this same receptor is also involved in processes including pain, appetite, nausea and anxiety, sleep, and addiction.  Hello! Thats why CBD is the perfect supplement for people going through a cancer journey! Aren’t all of those things side effects to traditional treatments!!! Do you see where i’m going with all this?

Then there is this little bit of information.  CBD has been found to actually block something known as CPR55 signaling, which actually decreases bone re-absorption and cancer cell proliferation.   WOOLAH, I’m pretty sure I just found the cure to freakin cancer through a GODDAM GOOGLE SEARCH!  Okay, well not exactly but… I could be on to something here…

Basically thats why CBD has whole body effects!  The way I explain it is, CBD helps our body, help itself!  And that is the honest truth!

 

Benefits of using THC, CBD, or CBD and THC

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Basically, which compounds you want in your body all pretty much is broken down to if you want to get “high” or not.  Utilizing CBD and THC will optimize the medical benefits of cannabis however, if you are not in a circumstance to use THC (like me), if it is illegal in your states, if you work professionally, or if you simply don’t enjoy that flighty feeling, then using pure CBD is perfect because you are still accessing the receptors in you brain the heal your body without getting high!  AND the best part, it is COMPLETELY LEGAL in the US (and other countries) because it doesn’t have THC in it!

What conditions does CBD help?

Goodness gracious, I hope I didn’t lose you in all of that.  But, I really want you to understand the benefits of using CBD especially for a journey that could very well be life and death.  The best part is, CBD isn’t just a cancer supplement, but it also can be used for conditions including but not limited to Anxiety, Appetite, Arthritis, Autism, Cancer, Diabetes, Depression, Epilepsy, Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Herniated discs, Immune System, Inflammation, Mood, A sense of well-being, Muscle Spasms, Multiple Sclerosis, Pain Relief, Psychosis, PTSD, Chronic pain, Parkinson’s Disease, Stress, Nausea and Vomiting,  Alzheimer’s…

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Phew! Talk about simply amazing right?

Benefits of CBD in Breast Cancer

I’m all about the research so here are a few studies that you can take a peak at on your own time… CBD and Cancer Research links

Basically, CBD works!  Heres another little piece of info copied straight from cancer.gov– when you search the benefits of CBD and cancer:

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Thats all… and your telling me, the government DOESN’T have a cure?  They offered 6 measly bullet points about the benefits of CBD— HAHAH thats literally laughable! OKAY! EFFF OFF government and your will to KILL innocent people by HIDING the cure!  Grrrrr….

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RX Canna Care

That all being said… I have now partnered up with RxCanna Care, the company that saved my life!  RxCanna Care went from being a cream created by Twompson for his sister Alyxis for her eczema and psoriasis to that same cream formula being worked with and adjusted to be safe for patients going through a cancer journey like me.  RXCanna Care is committed to offering CBD products that meet the needs of every patient. We currently over multiple lines including Relax Organics and Canna Cosmetics providing high quality products that have whole body affects, organic ingredients, and the purest CBD without THC from whole cannabis flower extraction techniques

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What is so awesome about Rxcanna Care is the fact that our CBD does NOT come from hemp oil and is from a strain of cannabis that has the lowest THC level on the market!  Whole flower CBD must be carefully cared for and nourished so that the cannabis plants will produce flowers, then the cannabidiol compound is extracted to produce the highest purest CBD without THC. Its like would you rather buy fruit from a stand on side of a highway, or from a farm that doesn’t allow planes to fly over and uses all organic treatments to decrease risk of infection, bacteria, and disease? Its all about quality for RXCANNA CARE and thats why I feel 100000000% comfortable sharing their information, their products, and their drive to help others with all of you!

Check out their website and products using coupon code “sparkle4life” for a special discount at RxCanna Care

My use of RxCanna Care during my treatment

Around that time in 2015, I was a 26 year old friend of Twompson’s and was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. He provided me with his CBD in a tincture of oil which she used orally throughout  my 12 rounds of intensive chemotherapy.  To my and my families surprise, I never threw up, had an appetite, never had a drop in blood cell counts.  For me, the taste of the oil he initially provided me was smokey and I would gag with its sublingual administration.  However the new tinctures hardly have a taste at all! Perfect for anyone going through chemo when your senses are all over the place!

Back when I was using the oil and could hardly stand the taste, my mom actually placed the oil into a capsule for me to swallow without bearing the flavor.  However now looking back and knowing what I do about CBD and your body, taking oil in a pill form is decreasing your overall dosage of the compound.  The whole point of the pill is to get it into your stomach, however inside your stomach is stomach acid which breaks down the pill first.  Basically, instead of the compound being absorbed straight into your blood stream, its hitting your stomach acid therefore you may need more of a dosage than if you take it under your tongue.  Thats why RX Canna Care has the perfect tincture eliminating the taste and providing purest CBD!

I also used RxCanna Care products throughout all of my scare and radiation treatment for skin protection and healing!  I’ve explained how the whole idea of the canna creams came from Twompsons sister Alyxis who suffered from psoriasis.  Well, around that time that he whipped up his cream formula was the same time I would be having my port, mastectomy, and starting radiation.  I looked at his all organic formula and compared it to the recommended aquaphor and coco butter as referred by my radiation oncologist.  I chose to take a risk and use only canna creams during my recovery and to our surprise, my healing is beautiful! My prof scar and radiation cuts are already lightened and only 1-1/2 years old!

The biggest benefit I found was bearing my skin during 30 rounds of radiation.  Choosing to use a product that really didn’t have any research was risky, but I believed whole heartedly in the formula. To my and my doctors surprise, I had amazing results! I say it all the time, Canna Cosemetics not only saved my skin… but RxCanna Care saved my life!  I never burned through full chest radiation!  I would apply the cream about 4 times a day and where ever the cream touched, I found that I was protected!  I sort of performed my own research study because it turned out that my doctor never told me to coat my chest, armpit and back being that radiation shoots through your chest and out your back.  Well, surprise surprise, I didn’t apply the cream to my back, and that was the only place I burnt!  Like, thats incredible!

Conclusion:

Plain and simple, anyone going through a cancer journey should at minimum be on a CBD regimen.  If you are able and willing to use THC all power to you… however because of its psychoactive effects, this simply is not feasible for many people.  I am a living testimony that CBD works!  I did not have a full response to chemotherapy because I did not get he suggested 16 rounds (I only received 12) because of severe allergic reactions however once my mastectomy was completed I got clear margins and after 30 rounds of radiation, I was deemed cancer free!  Now I am NOWHERE saying that CBD cures cancer, however i’m sure with more research one day we may see a link between cannabis and all its compounds affecting the cure!  I am however saying that CBD will help your body help itself heal and fight the side effects of traditional treatments.

RxCanna Care is a company that has the purest form of CBD without THC on the market and utilizes all organic ingredients in any of its creams, lotions, or skin care items.  They hold the greatest integrity in manufacturing their own items, and everything is overseen my the owner Twompson.  He will even answer any questions or concerns directly, he’s incredibly intelligent and literally saved my life!

XOXO

Meg

**This blog post is in no way recommending only using CBD as a treatment for cancer, it is not saying that CBD is the cure for cancer. All recommendations should be cleared by your physician prior to supplementing with CBD and any vitamin for that matter!

Resources:

  1. Pertwee RG., Pharmacology of cannabinoid receptor ligands, Current medical chemistry, 1999, 6(8):635-64; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10469884
  2. Ashton JC, Wright JL, McPartland JM, Tyndall JD, Cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptor ligand specificity and the development of CB-2 selective antagonists, Current medical chemistry, 2008, 15(14):1428-43; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18537620
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabinoid_receptor_type_1
  4. Racz I, Nadal X, Alferink J et al., Crucial role of CB2 cannabinoid receptor in the regulation of central immune responses during neuropathic pain, The Journal of Neuroscience, 2008, 28(46):12125-35;   http://www.jneurosci.org/content/28/46/12125.long
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabinoid_receptor_type_2
  6. Costa B., Giagnoni G. et al., Vanilloid TRPV1 receptor mediates the antihyperalgesic effect of the nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, cannabidiol, in a rat model of acute inflammation, British Journal of Pharmacology, 2004, 143(2):247-50; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1575333/

 

From “I have cancer” to “I had cancer”

Wow! It feels like I haven’t written in forever!  A part of me wants to blame it on my busy life, getting back to dipping my feet into a kazillion different things from work to hobbies, then theres that part of me that doesn’t feel like the past couple months have been very “cancer exciting” so why should I blog for you all… I mean I guess thats a good thing right?

Today I am one month short of being 1 whole year cancer free (from my last radiation treatment)— and oddly enough, it feels like that July day was way longer than a year ago!  Its so bizarre because its as if my brain is naturally blocking the most difficult times of my life as a natural coping mechanism.  I feel like this chapter of my life has been closed for such a long time!  I mean, my hair is now shoulder length, I have energy to do things, I want so badly to just live my life again!  But the truth is… I have a new life now, and I have to find a way to come to terms with this reality.

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Survivorship puts you into this awkward limbo state.  You are deemed “cancer free” after your last treatment however they don’t necessarily have a test that can actually identify on a cellular level if indeed ALL the cancer is out of your body… so am I supposed to believe my doctors?  Even months after receiving my “cancer free” card… I still found it awkward to say “I HAD cancer”, what if I still “HAVE cancer”? Then my hair and outward appearance is still different so it’s just easier to say, “oh I have cancer”thats why my hair is short and I’m chubby… then there is that pity party— UGH its just so complicated!

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When cancer treatments are over, we are expected to be happy!  We’re expected to just jump on back to the life we once lived.  To get back to work, get back to the gym, get back to life… and that is simply so far from the reality of it all.  No-one really sees all the PTSD and anxiety that us survivors live every single day.  Living in fear that one day we will wake up and the cancer will be back and we will have to live this hell all over again.  The truth is, we don’t get to go back in time to our pre-cancer existence, we are simply forced to move forward, and move on, that is one of the most difficult parts of this journey yet!

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I remember my doctors telling me, “I am going to bring you to near death with your treatments in order to save your life”.  It isn’t until a year and a half later that I am looking back and realizing the true depth of this statement.  A part of me is so thankful— HELL IM ALIVE!  But, then theres a part of me that looks at how different my life is.  I am filled with anxiety, i’m unhappy with my body, my hormones are all over the place, I may never be able to have a child of my own naturally— that hurts! I have only recently realized that the old me is actually gone forever. Yes, physically treatment has saved my life, however cancer has stolen my life- my old life is dead, the new me is alive. But who am I?

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There was a time during treatment that all I wanted to hear was that “I am cancer free”.  I prayed for a complete response to chemo- I didn’t get that.  I begged for clear margins post my mastectomy- I was so blessed to have a perfect surgery.  I dreamed of getting back to life… but thats just it, this new life is hard freakin work! I question my existence everyday.  Do my old friends not talk to me because I am different?  Will I only ever be able to truly connect to Breasties I meet online or through travel?

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Once my treatments ended, I think Ive been faced with more fear than during chemo!  The fear of the unknown attacks me daily and my incredible husband is always there to build me up from the crumbling mess I become especially at night when my brain doesn’t want to stop thinking about the what ifs.  The average person doesn’t realize that when someone is going through cancer, they see atleast one doctor weekly if not multiple times a week.  Now, I don’t see my doctors for 3-6 months at a time! It is the weirdest and scariest feeling ever, because what if i’m missing a symptom that they would be able to catch and i’m overlooking.

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From looks, to career, to friendships, to hobbies, to overall attitude, views, and determination— my life has completely changed. Heck I’m Meghan Koziel now not even Meghan Franz! My name has even changed thank you marriage:)! I’d say I am a completely different person, and although a part of me is sad for losing my boobs, my cute skinny body, my hair… I am so blessed for becoming a strong, compassionate, lively me!

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For the past year and a half I’ve been a 26 year old diagnosed with breast cancer… today, I am Meghan Koziel a 28 year old wife, puppy mommy, daughter, sister, Occupational Therapist, blogger, advocate and boutique owner.  I am involved with multiple breast cancer organization, I participate in local and travel meet ups with breasties, I even continue to dedicate countless hours conversing with girls and guy through instagram providing encouragement and experience.  Although I will NEVER put my cancer journey behind me… I think it is time to push forward and move on to the “I HAD cancer” phrase… maybe?

XOXO

Meg

Mothers Day for the 20 something with Breast Cancer

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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!

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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…

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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?!

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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!

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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.
Xoxo

Meg

Introducing:She Sparkles On Boutique

Logo Small.pngEver 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
Xoxo Meg

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

Boobie Blues:(


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…

Xoxo Meg

Nipple Options Post Mastectomy

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!

Mastectomies

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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

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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

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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!

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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!

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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…

Nipple Reconstruction

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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.

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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

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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!

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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.

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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

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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!

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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

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Creator of Pink-Perfect, Michal Arbel

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!

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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.

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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).

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Insurance Coverage

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!

pros-aide1-1Adhesive:

“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.”

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Nipple Advice

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!

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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

Xoxo

Meg

PS: Check out my videosof my nipples below!
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PINK-PERFECT NIPPLES AT YSC CONFERENCE

LOVING MY NIPPLES

HOW TO APPLY YOUR PINK-PERFECT PROSTHETIC NIPPLES

 

Lumpxiety: My New Lump

Photography by: Jen Haseleu
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.

Totally irrelevant but so hilarious!
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

 


XoxoMeg

A Letter to the Girl Faced with a Mastectomy

To Whom This May Concern,

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…

The Mastectomy.  

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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!

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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.

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Nerve block for pain management- because i’m allergic to pain medications

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!
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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!

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*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.

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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.

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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!

Breast Reconstruction

 

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.

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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.

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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;)

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Post-op day 1- significant swelling
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1 month post-op, assymetical due to radiation damage and tightness of skin/ muscle
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2 months post-op, starting to drop and loosen on the Right radiated side!

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*

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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

 

Sincerely,

Meghan, XO

New Hair, New Me

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Legit my ugliest selfie, however I just love my smile, and awkwardly how round my head is! 😉
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!

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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?!


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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!

XOXO

Meg