Fab*U*Wish: Makeovers

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This year my Martin Luther King day was spent a little bit differently than the years prior. When I was in school, it was a day in reflection, when I worked in the hospital, it was just another day making people more independent in many areas of life. This year working in a school, I get a day off, much needed I might add but also a day where different opportunities can present themselves… and thats is exactly how I spent this past Monday!

“Lifes most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”- Martin Luther King Jr. I decided that I am far more fortunate than some when it comes to spending time and doing special things with friends and family. So, when I was awarded the Fab*U*Wish day of pampering from Guiliana Rancic, Nordstrom, and Estee Lauder, there was no doubt in my mind that I had to share this experience… but with who? It didnt take me long to decide that the people that deserve this experience the most is other young girls going through the breast cancer journey like me!I immediately sent out a post on instagram on a quest to find 3 of the most perfect girls in the Pittsburgh area who 1. Wanted a makeover, and 2. Who was eager to share their journey with me! A day I assumed would consist of makeup and lunch turned into an experience I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life!

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I had many women, actually even from outside the Pittsburgh area reach out to me… but in my heart I knew I had to meet Katie, Lissa, and Sarah all young, strong, determined women fighting breast cancer under the age of 35! For the first time in my life since October 2015 when I was diagnosed, I felt a bond and a connection that is different from any of my friends or family. Its like when I was with these girls, they just “got it”. I didnt have to fight back tears, hold in my emotions, or try to sugar coat things as not to offend the general “non cancer” public. I could talk about the evil “c” as much as I wanted without being judged or feeling like the person on the other aide doesn’t really want to talk about the topic and they are just being polite, which happens often!

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The day arrived and my incredible mother in law was even willing to share in this special day on her day off! My mom and sister live over 4 hours away and I couldn’t plan a day for my close friends and cousin to attend so, looks like we’ll just have to plan another day of pampering… oh darn!;) Anyways, my mother in law arrived at my house in her mink floor length coat which I am totally jealous over because its gorgeous, so I had to pull out my faux fur coat and away we went!

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Our day of pampering took place at Ross Park Mall in McCandelis PA, about 15 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. We found a parking spot and my first stop in the mall was Teavana! Im sort of like a fein for it… since ive moved to Pittsburgh, Ive only been buying their tea and making it at home in my fancy smancy Teavana 200.00 tea maker, however I swear it doesnt taste the same! So, as I grabbed my tea, my mother in law and her hypersensitive nose stayed outside as to not get nauseated by the smells of the fruity teas before our makeover… we just couldnt have that now!

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We walked back to Nordstrom and towards the Estee Lauder cosemetics counter where we met our two makeup artists. Sandy Clark is a beauty advisor at this local Nordstrom and was ever so personable, talented, and engaged throughout our sessions, and Cindy Toohey is an actual make up artist from Estée Lauder who ever so graciously traveled over an hour and a half to not just put makeup on our faces, but to learn about our journeys and provide us with a make over experience by educating us on makeup application and products, skin care, and also provided an open ear and heart as us girls were chattering along as she was trying to apply lip stick to a moving mouth (that would be mine if you couldnt have guessed).

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Both Sandy and Cindy created a day that truly made each of us feel like individual princesses. They matched our complexions with this awesome doohickey as I like to refer to it as that actually takes the lighting out of the assessment to gain an accurate interpretation of your skin color. They let us look at colors of blush, eye shadows, and my favorite lip sticks! We were encouraged to think outside the box, as a few of the girls dont typically wear as much makeup as I normally do… it was so fun for them to pick the brighter of the two pink lipsticks, or ask for a little more mascara! This experience not only pampered us and made us look hawt on the outside, but towards the end when we were all dolled up, you could tell that we had all found our #sparkleon (that internal beauty that radiates to the outside).

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The magic of makeup…

To me, makeup has always been a way to feel more beautiful. Where there are many women in the world whom feel that all naturale or basic is beautiful… I completely disagree. I feel like God created makeup for a reason, and honey if it adds an extra 15 minutes of time onto your morning routine, go to bed 15 minutes earlier because girlllll you look sooooo much better with makeup;). Some may think im a bit vain now, but come on! When I was going through chemo and legit resembled Uncle Fester from the Adams Family, do you really think that telling me my all naturale look was beautiful? Honey, NO! As my sister told me, “put some damn makeup on your face!” Because girl, you will feel so much better about yourself.

To my cancer sisters… chemo and the other drugs that you may be on now from hormone blockers to mood boosters, these all have a direct correlation to what your lovely skin looks and feels like. Not only does chemo attack the good and bad cells of your body, but all these drugs changes your entire chemical makeup, so its especially important to compensate for these changes… when it comes to your skin. There are a kazillion companies out there some thriving off of being chemical free, other high end make-up companies being famous off of their celebrity ambassadors, my advice… go to your local Nordstrom, walk up to the Estee Lauder cosmetic counter and say “hey, I have cancer… fix my face” and im sure they will look at you like your crazy, but im telling you, these ladies have a lot of knowledge that can really help you to look even more fabulous!

Makeup aside, one of THE most amazing moments for me that day, and Katie I hope you dont get upset with me for blowing up your spot here… but, Katie was the one pink sister who I invited who is right in the middle of chemo. Where the other three of us have finished that stage and have our short hair do’s growing and were still sorta trying to figure out the new “us”.

So, this gorgeous girl Katie shows up, head covered like many women who are going through chemo do. Sidenote: When I was first going through chemo I felt like by wearing my wigs, or hats I could somehow hide what im going through, or feel more “normal” with a covered head… i dont know, losing your hair is so uncomfortable, heart breaking, and image degrading as a young woman… you are vulnerable and dont have hair to hide behind. But now I look back and im like Goshhh why didnt I rock the bald look more often, it truly is beautiful…

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Anyways, so this beautiful girl walks up to the beauty counter and we start talking yadada… so shes getting her makeup done, and literally Cindy adds just a little bit of foundation and vavooom, Katies face is looking brighter and her smile is getting a little bit bigger etc. Okay, so I think I was in the chair then getting my makeup done and Katie says something along the lines of, “im going to keep this off because Im with you girls”— okay it wasnt those words at all my chemo brain, short term memory loss totally messed that one up. But, what I am getting at is… this day of makeovers didnt just pamper us, make us feel beautiful, and educate us about other young cancer journeys… but, it did something so much more! You see, towards the end of this experience, we all gained something even I deal with on the daily… we had confidence. You know, Katie walked around with us, ate lunch, and as we said our farewells… that beautiful bald head of hers was still out and about! It was an amazing moment I will never forget it.

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Estee Lauder treated us to literally fabulous goodie bags, and I know I straight up felt like a celebrity! We were taking pictures and it was just so fun! Nordstrom hosted us for an all inclusive lunch at their totally wonderful Nordstrom Cafe! Now I have never eaten here before, and boyyyy am I sorry I never have because, OMG my mouth is actually watering just thinking about it! The food is so fresh and beautifully prepared, I might have to go there for dinner tonight 😉 and, let me not forget the staff that took care of us! I cant even put into words how fabulous every single staff member I came in contact with that day, so welcoming… eager to meet us, it was definitely red carpet status!

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After gobbling down some scrumptious salads, it turned out that our fantasy day had to come to an end. Words literally cannot describe the bond I felt meeting these girls, getting to know about their hardships with balancing work and cancer, kids and cancer, husbands and cancer, owning a Chick-Fil-A and cancer… like seriously, did I tell you how amazing these girls really are?!

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It all goes back to a quote that I grew up with and had engraved in my head by a group of British girls… Girl Power! Us girls can do anything, it doesnt matter if our roads are crossed my cancer, failure, heartbreak, or loss… we are girls, we are beautiful, and we are strong, when we stand together, we can make it through anything! I am so blessed to have met Lissa, Katie, and Sarah… thank you for influencing me to keep on fighting and never give up! And the biggest thank you to The Pink Agenda, Guiliana Rancic, Fab U Wish, Estee Lauder, Nordstrom, and the Ross Park Mall and staff for making this whole day possible!

Xoxo Meg

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Breast Reconstruction: My Foobies Revealed

img_9290Holy smoke! One month ago I had my breast reconstruction surgery! They say time flies when your having fun… I’ll say having boobs again is pretty fun (according to my hubby anyways 😉 My foobies are officially in place and my expanders are hopefully burned into smitherines exactly where they belong for causing me so much pain and discomfort!  I have dreamed of the day for this past year of when I can finally sleep on my side again… FINALLY, its beginning to look like its in reach! I’ve had smiles, and tears, pain, and a lot of changes this past month. So, lets start from the beginning of my boobie reconstructive journey…

Pre-Op Appointments

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The days leading up to my breast reconstruction, I had one pre-op appointment with my plastic surgeon, blood work, and a physical. Surprisingly, I didn’t have as many appointments as I had hoped and looking back on it now, I wish I asked even more questions because I love my surgeon but in a way I wish I was more part or could have made more decisions for myself in regards to my foobies.  Basically, there are so many options and i’m not sure my surgeon picked the very best for me… but this is exactly why im writing this blog! To help the ladies behind me time-wise in their journies.

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John came to my pre-op appointment, my doctor looked at the “damage” radiation has caused to my skin, and we talked about my foobies (fake boobies if you havent caught on already). The biggest thing we discussed in my pre-op appointment was type of implant. We got to feel the difference between saline and silicone, and I’m pretty sure that was Johns favorite part of this entire journey thus far (men and boobies…) I will go a little bit more into Implant types in my next blog, this ones all about me and my journey!

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So, my surgeon decided that “gummy implants” a silicone mixed implant would be the best option for me because of the damage my skin has from radiation. So lets stop right there. What is this “damage” they keep describing? So, if you ask me, my skin looks pretty damn good! I used the magical treatment from rxcannacare all throughout radiation, I have no discoloration, no scaring, and to me and my eyes, my one tits skin looked much like the other. The “damage” these doctors are talking about is in the elasticity and basically on the inside. The integrity of skin post radiation is tighter and thats why sometimes the expander going through radiation looks like it shrinks… dang gravity right!

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Anyways, this is one big reason that breast reconstruction is much different than a traditional “boob job”, lets remember my original breast tissue is probably burnt up by an insinuator and probably dust particles somewhere by this point. So the whole point of breast reconstruction is basically to make a woman feel more womanly. They build lumps that look something close to natural boobies. For me, its simply to make me feel somewhat “normal” again and to leave my cancer in the past… hopefully forever.

The Surgery

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The day of my surgery, I truly was hardly nervous at all. Oddly enough, the butterflies that are typically circling my stomach before any of my procedures had fluttered away, and I was just so excited to finally have BOOBS again! My dad, mother in law, and best husband in the whole wide world, woke up bright and early to head to the hospital and prepare for my surgery. It was a freezing cold morning, I remember running into the hospital after my dad dropped me off at the front door with a spirit hood on my head trying to look a little cute considering I couldn’t wear makeup (even though I always sneak on some concealer because my dark circles are soooo awful and I know im always going to take pre-op/ post-op pics).

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I checked in at the receptionists, and waited in the waiting room with my fam by my side. The waiting room was actually pretty crowded, and there was the cutest little girl waiting for her surgery, I believe her parents told my dad she was getting tubes put in her ears. She was so wide awake, it was adorable. I finally got called back and had to do all the normal pre-op stuff including peeing in a cup to check for the kazillionth time that im not preggers, then get an IV placed, then answer a kazillion questions, then meet with my doctor finally!

I had John sit in the back with me to keep me company for most of the time because my dad gets super freaked out in hospitals, so he’d rather stay in the waiting room until i’m ready to head back. I had to make sure my anethesiologist had a good plan for my post-op pain management because of all my allergies. Turned out, finally some messages were relayed appropriately and there was a handwritten note from anesthesia about the “plan”. Thank God…

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My Dr. is also Picasso 🙂
My plastic surgeon Dr. White finally came back and we talked about what was in store for the day. As soon as I saw him, my first words were something along the lines of “go big or go home” followed by a smile of course ;)…. basically I needed to make it a point (like I do everytime I see him) that I want freakin big boobs! His response is always the same, a laugh and something along the lines of “you girls…”. He took a peak at my expanders and sighed at how much work he had to do on my right (radiated) side because my expander had slipped through the stitches and was very much in my armpit. He drew on me like a canvas, had his plan in his head of course, and was on his way.

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My last photo with expanders!!!
Not long after seeing my doctor, I said my goodbyes and was off to the OR! I actually got to walk back into the room with the nurse. Of course, immediately after getting into the OR, I felt the urge to pee.  I then realized (as I was carrying my IV bag) that they had been pumping me with fluids the entire time I was waiting, no duh I had to pee!

The OR rooms are a weird and freezing cold place. It has lots of tools, lights, a creepy table in the middle, and nurses that look super sterile! I looked to the right and there was a table of implant boxes. As I made small talk to the nurses, I once again “jokingly” made it known that I wanted the largest implant he could shove in.

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My post surgery shock that I got the bigger implant!
Going into surgery with my expanders at 360cc my doctor was planning on placing an implant from 360cc- 470cc of which of course I was praying for those 470s! Bigger the better is my motto. But come on, I’ve already been through so much, give me to titties that I’ve always dreamt of, GOSH! They had me climb onto the operating table and I truly dont remember very much more until I woke up all bundled up in the recovery room getting yelled at by a nurse for itching my nose and eyes after waking up from anesthesia. Turned out, once again I was having a minor allergy to some sort of medicine. I remember Dr. White walking by and saying “how do you feel” and all I could focus on was how itchy I was.

Eventually, they let John and my dad back into the recovery room as I went into convulsions from feeling so cold. My lovely nurse stacked me up with a kazillion heated blankets and that was enough to make my dad head back into the waiting room. Supposedly, the nurse told John and I slightly remember this happening… once I woke up from the anesthesia, the first thing I asked was how big were my boobs of which the nurses response was “you got the ones you wanted”, and I lifted up my arm and squealed “yes”! Totally something I would do!

After waiting until I was stable enough for discharge, With the help of John and my nurse I got out of bed and walked to the bathroom to pee, again… After that, they had a wheelchair waiting for me just because I was still a little unsteady on my legs from the anesthesia, and I was free! I truly dont remember much about the drive home other than being really cautious and yelling at my dad everytime he hit a bump or hole in the road.

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Thanks for this super attractive photo John!
I got home and they got me comfy on the recliner and my healing began. I slept a lot of the afternoon away. But as I woke up, shockingly I wasnt in all that much pain. I am allergic to most pain killers, so basically I was just taking extra strength motrin. After all my surgeries, for the first few days my hubby makes sure I take my pain meds exactly when Im allowed because I am often on such a low dose compared to other people. I must say, this surgery the pain was much lower than expected.

My surgeon placed steri-strip tape across my incisions and I came out of surgery in a compression bra that was front opening. I realized that much of my pain was coming from the bra being so tight, so the next day I switched into a front opening sportsbra that I purchased two sizes larger than my old boobs post my mastectomy. That following day was the first time I got to see my new foobies and the center between my two breasts were quite swollen. I also had a lot of bruising on my right breast predominantly all of which my doctor said was normal, even after I sent them pictures for more reassurance.

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As the days went on and the swelling went down, my doctor said I didnt even have to wear the sports bra. I did wear it religiously for about 2 1/2 weeks, in a way I felt like it gave me more support and took away some of the discomfort. A week into my recovery, I had a little accident where I tripped and fell down my basement stairs. I ended up landing right on my butt, however due to protective reflexes, my arms stretched out and I immediately felt a pull or tear-like stain of my right pec. I immediately was in hysterics, i could have sworn I fucked up my surgery:(

The next day was the day before Christmas Eve, and I put a call in to my surgeons office even though I knew my doctor was already away for the holidays. The fellow informed me that these surgeries are actually very stable, and as long as I dont see increased swelling, redness, or bleeding from my incisions, I should be good. Thats all well and fine, however I swear since that fall, my already messed up right (radiated) side has been very tender and painful.

The only other thing I noticed post-op was once odd bruise on the right side of my right foob. I sent my plastic surgeons office a pic of it the day after surgery, and again told the fellow that it just didnt look right. Heres my advice to all my pink sisters reading this, when in doubt DO NOT google, DO NOT web md, and DO NOT listen to people with complications that are wayyyy uncommon because it will drive you crazy and you will think your dying. Basically, I came to the conclusion through self diagnosis obviously, that I had necrotizing fascitis and my foob was going to fall out because of the flesh eating disease.

After many sleepless nights, examines in the mirror, pep talks from John, and text exchanges from my pink ladies, the holidays had come and gone and I finally had my first in person follow-up with Dr. White! I was so nervous because the odd bruise had now turned into a blister-type raised bruise however by the time of my follow-up it looked like it was actually healing. Just FYI: I did not have any abnormal redness, swelling, heat, or drainage around my “odd” bruise… however, I was concerned and kept bugging my doctor because I am my own advocate… so if you do have something odd after surgery, open your mouth and demand answers even if they shrug you off.

Post-Op Appointment

My follow-up appointment was finally here, and I had a lot of concerns I wanted my doctor to clear my mind of.  One being pain and discomfort that I was still having (even though some other girls say their pain instantly went away after expanders were removed), two my necrotic bruise that I believed I was dying from, and three my lopsidedness and concern for capsular contracture (which doesn’t typically occur until later in recovery however Im convinced I have it already ;)— I hope you get by now that I web MD and google wayyyy too much;)

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The appointment started with a visit from a plastic surgeon fellow who did a quick assessment then prepped me to take out my stitches Even though they were done internally, I was told that plastic surgeons dont tie knots on the end so they leave long tails sticking out to decrease scarring and discomfort so they had to cut the tails off in order for the rest to dissolve inside. I literally am the biggest baby, because even though I hardly have feeling of my chest, I was still feeling pinching and was whining hahaha, you’d think I never had surgery before! ;0)

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Then entered my plastic surgeon, Dr. Michael White! He walked in and I immediately opened my gown literally like super woman wooshhh and it was open… and I explained how Im diagnosing myself with a capsular contracture, necrosis, and basically I’m dying!  Don’t worry everyone, to my surprise… I am NOT dying and actually he is very pleased with my healing!  He did see how my right (radiated) side is a little higher but he “says” in about six months we will have a more realistic view of what adjustments may have to be made.

One month progression of healing

Where I am today

 

Today, I am hardly in pain and only have minimal discomfort at night when I try to sleep on my side.  I am able to sleep on my side when I position myself the right way with a pillow, so that makes me super duper excited!  I am yet to go bra shopping because I really want my right boob to fall a little more.  I am also most uncomfortable around my bra line.  I pretty much don’t wear a bra at all these days, and if I have a tank top with a built in bra… I typically find myself either adjusting it a million times a day, or cutting them out!

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I have days that I look at my chest and I feel really self conscious and upset, but then I have days where I put on a shirt and see a little cleavage and I get really excited.  Basically, my foobies are not real boobs, and I guess thats why I don’t really feel uncomfortable sharing my photos and advocating for mastectomy survivors everywhere.  My scars tell my story, and I am so blessed for all my doctors for taking such amazing care of me!

XO Meg

 

My Ultimate Fear: Recurrence


Is remission really even a thing? Should we celebrate being “cancer free”? My question to my doctors is constantly, “but how do you know I dont have anymore cancer?” And the truth is… they dont know!

This past week, two of my greatest cancer sisters and inspirations who have helped me soooo much through my own cancer journey have gotten some pretty shitty news. The gorgeous Lisa aka terminallyfabulous has been battling her disease and has defied many odds over the years that shes been battling terminal cancer. The amazing Nalie and founder of #feelitonthefirst just recently, tonight, announced that her breast cancer (i believe her initial diagnosis was 2014) has recently metastasized to her lung! I am just so shocked right now. This is unfair and plain fucking ridiculous if you ask me!


Social media for me is a way to connect with friends and family. Since my diagnosis, I hve had the opportunity to open my life, and share my world as people read/ watch every step of my journey. I have met some pretty fabulous pink sisters that I can talk to at any hour of day through text or on the phone (Jackie… I truly dont know what I would have done without you!) We talk about everything and anything from aches and pains to bruises that I think are neceotizing fascitis (my medical peeps get my fear here…). When my doctors begged me to attend support groups, I found my support without that face to face action. There are so many benefits to talking to my pink family, however there are also the horror stories and journies I could never imagine traveling, and of course it affects me… its hard to keep up blocks when I care about these girls! Basically, scanxiety, cancerxiety, remissionxiety whatever the hell you want to call it is terribly real! It is in the back of my mind every single day of my life! 


The truth is, that it is extremely difficult to not live in fear. Before I was diagnosed, I never really thought about being sick, nonetheless with cancer! I never feared every headache, every lump or bump, every red spot, or every itch. And lets not even get me started with my pup Izzy (who also was diagnosed with a rare cancer at 9 months old)… i’m constantly checking him for ailments! My husband is a true saint, im sure he didnt actually know he married a wacko… well I wasnt a wacko back then, atleast I dont think I was 😉 The truth is that I have had an uncountable amount of nights where I hysterical cry to John about when I die, if/when im going to die… and that isnt fair because im fucking 27 years young! I want to live a happily ever after just like in the Disney movies god dammit!

As many of my friends are getting married, buying huge houses, having babies, Im over here fearing if Ill ever be able to have a baby myself, if I will be alive to raise a baby, if we have the money to pay our mortgage this month, and most importantly, if my cancer will ever come back and I will be forced to relive my hell again… it is truly one of my biggest fears! My fears are real life, and it isnt something I would wish on my worst enemy!

But then John reminds me, why worry about these things, its not going to change what is destined to be. If I were to live everyday like im going to die tomorrow, I would probably end up being the most anxious person on earth… never truly able to enjoy the beauty and fun of life! I wouldnt stop to smell the flowers, and that is so so important! It is easy for me to say, I ignore my fears… because John will tell you… at night its all that I think about!


This year, I have many goals, and many of them revolve around me helping other girls in the same position as me! I know im fucked up in the head from cancer, chemo brain aside… and im sure a doctor would tell me “girl you need a shrink”, but the reality is… until you live with cancer, you have no idea what these fears are like! Without my hubby, I would have to see a shrink probably daily ;), lucky for me… he talks me down so easily we dont have to pay yet another professional to tell me whats wrong with me;)


Basically, I feel the urge to write this post because I have to vent, life is unfair on so many levels, but also to show me that I have to try to stop focusing on the things out of my control. I feel that God has presented me with this journey at a young age for a reason, and it is my calling to be an advocate and confidant for other girls like me. To all my pink sisters and brothers, and cancer friendlings near and far, you will all be in my heart and I will forever be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. Oh, and do not forget… #sparkleon 

Xo Meg