I’m just me.

I updated the “Me” section of this page today. Reading what I wrote mid-February was hard and yet rewriting it today felt right somehow.

It’s hard to believe that this blog has been around since August 15th of last year. I started it in the hopes of sharing my story, my journey, with breast cancer. It was a chance for me to express myself – my highs and my lows. It was an opportunity to be me and share my updates & experiences with the world. I had been procrastinating on starting a blog for years and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to do just that. So I started.

The last year has been one of the hardest, most challenging and yet most rewarding experiences of my entire life. I have grown as a person, a friend, a mother, a wife and so much more. I have cried more than I thought possible, felt worse than ever and sat up worrying about the future. And yet, those tears have been filled with more love than I have ever felt, I’ve made my body stronger than it once was and I no longer live in fear of the future (well, I try!).

This last year has taught me more than I learned in my 30+ years of life. I have laughed harder, smiled bigger and hugged longer than I ever thought possible. The love that I feel wrap itself around me on a regular basis is nothing short of amazing. It is nothing short of a miracle. This experience, this blog, this journey…no, I did not ask for any of it. But it is here. And it is mine. And I will embrace it for what it is and make the very best of every moment that I am granted.

I often hear people ask me about being brave or inspirational. My reply is simple…I’m just me. I am the me that I thought I once was and yet am somehow completely different. I am the me that I feel I am in my heart. I am the me that is true to myself. I am the me that I once dreamed of being. I am the me that will continue to be brave and strong and inspirational. But I am just that – me.

I hope you all continue to follow me and my journey. I hope that you find my posts to be inspiring or insightful. I hope that you all continue to inspire me, the way that you have continuously throughout this last year. We don’t know what the future will bring us but what we do know is that we can love hard now and always. Keep spreading that love, friends. It is what keeps me – and the world – going.

My products

Products

I’ve been slowly transitioning to all-natural and organic products this year but made it a top priority after my recent diagnosis. Looking at labels has become quite horrifying so I have been focusing on researching different products and reviews. I’ve received lots of questions about the different products that I’ve adapted to so I thought I’d share a list below. Most I have bought on Amazon (thanks to my sis for having Prime!) but some I’ve found at Target or the actual website for the product. I like to compare prices with shipping but honestly, Amazon’s 2 day shipping typically wins out. Yes, I had massive sticker shock initially! Some of these products cost a small fortune but when I compare the ingredients, it is completely worth the cost – especially when I learn about how well they all work and the research behind using those products versus others.

Feel free to reach out with any questions and I am happy to help!

    • Bali Secrets Natural Deodorant – I have a tendency to sweat a lot so I’ve used my fair share of prescription and deodorant/antiperspirant combinations in the past. I’ve been using this particular deodorant since before my initial radiation and I love it. It received excellent reviews and I am happy with the scent! There is research to suggest that antiperspirants cause breast cancer and although I don’t know the validity of it, it is something that I prefer not to risk. Living in Florida, I usually only apply once a day but if it’s a full day of heat then I may use it twice. I carry it in my purse and keep it at home. I love this stuff!
    • Lindi Skin Soothing Balm – I use this to ward off hand and foot syndrome with chemo pills. I’ve only started using it this week but I’m in love with the softness of it. It seeps into my skin and makes my hands and feet feel wonderful. It doesn’t stay on top of my skin like many of the creams that I have used.
    • PEDS Women’s Socks and Sakya No Show Premium Cotton Socks – I use these with the lotion above. I read that lotion and socks may keep in the moisture and help keep feet hydrated throughout the day. So I have recently adapted to lotioning up and wearing these socks all day long under my shoes. I also lotion up and wear regular socks at night to keep my feet hydrated. I just started my second dose of chemo but I am hopeful that this combination will work. I also wish I found these socks a long time ago because I am completely obsessed with them!
    • My Girls Skin Care Cream Radiation Burn Care – I started using this cream on my radiation areas this week. It is much lighter than the Eucerin and calendula cream that I was using previously. I mix Calendula oil in with this cream and it seems to hydrate my skin quite well. I’m hopeful that it will continue to work!
  • Herb Pharm Certified Organic Calendula Oil – I’ve been using this Calendula oil since I started radiation and I love it. I originally mixed it with Miaderm, then Eucerin and now My Girls. Although My Girls has Calendula oil in it, I like to mix it in since it is supposed to work wonders.

 

  • California Baby Calendula Shampoo and Body Wash – I have been using this body wash and shampoo on Jacob for a while now. After brain surgery, I was advised to use baby shampoo for a while and switched to this. I love it! It feels great on my head and lathers nicely. I will definitely keep using it.
  • Lush Retread Conditioner – I have been using this conditioner since May I am in love with it. It works amazing and smells wonderful. I wish I had found Lush sooner!
  • Lush Dream Cream – I have been using this lotion on my skin since May also and it smells like key lime pie. I love it!
  • Simply Organic Wax Pomade Hard Wax – The airport threw away the hair gel that Jacob & I have been sharing recently so I was forced to do some research on a new product. This is a little thicker than I normally use so a little goes a long way. My hair is less hard and has a lot more curls now – which I love!
  • Castile Bar Soap – Gentle Unscented with Organic Cocoa Butter and Organic Olive Oil – I started using this soap a few weeks ago when I ran out of Dove. I did some research and it received excellent reviews. I love the way that it makes my skin feel and it lathers nicely. I will definitely be using it going forward!
  • Antibacterial soap – I purchased all-natural soap yesterday and it will be arriving tomorrow. I am anxious to give it a try but it received great reviews so I will keep you all posted!

That’s all for now. Are there any other products that you all can recommend?!

A busy Friday ahead!

Today is day 1 of my 2nd round of chemo pills. The week off from them have been nice but each day I felt like I was missing something so I’m glad to be starting my week again. Combined with radiation and knowing it’s the 2nd cycle, I am curious of the side effects but remaining optimistic. I am armed with lots of lotions to help!

Yesterday at radiation the technicians, doctor and physicist came in again to align my 5 bolus-combo in the hopes of keeping it as one piece. Unfortunately, the air gaps near my skin are literally millimeters away but not close enough to my skin. While barely affecting treatment, it still has an impact since my skin is affected and that’s important. So starting today, they will align each bolus every day. It’ll take longer to align but will target the areas that much closer. I lay on the table with my arms up the entire time so although it’s uncomfortable, the technicians have the hardest job of all! My skin is doing well so far, though the redness has started.

I started taking melatonin 3 nights ago and it’s working great. I’m still exhausted each day but I’m getting an extra 2 – 3 hours each night. I’ll keep taking it!

Today, Joe & I are up early and on our way to Moffitt in Tampa again for genetic testing. They called me Monday to ask preliminary questions and I realize how little I actually know. I’ve been working with family all week trying to figure out as much as I can for the appointment. I expect there to be a lot of unanswered questions but I have a great start! They will do lots of blood work and I am super curious about it. They will be testing for genetic mutations that could predispose me (aside from BRCA 1 & 2) but also that could qualify me for a clinical trial.

So off we go! Enjoy your Friday, friends!

I like to keep things interesting! 

While laying on the table at radiation today, the song “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors came on. As the machine buzzed around me taking pictures prior to treatment, the irony of this song was not lost on me. I first wrote about it in February, when I was declared cancer free. I couldn’t help but smile at the song. I remember how I felt hearing those words and smiling widely. That feeling will never go away.

No, I am no longer cancer free and life has changed significantly since that fateful day. But I continue to embrace the moments and the days that I am blessed to be gifted. And for that, I am grateful – song and all.

Radiation this morning was long again and I was surrounded by 5 sets of hands (technicians, doctor and physicist) making sure that I was perfectly aligned for my massive treatment area. They ended up using 5 bolus’ on me and taped them together in the hopes of them staying that way going forward. I was literally taped to the table while they treated me (I have to laugh!). They are all such incredibly wonderful people who work so hard for folks like me.

I met with the radiation oncologist again afterwards and asked her about my left axillary lymph node. It has been painful for a week or two and I can feel that it is swollen. I was previously radiated in that area, my PET scan showed no cancer there and we know the Xeloda is working so the chance of cancer on the left is minimal. In the spirit of thoroughness (especially with me!), she ordered an urgent ultrasound to figure out what the lump and pain is from.

So tonight I ventured to an ultrasound. I went to the hospital where I receive radiation treatment and they immediately reassured me about my lymph. It is a mass of fluid, that measures about 2.3cm x 1cm that is typical after surgery. Called a seroma, it is not cancerous! It will likely stay for at least a year and I will need to have it monitored to watch the size and shape of it over time. The radiologist even pulled up my PET scan to compare then came to look at it himself. That made me feel good that he was also so thorough!

So it’s a win – and I’ll take it! A small one? Maybe…but it’s pretty big to me.

After talking it over with Joe, we decided to push out some of my upcoming appointments. I want to ensure radiation is completed prior to traveling but I also want to have my PET / CT scans readily available as well. That way the centers will be armed with the most recent information that we have available. I am excited for this, as I know we have learned SO much already and I am anxious for the upcoming trips. I pushed out Sloan Kettering until 9/22 and Emory until 9/30. In the meantime, I will keep doing what I’m doing and knowing that it’s working against this cancer!

Today is a good day, friends. Continue to spread that love! 

Oh, radiation…

After my first dose of radiation last Thursday, we decided to treat my lymph nodes and my skin. I skipped Friday for the office to prepare and had a late appointment today to start again. I spent about an hour on the machine while I was lined up properly, scanned, the bolis – 3- were added and then I was treated. 

The entire radiation experience was very different from last time. I am on the same machine that I received my boost on when being treated on my left. This time, I had 3 separate bolis’ taped to me. The purpose of those is to imitate my skin so that the radiation beam actually penetrates my skin. I had one bolis on my left side before. This time I had 2 across my chest and one on my neck. My treatment area is quite large and stems from my neckline, up by my chin, all the way to my mid-stomach. The amount of time that I am radiated is also longer than before. There are no breaks or breath holds (whew!) but it is a consistent almost 7 minutes of treatment. The metal beams move about and form different shapes and sizes so it isn’t a straight block of treatment, however the area that is being treated is significant. 

The dosage is higher than before also, which will be interesting because I have a lot more feeling in this treatment area. Mixed with the Xeloda, it will increase the effectiveness of the attack on cancer but also my side effects. So it’s important that I stay on top of any side effects and talk with the radiation oncologist about adjusting if needed. She is wonderful so I am confident that she has my best interest in mind.

The day ended with her reiterating at this visit that the Xeloda is definitely working! My lymph nodes are noticeably smaller and my skin is responding to the pills. Even the technicians commented on how much better everything looked. How awesome is that?!

So despite being tired tonight, I will rest easy knowing that the Xeloda is working, the radiation is going to attack what’s left and I am literally doing everything in my own power to change my dietary habits to make my body stronger. 

It’s a good day, friends. 💚

Boston! 

What a weekend! Though totally a whirlwind that flew by as expected, it was incredible! Friday night we enjoyed an awesome dinner at this place called Life Alive in Cambridge that serves all natural body fueling food…no one was disappointed. Completely delicious, we need them in Florida! 

Saturday we spent the morning at the aquarium (little man is obsessed with fish and turtles!), walked around Quincy Market and enjoyed the gorgeous day. It was about 75-80 degrees out and I don’t think the weather could have been more perfect. It was beautiful and the seaport was spectacular. Jacob loved watching all of the boats coming and going! 

I practiced pictures on the fancy camera but have not uploaded yet. For now, I have a few phone pictures to share! The best part of the entire weekend was having family & friends take the drive out to see us. The time spent catching up, laughing and talking about everything under the sun is completely priceless to me. The trip to Dana Farber was awesome but the weekend with the people I love means more than words. 💚