Monday, December 21, 2009

Feeling A Little Lost...


Monday, December 21, 2009

Current mood: feeling lost


Yesterday was my Grandma's Birthday and even though I was at work, she was on my mind. I think my Grandma's death has been the hardest for me. I miss her so much. I miss our phone conversations, she was always there to "just listen". What more could a person ask for.

I miss her stories too. She would tell me about her mother and father and then her step-mother. My Grandma lost her mother when she was very young and I remember her telling me how her and her father and siblings would visit her Mother at the cemetery on Sundays.

This was very important to my Grandma. As time passed and after my Grandpa passed away she would visit him as well. As my Grandma got older and wasn't able to drive anymore, I would take her to the cemetery. We would sit and talk to Grandpa. And as time passed and after I lost my Mother, my Grandma would come to the cemetery with me and visit with my Mom. We would even go to see my Nana, she was buried in a family plot. My Great Grandparent are there along with my Nana's sister.

Some people say you are either a cemetery going person or not. Thanks to my Grandma, I became a cemetery going girl.

I remember one time I went to visit after work and it was in early December and I had bought some Christmas decorations for the plaques. I remember it was getting dark and the ground was covered with snow but the air was warm so it created fog. I remember driving through the fog along the road and it seemed so peaceful, like I was in heaven. That has to be one of my favorite trips to the cemetery.

When my Grandma passed away, it was very difficult for everyone. She was our family.

I remember after the funeral and after the get together afterward my Dad asking me where I was going. I simply said, I'm going back to the cemetery. I needed one on one time with Grandma.

When I got back to the cemetery and stood there looking at all the flowers piled on top of this mound of dirt all I wanted to do was lay on top of it. Now keep in mind it was January and very cold. I really believe it wasn't so cold, I would have done it. I needed to be close to her.

I have to admit I haven't been to the cemetery in quit some time. Since my cancer diagnosis back in March 2007.

I don't know, the cemetery didn't seem like a place I wanted to go to... Maybe it was just a little too much to handle.

Anyway, I'm going home for Christmas in a few days and I think it's time I venture to the cemetery and visit everyone.

It's time I stop by and chat with Grandma....

Monday, November 2, 2009

Celebrating My Survivorship!


Monday, November 2, 2009

Current mood: Celebrating!


I finally did it!

I got my tattoo. I've wanted one for a while but had a hard time trying to figure out what to get.

I knew I wanted something that symbolized my survivorship. I also knew I wanted something more than just a pink ribbon.

I came across this image one day when I was on-line and I knew it would make the perfect tattoo.

I love that the image is of a girl dancing, it's like she is celebrating. I also love the curl in her hair, like it's just growing back. And what better way to show the pink ribbon but to have it symbolized in her body.

Here's to survivorship...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Are you F'in Kidding Me?



Thursday, October 9, 2009

Current mood: Outraged!


I can't believe how stupid people are. I was on Facebook yesterday and one of my friends posted the above picture.

Is this really what people think? If so, society has some real issues.

First of all let me start off by saying that when I was going through my treatment, I ran across some stupid people. I remember once someone told me that it wasn't all that bad, I was getting new boobs. They thought I was getting breast implants, which I did not.

Let me just set the record straight. Having a mastectomy and have implants for your reconstruction is totally different than having implants to enhance your breast. BIG BIG difference. Breast implants by themselves are ugly.

I chose to have the DEIP Tram Flap as my reconstruction. And NO, I did not do this for the tummy tuck. I did it to have a more natural breast. Another thing people don't understand is that with implants you need to have them replaced ever 10-15 years. Being so young at the time of my diagnosis I did not want to have to go back to doctor over the years for replacements. I just wanted my surgery to be done and over with.

Another thing people don't understand is that when you have a mastectomy and they remove the breast they remove your "whole" breast. That means the nipple and all the nerves as well as the breast tissue. Even with reconstruction you are never going to have that feeling back in your breast. People don't talk about that either.

What this picture is not showing is the women with a bald head with her face in the toilet throwing up from the chemo. And chemo does not always make you skinny. Depending on the medication you are given, you may gain weight. It happened to me. Where is the display of medication bottles found on the kitchen counter. Pills for the nauseau and pain that goes along with chemo. Or the hours of rehab that goes along with the surgery. Where's the walker? When I came home from the hospital, I couldn't stand straight up. I could barely walk up and down the stairs to my bedroom. Oh, I guess that's not pretty too so we won't show that.

I would glady give up my fake boobs and tummy tuck for my natural breasts back.

So here's what I have to say to the picture...Be careful what you wish for...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

It's nice to know I'm not alone




Saturday, October 3, 2009

Current mood: Relieved

I can't believe another October is here. Why does the world seem to have a pink haze? Oh, that's right, it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I've blogged about my feelings on this subject a few times. My breast surgeon even warned me that this may happen. I was diagnosed in March and she said by the time October rolls around you will be sick of pink and pink ribbons. She was right.

Like I've said before, I'm all for awareness and finding a cure but everything doesn't need to be pink to accomplish this. If you do buy pink products, think before you pink, make sure you know where the money is going.

I found this article and it is exactly how I feel. Please read....


Sick of pink

Boston Globe

When Kim Zielinski was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 at the age of 33, well-meaning friends inundated her with products bearing a little pink ribbon. Each product’s maker promised a cut of the sales price to a breast cancer charity, and these friends felt they were supporting the cause and, by association, Zielinski. A petite brunette who’s now 35, she was enormously grateful for the millions of dollars that these pink-ribbon products direct each year to charities that fund breast cancer research and education.

But it wasn’t long before she got a little sick of the pink. “I felt kind of hateful,” says the insurance company sales manager who lives in Charlestown. “I was like, ‘What makes you think I like pink now?’

“I think that the pink ribbon, as a symbol, tends to pretty up what is a pretty crappy disease. But a pink ribbon is easier to look at than the disease itself.”

Many breast cancer survivors like Zielinski find themselves conflicted over this little powerful ribbon. Some survivors feel companies are exploiting breast cancer, marketing themselves as philanthropic outfits that care about women when what they mostly care about is the pink ribbon’s enormous ability to boost profits. Some just feel overwhelmed by the constant pink reminder, especially in October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, of a disease that has forever altered their lives.

Since she was diagnosed 2½ years ago, Anna Schleelein, a 26-year-old attorney in Newton, spends Octobers in a self-imposed pop-culture blackout. She tries to avoid TV, magazines, and, especially, shopping, to steer clear of all those pink-ribbon products. “October is just a reminder of my cancer,” Schleelein says. She is screened for recurrences with MRIs and mammograms every six months, and October is particularly difficult if she is awaiting the results of a test. “I want to buy my English muffins and not be reminded of it while I’m waiting for results to come in.”

“It’s such a double-edged sword,” says LaShaune Johnson, 33, another breast cancer survivor and a postdoctoral fellow, who recently relocated to Hartford from Hyde Park. She did her dissertation on breast cancer organizations and black women. “On the one hand, buying that pink stuff makes you feel connected to the people who survived and made it to the other side.
“But personally,” says Johnson, “I cringe when I see that stuff. I feel like they’re taking advantage of people who are suffering and want a sense of belonging.”

Samantha King’s 2006 book Pink Ribbons Inc. was one of the first that examined why breast cancer, more so than any other illness, became a ubiquitous marketing movement. Answer: The most significant risk factors for breast cancer (such as genetics and age) can’t be altered by women, which is why it’s often regarded as a “blameless” disease. It attacks mostly women, who account for the bulk of America’s purchasing power. It attacks the very symbol of femininity, the breast. And a pink ribbon is cute and soothing. “I’ve talked to survivors who’ve contacted me and were so enraged that their struggle with the disease was being commodified in this way,” says King, who is based in Kingston, Ontario. “The response I’ve heard from corporations when I challenge them about this is ‘Who cares, as long as the money is going to a good cause?’ ”Many breast cancer survivors and women battling the disease care, that’s who. And they’re increasingly willing to speak out about it. “I would hope that companies aren’t looking to profit off the use of the pink ribbon,” says Zielinski. “There are other ways that they can market things.” But few causes have proven to be as incredibly profitable -- or as exploited -- as breast cancer.

When a company sells a product and promises a portion of the proceeds to a cause or charity, it’s called cause-related marketing. (This is unlike the charitable foundations that some companies set up to give away money unconnected to product sales.) Avon and Estee Lauder were two of the first to use the pink ribbon as a marketing tool by slapping it on cosmetics in 1993. Other companies rapidly followed suit. Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the Texas-based 900-pound gorilla of breast cancer fund-raising, has turned cause marketing into a money-printing machine. Last year, the charity raised almost $50 million from more than 250 corporations, which gave Komen some of their proceeds from product sales. Komen is just one of dozens of charities that partner with companies to raise funds. The technique has been a tremendously powerful way of generating money for breast cancer research and education by redirecting consumer dollars.
It is also a powerful technique for raising profits. Research from Cone Communications, a Boston consultancy that helped pioneer the widespread use of cause marketing, has shown that 79 percent of consumers would likely switch to a brand that supports a cause, all other things being equal. People want to buy from companies that appear to do good deeds. In one test conducted by Cone and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, shampoo aligned with a cause saw a 74 percent sales increase over the same brand without a cause.

A recent study of the effects of cause marketing by two professors at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor found that not only can companies raise prices and make higher profits on the sale of products that benefit a cause, these companies’ entire brand portfolios can experience a “spillover” increase in sales and profits, which more than compensates for the money given to charity. The report concluded, “Our results suggest that actions of [cause marketing] firms should be looked on with some skepticism by consumers and government officials -- while the firms may be helping with charitable causes, they are also using [cause marketing] to increase their own prices and profits.”

But most consumers don’t read reports from Midwestern business schools. Many people believe that a firm that puts a pink ribbon on a product is donating money out of its own pocket, at a loss, because it is committed to the fight against breast cancer. That’s not to say the employees and executives aren’t committed to the cause, but that is not why they do it.

“Often, I hear the argument that we would be better off if companies would just donate the dollars that they spend on marketing these products or creating these products,” says Chris Mann, associate manager of brand marketing for Brighton-based New Balance, which for the past eight years has given a percentage of the sales of its “Lace Up for the Cure” shoe, apparel, and accessory collection to Komen. “And I don’t disagree that a donation of that amount would be very impactful. At the same time, that point of view doesn’t understand the realities of how for-profit corporations have to work. In most of the cases, that money was never earmarked as purely a donation or a philanthropic initiative. In most cases, it’s funds that are coming out of a marketing budget. And by definition, a marketing budget is meant to drive return for the business.” (The New Balance Foundation, a separate entity set up to make charitable donations, has given more than $100,000 over the past four years to local breast cancer initiatives and gave $100,000 in 2007 to Komen.)

The profit power of cause marketing is why, come October, everything turns pink. The pink ribbon’s use is unregulated, and it has no consistent meaning. Some companies simply attach a ribbon and say they’re “raising awareness.” Many pink-ribbon campaigns require the purchaser to register the sale online or through the mail.

Such misuse and hoop-jumping infuriates Jeanne Sather, a Seattle woman battling metastatic breast cancer and known throughout the cancer community for her fight against the pink ribbon and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. She will send a “Boycott October” button to anyone who asks. Her blog,
assertivepatient.com, features what she considers the most egregious, tasteless examples of pink-ribbon products -- including Jingle Jugs, plastic breasts mounted taxidermy-style on wood that move and play music; sales of a “breast cancer awareness” edition of the
Jugs resulted in a $50,000 donation to Komen.

“For those of us with breast cancer, it’s like getting hit in the face,” says Sather. “The companies are making money off my disease -- even if they’re giving an amount to charity, they’re making so much more in profit.”

With one in eight women being diagnosed with breast cancer, more research is needed into cause, treatment, and prevention. Every donated dollar helps, so most charities refuse to bad-mouth pink-ribbon cause marketing, no matter how much it upsets some breast cancer patients and survivors.

Of the complaints, Karen White, director of corporate relations for Komen, says: “It’s not something that we hear on a regular basis. Responsible cause marketing is good cause marketing and serves a wonderful cause. We’re excellent stewards of the funds that come in through this.” Still, nonprofit executives realize that some companies are misusing the pink ribbon, and they recognize that if corporate partners appear greedy instead of philanthropic, it tarnishes the charities’ own reputations -- and fundraising efforts. White says Komen approves the products on which its partners are slapping Komen’s trademarked version of the pink ribbon, and the charity says it monitors partners to ensure they are following accepted charitable giving guidelines and state laws that govern corporations involved in cause marketing.
Nonetheless, Breast Cancer Action (BCA), a San Francisco-based advocacy and fund-raising nonprofit, has for years called Komen out for joining with companies that it accuses of raising money for breast cancer while manufacturing products that contain ingredients that have been proven to or are likely to cause cancer. BCA recently declared victory when Yoplait, one of Komen’s biggest partners through its “Save Lids to Save Lives” campaign, agreed to stop using milk from cows treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBGH. The byproduct of the hormone that remains in milk has been linked by many studies to the development of breast cancer. Shortly after Yoplait’s statement that it would stop using milk from treated cows, Dannon made a similar announcement about its yogurt.

In 2002, BCA created the “Think Before You Pink” campaign, encouraging consumers to ask questions before buying pink, among them: Is the product bad for my health, where is the money going, and how much is going there?

It’s difficult or impossible to answer these questions while confronting a sea of pink products in aisle five at Walgreens. Which is why Komen, for one, insists that its corporate partners clearly say on products how the sale will benefit Komen and if there is a donation minimum or maximum. One of Komen’s partners with a maximum is New Balance, which caps its contribution at $1 million per year. The shoe maker has hit that target during each of the past two years and expects to do so again this year, according to Mann. “We would love to [raise the cap],” he says, “but the unfortunate realities of the business world at this point are that [we], like many other companies, are not having the flexibility given the current economic times to increase marketing spends.” So what happens each year to the money that the company earns after the cap is reached that would normally go to Komen? “We would hold on to that.”
White says that Komen monitors its partners’ sales and requires that when they hit their maximum they tell consumers that purchases are no longer benefiting Komen. New Balance, however, said in a statement that it does not inform consumers once the company reaches its cap; its product labels state that a maximum donation exists, so the firm believes it’s in compliance with Komen’s rules.

Any business that sells for profit an item that benefits a charity is considered a commercial co-venture and must comply with state laws. Massachusetts has some of the strictest commercial co-venture requirements in the country, mandating that before a product can be sold here, a company must register with the state attorney general’s charities’ division, file financial documents outlining the program, and post a $10,000 bond. At the end of program, the company must also tell the attorney general how much gross revenue the program generated and how much went to the charity. The filings are the only publicly accessible, legally binding record of this information -- all key to learning just how committed a firm is to a cause and how profitable these programs are.

But calls to the attorney general’s office in August and September revealed that firms partnering with two of the largest breast cancer charities in the country, Komen and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), are not registered. Of the dozens of companies that sell products that benefit the BCRF, for instance, only four are on file. The Estee Lauder Companies is not one of them, surprising considering that Evelyn Lauder, a senior corporate vice president, launched the foundation, and the cosmetics maker is its primary corporate benefactor. An Estee Lauder spokeswoman said in a statement, “We are grateful to the Boston Globe for bringing this oversight to our attention. The Estee Lauder Companies is proud of its support for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and will promptly take the necessary steps to register as required.”
Only 13 Komen partners have current commercial co-venture registrations with Massachusetts. New Balance is not one of them. Mann explains: “I thought legal was doing it, and legal thought I was doing it.” Since the Globe’s query, New Balance is in the process of coming into compliance.
Emily Callahan, vice president of marketing for Komen, acknowledges that the nonprofit needs to increase its oversight of partner compliance with state laws. “We let [partners] take the lead in that,” says Callahan. “That’s something we need to be more aggressive with.” She says that Komen will ensure that all partners have filed their forms by this month.

“It’s really hard to combat a symbol like that,” says Deborah Shields, executive director of the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, an advocacy nonprofit. “It’s hard to challenge it without looking like a big meanie or leftish wacko fringe.” Shields and her group encourage people to make donations directly to causes they support rather than shopping for the causes. “It does matter where the funds come from and where they go.

“None of this is happening in Europe,” says Shields. “They’re stupefied by the concept of cause marketing.”

In fact, there is much concern that so-called consumption philanthropy may actually be dampening people’s willingness to make direct cash donations to charities. Samantha King explored this trend in her book; she and other social researchers fear that consumers won’t donate directly because they feel they did their part by buying those pink candies and golf clubs.
As such, the “so what” argument still dominates most of the conversations about the ethics of pink-ribbon cause marketing. So what if companies make a profit? Isn’t it better that they send a little to a charity while they’re at it? No harm, no foul, right?

It may be one argument in favor of leaving these companies alone to continue to pink-ify America, but it doesn’t make many women who have or have had breast cancer feel any better about October. The pinker it gets, the more conflicted and exploited they feel. “I get e-mails all the time from women with breast cancer saying, ‘Help me survive October. Help me get through October,’ ” says Sather. “It feels like a party and we are not celebrating.”

Kris Frieswick is a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.
© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

When does the fear go away?


Friday, August 6, 2009

Current mood: scared


OK, I'm asking all my cancer friends, when did your fear of a recurrence go away or is it always going to be there?

I have my routine 6 month check with my oncologist this coming Monday and for some reason, I am really scared.

It's been a little over a year since my last treatment and a little more than 2 years since my diagnosis.

It's not like this is my first check up. Why am I so scared?

I know one thing is for sure, I'm not looking forward to having them draw my blood. I had my port out in June, so now they have to stick me to get blood. Good luck with that one. I love being a human pin cushion. Let's see how many bruises I walk away with this time.

I also have an appointment to see my gynecologist. Now we all know how fun that visit can be. But that one scares me too. I had an abnormal pap last year and had to have a colposcopy. Everything turned out OK. They just thought it was abnormal due to my chemo. I just hope the one on Monday comes back normal.

What is my problem? I know I can't live in fear and certainly don't want to live just "waiting" for a recurrence to happen.

I hope this gets easier as time goes on...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

WOW! 5 years ago...


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Current mood: Blessed

Yesterday I went to a cookout on Staten Island to celebrate my friend Jen's 5 year cancerversary. It was amazing meeting her family and her husband Chad's family. The celebration reminded me of the one I had when I was FINALLY done with my treatment. It was such a beautiful day!

The picture is of Jen, her husband Chad, and I at the 2009 Revlon Walk here in NYC.

WOW! Five years. I can't wait to have 5 years cancer free under my belt.

It's weird when you look back over the last 5 years of your life. My has been very challenging.

On August 1, it will be 5 years since my Mom passed away. That was devastating and completely unexpected. Then a little over a year later my Grandma passed away and then a year later, I'm diagnosed with cancer.

Can you pile any more crap on me?

Some people like to say that God is challenging me and of course there is that saying, God only gives you what he thinks you can handle. OK, is that supposed to make me feel better. Does that mean he thinks I'm strong.

Well damn it! I am strong and I am a survivor!

I guess being at Jen's cookout yesterday and seeing her Grandma and Mom made me ache for mine. I miss you Mom and Grandma.

I know they are my angels looking after me.

Here's to the next 5 years and continuing to chase my dreams and stay healthy
!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Saying Good-bye to the Fashionable Hospital Gown


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Current mood: Elated!


OK, so I got my port removed yesterday. That's right, I've been "deported".

I have to admit I had mixed emotions about this. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that my cancercrapness journey is coming to an end. But I'm not too happy about having to be pricked two or three times before they can draw blood out of me. Let alone all the times they slap at you to try and get the vein to pop out. Here come the bruises... It took the nurse yesterday 3 tries and about 45 minutes to find a vein on me and not just a vein but one that had blood come out. She actually had to put it in the side of my thumb after she asked what they did when they put the port in.

Of course before all this happened I heard the all too familiar words, "Here is the gown to change into, opening in the back".

Opening in the back? These were new words I was hearing. In the back? Don't you mean in the front? I've been showing off my boobs for the last two years and now you want the opening in the back. WOW! I think my boobs actually had their feelings hurt....lol

I can't even tell you how many hospital gowns, I've changed into over the past 2 plus years.

It was nice at the end to change into my clothes and roll this one up in a ball and throw it on the chair and say, "I'm Done!" Done with all this cancercrapness!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Praying for Me

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Current Mood: Confused


OK! I'm not really sure how to approach this blog. I don't want to offend anyone but I really need to get this off my chest.

I got an email from a friend a couple of weeks ago. She wrote that her sister had lost her battle with cancer and that she prays for me everyday.

I was sad to hear about her sister but the other part of the email and praying for me just really caught me off guard.

I guess it goes back to the beginning of my cancercrapness journey when I had a nurse tell me she was going to pray for me after looking at my ultrasound. Keep in mind, I wasn't even diagnosed at this time. I was just getting my mammogram and ultrasound and was meeting with a breast surgeon later in the week.

I of course burst into tears in sheer fear that I already had cancer and was going to die. It must be true, I have a nurse praying for me already.

Those words really freaked me out then and now with this new email it's kinda freaked me out again.

I know cancer is deadly and serious but I never thought I was going to die from it.

I guess I try not to think about my cancer and what may happen in the future. Sure there is a chance of a relapse but I try not dwell on that. That's what my 6 month check ups are for, the day of anxiety and hoping for good blood work and no more tumors.

I know I have used those words and sent cards with sayings like, You're in my thoughts and prayers. So why does this freak me out so much? Is it because the praying is for me and now it brings on a totally new meaning? Maybe that's it.

I know my friend meant well in her email it's just that sometimes words and certain phrases really freak me out.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Damn Hot Flashes!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Current mood: Tired of Sweating!


OK, let me just start off by saying one of my biggest fears has come true. I'm getting hot flashes! I feared this would happen. It is one of the lovely side affects of Tamoxifin. Fabulous!

I went to see my breast surgeon last week for my 6 month check up and she asked me how the Tamoxifin was working and I told her that I started getting hot flashes. Her response was not what I expected.

She told me that research has shown that women who get hot flashes from taking Tamoxifin have a better end result with the drug than women who don't get them. It means the drug is working.

OK, am I supposed to be happy? Yipppeee! Everytime I burst into flames, I'll just tell myself that the Tamoxifin is working. How about someone invent a portable hand held air conditioner for me.

I always feared this day would come. I remember when I was going through my treatments and the doctor warning me that some of my chemo drugs may put me into early menopause. I prayed every month that I would get my period. It's kinda funny cause my friend Danielle was trying to get pregnant at the time and she was praying for the opposite. And what about all my adolescent years spent hating my period and now I want it to come every month.

No! Don't send me into menopause, I'm too Young!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

OMG! It's The Barenaked Ladies!



Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Current mood: Honored


This past Monday I went to the OMG Cancer Summit, a cancer conference for young adults.

At this conference was one of band members from the Barenaked Ladies. His name is Kevin Hearn. He too is a young adult cancer survivor.

The picture I posted is of him reading from his journal, a journal he kept through his cancercrapness.

You could tell when he first got on stage and started talking that he was uncomfortable, he even admitted he hates to speak in front of people.

I felt so honored that Kevin Hearn of the Barenaked Ladies was here sharing his cancercrapness with us. He read one entry that really stuck out for me. He talked about being in his hospital bed late at night and his roommate was asleep and he could hear the sound of his chemo bag dripping. WOW! I know I have talked and even blogged about how much I HATED the sound of my chemo pump. I have something in common with Kevin Hearn.....how cool is that.....too bad it's STUPID CANCER!

He also told us that when he told his band members that he was coming to the conference, they were like, "we want to go too". I think that's awesome that the band wanted to perform for us. Here they are performing one of their hits songs One Week.

Thanks Barenaked Ladies for a great show and especially to Kevin for sharing his story.



video

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Marley and Me...aka, Maddy and Me



Saturday, April 18, 2009

Current mood: Sad

OK, I finally got a chance to see Marley and Me and let me just start off by saying, THANK GOD, I didn't see it in the theatre. I would have been so embarrassed. I not only cried but I was doing that whole hyperventilating cry.

It was a good movie and we all know how it was going to end but man I was not ready for that.

As you can see from the picture, I have a Bichon Frise. Her name is Maddy and she will be 10 years old next month.

Maddy and I have been to hell and back. I always tease and say that her sodium level must be through the roof because of all the tears that she has licked over the years.

She was there for me when my Mom died and then my Grandmother. And then of course came my cancer. She has always been there for me. And yet again today, she was there for me. As soon as I started to cry she came up on my lap and put her two paws on my chest and just started licking my tears away. There goes her sodium level again....

I can have a horrible, crappy day, but when I turn my key in the door and see her all excited to see me, it changes everything. She loves me unconditionally...what more could you ask for?

Maddy and I do everything together and I take her everywhere permitted. I can't believe she is going to be 10 years old next month. My baby is getting old. I noticed it the other day, her extra bounce in her step is slowing down when I bring her for her walks. She used to be able to power walk with me. That's OK, I'll slow down for my Maddy.

When the time comes and I have to make the decision to put her down, you better put me in a padded room for awhile cause I'm definitely going to lose it!

Monday, April 13, 2009

They're Back and Stronger than Ever!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Current mood: Flirty

I am soooo psyched! My eyelashes are FINALLY back and stronger than ever!

One of the things I hated most about going through chemo wasn't just losing my hair but losing my eyebrows and eyelashes.

Don't get me wrong, losing my hair was devastating but I could wear hats and scarves to try to look "normal".

When I lost my eyebrows and eyelashes, is when it really set in as to how sick I was. I now looked sick. Sure you can try putting makeup on and I did the whole penciling of the eyebrows, yeah right. I had no luck and thought I looked like a little old lady with fake lines above my eyes.

I was so excited when my eyelashes started to grow back. I was already with my fancy mascara. And then, they fell out again. I was devastated! What the hell...

I remember one of my fellow chemo buddies saying that her eyelashes had fallen out again too. I thought, OK this must be normal. I talked to my chemo nurse about it and she reassured me that they would grow back and that they might not have been strong enough.

Good news, they did grow back and yes, they did fall out again. WTF!

I patiently waited and yes again they grew back and yet again fell out.

OK, three is a charm, right?

Well, I am happy to say they haven't fallen out again and they look fabulous. I really noticed them the other night when I was getting ready to go out and was putting on my mascara. There they were fluttering back at me, nice and long. Welcome back, I've missed you.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Revlon Run/Walk for Women


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Current mood: Determined

Hey Friends and Family!

Hope this letter finds you well. I’m doing well and loving my new job and of course living in NYC is awesome. I’m living my dream.

I have decided to participate in Revlon’s Walk for Women’s Cancer on Saturday, May 2nd. It starts in Times Square and ends in Central Park.

This is a cause that is very near and dear to me, not only because I am a breast cancer survivor but because Revlon is a company that helped fund Dr. Slamon in his quest to get FDA approval for a breast cancer drug called Herceptin.

Herceptin is a drug for women that have HER2 positive breast cancer. This only accounts for 25% of breast cancer however it makes the cancer much more aggressive.

I was HER2 positive and I had Herceptin treatments every 3 weeks for a year.

Without Herceptin I’m not sure where I would be.

Needless to say, I am very thankful to Revlon for helping to fund this great doctor/researcher and I’m even more grateful to Dr. Slamon for his continued research in fighting for us cancer survivors.

So please help with my cause and sponsor me in my walk.

If you would like to sponsor me, please go to revlonrunwalk.com. I am registered under the NYC walk (Jill Ann Zocco) and my bib number is 11252. Or you can go directly by using this link https://www.revlonrunwalk.com/ny/secure/mywebpage.cfm?pID=486948

Thank you so much! I love you guys!

Jill
Breast Cancer Survivor
http://cancercrapness.blogspot.com

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Do you have $340,358.35?


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Current mood: Shocked!

Well I finally did it. I added up all my bills from my cancer and got this outrageous number.

The cost of my cancer that was billed to my insurance company was...can I have a drum roll please...$340,358.35.

That's crazy!

All I have to say is, THANK GOD I had insurance!

I haven't really added up my costs. I know my deductible was $600 and each office visit was $25 and of course all my drugs, they cost me $10 a prescription.

Here is the breakdown of my cancer bill that was sent to my insurance company:

mammogram, ultrasound, biopsies, consult with breast surgeon, pathology reports and lab work $6,678.22

Breast Surgeon office visits $1,951.

MRI $3,613.93

Pre-op physicals $467.

1st surgery to remove lump $12,223.16

Consult with Plastic Surgeon $590.

Genetic Test $3,120.

Oncologist Consult $360.

Blood work $122.42

Pathology reports $98.65

Body Scans (full body, pelvic and heart) $7,913.50

Surgery to implant my port $6,281.13

Chemo Treatments, this includes office visits, blood work, chemo drugs, injections, IV therapy and of course supplies $84,221.07

The chemo drugs by themselves were $58,355.

Herceptin Treatments, this includes office visits, blood work, Herceptin drug, injections, IV therapy and once again supplies $128,919.68

The Herceptin Drug alone was $108,426.

Breast Surgery/Bi-lateral mastectomy with DEIP tram flap reconstruction $83,668.59

Holy Shit! That's alot of money. The operating room alone was $29,696. I guess that seems fair enough, after all I was in surgery for 15 hours.

Visiting Nurse $130.

Grand Total $340,358.35

OMG!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Help Support Young Adult Cancer Week



Monday, March 30, 2009

Current mood: Hopeful

As a young adult cancer survivor, I am always looking for ways to get the word out about how left behind "we" are when it comes to cancer research. The stats don't lie. The stats are SCARY, especially for a young adult who is facing cancer.

Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week is coming up April 5-11 and I am urging everyone I know to please go to this website http://www.thegrouproom.tv/yacaw-proclamation.php and send a letter to either your Governor or The President.

This is what the proclamation looks like:

Dear Governor/President ___________:

I am writing to you today to request you officially designate National Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week (April 5-11, 2009) in the great state of _______. A sample proclamation and request has been sent to you and we hope you wil consider signing it and helping to draw attention to Young Adults with Cancer.

The cancer communications organization, Vital Options International, is a California based 501(c)(3) and was founded in 1983 as the first support and advocacy organization specifically for young adults with cancer between the ages of 17- 40. On April 4, 2003, to commemorate Vital Options’ 20th anniversary, National Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week was launched. Since then, a growing number of organizations have joined Vital Options in this annual effort.

The Problem
More than 70,000 young adults in their 20s and 30s are diagnosed with cancer every year, eight times more often than in patients under 15 years old

Cancer is the leading disease killer among 20- to 39-year olds

Young adults with cancer have had less survival improvement than either younger or older patients

Strides made in cancer treatment have bypassed young adults; in the 25 to 35 age group, survival rates have not increased since 1975

The survival gap for young adults is not improving, it is getting worse

In order to address these critical issues, the LIVESTRONG™ Young Adult Alliance has been formed as a coalition of young adult organizations committed to coordinating initiatives that will improve survival rates and quality of life for young adults with cancer between the ages of 15 and 40. The Alliance is a program of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Young adults are a distinct patient group with unique clinical and psychosocial needs. An official designation of National Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week will enable us to accelerate our efforts.

I appreciate your time and consideration of this proclamation. Should you wish to find out more information, please visit http://www.youngadultswithcancer.org/

Thank you

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What day do you celebrate?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Current mood: Confused


OK...I'm throwing this question out to all my cancer friends. What day do you celebrate your cancercrapness freeness?

I have so many dates and I'm not sure which one to make my official celebration day.

I was diagnosed on March 8, 2007, but to me that doesn't seem like a day to celebrate.

I had my first surgery to remove the cancer on March 28, 2007, but I would find out later that the cancer had spread and that I needed a mastectomy, so I don't want to celebrate that day.

I finished my chemo on October 2, 2007, that seems like a good day to celebrate but I still needed to have my Herceptin treatment every three weeks for the next year. I would have to go back to the same place I had my chemo so I always felt like I was stepping back in time.

I had my bi-lateral mastectomy and reconstruction on November 22, 2007 and my Doctor gave me a clean pathology report on November 27, 2007, so do I celebrate that day?

My last Herceptin treatment was June 29, 2008, do I consider that the end?

I just went to see my oncologist last week and she wants me to have my port removed. That seems like the final step, do I consider that the end and time to celebrate?

Of course every day without cancer is a day to celebrate! I'm just not sure what to consider my cancer anniversary.

So to all my cancer friends, I ask you....what day do you celebrate?

Would love for you to leave me your comments.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

No! Don't take my port

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Current mood: Mixed Emotions


I went to see my oncologist back in CT yesterday. It was time for my 6 month check up. I had to go back to the Cancer Center. See I chose to have my chemo done at a satellite office. The Cancer Center was not for me, it's attached the hospital and I hated going there. The smells of hospitals get to me. I have to admit I had mixed emotions. I knew it was going to be hard but I was excited to see my chemo nurse, Helen. Just walking into the Cancer Center brought tears to my eyes. It brings me back to a time I would rather forget.

They quickly called my name and I was off to get my finger pricked to make sure my counts were good. I hate having blood work done. I think it's the fear of finding something wrong.

While I was waiting in my oncologists examining room I was looking at all the certificates and degrees she had earned and then it hit me. I hated this room! This was the room where I was told that I was going to start my chemo that next Monday and my surgery was cancelled. This is the room where I cried. Of course it was different today, but sometimes it's hard to not have the past creep back.

During my visit with my oncologist she informed me that it was time to have my port removed. My heart sank. I love my port! See I'm one of those people that you cannot find a vein on. I can't imagine going back to being stuck with needles.....NO! My port has been part of me since June 2007, I don't want to say good-bye.

One of the sucky things is that my scars from the port have healed really nice and aren't that noticeable anymore. Now I have to start all over with a new scar; waiting for it to heal and blend with the rest of my skin.

After my visit with the oncologist I went to get my port flushed and caught up with my chemo nurse. I love Helen! As I was sitting in the recliner waiting for her, I found myself staring at the guy across from me. He was sleeping and I looked up at his chemo pump and heard that all too familiar sound. I hate that sound, the clicking of the chemo pump. Listening to the poison enter your body. WOW! I started to cry and had to compose myself quickly as Helen entered the room with my port flushing kit. She flushed me and gave me a huge hug and then she was off to the next patient.

I headed to the receptionist to schedule my next 6 month appointment. I wanted out of there! It was just getting to be too much.

I still can't believe that my two year D-Day is coming up. March 8, 2007 my life would change forever.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Why is everyone so obsessed with nipples?



January 24, 2009

Current mood: Pissed!


OK, I had a scare last month. I found a lump in my left breast. I freaked out for several reasons. One being that my cancer was in my left breast and second I've had a double mastectomy a little over a year ago so I shouldn't be finding any lumps.

I've just moved to NYC so I had to find a doctor, that was fun. I found a breast surgeon and made the appointment to see her. When I saw her she told me that she thought is was scar tissue around my "flap". See the reconstruction I had was called a DEIP Tram Flap. This is when they take your belly fat and construct the fat into breasts and then take part of your stomach muscle (tram flap) to keep the new breasts alive. The doctor also told me that if I was to have a recurrence that now would be the time but she reassured me that it was probably scar tissue.

So a week later I go for my mammogram and ultrasound. This is when the obsession of the nipple began.

The woman taking my mammogram had me put nipple stickers on me because it was easier for her define the breast in the films. OK that's fine. But no, she had to take it further. She says to me, "Oh, I see you haven't finish your reconstruction." I have to admit I was caught off guard. I was like what? No, I'm finished. I've chosen to not have my nipples added and tattoos. Like this is any of her business!

Next I'm off to get my ultrasound. While doing the ultrasound the technician asks me the same question. What the hell is every one's obsession with nipples?

I have decided at this time in my life that I do not want to have nipples and the tattoos. I feel like I have been through enough with my cancercrapness journey. I'm done being poked and prodded.

I feel like tattoos and nipples are not going to make me whole again. The simple truth is that I will never be whole again.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Meeting My New Oncologist




Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Current mood: Emotionally drained

Well today I had an appointment to meet with my new oncologist. It's been hard since moving to NYC to find new doctors.

I hate having to relive everything. It's weird sometimes I can talk about my cancercrapness journey and not get emotional and other times I cry. I hate crying in front of the doctors, I feel like it makes me look weak. Then of course the doctor wants to make sure you are OK and asks if you have a good support group and if your family is supportive. Yes, Yes and Yes! "Enough already!" is what I want to say.

She wants to do blood work to check to see my Estrogen levels. My cancer was ER/PR and HER2 positive so I guess that makes sense. I have to admit I'm a little scared. Anytime they do blood work I get nervous, just hoping they don't find anything "new" shall we say.

We also discussed having my port removed. I have mixed emotions on that one. A part of me wants my port to stay because I know in the future with tests and everything someone will need to get blood from me and that alone can be a procedure. I have a lovely scar on my arm to remind me of that. On the other hand having my port taken out gets me closer to the end of my cancercrapness journey. That has a nice sound to it.

There is a line in the Livestrong manifesto that I love...It reads, Cancer may leave your body, but it never leaves your life. How true is that?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Thank you Dr. Slamon













Sunday, January 1, 2009

Current mood: Very Thankful

Happy New Year!


Last night I watched a movie on Lifetime called Living Proof.

Living Proof is the true story of oncologist and researcher Dr. Dennis Slamon, the UCLA doctor who helped develop the breast cancer drug Herceptin, and his effort to keep the drug trials afloat. His inspiring journey shows the sacrifices he makes in his personal life and the obstacles that he faces to get the drug approved. Thousands of lives have been saved because of his dedication. (Based on Robert Bazell’s book "HER-2".)

This movie has special meaning and really hits home for me. I was diagnosed with HER-2 positive breast cancer March 8, 2007.

As I watched this movie, of course I cried but I also learned new facts about how Herceptin was created and it was amazing to watch the struggle Dr. Slamon went through to get this drug approved.

I have the utmost respect for those brave women who helped with the clinical trials to get Herceptin FDA approved.

I also look at the company Revlon in a new way. Just when Dr. Slamon was down and out and almost out of money, Revlon donated over 2 million dollars to help him continue his amazing work.

This movie was a real eye opener for me. Without Herceptin I don't know where I would be today. If I was diagnosed 20 years earlier, what would my outcome have been?

It's weird because when I was first diagnosed, the doctor's asked if I wanted to participate in clinical trials and I was like NO WAY! That would be just too scary for me. But without the brave people that do participate in clinical trials, we would be, no where. So thank you to all who try to help these amazing doctors.

Herceptin first received FDA approval in September 1998 for use in metastatic breast cancer, as a first-line therapy in combination with paclitaxel and as a single agent in second- and third-line therapy. In clinical trials of patients with HER-2 positive metastatic breast cancer, Herceptin, in combination with chemotherapy (paclitaxel), was the first anti-HER-2 agent to demonstrate an improvement in survival in a Phase III study. In December 2001, Genentech received FDA approval to include, in the product label, data that showed an improved median overall survival for women with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer treated initially with Herceptin and chemotherapy, compared to chemotherapy alone (median 25.1 months compared to 20.3 months).

In 2005, the results of four clinical trials showed that Herceptin is also effective in the treatment of early-stage breast cancer that overexpresses HER–2. In all four studies, women who received Herceptin and chemotherapy lived longer and had significantly less chance of the breast cancer coming back than patients who received chemotherapy alone.

In the NewsNews Review
Survival Increased in Early Stage Breast Cancer After Herceptin-Chemotherapy Treatment
Posted Date: 12/15/2006
Faculty: Dennis Slamon, M.D., Ph.D.

Combining the molecularly targeted therapy Herceptin with chemotherapy in women with early stage breast cancer significantly improves disease-free survival for patients with a specific genetic mutation that results in very aggressive disease, a top UCLA researcher reported Thursday.

Dr. Dennis Slamon, whose laboratory and clinical research lead to the development of Herceptin, reported results of the Phase III study of more than 3,200 women Thursday at the 29th annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

The three-armed study compared the standard therapy of Adriamycin and Carboplatin followed by Taxotere (ACT), an experimental regimen of Adriamycin and Carboplatin followed by Taxotere and one year of Herceptin (ACTH), and an experimental regimen of Taxotere and Carboplatin with one year of Herceptin (TCH).

The study tested Herceptin with and without Adriamycin, an anthracycline commonly used to treat breast cancer but one that, when paired with Herceptin, can cause permanent heart damage. Researchers wanted to determine whether they could provide a therapy as effective as ACTH without the resulting cardiac problems. The study, Slamon said, showed that the women who did not receive Adriamycin did just as well as those who did, and they experienced a five-fold decrease in significant heart toxicities compared to those who got Adriamycin. Also, some women in the ACTH arm developed leukemias, while none of the women on the non-Adriamycin arm did, Slamon said.

"This study demonstrates unequivocally that the best treatment for early stage HER-2 positive breast cancer is obtained with a non-anthracycline regimen, TCH, that avoids the significant cardiac damage found when Adriamycin is used with Herceptin," said Slamon, director of clinical/translational research at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center. "This trial should impact the way early stage breast cancer is treated, with TCH being considered the preferred option."

Herceptin is effective in women with HER-2 positive breast cancer, about one in four diagnosed with the disease every year or about 250,000 women annually worldwide. HER-2 positive breast cancer is more aggressive, results in a poorer prognosis and shorter survival times, said Slamon, who discovered the link between HER-2 positivity and aggressive breast cancer in 1987.

Conducted by the Breast Cancer International Research Group (BCIRG), the study enrolled 3,222 women with early stage breast cancer between April 2001 and March 2004. Patients were randomized to one of the three arms. Slamon's report is the second interim analysis at a three-year median follow-up of the study data.

The study shows a survival advantage for patients in the Herceptin-containing arms, with 92 percent of patients on ACTH and 91 percent of patients on TCH still alive at four years compared to 86 percent in the ACT arm. Risk of death was reduced by 40 percent among patients in the ACTH arm and 33 percent in the TCH arm, Slamon said.

The study's primary endpoint was disease-free survival, but it also measured overall survival, safety, including cardiac toxicities, pathologic and molecular markers and quality of life.

"Now we know we can provide a very effective therapy for women with early stage breast cancer that reduces by five times the risk of heart damage," Slamon said. "And we've shown that women with HER-2 positive early stage breast cancer benefit from Herceptin therapy in that it significantly improves their disease-free survival times."

Herceptin/Avastin Study Results Revealed

Also presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium were results of a promising Phase II study that combined two molecularly targeted therapies to treat advanced breast cancer without using conventional chemotherapy.

The study, done at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center and in an affiliated network of oncology offices, tested Herceptin with the angiogenesis inhibitor Avastin, which cuts off the independent blood supply that a tumor creates to help it grow and spread.

The study enrolled 37 women with breast cancer that had spread to other organs, the hardest type to treat effectively. Results indicate that 83.8 percent showed a clinical response, Slamon said, meaning their tumors completely disappeared, shrunk in size by more than 50 percent or remained stable - meaning their cancers didn't progress.

"This represents the next generation of studies we're trying to develop at UCLA, which take chemotherapy completely out of the picture," Slamon said. "This is the first study that takes us in that direction and we think we may be ready to try this in the adjuvant setting. These responses are as good as anything we've seen in this group of patients, even with our best chemotherapies."

UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center comprises more than 240 researchers and clinicians engaged in disease research, prevention, detection, control, treatment and education. One of the nation's largest comprehensive cancer centers, the Jonsson center is dedicated to promoting research and translating basic science into leading-edge clinical studies. In July 2006, the Jonsson Cancer Center was named the best cancer center in California by U.S. News & World Report, a ranking it has held for seven consecutive years.

And the Herceptin story may extend beyond breast cancer, since some other cancers also have too much HER-2. Clinical tests with Herceptin are either under way or planned for ovarian, gastric, endometrial, salivary gland, non-small cell lung, pancreatic, prostate and colorectal cancers. And with several other HER-2 blockers also under development, the full story of this designer drug remains to be written.

Thank you Dr. Slamon and continued success in your effort to find a way to help cancer survivors like myself.