#MetsTuesday, Cancer Doesn’t Discriminate

Every so often I skip a Monday of posting for #MetsMonday to prove the point that cancer doesn’t discriminate — it is an everyday struggle that many people are battling. It’s not about the ribbons or the pink t-shirts at Target, it’s about the people who spend hours at chemo, days in bed, months fighting to live.sugarcoat

Cancer is a very real thing, and it takes a break for no one. Someone at this very minute is receiving a cancer diagnosis with a date informing them that’s how long they have to live. Someone is throwing up on the floor as chemo rages through their system. Someone is in hospice care, telling their loved ones everything will be okay.

It’s not all negative, of course. Someone is also finding out, for the first time, they are NED. Someone is starting a blog about their cancer journey that will help millions of people around the world cope. Someone is proving their doctor wrong and outliving their two-year life expectancy date.

What I’m asking is that you open your eyes to the reality of it. Don’t sugarcoat it. Don’t block it from your Facebook news feed. Don’t let the media paint a pretty picture for you — because it’s not pretty. It’s messy and real. So please, educate yourself, know your body, do self-exams, give support to those who need it, stay strong, stay positive, beat cancer.

A Different Kind of #MetsMonday

I love posting information each Monday on Facebook in honor of #MetsMonday. Today, however, I want to dedicate to all women living with breast cancer,  whether you were just diagnosed or are 10 years NED. Breast cancer never really goes away, mets or no mets. From what I’ve come to understand by many women, it’s something that always lingers.

If you’re going through treatment, it’s one decision after another. What treatment path should I take? Should I get both breasts removed or just the one? Should I get a second opinion? What if I make the wrong decision?

The questions keep coming with NED. As soon as you’re into year one of NED, you’re already asking yourself, Will I make it through to year two? Will my cancer come back? You read the statistics and each year, especially during the first two, you wonder. Others who are NED are too worried about the other problems that come along with having had cancer, like lymphedema, cording, insomnia and so much more.

Then there are the outwardly physical concerns — breast reconstruction, nipples, comfort. More decisions. Size, shape, nipples or no nipples, tattoos, no reconstruction. And whether women have had reconstruction or not, they still have to look down every day and see something that is foreign to them.

This is where I want to talk about my good friend, Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer founder Ann Marie Giannino-Otis. Ann Marie has been NED for 2.5 years and had reconstruction twice — after the first, her implant shifted into her armpits (holy mother of ouch) — cording on her left side and nerve damage and lymphedema on the right. She has felt the pain and sees the scars daily and has just been stripped mentally and physically by breast cancer. Her life is forever changed because of it.

But the beauty of Ann Marie is that she’s great at taking something shitty and transforming it into something beautiful. Instead of getting nipple implants or areola repigmentation, Ann Marie decided to go with straight up tattoos. “I wanted something to remind me of beauty and growth. Since healing is just that right?” she said in her blog post about her new ink. I think the pictures I am about to post are truly an inspiration to all women who aren’t sure which decision in their breast cancer journey is the right one. The answer? There is no right decision, but you have to do the best by you. Put yourself first, regardless of what other people think. Do whatever it takes to make you feel beautiful again. And that’s exactly what Ann Marie does every day of her life.

I dedicate this #MetsMonday not only to the men and women living with metastatic breast cancer, but to those simply living with the haunting after effects of cancer. Each and every day is yours. And you are beautiful.

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Photo by Genevieve Fridley

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Photo by Genevieve Fridley

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Photo by Genevieve Fridley

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Photo by Genevieve Fridley

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Photo by Genevieve Fridley

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Photo by Genevieve Fridley

 

#MetsMonday

Today is #MetsMonday. But women with mets struggle with cancer every day.

In case you didn’t know, Metastatic Breast Cancer is when the cancer has been spread beyond the breasts — typically into the bone, liver, lungs or brain. An estimated 155,000 Americans are living with mets, the treatment of which will last for the rest of their lives. About 40,000 deaths each year are attributed to mets.

Pink Vomit

Peter’s had a little too much pink washing for his liking. Source: Google Images

 

So why do so few know about it? I think a handful of cancer organizations and the media focus too much on the pink, instead of stating the facts. I think my first blog post about Jennifer Campisano sums it up — the “TODAY Show” wouldn’t feature her during Breast Cancer Awareness Month because she wasn’t bald. I truly believe in the battle of education vs. showmanship, education takes home the gold.

Because of my education beliefs, here are some cold hard facts about mets.

-Metastasis in the bone may cause severe pain, swelling, and/or bones that are more easily fractured or broken.

-Metastasis to the brain may cause persistent headache or head pressure; vision problems, seizures, vomiting or nausea, and/or behavioral/personality changes.

-Metastasis to the liver may cause jaundice, itchy skin or rash, abnormally high enzyme in the liver, and/or abdominal pain, appetite loss, nausea and vomiting.

-Metastasis to the lungs may cause chronic cough, abnormal chest X-rays, chest pain and/or fatigue, weight loss or poor appetite.

20% to 30% of people initially diagnosed with early stage disease will develop metastatic breast cancer.

-Median survival after a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis is three years.

-Compared to white women, African-American women are diagnosed at a higher rate under age 40 and are more likely to die from breast cancer at every age

-Virtually all cancers, including cancers of the blood and the lymphatic system (leukemia, multiple myeloma, and lymphoma), can form metastatic tumors.

-The American Cancer Society states that the five-year survival rate after diagnosis for stage 4 breast cancer patients is 22 percent. This percentage is considerably lower at earlier stages. At stage 3, the five-year relative survival rate is 72 percent. At stage 2, it’s over 90 percent. 

-Metastatic research funding is approximately 5 percent in Europe and even less than that in the U.S. for research regarding all metastatic cancers.

If you’re living with Metastatic Breast Cancer, or know someone who is, this information can be very helpful. Also, here is a list of blogs of women living with mets. Not only is education vital, but so is companionship.

Darn Good Lemonade

Lisa Bonchek Adams

Telling Knots

Breast Cancer? But doctor…I hate pink!

gracefulwomanwarrior

ihatebreastcancer

Dancing with Cancer

Rant: America’s Work Ethic

I have to admit, one of my biggest pet peeves is getting a work-related text on Sunday — my holy day of relaxation with my boyfriend. I find these texts annoying because, not only are they are a reminder that the start of the work week is just around the corner, but they often lead to me doing some form of work on a Sunday.

I believe part of the reason my coworkers see no problem in this is because of America’s work ethic — this unsavory concept that probably began with the industrial revolution, inflicting long work hours upon us, assuming we be available 24 hours/day, 7 days/week to satisfy any and all needs of our superiors. And although slavery ended in 1863 thanks to Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, I do believe that all of us Americans have been enslaved to the government since birth. We may be free to travel, to eat delicious foods, to spend days on the lake and evenings at the restaurant of our choice — but we need money to do all of those things. And how do we obtain money? Work.

Did you know that most European countries shutdown for the entire month of August? Also, many businesses in Greece, Italy and, up until recently, Spain shut down for a few hours any time between 1 and 5 p.m. for siestas — also known as naps or simply relaxing. In fact, a study completed by the Harvard School of Public Health monitored 23,000 healthy Greek adults and found that those who took midday naps (for at least 30 minutes three times a week or more) were less likely to die of heart disease compared to those who never nap. Not surprisingly, heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans (each year 735,000 Americans experience a heart attack). According to the American Society of Endocrinology, short naps help alleviate stress and strengthen the immune system.

Taking time from work to relax, whether alone or with family, is not solely a tradition in the above-mentioned countries. In Sweden, workers regularly pause for coffee breaks called fika — these typically happen shortly after arriving at work and a few hours after lunch. The French practice a daily ritual called l’aperitif, in which, the hour before dinner, family and friends will gather to enjoy wine and appetizers.

A few summers ago, YouTuber zefrank 1, most commonly known for his “True Facts” videos, published a video that basically showed how much time we waste in our lifetime — via jellybeans. He measured out 28,835 jellybeans, that’s one jellybean for each day the average American will live. Here are some of the facts he points out.

-We will be asleep for 8,477 days.

-We will be at work (“hopefully doing something satisfying”) for 3,202 days.

-We will be in a car commuting to work 1,099 days.

-We will watch TV for 2,676 days.

-We will attend community events, like charities and classes, for 720 days.

-We only care for the needs of family and friends for 564 days.

Five-hundred-and-sixty-four days. That’s it. And that is incredibly depressing.

My advice? Don’t think about work on the weekends. What can’t be done today can certainly be accomplished tomorrow. Don’t text your coworkers on a Sunday to ask them a work question that doesn’t need to be answered until Monday. Read a book. Visit with family. Sit around in your underwear. Do nothing. The world will still go on. Everything will be okay.

“Do you know what we need to bring back into this house? Cocktail hour.” — Harry Goldenblatt, Sex & the City