Never give up hope. Take strength from those around you. Embrace your life.
As I sit here writing this, I am hearing all about Angelina Jolie and her revelation about having a preventative double mastectomy. She lost her mother to ovarian cancer in 2007, and had testing to see if she carried the gene that could indicate she was at a risk of getting breast cancer. When it came back that she had something like an 87% chance that she would get breast cancer at some point in her life, she decided to have a double mastectomy to eliminate or at least decrease her chances of it happening.
While I have not been much of an Angelina Jolie fan over the years, I am proud of her for doing something like this, even knowing that a big part of her appeal has always been her “womanliness” or her “sex appeal”. While I don’t know all the details, I am sure she must have had some kind of reconstruction or implants after the mastectomy.
However, I think it is important not to get all swept up in the hype of it, which often happens when someone in the public eye does something like this. I am a huge advocate for women having mastectomies to save their lives – and have very often said, “they are just breasts”. I chose to have a double mastectomy myself, although I already had the cancer diagnosis, the doctor was certain she would be successful just doing a lumpectomy as it was still quite small.
But, as Angelina Jolie has said – I am a mom, and I was determined to do what I had to do to make sure I gave myself the best fighting chance I could. And, I did not want to have to go through all of this ever again. So, I decided to go for the double mastectomy, as I had said all along that if it came back cancerous, I would do.
It is a huge decision. But, if it is what we decide we want, we can’t let doctor’s talk us out of that decision. Yes, sometimes the lumpectomy is all that is needed, but that doctor isn’t the one who has to live every day worrying and waiting for it to come back. And then having to go through the surgeries and treatments all over again.
In Anglina’s case, it was preventative. She had never been diagnosed, but she knew she was at a high risk. So why live just waiting for it to happen? Yes, it is a major surgery, but she has hopefully saved herself from having to go through all of the treatments and everything else on top of the surgery that she may have needed if she was eventually diagnosed.
To me, it is a no brainer. And, no one should criticize the decision. Many people don’t believe in being tested – they say that it causes worry and stress when something may never happen. As I have said before in a post about genetic testing – if you are already at a high risk due to family history, that worry and stress is there anyway. Testing doesn’t take that away or make it worse.
I am frustrated though to hear that the testing in the States is quite costly and that many women may not have that same option as she had. I hope that maybe after her own experience, maybe she can work towards making the testing possible for all women – she has the means and the ability to raise awareness and money for important causes like this. In Canada, as far as I know, the genetic testing is free. My sister, daughters and nieces could be tested if they want, but the doctors don’t think mine was any genetic cause – just a fluke.
I am glad that someone like her has brought this into the public eye, but I think we also need to send the same accolades to the many, many women before her who have had their own mastectomies due to high risk or even after already being diagnosed. These are the women who often have to go through all of this without the funds available to the more “famous” patients, or the support systems or anything else that would be open to people like Angelina Jolie.
I guess we will see how it plays out – this is a very good opportunity for someone as famous as her to raise awareness of mastectomy as a treatment option, and if Angelina Jolie is OK with getting rid of her breasts, it just might make more women realize that breasts don’t make them a woman.Read More
(OK – so I wasn’t sure what to use for a title, since I am talking about 3 pretty random things – although I do my best to tie it all together:-)
I wrote a post on my mom blog, that I thought of putting over here – but figured I will just put a link for anyone who would like to read it. It talks about my daughter coming into my room last night after having a bad dream. She had dreamed she was in heaven, and she was all alone and there was nothing to do. She was terrified, and had a million questions for me about heaven, and what if it wasn’t real. I just didn’t know the answers.
We have been struggling a lot financially since all of my treatments and stuff, (as I have mentioned before….even though it is humiliating to have to admit – but that is the sad truth a lot of people who have gone through an illness are faced with), and unfortunately, our worries have spilled over and caused my daughter to have her own worries too.
In the meantime, I am sitting her watching the clock and knowing tickets to the KISS concert are going on sale at the very minute I am writing this. I would love to go – yes, I am a HUGE KISS fan – always have been. I saw them before I was married, and it was the best concert ever. Gene Simmons is my absolute hero….(I know, very strange hero for a mom to have, but I think his business sense is just amazing and he seems like such a nice man). And, behind the makeup and onstage persona, is someone who I think is a very kind hearted person.
And, I can’t afford tickets to a concert that they are putting on in a small little rural area that they are coming to near where I live!! (Last time I saw them, I had to drive over 2 hours and spend the night in the city they were in). But, this tour, they are playing some smaller venues, and we were chosen. It is going to absolutely kill me in July when I know Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, (who I will admit to having a crush on in my younger days:-) are less than a half hour away from me and I can’t see them!!!!
I am NOT looking forward to going on to Facebook after writing this, because I will see nothing but posts by everyone saying they got tickets. And yes, I will fully admit I am insanely jealous of anyone who gets tickets. I am thinking they are most likely already sold out by now – as I have been sitting her writing this and watching the clock. They have been on sale now for about 10 minutes.
The worst part is, everyone knows what a huge KISS fan I have always been. So, as soon as we got word this week that they were coming to Brandon, I was getting phone calls and messages from people making sure I had heard. I know I’m going to be hearing things like, “YOU never got tickets?”, “YOU aren’t going to the concert??”
Well, no – unfortunately, I just can’t justify spending the money when we are struggling to dig back out of this mess. And, both my girls birthdays are this month, so any extra money I can find will be going to get them something and give them their parties.
So, I will apologize now if you end up having to hear me whine for the next few months about not getting to see KISS:-)
I had my last Herceptin treatment in January, and I see I haven’t posted anything since then! Everything has gone OK. I am waiting to hear about a surgery date for my hysterectomy, which they are trying to co-ordinate to have my port taken out at the same time. It has been weird not seeing a doctor every 3 weeks, I have to admit. I have seen a doctor on a very regular basis for almost 2 years when I was diagnosed, and now – I haven’t seen anyone since my last treatment! I go down every month to have my port flushed, but it’s just the nurses, so I don’t even see a doctor.
It is a bit hard to get used to. And, a bit scary, if I’m being completely honest. You get used to being monitored so closely for so long, and now all of a sudden, you are on your own!
But, I just want to have my hysterectomy and be done with it all. So, hopefully that will be soon, and I can start trying to get some sort of normal back to my life!!
I also wanted to mention that I have put together some new designs for my shop. I admit I feel good when I see that someone has bought something I designed, and that maybe there is a woman out there feeling proud to wear something that shows the fight she has won, or feeling supported by someone she loves wearing something for her.
But, they have a ton of other things as well, besides just t-shirts.
Some of the breast cancer awareness merchandise you can get include water bottles, bumper stickers, mugs, jewelry, bags, phone covers, teddy bears, cards……just a ton of stuff!
One thing I notice they have added are foil balloons and blankets. I was thinking after I had had my mastectomy, how nice it would have been for someone to have been able to bring a balloon in with a matching blanket saying something inspirational to give me a pick-me-up.
There are really some awesome ideas – and some of the new designs I have are quite cool, (if I do say so myself!). The one that has been really popular, is one about how “yes they are fake….my real ones tried to kill me!” for women who have had a mastectomy and aren’t afraid to shout it to the world!
So, I made up a couple other versions of that one – and I think I will be ordering myself a hoodie with it on it!
Anyway – I have a few more designs I am working on which will be going up in the next few days, so stay tuned! And, if you know anyone who could use a boost, or who might benefit from something showing how much you support their fight, take a look around and see what you can find! There is so much more than just t-shirts!
Here is the direct link to my shop – you can see some of the designs I have here….and take a look around! There is a lot of stuff to choose from!!
Tomorrow is my final Herceptin treatment – after a year of going every three weeks!
It is a strange feeling, knowing that it will FINALLY be over – but also having that feeling of….oh my god! It’s over – now what??
I have gone for 4 chemo treatments and then 19 of the Herceptin treatments.
It has become a part of my life, knowing that every 3 weeks, I need to get someone to come and take the girls to school because I have to leave at 7:30 to be there for the doctor.
I have seen my doctor and my nurses in the chemo unit every 3 weeks without fail.
And now – I won’t be!
I will admit that while I am so happy to be done, I am feeling a bit of anxiety about my treatment being over.
At least while I was still going, I knew I was still working at keeping the cancer away. But now….
And, I will kind of miss seeing my nurses, sitting down there chatting with them while I have my treatment. I always knew that they would find out anything I needed to know about any scans I needed, or results I was waiting for…..they have just always kept me in check.
So, I will go tomorrow and find out what the next step is for me. I will need to get my port removed. And, the hysterectomy is still up in the air.
This chapter of my cancer journey is over – and it will be a day full of mixed emotions for me, I am sure. But – I will look forward to many new beginnings that this past year has given me:-)Read More
I read a post today in a private forum I spend time in from a man who had found a website that could test you to see if you had the genetic disposition for just about every condition under the sun. He was unsure about whether he would like to try it, to see if he was at higher risk for some of the conditions they could test for.
Here is a reply that I posted in that thread:
(Photo courtesy of Svilen Milev – Effective.com)
I’m torn on this – and here’s why:
On the one hand, yes it may be good to be proactive and see what genes you might have that could cause you to end up with one of these diseases or conditions.
I went in for genetic counselling to see if I carried a gene that would make my kids more likely to get breast cancer in the future. It was determined that it wasn’t likely, and the only one who would be at higher risk was my sister who shares the exact same genetic makeup.
But, obviously my kids will be at a higher risk, as will my nieces and other women in my family, just due to the fact that I had it. Genetic testing really is only a formality as far as I’m concerned. My sister now goes for yearly mammograms, as does my mom – and I am already educating my daughters that they will have to be very proactive when they get older.
The truth is, if you have someone in your family with a condition, you are likely at a higher risk. You don’t need to be tested to know that – just live proactively making sure you stay on top of any concerns you have.
Both my maternal and paternal grandma’s have macular degeneration. It is known to be hereditary. So, most likely, I will have to deal with that someday in the future. One of my aunts already has it.
I am already screened for it at every eye test simply because of my family history, so I am hopeful that if I get it, it will be caught early.
But would being tested to see if I was likely to get it change anything? No, because I already am doing what I can to ensure I am prepared.
I hear what you are saying about Alzheimer’s. That would be a horrible thing to inherit. And, you say maybe you should be tested to know if you would be at a higher risk, or will possibly develop it – that maybe you would live a little differently if you knew.
Here is my suggestion for everyone – live like you ARE going to get it someday. Maybe even live like you are going to get cancer some day. And, yes, that you will some day be blind and even deaf.
No one knows what the future holds – and genetic testing can’t give you definites.
What if you found out that you had a high likelihood of getting some horrible condition like Alzheimers and you spent your whole life worrying, and seeing doctors – only to never get it.
Why not just assume you will get everything – and just live like you know that.
Because you will be blind some day, commit everything to memory – every flower, every face you care about – really take the time to see them, with the thought that some day you might not be able to.
Enjoy every moment with family and friends, knowing that perhaps someday the time will come that you won’t remember them.
You really don’t need testing to make sure you do all of that – everyone should be doing it anyway.
Trust me – the summer I was diagnosed with cancer, and I didn’t know what my future held, I would sit outside and really hear the sounds – the birds singing, my kids playing, even the wind. I smelled grass being mowed, I felt the warmth of the sun…..and I made sure that I did as many things as I could to make memories for myself and my loved ones.
And, even though at this moment it appears I have beat it, I no longer live with that “it won’t happen to me – it only happens to other people” way of thinking. I know it can come back. I know that I can get anything else.
So now I really take the time to enjoy every little detail of every single moment. And the truth is, everyone really should try living that way – regardless of what any genetic testing says.
Just my long winded 2 cents:-)
What is your opinion? Have you been tested? Would you want to know if you were likely to get any of the many conditions you could be tested for?
Today I have a guest post that I think tells an amazing story and offers some hope for anyone suffering through a diagnosis of any type of cancer during the holidays. While hearing a cancer diagnosis is never easy, having to face it during a time of family and joy, it can be heartbreaking. I can only imagine what this young mother was thinking during the Christmas that she was diagnosed with mesothelioma only months after the birth of her little girl……
By: Cameron Von St. James - Husband of Mesothelioma Survivor Heather Von St. James
Each year, I looked forward to the holidays. I looked forward to the memories, and the happiness, and the traditions, and my loved ones all getting together and celebrating our good fortune. That was especially true in 2005 when my wife and I would celebrate our holiday season as a family of three. Our only daughter, Lily, was born in August and we were beyond thrilled. We talked about the things we’d do with her during our first holiday as a family of three. We talked about old traditions we wanted to share with her and new ones we wanted to start.
Three days before Thanksgiving arrived, my wife was diagnosed with mesothelioma, and our whole world changed. Lily was only three and a half months old and everything was changing for us. I no longer felt that I had anything to be thankful for. I was so angry and so sad. I knew Heather’s future didn’t look good and I wasn’t able to enjoy the holidays. While I hoped for the best, all I could see was the worst – me a single father, and Lily growing up without a mother.
We still celebrated the holidays, but it was far from the joyous occasion we had hoped for. To make matters worse, we had to have a conversation that for a long time, I considered one of the worst of my life. Heather’s parents joined us for Thanksgiving and Christmas that year, and during our holiday dinner, we discussed our entire financial situation with her parents. We had to figure out what assets we could liquidate, what we could afford, and what her parents could afford to take over for us. We were both employed, but the bills were piling up from her cancer diagnosis and we were struggling in a major way, and soon Heather would not be able to work anymore. I was mortified and embarrassed, and for years I would only ever be able to look back on that conversation with shame. Now, however, I see how mistaken I was to view it that way.
My pride did not allow me to see just how thankful I should have been that time of year. I should have been so happy and so thankful to have a family who was willing to rush to our side and offer to help in any way they could to make our lives easier during this terrible time. They were ready and willing to make incredible sacrifices of their own in order to help us through this difficult time. However, it took me years before I was able to see that. Now I am able to see it and I am so thankful for them. I am also thankful to have my wife and daughter in my life to make memories with. After intensive mesothelioma surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, coupled with the love and support of a wonderful, caring family, Heather beat her cancer and we have celebrated seven Christmases and counting together with Lily. We hope that our story of success can be a source of hope and comfort to all those currently struggling through cancer this holiday season.
Cameron Von St. James
Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance
It is amazing how being tested with a cancer diagnosis can truly open your eyes to what is important, and what all you have to be thankful for. I posted something similar in my post about understanding what is important in life…..
I am so glad that Heather has been able to enjoy 7 Christmases with her family, and can look forward to many more in her future. She sounds like a very strong woman, and I am glad to hear her story. I hope that it gives everyone some hope for those days when you just feel like giving up.
Thank you for the story Cameron – I am sure your support and love for your wife helped her more than you will ever know.
I was contacted the other day from a company that is doing a free wig giveaway for women going through treatment for breast cancer. It is a great offer, and I wanted to be sure to get it posted up here today since the deadline for entries is November 18th!!!
Here are the details:
Participants who share their inspirational story will have the chance to win a Gripper-2 wig, a
beautiful Tres Chic wig or a super-soft bamboo sleep cap.
To view the Follea video “A Woman’s Spirit is
Unbreakable: A Tribute for Breast Cancer Awareness Month”, visit
Here are the Follea Breast Cancer Wig Giveaway instructions, which can also be viewed at
1. There are two different ways that a woman with breast cancer can be submitted for a chance to
win these prizes:
2. Submit video by Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 11:59 pm PST.
3. All winners, including grand prize, second place and third place winners, will be determined
based on the number of votes a contestant receives, in comparison to their competitors. Voting
closes Friday, December 14, 2012, at 11:59 pm PST. :
4. Follea will announce the winners on December 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm PST.
Also, every Friday through December 14, Follea will conduct a random drawing of all of the contestants’
names, giving all participants the chance to win one of Follea’s bamboo sleep caps every week.
About Follea: The company’s 2012 collection includes wigs and hairpieces that are specially designed for
women with little to no hair such as the Gripper collection, which is light, breathable and stays securely
in place with affixed medical grade silicone tabs. Follea has ICARe representatives and ICARe salons
around the world, so women can get hands-on help choosing just the right wig or extensions to suit
So, if you or someone you know could benefit from some of the amazing prizes in this giveaway – make sure you enter!! If any of you do happen to win after hearing about it from my blog, I would be thrilled if you could come back here and let me know:-)
Good luck!!!!!Read More
I am finding that I have less and less tolerance for complainers. I never really paid much attention before, but after going through some of the things I had to over this past year and a half, I just don’t have the patience to listen to it anymore.
I had a friend, who has been undergoing surgeries to replace metal in her legs after years of problems, tell me something yesterday that I will always remember. She has been in a lot of pain, and in my eyes has endured a great deal without a lot of complaint. She does mention now and then when something hurts, but I think that is completely understandable.
But, she told me that she had been thinking about me the night before. That she was thinking about everything I have gone through over the past year, she never once heard me complain. I admit I honestly never realized I hadn’t. I know I wanted to on more than one occasion – I wanted to complain about how unfair it was, and how I wish I could go back to being who I was before. But, complaining to friends or family wasn’t going to accomplish anything, so I just didn’t see the point.
I believe everyone has their own struggles to deal with in life. That is what life is about. We can choose to let it define who we are, and let it bury us in resentment and whining – or we can take the chance to learn from it and make the best we can out of the situation we have been dealt.
However, when I go on Facebook or have to sit and listen to people complain about how they are struggling with day to day things, and that it just isn’t fair, and that no one else in the whole world could possibly understand how horrible it is for them…..the truth is, it is very hard for me to hold my tongue.
I get that maybe being a single parent isn’t easy. Of course it isn’t. But, there are many single parents out there dealing with it every day. Some of them may even be facing more challenges – maybe they have a sick child, or are fighting for their lives themselves.
And, I understand that sometimes you are overwhelmed with the fact that you have 7 kids, a husband who is away for work, and bills to pay due to buying a brand new house…….yep – that is rough.
But guess what? Until you have had to fight for your life, fight for the opportunity to watch your kids grow up, fight, and do whatever you had to do – including digging yourself into thousands of dollars of debt and hoping you can somehow afford to keep a roof over your heads – to even just be given the chance to spend a few more years with your kids…..I really don’t have the time to listen to your complaints.
I know that everyone goes through rough patches and sometimes it can be so hard to just keep going. I have been there myself. And, I am not here to say that my troubles are any worse than the next person, or that I am a better person for not complaining about it. I am just as guilty as the next guy, I am sure.
I completely understand how hard it is to face all of these challenges. My husband is a truck driver, so even during most of my treatments and surgeries, I have done the single parenting thing.
I know all about being so broke you just don’t know how you are going to pay all your bills. I am pretty sure there is no way my husband and I will ever dig ourselves out from this past year. Being sick costs a lot of money – and we will have to face this every day for a very long time.
But – I just can’t find it in me to feel sorry for you when you are complaining about things that everyone has to deal with in their own way. Be thankful for what you have for crying out loud! Yes, you may have a lot of struggles, but most of you have a roof over your heads, food on the table, and healthy children. There are a lot more people out there who don’t have even that.
If there is something in your life that is giving you problems, most of the time, you have options. Sell something you have to pay off some bills, (maybe you have a brand new camper – guess what! That is money sitting right there!!) Or, maybe cut out some extra-curricular activities if you are a single parent struggling to keep up with everything. I know sometimes these are things you don’t want to have to do, but remember…you have the choice and the power to fix things.
Life isn’t easy for anyone, (unless maybe you are Oprah, although I am sure she has her own struggles she deals with every day too!) But, most of these problems have solutions that while they may not be perfect, will help you.
However, when you or someone you love is fighting every day to survive, and sometimes the options they are offered will dramatically change their lives forever – that is when you will realize that all the other stuff before was just that…..stuff. And that in the big picture, can all be managed without needing to complain to everyone who will listen about how unfair things are for you.
So – the point of my rant I guess comes down to a quote I believe sums it up perfectly:
“No matter how good or bad you think life is, wake up each day and be thankful for life. Someone somewhere else is fighting to survive.”Read More