Author, Be Radiant, Breast Cancer Awareness, Inspirational Speaker

Perspectives On A Pink October

Breast Cancer Awareness Pumpkin for October

October is always my “crazy, busy” month.  Or, at least, it has been ever since I had breast cancer.   The brand marketer in me knows that since October is the month designated for breast cancer awareness there will be a flurry of activity as everyone jumps on the band-wagon.  And, sure enough, when October hits my book sales climb, speaking engagements occur, and social media is more active.

This year is starting out no differently, as I look at my schedule of speaking events and book signings in October.  Each year, as pink October starts, I think of the many women who are uncomfortable with Breast Cancer Awareness month.  There are many good reasons for that, as for many women, celebrating pink seems to trivialize breast cancer. I understand that.  May I say, my breast cancer was far from trivial!

The marketer in me understands that if Pink October stimulates awareness of breast cancer, a few things might happen; funding might get to the breast cancer researchers, loved ones may talk to each other about breast cancer, and patients might actually think of and get their mammograms.

So, what should we do?   Pink October is not a cure.  It is not simply funky tutus and an opportunity to party.   It is an opportunity to bring breast cancer insights into the light.  During an event last year, a fellow speaker shared that over 38% of women do NOT get a mammogram.  Wow!  During another speech, I learned of research studies identifying how to prevent metastases of HER2 breast cancer.  Those speeches occurred precisely because it was Breast Cancer Awareness month.

It occurred to me, that in fact, that is what Pink October is all about.  It is not about being trivial, it is about being accessible.  It is a symbolic representation of something that women must pay attention to: breast cancer,  For those who have not had it, breast cancer is a big scary concept. Pink is not.  Perhaps because of the wearing of pink this year, next year the number of those women not getting a mammogram will drop. Perhaps because of a pink event, a little more funding will make it’s way into the researcher’s budget.  Perhaps when a newly diagnosed person sees pink, they will have a little bit of hope in simply knowing how many others are on this breast cancer journey.

I don’t know that there is any way to measure the impact of Pink October.  I can only hope that a little pink is a unifying rallying cry against cancer.  That in the end, the gentleness of pink brings people to the conversation and then loudly shouts to the world that breast cancer is anything but trivial.

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A Cat’s Life

 I have two cats, Tinkerbell and Pepper.  I watch them and wonder if I can learn to appreciate the little things in life, just like they do.  You know, that wonderful sunspot in the house that makes you feel oh so cozy.  Or, the squirrel scrambling around the backyard, now that is a real treat!  Or, how about when their human – me – comes home after being away at work.

They are so excited, it is time to play, get back rubs, even a treat…and perhaps the best part of all, curling up together at the end of a long day.

Last night they experienced the joy that comes with seeing a centipede in the house.  They were running around chasing it, batting it around a little bit, play with it.  Of course, what does “mom” do…I step on it.  Can’t have a bug running around the house you know.  If cats can look sad, these two looked forlorn!  Their new toy, their game, their fun event for the evening, snuffed out in one step.  They kept looking for that little centipede for hours….surely he had escaped Mom’s big shoe.

It is the little things they appreciate, they marvel at, they play with each day.  I keep reminding myself that I should take that lesson from them.   I get so caught up in the big things of life, that I don’t always remember to enjoy the little things; the smell of freshly cut grass, a beautiful flower in bloom, the glisten of a dew drop in the morning.

How can we in this 24/7 world find a minute to appreciate all around us?  Perhaps it starts with simply petting your cat or dog, or going on a slow walk in the evening just because, or gazing out your window at the life around you.  Even as I write this, TInkerbell has jumped on my chair wanting me to pet her for a little bit.  You know, I think I will…

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Fluttering Eyelashes

My friend Diane called me the other evening completely distraught.  You see she had lost her hair, including her eyelashes while she was on chemo.  She finished chemo six weeks ago and lo and behold, all her eyelashes fell out, again!  “What the heck” she exclaimed, “I lost these once already.  And, I am not even on chemo anymore!”

The truth is, this happens quite frequently with eyelashes.  You lose eyelashes during treatment and then often six to eight weeks later they fall out again.  I don’t have very good information on why this happens, just that it does.  And so the question becomes, what do we do?

We spoke first and foremost about Latisse, a prescription product that you can get from your plastic surgeon, dermatologist or eye doctor.  It stimulates growth of eyelashes.  It is very helpful for those with short lashes, but also works exceptionally well for those who have lost their lashes.  For me, when my lashes fell out a second time, they grew back in within two weeks in large part because of Latisse.   Some of the department store make-up brands have a what they claim is a comparable product to Latisse. Personally, it is hard to see something as comparable when one requires a doctors prescription and the other one does not.  But, Latisse is a little pricey, so checking out a department store option may be a worthwhile move.

But, back to Diane…she had company coming in town and didn’t want them to see her without lashes, so what to do!  She asked if lash extensions would help, a common question for those who are not familiar with lash extensions.  However, lash extensions are truly applied to your eyelashes individually.  So, as the eyelash falls out, so does the extension.  Not the option she needed.  We talked of camouflaging with make-up by drawing the eyeliner in a little darker and thicker, helping to minimize the lack of lashes.  Maybe in an everyday situation that would work.  But, not for Diane’s situation.

Diane ended up making a Sephora run to look for fake lashes and she struck gold.  Sephora carries a variety of different types of lash extensions so she was able to work with someone to find one with as few chemicals as possible.  Additionally, because Sephora’s staff is so well trained, they were able to really help her not only find the right product but to learn how to apply the false lashes expertly.

Now, don’t take this as a recommendation to get false lashes when yours fall out.  It is best to simply let them grow back in.  However, if like Diane, you are in a fashion pickle, Sephora might be able to help you out with their variety of product and knowledgeable staff.

We talk about Radiant Wednesdays, and sometimes being radiant is simply knowing that there are options for fluttering your eyelashes, should you lose yours.

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4 Fashion Don’ts When Receiving Chemo

There really are tons of tips and tricks for the fashion conscious lady as she goes through cancer treatment.  But, let me share jut a few “don’ts” this morning for the lady handling chemo.

1.  Skinny Jeans  Without a doubt, this is one that I harp on the most when I speak.  So, why not “harp” a little bit more on this topic here?  Here is the deal.  You get up knowing that it is a chemo day, you try to look somewhat stylish so you slip into your “skinny jeans” at 7am in the morning.  They are feeling good, you are looking great; you will show this chemo who is boss.

Around 10am after having your first bag of fluids, you make your first bathroom run.  By 10:30am you realize the jeans are a little tighter, and no matter how many trips to the bathroom you make, it is not helping.    Ah, yes, bloating has commenced and you still have 5 hours of chemo to go through!  Dang it anyhow, if only you had worn a long shirt you could unzip those jeans and sit in comfort!

Next chemo, skip the skinny jeans.  If you want the long lean look, opt for skinny knit pants that have stretch in them.  The operative word here is stretch.  Wear items with give through your chemo treatments and you will feel all the more comfortable for it.

2. Turtlenecks  Well, really, turtlenecks or any shirt that goes right up to your neck, especially if you have a port.  Big scoop neck shirts or v-neck shirts will work well and are A-ok.  Here is the deal on this one.  When you get chemo, or blood drawn, or any fluids given to you, the medical team will access your port.  They are perfectly able to stretch the shirt a little, access the port and have the tube wind its way out through the neck of your shirt.

Certainly, you don’t want the shirt stretched.  But, the bigger issue, I found, was the shirt pulled on the port tubing the entire time I received chemo and that simply hurt.  So, while the chemo nursing staff can certainly work around a tight or high neck shirt, the constant pulling on your already sensitive port area is simply not worth it.

3.  White  What, you exclaim, it is summer, I must wear white!  To which I share, do so at your own risk.  You see, whether we like it or not, when going in for treatments, medical appointments, you name it, there is a good chance that blood will be drawn or a drop may appear from your  port access, you name it.  It simply is not worth it to wear your favorite white shirt only to have it stained.

Now the nurses are fabulous at accessing ports and drawing blood but all we have to do is twitch the littlest bit and we have stained our favorite shirt.  So, leave it at home, with your skinny jeans!

4.  High Heels  I know, I am sucking the wind right out of your sails with this one!  How in the world can you possibly be stylish with out minimally wearing some heels.  And, sister, I hear you!  But, here is the thing with this one.  Those drugs you are receiving at chemo, many of them may cause to you feel a little lightheaded or even dizzy.  On top of which, you may feel nauseated with a need to move very  quickly (if you get my drift).  Finally, we have the sometimes paralyzing fatigue.  Put these items all together and add heels and you can see how we might have a big problem.  Last thing you want while going through cancer is a broken ankle, so stay safe and wear your cute flats.

  

We share so that others can live as radiantly as possible through treatments.  And so I ask you, what fashion tips do you have for sisters on a cancer journey?

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Keep Your Smile Bright!

To keep you smile bright there are four simple tips:

1.  Call your dentist  it is amazing the number of people who do not let their dentist know that they have cancer.  Do yourself a favor and when you are diagnosed, call your dentist.  If you are in the throes of treatment, call your dentist.  True, they may not be able to do standard cleanings or other dental procedures, but they will be able to give you some guidance on how to care for your teeth through treatments.  In fact, many times they can offer a prescription toothpaste that can help protect your teeth should you have dry mouth.

2. Drink your water  I know it seems like drinking your water helps with everything, and well, to an extent it does.  As we mentioned, often though treatment your mouth may become very dry, so simply drinking water will help add moisture back into your mouth and body.

3.  Use very soft toothbrushes  Make sure you purchase new, very soft toothbrushes.  New, because once you start treatments you want to avoid any chance for infection and often bacteria and viruses lurk in our toothbrushes.  Very soft because you will find your gums and mouth sore and tender.  Because gums easily bleed leading to potential infection, you want to minimize the risk of scratching them by using the soft toothbrushes.  In fact, when you are on the phone with your dentist (see point 1) ask whether you can continue to use your automatic toothbrushes.  Depending on your sensitivity, you may be advised to avoid that for awhile as well.

4. Avoid whitening products  Your mouth will experience many stresses due to treatment, so don’t make matters worse by using whitening products as well.  The chemicals in those products that make your smile bright may hurt your gums and teeth already struggling from treatments.   In general, we advise avoiding chemicals as you go through treatment and products for your pearly whites are no different.

With these four simple tips you can take care of your teeth through treatment and still have a radiant smile, despite your cancer.