January, I’m Not Your Biggest Fan…But Thank You For This…

It’s February!!! Which means I made it through January, not exactly my most favorite month.  January is my diagnosis month, the time I spent a good chunk of the month in the hospital.  And now, as luck would have it, the month I have checkups, scans and blood work – all things, which can make one come unglued.

Despite all of this…January gave me a couple of things that made me smile – time with my friends, doing things I love.Had you asked me a few months ago how I thought this month would go – I’d have told you to look for me in the corner of my bedroom, more than likely crying and angry.  Did that happen once??  NOPE.

Jen, Peggy and myself after a day of snowfall
Too much fun on day 1 with Jamie!
Blast from the past – Tash!!

My diagnosis day will always be my diagnosis day, but this year, I gave it a big finger (ya know which one I’m talking about)…and took to the slopes.  Some of my girlfriends joined me, and they made sure we were always laughing, smiling, had a drink in hand after the chairlifts shutdown, and I forgot about all of it….even if it was just for a little while.  You see, I came back to the reality of things – scans, tests and doctor’s appointments (precautionary CT scan tomorrow morning, then I’m done until April, fingers crossed).  BUT, for 4 whole days, I got to do something “normal”.  Something that resembled the old me…and when I say “old me”, I’m talking years ago.

Mandi & Brittany – hiking it up on the ranch!

Fast forward to the last weekend of the month – ya know, the one where you have to wait after all the testing is done, until after the weekend when you see the doctor (ummm…3 days feels like 3 months) – I headed south to hang with my Texas girls!  We all needed to see each other, and I got to meet Stephanie!!! The reason I HATE January so much, is the reason you see us together.  Cancer united us, but cancer doesn’t define one of us.  I always get asked, “well what’d y’all do??”, like we sit around and talk about cancer the entire time, or we don’t do normal people things.  My response this time – we did what all Texans do, went to the ranch, drank champagne, shot a couple rounds on the 22 and hiked and had Mexican food, duh! – teasing!

Meet Stephanie (@derailingmydiagnosis – follow her if you don’t already!)

Seriously though, we did all those things, and yes, we talked about cancer.  Although none of our stories are the same, none of us have the same diagnosis, we can each relate to the other in ways that our friends and families can’t.  And sometimes, that alone is enough…sometimes, it’s nice to talk, have someone nod their head, and not have tears in their eyes or a sad look on their face.  I can talk, freely, Mandi, Brittany and Stephanie, can talk freely, and it’s nice. But let’s get one thing straight…it is a part of us, but cancer is not all that there is to us.

January, I will probably always have a love hate relationship with you – you are the month that changed life as I knew it.  But I learned this year, that I have a choice in how I function throughout the month – I could have been a total B, done nothing and everyone would have understood, it would have been allowed.  Instead, I decided to challenge myself and see if I couldn’t turn a crappy month into something that I could have fun with — and although I succeeded, there were still a bunch of tears.  Without the 19th of January, I wouldn’t have had a fire lit underneath me, I wouldn’t have done things this month with people that make me smile, I wouldn’t have met Mandi or Brittany or Stephanie. So January, I’m not your biggest fan, and I probably never will be…but thank you, thank you for making me do the things I enjoy with people I love.

Here’s your challenge – what is your “January”?  How can you take that “thing” and no longer make it a day you dread, a day that makes you sad, a day that you want to forget, and change it into a positive???   (ummm, trust me, I still want to forget that day exists, I’m just learning to manage how I address it. I’m not a master at this…I’m a work in progress)

Wellness Wednesday – Let’s Talk About Lymphedema

Those of you who watch my Instagram stories, have seen that I’m back in Occupational Therapy over the last couple of weeks – I’d exhausted everything I knew to do and the fluid build-up wasn’t getting any better.

Lymphedema of the lower extremity isn’t really something people talk about – I get it, it’s not fun, especially in the pelvic region.  I get asked why this happens to me, but not others – everyone is different, is the answer.  The number of lymph nodes removed, the way your body manages getting the excess fluid to a different area of your body – it’s different for every case.  Women with breast cancer experience this as well, you’ve probably seen more of them with compression sleeves and things of that nature for their arms and hands.  For me, it’s the opposite, I need it for my legs, and unfortunately my groin/pelvic region (good times!)

What is LymphedemaLymphedema  occurs when the lymphatic system is compromised – in my case, due to a debulking surgery for cancer related issues.  For me, it became too uncomfortable and a little painful.  Over time, the accumulation can actually result in significant changes to the tissue and skin around the area – I wanted to ensure I took care of this, before that happened.  It is a permanent condition –something those of us effected by will live with for the rest of our lives – it is manageable though, which is why I try and stay on top of it.  It’s one of those things they don’t tell you about, until it actually happens.

This is the exact thing I use – one time, per leg, every day.

How do I manage my particular issue – It’s fairly easy, just time consuming at this point in time.  I have a FlexiTouch device which helps in getting the fluid out of my legs – it isn’t as helpful with the pelvic/groin area for me, because I’m a little too thin for the trunk piece – this takes 2 hours out of the day, one in the morning and one at night.  Throughout the day I wear 30-40mhg compression tights, a swell spot (THIS IS A LIFESAVER – if you have pelvic/groin area swelling – TRY it!!), and I have a pair of 20-30mhg custom (again, too thin) compression capris I will start to wear for hiking and days when I’ll be standing for extended periods of time or traveling.

There is a manual technique I use as well help get the fluid to the lymph nodes under my arm, the next largest set, outside of those I’m now missing.

Exercise is important – I know, I know, here she goes again!  This has been proven to help with the lymphatic drainage – the muscles and joints work together during some workouts, creating pressure, which allows the fluid to move into the lyphatic system.  The yoga, spinning and walking I do, religiously, is for this very reason.  Start with something small and see if you notice a change, I think you’ll be surprised, I know I was.

You’ll find that if you’re with me, I don’t really care where I am and how rude it may look, my legs go up.  People will need to get over it! LOL!  If you have any other questions regarding any of this – give me a shout!

January, I’m Not Your Biggest Fan – January 19th

January 19, 2017 – the day that would change my life, the day I would hear the doctor on the other end of the phone say “I have your biopsy results back and they’re not good, you have ovarian cancer.  It’s aggressive and we need to get you to an oncologist, quickly.”

There are many things throughout the year that I can’t remember. There are certain things I remember like they just happened.  And there are tons of things I can kind of make out in a fog, and others I will stare blankly at you and say I have no idea what you’re talking about – yesterday, I don’t remember how I walked across the street to Imo’s to get my lunch, realized this as I was walking through the lobby of the hotel.

The day started just like any other – I was recovering from surgery a week prior, to remove a “dermoid cyst” the size of cantaloupe.  I got up, wished a friend happy birthday, rode with my mom to take the kids to school and came back home to rest.  I was giving my doctor until 1pm to call me before I texted her again to see if she had the results yet.  I wouldn’t need to text her…the phone call came shortly after my mom stepped out to get lunch, a lunch I would never eat, but one my body desperately needed.

I sat at the kitchen table and waited for her, she could tell by the look on my face I’d talked to the doctor.  “Dr. McDonald called, I have ovarian cancer.”  My mother basically fell apart, to which I responded by saying “I can’t do this right now, I’ll call someone to come and help you, but I need to find help. I’m going to my room, please just let me figure this out.”  I texted Sonya, and told her I couldn’t help my mother at this moment in time, could she please come over as quickly as she could.  After receiving a message that she was on her way I picked up the phone to call my friend Anne, a fellow three time (different types) cancer survivor to see who she knew at Siteman Cancer that could tell me where I needed to go and who I needed to see.  She had just the person and she worked her magic – I called with nothing but an email copy of the results and got on the books for two weeks later, Anne took the same results and went to the doctor directly, one business day later I’d be walking in to meet with Dr. Hagemann.

Out of everything in the results, the only thing I knew for sure was that it was Grade 3, high grade, and that was NOT good – I needed to get it out as quickly as possible.  I had no idea what stage it was, but knew the chances of it being an early stage was rare (I’d find out a few weeks later I got lucky and it was).

The last thing I remember about the day is looking at my phone, rolling over, crying (it was more of a quiet sob) and falling asleep – the same person I’d wished happy birthday to, had texted me, thanked me for the gift I’d sent along with him, and shortly after said it’d been a pretty crappy day – I wouldn’t reply until the next morning, knowing I would need to tell one final person the news.

January 19, 2018 – the day I would take back control and tell cancer to “suck it”.  Today, I’m not sitting at home, crying by myself (I’m not sure if I’ll cry today, guess I’ll find out), several of my girlfriends are with me near snow covered mountains.  Today, one year later, I’m going to spend the day going down run after run, after run on the mountain with some of my girls.  The girls I sent texts/emails to and said “hey, January 19th is my cancerversary, I’m not letting cancer win, wanna go skiing for the weekend?” The majority of whom were able to make it – the others had circumstances out of their control which wouldn’t allow for them to be able to.

One year can change so many things.  One year ago, I had no idea what was going to happen or what the outcome would be.  One year ago, a fire was lit inside of me that said “oh hell no, I’m not going down like this.”  Ovarian cancer, you may have changed my life, but I refuse to let you take away my life – so today, I choose to “celebrate” the day my life changed…probably for the better in more ways than one.

The next few days I’ll have posts and stories galore about all the fun we had – I’ll introduce you to each person with me, and fill you in on a couple that weren’t able to make it over the course of the next month.  What I hope you see by all of this, is that despite probably not really being okay with this whole ovarian cancer diagnosis (because really, I’m still not okay with all of this…not even close), I’m making a choice to make the most out of it.  I refuse to let cancer win.  As Brittany always tells me when I text her a random, “I need to do this, but I really don’t want to…what do you think??”  — B: “you know what I think, I think you do it! Because if you don’t you’re letting cancer win, who wants that?!?”

January 19, 2017 – you taught me I can do hard things, I was made to do them.  Jamie, Peggy, Jen and Tasha – Thank you!  Carrie, we miss you!!

Wellness Wednesday – Make Yourself a Priority

36 full years and a cancer diagnosis to figure this out – 36 years is far too long, I’m learning from my mistakes.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities”

– Stephen Covey

It’s time to put myself first – not because I’m being selfish, but because I’m worth it.  I think that was always my problem, I thought I was being selfish if I put myself first.  One of my friends continually reminds me, “it’s no longer about them, it’s about you…” Even after the diagnosis, I was more worried about how to make others “okay” with my newfound reality – ovarian cancer – instead of making sure I was okay with what was actually happening.  Maybe it was my defense mode kicking in, so I didn’t think about it.

I was a “yes” person – I’d say “yes” to everything, schedule myself so thin doing things I’m not even sure I wanted to be doing, but I did them.  What I’ve found, is that it’s time to make myself a priority and with everything I have on my plate, I have to re-evaluate the manner in which I schedule my time – my priorities now come first.  My priorities at this point in time are fairly simple – my time is allocated to what needs to be handled and the things that give me joy – my children and my health are top of the list.  By saying “no”, it’s not a negative, it’s merely me saying “I’m sorry, I can’t make that work.”  My body only has so much energy to go around, everyone’s does, and I want to make sure I use it in the best way possible for me.

“Balance isn’t fitting everything in.  It’s starting with what’s important and letting the rest fall as it will”

– Erica Layne

So how do I spend my time, and how do I prioritize the things that are important to you – here’s a little peak:

My health – obviously, this come first and foremost at this point in time.  This is not only things related directly to what was my illness (or is, I’m still on the fence about how to say this), but indirectly as well.  Making sure my body is in the best possible condition it can be in, is key (it should be for anyone!) – for me, this is spinning, yoga and building/defining key muscle groups.  These three things allow for me to be able to enjoy the other things I want to do.  Fueling my body with the right nutrients – you’ll see more of the cooking and things starting in February – I’m still a work in progress when it comes to this part, but I’m making changes for the better, replacing the not great things, with foods that actually help to ward off cancer cells.  Mental health is key too – this is where my yoga practice comes in, I need this hour to focus only on me and drown out everything else around me.

My children – Olivia and Jaxson have always come first, probably to a point that it could be considered a flaw, because I’ve pushed things aside for myself to focus on them.  This is my choice, they’re only young for so long and before I know it they’ll be grown and out of the house.  They need me right now – the past 3 years have been a TON of change for all of us – where more things have happened than any person should have to go through, let alone a tiny human.  I can guarantee you, if they have something and I’m asked to do something else, 99 times out of 100, I’m going to tell you “I’m sorry, I can’t make that work, but thank you for asking.”

My Joys – It’s been so long since I’ve actually done what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it, that I’m probably making up for lost time.  I stopped doing things that made me smile and feel good, simply because I let other things get in the way – whether this be people, work or life. Yes, you see me traveling frequently as of late – I LOVE to travel.  You’re going to see me snow skiing more than once this season!  You’re going to see me doing epic hikes more than once this year! You’re going to see me meeting up with my gal pals OFTEN (understatement)!  And if I’m in an area where a friend(s) might be, I’ll reach out and try to get together — however, if I have the children with me, see above.  Right now, my focus is on them when they’re with me – I couldn’t do much with them last year without help.  Right now, they need to know that their mom is okay – WE need to have times to look back on and smile.  It’s been so long since I’ve actually let myself breathe and enjoy life, they way we should.  I’m also going to start reading more, I LOVE to read – my goal is 1-2 books a month, I will be posting reviews on those which I feel can benefit everyone.

I’d love to say “yes” to everything I get asked to do.  I’d love to make time to see everyone.  But it’s just not possible.  Right now, my extra time, outside of the things listed above, is going to things ovarian cancer related – building a community, raising awareness and funds.  Right now, it’s time I put myself first, for once.  It’s time for the “fixer” inside of me to take a backseat – I need to take care of me.  Maybe it’s your time to focus on you too – make yourself a priority, try saying “no” and prioritizing what’s important to you, not what’s on your schedule.

January, I’m NOT Your Biggest Fan – January 11th

January, I’m NOT your biggest fan — you were once a start to a new year, and now you represent a THICK, HARD line in the sand.  A line that marks “before” and “after”.  Before and after???  Yes, “before” ovarian cancer, and “after” ovarian cancer — it’s full of dates, surgeries, hospital stay after hospital stay, and getting a phone call that will forever change my life.

This is the “big guy” – the top is prior to removal, the bottom is showing the fallopian tube and something else.
This is the smaller one – squished between something in the top and the white circular one at the bottom.

Yesterday, January 11th, I woke up in a funk, honestly felt like sitting in a corner and having a good cry, but I couldn’t figure out why.  In my head, I geared myself up for today being the anniversary of my surgery to remove my cantaloupe sized “cyst” on my right ovary and my 1/2 that sized cyst on my left ovary.  It wasn’t until 7pm that I realized it was the 11th – I honestly think subconsciously I knew, I was merely trying to forget.  By Thursdays I have a tendency to be running low on fuel from the week, but yesterday morning I was having to peel myself out of bed to use my leg pump before I went to work – in enough time to be done before the kids wake up so I can get them breakfast and such before school.

At the time of this surgery, I was pissed because it was an inconvenience, but I think deep down I knew it was something more, something was off – no way could a “cyst” land me in the ER because I could hardly stand up or walk without feeling like I was in labor (have 2 children, know what it feels like!).  As I was being wheeled into surgery, I was supposed to have been boarding a plane with Olivia and Jaxson to go snow skiing, for their first time.  This is my first scar on my lower abdomen, the one you don’t see unless my bikini bottom is down too low – it’s basically a c-section incision.

Right before picking up Olivia from school I got a text from Lori, she’d sent a snapshot of a FedEx tracking sheet.  I looked at it, saw it said “in-transit”, but also saw the 11th, so I again, thought it was for tomorrow (I worked a whole day – I’m hoping I didn’t put the date on anything, because it will have said the 10th).  I was bummed, it was something I really wanted to be able to have, but I thought it was coming while I was gone. We got home and I had a list of things I wanted to get done because we’re leaving town to head to the house down south (p.s. may want to pay attention to instagram stories again this weekend, I just found out I get to meet another one of my survivor friends a little earlier then we’d planned!!), so I didn’t even check the mail or the front door.  A little after 7pm, I did and that’s when it hit me, IT WAS JANUARY 11th and my package was at FedEx.  How did I go the entire day thinking it was the 10th?!?

These are my “name rings”. rings, the ones Lori fixed so I could wear them again!

Why do I mention the package??  Because it was my “God Wink”…it was what I needed yesterday.  Lori, is Lori Heuring.  Lori owns Ivy Diamond Cole, I’d reached out to her last year prior to starting chemo to ask her if she wouldn’t mind making me a set of rings with Olivia and Jaxson’s names on them – I LOVED the rings and they turned out perfect, but chemo left my hands a little bigger (that’s the only thing bigger, thanks!) and I couldn’t wear them any longer.  I’d reached out to her to ask if she wouldn’t mind re-sizing them if I sent them to her, and I also needed her to make me one more, one that said “survivor” – she jumped all over it!  When she sent me the text I said “wait, I haven’t given you my card, let me know when I can call you”…no response.  Needless to say, I knew what was in the package and we got there just in time – I needed that ring on January 11th.

Checkout her instagram account as well – @ivydiamondcole

A note accompanied the three little boxes – three little boxes that changed my day.  The note read the resizing was on the house and my “small but mighty” survivor ring was her gift to me – needless to say, I was crying in the FedEx parking lot, trying to explain to the kids that everything was fine.

Lori, you will never know what this single word means to me – it’s my reminder of how far I’ve come over the past year, that I’m still here.  Yesterday, I needed that little reminder.  Your kind words and generous gift will never be forgotten, you were my “God Wink” when I needed it most – thank you, Lori!

I’m really not sure how this month is going to go for me — so far, it’s been touch and go.  Some days are fine, other days I find myself going through the entire year prior, all over again, and still wondering why – I want a do-over, even though I know this isn’t something I could have ever changed or prevented.  Next week is my 1 year anniversary to being diagnosed.  The last week of the month I have a checkup/blood work/ultrasound – it’s the first time since July that I’ve made it the scheduled 3 months I’m supposed to go without having to be poked our prodded.  My head is all over the place, but I’m trying to refocus my thoughts, and my tiny “survivor” ring did just that.

Who do you think I’m meeting up with this weekend???  I literally just found out today she was staying less than 2 miles from me – shoot, I thought she was going to Mexico!  Stay tuned, I’ll see her at some point on Saturday or Sunday.    try

 

What’s in Store for 2018 – New Things to Look For!

Earlier this week I took to Instagram stories and tried to “talk” about new things to come this year…let me tell ya how that went – I was tired, out of gas and it was a bad word day.  I should have waited, but I’m trying to hold myself accountable when it comes to doing something I say I’m going to do in a timely fashion, not a week later.  And let’s be honest, me trying to do things on the fly isn’t always the easiest, BUT I’m committed to becoming better at that as well.  If you haven’t followed me on Instagram yet, you may want to head that way!

Finally feeling like I have my feet somewhat underneath me I’ve been able to reel in what I want to do with Kick Ovarian Cancer – look for things to be more community oriented.  A place where people can come to not only check in on my story, but learn about others, find resources/education around all that is ovarian cancer, and connect with other women who are experiencing or have experienced what battling ovarian cancer entails, while continuing the fundraising piece for research, education/awareness and care packages.  Here’s what that’s going to look like:

Randalynn’s Blog – you’ll notice today the blog page tab now has a slightly different name.  Why??  In order to give Kick Ovarian Cancer, Inc a bit more of a foundation/not-for-profit feel, removing the focus from solely being on me. This is going to take a bit of time, since I am the “web master” and let’s just say I’m not exactly a “master” when it comes to this whole thing – I’m technology challenged, but I’m trying.

There will be topics to look for monthly – Wellness Wednesdays and Fighter Fridays (again, if you don’t follow me on my social media pages, you may want to do so, we’ll have more fighters and wellness pieces more often than on the blog) will occur one to two times a month, and I’ll be making a personal post one to two times a week – from time to time this will include recipes and products I love, AND my adventures!  IF you’d like to share your story, or contribute a wellness piece (natural products, recipes, book reviews, research articles, mental/physical health), send me a message, I’d love to have help with all of this (kickovariancancer@gmail.com).

Health/wellness component – fitness accountability groups – I feel very strongly about getting up off of your bootie and moving!  So, instead of constantly hearing me saying I PR’ed a ride on my bike or crushed my BeachBody workout or decompressed at yoga, I’m going to offer you the opportunity to join me in one of two ways – online and in person.

Online: yes, online.  Let’s connect, let’s virtually give each other bootie pats and “go get ’em’s” and help each other along the way.  I’ll hold these once a month for three weeks, to help you create a new “habit”.  Everyone is welcome to keep participating as long as they’d like, the more the merrier!  One caveat, I want you to give it your best effort while participating in order to see if you notice a difference in the way you feel.  Any fitness level is welcome! The first one will start on February 5th!

In person: St. Louis area peeps, I’m coming for you, finalizing details this week. My goal is to have a fitness meet up once a week, with a small donation going towards ovarian cancer related initiatives.  These will be things that I’ve found beneficial and incorporated into my weekly routine, things that can help those fighting cancer, those dealing with the after effects and those who merely need something to get them jumpstarted.

No, you do not have to be a cancer survivor to participate…what if we changed our mindset to preventing illnesses and cancer by actually trying to be the best us we can possibly be.  No, I am not perfect by any means and YES, I still eat desserts, pizza, etc, I just choose different options and do everything in moderation.  My life just kinda depends on it now, and if I have to head into dealing with all that is cancer again, I want to be the best me possible.

Online Community Meet – Ups:  Yes, you read that correctly…starting in mid-late February we’ll be hosting our first online meet-up.  Since we all could use a little boost from time to time and a place to come where people understand what you’re saying, a safe place to express what we really want to say without feeling like the person you said it to now feels sorry for you, or pities you, but they ACTUALLY GET IT (ummm, we can tell by the look on your face, the delayed text message response or the tone in your voice). The first one will be limited to only a certain number of ladies, and eventually I hope to have hot topics and presenters as well.

Fundraising component:  The hat sales will continue, but with big pushes only during certain times of the year.  I’m looking to actually add two fundraising events this year – one will be in the spring, the other in the fall.  I’ve got two ideas in the works and want to make sure all of the logistics are in order and I can pull this off – the spring event will be released in February. We’ll be helping other ovarian cancer related foundations out along the way, like we did in September this past year as well.

This spring I’ll be speaking at St. Louis Ovarian Cancer Awareness’s event, and in the fall I’ll be riding in Pedal the Cause with my gyn-oc team (I’m looking for friends to rider with me, I’m NOT disclosing the ride I’m going to do yet, but let’s just say “go big or go home” is the mentality, and I’m going to need a push) – SUPER excited about this, and now that I’ve actually put it on paper I’m probably going to freak out about jinxing myself with regards to staying healthy – yep, this is how this survivor’s mind works.  I find myself worrying that if I commit to something in the future something will happen and I won’t be able to do it – I’m sure this will pass with time.  Regardless, these are two things you’ll be hearing a lot more about in the months to come.

As you can see, most of the changes are simple, creating more structure and definition.  Bringing together the community of women who are cancer survivors, especially those considered “young”, is important to me and something I feel is currently lacking, something I’m hoping I can help fill the gap in, even if it’s just a little.

I’m open to suggestions, help, anything you at all – always feel free to message me at kickovariancancer@gmail.com

 

Wellness Wednesday – Making the Switch to Natural Deodorant

Yes, we’re talking about the pitties today!  About 2.5 weeks ago I took the plunge, switching from conventional deodorant to natural (notice I didn’t say “organic”, there’s a difference).  Prior to doing so I had a lot of questions and concerns – mainly about how much I’d sweat and stink during the detoxing period.  Good news, it wasn’t bad and the brand I’m using smells AMAZING!!!  Michelle, from Cornucopia Box was kind enough to help me out and not only walked me through what I’d need, but agreed to write a post for me — she covered everything!  Thank you Michelle for always agreeing to partner with me!

Michelle, President and Founder of Cornucopia Box michelle@cornucopiabox.com

You might be curious about natural deodorants and why they are better than conventional brands, but do they actually work? You might have heard about this things called underarm detoxing. So what’s the deal?

First, there are plenty of good reasons to avoid conventional deodorants. Conventional deodorants like the kinds you find on the grocery store shelves typically contain ingredients like aluminum (a neurotoxin), pthalates (endocrine disruptor), parabens (endocrine disruptor and carcinogen), and other harmful chemicals that you can’t pronounce. I’ll be explaining what these substances are and how they affect your body shortly.

But let’s get to the burning question in your mind. Does deodorant cause cancer? The short answer is, no. According to the American Cancer Society, there is no “clear” or “direct” link between using a conventional deodorant or antiperspirant and cancer. But— that doesn’t mean it didn’t contribute.

Whenever the product boasts “anti-perspirant” qualities, you can bet there is aluminum there. Why? Because the USDA only allows aluminum as an active ingredient in antiperspirants. Basically, its the only thing that is allowed by law that will eliminate sweating. But stop right there – isn’t sweating exactly how our body detoxes? Yes. So by using a heavy metal like aluminum, which is actually a neurotoxin, we are not only stopping the process of detoxification via sweat but on top of that we are adding more toxins!

Inside the body, aluminum like other heavy metals, acts like estrogen, interfering with receptor sites in human breast cancer cells. There is even a word for this, “metalloestrogen”. A substance in the body that acts like estrogen, mimicking its functions and tricking the body into thinking there is more estrogen than there is actually present.

And what exactly are phthalates?

Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are often called plasticizers, or solvents. They are used in vinyl flooring, adhesives, detergents, automotive plastics, plastic clothes like raincoats, and (surprise!) beauty care products like soaps, shampoos, hair sprays, and deodorants/anti- perspirants. These substances are what allows deodorants to stick to your skin. Remember that commercial about the deodorant not leaving white marks on your black clothing? Thank you, phthalates.

The CDC website states: “Human health effects from exposure to low levels of phthalates are unknown. Some types of phthalates have affected the reproductive system of laboratory animals. More research is needed to assess the human health effects of exposure to phthalates.”

So, basically phthalates have not been tested in humans. Period. And yet they are found in so many of our personal care products, clothing, children’s toys, cleaning products, and many other items in our homes.

For me, since this substance has not been tested on humans AND it has been proven to negatively impact the hormonal systems of laboratory animals like mice, my gut tells me to steer clear.

Along the same lines here are parabens. This group of chemicals are used as a preservative in deodorants and beauty care products. Parabens have also been linked to hormone interference. In an article by TIME magazine, Markham Heid writes, “…cumulative exposure to the chemicals from several different products could be overloading our bodies and contributing to a wide range of health problems. “Of greatest concern is that parabens are known to disrupt hormone function, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity,” reports the non-profit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC). “Parabens mimic estrogen by binding to estrogen receptors on cells.” Research has shown that the perceived influx of estrogen beyond normal levels can in some cases trigger reactions such as increasing breast cell division and the growth of tumors.”

Did you know parabens were made illegal in Europe back in 2012?

Y’all this stuff is LEGIT. It smells WONDERFUL and the best part is I DON’T STINK, like AT ALL, EVER! Click here for product info

Sounds like these three chemicals are probably a good thing to start avoiding. And this brings me to natural deodorants. These products are typically made with ingredients that you can easily pronounce and are probably already familiar with such as coconut oil and baking soda. The one we carry at cornucopiabox.com is made by a breast cancer survivor in Pennsylvania.

Making the switch from conventional deodorant to a natural one is not always easy. There is an intermediary period when your body will be detoxing from the usual daily use of the chemical laden deodorant. This means you will probably do some extra sweating, but don’t worry it won’t last forever. This is actually a good thing! Sweating means your body is detoxing!

Love this stuff, click here for product details

I suggest using an underarm detox stick everyday during this period. Our stick contains bentonite clay to naturally pull out the toxins and odor- causing bacteria from your armpits. This product was new for me but I quickly learned how effective it was and how genius! In the past, I’ve used green clay on my face during facials, so why not apply the same concept to my underarms?!

 

After a few days, any extra sweating will subside and you’ll be ready to start with the natural deodorant. Keep the detox stick handy, just incase you are feeling extra stinky one day. I usually use it about once a week, or when needed. This natural deodorant really works. Just keep in mind it is only a deodorant, it is not an anti-perspirant. Remember – we want to sweat, it’s the body’s natural way of detoxing!

 

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/Phthalates_FactSheet.html http://www.safecosmetics.org/ https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/should-people-be-concerned- about-parabens-in-beauty-products/

http://time.com/4394051/deodorant-antiperspirant-toxic/ http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0162013413001608

Peace Out 2017, Don’t Let the…No, Wait…

One would think the first thing I’d be thinking with this year winding down is “Peace out, see ya later, don’t let the door hit ya”.  And, yes, there are things I’d like to say this about, but 2017 also taught me a lot of things and may have improved my life for the better, as a whole.

I lost a lot of things this year, things I never saw coming, things I wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye to.  Here are a few:

Life as I knew it – it’s forever changed – I no longer am able to live carefree, naive to what life with cancer means.  The goals and expectations I had for life aren’t the same -some of them I’ve forgotten about and new, modified things have been put in their place.  The expectations I have for my life and people are vastly different as well.  Feeling like I have plenty of time to do things, is no longer a way of thinking.   Being able to ignore an ache or a pain or the way too tired feeling is a thing of the past – I constantly have a tap on the shoulder that says “did you notice that”…yes, I did, I’m trying to silence you, but I know that’s not always an option.

I had (should read “have”, because I’m still on the struggle bus with this one) to let go of the way I thought things should have gone in my life…doing that leads me down a slippery slope of crying and being angry.  When I’m able to get in the mindset of “this is the hand you were dealt, this is what’s happening,” I’m much more accepting of losing life as I knew it.  Just because I’ve had to adjust all of these things, doesn’t mean I’ve given up certain things, I’m just learning to accept that the way I saw things going in my life isn’t the way things are going to go.

My debunking procedure took away the option of more children – not only can I not carry another child myself, I wasn’t able to try and salvage any eggs for a surrogate to carry, because my life would have been at risk from the cancer continuing to grow – I had high-grade, which spreads like wildfire.  Although I didn’t envision more children for myself, maybe someone in my future might have, so I would have liked the option.  I’d have liked to have been able to say “no, I’m good”, not having that ability ripped out of my hands.  (Yes, it’s a control issue, I’m working on it). I’m blessed with two children, that is what I focus on.  And yes, those two children ask the difficult questions  – “mommy, are you going to have another baby?” and I have to try and explain to them that isn’t possible, in terms an 8 year old girl would understand.

My hair – Yep, I lost my hair and although it’s growing back and everyone thinks it looks great…it’s very difficult for me, because it’s not what I chose for myself, it wasn’t my decision.  I told my one girlfriend the other day I really missed it…it was Christmas Eve, when I was looking back at pics from last year vs this year. Yes, it’s silly, but you try losing your hair to something as stupid as cancer, it sucks and it’s a constant reminder when all you want to do is put it in a freaking ponytail and your at least a year away from that even being a possibility – so instead you put on a ball cap and pray you don’t get mistaken for a guy.

Some people I considered friends – this is a common occurrence.  Cancer freaks the hell out of people, I’m not kidding.  They say they’re going to be there and they’re going to do “xy&z”, but when it comes down to it, watching someone waste away, lose their hair, their coloring, turn into a sick person, etc, it’s not for the weak.  The time I had previously to worry about things like this, I no longer have – I was fighting for my life, I had to focus on me, I had no extra effort outside of what I put forth to take care of myself and my children.  You learn a lot about people when the going gets tough. And guess what, it’s really NOT about how this is effecting you…it’s about ME, how this is effecting ME.  I’m sorry if this freaked you out and scared you away, but thank you for showing me your true colors.

DESPITE all of those things above there were a lot of positives as well, some things I never saw coming and things I never would have thought were possible – I surprised myself as well.

Renewed relationships – Yes, several people left my life. It might not have been such a bad thing, because in the long run they probably needed to be cleaned off the plate.  BUT, I had so many more people come back into my life and participate to the max – it was shocking!  Several relationships and friendships that had cooled off as time went on because of one thing or another, were rekindled.  When these individuals found out I was sick, they not only reached out once, but repeatedly reached out, showed up at appointments, brought things by the house for me and/or the children, took me out to dinner when I was up for it and have continued to do so.  FYI – the stuff after treatment stops is a whole new ballgame and the after effects just don’t stop.  I’m still trying to decided what’s more difficult – the mental game is brutal after.

I found a me I didn’t know existed – This could be due to the fact that I’m a mom and I don’t really have another choice, but the person I found inside of me, when I really needed her, was bigger than I ever thought possible.  I surprised myself, and keep surprising myself.  Prior to ovarian cancer I would have considered myself a “runner” – when things got tough, I picked up and moved on…literally would move sometimes…took the easy way out and did whatever was possible to minimize the pain and impact it had on me.

This chick you’ve all seen is new…she’s different.  She’s not the same, I won’t ever go back to the way I was before the diagnosis and that’s okay. Honestly, I’m 110% okay with it.  If you hadn’t realized it, and you thought you really knew me, I’d been struggling for a long time with inner peace and being the person I really wanted to be.  I had so much inside to say, but I was too worried about what someone might say, how they’d look at me, etc.  Let me tell you…walking around bald, dealing with all the BS society deals you during this process of being sick, it breaks down all of those things.  You have to have thick skin to take on the cancer fight in and of itself, then add on all the petty and stupid things that go along with it. I like this girl…she may take awhile to get adjusted to though…and I still need to refine a few things, but I think that comes with time…my fuse is still quite short, I’m working on it.

Living in the moment – no regrets – this is completely new and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and said I was going to do for the past several years.   Britt, I wouldn’t have flown to Austin in the past…I’d have made myself sick with worry over things I couldn’t control – “what if she doesn’t like me”, “what if she isn’t excited”, and on and on and on.  I say what I want to say (these are positive things, no one needs for you to be negatively opinionated) – this maybe a random text that says “I love you” when someone least expects it, or messaging someone, whom I’ve never met, something I think might help them out.

Epic trips, things I’ve always wanted to do.   Exploring cities I’ve been to, but haven’t seen all that I want to see (if I’m headed your way, get ready, I have lists!).  Experiencing new places I’ve never been to – food, exhibits, “best of’s”.  The only regret I have…that it took a cancer diagnosis for all of this to happen. I was in a rut of only going and doing  certain things.

This is my one shot to get this right – no more do-overs, no more “I don’t think the time is right”…chances are, it’s never going to be right, just do it.  Live in the moment, quit looking for perfect or I’ll do it next year.

A “girl gang” like you’ve never seen – in a world of women tearing each other down, be the girl that’s building others up.  I’ve found a group of women, most of whom I’ve never met, who are those building each other up – sending positive messages, giving you the “go get ’em”, “you got this”, “ain’t no thang but a chicken wang” when you’re heading into something big.  Find these people, these are the ones you should focus your time on.  I had no idea the impact the followers I would have socially would end up having in my life – they not only check on me, but my other friends they know I’m close with to make sure they’re okay too.

thanks for posting this the other day @amydeepharmd

Maybe it’s because all of us have been through the worst, don’t have time for all the BS and know the importance one simple word can have…maybe that’s why we’re there for each other.  Or maybe it’s because good people really do still exist and it takes something life changing to happen in order for you to see past all of the things you might not have in the past to see them.  Regardless, I never saw this one coming…and I’m thankful for every single one of you reading this, that fall into this category.  You showed me how to keep going, that it was okay to get upset over silly little things and that life after is difficult, but we can somehow figure this out.  Thank you for giving me friendships I never would have had.

 

So yes, in a year where I could have said “get the F- outta here, I’m done”…I had just the opposite reaction, it was more of a “thank you, I needed this”.  Although ovarian cancer has changed me forever, has put me through the ringer and is one of the most trying things ever, even after the treatments stop, I’m thankful for the perspective it’s given me.  I’m thankful that this time, I actually listened to the wakeup call I should have had in the past.

Tonight and tomorrow, as you reflect on the year 2017 may have been or not been for you, try to find the ways in which it’s possibly improved things.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still angry from time to time, I cry and I have bad days…2017 was supposed to have been “my year”, not the year that tried to break me.  But it didn’t break me, and for that I’m grateful.  2018, I’m coming for you with big goals, big plans…I lost most of a year and have some making up to do!

Happy New Year – stay safe, have fun and kiss 2017 goodbye in whatever fashion you deem appropriate!

Peace Out Cancer – Dad’s Done with Chemo!

Two days after Christmas and we got our Christmas present – 29 weeks after my last treatment, my Dad completed his and rang the bell!  WAAAHOOO!!!  Peace out cancer, see ya later!

 

 

His oncology nurse presenting him with his completion certificate, signed by all of the nurses – it was her first time, she was sooo excited to get to give it to him!

Today was a long time coming…especially after the year we’ve had.  I haven’t been as great about doing updates on my Dad, because life got in the way.  #5 knocked him on his butt and this one could do the same – he doesn’t get sick like I did, but the exhaustion has been pretty bad.  If you ask him how he is, he’s like me “oh, gosh, I’m fine!  It could be a lot worse…”  He even said this as the nurse was administering his red colored one through a syringe (see here).

His people came out in full force again today – Nancy, Frank, Sonya and Steve all came marching in about the same time.  My brother took child duty so I could be there today (thank you, Kyle!).  We can’t thank everyone enough for all the time and effort they’ve put forth over the last 11 months – we couldn’t have done it without you.  

Dad’s scans and blood work will take place in 3 weeks, a couple days before mine – we’ll be on the same cycle for awhile when it comes to checkups.  Until then, he’ll be recovering from #6 and then we’re heading south to the house to enjoy a little fun in the sun and on the water – he hasn’t been able to travel and none of us have gone since this summer.  Needless to say, we’re looking forward to it!

Everyone was waiting at home to celebrate with him!

Merry Christmas to everyone and happy New Year – although I’ll be back with another post on New Year’s Eve!  Until then…we’re eating pizza and poppin’ bottles (not really, he doesn’t want to celebrate until he has his taste back and bit and enjoys food and drinks again!).

Take THAT Chemo Brain – LET’S GO, I PASSED!!!

I may have used another choice word or two when I texted my peeps to let them know I PASSED my Series 7 exam today – LET’S GO!!!  BTW, I may have also been a little too loud in the quiet testing room when my “passed” status came across the screen, imagine that.

Oh, you didn’t know I had to take this exam??  I’ve been quiet about it, and I’ll be honest about the fact that I didn’t pass on the first time….the first go around I missed it by ONE STUPID POINT!  No joke!  I was kinda of embarrassed, upset, pissed, disappointed in myself, you name it, I felt it.  Why??  Because a year ago, I more than likely wouldn’t have failed by one point…so I was mad about the reason I failed.  However, a year ago “me” isn’t an option, so I did what was needed and the first day I was allowed to take the test again, I scheduled it and PASSED!

This is the first real challenging thing I’ve had to do post-chemo when it comes to using my brain – lots of things are different and I haven’t fully adjusted to everything.  I’m still refining my coping skills when it comes to these things.  It’s a 6 hour exam and it takes me the full 6 hours to take it – I had to re-read most of the questions at least once, if not twice, and the long ones are a nightmare…I completely forget what they’re asking.  So for the past month, I’ve been taking tests, taking notes on the ones I miss and doing whatever I thought might help to recall the information.  And let’s go back to the 6 hours – that right there is exhausting for me, like you wouldn’t believe – it’s a marathon in my world!

You see, chemo brain isn’t a made up thing, it’s real – for me, it’s names and word recognition – recalling formulas and how to do things isn’t easy, especially when it’s something I’ve never done in my 37 years.  The majority of people taking the test are able to write things down to help recall key items for the exam…for me, I tried and tried to get a cheat sheet that worked, but remembering what was on the cheat sheet was just as time consuming as studying, so I kinda ditched that route…it just wasn’t going to work. But I found what worked AND I PASSED!!!

For me, this was a HUGE WIN – if I could have, I’d have run around the room high-fiving and screaming a few phrases that aren’t the most appropriate. Instead, I said something a little more loudly than I should have, did a little fist pump and walked out of the room.  I was so excited I don’t think it finally hit me until I got on the interstate and then I started crying…because I did it, it was a victory for me against all of this that is this stupid thing called living life after cancer and chemo…it’s hard y’all, really hard and frustrating.

I share all of this so that you, reading this, going through similar struggles and battles, know that this can be done.  You can do the things that were once easy for you, that have now become extremely difficult. You can do hard things, it just takes longer than you’re used to – a significant amount of time hitting the books, a significant amount of time reading the questions, a significant time trying to determine what might work.  And then, you keep your fingers crossed that it isn’t a really bad short term memory day and you can retrieve the information (unfortunately I don’t get to pick and choose when it’s at its worst, although I have been able to determine what tends to trigger it).   And some of you reading this will never fully understand how hard taking this simple test really was, and that’s okay too – 6 months post-chemo!

Now…on to studying for the next one — I have 2 exams I need to pass, this was the hard one, next one shouldn’t be as difficult, fingers crossed!