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Posts Tagged ‘bald’

I know I don’t really blog about my cancer experience anymore, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t think about it every day. Once you have had cancer, it will never not be part of your every day life. Today was a prime example.

I am starting a new job soon and decided it is time to bite the bullet and cut my hair. Nothing dramatic, just a trim to get rid of the dead-ends, but even that activates the butterflies in my stomach. You see, it has been nearly three years since my last haircut. And that really wasn’t by choice.

As most of you know because you’ve been following this blog for most of my journey (thank you!), in May 2012, when I heard after surgery that I would need chemo and would lose all my hair, I decided to have a little fun with it. First, I asked my friend Leane to give me a cute cut, just above my shoulders, so I could donate the hair to Locks of Love. That wasn’t too bad – it was really a cute cut and I knew the hair went to something good.

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Then a couple of weeks later, right before I started chemo, I had her chop it really short. That was more difficult to swallow. I never wanted hair that short… But I knew that I couldn’t handle having long strands falling out.

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And then came chemo. The morning I woke up to hair all over my pillow, I knew it was time. I went to a barber and asked him to shave it bald. He cut as close as possible, but then I had Nick shave it for me.

IMG_0860And that was my last hair cut. Through the bald months, I remember gazing longingly at my friend and sister breast cancer survivor Janie’s very long, beautiful hair on Facebook, and asking her how long before my hair would grow back. She reassured me it would be back before I knew it, but I didn’t really believe her – it seemed like forever…

It’s been two years since my hair started growing back. I was so proud of the little tufts – baby bird hair, as my friend Kim and her daughter Maddie called it.

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As my hair has grown back, I have loved every minute of it. I am so thankful to have hair, I will never complain about it: A bad hair day is still better than a no hair day!

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But I can’t let it just keep growing forever – for it to remain healthy, I knew it was time for a cut. I’ve been preparing myself for this, so thought it would be easy. Nope.

After finishing my last pre-marathon long run (yay! 9 days until I am Running for Rare Diseases in the Boston Marathon!), I took a quick shower and ran down the street to Sanela Salon. I sat down in the chair, looked at Jordan, my stylist, and started to explain to her that this was my first haircut in nearly three years and that it was all new hair. And my eyes started to fill. I promised her I wouldn’t cry through the whole cut! She smiled, said it was fine and we quickly agreed that an inch and some long layers were a good start.

IMG_0852As Jordan started to cut, I actually exhaled. I realized that just because someone cuts your hair, it doesn’t mean it’s all going to fall out. I didn’t even know that’s what I was scared of, it is so silly and unrealistic. But that was the chain of events before, so I guess it was just ingrained¬†in the back of my mind.

Now the first cut is done – and no more tears! I am so thankful to have hair and I love every strand! (And yes, Janie, you were right! ūüėČ )

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p.s. I’d love it if you would add a song to my marathon playlist!¬†Just¬†go to my fundraising page, donate $5 per song, and put the song titles and artists in the comments section. I will add them to my marathon playlist and think of you when they come on while I’m running the marathon! Thank you! (Can’t wait to hear your song choices!)

If you’re going to be at the Boston Marathon, please let me know where you will be along the route so I can watch for you! ūüôā

Can’t make it but still want to track me? (I will start about 11:15 a.m. on Marathon Monday, April 20). All you need is my bib number (My bib # is 28153) and you can either text or email:

    • TEXT – Simply text my Bib Number (28153) to 234567 using your cell phone. You will then receive an sms text response confirmation. You will receive up to 6 texts per bib number. Message & data rates may apply. Text STOP to cancel. Text HELP for help.
    • EMAIL – Go to¬†http://www.baa.org/‚Ķ/participant-inf‚Ķ/att-athlete-alert.aspxSign-up using your mobile phone number for SMS text message updates, or by entering an email address for email updates.

Thank you for your support!!!

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I thought I could get away from cancer. I thought by ending the blog, I wouldn’t think about it every day. Ha! Once you’ve been diagnosed, it doesn’t matter that you’ve finished chemo, radiation, multiple surgeries and been declared “cancer free.” It is always there. With every strange feeling, with each routine health screening, with every glimpse of myself with hair! And now, as many of you know, cancer is my ‘day job,’ too. I wondered if working for an oncology organization would be difficult or depressing, but it’s really the opposite: it energizes me and gives me hope that we can really find a cure (or, realistically, multiple cures)!

If you read my last blog entry, you know that my heart broke over the recent death of a breast cancer sister. This must stop! Help us create happy endings by funding the research needed to find better treatments and cures for all cancers. There are many ways you can help:

Join our fabulous team!!!

Join our fabulous team!!!

  • If you live too far away, are busy that day or just prefer to donate rather than walk, while we will miss your company, we would so appreciate any donation. You can donate by clicking here¬†– and please don’t forget to complete your company’s matching gift request, if applicable!
  • Do you need anything for your kitchen? Shop one of our fundraisers and not only can you get what you need, but a portion of the proceeds will go toward our walk!
  • Have an idea for a fundraiser that can be done by Sept. 21? Please e-mail me and let’s talk!
  • Finally, another of my very favorite events of the year is coming up: Runway for Recovery! Join us on October 16 at the Revere Hotel for my (I never thought I’d say this) modeling debut! Buy tickets here, come cheer me and the other survivor models on,¬†and you will be helping children who have lost their mothers to breast cancer, as well as providing opportunities for health care providers who care for such patients. It’s such an inspiring night – a true celebration of life, sisterhood and survivors.
Last year, I volunteered with Genzyme friends for Runway for Recovery - and excited to be modeling this year!

Last year, I volunteered with Genzyme friends for Runway for Recovery – and I’m excited to be modeling this year!

Please remember, together we really can make a difference and help find a cure! Thank you for helping us kick cancer!!!

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I don’t know why, but I’m suddenly feeling shy and hesitant to post certain things. I got the best news in a long time this afternoon and wanted to tell every stranger I walked by that (spoiler alert)¬†I can now get nipples, but as soon as I got home and thought about updating this blog, I got nervous. Then I saw on Facebook “Duke Porn Star on What People Don’t Understand About Sex at Work” and I thought, “Jeesh, if she can talk about that, I can talk about nipples!”

I found the first lump on March 14, 2012 and this Thursday will be exactly two years from the day I received the call informing me that I had cancer. This is, and I think will always be, a tough week for me. But Tara and I often talk about rewriting memories and maybe getting this news puts a new, happier anniversary on my calendar.

Today I went for my follow-up with Dr. H, my super fabulous reconstructive surgeon. As Cory pointed out to me today, I’ve been worrying about this visit for weeks. Even though I’d been told that the right one would heal differently due to the radiation, I wasn’t sure that the way it was healing differently was the right differently. I’ve thought over and over about friends who have had trouble with their implants – one who said it was like a baseball, another who just had it replaced for the third time –¬†for a total of five surgeries in the last 11 months!

So as¬†Dr. H¬†inspected it with his normal dead-pan expression – he must be a great poker player – I mentioned nervously some of the things I’d observed, like some of the scarring being hard in places, and an end that just didn’t seem as healed as the rest, and I asked if it was healing normally or if it was worse. His response? “It’s healing abnormally well!” He explained that it’s actually better than he expected and really as good as we could hope for a radiated breast. Phew!

So then I asked the question I’ve been waiting to ask since the April 30, 2012, when I lost my breasts: “Can I make the appointment to get 3D nipple tattoos?”¬†Dr. H¬†smiled, nodded, and replied, “Yes, you certainly can.” Woo hoo!!! I also found out that I don’t need to go all the way to Maryland for them (although Vinnie appears to be the Michelangelo of areola tattoos and amongst the pioneers of 3D nipple tattoos). Dr. H recommended Juli Moon right down the road in Lynn, assured me he’s never heard anything but good things, and showed me her portfolio.

Needless to say, I called as soon as I got in the door, before I even got my coat off. I didn’t make the appointment yet as I need to check some things with my schedule, but it looks like in early May I will feel just that much¬†more normal again…

And for some of my friends who are just in the beginning stages of this journey – recently diagnosed, just finished surgery, in chemo or radiation – it may feel like forever, but that will be over soon! You’ll be through treatment, your hair will grow back, you’ll regain your strength and so much of your life. It will be your new normal. And it will be wonderful, and you will be stronger for all you’ve been through! And this is all for you! I wouldn’t be on here talking about nipples if I didn’t think it would help answer some of your questions and ease your road ahead! xoxoxo

 

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At least once every couple of weeks, another person tells me a friend or family member was just diagnosed with cancer. And it’s often breast cancer. I honestly had no idea how common it was until I entered the cancer world nearly two years ago. I now know so many (mostly) women who are all¬†at different stages of their cancer journey.¬†I have one message for every single one of you, no matter what stage of treatment you’re at now: you will get through this!

Treatment will end Рand, honestly, that will be one of the hardest parts. But you will move on. You will get your hair back Рon your head, your eyelashes, your eyebrows, all of it. You will get (if applicable and you choose) new boobs. You will stop feeling so tired. You will start remembering things again. Your head will clear. The tingling will go away. Your visits to the hospital Рyour home away from home for so long Рwill grow further and further apart.

People will no longer be able to tell by looking at you that you had cancer. In fact, many¬†will forget you had cancer.¬†You will never be able to¬†forget, but you will stop thinking about cancer constantly. You will go a full hour without thinking about¬†it, then a few hours, and then even a full day! (I haven’t gone longer than that yet, but expect eventually I’ll even go a week or more without thinking about it – at least I hope!) Your life will resume a new type of normal, which, if you want it to, can at least resemble your old normal.

For my friends just starting their journey, considering their options and deciding their route: it may seem like forever, but honestly, one day (maybe about two years from now) you will be looking back, amazed at how much has happened in such a short amount of time – and happily moving on with your life…

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Curt Schilling, the former World Series Champion Red Sox pitcher just announced to the world that he has cancer. Tears welled up in my eyes. Not because I know Curt personally, but because I know exactly how he felt when he heard those words, “You have cancer.” It was probably the same way my friend Monica’s mom felt when she was diagnosed. And Greg. And Lisa. And Patrick. And Bonnie. And Giuliana. It doesn’t matter if you’re famous, if you’re young, old, a guy or a girl. The world as you know it has ended.

Cancer doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor. You can’t buy your way out of cancer. And the doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital,¬†and I’m sure other¬†hospitals, treat you the same regardless of your bank account. They want to help you beat it, whether your name is in the newspaper or not. ¬†

I hate that anyone has to go through what I did – and some much worse. If I knew Curt, I would tell him the one thing that matters most: It’s all about your attitude. Stay positive, truly believe you will beat it, and (with lots of prayers, support and your dream team of doctors) you will. Be like Monica’s mom who, when she¬†lost all of the hair on¬†her head, simply said she’s happy to be saving money at the hairdresser. Because when it comes down to it, she’s no different from you, Curt. Cancer doesn’t care. But luckily people do.

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My friend Lisa had her first chemo session at Dana-Farber yesterday. I think I was more nervous for her than I was when I went through it! There was no need, though, as she is one of the bravest, most positive people I know. There is no way she’s going to let this stupid cancer mess with her and her fabulous family. Frankly, cancer chose the wrong woman when it entered her cells.

But because I was nervous, I wanted to make sure I passed all I learned through my experience on to Lisa. Not wanting to forget anything, I made a list (on a bright pink post-it note, of course):

Lisa

  • All different
  • Tired
  • Food tastes
  • Eating/weight
  • Eyelashes
  • American Cancer Society (Wig website/Look Good, Feel Better)
  • Wig fitting
  • Lymphedema¬†(sleeve/massage)
  • Insurance
  • Nails
  • Super B vitamins
  • YOU

Pretty random, huh? That’s the thing – so many of the things that are a big deal in your cancer life, you’d never expect. And there is so much happening, so fast, so much to read and absorb, it’s hard to distill what you really need to know. So during lunch, I ran over to Dana-Farber to sit with Lisa and download what I found to be the most important, like…

  • The all important disclaimer that every single person is different. Everyone’s body reacts differently to things – while my arm would get cold while the poison traveled through the IV into my veins, it didn’t bother Lisa. While I loved having my girlfriends at every chemo session (kind of like Sex and the City / Hospital Episode), she may prefer to be alone or just with her family. I was really lucky and didn’t get as sick as I expected from the chemo, and hopefully Lisa will be the same, although I have friends who didn’t want to do anything but sleep through it.
  • You can’t anticipate if you’ll lose or gain weight. Right after my first chemo, my mouth got the metallic¬†taste and I thought for sure I’d hate food and lose weight (yay!)… but of course that only lasted a couple of days, my taste buds returned and food was what made my nausea¬†go away. So of course I gained more than 20 pounds. But you know what? It didn’t matter! My mantra was “whatever makes me feel better” – which included food and retail therapy. And yes, I’m still losing those last couple pounds and trying to pay the credit card bills, but heck it was worth it, because those things made me feel better.
  • Part of that retail therapy were my many wigs, which I passed on to Lisa yesterday – and encouraged her to let her children play with, to help them get used to the idea. She texted me last night that her youngest put on her Little Mermaid dress with the red wig – love it!!!
  • Along with the bald head, I reminded her that EVERY hair on her body will fall out – not just those on her head. I encouraged her to relish the time that she doesn’t have to shave, as it will be back before she knows it. And I also warned her of what was most traumatic for me: losing not my eyebrows but my eyelashes… I was so happy the day they started growing back!
  • Yes, the stupid cancer can do a number on your self-esteem, but it’s so great that there are programs out there like the American Cancer Society’s Look Good, Feel Better program that not only teaches you how to apply your makeup (including creating eyebrows after yours disappear), but gives you a fabulous bag of goodies! A must to take advantage of.

I could’ve gone on and on, but knew I could never tell her everything, and didn’t want to overwhelm her, especially during that first chemo session. (Luckily, Lisa is happily married, or I’d have had to give all my “single cancer girl” tips, too! ūüėČ ) Really, everyone who goes through it has a different experience, and all we can do is pass on our experiences, hope the tips help you not feel like you’re the only one going through this and reduce the surprise of things people didn’t warn you about. And that’s the number one thingto remember: it’s all about you.

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I love lists. Nothing helps me feel more organized and in control than making a thorough list. I make lists for everything: to-do lists, topics I want to cover in this blog, places to visit, lists for Nick.¬†And I write the¬†lists on everything from napkins to the back of receipts (and sometimes even in my iPhone)¬†and hopefully they eventually get transferred into my Arc notebook (best invention ever: moveable pages, so I no longer agonize over what to write on the first page). And it’s the time of year for the list of all lists: New Year’s resolutions.

Before I jump into my latest list focused on 2014, I want to take a minute to look back on 2013. I can hardly believe it’s over! It definitely beat the 2011/12 combo hell year by eons – especially the last few months –¬†but wasn’t exactly a cake walk:

With Nick and Tara, ringing in 2013.

With Nick and Tara, ringing in 2013.

  • It began¬†with me nearly bald, with just some wisps making their way back, and still going through radiation, with one deflated boob.
  • One of my dear friends became a US citizen, at an incredibly moving ceremony at Faneuil Hall, which I was so honored to witness.
Boston, February 9. 2013

Boston, February 9. 2013

  • My birthday was marked by one of the year’s biggest blizzards – an appropriate end¬†to my hellish 38th year – and getting to reinflate my right boob.
Disney March 2013

Disney March 2013

  • Celebrated new beginnings (and the end of treatment other than Tamoxifen) with Kevin, Tara, Nick, Mike, Shannon, Julian, Janie, Monique, Steve and Kelli,¬†and many other family and friends in fabulous Walt Disney World.
Pre-marathon breakfast in Ashland with our Warrior paint on!

Pre-marathon breakfast in Ashland with our Warrior paint on!

  • April brought incredible highs and lows with our Genzyme Boston Marathon Team fundraisers and celebrations, and then the shocking tragic end when the marathon was viciously cut¬†short for the team, Tara and thousands of others. It was the scariest day of my life, as I know¬†it was for so many others.
One Fund fundraiser at Towne, April, 2013

One Fund fundraiser at Towne, April, 2013

  • And¬†less than two weeks¬†after the marathon,¬†Andrew and I threw together a fundraiser for the One Fund that brought in more than $3,000 for the victims.
BAA 10k, June 2013

BAA 10k, June 2013

  • I ran my first 10k (Thanks Lisa!), and learned to deal with lymphedema. (Note to self: Don’t forget sleeve when running!)¬†I also¬†learned to love headbands – anything to control the uncontrollable curls (but ever thankful for any hair!).

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  • It was a summer – a year, really – of incredible concerts with my best friends and family.

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  • Fall brought the Jimmy Fund Boston Marathon Walk (thank you so much to all who sponsored us!!!) and Paris.
  • Of course, it also brought the month of Pink – and I was so thankful so many family and friends joined me for many of the walks, runs, fundraisers – and to cheer me on while I got my first tattoo!
  • Both sets of my parents celebrated 30 years of marriage – and I couldn’t be more thankful for all four of them, and that they each found each other. I know I wouldn’t be me without all of them (or have my two awesome, unique brothers).
  • The Red Sox won the World Series!
  • Several of my friends and family¬†celebrated milestone birthdays and either met, got engaged or married the love of their lives… in fact,¬†I have ¬†(I can’t believe I’m¬†admitting¬†this publicly)¬†Tinder to thank for getting Cory and me together, which really has made my whole life happier…
Best second date EVER!

Best second date EVER!

  • And¬†in December I finally had what¬†was hopefully my final cancer-related surgery: the implants. And I can finally pull my hair back into a baby pony tail. A pretty great way to end 2013…

Now, I’m not one who subscribes to the idea that resolutions are only for January 1. I make them – and evolve them – throughout the year. In fact, I just stumbled upon the list I made on the plane ride home from LA in March 2012, the night before I found the first lump and life changed forever. It’s actually a little painful to glimpse the person I was that day, so innocent of¬† what was¬†growing inside me. I was thinking about¬†cleaning out my wardrobe, getting my finances in order, running more,¬†getting a healthier love life,¬†career development opportunities.¬†So… typical. Most of the list was simply forgotten, as all of my focus shifted to ridding my body of the cancer. Some of the things on that list¬†– like go to France and join a¬†community board¬†– happened in 2013. Some are just making it back to my list now for 2014¬†– like get more involved in a communications industry organization and run a half marathon. (Half, Phil, half. Not whole. That’s not on any of my lists!) And others will probably be recurring themes on my lists forever: be healthier (run more, eat better), get organized,¬†spend less.

But this year’s list is different. Yes, I am sure I will have sub-lists with many of those same things on it, but I want to prioritize and simplify my 2014 list.

  1. Live in the present. Cory, his mom and I debated the wording of this one, as¬†he insisted on pointing out that you really can’t live in any other time unless you have a DeLorean and are friends with Doc Brown. But you know what I mean! Don’t dwell on the past and don’t agonize over the future. And don’t live on my phone/computer.¬†I don’t need to see every¬†Facebook, Twitter or Instagram update – constantly looking at my phone takes away from the real life I’m living, and the time I’m spending with the ones I love.¬†Let yourself be in the moment, right now, right here, and enjoy it. Which really leads to…
  2. Slow down. I’m always running around, crazy busy. And it’s not always necessary, or¬†for things that matter.
  3. Spend time with the people I love. That’s what does matter. The people in your life. And I am so blessed to have many incredible people in my life and I want them to know how much they mean to me. And nothing says that more than the gift of your time. I know I am happiest when I’m just hanging out with my friends and family…
  4. Be healthier. Ok, yes, this is on the list above, and is ‘typical’ but I can’t help it. I texted Tara the other day that as much as I hate running, I need it. I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately, grouchy more than normal and¬†it hit me:¬†I am simply happier when I’m running and eating better. So I’m actually anxious for this mandated rest period while my chest heals to end. Of course, I hate the cold, so the real running may not completely ramp up until spring, but I can start eating better and running on the treadmill. It will help make me…
  5. Be a better person. I stole this one from Cory. I love it. It’s exactly what I want to do this year. I want to be a better person for me, and for everyone around me – and ultimately to help make the world a better place. I want to pay it forward for all the love and¬†kindness you all bestow¬†upon me all the time. I’m going to think more positively and mute the negative. I want to learn – both¬†to enhance my¬†knowledge for my career and for enjoyment. I want people to know they can count on me, I want to¬†realize that I don’t need to do everything myself and I want to learn to trust. I want to help people through their tough times, as so many have helped me these last couple of years. Above all else, I want to say “thank you” more, to pray more, and to make sure that everyone I love knows how much they mean to me. Kind of like Live Like You Were Dying, huh?

I know many others are thinking along the same lines as me on their lists this year. In fact, Tara posted a link to this great list on my Facebook page, and she really is right on: Resolving to Care More and Slow Down in 2014 by Doree Shafrir for BuzzFeed. Can you imagine how much happier we would all be if we all had lists like this – and actually followed through with them? I’m going to do my best to live this list in 2014. Please help me – call me out if I’m not living it!

Wishing you all your happiest, healthiest year yet! And I want to hear what’s on YOUR list!

xo

Amy

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