Thursday, June 30, 2011

How Can YOU Help?

You might have noticed that my blog has changed from when I first started writing it last January.  It began as a private diary, where I reflected and sorted out my feelings about my diagnosis of breast cancer.  I invited my closest friends and family to read this blog for updates about what was going on in my life.  After I finished chemotherapy, I felt comfortable sharing my deeply personal story with everybody that knows me.  I linked my posts to my (relatively small) network of facebook friends and acquaintances.  But now I feel that my blog needs to evolve into something more: It needs to serve some kind of purpose.

It is rare to hear about someone having breast cancer in their twenties, but this happens more often than you think.  In reality, breast cancer strikes college students, new brides, young moms, career-oriented women, etc.  The biggest problem is that the disease isn’t detected early enough, because these “young” women do not think that they have anything to worry about and they are not consistent enough in checking their breasts.  (Reminder: even during pregnancy, do those breast exams!) 

I want to spread breast cancer awareness and information by exposing my blog to as 
many readers as possible, even to people who I don't personally know.

Maybe it will remind a young woman to get a lump checked out before it is too late.  Maybe I can provide encouragement to someone who was recently diagnosed and is feeling lost and confused, desperately trying to make sense of things.  After reading about my experiences, they may realize that cancer treatments are manageable and that life is even more precious than they had ever known it to be.  I want to reach out to other women by offering to talk through email and/or phone conversations, and by giving the best advice that I can.  I can recommend specific items for women currently going through treatments, and I also have plenty of extras!  Although I am sure that people can imagine what chemotherapy, lumpectomies, and mastectomies must feel like, nobody really understands until you have experienced it yourself.  I pray that most of you never will have to.  But, for those diagnosed, I want to be here for emotional support and as somebody who knows exactly what you are going through.  Nobody should go through this alone.

My goal is for this blog to be mentioned all over the internet, particularly those sites reaching women in their twenties and thirties.  I have linked up to certain cancer information sites and also to mommy/baby sites in an attempt to reach all types of women in this age group.  

So what am I asking from you?  A simple click of your mouse button, representing a vote for my blog!  No, I’m not trying to win a popularity contest and I won’t receive any prizes for winning.  The reason that I need your vote is because these votes allow my blog to move up higher on the charts. Then, more people will find my blog, raising the opportunity for me to help other people through breast cancer awareness, information, and support.  (And of course, more people will get to see pictures and hear stories about my adorable baby boy... an added bonus!)

Please help me out...

1. Click on the Top Baby Blog button (located on the right sidebar, and also at the bottom of this post)
2. Click the owl on the left to vote
3. Click it ONCE a day (the more days, the better!)

That’s it!  No gimmicks. And you remain completely anonymous.  

If you really want to do more (over-achievers!) then click on one of the social network buttons listed on the bottom of this post (stumbleupon, facebook, and twitter) and link up my blog to share with your friends.  This would help me to reach an even wider audience.

If those aren't reasons enough to get your vote or link up, then at least do it for this little guy.

I’ll give him extra hugs and kisses for every vote that we get!
...of course, I would do that anyways.

vote please?
Vote For Us @ TopBaby Blogs! The Best Baby Blog Directory

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Double Mastectomy = DONE

I am happy to be updating with some VERY GOOD NEWS today.  My double mastectomy with reconstruction surgery went extremely well and both of my surgeons said that my skin and tissues look great for expansion.  The expansion process will take place throughout the next month or two, when I go in for my weekly doctor’s appointments.  A nurse came over today and said that everything looks like it is healing right on schedule, with no signs of infection.  And we also found out that the surgery revealed that there was no cancer in my sentinel lymph nodes.

(This is obviously not me, but I like the idea/concept)
So, I am cancer-free, 
ned (no evidence of disease),
 and most excitingly, 

Praise God.. through Him, all things are possible!

It is comforting for me to see how everything that I suffered through was absolutely worth it: the chemotherapy and surgeries, my experiences that changed me as a person (teaching me humility and to rely whole-heartedly on God), and ultimately beating this disease.  I now have a sense of inner peace and calmness.  I love myself: imperfections and all.  I believe that I am capable of facing the challenges of this life, whatever they might be.  I appreciate each day that I have to spend with my beautiful loved ones while they are here.  And I don’t think that I could ever take a single moment of life for granted again.

As I mentioned before, I am recovering from surgery just about as well as could be expected.  (Maybe even a little better?)  Thanks to my friend A, who recently had this surgery herself, I received some interesting advice and a list of useful items to have all ready for when I came home from the hospital. It turns out that she was absolutely, 100% correct about the must-have items!  I have been living in my satin pajamas, which help me to move around and get myself up out of bed (since I can’t use my arms or chest muscles).  I have to drink out of a straw because I can’t hold a cup.  I use lots of pillows propped up under my arms whether I’m sitting up or laying down.  I use to be a side sleeper, but now it is way too painful to lay in any position except flat on my back.  (Hopefully, that will change when my expanders are taken out in six months).  I still need a LOT of help when I try to take a shower because my muscles are somewhat numb and not ready to hold up my torso without the help of a supportive bra. 
(yucky drains that should be coming out this week)
I also have tubes and drains coming out of each side, which need to be emptied and measured twice a day.  So far, my mom has been helping me with the drains, giving me Lovenox shots, and getting things for me that I can’t reach.  Barry has been taking care of Ryan at night, cleaning up, bringing me food, and helping me with whatever else I need.  We are also fortunate that our nanny is very flexible, and didn’t even mind coming at 5 am to watch Ryan the morning of the surgery.  I want to thank everyone who has given us their support through encouraging messages, emails, and offers to come visit.  I plan on taking it easy for the next few days (because I am trying to stop taking pain medicine so that I don’t sleep all of the time).  But I would love to have visitors starting next weekend or sometime after that!  I miss you and love you all so very much!  Thanks for all the prayers... they worked!  xoxo!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Surgery Tomorrow

We will be leaving here tomorrow at 5am to drive up to Baltimore for my double mastectomy with reconstruction surgery.  I am thankful to have so much love and support from my friends and family.  I know that there are tons of prayers being said for me.

I am so ready to be done with breast cancer, and I feel like this is the last major obstacle that I will have to overcome.  I'm expecting a long recovery (about six weeks) and lots of pain, but I know that the sooner I get through this, the sooner I can go back to taking care of my beautiful baby boy!!!!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Weekend Recipes

I hope that everyone enjoyed their Father’s Day!  Ryan had so much fun spending time with his daddy and his grandpa (my dad) this past weekend.  We also had a pool playdate with J and P, and then discovered how to climb up onto things (uh oh!).  We will be “updating” our living room to remove the infant swing and jumperoo that are no longer safe for our little climber.  Ryan has also been giving me kisses and hugs every day now.  I absolutely love this 9-month-old stage.

Here are some recipes that I made over the weekend...

-Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins from

-Apple Crisps with Flaxseed (so delicious that I ate a bunch before I could even take the picture): 

-Slow Cooked Chicken (with carrots, celery, and onions) from

I’m glad that I finally got a chance to use our slow cooker that we got as one of our wedding gifts (two years ago… ooops!)  It wasn't too difficult once I got everything chopped up and put in.  I did need a little bit of help cleaning the whole chicken.  Then, I just let it cook in there all day while I did other things around the house, like laundry and putting things away.  I will definitely be using our slow cooker more often in the future because I love how tender the chicken turned out.  I love eating things that are healthy and yummy at the same time!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Too Many Doctor's Appointments

I think that we could win an award for having the most doctor’s appointments in a given week.  Not so fun.  Ryan had an appointment with the pediatrician on Monday morning.  He has a cold (first one ever) and his poor little nose is sore from running so much!  Thankfully, he seems to be getting better each day.

On Monday afternoon, I met with a nurse at my surgeon’s office to discuss my upcoming surgery in detail and to receive instructions on how to prepare for it.  I then met with the occupational therapist to learn about the exercises that I will need to do throughout the weeks following the surgery. These exercises are very important in my recovery process because not only will they help me to achieve a range of motion back in my arms and shoulders, but they will also lower my risk of developing lymphedema. (Lymphedema is the swelling in your arms as a result of fluid accumulation.  It often happens after having your lymph nodes removed).  The scary thing about Lymphedema is that it can show up randomly, at any time, even a few years out from surgery.  I do not want to have to wear compression sleeves on my arms every day for years down the road.  So, needless to say, I will be doing all of the exercises that they recommend!

My mom and I both had our PET scans done on Tuesday.  Afterwards, I went to have an ultrasound done on my arm.  I have been on Coumadin for almost four months now, and we were hoping that the blood clots would have completely dissolved.  However, they still found one thickened blood vessel, so I will be staying on the medicine for at least another two months.  I will have to give myself Lovenox shots (the stinging, burning kind) at home for a few days following my surgery because I’m not allowed to take Coumadin near surgery time.

On Wednesday, I took Lucky and Lily to their vet appointments.  They got their shots and also had some tests done.  I was relieved to find out that they seem to be doing well, with no health problems (yay!!).  The only issue is that Lucky has an extra tooth growing in that will need to be extracted within a few months.  It shouldn’t be a big deal, although they will have to put him on anesthesia for the procedure.  I just hope that the tooth isn’t hurting him in the meantime.  They are both such sweet little dogs.      

Yesterday, I took my mom to her chemo appointment and I also had an appointment with Dr. R. and
we both got some great news!

My mom’s PET scan showed that her cancer is shrinking again, which means that this chemo is doing its job and working really well!  And mine showed no evidence of disease!  We will know right after surgery whether or not my lymph nodes are also clear.

It has been an incredible month for me as I have been growing stronger, more energetic, and feeling closer to myself again.  One major difference that I do notice is that my body needs more sleep than it used to.  Before, I usually got about five hours of sleep most nights.  Now I need eight or nine hours of sleep to function if I hope to make it through the whole day.  I guess I should just consider this the “new normal”.  I’m also still experiencing neuropathy (pins and needles) in my hands and feet.  And then there’s my hair: showing no signs of growth, even after seven weeks of not receiving chemotherapy.  I came across this cute little story the other day, which keeps everything in perspective:

There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and noticed she had only three hairs on her head. "Well," she said, "I think I'll braid my hair today." So she did and she had a wonderful day.  The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that she had only two hairs on her head. "H-M-M, " she said, "I think I'll part my hair down the middle today." So she did and she had a grand day.  The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that she had only one hair on her head. "Well," she said, "Today I'm going to wear my hair in a pony tail." So she did and she had a fun, fun day.  The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that there wasn't a single hair on her head. "YEAH!" she exclaimed, "I don't have to fix my hair today!  (Attitude is everything!)

I know that it will require a lot of patience on my part to wait until my body returns to normal, especially after my surgeries.  I’m praying that God will help me to develop this patience over the long months ahead and that He will shape my life according to His plan.  There is so much good that has come out of all of this already.  I am so very grateful that I have been given a second chance at life!  Thank you, God, for Your mercy.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  –Romans 12:12

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pancakes and Pinterest

I found a recipe for Banana and Blueberry Pancakes from one of my best friends, E, at Untilyoutri.  I made this for my husband the other day, and we both agree… it is absolutely delicious!  (Note: be sure to try it with the yogurt syrup and cinnamon on top!)  I confess that I may have eaten this entire plate by myself:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour,  2 tablespoons sugar,  2 teaspoons baking powder,  1/2 teaspoon salt,  1 egg, lightly beaten,  1-1/4 cups fat-free milk,  3 medium ripe bananas, mashed,  1 teaspoon vanilla extract,  1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (If using frozen blueberries, do not thaw),  Maple syrup, optional,  Powdered sugar, optional
Cinnamon-Vanilla Butter
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened,  1/2 teaspoon cinnamon,  1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Yogurt Syrup
1/2 cup vanilla or plain yogurt (I used Dannon Light and Fit Vanilla),  2 tablespoons (or to taste) syrup
For cinnamon-vanilla butter: Combine softened unsalted butter, cinnamon and vanilla extract in a bowl. Mix until well combined. Set aside.
For pancakes: In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, combine the egg, milk, bananas and vanilla; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Gently stir in blueberries.
Coat a large flat pan with cooking spray. Turn pan to low heat. Pour pancake batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto the pan. Turn when bubbles form on top; cook until second side is golden brown.
Serve with maple syrup, sifted powdered sugar, yogurt topping, and/or cinnamon-vanilla butter, if desired.

Now for another confession: I have been addicted to Pinterest for the past few months and I am guilty of contributing to the addiction of others! (hehe).

Pinterest is basically a website that allows you to take any image from the internet and place it onto “boards” that you create and categorize.  Then you can share your boards with others.  The best part is that when you click on an image, it takes you back to the page that it originally came from, providing all of the information that you could want on it.  So convenient!  This eliminates the need for bookmarks and files saved on your computer.  It is a great visual way to organize your ideas, share inspiration, express yourself, etc.  It can be used for practically anything.  So far, I've used Pinterest to keep track of recipes, decorating ideas, party plans, crafts, cute outfits for Ryan, and a "wish list" for myself.  I also downloaded the iphone app, which allows you to take pictures while you're out and immediately pin them to your boards.

The only catch is that Pinterest is not open to the public yet, so you have to be invited by somebody who already has it to join.  I will gladly send an invitation to anyone who would like to join and see what it is all about.  Any takers?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Florida Vacation

In an attempt to squeeze in one more fun vacation before my surgery, we decided to spend last week at our absolute favorite place in the world: The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne (where we got married almost two years ago!)  We have made it a point to go there every year since we got engaged, and we always take a picture in front of the gazebo where we said our vows.  This year, Ryan got to experience everything with us for the first time!

Engaged, married, pregnant, and now with our baby!!!
Although we had a very enjoyable trip, we quickly learned that traveling with a baby isn’t exactly the type of “vacation” that we were used to.  Everything changes when you add a baby to the mix.  First of all, your schedule constantly revolves around the baby.  Baby needs to eat, be put to sleep, and be calmed when fussy… there’s no vacation from that!  Also, teamwork is essential.  Barry and I took turns going into the pool with Ryan, pushing him around in the stroller, and playing with him on the beach, so that the other one of us could relax and lay down in the sun for a few minutes.  I brought a book to read and an ipod to listen to, but of course, I didn’t have time to do either one of those things.  There’s simply no “down time” when a baby is involved!  Lastly, babies need lots of STUFF.  I never thought it possible that anyone would need more luggage than I do (I don’t travel lightly!) but between diapers, wipes, bath supplies, “emergency” stuff, onesies, sleep sacks, regular outfits, toys, baby food, swimsuits, blow up raft and beach toys, stroller, etc… Ryan’s luggage more than tripled ours!

Ryan was very “adventurous” on the beach.  Meaning: he tried to get as messy as possible and crawl away from us as fast as he could.  At least I know that he had tons of fun…

 …except for the time that he decided to taste the sand (yuck!) or when we tried to put sunglasses on him, which he was not happy about.  He knows exactly what he wants and what he doesn’t want… such a strong personality for a little guy!

As usual, Ryan loved getting into the pool and meeting lots of other babies his age.  (Who would have thought that a Ritz-Carlton would be so populated with babies?)  It was really cute seeing all of the tiny ones splash around in the pool on little rafts or in their parents’ arms.  To protect Ryan from the sun, I always use spf 50 sunscreen on him, in addition to covering his little head with a hat and placing him under the shade of an umbrella or his raft.  I also have to wear a hat myself, and be careful laying out in the sun, because the chemotherapy stays in my body for a while.  Oh well, at least we can be pale together...

After leaving Key Biscayne, we headed up to Boca Raton to spend a few nights with Barry’s parents. Ryan got to meet a bunch of Barry’s friends from high school for the first time, and also two of his great grandpas. It was nice for Ryan to spend time with his relatives that he doesn’t get to see as often.  He especially liked going into their pool (yes, more pool time!) in the backyard.

Considering the fact that this vacation was Ryan’s first time flying on a plane, everything went extremely well.  For the trip going down, he was a perfect angel the entire time.  I actually loved all of the extra cuddle time and him falling asleep on me!  Coming back, our plane was delayed for six hours.  We actually had to the board the plane and get off twice, because they decided to delay it even further.  Ryan was a little more restless and squirmy in our laps, but still very good, in spite of the circumstances.

Today Ryan is 9 months old!  

He has officially been living in the world for longer than he was inside my tummy.  I am so proud of his accomplishments and look forward to each exciting, new stage of babyhood.  But there will always be a longing in my heart for that sweet little six-pound newborn bundle, relying on us at every moment to meet his every need.  

Ryan has his own agenda these days and asserts his independence by waving us away if he wants to do something all by himself.  He can say: “Mama”, “Dada”, “no no no” (while shaking his head), and “ba” (which seems to mean anything and everything else).  He mostly likes to use his own special baby language.  I wish I could understand what he was saying and thinking! 

Ryan can now crawl very fast, pull himself up to a stand, and walk while holding on to things or holding our hands.  His favorite things to play with are water bottles, cell phones, our keys, and a piece of paper.  (Hmm, if I would have known that, we could have saved a lot of $ on baby toys!)  He also likes to look at books and squinch his eyebrows together while taking in everything on the pages.  I think that he looks so smart when he does that!  

Some things that Ryan doesn’t like are: getting his face wiped, hearing loud laughter, sweet peas, or wearing clothes.  It has become such a struggle to change his diaper and put clothes on him because he just rolls over and crawls away if you don’t pin him down and then do everything else with just one hand! 

We recently had some professional pictures taken by J. Otte Photography for Ryan's 9 month photo shoot!  We are still waiting to get the pictures back and I can’t wait to see them and post them soon!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Laundry Day

Just a typical, laid-back Sunday: cleaning, laundry, and spending time with our little one.  Perfection! It's these everyday moments that I enjoy the most.

We are still winding down from our fun but exhausting vacation to Florida last week (with lots of pictures soon to come!) and catching up on everything around the house.  This week I have several pre-op appointments and other appointments each day.  I'm trying to squeeze in as much productivity as possible into these next 10 days before my surgery.

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Friday, June 3, 2011

K and R's Wedding

K’s wedding was classy and elegant… just like her!  She looked radiant as a bride, and I think that the flowers in her hair were the perfect final touch!

You could tell that K had put lots of thought into even the minor details of her wedding.  Everything was perfect.  She chose daises for the bridesmaids’ bouquets, which we actually wrapped ourselves.  (A great budget-saving idea!) Our dresses were all different styles, which we got to choose, all in her favorite shade of blue.  Even the napkins perfectly matched with the exact same shade of blue!

I loved her music choices during dinner and she even had them play our song during dancing.  "Hips Don’t Lie" will always remind me of the summer after college when K and I went out dancing almost every night!  

The sweetest thing is that K pinned a pink ribbon under her dress in my honor.  I actually had a blue one pinned under my own wedding dress in honor of my mom.   

K is so thoughtful and has a natural ability to make everyone around her feel special just to know her.  I cried so much during the ceremony and speeches (how embarrassing!) because all of the things that they said about K were so true and I was just overwhelmed with happiness for her.  

The weather was absolutely perfect for the outdoor ceremony.  J, another bridesmaid, sang "When You Say Nothing At All".  J's voice is phenomenal... she is definitely on the road to being famous soon! 

K and R are the cutest couple, and I know that they will have a long, happy life together.  They both looked so happy and laid back at the wedding.  I hope that their special day was everything that they dreamed it would be!

I’m so thankful to have such amazing girlfriends.  It felt so good to be dancing and having fun with them, and to have my energy back!  This picture reminds me of us all dancing together in high school… and here we are, ten years later, still as happy and as close as ever!  xoxo!

K's Bridal Shower

Last weekend was super busy, as we celebrated at K’s bridal shower and rehearsal picnic on Saturday, and then her wedding on Sunday.  E and I headed the planning for the shower.  I couldn’t have done it without her... she helped organize everything, sent out informative emails to the rest of the bridesmaids, and pulled it all together to make it a successful event!

Our other best friend, J, was able to come down for the entire weekend, even though she has a demanding med school schedule and has to spend most of her weekends on call.  I was so excited to spend so much quality girl time with my three best friends!  Love them! <3

I was in charge of the decorations and favors for the bridal shower.  I got dark blue and light blue balloons (some of which escaped from me as I left the party store…  ooops!)  I also made a welcome sign for guests to sign as they arrive, which K would have as a keepsake, and I made tissue paper luminarias.

I put together a “Something Blue” station to go along with the theme of the shower.  I decorated jars full of blue raspberry tootsie rolls, wedding ring candies, blue flower soaps, blue tea light candles, and blue coconut Hershey kisses.  Guests were supposed to take a bag and help themselves to the favors.  

For games, E made one where we had to guess the meaning of British slang words (K’s fiancĂ© is British) and I made a "famous couples" game.  M, another bridesmaid, put together a scrapbook of the bridal shower for K.  She passed out cute scrapbook cut-outs and we all wrote advice/notes to go in it.

The best part about the shower was the delicious food!  K’s brother’s gf is a chef (not professional, but she should be!) and she compiled some amazing dishes and desserts that we all were super impressed with!  YUM!!

After the shower, we headed out for a picnic, where we also had the dress rehearsal for the wedding.  K gave us our bridesmaid gifts: Vera Bradley bags in our favorite colors, and a nice set of makeup brushes.  She had also paid for us all to get our nails done that morning!  Thanks, K! 

Ryan was pretty fussy the whole time at the picnic, but at least he discovered some grass and crawled around in it.  That kept him entertained for a little while.  We came home exhausted- but a good exhausted- knowing that tomorrow was the big day!

Thursday, June 2, 2011


What if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights is what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life, are Your mercies in disguise
When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds the heart that this is not our home
What if my greatest disappointments, or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if the trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the darkest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise
~Blessings by Laura Story

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