Spring into Action

So today felt like Spring here on the east coast and with that first feel of sun and warmth I always get inspired to do stuff.  What kinda of stuff do you ask?  Well the stuff that makes you feel good, makes you feel inspired, makes you want to soar and not curl up in a ball and go to bed like winter can make you do.  I want to go through my pantry and clear out anything that’s not healthy.  I want to spring clean my house and get rid of any unnecessary clutter.  I want to workout till my endorphins are pumping.  I want to organize every aspect of my life from photos to the laundry room?!!! What?!  Yes overzealous, crazy, obsessed, you name it…that’s kinda what I’m feeling.  And after talking to different people recently  through my volunteer outreach coordinator position with FORCE, I realized that finding out you have  hereditary breast and ovarian cancer can make you feel the same way.  You feel like you want to and have to do so much to get out of the cloud that is hanging over you.  The BRCA and/or hereditary cancer cloud (because we know that so many other besides those with BRCA mutations face hereditary breast and ovarian cancer).  This is silly, I know, but you kinda want to step out of the winter hibernation (the you with the cancer stuff) and jump into a mode (spring) with everything healthy, happy and sunny!!! I understand this so much.  I didn’t wait long before I opted for prophylactic double mastectomy.  I felt the need to get it done, I sprung into action immediately to fix the problem.  And I believe that this works for some, but I think the reason I felt compelled to blog tonight after so much time on hiatus, is I want people to know that there is nothing wrong with taking time to make your decisions.  You don’t have to spring into action, and instead you can enjoy the fact that the power is in your hands.  You have the information and now you can decide what to do about it.  You are not sick.  You did not just find out you have cancer.  You found out that you are predisposed to cancer.  This is powerful information.  I have many friends who didn’t have this information first and they found out they had cancer before they ever knew they had the gene or a hereditary element.  Realize that you have time to decide what to do…get advice, talk to doctors, make sure you are getting check ups of all the right parts and then make your decisions.

Though I acted fast with my decision about my breasts, I am taking my time with the decision about my ovaries.  I am making sure I know what I am getting into with this next step in the process.  I do feel the pressure sometimes to get it done, to eliminate yet another part of my body that could possibly cause me cancer but in the meantime I am gathering information, getting advice and remembering that at this point I hold the powerful information in my hands.  I know my predispositions so I can make sure my doctors are checking me and eventually will help me to eliminate the other threat to my health.

For now I am going to hope for more awesome Spring days like today. Do all those things that make this season awesome for me and get the necessary info for my next steps in the continuing BRCA/ hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer journey.


Thanks for reading this post!


One Year Anniversary

Today one year ago I was sitting in my hospital bed post double mastectomy in massive pain but still grateful that I had an option to stop breast cancer before it hit my body.  Today one year ago I became a previvor ( surviving my predisposition to breast cancer by getting rid of my risk of breast cancer).  And Today, November 5, 2014 I look back with no regrets at the journey with my breasts that took me just under a year to complete.  From start to finish it involved  a double mastectomy, about 6 weekly expander saline fills during reconstruction, a second surgery for swapping expanders for implants, nipple reconstruction and nipple/areola tattooing.  Besides the procedure part the road included all of the following; pain, crying, laughing, anger, pills, acupuncture, physical therapy, lots of driving, many long conversations, broken and made friendships, many glasses of wine, a little/lot retail therapy, and so much more that I can’t even remember.  The most important and thing that helped me through it all was the hugs from my kids and reassurance from my husband that I was doing the right thing.

So one year later and a long time since I’ve written a blog post I feel compelled to share again about this journey.  A journey many women with a hereditary predisposition to cancer are choosing to take today but a journey that comes with so much more than just lowered risk of getting breast cancer.  I say it comes with so much more because I sit here thinking back about my year and all it entailed.  It started with a chosen surgery but throughout the year it turned into meeting new people, gaining trusted friends, learning about genetics, understanding my body, and mostly feeling blessed because I had a choice.  I met way too many women this year who found cancer in their body before they knew they either had a hereditary element or were actually positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations.  The advances in medicine today make it possible for many people to know about their genetics.  Though it’s not always an easy process because of insurance, etc. to get the testing necessary to find this information out, many people don’t even know that they have a choice or even understand what their family genetics means for their own health.  If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s to take charge of your health and make sure you know what has gone on  with the people in your family as far as illness and disease.

The one thing I don’t want to forget to say is during the summer I attended my 20 year high school reunion.  On that night so many people I had known as a child validated what I had done, said they had read my blog, knew my story and were proud of the choices I made this past year.  Thank you so much for telling me this…I don’t think we all realize how important it is in life to tell people when you think they have done good or made the right decisions.  Taking risks, making decisions that are life changing can be so scary. To change a body just because of a potential risk and not actual imminent threat of cancer is scary but the reassurance made me feel at peace.

Now I move into the next year and start to tackle my next health concern, my ovaries.  Because if you remember my posts from the past, I have elevated risk for both breast and ovarian cancer by having the BRCA1 mutation.  I know this is just another part of the journey with me trying to prevent cancer from getting into my body.  All of it scary but all of it in my eyes is necessary.

What I will be doing for now is being a part of the fight against cancer, I am and will continue to be a part of FORCE the awesome organization helping women like me with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer in their family.


Thanks for reading my post,



The Balance of Life When You Have Health Issues

Ok so here I am sitting at my computer almost 3 weeks post swap out surgery and I am thinking about how hard it is to be and do all the things you want to do.  I know I have just had 2 surgeries in the span of 4 months with constant doctors appointments in between but why is life this way…why can you never get anything done and sometimes have so much guilt for not being more of who you want to be.  It’s super frustrating!  I am a doer and when I can’t do everything it sucks!   And I don’t want to feel guilty during this time for doing the things that make me the most happy but I sometimes do….That being said….

My last surgery went great and I can tell all those others out there going through this similar situation, the swap out surgery is no big thing.  Usually goes pretty smoothly.  I felt pretty good within a couple of days.  Fast Forward to 1 week post surgery and I made the itty bitty mistake of wanting to do a juice cleanse.  I was doing great, listening to the doctor about what to do, taking my medicine to feel well…etc…then I thought why not rid my body of all the bad stuff, anesthesia etc. and feel even better.  DONT DO THIS SO SOON AFTER SURGERY!!!!    That just had to be capitalized because I went through my first day of drinking 5 juices and having a veggie dinner and thought oh no big deal, until the middle of the night when my body really went into detox mode and I thought I had the flu.  My head was spinning, I was shaky, etc., etc…  Absolutely awful.  Seth told me to get in the kitchen and eat something, and at first this didn’t even help…it made me more sick.  Slowly though with some food and lots of water I started to feel better.  At the same time my mom who wasn’t post surgery did the juice cleanse for a full 3 days and felt great!!  Lesson Learned:  juice cleanses can be good for detoxifying the body but not smart after a major surgery.  I basically took all that stuff that was in my different organs and flooded my blood stream with toxins that were trying to get released.  Don’t ever do that.  The one positive thing from it, is going into surgery I was having major sugar cravings, m and m’s etc… and my 1 day version of the cleanse rid me of that.. I have not wanted any chocolate/sugar since that cleanse. And since my mom loved doing it I definitely can recommend the one she and I did (or I attempted to do).

– Joe Cross’ 3-Day Weekend Juice Cleanse/The Dr. Oz Show


So now that I told you how that went, back to being and doing everything.  I am really learning through this whole process how hard all aspects of your life can get when you have other major stuff going on.  What order do you put things…family, your health, friends, activities…etc.  How do you prioritize all of that.  How do you say no to things, say yes to others and forget things that you really want to do.  How do you make sure every person you love and care about gets your attention.

Well…my answer is…that’s impossible to know.  You just go with each day, knowing the husband and kids need to come first as well as your health and everything else will somehow fall into place.  But unfortunately it doesn’t always do that and it’s so hard, especially for someone like me who is super sensitive and has lots of guilt (thank you jewish genes) (us jews are known for guilt).  As a person I think you just need to sit down and figure out what is important to you. For instance, I know being a part of FORCE (Facing Our Risk Against Cancer Empowered) is important to me and being connected to women who have gone through a similar experience as me or different but share this same hereditary breast and ovarian cancer plague that we need to escape from.  I also know that my 3 kids and my husband need my constant attention and I am going to do my gosh darn it best to give it to them.  Do I want to do other stuff, do I want to be able to go places, see people, work, etc…Of course I do!!  There are so many things I want to do.  But I know that now is not the time or I should say I am learning now is not that time.  If I get to do half of the things I want to do then great…the rest will have to wait.

Love yourself, be on top of your health and be there for your family.

Thanks for letting me share,



P.S. – So happy to be done with expansion process of reconstruction from double mastectomy and am very satisfied with the end result!  Dr. Serletti at Penn was awesome with all of this!!  Thank you, Thank you Thank you!!!!

A Heart Full of Love

I’ve been trying to write this post for the last two weeks and for those of you who live on the east coast you will know that the amount of snow days we had this past month made it hard to do anything.  It especially has made it hard for me to have anytime to do anything remotely related to myself since my three little kids have needed constant entertaining.  So the post I started a couple of weeks ago can finally get finished now.  I started writing on Valentine’s Day and that’s why this post is entitled “Heart Full of Love.”

On Valentine’s Day I not only get to enjoy the special day of love but also celebrate my birthday! Woo hoo!  And on the special day that was both my birthday and Valentine’s Day I thought about all that I am so thankful for in my life, my loves and my new adventures!  One of my new adventures I came to through my health journey with BRCA1 mutation and I don’t know where I would be without it, is being an advocate for FORCE (facing our risk empowered).  I’ve chatted about FORCE probably in every post but today my heart is full because I am thinking about the most amazing experience I had on February 9th with FORCE.

On February 9th I attended my first meeting.  Crazy right, I said yes to helping in an organization when I never actually had attended a meeting.  Why you ask,  well from the moment I signed up for FORCE they have overwhelmed me with support and friendship.  I instantly had people who wanted to guide me through my BRCA journey and make sure I felt supported.  People gave me insight into what I would be going through and how to handle each and every situation.  You never realize how important it is to talk to someone who has gone through something similar until you do it.  And when you do, well, wow…it really helps.  Support is a must and I now really get why support groups are so important.  So as I was saying I attended my first meeting on February 9th and it was fantastic.  Imagine being in a room full of people all with a similar link (the hereditary breast and ovarian cancer element) but all on different paths.  You get an opportunity when in a room like that to hear stories you never imagined. The environment is one that makes you feel welcome to talk about your journey, ask questions and get advice for your health future.  Since these meetings are confidential in nature, meaning people can share and be comfortable their stories will not be passed on unless they want them to be, I will not go in to detail about what was discussed.  What I can say is to be in a room with people who generally are concerned for those who are affected by your cause, your health issues, it can really make a difference in your life.  A difference that made me walk away feeling full of emotion and ecstatic to be a part of this amazing organization.

As I went through the week from that meeting to my birthday I thought that I am so lucky to have gained so much insight through being a member of FORCE and through being positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation.  Some might see this as an awful hand to be dealt but for some reason it has really been a blessing for me.  I have met so many amazing people over the past 8 or 9 months that I know will be a part of my life for many years to come.  I’ve learned who I can really depend on in times of need.  I’ve found something that I am passionate about and want to be a part of to ensure future generations don’t have to suffer from breast or ovarian cancer. And I generally have been able to be happy with myself because I feel I am making good decisions.  And I really think good decisions lead to more good than bad.  So my whole life just feels better.

And as I go into this week with my swap out surgery only days away, I am excited that one part of my journey with this prophylactic process is almost over.  I do still have to make decision about nipples, etc.  But for the most part my boobs will be done and they will be safe from breast cancer.  Hooray!!!

So on Tuesday my amazing mom will come into town to help out with the kids and I will be surrounded by the love of her, my kids and my awesome husband to get through another surgery and move into recovery mode!

My last thoughts, if you have any issue health related seek group help or support to get through it.  You will be amazed at how much it can help.  If you are someone in the community of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers, get involved in FORCE. FORCE can really help in your journey whatever place you are in it.  And if you are lucky to be one healthy duck, well, support your friends, family and loved ones.

Also, I forgot to mention above that the meeting I attended was held at my acupuncturist’s office. Dory Ellen Fish you rock!  Dory and her colleague, Rachel Wolf discussed how acupuncture can help the body heal, recover and reduce stress. They also took people into treatment rooms to show what the process is about.  I’ve discussed acupuncture before and I truly believe that it helps the mind and body.  Thanks Dory for showing the women of FORCE what a great experience this can be.

Think good thoughts for me this week.😉

Thanks for letting me share and sorry I’ve been absent for a while,


Give Me the Real Falsies!

My official swap out date is February 27th, when my temporary fake boobs will be swapped for my permanent fake boobs!  Kinda a funny way to look at it but that’s what I’ve been thinking because it’s hard to ever think that I will feel as if the boobs I will have in the future will feel real.  Another weird emotional part of this whole reconstruction process.  You feel as if the boobs are no longer part of your body not unlike the way many women feel when they have children and they breast feed.  But after breastfeeding the feeling of them being yours returns again, will this happen once my real implants are put in?  I hope.  In the meantime I walk around with rocks on my chest and I bounce off things when I bump into walls, etc…and my kids really hate lying on my chest because it’s not soft anymore.  Poor babies!!😦  Poor me!! …Can I say that again!  Poor me!!!  It’s good to feel sorry for yourself once in awhile in this process…everyone should.

Moving on…so as I said my surgery date is set and today was my last official appt. with my surgeon prior to that date.  I share here the list of questions I felt important to ask the doctor. In some ways these  questions may seem silly, but you don’t realize how important they are until you have spoken with someone who has gone through it…. (questions with answers given to me below)

– what would the high profile vs. low profile implants look like?A:  (higher up for high profile, more tear drop for low profile)

– how can I prevent rippling effect?A: (don’t know…this occurs a lot due to thin skin after a double mastectomy..some more than others, won’t know if this happens until after surgery)

– will I have cleavage… A: (because expanders sit far out on people’s chests usually) Yes…implants are closer together

– will the implants stick out on the side (because the expanders do) – A: No…expanders stick out further

– how long is the recovery and will I be able to work out or lift anything (because I have to lift my kids) – A: generally 3 to 4 weeks before resume all that activity

– What is the size range that you will bring in to make sure the size implant is the right fit – A: depends on the amount you went to on fills…for me he is bringing 4 different sized implants and will test them out during surgery and decide which sits best in pocket created by expander.

– How long until you will remake my nipple (for those who do not spare nipples) – A: 4 to 6 months approx.  Scar needs to heal

– How long until tattoo on nipple to make it look like an aerola – A: several months again for scars to heal.

– How do you make sure the breasts are even (if you have any type of sclerosis of spine, makes your chest wall stick out more on one side) (of course i have this!)  A: larger implant on one side vs.  the other

– Can I where wire bras after? A: this is dependent on dr., mine says I can wear whatever I want that makes me comfortable

That was about the extent of my grilling my doctor because my sister just had her swap out surgery a couple weeks ago and she was able to share with me many of the issues she faced.

What I am feeling and I have learned after todays appt and knowing my surgery date is getting closer.  

Ask questions.  The answers I was given today helped to ease my mind on most of my concerns.

Talk to others.  Talking to my sister and others who have already done their swap out surgeries helps me to understand what I will go through and find out good things to remind or ask dr. about.

Don’t think to0 much.  I can’t think about what everything is going to feel like and be like post surgery.  I have to remember the reason I did this, which my sister said today….This isn’t just going in to get a boob job/agumentation, this is reconstruction surgery.  You are a woman who has taken all the tissue out her breasts to prevent breast cancer and therefore it will never be the same as it was before but it will look great and it will be a you without the risk of breast cancer.  Remember that!!!

Thanks for letting me share,


Getting rid of the crap!!!

I’ve been going to acupuncture and love it because I feel that it helps to calm the mind so the body can heal.  Ideal for anyone who has gone through health issues, major surgeries, stress and all the above.  When I had trouble getting pregnant I used acupuncture to help with the blood flow and let my body accept the embryos.  And now that I am going through this reconstruction process I am using it to help heal my body but on Friday I learned so much more about my body and mind in response to acupuncture.

The body stores so much crap in it that we need to expel but can’t do it without some help.  Juice cleanses, detox diets, etc. can help to get our liver functioning better and put us on a healthier path.  I have yet to try the cleanses or the diets but I have changed many of the ways I eat to feel healthier on a daily basis.  Acupuncture is an amazing way to help the body heal and get rid of what it doesn’t need.  So that being said I’ve been going for a couple of weeks and have  been feeling great in terms of any healing issues from the double mastectomy.  On Friday I went to the owner of the place I go to, which I had not done before.  She is a truly amazing woman, as are the other practitioners in her office.  Every practitioner has a different style but they all try to lead you to the same place.  The owner, Dory Ellen Fish, who is highly regarded by many of the FORCE (Facing our risk empowered) hereditary breast cancer community rocks!   I told her about all my body aches, history etc.  then she set to the work of acupuncture and healing.

Now the experience at their office is better than I have ever come across:

First you disrobe except for underwear and bra. You get under a sheet on a massage table which is heated with a therapeutic pillow.  Next Dory comes in and puts tiny needles in places that will help blood flow and heal your areas of trouble.  Once she is done with that she can leave you with music, no music or meditation.  Friday was also a first for me because I had her leave me with a meditation.  This amazing person lead me through a meditation via iPod that helped me to relax, breathe and start to drift off to sleep.  After that Dory comes back in to check on you, takes the needles out and then when she feels it might help she does something called cupping.  They use these suction cup type instruments on your achy areas to pull out the stagnant blood.  Well for me this was also a first and quite intense.  Dory said she had never seen a reaction such as mine.  I kinda felt light-headed and could feel the pulling on my back where I was hurting.  The end result or conclusion for me with this session is that I have  a lot of tension in my body from both the surgery, my back injury I had last year (herniated disc) and just the typical aches from chasing 3 small children everyday.  Overtime she plans to use both the needles and the cups to help heal these areas while I also get back to my normal routine of working out to strengthen my body.  It also was such a nice experience because the person that Dory is.  She was very communicative with me about how I was feeling, what I needed for the process and even knew what was needed to make me feel better when I felt light-headed.  I felt very safe and able to let the tension go.  This is so important when you are trying out Eastern forms of medicine.  And it also helps you believe.

Ok…so I just rambled off that whole experience but the reason I wanted to share it with you is because I do believe that the mind and body are hugely connected in the healing process.  You can only do so much with any injury, ailment, disease to get better but if your mind has not focused on getting better it won’t work.  Acupuncture can both assist in the body healing as well and I feel most importantly for myself the mind element.  I believe that it helps me to relax, breathe and heal.  People are either into Eastern/Integrative forms of medicine or they’re not.  I personally would never force anyone to try something that they didn’t believe or felt uneasy about.  I do believe that acupuncture can truly help people.  For example, my husband has now seen Dory twice for a hurt SI joint and she really helps him leave all his BS at the door and relax so the tension in his SI can heal.  He also does this in conjunction with PT/rehab but I think the mind element of acupuncture will help him get past it that much faster.  And I have seen it help women with fertility issues time and time again.


Thanks again for letting me share,




Here is Dory’s info and you can also find it on my resource page.


Gwyneth Paltrow discussing acupuncture on Goop and articles on it:



Acupuncture for both survivors and previvors:



Books about Eastern Medicine and Fertility:


Photos of cupping and acupuncture:

Acupuncture needles on the back of a beautiful womanCupping-2-620x340

Genetics – or as learned today..fitting into your genes.

Today I attended a speaker event at a local jewish synagogue.  It featured speakers discussing different types of genetic disorders linked to Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry.  I attended because women from the organization I am in FORCE (Facing our risk of cancer empowered) were speaking and had a table at the event.  I had no idea what I was embarking on by attending this kind of event.  The majority of it was geared towards the staggering amount of illnesses (19 to be exact) that can be carried by people of Ashkenazi decent to their children.  19, Did you hear me, 19!!!!  I knew when I was pregnant with my children that I would have to be tested for some well know ones, such as Tay Sachs and Cystic Fibrosis, but who knows if I was tested for all 19.  And this list is awful in terms of lifespans, the type of sickness, therapies, all of it.  As if that wasn’t enough the last couple speakers spoke about BRCA1 and BRCA2 and all the links that they have to not just breast cancer and ovarian cancer but some other cancers as well, such as prostate, pancreatic, etc.  As a Jewish woman of Ashkenazi decent (meaning the majority of my blood lines are from Eastern Europe) what do you say to that, what do you think, what do you feel.

Awful and relief at the same time if that’s possible.  Fortunately my children did not present with any of the 19 illness discussed today or they will not as far as I know but that doesn’t make me feel any better because I do know that one of them could possibly be positive for the BRCA1 187del ag mutation that I carry.  When they are around 25 it will be up to them to decide if they want to test or just have surveillance.  For testing of this nature is an individual thing.  I have always wanted to know all the facts but one of my children might not  be that way and I have to support them in whatever they decide when the time comes.  The other reason I felt so much pain after attending this event today was to hear the stories of those with children or people who are carriers of these illness.  One amazing woman discussed her challenges with Cystic Fibrosis and talked about how the thing she feared the most everyday was climbing stairs, not her boss, not the pressure from her job, etc. but climbing the stairs on her commute to work at the subway station exit.  She was this amazing strong woman who spoke with passion about the disease and her organization “Emily’s Entourage” which is dedicated to research in the 6% of Cystic Fibrosis patients that are Ashkenazi Jews who don’t benefit from any of the new medicines that have recently arrived on the market.  Please check out her story.  It’s touching and it puts your life into perspective.  Actually it gave me a swift kick in the butt about complaining about my daily life, the tiredness from raising 3 small children and running around and my long process of being BRCA1 positive…going through reconstruction etc.  I have choices that she has never had to beat disease and I commend her so much for her fight in life!


For me this was a day of driving again in my car post event with music blaring so I could think about all I heard and what I need to do to be better in this world.  The song I listened to today was the “Heart of the World” by Lady Antebellum.  This song is a love song about a couple and how they will beat the odds probably in a world were people so often get divorced but for me I see it as I have that strong love and family and the words in it about beating the odds have nothing to do with keeping the marriage going but keeping healthy and alive through everything life throws out at you.  It gives me the chills every time I hear it.

“The Heart Of The World”

Tin cans on rattlin’ pavement
Confetti scattered everywhere
She falls asleep in the seat beside me
Rice caught up in her hair
I don’t mind it, I keep drivin’,
Flying on these wheels of steel
A bit anxious, a bit nervous
The moment’s all that we can feelIf oil is the soul of the engine
And wine is the drink of the Gods
Forgiveness the road to redemption
Faith can still beat the odds
We’re meant to be baby hold on to me
You’ll never not be my girl
‘Cause love is the heart of the worldI leave him sleepin’ as I rise early
Always up before the dawn
The house is dark, but I see clearly
Kettle sings a morning song
The bacon’s frying, babies crying
I soak up the sights and sounds
Minutes turn to days and I wish that I could slow it down

If grease is the soul of the kitchen
And coffee the drink of the Gods
Routine too perfect to mention
Time is a thief I would rob
We’re meant to be baby hold onto me
I’ll never not be your girl
‘Cause love is the heart of the world

Oh, and hope is the soul of the dreamer
And heaven is the home of my God
It only takes one true believer
To believe you can still beat the odds

We’re meant to be baby hold onto me
You’ll never not be my girl (I’ll never not be your girl)
‘Cause love is the heart, love is the heart,
Love is the heart of the world

So after my drive my list of to do’s:
– ask my ob what of those 19 genetic disease I was tested for and possibly test for the rest to know what exactly my family might be carriers for— because you can be a carrier but never get sick
– enjoy my life, my ability to walk stairs with no issues and run around like crazy with my kids
– And most importantly in my journey with BRCA….be happy in the knowledge that I am in the home stretch with my reconstruction.  On February 27th I will finally have my swap out surgery. Expanders out, fake boobs in!  Though the process will not be entirely done.  I am almost there!  After that all that is left is remaking my nipples and tattooing them to look real and no one will ever know the difference.  Who I am showing anyway! HAHA LOL!  Obviously the husband but that’s probably about it, maybe, just maybe I’ll go to Mardi Gras and do the flashing the boobs thing!  Yea right. Oh and of course all my good friends, my sister, cousins…especially my sister and I will have to compare since we just went on this same journey together!!
Check out some of the links below about the different places that research these genetically inherited diseases.  And kudos to Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley for putting on such an important event. Also a shout out to the amazing women I just met from Basser Research Center who work closely with FORCE.  They are really right on in their knowledge and education of BRCA1 and BRCA2.
Thanks for letting me share,