Wednesday, October 31, 2012

happy halloween!!

 {angry bird}
 {skeletons + chandeliers}
{skulls + bell jars}
{dia de los muertos pumpkins}

Monday, October 29, 2012

shiny happy pumpkins

Instead of the normal carving + decorating routine, this year we chose to spray paint our pumpkins! It is super quick + easy and gives those plain old halloween staples a bit of a facelift. . . We painted ours in metallics and neon, what color will you paint yours?
happy halloween!!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

halloween {part 1}

Halloween is 3 days away, I just finished decorating for Christmas at work, and my husband just got home from being on the road for 7 weeks, so I figured that I would do a quick Halloween crafting post! I love creating tiny spooky moments in my house and so does my little one.  I had these vintage salt + pepper shakers laying around and decided to make a halloween version of a snow globe! This is like a 10 minute project people, about the same amount of time that it takes to inhale a pound of halloween candy. . . and yes, this has happened to me multiple times this week!
 {gather your supplies}
 {have a little helper fill your shakers}
{create your spooky scene. . . I went with vintage bottles, skulls, and candles}

Happy Halloween!! Stay tuned for part 2!!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

guest post :: the gift

 {Our aunt Sandy with her gorgeous family. . . here is her story!}

About 8 years ago, while lathering up in the shower, I felt a small lump under my armpit, about the size of a pea. I did not think much of it, but it definitely was something I had never felt before. I watched it for a few months and when it did not go away I went to the doctor. She felt it and realized it was an enlarged lymph node. To be safe she sent me to get a mammogram and breast ultra sound. I was 39 years old at the time.

Both the mammogram and breast ultrasound came back fine. The doctor just told me I must have had a cold and that the lymph node was enlarged. They never told me to come back if it did not go away. I had no family history of breast cancer or any cancer for that matter. I was not worried at all.  Life went on and about 4 months later I realized the pea sized lump was still there. I right away made another appointment at the breast center. They decided at this time to do a needle biopsy of the lymph node. As the doctor was doing the needle biopsy, he was telling me that out of every 1000 of these he does, only maybe one comes back as cancer. He made me feel like I was over-reacting by doing the procedure. Again I was not worried.

Three days later I went back for the results. I went alone because I was so sure there would be no cancer. When the doctor came in and told me the results............BREAST CANCER...........I was shocked. I was also scared because it had already gone to my lymph nodes which made my diagnoses less favorable.

My children at the time were 9 and 10 years old. All the crazy thoughts were going through my mind, “would I see them graduate high school, get married , have children of their own?” The next month was crazy with doctors appointments and decisions to be made on treatment options. I cried a lot , but I was fortunate to be surrounded by a loving husband and family and a large group of supportive friends. This support  group helped me get through the next two years which involved 5 surgeries, 6 months of chemotherapy and 30 radiation treatments.  I lost my hair, my breasts and my belief that I would live to a ripe old age with my husband and children by my side.

People kept talking to me about the gifts of cancer, “huh?”  I could see no gifts in this nightmare I was living. What good could possibly come out of this?  I often asked “why me?”  I had always lived a healthy lifestyle, ate well, exercised my entire life, was not overweight, didn't drink much alcohol and never smoked. No family history, “why me?”

Now, almost 8 years later, looking back on that very difficult time of my life, I can see some gifts. Through my suffering I gained more compassion for others that suffer. There were days I could not walk around the block or empty the dishwasher. When I see others with disabilities or battling disease, I have a little better understanding of what they are going through. I understand the meaning of enjoying each day, because every day is truly a gift. I cherish each moment with family and friends even more, because none of us truly knows what tomorrow will bring. And now when I ask myself, “why me,” I have a sense of that understanding as well.  I know everyone must suffer in some way. But we don't know how or when. Some lose a parent, some get a divorce, others are born with disabilities or other physical or mental challenges. We all get our challenges, but we can't pick what they are or when they will happen. We can only move through them as strongly as we can, learning along the way the gifts of life. Gaining the wisdom that will make us stronger, better human beings, that can share our life experiences with others in order to hopefully make their journey a little easier.

Love, Sandy

Friday, October 5, 2012

guest post :: that little pink ribbon

This is a picture of our Aunt Alice and her 4 girls during her chemo treatment. She chose to share this image because despite of everything, they were happy and having a good time!

That little pink ribbon we all see during the month of October saved my life. I know this sounds like a strong statement but it is true. My story begins in early summer, in the shower, one of the brief moments a mother of 4 young children gets to herself. As I ran my soapy hands across my body I felt it.! A small, marble sized lump in my breast. “Huh, I never noticed that before.” I was sure it was nothing, an enlarged milk duct from nursing, a cyst or whatever, but surely it would disappear as quickly as it showed up. Life went on for the next while and I didn't obsess over it, I would occasionally check in on my little discovery and make a mental note to mention it to my doctor on my next routine visit due in December. I can only describe it as an occasional nagging inspiration for the 'what if?' type of scenario we all run through our minds on different occasions. This went on for a couple of months. My girls were ages 5,7,9 and 11 – life was busy! Still, I would check on this little nuisance with more frequency. Then the month of October came and everywhere I went I was bombarded with little pink the market check out line, in department stores, every time I opened a magazine, everywhere, it was omnipresent. It was as if angels were speaking, rather screaming at me to go get answers. So I did. Initially my regular doctor thought it was surely nothing to worry about but thought I should see a specialist just to be sure. I did. He did an ultra-sound, mammogram, and needle biopsy. He reassured me that I was too young (under 40), too healthy and I had done all of the things they like you to do to avoid breast cancer. I was scared and started to listen to my body. The next day the results of the biopsy were in – negative! I should have been ecstatic but for some reason I was not. Now I was obsessing over this extra lump I was toting around and I was not the hypochondriac type but, for some reason I could not accept the results. The next week I found a surgeon, I wanted this lump out of my body. The surgeon was very hesitant to remove it but I insisted. December 5, 2001 at 8am....I woke up from that surgery to find my surgeon at the foot of my bed with tears welling up in his eyes, apologizing for being the bearer of bad news. The doctors had been wrong and I had a malignancy -  stage 2 breast cancer. This is the beginning of a very long journey that began with the powerful message attached to that little pink ribbon.
Take time to take care of yourself.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

hope for a cure

{That's us!! 3 sisters!! Katie. Mary. Laura}

In honor of Breast Cancer awareness month, we are dedicating our posts to all of the beautiful survivors and previvors ( I will explain that in a minute) out there in the world! This subject is near and dear to us because so many of our family members have been touched, ok let's be real, thrown down by cancer.  Some of us are known as previvors, which are survivors of a predisposition to cancer, and my older sister Katie and I are among them. We asked our sister Katie to share her story with you all today to raise awareness and empowerment for us young women out there facing this awful disease. . .

My family has a long history with cancer going back at least three generations on my mom’s side.  My great-grandmother had breast cancer at a very young age, and when I was in high school I watched my grandfather get sick and die from prostate cancer.  Years later when I was in my mid twenties my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39.  While she was undergoing treatment her doctors tested her for the breast cancer gene.  Her results came back positive for a BRCA 2 mutation.  At the time I didn’t give this more than a passing thought.  I had no idea how this mutation would change my life in the future.  
One day not long after my 30th birthday my aunt called me and said “you do know I tested positive for the breast and ovarian cancer gene don’t you?  You need to talk with your doctor about it.”  Coincidentally I had an appointment with my OBGYN the next week.  I brought it up to her.  She was adamant that I get tested and immediately wrote me a prescription for a breast MRI and told me where to go to have the genetic testing done.  I had the MRI right away, and I knew I wanted to do the genetic testing, but my mom hadn’t been tested.  My mom said she was going to be tested and if she was negative there was no way I could be positive so I waited for her to do it.  Time passed.  The testing was always in the back of my mind.  My doctor nagged me about it every six months when I saw her.  “My mom said she was going to be tested” I would tell her.  I told her this for almost a year and a half, until, my mom was diagnosed with stage 2 ovarian cancer.  It was only then that she was tested, and low and behold she was positive.  My sisters and I were there for her during the next eight months when she went through her surgery and six months of chemotherapy.  Eventually she was declared to be in remission.  Now it was my turn to test, except that my husband and I wanted one more baby.  In January 2012 three months after I had my third child I was finally tested.  It was eight days later that my doctor called to give me my results.  The baby was napping and I was just starting a run on the treadmill when my phone rang.  I sat down on my rocking chair and listened while she said the words “I am so sorry, but you tested positive for a mutation of the BRCA 2 gene.”  After knowing for almost five years that I was most likely positive I was devastated to actually know for sure.  
I began my research at once.  What did being BRCA 2 positive really mean?  I started by reading a few books and making appointments with countless doctors.  What I learned was almost shocking.  I knew the statistics going in.  The risk of breast cancer for the normal woman is 12.5 percent and her risk of ovarian cancer is 1.4 percent.  The risk of breast cancer for a woman that is BRCA 2 positive is somewhere between 75 and 85 percent and her risk of ovarian cancer is almost 50 percent.  But, this was almost old news to me.  I had known this for years.  What was shocking were my options.  There were only two options for reducing my risk of ovarian cancer.  Surveillance  or an oopherectomy (removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes).  For reducing my risk of breast cancer I was given three basic options.  1) have a risk reducing surgery (AKA prophylactic mastectomy), 2) take a chemotherapy drug that stops your body from producing estrogen and reduces your risk of breast cancer by 50 percent, but also puts you into menopause (no thank you), or 3) surveillance or as I thought of it wait around until you get breast cancer and then have a mastectomy and chemotherapy anyways.  
I was sure I was going to go with option number 1.  That is until I met with the surgeons.  I told my friend on the morning of my first consult appointment.  “I’m hoping it is going to be like a glorified boob job.”  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  After a 3 hour appointment with a breast surgeon and a plastic/breast reconstruction surgeon I walked out numb.  The appointment was in Orange county so my husband and I had an hour and a half car ride on the 405 freeway to digest what they said.  Phrases like “8 week recovery with no lifting your arms over 90 degrees and no lifting over 5 pounds,” “2 drains on each side,” and “no sensation ever again” kept replaying in my mind.  We made it to LAX before I started crying and I didn’t stop for three days.  A mastectomy was nothing like a glorified boob job.    
What just eight hours before seemed like the only option I was likely to choose now seemed like an impossible decision to make.   How was I going to go through an eight week recovery with three kids, the youngest being only 3 moths old.  My husband told me “don’t worry about it.  We will figure it out if that is what you want to do.”  Over the course of the next two weeks I met with several other surgeons and doctors.  I tried to learn all about the different techniques used during mastectomies and reconstruction.  I learned about skin sparing and nipple sparing mastectomies, lymph node mapping and sentinel node biopsies.  I went online and through message boards talked to women all over the country that had had every type of reconstruction possible.  I found out first hand about the differences between immediate and delayed reconstruction, DIEP flaps, Lat flaps, and GAP flaps as well as reconstruction using tissue expanders and direct to implant reconstruction.  It was a lot of information and it was very confusing and overwhelming.  I began to feel a huge weight on my shoulders.  I started to feel as if I had been diagnosed with cancer.  Having breast cancer was my worst nightmare, and having even the slightest inkling of what it was like was too much for me.  I wanted to be out living my life with my husband and children not worrying about cancer 24 hours a day.  So, after many many hours of agonizing I decided to go ahead with a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy with lymph node mapping and sentinel node biopsy with immediate reconstruction and tissue expanders. 
On March 12th, 2012 I had my surgery.  I awoke after the eight hour surgery in a lot of pain, but extremely relieved.  I could say with almost certainty that I would never have breast cancer.  The burden had been lifted.  I still had a long way to go, but I was on the road to recovery.  The road turned out to have lots of bumps, and twists and turns, but no matter what happened I was always comforted by the fact that I didn’t have breast cancer.  I find it fitting that this month, which is breast cancer awareness month, I will have what is known as my exchange surgery.  During this surgery they will take out the tissue expanders which were put in during the original surgery and put in my permanent implants.  I am still far from finished with this process, but I can see the light.  When I am finished with this chapter I still have to deal with my risk of ovarian cancer.  It looks like as a 40th birthday present I will get an oopherectomy, but that’s still years away.  Until then I am comfortable choosing surveillance. 
I could not have gone through this process without the love and support of so many of my family and friends. Unexpectedly, I also made several new friends along the way who were crucial in my recovery, from my doctors and the nurses at Breastlink of Orange to all of the amazing strong women I have met through FORCE. Thank you to each and every one of you for everything.  During this month of awareness learn your risk for breast cancer.  It just may save your life.

For more information on hereditary breast and ovarian cancer or BRCA mutations visit FORCE