“Fight Like A Girl”: October- National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October, widely known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, has recently ended. Unless you have been living under a rock you could not miss the countless events acknowledging Breast Cancer research and awareness. President Obama, even proclaimed October 2012 National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 

“This month, we stand with the mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, and friends who have been affected by breast cancer, and we recognize the ongoing efforts of dedicated advocates, researchers, and health care providers who strive each day to defeat this terrible disease. In memory of the loved ones we have lost and inspired by the resilience of those living with the disease, let us strengthen our resolve to lead our Nation toward a future free from cancer in all its forms.”
(Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/10/01/presidential-proclamation-national-breast-cancer-awareness-month-2012)

This disease has affected the women of our country for generations and continues to do so. Staying as informed and educated as possible is the most important thing we as women can do to for our healthy selves. Promoting awareness, especially during October, The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) has been one of the leaders in the fight against breast cancer.

“Since its inception more than 25 years ago, NBCAM has been at the forefront of promoting awareness of breast cancer issues and has evolved along with the national dialogue on breast cancer. NBCAM recognizes that, although many great strides have been made in breast cancer awareness and treatment, there remains much to be accomplished. Today, we remain dedicated to educating and empowering women to take charge of their own breast health.”
(Source: http://www.nbcam.org/)

This initiative has taken the country by storm. October was a month filled with pink all around us. From professional athletes sporting pink cleats, gloves and other accessories on the football field, to various fundraisers, and other awareness campaigns, October was a month about encouraging women–both young and old–to take care of themselves and take the necessary precautions that lead to earlier detection. It is important to remember to take the time to do a monthly self-exam, release stress from their bodies with exercise, dancing, or even just jumping rope.


Do you need more Vitamin D?

Get your vitamin D level checked.  I live in New Hampshire – northern climes have less sunlight which is our body’s source of D – and wear sunblock which blocks out the sun’s rays that we need to generate vitamin D.  These are the two most common reasons why someone’s vitamin D level is low.  Who knew?! 3 days after starting D3 supplements, I felt like a different person.  You need to ask your doctor for this blood test along with the other tests you usually have.

Here are a recent New York Times article and a research paper from health.gather.com  I hope you find them interesting.

Someone came up with a better idea for post breast cancer surgery clothing!

Check this out – http://www.alittleeasierrecovery.org/ I give it five stars.

Radio broadcast on vaginal dryness

Okay, another thing your doctor won’t tell you is that after you lose estrogen either because of tamoxifen or aromasin (or any of those drugs that shut down your estrogen) or because your breast cancer has happened after menopause, you will most likely experience vaginal dryness.  This is no joke.  No one talks about it!  So I am shouting as loud as I can about it…

I feel so strongly about this that I started my business because of it.  This radio broadcast has really good information and so I share it with you and hope that it provides you with some good hope.

Taking naps – long ones!

If you are recovering from surgery take long naps in the morning and again the afternoon lying down in your bed so you are not disturbed.  If you wake up during the night because of this, get yourself some hot milk or hot water (I can’t believe how nicely it works!) to sooth you and read something bland (you don’t want your mind to speed up) until you feel sleepy again.  Your body needs rest to heal.  I found I slept for an hour or two during the morning and again in the afternoon, went to bed around 8 or 9, woke up anywhere between 1 and 4 am, read for awhile and then slept some more.  The first week is when you do a ton of healing and it also when you (hopefully!) can stay home from work, sleep a lot and just pay attention to yourself.

In everyday life, my sister and I swear by little naps, we are sure they keep us sane.  Take 10 minutes around 4:30 or 5, put your feet up on your desk, close your eyes and just try to go blank.  I set a timer so I am not afraid of falling deeply asleep.  That little bit of time relaxes and rests our minds and bodies. It helps wonderfully to make the rest of the day and the evenings activities more pleasant.  Let your children, neighbors, loved ones, work associates, unless they are Attila the Hun types in which case you have my sympathy, know that you take a break this way, it is your time and they are not allowed to interrupt you. Most people will respect that request.  Your kids might resent it at first, but when they see that Mom is so much happier after her nap, they’ll probably protect your time for you…  maybe?

Dressings or bandages – they can be called either.

Dressings and any ointments need to be changed twice a day along with emptying the drains.  You will probably need two dressings –one over your incision and one over the drain site.  They are probably going to be gauze with a non-stick surface, 2″ x 3″ or possibly larger.  You may be told to put a antibacterial ointment on yourself and that helps to hold the dressing while you get your bra back on.  Getting them to lay flat is initially the only challenge here.  Sometimes it’s hard to see under your boob/replacement prosthesis and it is unlikely that you will be able to feel it as you will be numb.  Your bra will hold the dressings in place once they are in the right spot.  You may need a little tape, but the nurse (the visiting nurse the insurance will pay for and the hospital/clinic provides if you ask for one) can determine that. Visiting nurses are a wonderful help here as you may still be a bit groggy from the anesthesia and they will make sure everything is the way it should be.  If a nurse isn’t helpful, gentle and generally nice – call the hospital/clinic and ask for  another one.  This is your health we are talking about here, not a popularity contest.  Once you get the hang of it after 3 or 4 or 5 or more days, you can change the dressings by yourself.  If after the nurses are no longer visiting and your wounds look really red and/or pus-y, there may be an infection so do not tough that out.  You need to call your doctor right away.  A washcloth soaked in an Epsom’s solution can be used after a week or so for a light cleaning compress – check with your doctor for when it’s okay.  I had trouble healing with a petroleum based ointment as it sat on top of my skin and kept the incision from closing.  You may want to try our Jen’s Gift instead.  It was made for radiation burns, but it works really nicely for healing incisions also.

Mastectomy drains

Doctors don’t warn you about drains… Try to get a visiting nurse for this.  I found them to be alternatingly (I know, but some times you have to make up words) disgustingly gross or hilarious.  Two breasts done?  Two drains – one for each.  One mastectomy – one drain.  They will be in you several days to a week or so depending on how much liquid is being produced by your wound.  What the drains do is pull the blood and pus away from your chest without you having to change dressings every other hour.  You can safety pin the top of them to your bra so they don’t flip around inside your shirt.  You empty them twice a day and measure how much liquid is leaving you and mark that on a chart.  Once the liquid is down to a certain level which the nurse will explain, the docs determine that it is okay to remove your drain (s).  They are generally sewn in with a couple of sutures which are snipped – I did not feel it when they were removed and was really glad when they were gone.  This site has a picture of a drain.  In my opinion, the only interesting thing about drains is that you can pretend you are a stripper with breast tassels…

Post Operation help

Everyone is traumatized by any surgery, so understand that your loved ones are probably afraid for you and that they will calm down as you recover and they can see for themselves that you are getting better.  If there is a “nervous Nelly” in your life, tell them to pretend to chill out for a few weeks.  I am going to discuss mastectomy post op over the next three days, however lumpectomy is pretty much the same although you may not need a drain (that will be a “good thing”).

The hospital won’t let you go home if there isn’t someone to pick you up; perversely, the hospital usually needs you to go home after one night because insurance will not pay for more than one night.  Thankfully, I have never had the opportunity to test out what happens if there is no one to pick you up – what do they do then?  I wish I could draw cartoons…

Okay, first visiting nurses, then drains and then dressings/bandages.

Unless you live with a nurse, get visiting nurse help.  Call your local hospital or clinic and ask for visiting nurses. These people are used to seeing incisions and drains and messy bandages.  Your loved ones are not.  Unlike that extra night in the hospital, insurance will pay for the visiting nurses, so take advantage of it, if you can.  You will need a prescription so don’t leave the hospital without one.  It will take you awhile to come to terms with your new look.  Visiting nurses “get” this – the ones I had were just wonderful about explaining the how’s and why’s of my situation.  Once a day, they come to your home; take your temperature which let’s them know if there is an infection brewing; clear the drains and change your bandages/dressings and make sure you are back into a bra and that it fits properly.  A word about hospital bras – they usually come in two pieces; they close in front; and adjust every which way ever contemplated.  They only give you one so try to get a zip up the front sports bra also so you can wash one and have one to wear.

Tomorrow – drains…


Yesterday we talked about magnesium being available in chewable calcium tablets.  Here is why it is important to have sufficient magnesium  http://www.alternative-medicine-digest.com/health-benefits-of-magnesium.html


Calcium is so important to your general wellbeing

Making sure you get enough calcium is so important and it doesn’t have to be one of those “ I forgot” supplements.  There are several brands of chewable tablets, some with D and magnesium built in, that you can chew on your “way out the door.”  It is best to take them with a meal, however just taking them is better than not taking them.  There is now time release calcium which is a really good idea, in my opinion, because taking a big blast of calcium in one pill will result in most of it being urinated out.  I though this article on osteoporosis was interesting.

Something I didn’t know was that your body has to demand calcium in order to absorb the supplemental calcium you are taking.  So here’s my layperson’s explanation: for instance, if you lift weights or something that weighs more than your arm, your body will call for the calcium you took.  If you are not taking calcium, your body will take it from your bones which weakens your bones. Lifting weights will challenge your bones to need and therefore absorb the calcium you are taking on a regular basis.  Some people say to take smaller doses 2 or 3 times a day.  Check with your doctor to see what’s right for you.