T H R E E YEARS!

Today marks 3 years since I got the call confirming what I already knew… And what we all now know.

What I didn’t know at that time was- What would happen to the baby growing inside of me? What would my husband and 1 year old do if something happened to me? How would I choose to handle the news? And I definitely did not comprehend how dramatically my life and outlook on life would change.  

That call obviously shook my world and the world of my family and friends.  And I often wonder if baby Wyatt could feel it too.  But after speaking with my team of doctors, my first concern was addressed.  The baby in my belly would be perfect… and he is. Sometimes a perfect pain in the keister but still perfect.

And thankfully I am still here to witness the great father John is to our little humans. And I get to see Harlon growing up to be an amazing child. AND it turns out, I handled the diagnosis and what followed pretty OK.  Of course, I had and continue to have my shit days.  And my complete shit days.  And my “I’m never leaving my bed because life isn’t fair” shit days. But I try to keep a positive outlook as often as possible (while giving myself permission to throw the occasional pity party). And I remind myself that I get to choose if I walk around miserable and mean or if I want to choose to look at the positives and radiate joy.

This way of thinking is not for everyone, I get that.  And I have never tried to push my views on life onto anyone else.  I mean, we all get to walk our own paths.  But I remember reading a quote by another survivor right after I was diagnosed which said “Breast cancer can change you, but the change can be beautiful”.  I have tried to wholeheartedly embody that idea by looking for the beauty even when it seems to be pure shit surrounding me.

I know I don’t post very often about my story anymore.  But it’s not because I am “all better” or “over it”, but it’s because I am busy living this life I’ve been blessed with, spending my time with the people I love and who spark pure joy in my heart.  This disease has taught me what is important and what is not, where I want to focus my energy and where I can let go.  I am busy with my family, teaching yoga, supporting others who’ve been diagnosed, working on projects… all with the goal to leave the world better and more joyous than I found it and to be the light for others when the darkness tries to consume them.

Truthfully, anxiety still haunts me, as it always has.  And I’m not sure if I’ll ever get past the feeling of ‘running out of time’.  But life continues to be put into perspective and it’s nice to know we are all in this together…

So cheers to many, MANY, M A N Y more years to come!

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Save the Women + HulaBelle Resortwear- Dana Dinerman

I met Dana Dinerman a couple of years back at a get together for her HulaBelle post mastectomy swimwear line. She is a young survivor, an entrepreneur, and an inspiration. This is just part of her story.

To learn more about Dana, you can revisit her 2018 October Project Interview here.

What are the main obstacles that stand between you and your mission, and what ways do you find to overcome them?

The main obstacles that stand between me and my mission is my cancer returning. The past few years I have been in a constant battle with the cancer returning after having endured treatments for months on end. I tend to grow tired, side effects can be tough and not to mention I am a mom first, so whatever energy I do have in reserves goes toward caring for my child. I do have a plan for what I would like to achieve when it comes to helping others but my health can be an issue.

What are your go-to acts of self care?

I believe cancer has taught me so much about pacing myself and learning how to say no. If I feel as if I am going to be affected negatively physically by something, I will take a time out. I will make myself sit down and perhaps take a nap or I will reorganize my day better and put the items that can wait to another time. I also believe in pampering oneself, getting massages, taking long baths, napping. It all helps. I never used to feel like it was ok to take care of oneself before I was diagnosed with cancer and now I know it is quite important.

If you could share any piece of advice for someone who has been diagnosed, what would it be?

I always tell people two things, be your own advocate and take it one day at time. We are diagnosed with our minds still in the former lifestyle of needing to solve everything now and needing answers today. I tell people this is a marathon, pace yourself. Also, if something doesn’t feel right, then being your own advocate is crucial. It is ok to question your doctor and do your own research. It is ok to ask for a second opinion, you are not stepping on anyone here, this is your life your wellbeing.

What are the latest happenings with your programs right now?

I am currently working on a publication to help women share their stories and to mix it with fashion. It will be a publication similar to what you might see in our current fashion magazines yet the models will be real women, sharing their stories. They will be dressed in beautiful designs, highlighting designers and photographers as well. The idea came to me awhile ago and I feel it is very much needed in our community. I am not only going to focus on breast cancer, but also other ailments or conditions that may affect a woman in her everyday life.

How can we help?

I am right now needing volunteers to help with a publication to be launched end of summer. It is to help highlight women who have been through a traumatic moment in their lives such as cancer. I have decided to combine fashion and their stories together to create a publication similar to what you might see in the stores, yet the models will be these women. I need designers, hair and make up artists, photographers and anyone who thinks they might be able to help to volunteer their time. I will be sure to include all names of those who have helped in the publication when it is launched. This will either be a one time only project or if it is well received it may go on to a monthly subscription.

How can we contact you?

Instagram: @save_the_women & @hulabelleresortwear

My Friend Jamie

I met Jamie via the Kick Ass Cancer Mamas Facebook group.  Here is her story…
Tell us your story / stats:
At 5:30 p.m. on Valentine’s Day in 2007, as a 27-year-old, I should have been getting ready for a romantic dinner with my husband—where we would celebrate my 14-week pregnancy. Instead, I was in a doctor’s office, learning that I had invasive ductal carcinoma. I hadn’t been too worried a few days earlier, when I first felt the lump while taking a bath. I told my husband that this was a glaring omission on the part of the editors of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” Instead of dinner, I was listening to an oncologist explain that I had to start chemotherapy right away. Trying not to panic, I immediately asked how I could possibly get chemo while I was pregnant. I’d given up coffee, and now my doctor wanted to pump me full of poisonous chemicals? It seemed crazy. But after seeking out second and third opinions and doing my own fact-finding, we agreed to go forward. At 27 years old and 14 weeks pregnant, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, a particularly aggressive form, so waiting until I gave birth was not a viable option. Even though I had carefully researched my decision, once the therapy began I was paralyzed by fear that my baby was being harmed by the harsh medication. To bring peace of mind, my healthcare team came up with an innovative solution: weekly ultrasounds of my baby. During a time when I was losing my hair, my toenails, and my fingernails, it was a way for me to see he was okay in there. As long as he was still alive, I told myself everything would work out. I was six months into my ten month chemo regimen when our son, Blake, was born perfectly healthy. I imagine every cancer survivor is changed by the experience—but most of them don’t get the gift of a child at the end.
C aside, tell us about yourself. What makes you, YOU!
I am a mom, a coffee-junkie, a wife, a wanderlust, a friend, a neighbor, a lawyer, Hamilton-obsessed, a professor, a baseball fan, a runner, policy-optimist, and full of hope.
Thoughts on the pink… 
I am so grateful and proud of the work of these small but mighty non-profits, helping people living with and beyond cancer: National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship at http://www.canceradvocacy.org , The Pink Fund at http://www.pinkfund.org , Triage Cancer at http://www.triagecancer.org , Get In Touch at http://www.getintouchfoundation.org .
If you could send a message to yourself from 10 years ago… how would that go?
This is non-responsive to this question but . . . When I was first diagnosed, I would pray to God and ask him for kindergarten. I wanted to be there for Blake’s first day of kindergarten. Today, Blake is 11 years old and in the 5th grade. God is good, science rocks, and I am one lucky lady. The hardest part of joining the sisterhood, especially the sisterhood of young women with cancer, has been the tremendous loss and grief. My life is richer beyond measure for knowing these women and being blessed to call them my sister-friends, but my heart and soul aches for the loss.
What are you passionate about? Is this different than what you were passionate about before dx?
Access to healthcare. Families facing a cancer diagnosis, or any other chronic medical condition, shouldn’t have to wonder whether they can pay their rent or health insurance deductible this month. I am grateful for the work that organizations like the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS), Triage Cancer, and the Pink Fund are doing to reduce the financial toxicity facing too many patients today.
Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, phrase, or curse word?
I absolutely had a C mantra I said to Blake while I was pregnant in treatment. It is not original … I stole it from my favorite movie, Why I Wore Lipstick To My Mastectomy: We are the sky and nothing can touch us … We are the sky and we will remain unchanged.
If people take away anything from your story, it would be…
Hope lives . . . my hope is an 11 year old boy who has stolen my heart. 
*** Jamie kept a personal blog during treatment which may be helpful to other young mothers finding themselves on this journey-  www.pregnantwithcancer.blogspot.com.