A New Project

My work space… if I had a clean table, fingerprint-less laptop, and some fancy filter on my phone. AKA- it’s a stock photo.

Happy Wed-Nes-Day! (Any other adults out there who still have to sound this word out before typing besides me?) 😬

I hope that everyone has been mindful about practicing acts of self care since my last post. Or have at least put it on your radar, now that we’re aware of how important self care really is. Remember, we are all worth it!

So, I recently got a wild hair up my ass and decided that I wanted to start my “October Project” early. Like last year, I was planning to interview people in the C community. But this time around, I wanted to interview the peeps who help to support the C community via programs, organizations, etc. and not necessarily just those diagnosed- though I’ve found that these two things often intersect. I had planned to post one interview per day like last year. But as I thought about it more, I realized that I didn’t want to wait until October. Instead, I will be posting interviews from different foundations, programs, non-profits, businesses, organizations, etc. over the next several months. Hell, if I get enough interest, this could become an on-going deal.

Throughout the interviews, you’ll have a chance to meet the people behind the scenes and see just how dedicated and whole hearted they and the programs they represent sincerely are. My hope is that by showcasing each organization, more people will be able to personally find support or will have the information and can help to spread the word of these amazing people and programs.

The individuals I have been working with and gathering information from are truly special. If you find that you feel the same way and want more information or want to see how you can help, contact information will be provided. And if you know of any person or group that you would like to see included in this project and have a contact for me, let me know! I would love to be able to highlight them! Keep an eye out, I plan to post the first interview next week.

And a little note: You may have noticed that the domain name for this blog has changed from jessicafilloon.com to mamasgotthis.blog … This is in anticipation of another project I’ve been hard at work on. Stay tuned!

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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.

My Friend Jenn

I met Jenn through the Kick Ass Cancer Mamas Facebook group.  Here is her story…
Tell us your story / stats:
I was 34 at diagnosis, stage 3C IDC with 21 lymph nodes positive. I was a full time Hairstylist and had a 4 year old daughter! We had been trying to get pregnant with #2. For a year before diagnosis I had felt a lump, it only really bothered me during my period, until I got pregnant then the pain was unbearable. Went in to my OB office and saw someone other then my ob, she thought it was hormone related due to pregnancy. I was not convinced. I had been pregnant before and this wasn’t the same. Oddly enough that morning before going in I kind of had a gut feeling it wasn’t good.
C aside, tell us about yourself. What makes you, YOU!
I am a wife, mother and hairstylist! Unfortunately with all the lymph nodes I had removed, doing hair isn’t in the cards right now. I stay home with my 15 month old chemo baby Riley Joy! I sell Younique makeup for fun as I love makeup! I’m spending time making memories with my girls!
What went through your head when you were first diagnosed?
Am I going to be able to keep this baby? I don’t want to die! This isn’t fair! Why me? Hadn’t I had enough!??!!
What are some of your personal coping skills during difficult times?
Honestly having a good cry! I have since turned to God. Praying has really helped heal me. I have this amazing support group of Cancer mamas that are there when I need a pick me up! These ladies help more then can even imagine! They get me and what I went/am going through.
Tell us about your support system. Or lack of. Where do you get your support from?
My family and friends have been great! Well, of course you lose a few along the way. My sister in law came to most all of my chemo’s with me. My friends set up meal trains and play dates for Sophia.
Many people are unaware that you can do chemotherapy while pregnant. Thoughts and personal experience?
I was one of those people before diagnosis. I still didn’t know until I met with my High Risk OB, she looked at me and said “if you were my sister I would tell you to continue your pregnancy and we can do chemo in the second trimester. Knowing there were some risks with doing chemo while pregnant we decided we were going to continue with the pregnancy and I was going to fight like hell! I found my amazing KACM group and I knew if I had them in my corner with my husband, then I was going to beat this!
What have you learned about yourself since dx?
I am a heck of a lot stronger than I thought I could ever be. Life is so short, there is no reason you can’t do anything that you put your mind to! I never thought I would be informing young women about Breast Cancer, but if it is my path then I will travel it as far as I can!
What do you believe is a common misconception about being diagnosed? Or something that you’d like the general population to know about C.
That it had to be hereditary. I did the genetic testing and I don’t have the genes.
Thoughts on the pink… 
Before diagnosis, I always bought pink for Breast Cancer, thinking I was making a difference! Little did I know that the organization I was donating to in fact did not actually give money or any help to women battling breast cancer. Donate to metavivor.org or the American Cancer Society.
Where are you at in life now? Mentally, physically, emotionally…
I now stay home full time with my girls. Everyday is different, some days I wake up and can get out of bed without pain, some days I can’t get out of bed due to the pain. Pain being from the anti hormone drugs I am on for the next 5 years and menopause as I had my ovaries removed also. I go to a therapist at least every other week for my mental health.
Do you have any lasting side effects- mental, physical, etc.?
My joints ache everyday, but I am actually taking CBD capsules and that has been helping!
Have you noticed any lasting effects on your families and friends?
My family thinks I should just go back to the person I was before diagnosis. However that is not realistic. I am forever changed, I no longer worry about big things, I worry about little things! Is this headache cancer, is this back pain cancer?
Whenever the day comes to travel to the “great beyond”, what do you hope people remember about you?
Honestly hate thinking about this but that I lived life and loved as hard as I could! I made them smile! 🙂
If people take away anything from your story, it would be…
Know your body! Advocate if you feel something isn’t right!