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What Is A Keloid? Do You Know?

21 Jun

Our friendly and knowledgeable Dr. McGann has posted another blog for me. I asked her if she would be kind enough to post a blog about keloids. I thought this could be important for people who are prone to getting them – and for those who are possibly facing a lumpectomy, a mastectomy, or a lymph node biopsy. Do you get them? I do. Not on every scar, just on random parts of my body – and thankfully not on my mastectomy scars. I get them from surgeries and from skin cancer biopsies and removal. Now I have one starting on my port scar and on my lymph node biopsy scar – isn’t that weird, those scars are over 4 years old! Thank you Dr. McGann for your two-part series on keloids.

“What is that behind your earlobe?” Are you brave enough to ask? What if that “thing” is located on other parts of the body? Can something be done about what? Will discuss over the next 2 weeks. First, let’s discuss what that abnormal growth actually is…

A keloid  is the formation of a type of scar tissue that can occur at the site of skin injury or previous trauma. The injury can be that of surgery, ear piercing, tattoos, trauma from shaving, etc., A hypertrophic scar looks similar to a keloid and are more common. However, hypertrophic scars do not get as big as keloids, and may fade with time – Keloids do not fade away!

  • Keloids are firm, rubbery lesions or shiny, fibrous nodules, and can vary from pink to the color of the patient’s flesh, or red to dark brown in color.
  • A keloid scar is benign (non-cancerous) and not contagious
  • Keloids can be associated with severe itchiness, pain, and changes in texture.

In severe cases, and depending on location, it can affect movement of skin. A large keloid in the skin over a joint may interfere with joint function. Unfortunately, keloids tend to grow and extend beyond the area of initial trauma and become unsightly and uncomfortable.

  • Keloids are equally common in women and men, although more women developed them because of a greater degree of earlobe and body piercing among them.
  • Keloids are less common in children and the elderly.
  • People with darker skin are more likely to develop them, but keloids can occur in people of all skin types.
  • Keloid scars are seen 15 times more frequently in highly pigmented ethnic groups than in Caucasians.

Doctors do not understand exactly why keloids form in certain people, or situations and not in others. The best way to deal with a keloid is not to get one (really *smile*).

A person who has had a keloid should discuss with physicians before undergoing elective or cosmetic skin surgeries, or procedures such as piercing. When it comes to keloids, prevention is crucial, because current treatments leave a lot to be desired.

Next week – Keloid Treatments

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Remember …

Ipsa Scientia Potestas est    ———  Knowledge itself is power!

Don’t forget to visit my website … www.LegacyEducators.org 

Your Family Friendly Doc … Dr McGann!  

Table For Two Please

12 Jun

It seems like just yesterday that I was sitting in a busy café having breakfast with three of my friends; Moira, Mari, and Michelle. It was a cold day – really cold. I remember it clearly. And today, I reflect on it with a heavy heart.

I introduced Mari and Michelle months earlier via email. They had a lot in common and I knew they could really learn a lot from each other. Both had metastatic triple negative breast cancer, both were researching clinical trials for TNBC, and both were in and out of chemotherapy. At that point Mari had some activity on her brain, Michelle did not.

So there we were, eating our breakfast and trying to stay warm. The place was packed and every time the door opened our table was hit with a gust of very cold air. Michelle and Mari spent most of the breakfast talking about cancer, cancer treatments, trials, side effects, cancer growth, doctors, and options. Most people might find this boring, or inclusive, or depressing….but Moira and I didn’t. You see, this was the point of our breakfast. Moira and I wanted to give Mari and Michelle time to bond, to dump, to vent, and to nurture each other. Mari and Michelle didn’t know it – but they were set up on a “date”…it was a cancer date, but it was a setup nonetheless. They did bond further and their friendship grew from there.

Every few months we would try again to meet for lunch or breakfast. We had a date on the calendar and the day before, Mari got ill so we cancelled our date. Michelle still wanted to go but Moira and I told her, and each other, we would plan it for another time. A better time. Time where we could all be together again. I could still kick myself for canceling that lunch date.

Sadly, Michelle’s cancer became stronger than her body, and she passed away a few months after that canceled date. We never did have that lunch or breakfast with the four of us. Mari was upset over the loss of Michelle – as we all were – but for Mari it was like a bomb going off next door. The friendship of two people going through this kind of battle is an intense dynamic.

Moira, Mari and I had lunch plans for a Sunday a few months ago. Mari had to cancel a few days before so Moira and I said we would reschedule it for another time. No sense in going if Mari couldn’t go, right? We wanted to cheer her up, get her out, take a meal to her, spend time with her, and love on her a little. Moira and I kept telling each other “let’s not live with regrets, let’s do this”…life stepped in and Moira and I let our schedules get ahead of us. Tax season, vacation, events in the city, church commitments, family commitments, anddddd the list goes on. Moira is the busiest person I know but she puts things aside PRONTO for life events and things like this that are super important and I need to learn from her.

In April Mari got very sick and both Moira and I were able to spend small amounts of time with her. Not together and not social. It was time to gather the troops and see who could do what to give Jim the ability to work one day a week and give him time to photograph a wedding or two. You see Mari and Jim are professional photographers. Moira did a fantastic job scheduling help for Mari. I helped recruit helpers and Moira kept the schedule under control. Sadly I could not be alone with Mari because I could not lift her or strain the left side of my body. I visited but could not offer relief – and for that, I will always be sorry.

We sadly said goodbye to Mari today at a beautiful Celebration of Life service. Mari’s personality was contagious and Jim’s love for her is something to aspire to have or to give. He is amazing and his love for Mari is too. It has been just super awesome to see him take full control and responsibility for Mari’s health and her safety. He was her constant shadow and in the last few months he was more like white on rice. He left her side rarely and when he walked into the room after taking a shower, getting food, or running an errand, when he saw her, his entire face lit up. It was as if he had been gone for days. I loved seeing that…it made my heart happy.

So Moira and I are going to plan another lunch, this time just for the two of us. I know that she will second my advice….don’t let your busy life get in the way of making memories and loving on your friends and family; especially if they are battling any type of disease or health issue. I think sometimes I am so “used” to cancer that it is no longer an emergency to me. And cancer isn’t an emergency – usually. But life is. Anything can happen and we are not promised tomorrow. We all know this…we have heard it a million times, we have all learned it and said it. But yet, it still happens. Life happens and before you know it, so does death.

Moira and I will have our lunch soon, raise our glass of wine to Mari and to Michelle, thank them and thank God for the time we had with these precious women. We will move forward and focus our thoughts on how many women are surviving, how many blessings we have in our lives every single day from our TNBC survivor friends, and know, without a doubt, that this disease bonds us together in ways that other people will never understand. We will celebrate the survivorship of many women, we will mourn the loss of friends, and every single day we will be thankful for the day we are given. It’s a gift.

From now on, the table for four will now be a table for two, and as sad and heavy as that can be …this too is a gift; it’s just an adjustment in perspective.

 

 

 

 

May and June – For The Past 6 Years…

9 Jun

For my newly diagnosed breast cancer friends and friends who are fighting…..there is light at the end of the tunnel – and no, it’s not a train.  

Here is just something fun I thought you might enjoy. Please know you are not alone in the shock of what you might be facing. We all know now that life can change in the blink of an eye – or with one phone call.

May 2010 – my daughter Morgan and my son Kyle, on Morgan’s wedding day:

Morgans Wedding 2010

 

June 2011 – three months after my breast cancer diagnosis – a few weeks after my last chemo:

June 2011

 

June 2012 – my first Relay For Life event for the American Cancer Society:

June 2012

 

May 2013 – my professional photo when I was honored at the 50 Most Influential Women:

50 MIW 2014

 

May 2014 – speaking out for a breast cancer awareness day:

June 2014

 

May 2015 – me with my precious new granddaughter – aka – The Jellybean:

 

June 2015 

No matter what things look like today, and no matter how dark the day may be, there is a silver lining to all of this. Keep your chin up, keep going, and keep fighting….rest on the sad and hard days and know that better days are coming. Remember #faithwins

 

History of Breast Or Ovarian Cancer?

4 Jun

Check out this great resource in Charlotte. If you want to check out the national website for FORCE, their link is on the right side of my home page. This is important to me today because one of my BRCA friends has been diagnosed with breast cancer and you all know that I have the BRCA2 gene mutation.

Be proactive friends, get your genetic tests done, get screened, do self exams, learn all you can, and be your own advocate!

FORCE

 

June 2, 2015 – I Found A Lump

3 Jun

Last night, on the evening of the anniversary of my Mom’s death, I found a lump.

After work last night I went to Carvel and got myself a chocolate ice cream cone rolled in colored sprinkles; one of my favorite treats of all time. As I sat and ate that ice cream cone I wondered how many of those cones my Mom had bought me as I was growing up. Hundreds probably. I can tell you that back then – they weren’t $3.49! I went to the grocery store and finally got home. It was a long and sad day and it was about 7:30. I was upstairs changing, the bathroom light was off but there was daylight coming in the bathroom window. I took my cami off and pulled off my bra and with the reflection of the light hitting the mirror I saw it. I could actually see a small nodule on my chest. My heart literally hit the floor. I felt around the little bump and was hoping it was a tendon or something that was not in the form of a lump. Or a bump. Or a nodule. It was between my collar-bone and the top of my breast. Left side, the same side where my cancer was 4 years ago.

I dressed and went downstairs to work in my office on our personal bills and budget and I kept getting up to look in the bathroom mirror to see if that little lump was still there. And it was. As you can imagine, I didn’t sleep well last night.

When I got up this morning the first thing I did was check, yup – still there. I went to work with a heavy heart not saying anything to anyone about this. I emailed my breast navigator and asked her what to do. My oncologist is still on personal medical leave and my surgeon has retired. In waiting for her return email I called Dr Appel’s office. They told me to come in right away….so out of the office I ran telling Ev what was going on and that I had to go. Dr Appel felt the lump and thought it was possibly leftover drama or swollen lymph nodes from my recent capsular tear and all of the swelling I have had for 6 weeks. He also said it could be dead cells from my fat grafting surgery last September. Dr Appel is always proactive so he wanted me to have an ultrasound….he would order one right away. I thank God for this doctor on a regular basis – I am so fortunate to have him in my life. I left his office and went to my already scheduled appointment with my oncology counselor. Does God have perfect timing or what? While I was in her office I missed 10 phone calls and when I came out of my meeting with her I grabbed the last one. Could I get to the Novant Breast Center by 1:30? Could I?? I was five minutes away and it was one o’clock. They must have had a cancellation and once again – the timing was perfect.

As soon as the tech rubbed the ultrasound across my chest she said “well…there it is.” I immediately felt relief because I knew then that I wasn’t crazy. “You actually see something?” I asked. “Absolutely” she said. She did some clicking and measuring and then I knew there was something solid there. They always do that click and measure thing when they see something. She went out to get the doctor and as I laid there I began to really think this through. “What if”….what if my cancer is back? What if it’s triple neg? What if I found the nodule on the anniversary of my Mom’s death? What about the JellyBean? What if? What if? What if? For me, things tend to become crystal clear at moments like this. I lay in that room alone for probably 15 minutes. I remembered what it was like to be diagnosed 4 years ago and I also felt the magnitude of “what if?”

The radiologist came in and put the wand on me – measure, click, tilt, measure, and click. On and on – then he said that he thinks it’s a cyst. It has clear and smooth edges and is flat…apparently cancer is kind of craggly and doesn’t present as smooth. “What about the other one?” the tech asked. He moved his wand over and sure enough – there was another nodule. He also thinks that is a cyst. Phew…the tension left the room and I thanked God for His timing and protection again. These cysts need to be clinically watched over the next month or two and if they grow in the meantime – I will have to go back in…but for now, I am ok. What a great way to find a lump and know, in less than 24 hours, that it is not Mr Lumpcake coming back for revenge or to wage another war on my body. When I was diagnosed last time my healthcare provider was Charlotte Radiology and I tell you, as nice as they were, I had to wait weeks. Not kidding. Weeks. From my original mammogram, to the diagnostic, to my biopsy, it was weeks. Now that I am in the Novant Health Care System it was hours. For this I am extremely grateful and thankful to be taken care of with such professionalism and urgency. I cannot say enough about my doctors and healthcare team – they saved me an awful lot of nail-biting, stomach churning, and mental stress today. I love them.

So, I know I haven’t blogged about this in a while and shame on me. Do your self-exams friends. If you are a cancer survivor, know your body, know your breasts, and LOOK at yourself. Be diligent. If you have a concern, don’t bury your head in the sand – just figure it out. In that same manner, don’t let every single ache and pain make you crazy, but be diligent. A lump or nodule around your breast area or lymph nodes – get them checked. Immediately.

As soon as I got home tonight to change out of my work clothes I saw my area of concern again; plainly and clearly in the mirror. You can bet I will be watching this area like a hawk over the next few weeks/months. Poor Dr Appel is going to have to set up a room with my name on it. Be proactive friends and take care of your health and your body. Please.

Reverse Mother’s Day 2015

2 Jun

Mothers Day 2015I have waited until today to post my reverse Mother’s Day post for a reason. Mother’s Day, this year, was very special to me. I didn’t wake up feeling hollow and somewhat deflated because I don’t have a Mom anymore. This year I was able to celebrate my first Mother’s Day as a Gramma, I was able to celebrate my daughter Morgan’s first Mother’s Day as a Mommy, and we also celebrated my granddaughter’s church dedication. What a Mother’s Day it was! There wasn’t any time for sadness or any place for the hollow spots in my heart this year. For the first time in many many years, my Mother’s Day heart was full to overflowing with happiness. I think that the Mother’s Day sadness has finally left my heart and my life, once and for all. And I am so grateful. You can guide your emotions and control how you deal with them – but you cannot continually pretend that you are celebrating when you are not. I am very thankful that I had Kevin and both of my children with me on this very special day.

So, I have waited to post about my normal reverse Mother’s Day surprise until today. It is the anniversary of my Mom’s passing from breast cancer and I wanted to end today on a happy note. So that is what I am doing! See? We can control how we deal with our emotions!

Ready Morgan and Kyle? This year on July 11th you two are going into a wind-tunnel and taking an indoor skydiving trip together. I will be with you – not in the tunnel – but I will be watching everything you do! We are going to take off early Saturday morning, do this fun deed and then have a funky late lunch in a cool spot. We may even have a drink to celebrate our fun day. We shall see….I am not so sure I am ready to share a real drink with both of my kids – even though you passed the age of 21 years ago. Phew – the thought of that makes me feel OLD.

I hope you guys are happy and excited with this year’s reverse Mother’s Day surprise. I would love to be in that tunnel with you both  – but I will be watching happily from the sidelines.

Happy Mother’s Day to the two best kids any Mom could have ever hoped for or prayed for. I am so very very lucky!

Some Days Are Harder Than Others

31 May

This is always an emotional time of year for me. Relay For Life, my Mom’s anniversary of her death, and National Cancer Survivor Day…these all happen in a 10 day period this year. This year has been especially hard. One of my friends has been moved to a Hospice House, one of my friends went into cardiac arrest when she went into the hospital to have her chemotherapy port replaced, and another one of my friends has just been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Those last three things kicked the crap out of my spirit late last week and I cannot even remember if I blogged about them yet or not. Since Tuesday is the anniversary of my Mom’s passing, the days before that day are always spent reflecting back to the days before she passed. Waiting, we were just waiting.  I think that is the hardest thing in the world to wish someone would let go so you could see their suffering end – but to wish somehow, someway, God would step in and breathe new life into that person and give you the miracle your heart is truly hoping for. A lot of us have been there. Waiting….just waiting for the final transition to be made and the hope of a miracle cure, for that person, to be packed away forever. I guess some people get that miracle, and they pack up their beloved and their belongings and head home.

The more time I spend in the cancer community, the more I truly admire the people in the cancer community; the nurse navigators, Hospice nurses, oncologists, oncology therapists, radiation oncologists, plastic surgeons, and people who make the daily choice to surround themselves with cancer patients. I thought all of “those people” were amazing when they took care of my Mom many years ago. Now that I am friends with “those people” I am truly in awe of their strength, spirit, and never-ending love they have to give to those around us. I don’t see them as “those people” anymore; the smart ones, the trained ones, the ones that were strangers to me 19 years ago – you know, just doing their job. Now I actually know “those people” and I see the side of them that hurts right along with the rest of us, the side that mourns the loss of cancer patients and celebrates the good news with others, the ones who have hearts that break right along with the families, and the patients, that are losing these battles.

I have no idea how they carry the burdens I have seen in the past four years, but I am glad that we have such loving and kind souls who choose this life every single day. They choose to make a difference in the life of cancer patients and their families – regardless of the outcome. They choose to love us anyway, no matter how their hearts may break one day when one of us loses our battle. They choose to stand by the other survivors at funerals and memorial services. These people are truly angels. This becomes more clear to me every single day ….I see it with my own eyes.

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