Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Breast Cancer Awareness

It's only appropriate as we enter the month of October, that I remind all you women out there to check yourself and to remind all your friends. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I never thought I would be diagnosed at age 26, but there I was, a young mother of 2 toddlers, knee deep in dishes, diapers, laundry, nursing, cooking, cleaning. I didn’t have time to check myself for breast cancer. I have to admit that at the time I rarely ever did my monthly self checks.

However, my Breast Cancer presented itself not in a lump, but in the form of a cracked and bleeding, and eventually, VERY itchy, nipple. All too often, Paget’s Disease gets overlooked because it is so rare. It is actually just as rare as Male Breast Cancer. Paget’s Disease accounts for about 1% of all Breast Cancers, while Male Breast Cancer accounts for about 1% as well. About half the people who are diagnosed with Paget’s Disease feel a lump, while others do not. In my case, I did not have a lump.

The demographics for Paget’s Disease are usually women in their 60’s and also men in their 60’s. Also, there is a corollary factor with women who don’t have children or have them later in life and Paget’s. It is said for a woman to get it in her 20’s is extremely rare. I also had two children at the time too. I guess I’m a rare one! I knew it was very rare when I was at a doctors appointment the week I was diagnosed. I was getting a second opinion at a major teaching hospital in Chicago. The head breast surgeon there examined me, confirmed the diagnosis and then asked if her med students could come in and take a look. In the name of science and education, why not! So, in piled 15-20 med students in this little tiny room. I noticed that most of these students were my age. The surgeon, in all seriousness, began to explain to the students all the technical terms, symptoms, and things to look at when they filed by me. I felt a little like a lab rat, but hey, if by having these handful of people examine me and learn what to look for in other women, it could help save someone else's life someday, then it was all worth it! I did recall the doctor saying as they filed in and out in an assembly like fashion, “Take a good look at this and notice all the cracks, indentations, scabbing, and size. You won’t probably ever again in your career see another Paget’s case in a patient so young. Gina is currently 26. Remember that.”

So while I recognize that my experience with Breast Cancer was a very rare one, not every woman is as “lucky”. By lucky, I mean that my symptoms were very evident, albeit misdiagnosed for a year, obvious nonetheless. Lumps can go undetected. So get to know your body and check yourself every month! Tell the women in your life to check themselves and have anything suspicious checked out by a doctor. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. ONE in EIGHT! Those are high odds, but early detection really does make a difference in survival rate. Remember also, that most breast cancers are not related to family history at all.

For more information on Paget’s Disease please feel free to contact me.

To learn more and to get involved, see also:
  • Paget’s Cancer Awareness Act HR 822. This is a current bill, introduced in the House. Please vote on this at and write to your legislators to let them know you want more awareness of Paget’s Disease.
  • I am currently working on a book as it relates to my breast cancer experience. Coming soon!
  • If you want to join me locally, we do the Breast Cancer Network of Strength (formerly Y-ME) every Mother’s Day. I am also a volunteer with this organization.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Learning Through My Children's Eyes

Not a day goes by that I don't enjoy seeing the "ah ha" moment in one of my child's eye. I love teaching them, but even more, I love seeing them "get it" and love to learn. Today was one of those days.

Isabelle was having a hard time with math and after several practice rounds of place value notation examples, she smiled a huge grin and said, "Mom, I know how to do this now! This makes sense and is so easy!" I love watching that light bulb moment and for them to get so excited that they have just learned something new!

Another one of those moments happened this morning as well. Two in one day! I was reading to them, "The Cat of Bubastes: A Tale of Ancient Egypt" by G.A. Henty. We are about half way through the novel and in the heart of action! I read to them for about 45 minutes and when the chapter ended, I closed the book and said that we would read more tomorrow. All three kids groaned and were disappointed that I had stopped. Isabelle said, "You always stop at the good parts!" They wanted to hear more of this thrilling tale of life in Egypt, a sacred cat and wanted men out on the loose. I love that my "job" is to read thrilling educational novels to them "during school hours". We are all learning together and have great conversations about the historical fiction we read together.

One of my desires for them is that they love to learn. I hope that my excitement for the love of learning continues to rub off on them.

Teaching them can be a tough job, but it can be tremendously rewarding as well. Like when my three year old uses the name Methuselah in a sentence (correctly I might add) like it's an everyday part of his language, I just grin and hope this love affair with learning continues.

It is days like this that remind me in part of why I'm homeschooling them!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bit My Tongue!

There are some lessons I need to learn over and over before they "stick". One of these lessons is biting my tongue when I'm tempted to just say what's on my mind or the first thought that pops into my head. I'm learning that just because it pops into my head, doesn't mean it needs to come out of my mouth. I don't think I was born with a natural filter that evaluates these thoughts. :)

Although I still have a hard time with filtering my thoughts, I have seen some improvements lately. Because I know this is an area of weakness for me, I am conscious of the progress I am making. I had an opportunity this week to reflect on that.

Awhile back, I made a commitment to get rid of all the 'negative talk' both in my head and what left my lips. It has improved, but I can still get sucked in to negative conversations once in awhile. I was at a meeting where people were complaining about their spouses. I think it's easy to fall into the typical stereotypical images that our society portrays as it pertains to our roles in our marriages or just as men and women. I noticed that this group of people was no different. Normally, I would nod and agree and maybe be involved with the conversation. What surprised me was that it was EASY for me NOT to get into the conversation. I was not even tempted. It was easy to bite my tongue after many months of practice. The 'negative talk' has diminished over the years. I am now focusing on being a more positive person.

It was refreshing to realize that I CAN change! I've learned that your thoughts really do shape your character. What do your thoughts portray to people? Think about that for a minute....Because what you are thinking, will become your character.