Dermal Fillers: Recovery + What to Expect

Any of you guys following my journey know that I praise my Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Jacob Unger, all of the time. Literally it was a blessing that my breast surgeon, Dr Whitworth, referred me to him for breast reconstruction. His work is SO natural. He is a true artist. You can find Dr. Unger at Maxwell Aesthetics in Nashville, TN.

While I was going to his office, I met Tracy Jensen. I decided after seeing some of her results, and hearing rave reviews from her clients, that I would go to her for something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Fillers. I was SO nervous to go to anyone for fillers. I wanted to make sure that I could achieve a good result without looking like a chipmunk. You know what I mean. Just look at any of the Real Housewives… No thanks. So after meeting with her and discussing my concerns we came up with a plan. I immediately felt at ease.

Then came injection day! Tracy put some numbing cream on my cheeks to help with any discomfort. I will admit I have a pretty ok pain tolerance, but if I was going to score how bad it hurt I would say about a 2.5 out of 10. It doesn’t feel good, but it isn’t bad at all. The best part is I could see results immediately. Honestly if I never told anyone I had it done, you guys would never notice. But I notice. I have cheek “bones” now! I can’t even tell you how happy I am with the results. So natural and only one small spot had a little bruise (totally expected) that I covered up easily with makeup. I am so glad I found Tracy! If you are in the area and are interested in fillers, set up an appointment with her. She is the best!

Here are my before and after! You can see how there is more volume and an added benefit is it helps thin the lower face! Win/Win!

Day after!
Excuse my nostrils, but this shows them well.

I had Tracy answer some questions that you guys asked me on Instagram. So here is Tracy!!! #injectionqueen 🙂


My background: I have been a Nurse Practitioner working in aesthetics for over 6 years. I love my job- I love the artistry and I love working with my patients to achieve their goals. I went to University of Alabama for my undergraduate degree, and I completed my Masters in Nursing at Vanderbilt University. I am married, and I have 2 little girls, and we love living in Nashville.

What are fillers made of?

The dermal fillers that we use at Maxwell Aesthetics, are all made from hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance in the body, so there is little risk for allergy when injected into humans.The hyaluronic acid molecules are suspended in a gel, and that gel is what we inject.


How long does filler last?


The longevity of your filler treatment is based largely on the product that is injected. On Laura, I used Juvederm Ultra Plus. This product lasts about 9 to 12 months, for most patients. It is important to ask about longevity, as it can range anywhere from 6 months to 2 years, depending on the product!


How painful is it?


Filler injections are not THAT painful! We use a topical numbing agent that sits on the skin for about 10-15 minutes prior to the injection. Most patients would report that their pain is mild to moderate, and quite short-lived. I have never had a patient that couldn’t tolerate the injection! 


Is there any downtime after treatment?


Yes- there certainly can be! I want all of my patients to plan for bruising. It typically occurs less than 50% of the time, but we do not have good control over who will, or who will not, bruise so I ask that everyone be prepared for that. Swelling is also very common, and usually resolves in about 48 hours. 

Does filler help with acne scars?


This is a tough question! This question is best answered on a case by case basis. Often times, acne scars are better treated by lasers or micro-needling types of treatments. Fillers can be used, but again, this would something best discussed face to face with a provider, as there is great variability in the appearance of acne scars. 


What is a good filler for lip lines that won’t give you the duck lips?


There are a couple of good options for patients that are wanting to treat lip lines without adding too much volume. I like using Volbella and Refyne. Both of these products will smooth the area, without adding a lot of bulk, preventing the duck lips from happening!


How do you know how much to use to make it look natural?


Every patient is different- it is very important to assess the patient and have a discussion about the patient’s goals, and what are realistic expectations. Most patients get 1-2 syringes, and we can space that out over several visits, so that results are very natural appearing. 

Can guys get it?


Yes! We see male patients all the time in our office. While this was once thought of a very female thing, I can assure you that is no longer the case! Male patients are very interested in maintaining their youth, and botox and filler injections, along with good skincare, are a great way to do this!

Thank you Tracy! You can find Tracy on Instagram Here .

Find more about Maxwell Aesthetics Here

Find more about Dr. Jacob Unger Here

Request a consultation with Tracy Here

Lesly’s Breast Cancer Journey

I am totally humbled that Lesly has chosen to share her story with us today. Lesly was the first one I reached out to when I knew I was going to be needing chemo. I remember her and a friend of ours going to my first wig appointment at HPI. I said to Kimberly, the owner of HPI, that I was more traumatized by the thought of losing my hair than I was losing my breasts”. Lesly looked at me and laughed and said she legit said the same thing!

Lesly is one of my heros. I’m so lucky to have had her in my life during that unknown journey, and I’m so glad she is in my life now to help each other learn how to navigate this new life of ours.

Enough of my babbling! Here is Lesly!

Laura is one amazing lady!  We met through mutual friends just after her diagnosis.  I was about 6 months ahead of her in my BC journey, and I met her at her first wig appointment.  Her spirit and joy were infectious.  Like many women I have met in “the club you never want to join,” she was strong and full of positivity.  I continue to be inspired by her courage in sharing her story.  
Early on, I was told by another friend in the club, “you can’t feel angry that your diagnosis is worse than some nor can you feel guilty that yours is better than others.”  She was spot on.  At the time I was already feeling both of those things.  As I look back over the last 2 years, I realize that for whatever reason, this is part of my path.  I choose to be better because of it and I am so grateful for the lightness I feel on the other side.


I am 46 years old, live in Birmingham, AL with my family – my husband, Robert, and his 2 great kids Max (17) and Miller (14).  I am also career woman, traveling to Nashville (and all over the country) with my work.  On June 26, 2017, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I had always been a big planner, super organized and highly focused.  Needless to say, this diagnosis was not something I was expecting and it hit me like a ton of bricks. 


A little backstory first.  I had been married previously in my late 30s and spent 5 years desperately trying to have children with my first husband.  Seven miscarriages, multiple drugs, shots, surgery, IVF, etc consumed me in that period of time.  I read as much as I could about infertility and everything surrounding it.  Somewhere along the way, I read about increased cases of breast cancer in women on a similar infertility path, and it stuck with me.  I don’t remember exactly what it was or what drug it was linked to, and truthfully, that part doesn’t matter.  What is significant, is at that point, I started doing self breast exams every month.  In the Spring of 2016, I found 2 lumps in my left breast.  My breast tissue was too dense to show anything on a mammogram, so an ultrasound was ordered….it revealed 2 cysts.  I had them aspirated and tested, and all came back fine.  No big deal!  In April of 2017, I found another lump in same breast.  I was not overly concerned…it seemed just like the first cysts to me, and it was on the same side.  I already had a mammogram scheduled for June 19th, and Robert, and I were getting ready for a 2 week trip to Israel, so I decided to wait and have it checked when I was scheduled in June.  The NP doing my exam that day, had a difficult time finding it, at first.  When she did, she explained that it didn’t feel like a cyst, and because of my dense breast tissue, she wanted me to have an ultrasound, as well.  After my infertility struggles and miscarriages, I had come to recognize when an ultrasound wasn’t looking good.  And THIS was one of THOSE ultrasounds.  They could not give me a definitive answer that day, but I saw the concern and asked the radiologist to send my results to my friend who was a surgeon.  I was traveling for work that week and just pulling into Nashville when his office called to schedule a biopsy…immediately.  Friday morning, we had it done and Monday, Robert and I went together to hear the results from Dr. Fischer.  I had known Philip since High School and he is married to one of my best friends.  I can’t imagine what it was like for him to give Robert and me the news, but he did with the utmost compassion and care.  Hearing those words, “it’s cancer,” is not anything I can describe.  It was terrifying and numbing  (and a whole lot of other emotions) all at once.  But the shock could only last a minute, because reality was about to set in.  I had to figure out exactly what I was dealing with and how to get rid of it. My cancer was diagnosed as Stage II, grade 2 invasive ductal carcinoma, hormone positive and HER2 negative.


Robert was my rock.  I am a pretty private person.  I only wanted to talk to the few people who could really help me determine the best course of action, and get me moving.  I called and told my parents, asking them to share the news with my siblings and my huge extended family.  Robert told the kids, his mom (Marcia), his sister (Carrie), the rest of our extended family and closest friends.  My friend and co-worker (also a cancer survivor), Mandy, shared the news for me with my work family and business associates.  I was so overwhelmed by the diagnosis, and I needed to process it.  Because of that, I was not comfortable talking about it or sharing it on social media.  My key people…Robert, Carrie, my Mom and Mandy, helped manage those early conversations for me.  Once I understood what I was dealing with and had my surgery scheduled, I sent an email to my friends and family sharing the plan.  I will forever be impacted by the strength my friends and family gave me at that time. It humbles me still today.


In gathering information, I knew I wanted more than one opinion.  I quickly realized there was no ONE WAY to treat this disease, but there were options based on my specific cancer, my age, my health, my oncotype score, etc.  I went to a second hospital for another opinion.  It was drastically different than the first and I left in tears – full blown ugly-crying breakdown.  I was lucky enough to have connections to 2 additional oncologists in other cities – one being one of the leading breast cancer oncologists in the country.  My discussions with them confirmed my gut instinct and I chose my treatment plan.  I opted for a radical mastectomy and reconstruction first.  Dr Fischer did the mastectomy, followed by Dr. Steinmetz doing the reconstruction the same day, then Dr. Piede at the Bruno Cancer Center took over after surgery as my oncologist.  The surgery was a success.  The path and test results concluded clear margins, no cancer in the lymph nodes, but a high enough oncotype score that I would need chemo.  The good news –  only 4 rounds of Taxotere and Cytoxan…no RED DEVIL and no radiation!  Small but monumental victories to me!


IMPORTANT NOTE – there truly is no ONE RIGHT treatment plan.  Every person and their exact plan is as unique as their specific cancer and their DNA.  Right after my diagnosis, I found a lot of well-meaning friends wanted to share with me what they thought I should do.  Those opinions came from a place of love and support, but they were not what I needed.  I had already connected to a few women who were members of the club.  Those women helped me understand that the only people that could determine my route were my doctors, Robert and me.  


There were so many unknowns going into the surgery and treatment.  I had never been under anesthesia for more than a couple of hours, and I was under for 9 hours for the mastectomy/ beginning reconstruction/ expanders.  I was not prepared for how difficult the “hangover” from that amount of anesthesia would be…nor for the discomfort, the inability to do almost anything that required my arms, the pure ick of drains, etc.  I was exhausted and struggled to remember things…everything it seemed.  I had a note pad with me all of the time.  Once treatment started, I was determined to NOT have a port.  I didn’t want the reminder in between treatments (mine were 21 days apart) that I was “in treatment.” I obviously didn’t realize that looking in the mirror would be a constant reminder (being bald will do that to you).  Truthfully, being in treatment was the 1 thing I DID remember…everything else was a struggle (YES – chemo brain is a real thing)!  On top of that, I did not realize how hard the chemos would be on my veins.  By my last treatment it took my nurses close to 2 hours to get a vein to hold up for me.  If I had to do it over again, or if I was asked for advice from someone new to the club, I would say – GET THE PORT!  There is a reason for it!  


Losing your hair sucks! It’s that simple. I didn’t realize it until the day we shaved off my few remaining straggles, but emotionally, it feels like losing an appendage. I had a much harder time losing my hair than I did losing my breasts. Think about it – most women have never seen themselves without hair. I certainly had not. I had 2 girlfriends with me when that last little bit came off. They brought wine and wigs and made sure to keep my spirits high. We went to HPI (the amazing women in Nashville who custom made my wig), let them shave what was left and do my final wig fitting. I was looking at my friends as the clippers cleaned up my bare scalp, then I turned to face the mirror. All I could do was cry. When I saw myself bald for the first time, it was like I lost part of my identity in that moment. Add to that, the reality check that most acquaintances and strangers had no clue about my diagnosis at that point. The new bald head would change that – now everyone would know I had the “C.” Those first 2 days were tough. But then, I started to get comfortable with it. I guess I really started to get comfortable with myself. I was managing major changes to my body, while managing nausea, exhaustion, mouth soars, hot flashes, headaches, body aches, the list goes on, and also trying to keep up with every other aspect of my life. It was a lot! But then, I eventually started to appreciate how easy it was to NOT have hair. I wore my wig when I went out or to meetings and events, but when I was home, working out, going to the grocery, living everyday life, I wore a hat or a scarf. Eventually the freedom of being bald helped me learn how to not to sweat the small stuff.


I did get some great advice from my fellow club members and from my primary physician’s nurse (Pam was a former oncology nurse).  Hydrate, Hydrate Hydrate!  Pam told me specifically 40 oz of Gatorade or G2 starting the Sunday before my Wednesday treatments, plus 60 oz of water each day.  I was religious about getting my fluids and it paid off.  I also exercised everyday.  I have always worked out – I am a runner and have a trainer 2 days a week.  After surgery, as soon as I got the green light to walk, I started walking outside.  I continued that during chemo.  Dr. Piede, said it made a huge difference in my overall health and how I handled treatment.  There were some days I was shuffling more than walking, others I could barely make it to the end of the driveway, but I tried to do something, even if just for fresh air.  I always had a friend or my mom with me to make sure I made it back ok (some days were questionable). Those walks and visits with friends were as important to my mental and emotional health as they were to regaining my physical strength.  I also set a goal during treatment to do a 10k Thanksgiving week.  I realize this is a bit crazy and not the right goal for everyone, but for me, it was pure motivation.  We were going to Rosemary Beach for Thanksgiving and it was supposed to be the week of my last round of treatment.  Because of the holiday, Dr Piede let me push treatment to the following week, giving me an extra week of recovery between my 3rd and 4th rounds of chemo.  With his blessing, I signed up for the race.  On my good days between treatment (I was typically down for 5-7 days, then gradually improved over the next 14 days) I would walk/ jog 2-4 miles each day.  When race day came, I had no clue if I would make it.  Two friends joined me for the race, talking and running with me all 6 miles.  I cannot remember how we did, but it did not matter – we finished!  Robert and our family were cheering us on at the finish line.  It was the best Thanksgiving I have ever had. 
A couple other little tidbits:

  • Chemo nurses are amazing.  My friend, Laine, who was about 6 months ahead of me in treatment, told me early on to meet and get to know my chemo nurses.  I did and Kim and Lorie became my angels.
  • Rest is one of the most important things you can do.  You really cannot get too much of it.  Rest your mind, your body and your soul.  They all need it.
  • Anything that comes up in your body that feels off or weird or abnormal – tell your doctor.  Even if it feels insignificant, tell them.  You are the only person who can communicate what is happening in your body to your doctor – don’t shy away from sharing that information.
  • Chemo brain is real.  The change in my brain, my memory, my ability to find vocabulary…it was all so frustrating.  I still take notes in every phone call, every meeting, all day long.  Find what works for you to give you confidence to make your way through that obstacle.  It does improve and I still have hope it will be back 100%.  Acknowledging that it exists and being honest about it, rather than trying to hide it from everyone (including yourself), makes it easier to manage.  It is OK!  And on the bright side, I really don’t remember my worst days after chemo!
  • Being the sounding board for “new members” the way so many women were for me is an amazing way to perpetuate kindness, hope and love.  We need more of those qualities in this world and I have yet to meet a woman on this path who is not a shining beacon for all of it!

I am on Arimidex now and for the next 10 years.  I went through 4 AI’s to find this one.  The menopause symptoms are REAL, but they eventually settle.  The bone pain is no joke, but it calms down too. I met the most amazing woman in my travels last month.  Her name is Amy and she is Stage IV Metastatic BC.  After 7 years post her first diagnosis (hormone +, HER2 -), treatment and an AI, she is in the battle again.  But she is gorgeous and strong and HAPPY!  She is living life FULLY!  Another member of the club whose presence inspires me.  
In this whole experience, I had to learn to let things go.  Historically, I had been a bit of a worrier.  My family and I were not expecting to get this diagnosis when we did, but then no one is.  If you are reading this, you know first hand that cancer does not discriminate.  It is painfully cruel and systemically hard for everyone affected by it. You have to educate yourself on YOUR version of the disease as quickly and thoroughly as possible, and preferably, without getting on the internet.  Both hospitals gave me information from the American Cancer Society on MY specific cancer and on breast cancer in general.  I read all of it.  I compiled questions from that research for my oncologist and my oncology contacts.  I insisted on being informed so I could clearly weigh my options.  I also respectfully thanked advice-giving friends who had not personally experienced a similar cancer and stayed away from engaging in their opinions.  I read books, I listened to podcasts.  Not just about the disease, but about life and living… fully, joyfully and with purpose.  I continued to work, setting short term and long term goals that gave me something to look forward to on the days when I felt terrible.  Accomplishing those goals when I felt good gave me hope and strength.  I kept a spreadsheet of every person that reached out to me, and I thanked them personally with a written note or email or text.  The pure love from my people was amazing.  Telling them how important they were to my recovery, energized me and gave me the opportunity to share and spread the gratitude  that enveloped me. 


I am just over a year post final reconstruction and 16 months post final chemo.  The experience of my cancer- the entire experience –  is one of the most transformative in my life.  I found grace in tragedy.  I believe that cancer (or any life set back) can make you better, kinder, wiser, happier, stronger, more humble, more loving if you choose to open your heart and soul to that transformation. And I now know that when I lost my hair I didn’t lose my identity, it was really just the beginning of discovering who I really am.


Thanksgiving Day race with my brother and sister after round 3 of chemo.
My first night out with Robert in my wig – it looked so much like my pre C hair!

In my wig with Laine, one of my BC girls who guided me along the way, and Tyler, one of my best friends. This was one of my goal nights after my 2nd round of chemo. 
With Robert one year post surgery – new hair growing back!


DA and Val were the first 2 women “in the club” that took me under their wing.  They gave me such strength. We ran into each other at A restaurant about 9 months post treatment.  It’s always a celebration when I see them. They are such beauties inside and out.

Lesly Simon

You can follow Lesly on instagram at @leslysimon72

Blair’s Journey

blairs journey

I’m Blair! I am a mom, wife, hairstylist and SURVIVOR.  I am a Tennessee native, born and raised in a small town north of Nashville called White House before moving to my current home of Gallatin.  My journey with breast cancer started when I was just 25 years old. I am now 26 years old and have 3 babies under the age of 5 with my husband of 5 years, Spencer.

 

My life changed last year when I felt a lump while showering, when I was 34 weeks pregnant with my 3rd baby.  I went to the doctor and had the lump checked. After they performed an ultrasound, I was told I would need a biopsy.  When my results came back I was home alone with my oldest and my middle child. I will never forget that day because it was February 2nd, my husband’s birthday.  I received the news I’d hoped I wouldn’t be hearing.  It was cancer.  As soon as I hung up the phone with my OB I called my husband, then my parents and my sister right away to deliver the not so great news.  While they already knew cancer was suspected we didn’t believe this would be happening. 

 

I was diagnosed with a hormone positive (Estrogen and Progesterone positive), HER2 negative, stage 2 breast cancer.  By definition ER/PR positive breast cancer is fueled by hormones, therefore my cancer was feeding off of my pregnancy as my body was naturally producing more of the hormones the tumor responded to. My doctors told me once my daughter was born there was a small chance my cancer staging could reduce due to my main supply of hormones being cut back. Thankfully this rang true and after my double mastectomy in March 2018, my final pathology came back to be stage 1.

 

Prior to my double mastectomy I delivered my daughter at 35 weeks and 6 days, just 2 weeks after finding my lump!  In order to determine the next steps for my treatment I had to wait for all my milk to dry up and have an MRI of my breast. When I went in for the test I had a panic attack and wasn’t able to complete the MRI. I then saw the general surgeon on my case and had genetic testing, all of which was negative for any cancer linking genetic deformities such as BRCA 1 and 2.  At this time the biopsy tissue was also tested to determine which hormones my cancer was fed by.  Once we had these results I met with my oncologist who determined I would be having a double mastectomy without any upfront treatment. 

 

For those of you who have had a mastectomy, you may be able to relate to my surprise when I found how limited my strength was afterwards. You just don’t realize how many muscles and how much strength you pull from that area in everyday life. Just sitting up for the first month or so I had to have help from someone.  This procedure is not for the faint of heart.  If there is one thing I wish I would’ve known, it would be to have research more options on reconstruction and advocate for myself more on exactly what I wanted! I’m learning to love myself, but to only be 26 it’s very hard to accept my body for what it is now. I feel if I would have been more informed and were able to make choices for myself prior to the surgeries, I would’ve been happier about my new body.

 

If you are just diagnosed I would recommend you DO YOUR RESEARCH. It’s kind of a double edged sword, because in doing so you can totally scare yourself by things you can read and not fully understand. On the other hand, by doing so you can fully present yourself with every option and ask every question/concern you have, to put your mind and heart at ease.

 

The other side to the process is the mental/emotional side.  I am not an emotional person. I do not like for anyone to view me as weak or emotional, but through all of this it was very hard not to be. If I could give one piece of advice to help someone mentally and emotionally go through their journey, it would be to keep yourself busy and surrounded by people who love you, support you, and will always keep you laughing. My family, friends, and babies kept me going strong and moving forward through this entire journey. Every day is new and while it may not be what you wanted you take the cards you are dealt, you lean on the ones you love and love you, and you trust in the Lord to get you through!

 

My journey was definitely the furthest thing from easy, but it could’ve been a lot worse. I am so blessed and thankful to say, that as of March 12th, 2019, I am 1 year cancer free, and hoping and praying for many more years. I am thankful for all the support and love I received throughout my journey and would love nothing more than to be a rock for someone else experiencing breast cancer. If you need me I’m here.

Blair’s Instagram name: blairelise

Amanda’s Journey

Hi guys! Laura here. I’m so excited to begin sharing YOUR journeys. I will be posting my #wcw every Wednesday. I’ve already had such an amazing response! Email me at tatatocancer@yahoo.com to share your story.

Now for my first rockstar! Here is Amanda. 💜

I have Stage IV metastatic breast cancer that is HER2 positive and hormone negative. It is in both breasts, lymph nodes throughout my body, my liver and my spine.  I am still currently doing chemo. I thought I was done with that but my oncologist and I decided to do a few more rounds. Hoping to get to NED! And I will receive targeted therapy via infusion every three weeks for the rest of my life. I remain hopeful because lots of strides are being made with HER2 positive breast cancer.
How I found out:  I was following your (Laura) journey so breast cancer was at the forefront of my mind when I had a pain in my right armpit that just would not go away. After several weeks of dealing with that pain and after finding a lump, I decided to go have a mammogram. The mammogram uncovered what they called “suspicious calcifications” so they did an ultrasound, too. The radiologist told me that very day that he was sure I had DCIS. That same week I was referred to a Surgical Oncologist who biopsied the lymph nodes in my armpit as well as tissue in my right breast. The next week I found out I had at least Stage II breast cancer. Within the next two weeks I had an MRI and a PET scan, had my chemo port put in and had a liver biopsy. I also found out I am hormone negative, HER2 positive. A couple days after I had the liver biopsy it was confirmed that I have Stage IV breast cancer with mets to my lymph nodes, liver and spine. It was a very fast diagnosis.
How I told my loved ones:  Because things were happening so fast my family was on the ride with me. After the mammogram when I was told I likely had DCIS, I immediately called my husband and my mom. Both of my parents as well as my husbands parents were very much involved in the entire diagnosis process from taking me to doctors appointments to staying at our house to help with my kids. I’m so grateful that I had so much support surrounding me because I would not have been able to hold myself up. My family held me up. Telling my kids was challenging more for me than for them. They are both so young that they hardly understand. The know Mama is sick but they don’t understand the magnitude of it all. And I honestly don’t want them to. I don’t want them to be afraid that I might leave them one day. It hurts to even write that. They’re not ready for that. I’m not ready for that.
Steps my doctor took towards treatment:  Because my diagnosis happened so fast I was getting my treatment plan quickly, too. Once they had all of my scan and biopsy results as well as my cancer type, it was go time. The diagnosis was harder than the treatment plan as far as waiting. Once my oncologist had all the information he knew exactly what he wanted to do. My family and I consulted with MD Anderson and toyed with me going there for treatments, but I ultimately decided that I was happy with my current oncologist and that it was better for me to be home. I didn’t want to uproot my kids and I was not about to be away from them not knowing what my life expectancy was.
One thing that surprised me about treatment:  I was taken aback that I would not be having a double mastectomy. I had mentally prepared for that. I actually stood in the mirror and said goodbye to my breasts. I was ready. I was actually looking forward to it. I thought by getting rid of the girls I would be cutting the head off the snake. When I found out that surgery was not something that would be beneficial for me I was actually really upset. We always hear the saying “cut the cancer from your life.” I wanted to literally do that. My best friend explained it to me best; she got this analogy from someone she spoke to. Metastatic breast cancer is like a dandelion that we blow in the wind. When its a perfect ball, cutting the head off means its gone. Done. It can’t go anywhere from there. But, if we blow it first, all the little pieces go everywhere. So, cutting the head off then doesn’t really make a difference. The pieces are already everywhere. So, since my cancer had already spread, having a mastectomy didn’t offer any benefit.
What tips would you give someone just diagnosed:  1)Stay off the internet. Don’t google your statistics. Its scary and its gut-wrenching and it won’t help. And those statistics don’t have to be your statistic. 2)Find somebody who you can relate to to talk to. Whether its a family member or a friend, or even someone you follow on social media. Reach out to somebody who understands what you’re going through. Breast cancer can feel like a very lonely disease and its unlikely that the people surrounding you will truly understand what you’re feeling. But there are people out there who do understand. And I have not come across one person with breast cancer who hasn’t greeted me with open arms. And it has saved me. 3)Don’t stop living your life. Cancer can take over. You will be devastated and sad and that’s ok. But keep doing what makes you happy. Keep living. Its more important now that ever. Your mental health depends on it. You will find your strength.
What tips for chemo:  So many! You (Laura) gave me so many that made my life so much easier as it relates to side effects. So I’d recommend anyone about to start chemo to find somebody who’s done it or currently in it and get all the info you can. I live for Claritin for bone pain (that shit really works) and ice packs for neuropathy!
Tips for emotional/mental part:  Again, don’t stop living your life. It will have to alter, of course, due to treatment, surgery, side effects, etc. But keep doing things that you want to do. Especially when you feel good. Take advantage of those good days and enjoy them. I truly believe that continuing working out and doing date nights and getting together with my friends has helped me stay strong. I decided that the things I enjoy don’t have to become things I did before breast cancer. I’m not giving this disease that power. And also, give yourself a break. You are going to break down. You are going to cry. You are going to get angry. And all of that is ok. It does not make you less strong. In fact, I think being honest about how you’re feeling makes you a warrior.
One thing I wish I’d known:  I wish I’d known that the beginning is not the end. When I was getting diagnosed and going through all of the scans and port surgery and getting my treatment plan, it felt like all of it may be for only a few months of life. It was a dark place. But that’s not the case. Diagnosis is excruciating. But its not the beginning of the end. Its just the beginning of a different life.
My mantra:  I don’t know that I have a mantra, per say. I just have refused to let this cancer define me or take over my life. I’m still me. Cancer is something I have to deal with, not who I am.
Thanks for including me in this! I love it!
Amanda

You can follow Amanda online!

Blog: https://cancerdoesnthaveme.com/

Instagram: Amanda.lee.cortese

One Year Cancerversary

This time last year I was going into the hospital to have my cancer removed. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if it was in my lymph nodes or not. I just knew that whatever the case, I would be waking up from surgery with no cancer in my body. Just knowing that, made me feel at peace. At this time the only people that knew where my family and a few friends. I didn’t know how I wanted to share this news. From day one I knew I had to do something to make this worth while. I really truly believe God wanted me to use this hard time in my life to help others and open younger women’s eyes to realize this could happen to women at any age.

Thinking back on the fact that I had no real fears in making my decision to have a double mastectomy is crazy. One reason is because I trusted my plastic surgeon Dr. Unger completely. He is truly an artist. But also I believe God led me to that decision.

So here I am one year later. I am not the same person I was before. And for that I’m thankful.

After surgery we found out I would need chemo and radiation. I had a CT scan done and there was NED. (No evidence of Disease). I don’t like saying I’m cancer free. Maybe I’m scared of jinxing myself. But I at this moment have had no evidence of disease for one year.

Just want to send a thank you to my family who has been by my side through the tears and the smiles. For my friends who have become family. And to my boyfriend who has become my soulmate. I love you all. And last but definitely not least, thank you to the people I haven’t ever met but feel like friends. You guys have followed me, prayed for me, made me feel loved and supported.

I’m excited to see what this next year has in store for me.

I love y’all!

I’ll leave you with a few pics. Starting from one year ago, and going to the last picture of me celebrating with some of my new breastie friends.

New Year, Better Me

Happy 2019! Wow it’s been a while since I updated you guys.

When I updated last, I was towards the beginning of my radiation treatment. I’m SO happy to say that I finished radiation right before Christmas. I rung that bell for hopefully the LAST time. Fingers crossed.

Radiation really was not too bad. My energy gradually lowered but nothing too crazy. My skin did not really burn, or at least I didn’t think it did. It did however start to peel so that was fun. But now I’m all good!

I had a great Christmas celebrating with my wonderful family. Ray’s family came down to spend it with us as well. I felt very loved. And very lucky.

I finally took off my wig and started rocking the natural hair. It feels SO good!

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We rang in the new year. I’ve never been so happy to have a year come to an end. 2018 taught me many things. It taught be how to be strong, how to love, how to not take one single second for granted, and most of all how to really talk to God. I have quite the conversations with the man upstairs now. I would not be where I am today without Him.

January was full of fun times. Not many doctor’s appointments. I did however have an appointment with my oncologist. My blood work, where they check for tumor markers, came back great! Then I was hit with quite the decision that I needed to make. They said I could do a clinical trial. The trial consists of a drug that you take twice a day along with the hormone therapy that I am already on. The drug is FDA approved for stage IV patients and has showed great results with their cancer not progressing. This trial is for earlier stage cancers like mine was. It is to see if taking the hormone blocker along with this drug lowers the risk of reoccurrence more than taking just the hormone blocker alone.

Of course this comes with side effects. Some of them definitely concern me but also this is a really expensive drug that I’d be getting for free. So I’ve decided to try it. I can back out at any time so I don’t see the harm in just trying it out for a bit to see how it goes. I’ve had zero side effects with my hormone blocker, so that is a great start.

Before I begin the trial I will have to get a bone scan (cue scanxiety attack). So that is what I will be up to in these next few weeks. I will begin the trial in March.

I also would like to tell you about my lovely friend Amanda. I’ve known Amanda ever since college. She is strong. She is beautiful. She has the MOST adorable family ever. Amanda is 33 and just found out she has Stage IV breast cancer. Just typing those words make me so emotional. It just does not make sense. She is handling it with such strength and grace. You can read her blog here.

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Speaking of my “breastie”, here is a photo of my Nashville Breasties. Can’t believe we all have had breast cancer at young ages. It just is crazy. But it happens. And I’m so lucky to be connected to them.

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So there are the updates from the last two months.

In three days, February 6, It will be one year exactly from when I went to my breast appointment and my nurse Norma found the lump that turned out to be cancer. It will be an emotional week for me going through those days that followed. I can’t believe it has been a year.

Love you guys!

Until next time…

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Life Changes

Tomorrow I turn 32… This time last year I was dreading turning 31. Oh how old. (Insert eye roll here). This year, I’m so thankful to be turning 32. I will no longer fret getting older. Instead, now I pray I get the privilege to grow old.

Cancer changes things. What it’s changed about me the most is that now I enjoy each minute of every day. I am be thankful that I’m here, healthy, and surviving . I pray every night and thank God that I’m alive. I thank Him each morning when I wake up.

I am happier than I’ve ever been. That may sound weird, but it’s true. Am I still scared my cancer could come back? Heck yes. I think about it every day. But I don’t let it steal my joy.

Tomorrow I will be going in for my 9th treatment of radiation. I am completely in love with my radiation team. They make me laugh which I think is truly the best medicine there is. So far I’ve not had any side effects. I will have a total of 25 treatments, with my last day being December 20th.

I also have a meeting with my oncologist next week. These will be the ones I dread. Every 3 months for 2 years I will meet with her and have my blood drawn to make sure the cancer hasn’t metastasized. These days won’t be fun. But again, I refuse to let it steal my joy.

I can’t wait to ring in this new year. 2018 has been a doozy, but it’s taught me so much. I’m so thankful for where I am today.

Now for the q&a part…

Have you experienced lymphedema?

No I have not…yet. I am at an increased risk because of having my Axillary lymph nodes removed. Because of this I meet with my therapist once a week during radiation to give me a lymph massage to teach the fluid in my arm to go to other lymph nodes in my body such as my back, stomach, or other side of my chest. So far, so good.

Any advice for someone just finding out they have cancer?

Breathe. Take time to decide your treatment options. Get a second opinion regarding treatment so you can feel good about your choices. Take it day by day. And most importantly, pray. Meditate. Hug someone. You have a long journey in front of you but you will be amazed at how fast it goes. 💜

When will you show us your hair growth?

I just posted it on my instastory. It’s a hot mess right now. No idea how to style it right now haha! I go to see my friend in a few weeks to have her cut and color it for me! So stay tuned. 😬

That’s about it! The rest I answered above I believe!

Hope y’all are having a great holiday season!

Until next time…