Thursday, October 30, 2008

Simple Memories...

One of my favorite memories of fall from my childhood is coming home from school one day and seeing the our house turned into a festive Halloween spectacular.

My family had never really decorated for Halloween before. We always went trick-or-treating, but the whole Halloween scene was not really our thing as a family. We dressed up as angels, fairies, rag-dolls; things that were fun but not scary. Ghoulish garb and horror based themes just didn't sit well with three girls growing up in our house.

One afternoon, I walked in the front door and was completely amazed. While I was at school, my mom decorated our dining room with little ghosts hanging from the ceiling, cotton cobwebs in the corners and black and orange decorations through out the room. The decorations were innocuous, cute simple decorations, but they were created from my mom's heart - solely for the enjoyment of her daughters. But, to me, it looked like a Halloween wonderland.

Everyday I am amazed at the extent that we, as mothers - or fathers, will go to ensure our kids happiness. I am also amazed at how complicated we have made the process of ensuring their happiness. We try to do it with big gifts, expensive clothes, the most incredible trips, all in an effort to make sure their life experience in the short time that they have with us is amazing.

Now some may disagree with me, but I think we overdo it. We shower them with the best "things", trying to make sure that what they have is at least as good or better than what their friends have. By giving stuff, we think that they are fulfilled and happy. But does that really make them any happier? Does that make them feel any better about themselves?

I know that walking into my house that afternoon after school, I felt loved, and lacking for nothing. The only "things" that were given to me were some tissues suspended from the ceiling by paper clips and a some old quilt batting stretched and pulled to look like cobwebs. But the intangible thing I was given that day, was knowing that my mom did this simple gesture because she loved me.

How do you try to ensure children's happiness? Are you a giver of things? Or, are you a giver of the gifts from your heart?

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Big Pink Thank You!

Thank you to all who stopped by my blog in October and read about breast cancer and breast cancer awareness.

This month, I told you about my amazing sister Amy and her battle with Inflammatory Breast Cancer, IBC. I shared with you about some of her trials as well as her triumphs as she is walking the road that so many - too many have walked before her. I have shared with you ways that you can support the cause of breast cancer awareness by purchasing "pink" products. I have shared with you hope and blessings that have been found amongst the cancer mire.

I would like to finish off the month by reminding women to do their monthly self-exams. Know your breasts, what the feel like AND what they look like. Schedule your clinical exam with your doctor and let him or her know your concerns, your family history and any other information you feel is important to ensuring your breast health. Schedule your mammogram! Don't put it off because it isn't comfortable. They are not that bad. Besides, a little squeeze is worth finding any potential problems.

I will leave the cancer information links and the SISTER check posted on the sidebar as a permanent addition to this page. Feel free to come back and visit the links, and to utilize the SISTER check information.

Please feel free to leave any comments about how this month's entries affected you. Share your cancer story, a loved ones story, or a story of how cancer has touched you.

Thank you again for reading. I hope October's posts have been a blessing to you.

Stay tuned for more posts from AZ Mom of Many Hats!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cancer Blessings

Cancer Blessings.....

At first glance, these two words don't fit together. They appear to be an oxymoron. How can cancer, something so horrible and devastating, be paired with such a lovely word as blessing? How can a word that brings on the feeling of mire and darkness sit next to a word of hope and light?

I would say that they do fit together. I know my sister Amy would.

Amy and I have been in almost daily contact since her diagnosis. Many of the days have been dark and scary. But even in midst of some of the worst days, Amy has always been able to speak of the things in her life that were good. She has never lost site of her blessings in the blinding storm of cancer.

The following are just a few of the many, many blessings she has.

Amy is able to stay home with her son. She hadn't had the opportunity to do that before as she was the major source of income and health insurance in her family. Cancer forced her to take time off of work. Because she has had this time, she is able to spend more time watching her soon to be teen aged son grow and become a wonderful young man.

She has always been blessed with a husband who has always been incredibly nurturing and supportive of her. A hidden strength in him has been revealed as she has watched him solely take on the role of provider and protector of their family. Through this trial, they have both had to take on new identities in their marriage, and as a result they have grown stronger and closer as a couple.

The many people she has met who are sharing the same battle as Amy, have also been a blessing to her. She is blessed to know that although others are there to support her, only those that have fought the fight can truly understand what she is going through. She has been able to be a support to them as well as receive support from them.

Amy has found the ability to rejoice with those that have good news, even when hers is bad. She has also learned to not feel guilty when she rejoices in her own good news even though those around her may not be doing as well.

She has learned just how much she is loved and by how many people. Old friends, relatives, new friends and mere acquaintances have shown her love that she didn't think she was worthy of (of course those of us who love her, know she is worthy of it.) She has had help with meals, transportation, house work and daily tasks by people who are committed to helping her through this battle. She has even had co-workers donate enough sick days for her to maintain her position as a teacher until January.

She has had a crash course in releasing things into God's control, and knowing that it is OK that she can't control everything or even anything. She has learn to let go.

She has learned to appreciate and see the beauty in the small stuff. When her son didn't wake up to his alarm and she had to drag him out of bed, she was grateful that she will have more time to drag him out of bed while the alarm is blaring. She enjoys her home and the pond in her backyard. She sees an amazing beauty in them that she didn't fully recognize before.

Seeing God in the "trenches" has been an incredible gift in this time. She has found strength and hope in knowing that no matter how deep the pit, she can never fall out of the reach of God.

This is just a list of a few of the blessings she has received.

Cancer Blessings.....I think those two words sit together in an awesome juxtaposition.

If you have Cancer Blessings, please be a blessing to someone else by sharing with an e-mail, a phone call, or a comment to this post.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Get Your Pink On!

Pink is the new black....well at least in the month of October. In stores, newspaper advertisements and magazine articles you will see this color permeating our consumer landscape. Will you cave to societal or peer pressure and jump on the new color trend? Will you outfit yourself or your home with this rosy hue? Are you willing to go pink and support breast cancer research?

If so, read on....

Now I don't advocate going out and spending money just for the sake of spending money. But, if you are in the market for something in particular and are going to be spending your dough anyway, you may as well support a good cause. Right now you have the chance to get a little shopping done for yourself or for the upcoming holidays and support breast cancer research at the same time.

Here are some ways you can GET YOUR PINK ON!*

Pink and pretty...
Payless shoe source is offering a silver toned ribbon charm on a pink cord for $2 and is donating a portion to breast cancer research. In addition, the bracelet packaging has a $5 coupon off of a $25 purchase. But you better hurry! because the coupon is only valid from October 21 through November 3, 2008.

New York & Company stores are offering a pretty pink limited edition lip gloss for $3 with $1 from the sale being donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Pink and Practical...
Don't forget the batteries to go along with the holiday gifts you'll be giving this year. Why not purchase Energizer MAX batteries that have a special offer of a Stephanie Johnson Cosmetic Bag. For each bag shipped, Energizer will donate $1 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure ($10,000 minimum donation; up to $15,000 maximum donation)

Pink and Think...
Think environmentally friendly. Many grocery stores are offering reusable shopping bags and donating some or all of the proceeds from the sales of the pink pouches to breast cancer research foundations. The bags cost $1-2 each.

Britta's Grand Pitcher with free Nalgene bottle lets you not only be good to the environment, but also to your body! The pink pitcher filters your drinking water as well as raises awareness of breast health. Britta is offering $50000 donation to the City of Hope with no purchase necessary. But come on...if you need it anyway, may as well get the pink!

Pink and Perfect...
Search online for designers that are carrying or creating lines of clothing with proceeds that benefit breast cancer research. Some great items can be found at You just might find that perfect accessory that you've been looking for.

Pink and the Kitchen Sink...
Well, not really the sink - but things you might find in the kitchen. The Houdini corkscrew (Metrokane) is donating 2% 0of each purchase to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

The Taylor pink glass digital food scale is a reminder of breast cancer awareness. Taylor will donate $10,000 to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. No Purchase is necessary, but again, why not go pink?

Kitchen Aid products have been available in pink for some time now. Check out the Kitchenaid website to see how a purchase of one of their pink products can benefit breast cancer research.

Pink and Pick-up
Now there is no way around it. We all must do some housework. Why not do it in style with one of many household items that come in pink?

Dyson is offering an upright vacuum and a hand vac in pink with a portion of the proceeds being donated to The Breast Cancer Research Foundations. Check out their website for details and where you can find the product.

Shark is donating $1 from the sale of each Shark Steam Mop to

There are too many pink items out there for one person to list. Check out your local stores, your newspapers and internet searches for more items that help to raise breast cancer awareness and support funding for research.

Now that you have some information - go and GET YOUR PINK ON!

*Information was gathered through local newspapers, internet searches and website information. Check product websites for availability and donation details.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Amy's IBC Journey

Amy's journey with IBC can be found at her website.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Go Pink!

If you have been anywhere this month, you have probably seen the barrage of pink everything, everywhere. The sudden invasion of the oh, so happy, oh so rosy, oh so PINK is a result of October being National Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Retailers are participating in cause related marketing - the cause being breast cancer awareness. According to *, cause related marketing is when a profitable company partners with a non-profit organization to promote their product as well as to benefit the non-profit.

I know that some may disagree with tugging at the heartstrings of the consumer in order to get them to buy a particular product. I know that some may say that it makes people "feel" like they are being charitable when they are really getting something in return. I know some may think that it is just plain corporate greed to try and increase sales by using the color pink.

Well let me go on the record as saying....I don't care! I don't care that people are making money - so is breast cancer research. I don't care if it tugs at the heartstrings - we could all stand to have our heartstrings tugged if it means we become more aware of breast cancer. I don't care about whether or not people are "giving" for the right reason - this can be mutually beneficial to the consumer, the corporation and the non-profit organization.

What I do care about is finding a cure for breast cancer. I care about my sister who has inflammatory breast cancer. I care about my cousin who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I care about my daughters, my mother, myself, my friends, and anyone who will in some way be touched by breast cancer- unfortunately that will probably be everyone.

So, go ahead. Give into the temptation to purchase the cereal with the pink ribbon. As you are starting your holiday shopping, mosey on over to the rosy hued end cap of pink water pitchers. That cute pink t-shirt, it's just calling your name. Go ahead. GO PINK!

P.S. Coming up next... I'll share some items available that will help you go pink.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My Sister's Cancer

I am writing this with the permission of my beautiful sister, Amy.

Several months ago, Amy noticed some changes in her breast. But, she didn't think much of it. Like many women her breasts had always been a little lopsided, so when that increased, it wasn't that concerning to her. She felt some fullness ans soreness, but she had breast fed her son when he was a baby, and the feeling felt similar to when it was time for him to nurse. Her breast looked rashy and was a little itchy, but she thought that maybe her skin was irritated from her laundry detergent.

Because of our family history, Amy had been diligent about doing self exams and had even had a clean mammogram the year prior. But when she went to her general practitioner in February 2008 for a bout of the flu, she had him look at it. That day, her doctor sent her directly to a breast surgeon and she got a diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer - IBC. That day my sister, began the fight for and of her life.

IBC is an aggressive form of breast cancer that causes the appearance of inflammation in the breast. It is usually in a later stage at diagnosis. Amy was diagnosed in stage IV. Her cancer had already metastasized to her spine, ribs and hip bone when it was found.

Immediately after her diagnosis, she went on disability leave from her job as a teacher. She very rapidly began her treatment. She began with a six session round of chemotherapy - one week of chemo and three weeks off to recover from the chemo - until all six were completed. The chemo was rough. She lost her hair and battled depression. She went through a series of shots each week to either boost her immune system, suppress a particular protein in her body or strengthen her bones.

After her first round of chemotherapy, she had a radical mastectomy. The surgeon to took all of her breast tissue, some skin and tissue from under her arm, and seventeen lymph nodes. She underwent and is still undergoing some independent physical therapy exercise to keep her mobility and to help with some nerve damage caused by the procedure.

She is currently undergoing another round of chemotherapy. This time it is three weeks of chemotherapy and one week without. She is still taking the medications to strengthen her bones and immunity, as well as the medication to suppress the protein.

Through this battle, Amy has relied on her doctors, her family, her friends and her faith. She is showing great progress. All the tests and scans that she has taken so far show that she is responding well to her treatment. We don't necessarily understand every medical term that the doctors use, but we know for now that active cancer is not visible on the scans and that it has not spread any further.

As women, we need to know our bodies and be proactive and educate ourselves about issues such as inflammatory breast cancer -IBC. We need to look at credible sources on how to detect and protect ourselves from breast cancer, a disease that affects so many.

As I said before, Amy knew her family history. She knew to have mammograms. Amy knew to look for a lump when doing her self breast exams. But knowing that information wasn't enough. Her cancer was not in the form of a lump.

Posted on the side bar is the acronym SISTER that outlines some of the visible symptoms of IBC. Please feel free to use it as a reminder of not only knowing what your healthy breast feels like, but also what it looks like. Also posted are some links to websites to help you find more information about breast cancer.