Monday, September 9, 2013

Race For The Cure 2013

Susan G. Komen has taken a bit of a beating over the past year but I'll give them this: they sure know how to throw one hell of a party. I love Race for the Cure!

Today was the perfect blend of gorgeous weather, friendship, charitable giving, sports, a sense of community, and kicking cancer's ass all of which was punctuated by the truly magnificent backdrop of NYC's Central Park. We even got to strike a pose with Senator Chuck Schumer.

I'm sure all Race for the Cure events around the country are highly spirited and well-attended but nothing compares to the energy generated by over 15,000 New Yorkers in the greatest city in the world. I can't describe it. You just have to feel it to get it.  

Team Cool Girls Get Cancer raised $3,062 from 37 supporters. Thank you to everyone for your overwhelming generosity. Next year you'll get your own C.G.G.C shirt if you join the team and run with us!

Finally and most importantly, thank you to the best team ever for making this such a memorable day: Liz, Lisa, Laura, Janet, Karen, Julie, and Andrew!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Here We Go!

Race for the Cure 2012

Tomorrow is the 2013 Komen Greater NYC Race for the Cure and the C.G.G.C team has raised over $3,000 from 36 supporters!! I have a great team walking/running with me this year: Liz, Lisa, Laura, Janet, Karen, Julie, and Andrew! Next year we will be more!

I found the above picture of Liz and me on the Komen website taken at last year's race which was only 4 months after surgery. We both wore the C.G.G.C tanks that I had made and mine barely fit over the tissue expanders. They were odd-shaped, out of proportion, and rested so high up on my chest I swear sometimes I could taste them. I also didn't realize that I wouldn't or couldn't wear a sports bra and it was quite a challenge fitting 2 other tank tops underneath in order to provide a little more coverage and psychological protection. I'll make sure to do a post on the kinds of sports bras I now wear when I run.

Spoiler Alert: Target!

There's still time to donate to the team (even after the race is over) by clicking on the link below:

Check back later for race day pictures!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fat Graft Liquefaction or Edgar Allan Poe Couldn't Have Meant This

As I prepare myself to run in the 2013 Susan G. Komen Greater NYC Race for the Cure on Sunday September, 8th, it seems appropriate to mention my latest breast cancer surgery side-effect.

You know that weird sensation when you're underwater and can literally hear your own blood coursing through every vein and artery in your body? Or when you hold a conch shell up to your ear and you're miraculously granted a direct pipeline to the ocean's inner monologue?

Recently I've noticed that the implant in my right breast has been sloshing around inside of my chest when I go running. Not only can I feel it, but the sound it produces within the core of my being is maddening.  It's like I'm living my own personal Tell-Tale Heart nightmare.

While I feel the noise and know where it's coming from logically, the elusive, out-of-body reverberation is like an ancestral memory of my phantom breast. Maybe it just wants to make sure I never forget it once existed. Quite frankly, its eerie and I have a hard time distinguishing which of the two senses (hearing or feeling) I'm really perceiving. I can only liken it to being able to taste the smell of something.  That makes no sense really but if you think about it for a minute I bet you'll understand what I mean.

My breast surgeon says its liquefation from the the fat graft I had back in January. He tells me I just have to be patient until the excess fluid is reabsorbed back into my body.

Funny how the only part that won't liquify is the irksome little blob that has nestled itself in the middle of my cleavage.

I have a tendency to run to the doctor to check-out every little fluctuation my body registers and for that, some may brand me a hypochondriac. In my opinion, most people are so out of touch with their own body and abuse it to such a degree, they are desensitized to any warning signs that something serious may lie beneath.

Anyway....thanks Edgar for this apropos justification:


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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Right Now

I'm not one of those people who lives in the past but I do tend to get ahead of myself and live in the future.

The simplicity of this quote is all I ever need to remember in order to stay calm and grounded and it feels particularly relevant right now.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mastectomy Scars? Get over it!

You know how the expression goes: 

"When in Rome, do as the Romans do."  

In my case, it was Istanbul.

I had this romantic notion that I would spend the last day of my trip being lavishly pampered at a traditional Turkish Hamam, otherwise known as a bath house. I had made friends with the proprietor of the boutique hotel I was staying at and since she had sent me to some great sites already, I let her assist with making arrangements.  She had two places in mind.  The "better" one couldn't take me at the time I wanted to go so by default, I went to the Tarihi Galatasaray Hamami which has been around since 1481.  I figured after 500+ years they would know what they were doing.

And of course they do but as I approached the modest entryway I sensed immediately that the images on their website, a tame version of a Bacchanalian festival with bowls of fruit and people lounging about playing mandolins, were wholly inaccurate. Mind you, that wasn't exactly the experience I was looking to have either but I could deal with a few grapes if the reward was a soothing massage.


After paying for the full-service "Pasha Treatment" (around $80) which included bath+soap scrub+oil massage I was led to the ladies' side and greeted by four older, full-figured women who only spoke Turkish and were in the midst of what seemed to be a nasty sisterly spat. It was quite comical actually even though I couldn't understand a word they were saying. The facilities were bare bones and it almost felt like I was in these women's kitchen since they were doing dishes and watching tv. I was put into a windowed changing room (did I mention this place is not for shy people?) and handed a cotton pestamal, or wrap, and wooden shoes.

Allow me to backtrack for a minute. Remember the bathing suit  from J. Crew I mentioned in my earlier post that I was all excited to wear for the occasion? Well, when the hotel owner called, I had her explain that I wanted to wear a bikini top because I had scars. She said it would be no problem.  I had no idea how naive that was at the time...

There was only one other guest at the Hamam when I was there, a Greek woman who spoke perfect English and was equally confused. She had her underwear wedged up her butt, no top, and a pestamal clumsily knotted around her torso. Since none of the ladies spoke English and were too pre-occupied with their bickering, I put on my bikini bottoms, tightly wrapped the cloth around my top, and waited in a plastic chair for the games to begin. I figured I had nothing to worry about...I was getting a massage and would either be on my stomach or covered with the cloth if turned on my back, right?  Finally, I was led into the bath and through sign language was ordered to lie face-down on a hard, marble slab in the middle of the room. I clung to my pestamal for dear life as the woman attempted to yank it from my body. I won. She shrugged as if to say, "suit'll see" and walked out.


Like a salmon waiting to be gutted, I watched the final moments of the Greek woman's treatment. She had a painful looking expression on her face as she was pushed, poked, prodded, and practically water-boarded. This was not at all what I expected.

I considered getting up and leaving but it was too bather had entered.


Let's just say the women who bathe you don't look like those in the picture. They are all well over 65, Rubenesque, and with great, big boobs practically hanging on the floor. They also aren't wrapped in a beautifully patterned cloth. Instead, they wear only a pair of bunched-up underwear and proudly parade around with their undulating bellies and swinging boobs on full display.

Somehow it's easier to be naked in front of perfect strangers so I took a deep breath, pointed to my scars and made the universally understood motion to go easy. My woman nodded like it was no big deal, put on her sloughing mitt, and went to work scraping away layer upon layer of dead skin while being perfectly mindful of the no-touch zones. When I opened my eyes there were black clusters all over my body which were washed away by bucket loads of water thrown at me. My skin felt like silk.  Next came this abundantly frothy soap which is administered by wringing a long sponge over your body and you're given a quick scrub of your feet, arms, legs, and back. Interestingly, the amount of coverage from this thick soap is way more than any bathing suit would ever have provided. The picture above is totally accurate for that at least. The last step is to have your hair washed while sitting on a footstool with the woman perched behind you as she scrubs your scalp, neck, and back into another sudsy lather.

Bathing at a Hamam is basically a full-contact sport. Things move fast and there is water flowing, splashing, and rushing out of every crack in that room. After being "rinsed" I was again told to lie face-down on the marble platform and wait as my woman proceeded to bathe herself (to remove my dirty germs presumably) like a well-choreographed play. I had already watched the same scene play out with the Greek woman's bather so I knew this was truly a ritual with a precise sequence of steps.  When she was done, she simply walked out.

No one ever came to get me. I eventually wrapped myself in my towel and went out to the waiting room.  Nonchalantly, my woman handed me a bottle of water and led me upstairs for the oil massage.  Finally I thought...this is where the relaxing part happens. Uh uh...we went upstairs but stopped on the landing where a low, cushioned bench was pressed up against the railing. Where was the zen music and candle light? I was told to lie down right there in the middle of the hall where I was slathered in oil and kneaded for a quick 20 minutes. The woman slapped me on the back, smiled, and said "good?"And just like that, we were done.

Would I go again? I'd have to think about that. The funny thing about this experience is that I actually took a shower and washed my hair before I left my hotel room. I figured it was only polite after all.  Kind of like making sure to brush your teeth before visiting the dentist.  

All I know is that if you have any insecurities about revealing your scars, find yourself a 65 year-old, rotund, Turkish woman to be your witness because she definitely won't give a damn!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

C.G.G.C Is Now On Facebook!

Just a quick note to say I've started a page on Facebook for Cool Girls Get Cancer.  FB seems to be a much easier way to communicate quick bits of information to a broader audience.  The blog, as you've noticed, is plagued with fits and starts depending on whatever else is going on in my life but I will always come back to it when I want to write lengthier posts.

So please head over and LIKE C.G.G.C's page here.



Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

Last year at this time, I was in Florence, Italy for work. It was about 8 weeks after surgery and I remember worrying if I would have the energy to make it through 3 days of a yarn convention (very exciting stuff!) and enjoy the side trip to Barcelona I planned afterwards as a reward to myself.

I breezed through the show and I saw every inch of that amazing Spanish city.

Florence is hot, hot, hot this time of year and I had to wear 2-3 layers of shirts because the expanders were so swollen and rested very high up on my chest. I was self-conscious that every one in my industry would know so I covered-up extra. I'm still a little self-conscious but I can definitely wear less now thankfully.

I'll be in Florence again for the 4th of July and then jetting over to Istanbul, Turkey on Saturday for my latest adventure. There's been some civil unrest there but I'm excited to experience a culture that is so different from the ones I've seen before. The protests mentioned in 7/1's NY Times were about gay rights and previously the protests in Taksim Square seemed somewhat akin to the Occupy Wall Street Movement here in NYC. I'm not so worried but just in case, I printed out map quest directions from my hotel to the U.S. Embassy!

On my last day there, after I'm all toured and shopped out, I'm planning to visit one of the famous Turkish Baths that a friend recommended. And while I hate wearing a bathing suit now more than ever, I did manage to find a decent bikini at J. Crew without uncomfortable underwires that covers all my scars, dents, and divots. Naturally, they no longer carry the style I got a few months ago but this French Top is very similar with the same full coverage at the sides and no underwires.

Happy 4th of July!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

New York Magazine's Best Doctors 2013

I've already posted this on Facebook and tweeted it to the world but it warrants repeating for those of you who don't follow those things.

I wanted to post a big congratulations to one of my oldest and best friends Dr. Elizabeth K. Hale on being named one of New York Magazine's Best Doctors, 2013 for Dermatology. This is a huge honor and so well-deserved.

If you live in NYC maybe you've seen Liz on "Taxi TV" or if you have insomnia you may have caught her endorsing Cindy Crawford's Meaningful Beauty skincare line or maybe you saw her the other day on CBS This Morning sandwiched between Gayle, Norah, and Charlie Rose talking about the dangers of sun exposure or maybe you saw her here on the blog running Race For The Cure with me last year just 4 months after my surgery.

Anne-Marie Slaughter should have done her homework before she wrote her piece for The Atlantic because Liz is a woman who really does have it all and can probably teach us all the secret. She's a doctor, wife, mom of 3, dedicated sister, daughter, aunt, friend, clinical professor, Skin Cancer Foundation Vice President, elite soul-cycler, and kick-ass cookie maker just to name a few of her accolades. Our group of friends who grew-up together likes to joke that Liz was born with an extra gear...we have no idea where her energy comes from but she is unstoppable. She has unbridled enthusiasm and is a relentless optimist. She is one of the smartest and most accomplished people you will ever meet but she is also one of the kindest, most humble, and funniest as well.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Liz assumed the role of master ringleader and immediately stepped in to make sure I received the best care available. When I got the results from the needle biopsy the 1st call I made was to my brother, also a doctor (I didn't even tell my parents I had had a suspicious mammogram much less a biopsy becuase I thought it would be nothing and didn't want them to worry.) The second call, actually text message, was to Liz. She was on ski trip out West with her family.  I wrote, "Can you talk?" In typical Liz fashion she replied within minutes and asked, "Did you get the results?" I said yes and that they weren't good. She said, "I just got off the chairlift and I'm skiing down to meet the kids. I'll call you in 15 minutes."And she did. Within a few hours she had spoken to her colleague Dr. Richard Shapiro, a top breast surgeon at NYU Cancer Institute, and made arrangements for me to see him the next day...all during her vacation in a different time zone. Unfortunately, the imaging center couldn't get my films and reports together as quickly as Liz could get me an appointment so I had to wait a few days.

Liz was also one of the clearest voices in helping me navigate my decision on whether to have a single or a double mastectomy. She knew I was very conflicted over the one vs. two debate and that I was too overwhelmed and not medically knowledgeable enough to understand the potential prognosis longterm. As I waited for my BRCA test results, Liz felt strongly that regardless of the outcome a bilateral mastectomy was the wisest choice. Liz may sometimes be over-the-top positive but she is medically pragmatic and responsible and her definitive recommendation was very much appreciated.  I wanted and needed someone to guide me and Liz offered exactly that. One year later I can say with 100% certainty that I made the right choice and have never regretted it even for a minute.

I realize I am incredibly lucky to have a close friend who is a top doctor in a medical mecca like New York City but the take-away for those of you who don't have a Liz is to make sure you have someone who can advocate for you, who will keep asking your doctors questions on your behalf when you're not capable of thinking clearly for yourself, and who will insist on taking care of you so you don't have to even think of asking for help. All friends and family can and should do that for you...awards not withstanding.

So thank you Liz!  I look forward to many more healthy and happy years of friendship.

You can follow Liz on twitter @dermdrhale

Saturday, May 4, 2013

It's Official!

Happy Anniversary to me!  1 year ago today, I became cancer free.  Thank you to everyone who helped me make it through even when it wasn't always so easy.

I know my posting has been incredibly lax but I'm always thinking and working on something. Hopefully soon I can reveal the charity project that I've been involved with. It's exactly what I've always wanted to do.

Until then...

via: theyallhateus

Monday, February 25, 2013

Facebook Declares Mastectomy Tattoo Offensive


In the spirit of SNL's Coffee Talk with Linda Richman I'll give you a topic:  

The above picture of a tattooed bilateral mastectomy cancer survivor is neither offensive nor sexual.  


That's right, Facebook has deemed the above image totally inappropriate and has repeatedly banned and removed it from its site. 

Anyone with eyes can tell you there are far more sexualized images zipping around FB masquerading as art or worse, "fashion", than this image of Inga Duncan Thornell which is actually from a book called Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tatoo.

I don't love tattoos for myself but I think this is quite beautiful, triumphant, and artistically sophisticated.

FB's nudity policy states:
Facebook has a strict policy against the sharing of pornographic content and any explicitly sexual content where a minor is involved. We also impose limitations on the display of nudity. We aspire to respect people’s right to share content of personal importance, whether those are photos of a sculpture like Michelangelo's David or family photos of a child breastfeeding.
Any PR damage control specialist should be advising FB that the best way to overcome a "snafu" is to get out in front of the controversy and act contrite. So far they have not.

I'd write more but well....I'm having my 4th surgery on Tuesday and typing right now is hard.  What's that you say?  Another surgery?  That's right.  But this one is on my thumb.  I tore the ligament and chipped the bone in a very unmemorable way.  I'll be in some huge contrapula for the next 5 weeks.  Work should be fun.  Not sure how I'll be be able to wash my hair or hold a fork much less draw.  Naturally I'm a righty and its my right hand that is injured.

I told my doctors not to think of me as a malingerer.

Sometimes you just have to laugh.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Just In Time For Valentine's Day

Under Armour's Spine Bionic Basketball Sneaker

When I saw this sneaker pop-up on my radar today I got all hot-and-bothered that yet another apparel company, no less an athletic one, has decided that wearing something pink is just what the doctor ordered.

Let me clarify. The above picture is a MEN's sneaker which Under Armour released a few days ago as part of their Power In Pink® Collection.

My reaction can be explained most appropriately in Emoji.

As someone who's competed in sports my whole life I have always been offended by the gender slant toward ugly when it comes to women's workout gear.  Its nearly impossible to find a simple pair of blue and white running sneakers and most of the time I'm picking over tops in "lemon chiffon" or "pink lemonade."

Now at least men can share in the joy.

Yes, its great that Under Armour has pledged to donate a minimum of $500,000 to various breast cancer charities from the sale of any Power In Pink® product. They also have their She's a Fighter® survivor series which, in their words, "celebrates women who use fitness and exercise in the fight against cancer" but I just can't deal with another apparel company missing the mark on something so obvious.

Through Allana Maiden started a petition to get Victoria's Secret to consider making bras for women who have had mastectomies or breast reconstruction. I'm thinking I'm going to have to start one to ask UA, Nike, Adidas, and LuLuLemon to make a sports bra for all the women cancer survivors and patients they want to help who are running, jumping, and sweating their way way back to health.

Better yet, if they can buy the rights to First Warning Systems' sports bra which can detect cancer up to six years earlier than any other imaging equipment currently available they can really be instrumental in making a difference.

(You can read more about that here.)

Having a decent idea of how the garment industry works, its fairly safe for me to assume that selling bucket loads of relatively inexpensive pink t-shirts and other stuff translates into healthy margins.  And there's nothing wrong with facilitating their admirable charitable goals but is it that much of a hit to bottom line to ALSO make a sports bra for these women? Or a bathing suit for swimming laps so you don't get chased out of the pool like Jodi Jaecks, who I wrote about back in July, that won't make you feel like your implants are going to rupture?

Get the lead out people or I'm going to send Shaun T. over to get all Insanity® on your butt!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Like A Phoenix Rising From The Ashes

I know. I've been gone a long time. Work got very rough in November and December and while I was never at a loss for something to say, time and inertia got the best of me.

Since my last post there was the bathing suit shopping nightmare for my trip to Costa Rica, the Ayurvedic doctor I've been seeing for my non-stop hair loss that no dermatologist or endocrinologist seems to know what to do about, some sketchy blood test results, a colonoscopy, 2013, the Lance Armstrong fallout, my juicing fascination, and most importantly, another surgery 10 days ago; a fat graft which has left me pretty unhappy. More on that at a later date though. I'm seeing the PS on Wednesday for my post-surgery follow-up and I need answers and a plan of action before I expound further. Suffice it to say, life doesn't move forward until this chapter is finished.

I started this blog for an actual blogging class at NYU where I've been chipping away at a Professional Certificate in Journalism.  (I have one class left which starts next week and then I get my degree.) The professor who teaches the course is the Deputy Editor of Business Insider, which not only makes him a badass but the whole blogging thing a bit more serious than you would normally think.

We were allowed to create a blog about anything but it was expected to have unique, high-quality content that was well-researched and well-written. The merits (i.e. your grade) would be judged on its potential for longevity (i.e. having an endless "firehose" of stuff to write about), traffic (you, dear reader), sponsorship (the ability to get advertisers and eventually make money), and finally, it should be highly specific and focused enough so as to be viewed as an authority on your chosen topic.

When the professor asked us to describe our target audience and how we would carve out a niche for ourselves in the very crowded blogosphere, I proudly and naively proclaimed that I would focus on fashion and cancer and my angle would be something irreverent like "f**k cancer!" His reply: "Isn't that kind of 'the thing' with cancer already?"

My little bubble burst. I retrenched and overshot in the opposite direction. I thought I needed to remove myself from the process and be a more subjective "journalist." But it has recently dawned on me that the blogs I read and love (on any subject) have authors who speak in the irreverent yet eloquent style I strive to achieve...and therein lies the crux of "The Big Pause." 

(Btw...I got an A in the course ;)

I've been running, running, running and not thinking, thinking, thinking. While my mother had breast cancer and I grew-up in a medical family it dawned on me that my own sphere of awareness had been pink washed. Sure I'd been getting mammograms since I was 29 but like most people, and perhaps a little more so, I believed I was informed enough...and also untouchable. What it actually all boiled down to though was this: buy something pink and you will be enveloped in a worthless halo of crap whose protective powers are about as real as unicorns.

Cut to a few months later. In addition to all the fashion, art, decorating, and political blogs I subscribe to, my google reader now has several considerably hefty folders dedicated to cancer (of all kinds), medical research, big pharma and drug developments, general health and wellness, nutrition, healthcare and the law, insurance companies, and yes, I even have a google alert based on the search term "cancer+fashion."

I've been very busy reading and educating myself but unfortunately that means I've had very little left in the tank for writing. While I love doing it, writing, even without all the research involved, is an all-encompassing, gut-wrenching, exhaustive process (at least for me) and like I said, I had to focus on the job that pays the bills and gives me health insurance...and one which I also really care about.

I've been doing a bit of house-cleaning recently in an effort to focus my online life (actually lives.) I maintain active Tumblr and Pinterest accounts, dabble on Twitter here and here, less often on Instagram, and have another blog I've recently re-started and overhauled to align strictly with my creative life. I have relaxed into the notion that C.G.G.C is a W.I.P.  I will always be someone who had cancer. That's never going to change but the longer I paused, the more I started thinking about what I wanted this blog to do for me and for the cancer community at large.

My ultimate goal is still somehow to marry my fashion life with my cancer life perhaps making functional products that are cool and chic for breast cancer survivors or anyone with special health concerns or medical needs.

Someday all of these things will work in concert. Or maybe they won't but my gut tells me I have to keep trying to find the unlock.

The point is, I'm not going to force myself to adhere to any schedules. The class had rules (maintaining a steady posting cadence for one) but now I need to break them.

So...I want to write about the whole Victoria's Secret petition. Its in my wheelhouse and I have a lot to say.  On the one hand, I think its so kick-ass that Allana Maiden has garnered all this attention but on the other, I'm annoyed that it takes a public shaming of a 10+ billion dollar company to maybe do something so duuuhhhhh obvious for them.

Full disclosure: I once worked for a company Limited Brands owns.

I'm marinating on this one...I've got some research to do.

In the meantime, if you've got some thoughts on any of this, do tell.