First half marathon!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Adele updates and some recent photos

Adele sits on the couch by herself (with my supervision of course!). She pets Campbell. She squeals at Campbell. She grabs his ears. And he can't stop licking her.

This past weekend in the (5 minutes?) of downtown we had, I was sitting, curled up on the couch watching TV with Adele. She was on my lap, and Campbell was right next to us - his head on my feet. Adele reached over and got a handful of his fur. I showed her how to pet him. I said "gentle," and ran my hands over his back. Her chubby little fingers did the same. He turned around and gave her the biggest lick on her cheek.

#heartmelting.

We had a busy weekend of two birthday parties and a wedding (sounds like a title of a movie), plus our first parent-teacher conference at Adele's school today. She is developing beautifully! Her teachers made a slideshow video, with music and quotes, and by the second picture I was holding back tears. 

Every day it seems like Adele gets more and more of a personality. Her babbling has increased, and now in addition to sitting on the couch, sitting on the floor and basically sitting in a high chair, she is grabbing glasses off of our faces and smiles ALL the time. I didn't think she could smile any more than she already does. But she is always smiling, always rosy. Fitting into size 12 months, kicking her PJs open while she sleeps at night, and is sleeping 9-10 hours per night. We are excited about her 6 month checkup and looking forward to starting her on rice cereal.

I wrote this post earlier this week but didn't have time to finish it, so I'm going to quickly tie up. Two recent pics:

One from Brian and Autumn's wedding this past Saturday at the C. Barton McCann School of Art, the second with Kristen Snoke of the PA Breast Cancer Coalition at the opening reception of the 67 Women, 67 Counties: Facing Breast Cancer in PA photo exhibit at Mount Nittany Medical Center Oct. 23. I was honored as a survivor with a carnation. It was such a wonderful evening!

More to come later!

Sending love xoxo


At Brian and Autumn's gorgeous outdoor fall wedding on Oct. 18

With the lovely Kristen of the PBCC at the kickoff reception of the 67 Women, 67 Counties: Facing Breast Cancer in PA traveling photo exhibit, which this October has made its way to Centre County. The event was held Oct. 23 in the Lance and Ellen Shaner Cancer Pavilion at Mount Nittany Medical Center.







Thursday, October 23, 2014

My workshop at the 2014 PBCC conference! Oct. 5 in Harrisburg, PA

Breast cancer in young women: coping with unique issues

Listen here: Breast cancer in young women: coping with unique issues

My workshop went very well - better than I expected, actually! I had a lot of group participation and met so many amazing women! We didn't even get through all of the content (which is good!) Thanks to the PBCC for this incredible experience and opportunity! My workshop intro and outline are below.


Me at the PA Breast Cancer Coalition's 2014 conference, where I presented a workshop on the unique issues faced by young women with breast cancer, such as body image and fertility.



Good morning! My name is Marjorie Miller, and I am so honored to be here today. I am not a doctor or an expert; I am a young breast cancer survivor and I am here to bring to light some of the unique and sensitive issues young women with breast cancer face, such as not being taken seriously by doctors and dating or starting a family.

I was diagnosed when I was 26, while I was planning my wedding. Because I have a personal history of cancer, prior to the breast cancer, when I found a lump it was taken seriously and within days I was getting an exam followed by a fine needle aspiration. This led to a quick diagnosis.

Unfortunately this isn't the case for all young women, and many are dismissed by their doctors because they are "too young to get breast cancer.” Some go months or years before they are scheduled for a follow up.  I want to help make sure this isn't the case anymore. Young women can and do get breast cancer. I know from experience. And I want to share my experiences and provide a platform to address these issues that aren't always addressed when talking about breast cancer, to hopefully change the dialogue and make a difference. Thank you!

What Is Different About Breast Cancer in Younger Women?

Diagnosing breast cancer in younger women (under 40 years old) is more difficult, because their breast tissue is generally denser than the breast tissue in older women. By the time a lump in a younger woman's breast can be felt, the cancer often is advanced.

In addition, breast cancer in younger women may be aggressive and less likely to respond to treatment. Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age are more likely to have a mutated (altered) BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.

Delays in diagnosing breast cancer also are a problem. Many younger women who have breast cancer ignore the warning signs -- such as a breast lump or unusual nipple discharge -- because they believe they are too young to get breast cancer.

Many women assume they are too young to get breast cancer and tend to assume a lump is a harmless cyst or other growth. Some health care providers also dismiss breast lumps in young women as cysts and adopt a "wait and see" approach.

(WebMD)


Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older, but breast cancer also affects younger women. About 11% of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age. While breast cancer diagnosis and treatment are difficult for women of any age, young survivors may find it overwhelming.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.gov)

According to the Young Survival Coalition, (www.youngsurvival.org),

Young women CAN and DO get breast cancer. It is estimated that more than 250,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40 or younger are living in the U.S. today. More than 13,000 young women will be diagnosed this year. While breast cancer in young women accounts for a small percentage of all breast cancer cases, the impact of the disease is significant.

Statistics and Disparities (Young Survival Coalition)

Numbers to Open Your Eyes:

Facts and Statistics

If popular opinion were true—that young women don’t get breast cancer—YSC wouldn’t be here. We all know the truth, though—young women can and do get breast cancer. And the facts back us up. Here are some startling stats to wake us all up—and get us ready to defeat this disease together.

Women Just Like Us:

  • You’re not the only one: Each year, approximately 70 thousand men and women age 15 to 39 are diagnosed with cancer in the US.1 Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women in this age group.2
  • Women ages 15 to 34 and 35 to 54 die more frequently from breast cancer than any other cancer.3
  • In 2011, the American Cancer Society projected 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer among U.S. women annually, as well as an estimated 57,650 additional cases of in situ breast cancer.4 It is estimated that 13,110 cases of breast cancer will be in women under age 404 and approximately 26,275 women will be under 45 years of age.5
  • Every year, nearly 1,200 women under age 40 die from breast cancer.4

A Different Enemy:

  • Compared to older women, young women generally face more aggressive cancers and lower survival rates.4,6 More and more evidence tells us that breast cancer before age 40 differs biologically from the cancer faced by older women.7

Our Unique Challenges:

  • No effective breast-cancer screening tool yet exists for women ages 40 or younger.
  • Young women with breast cancer struggle with many issues either not present or much less severe in the lives of older women, including:
    • The possibility of early menopause
    • Effects on fertility
    • Questions about pregnancy after diagnosis
    • Concerns about body image
    • Challenges to financial stability
  • Since breast cancer occurs at a much lower rate among young women than in our older counterparts, we remain underrepresented in many research studies.7

Your Background, Your Challenges: Health Disparities

  • African American women under age 35 have rates of breast cancer two times higher than Caucasian women under age 35.8
  • African American women under age 35 die from breast cancer three times as often as Caucasian women of the same age.8
  • Researchers believe that access to healthcare and the quality of healthcare available may explain these disparities, although scientists continue to investigate. Research also shows that young, African American women are more likely to get aggressive forms of breast cancer than anyone else.9

THE ISSUES:

Body image

  • Emotional and physical effects of surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation: what are the concerns? How to deal with them, and why it’s different in younger women.
  • Reconstruction options: prosthetics, different types of implants, no reconstruction, nipple reconstruction options; feeling “whole” again.
  • While many women choose no reconstruction, oftentimes young women feel the need, as I did. With my reconstruction I have gained a lot of self confidence. My plastic surgeon worked with me to create a size that wouldn’t feel out of place on my body.
  • My first “go round” I had a right mastectomy with immediate expander reconstruction. My skin ended up ripping so I needed to get my implant removed two months before my wedding. I wore a prosthetic. bathing suit, working out.
  • After some genetic testing I decided to get a prophylactic left mastectomy. To mend my right side I got a lat flap - at the same time as my left mastectomy with reconstruction. I opted for silicone implants. After six surgeries, two rounds with the expanders, I am VERY happy with the results. I chose not to have nipple reconstruction on the right, but was presented with many options. I see my plastic surgeon once a year, and during my breast MRIs the doctor checks the placement of my implants and checks for any leaks.
  • Exercising and yoga - discuss my experiences
  • Expanders (AH!)


  • Those of you with implants: please share your experiences. Silicone vs. saline; going bigger or smaller, etc.
  • Beyond the breast: other effects of treatment, including hair, skin, nails. Has anyone tried the American Cancer Society’s Look Good … Feel Better program? If so, please share.

Dating and starting a family

  • How to tell a significant other about breast cancer during a relationship
  • How to tell a significant other about breast cancer in the past. What your body looks like now and why.
  • Dating after breast cancer. Some of the issues women might face are how to tell a prospective date you have had cancer and what they might think. Intimacy and breast reconstruction. Losing feeling, pain. Personally I have not regained a lot of my feeling on my right, and I may never, and I still have some pain and tension within my chest muscles. Stretching helps, foam roller.
  • IS ANYONE GOING THROUGH THIS RIGHT NOW?
  • Concerns about pregnancy and breastfeeding: fertility, options for starting a family, pregnancy and its effects on a woman’s body who has been through surgeries/treatments   - I made the very personal decision to not get pregnant, and my husband and I are so blessed to have adopted a baby girl earlier this year. Our adoption story is a beautiful one! we waited less than a month for our little bundle of joy, and brought her home at 2 days old. This was my personal choice, given my history of cancer, and what my body had been through - I did not want to experience a pregnancy.
  • A lot of young women face fertility problems, or are told by their doctors not to get pregnant. a lot also worry about passing along cancer genes.

Talking to friends about breast cancer, talking to your doctor(s)

  • What do you need from friends? How can they provide help? (A night out, simply listening, asking or not asking questions, etc.; everyone’s needs are different)
  • Addressing the “you’re too young” stimaga. It can sometimes be hard to be taken seriously - how to address these issues and how to ask for what you need.
  • What do you need from your doctors? Discuss screening, breast exams, bloodwork, etc. Creating YOUR plan based on what feels right to you.
  • What are some ways young women can get their message/fears/concerns across to doctors and friends?
  • WHAT ARE THREE THINGS YOU WANT FRIENDS/ FAMILY TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR BREAST CANCER AND WHAT YOU NEED FROM THEM? PLEASE WRITE DOWN ON YOUR SHEET OF PAPER.
  • Young women with cancer have different needs. Many have not yet been through menopause or have started a family, so treatment options need to be discussed and altered. Younger women also handle treatment and side effects differently.
  • WHAT QUESTIONS DO YOU WANT TO ASK YOUR DOCTOR NOW, WHETHER CURRENTLY IN TREATMENT, OR POST-TREATMENT? PLEASE WRITE DOWN ON YOUR SHEET OF PAPER.

Life after/living with metastatic/recurrence: regaining sense of self, living with “new normals”

  • After breast cancer: how are you healing physically? How has treatment affected you long-term? Regaining strength and movement.
  • After breast cancer: how are you healing emotionally? How do you want to heal? How do you need to heal?
  • Yoga, physical therapy, running

I had physical therapy to regain strength and movement on my right side. To this day I use a foam roller nightly and lift weights and stretch. The discomfort hasn’t gone away completely, and sometimes running and yoga is uncomfortable. But I power through and tell myself this is my “new normal.” I always inform yoga teachers of my condition before class. There are some poses I can’t do, or don’t feel comfortable trying to do, and I have to be OK with that.


  • Living with metastatic breast cancer: dealing with treatment long-term, “maintaining” sense of control, living with “new normal”
  • Routine screenings and checkups for life: how do you cope with the anxiety? Does the fear of recurrence ever go away?
  • Recurrence: dealing physically and emotionally.
  • WRITE DOWN THREE FEARS; THREE GOALS FOR LIFE AFTER BREAST CANCER; AND THREE THINGS YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH NOW OR LONG-TIME, WHETHER OR NOT HAVING TO DO WITH BREAST CANCER.

Managing Your Follow-Up Care (Young Survival Coalition)

After treatment ends, you still have important medical business to attend to—your follow-up care. This means regular checkups to test for recurrence (your cancer’s return) or metastasis (your cancer’s spread). Doctors also screen for other types of cancer and for any difficulties caused by your treatment. Most women have checkups every 3-4 months for the first 2-3 years and once or twice a year after that.
Take an active role in your follow-up care, and you can empower yourself to get the most out of your checkups:
Plan: Work with your doctor to plan your best care—your plan should fit your unique circumstances. You can also empower yourself by creating a Survivorship Care Plan. This is a summary of your diagnosis, treatment and recommended follow-up care. Develop or update your survivorship care plan. These tools and more can be found in YSC's Post-Treatment Navigator.
Ask questions— Bring a list of questions with you. Here are some common ones to get you started:
  • What tests do I need?
  • How can I relieve pain and manage other problems?
  • How long will it take for me to recover and feel more like myself?
  • Is there anything I can or should be doing to keep cancer from coming back?
  • Do I need to worry about any side effect issues from my treatments? (Examples include bone health from hormone suppressors and heart health from anthracyclines.)
Don’t forget to ask for more resources or better explanations if you need them. Make sure you get a chance to ask all your questions: Ask the most important ones first in case your doctor runs out of time, request more time next appointment and ask if you can call. You can also bring a supportive friend or relative to take notes and ask good questions. Remember to keep your own records of your visits, too.
Additionally, you should consider keeping a copy of all tests for your own records along with detailed information about what drugs your treatment plan included.
Communicate: During each visit, tell your doctor about any symptoms, pain or physical or emotional problems you might have. Share any medicines or other treatments you’re using and discuss any changes in your family medical history, including any new cancers.
Stay Vigilant: You can play an extremely important role in checking for recurrence. Many times recurrences aren’t spotted for the first time at follow-up meetings—often women suspect or find recurrences themselves between appointments. So stay vigilant for changes to your health, and tell your doctor about anything concerning. Remember, however, that many health changes will come from something unrelated to your cancer. Talk to your doctor, and you can be certain.
Ask your doctor what rule they use for reporting a symptom. For example, they might report a symptom that lasts for more than two weeks.



Friday, October 10, 2014

You know you're a mom when ...

You know you're a mom when ...

It gives you great joy, pleasure and satisfaction to remove the boogers and ear wax out of your baby. And you look forward to it.

You refer to baby as "we." "We really need a good snowsuit for winter."

You've seen it all and aren't phased: poop squirting on your face, all over your hands, on the hotel bed, in the tub. Nothing bothers you. Nothing.

You call baby's poop, poops and pee, pees because it's so cute when she "makes her poops" and "makes her pees."

It's cute when she farts. "Are you making your toots?!"

You call baby every name of food and every combination of food in the English language. "Good morning pumpkin pie sugar muffin apple dumpling sweet pea potato knish pomegranate berry pot pie strudel crumb cake!"

You call yourself "Mommy." All the time. For everything. In third person.
"Mommy's gonna put you down in your bouncy seat so Mommy can get a drink of water and Mommy's going to dress you in your leopard leggings and Mommy loves you so much and Mommy needs to make a phone call and Mommy's going to make you a bottle and Mommy thinks it's time for you to take a nap."

You can't stop kissing her cheeks. They're so fluffy and juicy and delicious. It's like each kiss gives you energy and power to conquer the world. Just.One.More. I need my fluffiness. It's like her cheeks hold the sweet nectar that keeps me alive.

She looks cute when she cries. Even when she screams.

You don't mind when she spits up or drools all over you: skin, clothes, wherever.

You can't stop staring into her eyes when she's looking at you. Ever. You can't take your eyes off hers.

Your heart gets that heart-warm-fluttery-can't-explain-joyous-blissful feeling when you see her after you haven't seen her for a while - in the morning, after daycare, when she wakes up from a nap.

You love EVERY INCH of her: her chubby little fingers, ridiculously tangly hair that juts out in every which direction, her tiny little toenails that somehow get lint in them.

Everything is a song when you talk to your baby. Life becomes one long song.

Everything becomes a song.

Adele has turned our words into lyrics, our movements into dance, our thoughts into sweet sounding melodies.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

On my toes wearing many hats

There’s no real good way to start, so I’ll just delve right in.

Since Ireland and since the summer ended it’s been work, Adele, the Jewish holidays, Tour de Pink, Team Pink and Pears fundraisers, Little Black Dress Goes Pink Fashion show, PA Breast Cancer Coalition conference workshop preparation and planning committee for traveling photo exhibit, plans with friends, family visiting, oh, and I’m training for a half-marathon.


Enjoying a Murphys in Ireland



PSU game day at Croke Park Stadium with Dean Brady!

Dunguaire Castle, Galway, Ireland


No caption needed.


Some of those things in the above paragraph have passed, but with it being Breast Cancer Awareness Month I’ve been busy, busy, busy doing my part to raise funds. Sean and I walked the runway in the Pink Zone’s third annual fashion show this past weekend, the day after Yom Kippur. The week before, we were in Philly and Reston for Rosh Hashanah, just days after Tour de Pink, which Team Pink and Pearls ROCKED! Congrats to the team on completing the ride and raising more than $14,000 for the Young Survival Coalition! Prior to that I was busy planning the team’s final fundraiser, a Stella & Dot party, which brought in more than $300 for the team. And planning and celebrating Sean’s birthday on Sept. 30. And I was getting fitted for the fashion show, writing thank-you notes, TRYING to catch up on my book club reads, doing laundry, being a mom, working full time….

Now, as the Jewish holidays are over, Tour de Pink is over, and the Pink Zone fashion show is over, I am busy prepping my workshop for the PBCC conference in Harrisburg on Monday, and am gearing up for PBCC’s photo exhibit opening reception at Mount Nittany Medical Center on Oct. 23, and have officially registered and started training for my first half marathon (my 13.1 before I turn 30 campaign) in December, PLUS I’m still being a mom and working full time and trying to do laundry and sleeping when Adele sleeps which means I’m not doing laundry and I’m definitely not reading my book club book.

PHEW.

But it is all so amazing.

The night before Tour de Pink East Coast 2014: wearing matching "good luck" sister bracelets


Following my squeaky clean breast MRI in August, I had a squeaky clean oncologist appointment a few weeks ago – blood looks great so I keep on going!

Tour de Pink! Day 2 waiting at one of the rest stops in Delaware.

Morning of day 3!


I made this promise to myself, many months ago (right around my 10 miler in March) that I was going to run a half marathon before my 30th birthday, which is also in December. A half marathon is the next logical step in my “running career” and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate life and celebrate the big flirty 30 than with this ultimate challenge. It was this ONE LAST THING, I PROMISE.

Then came our little blessing Adele, and my running (and bathing and sleeping) took a back seat to motherhood.

My promise to myself still stands. I will still run a half marathon for my 30th birthday. Will it be the best half marathon? No. Will it be the fastest? No. Will I train really well? No.

When I was running full time and training for my 10 miler, I had a part time job and no baby.

Now I have a full time job and a baby.

So I’m not going to have tons of time to train. So I’ll run when I can and I’ll do the best I can do, given these circumstances. Honestly I’m not going to drive myself crazy and stress myself out about training. I will run when I can and do MY best half marathon, no matter how slow it is.

It was my goal and it still is my goal. I have a baby now. Less time to run. But I’m still going to do it. It just won’t be phenomenal. But it will be MY best, and that’s all that matters. No matter how slow, I’ll get to the finish line and I’ll celebrate 30 with this tremendous accomplishment.

ADELE IS A JOY!!!! Now she’s grabbing for her toys with both hands, fully holding her bottle, almost sits up on her own, reaches for Mom and Dad, talks and babbles and blows bubbles, grabs her feet and puts them in her mouth, and she is HUGE! She will be 6 months at the end of October. Amazing. We have finished our three post-placement visits and are waiting on a court date, which I’ll remind you: may not be until November or December.

She is growing and doing beautifully. A full head of curly hair I already have trouble keeping tangles out of. Oh, and her cheeks. They are rosy ALL THE TIME FOR NO REASON AT ALL. She is such a beauty. Long eyelashes. Gorgeous plump cheeks. A true, true joy.

Little Black Dress Goes Pink fashion show Oct. 5



LOVE my sparkly red dress! Thanks Diamonds and Lace (where I bought my wedding gown) for dressing me!



My second outfit was a gorgeous Betsey Johnson nightgown from Jezebel's Boutique!

So I feel like I’m wearing many hats. Have a lot of ducks. But they’re all in a row and I don’t feel out of control or stressed. I feel joy. So much joy at my beautiful life.

I am so honored to be able to be a part of the PA Pink Zone and PA Breast Cancer Coalition and share my story and potentially help other women and help bring in the funds for these organizations and their programs. And I am blessed with my health to train for a half marathon, and my health to carry a nearly 20 pound baby (she was 17 lbs, 7 oz at her 4-month checkup after Ireland!) up and down the steps.

I am blessed with my husband and my daughter and my amazing job, which keeps me on my toes. And my husband who keeps me on my toes. And my daughter who keeps me on my toes. And my dog who keeps me on my toes.

And myself.

I keep myself on my toes.



And now, since I jumped right into this post, I'll jump right out with two quotes:

"Go the extra mile, it's never crowded."

and

"Any idiot can run. But it takes a special kind of idiot to run a half marathon."


Monday, September 22, 2014

TdP 2014 completed; pearls a-flyin' past the finish line!

Team Pink and Pearls did it! Tour de Pink East Coast 2014 is completed and more than $14,000 has been raised for the Young Survival Coalition! Congrats Team Pink and Pearls! Sean, Julie, Dan and Danny blew it out of the park and I am so proud and honored! More pics on the way soon. Until then ...

Tour de Pink 2015? We're in.

Team Pink and Pearls WILL RIDE AGAIN.



Monday, September 15, 2014

In four days ...

Dear friends and family,

A year has passed and another Tour de Pink is quickly approaching. Last year I rode more than 213 miles in three days from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. That weekend was one of the best and one of the most life-changing experiences of my life. Now, one year later, my husband Sean, my sister-in-law Julie, her boyfriend Dan and our friend Danny have formed Team Pink and Pearls and will take on the challenge in my honor and in the honor of all young women affected by breast cancer. Because young women CAN and DO get breast cancer. I found answers, safety and a sense of community with the Young Survival Coalition. That’s why I rode. That’s why Team Pink and Pearls is riding this year.



Although I am not physically pedaling the miles, I will be cheering on the team with our beautiful daughter Adele, who will enter the amazing TdP family in just a few short days. I have no doubt TdP and the YSC will also become her family; they are a group of passionate, strong and inspirational men and women who fight every day for themselves, for their wives, for their sisters, for their daughters. They fight by putting their feet to the pedals, by pushing up the hills and by raising money to ensure no young woman faces breast cancer alone.



This year Team Pink and Pearls has committed to raising $12,500 for the YSC. I am overwhelming happy to report we are just $19 away from goal. Whether you shop Stella & Dot or make a direct donation online, now is the time to bring the team home. With your donation, young women across the country will have the support they need while fighting a disease that is often overlooked in younger women. The YSC gave me so much. It’s my turn this year, and for every year of my life, to give back. For all women and the men who love them.



Team Pink and Pearls, in my eyes, has already accomplished the biggest challenge of all: committing to the ride, training for the ride, and raising nearly $12,500. You guys did it! Now, get on your bike and pedal! Whether you ride 1 mile or 300 miles you have already touched so many lives. Just remember that. You’ve already done it. You’ve already made it this far. Now, Team Pink and Pearls, now is the fun part!



Thank you for your ongoing support, love, encouragement and passion. And thank you for believing in us and believing in the cause.

We’re not just pink. We’re pink and PEARLS.




Love,

Marjorie
Photos by me

Photo by Marjie

Photo by Marjie

Photo by Marjie

Photo by Marjie