Category Archives: breast cancer

Massage heals

When you have breast cancer, your body is constantly being poked, prodded, cut and poisoned. Even when treatment is complete, your body still feels foreign, uncomfortable and tense.

Becoming comfortable in your new body takes some experimenting:
– Finding a new, comfortable sleeping position is a challenge.
– Identifying exercises that are effective and painless requires effort.
– Even getting a massage requires teamwork.

I know this firsthand because I visited Samantha at Healthy Touch Day Spa this week for my first post-mastectomy massage.

I explained my circumstances to her and she graciously did everything in her power to make me feel safe, comfortable and relaxed. We experimented, as a team, with strategically-placed rolled towels which eliminated my pain points and improved my overall experience. 60 minutes later I emerged from the beautiful, Victorian room refreshed and renewed which is something I haven’t felt in six months.

Spa Featture

Connie Stewart-Sacks, the owner of Healthy Touch Day Spa, has shown her support to breast cancer survivors through her donation to the Survive then Thrive retreat as well. A huge thank you to Connie and her staff for easing the road for cancer survivors.

Top 10 Mastectomy Prep Tips

One of the main frustrations voiced by mastectomy patients prior to going for surgery is that they don’t feel like they have enough “good” information about what to bring to the hospital and what they’ll need after the surgery. While the internet is FULL of information (which can be scary and overwhelming), none of it is practical or useful.

I recently had a patient reach out to me for my “list” so I thought I would share it with you. Again, I’m not a medical professional and, of course, there are many more things you will need for your personal situation, but these are the top 10 things that were important to me during my post-op recovery.

Before you go:

#1) Breast Cancer Treatment Handbook:
It was easy to understand, straightforward and informative. Click here to learn more.
#2) Fill your prescriptions:
Make sure you fill all of your prescriptions and buy all of the OTC medicines (Advil, Tylenol, Culturelle, etc) before going in for surgery.
#3) Pack for your hospital stay:
I brought dry shampoo (see #5 below), lip balm, flip flops or slippers, yoga-type pants, zipper front hoodies and a lanyard with large safety pins (for the drains) A side comment about the drains: Learn how to strip the drain lines while in the hospital. Make sure you ask the nurses how to do it. Don’t assume you know what to do (I made that mistake and was doing it wrong). Also, I had the best luck with my drains working the best by pushing the bulb up in the bottom vs squeezing the sides.

At home:

#4) No Rinse soap:
The scariest thing for me when I got home from the hospital was taking a shower. I was afraid to get wet. I wasn’t able to life my arms well but I wanted to feel clean. Luckily there was a bottle of no-rinse soap in my hospital room which I took it home with me. It was a life saver. I could feel clean by washing with a wash rag but didn’t have the fear of getting wet from head to toe. Click here to see the one I used.
#5) Dry shampoo:
In keeping with the personal hygiene theme, I knew I wouldn’t be able to wash my hair for a while after surgery so I stocked up on dry shampoo. This miracle product absorbs the oil and grease from your hair. Your local grocery store or pharmacy will have many brands for you to choose from.
#6) Non-aluminium deodorant:
If you haven’t done so already, you’ll need to convert over to natural deodorant. Everyone’s biology is different and responds differently to the components each deodorant. You’ll have to play around to find the one that “works” for you, if you know what I mean. Some options are Tom’s, JASON, Primal Life Organics or whatever you can find at your local health foods store. Don’t give up! I use the “dirty” version from Primal Life Organics (the one in the photo is regular) but you’ll have to choose one that’s right for your body.
#7) Medicine chart:
My medicine charts were VERY helpful for my husband/caregivers (and me) to remember all of the medicines to administer.You’ll need to modify it to your situation and your particular prescriptions, but here’s what I used (Med chart).
#8) Scar minimization:
Don’t be in a hurry to get rid of your surgical tape. My surgeon recommended that I keep tape on my incisions for as long as possible. I changed the tape every week for almost 3 months. Once I took the tape off I started applying Vitamin E daily. Doing this will keep the incisions from “raising” or looking inflamed.
#9) Bras:
I searched high and low for front closure bras. Most were really expensive. My surgeon recommended these from Target. I wasn’t able to close these myself the first few weeks but they offered the best support once the bangages were removed. I had to wait to buy them though because I didn’t know what my post-op size would be. Also, as the swelling decreased, my bra size decreased so don’t buy too many at first.
#10) Nursing tanks:
I had to modify them a bit, but there is nothing better than a nursing tank while you are wearing your drains. It allows you, and the doctors, easy access to your incisions, without having to undress. If you modify them correctly, you can pull them up from the bottom eliminating the painful “over the head” dressing approach. You can buy these before surgery, just make sure to get them oversized as you’ll appreciate the extra room.
None of this is easy, but it doesn’t have to feel hard. A few simple steps to get prepared prior to surgery will make things easier and more relaxed for you. It will allow you to focus on your recovery!
Be strong this week,
Jill

 

Why you should attend Survivor dinners

Laughter. Conversation. Stories. Support. Camaraderie. Good food. A pause in time. Perspective. Gratitude.

That’s what you get when you attend a Breast Cancer Survivor dinner.

We’re all different. We all come from different backgrounds. We all had a different diagnosis. We all chose different treatment plans. We all have different support networks. We all have different recovery paths.

Yet, we are all the same. We have a common bond. We all have shock and trauma in common. We all have hope and healing in common. We all have breast cancer and survivorship in common.

When we come together, all of our differences melt away. We become one. We become Pink Sisters.

I attended my first event in July, prior to my surgery. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t sure I’d fit in. I wasn’t sure I’d have anything to talk about with anyone. When I got there I was shocked and pleasantly surprised to see so many local women who had undergone surgery like mine and were doing well. I quickly learned that survivors truly are sisters. All barriers disappeared and we bonded instantly.

Dates, diagnoses and treatment plans are all shared. “I had a single mastectomy 14 years ago, was triple negative and did a mild version of chemo. A year later I had DIEP reconstruction.” And “I had my first lumpectomy when I was 43 followed by radiation. When my cancer came back at 52, I decided to do bilateral mastectomies.” And “I’m a care giver.” And. “My mom had breast cancer. That’s why I’m on the Statesboro Bulloch County Breast Cancer Foundation Board.” And. And. And. Everyone shares. Everyone cares. Everyone is different yet we are all the same.

The following monthly meeting was scheduled for two weeks after my surgery. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it, but when the date rolled around, I knew I couldn’t miss the opportunity to get together with women who understood me, who understood how I was feeling and who understood what I was going through at that exact moment. That level of understanding was very reassuring and comforting for me. Again, I arrived nervous and apprehensive and left feeling supported and seen.

Survivor dinners are held at different locations typically on the 2nd Thursday of the month. Contact us for more information.

I do everything in my power to make each one, not for the free dinner, but for the community, the friendships and the relationships. I hope you’ll mark your calendars and join us!

Be strong this week,
Jill

Merry Go Round (as delivered at the South Georgia Center for Cancer Care Survivors’ Benefit concert)

My head is down

I’m driven and focused

I’m a mom, a wife, a friend

I am invincible

I sit on committees

I volunteer time

I’m a business owner and employee

I go

My life is hectic.

 

I schedule a breast screening.

STOP!

 

This isn’t possible

I don’t do sick

I don’t have time for cancer

Who will run my business?

Who will walk my dog?

Who will clean my house?

The questions of How? Who? What? swirl

 

No! It’s not possible

No! Now what?

No! Who is best?

No! What is best?

 

They all say “It’s your body”

“It’s your decision”

I don’t want to decide

I don’t want cancer

I don’t want this

 

I must

I tell myself I must

I really must

I think I can

Can I?

I will

It is possible

I can do this, right?

I decide I want to do this

I need to do this

I can’t do this

STOP

 

No, no I don’t want to do this

Well, maybe I can

I think I can

I know I can

I can, I really, really can

I make my decision

No more research

No more Google searches

Fewer doubts

Fewer fears

 

Surgery is done

 

Now I heal

Now I rest

I pray

People pray

I am healing.

 

I hurt

And I cry

Then I dry my tears

And I rest.

I breathe.

 

My new questions:

What could I learn?

Who could I help?

How could this change lives?

It has changed mine.

I am grateful

I push myself

I strive for more

I grow

I share

I survive

I thrive

 

I am alive.

Before we begin…

Before we begin, I have a few disclaimers:

1) I can only blog from my perspective. While many things I experience will ring true for others, my experience is my own. Your experience is your own. One is not right. One is not wrong. But I only know one and can therefore only write about one. I invite you to chime in and share your experiences. The more perspectives we share, the better we can serve our entire pink community.

2) I am not, I repeat, NOT, a medical professional. My brother became the doctor. I became the businesswoman and there’s a solid reason for that: I pass out at the sight of blood and gore. No joke. We have the phrase in my family: “I’m going down!” which means get out of momma’s way and let her pass out. Don’t worry though, I come to fairly quickly. All that being said, it’s obvious that I have never wanted to be a doctor. But I’m curious and I do my research. I love to learn and try new things. I ask a lot of questions of a lot of people and I want to share what I learn. Again, do not seek medical advice from me but feel free to talk with your medical professionals about some of the topics I explore.

3) I love feedback. I love collaboration. I love input. Together we are stronger. Do you want to guest blog? Great! Shoot me an email and we’ll sign you up. Want to be interviewed? Wonderful! We’d love another survivor’s story. Have a certain product you swear by? Awesome! Let us know which one and why. Don’t like what I have to say? What’s wrong with you?!? No, seriously, it’s ok to tell me, just don’t be mean about it. I don’t want to get my feelings hurt.

4) The SBCBCF asked me to blog because we think you want to hear from other survivors. If there is something specific you’d like me to explore, please let me know. I don’t have an agenda and without your input this will be a fairly free flow experience. So please, tell me…what do you want to talk about?

I am grateful to have the opportunity to represent one of the voices of breast cancer. I never thought I’d be a member of the survivor club but if there’s a group of women I’m proud to be a part of, it’s this one!

Be strong this week,
Jill

Blogger bio

Jill Johns is a breast cancer survivor and women’s advocate. She lives in Statesboro with her wildly supportive husband and four ridiculously busy children. When she’s not working on one of her professional endeavors, she dabbles in paleo cooking, travels extensively and reads every self-improvement book she can find.