Holiday Gift Guide for Self Care

by Angela on November 23, 2020

‘Tis the season for gift guides! And if you are like me, you spend all your energy and efforts on finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list. I create a spreadsheet every year (Excel is my jam) to keep track of what I have bought everyone, including cost and budget. It is color coded for stocking stuffers and Santa gifts. I also use it to make sure we buy equal number of gifts for the kids. But it never fails, every year when others ask me what is on MY wish list for the holidays, I almost always come up blank!

So we decided to do our gift guide a little differently and have created the Holiday Gift Guide for Self Care. This is a wish list for YOU to give your loved ones so they have ideas on what to give you for the holidays. Of course, this can also be used as a guide for the other women on your list, but why not point your significant other, mom or kids here to get some ideas on what to get you. It’s the season of giving but remember, to take care of others, start by taking care of yourself first.

We have even included a downloadable and printable PDF with QR codes at the end of this post. Simply print, write your name at the top and hand to your loved one. It couldn’t be easier!

So without further ado, here’s Everyday Road to Healthy’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide for Self Care:

  1. Fabletics Subscription or FabFitFun Subscription – Fabletics workout gear or FabFit Fun self care items subscription is the gift that keeps on giving.
  2. Think Royln Women’s Wingman Bag – Deena’s favorite weekend bag that can also be used as a stylish workout bag.
  3. BuDhaGirl Champagne All Weather Bangles Serenity Prayer – Set your daily intentions with these stylish, soundless, weightless and waterproof bangles.
  4. Erin Condren Wellness Log Petite Planner or Wellness Bundle – Angela’s favorite day planner brand also has a wellness planner to keep track of your health and fitness goals. 30% off if you sign up as an insider. New Year resolutions are just around the corner!
  5. Theragun Mini – Great for muscle recovery and their Black Friday sale is going on now.
  6. Designed for Joy Heather Feather Leather Earrings – Designed and crafted by women living in high risk situations to help them overcome their situations. Deena spotlighted this amazing business here.
  7. HydroMATE Motivational Glass Water Bottle – Drink your water! And this water bottle helps make sure you do.
  8. Lemongrass Spa Peppermint Stick Duo and Holiday Healing Elements Balm – Clean and natural beauty products that smell great are perfect for self care. Angela uses the Healing Elements Balm on everything and everyone.
  9. S’Well Stainless Steel Traveler Mug – Angela got this from her sister-in-law last year and it’s become her favorite go-to coffee mug.
  10. Athia Skincare Bundle – If you’re looking for a new skincare line to try, Angela is loving this line right now. The bundle Angela reviewed here is currently on sale.

Download and print this PDF with QR codes for easy shopping:

Happy Shopping!

*Some items on our gift guide are affiliate links and erth receives a small commission upon purchase. However, all items are honest item recommendations used by Angela and/or Deena and we would recommend them with or without the affiliate program.

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Shop Small & Support Local this Holiday Season

by Deena on November 20, 2020

This past year has been challenging for everyone. It has been an extreme reminder on how grateful we should be for family, friends, colleagues and community. How important it is to be there for one another when and how we can.

This year has been heart-wrenching for me. When I’m not helping Angela with the Everyday Road to Healthy website, I’m busy working my day job in the Tourism and Travel industry. An industry that has been devastated this past year. I know most people think of airlines, hotels, and exotic places when they think of Tourism. However that is only part of the view – many of our local small business rely on tourism also.

Many of the small businesses I work with, have had to close or alter operations in order to assist in easing the spread of Covid-19. Some of them may not reopen. So how can we help those local shops are valiantly trying to persevere? By supporting them this holiday season.

Small businesses are the heart of our communities. They have pivoted during this pandemic to be there when we’ve needed them. They have implemented online ordering, curbside pickups, virtual classes & performances – you can even get cocktails delivered directly to your door these days (YAY!).

So here are some ideas on how we can all support small businesses this year:

  • Purchase gift cards or products online
  • Order a meal kit to-go or delivery from your favorite dining spots
  • Support the Arts by signing up to view performances online
  • Ship someone on your gift list your favorite bottle of wine, craft beer or spirits from local beverage producers
  • Take up a new hobby or fitness plan with virtual classes
  • Shop artisan shops online for unique one of a kind gifts
  • Share the things you love on social media – word of mouth is invaluable to small businesses

Small businesses have been scrappy, innovative and resilient these past few months. Please remind them how much we need and love them – shop small and local this holiday season.

#MaskUpSpreadOut #SupportSmall #SupportLocal

Stay Healthy!

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Spinach, Red Bell Pepper and Feta Egg Muffins

by Angela on November 18, 2020

Egg muffins are a quick and easy recipe to make for breakfast-on-the-go or batch meal planning for the week. It is also easily adaptable to ingredients you have on hand. My recipe below makes 8 egg muffins that are simple and savory. Enjoy!

Spinach, Red Bell Pepper & Feta Egg Muffins

Simple and savory egg muffin recipe that is perfect for breakfast-on-the-go
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Breakfast
Servings: 8 muffins

Ingredients

  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1 cup spinach roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbled
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray of your choice.
  • Whisk together eggs and milk and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Layer spinach, bell pepper and feta into muffin tin, to make 8 muffins.
  • Pour egg mixture evenly over spinach, bell peppers and feta.
  • Bake in oven for 30 minutes until egg is set.
  • Let cool slightly before removing. Can be stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

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Celery Juice for 30 Days

by Angela on November 12, 2020

I have been following @medicalmedium, @celeryjuicebenefits and @celeryjuiceheals on Instagram for a while now and have been fascinated with the healing benefits of celery juice as well as the various testimonials they post. I dabbled in juicing a while back with my fancy Breville Juicer, but found I didn’t really know what I was doing and why. So the juicer ended up on a shelf in our basement gathering dust.

Fast forward a few years later, after reading all the healing benefits of celery juice, I started thinking, hmm, maybe it’s good for you! So out came the juicer once again. I fortunately don’t really have any obvious symptoms as mentioned in a lot of the healing stories (severe eczema, auto-immune diseases, etc), so I knew my “before and after” story wasn’t going to be amazing like some of the ones I read, but I still wanted to challenge myself to drink 16 oz. of celery juice every day for 30 days to see how I felt.

Why 30 days? This is actually my 3rd 30-day challenge. My first was walking a mile-day for 30 days, which you can read about here, and the other, which I haven’t shared yet, was intermittent fasting for 30 days. I picked 30 days because I feel like it’s a fair length of time to give something a try. It’s usually enough time to assess changes in my mind or body, determine if it’s something I want to stick with or not, and long enough to establish a habit if I do want to keep it going. So on a completely random day in October (October 8th to be exact), I made myself a tall glass of celery juice, and I haven’t stopped since!

What changes have I noticed? The main thing I’ve noticed after 30 days is that my skin looks clearer and brighter. I could make several other arguments on why this is the case (my new skin care regimen, not being out in the sun as much) but I have to believe at least some of it is because of the daily 16 oz. of celery juice. It’s been a while (like never) that I would post a makeup-free picture, but if you follow us over on Instagram, you will see more than your fair share of no-makeup pictures of me. And just for reference, my skin is a little over 46 years old! Must be something in the juice! 😉

I do think if I continue to stick with it, I will start to notice other improvements to problems I don’t even realize I have right now. So it’s a good thing I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon!

Since starting this daily morning ritual, I’ve googled many a question on the how, what and why of drinking daily celery juice. So to save you the trouble, here are some of my questions and discoveries:

What are the benefits of celery juice? If you follow the 3 accounts I mentioned in the beginning, you will get to read about ALL the benefits! But some of the ones that keep showing up in testimonials is clearer skin, healed eczema, removes toxins, reduced depression and anxiety, reduced acid reflux, fights auto-immune disease, anti-inflammatory, just to name a few.

What is the ideal amount of celery juice to drink every day and why? 16 oz is ideal but it may take some time to work up to it. Why 16 oz.? Because anything less just isn’t enough for it to do its thing in cleansing your body of toxins.

How much celery makes 16oz of juice? Approximately one head or stalk of celery will produce 16 oz of juice. I buy these packages from Costco and can get about 2.5 servings out of it.

I juice an entire package at once and store in a mason jar for up to 2-3 days.

How much water is found in celery juice? Celery is made up of about 95% water. So, since I have started juicing, I have increased my water intake by, oh, almost 100%! 🙂 Could be another reason I’m seeing improvements in my skin.

Celery juice tastes salty. Is it high in sodium? What I discovered is not all sodium is the same, similar to how not all sugars are the same. Celery contains sodium clusters which are healing and beneficial to our bodies. But if you are someone who has been told by your doctor to watch your sodium intake, please ask your doctor first before adding daily celery juice to your diet.

What is the benefit of drinking it on an empty stomach? An empty stomach has a lot less “barriers” for celery juice to get through before it can begin its healing process. With a full stomach, celery juice will get swept up in food and digestion, rather than having a clear path to the rest of the body.

What if you can’t or forget to drink it first thing in the morning? My motto during this challenge was always better late than never. So there were a few days I drank it later in the day, even a couple times at night. If you can’t drink it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, then try for 15-30 minutes before you eat, but an hour or 2 after your last big meal.

What is the best juicer to use? There are so many out there. Medical Medium recommends Omega Juicers, but I personally went for a slightly cheaper option and have been happy with the Breville Juicer.

Why does my celery juice taste so bitter? It’s all in the leaves! If I get any leaves in the mix while juicing, I have a TOUGH time drinking the juice. Do yourself a favor and cut off the leaves, or buy something like the Costco pack above.

Why is juicing better than blending? What I gathered when researching is that it’s mainly about quantity (but also a little bit about quality). When you eat or blend celery, you may consume 2 or 3 sticks. But if you are juicing and drinking 16 oz, the amount of celery you consume increases to an entire STALK. Drinking a stalk is much easier to put down than eating through one. But there’s also something about blending and chewing that breaks down the nutrients that are part of its healing properties.

If you want to read more about the how, what and whys of celery juice, I recommend the Medical Medium FAQ here. In the meantime, let us know if you’ve healed through celery juice or if you are now inspired to try!

Cheers and stay healthy!

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Family Thanks Jar

by Deena on October 30, 2020

In this year of chaos and uncertainty, finding ways for my family and I to cultivate gratitude has become even more crucial to me. I think this year has been really hard for a lot of people. So, I want to remind myself and my kids that even during the most challenging times it is important to give grace and to remember to be appreciative for even the smallest of things. I started a family Thanks jar a few years ago and while I know it’s not a new concept. I wanted to share our family’s gratitude practice and prompts with you.

For the month of November, we each put a slip of paper in the jar at dinner time stating something we were grateful for that day. Now I’m not going to lie, every year when I bring out the Thanks jar my boys roll their eyes and sigh. The first couple days there’s usually a “but I don’t know what to write” complaint however, by the end of the week those tiny slips of paper have become habit.

Here are some prompts I give the kids if they become stuck on what to write:

  1. What is something good that happened to you today?
  2. Name 3 people you are grateful for.
  3. What is something you love about yourself?
  4. What is something you learned that you feel thankful for?
  5. What is something you appreciate about where we live?
  6. What is something you value in your friends?
  7. What is something you love about our family?
  8. What is something your grateful your grandparents taught you?
  9. Who gave you your most “prized” possession? Why is it your favorite?
  10. When was someone grateful for something you did? What was it?

Then on Thanksgiving after all of the cooking, eating and cleaning is done, we will slip into something comfy and pour out the Thanks jar. Those tiny slips of paper will spark conversations around kindness and gratitude. The best part is that we all learn a little more about each other and stories will be told that may not have been shared if we didn’t have the Thanks jar.

I find it the perfect way to begin the holiday season… and it segues quite nicely into Angela’s Random Act of Kindness Advent Calendar for the month of December.

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Breast Cancer Journey – Chemotherapy

by Angela on October 28, 2020

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2008. For Breast Cancer Awareness month, I am continuing to share parts of my online journal that kept my friends and family updated throughout my treatment. For my final post, I am sharing all things chemotherapy. I started chemo just a couple months after my double mastectomy. It was definitely the hardest part of treatment for me, both physically and emotionally. It wasn’t until I lost my hair that I truly felt like a cancer patient. What shows on the outside can have a huge effect on how we feel on the inside.

There was a short period after my mastectomy when I thought I would not have to go through chemotherapy. But in the end, because of my age and my Oncotype test being high (determines level of risk of recurrence), I decided to go through with chemo to make sure I did every possible thing I could to kill any cancer cells left in my body.

Dec 4, 2008 – This morning we had our appointment with the oncologist and my first chemo treatment has been set for Tuesday, December 16th. With 4 cycles, once every 3 weeks, this puts my last treatment on February 17th. It actually doesn’t seem that far away, so I will be counting down the days.

Some other things we learned today:

-The chemo meds I will be taking are Taxotere and Cytoxan, or TC.

– Chemo treatment is a series of events, starting with bloodwork a few days prior. The day before my treatment, I start taking steroid pills, which helps to prevent side effects such as nauseousness and any sort of allergic reaction to the chemo meds. The pills continue the day of treatment, as well as the day after. Chemo will be at 9am on Tuesday and will last until lunchtime. The day after chemo I get a shot that boosts my white blood cell count, so I shouldn’t be any more prone to germs than anyone else.

-The pattern supposedly is that 2-5 days after treatment, I will feel my worst and my white blood cell count will be at its lowest. Then I will slowly start to recover, and by the 3rd week, right before the next treatment, I will feel pretty much back to normal.

-I will start to lose my hair sometime around day 15-17 after my first treatment. This means I will still have hair on Christmas, whew. Hair doesn’t usually start growing back until 2 months after the last treatment (this was new to me), but my hair grows fast and is thick, so I’m hoping for some head coverage sooner than that.

-The steroids I have to take will make it hard for me to sleep, which may be a good thing right before the holidays with so much stuff to do! Otherwise, there’s always Ambien!

Dec 15, 2008 – Tomorrow is D-day. 9am is my first chemo treatment. So far I’m feeling okay. The nerves haven’t really kicked in yet. Tonight I take my first dose of a steroid called Decadron. It is an anti-nausea/anti-allergy med and supposedly will make it hard for me to sleep the next few nights.  

Dec 16, 2008 (1st chemo infusion) – Well today went off without a hitch…well besides blowing out two veins at first. But the actual infusions went very smoothly. We got started around 10 and were out by 12:30. The first drug, Taxotere, was done slowly this time just to watch out for an allergic reaction, but I had no problems. It left a bad taste in my mouth, but nothing a popsicle or hard candy couldn’t mask. The second drug, Cytoxan was quick…just 30 minutes. The weird side effect was that it made my sinuses tingle and caused me to sneeze. The nurse said I may get a sinus headache from it, but so far so good. The whole ordeal went much smoother than I anticipated.

I slept surprisingly well last night. I am starting to drink more water (my body is in shock because as some of you know, I’m horrible at drinking water) so that kept waking me up. The nurse said that tonight I probably won’t be able to sleep since they gave me even more steroids today. Wonderful.

Dec 20, 2008 – The chemo drugs are pumping through my veins attacking any cancer cell that is floating around and, let me tell you, I feel it. I really can’t complain too much because, although I am having some side effects, in the grand scheme of things, they are pretty mild.

I think a standard way of counting chemo days is how many days out from treatment you are. So with treatment day being day #1, today was day #5 for me. Yesterday, day #4, so far has been the worst for me, physically and emotionally. I was wallowing in self-pity yesterday 🙁 but was also feeling very run down and tired. On day #2 I received a shot called Neulasta that boosts my white blood count. The side effect of that is bone pain, similar to aches from the flu. Well yesterday I felt that on top of the fatigue. The other mild side effect is dry/sore mouth. So far no blisters that have prevented me from eating all the delicious foods being brought by friends, but it’s still annoying, nonetheless. And finally I’ve had some mild queasiness. It usually hits at night….like right now for instance…but I’ve been taking medicine at night for it and it helps.

Today I feel much better than yesterday. Maybe it’s because I’m being more proactive about the side effects. The bone pain, for example, hasn’t bothered me too much today because I’ve been staying on top of taking Tylenol. So I guess that’s the key in the future…don’t wait for the side effects to hit, just beat them to the punch.

Dec 29, 2008 – What a crummy weekend. Saturday I came down with a fever, aches and chills. So I guess sometime during all the holiday madness, or maybe at the gym on Friday, I caught something and came down with an infection. I had to have the on-call doctor paged around midnight on Saturday then Jaime had to go to a 24-hour pharmacy to pick up some antibiotics for me. So Saturday I was down for the count and most of Sunday. Luckily the fever broke on Sunday so it definitely helped.

Then to top everything off, my hair is starting to shed. I knew this was coming and I’ve tried to mentally prepare myself, but I don’t think anything can truly prepare me for it. I expected to wake up this morning with tons of hair on my pillow, but nothing. Yet, when I brush my hair, about 20 strands come out at a time. Maybe my thick hair will take a bit longer to shed and I’ll be able to go without shaving for a while. Who knows…my wig is at the store waiting for me.

Jan 1, 2009 – Well Friends, it’s official…I now have a buzz cut. I have actually been surprisingly okay about it. I have seen so many women without hair since my diagnosis, that I am *almost* use to it. But also, the last few days of cleaning up hair everywhere got real annoying and I feel kind of relieved that it’s gone. Last night I decided to wash it and it ended up being a matted mess by the time I went to bed. So Jaime charged up the electric razor and practiced his buzz cut skills on me. I think he was more nervous than I was! And poor Joshua (my son was 5 at the time) isn’t ready to look at me yet. 🙁 Jaime took the kids out so I could “mourn” but I’ve just been walking around with nothing on my head and I feel a bit liberated.

The only picture ever taken of my bald head

In other news, my fever from this past weekend was caused by an infection in my breasts. So I am now on IV antibiotics (the strong stuff) every day until at least Friday to clear it up. Tuesday was my first infusion and I ended up getting an allergic reaction…puffy face, puffy, tingly lips and red, itchy skin. So yesterday they administered Benedryl via IV first and I did much better. Plus I took a nice little snooze during the 1.5 hour infusion! So I am off today to Fairfax Hospital for another dose, then back to the oncologist tomorrow to see if I need any through the weekend. Great way to start out the new year, huh?

Jan 4, 2009 – Well I HOPE today was my last IV antibiotic treatment. The infection is clearing up and I will have my plastic surgeon take a look at it tomorrow. It’s been a tiring week having to go to Fairfax every day from Tuesday-Sunday and sit in the infusion room for 2 hours. However, it has forced me to get out of the house with my new “hairdo” and get comfortable with being in public. I’ve been wearing a baseball hat and haven’t felt too conscious about it. However, it’s awfully cold without hair! I wear my hoodies up even when I’m around the house b/c it’s so cold.

For today I will leave you all with this hair poem that made me smile despite losing my hair. It gives the whole ordeal a bit of light-heartedness:

There once was a woman who woke up one morning,
looked in the mirror,
and noticed she had only three hairs on her head.
‘Well,’ she said, ‘I think I’ll braid my hair today.’
So she did and she had a wonderful day.

The next day she woke up,
looked in the mirror
and saw that she had only two hairs on her head.
‘H-M-M,’ she said,
‘I think I’ll part my hair down the middle today.’
So she did and she had a grand day.

The next day she woke up,
looked in the mirror and noticed
that she had only one hair on her head.
‘Well,’ she said, ‘today I’m going
to wear my hair in a pony tail.’
So she did, and she had a fun, fun day.

The next day she woke up,
looked in the mirror and noticed
that there wasn’t a single hair on her head.
‘YEAH!’ she exclaimed.
‘I don’t have to fix my hair today!’

My usual head covering was a baseball hat

Jan 6, 2009 – Chemo treatment #2 was today and all went smoothly. They even found a vein the first time around, whew. I’m expecting side effects to start tomorrow and I hear the fatigue could be worse this time around. Lovely. I feel like since I’ve gotten over the hurdle of losing my hair, I should be able to handle anything else thrown at me, right?

I’m still on antibiotics for my infection, but no longer IV, so at least I don’t have to venture out every day. I hope that clears up soon so I don’t have to worry about it anymore.

Jan 18, 2009 – I haven’t posted in a while because I didn’t want to speak too soon, but things have been good here. The last few days my immune system has been weak, so I’ve been trying to avoid germs and pray that I don’t get an infection again, and so far so good. This weekend would have been the same time I got the infection last time around, so I’ve been holding my breath. But I made it through the weekend without any body aches or fever. I have been sneezing a lot, but I don’t know if it’s a cold or maybe my nose hairs are thinning out (yes, even the nose hairs supposedly go). Like I said, I don’t want to speak too soon, but honestly, this second cycle was much better than the first. My mouth didn’t get as raw this time. Day 3 and 4 (Thurs and Fri after treatment) were still the worst as far as fatigue….Friday I didn’t want to get up off the couch! But no nauseousness this time around at all, and the bone pain from the Neulasta shot didn’t hit as hard either.

On the hair front…still in a funk over that, but I’m managing. I still have tons of stubble on my head and I swear it looks like it’s growing. I don’t know if more will fall out in a few days or not. I still have my arm hairs (drats), eyebrows and eyelashes as well. I shaved my legs about 3 or 4 weeks ago and that has not grown back (yay!) except for a few stubbles around my ankles. I’ve been wearing my wig out in public for the most part, so I’m getting used to it. Honestly, that has been more for warmth than anything!

Me, in my wig, with my mom

Jan 28, 2009 – Yesterday was chemo treatment #3. Not much to report since everything went smoothly as it has the past 2 times. Right now I’m still feeling fine with my regular energy level. I expect to start feeling tired tomorrow. My oncologist said that the fatigue tends to be cummulative with each treatment, but all other side effects should be similar each time. So we’ll see.

One more to go everyone!!!

Feb 3, 2009 – Just a quick update…day 8 after treatment and I’m starting to feel normal again. Energy levels are back and nauseousness is subsiding. My taste buds were a little raw this time around again and are taking a bit longer to return to normal, but nothing I can’t deal with. Last treatment I drank a milkshake during one of the drug infusions and my taste buds remained normal, so I tried that again this time but I guess it didn’t work. I’ll still try it again for #4…I mean, it is a milkshake…nothing wrong with at least trying! 😉

I think this is the home stretch everyone!!

Feb 17, 2009  – Chemotherapy is officially OVER!

Notes from my 12-year Survivor Self: At the time, chemotherapy was the worst part of treatment, hands down. But now that I am 12 years out, it really does seem like just a blip in my life. For me, losing hair sucked, there’s no other way to put it. Wearing a wig made me feel very conspicuous, like everyone could tell I had on a wig. And that made me feel even worse because I think the main reason I wore a wig was for everyone else, so they didn’t feel uncomfortable. Looking back, that seems silly, but as I mentioned in the beginning, what we reflect on the outside sometimes has a lot to do with how we feel on the inside.

To anyone about to go through this, my advice is to take care of yourself, be proactive about any side effects, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or call your doctor it you aren’t feeling well. Whatever the side effect may be, I found that my oncologist had an arsenal of things she could prescribe or suggestions of things I could do to minimize what I was feeling.

Please reach out if you need someone to talk to. Both Deena and I have life experiences we can share and we hope that no one feels alone while going through something like this.

To wrap up my Breast Cancer Awareness posts, I’ll leave you with a few hair growth progression photos:

4 months after last chemo treatment
5 months after last chemo treatment
Feeling glam 6 months after last chemo treatment
9 months after last chemo treatment

Take care and stay healthy!

xoxo,

Angela

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I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2008. For Breast Cancer Awareness month, I am continuing to share parts of my online journal that kept my friends and family updated throughout my treatment.

On this day 12 years ago, on October 21, 2008, I underwent surgery that would save my life. I was ready, yet scared. Hopeful, yet worried. While chemo’s side effect of hair loss seemed like the worst thing I had to go through at the time, it was short-lived and but a blip in my memory. A double mastectomy however, has physical and emotional side-effects that last a lifetime.

Anyone can google a double mastectomy and read about the details that are involved in this type of surgery. There are pictures and diagrams and even other people’s stories out there. But for me, this story is the hardest one to share and relive because it’s MY story and MY body. I have always been an open book about everything I went through, but sharing this part of my treatment makes me feel very vulnerable.

Oct 9, 2008 – Today was my pre-op appointment and wow, I didn’t expect it to be so emotional. They didn’t go over treatment or side effects but just all the dos and don’ts before and after surgery. So I think the emotions were flowing just because it makes this whole ordeal even more real.

So I will be in the hospital first thing Tuesday morning, the 21st. If all goes well and there are no complications, I should be back home sometime Wednesday. That is my plan…. I will have to relinquish control of “my domain” for a couple weeks while I recover, and that may be the hardest part for me!

Oct 19, 2008 – What is a Mastectomy:  I debated on typing about the procedure I will be going through on Tuesday. When I first heard about it, I was shocked, to say the least. I had a general idea of what a mastectomy was, but was definitely not ready for any of the details. So I thought typing it out may make my friends uncomfortable, but it’s not like it can’t be found all over the internet! After encouragement from some friends, I’ve decided to go ahead and do it, but this will be in my own words, the way I understand it (remember I am not an expert), so if you don’t want to know any details, STOP READING NOW!

A mastectomy is complete removal of breast tissue, either one (unilateral) or both (bilateral). There are different levels of mastectomies, but I will just mention the most common. As a side note, a lumpectomy is removal of just the tumor, along with at least 1 cm of “clear margins” all around. Because of the size of my tumor and the fact that I do not have much tissue to give, a lumpectomy was not the right decision for me.

Prior to surgery, a dye is injected via the nipple (I know, I know…OUCH) which will show the surgeon where the cancer is. The incision is an eye-shaped cut around the areola. Because there is no way to guarantee that a cancer cell has not made its way into the nipple, that part of the breast is not reattached (this was a MAJOR emotional moment for me when I first heard it….however, they do wonders with nipple reconstruction based on pictures I’ve seen). Doctors are testing “nipple-sparing surgery” but the clinical trials have not been going on long enough yet. My surgeon said that she was not comfortable with this procedure yet since it is still so new and I appreciate her honesty. I’m not ready to be part of a clinical trial!  (please note this was my surgeon’s guidance from 2008 and advice today is probably quite different.)

During surgery, the surgeon traces from the cancer to the first lymph node, removes it, and a pathologist does an on-the-spot test to determine if the lymph node is cancerous. If it tests negative, they are done (I think they remove a few more just to test and keep watch after surgery, but it is a small number). I’m a little unsure on what happens if it comes back positive, but at some point they test what is called the sentinel lymph nodes. These are the guardian nodes to the rest of the body. If these test positive, then they know the cancer has gotten out of the breast. So the goal is to get as little lymph nodes removed as possible, obviously. I didn’t realize how much we need our lymph nodes to regulate fluids throughout the body, etc. My breast MRI and PET Scan are not showing any abnormal lymph nodes, but we won’t know for sure until after surgery.

The reconstruction process for me will start on the same day as my bilateral mastectomy. Many women choose to wait and do it later for various reasons, but I will get the first step done right away. Since there is a loss of skin, the plastic surgeon places tissue expanders behind the chest wall. These are temporary implants that they can fill externally with saline to stretch the skin over time. They do not look or feel natural, but the goal at this point isn’t about looking cosmetically pleasing. Thanks to pregnancy and nursing my two children, the plastic surgeon said I have very stretchy skin (nice description, haha) so I have an advantage. The expansion goes on for several weeks, depending on how much stretching is necessary. Chemo usually starts during all this for a lot of women, so that tends to slow things down because the saline fills will need to be scheduled around chemo. The final steps of reconstruction will not happen until chemotherapy is complete. The tissue expanders are then replaced with permanent implants, using the same incision they used for the mastectomy.

My surgery was on October 21, 2008 at Virginia Hospital in Arlington.  I stayed overnight and went home on October 22, 2008.

Oct 22, 2008 – Just a quick post to let everyone know I am home recovering. I feel okay, just a little sore. I had a fainting episode this morning and I thought they were going to keep me there an extra night, but it was just because it had been over 24 hours since I ate!

Good news….lymph nodes came back NEGATIVE for cancer, with 95% accuracy. The pathology report will confirm it, but I am confident of the good news.

I will type more later. Thank you all for the well wishes and support.

Oct 28, 2008 – One week post-op: I want to update everyone on the past week before I get too far behind:

-Anxiety leading up to surgery was worse than surgery itself. The dye injection wasn’t too bad, and being put to sleep wasn’t bad either.

-Waking up alone was a bit scary, plus I didn’t have my glasses so I was groggy AND couldn’t see. I think the nurse thought I was just babbling when I was asking her questions!

-The hospital stay wasn’t too bad. Thank goodness for Morphine! God Bless my husband for sleeping on a hard window seat and taking care of me throughout the night. I don’t know what I would have done without him there.

-Yes, I fainted the next morning, but I’m convinced it was just several factors, individually not bad things, but all put together led to me passing out. That was scary, but once I ate breakfast, I felt much better. (I failed to mention that this happened when the nurse was showing Jaime how to tend to my drains. It’s possible the site of blood made me faint!)

-The pain has been bearable…more discomfort and tightness than anything. My right shoulder blade has been really bothering me, but I think it’s because I’m favoring my chest and hunching over. I’m taking Percocet at night to help me sleep but am sticking to Tylenol during the day.

-First appt was on Friday and the nurse just removed the bandages (I could finally breathe!). I couldn’t look at my chest and just cried while she cleaned me up and sent me on my way. Jaime assured me it didn’t look bad at all, and sure enough I finally got up the nerve to look myself and was relieved that I didn’t look too botched up. I feared the worst and ended up “happy” with what I saw, considering the circumstances.

-I had a pain pack that was feeding continuous pain meds directly into my chest via a thin tube for about 5 days. Jaime removed the tube himself on Sunday! In the hospital we had a nurse and a Personal Care Assistant (PCA)…but Jaime is the best PCA I’ve had.

-I have two drains, one on each side, that is draining all the extra blood from surgery. Another job of Jaime the PCA…empty the drains! The criteria to have these things removed is less than 30ccs of blood drain in a 24-hour period. Yesterday I met that criteria and will have the drains removed tomorrow. Yippeee! The drains are the worst part of this surgery and I am so happy to have them removed. Jaime the PCA will not be removing these himself, however, haha. With the drains gone, I can finally shower and wear deodorant, I cannot wait! I’ve also been sleeping in one position at night for 8 hours straight…hopefully with the drains gone I can at least sleep on my side here and there. Maybe that will alleviate the back pain.

Oct 29, 2008 – The drains are now gone, yay! I thought it was going to be painful when the nurse removed them, but it wasn’t bad at all. Tomorrow I will be able to shower. I will feel like a new woman…that is until the oncologist appointment. Sigh.

Cuddling with my youngest a couple weeks post-surgery

Nov 6, 2008 – Today I had a follow-up appointment with the plastic surgeon and I received my first saline fill. The doctor said everything is healing well and I got the go ahead to go back to my normal activity level. That was wonderful to hear, but at the same time, I’m nervous about overdoing it. The first saline fill was extremely uncomfortable and my chest muscles are back to being real tight, so I can’t imagine lifting anything today. I did pick Adam up because I miss holding him. It wasn’t so bad, but I’m going to give my chest muscles a day to recover from the saline injection before I do anything too crazy (like push-ups…hah, yea right. That won’t be happening for a LONG time!). The nurse used a metal detector to find the port for the saline injection. Then she stuck a needle into my skin and injected the saline. That was it. I didn’t really feel any pain because I’m still so numb. But when the saline went in, that became real uncomfortable and felt like she was placing a steel ball on my chest. I actually had her remove 10ccs because it just felt way too tight. Just for reference, I am now at 150ccs on each side, so I am about halfway there with regards to the size I want to be. Without chemo, they will do fills weekly, so the process definitely moves faster without chemo. If I end up having chemo, then they will only do fills right before chemo treatments, which will be every 3 weeks. Either way, I’m in no rush, so I don’t mind taking it slow.

Nov 13, 2008 – Today was expander fill #2….wow, what discomfort. I went for 50ccs again and am really feeling the muscle stretch. I think all muscles in your core are connected because I feel it on my sides, upper abs, mid back….as long as I don’t move it’s okay. 🙂 So now I’m at 200ccs. The nurse said we can go as slow as I want since there’s no hurry. I think next week I will only get 30ccs, then I am taking the week of Thanksgiving off.

This week I realized how frustrated I am with this whole recovery process. I’ve been grumpy and feeling sorry for myself. Even though I got the all clear to resume normal activity, some things just aren’t back to normal yet. My breasts are rock hard and numb, so holding Adam is awkward and uncomfortable. I’m still sleeping in one position all night long, which means most nights I’m in and out of sleep all night. I’ve returned to the gym and to dance class this week but I’ve limited myself to walking on the treadmill only. Certain arm movements in dance I can’t do and it’s annoying. Ab work hurts, push ups are not possible right now. I’ve never really been out of commission this long before in my life and it’s just plain frustrating.

Dec 4, 2008 –  I had another expander fill on Tuesday. She only did 30ccs, and it was SO much better than the last time at 50ccs. I even drove myself home and went to my dance class last night. So I think the key is slow and steady, which I will be forced to do once chemo starts anyway. So I have to add an expander fill the day before chemo to my calendar. That is really the only day they can do it, when my white blood cell count is the highest.

December 2008 – February 2009 was my chemo treatment, along with continued expander fills, as my chemo schedule would allow. I will post about my chemo treatment next week.

Feb 3, 2009 – A quick reconstruction update…I am done with my expander fills. The plastic surgeon said my skin is stretched as thin as it will go. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for chemo to be done and scheduling my implant exchange surgery, which I’m guessing will be 4-6 weeks after chemo #4, when all effects of chemo have completely left my body and everything is back to normal. I’ll let you all know when I have a date.

Mar 12, 2009 – Surgery went well yesterday. I’m a little more sore than I expected, but today is better than yesterday. I also do not have any drains this time around, which is so much more comfortable. It also means I can take a shower tomorrow!! I remove all the dressings tomorrow, so I’m anxious to see how everything turned out. I’m restricted to no heavy lifting (more than 5 lbs) for THREE weeks. Adam is not very understanding of this! But all in all, things are good so far.

Apr 3, 2009 – I had my post-op follow-up with my plastic surgeon yesterday and she said everything is healing as it should and she lifted all restrictions to my physical activity. I am happy with the results and am working towards getting back to “normal” again.

Notes from my 12-year Survivor Self: As you can read, the mastectomy and reconstruction process is not a race but a marathon. From start to finish, it was close to a year-long process. I went on in the summer of 2009 to have nipple reconstruction which included tattoos. Fortunately, 12 years out and I have not had to go back for any additional surgeries.

The worst parts of surgery were definitely the drains and the limit of physical activity. The long-term effects are incision scars, which run across the middle of each breast, and numbness across my whole chest. The emotional effects have subsided. I have gotten use to my “new normal” and there are days I don’t even think about what I went through. But once in a while I still “mourn the loss” of a huge part of my womanhood and look in the mirror and am a little sad with what I see. But those moments are few and far between. I just keep reminding myself, I am a survivor.

xoxo, Angela

Go to Breast Cancer Journey: Diagnosis and Breast Cancer Journey: Tests, Tests and More Tests for more on Angela’s breast cancer story.

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I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2008. For Breast Cancer Awareness month, I am continuing to share parts of my online journal that kept my friends and family updated throughout my treatment. Today I am piecing together a look at the many appointments and tests that happen before a treatment plan is ever put in place. Between Sep 15 and Sep 26, I had already been to four appointments for initial consults and second opinions, so now here we are on appointment number 5:

Sep 26, 2008 – …Today I had the breast MRI and the pelvic ultrasound. Besides the power going out in the middle of my MRI and having to restart the entire test (!!!!) that test was pretty easy. I was a little nervous laying face down while the machine knocked and whirred around me, but I’m sure it is just a cakewalk compared to what I have ahead. And finally some good news…my ovaries look fine. Whew. That test was just a precaution since the two cancers are linked, but it was nice to get a negative result for once.

Breast MRI - Mayo Clinic
Image of a breast MRI from mayoclinic.org

Sept 29, 2008 – … The MRI results came back okay. (Reminder: Nothing is conclusive until surgery). The tumor measured a little larger than originally thought…3cm instead of 2cm. According to my doctor, this doesn’t make any difference since I am planning on a mastectomy anyway, but I thought it was still scary to hear. The lymph nodes all looked normal on the MRI, but one under my arm looks enlarged. This could just be from the biopsy, very similar to when you get sick and the lymph nodes in your neck are enlarged. So like I said, only surgery will tell.

As far as my left breast, they found something they suspect is just a benign cyst, but it is recommended I get it biopsied IF I am opting for a single mastectomy. So…that is a decision we have to make this week – single or double. Sigh, nothing is black and white. I wish I knew the right answer but I think we are close to a decision. I am already high risk since I already have breast cancer, and I’ve read a lot of message boards where women are having to go through this emotional process all over again 10, 15, 20 years later on their other breast because they opted for the single mastectomy the first time around.

The doctor and I also started discussing dates, which I think put me in a funk today. All of a sudden this is becoming more real, more concrete. No more waiting for test results and researching doctors…we are trying to set a date for surgery. Part of me is ready to get this thing out of me. My mind envisions it growing in my body and taking over…I want it OUT. But another part of me is scared to take that next step because I have no idea what lies ahead.

Oct 2, 2008 – Today was a long day. We met with the plastic surgeon first thing in the morning. Jaime and I had both done a lot of research over the past couple weeks, so nothing she said was really new to us. We both liked her and she comes highly recommended, so she’s the one we’ll go with. I’m so tired of meeting with doctors and trying to make decisions. I’m ready to get my treatment started. So the plastic surgeon and breast surgeon will be deciding on a date when they are both available. I should get a call either tomorrow or Monday at the latest for a date on my bilateral mastectomy. Gulp.

My second appointment was the PET Scan. I couldn’t eat SIX hours prior, so 6am was the latest I could have eaten for a 12pm appointment. Those of you who know me well know that I would NOT be getting up before 6am just to eat. As if! So it was a long morning of smelling food EVERYWHERE and not being able to eat. Then when I get to the appointment, what do I have to do on an empty stomach? Drink this horrible, thick, “berry flavored” barium drink. Yummy. The rest of the scan was pretty easy…I had to get injected with a radioactive substance, sit on a lounge chair for 45 minutes, then spend about 20 minutes getting the scan. By dinner time, my doctor had already called with the results and everything looked good! So nothing else detected in my body. I have high hopes that the cancer is just in my right breast and that’s it.

The worst part of the PET Scan was finding out that I couldn’t hold my kids for the rest of the day because I was radioactive. I had no idea so the news upset me. I feel like I already have recovery time after surgery where I won’t be able to pick up my kids, then I will have many weak moments during chemo where I won’t be able to even take care of my kids, and now here’s a test where it’s dangerous for me to be around my kids. It just made me really upset on my drive home thinking about everything I am going through and how I’ve taken for granted just the little action of cuddling with my kids at night. This disease has definitely given me a new perspective on things….so even though it is taking a lot away, it has given me something positive…. I think I will look at things in a new light, appreciate more and worry less.

Post-chemo hair picture of me and my boys

Oct 13, 2008 – About 3 weeks ago I had blood drawn for a gene test. The test was to determine if I have the hereditary BRCA1 (BReast CAncer 1) or BRCA2 gene mutation, which puts someone at an extremely high risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer. The doctor called today with the results and it came back negative!! This is great news because even though I am still considered high risk, this greatly reduces my risk of getting this horrible disease again or having my future grandchildren inherit it. I think it also means I don’t need to consider a hysterectomy anytime in the near future.

These small “accomplishments” definitely boost my spirit so I will take them when I can.

Notes from my 12-year survivor-self:  So many things to test but every single one gave my doctors a much clearer picture of what was going on and how to fight the cancer. The body really is an amazing machine that all works together. So it was important to know how this cancer was affecting my body as a whole and it even drives a lot of my decisions I make today, such as what to do to keep my hormones balanced. In the end, I did decide on the double mastectomy and have no regrets (more on that in my next blog post).

In regards to the gene test, this is dated information. There are now many more genetic markers they can test that give a better indication of future risk. I recently went through a more extensive gene test to update my records. If you are going through breast cancer treatment today, ask your doctor about genetic counseling to determine what is right for you.

In the last 12 years, I have continued to have bloodwork and follow-up appointments, but nothing like that first month after diagnosis. I started with 3 month follow-ups/bloodwork, then moved to 6 months and now am at 1 year. I have had one breast MRI in 12 years because of a little scare when I thought I felt another lump. That MRI was probably more emotional than the first one because of the fear of reoccurrence! But all in all, things are much easier these days. I am more in tune to the changes in my body and I encourage everyone to get to know all your lumps and bumps and watch for any changes.

To anyone at this stage in their treatment, things will soon become a little less overwhelming. Once active treatment starts, things settle into a bit of a groove and you find yourself counting down the days until end of treatment! So just continue to take care of yourself and use your people. You are not alone.

Stay Healthy!

Go to Breast Cancer Journey: Diagnosis for more on Angela’s breast cancer story.

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Breast Cancer Journey: Diagnosis

by Angela on October 7, 2020

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2008. For Breast Cancer Awareness month, I am sharing excerpts from an online journal I used to keep my friends and family updated throughout my treatment. Today I share with you the beginning of my journey:

Sep 20, 2008 – I have breast cancer. Every day it sinks in more and more. I don’t think I will ever get used to it and I don’t think I will ever be the same again, but I’m learning to accept it. I have invasive, ductal carcinoma in my right breast, which means it started in my milk ducts but has broken out. We won’t really know how bad it is until surgery, but I am getting several tests in the upcoming weeks to try and get more information. I have a chest MRI on Wednesday, a second opinion breast surgeon appointment on Thursday and a pelvic ultrasound on Friday to make sure I do not have ovarian cancer, since the two are linked. The following week I have a CT and bone scan just to make sure there’s nothing else going on in my body. The hope is that I do not have any lymph nodes affected and that the cancer has not left my breast.

Oct 18, 2008 – One of the most common questions I get is “How did you find it?” The short answer is, I found it myself. Start examining your breasts now. Even if you aren’t 35/40 and aren’t doing regular mammograms yet, be aware of how your body is now. I recently found out a dear friend of mine was diagnosed at 23, long before she was due for a mammogram, but thankfully she found the lump herself and is now a 17 year survivor. 80% of biopsied lumps end up being benign (non-cancerous) but we must be advocates for our own health. If you feel in your gut that something isn’t right, speak up and keep going back until you know exactly what is going on. The advantage (for lack of a better word) of cancers like breast and skin cancer is that we can find them early just by being observant…and they are treatable!

Notes from my 12-year survivor-self: The beginning is the most emotional, scary and overwhelming time for the person diagnosed and those closest to her. Even being referred to as a “cancer patient” for the first time knocks the wind out of you. Because of the whirlwind of emotions AND information, the best piece of advice I can give for a journey like this is use your people. My husband and parents came to all of my initial appointments and my parents were there for my husband and I throughout my entire treatment. Not only was it comforting, but it was also 3 extra set of ears to absorb all the information that was being given….and there is A LOT of information!

And because it’s so much information, and the list of things to do and schedule seems endless, my more practical advice is to have a notebook or binder dedicated to all things breast cancer. It should have a folder or two and maybe even dividers for each step in the treatment journey….surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, etc. If you can throw in a calendar and tracking log of some sort to document prescribed medicine and how often you take them, that may be helpful as well.

Adding a journal to your binder or having a separate one to write down thoughts may be very therapeutic. It definitely helped me. Reading back on it, I did not pour out too many emotions into my journaling, which is very typical of me, but that’s okay. Because even the action of documenting what I was going through was still helpful in “data dumping” and gave me a way to update a lot of my supporters at once.

Everyone’s cancer story is different. But if you find yourself here reading because you were recently diagnosed, I hope you will find comfort in knowing you are not alone.

xoxo, Angela

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Athia Skincare: Why I’m a Fan

by Angela on September 30, 2020

A couple months ago I got an email from someone at Athia Skincare asking Everyday Road to Healthy to be a collaborator (translation: try our product at a discount, if you like it tell your people, and if your people buy through your link you get a small commission). I had never heard of Athia Skincare and honestly, I was a bit skeptical because why would they want to collaborate with us when we had UNDER 100 Instagram followers at the time? 😉

But it piqued my interest and, after a bit of research, here’s why I decided to give them a try (and am glad I did):

Helping out another small business: The global skin care market is a multi-BILLION dollar industry.  Athia Skincare is a $3M dollar company.  They are a small fish in a big pond and I can totally relate to that. E.r.t.h. is small potatoes compared to all the other blogs/influencers out there.  I own a small bookkeeping business that has mostly small businesses as clients.  And I help run a small, local breast cancer charity.  So I GET IT!  And I wanted to give them a chance. Plus I’m always looking for a good skincare line. My product loyalty is fierce to a fault. If I find a brand I love, I am usually a customer for life. And while I do have a few individual products I’m loyal to, I’m not committed to an entire line yet. I thought, Athia could be a brand I get behind. 

All Natural, made in the USA, 100% cruelty free ingredients: I’m realizing the term “all natural” has a very wide meaning in the retail industry. But here is a quote from Athia’s website:

“We use all natural ingredients that are Made in the USA and 100% Cruelty Free. We take pride in our ingredients and we know you will too. Our products meet the Sephora Clean Standard – which means – free of: sulfates SLS and SLES, parabens, formaldehyde, formaldehyde-releasing agents, phthalates, mineral oil, oxybenzone, coal tar, hydroquinone, triclosan, and triclocarban and less than one percent synthetic fragrances.”

I like the sound of that.

Philanthropy: As I mentioned, I run a non-profit, so I love a good company that is willing to give back. Athia Skincare partners with She’s the First. Their vision is “a world where every girl chooses her own future”. Proceeds from every Athia Skincare purchase goes towards a scholarship for a young girl who may otherwise be denied an education to become whatever she wants to be. That’s some amazing stuff right there and I love knowing my purchase is helping in some way.

Results: I know the burning question is how do the products actually work as far as skin care goes. Here’s my little before and after story. Back in the beginning of March I had gone to the dermatologist for this white cyst (deep whitehead? milia?) on my cheek. It had been there for well over a year and I couldn’t get rid of it. I know it looks “poppable” but trust me, it’s not.

I was told that the only way to remove it was surgery. I had a script in hand and just needed to make the appointment. Less than a week later, covid shut everything down and this small procedure (that was purely based on vanity) was put WAY on the backburner. Fast forward 6 months later, without surgery, and the cyst is gone!

There is still a small, raised bump, but it’s hardly noticeable and the white part is gone. I’m not saying it is or isn’t because of Athia products, but I am saying the ONLY thing I changed to my skincare regimen was I started using Athia Skincare. So my conclusion is that the change in the independent variable (skin care products) is what caused the change in the dependent variable (cyst). 🙂 That’s scientific enough for me!

The products I have been using regularly since July (and haven’t had to replenish yet, so I can attest to the fact that they last at least a few months) are:

Price: $34 (use discount code ERTH15 for 15% off) – I use this every morning (1 or 2 pumps) to wash my face. It’s not drying, has a subtle, sweet scent and leaves my skin fresh and hydrated.

Next I apply my go-to Vitamin C Serum (outside the Athia line), followed by this Athia Daily Moisturizer:

Price: $63 (use discount code ERTH15 for 15% off) – It’s light and hydrating, and makes my skin look fresh and dewy. Hyaluronic Acid is moisturizing and healing, which could have helped “heal” my cyst. Vitamin C helps produce collagen and protects against sun damage, so I’m fine doubling up on that!

Then at night I remove my makeup with Cetaphil Face Cleaner and follow up with this:

Price: $82 (use discount code ERTH15 for 15% off) – The Retinol in this product could also be a contributing factor in diminishing my cyst. I really like how this absorbs in my skin but is not drying at all. I have yet to find a good night time moisturizer until now!

If you do choose to try out any of these, go to the Athia website using my personal Athia link (commissioned link), and use my discount code “ERTH15” for 15% off. They also have a subscription service that gives you a bit of a price break and ensures you never run out. And finally, they are ALWAYS running sales and promotions, to include free product, so get on their mailing list to watch for those. I just replenished my Retinol Night Cream during a free product with purchase promo. That was an awesome deal!

I still have other products to try, including the Post Workout Spray, the Anti-Aging Eye Cream and the Lash & Brow Growth Serum, but haven’t used them consistently enough yet to provide any feedback. I’ll let you know when I’ve used them longer, but I’m betting they will be good!

I hope you give Athia Skincare a try and, if you do, let me know what you think!

Stay Healthy!

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