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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A Mile a Day for 30-ish Days: What I Learned

by Angela on September 20, 2020

I decided to do a mile-a-day for 30 days after following an influencer, Magen Reaves, who was posting about her own commitment to walk a mile a day for 30 days. I watched on her stories as more and more started tagging her about joining the movement, literal movement, and thought why not?

By this point in Covid, all my fitness attempts had gone out the window. I was gung-ho with at-home workouts in the beginning. It was easy, it was going to be short term until gyms and studios opened back up. Well weeks turned into months and the longevity of Covid settled in. With it came a sense of powerlessness and a sort of doom. Where was this thing headed? How LONG would it take to get back to normal? Will it EVER get back to normal? And I lost motivation. It was easy to just sit around the house, do my work, keep up with bare minimum domestic duties and that was about it. There was no need to get up and actually go anywhere.

I watched the number creep up on the scale and I saw my body changing before my eyes. I know we’re not suppose to focus on the number on the scale, but rather how we FEEL.  I can tell you that the number on the scale and how I looked in the mirror made me FEEL disappointed.  I had worked so hard pre-Covid to try and get in shape. I was still a work in progress, but I let myself down by undoing all the progress I had made. And it didn’t help that at 40-something years old, I knew it was going to be REAL hard to get back where I was. But I had to start SOMEWHERE, and this mile-a-day thing seemed like a smaller goal I would be able to tackle.

Well, almost….I made it to about 23 days. Then Labor Day weekend happened and I was gone the whole weekend for soccer tournaments, and it all went out the window. I guess I could add up all the walking to and from the fields and around to get food and our walk through Ikea, but that felt like cheating to me so I gave up after 23 days.  Yes, I gave up. But the journey did teach me some things as I move forward in this everyday road to healthy:

Baby steps are still steps in the right direction: Taking 20 minutes out of my day for quick walks were baby steps to getting me moving again. By having a smaller goal that was easier to achieve, I felt a sense of accomplishment that kept me motivated to continue towards my bigger goal of “getting in shape.”

Stop and smell the flowers: I almost mean this literally!  Some of my walks I was by myself and made a conscious effort to take in the sights, sounds and smells around me. So much of my day is in front of a screen.  I mean, my background on my laptop is mountain scenery, but it’s not quite the same! But on my walks, I would allow my mind to focus on the present and could feel the weight of the day being lifted. Mental health is just as important, if not more important, than physical health, and why can’t they go hand-in-hand.

Use a support system: Find your support system and use them to motivate you. Sometimes the only reason I walked was because my husband pushed me to go on a walk with him. When you have a support system to encourage you, achieving goals is easier.

Find a way to hold yourself accountable: For me this was posting about it on social media. I walked around my house for a mile one night because I wanted to be able to post about it!  Habit trackers in a notebook or on a calendar is another way you can “check off” your accomplishments. Even just talking to someone about what you are trying to achieve will motivate you to keep moving forward.

Be kind to yourself: It’s okay to miss a daily goal every once in a while, or fall short of a longer goal like I did. Life happens and sometimes we can’t do everything we want to do on our list. Forgiving myself for not being able to do it all is something I’m still working on.

The everyday road to healthy isn’t perfect. Some days will be better than others. Let’s just keeping taking our baby steps in the right direction.

Stay healthy!

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Sweet Dreams are Made of These

by Angela on September 9, 2020

I think it’s a well known fact that sleep is so important to our health. Adults should be getting 7+ hours of good quality sleep per night, yet over 30% of adults in the United States are suffering from short sleep duration (CDC statistic). Here are some of my favorite products (or ones recommended to me by a friend) to add to your sleep arsenal for a good night’s sleep:

  1. Nordstrom Moonlight Dream Pajamas – I bought this exact set after my fashion influencer friend, Thirty Something Fashion, recommended them as a great purchase during the Nordstrom Anniversary sale. I am actually wearing them RIGHT NOW and they are so soft and comfy! My son did tell me I look like I’m from Polar Express, though.
  2. Mellanni Bed Sheet Set – Amazon has been my jam during this pandemic because ordering is easy, you can find EVERYTHING, and there’s free Prime shipping. So when I needed new sheets, a quick search pointed me to this sheet set that has an average rating of 4.5 stars with over 130,000 reviews (no that is not a typo). How can 130,000 people be wrong?! The sheets are inexpensive and soooo soft!
  3. Headspace App – I downloaded this app after my friend’s recommendation and I use it almost nightly. There are great soundscapes for rain and ocean waves, guided meditation, sleep radio, among other things. I can just push play and fall asleep to the sound of ocean waves.
  4. Deep Sleep Body Cocoon by this works – I happened upon this by chance when it came in my FabFitFun box and I love the smell. It has an earthy, essential oils scent (patchouli/lavender possibly), and I put it on my hands and arms EVERY night before I go to sleep.
  5. Spoonk Acupressure Mat – I bought this for my husband for Christmas to help with joint pain and relaxation/sleep. We keep it by our bed and each use it about once a week.
  6. Weighted Blanket – I personally do not use one of these but I know so many people who swear by them for both sleep and anxiety, so I am linking a high rated (4.6 stars) Amazon option that has 19K reviews.
  7. CBD infused pillow – This was another present I bought my husband to help with sleep and stress. I am linking to a more cost-conscious option here, but if you would like to splurge, this is the one I bought. Many claim that CBD oil helps with anxiety, aches and insomnia.
  8. Essential Oil Diffuser – I’m linking to the exact one I purchased here, but there are so many different styles to fit your decor. We have 4 of these throughout our house and use different oils for relaxation, energy, sleep, immune support and decongestion!
  9. doTERRA Serenity Oil – There are many sleep blends out there, but this is the one I use. I love the underlying hint of a vanilla scent. And of course I use it in the diffuser mentioned above!
  10. Melatonin – Melatonin is a hormone naturally-made in our bodies that works with our circadian rhythm to prepare our bodies for sleep. This can be interrupted by things like stress, time changes and exposure to bright lights/screens. Taking a supplement like the one I have linked here could help get your sleep cycle back in rhythm.

So that’s what my sweet dreams are made of. I hope you find something here that helps you get a better night’s sleep!

Sweet dreams!

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Designed for Joy

by Deena on September 1, 2020

On a recent trip to Raleigh for a baseball tournament, my family and I took a detour to check out a friend’s new business location. Cary and business partner Kristen launched an artisan studio, Designed For Joy back in 2017 but had recently relocated to a larger facility. Living in Virginia this trip was the first opportunity we were able to visit the studio in person as opposed to shopping online. 

Cary, Designed For Joy Co-Founder
Image Credit- Designed For Joy

There was a sidewalk pop-up shop outside the store when we arrived due to the current COVIC pandemic. An array of beautifully handcrafted jewelry, colorful headwraps, leather handbags, rustic charcuterie boards and more, decorated shelves.  Thankfully, Cary was in the studio that morning and I was able to get a tour of the facilities. I’m not going to lie, my eyes teared up hearing the story behind the concept of the business and how it helps the most vulnerable women in Raleigh. 

The idea for Design For Joy came to fruition after Cary and Kristen participated in a mission trip to Rwanda. Inspired by fair trade artisan groups that were providing safe and faith based work environments for local women, these two inspirational women decided to create a similar experience in Raleigh. 

Image Credit- Designed For Joy

Designed for Joy is a non-profit organization that provides transitional work experience for women coming from trafficking, homelessness, time in prison, overcoming addiction or other vulnerable situations. Cary and Kristen focus on teaching each artisan creative skills like designing, sewing, and product creation. They also provide the women  business skills like resume writing, quality control and store management. Skills that will be invaluable when each artisan is ready to move on. The organization does all this and more while providing women with a living wage.

Handcrafted Charcuterie Board
Image Credit 627 Photography / Designed for Joy

The holidays are a few months away. I hope you visit Designed For Joy’s website, Facebook page or Instagram. You won’t be disappointed in anything you purchase. Each product sold has the name of the artisan who made it on the tag and comes with a card sharing the Design For Joy mission. 

Personally, I walked away with a bag full if Christmas gifts that I’m sure my recipients will love and with gratitude that we were able to help support others as they “rise up”.

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Healthy Banana Mini Muffins

by Angela on August 27, 2020

Sugar-free, oil-free, whole wheat banana muffins that are kid-approved? I’ve got you covered!

I took a muffin recipe and made some healthy substitutions that got the thumbs up from both of my kids. So what substitutes did I make to give this traditional favorite a healthier edge?

Whole wheat flour instead of white flour – This is an easy one. Whole wheat flour hasn’t been processed and stripped of the fiber and nutrients like white flour so you get more fiber, iron, calcium and protein. I’ve found for baked goods, it doesn’t change the taste too much so the kids hardly notice.

Honey instead of sugar – The rule of thumb is you can substitute 1:1 BUT you need to reduce the liquid in your regular recipe and add baking soda to balance out the acidity of honey.  I think honey is sweeter than sugar so I’ve always found I can get away with a lot less honey than the 1:1 ratio.  It has a lower glycemic index (GI) which means it doesn’t raise blood sugar as quick as sugar, but it has slightly more calories, so that’s another good reason to reduce the amount.

Applesauce instead of oil – This substitution fascinates me but it’s never let me down. Again, this is a 1:1 ratio and no more saturated fats in your recipe and a lot less calories.

All this results in a deliciously sweet and moist healthier version of a traditional banana muffin recipe. So give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!

Healthy Banana Mini Muffins

Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Servings: 24 mini muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 very ripe bananas mashed
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease 24 mini muffin tray with cooking spray or coconut oil.
  • In a large mixing bowl, mix whole wheat flour, applesauce, eggs, mashed bananas, baking soda, honey and cinnamon.
  • Blend until mostly smooth (small banana pieces in the batter are preferred).
  • Spoon batter into muffin tray, filling each about 3/4 full.
  • Bake for about 12-15 minutes.
  • Cool before removing from tray and store in an airtight container (up to 5 days), or freeze in ziploc bag.

Notes

*Can replace applesauce with melted coconut oil.
*Can replace honey with maple syrup.

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Grilled Ranch Chicken Kabobs

by Angela on August 4, 2020

This is hands down the easiest, and most delicious chicken skewer recipe I have found. No overnight marinating is necessary so I can choose to make it last minute and still have dinner on the table at a reasonable time. And something about the ranch dressing makes the chicken tender and juicy. Grilling season is one of my favorites because that means less pots and pans to clean!

Grilled Ranch Chicken Kabobs

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup ranch dressing
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 5 skinless, boneless chicken breasts cubed

Instructions

  • Mix all marinade ingredients together in a bowl.
  • Add cubed chicken, toss, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
  • Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
  • Thread cubed chicken onto skewers.
  • Grill skewers for 8-12 minutes, turning occasionally, or until chicken is no longer pink.

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Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) Relief

by Angela on July 20, 2020

It’s been a rough week for me. I don’t know what triggered it, but my Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) has been a nightly struggle for me lately. If you suffer from this, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, let me tell you what it feels like:

Imagine every single nerve ending in your legs buzzing with static electricity every time you try to relax or sleep.

Or imagine having an itch on your leg, your foot, your nose…whatever is the most annoying possible itch you could think of . Then imagine NOT being able to scratch it.

Or you know the shivers you get from nails on a chalkboard? Imagine that same shiver coursing through the nerve endings in your legs while you’re trying to sleep.

Get the picture?

I remember the first time my RLS feelings were validated. I was at an OB appointment when I was pregnant with my second child. My doctor was this sweet, little, old Middle Eastern man whose office was in an old house where the walls were covered with flowered wallpaper and the floors creaked when you walked down the hall. After the doctor’s exam, it wasn’t unusual to find yourself in his old office getting some parting advice. This particular day in his office I mentioned to him about jitters I was getting in my legs every night. He immediately exclaimed, “Oh that’s Restless Leg Syndrome!” Then this cute little old man stood up and showed me how to do calf stretches against the wall to help! 😂 That was the day that I finally had an answer to something I thought was just all in my head!

It apparently is very common during pregnancy, but some of us suffer it long after that ship has sailed. For me, sometimes the feeling comes when I’m sitting with my family watching TV at night. A quick relief is to have some nice, caring soul sitting next to me to “chopsocky” my legs which usually helps. Or I find myself on the floor stretching out my legs while watching TV. But when it comes at night at 12, 1, 2am and the rest of the house is sound asleep, it ends up being a long night of tossing and turning, stretching my legs in bed, flexing and relaxing my muscles and repeating all over again.

So it’s not a surprise that RLS sufferers scour the internet for the perfect RLS relief. Some things I’ve come across during my research:

  • Lower your caffeine intake. I drink 2 cups of coffee a day. In the grand scheme of caffeine drinkers, I don’t think it’s an overabundance. And I’m not sure the alternative of quitting caffeine would be better for me, so I don’t go there yet!
  • Increase exercise. This could be what’s triggering my RLS right now. Exercise has been few and far between for me. Seems like an easy enough solution. Yeah, I’ll work on that.
  • Place a bar of soap under the sheets at the bottom of your bed. Say what? I know it sounds weird and super hokey, but I have no shame in saying I’ve tried it. Desperate times, desperate measures. I guess it worked? I definitely don’t swear by it but I’ve read it has something to do with the ingredients in soap interacting with the body chemistry.
  • Increase magnesium. Magnesium is important for nerve and muscle function, so magnesium deficiency would cause problems with nerve impulses, muscle contractions and cramps. Ding, ding, ding! I haven’t added a magnesium supplement to my RLS arsenal yet, but it’s definitely on my short list. In the meantime, I came across this Ancient Minerals Magnesium Oil that has given me some GREAT results and very restful nights!

Why does it seem to work? I don’t know the science behind it, but oil is rapidly absorbed so when I rub it directly on my legs, maybe it’s an immediate, targeted relief. It can sting a little like razor burn (more on my calves, less on my thighs….maybe because they’re thicker, haha!) and it has a “sticky” feel, similar to the feel of salty, ocean water on your skin, but the relief I get from it is worth it. I spray it on my legs and rub it in right before bed and get a good night’s sleep.

This is not an ad but the link I have included to Amazon is an affiliate link. This is a product I found during my own online research, read about it, ordered it from Amazon and really liked it. So I wanted to share with other RLS sufferers out there.

Next on my research list…how to get rid of those spider veins!

Stay healthy!

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