Friday, 30 March 2012

Recovery and Results - My Thoughts and Feelings

Relaxing Post-op + Happy
Okay, let's be honest BRCA gals this is the probably the information you REALLY want. I know this is the information I spent hours scowering the internet for. And I know I would be doing my fellow BRCA girls a disservice if I didn't give you all a real and candid account addressing my results and recovery process. So, without further adieu...let's get started!

I have been very honest about my struggle to accept the impending changes to my body. And my concerns about the toll this decision would take on my body image and self esteem. I think facing what the results will really mean is a HUGE battle for most BRCA women. I can still vividly remember the day I googled images of the post-op Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy and realized that I was not going to have nipples. I was inconsolable and was in full on melt down mode in the middle of the university library. I was by all accounts a hot mess. This stirred up so many feelings and questions about my femininity, my sexuality, and my self worth. I felt lost, confused, and more than anything else sad.

I think that day was the day that reality finally set it. I realized that there was no great option as a BRCA gal. Your choice is essentially - willing self-mutilation or face an eventual positive cancer diagnosis. Not a great reality. Not great at all. (*sigh*)

But (yes there is a but) because I faced that reality, and truly embraced this process the good and the bad - I realized how committed I truly was to my health. This wasn't an easy choice but it was the choice I still wanted to make when I laid it all on the table. That is how I knew I was doing the right thing for me.

That all being said...I was still terrified about how I would actually feel when I woke from my drug enduced sleep to face the results. I thought I would struggle to embrace the changes at first. I assumed that the first few weeks of recovery would be a little dark. That I would likely experience a period of mourning, but would eventually move on. I tried to be honest with myself and realistic about my expectations.

Truthfully though, I woke up Monday afternoon, peaked under my gown, and was just so damn happy that this process was over. These new nipple-less implants were now just a part of me. They are a part of my new happy and healthy life. And while my journey has been a very long and emotional one - I have learned a lot about self love.

The fear, anxiety, and anticipation I experienced pre-op was based on an idea that once I changed this part of my body that something pivotal to my sense of self would be lost. But when I woke up post-op I was still me. My life was still my life. My goals were still my goals. My family and friends were still loving and supportive. My husband still adored me and even still thinks I am pretty cute. The only thing that had really changed (besides the nipples) was that I was no longer at risk of Breast Cancer.

Note: Below are my After pictures. This is as exposed and as real as I am willing to get because I blog under my real name and my Dad reads my blog. But there are some amazing resources and women who are willing to be much more real than I am so if you want to see how everything will really look post-op I recommend checking out Amanda at BRCA and Me, the resources at Be Bright Pink, and the beautiful and inspiring images on display at The Scar Project.

My After Images

So while I still see a person that is healing and my set of fresh scars when I look in the mirror.
I also see I girl who is in charge of her body.
I see a girl who loves her body because she knows how hard she worked to get to this point.
I see a girl who is strong physically and mentally.
I see a girl who is happy.
I see a girl who is thankful and grateful.
I see a girl who has big dreams and a great life - and knows it.
I see a girl who has her whole life ahead of her and lots of living to do.
And most importantly I see a girl who is cancer-free and completely in control of her health.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Thursday, 29 March 2012

My BRCA Timeline

So now that I can see the light and the end of this journey I can honestly, without a doubt, or any hesitation say that the waiting, the anxiety, and the anticipation involved in this process was the WORST! Seriously, it sucked. I am fairly confident that my timeline is significantly longer than most because of my added ticker troubles, making scheduling a logistical nightmare. But I wanted to share it with all my BRCA+ gals because I know how painful the waiting game can be, and if nothing else you can at least tell yourself you won't have to wait as long as I did! Ha!

Dec 27 2010 - Wow doesn't that date help put this journey into perspective. That is when we first learned about BRCA and it's deeply rooted genetic ties to my family. My mom came clean about her genetic test results while we (my sister and I) were all home over Christmas. She had made her choice to go through with both a preventative hysterectomy (because of BRCA 1's link to ovarian cancer) as well as a preventative mastectomy, but was still in the early stages of figuring out what that all meant for her. I knew immediately that I wanted to take the test and what I would do if it was positive, so I was referred to Princess Margaret's High Risk Breast Clinic ASAP.

Feb 14 2011 - I had my first meeting with the genetic counselor on Valentine's Day no less (Happy Valentine's Day to me!). I had made my choice to go ahead with a Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy (PBM) really before that option was even properly discussed, and once my counselor went over the stats for me I was completely sold. The idea of a PBM was actually not what I was worried about when I went to this meeting. I was much more worried about the risks for ovarian cancer and what that meant for our hopes of starting a family one day. Luckily ovarian cancer is not a disease that strikes women when they are young, so while they do recommend that I eventually have the hysterectomy performed, it was not something I would look at doing until approximately 40 and when all my baby-making is out of the way. I had my blood test done and was sent on my merry way.

April 4 2011 - This was the day I got that fateful phone call telling me that my results were in and I was in fact BRCA+. I wasn't surprised or even really that upset when I got the news. To be honest I was expecting to be positive. Genetics is not my strong suit and I have never had the best of luck medically, so I assumed that this would be very much the same. I am a rare breed with all kinds of strange anomalies and complications, so being BRCA+ was just status quo for me. I was prepare for these results and what it all meant.

April 8 2011 - Both my husband and I met with the genetic counselor to go over the results, although I don't really feel like we learned any new information. This meeting was just necessary for me to become connected with the High Risk Breast Team and so I could start the process to meet the doctors and surgeons responsible for my PBM.

June 13 2011 - I had my first screening appointment at the Breast Clinic and declared my desire to move forward with a PBM.

June 14 2011 - I met with Dr. Hofer my plastic surgeon to discuss my options and go over my complicated medical history.

June 28 2011 - I met with my Cardiologist and my pacemaker/defibrillator (ICD) team to discuss my latest test results and my plans to move forward with a PBM. We had to talk about the 2 Stage procedure vs Alloderm and how these options would affect my ICD. Everyone agreed that the Alloderm procedure was really the only option for me and my particular set of unique circumstances. But then I had to ensure I was able to have this procedure done, because Princess Margaret was only performing the Alloderm procedure on a trial basis and were collecting data for study. Luckily after several phone calls back and forth everyone agreed that for medical reasons I needed access to the Alloderm procedure, but would not be part of study (*insert sigh of relief*).

July 29 2011 - I had my first Mammogram done. Slightly stressful because I was worried that it might damage my ICD. But it all went well and it was not nearly as painful as advertised - albeit awkward!

August 3 2011 - I met with the plastic surgeon again, although this time with one of his interns to have all my measurements done and to finalize the details for my surgery. I stressed that I had scheduled a trip to Italy with my husband for the end of September, so the surgery needed to be schedule sometime after that.

August 23 2011 - I met with my 2nd surgeon - the doctor who would be performing the mastectomy portion of my surgery. It was an interesting day to say the least, but I'll let you read the blog post if you are interested, needless to say I ended up feeling more committed then ever before to this course of action.

(INSERT A LONG LULL) - After my appointment on August 23 I was left waiting and waiting and waiting for a surgery date. Admittedly they were trying to coordinate the schedules of 3 surgeons - the plastic surgeon, the surgeon who would perform the mastectomy, and my cardiologist - but I do think this wait time is ridiculous. I called to speak with the secretary who was meant to be coordinating everyone probably every 3 weeks, because the looming possibility of surgery was a dark cloud hanging over everything. I just wanted to date to plan my life around. I felt like I couldn't make any long term plans or commitments because I didn't know when this surgery would happen. It was incredibly frustrating.

January 5 2012 - I finally got a date! Woohoo! March 5th was decided and set.

February 8 2012 - I had to go back and be remeasured, it seems they had misplaced my measurements. Very frustrating because that is something I wanted to make sure they did right! I was feeling stressed at this point.

February 29 2012 - My pre-op appointment. It was very long!

March 5 2012 - Dday

This journey has be a long one and took over a year to complete. It was a total of 15 months from when I first learned about my possible BRCA connection until my surgery, and I still have several more weeks of recovery to go. For me the waiting, the scheduling, and the not knowing were much harder than facing the actual results when it was all said and done. I have always been honest about my Type-A tendencies, so I was difficult for me to leave my fate in someone else's hands and live according to someone else's schedule.

But for those of you who are still playing the waiting game - I want you to know that it was so worth it. I am really happy with the physical results and more than anything else I am extremely happy with the mental results. I feel like I took control of my health and my life - and that was definitely worth the wait!

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

BRCA Part 1 - Surgery Type and Expections

So any BRCA+ gal knows that there are a whole bunch of surgery options available if you decide to go with a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy (PBM), which can be daunting and confusing all at the same time. I was presented with 3 possible options...

DIEP Reconstruction - This is by far the most invasive of all the procedures, but a good way to sneak in a tummy tuck! In this procedure all of your breast issue is removed, including the skin, and fat/skin from another part of your body is transplanted and used to reconstruct the breast. They can use various parts of your body - the tummy being most popular. But they can also use tissue from your back or thighs. It sounds good in theory, but a specific body type is required for this. AKA you must have enough tissue/fat at one particular site to rebuild your breast.You will also have 2 major incision sites.

Note: This was not an option for me because of my size, but can be great option for other women. The recovery is a lot longer, however.

2 Stage Mastectomy and Implant Reconstruction - This is generally the most common option for PBM and it requires 2 surgeries. Because BRCA+ women are not getting breast implants for kicks or *cough*  vanity we are not adding implants to already existing breast tissue. So the implant needs to go underneath the muscle because the skin is obviously not thick/strong enough to support its weight. During surgery #1 the mastectomy is preformed, and a temporary un-inflated implant is placed under the muscle. The muscle wall is not big enough to accommodate a full implant right from the get go. So over the next few months you have to go back and forth to the doctor's for regular "fill-ups" to gradually inflate the implants. Each implant has a port where saline can be injected to stretch out the chest muscle. Once the desired pocket has been made and healed, a second surgery is scheduled and the final implant is implanted.

Note: The port used to mark the injection site is magnetic, so not an option for my little cyborg heart. My pacemaker/defibrillator does not get along with magnets, and would have stopped functioning as a result. In other words no thanks! If its not one thing its another ha!

Prophylactic Mastectomy with Alloderm Reconstruction - So this is obviously the surgery type I chose. Third option is always the charm. It is very similar to the 2 Stage procedure, expect that everything is done at once with the help of Alloderm tissue. The implant obviously still needs to go under the muscle so the plastic surgeon uses a type of donated tissue (known as Alloderm) to expand the chest wall and create the necessary pocket immediately. 
I used paint to create this little gem!

The implant is placed, everything gets stitched back together, and Viola! The muscle eventually heals and integrates itself with the alloderm - absorbing it as part of the body. It is actually amazing medical science and another reason to check that box on your health card and become an organ donor!


I can only talk about my experience with my chosen procedure, but I have been really happy with the results so far. Here is what to expect...
  • This is a one shot deal. One surgery. One recovery. And you are all set!
  • Everything is pretty swollen, and they have said to expect that it will remain that way for 6-8 weeks!
  • For some reason when the full implants are placed there tends to be more bleeding, aka you will need to have those stupid drains for longer (7-10 days is typical. I had mine for 10. BLAH!)
  • They also say recovery for this type of surgery is longer than the 2 stage - anywhere from 8-12 wks. I don't know why exactly?!
  • Because you get your final implants right away you never experience having no breasts, which can be very traumatizing for some women. You go to sleep with your breasts and wake up with your new fake ones!
  • The Alloderm site is tight and kind of itchy
  • You have less of an opportunity to decide exactly how everything will look in the end - a HUGE source of anxiety for me. With 2 stage the "fill-up" process is gradual, so you have the opportunity to say if you are happy with more or less. The 2nd surgery also offers an opportunity to revise the scars if you need to. Whereas with the Alloderm procedure - what you wake up with is what you get.
  • That being said I stressed how I wanted things to look (aka as much like myself as possible) and I think they look pretty darn good so far!
As always please feel free to ask any questions I didn't answer. You can always email me if you want it to be more discreet or you have lots to say!

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Sunday, 25 March 2012

BRCA - 3 Part Series

The more information I have been sharing about my surgery and my BRCA+ status I have been meeting more and more women who are facing similar struggles.

My blog was actually never intended to be a platform for BRCA or breast cancer, but this struggle has obviously become a prominent fixture as my life unfolded this past year. I have spent a lot of time sharing my battle to achieve a healthy balance. And I obviously still spend the majority of my posts focusing on fitness, wellness, diet, and running.

But sharing my own experience - the whole process (physically and mentally), information, and education was why I chose to blog so openly about everything. So I wanted to spend some time this week addressing some of the questions from my BRCA+ friends and talking more specifically about this part of the journey. So I am doing a 3 part series to address some of the questions I have been asked and to share some of the information I wish I had while I was going through the process...

  1. Surgery Type and Exceptions
  2. My BRCA Timeline
  3. Recovery Thoughts and Feelings
While I know I am still recovering - it has only been 3 weeks - I do feel like I made it through the toughest part. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I know I am getting there. But it took a L.O.N.G time to get to this point, so I dedicating these posts all those brave women facing cancer and BRCA. I hope this series brings you comfort and more than anything else HOPE!

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Time to face the Mirror

Inquiring minds want to know - how do I really feel about my new assets?
How is my mental state? Self-esteem? And how is my body image really doing after officially toasting the Ta-tas? HECK, I would wanna know the same thing!?!!?!! I have talked a LOT about my body image anxiety and my concerns about loving (even liking) the end result...So it is time to face the mirror.

I have purposely tried to reserve judgement for the first little while. I am still sore, bruised, stiff, and pretty swollen - so I know this isn't exactly the end result. Not to mention the ugly drains I had following me around for the first 10 days. Yuck! I have also spent the last 2-ish weeks in over-sized sweats and baggy workout gear - for functional reasons - I still can't properly move my arms yet. And as functional and nice as those sweats can be they are not exactly glamorous attire. Combine all that with: my lack of sleep, a certain amount of pain, and my always present ponytail and I think it is safe to say I haven't exactly felt like a glowing, gorgeous woman.

All that being said - when the bandages finally came off, I actually thought the end result was pretty good! They are obviously not the same. The shape is slightly different - I think they might look a little smaller (maybe, I don't really know yet). And instead of nipples I have 2 very fresh scars. But all in all pretty good! I have been waiting for some sort of body image meltdown to hit, or to suddenly become grief stricken about my lack of nipples, but so far nothing. More than anything I am just happy that this is all done. And I am happy did it.

The scars will fade. The swelling will subside. And this will be my body. This IS my body. This is my body cancer-free and for that reason I love it. And I plan to spend the rest of my life cherishing it.

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Friday, 16 March 2012

My Week in Review - Week 2 Post-Op

Hey Friends!

It is week 2 of recovery, and it has been fairly eventful. Well, as eventful as lying around like a slug can be anyways...Luckily I have had a small friend who has been loyally by my side. Clark has been glued to my side since I returned home - giving me lots of snuggles and kisses. I firmly believe animals help you heal, and this little guys is no exception.
Puppies have magic healing powers

I had my first post-op appointment on Wednesday, which I breifly tweeted about, so this might be redundant for some. But I got my drains out which is super exciting! (TMI alert!) For the last 10 days I have had 3 drains attached to my body to allow the excess blood and fluid to exit my body from the surgery site. There were 2 on the left side (aka that evil side that caused all the problems on Dday), and 1 on the right side. I had a problem with bleeding, so obviously it took longer than expected to finally get rid of my 3 little friends. But 10 days later and they are finally gone. It feels so much better!
I call them my bulbs, but they are finally gone!
I was exhausted after my appointment. I felt woozy being on my feet for so long. It was the most physical activity I have had since Dday and it was definitely a challenge. The amount of blood I lost is also contributing to that woozy feeling. In total they estimate I probably lost about 700 cc, which is more than half a litre, so a pretty significant amount. So while I am healing I need to increase my iron levels and make iron-rich foods a focus in my diet.

Steak and Dark Greens = Iron-y deliciousness

I have been struggling to eat properly since the surgery. The meds have caused some digestive issues and my my appetite has been less than stellar. But I am slowly trying to get back on track. This week I am going to focus on incorporating more...
  • Beans and Lentils
  • Dark Leafy Greens
  • Barley
  • Eggs
  • Beef
And hopefully these small changes will help my iron levels increase and my healing will continue!

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Half Marathon Recap

So it has been a pretty big couple of weeks for me! Dday has come and went and I finally ran my very first Half Marathon - which is obviously what today's post is all about! I am feeling a bit better and I have been dying to tell you guys all about Race Day - what I learned and how it all went.

Race Day was obviously super exciting! I mean, I was doing this! I was running a half marathon. It was no longer a dream, a goal, a thing I just talked about doing - I was doing it. Which was exciting, but terrifying all in a strange way. I am not going to lie I was nervous and I had mixed emotions going into everything because as much as it was Race Day I also knew that Dday was next... So I wouldn't exactly say I went into everything feeling cool and confident, but I was excited.

I had a good breakfast, making sure to incorporate the trifecta - Carbs, Protein, and Vitamin C. My playlist was updated with 2 hours and 30 min worth of songs. And I was dressed in all my brand new Lululemon running gear. My local Lululemon (located at Yonge and Briar Hill) totally hooked me for my race offering to dress me for the big day. EEK! I was stunned and super excited, because I mean come on who doesn't love Lululemon!?! So thanks ladies! I definitely looked the part when we set out on Sunday. 

The race itself was set up in a loop starting from Burlington's city hall and all along the Lakeshore. The route was really nice, but it meant that the downtown was completely packed. I heard there were 5000 runners at the event plus spectators, so you can imagine the sea of people crowding Brant Street. As always bathrooms were a hot commodity, so I was happy we got there an hour before hand. I heard that a lot of runners had to go without the necessary prerequisite bathroom break before start time, and am thankful that I was not one of them. The sea of people made it difficult to get the starting line and I must confess I felt more than a little crowded as we set out. As always these things do eventually sort themselves out.

I felt amazing for the first 2/3 of the race. I was plugging along at a happy pace. I was smiling. I was rocking out to my tunes. I was just generally enjoying the moment, probably until about kilometer 16. I knew I had just 5 more kilometers to go, but honestly those were longest 5km of my life. My body was tired. My legs had gotten stiff and heavy. The wind was effecting me more, and I definitely started to slow down.
The last kilometer made up for all the struggle though, because the streets were lined with my friends and family! I had a serious entourage going on. Their cheers and signs and smiles carried me all the way to end of race, where I felt completely overwhelmed by love and support. I crossed the finish line at 2:17:07 making me 2459 out of the 5000 participants. I was right smack in the middle of pack, and so freakin' happy!

This race was always about more than time or finishing with a certain status though - which is likely why I was so reluctant to put a time on any of it. This race was for me. It was about saying that despite everything that had happened this year, and everything that was about to happen - I wasn't going to allow anything to interfere with my life and my goals. It was about saying that I am stronger than all of this, and that I was a fighter. I was running to say that I could beat heart disease, breast cancer, and genetics. And more than anything else I was running this race to say I could!

So when I crossed the finish line and saw everyone standing there I was so touched. Seeing everyone who had given up their Sunday to stand out in the cold and support me was truly amazing. There were 20 of them in total! All of my amazing friends and family were standing on the sidelines ready to celebrate my triumph and to say that they were going to be right there with me during Dday too. They were saying that they believed in me, that they supported me, and I cannot express how much that meant to me.

That is just a small snap shot of my Race Day. It was the perfect day! And the perfect race!
It is truly a day I will never forget!
Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

PS can you tell those girls are my friends. BEST SIGN EVER! I died laughing!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Surgery Update

Surgery is complete and I am home. I have spent this past week just generally being still. Moving hurts. It really hurts. And if I lie down, then I am probably not going be able to get back up again. Deep breaths are painful. And whatever you do, do not make me laugh - that really hurts! I have also been wishing that I used the last 8 weeks to work on my core - instead of training for a half marathon - because damn I could really use the extra muscles right now!

Monday was rough.
And it was rough in ways I never expected.

I was surprisingly calm when Dday actually arrived. Jamie and I were at the pre-surgicial admission clinic before 6 am and I was in my sexy blue gown in no time at all. Things moved quickly after that, because I was the first surgery of the day. My tears started when I had to say good-bye to my husband, and I was forced to accept what I was about to do. That feeling admittedly didn't last very long though, because within minutes I was in the OR and the drugs were flowing. I woke up 4 hrs later in a complete haze with no boobs, no nipples, a new ICD, and a set of shiny new implants.

I was sore and that afternoon was a hazy blur. People were in and out of my room regularly poking and prodding at me, but shortly after 4 pm that happy poking and prodding become slightly more frantic. Lots of questions were being asked. And as more time passed and more doctors came to visit, it became clear that I was going to have go back to the OR. I was bleeding on the left side and the drains they put in just weren't gonna cut it. They had to go back in and stop the bleeding ASAP.

I was devastated. I thought I had already done the hard part and I was scared. The nurses has insisted I drink water like it was my job to help combat all the meds. And they asked that I try to eat something -which I had. But now they were having to put me back under an anaesthetic all those fluids I had taken in were a problem. I was panicking. But I didn't have a choice. At 7 pm I was going back to the OR for another 2 hours to get the bleeding under control.

I woke up with a fat lip, 2 black eyes, covered in bruises, along with all the rest. Monday was rough.

I am happy to say that things are getting better. Monday was the worst day during the course of this journey, and it has been getting better little by little everyday. Each day I know I am going to get a littler stronger. Each day I can do a little bit more. It is just going to take some time.

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Friday, 9 March 2012

Guest Post Love from Hank

Thanks to Krysten for allowing me to spew forth my ramblings on her blog while she is taking care of her business.
My name is Hank and I am a weight loss blogger over at You probably haven’t heard of me, but that is something I look to remedy. I plan on being a famous blogger and YouTube internet sensation. And I don’t mean like one of those folks who gets their 15 seconds on American Idol and then, as the axe is falling, they are crying out, “This isn’t the last you will be hearing of me!” I would name some of those folks to remind you who I am talking about, but I don’t recall ever hearing their names again.
Well, pardon my digression.
So anyway, here is what I have been thinking about this week.  Roadblocks.
I have talked to a few people in the recent past who have someone or something in their life holding them back from doing what it is they feel they need to do. In most cases, it had to do with losing weight or getting healthy, considering that is the modus operandi of most of what I write about these days. But the fact is that we all have roadblocks in our lives. We all have something trying to hold us back from pushing forward towards our goals. It could be a fear of going to the gym or a spouse who is not supportive. It could be a financial hurdle or even a health related obstacle.
So what happens when you encounter such an impedance in your life?  Are you the type of person who hits that wall and then tucks tail and runs? Are you the type that sees it coming so you avoid going in that general direction all together?  Or are you the type that goes for it no matter what?
I tend to be the kind of person that enjoys looking for ways to overcome adversity. I set goals and I keep striving until I reach it. So I say when you encounter a roadblock, it is time to change lanes.
Right now I am dealing with an impedance. I have lost 85 pounds since May 2011, but I have about 25 or 30 more pounds to lose. I have been in some sort of stall in my weight loss over the past several months. I have tried changing my exercise routine, changing my diet, changing this and changing that, but nothing has worked so far. Now I could get beat up and get down on myself. I could even get to the point where I say F-it all and eat myself into a sugar coma. But what I am doing is looking for another path to the same goal. I am going in next week for a medical evaluation to help me figure out what to do next. You can read more about it on my blog (read about my weight plateau). But the point is that I am not going to stand idly by or turn around and go home. I am going to keep persevering and push right through this roadblock.
Life is too short to let people or things stand in your way. If you have a goal then you should do whatever it takes to reach that goal. If there is something standing in your way then you should look for another way to the same goal or a way around the obstacle.
Ah ha! So you you figured out that it is very easy to say all of that motivational bull-crap but executing it is a horse-of-a-different-color right? Well I don’t want to be some Tony Robbins type of motivational speaker who tells you all about what you SHOULD be doing without speaking some truth into your life.
It is not going to be easy.
Overcoming hurdles in your life is HARD! If it were a cakewalk then NO ONE would EVER have ANYTHING to overcome. The difference between you and everyone else, however, is determination. Your determination will help lead you to the way around your obstacles. That is how you are going to change lanes. And remember... It is worth it. YOU are worth it.
Don’t let people or things keep you from your goals. Change lanes. Move forward. Reach the goal. And then smile.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Guest Post Love from Samatha

Hey everybody! I am honored to be guest posting for Krysten while she is having surgery.

Today I’m going to tell you about my breast cancer story, which started last July. My mother had gone for her annual mammogram in July 2011, and the doctor saw a cluster on the mammogram in her left breast that presented as “suspicious for malignancy.” A biopsy was performed and did in fact test positive for breast cancer.

When she told me that she was having a biopsy done, my immediate thoughts went to, “Oh, she’s fine, I’m sure it’s nothing.” Isn’t that the normal reaction? So, when I received the telephone call informing me otherwise, I didn’t really know how to react. My mother seemed to be handling it very well though, so I followed her lead, and stayed calm.

This all happened during the two weeks leading up to an event we were both looking forward to for a long time, Seek the Peak. Seek the Peak is “… the annual summer fundraiser for the non-profit Mount Washington Observatory, where hikers from across the region and beyond hit the trail in support of the "Obs." Hikers solicit contributions from friends, family and coworkers beforehand, hike the mountain on the day of the event and celebrate at our after party, with great food, music, fun and prizes.”
We had our plans set – our hiking bags were packed, our bed and breakfast was booked, and our vacation days were planned.

Then suddenly, there was cancer. I asked my mom, “Are we still going to do Seek the Peak?” Her answer, “Why the hell not? I feel fine.”

Yes. Go mommy go!

So hike we did and it was one of the greatest adventures of my life. You can read my recap in “Seek the Peak Weekend Report” and “Seek the Peak: Part 2”.

That weekend was made even more memorable by the fact that it was then I realized my mother is unstoppable.

Today, she has had her surgery (lumpectomy), gone through all of her radiation, and is on her 5-year dose of tamoxifen. She boards two horses, plus one of her own, as well as English riding and showing. We’re also planning on climbing to the top of Mt. Washington again this summer, along with my little brother.

I’m telling you guys this story because I know and I believe that this is Krysten. Granted, her surgery and procedures are much more severe than anything my mother went through; however, I know that none of this will change her personality, her beauty, her drive and motivation.

She too, is UNSTOPPABLE.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Guest Post Love from Katy

Katy Widrick blogs about fun, fitness, family, furballs and other F words at Healthy Living in a Hectic World. She's a full-time television producer, a part-time social media addict and the founder of the #Fitblog Chats on Twitter. In her free (ha!) time, she trains for triathlons, dances and does yoga.

About a year or so ago, I decided to share the story of my heart condition. While it's a big, ugly phrase -- Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) -- it's a pretty simple thing. You see, when I get really excited, stand up too fast or drink too much heart races. Now, for others, SVT can be extremely serious. I'm lucky in that mine is completely controlled by lifestyle changes, and I don't need medication. I go in for yearly stress tests to make sure the ol' ticker is, well, ticking. And not too fast, I might add. But those lifestyle changes are ones that not only make my heart stronger, they'll help the rest of my body, too. They include:
  • regular exercise
  • stress relief
  • limited caffeine
AND, there's one more thing I have to do. And after she reads what I'm about to post...Krysten may never let me anywhere near her blog again. When I feel my heart race, I have to squat down and clench my muscles like I'm having a bowel movement. I just said bowel on a blog. Wow. OK, so here's why I wanted to share my not-so-secret-anymore secret. That little move is not just a weird thing for my doctor to make me do. It actually tells my heart and all of my organs to chill the eff out. To go about their normal business, to reset and to return to normal. The first time I did it (in a busy grocery store aisle), I knew that the alternative was to risk passing out. WAY more embarrassing, right? So I crouched and clenched. And it worked, instantly. Not only that, the act made my entire body feel restored. It somehow sent a signal to my brain that it needed to focus one one thing -- setting my system straight. From what I understand, that same move can work wonders for others, regardless of heart condition. It's much like yoga, in which you focus your mind and muscles on one thing. Now, if you're too grossed out to crouch, maybe you can find a centering move of your own? Nobody needs to know what you're doing -- when I'm in action, it just looks like I'm bent down to tie my shoe (and yes, I have faked that when in public). Stand against a wall and close your eyes. Pinch the skin between your thumb and finger. Stand on one foot.

And when you're done doing that, make an appointment to get your annual physical done. Ask your doctor to pay special attention to your heart. If anything sounds funky, head to the cardiologist. Let's not lose any more women to heart disease.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Guest Post Love from Calvin

Hey Everyone! You may not know me since I usually don’t unmask in public like this, but I’m Calvin, your vigilante guide through heroic adventures in Fitness over at The Orange Mask .  I decided to take a few moments from my normal adventures of rooftop hoping, crime fighting, supplement reviewing and engaging in the ongoing war with fat to stop by and spend some time with my all-time favorite Darwinian Fail, Krysten! As beautiful on the inside as she is stunning on the outer, currently, she is taking her health in her own hands. While she’s away, we’re going to keep the blogosphere nice and warm in anticipation for her return.  I owe her a solid for her help during the winter and am glad to help her.
Lately, amidst all the standardized tests and graduate school applications, I’ve realized that two things many of us fail to do amidst chaos are
1) effectively managing our stress levels and
2) properly regulate our emotions. 
The word “effectively” is important there. Too often people hide their problems through the use of mechanisms such as binge drinking or over reliance on Anti-Depressants, all the while crying silently where no one can see them. They are stretched to their max mentally.  Usually when we think of words such as “health”, “gym” or even “Fitblog”, we imagine a person going to the track, running 13 or so miles than eating a healthy meal and posting pictures of it. “Fit” as a concept though is so much more: it’s also mental and emotional health.  We often times think our outer display of fitness supersedes our inward need for joy, stability and calm.
  We all need tools during stressful times. Life often taxes our emotions and we simply don’t understand why things are happening to us. We ask “Why me?” instead of “How can I deal with this in an appropriate manner?” There’s a few ways to deal with chaos and these are the ones I’ve picked up over the years that have helped me tremendously. Hopefully in here somewhere is useful advice for you to be sure you are taking care of yourself--- not just by your daily logging of miles on the treadmill, but also but taking time out for yourself to remain balanced.
1)      Create a schedule / list– often times when life is chaotic, we find ourselves looking for a sense of control. Frequently little problems (I call them “brushfires”) occur one right after the other. You forever wind up chasing your tail because before you take down 1 problem, 3 more have appeared. A list or schedule where you can dictate when you are dealing with each problem will be helpful to give you a sense of control over the various situations. Also by writing things down, you don’t have to constantly remember which villain you must next take down issue must next be remedied.  It sounds small, but this little tool helps a lot.
2)      Steer clear from binge drinking – Alcohol doesn’t take away the problem. Instead, it leaves you with a hangover, extra pounds and now you have to address the situation with a pounding head plus any mistakes you made while intoxicated. It won’t help and will actually add to your stress far too often. Be wary when a well-meaning friend says “let’s hang out at the bar, it’ll be good for you.” Instead go outside, maybe for a hike or meet at the coffee shop if you need to talk to someone over light food.
3)      Watch over training – on the opposite end of the spectrum taking out all your frustration on the treadmill might not be so good either. After you burn out your legs, central nervous system and adrenaline, often you’ll find that you’re too tired to move to actually address your problems and now you’re depressed. Then 2 or 3 weeks roll by and you simply don’t go to the gym. Maintaining balance is hard, but your physical fitness can only aid in your mental health. Don’t go any less &don’t go any more than you’ve been going as much as possible.  You don’t need to be a hero-- you just need remain consistent.
4)      Do most feared tasks first – I’ve lived by this creed for years. Whatever you have to do, be it talk to that manager and deliver the bad news, ask that person for help in making that payment or calling her up and apologizing, do the most feared thing on your list first. Why? Because this will build confidence and you’ll realize that things aren’t as bad as you thought -- you looked a bad situation in its face and defeated it. This will remove some stress, make you happier and now, you mighty warrior you, you can do anything.
5)      Don’t go it alone – No matter what’s going on, someone understands—a friend, spouse, partner, family member. Someone will get you. Write that email. Make that phone call. Send that text. There’s a saying that states, “Two are better than one because they have a reward for their labor. For if one falls the other is there to lift him up. Woe to the one who falls when no one is there to lift him!” In short, often times we need others to reflect back solutions and remind us that we’re okay. We are not the problem---we are dealing with a temporary problem. Friends’ and loved ones’ love lasts longer than our stress. Why not utilize them?
6)      Be mindful of your diet – We get depressed and usually have two reactions to food. We over indulge or we starve. Both are not good. You need your strength but you don’t need the extra 10 pounds that now you will be trying to get rid of the next 3 months. Force yourself to eat healthy even if it’s light. Fruits and Veggies will make you feel better.
7)      Participate in mindful silence- We all believe different things here. It might be spending time in prayer at your church or synagogue. It might be lengthened yoga for you in the studio, mountaintop or lake. It might be a day out in the woods or the long 6 hour flight to your next meeting. Whatever the case, you need a mechanism for erasing the noise in your life that clouds your thoughts. We too often cannot simply find time to reflect on our lives because we live moment to moment. Looking for the next partner, worrying where the next dollar is coming from (or going to) and constantly trying to stay a step ahead while remaining 2 steps behind. Even when things are calm, try to find 30 minutes a day where there is no one but you. It’s hard in this world of social media where our phones are constantly ringing with notices of Likes, Tweets and Video Responses. Turn it off so that the world’s noise doesn’t drown out your inner peace.
8)      Write – Use a journal (paper or an online one), start a blog (you can make it public or private). If you don’t like writing, record videos on your computer that no one will ever see and save them to your files. The key is to speak or write your emotions so as to gain clarity on what you feel. Often time when you go back later, you will see or notice new things that you didn’t before.
9)      Chuck the Deuces – Perhaps the hardest of all, learn when certain people are not good for you. Either the boyfriend that adds to your stress levels with his constant flirting and late nights out, or the friend who only knows how to deal with life by being in a constant state of intoxication. Your inner circle must be composed of people who can lift you up when you need help--- not users and narcissists too self-involved to lend you a hand.  
You don’t have to wait for a hero to save you (though if you shine a light, I will appear dramatically and pose for pictures before assisting you). You can be your own simply by being sure to always have the words “Self-Care” in mind when dealing with whatever life throws at you.  
The sound of sirens outside these windows means it time for me to suit up. But remember, you are often your own best advocate. Learn to deal with life’s problems now and as you get older, no matter what comes your way, you’ll have the gifts needed to deal with them. 

Sunday, 4 March 2012


I ran my half marathon in 2:20:31 (not even remotely close to the time I had hoped). But regardless I am officially a distance runner!


I am too emotional to sit down and give you all a proper race recap and tomorrow is kind of a big day, sooo...Just know that today was AMAZING in every sense of the word. And as soon as I am no longer completely stoned on pain medication I promise I will write a full recap for the day and upload all my pictures.

Dday is a mere 12 hrs away, so I am obviously going to be away from my little blog for awhile - but before I go I wanted to say from the very depth of my heart THANK YOU! Since I started sharing my story and my struggle I have been embraced by an amazing group of people - many of whom who live in my computer. Words cannot express what it means to me to read all your comments, emails, tweet, and messages. Your encouragement was ringing loudly in my ears while I ran today. People who I have never met have taken time out of their day to write me, to ask questions, and send messages of support. It has been truly overwhelming! I cannot express how much your love and support has meant to me during this journey.

Some of the amazing people I have been talking about have also agreed to keep my little haven safe and warm for me while I am away. I have lined up 4 truly amazing Guest-Posters so please be sure to give them lots of love while I am gone this week.

Calvin is my first guest-poster and one of my amazing online friends. We connected oh-so-long ago during Fitblog Chat one Tuesday night, and we have been virtual buddies ever since. He blogs over at The Orange Mask where he documents his adventures with health, lifting, supplements, and balance. He has written a great post about stress management and that familiar struggle to strike the elusive balance - and issue this gal can definitely relate to. He has some fabulous tips and kick-butt strageties so stop on Tuesday and check him out.

Katy is a crazy busy girl, who is a television producer by day, and trains for triathlons at night. She writes about healthy living in a hectic world -- a balance between fitness and friendships, all built through social media, and is also the founder of the #Fitblog Chats on Twitter. She is a seriously busy girl, so I was glad I was able to nab her for a guest post! She is going to be sharing her own experiences with heart disease, and it is a seriously funny post, so stop on Wednesday to hear her story!

Samantha blogs over at Running and Cupcakes. And based on the title alone is girl after my own heart. She is a fellow Fitfluential Ambassador and a complete sweetheart. She has agreed to share her own experience with breast cancer, and how this ugly disease has made it's way into her family as well. It is a beautiful post, and definitely made me tear up when I read it. So please pop back on Thursday and check her out.

Hank is my last guest blogger, but he is certainly not least. He writes a hilarious weight loss blog that chronicles his adventures called The Business of Losing Weight. Hank and I share a seriously dark sense of humor, and he spared no expense with this post. Hank's post is all about breaking through barriers and finding a way around this annoying "roadblocks" - we've all be there! So check out this fabulous post on Friday.

I have a week of action packed health and wellness fun for you guys, so I hope you enjoy. I am hoping by next Monday I will be up to writing a little bit, so I can fill you in on my progress and give you more race details.

Thank you for all your love and support!
See you guys in a week with my new set of Boobies!
Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Just Me and the Road

On Sunday I will run my very first half marathon. I have put in 8 long weeks of training. And on Sunday all of my training will be put to the test. Taking the plunge into distance running has been a long standing dream of mine. And on Sunday that dream will become a reality. The 13.1 miles (aka 21 km) I am preparing to run is about more than all of that, though. Sunday's race is where my genetics and I will meet to hash out this long standing battle once and for all. And I plan to win DAMNIT!

On Sunday it is just me and the road, and for 2 hours I will push my body to it's limit.
I will run my heart out - maybe literally.
I will run because I am stronger than my genetics.
I will run because I am stronger than this set of circumstances.
I will run because my spirit is stronger than everything that has happened this past year.
I will run because I am fierce.
I will run to beat heart disease and breast cancer.
I will run because what will happen on Monday will not break me.
I will run past muscle fatigue.
I run through mental road blocks.
I will run hard
I will run fast
I will run strong.
I will run because I can.

On Sunday I will run those 13.1 miles so I can be proud of my body for what it can do and instead of just how it looks. And when I drift off to a drug-induced sleep the following day I will be smiling because I will know that I am strong and that I have won!

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Friday, 2 March 2012

Just a quick reminder...

Just a friendly reminder for my oh-so-talented and lovely surgeons. Please note I would like to come back looking like Krysten, not like sexed up, femme-bot, or a Jessica Rabbit's body double. Mmmm okay...See you Monday!