Awesome Organization

My friend just told me about this really cool organization called Superhope. Even without knowing anything about it, you can tell it’s rad because of the name, right? It was founded in Dubai and helps children with cancer feel positive and empowered by dressing up as superheroes. It is such a cool idea and I’m glad to hear about organizations focusing on the importance of a positive mental attitude during illness. This part of care is overlooked a lot. Even with my surgery, which was preventative, I had moments where I felt low confidence or down in the dumps. I can’t imagine what the mental attitude would be going through cancer, especially as a child, so it is so so so important that organizations like this exist.

Anyway, check out an article about Superhope here and their awesome site here.

 

 

Angelina Jolie Pitt is My Hero

I was diagnosed with my BRCA2 mutation in 2007, at the young age of 23. I was prompted to get tested because of my family history of ovarian and breast cancers. My grandmother, who I was very very close with, passed from ovarian cancer. When I tried explaining what BRCA was, people were very confused. When I talked about the possibility of having my ovaries removed when I was 40, I got some strange and judgemental looks.

Even sitting in the mammography waiting room, waiting for the radiologist to take a second look at some suspicious images, the mammogram technician proclaimed in front of all in the waiting room, “Why are you here? You are so young?!” When I vulnerably explained the BRCA mutation, sitting there in an uncomfortable robe, she said “I don’t know what that is.” I fought with insurance companies with every mammogram, breast MRI, pelvic ultrasound, and CA-125 test. It wasn’t exactly how I wanted to spend my time in my early 20s, but I knew it was worth it.

Then, in May of 2013, everything changed. Angelina Jolie bravely announced she had undergone a preventative mastectomy due to her BRCA1 mutation. Suddenly, when I told someone about my BRCA mutation, they said “Oh! The Angelina gene!” One of the world’s biggest movie stars had made it possible for me to speak openly about my BRCA mutation. Even the decision to have my preventative mastectomy at age 30 was made in part due to Angelina Jolie Pitt’s decision. My breast surgeon, Dr. Kristi Funk, was the same surgeon that Angelina used, and her blog posting about Angelina’s experience made the idea of surgery less daunting to me. Angelina’s braveness to speak about her journey also encouraged me to start Funky Genes. I wanted to be open about my journey so that non-movie stars know what their resources were and that they have just as much a part in their health decisions as anyone else.

Now, Angelina published a new, brave op-ed, about having her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed after some suspicious labwork. I have known that I would get my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed at age 40 since my BRCA2 diagnosis. Hopefully, Angelina’s announcement will bring much needed attention to ovarian cancer research.

As a public health professional and soon-to-be nurse, I have seen the impact that Angelina’s openness has had on the general public. I absolutely love her message, which I say often on this blog – knowledge is power! Participating in your own health decisions is so important. I also love how supportive her husband is in her health decisions, something I am lucky enough to also experience. Angelina Jolie Pitt really is my hero and I hope one day to meet her and to tell her in person. If I’m not able to, I hope she somehow can read this post and know how much she has positively affected my life, and so many others.

The Little Things

Like I said in my last post, things have been super busy this quarter in school and I haven’t been able to blog as much as I want to. But luckily my schedule will clear up more starting next week! In the meantime, I wanted to celebrate some of the little things. They may seem little, but are actually pretty awesome milestones for me.

  • Hung out (literally) all day without wearing a bra. After having to wear surgical/sports bras 24/7 for 6 months, this feels amazzzzzing
  • Stopped having to take Aleve every 12 hours! Now I only take it when I have clinical shifts
  • Prepping for our first vacation in forevz. Even though it’s just a short jaunt to Colorado, we are really looking forward to some much deserved rest & relaxation
  • Finishing up my preceptorship in Labor & Delivery. At first, I was worried about being able to do so many 12 hour shifts after surgery, so it feels great to have accomplished it
  • Been going to cardio pop/Zumba classes multiple times a week. It feels great to be back dancing!

“Evian is Naive Spelled Backwards.”

The title of this post is a quote from one of my fave movies, Reality Bites. It’s also because of how naive I was thinking about how much free time I’d have this quarter. At the start, all I thought about is that I wouldn’t have class and would just be doing clinical shifts. What I didn’t take into account was that 3 clinical shifts a week is a full-time nursing schedule, plus weekly clinical meetings on campus, plus other school club duties, plus getting ready to apply for jobs, plus doing a 60 hour leadership project, plus writing my comprehensive exam … oh yeah, and recovering from surgery.

So I haven’t had nearly as much free time as I planned on, but I’m learning a lot. In 2 weeks, the quarter is over and we finally get to go on a short vacation to Colorado and take a much needed break. I cannot wait to have my only responsibility be figuring out what to eat. No alarm clocks for a bit, sounds like paradise to me.

Sorry I’ve been blogging less. I’ll definitely be able to pick it up as my schedule clears up. Much love to you all.

Milestone Monday

I had a follow-up appointment with my reconstructive surgeon today and it went really well! Everything looks good and I don’t have another appointment for 6 months, and then I only see her annually. This is a huge relief since I’ve had some appointments that were supposed to be routine but turned out scary. Interestingly, when I asked her how to prevent capsular contracture – in addition to moving around/massaging the implants, routine dental care is one of the most important aspects. I never realized that before, good thing I have a dental appointment tomorrow 🙂

In other news, I’m finishing up my 300 hour preceptorship in Labor & Delivery. 4 more weeks left and then the hubby and I FINALLY get to take a much needed vacation to Colorado to just relax. In the meantime, tons of school stuff to catch up pn before the quarter ends in a month!

In celebration of my appointment and one of my favorite moments from last night’s Oscars, everything is awesome!!

Muzak

Throughout this whole crazy process of having a prophylactic mastectomy/reconstruction while going to nursing school, there were things that made it all possible. The most important was my support network – family (especially my husband), friends, my medical team, and my online community. Another important thing was having all the right supplies at home. Reality tv and cheesy movies certainly helped my recovery (I’ll post more on that another time).

One of the most important things for me throughout this journey has been music. I listened to a lot of music to make me feel empowered and strong leading up to my mastectomy. I even went to the Beyonce/Jay-Z concert about a month before my surgery and felt like I could tackle anything afterwards. When I had scary moments during this process, I listened to music to lift me up. When I felt strong and met milestones, I listened to music to celebrate. Now, I am back in Zumba and Cardio Pop classes, able to karaoke again, and belting out tunes in the privacy of my car. Below are some of the songs that helped me during this process.

Accomplishment List

I have so many to-do lists, that I decided to take a minute to write out an accomplishment list instead. Here’s what I accomplished this week.

  • Went to Zumba for the first time since before my prophylactic mastectomy (I’m sore but I survived)
  • Worked my first 3 days in a row of 12+ hour shifts (I’m tired but I survived)
  • Hit my 2 month since exchange surgery mark (I can go swimming and take a bath now)
  • The UCLA Oncology Nursing Club that I co-founded had its first event with City of Hope, and it went really well!
  • For the first time, I chose to watch PBS instead of Bravo. I feel super mature now. Atul Gawande is one of the only people that could do that. Everyone should watch it, it’s really important.