How Does A Family History Of Cancer Impact Us?

Hey everybody! I’ve been thinking lately about how our family’s health history influences our own lives. Do you let it impact your decisions? Do you feel your lifestyle choices are judged by people who know about your family’s health history?

If you wouldn’t mind, I would super duper appreciate it if you could take this survey and let me know how your family’s health history has affected you. Thank you!!

Just click here to get started!

And remember, I always appreciate the great community here and couldn’t have done it without your support!

you're the best

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WebMD Gal Gone Wild!

I am beyond delighted to have the uproarious and talented Stephanie D. Lewis of Once Upon Your Prime as today’s guest author. Her post deals with a subject many chronically ill people deal with on a regular basis: the dangers of searching your symptoms on the internet. Prepare for a hilarious parody of the physician-kind and make sure to check out her bio at the end!

WARNING: If you have any post-baby bladder problems, grab a pad because this post can cause you to laugh hard enough that you may suffer a urinary accident!

The Doctor Is In But I’m Out . . . Of My Mind!

All my adult life I have dealt with a debilitating disorder – – it’s called, “Tell & Show Syndrome.” Someone will TELL me about a new rare disease and WHAM! – – all the signs of it SHOW up throughout my body.

new-girl-might-be-dying-gif

To say I am highly suggestible is an understatement. I can read an article in a woman’s magazine entitled, “10 Symptoms You’re Too Bashful To Discuss With Your Male Doctor (But You Should Before It’s Too Late!)” ~ Immediately I have all 10 plus 4 bonus ones the author wasn’t imaginative enough to think of. Fear and panic overtakes all my shyness. Gimme that doctor right this minute! I might even consider going to second base with him for a second opinion.

webmd-whats-wrong-with-me-kristen-wiig-gif

I do have a regular physician I call several times a week, and I’m sure the nurses give him messages that go like this – –

“That hypochondriac lady (who resembles a highly fatigued Amy Winehouse, minus the tattoos) is on the phone again. Today she’s claiming that when she walks, it feels like thumbtacks/paperclips are poking her feet. Should we advise her to proceed directly to the local office supply store?”

wont respond arrested development

Feeling rather unwelcomed there, I go to my beloved online medical information mecca – – “The Web MD.”

First of all, it never dawns on me that the word “Web” in their name is a subtle symbolic tip-off that I should stay far, far away. Let’s think about this, shall we? Who has webbed feet? Ducks! And what do ducks say? “QUACK!” Hello??

But this doesn’t deter me from typing, “thumbtacks sticking feet” into the symptom-checker box and obtaining a shocking diagnosis. Four shocking diagnoses, actually. One relates to my Brain, one relates to my Heart, another to my Lungs, and the final one to my Stomach. Interestingly, none of the diseases have anything to do with Feet. And all are extremely fatal.

dying ferris bueller

Having gotten C +’s in my Deductive Reasoning classes in high school, I know it isn’t possible that I would be afflicted with ALL four of these maladies. That’s only logical, right? So which one can I safely eliminate?

Next I do what I always do at 2:00 in the morning – – I log onto a hospital patient message board and post about my situation, asking if someone “out there” has ever experienced a symptom like this but everything turned out to be completely fine? I stare for hours at my computer screen waiting for anyone to type a reassuring response. And then it dawns on me. .

The reason nobody can answer my question. . .

Everyone who had this same problem has ALREADY died.

miss j scared

Should I start writing my Obituary or my Last Will and Testament first? And what about guardians for my precious kids! Why, oh why couldn’t my ex-husband and I ever agree on whom to name as caretakers in the event of our deaths?? His sister puts ketchup on eggs, doesn’t believe in orthodontia, and Danielle Steele is her favorite author. So what? I shoulda let all that go.

“Please God,” I bargain, “I know last week I hated this world and said I’d rather be dead than go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew my expired driver’s license. But I promise to find gratitude and get a new lease on life – – just please don’t let me expire!”

please leslie knope

There’s nothing left to do. Except find a brand new doctor who hasn’t heard about my “Boy Who Cried Wolf” past. My previous doctors have issued, “WARNING: Circus Side Show Freak” bulletins about me to the medical community at large, so this will be no easy task.

I finally show up on the doorstep of an office in a faraway town. I watch as their “The Doctor is in” sign lights up. I’ve always believed first impressions are important so here is how I fill out the paperwork on the clipboard.

 New Patient Form:

NAME: (circle one) Miss/Mrs./Ms.    I’m divorced so technically it’s “Ms.” But please call me “Miss” as in “Little Miss Menopause.” Although Mr. may be a distinct possibility these days – – can you check my testosterone level?      

AGE:  I just caught a glimpse of you at the reception desk….I could be your mother’s big sister.

REASON FOR TODAY’S VISIT?   Look at me! Isn’t it obvious? I just need the Dr. to confirm how much time I have.

WEIGHT:  Who cares at this point? Just order me a size 8 burial gown. And yes, I’m banking on the fact that loss of appetite will kick in soon with this particular disease.

PROFESSION:  Writer (Pssssst! Hot tip: Publish this New Patient form. Everyone knows a deceased author’s last work commands a high price.)

EVER SKIPPED A PERIOD?  Yes, but I’m working diligently on eliminating my run-on sentences.

WHOM CAN WE THANK FOR REFERRING YOU?  You mean blame?

PERSON TO CALL IN EMERGENCY: Um…my two ex-husbands will deny knowing me. Let’s see….My kids will just ask, “What’s for dinner?” Oh, don’t call the neighbors, they’ll tell you I should have died 7 times by now.  Hmmm, I think you might call Mabel, my hairdresser. But when you say, “Died” – – you better spell it. She’ll think you mean Clairol Nice n’ Easy Deep Burgundy Brown.

I’m interrupted by the Doctor, who calls me in. He listens to my heart and pronounces it steady and strong. I resist the urge to ask when he’s last had his stethoscope calibrated. I describe how I feel (this time likening it to my feet being stabbed with steak knives) but he cuts me off before I can get to the Web MD part.

DR: Have you ever heard of Transient Paresthesia?

ME: Oh no, Doctor! Not that! I don’t even ride a train or bus!

DR: Not “Transit.” Transient, meaning Short-Lived.

ME: Good Lord, you mean I’m gonna go even quicker than I thought?

DR: Where ya headed to?

ME: Aren’t I dying?

DR: We all are. But I think you’re gonna survive this one. Transient Paresthesia = Limbs falling asleep.

As I depart, I glance over my shoulder to see him sketching a big-haired woman with the caption, “BEWARE OF CREATIVE BLOGGER WITH TOO MUCH TIME ON HER HANDS….She needs to be cut off ASAP!!” He then posts it on the WEB MD website!

gaga yes i'm judging you


 About the Guest Author:

Stephanie D. Lewis is a regular contributor for The Huffington Post and her work has been featured on Scary Mommy, The Mid, XO Jane, and Bluntmoms. She pens a humor blog called, “Once Upon Your Prime” and her novel, “Lullabies & Alibis” is available on Amazon. A single mother of six, she declines a full-time nanny/housekeeper but needs a live-in psychiatrist. Follow her on Twitter @missmenopause

 

Today Would Be Her Due Date

My dear friend, Jasmine, of Emilee Plays | See June Play has graciously chosen to share her premature birth story. Below she writes about her experience on what would have been her youngest daughter’s due date.
She tells beautiful stories through photo essays and today’s story is no different.  

***

Today is my due date.

Today would have been the day I met my daughter, June. Instead, I met her two months ago. Never could I have imagined that I would give birth to a preemie, but I did. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t feel a little bitter about it, or that I don’t wish things could have been different.

I could have done without the NICU stay, the worrying, and the uncertainty. When I start getting completely caught up in my thoughts about this day, I remember: June is two months old, officially a newborn, and set to get her vaccinations on Thursday.

I can breathe a little easier and I can live a lot more with my daughter.

***

shared moment

A shared moment

first look

First look

newborn

A whole new world

Emilee + June

June 1 month

One month

Two months

Two months

On her due date

On her due date

 

What To Do When You And Your Baby Are Sick

This is one of those posts I was kind of hoping I wouldn’t have to write.  But, alas, my little one got the flu and a bonus ear infection a while back and then just kept getting sinus problems coupled with (BONUS!) teething.  For all the fellow autoimmune disorder moms out there, you know what that means, right?  Yup.  It means you’re getting sick, too.  Over the course of the past couple months, I also got the bonus ear infection (full with perforated eardrum) plus a super sized sinus infection and limited edition stomach flu!  So here are my first-hand tips on what to do when both you and your baby are sick:

1. SANITIZE ALL THE THINGS

Not even kidding with this one.  My husband usually teases me because of my OCD and proclivity for decontaminating things, but this time of year no one is joking about the Purell!  Your little one, no matter the age, is carrying a copious amount of germs.  Whether your baby is sneezing in your face, putting everything in his mouth, or touching everything with sticky hands, he or she is spreading germs.  Your first line of defense?  Sanitize things and do it often.  Wipe down hard surfaces and plastic toys, wash bedding and soft toys, and pay special attention to communal areas (like the living room or bedroom) and shared objects (like remotes or pillows).  So even if you are already sick, this will help limit the length of your sicky days and will hopefully prevent it from being reintroduced into your family.

Dean knows what's up

Dean knows what’s up

2. Limit Time in “Danger Zones”

Whether you’re trying to prevent getting sick or you already are, it’s a good idea to limit your baby’s and your exposure to germy hotbeds.  Now may be the time to cancel play dates, say no to Chuck E Cheese, and avoid busy malls.  This goes both ways, too.  Not only are you trying to reduce your chances of getting sick, but you also don’t want to be “that mom.”  You know the mom I’m talking about.  It’s the mom who brings her clearly sick child to daycare or a group play date and seems oblivious to the fact that he’s snotting all over the toys and is coughing directly into your child’s mouth.  So yeah, don’t be “that mom.”  And limit time in potential danger zones so you don’t have to run into “that mom.”

You know the type. Won't even turn away to sneeze

You know the type. Won’t even turn away to sneeze

3. Rest, rest, and more rest

Easier said than done, right?  While I’m inclined to agree, there is one exception to the rule.  You can’t properly care for your sick child if you are running on fumes.  Take it back to the newborn days when you repeated this mantra like a bloodshot-eyed zombie “you sleep when the baby sleeps.”  If your baby is sick, hopefully he or she will actually be taking more naps than usual since they’re feeling pretty rundown themselves.  So forget dishes and errands.  Seize every opportunity you can to nap and take it easy.

God bless this girl for having the courage to do what we all wish we could

God bless this girl for having the courage to do what we all wish we could

4. Ask for (and accept) help

Thankfully I live within ten minutes of both my mother and mother-in-law.  And thankfully we all got sick when people weren’t terribly busy.  So thankfully (again) I had no shortage of help when my baby and I needed it.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, don’t mistake pride for courage and remember it’s not a Mompetition (remember that one?).  No one is going to judge you for letting your mom watch the baby while you get some shuteye or if your mother-in-law graciously brings over dinner.  And if anyone does judge you, they are either jealous or… well no they’re probably just jealous and you should feel bad for them.

Let yourself feel a little braggy for a minute

Let yourself feel a little braggy for a minute

How to Survive Baby’s First Holiday

The holiday season is upon us once again!  This time last year I was on bed rest, beyond ready for the baby to come, and feeling like a beached whale.  This year, I’m always on my feet chasing my mini monster, beyond ready for a nap, and… actually I still kind of feel like a beached whale some days.  I guess some things don’t change *wink wink*  Another thing that hasn’t changed is the high level of stress that the holidays can bring.  So here are some tips to help you survive your baby’s first holiday season!

Plan Ahead

Nothing is worse than that ‘trying to keep my head above water’ feeling when it comes to getting overwhelmed by the holidays.  Okay, well maybe a few things are worse than that, like explosive diarrhea in a bathroom with no air conditioning or driving on I-4.  But holiday stress is still pretty gnarly.  One way to try and make the season more manageable?  Plan ahead.  Things become a lot less intimidating once you start breaking them down.

This cool cat is taking it one step at a time

This cool cat is taking it one step at a time

If the thought of driving 3 hours with your baby to go see relatives is keeping you up at night, try envisioning the actual situation in your head.  For instance, if you know you will be going somewhere your baby is unfamiliar with, bring a blanket or toy from home to make them feel comforted and safe.  Thinking ahead makes things less scary and helps you figure out what you need to do to be prepared!  Speaking of prepared…

Extra Clothes (for mom AND baby)

You can never have too many back-up outfits when you’re getting ready to take your baby on a trip.  Whether it’s a quick visit with Grandma or an all-day event, always pack extra clothes!  My son has acid reflux issues so he spits up frequently and thus goes through more wardrobe changes than Lady Gaga.  But it wasn’t until one day early on, when I was still a wide-eyed mom full of optimism, that he puked all down the front of my shirt (and missed himself, of course) and things changed.

I call it "The Embarrassment Sweats"

I call it “The Embarrassment Sweats”

 

I had tons of onesies for him in the bag, but nothing for me.  A lesson I only needed to learn once!  So save yourself the embarrassment and subsequent awkward explanations – “Oh this?  Haha yeah, it’s pureed squash and puke. Hashtag ‘mom life,’ riiiight?? Haha okay bye! – and pack a back-up shirt for you and your partner.

Don’t Underestimate People

If you know me or have read any of my previous posts, then you know I’m inclined to convince myself that the worst case scenario will happen.  I also carry a nice British-sized dose of guilt and awkwardness around.  So I tend to get nervous about how people will react when something bad (inevitably) happens.  What if my baby spits up on my in-law’s rug?  What if I have to say no to an event invite altogether?  What if we have to leave a party early because my son is reaching a nuclear reactor level meltdown?

It's about to get real

It’s about to get real

Having actually experienced all of these things, I can tell you firsthand the surprising outcome: everyone was actually super nice and understanding about the situation!  Unless someone is just a major Grinch (get it? Holiday humor!), people are actually fairly accommodating and sympathetic to life’s little mishaps especially when it concerns your health and/or babies. So breathe a sigh of relief and don’t underestimate the kindness of people.

Smile… a lot

This one may sound a little cheesy, but hear me out.  As a mom with multiple chronic illnesses, I’m often in some degree of pain or discomfort.  Don’t go pulling out the violin, I’m just stating fact here and I’m sure all you other moms with similar issues can appreciate my candor when it comes to health.  And since I’m no stranger to feeling uncomfortable, I’ve mastered my “serene” face.  However, upon looking at some photos a few weeks ago, I noticed just how calculated my “serene” face looked.  It was a cross between a mannequin and a the snob who just has to mention that she knows those are last year’s  shoes you’re wearing.

In my head, I thought I looked totally dignified

In my head, I thought I looked totally dignified

Basically, my face didn’t display the kind of mirth and joy one expects to see in family holiday photos.  You may think this sounds a bit superficial, but trust me.  Any other time of year I would say, “Hey, I’m gonna wear sweatpants, I don’t care.  Deal with it, blah blah feminism blah blah.”  But since this is my baby’s first holiday season, I don’t want the pictures of our new little family to remind me of my disease every time I look back at them.  I want the photos to capture all the wonderful emotions my heart feels in spite of my health.  So if that means having to summon the majestic power of a thousand bald eagles to keep a smile on my face for a few minutes, so be it.

Make time and BREATHE

If you remember only one thing from this post, let it be this.  Take a moment during this busy season and just breathe.  Everything will be okay and the world will keep on spinning even if things don’t turn out quite the way you had pictured.  If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, remember that it’s all temporary and things will be calmed down and back to normal soon enough.  Try not to let the little things get you down.

Rise above it!

Rise above it!

And most importantly, take time to just celebrate your wonderful baby and allow yourself to forget about all the hullabaloo for a little bit.  My partner and I always make a point to snag a moment where it’s just us and our baby.  Granted your baby will have no idea what’s going on, but it can be special bonding experience for you and your partner to revel in the awesomeness of parenthood.  Treasure this first holiday season with your little one because it only happens once!

Happy Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Pancha Ganapati, Soyal, Yaldā, Yule, and Festivus to you all!!!

(Sorry if I forgot anyone!)

Why It’s Okay to Complain

Maybe it’s because I’ve lived with health issues my whole life. Maybe it’s because I’m a new mom. Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it’s not. But I’ve long felt the necessity to stay strong and never complain. Perhaps I felt as if I were betraying all the strong, fierce feminists that came before me. I’ve always thought that if I complained, asked for help, or took a break that it somehow meant I was giving in and letting my struggles get the best of me. Thankfully, I’m here to tell you that that’s just not true. It really is okay to complain sometimes.

It wasn’t easy to allow myself the freedom to complain. Honestly, it still isn’t easy even now. I still hesitate sometimes when asking for help. And when I do ask for help, I’m convinced that the other person is secretly mad that I bothered them. Again, this could just be me dealing with my own issues, but from the other moms and women with chronic illnesses I’ve talked to, it doesn’t seem like I’m the only one. So here are five reasons why it’s not only okay to complain, but it may just be the best thing you could do for yourself.

5. It Puts Your Pain into Words

So often, when I’m having a health issue or beyond exhausted, pain just becomes a part of this unspoken routine. Even before I had a child, I still couldn’t just take a day off whenever I was in pain or sick. If that was the case, I would have been home more days than I worked. So, you learn to just “deal.” But I did eventually get to my breaking point, as we all do. So I complained. And it was awesome! I got to put into words exactly what I was feeling which did two things: 1) it helped me articulate just how debilitating my health issues can be, emotionally and physically, and 2) it gave everyone around me a better picture of what I was going through and how to help. Contrary to popular belief, glaring at someone does not actually tell them what’s wrong.

4. Better Out Than In!

That saying has stuck around for a reason. It really is better to let it out than to keep it all in. When you keep things in – health issues, relationship problems, anger, sadness, etc. – it becomes toxic. And what’s even scarier is, if you hold on to the problem long enough, it becomes a part of you. One day, I caught myself in the mirror and realized I looked miserable. Not sad, not unhappy, not even angry, just plain miserable. I was holding in all this frustration that it was physically manifesting on my face and it wasn’t cute. So I wrote down a list of all the things that were causing me stress or pain. Then I showed it to my husband when he got home. The conversation that followed wasn’t exactly cute either, but I caught myself smiling for no reason the next day 🙂

3. Perspective

Not all the things I put on that list were really stress-worthy. Sure, some issues on the list were serious (like finances and health), but some were downright silly. I wrote “all out of Baked Lays.” It’s funny now, but at the time I’m sure it was a very legitimate thing to be stressed out about in my life. But reading it on that list not only let me see how small and easily fixable some of my problems were, but it also showed me (and my partner) that if you let things build up, it only takes one little thing to push it over the tipping point. That saying “the straw that broke the camel’s back” definitely fits here. And not to worry, I finally got my Baked Lays and all was right in the world again.

2. Healthy Alternative

I’m not suggesting everyone who bottles up their issues immediately becomes destructive, but I have seen firsthand the negative consequences that can come of it. One of the most important things I should point out first, is that this can happen to women and men. I’ve seen both mothers and fathers who never complain, yet they are visibly unhappy and some are even resentful or bitter. I’ve also seen pain eat away at someone until they’re just a shell of who they used to be. Partly because of what I had seen, I knew it was important to me, my partner, and my son that I never let myself become overwhelmed under the weight of chronic illness and motherhood. So if a little venting from time to time prevents you from a life of resentment or unhappiness, then I say it’s worth it.

1. Forming Bonds Stronger than Denture Cream

Believe it or not, giving myself permission to complain didn’t help just me. It was like a magic wand had been waved! Out of nowhere, all these friends and mothers were released from their guilt-ridden spell of silence. Suddenly I was getting texts and calls and Facebook comments and messages from both friends I’d known forever and people I’d just met saying things like, “Oh my God! I thought I was the only one!” or “Finally, someone is talking about it!” I began to forge new friendships and strengthen existing ones by simply “complaining” on social media about how real the struggle of balancing motherhood with chronic illness can be. So if you haven’t already, be the first person to break the “Guilt and Silence Spell” and enjoy the deep sense of camaraderie that you will find among friends new and old.

What Your Parenting Style Says About You

In our four-part series on parenting styles, we looked at four very different kinds of moms.  We talked about everything from being super-strict (like the Helicopter Mom) to ultra-lenient (like the Laid-Back Mom) and hippies (like Crunchy Mamas) to geeks (like Techie Mommies).  And whether you identify fully with one style or just pick out a couple of similarities, it says something about you.  So what does it all mean?

Besides the obvious judging, of course

Besides the obvious judging, of course

 

Let’s take it back a bit first.  The whole idea for a series about different kinds of parenting came about in a rather serendipitous way.  I was at a local mommy & me type play place and couldn’t help but notice that there were so many different kinds of moms there – moms on their phones, moms hovering, moms talking about amber necklaces, moms “asking” their kids to obey, etc.  And it got me thinking: where do these habits come from?  Are we just carbon copies of our own childhood, mirroring our parents?  Is it instinct?  Or is it a combination?

It's confusing, I know, but bear with me

It’s confusing, I know, but bear with me

I think we can’t help but bring some of our experiences into the process of parenting.  If you were raised never to eat meat, and you continued that lifestyle into adulthood, then chances are you’re probably going to pass that on to your children, too.  Yet I also remember poring over countless books and online articles during my pregnancy, bound and determined to learn everything I could to raise the most perfect, well-rounded little person… and then I clearly remember forgetting everything I ever read or experienced the moment I held my son on my chest for the first time.

Similar reaction, basically

Similar reaction, basically

So what does it all mean?  Obviously I’m not a doctor or an expert by any stretch of the imagination (unless you count my own, then yes), but I believe that all mothers instinctively want what is best for their child, and that may mean something different to each mother.  For the Helicopter Moms out there, they show their unconditional love by being a constant presence in their child’s life.  And for many of the self-professed Hoverers I’ve talked to, it’s because they themselves felt unsure or distant from their own parents as a child.  So they have vowed to do the exact opposite for their children by doing everything they can to be there for and protect them.

Not all moms share in the same upbringing or ideology, and that’s okay, too.  A lot of the more “hands-off” or free-range parents I’ve talked with don’t even dig that deep when I ask them about why they parent the way they do.  For them, it’s not something they even have to devote that much thought to – it just came about naturally.  Though they may tend to do their research when it comes to important issues (like health or education), at their core they care more about living in the moment with their child than anything else.

As I finished up the last of the four-part series last week, I was already wondering how I wanted to tie up the whole thing.  And wouldn’t you know it, the idea came to me in the same place that started it all.  Back at the play place with my fellow moms and my baby’s bffs, I stopped (subconsciously or not) putting parents into categories.  I stopped seeing “Crunchy Mamas” and started seeing the beautifully complex women that they always were.

You are amazing, don't ever forget that

You are amazing, don’t ever forget that

So that’s my takeaway from the whole thing.  You may have some helicopter tendencies or geek out from time to time, but that’s kind of the point.  We differ a little bit in our parenting styles, but when get right down to it, each and every one of us just care about helping our little one make it through this crazy world.  What do you think?