a figure of a woman balancing on a pyramid with the text finidng balance

Past Time For An Update

TimeUpdate Past Time For An Update

This morning, I went to a yoga class. Ok, I was encouraged by Beth and pushed a bit by Marc but I went. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go, it’s just that I have a lot that I need to do. But, it didn’t take a lot of cajoling because I knew I would be better for it. (Although, somehow, it didn’t occur to me that it had been months since my last one and I would be in pain after.)

I really enjoyed the class. A year ago, I would have focused on blogs that that needed to be written, inventory issues that needed addressing, analytics that needed analyzing, and website plug-ins that needed updating. All very important tasks, of course. Often, as soon as I would sit down at the computer, I’d find myself down a rabbit hole, researching something potentially important but not on the task list. It didn’t accomplish what I needed and didn’t make me feel good

If it’s not mine to spend, who’s is it?

At the beginning of 2018, I decided to be more frugal with my time. I wanted to be more mindful so that I wasn’t wasting it. My goal was to gain the most from it. I can’t believe how much has changed in a little over 12 months.

It started prior to one of our vacations. I had an overwhelming amount to accomplish both personally and for the business. In order to complete it all before we left, I simply set up lists of everything that needed to be done, day by day. It was exhausting but I managed it. By the time that we left, I was confident that every detail was covered and that I could relax and enjoy my trip. I understood then that I could make it through anything if I was methodical and focused.

It was an important lesson. Despite my endless endeavors, I’m finding a balance. I’m happier in the moment, without feeling rushed, even if I’m busy. My to do list no longer scares me (mostly), and I don’t need to push myself to get things done.

Kindness Counts

I thought I would need that internal (and often negative) push, but clearly I underestimated myself. I’m quite motivated in so many areas of my life. It feels good to be nicer to myself. Sometimes, like in the case of returning to yoga, or returning to this blog, it is hard to begin again. That’s why I surround myself by wonderful supportive people willing to give a nudge (or a shove) when they know it will help. (Hi Marc! Hi Beth!)

I’m impressed with how much of a success the past year’s endeavors have been and how much better I feel. I’ve made so much progress personally and professionally. I have less anxiety. I understand my capabilities more. I’m healthier. The business is in a better place, which means we’ve helped more women and donated more to charity.

I haven’t yet begun to think of my next goal. As I consider that my kitchen needs cleaning and it’s time to do laundry, I think inventing my very own Rosie (robot maid from the Jetsons) to make life a little easier might be my next task…

hand held out with a floating heart, text of looking at women's health

A Look Back: Happy Valentine’s Day to my Lady Parts

WomensHealth A Look Back: Happy Valentine’s Day to my Lady Parts

We’re happy to introduce Victoria, our newest guest blogger. She follows our usual form of sarcasm topped with an important message!

There’s a certain stigma when it comes to talking about sexual health. While it’s really no one’s business, it could prompt judgement and assumptions on how sexually active (or inactive) you are or how you practice safe sex. I’ve had HPV once in my past life and it was treated as ‘no big deal’ by my gynecologist – disappearing like a common cold after another routine visit. It was after the second time, when additional biopsies were required, that I realized this was much more serious. I wasn’t sure how to talk about it with those I care about most.*

The first common misconception I realized is that transmitting HPV was possible even in cases where you use a condom. In fact, HPV infections are so common that nearly all men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives. The scary part is that there can be no symptoms and men can be carriers as well. (of course, another burden on women to regularly check for this as men currently cannot be tested!) 

Corsets are now optional, Your Health is Not

When my regular pap came back as abnormal, a colposcopy biopsy, cervical biopsy, and endometrial biopsy were required. (I’ll spare the details, google if you dare!) The results of the cervical biopsy showed evidence of grade 2/3 dysplasia cells that could lead to cervical cancer if left unattended. A LEEP procedure was scheduled to remove those unruly bastards on the day after Valentine’s Day. (Don’t forget a “get well enough to have sex again soon” card with my flowers!)

I would also need the endometrial biopsy while under anesthesia for the LEEP. My gynecologist was unable to get an adequate cell sample during the original colposcopy as I was screaming in pain. (There is a wide range of pain tolerance for women when it comes to these biopsies, so if you’re not as lucky to have a kind and understanding doctor as myself, do yourself a favor and find a new doctor!)

Being past of age of eligibility for the HPV vaccine, things started to feel a bit scarier. I analyzed all the extreme cases (please just leave me my precious ovaries!). It wasn’t so much about the idea of being unable to have kids, but the heightened awareness of feeling older, like I was falling apart. On my way to the pharmacy to pick up a pill in preparation for surgery, I was amused when dodging in between the men and women rushing to buy beautiful bouquets to bring home to their lovers when ironically, all I could think about was what my lady parts would be encountering.

Enduring Cupid’s Scalpel

As the anticipated day arrived, I was anxious about every scenario that could pop up in my head. This was my first time getting “surgery”, so much of this was uncharted territory for me. As I confided in the nurse putting in my IV, she said to me, “You’re still young, It is scary… just wait until you get older and the health issues become things you have no control over”. My mind then quickly raced with thoughts about hysterectomies, miscarriages, breast cancer… the harsh reality about all the hardships women face on top of a unforgiving healthcare system. 

Once I reached the anesthesiologist, my answer to ‘how are you doing?’ quickly became ‘terrified’. He had a warm smile and chuckled ‘fair enough’ in response. He kindly explained what would happen next, putting me at ease, knowing the worst I’d encounter is the world’s best nap. The last interaction I remember was the mask over my face, and laughing at what was probably not even a remotely funny joke. 

The great news is the results came back, and there were no further issues! The abnormal cells were limited to a small area that were removed during the LEEP. The endometrial biopsy was negative. The worse has been feeling like I have an itch that I can’t scratch and mild PMS cramps that a quick Aleve can solve. 

Invest in Your Sexual Health

So why did I feel compelled to share this experience? Well, for one, Shari and The Strap Saver have been BIG supporters of women’s health and cancer research. Shari has always inspired me to make my health a priority and be kind to myself (and I mean, this is American health care… prevention is the name of the game). But, by no means is my story anything spectacular or heroic compared to what many women have gone through. I’m very fortunate that I have the opportunity to take preventive measures, as many women cannot afford that chance.

There’s still a stigma around women’s sexual health… you don’t need to make an apology or confession, it’s about fostering open communication for encouraging support in each other’s health and well being. And I’m certainly no expert.. do you research! Women’s health will continue to be an important topic and we need to ignore the stigma, the judgement, and continue to support each other however we can. 

* I know I have the love and support of my partner and close friends. For the record, they are the least judgmental people I know. It’s my own silly insecurities sometimes that get in the way.❤️ 

drawing of hands wringing out fabric with water dripping from it, text: no more rinsing

Confessions of a Former Machine Washer

Two hands wringing the water out of a pink piece of clothing with the text no more rinsing

I’ve never liked hand washing my lingerie. It felt like a dreaded chore, similar to having to take out the trash on a freezing cold night, after you’re already in bed. My only experiences were with Woolite, which mean rinsing over and over until all of the suds were gone. I even wrote a post about ways to care for your bras without getting your hands dirty (clean?) to ease my guilt of not taking the time to take better care of my delicates.  You’d think it would be easier to do what I know is right than to assemble a list of work-arounds (which are all good ideas, I promise!) but sometimes I’m a bit stubborn. (ok, maybe not only sometimes.)

This year, at CurvExpo, I met Jacqueline Sava of Soak, a no-rinse lingerie wash. I had heard of these types of detergents, but I’m not sure I fully understood the concept (given the description, not a clue how I missed it…). Jacqueline explained that it was as simple as the product name. The directions were to soak my bras per the instructions and then hang them to try.  No endless rinsing required.

I have used Euclan, another no-rinse wash, which I picked up at Sweetest Sin, my favorite lingerie store. Unfortunately, I was using it in the washing machine which was still prematurely aging my bras with the harsh conditions of the agitator. Even in cold water. Even in lingerie bags. Even with the proper detergent.

Looking back, I think the second hardest leap for me (after the rinsing) was putting my bras in the sink, the same place where I spit toothpaste. Sure, I could clean the sink, but it would never *feel* clean enough. One day it hit me, I could use a plastic tub and quarantine my bras from any potential saliva residue (which is touted as an option on both websites, but I never bothered to look). I set out to try the no-rinse washes right away! It worked just as described, without a residual sud in sight.

I’ve tried both Soak and Euclan and like them both. Hurray Kimmay, one of our lingerie gurus, touted the benefits of Soak on Rachel Ray recently. I trust her judgement. Angela, the owner of Sweetest Sin, has impeccable taste and if she stocks Euclan, it must be good. Jacqueline recommended that I put the different washes in water and then see how they feel on my hand. (which I have not done yet)

My recommendation is to give one or both a try!  I know that they cost more than regular laundry detergent, but quality bras are costly as well. We’re all about extending the life of our lingerie here at The Strap Saver, which sometimes means spending a little more now to save later.

Have you tried the no-rinse lingerie washes?  If so, what do you think?

Also – thank you to both Soak and Euclan for clearly stating “a minimum of 15 minutes” on their website – making it clear that when I get caught up writing a blog entry and my bras stay submerged for 30 minutes or more, I haven’t done any damage.

Images of Shari in a bikini while on vacation in the caribbean with the ext do not let your mind bully your body

What I Like About You!

Shari in a bathing suit in the Caribbean with the words "Do not let your mind bully your body"

A few weeks ago I was on vacation with a group of friends – lucky to be in beautiful Leeward islands of the Lesser Antilles. (who says this blog can’t be educational too?) The scenery was amazing and the food was delicious.

The one “flaw in the plan” was my bathing suit. I didn’t heed my own advice and waited until late July to shop. Given my proportions, the pickings were slim. I ended up wearing something I didn’t love – a bikini. I was grateful to have found swim shorts to wear over the bottoms, but the rest was still very much… a bikini.  

On a particularly sunny day, we took a catamaran ride to Nevis for sightseeing and some time at the beach. A few friends complimented me on the suit and how I looked. I responded with the sentiment that it was the only suit that I could find and at least I’d found shorts to cover up my thighs because… no one wants to see that.

Suddenly, the uselessness of what I’d said hit me. I quickly corrected myself to say I was happy that I’d found shorts because I wasn’t comfortable in bikini bottoms. (I do not condone body shaming in others, and was careful to apply the same logic to myself, even if it was after the fact.) After making a mental note to consider my word choice next time, I continued to enjoy the sun and the sand.

Later that afternoon, as we sped back to St. Kitts, the conversation echoed in my head. It was a beautiful, perfect day, spent in and around gorgeous water. Why was my first instinct to hide my body? Why was I concerned about what impact viewing my body had on others?

I also thought about the first-ever body positivity seminar at CurvExpo in June. Kimmay Caldwell, Hurray Kimmy, who I consider lovely, expressed that she felt her body didn’t fit the expectations of her Hispanic heritage. (at least, that was my interpretation of what she said!) Instead of holding herself to someone else’s standard, she confidently stars in photo shoots in lingerie, proud of who she is and how she takes care of herself. 

Why was I going to let any negativity intrude on my beautiful day? The shape of my body doesn’t make a difference, and doesn’t require an apology. Inspired by Kimmay’s own unretouched images, I asked a friend to take a picture of me just as I was – sweaty, with windblown hair. (full of salt, too, from our swim in the ocean) I work hard to take care of me because I’m worth it and I took time to honor that.

How will you celebrate you in 2019?

meter showing the temperature of health

According to a New Study

Healthtemp According to a New StudyLast month, during my yearly R.I.S.E. program (special surveillance for women with a high breast cancer risk) visit at Memorial Sloan Kettering, I asked about a study I’d heard about on the news. Health headlines don’t normally impress me, but this one was compelling. A very large, very long study in Denmark determined that the newer, low dose birth control pills were linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Doctors had previously thought that the smaller doses of hormones were safer.

The study followed 1.8 million Danish women for more than 10 years and found that there were an additional 13 cases for every 100,000 women among the birth control users. The risk increased with age and length of time on the pill. They did not consider additional factors like family history or lifestyle.

I wanted to know what this meant for the average women.  I met with Joanne Falletta Cregg, MS, MPH, APN-BC, and my interpretation of her response was that the study was based on valid, informed science. She didn’t seem surprised at all, given everything that she knows about breast cancer and the female body. Any introduction of additional hormones bears watching. Together, we concluded that every woman who is taking hormonal contraceptives should be made aware of this new/not-so-new risk. (disclaimer: I work in marketing… so consult your doctor for taking any of this advice!)

Joanne (as she prefers to be called) also said that even though the study was noteworthy, every situation is different. While it is important to work to lower cancer risk, it is also important to balance that with quality of life. For some women, preventing pregnancy is a matter of health and many women take hormonal birth control pills for other reasons. (for cramps, for acne, or simply to stay regular to preserve the option to have children when they are ready)  Some of these concerns might outweigh the increased risk. (We are simply discussing medical conditions here. Personal reproductive choices are just that, personal.)

In addition, Joanne told me about MSK research into the power of exercise to lower Breast Cancer risk (PDF). They learned that 2-3 hours of moderately intense exercise a week can reduce breast cancer risk up to 9% and 5-6 hours can reduce it by 30%. I could tell that she knew I was immediately impressed by this information. She also cautioned against taking on too much by immediately jumping from my current 1-2 hours to 6+ hours of aerobic exercise a week. Drastic changes can lead to injury which will only add stress. Stress is a contributing factor to inflammation and something that every pamphlet about preventing Breast Cancer tells me to avoid.

By the time our visit was complete, I felt that I was armed with the information that I needed to make decisions about my health. It is wonderful to be able to bring these questions to my appointment and walk away with clear answers. I was concerned that once she heard “I heard about this study on the news”, she would roll her eyes. Instead, Joanne was easy to talk to and genuinely interested in my well-being. I feel that this type of relationship that makes collaboration for the best health outcomes possible. I’ll keep you posted!

GREAT NEWS! For first three months of 2018, donations from The Strap Saver to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation will be matched, up to $5000. This means that we will raise $1.50 for the first Strap Saver in every purchase and $1.00 for each additional Strap Saver. We have a chance to make a big contribution in a short period of time, so let’s get shopping! Offer expires March 31, 2018.

little girl wearing a cape standing on a roof overlookin a city, text reads ready to take on the world

It IS Fun to Wear!

WonderWoman It IS Fun to Wear!Many moons ago, I discussed the power of underwear and a theory that Beth and I have about Wonder Woman Underoos. We think that if we’re wearing them, we can accomplish anything. (Although our ultimate goal/test would be to wear them on a job interview. After all, who wouldn’t hire Wonder Woman?)

I had these Underoos as a kid and I remember them being my FAV-O-RITE. When I was 7 or 8, I would wear them and run around the house solving imaginary crimes, wishing for gold cuffs and lasso of truth. Linda Carter was my hero: beautiful and a total ass kicker. I wanted to be her when I grew up.

While my goals have changed, I still would not mind access to my own invisible jet and a gold tiara. When I saw that they made Underoos for adults, I could not resist. I ordered myself a pair and (not so) calmly waited THREE MONTHS for their arrival. (There was some movie out this summer that meant they were in high demand and back-ordered. Just kidding, Gal Gadot is an a formidable force of her own.)

Recently, I had an overwhelming amount of work that needed to be done in a single day. My regular job, freelance work, and my final paper to complete for my graduate class (due the next day). I woke up early that morning and before anxiety set in, I remembered that my Underoos had arrived the prior week. In order to boost my confidence, I decided to put them on. I felt ready to begin. I could do anything, I was WONDER WOMAN!

I was convinced that the world was ready for me and all the wonders I could do… and I completed everything that day. I finished 8 hours of work, 5 hours of freelance work, and an almost-final draft of my 24-page final project. (although, not starting from scratch, that would require adding hours to the day!) If I drank coffee, it would have been one of those days where I had a constant cup by my side. Every time I wanted to abandon the job at hand, I saw the red tank top peeking out from under my t-shirt, urging me on to greater heights. Wonder Woman does not give up!

Chances are, I would have completed all of that work without the aid of my Underoos. I know myself and my work ethic. However, it made a difference in my level of inspiration, once again showing that we should not underestimate the power of our underwear. Remember, all of our hopes are pinned upon us, and the magic that we do. There is an endless list of things that need fixing in this world, so we should take every edge that we can get!

 

GREAT NEWS!  For first three months of 2018, donations from The Strap Saver to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation will be matched, up to $5000. This means that we will raise $1.50 for the first Strap Saver in every purchase and $1.00 for each additional Strap Saver.  We have a chance to make a big contribution in a short period of time, so let’s get shopping!  Offer expires March 31, 2018.

purple background with text that reads once upon a time and an alarm clock where the face says making it count

Let’s Do the Time Warp Again!

Finding Time Let's Do the Time Warp Again!

We’re at the end of 2017 and the cycle begins again. Lose weight! Makeover your finances! Get rid of your clutter! Buy better stuff that will help you drop unwanted pounds, balance your budget, and organize your existing stuff! It’s no secret that I think that all of these things are ruses to take our money. I think resolutions, in general, are a setup for failure. You can see my thoughts on here, here, and here.

RockyHorror Let's Do the Time Warp Again!

I am, however, a big fan of self-improvement. Every year I try to pick something in my life that is frustrating me and work on it throughout the year. Two years ago, I removed items and habits that I no longer needed. Last year, I found more stability and routine. (consider this foreshadowing for the next blog in my tax series!  riveting stuff, I promise!) I want to build on these successes.

This year, I want to improve my relationship with time. I constantly feel rushed and pressured to move faster. I know I take on a lot. I have a full-time job and freelance (although not weekly). I am working towards a graduate certificate in digital marketing while attending to many aspects of The Strap Saver. I also try to take care of my health, travel, and have a life. It can feel overwhelming.

Floyd Let's Do the Time Warp Again!After careful consideration, I think that may be the key: it feels overwhelming. Some people seem to move through their to do lists with ease, despite the same obstacles. Maybe it’s about perspective as much as it is about process?

A few years ago I won a coaching session at an entrepreneurship event. I confided my concerns about feeling rushed and less productive than I wanted to be. She suggested that I keep a log of my activities so I could learn where I might unintentionally waste time. It was an eye-opening exercise. How many hours pass without us even realizing? (and not in the good, sit on the beach and watch the waves come in and go out kind of way!)

Now that I’m finding time, the next problem is being overwhelmed by the size of my to do list. Another obstacle is deciding where to start. Sometimes, I end up procrastinating rather than face what needs to be done. I have become better about picking the first thing on the list and taking care of it, even if I don’t want to. (some days the mantra is: suck it up, buttercup!)
cultureclub Let's Do the Time Warp Again!

This dance results in a lot of stress and wasted energy. It adds an unnecessary layer that changes nothing. I am not the type that works harder/faster/better under pressure. Instead, I end up more tired and make careless mistakes. I prefer to be methodical and unrushed.

SimonGarf Let's Do the Time Warp Again!

I think that if I change a few things, I’ll be able to do what must be done, with less stress, and have more down time. I’ll also probably be a healthier person, too. I’ll no longer look at the clock wondering where the time has gone, but maybe see all the hours left to relax and watch the clouds float by.

How can I adjust my attitude so that the thought of tasks do not hold me back? How can I become better prepared so that less time is wasted on deciding? I’ve almost mastered the art of “no” and asking for help. (maybe?)  What else can I do to be more efficient?  Here are some thoughts:

  • Make lists (always a winner with me!) and revisit the lists – it’s ok to decide that something is no longer a priority or even worth doing.
  • Try to make a plan for the next day.  It will help me to start the day with purpose. (With less waffling, unless that’s the plan. Waffles! Yum!)
  • When having trouble prioritizing, or trouble in general, ask for help. An outside perspective can be useful.
  • Remember that being kind is more important than being productive.
  • Put things away when I am done with them. I have a bad habit of leaving items wherever I last used them – and then I waste time searching for them. (It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I’m not mindful. Once I’m done with something, I’m on to the next task and simply forget. Mindfulness, in general, is not my strong suit.)
  • Sometimes it’s ok to call in sick and hit the beach, even to your own to do list.

Croce Let's Do the Time Warp Again!

As I mentioned, I juggle a lot of projects. Is this the right way to spend my time? All of this takes away from my time with Marc and my friends. Does anyone look back at their life and wish that they had worked more?

Marc and I have discussed this many times. The freelance work doesn’t take up a significant amount of time and gives me some financial freedom to travel. I’m learning useful things in my graduate classes that are helping me in my day job and have led to improvements in our site. If our customer has a better experience, it helps us to raise more money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I have specific goals and am making progress towards them.
I hope that by improving my relationship with time, by spending it carefully, mindful, I will have more opportunities to relax while still achieving my goals. I’ll report back in a year!

What did you improve in 2017? Do you have any plans for 2018?

GREAT NEWS!  For first three months of 2018, donations from The Strap Saver to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation will be matched, up to $5000. This means that we will raise $1.50 for the first Strap Saver in every purchase and $1.00 for each additional Strap Saver.  We have a chance to make a big contribution in a short period of time, so let’s get shopping!  Offer expires March 31, 2018

one woman in four different phases in a dressing room with the text searching for your perfect fit

The More Things Change…

Searching The More Things Change...Lately I’ve noticed that my clothes haven’t been fitting quite right.  I couldn’t  put my finger on it, but they were looking a bit…  frumpy.  I have one friend who insists that I’ve been losing weight. Although my posture had been better since my back problems, the number on the scale hasn’t moved more than a pound in either direction. I finally narrowed it down to my bras. They weren’t giving me the same support that they once did. The bands were loose. Maybe this was the result of the mythical weight loss that my friend kept insisting was eluding the scale?!?

As luck would have it, during that very same week, I got an email from my favorite bra store, Sweetest Sin advertising that they were having a BIG SALE.  Who doesn’t love a BIG SALE? Angela, the owner, had done a wonderful job of fitting me the last time I’d gone bra shopping. She helped me through the process of accepting my new body, 40 lbs lighter.  Taking a trip to her store is always something special – it is beautiful, feminine and full of possibilities.

Angela’s first step was to measure me. Zero change! The mythical weight loss that I thought had translated to loose bras turned out to be simple wear. I hadn’t realized how long it had been since I’d last shopped, so I check the blog.  It was September, 2015, almost exactly two years ago. Bras do not last forever, even with Strap Savers.

It turned out I was in same spot almost exactly two years later.  Except – HURRAH! – this time, I hit the BIG SALE! Unfortunately, I was in a rush and didn’t have time to browse.  I relied on Angela’s picks based on my previous choices and she delivered quite nicely.  Thanks to her, I probably tried on some things I might not have normally considered. (ask your sales associate, you never know what you might find!)  I have 4 new bras – including a sports bra, now that my back is healthy enough for more exercise! – and I’m marking this weekend on the calendar.  I have a feeling they do this sale at this time every year. I’m not missing it again.

And – an added bonus is that Sweetest Sin accepts bra donations for domestic violence shelters, so I did many good deeds – gave some help to women in need (arguably the most important), cleared space at home, shopped locally, and did something to take care of myself.  Woo hoo!

So how long do bras last?

According to my bra guru, Erica of A Sophisticated Pair, a bra should last approximately 130 wears (I like this much better than an irrelvant time period. The demise a bra is directly related to how many times you wear it – and how you wash it, of course).  I have 7 bras, but 5 get worn most often and those appear to be less resistant to gravity. After doing the math: (365X2)/130=5.6153846154. I basically should have worn out somewhere between 5 and 6 bras. That sounds about right.  One is complete toast and I’m on the last hook with 3 of them.  The other 3 are definitely showing wear.  Ladies, do not fall into the same rut that I did.  Keep an eye on your support, you  deserve to look your best!

A woman crossing her fingers and the text the wait for good news

Behind the Scenes at a Breast MRI

Breast MRI Behind the Scenes at a Breast MRIIn February, I had my first breast MRI. At first, I thought it would be like the one that I had on my back, which was almost relaxing (minus the clanging of the machine). I was wrong. A few days before, I started to do some research and while I found some clinical descriptions of what was going to happen, I didn’t find any first-person accounts. So, if you’re on this page because you’re about to have a breast MRI – this was written specifically for you.

My breast MRI was part of the R.I.S.E. program at Memorial Sloan Kettering. To recap: I do not have breast cancer. I’m at high risk due to my family history. They watch me and make personalized recommendations for testing.

First, I’ll share a warning that my doctors gave me. An MRI gives very detailed photos. It’s very likely that it will pick up things that they might want to test further that will turn out to be benign. (known as a “false positive”). I was told to expect follow-ups and biopsies but to understand that it would likely not lead to a cancer diagnosis.

I was not given any special instructions for that day. They only wanted to know if I had any metal inside of me. (I do not.) Unlike my back MRI, I was not able to wear my own clothes of yoga pants and a t-shirt. They handed me scrubs and a robe and told me to get changed and wait. (I did ask if I could bring my phone with me to take photos for this blog, but was told no.)

My next stop was get an IV line put in my arm so it would be easier to add the contrast solution later. I was anxious at the idea of walking around with a needle in my arm but the nurse explained that they remove the needle and only leave plastic tubing. I could bend my arm as I wished. Although I couldn’t feel the tube and it did not hurt at all, I kept my arm straight. I’ll admit it, I’m such a baby at times. It was the idea of something in my arm. Very mature.

Now it was time to go to the (freezing) MRI room. I was put through 3 different metal detectors. One looked like a pole attached to a wall. I stood next to it and slowly spun around. Next,the technician checked me with a wand. The third was like the old-school airport security ones – walking through a doorway.

The next was the hardest part of the MRI – getting situated on the table. I was NOT going to be on my back, as I originally thought. I had to lie on my stomach over an odd contraption called a “breast coil”. It has holes for the breasts to hang down, the opposite of a mammogram – they want pictures uncompressed. I was then to lay my face in one of those massage-table-like donuts (not. even. close.) and extend my arms over the top of my head (think superman, flying). It took several minutes for them to position me just right.  Then, they were kind enough to pile blankets on top of me.  I rarely get cold, but the thin robe and scrubs were no match for this room. (If you have a pet polar bear, feel free to bring them!  They’ll be right at home…)

I was stuck there for about 45 minutes, without moving, while they took some photos, stopped, gave me the contrast (which may or may not feel very cold going in) and took more photos. The machine was very loud and I wish I’d brought better-fitting ear plugs. I tried to go to my happy place (vacation!) and breathe deeply until it was over.

Then, it was over. I was very stiff and it took me a few minutes to get up. The technicians were very nice – everyone I’ve encountered at MSK is always very nice – and helped me off of the table. I took my time getting back to the dressing room, changing, and heading to work.

Nothing overwhelming happened after. My day went on as usual. I wasn’t stiff from the awkward position or nauseous from the contrast. The Breast MRI was annoying, uncomfortable, and then it was done. I think will go much easier next time because I’ll know what to expect. (and hopefully your first will as well, now that you know one person’s experience)

As much as it wasn’t a big deal, I wish I’d done something nice for myself after – maybe a new shirt to change into? A breakfast treat? (my appointment was at 8:00AM!) It was anxiety-inducing for me (I always think of my mom in every aspect of these tests + the whole thing is awkward) and a little kindness afterward would’ve put a smile on my face a little faster.

As for the results, much like the DNA test, I spent the next 24 hours trying to keep myself calm, and not think that THIS time it really was the one. An MRI is some of the best imaging that money can buy. This is where they will find whatever it is I’m convinced is growing inside of me. But, Dr. Mangino called the next day (!!) and told me that the scans were clear. There was nothing they wanted to test further. She’d speak to me more at my follow-up appointment.

In addition to the joy of knowing that the best imaging showed nothing, I realize that I need (more than) a bit of an attitude adjustment. Having been around breast cancer since I was a child, it’s been a dark cloud that’s followed me around.  Probably more so since I’ve lost my mom. From the results, it doesn’t look like I’m moments away from being admitted for surgery. (when an active imagination turns into a curse) Maybe my fate isn’t already determined. While it’s serving me to stay on top of my health and get all of these extra screenings, it’s not useful to add stress to my life!  A Breast MRI is for not everyone, so if you are unsure, talk it over with your doctor.  As for me, I consider myself lucky to have access to the best equipment and doctors in the world and these results are helping me walk through life a little lighter.

a woman on a dock looking at the water during a sunrise with the text get ready for fun in the sun

How To Find The Perfect Swimsuit for 2017

It's time for 2017 swimsuit seasonI spent a considerable amount of time this afternoon trying to curate a decent article on swimsuit styles this season for our social media feeds. Considering it either is, or soon will be, hot enough to wear one in most of the northern hemisphere, I thought I’d have no problem (here comes the assume thing).  All I found were slide shows of teeny bikinis and one-pieces with more cutouts than fabric. The one common factor is that most would require you to become BFFs with a very skilled waxer. I even found an article that classified bathing suits by age.

Oh, FFS1, people.

I know it’s intimidating to go out with half of our body showing – especially when there are others who are very comfortable with most of their body showing (and look lovely doing it!).  It has never been easy for me. (swim shorts = best swim invention ever)  When I was younger, I worried about the size of my butt and my thighs. Now, it’s gravity. (cruel, cruel gravity!)

It took a lot of re-framing (and the wisdom of age) to change my perspective. Unlike all of these fashion articles, I now treat my swimsuits like a vehicle to fun. If I want to get in the pool to cool off, I need one. If I want to go to the beach to hang with friends and surf the waves, I need one. If I want to go snorkeling and see the pretty fishies, I need one. It’s not about being on display for anyone, it’s about getting to the good times.

I guess putting that in print  or on the internet doesn’t make anyone money. Fashion magazine would be out of business if they admitted that we are not the sum of our clothes. Since the “experts’ couldn’t do something that I felt I could pass on to you, here’s my real world bathing suit shopping advice (my expertise: being a woman and shopping for 30+ years):

  1. Buy something pretty/in a color your like.  If not, black works!
  2. If you truly are having issues with how you look, ruching is a fabulous invention.
  3. Try to find something that isn’t wedgie-prone (unless, of course, that’s your thing)
  4. Look for a zipper pocket. My swim shorts have these, I never realized how useful it could be…
  5. If you aren’t about a bikini, try the tankini – merely for ease during a trip to the bathroom (some stores sell tops in extra-long, so it looks like a one-piece without getting fully naked in a public restroom when nature calls)
  6. Don’t be afraid to buy separates – even from different stores.  Black bottoms go with everything.
  7. Do not wait!  By July, most of the selection is gone.
  8. If you hate the way that it looks and ruching doesn’t help, try to imagine all of the fun you’ll be having when you’re wearing it. If anyone judges you, isn’t it really on them?  Who are they to decide what you get to wear and how you have fun?
  9. If your straps aren’t adjustable, check out The Strap Saver for a custom fit without sewing.

What are your favorite “real world” swimsuit shopping tips?

Happy warmer weather everyone!

 

1This is officially the first time I’ve cursed in this blog. It takes fashion sites and swimsuit season to do it!