Models from the AnaOno MetaVivor Fashion Show, words like fearless and ambitious written on their screen

All the feelings with AnaOno and Metavivor

metavior All the feelings with AnaOno and Metavivor

(This blog was originally written on February 10th, 2019, on my way home from the city)

Today Beth and I went to the 3rd Annual New York Fashion Week Fundraiser Metavivor fashion show featuring AnaOno. Being on the fringes of both the lingerie and the breast cancer awareness worlds, we only found out about it at the last minute. I snagged two tickets. It was going to be an afternoon out, a treat for a long year of hard work. I don’t know if it was the busy week or just general lack of foresight, but I did not have an inkling of what I was about to encounter. Maybe it’s better that way, maybe I experienced it more deeply. Maybe the surprise was what lead me to feel ALL of the feelings.

Anger: I think everyone feels this. Why? Why is this happening? Why are we losing these beautiful men and women? Why isn’t there more funding? How can we let 1 out of 3 women who are diagnosed, die? It’s our mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends daughters… and fathers, brothers, boyfriends and son. It falls into the category of NOT FAIR.

IMG 1115 All the feelings with AnaOno and Metavivor

Sad: Metavivor is about raising money and awareness for stage 4 breast cancer. Stage 4 is the kind that kills. My mom’s second diagnosis was at stage 4. It was a huge blow to find that we were already that far in the process right at the start. I wanted to hug every man and woman in the room. Everyone in the world. I wanted to infuse them with my strength. I knew I could not. Did I mention NOT FAIR?

Lonely: In early March, it will be 4 years since I lost my mom. I miss her every single day. It’s my new normal and while I’ve (mostly) gotten used to it, but it doesn’t mean that I like it. So much discussion about metastatic breast cancer brought back so many of the bad memories. It was such an awful, frustrating time. She should still be here. There are so many daughters around the world that probably say the same thing. I know my mother said it about her mother.

IMG 1080 All the feelings with AnaOno and Metavivor

Frustration: Why is there so little research for something that kills so many? We’ve made great strides in so many other diseases, and with stage 0 and 1. Why have we, as a society, thrown in the towel at stage 4? These men and women deserve every moment of their lives as much as someone at Stage 1.

Amazement: These folks have Stage 4 Metastatic breast cancer. They’re out in the world, not only fighting for their own survival, but working to raise money and secure grants for those that are not yet diagnosed. At a time when they could and should be focused on themselves, they chose to make contributions that will leave a lasting legacy.

Happy: The women in the fashion show were having a great time. They were beautiful. They were powerful. They owned that catwalk. Everyone in the audience was under their spell. I doubt most people will know how that kind of adoration feels, not that it is the reason that they participated – but I’m sure it didn’t hurt.

IMG 1136 All the feelings with AnaOno and Metavivor
Dana, waiving from back stage

Hopeful: The room was buzzing with the energy of people who were there to help. From the corporate sponsors to the folks like us, who bought standing room only tickets because it was the best that they could do. The men and women on the stage were out there because they had hope that there could be a better future – one with a treatment and maybe even a cure. We were all united by hope.

I decided to honor my mom and her attitude towards life and take hope home with me. We donate part of our sales to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation because we know that things will get better. When I think about what my grandmother went through in the mid-1980s and compare it to today’s treatments, it’s a whole different world. Hopefully, in another few years we’ll be saying the same about now.

We had the pleasure of meeting Dana of AnaOno a few years ago. If we were impressed with her before, it pales in comparison to the amazing things that we saw at the fashion show. Please check out AnaOno for some amazing fashions, built for women designed specifically for those affected by breast cancer and breast surgeries. (but wonderful for everyone!)

Red bra on a clothesline with clothespins with hearts on them, text reads fall in love with our sale

Sale Around The World on Valentine’s Day

TSS lovesale 1 Sale Around The World on Valentine's Day

It’s almost Valentine’s Day!

While that marks the start of my favorite season (chocolate bunny), it also means it is time for annual sale! Once again, we’re marking down all of our Strap Savers by 20%. Yes, that still includes our “save $5 for every additional pair” pricing. The first Strap Saver is $12.50 and each additional pair is $8. We still have free first class shipping in the US and $2 anywhere else in the world. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation will still receive 5% of all sales. Woo hoo!

For our international customers, I’ve spent some time doing some serious math. We’re going to cover all of Valentine’s Day, from Auckland, New Zealand to Honolulu, Hawaii! We won’t limit your opportunity to save because you happen to live on the other side of the globe. The sale will actually run 8AM on Wednesday, February 13th to 6AM ET on Friday, February 15th at 5AM ET.

Like last year, we’re not going to require a coupon code to receive the discount. We really hate games with sales. It is simple – you buy, we apply the discount, and you get a custom fit from your favorite strappy clothes.

To recap:

Annual Sale

2/13 6AM ET to 2/15 5AM ET

20% off the entire site (excluding gift certificates)

No coupon required!

Although our sale will technically be 47 hours long, it only happens once a year. Don’t miss your chance to stock up and save. Bathing suit season is in full swing/right around the corner – depending on your hemisphere! Your straps deserve a little love this Valentine’s day.

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.

Breast cancer research foundation logo

Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Choices & a Cure

Breast cancer research foundationAbout 2 months ago, Cancer Research UK published a study stating that breast cancer can recur up to 20 years after the initial diagnosis. According to the results, the probability of a metastasis occurring later directly correlates to the size of the original tumors and if cancer was found in the lymph nodes. The researchers were surprised that the cancer could remain dormant for so long.

When my mother was first treated for breast cancer in 1998, we were told by her doctors that 7 years was “cured”. In 2005, I remember having a small celebration via telephone. She was free! According to this new study – and what they found in her 16 years later, she was not. The doctors were making the best decisions that they could with the information that they had at the time.

I don’t know if she would have done anything differently if this study had come out 5 years earlier. My mom was already doing everything that was recommended. She went for her yearly mammograms and performed monthly self-exams. Would she have had more detailed scans? I believe she was part of the trials for tamoxifen but had to stop it due to complications from other medical issues. (which I do not have, should I ever need to try a similar drug therapy) At the time, the doctors just didn’t realize that they should be looking deeper.

Beth and I have decided that we want to do our part. We’re hoping to help overcome the lack of funding for research. Starting in November, The Strap Saver joined forces with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to help raise awareness and money for research. Stage IV (the stage that takes so many women from us) is underfunded and the BCRF has pledged 30% of their grants (almost $18 million) for advancements in this area. In addition, BCRF has established the Evelyn H. Lauder Founder’s Fund, the first large-scale and largest privately funded multi-year international program dedicated to understanding the biology of metastasis (in addition to funding other important research).

We’re hoping to help be the light in this otherwise dark subject. Five percent of all sales, retail and wholesale, will go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. (So, if you haven’t, it’s a great time to pick up some Strap Savers!) If you already have all of the Strap Savers that you need, but love Amazon, go to smile.amazon.com and pick BCRF as your charity. Amazon will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible items. If you’re like us, you’re shopping there already and the prices are exactly the same so it’s an easy way to help. Maybe next year BCRF will be able to donate more to Stage IV research. We’ll be one step closer to never again losing another person to this awful disease.

We also know that you are trusting us with your money, so we have vetted the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Ninety-one cents of every dollar is donated to research. Charity Navigator gave them an A+ and Charity Watch gave them 4 out of 4 stars. BCRF has the highest rating of any breast cancer charity. In addition, I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Susan Domcheck, a member of the Scientific Advisory Board, personally. She was my doctor for the DNA study at University of Pennsylvania. She was both capable and kind. From my interactions with her, it’s clear that she wants to make a difference.

Shop with us, shop with Amazon, or donate directly – do whatever you can to help this great organization find a cure.

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 holding up her hand to the double helix of DNA, balancing science and health for peace of mind

Decoding the Double-Helix

GeneticTesting Decoding the Double-HelixI’d be remiss in my quest for early detection if I didn’t use every avenue available to me. One of the newer ones (at least to me) is DNA testing. When I met Dana Donofree of AnaOno Intimates and she mentioned that she knew of a DNA study at the University of Pennsylvania that might match my background, I got excited. I knew that it might not tell me everything, but it might reveal something that mammograms and MRIs could not.

I reached out to the group and Dana was correct. It was a perfect match. They were going to test my DNA for 23 genes whose mutations are linked to a high breast cancer risk. My only cost was my time, gas, and tolls. (and they sold real Philly soft pretzels in the lobby of the hospital, so it was totally worth it)  

I filled out a large amount of paperwork about my family history. They wanted to know about births and deaths of grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, siblings and children. They also asked detailed questions about my own health history. It felt like it went on forever, but it was worth it. I was accepted to the program.

It took 2 trips to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia.The first was an initial counselling session and blood sample. The second was the results and a follow-up appointment with a doctor.

Being on the oncology wing of a hospital, once again, was difficult for me. I can’t help but think of my mom. I tried my best to ignore the fear and sadness that seemed to hang in the air. Instead, I concentrated on sending healing vibes to every woman in the waiting room. By participating in research I was going to keep more women out of this place, not just myself.

My first appointment was with Jessica Long, the genetics counselor. She took an extensive family history, which was mostly a repeat of the paperwork that I’d filled out. We talked about some things that couldn’t be put on a form, like memories of how myself and others had reacted to these family events.    

I felt the most important question was what I’d hoped to find out and how I thought it might influence my treatment in the future. I feel strongly that there’s a genetic link in my family (although I have no proof). My mom moved out of the house (and out of the state) when she was 21, so (I feel) it’s unlikely that it was environmental. If it’s a choice between amputation of my breasts and life, I choose life. However, the evidence would have to be compelling to take such a drastic step. I am not considering it now. If they found nothing, I would continue with the R.I.S.E. program at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

We also talked about family attitudes about DNA testing. My mother was reluctant, at first, to be tested. (My results would have more meaning if I knew her results.1) It involved many long talks and a lot of education. They spoke with a genetic counselor and it help them to understand the process and the meaning of the outcome.  My mom then agreed to the test. According to Jessica, this is not uncommon. Although we can’t see our DNA, it’s very personal. I was relieved that my parents had come over to the “knowledge is power!” camp.

My first trip to Penn was full of interest and hope but I dreaded that return visit. (yes, of course I still got a pretzel. 2, in fact. One for breakfast and one for the drive back. Did you really have to ask?)  It felt like every other breast cancer screening test that I’d taken – this is going to be the “smoking gun” that tells me that I’m next.

Except, it wasn’t. I met with Dr. Susan Domchek, who was very nice and explained my results clearly. They found nothing significant. An added bonus was that they didn’t find any markers for ovarian or colon cancer, either. My family history was still the most significant factor. I asked the same question that I always ask “What can I do?” The reply was the same as my doctor from MSK: “Live a healthy life, in moderation, exercise and try to lower your stress.”  

They offered to follow up with me annually about any new DNA-related discoveries. I agreed that they could continue to study me, as long as they wanted. Even though I don’t know if we learned anything yet, I’m so glad that I did this and grateful to Dana for connecting me with the program. This data could be very important to my future.

If you have a family history associated with a specific illness, I highly recommend researching genetic testing. It’s possible that some spit or blood can provide any additional information to improve your health. Researchers are constantly finding new applications for this data. Someday it could reveal a path to prevention, or a cure.  The National Society of Genetic Counselors might be a good place to start to speak to someone near you.

 

1A negative test result can be more difficult to understand than a positive result because what the result means depends in part on an individual’s family history of cancer and whether a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation has been identified in a blood relative.

If a close (first- or second-degree) relative of the tested person is known to carry a harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, a negative test result is clear: it means that person does not carry the harmful mutation that is responsible for the familial cancer, and thus cannot pass it on to their children. Such a test result is called a true negative. A person with such a test result is currently thought to have the same risk of cancer as someone in the general population.

see https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/genetics/brca-fact-sheet for more information.

A One Time Only Disclaimer

A One-Time Only* Disclaimer

A One Time Only DisclaimerLast week I wrote a blog about tank tops and talked about the problem of strap length. I took issue with this, like I always do, because while this a real, tangible problem, its seems small in the grand scheme of things. It’s not likely that anyone is going to die or be harmed from a strap being too long. (should I pause for the choruses of “but what about….?” I said likely!)

I made my usual joke of this being a “first world problem” but according to Beth, my copy editor, I’ve made this point (too) many times before. And yet, I still had problems putting the sentence down without it. What if someone read it wrong and thought that I was making light of all of the suffering in the world? I could practically feel her rolling her eyes through the computer chat screen. Apparently it is obvious that I’m not that kind of person. Clearly this is a me problem. (although I’ve seen writers get reamed in the comments for the most innocent statements, so that doesn’t help my anxiety!) But because this is a compulsion and I’m learning to embrace my flaws, I thought I’d state it once and for all, so I could refer back to it whenever I was feeling squeamish.

When I talk about strap problems (brablems?), I know that this is minor when it comes to those that experience real fear/hunger/pain every day. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other. There are problems and there are Problems. This is a problem. We hope you know that and take a moment to enjoy the humor.

The only way this becomes a Problem is when being unable to find the right bra causes serious self-esteem issues. That’s just not cool. How we look contributes so much (too much?) to how we feel about ourselves. If we don’t feel good about ourselves, we’re not out making the world a better place and that’s a Problem. If we can contribute to solving that in any small way, it’s more than we’d hoped.

As we talk about solving problems, we doing our best to address Problems, too – which is another reason we’re donating 5% of all sales to Jill’s Wish**. No woman should have to worry about losing the roof over her head or paying her utility bills while undergoing breast cancer treatment. The sooner we fix this Problem the better.

We’ll continue on at this site and in this blog, talking about problems and Problems until we’ve solved them all. (take a seat, it’s going to be a while!)

*We reserve the right to make another disclaimer. Just because we say so. It’s our blog, after all!

**As of 11/30/2017, 5% of all sales are donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

The Strap Saver and Jill's Wish Join Forces

We Got Hitched!

The Strap Saver and Jill's Wish Join Forces

EDIT: As of 11/30/2017, 5% of all sales will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

We’re very proud to announce a new partnership and the fulfillment of a goal for us: 5% of all sales will be donated to The Jill’s Wish Foundation. Jill’s Wish helps women who are undergoing breast cancer treatment (either newly diagnosed or terminal) to pay their household bills. Each fulfilled “wish” is a grant of up to $1500 for household bills and living expenses.

We all know someone who has been touched by this disease and how awful it can be – I cannot imagine having to worry about paying rent and utilities in addition to coordinating doctors visits and combating the side effects of treatment. Jill’s Wish looks to help alleviate that burden.

A little history – Jill’s Wish was founded by Jill and Bart Conelly in 2013. Jill was diagnosed with Stage IIIB breast cancer at age 31 and the Conellys had their own financial struggles during her treatment. They started Jill’s Wish to provide assistance to others so that they would not face the same problems at such a difficult time. Instead, this time should be about focusing on being with family, friends, treatment and recovery. Unfortunately, Jill passed away earlier this year and we never had the opportunity to meet her but we want to help her mission live on.

One of the original reasons we started The Strap Saver was to give back. As many of you know, I have a family history of breast cancer, but none of my relatives had to worry about a roof over their head or food on the table as they fought valiantly against this awful disease. I’ve always considered us lucky that we were able to concentrate on more important things.

I’ve been looking for a partner for us for a while and hadn’t found a good fit.  I was inspired to look into Jill’s Wish after reading Dana Donofree’s tribute to Jill in February. We met Dana, of AnaOno Intimates, a few months ago and some of the story felt familiar. I also reached out to Dana because I saw her on the Today Show, although it only took one email to get a response – and she invited Beth and myself into her studio. We had a wonderful afternoon and we left feeling inspired. Dana had been through treatment that had changed her body chemistry forever and she was still moving forward with energy, grace and success. She was honest and open with us and it was refreshing in a world where everyone likes to pretend things are perfect. (except me, of course, as you can tell by reading this blog.)  Authenticity is rare and beautiful – and it poured off of Dana in waves.

As for why we chose Jill’s Wish – it’s their mission and their method. So much attention is paid to treatment but less to what happens after the women leave the hospital. We think this is an under-served area and probably causes more stress and setbacks than we’ll ever understand.

Even though I trust Dana, I did my own research. I have a responsibility to you – our customer! Charities can be fishy business (we’ve all read about The Wounded Warrior Project) and I wanted to make sure that our money was going to the right place. The requirements for a grant are strict to ensure that they go to those that need it the most. The charity also pays the money directly to the housing lender, utility company/etc so that they know it’s serving the intended purpose.

Business can also be shady when it comes to charitable giving – with unpublicized caps (up to $10,000 and they run the promotion long after they’ve reached their maximum) or offering a percentage of the profits and profits never materialize. We’re going to give 5% of sales. So if you buy a $15 Strap Saver, we’ll donate $.75. If you buy 2 for $25, we’ll donate $1.25. If you buy 100, we’ll donate $50.25. So, buy 100! It’s for a good cause! There’s no limit and no number games. If you have any more questions, just ask. We are going to be completely transparent about this.

If you’re inclined to give more, head over to their website and donate directly or grab one of those awesome Rock What You Got tees (Jill’s favorite saying – I so need one of these). If you shop Amazon, you can contribute a percentage of your purchases without changing your experience by using their Amazon Smile page. We’ll have some updates on Jill’s Wish and all of the good things that they’ll do in the coming year – thank you for supporting us so that we can support them.

We hope that you approve of our choice – let us know!

Pay attention to your health, it's your most valuable asset

An Apple A Day…

Pay attention to your health, it's your most valuable assetBreast cancer isn’t something I think about every day, but it’s never far from my mind.  In addition to weekly news reports about new breakthroughs and the pledge that we’ve taken here to increase education, I’m reminded of it every time I think of my mother or my grandmother.  Whenever the worry about my own fate gets to be too much, Marc reminds me that although I can’t predict the future, I’m doing everything that I can to stay healthy.

The next step in my journey to early detection involved more participation in the R.I.S.E. Program at Memorial Sloane Kettering.  Due to my family history, I was headed for my first ultrasound!  I didn’t know what to expect – but it’s exactly like it looks on TV (although on boobs and not on pregnant stomachs).  First they apply a gel, then a wand and then sound waves are used to make a picture of the breast tissue. Ultrasounds also help to examine areas closer to the chest wall that are harder to see in a mammogram.  The technician did the examination and marked any cysts or lumps that she found along the way.  It was probably one of the easiest exams I’d ever had.

The one warning that I was given and couldn’t heed was to wear an old bra because the goo is… gooey.  I’ve recently changed sizes so I don’t have any old bras!  Being a “genius”, I thought I’d just put some paper towels in between for protection, which turned out to be a bad idea.  Hospital paper towels are amazingly scratchy.  Next time I’ll bring 2 wash clothes.  (Please, learn from my mistake!)

The result was that everything is fine – which, of course, makes me happy.  I had my follow-up appointment with Dr. Mangino and was able to ask more about my 39% risk – which was labeled as far more than the general population, but far less than some women who are at 80%.  Ummm, ok.  I guess we’ll throw that under the column of TBD.  Next up is another mammogram, follow-up and possibly a Breast MRI over the summer.  I can’t say the procedure sounds like fun, but there’s no squashing involved, so I’m in.

If you’re of age, have you had your yearly squishing?

a photo of Shari with the text they're counting on you

An Ounce of Prevention…

Protect Your Girls from Breast Cancer, They're counting on you.

As breast cancer is the topic du jour (well, du mois), we’re going to focus on education as we’re pretty sure that most of the people with access to the internet are well aware that breast cancer exists. If not, here are some great resources at the American Cancer Society.

Sometimes looking into the future can be a really scary thing, especially when the reason you’re doing so is because history wasn’t so kind to the ones that you love. In order to make sure that my future is different, I going to take advantage of every opportunity available to me.

As many of you know, I lost my mom earlier this year to breast cancer. I also lost my grandmother to this awful disease and I’m insistent that I’m not going to let it take me.  With that in mind, I’ve taken advantage of my proximity to New York City and enrolled myself in the Memorial Sloan Kettering’s RISE (Risk Assessment, Imaging, Surveillance, and Education) Program for women with an increased risk of breast cancer.  The program offers access to some of the best doctors and facilities, before there’s a problem. Many of the major cancer hospitals have similar programs, so if you have a family history like mine, I would recommend that you check it out.

I had my first appointment with Dr. Debra Mangino in June. It felt very much like a typical doctor’s visit. She looked over my family history and did the usual breast exam. We talked about my health, my family, my mom’s care, and my frustration over her lack of interest seeking a second opinion. (Dr. Mangino said that wasn’t uncommon and the important part was that I was there now.) Given my medical history, she assessed me at 35% risk of getting breast cancer. I honestly don’t know what that means yet, I was too overwhelmed with being on the oncology wing of a hospital again to ask too many questions. I did later find out that the general public’s risk is 12%, according to the American Cancer Society. She prescribed a mammogram and an ultrasound for me (as I’m over 40).  She will assess my situation after the results (my mammogram is clear, I haven’t had the ultrasound yet) and we will meet to come up with a plan. There are so many options these days (yay!), it was a matter of deciding what was best for me.

It was tough being in a cancer hospital so close to the loss of my mom. In the waiting area, I spoke to one woman who was 6 months into her treatment – and she was hopeful. I didn’t ask too many details, it is none of my business, but I do know that the survival rate is 100% if it’s found in stage 0 or 1, and 93% if it’s found in stage 2. I remain hopeful for her. It was a combination of sad and inspiring to see so many women in one place, in different stages, with one common purpose.

Breast cancer has been a fact of my life since I was 10, when my grandmother was diagnosed. In some ways, my fight began then. (although I do not compare myself to the women who are taking chemo every day… my heart is with you!)  My lifestyle has always been focused on prevention although sometimes it feels futile. I know I’m doing the right thing, although it isn’t easy. I’m also stubborn about this and I’m not going to let fear stop me from living, from understanding my options, and doing what needs to be done – and then helping others do the same. We one of the reasons that we started The Strap Saver was to put ourselves in a place to fund research and education campaigns. I can’t wait until cancer becomes another “nothing” disease and we talk about “remember the old days when this use to hurt people? That must’ve sucked!”