The Phone Call That Changed My Life

By Janet Prince

In 2003, Gary and I had it all.  A home on the Avenues in Cayce and the land in West Columbia where we were making plans to build our “forever” home, and our two precious daughters, Ashlan (age 5) and Genna, who was only four months old.  That’s when I received the phone call that changed my life forever.

I was 39 years old when we had Genna and Ashlan was in 5K.  I knew I was extremely tired but attributed that to those two factors plus keeping up with the normal household duties.  But that tiredness was not caused by my normal, happy life, but from a lump found in my right breast.  The night I found the lump I didn’t give it much thought because my Mother had a history of benign fibroid tumors over the years, but I did call my doctor’s office the next morning, April 16, 2003.  They worked me in and my doctor confirmed it was a lump so, he sent me and Gary right away for a mammogram which led to a core needle biopsy.  Thankfully they had had a cancellation that morning and could do the biopsy right then.  The doctor told me they would have the results the next day and someone would call me around 4:00 p.m.

The next day, I took Ashlan to kindergarten and Genna and I went out to do some shopping.  While we were out I saw the poem “What Cancer Cannot Do” in one of the stores.  I thought is this a sign?  No…it couldn’t be.  So, I went on about my day and got home to get Genna down for a nap before going to pick up Ashlan.  They had said the phone call would not come until 4:00 p.m. so I knew Gary would be home by then and I didn’t need to worry because he is my rock.

At 2:00 p.m., I was rocking Genna and the phone rang.  I thought, it can’t be them calling right now…Gary’s not home yet.  But it was the nurse navigator calling to give me the results of my core needle biopsy.  She told me who she was, and I asked if she could hold on for just a minute, so I could put my baby down.  Then I returned to the phone and she proceeded to tell me that I had Ductal Carcinoma.  Not being familiar with cancer diagnosis terms, I asked her what that was.  She said, “Mrs. Prince, you have breast cancer.  We are scheduling you an appointment with an oncologist and a surgeon”.  I asked her to wait a minute, so I could get a piece of paper to write down exactly what she was telling me.  My hands were shaking, and I kept telling myself to just keep breathing.  I took everything down and thanked her for calling me.

So, there it was….I had just been told I had breast cancer.  I went and picked Genna up out of her crib and walked across the street to my neighbor, Paula Taylor, who was and still is a nurse at Lexington Medical Center.  I knocked on her door and with tears streaming down my face I handed Paula my baby girl and went home to call Gary and my Mama.  The whole time thinking, I wasn’t supposed to be alone when this call came in…they weren’t supposed to call me until 4:00!  But they did and now I had to call Gary.

Everything from calling Gary and my Mother, to my best friend, is still a blur.  I just know they were there in a flash to hold me up and to see me through the biggest fight of my and for my life.

My cancer was Stage 2, Triple Negative and very aggressive.  I had a lumpectomy and then started my eight rounds of chemotherapy and 30 rounds of radiation.  I was told that before my second chemo my hair would be gone.  Instead of letting it fall out a little at a time with a baby in the house, I let Ashlan pretend to be a beautician and she cut my hair.  Then when she finished, Gary said “you are going to want me to go ahead and shave it for sure now”.  So, he did, and I cried.  Not that my hair was that awesome, but it was a part of me and it took me a long time before I would look at myself in the mirror.  Thankfully, I had gone to Becky’s Place and purchased a wig and a hat because I didn’t want anyone to see me without my hair.  I was very self-conscious and looking back on it I didn’t need to be because my family loved me just as much without my hair as they did with my hair.

At my first treatment, I met a woman who was a retired teacher from Airport High School.  I don’t remember her name, but I remember what she said to me that day.  She could tell I was scared and asked me if this was my first treatment and I said yes and that I was terrified even though I had my family with me.  One of the drugs they used is red and is sometimes called the “red devil”.  But she told me to look at it as though it were the blood of Jesus going through my veins washing the cancer away.  I have always remembered that and have shared it with others as they are beginning their cancer journey.

Looking back over the past 15 years and too many surgeries to count, I’m still here and I’m still a survivor.  There are many things that cancer can do to you but there are many more things that it can’t do…. cancer has made me a stronger woman and a person that appreciates even the smallest things in life.  My goal as I began my cancer journey was to see me girls grown…today, my Ashlan is 21 and has already received her B.A. in Psychology and is now working on her master’s and is getting married in just three short months. My baby, Genna, is thriving and enjoying life like every teenager.  I truly believe Genna is my angel sent from God.  I believe the pregnancy hormones accelerated the cancer growth and had I not gotten pregnant with Genna it could have been in my body growing and I may not have found it until it was truly too late.

I encourage you to do your monthly breast exams.  If you feel anything, call your doctor right away.  You can never be too cautious with your life.  October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month….so wear your pink to remind yourself to always take care of you!

Until next time…..

Janet

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Me with Genna (top) and me with my family on my last day of chemo!

Its Time to Get Off the Couch

By Tina M. Cameron

As you know from my blog introduction, I recently turned fifty. Well like momma said, it all goes south after forty (regarding vision, metabolism, hearing, etc.). Well, let me say, she is right. Recently, I have been reading online and hearing from friends about the Keto Diet. So yesterday, I filled out a free online form about how to determine your carbohydrate, protein and fat intake. Well, once I completed the height, weight, age, activity level sections, it calculates your BMI and your metabolic age. What an eye-opening, upsetting response I received. My metabolic age is 69!! I know in the past several years I have “let myself go”. I do not workout like I used to and I am at my heaviest weight that I have ever been. My sons are worried about me not taking care of myself.

I know what I need to do. I need to put down the snacks, the remote and get off the couch and get moving. Everyday, I say, I’ll go walk tomorrow, or I’m too tired to workout to a DVD at home. I have been struggling with Bulimia with Anorexic tendencies (at times) since the age of twelve. I will admit, I love snacks—cookies, chips/salsa and Chick-fil-A are my weaknesses. Well, after seeing what my body’s metabolic age is, I need to make a change and I need to make it now.40545204_2292454834102750_450966734241792000_n

So, starting September 18th, I will start my journey. According to my height, I need to lose 67 lbs. Despite having a broken rib and a broken toe (don’t ask, I’m very clumsy), I am going to start walking tomorrow morning and again tomorrow evening. I will weigh myself and take my measurements also in the morning. I have a journal to start recording every single food I put in my mouth. I would love to find someone to do this journey with me, so, if you read this and want a walking/workout buddy, please feel free to email me. I will update in my blog in thirty days my progress. I am not going to post my weight as I am very embarrassed by the number. I think besides making healthier choices for eating, I am going to try the Keto Diet for a month and see how I do. I would love to hear from some of you what has worked for you regarding weight loss.

Good luck to anyone reading this that is also struggling with their weight. You are not alone. We can do this!!

Music Therapy

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By Shannon Boatwright

Music does so much more than connect people, allow an escape, fill hearts with passion, take individuals on journeys to past moments in time, instigate smiles, movement and singing along…

Music literally can benefit your health in many ways and create healing.

It’s a beautiful thing, the powers of music. I’ve written other blogs about this priceless, glorious thing that is music and I recently keep coming across information that proves that music is indeed therapeutic. The benefits of music are so good for our health that it can help us to heal and keep us healthy.

There is a connection between music and dopamine. The impact of music on the brain is substantial, such that immediate improvements can take place. Research shows that music taps into many areas of the brain, opening opportunities like no other. For example, when Arizona congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, survived a near-fatal gunshot to the head, it was music therapy that helped her regain her ability to speak. She firmly believes music therapy is what helped her to regain the skill to speak.

Another beautiful example of the power of music is the effects of music therapy on those suffering with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  With many of these patients, music therapy helps to soothe their anxieties, give them great comfort, joy and even can lessen their need for meds.  I’ll never forget going to visit my grandmother in a nursing home as she was in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s. She had no idea who I was. It was heartbreaking. But man she could still sing “Jesus Loves Me” and she sang it with pride and joy in her heart, knowing every word. It was an odd, yet fascinating thing to witness.

Music therapy can be used to help people with PTSD, brain injuries, asthma attacks, anxiety attacks, autism, Alzheimer’s disease and even pain management, just to name a few.  In many cases one can communicate through music, without ever having to speak. It’s an amazing thing.

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I remember when I was a junior in high school, I’d had surgery to have my tonsils taken out.  After surgery, my throat was fine, just felt like another sore throat. But I was in incredible pain – like can’t think straight, constant pain – in my jaws. Apparently when they performed the surgery, they had opened my mouth too wide and over-extended my jaws! Now I have a big mouth, but that was ridiculous. In an attempt to deal with the pain, I remember I would play the soothing, passionate music of Yanni as I took a bath and would hold my head under water such that only my mouth and nose was above the water so I could breath. I would focus on the music and the sensation of the water and visualize my jaws healing. The music would take me away. The music allowed me to escape the pain.

To think of it now, what an incredible thing. There is such power in music, if we only allow ourselves to access it!Music-Washes-Away-From-the-Soul-

When I start any new class, I always give the students a questionnaire. The questionnaire is meant to be fun for them – a moment to think about their favorite things, forcing them to consider the things that make them happy, giving them an opportunity to compliment themselves and think about their passions. The assignment also acts as a fabulous way for me to get to know them. Some of the questions involve music – asking who is their favorite singer, their favorite band, what is their favorite song this week, etc. When a student answers, “I don’t really have any favorites, I don’t listen to music.” – my heart breaks. Seriously, it’s like a blow to my core. This kind of response is rare, but it happens. I want to take that child under my wing and introduce them to the wonders and beauty of music. I feel like they are a lost soul that needs to be found and have the opportunity to connect on that magical level with the powers of music. I can’t help but think, shame on this kid’s family for not allowing them to be exposed to the wonders of music. I know every individual’s circumstances are different, but my heart aches for any child that is not exposed to music. One does not have to be wealthy to experience the glories of music. So when I come across any individual that seems to have no connection to music whatsoever, I honestly worry for their well-being.

Music TherapyAnyone can look up the benefits of music, the healing powers of music therapy, and see for themselves all the research and proof. My hope for anyone reading this is that you allow yourself the opportunities to connect to music that moves you. Find the music that fills you up. Experiment with different types of music that speak to you, take you away, give you peace and strength. And the next time you’re struggling on any level, whether with pain, fears, heartbreak, anxiety, whatever it may be, please remember to seek out the magical, healing resource that is music. And if you are trying to help others, remember that music therapy is a beautiful tool that can be used to create healing and comfort.

Gluten Free Storm Prep

By Rachel Sircy

Pic 1Well, we’re in the midst of hurricane season once again and I thought that I would use this post to recap some of the things that people who are gluten free can do to prepare themselves. Of course, most regular hurricane safety precautions apply to everyone – you of course need water, flashlights, first aid kits, etc.

 

However, people with celiac disease or gluten allergies or sensitivities have an added challenge: how to find shelf stable gluten free food that is actually edible and nutritious. Thankfully, we have a lot of options:

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The first thing that always strikes me when I’m preparing for a trip or an emergency is just how hard it is to find gluten free bread that you don’t need a toaster to make tasty. Well, I’m still looking for that bread, to be honest, but in a pinch, rice cakes can substitute. Plain rice cakes are cheap and shelf-stable. Yeah, they’re a little bit like eating cardboard, but think of it this way, you’re trying to survive, none of the fare for hurricane survival is going to be exactly sumptuous. Since rice cakes aren’t exactly filling, I would recommend topping them with something like peanut butter (if you don’t have a nut allergy and soy butter or sunflower seed butter if you do have an allergy.) Just make sure that any protein butter that you choose is shelf stable. Don’t buy natural peanut butter because most kinds of natural nut butters need to be refrigerated after opening. You want all those yummy preservatives…☹. Seriously though, regular PB that doesn’t need refrigeration is a great source of protein and it works really well on rice cakes.

Also, you can top those rice cakes with apples. Fresh apples can last quite a while without refrigeration. They’re full of fiber, too, so they’re pretty filling. Cereal is a good way to get a meal and use up that milk that’s going to go bad fast. There are so many good gluten free options. I go for plain Corn Chex (or an off-brand) because I don’t always want a super sweet cereal. Of course, protein or whole food bars like Lara Bars, Epic bars and the like are a great addition to your shelf-stable hoard of food. As are pickles. From what I’ve heard, pickles can survive without refrigeration for a while because of the brine that they’re in. Beef jerky can be a difficult one for the gluten sensitive, but more brands are coming out with gluten free jerky. I believe that Oberto makes a natural and gluten free beef jerky. Krave and Epic jerkys are gluten free as well, as are a few of types of jerky that Aldi sells. Dried and canned fruits and vegetables can make a great addition to your stash as well. You can mix the dried fruits and nuts together to make your own trail mix.

Nuts, if you’re not allergic, can be a great, healthy source of calories and good fats. And, if you can get nuts in the shell, you can store them long-term. I recently purchased peanuts in the shell. They apparently are good for several months after their sell-by date even without refrigeration. One place I read online said that you can store nuts in the shell for 2 years without refrigeration. Now, take that with a grain of salt (pun intended). Always test food that you’ve stored for a long time to make sure there’s no spoilage. Look, smell and taste a small amount to make sure it’s good. For canned goods any dents or bulges are a bad sign, I wouldn’t risk it. For home canned goods, any off color or smell is your best indicator of spoilage. Don’t take chances with botulism. It won’t be fun if you guess wrong.

A recent life-saver that I’ve run across in Aldi is this little guy:

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It’s a ready to eat quinoa salad. I’m sure that you can find similar ready to eat meals at other stores, but I prefer this one because it’s $1.99, 230 calories and 5 grams of protein. You don’t need to heat it or add water. Just open the container of pre-cooked quinoa and open and add the container of flavorings (in this case it’s basil pesto). This is a perfect grab and go for lunch or a car trip also.

Last but not least, a deep freezer and a gas or charcoal grill can be your best friends when you don’t have power, as long as you can afford them and have the space to keep them. Frozen meats and vegetables will stay frozen for at least a few days in a deep freezer and can be cooked on the grill as they thaw. Just don’t open your freezer more than absolutely necessary. Of course, I don’t have either of these things because we live in an apartment with no real outdoor space that I would use, so I can’t really elaborate on what using the grill is like, but I’m sure many of you out there already utilize this plan in power outages.

So, stay safe and well fed everyone!

Wishing my life away

By Jeanne Reynolds

As I write this, the wind is picking up. Every so often a gust blows through, whipping small tree branches and loudly rustling the leaves. And I know this is just the beginning.

But by the time you’re reading this, the storm will have passed — and I can’t help wishing I was already there in next week. “I can’t wait until Monday when the worst is behind us,” I think.

It’s hardly the first time. Last weekend I travelled halfway across the country to attend the memorial service for a favorite uncle. As much as I looked forward to reuniting with cousins I hadn’t seen in many years, the trip was long, stressful and tiring. “I can’t wait to get home Sunday night,” I thought several times before and during the visit.

Now that I’m back, I continue to look at what’s ahead on the calendar — even some really fun events including a family beach trip and several golf tournaments out of town — and find myself looking forward just a bit to having them behind me so life can get back to “normal.”

In fact, I seem to spend a lot of time wishing for some future time when everything will be better/easier/cleaner/organized/done: when I retire, when I move full time to Beaufort, when I get the house power-washed, when the cooler weather gets here. And on and on.

I don’t think this is the ideal way to live, and I know I’m not alone. Witness the plethora of advice online and in books and magazines for “living mindfully,” “living in the moment,” “minimalism” and “essentialism.” I get it: We aren’t guaranteed a tomorrow, and focusing too much on the future robs us of today’s joy.

If awareness is the first step toward change, I’ve got one foot planted out front. If you, too, find yourself falling into the habit of wishing your life away, here are some ideas from PsychCentral that might work for you.

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7 small ways to live more mindfully every day

  1. Connect to your senses. Being mindful is being more aware of the moment. It’s using our senses to pay attention.
  2. Meditate in the morning. Meditation is a powerful way to practice mindfulness.
  3. Savor the sips of morning. As you take your first sip of coffee, tea or another favorite beverage, use it as an opportunity to savor the moment.
  4. Rethink red lights. Instead of letting make you feel stressed or anxious, use the opportunity to practice deep breathing.
  5. Make handwashing mindful. Take that moment when the water hits your hands to breathe and feel the sensation of the water against your skin.
  6. Break patterns. Take a different route on your daily commute or try something different for lunch.
  7. Count blessings at bedtime. Train your brain to look for things that are positive by identifying three things you’re grateful for.

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Facing your fears

By Eliza Boulware

I am scared, or should I say AFRAID of dogs. Any size, any type – yes, even the tea cup dogs. I know it’s bad and it is sometimes embarrassing because it seems like everyone has a dog. Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer and they told me it was aggressive which mean it grows fast, so I was faced with a greater fear. The fear of cancer and not sure if I would live through it.

Before I started treatment, I was told that they would bring therapy dogs around and I began to panic. If a dog came near me, I would run, jump, break things, as I screamed. My heart would race and it felt like I stopped breathing.  Now I am trying to figure if I am sitting there plugged up to all these machines, what if I pulled the needle out? I began to pray and made my mind up that if I could face the fear of cancer, I will face my fear of dogs at the same time. My journey started and I became the main attraction.  Everybody would walk up to see how I would respond. At first, I could not relax when the dog came in. The lady had to keep the dog from even touching me. As I continued treatment, I kept dogworking on overcoming my fear. As you can see in the picture, with trusting God to face my fears, I was able to allow the dog to sit beside me and even rub the dog. I can’t express how major that was.

Lesson learned that when we trust God, we can face any fear and overcome them. Life sometimes has us to face some difficult situations and we become fearful of the unknown. I still don’t know why I am afraid of dogs but that fear could hinder me from doing what God has for me to do or can keep me from being in the right place to receive my blessing. Face your fear so that you can overcome what maybe hindering you on your journey. With God all things are possible. Face your fear!

Meet the Caregivers

By Lisa Baker

It has dawned on me that I should tell you all a little more about me.  I have two younger brothers, Larry and Chad. I am married to a wonderful man named Carl.  He is such a blessing to me.  My brother Larry is married to Stefanie and they have two children.  Chad is single and has three fur babies, a cat and two dogs.  I have two children, a boy and a girl.  My husband has two children, a boy and a girl also.  Between us we each also have a grandchild, a boy and a girl.

My parents thankfully were smart in setting up their wills ahead of time and along with it a medical power of attorney and a financial power of attorney.  So we were in better shape because of that.  We just had to find the will and get copies to the appropriate parties.  Their financial institution also required that their Doctor write a letter stating that each of them were no longer able to handle their financial affairs.  Out of everything, this is one thing that took a little while to get.  We had Mom’s letter before we had Dad’s.  But once we had them both and signed the appropriate paperwork at the bank, it went smoothly.

I can’t stress enough that we all need to have a will and a medical and financial power of attorney and talk with these people so they are well aware of what you want.

You should also let these people know what insurance you have and where the contact information is for all policies.

Be aware that while some facilities take insurance, but some are private pay. Also, it depends on the level of care your loved one needs as to what the final cost is.

With my parents, my Mom needs more care around the clock.  She is unable to stand or walk.  She barely eats anything and drinks very little as well.  My Dad can still take care of his personal hygiene and doesn’t need as much one on one care.  They each needed different facilities for their special needs.  wall art

There are some great support groups on Facebook and the internet.  One that I have enjoyed is Molly’s Movement on Facebook.  This is a page that you can join and have conversations with other caregivers dealing with the many different forms of Dementia.

Also, on YouTube you can look up videos by Teepa Snow.  She is really good at breaking down what the Dementia patient is going thru.

There are many others.  These are just two that I have gotten very good information from and have enjoyed knowing that I’m not the only person going thru this with my parents.

As a family we struggle each day to get used to our new normal which isn’t normal in any way.  In fact, my Dad has been in the hospital for two weeks.  He got combative at his facility hitting two of the staff members.  The head nurse had him sent to the hospital.  His hospital stay has been very hard on us all.

He won’t talk to us at all so it’s very hard to tell if he knows us or not.  That alone is heartbreaking to experience.  He has also been in restraints during this hospital stay.

So, it seems that we are constantly facing one challenge after another.

I’ll continue to keep you all posted on our challenges and experiences hoping that they will be helpful to someone else out there going thru the same things.  Please feel free to ask questions or give me your feedback.  I would love to hear from you.