Thursday, March 26, 2015

tHERsDay: Purple Day


Today is Purple Day for Epilepsy Awareness.

So here are some things I'd like to share:




* There are TWICE as many people living with epilepsy than people living with Multiple Sclerosis,  Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular Dystrophy and Cerebral Palsy combined.

* Epilepsy has no cure.

* The medications used to control epilepsy have nasty side effects.

* Often, epilepsy cannot be controlled, even with meds.

* At least 1 million people in the U.S. have uncontrolled epilepsy.

* 1 in 25 children under the age of 5 will have a febrile seizure (fever related).

* You can die from epliepsy. Risk of SUDEP (Sudden Unexpectant Death In Epilepsy) kills about 1,000 people each year. Another 42,000 die secondary to prolonged seizures, or Status Epilepticus.

* People don't swallow their tongues during a seizure. Please PLEASE never stick anything in a person's mouth during a seizure. Learn More About Seizure First Aid HERE.

* Seizures suck. There is no silver lining on this. Sorry.

This has been a Purple Day Public Service Announcement on behalf of CB and the 62 million individuals world wide living with epilepsy. 
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Review: Raising Kids To Thrive




By Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MS ED, FAAP
Co-written by Ilana Ginsburg and Talia Ginsburg
published by the American Academy of Pediatrics



As the mother of four girls, along with my professional background as a therapist, I am far from in the dark about the issues I will be facing when my kids become TEENS. The "dreaded" teen years. They have a reputation, for sure. How many of us go into it thinking: If we just hold our breath, cross our fingers and react to whatever comes, maybe we'll get lucky? That philosophy (or lack thereof) puts us in the position of being reactive instead of proactive. Like we are just waiting to see if something explodes and then we'll scramble to pick up the pieces and make reparations. Instead, can we try to lay the groundwork for future success while our kids are still young, impressionable and *ahem* care about what we think? Can we give ourselves, as parents, and our children the resources and communication tools necessary to navigate the dicey waters of adolescence? In doing so, will it help our children not only survive but thrive?

Dr. Ken Ginsburg thinks so, and I am inclined to agree whole heartedly. While I am busy agreeing, he is busy practicing what he preaches and writing it all down for us parents. His newest book, Raising Kids To Thrive: Balancing Love With Expectations and Protection With Trust has just been released and I was honored to receive one of the first copies to review.

"Remember, you are not managing an inconvenience. 
You are raising a human being." 
~ Kitty Franz

Parenting isn't just about getting through the morning or navigating the day. Parenthood is about investing our time, treasures and talents into the greatest gift we will leave this world. That gift is another human being. A human being who will spend more time as an adult than they will as a child. In the time that you have them under your wing, under your roof, and looking to you for guidance— use it. Use it well. Use it responsibly. Make your parenting purposeful. Because they will be an adolescent out there in the world, and you want them to thrive. Because they will be adults, working and playing in the community and raising the next generation of grown-ups. You want them to be resilient. You want them to thrive.

Raising Kids To Thrive is co-written by award-winning author and pediatrician Kenneth R. Ginsburg along with his two teen daughters, Ilana and Talia. This ground-breaking book delves deep into the important issues faced by all parents of teenagers and provides parents with a road map, a tool belt, a new lens through which to examine our role as parents. Whether you are the parent of toddlers "looking ahead," the parent of pre-teens standing on the precipice or the parent of full blown teenagers looking to connect more deeply during adolescence, this book is for you.

Dr. Ginsburg is an expert, most known for teaching kids about resiliency and helping parents teach the same. Yet, parents continue to struggle with two seemingly contradictory ideas - giving their children and adolescents the unconditional love they need in order to thrive while also holding them to high expectations. Dr. Ginsburg helps us navigate through these questions, concerns, and the dissonance created. He offers easy to understand, practical advice, strategies and related insights.

Some of the topics in this book include unconditional love, setting moral standards, setting expectations that promote success, interdependence, and preparing your child for a stressful world. Some of my favorite chapters were Protection Versus Preparation and The Upside of Failure. His book addresses the hot parenting topics today, like the problems with helicopter or "tiger" parenting. His positive message is focused on relationship building with our children, giving them roots to grow and wings to fly.

What makes this book truly unique is that Dr. Ginsburg takes his vast experience and combines it with input from his two teenage daughters along with 500 other teen voices. This adds such authenticity to the book. Some of the quotes from these teens resonated so deeply with me. It was that emotional connection that helped me digest this book and remember its powerful messages.

Raising Kids To Thrive is packed with easy to understand language and concepts, step by step guides, and sound advice based on sound theory. It's a refreshing, unique and positive approach to parenting a teen in today's challenging landscape.

About The Author



Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD is a professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and practices Adolescent Medicine at the world-reknowned Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). He also serves Philadelphia's homeless and marginalized youth as the Director of Health Services at Covenant House Pennsylvania.


Raising Kids To Thrive: Balancing Love With Expectations and Protection With Trust is available now at Amazon and on shop.AAP.org/books.




*Disclosure: Compensation was received for the honest (not positive, just honest) review of this book. In no way were my opinions swayed by this agreement. As always, I only review books, products and merchandise I believe would be beneficial to my readers. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Hodgepodge Following Radio Silence



I've come to realize that a long period of 'radio silence' after a big announcement of cancer does not go over well. For those who see me around the community, they know I am okay. But the others who rely on my blog updates? I have received more than one inquiry asking if I'm alright.

So first, I'm sorry for neglecting the ole blog. Second, no worries ... I am alive and alright. I'm actually doing awesome. Like anything else, when you get out of the habit and overwhelmed with too many irons in the fire, you fall off the wagon. I've mixing far too many metaphors, I know. Just bear with me.

What have you missed? Not a whole heck of a lot. Valentines Day, bitter cold, snow days. My slow progression on the book. The typical winter blues. I read my favorite bloggers in California and Florida and I ask myself "WHY am I in Jersey?!?!" It's a rhetorical question, of course. I'm here, and that's that. Snow, cold and all.



Soccer just started despite snow on the first day of spring. The three little ones have been braving the fierce cold on the windy fields, when they aren't snow covered or soaking wet. The seasons want to turn so badly, but they just aren't ready yet. We're waiting, peeking at the garden to see the first hints of crocuses and dandilions. Waiting, eyeing up the shorts stuffed away in the bottom drawer.




 Spring means flowers and pedicures. It means CB turning 20 and a mama in disbelief. It means summer is right around the corner which is my favorite time of year... kids off of school and up in my face and all.


Most of Spring, for me, will be spent in Radiation Therapy. I started today, actually. Day one.
I had two planning session, 9 tattoos (seriously, they tattoo little dots the size of freckles on you), and today was the first day of 6-week, Monday through Friday therapy. Fun times.

Today, I began which makes me one step closer to finishing. Twenty-nine days left. Not that anyone is counting, but me.

I'm thankful for my friend, Jenn, who invited herself along with me on my first official day and sat in the waiting room for an hour and fifteen minutes (it took extra long due to some last minute adjustments prior to starting). I'm thankful for my father-in-law who sat on the soccer field with Pink until 8:00 pm tonight so I didn't have to freeze with the three other girls. I'm thankful that I'm 29 days closer to closing this chapter. I'm thankful that even though the snow just melted in Jersey and the temperatures are still in the 40s, my boob will be sunburned which might make me fooled into thinking summer is almost here.



This weekend, before embarking on the final leg of my treatment I got to do something really amazing with my family. We spent Saturday night volunteering with Hearts United Against Cancer at their big Care and Comfort Bundle Event.

Hearts United Against Cancer is a non-proft organization that delivers Care & Comfort Bundles to men, women and children going through treatment for any and all types of cancer. They deliver these care packages to hospitals in our tri-state area and to individual homes, bringing cheer and well wishes to each Cancer Hero.  They will also ship the personalized baskets anywhere in the U.S. 



I was a recipient of one of their amazing personalized baskets right after my surgery. A friend, who is also a Board Member, nominated me. Can I tell you, I didn't cry when I got my diagnosis. I didn't cry during the invasive tests or when I told my husband or told my kids. But, I cried when I received this touching gift. The card, made by a child volunteer, with a handwritten note inside and all the personalized items including a gorgeous crocheted blanket just made me feel so loved and encouraged. I cannot explain the positive effect it had on me. The first thing I thought was that I wanted to pay it forward.


So, we joined over a hundred volunteers of all ages last Saturday night and it was the best Saturday night I've had in a long time. We made no sew blankets and stuffed homemade pillows, made rainbow loom bracelets and crafted bookmarks. We assembled care and comfort bundles for delivery to local hospitals and we decorated cards. All in all that night, we made 272 care and comfort bags, 351 craft items, 208 note cards, 130 homemade pillows and 25 large homemade blankets. I can't wait to become more involved with this organization!

If you know a Cancer Hero anywhere in the U.S. (defined as anyone actively in treatment for any type of cancer), you can visit the Hearts United Against Cancer website and fill out a simple form for a personalized care and comfort bundle delivery! Want to help? You can make no sew or crocheted blankets if you are crafty by joining the blanket brigade HERE. This is a great girl scout project, by the way. Please visit their website if you want to learn more about donating your time, treasures or talents.

You can follow Hearts United Against Cancer on Facebook or visit their website for more info!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

tHERsDay: My First Little Valentine




Nearly 20 years ago, when I fell in love for the first time.





I've fallen more times since then, but she will always be 
my first, precious little Valentine.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Unwrapped



There is something very intimate about being unwrapped after surgery.





Friday, I came home bound up tight like a mummy - my entire chest encircled with a wide ace bandage like a 70s tube top. I was able to remove it 36 hours later, but I left it on for an extra day because things came up. I was tired, the kids were running around, it got too late to shower... but, really... I wasn't emotionally ready.

On the third day, I asked Dr. Fab to free me. The man has known me for almost 20 years. We've been together as a couple for 12 years, married for 11. 



I have been "unwrapped" by this man on many levels, many times, emotionally and physically. He has watched my body change from that of a 29 year old graduate student, limber and spry, to that of a functional baby-making machine, bringing our three little ones into the world.


He has lain next to me as I nursed each one of our babies - watching my body morph from one glorious thing into another. He has witnessed the unstoppable pull of gravity lap upon my shores with each passing decade. He has seen me unwrapped and unglued; unbreakable and undone.

When I was ready, he unwrapped me with the tenderness and love I've grown to know and almost take for granted. I'm soothed by the silence between us. It's the silence of old friends, of unconditional love, of blind trust. The bandage unwound around and around. We joked that it was like the magician pulling the endless ribbon of scarves from his shirt sleeve.

"You look beautiful," he told me as our eyes took in the dried blood beneath the steri-strips and the yellowish hues that were just starting to form under my skin.

And the crazy thing was, there wasn't a doubt in my mind that he meant it.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

24 Hours Before Surgery - A Recap


What You Do The Day Before Surgery

  • Finish putting away the laundry so everyone has drawers stuffed full of clean undies and socks.
  • Pack the swim bags, soccer bag and tennis bag for the kids's weekend activities.
  • Clean the bathrooms and kitchen, finish your week's worth of organization and cleaning, and lay out tomorrow's clothes for the kids.
  • Read the many texts and emails wishing you luck, love and prayers.
  • Receive a box filled with meals from your amazing neighbors.
  • Serve one of those amazing dinners so you don't have to cook.
  • Open a care basket from a friend and breast cancer survivor filled with wonderful things to help your healing. Start bawling half way through the card she wrote.
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  • Dye your hair. Because you don't want gray roots on the operating table. I mean, a girl's gotta have her priorities.
  • Lay out your easy to slip on shoes, your front-opening shirt, and your yoga pants for comfort and ease the next day. Top off your wardrobe with your new "I Am Strong" pink socks your friend gave to you and slip your "Fight Like A Girl" pink bracelet from your care basket. Start to cry again remembering how two strong survivors wore it before you.
  • Read your children bedtime stories and kiss them goodnight.
  • Check on your kids one last time and spend an extra minute kissing their sleeping faces and stroking their hair.
  • Remove all of your jewelry. 
  • Go to bed early because you know you will not sleep well.
  • Snuggle next to the love of your life.
  • Say a long ass prayer, do some deep breathing and tell yourself you are gonna ROCK this, so don't be scared.
  • Try your best to sleep before the 6:30 alarm.

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Surgery day was one of those highly anticipated days that filled me with both dread and relief. Dread because I was scared. I've never had surgery before and never received any kind of anesthesia in my life. I've never broken a bone, never had my wisdom teeth removed and never had to be on medication. The worst things I've had were a root canal and a few skin surgeries for pre-cancerous cells that were done with local. Going under anesthesia was actually a pretty big fear of mine and I was hoping to avoid it for as long as possible. But, there was also relief. I was looking forward to just getting this part over with and let's face it - you are ASLEEP during surgery which makes it the easy part. What filled me with something akin to "dread" was a bunch of pre-surgery stuff that was going to happen that morning. It involved multiple injections into my breast, mammograms and wires being threaded into me. All while 100% awake and alert.


But, I told myself this was a means to an end. It was ONE day... not even a whole day. Only a few measely hours. Any discomfort and anxiety would be temporary. When this one day was over? A major, MAJOR part of my treatment would be over. The rest would be healing, radiation, and medication. I could handle all of that. Piece of cake.


The morning of surgery, I was able to put my kids on their busses since I didn't have to be at the hospital until 10:00 am. This meant a lot to me. My surgery wasn't scheduled until 2:00 pm, but I had to get there at 10:00 to start all of the fun. Unfortunately, with a lumpectomy you don't just go into surgery, get put under and then wake up after it's over. With a lumpectomy, there are about 3 hours of unpleasantries that occur before you go into that operating room. Unpleasantries that would involve six injections clockwise around the right breast, mammograms, needles and wires. They use the mammos to find the spot where they left a titanium clip during the biopsy. They needed that mark for my surgeon to know where to operate. They locate it via mammography, and in my case they had two spots - one cancerous area on the right breast and the LCIS they were opting to remove on the left breast.

They had such a hard time finding the one clip near my armpit that I was squeezed in that mammogram for what seemed like forever. I just stared at a spot on the wall and breathed as deeply as I could and kept my heart open to let all the love that has been around me in. "It will be over soon, It will be over soon," I repeated in my head. And it was. When they finally got my clip in sight, they stuck a needle into my squashed boob to numb then threaded a wire into me which is left to stick out, discreetly covered by a Dixie cup and medical tape. High tech, I know.


Fortunately, because the clip on my left breast was displaced by the nice hemotoma that had developed post biopsy, they just used the hemotoma as the mark and were able to thread in the wire via ultrasound which was far more pleasant on the scale of "yucky things you wish you didn't have to do."

Once that was all over, I was able to hang in the pre-op room with Dr. Fabulous and all I had to endure was the world's largest gauge IV needle into my hand and a silly blue cap on my head which Dr. Fabulous swore I looked cute in. With that, the ugly tan hospital slipper socks, the hospital gown and two Dixie cups jamming out on my chest, I'm sure he was totally smitten by my hotness.


I wasn't allowed to wear any jewelry, but I had my "Fight Like A Girl" bracelet around my ankle, tucked under my sock. It was such a small thing, but I needed to wear it. I needed to know it was there. Dr. Fabulous read me all the texts and emails that continued to flood in, since I didn't have my phone. When they gave me the "Two more minutes" til surgery alert, I admit that I started to break a little bit.  There were a few tears that I really tried not to let out. I was ready to get it all over with, I really was. I wanted it over, but it is intimidating.


Walking down that cold, stark hallway with a stranger and turning to see my husband standing there unable to come with me... that was one of the hardest parts. He has been with me through everything but he couldn't come with me on this final leg of the journey.


The room was filled with people but I felt totally alone. Climbing onto that white table in a huge, cold room filled with lights and tools and wires... I just felt so small, so vulnerable, so insignificant. It is really humbling as a human being to feel so fragile. Everyone was so nice, but I didn't know them. I was alone. But really, I wasn't. I summoned up all the people who have loved me and who I loved and they were there with me. I felt all the prayers and well wishes that everyone has given me during these past weeks. I felt prayed for. I felt safe. I was scared half out of my freakin' mind, but I knew I could do it. Many women have laid where I laid and many more would come after me.

We all must unlock our courage, put on our game face, lace up our boxing gloves and come out swinging. How could I give anything less when so many have fought before me and will continue to fight long after I'm healed? Because of all those before me, I could endure this. Many have endured much, much more.

Going under is surreal. I remember waking up, as if from a brief nap. Tired, but alert, I tried to keep my eyes open so they knew I was awake. I heard a nurse say "Bring in Dr. Fabulous for Alicia," and I struggled to keep my leaden lids open.

In what seemed like seconds, I saw him walking over to me, smiling. As if I was the most beautiful, magnificent girl he had ever laid eyes upon. As if the sun wouldn't rise until he saw me awake and okay.


And in that moment when our eyes met, I finally began to heal.



Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Worst Is All Behind Me Now



The surgery is over. The worst of everything is behind me. I will write more later. For now, just know I'm recovering well and I'm filled with gratitude and happiness that the worst part of this journey is finally over. 

Not quite up to writing my typical long blog post, but wanted to say these three things:

1. I did it.

2. It's over.

3. Thank you. 

Thank you for your prayers, your well wishes, your positive vibes, your cards and texts and calls and comments on Facebook and here on my blog. I read them all, I felt them all. I carried them all with me into that operating room and when I lay on that table half scared out of my mind, I reminded myself of all the love and support around me.

I did it. It's over. Thank you.


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