Treat Yo Self

I find inspiration in lots of places - but mostly the show Parks & Recreation.



This show is sort of like my bible. Now you may think I find the over-achieving type A Knope to be the source of this inspiration (and my chemo prep lists and love of organization, calendaring and  binders might prove that theory) but in reality I worship at the alter of Brenda.

For example:



I have always been good at "taking care of myself" and by that I mean what I like to call the doctrine of "treat yo self".

And when you are sick, and facing a chronic condition with lots of monitoring and daily vigilance, where stress is the enemy of good health, this mantra serves you pretty well.

I believe it's important to treat yourself like you love yourself, and to me that means a little (lot) of at home pampering.

And so, as I mentioned previously,  for me that means moisturizing and facialing myself back to mental health.

It doesn't have to be expensive - sometimes I just rub vaseline on my hands and feet and put socks on them. Or put some wet tea bags in the freezer and then place them all over my face. I've been known to rub olive oil in my hair (when I had it) or to go to Sephora and sample EVERYTHING like a mini DIY facial. (Which is, side note how discovered Dr. Jart in the first place - I was like, whoa this stuff feels and smells amazing and I swear my skin looked better overnight. LOVE LOVE LOVE my care package from Dr. Jart so much there are no words. My skin has never felt so silky!

And so it was with cosmically good timing, as I continue on my road to treat myself back to emotional health, that I received a gift of  THE CLARISONIC OPAL. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YES, the same one I wished for here!

This thing is soooo cool! #1 my eye bags have basically become a baggage terminal from all the crying I have been doing (happy tears and stress tears both) and having this magic wand gently massage this luscious serum under my eyes felt like kisses from angels. I mean my eyes were so puffy they hurt, and now they feel like happy, well loved little pillows.

The hardest part is resisting the urge to use it over and over again (IT FEELS SO GOOD)

So thank you thank you thank you Clarisonic! And thank you people out there who are sending so much love and good energy my way, because while I am doing my facials I also read all your notes and meditate on all your love bathing me in healing light.

So much love I don't even know what to do with myself,
xoxoxox
Dena


Hot Girls Doing Cool Things - This how my Blog Roll


I think you all know that I am incredibly lucky. One of the ways that I am blessed is to have a very unique community of amazing chicks in my corner. These women are not only gorgeous (and fashionable, with exceptional taste, grace and enviable hair) but also smart, witty and talented writers. And by making the choice to share their voices, they have become incredibly successful - both for their drool worthy taste in all things aesthetic, and for their creativity, punchy writing and ability to somehow pull all of this together into a dope little website which people (like me) obsessively read every single day.

They are the bloggers. This is my "Blog Roll". 

Today, I came across this amazing post "The Importance of Paying it Forward As a Blogger" on the Independent Fashion Bloggers website. It was written by Emily Van Der Beek of Isn't That Charming. And it was about ME! well, I got a shout out, but same same.


Now, when I read any kind of post about me, I always cry. Always. I can't help it. How, how did I get to be this lucky? Why are so many people pulling for me? And why are they all so good looking??

By writing about me on their blogs these beautiful, beautiful girls show that true beauty comes from the inside, which of course helps me feel better about my lack of hair, not to mention the universe in general which continues to insist on messing with me (I have not even mentioned that I got called for jury duty. Again. For the 11th year in a row.)

These amazing women, from all over the country, have become my champions and heros. And so, because it's Friday, I wanted to share some of them with you. Here is a roundup of what I secretly call in my head my "hot girl bunny army - comm wing" (oops, secrets out) and let me know if I missed someone, because some of these girls have been silent warriors, and their message of love keeps spreading and spreading.

General of East Coast Operations: Christin of WithaCH


I read Christin's blog EVERY SINGLE DAY. On a timer, the way I take my medicine. Because every single day she makes me laugh my tush off. And we all know this is definitely the best medicine, the thing that keeps my stupid cancer in check.  Christin is gorgeous, she is featured in Glamour magazine gorgeous, she is looks like celebrity fill in the blank_____ gorgeous (I think Ashley Greene) but she is also smart, and freaking funny as hell. 

She is a freaking warrior, who has been sending so much love my way I can't believe we have never actually met in person (I dream of the day this happens). She has inspired a small legion of other bloggers to advocate on my behalf. If she wasn't the Social Media Goddess of BaubleBar (aka the hotness) I could also see her as Olivia on Scandal (I love that show.) 

From WACH:

thank you.

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and that everyone that comes into your life has a purpose. There are some days that I think that I’ve outgrown blogging, that its something I don’t have time for anymore and then something like thisthis and this(to name a few) happens and I am so incredibly inspired by the blogging community.
You guys, I honestly cannot thank you enough for the kindness that you’ve shown in regards to this post. I am 100% blown away. Putting Dena’s story up here was the least I could do and I thought maybe someone would donate but I never in my wildest dreams thought that so many of you would share her story and donate. Words can’t even describe how happy all of your comments, tweets, emails and texts have meant to me and I know they mean even more to Dena.
I needed this. A lot. And I just wanted to thank you all, so very much, for everything. For always.

General of Infantry: Grace of Stripes & Sequins 

I met Grace through Christin (she is also a chief hotness at Baublebar) and she then proceeded to wave her magic wand of love and kindness and send a flood of amazing care packages, notes of love and generosity my way. I mean this and this  would not have happened without her. Her blog is also a must read for me because she is the dopest DIY expert on the planet. I think she's as good as PS I Made This...  which is saying a lot because PSIMT is the reason I love DIY in the first place, and basically the queen of modern, cool girl DIY. Grace is blessed with the ability to make friends everywhere she goes, and to inspire people to great generosity on behalf of others. She is like a fairy godmother, and I don't even hate her for having the most amazing hair of anyone I have ever seen before. 

From S&S:
Here’s the thing… it’s really easy to view our lives under a macro lense, only focusing on the moment and what we are feeling and our own little bubbles.  And then you meet someone like Dena.  She’s two years younger than me and battling breast cancer.  She is on her sixth round of chemo, unable to work, and dealing with staggering medical bills.   Yet, her attitude is 100x better than mine.  Also, she’s turned her blog into this amazing source of inspiration and information that I’m sure fellow cancer patients are able to benefit from.
I spent a lot of today reading through Dena’s blog archives.  Mostly just being amazed and inspired/awe-struck by her attitude.  I’m resolving to at least try to take more control over my own thoughts.  Not to sweat the small stuff, and to be more grateful and appreciative.  Basically, to have higher quality thoughts, if that makes sense.  I challenge you guys to do the same, and also to donate if you can.  I can’t really think of a better cause.

The "Foot" Soldier: Alexandria Hubbard of The Saga of a Twenty Something


Alex is running the Boston Marathon as part of a team that is supporting the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. The goal? To help find a cure for breast cancer. So far, her team of 500 has raised more than $600,000; their goal for this year's marathon $4.6 million. They've still got 12 weeks until the marathon, so she is confident they'll be able to get it done!

Alex also runs a really rad blog, which reads like my personal diary or maybe just my browsing history. Either way, I feel like we are soul twins. Also, I spent all day yesterday googling this dead girlfriend hoax business as well.

From TSOATS:
Let's get some link action going.
+ If you click any of my links today, make it Dena's blog. Dena is an amazing soul. Dena is 29 and she had breast cancer that has metastasized in her bones. And even with all of this, she has a positive outlook on life. And I'm running the Boston Marathon for her. If you can, help her out. Even if you think you can't, $10 does help. And if you want to help me try to cure cancer in our lifetime, I'd greatly appreciate even a $5 donation. Every little bit does help.
+ If you haven't read about the crazy Manti Te'o dead girlfriend hoax you should probably just read the Deadspin article and go ahead and scratch your head alongside me. Seriously.
I hope you all have an amazing long weekend. Have fun. Do something different. Hug people you love. And remember how amazing your life really is.


The Seasoned Fighter: Liz of Freckles in the Fog


Now Liz and I worked together approximately a million years ago (as she mentions below) but I never knew she was such a rockstar writer. I have her to credit with my favorite song, Same Love, and also with writing this amazing post that I still can't read without getting a little watery.

From FITF:
dena and i worked together for the hot second and a half that i was at the jcc in san francisco.  i must admit that tending to the campers (and more honestly, the staff) kept me away from many of the other people and programs at the organization but dena stuck out from day 1.  young and smart, not afraid to use her voice and stand up for what she believed in, a love for the gym that i could never fully understand and a banging body (hmmm, wonder if those two things were connected?).  as if all this weren’t enough – girlfriend introduced me to dry shampoo.  clearly someone special.
not only has dena been fighting off breast cancer over the last few months, but she’s been sharing her story each and every step of ther positive energy is like nothing i have ever encountered before (but it does help me better understand her relationship with the gym).  she’s been offering tips and tricks that she’s learned along the way but most of all she’s giving a voice to a journey that, unfortunately, too many young women are taking.  i can’t tell you how much i respect and admire this girl.
and now, dena needs our help.  her diagnosis has changed and so her course of treatment has changed.  what once was hoped to be cured with chemo and surgery is now going to be treated – long-term.  until, as dena so eloquently says, science catches up and a cure is found for what is now – incurable.  dena has great doctors and great care and health insurance but there are still an unbelievable number of expenses and this is where we can do something to help dena – who by sharing her story, is helping so many.  she admits that asking for help is hard – but for those of us who are feeling like we really want to do something, dena’s STANDBY PAGE offers a tangible way to make a difference.
every little bit helps.
wishing you all peace, love and a monthly breast exam

The Comm Specialist: Jessie of The Loud & Clear


Jessie and I met through a very dear friend of ours at her wedding, and like all of these amazing women, she is just stunningly good looking, both inside and out. So when she heard I was fundraising she asked if it was OK if she could share my story on her blog to try to help raise some more much needed dough for my ridiculous health care costs. My response? Of course, duh, you are amazing. 

From TL&C:
She’s so much like many of you – consciously living a healthy lifestyle, exercising, writing a style blog (with fun DIY projects), generally just being her fabulous self. Unlike many of you, she is in the process of undergoing chemotherapy and coming to terms with the fact that she will have a bilateral mastectomy when she’s finished with chemo.
Reading through the archives of her blog had an impact on me. I met Dena years ago through a good friend of mine and I have quietly followed her via Instagram, Pinterest and her blog. I still laugh every time I think of the time Dena, myself and a gaggle of other girls physically (somewhat violently) dodged a wedding bouquet being tossed in our direction – only to find Kate standing alone in the middle of the crowd holding it! (Guess who got married next??)

The General of All Things Delicious: Gabi, from BrokeAssGourmet


If you have not made these cookies (or do not own this cookbook) you are seriously missing out. Go buy it right now - it also makes excellent presents, so excellent in fact that it sold out over Christmas. So channel that FOBO and buy 2 (one for a gift)


From BAG:

It is unbelievable. I gripped my phone, silent with shock, tears pooling in my eyes.
"What can I do?" Evan asked me gently.
I know that what he was asking was what could he do to comfort me, but as he said it, I realized that his question was really what I should be asking myself.What can I do? What can we as a community do? 
As it turns out, we can do a lot.
Before I get to the recipe, I have two favors to ask of you. 
The first one is to please, please consider making a donation to our fund for Dena. The first major treatment she has to pay for out of pocket is in 2 weeks, and we really want to make sure it's well-covered.
The second thing--and I realize it may sound vague, but that's only because there is so much room for interpretation--is to look within your own life and your own community at ways that you can use your skills and talents to help other people or causes. One thing I'm learning now is that there are so many different ways to make the world a better place--and even the smallest courses of action count. 
What are your talents? What can you do?

The Mercenary of Social: Jolie O'Dell 


Did you know that Miss O'Dell not only rights controversy stirring Tech sexism articles like this but that she is also one of the best cooks and table setters in the entire world? Yup, she is, and she writes this gorgeous home blog called the Single Housewife. Oh and one tweet from her and I get a deluge of love, generosity and introductions from amazing and generous resources all over the world, like Andrew Schiff, founder of Someonewith.com (the best stocked breast cancer website I have ever seen, and I have seen a ton. I use something from the care package they sent me EVERY SINGLE DAY and he found me through Jolie's divine intervention.)



The Original Bunny: Julia of Tartans & Sequins

Julia taught me how to date. She also taught me how to rock a statement necklace (with plaid) and basically just dress myself in general, as seen here, here, etc etc  And then she wrote this post asking other women to take care of themselves and their breasts, and basically just spreading the essential message of breast cancer awareness and supporting breast cancer research whenever you can. 

From T&S: 

I LOVE the color pink. It has always been my favorite color but recently it became a little more important to buy pink things. Specifically pink things that supported Breast Cancer research. Because if I could chose for none of you to ever have to hear a friend sharing how their mom couldn't tell her friends about their diagnosis, I would. Every purchase of a BCR product makes that more of a reality. I'm not asking you to make EVERY purchase a BCR one, but if two products are almost identical and one supports Breast Cancer research and one doesn't, why not choose the pink one? :) 



Special Forces: Saschka of Standbuy.us 

To call this a blog is sort of like calling chocolate a food. I mean technically, yes it is a food. But really, isn't it so much more? So, so much more. This is not a blog, it's really a platform, but it is so dope I can't even describe it - I just want you to go and look at it yourselves. And read Saschka's story for why she created it, (but bring tissues.) 

From SB.us

The goal of Standbuy is to provide a focused, supportive and easy to use platform so that others might find a little more room in their day for healing instead of worrying about financial stress. We are deeply committed to doing everything we can to help you connect to your community and to make access to help easy and direct.

My response to Saschka: Oh and you have, you amazing hotness monster. You have. Plus your Sephora trick is LIFE CHANGING. 

More to come...


So I'm sure I am forgetting someone (DAMN YOU CHEMO BRAIN) but really, can someone please tell me, why are they all so good looking?? Why?

Love you lots and lots
SUCH GOOD NEWS
xoxo
Dena

P.S. I have decided that once I reach my fundraising goal any additional money, and any funds that we raise during my epic post chemo blow out celebration, will go to the Breast Cancer Emergency Fund, which bailed me out when I had an emergency and which is just another amazing thing to have in the universe - like hot girls who are also really smart and fun and generous and philanthropic.

GOOD NEWS: What a Clean Scan Means for Me

Hello my loves. Did you know that all your prayers and good thoughts WORKED. I mean, most likely the science magic "helped" but I can't help but feel like all the love I get makes the medicines more effective. I feel like I have loved my misbehaving cancer cells into submission.

So here's what the scans revealed:

1) There are no signs of disease in my right breast. That's right NONE. Goodbye 6cm tumor, kiss my tush.

2) There is some activity in my left breast but it corresponds exactly with a fiber adenoma I have already had biopsied, twice. They will keep an eye on it and I suspect there might be another biopsy in my future but for now, there does not seem to be any additional treatment indicated by this.

3) The bone spots they saw in the CT & the Bone Scan are not lighting up. The doctor said they are " not avid". I have no idea what this means because I just got a voicemail- she called while I was in the shower doing this:



Here's what I do know. The way the PET scan works, they inject me with some nuclear reactive sugar water and then I lay perfectly still for 30 minutes. Because I am still and not using my muscles, only the tumor cells which are overactive and being bad and replicating when they are not supposed to (and my brain which is providing vital body function) gobble up the glucose. Then they take a picture and see what "lights up" - aka what was eating all that glucose while I was resting. The test is so sensitive that I was not allowed to read because my "eyes would light up" or listen to music because my "ears would light up." This test is cray.

The fact that the bone mets didn't light up is good - it either means that they aren't currently gobbling and dividing, or they are otherwise non-reactive. It could be because of the treatment being effective and stopping their evil work, or it could be something else (sometimes the PET scan just can't read these bone mets suckers according to the VM). IT DOESN'T MEAN THEY ARE GONE.

Unfortunately, this is what incurable cancer means. I still have cancer, the cancer cells are still there - they just aren't growing, forming tumors, spreading and being generally evil to my body. They are microscopic and unscannable (the canny little buggers.)

A clean scan is still exactly what we want, because it means that I am going to do really well on treatment (whatever that will be, I will know more what the plan is tomorrow) and it means that in the future, should they jailbreak, I should be able to battle them back down again with chemo (g-d I hope not, but nice to know the option is there.) The bottom line is a clean scan means that my cancer responds well to treatment, which means I can go on to live a long, almost normal life, until the time when science catches up to my disease with a cure.

I will be celebrating with a cheeseless, sauceless veggie pizza (it's actually really good! you should try it!) and hopefully a full nights sleep. I'll be honest, I still feel like crap from all this wrist/tummy/chemo business but WHO CARES. WHOO HOOOOOOO.  As soon as this chemo is done (which should be only 7 more weeks!) then I am going to throw a big, huge party and everyone is invited to SF to celebrate with me.  It will be "cocktail attire"- start planning your outfits.

xoxoxoxoxo
LOVE YOU GUYS SO MUCH
Dena

Baked Apples

From a recent email:

As for food -- can you let me know everything you are avoiding these days and any kind of things you LOVE or crave at the moment? I'm sure your tastebuds aren't the friendliest right now, so let me know what works for you and I'll make it so! 

My response:


this is like a DREAM come true

So diet, ah yes, sweet sweet diet.

So right now I am on a super low fat, low fiber, low acidic, low spice diet because of the horrific, chronic heartburn from my chemo

I actually have not had any metallic, dead robot mouth or taste bud changes this round (knock on wood) so that's good (had them last time, they were freaking awful)

My mouth is very dry, so creamier foods, soups, sauces etc are kind of a must for me

Since the colitis I am also back to being super anal about uncooked food - no raw fruits & vegetables, although lots of pickled/fermented stuff because it helped a lot with the metallic mouth, is low fat and seemed not to inflame the heartburn but actually had like, flavor. Vinegars are my new fave thing. As are potatoes, eggs.

I am actually not currently eating fruits & veg at all (because of the colitis) or really anything but broth and toast, but I hope to be eating again by Monday

I have been told that giving up dairy could help with the colitis as well, but if I do I fear I will have nothing edible left to eat 

this email took me 45 minutes to write and I feel like I am still forgetting things...

Does this mean I don't deserve to eat delicious food? I say NO. 

Here's the thing - between all the things I can't eat because of the chemo, all the things I can't eat because of the chemo induced heartburn, and all the things that taste terrible with the chemo induced mouth stuff my diet is very limited. To say the least. 

This delicious recipe is my own creation. It is sodium free (did I mention the aforementioned email exchange was with the unbelievably amazing and inspiring Sodium Girl?) and also meets all of my own weird dietary needs and my craving for fruits. It's also super easy, and delish. 

Ingredients:
cranberries
brown suger 
Baking apples (I used Braeburn but I also love Honeycrisp)
unsalted butter 
sweet iced tea
cranberries
brown suger 

Tools:
melon baller
small bowl
baking dish large enough for the apples to fit in without touching each other or the sides


Steps:

1.Preheat the oven to 375. While it's heating up - use the melon baller to scoop out the seeds and core of the apples (it's so easy! I can even do it with my injured wrist and my neuropathy hands)
2. In a small bowl, mix together the cranberries and the brown sugar to taste 
3. Put the apples in the baking dish. Stuff the cranberry mixture into the apple cores. 
4. Pour sweet tea over the top until the apple is well coated and there's a little liquid at the bottom.
5. Dot the apples with butter. 
6. Place the dish in the oven and bake until the apples are soft, basting occasionally if you feel like it (I only did this once.)


If you only bake it, it should take about 45 minutes. If you're in a rush (like I was) you can microwave it for 7 minutes and then pop it in the oven for about 10 minutes to finish it up. 

On Inspiration

Recently people have been telling me I inspire them. I never know what to say to this, I mean obviously thank you (because really, does a better compliment exist?) but also because I feel like everyday it is all of you who inspire me. And then you get in this loop, like "no, you inspire me." - "no, YOU inspire me." and on and on it goes in this amazing love sappy downward spiral and then people cry, puffy eyes, the works.

As I envision what it means to have a disease that doesn't have a cure, a chronic condition, and what that means for my life after this aggressive phase of treatment is over, I wonder, where does all this positivity come from? And can I bottle it? And sell it? Or at least hoard it for the inevitable day when thing get to be more than I can handle. Why is it that all I can feel right now is lucky, not how much this sucks (I mean, it does, really don't even get me started on my wrist burn, let alone the fact that after subsisting on a toast/broth diet for a week I finally caved and bought myself a gigantic pair of jeans.  If I was pigging out and like, eating lots of deliciousness, sure, bigger jeans, whatev, but I'm hungry AND I have to get bigger jeans? unfair, soooo unfair.)  Where, oh where, is all this positivity coming from?
I feel blessed, and from those blessings I draw the strength to go on everyday. Not just go on, but do really, unexpectedly well (which for me right now means "feel almost, most of the time, like a normal girl and not like some sort of diseased lab experiment") in large part, I think, because of my attitude. Happiness and positivity are just better states to be in then the alternative. But what does it mean, to be inspiring, or to inspire others? And where does my inspiration come from? I decided to try a little experiment this week, to pay attention to the moments when I felt bad, physically bad, but also emotionally. Like the crushing fear, creeping anxiety threatening to drown me in tears bad (obvi this happens, I mean, I have incurable cancer - what the f?) but also just the normal everyday bad. The "dammit I can't close my jeans" bad, or the "Crap, there are no parking spots" bad or the "shoot I left my wallet somewhere and now I have a doctors appointment and no way to pay for it, stupid chemo brain" bad. Then I paid attention to how I got myself out of this mood.

And so, here is a list of things I drew inspiration from this week. It's not a total list, because I get inspired about a jillion times, give or take, a day.

But I hope that in it you too can find, if not the inspiration, at least some comfort. Because no matter what your thing is (and trust me, I still think there are lots of things worse than this "c" thing) there will always be things that come along, nasty things, things that try to ruin your day. You can't control these things, but you can control how YOU react to these things

1) I am not the light, I am just the glass window reflecting back the light. I was driving home from something (most likely doctors appointment) across the bay bridge as the sun was setting. I looked over to my left and there was this amazing glass building, and it was so clear and true that it was capturing the setting sun in what felt like all it's brightness, and then reflecting it back down in this golden, pink tinged ray onto the water, so that the water of the bay had not one, but two suns, strewing amber light in these intense spears. It was magical. It was breathtaking. And as I watched it (sitting in bumper to bumper traffic) I thought, everyone who has helped me out these last months, who has written me notes, given me financial aid, love, presents, thoughts, good vibes, care packages, visits, rides, company, puppy care - these people are the light. I am just this mirror, that gets to reflect the light back, so that everyone can see how beautiful they are, how powerful and also how light can spread, it can infuse everything if you let it. I want to be that mirror, to help people to see the awesomeness that they have inside of themselves, to make it into something beautiful. Sometimes the best way to make yourself feel good, is to make someone else feel good.

2) Inspirational Images  Call me a pinfreak, I don't care. There is something so write about words that just speak to me - short, powerful, cute, would make an excellent t-shirt. I love these. I MAKE these.
Here are some my favorites from this week (and of course, don't forget THIS ONE I made)
Say what you will, they make me feel better.




3) Music. Music just makes me feel so much better, about anything, all the time. There is of course this playlist *my special girl power, can't touch this playlist*

I am also obsessed with the song below. And yes, I know it is about being gay, and NO, I do not think being gay is a sickness. Don't get all up in arms on me please, my fragile chemoness can't handle it today. It's because sometimes there are things that are part of you that are different than what is part of other people. People who don't understand otherness can think this otherness is a terrible thing (or fear it), but really, it can be filled with so much amazingness and love, how could you wish to be any other way? You are dealt the hands you are dealt, what matters is what you do with it. Wishing to be different than who you are (me, girl with cancer) is not going to help - accepting that this is how things are and trying to adapt and find as much joy in my life as possible will.



The Moral: "And I can't change. Even if I wanted to, even if I tried. My love, my love, my love she keeps me warm. She keeps me warm. She keeps me warm." yup. and the hook is like hippy crack. It just makes me happy. I listen to it on repeat.

The other song on repeat right now:



The Moral: " I don't want to go to sleep. I want to stay up all night. I want to just screw around. I don't want to think about what's going to be after this. I want to just live right now." Amen sista. 

4) Pampering I know this is something I am notorious for, but guess what? It works. Give yourself a facial, spring for a $10 mani/pedi, buy a new lipgloss. Whatever makes you feel like the positive, relaxed, person you are. The point is to treat your body to something that makes it feel cared for, special, worthy of love and healing. I have mentioned this to my doctors and they totally agree - anything you can do to reduce stress is essential to treat and manage my cancer, so imagine how positive an effect this kind of self-indulgence can have on your normal, healthy body. Bonus points if while you are pampering you also read inspirational quotes and listen to inspirational tunes.

LUCKIEST GIRL IN DA WORLD

And no, not everyone is lucky enough to get AMAZING CARE PACKAGES from Dr. Jart (thank you, thank you, thank you - I can't even tell you how much joy and healing this brought me) but almost anybody can slice up a cucumber and put it in the freezer for a few minutes and then toss it on ya eyeballs. BOOM. Instant pampering.

More to come loveys,
xoxoxoxo
Dena



Half way there!! Thank You

I can't believe this! I mean, I am at a loss for words (how often does that happen?!?) all this love and support from all of you makes me feel like the luckiest girl. From the bottom of my heart (and my mama's heart) we are so grateful!!

(what am I talking about? This fundraiser to help me pay for my healthcare!!)

https://www.standbuy.us/profiles/dena-stern-e306



A little bit more about Bone Disease & Treatment (aka why I can be so positive, the science)

I just want everyone to know a few things that I now know, so that everyone knows that my positiveness comes not just from my seemingly unfailingly positive attitude but also from a place where miracles are actually just "the magic of science."

Also, I don't want all of you to go crazy googling things and emailing me crazy cures involving fermented mushrooms and stuff (not that I don't appreciate the thought but one of my blessings is the quality of my medical care)

I have made the decisions, and it's one I hope all of you will respect, to trust my doctors. They have done nothing but demonstrate to me that they know everything about cancer, and my cancer specifically, and that when I try to do research on my own, or when I ask the internet questions, I end up just doused in unnecessary, scary, false and negative energy. Such is the nature of medicine on the internet. So while I know the temptation is there to start googling "cure for metastatic breast cancer" or "incurable cancers treated" or "living with bone disease" or "what does stage 4 cancer mean" or whatever, and I know this comes from a place of love, I also want to make sure that you know that what you are finding is not going to be any better than what I got going on in real life over here. In fact, I might be one of those search results that give people hope someday, because despite how bad and scary this news is, my "prognosis" right now is nothing but good. Different, based on a relative scale where you have incurable cancer, but GOOD> 

So here's the good news lovers (aka, 7 reasons why you don't need to start googling my medical diagnosis)

#1 My doctor is the chief of Oncology at Kaiser of San Francisco. He is fucking amazing. I do not swear but this needed to be emphasized in a big way. He is the doctor I would be fighting to get to be my doctor if he wasn't already my doctor. Not only does he have the most amazing energy of any human being I have ever met, but he is on the cutting edge of cancer treatment, in a city that is on the cutting edge of cancer treatment. If there is a treatment out there, he has heard about it, he knows the rate of effectiveness, and he has most likely already tried it on a patient (or supervised another doctor who has - he is the chief)

#2 The type of cancer I have (triple positive, her2neu overexpressed metastisized breast cancer) was literally just approved for an AMAZING new drug from genentech called pertuzamab. It is a partner drug to trutuzamab (herceptin) and has had something like an 81% effectiveness in reducing or completely eliminating lesions in patients like me. It will be part of my treatment plan (although we will know more once we get the results of the PET)

If I had done surgery before chemo (which, thank g-d I did not, because what a freaking waste, I would be SO PISSED right now if I had started prophylactic treatments on my breasts when it was already too late) then I would have actually been in a clinical trial for this drug, which is not yet approved for treating non-metastatic BC. 

#3 There are currently no other clinical trials (either here or abroad) for any treatments for the kind of cancer I have (my guess - everyone worth working with has been working on the amazing pertuzamab) but should anything come up, I'm pretty sure my oncologist would among the first to hear about them

#4 There is nowhere better in the world to be located than where I am right now. The best stuff for treating and managing what I have now is coming from Stanford, UCSF, Genentech and the talent that is attracted to Bay Area. The Bay Area is on the bleeding edge of cancer treatments, especially metastatic cancer treatments.

#5 When it comes to metastatic cancer (and clearly this is a relative scale) there is no better scenario than what my current scans are showing I have now - early detection, limited just to bone disease.  It is the most "healable" of all "uncurable" cancers. While by our current definitions of "cure" it does not "really go away" there are so many good treatments for it, with such amazing results, that once I find the right one, and with a little time, I will be "completely healed" even if it doesn't "really go away".

So, if you really want to feel useful (and you know who I am talking to right now, I'm not going to call you at but I am CALLING YOU OUT) you can spend all that time you would have spent googling treatments ,  and instead spend it praying with me that my PET scan won't show spots anywhere else (especially in my organs) Although if it does, we will just need to change our treatment plan again, and those spots will have been caught so so, ridiculously, luckily early that my treatment options for those also look really good. 

#6 I have no pain right now. Well, I have a little pain, but actually not in the parts of my bones where the lesions actually are (so, prob from the chemo) and in my gut where the colitis is that brought me into the ER is located (and seriously, thank goodness for that pain, right?)

Because I am so dumb lucky, we got this CT scan before the lesions in my bones were even bad enough to manifest symptoms (typically how this thing is discovered) so now, instead of trying to battle down pain and all that bad stuff - I can just work on containing (and hopefully healing) what I have now, something much much easier to do than if these suckers had been further along or hurting me. 

#7 If you must google - and I know some of you will do it anyways- then you should read this - the #1 search response for "living with metastatic bone disease" from WebMD. Here is my favorite part of this article:

"Much depends upon the type of cancer you have (a very treatable kind), how old you are (super young and healthy), and how much time has elapsed since you first were diagnosed (we caught it really, really early). "But many people can do really well for a long period of time," Fasano says.

Think of it like Diabetes lovers. If I take really really good care of myself, and I monitor my body vigilantly, and I find the right medicines to take everyday, than my life is going to as close to normal as anyone's life can be who has a chronic condition. I may even need to give up sugar (damn all of you who sent me those articles on sugar and cancer.)

love you all so so much
xoxoxo
Dena

Bad News (and Silver Linings)

Hey lovers, today I got some bad news that is hard to share because we really don't know enough to satisfy all of the questions yet. So here it is: the cancer has metastasized to my bones. I am now considered "Stage 4" which means the cancer has metastasized and is "incurable". This most likely happened before I started the chemo and the chemo had been containing it until I switched to a new cocktail that doesn't seem to be working for me. Unfortunately, we won't know what the treatment plan will entail until I do a PET scan next week. I will no longer need a mastectomy because the cancer has already metastasized. It is unclear whether I will have a lumpectomy or just radiation or nothing (will know more after the scan) It is unclear how exactly we will manage the bone disease (that's what the doctors call the cancer in my bones) but there are some amazing drugs out there and my doctors are working on a great plan to heal my bone lesions and contain the disease. Unfortunately metastatic cancer is "uncurable" so we will now be shifting our treatment away from "curing" the cancer and towards managing, containing and healing the cancer until science catches up with it for a cure. Besides no mastectomy, I also get to stop the awful taxotere - we'll know after the scan if another kind of chemo might help but right now the doctors are saying that I might be done with chemo (silver lining) and if it wasn't for the horrible reaction I had to the taxotere we might have caught this a lot later (silver lining) because I wouldn't have been scanned for a few months. It looks like we caught this so early by pure dumb luck, but because of that we have made it much easier to manage the incurable cancer in a way that makes it like any chronic condition, think diabetes. Unfortunately I won't know much more for another few weeks. All I know is that i have the best doctors, the best friends and the best support and together we will figure out a way to contain and control this cancer until a time comes when it can be cured. Xoxoxo Dena


I came home from the ER to resume my proper roll as a seat for the world's largest lap dog. 

I love Plaid

I think things have gotten a little heavy around here (and I mean, I guess it had to happen, damn you hurricane cancer) but really, this whole dark & stormy thing is just not me. Sad, or angry, or depressed, or whatever is just not my natural state of being and after about 4 hours or so I kind of nap and then revert to my natural state.

So after the last few days of puffy eyed, puppy-hugging emo, I woke up this morning kind of like, "OK, I can do this, this is not so bad." And then I noticed that in my attempt to self soothe I had literally wrapped my entire family, including myself, in layers and layers of plaid.

Now, I know this makes me terrible and superficial, but I like things. I can't help it, I just take a lot of pleasure in things, simple things, but things none the less. They make me happy. And one of the things that makes me happy, and comforts me in an almost primal way, is flannel and plaid.

I think if I thought about it a little (which clearly I did this morning) my dad wore a lot of flannel plaid. I have many found memories of comforting plaid hugs as a child. There is something about being hugged by plaid that is both reassuringly strong and soft'n'cozy - like "I will protect you from bears and the elements, but I will also be soothing on your sensitive skin."

This is my Dad - this is, in fact a flannel (but not plaid)


Now, I know this stupid hipster movement came along and for a few years they ruined plaid for everyone but the most die-hard of the j-crew fans, but I think that's over now. Or at least it is in my house, where I live in plaid, have created a plaid heaven in our bed (where I spend a sizable chunk of my recovery time) and have added a sizable amount of plaid to HBs wardrobe (the better to hug me with, obvi)

So please enjoy this plaid explosion, I hope that you find it as comforting as I do.

xoxoxo (lots of plaid hugs)
Dena

See - look how happy I am in my kitty hat and my plaid

How could this NOT make you happy? PS totes vintage Etsy find which had hideous sleeves that I DIYed off  #boom

I'm in this pile of plaid somewhere, I swear

We're smiling that big because of the plaid scarf

My family, in a pile of plaid
I will fight off the wild beasts, but I also give good hugs

More burrowing in plaid, (note the plaid pillow)

There's a theme here... and it involves piles of plaid...




Talking About *Losing Your* Breasts

I know, in making the decision to write and share my journey through breast cancer, that I was opening up myself to the universe in a big scary way. And I have never, not for one moment regretted it. The outpouring of love, support, positive energy and financial support has been more powerful than anything I could possibly have hoped for or imagined. I literally could not have survived without it.

But I don't want people to get the wrong idea - especially people who might also be struggling through their own battle right now. 

Yes, I choose my happiness, every second of every day. Yes, I could be miserable. In fact I have weepy, wet, painful days all the time. I think these are healthy. I think if I didn't have them I wouldn't be "being positive" I would be locking all my thoughts up somewhere dark where they could fester and turn into some dark evil poison that would prob turn into a curse on me and everyone I love.


So let me be clear here about two things. 1) Being upset is OK. Get it out! Whether it's cancer, or someone being mean to you or just a bad day at work, being human means dealing with shit and you have to let the dark in to get the light.

2) Sometimes, when you try hard to be positive, people can forget just how hard a time you are having. So I wrote this sort of , we'll call it a rant, on my facebook wall - after a very upset morning where I went back and forth over and over again what to do.  I hope that it wont provoke a bad reaction (you never know with the internet) but I think it needed to be said. If not for my sake (because my feelings were getting hurt) than for the sake of the other people out there who may be struggling with people's reactions when they share their own journey through breast cancer.

Breast cancer is a special kind of cancer because it has a very profound effect on a very public part of your body - your breasts. It's not an internal organ, not blood or bones or your liver. And because people comment on healthy breasts all the time, it can be hard to realize how different it is to make a comment when someone is facing losing this very public part of their body. 

Just for a little backstory - the comments occurred on a picture I took while waiting for a consultation with a plastic surgeon. I had been left, alone, and in nothing but an ugly hospital robe, in a cold little blue room, to watch a (scary) but repetitive video about breast reconstruction. It literally kept repeating "Remember, no reconstruction can ever recreate the look or feel of your actual breasts."

And I had just been having a conversation with one of my super bunny's - who's also about to have a mastectomy/reconstruction - about how much we really really wanted to design some cute, comfortable, not awful hospital gowns. And so I posted this:


And this is the response I got:



Now, to say these comments were upsetting to me might be a small understatement. I was devastated. What a harsh reminder about what I was going to lose. But then I realized, maybe it was my fault. Maybe I had been setting the wrong tone for this conversation. And so I decided to post this:


I think I've been so good about keeping a positive attitude that something might have been missed by people who would never intentionally want to hurt my feelings - so I think I should just make sure this is clear. When I finish chemo I will be having a bilateral mastectomy. This is my decision based on the doctors recommendations about how best to prevent my rapidly developing cancer from coming back and a lot of factors including high risk of recurrence, dense, hard to monitor breasts and a desire to avoid being cut open every 6 months for the next 40 years of my life. This decision is devastating, and even though I know it's the right decision for me, there are no words to express how sad I am about having my breasts cut off and my body changed forever, at the age of 29. The comments about my cleavage, even as compliments, are incredibly painful right now, because in a few weeks I will be facing a painful, long recovery and the loss of my breasts forever. I will never breast feed a baby, or be able to have someone see me naked without the scars of the hardest year of my life on display for everyone to see. I have always loved, and been proud of my figure (and my breasts) and now they will be gone. I know that everyone loves me and is just trying to help lighten the mood, but I just can't joke about this - and it's hard for the other people I know who are going through the same thing and who are also seeing these quotes second hand. Please know my intention was not to make anyone else feel bad - just to try to stop the comments that are making me feel bad and to educate people about how you can support someone going through something like this. thank you for understanding (and all your love and support) xoxo


So, there it is - the dark, not always positive side of Dena. 

If you are reading this, and you are going through hurricane BC, know that having a positive attitude also means letting yourself feel all the things you need to feel - sad, angry, confused, hurt. 

And if you are reading this, and you are healthy, maybe take it easy on your beautiful body. I still wish I was thinner/shorter/tanner/etc etc etc but now I wish I had been more grateful for what I had while I had it.

xoxox
Dena 

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