December 8, 2016

Living The Sweat Life: Gift Ideas and Inspiration

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I’m feeling really good these days.  Really, really good.  It’s funny, at my last visit to my Oncologist, I told her I was aging backwards.  Which isn’t as crazy as it sounds, considering that I started chemo as a hot young new mom, and finished months later as a feeble, gray-faced, bald old lady.

At least that how you feel, post-chemo.  The three years since my last treatment have been about me finding myself again.  I’ll never again be that young mom who walked naively into her first (and only) mammogram, but neither am I ready for the fast-forwarding of life that the chemo seems to do.

One thing that has played a major role in my long-term recovery has been Pilates.  During chemo I relied mostly on yoga and running, but at some point – after it was all over – I started to realize how broken my poor body was.  I still had a small diastasis from pregnancy (something I didn’t really have time to address before the cancer nonsense started), and the mastectomy left my shoulders rounded and my chest tight.  I was literally curling up, curling inward, with no core muscles to speak of, and terrible posture that I was unable to correct on my own.  I would see pictures of me taken from the side or from behind and I’d just…cringe.  Something needed to change.

Ultimately, that something was Pilates.  Pilates has been more like physical therapy than a workout.  But unlike physical therapy, there’s no graduation day.  You know you’ve made a major healing step when the workouts get harder.  I spent the first year (at Belly Pilates, if you are on the mainline) rarely working up a sweat.  Instead, it was a frustrating mix of finding (and reconnecting) to my core muscles – including my pelvic floor – trying to figure out how to breathe, and fixing some basic posture problems.  Oddly enough, despite the lack of sweat, my bum and arms never looked better.

Once we moved into Philadelphia, I had to find a new studio.  Pilates is a rather….picky sort of workout.  Most studios require a few private lessons before they allow you into group classes (this philosophy protects both you and the equipment).  I wandered on in to Urban Front Pilates, and was set up for lessons with Sue.  Sue is a mom of three (including twins!!), has a dance background, and could see my “cheats” from a mile away.

She lets me get away with exactly nothing.

As a result of working with Sue once a week, I’ve never felt better.  My core is stronger than it’s ever been (even before kids), Mike refers to my bum as a work of art [snort], and my posture?  Well.  We’re still working on that.  But it’s improved dramatically.

The fact that my guys, Mike and my little ones, have allowed me – no, encouraged me –  to get healthy, to take time (and money, let’s be real) to focus on my own health has been the greatest gift I could ever ask for.  Any mama knows how hard it is to create time and space for yourself, and the fact that they’ve never once made me feel guilty…well.  That’s been everything.  So if there’s one silver lining to All That Cancer Nonsense, it’s that Mike and I have both started making our health a priority.

Now if only we could get his ski boots fixed…..

(BTW – huge thanks for the comments on my earlier article – I’m calling that guy in the Poconos stat.)

Keep reading for some seriously fun pics from my latest Pilates session with Sue, as well as a little round-up of items (for girls and guys) that would not only make perfect gifts, but serve as some serious inspiration to live The Sweat Life in 2017.

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October 17, 2016

Survivorship Issues and The LOFT Cares Card For Breast Cancer Research

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Pax is looking at old pictures.  “Who is that, Mom?” he asks.  I look over his little shoulder, allowing myself a brief moment of silence for the death of yet another Baby Pax Phrase (rest in peace “WHO DAT”), and then turn my attention to the photo. 

It’s me.  The women he’s pointing to…is me.  The picture is an old one, but it’s of Pax and I.  Pax’s chubby face is smeared with brown smoothie (I went through a terrible kale-and-strawberry smoothie phase – don’t recommend it), and my face is snuggled up into his neck.  My hair – or lack thereof – is a dead giveaway.  It’s only two inches long, but other than that, I look healthy and happy.  I’m shocked Pax doesn’t recognize me.

“Remember when Mum was sick all of the time?” I ask Pax.   He nods, slowly.  He knows he’s supposed to know this.  His older brother saunters over, glances at the photo.  “Yeah….that was Mom’s chemo, Pax.  But you were just a baby.”  Raines’ tone is flippant.  He flops down next to us, with all of the swagger of an 8 year old boy.   Then plants a sweet kiss on my cheek.  “I’m glad that’s over, huh Mom?”

Um.  Yes.

My boys’ view of my breast cancer can be summarized like this:  it happened, it sucked, and now it’s done.  Bye! 

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But the thing about breast cancer is that it’s never really over.  There are genetic tests to be run, Tamoxifen side effects to be managed, fake boobs to be groped periodically, and – if things get really exciting – uterine biopsies “just in case”.  And ultrasounds.  Oh, the ultrasounds.

In the last two years, I’ve had more ultrasounds than both pregnancies combined.  At first, the ultrasounds were really depressing, not just for the typical reasons – hello, stirrups – but because they seemed like some sort of bad cosmic joke.  A haha, she thought she was going to have another baby but instead she got breast cancer – at least the ultrasounds are the same!! kind of joke.  I would lie there, blinking back tears and resentment.

But life goes on, and our new normal actually started to feel…normal.  Fun, even – with two growing boys there is plenty of fun.  So we adapted to our new normal,  which for me, means ultrasound after ultrasound after ultrasound.  For my last one, I decided to make the best of it and brought a book.  “I’m just going to ignore you” I informed the ultrasound tech, lifting my feet into the stirrups and scooching my butt to the edge of the bed.  “It’s nothing personal, I’m just trying to carve out some me time.”

I mean.  Desperate times.

A friend of mine refers to these breast cancer….extras (extra worries, extra tests, extra sleepless nights) as “Survivorship Issues.” 

I LOVE this phrase, Survivorship Issues.   I love it because it reminds me that I’m one of the lucky ones.  Yeah, the ultrasounds suck, and there are too many days where I battle my own anxieties (it’s a totally weird thing, calculating the age you can safely die knowing your children will be OK – my mother assures me this is both totally normal AND completely effing meaningless), and the phrase Survivorship Issues reminds me that all of these anxieties and tests and extra appointments and – yes – even the Tamoxifan side effects are all because I made it.  I survived.  I’m a survivor. 

So yeah.  Bring on allllll the issues.

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By October 17, 2016 9 No tags Permalink
July 9, 2016

My Piece on Comfort (Featured in Sapien Magazine)

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A few months ago, Jordan, the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sapien Magazine (a new, online publication) reached out:  “I’m in the process of starting my own magazine” she wrote.  “It’s going to be all about exploring what it means to be human, and what it looks beyond the phone and computer screen. Embracing messy homes and burnt attempted recipes.  Trying to stray away from all things curated, but still praising the beauty and prettiness in mistakes.”

Jordan asked if I would submit a piece on the theme of comfort for the inaugural issue.  Her goal of creating something beautiful and real – something untethered by Pinterest perfection – really resonated with me, so I said yes.  Yes to the messes and to the mistakes and to finding beauty in our everyday reality.

So I cleared my schedule, made some coffee, and sat down to write.

Writing, however, is a funny thing.  I don’t really consider myself a writer – blogging is inherently different; you simply write about whatever is on your mind at the time – but a writing assignment?  Did I, in fact, actually have something to say on the topic of comfort?

My early drafts read like a dreary senior essay, What Comfort Means to Me.  Good lord.  So I threw it all away, and closed my eyes.  “Comfort” I thought.  “What comes to mind?”  My comfort is my boys, their arms wrapped around my neck, the heaviness of their bodies in my arms.  The scent of my husband.  His scruffy face on my lips.

Opening my eyes, I started to write.  It turns out I did have something to say.  And true to form, the writing was a release.  An acceptance, of sorts.  And I was so honored by Jordan’s words on the piece:

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the very personal essay written by @shanachristine on our blog last week. In it, she writes about the comfort she- and her young son- found in her body after a life changing event. Her piece is both funny and heartbreaking, and highlights the resilience of survivors everywhere.

If you’d like to read it, my article can be found here.

Hope you are all enjoying your weekend, and, despite recent events, finding comfort.

xo,

S

By July 9, 2016 17 No tags Permalink
October 5, 2015

My Feature in Runner’s World Mag (And Why I Run)

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A few months ago, Runner’s World called.  They’re doing a monthly street style feature, they said.  Would I be interested?

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I immediately SWOONED and fell out of my chair.  A few smelling salts later, I responded:  YES.  For me, this is better than Vogue.

I’ve always been runner.  I was born into a family of runners.  In fact, some of my earliest memories involve cheering on the sidelines as my mom (or my Dad) ran by.   We’d jump into the car and drive to the next checkpoint; I remember playing dress-up with my mom’s medals.   This was the era of tall striped socks, short shorts and sweatbands.  Runner’s World Magazine was always on our coffee table.

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By October 5, 2015 34 No tags Permalink
May 23, 2015

Hey There, Long Weekend.

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Happy Memorial Day weekend!  This weekend is one of my favs – I like to think of it as a little calm before the end-of-school storm.  And it’s been pretty stormy ’round the Draugelis household.  Pax summarized things very nicely the other day:

“MOM!  Why you make ALL DA PRAHBUMS FOR ME?”

Good freaking question.

But first of all, I gots my boobs done.  Again.  Well, specifically, “the nipples”. (Don’t you hate that word? Even quotes can’t help.)  Anyway, I had some long-overdue nipple reconstruction last week which was supposed to be no big thang but was totally a big thang because DOCTORS THEY LIE.  So after a little oops with the lidocain and also a small infection and round of antibiotics my frankenboobs and I are as good as new.  Or as good as frankenboobs can be, anyway.

So this seems like a good time to say WELCOME NEW READERS!  [snort] Congrats to those who have not run screaming yet!  (To catch you up:  breast cancer, blah blah blah, mastectomy, etc, blah blah blah, all is fine, blah blah blah, getting a nipple tattoo sometime next month.  Stay tuned for over-sharing and maybe even some borderline-inappropriate pictures.  Welcome to The Mom Edit.)

Now, onto bigger and better things. Namely, shopping.

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March 10, 2015

Double Vs. Single Mastectomy? What I Wish I Knew

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There’s so much support in the breast cancer world (truly, there are no adequate words to describe how amazing the support can be)…yet I found that there is also some overly enthusiastic “HOORAH!” surrounding reconstruction after a mastectomy.  If I had a dollar every time someone told me I would have a “beautiful result”…good grief Charlie Brown.

I have, by all accounts, a “beautiful result”.  I was treated by some of the top surgeons in the country, my cleavage (in most lights) is a sight to behold, and my perky, full breasts defy gravity.  

However:  they are not real.  Up close, without the bra, they do not look real, they do not feel real, they do not act real.  A beautiful result from a horrifying and monstrous surgery?  You bet.  But beautiful, real breasts? NOPE.

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November 9, 2014

#fightinglikeagirl Giveaway Winners

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This picture was taken days before my final chemo treatment one year ago, yet it feels like a lifetime has passed.  I know that some point I will stop noting the passage of time by cancer-related milestones (one year ago I was getting my last chemo, a few days later, my last chemo-related ER visit, etc.)  but I’m not there yet.  Instead, I often find myself off-kilter, like an outside observer of my life.  It’s a feeling I fight.

I had another checkup with my oncologist last week at Penn.  (Everything is totally fine, they just like to keep close tabs on you.)  We talked about how I’m tolerating the daily tamoxifan (good), and how my energy levels aren’t quite up to par.  My oncologist had promised that they’d return to normal levels in a year, and next week will mark one year since my last chemo, soooooo……WHADDUP, Doc?  Right?

Yeah. Well.  As it turns out, chemo is, uh, not the nicest substance on the planet.  Life saving, to be sure, but it breaks you down.  Like, really and truly breaks your body down.  Recovering from chemo isn’t like taking a few months off from working out, it’s a whole different ball game.  In fact, it doesn’t sound like a game at all.  My oncologist’s exact words were, “If you ever want to run again, really and truly be a runner….you’re going to have to fight for it.”

I guess I’m not done fighting.

 

I’ve been putting off choosing the winners for this giveaway.  There were just so many names:  250, to be exact.  And in the comments, all of the heartbreak is there:  my mom, my aunt, my sister, my mother-in-law, my best friend.  There are moms of two, women who are pregnant, and a mom who is also dealing with the loss of a child.

In this fight, I wish I was well and truly alone.

But you, dear readers, have been so amazingly supportive.  Both of me and my own personal fight, and now of these women.  Together we raised enough money to spoil FOUR women currently fighting breast cancer with a $250 Stella & Dot shopping spree, plus a $100 gift card of their choosing.  (I was thinking grocery stores but if they want Nordstroms I totally get it, LOL)  Here are our giveaway winners (I’ll be emailing each of you as well):

 

1.  Elisa R – nominated Terry I  (Terry I, if you are reading, the universe really wanted you to win because the next THREE names picked by a random generator had all nominated you as well.  Isn’t that crazy??)

2.  Jennifer Y – nominated Lauren H

3. Jodi B – nominated Kristina M

4.  Oh Judy – nominated Jennifer Z

 

Thank you – so much, so very, very much – to all of you who supported our #fightinglikeagirl trunk show.  Love and light you babes.  Keep fighting the good fight.

S

By November 9, 2014 9 No tags Permalink
October 5, 2014

Know Anyone Currently Fighting Breast Cancer? We Want To Spoil Them Rotten (And Please: You Can Help)

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So it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, aka “Pinktober,” the often sarcastic moniker used by breast cancer survivors.  It’s odd, but as a survivor, all of the October hoopla surrounding breast cancer awareness is often….overwhelming.

It’s not that I don’t like pink, pink is fine.  It’s just that among the often insincere pushing of “awareness” products (one catalog came to our house filled with pages of pink ribbons and pencils and mugs but literally zero donations associated with purchase) – why pink, specifically?

I associate pink with all things girly and feminine.  Pink is flirty, pink is giggly, pink is young girls in princess dresses and birthday cakes and celebrations!  Yay!!!  And this is the crux of my problem:  Pink embodies the exact things that breast cancer strips away.  Breast cancer took my breasts, my hair, my ability to conceive.  While I was going through chemo, my sex drive tanked, I often felt like a 90 year old woman, and I missed countless celebrations (like my son’s 3rd birthday).  You want to talk about feminine whiles?  Yeah, right.  Flirting and giggling were like long lost fuzzy memories.  They were something a girl who looked vaguely like me may have done a long, long time ago.

Breast cancer isn’t pink.  It’s fucking black.

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By October 5, 2014 24 No tags Permalink
June 24, 2014

My Trick For Taming Short, Curly Hair on Humid Days at the Beach

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 (wearing: Free People leopard wideband, Tarte Power Pigment in flush, J.Crew star teesimilar sweatshirt both 30% off with code HISUMMER)

I’ve been working with these short, post-chemo curls as best I can.  But the one area that – ALMOST – completely beat me down was the beach (or pool).  Basically, any place where you combine wind, insane humidity, and the potential for a dunking was a total and complete disaster.  Remember when my hair was this short?  Yeah – in hindsight, that hair rocked.  This?  This length is just long enough to be trouble.

Don’t believe me?  Let’s take a pop quiz.  In the picture below, choose the answer that best describes how this hair will look when dry (feel free to use the helpful hints below):

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