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Mother’s Day

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A Match for Ellen

Longtime Bright Pink supporter, Brianna Meade, shares her personal connection to Bright Pink’s mission as well as her special relationship with her mother, Ellen.

Throughout the month of May, Brianna and her family are matching all donations (up to $10,000) through the Ellen Marks Cancer Foundation, a foundation created to honor her mother’s legacy. Read on to learn more about Brianna and how she’s honoring her mother’s legacy by being proactive about her health.

Hometown

Chicago

How did you first hear about Bright Pink?

I met the founder Lindsay [Avner] through a mutual friend and was so inspired to hear about Bright Pink’s work.

Why did you and your family choose to support Bright Pink?

My mother carried the BRCA2 gene (unknowingly) and she passed away eight years ago due to complications with her long fight with metastatic breast cancer.

I underwent genetic testing, not knowing that my mother was a carrier. I had people, even doctors, telling me I did not fit the typical profile for a carrier, which is ridiculous because I do indeed have the BRCA2 gene. Due to a positive test, I immediately went to my OBGYN only to find out I had breast cancer. I was only 33. I had a radical double mastectomy eight days after my diagnosis followed by months of treatment. So to say the cause [Bright Pink] is near and dear to our heart is almost an understatement.

What do you want our community to know about your mother?

It’s hard to explain how much you love your mother in words, right?

I was beyond lucky to have her. Even though it wasn’t long enough, she taught me how to be the strong woman I am today. She was wise, loving, deeply caring, an adventure seeker, classy, intelligent and someone people came to for advice.

She was private about her health struggle, (it was incredibly hard on her) and there was nothing more she wanted then to be here right now [today]. She was the fiercest fighter I have ever met, all while doing it with dignity and grace.

What are your favorite memories of your mom?

There are so many; she was my best friend. The person I called every morning, noon and night. But I’ll go with the last great memory we had together. We went to Paris for my 30th birthday. It was a magical time for me, I was always in awe of my mother and there was just something so alluring about her. On this trip, I felt like she was finally letting me in on all of her little ways and secrets, and I just gobbled it all up. We laughed and talked for hours on that trip and it’s burned into my memory.

How can people learn more about the Ellen Marks foundation?

It’s a foundation my family started in honor of our mom. We work primarily with cancer charities and [we] have a close relationship with Northshore Hospitals.

Advice for fellow moms?

Oh gosh, I don’t know we are all just trying our best!  I guess I would say just try and be present, honest and open with them [children]. My two little ones are my whole world and I made a promise to myself to shower them with love, honesty, and openness while also giving them discipline when needed and structure.

Also please make time for yourself when it comes to your health! My son was six months old when I undergone genetic testing, and seven months old when I was diagnosed. I am beyond thankful I made my health a priority even during the throes of new motherhood.

What do you want other women to know about taking control of their health?

I’d love to see the fear come out of it. I hear sometimes, “oh I’d just rather not know,” or “it’s too scary to find out my genetic history.” I always say it’s actually scarier not to know!

Knowledge is power, take that in. You can be proactive about something that could change the trajectory of your life. You become empowered with knowledge and options instead of fear and worry.   

Any Words of Wisdom on how to make prevention a priority?

To put it simply, I may not be here right now if I didn’t make my health and prevention a priority. I found my cancer at a treatable stage but do I wish I had known about this [BRCA] gene earlier in life so I could have taken the route of prevention instead of treatment. I can’t change that. I did change [my narraritive] when it came to getting my preventative oophorectomy last year. I was ready and felt very empowered by my choice of prevention.

It’s 2019 and it’s time to evolve and to start a new way of thinking about our health.

 

#MoreForMom

Mama Motivation

Curious about what motherhood has to do with breast and ovarian health?

Becoming a mom is quite an undertaking, both emotionally and physically. Our bodies go through changes, and while some of them more visible than others (oh, hello stomach wrinkles), a few of those changes impact our breast and ovarian cancer risk!

Let’s start with pregnancy.  Pregnancy transforms and stabilizes the cells in our breasts that comprise milk-producing glands and ducts, so the earlier this transformation happens, the lower the risk of breast cancer. Some studies have shown that women with first pregnancies under the age of 30 have a 40-50% lower risk of breast cancer than women who gave birth later or who were never pregnant.

Pregnancy can also reduce your risk of ovarian cancer. During pregnancy, your body is not ovulating. The lack of our monthly cycle during this time decreases the amount of ovarian cell activity and therefore the number of chances for ovarian cells to “go rogue” during cell division.

Breastfeeding can also play a role in your risk reduction strategy. Though breastfeeding may not be for everyone, breastfeeding for 1-2 years (not necessarily consecutively), can lower your risk for both breast and ovarian cancer. When breastfeeding, many women do not ovulate. So similarly to pregnancy, this break in ovarian cell activity can be protective for your ovaries, and all decreases the amount of estrogen in your body.  It also may reduce a female baby’s overall risk of developing breast cancer later in her life.

During pregnancy and breastfeeding, our breasts go through a TON of changes (thank you hormones).. In order to practice breast self-awareness during this time, It’s important to know what changes are expected, and what might merit a conversation with a provider. Although pregnancy associated with breast cancer is rare, it is important to be aware of the possibility. Make sure you notify your provider about any new symptoms including the following:

Breast changes during pregnancy and breastfeeding:

  • Tenderness & discomfort
  • Enlargement
  • Blue veins
  • Darker areolas
  • Areola bumps
  • Nipple discharge of colostrum, a thick yellow liquid that boosts the immune function of newborns in the very early stages of breastfeeding
  • Growth
  • Stretch marks

Things to bring to your provider:

  • Unusual nipple discharge that is unlike colostrum
  • Breast lumps. Usually, these lumps are not a cause for concern. They are often either: galactoceles, which are clogged milk ducts, or fibroadenomas, which are benign breast tumors. These symptoms are likely to be harmless, but it is a good idea to have an expert take a look because of how complicated our lady parts can be during this time
  • Swelling, soreness or rash
  • Warmth, redness or darkening
  • Dimpling or puckering of skin
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on nipple
  • Nipple that becomes flat or inverted
  • New, persistent pain in one spot
  • Persistent itching
  • Bumps that resemble bug bites
  • Cyst (benign mass made of water) including galactoceles and fibroadenomas.

If a new or suspicious symptom does arise in pregnancy, your provider may recommend consultation with a breast radiologist for diagnostic imaging of the breast. During pregnancy, the imaging work up usually starts with an ultrasound. During breast feeding, a mammogram may sometimes also be performed along with an ultrasound for evaluation in a patient with symptoms. If you are breastfeeding and a mammogram is going to be performed, your radiologist will likely ask you to pump or feed before the mammogram. Some breast centers have hospital grade pumps available, but if you’re more comfortable with your own, bring it just in case!

For high-risk women without symptoms who have started an annual screening program, mammograms and MRI examinations will not be performed during pregnancy. However, bilateral whole breast ultrasound is a great alternative screening tool during pregnancy. Although mammograms can be obtained during breastfeeding, they are limited due to lactation changes and again bilateral whole breast screening ultrasound may be a good alternative for screening during this time in high-risk patients. You can contact your breast imaging center to find out when they recommend resuming annual screening mammography after pregnancy (most places recommend 3-6 months after breast feeding). Screening MRI can be resumed once breast feeding is finished.

The ongoing struggle: managing motherhood and your health

Motherhood comes with so many rewards, but also great challenges. Balancing the demands of family responsibilities along with other life pressures can be tricky. The one thing that should not be sacrificed amongst it all is Y-O-U! It is imperative to take time to keep up with your annual well-woman exams, cancer screenings, and healthy lifestyle behaviors. Not only for your own health but to also set a wonderful example for your children!

Here are some resources for the moms in our community managing their breast and ovarian health while raising kids:

#MoreForMom

Grief & Mother’s Day: 5 ways to thrive

Some believe that grief is the last act of love we have to give to those who have transitioned. I think that grief is love with nowhere to go.   -Simone Banks

Mother’s Day can be a triggering time of year for those whose mother or mother-figure has passed on. Between the incredibly moving commercials, Target aisle displays, social media posts, and everything in-between, we understand that this time of year can be difficult. We recently spoke with Simone Banks, counselor, about how to truly thrive.

Feel all the feelings you want to feel

Emotions are like waves, and I genuinely believe that they have to rise and fall in a safe place as they please. It’s ok to be sad leading up to Mother’s Day, and it’s ok to think about all of the things you wish they were here for, and it’s ok to feel not much of anything. Give yourself time and space to be sad, angry, happy and anything in between.

Homework: have some alone time leading up to Mother’s Day, write in a journal, write your mother/ mother-figure a letter, practice self-care and be patient with yourself and your feelings.

Talk about them to someone who understands

When losing a loved one, talking about them and how they made an impact on your life will help you not only practice gratitude, but also feel that you are not alone. Grief can make you feel like you are the only one feeling this way and talking it out will help.

Homework: talk to the people that knew your mother/ mother-figure the best and discuss all the things you loved about them. Whether it is reminiscing about a funny story, watching home videos together, or simply listening to stories about how they were when they were younger.

Honor their memory daily

I learned this tip from my mom; when a loved one passes away, remember and honor them by enhancing your life with one of their greatest qualities. Whether it was their business acumen or their artistic flair, try to bring that to your own experience as a daily tribute.

Homework: Write down three things you truly loved about them and pick one that you can incorporate into your life. If there was a cause or mission that they were very passionate about, supporting that cause is one way to continue their legacy.

Have a Mother’s Day Game Plan

Decide earlier in the week how you plan to spend the day. Mother’s Day is a time to practice self-care and boundaries. Minimalize your triggers and focus on how you feel in the moment. You do not have to have a by-the-hour plan, however, having a general idea of how you plan on spending the morning, afternoon and evening of Mother’s Day is a major key.

Homework: Carve out some quiet time the morning of Mother’s Day and think of your loved one. You can either do some of their favorite things or eat their favorite food. Consider letting others in your life know that you may be off-line for the morning (or longer if you choose to). It is best to have a plan that involves others during the day and a plan if you decide to be alone.

Create new traditions

Your mother/ mother-figure would want you to live a full life and it is ok to show them that you are growing from sadness. It does not mean you do not miss or love them any less or that they are forgotten. Honor them by living every moment of your life to the best of your ability. Put a new spin on traditions you shared together, remember the love, and spread those warm feelings to others.

Homework: Think of one of your best day(s) ever with your loved one. What did that day consist of? A great breakfast? An amazing movie? A hike in your favorite park? Do not be afraid to continue to experience great days with the people in your life. Honor them by creating new memories and by living your very best life.

Simone French Hall Banks M.Ed is a counselor in Charlotte, North Carolina. She has her Bachelors of Arts in History from Howard University and her Masters of Education in Counselor Education from Louisiana State University. Simone is passionate about helping women, people of color, and the LGBTQIA+ community. In her free time, she loves to explore Charlotte, NC with her husband, Christopher.

#MoreForMom

Do More For Mom

Mama, you are appreciated.”   -2Pac

This Mother’s Day we are celebrating and honoring the incredible women who have helped to mold us into the empowered and kick-ass women we are today.

At Bright Pink, we’re proud to provide important programs and resources that help women better understand and manage their breast and ovarian cancer risk. And this Mother’s Day, we’re giving you an opportunity to pay it forward so even more women can be impacted by our work.  When you make a gift in celebration of your mom, mother-figure, or mom’s everywhere, now through the end of May, all donations, (up to $10,000), will be matched thanks to the Ellen Marks Foundation. This Match for Mom is just way to do #moreformom at this special time of year. For all donations made via our Classy page, you will get a special e-card to pass along to a mom you love.

Your gift will help us ensure more mom’s everywhere can live healthier, happier, longer lives. Because when women are healthy, families are strong, communities prosper, and the world is brighter.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Risk-Reduction Lifestyle

This Mother’s Day #GoAskYourMother

Bright Pink is committed to helping you become your own best advocate for your health. There are many things you can do to protect your health and discussing and understanding your family health history is one that is extremely important. Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 14 and Bright Pink wants you to #GoAskYourMother about your family health history.

Breast and ovarian cancer are often linked in families, collecting your history can help you understand where you fall on the risk spectrum.

1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime and 1 in 75 women will develop ovarian cancer. If there’s family history of these cancers the risk could be higher. Having one first degree relative with breast cancer can increase risk by twofold. Also, a genetic predisposition can increase breast cancer risk to up to 87% and ovarian cancer risk up to 54%.

We want you to use this Mother’s Day as an opportunity to begin an important dialogue with Mom (and ask Dad, too!)

Don’t know where to start? Bright Pink has you covered. In an effort to get this important conversation rolling we created a Family Health History form.

Help us spread the word! Snap a picture with Mom, tag Bright Pink, and use the hashtag #GoAskYourMother on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Visit GoAskYourMother.org for more details.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

Personal Stories

Jenny’s Story

My first experience with breast cancer was when my mom was diagnosed when I was eight. She had stage 3, triple negative breast cancer which was a rare kind.

She went through surgeries to remove the tumors and the cancer would go away but a few months later it would come back. It eventually spread to her lungs, bones and lymph nodes. It kept going like a cycle; the cancer would be removed and we’d celebrate, then it would come back, then removed again, then back.

For 3 years, I watched my mom deteriorate and get weaker and weaker. When I was 11 years old, my mom died.

I’ve always been determined to not let the cancer win which is why I always try to use my mom’s death to make me stronger. I am in college now and am hoping to go on to medical school and become a doctor and help women.

I am also aware that I have a higher risk for breast cancer which makes me more aware of my health and checking myself monthly for any lumps or other symptoms. I hope people can be inspired by my story and know that they can use the bad things that happen in their lives as inspiration to go on and be stronger.


This Mother’s Day, start a conversation about your family health history. Because understanding how your family history affects your health is one of the most important and impact things you can do for yourself. BrightPink.org/FamilyHistory

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