Water We Waiting For?

sun and cloudsOkay, I just have to get something off my chest (and this from a woman who has no breasts!) Out here in sunny California, it’s … well … it’s sunny. It was sunny last year. It was sunny earlier this year. It was sunny last month. It’s sunny right now. I’m pretty sure you can see the pattern.

I’ve lived in California for the majority of my adult life, so I know a thing or two about dry, but if there is something dryer than dry, this is it. In fact, it’s so dry, the sand is complaining.

I’m making light of this, but I’m here to tell you when it doesn’t rain for months on end, you can start to go a little crazy. As I write this, I can’t honestly say when we last had any measurable rainfall here, but I do remember that when I heard it on the roof, I was transfixed. I hadn’t realized just how soothing the sound of rain can be at night when you are going to sleep.

So here I am complaining about being parched, and just a state or so over, they are having floods – or tornados – or hurricanes – or something equally unwanted and abnormal.

As if having strange weather hasn’t been on everyone’s radar long enough, now we apparently have Enteroviruses and Ebola thrown into the mix. I know October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, but it seems to me we live in a world so fraught with possible catastrophes, we may have to simply dedicate a day to each and, well, call it a day!

Heck, I thought I had a lot on my plate just worrying about breast cancer! Now, I’m living in a place and time where I may be forced to see the wisdom in my mother’s use of spit on a Kleenex to wipe smudges off my face. (If your mother did not do this, please don’t tell me, because when I complained my mother always said it was what mothers do!)

And speaking of mothers, I’m inclined to think that Mother Nature has a plan. I’m not quite sure what it is since she doesn’t ask for my input, but I am pretty sure if we don’t get in the way, she’ll create the necessary balance.

In the meantime, out here in sunny California I’m doing my best to remember to conserve water wherever and whenever possible. I’m also determined not to let today’s headlines add more fear to my life since breast cancer has already tried its best to make sure I sleep with one eye open.

As a sun worshiper, I’m beginning to think I just may have to learn how to do a rain dance, and if you’ve ever seen me dance, you know it won’t be pretty.

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Blessings in Disguise

eden modeling for amoena in a red swimsuitIt is so easy to dwell on what cancer has taken from me. But I work hard to see the blessings that have come from it. And they continue to pour down like rain. Amoena is one of those blessings that have opened doors for even more blessings. Amoena allowed me to do what most girls only dream of. I was a real model in a magazine and it was for an amazing cause true to my heart! That gave me the courage to walk a runway in front of strangers!

A woman with breast cancer is stripped down of everything as a woman. Physically, mentally and emotionally. You feel ugly inside and out. Amoena reminded us that we are still beautiful! Even with our scars! So when I was asked to be a model in this amazing fundraiser called Art Bra Austin, I didn’t even hesitate! I said sign me up! I had the confidence I thought I would never have. Art Bra Austin is such an amazing gala where breast cancer survivors get to model these amazing bras that local artists have made so that we can auction them off and raise money for the Breast Cancer Resource Center here in Austin.

There truly are no words to describe the feeling you have on that runway. When you have been sick, wondering if you will survive, whether you are still battling or in remission… on that stage you are invincible! Strong, fierce, courageous! For that moment you almost forget your reality. Not only are you reminding yourself what you are worth, but you are giving other women the courage to believe in themselves and remember how beautiful and amazing they are! I stood on that stage next to women who were recovering from their chemo from the day before or just days out from surgery. Beautiful warriors we are! How blessed I am to stand alongside these women!

Living to tell my story so that I can make a difference! It just doesn’t get any better then that!!

Posted in Amoena Life magazine, Breast Cancer Awareness, Breast Cancer Survivors, Lifestyle, My Story, Positive Thinking, Support Groups, Young Survivors | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Equation for a Good Night’s Rest

No doubt about it, sleep is important. Getting a good night’s rest became even more important to me after my cancer diagnosis. Yes, it was important because my body was fatigued and tired more often than not. But, as I began to enter ‘recovery’ and my ‘new normal’, I needed rest to ensure that I would have enough energy to realize my biggest goal and dream of 2014 — to complete a triathlon!

I think there are three essential elements to a good night’s sleep.
(1) Cozy Pj’s
(2) Perfect pillow
(3) Silky sheets

woman in pajamas

Carletta at home, in Amoena’s Daydream pajama set in Violet.

I spent 10 weeks this year training for a triathlon. It required many early AM workouts, so I couldn’t afford to not have a good night’s rest. Amoena’s Daydream pajamas, which I received as an Amoena Ambassador, are phenomenal. They are soft and comfy. Just what the doctor ordered for blissful night of rest. In addition to the soft, coziness of the pajamas, they are also very stylish. I love the fact that I can lounge in my PJs or even take a walk to my mailbox (there’s a bra built-in!). That’s what having a pair of stylish pj’s affords me. Whoever says that style and comfort can’t exist together has never owned Amoena’s nightwear!

I have always been a woman who loves the perfect pillow. However, after my mastectomy, the pillows that I once deemed perfect were not doing the job. With a new fervor, I went into a new perfect pillow search because I believe wholeheartedly it must exist for good rest. After a couple of duds, I finally found two pillows that fit the bill — the bamboo pillow and chill pillow. I switch between the two during the night. The chill pillow is perfect when hot flashes hit, while the bamboo pillow is soft yet firm. Sliding into silky sheets in my cozy pj’s with my perfect pillows is a setup for just about the best rest ever!

With all three of my critical needs in place for a good night’s rest, I was well rested for early morning workouts. You might have heard, I managed to complete my goal and cross the triathlon finish. (Yay!!) Training is over for now. But, the need for a great night’s sleep is ongoing. We must never underestimate a good night’s rest. It starts with a good pair of pajamas! You won’t be disappointed in Amoena’s Home collection, I can vouch for that.

Happy sleeping!

Signed, the well rested one, Carletta ;-)

Posted in Amoena Fashion, Breast Cancer Recovery, Breast Cancer Survivors, Healthy Living, Mastectomy Products, Wellness | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Weekly Photo Contest! #missionstrength

breast cancer survivorsA lot of companies and media outlets are about to start focusing on breast cancer survivors and their inspiring stories. Amoena has been focused on you for nearly 40 years, and we want to share your stories of strength all year.

This week, our new Amoena Life magazine is out — we hope you have received yours in the mail — and to celebrate, we’re having a photo contest. Since the magazine is also the debut of our Mission Strength Amoena Ambassadors, Ginger, Eden, and Carletta, we’re going to hashtag the contest in their honor!

Post a photo of you with your copy of Amoena Life magazine, and the hashtag #missionstrength — or your copy of the newest Breast Cancer Wellness magazine, which includes an Amoena mini-mag! — and we’ll put you in this week’s prize drawing. The pics can be posted anywhere –  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or you can email us! This week’s contest will run from today, Monday, 9/8 through Friday, 9/12. Have fun!

See the full contest rules here.

 

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9.12.01

Editor’s note: Contributor Marcia Butler shares an illuminating perspective in this personal essay, connecting us in another way as we remember September 11, 2001.

 

One day in the early 1970s, a friend and I played hooky from college classes and on a lark, went down to the vast construction site where the Twin Towers were being erected. Somehow we were able to slip into an elevator in the South Tower, punch a very high number and ride up to one of the top floors still under construction. A few workmen were milling about, but no one stopped us or paid any attention to our wide-eyed shenanigans. The site was surprisingly deserted, at least on the floor we happened upon.

Walking out into the yet-to-be-constructed offices, we felt simultaneously inside and outside. The wind was whipping through the open space, because the windows, all stacked up against those now famous thick interior columns, had not yet been installed. Curious and brave, we walked towards those huge gaping cavities, and for a moment we really did feel on top of the world. Hand in hand, we ventured right to the brim, without fear or hard hats. We felt giddy, as the building swayed, and we gripped each other more tightly.

The Trade Towers had been controversial, considered potential eyesores in the Wall Street area. No one wanted the towers to be built, just as years later, no one wanted the Time Warner towers to be built at Columbus Circle. But these behemoths ultimately do get built, and eventually everyone gets used to them. We forget about the resistance and drama surrounding new construction in our city and the worries of how it will impact our beloved skyline, which is always changing like cumulus clouds. The New York City skyline is imbedded in our consciousness and yet, it slowly undulates with the gradual and inevitable new construction that is the hallmark of progress.

Through the years, I began to feel a crazy personal ownership of the towers, remembering them as the enormous lumbering babies I met when I snuck into that elevator and walked to the very hilt, looking out onto my vast city. I saw a view that few had yet seen. That very special bird’s eye view: surely higher than any other building at the tip of Lower Manhattan, and even in the whole city. That view was just for my friend, the construction guys and me. As we looked out of the wide-open holes in the walls, we were inured to the height and the expanse and the potential danger of the tower’s verticality. Out and about in the city, I found myself looking southward often, and feeling comforted; there they were, just as they should be, a solid visual homing beacon. Those Twin Towers were my towers. I loved them so. They were just there, being their looming selves: over the Woolworth Building and 40 Wall Street, dwarfing those eschewed edifices of the past by dozens of floors.

On the day they fell, imploding a bit too perfectly into themselves, I hunkered down in front of the tube, feeling ghoulish, and watched the horror unfolding less than a mile away from my house in Sunnyside Gardens, Queens. And as the wind shifted into the evening, my house began to fill with the smell of smoke and perhaps minute particles of the detritus of God knows what. I went to bed that night with the windows closed up, trying to ward off that odor of death and pulverized computers, papers and ephemera of life that made up the Trade Towers and everything trapped inside. The very concrete that I may have stepped on as I emerged from the elevator that day over 40 years ago, just might have been seeping into my house in Queens, over the East River on the night of 9/11/01. As I tried to sleep that night, I inhaled my baby towers; an odor that I imagined contained my own young and ancient footsteps.

But on 9/11/01, what was really on my mind was the appointment scheduled at my radiologist’s office for 9/12/01, at 9:00 am. As the day of the 11th plodded on, with the tragedy unfolding literally minute by minute, a grim and very selfish thought began to surface at the edge of my chemo-brain. I was recovering from a grueling year of cancer treatment: post surgery; post chemo; post radiation. I had just begun running again. My skull was sprouting what would become a fantastic plume of gray hair. And I was scheduled to have my brand new baseline x-rays, which would tell the new story of my now non-cancerous breasts. What if my appointment was cancelled due to the Twin Towers collapsing?

Of course, no one was in the doctor’s office to answer my repeated calls. The phone service all over New York City was sketchy at best. I felt sheepish and embarrassed to even bother with this silly detail in my small life. My gigantic baby towers were gone and my breasts needed to be photographed. The Towers and The Breasts: like the title of a bad soap opera, just cancelled by the networks.

The morning of the 12th at 6:30 am, the call came from my doctor; they would see a few patients who needed crucial scans and I was one. “Come on in, if you can.”

Walking to the subway, I sensed a tentative calm in the air, not yet to be trusted. The streets and stores were empty, save for a few stalwart Korean delis. Most people had undoubtedly been glued to the TV all night and were still watching, or were drifting off to sleep into an unwanted day off. Miraculously, the 7 trains were running and I boarded the Manhattan-bound subway with a few others, our eyes meeting, but mostly behaving as if we were going into work as usual.

I sat on the side of the train that faced north. As the elevated subway went into its big turn just after the Queensboro Plaza station, it suddenly occurred to me to turn around and look south. The gesture was an instinct. My southward view had just cleared the Citigroup Building. With this building in the foreground, the Twin Towers would have emerged. But they were gone. What appeared in their stead was the most beautifully sculpted double billow of thick smoke imaginable. They were solidly planted where the towers had been, almost as if they were new structures, and not going anywhere. Casper-like billows: ghostly. Monumental bulbous balloons of grey steely smoke, the wind unable to dissipate their sheer density. The towers had been rearranged into a softer effect; not the huge phallic-like structures that everyone griped about in the ’70s when I was a college student. No, these might be kind and gentle and forgiving towers, because they were now not only made of concrete and steel, but also of lives lost. Mixed up in the chaos of these gentle smoke stacks were countless bodies, pulverized into a massive, vertical sandy compost heap. Is that what I inhaled the night before? This thought roiled in my guts and I bent down to retch onto the floor of the train. My fellow commuters looked away.

The radiologist’s office was on Madison Avenue, a building of solid steel, concrete, granite and glass. The elevator let me out into an intact hallway. Doors to the offices were wide open; a few bald comrades sat, waiting. Angels disguised as doctors in white coats had flocked to this solid building to quell my fears and complete my treatment, taking the pictures that would become my breast’s new baby pictures, to gaze at and refer to in subsequent years. 9/12/01 was the end of my cancer journey. On that day, I began my final stage of healing. The killing of my cancer was complete, and my beloved baby Twin Towers had died too.

NationalMemorial

9/11 National Memorial & Museum, New York.

 

Marcia ButlerCreativity has been the driving force in Marcia Butler’s life. For 25 years she performed throughout the world as a professional oboist. She was hailed by the New York Times as “a first rate artist” and performed with such luminaries as pianist Andre Watts and jazz great Keith Jarrett. In 2002 Marcia switched careers and began her interior design firm, Marcia Butler Interior Design. The personal essay “9.12.01″ is part of a memoir Marcia is currently writing, whose working title is My Isolde. She lives in Sunnyside Gardens, Queens.

Posted in Breast Cancer Recovery, Breast Cancer Survivors, My Story | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

Everything is Going Swimmingly

swimming poolHere is something to remember: Things change. Perhaps I don’t have to remind anyone reading this blog that change is a part of being alive, but every now and then, I have to remind myself.

For the past several years, walking has been my place of reprieve, renewal and reflection. Regardless of where I might find myself physically, I knew that at the beginning or end of any day, all I had to do was lace up my shoes and walk out the door to find the peace of mind and calm that so often elude me during my workday.

After nine weeks of recovery from my mastectomy I went back to work. And as much as I had agonized over jumping back into the reality of a 9-to-5 life, it actually felt really good. I hate to say it, but left to my own devices, I have a propensity for just sort of lazing around. My friends and family assured me this was necessary for me to heal – but there was a part of me that felt like my inactivity had more to do with lethargy and depression than necessity.

I thought the best way to jump back into my routine was to do just that – start where I’d left off. I began getting up every morning at 5:45 and taking Lulu for a walk. Granted, we weren’t walking quite as fast as before, but we were walking. And then, somehow, my left calf muscle decided to begin cramping so badly I would have to hobble home after walking just a few steps.

I was devastated. I still can’t do the rope yoga I loved so much prior to surgery, although I think I’m pretty close to being fit enough to start again. I understood this, because the yoga puts demands on my body where I’d had my surgery. But walking – walking – I had taken that for granted. I mean, after all, I see people much older than me briskly putting one foot in front of the other all the time.

For the first time since my surgery I felt truly despondent. It’s always been a struggle for me keeping my weight within a healthy range. Now what was I going to do? I was frantic not to allow my inactivity to cause me to pack on the pounds again.

I realized that sitting all day is probably causing muscles that have not been used for several weeks to tighten even more, so I’m working on stretching and releasing. But this is a slow process and I’m really feeling antsy.

In the midst of all of this, I remembered that we have a pool here in our community that is available for my use every day of the week. Granted, anything requiring a swimsuit isn’t at the top of my list, but seriously, at some point I truly do need to get over myself, don’t I? And what better way to reintroduce my poor muscles to exercise that isn’t too taxing?

And so earlier this week, I hobbled my way to the pool and dove in. I can’t begin to tell you how good it felt, both mentally and physically. I hadn’t even thought about how great moving my body through water was going to feel – and how relatively effortless it would be compared to my efforts on land.

I’m ashamed and amazed that it took something so drastic to remind me to stop feeling sorry for myself and to look around for the solutions. I’ve never been a great swimmer, so I’m thinking this just may be a possible way to remedy that. You know, the old “when the student is ready, the teacher will come” sort of approach.

Of course, I’m anxious to be able to start walking again – and I can’t wait to get back to my yoga as well. But for today, I’m going to remember to be grateful for what I can do (and for what I have)! And perhaps on an even loftier level, I’m going to remember not to take even the simplest things for granted.

Editor’s note: Amoena’s 2014 swimwear is in stores now! Take a look at all the colorful, supportive styles available, all pocketed and tailored just for you.

Posted in Blog Stuff, Breast Cancer Recovery, Breast Cancer Survivors, Positive Thinking | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

When Survivors Unite

amoena's #missionstrength ambassadors 2014There’s an unseen power that can be felt when survivors come together to support each other. It’s an energy that is heartfelt and has the ability to create instant friendships full of life and laughter.

When I first met Carletta and Eden, the other Amoena Mission:Strength Ambassadors, the combined energy was off the charts. These amazing women radiated a love for life and a determination that was palatable. Within a matter of minutes we bonded and felt the powerful sisterhood that unites those who have overcome a common enemy. In this case: breast cancer.

To say that our experience with the Amoena team was incredible would be an understatement. It was illuminating.

From the first day we arrived to the day we left, our hearts were filled with a goodness that could only come from those who are truly behind the cause of helping women feel strong during trials and celebrating the gift of resiliency that is within each of us.

The Amoena team was absolutely fantastic and being able to model new clothing lines, swim wear and lingerie was amazing. The quality and attention to detail of each piece was evident and we all commented about how we loved the soft fabric used for the active wear and leisure wear.

I think that’s what I love the most about the Amoena brand – the attention to the little things that truly matter to women: flattering styles, a comfort fit, soft but durable fabric and clothing that allows you to feel feminine but powerful.

I am personally grateful for Amoena’s efforts to support breast cancer survivors. ‘Where there is unity there is always victory’ and together we will win.

Posted in Active wear, Amoena Fashion, Amoena Textiles, Breast Cancer Recovery, Breast Cancer Survivors, Positive Thinking, Videos | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Amoena’s Behind the Scenes video, 2014 edition

We can’t get enough of our Mission Strength ambassadors’ photo shoot, and the behind the scenes. It is simply not possible to watch this too many times. So happy and inspiring. Enjoy and share.

Posted in Breast Cancer Survivors, Contests, Fashion, Inspiration, Uncategorized, Videos, Young Survivors | 3 Comments

Inside Out

Tomorrow marks my first day back at my regular day job after nine weeks off work. There is a vulnerable and tentative part of me that feels I may be jumping the gun by heading back so soon. The part of me I want to flourish – my brave and healthy self – is urging me to put on my big girl panties and forge ahead. For the sake of balance, I’m trying to listen to both of these voices.

It’s taken me a bit longer to heal because I’d had previous radiation on each of my breasts. As a result, I still have a dime sized hole on my upper right chest that has taken its time to cooperate and heal. Because I have not healed sufficiently, although I had a fitting last week, I cannot wear my breast forms yet, so going back to work before I’ve been able to complete this transformation is adding somewhat to my angst.

Today, I frantically dug through my closet to find the padded cotton forms that came with my wonderful Amoena camisoles, because I know that at the very least, these will provide me with the ability to have a silhouette.

Over the past few weeks I’ve discovered that clothes I previously wore don’t necessarily work for me right now. For the most part, this is a temporary problem, but when contemplating my return to work, it feels a bit more significant. Frankly, I’d be happy just wearing a tee shirt or camisole without adding any embellishments. My desire for disguise is more for the comfort of my co-workers. Let’s just say, the old “look at my eyes” has taken on a completely new meaning for sure!

One of the quips I’ve heard repeatedly whenever I find myself in a doctor/patient situation is “Remember, you heal from the inside out.” Last week I told my doctor my insides must be really far removed from my outsides (no surprises there, I fear!)

What I’m noticing is there is as much emotional healing (perhaps more) than physical. I’ve been blessed over the years to have interviewed hundreds of women who have either dealt with breast cancer, work as fitters or in the healthcare community, so at least the possible ups and downs haven’t been a complete surprise. However, I don’t think there is any amount of knowledge to absolutely prepare anyone for how she will feel after losing her breast(s).

Now, more than two months post-surgery, I’m still not sure I’ve managed to deal with the reality of my situation. So far, I don’t feel like any less of a woman, but I most certainly feel violated, and how could I not?

I remember distinctly listening to women share their stories about mastectomy, fittings, possible reconstruction, etc., etc. and feeling amazed and perplexed that we don’t have less invasive and life shattering/altering choices.

The only thing that’s changed is now I’m no longer on the outside looking in.

Posted in Breast Cancer Recovery, Breast Cancer Survivors, Breast Surgeries, Lifestyle, My Story, Positive Thinking | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amoena Introduces Spring 2015 Fashion Textiles

Women want more supportive choices all day

KENNESAW, GA (July, 2014) – Amoena, the world’s leading breast care brand, has long sought to help breast cancer survivors achieve their desire to look and feel beautiful – and has succeeded. In early June, Amoena introduced its Spring 2015 offerings for retail pre-sales which continue through this month.

ss15 amoena textiles preview

“We’re taking pocketed fashion to the next level with this bold and highly visual collection,” says Marcie Peters, president and general manager for the Americas. Building on the company’s recent expansion into ready-to-wear garments with the pocketed shelf bra built right in, Spring 2015’s portfolio gives women supportive clothing for all day long and every activity – including workouts and swimwear. Whether she needs a breast form or not, the clever use of cohesive color and pattern makes merchandising easy and will entice customers of all types.

Everyday lingerie: Patterned neutrals and pops of bright color freshen the selections for Everyday. These are the bras that women rely on, and they’re no longer “your grandmother’s mastectomy bras.”

Seduction lingerie: Answering the regular request of women for something sexy, spring’s modern embroidery makes a serious statement with see-through mesh in boudoir hues, or for a softer look, pastel sets evoke fairytale romance.

Active: The collection’s expanded offering introduces two support levels, Light or Medium. And with built-in pocketed shelf bras in every top the breast cancer survivor has more choices than ever before – including tanks, racerbacks and t-shirts – and matching capris.

Home: Amoena nightdresses and pajamas have quickly become a fan favorite, and are made of buttery soft Modal. Every top includes built-in shelf bras, which provide that important symmetrical element when sleeping or lounging.

Leisure: On-trend, loose-fitting tops and pants in soft mélange support women during simple everyday activities.

Swimwear: Plenty of tankinis and bikinis to choose from – which women desire every season. Performance fabrics in the swim collection – Xtra Life Lycra, Sensitive® by Eurojersey, and Darwin – ensure these suits are not only pretty, they also hold up.

Pre-selling is actively taking place now. To see the collections and secure your pre-order, contact your Amoena Account Manager or call 1-800-926-6362.

Don’t miss the exclusive consumer preview on Amoena’s main website, for more photos and information.

Media inquiries, please visit our Press Room.

Posted in Active wear, Amoena Press Releases, Amoena Textiles, Fashion, Intimate Apparel, Mastectomy Products, Swimwear | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment