Susan

October 16, 2008

The candidate's health care plans hit home

HealthI watched the presidential debate last night, eager for information and ideas, and I came away with one stark realization.

Only one candidate proposes a plan that would ensure that I'm not dropped from my employer's health plan due to a pre-existing condition. 

Only one candidate would ensure that all children are adequately covered for the checkups, vaccinations, and (God forbid) treatment they need.

Only one candidate offers a plan whereby my husband and I will EVER be able to change jobs. 

Continue reading "The candidate's health care plans hit home " »

August 19, 2008

Nick, you let me down

TvMaybe I'm overprotective.  No, wait, I know I'm overprotective.  A bit.  But I feel really strongly that little kids should be allowed to be little kids for as long as possible.  I'm a big fan of letting kids have unscheduled time and space to play outside as much as they want, to explore, to create, and I'm really good at standing back in those situations and on the playground.

But TV?  Is my problem.  TV is my responsibility.  I introduced it (at 20 months, in 20 minute/day quantities, and never more than 90 minutes a day now), and I feel responsible for every word that comes out of that TV set and into my little one's mind.  I watch the shows with him, ready to mute or change the channel at objectionable content.  We avoid that almost completely by watching Sprout and PBS kids.  But recently I have been allowing Widget to watch

Continue reading "Nick, you let me down " »

August 07, 2008

A near miss

J0305743 Something terrible almost happened in my neighborhood this morning.

The day started with a series of annoyances, things that just kept going wrong.  The kitchen reconstruction project took longer than expected.  The house was loud and I couldn't hear my husband on the telephone.  The contractors were late.  I just couldn't catch a break.  But soon I realized just how lucky I was.

Continue reading "A near miss " »

July 10, 2008

Inspiration, on my TV

J0432431 I was away on business the other night and had an evening all to myself, a rare occurrence in a house with toddlers.  Making the most of it, I grabbed dinner downstairs (Dinner! Alone! With cloth napkins!) and settled in for an evening of relaxation with all my favorite TV programs. 

It had been so long since I'd watched TV without a two-year-old, however, that I didn't know exactly what to watch.  The shows I used to watch weren't even on anymore, and who's heard of half the things on these days?  America's Got Talons?  Celebrity Family Food Fights?  Hank's Kitchen?

That can't be right. 

Continue reading "Inspiration, on my TV" »

June 29, 2008

Laundry never takes a vacation

LaundryAfter 4 years of constant rushing to raise the children, cook the meals, do the laundry, clean the house, do the work, and all the other things that have to be done in a normal day, our family finally took a vacation.  We went to the beautiful Outer Banks, a very popular destination in the suburban Washington crowd, and rented a house with some friends.  All went wonderfully until the third day, when I realized something that had never been quite so clear to me before:

Laundry never takes a vacation.

Continue reading "Laundry never takes a vacation" »

June 07, 2008

Blog for your life!

J0401859 Science is finally catching up to something that some of us have suspected for quite some time now: blogging can help you feel happier, sleep better, and work out issues.  This month's issue of Scientific American features upcoming studies on how blogging helps people with serious illnesses cope.  (Something about how complaining acts as a placebo treatment for those in pain; I'm not sure I buy that part of it, but I'm no neuroscientist.)  The feedback mechanism (comments) is huge, of course; I wonder if the scientists fully recognize the power of comments and friendship, in any form, in healing.  I hope they do.  I know for me, that's been incredibly important, and I've been speaking out lately about the power of blogging to help heal.  There's an article this month in Health magazine, and I'll be speaking at BlogHer, with Laurie K and Flutter, about the power of blogging communities as a healing force. 

Of course, none of this is news to any of you.  You know what it means to blog.  You feel its power, its pull, and you come away from your computers more satisfied and fulfilled after a good blog writing and rerading session.  It connects us.  It heals.   

Continue reading "Blog for your life!" »

May 03, 2008

Avon Walking

Avon1 As a patient, I found that the hardest part about fighting breast cancer was the feeling that I had to do it alone. 

Just a few months ago, I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer.  At 34, my world consisted of playdates and walks in the park, simple times with my two baby boys that I enjoyed with all my heart.  With the diagnosis, though, my world changed in an instant.  Days at the beach were replaced with days in bed.  Sunny afternoons in the park were few and far between, as I became unable even to drive or lift my little one out of his car seat.  Regular trips downtown to visit the museums were put on hold, as I visited the hospital instead.  Although I knew that treatment was necessary for me to have a chance at life again, it was difficult for me to give up the good times and turn to fighting cancer instead.

No one brings a party to the chemo ward.

Continue reading "Avon Walking " »

April 27, 2008

Long Live Earth Day!

ClimateMy oldest child is three.  Three and a half, I suppose, although he's not even to the age where he insists on "and a half!" I know we'll get there soon, but for now, he's a young preschooler, blissfully ignorant about war and global warming and all the dangers out there that we adults are charged with managing until it's his turn, and that of his classmates, to take the reins of this great big world.

But because I know that it's not good for a child to grow up ignorant of danger, I've begun introducing the concept to him slowly.  Of course he knows to be wary of strangers, and to hold Mommy's hand when crossing the street, but I'm now starting to introduce him to the bigger worries in life.

Like climate change.

Continue reading "Long Live Earth Day!" »

April 09, 2008

Education: What makes a summer?

treasure

When my first child was born, I was determined to give him an idyllic childhood.  A childhood free of time-stress, overscheduling, demands to perform, and all the pressure that seems to accompany even the preschool set here in D.C.  I read the preschool admissions and waitlist stories on the DC Urban Moms email list with horror, shuddered when I read The Nanny Diaries, and turned instead to online discussions by the Not Quite Crunchy Parent and others researching and living The Waldorf Way.

I had visions of making all my child's own toys and helping him explore the wonders of nature every day ... at least until he turned six.

Continue reading "Education: What makes a summer? " »

March 06, 2008

When Mom is sick, everything changes

Breast_2When Mom is sick, everything changes.  The rhythms of the household just aren't the same as before the illness.  Maybe the laundry doesn't get done as fast.  Maybe the kitchen floor isn't washed as often.  Maybe nobody notices the laundry or the floor anymore.

Maybe carpools are more of a burden on Dad, or maybe playdates are curtailed for other reasons, like the increased risk of infection for a mom in chemo, lack of time due to daily radiation, or lack of energy due to ... well, just about any of it.

Maybe Mom can't pick up the baby anymore.  Maybe she's sick in bed.  Maybe this goes on for a while, or even a long while, and then maybe it's just not the same anymore.

But one thing will always be the same, no matter what.

Continue reading "When Mom is sick, everything changes" »

March 04, 2008

Hi, I'm your drop-in friend

KnockI surprised a friend on Saturday, dropping by with a load of baby stuff that I'd promised her, and although it wasn't entirely unexpected (we had planned to meet the day before, but I couldn't make it, and I'd sent a series of emails promising imminent delivery), we hadn't set a definite time for my arrival.  My little boy and I were out running errands on Saturday, though (oh, the mighty errand day!), and, noticing that I was around the corner from her house, I decided to take a chance and ring the doorbell.

Oops.

Mama was ... um ... not dressed for company. 

Unfazed, I brightly announced, "Hi, I'm your drop-in friend!" and offered to bring in the things I had for her in the car.

Continue reading "Hi, I'm your drop-in friend " »

February 10, 2008

Dear Washington Post

WashingtonThe Washington Post has run three articles recently that give me hope for changes in the daily paper.  The first was a short mention stating that readership among women 18 to 49 has plummeted.  The second was a blurb at the bottom of an inside page telling us "a Post readership committee is soliciting ideas from women ages 18 to 49 with children younger than 18 at home."  The third is the promotion of Katharine Weymouth to CEO of Washington Post Media.  (Congratulations, Katharine!)  As a mom with three young children at home, I'm hoping that she understands.

I happen to love the Post.  I have always loved it.  As a young girl growing up in Mississippi, I envied the thick sheafs of newsprint, the carefully researched editorials, the features that depended on sending the writer to farflung countries over time.  I loved the rare opportunity to sink in and read it on the rare occasion, and I was more than delighted to discover that the Post delivered to my college dorm when I went away to school.  I read every word, catching up on the politics, the current affairs, the world events that my local paper had only skimmed over.  It was my entry into a different world.

But now I'm living in a world far different than the one depicted in the Post.  Instead of cannons, I have whispers.  Instead of opera, I have rhythm sticks.  Instead of fashion, I have two little boys who grow out of their clothes almost as fast as I can buy them new ones.

Continue reading "Dear Washington Post " »

February 03, 2008

Prologue vs. Twitter

J0387570_2 Wordpress.com introduced Prologue, a suspiciously-Twitterlike platform for group mini-blogs.  It's an interesting idea for groups working cross-country, or anywhere they are not co-located.  Prologue is like a virtual water cooler for individuals to post their ideas, comment on others, and start conversations that may no longer arise spontaneously when so many telecommute.  Privacy settings are the same as for other Wordpress.com blogs -- password-protected, public, or public but not available to search engines.

It sounds like a great solution for project-based communications, and I may even use it for future projects, but one thing that I think it will NOT do is replace Twitter.

I've only been using twitter for a little over a few weeks, and already I've found it indispensible.

Continue reading "Prologue vs. Twitter " »

January 22, 2008

Stephen Colbert's Portrait

portrait3 Stephen Colbert has brought a new level of gravitas to the Smithsonian Museum's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.  Every January, Colbert replaces the greater-than-life-size portrait that hangs above his fireplace with a new version -- improved with even more Colbert!  As the years go on (and what a thrill it gives me to say that), the portraits become ever-more-nested, with more Colberts per square foot, as he is painted in front of the fireplace with the previous year's portrait hanging behind him.

Last year, the painting was auctioned off to support the troops.  This year, Colbert came to Washington to find a suitable home for the portrait, among his peers.  I think it's safe to say that he succeeded.  After some discussion (a version of which can be seen on Comedy Central's web site; fans know to check out Colbert Nation as well), he found a new home for his portrait, in perhaps the most distinguished hall for American leaders: across from the famous portrait of George Washington in the American Presidents exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery.  Well, technically, just outside the exhibit, in, er, um, the restroom.

The DCist, The Huffington Post, and, later, news media confirmed that the portrait was hanging in the gallery, but I had to see this for myself. 

Continue reading "Stephen Colbert's Portrait " »

January 21, 2008

Tomorrow

Imagechef_1day1_thumbnail_3 Less than eight months ago WhyMommy (our DC Metro Mom sister) posted this on her blog. At the time, she was nursing her five month old, taking care of her two year old and had never revealed any personal information on her blog.

Less than eight months ago she had been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. Since that day, she has shared with us her deepest fears, her physical pain and the emotional turbulence of living with cancer. She also treated us to moments of joy and the triumphs of perserverance. She's given us so much through her words, and never once has she asked for anything in return except for our positive energy to support her battle with cancer.

Tomorrow is Susan's surgery. She's endured months of chemo and the accompanying exhaustion and pain. But that's all over and tomorrow Susan goes in for one of the final steps of her treatment--a double mastectomy.

Continue reading "Tomorrow " »

January 08, 2008

What a night!

jan07.jpg

Last night was a first.  Last night, all across the DC metro area (and a little beyond), DV Meto Mom bloggers donned Baby Brewing t-shirts (thanks, Kristen!), put on a little makeup, and hi-tailed it down to meet each other at a local, um, drinking establishment. 

We had canapes and cocktails, beers, and dessert.  We talked about living in D.C., writing perfect and not-so-perfect posts, and how odd it was to just be away from the kids for a night.  We talked about tweeting and meeting in Second Life.  We talked about day jobs and night jobs and dirty jobs and, well, potty training, which has to rank right up there with the dirtiest of jobs.  I mean, Mamma loves her little monkeys, Mom does, but sometimes we're still Stimeyed by the job description.

We cooked up some good ideas for saving the world … or at least helping moms with little ones stay or return to work when they’re ready.  We didn’t read, but we did snag swag from the lovely Devra, who shared copies of her book on Mommy Guilt, and Graco, who sponsored the evening’s refreshments and slippers to take home and relax in.  We had a fabulous time with some fun-loving friends, checked out a new Graco product, and marveled when they sent a pregnant blogger home with the amazing new Sweetpeace soothing center (it’s like a bouncer on steroids, people!). 

Continue reading "What a night! " »

January 07, 2008

Democratic Party? Republican Party? Mom Party!

LadiesnightoutWith all the buzz in the news about the Iowa Caucus, New Hampshire Primary, and the bunch-o-states coming next, there is a lot of attention being paid to the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, the Libertarians, and the rest. It can get exhausting!

Tonight, a group of DC Moms are focusing on a different kind of party.  A Mom party.  All across the region, DC Metro Mom bloggers are putting on new blogging t-shirts, a little makeup, and a good attitude, and getting ready to go out tonight.

Tonight, we're not necessarily moms.  We're just women, anxious to meet each other and talk about the events of the day.

Continue reading "Democratic Party? Republican Party? Mom Party!" »

Goodbye, Bob! Hello ... Moms?

Mpj040523600001 The Consumer Products Safety Commission, the federal agency charged with testing our children's toys and issuing recalls, just got a little more short-handed.  As The Washington Post reported this weekend, Robert Hundemer is retiring, after 25 years of service with the government.  Who's Robert Hundemer, you ask, and why should I care?

Nancy Nord calls him their "small parts guy," the toy tester charged with dropping toys to see if they break, measuring pieces to classify the toys as suitable for infants, toddlers, or "3+".  For a while this Fall, he was reported to be their only toy tester, but we all know now that there are others testing other attributes of toys, out there in that office in Gaithersburg.  But he's the "small parts guy," and now he's gone.

We'll miss you, Bob.  I'll miss you.

Continue reading "Goodbye, Bob! Hello ... Moms? " »

November 16, 2007

I knew I liked her

Nancy_pelosiSpeaker Nancy Pelosi, that is.  Check it out.  Her very own blog post on keeping our kids safe from toxic toys.

Let’s help her out, by adding our names to the Moms Rising petition to tell Congress “We demand safe, lead-free toys for children. Congress must strengthen the agencies responsible for protecting kids from toxic products and remove the bureaucrats who are standing in the way.”  I just did.  If you’re a U.S. resident, maybe you’d like to sign it too.  Moms standing together for the kids.

I like the sound of that.

November 11, 2007

Take Action: More Toy Testers!

08079a The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is charged with testing the toys that our children play with every day, has only ONE toy tester on staffI was outraged to hear this, and, by your comments on my last post and the other posts in the blogosphere today, many of you are too.  What can we do to fix this?  Here's a five-minute solution:  write, email, or call your congressional representative and ask him or her to increase the funding for the CPSC and/or specifically to direct the CPSC to "add additional staff to test our children's toys for lead paint, small parts, and other dangers."

Only have one minute?  Go to Consumer Union at http://cu.convio.net/FixTheCPSC, fill in your contact information, add a sentence or two to the beginning of their prewritten letter, and click to send it to your congressperson.  You don't even have to know who your representative is or his contact information -- it's all done automatically (by your zip code).

Take action today.  For our kids.  Because it's easier than prying Thomas, Dora, and Elmo out of our kids' hands later.

November 10, 2007

Rainy Day Fun

AirplaneIt’s raining, it’s pouring … and it’s COLD outside!  Wouldn’t it be a great day to go to the College Park Airplane Museum?  The museum (at 1985 Corporal Frank Scott Dr, College Park, MD) is a fabulous place to play and learn, with plenty of room for the littlest ones to run around and mamas to talk.  There’s even a demonstration airplane that the kids can climb into, play with the pedals and steering columns, and pretend to fly.  There’s a room of hands-on experiments, an air column, a flight simulator, lots of things to touch, stamping and drawing crafts, and so much to see and do.  The Museum is open from 10-5 today — wouldn’t it be fun to go?

November 09, 2007

How safe are our toys?

CpssI’m becoming increasingly concerned and frustrated about the safety of my children’s toys.

Ever since Widget was born, I have bought and advocated for the purchase of wooden and natural toys.  We buy responsibly, from small firms or those who have repeatedly assured moms and the public that their testing is frequent and thorough.  We make many of our own toys, out of pieces of scrap wood (okay, Grandpa makes many of those); PVC pipe and connectors; ribbon, yarn, boxes, and similar “found” materials, both to reduce our environmental load on the planet and my children’s exposure to the plastic crap that dominates the children’s toy market these days.  They also fit my bias towards toys and materials that encourage my children’s creativity, encourage them to ask questions, and can be used three ways.

We weathered the great Thomas Recall of ‘07, the Polly Pockets Debacle, and the Sesame Street/Elmo/Fisher Price Roundup with only limited damage.  Limited in our case meaning one measley James train and a stop sign were collected, declared “sick,” and sent to the “hospital” to be fixed.  All our other wooden trains are Ikea or Brio, so we felt pretty good about our trainyard escaping relatively unscathed.

That is, until I learned that the CPSC, the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, has exactly ONE full-time product tester on staff.

Continue reading "How safe are our toys? " »

November 08, 2007

Preschool

Abc(a simple text image of "ABCs" would be fine as accompanying graphic.  I don't know where to make one, but would love any suggestions! -- Susan)

As a resident of the D.C. suburbs, I live in some respects between two worlds.  On the one hand, I've worked downtown for years and been (at times) thoroughly absorbed into the fancy-happy-hour, out-with-colleagues, traveling-on-expense-account world that treats preschool admission as Baby's First Accomplishment and applies for a spot before birth.  On the other hand, I've found an utterly fantastic group of moms here in the suburbs who appear to be more relaxed about the whole affair, and who have had wonderful results with their kids at neighborhood co-ops, preschools at nearby churches and temples, and the public kindergarten.

Personally, I'm torn between the whole must-get-into-the-best-school flurry and an overwhleming urge to just keep my kids at home and close to me, protected somewhat from the suburban stress and testing merry-go-round.  They're going to be in school for a long, long time.  Twelve years for a high school diploma.  Four more for college, and if they want to go on for graduate degrees like their daddy and I did, we're talking easily 20 years or more.  Should I really add on to those years with a high-stress preschool? 

I've been visiting preschools this week, and it's hard to find a good fit.

Continue reading "Preschool " »

October 25, 2007

Breaking Anonymity: My Name is Susan

When I started blogging, I decided very consciously to blog anonymously.  I would sit at my desk each day, putting words to paper, confident that the words on this blog, about my children and the everyday activities of raising little kids to be smart, curious, creative big kids, would remain a separate activity from my work-self, who was poised to go back to work any minute.

Boy, was I wrong!  My blog, and now my words here on DC Metro Moms Blog, have taken over a good part of my life and eventually become a chronicle of my fight with breast cancer.  They have occupied many (too many?) of my waking thoughts and been an oasis in busy days of appointments and tasks, as well as in quiet days of rest and cuddles.  This activity has become more than an "it."  It has become a "you."

And that's why I decided to "come out" and use my real name in the media interviews broadcast yesterday and published today.

Continue reading "Breaking Anonymity: My Name is Susan " »

What I Saw at the Walk

On Sunday, I walked a mile in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to raise awareness of inflammatory breast cancer.  I'm currently in treatment (weekly chemotherapy), so I thought that I would have to sit on the sidelines or ride a special trolley for those who weren't able to walk, but I ended up walking the mile with my family and friends, and it was wonderful. 

I didn't know what to expect, having never done a benefit walk like this beforer, so I went with open eyes and a readiness to report back to you, my friends in this struggle.  I wondered if I would see laughing or crying, great waves of support, or even individuals at all in the mass of the 32,000 who came out to walk that day.  I wondered how I would begin to process such an overwhelming event.  A week later, I can finally start to talk about it.  Here's what I saw at the race.

I  saw women and men united in a common cause, but not necessarily the one that I had suspected.

Continue reading "What I Saw at the Walk " »

October 07, 2007

You look great today!

Parkhurst_ccheadwrap_smDo you even know how beautiful you are?

As my husband and I waited to be seated at dinner last night, I had the strange experience of feeling invisible while knowing that I was conspicious in my hat and baldness.  The only place to sit was right by the women's restroom, so dozens of women walked by me, fidgeting, putting their hands to their hair unconsciously, running through their list of things to do as they squeezed in a moment to freshen makeup and put that unruly curl back in place while still getting back to the table in a reasonable amount of time.

Others walked by as they exited, hugging friends, self-consciously running their hands through their own long hair as they made plans to meet again, or dodging a stray wisp that escaped the ubiquitous college ponytail as they laughed and said goodbye to new acquaintances.

I allowed myself a few moments to remember when I had been in their shoes, seemingly carefree and yet not carefree at all. 

Continue reading "You look great today!" »

October 03, 2007

Anxious Days

Dc"Mom, come! Come, Mom! Come, come with me!"  All day today, my little one has been following me around, taking my hand, leading me outside, to the playset, to the garden, to the places where he plays, asking me to play with him.  I am so tired, and achy, and more than a little anxious about tomorrow's chemo, where I start a brand-new chemotherapy drug that I know so little about.  His grandparents are here to play with him, but today, he knows something's up, and only Mom will do.

So I go with him, of course.  I haul my aching body over to his favorite places, to the swings, to the playset, and lie down near where he is playing, calling words of encouragement, and being available for hugs and kisses when the he bumps his head or needs a little extra love in his day.  This is what I do.  This is what I do best.  I love this little guy.  But still, some days I get tired, and achy, and more than a little anxious.

Perhaps I should stop reading the newspaper.  For it certainly doesn't help that today is October 3, 2007.

Continue reading "Anxious Days" »

September 11, 2007

I saw the smoke rise

Pentagon_2Six years ago today, I saw the smoke rise from the terrorist attack on the Pentagon.  It is as clear in my memory today as it was last year, when I wrote this rememberance, and as it will likely be every year for the rest of my life.  I saw the horror, from across the river, and I will never forget.

I remember.  I will always remember.

September 06, 2007

Lead Paint Lunacy

GeotraxDid you hear about the latest toy recall?  This time, it's GeoTrax trains and Barbie dog houses.  Ah, a little something for everyone. It's been quite a summer of lead paint scares, hasn't it?  Every couple weeks, the Consumer Product Safety Commission adds new dangers to its list; Mattel, Fisher-Price, or a lesser-known toy company issues a press release; and parents everywhere scurry to check the playroom for the dangerous toys.  A Thomas the Train Engine here, a Sarge jeep there, Polly Pockets over here; it sure adds up.

Pretty soon, we'll all be playing with wooden toys and sticks again.

Continue reading "Lead Paint Lunacy" »

September 05, 2007

Sand in your shorts

Dc_beachAs magical as a night without the children was, today we made a memory of a different kind. The warm, happy, sandy, salty, gleeful laughter and water-up-the-nose kind.  The kind that can only happen at the beach.

All I can say is, if you live in the D.C. area and you haven't spent a morning at North Beach with your little ones ... it's not too late.  Grab a shovel, a pail, a floating ring, and a big towel.  They've got beach umbrellas and chairs for rent, and the sun and sand are just perfect this time of year.

You just might have the beach all to yourself.

Sam blogs at Toddler Planet and Review Planet.  But her world revolves around her little boys.

September 04, 2007

Getaway

Holding_hands_2We hurried down to the docks, just the two of us, sneaking away from the busy-ness and worry of everyday life. Like teenagers skipping the last class of the day, we had closed our laptops, kissed our children, and left the dinner dishes and sleeping baby in Grandma's capable hands. We giggled all the way to the car, rolling it out of the driveway silently so as not to alert the preschooler intent on his playdough creation with Grandpa. We laughed and talked as we drove through our neighborhood, the wrong way, away from our children at the end of the day. A bit of wistfulness as we passed the preschool where our child would soon attend quickly disapated as we talked about what the evening might hold in store for us. Ourselves.

For tonight was our night, and we would spend it together as the people we were once, as Sam and Chris*, not as the Mommy and Daddy we had become. It had been a long time since we'd shed those identities, just for a night, and gone out to play somewhere that wasn't childproofed, kidsafe, and a delight for the under-five set. But we had decided that tonight was the night, and so off we went, to have a lovely last night together before chemo.

Continue reading "Getaway" »

August 24, 2007

D.C. is a great place to live

Dc_metroWashington, D.C. is a great place to live if you're sick.  Or an activist.  A public servant.  A nonprofit board member.  Pregnant.  A mom.  I've been all of these duing my 6 years here, and I have to say, it's worked out pretty well.  (Except for the months I spent pregnant riding on the Metro.  Will you able-bodied working adults PLEASE take pity on a nauseated and/or 7-ton pregnant woman and give up your seat already?  I always did, before I entered this weirdness that is pregnancy and new motherhood, with baby attached.  Ever balanced an infant and a briefcase?  Many of you have, and you know EXACTLY what I mean about riding the Metro with so many of our closest friends.)  But I digress.

Today I just want to bask in the bliss that is a major metropolitan area, with major metropolitan hospitals.  When I first suspected that I had cancer, lo these many (what? only two?) months ago, I had a choice of where to go to be treated.  A choice that included George Washington University Hospital, Georgetown University Hospital, Washington Hospital Center, Innova Fairfax, Johns Hopkins, and more.  As I did the reseach on the physicians and their support personnel, and the hospitals' reputations, I was amazed to discover the extent of the treatment and the research options available here.  Amazed and grateful.  And immensely relieved that we hadn't made that big move out to the ex-urbs that we'd been thinking about just a year or two ago.

Suddenly, proximity to my hospital has become more important than those wide open spaces or the view of the river that I once dreamed about.  Hopefully, several years from now, the hospital will be less important.  But it will always be part of my life.  And D.C., I'm glad you're part of my life too.

Sam blogs at Toddler Planet and her review blog, Review Planet.  But her world revolves around her little boys.

August 19, 2007

Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Hi, everyone.  My name is Sam, but you may know me better as WhyMommy.  I'm a 34 year old mom living in the D.C. suburbs, raising two boys under 3.  I'm at home with my kids, helping them learn and grow into compassionate, interesting, creative little guys, and I'm loving every minute of it.

I also have breast cancer.  And while my initial post here was going to be a somewhat amusing rant on D.C. traffic and how you can get lost here even with a GPS, I'm going to post something more important instead.  This is a post I wrote for my blog a couple weeks ago, but I've been trying to spread the word throughout the blogosphere about this unusual type of breast cancer -- because it's deadly, and it appears without a lump.  Please read it, and if you like it, feel free to post it on your own web sites, just as it is.  And thanks.

---

We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer?

I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I figured that if I did my monthly breast self-exams, and found no lump, I’d be fine.

Oops. It turns out that you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer. Six weeks ago, I went to my OB/GYN because my breast felt funny. It was red, hot, inflamed, and the skin looked…funny. But there was no lump, so I wasn’t worried. I should have been. After a round of antibiotics didn’t clear up the inflammation, my doctor sent me to a breast specialist and did a skin punch biopsy. That test showed that I have inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive cancer that can be deadly.

Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.

There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.

Inflammatory breast cancer is detected by women and their doctors who notice a change in one of their breasts. If you notice a change, call your doctor today. Tell her about it. Tell her that you have a friend with this disease, and it’s trying to kill her. Now you know what I wish I had known before six weeks ago.

You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.

Sam blogs at Toddler Planet and her review blog, Review Planet.  But her world revolves around her little boys.