Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Cancer Awareness and St. Baldrick's

     Late to the game, as usual. But sometimes continuing conversations are better than one-time things anyway. Cancer Survivors' Day is the first Sunday in June. And as far as I know, no one in my family who has had cancer has beaten it. My father's mother lost to breast cancer when he was a child; my mother's father lost to blood cancer when I was six; a cousin also lost to blood cancer when I was young; and most recently, my mother's mom to breast cancer in 2013. It's something that has been on my mind a bit lately, especially now that I've got kids. What are my chances of developing cancer? How much of it is genetic? How much is environmental? What can I do to lessen my family's chances? 

     Genetics are what they are; I can't change those. But I can choose to limit the use of things which studies are showing to be toxic to health, most especially in the areas of personal products and house hold cleaners. I can't control the world, but I can control what I allow into our home. I can also be proactive about checking my house for materials and substances that could have already been there before me. Asbestos, for example, was commonly used in homes before the 1970's and can cause a rare cancer called mesothelioma. Same goes for lead and radon - they are common in homes, so we must be proactive about getting rid of them. 

     My first switch was from conventional antiperspirant deodorant to a natural deodorant. It took a few, but I finally settled on THIS deodorant from Whiskey Ink & Lace (based in WA), in the woodsy lavender scent. It works best with my body, still smelling of lavender at the end of very muggy VA days spent at the park. While it seems there is no conclusive evidence that conventional antiperspirants are a cause of cancer, I still think it best to be safe, considering my family history. I also use their face creams, too. 
     For our other personal care products, we use Radiantly You, which is based out of NY. I have pretty much loved everything that I have tried from them. From shampoo, to body soap, to foaming hand soap, to booty balm for the kids, to an award winning counter spray, and fantastic multi-purpose tub scrub, Radiantly You has your basic needs covered! Though I personally found the laundry soap to be not quite what I need. I decided to try ECOS laundry soap, and it seems to be working alright, considering all I ever do is throw everything in together with out pre-treating anything, because I can never remember. I use ECOS Dishmate for hand washing (almond smells like amaretto), and 1 TBS RY tub scrub in the dishwasher, with a splash of RY bleach alternative as a pre-wash and white vinegar as a rinse aid. No streaks or cloudiness on the glasses, which is fantastic! 
     Prevention is helpful, but sometimes there is nothing one can do. With this in mind, I'm fundraising for the St. Baldrick's Foundation, which helps to fund children's cancer research. Please consider donating; even $5 would be huge to these kids! And yes, I am shaving my head. On Friday. 
One last info-graphic, because they are fun!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

"But, I'm Not An Angry Person!" Part 2

For the messy, raw Part 1, click here. If you'd rather skip and focus on what I have been doing to manage my depression, please continue reading.

     So we muddled through until Little Miss was born in August. I decided to have the placenta encapsulated this time, but I don't know taking it helped any or not. We decided to start with learning to track my fertility with the Creighton model of NFP, and began the end of October. While it isn't certain what causes postpartum depression, it has been speculated that hormonal imbalance is a plausible cause, and Creighton seems to be the best way for us to see how my body is functioning. We are blessed to not only have a good instructor reasonably close, but a NaPro trained doctor in town as well. Our instructor was able to give us a referral to the doctor, who was able to get me in to see him in November. And that really is a bit of a miracle, considering how busy he is. We had my hormone levels tested, and when the results came back normal for how far along I was postpartum, we decided to supplement with the generic version of Zoloft. He also recommended talk therapy, because being rejected by girls when I was young left me more deeply wounded than I thought. Honestly, we were just chatting as he was looking at my intake forms, and saw that I had Italy and Ireland down in the foreign travel section. I told him it was with the Christendom Rome Program, and he asked how I liked the place. Being honest, I told him it was really great academically, but really awful socially, considering the people I thought were my core group of friends abandoned me Thanksgiving break freshman year with no explanation. He found that very interesting, and proceeded to ask "Do you get a long better with guys or with girls?" Girls. Second question I don't remember exactly what it was, but similar vein. "Were you rejected by your female peers when you were younger?" Yes. (I'm tearing up as I remember.) "I think that's the root of your depression." Anyway. The rest of my prescription included exercising 20 minutes a day, spending time outside, and play dates. Yes, play dates. He said when women talk with each other they release oxytocin, which is one of the "feel good" hormones, and can do a lot to lessen stress, anxiety, and depression. I started therapy with the psychologist he recommended later that month, also a fantastic person. I'm not sure why I've been given such amazing people to help me through all of this. 
     My dosages of antidepressant were on the low side, and the doctor said that, generally speaking, they ought to be used to help the brain get used to feeling "happy", and when "happy" becomes the new default setting, the meds can be dropped. I weaned off mine in April (will document experience later). I've been rather stable since, once the withdrawal effects wore off. Up until last week, anyway. I've been an burrier of "bad" emotions for so long that learning to navigate them is a bit rough, to say the least. I plan on writing a post dedicated to my experience with therapy at a later date. For now, though, I recommend it. Being able to talk to someone who won't judge you and doesn't know everyone you know is wonderful. It removes the fear of gossiping or destroying another's good name, while also providing constructive feedback and perspective. 
     My fertility chart has been a typical breastfeeding one, with no indication of hormonal imbalance, which is good. We are getting much more outside time with the warmer, and sunnier, weather. It seriously rained all but a few days end of April into mid-May. My diet has been decent. We've been getting out to see people, and even hosting play dates. The only things I'm not good about are getting to bed before midnight, and exercise. And feeding my introvert. I stay up late because it's our only time without children. Every time I try to get up earlier than the kids for a workout and quiet me time I give myself a sinus infection. Hopefully on the tail end of one now, actually. And nursing baby who has no interest in a bottle is preventing good, restorative alone time. And change is hard and I'm really good at using the kids as excuses to not do things. But we are getting there. I am moving forward, oh, so, slowly. 
     Hopefully you will find my experience to be useful in some way. The first step - actually seeking help - is the toughest. Don't let fear keep you trapped. Some people have called me brave for being as open as I have about my journey, or other things in life, saying they would be too afraid to do something similar. It's not that I'm not afraid, because I am, often. But what they might not realize is that bravery is not acting without fear, but acting in spite of fear, or, as I prefer, hand in hand with fear. You don't have to struggle through this alone. Many of us have been there, and we are more than willing to help you get out.