BRCA 2 Positive – Now what?

Hey everyone,

Today’s post is more serious than the others. As most of you know, the motivation behind this blog is my amazing mom and being able to connect with others who may be going through a similar situation. In addition to this, my goal is to encourage everyone to focus on the positive things in life. We all encounter difficult times throughout our lives and, although we may not want to, we have to find ways to accept them. I have SO much to be thankful and grateful for in my life and I owe a lot of it to my mom.

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Mother and daughter xo

So, let’s get to it. As many of you know, my mom was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer in February of this year. Since, she has undergone major debulking surgery, recovery, and chemo. Since her last chemo session late spring, she had an amazing and healthy 4 months chemo free AND at her last oncologist appointment, last month, we found out that her cancer is currently dormant. I’m not religious but I thank whatever power is out there watching over her and our family! Her CA125 cancer markers (the marker used to measure ovarian cancer) haven’t increased and remain well under the normal range. This news couldn’t have been better. I can’t describe how it feels to wait for these appointments. Not knowing what the results will be. The anxiety I feel waiting for the news can be awful but we are SO grateful that the news was positive and that her body and cancer responded well to the chemo they gave her 🙂 !!!

When mom was diagnosed in February, we were told that because she had had breast cancer 10 years ago and now ovarian cancer that she could be tested for the BRCA genetic mutation if she wished and free of charge. Testing for this is very expensive therefore it isn’t available to everyone, especially since only 1.2 percent of Canadian women are at risk of getting ovarian cancer and an even smaller percentage of those carry a BRCA genetic mutations.

Do you know what this genetic mutation is? If not, I will explain but maybe you will remember the (what some call) radical surgery Angelina Jolie had after finding out that her mom, who passed away from ovarian cancer, carried this genetic mutation. Angelina decided to have a double mastectomy in response to finding out that her mom carried the BRCA 1 gene. Why, you may ask, well because those who do carry a BRCA 1 or 2 genetic mutation have an increased risk of getting both breast and ovarian cancer.

Being the mother of two daughters, my mom decided to follow-through with the genetic testing. We were told that it would take 3 months but it ended up being close to 6. Last Friday, we had her follow-up appointment. I can’t begin to tell you how nervous I was for this appointment. I knew that there was a small chance that she would carry it and, that if that was the case, my sister and I would have some decisions to make but it wasn’t until her genetics doctor actually said the words “you ARE BRCA2 positive” that everything really hit me. I knew this was a real possibility but until it was actually confirmed, I guess I was hoping otherwise. I understandably burst into tears. Mom, however, felt a sense of relief. Now, she knew that her girls would be tested annually (MRI and mammogram) and that we would be provided with surgical options if we wanted to embark on those journeys. She is the most selfless person I know. Always thinking about us before herself.

What do these results mean for mom:

  • The not so great news is that she is 85% likely to have breast cancer. The good news is that now that they know this, they will continue to monitor her annually which is relieving.
  • Other good news is that because she has a BRCA 2 genetic mutation, they are able to offer her additional treatments for her cancer if it awakens. This news couldn’t have made us happier :).
  • Lastly, the results gave mom a sense of relief knowing that she didn’t just have bad luck. Rather, her cancers were/are the result of a genetic mutation.

What do these results mean for my sister and I:

Well, mom’s results mean that we have a 50% chance of carrying the BRCA2 genetic mutation. As a result, we have the choice of being tested ourselves, free of charge. To some, I’m sure that this would be a difficult decision. For myself, it’s a no brainer since messing with ovarian cancer is no joke. I’ve decided to go ahead with the testing, which involves simple blood work, and it will take between 1-2 months for my results.

So what does it mean if the results come back positive for my sister or I? Well, it means that we will have a 50-85% chance of having breast cancer and 10-30% chance of getting ovarian cancer (compared to the general population’s percentage which is 1.2%). Also, we will have the choice of undergoing a double mastectomy and partial or total hysterectomy now or just prior to menopause (which is what is recommended).

Although scary, all of the above is positive news for my sister and I. It means that we will have options and I’m so thankful for that and being able to tackle this decision well informed. I, like Angelina, am approaching this more aggressively. If my results come back positive, I am choosing to undergo a double mastectomy and reconstruction as soon as possible and a hysterectomy well before menopause. Saying I was going to do this, prior to mom’s results, was one thing, but knowing that this may be a real possibility now makes everything more real. But, if my mom was able to fight and beat breast cancer in 2006 and undergo everything she encountered this year, then I can do this. I owe it to myself and my children who will also have a 50% chance of carrying this genetic mutation if I do. Even our son.

Moving forward, I will keep you guys posted on the results and what happens next. For those of you who out there who are living through a similar situation, know that you are not alone. That you are strong and loved and that no matter what we will get through this. Life is a gift and sometimes we are dealt unexpected cards but we have to be grateful for all that is good in life and enjoy every moment to the fullest.

Today, and every day I am grateful for my amazing life. For my husband and kids. My sister, friends and my mom who made the person that I am today.

 

What are you grateful for? 🙂

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Sending  positive energy and love out to everyone xox

 

 

 

Gluten Free Oatmeal and Raisin Muffins

Happy Friday!

Hope everyone had a great week and an even better Halloween! Just a note that this post is one of two up on the blog today. If you’re interested in knowing what my favorite facial products are, please check out my other post A review of my favourite facial products.

For those who don’t know, I’ve recently been diagnosed with a gluten intolerance and then, after running more tests, as either partially treated celiac or Crohns. Unfortunately, my GI doctor wasn’t able to diagnose it as one or the other but highly recommend that I start a gluten-free (GF) diet so I’ve decided to do so. I’ve only recently started going GF and let me tell ya, this is no easy task lol Well, not for me anyway.

I’m happy to report that I have been GF for a little over a week now. Although I’m struggling with not being able to enjoy my Costco size bread for breakfast or my Ace baguette with anything and everything that is spreadable 😉 I’ve found a few tasty GF breakfast options. One of them being a nice GF muffin recipe that I’m going to share with you below. Please note that I was inspired by a recipe I found on the blog Abbey’s Kitchen. I used her recipe for her Ultimate GF oatmeal muffins as inspiration and tweaked it a bit. Here it is:

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup lactose-free milk (we use 3% b/c that’s what our daughter drinks)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil or butter
  • 1 cup all purpose gluten free flour mix
  • 3/4 cup gluten-free oats
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of sea salt
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Oatmeal and raisin muffins

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line your muffin tin with 12 muffin papers.
  2. Slowly melt your coconut oil in the microwave. Once melted, let it cool down before using. Although I enjoy the taste of coconut oil,  I don’t always want to taste it in certain recipes. Next time, I will use butter.
  3. Using a mixer, mix your eggs, brown sugar, and lactose-free (or regular) milk. Once the ingredients are well-mixed, add in your cooled coconut oil.
  4. Then add your flour, oats, raisins, baking powder, baking soda and a pinch of salt to the wet ingredients. Mix until well blended.
  5. Pour batter into prepared muffin papers and bake in the oven for 22-25 minutes (depending on your oven).
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Oatmeal and raisin muffins

My son and I made these muffins and decided to only make 12 in case we didn’t like the recipe. I’m happy to report that the whole family enjoyed them so I regretted that we hadn’t made more. Also, Julien was working when we made these muffins so he had no idea they were GF. He ate two for breakfast the next day and was surprised to find out that they were. He had no clue.

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Oatmeal and raisin muffins

If you have any favourite GF recipes I would LOVE to hear about them so please do feel free to share them with me.  Finally, another shoutout to Abbey’s Kitchen for sharing her recipe for GF oatmeal muffins. I look forward to discovering more dishes on your blog.

Hope you have a fabulous weekend!

Bon appétit!

 

 

 

Roasted carrots!

Hey all,

Now that fall is upon us, I’ve been trying to make more fall dishes. Here’s an easy and quick side dish that I made this week to go along with our beer butt chicken. I picked up these beautiful multi-coloured carrots from our local grocery store. Talk about an inexpensive side ;).

First, I peeled the carrots and cut off their tips. Then I cut them in half and lined them up for a nice picture lol

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I usually make our roasted carrots with maple syrup because, why not, but I decided to try something different. This time I tossed my peeled and cut carrots in a bowl with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh rosemary, garlic and salt and pepper. Warning: the aroma from simply tossing these few ingredients together is awesome!

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I then lined them up on my silpat lined baking sheet and roasted them in the oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. The end result was fabulous!

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These guys were so flavourful, even the kids enjoyed them. Ok, they may not have loved them 😉 but our son ate a few so that was a small parent win especially since getting him to eat a vegetable other than avocado, potatoes or soups with vegetables seems like an impossible task.

So, if you’re looking to try something new with your carrots why don’t you give this recipe a try and please let me know what you think. It’s quick, easy and super delicious.

What kinds of fall sides have you been making lately?

Talk soon,

Ash

Gluten or no gluten? That is the question!

Hey everyone,

Where has this week gone? I can’t believe that it’s already been a week since my last post. I’ve decided to focus this week’s post on a health-related topic that has been affecting me for over three years.Why are gluten intolerances/allergies so difficult to diagnose? For those of you who are reading this and are on a gluten-free diet by choice or because you’re celiac or have an intolerance, I would love to hear from you.

After our son was born, I started to have all these new symptoms. Stomach bloating, intense cramping, headaches and brain fog. All of which I of course associated with being a new mom. The stomach pain and bloating became so bad at one point that I decided to try gluten-free for several months. I can’t remember how long I was off but I do remember was that it was one difficult to do and two that I did feel better on this diet after a few months. What I found most difficult was inconveniencing our family and friends with my diet restrictions. I felt guilty especially since I hadn’t been diagnosed with anything. Months after going gluten-free, I became pregnant with our daughter and of course, I threw that diet out the window. It took everything in me not to throw up in the morning (too much info lol sorry ;)) and nothing satisfied me, during my first trimester, like toast with Cheeze Whiz. Yes, you read that right. Cheeze Whiz lol I NEVER eat that crap but I can tell ya I ate jars of it while I was pregnant with baby girl.

So, the gluten-free diet was thrown to the curb once I became pregnant. I did experience crazy bloating and stomach pains but I was so miserable that I didn’t care if the gluten was adding to it since I found it satisfying. Unfortunately though, six weeks after baby girl was born I woke up with the most unbearable pain that came in waves. I like to think that I have a high pain tolerance. I had two fast natural births and the stomach pain I was experiencing was comparable. I absolutely couldn’t bear it and had to call my mom in the middle of the night to drive baby girl and I to the emergency so that Julien could stay home with our son. The pain was so bad I that spent the night in the fetal position except for when I had to feed baby girl and when they ran their tests. The results came back that I had inflammation in my small bowel and elsewhere and that I should follow up with a GI doctor.

Months later, I asked my doctor to refer me to a GI doctor and I’m happy she did. Once he received my referral he scheduled a colonoscopy right away even before meeting me. Have you had a colonoscopy? Having one hadn’t even crossed my mind but I wasn’t worried about it. How bad could it be? They put you under and it’s a fast procedure lol I have to say that the actual procedure is easy. I remember them putting me out, waking up for a VERY brief moment saying that I was in pain and then I was out cold. Following the procedure, I had no pain BUT did I ever feel sick. The fasting process for the colonoscopy was INSANE. I had to start preparing for it three days in advance. This may not seem like a big deal for some but I found it brutal lol The third and second day prior to, I could only eat bland, white foods. I basically ate white rice and steamed veggies for two days YUCK and then I was on a fluids ONLY diet for the last day. This diet was by far the hardest part of the process. Following the colonoscopy, I spent the rest of the day in bed sick and didn’t feel like myself for at least two days afterward. Who knew!? For those of you who have had one, what was your experience like?

My colonoscopy results came in a couple of weeks later. They found the same inflammation and noted that the biopsies came back that I was gluten intolerant. As a result, they recommended that I have an endoscopy to rule out Celiac disease…. Seriously? I have to go under again!? Good news is that the endoscopy was super easy to prepare for and it didn’t make me feel unwell afterward.

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Luckily for me, the endoscopy results came in quickly and I was able to meet with my doctor two weeks after the procedure. It turns out that I may be partially Celia or have early Crohns. My doctor highly recommended that I start a gluten-free diet. He noted that it is very difficult to diagnose one or the other but that the results of the tests and biopsies suggest that it could be either. WHATTTTTT!!! This is so confusing. My hope was that I had nothing or that he would give me a concrete diagnosis but he couldn’t. He noted that he may be able to do so with time but in the meantime, I would greatly benefit from a gluten-free and low sugar diet. He also suggested that I take a digestive enzyme with each meal. For those of you who know me well and follow my blog and/or Instagram account regularly, you know that pizza is by far my favourite food. How will I manage going gluten-free?!

So here I am, a week later, still eating gluten and trying to figure out a game plan. After my last appointment with my doctor, I LITERALLY ate pizza that night and the two nights afterward. I ate so much pizza last week that I don’t feel like eating it tomorrow night (Friday night) which is unheard of lol

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This week was a very busy one for me, therefore, I wasn’t able to focus on educating myself about a gluten-free diet nor buy the right groceries but I think I will slowly start taking it out of my diet as of next week. I have to admit that I’m a bit nervous about this process but I’m hoping that I will be able to find some awesome recipes and good gluten-free bread. I love starting my day off with a good coffee and peanut butter toast so if anyone has any favourite gluten-free bread suggestions I’d love to hear about them. Finally, for those of you who are on a gluten-free diet or those who know of great gluten-free restaurants, resources and/or products I would LOVE to hear about them so please do leave a comment.

Wish me luck with the road ahead 😉 and big props to those out there (like my sister and friend Lauren) who are already living a gluten-free lifestyle.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

Talk soon!

Ash

 

Working out – pre and post kids

Hey guys!

I decided to dedicate this week’s post to something I’ve been missing lately. Working out and, more specifically, how it has changed for me since having kids. You know what I am saying mom’s…your pre-kids workout just can’t be maintained the same way after having a couple of kids and working full time. Props to those who have been able to maintain a regular workout though. I hope to get there one day but for now, this just isn’t the case.

Working out pre-kids:

Before having out kids I used to workout like it was my job. I absolutely loved running. Nothing in the world felt better than lacing up my shoes and heading out for a long run on my own. I had all the time in the world to run 5-7 days a week and didn’t have to worry about whether or not exercising would compromise time spent showering, cooking for the family, doing groceries or just sitting down for a few moments.

Before kids I could work out anytime of the day. Morning, afternoon, evening which ever time best suited me that day. Sometimes I’d meet up with friends for body pump and then stay for and extra class just because we could. Nowadays, if I want to work it its usually during nap time which means I won’t be resting or preparing things for after naps. I’m also now a big fan of the 30-45 minute workouts. An hour seems like such a commitment.

Another thing about pre-kids exercise is that nothing really hurt. I could run for days and my body didn’t notice. Oh, how times have changed. If I manage to schedule a run in, once every couple of months, everything hurts. My knees, pelvis etc it’s as though my body is in shock. This never used to happen.

Working out post kids

Working our post kids is like winning the lottery! If I can squeeze in a 25 minute workout session using the Nike app in my basement it’s a parent win DING DING DING!!! After my son, I was able to resume a pretty good workout routine during my mat leave. I ran everywhere with him. To the grocery store, along the trans can and he just slept along the way like an angel. Of course, this was botched when I went back to working full time and then again when I became pregnant with our daughter and I was trying to just get through my days. I had no idea pregnancy would be so different/difficult the second time around. Pregnancy #2 was just AWFUL ALL OF THE TIME and I swear that everything below my neck hurt. Anyway, this isn’t about my pregnancies 😉 plus she was of course worth all of the pain but after having our daughter it took me a good 6-7 months to get my butt back to the gym and, when I did, I was doing low impact exercises. It turns out, for me anyway, that your body changes significantly after having a couple kids 😉 and things hurt more easily. Actually, I’m not sure if it is the kids or the fact than I am in my thirties but either way my body seems to need a hell of a lot more stretching and tender love and care.

Before kids, I used to love high impact cardio. Body attack, shred, intervals etc it was my thing. Since having had our daughter though those days are gone lol Well, for now at least 😉 I just can’t do them like I used to and to be honest I don’t enjoy them the same way either. Other mom’s keep telling me that I will get back into it one day and you know what they are probably right but for now I’m ok with getting my exercise in other ways.

Life with two kids is WONDERFUL and I’m beyond grateful and thankful for my babes 🙂 but man is it ever busy! Also, following mom’s diagnosis, I felt as though my days were so busy with the kids and wrapping my head around her diagnosis that I needed to slow things down and digest our new reality.

As previously mentioned in my post on our family trip to Florida in April, it was yoga that really saved me and rekindled my love for working out since it allowed me to relax and provided my body with such an amazing stretch.

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Note: I’m the one with the orange top on the left sitting at the back of the groups 😉

I realized at this time that I wasn’t enjoying running or high-intensity cardio because it felt like yet another task that I had to add to my daily to do list. What I really needed was to slow down, stretch, strengthen and meditate. Yoga brought me a kind of relaxation that I’ve never experienced. My mom will be happy to hear this. She’s been telling me to do yoga and meditate for years. Once again, “you were right mom” 😉 I’d also like to send out a big thank you to my yoga instructor at goodlife fitness who also inspired me to love yoga and who literally brought tears to my eyes during our meditation sessions. Nothing makes me feel more relaxed and vulnerable than your classes. Namaste to you!

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Now that I am back to work, my workout schedule has changed once again but I’m hoping that I will eventually be able to squeeze in a couple yoga sessions a week once we get into the swing of things. More importantly though, I make sure that my family and I get out and enjoy all that the outdoors has to offer, especially the fresh air. For now, our workouts include family bike rides, park play, walks and chasing after kids anywhere and everywhere they go. You know what I mean mama’s 😉 spending a day chasing two kids around is exercise in itself!

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Finally, I don’t think that its fair to think that I will never run again or enjoy high-intensity cardio but for now, my workout regime has changed and I’m ok with that. We should all workout in whatever way makes us happy and most importantly healthy.

Whether or not you have kids I would love to hear about your workout regime. What do you like to do for exercise? What do you recommend that I try? If you do have kids, has your workout regime changed since having them? If so, how?

Looking forward to hearing from you! Hope you have a fabulous weekend filled with much fun and fresh air.

Ciao,

Ash

 

Breast health and Mammograms – we gotta do it ladies!

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Ladies, we have to take good care of our ladies! If we don’t take charge of our breast who will? A big shout out to some e-cards for the hilarious picture and quote above. I had to include it. Plus, posting pics of my breasts during my mammogram would have been a bit much ;).

For those who don’t know, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. The good news is that after her mastectomy, chemo, and radiation she was cancer free! The bad news is that in January 2017 she was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer. I am not sharing this with you to make you sad rather, I am sharing this with you because I never thought that this would happen to my family. To my hardworking, loving, kind and generous mom but it did. I am sharing this with you because breast and ovarian cancers are real and, if left undiagnosed, they can be deadly. You have the power to self-check and ask for additional testing. You owe it to yourself to take good care of your body. The only body you have for this lovely-life of ours.

It has been six months since mom’s diagnosis and since I have decided to seriously take charge of my breast and ovarian health. I am currently seeing a breast cancer high-risk specialist at the General hospital (how lucky are we to have such a specialty) and undergoing different tests. One of them being the dreaded mammogram… I’d like to focus this post on my recent mammogram experience. Why, you may ask, well because if you have a family history of breast cancer this simple test can save your life. I never thought that I would have a mammogram at 32 since they aren’t recommended until the age of 50, but I am happy that I did.

Having delivered two babies both naturally and vaginally I wasn’t too worried about the mammogram being painful. Until the day of! I had asked a few people about their experiences and most said that they were uncomfortable. I was starting to worry a bit and thought maybe they were downplaying it like people downplay labour pain. I decided to google mammograms and look at pictures of the machine. Have you seen the size of those machines? They are huge. Of course, this google search only made me feel more nervous and on my drive, over to the hospital, I began to panic. Mom always said that it feels like they are squishing your breast into a pancake. That can’t be good lol I tried squishing them myself but it didn’t really hurt. Oh, I forgot to mention that I barely have any breasts at all. Like literally none. I seriously wondered how they would get them into the machine lol but they managed :).

I’ll tell ya from the start that my mammogram experience was actually quite pleasant. I am not sure if I have a high pain tolerance or if the process was painless due to my complete lack of breasts but it didn’t hurt at all. I had this awesome tech who was around my age. She was so sweet and sensitive to my current situation (since mom’s diagnosis and history was included in the referral). She took the time to explain what the terrifying machine would do and took things step by step. We actually ended up laughing a lot. I wasn’t sure she would be able to get much breast on the machine but she did and boy did she squish them like a pancake but I promise you it didn’t hurt at all. I was in and out in about 15 minutes and felt better knowing that my breasts had been scanned. These early images will allow for comparison later on in life. We are so lucky to have this technology in Canada.

So ladies, for those of you who have a history of breast cancer in their family and who’s doctor supports this decision, I highly recommend getting a mammogram done early on. It is a brief and painless appointment and may give you some piece of mind. I know that it did for me.

To my high-risk specialist. I thank you so much for taking such great care of me and sending me for this test. I feel confident moving forward that I am in good hands and that you will guide me to make the most educated decisions regarding my breast health. I will leave you with a recent picture of mom and I taken two weeks after her last chemo session. She was feeling great and we had a great visit with the family.

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Talk soon,

Ash xo