Sunday, December 25, 2011

All I want for Christmas....

Welcome to Bombshell Bettie’s very first blog!  This month you will have the privilege to read awe inspiring stories about two amazing women. Both women are under 30 years old, have been diagnosed with cancer and undergone treatment for their cancers. These girls are very near and dear to me. One of them is Co-Owner of Bombshell Bettie.
This past June Kerry and I started our business. This was something we both wanted so badly! We were excited to see what 2011 had in store for us! We were ready to tackle all of those pesky yet interesting new business issues; Finding storage space, business licensing, permits, taxes and fees galore. We were not ready to find out that Kerry had cancer. Then again, who is ever ready to hear that?  Not surprisingly, Kerry amazed me. Shortly after she was diagnosed she was up and fighting. She works full time, runs this business, takes care of her step-daughter and she didn’t let cancer slow her down. In fact she kicked cancers ass! I am so thankful to have her as a business partner and friend. She is smart, kind, funny, optimistic, and all around amazing.  Read on for Kerry’s inspiring story….

Kerry McQueen - Co-Owner of Bombshell Bettie

12 months before my diagnosis I was walking down the aisle at my wedding with the man of my dreams.  At that point I thought that my life was perfect.  I had a great husband and a beautiful step-daughter.  We were looking forward to starting our family right away.  After a few months of having negative results it started to weigh on me.  It's very depressing to get negative results over and over again.  I was tracking my periods on a fertility chart, taking my basal temperature but still nothing.  I had a gut feeling that something was wrong but I read online that it's normal to take up to a year to get pregnant.  So I pushed my gut feeling aside and kept trying.  Then in April my Grandfather passed away and 2 days later I started my period.  It lasted 9 days and was a lot heavier than my normal periods.  At least I thought they were "normal" periods.  I basically thought that my April period was abnormal due to the stress of my Grandfather dying.  So I didn't worry too much about it. Then in May I had a period that was even more abnormal.  It lasted 9 days straight, was extremely heavy, there was a 3 day break, then it came back for 5 more days, and a week later 1 more day.  I knew right away that something was NOT normal.  I made an appointment with my primary care Doctor's office.  By then it was already June.

My primary care Doctor sent me for an ultrasound and blood test and referred me to a Gynecologist, Della Fong (Arcadia CA).  My ultra sound showed that I had extremely thick uterine lining which was very abnormal.  My primary care Doctor diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome aka PCOS.  I was finally able to make an appointment for July 25th to get in the Gynecologist.  I'm very grateful that my primary care Doctor got the ball rolling with those tests.  This alerted my Gynecologist right away and she sent me immediately for another ultrasound and blood test to see if anything had changed.  Of course nothing did and I came back in a week later.  She prescribed me an extremely high dosage of birth control to "force a period" and boy did it.  After that I had to get yet another ultra sound done to see if the lining had thinned, But once again the ultra sound showed that I still had excessive lining and this time it showed I had polyps.  My Gynecologist advised me that I could try the birth control again or I could have a procedure done called a D&C.  A D&C is where they go in and scrape out the lining of the uterus.  Well for me it was a very obvious answer; the pill didn't work so why waste more time.  I opted for the surgery.  

On September 21st, 2011 I had a D&C done.  You can't eat or drink anything 12 hours before the procedure because you will be put under anesthesia.  You fill out all kinds of forms before the surgery and basically sign away your life. Then they make you strip down to your birthday suit.  No clothes, no jewelry, just a hospital gown and a hairnet.  The nurses come over and ask you all the same questions the last nurse asked you when you checked in.  And there is a lot of waiting.   When it’s time for surgery they hook you up to an IV and roll you into the operating room.  When I arrived in the operating room there were 6 people in there that would probably see my vagina in about 5 minutes.  I was not very excited about that but at this point what can you do.  The anesthesiologist puts the oxygen mask on you while the nurse and DR strap you on to the bed and hold your arms down.  After a few seconds you start falling asleep.  For me I only remember about 3 blinks and the next thing I remember is the nurse waking me up in the recovery room.  Everyone reacts to anesthesia differently but for me I just feel dizzy when I’m waking up.  Finally after the anesthesia wears off a bit more they ask you to pee.  Apparently you can't leave until you pee.  For this procedure my DR removed the polyps and excessive lining and sent it off for a biopsy.  When I left they told me to make a follow up appointment for 2 weeks after the surgery.  My surgery was on a Wednesday and by Friday they were calling me asking me to come in on Monday.  I knew something was wrong right away.  The suspense killed me all weekend.

On Monday, September 26th I went to my DRs Office alone.  I guess even though my gut feelings were bad I was still hopeful.  I thought I could handle it on my own.  The nurse escorted me to my DRs Office.  As soon as my DR sat down she said "We found Cancer" and I basically blanked at that point.  I felt like my world was ending.  I didn't want to die.  I wanted to have children, and grandchildren.  I wanted to live.  I didn't want to do Chemo.  I kept replaying "we found cancer" in my head.  I would hear parts of what the DR was telling me.  Then at the end of our appointment she handed me a note with all the big words and procedures I should read about online.  She must have known it was too much for me to digest at that moment, And then without the ability to control myself I just started bawling.  I could not stop crying.  My DR advised me that she wanted me to know but she also informed me that she did not have all my test results in.  She sent them out for a 2nd opinion and was waiting for the results.  So I made an appointment to come in the following Thursday.  This time I took my husband.  I expected more bad news.

The cancer I had is called "Endometrial Adenocarcinoma" aka Uterine Cancer.  Because of my PCOs condition I have irregular periods and my uterine lining doesn't shed like it should.  In addition, PCOs causes some women to gain excessive weight.  Excessive weight causes more estrogen.  Too much estrogen, and lack of having regular periods caused the polyps to form and they were there for a while which caused the cancer to grow.  On my follow-up appointment the DR informed me that it was in the early stages and she wanted me to have an MRI done ASAP to determine if they got all of the cancer out.  The MRI was a very strange experience.  It's a very long tube they slide you in to take images of your body.  It's very claustrophobic and very loud.  I tried to imagine myself lying in a hammock on the beach somewhere.  My MRI showed that I was cancer free and it had not spread to the walls of my vagina or my cervix.  Thank you Lord!  

My Dr went over the "treatment" options for this type of cancer.  The standard treatment is a hysterectomy.  A hysterectomy is where they remove the vagina or parts of the vagina, and doing so forces you into menopause.  But my DR decided to try a non-standard treatment for fertility reasons.  Her treatment plan for me is to be on birth control (to help me regulate my periods, and force the lining to shed so the cancer won't have time to grow), have a D&C every 3 months for a year, and have a biopsy preformed on the lining collected.  If I remain cancer free for an entire year then we can try to get pregnant.  

My last surgery was scheduled on December 14th.  I was very nervous for the results of this D&C.  If the cancer had returned I would need to have a hysterectomy.  This means I would never be pregnant.  If the results came back normal then I have a better chance of getting pregnant later. The chances of the cancer coming back would also be lessened.  My surgery went well and on Monday December 19th my DR called to tell me that all my results came back normal.  I was so happy, so hopeful, so uplifted.  For the first time I was crying happy tears. Over the last 3 months I had lived in fear that the cancer would return and I would need a hysterectomy.  

My Doctor saved my life.  I truly believe more than ever that every woman should have a pap smear done each year and tell their DR if there is something irregular even if it seems like nothing, it could be something.  Pap smears should be done whether you are sexually active or not, especially if your periods are irregular.  

All I wanted for Christmas was my life back.  Thanks to lots of prayers and Dr. Fong I got what I wanted.  My next D&C procedure is March 7th and I’m hopeful for more good news.

Bombshells take care of yourselves and go get checked out <3

xoxo Kerry

Owners of Bombshell Bettie  - Erin (left) & Kerry (right)

Bombshell Bettie is donating 20% of our profit from October-December to aid in the fight to thrive & survive cancer. We feel it is important to do more than just a monetary donation.  Sometimes knowing you’re not alone aids in the healing process. We want you to meet an amazing woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the beginning of this year.  Her story of weakness, strength, courage, and survival is powerful.


     Lights, camera, action!

It is 90 degrees outside. We are hot, sweaty and happy to be on location for our photo shoot. Tabatha Neal is all dolled up and working it for the camera.  Our stunning model Tabatha just celebrated her 27th birthday in September and she looks better than ever. The last few years have been difficult. She endured the devastating loss of her husband at the age of 22 and 9 months ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She may be teeny tiny (4’9”) but she is one of the strongest women I know. She is also my best friend.
Kerry and I decided to feature Tabatha this month because she is a source of inspiration, hope and strength to everyone around her. She was gracious enough to go along with this photo shoot and interview. Kerry is a photographer so she handled the photo shoot and that leaves me to write this blog. Here’s my interview with Tabatha….

                                                 Talk to me Baby!
Erin: Thank you for taking the time to do this and for openly discussing all of the craziness that is your life. How do I interview you? I know nearly everything about you.

Tabatha: I know!

Erin:  Let’s give the people a brief story of what had happened in your life prior to the breast cancer diagnoses.

Tabatha:  3 years ago my husband passed away. He was Marine and was killed in a car accident on base. That’s the worst thing that has ever happened to me. Cancer was small in comparison. As funny as that sounds….I felt like I was dying after I lost him but I didn’t feel that way after the diagnoses.

Erin: How did you find out about the cancer?

Tabatha: I was doing a self breast check and I felt the lump. I was about to start my period so I waited to see if it went away but it got bigger and became painful. I told my Doctor. After performing an ultrasound she advised me to get a mammogram, after that I had to get a biopsy. One week after the biopsy I was found out I had cancer.
Erin: What did the lump feel like?

Tabatha: It was painful, firm yet squishy. It’s hard to describe.  I became unable to sleep on my side

Erin: When you looked at your breast could you see the lump?

Tabatha: Yes

Erin: How big was your lump when you discovered it?

Tabatha:  It was the size of a quarter.

Erin: How long did it take you to get the lump checked out?

Tabatha: About a week or two. I experienced delays in between the different procedures.

Erin: You have had 3 surgeries. Finally you are done! What surgeries did you have?

Tabatha: My first surgery (April 2011) was a mastectomy on the right breast, Since the tumor had gotten bigger I couldn’t have immediate reconstruction so I had to wait until I healed.  After the first surgery I decided to get a second opinion and I went to a well known cancer treatment hospital in Southern California. From there I decided to under-go a Prophylactic Mastectomy on the left breast(August 2011).  This procedure would decrease the chance of the breast cancer returning.  Immediately following the Prophylactic Mastectomy I underwent reconstruction.  The reconstruction consisted of putting in the expander implants and the Latissimus Dorsi Flap. That basically means that I needed extra skin and muscle for the breast so they took it from my back. The last surgery (December 2011) consisted of the removal of my expander implants and put in the permanent implants.

Erin: Do you feel that you were well informed prior to your first surgery?

Tabatha: No I think if I would have gone to the second hospital in the first place they could’ve done a better job.

Erin: How was the recovery?

Tabatha: Recovery from the first surgery was the hardest. I wasn’t prepared because I’d never had surgery before. I was nervous because I am overly cautious about things.

Erin: Was your body image affected?

Tabatha: After the first surgery, yes. Mostly because it was such a task trying to get dressed and feel like I looked normal.
Erin: Do you have the breast cancer gene?

Tabatha: No

Erin: How did you cope with having cancer?

Tabatha: I don’t know. I felt the whole time that I would be okay. I didn’t think of anything bad, after what I went through losing my husband I made up my mind that I would never let anything get me to such a bad place ever again. It wasn't easy, and I had rough days but I chose to be positive.

Erin: What has been the hardest part?  And what helped you get through the rough days?

Tabatha:  It’s life. Things are going to happen. No matter how bad it is for me. There are people who have it harder.

Erin: Do you have advice for someone recently diagnosed?

Tabatha: It’s really hard to say…Don’t feel bad about yourself. Don’t be angry with yourself. If you need to cry or scream do it. It’s a hard thing to give advice on…Go with what feels right to you. If your doctors are suggesting something that doesn’t seem right then get a second opinion.

Erin: What have you learned about cancer since your diagnosis?

Tabatha: It happens to anyone. It doesn’t matter your age, race or how well you take care of yourself. If you’re going to get it then you’re going to get it. I took care of myself. I ate well and exercised and I still got it. I think people should live healthfully but don’t beat yourself up if you do get cancer. Get checked! Feel your boobs! Find a way to get a mammogram if you feel that you need one.

Erin: What is your life like after cancer? Have you changed any habits to become healthier?

Tabatha: I drink less alcohol. I didn’t drink much before so now it’s super rare. I eat organic as much as I can and stay away from processed foods.

                                                           That’s all Folks!

Thank you for taking the time to read our blog! Live well and stay healthy. If something doesn’t feel right please see your doctor. Early detection could save your life.

Here's some more photos of Tabatha's photo shoot.....

MUAH for Tabatha Courtesy of Mechelle Velosa

A very special thank you to Mechelle Velosa who provided makeup & hair styling for Tabatha

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