Category Archives: Lipstick

Three Years and Counting | The Great Post-Chemo Pixie Growout

run lipstick chemopost chemo pixie growout

It’s been a while since we had a hair post, no? Since it’s been three years this week since my diagnosis, I thought it might be fun to see how my hair has changed each October…

  • October 2012: That’s how my hair looked when I was diagnosed. Gorgeous, right? I know they were all just being nice, but at one point I thought I was going to cause physical harm to the super sweet nurse who must have been the twelfth medical professional that week to tell me that my hair was beautiful. It was all I could do not to remind them that I was there because I had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I mean, they all got that it was about to fall out, right?
  • October, 2013: Just six months of growth after chemo and it was so dark and stylish! Instead of words like beautiful, people now told me that I looked strong and fierce. Man, I loved that hair, and I loved being strong and fierce! It’s funny how people assume things about your personality because of the way you choose to wear your hair. (And I loved feeling like I could pull off such dark lipstick–that Nars 413BLKR, was a go to back then!)
  • October 2014: I snapped this before heading off to a conference on 3D mammography. That was admittedly the start of a rough hair year. I had to fight the weather girl vibe on a daily basis and eventually went to a flat-ironed spiky look most days to avoid the over rounded coif that my hair apparently prefers.
  • October 2015: The light at the end of the tunnel! I’m pretty sure I had my hair like this once on purpose! It’s still a little short to get into a ponytail without too many little clips holding in stray pieces, but it’s pretty much a normal hairstyle for me now. I don’t hate it every minute of the day, and that’s major progress. It’s lightened up, too, thanks to time spent outside with the kiddos and my running buddies.

I guess I have to count it a win that I was happy with my hair in three out of four pictures… I’m on my way back to the first ‘do. If I ever make it, please don’t tell me that it’s “so 2012.” I think my family would still love for me to get back to the old pre-cancer me for a while, and I’m finally close enough that it seems possible. I just hope they don’t totally revolt when I decide I’ve had enough of the blow outs and curling iron and chop it all off for the 2013 look. But who am I kidding? At that point, they can revolt if they want. Because the next time a huge pile of my hair ends up on the floor, it will be by my choosing, and I think I’ve earned the right to pick my own hairstyle!

Thanks to Sally Brewer for the 2013 picture and Crystal Hardin for capturing the 2012 image just two days before Dragan shaved my head.

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The Great Pixie Grow Out Saga: Two Years and Counting

haircut may 2015

It’s a shocking before and after, no? It’s been forever since we’ve had a hair post.  I got a haircut this week, but wasn’t hoping for any dramatic change as I continue to work  through the grow out process. (Don’t you love the red lipstick, though? It’s my Nars Cruella lip pencil that was part of my birthday gift from Sephora!) It’s hard to remember, but this was my hair two years ago:

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Super short and white blond. I actually quite love that look.  Then as it grew back in, it got so much darker. I assume that it came back the color my hair always was, but my hair has always gotten lighter from the sun, and the new hair hadn’t been in the sun at all.

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So I quite like it that way, too, though it was awfully dark. (And look how nice my fingernails look. I really should polish them more.) Sorry no lovely professional photos of my new hair, but Dragan and I agree that it’s getting back to its old color.

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The ends are getting lighter, he commented it looked like we had done an ombre color treatment on it! I’m still working on getting it styled the way I want it– it’s so hard to work with hair in this in between length. Apparently, my hair “wants to behave” and adopt a round newscaster-y coif, so I’m working with products to give it a more disheveled, edgy look. So I’m currently on the lookout for some Redken Fashion Waves 07– a sea salt/surf spray to texturize it. Why can’t everything be available on Amazon prime? (And for the record, I took that last picture at a very long stoplight in Georgetown. I wanted to get a pic of the hair before it lost the “just left the salon” look!)

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Happy Birthday to Me | NARS Lip Pencils from Sephora

 

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My birthday is in December– quite frankly, I can’t believe that I’m 38. That just sounds older than I feel. Not that I’m obsessing about it at all, but some nice presents surely make it better!  I do love shopping at Nordstrom, but when it comes to cosmetics, I’m starting to become a Sephora convert.  They have a similar generous return policy, and they have a beauty insiders club that lets you earn points for really nice rewards– smaller sizes of some of their best products– things I actually want!  But best of all are the annual birthday gifts.  I discovered several of the products that I now love and faithfully buy that way– Watts Up highlighter by Benefit and Sugar Fresh lip balm are probably my favorite birthday gifts.  Until this year.

I’m a huge fan of NARS cosmetics– they are highly pigmented and deliver deep, lasting color.  The velvet matte pencil in Cruella is the red lip color I’ve been looking for– a bold red with just enough depth so that it’s not obnoxiously bright.  The satin lip pencil in Rikugien is more of a neutral, glossy color that’s a great everyday staple.  Two new lip colors– a perfect red and a glossy neutral– make me a pretty happy birthday girl.  Happy birthday to me indeed!

*This is the 2015 birthday gift– even though I was celebrating my 2014 birthday, it was January before I made it in to Sephora. Having noticed my love for NARS, the sales associate let me choose, and of course I went home with this one!

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My Ambivalence of Normalcy | “Normal” After Breast Cancer

normal

After I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I can remember that maintaining normalcy, especially for my family, was one of my main concerns.  I didn’t want to hide the fact that I had breast cancer, and I knew that things would be different for everyone.  But, for the most part, I wanted things to feel normal for them. I wanted to help with homework, drive to gymnastics, play games, and do Girls on the Run.  But I wanted things to be normal for me, too. Not to pretend that there was no cancer, but to give me some sense of control.  I wanted to be stronger than the cancer, I wanted to be my normal self in spite of the breast cancer. That’s how this blog got its name– I was determined to keep things normal by going for a run and always putting on some lipstick, even if chemo was my next stop.  It did take a lot of energy to be nothing more than normal, but it was energy that I wanted to expend.

But now I have a love/hate relationship with the word normal.  Exactly six weeks after my mastectomy, I went out on my first run post-surgery.  That  night, I was standing in the kitchen, and I remember Clay congratulating me on my first run, and he asked, “So is everything back to normal now?” I bristled. Was I supposed to be the same as before? Was he just hoping that he was off dishwasher-unloading duty?  Of course, I know his question had more to do with the relief that I was healthy and cancer free– free of treatments and their restrictions and side effects– than the dishwasher.

But back to normal? No.  Of course, physically, I don’t have any more restrictions.  I can reach what I want, lift what I want.  I don’t take any medications. (More on that in a future post, if you’re curious.)  But seatbelts still irritate me. My hair is growing out and driving. me. crazy. I have scars and tattoos. I have worries that no elementary school mom should have.  So maybe  a new normal, then? Lots of people love that phrase. I am not one of them, for the record.  I guess technically I have a new set of things that are part of my “normal” everyday life.  But to embrace the phrase new normal seems to acknowledge the fact that there’s no going back to the old normal, there’s no going back to that girl.  The girl with long hair who blamed headaches on PMS. The girl who went for a run because she wanted to lose ten pounds and be healthier, not because she feels like she’s inviting a cancer recurrence with her couch potato ways. The girl who bemoaned having to wear her cute little balconette push-up bra.  She’s gone, and sometimes it makes me sad.

Of course, there are a lot of good things about the word normal.  In fact, when I enter the auspices of Virginia Hospital Center, I crave the word.  My MRI? The PET scan? Normal.  Blissfully normal.  All my genes? Plain old vanilla normal. At support group? It is so reassuring to hear that what I’m feeling is completely normal. Normal is good.  Normal is just, well, so normal.

And so I find myself walking a very fine line.  Between loving and hating the word normal. But I continually strive spend more time considering the good, plain old vanilla type normal than mourning the old normal that is gone.

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The DC Ladies Interview

dc ladies snip

Do you read the DC Ladies? It’s a fun lifestyle blog for women, by women, in the DC area.  I love their tagline: the most fabulous women in the most powerful city. So I feel just a little fabulous today to be featured on their site.  It’s my first online interview, and I think they did a great job with it.  Shelley’s questions pushed me to think about things in a different way, so even faithful readers here will probably learn something new, and it is such a privilege to share my story with a new group of readers.  Check it out, and enjoy your holiday Monday!

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Gifting a Friend with Cancer

finisher 2a

It seems that one of the most frequent questions I’m asked is about how to gift a friend with cancer.  I have such generous friends who know me so well who gifted me with such thoughtful tokens.  The last time someone asked me this question, I started to list for her all the things people had given me and things that I’ve given others since.  But it occurred to me that the perfect gift for me might not be the perfect gift for someone else.  There aren’t a whole lot of things that someone going through cancer needs.  Yes, once your hair falls out, you’ll need a few good hats, so that’s a  nice place to start.  But really, gifting a friend is about making her happy.  So what makes her happy? If chemo makes her feel badly, then probably don’t buy food or smelly candles.  And if she’s trying to work and is exhausted, then don’t insist on taking her out for dinner.  For me, the best gift was always time.  An easy run, thrift shopping trip, or coffee or lunch date was exactly what I wanted.  But if you don’t live close to your friend or your schedules just won’t match up, here are a few ideas.  Just remember, keep in mind her personality– give her something that will make her smile!

  • Cupcakes.  I got bunches and loved every bite!
  • Starbucks card. If you can’t go with her to coffee, you can help her take someone else!
  • Jewelry.  Of course, who wouldn’t love a little blue box? Alas, I had to earn that one.  But several friends know that a pretty bracelet or pair of earrings always brightens my day.  Even almost two years later, I still smile, remembering the thoughtful giver when I wear a special gift.
  • Something completely frivolous.  I would never buy an Us Weekly magazine. Not that I am above being sucked in by salacious celebrity gossip. But I would feel guilty, I should spend my money on something more redeeming. But when it comes from a fun friend? What an indulgent way to pass the time!
  • After I had my mastectomy, the neighborhood ladies took me to get a pedicure.  Such a fun outing! A gift card for a pedi would be a great gift for a friend after surgery, but a mani/pedi is off limits while she’s on chemo.  Maybe a gift card for a massage instead?

Of course, especially if you live nearby, things like childcare and dinner are always appreciated.  Pitching in with some friends for an occasional visit from a house cleaning service would be amazing.  But really, what I wanted from my friends more than anything was their friendship.  Pay attention to her– what makes her happy? What is making her smile right now?  Lip gloss, twizzlers, a sassy tee, or her very own cancer card.  (Man, I wish I’d seen those back when I was in treatment.  I would have whipped that bad boy out.  I wonder if it would have gotten me out of a parking ticket if I threw it in my dash instead of the parking meter receipt…)

I had a friend who was so sick during her chemo, the only thing that she wanted to eat was an Egg McMuffin, so I would drop one off every once in a while.  When I was diagnosed, she had moved away, but sent me the sweetest card with a McDonald’s gift card. You should have seen the smile on my face.  Clay thought it was the strangest gift ever, I don’t even really like McDonald’s. But I understood the gift, and it made me so happy.  Another great gift? The back scratcher a friend picked up after I complained that percocet made me itchy and I couldn’t scratch my own back after my mastectomy. Neither of those gifts came in a fancy blue box, but they both showed me that my friends were really listening to me and thinking of me. As much as I love me a little blue box, I’d prefer a thoughtful little gift any day.

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Coming Soon to a Doctor’s Office Near You | Breast Cancer Treatment Guide

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You know those magazines that lay on the tables at your doctor’s office? I guess it’s more because of my stage of life, but I tend to think of all the pregnancy mags they have at an OB’s office.  There’s a new one every quarter or so, except they all have essentially the same information, just repackaged for the next crop of pregnant moms.  Apparently, they make these magazines for all kinds of conditions, and of course, breast cancer is no exception. image

This Breast Cancer guide is published by Healthmonitor and is offered to patients for free in doctor’s offices.  I was contacted by the editor who had come across my blog and was hoping that I would contribute to the upcoming issue.  She had gleaned several things from my blog and used a few tips that worked into the issue.  I sent her a few photo options, but I love that she used this one– it’s one of my faves from a session Sally did last May. For some strange reason, I really love that I can see my port scar just under my collarbone.

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I’m sure it will eventually be available online, though for now, you could look for it when you head in for your annual mammogram!  The editor sent me a PDF to preview this week.  I have to admit feeling a bit starstruck (and a bit like a nerd!) when I recognized Shana of The Mom Edit (formerly Ain’t No Mom Jeans) on the page before me!  She’s a fun mommy fashion blogger who I followed before she was diagnosed with breast cancer last year– though I must admit I followed more closely after her diagnosis.

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I appreciated the opportunity to be a part of this project.  I’ve been honored to write for the Arlington Magazine and to do the interview on Let’s Talk Live, but this magazine will put the name of my blog in front of actual breast cancer patients.  I am humbled by the idea that newly diagnosed women, looking for any answer they can find in the stack of information they take home from the surgeon’s office, might read my words or head to my blog and learn something that will help them or give them a little extra confidence as they approach their treatment.

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Bald Heads and Weather Girl Hair | Hair Loss and Wigs after Chemo for Breast Cancer

Perhaps the only picture taken of my while I was wearing my wig...

Perhaps the only picture taken of my while I was wearing my wig…

As I look back, I regret how I used this blog when I was going through treatment.  It was more of a weekly check-in, just to let people know that I was still doing fine.  Truth be told, sometimes I only checked in once a week because I was busy doing fun things and napping and just didn’t feel like spending my precious awake time on the computer.  But still, I wish that I’d had more pictures of all the fun things I was doing– pictures of me in my favorite scarf and fabulous boots wandering around Old Town with Sally, pictures of me in my favorite smartwool hat from Athleta hanging out at the bus stop with all my neighbors, watching the kids play.  Pictures showing that it wasn’t always all that easy, but that it really wasn’t all that hard, either.  And I wish I had pictures of those few times I actually wore my wig.

I didn’t think that I wanted a wig, but it really seemed like it would be easier for the kids if I had one.  Since insurance paid for it (or most of it), I went ahead and got one.  I did my best to get one that looked like my real hair, but really only wore it to church.  It felt so strange, so disingenuous to wear a wig over my bald head.  I’ve also always been a “fusser,” I fuss with my hair constantly.  I tuck it behind this ear, then that,  smooth it out over my neck.  Even with a good wig, that’s just not a great plan.  It starts to get all tangly and before you know it, all I could think about was how much my hair felt like the hair on Emma Clare’s American Girl Doll.  Not a good feeling.

One Sunday, apparently the Sunday after chemo (I can tell because the steroids made me all flushed for several days), the youth director took photos of everyone to make a directory of sorts to hang on the bulletin board.  As far as I know, this is the only picture of me actually wearing my wig, not just playing dress up. (Oh wait, I did find one other picture– even worse than this one– that I took the night after I had my head shaved.)

It was a really good wig, but I only wore it a handful of times.  I think I somehow felt stronger without the wig– like I was showing that I was strong enough and healthy enough that I didn’t need the wig.  That said, there are a lot of women who want to wear a wig for lots of great reasons.  My kids didn’t mind me being bald, and I was so thankful for that.  I have one friend, though, whose son found her bald head very upsetting, so she wore her wig most of the time.  If I were working, especially in an environment where I dealt with clients, I can see wanting to hide my cancer– perhaps they might think I wasn’t up to the task or that they were “helping” me by taking their business elsewhere. If I thought I were going to wear my wig, there are definitely some things I should have done differently.  A shorter, straight wig would be much easier to take care of and wear on a daily basis than the long, wavy locks I bought.  If someone were trying to do the “wear the wig everyday and keep the cancer thing under wraps” thing, I’d probably suggest she cut her hair into a short bob as soon as possible– a style that would be easy to replicate with a wig.  It was mere minutes into our first wig shop outing when Sally and I started referring to that as “weather girl hair.” I hope that doesn’t offend any weather girls.  But seriously, watch the news for a while and you’ll totally get it.  At any rate, if she’s got weather girl hair to begin with, when her hair starts falling out, a quick shave and a swap with the wig might not be all that noticeable.

It’s so funny to me that I desperately wanted to keep things normal for the kids, yet I thought nothing of showing up for a “normal” school event with nothing more than a scarf covering my head.  Either way, especially when she has cancer, a woman should do whatever it takes for her to feel stronger, more beautiful, more powerful.  She should do whatever she wants, whether that means having the best weather girl hair out there, or heading out with a shiny bald head and some great lipstick.

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What to Wear | Post-Surgery

photo 2 - Copy (2)

I hadn’t planned to do another what to wear post, but after chatting at the bus stop, I decided to take another picture in my dirty mirror.  We were discussing all the compression garments I was wearing– yes, I was complaining.  Again. There are foam pads a quarter inch thick on the outside of each thigh, another one on my stomach.  I’ve got on a lovely, lace trimmed compression bra, a super tight abdominal binder, and of course, the girdle that goes down nearly to my knees.  I decided to share the outfit when one friend mentioned she had no idea all the “business” I had going on underneath. Oh yes, there’s a lot of business going on up under there.  A dark skirt that’s not too clingy hides the girdle and foam pads on my thighs, and the high collar and boxy shape of the tee hide the compression bra and at least most of the bulkiness of the shoulder strap flaps.

The abdominal binder means that he did end up using my belly fat for the fat grafting.  But he was a good sport, so tried my flank first, since it was my first choice.  Which means that I have double the compression, double the pain.  But maybe half the fat?  Let’s go with that.

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What to Wear | Surgery Day

what to wear surgery

Today’s the big day– hopefully the last surgery day.  And you know me– what I’m wearing is deliberate and planned out.  Of course, I need the maxi skirt for the compression gear that comes later.  This hoodie has become a surgery staple for me.  When you’re having breast surgery, you aren’t allowed to raise your arms over your head, so something that buttons or zips up is a necessity.  This one is great because it’s light weight and loose fitting. Flip flops are easy, and the glasses (ugh) are a must.  I think I need some new glasses.

surgery bag

I’ve got my bag all packed too.  Less is more.  I might add a book or single magazine, or maybe my little computer.  But really, there are so many people coming and going, asking your birth date and why you are having surgery in your own words.  (Maybe I’ll have to be creative on that one!)  But there isn’t a lot of free time, so you don’t need a lot to fill it.  But with surgery at 2pm and no food after midnight, I’m already starving, so I hit up the Rite Aid this morning so that I had a couple of favorite treats waiting for me as soon as I get the green light.  (Will update on my facebook page this evening.)

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