by Megan Clouse

The art of saying thank you sometimes gets lost in our busy days, but I’m a firm believer that our lives are enriched when we slow down just enough to acknowledge something kind.  I send quick thank you’s via text and email for a small deed, a hand written note for something more special, and my ultimate thank you for something really special is a public acknowledgment; to show the world my appreciation.

Over a year ago I wrote and submitted a piece to Guideposts magazine; my account of how special my hospital breast care coordinator was to me while I went through treatments.  Months and months ticked by without a word so I figured the story was gone forever; buried in some east coast landfill.  While I sat in California having given up and moved on, a NYC editor resurrected it from her stack of desk papers and it is now published!

Mind you it’s not what I wrote it all, and it went from pages to mere paragraphs, but the effect and gratitude is still the same.  Thank you Vicki for helping me through a difficult time.

by Megan Clouse

One of the great privileges of going through a struggle is to come out at the other end of it all and have the opportunity to share tips and encouragement to others who are embarking on a new diagnosis.

Last month I was invited to speak to a group of women in a BC group, all of whom are at different stages of their treatments.  I spoke about beauty tips and the products that helped me while I was going through treatments and surgery. I shared some of my favorite products; a bra that can accommodate special needs while still looking fashionable, along with oils, lotions and tips that helped me heal quick and feel good.

I felt very honored to share my experiences and I hope that my insight helped many of the women.  I’d love to help even more, so if you or someone you know is currently going through treatment, I’d love to hear what has helped you or invite you to ask me a question in the comments box.

Here are a few of the products that I mentioned in the group:

Coobie Bras (post surgery)

Miaderm Lotion (radiation creme)

Lavender-Sesame Oil (healthy skin post radiation/surgery)

Probiotics (digestion aid during chemo)

Scar Away (post surgery)

by Megan Clouse

There’s a chance that all of the hours I’ve logged watching America’s Next Top Model, Project Runway and Sex and the City are going to pay off next month when I get to strut down a fashion show runway!  By all means I’m no model, but luckily neither are the other 30 women (and 1 man) that will be modeling that evening.  The fashion show is a benefit supporting local breast cancer charities and all of the “models” are BC conquerors so it should be very interesting!  The fashion show will be featuring fabulous clothes and accessories from Macys, Eileen Fisher, Kate Spade and more!

In preparation for the fashion show, the “models” recently met for an amazing luncheon and photo shoot (for the program) at a stunning home in Tiburon.  We enjoyed having our makeup done, a quick head-shot photo, some chit-chat and a yummy lunch all while looking out at sweeping views of San Francisco bay.

More about the fashion show next month!  Wish me luck…

by Megan Clouse

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again and again… dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis is nothing like I thought it would be.  It’s much more involved, even with the cancer gone and life back to normal.

Two weeks ago I went in for some more reconstruction surgery; to remove the implant that hardened from last year’s radiation, to remove constricting scar tissue and to try to gain some more symmetry with my natural breast and (what I like to call) my “bionic breast”.  I’m happy to report that the surgery was very successful and so far I’m very pleased with my results!

I have to say… surgery is always an interesting endeavor.  First of all I go through a few days of panic fearing that I’ll be one of those weird cases you hear about where someone healthy dies on the operating table; I can probably thank my mom’s paranoid nature for that passed-down trait.  But, I always wake up with a, “Yes!!  I lived through it!”  With all of those bad thoughts that precede surgery, I have to say that I was very calm all the way up to the last moment I was awake and I attribute it to having Mike by my side most of the time, the great nursing/doctor staff, and the loopiness from the motion sickness patch didn’t hurt either.

Photo note:  A quick iphone snapshot of me before surgery.  Because I’ve had lymph nodes removed, and I’m trying to avoid Lymphedema at all costs, it’s very important that I never, ever have a needle or blood pressure cuff on my surgery side, so the nurse kindly wrote it out with a sharpie so it was very clear to everyone.

by Megan Clouse

Most of us only think of picking up our point-n-shoot camera when there is a celebration or goofy family moment, but as a photographer, I can appreciate the importance of documenting all of the moments even the ones that aren’t full of smiles.  It might feel awkward at the time, but I can almost guarantee that you’ll look back and find appreciation in that time and in many cases you’ll find the lessons that helped you grow.

This is just what I did over a year ago.  I phoned a fellow photographer/friend and we documented the time when I was bald from chemo.  Yes, it was awkward.  Yes, it is somewhat difficult for me still to see the photos (just picking one to share with you was difficult).  BUT, I’m so grateful I have some photos to remember that time!

The flipside is to not forget the victory on the other side!  Document the triumphs and the joys!  You don’t necessarily have to hire a professional, just ask a friend, let go of your inhibitions and have some fun!

Many thanks to Douglas Thompson for both images!

by Megan Clouse

Back when I was young(er) and carefree I never gave one second of worry about trans fats, high fructose corn syrup or cancer for that matter but as my age has increased so has my awareness on the food that I eat.  I really started paying close attention after my cancer diagnosis in 2008 and I thought I was being so smart when I increased my fruit and vegetable intake and cut back on fistfuls of chips.  Well it’s a start but…

An article in my hometown newspaper reminded me again that just because it looks healthy doesn’t necessarily mean it is.  Yet one more study was recently released saying that one of the common strawberry pesticides, Methyl Bromide and Methyl Iodide is know to cause cancer.  As quoted in the article, “It [Methyl Iodide] is carcinogenic and dangerous. Human exposure should be avoided,” said Dr. John Froines, a chemistry professor at UCLA who chaired the independent scientific review panel that studied methyl iodide at the request of DPR.

This is all so unbelievably insane I don’t know whether I should scream or laugh!  Why in the world is OUR government approving such toxins to go into our soil, our water and our food?   That answer I do not have, but what I can offer is that we all continue on switching our foods over to locally and organically grown.

Yes we need to find a cure for cancer, but I’ll say it again, we need to stop poisoning ourselves first!

by Megan Clouse

The current issue of Town & Country magazine poses the question “What’s Your Cause?” on its July 2010 cover with front to back pages filled with stories of everyday people (and some a bit more famous) making a difference in their community and around the world! One story in particular (Harlem’s Cancer Crusader) shares how one doctor is making a large impact in a neighborhood that had some of the highest levels of cancer due in part to the large poverty level. He and his devoted staff have been “chipping away at disparities in the community’s access to health care for cervical, colon, prostate and breast cancers” with an astounding 13,000 visits in 2009 alone!

Yes, there’s so much need in every corner of our planet and sometimes it can be daunting, but let’s not forget how one person’s vision can grow and spread and impact a community, a family and generations.

I suspect that Emilie Sommer’s vision was along the same lines a Dr. Freeman’s when he began his crusade and I’m certain that Pink Initiative will continue to expand and impact women and families.

With that said, don’t forget Pink Initiative’s upcoming Breast Cancer Screening Day with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute mobile mammography van and the Martha Eliot Health Center in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, on October 26th!

So I’ll pose the same question as the magazine did…What is YOUR cause?  Please consider joining Pink Initiative’s cause on October 26 and help make a difference, because every little bit counts!

Stay tuned for more details on this exciting screening day!