Sunday, October 28, 2012

True mental and physical test.

Today was my 12 mile training run. It is actually the farthest that you ever run before race day so it is a good predictor of how you will react to 13.1 miles. It was not my finest hour(s). Firstly, my hectic schedule prevented me from my two weekly training runs this week. I ran 7 miles last week and loved every second and didn't lace up my sneakers one time since. That was a bad idea and I paid the price for that today. Second, the weather turn a turn for the worst. When you are a runner, 60's and humid is not the setting you would prefer when you run 12 miles. It is late October so it was just a coincidence that the heat wave hit Richmond before today's run. Third, I haven't been eating before my training runs, maybe a bite of two of banana is all I can get down. Today I ate a half of a PBJ this morning about an hour before I ran. Not sure that sat real well as I cramped at mile two. When I heard that second beep signaling another mile had passed I thought, ten more of this?!?! Lastly, I tried some power goo stuff and that did not sit well either. It was chocolate flavored and so about 10 minutes after digesting it I started to feel some heartburn growing in my chest. Add all of that up and it was not fun for me. I did eventually finish 11.5 miles though admittedly, I ran/walked the last 2 miles. I could have stopped at mile 9.5, I was in fact back at my car but I didn't. I kept going. My legs hurt. My cramp hurt. My body hurt. I could have given up but I knew I had to prove that I could do the 12. I eventually stopped at 11.5 when I was back again at my car but I'll take that over 9.5.

During one of my walks to re-gain my strength I started to feel the tears well up inside of me. I started to feel defeat. I started to listen to the girl inside my head that is doubting my ability to run 13.1 miles. Somehow I managed to push her back down to the ground and run over top of her. I re-gained my composure and I just said over and over in my head, I have to finish the 12. I have to finish the 12. Since I had walked and stopped my watch I knew that my watch didn't need to say 12 for me to be closer to 12. So, I made a bargain with myself. I picked a point in the neighborhood and I said I will go to that point and back. Run or walk. I was not going to stop until I was at least around the 11.5 mark. Luckily, I saw my awesome buddy finishing up her 12 on the way. It gave me that push that I knew I needed to finish strong.

Today's run wasn't about marking off 12 miles off my list, or an overall pace or anything like that. It was about proving to myself that even when things get hard, I won't give up. I could have given up so many times and I didn't. I didn't enjoy the run, had cramps, my legs were in pain and I kept going. and going. and going. So instead of feeling defeat and sad I am going to be proud that I was strong enough to overcome all of the unfortunate circumstances that led to a not-so-awesome 11.5 miles.

I will not miss another training run during the week. Come rain or wind (or hurricane-heading our way) I will follow the plan. I will be strong and I will be ready. 13.1 I am coming for you and I am leaving the girl with doubts at home.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Monster Boobs, part 3.

Over the past 10 months I’ve immersed myself in the culture of hereditary breast cancer and I’ve read about a lot of women who grew up around breast cancer. They watched their mother, aunts, cousins, grandmothers all battle this disease. The grew up knowing that it would always be a part of their life. I did not have this experience. My mom had a lot of lumps and biopsies but some how I stayed sheltered from that. Yes, we have the BRCA gene in our family but my grandmother is one of the lucky ones who avoided cancer and is alive and well at 72. Some of my mom’s aunts have cancer but it is stomach, or other kinds not breast cancer, plus they live in NY and we rarely see them. My mom has all brothers. So really, my mom is the only one I’ve ever been close to that has had BC. I lived a normal life not knowing my fate until January 2012.

January 2012 is when I knew I truly did have monster boobs that were out to get me. They have let me down time and time again. And now it is time for them to go! I want to be done with these monster boobs. I want to live a life without fear of what they’ll do to me next. I’ve carried the burden of these monster boobs for long enough and I am finally ready to let them go....for good.
So, Monster boobs, your time has come, the end is near. Nov 28th is your last day to bring me down and then I'll be done with you forever!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Monster Boobs, Part 2

Sean Michael was born on May  14th, 2008.  I had a pretty normal pregnancy and a wonderful labor and birth experience. During pregnancy, I had decided that I did, in fact, want to breast feed Sean. I did a lot of research and found out that it is possible after a reduction. The issues that arise can often have to do with milk supply so I went into the experience fully knowing and understanding that it might not work. Like I said, the idea of breastfeeding always kind of wierded me out so I went into with an open mind.

The first attempt to breastfeed Sean was great. He latched on pretty well (with some coaching the first couple times) and he was doing great. I was sore but overall I was handling the feedings just fine. When we got home we anxiously waited and wondered to see if I did in fact have a milk supply. The first time I pumped and milk came out I was so excited. YES! I did have milk and I can breastfeed! Or….so I thought. Supply was an issue but we were able to supplement with formula and I was fine with that. The first time I gave him formula I had a little breakdown but what mom doesn’t have those moments during your post partum hormone rush. So, I pumped out what I could and added formula to it to make up the difference. I didn’t love pumping but it was the best way for me to handle adding the formula to each bottle. He was getting 75% breast milk and I was ok with that.

About 2 weeks went by with this system and we were going along nicely, my supply was slowly increasing which I was happy about. My Mom and Dad had just left the day before and I woke up in the middle of the night with a fever, chills, and severe breast pain. I had no idea what was going on so I called the Dr. around 5:30 am. She explained that I had mastitis and called in some antibiotics. I felt horrible. It was like the flu plus severe breast pain. I couldn’t pick up Sean, I could get out of bed, I was miserable. About 24 hours worth of medicine later and I was back to feeling myself again. Dan was scheduled to go back to work in a few days so I would be on my own for the first time. Unfortunately, I woke up the day that Dan was heading back to work with the same issue on the other side! What? I am already taking antibiotics, how can I possible have another infection on the other side? Ahh, so into the Dr.’s office we go. She examined me and gave me some stronger medicine. She said if it happened again I’d have to see a breast specialist. And it did, about 4 more times.

 I actually visited the breast surgeon's office of the surgeon doing my surgery in Nov. I had no idea that years ago I would be heading back to that very office for a very different reason. You are probably wondering why I didn’t stop sooner and I cannot even explain why I didn’t. It was irrational. I had a need to continue to feed my child so I went through it again and again and again. Finally, I couldn't handle it anymore and the Dr. flat out said, that if I didn’t stop I would continue to get infection after infection after infection. So, I weaned myself off of pumping and we switched to formula. I cried and cried, and cried some more. Why would my monster boobs fail me again?

Fast forward 3.5 years and my daughter Carter was born. I knew going into breastfeeding that my experience would probably be similar but the optimist in me gave it a shot anyway. My milk came in super fast and I was just nursing Carter and she was getting enough. I had a bigger supply this time! I was so happy! She ate a lot during the day but then went 5 hours at night. It was a small price to pay for some sleep! But oh wait, 3 days later I was back in the breast dr.’s office again with mastitis. I got it 3 more times before I actually quit. It came on a lot faster this time and the drugs I was given were simply not getting rid of it. It was about 2 weeks of non stop infections and new medicine. I was on the last oral antibiotic available and the next stop would be IV antibiotics. I realized that I had to stop. The dr. explained that during the reduction it seems some of the "tubing" connected to my nipple was severed. So I was making milk and it had no way to come out. So, it sat there and became infected. There was no other solution than to stop.  It was a sad moment when I nursed Carter for the last time. I still think about it and it makes me sad that I wasn’t table to provide for my child. Both of my kids did fine with formula and I know it was the right decision for my health, but a tough one nonetheless. Once I stopped I haven’t had single problem with infections since then.

I thought I was in the clear but 6 months later and my monster boobs are back. . . .to be continued.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The story of my Monster Boobs, Part 1.

Yes, it is true. I have monster boobs that are trying to get me!  Thanks to my bestfriend from JMU to allowing me to display them so appropriately with a monster bra. She mailed me a whole monster themed package. Monster books for the kids and a monster bra for me. In keeping with the Halloween spirit, I’ll share my 3 part story of my monster boobs. So, back to the beginning. . .

No chance I am modeling this but you can at least get the idea from the picture!

I wasn’t an exceptionally early developer but about mid high school I was one of the larger chested girls in my school. I definitely didn’t want to draw any attention to myself so I avoided low cut shirts and tight fitting clothing and I even wore a one piece bathing suite. I noticed friends were jealous of the attention that guys often gave me because of this but I resented it more than anything. I didn’t want extra attention because I was large chested. Shopping for a prom dress was extremely difficult. Tube top for me? No way! I longed to wear a spaghetti strapped shirt. I had a steady boyfriend and he confessed to me one day that some of the football players had been joking with him about the size of my chest. I won’t share the details as it is quite embarrassing but nonetheless….I began to hate the way I looked.

It seems my chest began to grow even more when I went to college and I gained a few pounds. I was a size 2 and wore large shirts because of my chest and I looked much heavier than I actually was. I still tried  to hide my chest size. As time went on, my back began to hurt and I could feel the burden on my body of my over sized chest. My mom and I made an appointment with the breast surgeon to explore the options of a reduction. I was miserable and my posture was horrible. The breast surgeon was one my mom had used for her biopsies and breast issues (not knowing that years later she would actually develop breast cancer) and I sat in the waiting room with a lot of ladies with no hair with breast cancer. It didn’t really phase me then but I know my mom hated going to that office.

Anyway, the first time we got denied by insurance so I followed the protocol, went to physical therapy for my back and re-submitted my claim. The second time, I was approved. I scheduled my surgery for Christmas break of my junior year of college at JMU. I had the surgery the day after I returned home and by Christmas I was up and about and functioning pretty well. I even remember going shopping on Christmas Eve with my mom wearing a much smaller shirt and being proud to be “small” chested for once! The healing process took a month or so before I was back to normal and boy was I a happy girl! I could wear all the kinds of clothes that I never could before. I looked like I lost about 10 lbs and I was getting compliments on how I looked and I didn’t resent them. I was proud to walk into a room and hold my chest high. It was the best decision I have ever made. The actual surgery wasn’t too bad and the recovery was quick and the payoff was amazing and I was able to get rid of my monster boobs.

So for the next few years I happily enjoyed my “normal” sized chest that matched the proportions of my body size. I knew that there was a risk that breast feeding would be difficult with the reduction but at 20 years old it wasn’t a huge consideration. The idea of breastfeeding kind of always grossed me out anyway so I didn’t think twice about it. Then, my son Sean was born and my monster boobs returned. To be continued. . .
If you would like to have a monster bra to display your monster boobs proudly check out the website:

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A great 7!

This week's training plan run was only 7 miles. I cannot believe I've gotten to the point in my running life where 7 is proceeded by *only*. If you look back through this blog you'll see that it was only a few months ago that  I was struggling to run 3 miles. I had a horrible race when I did the 5K  Race for the Cure in NC for my mom. Fast forward through a hot summer, a lot of hard work, a lot of ICE for my aching body and here I am. Running 7 miles at a 9:50 pace. Oh yeah! Lindsey and I could tell our pace was faster but I wasn't focusing on it as much as just enjoying the run. When we heard that last beep of my watch indicating 7 miles I saw our average pace and I was so excited to share it with her! Both of us did not love our solo 10 mile run. So a great quick 7 mile run like today was just what we both needed! It just gets us ready for the big 12 this weekend. After that, it is back down to 6 and then RACE DAY! Yikes!

Here are my splits:
Mile 1: 9:53
Mile 2: 9:52
Mile 3: 9:42
Mile 4 9:58
Mile 5: 9:46
Mile 6: 10:04
Mile 7: 9:37

Overall pace: 9:50

I guess those super fast 1000's I was running at practice on Thursday night paid off!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Think Pink Day at Ridge 10/19/12

As you all know it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and so I decided to show my support for the cause at my school. I thought it would be awesome to do a pink day and honor those who have been affected past or present. We actually have someone on staff going through radiation treatment right now for BC plus a couple others who are BRCA positive. It started as a conversation one day over lunch in the lounge....hmm...what could we do to support "pink"?? After some great ideas I put together a day of activities and publicized it to the staff and students. It kind of took off from there! 

First of all, we all (obviously!) wore pink! The kids participated and I had a contest to encourage their participation. The class that won got to be featured on my school blog. We also decided to do pink themed treats in the lounge. Lots of people signed up and brought in some delicious treats to share! I made signs for each classroom door and small ribbons for the students to wear. I also made a large ribbon that I posted in the lounge and each staff member could write the person that they know or love that was or is affected by BC. The last part of the plan that was the most special was a lap of hope (Thank you Andrea for coming up with that!) around the track after school. I got a big bunch of balloons and we all signed them with messages for our loved ones. The balloons were set free after we did our lap around the track. It symbolized our hope for a cure for those going through BC and for all those that might be affected in the future. It was truly and amazing day and experience. I could not have been happier with the turn out, participation and general feeling of support for pink! We might have to do it every year!
 The whole fam is supporting PINK! Dan too but someone had to take the picture!
 YUM and YUM!

 Crystal's mom is a survivor too!
 Table Signs
 The lounge in pink style!
 Our Ribbon to show support of survivors
 Love this! A third grade did this for PINK day!
 Kimball is battling BC right now! She looks fabulous!
 Our PINK Staff!
 Message to my mom
We set our balloons free and it was a special moment for us all!

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Perfect 10!

Since we had a family wedding to attend this weekend (so much fun and too much to share, that might need to be another post!) I had to get my long run in a day early. So, I took the whole day off a work, yes partially to run, partially to get my nails done with the bride, and set out to run 10 miles. After last week’s flub, I wasn’t that excited. I lost my excitement for this run. I did have an awesome new ipod list to look forward to so that did help a little. I put my new compression socks on, my water belt on, and I hit the pavement in the nice cool 40 something degree weather. Since I was alone, I figured I would play with my pace a little. See if I could run faster than I have been on my training runs. This was a good experiment that proved what I probably could have guessed…I need to take it S L O W at the beginning. My first mile was 9:35 and it was all downhill (or uphill actually) from there. I over-did it on that first mile and then I was trying to play catch up for 9 more miles. The last two miles hurt. I aim for negative splits each long run, which is when you gain speed throughout the run. I had the opposite happen this time though I did eek out a sub 10 minute mile for mile 10, barely.

My overall pace wasn’t horrible, it was 10:11 for 10 miles but there was a lot of fluctuation this week when I would glance down at my garmin watch and I saw some upper 10’s and not a lot of 9’s. Ahh, lesson learned. I need to start slow at the race and build up to the last 3 miles when I can push myself a bit. Even though it wasn’t my finest performance it was still a perfect 10 because I ran 10 miles the same day that the scale said 10 lbs lost. So, it was a TEN kind of day!! I am officially at my pre-Sean and Carter weight, wearing my old skinny clothes, people are noticing a difference and I am happy. I still have a few more to go before I’ll be at my goal weight, but I am so close!  Yay for a perfect 10 kind of day! It was followed by an amazing weekend of lots of fun, laughing, time with family, and dancing! I even made it all night on the dance floor without being too tired from my 10 miles. A success!

Sunday, October 7, 2012


As you all saw I posted publically about my situation as a BRCA 2 carrier and also my plans to take preventative measures. It made me nervous being so personal and sharing things with a mass amount of people. Of course I've shared it on here for almost a year but many of my readers are random people that I do not know. I knew that many of my friends who already knew were supportive but I had no idea that so many people would be so sweet and supportive. I received a lot of comments, publically, on my post but I also received a lot of private comments. Comments from people saying that I was an "inspiration" which I absolutely do not agree with, but it was nice to hear! I received messaged from people who I hadn't even talked to in years since college, high school friends, family members that did not know, parents of my friends. I loved reading every single message because it just re-affirmed how strongly I feel about my decision. I've read horror stories about women saying that people questioned their choices to do the PBM but I know that would never happen to me. 100% of the people that I have told have been nothing but wonderful and the vast majority said, "I would do the exact same thing". Several said I was being so brave and all but I just feel like I don't have a choice. This is my life. I want to protect it and cherish my I'll do whatever I can be to be healthy and cancer free. Being an inspriation to others is of no concern to me. I know I need to be strong and I know I need to do this. So, I will forge on.

Weight update: I've lost 9lbs and I am starting to look different in a good way! Old clothes are fitting and I am loving it!

Running update: This weekends 10 mile run was an epic fail. One time bc my GPS died 1 minute into my run and my shins were on fire. So, I decided to go on Sunday. Nope that didn't work either because after 3 miles in the pouring rain, being drenched to the bone, and freezing, I gave up and came home. I will run my 10 miles this week which is what the plan says so I am not off track, but I did feel the need to adjust. I am the kind of person who sticks to a plan and so it was tough today to get back in my car (to a dry shirt!) but I need to be flexible and learn that not everything always goes according to plan.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ready to be on the "other side"

If you are a BRCA carrier like me, I am sure you are familiar with the FORCE message board. Being on the “other side” is what we refer to after you have finished the PBM (prophylactic bilateral mastectomy). I am so ready to be there. I’ve started the preparations, completed my FMLA paperwork, found a counselor sub, and arranged for help around the house in the weeks following my surgery. I’ve started the journey to the “other side”. I’ve read over and over from many women who claimed that the hardest part was this. . . the waiting, planning and preparations. I’d have to agree. Waiting is the hardest. But, thankfully I have my ½ marathon training and weight loss plan to distract me. I feel so strong when I am running and I am so happy to see how well my weight loss attempt has gone for me. I know that on surgery day I am going to look at myself in the mirror (for the last time before I am changed forever) and be happy with what I see. I will know that my body is physically strong, my running ability is at its peak, and I am at my ideal weight. I will be happy about who I am and the choices that I have made. I will be ready…..ready to go to the “other side”. When I am there, I am sure it’ll be hard but I know I won’t regret the decisions I’ve made along the way.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

1/2 Marathon Training Update. 9 miles=check!

As I navigate my way through the rest of my training each week will be a first for me. First time to run 9 miles, first time to run 10, and so on. I am so happy about my training right now. I no longer have any doubts about my ability to run 13.1 miles. This week’s 9 mile run was amazing. It shows what a different 10-15 degrees can make for my running pace. A little cooler weather along with less painful shins and I was set. Here are my splits.

Overall pace: 10:05
1: 10:22
2: 10:12
3: 10:19
4: 10:07
5: 10:19
6: 9:53
7: 9:59
9: 9:32

As you can see my friend and I picked up our pace towards the end of our run. This gives me hope that I can pick up the pace a little more. I am being conservative on my long runs and I won’t need to be that conservative on race day. I literally enjoyed every minute of that 9 mile run and that in itself made my day! Next stop: 10 miles!  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Linking the two worlds.

I have two wonderful blogs (well actually 3 if you count my school blog). One is for my family. I started it back in 2010 and somehow have managed to keep it updated with the daily goings on of the Rettig Family. This blog was started just this year as an outlet for me as I as I navigate life as a BRCA carrier. The two blogs have never been linked because I felt this blog was too personal to share with the mass amount of people on FB and co-workers. But, the time has come to be honest with my friends and put it out there. I am going to need everyone's support in two very short months from now. How can they help me and support me if they do not know? The time has come to put it out there and what better time to share it than during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Here is my post that will be posted tonight in preparation for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Happy October everyone. I've never been through an October where pink had such great meaning to me personally. PS. Thanks for reading :o)

Life with the Rettigs