Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Walk to Remeber

It is hard to believe that we began walking at 7:00 a.m., but despite the darkness and the wind chill, we began our journey. I remember looking back waving to my mom and Rob and thinking, "See you never!" As we piled through the starting line, there were hundreds of volunteers and family members cheering us on and praising us for all that we had done. This made me smile. Although the first mile was a slow one, the next five were over in a blink - probably due to that fact that my competitive side kicked in and I was focused on making my way to the front. It was my weaving in and out of the crowd and jumping in front of traffic that led me to meet my walking friends, Wendy and JoAnn. 

Pictured above is JoAnn, myself, and Wendy.

These women were also focused on finishing within seven hours and must have felt me on their heels when they struck up a conversation with me. I must say, I could not have chosen two better walking partners if I had to. They spoke to me as an equal, yet looked after me like a mother. Both of these lovely ladies were walking in honor of Wendy's mother, an 8 year survivor of breast cancer.

These two woman were amazing. They were always looking out for me and doing what they could to keep my spirits high. We talked about almost everything you could imagine, yet it felt natural. It was the same closeness I felt to the women on Friday night in the hotel. Each and every person that volunteered, crewed, or walked that weekend will forever share a special bond with me. We are like one big family, protecting each other and providing unconditional love and support. Each time we passed a walker struggling to take another step, we would slow down and give them a hug and remind them that they are amazing, regardless of how far they walk.

Myself, Wendy, and JoAnn attempting to cover the pain with a smile.

While I was probably one of the youngest walkers participating, even I was unable to complete the 39.3 miles. After mile 19, I began to feel pain in almost every muscle. However, I had so much determination that I redirected that burning sensation in my calves into speed. We had averaged 18-minute miles, but the last seven were around 15-minute miles. For all of you that think walking 26.2 miles is easy, you are SO wrong. Imagine walking, non-stop, up hills, and across major highways, for EIGHT HOURS. Exactly my point. Once we had hit mile 22, we agreed that we would not stop again until we crossed the finish. No pee breaks. No water refills. We really were in it to end it!

These last four miles were hell. I was dehydrated, exhausted, and had the worst muscle cramps imaginable. While in my 'eyes-on-the-prize' zone as I approached the pink oasis, I saw the one thing I needed to make the pain disappear - Melissa. There she was. It took me a second to process it all, but there she was. The woman who motivated me to begin this journey eight months ago. She was as beautiful as always, smiling from ear to ear, and before I knew it her arms were around me. Her embrace cast all the negativity away in an instant. In that moment, I thought, we did it.

A special thanks goes to Tharin, for documenting this moment perfectly.

Before I knew it, Rob, Melissa, her son Tharin, my mother, and I were walking to the finish together. Despite the fact that within thirty minutes my legs cramped up into the charlie-horse-from-hell, and the fact that I was physically unable to participate in the last 13.1 miles on Sunday, I knew that I had reached my goal. I did it. I changed a life - mine.

The picture above is my favorite of all. Right before we crossed the finish line a crew member placed this ribbon around my neck to remind us that every three minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. Well you know what breast cancer, screw you; because we spent the next three minutes kicking your a$$ all the way to the finish!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Real Wake Up Call

I did it! I completed, well kind of, the Avon walk for breast cancer! This past weekend was amazing and I met some truly wonderful people. While I was incredibly nervous to take on such a challenge alone, I am so proud of myself for staying strong and not backing out. 

By the time we had arrived in Charlotte, NC on Friday afternoon, the hotel had already been taken over by the color pink. Men, women, and even children had gathered to raise awareness. While I knew no one there besides my mother and boyfriend, I felt as if I belonged. When we went down to Event-Eve in the hotel lobby, there were smiles and laughter for miles. It was like one giant sorority - yet we were all strangers. It wasn't even fifteen minutes before a woman came up to me to ask me if this was my first walk. She shared with me that it was her first time and that she was also walking alone. This was a big relief knowing that I was not the only one alone. After purchasing some uber cute breast cancer apparel, we made our way over to check out the other goodies.

For those of you wondering who the cow is, I do not know his name. All I can tell you is that he is a true inspiration. He has be a part of 40 walks in the past ten years. He was also at EVERY rest stop along our 39.3 mile journey to cheer us on with high-fives and hugs. 

Friday evening ended with an early bed time and 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning came wayyy to fast. Despite the incredibly early wake up call, the adrenaline coursing through my veins helped me to get moving. By 5:15 a.m. we had made our way to the starting line for breakfast and some much needed coffee. This is when my nerves kicked in, full throttle. 

It was cold and windy and I was honestly scared. I saw several teams gathering for pictures and they seemed truly excited for the journey that lied ahead. I will admit, I seriously contemplated turning around and walking back to the car. However, my amazing boyfriend (boob guy pictured above), got me off of the bleachers and over to the crowd of women to take pictures and to raise my spirits. While it took some time, my mood eventually turned around and I remembered that the whole point of this was to push myself beyond my limits. 

This is only a small picture of what is actually a massive blow up. If you look closely you can see my comments - "I walk for everyone" & "savin' tatas for Melissa White". 

Once the opening ceremony began at 6:30 a.m., my fear was replaced with a passionate desire to make a difference. While the hundreds of us stretched as a group, Rob pointed out a sign on the back of a woman that was standing in front of me. It was a sign dedicating her efforts to a woman who had lost her fight to breast cancer exactly one week earlier, 10/13/12. This is when I felt the sudden urge to cry. As is this was not enough, the ceremony then began with a few stories of those participating. While already feeling emotional, a young woman stood up and spoke. She was 28 years old and was walking for her older sister of two years. This immediately struck a cord with me; my only sibling is my older sister of 18 months who is my best friend. She continued on to tell us that right after her sister's 30th birthday, while pregnant with her second child, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Even now as I am writing this, it is hard for me to hold back the tears. I am proud to say that this young woman and her sister, Hilary, were BOTH walking the Avon walk together to celebrate her being one year cancer free. 

After a few more heart-wrenching yet inspirational stories, an Avon spokeswoman decided to brighten our spirits before they sent us on our way. After much anticipation, she announced that we, as a whole, had raised $1.75 million dollars! I am so proud to say that my efforts helped to contribute to such an accomplishment. Now just so you all are aware, this money is just from the Charlotte Avon walk, not from any of the other NINE walks that took place this past year. As I looked around I saw both smiles and tears of joy - it was at this moment that I realized how much of an impact my efforts were about to make. 

And then we were off. All 900 of us. We began the journey of a lifetime. Despite the wind in my face and the countless miles ahead of me, it was no longer about my pain - it was about coming together to end the fight against breast cancer.

I have so many stories to share about my journey in Charlotte. However, if I do not cut myself off, I may end up writing a novel. I will post again tomorrow so stay tuned! I want to also thank everyone for their contributions and support. And to my mom and Rob for not only coming with me to Charlotte, but for also waking up at 4:30 a.m. with me to brace the cold.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Final Countdown

Well, it is finally here - the week of the walk. Over six months ago, I committed to walk 39.3 miles in honor of Melissa Coldiron White. Back in March, my main focus was reaching the minimum fundraising amount of $1,800. However, after I secured that goal, my focus then turned to spreading awareness about breast cancer. I spent several weeks posting about cancer and the steps we need to take in order to lower our risk. While I greatly enjoy writing this blog and sharing my knowledge to spread awareness, I have taken the past week off in order to really prepare myself for this upcoming weekend.

Spending hours each day walking leaves one with a lot of time to reflect and meditate. My goal each day that I walk is to stay calm and to not focus on the milage ahead. It is incredibly difficult to occupy my mind for hours at a time and that is why I recruited my boyfriend, Rob, to be my training partner. We have walked countless miles each day, from sun up to sun down. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that walking with a partner is much easier. Having someone to talk with truly helps to pass the time, while preventing my mind from focusing on the pain in my toes or the wind at my face.

No matter how many miles I walk each day, I know the journey that lies ahead is going to be a true challenge. However, all I have to do is survive walking 39.3 miles over two days; this pales in comparison to surviving cancer. Some people are truly unaware of how much of a battle it is to take on the fight against cancer. Breast cancer alone can be incredibly traumatic for females due to it's attack on their womanhood.  Depending on the specific stage one's cancer has progressed to, woman could potentially lose both their breast and their hair - this is not something that we are willing to give up without a fight.

At any stage of breast cancer, one is faced with life changing decisions everyday. Not only does one have to determine wether or not they are going to remove the cancerous part of their breast tissue or all of the goodies, but they are then faced with chemotherapy and radiation. Both chemo and radiation are truly as bad as the rumors. Imagine a chemical coursing through your veins that is strong enough to kill cancerous cells... sound fun? Not at all. It takes an incredibly tough person to undergo chemotherapy and/or radiation. It is not some two week process; it can go on for months at a time. That means being immunocompromised for months, having little to no appetite for months, losing an excessive amount of weight and hair, for months. Now, immunocompromised may be an unfamiliar term for some people but, to explain it best, it means one must stay away from large crowds, be especially cautious around small children, and may even have to be wary of receiving fresh flowers due to any bacteria that may linger on the petals. For these patients, even the slightest cold could lead to a potentially fatal illness.

Now take a moment to process all of that while remembering that the majority of women with breast cancer are in their forties. Imagine losing your breast, losing your hair, and not being able to attend your child's first kindergarten play.

So, the next time you come across someone who has survived or is currently fighting breast cancer, keep in mind the battle they have or are still fighting. Let them know that they have a strength in them more powerful than you could imagine and remind them that you care. As for those of us fortunate enough to be free of any cancerous cells, be grateful and do not take anything for granted. Take a moment to think if that cigarette is worth taking on the fight against cancer...

Although I have taken the past week off, this will be my only post this week. After my clinical tomorrow the journey to Charlotte, NC will begin! I will return next week to share the incredible stories of my walk. I thank everyone who has supported me in my fundraising and if anyone is still interested, it is not too late - donate HERE.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hard Work Pays Off

I cannot believe how fast this semester is going by. It feels like just yesterday that I was learning about assessing vitals signs and how to make a bed with hospital corners. I remember all to well how nervous I was on my first clinical day in the hospital. I used to be so worried that I would be disturbing my patients by doing all of the things my instructor was asking me to do. Looking back though, I fully understand all that she had taught me and the importance of being a persistent nurse.

When we started out in the hospital system, we were simply there to learn about interacting with the patients, how to properly take vital signs, and how to chart our assessments; and that all seemed like an impossible work load. I honestly used to come home from the hospital and have mild panic attacks. I could not imagine how I was going to learn enough about being a nurse before graduation. Despite my uncontrollable anxiety, I survived my junior year of nursing school; which seems like the equivalent of finishing the Tour de France. As a senior now, half way through my second to last semester (I can't believe I just said that) my confidence and my skills have made me less anxious and more excited for the future of my nursing career.

I no longer see my patients as scary monsters that are just waiting for me to crack under pressure and I no longer worry about waking up my patients in order to check their blood sugar. I have finally realized that the majority of patients will value me and my care more if I am constantly checking on them and monitoring their bodies throughly for any acute changes. It is my job to recognize the early signs of complications in order to maintain the patient's safety and health. In order to provide patients with the care necessary to promote their health, it is critical that I assess them from head to toe as often as possible.

When I had decided to write this blog, I not only wanted to spread awareness about breast cancer, but I also wanted to shed some light onto the life of a nursing major. So many people are afraid of nursing school because of the insane amount of work load; and others are just disgusted by blood and other bodily fluids. However, nursing is one of the most rewarding careers out there. For those who have ever considered becoming a nurse, I highly recommend it. Do not hold back because you do not think you will be able to handle it, trust me, you can. I have some how managed to make it to my senior year while balancing a job and while being enrolled in the honors college. While these last three years have been incredibly challenging, it was worth all of the sleepless nights and panic attacks.

Nursing school requires an incredible amount of determination and hard work, as does walking 39.3 miles. While I am incredibly nervous to walk such a long distance, I am also excited. I had a friend tell me the other day that I should be proud of myself for raising so much money and for doing such an awesome thing. However, until she had said that, I never took the time to step back and realize all that I have achieved thus far. I have not yet reached my goal of $5,000 but I am half way there and it feels awesome to say that. Even if I do not reach that goal, I will be proud of myself. This walk is about more than the money; it is about raising awareness. In less than three weeks, my mother, sister, aunt, and several close family friends will gather in Charlotte, NC to support me as I walk. Melissa and her oldest daughter will also be there and I know this weekend will be something that we will all remember for the rest of our lives.

As the walk gets closer and closer, I get even more nervous. However, I know that if I can make it through nursing school for three years, than I can do this!

Please help me get even closer to my goal of $5,000 by donating here. I am half way there but every dollar makes a difference and can save a life. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Just a Little Something

Since I have spent the last week either in the library or at work, I have not had the energy to write a full post. So instead, I found a few interesting facts and statistics that I believe are worth sharing...

And congratulations to Melissa on completing another breast cancer awareness 5k! She is an inspiration to all women for not only surviving breast cancer, but for also not letting it bring her down. Way to go!

Stay tuned for more posts this week. Nursing school has once again gotten the best of me, but as of tomorrow the work load returns to a manageable level.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

An Apple a Day

We have all been told countless times, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." But do any of us truly understand how valuable this advice is? The past few weeks, I have eaten out many more times than I have cooked, and made excuse after excuse to avoid the gym. With all of the colds and illnesses going around combined with my sub-par immune system, I finally got myself to the grocery store. While it is incredibly tempting to buy chocolate ice cream, halloween candy, and frozen pizza, I opted for the healthy options, like apples, grapes, and lean turkey. I will be the first person to admit that I can take eating unhealthy to another level; but I have been raised to understand that eating poorly now, will most certainly catch up with me.

So, having just gotten back from the library, I was in need of a late night snack. Instead of filling my body with greasy potato chips or a sugary snack, I chose an apple and some grapes. It is quite amazing how different a healthy snack leaves you feeling as opposed to a fattening one. It is as if my body is thanking me for the nutrients. Normally, the chocolate chips cookies I would chow down on would leave me feeling like a lazy lump with an upset stomach. However, tonight I do not need to chase my snack with Tums. Tonight, I will sleep feeling good about my decision.

I am not writing this to inform everyone of my late night eating habits, instead I am hoping to shed light on some of the most basic knowledge we have. EAT HEALTHY. How many news articles and documentaries have to be made before we listen? Well, if the effects of obesity are not enough to motivate you to change, maybe these facts will...

While the media loves to tell us that our cell phones, hair dyes, and microwaves are going to kill us, they are much less threatening than our lifestyle habits. Moderate consumption of alcohol is common among Americans, yet it has been linked to an increased risk for breast cancer. Smoking, of course, will also increase one's chance of being diagnosed. Weight is also linked to our risk for breast cancer. We have all heard these facts over and over again, but let me put this a little differently.

Breast cancer is primarily driven by estrogen. Our weight and being obese leads to an increased amount of fat. Fat cells make estrogen. Get it?

In fact, being heavy can increase our chances by as much as 40%.

Now, do not take this the wrong way. Estrogen is a natural part of all of us. However, it can also fuel the growth of breast cancer. So we should be aware of the power of estrogen and it's effects on our bodies. Do not give estrogen the power to take over. Stay in charge of your health and of your body. Eat your fruits and veggies because they too are a key in minimizing our risk for breast cancer. So, next time someone tells you that an apple a day will keep the doctors away, listen; because of the estimated 230,000 cases of breast cancer to be diagnosed this year, less than 10% will be due to inherited genes.

I have a long way to go before I am truly 'healthy'. I could cut out my terrible sweet tooth and walk to class instead of driving. However, I make an effort everyday to achieve my goals. I find it easiest to take it day by day instead of focusing on making some drastic change over night. No one is perfect but I cannot emphasize enough, you are the best advocate for yourself. Do not be the one to destroy your body. Love your body and in return it will love you. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Shopping for a Cause

October is officially here and I could not be more excited. It is that time of the year when the seasons change and the world is overcome with pink. Breast cancer awareness has taken this country by storm. Celebrities, clothing companies, restaurants, the NFL, and even the White House have gone pink.

I hope that through out this month I can help to educate everyone about breast cancer, in all of its forms. Wether it is about prevent, diagnoses, or treatment, there is so much information right at our finger tips. However, most of us find articles and educational sites related to medical care down right boring. So, my goal is to bring breast cancer to another level. I hope to provide you with the knowledge you need without putting you to sleep. 

However, since I have spent the majority of my day studying text books and taking practice exams, I believe a little retail therapy is necessary. I have found several items worthy of purchasing... if only my bank account could afford them all! 

Under Armour's Power in Pink collection will donate 10% of the proceeds directly to breast cancer centers and charities.

Asics special edition collection will directly benefit Christina Applegate's Right Action for Women. I am most certainly eyeing up those pink shoes!

That Starbuck's gold card no longer holds any value... I'll take one of these please. I found this along with several other cute items through Oprah's website.

And just to remind all the men out there that BOTH genders can support the cause, the NFL will also be promoting breast cancer awareness in every game this month and also through it's special edition apparel and other items. 

There are countless organizations and companies currently raising awareness about breast cancer through selling us all kinds of products. But let us not forget the true purpose of this month - to raise awareness and to raise money in hopes of becoming one step closer to a cure.

For those not interested in shopping but that still wish to donate, please visit my Avon page. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ode to Bald

For those who are not aware, today marks the first of October, breast cancer awareness month. This day means that I have only 27 more days until I will walk 39.3 miles. Today also begins a month of pink. While doing some research about breast cancer awareness month, I came across Pink for October, a website filled with stories of those who have and are still battling breast cancer. While making my way through Pink for October, I came across a particular story that I believe is the most appropriate story to share with you all to mark the beginning of breast cancer awareness month. So here is to Sherry Smyth, whose words are not only inspiring, but are the words of a truly strong woman.

Dear breast cancer:

Once again it is October and your name is one everyone’s lips.  The world has turned to a sea of pink and large and small corporations and companies look to make money based on your infamy and the fear that lurks in the hearts and souls of women the world over.  So many women, who buy this, support that, donate to this fundraiser, walk for 2 days, run for 5 kilometres and all the while, hoping and praying that you and they never come face to face.   They can run from you but sadly too many cannot hide.

You are a sneaky, insidious devil aren’t you breast cancer.  You hide where you can and then when someone least expects you, out you come ready to wreak havoc on the life of the woman (or man) you have claimed as “your own”, their family and their friends.  You think you rule with the upper hand but remember this breast cancer...we know so much more about you now and we are prepared to do battle with you and show you that we are not to be trifled with.

It’s true that some of the people you visit are not aware of your presence and you manage to get a firm grip into their lives and for that I say shame on you.  But remember this...we are educated now about early detection and having yearly mammograms and doing breast self exams and we are well informed about how you operate.  Oh yes we are.

After seven years, I still refer to you as breast cancer is small letters because even though you claimed a large part of my time and my energy and my life, you are still just this small, insignificant, bothersome little runt.  You do not deserve to be spoken to with respect.  You need to remember that whatever else you have brought into my life and the lives of so many others, what you gave me was the biggest gift of all.

You made me remember how much life is to be savoured and appreciated.  You reminded me of all the small and large things to be grateful for in my life, every single day.  You gave me freedom and you taught me how to deal with fear.  You gave me the gift of every day – that this day; the one I am in is the one that matters.   Not yesterday, not tomorrow but simply today.

When my hair started to fall out, I had my hair dresser shave it off and I loved being bald.  True, I wore a wig when I went outdoors and I lived in bandanas the rest of the time, but the minute I hit the front door, you know that wig went flying onto the bench in the hall.  And how many times did I open the front door to guests bald as a billiard ball?  And how comfortable were people with me...with the real me, the open, honest, bare to the bones this is who I am me?  But most importantly breast cancer, you taught me to love myself and to see myself right down to my soul.

You arrived thinking you were going to be my final nemesis.  You left knowing that I had the gumption, the spirit, the courage and the strength to say “not just yet”.

With fists up,
Sherry Smyth

If anyone is interested in making a donation towards breast cancer, please visit my Avon Page. And please take the time to help spread awareness this month about breast cancer. Change the background on your twitter page to pink or make a facebook post dedicated to breast cancer awareness. You will be surprised how something so small, can mean so much.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Where It All Began

Although I have been blogging for several weeks now, I have yet to really explain what the Avon walk is. As many of you know, I will be walking 39.3 miles for breast cancer at the end of this October. However, most people do not truly understand what this walk is about. So, today I want to share with you all the history behind this amazing event.

The Avon Foundation was founded in 1955 in the hopes of improving the lives of women and their families. Over the past fifty-seven years, this mission has been brought to life through two key areas of focus: breast cancer and domestic violence. Many people do not realize that the Avon foundation aims to help women with numerous types difficulties they may face throughout their life; most people only know about their crusade to end breast cancer. To fully understand the massive impact the Avon foundation has made on the world, here are just a few of the programs they have funded in the past decade:

1. The Avon Heart of America Fund - to support the families of those lost on September 11, 2001.
2. The Avon Yellow Ribbon Fund - to assist military service personal lost or wounded in Iraq and other armed conflict.
3. The Avon Heart of Asia Campaign - to assist victims of the tsunami in southeast Asia.
4. The Avon Foundation for Haiti Relief - to assist the American Red Cross response fund and Doctors without Borders who saved countless lives.

While this is an impressive list, it only scratches the surface of all that the Avon Foundation has done. They have also funded programs such as Project HOPE and the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Money has also been donated to aid those affected by Hurricane Katrina as well as, those affected by teen dating abuse. It is no surprise, that the Avon Foundation has grown into the largest corporate-affiliated foundation focused on causes that most impact women. Not only has Avon provided support and shelter to those in need, but they had also raised and donated more than $860 million dollars by 2011.

The Avon Breast Cancer Crusade is what the Avon Foundation is most known for, and for a good reason. It was founded in the UK in 1992 and since then it has grown to include programs in more than 50 countries focused on advancing access to care and to finding a cure. Of that $860 million dollars, $740 million was donated worldwide to make a significant and lasting difference towards breast cancer.    Avon is using their time and money to truly focus on ended breast cancer. Their researchers aim to understand the causes of breast cancer in women, the changes in breast cells that give rise to cancer, markers for disease, and how breast cancer progresses.

A video documenting the recent Avon Walk held in Prague, Czech Republic.

The most notable fundraising effort made by the Avon Foundation is the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Originally founded in 2003, it has now spread nationally and worldwide to more than 50 different countries. Since it began, 173,000 people have walk and have raised $445 million dollars! In 2012, eight cities in America have committed to hosting an Avon walk. Santa Barbara, New York City, Charlotte, Houston, Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco will each help aid the fight against breast cancer.

I will be walking in Charlotte, NC where last year more than 900 hundred people walked. Of those 900, there were 108 breast cancer survivors and together they raised $1.7 million. Of the money raised, the Avon Foundations donates locally, regionally, and nationally to support breast cancer awareness and education, screening and diagnosis, access to treatment, support services, and academic research. Over $15 million dollars has been donated to organizations and institutions in North and South Carolina, including the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, Carolinas Healthcare system, and Duke University.

This year does happen to be the 10th birthday of the Avon Walk and the Charlotte walk that I will participate in will mark the end of the eight walks in 2012. Seeing that I love birthdays, I could not be more excited to be a part of such a historical event. I urge all of you to recognize all that the Avon Foundation has done for women and their families since it was created in 1955 and to make a donation in order to help continue their cause. You never know what life has planned for you and it is comforting to know there are countless women and men around the world who will be there to help you in a time of crisis. So, return the favor and help those who need it now.

In only one more week, Breast Cancer Awareness month will be upon us! Start planning a way to celebrate the cause wether it means participating in a local fundraiser or simply by purchasing some Pink apparel. For those interested in making a donation, please visit my Avon page. And remember, no donation is too small!

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Few Steps Closer

After feeling stuck at the $1,400 mark for what felt like forever, this past week has helped to reenergize my efforts. Thanks to the support of many great friends, I am up to $1,900. Not only did I receive some more donations, but my percent night at Cantina 76 was a huge success!

The food was delicious, as always, and the margaritas went down smoother than ever. After an exhausting day in the hospital, a little Cantina was the perfect pick-me-up. We were able to raise $300 for the AVON walk for breast cancer and I could not be more pleased. So, for all those who came out, I want to thank you for your support and helping me get a few steps closer to my goal. Stay tuned for any future fundraising events and enjoy the weekend! 

A special thanks goes out to my manager, Rob Ward, who was more than generous for donating 20% of the sales and then some! For those who could not make it out, I strongly recommend you head out to Cantina 76 this weekend and enjoy some tacos and tequila. Also, donations can still be made through my AVON page. Thanks again!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Did you know?

So far this semester, after only three weeks of clinicals, I have had numerous encounters with cancer patients. Wether it is in a specialized heart hospital or a psychiatric hospital, cancer is everywhere. In the past month, I have met people who are currently fighting brain cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, and colo-rectal cancer. While that seems astonishing, it is the sad truth that cancer is still running rampant through out our world.

I have done some research and have discovered some interesting facts about cancer that may scare you as much as they did me...

1. Over 1.6 MILLION people will have been diagnosed with cancer in 2012.
2. In 2012, it is estimated that over a half of a million people will die from cancer.
3. Of those people, one-third will have been related to obesity, physical activity, or poor nutrition.
4. In 2012, more than TWO MILLION people will be diagnosed with skin cancer, the majority of which could have been prevented with the proper use of sunscreen.
5. Cancers that can be detected earlier by screening account for half of all new cancer cases.
6. In the U.S., men have slightly less than a 1 in 2 lifetime risk of developing cancer.
7. Only 5% of cancer is strongly heredity.
8. Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the U.S.; heart disease is number one.
9. The overall cost of cancer in 2007 was 226.8 BILLION dollars.
10. Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer; breast cancer is second.

As a nursing major, cancer and death are more prevalent in my life than in other's. However, beyond my experience in the hospital, I have watched countless family members and friends suffer at the hands of cancer. I am no stranger to brain tumors, end stage lung cancer, skin cancer, thyroid cancer, colon cancer, and breast cancer. If we all stopped to take a minute, we would realize how ominous cancer truly is in our lives. After discovering some of these facts though, that should not be the case.

It is appalling to think that 33% of cancer related deaths are due to poor lifestyle choices. I am guilty myself of not always doing what is best for my body. As I have said before though, it is never to late for a change. A close friend of mind had been a smoker for the majority of her life but, she just recently celebrated being three months nicotine free, without the use of a patch or nicotine gum. She should be an inspiration to anyone reading this blog who smokes. It is not just nicotine that we as humans choose to use while being well aware of the toll it will take on our bodies. We continue to consume too much alcohol, use too little sunscreen, eat too much processed foods, and spend entirely TOO much time on the couch or behind a computer screen.

The worst part is that we are aware of the consequences. It is all over the news, on countless TV commercials, and on billboards across America, yet we never seem to listen. It does not have to be January 1st in order to commit to a change. Let today be the day you promise to walk 30 minutes a day, to quit smoking, to cut out sweets, or to cut back on the alcohol. No one in this world is perfect and we can always strive towards a healthier lifestyle. We are capable of more than we think; so let today be the day we wage war against cancer and take back the friends and family we knew who were apart of that 33%.

While I want you all to enjoy my blog, I also hope to empower you with knowledge. Do not let cancer take from you more loved ones than it should. Make a change and inspire a friend to, as well. Believe that you can do anything you put your mind to. And never be too ignorant to avoid the doctor. A little pain now is better than what may lie ahead. For those interested in donating to my walk please visit my AVON page here.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rockstar Ronan

While my main intention for this blog is to raise awareness about breast cancer, I have recently come across stories of people fighting different types of cancer and I feel I should pay tribute.

The other night, on my drive home from work, I heard a story on the radio about a little boy named Ronan Thompson. This cute little baby was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma cancer in August 2010 at the mere age of three. After fighting for eight months, he sadly passed away this last May three days before what would have been his fourth birthday. Although his death is a tragedy, that is not the main reason his story has gotten so much attention. This little boy was blessed with an amazing mother who had created a blog, RockstarRonan, in order to spread awareness and to one day raise enough money to end childhood cancer. Some of you may think this is a bit much for one woman to take on, but it only takes one person with enough determination and passion to truly make a difference. To prove how much of an impact that one person can make, I suggest you all take a moment to read this article.

All it took was one mother sickened by the reality of cancer to start a blog, and now her son's story is national news and has been turned into a song that is at the top of the iTunes chart. If that is not incredible, I do not know what is. So today I want to switch my focus over to childhood cancer and ask all of you to donate to The Ronan Thompson Foundation.  Some of you reading already have children and realize that one of the scariest thoughts imaginable is the fear of losing a child. As for those of you that have not yet experienced the joy of having a child, like myself, it is incredibly scary to think that you could give birth to a child and have to watch him or her spend the majority of their life in pain. 

There are many more types of cancers out there that can affect people of all ages and races, and this week I want to focus on them. Cancer is cancer, no matter what part of your body it affects, and hopefully more people will pledge to end cancer just as Maya Thompson has; and who knows, maybe one day we will find a cure to all types of cancer. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Little Wisdom and a lot of Love

Although I have only been in classes for two weeks now, I have already enjoyed my first weekend getaway. For those of you who do not know me very well, I am constantly on the go. Whether I am bouncing back and forth between the library, the mall, and work, or between South Carolina and the Eastern Shore, I am never in the same place for long.  Some people find this way of life irresponsible while others just find it confusing; however, I have grown to love the adventure.

I am currently writing this post from the University of Pennsylvania, where my boyfriend attends.  Now, do not take me for one of those girls who throws away her four years of college life to run off to a boy every chance she gets.  I do visit him often but purely because I believe some feelings in life are rare and should never be taken for granted. Again, I am sure many of you are thinking that I am too young to know about love and that I should enjoy my youth but, I can promise you I am not naive and I am most certainly living my life to the fullest.  Regardless of where our relationship goes in the future, the happiness I find with him is something I never imagined existed. Cheesy, yes I know, but that is not the point. The point is that we are only given one life to live and I do not want to waste however much time I have not embracing love.

My whole life, my parents have been divorced, as well as the majority of my friends parents. These days, it is nearly impossible to look around and see couples that love, respect, and trust one another. The most basic qualities we look for in our relationships seem to only exist now in fairytales. I find that we have lowered our standards and no longer believe that what we picture in our dreams can become a reality. This goes both ways too. While we not only expect less than what we should, we also inertially do not treat others the way that they deserve to be treated. Friends, couples, and even siblings seem to no longer believe that love in all of its greatness, is real. Again, I am not an expert nor have I been married for 50+ years, but I can say that I know there is a feeling inside of me that has forever changed who I am.

I have dealt with a lot of anger growing up and I have become the happiest I have ever been so far in my life. I have opened up to my sister in a way most would never have thought possible (because we were already so close before). I am comfortable with myself, internally and externally. I have found a sense of confidence that had been hiding for many years. And most importantly, my faith in love has been restored. I do not attribute this all to my boyfriend... he is not that amazing. It is the relationship we have built together that has given me these things. We have managed to create a bond based on trust, respect, happiness, honesty, passion, and love. There are no secrets and no BS. Having someone in my life that can not only respect me, understand me, and love me for all of my craziness, my flaws, and my future mistakes, has made not afraid of life.

This post is not meant to be all sappy; it is meant to remind everyone that we should all expect the best for ourselves.  Whenever we find something that brings us to a place of true happiness we should embrace it. Do not let the fear of losing keep you from your dreams. Life is all to precious and I plan to keep traveling and exploring all that this world has to offer. There are millions people in this world and each is capable of changing your life. There are also countless places to see and explore.

If you ever get the moment to talk to someone who has survived cancer, hopefully they will also have a perspective on life similar to this. Speaking to family members who have beaten  cancer and who have also lost loved ones to cancer have also contributed to my views.  So while some people will judge me for driving 525 miles through the night to see my boyfriend or for pulling an all-nighter the night before a test at 8:00 AM to celebrate a best friends birthday, those moments are the ones that make my life amazing. If I was ever to be diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, I want to be able to look back and know that I have not wasted anytime and that I have enjoyed as much of this world as I can.

Please help those whose may not have as much time to fulfill their dreams due to breast cancer by donating HERE.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sometimes Less is More

Just when I thought I had nothing interesting to blog about today, this story popped up on my homepage...


Talk about doing something amazing! There are so many ways to spread breast cancer awareness and we are each capable of making a change in someone's life. There are hundreds of walks, fundraisers, and events we can attend, especially in the upcoming month of October. However, you do not have to do something as crazy as walking 39.3 miles or shaving your head. Kelly Pickler is clearly incredibly busy with her singing career, but even she took a moment to make a difference not only to her friend, but also to the public. By her shaving her head, she has shown women all over that there is so much more to life than a head of beautiful hair. What really matters is life and sharing it with the ones who love and care about you. If we are so unlucky as to be diagnosed with breast cancer, having loved ones there to support you will mean so much more than having to say goodbye to your hair and/or your boobies. Plus, they can both be replaced for something better :)

Although we may tell ourselves that we do not have time, we do. We all have the time to support those in need and I hope that if I can't inspire you to make an effort, than hopefully Kelly Pickler can.

Breast Cancer awareness month is October and I hope you each can commit to showing support in some way. Wether you can join a walk, hold a friends hand at her next doctor's appointment, or even purchase some breast cancer apparel. You CAN make a difference. 

Donations towards my walk can be given here.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Finding support (in something other than a bra!)

I can hardly believe that my last 'first week of school' has come and gone. While senior year is a time to celebrate countless years of schooling coming to an end, it is also a time to buckle down and make all those years of work worth while. I certainly did not expect this past week to be so brutal, but in typical nursing school fashion, it was. 

When someone says nursing sounds like an easy job

#whatshouldwecallnursing is probably the best blog to help explain what nursing school truly is like. It is also quite hilarious. 

As always, no time was wasted and my classes, my clinicals, and work all came storming out of the gates. However, instead of ending each day in an all out state of panic and anxiety, I was shockingly at ease. Looking back at my chaotic week, I realize that there were a few stand out moments that I truly believe helped derail my stress level. 

I knew that one of my number one priorities this month was going to have to be fundraising, and the realization of how much further I have to go was enough to get me moving. I have been hoping that my workplace, Cantina 76, would be willing to hold a percent night in order to help me raise money, so an email was sent out to my manager immediately. What I received in reply though, was more than I had ever anticipated. The majority of restaurants that commit to kicking back a portion of their sales to a cause typically agree upon no more than 10%. However, Cantina 76 has unbelievably offered to donate 20% of their sales that night. I am so grateful to not only work with some of the best people, but to also have owners and managers who truly care about their employees and are willing to help me out. 

Once the date was set, my next order of business was to spread the word; and of course, that meant Facebook. For the past few years, my entire nursing class has had a Facebook page that we use to communicate about classes, clinicals, and anything else that comes to our minds. So, I thought reaching out to my classmates would be a great place to turn to for support. Again, I received more than I had hoped. Not only did people agree to come out for the percent night, but some also took the extra step to donate. As if that wasn't enough to make me smile, I also had a classmate go as far as thanking me for committing to walk. Up until this far, I have dedicated my efforts to Melissa and every other woman in my life. When my classmate shared with me that her grandmother is fighting breast cancer for the second time around, I began to realize how life changing this experience is becoming. 

The more I have spread the word about this cause and my efforts, the more I have learned from my peers. I never expected so many woman to come forward and tell me their stories. Not only am I learning from them, but it is also lighting a fire in my soul to push harder to raise money. It has made me more driven to get up and train for the walk, and it has made all the hard work worth while. 

My goals for this experience are continuously evolving and each day I become more excited for the walk itself. I know it is still going to take a lot on my part, but this all is no longer work in my opinion, it is one girl doing her part to save a life. 

Please help me spread the word by sharing this blog with your friends and family. Also, please help me continue raising money by donating here or by attending the percent at Cantina 76 on September 18!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Facts Don't Lie

While my previous posts have all been on a more personal level, I want to take some time to talk about breast cancer. Since it is the main reason behind my blog, it is necessary that I share the scary, yet real facts about one of the most deadly cancers affecting women.

If everyone took a moment to think, I am almost positive that you know someone who has been affected by breast cancer. I always used to believe that my family and friends were invincible to such a terrible cancer, but I was completely wrong. I have watched a women of only 40 years beat breast cancer, and I have also witnessed a close friend, at the ripe age of 22, go through numerous doctors appointments in order to rule her new found lumps as benign. We may not want to accept it, but it is undeniably real and could affect any of us at any given moment.

Out of all the races, white women hold the greatest risk of getting breast cancer, while African American women are the most likely to die from it. The scariest part about breast cancer, in my opinion, has to be its unpreventable nature. While steps can and should be taken to reduce ones risk, there is no way to be sure that you will be able to avoid such a blind attacker. Even I have fallen short of keeping up with my monthly Breast Self-Exam (BSE), but after discovering these horrific facts I will be sure to make a stronger effort.

1. A woman has a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime.
2. Every three minutes, there is a new diagnosis of invasive breast cancer.
3. Every 13 minutes, a life is lost to breast cancer.

These three statistical facts have truly got the wheels in my head turning and have solidified my fight against breast cancer. It only takes a few minutes to do a BSE each month and those minutes could be the difference between life and death. So for all of those women out there reading this, if you are 20 years of age or older, do a BSE regularly and never be afraid to have a doctor rule out any potential worries you may have. Also, be sure to receive a clinical breast exam (CBE) every three years until you reach the age of 40, in which it then increases to a yearly exam.

The information provided above only scratches the surface of knowledge on breast cancer. More statistics and facts can be found through the AVON website.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Goodbye Summer, Hello Senior Year

Well, Summer has officially come to a close and reality came swooping in... a bit to fast. With the beach no longer at my fingertips and with the nursing books piling up by the minute, it truly is time to get back to work. The lack of internet is also no longer a viable excuse for my severe lack of posts, thus far. Before I am able to accept the turning of the seasons, I believe a proper goodbye to Summer is in order.

This Summer was full of good times shared with great friends. With Emma's (my sister) graduation, the season began in an all out celebration frenzy. Family and friends from all over gathered to congratulate her on all of her hard work.

As the weeks went by, the focus switched from Emma to Tharin who somehow turned sixteen before I could blink. Tharin has been like a little brother to me since the day he was born and his is also the first born child of Melissa White. 

And as fast as Tharin turned sixteen, I turned 21. However, this year I decided to throw a party in honor of Melissa instead of myself. With 21 years of birthday presents under my belt, I decided I could make a sacrifice this year and ask for donations in place of gifts. All together my friends and family donated a grand total of $320.00 towards my walk to end breast cancer. 

Not only was I able to raise money through the party but I also was able to spend quality time with an amazing woman. It is my hope that such memories will continue for many more years. I want to thank all those who have contributed so far and who have helped me reach the 25% mark of my overall fundraising goal. While there is much more work that lies ahead, I want to take a second to remember the amazing moments created and shared over the past four months. 

So here is to the most amazing women in my life, to those who have been with me since birth and to those who will always stand by my side. I am beyond grateful for the strength and knowledge I have gained from these women and hope that come October I can carry a part of each of them with me as I walk towards a cure. 

A special thanks belongs to my wonderful Mother for helping me throw the 'Pink Party' and to all of those who came. And as I have safely made it back down South, a part of me remains with my one and only sister who will have to survive the Winter without me. She is stronger than me though and if I could manage the distance when she first ventured off to college, then I am certain she will be okay... 
but that does NOT mean a visit wouldn't be greatly appreciated. 

Any and all donations will help me continue to climb to that $5,000 mark I hope to reach. If interested donate through my Personal Page on the AVON website.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Let the Celebrations Begin!

August is a big month for celebrating in my family and this year is no different. While today may be my fathers birthday... the royal celebration doesn't truly begin until Wednesday which marks my 21st birthday. And man has it been a long time coming! But to be a bit more selfless, I also recognize August as the birthday month for my Aunt Alice, my grandmother, my cousin Patrick, and many many more.

Although I can be rather witty and sarcastic (not to toot my own horn) with my father, I truly can not believe that he is 58 years old today. He may look young but there is no denying his age. However, when joking around with him over breakfast it really got me thinking about how lucky I am to have two healthy and active parents. Not only am I blessed enough to have both of my parents alive and involved in my life, but I also have a close relationship to several of my extended family members. As I grow older each year, the reality of the world gets heavier and heavier and constantly reminds me how life can change in an instant. While my dad is doing great for his age, his baby sister is currently fighting end stage lung cancer. I could not imagine a worse feeling than to have to watch my sister go through something so horrible and I know it gets to my dad.

I am not writing this post to sadden your day, but instead to remind you to be grateful for each day, each month, and each year you are given. Do not take for granted the time you have with your parents and grandparents and siblings. I have been blessed to have avoided any losses in my close family to date, however I have watched my friends be forced into accepting a void where a loved one once belonged.

So celebrate life this week in honor of those who are not so lucky and enjoy the rest of the week... I surely will!

Happy Birthday to my father, who I may not always see eye to eye with, but who I will always love despite his ever persistent stubbornness. 
Please donate here to help those who are fighting cancer celebrate another birthday

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Handful of Lessons

Although I had the intention of posting at least once a week throughout the Summer... the beach has proven to be quite a distraction. Luckily this week has provided me with an endless supply of rain and wind, forcing me to get back to work.

Despite the long days soaking up the sunshine, and countless nights spent with good friends, this summer has still been a constant reminder of why I love all that nursing involves...

Sunday morning started off the week with an excessive amount of blood, six stitches, and the constant changing and cleaning of bandages. Although Rob may pull off the 'tough guy' act 90% of the time... the aluminum can of crab meat won this week. While it was my day off, it was an interesting experience to be on the other side of the ER for once. From the questioning by the triage nurse to watching the PA weave all six stitches in and out, it was fun learning experience.

The week then moved onto pediatrics before I could blink. By Tuesday afternoon, I was knee deep in toddlers and newborns each fussing for a snack, a bottle, or a clean diaper. When most people would be ready to rip out their hair, I whipped out my funny faces and the skills I had acquired this past Spring in my clinicals. After balancing these seven month old twins on my hips, they finally calmed down and were able to play with themselves long enough for me to tend to the other two small children.

Regardless of how cranky children can become in a matter of seconds, I find them to be overwhelming adorable and they somehow also restore my happiness. Their diapers are also a much less daunting task than a 82 year old mans...

Moving onto Wednesday, my mom informed me that a close family friend had discovered a lump in her breast. She had been to the doctor for the biopsy and, after anxiously awaiting the news, it had thankfully been cleared as benign. Before I had decided to start this blog or commit to walking the AVON walk, I felt as if cancer had been completely void in my life. However, in the past 8 months I have realized that cancer is incredibly real and can attack anyone, of any age, without warning. Whether it is lung cancer, colon cancer, skin cancer, or breast cancer, each can quickly become deadly if not caught and treated fast enough.

Through this experience, and this blog, I hope that, at minimum, I can encourage everyone reading to not tread lightly when it comes to your body. Let today be the day that you finally stop smoking cigarettes, that you finally upgrade from tanning oil to SPF 50, that you finally start going to your annual doctors check-up, or that you finally start checking your breast monthly. Life is all to precious and a few hours spent babysitting is sometimes all it takes to remind me of that.

While cancer is all to real and painful, it CAN be beaten. Don't be afraid to see a doctor or ask for help when needed. And be sure to hold the hand of those suffering for you may never know what they are truly going through. All donations are still greatly appreciated towards the AVON cause if you visit my Personal Page