breastie

2018: My Year In Review

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Hi Live Your F*ck Yes Lifers!

I can’t believe it’s that time again to sit down and take stock of the year — it feels like just yesterday I was writing my 2017: My Year in Review blog post.

Doing this every year has become such a beautiful tradition. It gives me space to reflect and set intentions for the upcoming year — and my hope is that it inspires you to do the same.

So often we go about our life not taking stock for what we’ve accomplished, especially when we feel like we haven’t made any progress in a year. But I bet that if you rock out this exercise alongside of me and take some time to truly look back on your year, you’ll be surprised of just how much you HAVE accomplished and just how far you’ve come.


2018 was arguably the best year of my life. 

While learning about having the BRCA 1 mutation was a huge thread through it all, the biggest thing was living up to my chosen word of the year — UNAPOLOGETIC.

It allowed me to feel the fear and do it anyways. 

Say YES to opportunities that my gut was pulling me towards even if my head was saying no. 

Share my story and truth with abandon. 

Finally DO the things I’d been holding myself back from doing for years.

Here’s a snapshot of some of those things…

MY YEAR IN REVIEW

TRAVEL

  • My first trip was a 2 week long stint to LA, San Francisco and Hawaii. I was put up in LA for a leadership conference for my business (which in and of itself was a DREAM and an HONOR) and it landed right around my Birthday/mine and Kev’s anniversary so we extended the trip and drove up the coast to San Francisco before I flew to Honolulu for a week with my best friend from high school, Irina. It was the first time in my career that I was able to just take off and go somewhere because of my business.

  • In April, I got to experience my first all expenses paid trip to Punta Cana that I earned through my coaching biz. I got to take Kev as my guest and it was the most luxurious and relaxing and fun 5 days.

  • Next up was my first retreat I held for the gals on my coaching team in Florida — aka the most hilarious, fun and amazing weekend filled with face masks, rained out photoshoots, laugh attacks and margaritas.

  • And then I got to see them again (plus way more of my gals!) in Indy at our annual coach Summit where I had the biggest full circle moment of my life. Can’t say Indy was the most exciting place to visit, but I would go anywhere to spend a long weekend growing as a business owner and person alongside my team.

  • In August, I got to check a major place off of my bucket list: Iceland. We went in celebration of my mom’s 60th and the amount of adventure we experienced was just unparalleled. We went into the inner chamber of a MF volcano. So cool.

  • The rest of the year was filled with mini trips to Canada (a week spent at my cabin was heaven on earth), a stint in NYC and my first time in Texas for an amazing conference.

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BUSINESS

  • After 2.5 years of rocking my side hustle, I was able to make enough to quit all of my additional part time jobs. And that’s working no more than 5-10 hours a week. It’s amazing what happens when you decide to show up and trust in the compound effect.

  • I launched my Live Your F*ck Yes Life podcast!!! If ya haven’t already, subscribe here.

  • I launched my wellness events & retreats company Empowered and Free. We hosted 3 amazing events and one retreat in the Chicago area this year and have some BIG plans for the next year and I can’t WAIT. This was honestly the biggest surprise of 2018. I had NO intention of creating a company like this. All I wanted to do was hold space for wellness, self care & community in a way that I hadn’t seen in Chicago via a social media movement experiment…and SO many women resonated. Just another beautiful example of following those gut tugs.

  • I had my writing published in a book, The Authentic Woman Series: Identity Rising.

  • I got certified as an emotional eating and mindset coach.

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LIFE

  • I was tested positive for the BRCA 1 gene and had a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy.

  • Spent 6 months of the year working on the most artistically fulfilling and empowering show I’ve ever been a part of. Haymarket the musical was such a gift in my life — and it was super badass getting to be a part of an original cast recording!

  • I went off the hormonal birth control after 12 years of being on the pill — read more about my decision to do so here!

  • I started working with a therapist after years of resisting it. Best. Decision. Ever.

  • I completed my first 90 day workout program, focused on strength training in new and exciting ways and truly learned what loving and appreciating your body is all about.

  • Celebrated my 10 year high school reunion — WHAT? So crazy.

  • Created and fostered the most incredible support system in Chicago. It’s been a year of nurturing and deepening new & existing relationships like never before.

  • Had a bon voyage to the boobs weekend and photoshoot with my 3 best girlfriends at my cottage and a surprise ta-ta to the tits party the week before my surgery in Chicago!

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This year was filled with unexpected magic.

Some things I planned but most? The things that brought the most to my life were FAR from anticipated.

And I truly believe it’s because I allowed space to explore them.

I listened to my intuition, my gut, and I went where I was called to go.


Did I “hit all of my 2018 goals”? Hell no.

That’s not the point. Some of them I showed up for with gusto. Some I’m still working towards and it’s only a matter of time. Some no longer serve my greater vision and purpose. And others I didn’t even know I needed/wanted.

All I know is that I followed my gut to the YES’s.

Because I know it’s my compass more than anything in the world.


Sometimes, it’s the most simple YES’s that transform your life in the most INCREDIBLE ways.

So this year, I hope you say YES. Invest your time, money, heart in things that will allow you to LIVE YOUR FUCK YES LIFE.

And notice how I said YOURS. Not someone ELSE’s version of that. YOURS. YOUR happiness. YOUR dreams. YOUR health.


Follow the gut tugs, my badasses.

It’ll lead you to LIVE YOUR F*CK YES LIFE TOO, ok?


What’s your intention heading into 2019?

Xo Amanda

What Having a Double Mastectomy Actually Feels Like

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I’m 6 days post op from my bilateral prophylactic mastectomy (a fancy ass term for chopping off my tits preventatively) and to say this week has been one of the weirdest and most challenging weeks of my life would be the understatement of the year. 

Getting ready for this surgery, I was FREAKING out. I had no idea what to expect and when I searched around the internet to get some // any // kind of answers, I came up hella short.

So here’s my story. In hopes that if you’re searching around frantically like I was, you can find this post and feel less scared shitless and a little less alone. Or maybe you’re just one of my amazeballs readers who never misses a post and always wants to hear about what’s going on in my life, and this has pretty much been my life so here goes.

Fair warning: As always, I don’t keep things super PG and am honest AF about my own personal experience. So here goes...

Extra reminder: This is my personal experience. Everyone I’ve spoken to that has had this procedure has different ones to share. If you are thinking about taking action because you are BRCA +, check out some support groups and speak with other women who have been through this process as well. It was a super important step for me in my journey.


I have to say, in many ways, 2018 felt like the year of before and after — like everything was leading up to this one huge day, December 3rd, when I was finally going to be having my double mastectomy. Which for all you gals out there considering this/or rocking your previvor status already, my surgery was a DTI, OTM bilateral prophylactic mastectomy. 

DTI = Direct to implant. I was lucky to be a candidate for a one step procedure for a few reasons, according to my plastic surgeon — 1. I’m young, healthy and fit & 2. I wasn’t looking to go up a cup size. (Often, during the initial surgery to remove the breast tissue, expanders are put in in the place of implants for a few months leading up to a separate exchange surgery when the implants get inserted)

OTM = Over the muscle. This is in reference to where the implant is placed. Over the muscle is a pretty new way of doing things and, because of that, my surgeon was definitely more comfortable with under the muscle, but after speaking to my surgeons and my fellow previvors, I knew that OTM was the right decision for me so I MF advocated for myself and am SO happy that I did. 

Bilateral prophylactic mastectomy — double preventative (aka I did/do not have cancer) removal of both breasts. 


Anyways, back to the surgery itself. The idea of it scared the living SHIT out of me. I had only ever had one major surgery in my life and it was when I was 19 and got my tonsils removed, but that was something I wanted to do. This? This wasn’t something I would have ever made the decision to do without a good ass reason in my entire life. 

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I was never obsessed with my boobs. They were always farther apart than I’d have wanted and shaped a bit like pears (can ya picture it?), but I had never for a second considered getting implants. So many people would say things like “well, silver lining, you get amazing boobs!” — and I never saw it that way because I genuinely didn’t want them. Hell, I seriously considered going flat for a while but didn’t think that would translate well as a 20 something year old who is making a good portion of her career as an actor. Yup, entrepreneur, health coach, speaker and actor bitches! If you’ve been around these parts long enough, you already knew that though.

Anyways, my point is that major surgery was a pretty foreign concept to me. And I imagine it is for you as well. So I’m going to walk you through everything from start to finish with all the nitty gritty details — you ready, lets do the damn thing:

The day of...

My surgery didn’t start until 10:30 AM so I didn’t have to be at the hospital until 9:00. You’re not allowed to eat anything after midnight the night before which I thought would totally suck as I always have 2 breakfasts but my nerves actually killed any appetite I may have had.

Morning of, I got up and took some time for me to journal and do some light yoga which really helped me put me in the right frame of mind. I took a long shower, washed my hair (DO THIS) and rocked my surgical antiseptic wash (mine was called Hibiclens — don’t freak out when you open it and it’s MF magenta colored like I did), drank my required pre surgery apple juice and head to the hospital. 


When I got there, I registered and got set up in a private room to do all my pre surgery vitals and get my IV administered. I had to pat down my entire body with these cold wipes before putting on my gown — let me tell ya, the process was hella sexy — and then both doctors came in, chatted with myself and my support squad, and before I knew it, I was given my sleeping cocktail (which led to some seriously hilarious raw video footage of me thinking my body was a bowling ball and the bed’s rails were bumper cars) and whisked away to surgery.

And then I blacked out.

Literally. An entire 6 hours of my day was completely gone. One minute I was holding my husbands finger and the next minute, I was blinking half awake in the ICU saying that I was nauseous, and then blacked out again until I was in my room, surrounded by my support squad, with Coco playing in the background (‘cause they know how much I freaking love Disney). 


The rest of my hospital stay was pretty uneventful. I was surprised how low my pain levels were (2/10), I was allowed to have broth and popsicles for dinner (which let me tell ya tasted DAMN GOOD) and I spent the rest of the night/early morning watching movies, dozing on and off, talking with my support squad, taking meds (I wasn’t on any narcotics because they’d administered nerve blocks for the procedure which I was super happy about because my stomach does not do well with narcotics at all) and having my drains cleared by the nurses, who I freaking LOVED. Seriously, my team was incredible. Shoutout to the Northshore team at Evanston Hospital — I couldn’t have been more impressed.

Post op week...

Overall, I’ve gotta say, this experience has been way less taxing than I anticipated. I think the unknown/fears heading into surgery were wayyy harder than anything I’ve experienced post surgery and that was truly surprising to me.

After entertaining the hospital staff with my attempt to dance down the hallways on my evening and morning walk, I got the go-ahead from my doctors that everything was looking good and got discharged from the hospital.

I was a bit sore, almost like I’d done a really intense workout the day before and my shoulders, back & chest were taking the brunt of it, but I was so happy to be home and in my own space. I was allowed to take a shower 2 days post op which was THE BEST THING IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. Seriously, I never thought a shower could feel so good. I definitely was not able to shower on my own though so help is definitely a necessity post surgery. There is no way I would have been able to get by this week if it weren’t for my husband taking time off work to help me through this. 

I also saw myself for the first time since before surgery and I was expecting to look like Frankenstein and was SHOCKED at how good the girls looked just 2 days out — they were swollen and puffy for sure but wayyy better than I anticipated. Saw my plastic surgeon for a follow up 5 days post op and he was super impressed too! Everything has been healing well. 

The rest of the week has been filled with lots of resting, a few excursions (walks, a trip to target, pedicure, hair wash), watching a shiz ton of movies & tv shows, naps, and hanging out with my mom & dad who came into town for the surgery. 

While resting isn’t a state I’m used to being in for too long, and having everyone have to do things for me has been tough, it’s been such a wonderful way to really foster a new found sense of love for my body and everything its capable of. And it turns out, so much beauty happens when you sit back and allow everything to unfold as its supposed to.


I may have never expected to be here. I may have never wanted to have to make this choice. But it’s taught me so much more than I could have ever imagined.

And I know it’ll only continue to do so. 

Xo Amanda

Why I decided to get a Preventative Double Mastectomy at the age of 27

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I've always known that whatever hardship came my way I could handle.

I'm strong willed and a hell of a fighter.

When I was 8, at overnight camp, I was bullied and literally thrown rocks at by the other girls in my cabin. 

When I was 10, I suddenly woke up in the middle of the night and unexpectedly couldn't walk and ended up in the hospital for 4 days with the doctors unable to diagnose what was wrong with me. 

I’ve struggled with body image, toxic friendships, losing friendships, orthorexia, the yo yo dieting binge cycle, anxiety, panic attacks, the works, and with self development and the right tools, I’ve overcome them.

But some things you just don’t feel like you can…

When I found out I was positive for the BRCA 1 gene earlier this year, I tried so hard to not let it derail me and have a total breakdown — to be “strong”. But the day I found out, I couldn’t keep it together. I ran to the shower and had a totally hot ass mess breakdown, movie style.

And it’s crazy to think that in 2 weeks, on December 3rd 2018, I’m going to have the official “previvor” status.

Yup, I’m chopping off my tits.

The decision to get a preventative double mastectomy was easy. I knew going into my genetic testing that if I found out I was #brca1 I would be going through with the surgery. (I didn’t WANT to, but I knew that’s what I would want to do given the circumstances.)

I could have gone the preventative screening route — which is a totally valid option! — but I know myself and I knew that I would constantly be living in fear.

Getting tested on the other hand? I put it off for years out of fear. But if there’s one thing I hope my journey with all of this shared is that knowing your predispositions is what gives you AGENCY over your HEALTH and your LIFE.

I’m grateful I know because now, I get to MAKE a choice. I get to stand up to cancer and tell it to fuck right off.

And that is a powerful thing.

Maybe you have a history of breast or ovarian cancer in your family and you can relate. Or maybe you are navigating your journey with a genetic mutation too. Or maybe, you are waiting to do something you know you need to do out of FEAR.

I’m here to tell you you’re not alone, my love. And that if you need ANYTHING, I’m always just a message away.

If you want to learn more about BRCA and my journey with it,

take a listen to this episode of the podcast.

 

I’ll be blogging more about my recovery journey and everything in between so if we’re not email penpals, be sure to subscribe to my email list to not miss a beat.

Your love & support means the world.

Let’s kick this BRCA gene in the goddamn tits.

Xo Amanda  

What IS BRCA and how do I know if I should get tested for it?

Earlier this year, I found out that I am BRCA 1 +.

If you haven't been following my journey (blog/podcast) then you are probably like DA FUCK is BRCA? Or at least, that's how I was when I first heard of it.

In the past month, I've had so many of you reach out. I've heard stories of those of you who are BRCA + too, those of you who are battling breast cancer or are survivors, and a hell of a lot of messages from those of you who didn't even know it was possible to get genetically tested for something like this.

So I figured I'd put together some facts & figures for you guys based on my own personal research and what my doctors have shared with me. So please do your due diligence on your own and speak to your doctors to discuss if this is the right path for YOU.

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THE FACTS 

SO, WHAT IS BRCA?

BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 are human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins. When either of these genes is mutated, cells in the body are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer.

Inheriting the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene increases the risk of female breast and ovarian cancers (although they have also been associated with several additional types of cancer). People who have inherited mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 tend to develop breast and ovarian cancers at younger ages than people who do not have these mutations.

HOW DO YOU INHERIT BRCA?

A BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation can be inherited from someone's mother or father. Each child of a parent who carries a mutation in one of these genes has a 50% chance (or 1 chance in 2) of inheriting the mutation. 

When I was in college, my dad got tested and found out that he had the BRCA 1 gene. Most women my age that I've spoken to who know about the gene were urged to get tested after their moms or close female relatives were diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer. I've only met one other woman (shoutout to my gal Ashley who just bravely went through a preventative double mastectomy) who has a similar story to mine. So if you have any history of breast or ovarian cancer on either side of your family, you may want to consider getting tested.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS INHERITED WITH BRCA? 

This varies depending on whether you have BRCA 1 or 2.

For BRCA 1:

  • 60-80% risk of developing breast cancer over lifetime compared to the 12% general population risk.
  • 34-44% risk of developing ovarian cancer over lifetime compared to the 1-2% general population risk.
  • 2-3 % risk of developing pancreatic cancer over lifetime compared to the 0.9% general population risk.
  • Increased risk in male breast and prostate cancer

For BRCA 2:

  • 50-70% risk of developing breast cancer over lifetime compared to the 12% general population risk.
  • 12-20% risk of developing ovarian cancer over lifetime compared to the 1-2% general population risk.
  • 20-30% risk of developing prostate cancer over lifetime compared to the 16% general population 
  • 7% risk of developing male breast cancer over lifetime compared to the 1.10% general population 
  • 3-5 % risk of developing pancreatic cancer over lifetime compared to the 0.9% general population risk.
  • 3-5 % risk of developing melanoma over lifetime compared to the 1-2% general population risk.

*stats pulled from the National Society of Genetic Counselors

WHEN TO CONSIDER GENETIC TESTING

  • You have a relative with a BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutation
  • Family history of breast cancer diagnosis at an early age (aka before 50 years of age)
  • Family history of ovarian cancer
  • Multiple generations with breast and/or ovarian cancer
  • Family member has had multiple primary cancers 
  • Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry (this one took me by surprise! I have Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry on both sides of my family)

FAVORITE RESOURCES AND SUPPORT

The Bright Pink Foundation -- A FANTASTIC resource to help you assess your risk and find a local group in your area for support. They also have a beautiful program called the Pink Pal where you get paired up with someone to help you navigate the process once you've found out you are BRCA + 

The Breasties -- a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting young women affected by breast and ovarian cancer through community and friendship. They host events, meetups and retreats and I've had the pleasure of getting to know Paige, the founder, and could not be more on board with what she's doing and the community she's building. #breastie love! 

Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE) -- education resource for more information and studies. Great resource!

 

So there you have it! 

Remember just because you KNOW this information doesn't mean you have to get tested. I waited 5 years and while in some ways I wish I had known sooner, I'm also grateful I waited because even a couple of years ago, I wasn't mentally ready to handle everything.

And if you ever need support, love or encouragement along your journey, know that I am always just a message away and I would LOVE to connect with you!

 

Xo Amanda