Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Guest Post: Five Must-Haves if Diagnosed with Breast Cancer by Dawn Novotny

Welcome Dawn Novotny, author of

RagDoll Redeemed: Growing Up in the Shadow of Marilyn Monroe   

by Dawn Novotny 
When she married Joe DiMaggio Jr., Dawn thought she would be leaving the tough days of her childhood behind her forever. She didn't know that her new husband was bringing memories of his own tough days into the marriage--and a need to recreate his wife as his very own Marilyn. RagDoll Redeemed tells the tale of Dawn's escape from her marriage and search for the real Dawn as well as the feelings that Marilyn's and her life were somehow connected after her first ill-fated marriage.  

Paperback: 180 pages

Quick Review:

Intrigued by the Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio aspect (and with the songs: “Candle in the Wind” by Elton John and Simon and Garfunkle’s “Mrs. Robinson” playing in my mind), I felt drawn to read this book.  And as promised, these two iconic personalities were weaved into Dawn Novotny’s personal account in a fascinating manner.  Much like Norma Jean (Marilyn’s actual name), Dawn experienced a nearly paralleled troubled and difficult (to say the least) upbringing and young adulthood.  Interestingly, it became the story of Ms. Novotny’s self described “redemption” (one that Marilyn Monroe never experienced) that captivated my interest.  Both heart-breaking and captivating, and in the end, quite thought-provoking, Ragdoll Redeemed: Growing Up in the Shadow of Marilyn Monroe is definitely worth checking out!

And now, on to today's guest post on a very important topic:

Five Must-Haves if Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

There are different types of breast cancer, such as noninvasive (in situ) breast cancer or invasive breast cancer. There are stages I, II, III or IV of breast cancer, and the type of tissue where your breast cancer arises. All of these factors combine to determine how the cancer behaves and what treatments are most effective. Since every case and course of treatment will be slightly different, then understand what I say here is speaking in generalities and will be influenced by my personal experience. Even though factors depending on gender, age, finances, support systems, medical availability, etc., are all to be considered, these are five "musts-haves" if diagnosed with breast cancer.

1). One way to prepare for your first exams are to read a book on cancer. This will help since in the beginning, when your doctors are explaining medical terms, it will seem as if they are speaking in another language. Add to that, it is extremely frightening to not understand what is happening to your body. You will have many questions and many choices to make. If you are like me, the questions will become horrors in the still of the night like little monsters taunting you. A great book on breast cancer will feel like your new best friend. I would highly recommend Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book. It became my bedside bible for the entire nine months of intense treatment.

2). Permission! Give yourself the gift of permission to feel however you feel. Be as gentle with yourself as you would be toward a friend that you love dearly. Don't wear bright colors and lipstick because someone says that you should just to cheer yourself up UNLESS you feel like it. It is as perfectly okay to be consumed with vanity as it is to not give-a-damn about what you look like or how you are dressed. Just feel what you feel and act the way it feels right for you. As for me, common sense, maturity and even the possibility of death vanished as vanity prevailed upon hearing my diagnosis of breast cancer in December of 2003.
I recall now, how, in gripping the phone, I asked, “How much boob is normally removed during a lumpectomy?”
“We won’t know until we go in and see the size and how much surrounding tissue is affected.”  
“Could you make a guess? Like will I lose the size of a marble, a ping pong ball, golf ball or maybe….? Ok, Ok, Ok, I'll wait and see." Yeah right, I’m thinking as I gnaw on my fingers.
Setting the phone down an inner critic assails me, shouting, “How vain can you get?” As time would tell, pretty darn vain. In fact, vanity was my constant companion throughout my year of cancer treatment. When I wasn’t focused on the chiseling away of the boob, it was the loss of hair, breast reconstruction or how I would ever again wear Victoria’s Secret bras.

3). Ten days before my scheduled mastectomy surgery, as luck would have it, I ran into the doctor who had previously treated my mother. She died five years earlier from pancreatic cancer. He would become part of my cancer treatment team.
His advice to me was, “Dawn, your veins are exactly like your mother's. They are small, they roll and then collapse. They will not support the several hours needed for your IV treatment. Have your mastectomy surgeon insert a portacath."
(Note: "A portacath consists of a reservoir (the portal) and a tube (the catheter). The portal is implanted under the skin in the upper chest. It may appear as a bump under the skin in thin patients, less visible in patients with thicker subcutaneous fat. The catheter runs in a tunnel under the skin, going over the collar bone and then enters the large vein in the lower neck (the internal jugular vein). Since it is completely internal, swimming and bathing are not a problem. The septum of the portal is made of a special self-sealing silicone rubber. It can be punctured up to one thousand times and therefore can be used for many years." Dr. Eisen Liang, Radiologist.)
Make sure you check with your general doctor PRIOR to having chemo treatments to see if your veins can tolerate the needles or should you have a portacath inserted.

4). Should you have the type of cancer that necessitates chemotherapy and you lose your hair, make sure that you have some very soft hats or scarves to cover your head. I was amazed at how cold my head got without hair. While I purchased a beautiful wig prior to my treatments, I was not prepared for how irritating the wig was on my tender bald head. Trust me. Soft hats or scarves are best.

5). Plan something to look forward to after your treatments. Plan the best affordable thing for yourself that you can imagine. Cancer treatment is frightening, intense and takes a lot of your inner strength, along with the compassion of your soul mates. It is important that you have something to look forward to as you are dropped off of the conveyer belt of treatment. I use the term conveyer belt because from the moment you are diagnosed with cancer, you are emotionally and physically pushed, pulled, poked, tattooed, stretched, carried, wounded and scarred. Be infinitely kind to yourself.



"And breast cancer is a dance of initiation, for no woman who dances with cancer is ever the same. She has visited the source and tasted the waters of life and death, savored the sweetness and the sharpness of her own mortality, and tasted her desire to survive.”                              Breast Cancer? Breast Health! Susan S. Weed

Find out more about Dawn by visiting her online: 

About the Author:   
So many words describe Dawn Novotny: clinician, teacher, author, workshop leader, wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, recovering addict, breast cancer survivor, reader, swing dancer, and snorkeler. But what she is most proud of is her ability to "thrive." She thrived in the face of poverty, abuse, and addiction to finally become the woman she is today. She wrote her memoir to encourage other women to look past their difficulties to what is possible, to the women they should be.  


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