Healthy Mama: Get to know your girls better during Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s a great time time to START self exams if you’re not already doing them every month and to get anything worrisome checked out.

Shawnna Grigsby, the Breast Health Navigator at Mercy Breast Center in Bentonville, works with women every day who are facing the breast cancer fight. She works closely with them, even going to appointments if that’s something they request. We’ve asked her to tell us a little more about how she helps local women who have just been given bad news and the information she shares with the community that might keep that from happening.

Shawnna, tell us a little about you and your family: My family and I just moved to NWA in April of this year.  We lived in Webb City, Missouri for the previous 14 years. My husband Steve retired after 13 1/3 years, from the Oklahoma Air National Guard, he was active duty 7 years prior and currently works at Mercy. We have three sons, Aaron 14, Patrick 19 and Richard 21, and one grandson Landyn, who is 4 months.

I attended Missouri Southern State University where I earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in May 2000. Prior to that I attended the University of South Carolina where I earned an Associate in Arts with Honors. During my nursing career I have worked in the maternal child department, general surgery office where I worked with a physician who specialized in breast surgery, case management and currently as a Breast Health Navigator.

What led you to start working with women diagnosed with breast cancer? I grew up around women’s health and women’s health issues. My grandmother a retired RN, worked labor, delivery and postpartum the last 20 plus years of her career, and prior to that she worked in general surgery. My mother is a mammography tech. I was always hearing about women’s health issues as I grew up.

I followed in my family’s footsteps, so to speak. I worked at St. John’s Breast Center while I was in nursing school. Six months out of school I was blessed to be offered a position with a general surgery group and worked closely with breast patients. As time evolved, one physician limited his practice to primarily breast surgeries. I was given the opportunity to assist with his high risk breast patients, help initiate BRCA testing within his clinic and work closely with women who are facing a very difficult diagnosis. I worked in case management for about 1 ½ years and then came back to my passion of women’s health. I have found that all my previous positions have made a great blend of experience for my Breast Health Navigator position.

Will you tell us a little about your job as breast health navigator at Mercy? As a breast health navigator, I assist women who have abnormal mammograms set up surgical consult appointments and assist with biopsies. I provide emotional support and education during and through-out diagnosis and treatment. I am a central point of contact for the patient regardless of where they are at in their treatment plan. I attend appointments with patients at their request. I help navigate the patient through biopsy, diagnosis, treatment and into survivorship.

What is the most rewarding part of your position? The best part of being a breast health navigator is the connection you make with patients and families. You are blessed to be a very small part of helping them through a very scary, difficult time. You really get to see them grow and complete challenges that at times seemed impossible to them, and watch them grow into survivors.

How important is it for me to do a breast self exame (BSE) every month? BSE is very important; it can literally save your life! Women should start doing a monthly BSE at age 20. It is best to perform your exam after your monthly cycle. A woman should become familiar with how her breasts look and feel. It may be helpful to have a notebook and draw what you feel in each breast so you will remember from month to month.  This is especially helpful when you start doing BSE. If she notices a change she needs to report it to her doctor immediately.

Just to put the importance of BSE in perspective, a women who regularly performs BSE and finds a lump, it on average is about the size of a dime. Women who occasionally perform BSE and find a lump, on average it is about the size of a quarter. A lump found by accident, averages about the size of a fifty cent piece. 

As women we tend to take care of our husbands, children, friends and family first, then ourselves. I encourage all women to take 15 minutes a month for yourself and your BSE. It could save your life.

What should I look for/what are some of the signs of cancer? You should look for a lump, hard knot or thickening. This can be in the breast or axilla (underarm area). Pain, nipple discharge, nipple inversion (pulling in of the nipple), dimpling or puckering (pulling in on other parts of the breast) need to be looked for. A rash on the nipple or itchy scaly sores on the nipple, areola or breast needs to be reported to your doctor. A change in the size, shape or movement of the breast needs to be reported.

For instance, if you bend over if one breast moves/hangs differently than the other breast; report this to your doctor.  Swelling, warmth redness or darkening of the breast needs to be reported immediately. If you notice any changes please report if promptly to your physician. While most lump and changes turn out to be from a benign process (non cancerous), that can only be determined by your doctor and testing that is ordered.

It is much better to err on the side of caution, than to look back and wish you would have.    

When should I start getting a mammogram if I have a history of breast cancer in my family? The American Cancer Society recommends women with a strong family history or a BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genetic mutation should start having mammograms at age 30.  Be sure to discuss your family and personal history with your health care provider so the best plan of care can be made for your individual situation.

What if I don’t have a family history? Women who are not high risk should start having annual mammograms at age 40.

How can I lower my risk? Research has shown there are factors that women can control to help lower their risk of breast cancer.  1) Maintain a healthy weight and exercise on a routine basis  2) limit alcohol consumption   3)  breastfeed if possible  4)  limit post menopausal hormones  5) avoid environmental pollutants  6) avoid tobacco.

Is there any new research about breast cancer you can share? There is new research being conducted as we speak. The Sister Study is one long term study that is looking at 50,000 women who have a sister diagnosed with breast cancer. The study is looking at environmental and genetic factors and the affect they may have on developing breast cancer. They also have an off shoot from the original study called Two Sister Study. It is looking at the genetic and environmental effects on breast cancer development, but it is looking specifically at the sister of women diagnosed prior to age 50. It is also including genetic data from parents.

Genetics  are always evolving. I always compare genetics to a computer, what is new and state of the art is updated within 6 months. Currently there are two known genes BRCA1 and BRCA 2 that are linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome. Research is continually working to link other genes.

The National Children’s study, which some of you may be participating in, even talks about the possibility of the study, long term, shedding some light on environmental factors that may be linked to the development of breast cancer.

There are literally hundreds of studies and clinical trials being conducted that deal with breast cancer treatment, prevention, diagnosis, genetics and causative elements.

How can I manage my fears that I might get breast cancer? I often worry about it: First of all knowledge is power. We have all heard the statistic that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. That can be a frightening statistic when you think of all the women you know. There are things that we cannot change, for instance our family history or our genetic make-up, but with the knowledge that you may fit into a higher risk category you can be vigilant about things you can control and be proactive in your care.

Talk to your doctor about your history and follow their recommendations. Make sure you take time for yourself and do a monthly breast self exam and make and keep your appointment for your annual clinical breast exam and your mammogram.

All women need to focus and what they can do to help prevent breast cancer, these things include: 1) maintain a healthy weight 2) regular exercise 3) limit alcohol intake 4) breastfeed if you are able 5) stop smoking 6) avoid known environmental pollutants and 7) healthy well balanced diet.

All women also need to focus on your routine screenings.  Make sure you do the monthly breast self exam.  Make and keep appointments for your annual clinical breast self exam and annual mammogram.

By learning  your specific risk , and using that knowledge to make good choices and be proactive in your health care, you are putting yourself in the best situation possible. Not only to help decrease the risk of breast cancer, by managing the things you can control, but also putting yourself in a position to have early detection if something does change or show up.

Note from the mamas: This post was previously published on nwaMotherlode, but we brought it back this month for the good information from Shawnna.



Beauty Buzz: Clumpy foundation?

Dear Andi,

When I apply my foundation it balls up in little clumps. What’s up and how can I fix it?

The last thing you want from your makeup is added texture on your skin. There are two reasons this happens and you can tell by the look of the offending clumps.

Dry and crumby: You need to exfoliate! The friction of applying foundation, especially if you use a sponge, is loosening all of the dead skin cells on your face. Yuck, wash clothsright?

A gentle face scrub, like Origins Modern Friction, once a week will slough off the dead skin.

Also, using a washcloth to wash your face, or disposable face wipes, instead of your hands will keep dry skin at bay.

Wet rolls: You need more time! I know that’s the most obvious statement ever said to a mom, but in this case I think it can be achieved.

Your foundation is rolling off your face because of too much lotion. Either your lotion is too heavy for your skin (try switching from a cream to a lotion) or you are not giving it enough time to sink in.

Easy solution, put your moisturizer on when you first wake up, then brush teeth, make breakfast, or one of the other million things moms do every morning, then come back and apply your makeup.

AndiHave a question for Andi, beauty blogger and fellow mama of three? Andi welcomes your questions and feedback to Beauty Buzz. E-mail her at

Fashion Fairy Godmother: Cute cover-ups that transition from beach to brunch

Dear Fashion Fairy Godmother,

I refuse to wear a ratty t-shirt and shorts over my swimsuit this summer. I want to wear something “cute” as a cover-up since we’re going on a vacation to the beach. Do you have any ideas for what I might shop for? I’m also thinking about how I might go straight from the beach to lunch or dinner.

Thank you!

Dear Beach Mama,

First things first: You are a beautiful woman who deserves a relaxing time at the beach, so good for you for taking the time away.

Secondly: Cover-ups are a pain for every woman. Regardless of shape, size, or age, the cover-up dilemma always seems to ask every woman to choose between the clothes that resemble those “ratty” things you mentioned or (on the very other end) clothes that resemble those that should never be seen outside of the bedroom.

Kaftans and tunics both offer women elegant alternatives. #1 is a kaftan. I adore the flowing sleeves and the loose bodice which leaves women of every body shape feeling elegant.  The key to this style is the length- much longer and it will start looking like your grandmother’s house-dress.

#2 is a tunic. This style is similar to the kaftan in that there are loads of wonderful looseness, but it’s a bit straighter and not as blouse-esque. When worn over a pair of white linen pants, both styles feel refined yet relaxed.  The only problem would be deciding which style you like most.

Maxi dresses are a second cover-up option that are insanely popular. You can find them everywhere and for every body shape.

For example, #7 #8 & #9 all have defined waists (which flatter every shape), but the waist doesn’t stop the long lean line that maxis are nice enough to supply.  Another trick is one color per dress which tends to look slimming as well.  #10 is a jersey and is very form fitting, i.e. a little less forgiving.  If you do decide to go with the maxi dress option, pick one that you can wear with confidence and everyone will see that beauty I was talking about earlier.

Something that would be lovely with both of these options would be simple metallic sandals (#3. #4). The fact that they are flats means that you won’t feel silly sinking into the sand on the beach (which would happen with heels), but the metallic kicks up the “pretty” factor just a bit. Oh, and these are something I would definitely compliment you on if we ran into one another at the grocery store after you got back from your trip. (Let’s be honest, the fashion fairy godmother loves a good justification to buy another cute pair of shoes.)

Another way to dress up a beach outfit is to ditch the big tote for evenings and carry one of these clutches (#5. #6).  The neutral and neon combo are a super fun trend that screams summer and the simplicity demands that you pare down and only carry the essentials. (Do you really need that third tube of lipstick anyway?)

Hopefully, this way of thinking would be something that carries over from your outfit to your attitude and allows you to most fully enjoy this amazing time with your family.

About Paige Meredith @ApproachingJoy: “Fabulous twenty something who’s into photography, food, fashion, fun. I blog because I believe everyones prettier when they share.” Click here to read Paige’s fabulous blog. Click here to follow her on Twitter @ApproachingJoy. Thanks, Paige, for being our Fashion Fairy Godmother this month. Great ideas!

Note from the mamas: This post originally appeared on nwaMotherlode in May 2012. It was such great advice that we wanted to re-post!


Swim Lessons in Northwest Arkansas

The pool, lake and beach are scary, dangerous places to be if your kids can’t swim. So swim lessons are a must. If you need a good swim teacher, check out the list we have in our Mom’s Choice Business Directory. Just use the category drop-down menu to choose “Swim Instructors” and then click “Search Listings.”

As you may know, there are many swim instructors in our area who offer lessons but don’t necessarily advertise their services and are not affiliated with a specific business. If you know of individual swim teachers, please post a comment below or send us an email if that the instructor would like to be listed in our directory (at no charge). We’ll keep adding to the list so our readers will always be able to find a swim instructor when they need one.

Here’s the list of swim instructors we have so far.

  • Donna Speed (school teacher & swim instructor — private or small group lessons) — 479-366-7921
  • JD Nunneley Swim Camp (varsity swimmer for Fayetteville High School, RAC swim instructor — private or small group lessons) 479-301-3399
  • Angela Shadduck (former swim teacher — private or small group lessons in Bentonville) 479-268-5060
  • Swim Ranch — 479-521-2932 (registration now open)
  • Rogers Parks & Recreation — 479-621-1117
  • Fayetteville Athletic Club Aquatics Center — 479-587-0500

Click the comment button below if you know of other businesses and/or individuals offering swim lessons from certified instructors.

Beauty Buzz: Hair above my upper lip

By Andi Douglas, beauty editor

Dear Andi,

I’ve started developing dark hair on my upper lip! This is so embarrassing and I need help. Any suggestions for the best way to get rid of it?

When I first read this question, I was suspicious that one of my friends sent it in as a hint for me to take a good look at my own upper lip. I’ve had a problem with facial hair since early adulthood, but since Lexi was born have been neglecting my own Fu Manchu mustache. So, if this was a friend, hint taken…if not, then take comfort in the fact that you are not alone!

Other proof that this is a common problem is the multitude of ways to remove unwanted facial hair.

  1. Shaving: Even though technically you could do this, DON’T. It is too harsh for a woman’s delicate skin and the re-qrowth will be coarse and fast.
  2. Tweezing: Plucking from an area with tight skin, like your brow bone, is effective, but trying to tweeze from the softer skin around your mouth hurts way worse (trust me) and the softer hair makes it harder to grip.
  3. Waxing every 4-6 weeks: Even though I have always thought this would be the best method, I have never done it myself. I’ve always been too embarrassed to ask (which is silly) and since I usually run several errands at once, the thought of walking through the store with bright red evidence of my embarrassing problem slapped on my upper lip is more than I can handle.
  4. Electrolysis: The only hair removal process allowed to make the claim of a permanent solution, electrolysis destroys the hair follicles individually with an electrical current. Youch! Definitely the most costly and it can require several treatments where you’re not allowed to tweeze or wax the remaining hairs while you wait, but the idea of permanent hair free skin is alluring, if you can swing it. 
  5. 5053.jpgDepilatory cream: This is my preferred method for a couple of reasons. Convenience rules my life and since I usually don’t think about removing my mustache until I’m getting ready to go somewhere nice, being able to take care of it at home in 10 minutes is ideal. Also, I find that when it does start to come back in, the hair is soft and less noticeable, not to mention dealing with it in the privacy of my own bathroom. I use Sally Hansen Crème Hair Remover for Face available at the drugstore. Just apply to a clean face and get dressed. When 8 minutes has passed, gently wipe off with a cotton ball, moving against the hair growth and then rinse off any remaining crème. The kit comes with lotion to apply after you’re done, but your normal moisturizer will work fine. Warning: If you miss any hairs and are tempted to reapply, wait 24 hours to avoid a bright red splotch where the cream was.

Overall, you have a lot of options and a lot of company, when it comes to dealing with hair on your lip. Just another wonderful part of womanhood…seriously, don’t we have enough to deal with already?

AndiHave a question for Andi, beauty blogger and fellow mama? E-mail it to *This post originally published on nwaMotherlode in 2010.