Waiting for Shlomo: Things Fall Apart

By Erin, adoption blogger

Ok, I think I am ready to write about this. It’s been a difficult few weeks. We had an adoptive situation fall through a few months ago, but it lasted only 24 hours and turned really crazy at the end, so it was a bit of a relief when we said no and the birth mother changed her mind. This was a different story.

About three weeks ago, we were notified that our family was chosen by a birth mother. We learned some preliminary information, and asked to receive the full packet on the birth family. We first learned that we were chosen by this birth mother on October 6, a Monday. We had to wait for some medical records to come in, and by that Friday, we received the packet in the mail. We had a lot of questions, so called to talk to the social worker in charge of the case. Our social worker was out of the office on Friday, and the following Monday was Columbus Day. What a HARD wait! We were able to get a bit more information from the director, but we still had more questions. We had to wait until TUESDAY – I thought I would crack under the pressure. At that point, we had known about this adoption for 9 days, but were unable to clarify information that would help us make a final decision. We told my sister and brother-in-law, who are our go-to people with regards to support and information on this process since they just went through it, and one other friend who lives out of town. I wanted to scream it from the rooftops, because I was SO sure it was going to work out. I restrained myself, but it was hard.

On Tuesday, October 14, our 7th wedding anniversary and in the midst of a huge stress fight, we were finally able to talk to the social worker. We found out more background and health information, and we BOTH started to feel REALLY positive that this might be our baby. We were ready to sign the commitment letter and have our personal loan dispersed to cover the next set of fees, but we wanted the social worker to clarify one more piece of information for us. We were sure it was fine, but decided to ask just in case. We made up from our fight, and Michael actually started to get excited (that’s really what the fight was about)! We took Isaac over to my parent’s house so we could go out and celebrate our anniversary. Before we left for dinner, we told them the news – “We think we have a baby. The birth mother is scheduled for a c-section on November 13. It’s a baby GIRL!” My mother was so excited she jumped up and down and almost cried. We left their house beaming, and continued to talk about our plans, the new baby, possible names, and how to work out all of the travel plans, throughout the night. We are planning to go to Dallas for Thanksgiving anyway, so we knew we would drive to Dallas around the 11th, spend the night, drive on the San Antonio, meet the new baby, stay in San Antonio for as long as we needed to in order to get the clear to travel, go back to Dallas, celebrate Thanksgiving with all of Michael’s sisters and friends, and come home as soon as the paperwork cleared. It could not have worked out more perfectly in regards to timing. Yes, I am a planner. We even had plans for my Mom to fly to San Antonio to help us with Isaac! This was all mapped out in my head within days of receiving the news. I tried so hard not to do too much planning, but it’s hard to keep yourself from doing what comes naturally!

By Friday afternoon, I had restrained myself from buying any girl clothes, but I had made a packing list. Our social worker could not get in touch with the birth mother by phone, but had a meeting with her on Friday afternoon. By Thursday evening, we could not wait anymore, and we made the announcement to Michael’s parents and sisters. I’m sure you remember how many problems we had with Michael’s parents regarding this adoption. Well, Michael’s mother was moved to tears – in a good way! Everything was going wonderfully . . . Even Isaac was excited about his “new baby sister” that would be coming to live with us soon.

Friday afternoon – things had been in the works for 12 days. We still had not signed our commitment letter, because we were waiting to clarify that final piece of information. The birth mother had a doctor’s appointment in the late morning and then came into the agency. Our social worker had gone home sick, so the director was working with us instead. She called us. The birth mom wanted to talk to us on the phone – were we ready to sign the papers? We said we still had not heard from the social worker regarding that final piece of information. The director said she had emailed it that morning, but we had not received it . . . Everything that came next happened in a rush and in slow motion, all at the same time –

We are on the phone with the director.

Birth mother is waiting in the next room at the agency, ready to talk to us on the phone.

Director finds email from social worker, forwards it and reads it aloud on the phone.

Deafening silence from us.

Heart starts to crumble.

Let us call you back in just a minute.

Read email.

Re-read email.

Look at each other.

Phone rings – it’s the Director. Birth Mother is waiting – are we ready?

Give us 10 more minutes.

Frantic phone call to sister.

Frantic phone calls to friends with professional knowledge of specific situation.


Everything stops.


It should not be this hard.

I look at Michael. We can’t do this. He looks at me. We can’t do this.

Call director.

We can’t do this. We can’t do this. We can’t do this.

Heart is breaking.

A small piece of my heart has been taken by this experience. Our adoption just became ten times harder. The numbness is easing. The sadness is receding. The birth mother found another family, and they will be the perfect family for this baby. There are so many emotions – grief, guilt, sadness, guilt, disappointment, guilt, guilt, guiltguiltguiltguiltguilt. Thanksgiving will be hard – no new baby to join our family. Our baby is out there. The time will come. The guilt, sadness, and disappointment will slowly ease. There will always be a piece of this November 13th baby girl in my heart, but thankfully, my heart is big enough for more.

Spa Girl Giveaway Winner!

spagirl.jpgCongratulations to Stefanie Rogers, winner of nwaMotherlode’s first Spa Girl Giveaway! Stefanie signed up for the giveaway, which includes a one-hour signature massage and an aromatherapy pedicure from Sanctuary Salon & Spa, with a shout-out to Signed Sealed Delivered. She was particularly complimentary of their Kids’ Camp because all the scrap-booking pieces are pre-cut and easy to create with.

Stefanie had just returned from a Halloween skate night party with her two young daughters when she saw the good news waiting for her in e-mail Thursday evening. She was surprised, to say the least.

“I never win anything,” she said when she called to get the details.

Stefanie works part-time from home for Acxiom and is otherwise consumed by all things kid-related. She used to enjoy getting massages and pedicures, but hasn’t found the time in her schedule for years, she said.

“I think I need it. When October hits we have lots of birthdays and then there’s Halloween. Within a week we’ll be planning the whole family for Thanksgiving and I’ve got to start my Christmas shopping. Yes, I definitely need this before we start the chaos,” she said with a laugh.

Those of you who didn’t win should not despair because there will be more Spa Girl Giveaways coming up on nwaMotherlode! Or heck, just make your appointment at Sanctuary and treat yourself to a massage, pedicure or sassy new hair cut for the holidays. Just click on their ad to the right to go straight to their website and check out the menu.

Drama for Mama: Grey’s Anatomy


This was a hard episode to watch for us animal lovers. The new trauma surgeon, Major Hunt, began a teaching session by unveiling several sedated pigs strapped to operating tables. He took out a pocket knife and stabbed each one in the chest and then ordered the residents and interns to keep them alive by performing surgery. Izzie refused and left the room. Later in the episode she gave the new doctor a big piece of her mind about cruelty to animals. The only good part of the whole pig thing was that Christina actually showed some compassion for them, and she learned a lot by operating on them all day. In the end, they had to put the pigs to sleep because they would have suffered too much in healing from the surgeries.

While all the pig business was going on, Dr. Bailey was in charge of saving a human patient – a 10-year-old girl with an inoperable tumor wrapped around several major arteries. She assembled a team of doctors and eventually they figured out how to attempt to operate on the tumor. (They took out six major organs to do it! I couldn’t watch most of the surgery scenes. Way too gross.) Bailey and Erica had a big showdown after the surgery because Erica had been griping all day about the surgery and how it would never work. But it did work and the girl lived.

Erica was in a bad mood because, at the beginning of the episode, she opened up to Callie about how she felt about her realization that she’s gay. She was so happy that she cried, which freaked Callie out. Callie went running to the open arms of Mark Sloane in the on-call room – twice. She wanted to know if she’d feel differently or better about a man versus a woman. But ultimately she came clean about the cheating and told Erica. Then she told Sloane she wouldn’t be meeting him in the on-call room anymore but still wanted to hang out with him as friends.

Izzie and Alex are definitely more than friends these days. In fact, Alex asked Izzie to go steady with him – only he did it in his own backward, infuriating way. But Izzie decoded his mixed messages and the two are definitely becoming an item. Lexie and George patched things up as roommates after Lexie admitted that she sometimes gets too involved and takes things too personally.

The Chief had a talk with Meredith and said he sometimes can’t look at her because she reminds him of all his past failures and that if saying “I’m sorry” could heal it, he’d say it a thousand times a day. (I think she needed to hear that.) Later, back at Meredith’s house, she and Derek were going through her mother’s boxes while making room for Derek’s stuff. They found another huge box full of her mother’s diaries, which means Meredith has a lot more reading to do.

There were no preview scenes from next week’s episode, so I’m not sure if there’ll be a new one or a repeat. Check your TV guide next week or your Tivo to find out.

Drama for Mama: Dancing with the Stars Elimination Night

It was fun while it lasted, but the comedy routine finally came to a close on this week’s Dancing with the dancingstars-logo.jpgStars when Cloris Leachman and her partner Corky were eliminated from the contest. (The other couple in the bottom two was headed by Susan Lucci.) But I have to admit, it was fun watching eighty-something Cloris entertain the crowd with her wit and self-effacing charm. And she did actually have at least a couple dances that showed some real skill and grace. If I’m able to do that when I’m her age, I’ll call it a huge accomplishment. I think she’ll definitely go down in show history as one of the most memorable, entertaining contestants to hit the stage.

Fayetteville Mom Shares Decision to Have Double Mastectomy

By Shannon Magsam

Editor’s note: So many women were rooting for Fayetteville mom Gail Halleck during a recent nwaMotherlode giveaway that we couldn’t help but wonder about the back story on this obviously remarkable woman. We found out that Gail, 43, is celebrating the first anniversary after a double mastectomy. Gail (on the far right in the picture) was happy to share her story in hopes of helping other women going through breast cancer. She’s also passionate about encouraging women to perform self breast exams and to determine whether they have dense breasts, which was recently linked to higher incidence of breast cancer. She feels that sharing this information is part of her mission in life now. Here’s her story:

gailimg_0434-1.jpgOn May 3, 2007, Gail was driving her 4-year-old daughter home after the last day of preschool. They had just celebrated the occasion with a school-wide tea party. Gail was trying to keep the mood light, but she couldn’t help feeling anxious. She had noticed a pea-sized lump in her breast the Friday before and wondered when she’d get the test results. She’d had fibrocystic breasts for a long time, but this lump felt different and she was experiencing tenderness too soon after her period.

Her cell phone rang just as she was turning onto their street in Fayetteville.

It was then she heard the news: fast-growing, aggressive cancer in her left breast.

“I went into the house and started scribbling notes,” she said. “They said I had invasive ductal carcinoma and I needed an MRI to determine if the other breast was clear and to get a better picture of things before surgery. It showed an area on the right breast that looked suspicious so then I had to have an MRI-assisted biopsy. Thankfully, it was determined not to be cancer.”

Gail was still stunned by the news and hurtled herself into learning her options to keep from being so scared.

On May 18, Gail had a lumpectomy (a surgical procedure which involves removing a suspected cancerous tumor or lump from the breast) and sentinel node biopsies on both breasts to determine how systemic the cancer might be.

“By then I was already talking to my doctor about a mastectomy,” she said. “There are a million decisions. That one was excruciating, but I knew that’s what I wanted.”

Thankfully, the cancer had not spread into her nodes and was only in the left breast, but she decided she’d like to have both breasts removed to decrease risk of future cancer. While it was a grade 3 tumor and it tested triple negative for for estrogen, progesterone and HER-2 protein, it was considered stage 1 (early detection) because of the small size of the tumor (just under one centimeter) and her clear node status.

Before the mastectomies, Gail started chemotherapy in June. Apart from the original diagnosis, Gail said the worst time for her was the fear of treatment.

“I was afraid of what chemotherapy would do to me,” she said. “I wondered if I’d get sick or not. But the reality was I didn’t throw up once. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. They manage that so much better now.”

As her doctors had predicted, exactly 14 days after the first chemo treatment her hair started falling out. It started with the hair on her head, followed by her eyebrows and eyelashes.

She also stopped having a period. But the hair was the most noticeable thing.

She got a wig because her son, Jacob, now 12, was starting middle school and she didn’t want to embarrass him. But she started wearing scarves and hats and she never really used the wigs.

“He got used to it,” she said.

Both her children were helped immensely during her chemotherapy by the support group called CLIMB at Helping Oncology Patients Excel (h.o.p.e.) in Fayetteville. Gail’s husband, Mark, otherwise known as her personal rock, attended support groups with her. Mark’s mother died of breast cancer nine years ago.

Friends were also a big part of an informal support group. They pitched in and took the children, Rachel and Jacob, to their homes for play dates and provided many meals along with emotional support (many of those were Leverett Elementary ladies who spoke up about Gail during the Bath Junkie contest). Gail’s sister, Wendy, (whom she calls “Sister Mom” because she’s seven years older) was also a huge support and she was made an honorary citizen of Northwest Arkansas last year because she practically lived here.

Gail completed chemo in September. On Nov. 7, she went to Dallas to have the double mastectomy. She has two long cuts along her back where they took tissue and muscle for her reconstruction. She was also able to get breast implants during the surgery, which is not always possible.

She really didn’t care about the size or shape of her saline implants.

“I couldn’t think aesthetics – I was just so driven to get them off,” she said.

In April, Gail had “revision” surgery – yet another decision – to have nipples.

Gail has worked back up to exercising every day just as she did before she found out she had breast cancer. It’s not as vigorous, but she’s trying to build up her strength. She’s even started lifting weights again.

Gail still occasionally worries that the cancer will come back. There is still breast tissue under the implants. However, her chances have been radically reduced with the mastectomies.

Gail has also had comprehensive genetic testing done to determine not only her risk, but the risk to her daughter and sister. She was thrilled that all the tests came back negative.

Gail said her mission now is to share with women two things: find out if you have dense breasts with a baseline mammogram and continue practicing self breast exams (that’s how she found her cancer).

Gail said knowing whether you have dense breasts is important because then you’ll know to push for, at the very least, digital mammography, an ultrasound or an MRI. Gail never realized how her dense breasts made it nearly impossible for cancer to be detected.

She had just had a mammogram six months earlier and it detected no abnormalities.

She now has regular MRI’s at her check-ups. “I believe MRI’s are going to become the standard of care in the future,” she said.

Gail carries proof with her every day that women can face breast cancer and survive. She is glad to talk to anyone who is struggling with the disease as other survivors did for her.

“I feel like it’s my duty to help others who are going through the same thing,” she said. “I also want to make sure they know about breast density issues and how important it is to do self breast exams.”

CLICK HERE for more information about local cancer support groups and tips for newly diagnosed patients.

Caveat: Please note that Motherlode is reporting Gail’s personal experience and is not offering medical advice to others.

Life With Ladybug’s Dad: When Date Nights Go Bad

lbfairy03.gifBy Shannon Magsam

The grown-ups in this house don’t get out much. We talk about a date night, but it seems we’re all talk and no action. I know you understand. And I know you’ll also understand what happened when those grown-ups finally did break the chain to flee an hour away for dinner.

It was over the weekend. Ladybug’s first sleepover away. The plan was for her to be picked up at 6 p.m. on Saturday, go to a kids’ Halloween party then head over to her friend’s house for some jewelry-making, pizza rolls and general girlie fun. All day Saturday we had the count-down, the one parents hate and try to avoid at all costs. “How many more minutes?” she kept asking. “More like HOURS, Ladybug,” I told her, but that didn’t help. In desperation, we decided to leave the house for a while. We hit the pet store (where a wolf/dog tried to eat a small Yorkie dressed as a princess), Lewis & Clark and Worlds Underwater for a new balloon-bellied Molly fish.

By 5 p.m. Ladybug was manically riding her bicycle around the cul-de-sac (did you know she just learned to ride without training wheels? No? Remind me to tell you about it). Of course, they were late. By the time they came in, we took pictures of the girls in their Halloween costumes and they left, I was ready to just sit down and stare at a wall. So I did.

Then from the huz: “Are you ready?!” Just when I thought I’d much rather dive under the couch, I suddenly, somewhere, felt the tremor of a date vibe. Or at least a small tingle. I quickly changed clothes, added a little lipstick and said I was ready to go. We talked non-stop to Bentonville until I suddenly remembered something I’d forgotten: my cell phone. How the heck did people with kids exist without cell phones? I went from relaxed, flirtatious wife to anxiety-ridden mama in a matter of seconds. What if the sleepover mom needed to call me? What if there was an accident? My husband asked if I wanted to go back and get the phone.

“No,” I said without conviction. Then I said it again with confidence. I figured I’d bum a phone from someone at the restaurant and at least let the mom know I didn’t have the phone if she tried to call. And that’s what I did (thanks, complete stranger Derek who doesn’t have kids but was totally indulgent anyway). As we sat down, I tried to continue the happy banter my husband and I had started in the car. It fell flat. I wasn’t able to relax, even though I was telling myself I was being ridiculous (in my head). I looked over the menu, but couldn’t read the words for the thoughts swirling in my head. The cell phone is like an invisible cord between my daughter and me anytime we’re not together.

Suddenly a happy thought occurred to me.

“She’s a nurse!” I said with a smile. I meant the friend’s mom. It suddenly made me feel better to know Ladybug would be in capable, nurse’s hands.

I was finally able to read the menu in peace so I made my dinner choice and sat back to enjoy my husband and my iced tea. After a few minutes I decided to use the restroom. As soon as I walked in the door, I saw a blonde, blue-eyed little girl about Ladybug’s age. I started praying again. I knew it was ridiculous to get so worked up, but I couldn’t seem to shake the mood.

I came back to the table in a funk.

“I should have turned around and gotten the phone,” my husband said with a sigh.

I considered his statement and said brightly, “Well, maybe when dinner’s over we could just swing by the house and get the phone. Then we could go somewhere else close to home.”

By then, dinner was over.

Yay for date night.

*Ladybug fairy courtesy of A Kid’s Heart

Hair: “Help Me Rhonda” on perms

Dear Rhonda,

My hair is extremely curly and very difficult to manage. My stylist suggested I get a permanent. Really? A perm? That makes no sense at all to me. If my hair is already curly, why should I curl it more with a perm? Please explain.

Dear Curly Girly,

Your stylist is right! If your hair is curled so tight that you are having a mess to deal with, a permanent wave is the right answer. (A straightener can also be the right answer in some cases.) By rolling the hair on much larger rods, you’ll get a looser curl and one that’s much easier to manage.

The chemicals in the perm solution will literally “break down” the bonds or formation of the hair and “re-form” it to the size and shape of the rods. It’s really cool how this works. Think of it like “Spanks” for your hair – it gives you the shape you really want. It will literally cause your tight curls to soften and loosen up, thereby giving you more control. Sounds to me like you have a good stylist. Talk to her more about it and let her know your concerns.

Rhonda Moulder is a mama to two beautiful daughters and is also a stylist at Blue Door & Co. in downtown Bentonville. E-mail her a hair question at mamas@nwaMotherlode.com or call for an appointment at the salon at 479-273-4433. Have a happy hair day.


Halloween Night at Jump Zone!

candycorn2.jpgIf you need a good way to help the kids burn off that sugar rush after trick-or-treating, you might want to check out the Halloween Night “Jump’n’Treats” at Jump Zone in Bentonville. They’ll have a costume contest with three age divisions, and each party room will have games with treats and prizes. There’s something in it for parents, too – a chance to win a “Classic Party” at Jump Zone. (Please note that Jump Zone won’t be open for Friday morning play sessions because they’ll be busy decorating for Halloween Night festivities.) For more info, call Jump Zone at 479-202-4476.

Advice: “Mind Your Mama” on getting a dog

Dear Jennifer,

puppy1.JPGMy husband has decided our 2 year old son is obsessed with dogs. I’ve decided my husband is obsessed with dogs. He’s lobbying hard for us to get one. He makes it sound like if we don’t get a dog soon, our son will never get used to dogs and will be afraid of them all his life. I think a 2 year old is too young for a dog. What do you think?

Dear Dog Dilemma,

Lots of families do just fine with a dog and a 2 year old. The question is, will yours? Answer that question carefully because adopting a dog is a long-term commitment.

Obviously, the breed and age of the dog will make a big difference, but any puppy will be a delightful challenge. Even so, you have to want him or her very much to put up with the mayhem they can create. I’ve always had dogs around my kids and we got puppies when each child was a toddler. It worked for us, but it was a lot of work. At the same time, the dogs were great company for the children and for me.

Why does your husband have this sense of urgency? Is he a dog lover who simply misses having dogs? Does he believe that dogs are an essential part of a happy home? (No kidding – people who love dogs really miss having them around). Or, could this be part of the “having a dog is a manly thing to do” syndrome some men get into? Perhaps he thinks that raising a dog teaches responsibility. Whatever the reason, try to understand first why he wants a dog and second, why he wants one NOW. Then ask yourself similar questions: First, do you want a dog? Second, is this the right time? Don’t let yourself be rushed into this decision.

For the record, I love dogs and I’m truly sympathetic to your husband’s longing. However, there are other considerations. This is a joint decision. Is someone home all day? If that’s you, you’ll be doing the lion’s share of the daily supervision and maintenance. Dogs need exercise, training and attention. Ask your husband who will walk, feed, water and groom the dog. Make sure he’s ready to do his part.

If you decide to get a dog, do your homework. Don’t rule out an older dog who might be less work than a puppy (and might come already housebroken). Most pounds and shelters can tell you the probable breed or mix of each dog, the dog’s age and some tendencies. Some breeds are much better with children than others. Remember – your child may someday have friends coming over who don’t know how to be around a dog, so pick a dog for the future, not just because she’s the cutest little thing you ever saw.

Jennifer Hansen is a syndicated columnist, mom of 2 and one of those insightful friends who will tell you what you need to hear regardless of whether or not it’s what you want to hear. She is not a psychologist or licensed counselor, but she is one smart mama. Questions for Mind Your Mama are derived from submitted questions, suggestions and conversations with readers, staff and friends. All submissions are handled anonymously, and any question is welcome. Send questions or comments to mamas@nwaMotherlode.com.

Mommy In Progress: Pink, blue or maybe green

By Jacqueline Presley, first time mama-to-be

jacqueline-presley-mommy-in-progress.jpgWeek 13. What an interesting week that was! Huge bursts of energy, not nearly as much nausea. Actually being to tackle some of that housework that has been piling up. That was until the very last day of that week. I got into my car feeling just fine about to drive to work when a huge wave of nausea (which up until now I have always been able to handle) came over me and THANK GOD I opened my car door in time! I thought I was going to go through this whole pregnancy without throwing up one time. Nope.

On Halloween (15 ½ weeks) I have my next appointment with my midwife and we do another ultrasound. She thinks we MIGHT! get to find out if it’s a boy or girl in there. It sure does seem like FOREVER between finding out that you’re pregnant and finally finding out the gender!

I’m so ready to have the nursery painted, but I’m holding out until I find out which color to go with. I am going for a fairly gender neutral color either way (maybe sage?) as I am aware that we could still be in for a surprise. I have a friend who just had what was supposed to be a Naomi Ruth and ended up an Ian Robert. Yes, they had ultrasounds. They also had a lot of pink in that baby’s room.

So, I’ve been shopping for maternity clothes and have been thoroughly disappointed by the lack of good maternity clothes in Fayetteville! Did you know that Dillard’s doesn’t even have a maternity department? To my knowledge there isn’t even a maternity store in Fayetteville. Target and Old Navy seem to the best selection. Though I had to go to the Promenade to Motherhood to find anything at all that was for petite mommies. Am I missing out on some great store? If so, please share! Thankfully, I have got some great friends who have lent me quite a selection of maternity clothes. Still could use some more pants. Let me know if you know of anywhere else I can get some petite maternity pants.

Local Couple’s Heart-Breaking Story on Oprah Tuesday


Some friends sent us this e-mail last night letting us know that a local couple’s story will be on a “Miracle Child” show on Oprah today (Oct. 28):

“Our friends had a little boy named Eliot a few years ago. Part of his story is going to be on Oprah tomorrow… It is a beautiful story and he was a precious little boy, so I wanted to pass this along.

“His story puts life into perspective!”

Click HERE to watch a video about miracle child Eliot.

Click HERE to go to the family’s website.

Spa Girl Giveaway: We have a winner!

spagirl.jpgWe picked a name at random this afternoon for the first Spa Girl Giveaway which includes an hour-long massage and aromatherapy pedicure from Sanctuary Spa & Salon. We’ll post the winner’s name here on nwaMotherlode Friday.

Thanks to everyone who showered our sponsors with love this week. We know they appreciated reading your kind words. So did we!

A Must Read: Breast surgeon offers life-saving tips for women

dr-donna-johnson.jpgBy Shannon Magsam

Since this is the last week of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we wanted to share life-saving information with you from Donna Johnson, a surgeon with Mercy Health System’s Surgical Center and mother of three.

Dr. Johnson is a general surgeon, but about 40 percent of the surgeries she performs are breast-related. She moved to Northwest Arkansas nine years ago when she was pregnant with her youngest child (and thought she was going through menopause). She made the move from trauma and general surgery at UAMS in Little Rock because she wanted one-on-one interaction with patients, many of whom are struggling with breast cancer.

Here are the highlights of our conversation about the disease:

The good news: Women are much more tuned in to their bodies than even their own mothers were, so they notice abnormalities more often. And when they detect something that warrants concern, most of the biopsies are benign (not cancerous), Dr. Johnson said. But even when the news is cancer, the good news is that if it’s caught early, over 90 percent are curable.

Breast practices: You can’t detect anything unusual if you don’t get in the habit of performing self breast exams. Dr. Johnson reminds us to do what we all know we should be doing, but don’t always take the time to do. She recommends starting in your late teens and early 20s. The best time to do self breast exams is right after your period. She said fibrocystic changes during your period can skew your results. “Things that come and go are typically not anything to worry about,” she said. “If something comes and stays, it warrants attention.” Typically, she said, cancer is not painful, though there are a few exceptions. She recommended cutting out caffeine and taking Oil of Evening Primrose pills for those who have painful fibrocystic breasts.

The yearly appointment we all love to hate: Even with self breast exams, it’s important for a medical professional to also perform breast exams every year (and do the dreaded pap smear), Dr. Johnson stressed. And she encourages you to listen to your own body. She recalls one patient who knew her breast felt “different” though nothing unusual could be identified on a mammogram or ultrasound. However, the patient continued to push for further testing and she did, indeed, have breast cancer. The woman is doing well now, in particular because it was found early, Dr. Johnson said.

Risk factors: Of course, family history is the most important indicator. Breast screening should be done early if there is a history of pre-menopausal breast cancer in your family (Dr. Johnson says it’s not the same risk if your mom, for example, had it at age 60 or above). Other factors: Starting your period at age 10 or younger; menopause after 50 (which Dr. Johnson says is late, which rocked my world. I thought I wouldn’t start having to worry about menopause until I was well into my 50s. Yikes!); and delaying childbirth until after age 35.

Mammogram anyone? Dr. Johnson said it’s best to get a baseline mammogram in your mid- to late-30s so that when you get that first official one at age 40 you’ll know if anything changed. Of course, those with a history of breast cancer in their family should begin much earlier. Women should officially start getting mammograms every year after age 40. She said the breast is usually so dense until after age 35 that it’s more difficult to detect abnormalities. Ultrasound and MRI’s are being used more and more to detect abnormalities, she added.

Is there more incidence of breast cancer now? Dr. Johnson said various theories abound, but in general it’s believed that there is more “lead time bias” now, meaning the disease was caught early. She said women are delaying childbirth, which slightly increases their risk. She said the incidence of breast cancer was one in10 women when she first started practicing medicine 20 years ago. Today, it’s one in every eight women. Dr. Johnson said breast cancer risk increases as we age, but things like diet and obesity can predispose women to the disease.

Dr. Johnson noted that women need to avoid smoking, maintain a healthy body weight and eat healthy food, especially a diet high in antioxidants (berries, tomatoes, broccoli, garlic, spinach, tea, red grapes, carrots, soy, whole grains) to decrease chances of malignant cancers.

New treatments: “The treatment has evolved from radical mastectomy – cutting out muscles and lymph nodes – to less radical surgical treatments,” Dr. Johnson said. She said with the cancer being detected early, chemo can start early and shrink the cancer which makes surgery less radical.

There are also new chemotherapy options for women at risk of re-occurrence. “There is new testing that can be done, so we can tailor treatment a little more closely,” Dr. Johnson said. It also can take less time to treat. “Radiation can now be given directly into the breast over a period of less than a week as opposed to the usual six-week regiment,” she said.

Also, the methods of controlling treatment side effects are much improved.

Genetic testing is also being used more and more to ascertain a woman’s risk. They can detect genes that predispose women to breast cancer, Dr. Johnson said. Some women opt to have bilateral (both sides) mastectomies to reduce their risk. She said reconstruction has vastly improved.

The bottom line is to get it checked out if you detect an abnormality. The earlier the better.

“The fear is that breast cancer is a death sentence and it’s not,” Dr. Johnson said.

All Akimbo on baby fat

By Kim Blakely, pregnant lady

People – I’m just a little over 7 weeks, but I LOOK PREGNANT. I’ve heard that the belly pops earlier in a second pregnancy than in a first, but good golly …

(I’m hoping that and the fact that I can’t stomach any of the grocery store aisles beyond the produce section are signs that things are still going well … but it sure would be nice to know that for sure anytime I wanted.)

Most days it’s not a problem that I can only tolerate my regular pants for a couple of hours, max, and that I practically live in yoga pants and track suits. I do work from home, after all – with the exception of going out on assignments in two or three hour blocks of time – and Mojo and the pets don’t seem to care about my fashion sense. But this Saturday I have to leave my house before daybreak clad in something presentable until after dark.

What am I going to wear?! Isn’t it a little early to break out the maternity wear? I’m not sure it would even stay up around my hips, actually. With Mojo, I was showing earlier than expected, before I was ready for people to know my secret, so I just went out and bought a couple pairs of pants in a bigger size than what I usually wore. I may have to do that this time, too, although I hate the thought of wasting money on clothes I will probably only wear once or twice. What’s a girl to do? Sigh …

My first ob/gyn appointment is coming up on Monday, and I’m anxious about that to say the least. I’m expecting (yes, I am! See, I’m still not used to that idea.) … um, anyway, I’m expecting to at least hear the heartbeat, and I’m also thinking my doctor might send me for a second ultrasound sometime soon. The nurse did mention another one at eight weeks. I’m also wondering what my doctor will say about all those extra tests recommended for us over-35-year-old moms-to-be.

I’m also wondering how to handle Mojo and the first appointment. My husband wants to be there with me, of course, but I don’t have anyone else lined up to stay with Mojo. We haven’t talked to him yet about being a big brother, and I’m thinking it’s probably too early yet to broach the topic. It would be a long wait for him even if we put it off for another couple of months, and what if something goes wrong? But on the other hand, I’m worried that he’s going to overhear us talking about it or that our families are going to slip and tell him the news. I really want him to hear it from us. Honestly, he’s a perceptive kid, and I wouldn’t be too surprised if, after all this agonizing over how and when to tell him, he announced the news himself.

Or maybe he’ll just imply that I need to lay off the cupcakes. The belly, like I said, is burgeoning.