The Best Thing I Never Had

bye bitch

Tackling the BRCA gene mutation and reducing my risk of cancer involves not only a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy, but I will be parting ways with my ovaries before menopause as well. But I can’t get ahead of myself, we are on the topics of breasts and breast cancer.  Prior to creating a blog, I felt like I was going crazy.  All of these emotions and issues were just pent up.  I would often talk to myself all day long (in my mind of course-ha), as if I were addressing a major audience.  LOOK PEOPLE- I HAVE A LOT TO SAY ON THIS TOPIC AND SOMEONE NEEDS TO LISTEN TO MY INNER THOUGHTS BEFORE I AM PUT IN A LOONEY BIN.  And then it dawned on me, this must be a normal part of living with the BRCA mutation.  We BRCA babes tend to carry lots of mixed emotions with not much support.  Without Angelina Jolie, no one bought what I was selling when I would talk about my risk. No diagnosis, but a constant threat of facing mortality surrounded my deep seeded emotions from pink shadows of my family’s past.  It had to be talked about. Therefore a blog was born.

I decided to share my story in hopes one day my words could reach a woman on a similar path.  Maybe hearing my story could help her pull herself out of the lonely road we BRCA babes face.  Maybe she could finally find the sisterhood we share.  I had another really lofty goal too.  What if my words could make someone without a family history start to really focus on what they can do to make changes toward a healthier future? Like all things that f*cking suck, we assume we are invincible until we aren’t.  We often put our health on the back burner until one day we can’t.  My lofty goal was to get women talking about their present state of health.  “If Kristina is removing her breasts because this sh*t is serious, what are some small changes I can make in my life to remain healthy?” Stroke my ego and send me a message if either of my goals have been achieved.

When I started out on this journey, I felt like I was breaking up with definitive parts of my body. You might even recall my break up letter when I said Bon Voyage to my boobs.  Initially, it truly felt like a break up.  Now that I am on the other side of this and my breasts are gone, I realized my boobs were unfortunately just the casualty in my long standing and very toxic relationship with Breast Cancer.  Ladies, let’s equate my breasts to the friend you might lose along the way, because she just couldn’t listen to you b*tch about the ass**** who won’t commit to being in a healthy relationship.  The parallel between my relationship with Breast Cancer and a toxic intimate “not-so”relationship is almost one in the same.  Only, I never craved Breast Cancer like one might yearn for a dreamy bad boy.  Breast Cancer hovered for too long in my life.  Well in this messy world, friends and lovers come and go- and in my case, so did my breasts.  Luckily, one day I woke up and made a difficult decision. It’s the best decision I ever made. Breast Cancer and I never had the opportunity to become committed. Without further metaphorical verbal diarrhea, I give to you my ever so eloquent break up letter with the C word. Cancer, not, you know. Never mind.

Dear She who will not be named,

There was a time I let you run my life.  I can’t believe how you had complete control of me.  You dictated everything from what I ate to my deepest inner thoughts.  You kept me a prisoner in my own body for far too long.  I don’t remember a time when you weren’t invading my life. Can you believe how long I’ve had to live like this for? Like a true blood sucking leech, you have been taking from me for as long as I can remember.  In fact, I remember your uninvited arrival when I was seven years old.  Your threats, your emotional abuse and your hostility toward my family has been poisoning me for years. It has been a true toxic relationship full of fear, self doubt and deep sadness.  I’m so relieved to be free from you. Not only do I hope I never see you again, but I am going to warn women everywhere about you.

I saw the real me this year though.  Your last threat was exactly one year ago today. Thank you. It’s exactly what I needed to propel into action.   The power to change lies within and recognizing I am capable of  profound change has provided such a sense of empowerment. Now that I am certain we will never be a thing, I can’t believe it took me this long to part ways.  I just needed to find the courage to move on without you, even if it meant major sacrifices along the way.

I know, you thought you could break me. Come on, did you think I would let you threaten me for an entire lifetime? I bet you didn’t think I’d rise to the occasion. When you think of me, you might remember the little girl, holding her breasts and crying at her reflection. I’ve grown. I’ve changed.  And I bet it kills you to see me embrace my new body. You planted ideas of what my reflection would be. Without you here, after 23 years, I finally feel safe in my own skin.

Today I stand a little bit taller. I am older and feeling wiser. I’m not running from you anymore. I believe in a beautiful future and you aren’t painted in that picture. I did it, I traded in my breasts for a life without you.  Wait. Absorb what I just said.  It’s over. You and I will never be a thing.

So Breast Cancer, I’m the one that got away. And I’m not looking back, unless it’s of course to be bitter and give you the middle finger because I CAN.

 bye felicia

Let me get something off my chest…

Dear Sweet Friends and Wicked Smart Readers,

Thank you for being gentle with me and so super supportive since launching this blog.  You’ve allowed me to share my story.  You’ve cheered me on through training for a marathon before my mastectomy.  You’ve joined my efforts to raise awareness on Breast Cancer Prevention. And you’ve even looked into Bright Pink and all the amazing work it does.  Together we feel proud to support the only non-profit organization making strides toward Breast and Ovarian Cancer Prevention!  You have been nothing short of spectacular.  I’m honestly eternally grateful for the opportunity to express my passion for health and making a difference in our health choices.  I am pledging to write more frequently, so we can discuss what we put in our bodies, on our bodies and things we can do to make our world a healthier place, so together we can live our best lives.


With that said, next month tends to make me a little crazy.  I know I claimed to be unapologetic, but I do need to apologize for the negative tone of this post.  But after thinking long and hard, this needs to be said. So let me just get this off my chest; I HATE BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH.  The inescapable pink ribbon leaves me feeling suffocated.   Each and every year, I dread October with an fiery pink passion.  That’s right.  I HATE the pink sh*t evolving around Breast Cancer Awareness Month, formally known as October.  Some refer to this movement as “pink washing”, the way we have branded breast cancer, but don’t quite understand what the agenda is behind the marketing.  You might be thinking to yourself, “Who is this beast and why does she hate next month so much? Shouldn’t she support the pink ribbon movement?”  Allow me to get my b*tchface on and explain my Pink Ribbon Blues.  WARNING: I scream at the TV, curse at products on shelves, and have no problem exclaiming that no, I don’t think your ‘save second base’ campaign is cute because you are objectifying a serious situation, WHILE ACTUALLY ONLY GIVING A SMALL PERCENTAGE TO THE CHARITY YOU CLAIM TO BE HELPING! This is a topic I tend to get fired up about and hope we as consumers can start to make a difference in the way we pink!

I often daydream about going into your local grocery chain, hanging from the shelves like King Kong in the dairy aisle.  One by one, ripping the smug pink lids off of the non-fat aspartame loaded yogurts and spiking them while screaming “THESE INGREDIENTS CAUSE CANCER. THESE HYPOCRITICAL GREEDY BASTARDS ARE JUST PULLING ON YOUR HEART STRINGS TO MAKE A QUICK BUCK.  DOWN WITH CORPORATE AMERICA! AHHHH!” Don’t worry- I’m in therapy.  Everyone is safe and no yogurts were harmed while writing this post.  My nearest and dearest know and fully expect me to go on a tirade each October. They allow me to become one cynical son of b*tch all month long.  (Don’t eye roll just yet, please keep reading).  And this year, I’m asking you to be cynical with me!  I mean, don’t get arrested at the grocery store or end up on the 5 o’clock news, but please make some educated decisions on where you spend your money.  We as consumers are mighty powerful.




I’m not going to lie, initially, I felt really nervous about publishing this post because I wasn’t sure I wanted to share how much I truly despise October.  I was afraid you’ll think I’m just an angry individual, overthinking and over-processing my reality. I’m still not sure how this post will be received. But before I really start voicing my incredibly strong opinion, I want to be gentle to my friends with breast cancer, survivors, and their families that feel empowered by pink.  I am not saying the pink ribbon movement itself is horrible.  I admire the history behind the movement, but detest the commercialized machine it has become.  If it weren’t for the initial pioneers of the breast cancer movement, my health experience, level of education on breast health and ability to take action would not exist.  I guess my goal here is to get you to look into the agenda of the organization behind the pink ribbon you are giving your hard earned dollars to.  I know you all mean well.  But please, don’t just buy something because it has a pink ribbon on it.  Look into the agenda behind the organizations you give to.  Is their agenda the eradication of breast cancer?  What is this organization promising to do?  What percentage of their funds raised are going into breast cancer research, preventive measures and treatments?  If the agenda is straight up awareness, what is it making you aware of?  Is this awareness or just brand visibility?  At this point in time, we are all aware breast cancer exists.  I think it’s time to reevaluate the movement, set new goals, and find new ways to attain them.

Aside from the branding of a disease, the pink ribbon symbolizes a lot of things.  I’m not a monster.  I can see the pink ribbon as expressions of solidarity and concern.  I understand pink can be the indication of support and community.  I also see the pink ribbon as a badge of courage for the afflicted.  I fully comprehend the magnitude of the pink ribbon movement.  While some survivors are bothered by the color in itself, because pink is cheery while breast cancer is not.  Pink isn’t the problem for me.  I actually love the cheeriness factor.  Why not feel lifted up when you are down?  But when it is absolutely everywhere, I’m sure it feels a bit much.  My frustration is aimed toward the sneaky way marketers are enticing you to purchase something to show your support, when their brand is not entirely forthcoming with their intentions.  In my ideal October, I wish the momentum were to swing less toward retail and more toward discussions like “Oh that lipstick being sold claiming to help find a cure… yeah, what chemicals known to disrupt my hormones are you suggesting I apply to my lips everyday?” (cough, cough Estee Lauder cough, cough).  I wish the discussions were geared toward what we as individuals can do to prevent the disease from even occurring.   In my opinion, the “awareness” campaign has become narrowed into “visibility” and that’s where the current movement is now failing.  Cancer is complicated.  There is not one way to treat, diagnose, or prevent cancer.  But maybe we can start standing up to these major corporations and say “Hey, I’m not down with known cancer causing carcinogens to be used as main ingredients in your products while you claim to support the fight against cancer”.  We don’t have all the answers.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t look into the agenda behind the organizations behind the pink ribbon.  We need to understand their mission statements and long term goals.  We need to see transparency before we throw money anywhere.  I truly hope with time, we as consumers can say “enough is enough”.  I have complete faith together we can make educated decisions t0 spark change.

As you can tell, I am utterly disgusted when corporations and companies attempt to capitalize on breast cancer.  THIS IS A POTENTIALLY FATAL AND VERY SERIOUS DISEASE THAT EFFECT ONE IN EIGHT WOMEN.  But hey, only in America can we claim to be socially responsible, slap a pink ribbon on an item, sell it at a higher price point while actually not doing a damn thing for women with breast cancer.  And aside from the retail scam surrounding the pink ribbon, I find the fraternity level boob humor repulsive.  As a woman about to undergo mastectomy, “Save the Tata’s” feels like a punch in the stomach.  I get the attempt to use humor as a marketing tool, but let’s realize it is more important to save a woman and let’s not just reduce her to her breasts.  Because this statement to me says “Save her breasts, that’s most important”.  It’s insensitive and disgusting.  Removing breasts is part of breast cancer treatment for many women.  The objectification of women while battling a disease is sickening to me. Have you seen’s campaign?   Go google pornhub’s breast cancer campaign.  Really? Donating one penny for every 30 views of it’s “small tits” and “big tits” videos to the Susan. G. Koman Foundation.  Ohhhh click away. Do your part to really save those titties. BARF. And despite what you may think, it’s not the porn part that bothers me.  I don’t need to explain to you why I think this is so gross and unacceptable though.

But if you must know, the one organization that really turns me upside-down and inside-out is the Susan G. Komen Foundation.  Initially, you might say, “But Kristina, this is one of the largest breast cancer organizations!”  And I’m almost positive, when you think of breast cancer organizations, Susan G. Komen is one of the firsts that comes to mind.  While I won’t deny that sh*t-tons of money has been given to this organization, the percentage of money received versus money given to research makes me sick.  Check out how much the Susan G. Komen Foundation spends a year suing other non-profits for using the term “for the cure”.  While we can all try and see the good in every organization, the Susan G. Komen Foundation is far from spotless despite having such a high profile name.


The Komen culture is also something I will never support.  It’s the fact that it does not directly help one single woman with breast cancer, yet is regarded as THE organization for breast cancer.  If someone with breast cancer or a survivor can tell me how the Susan G. Komen Foundation directly and individually helped them during their diagnosis, treatment or remission… I’d greatly appreciate it.  I’m encouraging you to do your own research on this organization.  I think you’ll be surprised.  The Pink Ribbon culture that the Susan G. Komen Foundation supports is “Don’t be furious, depressed or enraged at your diagnosis… instead buy a bunch of pink sh*t to line the pockets of many high level executives.  And hey… tell your friends and family to buy all that pink sh*t too.”


I know this post is one longwinded rant.  I know you can tell I get tickled pink over this topic.  So get ready to think twice next month because every single store you shop at will ask you if you want to donate a $1 to some variation of the pink ribbon.  We’ve all been guilty before of giving a buck when put under pressure.  But for the love of God, this October, do something better for breast cancer.  Do your research.  Don’t just go buying pink sh*t.  Don’t just cave in and give $1 each time you shop because the sales clerk looks at you like you are Satan if you politely say no thank you. That isn’t to say don’t give at all.  Being generous and helping to provide to organizations you believe in is a wonderful thing.  There are still plenty of amazing organizations making a difference in the fight against breast cancer.  This pink washing has been going on for far too long.  Look at mission statements and finances before you make a donation.

And maybe this October you aren’t able to make a financial contribution. Help the movement by reaching out to that friend you have on Facebook that has been through a lot.  Ask her where her favorite restaurant is and send her dinner.  When the dust settles after a diagnosis, women still need support. Remember that survivor you told me to run in honor of?  Send her a surprise gift card to treat her this October. Contact your local breast cancer resource center to see if they need volunteers to help patients undergoing treatment. Step out of your comfort zone this Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But please, think before you pink.


I know there are lots of good intentions out there.  I really appreciate them.  But we are so much smarter than the marketers realize.  Let’s make a change this year together.  Thank you for letting me vent.  And we can still be friends if after reading this you are still inclined to support certain organizations.  No organization is 100% awful, some are just better than others.  Just please don’t wear your “save the tatas” shirt in front of me.

Oh and if after this post you are wondering… my goodness Kristina “Who can I support this Breast Cancer Awareness Month?” It’s taken me years to find an organization I feel so proud of. Donate to BRIGHT PINK!


Pepperoni Delight

Sliced Salami

I’m going to preface this post by saying, I’m probably going to make you feel slightly uncomfortable.  If surgery talk or nipples make you uncomfortable, x out of this post and don’t continue reading.  But chances are, now you are totally curious as to what I’m possibly going to say.  And if you are married to me, gave birth to me or you are related to me… you are most definitely eye-rolling with your phone in hand about to send me a text saying “WTF were you thinking?”

I feel like this post is important for those of you that have asked questions about my surgery.  Technology and technique have changed a lot since you first heard about mastectomies.  Let’s talk nipples, cup sizes and implant texture!

So first order of business, wait, hold the phone, I get to keep my beloved nipples!  Never in a million years did I think I’d be posting this on any social media platform. But before I go deeper in context about my nipples, I want other women who are like me to know I am sensitive to all situations and decisions.  This post is to provide an explanation of how I came to the conclusion this surgery was the best surgery option for me.  My whole life I’ve been made fun of for having larger areolas so if they had to go… well that some major breast real estate gone. (Mom stop blushing, let it happen).

Let’s get down and dirty to discuss the specific surgery I have elected to have and what it was like to come to this decision. There are several techniques toward a mastectomy (to learn more click here).  All of the options were presented to me with their pros and cons.  In the end I am choosing to keep my nipples (click here to learn the specifics behind the nipple sparing technique).

First let’s talk about the cons! Why would keeping my own nipples be a con?  Well by leaving behind my original nipples I am leaving behind more original breast tissue.  The more breast tissue left behind, the more risk.  Not all breast tissue can be removed by having a mastectomy so my breast cancer risk will never be 0%.  My breast surgeon told me leaving behind my nipples is strictly for aesthetic purposes.  I will never have sensation in my nipples again.  I told her I’m not interested in keeping them around for sensation.  We had a candid dialogue about what my nipples mean to me and why/if it’s worth it.  I told her that if I was told my nipples absolutely had to go, I would deal with it.  But knowing I have the option of keeping them for a surgery I’m electing to have to reduce my risk… makes me want to keep them.  She said to reduce my risk the most, I could have nipple reconstruction and a tattooed areola.  I said “It sounds like you really feel like I should remove my nipples. If I were your sister what would you say to me?”


Let me tell you when I say you would have thought my breast surgeon and I were having this conversation over cocktails the way we were going back and forth while I’m vulnerably topless.  “Geez that’s tough because I’m a surgeon so I’m going to tell my sister all the reasons why more surgery is better.  But I can hear that you want to keep yours so if my sister really wanted to keep her nipples I would do what I could to save them.”  BAM YOU ARE HIRED.

I stopped her right there and said “First I want to thank you for being the first candid and honest doctor I’ve ever talked to.  I feel like you understand the entirety of what I’m experiencing.  I’ve done my research, I’ve thought a lot about this.  Removing my breast tissue and replacing it with an implant will never look like me again.  But everyone has nipples.  I mean… my nipples take up real estate on my skin…   It took me years to not feel upset over my scar post melanoma.  I would get out of the shower and cry.  I would hate wearing shorts.  I know everyone sees my leg and no one sees my nipples (aside from if I get really crazy and decide to take my top off).  It’s just that one on one time with myself.  When I get out of the shower and don’t see nipples, I don’t want to throw myself a daily pity party.  I know myself well enough to know my nipples matter more than I realized.  (long pause) I don’t know, nipples…well, they make my breasts look like breasts.  I don’t know if I could look in the mirror and feel confident in my decision.  I think I would have to permanently wear a bra.”

She heard me and said “I understand completely. By removing your nipples it does draw out this process for you, but it’s still something to think about.”

So for those of you that don’t know the breast surgeon and plastic surgeon work as a team.  The breast surgeon will remove my breast tissue and the plastic surgeon will begin the two step reconstruction process.  After the breast surgeon is done removing breast tissue, the plastic surgeon inserts chest expanders under the pectoral muscle.  During a typical breast augmentation you would have breast tissue to hold the implant, since I will no longer have breast tissue an expander needs to be put in place.  Drains will be placed to deal with post surgery fluid.  Word on the street is that if I’m really low key during recovery they should be out in a week to 10 days.  Each week I will have to make a trip to my plastic surgeon for him to add fluid to my chest expanders until the area is large enough for the desired implant size.

I’m not looking to come out of this looking like Pamela Anderson.  My goal is to come out of surgery with a matching set.  In order to get them to match I might become slightly larger than I am now.  Once the expanders are at the desired size I will have a second “exchange” surgery where the plastic surgeon will exchange the expanders for implants.

Choosing implants is a weird experience.  I went through images of women along with holding different textures trying to determine which foreign object will be placed in my body.  I can confidently say I would never elect to have a breast augmentation because I’m proud to be a card carrying member of the itty bitty titty committee.  There is nothing wrong with getting a breast augmentation, it just would not be for me.  Yet here I am, choosing my implants.  I have chosen to have a “gummy implant”.  They have the most “natural” looking result.  The only con is that I can’t tell if it has leaked unless I were to have an MRI.  So every 5 years I’ll need to check on my fun bags to see if they are still in tact.


Ladies and gentleman to conclude this boobilicious post, there was an 87% I’d be needing breast surgery in my lifetime.  But now surgery is booked according to my schedule and the outcome of the surgery is the best I could ever hope for.  The scarring is right where the breast naturally folds.  No one will know I’ve had a mastectomy… unless of course they know me, are my Facebook friend or came across my lovely blog.  Pepperoni pizza anyone? I’m buying.

Decisions, decisions


I don’t know what is more difficult; to make a tough decision about a serious potential threat in your future or to wait until you are told you only have one option? To be more specific, to remove healthy breast tissue while it’s a serious threat, but not yet a problem OR to wait and see if it becomes a problem and then have no other option, but to have surgery and other treatment. Let’s be real, who wants to have this debate at all?  And let’s certainly not play the “what if” game.   When you find yourself entrenched in this kind of debate, one thing is for sure.  It’s not pleasant.

Let me also state no one chooses cancer.  And you certainly, don’t want to wait around for cancer to choose you.  Cancer just has a funny way of popping up unannounced.  There is no sh*ttier day then when you hear that you in fact have been diagnosed with cancer.  It doesn’t matter what kind, what stage…those words are paralyzing even if only for a brief moment.  This past February I had options, maybe they weren’t options I wanted to be faced with, but I have to say, I’m very thankful I have a choice.

So why am I choosing a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy? Le Duh because I’m such a bad-ass competitive psycho that thinks I can beat breast cancer before I even hear that I have it.  In a less obnoxious response, I’ll tell you what didn’t drive my decision.  Fear.  Fear was not the driving force behind my decision.  Sure, fear is certainly present.  We can have a nice chat about all my fears in a future post.  But for now, I mostly fear the regret I would feel if I ignored my genetic mutation.  What happens if I am diagnosed with breast cancer, knowing I have always known I was born with such a high risk?  I’m not so strong that fear just isn’t a factor here folks. But fear has not done damage to my frontal lobe. I’m fueled by so much more than that.

As I mentioned before, I met with various medical professionals and even had psychological guidance before making my decision.  One debate I really, really struggled with was the “when”.

“When is the right time for surgery?”  I often answered this question with, “There is no right time for cancer either, so let’s just get this surgery over with.”

“When will I have the support for someone to help me recover while also taking care of my toddler?”

“When should I consider baby #2? Before or after surgery?”

Chris and I talked at length about all the details.  We made an in-depth pros and cons list.  We talked over all the options with both surgeons and psychologists.  All doctors were on the same page when they said “Ultimately, its your choice for when. You don’t have to do it this year, but we recommend this is in your five year plan.”

Baby #2 was a huge factor that I deeply struggled with, cried over, sobbed over actually… really it was the one factor that was incredibly hard for me to justify the surgery for.  My plan for the year really changed in February when I found the lump.  The plan for 2015 was to sell the condo, buy a new house, and get pregnant.  If you want to know the truth, I would be in “new house, new baby” mode now.  I would be hoping to be giving birth this upcoming winter if my master plan had worked out.

I really struggled with the idea of not being able to someday breast feed baby #2.  There is something about being a mom and the pressures we create for ourselves and the ones that others put on us.  With Siena, I felt breastfeeding pressure A LOT.  I found the lactation consultants I dealt with were really pushy.  Prior to giving birth, I thought breastfeeding would be kind of easy.  You have your boobs, your milk and your baby…what could go wrong?  For those of you who don’t already know, BREASTFEEDING IS REALLY AND I MEAN REALLY F*CKING HARD.  It’s fantastic and in so many amazing ways, I knew it was worth it.  I was often astonished by what my body was capable of. “Look what my body did!  I not only carried her and birthed her, but now I’m helping her grow.  Go me. Girl power. Boob power.  Look at me doing this.”  Those crazy hormones made me think a lot.

But breastfeeding Siena was only successful for about 4 months with only one working boob and those 4 months were a serious struggle (apologies about my boob talk, but this is a breasty kind of blog so sorry gentlemen).  Siena didn’t gain weight from her 4 month appointment to her 6 month appointment.  I felt all kinds of guilt and ultimately super emotional about having to switch to formula.  This massive sense of failure came over me. I looked into the pediatricians eyes and started to weep when he said he really wanted her to switch to formula.  It was like he was suggesting I feed her poison and that together we would be ruining her chances to get into an Ivy League college if I listened to him (to be clear, this is not to put down anyone that chooses not to breastfeed or can’t breastfeed. This is to demonstrate how unreasonably tapped I was as a new mom).  All boobs aside, life got better when Siena wasn’t breastfed.

A new baby is a ton of work.  And I hear the transition from baby #1 to baby #2 can be a challenge.  Ultimately, what would two kids and a mastectomy look like in my 5 year plan?  Who is going to take care of two small children while I recover?  This solved the “when” question and baby fever.  The time for surgery is now.

After finding the lump, I knew in my heart I didn’t want to wait anymore.  I was so ready.  Even my breast surgeon said, “I know when someone is being pressured to have surgery or they are afraid or they just aren’t ready.  You my dear, sound so ready. And after looking at your family history and seeing that you have a small child, you are making the right choice.” That’s when I lost it.  I sat in the room with my johnny opened in the front and just let it happen.  Chris handed me tissues as I tried to gain composure.  In the moment I was feeling sad that this is my family’s reality. I pictured my aunt’s beaming smile and felt this warm rush come over me and tightness in my throat. And like the emotional roller coaster this has been, I quickly felt the shift and began to feel grateful.  This surgery is saving me from what my family has already endured so many times.  I’m not just dodging a bullet people.  The decision has been made.  I’m b*tch slapping the gun down and gracefully telling the mutated gene it can no longer prevent me from living the life I hoped to live.   I made a promise to myself and to my family, I am going to live a better life than I had ever dreamed of.

Yes, BRCA1 has awakened the sleeping giant inside of me.  I am changing my life for the better.  I’m moving forward.  No more mapping out an itinerary of what I expect to happen.  I’m moving forward with a sense of adventure.  This chapter of my life has really been remarkable in ways I never expected.  There have been many moments that have taken my breath away.  I’ve been moved by generosity, support and kindness.  I wish you could see me when I receive the email notification that someone has joined my cause and made a donation to Bright Pink.  My eyes well up every single time.  I used to think that our purpose was how we make a living.  This year I learned that is your vocation.  Your purpose is so much simpler and so much greater than that.  Your purpose is joy. Give it,  get it, feel it, spread it.  It’s all about discovering, nurturing and celebrating who you truly are.  When you know that, when you feel that…and when others are moved by it too…  it’s really motivating.  I’ve been on long runs with soul-quenching feelings of awe.  Each day, I’m growing through this in a way I didn’t know I would be.  I’m running faster, traveling longer distances and ultimately unafraid of my choices.

But what drove me to make the leap?  What made me start interviewing a team of surgeons?  What made me choose to remove my breasts before I’m done creating a family?  What made me block out everyone else’s opinion and listen to my own voice? It was the hope I felt after talking to my pink pal at Bright Pink.  I no longer saw surgery as this doom and gloom difficult future.  I have so much hope. I have hope this decision means I’ll never have to have the same conversation with my daughter that my mom once had with me.  I hope I never have to look my daughter in the eyes and watch her feel scared for my health.  I have hope my daughter will always know I will do whatever I can to tuck her little chicken bum in bed each night.  I have hope this surgery means my husband and I can dream of our future without the constant reality check every six months.  I have hope this surgery means one day I’ll be free from that 87% cloud that is always following me around.  I have hope one day I will look down at my chest and feel nothing but empowerment.  I hope this means we will live and live really well.

For all of you that have hopes,  go make it happen today.  It’s so worth it.

Run like no one is watching?


It’s here… IT’S HERE! Our 18 weeks of training has begun. 18 weeks until I am joined by five other amazing women to run 26.2 miles together, all for one fantastic cause.  Thank the Lord I have Bright Pink as my motivation because I’m not going to lie… spontaneously deciding to run my first marathon has started to catch up with me.  I had one of those “OH MY FREAKIN GOD KRISTINA WHAT DID YOU DO” moments the other day while I was on my run.  We all lead busy lives, but for some reason this year feels particularly… eventful.  We sold our condo.  We moved in with with my mother-in-law in the midst of a crazy real estate market.  And we just bought a home, but haven’t moved in yet.  Between Chris’ long hours, one vivacious toddler and a whole lot of moving parts (no pun intended), I could come up with 10 million reasons why this might not be the best time to run a marathon.  But really, is there such thing as an easy time? I keep reminding myself this journey has to come from a place deep within.  And this overactive mind of mine feels like it never quite turns off.  Honestly, what better time to be alone with my thoughts? If I didn’t overthink everything, training would be a good time to reconnect with myself.  Instead, training is a time I repeatedly bring self-awareness to just how nuts I really must be. I promised to provide you with raw, real and unapologetic accounts.  You always knew I was kind of crazy.  I guess now you will know the entirety.  Sooooo what’s it like to tell the world you are removing your breasts, but first running a marathon to support the organization that has provided you with indescribable support? In a word, emotional.

Since registering for the 2015 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, I have been filled with tons of motivation from countless donations, incredible messages of support and fantastic friends that have also joined my mission.  And what happens after you are filled with tons of hope and inspiration? A wake up call… ha ha I actually have to run 26.2 miles and I currently hit the wall at 3 miles. Last week, I was on a 30 minute run and began to figuratively sh*t my pants.  Luckily, I didn’t really sh*t my pants.  The imagery of this happening during the marathon is a real fear for me and my teammates though ;).  On this particular run, those overwhelming thoughts just came creeping in and my mind was all over the place.

Maybe you’ll think I’m a narcissist, but lately I’ve been thinking of my life as a Bravo Reality TV series… and in my opinion, I imagine my show would probably have some decent ratings. Please tell me that when your life gets out of hand you also daydream about the cameras capturing the pure and utter chaos too?  I often find myself saying “Seriously? No one else deals with this sh*t in their day to day”.  I just have images of a voiceover saying “next week on ‘Kristina’s Bet You Don’t Deal With That'”.  And in the clip, I’m training. One minute I’m throwing victorious punches in the air while the “Eye of the Tiger” is blaring in the background and the next I’m doing the Kimmy K ugly cry for no apparent reason while my inevitable cursing is being bleeped out. I don’t actually want cameras to capture ANY of what I’m experiencing.  Yet I feel like you would all find it highly entertaining.  But back to how I went on a run and figuratively sh*t my pants…


I’ve been using the Run Keeper app during my unofficial training.  For those of you who don’t know, Run Keeper sends friendly reminders about my pace, how long I’ve been running for, and the distance I’ve traveled. This little voice pops up in the middle of my playlist and spits out facts about my run. And this little voice I like to refer to as my b*tch.  My b*tch can either make my run fantastic or ruin my mood entirely.  But lately, I’ve noticed that my b*tch turns me into a crazy woman. I mean I’ve always had a decent dose of crazy, but when I hear my b*tch’s little voice interrupt my run, one of two things happen when the music resumes.  I’m either throwing victorious punches to the imaginary tumor standing in my way, while simultaneously talking to myself “woooo hooo. alright alright alright” (in my out of breath, Matthew McConaughey voice) OR I begin cursing at my b*tch. “LIES. She’s just telling me I’m running slow so I burn out my legs and don’t complete my run.”

Last week, I’m pretty sure I terrified a middle aged man on Oak Street in Stoneham.  While he innocently watered his lawn, I’m confident he thought I should be put in a straight jacket. About 10 minutes into my run, my b*tch reminds me that I’ve only gone 1.2 miles.  And the negativity bomb was dropped, I spiral out of control.  She proclaims in the past 5 minutes I have been going significantly slower than my first half mile. In my head I think to myself, “Oh my god, how am I going to do this for 25 more miles?”.  And then out loud, I burst out with “F*ck you hills. F*ck youuuuu b*tch and F*ck you cancer!”. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the middle aged man standing there and the water is no longer coming out of the hose; he could catch flies with his dropped jaw. I think to myself, “Sh*t that was out loud”. I pick up my pace. Meanwhile, back in my head, “What if marathon day is hotter than today? What if it’s freezing and my legs wont move? What if it’s raining? What will I wear? What will I pack?”.  This type of useless thought vomit happens all the time on my runs.  Occasionally I get lost in my playlist, but that is a rarity.

As I ran further away from the middle aged man on Oak Street, Beyonce “Get me Bodied” comes on and instantaneously I’m able to move my feet at the pace of the beat. The Queen makes everything better.  I begin to smile, while cheering out loud for myself. “YEAAAHH, here we go guuurl”.  As the song carries on, I find my mind begins to reel.  A vivid memory of the youtube video of a woman in the operating room dancing with her surgical team to this exact song before her mastectomy invades my mind.


The tears start rolling down my face.  This is the reason why I am running.  When the race is over, when it’s all said and done… it’s me and my decision to have a mastectomy that I am faced with. (This is the point on the run I figuratively shat my pants… not when I realized I eventually still have 25 miles to go).  I imagined the crippling thoughts of what it will be like to cross the finish line.  After I cross the finish line… I have to face my real obstacle.  And then, I hear my sister saying “Well if you’re running the marathon, I’m running beside you.” And I picture that text from my best friend “You know I’m running with you”.  And then from there I thought of Kayla, Liz and Christina. Each of them joining my cause for their own reason.  Now it’s our cause. I felt a rush of contentment.  I’m not alone on this journey.  I never have been.  I started to think of how friends and family shared my fundraising page.  I thought of Christine, a women I don’t even know, donated to my page twice because she just felt like she had to give more.  I thought of my college friends that I haven’t seen in so long.  Not only did they donate, but they asked their friends to donate… and their friends actually gave.  I thought of those faces.  I thought of the faces of friends that have booked their plane tickets to Chicago because “of course they will be there” for me.  Suddenly, my b*tch interrupts me.  “Time 38 minutes and 30 seconds, Distance 4.1 miles, average pace 9 minutes and 16 seconds.” No punches thrown, no cursing, just me and the pavement.

And then the iPod shuffle God looked down onto my twisted psychotic run and decided to play “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba.  I burst into laughter as I sang along in my head. Why is this on my playlist? When did I download this sixth grade throwback? You can’t make this up.  “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down”.  The laughter overrides the tears.

I’ll improve.

I’ll get there.

I’m going to be okay.

I’ll be better than okay.

I just have to remind myself this is a journey I’m on and I am truly never alone.   Ultimately, on October 11th that finish line will be a reminder I can overcome any obstacle.  And I have all the support I need.  I mean it when I say, your kind words and donations come with me on my journey.  You empower me.  You made a difference.

Attitude is the Difference Between an Obstacle or an Adventure!


My birthday is December 31st. Go ahead, mark your calendar 😉 What a great day to reflect on the year behind me and focus on the new goals for the year ahead. There is something to be said about having the last day of the year as your birthday too.  For the girl that loves to celebrate, it has been awesome! If years have themes, then 2014 was a year of change.  Becoming a mother, learning about myself in a role I had no idea how much I would love, was at times challenging but also incredibly rewarding.  The first year of motherhood meant a ton of focus on my little chicken. And I’ll admit, at times this meant not truly taking care of myself.  I set a goal for 2015 to really refocus on my health.  I joined a January Meltdown Challenge at my local barre studio and felt so excited to kick the year off right.  10,000 steps a day and 32 barre classes in 8 weeks.  Challenge accepted: Game ON!

If 2014 was the year of change, then 2015 is the year of taking charge.  I hit the ground running and never felt better about my decision to refocus and take charge with my level of fitness. And then BAM. The LUMP put all things to a halt. I have to say, my competitive nature was not willing to give up my barre challenge despite the doctor advising to take a break from physical activity.  Oh and let’s add that Boston had a record breaking amount of snow to burry us inside this season.  So here we were buried, with all of my festering thoughts and left with some major decisions to make.  Boy…if you could have been a fly on these walls.

I couldn’t freeze this February, my life had to move forward.  I was not going to let this lump get the best of me. I started googling ways to find support for someone like me.  I had never heard of Bright Pink, but when I clicked the link I thought FINALLY!  A place for women like me!  A woman that doesn’t currently have cancer can join a network of people to feel supported.  In an instant, I filled out an application to gain a Pink Pal.  I felt so overwhelmed by my health scare.  I needed to talk to other women exactly like me.  I needed someone to hear my thoughts and anxieties about every possible scenario running through my mind.  My Pink Pal gave me more than I ever imagined.  We connected over the phone so easily.  It was like I was talking to my best friend, only Julia and I had never met.

Julia never pushed or campaigned for me to get surgery.  She never told me how to handle my health.  However, her story echoed mine.  Her triumphant decisions gave her an outcome that I dreamed someone like me could one day have.  Her decision to have a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy gave her peace of mind so she didn’t have BRCA taking over her brain.

I needed to make my own decision though.  After talking to Julia about her personal experience, I was still on the fence if surgery was the right option for me at this point in my life.  I needed to see what surgery entailed.  I needed to know what life would be like if I proceeded without considering surgery.  I needed to meet surgeons.  I needed to talk about all the pros and all of the cons to have surgery or not to have surgery.  I needed to research what my life would be like after surgery.  And so I took charge of my health in a way I never expected to at 29 years old.  Later, I will share what my consultations were like and how I ultimately made my decision.

After finding a dream team of surgeons, I wanted to book surgery for yesterday.  You read that correctly.  There is nothing like booking major surgery and then having to wait it out until surgery arrives.  In the end, I couldn’t find the appropriate time to schedule surgery for 2015 that wouldn’t interfere with other major events happening in my life.  So I scheduled surgery for January 2016.  In case you are wondering, 2016 will be the year of Bon Voyage Boobs.  But with my 30th birthday on the horizon, I thought I can’t have this whole year go to waste leading up to surgery.

So you might have heard a major bucket list item of mine is to run in a marathon.   I am pleased to announce on October 11, 2015 I will be crossing this item off of my list. I will be joined by my sister, Vanessa Bramante and my best friend, Meghan Nowakowski.  And together we will be running for Team Bright Pink!  2015 is still the year of taking charge.

I will be refocusing my energy on fundraising for an organization I so greatly believe in and also on training for such an amazing event! Did I mention I’ve never ran more than 4 miles at once? I am so honored to be running with two amazing people and I am so floored by the amount of support we have received thus far. Friends and family have already booked flights and hotels to cheer us on. You should think about coming to Chicago too. It’s going to be a good time.  I’d love to see you there. We plan on taking Chicago by storm!

I am so looking forward to October.  I am so looking forward to embracing my Pink Pal and telling her face to face she saved me.  I am so looking forward to achieving goals and going on this adventure with people I love.  I can’t wait to cross that finish line. Are you with me?

It would mean the world to me and my teammates, if you could show your support by making a donation to our team and by sharing our story.  Each and every donation, no matter how big or small is motivating us through training.  And you better believe we will be thinking of you on race day!

Click here to help us exceed our goal!

Together let’s finish the year now with strength, courage and gratitude.

Thank you all so much for your support!  YOU ROCK!

The Inside Scoop


When you are sitting in an oncology unit, often times you are asked a long list of health related questions.

“Do you currently smoke?”


“Do you have liver disease?


“How many drinks do you consume per week on average?”

All of these type questions I can rattle off my responses just fine.  Until we get to my family history of health related issues.

“Has anyone else in your family had cancer?”


“Can you tell me who, what kind of cancer, and how old they were at the time of diagnosis?”

“I’ll do my best.”


“My mother, breast, 41”

“Is she alive today?”


“Anyone else?”

“Yes. My aunt. breast cancer, but I actually don’t know her age of diagnosis off hand. She also eventually had a reoccurrence.”

“That’s okay.  Maternal or paternal?”




“Anyone else?”

“Yes, my mom’s other sister. Breast and eventually ovarian.  Not sure of the exact age either.”


And this is where I want to call it quits, run out of the room saying “F*ck this noise”, but instead with a lump in my throat, I say, “No, deceased.”

How am I supposed to just say this nonchalantly? Verbalizing my family tree of cancer reality and the loss of one of my all time favorite people to ever walk the face of this earth feels really harsh and really cold.  It’s like I can’t be me and I need to turn on my robot-self, when I really want to say, “I’ve sat in this chair 90 f*cking times.  Don’t you numbnuts already have this information on a cloud somewhere? Or do you enjoy listening to me rattle off my family cancer tree?” (Can you tell I’m bitter that I’ve had to sit in an oncology unit since I was 20?).

Each time I discuss my auntie Katie passing in the doctor office setting I feel like I’m truly about to shut down.  My aunt was and always will be my hero. You see when you have to discuss my aunt battling cancer for 11 years, a cancer patient is not the way I would ever describe her.  She was the glue, the force of gravity in the room.  The voice of reason.  The person to tell me like it is with a warm smile and supportive embrace.  It’s that smile I see when I mention my aunt. It’s that laugh and her Boston accent that didn’t quite fade despite living on the West Coast for years.  It’s the cards that arrived whenever I needed to be reminded someone genuinely cares.  It’s the shopping trips.  The phone calls until my ear was burning from the heat of the phone.

When my aunt died in 2005, a piece of me died too.  She was my hope, my strength and my voice when I just couldn’t find the words.  She taught me how to care, how to always express love and how to have grace. She taught me how to shop, how to always eat cake and to celebrate the small victories.

It’s Katie I smile to when things are going to be okay.  It’s Katie I cry to when I’m unsure. She wasn’t perfect.  She isn’t God. But I often find myself saying “What would AK do?”

In 2005, I was a sophomore in college.  I was 19 when she passed away.  I was the saddest version of myself.  And I found myself in an apathetic, superficial environment trying to properly grieve.  I failed miserably.  I would cry in the shower stalls of my dorm room until I began to sob.  It was the only time I was alone among 9 other roommates.  And Thursday through Sunday I would drink uncomfortable amounts of alcohol.  I made bad choices and hated the person I would become without the person I so desperately loved and needed in my life.  Just one more conversation.  One more hug.  One more visit.  This can’t forever be reality.

I wasn’t a good person.  I was certainly not the person I wanted to be.  It got dark and then it got darker.  The Summer of 2006, I found out I had melanoma when I had a cosmetic surgeon remove a mole on my leg.  I eventually had further surgeries to clear a margin and then have my lymph nodes removed to see if the cancer had spread further.  It did not spread.  Again, I’m one of the lucky ones.

It was Katie I prayed to in the hospital.  Why is the one person that would totally understand all of this, gone?  Just one more conversation. Just one more hug. Just one more visit.

That fall I returned to school junior year.  My roommates didn’t want to live with me senior year.  I wasn’t fun anymore. I wasn’t the same girl I was freshman year. I was negative and hard to be around.  And they were right.  I so badly needed to be told this version, this dark version was not a good friend or an ideal roommate.

At the time, I was deeply hurt.  I wondered why they couldn’t see my loss.  I was ashamed and really embarrassed of the person looking back at me in the mirror.  So second semester I packed my bags and studied for 121 days in Florence, Italy.

insideI could write an entire novel about how I had my own little renaissance in Florence.  In fact, while I studied in Italy it was the first time in my life I wrote every single day. I arrived in Rome in disbelief.  I made the choice to pack up and make a change.  And after three nights in Rome, I had orientation in a little Tuscan city called Siena.  A week later, after getting acclimated I ran through the medieval city listening to “Somewhere only we know” by Keene on my first iPod.  I stopped looking out over the medieval walls.  And I began to pray out loud like a mad woman. Let me preface by saying I’m not really the religious type, but this was my “come to Jesus moment”.

“Please, Please help me change. I don’t want to be sad and sh*tty.  I want her to be proud of me again.  Please.” The tears were undeniable.

And for the first time, during a very dark time, I felt alive again.  Siena made me realize not to let life pass me by.  Katie would want me to live, to truly live.  Saint Catherine of Siena heard my prayers that day.

I swear, Katie must have winked from Heaven. I went back to my hotel and wrote in my journal, “If I’m ever fortunate enough to have a daughter, I hope I’m smart enough to name her Siena.  I’ve never felt so alive as I do today.”

Everything happened for a reason.  Italy was the BEST time of my life.  And senior year I went on to live with a great group of girls and grew a best friend that I can’t imagine living my life without.

So you see when someone asks about my family cancer tree and we ultimately have a discussion about losing the most influential person in my life, I find it unbearable to say “deceased” and move on.

Katie was not the one to sacrifice herself so the rest of us could plead ignorance.  I needed in the deepest areas of my soul to do everything I could to muster up courage.  I decided to no longer deny the family cancer tree and get tested for BRCA1.  I needed to do what I could to know my own risk.

This is a formal break up letter…

break up

We were first introduced when I was eleven.  Small, almost non-existent, late to the scene some might say. But you came when you were ready and you were there none the less.

Many locker room jokes happened at your expense. You often had freedom; braless appearances.  We’ve experienced some interesting times together.

You really threw me for a loop during pregnancy.  And let’s not forget about your big functional debut. You tripled in size overnight after giving birth.

Was that payback from when I cursed you in sixth grade for only being mosquito bite sized?

Good Ol’ righty gave up during the first month of nursing, shrunk right back to original size.  While sister lefty decided to keep on trucking. Yes. Yes, together we were a freak show.  But you nourished my daughter at 2 AM feedings.  You cemented a bond.  I’m forever thankful for those tender moments.  And when sister lefty was being overworked and underperforming, we called it quits.  I had a four month period of constantly talking about you. And here we are again.

Only this time, the lump in sister lefty really sealed the deal.  This is a formal break up.  This mutation shot fire first.  You’ve threatened my family.  While you were once fun and sexy, you are now causing fear and anxiety.

Rather than squish you ever six months and have a lifetime of uncertainty… This is good-bye. Thank you for your services.

“But how will you feed your future babies?” you ask. Breast might be best my dear, but not if your breasts threaten to kill you.  The bottle will do just fine.  “But won’t you feel less feminine without me?”, you wonder.  Taking action, finding strength I didn’t know I had has given me a confidence you just never could provide.  Plus, a more even keeled set is in my future.  I am thankful for all you’ve taught me.  Our separation will help me grow into the woman I am meant to be.

Bon Voyage Boobs.

I wish you all the best.

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