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WHAT TO DO FOR SOMEONE UNDERGOING A DOUBLE MASTECTOMY

It’s almost impossible not to know someone directly affected by cancer, or a least know of someone affected by cancer, and that in and of itself is heartbreaking.  But for anyone, myself included, that has seen someone they love or may in the future see someone they love go through a double mastectomy first-hand (one of the many strategies to get rid of cancerous cells in the breast) it may be challenging to know what to say or do to help.  To be honest, as much as I thought I knew prior, I was still pretty clueless in the past.  At a complete loss of words or knowledge as to what one would really want or need.  And looking back, I feel bad that I was so in the dark.  After having gone through this a few weeks ago, for better or worse, I now have a good understanding of a handful of things that might be most appreciated during recovery, or even leading up to surgery day.  While mine was necessary, it was thankfully preventative.  And although breast cancer was deemed inevitable for me, I was also able to get this procedure done before a diagnosis, and when everything was removed and tested, all came back cancer-free.

From thoughtful cards, to homemade meals, to cookies, to flowers, to meaningful bracelets, and a complete spa day leading up to this operation, I was literally blown away by the outpouring of love, and generosity that was shown to me and my family in the past couple of weeks.  I have narrowed down a list of what I thought to be the most used and loved gestures of kindness, for me.  Knowing that everyone has different likes and dislikes, you may need to alter this list for someone you know personally going through this, but I think you would be hard-pressed to find someone undergoing this surgery that does not love every single item on here.  🙂

1.  Button-down shirts are by far the most necessary piece of clothing to add to your closet if you are prepping for this surgery, so minus the three days that you will be in the hospital, and, therefore, in the easiest, most fool-proof thing to wear: the hospital gown, you will require a bucket-load of button-down shirts to get you through weeks of not being able to lift your hands over you head.  And countless times a day where you will need to access the front of your body to change the drains, gauze pads and medical bras.  And add in the numerous doctor appointments that follow for months after surgery where you will need to undress and dress again for other in-office procedures.  I would size up, so that there is plenty of room for the said drains and added overall comfort.

Links to some great picks:

*A classic flannel for under $30, and it comes in a variety of colors, too.

http://oldnavy.gap.com/browse/product.do?pid=820988062&CAWELAID=120299900000429752&CAGPSPN=pla&CAAGID=35201331985&CATCI=pla-295801482859&device=c&product_channel=online&Matchtype=&tid=onpl000000&kwid=1&ap=7&lsft=device:c,cvosrc:cse.google.online_Brand,cvo_campaign:690748441,cvo_pid:35201331985,cvo_crid:155158479490,Matchtype:,tid:onpl000000,kwid:1,ap:7

*Incredibly soft all-cotton flannel in a bunch of different plaids.  https://www.landsend.com/products/womens-flannel-shirt/id_315905

2.  Super soft pajamas, that are also button-down in the front, are such a treat.  And a much needed change from the standard button-downs that will be worn all day long.  And a luxe matching set that can also be worn well after post-op will go a long way.

*A simple, will-wear-forever, pajama set.

https://www.bloomingdales.com/shop/product/eberjey-gisele-pj-set?ID=1515151&pla_country=US&cm_mmc=Google-PLA-ADC-_-Intimates-NA-_-Eberjey-_-849222055609USA&CAWELAID=120156070002844165&CAGPSPN=pla&CAAGID=44569722933&CATCI=pla-379931313278&CATARGETID=120156070005949451&cadevice=c&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI7d2yrpCr1wIVxLfACh0OFwCpEAQYBCABEgKrtPD_BwE

*Comes in a shorts and short-sleeve version, too, for those getting this procedure done during warmer weather.

https://www.bloomingdales.com/shop/product/eberjey-gisele-short-pj-set?ID=1199171&CategoryID=1005101#fn=ppp%3Dundefined%26sp%3D1%26rId%3D117%26spc%3D499%26spp%3D4%26pn%3D1%7C6%7C4%7C499%26rsid%3Dundefined

3.  I was given three front-closure bras to go home from the hospital with, that could be worn as early as just one day after surgery and at night as well, so I haven’t tried this particular one out yet, but for those who may not have been given one from their surgeon or hospital, it looks like a really great option.  And even for those who may have received one like I did, this brand, though a little pricey, seems much softer and more comfortable.  And any increased comfort post-op is key.

*Front fastening hook and eye closure is ideal for post-surgery, so that you can leave the last two hooks undone for added comfort in the beginning.  And this soft band looks so soothing for the drain holes and then the often itchy scars leftover from those drain holes that can be irritated by regular front fastening sports bras. 

https://livebetterwith.com/products/theya-healthcare-front-fastening-post-surgery-bra-with-medium-support/?country_code=US&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=%7B_campaign%7D&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIkIm74par1wIVjbXACh3Z5goBEAQYAyABEgLwYvD_BwE

4.  This may seem so minor, so minuscule, and somewhat antiquated, but a handwritten card.  I can’t tell you how good it felt to read some sweet, some short, all thought-out and thoughtful messages from friends near and far.

*Although any plain card will certainly do, these are great, and inspiring, to get for someone or even to order as thank you cards if you are the one undergoing a double mastectomy yourself.  

https://www.theenchantedenvelope.com/shop/19208612/breast-cancer-note-cards

5.  The day after I was discharged from the hospital, my husband drove me to my local hair salon and treated me to a blowout.  Since you can’t wash your own hair for a while, this was much needed, and much appreciated.  The hair washing stations at the hair dresser are perfect for not being able to move with ease and not being able to get your body saturated with water.  And it just felt so dang good.  And there is nothing quite like a great hair day to make everything a little bit better.  A gift card for or towards a salon treatment at your loved one’s place of choice is the ultimate present.  And a huge bonus tip would be to offer to drive them to and from the appointment to give their spouse or full-time caregiver a break.

*If you don’t know your friend or loved one’s favorite spot, ask their mom, sister, or significant other for advice.  Some salons and spas now offer gift cards that can be sent via email, too, for added convenience. 

6.  I am someone who tends to love being smothered in blankets year-round, but that aside, an extra warm blanket or throw would be great to gift to even those who get overheated quickly.  After surgery, it was terrible being chilly at all, for even a minute.  Already hurting muscle tensing up are no joke.  So keep your friends snuggled up at all times.

*This is the same exact faux sheepskin throw that my husband and I got when we moved in together almost a decade ago and it has been keeping me extra cozy these last few weeks, both day and night.  And it is currently on sale, too!

https://www.potterybarn.com/products/faux-sheepskin-throw/?catalogId=84&sku=7820306&cm_ven=PLA&cm_cat=Google&cm_pla=Decor%20%26%20Pillows%20%3E%20All%20Throws%20%26%20Blankets&kwid=productads-adid%5E202177635025-device%5Ec-plaid%5E354399495773-sku%5E7820306-adType%5EPLA&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI8YSg5pmr1wIVxbrACh18qwuyEAQYAyABEgK12_D_BwE&cm_ite=[[PLA]%20-%20Neutral%20Desktop]

*Another indulgent blanket that is also currently on sale.

https://www.potterybarn.com/products/faux-fur-ombre-throw-gray/?cm_src=AutoCSLPIP

7.  Remember that whole ‘Chicken Soup For The Soul’ phase of life?  Well, it still rings true, sometimes literal homemade chicken (with noodles for me) soup does a body and person so much good.  I couldn’t cook for myself (or my family for that matter) for a while after the operation and, honestly, I didn’t have much of an appetite until about last night!  And even still it’s not quite back to normal yet.  But a couple of friends stopped by with tupperware(s) filled with soup and that’s pretty much all I was in the mood for, for days.

*Keep in mind that some women recovering will have families that they cannot cook for, so plan to make something that will feed the whole brood if possible.  Or if you aren’t good in the kitchen, get a meal, or meals, from a local establishment delivered to them in the first few days of them being home from the hospital. 

8.  Along the same lines as a heavy blanket, a warm pair of socks is a perfect token of kindness.  These have been in my drawer for a long time prior to having this surgery on the calendar, but I pulled them out almost every night for a while for a little extra TLC.

*These are my absolute favorites.

https://www.amazon.com/Barefoot-Dreams-Cozychic-Womens-Heathered/dp/B0168Z1OZ0/ref=sr_1_2/138-9437865-3268934?ie=UTF8&qid=1510014616&sr=8-2&keywords=barefoot+dreams+socks&dpID=41%252BTqCUVeKL&preST=_SX342_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

9.  Sending flowers may seem like the obvious choice to send to someone recovering from anything really, but in my case I loved getting them.  As a mom of three kids 5-years-old and under, I rarely keep fresh flowers in the house for fear of them getting knocked over and for fear of having to keep them, in addition to three other living things, alive.  But it smelled and felt awesome to wake up to fresh buds each morning.  Especially when you are kind of home-bound for a while.  The scattered vases definitely gave me something to smile about each day.

*While I love to support local florists (and local businesses in general, the most), if you are ordering online, I am a huge fan of Farmgirl Flowers because they are committed to supporting as many American flower farmers as they can, even when it costs them more.  And their bouquets are stunning. 

https://farmgirlflowers.com

10.  This one is completely personal, because it depends on the faith of the person who is receiving the gift, but for me, my religion is really important to me, and is something I lean on, not just at mass on Sundays, but daily.  So, a piece of healing jewelry inspired by religion and peace that was given to me just after surgery was and is something I hold near.  On a side note (or two), I wore the same, blue, beaded rosary bracelet with a tiny charm of a cross during all three of the births of my daughters (until my third, Liv, yanked it from my wrist at a couple months old and all of the teeny beads went flying) and it was the little, hopeful, tangible push I needed each time.  And on the morning of my recent surgery, before they wheeled me into the operating room, I had to remove the cross I wore around my neck, only to look up at my breast surgeon who was wearing a strikingly similar one, instantly calming my nerves.

*This small shop offers so many beautiful, personal, unique bracelets to choose from.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/CrossesandSaints

It’s unfortunate that so many frightening diseases, cancer being one of them, still linger without a cure, and only seem to be getting more prevalent, but anything that we can do to make those going through difficult times a little more comfortable, a little happier, a lot less overwhelmed, the better.

xo gina

THE MACKENZIE TOTE BY SEA & GRASS

I’m so happy to be partnering with Sea & Grass again.  I’ve said it before, but it’s true, it just feels good to support a company that gives back.  Sea & Grass collaborates with local artisans in creating their products and gives a portion of proceeds directly to those in need of education, a cause that, as a mom of young kids, is of the utmost importance to me.  Their Mackenzie Tote is the perfect bag for any occasion.  The basket weave is feminine, stylish, and with two inside pockets, functional as well.  And the natural shade goes with everything.  Also, the size is just right.  It’s not too cumbersome, yet, it’s large enough to fit a pack of wipes, two diapers, my phone, chapstick, and keys.  Pretty much every mom’s daily essentials.

Not only is this bag currently on sale, but once the Mackenzie Tote is sold out, it will not be coming back as they are making room for some brand new styles that are in the works.  You need to scoop this up now.  You won’t regret it!

*thanks to Sea & Grass for sponsoring this post.  as always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Happy shopping!

xo gina

BLACK + FLORAL FOR FALL

Florals are always a favorite for fall.  They make for a pretty backdrop alongside an already pretty, foliage-packed season.  And wearing florals in fall is a great way to transition your spring and summer looks into the cooler months, pairing those frocks with over-the-knee boots and suede moto jackets, and making more room in your closet and wallet by re-wearing an old trend in the process.  But black florals are a bit more dramatic and even more perfect for those slightly grayer skies.  I love how this super affordable maxi can be dressed up or down with velvet sock booties or white converse.  And when the temps cool down, just throw a black leather jacket over top.  This maxi is sheer, but a simple black slip underneath works magic.

{BP NORDSTROM 55mm mirrored sunglasses / MAXI DRESS sold out, similar HERE / REBECCA MINKOFF love chevron quilt small crossbody / STEVE MADDEN effect block heel bootie sold out, similar HERE and HERE}

Happy Fall!

xo gina

FAREWELL TO SUMMER

It’s always a little sad saying goodbye to summer.  Even though I love the fall most.  Even though I crave the routine, the schedule.  There is still a part of me that misses the spontaneity of summer.  The lazy mornings.  The open-ended days that all run into one another.  The late nights.

This season we had some of our highest highs and our lowest lows.  We ate our weight in strawberries.  Stayed up way too late.  Fell in love with backyard s’mores.  And realized we love each other, a lot.  Here’s hoping this next season is even better than the last.

xo gina 

THE BEST APPLE PIE RECIPE FOR FALL

The best apple pie recipe for fall (or any time of year, really) is one that my mom had tucked away in her floral printed recipe box on the kitchen counter while growing up.  It was torn out of a magazine when I was little and I can still recall helping to make that very pie at so many different ages along side my whole family.  Through the years, we all kept baking that same pie, never altering it even the littlest bit.  It is that good.  That tiny square of paper, now shredded at the sides, was laid out on the cutting block countless times, covered with sugars and flour and now you can barely make out the text, the measurements faded.  Luckily, I hand-wrote the ingredients and directions and kept it in a binder that traveled with me from my childhood home, to my apartment in college, to the home I now share with my own little family.  And since the leaves seemed to change overnight (like they always do), and the air felt like fall, we went apple picking this weekend and grabbed all of the best apples needed for this pie.

DUTCH APPLE PIE

CRUST AND FILLING
– 1 keebler ready crust graham cracker
– 1 large egg yolk, slightly beaten
– 5 1/2 cups slice cored peeled cooking apples
– 1 T lemon juice
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1/4 light brown sugar
– 3 T flour
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

CRUMBS
– 3/4 cup flour
– 1/4 cup sugar
– 1/4 cup light brown sugar
– 1/3 cup butter at room temperature

DIRECTIONS
– Preheat oven to 375
– Brush bottom and sides of crust evenly with egg yolk
– Bake on baking sheet until light brown – approx 5 minutes
– Remove crust from oven
– Combine sliced apples, lemon juice, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 3 T flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg
– Mix well and spoon into crust

– Mix remaining flour, sugar, brown sugar and butter with fork or pastry blender until crumbly
– Sprinkle topping mixture evenly over apples
– Bake on baking sheet until topping is golden and filling is bubbling –  about 50 minutes
– Cool on wire rack
– Serve at room temp

*My favorites are the honeycrisp apples.  They are the apples that I eat every morning or have as a mid-day snack, and they are also my go-to pick for my apple pies.

Enjoy!

xo gina 

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