*Giveaway* - Love, Love, LOVE....your BOOBIES! / by Julie Cruz

Instead of a typical Valentines Day giveaway, I wanted to do something different. Something that would help make a difference. I'm sure you've all seen or heard about the infamous "I love boobies" bracelets, t-shirts, etc that have been known to cause some stirs (especially in schools)? Whether you have or haven't, today is the day where you NEED to know about them....and the AMAZING company behind them. I highly encourage you to check out their website (link provided to the right - in bold) and learn more about Keep A Breast. Since the Keep-A-Breast slogan is "i love boobies".......I figured the "Day of LOVE" (Valentines Day) would be a great day to show LOVE and support for raising breast cancer awareness. Keep A Breast donated the most AWESOME basket FILLED with Keep A Breast items (including t-shirts, a bunch of bracelets, stickers, buttons, a water bottle, flags, a lanyard, etc!) for me to give away! ***TO ENTER TO WIN, JUST LEAVE A COMMENT (here on this blog entry)!!*** I will announce the winner on Wednesday - February 16th. Here is what you can win!.....

Rotten, toothless kid is not included ;)

Along with the giveaway, I wanted to share breast cancer stories from a few people in my life.....

Jaden's story (my friend's son).......

"It was December 2005, when we first found a lump on Jaden's chest. He was 2 years old at the time and like most people, we didn't think anything of it. To be sure, we took him to our pediatrician to have it checked out. He checked it out and told us it was probably nothing and that we should keep an eye on it and so we did. After a few months, we noticed the lump started to get bigger so we took him to see the doctor again. That time, they decided to run some blood tests to check his hormone levels and perform an ultrasound. The tests came back normal and again we were told to keep an eye on it and that it was probably "nothing". Over the next year, we continued to go through the same routine appointments not getting any answers to what Jaden's lump was all about. It wasn't until January 2007, when we were finally referred to a specialist who recommended that Jaden have surgery to remove the lump from his chest.

That February, Jaden underwent surgery to remove the lump from his chest. We were terrified that our son, now 3 years old was having his very first surgery, but hopeful that the lump was probably some sort of growth and continued to be "nothing". A few days later, we had a follow up appointment with his doctor where she told us the devastating news. I remember it like it was yesterday...hearing the doctor say the words "cancer" with Jaden's name in the same sentence seemed unfathomable. All of a sudden, the "nothing" we've been talking about for over a year is now "something" and it wants to hurt your baby. Nothing can prepare you when someone tells you your child has cancer. I felt numb all over not wanting to process what the doctor was saying; I was in disbelief. Our son is only 3 years old and you're telling us he has secretory carcinoma, an extremely rare form of breast cancer? How could this be? How could this happen? Even our doctor told us that she had never seen a case like Jaden's before.

In March, Jaden had to have two more surgeries to have the tumor and infected breast tissue, as well as his nipple from his right side removed. I remember crying so hard the day of his first surgery when they wheeled him away into the operating room. To see your child lying in a hospital bed, is the worst feeling in the world. As a family, it was the absolute hardest thing we've ever had to go through in our lives, but we were determined to fight this thing, one way or another. Being so young and innocent, Jaden didn't really understand the impact of his condition...he just knew he had an "ouchie" and that the doctors were going to fix it. Throughout the entire process, Jaden was incredibly strong and resilient and so brave! As a result of the surgeries, Jaden did not have to undergo chemo therapy or radiation treatment for his cancer. We were beyond happy and thrilled when the doctor called us a few days later to tell us the good news that Jaden's surgeries were successful and that he was completely cancer-free.

Today, Jaden is a healthy, typical, 7 year old boy, who loves to read, play soccer, chess and video games. He is currently in the 1st grade and is also learning to speak Mandarin. He's very friendly and social and loves playing with his friends. He is such a funny, loving and caring big brother who continues to make us proud through his actions and through his amazing heart, every single day. Today, when people see his scar on his chest and ask him "what happened?" he proudly points to it, laughs and says: "Oh, that's my tattoo!" :) Despite the difficult journey, we believe this experience has brought our family stronger and closer together and we are thankful to God and to our of our dear family and friends who have supported us through it all."

Kat's story (some of our best friends' mom...who is like another mom to us)......

"My name is Kathleen Herrera! AKA Mamakat of Mamakat's Restaurant in San Marcos, CA. I live a crazy, active life as a busy restaurant owner with 4 beautiful grandchildren, two more on the way. My experience with this disease has given me gratitude for my life, and taught me to enjoy every day, no matter how mundane or unfullfilling that day was!! Guess what? If we are lucky, we get to have tomorrow! I try to use my disease to remind me that each day can be a beautiful one. A sweet or mischevious smile from a granddaughter, helping a customer with a problem, listening to their health problems or stories, makes my day more meaningful.

The word cancer does not scare me, it makes me more stubborn, an attribute I used to think was bad, but not anymore. I have not suffered one day, I was sore after the mastectomy, but my recovery progressed rapidly. I have to say the effects of the estrogen blockers was the worst part of this whole experience. My joints ached like a 90 year olds, but now I understand what an older person feels like everyday, lesson learned...

Enough of my feelings. I was diagnosed after feeling a hard spot in my chest! I had noticed it in 2004, my mammogram was normal. We had two weddings in our family and life was busy and fun, but I vowed to get a recheck of the lump. The mammogram was still ok, but the tech could feel the lump on my chest, it was higher than the fatty part of the breast, you can have breast tissue under your armpit or higher on the chest. Anyways, she immediately brought me to an ultrasound and BAM! we both saw the growth, and I somehow knew it was malignant. My experiences with the surgeon were poor. He was so cold and technical. "Surgery, radiation, possibly chemo. Set it up with the nurses up front". I had two words SCREW YOU! I needed more info. I got online, I talked to every woman in the restaurant that had breast cancer, I asked them about their doctors and how they felt about their diagnosis and treatment. It took two months to change my insurance, and get in to see the doctor of my choice. I learned as much as I could during that time, probably not smart, but I knew my cancer was not the aggressive type, it had been present for a few years without treatment!

I have lost a brother at 33 to testicular cancer, a sister at 46 to stomach cancer, and watching their treatment as a young woman was very frustrating. They seemed to have no choice, no voice. I wanted a voice, and who knows how that will play out, but it's my life, and I love everyday of it! Choose to fight, wake up everyday and hope something amazing will happen to you, or someone you love. Tell your friends and family to stop looking at you like you are going to die because you know what? Every human being is on the same path! It is called LIFE..."

As you can see, breast cancer doesn't discriminate. It can happen to ANYONE (yes, even children (including boys, like Jaden) and MEN). Please get (or keep) yourself informed and checked. The KAB website has TONS of great information like signs to look for, instructions on how to check your breasts, foods to lower your risk, cancer facts (for instance, did you know that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime???), etc.

I hope this giveaway/post helps as many people as it possibly can. Even if 1 life is saved because of this post, it's enough to help make a difference. PLEASE spread the word, share this link with your friends/family and help others get educated. Breast cancer is something that we all think will never happen to us.....but it can.

If you want to help make a difference, spread the word, and instead of buying that box of Valentines chocolate, that cup of Starbucks, or going to a super expensive "Valentines" dinner, etc, how about taking a minute and donating to a cause that IS making a difference? Even $5 can help! **CLICK HERE to help**. For each and every person who takes a minute to donate, I personally thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I also want to give a HUGE thanks to Lezlie & Jason, Deena and Kat, for letting me share their stories. Another huge thanks to Shaney & Amanda of KAB for donating and allowing me to give away such an awesome prize! You ALL are amazing!

XOXO, Julie Cruz - Lot116 Photography