Wednesday, June 26, 2013

MICHE Bag...What an amazing company!

Last week when I went in for my surgery to swap out my expanders for the implants, I carried my new Miche Hope Bag. 
In it was my make-up bag (didn't need it since I was out the same day:), a change of clothes, my express registration pass, and my wallet... everything I needed for the big event.  I LOVED carrying this bag into the surgery waiting room because of what the bag means to me.  It reminds me of my mother...and it reminded me of the love that complete strangers have for me and their compassion for others who are facing tough times in their lives. 

Let me tell you why...
Meet the Miche Bag Hope Shell

Miche Bags decided to bring a bunch of Hope Bags to hand out to the patients up at Huntsman Cancer Institute.  What a company!  During my mother's fourth and final battle with cancer, she received a Miche bag since she was a patient up at Huntsman Cancer Institute.

After my mother passed away, my Dad asked us girls to look at some of Mom's things to have.  My little sister received the Miche Bag.  At first she didn't even know that the bag had an inner liner and an outer shell.  A girl at church showed her how the shell is easily removed so that you can change out your shell for a new one.  This way you can keep all your stuff inside the inner bag and change the exterior when you want a new look!

The Hope Cancer Bag reads, "I feel very blessed to be alive", "Enjoy the Sunshine", "It's not about living or dying, it's about living until I die", "I live in strength and confidence",  "This is about fighting the fight, but with spirit!", "Fight like a GIANT with the best of attitudes"...

After a little while, when I saw my sister with the bag, I would read the words on the purse and think about how those words reminded me of Mom...of how those words inspired me in the "fight" that I am facing...and how Mom helped me to go forward, facing my BRCA2 gene and not hiding from it.

I thought it would be a really nice way for all of us girls to remember Mom, so I called up the Huntsman Cancer Institute gift shop, hoping to be able to purchase a bag for my other sister and myself. They informed me that they don't carry them at the gift shop, but that the Miche Bag company came up to the Huntsman Institute and handed them out to patients.  Wow!  I thought!  With no leads, I searched quickly online for a way to purchase the bags before I went into the elementary school to help out in my daughters' classrooms.  I found and wrote the customer service a quick note asking where I could find the Miche bags to purchase.

My mother recently received a lovely Miche Hope bag (black with words all over it and a pink breast cancer pin) at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. She recently passed and my sister received the bag. There are other sisters who would like this bag too.  It would be a nice momento to remember Mom when we carry it around. Can you please tell me where I can find that bag?...the name of the bag and the cost. Thank you, Lisa"

After I finished volunteering at the school, I sat in my driver's seat and sat reading the customer service reply from Mike...stunned and overwhelmed with his reply:

"Thank you for contacting Miche.

 Before we say anything else we would like to offer our condolences on your loss. I'm 26 years old and I'm lucky that I haven't had anyone too near to me pass away and can't imagine the pain that goes with that loss. I've brought your email to our CEO Corbin Church and he would like to offer these items as our gift to you. If you carry Miche we would be able to provide the shells, we have them in our Classic and Prima sizes, if you do not carry Miche already we would be happy to provide the base bag to carry this shell with you as well. This is a wonderful way to remember your mother and we are happy to help with this. We would be happy to mail them or you would be welcome to come and pick them up from us if it's not too much of a trip. Just let us know what you would need and the sizes and we would be able to get these provided to you. Corbin wished to emphasize that there will be no charge for these items as they are our gift to you and your family, if you would like to pay anything we would ask you to instead make a donation to the Huntsman Cancer Institute to assist in their efforts to combat this terrible disease.

I was lucky enough to get to go a couple of times this last winter with a group of our team members here at Miche up to the Huntsman Cancer Institute to hand out these items and I can say without any hesitance that is was one of the most wonderful and rewarding experiences I've had in my life. To see people valiantly fighting this disease with everything they have and to give out our bags to them, this small gift, and seeing their warm smiles in the face of their battle was a very special experience and one that I'll always cherish.

 Please let us know what you'll need and we'll be happy to assist in the way that we can.

Thank you,

 Field Services Specialist

I sat there in the parking lot and cried.  Tears... this compassionate person who reached out to me and helped me feel like he really cared about my Mother and about me. In this moment, I felt such strength and understanding.  Gratitude...for Mike's insight, to take a moment...and just care about me. I wondered if I would have had such compassion as he did for me.

In another email,

"Thank you for sharing your story with me and we’re more than happy to help to honor the memory of your mother. I feel that even though this is my job and I’m here professionally, it’s important sometimes to remember that there is another person on the other side of this email reading it, sometimes we just need to take a break from our professional faces and speak as people. Our offices are at 10808 Riverfront Pkwy Suite 150, it’s just off the 106th exit on the I-15. Just let us know when you’d like to come down to pick them up and I’ll speak with our receptionist and stock room person to have them all pulled out and ready for you. We have more than enough in the prima and the classic so whichever you would like we’ll be able to provide them for you, just let us know."

Can you believe this guy?

So when I went to pick up the Miche Hope Bags for myself and my sister...Mike was waiting for me at the front desk with two BEAUTIFULLY wrapped gift bags with two sizes of purses in each bag and another pink Hope shell!  The classic Hope bag even had these amazing stones, "charmers", hanging from the handles.  I was blown away!  I gave Mike a huge hug and we talked for a little while.  He was so nice and so great!  When I commented on how unexpected these amazing gift bags were, he explained, "Well, it's in honor of your Mother and we wanted to honor her appropriately."
I am still stunned at Mike and Corbin and Miche Bag's generosity!  Of course, I made a donation to the Huntsman Cancer Institute...I still feel so overwhelmed by their compassion.
I LOVE carrying my Miche Hope Bag.  I know it may seem silly because it's a material thing, but I feel strength and I feel love and I feel hope as I carry that bag...because of the words of encouragment all over the bag...because I think of my Mom when I carry it...and because I know that there are amazingly, amazing people like Mike, who care for others that they don't even know.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


May 31st, Dan came in with me to Dr. Ferguson's office to determine what shape and size of implants I was going to get in exchange for taking out my expanders.  He measured me and identified a few implants that would fit in the pocket that the expanders had formed.  It was a tough decision between the Natrelle and Sientra when I was holding both in my hands.  I liked how the Natrelle kept their shape since they were so stiff.  The Sientra were more maleable.  It was hard to decide just by holding the implants, but once we looked at what sizes and shapes were actually available to fit into my 390cc expander-filled cavity, we settled upon the Sientra 425 cc tear shaped.  The size was slim and not too oval so as to spill over into my underarm area.  Dr. Ferguson was thinking a little smaller, but I pushed a little.  He said he felt comfortable trying the 425s and would have the smaller implants on hand just in case.
When I tell inquirers what size, they often think that 425 is a lot, because normally if someone kept their breast tissue, it would be a good amount.   Since I only have a thin layer of skin with no tissue, 425 ccs is actually not that large.  It's about the size of when I was breast feeding my littles.  (Sometimes I look at mothers who are still breastfeeding and get that little nudge of sadness that I will not be having any more littles.  My baby is almost 2 years old now!  I am so grateful for the four beautiful children that Dan and I are blessed to care for.)

June 20, 2013, I went into surgery at Intermountain Medical Center with Dr. Ferguson and Travis, his PA.  The nurses and anesthesiologist were so nice.  I was originally told to come in at 3:15pm, but then they called to ask me to come in at 2:00.  We were vacuuming and cleaning the car, when my oldest daughter went into the house for a drink and popped out to tell us the hospital had called.  We finished up the cleaning, loaded up the van with bags for the kids to stay with Nana and Papa and headed out.  We didn't make it at exactly 2:00, but arrived shortly after.  When we sat down with the pager to check in, the magazine on the table beside me was a Time magazine with Angelina Jolie on the cover.
I read a little about her experience before I was paged to check in.  We went back where I dressed into my hospital gown, puffy shorts, socks and hair net. 

Dr. Ferguson came in to speak with us and give me instructions for post-op care.  I was to keep the compression bra on for 3 days.  Then I could take it off and shower for 10 minutes only so as not to soak the area too much.  I am supposed to wear the compression bra for a while longer.  I cannot move my arm at the shoulder, only at the elbows.  So I kind of feel like a Tyrannasaurus Rex with stubby little arms.  It's important that I keep the breast area still.  I cannot drive for 2 weeks.  After 2 weeks, we'll start working on arm movement. The nurse gave me an incentive spirometer to breathe in on the tube 10 times an hour after surgery to prevent pneumonia.  Then she started my IV line.  The Anesthesiologist came in to talk with me and ask questions about allergies... then I kissed Dan goodbye and he led me off to the operating room.  As I was leaving with him, I mentioned how intriguing anesthesiology is and "it's so amazing, I don't know how it works..."  He jokingly said to Dan..."Neither to I".  As we walked to the OR, we talked about how he knows all about the chemistry, but nowhere has he ever determined how nitrous oxide was discovered in the first place.

Dr. Ferguson and Travis, his PA were at the OR waiting for me.  They and the nurses were suiting up as I laid on the table.  They strapped my arms down to the cross extensions from the bed and the anesthesiologist started dripping in the good stuff.  "Before I go, I just want to thank you all...."  It's absolutely amazing that there is technology to put you to "sleep" enough not to wake up, despite being cut and poked and pulled, until they decide it's time for you to wake up.

I was opening one eye at a time when I was being awaken by the nurse.  It was hard to stay awake and I just wanted to sleep.  My Dad came by to talk with me and hold my hand for a bit.  It was so nice to see him and be with him.  I am so grateful that he is living close by.  He told me that he had been praying for me and that he knows Mom was with me. 
It's still impossible to me that my mother is gone.  I know I saw her waste away to nothing over the early months of this year.  I know that I saw her body lying in her bed after her spirit was no longer dwelling in it.  I know I love her so much and I'm so grateful for her strength and energy and love.  I know that I am learning how much I take time for granted.  I know that I need to love my babies even more and be a better mom to them, to model being a good mother so that they will learn to be good mothers.  I know I need to be more patient and take the moments to enjoy their little spirits and the happiness and natural goodness that they always want to share with me.

I feel the pain a bit, but waking up after this surgery was so much easier than waking up after the mastectomy!  The pain is bearable.  It's uncomfortable and I know it will subside soon.  I am excited to see what the implants look like after 3 days when I can finally take off this compression bra.  I trust Dr. Ferguson will have done a wonderful job reconstructing my breasts.  What a wonderful gift to help me continue on with nice looking breasts.  What a wonderful gift from Dr. Teresa Reading to help me reduce my cancer risk from 87% to 5%.  What a wonderful gift for my mother to urge me forward despite her circumstances so that we could share in a little of this journey while she was still alive.  So that she could see that her choice to be tested and her strength to have a double mastectomy gave me strength to make this choice that could prevent a lot of tears and fear. 

I still fear the possibility of breast cancer and peritoneal cancer...and lung and brain that both Mom and Theresa had.  But I have done all that I can to do all that I can.  I'll still need to monitor, and I am not sure all that I need to do to monitor.  I'm going to set up an appointment with an oncologist to get his insights as to what I need to do going forward.

I feel like I am closer to getting back to "normal". I feel blessed to know about my BRCA2 gene mutation.

I am grateful for skilled surgeons, for wonderful friends who have brought me meals, watched my children and cleaned my bathrooms.  I am grateful for a loving and supportive husband and siblings and for darling, understanding children.