Splash for Pink

Tomorrow evening I’m flying up to Oregon for a fun-filled weekend of river rafting, beer tasting, and boob fundraising! I’ll be attending Splash for Pink, a breast cancer fundraiser in Maupin, Oregon.

Maupin is a very small town (population under 500!) located on the Deschutes River, where my uncle Pat (a former rafting guide) lives. I’ve been going on rafting trips up there since I was very young. Last year, when my mom and I found out about Splash for Pink, we were ecstatic: at last, a breast cancer fundraiser that doesn’t involve our feet being brutally murdered by blisters!

Here’s some information about Splash for Pink from their website: “Come support breast cancer research and patients while you enjoy the fun and excitement of the Deschutes River and the fun of Maupin. Splash for Pink will feature 13 mile raft trips, a delicious BBQ lunch, raffle, silent & live auction, a sand & grass volleyball tournament, a kids’ fun area, poker tournament, live music all day and much more! Rafting and volleyball participants will receive a FREE Pink T-shirt. Be sure to stop by all the local businesses with pink balloons outside as they will have special Pink discounts and deals available!

A free pink t-shirt?! I’M IN.

Mom and I will be joined by my boyfriend Bryce, my mom’s best friend Arlene (another notorious 3-Day participant), my aunt Jackie, my uncle Pat, and hopefully my cousin Justin…oh and of course our trusty rafting dog, Madeline!

Okay, no, the blind diabetic dog is not going rafting with us. But this is her second trip up to Oregon so she’s a seasoned vet when it comes to Maupin.

I’m very excited for this event–hopefully I’ll get to meet some of the organizers. I’m impressed with their ability to create such an enjoyable and buzz-worthy fundraiser.

My blog business cards arrived today (email me if you want an e-card!) so I’ll be bringing some up with me to pass out at Splash for Pink. I have a feeling I’ll meet at least one BRCA+ individual while I’m there.

Bryce and I will be flying back from Oregon on Monday, July 2, so hopefully I’ll be able to post some photos of the event.

Now tell me, dear readers: what’s the best fundraising event (for breast cancer or not) you’ve ever attended?

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Back to spin classes

The interview with Trisha Frick is coming along shortly, I promise! I didn’t really account for how long it would take me to transcribe it…we talked for over 25 minutes! But I swear I’m working on it.

I just wanted to let you all know that I finally returned to my beloved spin classes. Last Thursday I went for the first time to YAS in downtown LA. I always go to the same instructor, Elizabeth. I explained to her before class started that I was a few months out of a major surgery and that it was my first class back. She gave me some tips for pacing myself. The great thing about spinning is you are always in control of the workout, because you can adjust your resistance and speed. Plus, Elizabeth is a motivational instructor who always pushes you to do YOUR personal best–I know, that’s cheesy, but it works and it feels awesome.

I was really shocked at how well I did during that first class. I lasted the entire 45 minutes and only took a few breaks. And I felt no soreness during the days after!

This morning I woke up bright and early to make Elizabeth’s 6:15 am class. I felt great after, and I’m so glad I went. Finally, my spinning days are back!

I think it is important to note, however, that I’m glad I waited a long time before returning to spin classes. Yes, I resumed exercise only five days after my mastectomy, but walking and hula hooping (two of my other favorites) are more low-impact and less strenuous. They’re easy on the mind and the body. If I had tried to get back into spinning after only a month or so, I would have suffered a lot. My body was just not ready for it.

For other women who are recovering from surgery or considering a mastectomy, make sure you have conversations with your doctor about when it’s safe for you to resume exercise. I was annoyed with Dr. Festekjian because he kept telling me to hold off on spin classes, but I’m glad I listened to him.

And now I have some big exciting news I want to share with you all: I GOT A JOB! A REAL JOB! Okay yes, I had a job before, but I was a contractor. As of Monday I will officially be a permanent employee of Demand Media, working as an Associate Editor. To get an idea of what sort of work I do, check out this slideshow I wrote a few weeks ago for eHow.com, a property owned by Demand Media: Preparing for a Mastectomy.

I’m ecstatic about this opportunity for two reasons: First, I enjoy working at Demand Media (I started as an intern there in May 2010) and look forward to learning more about web publishing; second, I GET HEALTH INSURANCE.

My health insurance coverage will start at the beginning of July, meaning there will be no gap in coverage for me (my current insurance ends on June 30–will elaborate more in a future post). This is perfectly timed for my upcoming tissue expander replacement surgery.

Health insurance companies and their policies are a headache and I’ve definitely learned a ton about them recently. My mom is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to dealing with health insurance companies, and I’m definitely going to pick her brain for a post about BRCA, mastectomies, and health insurance.

Have a fantastic weekend, everyone! I’ll be in San Diego with some girlfriends, (hopefully) enjoying the sun.

Rachel’s visit to the Playboy Mansion

Before I start telling my story, can we all take a moment to appreciate the irony of the fact that I managed to make it all the way to the Playboy Mansion with only one boob? Some girls spend thousands on plastic surgery to get there—but me, I don’t even need to have a complete rack!

Okay…who am I kidding? When this is all said and done, I’ll have spent thousands on plastic surgery, too.

Onto the story:

As I mentioned in my teaser post, I received an email a few weeks ago from a young woman named Trisha who had gotten my contact info from my genetic counselor at UCLA. Trisha is 27, BRCA2+, a volunteer at the Revlon UCLA Breast Center, and a girlfriend of Hugh Hefner’s.

Um…wow! In her first email, when she mentioned she lived in the Playboy Mansion, I thought it was a joke. I really thought that someone was screwing with me. So I looked her up…and found the Twitter account of a girl named Trisha Frick who lives at the Playboy Mansion. I then emailed my genetic counselor, who confirmed that she had given my contact info to her.

“SHE’S REAL!” I squealed to myself when I saw the confirmation email. I was pretty excited.

But then I had to stop myself and take a step back. Yes, it was awesome that someone who lived in the freaking PLAYBOY MANSION wanted to talk to me. But she didn’t want to talk to me about that—she wanted to talk to me about my experience with a prophylactic mastectomy. Even though she was totally beautiful and lived in a kick ass house and went to awesome parties, she was also very much like me: a girl with a BRCA mutation who was trying to make sense of her high risk of breast cancer and figure out the right plan for her!

I emailed her back, trying not to sound too giddy or star-struck, and we soon started exchanging emails about our experiences with breast cancer and the BRCA mutation. After a few messages, we decided to meet up. And much to my delight, Trisha invited me to visit her at the Playboy Mansion for Sunday Funday!

Dear readers, please take this gem of wisdom to heart: if you ever find yourself in the fortuitous position of going to the Playboy Mansion, check your GPS twice. Please.

I left my boyfriend’s house in Glendora at 12:45 pm with the goal of being at the Playboy Mansion by 1:30 pm. Using the street address Trisha had emailed me, I plotted a route on my iPhone’s GPS and took off.

35 minutes later, I exited the freeway in an extremely seedy looking part of Eagle Rock. It really didn’t seem like the kind of place the Playboy Mansion would be located. For those of you who are familiar with the USC area, it looked like Vermont Avenue, with little taco stands and barbershops and cop cars everywhere.

After driving past the red destination marker on the iPhone map and still not seeing a luxurious mansion, I called Trisha. Trisha had never even heard of Eagle Rock.

…I was temporarily lost.

Trisha did mention that the Playboy Mansion is around UCLA. Hahaha, yep, I know where that is! Just for kicks, I manually entered the Mansion’s street address into my phone instead of clicking on the address through an email. And sure enough, a location in Holmby Hills near UCLA showed up.

I’m not sure why my iPhone’s navigation was being so rude, but it didn’t deter me from reaching my goal. I managed to arrive at the Mansion around 2:15 pm.

My first reaction upon seeing the Mansion as I drove up the steep driveway? “HOLY SHIT.”

The front of the Playboy Mansion

Most of you know that I am obsessed with castles. The Playboy Mansion looks like a European castle. It was love at first sight.

I parked behind a group of other cars and a valet took my keys. I stared around at my surroundings for a moment, dumbstruck and trying to take it all in, and then Trisha came to retrieve me.

It was really nice to meet Trisha in person. She is so sweet and so pretty, and I felt quite comfortable around her. She immediately took me out to the pool to meet some of her friends and Hugh Hefner.

Yep, I met Hef. And he was very kind and welcoming…he even posed for a photo with us! You gotta love his swag.

Who else could pull off that captain hat?

Trisha brought me over to a lady who handled logistics to sign in and order food. There was a set lunch menu with quite a few yummy-sounding options. I ordered the grilled cheese and a salad.

We then embarked on the grand tour. If you ever get the opportunity to take the grand tour of the Playboy Mansion, I highly suggest it.

First there’s the zoo! There are koi fish, peacocks, parrots, bunnies, and three species of monkeys…three! It’s insane. Just insane. That’s all I can really say.

Then there’s the game house. The game room itself has a pool table and tons of pinball machines and arcade games. Then there are a few small rooms and bathrooms off to the side, including a room with a very VERY squishy floor. (I wonder what they use that for? 😉 )

The inside of the game house

From there we saw another small house that was more like a green house than anything. I guess the proper term would be “aviary” because there were birds galore in there. My favorite was the toucan.

As we walked along the grounds, I also saw the tennis courts and a few different statues and busts that looked Grecian. The flowers in the garden were beautiful. Whoever takes care of the grounds does a wonderful job.

Near the pool is a building with bathrooms, a gym, lockers, and a sauna. Outside of that building, directly next to the pool, is the bar. The bartender whipped me up some kind of fruity rum drink—delicious!

For a while we relaxed by the pool as I snacked. The grilled cheese was petite and well-made—it really hit the spot! It was a good time for me to talk to Trisha and meet some of her friends. All of the girls I met were very kind and interesting. When Trisha and I explained how we knew each other, they were genuinely curious to know more about the BRCA genes and the mastectomy. I even passed out a few blog business cards!

After I was done eating we got ready to swim. We ordered a few beers (Heineken for me) and headed into the grotto. It was awesome. Seriously, if I’m ever rich and decide to build a pool at my house, there will definitely be a grotto!

Half of the grotto is a hot tub, and the other half is normal temperature. There are two large cushioned areas outside of the water, and there’s a speaker system. In between some of the rocks on the ceiling are stained glass decorations.

Me and Trisha, inside the grotto…so legit!

The water was very pleasant. I really like the idea of a grotto; you can enjoy the water without being exposed to the sun. Now that I’m trying to prevent cancer in all forms, I worry about that stuff!

After spending half an hour in the grotto, we got out and changed back into our clothes. Then Trisha and I took her dog Denny for a walk around the neighborhood and down to the park. Denny is soooooo cute. He’s a Husky/Shar-Pei mix. During our walk, Trisha let me interview her for the blog. We talked for over 25 minutes, all about the BRCA mutation and her mastectomy plans. I’m really excited to transcribe the interview from my phone for you to read!

Trisha and me before dinner inside the Mansion

Dinner was around 5 pm. It was buffet-style. I was quite pleased with the selection of vegetarian-friendly items, especially the entire platter of sliced tomatoes! The food was delicious. The dining room seemed to me to be crowded; there were quite a few girls there (some who lived in the Mansion, others who were visited like me) and some older individuals who were friends of Hef’s. Bandleader Ray Anthony was there, and apparently he is 90 years old but he didn’t look a day over 75! (I think that’s a compliment, right?)

Another one of Hef’s friends was passing around a riddle for people to solve. I don’t know how I did it, but after looking at just the first two lines I was able to solve it. He seemed quite amazed that I guessed it and asked me what my IQ was! Ha. He even told Hef’s brother that I was the only one who answered it correctly! I guess all of that Jeopardy pays off?

Hef came into the dining room around 6:15 pm and took a few pictures with Trisha and the other girls. Then he announced that it was time for the movie. The last part of the Sunday Funday festivities each Sunday is a movie; on this particular occasion, they were screening the new Snow White and the Huntsman with Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart.

I decided not to stay for the movie, so Trisha walked me back out to the valet to get my car. We exchanged hugs and goodbyes and she promised to keep me posted about her decision regarding a prophylactic mastectomy.

All in all, it was a fabulous day. I am so grateful that Trisha invited me, and I’m also really happy to have met her. I admire her confidence and respect her decision to pursue a prophylactic mastectomy, and I’m excited to post my interview with her because I hope that other BRCA+ and high-risk women will gain some insight from what she has to say.

Check back in a few days to read the interview!

You have to admit that I look pretty good at the Playboy Mansion, right?

My day at the Playboy Mansion–a preview!

WOW. What a day.

I was very fortunate to spend the afternoon and early evening at the Playboy Mansion today. And what’s great about it is that I was there…drumroll please…because of my BRCA2 mutation!

Proof that I was really at the Playboy Mansion: me, Hugh Hefner, and Trisha!

A few weeks ago I received an email from a woman named Trisha. In her email, Trisha wrote that she is also BRCA2 positive and that she got my contact info from my genetic counselor at UCLA. She said that she volunteers at the Revlon UCLA Breast Center during their high risk patient days, and is in the process of getting ready to do her own prophylactic mastectomy.

Oh, and she’s one of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends and wrote that she lives in the Playboy Mansion.

Trisha and I exchanged quite a few emails about our lives and our experiences with breast cancer and BRCA. When she invited me to visit her at the Mansion for Sunday Funday, I was ecstatic. First of all, it’s such a fun opportunity, and additionally, I was eager to talk to her more about her thoughts regarding the prophylactic mastectomy.

In the next few days, I’ll be writing more about my afternoon at the Mansion. I’ll also be transcribing and then posting an interview I did with Trisha in which we discussed breast cancer, BRCA, mastectomies, body image…everything!

Check back soon to read the interview about my awesome day at the Mansion!

Blog redesign

I’m extremely pleased to present to you my blog redesign!

When I started this blog and came up with the name Ticking Time Bombs, I always had an image in mind of a bra made out of bombs. That is, after all, how I felt about my breasts: they were deadly bombs waiting to explode!

As the blog grew, I realized that I needed to develop more of a brand. Many times in my daily life I strike up a conversation with someone who ends up having a personal connection to breast cancer or genetic testing or who knows someone who does. I usually end up scribbling my blog URL down on a scrap of paper and hope that they don’t lose it!

I needed blog business cards to give to the people I met. But If I was printing business cards, I’d need a better URL; the generic WordPress URL is difficult to remember. So I purchased http://www.tickingtimebombsblog.com.

Then I realized that if I started giving out business cards, they would need to match the look of my blog. But I was not exactly proud of the look of the blog. Sure, it worked…but honestly, I threw together the banner in about fifteen minutes. It could be a lot better.

Through ifreelance.com, I hired a wonderful freelance graphic designer based in the UK. We emailed back and forth about all of my requests and ideas, and soon, a logo was born.

From that fabulous logo came my business cards, and finally, my banner. (Yes, that’s supposed to be me in the logo. Originally the illustrated girl was a lot skinnier; I had to ask my designer to throw on a few pounds!)

I’m very excited to get my blog business cards printed this weekend so I can start giving them out to people who might want to visit the blog.

Thank you all for supporting me throughout this journey with my mastectomy and reconstruction and the development of the Ticking Time Bombs blog. Please keep passing on the link to anyone who could benefit from reading my story!

National Cancer Survivors Day is today!

Today is National Cancer Survivors Day, and I’m reminded today of how fortunate I am to have some special people in my life who have kicked some cancer ass: my mom; my boyfriend’s father Tim; my cousin Robbie; my friend Teresa; my dear friend’s mother Natalia; all of my wonderful blogging buddies and forum friends. And I’m sure there are more people I’ll remember as the day goes on!

Watching all of you inspired me in part to go through with my own prophylactic mastectomy. I am amazed at how many cancer patients turned their own painful struggles into stories of hope, courage, and success. You guys rock!