Learning to shine despite my disability

Growing up is hard enough without taking away the camaraderie of shared experiences. Kathryn has muscular dystrophy (MD) and has struggled with how to deal with being alone in her differences throughout her life. “I always felt different, especially as a teenager. There was just a difference when I’d be around kids my age. I couldn’t do things that they could do. I might be able to do certain things, but usually with limitations.”

When she was younger, Kathryn would hide it from people. In college, she can remember parking in a handicap spot but intentionally not using her handicap hanger, because she didn’t want people to know that she had a disability. But now Kathryn is able to admit, “deep down, I thought that people would not like me or accept me if they knew I was different.”

Turns out that it was her that needed to do the accepting. As she learned it began to shape her character. “My MD helped me to be the person that I am right now, which is someone who is able to love people where they’re at and help people get beyond a problem that they might have.”

When it came to choosing a career, Kathryn wanted to choose a career that would match her physical abilities. But she also wanted to be able to use her life experiences for the greater good. As a counselor Kathryn is able to help her clients accept the cards that life has dealt them, recognizing that sometimes you can’t control what happens to you, but it is adversity that actually makes you who you are.

Kathryn confesses that self acceptance does not change the situation; she still has many things that she is unable to do on her own. “It’s always on my mind, because when I do things, I just can’t go and do things like other people. I have to plan. I have to think about whether the car is too high to get into myself or if I can step up onto that porch. I can’t do a lot of those things on my own, and I have to ask for help. It can be very frustrating, because you want to be like everyone else… But then I remind myself that everyone feels different in some way, and this is my difference.”

Like Kathryn, it is our choice to reflect on what we can do and to bring out that positive spirit in our community. After all, we can only do one thing at a time… better to choose something that works toward the good!

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Make a Wish
To enter the contest that inspired Kathryn’s wish, check out Pantene’s Beautiful Wishes. And since $1 is donated to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program, which makes wigs for women who’ve lost their hair to cancer, we’ll all come out winners in the end.

An Expert Opinion
Get hair care solutions from the industry’s best courtesy of Pantene, which is hosting the Beautiful Wishes contest that Kathryn entered.

A Little Experiment
Want to know the science behind beautiful hair? Take a look at Pantene’s Under the Microscope to see how heat and brushing can terrorize your tresses.

A Source of Strength
At the Muscular Dystrophy Association, researchers are working to finding cures for more than 40 neuromuscular diseases affecting Americans of all ages.

On Her Own
Glenda Watson Hyatt shares her experiences living with cerebral palsy to motivate and inspire others to think about their own situation and the world around them. She does all this by typing with only her left thumb!

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When breast cancer becomes a family affair

Jean had been planning the trip of a lifetime for more than a year.

Ever since her husband had passed away, she and her three daughters had been daydreaming about their vacation in Hawaii. They wanted a chance to create new memories and to solidify their family bond. They planned for months, and in the midst of all the excitement, Jean was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I was the first person in my family to have breast cancer, and it was devastating,” said Jean. “I found out from having a mammogram, and from there it was really fast. I had surgery and then I went through chemo for about 8 months.”

Not wanting to let her girls down, Jean decided to go ahead with the trip. She hadn’t even finished treatment yet.

“I never saw her get sick,” said Jean’s daughter Tina. “She would never tell me. I would say, ‘How are you feeling?’ and she’d say, ‘A little tired.'”

After completing her treatment and getting a clean bill of health, Jean felt like breast cancer was out of her life for good. But 5 years later, on the anniversary of her last treatment, her daughter Tina got the same fateful call.

“That was even worse for me,” Jean said. “When something happens to your kids, you’re going to blame yourself. That is just being a mother.”

Since both Jean and Tina knew exactly what breast cancer was like, since their family had felt so deeply its impact, Tina admits that she was afraid it might be genetic.

She put off testing for a while, afraid that if it was genetic she’d have to admit it wasn’t over. Her sister, who was concerned for all the women in their family, eventually convinced her to get it done.

“It took me awhile to get the results because they test something like 16,000 different points in your blood,” said Tina. “Finally my doctor called and she said it was all negative. There is an 85% chance that I will not have a reoccurrence and 75% chance that no other female in my family will get it. I didn’t think that I was that worried about it, but after she told me everything was negative I was really relieved. I could tell all the girls it isn’t going to be our fault.”

Getting a clean bill of health made Tina realize just how important it is to find a cure. She decided to take the positive outlook she depended on through her treatment and put it toward throwing a benefit to raise money for breast cancer research.

Using her sense of humor and enlisting the help of the women in her life, Tina set out to get donations and plan a silent auction.

“I was scared to death,” she said. “Basically, I learned how to beg!”

Friends and Families for a Cure has become an annual event, and Tina makes sure that the benefit celebrates all the survivors it benefits.

“We have a DVD that shows survivors pictures playing during the event, and we have a memory board shaped like a ribbon for people who didn’t make it through,” she said. “I can’t believe that there isn’t someone out there who hasn’t been touched by breast cancer. Either they know someone, or they’re related to somebody. I think if you put a name and a face with it, it makes it a lot more real for people.”

Dietgirl to the rescue!

It was mid January of 2001, 23 year-old Shauna was doing laundry, “I was hanging my knickers on the line. Size 26 and gigantic, they were so worn out that the elastic was gone and the fabric transparent… Then I hung up my little sisters. Hers were like a size 6 and frilly and dainty. I remember looking up at the contrast between them and thinking, ‘I’m twenty-three years old. I can’t believe I’m wearing granny pants. How can these possibly belong to me.’”

Well, 8,000 miles, 7 years, and 175 pounds later, Shauna is literally half the woman she used to be. A real-life superhero, she has blogged her way through defeating her demons and conquering her cravings all while traveling the globe and meeting the man of her dreams in a Scottish pub. “I lost my job. I lost my grandfather. I moved half way across the world. I had to start to realize that I was going to have to step back from my black and white thinking—I realized that I didn’t have to wait until I was skinny to do things,” said Shauna.

Practically raised in weight watchers meetings, Shauna was all too familiar with the dieter’s mentality. Self-loathing came as naturally (and as often) as breathing air. But one day Shauna decided that a life of bullying her body into social perfection was just not good enough. She wanted more—it was time to feel comfortable in her skin. Easier said than done…

The real ticket to Shauna’s success was creating her wildly successful blog, The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl. With her wry humor and sage-like optimism Shauna set out on her journey to self-love and found strength in the community of the interweb. “While I knew what to do with what I ate and how I moved, I’d never done the work on sorting out what was in my head,” Shauna said. ”Why did I over eat? Why did I turn to food for comfort? And writing about it was the way that I started to unravel all of the issues in my head.”

What’s the hardest part about losing half of your body weight? Changing the way you talk to yourself. “Once I started treating myself kindly with good food and exercise instead of disgust and anger,” she writes, “I started to appreciate my body, lumps and bumps and all. There was more to me than the size of my jeans, after all.”

No better words have graced our ears.

5 things to remember

1. You don’t have to be perfect, just persistent.

“When you have a bad day—or bad months—you don’t have to give up. It may not being the ideal situation, but if you do the best you can you will get there. It may not be as fast, or perfect as you hoped. But what is?”

2. Be prepared.
“Rather than waiting for hunger to strike and being so tired after work that I just go through the drive-thru or order a pizza, I take the time to plan my meals for the week and do the shopping so that I’m prepared. I have healthy foods in my cupboards at home. I have healthy foods in my desk at work. I still eat the foods that I really enjoy. I just plan them in rather than gobbling them all of the time.”

3. Let go of the idea that you are either on or off the wagon.
4. Accept that life gets in the way.

5. Set new challenges.
“I have an orange belt in kickboxing (which means I am qualified to kick down an old lady). It’s not just about eating healthy and trudging off to the gym, it’s an activity; it’s a new experience; I’m learning something. So it’s not an endless bore. I don’t go to class so that I can burn calories so that I can eat my dinner tonight, I go because it’s fun.”

Overall, this weight losing superstar’s philosophy boils down to this: Do the healthy more often than you don’t do the healthy thing. Remember that life is not about numbers and scales, it’s about eating well and being kind to yourself. And that’s a lesson we can all learn—weight-loss game or not.

Shauna’s book is out now in the USA! Check out The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl.

MORE TIPS amp;& TOOLS

Listen up!
Tune in for Shauna’s interview podcast with Back in Skinny Jeans

Read Shauna’s blog
Just do it! You’ll thank us later.

10 blog’s to drool over when you are on a diet
Check out Shauna’s picks for what to read.

Taking the mystery out of mammograms

There are certain things in life, those little maintenances that we just don’t take seriously. Well, at least not until we have to… For example, dentists swear that flossing every day will prevent cavities and tooth decay… But, come on Dr. Rosenblat! It’s a wonder that I made this appointment in the first place. Or maybe it’s talking on your cell phone in the car (It was only for a second) or jaywalking or sunscreen. And show me the woman who subjects herself to helmet-hair if she can avoid it! That’s what I thought.

We all know that it would be painfully easy to add these little maintenances into our routines, but sometimes it takes a root canal or an accident to remind us of the virtues of taking precautions. Fortunately for “Guiding Light” star Kim Zimmer, experiencing breast cancer through her role was enough to make her proactive about her health.

“I was a bad girl,” Kim said, “My sister is a survivor of breast cancer, and my grandmother lost both breasts to it. Having a history of the disease in your family should certainly be impetus enough for one to be more proactive with their own health. But fear of the unknown always held me back from going to the doctor.”She hadn’t had a mammogram in about seven years.

When Kim’s character on Guiding Light, Reva, began going to go through the experience of breast cancer, every thing changed. As the doctors looked her in the eye and told her, “This is your fault; It’s your fault that you have advanced stages of breast cancer because you were not proactive in your personal healthcare,” she could not help but feel the gravity of the mistake she was making in her own life.

Although she did not do a lot of research on breast cancer in order to accurately portray Reva’s surprise, Kim did cut her hair. In fact, she even wore a lot of bandannas and headgear off the set to see how people might treat her differently. “People didn’t approach me in my neighborhood,” Kim Said. “They approached other people and said, ‘Is Kim all right? We see that she’s playing this storyline. Is she OK, or is she really going through breast cancer?’” Although having people discuss her health behind her back was difficult, it did help Kim become more conscious of how she treats other women who might be going through breast cancer.

But it was quite another story on the set when the casting crew hired actual cancer survivors for the episode at the breast cancer clinic. “I became very guarded about what I said in the rehearsal hall,” said Kim. But soon enough, the women had her laughing and Kim’s perspective was transformed once again. “When we were out of the scene, we talked about real life things. We didn’t just talk about their struggles… These women were incredible. Their battles were all different; they were in different stages of recovery. Some of them were still facing more chemo.”

“I was so afraid before, but imagine how much scarier it is to be sick and not know it. My take now is that there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

So before you loose your teeth, your head, or your breasts, take a minute to be proactive and take responsibility for your health. It’s time.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Watch Kim on Guiding Light

Have you had your mamogram?
The American Cancer Society recommends that a woman obtain her first baseline mammogram between the ages of 35 to 40.

Imagine life without breast cancer
Join Susan G. KomenTo save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality care for all and energizing science to find the cures.

How to perform a self exam
Women should be aware of how their breasts normally look and feel and report any new breast change to a health professional as soon as they are found.

Tales of a reformed sun-worshiper

Like many of us, Whitney always felt prettier when she was tan. She felt she looked more alive, all rosy cheeked and sun kissed. Even her teeth looked whiter against the dark complexion of her skin.

“I think it’s that when I was little my parents never put sun block on me. So there are pictures of me where I am basically brown, and I asked my parents about it and they said: you know, we never really thought to put sunscreen on you. People didn’t know then.”

Whitney is a Brooklyn, NY native who remembers lying on the roof of her building to sunbathe as a young girl. “It was completely black asphalt, it wasn’t like a nice roof to lie on, it wasn’t comfortable. I would bring a towel out and I would scorch myself and I thought it was great. And people would say—oh my gosh, you’re so dark! And the more people said that, the happier I was.”

A few years ago the woman at the makeup counter took one look at the wrinkles under Whitney’s eyes and asked how old she was. “When I told her I was only 24, she predicted right away that I was a sun worshiper and started recommending eye creams.”

Whitney thought—I am only 24, if I continue like this, what will I look like when I turn 30? “I didn’t want wrinkles, and I definitely didn’t want skin cancer. From that point on, I really changed my ways.”

Avoiding the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the rays are most powerful, may be the best option for protection against UV rays, but sometimes this is just not practical! Visit the Green Guide for some tips on how to make educated choices about your time in the sun.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Get Smart about Protection
Check out the best and worst sunscreen list on the Environmental Working Groups cosmetic safety database.

Green Sunscreen?
If you are serious about protecting our planets sensitive ecosystems, using a chemical free sunscreen is an easy transition. One environmentally friendly sunscreen that can make it easy for you is MelanSol–it contributes to a healthy body and a healthy planet.

Tipping the scales: A midlife crisis

For most of her life Bonnie never had to struggle with her weight. In fact, a normal weight for her was less than 100 lbs. “In my growing up years, my teenage years, and my young adult years I was very, very thin. I am not even five feet tall. I am a very small person, so that was my normal weight.”

“When I had my first child I went to 130 lbs—that is 30lbs on a small body. I lost most of it quickly and got down to 115, but that was still 15 lbs more than I normally weighed. Then with the next child I went to 150 lbs, and it took me three years to get me down to 115. My last child was premature, she weighed 4 lbs and I gained maybe 40 lbs. I was almost 40 when I had that baby and that is when it began, my hormones changed. And it was a real struggle.”

Bonnie is a self proclaimed naturalist; of course she looked for the most natural way to help with weight loss. After some research, she found an herb called Hoodia that helped her lose the weight. “Hoodia worked for me, but I also learned that your body needs to eat. You can never lose weight by not eating. You have to eat and you have to eat smart. I drink soy protein drinks, and I eat very well, very naturally.”

Along with conscious eating, maintaining your health also means maintaining an active lifestyle. Getting creative with how you move your body does not have to be as specific as running on a treadmill everyday. “A dear friend of mine, her husband is a paraplegic. He is a fine artist and amazing, but he is also as big as my finger. One day I said, “Gee, he is so thin,” and she said, “Do you see what he is doing? He is sitting in the chair wiggling. His doctor says that he burns 4,200 calories a day just through his wiggles.” I thought to myself, if I sit there and read a book and shake my hand, can I lose weight? Yes! Any movement counts.”

As an acting teacher, Bonnie used one of her own exercises in accountability to give herself a reality check. “You shut the door and you don’t tell anyone what you are going to do. You strip naked and assess what you have. But instead of going “I hate my hips,” look at what is beautiful. There are more lovely things happening in a woman’s body than there are things that are horrible.”

Eating smart is half the battle, check out the 11 Best Foods You Are not Eating to give your body some love.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

23 Ways About It
Mommy, writer and successful baby weight loser Beth Howard gives you 23 practical, straightforward tips to shed your post-baby pounds.

Breaking the Tape
A mom of three transforms herself into a triathlete. Read about her trials and tribulations at 21st Century Mom

Hip Chicks and Macrobiotics
Author Jessica Porter gives fresh insight on a tried-and-true dietary practice in her “Hip Chicks Guide to Macrobiotics.”

Whole Grain Nation
Test your whole grain IQ and figure out how much more you should be eating at Whole Grain Nation.

The New Pyramid Plan
The food pyramid as we know it is forever gone. Check out My Pyramid, where you can customize a balanced diet of grains, fruits, veggies and proteins that works for you!

Real women, real secrets for staying in shape

Real women on the street share their secrets and practical tricks for staying in shape.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Breaking the Tape
A mom of three transforms herself into a triathlete. Read about her trials and tribulations at 21st Century Mom.

Whole Grain Nation
Test your whole grain IQ and figure out how much more you should be eating at Whole Grain Nation.

The New Pyramid Plan
The food pyramid as we know it is forever gone. Check out My Pyramid, where you can customize a balanced diet of grains, fruits, veggies and proteins that works for you!

What’s Quinoa?
Learn all about this delicious, nutty superfood and all the creative ways to bring it into your diet.

23 Ways About It
Mommy, writer and successful baby weight loser Beth Howard gives you 23 practical, straightforward tips to shed your post-baby pounds.

Get Physical
Featuring personalized programs and support, Women Fitness shares healthy recipes and gives you access to the weight loss experts.