Embracing your inner sparkle!

When you know someone who has the biggest, brightest personality – for some reason you expect them to be the last one to leave your world. That’s how I felt about Helena McAlpine. So when she passed away a year ago it left a big hole in my life and my heart.

Last week http://www.stuff.co.nz asked me to write this piece on Helena to commemorate her one year anniversary. Helena lost her battle to breast cancer in September 2015 after a very long and brave fight. She will be remembered by so many people in New Zealand and the world…

http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/life/84793532/remembering-helena-mcalpine-best-friend-anna-jobsz-touching-thoughts-a-year-on-from-her-death

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Kia Kaha Helena in the sky Xxx

Getting it done!

My journey with BRCA was a strange thing. My mission to get testing seemed to take forever and it started to feel like I might never know whether I carried the cancer gene. So when the news finally came that I had tested positive as a carrier of the BRCA2 gene, I should have been prepared, and I thought I was, but I wasn’t at all. Hearing the words from Genetics NZ left me feeling numb.

The first few days after finding out I was overwhelmed thinking about what it would mean for me and my son. It wasn’t just the worry of surgery it was also the practical things like  -how long would I need to take off work? And who would look after Carlo? And what were the risks of the operation? Would I end up with breasts and nipples?

I had so many questions, and I realized that I had been so focused on trying to get testing that I hadn’t really thought about the next steps. St Marks Breast Clinic was helpful. The first thing they did was give me a folder of reading material. I was put under the care of Vanessa Blair, an Oncologist that specializes in ‘high risk’ cases, with a special interest in BRCA. She assesed my unique situation taking into consideration my family history and BRCA2 genetics and explained that my chance of breast cancer was extremely high. The thing that most shocked me was that BRCA cancers are most likey to strike at a younger age – they are not an older persons cancer.

In April 2016 I had a bilateral mastectoy at Auckland Surgical Hospital, under the care of St Marks.

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This photo  was taken the night before my operation. My girlfriend Delia came over to help calm my nerves. I told her what was planned with the surgery, and we celebrated my breasts and all the great memories they had given me. ‘Bye Bye Boobies’ we said. And although I was certain about my decision to remove my breasts, I was also apprehensive about the surgeries and procedures to come.

 

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The night before my double Mastectomy I didn’t get much sleep. Although I’m usually so calm under pressure, I wasn’t at all, it was unsettling. The morning of my operation I felt surprisingly OK. I said goodbye to Carlo and dropped him at his daycare to keep up our normal routine – then went on to Auckland Surgical Hospital.

My Plastic Surgeon Michelle Locke was very calming and ran through the procedure with me again. Dr Blair would remove my breast tissue and Dr Locke would work with her to put in my expanders (temporary pockets that get filled up with saline injections over 3 months).

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The operation was a success. I was under for more than 5 hours. But everything had gone as planned. The best news was that they had been able to do the nipple sparing procedure – I had kept my nipples! The first thing I said when I woke up was “I’m so glad they’re gone.” I was bruised, swollen and sore – but relieved.

It’s hard to really make the weeks that followed the operation sound great. I was very sore for the first 10 days and so frustrated not to be able to do all the things I wanted to do. It was over a week before I could make a cup of tea and even longer until I could really tuck my son into bed. But at no point did I regret the operation. I just looked forward to being fit and able again – and after two to three weeks I started to feel like myself.

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Only a couple of weeks after my operation I had my first expansion. The process was like something out of a sci-fi movie. Dr Locke explained I had metal ports inside the expander pockets, and started by using a magnet to find the point to inject. She used a pen to mark the exact spot. Then she injected me with a long needle that was attached with a curly tube to a syringe full of fluid. Gradually she pushed 100 mils of saline into my breast and it was like watching a balloon slowly inflate. I wish I had a picture to show you with just one side inflated – the difference was quite amazing.

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This photo was 4 weeks after my operation with 200 mils of saline in each breast, which is about an A cup. The inflation process takes approximately 3 – 4 months and during that time I kept having the inflations until I was back to my normal C cup size. The inflations feel really tight and they are generally uncomfortable. But there is light at the end of the tunnel!  Once the inflation process is complete the next operation is scheduled to have the silicones implanted.  Watch this space…

 

STORY ON STUFF:   http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/well-good/inspire-me/79422634/Mum-and-socialite-Anna-Jobsz-undergoes-double-mastectomy-for-her-son

Canadian Woman raises awareness for BRCA

Canadian woman, Laura Kelly carries the BRCA gene. After losing both her parents to cancer her odds of getting both breast cancer and ovarian cancer were extremely high. A few months ago she had a double mastectomy at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto.

I feel so many parallels with Laura, as though we are living almost the same life in another place.

Check our Laura’s story and her brave message here: http://www.orilliapacket.com/2016/08/25/washagos-laura-kelly-who-carries-rare-genetic-mutation-wants-testing-to-be-more-accessible

Laura’s blog here:  http://www.laurakellybrca.ca/

Laura Kelly

Information from the story:

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, most breast and ovarian cancers are not hereditary. Some women have a family history of breast cancer, but only a small number are due to an inherited gene that increases their risk of cancer.

“BRCA mutations account for about 5% of all breast cancers and 4% to 11% of all ovarian cancers,” the agency says on its website. “Genes are not the only factor that affects cancer risk, so not every woman who inherits a BRCA gene mutation will develop breast or ovarian cancer.”

EA Power

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Last week I was honoured to feature as the guest speaker at the Robert Walters Executive Breakfast, an annual event held for their top EA’s. The list of EA’s was impressive, with representatives from many of the country’s top businesses.

The topic was ‘Closing the confidence gap between men and women in senior leadership’ and a big part of it was looking at how we gain confidence as women to set ourselves on the path to senior positions.

Researching the topic was interesting. I could not believe that in such a gender equal society we still have only 13 – 15% of women in leadership positions. The numbers didn’t seem right? And on investigation it wasn’t a case of competence, so much as confidence that has been proven as the missing link.

I showed the guests some of a TED TALKS discussion by Facebook COO SHERYL SANDBERG

Sandberg gives examples of confidence issues in women and talks about the obstacles faced by women wanting to further their careers. One of her most powerful statements was ‘keep your foot on the throttle until the day you leave’. She advises that regardless of your future plans, you should keep moving in a forward direction until the very day you leave your organization.

We also discussed work life balance and the importance of wellness in your daily lives. About a third of the guests already had workplace wellness plans in place, and many of the EA’s wanted to implement plans within their organization. Some interesting research has been carried out by Robert Walters (as part of their White Papers on ’empowering females in business’) which suggests that the majority of both employees and employers see the value of a workplace wellness programme. That to me is a win!

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When aiming for career leadership, research suggests three key steps to progressing your career:    1> Mentoring 2> Training Programmes 3> Networking with Senior Leadership   (in that order)

We discussed the importance of mentors, and the way we can work with our mentors as an ongoing part of our careers. I shared several of my role models with the audience and I was surprised to learn that not a single person in the room had a mentor or role model that they were working with to further their careers. I wondered if this was to do with our Kiwi mentality of ‘hanging back’? Or perhaps a lack of confidence in approaching a mentor? So much research points to mentors as being the single most important step to career success – so why is this not the norm in NZ? That is a question I cannot answer.

Anna's mentor - Erica Crawford

 

One of my beloved Kiwi role models is Wine Entrepreneur, Erica Crawford. Formerly of Kim Crawford Wines and more recently Loveblock Organic Wines. Erica’s business savvy is second to none and her career speaks for itself. After eight successful years of growing the Kim Crawford business the wine label became a top wine exporter to the US and Canada. The company was eventually sold to Vincor International and Erica was able to pursue new ventures in NZ’s wine and lifestyle industries.

 

I gave this example to the audience and encouraged them to find their own role models and mentors – a ‘smart support person’ who is willing to work with them on their future careers and give unbiased business direction.

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I closed the talk with a simple yet powerful life analogy. “Look after yourself so that you can look after those around you.”

No one can be powerful and project happiness onto others unless they are really happy within themselves. While we know this – it can be easy to forget. Whether we are mothers, partners, colleagues, friends, daughters or otherwise, it’s always great to remind ourselves of our own needs.

I loved meeting the EA’s at The Langham and the discussion that followed. I look forward to more inspirational talks to come.

 

More interesting reads here on ‘The Confidence Gap’ & women’s leadership:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/05/the-confidence-gap/359815/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ekaterina-walter/leadership-qualities-women_b_2491203.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2016/03/03/real-women-say-what-gives-them-confidence_n_9029744.html

 

 

 

 

So Much Love!

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Life BC (Before Carlo) was fun and full of highs!

As a busy PR girl I was always on the go, working overtime in the office, attending social events and spending time with my many friends. Drives in the convertible, long weekends at music festivals and jaunts to Sydney were just some of the regular features in my life.

And yet in the years leading up to the birth of my son something did feel empty. There was fun and there was excitement and probably ‘busyness’ would be a better way to describe my life – but in many ways it was a solitary life.

At age 26 I had been diagnosed with Endometriosis and at age 28 came another diagnosis –  Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

I wasn’t shocked really, we always had so much Ovarian Cancer in my family and I had always known my mother to have Endo. I tried with a long term partner to become pregnant but it didn’t work out. So I accepted that I probably wouldn’t be a mum and I tried to take it all in my stride and put motherhood in the back of my mind.

Eventually becoming pregnant was a very happy surprise and having Carlo in 2013 was such a special time.

I won’t sugar coat it – there were many many challenges I faced as a single mum and a parent in general. But those challenges didn’t take away from all the precious ‘firsts’ you experience. I will never forget watching my little guy open his icy blue eyes just moments after he was born, or taking his first steps across the room at 12 months old – unforgettable moments.

They certainly weren’t all the firsts I was expecting. Such as the first time he slept longer than 45 minutes at 6 weeks old and the first time we had to race to Starship Hospital late at night with Carlo passed out in my arms. In the end though the challenging moments become such special memories, because you do your best and you triumph – and that to me counts as a win.

BC might have been fun but AC is The Real Life!

#MumLife

 

 

 

Dear Mummy

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Author – Tui Flemming

The last event I attended before my big operation was the book launch of ‘Dear Mummy, You’re Important Too’. The author Tui Fleming is a passionate writer, career woman and mother of two young daughters.

I first met Tui at Westlake Girls in 1995 and she went on to become our head girl in my final year of College.  Intelligent, warm and driven are the three words I would use to describe Tui. So when she came to me with plans to launch her pending book I was delighted, but not one bit surprised that she had managed to get this project together all on her own.

‘Dear Mummy, You’re Important Too’ is about finding yourself again after becoming a mum. Tui’s perspective is that to be a great mum you need to be a great you.

unnamedI couldn’t agree with Tui more. When we feel together and happy in ourselves our energy reflects onto our little ones and those around us.  And while there are so many parenting ‘self help’ books available, I feel this one is more relevant to today’s busy lives. The focus is on the parent being the best version of themselves and coping with the many challenges of parenting through their own inner strength. Amen!

Here is Tui talking on TVNZ Breakfast, answering some interesting questions about being a mummy and putting yourself first   https://youtu.be/JMSVcX9NkFo

I asked Tui her thoughts on her own life as a busy working mum and she had this to say,

“Work to live, not live to work. I’ve always believed in that philosopy. For me t was never just about money and attainment. Working is about making connections, learning and being inspired. In reverse it’s about teaching, inspiring and developing others.”

“I should also mention ‘guilt’ because working mums feel so much of this. But we needn’t. If you must work to pay then bills, then how about feeling proud of your contribution? If you work because you want to then do it with gusto and enjoy it! Let it fill your cup and fuel you with satisfaction so that when you go home to your family you give them quality, full engagement.”

Food for thought… Tui also posted this inspiring blog post to her site!

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The book is well researched and brings in external influences and learnings for a well balanced read.  It centers around musings, motivations and morsels as key areas to drive your thinking as a mummy. But what I really love about this book is the practicality of the words and advice. This is not a book full of fluff! It’s a book full of great ideas and I think any mum (or parent) would benefit from reading it.

You can find out more about purchasing the book at www.dearmummy.co.nz

Dear Mummy NZ Facebook  community  http://www.facebook.com/dearmummyNZ

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You can sample the free E-Book here:     http://dearmummy.co.nz/shop/ebook/

You can read the blog here:        http://dearmummy.co.nz/blog/

 

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Tui speaking with her panel of career mums

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Media and special guests at the book launch

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Anna Reeve and I at the book launch

 

Pretty In Pink #PinkRibbon

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Photo at the Generator Pink Ribbon Breaky – on my right is Evangelina from NZBCF and in the pink vest is Breast Cancer survivor and BRCA carrier – Karin Horen

Today I was invited to speak at the Generator Pink Ribbon Breakfast. They asked me to share my story about having the BRCA cancer gene and my experience having a double mastectomy.

I was excited to see a few familiar faces in the room and I felt so much warmth and support from people I’d never even met before. It’s times such as these that make me proud to be a Kiwi!

I should also note the strong presence of males in the room. These are men who are brave enough to surround themselves with pink cupcakes and hear chicks talk about boob issues. Good on you boys!

 

They kicked off by playing this video:

http://www.newshub.co.nz/tvshows/story/finding-out-your-cancer-risk-a-hard-fought-battle-2016021119#axzz49ii4L08j

It was weird watching that video back and thinking about the stage I was going through at that point. I was making decisions about my mastectomy and talking to specialists at St Marks. It’s amazing to think how far you can come in just a few months!

Yesterday I sat down to write my story and I wondered where to start? I came to the conclusion that you can only really start at the beginning. So I talked about my first experiences of Breast Cancer as a child – finding out that my mum’s best friend had Breast Cancer and going to see her for the last time. The realization that Cancer isn’t an old person’s illness and that young parents can be taken away.

I went on to talk about losing my father to stomach cancer when he was age 39, and my own mother’s journey with breast cancer. Watching her lose both of her breasts and then the lengthy struggle to stay alive – she has been inspirational to say the least.

The final part was about my own BRCA journey and my experience having a double mastectomy. There’s so much to say about that it’s hard to squeeze into one post.

This morning was tinged with bittersweet feelings. I couldn’t stop thinking about Helena and I realized walking into Generator that it’s the first time I’ve ever been there without her. If those walls could talk! So many parties including numerous breast cancer events, Birthday parties and even a singles party – all with Helena.

It was comforting to have Helena’s husband Christopher at the event today. He never ceases to amaze me with his brave face and total strength of character. Some people deal with a lot in their lives but they always manage to keep on smiling from the inside out.

Now I deserve my pink cupcake!

Kia Kaha

Anna x

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Collecting with Christopher Barton & the Helena gang in 2015

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#MumLife

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We are ‘do it all’ 21st century mums with active children, busy careers, partners (or not!), friends, hobbies and passions. But how?? How did we become these women who take on so bloody much and manage to juggle everything around us on a constant basis? I’m still working that out!

I am always on the quest for the perfect balance… the balance of ‘mumness’, PR Girl duties, being a good friend and daughter, whilst trying to be a healthy happy individual. Sometimes I wonder if I’m so focused on finding my balance that I’m missing out on fun stuff along the way? But I guess that’s all just part of this thing called LIFE!

In this blog I will share posts about me, Anna Jobsz, a 36 year old mum with an energetic toddler and a busy PR & Events career. I have a bunch of amazing girlfriends here in New Zealand who I will invite to share their own ‘career mum’ journeys on this site.

Kia Kaha,

Anna X

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What is BRCA?

The first time I heard about the BRCA cancer gene it was a news story on TV about Angelina Jolie. I couldn’t believe she had undergone a preventative double mastectomy, it was the first time I’d ever heard of anyone doing such a thing.

Soon after I read this story that Angelina published in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/14/opinion/my-medical-choice.html?_r=0

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Little did I realize that my own BRCA cancer odds were so similar to Angelina’s.

It took me some time to get testing approved and completed through Genetics NZ – which I spoke about on One News and TV3 Story. Eventually in January this year I was confirmed to carry the BRCA2 gene.

http://www.newshub.co.nz/tvshows/story/finding-out-your-cancer-risk-a-hard-fought-battle-2016021119

One of the first websites I checked out was ‘The Gift Of Knowledge’, run by Nicola, a kiwi woman who carries the BRCA gene. There is plenty of information here about BRCA and support networks available  http://www.thegiftofknowledge.co.nz

“Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer is caused by mutations in two genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes were discovered in 1994-1995 (the acronym BRCA comes from BReast CAncer one or BReast CAncer two). Normally these genes act like brakes that help stop abnormal cell growth in the breasts and ovaries. However errors (called mutations) can occur in these BRCA genes, and if a woman has inherited a mutation in one of these genes she has a high chance of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer. Women who carry a mutation in one of these genes may have a 50-85% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer and a 20-40% lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer. About 1 in every 400 people in our population carries a mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2, and less than 5% of all breast and ovarian cancers can be explained by a BRCA mutation.”<The Gift Of Knowledge>

Also helpful was good old Wikipedia  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRCA1

Something I didn’t initially understand is that the BRCA gene can be passed from father to daughter. I had suspected I might have BRCA gene on my mothers side of the family, but it was actually passed to me from my father. Similarly I did not realize that men could develop  Breast Cancer. Last year my uncle (my father’s brother) had his breast removed due to Breast Cancer and was eventually confirmed to have the family BRCA2 gene.

Here is a recent story in the Washington post that relates to male BRCA gene Breast Cancer  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2016/05/15/why-more-men-should-be-tested-for-breast-cancer-gene-mutations/

Angelina Jolie eventually went on to have her ovaries removed to reduce her chance of Ovarian Cancer. Identifying Ovarian Cancer is very difficult and it is often recommended to BRCA carriers to have their ovaries removed by age 40.

I also found some good information on this site about what to look for if you think your family might carry the BRCA gene.

http://thebreastcentre.co.nz/breast-cancer/genetic-testing.aspx

I hope this info has been helpful, please let me know if you have any feedback or other links you’d like to post.