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7 Safe Summer Tips for Breast Cancer Survivors

Summer is here!

*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links for products mentioned. I will earn a commission if you purchase but your price will not be affected.*

Although spring is my favorite season, I think summer is actually more fun. Shhh... don't tell anyone I said that. Summer vacations can be the things that fantasies are made of. It feels so wonderful to hang outside, get sun-kissed and enjoy water sports. I love swimming and boating! And picnics in the park, and wine festivals... and road trips... I could go on and on.

However, as a survivor, I have learned that there are a few precautions that I have to take now to ensure that I actually enjoy my summer and don't inadvertently make myself sick or unnecessarily uncomfortable.

But as a self-proclaimed sexy survivor... the precautions I use (and recommend) do not have to cramp your style. You too can be safe in the summer sun AND look fabulous at the same time.

*Peep the mastectomy bikini! I love this. I'm ordering this immediately.* 

Breast cancer survivor summer chic

Here are 7 Safe Summer Tips for you...

Protect your skin (including your head)

Breast cancer treatment is pretty harsh on your skin. The medications that we take (and our treatments) can make our skin very sensitive or easy to burn. Protect yourself with loose fitting, comfortable clothing. A nice size floppy hat is great too. It helps to keep your head, ears and neck protected from the sun. If your scalp is tender from treatment (mine was), try putting on a silk scarf first and placing the hat on top of that.

A big soft, packable hat like this is
a great summer investment.
Click the hat to purchase.

Use sunscreen SPF 30 or higher

I love the water. I can honestly stay in the ocean for hours. I once got the worst sunburn of my life by hanging out in the warm Miami water for hours without using sunscreen. Needless to say, that was a huge lesson for me on the usefulness of sunscreen. For everyone. Now, years later and after going through breast cancer treatment, I am super cautious about using sunscreen. Again, medications and treatment can leave your skin very sensitive and vulnerable to sunburn. Please... PLEASE whatever you do, use sunscreen. And apply it often while outside.

Personally, I prefer the spray on kind because its easy to apply alone. (I don't always have someone with me to help me reach those awkward places - like the back of your shoulders - so it comes in handy to have a spray.) But spray, lotion or cream... just make sure you protect your skin. SPF 30+ (or higher) broad spectrum sunscreen is the recommendation from many cancer organizations. (I usually use 60 or higher but they tell me its not necessary) And remember to reapply often.

Neutrogena is my personal favorite. I prefer sport versions because
they are water/sweat resistant. Click the bottle to purchase or
learn more.

Drink lots of fluids (stay hydrated)

Being well-hydrated is important for everyone in the summer months. But when you're in treatment for cancer, taking medications, etc. hydration is critically important. Trust me... I ended up in the hospital more than once because of dehydration. And being pumped with fluids by an IV is not that much fun. Save yourself the headache and drink lots of water and fluids. I try to increase my water intake by half or more, if I'm spending a lot of time outside. Do what works for you.

If drinking water isn't exciting enough, try adding fruit to your water to infuse it with natural flavor (instead of sugar and colorings). Also, coconut water is really great for hydration. It has natural electrolytes that make you feel really great. If you don't like the taste of coconut water (it is kind of an unusual taste), gatorade or powerade or something like that is also pretty good. Just drink fluids that will hydrate you and not dehydrate you (alcohol, wine, coffee, soda... all can dehydrate you).

Coconut water is delicious and refreshing. Really great
for hydrating naturally thanks to the electrolytes and minerals.
Click the bottle to purchase.

Swimming is okay (with your doc's permission) but no hot tubs or saunas

I have this really awkward looking picture (actually a few of them) at the beach just a few months after I had my mastectomy. I was a swollen, lumpy, lopsided mess. I say that in hindsight because at the time, while I felt terrible, I was so excited to be at the beach that I was far less vain than I would normally be. At the time, I didn't know about post-mastectomy swimwear. Even after I learned that there was such a thing, I still didn't know for a few years that not all of the suits were horrible looking (and over-priced... but you didn't hear that from me). In the years since, I've found a lot of really stylish and *gasp* sexy swimsuits for gals who have had a mastectomy and may need to add a prosthesis to their suit. These suits are usually cut a bit higher in the neckline and in the back, to hide scars and to accommodate a prosthesis.

That said, just because you can find a really cute, sassy suit to wear... you should be sure to get clearance from your medical team if you're still in treatment. When I went on vacation and talked it over with my oncologist, he cautioned me against getting into swimming pools. but he did give me the okay to dip into the ocean. I have to tell you, the warm ocean water felt so good on my body. I couldn't stay out there long (at the time I had a lot of fatigue issues) but it was heavenly. Since I'm no longer in active treatment, I get in pools when I can and the ocean as well. I still don't get into hot tubs though because of my lymphedema. Sucks but it's not worth the risk.

*Between you and I, I tried getting into a hot tub on my last trip to the beach and it left me sick for a couple of days... so, don't do it if you've got lymphedema issues. Take my word for it.*

This cute one-piece is a mastectomy suit. As is the bikini pictured
above. They both have pockets that allow for a prosthesis and other
features that mastectomy patients will value. Click the suit to purchase or learn more.

Stay cool and shaded -- high temperatures can trigger hot flashes

I can't say this one enough. The sun is good for a nice dose of vitamin D - and as breast cancer survivors, we are typically deficient in this vitamin. However, overheating is a real thing. Besides staying hydrated and not over-exerting yourself during the hottest parts of the day... spending time in the shade is very helpful. You can still get your vitamin D in the shade. But I'm here to tell you... hot flashes on a hot day are sooo uncomfortable. And dangerous. If you don't want to stay indoors (and who does), sit under an umbrella or a large leafy tree with lots of shade.

Exercise (or do physical activities) during the cooler temps of the day (early morning/evening)

If you're determined to keep up your regular exercise habit in the hotter months outside, be sure to work out early in the morning or late in the day when it's cooler. Skip being active during the hottest part of the day. If you need to be out there though, grab yourself a cooling towel. These things are kinda magical. Seriously. Just wet it and wring it out and put it around your neck to bring your body temperature down.

A cooling towel like this one is a MUST for the hot weather.
Trust me on this. Super helpful. Click the image to purchase.

Take frequent breaks and cool/tepid showers when exercising outside.

This last tip is really part of my personal mantra these days. TAKE A BREAK WHEN YOU FEEL TIRED. I know...we're all supposed to be super-human and keep going and going and going. But pfft... when you're tired, sit your butt down. Or even better, lay down and take a quick nap (if possible). Because I'm such a beach bum... I can literally hang on the beach for hours upon hours and not even blink. But that much time in the sun drains me terribly. A quick dip in the outside shower at the beach house actually does refresh me before I go inside and rest for awhile.

That's all for now... hope you have a great summer! Keep these tips handy. (and click those links...)

Nic Nac Paddywack

let's connect-brown
(where we discuss the breast cancer life)
(where I discuss any and everything!)
(be inspired, laugh a little, follow my crazy life)

Tears at the barbershop

Tears at the barbershop | My Fabulous Boobies

*Update April 2015: This post was written just a few weeks after my diagnosis. I had not started chemotherapy yet and I was absolutely terrified about what was about to happen to me. It was so surreal to be walking around knowing that I had breast cancer and I still looked the same and felt the same. I had not fully processed what it meant to "have breast cancer". Seven years later, 5 years after the end of my all of my treatments... I have moments when it is still surreal that I had breast cancer. Cutting my hair was the first of many hard choices I made trying to embrace my new reality. *

Yesterday, I confirmed an appointment with the oncologist. It took nearly a week to get through, but finally... I made the schedule. My appointment is for tomorrow (Thursday).

American Sports Bra Review: A great sports bra, a phenomenal post-surgery bra

American Sports Bra Review: A great sports bra, a phenomenal post-surgery bra | My Fabulous Boobies

All sports bras are not the same. Neither are post-surgical bras. 

*disclaimer: I was given one American Sports Bra, in order to complete this review. The review is my own opinion about this product.*

When I had my mastectomy, the post-surgical bra that I wore was awful. I'm not exaggerating. That thing was horrendous. It was the wrong size, and butt ugly. But, it was what I was given by the breast cancer center at my hospital. So I made it work.

Belle Gibson: Lying about having cancer for attention & money?

Preying on people's fears about cancer and exploiting empathy in order to make yourself look more sympathetic and more knowledgeable is despicable 

My facebook and twitter feeds have been blowing up with stories about the Australian entrepreneur and health advocate (Belle Gibson of The Whole Pantry) who has confessed to lying about having blood, spleen, brain, uterus and liver cancers. She built her business empire on claiming to have cured herself with clean eating. To say that I'm saddened, angry and disappointed still doesn't scratch the surface of my feelings about this.

Will you complete this survey please?

Will you complete this survey for readers of breast cancer blogs? 

I've joined with a few other breast cancer bloggers to help someone conduct a bit of research on the readers of breast cancer blogs. We're interested in learning how breast cancer blogs are impacting people who read breast cancer blogs.

When your shoe game shows your progress

Beautiful shoes make me happy, but while I was in treatment I couldn't wear my heels.

I really like shoes. I do. I REALLY like shoes. But, I'm not much of a shopper. Well, not in comparison with some of my friends and my family members. They are ninjas of shopping... whereas I am more like a kid trying to get a black belt.

The itch has been scratched

Let me start by saying that I am truly OVER-SHARING here. 

*Update April 2015: This post originally was published in 2010 and I was having so much difficulty believing that I was still sexually appealing and that it was okay for me to explore that side of myself. I wrote this because I know I'm not the only survivor who struggles with body image issues and concerns about sex after breast cancer. It is possible and it can be GREAT! You just have to get out of your own way.*

I know it. Social media has caught me in its clutches and I’ve become “that girl” who types about every move she makes for someone to see. Twitter, Facebook, Form Spring, Four Square and this blog… have become my extended selves. But it’s not a good look because I’m starting to let the instruments handle me instead of me handling them. All that to say, this will likely be my first and last time posting a message of this kind.

I blame Tamoxifen – and my hormones