Archive for the ‘Health & Well Being’ Category


I turned 50 this past December.  It was one of the best days of my life.  My husband and son showered me with love and affection.  I received phone calls from family and friends, and got lots of Facebook love.  Topping the evening off was dinner out with Tom and one of my BFFs, Peggy and her husband Jimmy.  It was definitely a day to remember.  Leading up to it I was excited, and pensive.

If I’m lucky, I’ll have lived half or a little over half my life and at some point I’ll probably write about how I’d prefer to spend the next half.  On turning 50, one thing I knew for certain was that I’d hear from the AARP and I’d need to get a colonoscopy. . .

To read the rest of this post, please click on this link here at Mothering in the Middle where I am a featured contributor:  http://www.motheringinthemiddle.com.


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This post was written on March 27, 2014.

If you’ve followed my blog since its start, you might remember those early days with The Littlest E when we first brought him home with us from Ethiopia back in the fall of 2010.  Our agency was kind enough to give us his schedule, including meals, but they forgot to tell me how to make his food.  Those early days were very intense being a new mom, adjusting to our little bundle of joy, trying to decipher his culinary needs, etc.  Add to that, within our first few days, we went to the pediatrician who weighed The Littlest E and told us he was in the 3rd percentile for weight.  I misunderstood and thought 1/3 percentile, meaning 33-1/3%.  When I discovered my mistake, the pressure to feed well our newest family member increased substantially.



It was all quite a discovery and I’m happy to say that, by the end of his first year home with us, The Littlest E was in the late 90th percentile for weight. Something was working!  I even wrote a blog about toddlers and green vegetables co-existing.  I didn’t realize back then that it was going to be a short-lived relationship.  The Littlest E ate peas for a spell, but then didn’t like them at all, and to this day, still doesn’t like them.  Not sure where I got the importance of green vegetables.  The other colored veggies are pretty important too.  It may have been growing up that my mom regularly provided us with vegetables of the green variety.  Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lettuces, asparagus and artichokes were probably a staple in our household.  Plus, when I was in my thirties I had digestive issues and roughage became an essential part of my diet.

Flash forward to being a mom, homemaker and cooker of meals in our household.  That green veggie thing stuck with me all these years.  On this culinary journey with our son, we found green vegetables The Littlest E enjoys eating, salad with Trader Giotto’s Balsamic Vinaigrette salad dressing, and he’ll drink the yummy smoothies we make some mornings that contain a variety of fruits, orange juice, yogurt and kale.

Green Curly Kale

Green Curly Kale

All in all, my son has a pretty diverse palate for someone his age.  He briefly enjoyed spinach, but again, that relationship was short-lived.  Every so often I’ll try another veggie just to see if he’s changed his viewpoint.  Mind you, I’m pretty okay with what he eats, and I’ll admit it’s fun to see him stretch himself and try new things.  He always responded “No” with spinach though, at least in the steamed form.

At his preschool one afternoon after class, I noticed him standing near the vegetable garden the school has in the big yard.  Without hesitation he ate what looked like raw kale or spinach.  An “Aha” moment came to me. If he eats it here, why not at our house, I thought.  That very night I disguised some spinach in his regular Romaine lettuce salad, and he ate it.  Deceptive, yes, yet it worked.  He commented how it tasted like something he ate in the big yard, but I replied, “Oh, that’s interesting.”

I kept this little deception going until last night.  That evening I made for Tom, my husband, and me, baked chicken with spinach and goat cheese.  It’s one of my favorite combinations.  I told our son what we were having for dinner and said, “I know you don’t like that so I’ll make you mac & cheese, but I’d like you to try the chicken, too.”  I made the mac & cheese he loves along with the disguised spinach salad.  At dinner, his mac & cheese was too hot so I suggested he try a bit of my chicken.  Much to my surprise, he wanted more and more and more!  I know it wasn’t necessarily the spinach he was going for, but the goat cheese.  Didn’t matter though.  What mattered was he liked it as is! He then proceeded to eat his mac & cheese while Tom and I dined on our chicken.  Then The Littlest E began to eat his salad.  He commented, “This salad tastes like spinach.”  Do I tell him the truth or continue the deception, I asked myself.



Truth won.  I replied with a smile, “That’s because it is spinach!  And you like it.”  He smiled, too and continued eating.  I proceeded to tell him the story of when I was a little girl; my brother, sister and I didn’t like spinach at all.  Then one night my mom made this really delicious salad with bits of egg and bacon in it.  We all ate it up and loved it.  I told him, only later did we find out that it was a spinach salad!  He laughed in between bites.

So the deception is over; the secret is out.  Does this mean he’ll continue to eat spinach?  Maybe, maybe not.  Will he eat the chicken with spinach and goat cheese again?  Your guess is as good as mine.  My hope is yes, but we shall see.  As he gets older, his palate is ever-increasing.  We tell him if it’s a new food, he has to at least try it, and usually he does.  I must thank his preschool for introducing him to raw green vegetables.  Their vegetable garden made the spinach deception unnecessary.

P.S. While my husband was driving our son and his friend to gymnastics camp this morning, The Littlest E said to his friend, “I like spinach now!” Maybe this new-found like will last…

© 2014 Melanie Elliott

Images: Market Manager La Grande Farmers’ Market, Nick Saltmarsh, Rae Allen

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I’m sure every parent at one time or another has had to remember that lovely word BALANCE.  Merriam-Webster defines balance among other definitions as:

“Mental and emotional steadiness;

Physical equilibrium;

An instrument for weighing: as

a : a beam that is supported freely in the center and

has two pans of equal weight suspended from its ends.”

Since The Littlest E is older and life is filled with work, playdates, running the house, etc. BALANCE is key.  When my son was pre preschool age, we got into a great groove.  We had activities most mornings.  I knew when he went down for his nap, how much time he napped and how the rest of the afternoon and evening went.  We had family dinners together every night, followed by playtime with Daddy. Daddy gave him a nightly bath and read to him before bed.  Each evening ended with a family hug and Tom and I putting our son to bed.

Groove or no groove, there were definitely times of tremendous stress.  During this period, I learned how to ask for help, most of it through an emotional breakdown.  BALANCE was not an easy thing to find.  That’s changed for the most part as I got used to being a parent.  Once in a while, I’ll still have a meltdown, but that’s only because I’m out of balance.  I previously blogged about the importance of what I then called Mom-Me time.  Taking that personal time to breathe and regroup is still important, but BALANCE is more of a complete picture.

Now that The Littlest E is in preschool four days a week, I have more time on my hands, but I’ve also taken on more.  I have a part-time job that is wonderful, yet it’s caused shifts in my schedule.  When I was writing for the magazine 1-½ years ago, I had time to blog five blogs a month per my contact.  Now, I’m lucky if I write two.  I miss writing and being more active with social media, but things change.  I know I can’t do everything.  If only there were 36 hours in a day, right?

So BALANCE comes into play.  My job as a parent is never done, that’s a given.  There’s the balance between down time at night when my husband does his thing and I do mine, and the two of us spending time together.  Date nights are very important, as well as the talks we have before going to sleep.  It’s crucial we stay connected, especially as The Littlest E gets older.

There’s the balancing act of running the house, doing laundry, cleaning, cooking, doing the dishes, paying bills and balancing the checkbook, making phone calls, the things that come up which need addressing, and finding time to exercise.  You all know it.  There’s a lot to do in a day or a week, and if you work full-time, that balancing act is ever more precious.  I have to admit I get frustrated when I can’t find the balance and things slide.  At times BALANCE is elusive.

It’s tough sometimes to balance making commitments.  I used to be able to over commit without consequences, and now there is neither time nor energy to do that.  I hate saying No, yet it’s necessary for emotional and physical balance, and for the balance of our family time.

I guess what I’ve learned is that there’s always going to be a To Do list whether it’s literal or figurative.  There’s always something that needs to get done, and there’s probably always going to be time limitations.  I’m also pretty sure BALANCE will be an operative word in our lives.  Perhaps when The Littlest E is in college things may ease up, but that’s far down the road.

While I was in college, my date book was my best friend.  I used it to block out chunks of time for classes and studying.  I still rely heavily on my date book and life is still divided into chunks of time.  All I can do is what’s on today’s plate.  That’s it, nothing more. There’s a certain freedom in knowing I can’t do everything.  If I can accept it, then perhaps BALANCE is that wonderful word after all.

Images: lululemon athletica, Yogendra Joshi,  Kingzoot

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The Littlest E’s preschool was on break for about two weeks, which is why I haven’t been writing my blog.  Now that he’s back in school, I thought I’d start the blog up again with a cautionary tale for all parents.

While my son was on break, one morning we went to meet some friends from Burbank Adult School at Rockin’ Kids, an indoor play space.  The moms from school usually meet there once a week and I knew on this day, they’d be there.  I was looking forward to seeing friends I hadn’t seen in a while and to having The Littlest E play with his buddies in an indoor, secure space out of the San Fernando Valley heat wave.

Rockin’ Kids has a lot of open space for the kids to run around, plus there’s a bouncy house with a slide, a pool of balls for kids to play in, and various cars and modes toddler transportation, along with the standard toys that indoor play spaces utilize.  In one area, was a wooden fort kids.  They could climb up the ladder, hang out in the fort and then slide down a tube slide.  The Littlest E was a master at climbing said ladder, but he was hesitant, nay scared of going down the slide.  I don’t think he likes tube slides all that much.

As I was looking at him up there in the fort, a light bulb went off in my head.  Why don’t I show him how to go down the slide so he can see there’s nothing to be afraid of?  Face your fear and walk through it.  Not that he’d really get that particular message; he’s only 3 after all, but I thought if he saw that I wasn’t afraid, maybe he’d follow suit and go down the slide.

I asked the woman who worked at Rockin’ Kids if it was okay for me to go down the slide.  She replied cautiously, “You can, but it’s built for kids.  Be careful.”  I think all I heard was the “you can” part.  My gut heard the entire thing, but I really wanted to show my son that it was okay to be scared and do it anyway.  Somewhere in the pit of my stomach, I knew I wasn’t being all that smart.  Do you see where this is going?  Wait, it gets better.

I had no trouble climbing up the ladder.  Easy, breezy.  The Littlest E and I exchanged a hug as we were both nestled in the fortress area.  Then I got ready for my descent down the slide.  Even as I was crouching in, I knew I shouldn’t be doing this.  It was too late to turn back.  Was it my pride, ego or stubbornness that kept me going?  I’m not sure, possibly a bit of all 3.  Want to guess what happened?

I got stuck, of course.  Somewhere up at the top of the slide, it’s a bit foggy now, as I’ve tried to block it from my memory.  My arms got stuck and I was holding on by my elbows?  All I know is I let go, there were some bumps and my elbows were killing me upon exiting the slide at the bottom.  I made sure whatever pain I felt, I kept to myself so as not to scare my son.  A dad looked at me as I stumbled out and said, “That sounded like it hurt.”  I replied quietly, “It did.”

Yep, Mommy was not too smart on that one.  Fortunately, my son didn’t know that I injured myself.  To top it off, he didn’t go down the slide anyway.  All was for naught.  Oh well, lesson learned – my lesson that is, not his.  If my gut screams to me “NOOOOOO DON”T DO IT!!!!”  I need to listen to that voice.

Fortunately, there was a mom with our group who happened to have a bag of ice.  She was my savior that morning.  I put the ice bag between my then bruised and burned elbows to halt the bruising from enveloping any more of my arms.  It was so very soothing, soothed my elbows and my pride.  Several of the moms laughed at me and I joined in.  What else was there to do but laugh at myself?  It’s been over a week and my elbows are still a slight yellowish/green and there’s one lingering scab, a constant reminder of my bright idea.  I still chuckle at myself for doing what I did.

So, Moms and Dads out there, if you’re thinking of doing something similar and that little voice inside you is screaming, “WHAT ARE YOU, NUTS??” please heed my cautionary tale, save your body and don’t do it.  Wishing you safe playing!

Images: caveatemptor27, Melanie Elliott

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From time to time I write about health, or issues with health.  If I’m not healthy, or taking care of myself, it affects my ability to parent The Littlest E.  This past winter/spring, I dealt with chronic illness.  After numerous blood tests and a scratch test, my doctors attributed it to allergies for which I recently started treatment.  While sick, it impacted the time I spent with my son and the activities we did.  Did the activity require a lot of energy?  Because a number of times, I just didn’t have it.  The balance of playtime and down time was frustrating to find, especially for my energetic son.   We made it through, and I’m grateful not to feel sick anymore.

A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with osteopenia in my hips.  That means my bone density in my hips is lower than normal.  If untreated, it may lead to osteoporosis.  My doctor at the time, told me to take extra Vitamin D, get in the sun more often since I’m so pale, and do weight-bearing exercises such as running, jogging, etc.  We hadn’t yet picked up The Littlest E from Ethiopia so I figured I could start jogging again.  And I did . . . briefly.

Once we brought our son home, my jogging went right out the window.  I was a new mom of a 12½-month and struggled enough with new mom issues let alone have time to exercise.  The Littlest E and I did go for many walks with him in his stroller, but it wasn’t fully weight-bearing or cardio.  If I could do it over, we’d probably have gotten a jogging stroller.  I put off running.  Actually, I found a multitude of excuses not to run.  No time, didn’t have a sitter, too many chores, didn’t belong to a gym, fear of jogging in my neighborhood, and I was way too tired.

I can be a great rationalizer, even when all of my doctors agreed I needed to do cardio exercise.  My rationalization was simple; I’d start running again when The Littlest E began preschool in the fall of 2011.  That isn’t too far off, I thought.  I also figured carrying my son as much as I did, had to account for some weight-bearing exercise and hula hooping is cardio, right?  See what I mean, great rationalizer.  This is all coming from someone who, ten years ago, ran two marathons, one in Venice, Italy, as a fundraiser for the Arthritis Foundation complete with six-month training program (having never run before), and one in Los Angeles purely for me.

The Littlest E started preschool last September going twice a week from 9-12.  I kept my word and started running/jogging again.  I LOVED IT.  It’s a love/hate kind of thing though, dreading the prepping, the stretching, and finding reasons why there’s no time to run, but when I’m out there, it’s AWESOME, meditative, invigorating, and once in the “zone,” there aren’t many better places to be.  I even hooked up with an amazing group of moms on Twitter called #MomsRunning, who gave me lots of encouragement.  But I got busy and found excuses not to run, then I got sick.  Again, I rationalized; I’ll go when . . . You fill in the blank.

Recently, my pulmonary doctor and allergist both suggested running, and I finally took their suggestions to heart.  It’s good for my breathing, it’s good for my body, and it’s good for my spiritual wellbeing.  Since The Littlest E started preschool more fulltime, I HAVE the time to run, let’s be honest, jog, and have run out of excuses NOT to jog.  My dear friend, Mysie, was just in town visiting from Australia.  She does mini triathlons and is amazing!!  We ran a couple of times while she was here and I got that same invigorating feeling being out there, feet hitting the pavement or dirt, breathing in the air and living completely in the moment.  It was wonderful.  I promised her I’d start jogging again.  She told me she’d check up on me.  I told her I’d take an invisible Mysie with me so I didn’t have to run alone.

It’s going well so far.  I only jog around 3 miles, and it feels good to be back.  Went for a jog this morning after I dropped my son off at school and it was great.  I entered the “zone” close to the end of my first lap, totally in the moment.  North Hollywood Park’s tree-lined track provided ample shade and the breeze felt cool on me as I jogged while the sun beamed its warmth on my shoulders.  I’ve written about the importance of Mom-Me time, and this was quintessential Mom-Me time.  I’d missed what happens inside me when I jog.  I missed my brain clearing and the ideas that come streaming in.  I missed the pooling of sweat at the base of my hair, and I missed how wonderful it is to exercise and feel my face redden, knowing I’m getting in a solid workout.

What’s most important is that I FEEL better after I jog, too.  This helps my mental, physical and spiritual health that, in turn, helps me be a better mom to my son.  Who knows, maybe there’s another marathon in me still.  For now, I’m taking life the way I always do, one day at a time and one jog at a time.

Images: Spec-ta-cles, Melanie Elliott, Dru Bloomfield

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Last week, I was all set to write about our adoption tax credit nightmare when I came down with another bout of bronchitis or allergies, or something that is going on with my upper respiratory system.  If you’re a parent, you know what it’s like to live with a toddler.  They come home with the sniffles and you come down with bronchitis.  I’ve heard from The Littlest E’s pediatrician and my doctor that it’s been a tough winter and speaking from personal experience, it has been.

I’ve basically been coughing since sometime in November.  Recently, I was cough free for a few days and got all excited that maybe the germs had finally left my body.  Alas, the cough came back.  That first round of bronchitis, I knew I was in trouble when I found it difficult to breathe.  Went to my doctor and failed the breath test.  He prescribed Prednisone and a Z-Pak (Zithromax), which worked for a spell, but my cough never really went away.

Round two of bronchitis happened during The Littlest E’s potty training weekend in February.  One night, I monitored our son, didn’t sleep much, and the bronchitis came back.  Another Z-Pak later, I thought I was on the mend.  My husband also had bronchitis and a recurring cough during this time.  We like to share our germs in our house.  Between the two of us, we kept Mucinex in business over the winter.

I came down with bronchitis a third time at the end of March, shortly after having gum graft surgery.  This time, I went to urgent care.  The physician’s assistant treated me for pneumonia (though she wasn’t sure I had it) and gave me a prescription for Levaquin, a powerful antibiotic.  Levaquin made me feel better, but, again, the cough lingered on.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, last weekend came round number four.  My cough had just finally gone away enough so that people even noticed!!  Then, out of the blue, it came back.

What does all this have to do with a parenting blog?  Having one parent with chronic sickness affects the entire family unit.  When I’m sick or my husband is sick, it’s almost as if there’s only one parent.  It’s tough on everyone.  The weekend after my gum surgery, my husband and I were both sick and he was smack dab in the middle of his busy season at work.  What do you do when both parents are sick?  Our son still needed us.  Unfortunately, my husband was the one tasked with the major parenting duties that weekend.  I was too sick get out of bed and also had 22 stitches in my mouth.  It was a long and difficult weekend for all.

Being sick has also taken an emotional toll on me.  I want to be my usual, busy self, and I’m not.  Occasionally, I feel like I’m letting my son down because I can’t do everything he wants to do.  I’m a pretty positive person most of the time and, unless I’m really sick or injured, I show up and try to do my best as a mom, wife and person.  I’m also a solution seeker and don’t like to sit in a problem too long without trying to find a solution.  I’ve had chronic sickness before a number of years ago when I kept getting tonsil infections and ended up having my tonsils removed.  So, after four bouts of bronchitis, it was time to see an expert.  Thank God my husband has PPO insurance and I didn’t need a referral.  I called pulmonary specialist, C. Andrew Schroeder, M.D., F.C.C.P., and made an appointment for this past Wednesday.

Taking care of my physical wellbeing is part of responsible parenting.  If I let this slide, not only am I robbing my husband of a healthy wife, I’m robbing my son of a fully present and engaged mom.  I haven’t been “sick” the entire five months, and when I have been, it takes everything in me to be a patient, loving and tolerant mom to The Littlest E.  I haven’t been perfect, but I’ve tried.  There were times when it was literally an hour at a time parenting.  You do what you can.  Twice I called our sitter to come to the rescue because I was so sick.

I saw Dr. Schroeder on Wednesday and he was awesome.  I know my lungs are in good hands.  He’s narrowed it down to four possible diagnoses: 1) untreated asthma that has affected my lung tissue; 2) allergies; 3) an immune deficiency; and/or 4) a chronic lung infection.  He did an extensive breath test and I’m not breathing 100%, and they took six vials of blood to find out what the problem is.  I owe it to my son, my husband and myself to get to the bottom of this and get back to good health.  Looking forward to receiving the results sometime this week and, hopefully, will be able to breathe a sigh of relief.  Glad to have gotten this off my chest.  Be well and stay healthy!

Images: Spring Dew, Kate Bingaman-Burt, Perfecto Insecto, Sonja Lovas

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This blog is a follow up to Part One, which posted on October 4, 2011, coincidentally during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  It will focus on my appointment with breast surgeon, Deanna J. Attai, M.D., F.A.C.S., of the Center for Breast Care, Inc. It is intended for women, especially women like me who have dense breasts.

At the end of Part One, my breast MRI indicated I was cancer-free, but the MRI doctor ordered an ultrasound of my left breast to further examine two areas.  That ultrasound again showed no cancer, however I have another cyst cluster that needs to be watched.  Dr. Attai reviewed my reports, mammograms, ultrasounds and MRI prior to my appointment.

I was so happy to have this appointment and was grateful that our insurance plan allowed me to visit a specialist on my own without a referral.  Dr. Attai was highly recommended to me by several friends, who either know her professionally or are patients.  I felt very comfortable in her office.  She had an air about her that made me feel at ease and she was completely open to answering my questions.  I’ll go through my questions and provide the answers.  My hope is that women reading this blog will use my experience to empower themselves in becoming advocates for their breast care.

1.  Since my breasts are lumpy, how would I know if I had cancer from doing a breast self-exam?

I can do a breast exam, which she says many doctors are now calling “breast self-awareness,” to get a general sense of the lay of the land.  I can feel for my usual lumps.  After our consult, she did a breast exam and helped me find my dense areas so I could identify what my normal is.  I won’t be searching for anything specific, just checking to see if anything is different.  Dr. Attai likened the feeling in the front part of my breasts to “peas.”  I also felt the side areas, which I know are really dense. Lumps and bumps move, but I now have a basic idea of how my normal feels.

2.  What time of the month is best to do the self-awareness?

“One week to ten days post period.”  At that time, the breasts are less likely to have lumps associated with one’s period.

3.  One of the doctors said my breasts were so dense that mammograms were pointless.  Is this the case?

“They are not nearly as helpful as we would like them to be, but you still need to do them.”

An awesome thing about meeting with the doctor was that all of my films and reports were just a mouse click away.  The facilities I went to were part of the same network.  Dr. Attai showed me my mammogram.  It was eerily fascinating looking at the outline of my breast and seeing basically solid white on the inside.  Cancer shows up as white so it was very clear that detecting cancer solely from my mammograms would be difficult at best.  She also explained “calcifications, which sometimes can be the earliest sign of breast cancer, often do show up on a mammogram but not on MRI or ultrasound.”  Though mammograms have limitations for women with dense breasts, they are still an important test and should not be avoided.

4.  Another doctor told me that cyst clusters have a 2% chance of turning malignant.  What does that mean?

Dr. Attai showed me my ultrasounds and pointed out the cyst clusters in both breasts.  She said that cysts don’t really turn into cancer but “there may actually be something there more than what’s visible which is part of the reason for the continued follow up.”  If any change occurs in the appearance of the cluster, she would order a needle biopsy, but surgery would not be necessary.

5.  Can I take any medication to make the cluster go away?

There isn’t any medication.  Cysts are a normal part of breast anatomy.

6.  Since we’ll be monitoring me more closely, is the BRCA gene test necessary?

Dr. Attai mentioned that it is a very specific test and is helpful to women with a “strong family history of early cancer” (ages 30s through 40s).  There isn’t a need for me to take the test given that my maternal grandmother had breast cancer in her 60s.  I have less than a 1% chance of it being positive.  I’m glad that’s one burden I don’t have to face.

7.  My OB/gyn recommended I give up chocolate and decaf coffee.  Really?

This may seem like a trivial question, but I enjoy my weekly bit of dark chocolate and decaf coffee.  It’s with great happiness that I can state I don’t have to give up either!  Caffeine doesn’t cause lumps, but can make breasts more sensitive.  I was told the amount I intake of both is “okay.”  Cue thunderous applause.

Meeting with the doctor was such a relief.  This whole breast cancer scare weighed on my mind.  After I asked my questions, Dr. Attai gave me her recommendations – do the follow up MRI in six months that was mentioned in the MRI report.  Then, every year going forward, get a mammogram, ultrasound and MRI.  As long as my breasts remain dense, I need to be diligent in my preventative care.  Dr. Attai mentioned “that the increased density in addition to making it more difficult to detect breast cancer by mammogram, also increases the risk of developing a breast cancer.”  Breast density can decrease with age, but I’m not headed for menopause anytime soon.  It’s all about prevention, prevention, prevention.

We may encounter roadblocks from my insurance company to obtain an authorization for the MRI.  Dr. Attai seemed willing to put forth the effort to make that happen, and I’m right there with her.  I need to advocate for my girls.  I left her office thrilled to have a plan and ecstatic that she found nothing suspicious in my breasts.  Down the road, if anything were to change, I’ve got a great team in place and know that my girls and me are in good hands.

Image: faymozingo

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