In a Moment of Weakness

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My third robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgery is now seven days away.  As I lay awake in bed last night, my mind wandered to the process:  pre-op/intake, placement of the IV, a conversation with my surgeon, trying to wear a brave face as my Mom and husband do the same, the  ride down the hallway with the overhead lights (just like in the movies), the surgery room doors opening, and being greeted by staff as they make last-minute preparations for the procedure.  Then the moment of being placed on the operating table, getting strapped in, and the anesthesiologist coming to send me off to sleep.

It’s not easy.  It’s not a grand adventure.  But, partially it IS an adventure: the hope of relief, of a returning quality of life, a possibility of normalcy.  But, let’s be honest…it’s terrifying, it’s scary, and it’s going to hurt when you wake up…and the recovery takes weeks just to function; months to feel normal.  And for some women: they never get that sense of normalcy.

So, last night as these thoughts tumbled through my brain, I reached my hand out to my husband and laid it on his hip.  Before I knew what I was saying, the words “I’m nervous,” gently babbled out of my mouth.

He reached down and stroked my hand with his, then he pulled my hand up to his heart and held it there.  I closed my eyes and silently let the tears flow.  And he just held my hand firmly against his beating heart.  Until I fell asleep.

I love him. So very, very much.

I often get asked, “How does your husband deal with your illness?”

This.  This is how.

I don’t know where I would be in this Journey without him.

 

 

Four Years Ago Today…

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Sept. 2016

June 30, 2014: a day I went in to have a cyst removed from my ovary and instead awoke to a diagnosis of Endometriosis.  Answers.  Vindication.  My years of pain had a name.

So, I celebrate this day.

I am writing this on Friday, June 29th since I will be away from my computer on Saturday.  And today (Friday) I just scheduled my third excision surgery.  It will take place on August 15, 2018…almost two years since my last surgery.

June 30, 2014: D-Day (yep, Diagnosis Day); performed by Dr. Mel Kurtulus at the Scripps La Jolla Hospital.

September 21, 2016: Surgery No. 2; performed by Dr. Mel Kurtulus at the Scripps La Jolla Hospital.

August 15, 2018: Scheduled Surgery No. 3 (with the possibility of being sooner if there is an opening in the hospital’s schedule); to be performed by Dr. Mel Kurtulus at the Scripps La Jolla Hospital.

This blog wouldn’t exist without the events that took place on June 30, 2014.

I wouldn’t be seeking answers.  Wouldn’t be honoring my body.  Wouldn’t be connecting with others.

Our Bloomin’ Uterus support group wouldn’t exist.

There would be no annual walks or monthly get-togethers.

I would have no idea about the other women who suffer with me.

No camaraderie.

No support.

 I would still be alone, thinking my pain was normal and that I was weak.

And now I know that I am none of those things.

I am surrounded by Sisters and family.  Warriors!  Our pain is anything but normal.  And none of us are weak.

My life has been made better by being told I have a chronic, incurable illness.  And I have met some incredibly strong people because of it.  May we continue to hold each other high as we make this Journey together.  It’s not easy.  But we have each other.

So, celebrate today with me.

 

Tips for Surgery Day & Recovery

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Have an Endometriosis surgery scheduled?  Here’s a list of things a few of my EndoSisters and I recommend having handy!!  If you’d like to add something, please leave a comment below. 🙂

In Your Purse:

Chapstick

Lozenges (to soothe that post-surgery throat)

Snacks for afterward, especially if you have any food allergies or intolerances.

Have ready in the car for that drive home:

Blankets

Bottle of water

Chewing gum (it has helped some gals with nausea on the drive home)

Ice packs

Overnight bag with clothes, toiletries, etc (just in case you have to stay in the hospital overnight)

Pillows

Sleep Mask (one of those eye covers; you may get ill with all of the movement of passing cars and landscape)

Travel pillow (for stuffing between your stomach and your seatbelt!)

Vomit bag

For Home:

A friend or family member (seriously for like the first 3 days…don’t be alone. You don’t know what your body can and can’t do…and you should be resting)

Comfy clothes. Nothing that binds. Think giant t-shirt, moomoo, or even naked!

Fiber!! (oh man…you need to keep poopin’)

Footstool (to help get in and out of bed)

Gas-X (helps break up the surgery gas that’s floating around inside your body still)

Grabby-stick-thingy (you know, that old people use to get stuff off of the top shelf)

Heating Pad

Ice Packs

Pads (yep…you may be bleeding afterward

Pillow with armrests (keeps you propped up, while lounging, and keeps pressure off your abs.  What am I talking about?  Look here.)

Pre-made, easy meals (soups, crackers, etc.)

Prescriptions (painkillers AND anti-nausea medication)

Stool softener!!!!!

Squatty-Potty or something similar

Tape your cell phone charger to your headboard (you don’t want to bend down to get it!)

Walker (yeah, with tennis balls and everything – seriously helps you get around…not to mention sit/stand)

Questions for your Doc: Pre- and Post-Op

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Going in for a surgery for Endometriosis?  Not sure what to ask? Here’s a list of questions you may want to bring with you.

Some of these may seem like common sense…but it’s good to have them written down to ask. You may forget while overwhelmed or in a fog! Feel free to add to these!  Have any suggestions you’d like me to add? Drop me a comment below. 🙂

Pre-Op Appointment Questions:

What will you do if you open me up and see Endometriosis? (Ask this, because many women have their diagnostic surgery and NONE of the endo is removed – just a confirmed diagnosis and a referral to another doctor to deal with the Endo).

Do you plan to excise (cut out) the Endo or burn (ablation) them? (Excision is considered the best way to deal with it as ablation may not get all of the lesion. Some surgeons only burn away the lesion if it’s in a difficult location to cut. Some surgeons ONLY use ablation and do not cut away the lesions.)

Will you remove adhesions? (Adhesions are scar tissue, oftentimes spider-web like and can twist organs or weave them together).

What’s the worst case scenario?

Will you take photographs or video? If yes, may I have a copy? (if you get photographs, make sure they’re labeled so you know what you’re looking at)

If you find Endometriosis on other organs, such as my bowels, bladder, liver, ureter, diaphragm, etc., are will you be able to remove it? Or will you call in a specialist to assist with the surgery? Or will a second surgery need to be scheduled to handle it?

May I have any painkiller and/or anti-nausea medications filled prior to the surgery date?

Anything you can do to lessen the gas pain that occurs in my right shoulder? Tilt my head? Warm gas? Expel more gas before closing me up? What are the complications of any of these methods? (This may help with the shoulder pain many women complain about after a laparoscopy.)

How long do you expect the surgery to last? Any way someone can update my (person who is in the waiting room) as they wait in the lobby once surgery begins? (My first surgery they expected surgery to last 1.5 hours and it lasted 4; nobody updated them on status and it was stressful and worrisome for them.)

Any “best” position to sleep while recovering?

Anything I can do to make this surgery easier on you?

Before Discharged from Hospital Questions:

What did you find?

Is it normal for my incisions to bleed or ooze?

How long shall I keep on the bandage for the belly button?

How long shall I keep on the bandages for the small incisions?

What do I do if a stitch/staple/glue edge sticks out?

When can I shower?

When should I be worried if I don’t poop?  Three days? Less? More?

Make sure you understand the restrictions while healing. Every surgeon is different. You may not be able to lift something over a certain amount of weight for a few weeks, etc.

Make sure you get the telephone number for the Nurse or Doctor in case of emergencies. They generally have it written on a sheet of paper. Put that somewhere handy!

Post-Op Visit Questions:

May I have a copy of the photographs/video taken during surgery (yeah, I know we asked that in pre-op…but no harm at your post-op)

What Stage of Endometriosis do I have? (there are four stages…each stage depicts a level of infiltration, but not necessary dictates your levels of pain. You can have Stage I Endo with SO MUCH PAIN or Stage IV Endo with no pain whatsoever. It’s just something good to know.)

How long until we can have sex? Swim? Go to gym? Return to work?

Now what?

**Updated July 11, 2018**

An Update: Endometriosis in Cynomolgus Monkeys

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Last year I wrote about a study involving Endometriosis being found in Cynomolgus monkeys.  Recently, a new study was published in Human Reproduction about those monkeys and Endometriosis, and here I am to regurgitate it to you in my layman understanding.

At the Tsukuba Primate Research Center in Japan, 614 female cynomolgus monkeys were evaluated between 2008 and 2012.  Of those, 29 were chosen to be screened on a routine basis, including monitoring menstrual cycles, fertility, bloodwork (including CA-125 levels), and physical examinations.  Surgeries were performed and 15 of the 29 monkeys had surgically confirmed cases of Endometriosis.

Let me repeat that:  fifteen of the 29 monkeys had surgically confirmed cases of Endometriosis.  These monkeys were not implanted with Endometriosis as lab rats often are.  It grew on its own.

These 15 monkeys ranged in age from 8 years old to 20 years old.  They discovered that CA-125 levels tended to be elevated in the monkeys that had chocolate cysts present and lower in those who did not have endometriomas.  They also discovered that painful palpation examinations and abnormal feces were both commonalities with these monkeys.  Also of note, the monkeys ate less food during their menstrual cycles, which may be attributed to increased pain and a decreased quality of life.

During the time of the study, the remaining monkeys who did not have Endometriosis were monitored to make sure they did not develop the illness.  Four of them DID develop Endometriosis!

Even though the monkeys were small in comparison to humans, the surgeons were able to easily identify Endometriosis lesions (and their various colors: red, pink, brown,  blue, black or white), endometriomas (chocolate cysts), and adhesions while performing the laparoscopies.

Based on these findings, the authors suggest that screening, diagnosing, and monitoring Endometriosis in monkeys should include palpations, fecal monitoring, and CA-125 testing.

The findings of the study were that cynomolgus monkeys with spontaneous endometriosis may prove to be a good model to evaluate the disease, as well as drug efficacy.  I would hate to think that that means they may one day end up as lab rats for drug companies.  My animal-lovin’ brain takes me down that dark path, though.

I am constantly amazed by the presence of Endometriosis in non-humans.  And saddened at the thought that these animals cannot vocalize the pain I know they feel.  But knowing that the illness affects other species makes me hope that it may one day get the attention of the scientific and medical communities that it deserves.

RESOURCES:

Human Reproduction –  (April 2018) – Spontaneous Endometriosis in Cynomolgus Monkeys as a Clinically Relevant Experiment Model

~ Again, I am a layman. I do not hold any college degrees, nor mastery of knowledge. Please take what I say with a grain of salt. If curious, do your own research 😉 Validate my writings. Or challenge them. And ALWAYS feel free to consult with your physician. Always. Yours ~ Lisa

 

 

Heating Pads & Endometriosis

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Recently, someone brought it to my attention that they’d heard that heating pads are bad for Endo. Now…I live with my heating pad literally attached to my body almost every first few days of my period.  So, I was taken aback by the suggestion as I find the heat soothing.  And I vowed to do some research on the theory that heat is bad for Endo…and, as usual, formulate my own opinion and share it with you.

Endometriosis News ran an article in August of 2017 highlighting the opinions of Melissa of EndoEmpowered and Aubree Deimler of Peace with Endo, and both discussed how heat may cause fascia to manipulate (or soften) and harden after it cools down once the heat is removed.  Aubree tried the heat elimination process to see how she felt, and felt a difference with her pain.  If you’d like to try, please follow her example.  Melissa interviewed Chris Toal of Azolla Health, who shared a downloadable brochure on the theories behind heat and fascia. Not only does Toal discourage the use of heating pads, but also the use of hot showers or baths.  Aubree directly linked back to Melissa’s article and interview.

What is fascia?  It’s a thin, fibrous tissue made up mostly of collagen that covers and supports tissue, such as muscles or organs.

From what I gather, the underlying theory expressed in the views of Endometriosis News, Melissa, and Aubree of why heat is bad for Endometriosis pain is that the heat, for lack of a better term, softens or melts the fascia tissue.  Once the heating pad is removed, the fascia rehardens and can make the pain worse.  This may cause adhesions to shift, form, and harden.  Aubree cites to Ida Rolf‘s theory regarding fascia and displacement with energy/heat/manipulation.

Visualize a brand new, unlit candle.  Once lit, the wax begins to melt.  Blow out the flame and the wax cools and rehardens, oftentimes in a new shape.  Or think of making gelatin: the mixture is liquid while hot and solidifies once it’s in the fridge and cooled off.

The fascia-altering theory is the only argument I have been able to find against using heating pads if you have Endometriosis…so:

Let’s find some proof to all of this…because, like I said, sometimes I live on my heating pad.

Ida’s theory that fascia tissue degrades with manipulation or energy is frowned upon by some.  It’s called the thixotropic effect, where the tissues degrade with heat or pressure, then reform upon settling.  Paul Ingraham wrote about his opinions in Feb. of 2013 and again Jan. of 2018 on thixotropic effect on PainScience.com and opines that fascia is simply “too tough” to manipulate in such a manner and states that Ms. Rolf found her theory to be “nonsense” as well.  Mr. Ingraham cited many studies and professionals to support his opinions.  You’re welcome to read both pieces (linked above and in the Resources section below).

But what if it’s not nonsense?  According to the Science of Slow Cooking (mmmmm…crock pot food…), collagen begins to break down and liquify into a gelatin at 160 degrees Fahrenheit.  Now, I’m no expert on the human body versus a meat-animal, but…how hot do heating pads get?!?

A study published in Safety Brief in 2015 ran a few experiments on heating pad created by Kaz (Model HP-110).  After running the heating pad for 120 minutes, it never exceeded 151 degrees Fahrenheit, uncovered.

Sunbeam offers a FAQ on their webpage about the temperature range of their heating pads: the low setting 110 degrees F and the high setting can get up to 160 degrees F.

Sew4Home conducted their own little science experiment with homemade microwaveable heating pads.  They compared rice, corn, and flaxseed.  After 30 seconds of heating, the rice was 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the corn was 158 degrees, and the flaxseed was 144 degrees.  Five minutes later, each had cooled:  136 (rice), 142 (corn), and 142 (flaxseed).

Hot water bottles should never be filled with boiling water (water typically boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit), due to leakage and safety concerns.  Many manufacturers of hot water bottles suggest a nice, easy-to-touch temperature; not scalding.

So, I’m not sure that heating pads (electrical, microwaveable, or hot water bottles) will get hot enough to do any liquifying damage to facia.  But, then again, I’m no expert.  And several webpages promote the use of heating pads (sometimes combined with castor oil packs) to help with adhesion, Endometriosis, pelvic, or lower back pain.

So, then I was curious: why do heating pads make my pain feel better?  Once more, I hit the internet.  And, once more, ran into a lot of Mr. Paul Ingraham’s writings and voluminous cited resources, along with other webpages.

Heat may be very soothing, it increases blood circulation to the area, it may relax tense muscles, and a 2006 study found that internal heat receptors may actually block pain signals.  So, once more, heat may be good for dealing with certain types of pain.

Again, I’m not a scientist and this is just my opinion after bouncing around the internet for several hours doing research and reading.  My conclusion?

My heating pads make me feel better…and I will not stop using them.  Am I knocking Endometriosis News, Melissa, Aubree, or Chris? Nope.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I value a broad perspective on things.  But, for me?  I also value the comfort that a good ol’ heating pad delivers.

What about you?  My advice? Do whatever makes you feel better.  Hot, cold, or neither.  It’s your body and you know it better than anyone.

Resources:

Earth Clinic (Dec. 2017): Natural Remedies for Abdominal Adhesions

EndoEmpowered (Nov. 2016): Stop Using Hot Water Bottles for Endo Pain

Endometriosis News (August 2017): Should You Use Heat for Endometriosis Pain Relief?

Functional Fascia: Fascia Facts

Healthline: Treating Pain with Heat and Cold

LiveScience: (July 2006) Study: How Heating Pads Relieve Internal Pain

Merriam-Webster Dictionary: definition of fascia

My Health Alberta Ca Network: Adhesions Care Instructions

PainScience.com (Jan. 2018): Does Fascia Matter?

PainScience.com (Aug. 2016): Heat for Pain.  When and how to apply heat for therapy…and when not to!

PainScience.com (April 2017): The Great Ice vs. Heat Confusion Debacle

PainScience.com (Feb. 2013): Thixotropy is Nifty, but It’s Not Therapy

Peace with Endo: (Jan. 2017) Why I Stopped Using My Heating Pad for Endometriosis Pain

Safety Brief: (Jan. 2015) On the Safety of Heating Pads

Science of Slow Cooking: The Science of Slow Cooking

Sew4Home (Sept. 2014): Organic Fillers for Warming Pads: We Compare Rice, Corn and Flaxseed

Sunbeam: FAQ – How Hot do the Heating Pads Get?

Taber’s Medical Dictionary: definition of fascia

The Hot Water Bottle Shop: FAQS

University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignDepartment of Physics: Q&A Water Temperatures

 

~ Again, I am a layman. I do not hold any college degrees, nor mastery of knowledge. Please take what I say with a grain of salt. If curious, do your own research 😉 Validate my writings. Or challenge them. And ALWAYS feel free to consult with your physician. Always. Yours ~ Lisa

 

An Interview with a Silent Warrior.

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I know a few EndoSisters who have chosen to keep their diagnosis private for one reason or another.  During a month where many are shouting about Endometriosis to raise awareness, I wanted to remember the ones who choose to remain silent. And respect that choice.

I had the pleasure of interviewing an EndoSister who keeps her diagnosis a secret.  Not only to understand her choice and position better but to also give her a voice.  A forum to speak her peace, share in a way that doesn’t corrupt her privacy, and encourage those who also endure in silence.

I would introduce you to her, but she shall remain Nameless.  She shall remain Faceless.  Just know that she may be your friend, daughter, co-worker, or wife.

**

How old were you when you began to feel Endometriosis symptoms?
I think my symptoms started when I started my period at twelve. My periods have always been extremely painful. And I have always been scrunched up in a ball in tears.

Did you ever tell anyone then that you were having these issues?
Yes

How was that received?
I either got laughed at or told to be quiet. (That’s being exceptionally nice)

When were you diagnosed with Endometriosis?
Two years ago this past February

How did your diagnosis come about?
Doctors found a large cyst on my left ovary from an MRI then confirmed with two follow up ultrasounds.I had surgery to get it removed. The cyst was a chocolate cyst.  When my doctor came to talk to me after I woke up from surgery, she told me I had Endometriosis.  She also said that she had never seen so much endometriosis in someone and that it was everywhere.

How did you feel when you learned you had Endometriosis?
Not surprised, and a little relieved. It made sense why I have been in so much pain. The past few years the days without pain were less than the days with pain. After so long I just got used to being in pain all the time. Continual pain is normal.

But it was a huge weight lifted off of me knowing that I am not some weak ass pansy who can’t handle shit.  (Refer to the question three about how my pain was received).

Are you ashamed? Embarrassed? Angry? Confused? All the things? Which and why?Ashamed, no. Embarrassed, no. Angry, yes. Confused, no. Sad, yes. Frustrated, yes. Alone, sometimes. And so many more emotions. Some days are better than others. And some days I want to crawl into a dark cave and just cry and cry and scream (these days are few and far between).

Have you told your friends, family, or co-workers about your diagnosis?
Only my EndoSisters here know as well as 4 close friends. Two coworkers know I had abdominal surgery and one of them knows it was to remove a cyst, but neither of the coworkers know my Endo diagnosis. My family and other friends do not know.

If not, why have you decided not to tell people?
I have not told my family or my friends for one reason I still don’t feel comfortable even saying here. I also haven’t told my family because of my response to question number 3. I have not told three of my close friends because: 1) I know 2 of them can’t keep a secret. 2) the one that can keep a secret, has never been supportive of me when I talk about my pain and how much I hate it. She’s not outright mean, just dismissive about it. She also would not agree/support the reason I am not saying here.

How were you able to find EndoSisters? And how did it feel being able to connect and share with them?
I have a friend with Endometriosis and she directed me to Bloomin’ Uterus. To say it was difficult to open up to my friend does not even begin to describe what I was feeling and going through. (As a matter of fact, answering these questions is taking me hours and a whole lot of fucking tears to get through).

I had two friends offer to help take care of me when I told them about my surgery. One ended up with the flu the day before my surgery, so only one was able to help take me to and from the hospital and then spend two days with me (including my surgery day). I took 1 day short of two weeks off work, so I took care of myself the rest of the time. I contacted my friend with endometriosis two days after my surgery (through Messenger while pretty high on pain medication). I was in tears, frustrated and feeling completely lost and alone. I don’t think she will ever truly know how much she helped me that day and the extraordinary supportive woman she has been since. I would not be where I am today without her warrior-ness.

I have been able to connect with other ladies in the support group and they have been so incredible and encouraging. I get to talk to some ladies on a daily if not weekly basis. They make my days so much brighter.

I see what so many other ladies talk about in our support group and it kills me that they are going through this same shit. But everyone provides such support and love and understanding. These ladies are the best.

Sometimes when I do feel alone, I just go to our support group and read. And sometimes it helps a little and sometimes it’s like getting the huge bear hug I need. Even a heart or a like to a comment I make.

How has the silence affected you?
It sucks balls. Sometimes. But most of the time, I know it’s the right choice and I am comforted in this decision.

Do you think you’ll ever tell others about your illness?
No. A significant other maybe. But I find that terrifying. And yeah, yeah my boyfriend, husband or spouse should support me blah, blah… The thing is… You don’t know. You don’t really truly know until you have been put in this situation.

How do you think your announcement will be received?
One, I’ll be looked at with pity. And I fucking hate that shit. Two, everyone I haven’t told will be hurt that I kept something from them and they probably won’t trust me in the future. And they will probably think that I’m hiding things from them. Three, I will be told that it’s my fault that I brought it on myself for hating my periods and if I just accepted the pain I had from the beginning this would have never happened… Power of attraction… blah, blah…

Is the reaction of others learning so long after your diagnosis part of the reason for your silence?
Nope. Once I found out, I never planned on telling. (Even my friend I opened up to in the first place.)

What would you tell other women who have decided to keep their diagnosis a secret?
You’re not alone. You’re just not. Whatever reason/s you have for keeping silent is/are the right reason/s. You don’t need to justify yourself. Not to yourself. Not to anyone else. I don’t care if it’s your family, spouse, your best friend, your boss, who the fuck ever. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TELL ANYONE IF YOU DON’T WANT TO.

How can your EndoSisters help you?
Just keep doing what you’re doing ladies. You are amazing and have helped me more than you can possibly know.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Nope.

**

What a beautiful and eye-opening experience for me.  I’ve always been an over-sharer and cannot imagine enduring this illness in silence.  But I love and honor my EndoSisters for their decisions to remain quiet.  Whatever those reasons may be.  If you have chosen to keep silent, stand by that decision.

Never let us guilt you or judge you into divulging your secret.

And know, like she said, you are not alone:  “You do not have to tell anyone if you don’t want to.”

To all those who endure and suffer in silence, you have my respect and love. Consider yourself gently hugged from afar.

And, to the Warrior who allowed me to interview her, I cannot thank you enough.  You are so incredibly strong and brave and have been an incredible presence in my life, and the lives of other EndoSisters.

 

Endo Awareness Month: Giveaway!

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You may have read my recent review of Chiavare lube.  Well, Kaylyn is providing me with 5ml bottle of Chiavare Personal Moisturizer to give away to one lucky Reader on April 1st!  I’ll toss in a few Bloomin’ Uterus buttons and bracelets, too.  It’s our fun way of giving back and celebrating Endometriosis Awareness Month!

How does it work?

Simply submit your answer below.  Your contact information will be kept confidential and shared with no one and I’ll contact the winner directly for their mailing address.  I will post your answers (anonymously, if you so choose) on the blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, along with the hashtags #endometriosis #chiavare and #bloominuterus.  On April 1st, I’ll have the computer randomly select a winner!

This is open to those who have Endometriosis…and those who have loved ones or friends with Endometriosis.  Really…what WOULD you do?

Want to play?

 

 

A fun way to spread awareness, get your voice heard, and win a few fun gifts!  And if you would like to see all of the submissions we’ve received, click here.