Sunday, June 26, 2011 Laura Lang, CEO Digitas; Alex von Plato, Exec VP & Chief Creative Officer, Digitas Health; Susan Manber, Sr VP & Exec Planning Dir, Digitas Health; Lesley Jane Seymour, Ed-in-Chief MORE Magazine; Laura Michalchyshyn, Pres & GM Discovery Fit & Health; Brenda Coffee, CEO BreastCancerSisterhood.com; Angela Matusik, Chief Content Exec, iVillage. Photo by Kelly Davidson.
Recently I was honored to be a panelist at a Fortune 100, invitation only event. The NewFront’s “Brands Meet Content” has become the premier event of Internet Week in NYC. At this event, NewFront and Digitas, the world’s largest digital ad agency, brought together Hollywood’s elite, leading content creators, distributors, talent and Fortune 100 marketers to develop the next big innovative ideas in worldwide online content.
Like the cowboys and settlers of the American West, Digitas and NewFront are successfully riding into a new frontier and taking the world's largest brands along with them. With the help of this year’s A-List speakers, this creative, high-tech wagon train is helping brands discover that online content is just as important as distribution, and that content doesn’t necessarily need to be created by the brand. The nuances, new rules, and no rules of this new world are unfolding everyday, but make no mistake. There's a new sheriff in town: Branded, digital content. <PREVIEWEND>
Just a few of the event’s A-List speakers included actor, online content developer and branding wizard, Ashton Kutcher, and his wife, Demi Moore; John Battelle, Founder of WIRED magazine and Federated Media Publishing; Beth Comstock, Chief Marketing Officer & SVP of General Electric; Clive Davis, Chief Creative Officer for SONY Music Entertainment and Richard Stengel, Managing Editor of TIME magazine. I was proud to be in the company of such talented trailblazers.
The NewFront's Women’s Health Styles panel I was on was an outgrowth of a study done by Digitas Health and Yahoo about how women in their 40s and 50s see themselves and how they make decisions about their health. The study wanted to steer clear of the stereotypical image of this age group: women who are somewhere between Super Moms and the Sandwich Generation who care for aging parents. One thing emerged loud and clear from this study. Today’s women are not their mother’s generation.
Women in their 40s and 50s are better educated, have more disposable income, take better care of themselves, look better and make decisions differently than any previous generation in history. We are the generation that grew up believing we could have it all but have since discovered that having it all is a balancing act of compromise, sacrifice and stress. We want to connect with other women who’ve walked in our shoes, women who are genuine and authentic, real women like ourselves.
The Digitas Health/Yahoo study discovered five core insights into this age group: 1.) Women mostly see mid-life as a “wow” followed by a good natured “ugh.” This age group is happier and more positive than women 20 to 30; they have more time for themselves; they’re less concerned with what others think, and their experience has given them wisdom and perspective.
2.) Gathering info about health is as much an emotional experience as a factual one.
Women want information from respected sources, and they want it easy to digest and understand. They also want a trusted source that has their best interest in mind and no hidden agenda.
3.) The Internet helps women “realize to decide.” Over half of the women in the study get their health information and support online, plus giving is as important as getting information. At some point, something happens between a woman’s research and her experiences that gives her an “ah-ha” moment and makes her realize she needs to do something “about it.”
4.) Our response of “Yes Doctor” has become “Yes Doctor, but…” Because so much information is available online, nearly half of the women surveyed believe they have more of a role in diagnosis and treatment. Women want, but don’t often get, a doctor who makes decisions with them, based on who they are and what their situation is.
5.) Five temperaments and approaches to making health decisions. a. Optimistic & Proactive: She has a positive attitude and does everything she can to stay healthy. b. Savvy Explorers: Digs and researches online to get a well-rounded understanding. c. Connected Consensus Seekers: Wants to talk about it with friends and family, especially those who speak from personal experience. d. Detached & Disinterested: Practically ignores the entire subject of health, including her own. e. Constrained & Overwhelmed: Has problems coping with chronic conditions and illness and has negative outlook about this stage of life.
As a result of this study, advertisers are learning they need to reach women about their health in new and different ways other than banner ads or a generic Facebook page. Not only do we use technology, we use it for everything from researching our family’s healthcare, to connecting with one another. We look for authenticity and transparency from the brands we use. We want to know more than just the ingredients in our skin cream. We want brands that solicit our opinion and value their relationship with us. Social media allows us to be more than just nameless, faceless statistics. We’re a brand’s focus group; we reward quality brands with loyalty and word-of-mouth advertising, and if they let us down, another brand will take their place.
Thank you Digitas for inviting me to such an awesome event, for appreciating the “sassy strength” of BRENDA’S BLOG and for recognizing the relationships my readers and I have created. We are a team. They mean the world to me, and I hope they mean the world to all the products they honor with their purchases.
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Before my first breast reconstruction surgery, I stuffed socks into my bra so my flat chest matched the size of my other breast. Since I’m not big on carrying a purse, it wasn’t long before I started filling the empty bra cup with practical things like cell phone, money, driver’s license and keys. James compared me to a magician who retrieved rabbits and flowers out of a hat. While I did use rocks and raisins as nipple substitutes, I drew the line at lining my bra with living things.
Today I talked with a woman who’s had phase one of her reconstruction surgery: insertion of a tissue expander. So far, she’s not happy with the results. Compared to her other breast, she says the new one’s too high and too perky, but she knows when all is said and done, the new breast will look more like her natural breast. As we talked I remembered how involved the whole reconstruction process was, so for those of you who don’t understand how it works, here’s “Tissue Expanders and Breast Reconstruction for Dummies.”<PREVIEWEND>
Immediately following a mastectomy, or at some future time after the mastectomy incisions have healed, a tissue expander or temporary implant is surgically inserted under the pectoral muscle. Gradually over a period of weeks or months the surgeon, in the office, numbs your skin and inserts a needle into a port on the expander, then adds small increments of saline solution. This gradual increase in size allows the pectoral muscle to stretch over time until it reaches the desired breast size. Some women complain of tightness while the muscle is being stretched, a few say it’s painful, but for me it was more of an annoyance. You may be thinking, “Women get ‘boob jobs’ all the time, and they don’t need tissue expanders. Why do they need them with breast reconstruction surgery?”
With a regular boob job, or breast augmentation, the implant is placed between the existing breast tissue and the pectoral muscle so the implant is not as noticeable. However, because the breast tissue is removed during a mastectomy, an implant that’s placed on top of the pectoral has no place to hide. It would look like a grapefruit with skin draped over it. Actually, some bad breast augmentations look like that anyway.
Once the expander has been filled to the desired size, it’s then surgically exchanged for either a saline or a Silicone Gel implant. In 1992, the FDA halted the sale of Silicone implants due to safety concerns. In those older implants, the Silicone was in liquid form, which meant if the implant ruptured, the Silicone could potentially travel to other parts of your body, plus it was linked to a variety of autoimmune problems. Today the Silicone is in gel form so if the implant ruptures the Silicone supposedly remains intact. Silicone gel implants result in a more natural looking and feeling breast, as opposed to saline implants, which can often look and feel like a coconut shell. By the way, saline implants are Silicone shells that are filled with saline, which is sterile salt water. Saline implants have a greater likelihood of rippling along the edges where the silicone shell wrinkles and folds and may be noticeable in spots not covered by the pectoral muscle. Regardless of whether you choose saline or Silicone, both implants are subject to rupturing and may need to be replaced in the future. That’s just the nature of the beast. Also, some women are good candidates for a procedure that allows a permanent implant to be inserted immediately after their mastectomy without the need for a tissue expander, so ask your doctor. So that’s the basic one, two, three of tissue expanders. Revisions, nipple reconstruction and tattooing of the areola are optional.
When I tell people I’ve had 10 breast cancer surgeries they find it hard to believe, but after a lumpectomy, mastectomy, tissue expander, permanent implant and nipple reconstruction on just one breast, that’s five surgeries right there. For me, the worst part of any of my surgeries was mentally getting geared up for it. The hardest part of reconstruction is the fear and anxiety of the unknown: How will I react to the anesthesia; what could go wrong; is the surgeon and his team really top notch; will I be in any pain; what will my new breast look like and what if I don’t like it? I sometimes wonder if the reason many women elect not to have reconstruction is because of their fears. Except for the post surgery corset I wore for months and months that made my ribs hurt, the procedure itself wasn’t painful. However, as with any surgical procedure, there are always risks so ask questions and weigh your decisions carefully. You should also know that Silicone and saline implants can interfere with mammography screening and both are subject to breakage during the procedure.
Back to the woman who feared her reconstructed breast might be too high or too perky… After a certain age, can breasts ever be too perky? Oh, and in case you’re wondering, don’t even think about stashing Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in your bra. Don’t ask… It was chemo brain, I tell you, and that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
WhileI was in New York last week, I saw Love, Loss & What I Wore, an off-Broadway play written by the ever-prolific Ephron sisters. Delia and Nora Ephron have an uncanny way of weaving stories that are universal to all women. The play focuses on five women who reminisce about different articles of clothing they’ve owned such as bathrobes, shoes, purses and bras, and the roles each one has played in their lives. One of my favorites vignettes was about bras that had balloon inserts and came with a plastic straw that allowed you to blow them up. When I was 14, I owned something similar only they were called “falsies.”<PREVIEWEND>
The summer of my 14th birthday, bikinis were all the rage. Everyone was talking about Raquel Welch’s animal skin bikini in the movie, One Million Years B.C. A few years earlier, Ursula Andress had emerged from the sea in a James Bond film, wearing a white bikini and a knife. The sizzle over that bathing suit had made her the quintessential Bond girl. When I asked my mother if I could have a bikini she said, “No. It’ll make you look like a prostitute.” She did, however, let me stuff falsies into a blue Jantzen one piece. Go figure!
The first week of summer vacation I wore my new bathing suit to a public pool. I remember the song Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini was playing through a speaker mounted over the ‘Lifeguard on Duty’ sign. Slowly I slipped into the pool, hoping all the boys, at least the ones over 12, were admiring my shapely new figure. As I settled into the pool, one of my falsies went floating past Greg Duncan, a guy I had a crush on, while my other falsie was being batted about like a volleyball by the older guys in the deep end. Humiliated, I drug myself out of the pool, vowing never to go out in public again.
I’ve more than survived the falsies episode. Now I have little to no modesty when it comes to disrobing or trying on clothes. After 10 breast cancer surgeries and a multitude of sonograms, MRIs and mammograms, plus being the focus of endless probes by doctors and surgeons, I’ve developed an “everyone in town’s already seen them” attitude. Breasts, however, are a big part of who we are. The female quest for beauty and positive self-image dictates what we eat, what we wear and how we feel about ourselves as women. We all know what it’s like to be obsessed with covering up a flaw we think we have, or feeling like we don’t measure up to the models in the magazines. Add the aftereffects of breast cancer to the ongoing conversations in our head, and our self-esteem sometimes gets left on the operating table.
Many of us feel as though our bodies betrayed us, leaving us bald, battle-scarred and shell-shocked. Make no mistake, we’ve been in a war, and what’s worse, the enemy is hiding in our body. No wonder we often emerge from breast cancer with something akin to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Like soldiers who’ve fought in other kinds of wars, we may need counseling, yoga or hypnosis to help us reclaim our self-image and remember the woman we were before we went to war.
As I was leaving the theater in New York, I noticed a young woman in front of me who had a huge Venetian Carnival mask tattooed across her back. You know the kind with the long white nose that looks like an anorexic duckbill? I had to wonder what made her choose that design, and what does it say about her self-image? Did it appeal to her because, on some level, she’s hiding something? I understand why some breast cancer survivors feel the need to hide their figures. I have mismatched mastectomy scars and reconstructed nipples; one has a faded tattoo while the other has no tattoo at all, but I don’t care. I’m still here. We must give ourselves permission to grieve for the things we’ve lost and work at becoming the new person inside us who’s waiting to be freed.
Has your self-image changed with breast cancer or age? Have you stopped wearing clothes you used to wear? Is there something you can do to feel better about your body? Makeovers don’t just pertain to makeup, hair and clothes. Are you ready to makeover the way you think about yourself? While we may not have the same body, hair or skin texture we had before breast cancer, we are alive. Find ways to embrace the new you; cut yourself some slack. We may or may not feel like wearing falsies or teeny bikinis, but then again, who says we can’t?
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Last week Marie O’Connor, a sweet friend to all and a breast cancer blogger from Ireland, wanted her readers and fellow bloggers to tell her a little bit about themselves that had nothing to do with breast cancer. Many responded with comments on Marie’s blog while others have written their own blog posts. So far I’ve learned Jan was a patent attorney;Lauren is a pediatric psychologist who’s an expert witness in abuse and neglect cases that come to trial; Philippa advises and manages educational development programs and has lived in Nepal, Mongolia, India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar; Martine was once offered a singing gig in Las Vegas; Jody is an active cancer advocate who pedals 25 miles, several times a week;Beth is an oil painter; Kathi is a home care physical therapist and a closet Adobe software maven; Katie is a writer;Jackie works in media relations and is wild about the Nebraska Cornhuskers;Lani is a college mathematics professor and Anna is a writer and cancer advocate. And me? I’m an entrepreneur who’s done everything from run a greenhouse manufacturing company to doing a hostile takeover of a public company. The one thing, however, that’s always been a constant in my life has been photography.<PREVIEWEND>
I have always been a camera freak: pinhole, Polaroid SX-70, 35mm, panorama, underwater, 8, 16 and 35mm movie cameras and now, digital. The medium has never mattered as long as I could make images and document where I’ve been. Cameras have gotten me backstage passes, 50-yard line access, flights in fighter jets and landings on aircraft carriers. I’ve documented Paul Newman as he raced cars at Watkins Glen, Robert Mondavi’s 90th birthday party, Olympic Track & Field time trials and life on the road with the Harlem Globetrotters. I’ve captured images of buried treasure, bluebonnets in the Texas Hill Country and the heartfelt moments of life and death. The strange thing about being a photographer and a filmmaker is that even though my camera lens brings me up close and personal, it’s sometimes like I’m window peeping. When many of my experiences are over, I don’t feel like I’ve been there. I remember the quarterback dropping back to pass, one shot at a time, increments done with a high speed motor drive, but ask me what happened next, and I may not remember it clearly if I didn’t see it through my camera lens.
Since breast cancer,I’m more interested in where I’m going than where I’ve been. I’m more interested in where you’re going that where you’ve been. Do you have a life outside of having cancer, publishing a magazine or working in the home? What defines you as a person? Do you only see yourself as a doctor, lawyer, Indian chief? Married, single, widowed or divorced? Or do you see yourself as curious, persevering and a loyal friend? We’re not our cancer, our profession or our spouse. We are the sum of the total of our parts. We are the whole person. We are the little girl that got locked out of the house; the skier who likes to stay on the blue runs; the woman who wants to travel down the Amazon. As people, we are flawed, but as children of God, we are perfect in His sight. Are you living a life that will make God proud? Are you living the life you were called to live? Why not?
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