Health

Recent studies indicate that more than 99% of American women voluntarily remove hair, and more than 85% do so regularly, even daily. But, Mckenzi Middlebrooks’ haircut wasn’t an ordinary procedure. This teen recently went viral on social media for her courageous decision to shave her head while receiving chemotherapy.

Mckenzi is currently in the midst of an ongoing battle with both ovarian cancer and neuroblastoma. Yet she decided to “take control” of the situation, and knowing that hair loss due to chemotherapy was inevitable, she decided to get rid of it on her own terms.

“I had a perspective where cancer and chemo kind of control your life,” Mckenzi told ABC News. “I wanted to take control and basically say chemo and cancer can’t decide when I lose my hair. I want to. At least that was one thing I could have control over.”

When Mckenzi was finally ready, a video was taken while her father shaved her head in front of her mother, siblings, and close friends. Mckenzi said she didn’t originally intend to post the video to social media, but she reconsidered upon remembering that it may help others who are going through something similar.

Approximately 21 million women in the U.S. are experiencing hair loss right now, many times due to chemotherapy. Since the video was posted on Twitter, the tweet has reached more than 26,000 retweets in addition to eliciting encouraging responses from both strangers and friends.

“People were like, ‘You helped my cousin be brave enough to shave her head,’” Mckenzi said to ABC News. “I was happy I could help them.”

Mckenzi was initially diagnosed with ovarian cancer when she was just 14, a major blow for a young woman just beginning her teenage years. After stem cell transplants, chemotherapy, and various surgeries, she was in remission for about two years. But right after last Christmas, a scan showed traces of re-emerging ovarian cancer in addition to a new type of cancer, neuroblastoma. Now, Middlebrooks is set to undergo five chemotherapy treatments every 21 days. To help her recover, the MIddlebrooks family has also set up a Facebook page for people who are interested in following her story, progress, and recovery.

While Mckenzi was reluctant to post the video online, the teen has achieved viral fame in an inspiring way. Today, an estimated 23% of Facebook users check their account at least five times a day, but many teens are practically attached to their smartphones.

“Her video is not only giving somebody else the courage to take control of their situation, but it’s bringing awareness to child cancer, and especially that children can get ovarian cancer,” said Middlebrooks’ mother, Janice Middlebrooks, to ABC News. “The response has just been overwhelming. We never expected it…it’s just amazing.”

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Align as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

Most moms are good at putting our family’s health and well-being first. This can mean everything from making sure that everyone eats a good breakfast and dinner to putting the kids to bed at a decent hour every night. But one of the things I typically don’t think about enough is my kids’ digestive health. I mean, I do in a general sense. I make sure they’re eating fruit and vegetables, eating three meals a day, drinking water — you know. The basics necessary for survival. But I’ve never really thought specifically about how to help with their digestion — even when I was taking probiotics myself.

When I learned that Align also makes a chewable probiotic supplement for kids ages 6-12, Align Jr., I finally started thinking about how I could help my kids achieve healthier, more harmonious digestion. Align is the #1 Doctor and Gastroenterologist-recommended probiotic brand‡. 
 Align Jr. is a cherry-flavored chewable for kids that is meant to be taken once a day. My kids already take other chewable vitamins daily. So could improving their digestive health really be as simple as adding Align Jr. to my middle schooler’s existing morning routine, right along with the chewable vitamins that she’s already happy to take? As it turns out, adding it to her routine really was that simple.

Even if your kids aren’t used to taking supplements, you can just remind them that it is cherry smoothie flavored, which will make it sort of like a tiny treat every time they take it. And for your peace of mind (and mine), there are no artificial colors or sweeteners included and it’s gluten free.

Sounds like a win-win-win. (I’m not sure exactly who the last “win” is for, but it just felt right).

So what exactly are the possible benefits of taking a probiotic, much less giving one to your kids, right? Well, everything from what we’re eating to stress, general busyness and changes to our routines can all wreak havoc on our digestion. And in my experience, no one wants an angry digestive system. Probiotics are designed to help minimize the angry. They introduce good bacteria to our systems that provide a health benefit and are essential for many vital body functions, including healthy digestion*. And everyone feels better when their digestion is moving along as it should. Why wouldn’t we want the same for our kids?

If you’d like to try Align Jr., don’t miss the chance to use this $5 off coupon.


Align partnered with bloggers, such as me, to get the word out about its great product benefits. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. Align believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Align’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.

ǂ Among gastroenterologists and doctors who recommended a brand of probiotic in an AlphaImpactRx 2016 Survey.

Playing some sexy games with your partner is an easy way to let go of your inhibitions, get to know each other better and, maybe, even learn a thing or two about yourself. So plan to spend some personal time together and have fun. Your love life will thank you!

1. 30 Seconds

In this wildly sensual teasing game you’ll have just 30 seconds to give each other as much pleasure as possible. What makes it fun is the fact that usually it isn’t enough, which turns out to be a good thing because now it’s your turn. You’ll find that you both need multiple turns, as you’re not allowed to give directions or help in any way.

Toy Ideas: Heartbreaker  |  Scout


2. Mirror, Mirror

Start off by doing something to your partner that you enjoy. They will then repeat that same move on you and vice versa. This game is not only about discovering what pleases your lover, but also about helping you uncover new sensations that you didn’t know you liked.

Toy Ideas: Pocket wonder wand  |  Double impact


3. Lights, camera, action!

Becoming very trendy in the last several years, sensual videos bring new and exciting atmosphere into the bedroom. Plus, you’ll have an intimate recording that you can enjoy again and again. Let your imagination soar and experiment with decorations, costumes, and toys.

Ideas: Ruffle babydoll and panty set  |  Lasso love ring


4. Hot & Cold

This sensory deprivation game is one of the most erotic games to try. You will need a couple of toys with different textures and two bowls of water – hot and cold. Start the game by blindfolding (and even tying up) your partner, then stimulate their pleasure zones by changing up the temperature and texture of the toys.

Toy Ideas: Caress silicone  |  Casper


5. Truth or Dare

If you’ve never played an erotic version of this game, you’re in for a wonderful surprise. Take turns asking each other naughty questions or daring to do kinky things, and you’ll surely uncover some fantastic things about your lover. You can be as wild, or tame, as you want. Just make sure to set some ground rules first.

Toy Ideas: Soft touch set  |  Double indulgence


6. Alphabet

In this game, you take turns tracings letters or even whole words on your partner’s most private parts. The trick is to only use your tongue when you’re writing and the receiving partner has to keep the eyes closed, can even be blindfolded for an additional thrill. To kick this up a notch, try adding a Finger Vibrator to the mix. Use it to stimulate one zone when you’re writing on another, it will make the guessing a bit harder by spreading the attention, but that multipoint stimulation will take them all the way to ecstasy.

Toy Ideas: Soft touch blindfold  |  Pleasure finger


7. Spin the Bottle

Remember the thrill of playing Spin the Bottle with your friends; remember how it made you tremble by giving you a chance to kiss that special someone? Well, now you can make the game even more exciting. All you need is a bottle and a large sheet of paper with a list of all your favorite caresses. Set a limit for each turn, as the list can be quite long. Stimulation of some erogenous zones can be tricky without specially designed toys, so feel free to bring them to the game. You know what we mean, right?

Toy Ideas: Petite Treats  |  Silicone P-spot vibe


8. Stark Naked

To play this game you need a radio or your music collection with a shuffle function. Take turns guessing the singer’s gender for the upcoming song and whoever gets it right, chooses the position. Make it even more exciting by playing with a couple’s vibrator, which will really maximize the pleasure and double the fun.

Toy Ideas: blueMotion Nex 1  |  Unity


9. Hot, Hotter, Hottest

Have your partner write down on paper some secret wishes they have, then hide those notes around the house and make your partner find them. Looking for those notes can be a great foreplay, as you will be controlling the vibrator your partner will be wearing and the closer they will get to the note, the more rewarding you make the vibrations, so, by the time the seeker will find one, both of you will be really turned on for the main course.

Toy Ideas: Adventure remote control egg |  Love play


10. Roll the Dice

Make that popular game even hotter by taking it outside the bedroom. Roll the dice to see where the game will take you and how long the action will last. And keep a toy at every location to use for extra fun and pleasure.

Toy Ideas: Pink fantasy soft cuffs  |  Couple’s delight


11. First to Finish Loses

The goal of this game is to make your partner orgasm before you do…whoever holds off the longest is the winner. If you win, you get to guide your partner in how to use your favorite toy to give you an orgasm.

Toy ideas: We-ring  |  Eva


More toys and sexy ideas.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Boys & Girls Clubs of America as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

My daughter wants to be the next Simone Biles. Yes, that Simone Biles. The one who brought home four gold medals in gymnastics after the 2016 Olympics and thrilled the world in the process. Suffice it to say my baby girl is driven, and I want her to achieve her wildest dreams. Of course, if this is going to happen my family has to prioritize being healthy. I admit that while the rest of my family does a good job of staying active, mama needs to do better so that I can be supportive and encouraging — but also lead by example. And like many families, we could definitely use some help making healthy food choices at home, so that our girls are prepared to make healthy food choices of their own.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America understands challenging it can be to do all of this, and they want to help families do better. Their Triple Play initiative is a comprehensive health and wellness program designed to give young people and their families not just awareness, but also the tools necessary to make healthier decisions.

Triple Play, which is sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company and Amerigroup Foundation, is a program that focuses on three key areas: Mind, body and soul. The overall goal is to encourage participants to increase the amount of physical activity they engage in and help build a support network of positive relationships — all designed to help create a healthy lifestyle. Triple Play is currently available to 4,000 Boys & Girls Clubs that serve more than 4.2 million youth in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Personally, I know that I need to increase physical activity. I feel better when I get up and move my body, even if just for 20 minutes a day, and even if I don’t admit to my husband that he’s right when he says it will help. Triple Play aims to help us all focus on the “I feel better when” mantra, so that we can make decisions that make us feel our best.

During the winter, my family doesn’t get outside often, save for the stray 70-degree day that reminds us Mother Nature has no respect for date or season. The rest of the time, we have to find ways to stay active indoors. My 3-year-old has this particular mission on lock. There is no piece of furniture she will not climb, bounce on, or jump off. She also spends a lot of pretend playtime as various animals and a ballerina — sometimes at the same time.

My older daughter has gymnastics. Even though she’s not enrolled in classes right now, she still uses the equipment we have at home to keep her skills on point. The rest of us have to get a bit more creative about it. My older daughter dances with me because she knows that’s my favorite way to move, and my husband uses the every room and every surface to exercise — from the counters in the bathroom to the door frame of the laundry room.

When it comes to meals, we have to be even more thoughtful. Old habits die hard, and one of mine is eating convenience food. We are constantly working to include fresher foods and more vegetables and fruit in our routine.

In addition to providing support for kids, Triple Play also provides a guide for parents, with step by step details for making good choices all the time.

So what about you? What do you do to keep yourself and your family active?

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and the American Cancer Society. All opinions are mine alone. The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the American Cancer Society. #Th3Fight #ad #CollectiveBias

As a parent, there is little that feels worse than being completely helpless when your child is hurting. And yet that is precisely the place my husband and I found ourselves in back in 2010 when our daughter was diagnosed with leukemia.

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The process began innocently enough. She had a cold that took a little too long to clear, and swollen lymph nodes that just wouldn’t go away. Her pediatrician told us to keep an eye on her, and bring her back if things didn’t look better in a week. Within that week, she tripped over a baby gate, sprained her ankle and developed a swollen lymph node on — of all places — her head. A lymph node that an ER doctor told us was just a cosmetic problem we shouldn’t worry about.

But I knew my daughter, and I knew she didn’t seem like herself. She’d been sick for weeks, and I wanted to know what was wrong. So I took her back to her pediatrician, who asked to do some blood tests. Within minutes, she came back with words that scared me probably more than anything else ever has in my life — she thought my daughter might have leukemia. She didn’t even let us go home. She immediately called our nearest children’s hospital and had them send an ambulance to come get us.

Once the doctors confirmed her diagnosis and admitted her, we were left to figure out life now that cancer had come calling. Think about this:

Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the US, after heart disease, and it accounts for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths. One. In. Four. Those numbers mean that in 2016 in the U.S., there will be an estimated 1,685,210 new cancer cases and 595,690 cancer deaths.

The weight of that knowledge really hit us when she was diagnosed. But we had to find our “new normal” somehow.

More than six years later, I am so happy to say that we did find that new normal, and my beautiful daughter, shown below with her little sister, is 6 years cancer free.

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Through it all, my daughter was a fighter. She maintained a positive attitude and remained inquisitive and curious about her treatments, and she really was an inspiration to my husband and I. She rarely complained, and she was stronger than I think I could ever be if the roles were reversed. Now, she’s a competitive gymnast who continues to fight for an amazing life.

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Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas knows a thing or two about fighting. He fought and survived testicular cancer. If you didn’t know that (I didn’t either), that’s because he had been very private about his battle. But now, he’s working with American Cancer Society as a global ambassador and going public with his story in hopes of helping other cancer fighters and survivors. And his experience sparked the idea to create The Fight, an empowering song celebrating survivorship.

The first time I listened to this song, it brought tears to my eyes. I love the idea of an anthem that honors and celebrates the seriousness of cancer along with the joy of surviving.

You can join The Fight too. Download the song from iTunes. Proceeds from the sale of this song benefit the American Cancer Society. You can also learn more about Taboo’s own fight.

The American Cancer Society has made a commitment to raising awareness about the prevention and early detection of cancer. In addition to their prevention efforts, they are invested in researching cancer causes and treatments. They are currently funding more than $420 million in cancer research grants, and they have invested more than $4.3 billion in cancer research since 1946.

The truth that many of us have been or will be touched by cancer, either directly or indirectly. Download The Fight from iTunes to honor the fighters in your life, or just to help make sure that the American Cancer Society can continue to do the work.

Disclosure: Hello Products has provided me to with product to facilitate this review, along with compensation for my time and effort in creating this content. As always, all opinions are my own.

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Juliza is going through a phase. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s the one when your toddler turns from a cute, cuddly ball of love into a tiny dictator who has found her voice and knows how — and when — to use it to maximum effect. This dictatorship doesn’t take a break, either. From the moment she wakes up until the moment she goes to sleep, she’s telling us all what to do, and what she is and isn’t going to do. Apparently, when I prayed for patience, God decided to give me an endless supply of situations in which to practice being patient.

This pattern holds true when we go to brush our teeth in the morning. Since before Juliza turned two, we’ve been brushing our teeth together in the morning. At first, this involved me physically brushing her teeth for her. Soon, it evolved to her “brushing” them herself. Notice “brushing” is in quotation marks. Because her idea of brushing mostly involved sucking the toothpaste off the brush. Then she decided that she didn’t feel like brushing at all.

I tried a ton of strategies for getting her to the sink:

I promised treats if she’d brush her teeth, from delicious fruit snacks to trips to the park. The snacks were somewhat effective, if counterproductive to the whole tooth-brushing process.

At one point, I let her brush my teeth first. That was fun. And by “fun”, I mean torturous, given my sensitive teeth and gums and our severe misunderstanding about the meaning of the word “gently.”

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Some mornings, I just held her between my legs and brushed her teeth with her kicking and screaming. Neither of us enjoyed those days, and we usually both ended up equally frustrated. That led to other mornings, when, not wanting to fight with a stubborn toddler, I just avoided the whole process altogether. I know. I know. Bad mommy.

Things changed quite a bit once we started using Hello products fluoride-free toothpaste. We are still not at the stage where she quite understands how to spit when she’s brushing, so we need toothpaste sans fluoride if she’s going to swallow it. Hello Products not only has fluoride-free toothpaste — it has fluoride-free toothpaste that actually tastes good. And yes, I tried it.

Juliza loves the watermelon toothpaste. And because of the style of the tube, which sits upside down when not in use for easier application, I can allow Juliza to squeeze it herself without too much mess. Because there are still messes sometimes, but not nearly as bad as I imagine they’d be with a traditional toothpaste tube.

So after all our trial and error, it appears that two things have made her finally enjoy brushing her teeth again:

  1. Tasty toothpaste that she enjoys using (thanks Hello!), and…
  2. Giving my baby dictator space to be a baby dictator, and reminding myself that this phase will pass eventually. And ice cream. Copious amounts of ice cream. For me, I mean. Because I don’t drink wine.

Don’t worry. She makes up for it with all this cute.

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Back in March 2004, my husband and I had been married for less than a year. We were still figuring out how to do the married thing and how to live with each other when the unthinkable happened: He was in a near-fatal car accident. He was riding in the backseat of a friend’s car when they were hit by a drunk driver less than a mile from home. And in a wild turn of events, NOT wearing a seat belt actually saved his life, because he flew away from the impact.

The accident turned our world upside down. He was in and out of the hospital for months because of complications from the accident and his subsequent treatment. We did, fortunately, have health insurance at the time. But he was hospitalized more than an hour from home each time — which meant that I literally slept at the hospital — often in waiting rooms — so I could be close. And after using my two weeks of vacation, I had to go to work every day, and I drove back to the hospital at night when I got off. All of this proved to be expensive. And health insurance doesn’t cover meals, gas, toiletries and all the other things you need when you’re living in and out of hospital rooms.

My husband, in the months after the accident, still wearing a neck brace.

My husband, in the months after the accident, still wearing a neck brace.

Adding insult to injury, a few weeks after my husband’s accident, my employer started offering Aflac voluntary insurance. Voluntary insurance that would’ve paid cash directly to us to help with the immediate expenses that we were incurring as a result of the accident and helped with the deductibles. Admittedly, if we had not been in that specific situation, I may not have considered applying for Aflac at all. I probably would not have understood the importance or wanted to deal with the perceived “hassle” that would’ve come with the paperwork to enroll. But our situation made it really clear why having voluntary insurance before we needed it was a great idea. So even though it was too late to help with the accident expenses, I signed up anyway, because I never wanted to be in that position again.

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More than a decade later, we are long past the initial panic that comes with dealing with an accident. But we are still dealing with health issues related to it, and we are still in a precarious enough financial situation that voluntary insurance like Aflac is still worth it. And now we have kids to worry about too.

Right now, most employers have an open enrollment period, where workers can review benefits offered by their employers and enroll in insurance policies that are the best fit for their current situations. If you’re a millennial, like me, you probably have a million things to worry about at any given time. We’re all trying to keep roofs over our heads and keep the lights on, and most of us know how easy it would be for one emergency to cause irreparable damage to our families’ finances. Especially if you have a health insurance policy with high deductibles and copays, as so many employers are offering these days. And yet, according to the 2016 Aflac Open Enrollment Survey, 14% of millennials would rather walk across hot coals than complete their annual benefits enrollment.

Trust me. I completely understand the aversion. But it’s worth it to review your benefits, or even speak to your employer’s benefits expert, if it means you can save up to $750 this year by making informed choices (like avoiding plans with high deductibles, if you can help it), and protect your future financial interests at the same time.

Think of my story as a cautionary tale. None of us wants to end up in financial ruin, completely out of cash, because of an illness or accident. It is worth the peace of mind to know that you have a backup policy that can help you directly when you most need it.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Aflac herein means American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus and American Family Life Assurance Company of New York.
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Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Nature Made® as a part of an Ambassador Program for Influence Central.

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I wish I could say honestly that my family and I have the healthiest diet in the world. Really I do. But the truth is that for as long as I can remember, I’ve been a lazy cook with very particular tastes. So I tend to cook the same thing over and over again and rely on my husband — who is a much more inventive chef than I am — for variety. And while, as a general rule, I understand the need to have essential vitamins and minerals in our diet, I can honestly say that it’s unlikely we always get what we need from diet alone.

As a result, we try to fill those dietary gaps with vitamins and supplements as needed, and we usually do so with our favorite brand. Nature Made® is the #1 Pharmacist Recommended brand for many key dietary supplement categories.* They are the first brand we go to no matter what we need, from vitamin C and Echinacea during the onset of cold season to B vitamins to make sure we’re getting enough.

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Nature Made® is the brand we choose to help keep our family healthy, and we usually get them at Walmart. Because of their everyday low prices, we can stock up without having to wait for them to go on sale.

And the selection at Walmart is pretty impressive too.

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Nature Made® has a variety of vitamins, minerals and supplements (VMS) to help support nutritional gaps with your health goals in mind ranging from Digestive Support, Heart Health & Function, Energy Metabolism, Women’s Health and much more!† So regardless of whether you just need to replace some of the vitamins that might be missing from your everyday diet, or you want a supplement to help with a more specific need, chances are, you can find what you’re looking for.

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This time around, we picked up vitamin C to help us brace for the weather change that’s finally happening in Georgia, fish oil for EPA, DHA and Omega 3s, and melatonin to help us sleep better. And with a toddler who has only started sleeping through the night consistently in the past few months and the busy holidays coming up, sleep is an absolute necessity around here.

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Nature Made® vitamins and supplements: An easy, convenient way to help your body get the nutritional support it needs every day, whether it be to support bone health, immune health or energy metabolism (helping convert food into energy).†

Want to learn more about Nature Made®? Join their Healthy Habit Builder program where you can find motivation and get tips related to your specific health goals. You can also head over to the Walmart hub for a chance to win one of 60 Walmart gift cards worth $50 each (no purchase necessary).

*Based on the 2016 U.S. News & World Report – Pharmacy Times Survey.
†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.