Health

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.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Nature Made® as a part of an Ambassador Program for Influence Central.

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A few years ago, my health was in a pretty good place. I’d started paying closer attention to what I was eating and I had my sugar habit pretty well under control. I was drinking water more than anything else, and I lost a lot of weight. Then I got pregnant with my now 2-year-old, and I fell off my new lifestyle. I got back in the habit of eating whatever I wanted whenever the mood struck me. Now, I’m finally ready to start taking better care of myself again. So when I got an opportunity to try Nature Made Probiotics, I figured I’d use it to jumpstart my renewed commitment to wellness.

So why try a probiotic? And why Nature Made? Well, Nature Made® is the #1 pharmacist recommended brand for many key dietary supplement categories*. It’s a brand my family and I have used for years for many of our vitamin, mineral, and supplement needs and bridge nutritional gaps, so it’s a name we trust. So it was easy for me to be sold on the idea of trying a new product category.

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As to the first question? Well, I’ve been interested in trying probiotics for years. I’m no stranger to digestive issues, and I love the idea that a simple, daily supplement can help me feel healthier in a way that will be noticeable on a daily basis. And Nature Made® Probiotics: Nature Made® Advanced Dual Action Probiotic has been clinically studied and provides dual support to both your small and large intestine for comprehensive coverage to help support digestive balance and healthy gut flora.† All that to say it is designed to make my gut feel a lot better than it has been in recent years.

I’ve been taking the probiotic for a few days now — two pills a day as recommended — and my husband has even joined me in my efforts. I have to say that I’ve already noticed a difference. I feel less bloated at the end of the day, and just generally lighter. I am sincerely hoping that with continued use, my experience will improve further.

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Feeling better in this way has encouraged me to try feeling better in other ways as well. I’ve begun paying more attention to what I’m eating and when. I’ve started drinking more water. I’d be lying if I said I started working out again, but let’s just say that’s at the top of my to-do list as well. Wish me luck.

If you’re looking for a way to jump-start your own health journey, you can head to Walmart to stock up on Nature Made items at their every day low prices. You don’t even have to wait for them to go on sale 🙂 For more information on Nature Made® vitamins and supplements that are available at Walmart, visit the Nature Made® Retailer Hub and enter to win one of 60 Walmart gift cards worth $50 (No purchase necessary).

You can also visit www.healthyhabitbuilder.com and join the Nature Made® Healthy Habit Builder program where you can get motivation and tips around your specific health goals.

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).†

*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.

Say Hello to Hello Products

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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When my family and I embarked on this journey to make our lives as green as possible, there were a lot of things we changed. We switched to reusable shopping bags (though I admit I forget them in the car. A lot.) We ditched paper towels in favor of actual towels and cloths, and switched to toilet paper made from 100% recycled paper. We switched our cleaning and personal care products to ones made with fewer artificial ingredients. But one of the products for which we continued to buy a “traditional” version (as opposed to a “green” version) is toothpaste. This is not because there are no natural toothpaste brands. On the contrary, we tried a couple. But none of them stuck, because none of them tasted as good as what we were used to or felt as effective.

When Hello Products reached out to me about their full line of “Naturally Friendly” oral care products, I admit I was skeptical at first. Because I’ve been there before with natural toothpaste and even toothbrushes. But I figured what the heck. What could be the harm in trying them, right?

Well, I’m absolutely glad I did. Hello has managed to change my mind and my family’s morning routine, and now I can brag that even my toothpaste is eco-friendly.

So what’s so special about hello and their products? Well, here’s a brief list:

  • It’s free of triclosan, dyes, and artificial sweeteners. All sweeteners are naturally derived, and the corn-based sweeteners are made from non-GMO corn.
  • Their toothpaste tubes are BPA- and phthalate-free. Plus, they’re just well-designed and really pretty.
  • Their boxes are made from recyclable paper sourced from FSC-certified sources and printed with soy based ink.
  • Hello is made in the U.S., though a small amount of their packaging is made in Canada and Italy.

So how does all of that translate into finished products? Well, I love their toothpaste.

We received a variety flavors to try:

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I know what you’re probably thinking. That’s a lot of mint flavors. Don’t they all just taste the same? Well, they actually don’t. Mojito Mint has a kick that I imagine is similar to what an actual mojito would taste like. What? I’ve never had one, so I don’t know for sure. Pure mint is just that: Made with just mint. And it tastes like it. Supermint is actually my favorite flavor. It’s made with mint, spearmint, and peppermint.

What all three flavors have in common, though, is that they leave my mouth feeling extra, like extra, extra, clean when I’m done brushing. In addition to the minty freshness, my teeth feel really smooth — much more noticeable than when I use traditional toothpaste. Which means I have no desire to use traditional toothpaste again.

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And I love that there’s a fluoride-free option for kids. At 2 years old, Juliza loves brushing her teeth all by herself. The problem is that she still hasn’t quite gotten the hang of spitting out the toothpaste. Since we don’t want her swallowing fluoride, we need something she can use until she gets the hang of spitting. And she loves the flavor. Now, she’s only too eager to brush her teeth. Which I consider a big win.

Hello has already changed our mouth care routine for the better — so much that I’ll be working with them for the next few months to share how they’ve made our lives friendlier. In the meantime, you can find hello products at Target and Target.com.

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As I write this post, right this second, my nose is running. I’d been relatively lucky so far this winter. No major illnesses in the household. There was one bout of cold for all of us early on, but nothing a few days and rest couldn’t fix. This though? This feels like it may get ugly. Scratchy throat, headache, fatigue, and just a general, overwhelming feeling of blah. When Walmart asked me to write about how we prepare and combat cold and flu season, I had no idea I’d be writing from real-time experience.

The CDC did predict that the flu season would spike in February this year, later than usual, but apparently right on time for me. And right now, it really has me wishing I’d opted to get a flu shot this year. Actually, I say that every year, but I’m going to confess something: I’ve never had one. I always suffer through a bad cold or the flu, wishing I’d gotten it, then develop amnesia the next year when the time comes to get a shot.

Don’t be like me. Most insurance plans will allow you to get a flu vaccine with no out-of-pocket expense, so you won’t have to worry about cost if you’re insured. Even without insurance, the vaccine is $25, so it’s not terribly expensive to protect yourself. Walmart pharmacists are also available to offer any help you need with figuring out the best options for your needs, whether that’s a flu shot or another type of immunization for yourself or your family.

If you’re already sick like me, though, here are my favorite tips for fighting back against the cold or flu.

Take vitamin C. You should probably be doing this anyway, but it will definitely help give you a boost to get rid of the cold. I prefer vitamin pills, but you could also use something like Emergen-C.

Consider other herbal supplements. My favorite is Echinacea. I almost always take it when I have a cold, and it seems to speed up the course of my illness. When I don’t take it, I miss it. Something else may work better for you, of course, but that has been my personal experience.

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Rest. I know. I know. This can often be easier said than done, particularly when you have a family. For me, resting means not pushing myself to get everything done today. I wish it meant long, daytime naps, but baby Juliza puts an end to that fantasy. Tonight, it means a shot of lemon juice and a hot cup of mint tea while snuggling under my new favorite plush blanket on the sofa.

Eat soup. I fully admit there’s nothing inherently healing about a hot bowl of soup, but honestly, it just feels good to have a hot bowl of something when you’re feeling icky. I’m not above eating store-bought soup, but I’m extra lucky because my husband makes a mean homemade chicken soup. I know what I’ll be requesting this weekend. I sense a trip to Walmart in his future. And remind me to share his recipe sometime.

So what do you to protect yourself during cold and flu season, or to feel better once you’re sick? Share your tips in the comments below. I could use them today.

The past two years have been — how can I put this nicely? — lazy. No. Lazy isn’t really the best word. They’ve been a flurry of activity as I watch Juliza grow up before my eyes while I attempt to juggle work. But the one thing I honestly have not made much time for in the juggling act is exercise. I know I should. Really I do. But I haven’t made it nearly the priority I should. So when Walmart asked me to try some of their newest fitness wear, I admit I was hoping that wearing it would imbue some motivation.

Walmart really has a lot of great, affordable fitness options, from yoga pants and moisture-wicking tops to sweatpants and sports bras. My favorite fitness activity is dance, so I really just wanted to find some items that would allow me to be comfortable while I get my groove on. I found these great Danskin patterned leggings and baseball-style tee.

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Let’s talk about these leggings for a second. They. Are. Awesome. First, there’s the pattern, because that’s what immediately drew my eye. I love patterned workout clothes. They somehow feel more happy and motivating than — say — gray or black. But more than that, they are genuinely comfortable. Comfortable enough for me to do this:

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Look at me, pretending I do yoga! Lmao! Anyway, the fabric is soft and perfectly stretchy, and I could sleep in them. From me, this is high praise. I HATE sleeping in any kind of long pants.

The top was designed to be oversized, so I bought an XL. Turns out I still should’ve bought a 2X. Still, it was comfortable, if not roomy, and I love the brightly colored sleeved. Plus? $6.96. I’ll probably grab a couple more of these in different colors (and a bigger size).

I also bought a Danskin sports bra in an XXL, but let’s just say that some XXL chests are apparently bigger than others. Though it was sturdy and well constructed, it didn’t fit comfortably. I should be used to this by now. Lmao!

I really need to hit up Walmart’s fitness wear section more often, because the prices are great, and you really can’t be the comfort. Even if the only exercise I wind up doing looks less like Zumba or Crossfit, and more like this:

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Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.