Sunday, January 31, 2010

New mascot for breast cancer patients feeling grouchy!

A few weeks ago we had a very popular article by Hester Hill Schnipper debunking the myth that cancer patients "need" a positive attitude. So here is the brand new mascot for anyone who's ever felt a little grouchy about having to deal with breast cancer.
Here's a link to the article or you can scroll down!
BEING A GROUCH DOESN'T CAUSE CANCER
Oscar is copyright Sesame Workshop
Thanks to Otter at breastcancer.org

Expert advice on maintaining emotional heath during cancer treatment


 
Editor's note:Many cancer patients don't learn about helpful services until it's too late. In the whirlwind of diagnosis, asking for one more referral can feel overwhelming. Here is Hester Hill Schnipper's excellent explanation of how and why you should utilize the services of an oncology social worker.
Suzanne

Social workers in general often have pretty bad PR. Oncology social workers in particular are usually unknown to the general public--unless or until someone has cancer. When I am asked to describe what we do, my usual shorthand response is something like this: "Oncology social workers are responsible for helping with everything about your cancer experience except the disease itself." We all know that a cancer diagnosis changes everything about life, so our purview is large.

We are fortunate at my hospital to have a very experienced group of oncology social workers who work with patients and their families in Hematology/Oncology, Radiation Oncology, and the in-patient services. All of us have been doing this work for more than twenty years and love what we do. In addition to the clinical staff, we have two Patient Navigators and an Oncology Community Resource Specialist. The CRS' job is to help connect patients with any programs, resources, community groups, or entitlements that could be helpful.

Almost all people with cancer are treated by a team of healthcare providers: physicians, nurses, and other specialists who work together to provide often complex medical care. Oncology social workers are integral members of many multidisciplinary oncology teams. They are recognized as leading experts in providing psychosocial care to people affected by cancer and their families.
It is understood that cancer never happens in a vacuum, and it is imperative that a person's whole life circumstances be considered when making treatment decisions and planning care. Oncology social workers are trained to respond to individual situations and issues and help ensure that people with cancer and their families have access to and receive the best possible cancer care.

In 2009, the Association of Oncology Social Work, a non-profit, international organization with more than a thousand members, celebrates its 25th anniversary. Oncology social workers, however, have been practicing, providing clinical services to people with cancer and their families, since the 1970s. They work in teaching and community hospitals, outpatient clinics, home care and hospice agencies, community organizations, advocacy programs, colleges and universities, and private or group practices. Licensed oncology social workers are committed to helping people with cancer and their families achieve the best possible quality of life during and after their cancer treatment.

What can an oncology social worker do for you?
The core service is likely to be individual, couples, or family meetings or counseling to help you adapt to your diagnosis, treatment, and challenges of survivorship. Unlike other healthcare providers who focus on the provision of particular treatments, oncology social workers focus on YOU:
    What life experiences do you bring to the moment of diagnosis that likely can help you through this crisis?
    What are your greatest fears about your diagnosis and cancer treatment?
    What side effects can you expect and how can you best manage them?
    What are the common emotional reactions?
    Are there particularly useful ways of managing the stress of cancer? What will the impact be upon your spouse or partner?
    How can you talk with your children?
    What should you tell your elderly parents?
    Who are your supports and how can they best help you?
    What are the other current problems in your life and how are they likely to be affected by your illness?
    Do you anticipate financial difficulties or problems with your employment?
    Do you have adequate medical insurance?
    Are there community resources that could be helpful to you and your family?

Oncology social workers can answer these and many other questions. They often facilitate support groups and offer educational programs related to family issues or coping with treatments. Trained as therapists, many oncology social workers can work with you and/or your spouse, partner, or family to help you manage the intense emotions that accompany cancer. If necessary, they are knowledgeable about end of life issues and can support and help you through these difficult decisions. They may offer case management services or help you navigate through complicated medical institutions and systems. They can help you find financial assistance lodging options, transportation, and community services. They can advocate for you with community and entitlement programs. They can be considered your "ace in the hole," the person you can turn to with any problem, question or worry.

How do you find an oncology social worker near you?
Most major academic medical centers and many community hospitals and oncology practices employ oncology social workers Ask your doctor or nurse. If they can't identify someone, call the nearest major cancer center and ask for the social work department. Even if you are not treated there or live some distance away, they are likely to have suggestions or referrals. You can also contact the Association of Oncology Social Work to locate an experienced oncology social worker who can help you.

After Breast Cancer: A Common-Sense Guide to Life After TreatmentHester Hill Schnipper, LICSW
Chief, Oncology Social Work
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston
survivor of two breast cancers

Want to read more from Hester? She has a very valuable and informative blog. She is also the author of "After Breast Cancer" which you can pick up in our Amazon store just a few inches away.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Beauty and Courage in Bay Area Breast Cancer Battle

 Here in the Northeast the only outdoor breast cancer fundraisers this time of year involve snowshoes. It's a different story in warmer parts of the world. I was really moved by this essay by Chris Watson who writes about what it means to participate in these events.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Loop list: young women's edition

Deb and I certainly never expected to be breast cancer survivors in our early 40's, and there are many women much younger than us affected as well. So this week's Loop list is devoted to resources aimed at helping younger women.
Suzanne


http://www.feelyourboobies.com/campaign.htm
I  have to give this foundation credit, they are very savvy with social networking and have put a sharp spin on the breast self exam message. I suspect they get through to gals in their 20's and 30's who might otherwise see breast cancer as an "old lady" disease. Also their graphics are really first rate.

http://www.rethinkbreastcancer.com/
This one's for our friends to the north, a Canadian organization that also does breast cancer awareness in a very contemporary way.

http://www.youngsurvival.org/
I will admit I am not objective about YSC, they have made a huge difference in my life.
Young women have fewer opportunities for routine screening, and in some cases have more aggressive cancers. YSC works to be both advocate and support system.

http://www.savethetatas.com/index.php/catalog/boob-lube/
Interesting body products designed to aid in breast self exam, from save the ta-tas.


http://www.whyiworelipstick.com/
I got to meet Geralyn Lucas author of, "Why I wore lipstick to my mastectomy," a few weeks ago. She is pretty inspiring. Her creative website is a burst of lipstick-colored energy, and offers her blog, as well as several other features. You can buy her book in the amazon widget, btw!
Photo from Owningpink.com

Over 1,000 served!

We just hit our 1000th visit today! Thank you for reading, sharing your comments, and supporting Loop! (btw Komen of Western New York was our 300th follower on Twitter.)
Suz and Deb
image from charlestownprimary.wordpress.com

Breast cancer charity hit by phone scam

This next story really disturbs me. It seems in Great Neck, NY, just a stone's throw from New York City, telephone scammers are pretending to be a local breast cancer charity. Here is the story from the Great Neck Record.
I really hope this is an isolated incident, and not a trend. In the article, the Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition states that the phone scam impacts revenue from donations.
Here is a link to the charity's website.
Photo from safefromscams.co.uk

Applegate's New Attitude

It must be a shocking twist of fate to be beautiful, rich, and famous... then get breast cancer. I mean it's no walk in the park for any of us, but if you are used to being a celebrity, it must come as a shock that there are no strings you can pull to get out of this one. So I am glad to hear Christina Applegate feeling healthy and happy in this article.
It sounds like she is in a similar place many early stage survivors are after completing treatment, trying to figure out what to eat and how find the right outlook on life.
Good luck to all of us.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Twist of Fate: How Braving Breast Cancer Gave Birth to a Business


Editor's note: anyone who has tweeted about breast cancer on Twitter has probably met Turban_Diva. Even a 140 character limit can't restrain her positive energy. Laurie Andreoni is also a talented blogger and has some nice looking hair under all that fabric. We asked her what sparked her love of turbans.
Suzanne


When I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in June, 2008, I focused on the high chances of recovery. I imagined myself a warrior in a dark adventure, full of unknown challenges that would force me to find solutions to help all of us that face this journey. As both a patient and a doctor, maybe I would even discover a natural cure.

As the days of chemotherapy and radiation closed in, I didn¹t feel so adventurous. Above all, I became obsessed with how to deal with losing my hair. The doctors encouraged me to maintain my lifestyle as much as possible during treatment, which meant being in public almost every day. I wanted to be a positive role model to my own patients, no matter what my condition.

At least initially, a cancer diagnosis rips away our sense of control over anything. Unlike gradual appearance changes, like weight or normal aging, chemo hair loss can happen over just a few days, and we can't do anything to stop it.  Living in a body that has turned against you, chemo leaves you tired, cranky and hairless, and you don¹t even recognize the person in the mirror.

Some days it's difficult to just get up, yet there are daily tasks, medical appointments, a job and a family. With barely has the energy to put on lipstick, you would think appearance is not important, but the comfort of the familiar, and that need to look good and be accepted, never goes away. Besides feeling awkward, I didn¹t want how my head looked to scream "I have cancer." I admit, I'm a teeny bit of a control freak, but I wanted to inspire hope, not pity.

Going through treatment in the cooler months, few women I met went bare-headed. Other than wigs, most wore skimpy kerchiefs and caps that were more of an emergency measure than a conscious style decision. As we chatted in the waiting room, many complained that they were self-conscious about their hair loss and dorky hat, often looking worse than they felt, and frustrated by this constant reminder of their illness.

Once I lost my hair, my scalp was so sensitive from other chemo side effects that wigs were unbearable. I experimented with wrapping scarves of all sizes until I came up with a turban effect that was actually more flattering than my hair had been. And I could wear colors to match an outfit, I ­ couldn't do that with my hair! Every time I went to the chemo and radiation centers, the nurses ran over to see what new wrap I was wearing. Best of all, the patients would always brighten up and ask me where they could find one already wrapped.

Seeing the turbans made everyone well, titillated. And the idea of Titillating Turbans was born.

Because wraps can be challenging, I wanted to create something that would be easy for anyone to just plop on their head, and style according to their own personality. There were no patterns similar to my turban, so I started snipping and stitching until I developed a workable pattern and found the most comfortable fabrics. I made a prototype, found a sewing contractor that would do small runs, and set up a website. By June, 2009, a year after my initial diagnosis, I had all the business aspects complete, and a new line of headwear that makes women perk up and smile from the moment they see the variety of gorgeous colors and soft fabrics.

Throughout my life, my mantra has been, "Everything happens for a reason." Then I got cancer, and entered a family of thousands of cancer patients of all ages.  And I can find no reason for all this suffering.

Now I believe stuff happens for no reason. What I do see is that we are incredibly loving beings, with instincts not only to preserve our own survival, but to ease the suffering of others.  Whether you knit a cap, send a card, call, tweet or discover a cure, the roles are equally important. Our strengths arise from our ability to sense the needs of others and our resiliency in the face of adversity to find solutions that will ease their pain.

I hope Titillating Turbans is an encouraging link in the chain of recovery. They were created to help women remember they are so much more than their hair; each person has a unique style and beauty that comes from within. No matter what happens to our bodies, we are creative creatures and will find a way to decorate and celebrate who we are, connect with others and share the healing wisdom that awakens as we embrace each moment of this precious life.

 
Laurie Andreoni is a chiropractor, "Turban Diva" and 18 month breast cancer survivor, married to the love of her life.  You are invited to visit her site at www.TitillatingTurbans.com, and the blog of her cancer journey, "The Reluctant Sisterhood." (http://laurieslabors.blogspot.com/)

Robin Roberts interviews Teresa Heinz Kerry on ABC, links and more


Deb is an early bird, I am a night owl. So for anyone who was not able to get up early, here is a link to the interview segments from Good Morning America when Robin Roberts interviewed Teresa Heinz Kerry about Kerry's breast cancer diagnosis.

Even before she had bc, I always thought Roberts was a class act. I am a former news anchor myself, and I always liked how the former ESPN personality seemed relaxed and informal.
Now she is a powerful symbol both as an African-American woman in a premiere anchor slot, and as a breast cancer survivor in the spotlight.

GMA also has a section of it's website devoted to Robert's journey, here is the link if you want to take a look, scroll down to the bottom of the page.

ABC news also has a pretty impressive archive of breast cancer video segments.

Healthy Treats for Sweets This Valentine's

Secrets of a Skinny Chef: 100 Decadent, Guilt-Free RecipesEditor's note: trying something new today, a contribution from the  "skinny chef" Jennifer Iserloh. Enjoy!  Suz 

Worrying about your health is no picnic and eating right is a big part of how you look and feel.  I teach people how to maintain a healthy diet, but as a professionally trained chef I’ll be the first one to admit that taste is just as important to me as eating the right foods.  But I believe that you can have both, by using good quality ingredients that are high in nutrients you need and the flavors you love.

Vitamin D and cancer fighter tumeric are the top foods that are currently being studied in the fight against cancer, and it’s a cinch to get them into every day meals, dishes that you can even share with family and friends.  You’ll find these ingredients in your local grocery store, from vitamin D rich fortified dairy, like skim milk and yogurt to golden spice mixtures that contain turmeric, like good old curry powder right from the spice aisle.

Valentine’s day is just around the corner, and these creamy pudding pops from my latest book “Secrets of a Skinny Chef" contain vitamin D rich skim milk flavored with dark rich cocoa powder. A lot of frozen treats on the market are low in sugar and fat, but what about all those preservatives and artificial sweeteners they contain? I’d rather eat the real thing. This frozen treat is lightened naturally with fat-free milk and the sweet flavor of carrot juice.

Chocolate Pudding Pop

Makes 8 pops

2 cups fat-free milk
1 cup carrot juice
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the milk, carrot juice, cocoa, sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla in a large saucepan. Whisk briskly. Bring the mixture to slow boil, whisking continuously, until small bubbles start to form around the edges and the mixture is thick—about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a popsicle mold with eight holders or pour it into eight paper drinking cups. Cover and freeze 3 to 4 hours or until firm. Store in a freezer for up to 1 week.


Looking for more chocolaty desserts that deliver naturally good nutrients like Vitamin D, potassium and folate?  Try my chocolate avocado shake that is a hit with kids too!

Jennifer Iserloh, the Skinny Chef, believes that the essence of good health springs from your own kitchen.  You can eat the foods you love by cooking them the healthy way to satisfy both body and soul! She celebrates delicious, easy to prepare dishes that can be enjoyed for a lifetime, reinventing meals that grandma would be proud to serve.

As a trained chef, Jennifer has shared her recipes and healthy living tips both in print publications such a SELF magazine, Prevention, and First for Women, as well as on the Today Show, CBS, NBC and other TV and radio programs. A certified yoga teacher and former private chef for internationally known celebrities, she continues to teach the secrets to comforting meals made healthier and healthy fare made tastier.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fighting for Motherhood

Editor's note: This essay by Beth Gainer is Loop's first regarding motherhood. I was impressed by the author's determination not to let breast cancer steal her hope.

For years, I dreamed about becoming a mother. But something always got in the way.

In 2001, it was breast cancer.

I found it myself during a routine monthly breast exam; the biopsy results confirmed the malignancy. Before I could even catch my breath, doctors were breathing down my back with chemotherapy and radiation regimens.

Knowing that chemotherapy could cause infertility among younger women, I asked my doctors about harvesting my eggs, but they talked me out of it. I felt rushed to get the treatments as soon as possible to save my life. One doctor told me that my type of chemotherapy regimen causes infertility in only 1 percent of women.

Feeling reassured by that, I dropped the egg-harvesting idea.

And the chemotherapy dropped a bomb on my ovaries. I was that one percent launched into premature menopause. I grieved, knowing I would never be able to birth and nurse a baby.

But after an amazing pity party for one, I decided I would not allow my dream of motherhood to die.

I started what would be a four-year process to adopt a child from China. During this time, I attended many baby showers and stood on the sidelines as one co-worker after another gave birth. I was truly happy for them, but knowing I was infertile made me feel painfully inadequate.

Still, I was grateful to be alive. But I was not prepared for an unexpected hurdle.

During my long adoption wait, my oncologist called me to say that an MRI had picked up a growth in the breast that had had cancer years before. We both feared a recurrence, and I almost stopped the adoption process.

Almost.

I didn’t quit, instead choosing to be level-headed. I would have to see whether the growth was malignant before I made any decisions about motherhood. Luckily, the biopsy results showed the growth was benign, but my team of doctors and I agreed that a preventive double mastectomy with reconstruction was needed.

This procedure was necessary for my health. However, just as important, I did this for my future daughter. After all, she would need a healthy mom.

After my nipples were tattooed onto my breasts almost three years ago, I grieved all over again. I wanted the breasts I was born with, and felt defective as a woman. How could I ever embrace motherhood with fake boobs? Our society views breasts as an integral part of motherhood, and I fell into that trap.

That grief has since been replaced with joy, knowing my daughter is now sleeping peacefully in the next room. Six months ago, I adopted her in China.

Turns out that breast cancer was a gift after all – it taught me not to take life or motherhood or my daughter for granted.

She was well-worth the fight.

Voices of Breast Cancer: The Healing Companion: Stories for Courage, Comfort and Strength (Voices Of series)Beth L. Gainer has had numerous publications, including an essay in the anthology Voices of Breast Cancer. Her popular Calling the Shots blog at www.bethlgainer.blogspot.com. offers information and advice on how to navigate the medical system. She is a contributing member of Medpedia and Navigating Cancer.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Going back to work after breast cancer treatment? Share your story

Heading back to work after taking time off for treatment? Here is some advice to get you started.
What was your experience? Did you want to talk about your illness with co-workers? Did they treat you differently? Share your experience in our comments section.

Blondes and Brits Battle BC

Breakthrough Breast Cancer launches celebrity backed social media appeal | News | Marketing Week

The Joy of No

Editor's note: By the age of 2, most of us are quite good at saying no. But as we grow up something changes. Pamela Beth Grossman writes about how having breast cancer brought the word back into her life.  
Suzanne


The other day, I was asked if I would do something I did not want to do, have good reasons not to do, and in fact should not be requested to do (nothing illegal; this was more of an emotional trespass).

I felt the request coming and tried to head it off politely at the pass. No luck. There it was; and my gut response came immediately out of my mouth in one syllable: "No!"

I immediately backtracked and gave a more nuanced, less blunt answer. However, the bottom line of "No" remained. And I was deeply struck by how good it felt—and how new an experience this whole "No" thing is to me.

I swear that until my breast cancer diagnosis, it was barely in my vocabulary. I constantly felt obligated to do things I was in fact not obligated to do and did not have time for or inclination toward. You wanted me to go to your band gig at 11 PM, three long subway rides from where I live, on a weeknight, in the dead of winter? Why, sure, I'd be there; even if you'd blown off my birthday party with no explanation. What I actually needed to do, could reasonably do, or, for that matter, wanted to do were not always clear in my mind; but what others wanted me to do was easy to see.

I have often said that sitting down in the chemo chair for the first time slapped "emotional glasses" on my face. Finally, finally, things I should always have known began to dawn on me. Like: My time is precious. My energy is finite. My life is my own. And no, I do *not* have to go to an acquaintance's second cousin's gallery opening (though I will if I actually want to).

It's amazing how life continues in the face of my saying "No." The band gig and the gallery opening will happen without me. The editing project you've asked me to do overnight, when I'm up against an article deadline and a head cold: Someone else will take it. Or they won't, and you won't get the work done overnight, but you know—it'll be OK. Generally speaking, these things are not all up to me. They're not all resting on my shoulders. Why did I used to think they were?

Note to my posse of requesters: Perhaps you've noticed I've been less inclined to race around like a crazy woman since I had cancer. Sorry I missed your experimental-string-quartet performance, happening in the middle of a work day, with tickets starting at $50, that you sent me 42 emails about when I've met you twice. OK, I'm not totally sorry I missed it, but I hope it went great and that it was well attended by people who had genuine good reason to be there. Co-worker, you say your niece's Brownie troop needs a check from me? Money's tight (as you know, since we work together!), but I'll be happy to donate some clothes to the Brownie Charity Flea Market instead. Hell, I'll happily attend the Brownie Charity Flea Market; I love that kind of thing.

And that's really the point. There's one huge, positive reason why "the joy of No" is so important: It frees up so much time, money, and energy to identify and pursue all the things, big and small, to which we dearly want to say "Yes."

Pamela Grossman is a journalist,
("The Village Voice," Salon.com, "Ms., etc.) creative writer, 2-year breast cancer survivor, and recovering overcommitter living in Brooklyn.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Loop List : Pink-free-edition


Despite our best efforts, there's gonna be a little pink here and there on Loop. Still, we get sick of it too, especially in the supermarket.
So in honor the gals who rightly remind us, "There is nothing pink or pretty about cancer," here are five no-pink-links.
There are some very sharp writers in this bunch, so put on your favorite black outfit and enjoy.

Suzanne

http://www.barbaraehrenreich.com/cancerland.htm
One of my favorite books is "Nickle and Dimed" by the entertaining and opinionated Barabara Ehrenreich. While I do not agree with everything she says, she is always compelling writer. "Welcome to Cancerland" is her take on the breast cancer experience. (I had a little trouble with this link going dead, so you may have to cut/paste.)

http://www.save2ndbase.com/catalog/index.php
I have a weakness for breast cancer projects that are a bit sassy. If you are looking for something to wear to a fundraiser that is un-pink, or for a man, or will really get attention at a baseball game, check this site out.
(Warning, there are some pink selections). The site has a moving story as well, it is a tribute to Kelly Rooney, who died at the age of 43, but left behind memories of her sense of humor.

http://chemobabe.com/
Chemobabe is the badass of the breast cancer blogging crowd. Her blog has energy and a sense of humor, and no pink at all.
Lots of photos and a very easy to read format with larger fonts.

http://bethlgainer.blogspot.com/
Beth Gainer's blog, focuses on helping empower people who are making their way through the medical system. The writer and author also has a lighthearted side you can observe through her cat's blog.
http://www.catterchatter.blogspot.com/


http://cancerbitch.blogspot.com/
A very smart, slightly eccentric blog, from S.L. Wisenberg, who is the author of "The Adventures of Cancer Bitch." She is more N.P.R. than chick lit.

Many Happy Returns


I have always been a birthday diva. Big party, lots of food, get dressed up, the day flies by. I floated on air from the moment I woke up. While some people hate the occasion, my birthday was my favorite day of the year.

Which is why I don't quite know why I don't feel right on this, my first birthday post-cancer. I mean the American Cancer Society is the official sponsor of birthdays, right?

This afternoon, when I go to radiation and they ask me my birthdate, I am sure there will be bells and whistles and hot fudge. The technicians will pop out of a cake. Drinks will be on the house.

I guess the problem is, like Candlestick Park, my birthday was just fine without a sponsor.

It's ironic that I don't want a fuss. I like fuss. I like holidays, I love New Year's Eve, I love parties. St. Patrick's, Mardi Gras, you name it, I'll celebrate it, and decorate cupcakes for it.
Maybe on the next go around, when everything's not a first, I will no longer sense cancer's shadow. I will be celebrating the people and things I love, not just escaping with my life.

Still in 2010, my husband and I will be heading to the Eastern Sport Show for St. Valentine's Day. This year camouflage is more my speed then red lace and satin.

Suzanne

Moving from fear to courage

 Editor's note: this an excerpt from one of the most memorable posts on Hester Hill Schnipper's excellent blog. She is the Chief of Oncology Social Work at Harvard University's teaching hospital, and in this essay a bit of a poet.
  Suzanne

Let's be honest: fear is THE issue for most women with breast cancer, actually for most people with cancer. Fear takes many forms, but all of us experience some flavor of it from the first moment of diagnosis. 

Through the years, I have learned that saying things aloud (or writing them) does not make them more likely to happen, and that we can provide incredible comfort and support to each other. Whenever I talk with a woman individually or whenever one of my groups discusses fear, we begin to feel a little less alone. Most of the time, we also begin to feel a little less afraid.

I have had many conversations this week about fear: fear about a new diagnosis, fear about a new recurrence, fear of surgery, fear of chemotherapy, fear that a changed body will repulse a husband--but, most of all, fear that breast cancer means death.

Women who have been diagnosed with metastatic or Stage IV breast cancer usually understand that their disease is not likely to be curable. Women with earlier stage disease can honestly hope that their breast cancer will not return after treatment, and that their largest challenge will be living with the threat and the fear. The catch is that none of us ever has a promise that the cancer will not return; being anxious about every cough or ache and pain is not neurotic, but is a reality-based concern that there could be a big problem. Having cancer is likely to turn all of us into hypochondriacs, hyper alert to every physical symptom and reluctant to trust our bodies and believe in our good health.

Learning to live with this real threat without being consumed by anxiety and sadness is often the most difficult task before us. I am certain that the goal is to live as though the cancer will never return. Living "as if" is easier said than done, harder some days than others. Beyond having appropriate treatment, there is nothing that we can do about the possibilities. It is out of our control. Most certainly, however, if we permit our fears to dominate our days, the cancer wins. Whether or not it does return, we have wasted our time and our lives if we live them in sorrow and fear. The fact is that, if the cancer does return, we will most certainly have to deal with it then--but we do not have to deal with it today. We must somehow cultivate Scarlett's attitude in Gone With the Wind; she promised herself that she would survive each day and leave the worry to tomorrow.

So, how do we begin to do this? One useful and practical tool is the "Two Week Rule." Most oncologists will tell you that it is not necessary to call about a symptom unless it persists for two weeks or longer. Most don't. Obviously, this does not apply to potential emergencies--don't wait five minutes to call about chest pain or sudden double vision or something else that you know is possibly acutely serious. This rule does apply to lower back pain or hip pain or a lingering cough. Note when you first noticed the problem, make a note in your calendar two weeks hence, and then try to ignore it until then. Chances are, when the marked date comes around, the symptom will be gone.

It can also help to really think about what you are afraid of. When I meet with women who have Stage IV breast cancer, this is a common dialogue. If you think more about your fear, it is possible to identify the specifics. Rather than just thinking: "I am afraid of dying", try to tease out what is the real worry. Are you afraid of pain? Of being a burden to your family? Of being alone? Of leaving your children? Although there may well not be comforting answers or solutions to your fears, it almost always helps to think specifically about them and then try to imagine what might help. If, for example, you are most fearful of pain, you can talk to your doctor about it. There are many medications that can be used to control pain for people who are very ill with cancer. The trade off, frankly, is sometimes alertness--pain medications make you sleepy. If, however, you are willing to be sleepy or asleep, it is likely that your doctor can virtually promise you that you will never suffer. If you are most afraid of leaving your children (and I am very aware that there are no words of comfort for this grief), it will help to consider concretely what would happen to them. Yes, of course, they would be terribly sad, but think about who would continue to care for them, who else loves them, how you can prepare any legal or financial documents that will protect them.

As time passes, most of us find that the fear diminishes. It is always lurking somewhere, ready to jump out of dark corners, but it attacks less frequently. Even women who are living with metastatic breast cancer find ways to cherish and celebrate their days and not be always afraid. There is a wonderful saying: Courage is like a muscle. You have to use it to strengthen it. Or, another: Perhaps courage is fear that has said its prayers.

Fear is human. We will sometimes feel it like a wild animal on our backs, claws digging in. At those moments, I remember the words of Audre Lorde: "When I dare to be powerful--to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid."

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW
Chief, Oncology Social WorkAfter Breast Cancer: A Common-Sense Guide to Life After Treatment
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston
survivor of two breast cancers


Want to read more from Hester? She has a very valuable and informative blog. She is also the author of "After Breast Cancer" which you can pick up in our Amazon store just a few inches away.

News from Visakhapatnam

I've never heard of Visakhapatnam, India. So obviously I never stopped to think about the women getting breast cancer there. However, working on Loop has made me curious about how the disease differs around the world. The 1 in 8 figure from the U.S.A. does not hold true everywhere.

Even more interesting, this article from The Hindu looks at statistics that suggest women in India have higher rates of Triple Negative and Her2+ breast cancer, compared to North America and Europe.

I know it's overwhelming to think about the need for treatment and testing all over the world, but it's there. I also wonder if some of these differences may actually prove useful for researchers, and help them towards a cure.

                                           Bollywood actress shows off her bc awareness

Saturday, January 23, 2010

11 to try

Many breast cancer patients and survivors think a lot about what they eat. While this list of healthy suggestions from the New York Times is not geared specifically for cancer patients, it does have a lot of tasty and simple ideas.
http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/06/30/the-11-best-foods-you-arent-eating/

Why I boiled my sports bras...

When I began radiation, I was handed a 2 page document of treatment instructions. As I read the list, I was horrified to learn that I wouldn't be able to shave my armpits, wear deodorant or use my favorite lavender body wash during treatment.  What I didn't know was that one of my battles would be with aquaphor.

If you've been through radiation, you may know what I'm talking about. I dreaded putting the stuff on. It's thick and greasy and gross. My instruction sheet had me applying it 3 times a day. YUCK, YUCK and YUCK.

I learned to use one hand to do the greasing. This was after an unfortunate incident. I got locked in a changing room. My hands were too greasy to get the doorknob to turn.

Next thing I learned was that everything sticks to aquaphor. Make sure you are well covered if you are eating popcorn.

I should have known better than to put my greasy camis in the washer and dryer. It turned out that they transfered grease stains to my other clothes.

I then resorted to hand washing them in my bathroom sink. This lead to several clogs and lots of plunging. On a related note, my bathtub got clogged too from my daily showers.

In my last weeks of rads I finally had it all figured out. I took out a big cauldron, filled it with water and detergent, and boiled my sports bras and camis. When the water cooled, I was able to skim the grease off the top of the water with a paper towel, saving my pipes from doom.

I am now 3 weeks post rads and have applied aquaphor for the last time. I was thrilled to find out that continued application was part of my post-treatment instructions. Despite my complaining, I am really surprised at how quickly my skin healed. I was back in a bra a week after treatment ended. Aside from a slight tan (scars and tattoos not included) there's really no difference. Aquaphor really worked miracles for my skin.

Deb

Friday, January 22, 2010

For depressed breast cancer patients, Rx could be exercise and green tea


Interesting study out of China.
I should add, some folks have doubts about whether lifestyle studies carry over from one population to another. (Deb and I debate that point about soy.)
Also my personal doctor is lukewarm on green tea, and I was told not to drink it during treatment.
That being said, depression is a big issue for many women with breast cancer, and a lifestyle remedy is intriguing.
Here is the report that hit the wires Friday afternoon. 
Photo from healthproductsreviewed.org

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Survivors in the Snow

OK, I had to write about this because I am a huge fan of snowshoeing.
I snowshoe in the little park near where I live in NYC, which always gets me a lot of looks.
(It's a habit I picked up when I lived in Minnesota), I'm not sure whether I will ever return to cross-country skiing, but snowshoeing can be done even with limitations from surgery.
So I think it's kind of cool that Tubbs snowshoes and Komen have organized this snowy twist on the breast cancer fundraiser.
http://tubbsromptostomp.com
Their first event is this weekend in New Jersey, there are several dates planned around the USA.
If you take part, let us know, we would love to see your pictures.
Even if you can't make it, if you live someplace snowy, consider giving the sport a try.
Suzanne
Photo from romptostomp blog.

What are you doing with the rest of your life? Advice for cancer patients completing treatment

As many of my peers along the early stage breast cancer path approach the end of treatment, our talk has changed from biopsies and surgery, to the future. Some of us have left jobs, others relationships, and some are still considering whether to make a change. I asked coach Tara Robinson for some tools to help us move into the future.
Suzanne



Setting Recovery Goals

After your diagnosis and treatment, your whole sense of control and safety may be wrecked. It’s not just that your body is different. Your priorities have changed. The sense of meaning, of what’s important, and what’s not--all rearranged. What used to be tolerations become deal breakers. What once were “nice to haves,” might now be non-negotiables.

And then there’s that whole not-knowing thing. What will the future hold? It may be hard to figure out what normal supposed to be like now that everything’s changed.

How do you set recovery goals in the midst of all the uncertainty?

The first step I encourage you to take is to create a compelling vision of success. Don’t worry about how you’ll reach that success. Throw out worries about whether your vision is possible, likely, or feasible. Instead, focus on creating a lush, rich, detailed picture of what your future could look like. Add in colors, smells, textures, sounds. What kind of people are you with? Where are you? What’s the weather like? The more details the better. Use your imagination to its fullest. You’ll know when you’re hitting pay dirt--tears might come to your eyes. Yep--that’s a compelling vision!

Now think of celebrations. In this fabulous future of yours, what will you celebrate having done? What accomplishments will you be most proud of? These experiences and events are fodder for your goal-setting. You may want to make a list of the roles you play (or want to play in the future) such as family roles (daughter, mom, sister, partner), career roles, and so on, and think about experiences you’d like to celebrate for each one.

With this beautiful vision in mind and a list of future celebrations in hand, begin identifying milestones between where you are now and where you’d like to be. One way to do this is to finish this sentence: I’ll know I’m making progress toward my goal when... Here’s an example.

Maybe you’d like to walk the Susan G. Komen for the Cure 3-Day with some of your friends or family. You’ll know you’re making progress toward your goal when you can:
  Walk around the block
  Walk a mile
  Walk five miles without stopping
Keep creating somewhat broadly spaced milestones until you’ve laid down a path all the way to your desired outcome.

One of the most important aspects of this sort of goal setting is to let go of dates and timelines, letting your progress unfold naturally. It’s essential, too, to acknowledge and celebrate achieving your milestones. And remember that setbacks happen, those are natural, too.

In the end, recovery is not a destination. It’s a state of being, a balance that you’ll achieve, holding it gently, with the wondrous knowledge of how fragile and beautiful it is.

Author, coach, and educator, Tara Rodden Robinson, Ph.D., is known as The Productivity Maven. As a credentialed professional coach, she helps people to get more done and enjoy greater fulfillment and satisfaction from their lives and their work. Last year, Tara walked the Seattle 3-Day for the Cure, raising $3,000 for the fight against breast cancer. She’s already in training and raising funds for the Arizona 3-Day in November. You can learn more about her by visiting her website: http://tararobinson.com

Cheeky charity seeks big bucks on Facebook

The Feel Your Boobies foundation, is not your mom's bc charity. They use modern, sexy, graphics to get the breast self exam message out to a younger crowd. They are high on the leader board of a Facebook competition sponsored by Chase to win a million dollars. There are lots of worthwhile causes in the contest, including another breast cancer charity, so it will be interesting to see the results.
UPDATE: they came in 8th and won 25K. Which for a smaller organization is not chopped liver!
Congratulations.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Every night is election night

Back during my TV news days, I always loved election night.The red blazer, the repeat live shots, the energy of folks at "headquarters."

But the best part was the map.

True confession time, I am a geography geek.
I buy maps everywhere I go.
I tell mocking friends and my husband it's a manageable vice, I've never heard of anyone ending up destitute from a map habit.
And on election night I love seeing the states light up on the big red and blue USA graphic.

So what's this got to do with anything?
Well thanks to the good folks at Google, everyday I get to see a map of where our readers are. Over the past few weeks it's been especially fun, since there are so many firsts.
Our first Hawaii!
Our first Alaska! And I was waiting on Florida just like in 2000.

So dear readers, thanks for lighting up my map!
And Louisiana where are you?
Suzanne

Congressional tribute for Komen founder

I have met a lot of passionate survivors from the Komen foundation on Twitter, and I am always touched by the aerial photos of mobs of women taking part in their fundraising races.
Today, as pjstar.com reports, Komen founder, Nancy Brinker, was honored at the U.S. Capitol. And it's not even October.

How to leave comments

Ok, we have changed the comment settings, so now all can comment.
Enjoy!

Pooches in pink? Dogs can get breast cancer too!



I never owned a dog, so I had no idea about this. The picture is pretty cute, but the reality must be heartbreaking. Imagine having to take your dog to chemo. Have any of you had to go through this?

blogs.palmbeachpost.com/pawshere/2010/01/20/how-treatable-is-dog-breast-cancer/
(by the way, you can get that outfit by clicking on the link beneath the photo)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fatty diet study

Just a quick post on this. Since my diagnosis I  have actually enjoyed switching to less processed foods.
(Deb by the way is way ahead of me on this, but I will let her write about her own diet.)

One thing that is much tougher for me is cutting out fat. I'm a Wisconsin girl at heart, I love my cheese.
So the following report from Discovery is not exactly my favorite news.
I don't know for sure how you put a mouse on a high fat diet, but I have a pretty good idea.
Fatty Diet Makes Cancer Aggressive

Breast cancer's surprise gift

Editor's note: Ann Silberman's "But Doctor I Hate Pink" was the first breast cancer blog I ever read. I had no idea there were people out there writing about breast cancer in such an entertaining manner. I asked Ann if her experience held any life lessons, and this is what she shared.

Suzanne

I grew up in the ‘70s era of “finding yourself.” Back then, people would travel long distances, to ashrams in India, or to the top of Machu Picchu in search of their personalities. Others would turn inward, taking psychoactive mushrooms, LSD, or learn transcendental meditation in the hopes gaining insight into their own souls.

This always mystified me. In my world view, all you needed to do was look in the mirror or take a second to think about something -- and there you are. Why would one need to find something that’s not lost? What was it they were seeking?

When invasive cancer reared its ugly head and implanted itself in my beautiful breast, unlike the conventional wisdom that said this would be a life-changing journey that would teach me about myself, I knew better. I wouldn’t need to find inner strength because I knew it was already there. I would deal with cancer in a practical and positive way, and I knew that research and information was the way to get through it. I would not imagine death when the odds were with me. I knew exactly what I was facing and how I’d react. I got down to the business of healing, secure in the belief that this would be over in time.

Yet, was it possible life had something to teach me after all?

My first hint came when a package showed up on my doorstep. It was a pair of fabulously sexy shoes in a brand that I love. They fit me perfectly, sent by friends I’d only been sporadically in touch with over the years. How did they know my size, what I would love, and the exact thing that would make me feel better? 

That wasn’t all. After my mastectomy, meals were dropped off, made by a coworker. My stepdaughter offered to cook Thanksgiving Dinner, which for years had my pleasure to provide alone. An old friend made me a silky bathrobe, so I could feel pretty even after surgery. Before my first chemo, a package arrived in the mail; inside was a silly Snugli, a note that had me laughing out loud, chapstick and a book. An old childhood toy made a reappearance. As my hair fell out, a favorite brand of headwear magically appeared in the mail. My stylist buzzed my hair and trimmed my wigs - at no charge. Messages of support were abundant.

And abundantly unexpected.

Apparently, this cancer experience did have a lesson to teach me - about the kindness of people. About how they will support you and uplift you when you don’t even think you need it. The amazing truth is my inner strength had no impact on anybody’s else’s desire to give. And, while I’ve not changed: my lack of breast hasn’t caused a feminine identity crisis and going through chemotherapy is just a project to finish -  I have dropped some of the cynicism I have felt towards my fellow man.

I have learned the best lesson that cancer can provide - and what those in the ‘70s were missing - that the way to find what you seek is not by turning inward and examining your own soul, but by looking outward and seeing the souls of others.  


Ann Silberman is a "breast cancer asskicker" in Sacramento, CA.  By day she's a Middle School Secretary and by night she's the blogger of "butdoctorIhatepink."  She is lucky enough to have a wonderful husband and two great sons, who have refrained from making fun of her bald head.  Most of the time, anyway.

How cool is that! 

Where did everyone go? I've got the post treatment blues.

Editor's note: For some women the end of breast cancer treatment means a return to business as usual, for others it's the start of a new phase in life. But as Deb points out, we can find ourselves facing the future solo.

Suzanne

On December 28th, I finally finished radiation. It seemed so symbolic to be finishing treatment while the year was ending. I was so excited to kiss my year from hell good-bye and kiss my best year ever hello.

Wow. I never thought I would say this, crazy as it seems, but I kind of almost miss being in treatment. Don't get me wrong, it's not as if I miss the treatments themselves. I don't. In a way, it was all very safe and mindless. I just did whatever they told me to do. So many doctors. So many appointments. All I had to do was show up and strip from the waist up. I was shot up, cut up and felt up, but all the while, lots of people were interested in how I was doing. Every little symptom was investigated. Although it all seemed very urgent and serious, it was also very comforting. I had a safety net.

Radiation increased the momentum. Months of weekly appointments turned into weeks of daily appointments and then POOF. It's all gone. Now i sit here with an empty calendar. I won't see another doctor until the middle of March. It's almost like going cold turkey.

There's no one there telling me what to do. I'm on my own. I struggle with the fear of a recurrence. Am I doing everything that I can to keep cancer away?

Where did everyone go?

I'm hoping that these feelings begin to go away. Luckily, I'm not completely alone. I have an appointment with my therapist tomorrow.

Deb

Monday, January 18, 2010

More debate over genetic testing

Deb picked a hot topic! On the Washington Post's website, the issue was up for debate. 
One question, is direct advertising for the BRCA tests appropriate?
Some medical experts say put the brakes on. What do you think?

Loop List M.L.K. Day edition


We have a dream.
Seeing a cure.
Seeing the disease become manageable, not fatal.
In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King's day, here is a list of 5 links to breast cancer websites focusing on the African-American community.

http://www.sistersnetworkinc.org/
The sisters network has a great website, holds an annual conference, and awareness events.

http://www.tigerlilyfoundation.org/
If I may digress, when I was a reporter in Minnesota I covered the Liberian community extensively. The Tigerlily foundation is one of the more intriguing bc awareness groups I have come across. It was founded by a young Liberian-American woman in the DC/VA area. I look forward to seeing how it grows in the future.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120985060
Link to interesting story from NPR on how breast cancer impacts black women.

http://aabcainc.org/
Another awareness group, based in my old stomping ground of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

http://fabulous-boobies.blogspot.com/
O.K. this was on last week's list, but it's one of the best blogs I have read.
"A single sista regaining her life, looking for love and learning to go with the flow... after fighting breast cancer."

So sisters/sistas have a good, meaningful day, and believe in all our dreams.


Suzanne
Image by artist Lenore Garnhum
you can purchase her bc awareness-themed greeting cards via the link

Sunday, January 17, 2010

To BRCA test or not to BRCA test?

Editors note: Deb and I started Loop together, but up until now I have done most of the first person blogging. So I am really happy her first article looks at a tough choice many of us have to make.
Suzanne

My oncologist recently referred my to a genetic counselor for a BRCA test. Although I have no family history of breast cancer, she said it is recommended for premenopausal woman who get breast cancer at an early age. I was diagnosed in my early 40s. Breast cancer is most commonly first detected in women in their 60s and 70s.

I struggled with the decision and weighed the pros and cons. Most likely, I would not test positive, but if I did, my treatment would become much more aggressive. Did I really want to know?

I, myself, have no children, but I do have 3 sisters and 3 nieces. If I did have the gene mutation, it would be important for my family members to know that they might have inherited it as well. Although having the BRCA gene does not guarantee a cancer diagnosis in one's future, it increases the likelihood of one occurring. A woman with the BRCA mutation is five times more likely to develop cancer than a woman without the BRCA mutation. 

While researching the test, I learned that laws have been passed to protect people from discrimination who have the BRCA gene mutation. This is a really scary stuff. It makes me think that with genetic testing, we have the potential to become a society as depicted in the sci-fi movie Gattaca. Are we becoming a brave new world? If I had the mutation, would I be branded with a pink BC, making it impossible for me to get a job, health insurance, life insurance, etc.?
 
I struggled with my decision but finally decided to at least meet with the genetics counselor. I would be given the option to go forward with the blood test (or not) at the end of our talk. In my head, I would do it. It was for my sisters and nieces and for the scientific community. They could have my dna and add it to their collective research. I had it all built up in my mind that I was doing it for the greater good.

It took about an hour to go through my family history. We discussed my ethnic background and built a family tree including my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, nieces and nephews. We spoke about each person's age and medical conditions. For my grandparents, we spoke about how long they lived and their cause of death. When we were finally finished, she told me that my insurance did not cover the test and that it would cost $3000. I was in shock. Here it was. My answer. So clear, so easy. It all came down to money. I wish she would have mentioned this sooner. Needless to say, I did not have the test.

For a fact sheet on the BRCA test, click here.
Deb

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Your Mood Does Not Matter: Be as Crabby as you Want

Editor's note: one of the most accomplished  breast cancer blogs I have ever come across is by Hester Hill Schnipper. This oncology social worker's hospital is connected to Harvard University and she has many academic accomplishments. So we are very excited to welcome her to Loop.  Her topic will ring true for anyone who has ever felt pushed to "stay positive".
 


For years, in my daily practice as an oncology social worker, I have been trying to convince women that normal sadness and anxiety about cancer and cancer treatment does not impact their prognosis. Mood has zero to do with it. This frequent fear of cancer patients, that negative thinking harms recovery or worsens prognosis, has been a Damocles Sword hanging over far too many heads. It also, of course, is circular; it is easy to think along the lines of: " Being distressed will make my cancer worse, and the worse it gets, the more distressed I will be, and then it will be my own fault that the cancer comes back."

These worries are often exacerbated by the remarks of well-meaning friends who remind us: “You have to have positive thoughts” or “Think about good things; I know you are going to be fine.” Not only are these directives annoying, but, after a time, even the most resilient among us can begin to wonder if they are actually true. As in, you hear something enough and it takes on a life of its own.


James Coyne, PhD and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School have done us all an enormous service with the publication of their article: "Emotional Well-Being Does Not Predict Survival in Head and Neck Cancer Patients: A Radiation Therapy Oncology Group Study." (Cancer, Volume 112, Issue 10, 2008, pp 2327-2330) This strong study concludes that emotional status (meaning mood, level of positive or negative thinking, general outlook) neither affects progression of the cancer nor length of survival.


There has never been a well-designed study that indicates anything different. Although there is much written in the popular press about mood or personality type and cancer, it is basically hogwash. My own instinct is that such comments are one way that people who have not had cancer try to convince themselves that they will not ever have the disease. If you can believe that  your health is guaranteed by positive thinking and a sunny outlook, you can feel safe in the world.


Having spent thirty years working with cancer patients, mostly with breast cancer patients, I have never believed this for a minute. Each week, I sit with women of every possible flavor and style. The only common denominator is being female.


Of course, your mood impacts the quality of your life and the enjoyment of your hours. If you spend your days sad and anxious, the quality of your life will suffer. Your cancer, however, will not be impacted at all. The chemotherapy or radiation or hormone therapy will work just as well whether you are crabby and pessimistic or annoyingly cheerful. However, next time you are having a bad day, remember Dr. Coyne and thank him and his colleagues for the reassurance that your negative thoughts or general gloom are not worsening your cancer health. Allow yourself, without guilt, to feel as sad or anxious or frustrated or angry as you need to feel.--and then move on towards a better day.


After Breast Cancer: A Common-Sense Guide to Life After TreatmentHester Hill Schnipper, LICSW
Chief, Oncology Social Work
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston
survivor of two breast cancers


Want to read more from Hester? She has a very valuable and informative blog. She is also the author of "After Breast Cancer" which you can pick up in our Amazon store just a few inches away.




Breast Cancer Bowl Game?


Putting Loop together I thought I had seen it all....every type of BC event, then I stumbled on this!
 www.curebowl.com
Are we ready for some football?
What do you think?
Is this too much pink, or something fresh in fundraising?
Kick off the comments here!
Photo of artwork by James Jaxxa, courtesy Time Out New York

Wow!

If you are looking for a bit of inspiration to start this weekend, check our this story by a long term breast cancer survivor!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Google-plex

When I was a little girl one of my favorite words was googleplex (the largest number possible). Now, of course the word Google is on the minds of anyone who uses the internet.  Last night I attended a workshop on "Google Analytics" geared towards helping Loop create a website that people can actually find.

It was a tough night for me, I was tired from radiation earlier in the day, and the workshop was held at the headquarters of Newsday, a newspaper on Long Island, near where I used to be a television reporter. The long drive also gave me a chance to listen to the radio and really focus on the news out of Haiti.

I will let you in on a secret. Like cops, social workers, and paramedics, reporters learn to detach, and prevent most stories from hitting our emotions. It is really the only way to get your work done in an objective, professional manner. Cancer and 5 months off the job has broken my filter down. I am now far more empathetic to the suffering of others.

The New York area has thousands of Haitians, people who are part of my daily life. One of the workers at my garage was on the phone with his relatives when the quake hit, and had the line go dead. All of a sudden what had been a horrifying statistic was a personal story.

It is similar with breast cancer.
  -According to ACS, last year around 192,370 American women were diagnosed.
  -That number is about the same as the populations of Mobile, Alabama, Knoxville, Tennessee or Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. A city of women became cancer patients last year.
 - The number of women who died was about 40,170.
 -Imagine losing nearly every person in Hoboken, New Jersey, Hagerstown, Maryland, or York, Pennsylvania.

This is not to compare our suffering to that of the people in Haiti. We have hospitals to go to, they need medical care desperately. Perhaps at some point, we can even connect with women who have breast cancer there and see what we can do to help.
However in both situations, while the numbers may not quite be a googleplex, they are difficult to really imagine, knowing each digit represents a fellow human.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Breast Self Exam "light" device gets draws heat from some in the UK


In Britan, Canada and several other nations there is a device called the "breast light" to help with self exams.
Not every one seems to think it is helpful.
The product is not sold in the United States.
here is a link to the Canadian product website
image courtesy breastlight

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

interesting study on lymphedema prevention

 One of the worst moments of this whole cancer journey was when a nurse came in after my surgery and explained the risk of lymphedema.
  It's always a concern if you have had nodes removed, and there is a lot of contradictory advice. So I found this study interesting. 
 

Do you want to know your fortune?


  Every day when I leave radiation there is a fortune teller standing at the corner next to the cancer center, handing out her business cards.
  This being NYC, where "psychic advisers" are a dime a dozen,  it took me a few days to realize that she probably does a pretty good business with patients and their families, who ache to learn what the future holds.
  Today I told her, "I'm sorry but I just don't want to know."
  And it's true.
  There is a chance I could die from breast cancer, and a larger chance I will not.
  And if it's the former, I don't think I am ready for the news.
  I mean I guess I could cash in my 401K, and cruise around the world, or really get going on my bucket list. But for now, I try to live my life full out, planning for the future while savoring the present.
  How do you balance the prospects?
  Do you assume you will "beat the beast" or have you adjusted your goals?
  Feel free to leave your comments, or drop us a line, editor@joinourloop.com.
  Image courtesy elcivics.com

Mission possible.

Hey everyone!
We really appreciate all of the visits over the last week. It is so exciting to see our traffic grow and have women all over the world "get in the Loop".
Our plans are to have so much more than a blog, but a web site that includes articles, essays, the best bc content from the web, and a bit of "breaking news", along with a new way to connect with other patients and survivors.
Our goal with the blog is to give you a bit of a preview, and start making connections of our own.

One person asked about our motivation....we are two women who were diagnosed with breast cancer last year, who happen to also be media professionals. We think our sisters deserve the best website they have ever seen.
So as we get ready for the future, we would love to hear from YOU!

If you have breast cancer, what resources are missing on the internet?
What would help you live a better life?
What would you enjoy?
Of our previous posts, what did you like?


Drop us a line at editor@joinourloop.com

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Break a leg, Maura!


 Maura Tierney left her show on NBC to be treated for breast cancer. It must have been a difficult decision. She is now about to start a stage production alongside the very talented Frances McDormand. We wish her all the best in her health and career. More here.

body of art

While we love anyone who raises money for a cure...let's face it, it is hard to come up with new ideas for projects which get attention.
Which is why we think this is so cool (link).
By the way this campaign is still looking for participants...so if you are brave, give it a shot!
(And let us know about it joinourloop@gmail.com)

Mango on the Menu


Ok, I will admit it seems like every 24 hours there is a new food that is "good" or "bad" for breast cancer. Still what's not to like about the mango? It makes me think of breakfast on a Carribean vacation. Plus, according to this article from India, it could help fight breast cancer.
Photo courtesy IgoUgo.com

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Loop List

Part of the reason we created Loop was to show off the talented writers on the subject of breast cancer...so here goes our first Loop List.

These first two bloggers are sadly no longer alive, but both left behind dazzling work.

http://fighting-breast-cancer.com/
Boy was Karen George one heck of a writer, especially considering her profession was finance.
I even went and read her posts on a board for real estate professionals.
All I can say is, the lady could tell a story. I wish I could let her know personally.

http://amberchase.weebly.com/
I can't quite explain the connection I feel to Amber.
We have almost nothing in common, she was a young, religious, Mormon mom with a big family.
But I can't think of a patient who's experice had a more profound impact on me. Amber and her husband handled her IBC with amazing grace.


http://butdoctorihatepink.blogspot.com/
Ann wins the contest for best title hands down!
She and I met on a message board at a time when both of us could just about only write "ouch".
She's great company along the breast cancer path.


http://fabulous-boobies.blogspot.com/
I stumbled Nicole's blog on a random Google search. She, too, tells it like it is, facing BC as a single gal. Another must read.


http://www.thebostonchannel.com/kelleys-story/index.html
This last page is a few years old, but it has a wealth of links to video. As a former TV reporter I have a lot of respect for Kelley's willingness to open up her journey to the world.

So there is is...the first edition of the Loop list! Who am I missing? Drop us a line. editor@joinourloop.com.
Suzanne

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mother Courage

Hats off to the photographers and editors of the Detroit Free Press for this moving photo essay that shows a mother and daughter battling breast cancer side by side.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Get your beer here?

I was just watching SNL and saw the Lance Armstrong beer commercial, which featured the Livestrong bracelet prominently.
I had to grab tivo...did I see that?
What do you think?
I am really conflicted.
For women with breast cancer alcohol consumption is a risk factor. (Something that seems unfair I admit!)
After reading the most recent studies from San Antonio, I am trying to stick to 2 drinks per week.
On the other hand, it's a beer commercial and Lance is outside having a good time. (Though drinking and biking don't really mix either.) A part of me likes seeing a cancer patient enjoying a normal social setting. While we deal with some pretty tough medical situations, we still like to have fun.
Tweet back or leave your comment here on the blog...should I lighten up on Lance or did he cross a line?
The press release (link)
Suzanne