Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Take 10 :Tamoxifen for a decade?

For younger women with ER+ breast cancer, five years has been a magic mark. After five years you are done with Tamoxifen, you can go have that baby, or just not take a pill. Now a new study shows a substantial benefit to 10 years.

Good news/bad news? Both?

More from the AP via the Washington Post

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Beauty of Research: The Pink Jalk Project

Way back in the early 90's I worked at the Clinique counter at Macy's Herald Square. We were considered something of a "showcase" counter and we would get visits from company executives from time to time.

One day a woman walked up to me and said,"Hi I'm Evelyn Lauder, tell me about what you are doing."

Lauder, of course, was at the top of the corporate ladder, Clinique being a subsidiary of Estee Lauder. I can't remember the specifics of our conversation, but the way she interacted with me left a lasting impression.

People who are truly great treat everyone's contribution with respect.

It sounds like a cliche, but it was a lesson that I carried with me through my time at Clinique and into my career in television.

Little did I know, that our lives would intersect decades later.

I would become a breast cancer patient at a facility that was named for Lauder, who also was the key patron of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

I was at a talk at the 92nd Street Y a few weeks ago when Dr. Larry Norton talked about Lauder's relationship with the BCRF.

He said she appreciated the beauty of cancer research, meaning she could see a value beyond the medical. She could appreciate its creativity and elegance.

That creativity and elegance can also be seen at a unique fundraiser for the BCRF.

For the past three years SUITE New York has held a design challenge to raise funds for BCRF. Each year designers are asked to re-imagine a classic modernist chair.

This year's event is called the Pink Jalk Project.

The Jalk is featured in MOMA and was designed by a woman. Maria Sepulveda and Kris Fuchs' showroom features a wide variety of Jalks ranging from the blinged-out to fancifuly simple.

All are being auctioned online right now at

So what does all this mean to a patient like me?

It would be easy to sum up the project as a colorful effort to raise money for a good cause, but after seeing the chairs and meeting many of the designers at a reception last week, the project impressed me as something more profound.

Just like cancer researchers, designers use their imagination to create something new. Sometimes it works, sometimes it is an interesting failure. But it's gratifying to see these talented innovators using their skills to help save the lives of women like me.

One of the most show stopping efforts is by David Rockwell. His chair keeps the simplicity of the original's exterior, but has an underneath lined with a riot of pink crystals. Something about the pairing reminded me of the spirit of the women fighting this disease.

Darrell Carter transformed the Jalk from furniture to sculpture. His work actually made me think of the many survivors and bloggers who want to remind the world that there is nothing easy, pink, or twinkly about cancer.

Stephanie Gotto told me she finished her chair in silver to reflect back at the world, and lined in pink leather to reflect the curves of a woman's body.

These chairs and many more can be bought through the online auction which runs through the end of October.

80% percent of the proceeds of each chair go to the BCRF. There is something for every taste, and you will have a conversation piece that helped save lives.

I also want to thank Kris Fuchs for inviting me to the reception last week. She extended her hospitality to a random chick with breast cancer who contacted her on Facebook.

It was the sort of gracious gesture that reminded me of my encounter with Evelyn.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pink you can believe in

Call it Pinktober, call it Breast Cancer Action Month, or call it "Wake me when it's over," it is October 1st and I would be one crummy BC blogger if I didn't post something.

The funny thing is I find myself more filled with contentment than dread. Sure I have seen some icky stuff benefitting bogus charities, but then I saw this.

Bestill my heart, fresh lettuce benefitting my charity of choice, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation!!!

OK, someone out there might complain it's not organic, but we have come a long way from the pink pimp cup I saw at the store, or pink guns, or what ever the worst possible product you can think of is!

I am also in a really good mood, because the community where I worked as a news anchor until well, today, had a really successful Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. The area was hit hard by a flood three weeks before last year's event, raising money here is tough, so I guess this October 1st, I am seeing the world through rose-colored glasses!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Pickler's Buzz Cut

Summer Holt Miller (on left) and Kellie Pickler (on right) Summer Holt Miller (on left) and Kellie Pickler (on right). 

Courtesy: Russ HarringtonCourtesy: Russ Harrington
So former American Idol contestant and sassy broad Kelli Pickler shaved her head to support a friend with breast cancer.

The gesture is lovely, but I always wonder, if women really want these gestures.

I think if it were me, I might not want to be reminded of cancer every time I look at my friend.

But to each her own.

Both ladies do still look really pretty.

Your thoughts?

Photo from NY Daily News

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Cancerversary #3

O.K. I am actually a day late on this which is perhaps some sort of progress, I actually mixed up what day my cancerversary falls on.

Just for laughs here is my post from the first year.

This time of year is such a time of transition, back to school, summer to fall, political conventions, hurricanes, the US Open, even the Zydeco festival in Opeselousas, Louisana.

So here is what I remember.

Somehow in my first two weeks as a cancer patient I made it to Louisiana, California, and the US Open in Queens.

I came back from the national SPJ Convention in Indy on Sunday, took a day to recover on Monday, and went for my follow-up mammogram on Tuesday, which turned out to also be an ultrasound and the "area of concer" bomb.

Biopsy Wednesday. Ouch!

Thursday I decided it was now or never on Louisana, booked a ticket, Flew to Louisiana  Friday, Danced my rear off and ate everything in sight Saturday, got home Sunday, no memories of Monday, cancer call first thing Tuesday.

Some poor radiologist, comes back from Labor Day weekend and gets the job of calling women to tell them they have cancer. That's gotta suck. How many times a day does he have to make that call?

Sorry, cancer cells in biopsy, you'll need a PET scan and MRI ASAP. Talk about upselling!

Somehow I made it out to the US Open that next week and I set off the nuclear radiation detectors following my PET scan.

I was running on adrenaline.

I went to a wedding in California that weekend, and due to rain delays even made it to the final to see Juan Martin del Potro win the men's championship over Roger Federer the next day.

It was a crazy, improbable victory, and at the time that is what I needed to see at the time. I remember a group of Argentines dancing for joy.

I realize this is sounding more like a moldy version of Tennis Magazine than a breast cancer blog, but here is the thing, I never go to the finals, too rich for my blood, but that year I went because I thought I might never have another chance.

Fortunately I did.

Monday, July 23, 2012

New York now has a breast density law

The radiologist didn't recognize my face, but I knew what would trigger her memory.

"Remember me, really dense breast tissue lady?"

She lit up with recognition.

Apparently I had some of the densest breast tissue this side of the Mississippi. Getting a wire in me was an exceptional ordeal.

I believe my surgeon said dealing with my breasts was like "sawing into concrete."

New York State now has a new law requiring mammogram patients to be told if they have dense tissue. The density can make mammograms less conclusive and indicate higher risk.

I know women who fought for this bill, one who believes she might not have metastatic disease had she  been warned.

It's a done deal.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Give Komen (or me) credit

Way back in April of '10 I wrote a post about the Komen/KFC kerfuffle.

I suggested the charity start looking for some partners who would get them positive PR, and create some good will with health-conscious survivors.

Specifically I mentioned getting busy on some cute pink ribbon wrappers for fresh produce.

Then today I saw this!

Good job. Were they reading this blog? I doubt it, but it's the right idea. Promotions that encourage healthy habits.

Friday, June 8, 2012


I feel kind of ashamed I have not posted in more than a month.

I spent a remarkable evening with some of my favorite support group alums that I will talk about later.

One thing that came up is the shift in care as we begin to rack up the years post-diagnosis.

My radiation oncologist says she does not need to really see me any more.

A friend has been told she will be transitioned into the "survivor" program at her cancer center.

It's odd, just as we get used to the system, good at dealing with it, it's time for the next step.

For the past two years nearly all my vacation days have been for or surrounding medical appointments.

It was just the way it had to be, parts of our lives get pushed aside by cancer, now we have to find our way back.

This disease, if you are lucky, starts as a physical game, but shifts to a mental one.

When I am out in the civilian world sometimes I feel a little out of place, this experience has shaped how I see my life, there is so much we go through that is hard to explain.

Cancer took a huge bite out of my identity, now it's time to start getting it back.

What were your transitions like? Did you get back to being your "old self" or become someone new?

Post and discuss!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Breast Cancer Survivors Tweet About Sex Issues Tuesday 4/25

  Breast Cancer Answers ( ), the first ever social media show, is hosting a LIVE Twitter discussion, or "TweetUp," on April 25, 2012 at 6 p.m PDT/9 p.m. EDT. Attendees will have a chance to ask questions to a sexual health medical expert and network with other breast cancer patients, survivors, and advocates.

Wednesday's TweetUp discussion will feature Dr. Michael Krychman, who will lead the discussion on, "Breaking the Conspiracy of Sexual Silence After Breast Cancer: How can I effectively discuss my sexual concerns with my partner & health care provider?"
"Many of my patients are so relieved to know that their breast cancer sexual side effects are common and often easily resolved," said Michael Krychman, MD, clinical sexual counselor and board certified obstetrician and gynecologist . "It's very rewarding to team up with to help women regain wellness and enjoyment of life's many pleasures."
Attendees of the TweetUp are encouraged to ask questions for themselves and other women all over the world who may be silently suffering from the sexual side effects of breast cancer. Dr. Krychman and Breast Cancer Answers have created a downloadable PDF that summarizes the topic and can be shared with patients in need.
"It's very common for breast cancer patients to feel like their sexual health concerns are being overlooked or swept under the rug," said Jay K. Harness, MD, FACS, the medical director for Breast Cancer Answers and a past president of The American Society of Breast Surgeons. "That's why it was vital for us to help women effectively communicate their sexual concerns with their health care provider and partner."
To access the TweetUp, search the hashtag #BCATU on Twitter or visit the official Twitter page at #!/BreastCancerDr. Event attendees will have a chance to have their questions answered and win a $50.00 iTunes gift card.
Breast Cancer Answers, the first ever social media show, enables breast cancer patients across the dominant eight social networks to submit their questions and receive a video response back from medical experts. Each time a patient submits a new question, they receive an email with a video answering their question. These short Q & A responses, or episodes, are then published every week day across the Internet and into the show's growing Q & A video library. Patient questions can also be submitted at .
Michael Krychman, MD, is the Executive Director at The Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship, Newport Beach CA. As a board certified obstetrician and gynecologist, clinical sexual counselor and author, Dr. Krychman has devoted his career to helping patients and their partners overcome sexual health challenges and experience a higher quality of physical intimacy. He is also a specialist in survivorship medicine and provides life coaching and care plans to optimize the health and wellness of patients with chronic diseases or cancer. Learn more about Dr. Krychman by visiting .

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lucky Hubby?

I don't post a whole lot about my relationship with my husband, but we had kind of a fight about something sort of breast cancer related.

We were watching a story about a car that hit some people on a street in New York City.

Someone in the story said the victims were lucky to be alive. It rubbed me the wrong way.

Having dealt with cancer, and pain, I understand how even a minor injury can totally impact a person's quality of life.

I would never say that someone who got hit by a car while walking down the street was lucky.

I wonder if they will have scars, back pain, medical bills.

When people say I am lucky my cancer wasn't worse, it really frustrates me.

Don't get me wrong, I am grateful for the positive aspects of my prognosis. I am happy I have good doctors. I am so glad to have insurance. Most of all I am amazingly fortunate to have my wonderful, supportive spouse.

A spouse who feels lucky I am still around. But I still struggle with the word.

I save lucky for the people walking around on the street who don't have cancer and didn't get hit by a car.

Anyhow, on a husband related note, this article really hits home.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J.C. Hayward Keeps it Real

I always worry this blog will somehow end up skewed to news-anchors-with-breast-cancer.

But I am in awe of the mighty J.C. Haward.

I am no spring chicken in my profession, but I watched J.C. when I was a little girl growing up in Maryland. Her work is burned into my DNA.

I really skipped a breath when I heard she was diagnosed.

Now plenty of news-anchors-with-breast-cancer will do a story on their journey. But I have never seen a public figure be as open and revealing as JC is in these photos.

Yes, it is hard in a way to see a woman who symbolized news desk style in surgery, but I give her a great amount of credit.

Get well soon J.C.



Friday, April 6, 2012

Of Dreams and Devils: Remembering Katherine Russell Rich

Katherine Russell Rich had at least two claims to fame. Her talent as a writer, and her 19 years of survival with metastatic breast cancer.

She wrote two books, “Dreaming in Hindi: Coming Awake in Another Language” and “The Red Devil: To Hell With Cancer — and Back.”

I didn't really know her, beyond a few email exchanges. But she was just exceptional.

Rich stretched the idea of what it meant to be diagnosed with advanced breast cancer.

Not just a medical fluke, she was able to articulate her experience. She frequently made the point that medical science should be studying the "outliers,"the women who live more than a decade with metastatic breast cancer.

She was our war correspondent, reporting from the frontline.

I have posted a few links, to her articles, and sadly to her obituary.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Giuliana Rancic Shares Body Image Struggles After Breast Cancer and Mastectomy

I have to admit until last night I never thought much about Giuliana Rancic's breast cancer journey.

Her initial reveals on TV seemed a touch unrealistic. I think many celebrities want to send a positive, "get that screening" message out so they don't share their actual hardships.

Kylie Minogue is a wonderful exception, griping about the side effects of Tamoxifen,

I don't begrudge anyone their path, but when I hear about people playing in Grand Slams or performing on Broadway through treatment, I feel like an under achiever.

Initially, Giuliana seemed so certain cancer would not effect her baby plans, and so quick to return to work I had a tough time relating to her.

Sometimes I feel like the world expects all of us to bounce back in a jiffy.

I feel awful writing this, but I was in a sense relieved when Carly Fiorina had to go public with her infection. People don't realize that infections are a common side effect, and at least I could kind of point to her and explain. I felt like my co-workers had a point of reference.

But back to our impossibly slender, fashionable survivor Giuliana.

Last night for some reason I ended up watching the E! True Hollywood Story about her, and kind of changed my take on her. Yes, she has one perky positive attitude but is seems more sincere and realistic. Like most of us she took time to grown into this new reality.

I give her a lot of credit for this clip.

Gosh I remember switching bra after bra trying to get comfortable, and all the fashion compromises. I actually accepted a journalism award a few weeks after radiation and heavens, in the photo I look AWFUL. I couldn't really wear a bra yet and in what was supposed to be my big moment was left awkwardly flopping around.

Bless Giuliana for showing the world that dealing with breast cancer can mean a million mundane yet frustrating struggles.

By the way Giuliana & Bill is on the Style Network. Silly me I kept looking for it on E!

Style network now has a breast cancer information page.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Anchor's on air mammogram leads to cancer diagnosis

My first co-anchor did this too. To encourage women to participate in exams she had her mammogram on TV. So did my twitter buddy @NeileJones, as she wrote about here in loop.

But I always feared one of the women would find out bad news. I mean it so easily could have been me.

As it happened I am kind private about medical stuff (though I guess this blog contradicts that) but I was so glad I lost my job just a few weeks before my DX. This I needed to do in private.

I have no problem giving talks for BC groups, but this would be hard for me.

Best of luck to her!!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Hilarious! "Hot Guys" App Promotes Self-Exams

Good goin' Canada!

I know some of you will hate this, I know breast cancer is serious business, but I this is hilarious!

The wicked lades up north at ReThink Breast Cancer came up with an oh-so-memorable and genuinely funny way to promote regular self-exams.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Check out this great breast cancer awareness poster

From Breast Cancer Survivor to Skinny Ms. Slow Cooker

I love to cook, but I only get the chance to do it a few times a month. So especially in the winter, I like to use my slow cooker, it lets me make a decent size batch of food and put a few dinners in the freezer.

So I thought it was pretty cool that a two-time breast cancer survivor penned a healthy slow cooker book. 

“Skinny Ms. Slow Cooker: Natural Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle” by Tiffany McCauley and Gale Compton. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ho

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Komen Quandary

One of my favorite bloggers posted recently about the Komen quandary.

Bridget is a delightful young woman who was diagnosed with MBC at the age of 21.

She works with Komen, and her defense of the organization is very well thought out, I encourage you to read it.

If I was in her shoes, I too would not want to quibble with the people who did so much for me.

BUT (sigh)

I just have to say something about the whole idea of politics and advocacy.

They are the same thing.

The American Cancer Society has a campaign called the "Power of the Purse." The whole idea is to lobby Washington for more funding. A totally reasonable thing to do if you are the ACS. But to say it is not political is silly. It may not be partisan, but it's political.

Komen too has an advocacy alliance.

There is nothing wrong with that, it's not sneaky, it is part of our system. We can't all go knock on doors on Capitol Hill. But to say that politics plays no role in these organizations is just plain silly.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I'm not sure this is better

While many supporters of Komen have breathed a sigh of relief at the reversal of the PP decision, it actually left me feeling a bit more concerned about the organization.

What concerned me was not the funding choice, but the way they defended themselves.

The claim that this was not a political decision seems hard to believe.

They wanted to end their relationship with a controversial, headline making grantee.

I believe they were hoping to steer clear of politics, something I actually think could be defended.

If they had clearly explained their rationale for the decision, if they had presented an alternative way of funding screening, they might have had some people unhappy but it would probably not have engendered the snowball of fury.

Transparency. In the news biz, when we make a mistake, transparency helps.

Own up to what happened, and explain what is going to change.

I may be alone here, but I actually lost faith in their integrity. The flip-flop seems like a knee jerk reaction.

This may seem crass, but really they need to focus group these big decisions.

Does anyone watch, "The Good Wife," on CBS? They need a real life Ari Gold.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


I have been really dreading writing about the Komen controversy, and I kind of want to hit the delete button.

Also I tend to be kind of a fence sitter on these things, as a professional journalist my instinct is to try to be neutral.

So for a moment I am going to put aside the right/wrong part of the issue, and look at it from a different point of view.

For quite a while Komen has been making tone deaf PR moves.

The fried chicken is a classic example. The organization, to me, does not seem to understand that it's future is based on public perception.

I think I understand their rationale for pulling the Planned Parenthood funding. 700 thousand dollars is a small fraction of their funding, and I believe they only utilized PP in smaller cities.

I can imagine them saying, the distraction of Planned Parenthood is not worth it, and it's distorting our central message.

There was an organization that pulled their pink "for the cure" bible (I think it was a bible) because of the association.

I can imagine the conversation that said, we need to be apolitical and keep the focus on curing breast cancer.

But what they have not done is communicate any sort of a plan to send those women somewhere else. Maybe there is a plan, if so, they need to communicate it.

They don't seem to have any idea how to manage a crisis, and they seem to have lost their voice.

I still believe Komen does a lot of good, really I do. I love a lot of women who are involved with the organization. I have really enjoyed participating in their events.

But this one decision has exploded in a way the fried chicken or perfume dustups have not.

Women who really gave their all for Komen are turning away.

To be honest, I have always suggested that people donate to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which is sort of the un-Komen. But I still respect that Komen has been very good at creating community connections. It is sort of a VFW for women who have been in the cancer war. They are places no other organization is.

I feel like a friend who wants to do an intervention.

Komen please do what it takes to get back in touch with the rank and file.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Why isn't 1 out of 2000 enough?

So there is a researcher in the UK who says breast screening is useless since it only saves one in 2000 lives.

This number isn't all that new, it's about what has been bandied about in the US in regards to women in their 40's and mammograms.

One in 2K may sound like a small number but it's not.

Fill a football stadium with 60,000 people. 30 of them dead is not OK.

But my real beef goes beyond the numbers of lives saved.

It never factors in the numbers of breasts saved due to early detection, the number of women spared chemotherapy due to early detection, the lower chance of lymphedema if you catch it before it moves to your nodes.

I realize there is a relevant point to the fact that some women statistically will be over treated, and their pain is not insignificant. But even if a cancer does not leave the breast, letting it grow to a larger size is not doing anyone a favor. Nobody wants to find their cancer at a later stage.

We are more than a numbers game.