Archive for the ‘breast cancer’ Category

No One Likes to be Called FATTY!
January 31, 2015

Last week I went for my yearly mammogram. I go to a women’s imaging center where all they do is digital mammograms. Since I am a breast cancer survivor I usually hang around the 20 minutes for the radiologist to read my mammogram. When I went into the waiting room there was a woman not only crying but also wailing. I decided to leave and wait for the follow-up letter to come and the notice sent to my oncologist.

I saw the oncologist before I got the letter with the heads up that all was fine. I was feeling relieved until I got home and opened the letter from the imaging center. The letter stated my breast tissue is almost entirely fat.

I chose during breast cancer to save my breasts. I had 2 lumpectomies, which is considered breast conservation to keep them. So what if they are almost all fat now. I am happy that they are still original. Did the imaging center just call me ‘fatty’?

Breasts are not comprised of muscle so are fatty breasts bad? I can’t work out my breasts to turn the fat to muscle because there are no muscles in breasts! So here is my question:

Have you been told that you are a fat breasted woman?

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My Veins Are Shot
January 24, 2015

Giving blood is a great thing to do. Donating your healthy blood to blood banks is terrific. When I was in college I started donating blood. I learned then that my veins are not very cooperative. They look good but they roll away from the needle.

Fast forward a few decades and my veins were tested to their limit with chemotherapy. I chose not to have a port inserted because that part of the whole cancer treatment regime was what freaked me out. Subsequently my chemo had to be administered into my veins in my arm. Because of my breast cancer surgeries only one arm could be used. The chemo drugs are very toxic. The nurses who administer wear heavy gloves, and yet this poison went into my veins. My veins did not like it. They rolled, collapsed, burst and generally made life difficult.

As a result of my treatments, the only place that I can get blood out of my body for a blood test is from my hand. It hurts a bit and the top of my hand is all scarred from my many blood tests as a cancer survivor. My doctor went so far as to recommend I wear a medical alert bracelet! I just can’t bring myself to wear a bracelet that says, “Veins Suck, Use Right Hand” or “Veins Shot, Administer in Right Hand Only”

.Giving blood

Last week I went for my yearly visit to my oncologist. Before the visit blood is taken. A good friend of mine had breast cancer a year after my diagnosis. We go to the same oncologist and now we schedule our appointments following each other and then go out to celebrate another year of cancer free living. She has her appointment first because her veins are not shot and her time in the lab is brief.

Gave Blood

I don’t think there is note on my chart about my veins but let’s just say I never get the new oncology tech for the blood draw. I still tell them what size needle to use, which hand, which I make certain is warm, and I already drank about a gallon of water before the visit, all to have a timely and successful blood draw.

Anyone else with uncooperative veins?

What Does the World Series and Breast Cancer Have in Common?
October 27, 2014

It’s all about statistics and hope.

As the last week of breast cancer awareness month and the World Series end I thought I would mention some similarities. Shocking to many and even to me that I am using a sports analogy but here it goes!

Not everyone gets breast cancer but we can all support those who do.

Not every baseball player makes it to the World Series but they can become fans.

Breast cancer treatment protocols are based on the best statistical data for a positive outcome.

World Series teams use their statistical rankings to make line up and position placements for the best outcome.

The breast cancer patient can follow her doctor’s recommendations precisely and still get a reoccurrence.

The best team record doesn’t necessarily mean they will end up in the World Series.

It only takes one cell to go rogue to become cancer.

It only takes one swing of the bat to win the series or loose it.

The tumor markers look bad, the treatments are debilitating but the breast cancer patient still has hope that the next treatment, the next blood work will show improvement.

The baseball team is behind in the series and a star player or pitcher is hurt but still they hold hope the next game they will win.

A new clinical trail, a new drug, a new chemo cocktail is showing a statistical significance in life span for the breast cancer patient. She goes for it.

A player is suddenly hot at the bat or at the mound nullifying his season’s statistics. He is put into play.

We support our teams because they display hope on every swing of the bat and every pitch and caught ball. We support our sisters, mothers, and friends with every treatment and diagnosis for the same hope of another day to play!

Alternative Care for Breast Cancer
October 30, 2012

This is part five and my final week of blogging about breast cancer for the month of October. This week the subject is alternative care during treatments and after your treatments have ended. As mentioned in part four about help for breast cancer survivors, your oncologist may recommend alternative care. You of course may have to ask.

With my health insurance I buy a policy that gives me so much alternative care a year. It is wise to check with your health insurance carrier. If you enjoy alternative care you can often buy this coverage when you renew your policy for just a few dollars more per month.

 

Acupuncture, chiropractic care and naturopathic medicine are all tied into helping breast cancer survivors. Some clinics have a sliding scale for those without insurance coverage but have cancer.

From recommendation of my oncologist I started at an alternative clinic the same time I started my chemotherapy. I had acupuncture twice a week and met with a naturopath once a month. My ND gave me Chinese herbs that helped with some of my side effects. I had my oncology/radiation team, and my alternative teams helping me achieve breast cancer success!

 

 

Some people have a difficult time with the word survivor. After going through various surgeries, treatments and side effects, I totally embrace the word survivor. For many breast cancer patients the goal is to navigate and thrive to survivorship.

I am so very happy to be a 10-year breast cancer survivor. I am happy to write about breast cancer during the month of October. I hope some of this five part series helped some one or touched some one dealing with breast cancer.

Have you had alternative care? Has acupuncture worked for you? Do you see a Chiropractor or a Naturopathic doctor?

 

Help for Breast Cancer Survivors
October 23, 2012

 

This is part four of my weekly blogs about breast cancer for the month of October.

In my previous blogs I spoke of awareness, preparedness and holly crap breast cancer happens. This week I want to talk about HELP. All breast cancer patients and survivors need help. The disease can truly be mind fogging and there is help to navigate your course.

 

Breast cancer support groups can be really helpful. Who knows more about what you are going through than other survivors? Trust me when I say most women on the other side of treatments and into survivorship are not judgmental of your choices in treatments or your reactions to the disease. The best support groups can be found from recommendations from your oncologist. Many are supported through the hospital. Some hospitals have a social worker that is available. Other hospitals have support groups for children and partners. The best way to find out is to ask your oncologist.

 

Not a talker? Don’t want to listen or share? No problem. Many on line sites are full of information. Of course finding the most reputable sites is tricky. Once again your oncologist can lead you to these sites once you ask. Many oncology offices give a manual with your diagnosis with lots of resources. Did you know that there is a resource to have your house cleaned for free? Yep it is somewhere listed in resources available to breast cancer patients.

 

Friends and family want to do something for you? Let them. No one wants a martyr! If they cook, let them make a meal or two for you. If you enjoy their company ask them to meet you after a chemo session or during the chemo session.

From my experience, there really can be too many soaps and lotions and not enough prepared meals!

Remember not everyone rises to the occasion just because you have breast cancer. You may have to tell your family that you will not be hosting Thanksgiving this year. As the weeks and months pass with your treatments you may become weaker but it may become yesterday news to family and friends. You must remind them! I have seen irreconcilable feelings between family and friends during an illness and treatment.

 

Have you ever helped a friend or loved one during their breast cancer journey?  Have you ever wished you could have helped or helped more a friend or loved one during their breast cancer treatments?

 

 

 

 

 

Breast Cancer Awareness
October 2, 2012

 

This year I am a 10-year breast cancer survivor. I am hopefully looking forward to another 10 years of survivorship, but I want to look back too.

 

I was familiar with breast cancer before I was diagnosed. I had friends and family go through various types of the disease treatments. I had participated in the Race for the Cure several times. I was in pharmaceutical sales calling on physicians every working day. I was reading medical journals as part of my job. Yet when I was diagnosed I was shocked.

I was aware of breast cancer, but caught up in my own life, I was not truly aware. I may have firmly been in denial.  I thought, how could this happen to me?  I was 48. I was healthy, fit, ate right, exercised regularly and did not smoke or drink. I wasn’t on any medications and had no health issues. I regularly went to the doctor and got a yearly mammogram. This is the case of many women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. This is what many women diagnosed with breast cancer think.

 

So with all the awareness that happens every October, how effective is it?

For many women who do not get a mammogram this awareness can truly be life saving. For women who do not do a routine self-breast examination the awareness helps. For celebrities to use their celebrity status and the power of the media to talk about breast cancer awareness is helpful. For those of us in denial, repetition is helpful.

The pink everywhere is more prevalent now than it was 10 years ago. More women are surviving longer than they were 10 years ago. Genetic testing, research and studies have grown exponentially in the last 10 years. All of this is positive. More women will survive breast cancer. More women will be double-digit survivors!

Has breast cancer awareness worked for you? Have you been caught in denial?

 

 

 

 

 

The Komen Debacle and the Aftermath
May 22, 2012

When Planned Parenthood of NY applied to become a grantee from Komen for the Cure and was turned down, a PR s**t storm ensued. Nancy Brinker, founder of Komen did not immediately respond. What followed was passionate politics mixed with news bites and media hype.

 

Many women were fed up with Komen for their “Pink Washing” charitable giving and sponsorship. Many people were mad at Komen for being a nonprofit but paying their top employees big salaries.

 

I volunteer for Susan Komen for the Cure affiliate of Oregon and SW Washington. Our affiliate, which is 25 years old, has never had Planned Parenthood apply for any grant money. Not many affiliates in the hundreds found throughout the world have had Planned Parenthood apply for grant money. I know this because for my affiliate, I am a peer review member. I read the grant applications.

 

The first year I volunteered to read the grant applications I was in tears. I wanted every organization to get money. They were all worthy causes. The criteria in general are breast cancer outreach in education, awareness and mammograms to those women who are underserved or without financial means. The organizations have to be able to evaluate the effectiveness on their programs.  Although I still cry when reading the grant applications, now I am able to get through them without sobbing!

 

I attended the ‘Grant Award Celebration’ last week. The charities that received the grants were ecstatic.  Distributed was $1.3M in grants to address breast cancer screening and $600,000 for research.

 

To all the Komen bashers and Pink haters, I wish you could have been in that room with the charity leaders to feel the hope, care and support that the grant money will bring to their cause.  The Komen debacle is behind us and supporting Komen is helping to save women from death from breast cancer through awareness, education, mammograms, research and support.

Have you had your Yearly Mammogram?
October 25, 2011

 9 years ago I went to see my Doctor for a routine check-up and mammogram. I was healthy, busy and didn’t give it a second thought. I thought like every other year the Doctor would say I was in excellent health. She didn’t. She told me to see a surgeon. She said my mammogram was read and it appeared to be textbook breast cancer. In a minute my life changed. I was 48 years old.

Digital mammography is fantastically fast. Before you get dressed the radiologist reads your mammogram and either sends you on your way, asks for another view, or recommends you see your physician.

Mammograms have come a long way from the big squish times. Yes the squish is still there but it is such a short amount of time you hardly feel it. When you are asked to hold your breath the procedure is so fast that you aren’t even gulping for air!

If you take 400 mg of Ibuprofen before your mammogram it does help take the edge off the tiniest discomfort. As far as pain, I am here to say cancer not only sucks but it hurts. A slight ouch from a mammogram is nothing in comparison to painful chemotherapy infusions, body aches and numbing fatigue.

If you say there is no breast cancer in your family, and you are healthy, read my first paragraph again. There is no known cause for breast cancer and no cure. If you are over 40 and especially if you have dense breast or someone in your family had breast or ovarian cancer, get your mammogram.

Many women are reluctant to have a mammogram because they are afraid of the results. The other excuses women give for not having a yearly mammogram is lack of insurance or the cost or the time. As far as the cost goes, the Komen foundation; komen.org can assist for some uninsured low income women. As far as the fear factor, when breast cancer is diagnosed early the survival rate is 98%. The time excuse, really do you have time for cancer??If you are insured it is a no brainer. How busy can you be in the grand scheme of life?

Life can change in a minute from an injury, illness, accident or sudden death. We all take precautions when we buy car insurance, or home insurance. We are being safe when we use our seat belt, or use our turn signals while driving. Why would we not take the same safety measures with our health and get a yearly mammogram?

October is breast cancer awareness month!

Breast Cancer Gene Debate
October 18, 2011

The BRACA 1 and BRACA 2 genes for hereditary breast cancer are the only genes currently diagnosable. This means if you are tested for the genes and you have it your chances of getting breast cancer increase greatly as well as your chance of ovarian cancer in your lifetime compared to the general public. But and here is the debate and the big ‘but’, you have to go through genetic counseling and take the genetic test to find out if you even have the genes.

To some women this seems straight-forward.  They know they have a history of breast cancer on their Father’s side and/or their Mother’s side of the family so they see the geneticist specializing in breast cancer found at major urban hospitals.

Let me put up the common road blocks that makes this situation anything but straight-forward; Money, time, insurance, and knowledge. 

The test will be administered after counseling which takes time.

The counseling is after a doctor recommends this to you which is insurance.

The test is not 100% covered by insurance which is the money component.

The knowledge component is the big roadblock for many women. What do you do if you find out you are positive for the gene? Remember the positive outcome of the gene does not say you will get breast or ovarian cancer, but that your chances are higher than the general public.

My opinion is that this is a very important issue for women who are in their mid 20’s and 30’s and are thinking of having children. If a woman in this age group tests positive she can make changes. She can opt to harvest her eggs for a later date, have children as soon as possible or opt to have prophylactic surgeries. These are not changes in diet, exercise or life-style changes, but life altering changes!

Currently there are 250,000 women living in the USA who were diagnosed with breast cancer before age 41. Usually their cancer is a more aggressive form. The financial burden and emotional costs of cancer are difficult to measure at any stage of life but even more difficult to measure in a young woman. Extrapolate this to a young woman who is healthy but has a family history. Do you push her to have the counseling and to take the test?

Many women give the reason why they don’t get a yearly mammogram is because they are afraid of the results. Ignorance is bliss is a common reason of non-action for many. With that in mind how would you react to the genetic counseling and test? What would you suggest to your friends, sisters, or daughter if they fit the criteria for genetic cancer?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pink Fatigue in October
October 11, 2011

October is breast cancer awareness month. Pink is the color associated with breast cancer. Many companies support breast cancer charities and research by changing the colors of their products to pink or put the pink ribbon trademarked by the Komen foundation on their products. So what is the big deal? The big deal is some people are sick of all the pink. Some people have ‘pink fatigue’, meaning the pink has lost impact on them. Some people think the color pink is too cute or too soft or too feminine to be representative of the breast cancer disease.

I don’t know why Komen picked pink to represent their logo, the ribbon, but they did. Their success with breast cancer awareness has snowballed all breast cancer charities and research to use pink in their marketing.

Some people are out raged that Komen.org, the largest charity in the world pays high salaries to their top employees. Some people are outraged that a company will put a cap on their matched donations of $500,000.00, $50.000.00 or $5,000.00 to breast cancer. Some people are outraged that Fast Food outlets will sell nutritiously bad food while donating a nickel per bucket to breast cancer.

Let me address some of these thoughts:

The treatments for breast cancer are; slash, burn and poison. There is nothing cute, soft or feminine about that!

Komen did not get to be the biggest charity by only using volunteers. Just because they are a nonprofit does not mean that their employees don’t get paid. Komen takes the millions of dollars they raise from around the world and fund research on drugs, treatment programs, mammograms and outreach programs. Almost all the drugs used in breast cancer treatment have been a result of Komen dollars.

A company willing to make any donation to Komen or breast cancer research is voluntary and they will get my dollars. Why not?

If you eat fast food in a bucket, and many do, why not have a nickel go to breast cancer research? You are not making the breast cancer patient or survivor eat it!

Here is the low down on breast cancer. There is no cure. There is no cause. The treatments can be barbaric and debilitating.  95% have no family history of breast cancer. The leading causes of breast cancer are being a woman and too many birthdays. 1 out 8 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime. Look around and count starting with me, a 9 year survivor, and count 8 more women in your life.

The next time you consider scoffing at the pink in October, ask yourself if your nickel or dime won’t help your sister, friend, daughter or self in the future?