Fight Fat Now, Prevent Cancer Later

www.goodbooks.com/mayoclinicdiet/
www.goodbooks.com/mayoclinicdiet/

The Mayo Clinic has a lot to say about breast cancer. Click over here, and you’ll land at some pretty good information about biopsies, breast cancer staging, treatment, coping and support. You’ll even learn a thing or two about obesity, because, well, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock lately, you know that being overweight or obese increases your chances of developing the disease. I know, it’s a bummer you can’t eat whatever you want and lounge on the couch all day. But you just can’t — well, not if your wish is to keep cancer from invading your world.

“The good news is that even modest weight loss can improve or prevent the health problems associated with obesity,” says The Mayo Clinic website. And the book The Mayo Clinic Diet, written by Dr. Donald Hensrud and other weight-loss experts at the Clinic, is chock-full of tips for eating well, enjoying life, and, yes, losing some weight.

Now, this is not a scheme to starve you skinny in no time (that’s just not healthy, or sustainable), but the book does feature a two-week quick-start plan, and then lots of material for helping you continue to lose and maintain (that’s key, after all). Think 1 to 2 pounds per week until you reach your healthy weight. Sound good? Good. Here’s more of what you’ll get in this book:

  • How to determine your healthy weight
  • How to break bad habits and create good ones
  • How to control your portions
  • How to best burn calories
  • How to handle slip-ups
  • How to make easy meals

This is a glossy, colorful and friendly book — I’m looking right now at the yummiest picture of a Blueberry and Lemon Cream Parfait — only 125 calories, 1 gram of fat and 9 grams of protein — and I can tell you for sure that the tips for overcoming barriers are really quite do-able: on days when you honestly don’t have time to cook a meal at home, for example, stop at the grocery store for a healthy deli sandwich instead of that fast food burger, fries and large Coke.

It’s still OK to eat out now and then (whew!), and this book offers the dirt on healthy dishes to order at ethnic stops, like Chinese, French, Greek, Italian, Japanese and Mexican restaurants. It’s also got the skinny on alcohol — best to avoid it, lots of calories (and linked to breast cancer, too) — and you’ll love all the charts and tables. Did you know that one serving of cashews = 4 whole nuts? Yea, that’s why I avoid them. Just can’t stop at 4. More on serving sizes in the book. Oh, and you might want to get yourself The Mayo Clinic Diet journal companion, because jotting down everything you do to fight the fat is a good idea.

Time for me to stop, and you to start — losing weight, that is (if you need to). For more book information, visit here. And for the scoop on the guy who wrote the book (and The Mayo Clinic, too), just read on.

About Donald Hensrud, M.D.
Donald Hensrud, M.D., M.P.H., is chair of the Division of Preventive, Occupational, and Aerospace Medicine and a consultant in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. He is also an associate professor of preventive medicine and nutrition at the College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic. A specialist in nutrition and weight management, Dr. Hensrud advises individuals on how to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. He conducts research in weight management, and he writes and lectures widely on nutrition-related topics. He helped publish two award-winning Mayo Clinic cookbooks.

About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world. Doctors from every medical specialty work together to care for patients, joined by common systems and a philosophy that the needs of the patient come first. Over 3,600 physicians and scientists and 50,000 allied staff work at Mayo, which has sites in Rochester, Minn.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Scottsdale/Phoenix, Ariz. Collectively, Mayo Clinic treats more than 500,000 patients a year.

For more than 100 years, millions of people from all walks of life have found answers at Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic works with many insurance companies, does not require a physician referral in most cases and is an in-network provider for millions of people.

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E.D. Hill to Have Preventative Double Mastectomy

Former Fox News anchor and conservative journalist E.D. Hill informed “The View” co-hosts today that she will have a preventative double mastectomy. Essentially,  she does not have breast cancer; she just doesn’t want to get it. And since a strong family history increases her chances of developing the disease, she’s taking action to keep herself as healthy as possible.

Seem too extreme to you? Or would you do it, too?

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1/2 Marathon: Training Trouble

Photo: joey.parsons, Flickr
Photo: joey.parsons, Flickr

So, I’ve been training for a marathon (training: I love that word — sounds so athletic, which I am totally not), and it’s been going really well. Oh, except that I’m hungry all. the. time. which means I’m eating all. the. time. which means my number on the scale is not exactly what I want it to be. But hey, it’s temporary. Once I cross the finish line, I can back off on the hard-core stuff and get back to modest exercise and moderate eating.

Anyway, the actual running has been great, and I know I can conquer all 13.1 miles on February 14, because this past Sunday, I ran 12. And that leaves just 1.1 to accomplish, and I’m pretty sure I can drag my tired old body that distance to finish the race — well, barring any injuries, that is, which is why I’m writing this update.

Today, 4 miles was my goal. But not long after I started pounding the pavement, something like an ache or a pain twinged in my foot, and it wouldn’t go away. I mean, it did go away for a minute or two, but then it resurfaced, and there was just no way I could put running pressure on it. So I walked, and even that wasn’t pretty — it was all limpy and wimpy, and boy am I bummed. This is the first time I have not complied with the training schedule. Just a blip on the screen, I suppose, so I will take it easy today, and I’ll get back out there tomorrow, because I’ve got 5 miles of ground to cover, and I really, really want to run the whole distance.

I really, really want to stop inhaling food, too, so let’s just hope all my dreams come true, OK?

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“Survivor” Jennifer Lyon Dies of Breast Cancer

http://jennlyon.com/
http://jennlyon.com/

Former “Survivor” contestant Jennifer Lyon died on Tuesday night. Breast cancer. She was 37.

And this is exactly why I can work myself into a tizzy about the disease: because very young and otherwise healthy women die from it, and since I’ve had it, and there’s a chance it will come back, it’s pretty hard to not get all worked up about it. Mostly, I have hope, though, and I’m pretty sure I will survive for the long haul. I figure if I have more hope than worry, then life will be a whole lot more fun.

More about Jennifer: According to PEOPLE.com, the reality TV star, who placed fourth on “Survivor: Palau” in 2005 and passed away in her home in Oregon, was first diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer a few months after her “Survivor” season ended. She had a modified, radical bilateral mastectomy, then chemotherapy, then she took Tamoxifen. (Tamoxifen is a drug used to prevent recurrence for those who qualify for it. I don’t.)

Jennifer apparently found something suspicious in her right breast in the summer of 2004, but she chalked it up to scar tissue related to breast implants, and she let it go — for a long time.

Don’t do that, people! Don’t let anything go — if you find something, find a doctor. Right away. Then demand a mammogram, an ultrasound, an MRI — just don’t self-diagnose. The results can be tragic.

If you can remember just one thing about breast cancer, make it this: if caught early, this disease can be stopped. It doesn’t have to grow and spread and take over other organs. Small tumors can be removed, your body can be treated, and you can survive. Really, you can. So check your breasts (forget those who tell you self-exams are unnecessary and mammograms can wait) and report anything — anything — that just doesn’t feel right.

OK?

OK.

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When You Need to Smile

bra-400jd011310

Photo: One in a Million / [ tumblr ]

I’ve always loved inspirational quotes and uplifting passages. Once while in grad school, I wrote down all my favorites and looked at them whenever my spirits dipped. I even have a folder in a filing cabinet with motivational bits and pieces (those grad school quotes are tucked inside). So when 22-year-old Sara shared in a comment that she crafted a blog especially for herself and her mom — who has an extremely rare type of cancer that can’t be cured — I was instantly intrigued. In one swift click, I was on her site, called One in a Million.  It’s “a place to come when you really need to smile,” writes Sara. And she’s right. Pay her a visit, and you will smile. But you also might feel emotional, and a tear or two might stream down your face, but not in a sad way, just in a touch-your-heart kinda way. For sure. I promise.

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I Run For Life

Today, I listened to this song during my 4-mile run, and it’s the very thing that helped me finish. That means it’s definitely going last on my 1/2 marathon playlist, because just when I’m convinced 13.1 miles is way too much for one person to accomplish, I’m going to need a reminder that really, it’s totally and completely do-able. I’m running for life, after all — how hard can it be to pound the pavement for two hours?

(Melissa Etheridge)

It’s been years since they told her about it
The darkness her body possessed
And the scars are still there in the mirror
Everyday that she gets herself dressed
Though the pain is miles and miles behind her
And the fear is now a docile beast
If you ask her why she is still running
She’ll tell you it makes her complete

[Chorus:]
I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother, your sister, your wife
I run for you and me, my friend
I run for life

It’s a blur since they told me about it
How the darkness had taken its toll
And they cut into my skin and they cut into my body
But they will never get a piece of my soul
And now I’m still learning the lesson
To awake when I hear the call
And if you ask me why I am still running
I’ll tell you I run for us all

[Chorus:]
I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother your sister your wife
I run for you and me my friend
I run for life

And someday if they tell you about it
If the darkness knocks on your door
Remember her remember me
We will be running as we have before
Running for answers
Running for more

I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother, your sister, your wife
I run for you and me my friend
I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother your sister, your daughter, your wife
For you and me my friend
I run for life
Ohohohoh

I run for your mother your sister your wife
I run for you and me my friend
I run for life

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Bra Colors Take Over Facebook, Well, Kind of

Photo: morgueFile
Photo: morgueFile

Wondering what the meaning of those “Black,” “Blue” and “Pink” Facebook status updates are? I was confused all morning, figured I’d sort it out sooner or later, and then I broke down and did some Google work. Found out the hues represent bra colors. So, like every good Facebooker, I played along by peeking in my shirt and updating my status: Beige.

What I turned up on the Internet is that the purpose of this color thing is to simply raise awareness of breast cancer. Not sure how it all got started, but here’s what you should do if you’re a girl (or boy who wears a bra): Look at your bra, note the color, type it in your FB status bar, then feel those boobies. Just re-updated my status after my “beige” remark and wrote this:

So, while you’re peeking inside your shirt to see what color bra you are wearing so you can post it in your status update, go ahead and feel around in there, make sure there are no lumps. And if there are, call your doc for a clinical exam!

Are you game? Hope so.

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Giveaway – The Skinnygirl Dish: Easy Recipes for Your Naturally Thin Life

skinnygirldish-200jd010410
www.bethenny.com

If you’re a fan of “The Real Housewives of New York City,” then you know Bethenny Frankel. She’s not only a reality TV girl, though — she’s also a celebrity natural food chef, columnist for Health magazine and best-selling author.

First came Bethenny’s book “Naturally Thin,” detailing 10 real-life rules for escaping a lifetime of dieting, and now she’s written “The Skinnygirl Dish: Easy Recipes for Your Naturally Thin Life.” This is where she shares fast, practical and economical healthy recipes, then teaches us how to live without them. How perfect for those of us trying to live cleaner lives in less time!

Bethenny also dishes on how we can minimize the “cooking noise” in our lives. Keep reading for some inspirational nuggets — and for the scoop on how to win one of her books.

  • Do you hear yourself saying any of these things: I have no food in this house. I don’t have the slightest idea what to make for dinner. There is nothing to eat! I don’t know how to cook. That’s “cooking noise,” and you can stop it, and you can learn to feed yourself without stressing about it.
  • Food is one of the most powerful tools you have for building a healthy body and a calm mind. Food can make you strong or weak, energized or depleted, skinny or fat. You are what you eat — it’s true.
  • Being naturally thin is a practice — you will never be perfect (no one is), but you can choose a healthy path and keep plugging along on it.
  • Recipes are a bit like kindergarten. You learn some basics (how do Whole Grain Blueberry Pancakes, a Healthier Cobb Salad and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies sound?), then you gain the confidence to branch out on your own. When you know how to cook, you won’t need recipes anymore.

OK, I could go on, but then you wouldn’t need the book, and I really think you should get it. Or you could enter this giveaway for a chance to win a free copy. Details follow:

  • Leave a comment and share why you need this book!
  • Leave your comment no later than 5PM ET on Tuesday, January 12, 2010.
  • You may enter only once.
  • Open to legal residents of the 50 United States, and the District of Columbia, who are 18 and older.
  • One winner will be selected in a random drawing.
  • One winner will receive one copy of “The Skinnygirl Dish: Easy Recipes for Your Naturally Thin Life,” valued at $16.00.
  • Winners will be notified by email, so make sure to check next week to find out if you’ve won!

Want another chance to win? Same giveaway going on at Braving Boys. Click here and enter again!

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1/2 Marathon: Training Update No. 1

Race Day: February 14, 2010 / www.lifesouth.org
Race Day: February 14, 2010 / www.lifesouth.org

I promised updates when I announced I’d be running a 1/2 marathon in celebration of surviving breast cancer for five years. (Running 13.1 miles does qualify as a celebration, right? Or should I have gone for the shopping spree, pampered pedicure, yummy dinner at a fancy restaurant?)

Well, here’s update No. 1:

Training is going well, and up until last night when I hopped up quickly from my chair to answer the phone after an 8.5-mile run and realized that for a moment, I could see nothing but darkness and could not respond to the caller (I think that’s called nearly passing out), there really have been no problems — no soreness, tightness, issues with breathing, nothing. Well, my knee is kinda achy today, but I think that’s related to the whole nearly-passing-out thing — here’s the scoop on that:

My tri-athlete-inspired dad sent me some powder recently, and he urged me to mix it with water and drink it after my long runs — I can sip it throughout the run, too, but I must drink it afterward, he said. It’s intended to:

  • Improve energy and endurance
  • Prevent cramping and dehydration
  • Restore electrolytes
  • Improve glycogen resynthesis

And I have chugged back the drink on most of my long runs — but not yesterday. Not sure why, I just got caught up in a family game of Uno, I guess, and never did mix the thing up. I suppose that’s why I got all weak and wobbly when I raced for the phone, and why my knee feels funky today. OK, OK, lesson learned. I’m like that, you know. I do things my own way, thinking everything will be just fine, and then I realize that someone else might actually know more than I do. Like the clothing thing. My sister keeps telling me I need some marathon-appropriate gear so I can get all layered and then shed some skin as I warm up on my cool-weather jaunts — because those short shorts I wore in 40-degree temps yesterday just didn’t do my any favors, and it’s very likely that my 7:00 AM race on February 14 will be a bit chilly.

So, while it may seem like my training is not going as well as I report, it really is. I mean, I once was a 3-mile-only girl, and now I’ve conquered more than 8 miles at one time. That’s huge in my book. Plus, I’m feeling so strong on some runs, I just know I could keep going (but I don’t, except for that one time, because I want to stick to the schedule), and, well, I just feel really good about it all. I can truly visualize myself crossing the finish line, and most important in all of this is that I’m pushing my body to perform — the same old body that was knocked out by chemo and folded onto the living room floor with blood counts so low only a blood transfusion could help. Yep, that one. Amazing what the body can do — as long as the person attached to it follows the rules.

Next run: powder drink and some new functional fashion!

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Thank Goodness for Little Boy Birthdays

Joey, almost 4 / Joey, now 9
Joey, almost 4 / Joey, now 9

I like to chart my progress after cancer by my kids’ birthdays. Take Joey, for example. Today, he turns 9. Significant for him, because he gets a party (it was yesterday, check it out) and presents, plus he’s one year closer to scoring that F350 he wants so badly. A big deal for me, too, because the guy was not even 4 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and his turning 9 is proof that I am still kickin’ — and thank goodness for that, because there were some pretty dark days way back then, and I was not always convinced I’d see my babies grow up.

Yep, January 3 is a big day. So is May 30 — that’s when Danny turns 7, and he was only 18 months old when I found that dreaded lump in my left breast in the shower in 2004. But there are reasons other than cancer that this special day is worthy of mention. Here’s my favorite:

Big baby boy
Big baby boy

Joey made a grand entrance into the world on this very day, weighing 10 pounds, 9 ounces and filling his nursery bassinet like a champ. His pediatrician, upon meeting him for the first time, said to me, “Congrats, you just gave birth to a 2-month-old.” If I had to rank all of my life accomplishments, pushing a monster child out of my body comes pretty close to the top. And to now witness the wonder of my 4-foot, 8-inch, 90-pound son is a true pleasure. (Incidentally, Danny was no small potatoes when he arrived either — 10 pounds, 2 ounces — but I’ll talk more about him in May.)

So, here’s to being alive to enjoy another one of Joey’s birthdays. And here’s to Joey, who keeps growing and growing and is becoming one heck of a great guy.

Happy Birthday, Joey.

I love you!

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Pointers for Pampering the Princess

www.treatherlikeaprincess.com
www.treatherlikeaprincess.com

If you have breast cancer, consider yourself a princess. Well, if you’re a girl, anyway. If you’re a boy and you have the disease (it happens), let’s go with “prince.”

For the purposes of this post, I’ll focus on the gals, because heaven knows they are the chosen group for this hated disease — the American Cancer Society estimates that 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in 2009, compared to 1,910 men.

OK, so you’re a princess, and you deserve to be treated like one, and that’s why Denise Hazen is doing what she’s doing. She’s spreading the word for loved ones of breast cancer patients about how they can help. First, she’s got a book called “Treat Her Like a Princess,” where she spouts out wisdom on the following topics: planning for meals, scheduling help with kids and pets, hospital care, post-surgery support and celebrating friendships. She also lists helpful resources and a glossary of common terms used during breast cancer treatment.

That’s not all. Denise also has a rockin’ website, where survivors can tell their stories, you can order your own book, read rave reviews and more.

For additional information, feel free to contact Denise herself at denise@treatherlikeaprincess.com — I’m pretty sure she’ll do anything to help a princess out.

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Extreme Makeover: Medicine Cabinet Edition

plasticrevolver, Flickr
plasticrevolver, Flickr

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got drugs stored away in a cupboard somewhere — not elicit drugs or anything, I mean prescription medications meant for you and only you. Stuff you’re saving, not because you want to use it later down the line, but because you’re too lazy to trash the stuff that is no longer necessary or even effective. Well, if you need a New Year’s resolution, and you’re not choosing the one most Americans make year after year (lose weight and get in shape!), then may I suggest you clean out your cabinets, ditch the drugs you no longer need and start 2010 with a medicine makeover.

I purged a bunch of my pills, syrups and such not long ago, because why in the world do I need the anti-nausea Zofran almost five years after I used it for my chemo tummy and numbing cream when my port is long gone? Years over-expired, I threw them away, along with all sorts of pills and potions I can barely remember taking. If you’re ready to do the same, here are four tips from Ladies’ Home Journal (December 09/January 10) and Dr. Angela Gardner, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, for getting rid of the old — which you should really do once per year, you know? Yea, I didn’t know either.

  • Empty everything from your cabinet, cupboard, basket, wherever you’re stock piling, and place everything on a counter so you can start sorting.
  • Toss anything that has expired. But don’t dump it down the toilet. Instead, crush your pills and dilute your liquids, then place them in a sealed plastic bag along with some coffee grounds or kitty litter so kids and pets won’t be tempted to eat them (well, we hope not, anyway). Put the plastic bag out with the trash.
  • Don’t keep your meds in the bathroom — it’s the worst place, because the heat and humidity can cause drugs to lose their potency. Opt for a childproof box and hide away in a dark, dry place, like a closet.
  • Replenish your essentials often — like bandages, gauze, tape, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wipes and more.

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Hope, Dare, Dream

note-paper-200jd122509
Thanks, Mom!

I asked my mom for note paper this Christmas. Just something simple for jotting down all the stuff I’m always scribbling (lists are my life, they’re the only way I stay sane). And like always, my sweet momma delivered. She didn’t just grab a few boring pads of paper, though. Nope. She found the inspirational stuff that makes me motivated to live like it matters — you know, to be a good mom and wife, help others, run a half marathon, eat healthy (after the holidays, I promise!), take risks, kick cancer’s butt, that kind of stuff.

And here sits my stack of stationery, right next to me on my desk, reminding me to hope, dare and dream. Oh, and she threw in a cute pad with apples on it (another reminder I need to get a grip on my nutritious ways, maybe?), and two pretty personalized pads, too.

I got a lot of great gear for Christmas this year — a hot pink sports bra and running shorts for those 13.1 miles, yummy body lotions, delicious candles, a trendy little vest for chilly Florida days, a mom-made scarf and more. The paper: A definite favorite.

Thanks, mom, for everything — you know me so well.

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Flashback: December 24, 2004

Side effect of radiation: limited range of motion in my left arm
Side effect of cancer treatment: limited range of motion in my left arm

I do have my breast. And I have a fairly good prognosis. My lump was removed and measured 1.1 cm, which is small. My lymph nodes were negative for cancer, although four were removed for biopsy purposes. My margins were clear, and there was no apparent spread of cancer. My cancer is considered stage 1. And that is good. I have two incisions, one in my armpit where lymph nodes were taken and one underneath it, on the side of my breast. They are both about 3.5 inches long. Besides a bad skin reaction to the tape I was bandaged with, everything went well. There are minor inconveniences right now. As my incisions heal and my skin tightens, it’s harder to lift my arm. So I have exercises I must do each day. Because of the missing lymph nodes, I may have trouble with swelling in my arm so I have to watch for that. I have not been able to shave my armpit since my surgery on December 3.

And now I await the next step in this battle. I will begin receiving chemotherapy in mid-January. This will last for three months. I will go for treatment four times, once every three weeks and will have a combination of drugs sent through my body via IV. The purpose of chemo is to kill rapidly growing cells, and cancer cells are rapidly growing. Unfortunately, all rapidly growing cells are killed, like hair cells and bone marrow cells. The chemo should kill any cancer cells that floated away from my breast, if any did. I don’t know how I will react to this process, as each person responds differently. At the very least, I hear I will be tired at times during each three-week time frame. I may also be tired from the radiation. This will begin three weeks after chemo ends.
NOTE: It didn’t happen exactly like that: Instead of receiving chemo every three weeks, I had it every two weeks — it’s called dose-dense chemo, and if the patient can tolerate it, it’s thought to be more effective. Did I tolerate it? Well, I survived, but I was hospitalized twice because it was so hard on my body.

I will receive radiation every day for 6 weeks. The purpose of radiation is to zap the actual area where the cancer was found to prevent it from recurring. Many women take a drug after chemo and radiation to prevent recurrences. The drug (usually tamoxifen) is taken for five years. My body will not respond to this type of drug due to negative estrogen receptors (if they are positive, the drug can be taken) so chemo and radiation will be my only two real treatments.
NOTE: Radiation went just fine. It was a breeze compared to chemo, and my skin didn’t burn too badly. The biggest hassle was the drive to and from the appointments. And while it’s not such a big deal, my left arm has limited range of motion due to the combo of surgery, scar tissue and radiation. See photo above — my right arm touches the ground, but my left arm won’t.

For now, I am trying to keep life simple. Joey and Danny help me do that. Joey knows I am frequently going to the doctor for a “boo-boo” I had in my “booby” and he has been very attentive. One day after a doctor appointment, he said, “Mommy, you need to go home and rest. I’ll bring you a banana.” He is almost four years old. Danny, at 19 months, does not seem to know anything is going on and it’s my hope that he never has any recollection of this path our lives are taking. I will never forget it, though, and that’s OK. I will take this experience and make it matter. A friend sent me a breast cancer bracelet inscribed with trust your journey. I do. I trust that I will be fine in the end. And I trust that I was given this fight so I can help others. That is why I have written this. I hope everyone who reads about my journey is affected in some way. Perhaps it will increase the amount of women who do self-exams. Maybe it will arm others with information to help loved ones who are affected by this common disease (about 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer at some time in their lives). Maybe it will spread hope. At the very least, writing helps me. And for now, that is enough.
NOTE: Writing still helps, five years later.

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Prevent Cancer by Kicking Butts

isabel bloedwater, Flickr
isabel bloedwater, Flickr

As you may have noticed, it seems like just about everyone is getting breast cancer nowadays, which makes it critical that we do every itty, bitty thing we can in the spirit of prevention — like quitting smoking, even if it’s just an occasional habit.

According to the Breast Journal, women who smoke 100 or more cigarettes in a lifetime increase their odds of getting breast cancer by 25 percent. So, kick those butts, and make sure all the young women in your life know why it’s so important they never start puffing away.

Oh, and while you work at ditching the smokes, you might want to shed a few pounds and start working up a sweat, because getting fit and  slimming down can cut your cancer risk, too. Hey, no one said being healthy was easy, right?

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Wishing You Well

SuperFantastic, Flickr
SuperFantastic, Flickr

Sending out some well wishes to a few friends — Carmen, who, on her second run with breast cancer, is recovering from tram flap surgery. And Lynea, she’s navigating the murky waters that come flooding in after a new breast cancer diagnosis. Also, Stacie, sporting a newly-shaved head as she fights her way through the burden of chemotherapy. Genne, too. She is healing from a mastectomy and reconstruction, and the whole ordeal has challenged her to the core.

If you are somewhere along the path of cancer survival and would like a wish sent your way, please leave a comment and tell me what’s going on in your world.

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New Cancer Drug Shrinks Tumors

annnie, Flickr
annnie, Flickr

Gotta love a new breast cancer breakthrough. This one just in: “A new targeted cancer drug has been shown to shrink tumors in women with metastatic breast cancer after an average of seven other drugs, including Herceptin, failed,” says Charlene Laino for WebMD.

The new drug is called T-DM1. The T stands for trastuzumab (that’s scientific for Herceptin), and the DM1 comes from an old chemotherapy drug called maytansine that was abandoned several decades ago after it was found to be too toxic for patients, according to Dr. Ian Krop of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Well, isn’t it still too toxic? Nope, because Herceptin only zeroes in on cancer cells that express HER2, says Krop, and DM1 is delivered only to those cells. “The cytotoxic drug goes right to the cancer cells, so it’s not floating around and causing other problems,” he says.  “And Herceptin still does all the things that Herceptin does.”

Herceptin is a drug used to fight HER2-positive cancers — tumors that have too much of a type of protein called HER2. Herceptin, a man-made antibody, binds to and blocks the HER2 receptor that appears on the surface of some breast cancer cells. It was one of my drugs, and it seems to be working — I’m alive five years after my diagnosis. But metastatic breast cancer (the kind that has spread to other organs) can become resistant to Herceptin, which is why researchers have been searching for new drugs to attack HER2.

With this new drug, tumors shrank in one-third of women studied (they all had breast tumors for an average of three years). In another 12 percent, tumors stopped growing for at least six months. The women had previously been treated with therapies including Herceptin, Tykerb and Xeloda, and each had failed.

“This is the first study looking at women who have failed so many other treatments,” reports Krop. He thinks the results (presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium December 9-13) are as good as he’s ever seen in such a sick population. And researchers expect T-DM1 will perform even better in women with earlier-stage cancer.

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Famous People Fighting Cancer

Actresses Kathryn Joosten, Dana Delaney and Heather Tom / Photo: En Vacances, Flickr
Kathryn Joosten, Dana Delany and Heather Tom / En Vacances, Flickr

One quick spin through the online pages of PEOPLE magazine, and I turned up a whole bunch of celebrity cancer news. I guess I’ve been letting famous folks fall of my radar (I do love a little Hollywood gossip), because I had no idea that Bryant Gumbel is being treated for a malignant tumor in his lung or that Kareen Abdul-Jabbar has leukemia. Then there’s musical superstar Andrew Lloyd Webber — he’s got prostate cancer, “Desperate Housewives” actress Kathryn Joosten is fighting lung cancer, and Melissa Etheridge is in the news, too — she’s speaking up about the mammogram controversy. “Survivor” alum Ethan Zohn has good news about his cancer, and holy cow, where I have been that I didn’t catch that famous journalist Leroy Sievers died of cancer in August 2008? I followed Siever’s NPR blog posts faithfully when I myself was fighting cancer. But then I got better, and, well, I got busy with more than just following who had the disease and how each person was faring.

With every passing day, I’m losing track of cancer (and celebrities, too, apparently), which just fine by me. I mean, while I still plan to keep educated on the breaking cancer news of world, I tend to think my time is best spent on other things — like, braving boys!

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