3 Essential Oils for Breast Cancer Treatment | Battling Bertha 20 | #BlogBoost

Right off the bat, you need to know that essential oils do NOT cure cancer.   However, I do use essentials oils to supplement my breast cancer treatments.

3 Essential Oils for Breast Cancer Treatment

Kelly Taylor, certified Herbalist and Aromatherapist, has been a wealth of information and I highly recommend the certified pure essential oils she offers in her online store, Cassia Aromatics.  Kelly taught me to never put essential oils directly on my skin without a carrier oil.  I use a variety of essential oils on a daily basis and these are my top three:

  • Peppermint helps nausea.  During chemo, I would rub it on my belly, wrists and behind my neck.
  • Lavender helps you relax.  Spray lavender essential oil on your sheets and pillow to help you sleep.
  • Frankincense helps fade scars.  I use a small roller bottle with Vitamin E as the carrier oil and apply frankincense to my surgery scars.

I am not an aromatherapist.  I am simply sharing my personal experience.  Consult with a professional aromatherapist regarding your specific needs.

My top 3 essential oils for breast cancer treatment are peppermint, lavender and frankincense.

My top 3 essential oils for breast cancer treatment are peppermint, lavender and frankincense.

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Disclaimer

This article is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians. The reader should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to his/her health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.

Finding Blog Post Inspiration | Hope, Strength & Courage, Pink Ribbon Bracelet | Battling Bertha 19 | #BlogBoost

Today is day twelve of my 31 day Ultimate Blog Challenge.

I feel like I have been pumping out the blog posts. At one point, I had two scheduled to post on their own, and on the proper day. While I have several epic posts brewing about aromatherapy, wigs and sex after breast cancer, I did not have a post ready for today.

Finding Blog Post Inspiration

Then yesterday, late in the afternoon, there was a knock on the door. A few moments later, Shane presented me with a white box and the excitement-inducing red letters that spell out SendOutCards on the side. There are few things I enjoy more than receiving one of these white boxes!

This elegant and inspirational bracelet includes expressions of hope, courage and strength. With a pristine sterling finish, this bracelet is nestled in a pink gift box and includes a verse card stating "Hope, Strength, Courage, Wear a pink ribbon, A symbol to share, Of hope, strength, and courage, To show you care." A generous portion of the proceeds will go to the support of the breast cancer treatment, prevention and research.

This elegant and inspirational bracelet includes expressions of hope, courage and strength. With a pristine sterling finish, this bracelet is nestled in a pink gift box and includes a verse card stating “Hope, Strength, Courage, Wear a pink ribbon, A symbol to share, Of hope, strength, and courage, To show you care.” A generous portion of the proceeds will go to the support of the breast cancer treatment, prevention and research.

Not only did I received a lovely gift, I also received today’s blog post inspiration!

You see, inspiration can come from anywhere. You just need to keep your eyes and ears open.

For example, as I was chopping up the ingredients for our traditional Sunday morning breakfast casserole, I thought, “Gee, I should do a breakfast casserole tutorial post.” The casserole is in the oven and will be ready just about the time I am done typing up this post and editing the photos. Casseroles are fabulous.

If you join the Ultimate Blog Challenge, you will receive a daily email with topic prompts.

Hope, Strength & Courage, Pink Ribbon Bracelet

Back to the white box.  Inside was a gorgeous “Hope, Strength & Courage, Pink Ribbon Bracelet,” a gift from Diane Walker, one of my MLM heroes.

In addition to the pink ribbon heart charm, there are three silver word charms that say hope, strength and courage.  These are the three character traits that every champion possesses.

Hope

Hope is an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.” – Wikipedia

I choose to be resolute in my convictions.  My optimism goes beyond hope.  I know only good comes into my life.

Strength

Strength is “the quality that allows someone to deal with problems in a determined and effective way.” – Merriam-Webster

I choose to take on each challenge knowing the outcome will be in my favor.

Courage

Courage is the ability and willingness to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation.” – Wikipedia

I choose to laugh in the face of fear, laugh in the face of pain, laugh in the face of danger, laugh in the face of uncertainty and blow a giant raspberry in the face of intimidation.

Your Turn

Great timing! The breakfast casserole is ready.  Time for me to eat and for you to chime in.  Where do you find inspiration?  What character traits do you have that result in positive and productive outcomes?  Leave a comment below.

Coping with Emotions During Radiation Therapy | Battling Bertha 18 | #BlogBoost

For me, radiation therapy is the most difficult of my cancer treatments.  It doesn’t hurt physically.  It is over rather quickly.  If you close your eyes, you barely know it is happening.

Oh, but the emotions!

Emotions During Radiation Therapy

If you have breast cancer and will be receiving radiation therapy as part of your treatment plan, here is what you need to know:

Coping with emotions during radiation therapy takes imagination and humor.

Coping with emotions during radiation therapy takes imagination and humor.

  • Half a dozen people will see your breasts, while you are awake and alert.
  • You will hear everything  they say and be required to carry on conversation, while your breasts are exposed.  More than half a dozen people see your breasts during surgery, but you are asleep and you never see or hear them.
  • Your hands and feet will be bound so that you can not move.
  • They will use paint pens to draw x’s and o’s on your body.  This will make you look like a football play book.  The marks remain on your body for the entire course of treatment and need to be reapplied if they fade.
  • Before your first actual treatment, you go through a CT Simulation to ensure you are aligned correctly for treatment.  This means that not only will your hands and feet be bound, but you will also be inserted into a tube the size of a torpedo bay.

The cumulative effect of all of the above is emotions.  Humiliation.  Lack of control.  Embarrassment.  Self-pity.  Humor.

I am a rather happy go lucky gal.  During my CT Sim, with my hands uncomfortably positioned above my head, my feet bound, and a torpedo tube making clicking sounds all around me, tears began to roll down my cheeks.

As we were leaving the appointment, my husband, who had been in the waiting room during the procedure, asked how it went.  I choked back more tears and replied:  “I don’t want to talk about.”

Coping with the Emotions

Everyday, around one in the afternoon, George Clooney makes sweet, sweet love to me.  I share the details of our torrid affair in the following video:

 

 

I use my imagination and a lot of humor to make it through my radiation therapy.  Heck, it’s what is getting me through this whole ordeal.

What are some of the ways that you cope with emotions during radiation therapy, or any awkward, uncomfortable or just downright frightening situation?  Leave a comment.  Your suggestion just might help someone who is struggling right now.

The Cost of Cancer Drugs in the US | Battling Bertha 17 | #BlogBoost

My chemotherapy bill is $30,000 per treatment and my insurance pays for $8600 of it, the rest the clinic must write off since I have met my maximum out of pocket and am no longer required to pay my $50 co-payment.

Yesterday morning, I watched this CBS This Morning feature on the cost of cancer drugs in the US. It was basically a synopsis of this 60 minutes feature, well worth watching:

 

 

Key takeaways from this video:

  • 14.5 million people alive in the USA are diagnosed with cancer.
  • Average cost of a new cancer drug is $100,000 per year.
  • The drug companies set their own prices.
  • Private insurance companies, including those available through the health insurance marketplace, set their own payment threshold.
  • MEDICARE is NOT ALLOWED to negotiate due to current laws.

This is the way it has been for decades. Nothing has changed in recent years, except perhaps, the companies are getting greedier.

Here is a novel idea, how about we all tell congress, you know the men and women we elected to represent us, that we want medicare to NEGOTIATE drug prices. This will save the USA millions and millions of dollars each year!! Tell congress we are tired of lobbyists dictating our national expenditures.

November 15th open enrollment begins for the Health Insurance Marketplace. If you do not have insurance, do not let a negative stigma that you may feel towards the nickname that has been given to the healthcare law. Get your family insured! Trust me, it’s a lot cheaper than paying $30,000 per treatment if you end up with breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Support Group | Practicing Gratitude | Butterfly Survivor Ornament | Battling Bertha 16 | #BlogBoost

Breast Cancer Support Group

Lisa, one of my custom furniture clients introduced me to an online breast cancer support group.   Lisa is a breast cancer survivor and had found much comfort from this particular group.

I was hesitant to join because I find that many support groups are populated with negative whiners and I have worked very hard to surround myself with positive people.  I know I must sound harsh in my criticism, and I have been known to whine myself.  But, it is counter productive.

I want to be around winners, not whiners.

I finally bit the bullet and joined the support group.

Boy was I pleasantly surprised!  This group of over 3200 thriving survivors is welcoming, warm and wonderful. If you are looking for an online support group, contact me privately and I’ll give you more information.

Practicing Gratitude

As a thank you to Lisa for sharing the support group information, I sent her a butterfly survivor ornament. This was her post about the gift in the support group:

Butterfly Survivor Ornament

Butterfly Survivor Ornament

“So the mailman drops a package off today and I open it and inside is a beautiful butterfly ornament that says “I’m a Survivor – Bless this Day.” Who is this from? Found a card. Kandas Nesbitt-Rodarte sent me this sweet gift and card to thank me for recommending this wonderful support group. Kandas, please know that you are in my heart forever and thank you so very much for this beautiful gift. You are a strong and amazing woman and may God bless you and heal you.” – Lisa

I didn’t send the butterfly survivor ornament to receive accolades, I sent it because I truly appreciated the gift of support that Lisa had given me.

Yesterday, I read a blog post by a professional musician about the importance of daily practice. It dawned on me that I, too, have a daily practice. Every day I do what I can to reach out in kindness to others, be it a smile, kind word, joke to invoke laughter, in hopes that they will pay this kindness forward.

As the Gratitude Geek, I also practice (and teach) appreciation through the age old tradition of sending a thank you card.

Two decades ago, I watched a documentary about Mary Kay Ash, founder of the makeup empire. I learned two very important business lessons from that show:

  • When someone asks you how you are doing, regardless of how you really feel, answer with “I am fabulous.” I have been following this advice for 20 years!! To this day, I still surprise people with my answer.
  • On purpose, throughout the day, be on the lookout for people who deserve a special thank you and send them a greeting card telling them why!

While I implemented lesson one immediately and continue to practice it, lesson two took a lot longer for me to learn.

You might not believe this but for almost a decade I was a very lonely work-at-home mom. The story of how I overcame the loneliness is an entirely different blog post. However, a huge factor was SendOutCards.

Butterfly Survivor Ornament

The butterfly survivor ornament I sent to Lisa was from SendOutcards. SendOutCards now features a selection of Pink Ribbon themed items in the Gift Shop and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to support breast cancer research and funding.

Do you know a breast cancer survivor? Would you like to send her (or him) a gift this month to celebrate her thriving life? Or perhaps, you’d just like to tell her how much she inspires you? Contact me privately for information on how you can do so for just the cost of postage.

Butterflies have always been a symbol of freedom, beauty and peace. This ornately designed Butterfly Survivor Ornament enhanced with diamond like stones, lends 2 powerful sentiments “I’m a Survivor” and “Bless this Day”. Perfect for displaying at home, at work or even from your rear view mirror. Never go another day without this simple reminder of freedom, beauty and peace.

Why You Need a Chemo Port | Battling Bertha 15 | #BlogBoost

A chemo port is a device that is inserted under the skin and connects to a vein via catheter. They are usually installed in the chest below the collar bone.

Installation of a chemo port is an outpatient procedure that takes less than an hour performed by a Intervention Radiologist on an X-Ray table.

In this video, I show you my chemo port and give a brief overview of the surgery and infusion process.

 

Why a Chemo Port?

I received my port in June and it has made chemotherapy so much more bearable.  Before the port was installed, the infusions were done in my hand. This is very painful and limits mobility.  Three of my first 5 chemo treatments lasted 10 hours each.  Yes, TEN hours.  Sitting with my hand still for 10 hours, for a person like me, is not easy!  It is uncomfortable and if you move your arm the wrong way, you might inhibit the flow of the IV drip.

Before a chemo port, the infusion needle is inserted in your hand or arm.

Before a chemo port, the infusion needle is inserted into your hand or arm and you must sit still during the infusion.

I basically demanded a port after the first session.  The surgery was scheduled for after my second session.  If you have been following my blog, you know that I had an allergic reaction to Taxotere during my second session and I had to receive an additional infusion of Herceptin the following Monday.  So, I actually had 3 sessions of chemo without the port.

Let me tell you, I love my port.

After a chemo port is inserted, you have full use of both hands during infusions.

After a chemo port is inserted, you have full use of both hands during infusions.

 

With a port installed, you have full use of both hands.  I can type, crochet or read a book during infusion and not have to worry about discomfort or loss of flow.

You definitely want a chemo port!

Breast Cancer Health Insurance | Battling Bertha 14 | #BlogBoost

I have recently heard stories about women with breast cancer who do not have health insurance, or have been told that their current insurance is inadequate for their care.

Bullshit.

If you are a woman in the United State of America with breast cancer and no insurance, you have options!

In Texas, uninsured women with breast or cervical cancer qualify for a special state Medicaid program. Similar programs are available in every state.

At the end of this post, I will list additional resources for breast cancer health insurance assistance.

My Health Insurance Story

In 1998, I left corporate America and embarked on a journey with my husband.  In the course of 12 months, not only did I quit my job, we also purchased a home, got married, launched a business, incorporated said business, and had a baby.

1998 was a very productive year for us!

Cashmere, my 18-year old office assistant

Cashmere, my 18-year old office assistant

My life as a work at home mompreneur has been exciting, scary, eventful, boring, educational, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I can’t imagine ever returning to corporate America, working in a cubicle.

As I type this, I am sitting in bed, in my pajamas, with my 18-year old Siamese office assistant, Cashmere, by my side.  The windows are wide open, it is a glorious Saturday morning.

The only regret, if you can even call it a regret, of leaving my job was losing my health insurance.  COBRA was not an option, as it was $800 per month and that was equal to the rent on our apartment.  Hmmm….  let’s see…  do we keep  a roof over our heads or does one of us elect to keep health insurance?  It was really a no-brainer at the time.

While our small, niche, custom furniture business has been relatively successful for 16 years and through 2 recessions, we never quite figured out how to add health insurance to our monthly budget.   Then, the Affordable Care Act was passed.

Affordable Care Act

In January of this year, I began the process of applying for health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

The process is painless, really.  If you are an entrepreneur, you need to be able to prove income.  Your 1040 does NOT prove your income.   You will need to provide copies of your W2s, 1099s, rental income, etc.

We were approved for discounted insurance coverage and given about 15 insurance plans to choose from.  We opted for Blue Cross Blue Shield HMO Silver Advantage, the least expensive option that we felt had the best coverage for us.  Up until this point, Shane and I had rarely even been to the doctor!  I wasn’t worried about HMO vs. PPO, at the time.  I figured for the basic coverage that we might possibly need, an HMO was fine.

Then, I found Bertha.

There is a Lump in my Boob

Less than a month after our insurance coverage kicked in, I grabbed my boobs and discovered a very large, hard, oblong lump.  I showed it to Shane and after feeling it, he gave me a hug.  It was that big and that hard.

That hug is the very moment when my life changed.

My Radiation Therapy Team

My Radiation Therapy Team

I began the process of finding a primary care physician.  The first thing I discovered was the HMOs suck.  MD Anderson, one of the finest cancer facilities in the country, doesn’t accept my HMO.  There is only one surgeon who accepts my insurance and he is over an hour away.  Yetta.  Yetta.  Yetta.

I really don’t want to drag this story down into the negative because I work hard to maintain a positive outlook.  Suffice it to say, it took several weeks of phone calls and hoopla before I had my mammogram.

However, once the mammogram was done, things got easier.   I had a needle biopsy a few hours after the mammogram.   Aside from a few insurance related hiccups, my care and insurance coverage have been more than adequate.  As a matter of fact, my prescription drug coverage is phenomenal.  Most prescriptions are 100% covered.  I love the small cancer center where I go for treatment because everyone there knows me by name.  My radiology team are all friendly and funny.  I loved my surgeon.  My oncologist owns the cancer clinic and graduated top of his class from MD Anderson.

My HMO ain’t so bad, after all.

Obamacare Stigma

I am not sure why, but for some strange reason, I was embarrassed to tell people that we had used the health insurance marketplace to obtain insurance. Perhaps it is the stigma that comes with the term Obamacare. I really despise that term. President Obama is not my doctor nor is he responsible for the choices of the health insurance companies nor the choices of the healthcare providers.

Choice is the key word here. Insurance companies choose to increase their rates and cut coverage. Healthcare providers choose to accept or not accept patients, and insurance plans. The media chooses to spin these stories based on their political leanings. I chose to allow the stigma of the term Obamacare to cause embarrassment.

And then it happened.

I was sitting in a chemo infusion chair, hooked up to a cocktail of life-saving medicines that I would in no way have been able to afford without insurance, when a fellow patient asked one of the nurses her opinion of “Obamacare.” The nurse got about half way through a negative response when I interrupted:

“Obamacare is saving my life. The next time someone asks you about the Affordable Care Act you tell them that without it, I would be dying and not fighting.”

Okay, so that was a little dramatic. I AM a fighter, and I would be fighting, regardless. But, I made my point very clear.

If you are currently uninsured or feel you are overpaying for your current insurance, open enrollment begins November 15th in the Health Insurance Marketplace. Start collecting your proof of income and get ready to apply. Affordable Care Act is very well named. You WILL find a plan that you can AFFORD.

Breast Cancer Health Insurance Assistance

Here is a list of agencies and non-profits that you can contact for breast cancer health insurance assistance:

Health Insurance Marketplace

Texas DSHS Breast and Cervical Cancer Services

Bright Pink – Your Rights under the Affordable Care Act

American Cancer Society

Susan G. Komen Foundation – Understanding Health Insurance

The Breast Cancer Charities – Resources

Kristy Lasch Miracle Foundation – Financial assistance for women with breast cancer under 30 years of age.

Tiger Lily – assistance for women with breast cancer under age 40.

Radiation Relief Cream Reviews | Battling Bertha 13 | #blogboost

Today, I completed my 9th of 36 session of  “radiation therapy.”  Seriously.  They call it therapy.  I have 27 treatments to go.  Treatment.  Also not the right word.

In the realm of too-much-information, here are some intimate details about my boob.  Radiation is not a boobs’ friend.  My nipple and areola are swollen, red, hot and sore.   I have tried several remedies for relief and in today’s video I give a candid review of three radiation relief creams.  You will be quite surprised when you see which is my favorite.

 

 

CAUTION: Do not use any product on your breast or armpit in the three hours prior to your radiation therapy. The radiation could react with the cream and that’s not good. Also, you should not shave your armpits until you have completed all your treatments.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment by Eucerin Review

Aquaphor Healing Ointment by Eucerin

Aquaphor Healing Ointment by Eucerin

When she saw my bright red swollen breast, Shanta, one of my radiation techs suggested I use Aquaphor Healing Ointment by Eucerin and gave me a few samples. Aquaphor is very thick, with a petroleum jelly consistency. It leaves a layer of “grease” on your skin so you can only use it at night.

Although several women in my online breast cancer support group swear by Aquaphor, I personally did not like it for use on my breast.

Plus, I did a little research and discovered that Aquaphor is 41% petrolatum.  Petrolatum is petroleum jelly, which comes from petroleum, you know, crude oil, the black sticky stuff that comes out of the ground and is then turned into gasoline and water bottles.

I wouldn’t put gasoline or water bottles on my skin, so why would I want to put petrolatum on the area of my breast that was designed (or evolved, either way you look at it, the point is the same) to feed babies? Oh crap, here I go, better put that darn soap box in the attic or I might get myself into trouble. My days of a being a militant breastfeeding mom are long over. Boobs will be boobs.

Now that that’s settled.  Let’s try something else!

Miaderm Radiation Relief Review

Miaderm Radiation Relief Cream

Miaderm Radiation Relief Cream

The radiation oncology nurse suggested I try Miaderm Radiation Relief and again gave me some samples with instructions to use it three times per day.  The cream is absorbed by your skin very quickly and it is not at all greasy.  I liked it, so I went ahead and purchased a tube and have been using it every day.  Miaderm is pricey, about $25 per tube.

According to the literature the pharmacy provided, Miaderm was developed by radiation oncologists specifically for patients undergoing radiation therapy.   It contains aloe, calendula and lanolin plus a host of ingredients I can’t pronounce.  I am not a big fan of putting stuff in or on my body that I can’t pronounce.

I have been researching Calendula, and chatting with Kelly, my favorite aromatherapist, about creating a custom blend with Calendula essential oil.  Calendula oil has anti-inflamatory and wound-healing properties.  If we come up with something, I’ll be sure to let the world know.

While Miaderm is good, it does not provide relief from the sunburn type pain that I feel on my nipple.  So, I put 2 and 2 together and tried:

H-E-B Solutions Aftersun Aloe Vera Gel with Pure Aloe Vera Review

HEB Solutions Afersun Aloe Vera Gel with Pure Aloe Vera

HEB Solutions Afersun Aloe Vera Gel with Pure Aloe Vera

Aftersun Aloe Vera Gel was designed to soothe and cool sun burn, so YES, it cools and soothes my red, swollen breast! Gloriously, I might add.

H-E-B is a Texas based chain of grocery stores. I am sure that any Aloe Vera Gel brand will provide the same relief as this one.

Aloe Vera is actually the 7th ingredient in this formula. While it contains WAY fewer hard to pronounce ingredients than the Miaderm, the first ingredient is alcohol – which probably accounts for the cooling effect, but isn’t very good for the skin. It is also a very unnatural shade of green.

My search for the PERFECT radiation relief cream is far from over.  Expect a second, or even third, video review in the near future.

If you have personal experience with radiation creams and would like to share your favorite, leave a comment below. If I end up using your suggestion in a video, I’ll give you a shout out and send you a free gift, if you are into that sort of thing.