Are You Protected from a Catastrophic Illness in Your Family?

I live in the Greater Houston area.  You’d have to be living under a rock not to know that Hurricane Harvey decimated many parts of Houston.  Having lived in the Houston area for over 20 years, I know that flooding is a real and present possibility no matter where I live in the region.

My husband, Shane, and I buy a very affordable FEMA flood policy every year. Our home has never flooded in a storm so we have never had to file a claim. We pay into the system, along with many other families who thankfully have never had to file. We all contribute to a pool of monies that helps the families who do flood.

Health Insurance is exactly the same. ANY family can be faced catastrophic illness at anytime.  The best way to ensure your family doesn’t lose everything is to have health insurance in place.

I am living with metastatic breast cancer. I will be in treatment for the rest of my life.

My family’s total out-of-pocket medical expenses run about $10K per year with insurance. Without insurance we surely would have gone bankrupt the first year, and I would most likely be dead today.

Micro-business owners and solopreneurs especially need to heed my advice here, you do not want to put your family in a difficult financial position that could easily be prevented by having the proper insurance in place.

Open Enrollment begins November 1st on

Be sure your family is protected.

Pink Washing Breast Cancer Awareness

Welcome to another Pinktober.

I have expressed my dislike of the pink washing of breast cancer awareness here in the past.  As a woman living with metastatic breast cancer (thankfully in remission) but who continues to receive treatment, I find the “pink washing” mildly to moderately offensive in that companies are capitalizing on a disease that is a daily battle for me.

What I find most frustrating about the pink washing is the complacency many now feel towards breast cancer.  I actually had a woman apologize to me because she thought my breast cancer was just a little thing that could easily be fixed. Not quite, three and a half years later, I am still in treatment:

  • Arimidex pill once per day
  • Herceptin infusion every 3 weeks
  • Lupron shot every 4 weeks

This is the protocol to keep me in remission!

The truth is, the 5 year survival rate for women diagnosed with cancer just in the breast is 99% and that is fantastic.  However, according to, 39% of women are diagnosed with breast cancer beyond the breast, so we have a long way to go before we can call breast cancer just a little thing easily fixed.

My Breast Cancer Story

If you have never heard my breast cancer story, I share how I found my lump and my initial treatment choices in the first 6 minutes of the following video:

It is my sincere wish that you are never touched by breast cancer. However, since 1 in 8 women in the USA are diagnosed with it in their lifetime, chances are, you already have been.

Affordable Care Act Saved My Life

Hi!  My name is Kandas and the Affordable Care Act saved my life!

Yesterday I received my regularly scheduled doses of Herceptin and Lupron to keep that naughty Bertha away.  As I was sitting in the infusion chair, IV drip, drip, dripping protein inhibitors into my bloodstream, I was prompted to share the following message to Facebook:

Today is National Uncle & Aunt Day. Over 30 humans call me “Auntie Kandas”.

Today is also my tri-weekly infusion of Herceptin, the pharmaceutical marvel that is keeping Bertha away.

I am alive today because of the Affordable Care Act. The ACA doesn’t give me free insurance. We pay roughly $10k per year for the privilege of staying alive.

Not everyone can afford $10k per year. Does that mean they are less deserving than me? That their life is any less precious?

Social media trainers tell us not to share about sports, politics, religion or sex on our walls.

I am a rule breaker.

I believe health care should be a right and not a privilege. Compassionate societies care for their citizens.

So I am going to continue to remind anyone who follows me on social media that I owe my life to the Affordable Care Act, in hopes that enough people will feel compelled to tell their Representatives and Senators that this partisan bickering needs to stop. That people are more important than politics.

I am looking forward to more little humans calling me Auntie Kandas… And a couple even calling me Grandma… one day.

The ACA is keeping me alive.

I know these Facebook posts make some of my network uncomfortable, even angry. It’s an inconvenient truth that I will keep sharing. I have an 18-year-old daughter who needs me.

4 Common Myths about High Cholesterol

For over three years now I have been in treatment for metastatic breast cancer.  It is currently in remission, though treatment continues with an Arimidex pill every day, Herceptin infusion every 3 weeks, and Lupron shot every 4 weeks.  I’ve shared in the past that the treatments have elevated my cholesterol levels.  I choose to use lower cholesterol without statins simply because I already take enough drugs, I don’t need to add another.

There are a lot of myths that surround the high cholesterol health condition. These myths are passed on through TV shows, through old books, even through out-of-date biology curricula.

Today’s leading health and science research has shown us that a lot of what we used to know about cholesterol simply isn’t true.

Here are a few of the most common high cholesterol myths.

Eggs Are Bad for Your Cholesterol Level

The health community used to recommend avoiding eggs due to their high dietary cholesterol levels. With over 200 mgs of cholesterol, it only makes sense that someone who wants to lower their cholesterol should avoid eggs – right?

Not so. Today, we know that only a tiny fraction of dietary cholesterol actually ends up in the blood stream. Eggs are actually a healthy source of proteins and contain twelve different kinds of vitamins and minerals.

It’s still not good to overdo it, but a couple of eggs a week won’t hurt.

There Is an “Ideal” Cholesterol Number

People often look for a target cholesterol number, as if there were a global ideal that’s right for everyone.

In reality, however, everyone’s body is a bit different. A smoker’s target LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels are different from a non-smoker’s. A diabetic’s target levels are different from a non-diabetic’s. So on and so forth.

Before you look online for “ideal” target levels, consult your doctor to get a target number tailored specifically for you.

Cholesterol Is Evil

Cholesterol is actually a necessary part of your body’s everyday processes. It helps line various kinds of cells in your body, including your all-important brain cells. Cholesterol also helps give cells more structural integrity.

To make a long story short, our bodies wouldn’t be able to function without cholesterol.

It’s only when LDL cholesterol levels get too high that we’re in trouble because of it.

Only the Elderly Get High Cholesterol

Another common myth is that high cholesterol is an issue mostly for the elderly.

In reality, kids as young as eight years old have been diagnosed with high cholesterol. This tends to happen in overweight, obese or sedentary kids.

Though it’s true that the rate of high cholesterol does go up with age, just because you’re younger doesn’t mean you’re safe. Make sure to get your cholesterol count from your doctor in your annual check-up, even if you’re under 30 years old.

These are a few of the most common myths that surround high cholesterol. Remember that medical information changes often as new research and data are discovered. The best source of information about high cholesterol should always come from a trusted doctor, and not through friends, family or even the internet

Top 10 Breast Cancer Myths According to Dana-Farber

It’s October.

For many Americans, that means Columbus Day (a 3-day weekend for many), decorating for Fall, and stocking up on candy for trick-or-treaters.

For many, October also means breast cancer awareness and the pink-washing of America.

I will share my thoughts on the whole pink thing in a future post.

Despite bringing awareness to, and opening up dialogues about, the disease, Breast Cancer Awareness Month has yet to quell a myriad of myths women believe.  I must admit, until I read this recent article on the Dana-Farber blog, I believed a few of them myself.

Top 10 Breast Cancer Myths

  1. Breast Lump = Cancer
  2. If a lump is painful, it is not cancer.
  3. Only older women get breast cancer. (I was diagnosed at age 44, my sister at age 42.)
  4. Most breast cancer is hereditary. (Neither my sister, nor myself, carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.)
  5. Deodorant/antiperspirant causes breast cancer. (Well, snap. I believed this myth.)
  6. Men don’t get breast cancer. (Oh, but they do!)
  7. You should avoid sugar and soy if you have breast cancer. (This myth makes me feel very uncomfortable as I have written about sugar in the past. I love tofu but have seriously limited my intake of soy because of it’s estrogen-like properties.  Sorry Dana-Farber, I’m going to have to continue to my research into this one.)
  8. Self-screening is the most important factor in early diagnosis.  (Umm…  keep on self-screening, people.  It’s how I found Bertha.)
  9. Exposing the tumor to air during surgery can cause cancer to spread.  (To quote the adorable lemur from the Madagascar movies:  “How is that even possible?”)
  10. A mastectomy is the best therapy.

See the full article with infographic on the Dana-Farber blog:

Ten Myths About Breast Cancer [Infographic]

A Step-by-Step Guide to Offering Nutritional Advice for Cancer Patients

Your friend, loved-one, business associate, co-worker is a cancer patient.

You know, we all know, that proper nutrition during cancer treatment is so very important.  Chemotherapy, radiation, immuno-therapy, hormone-therapy all cause a great toll on even the healthiest of bodies.

You’ve heard about a herb, vitamin, tea, or fruit that may help.  Should you tell the patient?

How to Offer Nutritional Advice for Cancer Patients

Here is a simple 3-step approach to offering nutritional advice for cancer patients:

  • Step 1:  Did the patient ask for advice?
    • No?  Do not offer any advice to the patient.
    • Yes?  Go to Step 2
  • Step 2:  Are you a licensed nutritionist, dietitian, physician, or other medical practitioner?
    • No?  Do not offer any advice to the patient.
    • Yes?  Go to Step 3.
  • Step 3:  Suggest the patient discuss your nutritional advice with their oncologist.

Bottom line, drugs can have interactions with foods, supplements and herbs.  Nutritional changes need careful monitoring and educated guidance by the prescribing oncologist.

Do This Instead

I must admit, before my cancer journey began, I probably gave unwelcome and unsolicited advice freely.

Now that I am walking the path, I am doing my own due diligence and discussing complimentary therapies with my oncologist openly.  Thus far, he has approved of everything I’ve added after my own careful research.  I recommend the book Radical Remission for patients who wish to add complimentary therapies to their cancer treatment.

To my dear friends and family whom have offered nutritional advice to me, please know that I understand you were doing so from a place of love, and I do appreciate you.

If you want to help a cancer patient, try this list of 18 Gifts for Someone Going Through Chemo or Radiation.

Spread the Word

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How to Offer Nutritional Advice to Cancer Patients

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How to Offer Nutritional Advice to Cancer Patients

How to Offer Nutritional Advice to Cancer Patients

18 Gifts for Someone Going Through Chemo and Radiation

Someone you love has cancer.  You may have no idea what to say or do.

They are facing chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, biologic or immune therapy. Or, all the above.

You want to help.  Here are some awesome, inexpensive ways you can.

Gifts that Help the Family

Treatment is just as stressful on the people who live with the patient as it is on the patient.

1. Prepare a meal.  Frozen casseroles are great because the family can heat and eat as needed.

2.  Arrange for a housekeeper through a charitable organization such as Cleaning for a Reason.

Gifts that Help Ease Nausea and Dry Mouth

Nausea is probably the most common side effect of chemotherapy.  Dry mouth and mouth sores, often painful, are also common side effects of many chemo drugs.  These gifts help nausea, and dry mouth:

3.  Peppermint – peppermint essential oil, peppermint tea, peppermint candy.

4.  Ginger – ginger syrup, ginger chews, crystallized ginger, ginger tea, ginger essential oil.  I find ginger honey crystals dissolved in warm water quite soothing.

5.  Throat Drops

6.  Biotene Mouth Spray

Biotene Moisturizing Mouth Spray eases dry mouth that may occur during chemotherapy treatment.

Biotene Moisturizing Mouth Spray eases dry mouth that may occur during chemotherapy treatment.

Gifts that Ease Pain and Discomfort

Another common side effect of chemo is Peripheral Neuropathy, nerve damage that causes pain, tingling, numbness, especially in the feet and hands.  Dry skin, lips, and eyes are also common.  Chemo patients are often cold.

7.  Foot Massage – a wooden massage roller is nice, too.

8.  Epsom Salt

9.  Pain Relief rubs or patches

10.  Essential Oil Blends for pain or relaxation

11.  Lip Balm

12.  Hand Lotion

13.  Eye Drops

14.  Warm fuzzy slipper socks.  They are like a hug for your feet.

Warm, fuzzy slipper socks are like a hug for the feet of a chemo patient.

Warm, fuzzy slipper socks are like a hug for the feet of a chemo patient.

Gifts for Taboo Side Effects

There are also some side effect from chemotherapy that the patient is not comfortable sharing.  For example: constipation, diarrhea, and hair loss.

15.  Hats and head scarves to keep the head warm.

16.  Dried fruit like prunes and dates to ease constipation.

17.  Moist Flushable Cleansing Wipes – dry toilette paper can be irritating.

18.  Travel Tissue Packs – because nose hairs fall out, too.

Pocket packs of tissue are a great gift to someone going through chemotherapy suffering from hair loss. Nose hairs fall out, too!

Pocket packs of tissue are a great gift to someone with hair loss from chemotherapy. Nose hairs fall out, too!

Final Word

Even the smallest gesture is appreciated by someone going through cancer treatment. It is an exhausting and emotional experience.

A huge note of thanks to my friend Stephanne Davenport. She dropped of two delicious meals, plus a bag full of useful goodies, after my most recent chemo treatment.  #FluffyKitty approved.

#FluffyKitty thinks he is a male model.

#FluffyKitty is the spokes model for these great gifts for someone going through chemotherapy and radiation.

Latest PET Scan Results Show Abraxane plus Perjeta and Herceptin are Working | Battling Bertha

In September, a lung biopsy revealed a 7 mm nodule in my left lung as 99% ER+ 70% HER2+ metastatic breast cancer. There was also a smaller nodule in my right lung, too small to biopsy.

I was immediately put on a cocktail of Abraxane plus Perjeta and Herceptin every three weeks.

This morning with a huge smile on his face, Dr. Ellent, my oncologist, informed my husband and I that per my most recent PET Scan, the 7 mm nodule is now 2 mm (a 92% reduction in size) with no evidence of any other nodules:

“There was previously a 0.7 cm diameter nodule along the left major fissure in the left upper lobe, which had a maximum SUV of 3.1.  There is currently a 2 mm nodule in this location on image 83 which has a maximum SUV of 1.4.  A 3-4 mm nodule previously seen in the left upper lobe has resolved.  No hypermetabolic or new nodule, mass lesion, or consolidation is identified in the lung parechyma.”

Can I get a wooo hooo, y’all?

Dr. David Ellent, Greater Houston Cancer Clinic, reveals a 92% reduction in nodule size after treatment with Abraxane plus Perjecta and Herceptin

Dr. David Ellent, Greater Houston Cancer Clinic, calculates a 92% reduction in nodule size after treatment with Abraxane plus Perjecta and Herceptin

We will continue Abraxane plus Perjeta and Herecptin for another 90 days and then re-assess.  These drugs have some serious side effects that I will share in the future.  For now, they are working.  I can live with the side effects.  And I plan to live a very, very long time!

Today is a good day!