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 Cancer.net, 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.

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

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.

Radiation Cream for Breast Cancer Reviews, Part 2 | Battling Bertha

Taking a break from the 30 Women Who Mean Business Series today to share part 2 of my radiation cream for breast cancer video reviews.  Part 1 was filmed 6 months, ago!

I have had a box of radiation creams on my desk, waiting for me to film this second video, for 6 months.  Yes, 6 months.

Radiation Therapy is tough, and I am still feeling the effects months later.  The main culprit is fatigue.  I seem to have more ambition than energy.  Also, I still have fluid in my breast that was evident on my CT scan after surgery.  My blood work is within the “fine” range though my white blood cell count has been consistently low for several months.  Just not low enough to cause alarm for the oncologist.  I do have a PET scan scheduled this week.

All that aside, I filmed this video today to share my experience with different radiation relief creams:

 

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.

Mentioned:

And the best overall radiation cream for breast cancer is:

anas-herbal-salve

Ann’s Herbals Herbal Salve is a wonderful radiation cream for breast cancer.

Housekeeper for Cancer Patients | Battling Bertha

I have amazing friends supporting me through my breast cancer treatment journey. They rallied together to feed my family, visit me during treatment, and they even hired a housekeeper to clean my home every two weeks for nearly six months!

Truly the greatest gift a cancer patient could possibly receive is a housekeeper.

Are you picking up what I am putting down, here?

It is simply amazing not to worry about dirty floors or clean sheets.  Especially when you can barely make it out of bed.

Cleaning for a Reason, in Lewisville, Texas agrees.  They make housekeepers a reality for women with cancer across the USA and Canada.

About Cleaning for a Reason

Cleaning For A Reason strives to aid women who are battling cancer by teaming up with professional cleaning companies across the United States and Canada. Together, these two forces offer free house cleaning to meet the needs of women, and since 2006, have donated more than $4.7 million in free services, helping more than 16,000 women with cancer. Based in Lewisville, TX, Cleaning For A Reason works with more than 1,200 residential cleaning companies and continues to grow and gain support. To learn more about Cleaning For A Reason and to apply for free house cleaning, see www.cleaningforareason.org

Yeah, yeah and I cut and pasted that from their website. It’s at the bottom of their press releases. Who better to explain how it works than the company spokesperson?

My point here is, if you have a friend navigating the cancer treatment waters and you want to do something amazing for her, hire a housekeeper.  If you can’t manage the cost of the housekeeper on your own, rally all her friends.  If you can’t rally all her friends, then contact Cleaning for a Reason.

 

Better Blog Graphic made with Canva.

Natural Cancer Therapies with Ann Fonfa | Battling Bertha | Podcast Episode 26

Ann Fonfa is a 22 year breast-cancer survivor who opted-out of most conventional western medicine during treatment.  Ann is the President of the Annie Appleseed Project, providing education, advocacy and awareness on complementary, alternative, natural cancer therapies.

In today’s podcast, Ann shares her personal breast cancer story and how it inspired her to become a natural cancer therapies advocate.  Click the play button in the black bar below the title to listen to the podcast.

3-steps-4-health

Take 3 Steps 4 Health

Take 3 Steps 4 Health

The Annie Appleseed Project advocates taking three simple steps each day to improve overall health:

  • Eat 1 more fruit and 1 more vegetable
  • Take a walk
  • Breathe deeply 7 times before going to bed
3 Simple Steps to improve overall health. @AnnieAppleseed #healthy #blogboost Click To Tweet
Complementary & Alternative Cancer Therapies conference

Complementary & Alternative Cancer Therapies conference

Next month, February 26 – 28, 2015, the Annie Appleseed Project is hosting the 9th Evidence-based Complementary & Alternative Cancer Therapies Conference held  in West Palm Beach, Florida.  Kelly Turner, PhD, author of Radical Remission is one of fourteen scheduled speakers.  For more information, and to register, visit CAM for Cancer.

Also Mentioned:

Connect with the Annie Appleseed Project

Ringing the Bell after my Final Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer | Battling Bertha #25

Today is Thanksgiving here in the USA.  I have much for which to be thankful this year.

It may seem odd to many that I feel gratitude during a time in which I am battling for my life.  Yet, there are so many reasons to feel grateful.  I found Bertha early.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I have very good health insurance.  I have amazing doctors and caregivers.  My family has been beyond supportive.  My friends have been true soldiers in my battle.  Both my greeting card business, and the custom furniture company I run with my husband, continue to do well.  My cup truly runneth over.

Today, I am filled with appreciation as I share photos from an event that took place 10 days ago, my final dose of radiation therapy for breast cancer.

Ringing the Bell after Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer

I received 36 daily doses of radiation therapy for breast cancer, interrupted by a short hospitalization. On November 17, 2014 I celebrated my final therapy session by adding my pink hand print to the wall leading into the therapy room and then an enthusiastic ringing of the bell.

Shanta was there for almost every dose of radiation therapy I received. Her last day at the center was Friday, the 14th, and so she was going to miss my final day. I am so grateful to Shanta for taking her lunch hour from her new job to come and celebrate with me!

Mimi is the receptionist, she keeps things running smoothly in the office and would stash my favorite candy to the side so there was always a piece for me to enjoy before therapy.

Shanta and Mimi

Shanta and Mimi

Dr. Lewis has a big heart and very patiently answered all of my questions. Her nurse, Beverly, was not in the office for my celebration, but it should be noted that she is very sweet and kind, as well.

Dr. Lewis, my Radiation Oncologist

Dr. Lewis, my Radiation Oncologist

Unless you are a regular follower of my blog, you are probably wondering why George Clooney is in the all the photos. I named the radiation machine (linear accelerator) George Clooney. I figured if someone was going to see me naked everyday, it might as well be George Clooney.

This machine is George Clooney

This machine is George Clooney.

Lacey is the lead therapist at the clinic.  Did you know that becoming a radiation therapist requires a 5-year bachelor of science degree in Radiation Therapy and that less than a handful of schools in Texas offer the degree program?  It’s a highly specialized field and requires a warm personality, as well as, smarts.

Lacey, the lead Radiation Therapist

Lacey, the lead Radiation Therapist

The staff at Apollo Cancer Center were all wonderful. Rafael, another of my regular therapists was not there for my final treatment, but you can see a photo of him dressed us Gru from Despicable Me here.  I can’t say that I will miss therapy, but I will always think fondly of the staff.

I can't say I'll miss therapy, but these ladies made it fun.

I can’t say I’ll miss therapy, but these ladies made it fun.

Lacey was inspired to start the tradition of collecting patient hand prints on the wall leading into the therapy room after their final treatment by the clinic where she served her residency. It was rather inspiring to know that all those patients had survived the process before me.

Celebrating with all who came before me.

Celebrating with all who came before me.

I chose to make my hand print pink.

Okay, so survived might be a harsh word.

Pink for Breast Cancer

Pink for Breast Cancer.

It’s not that radiation therapy hurts, it doesn’t. Well, the radiation burns suck. It is just a rather emotional experience.

I'm pinked up and ready to print.

I’m pinked up and ready to print.

I mean seriously, here I am bald, laying on a table with my deformed, scarred breast exposed, while people I just recently met move me around on a narrow table and write with permanent markers on my bare skin.

Choosing to to find the humor in the situation made it bearable. I share more about coping with emotions during radiation therapy in a post from several weeks ago.

I can't believe I let them take pictures of me without my wig!

I can’t believe I let them take pictures of me without my wig!

So, it was not hard for me to take one of those very same permanent markers and sign my name on the wall next to my pink hand print.

It's Official.  I'm done!

It’s Official. I’m done!

After getting dressed, I headed back to the lobby where my friend Tanya was waiting to help me complete the final task. the ringing of the bell:

I am not sure who started the tradition of bell ringing. I couldn’t find much info on Google. If you know how the tradition came about, please share in the comments.  I do know that it was very satisfying to ring that bell.

A huge thank you to Tanya for coming out to celebrate with me!

Thank You Tanya for Celebrating with Me!

Thank You Tanya for Celebrating with Me!

I will probably share one or two more posts about radiation therapy because it was such a huge part of my treatment plan, and I feel like I need to share a little more.  For example, how I treated the radiation burns.  All in due time.

Today, I will enjoy my family and the amazing non-traditional Korean meal I prepared in lieu of turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble! Gobble!

Kandas