Who Was This Woman Looking At Me? Was She Even A Woman?

Tough Girl 2!Tiffany Mannino is back to share yet another of her diary entries penned to her unborn daughter Lola during her breast cancer journey. She has entitled the letters Beautifully Broken: Letters From a Girl/Woman/Human in Progress’ as she reflects on her five year journey with letting go of the past, facing fears, learning to love, finding happiness in the moment, and realizing that she is exactly where she is supposed to be in life.

Oh baby…I am so tired the computer screen is looking fuzzy, however, a few moments ago, I had this compulsion to write to you rather than crawl into bed. After nine months of being on sabbatical, I have finally gone back to work to start a new school year. I wish I could tell you the transition was easy, but the last few weeks have been grueling. I have been an emotional wreck having meltdowns on a daily basis. The best way that I can describe my state is that I feel like a beached horseshoe crab that has been flipped on its back and can’t seem to turn over. It squirms with the scorching sun beating down on its parched shell. The strangest part of this all is that as difficult as this change is for me, deep in my heart I know that I am going to come out of this a better soul. Like a molting horseshoe crab, I feel like I am shedding my old self and beginning a new. Continue reading

LBBC and Angela & Roi

A&RLogo2 Angela-Roi-handbag-2_mediumAs most of you know, we at LBBC have an initiative called “Beyond October”. We do this because over 300,000 individuals will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year and roughly 1 in 12 of these individuals are diagnosed during the month of October which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Given this, the majority of individuals are diagnosed during the rest of the year, hence our “Beyond October” campaign. We have various partners who embrace this idea but today, classic vegan handbags for a cause makers Angela & Roi, are sharing why they’ve decided to partner with LBBC and why they believe in Beyond October…

Throughout our daily life, we often ask the question – is it possible to do what we love, and better the world while doing it?  At Angela & Roi, we believe this is not only possible but also the way that companies should be conducted.  We are founded on the belief that businesses should accept social responsibility for the products they put out, and utilize their resources to positively impact the greater community around them. We believe in using our passions for good. Continue reading

18 Months Post and Chemobrain

RondaWalker-27LBBC Breast Cancer Helpline volunteer, blogger and friend Ronda Walker Weaver is back today to discuss her experience with “chemobrain” and what she learned about the topic from a webinar LBBC hosted in September of 2014. 

Well, happy day here. Not that I was expecting anything different than what I received, but I tell you, the anniversary anxiety, which comes every 3 months for the first 2 years, is tough. I look at these doctors’ visits as markers of moving past and beyond breast cancer, but they are also reminders of where I was, and quite frankly, where I could be, if any indicators were there.

So – great blood pressure, great weight, mammogram was clear, and I’m just waiting to hear about blood tests – red and white blood cell counts. But I don’t expect anything other than “all is well.” Continue reading

“Cancer, Without You, I Wouldn’t Be The Woman I Am Today”

Dana-Donofree-BioDana Donofree is back on the LBBC blog for part 3 of her story about her breast cancer diagnosis and how it led her towards a completely different life and career direction than she had originally planned…

Cancer had officially taken my life on another path. Only this time, it was one I had always wanted: designing my own line and having my own business.  The concept for AnaOno Intimates came organically from within. After cancer and reconstructions, I’d walked into lingerie stores countless times, enthusiastic at first, but then leaving with nothing but self-loathing and tears because my body was forever altered. It was like I was back in my cancer treatment days, easily identifiable by my head scarf or lack of eyebrows and eyelashes. This time I was walking around with a giant, heavy stamp on my chest: NOT NORMAL. The sheer frustration  became absolutely maddening, but the pain of being “different” or “changed” or in some dark moments, “ruined” was unbearable. I made my mind up, I knew in that moment I never wanted another woman to EVER have to go through what I did; they should feel just as beautiful, confident and sexy as they did the days before reconstructive surgery. Cancer should not and WILL NOT take that away. Continue reading

Resilience and Breast Cancer

Rocky Mountain Cancer Center.  April 17, 2014.  Photo by Ellen JaskolResearch shows resilience can ease stress and improve life satisfaction among people diagnosed with cancer, but what does it mean to be “resilient”? In anticipation of our November 18 community meeting in Denver, Colorado, Jill Mitchell, LCSW, PhD, OSW-C, of the Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers offers some insight and tips on being resilient.

In physics, “resilience” is defined as the ability of a material to absorb energy when it is deformed, and to release that energy (bounce back).  The limit of resilience, in turn, is the point at which the material can no longer absorb energy elastically without creating a permanent distortion.

But resilience in the cancer world, is not as much about bouncing “back” as it is about bouncing “forward” – creating a “new normal” or even growing through the process of survivorship.

Resilience goes beyond just coping or just being “elastic.” It often also involves (or sometimes demands) a “permanent distortion in one’s life” (such as a loss of a breast, or a job or an anticipated future, for example).  However, it is these “distortions,” or losses, that can provide the fodder for growth and transformation when we call upon our internal resources (self-esteem, optimism, hopefulness, problem solving) and our external resources (friends and family, social and community support).

I am often awed and humbled by the ways in which people come to cope with and grow through the struggles or suffering they endure due to cancer.  One of the most important things to know is that although some people may have a more natural tendency toward resilience, we all can strengthen our ability toward resilience through a few specific strategies:

Start with your strengths – what already works for you, or has worked for you in the past?  Perhaps you are someone who needs to gather a lot of information.  Perhaps you feel rejuvenated being surrounded by nature, or writing in a journal or meditating.  Remind yourself about the strategies you already know help you to cope, and make time for those!  Resilience is about developing realistic goals and moving toward them.  Start with what works for you.

Develop and use your network of support – Share what you’re going through with your trusted loved ones, friends, and peers.   Explore support groups or consult one-on-one with your oncology social worker or other healthcare professionals who can be a resource for support, processing and validation.  Asking for help and sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust can feel challenging and uncomfortable for people who are used to being in control or self-dependent. And yet, social support is a critical cornerstone for resilience.  Continue reading

5-hour ENERGY Goes Beyond October

HeadshotEven though Breast Cancer Awareness Month is over, 5-hour Energy is continuing to donate proceeds from the sale of their specially marked Pink Lemonade flavor to LBBC until December 31, 2014. As a partner of our Going Beyond October campaign, 5-hour ENERGY staff member Melissa Skabich is sharing with us why she’s proud to work for an organization who supports the breast cancer cause beyond October. 

I am the director of public relations for the makers of 5-hour ENERGY.  I’m also a wife, a mom to three boys under age 11, a sometimes runner, and a soon-to-be owner of a French bulldog puppy named Mack.   Before I was any of those things, I was a young college graduate who watched cancer kill my 43-year-old godmother in a matter of ten short weeks.  Kidney.

And way before that, I was an eight-year-old girl feeding  teaspoons of chocolate ice cream to my grandfather, who once seemed like the strongest man in the world but the cancer made him so weak he could barely lift his head.  A few weeks later I made my very first public speaking appearance when I read at his funeral.  It was my first real loss, and I missed him so much my chest would hurt.  Now, even 30 years later, I still feel a pang whenever I hear Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” on the radio.  It was my grief anthem.  Lung. Continue reading

Sex and Intimacy After Breast Cancer: Susan’s Story

susan orangeThere are many ways a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment can impact your sexual life. In anticipation of our new publication, Breast Cancer inFocus: Getting the Care You Need as a Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual Person, Susan DiPronio blogs about navigating sex and dating after breast cancer in the LGBT community.

     

While we’re dealing with breast cancer and the side effects of treatment, it’s difficult to embrace our sexual needs immediately and long after treatment ends. Our bodies are ragged. We’ve been exhausted for, well, years. Maybe we’ve lost lovers or friends, and for some of us, jobs, careers. For those of us who identify as lesbian or bisexual, we became invisible, almost dissolving into the background of the LGBT community, that social scene where we’re now a stranger invited, but not valued.

When I was going through chemo, a friend came to visit me. She talked about her night out at the bars, sharing her usual brand of entertaining trash-talk. All the while not looking me in the eye, intentionally avoiding my gaze. I was used to it, expected it. My appearance scared me enough that I couldn’t look in a mirror. My friend starts telling me about a woman she was shocked to see out the night before, partying with other women, dancing nonetheless. My friend mentioned that this woman had cancer. She was stunned that the woman would be out. I was stunned that my friend was saying this to me.

Our sexual and emotional desires don’t just end because we’ve had breast cancer. Yet, people shuffle us into another kind of closet, the “cancer closet,” and assume we no longer have an appetite for sex and intimacy.

As survivors, we also put pressure on ourselves when it comes to sex after breast cancer. Breasts are a big part of sex and if they’re gone or scarred, we don’t feel as if anyone would want us and our self-esteem suffers. But sexual desire never disappears. How do we navigate this difficult metamorphosis? Where do we find the support so necessary in rebuilding a positive body image?  I’ve decided to become the person I used to be and not be afraid to touch my scars, to embrace sexuality, to look at myself in the mirror.  Continue reading