Archive for the ‘Beauty’ Category

Randi Rentz – Getting Back to the New Normal

September 3, 2012

On Tuesday, September 11, 2012, Living Beyond Breast Cancer will host a free teleconference, “Beyond Treatment: Understanding Your New Normal,” featuring Susan Hong, MD, MPH, FACP. The staff at LBBC often hears  from survivors that getting back to their regular lives can be challenging after treatment and the creation of a “new normal” is key to moving on. Join the LBBC Blog in welcoming back Randi Rentz, as she shares her “new normal.”

Normal. What is the “new normal” after breast cancer? Four years after completing my treatment, I am at it again, launching a web site that has taken many years to get underway, working full-time as a special education teacher in the area of Asperger’s, and consulting in the evenings. Again I’m risking financial security, working long hours, and insisting on having fun.

The point is, no matter what happens, I keep going on, making adjustments that fit my life. I like my life. While I was traveling in the scary tunnel of “Cancerville,” I did what most women do—I tried to maintain the normal routine of my life as much as possible. When a friend emailed me during my treatment, she wrote I was “crazy as ever,” which made me overjoyed.

Meanwhile, the world outside my “pink bubble” was going on as it always had. It was fast paced, taxing, demanding, and it was pretty draining. I have to admit, when I was finally able to rejoin it, it was pretty liberating.

I was thrilled to be able to go back to many of the same issues I’ve been dealing with for my whole life. I can say that I do have a greater perspective on what’s really important. I still sweat the small stuff. That’s just who I am. In my life, the small stuff adds up to the big picture that is my life and existence.

Although I may be in a new, slightly modified package, I am still whole, and unwilling to waste my time. This, too, is the same attitude I had before breast cancer. I was basically a happy positive person before breast cancer, and after it. Breast cancer just spelled out who and what I am.

Like most women I’ve spoken to, I can honestly say I eat better now (although I still eat desserts). I eat organic foods whenever possible, and I don’t eat fish full of chemicals or mercury. I never touch dairy products that were produced using hormones. And I try to avoid cosmetics that contain parabens, which mimic estrogen and just can’t be good for you.

Okay, I’ll admit I still use dye to color my hair and nail polish, both of which have evil ingredients in them, but I’m doing what I can. I take vitamins, limit my alcohol intake and exercise every day for an hour.

If you know me, that last part about regular exercise, is a total fabrication. But I do take yoga and/or a barre class when I can, and I try to do cardio two to three times a week.

Shocked?  Yeah, me too.

To learn more about Randi, peruse her blog, or read excepts from her book, Why Buy a Wig…When You Can Buy Diamonds!, you can visit her website.

Susan Navissi: Feelings from Afar

September 1, 2012

Living Beyond Breast Cancer hosts 3 national conferences14 national teleconferences and offers a toll-free Survivor’s Helpline that we know many women across the United States utilize. However, women all over the world have been affected my breast cancer and we are honored to know that are services are reaching to other parts of the world. For this month’s first installment of “Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s Writer’s Corner,” we welcome Susan Navissi, a strong survivor from Berlin, Germany.


breathe breathe dear, don’t be scared
– concentrate on your work, survive
and dive dive – through these dark times
where fear is your companion
and love has to fight so hard to come through

and then, when you come up after a dive
look around and see -clear now
what you need , whom you want, where you want to be
and why this life shall be lived fully

uma soona

September 2011

* * * * * * * * * * *


this precious beautiful cancer sister wrote:

it may sound strange but what I did was asking it to go away
suggesting it may be a star in the dark blue sky
so I will not forget, for I do like to watch the stars.

dearest sister, no it does not seem strange
same did I – drowned mine in the little lake
asking it to never ever come back
for I do not need it, but do like to watch the water.

what else do we do while healing?
crying rivers, wearing our wellingtons to jump in the puddles
convulsing in pain, reading the news who shall be bombed next
hugging our loved ones, drinking each good word, look and touch.

whether healthy or ill
listening to lullabies of the axis of evil
may make you think
about human kind

November 2011


* * * * * * * * * * *

(*Note: As Susan’s native language is German, we felt it only appropriate to include some of her work in her own “voice.*)


Die erste Nacht war voller Rosenduft

Küsse regneten auf meinen Körper

weich und zärtlich

von den schönsten Lippen

Ich werde arm sein, erklärte ich,

keine Bücher mehr und keine Schuhe!

dann werden wir barfuß in die Bibliothek gehen,

sagtest du- und ich habe dir geglaubt

Immer wollte mein Körper neben deinem liegen.

Blind war ich und taub

Vergewaltigende, Furie, Irre, Schamlose

und zärtlich, sorgend und liebevoll.

Nach allem, was  mein Körper kennen lernte,

Holocaust, Fukushima und Mansonism

bin ich trotzdem noch erstaunt

über das

was war


in der Nacht als alles nach Rosen roch…

du, ich, die Nacht und die Zukunft, die zwischen uns lag.


* * * * * * * * * * *

“I send my best wishes and love to all my sisters out there, being all brave and enduring this.”

Born in Berlin, Germany, Susan is a mother of a 24 year old son and was diagnosed with a triple negative tumor involving the lymph nodes in  june 2011 at age 44. In the middle of political upheaval, the responsibility of success  at work phase and in love after a bad time; it just did not fit. Fortunately, Susan had access to her feelings of fear and terror and expressed them in poems and paintings. Susan has made is through chemo, surgery and rehab and lives every day saying “I am healthy and will become very old.” Living Beyond Breast Cancer will be hosting another Fall Writing the Journey Series where survivors can creatively express and document their own feelings starting October 9th.

Eve Wallinga: “It’s beautiful. It’s me.”

August 6, 2012

On Tuesday, August 21, 2012, Living Beyond Breast Cancer will host a free teleconference, Breast Reconstruction: Considering Your Options, featuring Frederick Duffy, Jr, MD, FACS. LBBC is lucky to have a wonderful network of women willing to share their stories on these more personal, yet under represented matters in the breast cancer community. Join the LBBC Blog in welcoming Eve Wallinga, as she shares why she chose reconstruction.

When I learned I’d need a mastectomy, I never considered not having reconstruction. I  didn’t even care if I was symmetrical, as long as I didn’t wake up with a blank chest.

Maybe I’m not as strong as other women, not as sure of who I am, as confident of my femininity. Or maybe I’m stronger. Strong enough to endure more surgery, pain, and recuperation to restore my breast. Strong enough to draw the line at losing that part of myself to this relentless disease. I needed to know I’d done all I could to fight and win.

I was fortunate to be referred to a plastic surgeon. Not all women are even told about reconstruction. But I was offered only two techniques, because those were the ones the plastic surgeons in my area performed.

I didn’t like the idea of abdominal muscle being cut and my tissue being tunneled up through my body while it stayed attached down below (called a “pedicled TRAM“). So I opted for an implant, which would be placed at the time of mastectomy and gradually filled over several months. Didn’t sound fun, but at least I wouldn’t wake up with nothing.

An hour before surgery, fate intervened with a twist. Seemed my cancer was a rare type. Maybe I’d need radiation after all. Since radiation and implants don’t mix, I’d have to delay reconstruction and face my nightmare scenario of waking up without a breast.

When I first took off that wide white bandage, I squinted my eyes to blur the sight. I turned away from the mirror when I dressed, closed my right eye to block any peripheral view of the empty space, wore a bikini top to bathe, a padded bra during the day. For sleeping, I cut out the left side of an old padded bra, so my left breast would be unfettered, but my right side covered.

But now, I can honestly say the delay was the best thing that happened. I had time to research options and realized I wasn’t limited to local reconstruction techniques. I saw online photos where I could hardly tell which breast was the original and which was the reproduction, and women whose bodies looked better in the “after” pictures than the “before.” I took an informed leap of faith and headed to New Orleans for stacked DIEP flap reconstruction.

Living without a breast for a few months made me better appreciate waking up with my new one. It’s beautiful. It’s me. Like my old breast was magically resurrected. I don’t feel like I ever had a mastectomy.

Despite your desire to get the cancer out of your body quickly, in most cases you can and should take the time to do homework. Depending on your circumstances, you can have immediate reconstruction or delayed, even by years. There are now skin-sparing mastectomies, even nipple-sparing, where basically the cancerous “stuffing” is removed and replaced with an implant or your own tissue. More fat sources are available for flap reconstruction, including gluteal flaps (your derriere), which I chose to reconstruct my other breast, prophylactically, several years after the first.

Your choice of surgeon is as important as your choice of reconstruction technique. Find a specialist with experience specific to what you want, and if you want a flap, don’t let the doctor dissuade you by saying you don’t have enough fat. Maybe that surgeon wants you to go with the only procedure they know, or they’re not experienced enough with flaps to make it work. Ask how many procedures they’ve done, what their success rate is, look at their before and after pictures, and talk to a former patient or two.

You can check out sites like where there are discussion boards about all different kinds of reconstruction, and you’re sure to find women in the same situation as yours, as well as those further down the road, happy to share what they’ve learned. If you decide on reconstruction, there are many possibilities, though unfortunately none of the techniques are easy. But being a cancer survivor, you’ve already endured worse. I’ve made it a personal crusade to try to help empower women with knowledge about their choices. Whatever you choose, best of luck!

Eve Wallinga is a 6-year breast cancer survivor who lives in St. Cloud, MN with her husband and Yorkshire Terrier. Her two children have flown the nest. She is a co-founder of the Breastoration Foundation. Click here to read her blog, “The Breast of the Story.” Also, be sure to check out the Living Beyond Breast Cancer Event Page where you can get more information on the upcoming August teleconference on Breast Reconstruction: Considering Your Options.

Anne Rocco: Poetic Expression

July 11, 2012

Anne Rocco is one of the creative women who participated in the spring 2012 Writing the Journey writer’s series.  She is pleased to share some of her favorite original poems with the  LBBC blog readers for our bi-monthly series, Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s Writer’s Corner.


A shirt with ruffles

Bilateral self-defense

They can hide so much


How did I get here?

Such an odd journey to take

I’ll get used to it

The View

The horizon has started to brighten.

Menacing clouds have started to move on.

I watch the remains of a Nor’easter:

A few walkers face the cold wind head on,

a solitary person strolls the beach

seeking lost treasure left in the sand


Waves are mesmerizing to watch;

Relaxing, calming, peaceful, powerful.

The angry sea has reclaimed so much sand.

I watch the scene from my beach window seat.

The stars signal the end of a cold day.

The loud wind seems to have gone out to sea.

The moon casts its reflection on the surf.

Peace returns to the deserted boardwalk.

*Poetry by Anne Rocco

 Living Beyond Breast Cancer will host another Writing the Journey Series in the Fall. Check back to the LBBC Blog for more insights from Alysa Cummings and future Writing the Journey participant creations.

Aundreia Alexander: Nurturing Your Spirit

June 25, 2012

 On Tuesday, June 26th, Living Beyond Breast Cancer will host a community meeting where Rev. Aundreia Alexander will discuss “Nurturing Your Spirit.” Here at the LBBC Blog, Aundreia–an ordained minister, breast cancer survivor and  “Writing the Journey” participant–shares two poems of her own creation.

Light Overcomes Darkness

Light shines brightest against the backdrop of darkness.
Light shines through a crack, a speck; a flicker through a keyhole.

Light shines like the stars on the clearest night;

Light in the sky – a full moon in a dense forest.

Do What Comes Naturally

How beautiful is the light that breaks through the darkness!

I never learned to whistle a tune

So when I hear birds whistle, chirp and tweet, I envy them.

Then I think – how silly – they do what comes naturally.

So I embrace the chorus of whistles, chirps and tweets from my feathered friends.

And I dance – I swerve, I sway, I glide – in unison with the melodious sounds of beautiful music.

I do what comes naturally to me.

For more information of the June community meeting, Nurturing the Spirit, as well as future topics, visit the LBBC Events Page.

Miranda Ferris: “Beautiful”

June 11, 2012

Living Beyond Breast Cancer recognizes that there are several ways to support women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer as an organization. We also know that there are many options for individuals to show their love, support, and caring for these women as well. Here at the LBBC blog, we’d like to share a gorgeous video  provided by Tiffany McCabe Nault.

In this video, a group of talented dancers perform a dance choreographed by Tiffany’s cousin, Miranda Ferris, in honor or her great-grandmother and in support of her aunt Kay.

A piece entitled: “Beautiful”

At LBBC, we are honored to share these inpirational stories, along with providing educational programming, special events, a growing library of publications and a survivors’ helpline for women living with all stages of breast cancer. 

Tamra Barney: Wines by Wives

May 12, 2012

Living Beyond Breast Cancer hit the red carpet this week for the Launch Party of  Wines by Wives.

Vicki Gunvalson and Tamra Barney

Wines By Wives is a celebrity wine club created by Vicki Gunvalson and Tamra Barney of The Real Housewives of Orange County, along with New York businessman and internet marketing entrepreneur Christopher Gravagna. When you become a member of this fabulous wine-of-the-month club, each month you will receive two great wines – two reds, two whites, or one of each that have been selected by one of the reality television stars. LBBC recently became involved with this project because Wines by Wives donates a portion of the proceeds to the chosen charities of  Tamra and Vicki. At the launch party on Tuesday, May 8th, Tamra proudly announced that Living Beyond Breast Cancer was her charity of choice! Sample a few of the attendees on the blog, then take a look at a full album of celebrities who attended at SnapStarLive.

Michael Clarke Duncan(Green Mile) &
Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth(The Apprentice)

Stuart O’Keeffe from Private Chefs of Beverly Hills

Philly native, Ashley Herbert, from The Bachelorette

And take a look: Our own associate director of marketing and corporate sponsorships, Kevin Gianotto, was rubbing elbows with Tamra!

LBBC’s Kevin Gianotta with Tamra Barney

 Be sure to check out Wines by Wives, watch the video of Tamra talking about her collaboration with LBBC and come learn more about how you can get involved with Living Beyond Breast Cancer.

Pat Biedermann: Living Harmoniously with Stage IV Cancer – PART THREE of a Multi-Series

April 18, 2012

On April 28th and 29th, 2012, Living Beyond Breast Cancer will host its Sixth Annual Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer. In preparation for that event along with our video blog series, we introduced Pat Biedermann, an  LBBC  Helpline volunteer who happens to be living with metastatic breast cancer. In this multi-series, Pat will share with you–not only her story–but her “tricks and tips” on how to live (and live well) with the disease.

Appearance and EgoThis is Pat

I am currently a stage IV breast cancer survivor and have been for 6 ½ years. When I look in the mirror today, I see my lopsided breasts; a scar from hip to hip; a five-inch deep hole in my stomach; no eyebrows or eyelashes. My hair, at one time, was thick and dark brown (with a little help); today it’s very fine and very gray after seventeen months of chemo (Taxol and Avastin).

I see all this and I smile because I see the body, face, and soul of a survivor and a warrior.  When I look in the mirror today, I think how proud author Louise Hay (You Can Heal You Life) would be of me. When I look in the mirror today I see the person I want to be remembered as and I can say that I love what I see in the mirror.

The one bodily function that is so much better today than it was before I was diagnosed is my eyesight because hindsight is 20/20! If only I could go back to that young woman I was ten years ago and talk to her then about what I see now.

When I started this journey, I was at the height of my real estate career. I drove the latest car, had the latest fashion, nails and hair. My daughter always said (I believe with sarcasm) that I looked like a Realtor. I am not so sure she was paying me a compliment. In fact, I am sure she wasn’t because she approves of the mother I am today much more than the mother I was then, and I am about as far removed from my old self as possible.

The day I had the lumpectomy done in June 2002, I thought “well, that doesn’t look too bad.” Next came the mastectomy with re-construction in August 2002. I remember thinking “Maybe I’ll get a tummy tuck out of this.”  When I had a difficult time healing in my abdomen and wound up with a 5″ hole in my stomach, I consoled myself by thinking, “well, what the heck…I’m alive.”

So, if I COULD go back and give advice to the woman I was, here is what I would honestly say to her: “None of the stuff you are worrying about matters.  It doesn’t matter because it is not who you are.  Cancer will make you a kinder, more caring, more sensitive, more patient human being. You will be more in touch with your body and your spirituality than you have ever been before. You will experience the triumph of surviving and the joy of cherishing all your happy days. You will glow from within and that glow will make you so attractive that strangers will be drawn to you and find you beautiful. “I would paraphrase the Melissa Etheridge lyrics from Run For Life: “Cancer cut into my skin and cut into my body, but it will never get a piece of my soul.”

Of course, I cannot go back in time, so I am trying to do the next best thing.  I am writing about my experiences and feelings so that, maybe, I can remind other cancer survivors to pause as they look in the mirror and see the true beauty of their souls, which is the only beauty that lasts anyway, and the only one that counts!

Stop back next Wednesday when we post the final installment of Pat’s series where she discusses “Stress Management.”

Pat enjoy walks out in nature, reading and spending time with family and friends. Visit our website for more information on the Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer and to Register for the April event. Additional resources can be found through LBBC’s Understanding Guides: Metastatic Breast Cancer Series.  Later this year, LBBC will produce a guide for women newly diagnosed with metastatic cancer.


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