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

Writer Gives Tour of Breast Cancer Journey, from A to Z

The cover of Madhulika Sikka's book, "A Breast Cancer Alphabet." (image via http://www.abreastcanceralphabet.com/)

The cover of Madhulika Sikka’s book, “A Breast Cancer Alphabet.” (image via http://www.abreastcanceralphabet.com/)

LBBC Writer and Editorial Coordinator Erin Rowley reviews Madhulika Sikka’s book, A Breast Cancer Alphabet.

Cancerland is a place you never planned to visit. Author Madhulika Sikka didn’t want to go there either. But through her book, A Breast Cancer Alphabet, she volunteers to be your tour guide as you navigate life after a breast cancer diagnosis. “This book,” she says, “is for all of you who have become members of a club you did not want to join,” as well as for your friends and family members.

A Breast Cancer Alphabet is a quick read – Ms. Sikka, a broadcast journalist who was diagnosed in 2010, writes that she wanted “a short book that wouldn’t tax my chemo-addled brain.” But she manages to address many topics, from the more obvious ones (B is for Breasts, D is for Drugs, M is for Mastectomy) to ones that may seem frivolous next to the question of survival, but are important to your quality of life (S is for Sex, H is for Hair, L is for Looks, F is for Fashion Accessories). In the chapter T is for Therapy, she stresses that treatment should go beyond chemotherapy and physical therapy. She says it should include psychotherapy and aspects of everyday life that are therapeutic for you, like watching a marathon of your favorite TV show or staying in bed (P is for Pillows, X is for eXhaustion, Z is for ZZZ’s.) Continue reading

Now Life Is Forever Altered

1493LBBC shop to support partner and blogger, Dana Donofree, is back sharing the 2nd part of her breast cancer story with us. To read part 1 click here. Today she shares how her surgery lead to life and career changing ideas and how it has directed her path for the future.

The positive to my diagnosis, if ever there could be one, was that I was HER2+. This made me a candidate for Herceptin. Before 2006, Herceptin was only used in late-stage cancers, but by the time of my diagnosis, it was approved to treat HER2+, and it had a very favorable success rate in battling the disease.

I kept thinking about the women before me with the same diagnosis prior to 2006. There were many who died waiting for the approval. There were many who died because they weren’t the right candidate. And now, there were many like me benefiting from the research and dollars drummed up by pink ribbons, walks and the memories of those women who were lost. I was grateful beyond words. Who is to say one way or another, but I believe the access to Herceptin saved my life.

There is a wave of fear, anxiety and doubt that follows the flood of joy when your cancer doctor releases you from care with clear scans and positive words. It is almost even more overwhelming than the fear that greets us survivors upon diagnosis. Because now life is forever altered. Now there is nothing but a new set of what-ifs with no real solutions to challenge them. Now I had to go back to life without cancer, but a life very different than the one BEFORE cancer. People like to call it the “new normal.” And I woke every day to a different battle ahead of me; one that was about restoring myself to some semblance of the Dana I was before the disease. Continue reading

A Moment in Time: The Survivorship Care Plan and Follow-Up Care as a Standard of Care

Barbara Unell PhotoBarbara C. Unell is the founder of Back in the Swing USA® and co-author of The Back in the Swing Cookbook: Recipes for Eating and Living Well Every Day After Breast Cancer. Ms. Unell wrote this blog post in anticipation of our upcoming town hall meeting, Survivorship 360: Navigating Your Way Through the Re-Designed Breast Cancer Roadmap.

I love the new song, “3 Things,” by Jason Mraz. In fact, I love it so much, that I decided to make it the theme of this blog, using a bit of poetic license to play off of Mraz’s message. He sings about the three things that he does “when his life falls apart.” 

His words resonate with me today, as I reflect on this particular moment in time in the history of breast cancer survivorship healthcare, a field in which I have planted seeds, along with hundreds of caring volunteers, dedicated healthcare professionals and generous sponsors, for the past 15 years.  I hope that you will take a moment (3 minutes, actually) to sit back, listen to Mraz’s song and be inspired, too.

The song’s lyrics remind me of my “new life” that started in the exhilarating days of 1999, after my treatment for breast cancer, when I was focused on “changing the conversation” between physician and patient. As an author, educator and social entrepreneur who is committed to translating scientific research into practical action, I was determined to move that conversation for consumers of cancer healthcare from the anxiety-filled moments of asking, “Now what?” to the confident steps of receiving a comprehensive, personalized survivorship care plan and follow-up recommendations during and/or after primary treatment ends. Continue reading

White House | Black Market Paint Your Profile Picture Pink

10479708_10153335999461029_5388445732696375964_n

White House | Black Market‘s philanthropic commitment to LBBC has allowed our organization to grow and expand in a way that now allows us to reach more women in need of our services than ever before.”
Jean Sachs, MSS, MLSP, CEO, Living Beyond Breast Cancer

As we continue to turn the calendar pages during this beautiful month of October, we are reminded daily that this is the month dedicated to breast cancer awareness.  How can you not notice – pink ribbons, pink building tops, pink fountains, pink toilet paper, pink professional sports teams…it’s a virtual sea of pink.  As an eight-year breast cancer survivor, it is particularly striking.  Most frustrating is to see items marketed during October with pink ribbons and to read the packaging and see that no money goes towards breast cancer research or support.  This is simply a marketing tool that companies use to sell their products.  This is an exploitation of all of the people who have experienced breast cancer.  I urge consumers to read the packaging and see where your money is going, don’t fall into the pink washing trap.

I have been actively involved with Living Beyond Breast Cancer since my diagnosis at age 31, while pregnant with my son, Hunter.  After I was diagnosed they helped me to navigate my options for reconstruction.  I became a helpline volunteer for them a few years ago and I volunteer whenever I am able.  I am currently off of the Helpline while I enjoy my children – 11, 8 and 1.  I am thankful for my life after breast cancer and for all of the support I received from LBBC.

A long time supporter of LBBC is White House | Black Market.  They, along with their sister companies, have donated over two million dollars to LBBC to fund its mission and programming!  The dollars they say they will donate, they DO donate.  They support women.  That is a statement in itself.  It is refreshing to run into a company that not only cares about their sales, but they care about the women who are their customers.  They have done many beautiful ad campaigns celebrating women who have been affected by breast cancer.  Each year they have products for sale and a large portion of the selling price is donated directly to LBBC.

This year White House | Black Market has committed to donate up to $25,000 though their “Pink your Pic” campaign.  It’s a simple way to show your support for breast cancer survivors while raising money for a great organization!  I kindly ask you to take a moment, follow the link below and Pink your Pic as a show of support for LBBC, White House Black Market and most importantly, women who have been affected by breast cancer.

Add pink to your Facebook profile pic and White House | Black Market will donate $1 to LBBC, up to $25k! Click here to get started! 

Weathering Through The Darkest Moments

post 1Today we would like to introduce Dana Donofree, LBBC friend and supporter but first time LBBC blogger! Dana’s story will span three blog posts as she shares her story and how her breast cancer journey impacted her life and career so be sure to check back to learn more! 

In the weeks leading up to my 28th birthday, cancer was the absolute last thing on my mind. I was, after all, putting together the last-minute preparations for my wedding and planning a trip back home to Ohio for my bridal shower. My career in fashion was taking off, and I was starting to realize how happy and lucky I was. Plus, I was young, taking care of myself and doing all the “right,” healthy things I would read about.

Oddly after several conversations with my best friend and sister about finding lumps in their breasts, that turned out to be benign, I guess you could say I must have had a heightened awareness to checking my breasts. It dawned on me that I too should do a self exam, but I didn’t, I had just been to my annual check up and if there was something there the doctor would find it, right? Well, it wasn’t until one day in the shower, when my wrist brushed against my armpit…yes, my armpit, that I even noticed a lump. After the initial shock of finding it, I sort of shrugged it off. My friend’s turned out to be nothing. I was going to be fine, too.

Only I wasn’t. The day before my birthday, surrounded by family, friends and bridesmaids I got the news. Invasive ductal carcinoma. Triple positive. I was staring down multiple surgeries, chemo (!) and all of the what-ifs that come along with the cancer. Everything in my life changed that day.

Obviously, my first move was to get ready for the grueling treatment and make sure I was in the best shape as possible. I was after all training for my wedding day and eating healthy and working out. I continued working my design job and tried not let cancer run my life. The May wedding got postponed, but my fiance, Paul, remained by my side throughout the whole ordeal. I got a bilateral mastectomy, spacers, reconstruction (though I opted out of nipple reconstruction). I played through the pain, I weathered the darkest moments the best I could, and I got myself involved with young survivor support groups.

Those groups were vital to my well-being. They helped me realize I wasn’t the only 20-something losing my breasts to this awful disease. They made me laugh, held my hand through the down days when I was feeling anything but beautiful and they helped me understand all of my emotions and the chemo side effects. It became such a part of my existence, I made it a point, once I recovered, to stop any woman I spotted sporting a headscarf, hear her story and pass along words of encouragement. They are also the reason why I am so supportive of organizations like Living Beyond Breast Cancer. LBBC provides a beacon of light in the cancer darkness, guiding women to resources and support networks to assist them in finding the right match to help with their treatments and recovery

Dana was diagnosed with triple positive, infiltrative ductal carcinoma at 27. She currently lives in Philadelphia with her loving and super supportive husband. They love hiking and biking when the weather allows for it, and dancing and yoga to stay healthy! She fills her days working on AnaOno, a lingerie line for breast cancer survivors, and loves every moment of it!