Posts Tagged ‘Living Beyond Breast Cancer’

Beautifully Broken: Letters From a Girl/Woman/Human in Progress

January 29, 2014

IMG_20131207_184541LBBC would like to welcome our newest blogger Tiffany Mannino! While Tiffany has had a long-standing relationship with LBBC this is her first (of many) posts for the LBBC blog. Her entries are a bit different in that she is sharing with us personal journal entries written in letter format she penned to her unborn daughter while traveling through her breast cancer journey. This letter is an excerpt from her collection of letters which she titled Beautifully Broken: Letters From a Girl/Woman/Human in Progress in which Tiffany 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. 

November 10, 2013

Dear Lola,

Well, I cannot believe it, but it has been almost five years since I started writing to you.  It began with an insomniac moment and an incredible urge to write down all of the thoughts that were exploding in my head. It started after hearing the devastating news that the adoption I had been waiting on for over 18 months was going to fall through.  This adoption news had come on the heels of a broken engagement the previous year.   (more…)

Writing The Journey Spring Series Is Here!

January 28, 2014

Cummings-Alysa_mediumWriting can be healing. That’s the big idea behind this spring’s six part Writing the Journey series to be held at the Cherry Hill (NJ) Public Library beginning March 11th and registration is now open! The group will be facilitated by Alysa Cummings, breast cancer survivor and author of Greetings from CancerLand which can be purchased on Amazon.

 

Here she shares an excerpt from her book:

 

Magical Thinking

 

I was thinking as small children think, as if my thoughts or wishes had the power to reverse the narrative, change the outcome.
-Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

If you’re a cancer survivor like me, you just might be as guilty of it as I once was.

Guilty of magical thinking, that is.

I remember the first time it happened to me; I had been in CancerLand for a few weeks. The initial shock of the words I’m sorry, you have cancer had started wearing off, but ever so slightly. (Trust me on that one).

Slowly but surely I was taking baby steps toward my post-diagnosis “new normal.” Case in point: I could actually carry on a civil conversation with someone without crying my eyes out. This was no small feat. And let the record show that I was eating and sleeping normally again, showing up for work every morning and paying my bills on time. All things considered, we’re talking fairly high-functional here! At least, that was my goal. (more…)

“Coming Out” with Cancer – Breaking It To Your Friends

January 8, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 6 29 42 PMLBBC blogger Nikki Black was diagnosed last year with breast cancer at the age of 23. Here she discusses how she handled revealing her diagnosis to those close to her, and what she learned while doing so.

When I received the phone call from my doctor, I knew immediately she was about to give me the Bad News. Her long sigh and tight voice over the phone told me long before her actual words that I had tested positive for breast cancer.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “It’s hard, when the patient is so young.” Tell me about it.

As a young woman dealing with breast cancer, it can be difficult to break the news to your friends for a number of reasons – not the least of which is reliving the shock and sadness that comes with that diagnosis with every new phone call you make. I worried about how people would react and who was appropriate to tell. I worried that people would be upset with me for not telling them sooner, or telling them after I had told another person. I added anxiety on top of anxiety on top of that diagnosis during a time when I should have been focused on accepting the news myself.

So, if I can, I’d like to spare anyone this anxiety and share what I’ve personally learned about “coming out” with cancer to your friends.

(more…)

I Was Not Alone: How LBBC Helped Me Live Beyond Breast Cancer

December 2, 2013

Last week, Amy Lessack wrote about why she’s giving back to LBBC on #GivingTuesday. Today, we are proud to present this blog post by Debby Freedman, an LBBC volunteer who credits our organization with helpling her through her diagnosis, treatment and beyond. With one day left until the start of our #GivingTuesday activities, we hope Debby’s story will inspire you to support LBBC tomorrow and help us reach more women like her.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer about 5 years ago and I had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

I first connected with LBBC when I was in chemo.  I was still fairly newly diagnosed and I was really scared.  I needed someone to talk to who could understand what I was going through and who wouldn’t be alarmed by my fear. I called LBBC’s Breast Cancer Helpline and spoke to a fellow survivor.  The call was a huge relief to me. The LBBC Helpline volunteer reassured me and helped me feel that I was not alone in facing the fear that comes with cancer. (more…)

Giving Back to LBBC: Amy Lessack’s Story

November 27, 2013

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving will be the second annual #GivingTuesday, a national online initiative and day of giving back to charities, nonprofit organizations and important causes. Amy Lessack wrote this blog post on why she’s giving back to LBBC and why you should, too.

I recently learned about a national online initiative called #GivingTuesday and thought it was such a cool idea. The objective of the day is to have everyone everywhere donate or host charitable activities to benefit an organization of their choice the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.  Well, for me, the answer is easy:  Yes, of course I will “Give on Tuesday” and…my organization of choice is Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC)!

LBBC does amazing things for women who are diagnosed with breast cancer and really for anyone who is impacted by the disease, including family members, friends, caregivers or healthcare providers. What makes LBBC a unique organization to gravitate to is the personal touch given by the staff and the services they offer.  LBBC offers webinars, community meetings and face-to-face conferences, as well as the Breast Cancer Helpline, which is staffed by survivors who lovingly answer calls and help where they can by just listening, offering support and resources – instead of just relying on “Dr. Google.”   (more…)

The Annual Fall Conference Is This Weekend!

October 22, 2013

randi rentzLong-time LBBC blogger Randi Rentz will be attending her very first fall conference hosted by LBBC! After receiving her brochure in the mail weeks ago after much anticipation, Randi shares with us what she’s looking forward to the most…

I am super excited to attend Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s Annual Fall Conference on October 26th and October 27th at the Double Tree Hotel in Philadelphia. Wowsy. I can’t wait to get the latest information on breast cancer from some of the nation’s top experts.

Did you know Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD is one of the speakers? She is an internationally recognized expert in nutrition, chronic disease prevention, public health, and epidemiology, with over 150 invited lectures to professional and consumer audiences. Double WOWZA! (more…)

Bye Bye Right Boobie!

July 23, 2013

Jen YongPrevious LBBC blog contributor Jennifer Yong, 33 was diagnosed with Stage IIB Breast Cancer in 2011. She underwent a left-side mastectomy in June of 2012 and removed her right breast in June of 2013. She is currently awaiting full reconstruction surgery. Here is her story…

The last time I had surgery was last summer when I had my left cancerous breast removed. I made a decision early in my diagnosis that if I tested positive for the BRCA gene, I would go ahead and remove my right breast and just be done with it. I definitely never wanted to go through chemo and radiation ever again.  As time went on, my left side healed and eventually I got used to all the little scars I had but I was anxious and ready to move forward with the new surgery and get the reconstruction started.

At first my surgery was supposed to happen in April or May of this year but because of radiation and my skin healing and also doing numerous fills on my left breast, the surgery was pushed to June- which I was kind of upset about since it was the summer time and I wanted to be able to at least show off my new body but that wasn’t in the cards just yet.  I was getting so frustrated that the whole process was taking so long and I was tired of feeling constantly lopsided from one breast being bigger than the other and that wearing bras still couldn’t hide my discomfort or my non-proportional body anymore. It was time to take the sucker out!

But the next thing you know- bam! It was the night before the surgery. I remember I wasn’t really nervous or too anxious I just wanted to get it over with.  Not having anything to drink or eat after midnight was killing me more than the thought of surgery itself since I was always dehydrated from my meds.  But I pushed on.

The morning of my surgery, my mom came with me and she gave me some comfort and stayed the entire day until the procedure was over. I had a great team of doctors. Dr. Lee was my plastic surgeon and Dr. Houlihan was my breast surgeon. Together, they gave me piece of mind that I was making the right decision and that this would be a better outcome in the end. The funny thing is I really had no attachment to my boobs throughout my breast cancer experience. I was always insecure about my breasts and to put a positive spin on things, I saw this as an opportunity to change my size and feel more confident about my body.  I quietly said goodbye to my little right boob that I’ve had for 33 years and drifted into a lull of sleep.

When I woke up hours later, the same pain had returned but it wasn’t as bad as my first surgery-I got sick from the anesthesia the last time and was vomiting as soon as I woke up and I could barely move but this time they put an anti-nausea patch behind my ear and I was able to keep down liquid. The pangs of nausea came and went and I felt that familiar pinch from the drain poking out from my lovely ugly patterned hospital nightgown.  I spent 2 nights in the hospital and then my dad came to pick me up.

Recovering has been pretty tough.  The drain caused me to be nauseous and winded for long periods of time and it was hard to really move around for the first week. That, mixed in with the hot flashes from the tamoxifen, made me pretty uncomfortable- but I have a great support of wonderful friends and family and a great boyfriend who has helped me heal and move forward so it has been a little easier.

The best part is being able to heal without wearing that ugly hospital gown!

Jen is a graduate of Emerson College in Boston, MA with a BA in Visual Arts (and is still looking for a full time job!)  She loves good jazz, hip hop, art in all forms, being crafty, eating good food and she’s am glued to random makeover and reality shows on t.v. You can follow her blog here.

On July 30th LBBC will be hosting the 2nd portion of our two part webinar series on breast reconstruction. For more information or to register, please click here.

Fearless Love or Brave and Crazy

July 15, 2013

PhotoLong time LBBC blog contributor, Randi Rentz, shares her take on the latest news surrounding Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a double mastectomy after testing positive for the BRCA gene. 

***

We all know that Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy has put genetic testing in the spotlight. In fact, no one will ever do for women diagnosed with the BRCA gene what Angelina Jolie did by openly talking about her decision to have a double mastectomy. And the decision to lose both breasts is not an easy one.

 

The question is; if you were Angelina Jolie would you have made this decision and made it this public? In truth she had no reason to discuss this procedure and could have kept it to herself never alerting anyone to the surgical changes to her body. For her the toughest decision might not have been deciding on the surgery, but choosing to share the information since her fame and fortune depend on her physical properties. After all, she is no doubt one of the most famous women in the world if not the most beautiful.

 

Did she make her decision because she was brave or was it out of fear? Well, if you ask Melissa Etheridge, a breast cancer survivor and rockin’ singer, she would probably say it was out of fear. Say what?! Whoa. Those are fightin’ words. I don’t think Brad Pitt is very happy about that.

 

I guess when you mess with Angelina; you mess with Brad, too. While I don’t know why anyone would ever want to mess with Brad Pitt outside the bedroom, apparently Melissa Etheridge is taking on the celeb couple.

 

Melissa Etheridge believes that cancer comes from inside you and so much of it has to do with the environment of your body. She feels it’s the stress that will turn that gene on or not. Ok, so that’s Melissa’s belief.

 

Hmmm. I get what Melissa is saying, and she is certainly entitled to her own opinion, but I have to say, I applaud Angelina’s decision and discussion.

 

No one ever wants to go under the knife.  At the end of the day, people make different choices and go down different paths, and the one that Angelina chose is different from Melissa’s. I’m sorry, Meliss, but I don’t think that warrants criticism over one decision or the other.

 

I am sorry that Melissa went through breast cancer, and I’m sorry that Angelina had to deal with this horrific disease as well, but to Angelina Jolie I say thank you! My guess is that women all over America who know they carry the BRCA gene or suspect they should get tested are reviewing their options or bringing this issue out to reexamine it-all because Angelina Jolie is talking about it. I have not been a big fan of Angelina, but I’m pretty impressed with her now.

 

Do you see where Melissa Etheridge is coming from? Do you think she was out of line to criticize Angelina’s decision?

 

Randi Rentz, graduated with honors from The Johns Hopkins University with a Masters degree in Special Education. She was an editorial assistant for a publishing company in suburban Washington, DC before becoming a special education teacher in a school district outside Philadelphia, PA. Randi currently is an Asperger’s Support Teacher for grades kindergarten through fifth. Presently, Randi has her own consulting company for children on the Autistic Spectrum where you can see her work at   www.helpforaspergers.com. She is a proud member, supporter, and blogger for many breast cancer organizations and never leaves the house without diamonds. Visit Randi at her web site at www.randirentz.com. Be sure to check out the teaser for her upcoming book “Why Buy a Wig…When You Can Buy Diamonds!”

Vegan Macaroni and Cheese!

July 3, 2013

A few weeks ago, “Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen” authors Annette Ramke and Kendall Scott gave us some tips on how to use healthy foods to help boost our moods and ease anxiety and depression. Now, in perfect timing for 4th of July celebrations, these two regular LBBC blog contributors are back another with a calorie saving and heart healthy version of a traditional comfort food: Macaroni and Cheese.

In terms of cravings, pasta was on the top of our list during cancer treatment (well, come to think of it, pasta is really an anytime-craving!). We wanted a way to have our mac-n-cheese without feeling terrible afterward. This dish will satisfy your carb craving and — check out the ingredient list –  is literally packed with nutrition. Not like we always care – just give us our mac-n-cheese–pronto!

Squashy Macaroni and Cheeze

brown rice mac and cheese

Yield: 8 cups

Ingredients:

1 pound brown rice macaroni

1 medium butternut squash

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 cup walnuts

2 tablespoons fresh parsley

1 cup rice milk

¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes

1 tablespoon miso paste

1 tablespoon tahini

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tablespoon dulse sea vegetable flakes

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350º F. Slice open the squash, scoop out seeds and cut squash into 2-inch pieces. Place in steaming basket in a pot with 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Steam until soft; about 15-20 minutes.

While squash is steaming, cook macaroni on stove top according to package instructions for al dente pasta.

In a blender or food processor place the sunflower seeds, walnuts and parsley, and blend until crumbly. Reserve for later use.

Add about 21/4 cups of the steamed squash, along with the rice milk, nutritional yeast, miso, tahini, garlic, dulse and sea salt and pepper to blender or food processor and mix until smooth. When pasta is done cooking, drain water, rinse and combine with squash mixture. Mix until pasta is well-coated, then pour into a baking dish.

Sprinkle sunflower seed crumble over top of macaroni and bake for 30 minutes until crumbs are lightly browned.

Enjoy!

Be sure to check back soon for another lightened yet delicious recipe from Annette and Kendall! Remember, you can purchase “Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen” on amazon.com  and as always, be sure to check the LBBC website often for upcoming webinars and community meetings and have a happy 4th of July!

 

 

Surprise

June 28, 2013

crashRonda Walker Weaver continues her series for the LBBC blog by discussing the three major challenges she faced after being diagnosed with cancer: Rise, Surprise and Adventure. Here she discusses the surprises she faced including a more recent, non-cancer related surprise (photo)…

My life has been filled with surprises – those gifts that show up on my back porch, uninvited, asking to stay. I usually have to choices with surprises – accept in awe and learn, or reject with a whine, “That’s not what I wanted!”

Learning I had cancer came as a huge uninvited surprise. I was in shock for months and in some ways I am still shaking my head in disbelief. Nothing I’ve ever felt – surgeries, pregnancies, or illness could have prepared me for the assault on my body – from cancer. That’s where the surprise came – nothing, nothing prepared me for my treatments and the side-effects. But I quickly stopped my whining and began to see it as a gift filled with surprises – the beautiful surprises that were, still are, a part of my journey. The Surprise is in the Goodness that holds my hand along this journey. The goodness in knowing, and in not knowing -

Knowing I didn’t cause this, and I acted quickly – I am healthy, and my healthy choices made this process more simple than otherwise – no “wish I would have” for me.

Knowing I have insurance. As the bills are still rolling in, we hit our individual out-of-pocket max in one week, I am blessed with healthcare. I give to the roadside panhandlers, and I’ve joked that one day perhaps I’ll stand on the side of the road with a sign that says, “Need boob job,” to see how much money I can make. But medical care is a necessity of life, and I count my blessings.

Knowing I can trust those who are providing my medical care. This has been such a comfort – they have a proven track record, are the kindest folks, they are proactive, and they are happy to work with me and my requests. As well, I have friends who are circling around me to hold me up when I’m falling, to lay beside me when I am alone.

Knowing I have emotional and physical support. I am so blessed to have family and friends and colleagues who care about me – I have so little to give right now, and they are giving so much (two types of soup in the fridge, a loaf of homemade bread, and warm apple cake, e-mails, cards, messages, music, a book).

Knowing Scott (my husband) is devoted to me. Oh he is a good man, he serves me gently, lovingly, patiently. I vacillate between tears of gratitude and tears of frustration and pain, and Scott holds me close. He is my rock. Even with the death of his father during all of this, he stands strong.

Knowing there is a plan – there has to be a gold lining in all of this – and I am hyper-aware that I need to be learning and growing from my experiences, so they are not in vain. While I have counted down my treatment calendar, I have not wished this time away. Writing, as a way to sort things out has been great therapy for me. This really is an “age of miracles and wonder.”

Goodness also comes in the not knowing as well:

Not knowing who or where I’ll be nine months from now, or even tomorrow – that’s part of the adventure and risk I’m willing to take on this journey. It’s part of the surprise – it is the excitement, even in the thick of things.

Not knowing what the plan is – I don’t believe “God must really love you to give you this,” or “God only gives you what you can handle.” Nope, not gonna buy this, there’s too much pain and hatred in this world, and knowing these statements, well, that’s discounting agency, choice, beauty, reality. This is not the God I believe in.

Not knowing has forced me to live in the moment, and this is something I must learn – I must learn it is good to not know.

 ***

A week post radiation my husband and I bought ourselves a post-treatment gift – hybrid bicycles – for road and trail riding. We put them in our pickup and headed to Southern Utah for a week of rest and relaxation and riding. I have fallen into materialistic love with my bike, and I have enjoyed the freedom it allows me, and the knowledge that this exercise is goodness for my mind and spirit. Until . . . two weeks ago I crashed on my bike. My bike flew one way; I flew the other, landing on my left side, elbow first. I am writing this post with one hand. I had emergency surgery to reassemble my elbow. I have stress fractures in my wrist, my hand, and my right foot. I also have some nice bruises! Crashing is the surprise, the goodness comes in the knowing that heck, I’ve had cancer; I’m not going to let a boot and a cast ruin my happiness. But I am going to rest! And no more surprises – right now I prefer “knowing.”

Ronda is 54 years old, she eats right, exercises daily, and there is no history of cancer in her family, yet she was diagnosed with breast cancer on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. She teaches folklore and writing at Utah Valley University and works for an online education company, LearningU. She loves reading, listening to music, gardening, walking and riding her bike, traveling, and spending time with her grandchildren, children, and her dear husband – who has been her pillar of strength through her journey. She also writes her own blog called Folklady’s Adventures. Be sure to check back soon for the 3rd installment of her story!

The staff at LBBC would like to wish Ronda a speedy recovery!

For more information about Living Beyond Breast Cancer please visit www.lbbc.org or like us on Facebook.


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