Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Recommended Reading, Part I: “Butterfly Wishes on Wings” and “It’s Always Something”

October 29, 2013

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) 2013 comes to a close, our dedicated staff, volunteers and contributors want to share recommended reading that will inspire you, make you laugh and, above all, help you realize you are not alone. First up, regular blog contributor Ronda Walker Weaver and LBBC board member and long-time volunteer, Margaret Zuccotti, review books that have personally impacted them during their breast cancer journeys. Margaret reviews “Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings: When someone you love has cancer…a hopeful, helpful book for kids,” written by Ellen McVicker and illustrated by Nanci Hersh, and Ronda writes about the late comedienne and Saturday Night Live performer Gilda Radner’s “It’s Always Something.”

Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings: When someone you love has cancer…a hopeful, helpful book for kids (Written by Ellen McVicker and illustrated by Nanci Hersh, self-published 2008)

“The other day my mom went to the doctor. She didn’t even look sick, but she said she had to go anyway.” And so opens the story “Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings-When someone you love has cancer…a hopeful, helpful book for kids” written by Ellen McVicker and illustrated by Nanci Hersh.

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Unveiling the Cancer Insurance Checklist!

September 27, 2013

As we find ourselves just a few days away from the opening of states’ Health Insurance Marketplaces/Exchanges established as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Living Beyond Breast Cancer is pleased to announce the launch of the Cancer Insurance Checklist, a resource developed in partnership with 18 other cancer and healthcare advocacy organizations, with the generous financial support of Novartis Oncology. 

Cancer Insurance Checklist_Banner Ad_FINAL

An estimated 7 million uninsured or underinsured people will be using the Health Insurance Marketplaces/Exchanges  to obtain health insurance coverage in 2014. Knowing this, Living Beyond Breast Cancer is pleased to present the Cancer Insurance Checklist , a tool designed with several partner organizations specifically to help those with a history of, at risk of developing, or presently diagnosed with cancer find the insurance plan within their budget that best meets their healthcare coverage needs.

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Our New Vision and Mission

August 20, 2013

2012JeanSachsHeadshotVer2Web

This morning, Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s CEO Jean Sachs released the following message to our friends and supporters:

Dear Friends:

All of us at Living Beyond Breast Cancer are excited to share our new vision and mission statements with you:

Our new vision

A world where no one impacted by breast cancer feels uninformed or alone.

Our new mission

To connect people with trusted breast cancer information and a community of support.

These new statements were developed with the help of over 1,200 of you who responded to a survey we sent out earlier this year. Your input was used in a day-long retreat with members of the board of directors and staff. We learned what LBBC services are valued most and why so many have come to depend on our educational programs and services that allow for connection to others diagnosed with breast cancer.

For me, these new statements say with clarity what we strive to do every day and what we hope to achieve over time. Yesterday, I spoke with a long-time friend who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.  She was overwhelmed, scared and shocked. Our conversation and the resources I was able to put in her hands grounded her and provided her with enough comfort and confidence to take the next step.

This is what LBBC does every day, and it is exactly what the new vision and mission statements express.

I hope you share my enthusiasm and, as always, if you have comments I would love to hear from you.

Warmly,

Jean 

Jean A. Sachs, MSS, MLSP

Chief Executive Officer

LBBC

A Different Type of Survivor

June 18, 2013

Patricia Brett Patricia Brett, designer and founder of Veronica Brett, a luxury line of swimwear made specifically for women with breast cancer and those who have had risk-reducing mastectomies, will be blogging throughout the summer for LBBC  about her history with breast cancer and giving tips on how to enjoy the warmer months and feel sexy on the beach. Here, as an introduction, she shares her story about testing positive for the BRCA1 gene in conjunction with a significant family history of breast cancer.

I’m not a breast cancer survivor. I’ve never had breast cancer and I hope and pray I never hear the words “You have cancer”.

Yet for someone who has never been diagnosed with breast cancer I certainly have some pretty significant scars across the middle of my chest. Why? I’m a “previvor”.

Like Angelina Jolie and so many courageous, yet unknown women before her, I elected to remove my breasts to save my life.

At the time of my risk-reducing bilateral mastectomy back in January 2003 (has it really been 10 years?) people thought I was nuts. They didn’t understand why a woman with “healthy breasts” would ever have them removed. Healthy is a relative term.

When I was a kid growing up, I lost three aunts to breast cancer. I always thought it was some type of pollution in the water or the land back in Ohio where my father and his family were raised. By the time I was 18 he had lost three of his six sisters to breast cancer.

It turns out it wasn’t the water but the genes that contributed to their cancers. As Angelina referred to them in her NY Times Op Ed piece when she became public about her surgery, “faulty genes”. For me the faulty gene has a name: BRCA1, and the mutation has a number: Q1200X.

Like survivors who know the specifics of their diagnosis (stage 1, ER+, HER2-) I know my number, Q1200X. It’s that specific mutation on that particular gene that gave me an 85% chance of getting breast cancer and a 55% risk of ovarian cancer.

But it wasn’t the gene alone. What also contributed to my risk was family history. Not only did I loose three aunts to breast cancer, my sister and many first cousins have been diagnosed with breast cancer. In total honesty I have now lost count, but the actual number is something greater than six. One cousin has also been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Fortunately for us, all have survived.

So yes, the breast went in 2003, the ovaries back in 2007 (a significantly harder surgery than I ever imagined, story to be told at another time).

And now, I call myself a “previvor”, a person who has survived the increased risk of inherited breast or ovarian cancer, a term coined by FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, a group dedicated to providing information to women at risk of these cancers.

I’ve never called myself a “survivor”. I don’t know what it means to hear those words or to face that diagnosis. Yet so many women I have met over the years say I am a survivor. When I attended my first “young survivor” conference (now known as C4YW) in Jacksonville in 2008, they told me I was a survivor. “You’ve had four surgeries in two years and a double mastectomy, of course you’re a survivor!” I was told by one amazing young woman sporting her multi colored leis indicating her status as a five-year breast cancer survivor.

I can’t possibly imagine what it is like to learn you have cancer and I believe I have done everything I can to make certain I never hear the words “you have cancer” (full disclosure- I could still cut out the red meat and get more exercise!)

But I will never call myself a survivor. Out of respect to all the women and men who wear that mantle, I will always stay the simple “previvor”.

You’ll hear from me from time to time as I have been invited to blog for LBBC.

I’ll be sharing my story, along with fashion tips on surviving beautifully including some posts dedicated to swimwear for survivors. If you have questions for me or suggestions for blogs, I can be reached at: pbrett@veronicabrett.com

Stay healthy and sexy-

Patricia

Patricia Brett is the Founder & Designer of Veronica Brett, the first luxury collection of swimwear created especially for breast cancer survivors. After loosing three aunts to breast cancer, watching her sister battle the disease, and having her own bilateral mastectomy, Patricia created Veronica Brett to empower women to look and feel their best again.  Patricia has been profiled in O, The Oprah Magazine, Harper’s BAZAAR, CNNMoney.com, ABC evening news, as well as numerous fashion publications. She has a Master of Architecture from Yale University and resides in Manhattan with her husband and son.

A Plane In The Sky

June 3, 2013

A little poetry for your Monday! Courtesy of Suzin Glickman:

My Father was an Officer in the Air Force.

He was a  pilot.

He flew planes in the “Big One”, WWII

He is 96 and a cat with 9 lives.

I am his daughter.

——

I don’t really want to be a plane – literally,

But, in a poetic sense

If I were a plane

I would be…

(not want to be but would be now)

 

A War Bird,

As they were gloriously referred to in

“The Big One”

 

My engines are not firing on all fours

(Not in the sense I am mentally not with it, rather as a result of battle)

Low on fuel;

Flying on

Through this dark and stormy night

The plane, me, keeps flying

The odds building against it

Turbulence

Additional tactical problems arise

My sleek body is rattled with bullet holes;

Paint dull and chipping

Landing gear not functioning properly

Radio contact with tower spotty

 

Yet, me, the plane,

intends to accomplish it’s

Mission

See it through fruition

Attacked,

Battered,

Tossed about

 

The pilot will not bail,

The plane and mission will not fail

Failure, a NASA expression,

Is not an option

This plane will not crash and burn in a Fiery wreck

It will land

With as much grace

As its war torn shell can muster

Beating all odds

Mission accomplished

 

Not its final mission

Whatever patching

And touch up that can be done

Will be seen to

It will prepare

As best it can

For its next dangerous mission

 

I want to be the plane

Which despite all expectations otherwise

Stays up in the sky

And keeps flying.

Suzin Glickman May 18, 2013

SuzinGlickman

Suzin Glickman is a former Long Island girl, survivor, professor, lawyer, mother, wife and daughter who found writing and creative expression to be one of the most therapeutic and inspiring ways to cope and heal from her cancer diagnosis.  She is pleased to share some of her favorite original poems with the LBBC blog readers. You can find more of her poetry at SuzesMuses.blogspot.com.

Cancer: A Risk, A Surprise, And Certainly An Adventure

May 14, 2013

RondaWalkerRonda Walker Weaver, LBBC‘s newest blog contributor and soon to be regular contributor, shares her story about her diagnosis and how it made her step outside of her comfort zone and learn to accept the new changes in her life.

I am 54; I teach writing at our local university and I work for an education company in my spare time. I am the proud grandmother of 16 grandchildren! I found a lump in my breast on Thursday Aug. 30, 2012, and by the following Wednesday I had a diagnosis of cancer and surgery the following Wednesday – Stage 1 Grade 3 Invasive Ductile Carcinoma, Triple Negative. Twelve days from finding to removing (nothing in the nodes or surrounding tissue). I was told I’d need 8 biweekly chemotherapy treatments and then 35 radiation treatments. No one in my family has had cancer; cancer has never ever been in my vocabulary.  I knew I could not go on this journey alone, and so I invited friends and family to join me. I figured the prayers and positive thoughts would be enough to bear me up. I learned my life was out of my control, and I had to live moment by moment, not only trusting others, but actually needing others to care for me. No plans – just prayers.

I’m not one to run away – I am not one to live in fear – I will walk away from anger, hurt, betrayal, poison, but I prefer negotiating, talking things through, working things out, coming to some sort of compromise. I believe in education, intuition, and inspiration.

Yet I’m not really a risk-taker, unless a risk is defined as driving down a road without a map, or pushing myself at the gym. I won’t put my physical self in any place that might be risky – I don’t like heights, I’m not a great swimmer, I’m probably not going to sky dive anytime soon. I like intellectual risks though – what a rush it is to learn, to discover, and to know I can learn – bring it on!

I prefer “looking forward to,” over “surprise.” I love adventure, but I want to know a little about what I am embarking on. Over our back door we have the phrase, “Go out for adventure, come home for love.”  I like planning, that’s part of the adventure, part of the journey – it’s like receiving a gift card for Christmas, and then using it, 2 gifts for the price of 1!

And here stands cancer.  A risk, a surprise, and certainly an adventure. However – fear, get thee away. I will learn what I can, listen to my own body, and pray for inspiration – it is already arriving.

What I’m learning:

1. Acknowledge it – Breast Cancer

2. Don’t blame – it’s not heredity, not second hand smoke, not diet. It just is. Why me? Why not me.

3. Listen to myself – I was told “something” was coming my way, here it is.

4. Time – a dear friend of mine taught me, “Give it time, the answer will manifest itself.” Reminds me of the tune, “You Can’t Hurry Love.” Time is of the essence, but all I have is time.

5. Get out of my comfort zone – My comfort zone is this, do, do, do, busy, help, seek, find, do, do, do. Now I will learn to be still – again.

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.

Reset

May 9, 2013

???????????????????????????????LBBC would like to introduce Lucille Kasprack, a woman living with metastatic breast cancer who hasn’t allowed it to get in the way of fulfilling one of her most important dreams of being a professional artist! Here she shares her inspirational story about how she turned her diagnosis into a positive experience that ultimately changed her life in more ways than one…

Wow! If someone had told me 10 years ago that in May 2013 I would be exhibiting my artwork in a gallery in New York City I would have thought they were dreaming or a little bit crazy. But that is exactly what has happened to me after a long struggle with breast cancer. My journey started in 2003 with a diagnosis of Stage 1 breast cancer and we all know how frightening it is to receive that news. I decided I was going to tackle this head on; with my husband being my support, my art becoming my refuge, and God becoming my strength. Once surgery and radiation was over, little by little I felt like my old self again except for one difference. My approach to life was changed completely; nothing would be taken for granted ever again. Now my husband and family and my art became much more important to me. I set new goals for myself: appreciate and see my family more; and work hard at my art to become a better painter. And for the next 5 years that is what I did. We had more family get togethers and I took a lot of art classes and workshops and worked daily on my paintings.

In 2008, at my 5 year breast cancer check-up, an MRI and CT scan showed a spot under my left arm and 2 in my chest. A biopsy confirmed Stage 4 metastatic cancer. I now had to face the fact I will never be free of this cancer and I will have to reset new goals for myself. Those goals were to have more fun times with friends and family, and to not just work at painting but to work to become a professional artist, and to place my life in God’s hands. I started entering my paintings in juried art shows and exhibits and to my surprise they were not only accepted but also won prizes.

In 2011, I had to have thoracic surgery because the cancer had spread to my pleura. However, after chemo treatments and subsequent hospitalizations, my last PET scans have remained stable.

Then came 2012 and that “Wow” happened.  In the Spring I was contacted by the Agora Gallery in NYC stating that they saw my work on my website and were very impressed and requested that I submit a portfolio of my work for their review. At first, I didn’t believe it and then in time I realized what a great opportunity this was and I sent in my portfolio. A few weeks later I was informed that they would like to include my work in a future exhibit. I definitely said yes!  It turned out to be a lot of work but the end result is that my work will be on display in NYC from May 11 -31 with an artist’s reception on May 16, 2013. What an amazing journey! Never give up! I reached my goal and I am now a professional artist. I also received additional blessings. My fourth grandchild, Ashley, was born on November 13, 2012 and I continue to have stable PET scans!

Lucille is a 10 year breast cancer survivor and lives in New Jersey with her husband. She has 2 children and 4 grandchildren. Her husband is a retired school administrator and she is a retired  teacher but she continues to work daily on painting and drawing. She loves to experiment with different materials to keep it new and interesting. You can view her artwork on her website at http://lucillesartgallery.sharepoint.com!

Give LBBC Your Feedback About Peggy Orenstein’s New York Times Article, “Our Feel-Good War on Cancer”

May 3, 2013

2012JeanSachsHeadshotVer2WebBy Jean A. Sachs, MSS, MLSP, Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s chief executive officer 

Journalist Peggy Orenstein ignited a debate when she explored the limits of mammography screening and the dangers of overtreatment for breast cancer in her New York Times Magazine article, “Our Feel-Good War on Cancer” (April 25, 2013).

For many in the breast cancer community, Ms. Orenstein’s observations come as no surprise. We know survival rates for women with metastatic disease have not changed, despite the widespread adoption of breast cancer screening. That women with ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, often receive the same treatments as those with invasive disease—along with the related side effects and emotional distress. That more and more women choose prophylactic mastectomy after a diagnosis of DCIS or early-stage disease. And that our sisters with stage IV breast cancer remain silenced, isolated and underserved.

Still, the article introduced thousands of people to the realities of breast cancer today. As we talked about it at the LBBC office, we had many questions. How did this piece impact you and your loved ones? We want to know:

  • What is your perspective?
  • What questions does this article prompt for you?
  • What are your concerns for your health or well-being, based on what you learned?
  • Which issues deserve more discussion?

Based on your feedback, Living Beyond Breast Cancer will design a program to help further discussion. Please post your comments below, and our staff will review them.

Blessings In Disguise

April 16, 2013

LBBC would like to introduce multi-award-winning author Helen Brown as our newest blog contributor! Helen has written two novels since her breast cancer diagnosis and her latest, ‘Cats & Daughters’, will be reviewed by a regular LBBC blog contributor in the coming weeks so stop by soon for what we’re sure will be an excellent review!

Helen Brown-photo credit James Braund - SM

The best part of my life began with breast cancer.

I wouldn’t have believed that nearly five years ago when I had the mastectomy. But looking back I can honestly say the years since that traumatic event have brought more happiness and success than any other period of my adult life.

I was part way through writing my memoir Cleo when a routine mammogram revealed a large growth.

When the doctor diagnosed ductal cancer I told her I was too busy to be sick. I was writing a book about our black cat Cleo and how she’d helped our family recover from the loss of our nine year-old son in 1983.

Cleo had died a couple of years earlier at the age of 23 and a half. I wanted to honor her and give hope to other parents who’d lost children. Even though I couldn’t find a publisher and agents scattered on approach, this book needed writing.

While I was recovering after surgery, I crept back to the computer and completed the manuscript. Then to my delight, an Australian publisher sent a contract.

When an editor sent 15 pages of suggested changes, my heart sank. Still, cancer wasn’t far from my mind. If this was to be my last book it had to be my best.

I was astonished when Cleo was published in the US and became a New York Times best seller. It’s now published in more than 16 languages and a movie’s in development. I still sometimes have to pinch myself.

With Cleo’s success I received countless emails asking for a sequel. As it turned out there was plenty more to write about for my new book, Cats and Daughters.

Not long after the mastectomy, a rambunctious Siamese burst in on our lives. Galloping through the house, smashing vases, shredding the stair carpet, he drove me nuts. Jonah also made me laugh till my stitches hurt.

Our new cat’s rebellious spirit was mirrored in our elder daughter, Lydia. At the age of 23, after a brilliant academic career, she rejected Western society – and, I thought, her mother. To my horror, she shaved her head and flew to war-torn Sri Lanka to become a Buddhist nun.

It took a while to realize Lydia hadn’t abandoned me. She was simply redefining our relationship, insisting I pull back and allow her freedom. These days we’re very close.

Likewise, it wasn’t till I learned to relax about some of Jonah’s outrageous behavior that life with him became easier.

At an age I thought I’d be tending roses I’m traveling the world meeting publishers, readers and media. Emails roll in from Russia, Italy, Brazil.

If it hadn’t been for breast cancer and the determination it brought to make the most of life I doubt any of this would’ve happened.

Breast cancer made me take risks. I stopped putting things off and stretched my abilities to the limit.

With a good prognosis now, I savor beauty in every moment, open my heart to strangers and never leave a loving thought unsaid.

For these reasons I’m deeply grateful.

***

Helen Brown was born and brought up in New Zealand, where she first worked as a journalist, TV presenter, and scriptwriter. A multi-award-winning columnist, Helen now lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her family and feline. Cleo, her first novel, rose to the top of the bestseller lists in its first weeks in the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, France, and Australia, and has been translated into more than sixteen languages. It is currently being made into a major motion picture by South Pacific Pictures (the makers of Whale Rider). Her new memoir, CATS & DAUGHTERS, came out on March 26, 2013. 

Visit Helen Brown online at www.helenbrown.com.

Cats & Daughters

What, Me…Cancer??

April 11, 2013

On Tuesday we introduced first time contributor Sandi Dennis to the Living Beyond Breast Cancer Blog.  Sandi is a long time supporter of LBBC who grew up in Philly and attended Philadelphia High School for Girls (where she is looking forward to her 40th reunion in 2014!). She majored in journalism at Penn State and worked as a TV news reporter in Columbia, South Carolina, prior to attending University of South Carolina Law School. Today she practices FDA/healthcare law, and policy, including work for companies and nonprofits in oncology and patient advocacy.  She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband, daughter and a dog named Lulu. Here is part two of her story.

SandyDennis

On that day of the LBBC Yoga on the Steps Fundraiser in DC,  my sneaky triple negative breast cancer in fact was not gone, only as yet undetected.  And that 95% chance of non-recurrence? Well, somebody has to be in that 5%.  So much for my faith in statistics.   In early November 2012, a trip to the dentist and a routine x-ray showed something odd. “You don’t have a history of breast cancer, do you? I had a patient with breast cancer that metastasized to her jaw . .  .”  Well, my jaw dropped open, and then clenched through a roller coaster week of scans of my head, bones and brain (all normal), and a full body pet scan that showed metastases of my breast cancer to four sites—all soft tissue/lymph nodes.  In the world of Stage IV disease, I am very very early . .   . my cancer is virtually in its infancy. And I have every intention of keeping it there.  I am stunting your growth, you little b . .  .d!!

Wrong assumption # 5: stage IV is a death sentence.  I did not know that stage IV could be livable.  I truly thought that—except in rare instances—stage IV patients were down for the count.  I now understand that with current treatment I am likely to live for 20ish years (at which point I’ll be 75, which sounds way far away to me), and with treatment advances that are likely to emerge in the next decade, I’ll likely live longer than that–maybe even to my original target age of 90. (For some reason at age 45, I decided that 90 was a good ending point.)

I have just completed five rounds of chemotherapy, and am nearing the end of treatment.  The chemo was actually less fatiguing and I experienced fewer side effects this time.   I kept my hair, which shallow but true, makes me feel good about myself.  And I really, really don’t look sick at all, unless one notices my port.  I do suddenly have lymphedema in my right arm, a side effect of having fewer/less functional lymph nodes—even though those lymph nodes were removed surgically almost three years ago.  It’s always something.  But most importantly, the chemo is working! After three rounds, a scan showed that all four cancer sites had decreased in size by about 50%.  These numbers I can handle.  Hallelujah!  Thank you higher powers, and thank you drug developers, doctors, nurses, and everyone else that played a role in this.  Cancer, you’re going down.

Granted, I don’t always feel or act so tough.  Having a lifelong chronic disease is a life change that I haven’t quite wrapped my arms around yet. How exactly does one move on with life, and yet live from scan to scan? I feel like my cancer is a stalker that we may have driven away for awhile, but that is lingering nearby and can move back in at anytime.  My lifelong goal will be to keep him away from the good body parts.

In the meantime, I will continue to do the work I feel passionate about; work out, practice yoga, learn to meditate; be a loving mother, wife, sister, aunt, and friend; get pedicures, and buy rockin’ shoes.  Albeit, I will do all of these things as a cancer patient.  It’s not what I wanted or planned on, but it’s what I’ve got. And we don’t always get to choose.

You can continue to follow Sandi’s story by visiting her own blog, Cancer Diva 4 Ever and be sure to visit the LBBC blog for future posts by Sandi!

As we mentioned on Tuesday, LBBC will host its Annual Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer  Saturday, April 13 and Sunday, April 14 at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel.  The conference is designed to address the complex medical, social and emotional challenges that women diagnosed with metastatic disease, their families and their caregivers experience. To learn more about the conference visit lbbc.org.  In addition, on April 17, LBBC and the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation will conduct a free webinar at 12:00 p.m. EST.  Also accessible by phone, the webinar’s featured guest is Dr. George W. Sledge Jr. Chief, Division of Oncology, Professor of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine.  During the call, you’ll hear about today’s standard of care in treating breast cancer that tests negative for the estrogen, progesterone and HER2 neu receptors and gain insight on making the treatment decisions that are right for you.  In addition, how to access clinical trials and get an insider’s look at the latest research on the horizon will also be discussed. Register online or call (610) 645-4567.


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