Archive for the ‘fear’ Category

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.

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.

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.

What, Me . . . .Cancer??

April 9, 2013

Today, we welcome 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.  

 

SandyDennis

I know far more about breast cancer than I ever thought I would.  In almost three years, I have gone from knowing a bit more than the average bear (as a healthcare lawyer I have worked with biopharmaceutical companies on treatment advances), to knowing a respectable amount.  And since breast cancer has now become part of my forever, I think I’m heading towards PhD status. Much of what I have learned has altered some of my basic assumptions: of who will be a breast cancer patient (not me, of course), what treatment is involved, what chemotherapy is like, and who will have a recurrence/metastatic disease (again, of course, not me!).

I was wrong on all counts.

First, I couldn’t count on lack of family history, my generally healthy lifestyle and overall excellent health, or regular mammograms and exams.  Cancer thumbed its nose at all of that. In April 2010–while trying to print out my boarding pass for a trip to Mexico and a week of intensive yoga, hiking, and vegetarian meals—I felt a lump just above my right breast.  I was not doing a self-breast exam; I think I was scratching under my arm.  If my Internet connection had been faster, I likely would not have found it.

Second, once I swallowed the “you have breast cancer” news (and bought a fabulous pair of retro-vintage high heeled mary janes in ecru lace with black leather trim), I thought I was just meeting with my surgeon to schedule a surgery date.

photo

(said mary janes)

I went alone, planned to drive to my office afterwards, hopefully in time for a late-morning meeting.  What was the big deal? Just a lumpectomy, I thought, maybe an estrogen-lowering drug . . .  but no, a diagnosis I’d never heard of: “triple negative . .   chemotherapy . .  you will lose your beautiful hair . . . “  I could not swallow those words.  The shoes did not help.  I called my two best friends who came to get me and my car, and stayed with me until my husband could get home.  He proceeded to refinance our mortgage at a lower rate.  I have no recollection of what I did for the rest of that day.

Third, I assumed chemo patients were pale, thin, and sickly, and expected to have my head in the toilet for days. Here, the reality was better than my assumptions. While chemo is no day at the beach, it can be livable and tolerable.  I worked, continued my workouts and yoga, and never felt nauseous, thanks to the advances in treatment of chemo side effects.  I got pedicures, which I once would’ve thought were verboten for chemo patients. I actually gained a bit of weight from steroids, and I never really looked sick, unless someone caught a glimpse of me without one of my wigs on (which did occur in yoga—95 degrees and sweat are not good for wigs!)

Fourth, once I got through surgery, chemo, and radiation, my “beautiful” hair grew back, and I became less fatigued (although fatigue never completely went away), I thought I was home free.  My chance of recurrence was decreasing every year, and at this point was only about 5%.  On October 14, 2012–exactly 2 1/2 years out AND my 56 1/2 year birthday– I proudly participated in LBBC’s Yoga on the Steps fundraiser in DC,  and was the top individual fundraiser.  (Yay me, and yay, my generous, thoughtful friends and family!) I was called up to the stage and given the microphone & announced that I was cancer-free, exactly halfway through my five year milestone. Yay me, yay science and medicine, yay life!

Wrong again, Mary Lou.

You’ll find the second half of Sandi’s first LBBC blog story on Thursday.  In the meantime, you can learn more about Sandi by visiting her own blog, Cancer Diva 4 Ever.

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.

“Yes darlin’, – it does.”

March 6, 2013

crop3
                                       

If we followed format, this is where we’d introduce you to LBBC’s newest blogger, Laura Renegar, with a few polite lines that could never  do justice to this amazingly talented and funny lady.  We’re still laughing over this offering of honesty:

When I had expanders in my chest they kind of formed a shelf below my collar bone. When I was sick and in bed and would eat propped up, I would CONSTANTLY have toast crumbs or Oreo crumbs on that “shelf” on my chest. Once I found a whole chocolate chip sitting there and once I found a piece of turkey. There are funny moments during expansion and reconstruction. 

Here is the first of a planned series of blogs where Laura will share her experiences as a woman diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer.

On March 1, 2011, I received the call that every woman dreads. I was at work, sitting at my desk, holding my cell phone that showed the name of my OB/GYN calling. My mind debated about not answering the phone, but quickly considered the possibility that this phone call could be good news. When I answered that call, my life, and the life of my family and friends would be forever changed. “You have breast cancer” my doctor said, “I am sorry.” We talked for a few minutes as I sat numbly at my desk writing the name and number of the surgeon he suggested on a small piece of scrap paper.

A few days later my husband and I met my surgeon and his nurse. Right in the beginning of the appointment the doctor said “can I joke with you?” Are you kidding me? This was my kind of doctor! Not only did I want him to be able to joke with me, I needed him to be able to joke with me. No matter how serious breast cancer can be, I needed my medical team to be brutally honest, caring, and compassionate yet able to lighten some of the moments with a joke or some laughter.

My surgeon recommended genetic testing and I agreed to see a genetic counselor for my BRCA test. I had the blood test and genetic counseling and the waiting began. One week became two weeks. My insurance company was negotiating with the genetic testing company about my coverage for this $3,400 blood test. Two weeks! My surgeon scheduled my lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy because he couldn’t allow my cancer to continue to grow and spread while waiting for the insurance company to make a decision. At this point I began to realize that my cancer was most likely aggressive. I was told that my cancer would be staged, and further diagnosed, when the tumor was removed during the lumpectomy. I felt lost and left somewhat in the dark. Every day seemed as if we were hurrying up for a test or an appointment and then we were waiting. I felt like we were always waiting for a call, an answer, or a test result. I felt immediate relief the night of the lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy surgery, knowing that my cancer had been removed. I was very happy to have the surgery behind me, but little did I know that my real roller coaster ride was just beginning.

Two days after my surgery I got a phone call from the genetics counselor. Once again, a phone call that I was hoping was going to deliver good news – but I heard hard news instead. The phone call began with “I am sorry to tell you this, two days after your surgery, but your BRCA test came back positive yesterday.” What? The BRCA2 gene mutation put a whole different spin on my diagnosis. Now I felt as if I was at the bottom of the roller coaster loop and I began researching. My odds of getting breast cancer were obviously 100% (since I already had it) and the test showed my odds of getting ovarian cancer were over 50%. But what does this test say, and prove, about my chance of recurrence? I was recuperating from the surgery yet my mind and heart were nagged by this BRCA test result and worrying already about a recurrence. Five more days passed and we still had not gotten news on my pathology report from my lumpectomy. No news is good news right? Eight days after my lumpectomy, I was at work, and my phone rang; it was my surgeon’s nurse. No news was good news! My lymph nodes were negative for cancer and he was able to get clear margins. I am ecstatic, we are all celebrating and dancing around, and now I feel like I am on one of the upper tracks of my roller coaster ride.

Clear margins AND clean lymph nodes? How blessed am I? I am on the top of the world!

The next day I receive another phone call, this time it is with the result of my her2 neu test. I was still riding high on the lack of cancerous activity in my lymph nodes and the fact that he was able to get clear margins. My surgeon stated that my her2 neu test came back negative. I got very quiet and said to my surgeon, “this means I am triple negative, doesn’t it?”

He paused on the other end of the phone and said “Yes darlin’, – it does.”

On April 17, LBBC and the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation will host 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.

In addition, you can order a free copy of LBBC’s Guide to Understanding Triple-Negative Breast Cancer,  that offers helpful information, whether you have just been diagnosed or you are moving forward after treatment.

Be sure to check out Laura’s blogtoo!

LBBC to host 7th annual conference for women living with metastatic breast cancer

February 13, 2013

 

MBCBannerForWeb

Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) has opened registration for its 7th annual conference for women living with metastatic breast cancer.  The event, Enhancing Your Health and Quality of Life, takes place Saturday, April 13 – Sunday April 14, 2013 at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel.

Breast cancer is considered metastatic when it spreads from the breast to another part of the body such as the lungs, bones, liver or brain.  There are approximately 152,000 women in the United States currently living with metastatic breast cancer and estimates indicate that advances in treatment and care will push that number to 164,000 by the year 2015.1

Previous conferences have attracted attendees from across the country by featuring leading national health care and wellness experts who present specialized plenary sessions and over a dozen workshops designed to address the complex medical, social and emotional situations many women experience when diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. As in past years, workshops for family members and caregivers will also be offered.

Conference attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions about current research and clinical trials, treatment options and quality-of-life concerns. Additionally, attendees are given the chance to meet, connect and network with hundreds of women facing similar challenges expanding their peer support network. Travel grants and fee waivers, provided by Susan G. Komen for the Cure, are available for those who qualify.

LBBC’s highly specialized programming for women living with stage IV breast cancer stems from the nonprofit’s 2006 release of Silent Voices: Women with Advanced (Metastatic) Breast Cancer Share Their Needs and Preferences for Information, Support and Practical Resources. In this extensive report, LBBC consultants Musa Mayer, MS, MFA, and Susan E. Grober, PhD, reported their findings from a survey of 618 women living with stage IV disease. The survey focused in great detail on their use of and preferences for services in three domains: information, support and resources. The data revealed insights on the information, support and practical needs of women living with metastatic breast cancer so LBBC could address the gaps in tailored resources for this population.

To do this, LBBC created not only their annual conference but a variety of other resources.  Since the report’s release, a special subsection of lbbc.org just for women with metastatic disease has been significantly expanded, free webinars and regional community meetings feature topics of appeal specifically to the metastatic breast cancer community and the LBBC Guides to Understanding Breast Cancer: Metastatic Series includes specialty titles: Treatment Options for Today and Tomorrow, Managing Stress and Anxiety, Symptoms and Treatment Side Effects, Understanding Palliative Care and LBBC’s newest publication, Guide for the Newly Diagnosed.

Visit lbbc.org to register online and download an event brochure. To register by phone or for additional information, call (610) 645-4567.

The conference would not be possible without the support of the event’s presenting travel grant and fee waiver sponsor Susan G Komen for the Cure®. Other event supporters include Title Sponsor Genentech. 

1 Data on File. 1006812. AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP. Wilmington, DE.

 

LBBC is currently seeking women living with metastatic breast cancer or their caregivers who would be interested in sharing their stories. Leading up the conference, we’ll feature these first-person accounts here on the LBBC blog and promote them via lbbc.org, Facebook and Twitter.  If you would like to tell others your story, or have any questions, please contact LBBC’s Kevin Gianotto via email at kevin@lbbc.org.

 

Living Beyond Breast Cancer and Metastatic Breast Cancer Network Release New Publication

January 8, 2013

For Immediate Release:

GUIDE FOR THE NEWLY DIAGNOSED JOINS GROWING RESOURCE LIBRARY FOR WOMEN WITH STAGE IV DISEASE

MBCS: Newly Diagnosed

January 8, 2013; Philadelphia, PA | Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) and the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network (MBCN) have announced the release of a free publication to help address the needs women have in the first months following a diagnosis of metastatic (stage IV) breast cancer. The Metastatic Breast Cancer Series: Guide for the Newly Diagnosed is the newest title in LBBC’s growing library of Guides to Understanding Breast Cancer, free publications designed specifically to empower women with the information needed to make the best and most informed decisions for themselves and their families when facing a breast cancer diagnosis and considering options for treatment and disease management.

As someone living with metastatic breast cancer, Shirley Mertz knows firsthand of the physical and emotional impact of a stage IV diagnosis. Mertz, the president of MBCN, reflected on her personal experience and commented, “Most new metastatic breast cancer patients feel overwhelmed with anxiety and a loss of control over their lives. This new publication will remind women that knowledge is power, help them find courage to educate themselves about metastatic breast cancer and hopefully open the door to better treatment selection and outcomes.”

The Metastatic Breast Cancer Series: Guide for the Newly Diagnosed is designed to help women navigate the first few days, weeks and months after a first-time, stage IV breast cancer diagnosis or metastatic recurrence. The guide focuses on medical, emotional and practical concerns with the goal of helping readers to understand the biology of metastatic disease, form questions they may need or want to ask and provide available resources that improve emotional and physical wellness.

“Living Beyond Breast Cancer and the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network worked together to create this resource to help women become their best advocates,” said Jean A. Sachs, MSS, MLSP, LBBC’s chief executive officer. “This guide will help women understand the tests and treatments they may undergo and address the impact that metastatic breast cancer can have on emotional well-being.”

Nearly 150,000 people—women and men—are living with metastatic breast cancer in the United States and while a diagnosis of this type is life-changing, advances in research and treatment have made it possible for many to live longer, more fulfilling lives. LBBC and MBCN worked diligently to ensure that this guide was available to help bridge the gap between initial diagnosis and life beyond.

“I wish something like this had been available to me when I was first diagnosed, for my benefit and the benefit of family and friends who had—and still have—so many questions,” says Cindy Colangelo, a member of the consumer advisory committee that reviewed the guide’s content for accuracy. “Hopefully, this guide will help people acknowledge the elephant in the room that no one wants to discuss. Our goal is to provide a greater understanding of metastatic breast cancer and help affected women and families move forward by answering questions, providing information and giving hope.”

In addition to Colangelo and other women living with metastatic breast cancer, the guide was also reviewed by LBBC and MBCN staff, health care professionals, medical and surgical oncologists, social workers, nurses, researchers, and a palliative care specialist, led by William Gradishar, MD, of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.

“As a group facilitator, I’m excited to present this guide to patients who seek wisdom, guidance and support,” says Marie Lavigne, LCSW, OSW-CAs, an oncology social worker and a member of the medical review team. “As with all of LBBC and MBCN’s offerings, it provides a cornerstone to the essential needs of women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer – clear, honest information, hope and inspiration when they need it the most.”

The Metastatic Breast Cancer Series: Guide for the Newly Diagnosed is divided into six sections written in clear and easy-to-understand language. Individual copies of the guide are free and can be ordered online at lbbc.org or by calling (610) 645-4567. Larger quantities may also be ordered for a small shipping and handling fee. Additional resources can be found through LBBC’s Understanding Guides: Metastatic Breast Cancer Series and through MBCN. LBBC’s titles are: Treatment Options for Today and Tomorrow, Managing Stress and Anxiety, Symptoms and Treatment Side Effects and Understanding Palliative Care. MBCN’s titles are: Diagnosis: Metastatic Breast Cancer…What does it mean for you? and Get the Facts.

About Living Beyond Breast Cancer
For over 20 years, Living Beyond Breast Cancer has been providing educational resources and support services to women of all ages who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. LBBC helps improve the quality of life for these women by empowering them with the information they need to make the best and most informed decisions for themselves and their families. National conferences, monthly teleconferences, regional community meetings, the Guides to Understanding Breast Cancer and a toll-free Survivors’ Helpline are just a few examples of the services that are provided, always at little or no cost.

If someone you know has recently been diagnosed, is in treatment, recovery, years beyond their diagnosis or living with metastatic breast cancer, LBBC can help. For more information, visit lbbc.org, call (610) 645-4567 or download a free copy of Empower, LBBC’s general information brochure.

About Metastatic Breast Cancer Network
The Metastatic Breast Cancer Network, a national, patient-led organization, works to raise awareness of metastatic breast cancer within the breast cancer community and public. MBCN encourages women and men living with the disease to raise their voices to demand support, resources and more research for metastatic disease.
MBCN provides education and information to metastatic people and their caregivers. Visit mbcn.org or call (888) 500-0370 to access education, support and advocacy resources.

Randi Rentz: Survivor’s Guilt

December 28, 2012

As we all all coming off of the excitement and possible exhaustion of the holidays to ring in the New Year, the LBBC Blog is happy to welcome back recurring writer, Randi Rentz, and she discusses a topic that many diagnosed women have experienced–Survivor’s Guilt–and how she plans to let it go.  Along with Randi, we here at LBBC wish everyone a beautiful and joyous New Year with health, happiness and hope in the future.

Have you ever wondered why you were diagnosed with cancer? If you have, stop it right now! I’m serious. I’ve never wondered why I was diagnosed with cancer. I can truly say that is an honest statement. Many people have asked me, “Why on earth would you, a young, healthy, happy person with no family history of breast cancer get breast cancer?” Even when other people wondered, I never have.  In my mind and heart I figured that “Why?” wasn’t the point. I had “The Big C.”  I had to deal with it. I had to move on and look ahead.

Since my diagnosis, I have had four friends die of cancer and another one who will die soon. All were young, healthy and happy people. Some had no family history, while others did have a family history.

My question is: “Why did I get what I got (a treatable cancer) and they get what they got (a life limiting form of cancer)?” Do you know I think about this Every. Single. Day. Sometimes this thought makes me feel so morose. Sometimes it makes me feel anxious. Sometimes it makes me feel remorseful.

This is Randi

As I think about my friend who is fading, I’ve come to realize what’s going on: I am experiencing a version of survivor guilt, yet again. It is common to feel guilty about having survived when others died. Now, this typically refers to catastrophic events such as 911 or an earthquake or some other disaster (no reason to go on with examples and make myself feel shoddier!). I happen to think that a cancer diagnosis (of any kind!) is pretty darn earth shattering. Don’t you? When I received my diagnosis, my world stopped. Completely.

What I’ve learned is that this feeling of guilt is part of being human. For me, it is a way of searching for the meaning of my survival vs. another person’s fatality. Normalizing these feelings doesn’t necessarily make me feel better, though. There are no two ways to say it. Anyone who has had a cancer diagnosis is forever changed. There. I said it.

When I lost my first friend to cancer, I felt paralyzed. Sessions with a social worker helped me be productive and rational. I certainly did not want to continue to go down an unfortunate road every time I lost someone I cared about.

Today, I admit my survivor guilt still brings a few issues. For some people, survivor guilt can cause despair, rage, and guilt that may even compromise their physical health and well-being. UGH.

Believe me I’m thrilled to be where I am. I’m able to speak to other people about cancer and their emotions and feel so fortunate. I really do. I don’t know what’s in my future. None of us does. I can tell you through this ordeal, I have faced uncertainties, challenges, and sorrow. I know that I have also learned lessons I couldn’t have learned any other way.

What I know for sure is that life is a precious gift; however after losing my mother to cancer, I actually already knew that…I guess it’s just been reiterated – in a BIG WAY. For now, it’s my time to live.

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

Julie Anne Mauro: “Strength in the Face of Great Uncertainty”

November 26, 2012

Sometimes getting out your feelings can be just the therapy you need. Living Beyond Breast Cancer offers a “Writing the Journey” Seasonal Writing Series that offers instruction and encouragement for women affected by breast cancer to use this creative outlet to express themselves. On this second installment of the LBBC Blog‘s Writer’s Corner, Julie Anne Mauro shares who own musing on diagnosis and LIVING with metastatic disease.

I Quit Cancer - April 30, 2012 – after an extensive month of tests and trying to get on a drug trial and finally getting on a treatment that is working.

I quit cancer

Seriously, I quit

It’s not a fun job

It certainly doesn’t pay well

And it just takes up too much of my time

I’m tired of Pink

I’m tired of Anti-pink

I’m tired of just being a number

Tired of being a patient

Tired of blood draws and infusions

Tired of looking in the mirror and not seeing myself anymore

Just the battle scars

Just the bitterness

Tired of thinking, will this be the last time I ……

*          *          *          *          *

Untitled – August  7, 2012

Can you do something more than just a prayer?

But fight for me

Fight for me

Show the world that I was once there

Fight for me

Oh fight for me

Let me know that somebody really cares

Fight for me

Oh fight for me

Show me there’s more than blank and empty stares

Oh fight for me

Oh fight for me

Even when I’m weary and on my last breath

Fight for me

Please fight for me

*          *          *          *          *

Julie Anne is a recent transplant to Arizona from New Jersey,  married, and a mother of 2 boys (8 and 14). In July of 2009, a week before her 44th birthday, she was diagnosed with HER2+ breast cancer. After chemotherapy, a bi-lateral mastectomy and radiation, in May of 2010 her came up clean. She “beat cancer.” One month later, she found a lump in her chest wall–her cancer had spread to the lymphatic system and she was diagnosed Stage IV.  Since then the cancer has spread to her lungs, but she is still here and living strong every day with Metastatic disease.  Her motto is “Strength in the face of great uncertainty.”  Writing has been a great release for her and a way to express herself living in a world of unknowns.

Visit the LBBC Events Page for more information on the “Writing the Journey” Fall Writing Series

Amy Hauser: In His Grip (Part One of a Two-Part Series)

November 5, 2012

Amy Hauser never considered herself destined to be an author. From her self admitted “life-long inability to properly start and stop paragraph formations, among other things,” to being busy raising two children full time, a book simply was not on the radar.  Until God said otherwise. Today, the LBBC Blog welcomes Amy to tell her story of how her religion helped her to survive.

My name is Amy Hauser and I am a fellow survivor of breast cancer.  Here is my story. It’s a simple story of an ordinary life and its challenges intersecting with an extraordinary God. With that, I think it is worth telling.

I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in May 2010 after discovering a walnut sized lump under my arm just two days after my annual well-woman exam.  What a mammogram was unable to detect, an ultrasound verified – that cancer had entered my lymph system. At 43, I began a six-month intensive chemotherapy plan, underwent a bilateral mastectomy and lymph node dissection, then a final reconstruction surgery. The entire process lasted roughly 12 months. During this time, God revealed Himself in mighty ways.

Before, during, and after my walk with breast cancer, my prayer was for God to show me His plan for my life, to show me how to use past trials (pre-cancer, that is) in unique ways that would bring blessing to others. The answers to those prayers has changed the course of my life as well as that of my family’s.

After the diagnosis, I reluctantly started to journal. I agreed it would be a way to streamline information, and keep me from getting tired of repeating my medical updates over and over again. The blogging quickly became an outlet for sharing my heart. God would prompt me to share something and instead of letting the fear of judgment from others rule, I would share my thoughts. Almost immediately, we were encouraged (and surprised!) to discover that others were gaining inspiration and that the insight channeling through the journal was powerful. That was God.

Several months after treatments had begun and as I began the process of getting life back up and running as normally as I knew how, I recall sensing God asking, “Just when are you going to start writing my book?”  I sorted through the doubt, heeded the lessons He taught me through cancer and that next week I began IN HIS GRIP…A Walk Through Breast Cancer.

IHG is a raw, open glimpse of a day in the life of a cancer patient and the story of God intersecting a life in progress. It is a story of how God works in the midst of our biggest struggles IF WE CHOOSE TO LET HIM. Not only will you get to know my family before, during, and after the cancer journey, you will see reflections that share what was learned after the fact.  This story shows how God worked not only on the struggles that were evident to the rest of the world, but how He worked in and through the cancer to heal deeper, more private wounds.

IHG was completed near the two-year anniversary of the lump discovery – a discovery that I initially thought would change my whole world.  Interestingly enough, it did change my whole world, but not as I expected.  While I thought breast cancer would rock me off my foundation, it did quite the opposite.  It cleared that foundation from clutter and allowed me to firmly anchor to what was lying beneath – the solid rock that was so readily available and intended for this purpose.  I just had to be willing to look and allow some of the clean up to take place.  Storms will continue to come. I don’t welcome them but I know they are inevitable – inevitable in ALL our lives, whether cancer or otherwise.  I know this story, His story, will be an inspiration for trials of MANY kinds.

God not only answered my cancer prayers, but my pre-cancer ones as well. From the inspiration to write IHG, to showing me how to “find my purpose and share with others through UNIQUE ways.”

Prior to the discovery of the lump, we formalized a ministry called Made For More, developing and sharing some unique women’s programs. Since the cancer, my husband Tom and I have fully launched M4M.  Several aspects have grown out of various trials in our own lives, cancer being only one of them.  An outreach program that I am excited to share is our newly developed HORSES.HEALING.HOPE. For Breast Cancer Survivors. It is an Equine Assisted Therapy program, currently offered in the North Houston, Texas area.

NO matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs, LBBC recognizes the strength that many woman find in their faith. Amy lives in The Woodlands, Texas with her husband, Tom and their two children, Ross (17) and Sara (12). Visit their websites to earn more about  HORSE.HEALING.HOPE for Breast Cancer Survivors and In His Grip:A Walk Through Breast Cancer.


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