Yoga: A Survivor’s Tool for Strength

KateGarza2 for 5 28Kate Garza is a mother of three teenagers, cancer survivor and yoga instructor in Cheltenham. Her “Team Kangaroo-om”  participated in our event, Yoga on the Steps: Philadelphia, on Sunday, May 18.  For more information or to register for a Yoga event near you, visit Read Kate’s blog at

I climbed the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum last Sunday for Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s Yoga On The Steps, a sun drenched block party of yoga enthusiasts and breast cancer affiliates. Occasionally my thoughts traveled back to last year’s event, which I attended during my own active treatment, bandanna wrapped around my chemo-bald head. On that gray day a year ago I felt as bad as the cold fog and drizzle that enshrouded the steps.

But last Sunday, bathed in sunshine, I shook off a year and a half of living with breast cancer treatment. I gathered with a large team from my kids’ high school, faculty and students together. I was there to give and gain support and to advance LBBC’s mission of bringing patients together with resources throughout the journey, one that can thankfully now include many years of health beyond treatment.

Cancer survivors have long had an intuitive sense that yoga helps body and mind, but now we have studies to prove it. In March, the Journal of Clinical Oncology published a study of 191 breast cancer patients by researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. It linked yoga to improvements in self-reported quality of life, including measures of mood, pain and fatigue. Practicing yoga also appeared to help regulate the stress hormone cortisol, which is tied to poor survival among breast cancer patients.

Aware of these unique qualities of yoga, Living Beyond Breast Cancer has held Yoga on the Steps as its signature fundraising event since 2001, and in recent years has expanded to other cities — this July in Kansas City and September in Denver. Last year, LBBC, the Ardmore-based national education and support organization, published a Guide to Understanding Yoga and Breast Cancer, detailing the benefits of yoga to coping with anxiety, fatigue, strength and body image.

But what exactly is it about yoga that helps? Continue reading

Our New Vision and Mission


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.



Jean A. Sachs, MSS, MLSP

Chief Executive Officer


Judy Zwillenberg: Insights from an LBBC Intern – Part 3 of a 3 Part Series

The staff here at Living Beyond Breast Cancer is excited to have many new faces and strong minds in the office, with a special appreciation going out to our interns. In this final installment of her three-part series, intern Judy Zwillenberg reflects on what she’s learned here at LBBC.

With my internship drawing to a close, I wanted to take some time to remark on the dedication of LBBC’s staff. I don’t think I’ll adequately be able to explain their passion for what they do, but I will try to convey to the readers some of what I have learned from them.

My supervisor suggested that I meet with many members of LBBC’s staff to find out about their careers and why they chose LBBC and non-profit work. As expected, these meetings not only provided me with helpful advice for my future, but also allowed me to see LBBC from the eyes of those instrumental in its success.

For many members of LBBC’s team, working at a breast cancer nonprofit was not a normal step in the progression of their careers, and several even had jobs outside of the health field. Furthermore, some of the staff had no personal connection to breast cancer prior to their employment at LBBC. Nevertheless, through working at LBBC, they have found jobs they feel are worthwhile and important. And, for those whose lives were affected by breast cancer, whether through their own diagnosis or that of someone close to them, LBBC provides an outlet to better the lives of other women coping with the disease. By navigating women through diagnoses, treatments, and concerns after cancer, they feel that they are “working for a reason” and find meaning in what they do.

After interning at LBBC’s office for the summer, it has become clear to me that LBBC truly is a unique organization. LBBC genuinely cares about women with breast cancer. It is a place where all women of different ages, breast cancer stages, and races are welcome, and receive individualized care and support. For every issue or question, LBBC is available with expert programming, conferences, and access to other survivors who have been in the same situation. LBBC ensures that women’s concerns are addressed in a respectful way, and works hard to give women tailored information in the hopes of making their breast cancer struggle less difficult.

Importantly, every member of the staff fully believes in the mission statement of the organization: to empower all women affected by breast cancer to live as long as possible with the best quality of life. In my opinion, this is what makes LBBC such an accomplished non-profit. Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s commitment to its mission statement guarantees LBBC is sensitive to women’s needs, and provides high-quality resources that are informative and helpful. It doesn’t force any ideas or materials upon women, but simply gives them tools to make the decisions that are right for them. As one member of the staff said, “It’s not what we say, but how we say it.”  Finally, since LBBC is so dedicated to its cause, it makes certain that the purpose of the organization is to help; it’s not about personal gain or bolstering the image of LBBC.

This summer, I have learned a lot through helping on many projects for the Education department. I feel privileged to have been a part of LBBC’s devoted team. I want to thank everyone at LBBC for making this internship a positive experience for me, and I look forward to seeing LBBC’s future achievements.

Judy is a rising sophomore at Cornell University as a Biology and Society major.You can find more information about LBBC’s educational and support programs at the Living Beyond Breast Cancer website. We want to thank Judy for all of her hard work this summer.

A Reflection from Amy Annis

On May 20, Living Beyond Breast Cancer will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of its signature education and fundraising event, Yoga on the Steps.  In addition, this September LBBC will release “Yoga and Breast Cancer,” a new title in our expanding library of “Understanding Breast Cancer” guides. Recently, the blog introduced Amy Annis who wrote an intimate piece about her connection to yoga while in recovery. Due to some thoughtful questioning, Amy would like to share more accurately her knowledge of the yoga practice and the issue of Lymphedema in women diagnosed with breast cancer.

Many survivors will tell you that in an odd way cancer is a gift. Of course it certainly doesn’t feel like that in the beginning. But many women, during and after diagnosis, pull up something deep from within themselves and become much stronger than they ever thought they could be. Subsequently, survivors are often perceived as courageous, partially because they are, and partially because they had to be. When you are given that kind of news it is an eyeball to eyeball with death moment, and most of us suit up with all of the strength we can muster and walk head first into treatment.

When I received my diagnosis, I admittedly crumpled at first but wasn’t given much time to wallow in pity and disbelief. Within weeks I was heading into chemo. That was by far the first big risk I took in this cancer journey. I say this because for a practicing yogini who typically led a very healthy life the idea of pumping poison into my veins felt really wrong. It was a health juxtaposition that messed with my mind and my spirit.

Throughout the next few months I had moments of panic where despite all of the great medical advice I was given I wanted to stop the whole process and retreat. During my treatment, Suzanne Sommers released a book suggesting that chemo was a pharmaceutical conspiracy and it just about put me over the edge. Every day I questioned myself and my very amazing medical team. And each time I had to eventually put myself back in the right frame of mind that I did not have total control, this was a process of eliminating cancer, and I needed to jump in full force.

After treatment, and as I mentioned in my prior blog, I used yoga as a means of recovery. My mat was my safe zone and I very slowly began to practice again. I discussed this process with my surgeon and oncologist and they both suggested that I needed to trust my instincts with the poses I chose. This was not a foreign concept at all. Years of yoga had taught me patience and I knew that you never push through pain. I was very familiar with the idea of listening to my body’s signals.

Following my mastectomy and node removal and familiar with the recommendations that you don’t incorporate certain poses initially, I inched my way from gentle restorative yoga towards a more vigorous practice. I say inched because it was a challenge for me; I wanted that strength back so bad. Tears of frustration were not uncommon. But after a period of several months of practicing modified poses, I was back on my mat holding my downward facing dog.

At this point in life I am literally doing hundreds of downward facing dogs. I am familiar with the risk of lymphedema in my right arm from this pose and have made the conscious choice to keep practicing it.  I also know that I can get lymphedema from flying, cutting my arm while gardening, or even an insect bite.  I will still fly to spend time with friends I love, hike in the great Northwood’s amongst mosquitoes, and practice downward facing dog. On the flip side, I will use the potential risk of lymphedema to get out of any gardening duties assigned (wink). But the decision to do certain yoga poses is a calculated risk I am willing to take. And so far the rewards have outweighed the risks big time.

Today I saw my surgeon for a check-up. He went over mammogram results, checked my arm and wrists for swelling, and spent a good deal of time up in my armpits. When he asked me to rise my arms he made mention of my incredible range of motion. And he asked me how the yoga biz was going. Before he left he reminded me of the aggressive nature of my form of cancer. It was the only somber moment in the room. Despite all of the rewards of living this very full life I will always face the possibility of cancer’s return.

Armed with this knowledge, I dig my heels into the ground a little further determined to practice yoga despite its potential risks for a patient with a history of breast cancer. As a teacher, I do my best to inform all my clients of any potential risks (understanding every physical activity has an element of it) only after I sing yoga’s praises. For me, and many of the clients that I work with, yoga has so far brought forth only benefits, not only of a healthy body but of a peaceful mind. And if someday I do get lymphedema, I won’t blame myself… or the yoga. I will find other ways to modify and practice, be at peace with the changes in my body, and continue to feel grateful for my amazing life.

After her bout with “crazy” cancer in 2009, Amy decided to take her dreams to the next level and developed her yoga retreat concept on beautiful Madeline Island, WI.  She also found her writing voice and recently launched her own blog.  As a yoga mamma, wife, outdoor enthusiast, and dog lover she delights in life a little off balance.  Lately, she is very grateful for hair. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Eating for a Healthy Mind and Heart

Lisa Grey, the founder and nutrition chef at Pink Kitchen, is a 4-year survivor of breast cancer. This month, Pink Kitchen will be donating 10% of all proceeds from cookbooks purchased through its website to LBBC’s Yoga on the Steps: Washington: DC fundraising event! Join us and make a small donation to LBBC’s team and the help them reach their fundraising goal of $50,000!

As soon as I started practicing yoga, I truly enjoyed it. But it took me a while to realize that yoga is about much more than taking care of my body on the outside, or grabbing a few minutes of rest at the end of each class. It was not until I began my journey through breast cancer that I truly began to understand that the practice of yoga is not only healthy for our bodies – but also for our hearts and our minds.

Food is like that, too – although many of us do not see it that way. In our desperate attempts to manage family, work, school, bills…and of course, doctor visits…we often eat on autopilot.  Even if we eat healthy foods on a regular basis, we are often just going through the motions.

But what if I told you that food – like yoga – also has the capability to help our hearts and minds stay healthy? Below is an introduction to some basic ways that food can really make a difference.

Food can help us feel energized.

Vegetables and fruits are really important providers of energy. Not only do they start the whole energy process flowing through our bodies; they also protect our cells from unbalanced energy production, which would make us sluggish and could lead to bigger problems over time.

Healthy foods can help stabilize our moods.

Legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds contain lots of fiber, so they help us to keep that energy moving at a steady pace. This way, we’re not ‘crashing’ – which often leads to becoming crabby, anxious, or sad – the way we do when we eat sugars and refined flours.

Healthy foods can help sharpen our memories.

Flax seeds promote healthy brain function due to their high content of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for the proper functioning of brain cells. Without omega-3 fatty acids, we are more prone to memory deficiencies – and also depression.

Healthy foods can help improve our concentration.

Adding a few herbs to the diet may increase our ability to concentrate. Studies have shown that rosemary increases blood flow to the brain, which in turn increases concentration. Studies have also shown that lemon balm, a member of the mint family, helps decrease anxiety and increase concentration.

Healthy foods can help us sleep better at night.

Melatonin is a critical component for regulating the sleep cycle. Researchers are beginning to learn that foods containing melatonin help to promote a healthy sleep pattern. Such foods include: walnuts, cherries, and bananas.

NOTE: This does not mean that you should eat a banana split with cherries and walnuts before bed! But good try!

 To learn more about healthy eating and cooking, visit me any time!

If you live in the Washington, DC area, we hope to see you at Yoga on the Steps this Sunday, Oct. 16! You can always give a small contribution to Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s team. Funds raised from Yoga on the Steps go directly toward education and support programs for women and families affected by breast cancer.

NBC 10’s Investigative Reporter Lu Ann Cahn Supports LBBC

This entry was written by LBBC’s Marketing and Communications Assistant, Stacia Weaver:

LBBC is grateful for the partnerships that we establish with dedicated members of society. These long-term connections help us provide you with education and support programs for little to no cost. Over the past year, we have hosted several fundraising events where we have had the phenomenal support from you, our sponsors, and also long-time supporter of LBBC, NBC 10’s Investigative Reporter Lu Ann Cahn.

Lu Ann has a personal connection with the women we serve. A proud 19-year breast cancer survivor, she supports LBBC and the work that we do for women affected by breast cancer. Her vibrant personality, free-spirited demeanor, and personal story with breast cancer helps LBBC ensure women that you can live life beautifully after you’re diagnosed with breast cancer.

There is no doubt that Lu Ann comes to all of LBBC’s events dressed for the occasion. Just last Wednesday, she awed over 80-plus VIP guests when she walked into Twenty Manning Grill to accompany LBBC and the attendees of the preview party for The 2010 Butterfly Ball. Dressed in a classy black dress, stunning 3-inch heels, and a silver-beaded necklace to die for, you’d never guess that she’d just been on-set and cruising 100-plus miles in a racecar! “I had to take my helmet off and get to this event,” she said when she caught up with LBBC staff.

lu ann cahn, nbc 10, investigative reporter, butterfly ball, preview party, annual gala, grand prize drawing, auction items

Lu Ann Cahn joins LBBC for the preview party to The 2010 Butterfly Ball

The next day, Lu Ann served as “celebrity scooper” at Rita’s Water Ice (Perkasie location). Decked out in a Rita’s Water Ice uniform, Lu Ann embodied all the guidelines that the staff at Rita’s Water Ice follow and amazingly enough had no problem serving delicious, cold treats so well! The event helped raised $500 for LBBC’s education and support programs and served as a genuine way for Lu Ann to reach out to the community and help spread awareness about LBBC and our programs.

lu ann cahn, nbc 10, investigative reporter, butterfly ball, preview party, annual gala, grand prize drawing, auction items, celebrity scoop event, celebrity scooper, rita's water ice, perkasie

Lu Ann Cahn serves cold, delicious treats at Rita’s Water Ice

Most people may be familiar with Lu Ann’s appearance at one of our biggest fundraising events, Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer. Lu Ann served as chair for the event, which raised over $200,000 for LBBC’s education and support programs. She sported a LuLu Lemon work-out suit and comfortable running sneakers for the occasion. Just before breaking out into a yoga pose with over 1,000 participants of the event, she took the stage and talked about her fight against breast cancer and urged anyone affected by the disease to live and love greatly.

lu ann cahn, nbc 10, investigative reporter, butterfly ball, preview party, annual gala, grand prize drawing, auction items, yoga unites for LBBC, jennifer schelter

Lu Ann Cahn served as honorary chair for LBBC’s annual yoga event in Philadelphia

The steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum won’t be the biggest LBBC fundraising event that Lu Ann would participate in this year. This year, she is serving as celebrity announcer for LBBC’s 2010 Butterfly Ball. She’ll announce the fabulous live and silent auction items at our annual fundraising gala, which last year raised over $500,000 for LBBC’s education and support programs. I’m sure Lu Ann will make an arrival wearing an elegant and classy gown as she helps LBBC honor and recognize those who have made a difference in the breast cancer community.

Lu Ann will be announcing a mouthful when she announces this year’s live and silent auction prizes which include a one-on-one encounter with your favorite exotic animals at this all-inclusive 5-day African Safari vacation; a eye-catching pair of diamond drop earrings for that special occasion; a private tour for zealous wine lovers at Kosta Browne Winery, a non-public winery that sells their wine only twice a year; a vacation worth $10,000 when you spend one week at a private villa in St. Barts, and much more!

There are many ways in which you can get involved in this year’s Butterfly Ball. Contact Lauren Ainsworth at 610-645-4567 x113 or

I support LBBC because my mom does

LBBC caught up with 15-year-old Ari Shanon who took part in one of LBBC’s largest fundraising events: Yoga Unites for LBBC. Her participation brought a new perspective to the event as she dedicated her efforts to solicit her entire school to take part in a cause to support LBBC, the organization that her mother looked to after facing a breast cancer diagnosis years ago.

This entry was written by Ari Shanon, the 15-year-old daughter of a breast cancer survivor:

The reason I chose LBBC is because my mom had breast cancer when I was six, and it was a hard time. I remember cutting off her hair with my brother at a hair-cutting party.  Even though that’s one of the only memories I have of that time, I know that LBBC was extremely helpful because my mom always talks about them.  When I was looking for a service project for my bat mitzvah, I thought of LBBC first.  I decided to create a team for Yoga Unites (Team Dreams) and raise money for LBBC.  

Ever since, I’ve been creating a team with friends and family, and friends of friends. I also emailed my entire school this year. I’m really lucky to be surrounded by people who want to help this cause. Each year we’ve raised more money than the last.  This year we raised more than $5,000, which was our goal.  It feels really good to raise so much money for such a great organization.


Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer

Ari (right) supports her mother while performing a team-inspired yoga pose.


LBBC is pleased to be able to touch the lives women affected by breast cancer. However, we understand the importance of encouraging caregivers to take part in activities that encourage their loved ones to fight this disease. Our education and support programs are geared toward helping women live as long as possible with the best quality of life. Without fundraising projects, none of this would be possible.

Do you fear that your breast cancer diagnosis has interfered with the emotional stability of your child? Talk to him/her about journaling and expressing his/her thoughts that way. LBBC would love to hear from you and your child. Send your story to or comment on our facebook page.