Category Archives: Uncategorized

Four Years And Counting…

Fall is my favorite season. It also marks the time of year when I first found out I had breast cancer. This year 2014 marks four years in the making of my cancer-free world. Speaking of milestones, I often I hear people talk about milestone anniversaries when it comes to surviving cancer. However, the term ”cancer survivor” is a bit puzzling to me. Where does this survivorship begin? Do we start counting from the point those fateful words exit the mouth of our diagnosing doctor? Those of us, who have heard those dreaded words, know all to well that we enter into survival mode long before the treatment even begins. Or is it the moment we open our eyes in that post-surgery hospital bed knowing that the cancer has been removed from our bodies, riding us of this disease? For some women, it isn’t even that simple. They have to undergo, surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation. Where does their tally begin?

I always feel a little funny, as fall approaches each year. Am I allowed to prematurely count this year as another victory too? Is it okay to add another notch in my proverbial belt? Can I place the check in the box as part of my long list of items for “Checklist 2014”? I am a checklist kind of girl after all. I ran my first half marathon for breast cancer…check! I raised over three thousand dollars for breast cancer awareness…check! I have survived another year cancer-free….Ummmmm check? As I sat in the hospital room awaiting my surgery, a wise nurse and breast cancer survivor told me, “You go into that operating room a cancer patient, but you come out of it a cancer survivor”. It is a statement that resonated and sticks with me even today. Still, as fall approaches, I feel like a bit of an imposter. Feeling like a survivor since my diagnosis date was November 1st. But knowing that I didn’t become cancer free until January. It seems like such a silly thing to ponder. But inevitably remains one of the more challenging questions I face, as I grow farther away from when it all began.

Ironically, my diagnosis anniversary falls around breast cancer awareness month. This only fuels the fire of my cancer anniversary dilemma. Am I doing this milestone justice through the eye of the pink ribbon? We hear a lot about the importance of the five-year mark. But I don’t know that I will feel that differently next year. Two years was a big milestone for me. Perhaps four is double that making it just as big. I think I could debate the significance of a diagnosis date versus surgery date for many moons to come. But through the consideration of such a dilemma, I am overlooking the bigger picture. A cancer survivor celebrates the cycle of life no matter where that begins. It is a natural progression that slowly moves through life 365 days a year. Does it really matter what specific day of the year? So in honor of my A-Ha moment, I have decided to celebrate both. I celebrate my awareness of knowing more and creating a plan for survival in the fall. And I celebrate the day I put that survivorship into motion in January. It is one long anniversary, but worth every day in my cycle of life.

Nutrition After Cancer Treatment

—My good friend Lori who often discusses the importance of living a healthy life on her website has graciously agreed to put together some pertinent information regarding the importance of nutrition after cancer treatment.  The below information is something we should all be aware of as we try to make healthy life choices for ourselves going forward. Please feel free to check out more of what has to offer including nutritional counseling, the latest on allergy information and diabetes education as well. Thank You Lori!!

There are many risk factors for cancer and it is something that no one wants. On this last day of National Breast Cancer Awareness month it is a great time to discuss the Top 10 Recommendations for Cancer Prevention from the American Institute for Cancer Research – AICR. These recommendations are based on information from the most comprehensive review of cancer and nutrition, the World Cancer Research Fund’s/AICR’s landmark second expert report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. These recommendations should be followed after those with breast cancer or any other cancer complete their treatment.

AICR Recommendations for Cancer Prevention

  1. Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.
  2. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day.
  3. Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods.
  4. Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans.
  5. Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats.
  6. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women a day.
  7. Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium).
  8. Don’t use supplements to protect against cancer.
  9. * It is best for mothers to breastfeed exclusively for up to 6 months and then add other liquids and foods.
  10. * After treatment, cancer survivors should follow the recommendations for cancer prevention.

*Special Population Recommendations

Here is a list of specific foods that may fight cancer. The key to the nutrition portion of these recommendations is that real food is best and not supplements. By eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes and less processed foods you will get more nutrients and phytochemicals , which have many health benefits.  Eat a variety of foods and eat the rainbow with an emphasis on brightly colored or strong flavored fruits and vegetables!

Another way to think about what you eat is to visualize your plate and what foods it contains as well as the portion sizes. The New American Plate is a great tool for us all to improve what we eat by looking at what we eat everyday. Good nutrition may help lower not only your cancer risk, but your risk of chronic diseases and can help you manage your body weight!

Check out some of AICR’s recipes including black bean brownies.  Take a little time and think about which of the 10 AICR recommendations for cancer prevention you can improve on and take steps today to live healthier!

Be Well,


Living a Healthy Life After Cancer

My name is April and I am an almost 3 year breast cancer survivor!  When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer I was overwhelmed with all of the information presented to me.  Making sense of lab reports and attending doctor’s appointments while establishing a plan for my treatment and ultimate recovery proved to be a daunting task.

As a newly diagnosed cancer patient, you tend to get fixated on the immediacy of what life has thrown at you.  So much so, that it is hard to see what is important down the road too.  After my head stopped spinning full of information and impending decisions, I chose and implemented a treatment plan forging my way into recovery—my journey into the future.  This should be the easy part, right?  As I distanced myself farther away from the immediate dangers of a cancer diagnosis, whispers of fortitude began to surface.  What was I going to do now?  I have had the surgery, the first step to a cancer free life.  I am now taking the hormone therapy, America’s conventional medical answer for keeping hormone- positive breast cancer at bay.  Still, the farther I delved into my newfound cancer free life; I started to wonder what other kinds of preventative measures I could instill into my life in order to ensure my continual good health I have worked so hard to achieve.

There are numerous studies out there, asserting how and why diet and exercise are essential in our every day lives.  They become even more important when you have a history of cancer. People who exercise have lower incidence of breast cancer.  Many holistic practitioners maintain that by eating the right foods you can actually decrease your risk for cancer by avoiding foods that fuel cancer growth and promote poor eating habits.  By extension, poor eating habits can lead to obesity, which in turn also increases your risk for breast cancer. These are all valid reasons why a preventative philosophy is key to safeguarding a healthy life after cancer.  As for me, for the most part I adopted a healthy lifestyle including moderate exercise and reasonable eating habits from a young age.  However, my cancer diagnosis has only reinforced the need for continuing those conscious health choices today more than ever.

In my personal time, I volunteer on a breast cancer helpline that focuses on providing, women and loved ones affected by breast cancer, help in finding resources and emotional support they need during their journey through breast cancer.  Often times topics of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and hormonal treatment come up in conversation but nutrition is often overlooked.   Eating healthy can be an empowering experience in your life that can positively impact not only on the present, but the future too.

I have decided to take life’s challenge of becoming a healthier me by eating right and exercising, making better health choices along the way.  No matter whether you are a cancer survivor or not, I hope you will join me in a healthier tomorrow too.

Craving Normalcy

January marks my three year anniversary from breast cancer.  It seems so close but so far away, all at the same time. Even though three years seems like ample time to settle back into life, I still have an underlying sense of craving normalcy.  I wonder if it is something you ever really stop searching for as a cancer survivor.

As a breast cancer survivor, I was forced to reinvent myself in more ways than one.  The most obvious way is physically, a new body means new clothes and new shell of reality.  The second way and less conspicuous but perhaps more important is emotionally.  It takes a while to wrap your mind around the fact that you will be a forever changed person.  In a way, it plays tricks on you and makes you think if I am changed this much on the outside, I must be changed on the inside too.

After diagnosis, things move pretty quickly and it can get overwhelming.  After the initial plan sets in, things start to fall into place and the motion eventually dissipates.  This can be the hardest part because you feel like you should be settling into normalcy but in actuality you are just beginning a new journey in life.  What could be more unsettling than that!

Even years out I am still searching for the time where I am not subconsciously thinking about having a normal day.

After my initial surgery, I used to inwardly chuckle when people would approach me asking if I was all done with treatment.  People who aren’t touched by the disease don’t always realize what a lengthy process it can be both emotionally and physically. While I appreciated their concern with a smile and a knowing nod I also wanted to laugh and say, “I am only just beginning”!

I think craving is an appropriate word to use when talking about a breast cancer survivor’s “new normal”.  It is a fact finding mission of sorts where it is constantly changing and evolving into something where we finally feel comfort and peace.  A place where we can finally say, “Hey, I think I found my new normal”.  But until you find that comfy zone, you continually crave the normalcy that you once had in your pre-cancer life.

Your new normal can often be redefining to caregivers, family and friends because it inadvertently spills over into their pre- normal state too. Consequently, they must evolve and find a new normal that is dependent on yours.  It is all intertwined.

Right after my surgery, I had some concerns and I called my doctor saying that I just wasn’t sure if everything was right because I hadn’t defined for myself what my “new normal” was yet.  Funny, I had never even heard this term before but that is what it felt like for me.  Later, I learned that this is a popular term used by breast cancer women after diagnosis.  It couldn’t be more true.

Through life, whether you are a cancer survivor or not, we are always evolving as people.  How many people change careers multiple times during their working careers?  Or change partners because they have drifted apart or have just changed as people during their course of their relationship.  It is a natural progression in life.  Why shouldn’t it happen when you experience a traumatic life event such as a cancer diagnosis?  It is disguised as a traumatic response but in actuality is truly a natural progression of life brought on unexpectedly by unforeseen life events.  Therefore, craving normalcy and redefining your “new normal” becomes…well- normal.

Am I Just Getting Older?

As I get further and further into this thing we call life, I am constantly finding people diagnosed with some kind of cancer. I wonder if this observation is simply a reflection of our peers around us, who similarly, are getting older and succumbing to our slowly ailing bodies.  Or is it something in our environment which over time unknowingly poisons us against a healthy lifestyle we strive for day-to-day. Alternatively, maybe it is our genetics that map out the road less travelled, thereby creating a destiny independent of where life might ordinarily take us.  When I was diagnosed almost three years ago, I don’t think I knew a single person under or around 40 who was diagnosed with cancer.  Since that time, I am faced with the realization that more and more young people are becoming diagnosed with cancer.

Regardless of age, there is a social brand associated with having cancer.  It generalizes us into something I call the “default cancer group”. A group where all newly diagnosed cancer patients inadvertently find themselves.  Perhaps I just stumbled on this younger group of cancer patients as a result of my diagnosis. Afterall, when you find yourself a part of a new group of people, you find a new system of information too.  As part of this group,  there is always someone who knows someone, a friend of a friend , well-meaning people that want to connect you with another person with similar circumstances, making it more apparent just how prevalent cancer really is in our community today.    But aside from these indirect connections, through my own personal relationships, I am also stumbling upon people afflicted with some type of cancer.  What is going on!

Getting older is an unpredictable thing.  In our youth, we often look ahead trying to catch a glimpse of what lies ahead for us as we age.  Without that handy crystal ball of ours, we are never really sure what our future health holds.  In retrospect, I sometimes feel sad for the elderly.  They are blessed with a long life but have to watch their loved ones pass on as they get older.  It never really occurred to me about how this initial void instigates itself into our lives.  Does it start out as sickness and then progress into something more over time?  Is this how it was for my grandparents too?  As for me, it just feels like a new wave of alarm as I earn my latest badge of courage, known as midlife.

Thankfully in this day and age, advances in science have allowed us to live longer and healthier lives. We can defy the odds that our ancestors before us were not so fortunate to overcome.   On the flip side, it has also opened the gates of discovery and allowed for more diagnosis of cancer.  Cancer that we didn’t know we had years ago before mammograms, MRI, and diagnostic blood tests were available. Today these tests enable us to more easily detect cancer at an earlier stage and more often too.    Is cancer really more prevalent now or are we just getting better at identifying it?

Whatever the case may be, it remains unsettling to me how much I hear the word “cancer” today and how it is affecting those people around me.  It pops up daily through phone conversations, local newspaper articles, and even Facebook, just to name a few.  Globally, it has become an epidemic of blogs depicting life stories through reenactments of everyday struggles in the life of cancer. Consequently, making it even more apparent that cancer is creeping into our society more and more every day.  Young or old, near or far, it affects us all.

Yoga on the Steps- LBBC Signature Event Washington Monument

Please join us at the Yoga on the Steps signature event hosted by LBBC at the Washington Monument June 13th from 5:30 pm- 8:30.  It’s an event you won’t want to miss.  Here’s why…

I have always aspired to living a healthy lifestyle.  Growing up I was that person who promised to always eat right and exercise earning my right to a healthier me.  Sometimes, despite our best efforts, life gets in the way and we find ourselves walking down a very different path than we initially planned for ourselves.  Two and a half years ago, I started down that path as a breast cancer patient but found my way through to survivorship with the help of this wonderful organization known as LBBC, Living Beyond Breast Cancer.

Living Beyond Breast Cancer has so much to offer women and loved ones who are affected with breast cancer.  It provided comfort to me when I felt that I had nowhere else to turn.  Facing diagnosis at 38 years of age, Living Beyond Breast Cancer provided an outlet through peer matching and the survivorship helpline which established connections with other women, lessening my fears of solitude in my struggles as a mother of two young children battling breast cancer while still trying to raise a family.  Their informative website was an invaluable resource which enabled me to best prepare both emotionally and intelligently for my fight against breast cancer.  Each time I visit this website I am continually empowered with the amount of support which is offered through LBBC.

Speaking of LBBC lending support to the breast cancer community, one of the events that they are hosting is Yoga on the Steps in Washington DC this upcoming June.  Time and time again, yoga has proven to promote positive health benefits for women struggling with breast cancer.  As I said before, a healthy lifestyle has always been a long term goal for me.  While I do not consider myself part of the yoga community, I am very excited about this opportunity to participate in such an important event.  As a newbie to this program, I am continually inspired by hearing past participant’s stories of camaraderie, peace and joy found through attending this event.  Living vicariously through the memories of these other people, I can only hope to have as nurturing and empowering of an experience through doing yoga with other breast cancer survivors, families and caregivers  touched by this disease.

I am honored to be a part of such a worthwhile event, raising money for programs to continue growing and facilitating the support necessary to help women and families who are seeking guidance.  All the while working towards better quality of life and coming together as a strong community unified through one common purpose while sharing the benefits of yoga.  It doesn’t get better than that.   I hope that you will join me in this rewarding event and help support women lead more empowering lives through the help of LBBC.