Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Vitamins Increasing Breast Cancer Risk . . . What's Up With That??

It can be dizzying trying to follow all the different studies regarding breast cancer. Like some of you I want to do all I can to prevent this horrible disease or at the very least reduce my risk factors. So I was a tad alarmed when I read about a recent study that came out about vitamins increasing the risk of breast cancer. The study was in women aged 49-83 but still. . . this just doesn't make sense to me. It didn't state which vitamin it was just "multivitamins". I always take my daily dose of vitamin D as that has been known to help fight cancer. And I also take the B's and C's. So what is a girl to do? Or man for that matter?

As I live with the fear of recurrence floating over my head like a dark cloud I can't help but try to improve my lifestyle and diet. Although I try hard not to become controlling and obsessive about it as I have written about before on this blog but information such as this makes my head spin. I makes me wonder. . . what are we doing wrong here?

Check out the full article "Multivitamins Linked To Cancer" and let me know what you think.

Do you take any vitamins? How do you handle all the info out there relating to your illness? Does it make you confused? How do you handle the "after cancer" life?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Avoiding Breast Cancer With Lifestyle Choices . . Is It Really That Simple?

A new study was recently released about decreasing the incidence of breast cancer with changes in lifestyle specifically exercise and diet. If women lost weight and just exercised more they could decrease their chances of getting breast cancer. It cites that "25-30 percent of breast cancers could be avoided if women were thinner and exercised more. . . " Fat cells excrete estrogen so I do understand that aspect of it as most breast cancers including mine are estrogen fed. Now while I understand the reasoning I cannot help but wonder. . . Is it that simple? Before my diagnosis I was exercising and I was not overweight. So apparently those two things did not help me avoid a diagnosis. I also was not a smoker nor did I drink which are other lifestyle choices that can increase risk. So where was my benefit?

I think about my grandma who ate whatever she wanted in moderation and lived to be 85 staying out of the hospital and away from doctors until the last year of her life. I think about how when she bought her meat it was not laden with antibiotics and her produce was not drenched in pesticides. That was during a time when cancer incidence was much lower than it is today.

Something I found particularly interesting in the article was this statement regarding genetics and cancer. . . "The genes have been there for thousands of years but if cancer rates are changing within a lifetime that doesn't have much to do with genes." The majority of breast cancer diagnosis' are in women with no family history myself included. I think that what also needs to be explored is the environmental causes I noted above as well as emotional stress and its toll on the body. I am glad to hear there is much needed discussion as to the causes of breast cancer I would just like to see it have a wider view.

I don't know about you but I sure would have like to have "avoided" my cancer diagnosis.

What did you think of this story? Do you think that lifestyle factors can increase risk of cancer? When stories like this come out does it make you want to blame yourself for your disease?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hoarders. . . Way Beyond Just "Clutter"

When I was going through cancer treatment suffice it to say that my apartment was a tad cluttered. My kitchen table was covered in a mound of paperwork, mostly medical bills and unopened mail. I had clothes on the floor of my closet and a bathtub that needed cleaning. I just didn't have the strength at the time nor the inclination. I was physically as well as emotionally exhausted. In my closet there was even a box of Paul's stuff. I couldn't stand to part with it. It included pictures, letters he wrote to me in highschool along with the jean jacket they had to tear off of him when he was being extricated from the car he was killed in.

I understand it is hard to get rid of stuff especially that belonging to those we have lost. I know all about clutter. In a past post I wrote about my clutterbuggin. Hoarding....now that is a different story. I recently caught a glimpse of this show Hoarders. It was deeply disturbing. Have any of you seen it? It is so way beyond clutter. These people literally cannot even walk around in their homes because of all the crap piled up to the ceiling. It borders on dangerous living conditions. Some even disgusting. One woman had dead cat carcases somewhere in the house. Others have cat and dog poop just laying on the floor in the kitchen. One couple was sitting in the middle of their bed eating dinner.

I wonder if these "hoarders" began as clutter bugs like me. It made me feel disturbed but also sad to see people living this way. When it came time for the person to part with all the junk there was a visible emotional reaction to getting rid of anything. I suppose it is not just about the "stuff". It is what the "stuff" represents. That part I could understand but at some point you need to let go of "things" to be able to live.

Have you seen this show? Were you disturbed by it? Have you ever had issues with clutter? Is it hard to part with things that belonged to someone you have lost?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Mom Gene . . . Do You Have It?

I always knew I was missing the mom gene. Ever since I can remember I knew somehow that I was not meant to be a mother this time around. Although I used to play house when I was a kid and loved to babysit as a tween when I got older I wondered if it was meant for me. I was married at 23 and my then husband Paul wanted to have 6 kids or some ridiculous number like that. I would look at him like he was crazy. He loved kids, loved to be around them. I on the other hand was so uncomfortable around kids. I never quite knew what to say or do and felt all this pressure just being in their presence. Looking back now I can say I was on the fence then. But if Paul wanted them I probably would've gone along with it.

After he died I never thought I would marry again let alone have a family of my own. When I turned thirty I started to feel like I really didn't want any children. Then cancer came at 31 and changed everything. My doctors discussed fertility options prior to my chemotherapy and I was well aware that my treatment would most likely leave me unable to have a baby. At the time I really didn't have a strong feeling about having a baby so I didn't pursue saving any of my eggs. Truth be told I was so screwed up and terrified that I couldn't really see into the future. I wasn't sure I would even have one. I think it may have been the missing mom gene.

Chemotherapy threw me into instant menopause and 8 years later I don't think it is going away any time soon given my age. When I met my husband Lou during my treatments I was concerned about whether or not he wanted children. I was pleased to find that he didn't. We were on the same page. I think it is super important for a husband and wife to agree on the baby thing.

Last nite I caught a glimpse of a documentary about a couple who unexpectedly have quintuplets. The husband was found to be infertile and admittedly didn't want to have kids. But his wife wanted to have them. So they agreed to use a sperm donor and had one child. Then she wanted one more. Back to the sperm donor they went and oops....then came 5! It got me to wondering...especially about the husband. He never wanted kids and now he has 6. And not even his own. I wonder what the stress of all that will do to their marriage. More than that I wonder how he feels having "given in" to the pressure from his wife who wanted kids so badly. Its one thing to compromise on a place to live or where to go on a vacation but children? I say you both need to be on the EXACT same page as far as that goes.

I can't help but wonder if the little feeling I had my whole life about not being a mother was something my soul knew. That it all happened how it was meant to be. I lost my husband and then my ovaries went on strike from cancer treatment. I had the odds stacked against me anyway. Maybe that is why I always had that instinct about myself. And then I wonder how often one person in a relationship "gives in" to the other when it comes to starting a family. . .

Did cancer treatment affect your fertility? Did you always know where you stood on the kid thing? Are you and your partner on the same page about having kids?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cosmetics and Skin Care . . . Ever Wonder About The Ingredients?

I remember as a little girl watching my mom when she was getting ready to go out for the evening. I would stand in the doorway of the bathroom studying the way she put mascara on her eyelashes and swept blush across her cheeks just before she would dab on lipstick in crimson. Ever since I can recall she dyed her hair. And to this day at 61 years old she does not have a gray hair on her head.

I wasn't allowed to wear any makeup until I was 15. But for some reason when I was about 13 my mom let me get eyeshadow just to play around with meaning I couldn't leave the house with it on. The colors were baby blue and a light shade of green. Hey...it was the eighties! And then when turned that magic age I invested in my first eyeliner pencil. Nautical blue by Maybelline. I washed my face with ivory soap and used babymagic lotion for a moisturizer. As you can see not much thought went into my skincare routine. When I was in my twenties I started caring more about my face and tried a bunch of different products. What I wasn't doing was giving a thought to any of the ingredients.

After cancer I tried to clean up my act. I changed my diet, drank tons of water, and even tried juicing. I also started hearing about toxic stuff in skincare that could be absorbed into the skin. It is the largest organ we have. Words like parabens and sulfates were becoming things I feared. I became obsessive over it. And that obsession came from fear of recurrence. So as I was in the shower lathering up with my pearberry scented shower gel I started to wonder if it could harm me. This fear began to extend to everything I was using from lipstick to shampoo.

As I miss the days when I gave no thought to the chemicals in my lipstick or face wash I can't help but wonder if there are any others out there like me. I know that part of it is from my cancer history. What I am having a hard time with now is finding balance. The balance between enjoying the little things in life to obsessing over what I put on my skin. Shopping for makeup and skincare is no longer fun for me. I am tired of reading labels and running from chemicals.

Having said all that there is a website where you can check the toxicity of your skincare products. Head over to cosmeticsdatabase.com Just don't obsess over it like I do!

Have you given any thought to what is in your skincare products? Do you fear that your skincare or makeup could make you sick? How do you handle those feelings? What are you using on your skin these days?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cards For Cancer

When I was hospitalized for breast cancer surgery one of the things that helped lift my spirits were the cards I received from friends and family. It may seem small to some but for me it brightened my day. I felt scared, alone, and sad. Reading my cards helped me get through those long and frightening days.

So today I want to tell you about a great organization called Spirit Jump and their First Annual Cards For Cancer Day. Spirit Jump is a non profit founded by Meghan Edelstein a cervical cancer survivor. Its mission is "to provide hope and comfort to the many men, women, and children battling cancer." The way they do this is by sending cards and gifts to those going through cancer treatment.

On April 10, 2010 they will be delivering bags of cards to cancer centers all over the world which will be handed out to those battling cancer. What a great idea right?! For more info on how you can participate in this great event head on over to cards4cancer.org . The cards can be handmade or store bought. Their goal is to deliver 100,000 cards. If you are not able to participate please consider making a donation.

Did a card brighten your day when you battled an illness? What is it about such a simple gesture that can make all the difference? Are you already a supporter of Spirit Jump?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Time To Spring Ahead . . .

This week has been fabulous springy weather up here in NY. I definitely have spring fever. I already feel better. My winter blues are slowly fading. I like waking up to the sun early in the morning. And what I really love is the extra daylight in the evening.

Every year I look forward to longer days. I love turning the clocks ahead. And that we get to do that a few weeks earlier these past couple of years is even better.

I am one of those people who has Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is self diagnosed of course. BTW. . . how appropriate are those initials! Anyway, I always notice my mood changes in the winter with the lack of daylight and the cold weather. My appetite even changes where I eat more as if I was a bear going into hibernation. I miss being outside, I miss having the fresh air blow through the windows in the house, and do not enjoy the potential of slippery roads from the snow. I feel more trapped. Spring brings on more freedom for me if only in my mind.

When I was going through chemo it was during the fall/winter months. So when the spring rolled around my hair was growing back just as the flowers were waking from their winter naps. It felt like a rebirth in more ways than one. I think that the time of year certainly increased that feeling for me.

So this weekend when we turn the clocks ahead I will look forward to longer days, more sunlight, and those sweet little crocuses. . .

Do you ever get SAD? Do you notice your mood changes during the winter? Does the lack of sunlight affect you? How do you deal?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bad Hair Days. . . Do You Complain About It?

We all have bad hair days don't we?  I know I do.  But when I faced the loss of my hair during chemotherapy I swore to myself that when my hair grew back I would never complain about bad hair days again.  Losing my hair was the hardest part of my cancer experience.  Yes, even more difficult than losing my breast.  My bald head was the one thing I couldn't successfully hide.  I was so self conscious about wearing a wig.  I didn't have the confidence to sport the bald head.  

I was so grateful to have my hair back.  Once I had enough peach fuzz covering my head I ditched the wig.  I was very comfortable with super short hair as I have had it many times in my life.  I have experimented with all lengths and colors.  My hair grew in super curly and  I welcomed the change.  Then a few years later after one haircut it became pin straight.  Recently I have even decided to let my hair go gray.  This past fall I cut it short in part to get rid of highlights I had and make it easier to grow out the color.  I have to say that seeing the gray is weird.  But for me I just don't like the all the chemicals from hair color and the maintainence it takes so we'll see how I handle the gray thing.  

As the summer approaches I have toyed with the idea of cutting my hair very short again.  I have hot flashes all day long and just don't have the patience for long hair.  And I thought about what is stopping me.  My husband startled me the other day when he listened to my latest hair rant and said "After all you have gone through with your hair why are you making such a big deal out of this. . . do whatever you want with it?  

He was right.   I have already been bald.  Why do I still obsess over my hair?  Haven't I learned that it is not about the hair?  I should be grateful to have hair adorning my head.  I feel as though having had cancer and experiencing the hair loss that comes with it instantly revokes my right to ever complain about a bad hair day for the rest of my life . . .  

Do you complain about bad hair days?  As a cancer survivor do you ever feel guilty for complaining about your hair?  Why do you think the hair thing so important?  Or is it?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Is It Ever "Just" A Headache Anymore?

The night of my first chemo treatment was one of the worst of my life running a very close second to the night my husband was killed.  I remember being home alone laying on the couch when the worst headache of my life began.  The pain was so intense I was crying.  It was all centered right above my eyes taking over my whole forehead.  I had to turn the lights down and keep my eyes closed.  As the tears ran down my cheeks I was afraid I would die alone that nite on my couch.  I was banned from taking advil according to the oncology nurse so essentially I was screwed.  It was probably from dehydration combined with all the poison pumped into me that day.  

So last night when I had a really bad headache in the same place on my forehead it rushed me right back to that first chemo nite.  It always does.  Each headache I have had since (and there have been many)  unwillingly takes me back to that moment.  All of the fear and even some tears.  The flashback got worse when I took advil and it didn't work.  So there I was on the couch with the lights low holding back tears.  I have had headaches all of my life.  This is nothing new for me.  I have even had this discussion with my oncologist who says that if it is not any different then it is nothing to worry about.  And part of me knows that and agrees with him.  But it is in these moments when all the bad memories come rushing back amongst the pain that another part of me cannot distinguish between the two.  The fear gets as intense as the pain.

I wonder if there will be a day when a headache, a sneeze, or a stomach ache won't scare the hell out of me...

Does this ever happen to you?  Do symptoms you had before cancer scare you now?  How do you deal with the fear?  How do you put it all back in perspective?