Today marks the birthday of a former friend. A close friend for over 20 years, she and I hit all the milestones together: college suite mates, bridal parties, baby showers (hers), changing careers (mine), home ownership, an ugly divorce (hers), and emotional changes and growth. Even though we lived in separate cities, we were pretty tight for a long time. But she is no longer my friend and I have no desire for any sort of contact with her ever again. What ended our friendship? My cancer diagnosis. I wish my story was unique, but it isn’t. Friendship doesn’t come with an “in sickness and health” clause, but maybe it should.

At my first few support group meetings, women talked about their cancer experiences and the great support they received from family and friends. Overall, this was true for me, too. Oh sure, there were plenty of bumps along the way (I think all cancer survivors could write the book: “Stupid Shit People Say During Cancer”), but in general, I remain immensely grateful for the strong encouragement of my family and friends. With the one standout exception.

When the friendship imploded, I was confused and struggled to process my “Bad Friend” experience; I was disappointed that my first few cancer contacts didn’t seem to relate. But as time passed, frank discussions surfaced and I found a common theme. Many survivors experience the dissolution of friendship, or friendships, due to their cancer diagnosis (and all that follows). The reasons and excuses are myriad but really don’t matter. What does matter is that this is not uncommon and if it has happened to you, or is happening to you, it doesn’t reflect upon you as a person.

The pervasiveness of fractured friendships isn’t frequently discussed or recognized in the cancer literature and support sites. I never found a “Your Friends May Disappoint You or Desert You” pamphlet next to the “Side Effects of Chemo Drugs” and “Yoga and Recover” brochures. Instead, I found sometimes overwhelming cheerfulness and positivity in cancer-related conversation, especially among survivors. Staying positive and putting the best spin on a lousy situation is beneficial, but the “pink glazing” isn’t always helpful for those who come after us or who are struggling now. The negative aspects of cancer are real and painful and common. The positive aspects of life following a cancer diagnosis are also real and wonderful and common. But if the conversation is always positive, it ostracizes those who are experiencing something different but no less real. It’s important to normalize the emotional pains, the struggles, the physical difficulties, the human bonds that may fray, all of which can linger for years after an initial diagnosis and treatment. These things are normal.

And unfortunately, many women discover that formerly strong bonds of friendship disintegrate under the harsh reality of cancer diagnosis. Maybe it’s the whiff of mortality, maybe it’s the feelings of helplessness, maybe it’s because suddenly you (not she) are the center of attention…. Whatever the reasons, it is a painful truth that some people cannot and will not be able to handle your illness. This will be confusing, disorienting, maddening, and hurtful. But know this: although your illness is ALL ABOUT YOU, how people react to your illness, be it as a bright beacon of support or as a total turd on the floor, is ALL ABOUT THEM.

I share my Bad Friend story with the hope of normalizing anyone else’s Bad Friend story.

The ugly fractures in my friendship with Molly* began immediately at my diagnosis; the harshest was a bullying phone call that reduced me to tearful hysterics as she questioned my already-scheduled surgical decisions and insisted I have my surgery six hours from where I lived. Never mind that her “recommendation” was based on a friend of a friend’s breast cancer treatment, never mind that I nor my family had any place to stay near this facility, and never mind that I lived in Philadelphia, close to some of the  best cancer resources in the country. Already a confused mess because of my diagnosis, I didn’t know that I had the power to end the conversation and say. “You’re really upsetting me and I’m hanging up now.” That lesson took time to sink in. If you’ve gone through any sort of serious illness, you know that suddenly, almost everyone in your life has some sort of opinion about it. I say very grudgingly that maybe it’s okay for people to have an opinion, but unless explicitly asked, most times it is NOT okay for them to share it with you.

Molly’s opining continued, and months later as I contemplated radiation, she sent me a text message telling me to “please consider (radiation) as I want to grow old with you.” I was incensed, as the implication was if I didn’t do radiation I would die. Eight months of cancer treatment had built up my “Inappropriate Comment Destroyer Reflex” and I rapidly sent a “please don’t comment on medical issues you have no knowledge of” text. Unsurprisingly, instead of understanding, she was offended.

It took a girl’s only weekend trip for me to realize that our relationship was neither good nor healthy for me. Months of surgeries and chemo had left me longing to share my struggles with close friends. I wanted them to understand. However, everything i brought up Molly tried to top. Hot flashes from the chemo? She had hot flashes, too! Horrible yeast infections from the chemo? When she was pregnant she had the worst yeast infection. Ever! Unable to do anything with my 2-inch long hair. She had serious problems with her hair, too. In fact, was she starting to lose some of it? This continued the entire weekend as she tried to outdo me at every turn. I say with no sarcasm, I’m pretty sure you cannot top the Big C. The moment I realized our friendship was dust was, after vulnerably sharing that I found it hard to deal with or look at pregnant women and babies (due to the loss of my fertility) she tried to force a lifelike toy baby from FAO Schwartz in my arms because “it will be good for you.”

Ouch! The experience now reads like a dark sitcom in the making. At the time I was troubled and puzzled by the termination of our friendship, but it took a long conversation with a leukemia survivor to point out the incredible inappropriateness of Molly’s behavior. It was not okay. (This survivor, too, had her own Bad Friend story.) Like I said, some lessons take longer to sink in.

I could psychoanalyze Molly’s behavior to death, and, in dark moments, I have. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Whatever her deal was…it was HER deal. As painful and insensitive as I found her comments and actions, they weren’t about me and were all about her. And when you have cancer, baby, it is ALL about you. Anyone who doesn’t respect that distinction needs to be jettisoned.

The bad news is, many of us may have friendships that cannot survive our cancer diagnosis. It’s unfair, but it happens. I’d even go so far as to say it can be a normal byproduct. It’s hard to say goodbye to these friendships. (Or to the friends that simply disappear without a trace.) But the good news is, most friends pass the “in sickness and health” clause with flying colors. And the even better news is, new and wonderful friendships will be found along the path of your cancer journey. So make new friends, keep the old, and ditch anyone who isn’t serving you and your new healing path.

*Name is a pseudonym.

Jennifer Jaye is an editor, writer, actress, yogini, former karate instructor, and in her newest role, a cancer survivor. She lives, works, and plays in New York City as she attempts to navigate life as a young survivor of breast cancer.

By: Jenn Jaye

Posted in Emotional Health, Spiritual Care, Survivor Story | Tagged | 2 Comments

It is clear. The same things that reduce health risks in the general population reduce the risk of recurrence as well as the chance of developing a second new cancer for survivors.  The evidence is based on over 100 studies released between 2006 and 20121.  Sounds good, yes? Yet, survivors are no more likely to adopt a healthier lifestyle than the general population even though we are at greater risk.  As a survivor, I find this concerning.  As a Certified Wellness Coach and Pilates trainer, I want to help.

We can control the environment we create in our body. We do not control our genes or other factors that cause the cellular mutations that lead to cancer. Yet, maintaining a healthy internal environment reduces our chance of “turning on” the processes we can’t control and may lead to cancer.

So what are those things that will reduce risk in all populations? The key recommendations from the 2012 Guidelines include:

    • Get regular aerobic and resistance exercise;
    • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, low in red meat and saturated fats,
    • Use other weight-management strategies, such as portion control, to reach and maintain a healthy weight.

 

This is not new, nor is it sexy or easy. But aren’t the best things in life worth a bit of effort? Aren’t you worth the investment?

When we were an agrarian society, the average person could burn up 2,000 calories during the work day. It was physically, demanding work. We were built for it. There were no gyms, just hard work. Pilates, an exercise methodology, that strengthens the deep internal abdominal muscles that support our posture, was unnecessary. Aerobic conditioning was chasing the chickens or the horses that got loose. And we could eat more of the real food that was produced, not processed.

Today an average worker sitting behind a computer or a steering wheel only uses about 700 calories per work day. This sedentary lifestyle has created a new disease called “sitting disease” resulting from muscular inactivity, not lack of exercise. This lack of muscular activity can result in weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, some cancers and musculoskeletal problems.

So here is the bottom line: MOVE! Move as soon as you can, in any way you can, as often as you can. Listen to your body. It will tell you when you have done enough and when you need more. Walking is a great place to start moving. Start small – around the living room is perfect until you build strength and stamina. Add some speed to your walk, or squats and keep on building from there.

Movement teaches the brain that we have control which is both empowering and liberating. Moving becomes its own reward. Cancer makes us so aware of our limitations. Exercise and movement gives us some control and confidence back. What would it mean to you to feel better and recover quicker?  It is never too late. How are you going to take your next step?

By Lauryn Sires

Posted in Cancer Education, Daily Matters, Diet, Exercise, Lifestyle and Fitness, Nutrition, Risk Reduction | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why is it important to choose safe cosmetics during cancer treatments? As a consumer, the average woman uses 16 personal care products before she leaves her bathroom. The average man uses 6. That is a lot of exposure to the thousands of ingredients used in cosmetic products today.  Are we as savvy at reading cosmetic ingredient labels as we are our food labels? As a huge supporter of Oncology Esthetics and being a Certified Oncology Esthetician myself, skin care ingredients are important to me.

Today more people choose organic when they can. Why? Because we want to know what we are putting in/on our bodies. We don’t have to wait until our bodies are in crisis mode to seek clean products. However, in the cosmetic industry, organic products are not currently well regulated. So what should you look for in skin care as a consumer?

Start with the COSMOS-standard Certified Organic seal. This seal is internationally recognized as a new measurement in how we will define Certified Organic in our personal care products going forward. You can trust the cosmetic companies who have earned the COSMOS seal, because of the strict requirements to obtain it, as well as recertify each year.

While there is a long list of ingredients one should avoid if you are a healthy individual, the stakes are higher if you are health challenged. A person undergoing cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiation, often have many skin issue including dry skin, lesions, cracked skin, and rashes. Many cancer survivors complain of residual skin concerns due to the many medications prescribed.

Whether health-compromised or in good health, you want to look for a skin care system that will handle four key elements. These ideal skin care products should focus on inflammation, address bacteria, deliver anti-oxidants, and provide moisture to protect the skin’s lipid barrier. You want to avoid petroleum-based products and reach more for water-in-oil emulsions for the best barrier protection, which helps prevent water loss.

Here are a few Certified Organic ingredients to look for in your skin care products, especially moisturizers, body creams, and oils:

  • Safflower Seed Oil – rich in natural Vit E which prevents TEWL (trans-epidermal water loss)
  • Sunflower Seed Oil – a natural source of Vit A which prevents skin infections and helps retain moisture in the skin.
  • Linseed Oil - which expedites healing and assists with tissue repair.
  • St. John’s Wort Extract - has anti-inflammatory properties. Has shown positive results in soothing atopic dermatitis. Astringent and antiseptic.
  • Rose Flower Water – Calms, cools, protects skin from bacterial and fungal infections. Very hydrating.
  • Arnica – antiseptic, antibacterial, and anti inflammatory properties.
  • Shea Butter - mimics our own skin oil. Very hydrating. Rich in natural Vit A and E. Offering anti-oxidant protection and barrier protection.
  • Edelweiss – anti-inflammatory, antibacterial. Contains Chlorogenic, which is able to neutralize free radicals.
  • Olive Oil – Nutrient rich anti-oxidants in Vit A and E. Contains squalene (natural moisturizer).
  • Sea-Buckthorn – rich in unsaturated fatty acids and antioxidant properties. Harmonizes the lipid layers in the skin.

Remember, your skin is the largest organ, weighing in at approximately 8 lbs and covering about 22 sq ft. Allow it to do its job, but give your skin the gentle nutrients and moisture it needs before/during/and after all oncological treatments. Keep it simple. Find a Certified Oncology Esthetician in your area, or one you can consult with over the phone.

To your skin health!

By Maxine Drake

 

Posted in Oncology Esthetics | Tagged | Leave a comment

ANY BREAKFAST IS BETTER THAN NO BREAKFAST!

Of course, there’s always qualifiers… but the point is that you really should not skip breakfast.

Why?

There are lots of reasons, but here are a few of the things that we have evidence for, regarding the benefits of breakfast:

- From the 2009 review article in the Cambridge Journals: “The evidence indicates that breakfast consumption is more beneficial than skipping breakfast, but this effect is more apparent in children whose nutritional status is compromised.

- A study from Nutrition Journal, compared two different breakfast meals consumed by adolescent girls. I find two of the conclusions interesting. 1. Both types of breakfast reduced after meal (post prandial) cravings. 2. The higher protein breakfast (35g) tended to decrease cravings more than the control breakfast (13g). Other than protein, the meals were matched for calories, fat content, dietary fiber, and sugar content.

- A similar study, by the same authors published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was also done in adolescents (must be weber all the research money is!!!), concluded that “breakfast led to beneficial alterations in the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals that control food intake regulation.

- The Journal of Epidemiology published a study showing that eating breakfast can prevent weight gain. 

- A Tufts report states it can help with cognitive function (never bad for anyone battling “Cancer Brain” or “Chemo Brain”!). Granted, the study was funded by Quaker Oats Company, but I don’t think that skewed too much!

Most Importantly, a study from 1999, shows that with breakfast and coffee, we are HAPPIER people!

What’s in the Bowl?

Ok, so since we’ve established that breaking the fast of your overnight rest is important, now it’s time to focus on how to build the best breakfast that you can, given your circumstances.

The goal is to have:

1. A fruit or vegetable (1 cup is ideal)

2. A carbohydrate source to help replenish the stores that were used up overnight while you slept. (Fruit can fill this role if you want. Also, remember that dairy foods have some healthy carbs too. Fo you counters… I would aim for 30-45g of carbs).

3. A protein source to help fill you up and get the day started. See discussion below on goals!

In addition, if you have some kind of fat mixed in with breakfast, it will help the meal last a bit longer.

I can attest that reaching 30g at breakfast can be a challenge, but I would say 20 would be a realistic goal.

You Don’t Need to Count!!

In case you don’t know =, I’m not one to suggest that you obsessively count calories, protein, carbs, salt, fat, or anything else about your food, unless it’s medically necessary. I find that some people can cross into disordered eating behavior if they obsess too much about the numbers.

However, when you’re trying to take an objective look at something, or considering a change to make, it can be helpful to “evaluate the data.” When it comes to your breakfast, I would suggest you do a bit of evaluating. Do you have at least 15g of protein, 1 cup of fruit (or vegetable) and some kind of fat to fill you up?

- Julie Lanford

References:

  1. Alexa Hoyland, Louise Dye and Clare L. Lawton (2009). A systematic review of the effect of breakfast on the cognitive performance of children and adolescents. Nutrition Research Reviews, 22, pp 220-243. doi:10.1017/S0954422409990175.
  2. Heather A Hoertel, Matthew J Will and Heather J Leidy (2014). A randomized crossover, pilot study examining the effects of a normal protein vs. high protein breakfast on food cravings and reward signals in overweight/obese “breakfast skipping”, late-adolescent girls. Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:80  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-80.
  3. Heather J Leidy, Laura C Ortinau, Steve M Douglas, and Heather A Hoertel (2013). Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese, “breakfast-skipping,” late-adolescent girls. Am J Clin Nutr April 2013 vol. 97 no. 4 677-688.
  4. Yunsheng Ma1, Elizabeth R. Bertone2, Edward J. Stanek III2, George W. Reed1, James R. Hebert3, Nancy L. Cohen4, Philip A. Merriam1 and Ira S. Ockene. Association between Eating Patterns and Obesity in a Free-living US Adult Population. Am. J. Epidemiol. (2003) 158 (1): 85-92. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwg117.
  5. Caroline R. Mahoney, Holly A. Taylor, Robin B. Kanarek, Priscilla Samuel (2005). Effect of breakfast composition on cognitive processes in elementary school children. Physiology & Behavior 85 (2005) 635 – 645.
  6. Andrew P Smitha, Rachel Clarka, John Gallaghera. Breakfast Cereal and Caffeinated Coffee: Effects on Working Memory, Attention, Mood, and Cardiovascular Function. Physiology & Behavior: Volume 67, Issue 1, 1 August 1999, Pages 9-17. DOI: 10.1016/S0031-9384(99)00025-6.
  7. Madonna M. Mamerow4, Joni A. Mettler4, Kirk L. English4, Shanon L. Casperson6, Emily Arentson-Lantz4, Melinda Sheffield-Moore6, Donald K. Layman7, and Douglas Paddon-Jones. Dietary Protein Distribution Positively Influences 24-h Muscle Protein Synthesis in Healthy Adults. J. Nutr. June 1, 2014 vol. 144 no. 6 876-880.
Posted in Diet, Lifestyle and Fitness | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, chances are you have read about at least one diet change, supplement, or herb that is recommended to support your diagnosis. But how do you choose? Which change is right for you? Who can you turn to for advice? While your next door neighbor, family member, or friend can probably provide advice, maybe you are looking for someone with special training to help guide your decisions.

Naturopathic medicine and Naturopathic Doctors can support you through those tough questions above. In the states that license Naturopathic doctors, we are primary care physicians that have extensive training in nutrition, herbs, vitamins, environmental medicine, homeopathy, and prescription medications. Sometimes naturopathic doctors also provide IV Nutrient therapy and chelation therapy. You can learn more and find a naturopathic doctor in your area at http://www.naturopathic.org.

If you have cancer, you can add a naturopathic physician to your healthcare team. A Naturopathic oncologist has taken a board exam as well as presented cases to a board that accredits them as specialists in naturopathic oncology. You can find a local naturopathic oncologist and learn more at www.oncanp.org.

Many women with cancer use natural medicine without any guidance based on books, websites, and friends advice. As naturopathic oncologists we know about possible negative and positive interactions that natural therapies have with chemotherapy, survey, and radiation and will make sure you use natural therapies for cancer safely. Plus, as naturopathic oncologists we also look at you as a whole person, and will address any other health concerns, diet, and lifestyle conditions that might have contributed to cancer growth in the first place. A naturopathic oncologist will help you choose exactly the right herbs, supplements, diet, and natural therapies that fit your type of breast cancer. Every woman and every situation is unique, and you deserve to have an expert on your team of health care providers.

By: Heather Paulson

Posted in Complementary Cancer Care, Integrative Medicine, Naturopathic Cancer Care | Leave a comment