Fireside 2.1 (https://fireside.fm) Breast Cancer Stories Blog https://www.breastcancerstoriespodcast.com/articles Tue, 09 Aug 2022 12:00:00 -0500 Breast Cancer Stories Blog en-us How Cancer Has Changed My View On Life ... And Death https://www.breastcancerstoriespodcast.com/articles/how-breast-cancer-has-impacted-my-view-on-life Tue, 09 Aug 2022 12:00:00 -0500 podcasts+bcs@theaxis.io 3f9948be-2b5f-4103-aa7a-2ad006c94fdd My life could be over and those who love me could live and love by my example and peace. By surrendering the fear and pain, I could make room for more life and unconditional love each day I was still alive. When you hear the word cancer, it immediately evokes a feeling of impending doom. Most of us have grieved the loss of a friend or family member dying of cancer or the effects of it. I watched my mother beat ovarian cancer after 2 years only to die 8 years later from complications of chemo destroying 3/4 of her digestive system. A brutal 10 years of pain, surgery, colostomy bags, abdominal feeding tubes, and starvation (at 84 lbs) being her cause of death at age 54.

I was 25 in 1990 when she was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer.

My father was 50 when he was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 1997–I was 31. He’s since had two more recurrences and will be 77 this year. It was reasonable to have a robust fear of “the big C” through the majority of my adult life.

When I reached age 45, I felt victorious that I had lived longer than my mom had with no cancer. A sort of hubris descended when I reached age 54 and a half when I had surpassed my mothers age at death by one month with no sign of cancer. I was home free! Fast forward a whopping 19 months to that fateful shower discovery, then another month to December 18, 2020: the day of MY cancer diagnosis. DAMMIT! SERIOUSLY?

My arrogance of dodging the ovarian cancer bullet changed to fear, devastation and anger. I still had so much life to live!

I knew I couldn’t carry these emotions with me through the treatments and survive for long so I had to change my perspective on MY life and death.

I had to put away the vivid visions of my mom in constant pain and suffering and turn the fear into surrender. Surrender that aside from the medical treatments and lifestyle changes, my physical life was out of my hands. The Universe, God, The Divine were in control — not me. No amount of worry, attempts at control or tantrums were going to change the outcome in a positive way. I needed peace. I had to vividly imagine lying in my last moments. How would I feel in those last seconds? I wanted to feel peace for me and those who loved me. They were left to celebrate and reflect on my life and their roles. How could I give them a sense of calm and resolve? By living it myself — that’s what I came up with. I’ve been incredibly blessed to reside in the most beautiful soul community with teachers who helped me churn, burn, and fully surrender those aspects of my life where deep and traumatic wounds bled and diminished my sense of self and worthiness. I came out the other side with a confidence and peace in my soul, mind, and body I thought was utter bullshit most of my lost, painful and anxiety-filled life.

I, with the grace and love of my community, had made space for this unfamiliar peace and compassion where the emotional pain used to fill every ounce of space I would create.

The realization that I lived a good life and left most people better than I found them was something I could embrace and die with if this cancer was gonna be what got me. My life could be over and those who love me could live and love by my example and peace. By surrendering the fear and pain, I could make room for more life and unconditional love each day I was still alive.

My top 3 resources for mental health during breast cancer treatment:

1. I Am

I Am is an affirmation app both Natasha and I found separately. It may sound cheesy, but some sort of affirmation shows up on your phone screen daily. It truly helps my mindset.

2. The Wellness Journal by Clarita Escalante

Journaling and keeping some sort of schedule gave me a sense of being and a little control. I was able to get emotions out and read where I had been later. Clarita Escalante created these beautiful journals—as a pink sister, she knows what we need. It's a great gift for someone on any journey, especially cancer.

3. The Brahman Project

Brahman Kyrie is my spiritual teacher, and the mission of The Brahman Project is to provide spiritual education and support to anyone with a desire to break old, destructive thoughts and behaviors. Everyone has to find what resonates with their soul and life. This is what helped me.

I touch on mental health during treatment in our recent episode:

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Big Surprise, Breast Cancer Treatment Causes Depression and Anxiety https://www.breastcancerstoriespodcast.com/articles/big-surprise-breast-cancer-treatment-causes-depression-and-anxiety Tue, 26 Jul 2022 15:00:00 -0500 podcasts+bcs@theaxis.io 9fa2bb91-67de-4f7e-818b-e11b55e7c92b Several studies examining the mental health of women diagnosed with breast cancer prove that the nasty disease and the long-term treatments it requires negatively affect mental health and often lead to depression and anxiety. The list of studies showing the negative impact on the mental health of those diagnosed with breast cancer is pretty much endless. Here are a few:

  • 77% of breast cancer patients experienced anxiety associated with the fear of death within 2 years of treatment. [1]
  • An increased mortality rate among breast cancer survivors in women was associated with depression related to anxiety over shortened survival time, recurrence, and metastasis. [2]
  • One in 10 breast cancer survivors had depression based on medical records (that’s all???) meaning breast cancer survivors face nearly twice the risk of depression compared to women who have not been diagnosed. [3]

Why don’t we just “go back to normal” after cancer treatment?

The side effects from cancer treatment are so painful physically that they eventually cause mental pain. The pain of treatment leaves women feeling helpless with little hope for the future. When will things get better? Will the pain ever stop? Breast cancer survivors often get to a point in which they can’t help but wonder if the treatment is worse than the disease itself.

Sure, the treatment is keeping the cancer away. But it’s also keeping away our sanity.

How can you help a friend or family member who’s survived cancer but still miserable?

Approach every interaction with them with compassion, understanding, and patience.
Understand that treatment may leave them feeling too tired to even keep in touch at some points.
Ask if they need you for anything from emotional support to dinner for the week.

If you want to hear more advice for how to help, listen to our episode titled “ Day 549: If This Is What Kills Me, Have I Lived A Good Life?”

Sources:
[1] Ashbury FD, Findlay H, Reynolds B, McKerracher K. A canadian survey of cancer patients’ experiences: Are their needs being met? J Pain Symptom Manage. 1998;16:298–306.
[2] Jiang MJ, Jin AZ, Feng L, et al. Late life depression predicts mortality among long-term cancer survivors. Ann Acad Med Singapore 2014;43:S42–3.
[3] Journal of the National Cancer Institute

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Season 2: Natasha's Story to Launch August 2022 https://www.breastcancerstoriespodcast.com/articles/season-2-natashas-story-to-launch-august-2022 Fri, 15 Jul 2022 11:00:00 -0500 podcasts+bcs@theaxis.io 3f966c5f-ce1a-4fa5-91f8-9d9c29e23c8e The second season of Breast Cancer Stories launches in August 2022 featuring Natasha Curry, a palliative care nurse practitioner at San Francisco General Hospital. A note from Kristen & Eva:

In early 2021, we started Breast Cancer Stories telling Kristen’s story to help inform her friends and family throughout the stages of breast cancer treatment.

A few months into starting Breast Cancer Stories, we started receiving messages on social media and emails from listeners sharing their stories and how hearing Kristen tell her story impacted them. Kristen even started receiving messages from friends and family she hasn’t seen or talked to for several years.

We had no idea how many people it would reach or how many lives it would affect.

As more and more messages of support rolled into our inboxes, we realized Breast Cancer Stories would not end after Kristen’s story was finished. We had to think of a plan for how to continue using our platform for the same mission: to help others handle the shock of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

We agreed to invite another woman with an incredible story full of the good, the bad, and the ugly of breast cancer diagnosis and treatments to share her experience, and to find her we asked the audience… “if this is you, will you contact us?”

Many listeners reached out to Kristen, connecting her with so many women in similar shoes and at different stages in their journeys. One listener-turned-friend stood out to Kristen. One who not only has a unique story to tell, but also has the heart to use her story to help other women feel less alone, more understood, and more informed. That woman is Natasha Curry.

Kristen knew instantly that Natasha’s voice needed to be heard, not just because she has a beautiful English accent, but because we knew she would bring her full authentic self to the mic with a drive to be a resource for other women who feel lost, alone, and terrified in their breast cancer diagnosis.

Natasha is a palliative care nurse practitioner at San Francisco General Hospital. While in Malawi on a Doctors Without Borders mission in 2021, her husband of 25 years announced in a text message that he was leaving. She returned home, fell into bed for a few weeks, and eventually with the help of her friends she pulled herself together and went back to work. A few months later when she discovered an almond-sized lump in her armpit, she did everything she tells her patients not to do and dismissed it, or wrote it off as a “fat lump."

Months went by before Natasha finally got a mammogram, but radiology saw nothing in either breast. It was the armpit lump that caught their attention. Next step was an ultrasound, where the lump was clearly visible. One painful biopsy later, Natasha found out she had cancer; in one life-changing moment, the nurse became the patient.

Before her diagnosis, Natasha knew her cancer patients felt fearful, but she never was able to grasp just how much terror patients feel until she became one herself. As Natasha is transformed by cancer treatment, we are a witness to the struggles all nurses undoubtedly face as patients.

If you were moved by Kristen’s story, trust us when we say you’re along for a ride when you tune into Natasha’s story. Listen to the trailer for a preview of Natasha’s breast cancer story, told in real time.

Listen to Natasha's Story: Nurse Becomes Patient [Season 2 Trailer]:

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The Lymph System https://www.breastcancerstoriespodcast.com/articles/the-lymph-system-in-women Thu, 26 May 2022 15:00:00 -0500 podcasts+bcs@theaxis.io ae7c7b3f-fed9-4e70-bd60-fef4ac04a886 Here's the illustration mentioned by Christine on our episode called Beating Lymphedema. Lymphedema specialist Christine Galione, MSPT, CLT is a physical therapist and expert lymphatic massage practitioner at Scripps Memorial La Jolla who has been helping breast cancer patients with lymphedema therapy since 2004.

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Why I Exercise For My Lymph System https://www.breastcancerstoriespodcast.com/articles/why-i-exercise-for-my-lymph-system Thu, 26 May 2022 10:00:00 -0500 podcasts+bcs@theaxis.io d78b2080-9f08-404d-a512-5b0cb7b16503 In light of our recent episode with lymphedema specialist Christine Galione, I'm sharing some things I've learned about lymph health throughout my experience with breast cancer. I think it’s amazing that surgeons are able to test lymph nodes near the tumor during a mastectomy or lumpectomy and remove just what’s needed instead of all of them. This lessens the possibility of lymphedema! Yay!

Bouncing on a BOSU ball or stability ball or jogging in water for just 3 minutes stimulates your lymph system and facilitates movement throughout. Who knew?!? I just did this for the first time in a lymphedema class.

When you exercise regularly, you stimulate your lymphatic system by moving your muscles and getting your heart rate up. This helps it flow more effectively, potentially preventing infections.

Gently using rubber cups and coconut oil in movements toward your heart on thighs, hips, and forearms helps lymphatic draining. Ask your therapist or doctor about these!

In this episode of Breast Cancer Stories, special guest and lymphedema specialist Christine Galione, MSPT, helps us understand what the lymph system does, how it functions, and the issues that can arise after removing them.

Products Mentioned:




BOSU® Balance Trainer in Pink




Trideer Yoga Ball Exercise Ball, 5 Sizes Ball Chair, Heavy Duty Swiss Ball for Balance, Stability, Pregnancy and Physical Therapy, Quick Pump Included




4 Sizes Cupping Therapy Set-Professional Cupping Therapy Studio and Household Silicone Cupping Set, Stronger Suction, Suitable for Myofascial Massage, Muscle, Nerve, Joint Pain Relief

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Things You Need for Radiation https://www.breastcancerstoriespodcast.com/articles/things-you-need-for-radiation Fri, 13 May 2022 14:00:00 -0500 podcasts+bcs@theaxis.io ac7d53ff-020a-45bc-a362-5b179cf15ec3 Most women head into radiation not knowing the process or what to expect. Intimidating machines, tattoos, buzzing noises, orders about how to move or not are on the forefront. Taking a backseat to treatment needs are ease and comfort—not that ANYTHING about radiation is particularly comfortable. Since many of us are recently recovering from surgery, our motion is limited and dressing in ANY clothing is a challenge. Most women head into radiation not knowing the process or what to expect. Intimidating machines, tattoos, buzzing noises, orders about how to move or not are on the forefront. Taking a backseat to treatment needs are ease and comfort—not that ANYTHING about radiation is particularly comfortable. Since many of us are recently recovering from surgery, our motion is limited and dressing in ANY clothing is a challenge.

In this episode of Breast Cancer Stories, I teamed up with special guest Jen Delvaux to share each of our unique experiences with radiation and the little things that helped us be more comfortable.

Yes, radiation sucks, but here are some of the things that made it suck just a little less.

WHAT TO WEAR

Please help SUPPORT THE SHOW by using the shopping links listed here!

I can't say enough good things about Ana Ono. They even work with insurance! With a qualifying prescription from your doctor, your plan may cover your purchase of post-surgery bras and mastectomy bras, breast prostheses and breast forms.

As an affiliate of AnaOno, we earn a few dollars if you purchase any items and our listeners also get 15% off with the promo code STORIES15.




Ana Ono Leslie Leisure Bra

Why I love it:

  • Super soft, made with Tencel for sensitive skin
  • Easy to pull down for access during treatment
  • Stretchy and easy to pull up from the bottom when range of motion is limited
  • Comes in sizes from XS to 3X
  • Roomy, loose fitting, adjustable

Where to get it: anaono.com



Ana Ono Rora Pocketed Front Closure Bra

Why I love it:

  • Easy to put on—especially with range of motion limitations from surgery.
  • Can open all the way up, it hooks in front!
  • Don’t have to wear hospital gowns for regular appointments.
  • Gives great support and is versatile when radiation is over. (I used it after my exchange surgery too)

Where to get it:
anaono.com




5 Pcs Women's Camisole Tank Top (Amazon)

Why I love it:

  • Gentle on radiation burns and stretchy enough to pull up and down
  • Can pull it down at your waist during appointments

Where to get it: amazon.com


SKIN AND BURN CARE

Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to brands of items they buy, and everyone’s skin reacts differently to different products. It's also true that radiation sucks no matter what you use to get through it. But there is a good possibility that at least one of these items can help you make it through in some way.


Miaderm

Why I love it:

  • Helps with radiation burn itching
  • Reduces radiation effects and restores damaged skin
  • Lidocaine is numbing if you have burn pain
  • Can be used to prepare skin before going to radiation

Where to get it: miaderm.com






Aquaphor Healing Ointment

Why she loves it:

  • Fragrance free
  • Creates a super protective barrier

Where to get it: amazon.com




My Girls Skin Care Burn Relief Cream

Why she loves it:

  • Founded by a breast cancer survivor
  • Formulated specifically for radiation
  • Jen would put this on immediately after radiation appointments, and then at least three more times throughout the day

Where to get it: mygirlscream.com


Calendula Cream

Why she loves it:

  • Less expensive alternative to Miaderm
  • Perfect for before bed when you need to put ointment on

Where to get it: amazon.com

WHAT TO READ

Not Today Cancer - Jen Delvaux's book

  • Advice based on her journey and stories from other real people
  • Discusses meditation, mindset, and belief through Jen’s breast cancer journey
  • Promotes the idea of thriving through diagnosis, not just surviving
  • Includes tips on nutrition/exercise
  • Real stories from herself and other women

Where to get it: amazon.com



One of the ways you can help support this podcast is to use the links on this page. We earn a few dollars if you purchase any items and it helps us keep the podcast going. Thank you from all of us for your support!

]]> Who makes a good surgery buddy? https://www.breastcancerstoriespodcast.com/articles/who-makes-a-good-surgery-buddy Thu, 28 Apr 2022 12:00:00 -0500 podcasts+bcs@theaxis.io 40e5132b-32a6-4076-8dc1-cb369c803c46 If you agreed to be by a friend's side during any part of their surgery process, there are a few things you should keep in mind in order to be the best caregiver you can be. Here, I have listed the 5 most important characteristics of a great surgery buddy, coming from someone with a pro surgery buddy. Surgery is stressful, and the support we need changes throughout the days leading up to it, on the day of, and during post-op recovery. If you’ve agreed to be by a friend's side during any part of this process, it’s important that you actually help rather than adding to the burden (If you have kids and can remember what it was like to have a newborn, it’s kind of like that, just much harder).

Here are the 5 most important things to keep in mind

1. Be reliable. Do not offer to help and then back out at the last minute!

Before you offer to be the surgery buddy, really think through whether or not you can handle it. A surgery buddy needs to be completely selfless and set their own feelings to the side. It would be better to be honest and say, “I can’t be there, but I’m sending a day’s worth of meals” than to offer to help and then back out.

2. Ask lots of questions and write a plan together before the day of surgery.

Preventing or reducing stress means anticipating the details and having a solid plan. The day of surgery should be completely predictable. If you’re prepared, then any unexpected situation can be handled with much more ease.

What should your plan include?

Important contacts:

  • Names and numbers for doctor(s) to call if something goes wrong after you return home
  • Home address & key information about yourself (DOB, insurance info)

Care details:

  • Pill organizer. Medications, timing, alarms set for meds, what should you do if I’m asleep at medication time? Do any of the medications need to be taken with food? What food should that be?
  • Be educated on all there is to know about incisions and wound care. This should be included in the post-op instructions from the doctor
  • Follow up appointment schedule

Housekeeping information:

  • Car keys, house keys, gate codes, etc.
  • Do you have pets? What’s the walking & feeding schedule? Where’s the food?
  • Receiving deliveries - are people sending things to the house?
  • Meal plans (see below for more on food!)

3. Make a list of the people who need to be kept in the loop.

Create a list of friends and family who need to be updated along with their phone numbers or email addresses. Remember that more people care about your friend getting surgery than you. Ask them days in advance for the numbers of family members, close friends, and maybe a work contact. During the procedure and directly after, the job is to make sure all of these people know what’s happening. Some people like all of their Facebook friends to know what’s happening, so if you get permission, post regular updates tagging them.

4. Prep easy meals and snacks that are ready to go.

It’s called comfort food for a reason, and there should be plenty of it on hand. If more than a few people want to send food, simplify by setting up a MealTrain page. Don’t forget to include Instacart, Shipt, Amazon Fresh. Put a cooler outside your front door so nobody has to ring the bell. And for the love of God, don’t ask someone who’s just come home from the hospital, “what’s for dinner?”

5. Be fully present. Don’t make plans to leave or have expectations of going out.

This is extra relevant if you’re visiting from out of town and want to explore. I live in San Diego near the beach and while it’s tempting to stick your toes in the ocean, that’s an adventure for another day. You might not need to hover, but don’t expect to go far from home for a while.

If you want to help, but aren’t cut out for being the caregiver…

That’s OK! We understand! Here are some other ways you might help:

  • Send food (check in for a Meal Train or food list); or be aware if food isn’t something your friend wants
  • Take the pet(s) for a few days
  • Take the kids for an adventure away from the house
  • Send a handwritten note
  • Be the driver (Do you have a comfy car that’s easy to get in and out of?)
  • Send flowers or plants
  • Mow the lawn

Personally, the hardest part was actually asking for help. The reality here is that surgery is frightening, and the idea is to make it as easy as possible on the person having surgery, their surgery buddy, and everyone around them.

This blog was inspired by a conversation in the Breast Cancer Stories episode titled Day 422: The Weight is Off My Chest.

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