How I Regained My Smile Following Breast Cancer

Being diagnosed with breast cancer at 29 is rough. You are quickly thrown into a world of decision-making and self-advocacy; where the balance between quality and quantity of life looms over you while physicians and family each provide their opinions. But then you make it through. You become a survivor and everything in the world is great….except when it isn’t.

The same treatments that saved my life had long-term side effects that had stealthily remained out of the conversation when I weighed my treatment options. To be fair, if someone had told me at the time, “You are going to take this medication for five years, which will prevent the cancer from coming back, but it will also prevent you from having sex in the future,” I probably would have still taken the medication. But after the physical and mental healing of cancer, you want to get back to “normal,” and I quickly realized that the pain doesn’t stop after remission.

Vaginal Atrophy is a common condition for women who have been on adjuvant therapy, but only recently has it been discussed openly. When I first went to my doctor and told her about my symptoms, (i.e. dryness, painful intercourse, etc.), I was told to try lubricant from the drugstore. It goes without saying that if the symptoms were bad enough to discuss with my doctor, we were way beyond drugstore solutions. Unfortunately, there were no other options for me. The few products on the market to treat vaginal atrophy all contained estrogen and centered around hormone replacement for post-menopausal women. As an estrogen positive breast cancer patient, the last thing I wanted to do was put more estrogen in my body.

Enter self-advocacy and a lot of stubbornness. I refused to accept that I had to live like this. I routinely spoke with my gynecologist about the problem until one day she presented a new solution – the MonaLisa Touch. A Clinical Trial was being conducted for this new CO2 laser that would restore the vaginal health to what it was before my cancer diagnosis, and I was fortunate enough to be selected to participate in the program.

With cautious optimism I went in for my first of three treatments, hoping for a miracle, but expecting very little. Three days after my first treatment, I began to feel the results, but ever the skeptic at heart, I told myself it was probably the placebo effect. A week later I could no longer deny it. There was definitely a change. I was still too nervous to attempt intercourse, but the painful dryness was dissipating. After my second treatment I did a little happy dance. I actually felt amazing. The dryness was gone – not just “better,” I mean, it was GONE. I had sex for the first time in a long time and felt like I was 21 again. My third treatment just sealed the deal.

I am happy to report that more than one year from my treatments with MonaLisa Touch, I am enjoying a quality of life that I thought I would never regain. If I can impart one piece of advice onto other women going through the same thing – don’t live with the pain. Like me, you too can regain your smile again.

Mona Lisa Touch Before & After

(A) Vaginal Atrophy, mucosa in the basal condition with a thinner epithelium. (B) The same patient 2 months after a session with the MonaLisa Touch®. The thicker epithelium and shedding of numerous big cells from the free surface, together with the larger diameter of epithelial cells rich in glycogen, demonstrate the restored metabolic trophism and dynamics of the whole epithelium.

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At 29, Lisa Elliot was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her subsequent treatments lead to menopausal symptoms including extreme dryness, irritation, itching and painful sex.  As a young lady in her early 30s, she wasn’t able to sit at her desk without being in severe pain, much less have sex with her boyfriend who didn’t really comprehend why or how this could be happening to someone so young.  Then, Lisa’s gynecologist introduced her to a new, non-estrogen therapy. Within two days of her first [of three] treatment, Lisa reported that she had a dramatic improvement in her symptoms. Upon returning for her second treatment, she rejoiced that she had been partaking in sex again with no pain. One year following her series of three treatments, Lisa’s symptoms have not returned.

MonaLisa Touch is a proud partner of Young Survival Coalition.

 

 

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Just do your thing.

I like beer.  This is not the point of my post, but I thought you might like to know. I also like the band RUSH, but that also is not the point. The point is this: I’m a Co‑Survivor. I’m also a very lucky man.

craig pic 1OK, my wife Jenn (smokin’ hot, BTW) was diagnosed with stage 3A breast cancer (ER+/PR+/Her2-) in 2013. Up until then, everything was awesome: a great marriage of over 10 years, two amazing girls, a house, a dog, you get the idea. Thankfully, we still have all of that, minus one of Jenn’s breasts and some lymph nodes.

Jenn’s diagnosis consumed every waking minute. As the Co-Survivor (a title I never knew existed), it took all of my attention to keep things moving. The marriage, kids, house, dog … and now awwwwhhh crap, The Cancer.

The last thing on my mind was intimacy. Following Jenn’s diagnosis and the ensuing surgeries and treatments, it was the absence of intimacy that stood out.

Here was the woman I loved and desired, and honestly, she was a wreck. Hell, I was a wreck.  Having my wife burying her head in my chest and sobbing herself to sleep, and sharing her emotions, wasn’t much for foreplay.

But, over time, intimacy did, can I say it? Arise. It was tentative at first, but it was there.  Simply put, you love and desire your partner and intimacy is part of that. What kind of intimacy, you ask?  I think you know. But let’s not go full perv. My kids might read this and think I’m even weirder.

There is a type of intimacy more important than the biblical thing. A knowing look.  A hand held. A smile. A hug. Time together. I know, blah, blah, blah. You already know all of this. But, before you click away to read about Kanye being broke or the Zika virus, let me ask you: What’s your thing?

I’ll tell you what our thing is (beyond the smiles and hugs and stuff).

Cooking.

craig pic 6Throughout Jenn’s diagnosis, surgeries, treatments and all the other fun cancer stuff, we found intimacy in cooking. We would plan a meal. I mean seriously plan a meal, like all week long. We’d talk about it, source the ingredients, go shopping. We’d plan the food, drink, and even the movie we’d watch (we’re not much for candles and fine china; more like TV trays and couches.) Then, we’d cook together. The moments spent talking, collaborating, laughing, and sometimes just chewing were important. Those moments were intimate. We had always done this, even before cancer. But, after cancer, this thing was much more special, more important, more intimate.

So, I ask again, what’s your thing?

In getting to that answer, ask yourself: Why are you together? What draws you to one another? How do you show your love? What do you like to do together?

Whatever it is, just do your thing. If you make something up or try to go extravagant, it’s not going to feel real. Oh, and don’t hide from the intimacy. Cancer changes a lot of things, but not everything. Certain things are fundamental to us as human beings. What existed before cancer is still there.

This cancer stuff will never be over and no one knows what’s coming next. So, we’ll just keep doing our thing. Same as before.

Here’s some pictures of Jenn and me (and those amazing kids I mentioned). Take a quick look at her hotness.

Craig And Family

 

***

Craig’s wife, Jenn McRobbie, will be speaking at the upcoming YSC Summit in Atlanta, GA on March 11 – 13. As a breast cancer survivor, Jenn understands that a breast cancer diagnosis is not only hard on you, but it is also difficult for friends and family. Join her session, Friends and Family: Building Stronger Relationships After a Breast Cancer Diagnosis, to learn how to navigate these important relationships after a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Register today: summit.youngsurvival.org/Registration

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Guest Bloggers

10 Truths About Great Sex

web1321800-gIntimacy after a breast cancer diagnosis can be a challenge. When Rachel Venning, Babeland’s other co-founder and my business partner of more than 20 years, and I wrote Moregeasm: Babeland’s Guide to Mind-Blowing Sex, a key part of it was the Babeland Bill of Rights. These 10 truths are all about self-knowledge of your own body and allowing yourself the time to explore and enjoy sex.

We’re looking forward to participating in the upcoming YSC Summit next month and I wanted to offer the Babeland Bill of Rights as an introduction to what we hope to inspire and share with all the survivors and co-survivors we’ll be fortunate enough to meet.


1. 
Remember, you are sexy—the whole of you, inside and out.
Use your entire body for good sex. Incorporate all five senses into sex. Bring your head, your heart, your willingness and desire for connection. And use your lungs too. Breathe!

2. Love yourself first.
You deserve freedom from negative self-talk and internal criticism.

3. Enjoy the journey.
The big O is not the whole point. A round of sex is over when you feel like it’s over. The journey matters as much as the destination.

4. Own your own orgasm.
Develop the skills and knowledge on your own to make yourself come. Then bring that knowledge to the bedroom and share it with another person. Just remember you have a lifetime to work it out, so keep the self-love flowing.

5. Ask for what you want.
Check in with your partner using eye contact, sounds, and words. We don’t believe anyone has magical intuitive powers to be a good lover. It takes some effort.

6. Take charge of safe sex.
If you want to use a condom, bring one and insist your partner uses it.

7. Use lubrication.
Or at least have it nearby at all times. Wet and slippery feels good – dry not so much.

8. Laugh.
Sex at home isn’t like the movies. Be ready for things to go wrong and have a laugh about it.

9. Don’t be afraid to make a mess.
That’s part of the treat.

10. Keep growing.
Over a lifetime your desires change, and so does your body. So change up your sexual routine to fit what you need. Better yet, try not to have a sexual routine. Break patterns and try new things, just for the sake of newness and surprise. Variety is the spice of sex.

***

Babeland_ID_O_PMS_SM [Converted]Claire co-founded Babeland in 1993 to create a friendly and welcoming shop for women to get good information about sexual pleasure and high-quality sex toys.
Visit babeland.com or any of the 4 stores in New York City and Seattle for workshops, events, toys and resources.

Come meet Babeland representative and teacher Avital Isaacs who is hosting a Ladies Pajama Party at the YSC Summit on March 11 – 13 in Atlanta, GA. Register today!

 

 

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3 Perspectives of YSC’s Regional Symposium

Just three weeks ago, YSC hosted its first Regional Symposium in the South. Jackson Mississippi welcomed us with open arms as nearly 100 young women affected by breast cancer, co-survivors and healthcare providers came together for a full day of learning, empowerment and hope. We were thrilled to co-host the Symposium with the Gulf States Young Breast Cancer Survivor Network, which includes SurviveAL, SurviveDAT and SurviveMISS. The event included inspirational speakers and plenty of time to connect and network with one another.

I interviewed three Symposium attendees about their thoughts and experience before, during and after the event. Here’s what they had to say:


Wendy
, diagnosed at age 36, YSC Arkansa State Leader

WendyWhat did you hope to gain from attending the Symposium?
I attended because I wanted to gain more knowledge on other types of breast cancer, which has affected so many people I come in contact with. I also hoped to be more accessible to all cancer survivors as a voice to help them get the best treatment possible.

What was your favorite thing about the Symposium?
My favorite parts were the individual sessions because they gave everyone a chance to bond on a more personable level.

Do you have any tips or take-aways to share with others interested in attending future YSC conferences?
I offer this advice to anyone who’s considering attending a YSC event – come fully expecting to walk away a different person from all the event has to offer. I won’t give away too much, just come on out and see for yourself!

How has attending the Symposium impacted you?
This symposium has left me feeling like I need to do more in my own community with the tools that have been shared.

 

Shauntice Allen, PhD, Public Health Researcher, IMG_9739Regional Advisory Board Member for SurviveAL and currently living with metastatic breast cancer after an initial Stage I diagnosis in 2012.

Dr. Allen hosted two work sessions at the Regional Symposium – Relationships and Intimacy: Embracing My Relationships Now and Relationships and Intimacy: My New Body, My New Self.

What did you hope to gain from attending the Symposium?
I hoped to gain a new network of those living with metastatic breast cancer. I had an opportunity to meet women across the Southeast who provided me with a new sense of hope as it related to metastatic breast cancer.

What was your favorite thing about the Symposium?
I enjoyed the dinner and opportunity to relax with participants. I also thoroughly enjoyed the sessions I facilitated; it sparked great conversation and new insights for those in attendance and for myself.

Do you have any tips or take-aways to share with others interested in attending future YSC conferences?
Make sure to attend a YSC conference or regional symposium – the information and relationships gained are priceless.

 

David, Co-survivor to his wife Jami Watson, who was diagnosed at 33 and a YSC Mississippi State Leader and F2F Coordinator

Craig and JamiWhat did you hope to gain from attending the Symposium?
As a co-survivor to my wife, Jami, I was hoping to just be a support for her by attending, as has been my typical role with this journey. She did, however, encourage me to go for the co-survivor sessions.

What was your favorite thing about the Symposium?
At this event, there was a session specifically for us co-survivors that allowed for us to each share our wives’ stories but from our perspective. For the first time I actually shared with other men the journey my wife and I have had with breast cancer and I was able to hear their personal stories of struggle and victory.

Do you have any tips or take-aways to share with others interested in attending future YSC conferences?
If you’re a co-survivor reading this and wondering if it’ll be worth your time to go to a YSC event like this, don’t wonder anymore. It IS worth every minute. You’ll be blessed, encouraged, and enlightened; and most of all, your survivor spouse will most definitely feel supported and loved. I came away with an even greater appreciation for the Young Survival Coalition; what this organization is doing for women (and co-survivors) is unprecedented and is a noble and worthy cause! My wife and I will continue to support YSC and look forward to the next event.

How has attending the Symposium impacted you?
As the Symposium progressed, I gained more perspective of how far-reaching breast cancer is in these women’s lives. I met women who had beaten this cancer multiple times, others who are currently battling metastatic disease, and women who were newly diagnosed; all of whom were strong, courageous, willing to share experiences and gain more strength from those around them. Heck, even some of the medical professionals speaking at the event were breast cancer survivors or current patients! It was encouraging to see these women in all stages of the battle there celebrating victory and refusing to let cancer beat them, no matter what part of the battle they were in.


Did you attend the YSC Regional Symposium in Jackson, MS? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Please share your experiences in the comments section below. 

***

Are you now interested in attending YSC’s next big event? You’re in luck! The YSC National Summit is less than 4 weeks away and we’d love to see you there. Join us in Atlanta, GA from March 11 to 13 for the largest conference for young women affected by breast cancer and their co-survivors.

Register today at summit.youngsurvival.org/Registration
Fee waiver applications will also be available until February 16.
For more details and to apply: summit.youngsurvival.org/Waivers

 

 

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Categories: YSC Conferences

5 Tasty Ways to Celebrate Galentine’s Day

Forget Valentine’s Day! Galentine’s Day, coined by Leslie Knope the charming character from the show Parks and Recreation, is the real holiday worth celebrating.

Join in the wonderful tradition by celebrating friendship with your best gal pals this February 13.  At Cook For Your LIFE, our mission is to teach healthy cooking to people touched by cancer. We believe that the first step toward healthy eating is cooking at home, and what better way to show your love for your girlfriends than a home cooked meal?

Here are some of our favorite ideas to celebrate Galentine’s Day.

1. Have a healthy potluck

Skip the high calorie and price at a restaurant and host a healthy potluck. CookForYourLife.org is full of delicious recipes from simple to extravagant to fit everyone’s skill level. Our founder, Ann Ogden, is a breast cancer survivor so making delicious recipes that are great for breast health is one of our specialties. Check out some of our favorites to try our with your “breast friends.”

2. Have a mocktail party:

mocktailThere’s a fun cocktail idea for just about every holiday, but can’t we enjoy a festive night with friends sans alcohol? Stack your bar with pomegranate juice, oranges, sparkling apple cider, limes, mint and seltzer for a plethora of delicious fun drinks from Mock Sangria to an Orange Mint Twist.

3. Choose an adventurous meal and make it together:

Have you been waiting for the perfect evening to try out a crazy new recipe? Have everyone grab a few of ingredients at the grocery store on their way over and give it a go. PopcornYou can make a five-star meal and have fun while you’re doing it.

4. Popcorn and a movie:

Popcorn and a movie are a great pair, just like you and your best friend. Take it easy at night and get inventive with your popcorn choices. We have awesome popcorn recipes like Chocolate Peanut Butter Popcorn, Chai Spiced Popcorn, Rosemary Olive Oil Popcorn, and Southern Spiced Popcorn. Have a fun taste test, and hey, Pizzapopcorn is a whole grain!

5. Pizza Party:

Pizza at home can be healthy, no really! We have a ton of great vegetable-loaded pizza makeovers that everyone loves. You can either work together to make a couple of large pizzas or each make your own individual pies. Either way, using pre-made whole wheat pizza dough as your canvas can be so much fun, easy, and totally delicious. Click here for more awesome pizza recipes.

 

 

 

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Cook For Your LIFE will be leading a scrumptious cooking demonstration at the YSC Summit next month, the only national conference for young women affected by breast cancer. They’ll focus on nutrition as well as demonstrating some of their favorite simple recipes. Getting in the kitchen doesn’t have to be complicated and they’ll prove it to you!

For more information on Cook For Your LIFE visit their website www.cfyl.org or learn more on their about page.

 

 

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Your Best Lover is…YOU!

light heartIt’s February and the subject is love.  We’re awash in Hallmark moments about romance, hearts and flowers and little candy kisses with sweet messages. Let’s take a deeper look at love, at self-love.

The truth is that love begins and ends with your relationship with yourself. You are your primary partner and you are your lifetime lover. How you feel about you determines how you receive and give love. Sometimes we think that we’ll love ourselves when we know others love us. If we don’t feel loved, it’s easy to think that we’re unlovable and that only love from others can fill that emptiness. This is backwards. How we feel about ourselves is what we transmit to the world. When you are in love with you and loving you, you radiate love and it’s irresistible. You are irresistible.

For the month of February, my invitation is to love yourself fully, to believe that you are adorable, lovable, sexy and irresistible. Imagine what your life would be like if you felt totally loved all the time? This is the gift I’m inviting you to give to yourself. After all, who else knows you so well and knows how you want to receive love?

Each day this month, explore ways to love yourself. Open your heart to yourself the way you would to the one/s you love most. Be generous with your love because you deserve to be adored. Remember what it feels like to be in love and all you can think about is your sweetie? Bring that attitude and energy to you. At first this may feel silly or awkward. But stick with it and be creative, and you may find a surprise at the end of the month.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Write yourself a love letter. Tell yourself all the things you appreciate and love about yourself. Write it on beautiful stationery or a card and mail it. Hint: you can do this more than once and perhaps you’ll send you a Valentine.

 – Take yourself out on a date. Dress up so that you feel beautiful and go out for coffee, a movie, dinner or for a walk in a beautiful place.

 – Meditate on love. What does love mean to you? How do you know when you are loved? How can you be more loving with yourself? Open to receive what comes to you as you sit and contemplate these questions and any others that inspire you.

 – Buy yourself some gorgeous flowers, or send them to yourself. Include a love note with the flowers and when you look at them, remember how much you love yourself.

 – Each time you see your face in a mirror, look into your eyes and say, “I love you” out loud. Say it like you mean it.

 – Stroke yourself from head to toe with tenderness and love.

 – Keep a love journal. Write daily about your exploration for that day ~ what you did, how it felt and what you’re learning about loving yourself. Keep the journal in a special place and read it often to remind you of your love for yourself.

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small logoAbout Barbara Musser

Barbara, founder and CEO of Sexy After Cancer, is the author of Sexy After Cancer ~ Meeting Your Inner Aphrodite on the Breast Cancer Journey. A 26-year breast cancer survivor, speaker and educator, she teaches classes and retreats for women and couples about cancer, love, intimacy and sexuality.

 

Barbara will be speaking at the YSC Summit on Saturday during General Session 1 on Sex and Intimacy along with other experts. To learn more about this session and others, visit summit.youngsurvival.org/Sessions.

 

 

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Heart Health & You: Before, During & After Treatment

go-red-american-heart-associationFebruary is Heart Disease Awareness Month and today is “Go Red Day” where everyone wears red to raise awareness of heart disease and donate to “Go Red for Women,” which supports educational programming on heart disease.

 

Why should we, as breast cancer patients or survivors, worry about our heart?
Well, unfortunately there are lots of reasons. First, some of the treatments and chemotherapies we may have taken can cause heart damage. These include (among others) Adriamycin, Herceptin and radiation on the left side of the body. In addition, if you were premenopausal before treatment and become postmenopausal during or after, that can also affect your heart. The risk of heart disease increases in postmenopausal women, with the decline of estrogen levels possibly playing a role.

What Can You Do to be Proactive?
If you’re in active treatment that could possibly damage your heart, your doctor will likely check your heart function to ensure that there are no problems. This can include an EKG or MUGA scan. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctors about how certain treatments may impact the rest of your body, including your heart. This is especially important if you already have heart problems or a family history of heart disease.

shutterstock_111914588If your treatment is complete, what can you do to take care of your heart? First, it is very important that all your physicians, including your family or primary care physician, be aware of your complete medical history including your breast cancer treatments. This way, they can be aware of what potential medical issues to monitor including your heart. Second, take care of yourself and your heart. If you are smoking, stop. Maintain a healthy diet, keep a check on your blood pressure and cholesterol, exercise and take steps to reduce stress.

What are Signs and Symptoms of Heart Problems?
These can include puffiness in hands and feet (due to retaining of fluid), dizziness or weakness, shortness of breath, coughing, and racing or irregular heartbeat. If you ever have any concerns or think you may be having a heart attack, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

Taking charge of your health is one way to be empowered while dealing with the challenges of a breast cancer diagnosis. And remember – YOU are your own best health advocate!

For more information on heart health, visit:

BeastCancer.org – Heart Problems

TheBreastCareSite.com – Take Heart, Be Smart: Before, During & After Treatment

GoRedForWomen.org – National Wear Red Day, 2/5/16

Heart.org – Menopause and Heart Disease

 

 

 

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Categories: Taking my Body Back

Takeaways from 2015 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium

SABCS Logo

Each December, several YSC staff members travel to San Antonio, Texas, for the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS).
We interviewed Michelle Esser, YSC’s Senior Program Manager for Research and Advocacy, about why YSC makes it a priority to attend this conference.

 

Why is SABCS such aimportant conference to attend?

SABCS is the world’s largest conference devoted exclusively to breast cancer. The conference focuses on research news and updates – including promising new potential treatments, less invasive or toxic treatments, managing side effects, etc. It is important for YSC to learn about updates that we should share with our constituents, and to remind doctors that breast cancer does affect young women.

What does YSC do there?

We divide and conquer! YSC typically has a space in the exhibit hall where staff shares information about our services and resources. Other staff  meet in-person with physicians, pharmaceutical companies, researchers, and partner nonprofits. We also have staff who attend the educational sessions, and YSC often displays posters that share our work and survey data.

Why did you record videos at the meeting?

At 2014’s SABCS, I knew that the results of the SOFT/TEXT trials (which examined whether ovarian suppression should be used in young women diagnosed with breast cancer) were being released at SABCS and that this information could change recommendations for young women with hormone-receptor positive breast cancer. I wanted to share this information as soon as it was available, so I proposed a “reporting live from San Antonio” video. The idea expanded and we also interviewed advocates, researchers, etc.  Much to our delight, the videos were well-received.  At times, we are literally walking up to a researcher/doctor and asking them on-the-spot to discuss their research. This year, I was fortunate to have YSC RISE Legacy advocate Tracy Leduc working with me to create these videos.

Dr. Sylvia Adams

Dr. Sylvia Adams

Any surprises at the meeting?

Yes! Tracy and I attended an early-morning poster session and noticed a large crowd jostling to get a look at one of the posters. When we were finally close enough to see what was going on, we saw that the poster was about a potential new treatment for metastatic triple negative breast cancer. Since triple negative breast cancer disproportionately affects young women, we were very excited to see the results and learn of a Phase III clinical trial now enrolling. We are grateful Dr. Sylvia Adams took the time to speak with us.

Any disappointments?

Yes. I was disappointed that there were only a couple presentations in the general session that focused on young or premenopausal women.  And one headline-making presentation, “Chemotherapy Showed No Benefit Against Luminal A Breast Tumors,“ was based on older data that examined chemotherapy regimens not used today. So, while it is good information to know and discuss with your physician, I don’t know how much it will truly change practice. There were a significant number of posters pertinent to young women, but it would have been great to see at least some of these posters discussed in the general sessions.

Can survivors and advocates attend?

Yes. There are reduced registration prices for advocates and the Alamo Breast Cancer Foundation (ABCF) hosts nightly “Mentor Hot Topic” sessions, where doctors summarize the biggest news of the day. In addition, ABCF offers scholarships for advocates to attend SABCS. Applications and criteria can be found here. That said, this is a scientific meeting. Some background knowledge on the science of breast cancer is helpful (and required for the Alamo scholarship).

A favorite session to attend?

One of my favorites is the case study panels. There are two sessions in which physicians discuss their “tough” cases and seek input from a panel of prestigious doctors. The panel also includes one advocate to represent the patient perspective. (I sat on the panel in 2013 and I can tell you it is not an easy job!) The panel I attended this year included advocate Christine Benjamin of SHARE. She did an awesome job and provided one of my meeting highlights: One of the doctors said that a patient had “failed” the medication. Advocates in the audience groaned and Christine quickly stepped in with a gentle reminder that patients don’t “fail;” it is the medication that fails. Another interesting aspect of this session was that I would estimate 80% of the cases discussed pertained to young women. Check out our interview with Christine here.

Christine Benjamin of SHARE

Christine Benjamin of SHARE speaking with YSC RISE Legacy advocate Tracy Leduc

What is your biggest takeaway from the meeting?

Hope. There are a lot of super-smart, passionate people working on finding ways to better treat and hopefully cure breast cancer. Is the system perfect and is it moving as quickly as we would like? No. But, there is an energy at this meeting that is contagious and lot of physicians who care deeply for their patients. That gives me hope for the future.

You can find all of the video updates from the 2015 SABCS here. A few of our favorites include Lisa Rezende discussing XRAYS Initiative, Dr. Matthew Goetz of the Mayo Clinic speaking with us about endocrine therapy, and Dr. Olivia Pagani on the POSITIVE Trial, which is recruiting women in early stages of breast cancer who want to stop endocrine treatment to become pregnant.

 

 

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Get to Know Your Inner Creative Goddess

Yep, she’s in there and it’s time for a re-introduction…

Expressive ArtsA breast cancer diagnosis often creates a mix of emotions for the person diagnosed with cancer and co-survivors. Those emotions can feel hard to talk about and at times, it can be difficult to even figure how what you are feeling. One proven way to cope after a breast cancer diagnosis is through the use of expressive arts, which can include visual, dance/movement, music, drama/theater, and writing/poetry. Unlike traditional art making, in expressive arts, the process of creation is emphasized, not the final product.

Expressive, or creative arts, can be a way to tap into your feelings and offers a way to express yourself, to pass time while waiting for a medical visit or to help you combat scanxiety. Getting creative or crafty is an opportunity for you to connect with yourself, enjoy some quiet time and may even help you discover new parts of yourself.

Research proven benefits of expressive arts:

 – Greater connections to self-understanding

 – Increased relaxation

 – Pain reduction

 – Alleviation of stress and anxiety

 – Distraction from the medical environment

 – Can help individuals to communicate emotions that may be difficult to verbally articulate

 – Patients feel more empowered, hopeful, and resilient throughout the process of cancer care

 

Everyone is creative – yes, even you!
Step 1: Repeat after me, “I am creative.”
Step 2: Breathe
Step 3: Get started. It doesn’t matter how you start or where you start, just start. Choose your creative medium and have fun!
Step 4: Repeat Step 1 and Step 2 as often as needed to keep you creating.

Take photos

Ideas:
Adult coloring books, create a collage on poster board, make your own gratitude box, take a photography walk-about in your town, make handmade cards, paint on canvas, dance to music or write a short story.

 

 

 

 

Tips:
 – Paint/Draw/Dance/Sing/Photograph as if you’ll burn it.Getting Artsy

 – Keep it Simple.

 – Don’t be afraid to get messy.

 – Take your creative supplies to medical appointments, or just keep them easily accessible so you can pull them out often.

 – Check your inner art critic at the door.

 – Get curious – What feels good? What feels fun? There is no right or wrong way to express yourself creatively.

 – Are there expressive arts opportunities in your area? Check out a local craft store for supplies, they may even have workshops, some of which may be free of charge.

 – Invite some friends to a Creativity Night. Ask each person to bring a few supplies and an open mind. Crank up music, share supplies and create away…

Hope this helps to inspire you!  Send us pictures or stories about your creative adventure to stories@youngsurvival.org.

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About Ali Schaffer, LCSW

Ali is the Program Manager of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer (VICC) Center Patient and Family Resource Center. In this role, she oversees the management of the Resource Center and collaborates with medical professionals and local and national organizations to plan and implement educational programs for people impacted by cancer.

Ali is hosting a wellness activity on Art as Expression at the upcoming YSC Summit.
Join us in Atlanta, GA on March 11 to 13 for her awesome workshop and other inspiring, informational sessions and workshops throughout the weekend. Register today.

 

 

 

 

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Remembering Diana Di Mare (1968-2016)

Diana enjoying her Tour de Pink journey.

Diana enjoying her Tour de Pink journey.

I find myself at a loss for words. YSC and the world has lost another courageous, kind and beautiful young woman. Diana Di Mare was one-of-a-kind. In recent days there have been hundreds of posts about her passing and so many recurring themes by all who mourn her loss–her smile, her fight, her positive attitude and her love of life that was felt by everyone in her presence.

Diana gave so much of herself to YSC and fellow young survivors in New Jersey as the chair of the Northern NJ Affiliate and as chair of the local In Living Pink events. She found opportunities in everything. It is no surprise Tour de Pink was another opportunity for greatness. She rode in Tour de Pink for seven years, often participating in multiple rides each year. She deepened relationships with those in her YSC family throughout each of the three-day journeys.

Diana understood the power of community and brought so many friends, family and colleagues into the YSC fold. She wanted everyone she interacted with to know about her journey, not because she wanted sympathy, but because she knew there were young women who needed each other. She knew there was action to be taken in the young adult breast cancer community. Diana connected people to each other and no one did it better. She will be sorely missed, and YSC is forever grateful that Diana chose us for so many years.

 

 

 

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