Breast Cancer

Give Your Heart to Women’s Health

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Part of being a thyroid cancer survivor is using my voice to help others. I enjoy working with cancer survivors to lend an ear, offer hope, or just help them share their survival story. I also try to promote cancer-related causes. So, when a friend who works for the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program asked for assistance in getting the word out on a campaign they are running from May 8th – June 16th, I knew this site was the right forum.

The Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program provides valuable services to all of New York State. From educating women on health or health care matters to helping them secure services for cancer screenings, they work hard to support women’s health. But they can’t do it alone. Like many non-profit organizations, the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program is grant-funded. So you can imagine the hardship they faced when they learned that one of their grants had been reduced.

I have battled cancer myself, and my 89-year-old grandmother has fought breast cancer twice. I know how imperative early detection can be. That’s why funding organizations that provide these vital services to women are so important to me.

It would mean so much if you could spread the word or give in any way that you can. Even the smallest amount can help the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program!

*Image courtesy of the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

As you probably know by now, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you’ve been following my blog, you may remember that last year my 86-year-old grandmother underwent her second mastectomy. Talk about being a #bosslady! Well, today is her one-year cancer-versary and I’m happy to report that she is healthy…and as sassy as ever!

Her recurrence of cancer (she underwent her first mastectomy at age 69), coupled with my own battle with thyroid cancer has served as an important reminder for me about how fragile your health can be. I remember going to countless doctors and surgeons last year with her, and hearing every diagnosis from “we don’t see anything suspicious on the mammogram,” to “this is Paget’s Disease of the breast.” She had three mammograms and countless biopsies before we had a definitive diagnosis…a test to her strength even at her age. The official diagnosis was Paget’s Disease, a rare type of breast cancer that accounts for less than 5% of all breast cancer cases. I had never heard of Paget’s Disease before my grandmother’s diagnosis, and although it’s rare and slow growing, it still warranted swift action.

I remember my grandmother’s unwavering decision to undergo a mastectomy, even when the surgeon suggested a course of radiation totaling a few times a week for many months. I recall thinking how brave she was and admiring her strength during this difficult time.

Even after all of the consultations, and testing, she remained upbeat and positive — making friends with the nurses both before and after her surgery.

Her journey reminded me of a few lessons I witnessed as her caregiver:

1. You are always a survivor. Unfortunately, cancer can return at any time and it’s best to stay vigilant about your health. My grandmother remarked (along with the doctors) at how surprised she was to receive another breast cancer diagnosis, after almost twenty years of follow-up care. As annoying as all of those follow-ups may be, it’s critical to keep your doctors involved in your progress…and go for any routine testing that they recommend, like mammograms and sonograms.

2. Stay on top of your health. If something doesn’t feel right to you, get it checked. And don’t be afraid to go for second…or third opinions if you aren’t satisfied with the outcome. My grandmother’s diagnosis came about not through any testing or doctor’s visit, but because she knew something wasn’t right with her body. Despite a few doctors dismissing her claims, others immediately recognized her symptoms.

3. Keep a positive attitude. My grandmother was a testament to the power of staying positive. Every time we went to the hospital for testing it was like palling around with a celebrity. She knew many nurses by name and she would always chat with them. Some would even seek us out just to say hello. Being positive about your diagnosis and outcome can aid in recovery time and have beneficial effects on your overall health.

4. Have someone with you. At any age, a mastectomy is a major operation. Prior to surgery, there is lots of pre-testing and it can get confusing to keep it all straight…especially for the patient. Having someone with you at appointments can be helpful when trying to precisely recall the doctor’s orders — whether or not you should take your normal medicine before surgery, what time you should arrive at the hospital, and when to stop eating and drinking.

5. Take it easy on yourself. I remember the morning after my grandmother had her surgery she was already itching to get out of the hospital. She thought she had regained her energy and was going to bounce back immediately to her old self. But there is significant follow-up care after a mastectomy (not to get too graphic here), with temperatures being routinely taken to check for infection and bandages that need to be cleaned and changed. Your body needs as much rest as it can get so it can recoup and keep you healthy.

According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, it is estimated that there will be 231,840 cases of invasive breast cancer in 2015. And approximately 40,290 people will die from breast cancer.

To all those battling breast cancer — survivors — and caregivers — breast cancer may be tough, but you are tougher. Stay strong and warrior on!

A Personal Note…Update

A Personal Note...Update

Thanks again to everyone who commented on the blog and sent emails wishing my grandmother well before surgery.

She underwent a mastectomy last Tuesday and was released from the hospital on Wednesday. The last few days she has been resting and feeling better each day. On Thursday we will see her surgeon for a post-operative appointment and get the pathology results. I am grateful to the competent and professional doctors and nurses at Stony Brook Hospital who cared for my grandmother, and of course to her wonderful surgeon, a breast cancer specialist, who performed the operation.

This will be another hectic week as I prepare to return to work and see my endocrinologist for a follow-up thyroid appointment on Tuesday — but not to worry, posts will be up as usual.

Happy Monday!

A Personal Note

Breast Cancer Awareness

This upcoming week will be emotionally draining, but I am determined to remain strong and positive. My grandmother (a 20-year breast cancer survivor) was recently diagnosed with Paget’s Disease of the breast, a rare form of breast cancer that accounts for less than 5% of all breast cancer cases in the United States. Today she is having a radioisotopic dye injected to help the surgeon remove any affected lymph nodes during surgery, and tomorrow she will undergo her second mastectomy.

Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought I’d share a great article I recently came across.

How to Practice Breast Self-Awareness All Year Long – (wellandgood.com)

I’ve scheduled a couple of posts for the remainder of the week so be sure to catch those. Thank you to everyone who has offered well wishes and prayers!