Archive for October, 2012

Breast Cancer Awareness, Day 31

It’s the end of October! Breast Cancer Awareness month is drawing to a close. For today’s post, I’m just gathering up all of the links for this month’s awareness campaign.

I hope you learned something useful here and can use it to improve your own life!

Oct. 1 – welcome to breast cancer awareness month!

Oct. 2 – how weight gain increases risk

Oct. 3 – BPA, part one

Oct. 4 – BPA, part two

Oct. 5 – soy

Oct. 6 – how a high fat diet increases risk

Oct. 7 – breast cancer in men

Oct. 8 – corporate pinkwashing

Oct. 9 – why you might not want to support Komen

Oct. 10 – who is unaware…?

Oct. 11 – why buying pink doesn’t do much for the cause

Oct. 12 – places to donate

Oct. 13 – prevention vs. early detection

Oct. 14 – birthday ramblings

Oct. 15 – the beginning of statistics week!

Oct. 16 – stats

Oct. 17 – stats

Oct. 18 – stats

Oct. 19 – stats

Oct. 20 – stats

Oct. 21 – stats

Oct. 22 – personal story: breast cancer perspective

Oct. 23 – personal story: colon cancer perspective

Oct. 24 – personal story: lung cancer perspective

Oct. 25 – collection of personal tales

Oct. 26 – personal story: caregiver perspective

Oct. 27 – nothing! I missed a day!

Oct. 28 – what are carcinogens (definition and list)

Oct. 29 – a resource for household toxins

Oct. 30 – self checks


Happy Halloween!

Nichol is taking the easy way out today. It’s a holiday. And she has to work an overnight shift so she’s cranky and tired.

Happy Halloween peeps! I hope you had a good/scary night and you passed out all of your candy so there is none leftover.

I’m a little frazzled due to it being crunch time for class projects and trying to fit all my internship hours in so I’m just dropping by to say hi and tell you to come back next Wednesday when I rant and rave about eating habits and all the books people suggest we read. It’s my manifesto.

Breast Cancer Awareness, Day 30

While prevention is ideal, early detection is second best.

Ladies, self-checks are the way to go. Almost all of the women affected by breast cancer who I know personally found it themselves.

Here is a good resource for how to do a good, thorough breast exam. Once a month is recommended, but if you never do it and start to do it less than once a month, well, that’s better than nothing.

The follow-up to this, of course, is that if you find something, you need to go to the doctor. And if they blow you off, go to another doctor.


Breast Cancer Awareness, Day 29

We come into contact with hundreds (thousands?) of toxins every day, in what we eat and drink, what we wear, what we breathe, where we sleep, where we work, where we play, what we apply to our skin, and so on and on.

It is impossible to avoid all of them. It would be maddening to try to avoid all of them. So you need to decide which are do-able, or which are important to you.

In most cases, choosing healthy alternatives costs more up front but less in the long run than less healthy alternatives. Healthy is often less convenient, based on the conventional definitions of convenience. (Keep in mind here that “convenience” is subjective…) But changes in mindset and changes in habits can easily leave you with a life with fewer exposures to carcinogenic materials. Less exposure is better, right?

One website that I have found to be an excellent resource is Environmental Working Group ( They have databases of various categories of consumable products, giving grades of each based on the toxicity of ingredients. The ingredients are listed out with explanations of what the issues are with each.

(EWG’s work is not perfect, but they remain a great resource, especially for people who don’t know what all of the ingredients are in their shampoo, sunscreen, moisturizer, etc.)

In my opinion, there is too much stuff out there that is really bad for your body. The vast majority of it is unregulated (see: cosmetics industry), so corporations can put just about anything they want in their products.

It is wise to take caution in at least some aspects of life. I personally use alternatives for many things that I have control over, knowing that there are so many remaining where I don’t have control, or where I choose not to avoid.

What is the most surprising “that’s not good” tidbit that you’ve picked up anywhere that has led to a change in your behavior? I’ll start: particleboard/pressboard is a major contributor to indoor pollution and offgasses formaldehyde. So we’ve stopped buying particleboard furniture. Not that we buy a lot of furniture, but we looked for a desk for a long time before we found a nice, affordable solid wood desk. (Consignment!)

Breast Cancer Awareness, Day 28

Carcinogens cause cancer.

They don’t all cause the same cancer, and exposure and risk vary wildly.

That said, In poking around for information, I found a page on carcinogens, exposure, and risk, as well as an explanation of the differences between the labels: known, probable, possible, probably not carcinogenic to humans, including lists of known and probably carcinogens. Click through to read more.

Breast Cancer Awareness, Day 26

I wanted to be sure to include a piece from the perspective of caregiver. Too often, the people taking care of the patients are forgotten, but their lives are upside down as well – between worry (stress), added responsibilities around the house/transportation/etc. (stress), plus just the absence of their usual partner/family member/friend in the normal way.

The Big Man was gracious enough to write a little piece, but I want just to point out – this is his experience with me as a patient. Your patient might be different. It is important to find out from the person you’re caring for what they need. That is the only one-size-fits-all advice.

Let me introduce myself – I am Tom, Heat’s husband. She refers to me as The Big Man in her blog. She wanted me to share a bit about being a caregiver during her bout with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It was almost five years ago, but many of the memories remain vivid.

When she was diagnosed, it was a shock to both of us, but Heat did not waste a lot of time on tears and resentment about her situation. She was very positive about being cured from the very beginning of her treatment, but I have to admit that for a time I thought that she was not being “realistic” enough, even though chances were very high that she would be cured. I wish now that I had bought into her positive attitude sooner, and better supported her in her thinking right away. Sometimes “realism” is a good thing, but it was her fight, and she needed to fight it her way.

I also wish that I would have responded better in the amount of time I spent with her. There were times that I should have left work earlier and been home sooner. I feel badly about this to this day. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that I was a failure as a caregiver, but I could have done better. She was in a fight for her life, and she needed me to be with her as much as I could be. Even in situations where someone else that we love is obviously in need of presence and care, it can be very easy to think of oneself first.

Enough of the confessions. So much of what I was able to do for Heat was based in simply being present. She did not want to be treated as a “sick person” and tried to live as normal a life as possible. To be with her, to share her fears and hopes, was a great blessing. Her positive attitude did make it much easier for me to help care for her, and in the times that she was down in spirit, I felt it my job to be reassuring and encouraging in my words and actions with her. Most of the time, it was not difficult to be of service. Whether in fixing dinner or going with her to her chemotherapy sessions, I felt good about helping and knew that she appreciated it.

Loving each other, of course, was key.

Heat is a fighter, and I learned much from her example about how to deal with a deadly disease. I am glad that I was able to help her during her struggle, albeit imperfectly. We knew that Hodgkin’s had a high cure rate, and that gave us a lot of hope. That hope has come to fruition in Heat’s recovery, remission and cure.

Breast Cancer Awareness, Day 25

Today’s personal stories are my recollection of stories told to me by people who I have met through my cancer journey. There is a common thread, with a moral at the end of the stories…

One woman had found a lump using self-checks. She went to her ob-gyn who didn’t feel anything and told her she was fine. Months later, the lump was getting bigger, so she went to her new doc who sent her for a mammogram that confirmed the tumor. Fortunately, it still had not spread. Unfortunately, because it had grown so much, she needed a lumpectomy, chemo, and radiation.

Another, with a family history of breast cancer, was diagnosed with a tumor in one breast. (I don’t know the circumstances of her diagnosis.) She told the doctors she wanted a double mastectomy. They were hesitant – they’d found cancer in only one breast, and even that entire breast didn’t need to be removed. She was young and they thought a double mastectomy was an overreaction. She persisted, and they relented. After biopsying both breasts, they found cancer in both. They told her it was very small in the undiagnosed side and probably would have shown up in three to four years.

A guy who I saw at chemo every week for months had had a colonoscopy that showed problems, but the doctor told him not to worry about it, that he was too young to have cancer. When I met him, it was four years later. He was on his second full course of treatment after the first one didn’t work for the cancer that had spread from his colon to his liver.

Doctors know a lot. But they don’t know you as well as you know you. If you know something is wrong and your doctor blows you off, get another opinion. You might be relived to hear someone say it’s nothing, but them telling you it’s nothing doesn’t actually make it nothing. Seeing doctors is scary. Getting tests done is scary. Getting a diagnosis is terrifying. But Stage 1 is infinitely better than Stage 4, and the only difference is time…

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