Sunday, October 30, 2011

Join Oprah's Life Class

For the past two weeks--instead of vegging out in front of the TV watching mindless reality shows--I've tuned in at 8pm Eastern time to OWN network's Oprah Life Class. Every night, Oprah has a class theme: When you Know Better you do Better,  Listen to the Whispers,  How Pets Open our Heart, Joy Rising.

To allow her spiritual lessons to sink in deeper and help you carry them into your life, you can access a question and answer session on her website after each class. This becomes your own personal journal online. Just like school, each class builds upon the next, but you can also jump in anytime without feeling lost.

As breast cancer survivors, I believe this forum helps all of us get the tools to do what we've wanted to do since the day we got diagnosed. Many of us feel we've been given a second chance at life, so we feel compelled to get out there and make a difference.  Oprah teaches us HOW to do that every day with these classes.

This week, I walked away with three valuable lessons. First, she validated that it's okay to take in homeless pets, because they help open your heart to unconditional love. My mother constantly criticizes me because of the pet hair, the expense, etc. Oprah says it's a good thing, so now I can tune that negativity out for good.

Second, she said whenever you are feeling sorry for what you DON'T have in your life. Turn the switch and look around at what you DO have, thank God and feel gratitude. Hold that thought in the morning and carry it through the day. Just a simple shift in perspective can get you started.

From the class Joy Rising I was reminded of something I already knew: It's not the material things that make  you happy it's the experience of giving and sharing joy that make you happy. That's why as I stated in my previous blog, I love being there for all of life's major events. Share joy as much as you can. This morning, Oprah said: Make your actions be beautiful prayers. That is something to strive for on this snowy Sunday in Connecticut.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Being There

I just spent a magical weekend in Celebration, Florida to partake in the festivities of my friend Allison's daughter's wedding. It was clear my friend and her daughter, Elizabeth, paid attention to every detail because from start to finish the food, the music and the conversation were all amazing.

If you have read any of my past blogs, you may know that my friend Allison and I lost touch for 15 years. But thanks to Facebook, we reconnected last year.  I had Allison's baby shower when she was pregnant with Elizabeth, I remember her as a tiny infant, and a cute little girl. So there was no way I was going to miss seeing her walk down the aisle.

Sure, I could have justified not going because of the expense. But in my opinion, what better way to spend money than on wonderful memories that mark major life events? After my battle with cancer was over, I vowed I would never miss a wedding, a reunion, or a funeral of a close family or friend. And I do my best to be around for as many birthdays as I can.

If there is one thing I've learned after getting cancer its this: Being there for others matters. Of course its easy to be there for joyous moments, but I was there on several occasions with my brother to see his doctors and stand by him when he came out of surgery. Life is about give and take. I give to those I love when they are in need.  And expect them to be there for me when I need them too.

For me, one of the highlights of the weekend was when the beautiful bride, Elizabeth, said to me: "Thank you for coming to my wedding. But thank you even more for coming back into my mother's life. It has given her great joy to have you as her friend again and for that I am truly grateful to you."

Being there for someone feels so good.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Laugh At Yourself

Every time I began a new stage of cancer treatment--chemo, surgery, radiation--I would get another round of telephone calls, cards and gifts from family and friends. Conversations would begin with heavy concern: How are you holding up? Are you REALLY Okay?
After I lost my hair, I told them the benefits of no hair styling maintenance--it takes 15 minutes less to get ready for work in the morning! The way I disguised my bald head, what with the hats, the earrings, the sunglasses--people just took me for some over-the-top fashionista anyway. When the Dunkin' Donuts gals told me to Work It Girl, I replied: Hey, when you're bald, you've gotta pull out all the stops!
Right before my first mastectomy, my uncle called and asked how I felt. I replied: I guess I'm going to have to give up that dream of becoming a stripper. He got a good laugh over that one. I relayed stories to family and friends about how I used breast cancer to my advantage. Like the time a cop pulled me over. I pulled back my wig to give him a peek of my bald head and said, please officer, I am late for my chemo appointment, I have cancer. He didn't give me a ticket and let me go.
That's what I call pulling out your Platinum Cancer Card. When I was digging for money to get coffee one day and clearly looked frazzled, I commented to no one in particular: I have cancer! The women standing behind me immediately stepped up to the counter and said, I'll pay. Okay, so I milked it  for what it was worth. It was actually a bit fun.
The point is, I tried to see some humor in the situation. It's a great coping mechanism. I had gone my whole life without spending a night in the hospital and suddenly within a year I had three major surgeries. But there was no point in whining about it. So I decided to enjoy the attention and look at the situation from a lighter point of view. Perhaps that's why everyone said I had such a great attitude. They tell you, one of the best ways to battle cancer is to remain positive. I did that by keeping my humor. Trust me, it works!
Since Breast Cancer Awareness month is right around the corner, why not give to an organization that not only fights breast cancer, but does it with the same light-hearted way I battled the disease. The Save The Ta Tas mission?  Laughter Heals. Buy yourself or a friend a T-Shirt with the Save The Ta Tas logo by simply going to the website,
By doing so, you will not only be contributing to the cure for breast cancer, you will be giving people a good laugh when they see what your T-Shirt says: Save The Ta Tas! Now that's the fighting spirit!

Friday, October 14, 2011

My Quotes Featured In This Article from

The Best Breast Cancer Advice

In their own words, breast cancer survivors offer insight on challenges they faced, how they overcame them, and what advice they offer for those who are newly diagnosed.

The Best Breast Cancer Advice Pictures
What I learned:“Among the many side effects of chemotherapy is indigestion,” says Teresa Rhyne, who blogs at “It sounds trivial when compared to the other side effects, but it's not so trivial when that elephant sits on your chest in the middle of the night.”
What I recommend:“My father is a chiropractor who is big on natural healing. When I mentioned the indigestion to him he gave me the simplest, most effective solution,” says Teresa. “He recommended mixing a tablespoon of baking soda into a glass of water and drink up! It's that easy and you'll get immediate relief. You'll burp like a sailor, but the relief is worth it.”
Teresa Rhyne is a lawyer, writer and breast cancer survivor. Her beagle, Seamus the Famous, is also a cancer survivor. Her memoir, The Dog Lived (and So Will I)will be published in October, 2012 by Sourcebooks. She blogs at

What I learned: “Losing your hair is not as big a deal as I thought it would be,” says Marcy Bruch, who blogs at “Also, losing both breasts isn't the big deal I thought it would be either. When reconstruction is finally done, everything looks as good—or better—than it used to.”
What I recommend: Marcy recommends looking up “before” and “after” pictures on the Internet or at your plastic surgeon’s office. “I would read these ‘Dealing With Cancer’ magazines in my oncologist's office, and it helped to read and see pictures of women wearing low-cut dresses after breast reconstruction, gushing about how happy they were with the end results of their reconstruction surgery. Also, ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures on the Internet and from my plastic surgeon made me feel better about the final outcome.” 
Marcy Bruch is a Stage 3 breast cancer survivor who shares tips for fighting breast cancer with grace, humor and style. You can follow her blog

What I learned: “A year after my breast cancer treatment in 1996, I developed lymphedema in my left arm,” says Jan Hasak, a two-time breast cancer survivor, of the blockage in the lymphatic system that prevents lymph fluid from draining, causing pain and swelling. “The surgeon convinced me the risk was minimal and provided no precautions.” Having received extensive treatment for the lymphedema, Jan now takes extreme caution with her affected arm, wearing a compression sleeve and avoiding skin trauma and heavy lifting with her affected arm.
What I recommend: Jan suggests that a person newly diagnosed with breast cancer can reduce the risk of lymphedema by educating themselves via the free literature available at the hospital or the National Lymphedema Network as well as at
A retired patent attorney and two-time breast cancer survivor, Jan Hasak has authored two books on her medical journey: Mourning Has Broken: Reflections on Surviving Cancerand The Pebble Path: Returning home from a forest of shadows.  She has spoken at various cancer-related events including Relay for Life and maintains a blog “Mourning Has Broken” to address cancer-related issues. More information can be found

What I learned:“I was a 37 and pregnant with my fifth child when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. One thing I regret, five years later, is that I have no photos of me during this time period … no photos of me and my kids or even my newborn,” says Tammy Winstead, who blogs at “I believe it is important for me to embrace this fight as it is part of what made me who I am today. Cancer doesn’t define me, but it certainly touched me and changed my life. So why not look back at your cancer journey and celebrate each step that made you into the strong woman you are today? It sure would be easier to do with a journal and photos.”
What I recommend: “If you’re facing cancer treatment, I suggest journaling, documenting, starting a blog and taking photos,” Tammy says. “You may not want to look at them right away, but eventually you will and you will be glad you have them. I promise! This is just another part of your life that will determine what makes you you. And if you are afraid you won’t survive the fight, take them anyway. Your loved ones will be very happy you did.”
Tammy Winstead is a five-year breast cancer survivor. She is a Kindle-loving, foodie, blogging, book-reviewing, cancer-surviving, artsy, Christian, frugal, working mom of 6, blogging at

What I learned: “I was surprised to learn that a lot of breast cancer patients who have ‘frozen shoulder’ … difficulty moving their shoulders … get better between year one and two,” says Suzanne Harp, who blogs at “I thought I was going to not have mobility forever.”
What I recommend: “When you are diagnosed, get yourself to a support group,” Suzanne advises. “When I think of my time of diagnosis and treatment, I was in a sheer free-falling panic until I went to a support group. Also I love the book Cancer Vixen! It made me feel less alone … it was like my security blanket.”
Suzanne Harp is a broadcast journalist and breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed at the age of 42. Just the year before she was married to her husband Ethan, who really earned his hubby merit badges quickly. She blogs at

What I learned: “When you are going through chemo treatment, it usually takes 48 hours for the chemo to hit you head-on, and that's when the nausea and exhaustion kicks you in the face,” says Marcy Bruch, who blogs at
What I recommend:“I took my chemo on Wednesdays so I could recover on the weekend,” explains Marcy. “Figure out your nausea times during chemo and stick close to home. Camp out on the couch for two days. And always have crystallized ginger and your anti-nausea meds on-hand to get you through.”
Marcy Bruch is a Stage 3 breast cancer survivor who shares tips for fighting breast cancer with grace, humor and style. You can follow her blog

What I learned:
When Katie Hall was first diagnosed with breast cancer at age 41, she was overwhelmed by her emotions and had a difficult time processing them all. “I was angry, sad, confused and most of all, scared … I was stunned into silence,” Katie says. “I didn't know where to begin, but the more I was silent, the bigger the monsters in my head became.  
“Four or five weeks after my diagnosis, I grabbed my dusty journal and wrote out all of my worst fears ... my kids growing up without a mother, my husband growing old alone. I cried, but putting it all down on paper created some order in my own personal chaos, tamed my monsters a bit. I only wish I would have picked up my pen and journal earlier.”
What I recommend: “I think keeping a written chronicle is crucial, via journal or a blog. It has helped me to keep the big and small stuff in perspective; and I have a great record of what my year in treatment was really like.”      
Katie Ford Hall is a writer who blogs She lives outside of Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband and two children.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In Memory of Steve Jobs

Whenever some high-profile person dies of cancer that is around my age I get shaken up.  The old adage? "That's too close to home." So when I flipped open my Mac laptop to see Steve Jobs' face with the inscription: 1955-2011 it was very upsetting.

Why? I am 54 years old.  Steve Jobs was my contemporary. He got cancer, just like me. But he died of the disease and I am still alive. Like billions of people around the globe, Steve Jobs influenced the way I listen to music, the way I communicate over the phone and the way I use my computer.

I love my Macbook Pro. It has become a part of me. The first time I walked into the Stamford mall Apple store to shop for a laptop, it was buzzing with creative energy and jam packed at 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon. I thought: I want to hang with these people! So I dumped my Dell computer, crossed over into Mac land and never looked back.

The price of entry was high, but soon realized superior technology is worth every penny--especially in this day and age. I quit buying Nissan cars and turned to a Volkswagen Beetle for the very same reason. In my opinion, the Germans have the market cornered when it comes to car engineering. Steve Jobs always raised the bar when it came to computers--right down to their sleek, space-age designs.

Steve is leaving a big black hole in our culture--that will effect the entire world. I am crying tonight because we lost a great American talent today far too soon.  He is irreplaceable.

Let us all be inspired by one of the great legends of our day. Long after we are dead, he will be immortalized as a visionary in our culture. We are all very fortunate to have lived among a true genius.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Breast Cancer Rates Around The World

Health Statistics > Breast cancer incidence (most recent) by country

VIEW DATA:  Totals 
Definition     Source      Printable version   
   Bar Graph  Map  Correlations 

Showing latest available data.
Rank  Countries  Amount  
# 1    Iceland:39.4 per 100,000 females 
# 2    Denmark:30.4 per 100,000 females 
= 3    Netherlands:28.7 per 100,000 females 
= 3    Belgium:28.7 per 100,000 females 
# 5    New Zealand:28 per 100,000 females 
# 6    Ireland:27.5 per 100,000 females 
# 7    Hungary:26.6 per 100,000 females 
# 8    United Kingdom:26 per 100,000 females 
# 9    Germany:23.5 per 100,000 females 
# 10    Canada:22.6 per 100,000 females 
# 11    Czech Republic:22.2 per 100,000 females 
# 12    Italy:22 per 100,000 females 
# 13    France:21.7 per 100,000 females 
# 14    Australia:21.6 per 100,000 females 
# 15    Austria:21.5 per 100,000 females 
# 16    Norway:21.3 per 100,000 females 
# 17    United States:21.2 per 100,000 females 
# 18    Luxembourg:21 per 100,000 females 
# 19    Spain:19.5 per 100,000 females 
# 20    Portugal:19.3 per 100,000 females 
# 21    Slovakia:19.2 per 100,000 females 
# 22    Sweden:18.5 per 100,000 females 
# 23    Finland:18.1 per 100,000 females 
# 24    Poland:17.9 per 100,000 females 
# 25    Greece:16.8 per 100,000 females 
# 26    Japan:8.6 per 100,000 females 
Weighted average:22.8 per 100,000 females  

DEFINITION: Breast cancer incidence per 100,000 females.

Breast Cancer Statistics

Page last modified on: September 30, 2011
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Since it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I am sharing these statistics courtesy of

  • About 1 in 8 women in the United States (12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
  • In 2010, an estimated 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 54,010 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
  • About 1,970 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in men in 2010. Less than 1% of all new breast cancer cases occur in men.
  • From 1998 to 2007, breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. decreased by about 2% per year. One theory is that this decrease was partially due to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by women after the results of a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative were published in 2002. These results suggested a connection between HRT and increased breast cancer risk.
  • About 39,840 women in the U.S. were expected to die in 2010 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1990. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances, earlier detection through screening, and increased awareness.
  • For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.
  • Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among U.S. women. More than 1 in 4 cancers in women (about 28%) are breast cancer.
  • Compared to African American women, white women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer, but less likely to die of it. One possible reason is that African American women tend to have more aggressive tumors, although why this is the case is not known. Women of other ethnic backgrounds — Asian, Hispanic, and Native American — have a lower risk of developing and dying from breast cancer than white women and African American women.
  • In 2010, there were more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S.
  • A woman’s risk of breast cancer approximately doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. About 20-30% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of breast cancer.
  • About 5-10% of breast cancers can be linked to gene mutations (abnormal changes) inherited from one’s mother or father. Mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most common. Women with these mutations have up to an 80% risk of developing breast cancer during their lifetime, and they are more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age (before menopause). An increased ovarian cancer risk is also associated with these genetic mutations. In men, about 1 in 10 breast cancers are believed to be due to BRCA2 mutations and even fewer cases to BRCA1 mutations.
  • About 70-80% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic abnormalities that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.
  • The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender (being a woman) and age (growing older).