Follow by Email

Popular Posts

Total Pageviews

WELCOME!

Welcome to the DebiLyn Smith blog site. If you like what you read here, check out her website at www.debilynsmith.com

Friday, October 28, 2011

"B" Is For Breast Feeding and Berries (To Prevent Breast Cancer)

Women have boobs for more reasons other than to drive men wild. Sure, they look great under a t-shirt and keep you afloat in water, but they have a much higher purpose.
Breasts have the capability to feed babies, a very important first step for newborns. It's so natural, it's up there with breathing.A child is born and the mother can pass on anti-bodies through her breast milk to protect that baby right from the beginning of time.
 And, bonus, breast-feeding may also play a role in breast cancer prevention. According to the Mayo Clinic, the longer you breast-feed, the greater the protective effect.

(This is a well- known fact, even back in 1984 and 1985 when my kids were born. So imagine my shock to discover I had breast cancer after having breast-fed both of them!  I always figured breast cancer the one cancer I was safe from because I had done what was recommended.)

 “Experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommend that new mothers breastfeed their children for at least the first six months. They cite convincing evidence that this practice offers cancer protection to both mother and child.

(Well isn’t that so “me?” I only made it to five months, with both of my children. As I recall, I was in a hurry to get back to the party, party, party. Flowers sent to me on the occasion of my daughter being born had a card in them which read: “The margaritas are chilling.”
Had I known that another four weeks would make such a difference, you can bet I would have stayed on the program!)

According to AICR, new mothers can directly lower their own risk of both pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer by breastfeeding. And children who are breastfed are less likely to become overweight or obese, which in turn lowers their risk of several common cancers that have now been convincingly linked to excess body fat.” 

"The landmark AICR report concludes with 10 recommendations for cancer prevention, one of which deals exclusively with breastfeeding," said Karen Collins, MS, RD, AICR Nutrition Advisor. "AICR is the first major cancer organization to issue an official recommendation about breastfeeding." 

The full AICR recommendation reads: It's best for mothers to breastfeed exclusively for up to six months and then add other liquids and foods. 

Clinically speaking, the kind of breast cancer women get before menopause is different than the kind women get after menopause. Researchers now know that the two kinds of breast cancer have different root causes which are influenced by things like diet, body composition and physical activity in different ways.

"The fact that any single factor protects against both pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer is big news," said Collins. "The AICR expert panel looked at a host of variables associated with diet, 
nutrition, weight and activity, and lactation was the only one found to lower risk of breast cancer throughout a woman's life."
 How Does Breastfeeding Help Prevent Breast Cancer?
There are several theories about how breastfeeding protects you from developing breast cancer:
·         Your lifetime exposure to estrogen is reduced, which decreases the possibility of developing estrogen-fueled breast cancer.
·         Your hormone balances are different during lactation, resulting in fewer menstrual cycles and less estrogen exposure.
·         Environmental carcinogens that are stored in fat, which makes up a great part of the breast, cannot be efficiently stored in lactating breasts.
·         Breastfeeding may cause changes to breast cells that make them more resistant to cancer-related mutations.


Finding this out now reminds me of one of my favourite sayings by Catherine Aird,
“If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.”  And so I am.
There never are any guarantees in life. Having breast tissue puts you at risk for developing breast cancer. It’s as simple as that. Working on prevention is the key and I’ll make sure all the young girls in my life get a copy of this!


“B” is also for Berries.
 Especially the darker ones like blue and blackberries, Huckle and Saskatoon berries. High in anti-oxidants to promote optimum health, they are on the top five "Super Foods" list of what you should eat to avoid diseases. 
Sprinkle them on your cereal, grind them in a smoothie, eat them by the handful, make a fruit salad out of them, whatever it takes, get them into you as often as possible.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

"A" is For Alcohol

It’s talked about in women’s magazines and on the television and radio, but it isn’t really news. Like the fact that smoking can cause lung cancer, the fact that there is a relationship between women drinking alcohol and breast cancer has existed for some time now. As with smoking, it takes a while to open everyone’s eyes about how dangerous playing with that weekend cigarette or that second or third drink in one day can really be. Will we have to resort to pictures of mastectomies on wine bottles to get the point across? Hopefully not.
The number of breast cancer cases has been rising sharply, possibly due to the amount of Baby Boomers approaching or being in menopause. All those hormone levels fluctuating. The majority of breast cancers are fed by hormones like estrogen or progesterone. When I read this, I thought, “Bingo!” I had been peri-menopausal for months, meaning my periods were becoming unreliable in length, timing and appearance. I used to think PMS was bad. This next phase had me humming like a mental patient. Nothing was right in my life. My friends all drove me crazy, my husband intentionally, I was sure, did everything wrong and the entire world was stacked against me. It was easy to slip into drinking three glasses of wine in one evening. It happened lots. On weekends, there were glasses of wine at lunch. More at the lounge after skiing, then more with dinner and socializing. Little did I know they were fueling a cancer that had decided to grow within my breast.
I have since discovered:


From Wikipedia:



Alcohol is a risk factor for breast cancer in women.[3][12]
A study of more than one million middle-aged British women concluded that each daily alcoholic beverage increases the incidence of breast cancer by 11 cases per 1000 women.[13] This means that among a group of 1000 women who have one drink per day, they will have 11 extra cases of breast cancer when compared to a group of women who drink less than one alcoholic beverage per week; a group of 1000 women who have four drinks per day will have an extra 44 cases of breast cancer compared to non-drinkers. One or two drinks each day increases the relative risk to 150% of normal, and six drinks per day increases the risk to 330% of normal. 
                  **********************************************************


Alcohol may contribute to breast cancer in a number of ways. One of its metabolic byproducts, acetaldehyde, is thought to be carcinogenic. Alcohol may also boost blood estrogen levels, which can feed cancer growth.
As well, alcohol may inhibit the ability of cells to repair faulty genes and make breast cells more vulnerable to carcinogens.
What’s recommended? A maximum of three alcoholic drinks a week for women, seven to fourteen for men. While a glass of wine a day may decrease the risk of heart disease, another major killer of women, there are better ways to lower the bad cholesterols or LDLs in your blood that can cause a plaque build-up. We’re talking about those 7-8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day again, eating 100% whole grains and low or no-fat dairy and meats. Getting exercise a minimum of three times a week. Getting rest, drinking water. These all contribute to ensuring you don’t have to mess with disease.
The worst of the bad news is for women who have already been through breast cancer. For them, playing with any alcohol can be detrimental, especially if they have a hormone-fed type of cancer (ie: estrogen or progesterone). I found this from a Dr. Ruddy’s blog at
It states:
Alcohol and estrogen are both metabolized in the liver using similar biochemical pathways.  So if the liver is busy clearing alcohol from the bloodstream, estrogen levels will rise as they wait their turn through the liver.
Therefore, women who drink regularly, like every day, will have chronically elevated levels of estrogen circulating in their bloodstream.  And since estrogen is the equivalent of light, sweet crude for the breast cancer engine, it’s easy to see why regular alcohol consumption is directly linked to an increased risk for breast cancer.  In fact, there does not appear to be any “safe” level of alcohol use:  even 1/2 glass of wine per day increases the risk for breast cancer.
Avoid alcohol if you want to avoid breast cancer.
The preponderance of data confirms that drinking alcohol on a regular basis increases the risk for breast cancer by approximately 40%.  Therefore, my advice is to drink only occasionally and in moderation.  
Alcohol increases the risk for breast cancer, specifically estrogen-positive breast cancer.  Furthermore, in women with estrogen-positive breast cancer, drinking alcohol increases the risk of a new cancer in the opposite breast a jaw-dropping90%.
TAKE HOME LESSON
Avoid alcohol – save it for special occasions.
If you have estrogen-positive breast cancer, avoid it like the plague.
And, please, take and stay the course with your anti-estrogen medication
                            ************************************



Whew…Scary stuff! I would question the numbers Dr. Ruddy rattled off- they seem liberally high, but the point is, do you want to take the risk that she is dead -on or not?
Drinking alcohol is a personal choice, one I chose each and every time. Now that I’ve seen where that choice has led me, I am going to treat it like the game of Russian Roulette that it is.
As I’ve said before, cancer is one big lottery. We all have a ticket just by being born. And like with any lottery, the more tickets you have, the better your chance of “winning.”
If you smoke, you have yourself another ticket for cancer. Drink? Get another one. Bad diet, avoid exercise, over-weight and don’t care? Come and get your tickets.
For me, winning once was enough. I’m going to do everything I can not to do it again.

Monday, October 17, 2011

"A" is For Antioxidant, Apples and Alcohol Part I of 2

Welcome to my latest series called Alphabetical Cancer Prevention Tips. Each week, I will be researching my topics before handing over what I find, saving you a lot of time and effort on your road to a healthier, hopefully more cancer-free you.

Over the next two weeks, we will be looking at Antioxidants, Apples and Alcohol.

ANTIOXIDANTS

We've all heard the buzz word "antioxidant." Until a year ago, I figured antioxidants had something to do with cancer prevention, but I didn't know much else.

Let me shock you right off the bat. Question: Do antioxidants prevent cancers?
Answer: According to recent studies, no they do not!

Read on:

According to Wikipedia, "An antioxidant is a molecule capable of inhibiting the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons or hydrogen from a substance to an oxidizing agent. Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals. In turn, these radicals can start chain reactions. When the chain reaction occurs in a cell, it can cause damage or death to the cell.  Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions by removing free radical intermediates, and inhibit other oxidation reactions. They do this by being oxidized themselves, so antioxidants are often reducing agents such as thiolsascorbic acid, or polyphenols.[1]

But then it goes on to say, "People who eat fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of heart disease and some neurological diseases,[165] and there is evidence that some types of vegetables, and fruits in general, protect against some cancers.[166] Since fruits and vegetables happen to be good sources of antioxidants, this suggested that antioxidants might prevent some types of diseases. This idea has been tested in clinical trials and does not seem to be true, as antioxidant supplements have no clear effect on the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.[165][167] This suggests that these health benefits come from other substances in fruits and vegetables (possibly flavonoids), or come from a complex mix of substances.[168][169]

This really sent me for a loop. I kept Googling and researching and found the same conclusion on other sites.
Okay, so there is no proof that antioxidants prevent cancer, BUT at the same time antioxidants reduce the chances of a cancer starting. It's also saying there is something in fresh fruits and vegetables that can hold cancers at bay. Funny that most of the fruits and vegetables they recommend for this happen to be high in antioxidant properties? So it's a circle.

At the least, it would be safe to say that anti-oxidants are responsible for curbing or correcting a chance of getting cancer.  I'm going to keep putting the fresh fruits and vegis high on my list. I really think the reason my cancers were so small is from the ground flax seeds and fresh blueberries and healthy foods I was already eating. So, maybe taking the Green tea extract supplement won't stop a recurrence, but it can slow it down and put up a good fight against any cancers trying to grow. Maybe that alone will be enough to save my life when I need it most.

From now on, I'll  concentrate on eating the actual top five list of natural antioxidant rich substances like berries, broccoli, garlic,natural  green tea and tomatoes.

The way I see it, you can't go wrong.
 I don't think there really is such a thing as a BAD fresh fruit or vegetable. Just some are better than others if we're talking optimal health benefits. Think colourful- bright greens (Kale and spinach) and oranges (sweet potatoes and carrots), reds(strawberries and red peppers) and bright purples (blueberries and red grapes)

 So, antioxidants are an important part of over-all health and who knows. Wait long enough and there will be more evidence to "dispute the dispute" putting antioxidants  back on the cancer prevention list.


Which takes us to "A" for Apple.


It was while in a doctor's waiting room that I first read about the 4 Fruit A Day Diet.
Most of us will always have at least a few pounds to lose. The easiest way to do that is to eat less calories and get more exercise. Yeah, yeah, you say. Easier said than done.
What gets in our way is the craving for more food or for a certain food, usually something we shouldn't have too much of like ice cream, cookies,chocolates,  fill-in-the-blank!
Our vices, they are called.

 The best way I find to combat a craving is to keep full with things I can have.

Try eating four fruits a day. It's not as easy as it sounds. Canada's Food Guide recommends adult women aged 19-50 should eat a mix of 7-8 fruits and vegetables a day  (females over 51 only  need 7).

Add to that your recommended 8 x 8ounce glasses of water a day and you're getting full. Figure in your breakfast oatmeal and your sandwich at lunch, your  10 almonds  for a snack at 3 pm, the salad, vegis and protein dinner and you won't have any room left for the bad stuff. Okay, maybe a little non-fat Source dessert that has been sweetened with Sucralose or a few sugar-free, no-fat cookies (try my No NO NO Brownie or Cookie recipes at www.debilynsmith.com).

Everyone deserves a treat day after dropping a few pounds. The key is to only have one cheat "meal" or at the most one "cheat day." Depends on how fast you want to lose weight.

You've heard the phrase "an apple a day keeps the doctor away..."
Well, it could also keep the weight away! Try the 3-Apple-A-Day diet where you eat an apple before every meal. Apples, especially Red Delicious are handy antioxidants, especially if you eat the skin. Munching on one right before a meal will help curb your appetite, making you less likely to over-eat. I always feel like I already had dessert when I eat an apple before a meal.
It's a winning strategy. See below for more on this easy-to-follow diet.

So, happy fruit and vegi eating to you all! Don't forget to wash these well with vinegar and rinse with water first. (More about that when we get to "T" for Toxins.)
We'll see you next Monday with "A" is for Alcohol.

3-Apple-a-Day diet gets thumbs-up

Last updated: Thursday, January 29, 2009Print


I'm usually sceptical when I hear about a new 'magic' diet plan. Most instant fat-loss diets involve some or other instruction to either cut down on kilojoules so drastically that you starve in the process, or to cut out one or more food groups, which makes the diet unbalanced.
However, I recently came across the 3-Apple-a-Day diet. For once, the approach seems sensible, balanced and effective.
This diet was conceived by Tammi Flynn, an American dietician. Tammi has a master's degree in Nutrition Science from the prestigious Texas A&M University. Her credentials are, therefore, excellent and imbued me with confidence that her diet and advice would be balanced. I wasn't disappointed.
How does the diet work?
Tammi discovered that when dieters eat an apple before every meal, they start losing weight effectively. She has written a book, 'The 3-Apple-a-Day Plan' (click on link at bottom of story to order from kalahari.net: delivery takes around 10 working days).
The basic principles of Tammi's 3-Apple-a-Day diet are as follows:
  • Eat an apple before every main meal (apples are rich in dietary fibre and will make you feel fuller so that you eat less at each meal).
  • Eat four to five times a day (research has shown that using a 'nibbler' eating pattern encourages weight loss to a greater extent than 'gorging' on three large meals a day, provided that you only nibble on healthy, low-fat foods).
  • Eat low-fat protein at each meal or snack (protein has a high satiation value and a low GI which makes you feel fuller for longer. Eating low-fat proteins will prevent the high energy intake associated with eating high-fat proteins).
  • Eat nine fruits and vegetables a day (these are low in energy, high in fibre and bursting with protective nutrients). If you eat three apples a day plus six other servings of fruit and vegetables, you will automatically cut down on energy intake and not get hungry.
  • Drink water with every meal (it's a good idea to increase your water intake, but don't have more than four glasses of water a day in addition to your other liquid intake, or it may lead to electrolyte imbalances).
  • Eat only high-fibre, unprocessed, unsifted carbohydrates (these carbs push up your fibre intake, thus 'diluting' the energy content of the diet).
  • Have low-fat dairy products every day. Foods such as low-fat or fat-free milk, yoghurt and cottage cheese are excellent for dieters because they have a low energy content, a low GI, a high calcium content (which is associated with weight loss) and a high protein content (which promotes satiation).
  • Cut down on alcohol intake. Alcohol is high in 'empty kilojoules'. Each gram of alcohol adds 29kJ to your daily energy intake and is a fuel that is not used by the muscles. In addition, alcohol can reduce your metabolism and boost your appetite for fatty foods.
  • Do regular, daily aerobic exercise to promote weight loss and improve your general well-being.
Why apples?
Why should apples be eaten before every meal? Tammi provides the following rationale:
  • A medium-sized apple only contains 250 to 420kJ, just a trace of fat and no sodium.
  • In Tammi's experience, eating an apple before each main meal promoted weight loss – even in recalcitrant ('stubborn') cases.
  • Apples contain up to 5g of dietary fibre, which fills you up and reduces how much you will eat at the subsequent meal.
  • Apples contain protective nutrients (antioxidants, vitamins and minerals) which improve health and may even protect against age-related brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.
  • The dietary fibre found in apples, namely pectin, has been shown to lower 'bad' LDL cholesterol and increase 'good' HDL cholesterol.
  • The flavonoids and other phytochemicals in apples may protect against cancer of the liver and colon.
  • The tannins in apples exert a protective effect on tooth decay, gum disease and urinary infections.
  • Apples are a good source of folic acid, which research has shown can prevent neural tube defects and protect against cancer. Eating three apples a day when pregnant will not only help you to control your weight gain, but also contribute to preventing birth defects in your unborn child.
As a fellow dietician, I must say that I find Tammi Flynn's 3-Apple-a-Day diet and nutritional advice both sensible and encouraging.
Combine it with daily aerobic exercise (skipping, jogging, running, cycling, spinning, dancing or swimming) for 30 minutes or more a day. With minimum effort, you should start losing weight.
So, eating not one, but three apples a day, not only keeps the doctor away, but also improves weight loss.
(Dr I.V. van Heerden, Health24, updated January 2009)
Reference:
(http://www.tammiflynn.com/212.html)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Delay of the Alphabetical Prevention of Cancer Blogs

Thanksgiving weekend passed quickly. A rally of friends helped us through, a rag-tag crew of people still wondering what to do for the special occasion. A few calls and we ended up sharing ham and roast vegis at our place. Ever the entertainer, even days after a break-down. I was thankful for everything. Thankful to be alive. The pills seem to be working, although I'm still finding it hard to get interested in anything. I'm not writing, phoning back people I need to call or being my usual jolly old self.
 But its coming.

I said I would start the cancer prevention blogs but it will have to wait until later in the week. We are off to Prince George for two days to see the cardiac/lung specialist Dr. Hennesay. There is a consult on Tuesday afternoon and a stress test on Wednesday- a follow up over the left ventricle damage they found on my last ultrasound.

I'll fill you in on what happens as well as start the prevention series as soon as we get back. There's a Gary Fjelgarrd and Valdy concert in Burns Lake we get to hit on the return trip home.

I have to admit I feel more than a twinge of interest in that!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Depression Update

If you read the previous blog, I thankfully did what I said I would do. I phoned Sandi at emergency in the Smithers hospital. She told me to come in. I detoured to the Reitsma's and asked Dorothy to drive me. I was admitted for depression and administred Ativan and an anti-depressant to help stop the crying. It helped, but I'm still at the bottom of the barrel, which I am told its a serotonin imbalance. The anti-depressant will take almost 2 weeks to work. They will keep me in hospital until Barry is off work on Friday and can come pick me up.

It's good to know there is help on the horizon. I should have asked for it much earlier. Homer, the bear, can only do so much. He is exhausted and sits up in the hospital bed by himself at the moment, while I sit and stare out the window at nothing. I have scared myself  into a deep silence, my brain possibly worried about flaming  the still- smoldering meltdown I had survived.

I feel very tired, embarrassed and lower than I can ever remember. They say this is "normal" for all I've been though. The psychiatrist I was assigned to says I had hit the top five crisis alerts: cancer, suicide in the family, high speed motor vehicle accident, loss of a parent, loss of a friend.

When I get home, I will be taking a break from the cancer book. I will take the dresser pictures of my brother and mother and put them elsewhere for a bit. I will take the new meds, meet with a counsellor and get myself back on track. I have too much ahead of me to quit now. I never stopped believing that. There was only  a brief moment there when it wasn't worth the weight of the effort, but I have the help I need now and can see what to do to make sure that moment never returns.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Drowning In Depression

I know I said the next posting would be about cancer prevention, but I am floundering this morning. I seem to have a poisonous thorn in my side and I need to try and pull it out before the venom consumes me.

The problem is I feel like I am drowning.

There are  balls of weight cinched around my ankles and I can't seem to cut them loose. They're pulling me down until my head is under water. I can barely get myself out of bed and if it wasn't for this avenue available to me for getting my feelings out, my virtual diary, I wouldn't have made my way past the kitchen and bedroom at all today.

Before April 2009, the worst thing that happened in my life was my friend Kathy Sullivan getting shot dead by her husband, who then turned the gun on himself and pulled the trigger. That event set off what I thought was a long bout of sadness. For a week I wondered about life and how tough it could be for those of us left behind. I believe we are here to learn lessons so that our spirits can move on to what religious people call "heaven." I imagine I will be returning over and over, re-incarnated until I get what I need to learn. I believe this is hell right here on earth and I have the scars to prove it.

Yes I know there are people out there with so much more pain. People that have lost their entire families, their homes from floods or fire, people starving to death slowly over years of malnutrition and disease. Usually I can remind myself of this and pull myself up by my bra straps, but it doesn't seem to be working anymore. Besides, it hurts still to do anything with my bra straps.

I am going to make a list here of what I am dealing with so that one day I can look back on it and either say, wow, that was tough, or else say, that was nothing! Or maybe I am listing it so that you can see for yourself how much it took to finally take this optimistic ass and drag it under. Maybe this is all part of another lesson- to dampen my enthusiasm? Or to test it to see how much I can take before breaking? Why has all of this happened to me? And when is it all going to end? I keep hanging on for that break, for that ray of sunshine to poke its head out, for any glimmer of hope that the next corner of my life is going to be warm and fuzzy and not dark and painful. If I could just stop crying.

Mom died April 2009 with my sister and I holding her hands. It was one of the most traumatizing days of my life. It was beautiful at the same time as it was terrifying, watching someone's soul exit their body. Your loved one is there with you and then, with a widening of their eyes, with a slight arch to their back, they are empty of life and all that they knew of you and the world is gone forever. Like a candle blown out. You can't help but mull that moment over and over for the rest of your own life. When you get that close to death, it stains you with an invisible ink. I have witnessed one of life's great mysteries inches from my face. I saw it felt it, smelled it and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. Certainly not as scared as I once was of it. Mom left at what I considered too young of an age. She turned 73 while in hospital. My plan was to hit at least 74. These days, I want to make it to 55. It's as high a goal as I can hope for these days. That alone weights me down with at least half of my own body weight. The fear that what I've been through is only the tip of what is yet to come. I have lost faith in the hope of ever seeing more than a fleeting glimpse of internal sunshine ever again. There will be moments, I'm sure, but I can't see from this low point-of-view how they will be enough to raise me up and keep me up? The wind in my sails has gone, the air in my lungs has deflated and there, with this incredible life I have built around me, I sit sinking.

The next trouble hit me in November of 2009 when a van pulled out in front of me and I slammed into it doing 90 km. I sustained a bad case of whiplash that will plague me until I die. My left shoulder muscles and the muscles that run right up into my neck are permanently damaged so that wearing a heavy pack, bending my neck to type and snowboarding have now become painful reminders of a very jarring event.

I turned 50 a month later. A wondrous celebration surrounded by our children in a tropical paradise. I laughed and danced and put on a brave face, but the fact remains that more than half of my life was definitely over. I was on the back side of living now and the only way to go was down. I was headed for the age of loss. Loss of hearing, eyesight, bladder control, memory, sensibility, strength, all capabilities. What was there to celebrate about in  that?

In May of 2010 I submitted myself to a breast MRI at the Lions Gate Hospital in Vancouver. I made the trip myself and spent another horrific 45 minutes of my life shoved backwards inside a long cylindrical cigar tube, my breasts hanging down, my diaphragm pressing flat so I couldn't take a full breath. It was a test that possibly saved my life, but it was agonizing to get to that point.

The results said there was a shadow of concern in the opposite breast to the one we were concerned about. That shadow got biopsied in July, the findings of which cited me positive for breast cancer. I received the news over the phone on the way to Invermere for my Mom's ash spreading. I made a joke out of it. It was hard to bring me down back then. I was such a positive person.

The next year was a flurry of pain and the bad kind of surprises- the rug continually being pulled out from under me. There was a surgery, then the long road of recovery before a second surgery forced me back onto the couch to repair for another month, this time with a drain in my side. I mention the drain because a year later it still hurts where it was placed. To this day my upper right torso is numb and you feel discomfort with the raise of the arm, a twist to the right. It never goes away. The right half of my right breast is hard  like  marble while the left half is soft and pliable. I look in the mirror and see my disfigurement- the way the breast is unnaturally pulled up  to one side. It looks like it was hit by a two-by-four but never relaxed after,  the way it is flattened, a strange resemblance to a cliff. It does not look like a nice, round breast anymore.  I am sorry Dr. E, you did do a fabulous job with the scars and just the fact that I still have a breast to complain about in the first place. But I can't help the way I feel when I look in the mirror at what I am left with. I am ugly to myself and that is what counts here.

After finding cancer had made it to one of my lymph nodes, the second surgery removed even more nodes, creating a second arm pit beneath the one I already had. It is all still super tender to the touch. I worry it will remain this way forever because it already feels like it has been forever. I feel like a prisoner who should have been scratching out the number of days on the wall.
After semi-repairing from that, I was subjected to the chemo- more worst days of my life. I lost my hair. I lost my identity. The second chemo knocked me down to the ground. I couldn't catch a breath walking up 15 stairs. This from a woman who jogs 40 minutes at a time.
Then I was radiated, lying beneath a machine that sent toxic rays into my body, being told first that they would unfortunately have to nuke a portion of my lung to get at all the breast tissue. How many days off my total life span did that take, I wonder still.

Then you're treatment free, except for the drugs they want you to pop every day. Tamoxifen- a known carcinogen and Zoladex- a pill that will shut down my ovaries chemically throwing me into menopause. Unnaturally. All of it. Forcing my body to do things its not ready to do. This causes constant hot flashes which wear me down one at a time. I'm freezing, I'm melting, I'm normal. I'm freezing, I'm melting, I'm normal. They tell me this will go on for the  five years I am on the drugs.

It is June. What turns out to be our worst summer in 40 years, has started. The phone rings and my brother is on the roof of his garage. Propelled by drugs, alcohol and the need to make a point, he throws himself onto a fence. His heart gives up two days later. And I can't help but feel abandoned by an older brother I spent an entire life-time looking up to. He's there and then he's not. And death brushes it's quiet fingers across my cheek once more. It's whispering to me but I can't quite hear what it's saying. Is it scary? Is it a sign? Do I want to know? I worry I know the answer to these questions.

I reel and stumble from this death in the family. All the months of treading water with my nose tilted upward so not to go completely under and now I'm taking in mouthfuls of water. I tread harder. I surround myself with my friends, clinging to memories of better days, of amazing times spent wasting my youth on simply living day-to-day.

The next sequence is merely a list of more links of chain helping to drag me under: a friend's recurrence with breast cancer sent me for a loop. After a year on Tamoxifen and she still had to go through more surgery before chemo and radiation. Then another friend succumbs to pancreatic cancer. Another friend gets cervical cancer as my own uterus continues cramping from what we don't know. It's not supposed to be continually spasmodic like that. It's annoying and persistent and it has become like Japanese torture- a constant drip on my forehead sending me slowly insane. Or was I already there and this is sending me to a new level?

That worry  makes my left arm itch.,..and itch...until I scratch it to bloodiness. There are pills to stop the nerves from buzzing beneath my skin, still I must lie with an ice pack pressed to my flesh to numb it until the drug can catch up.

I finally see a reply from one of the four agents/publishers I sent my cancer manuscript to. It's a semi-encouraging retort, but a no all the same. "while there are many compelling elements, I consider stories written with the inclusion of e-mails lazy writing" This woman was sent only the first ten pages. My response offering to send her the first four chapters never received a reply. Down...down...down...

I am sent for tests of my heart for the breathing issues and we find there was damage done to the left ventricle of my heart, thus the wheezing after exerting myself. More tests are needed. Back in line I go, my heart even heavier to worry even more of my future has been taken from me. I pressure myself to get my life going before it ends, hurry...hurry...there is no time to lose...which backfires and overwhelms me until I can no longer work.
My re-write stalls. The end is all a mess like a mountainous  heap of garbage I need to wade through to find the hidden treasures. If I think on it too much I will blow my mind.
What I do think about are all the hours spent for nothing. I begin to see the selfishness in what should have been a career with five books written and sitting. In reality it was merely an indulgence, a hobby at best. I could have been helping in a soup kitchen, saving the world one volunteered hour at-a-time.What do I know?
 I wanted to help the world with this cancer book- I wanted to open everyone's eyes to how they could help prevent going through what I've been through. I was ready to sacrifice my comfort zone, my stable life to head out and nervously stand before people crowded into a library or gym or theater. I wanted to tell them that they are in charge of their destiny, one blueberry or one white bun at a time. It was their choice. I wanted to show them what a cancer survivor looked like. Show them the terror in my eyes that will never go away. The worry that it will come back for me and never ever let me go. They don't want to be me, I can assure them. Quit pretending you are immune to it, everyone. Everyone I know and love is playing with fire. I worry for them. I worry even more for me for each time the phone rings.

Where the fuck is a soap box when you need one?


The stock market crashing down around our ears and my having invested the insurance claim money I got for my whip lash in it only days before the big downward slide was a punt in the side. I joke my husband is on suicide watch but its not him I worry about any more. It's only money. I know that. As a Sagittarean I have nevr worried about money., It has always just come to me. But I wanted this to be something that lifted me up. Instead, it has spiralled me downward.

Then at a gym class two days ago, I was doing lunges after a short warm up and pulled my thigh muscle. Between the left shoulder MVA soreness, the right torso surgical sorenesss, the uterine cramping, the itchy arm cuts and now the right thigh injury- oh, throw in a couple of canker sores in my mouth which the Internet says is caused by stress...

And there you have it. The reason why I am walking around hanging on for dear life to a stuffed bear named Homer. His head is wet from my tears as I sit here worried that I should be having people over. It's my turn to cook for these friends, and those friends and I should be cleaning the house, outside burning off the chocolate bars I can't seem to quit shoving into my face. I have been on a dietary path of destruction lately- all the things I know can worsen the cancer if I still have any. Sugar is my enemy but I embrace it every single day. I run to it for comfort knowing it will torment me seconds after it is consumed. But I am trrying everything to shake this darkness. This overwhelming sense of doom and gloom.

I do not write this for any sympathy. I am writing this to show you what it looks like inside of the darkness. I think of how easy my brother now has it and I can see the relief in the thought. I don't want to go. I'm not ready to go. I want some day to see my next generation but it's such a fine gossamer of line that keeps me tethered. I'm sorry Kimmy. I am sorry Lorne and Karly and Lindsay and Barry. I am sorry for what I am thinking about. I am sorry it ever got this close. I am going to get dressed and get out of this house with these guns. I am going to to Smithers and see Sandi and get some help. Right now.

(which I did!)