It’s Blog for Your Breasts Day


Today is the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  You know, when the world is pink-tinted and throngs of women (and some men thrown in) walk the streets of America to raise money for breast cancer research and treatment.

I bet that every reader here today can tell a breast cancer story.  You are a survivor, you had a cancer scare, you have a relative that has gone through cancer-hell, you lost your best friend to the disease.  I’ve had 5 immediate female relatives and several good friends fight breast cancer.  Some are survivors, some fought till the end.  I’ve done what I can to help but often wonder if there is more I could contribute.

About a year ago I discovered The Love/Avon Army of Women (AOW).  Here’s what they do:

“The Love/Avon Army of Women (AOW) is a unique program of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit breast cancer research organization. The program is funded through a grant from the Avon Foundation for Women.  The AOW provides an opportunity for men and women to take part in breast cancer research studies aimed at determining the causes of breast cancer – and how to prevent it. The AOW is a groundbreaking initiative that connects breast cancer researchers via the internet with women who are willing to participate in a wide variety of research studies.  The goal of the Army of Women is to recruit ONE MILLION MEN AND WOMEN of all ages and ethnicities, including breast cancer survivors and those who have never had breast cancer.”

So want to know what you can do?  The AOW wants all kinds of people to join with them in researching and preventing cancer. Young, old, thin, overweight, moms, singles, male, female, cancer survivors, never-had-cancer folks, all colors of the rainbow, healthy eaters, junk-food eaters, those on hormones, those not-on-hormones, menopausal, peri-menopausal, still-having-period-gals.  You get the idea.  The AOW wants YOU!  When you sign with the Army of Women, you are NOT signing up for a study.  You are volunteering to be placed in a database, to be sent invitations to participate in studies, or let others who would qualify know about the studies.  Participants will be involved in important research to discover THE CAUSE of breast cancer – how to stop it before it starts.  You are FREE to say yes or no to any study, and there is no cost to you to participate.  These are also not clinical trials.

I joined the AOW and  I get periodic emails asking questions to see if I qualify for a study or if I know someone who might be interested in participating.  Sometimes the study is just an internet study, sometimes the AOW is looking for people in a certain geographic area, sometimes the study is a physical study like a blood test or swabbing your cheek.  Here are some current studies:

The Milk Study: Using Breast Milk to Screen for Breast Cancer and Assess Breast-Cancer Risk

Sleep, Circadian Hormonal Dysregulation and Breast Cancer Survival

Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors: Effects on Fatigue, Immune Function, and Mood

Combination of Low-Dose Anti-Estrogens with Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Prevention of Hormone-Independent Breast Cancer

1,ooo,ooo.

The Army of Women

is asking for this many volunteers.

Please consider joining The Army of Women and spreading the news to your family, friends, co-workers, blog readers.  Here are ways for you to help:

  • Tweet for AOW using #WritePink
  • Update your Facebook status with: “I signed up to STOP breast cancer before it STARTS.  Have you?  Join today at www.armyofwomen.org, then copy and paste this status update as your own”.

Please join me by joining The Army of Women today and let’s gang-up on breast cancer.

With special love to Mom, Grandmother Ethel, Grandmother Myrtle, Pam, Aunt Adelle, Patricia, Brenda, Syl, Jill.

All writing property of LoneStarLifer. 2010.

I blogged about a book written by a woman who had cancer in her family here.  And did you know there is a special cleaning service for those going through chemotheraphy, no matter what kind of cancer.

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Winner of “What We Have” Giveaway.


Thanks to those of you who were nice enough to read my review and enter the book giveaway.  I wish I had a book to give each of you as I think you would enjoy it.  Buy your copy or check the library, but do put this on your reading list.

The winner is:

Donna Albert

I’ll be in touch on how to get your book to you.  Thanks, again, to all who entered.  Check back with LoneStarLifer as I will be having more reviews and giveaways.


All photos & writing is property of LoneStarLifer. 2010.

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What We Have. A Review. (With Author Q and A)


Amy Boesky was always looking over her shoulder.  She knew a sharpshooter was following her, but she could never make visual contact.  Amy wasn’t alone; her two sisters and mother were also being shadowed.  Other members of Amy’s family (their black and white pictures hanging on the wall in Amy’s home) had fallen, and Amy was aware of the tick-tock of the clock, wondering if her name was next on the list.  The novel: What We Have: One Family’s Inspiring Story about Love, Loss, and Survival.  An international spy novel?  No, a wonderful memoir by Amy Boesky, chronicling how fear of developing ovarian cancer (the sharpshooter) dictated many life decisions, and how she took back her life.   In the pages of this poignant, familial, often humorous book, we watch Amy’s transformation as she names and faces her fears, finds strengths she never knew she had, embraces the goodness around her and chooses to live her life as normally as possible.

At age 32, Amy has a great job as an assistant professor in Washington DC, a new man named Jacques and a baby on the way.  The future lies before them.  But Amy has deadlines.  She and her sisters have set age 35 as the cut-off date for having babies, afterwords having preventive surgery to hopefully protect themselves from ovarian cancer.  Amy’s mom Elaine and older sister Sara have already had the surgery and Amy is marking the calendar as each day of her life moves closer to 35.  Adding to her stress is Jacques, whose inner clock runs on an opposite timetable.  Trying to find balance between the immediate and the “it will get taken care of” is yet another plate Amy tries to keep spinning.

Boesky has an honest, authentic voice as she describes the first year of motherhood.  The exhaustion, the baby’s inconsolable crying (was it colic?), the sweet moments when everything goes right, the breastfeeding issues, the slow transition from nervous and anxious to competent and comfortable.  As Amy narrates this season of life, her descriptive, heart-felt writing kept me involved in her challenges and cheering when she achieved success. In the midst of this first year of babyhood, Amy accepts a new teaching position and the family moves to Boston, living in a rental house with green shag carpet.  Keeping in daily contact with her mother and younger sister Julie is Amy’s touchstone.

Amy shares more of  the year following the Boston move, but I want you to read the book so I’m not giving too much away.  Turning the pages through that year, I observed changes in Amy as she grows in her love for her expanding immediate family, finds a home that matches their hopes and budget, and lives through dark days with an unwanted outcome.  Boesky sees that life can be lived in fear, or it can be lived with gratitude for the gift of each day that comes to us, for the preciousness of family love and time spent together, for the unknown possibilities and surprises. As I traveled with Amy, I, too, felt that life, the good AND the bad, is to be lived and lived bravely.  I have long believed and marveled in the elasticity of the human spirit, and reading What We Have validated my trust in coming through the worst and being able to stand tall on the other side.

Reading What We Have was very personal for me.  Breast cancer is the sharpshooter in my family and Boesky echoed many of the concerns and fears I have dealt with in the past.  There are no simple answers when grappling with genetic testing, preventive measures, disclosing or staying quiet.  And as Amy points out, those decisions can change as we move along our timeline.  Combining what has gone before with what we now know, living each day deliberately, is the best we can do.  Finding peace in those decisions is up to us.

Thanks to Gotham Books (and Jess) for the opportunity to read and review What We Have.  I was provided a free copy of the book, and  would like to share the book with one of my readers, so please leave a comment and include contact information.  Comments will be closed on Wednesday, August 25 at 11:59pm and the winner announced within 24 hours of closing.

I was very fortunate to be able to have a short Q and A session with Amy Boesky.  Thank you, Amy!

Lone: Before you wrote What We Have, did you  have much discussion about this portion of your life with your girls? When the book was published, did you have to share more than you were ready to share? Or was it a good catalyst for discussion and options? Have they read the book , and what do they think?

AB: This is a great question, Paula. I did talk with them, in varying ways and at varying times, but I think writing the book (which has been happening slowly over the past 5 years or so) really did help as a catalyst, as you put it so well. The girls read drafts, especially of the prologue and conclusion, and we talked a great deal in relation to their reading.

Lone: Since the end of the story in 1993, have you seen more promising medical news/studies about ovarian cancer?  Are you involved in any kind of studies since you have had the preventive surgeries?

AB: I continue to see my doctors at the Farber, and I know they are involved in a number of promising studies. But personally, I haven’t been involved with them. I think for me a big part of having surgery was the deal I made with myself that I could live a “normal life” (whatever that means!) once the surgery was done.

Lone: For a reader who has a hereditary family disease (mine is breast cancer), what would you hope they take with them after finishing your book?

AB: Another great question. I don’t believe in “one size fits all” when it comes to living with difficult choices. But I do feel that I want to make the hard questions more public—bring this into an arena where more of us can talk about it, consider ways in which we can make hereditary cancers easier to live with for the next generation.

I was provided a free copy of What We Have for this book review.  I was asked to give an honest review and the opinions stated in this review are strictly my own.  I was given no compensation.

Writing and photos property of LoneStarLifer. 2010. (Book cover provided by Gotham Books.)

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Cleaning for a Reason.


Image by FlamingText.com

Image by FlamingText.com

Unfortunately, breast cancer and I are not strangers. She and I have never had direct contact, but she has gotten up in the grill of some of my favorite ladies. For starters, my mom, who is a 6 yr survivor. Both my maternal and fraternal grandmothers. My mom’s sister. My mom’s niece who was my first cousin. Pam. I adored her. Two second cousins (sisters) on my dad’s side.  My dear friend Patricia who had Inflammatory. I’m still not over that one. My dear dear friend B who has dealt with it twice. A co-worker.  My sister-in-law lost her mother to breast cancer at way too early an age. As you can probably guess, I am always looking over my shoulder to see if she’s caught up with me since she’e been so cozy with many of my family.Animated Pink Ribbon
And that’s just breast cancer. Let’s not talk about my loved ones who have battled lung cancer, ovarian cancer, brain cancer, lymphoma, colon cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. I’ve watched these friends and family go through all sorts of treatment. The illness and treatments are so disruptive to family life, and it can be hard to keep up with little details like cleaning the toilet and dusting the shelves. Well, through a friend (thanks, DS) I found out about a blessing of a service. It is called Cleaning for a Reason.  CFAR (my made up name, not theirs) is a nonprofit which offers free professional housecleaning and maid services to improve the lives of women undergoing treatment for cancer. Any kind of cancer, not just breast cancer. To qualify for Cleaning for a Reason, a woman undergoing cancer treatment is put in touch with the foundation to become qualified. The patient’s doctor supplies a statement to the foundation, who in turn contacts the local cleaning service who then sets up an appointment with the patient for her first free cleaning. The service is available once a month for four months. There are cities and towns all over the country that participate. For more information and to see if help is near you, go to http://www.cleaningforareason.org.

I hope you will share this information with your friends and family by email, Facebook, and Twitter. Maybe write your own blog post to get the word out that there are people who want to help make a cancer patient’s life easier. And if you know of an organization, group or individual who is supporting those going through treatment, post it here in my comments. This information can be of invaluable help to those who are hurting, and literally, fighting for their lives.

 

The Pink Ribbon
Visit The Pink Ribbon!

I wrote about The Army of Women here, if you want more information on breast cancer research.  They need women to participate, whether or not you have had breast cancer. 

All photographs and writing property of LoneStarLifer. 2009.

Friday Faves – dian malouf’s Go Girl Ring


bwgogirlcr 

I have a long history with one piece of jewlery. A Go Girl ring, designed by Dian Malouf. She originally designed the ring as a tangible sign of support for girlfriends who were going through cancer treatments. I first wore my Go Girl ring in December 1999 for a dear friend, Patricia, who was fighting Inflammatory Breast Cancer. I bought a ring for her and one for me, and by the time she died in February 2000 there were approximately 25 women wearing the Go Girl ring for her. 

Lovely Patricia

Lovely Patricia

I continued to wear the ring for a year after Patricia died, I couldn’t bear to take it off.  It was my lifeline to her and I feared the bareness I would feel when I removed it. I finally put it away, but pulled it back out in 2002 for my college roomie and dear friend BC. Patricia, BC and I were members of the same church and BC was a Go Girl for Patricia. Patricia’s Go Girls wore their rings for BC, and new friends were added. BC had a good outcome from her lumpectomy and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

One of BC’s Go Girls was our college friend Lana who lived in Memphis. In the fall of 2004, Lana was diagnosed with lung cancer. She never smoked so this was a total surprise. Those of us with Go Girl rings who knew Lana put them back on, and many of Lana’s Memphis friends also got rings. Lana died in July 2006 and there were many Go Girls from all over at the funeral. You can read about Lana at: http://www.caringbridge.org/tn/lanamason/ .

Prayer hands for BC

Prayer hands for BC

I had not even had time to think about removing my ring after Lana’s death before BC was again diagnosed with breast and a second type cancer in September 2006.She had to have a lumpectomy and radiation which took us through the end of 2006.  There were many Go Girls with BC when she rang the bell at the end of treatment.

Cake at BC's bell ringing!

Cake at BC's bell ringing!

 So it’s been a quiet couple of years. I’ve been wearing a lovely Alamo ring, also designed by Dian.  More on that next week.  And then, I got a phone call in February of this year. My precious childhood friend PW called me to say she has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. We grew up together in West Texas.  Our folks were good friends so we often played together.  We also attended college with BC and Lana. PW was a Go Girl for BC and Lana, so of course the rings have been pulled out for her. I call her The Younger as she is three years younger than me. She calls me The Older. paulagogirlPW lives in Georgia, so it is a comfort to me to put on my ring every morning and think of her.  My friend BC says “shooting arrows of prayer upward” *as a Go Girl said to her* and that’s what I do each time I put on my Go Girl ring.  PW has had surgery and is currently undergoing chemo; we are hopeful about her outcome.  I would be grateful for your prayers in her behalf.

sepiagogirlcr

 

When I look at my Go Girl ring, I don’t see the illness, sadness, disappointment that sometimes comes with wearing it.What I see is the way friends surround someone in crisis and lift them up with support and prayer.  I see the way that Go Girls can all be linked in the world, no matter how far away we are.  I see the hope that flows from loving relationships and the healing from being a part of a group that loves as hard as they can.  I see how touched and honored each friend has felt to know there was a special group of women who went above and beyond to make sure the honoree knew she had the Go Girls behind her.  I see my friend looking at her ring and knowing she is never alone. I see my connection to my friend no matter where I am.

Now, the Go Girl ring is not strictly for support in bad times.  Dian says she wants “women to believe in themselves.”  I’ve given a ring to each of my nieces graduating from high school to remind them I’m rooting for them to succeed.  You could give a ring to someone getting married, starting a first job, becoming a mommy.   If you would like to have your own Go Girl ring, give a Go Girl ring as a gift, or start your own Go Girl support group for someone,  you can find more information herepinkgogirlcrClick Jewelry, then  Endearings. The best way to order a ring is to call the company directly at 214-520-3123. When I order from them, I receive my items quickly. The only thing  that might cause a slowdown is if they don’t have your size ring.

Tell ’em Lone Star Lifer sent ya!

 

Next week’s Friday Faves: A continuation of the dian malouf thread.

 

All photographs and writing property of LoneStarLifer. 2009.

Invite a Friend – Army of Women


Army of Women
I have had many family and friends who have been touched by breast cancer.  Just in my family my mother, both grandmothers, an aunt and a first cousin have dealt with breast cancer.  I’ve had close friends who fought and won, and sadly, friends who didn’t make it.   Every year when I have my mammogram, I always hold my breath a little until I get the all-clear letter saying I’m good for another year.

Lovely Patricia who died in 2000.  Big J & I were married in her home.

Lovely Patricia who died in 2000. Big J & I were married in her home.

     There is a research doctor, Dr. Susan Love, who is SERIOUS about finding a cure for breast cancer.  She has set up an organization, ARMY OF WOMEN, which acts as a clearinghouse for breast cancer studies.  Women who have had breast cancer, women who haven’t, young and old women, thin and overweight women, black, white, you name it.  If you are a woman, Dr. Love wants you to join the ARMY.  She’s aiming for a million women to join the ARMY.  The Susan Love Research Foundation and the Avon Foundation for Women are behind this effort.

My beautiful cousin Pam.  She died in 2002.

My beautiful cousin Pam. She died in 2002.

It’s easy.  Just go to the ARMY OF WOMEN website and sign up.  You will be sent an email when a new study is opened and after reading the email, you can decide if you meet the basic qualifications for the study.  If you meet the basic criteria, you can submit your name and they will follow-up with more comprehensive questioning and possibly include you in a study.  Some studies can be done by mail and telephone, some are geographically specific.  Maybe you won’t qualify, but you might know someone who would and you can pass the information on to them.

Please take a few minutes and sign up.  Post this on your blog.  Let’s get those million women that Dr. Love wants.  Here’s Dr. Love on the Today Show.

Invite a Friend – Army of Women

 

All photographs and writing property of LoneStarLifer. 2009.