Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Give and Get Pink!

Get in the pink with a giveaway!

This functional (and really pink) sackpack by New Balance folds up and stores away into an attached pocket the size of a coin purse. Just unzip the purse, pull out the knapsack, and turn the purse inside out for an extra zipped compartment. Great for day trips, it's light enough to sling over your shoulders for biking or walking. It is brand-spanking new official Susan G. Komen For the Cure merchandise and bears the organization's logo.

Around the end of September, the sackpack will go to a randomly selected commenter who has given the time and effort to help me write a tribute to a breast cancer patient or survivor. The name of each person featured in a tribute goes onto this blog's "race for the cure wall of honor," and will be printed on my race day T-shirt.

It would be my privilege to write tributes to 50 of these extraordinary people and to carry all of their names with me across the finish line on October 16. Please give a name, get in the pink and help me reach my goal by leaving your comments today!

"Get In The Pink" graphic courtesy of

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Get In the Pink With a Bambino!

Looking for some refreshing relief from the summer heat? Get yourself a bambino! No, not the kind that immediately comes to mind. Instead, it's a watermelon, and every purchase helps support breast cancer organizations!

The bambino website is full of serving suggestions and nutrition information. Additionally, the site states, "Bambino watermelons were developed by Seminis, a worldwide leader in the fruit and vegetable industry, to meet customer demand for a nutritious, better tasting, more conveniently sized watermelon with no seeds. Time magazine called the Bambino melon one of the top 100 inventions of 2004."

Small and round, with an emerald green exterior, these lucious fruits bear a sticker like the one displayed above. The seedless interior is dark pink to red. The bambino I tasted was the sweetest, juiciest watermelon that has ever cooled my tastebuds. They are available in the produce section at select WalMart, Sam's Club, BJ's, Food Lion and Nash Finch stores. Best of all, as the sticker advertises, a portion of the proceeds is donated to breast cancer organizations.

Get one of these babies, grab a spoon and dig in. You'll truly be "in the pink"!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Sturdiness of Lynda Boyd

Lynda Boyd, from Dundee, United Kingdom (Scotland), tells me she is "a very scared woman." I have no doubt that is true. But, I also know that she wears very sturdy shoes as she travels through some scary places in this world. Lynda, who will be 41 this year, was diagnosed in 2008 with breast cancer. She has endured a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, and continues treatment with herceptin, which will be completed in September of 2010.

As I considered Lynda's story, I was compelled to wonder what that means. What is it like, exactly, to be treated with herceptin? For breast cancer patients, herceptin is a treatment that is administered in tandem with or subsequent to chemotherapy. BreastCancer.Org explains that currently, treatment of breast cancer usually involves one of three "targeted therapies." As one of these preferred therapies, herceptin works on certain cancers by arresting growth of the cells. "Cancer cells grow in an uncontrolled fashion. Herceptin works on the surface of the cancer cell by blocking the chemical signals that can stimulate this uncontrolled growth." (Click here for a full discussion of herceptin and other treatment options.)

Herceptin is administered only intravenously. So, at intervals ranging from once a week to once every three weeks, a patient must spend somewhere between thirty to ninety minutes at the doctor's office, watching the medication drip from a little plastic bag, into a tube, and through a needle inserted in a vein. And, as with other cancer treatments, the more immediate result of the process may be undesirable side effects, such as fever, chills, muscle aches and nausea.

What would you do during those minutes, if it was your life connected to a tube, above which dangled little droplets of hope? Would you read? Work crossword puzzles? Pray that the cancer "stays away"? This is Lynda's life, after a mastectomy and radiation. This, after a long day's work, or in the middle of one, or perhaps before the work day starts, because Lynda, despite her suffering, stood resolutely in her shoes and returned to her job in November of 2009. After all, she remarks, "money plays a part in life," and, there are bills to pay.

It is because of this astounding sturdiness that Lynda’s influence has become trans-continental. Along the journey, she befriended a young woman from the United States. Heidi W., a mother of two young children, has been influenced profoundly by Lynda’s resilience. “Even though she’s been through so much,” Heidi observes, “she still gets up and goes to work every day."

For Lynda Boyd, whose shoes bear her up across a rocky trail: tomorrow morning, I'd like to borrow them for a little while. I know I cannot wear them, as they are too full of courage to accommodate my feet. But, I will take them with me as I run. Just for the morning, we will conquer all fear and pain, and think only of your sturdiness and resilience. All we have to do is to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Here's to the next mile!

* * *

For readers who are Facebook users, click here to write Lynda an encouraging message. She'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mile Marker: Week 3 -- A Challenge!

Thanks to Linda Jessee Mills' inspirational example of courage and wisdom, training for Week 2 was a breeze. Week 3, in contrast, was tough. The jogging intervals doubled in length from two minutes to four minutes during week three. Also, the number of running days increased from three to four. For some reason, that third of the five jogging intervals was kicking my butt, and I couldn't manage to slog through more than about two of the four minutes. Yet, intervals four and five were not a problem.

I decided to take a close look at the terrain to see if there is any particular reason why that portion of the route was so difficult. After all, I live on the coast, and most of the terrain is flat, flat, flat. I drove down to the area where the third segment usually begins. Sure enough, there is a nearly imperceptible rise in the road, but it stretches along a far distance. This was confirmed by one of my favorite running resources, a handy-dandy little tool on the web called "Map My Run," which revealed that over the course of the last three-quarters of a mile or so, the elevation gradually increases from three feet above sea level at the lowest point on the route, to around thirty-nine feet above sea level. No, it's not a mountain, but the elevation increase certainly explains the difficulty I was experiencing. I do have this modified (but, improved!) ticker issue to address.

With that information in hand, I employed an old trick. When the third segment began on the last running day of the week, I slowed the pace. I mean, I really slowed the pace. Onlookers may have wondered why I bothered to "run" at all. I could have walked as quickly. Then, instead of looking far ahead, I looked up only occasionally, just to be aware of traffic. Mostly though, my eyes were planted on the road just a few feet away. I thought of nothing but Libby Holter, Kaira W., and quite literally, putting one foot in front of the other. With Libby Holter's vision, I imagined a clear view of reaching the desired goal. And, by drawing from Kaira W.'s fortitude, I saw myself accomplishing the task, no matter what was required. Thanks to inspiration from those ladies, not only did I complete that most difficult third segment, but also easily finished the fourth and fifth segments.

Which brings us to the end of Week 3. That ominous old training calendar is filling up with more and more green slashes!

And, in case you're wondering just how much mileage is actually involved, I've done the math. The whole route takes approximately 35 minutes to complete. 20 of those minutes are spent jogging, so that's 57% of the time spent jogging. Map My Run tells me the distance of the route is 1.9 miles. Oh, yeah! I'm jogging 1.083 miles!

Today's cross-training will involve an energizing bike ride, which, to my surprise, I've come to enjoy. I'll also catch up on a little strength training, since I ran out of time on Wednesday. That's an example of the beauty of this particular training schedule. It's very flexible, and if one day's activity is missed, it can be combined with another day's activity.

Then, on to Week 4, where the walking intervals decrease to two minutes, and the jogging intervals increase to five minutes. It's a piece of cake, right?

I'm just lovin' my shoes . . . so, here's to the next mile!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fortitude, As Known by Kaira W.

I was surprised to learn recently that a continuing controversy exists within the medical community about the value of breast self-examination. But, don’t tell that to Kaira W., who discovered a lump in her breast while performing a regular self-exam, and subsequently was diagnosed very recently with breast cancer. Yet, Kaira wears shoes that are lined with fortitude, propelling her forward with a remarkable will to endure, no matter what is required.

Kaira, a 32 year-old mother, whose three children all are under the age of 6, was faced with having to make critical decisions about her future and her family’s well-being. She immediately scheduled a double-mastectomy. As Kaira’s friend, Diane, describes, Kaira felt this aggressive solution to her illness was “the best way to protect her and her family's health.”

Diane admits that she is “awed and amazed” by Kaira’s extraordinary bravery. Despite her own dilemma, Kaira ". . . makes sure to get the word out on every step of her journey so that people understand it could happen to them and that we are not too young to get this horrible illness.”

With an eye toward supporting Kaira’s effort to “get the word out,” this tribute would be incomplete if it didn’t address breast self-examination, or BSE. As previously mentioned, the medical community seems to have divided into two camps: a) those who believe BSE has little or no value; and b) those who believe BSE is one of the primary instruments in the early detection of the disease.

As I considered the results of my own review of a number of articles on the subject, the dissenting conclusion seemed to be that BSE is of little value because:
  1. women don't do it; and
  2. women don't do it.

In her article Value of Breast Self-exam Questioned, author Elizabeth Smoots, MD, describes some of the difficulties women experience with this task: "Besides being difficult to do well, it’s hard to keep performing BSE consistently each and every month." Similarly, Mary K. Salazar and William B. Carter reported in their 1994 study entitled, A Qualitative Description of Breast Self-Examination Beliefs, that fewer than 40% of American women perform BSE with any regularity, and describe a variety of attitudes that contribute to that outcome, including ". . . too much time to do, too difficult, embarrassment about self-touch. . . ." Some estimate that the number of American women who do not perform BSE could be as high as 80%. Finally, there is consistent mention throughout the dissenting literature that those women who do perform BSE regularly often find benign lumps related to transient, cyclical changes, resulting in a higher rate of unnecessary biopsies.

So, what are practical options for women under the age of 40 who are not encouraged to have regular mammograms? Regardless of discussions to the contrary, much more information is available that underscores the importance of performing BSE regularly beginning at age 20 as part of a three-pronged approach to early detection. This comprehensive approach also includes clinical breast examinations (CBE) performed by a health professional every three years (or annually as we age), and mammograms, as discussed in a previous blog.

Multiple sites provide fabulous and detailed information for performing a BSE. In addition to Komen for the Cure, try out WebMD, About.Com, the American Cancer Society, or BreastCancer.Org for excellent guidance. One last site is worthy of mention because it also offers free shower card reminders. Go to HealthyWomen and download your free card, which was published in April of 2008 by the National Women's health Resource Center, Inc. Or, click on the image below for a larger version, print it out, stash it in a ziplock bag, and hang it in the shower.

Regardless of the guidance you choose for BSE, a number of common threads run through them. The first one is an emphasis on familiarity. Through regular BSE, you will become familiar enough with your breasts to recognize changes or symptoms that should be reported to your health care provider. Other common themes include the following:

  • Always discuss with your health care professional the types and frequency of screening appropriate for your history, risk and age.
  • Always combine BSE with CBE, and when appropriate, with mammograms.
  • Perform a BSE the week after your period, or on the first day of the month if you no longer are menstruating.
  • Perform BSE consistently, so that you are familiar with what is normal for your breasts.
  • Try to perform the examination in the shower. If that is not your preference, perform it lying down.
  • Check areas outside the breast, from the armpit to the collar bone, and below the breast, in addition to the breast itself and the nipple.
  • Report any changes in size or breast shape.
  • Report lumps, hard knots or thick areas.
  • Report swelling or redness.
  • Report any puckering or dimpling of the skin or nipple.
  • Report itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple or skin.
  • Report sudden discharge from the nipple.
  • Report new and continuous pain in a specific spot.

But, hey, enough of that serious stuff. Check Your Boobies! No kidding -- that's the name of the organization, whose mission is to ". . . educate women about breast health in a frank, fun, and fear-free manner. [They] are dedicated to the prevention and early detection of Breast Cancer." And, if you're tired of Tupperware or Pampered Chef parties, make sure to take note of the resources and testimonials on this site for planning your very own "CYB Party."

So, for Kaira W., who is compelled to spread the news about the importance of BSE: I'd like to borrow your shoes in the morning, though I know I cannot wear them. Instead, I'll carry them with me and draw from the fortitude that fills them. Together, we'll go forward, no matter what is required.

Here's to the next mile!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mile Marker: Give and Get Pink!

Get in the pink with a giveaway!

This functional (and really pink) sackpack by New Balance folds up and stores away into an attached pocket the size of a coin purse. Just unzip the purse, pull out the knapsack, and turn the purse inside out for an extra zipped compartment. Great for day trips, it's light enough to sling over your shoulders for biking or walking. It is brand-spanking new official Susan G. Komen For the Cure merchandise and bears the organization's logo.

Around the end of September, the sackpack will go to a randomly selected commenter who has given the time and effort to help me write a tribute to a breast cancer patient or survivor. The name of each person featured in a tribute goes onto this blog's "race for the cure wall of honor," and will be printed on my race day T-shirt.

It would be my privilege to write tributes to 50 of these extraordinary people and to carry all of their names with me across the finish line on October 16. Please give a name, get in the pink and help me reach my goal by leaving your comments today!

"Get In The Pink" graphic courtesy of

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Vision of Libby Holter

Libby Holter of Maryland has been described as a "glass is half full-kinda person." Despite her diagnosis of breast cancer from well over a year ago, her postive outlook has not faltered as she travels down this assigned path. Libby's shoes seem to elevate her to a higher place, one where there is an unclouded view of recovery.

Yet, Libby thinks of herself as a "realistic optimist." Though she is determined to "stay hopeful," Libby describes an ability to make precise distinctions between what she can and cannot control. On the one hand, she advises that patients with breast cancer should select "the best" medical team that can be found, and do everything possible to evoke a positive outcome. On the other hand, she recognizes that once in a while, the glass looks half empty, and some things are beyond her control. "The pathology, especially. But it's a crap shoot whether the cancer will return." Then, she grabs the glass, fills it up, and remarks, "There's no reason not to be hopeful, in these days of marvelous strides in health care."

Although some research is available that suggests breast cancer patients should not feel "pressured" to be optimistic for a successful recovery, Libby's description of flexible optimism and her vision for recovery are underscored by the results of many long-term studies and other resources available on the web. One such article was published in Psychology Today by David G. Myers, who states:

In general, optimistic people are less bothered by various illnesses and recover better from cancer and surgery. * * * The recipe for well-being, then, requires neither positive nor negative thinking alone, but a mix of ample optimism to provide hope, a dash of pessimism to prevent complacency, and enough realism to discriminate those things we can control from those we cannot.

As a companion to Libby's balanced vision for recovery, she has a solid social system. She is confident her good prognosis is aided by "having the support of my family and friends who constantly cheered me and pulled me up and reminded me of the importance of love and life. Corny but entirely necessary!" She adds, "Allow family and friends to help you (you'd do it for them if they needed it, wouldn't you?)...."

Once again, Libby's viewpoint is supported by science. In The Wisdom of the Ego, author Dr. George E. Vaillant, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, mentions social supports as an important component of one's ability to cope with adversity. This concept, along with many other benefits of balanced optimism, is addressed in an excellent article by Bruna Martinuzzi, author of the book, The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow.

For Libby Holter, whose unwaivering vision of hope and strength is as a light to all who know her: before dawn tomorrow, I will borrow your shoes. I know I cannot fill them, but I will carry them with me to illuminate the way, and to remind me never to lose sight of hope.

Here's to the next mile!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wisdom, Courtesy of Linda Jessee Mills

Can you think of anybody who has worn a pair of shoes for fifteen years? Linda Jessee Mills has done that. Linda, from Georgia, is many things to many people. She is a mother and grandmother, a nurse, and a fifteen-year survivor of breast cancer. Her shoes have carried her down a long and winding road, which she has traveled with wisdom, grace, and humor. And, if her niece, Erin, is asked to describe her Aunt Linda, she'll do it with a single word -- "amazing!"

"She’s the only person I know," Erin says, "who can reminisce about those experiences and have us all laughing hysterically in the process . . . most of us would’ve been crying and shaking our fists at the sky."

Linda would agree that mammograms are one of the most important tools available for prevention and early detection of breast cancer. She had her first annual mammogram at age 32, but it was the one performed in the year of her 43rd birthday that likely saved her life. Through that test, Linda's early breast cancer was detected. Ultimately, her course of treatment included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. But, to Linda, submitting to annual mammograms was paramount to her survival.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) supports Linda's position. The ACS recommends that women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year, and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health. Click here to watch the site's excellent video about the important role mammograms play in the early detection of breast cancer.

Recently, however, some evidence exists that the number of women who follow this advice is decreasing. One of the primary reasons for the decline includes the cost of mammograms for those who are not covered by insurance. If mammogram costs are a hindrance to you, call your local health department, or the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 for information about facilities in your area that perform the tests at low or no cost. The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) also provides breast and cervical cancer early detection testing to women without health insurance for free or at very little cost. To learn more about this program, please contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 1-800-CDC INFO (1-800-232-4636) or visit their Web site at With help from these agencies, cost is not an obstacle. GET A MAMMOGRAM.

For those who are more fortunate and don't have to worry about covering the cost of a mammogram, visit The Breast Cancer Site. On the first page, a button will appear that looks like the one to the left. Click on it. That's all there is to it! Each time the button is clicked, advertisements from site sponsors are displayed. All of the money from these advertisers goes to the site's charity partners, who fund programs to provide mammograms to women in need. How easy is that?

A second primary reason women hesitate to undergo mammograms concerns discomfort involved in the procedure. In response to those worries, Linda Jessee Mills can offer a few words of wisdom.

I believe that regular mammograms save lives. I am almost 60 now and have been blessed with an additional 16 years. As a nurse I was constantly hearing patients say that the mammograms hurt, to which I replied.....really....well in my "expert opinion" , it's a lot more uncomfortable to have your breast removed and undergo therapy.....all that with a smile....of course. Mammograms are a must for women....insist on them and encourage your daughters to discuss the need for early screening with their physicians.

Other types of preparation can minimize discomfort during the procedure. For example, don't schedule a mammogram during the week prior to or during menstruation. Also, having accurate information about what to expect will alleviate some of the discomfort caused by anxiety of the unknown. A very informative interview appears below with Dr. Kenneth W. Chin, whose credentials include being named “Teacher of the Year” five times by the Department of Radiology at UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Chin also served as President of the Los Angeles and California Radiological Societies as well as holding the honor of fellowship of the American College of Radiology. Today, he continues to help change and improve the field of radiology, and he certainly understands mammography. (If the interview doesn't play for you, find it here.)

Tomorrow, I will borrow Linda Jessee Mills' fifteen-year-old shoes. I already know they won't fit. They are filled with too much wisdom, grace, and humor for them to accommodate my feet. But, I will carry them with me across the next mile to demonstrate my admiration for the wisdom she shares and the inspiration she imparts to others. So, for you, Linda ... here's to the next mile!

And by the way, Linda is now in the business of surviving colon cancer. Her words of advice on that subject? "Get a screening can possibly save yourself a lot of grief!!!" At some point in the future, Linda, I'll be asking to borrow those shoes, too....