Brighter Magazine 2022-Q1

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Zarah Lakhani

Through non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a world full of change, she found joy in each new beginning.


The breast cancer paddle phenomenon unites women on the water.


Making your immune system work for you


Finding fun in your wardrobe for a body altered by treatment

Survivor Safe Fitness for the New Year

A magazine for women affected by cancer

Editor’s Letter

Live. Learn. Shine. What a Year to Remember! I love saying “hello” to new years and new beginnings. Before looking forward, however, it is important to take a moment to look back. It is the things in the past that, when reflected upon, make our future brighter. Looking at 2021, we as a publication have a lot to celebrate. Since being formed in 2020 as an L.L.C., Brighter magazine, a little volunteer run publication, has expanded to new dimensions. We have worked with an attorney to file for non-profit status and are status pending with expectation to receive our letter from the IRS in the next month or so. Our board of directors is working hard to build committees and develop a strong foundation so the magazine and business can flourish in 2022. We are shipping magazines to five states across the nation while also working to deepen relationships with readers through our individual subscription base. We wouldn’t be where we are if not for the relationships we have built along the way. Doctors and surgeons and organizations like the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, A Model Patient and BeautyCounter are helping us distribute magazines across the cancer community in Dallas and beyond. Our writers come from all walks of life and have generously donated their time and knowledge to help us share some wonderful information with you. But we are just scratching the surface of what we hope to do. We are starting to gain further traction as more doctors and survivors contact us to share their stories and become a part of the mission. The more survivors we meet, the more we can see that Brighter magazine is filling a void in the women’s cancer community. Our hope is that Brighter magazine will become the “best friend’s” guide to life with cancer from diagnosis to remission and beyond. 2022 will hold four quarterly issues that we cannot wait to share with you. We are off to a great start. If you are interested in being a part of Brighter magazine by sharing your story or bringing the magazine to your community, please reach out to us. You can contact us at, and we will respond to you as soon as possible. 2022 is going to be even better than last year. We hope you can feel it too!


Table of Contents Subscribe to Brighter magazine at Advertise to expand your reach. Contact us at Donate to support Brighter on our website or save fees by mailing a check to: Brighter Magazine 3950 Royal Lane Ste - E 161 Dallas, Texas 75230 Brighter Magazine, a Texas nonprofit Corporation, 501(c)(3) Tax Exemption status pending.

Education Etch-A-Sketch


So Long, Surgical Scars


The History and Future of Breast Cancer Paddling




Wig Q&A


Livestrong at the YMCA


Yoga: Beginning with Breath My Victory: Online Fitness

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Empowerment Is My Lipstick Good For Me?


Express Yourself through Headcoverings


Information in Brighter magazine is to provide you with encouragement, awareness and education. The articles reflect the opinions of the authors and are not to take the place of professional medical advice. There may be a variety of perspectives on the subjects covered in Brighter. Tips, treatment and advice that is found helpful for some may vary based on the person. All of us at Brighter suggest that you talk to your medical team before making any changes to your lifestyle or daily living.

The magazine for women affected by cancer

Encouragement Stylin’ and Survivin’


Brighter Spotlight Zarah Lakhani


We’re All in the Same Boat



Special thanks to those who made this issue possible. We are so grateful to the diverse community of people who have supported our mission and are creating engaging content for our readers. Special thanks to Dr. Don McKenzie of the University of British Columbia and the many members, coaches and leaders of the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission who shared all the wonderful things about their sport. Thank you also to the Livestrong organization and the many YMCAs who spoke with us about their program. It is through the generosity of these people that Brighter magazine is able to deliver such encouraging and empowering content to you, our readers. If you would like to know more about our partners, please see our website at Are you or someone you know interested in helping us fill our pages? Please reach out to us by email at We will respond as quickly as possible.

Writers Helen Bowles Claire Cahoon Aishwarya Chandrasekaran Jane Clark Lisa Coyle Dr. Jennifer Gill Amanda Guillot Dr. Meredith Mitstifer Madeline Muller Heather Nemec Janice Timoney-Skidmore Sarah Zhou Teresa Zoch Graphic Designers Helen Bowles Kim Iltis Editors Madeline Muller Erin Schreyer Helen Bowles Photo Credits Erin Schreyer pgs. 12-19 Eugene Family YMCA pg. 28 MyVictory pg. 30 Adobe Photo Stock- all other pages Empire Dragons BCP team pgs. 20 - 21 Phantom Dragons BCP team pgs 20 - 21 4

Etch-a-Sketch By Dr. Meredith Mitstifer Psy. D., Psychology Treatment Programs Coordinator, Central Office - Washington DC. Federal Bureau of Prisons

Setting Intentions for a New Year Have you ever created a picture on an Etch-A-Sketch? Perhaps it’s out of date, but how wonderful it was to turn the knobs, discovering your hidden drawing talents pencil-free on the iconic red frame with a magical screen. There were endless possibilities. No charging, no batteries and no WI-Fi needed, and when you wanted to start again, you simply engaged in the shakin’ and erasin’ directions. Being diagnosed with cancer can feel like someone uninvited shook your Etch-A-Sketch. It may seem like your plans, dreams and goals were erased, and the residual sand lies in a puddle at the bottom of the screen. Your “picture” vanishes, and you might not want to pick up the frame and draw again. You are grieving so many things. As January and the new year are upon us, I can’t help but deliberate on 2021 and wonder what might be in store for 2022. The new year is often a time of reflection mixed with setting new intentions. Typically, you might bear witness to weight loss and/or physical fitness goals. Not many articles or self-proclaimed new year’s resolutions focus on how you will style your new hair or how to live with the fear of recurrence. Resolutions don’t often weave in continuous treatment options or the persistent worry of what might be next, which is all too common in cancer survivors. So how can a cancer community set new intentions for the new year? I say dig out your Etch-A-Sketch and allow yourself to create, shake and erase as much as you need. Caution is warranted, as we often set unrealistic goals, thereby reinforcing an uninspiring theme of loss. I encourage you to keep your intentions simple and heartfelt and acknowledge that they can be fluid and flexible. Here are some tips you can incorporate to create your own.

Face Forward

My favorite quote and stolen signature line is from Kay Yow. She was a Hall of Fame basketball coach that died at 66 from breast cancer. She stated, “When life kicks you, let it kick you forward.” No matter how small the step, if you keep it facing forward, it will always be a win. Find what puts that extra boost in your step, and do it more.

The magazine for women affected by cancer

Slay the Dragon

When faced with the cancer dragon, all intentions may be focused on treatment, side effects, etc. During treatment, after treatment and even in remission, the dragon can burrow into our thoughts, feelings and behaviors, which prevents us from both setting new intentions and believing we can accomplish them. “Be a gladiator,” as the TV character Olivia Pope would often say. Find ways to slay the dragon, no matter where you are in the cancer adventure. Write more, talk more and share more. You hold the sword and obviously have already gone to war with cancer. You are stronger than you ever knew. Don’t stop swinging here. A slay a day keeps the dragon away.

Remove the Shackles

Working in corrections for over 15 years, I can’t help but create prison-like metaphors when setting my intentions. Seriously though, cancer is enough weight to carry. If you can’t remove what else weighs you down, then find it some temporary storage. Set daily intentions to remove the roadblocks that get in your way, and if they can’t be removed, then change the way you manage them. Unshackle yourself… and be free.

Advocate Forward

Advocacy can truly fill one’s cup. Share your story. Raise awareness. Find a sacred space where you can surround yourself with like minded individuals, and you will find joy. Too often I hear how survivors believe it is best to handle everything privately. They don’t want to worry others. Don’t let cancer silence you, because the ripple can silence your loved ones. Transforming how something is into how it should be can be life-changing. Don’t isolate… advocate! Finally, be ok with SHAKIN’ AND ERASIN’. Just like an Etch-ASketch, you are in charge of your story. Write it, shake it, erase it and rewrite it as often as you like. Think about how you want your story to take shape, and set those intentions in writing. No one can tell or live your story better than you.


Is My Lipstick Good for Me? By Amanda Guillot, Managing Director, BeautyCounter

Did you know that skin is the largest organ? And did you know that many of our personal care products contain chemicals that are not tested for human health? And did you know that these chemicals can enter the bloodstream when applied? On average, women use 12 personal care products a day, including but not limited to makeup, body lotion, toothpaste and deodorant. Given the impact these products can have on our health, we must choose them carefully! My personal favorite cosmetic product is lipstick. I tend to carry five or six options in my bag at all times, and I never leave the house without a swipe of color. I love the pop it can give, waking up my often otherwise bare face. If I could only choose one cosmetic product to wear, lipstick wins hands down!

Lipsticks are composed of colorants, texturizers, oils, plant butters, preservatives and at times fragrance and flavorings. By doing a quick search on the Environmental Working Group’s “Skin Deep” database, you will find a host of safer options for your beautiful pout! Essentially, if you wouldn’t want to eat it, you might not want to wear it! Remember reducing your toxic exposure to chemicals in your personal care products can make a tremendous impact on your long term health. Here’s to you!

For more information, check out and

Unfortunately, with each swipe of traditional lipstick, women potentially expose themselves to toxic levels of lead and other harmful ingredients. Many of these ingredients are “forever chemicals,” or PFAs, which create durability in the lipstick itself but build up in the body and environment over time. Long term, they can cause damage to the liver and immune system. Whether you swipe it on once or reapply throughout your day, you are absorbing the product, and chances are you are also ingesting a bit of it. All the more reason to choose wisely with this particular cosmetic.


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We have been working hard to create a unique triathlon for women and are thrilled to present the Monarch Triathlon. The race will be held on 10-22-2022 in Kingman, Arizona If you enjoy unique medals, we have something for you. For more information visit . To join SheStrong visit


The magazine for women affected by cancer

Marketing, social media optimization & posting and branding for entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and small businesses.


So Long, Surgical Scars By Janice Timoney-Skidmore, Owner of Write Mind Creative

How to Start Healing Many cancer patients have had to undergo surgeries that result in scars. Scars can leave a person feeling disfigured, embarrassed and depressed, damaging their quality of life. In addition, the sight of scars can trigger unpleasant memories and stir up fears of recurrence. As a result, many women desperately avoid even catching a glimpse of their scar(s). However, there is good news! Continual advances in products to reduce the appearance of scars are helping women to regain confidence in their appearances.

Use quality, over-the-counter moisturizers to help keep the skin on and around the scar soft and supple. Ask your doctor for recommendations. If you know you have risk for heavy or excessive scarring (usually determined by family and personal history), your doctor may be able to prescribe ointments to help counteract this genetic tendency.

A quick note before we delve into scar healing: because there are so many different types of scars which, in turn, each require their own approach to healing and visibility reduction, this article will focus only on those resulting from a surgical incision.

Silicone-based, over the counter products have been clinically proven to help reduce scar visibility. They are available in gels and sheets that go over the scar area. Talk to your doctor about which product(s) may be best for your scar. However, note that your health care provider may not recommend the use of silicone-based products until your scar has aged approximately one year. After approval from your doctor, simply apply as directed.

New Scars

Continued Care For Scars

First Steps Toward Healing

Lastly, when it comes to dealing with your scar(s), treat yourself like you would your best friend: be kind! Keep a list of questions ready to take to your next appointment, seek outside opinions if you feel you’re not getting the answers you need in relation to your scarring, always discuss any treatments and concerns with your health care provider before starting anything new and never buy products to treat scars without first getting your doctor’s approval.

As your body heals from incisions, scars will become noticeable after scabs have fallen away. New scars can often look red or pink in appearance. Also, new scars are often not fully formed until several months after surgery. In some cases, new scars will change in appearance as they heal - for up to 18 or more months after the initial surgery! Age and the location of the scar will impact its appearance. For example, younger skin tends to “over heal” which may result in thicker, larger scars. Scars in areas that don’t follow natural expression lines will be more visible. (Think of a scar that goes up and down versus a natural expression line that goes side to side, such as expression lines on a forehead. The up and down scar would be more noticeable, while the side to side one would be more subtle.)

With the approval of your doctor, one of the very first (and easy) steps to help heal a scar is “scar massage.” The purpose is to keep scars more flexible as they develop and to promote collagen remodeling in the area. Depending on the location of your scar, you may be able to massage the area yourself. With the tips of your fingers, move in three directions: circular, up and down and side to side. Use as much pressure as you can tolerate each time. Do this for ten minutes up to three times daily. There is no definitive span of time in which to stop massaging a scar, but it’s recommended that massaging be done for at least the first 6 months. Stop immediately and contact your doctor if you experience bleeding or other abnormal responses. Avoid sun/UV exposure to prevent potential hyperpigmentation, which is when certain parts of your skin become darker than your natural skin color. The magazine for women affected by cancer

Although scars often fade over time, continued care is recommended. Massages, over-the-counter creams and sunblock can all be beneficial. However, if your scar hasn’t faded much, or is causing you emotional or physical distress, talk with your doctor about prescription therapies. Alternatively, you can speak to a dermatologist and/or a plastic surgeon about “scar revision surgery.” This is a form of plastic surgery performed to improve the condition and appearance of scars. In addition to scar revision surgery, a dermatologist or plastic surgeon may recommend additional therapies to your scar treatment, such as steroid or collagen injections and laser treatments. It all depends on the type of scarring you have, what your healthcare provider feels will work best and what your desired outcome is.

And, remember, you are beautiful with or without your scars.

We’d love to hear from you! Have you found success with creams, ointments, lasers or other therapies to treat your scar(s)? Reach out to us on social media and share your story. We personally respond to all emails! Send emails to


Silk scarf

Express Yourself Through Headcoverings! By Claire Cahoon

As if a cancer diagnosis isn’t daunting enough, the hair loss associated with chemotherapy and cancer treatments can be very overwhelming. With a simple google search for “cancer head coverings for women,” there’s a slew of options that could easily overwhelm a patient. With the many options available, we are breaking down different types of head coverings and offering styling tips. Just because you’ve been faced with a cancer diagnosis does not mean you need to feel any less beautiful or confident. And with the perfect head covering, you will be on your stylish way!



It is common for women to prefer a patterned head covering to a solid color because it is more distracting; however, this can cause challenges if you are accustomed to wearing patterned tops or clothes. We suggest that you find certain patterns that coordinate with your favorite patterns so that you can mix them. Stripes can be very versatile. Additionally, if you enjoy patterned head coverings, invest in a few basic, solid color shirts to wear with them. With a different patterned head covering, no one will ever notice that you are wearing the same shirt! Finally, just because your shirt or dress is a solid color does not mean that it has to be boring!

Play around with fun colors, like neons or pastels, or adornments like ruffles or puff sleeves. Wigs are the head covering option that looks the most like real hair. Even though they look real, they can be much more expensive and less comfortable than other forms of head coverings. It is common to alternate between a wig for more formal occasions, and other, more comfortable head coverings for everyday wear. Hats are another great way to cover your head. Many people already own some favorite hats, so they can be a great way to incorporate some pre-existing favorites. For cancer patients, look for hats that can easily be worn both inside and outside, meaning that they have little to no brim. These hats include beanies, berets, baseball caps, newsboy hats, bucket hats, cloches or fedoras. Sun hats can be great options for when spending time outside, but they can be harder to wear indoors due to the large brim. Additionally, you can purchase halo wigs, faux bangs or faux ponytails to wear with hats to simulate hair without the total discomfort of a wig. There’s a wide variety of headwraps and scarves available. They can come pre-tied or untied – a preference that varies from person to person. While there are many scarves manufactured to be head covers, many scarves from your favorite retailers can also be fashioned as headcovers. In fact, incorporating a scarf as a headcover is a great way to utilize some of your accessories or support a favorite brand. There are many videos on how to tie head wraps and scarves, and a quick google search will help you find your favorite methods! Pre-tied scarves give the same appearance as a normal head scarf because they are tied to look as if they have been hand tied. Many women find them easier to wear, and they often incorporate materials to keep them from slipping. Similarly to how a pre-tied scarf is easy to slip on, a turban is a form-fitting cap that looks like layers of fabric wrapped around the head. Turbans are popular with cancer patients as they are comfortable and easy to wear, while still allowing the wearer to look and feel put together with minimal effort. Many women prefer

Turban with hair

turbans to head scarves as they can appear fuller to look like there is hair underneath, but each woman’s preferences are deeply personal. Finally, sleep caps are a special type of hat that can feel soothing and help keep heads warm at night. Sleep caps are typically a soft, form-fitting cap made of cotton or bamboo. While there are hats uniquely marketed as sleep caps, other headwear like turbans, beanies and slouch hats can all function as sleep caps to keep your head warm. Finding the perfect head covering can be just as difficult as deciding what type of head covering you want. There are organizations like Good Wishes that will provide any woman who has experienced hair loss as a result of illness with a free head covering. Additionally, there are websites like devoted to cancer patients and their unique needs. You can also find head coverings from many of your favorite retailers searching phrases like “scarves” or “head wraps.” When choosing the head covering, it is important to consider comfort, secure fit, full coverage and ease of wear. However, the most important thing to remember when finding the perfect head covering is finding one that you love, one that makes you not only comfortable but confident.



The magazine for women affected by cancer



Stylin’ and Survivin’ By Heather Nemec Photography by Erin Schreyer

When I was diagnosed with buy-one-get-one-free cancers during the pandemic (non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and triple positive breast cancer), my health took a heavy hit. But the greatest casualty was my wardrobe! With my diagnoses and the global health emergency, I continued to work as a geriatric social worker from the confines of my kitchen table while my husband bought “wife canceling” headphones to drown out my endless conversations with hearing-impaired patients. My trusty old fleece robe and UGG slippers became


my new uniform. Occasionally, I would walk into my closet to reminisce with my lonely clothes, running my fingers along the lush fabrics and careful stitches. Each stage of treatment brought different wardrobe challenges. But finding clothes to accommodate a body altered by cancer treatment and surgery didn’t have to be a daunting task. Instead, I chose to embrace it as an opportunity to expand my fashion aesthetic.

Infusion visits demanded easy access to my port and warm clothes to insulate my body in the frigid climate. I traded in tailored pants and form-fitting tops for leggings, beanies and soft pullovers during the months of chemotherapy, and I have an impressive collection of leggings to prove it. Post-surgical healing and radiation forced me to ditch my bra in exchange for a compression tank. A lymphedema sleeve (often mistaken for a rad tattoo) became my primary accessory. Because of cancer, I mastered the art of layering. I love mixing items and exploring all the combinations; the possibilities are truly endless!

I chose to embrace an opportunity to expand my fashion aesthetic. I’ve always had a flair for color and patterns. Some consider it eccentricity, but I prefer the term “bright.” After my cancer diagnoses, I found myself gravitating towards clothes that were more practical, but I wasn’t willing to abandon my personal style. Once things reopened, I scoured thrift store racks and my friend’s closets in search of treasure pieces for a fun and safe shopping experience. One cold Saturday morning, I hit the jackpot by finding a collection of comfy tops made by my favorite designer sold at the same price as a bunch of bananas (cheap).

Accessorizing doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive either. Keep it simple and consider something sentimental: the earrings your best friend gave you, the vintage bag gifted to you by another survivor or the necklace you bought yourself to celebrate a milestone birthday. On most days, a bright, patterned mask is my only accessory. Lipstick will make a comeback again, I promise. If you opt to embrace your “all natural” locks after their triumphant return, consider re-assessing your color palette for both makeup and clothing. Silver is a far more versatile color than auburn, just saying. After a difficult period of social isolation and illness for many of us, it was invigorating to see the fashion industry also embrace a new definition of what fashion represents. Simply open a new edition of Vogue or Elle, and you’ll notice the trend towards color and pattern mixing and all things happy. After all, as Bill Cunnigham (a famous fashion photographer for the New York Times) said, “Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.” There are no truer words for those of us also fighting for our lives.

The magazine for women affected by cancer


Heather’s Simple Tips for Keeping it Stylish My ONE piece of advice: “For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” -Audrey Hepburn

Enhance your personal style Dress to YOUR body proportions Combine retail with resale/thrift items Play with COLOR! Mix patterns and textures


Whatever the combo, have FUN with it! Make sure to add a few items that force you out of your box. After all, life is too short not to wear the boots with the fur!

Zarah Lakhani

Brighter Spotlight By Madeline Muller Photography by Erin Schreyer

New beginnings aren’t always easy, but Zarah chooses to take each one in stride. At 19 years old, Zarah Lakhani is no stranger to new beginnings. Whether it’s moving across the country, starting university, being diagnosed with cancer, or entering remission, she has had her fair share of change In March of 2021, Zarah was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a blood cancer. An especially high heart rate had led to the discovery of a heart murmur, which revealed an 11 centimeter tumor squishing her heart. The tumor was pressing on her trachea, which explained the cough and shortness of breath she had been experiencing for the past year. When she was diagnosed, Zarah was majoring in elementary education and educational policy at Boston College. Even though she was moving to Dallas to be with her family for treatment, she said, “I really wanted to do classes with cancer treatment because I didn’t want to let cancer take every single thing away from me.” So, she spoke to her dean and established a plan. 2020 and 2021 were incredibly hectic years for the Lakhani family. From August to July, they moved to Dallas from New York, Zarah’s grandfather passed away, they all got Covid-19, Zarah’s grandparents moved in, Zarah was diagnosed, her dad opened a business and her mom had a baby, amongst other things. Zarah’s family didn’t share her diagnosis with everyone else immediately. The entire extended family - and Zarah’s dad has over seventy cousins - decided to have a Dallas-based reunion in July when Zarah was on her fifth cycle of treatment. Unsurprisingly, Zarah says, “It was just a lot.”

With cancer, Zarah lost a lot of normality. “I haven’t really been able to continue most hobbies,” she said. When Zarah lived in New York, she rode horses. “I loved it,” she remembers. But, after her diagnosis, her doctor told her she could no longer horseback ride because of her heart issues. “There was such a learning curve on what I could do,” she said, adding with a laugh that she “felt like an old person.” She continued, “An ideology that I have really adapted to is the idea of just being content with what I have.” For example, Zarah and her family recently took a trip to Hawaii thanks to Nik’s Wish, an organization like the Make-A-Wish foundation but for young adults ages 18-24. On the trip, she really wanted to skydive, but unfortunately, her doctor advised against it. She decided, “Okay fine, let’s go snorkeling!” She said that she “can’t dwell” but instead chose to “[make] the best out of the situation.” Ultimately, she found the trip super “reviving” after a very exhausting few months. Even after the loss of some of her favorite activities, like horseback riding, Zarah sought out other hobbies, like painting. “It wasn’t anything on my mind. I was just painting randomly, and then it would turn out to [be] something nice, and I’d be like, okay, this is cool,” she said. She recalls, “I ended up doing it after every chemo session, and it was just really therapeutic to let it all out.” Along with painting, Zarah took up journaling. She said, “It was a really good outlet. There was no filter, just me talking about everything.” She also keeps a gratitude journal. It helps her gain perspective, and she told us, “Even days that are bad, just looking back on them, they weren’t that bad.” “I really recommend [the gratitude journal]. It was amazing,” she added.

“Remission was a new beginning for me. The idea that I got a chance at life again.”

There were a lot of special people for Zarah during her cancer journey, and she said she had “incredible support from people visiting.” These people kept her grounded. She calls them “angels in disguise,” as they flew out for weeks to help her whole family. She told us, “Yeah, cancer sucks, but it’s really eye-opening to see there are people who care, you know, and people who are willing to go that distance for you.” One of her cousins from Houston was especially amazing, going out of his way to be of help. He would drop off her brother, pick up her sister, work at her dad’s restaurant and drive her to and accompany her at chemotherapy sessions, providing her “company [she] desperately needed.” “It was amazing, really,” she said. However, while many people supported Zarah, some sadly did not. “There were a lot of people I thought that would go the distance that didn’t. I thought they would turn up, and they really didn’t. I think, yeah, that hurts,” she said. “But I have these amazine people on my side,” she added.


Just like Zarah cared for her mental health with her journaling, she did some well-deserved retail therapy as well. “Looking back on it, I’m like, wow, I did that. Why not give myself something?” she told Brighter. “After every chemo, I would buy myself a gift for just getting through the chemo, so that was really exciting,” she said. “Now I have these six things, and they have such meaningful memories to me.” She pointed to her hand and said, “This ring was for halfway through.” Although Zarah took steps to take care of herself, she struggled with the loss of her regular college social life. “I’m not going to lie, it sucks,” she said. “Not being in Boston right now, this semester, it’s a lot, because all my friends are there. Everyone’s hanging out all the time.” “Going to college online takes away so much from it,” she remarked. She said, “This is the first year of so many traditions that I didn’t know about, so seeing all of that is hard because I’m literally not there.” She added, “All these other 19 year olds, like my friends, they’re thinking about college. And I’m here worrying, ‘Oh my God, am I going to live?’”

Now that Zarah is in remission, she plans on returning to school soon. And despite all the excitement that prospect brings, anxiety lingers behind it because she was diagnosed there. “I was in the dorm room when I found out I was sick,” she remembers, and she knows she will have to deal with those feelings. She told Brighter, “When I got diagnosed, in the next hour, I was so much in shock. I went to class. Even walking to class, I was in shock then, but now how will it be for me?” At college and away from her family, Zarah must confront “the idea of having to take care of [herself].” She will have the responsibility of deciding who to see and what to do - and when to say no. Similar to her social life, cancer has affected Zarah’s perspective on her academics. She said, “I can’t just go around going to classes. I have to do so much more. I got a life that a lot of people don’t.” Zarah has a lot of passion and a desire to make change, especially in the field of educational policy. She said, “I feel like the education system is really broken. There’s a lot of changes I want to make in that, but, honestly, since I got diagnosed, I’ve been really thinking about going into something with public health as well. I’ve seen first-hand how it really is. There’s so many differences in treatments that so many people get for the smallest things.” Zarah did a research project about how adolescent cancer patients feel in adult versus pediatric hospital wards. In her personal experience, Zarah felt more like a child in pediatrics, while she had to advocate for herself more in adult wings. She said, “Everyone would be over 60, and I would be 19.” In adult wings, Zarah said, “I felt like I got a lot of pity looks.” The older people would say, “You’re so young. What happened?” “I don’t want to be pitied,” she added. While it was harder for Zarah to find common ground with older people at the hospital, she found it in other places. One particular organization that helped Zarah was the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which helps people with cancer by providing them with financial and caregiver assistance, information on cancers and drugs, support groups, etc. They held chats for young adults living with cancer, and even though Zarah only joined these forums three or four times, she said, “It was just really nice to know that there are other people also going through this.” Zarah also found solace where she wouldn’t expect: in a complete stranger. One of Zarah’s professors connected her to his wife, who had cancer. Zarah said, “I was so hesitant about talking to her. I just wanted to be left on my own.” “It was nice having someone who knew what I was going through. I appreciate it now, looking back on it,” she added. Even after she finished treatment on August 30th, the battle was far from over. Zarah said that during treatment, she felt nothing. She was in survival mode. “After treatment, I felt like it just all hit me at once,” she said. “I couldn’t talk about it at all [in September]. It took a lot of time for me to be able to sit with the idea that all of this actually did happen.” She told Brighter, “Remission was a new beginning for me. The idea that I got a chance at life again.”

through it, one step at a time. And same thing with my mom. She’s also been through a lot, and seeing that both of them were able to overcome things that were really hard gave me the inspiration that you can do it,” she said. Zarah wants to thank everyone who helped her while she fought cancer. She wrote to Brighter, “I am really and truly grateful for Boston College and the administration, staff and professors for being so understanding of my situation and doing anything to make the past semesters easier for me. In the same line, I am again and again grateful for my oncologist, Dr. Rizvi, and my oncology nurses for helping me stay alive (lol) as well as giving me so much hope in the darkest of times.” In terms of words of wisdom, someone once said to Zarah, “In the high moments, just remember that high and be present in it. And in the low moments, remember that high. Remember that you can work to get back up there again.” “I think that was really important for me,” she said. Zarah reminds us, “Everyone is different. You just need to do what’s most important for you. And take it really one step at a time.” As she looks toward the future, Zarah plans to return to Boston College and travel the world. She says she looks forward to “having a regular life.” “Hopefully back to normal. But not too regular, I have a lot of things I want to do,” she adds. Zarah’s story emphasizes perseverance through challenge and acceptance of change, and it is only just beginning. Zarah constantly recognizes her strength and rewards herself for it instead of downplaying her struggles, and she underscores a new outlook on life, one that arose from adversity. In the wake of the new beginnings, Zarah discovered a desire to “do so much more.” Her bright spirit and enthusiasm speak for themselves, and, coupled with her ambition, they will carry her far. We at Brighter celebrate all of Zarah’s accomplishments and await her future with fervor. We are rooting for her all the way!

Zarah’s parents provided a lot of hope for her during her journey. “My dad’s been through a lot of hardships in his life, and just seeing the fact that, one by one, he was able to get The magazine for women affected by cancer



Dallas United Crew Pink By Helen Bowles Photography by Erin Schreyer Jenne Jaeb and Lori Pence

It’s a unique sight to view 22 women paddling in a floating Chinese dragon on the waters of White Rock Lake in Dallas. It’s truly incredible when you find out they’re all breast cancer survivors. Whether you are a survivor or not, you’ll want to spend every Saturday with these amazing, welcoming women after your first interaction with them. These women come from all walks of life. Linda, the matriarch of the team, is 78 and will not miss a workout. Others wake up at the crack of dawn to drive an hour to the lake, where they sit two abreast in a ten-row boat to complete an hour-long workout and go home. What unites them is that each one of them is surviving and thriving through the storm of breast cancer. Each woman’s diagnosis and story is individually theirs, but the similarities in their experiences bonds these women as if they have known each other for decades. I had the honor of paddling with these women while our photographer captured the morning digitally. They taught me about how the team began. Jovin, a competitive paddler and the team’s coach, brought the original dragon boat to Dallas from Austin. Debbie, a survivor from the Portland breast cancer paddle (BCP) team who relocated to Dallas, later joined forces with Jovin to start a team in her new city. From


the beginning, generosity and selflessness have emanated from all areas of this team. That morning, paddler Connie Gatlin shared how wonderfully paddling parallels the cancer journey. She said, “Just like cancer, you have to get in the boat, keep your head up, focus on one stroke at a time and finish strong.” I loved that! Not long after that morning, a dear friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer. I could not wait for her to meet the Dallas United Crew (DUC) Pink team. With some still in treatment and others having over 20 years of post-treatment knowledge, these enthusiastic women were exactly what my friend needed, and they did not disappoint. My friend hadn’t been cleared for post-surgery activity when we went to visit, but they welcomed her with open arms, gave her a blanket for the chilly morning and took her for a ride in the back of the boat with the rest of them. They asked questions and reassured her all while they completed their workout. The DUC Pink Team really is a community; it is a tribe. They look out for one another. They meet others where they are. They see red flags in each other that non-survivors might miss. They celebrate every single win, whether in the boat or in life.

circumstances, but joy in knowing that hard things come and go, but regardless of the outcome, it is going to be okay.

Betty Robason

Not being a survivor myself, I kind of felt unworthy to workout with these women. I have heard that Jovin often says, “It is an honor to be in a boat with these women. What they have experienced, we may never understand, but it is a privilege just to be involved.” DUC Pink may be a breast cancer team, but there are some boats that have paddlers of all cancer types. More and more groups and sports teams are popping up all over the world for survivors of various types of cancer. So, if you aren’t a huge fan of the “sit in a circle and chat about your feelings” therapy, get out and get involved in a hobby full of women like you! There is a wonderful community of people who want to help and support others.

At lunch after practice, Jenne, one of the team’s leaders, politely asked my friend her exact diagnosis. She then shut down the table talk to ask if anyone else had experienced the same. At least three women held up their hands. My sweet friend, who was still swirling in a sea of unknown and decisions yet to make, had immediate contact with women who had walked this path before her. Each one of them had received different treatment from different hospitals at different times, but they could all relate and share advice. “This group of women is unlike any other support group.” Jenne said. For many of them, cancer is only one battle they have seen, while some of them have experienced more difficult circumstances, like losing their own children. They combine the beneficial therapy of exercise with the beautiful gift of friendship to find a healthy outlet and recovery. These women laugh together, and they cry together. They are a family. The DUC Pink team has indescribable joy - not happiness in their

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DUC Pink Flower Ceremony


The History and Future of Breast Cancer Paddling

Dr. Don McKenzie with Debbie Kehoe of Dallas United Crew Pink Dallas, TX

Empire Dragons New York City, NY

Uniting Women on the Water By Jane Clark Photography donated by the Empire Dragons, Phantom Dragons and DUC Pink Breast cancer paddling began in 1996 in Canada when Dr. Don McKenzie began researching the beneficial exercises that breast cancer patients could do while undergoing treatment. Dr. McKenzie is a sports medicine physician, exercise physiologist, a former coach and current chair of the medical commission for Canada’s national canoe team. McKenzie’s findings were transformative to the lives of many patients because prior to his research, they had been told that posttreatment, they should not exercise at all. There had been a belief that lymphedema, a build-up of fluid in soft body tissues when the lymph system is damaged or blocked, could develop as a result of exercise following cancer treatment. Dr. McKenzie stated, “In my research I came across a list of guidelines that weren’t really guidelines, they were just a list of things not to do. ‘Don’t lift more than ten pounds. Don’t use the driver to golf. Don’t do breast stroke. Don’t do repetitive upper body activities like raking, gardening, or any of that stuff.’ Then at the very end of the list it actually said, ‘no canoeing’. That got in my head.” As a result, he decided to challenge the theory by having breast


cancer survivors paddling canoes, but not the kind of canoes that were used in the Olympics. Considering the need for a less “tippable” option, the dragon boat proved to be the best vehicle for his research. The women who took part risked the unknown in order to help other survivors find healthy ways to engage in physical activity. Before the women got into the boat, Dr. McKenzie had them spend a few months in the gym to gain the necessary strength to complete the paddling workouts. By the end of the project, neither the woman training in the gym nor those paddling in the water experienced any symptoms of lymphedema. He discovered that paddling exercises, in fact, do not harm patients but provide health benefits like muscular flexibility, immune defense and higher metabolism to breast cancer survivors. “Once you have cancer, you are followed the rest of your life,” Dr. McKenzie stated. Statistics show that women are 40% less likely to endure recurring cancer as a result of paddling. Thanks to his research, a new outlook on post-treatment exercise has been adopted by the breast cancer community.

Dallas United Crew Pink Dallas, TX Phantom Dragons Wheat Ridge, CO

Empire Dragons New York City, NY

Michael Boyd, the team captain of the Phantom Dragons and the Pink Phantoms from Wheat Ridge, CO, also notes psychological and emotional benefits to paddling. He believes that benefits to paddling include improved confidence and self-esteem, improved mood and body image and camaraderie and sense of belonging to a team. The paddling community has grown immensely spreading across North America and worldwide, engaging women with all different backgrounds and cancer experiences. Betty Solly, US Dragon Boat Festival Breast Cancer Paddle Committee Chair, stated, “We at the USDBF BCP committee are part of the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission, [representing] more than 260 BCP teams in 33 countries across the world.” Generally held after the last dragon boat festival of the season, the flower ceremony celebrates survivors and remembers those who have passed. At the end of the festival, tossing a pink or fuchsia colored flower in the water became a treasured tradition. The tradition began in 1996 when paddler Brenda Hchachka was preparing for her team’s race and noticed her rose bush in full bloom. The color of the flowers matched the color of the team’s t-shirts so she brought some to the competition. The blooms were carried by the crew in their headbands during their first race. Following the race the carnation petals were tossed into the water. The tradition then carried on as breast cancer dragon boating expanded

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Empire Dragons New York City, NY

across North America in other flower ceremonies. Since then, after every final race the flowers are tossed to the water, this sentimental gesture remembering those who have passed from breast cancer and those who are still fighting it. Cindy Kenny, a LA Pink Dragon paddle team member, said that paddling with the team can show, “women who have gone through hell out having fun.” A special bond forms among the 43 teammates who range from the age of 42 to 83. Looking forward, breast cancer paddling is exciting for the women on these teams and those who have watched them go through their journeys with cancer. Today, Dr. McKenzie is still growing the BCP community by taking trips to various countries with paddlers to teach others in the local community how to develop a dragon boat team. The outreach group intended to give an expo at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics before it was canceled due to COVID. This coming year in 2022, The Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission will hold a Dragon Boat Festival which will take place in New Zealand. The women say that you do not necessarily need experience to be on the team, and if you don’t enjoy competition, you can join festival boats that are not as competitive. Dr. McKenzie told us, “We call it our boat to nowhere.” If you or someone you know is interested in getting involved, check out to find a team near you.


Immunotherapy By Dr. Jennifer Gill, M.D. , Ph.D. Dermatology at UT Southwestern


Harnessing Your Own Immune System… a New Era in Cancer Treatment When people think about cancer treatments, they often think about traditional chemotherapy and its abundant side effects. For decades, the mainstay cancer medications were drugs that destroy any cell in the body that is rapidly dividing. As a result, in addition to killing cancer cells, these drugs can damage normal, healthy, growing cells, like those in the hair follicle, the GI tract and the immune system. With this comes the chemotherapy side effects that patients often dread the most: hair loss, nausea/vomiting/diarrhea and low blood counts, which lead to a weakened immune system and anemia.

Many cancer patients have been learning about this therapy and considering it as a part of their treatment plan While many of these medications still play an important role in cancer treatment, the last decade has introduced innumerable new targeted therapies that work to treat cancer in novel ways. One of these therapy categories is known as “immunotherapy,” which is now approved to treat many different types of cancers. Many cancer patients have been learning about this therapy and considering it as a part of their treatment plan, and many more can expect to do so in the future.

How does immunotherapy work?

The immune system does more than just fight infections. It also destroys abnormal cells in the body, like dead tissue from a wound or even cancer cells. In the last decade, we have begun to understand that advanced cancers find ways to “hide” and “disable” the immune system, which allows cancer cells to persist and multiply. The goal of immunotherapy is to “awaken” a patient’s immune system to the presence of these abnormal cancer cells and “empower” it to fight and destroy the cancer. This strategy has been a revolution in cancer treatment and has dramatically improved patient survival and

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outcomes for many types of cancers. In fact, the 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to the scientists who made the fundamental discoveries that allowed for the development of immunotherapy. There are currently over 1000 more clinical trials studying immunotherapy underway in the United States.

How is immunotherapy given?

Most commonly, immunotherapy is given as a regular infusion at a cancer treatment center. The dose, frequency and type(s) of immunotherapy depends on the patient and the type of cancer. Some special types of immunotherapy are given as injections directly into the tumor itself; these are called “intralesional” immunotherapy.

What are the advantages of immunotherapy?

Our immune system has some exceptional cancerfighting abilities. For one, the immune system is designed to distinguish normal healthy cells from abnormal cancer cells. For that reason, it can focus its cell destruction on cancerous cells and minimize the collateral damage on the rest of the body. Even more importantly, the immune system has “memory” and is always surveilling the body for any areas of concern, meaning that immunotherapy has the potential to generate a strong and durable response against cancer. Even after patients have completed their treatment, the immune system “remembers” the cancer. The longterm goal after immunotherapy is for the body itself to do the maintenance work and “catch and destroy” any possible returning cancer.

What are the side effects of immunotherapy?

While immunotherapy often spares patients the side effects of traditional chemotherapy, it does have side effects of its own. Because immunotherapy boosts the immune system, it can trigger the development of an autoimmune condition, which is when the immune cells begin attacking one or more normal organs. The symptoms will depend on what organ is being affected, but they can include skin rashes, joint swelling, airway inflammation, thyroid issues or even new-onset diabetes. While some of these side effects can be managed with medications or monitoring, some can be life-threatening and require treatment breaks or


discontinuation. Doctors currently do not have a way to predict who will experience side effects or which type, but this is an important and active area of ongoing research.

Is immunotherapy right for me?

There are many factors that determine which patients are good candidates for immunotherapy. Like any cancer treatment option, this should be a discussion between you and your doctor. Some types of cancers are known to respond better to immunotherapy; other cancers are still in early clinical trials to test efficacy. Additionally, immunotherapy may be contraindicated in some patients with a history of autoimmune diseases or a need for strong immunosuppression (for example, patients with organ transplants). Lastly, immunotherapy requires time to train the immune system and thus is not as “fast-acting” as some other types of treatment. For patients needing urgent treatment, other options may be preferred.

Despite all the enormous progress that has been made, the immunotherapy era is truly just beginning. New forms of immunotherapy are under active investigation and include vaccines, new types of infusions, CAR T-cell therapy and much more. Clinical trials are underway to determine if and possibly how immunotherapy can be combined with both traditional and newer therapies to create the best possible results. Active studies are trying to understand how to predict which patients are most likely to respond to immunotherapy and help convert those who are non-responders. Early work is hinting that diet and gut bacteria may be key in helping the immune system work most efficiently. The landscape of cancer treatment is rapidly evolving and improving faster than it ever has in the past. For many patients, immunotherapy has been a life-saving treatment. As doctors and researchers continue to gather data from a plethora of ongoing clinical trials, they will continue to improve treatment options and indications for even more cancer patients.



. AY

Looking to the Future


JAMs Everyone needs a good list of JAMS for a chemo session, a car ride, a walk or maybe a run. Check these out.

Can’t Stop the Feeling - Various artists My House - Flo Rida Overcomer - Mandisa If you’d like to submit your idea for a future JAM list go to and submit your favorite songs.


WIG Q & A By Dr. Teresa Zoch, Owner of More than a Wig

Q: How do I know what size wig to Q: How do I wash my wig? purchase? A: Fill a basin half full with tepid water, adding a tablespoon your choice of shampoo. Swish the wig around gently, for a A: To get the best fitting wig, there are three measurements of minute or two. Drain the saopy water and pour in clean tepid that you can take to determine the best size for you. Jot down the following measurements to reference when shopping. First, measure the circumference of your head. Start at the front hairline, go behind your ear, to the nape of your neck, back to your other ear and then return to your starting point. Next, measure from the front hairline to the back neckline. Finally, measure from the hairline above the ear to the hairline above the opposite ear. Please note that sizes may vary slightly by brand and that not all wigs are available in all cap sizes. Average sized wigs tend to fit most. Wigs generally come in sizes small, average and large. Some wigs also come in petite sizes. Many wigs also have adjustable straps that give up to 1.5” so that you can adjust your wig for an even better fit.

Q: What does the term ‘rooting’ mean? A: Rooting on a wig means that the color of the wig is darker

water to swish and rinse the shampoo from the wig. Lay it on a dry towel and gently pat as to not drip water. Place the wig on a wig stand or paper towel roll holder so that the hairpiece will be able to air dry. When completely dry, comb gently with a wide toothed comb.

Q: Can I curl iron my wig? A: If your wig is a human hair wig, you can treat it as you

would your natural hair. If your wig is heat-friendly synthetic hair or human hair blended with heat-friendly synthetic hair, you can also heat curl it, but you will want to check the temperature limit for your individual wig first. Some things to take note of when curling your wig are the use of a heat protectant, the avoidance of heat or conditioner on the roots and knotting and the need to let a synthetic curl set by letting the curl cool completely before letting it go. YouTube has some wonderful tutorials for step-bystep instructions.

at the roots of the wig, closer to the scalp. This type of wig is not one solid color from top to bottom.

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Fitness for the New Year! As 2022 takes shape and New Year’s resolutions have emerged, many of us consider thoughts of self-improvement, often in the area of physical fitness. However, if you are in the midst of treatment, decisions on what you can do and to what extent may overwhelm you, bringing feelings of anxiety and dampening your enthusiasm. We’ve considered valid reasons for hesitation, from lowered immune systems to concerns about movement, and Brighter has your back! The following health and wellness pieces explore just a few of the ways women affected by cancer can improve their fitness, and they include information from seasoned professionals who focus their work on cancer survivors. If you have any questions after reading, feel free to reach out. We’d love to help you find your way to a healthier new year. And remember, always consult with your physician before starting any physical activity to make sure it is right for you.


Baby Steps to a New Beginning A Program Just for Survivors By Sarah Zhou

Often the forgotten first step post-treatment is physical rehabilitation, the baby steps into a new season of health. This critical step can be a difficult, literally and figuratively. Though many organizations provide services for cancer survivors, many they can be hard to find, because they lack the additional resources to raise awareness for their programs. Even more so, many survivors may find difficulty in seeking out the right program. But for many, this first move of rehabilitation is a necessary and empowering one. A global study in 2006 found that over 80% of people live near a YMCA. Given that data, many Ys now partner with a program called Livestrong, which provides classes specifically for cancer patients. Though once affiliated with Lance Armstrong, the program now runs independently.

Semones Family YMCA (Dallas, TX)

Relaunched in 2016, Livestrong at the Dallas Y is a free, 12-week program for adult cancer survivors that includes membership at the Y while in the program. Run twice a year in the spring and fall, the program offers a wonderful, small class where each person receives individualized help in a supportive group setting. The magazine for women affected by cancer

Classes are typically held around mid-afternoon when the Y is not as busy and crowded, providing a safe space for survivors to work towards personal improvement. The program itself provides an easy-paced plan that includes a variety of activities from meditation to pilates. Beginning with cardio, the class covers topic areas like machines/weights, flexibility and nutrition. All exercises are light weights and low impact, ensuring students’ wellbeing and safety. By the end of the 12-weeks, many people see great improvements to their physical wellbeing. Though the class does not offer pool sessions, one student, who initially couldn’t swim due to lung cancer, slowly but surely worked her way back into the pool. Instructor Betty Cree notes that you should “do what you can do” and take things nice and slow. The Livestrong program at the Dallas Y provides survivors a great chance to regain physical wellness in a supportive class setting.


The YMCA of Austin (Austin, TX)

Photo provided by the Eugene Family YMCA

The YMCA of Austin Livestrong program provides lowcost or free classes with discounted membership at the Y for enrollees. Those who are 18 and older are welcome to enroll, as well as those in treatment with physician approval. With a 1:6 instructor to student ratio, the 12-week long program ensures a personalized experience and covers a variety of important topics from mental health and nutrition to survivorship. Run twice a week for 75 minutes, the evening class creates a welcoming environment for survivors. In one instance, the students closed the curtains and took off their wigs because everyone felt comfortable with one another.

The program notes that one hurdle many people don’t think about overcoming is difficulties in balance posttreatment. To address this concern, the classes include a pre and post program assessment to help students improve on areas of concern, including balance. The well-paced classes provide an opportunity to improve at your own pace and make friends along the way!

Students also celebrate birthdays and enjoy lunch together. The program provides a continuous place of support for anyone willing to participate.

Eugene Family YMCA (Eugene, OR)

This 12-week long program encourages students to “start low and go slow.” Students work with trained staff members who help guide students towards their fitness goals. The programs help improve not only physical wellbeing, but mental and personal health as well. However because of the program’s popularity, the wait list often holds as many as 40 people at once. To provide access to more people, the Eugene Family YMCA provides a 6-video series, Reclaim, that teaches people cardio, balance, meditation and more, all available on their website. Because of COVID, the program hasn’t been in person, but they plan on coming back by the end of February 2022.

The Takeaway?

The Livestrong program is one of many free/low cost classes that provide a great opportunity to meet new people and improve your physical condition. Contact your local Y and ask about programs available to cancer survivors. Though this first step may be difficult, it is an important and necessary one. Take your time making these baby steps as each step, no matter how small, is still a step made towards a stronger you.

The Boston Y’s Livestrong program creates a group setting that brings students direct and indirect support. The 12-week long program meets twice a week, (Mondays and Wednesdays 1:30 to 3:00 pm) and is free of cost. Classes are open to both adults and children, and for anyone currently undergoing treatment. A doctor’s approval is required to participate. Workouts are socially distanced in reserved rooms, and trainers wear masks at all times. Cleaning is done continuously before and after sessions to ensure the safety of students. The workouts follow the Queenax pre-core regime which helps students slowly build up cardio, and with a yoga style class, students can make improvements without overstraining their bodies.


Photo provided by the Eugene Family YMCA

YMCA of Greater Boston (Boston, MA)

Special thanks to everyone at The Livestrong Foundation, the Eugene Family YMCA in Oregon, the YMCA of Austin, the YMCA of Greater Boston and the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas for their time and willingness to share more about this wonderful program with us.

Try this simple practice you can do anywhere, anytime. Balanced Breath Practice (Sama Vritti pranayama): Breathe in and out through your nostrils Inhale smoothly for a count of 4 Exhale smoothly for a count of 4 Breath is continuous and relaxed, no pausing or holding the breath Continue for about 5 minutes or longer if you have time.


There are many variations on this practice, but this foundational breath helps to balance the sympathetic and para-sympathetic nervous systems bringing the mind into a place of calm, focused awareness.

The Power of Breath By Lisa Coyle, RYT, AYS, Y4C, HHC, Yoga and Meditation Teacher Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist, Yoga4Cancer Certified Teacher Lisa teaches group classes at Good Vibes Yoga Dallas, The Mat Yoga Studio, Uptown Yoga Dallas

Starting Again with Each Inhale and Exhale The practice of yoga is becoming more and more common in advertisements and media. We see images of lithe, young, mostly white women in poses that seem to defy both gravity and physical capability. So, one can be forgiven for assuming that yoga is just that: contorting one’s body into an impossible form that should somehow lead to inner peace. It’s no wonder that many people feel that yoga just is not for them. It looks too hard. It seems too weird. As someone who was first exposed to yoga at the age of 19 and who has continued to practice, in one form or another, until my current age of 60, please let me tell you that yoga is so much more than what you may think. Yoga practice is designed to calm the movement of the mind, gain agency over the wanderings of thoughts and begin to respond to our life rather than react reflexively. The main tool used to achieve these goals is managing breathing. Particularly for someone who is dealing with the shock of that initial cancer diagnosis, learning how to manage breath can be transformational. Tari Prinster, a breast cancer survivor and the author of the

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Yoga4Cancer teaching methodology, says, “Cancer steals your breath; yoga gives it back.” Yoga looks at each moment as an opportunity to begin again, each inhale a chance to receive fresh oxygen and life energy, each exhale an opportunity to let go. I have been teaching yoga for over 20 years and teaching Yoga4Cancer (Y4C) for 5 years now. One thing my Y4C students always mention is how much they appreciate breathing techniques. It helps them prepare for doctor visits where they will be getting test results and grounds them during chemotherapy treatments or surgery preparations. Focusing on breath curbs the urge to engage in “what if” thinking, which only leads to increased fear and anxiety. Watching the breath rise and fall through the nostrils anchors the mind into the present moment. And in that moment, the mind is quiet. There can be peace. You can do it now. Rest your attention on the sensation of breath rising and falling through the nostrils. Rise and fall. Rise and fall. Each breath is a new beginning.


Online Classes

s h t n o 2 M e! Fre

By Helen Bowles

MyVictory is an “at home exercise and community platform for survivors and their friends and family,” as stated on their website. With over 2,000 streamable fitness classes, MyVictory is the largest online exercise platform for cancer survivors. What a wonderful way to exercise if you aren’t feeling quite up for crowded gym classrooms or leaving the comfort of your home.

between 10 and 45 minutes long and include yoga, strength and balance, pilates, cardio and tai chi. The class levels will meet you where you are, and you can choose from Intro (mostly educational, no impact, often chair classes), Level 1 (no impact) or Level 2 and 3 (increasing difficulty when you are ready for it). MyVictory’s goal is to create a caring and motivational environment that helps survivors achieve their goals, avoid recurrence and live longer and more active lives through exercise and the support of their friends and family.

MyVictory’s mission is to improve the quality of survivors’ lives while reducing their risk for recurrence and mortality by providing an accessible and motivational digital exercise and wellness platform. Classes are


The owners of MyVictory are generously offering a free 60 day trial (with code ‘brighter’) to all of our readers with the option to continue for $4 a month. Simply log on to and click the ‘Start Free Trial’ button. You will enter a username and password to reach the payment page. Once there, enter and apply the promo code ‘brighter.’ You should then receive a note saying you have access to the program for two months, free of charge!

PASSING TIME We know there is often lots of waiting when going to doctor’s offices and treatment. Here are a few things to keep the time moving along. Enjoy them alone or with a friend! By Aishwarya Chandrasekaran


Word Search


January gets its name from what Roman God? 1. Janus, God of doors and gates 2. Zeus, God of the Sky and lightning 3. Athena, God of wisdom 4. Apollo, God of the sun and music About how many people watch the Times Square New Year’s Ball drop every year? 1. 100 million 2. 10,000 3. 1 billion 4. 1 million What was the top New Year’s resolution in 2021? 1. To learn new languages 2. To travel the world 3. To be more politically active 4 .To exercise more Where is one of the largest annual New Year’s Eve celebrations? 1. Sydney 2. New York 3. Tokyo 4. Italy


What is the first country to celebrate New Year’s Eve each year? 1. Japan 2. New Zealand 3. France 4. Australia About what percentage of New Year’s resolutions fail by February? 1. 40% 2. 80% 3. 25% 4 .10% Answers: Jumble - Resolutions, Celebrations, Fresh Start, Opportunities, Hope Trivia - 1,3,4,1,2,2

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