Brighter Magazine 2022 - Q2

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A magazine for women affected by cancer

Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma

The Truth about Cancer and Sugar

Jennifer Looney’s story of misdiagnosis, treatment and the road ahead

AESTHETICS Freedom and choice in the critical moments of life


Making Social Media Work for You

Editor’s Letter

Live. Learn. Shine. In a world where you can be anything, be flexible and wear a smile. “Well, this isn’t what I had expected at all,” I thought to myself as I sat in the office of the dermatological surgeon 4 weeks ago. Over the course of the weeks that had preceded this appointment, I had filled my head with positive thoughts. I had convinced myself it would be a quick and easy procedure. Then I could return to my regular speed of life to continue all the wonderful to-do’s of being a wife, mother and new business builder after only a couple days of recovery. Sometimes we don’t get what we plan for. Instead of it being a “tiny spot” of basal cell carcinoma on my eyelid and “likely a super simple procedure” as the doctor had predicted, it was a surprise that my Mohs procedure took 4 stages and 6 long hours to remove all the cancer. Afterwards, I was sent to ocular plastics for evaluation before the reconstruction surgery scheduled for the following day. It was then that the surgeon informed me he would perform a Hughes Flap, or or tarsoconjunctival flap procedure and would rebuild my lower lid using portions of my upper lid. After healing, a difference between the two eyes would be hardly noticeable. All great news until he mentioned the fact that the procedure would leave me without the use of my right and dominant eye for the following 4-5 weeks and no time to prepare. I was a bit traumatized and overwhelmed. When life is uncertain, we may not have control of our circumstances, but we do have control of our responses: joy or sadness, others or self, flexible or stubborn. There is always someone who has it worse than us, always. So, next time life doesn’t go your way, choose joy because we are fortunate to have a choice, choose others because thinking of them helps give perspective and choose to be flexible because it makes it easier on everyone including ourselves. As I type this with only one eye feeling a month behind in production, I am not certain this issue will get to you on the timeline that I want or seems professional to me, but I am certain it will get to you at some point. So I hold lightly to the timing and process and say a little prayer that the content in this issue serves you well at the time you receive it. And I trust that by the time I am writing again, what feels so big now will feel like a small speed bump in the scheme of life. I hope you enjoy the spring, because we get to experience it…and that is a gift in itself.


Table of Contents Subscribe to Brighter magazine at

Education The Truth Behind Sugar and Cancer


Data Driven


Fashion and the Freedom to Choose


Posing for a Purpose Runway 4 Hope Follow-Up


How to Prevent and Spot Skin Cancer


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Empowerment Spring Cleaning Your Headspace


Social MEdia: Making it work for you


Yoga: Balance


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 A Mother’s Heart


Brighter Spotlight Head and Neck Cancer Jennifer Looney


Home: A Place of Healing

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Special thanks to those who made this issue possible. Writers Helen Bowles Lisa Coyle Dr. Jennifer Gill Michelle Hamilton Jennifer Looney Dr. Meredith Mitstifer Madeline Muller Heather Nemec Debbie Norris Erin Schreyer Libby Warren Graphic Designers Jada Beard Helen Bowles Aishwarya Chandrasekaran Editors Helen Bowles Madeline Muller Erin Schreyer Photo Credits Erin Schreyer - pgs. 13-15, 20-21, 25-27 Whoop - pg. 16 Wrapped in Love - pg 18 Zappos - pgs. 18-19 Cabana Life - pg. 19 Reboundwear - pg. 19 Juzo - pg. 19 Be the Difference Foundation - pgs. 20-21 Heather Nemec - pgs. 28-30 Are you or is someone you know a writer, photographer, blogger, web designer, or podcaster? Do you work with cancer survivors and have knowledge and wisdom to share with our readers? We would love to hear from you. Brighter magazine is always looking for people to help us with our mission. If you are interested in lending your talents and giftedness, please reach out to us today at


Spring Cleaning Your Headspace By Dr. Meredith Mitstifer

Years ago when too many things were on my mind, I would engage in a spring cleaning (no matter the season) that others might call slightly compulsive and obsessive. The activity of reorganizing, decluttering and simplifying my physical space deterred the storm of wind and dust in my head. At the first onset of stress (from a project, final or deadline approaching), I would resort to revamping my room, cleaning the drawers and rearranging the furniture… sound familiar? It was not until later that I realized decluttering my head space, and not just my home, produced better results. Too often when we are overwhelmed, wrestling with mental health or just having a bad day, our first instinct is denial. We opt to engage in other activities rather than acknowledge the slush that has made its way into our thoughts. What has gathered in your head this winter that you are ready to dust off, declutter and simplify to make more space for joy, peace, regrowth and renewal? A diagnosis of cancer, active treatments, recovery and even remission can wreak havoc on our brains. So much dirt can accumulate in our “mind rug,” that it can feel difficult to just “give it a shake.” Spring is a great time to refresh, set intentions and take inventory of your mental clutter. So prepare to tidy up! Are you ready to dispose of the negative self-talk, toxic relationships and or bad habits that do not serve you? Are you ready to spring into action?

Where can you start with emotional house cleaning? Here are some tips: Stop avoiding and start reflecting. The acknowledgment of the dust mites that cloud your space will propel you forward. Talk about it. Sharing things out loud or writing them in a journal is the beginning stage of letting them go. Journaling can be very therapeutic. Write down what weighs on your mind to lighten your load. You would be surprised at how putting fears and worries on paper can declutter the space in your head. Be honest. First with yourself, then others if needed. Isolation is the worst thing for depression and anxiety, but it’s the place we tend to go first. Let your friends and family know what you need and how you feel. If your mind is full of clutter, sharing the load can be very beneficial. Do something physical! We keep hearing how exercise can improve mental health but we can easily toss it in a box for later. Now is the time. Small actions can create huge gains. You can do this! Start a project. Do you have projects to complete? Choose one and see it through. Perhaps you always wanted to learn how to play piano or bedazzle a t-shirt. Don’t reject inspiration. Creativity can help us thrive, so explore where it might take you! Laugh. In a world of cancer, it’s hard to find our laughter at times. Healthy friendships that offer support, nurturing and a good old fashioned belly laugh can be very cleansing. Mental housework may not be easy, but it can significantly improve your mood. Be intentional. Scrub, dust, vacuum and wash out the mess that no longer serves you. You may just discover it was blocking a door you have been seeking. Fill your decluttered headspace with things that bring you delight, appreciation, harmony, gratification and even a little amusement. Spring into action and treat this as a chance to redefine your expectations and summon the best version of yourself.

The magazine for women affected by cancer


A Mother’s Heart By Debbie Norris

Have you ever wondered about those women who seem to just instinctively know what a baby or child needs? What about those women who gravitate to any children in the room? Those women who just LOVE babies and children?

pregnant with my first baby up to age 45.) This referral set in motion the events that would lead to those life changing words: “You have ovarian cancer.” Just three months after that initial appointment.

I’m one of those women. I was born with a “Mother’s Heart.” I’ve always wanted to be a mom and to have lots of biological children; I wanted to be pregnant. I wanted the experience of being pregnant. I even had names for each of the 6 children (3 sets of twins) I was going to have. These babies were real to me, and I thought I had all the time in the world to realize this one big dream.

The day of my diagnosis was tough for a multitude of reasons. We had fifteen minutes to decide if I was going to have a second staging surgery or not. (The initial surgery is when they found the cancer, Stage 1C clear cell in my left ovary.) Chemotherapy was going to happen either way. My husband let me make the call. In fifteen minutes, my dreams of becoming pregnant, birthing a baby or two and having little people running around with my DNA were shattered. My decision to have the second surgery crushed ALL chances of me ever having my dream family. It did not, however, destroy my Mother’s Heart.

Many women, when diagnosed with cancer at a young age, feel like life is taking many things from them. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 43, which is a little old for most women to think about having babies, but not for me. I got married at age 42. Five months later at my annual check up appointment, my gynecologist had me track my ovulation cycle. When we realized I was not ovulating, she immediately referred me to a fertility doctor for initial tests and labs. I partly just wanted to know if I had even a slim chance of getting pregnant. (My OBGYN and I had talked about the risks of being a mother of advanced age. She felt comfortable with me becoming


I still longed to experience pregnancy, deliver a child, raise that child and hear people gush about how they looked or acted like me. Surgery could not erase that lifelong dream. But surgery forced me to fight for my life so that I could share many more years with my husband of only 8 months and his daughters. So, I pushed the grief of losing my dream to the background during treatment.

But I did not know how to stop myself from loving and wanting babies. Going to baby showers was and is still a difficult thing to do. I don’t fit in. The year I was diagnosed, I had eight friends and cousins who were having babies. I went to the showers bald with weight gain and had to listen to a roomful of women talking about their pregnancy and birthing stories. My heart and spirit were crushed. The piece of me that always made me love and care for babies and children persisted. I still pictured a 15-monthold me feeding my 4-day-old brother a bottle and wiping away his tears. I remembered 7-year-old me helping my mom take care of my youngest two brothers. The grief and depression were growing and I kept pushing it down, trying to bury the loss of something I never had. What I did not know at the time is that I was not the only one who experienced this life-changing loss. After a year, I started meeting other survivors. I started meeting women who had dreamed of having babies, but then… cancer. With ovarian cancer, doctors remove the essential pregnancy organs then give you chemotherapy. In other cancers, surgery may or may not occur, but there is cell-destroying chemotherapy. Even in young girls, this strong chemotherapy kills ALL cells; eggs are cells.

grief and depression. I finally had to start facing what was never going to be and figure out how I could use my gift to help others and be a mother. Some methods that help me cope with the grief of losing something I never had include going back to work in daycare, helping friends and family with their children and being a mentor. I have found and been given opportunities to pour into the lives of the children who are put into my life. Snuggling, reading, diapers, bottles and rocking are my daily normal at work. Being a confidant, mentor and sounding board for friends’ older children and co-workers allows me to help with wisdom and knowledge from my life experiences. These opportunities continue to find me. If, like me, you have a Mother’s Heart and had to give up the dream of having biological children, let me tell you there are still ways to use your gift for good. Find opportunities to pour into the lives of babies, children and teens. Volunteer to help in a hospital snuggling babies whose parents can’t be there. Offer to help out friends and family, and be there in emergencies and every day.

“I started meeting women who had

dreamed of having

I’ve talked with moms who had to make the decision for their twoyear-old daughters – save their life or preserve their future fertility and possibly see their child die. I’ve talked with women who have had breast cancer, leukemia and colon cancer.

babies, but then… cancer.”

Their chemotherapy medications destroyed their chances of becoming pregnant on their own. Several women I have talked with have felt it was their calling to become moms. Some of these women didn’t have the option for carrying a child and experiencing pregnancy. Others, several being breast cancer survivors, were able to become pregnant and have their birth experience but felt ashamed or embarrassed that they weren’t able to breastfeed their babies. No matter the cancer or experience, they all felt they had a Mother’s Heart. They all felt the loss of a special dream they had for their life. So, what exactly is a Mother’s Heart? Well, for me, it’s an inborn gift. A difficult to explain instinct. It’s the way I know what a baby is crying for even if I’ve just met them. It’s how children fall asleep in my arms, even if they aren’t comfortable with others. It’s the way I have patience for the “difficult” babies. After several years of working with a counselor who shares my faith, I finally began to face all that suppressed

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Start where you are. If you haven’t faced your grief and depression at losing this dream, allow yourself to talk to someone. Make sure who you are talking with – counselor, pastor or psychiatrist – is someone you can trust as well as someone who has knowledge of walking through grief and depression. Someone who can help you work through processing this type of loss.

I also journal. This is one area that helps me as I go through therapy with my counselor. She encouraged me to take my journaling to the next level and start a blog. Writing about my hopes, dreams, grief and depression has become very cathartic. If you’re used to keeping a diary, start journaling about your feelings and losses. Maybe even turn your writings into something to help others who are facing the same thing. Finally, check out some support groups, either online or in person. You can find a great tribe in women who are going through or have been through these same struggles. Women who have experienced the same loss and grief. I may still cry and lock myself away on Mother’s Day. I know I will never fully finish grieving the loss of the beautiful babies I wanted to have. I also know I will never lose my Mother’s Heart. I know I will pour into the lives of the babies, children and teens that come into my life until the day I die. And so can you.


If you are someone that has spent any amount of time researching nutrition and cancer, the topic of sugar has surely come up! What does the latest research say about sugar and cancer? We asked a registered dietitian to provide us with some information.

The Truth Behind Sugar & Canc By Michelle Hamilton

Are all carbohydrates equal?

While it is a good idea to limit the amount of added sugar consumed, there is no need to avoid it completely. Focus instead on eating more complex carbohydrates from whole foods, which digest slowly and are part of a healthy diet. Complex carbohydrates include high fiber foods, such as whole grains, beans and some fruits and vegetables. It is important to note the difference between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars. Natural sugars are found in many nutritious whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and dairy products (including plain yogurt). Added sugar includes refined sugars, which are often added to processed foods such as sucrose, high fructose corn syrup and concentrated fruit juice. Added sugar also includes sweeteners like table sugar, honey, maple syrup and agave.

Tips for consuming added sugar in moderation:

The American Heart Association recommends limiting daily added sugar to no more than 100 calories per day for women (6 teaspoons or 24 grams) and 150 calories per day for men (9 teaspoons or 36 grams). Read the nutrition facts label on packaged products. It is important to note the serving size and the amount of added sugars listed under carbohydrates. Don’t know where to start? Look at what you are drinking. Nearly half of all added sugar in the American diet comes from beverages. Try to limit your intake of sport drinks, soda, flavored coffees and sweetened alcoholic beverages. Balance carbohydrates with protein, healthy fat and/or fiber. These can help to slow absorption and lower spikes in insulin levels. If more calories are needed, such as during cancer treatment when appetite is poor, select an oral drink/supplement that includes protein, fiber and healthy fats.

What’s the bottom line?

In summary, consuming more than the recommended amount of added sugar can result in unwanted weight gain, high insulin levels and increased inflammation, all of which are detrimental to overall health. Focus on eating a more plantbased diet that includes complex carbohydrate sources such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and lowfat dairy products and getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, to improve overall cancer risk and outcomes. If you’re doing that, an occasional sweet treat can still be enjoyed!

Is there a type of cancer prevention diet you recommend?

Eating healthy and living a healthy lifestyle can lower a person’s chances of getting some types of cancer. However, cancer is multi-factorial and healthy living is not a guarantee that you will never get cancer. One of my favorite resources for cancer prevention is the American Institute for Cancer Research ( This information is appropriate


cer for cancer survivors as well as people interested in diet and lifestyle recommendations for prevention. Their website contains a wealth of information, including a well-researched list of foods that fight cancer, many of these foods contain naturally occurring sugar! There is not one cancer prevention diet. However, eating a balanced diet rich in vegetables, lean protein, fruit and whole grains and being physically active is recommended. Most of us are not incorporating enough plant-based foods into our diet. Focus on these foods first. Eating the rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables is a great way to ensure you are getting a variety of phytonutrients (substances found in plants that benefit human health) every day! The Mediterranean dietary pattern is one of several dietary patterns that incorporates these recommendations and has been shown as preventative against many chronic diseases including some cancers. Oldways ( is one of our favorite resources for this dietary pattern.

Banana “Nice” Cream This is a great, no-added sugar alternative to traditional ice cream.


2.5 cups ripe banana (~ 2 medium to large bananas) the riper the better! 1-2 Tbsp milk of your choice (optional) Flavor variations: 1tsp vanilla 2 tbsp cacao 2 tbsp nut butter


-Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. -Slice the banana and place the slices onto the prepared baking sheet. Place the bananas in the freezer and freeze until firm (~3 hour or overnight). -Blend frozen bananas in a food processor or high speed blender for 2-3 minutes, until smooth. If adding frozen fruit, make sure to add those ingredients at this time. You may need to pause and scrape down the sides of your food processor or blender to make sure all of the banana slices have been blended completely. If your blender is struggling to blend the ingredients, add 1-2 tbsp of milk to help smooth out the texture. -Add any remaining ingredients and enjoy! Can be frozen for an additional 1-2 hours for a harder texture. Store in an air-tight container in the freezer.

The magazine for women affected by cancer



Social MEdia: Making it Work for You By Madeline Muller

In 2022, the Internet and social media are more prevalent than ever. From pictures of your friend’s $10 green smoothie to your cousin’s new boyfriend to your coworker’s political leanings, people can and do post almost anything online. But navigating the world of retweets and Instagram stories can be intimidating. In many respects, social media has earned an unfortunate reputation of fakeness and photoshop. Nevertheless, at its core, social media should and can be a place to connect, to find community. That is how Donna Bradbury, a cervical cancer survivor, experiences it. When she received her diagnosis in August 2020, Donna was already a regular Facebook user. So, naturally, in the midst of shocking news, she turned to social media, searching for other people with cervical cancer. The catch: she really couldn’t find them. While Donna had incredible support from her family, she wanted to talk to someone who understood her the way only another cervical cancer patient could. Instead of losing hope or sinking into isolation, Donna took matters into her own hands. A few weeks after her diagnosis, she created an anonymous Instagram blog. She talked about all things cancer: scans, chemotherapy, etc. “It was quite therapeutic. It was like writing a diary,” she comments. But Donna didn’t stay hidden for long. Soon enough, her friends, coworkers, and parents were all asking her about her page, so she went public. She says, “It became a kind of place to put everything so people knew, which was really handy. When you’re relaying sad information, having to message it so many times, it gets you down.” Donna’s blog helped her and her loved ones better understand her cancer journey. Now, over a year after remission, Donna uses her page to celebrate her recovery and inspire others. As she reflected on her blog, Donna shared some of her favorite things about it. First off, it allows her look back on her journey and celebrate her strength. She often thinks, “Wow, I can’t believe I did that.” But the greatest advantage of her blog was the people she met. “On some of my lowest days, I was able to be honest to this group of people – who I’ve never met - who knew exactly what I was going through. I

The magazine for women affected by cancer

knew I wasn’t alone,” she shared, encouraging any person with a rarer cancer to use social media to find community. Just as much as her blog helped her, it did the same for thousands of other people. “For me it was all about helping others. I thought, gosh, if I can help one person, that would be great. And I know I’ve helped a lot more than one person.” With videos with tens of thousands of views, Donna has touched an incalculable number of lives. After hearing Donna’s story (and using my own selfproclaimed social media expertise), I have a few tips to make social media work for you. •

• • • •

Know why you are using social media, whether it’s for fun, to promote a business, or to find a niche community. Keep that in mind as you continue your social media journey and let it inform your decisions, like whether you choose to have a private or public account. Experiment with different social media channels (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, etc.). Find your favorite(s) and then begin to learn more about them. Follow accounts that make you happy. If you love classical music or Renaissance art, there are accounts for them. Personalize your feed! Don’t feel pressured to use social media “the right way.” There is no right way. No perfect number of posts, no perfect caption, no perfect pose. Ultimately, know yourself. If social media makes you feel worse in any way, reassess. Switch platforms. Take a break. Do what you need.

Donna’s story is a remarkable example of social media used the right way. She will always cherish the friends she made along the way, many of whom she remains close to, and I am sure they will never forget her. Donna’s positivity is palpable, even over the phone. She has inspired me to be a little realer and a little more joyful, and I hope she can do the same for you. Go check out @my_cervical_cancer_journey on Instagram and give it a follow!



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Jennifer Looney

Brighter Spotlight By Erin Schreyer Photography by Erin Schreyer

The magazine for women affected by cancer


A Smile Lost. A Life Renewed. A Love Mission Found. Eye twitching was the first clue. Something so simple, so ordinary, and yet caused by something so rare. Jennifer Looney, an otherwise fit, healthy woman was understandably caught by surprise when she first heard her unusual cancer diagnosis. So was her doctor. Thankfully, Looney kept pushing for answers to why her face didn’t feel right. Eye twitching became more persistent. She began experiencing numbness and hearing changes. And the worst part for this joyful mom and wife was when she began to lose the ability to smile. Discouraged by the lack of muscle control and the ultimate drooping of one side of her face, she felt trapped in the unknown and frustrated by her less than enthusiastic facial expression (a far cry from her norm in every way). “We went to a wedding and were pictured in some photos. When I looked at them, I thought something didn’t look right with my face,” Looney explained. “So I went to our family physician, wanting to rule out anything serious.”

With her husband waiting in the car due to Covid protocols, Looney wasn’t concerned when she met with the facial plastic surgeon. Armed with her scans, she was ready for a plan to fix her smile, while hoping that a procedure would also minimize the pain she kept experiencing. Once seen, this doctor had an immediate and urgent response, wanting to collaborate with two additional head and neck specialists (doctors 4 and 5) in that moment. Not knowing what was happening, Looney crossed the professional building to see these experts, still unaware of the gravity of her situation. That changed within minutes when she heard the words “adenoid cystic carcinoma,” a rare and insidious head and neck cancer that crawls across the cranial nerve and blazes a path of destruction across the face. More familiar with these specific regions of the head and neck, these two specialists had instantly seen the tumor on the scans.

“I’m looking at life through a different lens. The little things don’t matter anymore.”

Looney displaying signs that seemed similar to the partial facial paralysis that comes with Bell’s palsy, Looney’s doctor came to that conclusion, and she accepted the temporary (and inaccurate) fate. Looking back, she doesn’t blame her doctor. He had never once seen the type of cancer she experienced - it’s that uncommon - and as a result, it wasn’t on his radar. Only out of her strong will to regain the normal muscle function in her face did Looney discover the truth of her ailment.

Still thinking she would be living for just a season with Bell’s Palsy, Looney became more and more concerned that her symptoms were not dissipating over time. Instead, they were worsening, as was the facial pain she was enduring. Looney was exhausted from the smoke-andmirror tricks she had been using to hide her face for the past six months, so she sought a referral to a neurologist. He ordered full scans of her head and neck region, and she left hopeful and determined to regain control of her face, no matter how hard she had to work. Little did she know what she would ultimately meet. Neither did this second doctor in her journey. Still not seeing anything inconsistent with her Bell’s palsy diagnosis, the neurologist confirmed what Looney had already heard, offering her additional lifestyle adaptations to help her cope. However, this time, Looney asked immediately to see another specialist (a third doctor) -


one who focuses solely on facial paralysis. “I was just a bulldog,” Looney said. “I was willing to do anything needed. I desperately wanted to smile at my children again.” And five weeks later, she was able to see him, expecting a tactical plan to cosmetically “fix” and “re-animate” her face.

So confident in their findings and diagnosis, these doctors began laying out the protocol for Looney’s treatment in that moment. Before a biopsy. Without even having had an appointment directly with them. And with her husband still waiting in the car, thinking his wife is visiting with a plastic surgeon. A plan of action was necessary. “I had unknowingly put the cart before the horse,” Looney explained. “I engaged with the plastic surgeon first, but then he became part of my care team immediately and through every step of radiation for 7 weeks/5 days a week, followed by 6 weeks of chemo. God put him in my path, and he helped me all along the way, calling shots and building my confidence.” Today, after completing her treatment plan, doctors cannot find cancer, although Looney continues to look forward to future “all clear” scans in the coming months. She giggled recalling the fist bumps and celebrations done by her care team and definitely felt as though it was justified. “It’s a full time job going through treatment. I was going to battle,” she emphasized. “My cancer was stage 4, due to the tumor being in the base of the skull. I found out later that I had the most aggressive radiation treatment they could give, in order to treat the spread of the disease.”

“That’s a gift that keeps on giving,” she continued. “There’s something about putting that much radiation directly aimed at your head and neck. It changes your body and the way it can respond to everything. I can feel good now and even get a workout. But sometimes that workout means I can’t even lift an arm for two days afterwards. I’m just so exhausted.” To help her manage, Looney now wears a whoop (www. device on her wrist. Because it monitors recovery, sleep, training and health, she can more clearly understand what her body is going through and what it needs. It provides personal data to validate what she’s feeling physically, and it helps her to know what her body needs. She has her entire family wearing them now, and her husband, Matthew, who has been her partner and driver through this whole process, added that it gives them valuable knowledge for healthy decisions.

people’s stories as I do now. I didn’t take the time before to wonder what’s going on. I just love humanity now in a different way, because I have a chance. And I feel like that’s what we’re supposed to do - we’re supposed to share love with other people, and I have love I can share. Maybe it’s through an email or over the phone, because I still try to hide out a lot. But I won’t forever. I’ll get over that. I’ll get there.”

He’s clearly been a great partner and teammate to Looney through this journey. She quickly referred to him as a “rockstar,” noting that he dropped so many things to physically care for her, drive to appointments and even be there to simply listen. “I kind of avoided seeing a lot of other people, just because I didn’t want to have to explain my face. My husband was a great support in every sense of the word.” The two still have more road to travel together on this journey. Looney will be eagerly awaiting continued confirmations of good health, and she is most excited to begin the process of multiple surgeries to re-animate and reconstruct the left side of her face. She admits, however, that there’s more to her journey forward than that. “There’s a self confidence that I miss about myself. I want it back,” she admitted. “I don’t know why it’s so difficult, but I want to walk into a room with my shoulders back and head held high again. I want to feel really good about myself instead of thinking about the paralysis right away. I would never encourage any other woman to react that way; to hide what God gave them. But I do. So, I’ve got a way to go. The reconstruction will help, but I think it’s a lot more work on the inside than just physically.” Another important part of her work will be to maximize the impact of her life and this second chance she’s been given. “Post-treatment is a new life. Everything else was before cancer, and now everything is after cancer,” Looney said. “I’m looking at life through a different lens. The little things don’t matter anymore. But the little things in nature…I will stop every time now to watch a sunset. I enjoy things like that in a different way, because I wasn’t promised to get through this treatment.”

Looney was so gracious to open up to us and allow her story to be shared with Brighter. Although she admitted she hadn’t shared this level of detail with many others, and she hadn’t been willing to be photographed in almost a year and half, she thought it was an important step to take. She was excited. Ready. Vulnerable. Courageous. And already exuding the love she feels called to in this new life season of Spring.

“I don’t get easily upset, “ she continued. “I have a different level of patience and compassion with people. It’s all so different now after living through the treatment I did, because I don’t know the battle others have gone through too. Before, I wouldn’t have thought as much about other

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Data Driven By Jennifer Looney, Survivor

Survivorship has uncovered new meanings to old words. I had no idea the prevalence the word “recovery” would have in my vocabulary until being diagnosed with head and neck cancer. Seven weeks of chemotherapy and radiation (Monday through Friday) was my new job. I say “job” because I felt employed by this treatment. If you’re like me, you became a lab rat living through your own version of Groundhog Day. Recovery became the doubleedged reward for tackling that treatment. How many times a week did I use this word? I’ve lost count. Little did I know I was already one beat ahead with a personalized wearable to assist my recovery efforts. Let me introduce WHOOP. Doctors monitor labs; nurses facilitate infusions; therapists execute radiation fractions, while WHOOP analyzes strain, recovery, and sleep. My goal was to beat this enemy called cancer and win this game called recovery. Who knew my team would include a wearable with super powers? It’s much more streamlined than a Wonder Woman cuff but provides similar empowerment. Trust me. I was never considered a data junkie; my family of athletes claimed those labels. If this device designed to unlock human performance could help NCAA and Team USA swimmers like my daughter, maybe it could help me recover from cancer treatment more easily.

At first I had a love/hate relationship with WHOOP. It contributed to my athlete image when deep down I felt like I was going to break like a twig. The pretty blue wearable on my wrist armed me with knowledge of my sleep performance, heart rate variability, and much more. Some days I did not give a rip about my resting heart rate overnight, but I had personalized information to validate my desire to take it easy or push harder that day. It would even identify a high level of strain and physical activity when I had simply gathered and loaded the laundry. How rude. Believe me, it’s as if WHOOP knew before I did when my body needed rest. All I had to do was open the app and review my stats. This knowledge became power as I navigated my new race of recovery. Hence, I too joined the ranks of the data-driven. I learned quickly that the fake it till you make it attitude would not always work during recovery. As a wife, mom, daughter and friend, I wanted to participate and be fully present for life events and important milestones no matter how big or small. This became a challenge after radiation and chemo. Treatment, side effects and all, is the gift that keeps on giving. If it’s affected you, you know it’s no joke. However, our ultimate goal is survival, so bring it on! Some days I got very excited to discover that my body was ready to take on strain. Those days I pushed harder. Some days I knew it was time to seek rest. Maybe I saved the workout I bookmarked for another day. Maybe my plants didn’t get watered on schedule. I couldn’t fake out WHOOP data, designed to support my health and wellness. Fortunately, I discovered a recovery tool that has helped me foster a new respect for my amazing human body. Perhaps it could help you too. We are capable of much more than we realize. Likewise, taking it easy can be the name of the game. Sometimes, a glance down at my wrist is the little reminder I need. Thanks, WHOOP.


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Fashion Gives Freedom to Choose! By Libby Warren

It is said that our home reflects our mental state, but our sense of style surely offers some insight too. Fashion provides comfort, individuality and some distraction from everyday struggles. From babies to bisabuelas*, customers of all ages and backgrounds spend hours in search of that perfect outfit. Do I want to feel like a Bohemian fairy or maybe a #girlboss? Sure, the idea of dressing to embody a certain “likeness” or “aesthetic” may seem trivial, but it is these little decisions that make fashion so powerful. Whether we want to reinvent ourselves into a rocker-chic for a night out with friends or into a productive CEO at the office, fashion lets us choose. In a life where the privilege of choice often escapes our grasp, fashion finally gives us the power to choose. Below are three aesthetics coupled with cancer-friendly brands that turn you into an unconquerable fashionista. * Bisabuelas means great-grandmothers in Spanish

Bohemian Mastectomy Camisole $68

If you want a more carefree or relaxed style like American singer Jewel, a bohemian aesthetic is definitely the way to go. Wrapped in Love. Composed of lightweight material and naturesque patterns, their garments include soft shoulder wraps, head wraps and post-mastectomy camisoles with drain pockets. Cancer Be Glammed. This recovery boutique features a variety of products, including a Hot Girls Cooling Bracelet that combats heat flashes. Wide Sleeve Kamono $70

18 Spring Step Happy $109.95

! Flower Spirit Bikini Top $64.95 Bottom $39.95 Navy Sport Dress $116

Sporty As an athlete, I may harbor a little bias when I declare SPORTSWEAR AS THE BEST WEAR! Whether you are walking through the park or at a YMCA yoga class, these brands have got your back. Reboundwear. Their chemotherapy collection features soft, silky garments with strategically placed zippers that help wearers access ports. The array of loops and inner pockets let mastectomy patients access infusions without having to undress. Amoena. This mastectomy-friendly swim wear comes in an array of patterns from classy black to sapphire crystals to rainbow waves. In the style of a swim dress or two-piece, these garments have inner pockets and extra support and coverage where needed. Cabana Life. Founded by a skin cancer survivor, this womenowned business designs fun & functional UPF 50+ styles to take you from everyday to vacay. Wrinkle-resistant, lightweight & quickdrying, their Sport Collection features signature solids & original prints with added details like mesh, zippers & pockets. Celine Jacket $95.99

Preppy Recycled Pleated Dress Revere Dublin $169.95

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I have always wanted to be Blair Waldorf – or at the very least dress like her. Maybe Cher Horowitz from Clueless? Add some prep to your step with the following brands. Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive. An inclusive clothing line with a preppy twist. According to Time Magazine, this is the “first ever collaboration to bring adaptive mainstream clothing directly to consumers.” Zappos Orthotic Friendly Footwear. Founder of Runway of Dreams, Mindy Scheier partnered with Zappos to launch orthotic friendly footwear that caters to patients with irregular neuromuscular and skeletal systems. Juzo Medical Compression. Designed for lymphedema patients, these compression garments, such as leggings or arm sleeves, alleviate pains in swollen areas. Coupled with a button-up under a sweater, these garments are the intersection between functionality and preppy fashion.


Posing for a Purpose By Helen Bowles

Be the Difference Foundation hosted their annual Runway for Hope event and Brighter magazine was there to see the fashion and support the cause.

Left to right: Jon Friedenberg, and Deborah Montonen of Mary Crowley Cancer Research, Sheryl Yonack, Julie Shrell, Jill Bach, Dr. Lisa Genecov of Be the Difference Foundation


Benefiting Mary Crowley Cancer Research

It was cold and windy outside, but the women bustling around the room were all dressed as though they were in the South Pacific. Beautiful flowing dresses in colorful florals, off-the-shoulder ruffles and fun straw hats. Every lady, uniquely dressed, shared one common trait. Final preparations were made, and hair and makeup specialists admired their work while they cleaned. A buzz of excitement and nervousness filled the room. Moments later, in the other room, the Master of Ceremonies welcomed each woman individually to the room. As each model waltzed into the room, the attendees applauded not only their beauty, but also the stories of the dazzling women. The models made one round in vacation and summer fashions and another in evening wear, each representing a range of ages and aesthetics. As they strutted down the catwalk sporting stunning outfits, they also wore the title of ovarian cancer survivor. These women gathered on this day to feature the latest fashion while advocating for ovarian cancer and raising funds for research. Be the Difference Foundation raises funds to benefit Mary Crowley Cancer Research at their Runway for Hope event each year. All participants from hair and makeup volunteered their time and skills, and the wardrobe was generously donated by Nordstrom. The beneficiary, Mary Crowley Cancer Research, works to expand treatment options for all cancer patients through various investigational clinical trials. Brighter Magazine was honored to be a media sponsor, and, for the sake of honesty, I must admit that I sprinted to purchase one of the lovely outfits from the show.

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How to Prevent and Spot Skin Cancer By Dr. Jennifer Gill

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and there could not be a more appropriate time of year. As the days bring more sunshine and skin exposure, it is a great time to make a plan for protecting and noticing your skin. By equipping yourself with the right knowledge and tools to prevent and catch skin cancers early, you could save your life or that of a loved one.

that your experiences and choices as a child and teenager will impact your overall risk today. However, it is never too late to change habits and improve your sun-safe behaviors!

Who gets skin cancer?

The best way to decrease your risk of skin cancer is to protect your skin from UV damage. This is always done best with a layered approach, combining as many of the following measures as possible: • Avoid the use of tanning beds and sunbathing. • Minimize the intensity of sun exposure by choosing time outdoors when the UV index is lower (for example, morning and evening). • When outdoors, seek or create shade (with canopies or umbrellas) as much as possible. • Wear photoprotective clothing, including broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses. Rashguards and sun-protective athletic clothing are now available in many sizes, fun styles and designs. When possible, choose clothing with UPF ratings, which ensure a reasonable amount of sun protection. And do not be frightened by the long-sleeve options, which are often made with materials that still allow your skin to breathe and stay cool. • Always remember to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 40 or greater. If you have sensitive skin or are prone to breaking out, opt for a physical sunscreen with active ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium oxide. While these can sometimes be a little harder to rub in, the skin

Approximately 1 in 5 people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. While individuals vary in their susceptibility, ANYONE can get skin cancer regardless of age, sun exposure, race or ethnicity. Many patients assume that because they “tan easily” or don’t have a family history of cancer that they are not at risk. This false sense of security can lead to riskier sun behavior and delays in seeking medical care. For this reason, it is important everyone has a strong foundational knowledge of how to prevent and spot skin cancers.

What are the biggest risk factors for skin cancer?

While anyone can get skin cancer, people with the highest risk include those with a personal or family history of skin cancer, numerous moles or freckles, fair skin, light eye color, sunburns, tanning bed use, frequent sun exposure (i.e. current or prior lifeguards, outdoor sport participants, gardeners, beach/lake-goers, pilots, etc.) and/or any kind of suppressed immune system. Because skin cancer risk is impacted by your cumulative lifetime UV exposure, it is important to remember


How can I decrease my risk of getting skin cancer?

often tolerates them much better. Some of these come in “tinted” varieties, which are a great option for use as a daily facial sunscreen.

What are the types of skin cancer?

There are several types of skin cancer and each type looks and behaves differently. Basal cell carcinomas are the most common type of skin cancer. They often appear as a slowly growing pink or “pearly” bump on the face or trunk. Squamous cell carcinomas are the second most common, and they frequently present as scaly/rough bumps or sores. Melanoma is the next most common type of skin cancer and often appears as an abnormal or changing mole. Compared to the other two types mentioned, melanoma has the highest likelihood of spreading to other organs of the body, making it one of the more dangerous types of skin cancers if not caught early. In addition to these, there are other rarer types of skin cancers. If you have any question about whether something on your skin is benign or a skin cancer, the best decision is to make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist.

How do I examine my skin?

The first step in looking for skin cancers is becoming familiar with your skin and performing a skin self-examination. Some of the most common areas for melanoma are in places you can’t easily see (like the back or the backs of the thighs), so plan on involving a good full-length mirror. Skin cancer can also happen in places where “the sun doesn’t shine,” so don’t forget to look inside your mouth, your armpits, groin/ buttocks, the bottoms of your feet and in between your toes. Unfortunately, skin cancers often get caught late in these areas because new or changing spots in those places just aren’t noticed.

Who should I see if I need a professional opinion?

The most qualified professional to evaluate your skin is a board-certified dermatologist. These are physicians who have received multiple years of training after medical school focused on recognizing and treating skin cancers and skin conditions. You can find a list of these physicians on the American Academy of Dermatology website or contact your primary care doctor for a referral.

How does a Dermatologist determine if I have skin cancer?

If a dermatologist is concerned that a lesion might be a skin cancer, they will likely perform a biopsy. This is a simple, safe and quick procedure that is often performed during your scheduled office visit. The area will be cleaned, injected with a small amount of numbing medication and removed with a special tool. The sample will then be sent off for processing and examined under the microscope to determine if it is cancerous.

What is the treatment for skin cancer?

The treatment for skin cancer depends on the type, size, severity, location on the body and specific needs of the individual patient. Treatments range from topical creams, spraying with cold liquid nitrogen (“cryotherapy”), scraping and burning, surgical excision and Mohs procedures. Treatments are more complicated and involved if the skin cancer has become more advanced or spread to other parts of the body. Your dermatologist will be able to discuss your options and needs based on your biopsy results.

If you have numerous moles or struggle to remember what might be new or old, you can take advantage of the current digital era. Many patients take photos on their smartphone to follow certain spots. There are even free smartphone apps like MoleMapper™ which can help you document and keep track of your skin lesions. And never hesitate to enlist the help of a professional dermatologist who can guide you and perform regular skin examinations.

How do I look for skin cancers?

Skin cancers can present in a variety of ways. Anything new, growing, changing, bleeding or symptomatic should catch your attention. Make note of any sores that don’t seem to be healing, which is a common way that skin cancers come to patients’ attention. Look out for the “ugly duckling sign,” which is when you find a spot that doesn’t look like any other spots on your body. The “ABCDE” rule is a good way to remember what to assess when examining moles: A) Asymmetry, B) Irregular Border, C) Multiple Colors, D) Diameter bigger than a pencil eraser and E) Evolution or changing over time. For photographic examples of what skin cancer can look like, visit the skin cancer sections of websites like the American Cancer Society or American Academy of Dermatology.

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Can skin cancer be life-threatening?

While the majority of patients with skin cancer do very well, skin cancer can be life-threatening when it invades important tissues or spreads to other parts of the body. This is why it is so important to identify and treat skin cancers as early as possible.

For those who are parents to young kids, remember that sunsafe behavior and habits start early. By setting an example and educating your children about the importance of protecting and watching their skin, you can encourage them to continue those good health habits into adulthood.

How often should I be checking my How can I help protect my friends and skin? While Skin Cancer Awareness Month is a great time to loved ones from skin cancer? start thinking about your skin, it should not stop in May! We I have countless patients with skin cancer who made their first appointment with a dermatologist after the urging of their spouse, parent, child, hairdresser or friend. If you see something concerning on someone you know, consider a gentle “I don’t remember seeing that spot on you before. Have you gotten a doctor to take a look at it?” You never know when you might help someone catch a skin cancer.

recommend that people perform skin self-examinations monthly, and do not delay an appointment if you find something concerning. Talk to your dermatologist about how often you should be seen by a professional. Recommendations differ based on your risk factors. By preparing yourself with knowledge and sun-safe behavior, you are well on your way to protecting yourself and others from skin cancer!

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Finding Balance in Times of Uncertainty By Lisa Coyle

All of life is about finding our balance. We walk everyday. We take it for granted, but even walking is an act of balance. Each time we pick one foot up to place it in front of the other, we are, briefly, balancing on one foot. During cancer treatments, balance can become difficult. Practicing balancing postures can help us maintain a sense of stability and control over the body so we can continue moving. You may be thinking that standing on two feet can feel hard enough sometimes. You may ask why we should make it harder by choosing to stand on one foot. But there are many reasons this is helpful: • •

When we take one foot away from the floor, we strengthen our connection to the Earth through the one standing foot. This creates harmony of the mind, body and breath. It takes precise attention to keep the body steady on one foot. This focus begins to train the nervous system to handle times when life becomes uncertain or when we experience racing thoughts.

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• •

Weight-bearing exercises (even your own body weight) strengthen bones. Because bones can be weakened through chemotherapy, this technique can lessen that side effect as well. Good balance protects us from falling and breaking a bone. Good balance requires good posture, which helps us breathe.

Standing on one foot requires a focused mind and a calm breath. Standing in Vrikshasana, or Tree Pose, for ten breaths may not feel easy, but the nervous system is calmed in this state of physical and mental harmony. This is why balancing is good for cancer patients. It is healing. We can learn how to clear anxiety by standing on one foot! When we use our muscles to place our bones in alignment and we support that alignment with a calm, steady breath, we are brought immediately into the present moment. We are right here, right now.


“Finding balance is a life’s work.” - Tari Prinster Each balance pose builds on the previous one, so you can work your way up feeling confident and steady at each posture. Use a chair or the wall to help build “muscle memory” of balance. You can let go as you feel steady.


To explore balance in a very safe, low risk manner, simply rise onto the balls of both feet, lifting the heels as high as you can. Use the chair if you feel wobbly…or…. Test your balance by letting go of the chair.


Stand with your side next to a chair or the wall. Stand on a block (or a sturdy book) with the foot closest to the chair. Push down into the foot on the block and you will come off the other foot a little bit. Practice taking more and more weight off the other foot.

3 If you feel steady, begin to increase the challenge by raising the knee up. Don’t worry about how high you lift it- you’re on one leg now!



Again, if you feel steady, continue adding difficulty by adding arms as your balance improves.


Super steady? Try a twist! If your right leg is lifted, your left arm will extend in front of you while you extend your right arm behind you, rotating your torso to the right. More difficult still is to shift your gaze to the right as well.

Take it slowly. It’s not how difficult the posture is but how steady you can begin to feel. Don’t worry about using the chair or the wall - this helps to build “muscle memory” so that you will eventually develop the stability to let go. All of life is balance. Don’t get too attached to the result, be interested in the process.

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Home A Place of Healing By Heather Nemec


In the words of Marie Kondo, “Does your home spark joy?” Does the word “home” evoke a feeling or is it simply a place to rest your head? A Finnish proverb aptly defines happiness as the place between too little and too much. So many of us welcome spring as an opportunity to clean and purge the items we no longer find purposeful. Spring can also reflect a season in our life, a time of growth and learning. In essence, spring epitomizes HOPE! In 2019, my husband and I embarked on our “second spring.” Much to the dismay of our sons, we downsized out of a comfortable family home into a cozy 2 bedroom apartment. My philosophy about recycling clothes carries over to home interiors. Not prone to sentimentality, I promptly sold the majority of our furniture and belongings through local resale groups, exchanging them for gently or not-so-gently used items. My best find to date is a FREE Jonathan Adler rug well loved by a white furry family member. That same rug (now fur-less) is the showcase in Adler’s top 2021 Instagram posts; I felt like a proud mom! My taste in interiors mimics my fashion sensibility: eclectic, colorful, comfortable and must-have “good bones.”

life, we find comfort in the simplicity of it all. The calm, soothing backdrop nurtured me through 26 cycles of chemotherapy and countless sleepless nights. The bright but indirect light became a desirable backdrop for Zoom sessions with patients, paired with a west-facing balcony for morning devotionals and majestic sunsets. Our “new home” had become a conduit of harmony and healing.

“I love the trend of designing around something quirky, an heirloom or accessory.”

After downsizing, I was drawn to a softer, neutral palette. To be honest, we did not want to worry about priming/ painting walls on a rental. Three years later in apartment The magazine for women affected by cancer

Like fashion, home decor trends are always changing. Jessica Harris of Living Spaces contends that in 2022 “things will be perfectly imperfect,” highlighting the beauty of asymmetry and lack of balance. She shares, “This trend is all about seeing flaws as an asset or something that makes each piece unique,” appreciating the humble beauty within something. Is it just me or does anyone else see the parallels to living a life with cancer?

As recovering DIYers, we found ourselves restless from months of quarantine, eager to get our hands dirty. Survivorship became an opportunity to refresh both our minds and home. For me, color awakens the senses! Considering color psychology, I am attracted to soothing hues of green paired with pinks that radiate warmth and comfort. Optimizing natural light and incorporating plants (faux for those with a brown thumb) add depth and texture to all my spaces. I’ll admit there was another “man” in my life before my marriage. I have


a 34 year-old philodendron named “Charlie” that I proudly purchased while living in a college dorm. For decades, Charlie simply existed in a container he had long outgrown. After moving, he received an upgrade and is thriving! Beautiful textiles and vintage fabric have also made a big comeback. I love the trend of designing around something quirky, an heirloom or accessory. I once framed a psychedelic fabric remnant circa 1950’s for my son’s bedroom, pairing it with a vibrant orange wall. If using color causes hyperventilation, colors opposite one another on the color wheel naturally compliment. If you are a color virgin, paint is the best bang for your buck, but starting with accent pillows or accessories will help to ease you into the process.

What we now strive for are homes that are real rather than untouched. In the words of my favorite poet, Maya Angelou, “Home is a refuge not only from the world, but a refuge from my worries, my troubles, my concerns. I like beautiful things around me. I like beautiful because it delights my eyes and my soul is lifted up.”

Now more than ever, our homes demand multi functional use. My dining table (aka desk and ping pong table) works overtime as a staple item. For us, indoor/outdoor living allowed for healthy separation when needed. By necessity, our homes serve as both an oasis and utilitarian space. DIY accents that reflect mindful making and meaning have also found their place in trendy design. Still images captured by my son and a painting by a nephew are personal favorites.


S I N G . DA N


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

Castle on the Hill - Ed Sheeran Million Reasons - Lady Gaga Dream Your Life Away - Vance Joy If you’d like to submit your idea for a future JAM list go to and submit your submit your favorite songs.


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!


Dots and Boxes

Tic-Tac-Toe Notes:

JUMBLE: Spring, Clean, Healing, Balance, Fashion, Brighter The magazine for women affected by cancer


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