Brighter Magazine 2023-Q4

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A magazine for women affected by cancer

KatieUsing Fleenor TikTok to Make

Hope Contagious


What Wh at I wish I had known

The True Value of YOUR SMILE

4 Practices that help reduce stress


making peace with the naked truth

Tips To Curb Appetite Loss

Editor’s Letter

Live. Learn. Shine. Fall is one of my favorite seasons, as it ushers in the holidays with snuggly sweaters, warm drinks topped with whipped cream, the thrill of Friday night lights and crisp temperatures that beg for a gathering around the fire pit. The season sets the tone for appreciation and then culminates in the Thanksgiving holiday itself, reminding us to count our blessings and remain focused on the good in our lives. Although we all walk through seasons

of hardship, like many of you may be in now, there is no doubt that we can each find one or two things to be grateful for daily. This practice of looking for something beautiful, joyful, soothing or inspiring and then fixing our thoughts there for a moment has proven benefits. Evidence shows

that those who intentionally seek these “glimmers” throughout the day will begin to notice even more, as their brains become trained to scout out the good. Don’t you love that? We can actually impact what we see around us. We have more power than we know!

For us at Brighter, we are overflowing with appreciation for all that has happened this year. We are no longer a “new” publication, organization or

community, but we have planted roots in professional office space, widened our circulation across the country and become recognized and advocated for within cancer communities. From our humble beginning in 2020, Helen and I have learned so much, and our passion for serving women affected by cancer has only grown as we continue to discover more need for what we do. Social workers, survivors and oncologists regularly affirm

the unique value of our content, our bright and beautiful design, and our optimistic approach to support women. This is thrilling and terrifying all at once, as we grow to meet demand, manage behind-the-scenes business operations, and continue to seek financial provisions for all we need to

do. As earlier stated, we too are fixing our eyes on the good and remaining hopeful as we continue to learn, serve and believe the right things will happen, just as they have since we launched.

Survivors, we hope you love this most recent issue. We like to think each new publication is better than the last, and hopefully we continue saying this with every fresh release. We strive to give you our best, so you can feel more equipped, educated and empowered. We listen, adapt to needs, and work tirelessly, because, frankly, we know you’re tired. We see you, and we’re here for you!

Lastly, but assuredly not least, we’re so thankful for everyone who supports us as we serve! Our donors, readers, writers, volunteers, interns, and

partners in the cancer community are vital to our success. We can’t do this alone, and you have been our backbone, holding us steady and allowing

us to reach with balance. As I close this letter and we close this year, I want you to know your connections, donations and encouragements have made all the difference in getting us this far. We hope you’ll continue your support and help Brighter widen the circle of advocacy to those who don’t yet know us. As our name suggests, we’re here for the glimmers! Thank you for helping us shine! With gratitude,

Erin Schreyer





NEW BRIGHTER OFFICE SPACE- OPEN TO VISITORS! What a delight it was to open our doors Tuesday evening the 29th of August and welcome donors, supporters, survivors, family and friends. We find joy in delivering exciting and empowering content to women through the pages of our publication, but nothing quite compares to the beauty of community gathering in person. As with our other events, small or large, there is hope and healing that happens when women gather to share stories, ask questions and provide support. This event solidified the beauty and purpose of this gifted space. As the summer interns return to school, there is a new found need to fill it back up again with socials and other opportunities to invest in the women’s cancer community. We hope you will visit us at Brighter Magazine the next time you are in Dallas! Just drop us a note at to let us know you are coming!

The magazine for women affected by cancer





Founder, Publisher Helen Bowles

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

Editor-in-Chief Erin Schreyer Editors Ashton Mitchell Campbell Elliott Erin Schreyer Helen Bowles

Graphic Design Ashton Mitchell Helen Bowles Photography Erin Schreyer Adobe Photos Cover Photography Erin Schreyer Advertising Helen Bowles Distribution Liz Pounds Financial Development Jennifer Looney Hospital Liaison Liz Pounds Corporate Donations/ Sponsorships/Grants Jennifer Looney

Advertise to expand your reach. Contact us at Donate to support Brighter through the QR code below, on our website or by mailing a check to: Brighter Magazine 7616 Lyndon B Johnson Freeway Suite 510 Box 9 Dallas, Texas 75251 Brighter Magazine is 501(c)(3) nonprofit, all donations are tax deductible.

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Writers Ariana Wang Brittney Dorr Cara Price Erin Schreyer Gabriela Gaona Gracie Little Harper Tagg Heather Nemec, LCSW Jamie Hess Jessica Salcido Jill Meyer-Lippert, RDH Kathleen Helen Lisson, CLT Meredith Mitstifer, Psy. D Rebecca C. Walden Sarah Wilson Shelly Vaughn

Subscribe to Brighter magazine at

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Board of Directors Erin Schreyer Helen Bowles Rebecca Walden Shari Johns Suzen Stewart

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.

Table of Contents 06 Taxol 08 The True Value of Your Smile 10 Seasonal Makeup Trends 11 Hospital Bag Reviews 12 Legging Up on Fall 14 Appetite Loss 16 Nurturing Your Gut Health 18 Shareworthy Recipes 20 Medical Gaslighting 22 How Can I Help? 24 Brighter Feature 28 Reclaiming Intimacy 32 4 Stress Reduction Practices 36 Brighter Reads 38 To Exercise or Not to Exercise 40 Pay It Forward 42 Her New Hobby Katie Fleenor

What I Wish I’d Known About Taxol Written by Rebecca C. Walden Breast Cancer Survivor & Advocate

After completing four rounds of Adriamycin and Cyclophosphamide chemo, I had a slight hiatus to rest and recover before starting the final stage of chemo treatment. It was supposed to include 12 weekly infusions of Taxol. My body had other plans. The first infusion was like any other one – I came, I received, and I left, thankful for no (new) side effects. But on December 16th, 48 hours after my first Taxol treatment, I noticed a mild rash, isolated to where my right thumb meets my hand. I took a watch and wait mindset, figuring it would go away on its own. But that night I’d also been unable to open a bottle of water, or undo my necklace clasp without assistance. The combined


neuropathy and rash definitely had my Spidey senses tingling a bit. Taxol is a “mind over matter” infusion experience – the neuropathy that is tied to taking this medicine means you either plunge your hands and feet into an ice bath or tether them to an ice block. You do this for the length of the infusion (think lots of brrrrr and it’s so cold it burns vibes), in hopes that this minimizes neuropathy risk. Two days later, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. No fever, yet I felt hot and weak, like fatigue to the point that the most Type A, productive person you know (raises hand and points to self) is in bed all day, which never, ever happens. I conferred with my oncologist, and we agreed it was likely a manifestation of the short form administration, and that it would resolve by the time I started cycle 2.

December 21st, the day before my 43rd birthday, I showed up for Taxol, round 2. Again, it was like any other one and I didn’t feel any different while at the center. The rest of that week was a hazy blur of full-body hives, Calamine lotion, slapping the most intense itchy hot spots on my hands and arms to keep from scratching them, and trying really hard not to let my fingertips touch anything, because every time they did, it felt like somebody was beating them with a hammer.

While everyone else enjoyed our traditional Christmas Eve and Christmas Day foodstuffs, I sipped on homemade protein shakes and tried to stay awake for our family’s annual tradition of watching Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. In desperation and apologetically, since it was Christmas week, I emailed my oncologist late on a Saturday night, using voice to text dictation since it hurt too badly to type. By that point even applying deodorant or fastening my bra took a great deal of effort. Since typing is critical to my livelihood, this hyper-sensitivity to anything involving my hands and fingers rightly freaked me out. On December 27th, I felt so dizzy walking to the bathroom that I just sat on the floor for a few minutes. Not normal, and not okay. By that time I’d taken to essentially holding onto furniture or family members when moving from one spot to another. Everything hurt and I started to wonder if all of chemo had been a mistake. I seriously contemplated quitting, and I’m no quitter. Still though, enough was enough. Taxol was absolutely harder on me than Red Devil chemo had ever been, and I was at my weakest emotional and physical point because of it. I was done.

If Taxol is part of your chemo regimen, trust your care team, trust the process, but also trust your body. The week between Christmas and New Year’s, he started me on a prednisone pack. While I quickly started to feel like a woman newly returned to the Land of the Living, I was still determined not to do another round of that awful stuff. That’s when he told me about Abraxane. It’s an alternative to Taxol, still classified as a taxane and with all the same cancer-fighting benefits as Taxol. It’s just made differently. “Taxol uses a solvent to dissolve its main ingredients so the medicine can enter the bloodstream. These solvents can make Taxol harder to tolerate while being given. Usually women take medicine before receiving Taxol to minimize any reactions to the solvents. Abraxane doesn’t use a solvent, which can make it easier to tolerate and also means that women don’t need to take medicine before receiving it.” Source: I can only presume that insurance is the reason Abraxane isn’t offered initially and is only a viable option after a patient demonstrates an adverse reaction to Taxol.

Photo provided by Rebecca Walden

If Taxol is part of your chemo regimen, trust your care team, trust the process, but also trust your body. I am sure that for many people, this drug presents no problems. But if you are receiving this medicine and something feels unusual for you – especially if your symptoms are interfering with basic day-to-day functions, you need to speak up. The steroids got me back into ship shape very quickly, with the hives completely subsiding over the next several weeks. I was also able to complete ten full rounds of Abraxane without issue. That made me proud, to have finished all 16 rounds we planned for, even though we had to pivot on the type of medication. God forbid this should ever return, it won’t be because I didn’t give it my all! Y’all be smart, be informed, and be your own advocate at every stage on this path. I am rooting for you!

The magazine for women affected by cancer


The True Value of Your Smile Written by Jill Meyer-Lippert, RDH Founder and CEO of Side Effect Support LLC



hen facing a cancer diagnosis, your mouth may be the last thing on your mind. But the reality is, your oral health can play a significant role in how comfortable your treatments are and can even play a role in how successful they are. Problems like dry mouth, mouth sores, untreated cavities, and infections can cause a cascade of potentially serious complications, especially when blood counts are low. Depending on the type of cancer and the types of treatments and medications used, some oral side effects are limited to the time of active treatment. Others can last far beyond the treatment timeline and contribute to long-term struggles to repair damage and regain a healthy mouth. While comfort and safety are obvious reasons to keep your mouth healthy, there are several additional reasons to value and protect your smile.

Protect Your Body From Other Chronic Health Conditions There is an important connection between the mouth and overall health; it’s called the oral-systemic link. Poor oral health and certain bacteria associated with oral diseases have been linked to various conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, pregnancy complications, respiratory disease, and Alzheimer’s. Keeping your smile healthy now can help you avoid other medical conditions in the future.

Avoid Financial and Time Toxicity Cancer care requires a significant investment of time and money for both patients and caregivers. So much so, that the terms “financial toxicity” and “time toxicity” were created explicitly to describe the hardship that can occur in both areas. Implementing preventive oral care routines can avoid transferring the time and financial investments made in oncology settings into dental settings to repair any damage that may have occurred during treatments.

Better Self Esteem and Social Acceptance Our smile is our first introduction to others. A decline in appearance with discolored, decayed, or missing teeth can trigger feelings of personal embarrassment and loss of self-confidence. Oral health problems can also be accompanied by bad breath odors that are difficult, if not impossible, to mask. This can make social interactions uncomfortable and may cause someone to avoid interactions and relationships.

Reduce Pain, Stress, and Anxiety Naturally Smiling triggers your brain to produce feel-good chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. These chemicals act as natural pain relievers and lower blood pressure, stress, and anxiety without medication!

Spread Happiness Around You Research suggests that smiles are actually contagious. Your brain automatically notices and interprets other people’s facial expressions. When you see a smile, parts of your brain activate to process sensory rewards. In other words, when you see someone else smiling, you feel rewarded, which feels good and causes a smile! On the flip side, negative facial expressions or lack of smiling can also create similar feelings in those around you. If you are heading into treatments, don’t wait for problems to start before taking action. Ask your doctor, nurse navigator, and dental team if you should expect any side effects in your mouth. And if so, ask what you can do to possibly prevent or minimize risks. Keeping your mouth healthy will offer benefits both physically and emotionally. And that is really something to smile about! Knowledge is power. Find additional information and tips to minimize side effects in your mouth under the Resources and Blogs tabs at

About the Author Jill Meyer-Lippert, RDH is the founder of Side Effect Support (, an online resource for cancer patients, family caregivers, and healthcare providers to reduce harmful oral side effects of treatments. Jill is a 2014 recipient of the Sunstar Americas/RDH Award of Distinction, holds a certificate in Oncology Management, and is an instructor for the National Network of Healthcare Hygienists’ Oncology Certificate Program. She is a member of the Registered Dental Hygienist Advisory Board for the Oral Cancer Foundation and was named one of the “6 Dental Hygienists You Want to Know” by Dimensions of Dental Hygiene magazine in 2022.

References on page 31

The magazine for women affected by cancer


Fall and Holiday Makeup Trends Written by Jamie Hess Professional Makeup Artist

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Whether you’re getting dressed up for a holiday party, heading out to watch a football game or just wanting to look your best, it’s time to transition out of summer’s sheer, dewy makeup and into the rich, luxurious textures of the fall.

For those evenings that require a little more drama, these added touches will enhance any look. Go ahead and do it! Enjoy the extra pizzaz for even a short time. The added glamour just might perk you up if you’ve been feeling low.

Look no further than your morning cup of Joe for latte inspired tones for the whole face. Universally flattering, this summer’s “latte makeup” trend will continue into fall.

Whether you’re wanting to thicken, lengthen, lift or simply make a statement, false lashes instantly draw attention to the eye. Ardell’s Demi Wispies are a classic, flared, Invisiband style, while Velour Lashes “Velour-Xtensions False Lash Clusters” allow for an individual, precise and stylistic placement.

For eyes, stay completely matte or mix metallics. Either way, add rich, deep latte shades to enhance the eye shape. Patrick Ta’s “Major Dimension”eyeshadow palette is a beautiful combination of matte, metallic and cream textures. For lips, look to the browns and beiges of the 90’s for liner, lipstick and lipgloss. Dior Addict “Nude Look” (100) and “Dior Cannage” (716) are two luxurious beiges that complement all skin tones. If you’re dipping nails into a darker shade, continue to look to cups of coffee and hot chocolate like Essie’s “No To-Do” for inspiration. Whether it be matte, shiny, white or a color, a French manicure is classic, customizable and looks great on all nail shapes and lengths. Metallic mani’s in all colors will pair beautifully with the “latte makeup” trend. Add a mirror chrome finish for an edgy look.

This season’s color suggestions: Patrick Ta’s “Major Dimension” Dior Addict “Nude Look” (100) Dior Addict “Dior Cannage” (716) Essie’s “No To-Do” Ardell “Demi Wispies” Velour Lashes “Velour-Xtensions False Lash Clusters” Dior “999”

A bold lip is a timeless choice and one that can make as much of an impression as a dramatic necklace. In 1953, Christian Dior created the lipsticks 9 and 99. Recently they were modernized as Dior 999 and heralded as the red for every skin tone. In addition to its universal color, the lipstick comes in a satin, velvet, matte and metal metallic finish. This classic color and all its beautiful finishes are sure to flatter anyone that wears them. Whether it’s a casual get together or an elegant night out, try some of these tips so you’ll be celebrating in style. Be bold, own these trends and make the most of this season!

Enhance Your Look!


Hospital Bag Reviews Written by Harper Tagg Brighter Intern

Hospital visits can be scary and stressful, and sometimes packing to go only heightens those negative emotions. To make the process as smooth and relaxed as possible, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite hospital and weekend bags. With one of these over your shoulder, you will not only be more organized, but you’ll look fashionable as you step out.

Beis - The Weekender Bag Our first bag, brought to you by Beis, is a perfect combination of style and functionality. The Beis The Weekender Bag, available in nine colors, boasts easy-access openings and organization. In addition, the bag has a separate bottom compartment designed to keep shoes, toiletries and other essentials separate. The Weekender runs at $108, making it a middle of the road price for excellent quality and functionality.

Away - Large Everywhere Bag Next, we have The Large Everywhere Bag by Away. This bag retails for $248, but its heftier price tag is proportionate to its functionality. The Large Everywhere Bag is unique in its storage style. Rather than performing like a usual weekender, the front of the bag unzips like a suitcase. With a compression compartment for clothes, as well as three interior zipper pockets, this bag is perfect for a multiple day stay or just a night away. Additionally, the bag is manufactured in three colors and is available for monogramming.

Madewell - The Essential Overnight Bag Likewise, The Essential Overnight Bag in leather by Madewell is a fabulous combination of fashion and functionality. The bag boasts a roomy interior pocket, as well as separate

compartments for organization. With two sets of handles to suit your carrying preferences, it is large enough to be an overnight bag and fashionable enough to act as a day-to-day carry-all. The Essential Overnight Bag comes in two colors and is available for personalization.

Lululemon - Go Better Bag 2.0 Our next bag is perfect if you’re looking for a more sporty but still fashionable look. Lululemon’s Go Better Bag 2.0, marketed at $158, combines sleek athleticism with storage and functionality. The bag includes several interior pockets for organization as well as an exterior zippered pocket for easy access. Additionally, the bag’s handles are padded and designed for carrying ease. The perfect tote for a weekend away, this bag is available in two colors.

Everlane - The ReNew Transit Backpack Our next bag is perfect for anyone who would prefer a backpack over a typical weekender. Everlane’s The ReNew Transit Backpack offers tons of different storage options and a sleek design in five color combinations. The backpack’s interior is roomy, and with two exterior pockets for easy access, the 100% recyclable design is perfect for a long day or night away. Retailing at $95, this bag is perfect for a slightly shorter trip or anyone hoping for a bit more maneuverability. We hope these recommendations spark joy and alleviate stress that can come with spending time away from home. Whether it’s a weekend getaway or a brief hospital stay, we hope that one of these bags will help you look forward to packing and keep you organized for the journey.

The magazine for women affected by cancer


Leg-ging Up

On Fall

F Written by Brittney Dorr Fashion Consultant

all is the time for cool weather, hot pumpkin spice lattes, and all of the holiday yummy goodies. If you are like me, stretchy pants - especially leggings - are a must! How can you style them for fall and get a leg-ging up on both comfort and the latest trends? Give these ideas a try!

Casual Styles with Leggings and Sports Tops Throw on a comfy jacket, I always lean toward a bomber jacket or denim jacket, with a ball cap, sneakers, and some accessories. If you are in a colder weather climate, I would grab a trench coat or a longer wool jacket. You can always layer a hoodie under your jacket with the hood left out of the collar. Accessorize! My go-to accessory is a gold hoop with a couple of layered necklaces. This outfit is effortless, cozy, and perfect for running errands. It’s also suitable for a casual lunch date that could unexpectedly arise.


Smart, Casual Approaches with Leggings for Everyday Business Grab your favorite graphic tee paired with a shacket (a shirt-like jacket). I love a good army green or camo print shacket; it goes with pretty much any of my favorite classic rock band tee-shirts or plain white shirts. Combat boots or sneakers are my preferred shoe for this look.

Conventional Work Atmosphere with Leggings Switch out your graphic tee with a blouse (untucked), a great-fitting blazer, and a pump or heeled bootie. My rule of thumb for being in a “dressy casual” environment with leggings is that my jacket is ALWAYS longer than the booty. Not everyone can afford that perfectly fitting five-hundred-dollar blazer, so find one that fits your shoulders and get it taken in on the waist. You will see your figure transform before your eyes, it is truly like magic! Achieving a professional appearance while wearing leggings can be easy. If you pair them with a flowy top, be sure to add some accessories to create a balanced look. A well-fitted blazer can be the essential element to create a polished business look.

Holiday Party Legging Looks One of my absolute favorite leggings is the Spanx faux leather legging. I like to wear mine with a sparkly sweater or a bright-colored blouse, a pump, a fun high heel, bootie, or sparkly flat with big chunky accessories. With a dressy occasion like a holiday party, this can be your opportunity to try that bold lip you have always wondered about. If you have a fun jeweled blazer or jacket, this is your time to rock it. Remember, make sure to cover your behind for a more appropriate and dressier atmosphere. When styling leggings, it's important to prioritize comfort and confidence in your personal fashion choices. Looking good and feeling great about what you wear can be empowering, regardless of your age, body shape, or current stage of life. Style is a vibe and everyone has one!

About the Author Brittney is a 36-year-old woman with Hawaiian roots residing in Dallas. She lives with her husband and dog. They are excitedly anticipating the arrival of a baby in early 2024. She is passionate about fashion and has 12 years of experience in retail management and styling. Her mother's strength during her battle with breast cancer inspires her to live life to the fullest. She loves helping people feel good about themselves and boosting their confidence.

The magazine for women affected by cancer


Lost Your Appetite? Try These Tips! Written by Ariana Wang Brighter Intern

As a cancer patient, you may experience loss of appetite for a few reasons. A tumor around the gastrointestinal tract, for example, may cause trouble swallowing or make a person feel full despite an empty stomach. Other tumors release hormones that make it difficult for the body to recognize hunger. The side effects of cancer, such as stress, pain, and depression, can also reduce a person’s appetite. The types of cancer that are most likely to cause appetite loss include gastrointestinal cancer (e.g. colon cancer, stomach cancer, bowel cancer and pancreatic cancer), as well as head and neck cancer (e.g. oral cancer, head cancer, neck cancer and lung cancer). Additionally, some cancer treatments can also affect taste, smell, appetite and the ability to absorb nutrients from food. These treatments include chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation therapy, surgery, immunotherapy and stem cell transplants. Although appetite loss may seem like a minor issue, it should not be overlooked. Weight loss can decrease the effectiveness of treatment and make side effects more prominent as the dose of chemotherapy or radiotherapy is chosen by measuring weight and height before treatment starts. Furthermore, malnutrition weakens the patient and makes it harder to fight off infection and finish cancer treatment. Thus, your goal throughout treatment should be to increase nutrition and maintain weight.


Here Are a Few Tips to Keep Yourself Nourished Despite a Loss of Appetite: Eat Small Meals/Snacks Instead of Big Meals Eat five or six small meals throughout the day instead of three big meals. Smaller meals may be easier to manage when your appetite is low, but enough of them can still fill you up with the nutrients you’ll need to maintain weight. Further, consider setting up a schedule to eat at routine times. Doing so can be helpful in reminding you to eat even when you aren’t experiencing hunger. Eat Snacks That are High in Calories/Protein Keep foods that contain high amounts of calories and proteins on hand to snack on whenever you’re feeling hungry. Good options include hard-boiled eggs, granola bars, nuts, and trail mix. Also, you may find it helpful to include an array of calorie and protein-dense liquids on hand, such as milk, milkshakes, and smoothies. Liquids are an easy way to stay nourished if you have no appetite.

Increase Calories and Protein Within Meals To your meals, add foods that increase the calorie and protein content. Just a little bit of the following can add both flavor and nutrition to your meal overall: butter, cheese, sour cream, nut butters, and sauces. Drink Liquids Between meals, drink liquids to keep yourself hydrated. Try fluids that increase calories, such as sports drinks with electrolytes. However, avoid drinking liquids while eating if you’re experiencing appetite loss. Liquids can quickly fill you up, making it harder to eat. If you need liquids to help you swallow or to aid with dry mouth, however, this does not apply. Eat Foods at Cold or Room Temperature If the smell or taste of food makes you nauseous, consider eating foods at room temperature. The temperature decreases odor and reduces taste, making it considerably easier to ingest if you are feeling queasy. If you are still struggling to eat, stick to bland foods, such as oatmeal, white rice, pasta, potatoes and soups without cream.

Be Physically Active Light exercise, such as a short walk, can help you feel hungry for a meal later on. However, it’s important that you start off slow and respect your limits. Listen to your body!

Though these tips may be useful, be sure to consult your health care team to receive specific information on what you can do to feel better. Here are some questions you may want to ask at your next visit: - What food and drink choices are best for me? - What symptoms should trigger a call to you? - Are there vitamins and supplements that I should avoid/take? - Should a dietician be part of my care team? If so, whom do you recommend?

The magazine for women affected by cancer


Nurturing Your Gut Health During Cancer Treatment

Written by Cara Price PN1 Nutrition Coach, CrossFit L1 Trainer

Maintaining a healthy gut becomes even more crucial for your overall well-being in the journey through cancer treatment. As Hippocrates wisely stated, “All disease begins in the gut.” It’s essential to acknowledge that it might be difficult to eat enough food during this challenging time, but there are still ways to encourage gut health and support your body through the process. Embracing the idea that we are what we eat and what we absorb through digestion, let’s explore some gentle ways to promote gut health, even when eating might be a challenge:

Focus on Nourishing Choices.

A consistent and nurturing nutritional routine can work wonders for your gut health. Opt for whole foods whenever possible, as they provide essential nutrients and minimize harmful preservatives found in many packaged foods. Incorporate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins daily, if possible.

Linger on Each Bite.

While it may seem simple, chewing your food thoroughly is incredibly important for digestion. The digestive process begins even before food enters your mouth, as the smell triggers saliva production. By thoroughly chewing your food, you enhance this process and assist your stomach in breaking down the nutrients effectively, allowing your body to absorb their benefits.

Opt for Gut-Friendly Foods.

Some foods can particularly benefit your gut health during cancer treatment. Try adding plain Greek yogurt or non-dairy alternatives, bone broth, kombucha and fermented foods. These choices aid digestion and promote the production of the right stomach acids to support your overall gut health.


Harness the Power of Probiotics and Prebiotics.

Probiotics and prebiotics are becoming increasingly popular for good reason. These beneficial microorganisms play a significant role in promoting digestion and maintaining a healthy gut. You can find probiotics in fermented foods, as mentioned earlier, and prebiotics in foods like bananas, berries, asparagus, garlic, and onions. While achieving good gut health might require consistent effort, especially during cancer treatment, it is possible with determination and small steps. Prioritize the above suggestions, but remember, you don’t need to do everything simultaneously. Take it one step at a time and listen to your body’s needs. If incorporating everything feels challenging, consider supplementing with quality probiotics and prebiotics to support your gut health. Remember, you are strong, and by nurturing your gut, you empower your body to cope better with the challenges ahead. Your health and well-being matter, and every positive step, no matter how small, contributes to your healing journey. Keep moving forward with hope and determination, and know you are not alone in this fight against cancer.

The magazine for women affected by cancer



Photo provided by Reece Hall

Share Worthy Recipes Written by Sarah Wilson Clinical Oncology Dietician Photography by Reece Hall

Dress for Success... Next time you open the fridge, take a look at the Nutrition Facts label on your store-bought salad dressings. You may be surprised by the saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar content. Store-bought salad dressings are often loaded with ingredients that can have a negative impact on your health. Don’t be fooled by “reduced-fat” or “fat-free” dressing options, either. The dressing has to taste good for the consumer to purchase it, so many of these so-called healthier options contain even more added sugars or other unnatural ingredients to make up for the taste change when the fat was removed. But don’t get discouraged! You can make your own healthy and tasty salad dressings at home. And it may be easier than you think. Keeping a few kitchen staples on hand can help you create your favorite flavors and meet your dietary needs – likely in 5-10 minutes! Oils: Heart-healthy oils such as olive oil, avocado oil, and canola oil are versatile options for creating a smooth and balanced base for your dressing. Vinegars: Balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, and distilled white vinegar offer a range of tangy and acidic flavors to enhance flavors. Citrus juices: Lemon juice, lime juice, and orange juices add brightness to the taste. Mustards: Dijon mustard and stone-ground mustards help emulsify the dressing and make it smooth. Herbs: Dried or fresh herbs such as oregano, thyme, dill, and rosemary infuse your dressing with aromatic notes. Spices: Cumin, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper can add a new depth of flavor. Greek yogurt: A low-fat (1%) or fat-free (0%) plain Greek yogurt can be used to create a creamy dressing with a tangy flavor and an extra punch of protein. Tahini: This heart-healthy creamy sesame paste works well in Mediterranean-inspired dressings. Fresh onions, shallots, and garlic: Freshly minced onion, shallot, or garlic can add a hint of sharpness. Impress your family and friends with this colorful, fall-friendly salad topped with a simple, homemade salad dressing. Unused dressing can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Hello, leftovers!

Autumn Harvest Salad Yields: 4 servings

Active time: 30 minutes

Apple Cider Vinaigrette Ingredients: 1½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon black pepper Salad Ingredients: ½ large butternut squash, cut into ½ inch cubes 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning 1 teaspoon garlic powder ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon black pepper 5-ounce package of baby spinach or arugula 1 medium apple, thinly sliced ½ cup pomegranate seeds ¼ cup reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled ½ cup pistachios, shelled Instructions: Preheat oven to 400° F. In a large mixing bowl, toss together cubed butternut squash, olive oil, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes until tender and allow to cool. While the butternut squash is roasting, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, salt, and pepper in a small mixing bowl and set aside. In a large serving bowl, combine spinach and/ or arugula, roasted butternut squash, apple, pomegranate seeds, feta cheese, and pistachios. Pour desired amount of dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Enjoy!

The magazine for women affected by cancer


The Who, What, Why, & How

Medical Gaslighting-

Written by Meredith R. Mitstifer, Psy.D Licensed Clinical Psychologist Ovarian Cancer Survivor & Advocate

As a cancer advocate, all too often I hear women diagnosed with cancer share their personal stories of medical symptom dismissal initially. Common themes stated included: “It’s all in your head, you don’t look sick, all you need to do is lose weight, you’re too young to get cancer, are you sure it’s not anxiety or stress that are exaggerating your symptoms” and more. As a cancer advocate, I speak to women on empowerment and raising their voices when they believe something is medically wrong. I find the need to often reinforce the concept that they know their body best. To think when women finally do reach out for support, advice, and evaluation, they are perhaps met with symptom minimization is frustrating, let alone the possibility of worse health outcomes is unacceptable. The concept of gaslighting originated from a movie entitled “Gaslight” where a husband manipulates his wife’s reality, making her doubt herself and own judgment. Medical Gaslighting has become a popular term that often refers to the dismissal or downplaying of a patient’s symptoms. While the term tends to suggest intentional, purposeful manipulation of a patient, know this is not always the case. As humans, we all have conscious and unconscious biases which could contribute to “unintentional” or “unmalicious” gaslighting. Research continues to


suggest racial and gender inequalities occur in our health care system. Specifically, black middle-class women who complain about pain are more frequently underestimated and under-treated compared to their male counterparts per Tina Sacks, PhD, a social scientist who wrote a book called Invisible Visits: Black Middle-Class Women in the American Health Care System (2019). She additionally notes that people with disabilities and immigrants are also among the most at risk for gaslighting. Either way, intentional or unintentional medical gaslighting remains problematic. How can you protect yourself from Medical Gaslighting? Know the warning signs. First and foremost, if you leave a physician’s office feeling invalidated, trivialized, disrespected or your symptoms minimized, you may be experiencing medical gaslighting. If you feel your physician lacks empathy or sensitivity, doesn’t appear to be listening, constantly interrupts you and fails to take your concerns seriously, you may want to seek out a second opinion. As I commonly suggest when I speak to medical students as an ovarian cancer survivor, they as future physicians, need to stop thinking only about what boxes are being checked off and listen to their patients. A cancer diagnosis doesn’t always emerge or exist because of a perfect checklist.

A cancer diagnosis doesn’t always emerge or exist because of a perfect checklist.

As cancer survivors, we are more than a number. Our symptoms may be unexplainable at times, but they are symptoms nonetheless. Do not be afraid to assert yourself, share your concerns, needs, and emphasize that the symptoms you are reporting are not the norm for you. We need to worry less about being a “good patient,” and rather be our best advocate. Recommendations also include the idea of bringing a friend or family member to your appointment who is aware of your symptoms, side effects, medical complications, etc. Keep a diary of your symptoms, their frequency, etc. and write down questions in advance to make certain all your concerns are addressed. Also, doctor appointments can already make us feel vulnerable. A power differential exists between you and the doctor, so don’t be afraid to request time prior to undressing or re-dressing after examination to have a conversation about your concerns. Last, find a doctor you trust. Let’s face it, healthcare professionals are commonly limited with their time, versus patient load. It’s important that you raise your concerns and cause them to pause and listen, if they seem to rush you out. You deserve excellent health care. Be heard and be well.



S I N G . DA . N AY


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

Sunday Best - Surfaces

Dancing in the Moonlight - Jubël & NEIMY

Okay not to be OK - Marshmallow & Demi Lovato

If you’d like to submit your idea for a future JAM list go to and submit your favorite songs. The magazine for women affected by cancer


How Can I Help Written by Gabriela Gaona Brighter Intern

“How can I help?” “What can I do?” “What do you need?” These are all questions you’ve likely been asked countless times since being diagnosed. Friends and family members inquire out of a genuine desire to alleviate stress during this difficult time in your life, but these questions might put you on the spot and make you feel uncomfortable.

Accepting Help

First, it’s crucial to establish that it’s not only okay, but it’s a healthy exchange to ask for and receive help. Going through cancer and treatment is a challenge, and relying on other people for things you would normally do yourself is completely normal. Cancer changes the way you typically go about your life, whether it be your physical ability to do things, your capacity to focus on certain tasks, or something completely different. Getting assistance from those around you is not a sign of weakness, and although accepting it may seem difficult at first, consider a bigger picture outside of cancer: giving and receiving is simply part of life as humans, in general. If you find yourself having difficulty receiving help, it might be worthwhile to do a short self-examination as to why. Ask yourself What’s stopping you from allowing aid? Do you feel that you can’t or shouldn’t receive help? It’s imperative that you ask yourself “why” you feel this way and understand the reasoning behind your thoughts. Getting to the root of your belief can help you alleviate any internal stigma you might have with accepting help.

When someone offers you help it’s important to be gracious in the moment and embrace their assistance. Their help is representative of their love for you, and your receival of it allows both parties to feel more fulfilled and cared for. One way to practice accepting help more easily is to start a gratitude journal. Gratitude journals are a great way to boost your positive emotions by writing down who and what you are grateful for, and how these things have positively impacted you. Or, if journaling isn’t your thing, write a thank you note telling someone how cherished they are and how you appreciate their help.

Give Them Resources

Giving your friends and family a list of ways they can support you is one way to take the pressure off you in the moment. Making a list can be easy with an application that allows for both creating and sharing with others. Your list could contain a variety of things, such as: a link to an Amazon wishlist, time slots when you’d enjoy a call and or visit with a friend, a catalog of your favorite restaurants or foods, and so much more. The great thing about creating a list is that it’s customizable and tailored to you and your needs. Having your list (or a link to it) readily available on your phone is a great way to streamline accepting help. Lists also allow your loved ones to support you in a way that they choose and can have confidence you’ll appreciate. Be sure to include options that don’t involve spending money, in addition to monetary/purchasable options to offer an array of choices to support you.

Don’t Feel Pressured To “Pay It Back” Wishlists In addition to examining your thoughts and feelings around support, it’s important to note that you don’t have to “pay it back.” Someone offering you help does so because they care about you and want to ensure that you continue to thrive in spite of the challenges you’re currently facing. Automatically returning their help the moment they give it to you essentially deflects their help and negates their initial intentions: to support you.



Making an Amazon wishlist, or a wishlist on another site is a great option for loved ones who may be far away or with less time on their hands. For those of you who remember the days of registries, wishlists are a similar way to convey preferences and needs. While sending someone a wishlist might feel awkward at first, family and friends often appreciate the guidance. If you’re unsure of which sites allow you to make wishlists, Brighter’s got you covered with some stores that offer this service.

Target: Allows you to make a wishlist through their registry feature Amazon: Has a specific feature that allows you to create a wishlist Walmart: Allows you to make a wishlist using their registry Nordstrom: When you create a Nordstrom account, you can create a wishlist

Be sure to check your favorite place to shop to see if wishlists are an option. They’re a huge help for all!

Keeping You Company

For loved ones who are close by with a little bit more availability in their schedules, keeping you company is another great way to help. Treatments can take a while, and having someone there to wait with you can really improve the quality of your treatment. Sharing time together outside of treatment can also boost your mood and help alleviate the overwhelming sense of loneliness often felt by cancer patients. Consider asking people to go to lunch, accompany you as you go about your day, or sit with you during a slow day inside. Make a list of times when you might benefit from having someone with you, so others can coordinate what work best with their schedules. Writing down these times can also be useful when planning out your schedule for treatment, work, and other responsibilities, allowing you to balance your daily tasks more efficiently. Building stronger connections with those already in your life can help boost your mood, and cognitive function. A study done by Carnegie Mellon University showed that adults with stronger social networks tended to have less harmful habits like drinking or smoking. Another study showed that spending time with loved ones led to better memory function, lower physical signs and symptoms of stress, and better cognitive capacity as one ages.

Acts of Service

Tasks like grocery shopping, laundry, washing the dishes, or even taking out the trash can sometimes feel daunting if side effects are impacting you. Enlisting loved ones’ assistance for regular tasks is another easy way for others to help you with just a small amount of guidance. Running typical errands, picking up dry cleaning or pharmacy items, emptying the dishwasher and more are simple tasks that are a huge help. People love these small acts of service, because they know how to do them and they can get them done efficiently as they are handling their own day. Who wouldn’t love a little extra help with these necessary but mundane tasks? Let others ease your daily workload and give them the joy of helping you on a regular basis. The bottom line is this: asking for help is a necessary part of life, regardless of your health status. We all need help from time to time. And receiving it can be a gift to everyone involved. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to strengthen your relationships!

The magazine for women affected by cancer


She Turned TikTok into a Force for Good

Written by Erin Schreyer Photography by Erin Schreyer



ithout any genetic history and in the best shape of her life, Katie Fleenor thought it was oddly curious to find a small lump in her armpit and then another tiny nodule in her breast days later. It was downright shocking, though, for the 23-year-old to receive a triple negative breast cancer diagnosis in the subsequent weeks. In her small Tennessee town, she knew nobody who had ever experienced cancer, so she couldn’t even process, much less comprehend with clarity what “stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma” even meant. Although Katie is a medical professional herself; an MRI technician for a regional health system, her expertise isn’t in specific cancer terminology or the variety of oncological treatments. “The only word I understood that came out of [the radiologist’s] mouth was cancer. I didn’t understand anything else,” she lamented. Thankfully, Katie’s loved ones didn’t hesitate to surround her. The very day of her diagnosis, they gathered together, dove deep into research and determined where her best options for care were located. Cancer “journey” took on a whole new meaning when the closest medical facility with the highest level of expertise for her triple negative breast cancer was a whopping four-hour commute to VanderbiltIngram Cancer Center in Nashville. Determined to leverage the most specialized knowledge to create and administer her treatment plan, she made the decision to traverse her beautiful state and make the best of travel time for the next six months. Although she had to take the long road to treatment, Katie took a shorter route in another major area of life. She and her fiancé, Taylor, had plans to marry that October. They realized it would be in the middle of treatment, likely not feeling well, not interested in food or dancing, and without question, bald. So, after being diagnosed on August 11th, they decided to unite as husband and wife on August 20th in a very intimate church ceremony. “I wanted pictures in my wedding dress with hair and feeling like myself,” she proclaimed! They still have plans to continue with their big wedding, though. “We were originally going to push back one year and do the same date we had originally chosen, but I’ll still be doing oral chemo and will also be recovering from another surgery. So, we’re pushing back yet another year, and then we’re going to have a really big celebration!” Neither cancer, nor treatment seem to submit to the best laid plans, but Katie and Taylor are confident in their decision. Being married not only allowed them to use insurance plans from both of their respective employers, but it also provided Taylor with FMLA benefits, including time off to help care for Katie when she needed it most.

The couple has gotten a clear picture of “in sickness and in health” right from the start, and when you see them together today as they flirt and laugh with each other, it appears to have only strengthened their foundation as a couple. It’s a blessing that came at the right time, because treatment is often challenging, sometimes confusing and frequently isolating. Katie, who has now completed her chemotherapy infusions, recalled the toll that it took, even on her young and extremely fit physique. “When I got diagnosed, I was in the best shape of my life. I had intentions of competing in bodybuilding,” she explained for reference. “Taxol (chemotherapy) took a toll on my heart and lungs. I had no stamina. I’d be out of breath just getting up to wash the dishes. The shortness of breath was crazy to me. It was a big change.” “Taxol is also known to cause neuropathy, so I had to ice my hands and feet during infusions. It’s very painful,” she followed without hesitation. “I would feel down for about three days or so after the

Katie Fleenor’s Viral Videos Generate Joy in the Midst of Cancer The magazine for women affected by cancer


[Wednesday] infusion, and then by the time it hit Sunday, I would start to get energy back, and I was able to eat a little more and be active.” Following Taxol, she began a three-month regimen of Doxorubicin, otherwise known as the “Red Devil” and apparently aptly named. Katie didn’t hesitate to emphasize, “That was rough!” It would often take four full days for her to awaken from the sleepy stupor caused by the medicinal combination. “I had no energy to do anything until at least a week after chemo,” she clarified. “Ten days after the infusion, I could work my way back into the gym. Then I would have about two weeks of feeling a little better until the next round, and I’d do it all over again.” Not wanting other women to be surprised by the honest details of cancer treatment, Katie took to social media. Remembering when she was initially diagnosed, she found comfort in YouTube videos shared by another survivor. Because that young woman was raw, but also with a determination to remain positive, Katie found comfort and some level of preparedness for what she was going to face in her own treatment. She decided that she, too, could lend a hand to anyone following behind her. And so she reestablished her once deleted account on TikTok.

of female cancer diagnoses at an all-time high of one-out-of-every-three women, her videos aren’t just appreciated, but needed by thousands of women who are nervous about what lies ahead in their own treatment path. Now with more than 250,000 followers, in excess of 3 million likes and including several viral videos, Katie has secured a space to bring comfort and hope to survivors. She never expected this, and it’s not always easy, either. Often harshly criticized or judged by others with their own strong opinions or conspiracy theories, she has to take some flack along with the good. “I still wouldn’t change a thing,” she affirms. ”I believe this has all been for a purpose, and you can’t be upset about something when there’s real good in it.” In what seems like “typical” Katie fashion, she upholds an optimistic viewpoint. When asked where that comes from, she is quick to defer the attention. “Before cancer, I had always gone to church, but once I got stuck at home so often, I found myself actually taking the time to read my bible and devotionals every morning. Whenever I would wake up worried or thinking about whatever problem I was facing that day; whatever trial I was struggling with mentally, it just never failed that there was an answer in my devotional. Whether it was ‘don’t worry, rest your head upon me,’ or ‘I’m here for you, I will take your worries away,’ He seriously did every single time,” she expressed through tears. “There was always an answer there for me, and He always turned me right to it.”

“You have cancer, but don’t let cancer have you! Don’t let it change your life. Don’t coop up and not see friends. Of course be careful, but don’t let it consume your life. You still have a life, so be sure to see people, get out, and move when you feel up to it.”

Without any expertise or social media savvy, Katie simply started sharing the details of her story and her day-to-day experiences, bringing followers along every step of the way. “I never did this for any reason other than to help people,” Katie emphatically asserted. “I got more followers and views than I thought I would, but nothing over the top. If it helped even one person, I thought it was worth it.” But all that changed one day when she created a video about her new, natural-hair wig that had arrived in the mail. A week after she shared the video, it suddenly went viral, and she became an inspiration to other women just beginning or in the midst of cancer treatment.

Sharing her journey via videos with simple editing, self-deprecating humor, animated facial expressions, lots of laughter and a sincere honesty, Katie has attracted quite a following. Sadly, with the number


Just as quickly as she shared her faithful foundation, Katie also wanted to share another reality: “People probably watch my videos and think OMG she’s happy all the time, but that’s not the case, either. I’ve tried to incorporate that into my TikToks too; to show the raw days and the days I sleep all the time and the days that I’m upset and crying. I try to be very real and show people you don’t always have to be so happy and strong for others. You just need to take care of yourself. Don’t be afraid to have your feelings or talk to someone about how you really feel. Nobody should be above that. You just can’t.” Katie expressed that one of the hardest parts of cancer treatment is the stark change from running at full steam (pre-cancer) to sitting at home all the time once treatment starts. While protecting yourself

from germs and taking precautions is important, the isolation can be really hard. She carefully but passionately emphasized, “You have cancer, but don’t let cancer have you! Don’t let it change your life. Don’t coop up and not see friends. Of course be careful, but don’t let it consume your life. You still have a life, so be sure to see people, get out, and move when you feel up to it.” When asked if there were any silver linings to cancer, it wasn’t too surprising that Katie had several responses, most of which she shared with howling laughter. She reinforced, “Sometimes, you just have to laugh about it!”

She shared this with sparkles in her eyes and hope overflowing. What a bright light she shines, even when she is still doing oral chemotherapy, immunotherapy and is waiting for her October surgery to replace her breast expanders with permanent implants. Nonetheless, Katie’s zest for life and all that lies ahead can hardly be contained. Thankfully, she doesn’t want to contain it…and that’s why she shares. She wants to shine, but not for her own glory, nor her own fame. Her humility, joy and purpose is why you’ll want to follow her. Find her on TikTok and also Instagram @Katie.fleenor and be prepared to smile. It’s precisely why she’s “out there.” If she can shine light or ease the burden, it will all be worth it to her.

Things she chalked up to good include: • The showers are so fast! I love the short hair. It’s so much easier. During chemo, you don’t have to shave. You get in, wash, and done! It doesn’t take much. • I hate to say this one, but you get the pull the “cancer card!” People come to us. When they ask if we want to have dinner sure! Want to bring it? • I get to send my husband to run all my errands. • I’ve worn comfy clothes for so long now. I have all the loungewear! Her final answer was less humorous and more about her legacy. Katie revealed that she and Taylor did IVF before she started chemo. They have embryos waiting for them when they are ready to start a family.

Follow Katie Fleenor on TikTok for relatable, transparent, humorous, and emotional content that will undoubtedly brighten your spirits!

The magazine for women affected by cancer


Reclaiming Intimacy Written by Heather Nemec, LCSW

For many of us, it’s the one side effect seldom addressed by doctors or literature until you find yourself in the middle of the “desert”.

Physical Effects of Treatment on Sexual Health Hormone Therapy:

-Causes an abrupt onset of early menopause, which can decrease libido and sexual arousal and increase vaginal pain/tightness/dryness -Complicated by hot flashes and chronic fatigue, intimacy is often placed on the back burner.

Radiation Therapy:

-Pelvic radiation can exacerbate vaginal dryness, pain with intercourse, impair bladder function -Scarring of vaginal walls can lead to anatomical changes requiring manual dilation.


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Cancer treatment impacts so many facets of your life. One often-neglected aspect of cancer care is sexuality. That said, the need is real because treatment impacts various domains of sexual function; specifically sexual desire, arousal, orgasm, pain and body image.

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-Breast removal/reconstruction produce scarring and partial or complete numbness of the breasts and/or nipples -Pelvic surgeries can alter structure and function -Colorectal surgeries can alter GI function requiring ostomy bags -Surgeries of the head/neck can affect oral function


-Side effects including hair loss, weight gain, fatigue, nausea and GI concerns can impair sense of self, body image and attractiveness -Women struggling with self-image may feel undesirable to their current/potential partners


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-Prescriptions for pain, nausea, depression, hormone blocking can all decrease sexual desire





Most women fail to mention their sexual health concerns to their health care team, some out of embarrassment and others assuming it’s part of the treatment process. Additionally, health care professionals often fail to bring it up with their patients.


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According to the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, “60% of cancer survivors experience long term sexual issues, but only 25% of those patients will seek professional help.” The lack of conversation around sexual health issues causes many survivors to not receive the support they deserve, ultimately putting a strain on their relationships.

Emotional Effects of Treatment on Sexual Health Depression/Anxiety:

-Depressed mood can decrease desire -Anxiety about performance or potential pain create barriers to intimacy -Medications used to treat depression/anxiety often cause sexual side effects, conversely untreated depression can further impair libido and feelings of connectedness


-Longing for your “old self” can induce feelings of sadness -Feeling guilty about how cancer has also impacted your partner compounds loss of “what used to be”

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“How can I be intimate when I have things (drains, ostomy bags, lines, etc.) attached to my body?”

-Existential loss of health for those with no prior history of health issues -Anticipatory anxiety about possible recurrence can impact thought life

Self Esteem/Body Image:

-Embracing scars and permanent changes is a gradual process -Feeling disconnected from your body due to loss of sensation (ie. breast tissue removal) -Staying present in your body and focusing on other areas of the body for arousal

Improving Sexual Health Sex Therapy:

-Educating couples how to communicate, express their feelings and implement mindfulness or relaxation techniques -Learning how to reframe/redefine what pleasure means -Encouraging spontaneity and foreplay rekindles arousal “Discussions around safety and pleasure are critical when working with couples; normalizing their feelings, holding space and giving them permission to communicate with one another” promotes sexual health according to Alex Huffman, LCSW, sex therapist for UT Southwestern Simmons Cancer Center. Ms. Huffman helps couples visualize a response model to sexuality equivalent to “brakes and accelerators”. The key is to “maximize accelerators and minimize brakes.”

Vaginal Products:

-Experimenting with hormone free vaginal lubricants/moisturizers or topical anesthetics to reduce dryness and friction associated with intercourse. -For me, it took trial and error to find the perfect product. I’ve since shared product recommendations with other survivors struggling with similar side effects. -“Strengthen, stretch and moisturize: these are all essential ingredients to long-term vaginal health,” reports Alex Huffman.


Reclaiming Intimacy:

-Accept that things are different and develop realistic expectations about your sexual relationship -Be flexible and open to new experiences -Communicate expectations and comfort levels with one another -Express affection in any form to increase closeness -Be open and transparent about your fears, insecurities, feelings, and worries -Normalize discussions about sexual changes -Challenge the concept of “returning back to normal” Avoidance only leads to a strain in the relationship and feelings of loneliness and isolation. Sexual issues typically won’t resolve on their own and may only worsen over time, if simply pushed by the wayside without conversation and exploration. Proactively addressing sexual health before treatment may encourage couples to begin a conversation about how to approach future challenges. Sexual dynamics are constantly evolving, and sexuality is an important part of your quality of life through active treatment and into long-term survivorship. Despite multiple hurdles, buckets of tears and months of abstinence, the quality of your relationship can actually be strengthened by a life altering illness. As high school sweethearts, my husband and I have spent the past month re-reading love letters we wrote to one another during a year of separation. Reminiscing about fond memories has been a beautiful reminder of where our love began and how it has prevailed through “sickness and in health.”

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” -Lao Tzu

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References The True Value of Your Smile (continued from pg 9) The High Cost of Oral Disease (Center for Disease Control)

National Institute of Health

Association Between Mental Health and Oral Health Status and Care Utilization,and%20overall%20 health%20%5B9%5D.

Healthy Smiles Make for Healthy Aging: 3 Lesser Known Risks of Poor Oral Care

The 9 Superpowers of Your Smile - Psychology Today your%20mood%20and,it%20up%20when%20you%20smile.

Why smiles (and frowns) are contagious - Science Daily

The magazine for women affected by cancer


4 Stress Reduction Practices You Can Do With a Care Partner

Experiencing the diagnosis and treatment of cancer is stressful for the entire family. Care partners can help people in cancer treatment or with a cancer history to reduce the effects of stress on both body and mind. What is a care partner? I heard this term used at a recent caregiver conference. We know that ‘caregiver’ is the official term for someone who helps with activities of daily living - bathing, eating and driving to doctor’s appointments. What is the word that describes someone special who holds space for, lends a hand or provides a shoulder to lean on? Partner. Can a child, extended family member or friend be a care partner, too? Absolutely, YES! A care partner makes us feel relaxed when we are around them. They brighten our spirits with their presence. These loved ones can be the ideal companion when trying out stress reduction practices. The good news is that there are many different types of stress reduction that care partners can try with their loved ones. The Society for Integrative Oncology clinical practice guidelines on the use of integrative therapies during and after breast cancer treatment state that “high levels of evidence support the routine use of mindbody practices, such as yoga, meditation, relaxation techniques and passive music therapy to address common mental health concerns


Written by Kathleen Helen Lisson, CLT

among breast cancer patients, including anxiety, stress, depression, 1 and mood disturbances.” Let’s take a look at four simple practices that may reduce the negative effects of stress in people with a cancer history. These have also been recommended to people with a lymphedema diagnosis. These Practices Are: • • • •

Nadi Shodhana, a breathwork practice from India Tratak, a candle gazing meditation from India Qi Gong, a mind-body practice from China Taiso, a movement practice from Japan

For the first practice, we will need to learn a hand position called Vishnu or Mrigi Mudra. With your right palm facing toward you, place the tips of your index and middle fingers at the base of your thumb. Your thumb and ring fingers will help you close off each nostril.

Nadi Shodhana The first practice is called alternate nostril breathing, also known as Nadi Shodhana. This practice may make you feel peaceful, focused and alert.

Let’s try it: - Sit in a comfortable yet alert position with a straight spine - Close the eyes, if that feels comfortable - Place the right hand held in Vishnu Mudra / Mrigi Mudra beneath the nose - Inhale through both nostrils - Close the right nostril with your thumb and exhale through the left nostril - Inhale through the left nostril and then release your thumb - Close the left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through the right nostril - Inhale through the right nostril and then release your ring finger - Repeat steps 1-4 of this cycle for up to five minutes, or as long as you like - Release your hand, open the eyes and end the practice

Check with your physician to make sure you are cleared to exercise without movement restrictions before attempting the next two practices.

Why is alternate nostril breathing valuable? Researchers have found that practicing alternate nostril breathing can result in a decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. 2 The “Yoga management of breast cancer-related lymphedema” randomized controlled pilot trial includes alternate nostril breathing as part of the protocol. 3

Many larger cities have free qigong classes and there are many qigong videos available on YouTube.

Tratak The second practice involves a candle. The “Yoga management of breast cancer-related lymphedema” protocol also includes focused meditation on a candle flame, a practice known as Tratak or Trataka.3 Try Tratak in the evening before preparing for bedtime, as it may make you feel relaxed and quiet. Here’s how: - Place a candle at chest height and an arm’s length away from your seat - Light the candle (you can also use a battery powered candle) - Sit in a comfortable position with your spine erect - Gaze at the flame for 10–15 seconds - Close your eyes - If you see the afterimage of the flame with closed eyes, concentrate on it until it fades - Open your eyes again and gaze at the flame for 10–15 seconds - Close your eyes - Concentrate on the afterimage of the flame with closed eyes until it fades - Repeat gazing at the flame and then at the afterimage for one more cycle, or for up to 9 more minutes - Extinguish the flame and bring the meditation to a close Why is Tratak valuable? Researchers have found that gazing at a candle can cause relaxation and the low light may signal the body to release melatonin.4 Indeed, an extended practice of eye exercises and Tratak in the evening was found to have an effect on insomnia and quality of sleep. 5

Qigong The third practice is qigong. Qigong is a mind-body movement practice with roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Beginners can follow along with an online qigong video or attend a live class. The slow, rhythmic movements can bring a sense of peace and centeredness. This video for MD Anderson Cancer Center explains more about the benefits of practicing qigong during cancer treatment: https://

Why is qigong valuable? The Society for Integrative Oncology clinical practice guidelines mentioned above state that qigong is often used for anxiety, fatigue, and pain reduction. 1

Taiso The fourth practice is Taiso. Also called Radio Taiso, this is a popular calisthenics routine widely practiced in Japan, and it is part of a ‘10-Min Holistic Self-Care for Patients with Breast Cancer-Related Lymphedema’ protocol that resulted in an improvement in quality of life in people with lymphedema. 6 The movements and upbeat music in this fun practice may make you feel energized, more flexible and warmed up, so consider practicing it in the morning. Watch a Radio Taiso video here: This version would be great to practice with children. Watch a slower version of Taiso adapted for people with lymphedema here: Why is Taiso valuable? Regular practice of Taiso has been found to improve basal metabolic rate, muscle mass, vascular age, respiratory function, bone density, physical strength and health-related quality of life. 6 I hope you found these four practices to be sweet ways to destress and spend quality time with the ones you love. Children, extended family members and friends who are care partners can use stress reduction practices like those mentioned above to help their loved one with cancer or a cancer history reduce the effects of stress and feel supported during their cancer journey. Please share pictures of you and your loved ones practicing alternate nostril breathing, Tratak, Qigong or Taiso with @brightermagazine and @StressReductionforLymphedema on Instagram! The magazine for women affected by cancer


Kathleen Helen Lisson is board certified in therapeutic massage and bodywork, and is a Lymphedema Therapist. She helps clients who experience lymphedema and reconstructive surgery after cancer. Kathleen is the author of several books, including Stress Reduction for Lymphedema. More information about her is at








Greenlee H, DuPont-Reyes MJ, Balneaves LG, Carlson LE, Cohen MR, Deng G, Johnson JA, Mumber M, Seely D, Zick SM, Boyce LM, Tripathy D. Clinical practice guidelines on the evidence-based use of integrative therapies during and after breast cancer treatment. CA Cancer J Clin. 2017 May 6;67(3):194-232. doi: 10.3322/caac.21397. Epub 2017 Apr 24. PMID: 28436999; PMCID: PMC5892208. Raghuraj P, Telles S. Immediate effect of specific nostril manipulating yoga breathing practices on autonomic and respiratory variables. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2008 Jun;33(2):65-75. doi: 10.1007/s10484-008-9055-0. Epub 2008 Mar 18. PMID: 18347974. Loudon A, Barnett T, Piller N, Immink MA, Williams AD. Yoga management of breast cancer-related lymphoedema: a randomised controlled pilot-trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014 Jul 1;14:214. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-14-214. PMID: 24980836; PMCID: PMC4083036. Swathi PS, Bhat R, Saoji AA. Effect of Trataka (Yogic Visual Concentration) on the Performance in the Corsi-Block Tapping Task: A Repeated Measures Study. Front Psychol. 2021 Dec 17;12:773049. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.773049. PMID: 34975664; PMCID: PMC8718544. Shathirapathiy G, Mooventhan A, Mangaiarkarasi N, Sangavi SA, Shanmugapriya V, Deenadayalan B, Gayathri A. Effect of trataka (yogic gazing) on insomnia severity and quality of sleep in people with insomnia. Explore (NY). 2022 JanFeb;18(1):100-103. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2020.09.009. Epub 2020 Sep 25. PMID: 33036930. Arinaga Y, Piller N, Sato F, Ishida T, Ohtake T, Kikuchi K, Sato-Tadano A, Tada H, Miyashita M. The 10-Min Holistic Self-Care for Patients with Breast Cancer-Related Lymphedema: Pilot Randomized Controlled Study. Tohoku J Exp Med. 2019 Feb;247(2):139-147. doi: 10.1620/tjem.247.139. PMID: 30799328.

Give the Gift of Light As you consider gifts this holiday season, include Brighter in your year-end giving! Your donation provides women affected by cancer with a unique resource filled with equipping, encouraging and empowering content. Featuring articles that address physical, mental and emotional well-being, Brighter’s writers include subject matter experts, oncology professionals and survivors who offer valuable and relatable content that helps women feel less alone. Only through the generosity of donors like you are we able to produce a high quality publication free to survivors, addressing many of the secondary issues they face without support. Please give your tax deductible gift today at www.brightermagazine. com. Every dollar makes a difference and helps us bring light where it’s needed. MAGAZINE

DONORS, SPONSORS and SUPPORTERS Caroline Ackerman Erika Anne Beverly D. Atkins Erin Attfield - Quinlan Valasie August Terry and Molly Babilla Kathryn and Robert Bagwell Karla Baumgartner Ora Bay Jerome and Lori Beard Cameille Berry Erin Boothroyd Cynthia Bowen The Ryan Bowles Family The Don Bowles Family Anonymous Andrea Braendlin Brain Treatment Center Dallas Patrice Briggs Carolyn Brown Laura Bruck Renzelman Jessica Cai Mr. and Mrs. Mark Campbell Carolyn and Dr. Michael Chapman Yiming Chi Marcy Childers Lisa Christensen John Christner-Drake Carrie Cioni Meghan Clarke Ashley Coleman Laura Craig

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Book Recommendations from the Brighter Team

The Starter Wife By Gigi Levangie (formerly Grazer) Whether you caught the miniseries many years ago, the subsequent TV show that followed, or neither, you will love the escapist entertainment of this book! Narrated by Gracie, a shrewd observer of how shallow and silly the social nuances are within Hollywood’s power player circles, the tale is a biting commentary on this egotistical world. Gracie’s world, and the characters within it, are wellwritten and witty – this is one of the books that will make you giggle, if not laugh out loud. -Rebecca Walden Board Member, Writer, Survivor


The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel By Deborah Moggach Even if you saw the movie when it first came out, reading this book is like a rediscovery. If you are offended by salty language, this may not be the book for you. If you can appreciate the storyline in spite of that, you’re in for a treat. Imagine being of retirement age and the country where you live is no longer a desirable place to be – overburdened hospital systems, crime, just an allaround mess. Would you walk away entirely, and move to India where your budget goes farther and you have the promise of living at a hotel with other expats? That’s the question Deborah Moggach poses, against a backdrop of characters you can’t help but love. -Rebecca Walden Board Member, Writer, Survivor


Dress Code By Veronique Hyland This was a delightful read with its humor and moments from way back when to pop culture that made me say, “Huh!” I expected a mindless read but received a cool and thorough historical account of life at every decade through the fashion of that time. Whether you consider yourself fashion forward or fashion-less this book has a fascinating approach to how society often dictates our choices in clothing. Sometimes however, our rebellion to these unspoken rules causes change in fashion itself. From the ideal highly feminine “French girl” to the incredibly powerful female politician. What you choose to wear can make a difference in the way you are seen and see yourself. Either way you hold the power to choose. -Helen Bowles Brighter Founder

D-Day Through French Eyes By Mary Louise Roberts After reading The Diary of Anne Frank, I became more interested in firsthand historical accounts of the Holocaust and World War 2. In this book, Mary Louise Roberts uses interviews, diary and journal entries from the French people who had the paratroopers land in their backyards. Her writing re-creates a glimpse of what D-Day and the days after truly looked like. If you want to learn about the events in history from the people who were there, this is a great read! -Debbie Norris Writer, Ovarian Survivor

The magazine for women affected by cancer


To Exercise or Not to Exercise? Written by Gracie Little Brighter Intern

YMCA’s Livestrong Program is fostering a program for cancer survivors to bolster their mental and physical health.

Benefits of Exercise During Treatment

It’s no mystery that cancer treatment takes a significant toll on a woman’s energy supply. There’s an assumption that being diagnosed with cancer goes hand-in-hand with cuddling up in a blanket and taking it easy for the foreseeable future. While cancer does require significant rest, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) recently studied the benefits of exercise during treatment. Besides bettering one’s mental health by easing anxiety, depression and fatigue, movement can also improve the symptoms and side effects of chemo and radiation therapy and help patients recover faster. Furthermore, exercise induces angiogenesis, or the creation of new blood vessels that improves the circulation of blood-driven anti-cancer medicine. Exercise additionally boosts circulation of immune cells that attack cancer cells.

Recommendations for Exercise

To gain these benefits, doctors recommend aiming for 150 minutes per week. Walking is encouraged, but if this isn’t for you, dance, swim, golf, and gardening are great alternatives. Whichever form of movement you choose, moderate intensity is ideal. As you work more movement into your days, aim to incorporate each of the following elements into your regiment: stretching, balancing exercise, aerobic exercise and strengthening.

YMCA’s Livestrong Program

Support groups are vital in life and in one’s cancer journey, and the Livestrong Program at your local YMCA provides an exercise program specifically for cancer patients. It fosters supportive small groups to help cancer survivors get on their feet during and after


treatment. The Livestrong Program is a 12-week program that is free for those living with, through, or beyond cancer to strengthen their spirit, mind, and body. So far, the Livestrong program has served over 60,000 individuals in more than 200 communities. It is facilitated by YMCA instructors trained in cancer survivorship, post-rehabilitation exercises, and supportive cancer care. If you’re interested in connecting with a supportive, tight-knit community of survivors, we highly recommend visiting the Livestrong website (

Common Qs and As for Exercise in General:

Q: How much should I exercise? A: Think less about quantity and repetition of exercise and more about variety. It is recommended to work out for a different amount of time and intensity each day so your body can get the most out of it. On the days you feel most energized, go for shorter periods of higher intensity, and when you feel a little more tired, go for longer periods of low intensity.

Q: If I didn’t work out before I was diagnosed, is it okay to start now? A: Yes, but start slowly. Work from exercising 3 days a week for 20 minute increments up to 150 minutes spread throughout 5 days of the week. Take it slow to start and listen to your body. Q: When do I exercise? A: The days you exercise will vary more when in treatment, so sticking to a strict weekly schedule is unrealistic. Rather, assess how your body feels each day, and choose the days you feel most energized to workout out. Some weeks, this may be more days than others, so try to avoid feeling guilty for skipping days.

Scan the QR code to find your local YMCA today!

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Pay It Forward


Photo provided by Robert Vaughn

Written by Shelly Vaughn Breast Cancer Survivor and Advocate Phogtograhy by Robert Vaughn

Survivor Turned Writer Breast cancer survivor, Shelly Vaughn used writing to process the many emotions she experienced throughout her diagnosis, treatment and beyond. After completing her treatment and learning additional valuable life lessons, she made the decision to turn her writings into a book. Feeling called to use what she went through to help other women, Shelly compiled an inspiring novel of practical experiences, raw emotion and even humor found in the midst of extraordinary challenges. Her goal is to help women feel less alone, and her writing encourages survivors with both honesty and hope.

so long, that same light seems so much brighter. We suddenly have a shift in perspective that makes the light seem brighter... the light doesn’t change, but we do.

Below is an excerpt from her book, “Scars in the Sunlight: Reflections After a Disorienting Diagnosis”.

One other thought about suffering: I remember hearing the saying, “Someday this pain will be useful to you.” I believe that my pain has already been useful because of how it’s changed my perspective. But also in that it will allow me to help the next person—the next friend in need or person to get a cancer diagnosis. The next person who I may become close with because we can relate to each other through similar suffering. Some of my greatest comfort since January has been words of encouragement from other survivors. I hope I can be a source of comfort to others moving forward. Because maybe, now, that is part of my purpose.

So, why? Why does cancer even exist? Why is this so hard? Why do humans go through tragedy and suffering? These are big questions with bigger answers that I’m not going to be able to answer. But I’ve had a glimpse into this in a way lately that I haven’t had before. In simplest form— after time spent in suffering (on any level), you gain a better appreciation for the good things in life. Your perspective shifts. What used to seem mundane or unremarkable now brings deep joy and appreciation. These aren’t new, huge events around you. They are things around that might have been there all along, but in our fast-paced, technology-filled day-to-day it’s so easy to overlook them. That’s how it’s been with my experience through cancer, and I’m guessing with many other hardships that people go through.

Our suffering is the time in the dark. And after experiencing it, even a small amount of light seems so bright to us. So I encourage everyone this week to “look for the overlooked”—find those things that have potential to be bright lights. They may seem dim now because you’re not in the dark... but hopefully you can appreciate them anyway.

I don’t know if it’s the reason we go through them, but there are benefits that come with it. I’ve never been so appreciative of sunshine and short walks outside, of sitting with my eyes closed listening to birds, the delicious smells of food (that I couldn’t eat), warm hoodies, energy to get up the steps, flowers, the sound of rainstorms, warm baths, fluffy clouds viewed through a skylight, sitting by loved ones without saying a word, children giggling, wind on my scalp, hugs... lots of great hugs. I am so appreciative of these things lately. And I pray that I don’t lose this perspective of the simple beauty around me, even as I come out of (and hopefully far from) this difficult experience. Here’s the best analogy I can think of: Your bathroom light. It’s an average light that functions fine when you flip the switch on. For the most part, you probably don’t think twice about it. But it’s a different story in the middle of the night. You wake in the middle of the night and need to use the bathroom. After extended time in the dark, you fumble down the hall and reach to turn that switch on (just like you did earlier that day), but now the sensory experience of the light can be overwhelming. It’s the same light and wattage that your eyes perceived during the day. But when you’ve been in the dark for

Scars in the Sunlight $14.95

The magazine for women affected by cancer



Photo provided by Jessica Salcido

Her New Hobby Written by Jessica Salcido Sarcoma Survivor Photograpy by Jessica Salcido My new hobby is a combination of athletic prowess and love of travel with the addition of two close friends. In my four years NED/cancer free, I have fallen in love with active travel trips where I have hiked and cycled more than I could have imagined five years ago. In 2019 at 45 years old, I had a Sarcoma, a 12cm soft tissue tumor in my thigh. My treatment was radiation, surgery and chemo. Resection surgery was followed by ten days in the hospital with an incision knee to hip which required two secondary surgeries to fully close the site. It was a blessing that through all of this, there was no impact to my muscles. One month post-surgery, I met my goal to walk (limp) my 5 year old to his first day of kindergarten. I then started the horrible AIM chemo which consists of doxorubicin, ifosfamide and mensa in a three-day inpatient program. It was the hardest mental and physical challenge I’ve ever experienced. I started an intense physical therapy program at the same time and am proud that one year after diagnosis, I was back to fully walking. Nobody can get through this crazy journey alone. My mother spent many nights in the hospital with me, and my husband managed two small children while caring for me. The unexpected support came


from two older friends who lived in different cities and states. I met Stephanie and Jiji when we were out of college and started our careers at the Dallas, TX office of Arthur Andersen. We kept in touch through frequent visits to the new cities where we each had taken up residence since then. Between the three of us, we have lived in New York, San Fransisco, Mexico City, Austin and Frisco. I found out about my cancer diagnosis from MRI results communicated over the phone while I was on a business trip in the Bay Area. Jiji was an hour drive away, and when I called, she immediately dropped everything and drove to me without hesitation. Later she would send dinner to my house every week for many months. Stephanie was a frequent visitor, and she also set up a site that allowed me to keep friends, family and colleagues updated on my progress. In 2020, we planned a long weekend to reunite and celebrate both my recovery and Stephanie’s 50th birthday. As happened to many others, COVID-19 postponed our plans. One year later, in 2021, we regrouped in the Pacific Northwest on a Backroads trip to the San Juan Islands in Washington State. This trip was labeled as ‘multi-adventure,’ and it was incredible. For a week, we hiked through wooded state parks for

4-5 miles with 2,000 ft+ elevation. We also enjoyed scenic 20 mile+ bike rides through majestic forests. Stephanie and I struggled through the hills on the bike, sometimes jumping off and walking, while Jiji smartly chose a hybrid electric bike that gave her an extra boost. Two years later, in 2023, we traveled to Portugal for a cycling tour, this time with Trek Travel and to celebrate Jiji’s 50th. I was nervous about joining serious bike riders as Trek is a lauded cyclist community. This time we all chose the hybrid electric bikes and made it through a week of daily 20-30 mile bike rides. Our home base was the town of Vila Vicosa, and from there, we’d travel through the countryside to small towns. We would enjoy lunch and tours, and then we could choose to shuttle or ride back. Some elevation was significant, but the hybrid bikes helped get us through the weekly total of 150 miles! The rainbow in my cancer journey has been the excitement for active adventures and the strengthening of relationships. My friendship with Stephanie and Jiji deepened by a million miles. Sure, we would have remained ‘facebook’ friends but likely not intimately involved in each others lives. I’ve recently named them to my internal board of directors. Next year it’s my turn to celebrate a my 50th birthday, as well as 5 years NED, and I can’t wait for our new active adventure! Photo provided by Jessica Salcido


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