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breast cancer

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow Real women reveal the ups, downs and in-betweens of hair loss and regrowth

Rally the


Breast cancer patients are logging onto the Internet to seek comfort and guidance from those that already have fought the good fight


Chemo Cravings To Reconstruct or Not to Reconstruct Inside Triple Negative Shake it Off: Tips from Sunrise Physical Therapy on Managing and Maintaining Stress.

When Was Your Last Mammogram? Â

Screening mammograms are a woman’s best defense against dying from breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about how often you should have this quick, non-invasive, safe procedure. Southwest Memorial Hospital in Cortez has the latest digital technology and experienced, compassionate technologists on staff to serve you. Financial assistance is available for women who do not have health insurance. Don’t delay scheduling this potentially life-saving screening test. Call your doctor or the SWMH imaging department at 970-564-2050 for more information.

Early detection saves lives.

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Build Your Own Breast Cancer Army

Support from friends, family and community are an integral tool in the fight against breast cancer. Many are taking their illness to the Internet, creating online support groups on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and forums



aura! Jane! Laura! This went on for a few minutes because Laura forgot to ask Jane what room she was in on the sixth floor. The two went on screaming until they found each other in the hall. Then, it was like something out of a movie, Laura says. The two hugged, and cried and laughed at the same time. They reached over and touched the tufts of hair on each other’s otherwise bald heads. Just as everything else they’d shared as “breast cancer sisters” during the past 11 months, at that moment both women similar amounts of re-grown tufts of hair on their heads. Breast cancer survivor and lawyerturned-rock-musician, Laura Roppe, turned to an online forum the day she got diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. The next day, as if a private prayer had been answered, Jane Barker from Sheffield, U.K., wrote that she had been diagnosed with exactly the same type of breast cancer on the same day. The two also went on to start their chemotherapy treatments on the same day. While Roppe also had what she called “flesh and blood” friends and family that supported her, she found one of her biggest sources of support online. Roppe, of San Diego, is just one of many people now turning online to social media sites like as Facebook, Twitter to seek support when a diagnosis of breast cancer is found. Many women are starting online groups to unite all of their friends and family, which makes sharing information easy, fast and effective. It also makes connecting with strangers going through the same thing easier, something that can be a source of both strength and information for women that often feel alone and isolated. “Just being diagnosed the same day as someone doesn’t ensure a lifelong bond,” Roppe says of Barker. “We were ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012 • 3

F O U R C O R N E R S H E A L T H Y l i v i n g Issue N o . 5 • T H I N K P I N K 2 012 meant to be sisters, though. We bonded over our love for the BBC version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and I called her ‘My dearest Jane.’” Roppe chronicled the emails she and Jane sent back and forth in her book “Rocking the Pink: Finding Myself on the Other Side of Cancer” (Seal Press, 2012.) Marci A. Schmitt, from Chandler, Ind., turned online to find information and support and wrote “March Forth” (Outskirts Press, 2011) as a way to provide support for others battling breast cancer. Schmitt was diagnosed in January 2009. Her mother had passed away from breast cancer in 2004, and she went on to lose her father-in-law and brother to cancer in the years surrounding her own battle. After talking to another survivor who went on to give talks around the country Schmitt hung up the phone with one goal in mind: Write a book and provide support for others in her shoes. She wrote and wrote until she couldn’t think of anything else to write, Schmitt says, and it was a full year until she told anyone she’d written the book, not even Steve, her husband of nearly 20 years. A ‘Real Sisterhood’ Schmitt acknowledges two websites in the front of her book: and She got information on what would be happening to her body, asked questions and received answers full of support and love. On the other side of that however, some people expressed their negativity through the forums Schmitt read. She certainly wasn’t about that. “Something I kept telling myself, was even though I didn’t want to go through all of this there were so many others struggling and many worse off than me,” Schmitt says. “I learned from my mom not to have a pity party. I chose to not let cancer run my life.” Schmitt has a blog for her book,

“It’s a real sisterhood. You know you’re not alone, and when you’re talking to people who have been there you’re free to be honest and you can share things you can’t share with others.” — Laura Roppe, survivor, and created a Facebook page for it. She’s hoping to move to the point where she can share a weekly tidbit with others to foster a community of support. Both Schmitt and Roppe are huge proponents of support groups, whether they be online or in person. “It’s a real sisterhood,” Roppe says. “You know you’re not alone, and when you’re talking to people who have been there you’re free to be honest and you can share things you can’t share with others.” Roppe is currently still part of a Facebook group with 150 women who share the common thread of all having had triple-negative breast cancer. The Best Support Sometimes, friends just need to let you know they’re available, Roppe says. People would drop by, bring a magazine, drop off some chicken noodle soup or send an email to check up, she says. Having people treat her “like a normal person” was very important. She recalls a moment when a friend asked if she had seen the previous night’s “American Idol.” When it’s not all about cancer and

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mortality, you can begin to feel human again, Roppe says. During her journey through cancer, Schmitt says she and her husband learned to accept help from other people. About three times a week, whether it was a friend or family member, someone would bring over meals for the family, which includes sons Corey, 16, and Clay, 13, and a step-daughter Lindsay, 29. Schmitt’s biggest pieces of advice for friends and family members who aren’t sure how to act in front of a cancerstricken loved one? Don’t come with pity in your eyes, Schmitt says. And don’t talk about other people you’ve known who have died. That’s the last thing anyone with cancer wants to hear, she says. Roppe recalled the very worst days when she was in the thick of chemotherapy and love from her kids carried her through. “I would feel little tiny lips kissing my bald head,” Roppe says of her daughters Sophie and Chloe, who were in third and first grade at the time of her treatment. “Then they’d squish into bed with me and I could feel their warmth.” On the Other Side of Cancer

After it was all said and done, Schmitt had two mastectomies and has now been cancer-free for three years. She’s going on quarterly visits and has been scanning clear, and is taking things one day at a time. Roppe currently has no evidence of disease, and it’s been that way for the past three years. Just weeks before the diagnosis Roppe signed a record deal with a Londonbased record level, achieving a long-time dream of hers. The diagnosis left Roppe with what she calls in her book, a “victory” in the sense that she quit her law job and dedicated herself full-time to music. “I followed my heart, my voice,” Roppe says. “Don’t wait until you get cancer until you do what you really want to do.” The question everyone has after reading her book, Roppe says, is “What about Jane? How is Jane?” Barker, forever Roppe’s breast cancer sister, also is in recovery and is doing great, Roppe says. © CTW Features

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From the Mouths of Survivors

Meet Tara Mullen

Tara Mullen, 38, of Pleasantville, N.Y., is a married mom of two daughters, ages 8 and 5. She was diagnosed at age 35 for “ductal carcinoma in situ” after her doctors found a cyst in her breast. Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a noninvasive breast cancer with abnormal cells contained in the milk ducts. “In situ” means “in place” because the cells have not left the milk ducts to invade nearby breast tissue. “Due to my family history of breast cancer, they were keeping an eye on it and I was getting an ultrasound every six months,” she says. A few months later, the fluid-filled cyst turned into a solid mass. “I didn’t hear anything after the doctor told me that I had breast cancer,” Mullen says. The doctors performed a lumpectomy and a few months later, more cysts were found. “They weren’t in the lymph nodes, thankfully, but I opted for a double mastectomy in May 2012,” she says. Mullen went through radiation treatment and a chemotherapy shot in her stomach every three months. “I never had a choice to stop going and never had time to really think about it,” Mullen says. “I broke down at the end of radiation when it all hit me at once and my radiation oncologist said, ‘I was waiting for that.’” “I worked in the oncology department, so when I heard the news my first thought was, ‘What stage is it? Did it metastasize?’” she says. “I thought about my kids, they were small and I didn’t’ know whether it had spread or not. And all of the surgery was a pain in the ass.” Mullen says she couldn’t care less that she lost her breasts. “I just wanted them off me,” she says. “I didn’t want to have to worry about it anymore. You can get them reconstructed. There are more important things than breasts. What I hated was the fact

that I couldn’t care for myself and all of a sudden I was shut down completely with drains in me.” Mullen needs more reconstructive surgery but she says her health is good.

Meet Meridith Stevens

Meridith Stevens was diagnosed with inflammatory invasive ductal carcinoma on Oct. 26, 2011. It had spread to some of her lymph nodes. “I followed through on a suspicious lump in my left breast and then other topical changes that were apparent,” she says. “I don’t remember exactly when it was, but I think my suspicions started in early August. I had felt a hard lump in my breast, perhaps an inch away from my nipple. I noticed it by chance, either adjusting a bra or showering. Prior, I had not been good about self-examinations because I had cystic breasts and I blew off self-examining because I figured I’d always be feeling lumpiness, so I might as well leave it up to the experts to determine the differences.” This time, it was different though. “It was more solid than I had ever felt. I was in complete disbelief because, for goodness sake, I had just had a clear mammogram in April there was no way the lump could be anything serious.” As time went on, the lump got harder and bigger and began to swell, and Stevens’ nipple began to discolor and invert. The skin over the lump and neighboring area started turning red and swelling, too. She was treated with two rounds of chemotherapy and a mastectomy and then radiation. “Next July, I will have the right breast removed and the first of my reconstruction surgery for both breasts,” she says. “Physically, besides having a higher blood-pressure than at the start, residual fatigue from chemo treatments, and having to lose weight and get in condition, I’m otherwise healthy.” –Lisa Iannucci © CTW Features ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012 • 5

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On a Scale from 0 to 4 6 • ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012

A number is applied to each diagnosis, but what does it mean? Here, a simple guide to understanding the stages of breast cancer, what they mean and the types of treatments to expect By Lindsey Romain CTW FEATURES

A breast cancer diagnosis is overwhelming enough on its own. But throw in the new terminology family and patients must comprehend to process and understand the disease, and that overwhelming factor is ramped up tenfold. One of the hardest to grasp concepts can be the “stages” of breast cancer. Doctors use stages to classify the progress of the cancer, as well as the origins and prognosis. From zero to four, each stage can be broken down into even more categories and types, depending on factors like size, the involvement of lymph nodes and whether or not the cancer has spread. Here, Dr. Lise Alschuler, a naturopathic physician, author of “Five to Thrive: Your CuttingEdge Cancer Prevention Plan” (Active Interest Media, Inc. 2011) and breast cancer survivor herself, walks us through each stage.

f O U R C O R N E R S H E A L T H Y L I V I N G I ssue N o . 5 • T H i n k p i n k 2 012 Stage Zero Many people are unaware of the very first stage of breast cancer, stage zero. Considered a pre-cancerous condition, “not all of it goes on to become cancer,” Alschuler says. While patients may still be offered treatment such as radiation or a lumpectomy, Alschuler calls this more of a “wait and watch” period, before an official diagnosis can be confirmed. Stage One “The main difference between stage zero and stage one is that [the cancer] is now invasive,” Alschuler says. A stage one diagnosis means that a group of cells have been mutated enough that they are able to grow into a tumor. Stage one tumors are considered fairly small – less than two centimeters in the greatest diameter. At this point, they have not spread to the lymph nodes, or if they have, there are only microscopic cells that have moved. Stage Two There are two types of stage two breast cancer: type A and type B. In type A, the tumor is larger than type B, but there are no cancer cells in the nodes, or cells are in the nodes but on the same side as the tumor and in small numbers. In type B, the tumor is between two to five centimeters, but there is more lymph node involvement. There is also a rare type of B with a large tumor but no node involvement. Stage two is still considered early stage breast cancer, according to Alschuler, meaning it’s a potentially curable disease. But it does still involve aggressive treatment, she says. When a sample is taken through a biopsy, the pathologist will give a grade to the tumor. “The higher the grade, the more aggressive,” Alschuler says. Not everyone with the same stage is treated the same. At stage two, the treatments differ; a patient may undergo chemotherapy, or a mastectomy, or maybe just radiation. “The intent of the treatment in these stages is to cure because it hasn’t spread yet,” Alschuler says. Stage Three A stage three diagnosis indicates a five-centimeter or larger tumor. The tumor is on the same side as the lymph nodes where it has spread, usually in the armpit area. There are more nodes involved, typically more than three, usually four to nine. Sometimes in stage three, the tumor has grown deeper into the chest wall or up into the skin, affecting different types of tissue. At this stage, a different type of breast cancer may be on display: inflammatory. “Inflammatory breast cancer is a different type of cancer cell,” Alschuler says. “It tends to be more aggressive, and more resistant to treatment. There are not as many effective treatments available for this type.” The cancer is still treatable at stage three, but it generally has a greater degree of risk for reoccurrence. It’s more aggressive than the other stages, with systemic treatment. Alschuler says it’s very rare that doctors wouldn’t recommend chemo at this point. Stage Four Stage four, the final stage of diagnosis, is the most serious and the most progressed. Any size of tumor or lymph node involvement can appear at this stage, but the main indicator of stage four is that the cancer has spread, typically to the bone or liver. Alschuler says to expect very aggressive treatment at this point. “The treatment is typically sequential at this stage,” she explains. “You’ll go through an initial round of treatment, get a break, then go back into it. It’s about managing the growth so people can live with the disease as long as possible.” While this may be the final stage of diagnosis, Alschuler points out that, rare as it may be, a full recovery is still possible.

© CTW Features ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012 • 7

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Hair Today, Gone tomorrow

Here’s how real women have dealt with the temporary loss of their locks 8 • ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012

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By Dawn Klingensmith CTW FEATURES


ven when cancer patients expect it will happen, hair loss during chemotherapy can be devastating because every look in the mirror and every stranger’s reaction reminds them of their illness. Hair loss occurs because chemotherapy drugs target rapidly growing cells. Hair follicle cells, like cancer cells, multiply quickly. Hair loss is usually temporary, with regrowth starting three to 10 months after chemotherapy ends, though the new growth may be a different shade or texture. Here, cancer patients and survivors talk about losing their locks and holding onto their dignity and sense of humor.

Julie Grimm

(pictured left, above) 50, Golden, Colo., founder, Ready for Recovery, www.

“When chemo started my hair was still about shoulder-length; I’d only cut it a little bit. My hair was fine for about 14 days, so I thought I wasn’t going to lose it. And then all of a sudden it started coming out in clumps. It was one of the hardest parts, being bald, because it symbolizes cancer. Whenever I’d see my reflection in the

mirror or a window, or even walking down the street I’d see my reflection in a car, it’s a constant reminder that you have cancer. For a while I had a henna tattoo on my head. I also had a hat ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012 • 9

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party — all the guests had to come in a wig or a hat or I got to shave their head. I shaved two (men’s) heads that night. When my hair came in, I felt like a baby chick. I had really fine, fuzzy hair for a long time. I just let it grow and grow and grow. Now it’s longer than it’s ever been.”

Chris Casey

(pictured pg. 6, bottom) 36, Orland Park, Ill. “The first thing I said when I found out I had a tumor was, ‘I can’t have a tumor; I have babies.’ I was 31 with 6-month-old twins. Now that I look back, I think it was actually better because they don’t remember Mommy being sick or losing her hair. I had really long, thick hair to the middle of my back and never thought I would cut it. When I found out about the cancer, I joked that it was God’s way of telling me it was time for a new haircut. My doctor recommended I cut it off before it falls out. Cancer takes so much out of your control. This was one way to still be in charge. After chemo, when I could finally color my hair, I felt more like me again. When I could pull it back again, it was even better. It’s a feeling of accomplishment, like cancer can define

the moment, but not define me.” tumor; I have babies.’ I was 31 with 6-monthold twins. Now that I look back, I think it was actually better because they don’t remember Mommy being sick or losing her hair. I had really long, thick hair to the middle of my back and never thought I would cut it. When I found out about the cancer, I joked that it was God’s way of telling me it was time for a new haircut. My doctor recommended I cut it off before it falls out. Cancer takes so much out of your control. This was one way to still be in charge. After chemo, when I could finally color my hair, I felt more like me again. When I could pull it back again, it was even better. It’s a feeling of accomplishment, like cancer can define the moment but not define me.”

Heather Thomas

(pictured top left) 41, Columbia, Mo.

“I had to explain to my daughter, an 8 year old, that Mommy would lose all her hair. I was reading something about how to

10 • ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012

prepare to tell your kids, and it said you lose your eyebrows and eyelashes, and that hit me harder than losing the hair on my head. I had also heard if you walk outside on a windy day, clumps of hair could blow out. I wasn’t going to allow that to happen so I scheduled a headshaving party. With the stubble my head was like Velcro. I had to sleep in a hat because my hair stuck to the pillowcase. I don’t know how men with military cuts can stand it. I had a wig, and it was nice to be able to fall back on that — no one looks at you with sad eyes. But it gave me a headache so I didn’t wear it to work except for one time when I couldn’t find a scarf to match my outfit. My hair is coming in all gray, which is an absolute shock. I was shopping and a lady asked, ‘Is that chemo hair?’ It’s kind of this bond.

Tonya Wootton

(pictured bottom right) 32, Syracuse, Utah “I had a hair-cutting party. We all shaved our heads bald including my mom and nieces. I had hair down to the middle of my back and donated it to Locks of Love. The hair thing didn’t seem to bother me. I know it really upsets some people, but with me it was no big deal. My sister is a hairdresser and shaved us all, and she had a harder time with it than I did. When you’re strung out on chemo you don’t need your hair in your

face anyway, and it’s kind of nice after a mastectomy not having to wash your hair because you can’t lift your arms. My hair came back darker than it was, and really curly. Right now, it’s about an inch and a half long. I can’t do much with it. My fiancé says I look like a chia pet. But after you haven’t had hair for so long, you’re just excited to have hair, no matter how it comes back.”

Rita Lusen

(pictured above) 50, Philadelphia, vice president, “I’d had four lumpectomies and then a mastectomy so my main concern was being here for my children; I really wasn’t concerned about my hair or the impact of chemotherapy. At the time I had long flowing red hair. It was something I always got compliments on. Even through the surgeries, I could mask that I had breast cancer, but when you lose it, it’s like a badge. With each trip to the grocery store, I had to determine how strong I was that day. Could I just put on a baseball cap and deal with people touching me and asking me questions? On a really daring day, I’d wear a baseball cap that said ‘No Hair Day.’ My hair is back to normal now. It’s the same texture and color as before I got sick. © CTW Features

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is a diagnosis none of us want to hear, women and men alike... Treatment and Reconstruction are now quite advanced. It’s never too late to consider breast reconstruction, even if your masectomy was years ago.

To learn more about your options, call Dr. Ritz to schedule a consultation today! ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012 • 11

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Constant & Unhealthy

Chemo Cravings

Radiation and chemotherapy cause many nausea and headaches, and can make eating nearly unbearable. Navigating food choices isn’t easy, especially when healthy foods are the path to healing and chips are the only thing that sound good – what’s a woman to do? 12 • ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012

f O U R C O R N E R S H E A L T H Y L I V I N G I ssue N o . 5 • T H i n k p i n k 2 012 By bev Bennett CTW FEATURES


s a health professional, Patricia D’Imperio urges her patients to make the most nutritious food choices. The chiropractic neurologist is a nutrition role model, who searches out wholesome food for her family. Then, there’s Doritos. When D’Imperio has to have them, she’s unstoppable. “I’m a craver of salt,” says the owner of Healthy Living, Bayville, N.Y. “It’s not one; I’ll consume an entire bag and have to get it out of my system. I can’t stop even though I know better,” she says. D’Imperio, who finished her treatments for breast cancer, is struggling with an occasional craving for a salty snack as she tries to eat the best diet possible to stay cancer free. She’s not alone. “Some days I’m good, some days I’m not so good,” says Cynthia Newsome, who is finished with radiation treatments for breast cancer. The Dairy Queen strawberry shake beckoned and Newsome responded. “It was good,” says Newsome, weekend anchor, NBC Action News in Kansas City, Mo. You may have an itch for a particular ingredient, like D’Imperio and salt, which hits every two months or so. Perhaps you associate a certain food with a positive experience you want to recall. Whatever the reason, if you learn to manage your food urges you can splurge without the guilt, while developing more healthful habits. While you’re educating yourself you’ll also look for ways to let your loved ones know how you’d like to be supported. Getting into a breast cancer recovery nutrition program can help. Find a registered dietitian who will show you what you can eat. If you need to lose weight to reduce your risk of a breast cancer recurrence

(or your risk of other diseases), you don’t want a diet that feels like punishment. Emphasize enjoyable options, not what you should forego, says Cheryl Rock, Ph.D., registered dietitian, professor, University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine. You may find you have “a lot of choices that are equally pleasurable,” Rock says. She is studying the effects of weight loss and increased exercise on quality of life and on co-existing medical conditions in overweight breast cancer survivors. The women she counsels are helped to change their behavior. “We don’t hand out a list of foods you shouldn’t eat, but [advice on] how to fill the plate. It’s not a punishment,” Rock says. For example, she suggests switching from regular bacon to savory, fullflavored Canadian bacon. Pizza? “You can have it. It’s a wonderful vehicle for having vegetables in your diet,” Rock says. Her tip is to trade pepperoni for sun-dried tomatoes as a

pizza topping. The health expert also teaches portion control as a way to enjoy favorite highcalorie foods. In Newsome’s situation, a small shake was satisfying. “I would have gotten a large in times past,” she says. When you’re more aware of nutrition, you can stop beating yourself up over the candy bar you couldn’t resist. However, it’s easy to understand those feelings of guilt. “Your trust in your body is gone,” says Barbara C. Unell, founder of Back in the Swing USA, Overland Park, Kan. You think “If I have that extra cookie it will put me over the edge,” says Unell, whose non-profit organization promotes joyful and healthy living for breast cancer survivors. Again, educating yourself about wholesome eating will help. But, even though you may feel in control with the occasional tortilla chips or milk shake, your loved ones may not understand. When her 9-year old daughter sees her reaching for the Doritos, “her eyes will get really wide and she says, ‘MOM,’ ” D’Imperio says.

“My husband and daughter say, ‘Mom’s on the Doritos again.’ I explain that this is one little thing I do once in a while,” she says. How do you tell your friends and loved ones you appreciate their concern but don’t need policing? You can provide the answer. You can tell others how you want to be supported, according to Unell. How you phrase the question makes a difference. “Don’t say to the family ‘I want to eat better, help me.’ They’ll nag you with everything you eat,” Rock says. Instead, suggest something specific: Let’s go to the farmers market and pick up some salad ingredients for dinner. Let friends know how to help you. Newsome says she is “looking for information more than people motivating me.” The Kansas City television anchor says, “I like to read things that say here’s what to do; here’s what to try.” For instance, having someone tell her about a good-tasting sugar-free ice cream would please Newsome. © CTW Features ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012 • 13

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Back in the Swing of Living B

arbara C. Unell finished her radiation treatments for breast cancer in 1998 and assumed she’d be given help on getting back in the swing, as she called it. She was looking for follow-up care for side effects and guidance for rebuilding her health. When it wasn’t offered her frustration led her to form Back in the Swing USA ( “The Back in the Swing mission is to educate and empower healthcare professionals to provide care for the [post breast cancer] consumer,” Unell says. The organization also helps women develop a personal survivorship care plan. New is “The Back in the Swing Cookbook” (Andrews McMeel, 2012) by Unell and Judith Fertig. The book features nutritious recipes, luscious indulgences such as celebration chocolate cake and anecdotes and health tips to get readers back to their full lives.

The EmotionaL Weight of Food When Patricia D’Imperio was undergoing treatment she had chemotherapy on Fridays. “By Sunday at home I would be horribly sick on my living room couch when my daughter would come home with a small bag of Doritos she got with my husband.” D’Imperio’s family, knowing she could stomach almost nothing, thought the snack would be a special treat. Doritos were one of the few things that went down easily, according to the chiropractor. “I cherished every last crumb.” Maybe it wasn’t the best snack; still isn’t as far as nutritionists are concerned. But for D’Imperio, “there’s comfort in certain foods. It takes us to a place where we are OK,” she says.

14 • ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012

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Confronting 7 Fears About Reconstruction To reconstruct or not to reconstruct – it’s one of the toughest questions a woman faces following a mastectomy. Here’s the information needed to make an informed decision 16 • ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012

f O U R C O R N E R S H E A L T H Y L I V I N G I ssue N o . 5 • T H i n k p i n k 2 012 By Jeff Schnaufer CTW FEATURES


t the age of 44, Michele Rakoff discovered she had breast cancer. She recalls being “not well informed” by her surgeon about her options for breast reconstruction. “I was rushed into making a quick decision and was not given the opportunity or the suggestion to have a second opinion,” Rakoff recalls. “Within four days of my diagnosis, I had a simple mastectomy with no reconstruction.” After the surgery, Rakoff began investigating the possibility of having reconstruction, educating herself. She decided to have breast reconstruction six months later. That was in 1988. Today, Rakoff serves as executive director with the Breast Cancer Care and Research Fund in Los Angeles, Calif., developing a mentoring program for newly diagnosed patients so they can speak with trained, educated survivor mentors. “It has been 24 years and as the result of my experience, I always remind women that a diagnosis of breast cancer is not an emergency,” Rakoff says. “They have time to get a second opinion, do research and speak with well-educated advocates who can share their own experiences.” Reconstruction is one of the toughest decisions a woman faces following a mastectomy. According to a Colombia University study, fewer than one in four women with invasive cancer opt for the immediate reconstruction of their breast. More than one in three with early stage cancer got the procedure. The biggest predictor of whether or not a woman got reconstruction was insurance coverage. Ultimately, it’s a personal decision. But many fears can get in the way of making the best choice. We asked a

few experts to weigh in on the validity of these fears.

Fear #1: I have to decide right away because reconstruction can only be done immediately following the mastectomy.

“Incorrect,” says Dr. Christy Russell, a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society and

“I was rushed into making a quick decision and was not given the opportunity or the suggestion to have a second opinion.” — Michele Rakoff, director Breast Cancer Care & Research Fund, Los Angeles ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012 • 17

F O U R C O R N E R S H E A L T H Y l i v i n g Issue N o . 5 • T H I N K P I N K 2 012 associate professor of medicine at the University of Southern California. “They can always have a delayed reconstruction.” “One can do a delayed reconstruction. But if one can get it together and really make a decision up front, there’s some economies of scale, so to speak,” says Dr. John Link, author of “The Breast Cancer Survival Manual, 5th Edition” (August, 2012, Holt Paperbacks), director and founder of Breastlink Medical Group, a comprehensive breast cancer treatment group in Orange, Calif. There are a variety of types of reconstruction, he says. One is a silicone implant. The second type is where fat and skin are brought in from somewhere else to create the new breast. The third option is a hybrid of both. “When the breast implant is put in after the mastectomy, it eliminates an added surgery,” Link says. “In our practice, 90 percent of women have immediate reconstruction. Those women who deny it are more likely to do it because of age or underlying health issues like pacemakers, severe obesity, diabetes or heart failure.”

Fear #2: If I have to have radiation or chemotherapy, I can’t have reconstruction until it is over.

“Each person receives different treatment and depending upon that treatment, a decision should be made with discussions between the woman and her health care team,” Rakoff says. “Women should be informed that radiation does have an effect upon the skin and can limit the reconstructive choices.”

Fear #3: It is too dangerous to have reconstruction when you have an aggressive form of cancer.

“No,” Russell says. “Even if women are dying of breast cancer, they deserve to have any type of body they want. You just have to make sure a patient is healthy

18 • ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012

enough to go through the surgery.”

Fear #4: If I don’t have reconstruction, I’ll never feel like a ‘woman’ again.

“There are many women of all ages who have chosen not to have reconstruction and are beautiful, sexy women,” Rakoff says. “I know several who were diagnosed in their 20’s, married after breast cancer and had children. They and their partners feel they are lovely, wonderful “women”.

Fear #5: Reconstruction is a vanity decision – I should just be grateful my cancer is gone.

“Absolutely not,” Russell says. “This is all about doing everything you can to try to even out the chest wall, not only for physical appearance but to even out the weight on the chest and stop back problems.” Following a mastectomy, Russell says women with large breasts “get very unbalanced. They start leaning in one direction.” “The whole process of being treated for breast cancer is difficult enough,” Link says. “There’s no reason a woman shouldn’t try to feel good about herself at the end. There should be no guilt about trying to become as whole as possible.”

Fear #6: If my cancer comes back, it will be easier to detect if I don’t have reconstruction.

“Absolutely incorrect,” Russell says. “Women who get a recurrence on the skin, it looks like a mosquito bite in the skin. It’s very, very easy to detect.” “Local recurrences occur less than 10 percent of the time,” Link says. “When they reoccur, they are almost always on the surface.”

f O U R C O R N E R S H E A L T H Y L I V I N G I ssue N o . 5 • T H i n k p i n k 2 012

Fear #7: My partner won’t be as attracted to me if I don’t have reconstruction.

“I have a lot of patients who have not had reconstruction and they are still functioning normally sexually,” Russell says. “Many of them said the fact that they developed a life threatening illness changed the relationship both emotionally and sexually. It was a wake up call to the marriage. My advice is to know how you use your body sexually before you go into these surgeries” At the same time, Russell points out that the breast is a sexual organ. A mastectomy will deaden sexual stimulation in the skin over the removed breast. And getting a new “breast” from reconstructive surgery will not improve sexual stimulation, either. “There is always an adjustment period after breast surgery and discussions can help,” Rakoff says. “Many couples find it helpful to get professional counseling. Your partner should love you for who you are.” © CTW Features ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012 • 19

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Negative, Negative, Negative One of the most invasive forms, triple-negative breast cancer is difficult to treat and accounts for 10 to 20 percent of all breast cancers. Today, however, it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Here’s what you need to know

20 • ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012

f O U R C O R N E R S H E A L T H Y L I V I N G I ssue N o . 5 • T H i n k p i n k 2 012 By Anna Sachse CTW FEATURES


rom a scientific standpoint, triplenegative breast cancers (usually invasive ductal carcinomas) are those whose cells lack estrogen and progesterone receptors, and do not have an excess of the HER2 protein on their surfaces. Because the growth of the cancer isn’t supported by these hormones or too many HER2 receptors, it doesn’t respond to common hormonal therapy (such as tamoxifen) or therapies that target HER2 receptors, such as Herceptin. Anyone can get triple-negative breast cancer, but it is more likely to occur in premenopausal women, says Patricia Prijatel, author of “Surviving Triple Negative Breast Cancer” (Oxford University Press, 2012) and founder of the Positives About Negative blog ( In addition, although African-American women are less likely to get breast cancer

than Caucasian women, if they do get it, they are more likely to get triple-negative. While this group of cancers is not hereditary, Prijatel notes that it does have a strong association with the BRCA genetic mutation, which is hereditary. “The correlation works one way, but not necessarily the other,” she adds. “Women with the genetic mutation who get breast cancer are most likely to have triplenegative breast cancer than other forms, but women with triple-negative breast cancer do not necessarily have the mutation.” Other studies have found that women with triple-negative were younger at the onset of menstruation, on average had more children (at least three) than nontriple-negative women, they were less likely to breastfeed for more than four months, and they were more likely to not breastfeed at all if they had at least three children, Prijatel says. Another risk factor she finds intriguing is related to metabolic syndrome – a combination of risk factors

such as high blood glucose, high blood pressure and abdominal obesity, plus problems like low “good” cholesterol, high “bad” cholesterol and high triglycerides. “Women diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer are much more likely to have metabolic syndrome than those with other forms of breast cancer,” Prijatel says. “Some research suggests that insulin resistance might be associated with triplenegative breast cancer.” Although triple-negative isn’t a good candidate for hormonal therapy, it can be treated with surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. “In fact, some research has shown that chemotherapy is more effective for triple-negative than for hormone-positive,” Prijatel says. Knowing that triple-negative breast cancer is a family of diseases, the goal going forward is to understand the genetic makeup of the individual tumors that respond to treatment. “So, a treatment may only work on 5 percent of triple-negative tumors, but if we can

identify the 5 percent, then we are making good progress,” Jones says. “Also, now that from a genetic point of view these cancers are no longer black boxes, we can also learn from other tumor types. (Our) study, for example, suggests that a drug used for malignant melanoma might be useful in a small subset of the triplenegative cancers. Of course, this would have to be rigorously tested, but it’s an excellent lead already.” If you have a strong family history and the BRCA mutation, you have several options. The most extreme is a mastectomy and salpingo-oophorectomy to remove ovaries and fallopian tubes. Less extreme and more in our control are exercise and diet modifications that can help reduce the risk of all forms of breast cancer and a batch of other illnesses, including cardiovascular © CTW Features ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012 • 21

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HeAlinG Through Food

Why healthy eating is important for breast cancer survival 22 • ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012



eing a health nut is a lifestyle people will want to embrace – literally. If you’re recovering from breast cancer and getting your appetite back, you may wonder what you should be eating now. Perhaps you’re experiencing fatigue; you’d like a diet that gives you some energy. If your taste buds were affected during treatment, you’d like to once again eat foods that taste good. Most of all, you’d like a diet plan that reduces your risk of a cancer recurrence. Your food choices can help you improve your health and stamina, as well as your mealtime enjoyment. However, don’t search for “magic bullet” foods such as broccoli or a super-berry. Instead, look at your entire dietary pattern. Design it so you’re emphasizing plant foods, including produce, whole grains and beans, while limiting meat, says Alice Bender, registered dietitian. At the same time, control your caloric intake. If you’re overweight or obese, getting to a normal weight is important once you’re finished with treatment. “Being overweight can put women at risk for a recurrence,” says Bender, nutrition communications manager, American Institute for Cancer Research, Washington, D.C. Gain weight after recovery and you could increase your risk by as much as 50 percent, depending on how much you gain, according to data from breast cancer survivors within the Nurses’ Health Study (an ongoing study of women’s health, with more than 200,000 nurse participants). The same foods – produce, whole grains and lean protein – that benefit your health can help you lose weight

f O U R C O R N E R S H E A L T H Y L I V I N G I ssue N o . 5 • T H i n k p i n k 2 012

stay healthy. stay strong. eat good food. without feeling deprived, says Cheryl Rock, Ph.D., registered dietitian, professor, University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. Maybe you’ll still crave the occasional piece of chocolate, but if you “fill up on vegetables before you reach for chocolate, you’ll eat a smaller portion,” Rock says. Salsa and chips are such a decadent treat you might not consider the zesty duo in your post-treatment diet. But this tasty version is chockfull of nutritious vegetables and low in fat. The chips are baked, not fried. The recipe is from “The Back in the Swing Cookbook” by Barbara C. Unell and Judith Fertig (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012). Black Bean, Tomato and Corn Salsa with Baked Tortilla Chips 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained 1 (15-ounce) can corn, rinsed and drained 1 cup canned tomatoes, drained and chopped 1 cup finely chopped red onion ½ cup finely chopped green bell pepper ¼ cup chopped cilantro 2 garlic cloves, minced ½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon sea salt 2 teaspoons olive oil, grapeseed oil or canola oil 1 small jalapeno chile, seeded and finely diced Juice of 1 lime Baked tortilla chips: 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil or canola oil 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

the best in local, organic, non-GMO food & supplements on College and 8th downtown open 8am-9pm daily (970) 247-8129

1.For the salsa combine the black beans, corn, tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, cilantro, garlic, cumin, salt, oil, chile and lime juice in a large bowl. Toss to blend. Cover and refrigerate several hours to let the flavors blend. 2.For the chips, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. With a sharp knife or pizza wheel, cut each tortilla into 8 wedges. Arrange the wedges on 2 large baking sheets. Brush the tops with oil and sprinkle with salt. 3.Bake for 6 to 7 minutes, then rotate the trays in the oven. Continue baking for 6 to 7 minutes longer, until the chips are lightly browned. Serve right away or let cool, then store in an airtight container. Makes 12 servings. Each serving has: 207 calories; 3.5 grams total fat; 38 grams carbohydrates; 8.5 grams protein; 400 milligrams sodium and 10 grams dietary fiber. © CTW Features ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012 • 23

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Ask the Expert: Chandini Portteus

24 • ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012

Susan G. Komen for a Cure’s vice president of research and evaluation talks about the organization’s past, current studies and the continual search for a cure

f O U R C O R N E R S H E A L T H Y L I V I N G I ssue N o . 5 • T H i n k p i n k 2 012 By Lisa Iannucci CTW FEATURES

We need to find a cure for cancer.” It’s a common sentiment among those who have it, had it, lost someone to it or know someone who’s suffered from it. The Susan G.

Komen for the Cure has made it their sole mission to help and, in May, released their 2012 research program grants, which take aim at early and late stage breast disease. Since 1982, the Komen Foundation has funded $685 million in research grants, 154 grants in 22 states and

seven countries. But what does that mean for patients? We had a chance to talk to Chandini Portteus, the vice president of research, evaluation and scientific programs at Susan G. Komen for the Cure. “The important thing to remember about Komen’s research portfolio is that we’ve been funding since 1982, but our portfolio has shifted over time,” Portteus says. “It has a sense of urgency now. The requirement for the research we fund is to show impact within a decade for women and men, so we focus on research that reduces the incidence and mortality of breast cancer. We take discoveries from the lab and translate them into the clinic where women participate in the furthering of that knowledge.”


: When can we expect to see results from the research you’re funding now? What about the

research in previous years – are you seeing results now? : At first, our portfolio was biology-based because in the 80s and 90s we didn’t know much about the biology of breast cancer. We funded some important discoveries back then including Dr. Mary King discovering BRCA1 genes that have a great disposition for breast cancer (editorial note: a single gene on chromosome 17, later known as BRCA1, was found to be responsible for many breast and ovarian cancers). Now, there are exciting things with research on triple negative breast cancer and we know that this is a more aggressive type of breast cancer. An important thing we learned from studies we did then and the work we do now is that breast cancer isn’t one disease, there are sub-types of cancer and women come to the table with complicating factors. All of those things need to be taken into

A ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012 • 25

F O U R C O R N E R S H E A L T H Y l i v i n g Issue N o . 5 • T H I N K P I N K 2 012 consideration when treating a woman or man. We are beginning to understand every woman’s cancer, tailoring it to that person and targeting therapies that come with better outcomes.


:What happens if you fund a study that doesn’t have a positive result or falls completely flat during the research time? : Of course science fails and every experiment we do isn’t going to turn out to be a cure. The important thing is to understand the lessons learned. Researchers can come to us, especially during our Promise Grants, and tell us they thought they were going to find something, but their path has changed and they want to redirect their research. Or sometimes a drug treatment wasn’t the right one or the drug wasn’t available. We know that science is an art and we have flexibility. We also have an eight-member scientific advisory board that looks at


our Promise Grant projects and gives feedback on its direction.


one area we noted that needed more study is that estrogen preceptor positive breast cancer has treatment options, but within five years after diagnosis, they are coming back with a recurrence of their cancer. What is going on there? This year, we focused on the causes.



: In one study, Hee Lee, Ph.D., at the University of Minnesota is working to develop a prototype cell phone study to deliver information and messaging to empower Korean American women. Why not just create an app, and how has technology changed your studies? : A few years ago, we funded a mammography reminder system on telephones and the data showed that even women who are insured, collegeeducated and Caucasian, aren’t getting mammograms. Cell phones are a norm for us and while awareness, education and access are important, we needed to bring cell phones into the study and see how it makes a difference. : What research is lacking?

: What about funding drug development? : We don’t fund drug development. Instead, we fund early stage clinical trials for stage 1 or 2. We’re at that translational bridge and we do things that are really moving out of the lab and to the patients. Funding drug development can be cost prohibitive for us and we feel our mission is to urge scientists to get from the lab to the bedside where the women can see progress.

: This is one of the things we talk to our advisors about and this year,



26 • ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012

: It’s been a rough year. How are you looking forward?


: We were already set to fund $58 million and we met our goal. Research is a priority for Komen and always will be. We are mindful that the economy has affected us all, but we’ve been pleased to see how people are still passionate for what we do. Komen will still be there to help you, provide educational resources. We’ll be there at your diagnosis, and to provide support. We were the first advocacy organization. We know women are dying every day and until no one dies from breast cancer our work isn’t done. For more information on the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, visit http://ww5. © CTW Features

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SHAKE it off By rick stockwell, pt Sunrise physical therapy - Durango, Co

There is no doubt that dealing with and surviving breast cancer, or any cancer for that matter is stressful. The challenges, fears, pain, treatments, and unknowns leave us feeling fearful, helpless, and out of control. What if managing this added stress was as easy as shaking if off? Most of you have probably seen a dog shake or tremor during a thunderstorm. What they’re doing is something all mammals (including humans) have engrained in their system as a way of “shaking off ” stress, anxiety, and fear. Once they are done shaking, the stress is gone from their body. I’ll never forget our dog when we were huddling under an alcove in Utah as a huge clap of thunder rang out and lighting simultaneously struck just outside the alcove. The poor thing shook for almost 2 hours. But then she was done. It was out of her system, and she was back to normal. She didn’t hold onto that traumatic experience for years or decades like humans do. Gazelles in the Serengeti will have numerous life and death chases, and even some near death escapes where they are knocked down with the predator standing over them, and still they are able to let it go and leisurely eat in the grasslands without any lingering effects or hyper vigilance. Animals have a natural way of shaking off stress and trauma. What about humans? Unfortunately, humans seem to have lost this natural instinct. Why? Well that nice Neo-cortex (large new brain) that we humans have serves us in many many ways and has allowed us to evolve as the dominant species on the planet, but one of the things it also does is allow us to inhibit some of our natural instincts. This can both help and hurt us. If your boss is yelling

at you and you started to shake, what do you think would happen to you? You would of course, be seen as weak, unprofessional, not tough enough. So we inhibit this instinct to improve our success, but it comes at a cost. Research shows that 86% of

body. What if we could “shake if off ” like the rest of the mammals in the world? We can. Dr. David Berceli has come up with a way of inducing these “neurogenic tremors” in the human organism. Everybody is able to induce these, so it has to be designed to happen. His technique is called Tension/Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE). He has taught his technique in 34 countries to millions of people as a way to decrease stress and trauma in a simple, natural way. This technique is being used with thousands of soldiers (including the US Military),

at peace. This is something anyone fighting cancer would welcome. The key to the many, varied benefits of TRE is that it is addressing the core reason for these problems and conditions instead of merely chasing symptoms. That core reason is an imbalance in the Sympathetic (fight/flight) and Parasympathetic (rest/digest) Nervous Systems brought about by held stress and trauma in the human organism. TRE’s help to reset that balance by shaking out the held tension in the body, quieting the mind where that held tension originates, and restoring homeostasis to the nervous system. TRE’s are a unique body-centered technique that work from the “inside out” to clear and balance the Sympathetic/Parasympathetic Nervous Systems. This is critical for things like fighting cancer, as the immune system has a difficult time working properly when we are sympathetically driven. TRE’s are easy to learn and there are several providers in the area that teach this technique. TRE’s can be taught individually, or in group settings. They can also be learned at home by reading Dr. Berceli’s book or watching his DVD. Trained and certified practitioners facilitate the process and help the tremors propagate throughout the body so blockages can be released easier and quicker.

our health problems are stress related. Stress has been called the “health epidemic of the 21st century” by the World Health Organization and is estimated to cost American businesses up to $300 billion a year. So, how do we humans get rid of stress? We try relaxation activities like Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and visualization. We exercise (sometimes obsessively). We may vent in more negative ways like road rage, yelling at our loved ones, kicking the dog. We may take medications for sleep, depression, anxiety, and digestive problems. But all these are just pressure relief valves and don’t really release the held stress from our

emergency organizations around the world, areas where natural disasters have occurred, people with heath crises, and general populations in war torn and politically oppressed countries. He has found it extremely helpful for anxiety disorders, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), general stress, and the many varied conditions caused or aggravated by stress, illness, injury, and trauma. It has also been found to help decrease tremors and seizures in conditions like parkinsons, MS, restless leg syndrome, and Epilepsy. Athletes are finding it to be great way to speed recovery after workouts. A common response from most who do TRE’s is sleeping better and feeling more

More information on TRE’s can be found on Rick Stockwell’s website at: physical-therapy-durango/ or on Dr. David Berceli’s website: Rick Stockwell, PT and Melaney Sreenan, Ph.D are both Level II Certified TRE Providers. They specialize is restoring physical and emotional balance after it has been disrupted by injury, illness, or trauma. Rick can be reached at Sunrise Physical Therapy (970) 749-5308. His website is: Melaney can be reached at Spirit Unlimited (970) 382-0008. Her website is: ~ Sunday, October 21, 2012 • 27

927 Highway 3, Durango, Colorado 81301

It’s Your Health. . . It’s Your Choice. . . It’s Your Medicine!

If you have breast cancer, you may have considered the use of medical cannabis at some point during your chemo treatment. One of the most widely studied therapeutic applications for cannabis and the pharmaceutical drugs derived from cannabinoids is in the treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy. Numerous clinical studies have reported that the use of cannabis reduces pain, nausea, vomiting, and stimulates appetite.

“Nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety ... all can be mitigated by marijuana.... For patients, such as those with AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy, who suffer simultaneously from severe pain, nausea, and appetite loss, cannabinoid drugs might offer broad spectrum relief not found in any other single medication.” INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE – Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base, 1999

We feature a large selection of medication including a variety of medibles: • Cannabis Strains • Kief/Hash • Tinctures • Sodas/Teas • Fruit punch • Chocolates

• Candies • Baked Goods • Hash Oil Caps • Tonics • Salves/Ointments • Massage Oil

• Soaps/Bath Salts • Ice Cream • Pipes • RemPens • Vaporizers

YOUR health should be YOUR decision. At Natures Own Wellness Center, our friendly and knowledgeable

staff is committed to serving you with quality medication, in a safe, private, and tranquil environment. Our member patients enjoy member pricing and special daily deals. Please contact us to learn more.

970-259-0283 Open Monday-Sunday

Natures Own Wellness Center works diligently to ensure your visit is always done with the respect and privacy you deserve. NOWC herald ad 10.5 x 10.125 4c 5

10/12/12, 4:01:34 PM

Four Corners Healthy Living - Think Pink 2012  

Semi-annual magazine focusing on genreal health and issues specific to people in the FOur Corners region. This issue focuses on breast canc...

Four Corners Healthy Living - Think Pink 2012  

Semi-annual magazine focusing on genreal health and issues specific to people in the FOur Corners region. This issue focuses on breast canc...