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thinkpink October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

INSIDE Page 3: How philanthropy, volunteerism and advocacy and can help in the fight against breast cancer Page 9: Understanding the causes of higher mortality rates in Latina women diagnosed with breast cancer Page 10: Tips for reducing stress and discomfort at your next mammogram

Waiting, hoping and coping Living with breast cancer By E.I. Hillin Staff Writer e.hillin@sonomawest.com

S

ue Simon and Stacy Simons have never met. If their paths ever crossed in life they didn’t notice it, but they have more in common than just a coincidentally similar last name. Both women have felt the crushing weight of a breast cancer diagnosis. Sue Simon lives in Sebastopol and is cancer-free. Stacy Simons lives in Occi-

dental and is currently combating cancer. The two women have very different lives, but in one way their stories are the same. They both are figuring out how to live day-by-day in the wake of breast cancer. For Sue Simon, breast cancer isn’t just a battle that marched into her life and then disappeared without a trace. It’s a painting above the fireplace, an old song on the radio or a billboard along the freeway. It’s an everyday type of presence. It’s in the background, but it’s always there. In one form or another since 1996, the year Simon was diagnosed, breast cancer

STRENGTH IN SUPPORT — Sue Simon, above, looks through a book given to her by coworkers in 1996 after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. On her dining table sits photos of Simon and her sisters. On the left is Michele who died from breast cancer in 2005, and on the right is a photo of Simon and her sister Cheryl, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. Photo E.I. Hillin

has been present in her life. It stole her sister Michele in 2005, after an eight-year fight, and continues to plague her sister Cheryl, who was diagnosed in 2013. Simon, 66, is a retired school principal. A job opportunity at Kenilworth Junior High brought her to Sonoma County in 1993. She has called Sebastopol home ever since. The oldest of three girls, Simon grew up in Compton, where her parents owned a pizza shop. She said her father attempted to recreate his own Middle Eastern upbringing, where family was the one of strongest bonds in life, to their home in southern California. That family bond would become increasingly significant to Simon’s life as an adult. When Simon was 45, she went in for a routine women’s check up. When

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How we can make a difference By Debbie Mason

B

reast cancer is a disease that strikes so many families, including my own. The treatments can be incredibly harsh and debilitating on those already weakened by this terrible disease. It is scary and with reason, as breast cancer is the leading cancer that kills women in the U.S. This summer, I spent time with a close family member, whose breast cancer had returned after 10 years. Unfortunately, it has metastasized in her brain and spine. While I cherish the time I had driving her 1.5 hours each way for daily treatment, it was hard to see this vibrant soul, a cheerful and loving grandmother, mother, wife and friend struggle with this condition. Tens of thousands of families each year deal with similar situations. Indeed, it is hard to find someone who has not had a close friend or family member stricken by breast cancer. Yet there is hope for a long term cure. I am heartened by the tremendous sums of money that are going into research to find a cure. The Susan G. Komen Foundation just announced a $26 million investment in research and treatments for breast cancer for this year. This year’s commitment brings the total invested by this behemoth organization to more than $988 million in research and $2.2 billion in funding for

screening, education, treatment and psy- thanks to a reduction in hormone therchosocial support programs serving milapy and an increase in early detection lions of people in more than 60 countries methods. worldwide. Also, the prognosis for women getting Other nonprofits, such as the Americancer is dropping. Women in the U.S. can Cancer Society, the National Cancer have a one in eight chance (12 percent) Institute, the Cancer Research Institute of getting breast cancer during their lifeand more, also make significant investtimes. ments each year. Although breast cancer research is The U.S. government invests in breast not among the top 10 expenditures by cancer research as well, financing more government researchers, the amount invested by the than $4 billion in NIH is gradubreast cancer really growing search since 2014. from $682 milBut the disease We have a chance to make a lion in 2014 to continues to prean estimated vail. An estimated difference through donating, $755 million 325,000 new cases advocating for women focused this year. of breast cancer Equally imare expected to be policies, and volunteering in portant, the diagnosed in causes that matter. Let’s power of phiwomen in the U.S. lanthropy this year. As of accept that challenge to do January 2018, more makes all the than 3 million difference. more. women in our Nonprofit recountry, including search funding those in current continues to active treatment, have some history of significantly grow each year, thanks to breast cancer. the amazing generosity of donors. Genetics matter greatly in determinLocally, we see the power of philaning our risk. A woman’s risk of breast thropy for this disease through the Healthcare Foundation Northern cancer nearly doubles if her mother, sisSonoma County’s efforts created more ter or daughter has been diagnosed with than a decade ago by Mary Ellen Smith breast cancer. and a number of other women who esUnfortunately, we still lose too many tablished “Girlfriends for a Cure.” women to this disease. About 41,000 Through their hard work, they made women are expected to die this year from breast cancer, even though death sure that northern Sonoma County rates have been decreasing since 1989, women had access to free mammograms

Government programs help, but philanthropy is key

DEBBIE MASON (CFRE, APR, FELLOW PRSA) is the CEO of Healthcare Foundation Northern Sonoma County.

if they could not afford to pay. And, our continued investments in local clinics provide access for early detection to uninsured. Volunteerism is important, too. Currently, the American Cancer Society deploys volunteers in our area to drive cancer patients to their treatments. What a life saver, literally, for single people or those with working spouses who cannot drive themselves to care. These rides can be accessed by calling 800-2272345 and volunteers are always sought for this service, too. I hope we see a cure for breast cancer in my lifetime. We have a chance to make a difference through donating, advocating for women focused policies, and volunteering in causes that matter. Let’s accept that challenge to do more.

Warning signs of breast cancer Due to the regular use of mammography screening, most breast cancers in the U.S. are found at an early stage, before warning signs appear. However, not all breast cancers are found through mammography. If you have any of the warning signs described below, see a health care provider. If you don’t have a provider, one of the best ways to find a good one is to get a referral from a trusted family member or friend. If that’s not an option, call your health department, a clinic or a nearby hospital. If you have insurance, your insurance company may also have a list of providers in your area. Warning signs The warning signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women. The most common signs are a change in the look or feel of the breast OR a change in the look or feel of the nipple OR nipple discharge. In most cases, these changes are not cancer. One example is breast pain. It's more common with benign breast conditions than with breast cancer, but the only way to know for sure is to get it checked. If the change does turn out to be breast cancer, it’s best to find it at an early stage, when the chances of survival are highest. Breast lumps or lumpiness Many women may find their breasts feel lumpy. Breast tissue naturally has a bumpy texture. Some women have more lumpiness in their breasts than

others. In most cases, this lumpiness is no cause to worry. If the lumpiness can be felt throughout the breast and feels like your other breast, then it’s likely normal breast tissue. Lumps that feel harder or different from the rest of the breast (or the other breast) or that feel like a change should be checked. This type of lump may be a sign of breast cancer or a benign breast condition (such as a cyst or fibroadenoma). See a health care provider if you: • Find a new lump (or any change) that feels different from the rest of your breast; • Find a new lump (or any change) that feels different from your other breast; • Feel something that’s different from what you felt before. • If you’ve had a benign lump in the past, don’t assume a new lump will also be benign. The new lump may not be breast cancer, but it’s best to make sure.

Nipple discharge Liquid leaking from your nipple (nipple discharge) can be troubling, but it’s rarely a sign of breast cancer. Discharge can be your body's natural reaction when the nipple is squeezed. Signs of a more serious condition (such as breast cancer) include discharge that: • Occurs without squeezing the nipple; • Occurs in only one breast; • Is bloody or clear (not milky). Nipple discharge can also be caused by an infection or other condition that needs treatment. If you have any nipple discharge, see a health care provider.

For breast health or breast cancer information, call the Breast Care Helpline: 877-465-6636 or email helpline@komen.org. Information supplied by the Susan G. Komen Foundation

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Playing the role of big sister, Simon was worried but able to use her own experience to help. For the next eight Continued from Page 1 years, breast cancer would be the new the results came back questionable, she normal in the family. underwent a biopsy and found out she “You’re moving through it and trying had breast cancer. to move on with your life and get on with In the next six months, she would your life in the new normal, and then to have three surgeries. The first was a have a sister die,” she said. “It was a lumpectomy, an operation to remove the hard row.” cancer from her breast. This surgery ulIn 2013, about eight years after timately resulted in her doctor discoverMichele’s death, Simon’s sister Sheryl ing more cancer. The last surgery was a was diagnosed with breast cancer. The mastectomy to make sure the cancer news spurred Simon to take a bold step would not spread. and have her other breast removed. Simon recalls that point in her life “That was the point where I decided being really tough. She was a single to have the second mastectomy,” she mother with a said. blooming career. Cheryl began “Absolutely, initreatment and has But we just rally, that’s the tially I was been battling her beauty of my family, we just stunned,” she breast cancer with said. oral chemotherapy come together. The most diffiand radiation. cult periods were “For a window the days after the of time, it just was surgeries and before the results. In the what we were dealing with,” Simon said. midst of the anxiety, Simon said she had “But we just rally, that’s the beauty of the strength and mindset to stay optimy family, we just come together.” mistic. In the last 22 years, Simon’s attitude “I always felt really positive this was of optimism has not changed, but she something in life that I was, in that mosaid her spirituality did increase as she ment, dealing with,” she said. “I didn’t learned about the fragility of life. think it was going to get me.” “There’s no guarantee with any of it,” The cancer did not end up getting she said. Simon. She made it through, but nothing With this knowledge gained, Simon would be the same. While Simon was has been able to be of service to others going through treatment, her sister in her family, in the schools she has Michele was also diagnosed with a worked for and in her community. The breast cancer. message she carries to others is one of “Her cancer was much more aggresassurance. sive,” Simon said. “Whatever it is, you’re going to be

COPING:

okay, you’re going to manage it,” she said. “It’s part of the flow of life.” Today, Simon reflects on her lifechanging experience as a part of who she is, but not all of who she is. There are also the happy parts. Like her memory of doing the macarena outside with a friend before her mastectomy, and the burst of laughter breaking an emotional moment as her weepy family watched her being wheeled into surgery. “I gave them a peace sign and I started laughing and they started laughing,” she said. “It’s about the goofy stuff too.”

F

or Stacy Simons, breast cancer is a constant unwelcome guest. It looms late into the night and wakes in the early hours of dawn. It sits just under her skin, beneath the small port where chemotherapy is administered to her body. She has completed five exhaustive treatments and is using alternative therapies, but her fight is far from over. “I’m kind of right in the middle of things,” she said. Simons, 45, was diagnosed with breast cancer in January, but her story began in 2015 when she first felt something out of place. Simon said the lump felt like a large area of firm tissue. “It didn’t even occur to me that it might be cancer,” she said. “I was under the misconception, like most people, that if you have cancer, especially something that felt kind of big, that I’d be in pain or feel sick.” In the summer of 2017, Simons decided to get the lump checked out. She said the process was frustrating. “It was a bureaucratic, huge pain in

Photo provided

COLD CAP — Stacy Simons wears a cold

cap during her chemotherapy treatment. Simons said two friends attended each of her treatments to help her with the caps.

the butt,” she said. Simons is a massage therapist and avid yogi. She views herself as a healthy person with an active lifestyle. When it came time to pick out insurance, she said the most affordable plan was her best option. Unfortunately that option ended up costing precious time. Simons recalls the anxiety-ridden months that passed between doctor visits and waiting for results as being very stressful. “The waiting was just the most diffi-

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cult period,” she said. By the time she was able to get a biopsy to confirm the lump was cancer, it was January, and Simons said the news was not a surprise. “I was kind of expecting it,” she said. Since then she has been combining conventional and alternative therapies. Along with the stress of a breast cancer diagnosis, Simons said she was feeling isolated from her community. Initially she was against going through chemotherapy, fearing the repercussions of the potent treatments on her body. In the end, she felt like she didn’t have time to wait. Simons said she was in a lonely place and found it difficult to find the voice of reason. “In my community there is this large contingent of alternative people who just completely shun conventional therapy,” she said. “Then there’s the conventional people who look at you like you’re a fruitcake if you want to do anything alternative.” In April Simons began chemotherapy. An initial MRI following treatment looked hopeful, suggesting that the tumor’s size had decreased due to the chemotherapy. However, the results from her lumpectomy last month, showed something different. “When I got my lumpectomy it hadn’t shrunk,” she said. “It has actually gotten bigger.” Another concerning find by the doctors during the lumpectomy was that the cancer had spread into two of Simons’ lymph nodes. This time the results were not only surprising, they were devastating. “I felt like I fell off a cliff,” Simons

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said. In order to channel strength, Simons said she uses meditation, music and nature. She admits the lessons she learned through her experience with breast cancer have to do with acceptance and letting go of expectations. “I might not have long,” she said. “I’m not attached to this body. I’m okay with being dead.” Support from friends has been a vital source of comfort for Simons. Her friends would rotate turns attending chemotherapy treatments with her. Each time two friends would accompany Simons and assist her with her “cold caps,” which she used to save her hair during treatment. “That’s the only reason I have hair right now,” she said. “Doing that and having hair allowed me to feel a little more normal throughout the whole thing.” Going through the experience has helped Simons realize she has friendships and connections she didn’t know about before. “There’s a lot of love and support that’s around me that I was blind to,” she said. Simons is not yet sure of the date of surgery, but expects to be undergoing a mastectomy in the coming weeks. Photo E.I. Hillin

CHANNELING STRENGTH — Stacy

Simons was diagnosed with breast cancer in January. She has undergone chemotherapy and is preparing for a mastectomy. She said she channels strength through meditation, nature and music.

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BREAST CANCER

Supporting Breast Cancer Awareness

MYTHS Myth: I’m only 35. Breast cancer happens only in older women.

 

 

  

    

          

    



     

   

Fact: While the risk of breast cancer increases with age, ALL women are at risk. Even women in their 20s can get breast cancer. Myth: Only women with a family history of breast cancer get breast cancer.

Remember to do monthly self exams & regular mammograms

Fact: Most women who get breast cancer have no family history of the disease. Myth: If I don’t have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, I won’t get breast cancer.

Sandy Mays

Fact: Most women who get breast cancer do not have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.

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Myth: If I eat right, don’t smoke, exercise and don’t drink alcohol, I won’t get breast cancer. Fact: A person can do everything “right� and still get breast cancer.

      

        

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Latina women with breast cancer have higher mortality rates By Alex Armstrong

B

eginning in 1985, the month of October is recognized as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Over the intervening years, through a combination of new treatments, early detection, better education and increased support systems there has been a 39 percent decrease in mortality from breast cancer. However progress has not been equal across all economic and racial classes. Although breast cancer rates are lower in Latina women than in other races, breast cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in Latina women. Compared with white women, breast cancer is more likely to be caught in Latina women when it has reached a more advanced stage and treatments are less successful. Latina women are also about 20 percent more likely to die of breast

cancer than white women diagnosed at a awareness of breast cancer risks and similar age and stage, according to the screening methods, lack of insurance and access to regular health care, lack of American Cancer Society. culturally sensitive health care Latina women have lower rates of providers, fear of diagnosis and cultural mammography utilization and delayed and language barriers. follow-up of These reasons are abnormal even more pertinent screening for low income and results or selfCompared with white under/uninsured discovered women, breast cancer is Latina women. breast Fortunately, there abnormalities, more likely to be caught in are programs and which likely contribute to agencies to help this Latina women when it has this difference. population. The reached a more advanced During 2008“Every Woman 2012, 57 percent Counts” program, stage and treatments are of breast under the California less successful. cancers among Department of Health Latina women Care Services provides were diagnosed benefits to uninsured at a local stage, compared to 65 percent and underinsured women to reduce among white women. There are many breast and cervical cancer mortality reasons Latina women in the U.S. are rates in California women. All the community clinics in Sonoma diagnosed at a later stage. County offer low cost programs and care These reasons include: lack of

Screening key to survival

ALEx ARMSTRONG is the CEO of Alliance Medical Center.

coordination. And the large health care systems offer various levels of low cost and charity care. The key is raising awareness of the value of early screening and health education to the Latina population. Take the opportunity to learn which services and preventative education are available and reach out to our Latina community members.

More information about Every Woman Counts and the EWC app can be found at www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/cancer/EWC/

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Preparing for your mammogram Tips for a successful and effective test By Janet McCann

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JANET MCCANN is the Lead

Mammography Technologist at Sonoma Specialty Hospital in Sebastopol.

getting

ndergoing an annual mammogram is the most important step for monitoring breast health. Mammograms are important tools in the fight against breast cancer, because they can detect breast cancer in even the earliest stages before symptoms are notable, which allows doctors to more effectively treat the cancer and gives patients the highest chance of remission. Whether it’s your first time, or you are a mammogram veteran, these tips will help you prepare for your mammogram exam The first step in preparing for your breast imaging test is choosing a center that is ACR (American College of Radiology) Accredited for breast imaging. This stamp of approval ensures that you are visiting a center that is held to the highest standards for radiology care. For such an important test, going to a center that you can trust ensures you get the best breast imaging care. Mammograms have the reputation of being slightly uncomfortable. Since

stronger

mammography utilizes x-rays, the breasts are compressed between two plates to ensure that a clear image is captured. By scheduling your appointment at a time when your breasts are the least sensitive, you can ensure your experience will be more comfortable. From a sensitivity perspective, scheduling your appointment a week after your period is generally the best time. Since deodorant and lotions can interfere with imaging results, it’s best to go without talcum powder, deodorant, lotion or perfume on the day of your exam. The aluminum found in these products can create false positives, which requires additional and often unnecessary scanning. Wearing a two-piece outfit can make it easier to take off your top and bra before your mammogram, while leaving the rest of your body covered. Be prepared to remove any jewelry before your breast exam, to ensure your results are accurate. Before arriving at your mammogram appointment, be sure to complete any necessary paperwork. If it’s your first time at a particular center, providing images of your previous mammograms can give your radiologist a point of

reference. If you are experiencing any concerning symptoms, compile a list of your concerns so your doctor can keep these in mind. Be proactive about your breast health and keep these tips in mind when you schedule your annual mammogram.

PRE-VISIT CHECKLIST 1. Schedule your mammogram at a time when your breasts are the least sensitive, such as a week after your period. 2. Avoid deodorant, lotions, perfumes, or anything that could affect your results. 3. Wear a two piece outfit for ease of undressing and be sure to remove any jewelry. 4. Compile your paperwork and any questions or symptoms you may have ahead of time.

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Breast Cancer. Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Fight It. Together. From GIRLFRIENDS FOR A CURE to the proceeds from WINE WOMEN & SHOES Sonoma County YOU help us fund our mission to fight breast cancer and provide better health for all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

[ FRONT ROW L TO R] CEO Debbie Mason, with board members Donna Merideth, Amy Mandrier, Denise Martin, Malinalli Lopez, Bill Hawn and Barbara Grasseschi. [ MIDDLE ROW L TO R] Clay Fritz, Kim Lloyd, Laura Kimbro, Sarah Katz, Ross Stromberg. [ BACK ROW L TO R] Marketing Coordinator Rudy Campos, with board members James Berry, Peter McAweeney and Scott Hafner. [ NOT PICTURED] Board members Kelly Comstock Ferris, Bob Gain, Erin Gore, Ariel Kelley, and Lisa Meisner.

     

Become a

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Think Pink


Think Pink, Think Prevention

HAVE YOU HAD YOUR MAMMOGRAM LATELY? Sonoma West Medical Center is adopting a new name and embracing a larger purpose, providing vital medical services found nowhere else in the area. As Sonoma Specialty Hospital a spectrum of services will be provided. To kick off Octoberâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Breast Cancer Awareness Month we are extending an invitation to women in the area to think about breast health. One of the most important aspects of breast cancer prevention is monthly self-breast exams plus annual screening. Our hospital can provide an annual screening mammogram by an expert technologist using state-of-the-art 3D mammography equipment, read by a certified radiologist specializing in mammography. Studies have shown that 3D mammography detects 20% to 65% more invasive breast cancer than traditional 2D mammography, with an average increase of 41% breast cancer detection. 3D mammography can be done in conjunction with a traditional 2D digital mammogram. Call your physician to schedule an appointment today. Our vital medical service is Long-term Acute Care, for chronically or critically ill patients who require an ICU or an ICU-level of care over a longer period. These patients will arrive at Sonoma Specialty Hospital from the hospitals in the surrounding area who have been slow to recover due to a major illness or trauma. Sonoma Specialty Hospital will continue to offer medical services to the community including outpatient diagnostic imaging, ultrasound, laboratory and surgical services.

Sonoma Specialty Hospital 501 Petaluma Ave, Sebastopol, CA 95472 Think Pink

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Profile for Sonoma West Publishers

THINK PINK 2018  

THINK PINK 2018