No Boobs About It, Inc., www.noboobsaboutit.org is a not for profit organization sharing information , resources and support on getting through treatment and on with life.

Where You Have Your Mammogram Does Matter

mammogram

4.0.4

Before you get a mammogram, make sure you are getting it at a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved location such as a clinic, doctor’s office, hospital, mammogram van.

Be sure to ask if the location you have chosen meets the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA).  MQSA,  is a national law that approves all of the places where you can get a mammogram.

The FDA MQSA also makes sure that all of the people who work there have the right training and education, including the people who:

• Test the equipment to make sure it’s working
• Take your mammogram
• Study your mammogram

If You Have Breast Implants, What About a Mammogram:

• When you make your appointment, make sure to say that you have breast implants.

• If the clinic doesn’t accept patients with implants, ask them for the name and phone number of one that does.
• When you get to your appointment, remind the staff that you have implants.
• You will need a person who is trained to X-ray women with implants. Implants can hide breast
tissue and make it harder to find
problems.

What is Digital Mammography and Who Should Have It?

A regular mammogram is viewed on X-ray film. A digital mammogram is viewed on a computer.

Who should have digital mammography?

• Women under 50 years old.

• Women with “dense” breasts. (Breasts that have more tissue than fat.)

• Call your clinic or doctor to see if digital mammography is right for you.

Source: Mammography website: http://www.fda.gov/cdrh/mammography
Digital mammography website:
www.fda.gov/cdrh/mammography/dig-faq.html

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In Memory of Michelle

 The guest post that follows is reprinted in memory of its author, Michelle Pammenter Young. While I never had the opportunity to meet Michelle in person, we spoke  by phone, and corresponded by email. Michelle was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer in 2012 and died in 2014. She used her short time from diagnosis to her passing to do the things that were important to her. She took chances, authored a book, and did what brought her joy.

                       Cancer, a Gift or a Curse?

Cancer I have heard told that having cancer is a gift. When people say that to me I want to ask them if they are crazy.  Or how about “would you like a gift like this?”  Why in the world would anyone truly believe getting cancer is a gift?  A gift is something that you unwrap on some special occasion, that you ooh and aah over and if it’s a well thought out gift, you will probably cherish it for the rest of your life.

My cancer did not come in a nicely wrapped box with a bow on top.  I did not jump up and down with glee when I got it, no, far from it.  My cancer diagnosis tore my world apart.  Here I was quietly minding my own business, being a supportive wife to my husband and trying to be a good mother to my children.  I had just returned from two amazing holidays, one in Australia and one in Texas.  Life was fantastic.

Suddenly the rug got ripped out from under me.  I landed hard, flat on my back, too stunned to comprehend.  Why would I get a life threatening cancer?  Who did I anger in order for this terrible life-ending prognosis to be assigned to me?  The questions were endless and the first few months, as I was rushed into aggressive chemotherapy, were very challenging.

Slowly I came to understand my illness, I began writing a blog to help let the pain and fear out and I decided not to hide behind my illness, but to go out into the world and live as best I could.  On some days it took all my strength to walk around the block.  On others, I was so sad I wanted to hibernate and never look another human being in the eye again.  I persevered, through sheer persistence, with the help of my friends and family. I took each day as it came and eventually I could see the light at the end of the long dark tunnel.

My writing brought me joy and the feedback from my readers brought me more joy.  I was onto something here.  From my bed in my little part of the world I was making an impact.  I was helping people.  My raw and no holds barred posts about chemotherapy and radiation were helping other cancer patients to understand what they were up against.  It became addictive.  I’d share my experiences and within a few hours I’d hear from women and men all over the world.  So then I put it out there and asked my readers what they would like me to write about and I did my best to tackle those subjects.

I was flying high.  So this begs the question.  Is this a gift from cancer?  If I had not been diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer would I have started writing eventually one day?  Does it take a cancer diagnosis or some other dramatic life event for us to search inside ourselves and find our purpose, our passion, what drives us?  I sincerely hope not. 

Can I suggest that rather than waiting for your world to come crashing down, how about spending some time trying to find out what drives you.  What brings you joy?  If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?  Can you incorporate that into your life, even if it’s only in a little way right now?  Happiness builds on happiness.  Starting a small life affirming project now could lead to filling your entire life with joy.

So go ahead.  Take the plunge.  I dare you.

 

cancerMichelle Pammenter Young was a financial advisor turned writer and in her words – a cancer warrior. Michelle grew up in South Africa and made her home in British Columbia, Canada with her husband, two children, a cat and a dog named Waldo. Her  published book “The Year I Died” is  available on Amazon Kindle and on Amazon print.

Photo by: Gadbois photography

 

 

 

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Adoption After Cancer

A few weeks ago an article appeared in a major newspaper and online about the difficulties cancer survivors faced when trying to adopt. I reached out to Beth Gainer, a fellow survivor, blogger and writer who became an adoptive parent after having breast cancer. She shares her experience in the article that follows. Thanks Beth for the hope your story gives to those who don’t want cancer to rob them of the chance to have a child!

Adoption

Adoption After Cancer

By Beth Gainer

I was diagnosed with breast cancer at a relatively young age. Although my mortality was on the line, I still had a burning question for my oncologist: Could I have a child after chemotherapy? He said my chemo regimen caused infertility in only about 1 percent of all cases. I felt reassured.

Until I found out I was in that 1 percent.

I was lucky to have lived, but when my gynecologist confirmed I was now infertile, life seemed cruel. I mourned my lost fertility because I wanted a child more than anything in the world. And now my dream of motherhood seemed out of reach, a giant cast-iron door slammed in my face.

After grieving for awhile, it occurred to me that maybe I could adopt a child and realize my dream of motherhood after all. However, I felt I had three strikes against me. I was recently divorced, would be a single parent, and — worst of all — I had cancer not that long ago. What adoption agency would want to work with me?

It turns out an agency did want to work with me.

AdoptionI decided to adopt a baby girl from China. At the time, China allowed single women to adopt babies. Like every adoptive parent, I attended lots of adoption classes and did the extensive paperwork run-around, submitting many items such as the divorce decree and proof of employment. My social worker and the agency were highly supportive regarding my health history. It was alright for me to have had a past medical issue such as cancer, but my agency — and China — understandably wanted a letter from my oncologist stating I was in good health.

This last administrative step seemed insurmountable to me. After all, what oncologist could guarantee I was healthy and would stay healthy, especially given my cancer history? Fearfully, I asked my oncologist if he would write a proof-of-good-health letter for my agency and for the Chinese government. He enthusiastically agreed and wrote a letter that met the proof-of-good-health requirement.

A word about my oncologist: he understands that living involves more than being free of cancer. He knows and encourages his patients to pursue their dreams, whatever their medical situations and outcomes.

His letter was the key to an unchartered door. After this final piece of documentation was submitted, I finally stopped sweating: My completed dossier was on its way to China.

After an excruciatingly long wait of four years — this had nothing to do with my health status but everything to do with the red tape of adoption — a beautiful baby girl was placed in my arms. That was six years ago.

Arielle is now seven, and motherhood is far better than I ever expected. She has given me immeasurable joy and love and a sense of purpose. And I got to realize my dream of raising a child, a dream I initially believed was out of reach.

Many people with prior serious health issues or pre-existing conditions automatically assume they will not be allowed to adopt. This is not necessarily true. It is true that survivors of serious illnesses must prove they are in good current health in order to adopt, but depending on the adoption and health situation of one or both adoptive parents, there’s leeway regarding health issues.

Last month, a press release indicated that a physician’s letter of good health for adoption purposes can be seen as discriminatory. However, I disagree. I believe that such a letter request is fair. Although the prospect of proving I was healthy frightened me when I was seeking to adopt, I knew that — given my cancer history — it made sense that my agency and China wanted to ensure I was currently in good health.

Of course, no one ever knows for certain that their current or future health is stable.  All adoption agencies care about is that prospective adoptive parents are considered healthy. That letter of good health is the golden ticket for survivors of serious illnesses.

The press release also stated that “international adoptions had greater restrictions for prospective adoptive parents with a cancer history.” I have not found this to be true in my quest for a baby from China. In fact, greater restrictions were placed on me because I was single than because I survived cancer. At the time I was petitioning to adopt a child, China limited the number of single people who could adopt. I was put on a “singles” waiting list and had a longer wait than my married counterparts. I felt this single-mom quota was more discriminatory than China wanting to know I was healthy.

Nowadays, in the United States, domestic adoption is open, which means the birth parent(s) can choose the adoptive parents. If the adoptive parents are also willing, adoption can take place. It’s a beautiful, collaborative effort, but one fraught with a rollercoaster of emotions and unknowns. Domestic adoptions fall through for one reason or another, and — as with international adoption — prospective adoptive parents must be exceedingly patient in the adoption waiting game.

It’s true that a birth parent might not want to place her baby with a prospective adoptive parent with a cancer history. However, a birth parent might decide not to place her baby with a single prospective parent, one with a history of divorce, and/or a history of alcoholism for that matter.

Adoption is a long, often-tedious process, whether or not someone has always been healthy. The mounds of paperwork and the emotional upheaval of adoption are challenging for anyone going through this process. A cancer history adds an unknown variable into the mix, but adoption is fraught with many unknown variables in the first place. Still, if a person wants to adopt, he or she should go for it.

Adoption certainly isn’t for everyone, but it was the right route for me. For survivors who find themselves infertile, it is a viable way to creating or adding to a family. I’m so glad I didn’t allow my fears throughout the adoption process to get the best of me. Because my daughter always brings out the best in me.


Beth Gainer is an author who is completing a book on how to navigate the medical system. She blogs at Calling the Shots. She can also be contacted through Twitter at @bethlgainer and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Beth-L-Gainer-Calling-the-Shots/133007320100661.

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Cancer What To Do or Say

cancer

This blog gives me the opportunity to meet many courageous and caring people. Claudia Mulcahy, is one such person. Like most who come to this site, Claudia knows, first-hand what it means to experience cancer. She has written a book that guides the patient while giving friends and family insights into how they can be there for their loved one with cancer.

As Claudia puts it, “When I was first diagnosed with cancer in 2009, I quickly learned three things:

  • People want to help, but don’t know what to do or say.
  • I couldn’t relate to the very feminine books oozing with estrogen, or the women venting rage at their bodies. There wasn’t a book out there for me.
  • I had no idea what to do, or what to tell people who asked me, “How may I help you?”

I began to write a handful of people updates. The list grew, and at the urging of several friends and family who received my email updates, I’ve written a book!

Guess what? The book, Cancer What To Do Or Say (a book for people newly diagnosed with cancer, and those wanting to help) has launched!

Cancer What To Do Or Say has over 200 essential tips, email insights, and photos. It has humor, raw moments, and a light spiritual canceredge woven throughout. There are no terms like: fight, struggle, battle, victim, or survivor. This book guides the patient through their cancer experience and provides friends and families ideas for how to move from feeling awkward into being of service.

Please check out my website and take this opportunity to help someone going through cancer treatment, or someone who wants to help, but doesn’t know how.

Receive a 10% discount on the book at www.CancerWhatToDoOrSay.com

The book and e-book are available at CancerWhatToDoOrSay.com <http://cancerwhattodoorsay.com/>, Amazon.com <http://amazon.com/>, BarnesandNoble.com <http://barnesandnoble.com/>, and if you don’t see it in your bookstore—ask for it.”

Health and Happiness,

 Claudia Mulcahy

CancerWhatToDoOrSay.com

twitter.com/CancerWhatToDo

facebook.com/CancerWhatToDoOrSay

youtube.com/CancerWhatToDoOr

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Sexuality After a Diagnosis of Breast Cancer

sexualityI recently read a review of research published in Maturitas an international science journal dedicated to research about midlife health and beyond. The article focused on sexuality after breast cancer.

Summarizing the research findings in a sentence …women get little support to help them maintain intimacy while going through treatment or restoring intimacy after active treatment is over.

Sexuality remains the taboo subject.

The review, which analyzes studies from 1998 to 2010, concluded that the sexual needs of women with breast cancer are rarely addressed in a clinical setting. The reasons given vary; health professionals either don’t know how to, or don’t feel comfortable, initiating discussions, or worse, assume post-menopausal women are no longer concerned about their sexuality as they are no longer sexually active.

As a navigator meeting with women in treatment for breast cancer, I know the fear and anxiety so many women have about their sexuality. Feeling less a woman because of the changes in body image and fatigued from treatment many women felt less than adequate as lovers. Some had experienced the rejection of husbands and partners. Still others could not bring themselves to talk with their husbands and partners about what they were feeling and what they needed in order to be intimate. Most of the women were too uncomfortable to broach the subject with their physicians.

Looking back on my own two experiences with breast cancer, I don’t remember the subject ever being brought up by any member of my treatment team after either cancer. I didn’t bring it up either, not out of embarrassment, but other things like understanding findings, follow-up care, insurance coverage, and employment issues took precedence.

While we breast cancer survivors are living longer than ever before, our quality of life is often compromised by anxiety, depression and sexual dysfunction. Our clinicians encourage us to seek help for anxiety and depression, but sexual dysfunction is often a major issue that never gets addressed. Yet, sexual dysfunction and its impact on quality of life is often at the root of survivor anxiety and depression.

The review in Maturitas stresses that health professionals, who treat women for breast cancer, need more education and training on how to speak to their patients on issues of intimacy and sexuality.

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