Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
God turned my mess into a message
By Lee McCracken, Guest Blogger
Dressed like twins, even though we were 13 months apart, my older sister and I were a striking pair at ages 5 and 6. She had red hair and freckles, and Mom dressed her in blues and greens. I was blond, and I donned the reds and pinks. Perhaps it was foreshadowing, but probably not.
Fast-forward 45 years. Pink is a staple in my wardrobe. Having been diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC) in 2009, I’m a member of the pink-ribbon club … whether I like it or not. I am lucky it was caught at Stage 1 (nothing had spread to the lymph nodes), and I now reflect on the nine months of surgery, reconstruction and recovery with a shrug as if it were no big deal. Truthfully, I’m a “glass half full” kinda gal and always tend to look on the bright side.
Before my diagnosis, I NEVER liked getting a mammogram — I was fibrocystic, and it always hurt and required an accompanying ultrasound. Today, I tell women breast cancer hurts even more!
In spring 2011, at the threshold of my 50th birthday, God laid a message on my heart … one that I thought just was going to be my team’s name for a breast cancer walk. Yet, the sassy, upbeat and inspiriting phrase has grown bigger than I could have imagined. At the urging of many marketing-savvy girlfriends, Yes, Maam! Mammograms Are A Must grew into a philanthropic social enterprise and a pink T-shirt I began merchandising on a local, and now a regional and national level.
It’s a simple, straight-forward message that doesn’t sexualize the female body. The feedback has been remarkable — women ages 25-85 and older say, “It’s really catchy!” And even though it’s for women about women, men are embracing the message in support of the ladies they love.
“Get Your Squeeze On!™” is my mantra, because early detection of breast cancer assures more options for treatment and higher survival rates. I envision women all over the country wearing their Yes, Maam! Mammograms Are A Must tee to the coffee house, grocery store and gym. It makes a sassy statement in southern style, and ladies take notice. I’ve seen them look at my tee and then shake their head, almost to say, “Oh yeah, I need to schedule that!” It’s even better when they give me a thumbs-up, indicating their annual appointment is behind them and the report was “all clear.”
Sadly, though, the fear factor is real … and women are BUSY. Research shows more than 50 percent of women ages 50+ either cancel their appointment or never get around to making it. Perhaps they don’t know this fact: When mammograms are scheduled every other year, some 30 percent of breast cancers can be missed.
To be totally honest, when a woman says, “Oh, I keep forgetting …” I want to smack her silly — especially if she has health insurance. Given the current economic climate, many women have to put the needs of their children first before tending to their own health. From the very beginning, T-shirt sales have helped to fund mammograms for women who don’t have health insurance. The cost of the tee is $20, and 25 percent ($5) is donated. Individuals, businesses/groups and stores that purchase or sell the tee are encouraged to designate a women’s healthcare charity in their community to receive the funds (hopefully earmarked for mammograms).
Having been a writer/editor - http://www.joyfulleewritten.com/ - for more than 28 years, I am energized by this second act of my life — an entrepreneur who’s engaging communities of women in the early detection of breast cancer. (Who knew a 50-year-old could master making memes and tweeting?) But beyond learning new skills, I’m living passionately with a new purpose. Building the Yes, Maam! Mammograms Are A Must brand, connecting with awesome women and making new friends is a blessing I never could have imagined three years ago when I heard those fateful words: breast cancer. Yes, Ma'am, I'm a surTHRIVER!
Lee McCracken lives with her husband, Stuart, in Denver, N.C., a suburb of Charlotte. She has a 20-year-old daughter, Megan, and an 11-year-old Bichon Frise, Benny. She enjoys traveling, photography, reading and gardening. Lee’s girlfriends keep her filled with inspiration and laughter!
For products to help alleviate side effects of cancer treatment please visit: http://www.lotstolivefor.com/
The skin care, hair care, oral care and anti-nausea products on this website can help you resume your normal lifestyle during treatment.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
By Larry G. Raff, MPH - Guest blogger (and founder of Whip Cancer)
Last July my brother and sister-in-law visited me and my family in Boston from the west coast. It was a great visit, but Kitty was dealing with some respiratory ailment that did not seem out of the ordinary. After returning home Kitty checked it out and finally learned that there was malignant tissue in the upper lobes of her lungs. The search ensued to find the primary tumor, but with no success.
Over the course of the next several months Kitty and I spoke and began to discuss how she was coping with her chemotherapy. We talked about the ways she was taking care of herself and I asked if she was trying any visualization to stimulate her immune system to fight the cancer. She said she was, but that it was difficult and she could use some help in doing it. It was soon afterwards that her condition quickly deteriorated and she was gone before Christmas.
My conversation with Kitty inspired the creation of Whip Cancer. Being a visually oriented person myself with a master’s degree in public health and clinical nutrition, it made sense to me to help people like Kitty by providing photos of the cancer cells they are trying to rid from their body, and to enable the placement of the cells at the body sight of the cancer. By combining visual support along with a guided imagery narrative with complementary ambient sound made profound sense to me.
I then rang up my friend Zack Spigelman, MD, Internist, Hematologist and Medical Oncologist at New England Baptist Hospital in Boston and he confirmed that imagery is frequently used by his patients to empower them to be active in the healing process, thereby reducing stress and focusing the body's energies on targeting the disease. In addition, I did extensive web research and looked at every iPhone app I could find on cancer and guided imagery, and to my surprise, found nothing that takes this approach.
I thought an app was the way to go to make Whip Cancer available to as many people as possible. People can use the app while receiving chemotherapy, when waiting to be treated, at a random quiet moment in the day, or at daily scheduled times.
I didn’t know the first thing about creating a mobile app, so I did my research and quickly realized I needed someone to do the programming. Using LinkedIn I found Makarand Sovani, a veteran computer software programmer in NJ who was learning how to create iPhone/Pad apps. I provided him with what is called a “wire frame” that laid out the content and relationship of each page of the app. I also provided him with 108 cancer histology images, and brilliant anatomical images.
Then I needed someone to do a specially tailored guided imagery narrative, and I had to look no further than my friend and colleague Diane Blumenson. Diane is a gifted Certified Hypnotist and member of the National Guild of Hypnotists (She has put me under a couple of times).
We were off to the races. After only two months the beta app was ready to test on friends and family members, some of whom have or have had cancer. The feedback was fabulous and very encouraging. We made a number of improvements and then launched the app in mid-June 2012.
Whip Cancer is a visually enhanced guided imagery immunotherapy tool. Its release coincides with findings by pharmaceutical researchers who are developing drugs that will use the body’s immune system to fight cancer. Immunotherapies are intended to activate the body’s immune system, allowing it to recognize cancer cells as the enemy and attack them. Researchers are still seeking to develop a method to jump-start the body's defenses without injuring normal cells. This is exactly what Whip Cancer offers.
There is a great deal of sound research supporting the ability of guided imagery to positively affect the immune response. I’ve collected some of this research and other information at http://www.whipcancer.net/ to help others find ways to help themselves. Whip Cancer can be purchased for $2.99 on the Apple App Store or through the iTunes store. Whip Cancer is currently available for both iphones and ipads.
Larry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and http://www.whipcancer.net/.
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Tuesday, July 10, 2012
You may purchase my book via the website http://www.sharingmystory.com/, by clicking the Amazon link above, from http://www.barnesandnoble.com/, www.xlibris.com in print or ebook format.
For products that can be helpful in relieving uncomfortable and unpleasant side effects during treatment for cancer please visit http://www.lotstolivefor.com/. This is a useful and informative website for patients, caregivers, oncology nurses, cancer coaches and friends and relatives of cancer patients. On Facebook we post helpful information about new developments in cancer treatment, new products and resources. Please "like" us at www.facebook.com/LotsToLiveFor
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