How I Survived Triple Negative Breast Cancer

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Written by Chiara D’Agostino, Breast Cancer Survivor and author of the Cancer Fashion Blog www.beautythroughthebeast.com 

I found the lump on my birthday, October 25th, 2014. It wasn’t a happy 43rd. August 2014 I had my routine mammogram and a week later the letter from the hospital arrived; everything was “normal.” Apparently, I have dense tissue in my breasts so the mammogram didn’t detect the lump. (Ladies, if you have dense tissue in your breasts – ask your radiologist – don’t stop at just a mammogram!) As soon as I felt it, I knew the mass didn’t belong in my body; fear enveloped me.

A mammogram, an ultrasound, an MRI, a chest and abdomen CT scan, a bone scan and a few biopsies later, I received the diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer, stage three. Triple negative means my cancer is not fueled by any hormones: estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2); it is fast growing and has a higher percentage of reoccurring in other parts of my body.

The thread throughout my cancer diagnosis was fear. It gripped me tightly in its hands and whirled me around until I was dizzy and exhausted. I felt alone in my terror; friends and family would try and ease the pain by saying “There’s a cure!” “Breast cancer is the best kind of cancer to have!” and “You’ll be fine, my sister/cousin/hairdresser had it and she survived!” I politely nodded my head, thinking to myself, “You’re not God, you don’t know if I will be that small percentage of women that die from breast cancer – it happens!” I was being realistic. I wanted my fear to be acknowledged; I longed to be heard, and held, not patronized.

The steps I took that got me through my cancer diagnosis and treatment:

  • I clearly asked for what I wanted, whether it was lentil soup, a foot massage, silently being held on the couch or phone calls from friends; I didn’t assume people knew what I wanted.
  • I was my own health advocate, making the necessary phone calls to my insurance and doctors: I scheduled many appointments, second and sometimes third opinions.
  • I accepted offers from friends, family and acquaintances for accompaniment to appointments; if no one offered, I asked. Even if it was a simple test I could clearly go to by myself, I needed their company to distract me from my catastrophic thinking.
  • I got a copy of every medical report, scan, test, x-ray, etc. that was done to me. I made sure I understood what was happening, asking my doctor questions along the way.
  • I kept a diary of all of my appointments; what was done, where, and who was the ordering doctor.
  • During chemo, I relied heavily on the nurses – they provide all the caring and a wealth of knowledge and tips.
  • I threw cancer parties: a “Fuck Cancer” party after I received my diagnosis, and a “Boob-bye” party the night before my mastectomy. I’m the kind of person that needs support from my friends, so I made it happen.
  • I wore my natural looking wig when I wanted, and replaced it with hats towards the end; the wig was annoying. I did have fun at one point and bought an array of different colored wigs: I felt like a rock star when I wore them and got many compliments.
  • I posted on Facebook (that’s my way of communicating to many people, but there’s also www.caringbridge.org) that I encouraged phone calls and visits, and then I received them – that made me happy.
  • I made sure to get out every day, whether to run an errand, have a meal with a friend or see a movie with one, getting out and hearing people talk about their lives was refreshing.
  • I watched a lot of television, which is unnatural for me. It took my mind off of myself, and during chemo, it helped me to relax; I stuck to comedy and romance.
  • I watched Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Cancer It scared me, but it also made me feel like I am not alone.
  • I spoke to other survivors I knew and met up with them for coffee. When I felt overwhelmed, I took a break.
  • I made my cancer accessible: I answered people’s questions about my health and diagnosis then I’d change the subject.
  • I bought several breast cancer books and flipped through them, with a friend, when I had a specific question; reading them alone was too scary.
  • I joined Facebook groups for triple negative breast cancer and the likes, and when I got overwhelmed or scared, I stopped reading the posts.
  • I limited googling information about my type of cancer.
  • I brought the same friend with me to each important appointment; she took notes and learned the breast cancer vocabulary alongside me. I turned to her during my decision-making process.
  • I called a cancer support hotline in New York City, SHARE, and spoke at length to a survivor on the phone. I was relieved – I finally felt heard, understood and supported! I keep in close contact with SHARE and still go to their cancer support groups.
    • Cancer support groups are monumental in my recovery: I learn a lot from the facilitators and the survivors, and I can speak my mind in a safe environment, where I am unconditionally loved and understood.
    • I was afraid to attend support groups for fear of hearing horror stories. When I was ready, I gave it a try. I listened to each woman and learned, reminding myself that every woman is different and her story will not necessarily be mine.
    • I attended breast cancer support groups in various different locations, and only returned to those that have a well-trained facilitator; some are too big or disorganized.
  • I found a local, reputable hospital that offers free classes to cancer patients and attended their weekly Mindful Meditation class, Stress Management class, Art Therapy class and Chi Gong class. I could relate to the people and I benefitted from learning techniques to relax my body and mind.
  • I attended weekly therapy sessions with my therapist, sometimes more than once a week.
  • I spoke to the oncology social worker at my hospital as often as needed.
  • I saw a psychiatrist and got on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills; at first I felt ashamed, but once the pills took effect, I was relieved.
  • I cried when I felt like it – for me, it came out all at once when I arrived home from the hospital, post-mastectomy: a breakdown.
  • I visited a holistic healer weekly, the energy healing was nurturing. I yearned for healing hands on my body, not those that poked or prodded me.
  • I got massages or facials regularly. At the time, someone was helping me financially, but massage and Reiki can be found free for cancer patients at your hospital.
  • I rested when I was tired, sleeping as much as needed, guilt-free.
  • I accepted help and asked for it when wanted (not just needed.)
  • I aimed to walk an hour a day; it felt therapeutic to breathe fresh air and circulate the blood in my body.
  • I drank a lot of Fiji water.
  • I ate healthy- lots of protein, greens and fruit, limited sugar and dairy intake.
  • I posted on Facebook that I wanted soup, and got containers of delicious homemade soups delivered to my door for weeks!
  • I learned which family, friends and acquaintances are there for me and which aren’t. I was shocked in both good and bad ways, accepting the results.
  • I did a lot of journaling.
  • I created a cancer fashion blog, beautythroughthebeast.com and blog regularly.
  • I’m now giving back and reaching out to women who are being diagnosed.
  • I surround my self with positive affirmations.
  • I rid myself of toxic people and environments.
  • When I want to do something and hear a doubting voice in my head, I take action anyway! Today, I go for it. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so I make the most of today.

portrait3website



Stretching: From Hospital Bed To Floor

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BCCA Pure Barre Stretch.004
Stretching can help anyone at any time! It helps relax, lengthen and release tension from muscles no matter what your physical ability is.

It’s important to start at an easy/moderate stretch and work on flexibility before working your way up to a deeper stretch. It’s best if your muscles are warmed up to increase your flexibility, but really, it can be done even while watching TV!

BCCA Pure Barre Stretch.001

Make sure when reaching for your toes you avoid rounding out your back and try to release from your waist, relax your shoulders, take nice deep breathes and hold anywhere from 20 seconds to 45 seconds, always continuing to breathe.

BCCA Pure Barre Stretch.002

A side bend stretch releases all the tension from your rib cage down to your ‘seat’ (glute) muscles – hold this one where you feel a nice lengthening down the side, but stop before you feel too much pain or resistance. Your body will tell you.

BCCA Pure Barre Stretch.003

Jaimee Myers is a member of The Breast Cancer Charities of America’s Advisory Board and owner of Pure Barre in The Woodlands, Texas. She has been an athlete all her life – from competitive ski racing to collegiate soccer to Ironman triathlons – and spreads the Pure Barre technique to clients, who see results while having a great time. Pure Barre is all about small, isometric movements that anyone can benefit from – it strengthens, arms, abs and legs without creating bulk. To learn more, visit http://purebarre.com/TX-woodlands/



15 Minutes Can Save Your Life

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Breast cancer design, vector illustration.Let’s talk. How often are you conducting a self breast examination? Or at all? For both women AND men – it’s important to know the symptoms of breast cancer and what to look for. It’s time to take charge health.

Perform A  Monthly Breast Self-Examination

Once a month, every month, without fail, set aside 15 minutes to conduct a thorough breast self-examination. Female, Male, over or under the age of 50. This is an important step to take towards the early detection of breast cancer. Remember: when caught early, breast cancer has a 98% survival rate.

What do I do?
1. In front of a mirror look for abnormalities in a normal stance: redness, soreness, rash or swelling.
2. Raise your arm and look for abnormalities: redness, soreness, rash or swelling
3. Look for signs of fluid.
4. Feel your breast while lying down for abnormalities.
5. Feel your breast while standing or sitting for abnormalities.

Download our FREE Self Breast Examination Card to save these steps, print as a reference guide, and share with friends and family! Click here to download.

Depositphotos_60567837_s-2015Once a month? What if I forget?
Add a reminder to your calendar, create a task and set an alarm on your phone, or sign up for our once-a-month notification update system!
By signing up for this update, you will receive an email once a month, on the 1st of every month, reminding you to perform a self exam and take steps in early breast cancer detection:





How to make Red or Pink Food Coloring

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Natural Homemade Red Food Coloring

Avoid artificial food coloring and make your own at home! Learn how to make homemade Pink or Red food coloring by using fresh raspberries.

RED (or Pink) FOOD COLORING RECIPE
1. Place 1 cup (or more) fresh, washed organic raspberries into the blender. Blend until raspberries turn into a thick liquid (about 1-2 minutes). If having trouble liquidating, add 2 tablespoons of water and then blend.
2. Pour liquid through a fine strainer to remove seeds. Use spoon or spatula to push through.
3. In a small saucepan, cook on medium low heat (very low boil) until liquid becomes a thick, colorful paste.
4. Add immediately into your favorite recipes.
5. To store, pour into an ice cube tray and place into the freezer for future use.

Stay tuned for more recipes and healthy tips!

Have you joined us for the #iGoPinkChallenge? Download the FREE Health Guide here: http://www.thebreastcancercharities.org/the-igopink-challenge/

Follow us for healthy tips, recipes, workouts, and daily motivation!
FACEBOOK: https://facebook.com/igopink
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/igopink
INSTAGRAM: https://instagram.com/_igopink

Have a favorite recipe or healthy tip? Share it with us on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #iGoPinkChallenge!



Almond Joy Coffee – Hot and Iced Healthy Recipe

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Enjoy the flavors of Almond, Coconut, and Chocolate in your coffee! Learn how to make Hot or Iced Almond Joy Coffee with this healthy coffee recipe!

Brought to you by iGoPink.org and The Breast Cancer Charities of America

ALMOND JOY COFFEE RECIPE (HOT):

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Organic Coffee, Freshly Brewed
  • 1/2 cup Unsweetened Coconut or Coconut Almond Milk, Steamed or Heated
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • stevia extract, to taste
    *Select all natural, organic ingredients without artificial additives

Instructions:
Add all ingredients in coffee mug, mix well, and enjoy hot!

ALMOND JOY COFFEE RECIPE (ICED):

Ingredients:

  • Organic Coffee, Cold
  • Unsweetened Coconut or Coconut Almond Milk
  • Unsweetened baking cocoa
  • Almond extract
  • stevia extract, to taste
    *Select all natural, organic ingredients without artificial additives

Instructions:
1. Brew and chill organic coffee.
2. Heat coconut almond milk, add cocoa, cook/heat and stir until cocoa is dissolved or mixed well with the milk. Let cool or chill.
3. Combine all ingredients in glass (or pitcher if making a batch – like in the video) and stir well.
4. Chill and serve over ice!

 

Stay tuned for more recipes and healthy tips!

Have you joined us for the #iGoPinkChallenge? Download the FREE Health Guide here: http://www.thebreastcancercharities.org/the-igopink-challenge/

Follow us for healthy tips, recipes, workouts, and daily motivation!
FACEBOOK: https://facebook.com/igopink
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/igopink
INSTAGRAM: https://instagram.com/_igopink

Have a favorite coffee recipe? Share it with us on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #iGoPinkChallenge!



QUIZ: What’s Your Risk of Breast Cancer?

Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer Awareness, Breast Cancer Facts, Breast Cancer Help, Health Tips, iGoPink Blog, Uncategorized, Wellness & Fitness 4 Comments

Take the “What’s Your Risk?” Quiz! This tool is designed to assist you with understanding your health and knowledge of breast cancer. Throughout the quiz we’ll help guide you to healthy lifestyle habits and understanding further how you can make changes to help prevent and survive breast cancer.

*Note, this is an educational tool only and should not replace the advise given by a medical professional. Consult your medical professional to design a tailored lifestyle plant that best fits your needs.

Additional factors related to your personal health history may also impact risk and are not calculated by this tool. Be sure to discuss your personal health history with your doctor so together you can come up with a personalized plan to manage your health.



What Sweetener Should I Use? Types to Avoid and Choose

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Sweeteners to Avoid and Choose

Do you add sweetener to your coffee, tea, or favorite baked dishes? Enjoy sodas, packaged or prepared foods? Be careful! The type of sweetener(s) you consume can greatly affect your health. Join us on the #iGoPinkChallenge by avoiding harmful sweeteners and instead choose healthier alternatives to maintain a healthy lifestyle and reduce your risk of breast cancer.

Sweeteners to AVOID:

  • Aspartame – artificial, found in many diet sodas and low calorie processed foods
  • Sucralose – artificial, processed with cholrine
  • Sugar. If you use sugar, use sparingly and select organic, less processed types like rapadura or turbinado.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) – higher fructose level than sugar and banned in organic foods
  • Agave Nectar – high fructose levels than HFCS

Instead use:

  • Stevia – a zero calorie natural sweetener extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant. Select organic powders or extracts without “natural flavors.”
  • Raw Local Honey – contains cancer-fighting antioxidants, has a low glycemic index, and local honey can help alleviate allergy symptoms.
  • Real Maple Syrup – contains less calories and more minerals than honey plus studies have shown maple syrup has anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting antioxidant properties. Select 100 % maple syrup without “natural maple flavoring.”

Remember: ALL sweeteners should be used in moderation! But if you do select a sweetener or enjoy a prepared food or beverage, make sure to make choices that are not harmful to your health.

Have a healthy tip or recipe with stevia, honey or maple syrup? Share it with us! Submit it on our Facebook page at http://bit.ly/iGoPinkChallenge or share it on Twitter or Instagram by using the hashtag #iGoPinkChallenge on your post.

Download the FREE #iGoPinkChallenge Health Guide for more healthy tips and foods to choose and avoid: CLICK HERE



National Cancer Survivors Day

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BCCA National Cancer Survivors Day

National Cancer Survivors Day falls this year on Sunday, June 7th! National Cancer Survivors Day is a celebration for cancer survivors and demonstrates that you CAN beat cancer! This day falls on the second Sunday of June every year and serves as an inspiration for those recently diagnosed, support for families struggling, and a way for the community to come together and give back.

Celebrate this special day by honoring a cancer survivor or a loved one by helping women who are still battling breast cancer. Your donation today and on June 7th makes a difference. Please join us in the fight against cancer!

Why should I get Involved?

  • Honor a Cancer Survivor! Show your support and join the celebration.
  • Give in memory of a loved one, family member, or friend.
  • Help women and their families in need that are currently struggling with cancer.

How can I help?

  1. Go to Donate.TheBreastCancerCharities.org/NCSD2015
  2. Click  Screenshot 2015-06-02 16.53.07 OR Screenshot 2015-06-02 16.53.38. By becoming a fundraiser you can create your own account, join or start a team, and get others involved! If you don’t want to start a fundraiser for National Cancer Survivors Day, you can click the “Donate Now” button instead. This way you can make a donation – even in honor or memory of a loved one.
  3. Please share the news! Share your fundraising page, create a team, and invite your friends and family to make a donation at Donate.TheBreastCancerCharities.org/NCSD2015 on or before June 7th.

Thank You for your support

Thank you for joining us as we PRESS forward in the fight against breast cancer! With your donation, you can give a gift in honor of a survivor, loved one, and to help those who are still struggling with cancer.  Through the generosity of people like you, we can continue our program services that focus on Prevention, Research, Education, Survival, and Support.



Daily Wellness Checklist

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Wellness is possible! In fact, it’s probable! Believe it; you can dramatically increase the level of wellness in your life. You possess the power of choice. That power can increase your life quality and life quantity.

Start making healthy choices today – and every day! Use this checklist as a daily reminder to establish good habits and make healthy choices.

daily wellness checklist

Creating wellness is a journey. People often experience obstacles which threaten to get them off course from achieving their best intentions. Some of these obstacles exist in the world and some of them exist within each person. Our choice of actions when we encounter these obstacles applies directly to our state of wellness. Our choices determine the level of wellness we each create in our lives. Strive to make the right choices daily and dedicate yourself to living a healthy lifestyle. Feel, think, and live better than you ever thought possible!

For more information and our Create Wellness plan of action, click here.  This step by step workbook will allow you to document common questions you should ask your doctor, the emotions you’re going through and your journey through breast cancer.

 



Mother’s Day DIY Gifts

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By Tori Carruth

Tori is currently a Senior at Sam Houston State University and a contributing editor of the iGoPink Blog.

With Mother’s Day right around the corner (May 10th for those of you as forgetful as me), I’ve been racking my brain for what to do! If your mom is anything like mine, her answer to any question that is present related is “I already have everything I need,” which is super sweet, but in no way helpful. What do you get for the mom who has everything? Do it yourself! I guarantee that a gift made by you from the heart will mean more to her than that designer bag ever will. No matter your age or your mom’s age, these gifts are sure to please your #1 woman! My mom is the queen of thinking of things I might need, but she never stops to think about what SHE needs. So treat your selfless momma to a cute jar of goodies.

Spa in a jar: You can get a cute jar from a local retailer and line the bottom with her favorite covered tissue paper to give it some color! Next, hit up a fresh cosmetics store, like Lush, for her favorite products to unwind from all the stress you put on her daily (oh, just me?). My mom specifically loves bath bombs and scrubs! Add lotion, nail polish, a few magazines, a comforting candle, and maybe even some chocolate to complete your jar! This is such an easy and inexpensive way to put a smile on your mom’s face.

Movie night in a jar: My mom is a huge movie buff; if it’s on Netflix she’s seen it…twice. Throw together some snacks and plan a night in together! Large retailers have some great $5 movie bins to grab your favorites from. Pick up some Kettle Corn and a bottle of wine, along with her favorite sweet treats. For extra bonus points surprise her with a comfy blanket for snuggling!

Colorful jar: This one has tons of options. Choose your mom’s favorite color and fill a jar with all things orange, blue, yellow, or whatever color it may be that brightens your mom’s day! It’s easy to find gum, cute cups, post-it’s, candles, picture frames and more for this one. It’s simple, yet thoughtful.

So go find a cute jar and personalize it according to your mom’s needs and favorites and make this mother’s day one that she’ll appreciate!

Gift in a jar for mom