Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Staying healthy all year round

I try to stay healthy all year round.  Cancer survivors have to.  It isn't easy.  I play hockey for 6 months out of the year and bike the other half, and try to get a workout in at the gym when I can.  That is what I do. 

Now I don't recommend hockey for everyone, especially if you are in treatment, but I have some advice for fellow survivors, and well, everyone to stay healthy all year round.

First of all listen to your doctor, if you don't have one, find a good one, this is a great resource for finding doctors in your area.
If you don't like your current doctor, find another one, remember they work for you, not the other way around.

Once your doctor is ok with you doing exercise then find exercise that you enjoy and if you can find someone to exercise with!

When we think of exercise it doesn't have to be in the gym doing a gazillion reps with dumbells or training for a half marathon, it can be as simple as walking.

When I was going through radiation my radiation oncologist said walking for at least 30 minutes a day would cut down on fatigue and help me get through it a lot better, and he was right!

I like to use an fitness bracelet to track my steps.  I use the jawbone, some people use fitbit. ( I am not a paid endorsee of either product)  if you are not a tech junkie like me a pedometer is less expensive and will get the job done just as easily.

If it is walking or bike riding or a similar activity where you will be by yourself make sure you tell someone your route and have your phone charged up.  Fatigue is one of the top issues for cancer survivors and patients and it is always  good to have your friends know where you are going to be if you get tired, get a flat or get stuck in an unexpected rainstorm.

You can always get into a team sport that you love, like I do such as hockey, and get a friend into it too.  There is nothing better than talking about the teams victories or defeats after the game.

Now that we all agreed exercise is important, we have to talk about what you are going to eat.  Open up your cupboards and look at what you have in there.  I have junk food too.  As survivors we have to try to eat healthier than others to stay healthy, and encourage others in our family and circle of friends to do so as well.

I am not saying go out and toss out your favorite box of twinkies or doritos or other indulgence, just less of the snack foods (Twinkies photo copywrite Hostess Cupcake)

Find a nutritionist in your area, get a good cookbook for cancer survivors, order a big healthy salad and investigate your options. Find foods you like to eat.  Not everyone goes for the Kale chips (Yuck!)  as part of their everyday diet.  The main thing is is get rid of the processed food,  don't be afraid of cooking your own meals, buying local produce and if you are leery, take a cooking class, or find a recipe that looks tasty and try it, if you don't like it, try something else, ask other survivors, they may have some good recipes or suggestions.  Your diet doesn't have to be all skinless chicken and steamed broccoli.  Once again check with your doctor if you can't find any options.

Now that we are eating well and exercising what is the most important thing we have to do.  It happens once a year.

You guessed it. Your physical.

No one likes going to the doctor.

Anyone who tells you they do is lying, and anyone who says they don't have time to go is just fooling themselves.

When I was diagnosed I felt perfectly fine and was in the best physical shape of my life then my life got interrupted.  However, I am fortunate that I did have my physical and then mammogram(s) and  biopsies  that detected my cancer.

Not everyone gets a mammogram and biopsy on the same date.  It is completely normal to have them scheduled on a different day.  Here is a great infographic by my friends at Amino to show how often this happens.  Try not to stress out if you have to have a biopsy.  Stress is bad for the body and worrying does nothing but make you forget about the good stuff in your life 

You may think, well I am too young to have a mammogram.  Government guidelines are changing all the time so depending upon your family history and genetics you might need one, or even ask for one (this is the part where your doctor works for you, remember that.)

I was 37 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and that shocked all of my doctors that I had breast cancer at a young age.  Women get mammograms at different ages in their lives.  Here is another handy infographic to show you this (thanks again Amino!!)

Anyone who has breasts can get breast cancer, including men!

So we have established you are exercising, eating healthy, and seeing your doctor.

Don't forget about your self exams.  You know you better than anyone, so if you feel something weird or a lump or anything see your doctor.  No one has come out of seeing their doc's office happy that they have something, they come out happy that they are healthy.

I will leave you with this final thought.

Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live. Jim Rohn
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jimrohn147499
Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live. Jim Rohn
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jimrohn147499
Take care of your body, it is the only place you have to live ~ Jim Rohn


Check out my podcast The Cancer Warrior on Empoweradio.com available on demand, on iTunes, IHeart radio, the podcast app on your iPhone and on stitcher.

Monday, March 23, 2015

What season is your favorite? Mine is hockey

This is my winter season team, during our last game of the season, needless to say we were short a few players.


I have written about it many times.  It has helped me get through a lot of things.

Sports.  One thing that helps cancer survivors survive ( I hate the word thriver or thrive, just my personal thing.)

Some people run 5Ks, half marathons, marathons.  Never understood the excitement about that,  maybe I just don't like running, after all marathon comes from the legend of a Greek Runner who was sent from Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon, and supposedly dropped dead after he relayed the news of the victory.

This does not make me want to run a marathon.

Back to the ice.

We draft two seasons: Fall (Oct-Dec) and Winter (Jan-March)

Fall season I was Co-captain of Apple Tree Inn.  We were last in our 5 team league, with an abysmal 3-8-1 record.  We didn't win either of our two playoff games and well we finished.  

We didn't win the season, however we didn't lose it either.  My fall team, team Apple Tree Inn (seen below)

short once again, without our Co-capt who was out of town on a job, had fun.  We had a game where we got totally blown out by another team 8-0 and my team was in great spirits, because we were having fun (well I am not a goalie, I hope he had fun, even though we lost, sorry Zach.)  I think I missed one game in the fall, I was going to participate in a bike race and, well that didn't happen.  We didn't do great, but when one of the best players in the league tells you it was the most fun they had playing hockey, then you know, as a captain you did your job.  ( I did a good job drafting the team, the hockey gods deemed it a non winning season.

Winter season.

New sponsor.  It happens, businesses decided not to renew sponsorships,  We have had several businesses do that.  Since my co-capt and I had gotten 2 sponsorships, we decided to captain Trish Hartwick Coldwell Banker.  Doing so we became the first all female sponsored and captained team in the league.  Unfortunately once again my co-capt. was out, this time with an ankle injury.  

So we had more jerseys ordered before the season and then we drafted.

I think I drafted pretty well, but again the hockey gods were not favoring us.  We had a 4-6 season and we made it to the semi finals of the playoffs, if you look at the photo at the top of the blog you will see why we lost, most of our team was gone that day.  Most people didn't expect us to make it that far.  I am thinking our team didn't expect us to make it that far.  

I never doubted us.  Not for a second.

You see, every season that you draft, you draft not just people, but your team, that team becomes your family.  For 13 games those player were my family. 

Family.  if you have played hockey you understand.  If you haven't, then it is difficult to explain.  

I don't like missing games.  Most people don't.  I really hate missing games.

I know what it is like to not be able to play.  

I know the feeling when your body hates you, and you can't lace em up, step out onto the ice and skate with your team.

I missed 1 game in the winter, I had bronchitis, I was coughing so much my doctor, who was also on my team, told me to come see her that week.  

I missed a game, 

I wasn't able to play.

I coached from the bench.  (Yelling probably wasn't good for my throat, but I am not the quietest person out there when I am at the rink)

Having bronchitis reminded me of what it was like when I had to stop playing after I was diagnosed.  It is weird how things can take you right back into that moment.  

It was a moment I will never forget.

It was a moment I do not want to repeat.

I may not be the fastest player out there, or the best, but when I am out there I will give 110% every game, because I know that any game you play could be your last.  That is a scary feeling to know about the sport I love so much.

So if you see me play, you will know why I skate hard, yes I like to win, but there is more to that sheet of ice that most people can see.  

That is why to me every game is a victory.

To some it is just a game.

To me it is a whole lot more.

That is why I will keep skating.

 Check out my podcast The Cancer Warrior on Empoweradio.com available on demand, on iTunes, IHeart radio, the podcast app on your iPhone and on stitcher.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Carpe Diem

(Photo from www.sowhateverhappenedto.com about Pam Dawber)

I found out about Robin Williams passing after waking up from a nap.  My fiancĂ© told me he committed suicide (at time of the writing of this blog that is what the news is saying).  

Anyone who is my age or older remembers Robin Williams from Happy Days and Mork and Mindy.  Yes the younger generation knows him as Mrs. Doubtfire but I will always remember him fondly as Mork.

In the 70's and 80's the comedy boom was happening, and many of the sitcoms would hire comedians as guest stars on their shows.  

In 1983 or 1984 I went to California on a trip. My parents knew some people who worked in the TV and Film industry.  We were able to see a few shows on the Paramount Lot.  We had front row seats to see Laverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy.  He was hilarious and quick, and yes I owned a pair of rainbow suspenders.

 I think this trip was what started my long love with Hollywood, and was one of the reasons I wanted to work in the industry. 


It is silent, it is painful, and you feel like you are completely alone.  It can skew everything around you. You often feel like you cannot talk to anyone about how you feel.  It is difficult, and mental illness still carries a huge stigma.  

I have written and talked about my battle with depression often.  It is not easy to get out of the darkness and think that you can talk about it.  

You can, and you should.

There are others who have felt like you do.

With mental illness you are never alone.

There is always help.

There is always hope.

I will remember Robin Williams for the laughs he brought me, not for his tragic death.

I hope you will do the same.

If you think you are depressed or suicidal please get help.

Here are a few links:

I'll leave you with this quote from Robin Williams:

What's right is what's left if you do everything else wrong.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

It's been a while part 1

 Image courtesy Stacey Reeb

Wow. It has been almost 8 months since I have written anything on this blog. I guess I didn't really have much to say. I was busy playing hockey and enjoying every second of it. We didn't have a great year, but it is about having fun and improving, winning is great too, but we all know that doesn't happen all the time for everyone. It is strange that I enjoyed Winter so much, this winter the snowfall record was broken. It was endless. Usually that kind of thing would bother me, but for some reason this year it did not. I am just happy to be here!!! I did have surgery in March. At the end of last year I had an ultrasound and my OB/GYN saw that a small polyp I had grew. He looked at it and did a biopsy. I have known him for many years and he wanted to be straight up with me. "Mel, I have seen this many times, and I have to tell you that I believe it is cancer." Silence Shit I thought. He can't be right, and deep down I knew he wasn't. We brought my fiance in to discuss it. He was nervous. I still wasn't convinced. The doc was surprised how well I was taking it. I never believe anything until I get the results. At least this is what I tell myself (and others) It is hard to imagine having cancer again. You hit the 5 year mark and you think everything is ok. A few of my friends had a recurrance and passed away after their recurrance. Needless to say I was a little scared. Fast forward to a few days later. Doc texts me to tell me it isn't cancer. But we should remove it. I agree with his advice. He recommends a gynecological oncologist/surgeon to remove it. Oncologist just in case, when they do the surgery they will do a frozen section, in case the biopsy didn't get anything. The surgeon was cool and strictly by the book. A no nonsense doctor. Someone for me to have a little fun with. We talked about having a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) and he started to talk about statistics about removing the ovaries, (oopherectomy) and before he could finish I said, take em out! I'm not using them! Probably not what he was expecting to hear. After the surgeon left the nurse came in to schedule. I wanted to postpone the surgery because we had playoffs, and even though my team wouldn't win the trophy we could have secured 3rd place. My fiance Doug shook his head at me and the nurse's body language told me that would not be a possibility. So surgery was scheduled for a day after our championship game.

This is part one.  It is later than I thought, and there is more to the story, so I will say goodnight for now.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Jaclyn Murphy: Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel Clip (HBO)

Frank Delford checks back in with pediatric brain tumor survivor Jaclyn Murphy, who inspired the Northwestern Women's Lacrosse magical 2005 season.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Jump on the bandwagon....

It's October, you all know what that means:


It is everywhere.

Ribbons galore.
Many breast cancer advocates hate October, as do I, because of the overabundance of  pink ribbonon everything.. Slap a pink ribbon on cat food. 

Komen is despised by most cancer advocates, mainly because they create carcinogenic perfumes, put pink ribbons on green beans, toilet paper and even cat food.  It's friskies for the cure.

Wait don't call it "for the cure'  Komen sues smaller organizations who use "for the cure" because Susan G. Komen foundation for the cure is trademarked, and some people may confuse your small fundraiser to help the local community with the big machine of Komen. 

Recently I read that Dr. Susan Love a well respected cancer survivor and author and the Young Survival Coalition decided to team up with Komen to join forces to document the short- and long-term physical and emotional side effects of breast cancer treatments.




Join forces with Komen, the big pink monster?

We should all be happy about this?

Now the finding out the side effects is a good thing, and I am surprised no one has done this yet?

Maybe I am wrong, but there must be some documentation somewhere..

So now the 3: Love, YSC and Komen are together, and advocates who railed against Komen are now applauding the collaboration.

Such a great thing!!


Komen may have a lot of money to go to this cause, but at what cost?  Do we forget everything that Komen does (and does not do) for the cause?

I guess some advocates do, blindly forgetting the  perfume "Promise Me" that contains carcinogenics, that they blogged so hard against, now applaud Komen for joining forces with Dr. Susan Love and YSC.

I only have to say this:

Shame on everyone who complained and rallied so hard against Komen and now are toasting them for this groundbreaking amazing   HOW study! 

Be a part of history!  (it actually says that)

Wow you can jump on the bandwagon of Komen lovers and be a hypocrite!!

Do me a favor. 

It may make me unpopular, and I may lose a few friends along the way, but one thing is certain.

I will never support Komen.

I can sleep at night knowing that.

When I see a pink ribbon on toilet paper or yogurt, I wont sigh and say to myself, but they are doing this HOW study, and brush it off because of the greater good.

I will still be able to look myself in the mirror.

If you are against Pinkwashing how can you be praising Komen.

Do me a favor.

Stop looking through those pink colored glasses and see what is really going on.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Social Security Disability Benefits and Cancer

Informative guest post

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, it is likely that you are most concerned with important details like treatment options and doctor appointments. While the first few days after receiving a diagnosis are often chaotic and emotional, it is important that you take the time to plan for the future.  Depending on the type and severity of your cancer, you may eventually find that you are unable to continue working. The resulting loss of income paired with expensive medical bills can be financially devastating.

Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers financial benefits to sick or disabled individuals who can no longer work. The following article will give you a general understanding of Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits and will help you prepare for the application process.

Social Security Disability Benefit Programs

The SSA governs two separate programs that distribute SSD benefits—SSDI and SSI. It is important that you research these two programs and understand the differences between them before you begin the application process.

• Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) - The SSDI program provides financial assistance to disabled workers and their families. Eligibility for SSDI is determined by an applicant’s employment history and the amount of Social Security taxes they’ve paid. To make this easier to understand, the SSA assigns a specific amount of “work credits” to each quarter an individual earns income and pays taxes. To qualify for SSDI, applicants must have accumulated a certain amount of work credits. Learn more about the specific SSDI requirements, here: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/ssdi/qualify-for-ssdi.

• Supplemental Security Income (SSI) - The SSI program offers benefits to elderly or disabled individuals who earn very little income. To qualify for SSI, applicants are not allowed to exceed very strict financial limits. SSI does not consider an applicant’s work history. Therefore, SSI is often a good fit for children or other individuals who haven’t had the chance to earn work credits. Learn more about SSI, here: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/ssi/qualify-for-ssi.

To qualify for either program, applicants must meet the SSA’s definition of disability. The SSA considers a person disabled if they meet the following criteria:

• Your condition makes it impossible for you to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA). SGA is any job in which you earn more than $1,040 a month.

• Your condition has lasted or is expected to last at least one year or result in death.

Medical Disability Requirements

To gauge the severity of your cancer, the SSA will evaluate your condition based on the standards set in their guidebook of disabling conditions, known as the blue book. The blue book lists potentially disablingconditions along with specific medical criteria that an applicant must meet in order to qualify. Because cancer is a complex disease and affects everyone differently, the SSA typically evaluates cancer claims on a case-by-case basis.  This means that the blue book criteria will differ based on the type of cancer that you have.

You can find all of the blue book listings on the SSA’s website: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/AdultListings.htm.

If you find that you do not meet the criteria of a blue book listing, you may still be able to qualify under a medical vocational allowance. Essentially, this means, that the SSA has determined that your condition keeps you from working regardless of the fact that you don’t meet the blue book requirements. In addition to your condition and symptoms, the SSA will also look at your age, work background, and level of education.

Compassionate Allowance Listings

It take anywhere from several months to over a year to receive a decision on your initial disability claim. The SSA realizes that individuals with severely debilitating conditions may not be able to wait that long to receive benefits. For this reason, the SSA allows individuals with certain conditions to be approved for benefits in as little as ten days. This is called compassionate allowance processing. You can view the compassionate allowance listings here: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances/

Please note that you do not have to fill out additional paperwork or request compassionate allowanceprocessing. The SSA will evaluate your claim, and if it meets compassionate allowance standards, they will expedite it accordingly.

Beginning the Application Process

One of the most important parts of applying for SSD benefits is providing thorough documentation of  your cancer. The SSA will use this documentation as proof of your illness. Without it, you will not be approved. Medical documentation should include records of your diagnosis, medical lab test results, diagnostic imaging, history of hospitalizations, treatments you’ve received and how you responded, as well as an official statement from each of your doctors.  You should also collect copies of personal financial records and documentation of your work history.  Once you are prepared to begin the application procedures, you can do so online at the SSA’s website or in person at your local Social Security office.  You should keep in mind that the SSD application process is, by no means, easy.  You may find it to be overwhelming and discouraging at times. It is important that you remain persistent in your efforts—even if your initial claim is denied.  If you find yourself in that situation, you have the right to appeal the SSA’s decision.

For more information about the appeal process, visit Social Security Disability Help or contact Molly Clarke at mac@ssd-help.org.