Survivor Day: Putting the ‘I’ in Survivor!

As we’ve been researching breast cancer survivorship online this week, we’ve been reminded just what a wide and deep subject ‘diagnosis’ really is. In fact, survivorship can almost only be 100% ‘defined’ clinically – because to each of us, it means something uniquely different. For example, some survivors believe in Pink as a symbol of hope, joy and resilient femininity, whilst others feel that Pink stinks – that it’s a blatant slap in the feminine face of their breast cancer reality. (How do you feel about Pink? Tell us on our Facebook page!)

So because we can only touch on the very tip of the survivorship-iceberg, we’ve created an ABC of Survivorship for you – and included links to more in-depth articles for you to explore!


Advocates for Breast Cancer - diagnosis


ACTIVE ADVOCACY: As a survivor, you are in the powerful and perfect position to be a voice for the voiceless. You have so much practical knowledge and emotional experience to be very effective in raising awareness and driving breast cancer education  forward thoughout our country and all its communities. (Saying that, never allow anyone to pressure you into it unless you feel it’s in your heart!) ***Connect with us on Facebook to see how we can help you get involved!

BOOKS ARE BRILLIANT! Just one example is Stealing Second Base:  A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Experience and Breast Cancer Expert’s Story by Lillie Shockney. Get browsing amongst the abundance of books out there to equip and encourage yourself!

CARE: What exactly is a ‘survivorship care plan‘?

DEFINITION of Survivorship: We want to know what YOUR definition of ‘survivor’ means! Please join us on Facebook and tell us what you think!

E:

FAMILIES & FERTILITY FACTS – and how, as a family, you can understand and embrace survivorship.

Pregnancy after early-stage breast cancer has not been shown to impact breast cancer recurrence or survival. It is often recommended that you wait for some time after completing all cancer treatments (including endocrine therapies) before trying to get pregnant since your body has been through so much. There is no magic formula of when the best time to get pregnant is after you complete treatment. You should work with your doctor to make decisions that are best for you and your family. For more information, visitwww.fertilehope.org or www.myoncofertility.org.” ~ via John Hopkins Medicine (READ MORE HERE.)

G:

H:

J:

K:

LIFESTYLE and its changes that come with being a survivor.

MYTHS (10 of them!) surrounding survivor care.

Your NEW NORMAL: ‘… you’re about to embark on another leg of the trip. This one is all about adjusting to life as a breast cancer survivor. In many ways, it will be a lot like the life you had before, but in other ways, it will be very different. Call it your “new normal.”‘ ~ via Gina Shaw for Webmd

OPTIMISE OPTIMISTICALLY: Visit CancerDietician.com to optimise your nutrition and lifestyle – and click here for a delicious resource of their recommended recipes!

PINK: Pink Ribbons, Pinktober and Pinkwashing! As a survivor, has this colour got you tickled pink? Or are you of the conviction we should adamantly think before we pink(Read more about the history of the pink ribbon here.)

Q:

REDUCING RISK OF RECURRENCE: Click here to read about 10 ways you can reduce your risk of breast cancer recurrance.

SEXY SURVIVORS: the video discusses everything as medically as you need to know about every possible issue like menopause, vaginal dryness etc. (Of course, besides the physical side of sex as a survivor, there is the heart-side to it which is just – and if not more important.)

T:

U:

VIDEOS — about breast cancer and survivorship. Click here!

W:

X:

Y:

Z:

(PS. You may be wondering why we’ve left some letters blank? Well, because today is Survivor Day, we would like to suvivors by asking you to fill in the blank letters in the Survivorship ABC with topics most important to YOU! Tell us on Facebook – because ABC wouldn’t be complete without you!)

Breast Cancer Survivor Story: A Friend’s Perspective

My name is Lisa, and I am very proud and blessed to be one of the bloggers in ABC’s advocacy campaign. Today we are meant to be sharing another breast cancer survivor’s story but my special friend who was going to send me her story for publishing today is so immersed in pre-wedding organising chaos that sending me her story must’ve slipped her mind! 🙂

In lieu of that, I thought I would tell you her story from my perspective, as her friend, with the hopes that you will find some value in it. (My recall of some of the important details are unfortunately a bit sketchy because I was living overseas at the time and was only receiving snippets of information via my mom.)

Leila is, through and through, one of the most shiningly beautiful souls I have ever been blessed to know. She is an artist with a special talent for making life beautiful – whether it is a feast of a braai, how she wraps a birthday present or even a ‘how are you’ Whatsapp. She also has an uncanny knack for bringing out the best in others with her gentle heart – yet which emanates a deep-rooted strength I know, while she always was a strong person, was deepened by two parallel situations she fought back against with grace and tenacity: breast cancer and an abusively damaging ‘love’ relationship.

advocates for breast cancer_weddingShe tackled both situations with an attention to beauty, staying creative, as well as a prosaic practicality which, I believe, was what gave her a map to follow when her physical and emotional energy were at their lowest. She got to the top of her ‘insurmountable’ mountain one step at a time, one day at a time. Sometimes she walked alone – which is inevitable when one faces situations which frighten friends and family away. Sometimes she had others of us walk beside her. I don’t know if Leila would have said the same about how having a practical plan with strategic, one-step-at-a-time goals was one of her cancer management tools, but from a friend’s perspective, this is one of the things I learnt from her which helped me turn my own personal tabooed ‘tragedy’ into more of a ‘situation I lived through’ and came out on the other side of stronger, wiser and more compassionate – with both myself, my child, family, friends and strangers.

Thank you, precious friend, for being such a magnificent inspiration and powerhouse of humble, warrioress strength! You are LOVED, cherished and celebrated! May your wedding and marriage be all the blessing you deserve!

 

These are the things you can control

Over the past few days we have talked about some of the breast cancer risks that you can’t change:

  • Breast Cancer in Families & the Issue of Genetics
  • Being Born a Woman
  • Being Older
  • Race: “If you are a black South African women, however, statistics show that you may be at risk at an earlier age.

Today, let’s discuss the things that increase your risk of developing breast cancer — but that you can have a degree of control over.

Breast Cancer Lifestyle Risks

Firstly, your weight. If you are overweight, you increase your risk. This is because there is a link between fat cells and the production of the hormone, estrogen. Estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers develop and grow.

Interestingly, where you carry your extra weight matters. If you have a big tummy, you are more at risk than someone who has very curvaceous hips and thighs.

The second factor is something that you don’t always have too much control over, but we decided to include it here anyway. If you have a full term pregnancy before the age of 30, you reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. And if you are able to breastfeed, your risks reduce even further. Women who breastfeed for more than a year have an even lower risk.

The third factor is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Many postmenopausal women took HRT for many years to help ease menopausal hot flashes, tiredness and to reduce bone loss. Since 2002, when research linked HRT to breast cancer, the number of women taking HRT has dropped dramatically. Not all doctors and gynaes agree with this, so be aware, ask questions and go with the answers that make the most sense for you.

There are two main types of HRT:

  • combination HRT contains the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
  • estrogen-only HRT contains only estrogen.

Each type of HRT seems to have a different effect on breast cancer risk. The combination HRT increases breast cancer risk by as much as 75%, even when used only for a short time. The estrogen only HRT is safer, only increasing the risk when it is used for more than 10 years.

By the way, it doesn’t matter if you use bioidentical or natural HRT or the synthetic versions – the risk is the same.

There are other lifestyle factors that put you at risk, such as smoking and alcohol consumption, the kind of food you eat and how much exercise you have. These put you at risk from other cancers as well as breast cancer.

Here is a great (free!) booklet which gives you advice about how to reduce your breast cancer risk.