Our Top 5 Cancer Books

Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (And Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond by Marc Silver

Recommended by my stepfather, this book helped Joey right away.  He says it’s an easy read from a guy’s perspective and it “gives great advice on how to communicate with your wife and prepare for what’s coming.”

Anticancer by David Servan-Schreiber
A gift from a friend, Anticancer completely changed the way my husband eats and, subsequently, how I shop and feed our family.

On our first date, Joey ordered meatloaf, mac & cheese, mashed potatoes and a Guinness.  I thought, This is never going to work!  But it has (beautifully) and we found middle ground – I started eating chicken and he learned to appreciate fish.  Still, to him “organic” was just a synonym for over-priced and “greens” meant an iceberg wedge with blue cheese and bacon.

(Of course, I’m the one who ended up with cancer, but, pish posh – this is about reducing risk!  Nothing’s a sure thing.)

Anyway, Joey says, “I need data and evidence and this book, written by a brain surgeon who developed brain cancer, convinced me that what you do with your body matters.”  Though he still enjoys the occasional Guinness, Joey also makes a mean green juice!

Surviving Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: Hope, Treatment & Recovery by Patricia Prijatel
Just released 10/12, this is the book version of the fantastic blog, Positives about Negative.  Elsewhere online, scary adjectives precede “triple negative” and it’s neither helpful nor encouraging.  Ms. Prijatel is both.  She rounds up all of the data specific to hormone-negative breast cancer, including treatments, clinical trials and ways to reduce risk of recurrence.  Most importantly, she’s an articulate, delightful, thriving survivor.

Yea Though I Walk by Darrell Huckaby
A signed copy arrived in our mailbox as I was finishing radiation.  Family friends had heard the author speak and thought I’d enjoy his book.  They were right – I finished it in one sitting.  Mr. Huckaby, a survivor of Stage IV metastatic prostate cancer and fellow UGA alum, tells his story in exactly the right tone for me – matter-of-fact and funny.  And his relentless search for new doctors, when treatment after treatment failed, is inspiring.

Nowhere_Hair_199x300Nowhere Hair by Sue Glader
Within days of learning I had cancer, my friend Kathy researched books for children and sent us this gem about chemo-induced hair loss.  Our daughter (age 7 then) was worried about my being bald, and what her friends would think.  It wasn’t her most heartbreaking concern, but the one she voiced most often.

We ended up buzz-cutting my thinning hair to 1/4″ in length – all 4 of us, in our master bathroom.  Afterwards, we decided to go out to dinner and I wondered out loud whether I should wear a scarf.  Precious Sara, who by then knew Nowhere Hair by heart, asked, “Well, Mommy, how are you feeling?  Like the book says – brave or not so brave?”  I told her I felt okay, maybe even brave.  She said, “Well, then, you don’t need to cover your head!”

So I didn’t and we held hands all the way to the restaurant.


Triple-Negative & Melanoma in More Magazine

Thanks to my mom for pointing out Cancer: A Huge Leap Forward in the February/2013 issue of More.

The article by Katharine Davis Fishman includes encouraging info on olaparib, an experimental targeted therapy for recurrent triple negative breast cancer.  It also describes drugs and drug combinations being tested for stage 4 melanoma, which is currently wreaking havoc on my cousin Kurt and his family in Oregon.

Ms. Fishman’s article reinforces – to my mind – how important it is to familiarize yourself with the clinical trial landscape (and how to find the ones that match your situation) if you, or a loved one, are fighting a disease for which treatment options are limited.

Rock on, researchers.  And Godspeed to the people in those trials.

If you can’t access the article, email me and I will send it to you.


3 Weeks Post-Treatment

I haven’t been in a doctor’s office in 2-1/2 weeks!

Instead, I go to the gym – trying to increase my endurance and chip away at the 15 lbs I gained during treatment.  Also hoping to be ready the next time one of my old employers needs a Zumba sub!  I wear a goofy do-rag to squash down my hair, which still wants to stick straight out, especially when it’s wet.

Range of motion in my left arm is about 90% and the radiation burns are mostly healed.

I’ve been on a few very slow jogs.  It’s like sta23 days post-radiationrting all over again!  (Anything’s faster than being on the couch, though, right?)  Selena, I’ll move to the trails this week if the rain stays away – maybe that will make it more enjoyable!

I’ll also my dermatologist this week for a post-radiation skin cancer check and meet with the Y’s Wellness Director, as part of the Winship at the Y program.

The rest of the family is great, too.  Joey ran a PR this weekend in a 5K road race.  He and Sara had a special date at the Girl Scout Father/Daughter dance.  And Sam, after winning a huge trophy in Kid Chess – 2nd place in Blitz – capped off his week by dressing up as a 100-year-old for the 100th day of school.

Our thoughts are always with the Oregon Chases.

Thank you for checking in on us!
1/25/13100th day of school


Painted Piggies – 1st Grade

black Sharpie markers
cardboard circle templates (cut from cereal boxes, etc)
12×18 white sulphite construction paper
pink, white and black tempura paint
glitter tempura paint (Lakeshore Learning brand not recommended)
small round brushes
fat round brushes

25 1st graders and paint is an ambitious combo for a one-class Art Parent lesson.  But they hardly ever get to paint!  So I forged ahead.

Drawing pigs is easy.
Tracing a template for the head ensures big pigs and a good start for everyone.  Then, they moved their circles down a bit to draw an oval body around the template.  “Arms,” legs, ears, eyes and a snout were easy for them.  I reminded them – no details – because they’d be painting over everything with a fat brush.

Mistake #1 – The kids wrote their names on the back of the paper with their Sharpies.  I should have had them sign the front.  Later, when they added paint, some of the signatures showed through.

Painting and mixing tints successful, too.
Palettes on the tables had only pink and white, at first.  Pure pink for all but the snout, hands and feet.  Then, mix in white for the snout.  Not everyone ended up with two distinct pinks, but the mixing experience is good!  Then, everyone got a bit of black to make grey for the hands and feet.

Oops – no tails!

Mistake #2
I had told the children not to draw a tail with marker.  I thought a curly tail with a swoosh of the paintbrush would be easiest – they could outline it later.  But I forgot to remind them when they were painting their pigs!  So out came more pink paint and just-washed brushes.

Outlining with black paint okay (for most).
Ideally, the pigs would’ve been left to dry at this point.  But an Art Parent lesson is done in just one class, so I handed out skinny brushes and black paint for outlining, and hoped for the best.  It’s a great exercise for developing fine motor skills, but challenging for this age group.

Glitter paint is awesome, and I wanted the kids to be able to choose a fun color for their backgrounds.  We squirted the paint directly on to their papers, encouraging them to leave a bubble around their pigs, so as not to smear the still-wet black paint.

Mistake #3
I used Lakeshore Learning glitter paint that I already had, but knew was crummy (weird, “gross” consistency).  Try ArtMinds at Michaels, instead.

Still, these are mighty cute pigs.
Why pigs?  It was 60 degrees, so I scrapped the snowman project I had planned.  And my son wanted to teach his friends our “Shake Your Piggy Bank” dance, one of his favorites from my kids’ Zumba® playlist.

Finally, we read one of Mo Willems’ Piggie and Elephant books, Elephants Cannot Dance!

This little piggie

Sam’s painting from the art lesson I taught yesterday sure beats the last image I posted, right?

Thank you to everyone who expressed concern for my skin!  It’s healing quickly.  Radiation and its side effects were definitely the easiest of my treatment trifecta (chemo/surgery/radiation).

Next month, I’ll see Dr. Woods for my first post-radiation expansion.  And I’ll go back to Turning Point – I’m still wearing the compression sleeve, but no lymphedema massage until my skin heals.

Last week, I joined another research study – this one monitors the effects of exercise on survivorship.  For the next 6 months, Winship will pay our YMCA dues, while I log my physical activity and meet with the fitness director at our local Y each month.  She’s awesome and a little scary – the perfect motivator!

It seems that diet and exercise are the only things I can control now to help keep a recurrence at bay, so I’m all in!  I don’t quite have full range of motion in my arm, and static stretching is discouraged because of the burns, but I can move – just Zumba (not teaching, yet) and cardio/strength classes, so far – and it feels great.

Being back in a classroom was great, too.  25 first-graders, messy paint and dancing to a kid-friendly hip hop song is a heck of a lot more fun than cancer treatment.

Almost as tiring, though :)  You full-time teachers out there are rock stars!