NBCF Blog, Stories from the National Breast Cancer Foundation, INC

Navigating Breast Cancer

Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate. You can have a stable income, health insurance, and a supportive family or be under supported and without primary insurance. Although every cancer diagnosis is not without hardships, it is safe to assume that the latter includes additional barriers. How do you get to your treatment without a car? How can you afford childcare to go and receive chemotherapy? How will you breakdown the language barrier to understand what the doctors are saying? The list can be endless.

This is where caring women like Evelyn Rosales come in. Evelyn, a Patient Navigator at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, TX, has dedicated her life to helping women obtain resources and overcome the obstacles of breast cancer. “Each day I see about 20-30 women,” says Evelyn. This includes helping women get signed up to come in for their mammograms, spending time counseling women on their diagnosis, and translating the findings to help women plan out the next steps in their treatment. “It can be very emotional,” says Evelyn of her time with the women. “Each day brings new surprises; mostly we try to smile a lot here so that women aren’t fearful.”

Each year, the National Breast Cancer Foundation gives approximately $970,000 in grants to support 22 Patient Navigators at partner hospitals across the U.S. “At Parkland, these grants help free the radiologist and gives us efficiency in our day to enable more patients.” This means that more women are being screened and ultimately, more lives are being saved. Additionally, Evelyn notes that the grants help her “develop an ongoing relationship with the Oncology clinic, nurses in other departments, and breast surgeons.” This has helped to allow women who have been diagnosed to see a surgeon in as little as two weeks!

Evelyn’s other accomplishments include reducing the time between a woman’s mammogram and a woman’s biopsy to only 15 days. Evelyn’s success stems from her unique ability to relate to the women who visit Parkland Hospital. It is all about “building a relationship before the biopsy,” she says. “I am able to get women to trust me, let me answer her questions, address her fears, discuss her options, and offer a hug… sometimes those ‘treatments’ are the best kind in the road to recovery.”

Patient Navigation is an integral part in a woman’s survival. Without this program, many underserved women would be lost during the process. Evelyn Rosales, as well as our other Patient Navigators, are part of the pathway to treatment and ultimately survival.

To give directly to NBCF’s Patient Navigation Program, please participate in North Texas Giving Day. On Thursday, September 18th, visit our special link listed below and donate!

NBCF.org/GivingDay2014

All donations of $25 or more will be applied towards available bonus funds. On this day only, your donation will be going directly toward these Patient Navigators. For more information or questions, please contact: fundraising@nbcf.org. Thank you for supporting the National Breast Cancer Foundation!

Living Well with Jody: Antioxidants Made Easy

Summer is the perfect time to add more antioxidants to your meals! We’ve all heard about antioxidants, but what are they really? According to the National Cancer Institute, antioxidants are chemicals that interact with and neutralize free radicals. In other words, antioxidants can help fight the effects of these damaging free radicals. Our bodies naturally create some antioxidants, but we rely on food for the rest of the antioxidants we need.

Examples of foods with antioxidants include: tomatoes, berries, peaches, kale, plums, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, cantaloupe, corn, spinach, cherries, nuts, wheat, brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, legumes, chicken, eggs, garlic, onions, salmon, tuna, dark chocolate, artichoke hearts, ground cloves and many more.

Here’s a colorful three course meal that is rich in antioxidants and easy to make. Enjoy!

Antioxidant Salad with Lemon Dressing

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Raspberry and Chocolate Chip Dessert

For more great recipes and healthy living tips, follow us on Pinterest.

The View From Above

As we attempt to navigate the many highs and lows that life brings us, we can often fall victim to tunnel vision. We only see the immediate problem ahead, and we neglect to remember that the view from above holds a much better perspective.  Like so, a woman’s battle with breast cancer may feel like she is idly moving.  However, from above, there is hope and you may be just one step closer to the finish line.

Operation Pink Sky, the annual event held at Chicagoland Skydiving Center, uses their mile-high perspective to raise donations for NBCF through skydiving. The day is filled with both experienced jumpers as well as first-time jumpers, some of who jumped for free as a reward for meeting a fundraising goal! T-shirts, a raffle, and a party that evening continued to help raise donations.

Becky Johns, Director of Marketing and Communications for Chicagoland, first started the fundraiser due to breast cancer affecting so many of their staff’s families. Becky says “Personally, it is important to me to continue to try to grow the event because my mom and both her sisters are breast cancer survivors.” Although Becky is one of the luckier individuals who didn’t lose her loved ones, she still wants to play her part so that “others may be able to enjoy additional years with their mothers, aunts, sisters, etc.” As for her reasoning on choosing NBCF, Becky comments, “We chose NBCF because of its focus on patients and their families. We know a support network is an important part of fighting the cancer battle and healing.”

Operation Pink Sky just finished their 4th year fundraising for NBCF. We are thankful for their loyal support and innovative fundraising ideas!

For more information on how NBCF helps patients as well as their families, please visit our programs: Beyond the Shock and Early Detection Plan. Or, start your own fundraiser!

image

National Hospital Week: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Beverly Koster was blindsided by her breast cancer diagnosis in 2011. The mother of three – and grandmother of 10 – had no family history of cancer, though up until 2008, she followed the advice of her primary care physician and scheduled her annual mammography exams. Things changed when she lost her job. Without insurance, the New Hampshire native no longer had the ability to pay for routine care. Forced to prioritize expenses, she stopped scheduling the exam.

In 2011, as a newly-hired temporary employee at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, she learned about Dana-Farber’s Mammography Van. Reluctant to ask for time off of work, she was struck by the convenience of the van, and though she had not been experiencing any symptoms, she reached out to inquire about an appointment. Comforted to learn that she could be seen regardless of her insurance or income status, Beverly scheduled an appointment. A few weeks later, she was diagnosed with Stage 1 Breast Cancer. Fortunately, her prognosis was good. Three years later, Beverly is cancer-free, though she still shudders at the memory of learning that she had cancer. “Even though I knew there had been real progress in cancer treatment, I still associated cancer with death. I was forced to face my own mortality.”

Now a full-time employee in Dana-Farber’s Community Benefits Office, which oversees the Mammography Van, Beverly continues to make the daily four-hour commute to Dana-Farber each day. Asked why, she credits the van with saving her life and a desire to pay it forward. “If Dana-Farber hadn’t had the van, it would have been at least a year, if not 18 months before I would have scheduled an appointment. Who knows what might have happened. This made such a difference in my life, so I don’t mind committing my time to this commute. I feel like I’m giving back and helping others in some way.”

A Cord of 7 Strands

We all know the phrase “a cord of 3 strands is not easily broken”, but 7 strands?  That is surely impossible to break! Team Green Ops, made up of seven Operation Managers from across the U.S., is as strong as that cord. The group first met back in 2012 at a leadership conference and has since met each year in various cities attending additional conventions. Over the years they have become close friends, and look forward to traveling to new parts of the U.S. together.

Last year, Green Ops member Dave Halperin found out his sister, Sarah Horn, was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive type of breast cancer. He was instantly surrounded by these 6 teammates to support him. They realized their next meeting in San Francisco was the same weekend as the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon. The 7 agreed to sign up and raise donations for The National Breast Cancer Foundation in honor of Sarah.

As the race grew closer, it wasn’t only the training that sped up. Donations were soaring in and the support Dave felt was unmeasurable. Sadly, in January of this year, Sarah lost her battle with breast cancer at the young age of 35.  Dave’s unwavering strength continued as he and the group continued to train and remain strong. On April 6th, with Sarah in mind, all 7 members ran the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon and crossed the finish line. It was a proud moment for these 7 friends, as they were able to honor Sarah and accomplish their goal together. Green Ops raised a total of $9,220 for women in need!

In any tribulation, it is the people that you surround yourself with that help encourage and sustain your faith. Dave’s wonderful support cord of 7 friends was able to graciously honor the life of his sister, Sarah, and create a memory rooted in their brotherhood.

 To join this group in the fight against breast cancer and to honor the memory of Sarah Horn, please visit their fundraising page, or start your own fundraiser!  

To read Sarah’s blog about her journey, visit: http://www.hornlink.blogspot.com/

Living Well with Jody: Exercise Quick Tips

Exercise is good for you, right? This is what we have been told by everyone from our parents, doctors, PE teachers, trainers and even friends. But how good?

According to the National Cancer Institute, exercising four or more hours a week may help lower your breast cancer risk. This is terrific news and just by making little changes to your daily schedule, you can easily get four hours of exercise in each week.

 A few quick tips to incorporate throughout your day could include:

- Parking further away from the entrance of the supermarket

- Taking the stairs instead of using the elevator at the office

- Walking the dog for 20 more minutes

- Walking the perimeter of the field instead of sitting and watching your kids sporting practice

- Playing with your kids on the playground instead of sitting on the bench

- Switching your coffee date to a walking date

So lace up your tennis shoes and get out and enjoy the glorious spring sunshine!

Written by Jody Feil, NBCF Wellness Specialist
*The views expressed in “Living Well with Jody” are Jody’s personal opinions based on her passion for healthy nutrition and fitness.

Swim Like a Fish, Fight Like a Girl

Battling the terror of breast cancer is much like swimming upstream: you constantly feel the stresses pushing against your progress. It might seem easier to stop believing or lose hope.  However, the Sauk Centre Girls Swim Team made it their personal mission to instill faith in breast cancer victims by hosting their fundraiser for NBCF.

Three years ago, Swim Team Coach James Schreiner’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. “The girls wanted to do something to raise awareness and honor her fight,” James said. “They call her ‘swim mom’ so needless to say my wife was very touched.” James’ wife wasn’t the only woman they honored. The Sauk Swim Team sought out other survivors in the community and recognized each during the meet. Each woman is called upon to stand up, and they each are presented a pink rose to honor their battle with breast cancer.  “It is honestly one amazing night,” James recalls.

The Sauk Centre Girls Swim Team has made the event bigger and better in the last three years. Their biggest sell is the pink ribbons which are donated and printed for them by the local newspaper. People who donate get to write their name on the ribbon, and hundreds of them are then hung outside the entrance to the fan’s balcony on the day of the swim meet. Pink swim caps and pink t-shirts are worn all over the natatorium show pride and support. To top it all off, they have a “chuck-a-duck” contest. Advertised all throughout the school, the contest requires you to pay an entry fee to throw one of the rubber ducks into a buoy in the pool. “The winner gets 50% and NBCF receives the other 50%, but without fail, the winner always donates their prize as well,” James notes.

Coach James insists the night is more than just about raising money for awareness. It is also about being able to “teach the girls a lesson that will last way beyond their years in the water and their years in school.” This past year, the team was able to raise over $6,500 in just one swim meet! Furthermore, they were able to give honor to many women of their community who have been affected by breast cancer.  The Sauk Centre girls are already excited about this year as they give more women hope to tread breast cancer’s tough waters. 

Want to help? Get involved with NBCF by starting your own fundraiser!

Valentine’s Day Hope

image

When most people think of Valentine’s Day, they think of things like hearts, flowers and candy—not a breast cancer diagnosis.  However, for Cassy Stahl, February 14, 2007 began the start of her now seven-year survivorship of breast cancer.

Cassy, like many breast cancer patients, was shocked by her Stage 3 diagnosis given that she was in her early 40s with no family history, had breastfed all three of her children and regularly performed self-exams.  Still, it was those self-exams that likely saved her life.  She knew the persistent knot under her skin didn’t feel right and an ultrasound confirmed that it was lobular breast cancer.  Just two weeks later, Cassy was pursuing treatment at MD Anderson while celebrating her 10-year wedding anniversary with husband Karl Lennart.  They took a break from her treatment to spend some quality time together at a nearby aquarium and Cassy remembers wondering whether she’d live to see future anniversaries.

Thankfully, Cassy received tremendous care and maintained a positive attitude in her quest to become cancer-free.  She says that while she’d never wish cancer on anyone, she is grateful for the ways it made her reevaluate life.  At the time of her diagnosis, she had spent 25 years as an engineer in manufacturing firms.  However, following her treatment, Cassy was reminded of how much people and relationships matter, and decided to pursue a career in real estate.  She loves that she now has the opportunity to help clients find the homes where they’ll make memories.  She also recently joined the sales team for Sabika, an NBCF sponsor, because the jewelry company’s mission of empowering the women who handcraft the product, as well as their commitment to breast cancer awareness, inspired her.  While both of these jobs keep her quite busy, they allow her more flexibility in her schedule so she can remain involved with her family.

For Cassy, Valentine’s Day now represents another year spent loving those who mean the most to her, including kids Sophia, Linnea, and Stefan and she’s thankful for her husband’s continued commitment, noting that the stress of cancer can either drive couples apart or bring them closer together.  She also says that she loves herself more today than her pre-cancer self because she values her strength and changed perspectives.

We wish Cassy, her family, and all our NBCF supporters and followers a day of hope and love this Valentine’s Day.   

Fancy Seeing You Here!

Since NBCF’s headquarters are located in Texas, we are very familiar with the phrase “Everything is Bigger in Texas.” This saying definitely holds true for one of our fundraising groups from Wimberley, TX. The Fancy Feathers 4H Club is a group dedicated to developing and empowering youth through agricultural activities.  image

 Here at NBCF, we get a lot of interesting fundraising ideas sent to us, but this one really caught our attention. Their creative idea? The Fancy Feather group carries around a big, loud rooster and brings it to local offices in their community to make an appearance. Imagine a quiet work day, things going smoothly when all of a sudden teens walk in with an obnoxious farm animal. The only way for the business to get rid of the commotion is to make a donation to NBCF and choose the rooster’s next location to target! Jaci Kroupa, the club’s manager, says the businesses “generally get a big laugh out of it and then happily send the rooster to a competitor. They tend to talk about it for years after.”

                      image image

In total, Fancy Feathers 4H Club donated over $1000 to NBCF with their Pass-A-Rooster Fundraiser in 2013, and they plan on hosting another rooster pass in 2014! This Texas-sized donation will help over 10 women obtain mammograms through our National Mammography Program.

Want to help? Donate to Fancy Feathers Fundraiser or start your own

Living Well with Jody: Eating for Health

It is the start of a new year and a perfect time to make a healthy change. How about changing your diet to make it healthier and anti-carcinogenic?  According to WebMD, “Mounting evidence shows that the foods we eat weigh heavily in the war against cancer.”

What are carcinogens?

According to Melissa Breyer, the author of True Food, some of the top foods and drinks, which may increase your risk of cancer, include:

  • Charred or burnt foods
  • Well-done meats
  • Sugar
  • Soda
  • Trans-fats
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Alcohol in excess

One easy first step is to pick one or two items from this list to cut back on. Once that becomes natural, cut back on another. Small steps are more effective than taking on too much at once.

What are anticarcinogens?

Now that you know what to avoid, here are some of the top anti-carcinogenic foods that can help fight cancer.

  • Berries
  • Tomatoes
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts
  • Turmeric
  • Walnuts
  • Green tea

Focus on swapping some of the first list for some of the second.  Healthy foods may not be a cure for cancer, but they certainly aid in boosting your immunity and give your body a natural defense to disease. 

image

Written by Jody Feil, NBCF Wellness Specialist
*The views expressed in “Living Well with Jody” are Jody’s personal opinions based on her passion for healthy nutrition and fitness.