14 Helpful Ideas To Cope With Cancer During The Holidays

Treatment is coming along but it is my first Holiday Season living with the knowledge that there is this aggressive invader in my body. What am I to do? Sound familiar? Identify?

Living with a cancer diagnosis is not for the faint of heart. And the Holiday season only amplifies the reality that you have come face-to-face with your own mortality. This diagnosis like none other slaps you into the reality that life is not forever for anyone, especially your life, as you are actively fighting for it. I found it helpful during my treatment to keep my life as “normal” as possible. So here are a few to-dos that might be helpful.

  1. Do decorate but do not go overboard. Your energy is needed to heal.
  2. Do buy your favorite foods even if they don’t taste quite the same.
  3. If you are one of those who loves to cook or bake then choose a favorite and make it.
  4. If you send out a Christmas letter then focus on the positives of the treatment process and use the letter to tell them what you need to hear from them this coming year. The reality is no one knows what to say and often say nothing in order to not say the wrong thing. So include a little paragraph that says something like this:
      “I know the C word makes everyone nervous and afraid. Thank goodness Cancer is not contagious and you can’t transmit it by talking about it. Do not be afraid to ask me, “How are you doing?” Don’t be afraid to ask me, “Do you want to talk about it?” Or “What do you need?” I have good days and bad days and often times I don’t know what I need but it feels good to be asked. And what I need to hear from you most is: “I don’t know what to say or ask, but I am wanting you to know you are important to me, what can I do?”
  5. If you love shopping, go off times when everyone else is at work.
  6. Listen to great Christmas music and if you get bored or teary with it, then switch to music you really love. Don’t be afraid of your tears. Tell your journal how you are feeling and what you are experiencing.
  7. Watch holiday movies. Go to a play or live performance.
  8. Get outside. Bundle up and walk around the block or drive to a park. A change of scenery always feels good.
  9. If you are too weak to drive have someone take you to see Christmas lights.
  10. Buy an adult coloring book to color in as the days turn into weeks and weeks into months. Coloring can be a useful and fun activity that keeps your mind from worrying so much.
  11. Drink tea. It is a wonderful healing ritual.
  12. Wear your favorite and most comfortable clothes.
  13. And if you are traveling for the holiday on trains or airplanes consider wearing a mask in addition to keeping hands clean to help protect from others’ germs. These are not full-proof measures but the extra steps to help.
  14. And, best of all, give yourself permission to NOT do anything you don’t want to do. If you hate wrapping presents, switch to gift bags only. If you hate cooking, order your holiday meal. Pamper yourself.

Create new memories for next year. Having cancer is a real bummer but do not let it control you and your mood. You are still alive right now and use this time to make the most of it with your loved ones. None of us are immortal. We will all die. We do not get a choice about that. But we do get a choice about how we live and what we create while we are here. Never allow self-pity to steal your joy. Find something to enjoy every day. Give back. Call a friend who is down and cheer him/her up. Look for ways to make a positive difference in the lives of people around you. You may have cancer but that does not mean your entire identity has changed. Don’t let cancer own you. Live your life the best possible way and get determined to enjoy this Holiday Season regardless. Turn up that music now!

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Dr. Robin B. Dilley’s Books:

Dr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.

Cancer Patients: The Effects of Light and Dark on Physiology

Changes in our physiology during light and dark | Is artificial light disrupting our rhythm?Let’s look today at what effects changes in light and dark cycle (our circadian rhythm) have on our body. Is messing with this natural cycle affecting our health?
Our physiology is organized to change with time. The daily changes that happen are very important for our health and wellness. For example, we need rest and sleep in order to heal and restore.

Light and absence of light, detected by the eye, is the major cue used by the body to discriminate day from night and to create our circadian rhythm. If this rhythm is disrupted, many parts of our physiology can be affected.

Take a look at the infographic below which shows some of the physiological factors that vary from the light of day to the dark of night.

From the above, we can see that many different systems in our bodies have a rhythm. This temporal organization of our physiology is critical for our health.
Disruption of our circadian rhythm has been linked to many disease processes, including metabolic syndrome, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative disease, intestinal dysbiosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer.

In the past, we had predictable periods of daily light and dark, driven by the sun rising and setting. These set our circadian rhythms. When it was daylight, the physiology on the left-hand side of the infographic applied and when it was dark, that on the right-hand side applied.

The electric light bulb
But then the electric light bulb was invented.  This has significantly impacted our light and dark cycle, drastically reducing the dark part.  The part when our body is healing.
Our boundaries of light and dark are now blurred. The sun goes down and we turn on the lights. Instead of natural light-dark cycles, we now use lights to illuminate us for 4 or more extra hours. Our biological processes are consequently not as synchronized as they used to be. This means hormones, gene expression, immune function, mood, metabolism, our gut microbiota may all be affected.

Light:dark time importance
Light and dark are the key. It’s not just asleep and awake. It is those triggers that shift us from one stage to the other and having a rhythm that the body can be entrained towards.  Our nighttime physiology is our dark physiology not just sleep physiology. The dark transitions us. Things begin to change as the light disappears.

Time to go back to the light of fires and candles? 
Obviously, we don’t want to give up the convenience of our electric lights and stop using light emitting electronic devices like televisions, computers, iPhones etc at night. None of this huddling around the fire or candles to read our paper. But if this light is affecting our health is there something we can do? I’ll explore some options next week.
In the meantime, pay attention to how many hours you use lights in the house after it is dark outside. How bright are your lights at home? How close to bedtime do you watch TV or use computer/phone screens? If you get up in the night to go to the bathroom, do you switch the light on?
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Sleep tight.

 Ruth Baillie is originally from the UK and now lives most of the year in Northern California. She holds two Master’s degrees, one in Personalized Nutrition (distinction), and another in Health Psychology. She is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, Certified Professional Cancer Coach, and Cancer Guide, and has undertaken considerable post-graduate studies in integrative naturopathic oncology. She is the author of “Choices in mind-body medicine for cancer patients in Sonoma County, California” and her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals.

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Photo source: Imgur.com

 

Breast Cancer Yoga DVD: A Restorative Yoga Therapy with Specialized Breathing Exercises

It is our pleasure to share this flowing restorative yoga practice with you. It is very important to start right where you are, and build up slowly. This will help in supporting and maintaining a positive attitude and a healing foundation. In time, with practice there will be improvement to sleeping patterns, a decrease in joint pain and an increase in range of motion. You will begin to experience less fatigue and gain more energy, strength and stamina. A calmness, along with mental clarity are some of the benefits of building your own yoga practice. Start with 10 minutes AND then begin to expand the time.

Order Here:

This DVD introduces three breaths to train the mind to focus, complete, cleansing and ujjayi breaths also 12 restorative poses for breast cancer recovery, lymphedema management and cancer related fatigue.

Make sure your props ready. They can be household items, blankets, pillows, cushions and ties. Props are instrumental in your support and comfort.

We will finish with deep relaxation. It is Here all the benefits of this yoga practice will be absorbed into the body. We hope yoga will become part of your life.

This instructional video is intended to aid in post-surgical recovery from breast cancer
•to help relieve pain and manage lymphedema
•to reduce stress and anxiety
•to decrease fatigue and increase energy
•and to promote breast health

Dawn Breast CancerAbout Dawn Bradford Lange:  Co-founder of Breast Cancer Yoga. Dawn is making a difference with Breast Cancer Yoga therapeutic products designed to support you emotionally and physically during breast cancer . We want to give you the attention and personal service you need so please email us at info@breastcanceryoga.com if you have questions.

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6 Reasons To Be Mindful And Use Your Breath During Breast Cancer

What Does Mindful Mean?

Mindful Means “being conscious or aware of something directly.” Once mindful, you then can then foster positive change through the development of a mindful practice, like yoga or breathing. Mindfulness, whereby combining the breath consciously with yoga movements brings this awareness of the mind right into the present moment. Right where it needs to be in order to move forward and heal.

Why It is so Important to be Mindful

  1. Because it stops the negative chatter of a restless and wandering mind.
  2. Stress and anxiety are some of the byproducts of this unmindfulness.
  3. We may also become careless and lack clarity in making good decisions, especially health decisions. It is right now, here where you become “present” to whatever is, or isn’t.
  4. Learning how to stay in a mindful state allows you to get past that which may cause undo stress or harm. This can be attained through the proper training of the breath, focus of the mind and movement of the body.
  5. When both the breath, mind and body come together, consciously, the ability to create relaxation and a new-found state of clarity is then realized.
  6. Here you can tackle recovery head on and with deep purpose.

How Does the Breath Make us Mindful?

“When the mind wonders; the breath is sure to follow.” It is stated in yogic practices  that when the mind jumps all over it is called “the monkey mind.” This unfocused mind can create a lot of stress and anxiety, all of which has a negative impact on the mind and body causing a profound effect on the autonomic nervous system which then increases stress hormones and overall emotional responses.

How Does it Help Breast Cancer Recovery?

The reason being mindful is so valuable is that the mind is deeply incorporated with the breath.  A mindful practice is cultivated through learning how to use the breath positively,  or in partnership with the mind.  It is an intentional act of unity, whereby unconscious thoughts and feelings of the mind are then brought to a single point of attention. This is achieved one way by focusing fully on the breath.  Through rhythmically breathing (inhale and exhale of the same duration) we tap into our deepest inner resources for healing, and for relaxation. By flowing through a series of breaths, the body experiences an inner calm which then awakens the prana (life energy) and moves the mind towards a higher level of understanding.  It is through the control of the breath, that the mind will reflect a higher knowledge and a positive state of confidence and self esteem.  It is  emotionally  challenging to learn you have cancer.  A natural response is “Can I do this? “ Let this be the yoga practice of self-understanding.

Mindful Yoga And Breathing Exercises For Breast Cancer

The deeper the commitment to a Mindful Yoga and Breathing practice, the deeper the relaxation response will manifest, healing the trauma of worry, anxiety and fear associated with the diagnosis of breast cancer. It is challenging to start a yoga practice when this the fear, stress, anxiety and depression surface. It is precisely at that time that we need support, not only from our doctors, families and friends, but most importantly from other women who have breast cancer or even another type of cancer. These personal connections help us to feel “part of” a community who understands our emotions and experiences. Unconditional love creates miracles!  Creating a strong support system and a safe place to be (oneself) are paramount to alleviating the stress that derives from breast cancer.  A clear mind, a full breath and a body in motion are paramount for recovery. YOU are responsible for your healing process and progress so breathe deeply and move freely.

 Breast Cancer Yoga has just announced their first mindful practices collaboration with Dr. Robin Dilley.

Dawn Breast CancerAbout Dawn Bradford Lange:  Co-founder of Breast Cancer Yoga. Dawn is making a difference with Breast Cancer Yoga therapeutic products designed to support you emotionally and physically during breast cancer . We want to give you the attention and personal service you need so please email us at info@breastcanceryoga.com if you have questions.

 

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Breast Cancer: A-Z Mindful Practices: Self Care Tools For Treatment & Recovery

In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey With Breast Cancer Book Review

Breast Cancer Authority Blog Bestseller Book Review! – In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer

In A Moments Notice - Breast Cancer Authority Bestseller

About The Book

This book is the culmination of Dr. Robin B. Dilley’s poignant journey to wellness after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999. Dr. Dilley’s story offers a unique voice, blending her clinical insights with spiritual awakenings along her journey. She describes in detail her emotional struggle to make sense out of the disease and the medical world while showing a strong and solid reliance on her profound spirituality. Her journey introduces amazing characters that she encountered along the way as her life took on new meaning, including the development of her friend and ally, the Tiger.

From the Author

In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer  Finally, I have finished my book about my eleven-year journey with breast cancer. When I was going through treatment I wanted to read someone else’s story, but could not find a book that talked about the ups and downs of treatment and how this disease drastically as well as subtlety changes your life and the lives of those around you. I read thousands of articles, and medical reports, but at that time, I could not find a single book that would talk to me about what it was like. I have now written that book and you can order it now.

About the Author

Dr. Robin B. Dilley is an Arizona licensed psychologist in private practice.She received her doctoral degree from Union Institute in 1992 and has been practicing as a clinician in the field of psychotherapy since 1978. “Psychotherapy for Personal Growth and Redirection” is the heart of Dr. Dilley’s practice, so regardless of what the problem is, there is a solution. The solution is found in the journey, not in the destination.

The Gap: An Important Mindfulness Technique

I had the pleasure of listening to Pema Chodron (Buddhist Monk and author) and KD Lang (Musician, singer, songwriter) in a conversation this morning on Live Stream. I was struck by several things, but the one that stood out for me is the concept of the Gap. I want to share the concept of the Gap with you, the reader.

The Gap is that in between space where you come to understand the presence of NOW. It is that moment when you look up from a hiking path and notices the sky, the tree, or the bird. The Gap is a sacred space within, when you realize you are part of the outer world.

It seems to me that as people living in the world of cancer, you can use the practice of the Gap regardless of where you are on your path. For instance, fall is my favorite time of the year and I am so excited about its arrival. that I know I will have many Gap moments when I see beautiful leaves dropping the magic of their colors on the ground as they leave naked branches ready for winter. What Gap moments might you look forward to this fall? What magical part of the day will you practice breathing into the Now. The Gap is that space within you that allows you to breathe deeply from the inside out.

As people experiencing cancer life can become very ugly and painful as rancid smells and nauseating waves of emotion run askew inside of your inner darkness. It is important that you do not live in the darkness. Pema Chodron might say something like, “Don’t run from the darkness, touch it, explore it and move on past it.” The practice of the Gap is a tool to help you move past the darkness into the NOW.

Looking for something good and magical in your day will help you practice the Gap and stay in the Now. If you can’t see magic in your day then create magic in your day. If you are irritated with not getting the results you want with your health care, then focus on something else that you have control over. For instance, purchase some fall flowers. Take time to have a Gap moment with those flowers. Smell them, touch them and notice how each one is uniquely different from every other one. Have you ever noticed that no two flowers are exactly alike? Notice the nuances in the shades of the colors, notice the stems. Notice each flower as you arrange it in the vase. These flowers traveled from rich fertile soil and were “harvested” for your delight. All cut flowers will die. But each flower has its own elegance, story, and purpose in your life today. That purpose is here to bring you joy and to put a gentle smile on your face. Enjoying flowers is a Gap moment. Take a breath and look up and see your room come to life because you placed a vase of flowers on your night stand or kitchen table. You took the time to create a Gap that brings you delight.

As you learn to experience Gap moments, be the Gap in someone else’s life today. Pick up the phone and call a friend and tell them how much they mean to you. Send a card to someone who needs a connection. Smile at the clerk in the grocery store and tell them, “I hope you have a really good day,” as you look them in the eye. Be the Gap in other people’s lives daily and you will experience more Gap moments in your day-to-day life that is full of the necessary medical appointments, follow-ups and tests. I even imagine your health care team will respond to you more positively if you are practicing Gap moments in your life.

See you are not cancer. You are not your disease. You are a person with many roles and facets to your life. Don’t let cancer define you. Smile, in spite, of the cancer. Bring smiles to other people’s lives. Make a difference today and you will be happier because you did.

For more information and exercises for cancer patients read Breast Cancer: A-Z Mindful Practices.

Dr. Robin Dilley

Dr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.

How Meat Stimulates Breast Cancer

In 1979, an epidemic of breast enlargement was noted in Italian children. Poultry or veal was suspected, given that estrogens may be fed to farm animals to accelerate their weight gain. After this episode, Europe banned the use of anabolic growth promoters in agriculture, and has banned the importation of American meat from animals injected with drugs like Zeranol, sold as Ralgro Magnum.

Zeranol is the one of the most potent known endocrine disruptors—100,000 times more estrogenic than the plastics chemical, BPA, for example. And Zeranol constitutes a special case among potential endocrine disruptors, because in contrast to all other estrogenic “endocrine-disrupting” chemicals, Zeranol is present in human food, because it’s deliberately used—in fact, designed to be a potent, persistent, estrogen, whereas the estrogenic properties of the other chemicals are accidental.

And if you drip blood from a cow that’s been implanted with the drug on human breast cancer cells in a petri dish, you can double the cancer growth rate. We don’t drink blood, though, but preliminary data also showed that muscle extracts, meat extracts, also stimulated breast cancer cell proliferation.

Furthermore, Zeranol may cause the transformation of normal breast cells into cancer cells in the first place. Zeranol-containing blood from implanted cattle was capable of transforming normal human breast cells into breast cancer cells within 21 days.

Obese women may be at greater risk of developing Zeranol-induced breast cancer, since they already have high levels of leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells, that can itself promote breast cancer growth. And Zeranol exposure can greatly enhance this growth-promoting action. This result also suggests that Zeranol may be more harmful to obese breast cancer patients than to normal weight breast cancer patients, in terms of breast cancer development.

In conclusion, because these anabolic growth promoters in meat production are, by far, the most potent hormones found in human food, we should really be testing people, especially children, before and after eating this meat. It amazes me that it hasn’t been done, and until it has, we have no idea what kind of threat they may pose—though the fact that Zeranol is as potent as estradiol—the primary sex steroid in women and DES—should concern us. DES is another synthetic estrogen marketed to pregnant women—all pregnant women until 1971, when it was shown to cause vaginal cancers in the daughters. But few know it was also used in meat.

In the absence of effective federal regulation, the meat industry uses hundreds of animal feed additives, with little or no concern about the carcinogenic and other toxic effects of dietary residues of these additives. Illustratively, after decades of misleading assurances of the safety of DES and its use as a growth-promoting animal feed additive, the United States finally banned its use some 40 years after it was first shown to be carcinogenic. The meat industry then promptly switched to other potentially carcinogenic additives, such as Zeranol.

When girls started dying from vaginal cancer, DES-treated meat was subsequently banned in Europe. However, misleading assurances, including the deliberate suppression of residue data, managed to delay a U.S. ban on DES in the meat supply for eight years.

Today, virtually the entire U.S. population consumes, without any warning, labeling, or information, unknown and unpredictable amounts of hormone residues in meat products over a lifetime. If all hormonal and other carcinogenic feed additives aren’t banned immediately, the least we could have is “explicit labeling requirements of the use and of [hormone] residue levels in all meat products, including milk and eggs.”

Doctor’s Note

Isn’t that amazing about the DES story? I had no idea it was used in meat production. Check out some of the other Big Pharma on Big Farms: Illegal Drugs in Chicken Feathers.

The most dangerous additive used in the meat industry is antibiotics, though. See, for example:

For more on what may be bad for the breast, check out:

And for what may be protective, see:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United

5 Ways To Support Our Bodies For Self Healing

Healthy self = Heal thy self | Supporting our bodies for self-healing
Our bodies are designed to heal themselves. They have many self-healing capacities, so let’s look at how we can support these to reveal our healthy self. Healthy self = Heal thy self!

Imagine cutting your finger

Here’s a scenario to consider. You are chopping some food, and you cut your finger. If you take care of it, cleaning it immediately and keeping it clean after the bleeding stops, the cut will heal itself in a few days. If it’s really bad, you might need some additional support like stitches, but it will still heal and will just take a little longer.

If you don’t support that healing, you’ll get into trouble. For example, if you rub dirt into that fresh-cut instead of cleaning it, the healing will be delayed. We need to support the body, and then its natural healing capacity can work.

But what if you cut that same finger every day? That constant damage and injury will mean that your body can’t heal itself. It will try, but that constant insult will prohibit healing.

1. Diet as a repeated injury
The same applies to chronic illnesses, rather than physical injuries. Just like the scenario of cutting your finger every day and it not being able to heal, if we “injure” our body every day by the way we eat and live, then we aren’t giving the body the support it needs to heal itself.

A diet without adequate nutrients is damaging to our whole body every day. Every day that we don’t eat well or sleep well, we are depleting our bodies. We aren’t providing an environment in which our body can heal itself.

Consider eating food that is inflammatory to you every day. It’s just like cutting your finger every day – more damage is occurring, and there is no chance for healing. And this damage relates to much more than just inflammation in our digestive system. If we aren’t getting the nutrients we need every day, this can affect all of the biochemical reactions going on in our bodies. Those nutrients – and the lack of them – affect all the systems of our bodies.

Eating a diet that is lacking nutrients is like injuring yourself every day. Instead, we need to support the body.

2. Medications as a ‘band-aid’
We might be tempted to try some medications to cover up the symptoms of an illness and make us feel better, at least temporarily, but frequently they don’t support self-healing because they have side effects too.

Let’s say that you have the symptoms of a cold – a slightly high temperature, and just not feeling great. So you reach for Tylenol or Aspirin every few hours. By reducing your temperature, the medication might make you feel better for a short while. However, the medicine has also interfered with the natural healing process, because your body was using that high temperature as a means to get rid of the virus. What might have been better would have been to relax, drink plenty of fluids, take a warm Epsom salts bath, and have an early night.

3. Active, not passive
Taking medications or over-the-counter pills requires very little effort on our part – we are quite passive – just popping our pills. But as the title of this blog post says, for a healthy self, we need to heal ourselves. That is an active process. We need to feel empowered to provide a favorable environment for the body. That means DESS – diet, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction, along with love, good relationships, and spirituality. When we put these things in place, then we are no longer cutting our finger every day, and the body can start to heal.

4. Inflammation is the language of discontent with our environment
We know that most chronic illnesses have inflammation at the root of them. This inflammation in our bodies – wherever it might appear – is the body trying to tell us that our environment is not conducive to self healing. It’s like a warning light coming on in our car. If that warning light comes on, we take the car to the garage to get it checked. When we have inflammation or symptoms somewhere in our body, how often do we either do nothing or just pop a pill? What we should do instead is…think that we aren’t providing what the body needs to heal. Think that there is something wrong with our environment. Think about what our body and our environment need instead of what we are providing…

Sometimes, it might be necessary to work with someone to figure this out. It might be that you need some tests to determine that, for example, you are deficient in Vitamin A, or that your hormones are out of balance. A natural health care provider (such as a nutritionist, lifestyle medicine practitioner, naturopath) might be able to help you find out what is out of balance in your environment. Is too much stress making those hormones out of balance? Is a polymorphism creating that vitamin A deficiency? They can then educate you in what seems to be going on. That knowledge can be very empowering.

5. Be empowered
When you understand the workings of the body, and what might be lacking in the body’s environment, then you can make changes and see improvement. Then you are ready to heal thy self. You take an active role and work to rebalance your hormones or eat foods containing vitamin A.

So if you are ill, take some time to look at what might be out of balance in your environment. Is something lacking, is something in excess? It could be nutrition, sleep, stress, difficult relationships – these can all prevent our body from healing itself. We need that good environment. Nurture yourself and be at least as good to your body as you are to your car when its engine light comes on! Take action. Don’t be passive. Let the body do what it is designed to do – heal itself.

Of course, I’m not suggesting we should never use pharmaceuticals. In some instances, especially acute illnesses, they are very important. Yet even if we do use pharmaceuticals, we should still check to see if they deplete the body of certain nutrients/vitamins/minerals, and continue to work to support our self-healing.

Ruth BaillieRuth Baillie is originally from the UK and now lives most of the year in Northern California. She holds two Master’s degrees, one in Personalized Nutrition (distinction), and another in Health Psychology. She is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, Certified Professional Cancer Coach, and Cancer Guide, and has undertaken considerable post-graduate studies in integrative naturopathic oncology. She is the author of “Choices in mind-body medicine for cancer patients in Sonoma County, California” and her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals.

Lymphedema After Mastectomy: Learn About Breathing Exercises & Restorative Yoga

It is not unusual for a woman to develop lymphedema after a mastectomy. Lymphedema is a sometimes-painful swelling in the soft tissues.  This can be due to the removal of lymph nodes, scar tissue, strictures, and other factors.

Manual lymph drainage massage is the usual recommended technique to treat this swelling.  It may be surprising to know that another therapy that benefits lymphedema is yoga, especially restorative yoga. When the lymphatic system is at its optimum, it is like a free flowing river, running without obstacles.  However, when the lymph nodes are removed or damaged, that same river meets obstacles and begins to slow down and this creates a pooling of fluids.  This build up in the tissues can cause swelling and inflammation and reduce oxygen in the lymphatic tissues. The white blood cells, or immune soldiers of the body, can be impaired in their function in this situation.  This may increase the risk of infection and create a possible permanent disability.  Edema is often found in the arms and legs, but can be found in other parts of the body.

Knowing how important it is to keep this fluid running like a free flowing river, we need to foster relaxation and gentle movements that encourage its increased flow.  This is especially important after breast surgery or removal of nodes, when it is paramount to undertake new activities to increase impaired lymphatic function.

The need to develop a deeper state of relaxation to counter the mental and physical stress of illness and its treatment is critically important to our health and well-being.

Practicing yoga, especially Restorative Yoga which targets the pectoral area, keeps the fluid moving through the body rather than slowing down and creating a back up.  This benefits the breasts by promoting drainage and healing and creating a sense of safety when expanding the chest.

Practicing Restorative Yoga daily will undo the harmful effects of too much sitting or inactivity.  Starting yoga practice with a knowledgeable Restorative Yoga teacher is as important as wearing a bandage or support garment.

An important thing to understand in your practice of Restorative Yoga is that you must to slow down enough to listen to what your body is telling you.  Any time you overwork your muscles or strain your healing tissues,  you run the risk of fluid build up.

Let this be the yoga practice of self-understanding.

More Great Articles

  1. How Breathing Exercises Can Raise Energy Levels For Breast Cancer Patients
  2. Breathing, Yoga and Cancer
  3. Breast Cancer Breathing Guidelines & Techniques During Exercise
  4. Diaphragmatic Breathing for Cancer Survivors
  5. Learn Natural Breath Breathing Exercise For Breast Cancer Treatment
  6. Yoga Pose for Breast Cancer – Root Lock KRIYA Breathing
  7. 4 Benefits of Breathing Exercises For Breast Cancer Treatment
  8. Why Start A Breathing Practice For Breast Cancer Recovery? Good Health!

Dawn Breast CancerAbout Dawn Bradford Lange:  Co-founder of Breast Cancer Yoga. Dawn is making a difference with Breast Cancer Yoga therapeutic products designed to support you emotionally and physically during breast cancer . We want to give you the attention and personal service you need so please email us at info@breastcanceryoga.com if you have questions.

Tests To Help With Breast Cancer Treatment Decisions

When you’ve just received a diagnosis of breast cancer, you are faced with many different treatment options. Your mind is in a whirl with fear, confusion, and disbelief. While none of these feelings help decision making, there are some tests that can help: Oncotype DX and Mammaprint. 

These tests are genomic tests that analyze the activity of specific genes in the breast tumor. They can help you determine if your risk of breast cancer coming back is high or low, which can help you in making a decision about whether to have chemotherapy, radiation, or other therapies to reduce risk after surgery.

There are two main types of tests – Oncotype DX and Mammaprint.

Oncotype Dx has two tests for breast cancer – one for Ductal Carcinoma in situ (DCIS) – Oncotype DX DCIS and one for invasive breast cancer – Oncotype DX.  Mammaprint has one test for invasive breast cancer. Let’s look at these in greater detail.

What are genomic tests?

Genomic tests look at specific genes in your individual tumor and try to determine what is driving its growth. This is different from genetic tests which look at your inherited risk or predisposition for cancer. Genomic tests provide information that can help tailor your treatment plan to you as an individual. They are a type of personalized medicine. This is really important, because not all breast cancers are the same and, in fact, some breast cancers might have more in common with a prostate cancer than they do with another type of breast cancer. One size treatment definitely does not fit all.

Oncotype DX DCIS

Image showing the incidence of DCIS from blog on CALMERme.comThis test is only for people diagnosed with DCIS or, as it is often called, “stage zero” breast cancer. In addition to general information such as tumor size, margins, and grade, Oncotype DX DCIS helps determine the likelihood of DCIS recurring or invasive breast cancer occurring within the next 10 years.

It examines a sample of the tumor tissue that has already been removed during the lumpectomy for DCIS. By looking at the expression of 21 different genes in the tumor, it provides a DCIS score of between 0-100. The lower the score, the lower the risk of recurrence. Two scores are given, one to determine the risk of recurrence of DCIS and another for the risk of occurrence of an invasive breast cancer.

Knowing the DCIS score can help you decide whether to have radiation treatment  following the lumpectomy. If your risk of recurrence is low, then maybe you can spare yourself further treatment and the possible side effects that go with it.

To be eligible for Oncotype DX DCIS, you need to have recently been diagnosed with DCIS and had lumpectomy surgery. The decision should be made in discussion with your doctor/oncologist.

In the US, insurance might cover the cost of this test; the testing company will help you determine if this is the case and provide information to your insurers, as necessary. In the UK, these tests can be conducted under the NHS or privately.

Many oncologists are now familiar with these tests for invasive breast cancer; sadly, the Oncotype DX DCIS test does not appear to be known by all oncologists, so it’s good for you to be proactive and start the discussion. Here is a link to the validation work done on the test that you can forward to your oncologist, and further links are given at the bottom of this post:

Clinical validation of oncotype DX DCIS

I definitely think it is worth having a discussion with your oncologist, sharing the references as necessary, and if you don’t get anywhere with the oncologist, talk to your family doctor or surgeon.

Oncotype DX and Mammaprint

Both Oncotype DX and Mammaprint are genomic tests suitable for early stage invasive breast cancer. They both predict the benefit of chemotherapy or other types of treatment, as well as the likelihood of 10 year recurrence.

They are similar tests but have some differences, as outlined below:

Comparison of oncotype DX and mammaprint for invasive breast cancer

Looking at this table can help determine if you are eligible for either of these tests.

As with Oncotype DX DCIS, some insurance companies in the US will pay for these tests whereas some don’t include them in coverage. Both testing companies offer financial assistance or guidance, so it’s worth calling them to discuss if you are interested and want to check coverage. In the UK, these tests can be conducted under the NHS or privately.

These tests are important because some of the cancer treatments, like chemotherapy, can have many side effects and are hard to get through. If there is little to no benefit in these treatments for you as an individual, then these genomic tests give you the confidence to not have a treatment that has greater potential for risk than for benefit.

Obviously the decision of further treatment is based on more than just these results. It involves detailed discussion with your oncologist, but also personal consideration of what you want and how you feel. Remember, you can take your time over treatment decisions. You might feel rushed, but take adequate time until you feel comfortable that you are making the right personal decision. These tests can go a long way in giving you confidence in your decision, but it is still a personal choice that needs to be right for you as an individual based on your mind and spirit, as well as your body.

Here are links to each of these three tests for more information

Patient information on Oncotype DX DCIS

Oncologist information on Oncotype DX DCIS

Patient information on Oncotype DX

Oncologist information on Oncotype DX

Patient information on Mammaprint

Oncologist information on Mammaprint

Let me know if you’ve had any of these tests and how they helped you.

Ruth BaillieRuth Baillie is originally from the UK and now lives most of the year in Northern California. She holds two Master’s degrees, one in Personalized Nutrition (distinction), and another in Health Psychology. She is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, Certified Professional Cancer Coach, and Cancer Guide, and has undertaken considerable post-graduate studies in integrative naturopathic oncology. She is the author of “Choices in mind-body medicine for cancer patients in Sonoma County, California” and her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals.

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