Category: Announcements


New Primer for Facing Breast Cancer

Madhulika Sikka’s A Breast Cancer Alphabet 

BreastCancerAlphabetFor years, my mornings have begun listening to National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” broadcast. Madhulika Sikka, news editor for NPR, is a name I have heard regularly as a producer of newsworthy and provocative stories.  When I heard that she had written a book about her experience with breast cancer, my curiosity was aroused to put humanity to her faceless radio presence. I was very pleased by what I found.

Her new book, “A Breast Cancer Alphabet,” is part memoir of her personal encounter with breast cancer, part social commentary about the “Cancer-Land Culture,” and part intuitive self-help advise for any woman facing dark days.

Memoir

Madhulika describes how each detail of the day she received her cancer diagnosis was stamped on her brain. Sikka was at the White House for an interview with President Obama on the day she was waiting for the fateful call from her doctor.   She talks about the impersonality of having her breasts suddenly become objects of inspection by technicians, residents and doctors.  She calls this both manhandling and “woman-handling” of her private life.  She describes the “I is for Indignities” of mammograms, claustrophobic MRI exams, and special needle localization biopsy where your body has to adapt to the rigid Plexiglas box machine while positioned on your stomach.  

She describes her mastectomy and chemotherapy and how her new diagnosis affected her marriage and her relationships with her children. She describes how losing a breast and losing her hair gave her a different relationship to her body. The rapid change was assault.

“The thing about breast cancer is, it does things to your looks, and not necessarily good things. So, whatever category you fall into–plain or primpedyou find yourself thinking: Why am I so worried about looks right now?”

She recognized that if she needed to look better in order to feel better, “almost like applying a shield.”

Social Commentary

“Cancer-land” was the name she gave to the all-encompassing world of oncology, a land you can never leave once you enter. She was critical of the social pressure to use warrior images of the patient’s treatment endeavor. She disliked the gauzy breast cancer world of pink ribbons and sexy, glamorous warriors fighting back.

“But I am not a woman warrior. I am just a woman, a woman who has been diagnosed with a horrible disease; a woman who has gone through brutal surgery; a woman who has had her body poisoned to “kill” the disease. Can I just be a woman who is going through that? Can I not be a woman warrior? Please?”

Self Help Advice

A Breast Cancer Alphabet is readable, thoughtful and genuine. Her “R is for Reconstruction” chapter  encourages you to think of your reconstructive  plastic surgeon as your very own Michelangelo, who sees each woman’s breast rebuilding as an original artistic creation.Her “T is for Therapy” chapter encourages a variety of ways to heal from the Cancer-Land experience. 

“Therapy is all about healing, and the beauty of healing is that it can apply to your body, your soul, your mind, and your surroundings.

Her writing is beautiful and her word choice speaks to deep reflection on the subject of facing loss in life. Her book is about breast cancer, but is really a healthy reminder of how to respond to many types of dark days, whether they be the result of cancer or not.  

Announcements, Book Review, Breast health, Doctor-Patient Relationship

Want To Be a Better Version of You?

Accept the Challenge in 2014 

Walk ParkWonder diets and quick weight loss plans get a lot of attention with the start of each New Year. I suggest skipping extreme solutions. Dropping 20 lb. and gaining it right back is not success. The real path to your best health, vitality and weight control requires commitment to a lifestyle that is practical. Here are a few practical suggestions for sustainable health and fitness improvements:

  1. Diet without counting calories. It is too much trouble to weigh and measure every bite of food you put in your mouth. Use portion control and avoid calorie dense foods.
  2. Hit your goal 80% of the time. If you are a perfectionist you will be disabled by your disappointment. Perfect is definitely not practical. So allow yourself some margin.
  3. Keep a journal so you are accountable and honest with yourself.
  4. Drink 11-12 glasses of water a day to combat hunger and fill your stomach.
  5. Keep moving!! You have to move to lose weight and exercise is a good to fight anxiety and depression. 
  6. Weigh weekly to avoid weight drift.
  7. Your weekly exercise routine should include 30 minutes of cardio a least 3 times and resistance training 2-3 times. Find exercise you like doing. Make your exercise social. Exercise with a friend to accomplish two important functions at once.

A sound body requires a sound mind. Learning methods for managing stress and building resilience are important for the sustainability of your challenge. Most women are so accustomed to being caretakers, they neglect their own needs, both physical and psychological. Make time for your mental and physical well being.   

Announcements, Anti-aging, Body Contouring, Doctor-Patient Relationship, Exercise, Nutrition, Personal Fitness, Weight loss

“COVERAGE IS HERE”

Washington-Health-Plan-FinderThere is a lot of change occurring in healthcare currently. One of the best changes is that health insurance will be available to many who were previously ineligible. “Coverage is here” is Washington state’s slogan to educate the public about the new state health benefit exchange. The federal Affordable Care Act has a mandate to increase the number of people covered by health insurance. Enrollment is beginning now for plans that go into effect January 1, 2014. There are 46 health insurance plans participating in the new system. Here are some common questions about the new health benefit exchange:

  1. Who is eligible for these plans?
    Individuals, families and small businesses can purchase insurance through these new plans.
  2. How much will it cost? 
    The cost will vary by how much coverage you choose and whether or not you are eligible for any fee reductions, based on your income.
  3. Will I be able to see my own doctor on the new plan?
    Each insurance plan will have its own panel of doctors.  You may be able to find the plan that your doctor works on before you purchase.
  4. If I have insurance through my employer will I have to go through the state healthcare exchange?
    Most individuals will be able to stay on their company’s plan.

 For more information go to www.wahealthplanfinder.org.

Announcements, Breast health, Doctor-Patient Relationship, Personal Fitness

Impact Honduras: Sustainable Change For 2012

Honduras is the second poorest country in Central America, with an extraordinary inequity between the rich and the poor and high unemployment. It has been estimated that 65% of its people live beneath the poverty line. The rural poor live in subsistence conditions with inadequate sanitation and little or no access to medical care. From January 21-29 I will be traveling with the Friends of Barnabas Foundation to participate in their Impact Honduras Project. I traveled before with the FOB Mountain Mission team in 2010 and found it to be a very rewarding endeavor. 

The Impact Honduras project has targeted twenty-four communities located in remote areas of the mountains of central Honduras. The goal is promote sustainable change among the poor by providing basic healthcare, with extended healthcare services for special needs children and pregnant women. The program designates community health care providers, assists in water purification, health education workshops, trains midwives and promotes leadership development. 

Our team consists of 15 people, two pediatricians, one surgeon (me), two nurses, an optometrist, four translators and pharmacy specialists and team leaders. Each day we will be visiting one of these targeted communities to screen for health problems among the children, educate about health issues, and provide basic care to all that request it. Children with severe problems are referred elsewhere for more complex treatments. The Friends of Barnabas also provide cardiac surgery to children with congenital heart conditions and plastic surgery for children with cleft lip and palate.

The Friend’s of Barnabas Foundation’s mission is to improve the lives of the Honduran poor by providing high quality sustainable medical care and enabling communities to become self sufficient through health related training and education.

You can learn more about Impact Honduras or make a donation by visiting the website www.fobf.org.

I will be documenting my trip with my daughter Sarah, my Spanish translator, on my Facebook page in January 2012. 

Announcements, Impact Honduras

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