Thursday, January 27, 2011


ATLANTA - I was talking with an oncologist from Emory University this week, and was asked a pretty pointed question; do you TAKE your medicine? For most of American people, this probably sounds completely odd – why wouldn’t someone take cancer medication? Clearly, it’s a lifesaving pill, what’s that all about?

Statistically, about 40% of women who are prescribed medication after breast cancer treatment (chemo, radiation, etc.) stop taking their meds at some point. Voluntarily, is the presumption. I offer the following two suggestions, as this is what I have heard from women around the nation (world, actually).

1) Cost. Unbeknownst to many people, the large drug manufacturers are offering substantial discounts on these and many lifesaving drugs to patients. A simple phone call could get you a card you keep in your wallet that will allow you to get medicine from any major pharmacy for a reduced rate. This is a sad statement, as the solution to this problem could be a quick easy fix.

2) Life. This one isn’t so easy. I can’t count the number of women who have told me that they just can’t take the side effects – or worse, their loved ones can’t take them. Hot flashes take their toll on the whole family, just ask my kids who have to tell me all the time to CLOSE THE DOOR MOMMY IT’S SNOWING AND WE ARE COLD!!! There are a myriad of other side effects from some drugs, and I’ve been told that a few gals stopped taking them because the bone pain made their jobs difficult.

So, to all of you out there who think nothing of taking that multivitamin first thing in the morning, don’t forget your other meds, too. You being here with hot flashes is more important than the alternative.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


NEW YORK, NEW YORK - I have this great, bubbly, energetic friend who has been an inspiration for several years now, her name is Amy Hughes. One of my daughters has a particular bond with her, she immediately went over to her and stuck like glue within moments of meeting her, which is a rare thing. I just feel like she is part of my family; as is the woman who introduced us, Carolyn.

Amy is a breast cancer survivor and a mother of six. Thirteen years ago, she was diagnosed with not only the news of breast cancer, but a very frightening diagnosis from her surgeon. Her lymph nodes were also involved, and a large number of them. Her treatment involved months and months of chemotherapy, and a bone marrow transplant with simultaneous stem cell treatment as well. Her chemo was an extremely high dosage meant to combat the disease and prepare her for the upcoming battle with the bone marrow and stem cell therapies. This was followed by months of radiation. She had the gamut of side effects, of course, and as she puts it "went through the bad wigs" stage as well. She went to so many hospitals for tests, opinions and treatment that it makes my head spin.

I KNOW your first question; how on EARTH did she do that with six kids? How is that possible for her to have that kind of stamina? Here’s my favorite part about Amy – she credits her dear darling husband (I love him for his hockey-fan side) for being right there by her side for every single appointment. She also says it was all for the kids. That’s what kept her going, why she fought so hard. She couldn’t imagine it any other way. Her first question to a nurse who was going to treat her was, "Well, who is going to take care of my kids now?" The reply was forceful and perfect, "YOU are going to take care of them." How wonderful, that raw permission and absolute certainty that she would survive, of course, don’t be ridiculous. Just as a side note, in case you think she is super-woman (which I do), she says she did choose to leave her successful career as a CPA behind her once she was diagnosed. Something had to give, she said. Well I would hope so, how many irons in the fire can one mama have?

She is worth knowing, this Amy of mine. She’s a rare quiet gem in the world, someone who looks to be a petite tender little flower. Tiny, but fun, she appears to be as delicate as anything. You would never know by looking at her that she is made of solid diamond, strong and true, and made of the toughest substance on earth. I write this because she is worth admiring, and she is someone that has most certainly been an influence on her children. You might know some of them because they are very successful in their own rights. But they will get their own blog posts later. Meanwhile, Rebecca, David, Matt, Sarah, Emily and Taylor, thanks for sharing your mama with us. Thanks for being exactly what she needed to get her going and to keep her going as she fought her battle. See you all on the ice!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


QUAD CITIES (but could be coming soon to a town near you!) - Come on, I only have a few bucks. It’s not like that can help anybody. Plus, I really want to spend it on myself because I’ve had a long day and I deserve this ... fill in the blank …

I found this cool civil engineering site (yes, I find those civil engineers to be a fantastic bunch) that shows the strength of a penny. If used properly, you can assemble them and actually create a very strong structure.

The idea that individual contributions can’t help anyone should be a thing of the past, but clearly this is not the case. The downturn in the economy and a simple fiscal year switch has altered the lives of people in the quad cities in a fairly terrible way – the funding for people who need mammograms RAN OUT. Yes, according to a story on WQAD-TV, women who were under-insured or have high deductibles (these are women who actually have health insurance but still can’t afford a test!!!) were unable to get a mammogram. (Please note: The Centers for Disease Control has a program to help low-income, uninsured and underserved get breast and cervical screenings.)

I’m delighted to report that a new donor, the Trinity Foundation, stepped in to help cover this terrible gap. They held a fundraising event, much like the hundreds I have been so blessed to attend, and they averted a financial crisis. So yes, events can actually make a change. Your attendance at such an event, while masked as a fantastically fun party, can be the change that is needed. Your simple donation of even just a few dollars can be pooled with others, like this event did, and change an entire region.

It doesn’t have to be a breast cancer charity (but if you want to, gosh I know a great one - – just pick the charity of your choice. Donate 5 bucks and see what happens. Maybe next month you can shoot for $10 or $15. Then, you might just feel the need to throw a party for the charity and make it $20K. Sometimes the power of change is sitting right there in front of you, in those hands of yours. :)

Monday, January 3, 2011


PETOSKEY, MICHIGAN - Mel Majoros has her life in order. That’s how it seems to me, anyway. I was introduced to her (online) by a mutual twitter friend. We all liked hockey, so naturally I wanted to say hi! In spite of the fact that I knew she was in Michigan and was most likely a Redwings fan (please keep in mind I’m from Chicago ). So we chat. It takes about .5 seconds before I learn that she’s a survivor.

Three years ago she was on her way to the last day of Redwings training camp (her fan life is a bright, shiny world compared to the rest of us hockey fans …) when her doctor called her and asked how soon she could get in to discuss the biopsy results. You get a call like that, you already know what’s going on, without any further words being spoken. What a shock to someone who was in the ‘best shape of her life’.

She was triple positive, and in our world, it’s better than a few other diagnoses she could have received. As an adopted child, it took her some research to find out if there was a family history of the disease (there was, sadly). She had surgery, chemo – including the much despised red devil – and powered her way through all the side effects. She told me that at one point, the nurse whipped out a needle so large she felt like she was in a cartoon. “What is that thing, like 3 feet long? You have to be kidding me!” The exhaustion coupled with insomnia was a particularly challenging battle for her, one that so many of us struggle to handle.

As a radio producer, she was delighted to be offered the opportunity to host her own show; her focus is to tell people to be an EMPOWERED PATIENT. She refuses to let people embrace the idea of being referred to in the past tense once they have a diagnosis. There are so many patients who need strength and help in areas that are totally unaddressed, and she features them on her show to offer them a bigger voice. She’s interviewed singers who embrace the cause like Ryan Hamner and children like Melinda who write award winning books about cancer.

Her outreach and work is touching people, more than she can possibly understand. Thank you, Mel, for allowing me to put the spotlight on you for a change of pace. Keep fighting, cancer warrior!!!

Saturday, January 1, 2011


MICHGAN – Last week, Geraldine Doyle passed away at age 86. According to CNN she was the inspiration for the iconic ‘We can do it’ posters from WWll. She was a tall, thin cellist who briefly worked in a factory as so many women did as the men went to war. She actually met her husband at a soda fountain, can you think of anything more quintessentially 1940’s and perfect? Thank you, Mrs. Doyle, for silently standing for so many things. For giving a face to women around the nation.

She has come to be an icon for so many things, up to and including breast cancer, believe it or not. I was gifted a t-shirt that had her image sporting a pink bandana and the words ‘We can cure it’ emblazoned on the bottom. She’s such a paradox, which is why she is exactly the perfect face for our goal. She isn’t packed with muscles, she’s not sporting a power suit, she’s just an average working woman. Like so many of us, she appears to be someone who could be our mother, our sister, our friends and on a really good day (look at how lovely she is!) she’s us. Beauty packed up in a blue collar, literally.

Here’s to the way America was when young Geraldine went to work in a metal factory in Michigan with her red bandana. Here’s to the way America is now, rolling up our sleeves and doing all we can to empower ourselves, hopefully by way of helping others. Here’s to America in our future, in the faces of our daughters. Strong, beautiful, confident. And healthy.


HAPPY NEW YEAR! Here’s to the happy thought that by this time next year, I will be writing something like “the unprecedented advancements in cancer research this year have led to a cure, what a wonderful year this has been!”


FORT WAYNE, INDIANA - Lynda recently started working for the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer. It’s not just a job to her, I’ve learned. She has had several people in her family affected by breast cancer - this year alone! In some cases, that is how things happen. Work becomes more than just work when your heart gets involved. This morning, the New York Times posted an article about Dr. Marisa Weiss. Dr. Weiss is a 51-year-old oncologist who just happens to be the founder of, an incredibly helpful website for those of us with a passion to find a cure. We’ve referred people to that website for quite some time now, and look forward to more of that via our various social media avenues (@followheidi on twitter; facebook; and this blog.

She has made the rare but meaningful transition from someone who really cared about this to someone who is now directly affected. Her passion now is to make sure that word is spread about getting mammograms. They aren’t perfect, she says, but they save lives. She says that her annual mammogram saved her life.

Huge kudos to the New York Times for putting out a breast cancer message outside the month of **gasp!!** October! And for reminding as many people as possible to take their health and their passion into their own hands. The sooner, the better.

Photo courtesy of the New York Times.


PEACE on the earth, goodwill to men. :)