Love Your Body–How Cancer Changed My Diet

Love Your Body Like God Loves It

Love Your Body Like God Loves It

Wow, it’s already the last Monday of the month and that means it’s Love Your Body Monday! Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I reviewed what I wrote in Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer regarding the dietary changes we made after my breast cancer diagnosis, surgery, and radiation:

My husband and I joke that my recovery entailed revamping our entire kitchen! I took great delight in learning about juicing and eating raw and organic, which meant I researched and bought a juicer, smoothie maker, high-speed blender, food processor, toaster oven that dehydrates, special containers for ripening and keeping raw fruits and veggies—just for starters. We no longer used the microwave, so I also bought stainless steel pots and pans, and two sets of dishes that were oven proof for heating up leftovers in the toaster oven. Our kids say, “Mom, every time we come you have a new set of dishes!” I thought to myself, Why not? Who knows how many more sets of dishes I will enjoy in my lifetime?

Next, I had fun researching and comparative shopping in health food stores that carried organic foods. This was quite a project as I did comparative shopping, read labels, and learned my way around. Now instead of dreading shopping, it is exciting and fun. I can hardly wait to try a new healthy recipe or a different way of food preparation.

Breast cancer book

*I emphasized in bold the points I am going to talk about here.

So let’s look at some of the changes I made and why I made them.

I’ve already talked quite a bit about eating organic and reading labels, so I’ll refer you to the previous Love Your Body blogs I wrote for more information. Just type in a topic or Love Your Body into “search this blog” or go to the blog archives and the last Monday of each month features a Love Your Body blog post.

Juicing

Currently the focus seems to be on green smoothies, and they’re great as long as you’re not using high fat/high calorie ingredients. Debbie Alsdorf had a recipe for her Morning Green Smoothie in her 90 Days to Physical Renewal blog.

Here’s a simple explanation of the benefits of juicing:

Most people don’t eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables to provide a substantial amount of vitamins and minerals, but you can obtain the maximum benefits by juicing them. Much of their nutrients are in the fiber, which the body expels. When we juice fruits and vegetables, these nutrients release from the fiber and we are able to drink highly concentrated nutrients, which enter our bloodstream quickly.

Fiber and other foods added to smoothies offer a different kind of nutrition because fiber is essential to health, so be sure to continue eating raw fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains in conjunction with fresh juices to gain the maximum amount of nutritional value from what you eat.

Very few people eat sufficient quantities of raw fruits and vegetables. Juicing provides a quick and easy way to increase your consumption of these foods. I have an Omega juicer which allows me to juice wheat grass. Hope I didn’t lose you there…but wheat grass is an amazing source of nutrients and is delicious juiced with an apple and lemon. Even hubby likes it!

I also drink a “green juice” every morning made of greens like wheat grass, Spirulina, barley grass, and chlorella. You can find organic green juice powders that you mix with water or fruit juice in health food stores. I order mine from Purium Health Products. Drink green juice first thing in the morning on an empty stomach for maximum benefit.

Bountiful Basket Organic

Eating Raw

Cooking fruits and vegetables destroys some of the nutrients and we throw most of the nutrients down the sink when we boil foods. The closer you can eat your food to its natural state, the better. So we eat lots of organic raw fruits and vegetables in salads. I put everything into green salads including all kinds of fruit right along with the tomatoes, mushrooms, and cucumbers! I always get compliments on my salads, which I take to potlucks in case I can’t eat anything else.

If you can’t afford organic, buy a natural veggie wash and wash ALL produce before eating. If you had to pick one item to eat organic, make it strawberries. They are heavily treated with pesticides and absorb it all!

The more plant-based food you eat the better!

We No Longer Use the Microwave

I have not used a microwave for cooking for fourteen years. It’s not because I’m worried about leaking radiation, but just as I mentioned above, heat destroys nutrients and the microwave cooks things at a very high temperature. Also most food products made for the microwave are processed with preservatives.

This was a huge shock to us at first since I actually had two microwaves when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. But my husband unplugged the portable one and put it in the trash and we ignored the built in one. So that meant I had to learn how to cook on top of the stove again. I don’t trust any of the nonstick or Teflon pans, so I use stainless steel pots and pans and a toaster oven for broiling, reheating, and making toast.

I also try not to use plastic storage containers, but switched to glass or Pyrex. These can be sanitized and don’t absorb food or odors and go nicely into the toaster oven or conventional oven. Check out some of your plastic containers—they often are stained or melted from being in the microwave or dishwasher. Toss them and replace with glass.

Snacks and Water

I make my own “trail mix” with a variety of organic raw unsalted nuts. I always start with almonds, cashews, and walnuts, and then I might add pistachios, shelled sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, macadamias, or pecans. Sometimes I add dried unsulphured fruit, but usually it’s just a mixture of nuts which I take with me everywhere and keep on my desk in my office!

If you can’t go raw nuts, Dr. Oz says in his book, You On a Diet, that it’s OK to cook them at 275 deg for 9-12 minutes to roast without damaging the good oils and nutrients. Remember that raw nuts have not been processed so keep any extras in the refrigerator or freezer.

I also always have a stainless steel water bottle with me filled with fresh filtered water. I don’t ever remember in my younger days drinking as much water as I do now, but once you start, you’ll find your body craves it. I have a “Contigo” brand water bottle that keeps ice solid and water cold in the heat of summer. Be sure to clean the tubing and mouthpiece on your bottle regularly because mold accumulates in those areas. I found small bottle brushes to get into those little areas in the infant section of Wall-Mart.

I once had someone at church ask me: What’s in your bottle you always have with you?” She looked a little surprised when I said, “Water.”

You’ll need lots of water when you exercise too. Exercise is so important to any healthy eating regime.

Exercise saying

I hope you’ve all had your annual mammogram this year, and if not, make the appointment. Mammograms have saved my life three times and I do believe that the changes we’ve made in our diet have helped me maintain a healthy active quality of life.

How about you? Are you intrigued by any of the changes we made?

Could you live without your microwave?

Willing to try juicing or green juice?

To read any of the past “Love Your Body” blog posts, just type in Love Your Body in the search bar on the right side of the website or go to the last Monday of each month in the archives.

If you received this blog by email, comment here.

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Someone You Know Has Breast Cancer

Blanket made for me by my daughter-in-law and grandkids for first recurrence.

Blanket made for me by my daughter-in-law and grandkids for first recurrence.

“I’m sorry…but you do have breast cancer.”

Those shocking words crackling through my cell phone rocked my world thirteen years ago. I was running errands…trying to outrun suspected bad news. After the doctor’s parting words, “You’ll be fine,” I fired up the car engine and started driving and dialing. The first person I called, after I told my husband, was my best friend, but she couldn’t comprehend the diagnosis. “A positive biopsy doesn’t mean it’s malignant, does it?” she asked.

It’s hard to know what to say or do when a friend or relative drops the bombshell news that she has breast cancer. Often our natural response is to recoil and retreat. Maybe it’s the fear of facing our own mortality or the time and emotion required if we do get involved. We ease our conscience by thinking: she would rather be alone right now anyway. Or she needs her family at a time like this. Or she has so many friends; I know someone will help her.

We may send a card or make a call offering to help, closing with “I’ll be praying for you,” then on we go about our life while her life crumbles. Yet the Bible clearly tells us to, “Help each other in troubles and problems. This is the kind of law Christ asks us to obey” (Galatians 6:2 NLV).

How can we put that verse into practical terms? What does it truly mean to help each other in troubles and problems? Perhaps you can glean some ideas from the ways my friends and family came along side me during my initial breast cancer journey and two recurrences.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I pray that God will make you aware of the women around you with breast cancer and that you’re getting regular exams yourself!

Helping with the Bad Days

Don’t Just Offer to Help—Do Something Tangible

Most of us find it difficult to receive help; we’re hesitant to impose on others. When asked the generic question, “How can I help you?” our common response is, “I’m fine, but thank you for asking.” Truthfully, we need everything, but we don’t know if the person is offering to mop our floors or pick up our kids from school—both of which we need, but are afraid to ask.

Another well-meaning comment I received was, “Just call me if you need anything.” Now how many women are going to pick up the phone and ask for help, especially if they are not feeling well? Again, we don’t know what the person is willing to do for us, and we don’t want to be a burden.

So instead of offering to help—just jump in and do something. If you know your friend well, you know where she needs help; and even if you don’t know her well, you know where all women need help. If she is in the midst of cancer treatment, she is going to need assistance with every area of her life, especially if she is single. Here are some practical ideas:

  1. Schedule her friends, family, and church to bring meals. Use your lunch break to take her lunch and eat with her.
  2. Offer to drive her to doctor’s appointments or treatments and take notes for her.
  3. Shuttle her kids to and from school or find someone who can.
  4. Sit with her during chemo treatments or accompany her to radiation. Talk, read a book to her, or just hold her hand.
  5. Take her children on a play date or to your house.
  6. Do her laundry.
  7. Do her grocery shopping. If she is too sick to dictate a list, take an inventory of her refrigerator and cupboards and make your own list.
  8. Answer her email.
  9. Bring her a gift that makes her feel feminine.
  10. If she feels like talking, sit and chat with her. When she doesn’t feel like talking, just be a presence in her home so she doesn’t feel alone.
  11. Babysit her kids so she and her husband can have some private time.
  12. Clean her house or pay someone to do it.
  13. Go with her to pick out a wig or prosthesis.
  14. Pick up prescriptions.
  15. Run errands.

Don’t Say, “I’ll Pray For You,” Unless You Mean It

At church a couple came up to greet my husband and me and asked if they could pray for us. That meant so much to me as we wrapped our arms around each other, and there on the church patio, this precious couple prayed for my recovery and Dave’s strength for the journey. When we finished, the wife asked where we needed help. I hesitated because I knew this woman didn’t like to cook, but Dave quickly interjected, “We could use a meal.” She didn’t flinch. She said they would be over the next night with dinner, and they were…and they prayed for us again.

“I’ll pray for you” is said too often with the casualness of “Have a nice day.” But a promise to pray isn’t just a feel good phrase. We are telling someone that we will petition God on her behalf, and we are living falsely if we don’t. I find it’s best to stop in the moment and pray right then. It keeps me honest and blesses the other person.

Helping to Enjoy the Good Days

Be Happy with Her When She’s Happy

Cancer is a grim word. Overnight life becomes serious, tense, and laden with fear. There is very little laughter during those first shocking days following the “dreaded diagnosis.” But life continues and there are going to be good days interspersed with the bad. An insightful friend will capitalize on the moments of reprieve when there is an opportunity to laugh or smile. Be ready, because it may only last a moment, but the break from pain and fear is immeasurable.

If your friend is having an especially good day, avoid topics that you know will bring her down. You aren’t minimizing or making light of the seriousness of the situation, but you are giving her a recess from the intensity. Don’t fake happiness, but take advantage of humorous or lighter moments. Smile. Laugh. Be happy. Don’t let the serious eclipse the humorous.

I remember laughing at myself one day in the shower when I realized that I was so carefully not shaving under my left arm because of the lymph node surgery, that I also wasn’t shaving my left leg. I frequently retold that story so people could laugh with me.

Nurture the Little Girl Inside Her

When I was in the hospital, the nurse in charge of the breast-care unit gave me a white stuffed toy sheep named “Fleece.” Taking Fleece with me everywhere, I held him as a shield in front of my sore breast, tucked him under my arm as an armrest, and snuggled next to him in bed. For six months, I indulged my childish need for security and no one chastised me for it. In fact, they acted like it was normal. And I discovered when I was writing my book, Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer, that it was normal! One woman who shared her story in the book had a black stuffed sheep named “Lamby” that she cuddled in her hospital bed. Another received a baby-sized pillow, and she recalls, “That pillow became a part of my wardrobe for eighteen months.”

stuffed sheet

Comfort and Security Gifts

  • A stuffed animal, pillow, or quilt.
  • A favorite food.
  • A game she loves to play and play it with her.
  • A movie she loved as a kid and watch it with her.
  • A surprise reunion with childhood friends.
  • A tea party.
  • A fun hat—even if she hasn’t lost her hair, she might not feel like fixing her hair.
  • A new nightgown that buttons down the front.
  • An ice cream cone.
  • A nightlight
  • A copy of  Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer a Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey signed by me to her. Many women tell me it’s as if I’m walking right beside them.

Shower Her with Love

Kay Warren shared with me about her breast cancer experience, “I don’t know how we would have gotten through this difficult time without the outpouring of love and support from so many. I have not felt alone at all…which is such an amazing gift!” And that it is…love is the best gift you can give to your friend suffering with breast cancer. Don’t desert her when she needs you most. Right now, she requires extravagant love, and God will help you when your heart is breaking or it just seems too sad or too hard. John 13:34 tells us to love one another just as God has loved us. God is the author of love and He knows just what your friend needs, and He will show you how to love her when she is feeling unlovable.

Surprise her. What woman doesn’t love an unexpected gift or demonstration of how valuable she is to us? We were in the midst of a messy kitchen remodel when breast cancer assaulted me. Everything in my life seemed out of control. But I felt so loved the day I returned home after the painful needle biopsy and spotted amongst the rubble—gift bags full of treats with balloons attached and a card from two girlfriends assuring me they had been praying during the ordeal.

Ideas For Showering Your Breast Cancer Friend With Love

  • A Spa day at a salon, which treats women with breast cancer.
  • If she wears a hat or scarf, wear one too.
  • Tell her how much you love her and what a great friend she is.
  • Stick with her even when the treatment lingers on. Her biggest fear is that others will not endure the journey.
  • Include her in as many activities as she feels up to.
  • Go to a breast-cancer support group with her.
  • Plan a girls’ day or night out, when she feels up to it.
  • Sit and watch old movies with her—even if she falls asleep.
  • Do her makeup.
  • Pray for and with her.

The Bible assures us in Proverbs 17:17 that “A friend loves at all times.” What a privilege it is to put that verse into practice for your precious friend with breast cancer. You probably won’t be able to do everything I suggest and I hope you have ideas of your own, but as a three-time breast cancer survivor, I assure you there are three things that will endure through the good and the bad times—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

The Top Thirteen Things to Do or Say and NOT to Do or Say to Someone with Breast Cancer

Article includes excerpts from Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey.

Breast cancer book If you received this blog by email, leave a comment here.

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You Are Priceless

This is the last Monday in October—a month in which I’ve been focusing on Breast Cancer Awareness Month in my Monday Morning Blog. Today, I invited Julie Coleman, author of Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed in Jesus’ Conversations with Women, to share with us. As Julie jokingly talks about her cosmetic makeover, I was reminded of the free “Look Good . . . Feel Better” makeover I had at my radiation oncologist’s office. Most of us don’t feel very beautiful going through breast cancer treatment and it was so nice to have a professional give us a makeover, lunch, and free samples.

But Julie reminds all of us, healthy and not so healthy, that we are all precious in Jesus’ sight and He gives us our self-worth, value, and confidence, not our reflection in the mirror. Enjoy Julie’s post today—

 angie photo shoot2

I am no diva.

My daughter would roll her eyes at this statement and say, “No kidding!” Before every speaking event, Melanie insists on approving my outfit. She is afraid to let me leave the house without fashion supervision. “Put on some mascara,” she urges. “Lipstick will make you appear more professional.” I sigh and try to be obedient to her fashion sense, since I have none of my own.

On a shopping trip in Chicago with my cousins a few years back, we wandered into a chic makeup boutique. Noting the glamorous women browsing the store, I knew right away I didn’t belong there. But as I tried to inconspicuously peruse the aisles (so as not to embarrass my cousins), a makeup artist swept over. It was like I had a bull’s-eye painted on my forehead. She wanted to give me a makeover. I tried to explain that makeup wasn’t really a huge part of my daily routine. A face like mine would be a waste of her time. She insisted.

I felt sorry for her. She seemed so nice and sincere, so desperate to please. So I put myself into her hands.

The woman worked wonders. My eyes looked brighter and my face younger. I wrote down every product she used to perform her magic. Then I went shopping.

Please note: previously, the most sophisticated cosmetic purchase I had ever made was at the drugstore. So as I shopped, I didn’t think to look at prices. How expensive could eye shadow be? If only I knew.

Eventually I found myself in line with my little basket of purchases, again noticing the beautiful, stylish women now in line all around me. Obviously if you cared about your appearance, you bought your makeup in this place. Pretending to be a regular customer, I nonchalantly stepped up to the counter.

The young beauty behind the counter rang up my purchases. “Good news,” she enthused. “You have spent over $150! That entitles you to a special gift!” One hundred fifty dollars?? For blush and powder? I almost passed out. Excruciatingly aware of the Beautiful People surrounding me in line, I gulped and handed over my credit card, trying to look casual, as if this was a routine purchase for a diva like me. My hand was shaking. I thought I might possibly throw up, right there in front of this bunch of super models. How would I explain this to my husband?
My cousins and I left the store together. I was still shaken. “I j-just spent $150 on eye shadow,” I stammered. “Those people think a lot of their makeup.”

In the real estate market, a home’s value is determined by what someone is willing to pay for it. Similarly, the boutique’s confidence in their product was demonstrated by the cost they assigned to it. Apparently, I validated their assumption, since I willingly paid their price. The signature on my credit card slip indicated this makeup was indeed worth $150. At least to me. Apparently.

We can say the same for our own worth, according to Scripture. Our value has been determined by the price God was willing to pay for us.

“You were redeemed…with precious blood…the blood of Christ” (2 Peter 1:18-19).

 

Julie's book cover

 

Author and speaker Julie Coleman dedicates herself to helping others understand and know an unexpected God. Her new book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed in Jesus’ Conversations with Women, was recently released by Thomas Nelson. Julie and her husband live in Annapolis, MD. You can find her blog at unexpectedgod.com.

NOTE:  This is the last week of our doubly reduced price of Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A perfect gift for a friend or for yourself.

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On a First-Name Basis with God


Carrying on the theme of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I’ve invited Ava Pennington to share her book, 
Daily Reflections on the Names of God. In  Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer, I encourage women as they struggle with breast cancer to talk and write to God. There are journal lines and prompts for writing “Your Love Letter to God” at the end of each chapter. In the “God’s Love Letter to You” sections, I personalize Scripture and sign it with the many names and assets of God.

Ava’s book will  enhance everyone’s personal relationship with our Lord and Savior. Today’s post is written by Ava Pennington.

Daily Reflections on the Names of God - lo-res

I’ve been a Christian for more than forty years, but it wasn’t until the past several years that I could say I’m on a first-name basis with God.

Don’t get me wrong. I knew Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and I was confident God knew me by name. But I didn’t realize until recently that, although God knew me by name, I was not as intimate with Him by name…specifically by the names and attributes He revealed for Himself in His Word.

The topic of the names and attributes of God is a popular one. There is no shortage of books, calendars, and cards on the subject. But I wanted to write a devotional that moved beyond learning a name and checking it off a list.

As I wrote Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, I was struck by how many of God’s names and attributes I knew only on an intellectual basis. I had not stopped to consider what many of them meant to me personally.

For example, when I call God my Banner or a Consuming Fire, how did those names change the way I lived? Or did they change the way I lived at all? When the Bible refers to the Lord as the Bridegroom, what did that mean to me – someone who has been married for 35+ years? Or when Jesus is called the Lion of Judah, what did that mean to this city girl whose closest exposure to a lion occurred at the local zoo?

A Devotional

Because of my own need, I chose to structure this book as a devotional, applying three unique devotions to each of 122 names and attributes of God. Each name and attribute is explored from three perspectives: who God says He is, who we are in relation to that name/attribute, and how our relationships are influenced by that name/attribute.

At the end of the project, I knew God more intimately and I understood myself more clearly. For one thing, it changed the way I related to Him. My faith is not a “blind faith” since it rests on the proven character and ways of God. While I may not fully understand who He is until I get to heaven, His names and attributes provide glimpses into His divine nature.

A Renewed Prayer Life

Understanding why God has chosen certain ways to describe Himself also changes my prayer life. I’m not praying to an impersonal force out in the universe. I’m praying to our very personal God, who I know by name and who knows me by name. Whatever the subject of my prayer – whether worship, thanksgiving, interceding for others, or asking for myself – there is a name or attribute God has revealed for Himself that helps me relate to Him in that area.

Knowing what God says about Himself has also changed the way I teach and share Christ. God is not some ancient or outdated theological concept. Everything about who He is and how He works is relevant to us today. Knowing His names and attributes gives me the specific words to describe Him to others. It also helps me when others speak of who they think God is, because I have a starting point to say, “Let’s look at who God says He is!”

I hope you’ll join me in becoming more intimately acquainted with our great God. As you do, let me know the difference it makes in your life!

Ava Pennington is a writer, Bible teacher, and speaker. Her newest book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, is endorsed by Kay Arthur, founder of Precept Ministries International. Additionally, Ava is co-author of Faith Basics for Kids. The first two books in the series are Do You Love Me More? and Will I See You Today? She has also written numerous articles for magazines such as Today’s Christian Woman, Power for Living, and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse.

Ava also teaches a weekly, Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class of 175+ women. She is a passionate speaker and teacher, and delights in engaging audiences with relevant, enjoyable presentations.

For more information, visit her at www.AvaWrites.com

To purchase Daily Reflections on the Names of God:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Christianbook.com

Deeper Shopping

© 2010 Martin Alan Grivjack Photography Martin Alan Grivjack Photography

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Help Your Friend With Breast Cancer Make It Through the Bad Days and Enjoy The Good Days

writingIMG_3857Signing at ExpressionsEagle-Walk1-300x225Grace Grace and me at signing

In loving memory of my “Grace Abounds”

October ushers in fall with thoughts of pumpkin pie and harvest colors, but for many women like myself, it’s also a reminder that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2002, with recurrences in 2008 and 2011. So for me, and my breast cancer sisters, we’re also thinking pink. BTW pink and brown are great color combinations.

I found purpose in the pain of my first diagnosis by writing the book I wished I had going through my own journey, Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey The hardest chapter to write was “It Could Come Back.” But come back it did come, twice! Any fears I had that my friends and family couldn’t, or wouldn’t, go through this ordeal with me again, were unfounded as they rallied around me each time with love, caring, support and most importantly, prayer.

In the following post, I have suggestions for how you can do the same for the breast cancer friend or family member or neighbor, or fellow employee, or acquaintance you barely know. Because with 1 in 8 women being diagnosed with breast cancer . . . you know a woman who has cried out in anguish, “Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer!”

_____________

“I’m sorry…but you do have breast cancer.”

Those shocking words crackling through my cell phone rocked my world eleven years ago. I was running errands…trying to outrun suspected bad news. After the doctor’s parting words, “You’ll be fine,” I fired up the car engine and started driving and dialing. The first person I called, after I told my husband, was my best friend, but she couldn’t comprehend the diagnosis. “A positive biopsy doesn’t mean it’s malignant, does it?” she asked.

It’s hard to know what to say or do when a friend or relative drops the bombshell news that she has breast cancer. Often our natural response is to recoil and retreat. Maybe it’s the fear of facing our own mortality or the time and emotion required if we do get involved. We ease our conscience by thinking: she would rather be alone right now anyway. Or she needs her family at a time like this. Or she has so many friends; I know someone will help her.

We may send a card or make a call offering to help, closing with “I’ll be praying for you,” then on we go about our life while her life crumbles. Yet the Bible clearly tells us to, “Help each other in troubles and problems. This is the kind of law Christ asks us to obey” (Galatians 6:2 NLV).

How can we put that verse into practical terms? What does it truly mean to help each other in troubles and problems? Perhaps you can glean some ideas from the ways my friends and family came along side me during my initial breast cancer journey and two recurrences.

Helping Her with the Bad Days

 

Don’t Just Offer to Help—Do Something Tangible

Most of us find it difficult to receive help; we are hesitant to impose on others. When asked the generic question, “How can I help you?” our common response is, “I’m fine, but thank you for asking.” Truthfully, we need everything, but we don’t know if the person is offering to mop our floors or pick up our kids from school—both of which we need, but are afraid to ask.

Another well-meaning comment I received was, “Just call me if you need anything.” Now how many women are going to pick up the phone and ask for help, especially if they are not feeling well? Again, we don’t know what the person is willing to do for us, and we don’t want to be a burden.

So instead of offering to help—just jump in and do something. If you know your friend well, you know where she needs help; and even if you don’t know her well, you know where all women need help. If she is in the midst of cancer treatment, she is going to need assistance with every area of her life, especially if she is single. Here are some practical ideas:

  1. Schedule her friends, family, and church to bring meals. Use your lunch break to take her lunch and eat with her.
  2. Offer to drive her to doctor’s appointments or treatments and take notes for her.
  3. Shuttle her kids to and from school or find someone who can.
  4. Sit with her during chemo treatments or accompany her to radiation. Talk, read a book to her, or just hold her hand.
  5. Take her children on a play date or to your house.
  6. Do her laundry.
  7. Do her grocery shopping. If she is too sick to dictate a list, take an inventory of her refrigerator and cupboards and make your own list.
  8. Answer her email.
  9. Bring her a gift that makes her feel feminine.
  10. If she feels like talking, sit and chat with her. When she doesn’t feel like talking, just be a presence in her home so she doesn’t feel alone.
  11. Babysit her kids so she and her husband can have some private time.
  12. Clean her house or pay someone to do it.
  13. Go with her to pick out a wig or prosthesis.
  14. Pick up prescriptions.
  15. Run errands.

My first surgery and treatment extended over the Christmas holidays, and we had six grandchildren at that time. I had bought their presents already but couldn’t imagine wrapping them. So my friend took all the presents home and wrapped them, as well as organizing other friends to deliver meals for three months. During my recuperation, she sat on my bed with my laptop, read my emails to me, and then sent my dictated answers. Later, she accompanied me to radiation, fixed my hair when I had a frozen shoulder, and stuck beside me through the entire cancer ordeal, even though she admits that her first reaction to my phone call on that dreaded diagnosis day was, “Lord, I don’t want to do this.” God assured her that she could do it, and she did.

Don’t Say, “I’ll Pray For You,” Unless You Mean It

At church a couple came up to greet my husband and me and asked if they could pray for us. That meant so much to me as we wrapped our arms around each other, and there on the church patio, this precious couple prayed for my recovery and Dave’s strength for the journey. When we finished, the wife asked where we needed help. I hesitated because I knew this woman didn’t like to cook, but Dave quickly interjected, “We could use a meal.” She didn’t flinch. She said they would be over the next night with dinner, and they were…and they prayed for us again.

“I’ll pray for you” is said too often with the casualness of “Have a nice day.” But a promise to pray isn’t just a feel good phrase. We are telling someone that we will petition God on her behalf, and we are living falsely if we don’t. I find it’s best to stop in the moment and pray right then. It keeps me honest and blesses the other person.

Helping Her Enjoy the Good Days

 

Be Happy with Her When She’s Happy

Cancer is a grim word. Overnight life becomes serious, tense, and laden with fear. There is very little laughter during those first shocking days following the “dreaded diagnosis.” But life continues and there are going to be good days interspersed with the bad. An insightful friend will capitalize on the moments of reprieve when there is an opportunity to laugh or smile. Be ready, because it may only last a moment, but the break from pain and fear is immeasurable.

If your friend is having an especially good day, avoid topics that you know will bring her down. You aren’t minimizing or making light of the seriousness of the situation, but you are giving her a recess from the intensity. Don’t fake happiness, but take advantage of humorous or lighter moments. Smile. Laugh. Be happy. Don’t let the serious eclipse the humorous.

I remember laughing at myself one day in the shower when I realized that I was so carefully not shaving under my left arm because of the lymph node surgery, that I also wasn’t shaving my left leg. I frequently retold that story so people could laugh with me.

Nurture the Little Girl Inside Her

When I was in the hospital, the nurse in charge of the breast-care unit gave me a white stuffed toy sheep named “Fleece.” Taking Fleece with me everywhere, I held him as a shield in front of my sore breast, tucked him under my arm as an armrest, and snuggled next to him in bed. For six months, I indulged my childish need for security and no one chastised me for it. In fact, they acted like it was normal. And I discovered when I was writing my book, Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer, that it was normal! One woman who shared her story in the book had a black stuffed sheep named “Lamby” that she cuddled in her hospital bed. Another received a baby-sized pillow, and she recalls, “That pillow became a part of my wardrobe for eighteen months.”

Comfort and Security Gifts

  • A stuffed animal, pillow, or quilt.
  • A favorite food.
  • A game she loves to play and play it with her.
  • A movie she loved as a kid and watch it with her.
  • A surprise reunion with childhood friends.
  • A tea party.
  • A fun hat—even if she hasn’t lost her hair, she might not feel like fixing her hair.
  • A new nightgown that buttons down the front.
  • An ice cream cone.
  • A nightlight.

Shower Her with Love

Kay Warren shared with me about her breast cancer experience, “I don’t know how we would have gotten through this difficult time without the outpouring of love and support from so many. I have not felt alone at all…which is such an amazing gift!” And that it is…love is the best gift you can give to your friend suffering with breast cancer. Don’t desert her when she needs you most. Right now, she requires extravagant love, and God will help you when your heart is breaking or it just seems too sad or too hard. John 13:34 tells us to love one another just as God has loved us. God is the author of love and He knows just what your friend needs, and He will show you how to love her when she is feeling unlovable.

Surprise her. What woman doesn’t love an unexpected gift or demonstration of how valuable she is to us? We were in the midst of a messy kitchen remodel when breast cancer assaulted me. Everything in my life seemed out of control. But I felt so loved the day I returned home after the painful needle biopsy and spotted amongst the rubble—gift bags full of treats with balloons attached and a card from two girlfriends assuring me they had been praying during the ordeal.

Ideas For Showering Your Breast Cancer Friend With Love

  • A Spa day at a salon, which treats women with breast cancer.
  • If she wears a hat or scarf, wear one too.
  • Tell her how much you love her and what a great friend she is.
  • Stick with her even when the treatment lingers on. Her biggest fear is that others will not endure the journey.
  • Include her in as many activities as she feels up to.
  • Go to a breast-cancer support group with her.
  • Plan a girls’ day or night out, when she feels up to it.
  • Sit and watch old movies with her—even if she falls asleep.
  • Do her makeup.
  • Pray for and with her.

The Bible assures us in Proverbs 17:17 that “A friend loves at all times.” What a privilege it is to put that verse into practice for your precious friend with breast cancer. You probably won’t be able to do everything I suggest and I hope you have ideas of your own, but as a three-time breast cancer survivor, I assure you there are three things that will endure through the good and the bad times—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

The Top Thirteen Things to Do or Say and NOT to Do or Say to Someone with Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Support

Article includes excerpts from Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey.

In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we have further reduced the price of Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer at our website shop for the month of October. I will sign and personalize each book.

 Breast cancer book

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Think Pink, But Be Wise

Eagle-Walk1-300x225

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Eagle Idaho (American Cancer Society)

This month, along with fall colors, you’ll also see pink splashed across newspapers, blog sites, magazines, kitchen appliances, cars, mayonnaise jars . . . as marketers and opportunists try to take advantage of our compassionate desire to help find a cure for breast cancer during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But beware: everything colored pink is not black and white. I have some tips on helping you determine a legitimate pink investment versus a pink opportunist.

While taking my early morning walk and praying for what I should write this month on breast cancer, I felt the Lord prompting me with the title of this blog. At the bottom of our road is a row of newspaper holders, and I finish my walk by getting our paper. I laughed aloud when I saw the color pink filling all the newspaper receptacles. The entire Idaho Statesman newspaper was pink!

“Even the sports page is pink!” my husband exclaimed. A front-page article jumped out at me: “Make Your Donation with Care: That Pink Ribbon Might be Lying; Find the Truth about Breast Cancer Giving.” I knew God was confirming that He did want me to warn about the dangers of scammers hitching up to the October pink bandwagon.

Make Your Financial Donations with Care

“Being a donor is a huge responsibility,” said Lynn Hoffmann, executive director of the Idaho Nonprofit Center. “I think it’s too often that donors do just give because they want to do something, but if they don’t do their homework, those dollars may not go where they want them to go” (Idaho Statesman). If you’re going to make a donation, do a thorough investigation of where the money will be going. Ask some basic questions:

  • How much of what I’m giving goes toward the charitable purpose and what is that purpose?
  • Is this a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization?
  • How much of a donation goes for administration, fundraising, and to the core mission?
  • Is the organization truly nonprofit and tax-exempt?
  • What are the executive’s salaries?

Question Solicitors

I receive frequent solicitation calls asking for donations to fund breast cancer research or to help breast cancer patients. I always tell them I am a three-time breast cancer survivor and wait to see their response. One sweet woman said, “God bless you and I’ll pray for your future health. We won’t call you again.” But others keep trying to get my money, and that’s when the red flag goes up. Be skeptical of any pushy solicitors.

Ask:

  • the name of the charity, website, phone number, and address, and tell then you will investigate and they can call back.
  • if the caller is an employee, a volunteer, or a telemarketer, whose company might be the ones banking the donations.

Research Online

Many websites and organizations collect and publish information on nonprofits:

  • GuideStar.org collects tax documents on federally registered nonprofits.
  • ProPublica is an investigative journalism nonprofit group with an easy to search database at projects.propublica.org/.nonprofits.
  • CharityNavigatigator.org rates some nonprofits.

Do some investigating yourself. The foundation or nonprofit asking for a donation should have a website: do they post annual reports? Who are their affiliates or partners?

My husband and I do not want our money going to any organization that supports, funds, affiliates with, or sponsors something we don’t agree with or support. For example, we stopped supporting Susan G. Komen several years ago when we learned that they fund Planned Parenthood. For several years before knowing this, I walked in the Komen races, wore their T-shirts, enjoyed the camaraderie of doing an event with other breast cancer survivors, and have Komen listed under National Contacts in the Sanity Tools of Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer. However, I had not done my homework.

Buyer Beware

KUOW.org points out:

“Susan G. Komen for the Cure is one of the largest breast cancer charities in the world. It partners with corporations to brand pink ribbon product lines for the month of October: pink Purina pet food, pink Yoplait yogurt, and pink buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken, to name a few.”

When purchasing merchandise with a pink ribbon, ask the merchant: Are you donating any portion of the sale, and if so, to what organization?

I saw an advertisement for a pink/pink ribbon decorated Swifter WetJet with a “Cleaning For A Reason” slogan. They also gave a website www.cleaningforareason.org. At their website, I saw that they had a non-profit foundation and donations go to providing cleaning services for cancer patients. There were testimonials and contact information for further questions. I had no idea this service was available, and it looks like a good one.

But money spent to purchase a pink/pink ribbon Swifter WetJet is not going to the foundation; it’s going to Swifter and the merchant. So if I want a pink Swifter WetJet great; but if I want to donate to cleaning services for breast cancer women, I need to donate to their foundation.

Per Dr. Samantha King, director of Queen’s University school of kinesiology and health studies and the author of Pink Ribbons, Inc: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy: Companies who use the Komen name pay Komen up front for the right to put Komen’s pink ribbon and name on their products. So your purchase doesn’t make any difference, nor does a portion of your purchase go straight to Komen. Money has already exchanged between Komen and the business. You can hear an interview with Dr. King at KUOW.org, and Google her name to read more of her comments on “pinkwashing.”

Sadly, there is a rampant marketing ploy of “pinkwashing”—raising the price of a pink or pink ribbon product. The assumption of the consumer is that the extra cost goes directly to fund a breast cancer foundation, but in most cases, it’s just making extra money for the business. If you know this and just want to wear pink, like I do for awareness purposes, that’s fine—but realize that’s what you’re paying for.

Everyone should eat healthy, especially women fighting breast cancer, so beware of foods packaged with a pink ribbon that wouldn’t be good for them (or you). Here are a few I’ve seen who will try to use the pink ribbon to get your emotional purchase:

Sugar—cancer loves sugar

Candy—sugar

Soft drinks—not good for anyone to drink

KFC—really?

I’ve Been Fooled Too

When first diagnosed with breast cancer, I vowed I would not wear pink or a pink ribbon because I didn’t want breast cancer to be my identity. But I soon realized it was my testimony to God’s faithfulness and something I couldn’t deny. So today, as a survivor, pink is my favorite color and I’m proud to wear clothing and jewelry with a pink ribbon—the universally understood breast cancer insignia.

I’m not picking on Komen, or promoting any organization, I just want you to be sure your money and donations are going where you think they are going.

You have to make your own decisions, and I would love to hear some organizations and foundations that you have researched—viable candidates for us to support in the fight against breast cancer. I think we have achieved awareness, what we haven’t achieved is a cure. I feel the answer is preventive research: why is breast cancer so prevalent and what can we do to protect ourselves against this dreaded disease? That’s where I’ll put my money. How about you? What are your thoughts?

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Note: About His Work Ministries is not a non-profit, tax-exempt foundation and we do not solicit or receive donations.

Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey is the book I wrote to walk alongside my breast cancer sisters.

Breast cancer book


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OCTOBER IS NATIONAL BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH


October is the month that the nation focuses on finding a cure for breast cancer and many of you, like me, have walked or run for the cure.

When I had breast cancer, I was very sensitive to how uncomfortable some people are around someone with cancer. Even those closest to us can feel awkward at times and often end up saying or doing something that can be hurtful instead of helpful. They don’t mean to…they just don’t know what to say.

So in my book Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer, I have a chapter on Dos and Don’ts that includes “The Top Thirteen Things to Do or Say and NOT to Do or Say to Someone with Breast Cancer,” which you can find on my website
http://www.womantowomanmentoring.com/cancersite/links.html.

If you are a woman over 40, please have your annual mammogram and if you are under 40 with breast cancer in your immediate family, talk to your doctor about having a mammogram now. Digital mammography located my cancer, and I encourage you to find a facility that offers this type of exam.

If you know a woman who is a survivor or newly diagnosed, I wrote my book Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer for her, and it would make a great gift that she would appreciate. Often I find that women will not buy gifts for themselves. That’s what friends are for.

October is the month to think pink and remember to take preventative measures: self breast exams, mammograms, exercise, eat healthy, enjoy life.

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