Saturday, October 24, 2009


I have always been a little superstitious, particularly when it comes to my own personal happiness.  When I was younger I would start to get nervous when things were going too well for me, knowing that life was going to throw me a curve ball and my bliss would be tranformed into some type of worry or angst. 

Then I met my husband.  He is a psychiatrist who has been through years of psychotherapy,  He is extremely grounded and practical in his approach to life.  I was in awe of this but realised that it was rubbing off on me.  With him, the ups and downs of life seemed to to be just that, manageable bumps on a pretty even road.  I was happy and content.  Then we hit some major road blocks.  Infertility, a major move and my brother's cancer.  My happiness was replaced by worry and sadness.  I was better able to handle this, or so I thought, because I was sure that these were justs more bumps on the road and I had my rock(aka Mike) to help me through it.  I did okay, falling apart here and there but believing that I came out a stronger person.

Then the major curve ball came, the big C.  This one was big but I just pushed through it as best I could, trying not to think about the uphill climb I was embarking on and simply putting one foot in front of the other.  It seemed to work.  I got through it.  But now I am back to worrying.  Will my world be rocked again?  What will it be this time?

I was driving to a yoga class the other day and thinking, "I am happy and my life is good."  I haven't felt this way for a long time.  Then I caught myself.  "Don't jinx it."  I thought,  "Too much exhuberence will get you another curve ball."  I know that this is a superstitious and irrational approach to happiness, but given my history, I think I will err on the side of caution and realise that my moments of happiness may be fleeting  and that I need to be ready when, and we know it will happen, life takes another major turn.  Batter up!!!    

Monday, October 19, 2009

Magic Mushrooms?!?

I guess the old adage you are what you eat really holds true now more than ever.  These days it is difficult to figure out just exactly what you are eating unless you start from scratch yourself or only shop at Whole Foods.  As a cancer survivor, I am more careful now than ever about what I eat and I take a lot of antioxidants.  Interestingly enough, I started taking a dietary supplement of organic mushrooms just because a fellow breast cancer survivor left me a bottle of these mushrooms in my mailbox when I was sick and I am not one to scoff at alternative therapies.  Now, two years later, I find out that there is some good hard research to support my taking those supplements everyday and I am so thankful that Karen took the time to drop that bottle of pills in my mailbox.

A friend of mine forwarded me a link that was picked up by Reuters Health touting the health benefits of mushrooms and green tea for women.  The study found that women who get plenty of both in their diets may have a lower risk of developing breast cancer.  The study was conducted in China and included 2,000 women.  Women who ate the most fresh mushrooms a day, which was 10 grams or more, were about two thirds less likely to develop breast cancer than women who did not consume mushrooms. 

In addition, lab research has shown that mushroom extracts have anti-tumor properties and, in animals, can stimulate the immune system's cancer defenses.  In a study done in mice in 2006, researchers found that mushroom extracts interfered with the action of aromatase, an enzyme that helps the body make estrogen.  While this study was conducted with animals and in the lab, the findings seem to be in line with the current findings.

What does it all mean to me?  Well, I am putting mushrooms in everything I cook.  I made linguine with broccoli and mushrooms, I am sauteing mushrooms and I am putting them on my salad.  I am trying to figure out ways to slip it in my children's food as well.  I will be serving them "mushroom burgers" and "spaghetti and mushrooms."  In the end, I may just have to give everyone a mushroom supplement and call it a day, but it is certainly worth a try.  As my mother always said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."     

For more information on mushrooms go to: -cancer

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Nice to Meet You... By the Way I have Breast Cancer

October is definitely breast cancer awareness month for me. This month, almost two years ago, I had both of my breasts removed. I remember prior to my surgery having lunch with a woman I had recently met through my son’s baseball team and really liking her. At the end of lunch she felt the same way that I did, we had connected. “Let’s bring the kids here one night for pizza.” She began. “Maybe we can do a yoga class together?” She continued. I felt a tug. I had to tell this person whom I hardly knew that I would not be able to join her in any of these activities because I was going to be going through surgery and chemotherapy for my cancer. So I dove in. “Julie* I want to tell you something and I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. I have breast cancer so I won’t be making any plans for a while.” Her face went white. After a few seconds she recovered and said, “Let me know if I can help with your kids or anything else.” She said, catching her breath and scribbling her cell phone number on a napkin. “Call me any time."  She said as we walked out of the restaurant, and I knew that she meant it.   I left that luncheon trying to figure out how to manage my disease.

Eventually, I figured out that I wouldn't be able to go it alone.  I needed the help of my friends and neighbors.  So I asked, in a mass e-mail, explaining my diagnosis and giving people information on who to contact for meals, etc.  The help poured in and thus I was surrounded by a "web of caring" which was formed primarily by women.  This support system was uplifting and transformative for me during my illness. Women whom I had known for many years and women, like Julie*, I had recently met formed a small army of dedicated soldiers who watched the front line as I battled as best I could behind them. My point is; the little things in life do make a difference.

Virtual strangers took my children home for play dates, provided meals, and became my new friends; we had recently moved to Pennsylvania from Chevy Chase, MD. My oldest and dearest friends moved in to our spare bedroom, each taking a week to leave their families to take care of mine. They shuttled the children to and from school, they painted my toenails and they did my laundry ( I know for a fact that my friend Laurie doesn't even do her own laundry so you can imagine my surprise when she brought a pile of clean clothes into the room where I was infirmed). At night, they fed my children the meals that had been provided and read them bedtime stories. I also enlisted the help of three Villanova University students who basically became the “big sisters” to my children; playing board games and red light green light with them after school.

Each of the women who helped me did it quietly and with little fanfare. They weren’t looking for thanks or praise, they simply wanted to help. And help they did. Because of them I was able to rest and get better. I feel a responsibility to them. To tell them how grateful I am for this gift. It made difference in my recovery and my life. Do we thank people for these things often enough? I don’t think so and I would really like to thank my girlfriends.