Friday, September 28, 2012

C.G.G.C Weekend FREE Shopping Splurge:

Apple's iPhone 5 sold a record 5 million phones in the first three days, depleting its initial supply and shattering the previous record of 4 million phones sold in the same time frame last year held by it's predecessor, the iPhone 4S.

Anyone who doesn't have a smartphone is missing out. You can literally find, figure out, and fact-check every little thing your heart desires in a nanosecond.

If you read my post on Wednesday about Emma Stone and Halle Berry's PSA for Revlon, you'll remember that the goal of the campaign is to get women talking about breast cancer and to get them talking early. At 23-years old and coasting gracefully onto the Hollywood A-list scene, Stone is the perfect spokeswoman to target a younger audience.

Similarly, the designers of iBreastcheck have created a cool way to engage those under-30 in the conversation about early detection. Those born into Generation Y, or even Generation Z for that matter, are not only undoubtedly overly-attached to their smartphones and social media, but of an age where they are also less likely to be comfortable asking doctors, parents, or teachers how to perform breast self-exams.

Luckily, there's an App for that.

Check out the quick promotional video below:

And for the slightly older crowd, for which the application was more likely initially designed to attract, iBreastcheck allows you to set-up monthly reminders to keep yourself disciplined and provides an efficient way to track changes over time.

This is a no-brainer and its free.

Download iBreastcheck for your iPhone or Android today.  Better yet, download it onto your teenage daughter's phone without telling her.  I guarantee if you don't bug her about it, she'll figure it out and use it all on her own.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Emma Stone and Halle Berry Talk About Breast Cancer in Revlon PSA

In preparation for Breast Cancer Awareness month and the slew of events, fundraisers, and programs that will take place, Revlon has teamed-up with Halle Berry and Emma Stone to make a PSA about the importance of early detection. The campaign, "Your Lips Can Save Lives," encourages women to talk more openly about breast cancer.

Sometimes it feels a little icky when celebrities lend their names to genuinely good causes. I'm often scratching my head wondering what P.R. maven thinks we won't notice when they're pandering to our better moral selves but Halle Berry and Emma Stone are not only beautiful, they are also modern, smart, relatable women.

Emma Stone's mother happens to be a triple-negative breast cancer survivor and at only 23-years old, she most certainly understands her own risk for developing the disease. Hopefully her popularity and poise will encourage other young women to ask the important questions of the women in their families in order to be advocates for their own health.

Please watch the 30-second spot below and pass the message along:

Visit Revlon Cares for more information.

Friday, September 21, 2012

C.G.G.C Weekend Shopping Splurge: Light-Weight Scarves

My reconstruction surgery was Tuesday and because this post was actually written 4 days before you're reading it live, it's sort of been chilling-out in a nebulous multiverse over which I get to be the master.

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. No mater how old I get, I'm always filled with that back-to-school kind of excitement which ushers in a renewed sense of well as a long (aka: compulsive) to-do list!

Until the "Big Reveal" I anticipate wearing light-weight scarves draped around my neck for the crisp Fall days ahead. Cotton and light-weight wool are more modern and comfortable than silk. Back in July, at the behest of my Italian friend while we were shopping together in Florence, Italy, I bought an oversized, double-layer silk scarf. While the bold, irregular polka dot pattern spliced together with an abstract graphic floral in dark navy and off-white is very cool, it feels a little fussy every time I go to put it on. Not to mention that 3 yards of silk wrapped around one's neck can get quite hot and steamy (cotton and wool breathe much better.)

My favorite scarf of all-time is my muted aqua/grey, cotton block-print "Dupatta" from Matta. I left it once at LGA airport going through security and returned a week later to retrieve it from the nice lady who held it for me. Some things are worth going the distance...heh, heh.  I've included a few below.

Here are this week's picks for cool light-weight scarves:

1-Matta Wool Dupatta // 2-Matta Cotton/Silk Dupatta // 3-J. Crew Wool Leopard Print // 4-Mulberry Wool/Cashmere Tiger Print // 5-Chan Luu Cashmere/Silk Gauze // 6-Khadi & Co. Handspun Wool shawl

P.S. that J. Crew Leopard one...mine...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

G.G.G.C Guest Blogger: Western Bonime

On Friday I introduced you to my friend Western Bomine and her beautiful jewelry Style by Heart.

Western told me that when she read Dr. Michael Friedman's post about depression it struck a chord with her so I asked if she would like to write about her own experiences more in depth. Her combined  "Eastern" and "Western" approach to treatment provided the right balance for her own path to mental as well as physical healing. There really is no one-size-fits-all remedy for anything but I think Western's experiences will have resonance with anyone battling cancer themselves or with their network of friends, family, and caregivers helping them on their road to recovery.

Reflections on Cancer and Depression by Western Bonime:

Depression hit me when I was least expecting it; after treatment and just when I was starting to have enough energy to focus on life again. When I was given the “all clear” after my last CT scan I expected to feel elated. I thought I would be celebrating. Instead, I was crying my eyes out.

I was comforted to learn that this is actually a very common side effect of treatment so I decided to try the anti-depressant Celexa, an SSRI, a psychiatrist had prescribed. At first I felt great but then the pounds started piling on. I was gaining two pounds per week and gained 20lbs in the first two months alone with no end in sight. I went off the medication and opted to try acupuncture and hormone replacement therapy instead. The combination of these two things, along with my own spiritual practice, exercise, and keeping busy, was the recipe that finally worked.

Western medicine felt a bit like a sledgehammer. If, like me, you are sensitive to medications, you will probably have to use much lower dosages than are normally prescribed to avoid any negative reactions. Those who take medicine well however, will generally respond positively and smoothly. 

I understand fully that there is wide debate when it comes to the benefits of Eastern vs. Western medicine and each person has to decide what is right for herself. Personally, I don’t believe it’s a “versus” argument and that what works best is a combination of both.

The most significant factor though which has saved me from misdiagnoses and endless “trial” visits has been to pay attention to my own body and be an advocate for my own treatment. I asked tons of questions and made sure that the doctors really understood how my specific body handles different drugs rather than just blindly accepting their standard of care.

The following is a list of resources and Eastern Medicine techniques which helped me handle my cancer-related depression:
  • Read "Emotional Freedom" by Judith Orloff, Phd.  Dr. Orloff is a renowned therapist specializing in emotion-based treatment.   She categorizes people by emotional type (intellectual, empathy, rock, gusher) and offers insight into not only how your type copes with the world around you, but also addresses the connection between one's emotional state and how well we respond to medicine.  Her specific exercises are a miracle for understanding yoursef and for changing your underlying thought patterns
  • "Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma" by Peter Levine, PhD is another great book and DVD series.  Dr. Levine provides simple, quick exercises to help you "snap-out" of feeling overwhelmed, numb, or frozen.  He explains how many of our responses are innately biological and were originally intended to ensure survival in the wild.  Under stress animals often "freeze" but they also have special exercises and techniques to shake-off trauma and return to normalcy.  We humans often get "stuck" and his methods are a simple approach to overcome this state.
  • Listen to Robert Holden, founder of the Happiness Project.  His 5-minute dialogue on tea alone will have you laughing so hard you'll actually be crying.  He has many great tips for how to reset your "happiness point" such as making simple choices first thing in the morning or abandoning your search for happiness in favor of “following your joy.”  Available on Amazon.
  • Acupuncture was a great way to alleviate my depression as well as helping with symptoms of early menopause, like hot flashes and night sweats.   It’s important to do your research though.  Make sure you are with a very experienced practitioner who really understands holistic medicine and is not just hawking something because its trendy. Equally important is to choose an acupuncturist who is experienced in the Japanese style if you are overly sensitive, as the Chinese style can be slightly more painful.
  •  Jin Shin Jystsu is the art of pressure points.  One simple exercise is to place your right hand gently on the top of your head and then put your left on the Chakra points starting at the brow line and moving it down through your throat, solar plexus, and navel.  Hold each point for 5 minutes and you should find yourself feeling more calm and relaxed.
  • Light exercise.  Recognize and be patient with the fact that you can’t do as much as you did before and try to eliminate those “shoulds” that plague us all.  Yoga, swimming, and walking are excellent routines to do for the first year after treatment.  Recognizing your limits and resting can often go a long way towards quieting the mind, feeling embodied, and finding peace.
  • SLEEP!  Last Winter I was going on my 10th month of 0-2 hours of sleep per night and losing my mind.  In vain, my doctors prescribed one sleeping pill after another but nothing worked.  Some left me even more wired, others left me dizzy, worn out, nauseous or confused.  My acupuncturist finally hit upon a combo of natural supplements that was literally a MIRACLE and had me sleeping 6 hours a night within a few days time.  
Here's the combo that worked for me:
200mg of Gaba, 200mg of 5-HTP, Inositol, and Cortisol Manager
Gaba and 5-HTP you can get at the Vitamin Shoppe.  Jarro is a really good brand. Look for 5-HTP that combines vitamin B6 as it helps absorption.  Both of these are naturally occurring amino acids in the brain and aid in the production of serotonin.  The cortisol manager I use is by Integrative Therapeutics.  One of the biggest sleep interrupters is hormone imbalance which is caused by early menopause triggered by radiation and chemo.  This results in your adrenals producing cortisol at the wrong times of day. Adding cortisol manager brought immediate relief and sleep.  Many people also find melatonin to be helpful for sleep but you have to be careful with it.  Standard OTC doses can often result in increased depression.  Start by cutting a 1mg tablet in half for a few days and monitoring your response.
It’s my hope that these resources, techniques, and suggestions will be helpful to anyone who is facing a serious illness and feeling depressed.   If you are interested in learning more about these or other ways to fight depression, please leave a comment below or email me at:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Happy, Happy

Servicemen of the 20th Air Force stationed in Guam during WWII participate in a Rosh Hashanah service
courtesy of the Center for Jewish History, NYC

Yesterday, I enjoyed a great meal in celebration of Rosh Hashanah which marks the start of the year 5773 in the Jewish calendar.

Tomorrow is my reconstruction surgery.

As my friend Nina said: "New boobs."

Enough said.

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy one.

Friday, September 14, 2012

C.G.G.C Weekend Shopping Splurge: Style by Heart Jewelry

I'd like to introduce you all to a beautiful line of jewelry designed and handmade by my friend Western Bonime. I've known Western for almost 8 years and have had the pleasure of working with her in the fashion industry. She is a multi-faceted, multi-disciplined artist and one who seems to be able to master any creative endeavor she chooses to try. She is also a cancer survivor.

Western is self-employed and relies on her art to both make a living and pay for her medical care. I've asked her to write a little something about her diagnosis and her jewelry:
"In March of 2011, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 anal cancer with a tumor the size of a grapefruit and a second lesion on my liver. I like to call it "Sexy Ass Cancer." Anal sounds….well...anal, and that I am not. One day, I am hoping there will be as many blue, yellow, green, and red ribbons out there as there are pink ones. We cool girls are all in this together.  
When you're fighting a serious illness you have a lot of time to sit still...something I don’t do very well. Making jewelry and illustrating products has been a way for me to feel empowered. The goal is to help offset my medical bills, build confidence in my work, and provide me with an outlet for my belief that women should feel beautiful. By listening to our hearts and choosing quality fashion that reflects who we are and what we believe in, I hope to make us feel delicious."
Please visit Western's Etsy Shop "Style By Heart" where you will find elegant jewelry made with silver, gold, and natural gemstones crafted into organically-inspired shapes.

Western can really do anything.  Personalized fashion portraits, printed tees, and other specialized gift items are available upon request.  Ummm...have I ever mentioned that I like all things leopard? This drawing of hers is one of my absolute favorites.  It would be great to use on a party invitation or to frame and give as a gift.  Come up with your own idea and Western will bring it to life!

Original artwork by Western Bonime

Please visit Style By Heart and check out more of Western's soulful, beautifully crafted jewelry for yourself!  Your purchase will directly help a C.G.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chemotherapy Declared Safe For Pregnant Women

image credit: Evgeniy Isaev

A recent study conducted by the German Breast Group found that women who underwent chemotherapy to treat early stage breast cancer gave birth to babies who did not appear to show any serious complications due to their mother's treatment.

Of the 400 women participating in the study, 48 percent had chemotherapy and of those, approximately 50 percent delivered babies with lower-than-average birth weights. By comparison, 10-15 percent of all infants born in the general population are premature. However, other than weight, no significant differences were detected in the infants born to women being treated vs. those who were not.

Specifically, there was no difference in babies' Apgar scores, no increased risk for blood disorders, no increase of in utero birth defects, and even no increased occurrence of alopecia. Similarly, the number of cycles of chemotherapy seemed to have little effect on a baby's weight leading researchers to conclude that birth weight, in and of itself, is not clinically significant.

While complications were more often seen in the babies born to mothers in the group being treated, complications in general are more likely to appear in babies who are born prematurely regardless of their exposure to chemotherapy.

Further research is needed to assess the long-term effects on these children but the study marks a shift in both attitude and approach that, women diagnosed with breast cancer neither have to automatically terminate their pregnancy nor receive a sub-standard course of treatment.

A quick statistical sidebar:
  • 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in her lifetime
  • In 2008, the average age for 1st time pregnancies was 25.1yrs. old vs. 21yrs. old in 1970
  • Less than 7% of women under 40 will be diagnosed with breast cancer
  • While birth rates in the U.S. have been declining since the 1970's, the one age group that has seen an uptick are women between the ages of 40-44
  • 1 in 1000 pregnant women are also battling breast cancer at the same time

Doctors point out that the increase of breast cancer seen in pregnant women in recent years is largely due to more women choosing to delay pregnancy until later in life.

There seems to be no mention of the ages of the women in study which makes me wonder if there is any significance to how old the mother is when diagnosed.

In my opinion, while the findings give women hope, 1 study of 400 women whose children are still quite young, is not substantial enough upon which to make a definitive claim. The best course of action is to discuss your specific situation and available treatment options with both your breast surgeon and obstetrician.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Race for the Cure: DONE!

Race for the Cure was a big success! Liz and I had a blast and ran it in much the same way as when we go for a jog out at the beach...that is to say, we take advantage of the time to catch-up, gossip, and brainstorm. I didn't have to walk and I wasn't even panting nearly as much as I feared.

We finished under 28 minutes (I think...surprisingly, both of us forgot to check the clock as we crossed the finish line but I was keeping track on my iPhone) and our jerseys were a big hit. Liz accosted the roaming press to get some shots of us wearing them. Fingers crossed they'll actually end-up somewhere.

Thank you to everyone who sponsored me, called, sent texts and emailed to show support. We raised $925 for this great cause! Next year we're gonna be a troop...start training!!

The Athletes

Showing off our shirts

Making our way toward the front: "Elite runners and Survivors Only" 
Self-portrait mile 2.5
Our cheerleaders at the finish line

Friday, September 7, 2012

Race For The Cure NYC

source: How To Run Free

This Sunday, September 9th, 2012 is the 22nd Annual Susan G. Komen "Race For The Cure" in Central Park, NYC. I've been running since high school but it's been incredibly hard trying to get back into shape since my surgery 18 weeks ago.

I'm running with my dear friend, Dr. Elizabeth Hale, who runs marathons in her sleep, but she promises to go at my snail's pace to complete the mere 3.1 miles.

We'll be wearing our custom-designed C.G.G.C running tanks which better arrive today! I'll be making t-shirts and other gear which will be available to purchase as soon as I can figure out how to get an e-commerce portion of the site up-and-running (as well as being able to make charitable contributions on every sale!)

Next year, I'm going to organize a team. Apparently only 5 people are needed to create one and I'm pretty sure there are at least 5 of you out there willing to wear one of these!

A little inspiration:

Nike Ad
Photo credit: AP | United States' Sanya Richards-Ross competes in a women's 400-meter semifinal at the 2012 Summer Olympics. (August 4, 2012)

By Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports

From left, Tianna Madison, Bianca Knight, Carmelita Jeter and Allyson Felix celebrate winning the women's 4x100-meter relay gold Friday in 40.82 seconds, beating a mark that had stood for 27 years.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

C.G.G.C. New Series: Ask An Expert

Welcome to the first installment of 
C.G.G.C.'s "Ask An Expert Series"

Today, I'd like to introduce Dr. Michael J. Friedman, Assistant Professor & Director of Psychiatric Consultation & Liaison Services at Kennedy Memorial Health System in South New Jersey just outside of Philadelphia. (And yes, we are related.) 

Hello Readers! Wendy asked me to discuss how a diagnosis of cancer can lead to depression for some people and what you can do if you find yourself in this situation. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer them.

The Emotional Side of Cancer

Cancer. Once known only as “The C Word.”

If someone had cancer before the 1980’s, you weren’t supposed to talk about it. You pretended it didn’t exist.  

While we still have a long way to go, brilliant researchers, scientists, physicians, and other medical personnel have developed a myriad of highly effective treatments. Part of this process entails understanding and treating the emotional effects that cancer has on our patients and their families.

Depression also has a history of being a taboo illness, staying hidden from even the closest of friends and relatives. People have long suffered in silence. The mindset, no pun intended, has historically been the false belief that depression is “all in one’s head” and that only “weak” people get depressed. Fortunately, things have changed over the years. We know now that depression is a true medical disease, so complex that we have yet to map out all of the pathology in the brain leading to this debilitating, yet very treatable illness.

I never refer to depression or any other psychiatric disorder as being a mental illness. I tell my patients that “You have a psychiatric medical condition affecting the most complex organ of the body. There is nothing wrong with you as a person.”  

This really helps folks understand depression as being an illness that occurred by no fault of their own, much like high blood pressure or yes, even cancer. And, it is also one in which they can recover from, like any other medical illness.  

More people afflicted with depression are coming forward and getting help. Celebrities such as Mike Wallace and Glen Close have helped bring Major Depressive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder to the forefront.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the rate of developing Major Depressive Disorder for the US population in one year is 9.5%, and 20.8% over a lifetime. Women are 50% more likely to develop a mood disorder over their lifetime than men.  

Studies have reported rates of clinical depression as being between 10-25% following a diagnosis of cancer. Furthermore, 20-30% of breast cancer patients’ partners experience psychological impairment and mood disturbance.  

Patients and their families need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of clinical depression versus the so-called expected emotional response following a life altering diagnosis of cancer.

When consulted to see a patient afflicted with cancer or another serious medical illness, I often hear, “Isn’t it normal?” or “Wouldn’t you be depressed?” 

My response is always, “I need to understand what you are experiencing in order to answer you correctly.”

Certainly, receiving a diagnosis of cancer will elicit many different reactions. Examples include fear, anxiety, denial, depression, aloofness, anger, and avoidance. Others will put on an air of bravery, fearlessness, or even indifference. These responses do not necessarily indicate pathology. 

So what are the signs and symptoms of clinical depression that we need hone in on?   

Basically, clinicians are concerned if a person has a persistent depressed mood, changes in appetite, energy, concentration, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, sleep disturbances, feelings of worthlessness, excessive guilt, increased irritability, and suicidal thoughts. This is known as Major Depressive Disorder. The symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.  They must also be severe enough to have a debilitating effect on someone’s quality of life.

The good news is that clinical depression is very treatable. Antidepressant medications or various forms of psychotherapy, with or without medications, often help many people recover. If you or a loved one is afflicted with depression, please call your doctor and get help. There are tons of resources available to help people with depression, including various support groups which are virtually everywhere in the United States. You can look in your phone book or go online to find one near you.

Two great websites to help guide you are The American Cancer Society or The National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Words of Wisdom

Making sure to remember that last bit as I continue to huff and puff my way into shape for the final days before running Race for The Cure this Sunday 9/9.