This is a comprehensive list of posts with a short description for each, in chronological order starting with the oldest. Click on the link to navigate to each post.
My reasons for starting this blog.
Exercise, Eat Right and Get Cancer Anyway
I was doing everything “right” but even that didn’t protect me. With cancer, there are no guarantees.
So, I’m Still Alive. Now What?
When you have cancer, it consumes your attention. At some point, however, it’s time to move on.
What’s All This Then?
Explanation of my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.
What Is Up With My Hair?
A light-hearted look at hair through my cancer journey.
WHY Did I Just Do That?
An odd dream and how it reflects my current reality.
Cancer As Divine Justice?
A provocative (and tongue-in-cheek) explanation for my cancer. Searching for a reason when there isn’t one.
Lifting My Spirits
The importance of exercise and coming full circle in my fitness.
When Deep Breaths Don’t Calm
A different and more effective approach to mindful breathing in times of extreme stress, for instance, before cancer surgery. Just sayin’.
Gratitude For Community
My thankfulness for the health practitioners who supported me through cancer treatment.
A Year With Tamoxifen
Not everyone has a horrible experience with tamoxifen! *raises hand*
The Problem With Pink
Pink ribbons have been effective for raising breast cancer awareness, but for a patient, all that pink can become a bit too much.
This Is Your Arm on Drugs, Part 1
A photo journey of my right biceps through chemotherapy.
This Is Your Arm on Drugs, Part 2
A description of the hits my strength and endurance took through cancer treatment.
Peace In Puzzle Pieces
The emotional comfort of putting together jigsaw puzzles, and photos of the ones I completed.
Memories of Blood, Sweat and Tears
My introduction to K-Pop through the haze of chemo.
I Didn’t Expect THAT: Chemo Port
Part of chemo treatment is getting a port implanted under your skin(!).
I Didn’t Expect THAT: Radiation Tattoos
Wait, I have to get tattooed for radiation treatment?
I Didn’t Expect THAT: Breast Changes
In my case, even after surgery, there was little indication that I’d had a tumor.
I Didn’t Expect THAT: No Body Odor
One of the surprising upsides of cancer treatment! I don’t stink!
I Didn’t Expect THAT: So.Many.Pills
For someone unaccustomed to taking medications, cancer treatment was a shock.
Addendum to So.Many.Pills
The fears of medication side effects.
I Didn’t Expect THAT: Surgical Glue
BEST INVENTION EVER!
As unlikely as it sounds, there are parts of chemo that I miss.
Survivor’s Guilt and “Noel”
Surviving cancer is both a relief and a guilt-ridden burden.
Cancer Patient vs. Cancer Survivor
Passing from the “knowns” of being a patient to the “unknowns” of survivorship.
Treating the Whole Patient
The emotional aspects of cancer diagnosis, treatment and survivorship must be addressed.
Invisible Effects: Chemo Brain
Frustrating cognitive effects of cancer and its treatment.
Invisible Effects: Helplessness
Drilling down into the emotional fallout from cancer’s cognitive effects.
Invisible Effects: Anxiety
Breast cancer and treatment have heightened my reaction to anxiety.
Addendum to Anxiety
Weight loss from anxiety-provoked nausea.
Invisible Effects: Bring On The Waterworks
I’m not crying, you’re crying. Okay, I’m crying and I don’t know why.
Invisible Effects: Body Image, Part 1
But I need breasts to feel like a woman!
Invisible Effects: Body Image, Part 2
Fear of weight gain from cancer treatment.
Invisible Effects: Body Image, Part 3
The difference between what I feared would happen to my body and what actually did.
Invisible Effects: Cancer Ain’t Cheap
Survive cancer but lose your house.
Invisible Effects: Libido, Where Art Thou?
Survive cancer but lose that lovin’ feelin’.
About That Boob Job…
Contrary to popular belief, breast cancer doesn’t necessarily mean a new rack.
Thoughts on Random Twinges
Random weird feelings in the body have me on high alert.
When Is A Haircut More Than A Haircut?
Regrowing hair and establishing a new self-identity.
The Long And Short Of It: Hair Through Chemo and Beyond, Part 1
A photo journey of my scalp through 2017.
The Long And Short Of It: Hair Through Chemo and Beyond, Part 2
The hairy photo journey continues through 2018.
Are We Stigmatizing Cancer Patients?
Recommendations for healthy living send a message that cancer is preventable through lifestyle changes, but it’s more complex than that.
In Honor of Thich Nhat Hanh
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is approaching the end of his life. His Plum Village Tradition of Buddhism has influenced my cancer experience.
Waiting To Say Goodbye
A friend and fellow cancer patient has entered hospice. I am in shock.
My friend was in hospice care for two days before passing away from metastatic breast cancer. I wasn’t ready for this.
A Final Word On Risk Factors
One last vent about getting breast cancer in the absence of risk factors – and then I’m done.
The anxiety associated with getting diagnostic scans. It a fact of life for a cancer survivor.
“Random Acts of Kindness” Day
February 17 is a good day to perform an act of kindness…and continue every day from then on.
Letting Go in 5…4…3…2…
With a 3-D mammogram looming on the horizon, letting go of expectations is the best way to shed anxiety, but not the easiest.
View from the Waiting Room
It’s the day of my yearly mammogram. My focus is on the present moment and staying calm in the face of uncertainty.
Another Hairy Situation
A bold new pixie cut unexpectedly reveals my unconscious associations between super-short hair and cancer.
Transitioning from “Frantic” to “Shanti”
I’m caught between my old anxious self and a new calm one. It’s time to move forward.
Mindfulness Apps I Love: “Calm”
Some of my favorite features of the Calm smartphone app.
Mindfulness Apps I Love: “Insight Timer”
A huge library of meditations plus other excellent features are available for free.
Catching Lost Thoughts
Meditation means letting go of thoughts during practice. But chemo brain means they might not return when my session is over, and some of those thoughts are important!
Mindfulness Programs I Love: “Take 5”
An online program offered through work that was exactly what I needed to incorporated mindfulness more effectively into day-to-day activities.
Passing Days One Pill at a Time
My next decade will be marked by taking a daily breast cancer medication. Will those years be spent waiting for the meds to end or achieving something good?
Mindfulness Programs I Love: “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction”
MBSR is Jon Kabat-Zinn’s flagship course on bringing mindfulness into your life. However, being mindful still requires that the student put the effort in practice.
Mindfulness and the College Admissions Scandal
As an alumna of a university involved in the recent admissions scandal, I’ve been rethinking how we pressure students to succeed.
Mindfulness Apps I Love: Plum Village
This is the meditation app of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village tradition of Buddhism — beautiful in its simplicity.
Who Let That Monkey into the Courthouse?
An unnecessarily stressful day of jury duty leads to the realization that I’m letting my monkey mind torture me.
Unpacking the Monkey in the Courthouse; and, Mindful Justice
A reminder that I’m creating the stress that badgers me — and a link to a post by blogger Smilecalm about his experience as a mindful juror.
Between the Past and Future: A Cancer Survivor’s Perspective
Two women I met at a workshop: one who’s just starting her cancer journey and the other who’s approaching her end.
The Magic of Impermanence
Change is unstoppable. If we accept it instead of fighting it, it may lead us to beautiful things.
Keeping Anxiety at Arm’s Length
A method for calming myself with the breath when fears arise.
Chemo Side Effects: My First Infusion
A rundown of all the chemo side effects I experienced for the two weeks after my first infusion.
Getting Through Chemo
A list of suggestions for newly-diagnosed breast cancer patients who are preparing to go through chemotherapy.
A Mini-Guide to Surviving Chemo Brain
Several hints for helping deal with the memory problems and loss of concentration that accompany chemotherapy.
Why I Meditate in Panda Socks
It’s easy to take meditation too seriously — lighten up!
The Impermanence of Green
A cool and wet spring has coaxed masses of wildflowers into bloom. Enjoy them while they last!
Stepping Off and Slowing Down
A walking meditation through the grass offers a mindful contrast to scurrying down a sidewalk.
A Loss…and a Laugh
A seemingly small loss deals an emotional blow until a silly change in perspective brightens up everything.
Cancer’s No Big Deal…Except That It Is
I seesaw between minimizing the effects of cancer and talking about how deeply it affected me.
Pulling Back for a Broader View
When the world feels like it’s closing in on me, I try to pull back for some perspective.
Why Do We Demand Superhumans?
It’s okay to not be able to leap over every obstacle in a single bound.
Sleep, the Ultimate Good
Dr. Matt Walker presents a TED talk on the dangers of not getting enough sleep.
“Fly the Friendly Skies”?
Fears about things I can’t control give way to a “just enjoy life” philosophy.
Shinrin-Yoku – Forest Bathing in New England
A trip to my hometown offers an opportunity to re-discover the beauty of nature.
A door opens up to possibilities. Photos of beautiful New England portals.
A Year and a 1/2 with Tamoxifen: Collateral Damage
The side effects of this drug are weighing heavily on me. And I’m supposed to take it for ten years?!
Permission to Let Go
In the midst of chaos, I realize that being calm is a choice that I make.
Balancing Side Effects vs. Quality of Life
With the increase in survivorship, it’s important to find a treatment plan that doesn’t unnecessarily compromise quality of life.
Gratitude, Every Night
Making a list of things you’re grateful for helps change your attitude about difficult situations.
Do Small Things with Great Love
As Mother Theresa purportedly stated, not everyone can do great things, but…
You know, I used to be funnier…
I want to live my life finding the humor in situations.
Finding Peace Among the Koi: A Visit to Deer Park Monastery
My daughter and I enjoy a Day of Mindfulness, compliments of the nuns and monks of Deer Park.
Cartwheeling Down the Hall
My brain stops me from doing cartwheels in our apartment for fear of hurting myself, even though there’s enough room for it. What a perfect metaphor for my life.
Paying a Compliment, the Happiest Transaction
Research shows that social connections increase our happiness. Offer a sincere compliment and let the good feelings flow.
“The Human Side of Cancer”
This is the book by Dr. Jimmie Holland, considered the mother of the oh-so-important field of psycho-oncology. A highly recommended read!
Releasing Stress Bubbles
In my mind, I place stressful situations into soap bubbles and watch them float away.
How Mindfulness Helps with Exercise Motivation
Focusing on the present can make a challenging workout less daunting.
Two Assumptions I Wish Doctors Didn’t Make About Cancer
Doctors should know better than to make assumptions when it comes to something as complex as cancer. But…
Letting Go, Painfully
Stream-of-consciousness post: Resisting change causes suffering, but the process of letting go isn’t easy.
Sanctuary: Creating A Safe Space
Using beautiful and meaningful imagery, conjure up a calm place for yourself that you can go to during stressful times.
Making Peace with Street Noise
When we reinterpret jarring noises as simply different types of sound, they become easier to endure.
“Dropping Down”: A Meditation Analogy
The cave analogy describes the flowing nature of attention and our freedom to chose to return to the breath, even when tempted to climb “thought-ropes”.
Falling Back Asleep: Nighttime Relief
A few recommendations to help get back to sleep after waking at night, when the thought-gremlins are chasing you.
What Do We Really Know About Cancer?
An end-of-October musing about correlation vs. causation and the mystery that is still cancer.
Today, I Am Strong
Trying to be strong when I don’t feel it.
(Almost) Two Years on Tamoxifen: A Change in Plans
Guess what? I’m officially postmenopausal! So long, tamoxifen!
Pre- vs. Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Risk: There’s a Difference, But Does It Matter?
The risks factors may differ based on menopausal status, but playing it safe by making the healthiest choices possible is always the best tack.
“Don’t Drink the Water and Don’t Breathe the Air”: A List of Breast Cancer Risk Factors
A comprehensive list of the most commonly cited risk factors, according to a number of highly respected organizations. What’s NOT on it?
A New View of Stress That Can Save Your Life
Kelly McGonigal’s TED Talk describes the benefits of reappraising your view of stress.
What No One Told Me About Cancer and Hair Regrowth
I thought that when my hair grew back after chemo, that was the way it was going to look from now on. But, no, it wasn’t.
Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, On Letrozole We Go
After a break from tamoxifen and confirmation of my postmenopausal status, I’m give an aromatase inhibitor a chance.
What My MonkeyMind Needs, Part 1
My mind is usually packed with chatter and I struggle to push it all out. But what if I bring it inside instead?
What My MonkeyMind Needs, Part 2
Spread the love, one squeezably soft plush monkey at a time.
Starting 2020 with Compassion: The Dogs of Chernobyl
Pets were abandoned in 1986 during the Chernobyl reactor disaster, but some survived the harsh conditions. A non-profit is collecting funds to care for the animals.
Starting 2020 with Compassion: Random Acts
Actor Misha Collins started a charity that supports small acts of kindness.
I Didn’t Expect THAT: Chemo Nails
The chemo might have been over, but some significant side effects were just getting started. I got smacked down by a nasty nail infection.
Addendum to “Chemo Nails”: Healing
After the ugly nail infection, photos of the healing process.
Starting 2020 with Compassion: A Valentine for Maj. Bill White
This Valentine’s Day, send a card to someone who needs to be remembered, and if no one comes to mind, why not to a 104-year-old veteran?
A Month of Fear-Driven Memories
February is a tough month because it’s the anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis, and also the month I get my mammogram done. Am I still in remission?
Who Knew a Grapefruit Could Create So Much Confusion?
Wait, so can I eat grapefruit while I’m taking letrozole?
So Far, So Good
The concept of non-attachment is well-suited for dealing with cancer. It’s not so simple, though…
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Mammogram
Ah, yes. I thought I had a good handle on non-attachment. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Emergency Preparedness, Inside-Out
Remain mindful in the midst of a panicky population.
Musings from a Lockdown State
Thoughts about the coronavirus and how it affects us. We are all in this together.
And Now We Wait…
For most of us, surviving COVID-19 is a waiting game.
Don’t Call It “Social Distancing”
In this time of uncertainty, social distancing is the last thing we need. Reach out to the ones you love.
We Need Mindfulness Now More Than Ever
In a time of uncertainty with our lives interrupted, mindfulness can serve as a stabilizing force to see us through.
Can’t Let Go? Try Setting It Aside
In the middle of the night, you can’t completely avoid all those fearful thoughts, but you can gently put them on a shelf until the morning.
Finding A Path Through It
In the darkness of the unknown, hope comes in the form of a path.
In times like these, we see more clearly what is important in our lives. Let’s not forget it.
Please, Wear the Mask
We need to protect each other. That’s the only way we get through this.
Floating Above It: A Visualization
Sometimes you need to leave the tough stuff on the ground and give yourself permission to fly.
After All Those Bad Things I Said About Letrozole…
I have to admit, while the drug is problematic, maybe things aren’t all that bad.
When You’re The “Default”, You Don’t See The Problem
Racism runs so deep in the US that if you’re not black, you think it’s normal.
Online Classes: Yoga and Science – Putting It All Together
I’m halfway through a Coursera class that explains the physiological benefits of yoga, and how yoga can change your health. Recommended!
Mindfulness Apps I Love: “The Breathing App”
An uncomplicated app designed to enable the user to practice resonance breathing, calming the sympathetic nervous system.
Revisiting Yoga After Cancer: Finally Coming Around
It’s been a life-long journey, making yoga an important part of my life.
Mindfulness Apps I Love: “Oak”
A very simple and accessible meditation, breathing and sleep app that allows for customization.
Making Space for Cancer Emotions
People battling late-stage cancer need the latitude to express all their feelings, even the dark and scary ones.
Regaining Control Through Mindful Living
Yoga and meditation practices, over time, can cause positive epigenetic changes, and that gives a cancer survivor a sense of control over an uncontrollable situation.
Hey Doctors! Before You Give A Cancer Diagnosis…
Breaking the bad news to a patient is difficult. The only thing that sucks more is being the patient. Tread gently, doc!
Pre- and Postmenopausal Breast Cancer — Hey, Talk About the Difference, Would’ya?
If someone would have explained to me that the risk factors were a little different depending on menopausal status, I might have eased up on my self-blame.
Breast Changes, Revisited
Three and a half years after my surgery, I revisit my original post about the lack of physical changes to my cancer-afflicted breast.
Mindfulness Apps I Love: “Zen Koi 2”
This is a lovely koi-to-dragon ascension game that can be played languidly and helps you stay in the moment. It qualifies as a mindfulness app in my book!
What I Learned By Feeding Virtual Fish
Zen Koi 2 has become an analogy for how I cling to things that cannot be. It made me realize that I’m still not good at letting go.
Not A Cancer Superhero? You Are Still Enough
There are people who continue their illustrious careers while enduring cancer. You can be enough without being one of them.
Maybe It’s Okay to “Overreact”?
Cancer primes you to look for worst-case scenarios, but maybe that’s not a bad thing.
How Do You Want To Feel?
With consistent practice, we can learn how positive emotions feel in our bodies, and then bring up that feeling in times of stress.
Hanging Tough with Letrozole — Or Not
Another post to muse about the side effects of adjuvant hormone therapy and a look at what others suffer.
Mindfulness Apps I Love: “Unwind”
Unwind is a lovely, easy-to-use breathing app with customizable features and research-backed breathing patterns.
How Mindfulness Helped Me Enjoy Cleaning
Hard to believe, but with a little mindfulness, I no longer view cleaning and organizing as drudgery, but rather as a way to get my head in order.
The Magic of the Exhale
Slowing down my breath in the midst of my hectic day offers a mindful respite to my body and brain. And the benefits are based in science!
There Goes Another Cancer Milestone…Big Deal
I thought that I would get to a specific point in time and I could say I’m “done”! But with cancer, there really isn’t such a point.
Sleep Peacefully, Sweet Aira
Our beautiful Siberian husky, Aira, passes gently from this world.
Look, Ma! No Libido!
Loss of libido is not discussed enough with the prescribing of aromatase inhibitors, but it can be a major factor in quality-of-life issues.
Yoga Is For Every Body
Forget the insane poses posted online. You don’t have to be unnaturally bendy to do yoga.
Inviting Gratitude, Gently
Once-a-week gratitude journaling is more effective at increasing happiness than trying to come up with meaningful things to be grateful for every night. This is even more true when going through dark times.
Understanding Clinical Research
Coursera’s class “Understanding Medical Research: Your Facebook Friend Is Wrong” is a great way to learn to decipher the clinical studies that inform cancer treatment.
A Year on Letrozole
The trials and tribulations of aromatase inhibitor side effects. Really, this is just me complaining.
“The Gun Show”: Assessing Biceps Muscle Loss Due To Endocrine Therapy [PHOTOS]
Unfortunately, low estrogen has begun to take its toll on my muscle mass and thereby my workouts. These photos (prior to starting chemo and current day) illustrate the gradual deterioration of lean mass from cancer treatments and subsequent aging.
I Am An Imperfect Meditator
My meditation sessions are ugly, but the results are still beautiful.
When I Think I Don’t Have Time To Meditate
All it takes it a little reminder that calming breaths are available to us any time.
Three Pillars of Fitness: Consistency, Progression and Balance
These are the three concepts that I think are crucial for creating and maintaining a lifelong fitness program.
Just Do It: Breast Cancer Survivors and Exercise
Two scientific studies illustrate the remarkable benefits of regular exercise for preventing recurrence in breast cancer survivors.
What I Learned By Hunting Virtual Ghosts
Phasmaphobia is a “horror” video game that I’m using to practice calming my physiological reaction to fear. Um, this’ll take a while…
Mindfulness Apps I Love: “myNoise”
By far, the number one app for creating the ideal soundscape, no matter what your needs. And then there’s the website too! Words can’t do it justice so just go check it out.
Mental Grounding Through the Roof of the Mouth
Odd as it may sound, running your tongue across your palate can help ground and center you in times of stress.
Mindfulness Apps I Love: “ZenView”
A very simple app with a soothing purpose: to relax and calm you with raindrops on a nature image. Free and worth checking out for iPhone.
The Case for Chilling Out: Stress and Cancer Recurrence
Recent research suggests a direct link between stress and the activation of dormant cancer cells, leading to cancer recurrence.
After Four Years of Treatment, Calling It a Day; or, “If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Another”
So I finally got the okay to stop letrozole. Of course, now I’ve got possible heart issues.
My Top 4 Mindfulness Apps
Of all the mindfulness apps I’ve tried, these four (Calm, Insight Timer, Unwind, MyNoise) give me the tools and guidance I need to successfully keep my anxiety at bay.
Well, At Least the Mammogram Was Clear…
It’s time for my mammogram, but this year, it’s not cancer remission that has me anxious–it’s my heart.
And Here We Go Again…
Anxiety creeps in, now that the door has been left ajar. Cancer complicates matters, but practicing mindfulness eventually wins out.
Soy and Breast Cancer: What Does the Science Say?
Recent studies have removed the “villian” label from your tofu. The current data suggest that soy will still do more good than harm. Edamame lovers rejoice!
When Is a “Chemo Port” Not a Chemo Port?
It’s easy to generalize the feelings associated with a chemo port to much more neutral items.
Counting Backwards to Sleep
Counting in reverse is a great way to bore your mind into letting go of worries and allowing you to fall back asleep.
Just Show Up
At a time when everyone’s telling you to “fight” and “beat cancer”, you don’t necessarily have to be a warrior. Just showing up counts.
The Saga Continues…
A trip to the cardiologist brings with it the realization that just because I’m done with treatment doesn’t mean that cancer hasn’t left its mark.
Making It Through “Now”
Can you make it through this moment? Then you can make it through, period.
Clicking Back to the Breath
The meditation game “Playne” demonstrated the utility of noting my thoughts with a sound, and that has deepened my meditation practice. Simple, yet effective.
Tripping Over Gratitude for the Little Things
Nothing brings gratitude into focus like losing something that you usually take for granted.
Re-writing Your Life
Life will suck from time to time, but if you’re shouldering more than your share of negative experiences, you may need to allow yourself a different view.
Grounding Through the Fingertips: Hand Steepling
The simple act of steepling your fingers may enable you to focus on that sensation and gain perspective in the midst of a stressful time.
Endocrine Therapy: Getting to the Heart of the Matter
A statement by the AHA underscores the importance of being see by a cardiologist if you’re receiving endocrine therapy for breast cancer.
Mindful Games I Love: Meditating with “Playne”
“Playne” is a game-changer for me as it provides a visual representation of my progress and has enabled me to deepen my practice. Besides, the fox is so darling!
Is It Metastasis or Menopause?
Maybe my cancer returned and metastasized? Or maybe I’m just a dork? I’m probably just a dork.
Does Mindfulness Make a Difference?
My mindfulness meditation habit is by far the most important and beneficial practice that I have ever engaged in, and has literally changed my life!
Sleep: Still the Ultimate Good
Recent research shows the curious role that sleep has, or doesn’t have, in disease development.
Staying Present: Dual Focus Meditation
I still struggle with staying present during meditation, so I devised a way to keep my mind from wandering off between breaths.
“That Dragon, Cancer”: Catharsis in Video Game Form
An immersive narrative game that allows us to experience little Joel Green’s battle with childhood cancer.
Grounding through Contact Points
Focusing on where your body makes contact with a surface helps pull your head out of fearful thoughts and back to the present moment.