Use the promo code 22JOYSALE at checkout to get the sale price now through January 6, 2023!
This is a great deal, as you’ll save over $12 on the Hardback and almost $12 on the eBook. Know someone who is going through breast cancer? This would be a helpful gift. Know someone who’s a science loving nerd? They’ll probably like it, too!
Conquer: The Patient Voice is a fantastic publication for cancer survivors and those living with cancer. I was so grateful for the opportunity to share my story in the October issue!
Stories are powerful. I knew that before I was diagnosed with cancer. As a fiction writer and as a science communicator, I understood the value of stories, the impact they could have beyond facts, numbers, and concepts. Personal stories connect us to the experiences of others like nothing else, and they can inform, inspire, give hope, and educate all in one.
I’m a big fan of stories, and the stories of patients in Conquer Magazine have inspired me, given me hope and insight, and educated me in ways no scientific study or statistical graphic could. No disrespect to science. It’s my bread and butter. But using the power of personal stories to engage people is a gateway to informing them.
I encourage all breast cancer survivors and those living with breast cancer to share their stories. At your level of comfort, of course. Share with your family and close friends. Share with survivor groups. Or share with a wider audience and use your platform to advocate and educate.
It’s day 26 of National Breast Cancer Awareness month! Today, I had the opportunity to appear on the Tampa Reads segment of Fox 13 in Tampa with anchor Linda Hurtado! I was able to share my breast cancer story with a bit about science, about my personal story, and a bit about Talking to My Tatas.
It was a great experience and I hope I convinced some viewers to schedule their mammograms! Shout out to Linda Hurtado, Lisa Emerson, and the rest of Fox 13 News Team!
It’s day 25 of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Elections are coming up November 8, but many states, including Tennessee, provide opportunities for early voting. I voted today, and I have the sticker to prove it! We all know that voting is a right that was hard won, and YOUR VOTE MATTERS! It matters especially in local and state elections where you choose the candidates that will represent you in everyday matters.
This is true for many issues, including health. As a breast cancer survivor and advocate, I lend my vote and my voice to support policies that help with health equity and equality, screening access and affordability, affordable quality cancer care for everyone no matter where you live, no matter your income, no matter your race, ethnicity, gender identity, ability or disability—EVERYONE deserves a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.
What sorts of legislation is on the line for breast cancer? The Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act is “a bill to amend title II of the Social Security Act to eliminate the waiting periods for disability insurance benefits and Medicare coverage for individuals with metastatic breast cancer and for other purposes.” That means that people living with MBC will be able to get the financial assistance they need immediately without the barrier of long waiting periods.
Another important piece of legislation is the Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Research and Education Act of 2021 (Introduced in 2021). “This bill requires research and education activities related to triple-negative breast cancer. The cells of these breast cancers are negative for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and excess HER2 protein, so they do not respond to hormonal therapy medicines or medicines that target the HER2 protein receptors. Specifically, the National Institutes of Health must conduct and support research into the disease. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Health Resources and Services Administration must develop information about triple-negative breast cancer, including information regarding the elevated risk for minority women, for the public and for health care providers.” This is so important given the aggressive nature of the triple negative breast cancer subtype.
These are just two examples of legislation at the national level (you can find information about other important legislation for breast cancer here). Check your state legislature’s website for pending legislation specific for your state. Let your elected officials know you support legislation that helps breast cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, and the general public. And remember to VOTE! Check out this site for dates and details for your district.
It’s day 23 of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month! I skipped a few days due to lack of spoons (see my previous post about spoon theory and chronic illness), but I have some extras today and am excited at the prospect of bringing my message to folks in Tampa, Florida, and beyond!
My amazing Literary Agent, Barbara Rosenberg, put me in touch with Linda Hurtado, an award-winning news anchor by day who writes heart stopping thrillers as Linda Bond (and I totally recommend checking out her books!). Linda then invited me to appear on her live show for Breast Cancer Awareness Month! It’s scheduled for Wednesday, October 26, at 12:00 pm EST for her Tampa Bay Reads segment. I’ll be talking about breast cancer from both a patient and research perspective, talking about the book, and hopefully convincing viewers to schedule their mammograms!
This will be my first television appearance and I’m both excited and a little nervous, but I have faith in Linda and I’ll just be prepared to be poised but still be myself as I share my story and hopefully some more information about breast cancer that the public needs to know.
Super grateful for the opportunity and hope it helps me make a difference! Wish me luck!
I’ll be sure to post the link in a future blog post!
It’s Day 20 of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Recovery from surgery is a funny thing. One the one hand, I have Wolverine-like powers in terms of physical healing. Most of the time. Except for those days when I’m in a funk. Those days when it’s hard to get out of bed, but I can’t sleep. Or I start falling asleep at my desk and get into bed, but can’t go to sleep there. When I’m excited to do something and then, when it’s time, find myself too fatigued mentally and/or physically to do the thing.
Which makes me sadder. And more fatigued. And it’s harder to get up the next time until and unless I force myself. But I pay for that with interest.
Fatigue, physical, mental, or the horrible double whammy of both at the same time, really and truly sucks donkey balls.
Spoon Theory is a metaphor for illness – originally chronic illness in the form of lupus and then expanded to include mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. It holds that healthy people have an unlimited amount of spoons, or possibilities, or energy—a form of currency—to accomplish their daily tasks with plenty left over for fun. With chronic illness or mental illness, your currency is limited. You don’t have as many spoons. So you have to budget. And you many only have enough spoons one day to shower. Or maybe you can shower and go to work, but you don’t have enough spoons to come home and make dinner or go out with friends.
Some days, you don’t have enough spoons to get out of bed.
Christine Miserandino, who came up with this brilliant analogy, explains it much better and you should totally grab a copy of But You Don’t Look Sick: The Real Life Adventures of Fibro Bitches, Lupus Warriors, and Other Superheroes Battling Invisible Illness to learn more, but that’s where I’ve been for the past several days. I have a friend who has fibromyalgia and other friends who have chronic illnesses who deal with this more than I do, though they still consider me a “Spoonie.” One of those friends once looked at me a few years after my 3rd or 4th cancer surgery and told me I was running myself ragged and was in danger of collecting another chronic illness and, as a result, losing more of my daily ration of spoons.
That hit me HARD. I was and still am a doer, a mover, a shaker. I walk fast. I’m always busy. I get shit done.
I still can, but not at the expense of my precious spoons. So, for the past two days, I’ve spent a lot of time in bed (going to bed early, napping, resting my eyes on the couch) and struggling to not beat myself up for it. It’s okay. Things will get done eventually. The important things. When I have more spoons.
So, dear readers, don’t beat yourselves up. Save yourselves. And your spoons. You’re worth it.
It’s day 19 of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Day 18 was super busy for me with work, doc appointments, and life, so I was unable to post. It happens. But hopefully today’s (late) post will be informative and eye-opening. It certainly was for me.
Sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and all the other prejudices and bigotries that plague humanity exist in science. On the one hand, scientists are rational people who should be objective, but on the other hand, scientists are, well, human. We’re not immune to biases and the cultural and societal systems in which we exist.
British physicist, Dr. Jess Wade, was reminded of this when she created a biography for prominent climate scientist Dr. Kim Cobb, discovering that deserving women like Cobb whose names — and lengthy list of achievements — had not been curated Wikipedia, the go-to site for most folks seeking information on the Internet. Naturally, male scientists do not suffer from the same issues and are often credited for achievements at the expense of female colleagues.
Google Dr. Rosalind Franklin and find out how bigot and all-around horrible human being James Watson stole her data and got credit for “discovering” DNA. He’s so bad he was stripped of honorifics after making bigoted comments about race and intelligence. Look up Dr. Arthur Eichengrün and find out how the precursor to the company Bayer, who collaborated with Nazis, gave credit for the discovery of aspirin to Dr. Eichengrün’s non-Jewish technician because of anti-Semitism and STILL haven’t acknowledged Eichengrün’s contribution. Yuck. I was today years old when I learned about Dr. Sophia B. Jones, the first Black female graduate of the University of Michigan’s Medical School in 1885 and later became the first female faculty member at Spelman College and spearheaded public health programs and health equity initiatives for Black Americans. There are countless other stories we’ve never heard of because of white supremacy and patriarchy, which celebrates the achievements of straight cis white males and minimizes or erases all others.
Dr. Wade decided to address this disparity by writing over 1,750 Wikipedia pages for female and minority scientists who didn’t already have their accomplishments documented on the site. Check out her own Wiki page, too! Not all heroes wear capes – some wear lab coats and cool glasses.
I’m totally going to make a Wikipedia page for myself. Men do it all the time, so why not??
Shout out to Dr. Wade, to the people behind these stories and their amazing contributions to science, and to a future in which we trade bias and bigotry for inclusiveness and giving credit where credit is due to everyone!
Thanks to my gal pal Florence Cardon for sharing the Washington Post article link with me, and to TikTok creator @inevitablebetrayal for shining a light on Bayer.
It’s day 17 of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Today’s post is all about celebrating our pet pals and how they support and heal us when we have cancer. I’m a lifelong cat fanatic. My first pet was a ginger tomcat who chased me through the house and yard and then curled up with me for a well-earned nap. I’ve been hooked ever since. Cats are wildly entertaining goofballs that toe the line between completely endearing and completely annoying, and I’m here for it!
I am currently owned by three cats.
Vanilla (full name Vanilla Wafter Sieders Asshole IV), my son’s 5 year old Siamese who is gorgeous, had the biggest and best purrs, likes to give love bites and has a weird foot fetish. Then there’s Kuro (Kuro I’m the Good One Sieders), my daughter’s 4 year old black beauty who is a world class snuggler, has the sweetest purr, and turns into a ninja assassin when it’s time to trim her claws. Finally, my black cat (pandemic pet) Sheila (Sheila Bad Bitch Sieders) is 2 years old, gorgeous, dumb as a bag of rocks, and wildly entertaining. She also meows loudly and nonstop.
Aside from their many and varied personality quirks, whenever someone in the family is sick or recovering from illness (in my case, multiple surgeries and radiation therapy), the cats are on that someone 24/7, working in shifts to provide comfort and company. Kuro takes on the brunt of the work, curled up in a lap or on a chest with soothing purrs and comforting warmth, letting us stroke her silky soft fur and relax into her calm.
Kuro sitting on my lap (covered by her favorite soft blanket) in my home office. Yes, that’s a ceramic skull on my desk. And a hand-painted ceramic mermaid. And a “Donut Give Up” plaque. Don’t worry about it.
Vanilla will then take over, making biscuits on the blanket, purring, and demanding pets. He’s not big on cuddles, but he likes to sit close and slow blink. He’s 15 pounds of fluff and squishy love.
Then, there’s Sheila. She’s a noodle of a cat, slinky and svelte, acrobatic, energetic, and adorable with her single braincell. She’s young, very busy playing and getting into all kinds of cat shenanigans, and always makes me laugh. She’s not often cuddly, but when she is, she melts. Her purrs are soft and subtle, and her fur is as sleek as she is.
I’m a believer in the healing power of cats, but what is the scientific evidence? Turns out, the emotional support benefits of pets for cancer patients are supported by the American Cancer Society and by a recently published literature review. Click on the links for tips to stay safe and healthy with pets while undergoing cancer treatments.
As long as your healthcare provider gives you the green light and you take precautions to protect yourself and your pets during treatment, take all the fur baby love you can get!
It’s Day 16 of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Today’s topic will cover one of the oldest targeted breast cancer drugs developed that is still used in the clinic today—tamoxifen. I’ve been taking it for 3 1/2 years, and millions of other breast cancer survivors with ER+ breast cancer have taken this drug as part of their treatments to prevent recurrence. But how was it discovered? How does it work?
Like many scientific discoveries, the discovery of tamoxifen was an accident. ICI46,474, later named tamoxifen, was first synthesized in 1966 by scientists working for a company that would become AstraZeneca. The goal of the project was to find a new chemical compound that could be made into a birth control drug. Laboratory studies were promising, but they found it didn’t work as a form of contraception in humans. This could have been the end of the story for tamoxifen, but one of the members of the team thought it might work as a breast cancer drug. In 1971, tamoxifen was tested in a clinical trial conducted in the UK on “late or recurrent carcinoma of the breast.” Thankfully, it worked!
How does it work? Since it started out as a candidate contraceptive, it makes sense that it was designed to block estrogen, a female hormone that helps prepare the uterus and uterine lining for pregnancy. It is in a class of drugs known as Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs), which are compounds that compete with the hormone estrogen for binding to its receptor. Normally, when estrogen binds to its receptor in the body, it triggers processes in the cell that make it divide, or produce more cells. This is called proliferation. In cancers with too many estrogen receptors (ER), estrogen in the body makes these cells grow uncontrollably. By binding to estrogen receptors in breast cancer cells, tamoxifen blocks this action and stops breast cancer cells from growing.
Around 70-80% of breast cancers are ER+, meaning that abnormal estrogen receptor activation is a key driver for growth of the breast cancer cells. Tamoxifen was a game changer for women with ER+ disease, reducing the annual breast cancer death rate by 31%. There are other drugs on the market that also block the activity of estrogen or downstream molecules in the estrogen receptor pathway, but tamoxifen remains standard of care for many cases of ER+ breast cancer.
As with any medication, tamoxifen comes with side effects that include: hot flashes, vaginal discharge, nausea, mood swings, fatigue, depression, hair thinning, constipation, loss of libido, dry skin. I experienced hot flashes, vaginal dryness and libido issues, and hair thinning, but they were not as severe as those I experienced with other estrogen blockers (aromatase inhibitors). For me, tamoxifen is a better balance between protection from recurrence and quality of life, but everyone’s physiology and experiences are different.
Be sure to talk to your healthcare providers about any side effects you experience. You don’t have to suffer in silence, and there are options to reduce side effects and improve your quality of life.
It’s day 15 of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and WHAT A DAY! There is something truly magical, beautiful, and inspiring about being surrounded by a crowd of survivors, their loved ones, and those devoted to the mission of ending breast cancer! Here are some highlights from today!
Beautiful people doing AMAZING work to raise dollars and awareness for breast cancer!
The Incomparable Riley Weston, Actress, Singer, Writer, Author, Activist, and our TOP FUNDRAISER!!!!!
To all those in the thick of it with breast cancer, survivors, their caregivers and loved ones, and those who have lost loved ones too soon – we work for you!
Want to help? Here’s the Link to My Fundraiser! Or donate to your favorite survivor, team, or other nonprofit dedicated to eradicating breast cancer!