Cancer Changed My Life, Becoming My Best Teacher.  Meet Another Woman Who Feels the Same Way! 

BY DENISE ALBERT

Cancer changed my life, becoming my best teacher.

I never thought I would say that.

The best part about being a survivor is becoming part of a cancer community and learning about all the good so many others are doing for all of us. The cancer community is one of my biggest passions in life and I will never stop sharing or advocating in the hopes that it helps others. That’s why I’m so excited to be able to share another story of a cancer survivor in partnership with AstraZeneca.

For those of you who don’t know my story, I was a 41-year-old divorced mom with two boys under the age of 10 when I was diagnosed. I was scared, lonely, and unsure of what my outcome and future would be. I went through extensive treatment. In January of 2016, I had a lumpectomy, then six months of aggressive chemotherapy and then six weeks of daily radiation. Radiation therapy can be quite effective in treating cancer. Nowadays, with the help of advanced medical devices, doctors can maximize the radiation dose that can eliminate the cancel cells quickly while minimizing the radiation levels. That said, cancer patients can now get access to radiotherapy clinics easily just by searching for them. for instance, someone from Austria can just search for Radiotherapy Centre in Austria to locate an appropriate cancer care clinic near them where they can avail the radiation treatment. Coming back, following the radiation treatment, I had to take another full year of infusions of two immunotherapy medicines.

It was a lot. I had some complications, a lot of side effects, and it was certainly an emotional rollercoaster. I tried to be strong. I tried to be positive. I tried to live my life when I felt like I could. But some days I just cried. Some days I couldn’t move from the couch. Some days, all I could do for the entire day was walk my kids to school around the corner. Some days I couldn’t see how things would get better. I had support and love from my family and friends but yearned for others going through it, too. I craved connection with others who understood, who knew what would help or suggested wisdom from experience.

I tried things others suggested. I changed my diet. I cut out sugar. I cut out dairy. I was already mostly a vegetarian and tried to eat mostly plant based. I hired a chef who could make the right meals for me. I tried acupuncture. I tried to stay active when I felt well enough and could go to a spin class. I began therapy. I started doing yoga for the first time. I tried reiki. I was open to anything and everything that made me feel better, I got sent recommendations from friends about health pages such as Rolling Paper and crystal therapy pages, everyone was so willing to help. It cost a fortune (not to mention all of the medical bills, wigs, creams, and other things I needed for my treatment).

I wish I knew about Sue Weldon.

When Sue was diagnosed, also around the same age as when I was, she also needed so much of what I wanted and had to piece together. Sue wanted yoga, acupuncture, resources on nutrition, massage therapy, and so many other things that cancer patients need. That’s how Unite for HER was born as a nonprofit in 2009 to bridge the gap for breast and ovarian cancer patients, focusing on wellness and care for emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. Because of Sue and the team at Unite for HER, every person with breast and ovarian cancer will feel the support of a loving community and have access to tools and services that enrich their health and well-being. Quite simply, they will be GIVEN a gift that they all deserve, especially while going through treatment. All they have to do is apply!

I recently spoke to Sue and I’m now grateful to know her and know about her thanks to the Cancer Community Awards (C2 Awards), a program made possible by the partnership of AstraZeneca’s YOUR Cancer program and Scientific American Custom Media. The C2 Awards celebrate the unsung heroes of cancer care, whose relentless drive to affect positive change has given new hope to those affected by this devastating disease.

Sue is the 2021 Catalyst for Care Award Winner. She is one of five changemakers being recognized by the C2 Awards for making a difference in the lives of people affected by cancer and has improved the cancer care experience for patients and their loved ones. Winners were selected by a panel of leaders from across the cancer community.

Due in part to the pandemic, Unite for HER is now national and has expanded in ways previously unimaginable. They used to host in-person conferences, but now they have been able to put their conference in a box and patients are sent items you can use along with a “passport” that is worth $2,000 per patient for integrative care, whether that’s meditation and yoga, Sun Basket Meal Delivery, counseling, or a fitness membership! They help heal each person’s heart and soul. Each woman chooses the care that will help her while going through treatment. Unite for HER sends fresh organic vegetables, bath, and beauty products without toxins, and so much more. For Metastatic patients (stage 4), they receive the program via HER Carebox and “wellness passport” paying for and renewing their much-needed services every six months and as Sue says, “we never leave their side”.

To me, Sue is a strong force that every cancer patient needs supporting them. I asked her if she has a motto and she said, “‘If you pour a lot of love and support into someone or something, it is bound to flourish.’ That is our Unite for HER, flourishing from all the love and support that our community pours into us each and every day.” And her community keeps growing. After having been in Philadelphia since inception, they are now serving women and men in 38 states, and continuing to grow, which, thanks to the C2 Awards, they will hopefully now reach more people and continue to move their mission forward to help all patients with their mind, body, and spirit.

What I didn’t know at the time of my own diagnosis was there were so many other survivors who were making the cancer world a better place. Sue told me, “Cancer was my best teacher, though I don’t wish it on anyone, but it taught me so much and led me to this path.” So just like me, cancer changed her life, empowering her, and for those diagnosed after her.

I have received information from AstraZeneca. The opinions stated are my own. This is a sponsored post. For more information on the Cancer Community Awards and the 2021 winners who are redefining cancer care for all patients, CLICK HERE.#AstraZeneca #ad

Please Help Non-White’s Survive Breast Cancer

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Biotheronostics, Inc. (Breast Cancer Index™) but the opinions and experiences shared are my own.

I’m WHITE.

Just because of my color alone, I had a better chance of surviving breast cancer.

PLEASE.

TAKE.

THIS.

PLEDGE.

I DID.  

Breast Cancer Index officially took the Tiger Lily #InclusionPledge, which is focused on reducing the higher mortality rates for women of color. Women of color have a 40% higher mortality rate from breast cancer. They also are diagnosed at later stages.

For more information about the #InclusionPledge visit: TIGER LILY FOUNDATION.

Please Help Non-White’s Survive Breast Cancer

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Biotheronostics, Inc. (Breast Cancer Index™) but the opinions and experiences shared are my own.

I’m WHITE.

Just because of my color alone, I had a better chance of surviving breast cancer.

PLEASE.

TAKE.

THIS.

PLEDGE.

I DID.  

Breast Cancer Index officially took the Tiger Lily #InclusionPledge, which is focused on reducing the higher mortality rates for women of color. Women of color have a 40% higher mortality rate from breast cancer. They also are diagnosed at later stages. (Ref: https://www.tigerlilyfoundation.org/diversity-and-inclusion-pledge-for-women-of-color/)

For more information about the #InclusionPledge visit: https://www.tigerlilyfoundation.org/diversity-and-inclusion-pledge-for-women-of-color/

Blended #TutuTuesday

Even my blended family of exes is joining me this year to raise awareness and money for breast cancer.   While we weren’t in a good place during my cancer journey, what matters now, after living together for over 5 months during the Pandemic, my ex-husband and his wife are now a part of the team. 

My mom and my boys are my constant source of love, support, inspiration and joy and nothing makes me and my boys happier than all coming together.  This year, I’m one of @komengreaternyc ambassadors for the #Race4theCure and #Journeyto30 celebrating 30 years of  #creatingmoresurvivors .  Though we will be racing #togetherapart this year, our blended family is now together forever.  What’s healthier than that?!
💗 I hope you can help me.  Every dollar counts and any small donation is greatly appreciated, especially this year.   Thanks so much for any amount you can do to support me and us. 🙏
💗 Please support HERE💗https://race.komennyc.org/denise-albert

What would you do? …if you were on medicine you may not need to be on for as long as planned?

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Biotheranostics, Inc. (Breast Cancer Index®), but the opinions and experiences shared are my own.

What would you do? …if you were on medicine you may not need to be on for as long as planned?

Years after my Cancer Journey….still looking for answers that will determine my future.

What would you do?

…if you were on medicine you may not need to be on for as long as planned?

What would you do?

…with new information regarding your breast cancer treatment?

What will I do?

That is the question I keep asking myself.

What should I do?

That is a question I am starting to ask my doctors.

Here is what I’ve just learned:

Breast Cancer Index is a test for the exact kind of cancer I had . Breast Cancer Index may change my original plans.  I was supposed to be on anti-estrogen medicine for 10 years but now, I’m learning, I may be able to cut that in half.  Breast Cancer Index is revolutionizing anti-estrogen therapy decision-making and that’s why I’m learning and sharing.  Breast Cancer Index is a test to determine risk of recurrence and whether longer therapy is likely to benefit me.

Here is what I recently asked my doctor:

Question…do you know if I have had the Breast Cancer Index test?  Is that something you typically use? 

Here is how my doctor responded:

Breast Cancer Index is a test designed to assess the benefit of continuing anti-estrogen therapy beyond five years. 

When you get to the five year mark, we’ll assess whether you should continue based on many factors – how you are tolerating meds, your bones, most up to date research 

The most important result is that my doctor is informed.  I feel grateful that I was informed and knew the question to ask.  I have a few more months to go before I am a candidate for the test and evaluate.  Stay tuned!

https://www.breastcancerindex.com/already-on-estrogen-therapy

Dear Me (and all of YOU!), NOT. ANOTHER. MINUTE.

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Biotheranostics, Inc. (Breast Cancer Index®), but the opinions and experiences shared are my own.

Dear Me (and all of YOU!),
NOT. ANOTHER. MINUTE.
Why wait?
By now we all know health = life.
Ask EVERY QUESTION.
Do not stop until you get answers you feel comfortable with.
I’ve asked my doctors.  I’m waiting for answers.
Have I had the Breast Cancer Index test?  Do they use it?  Will it change my treatment
plan?  
I. DIDN’T.  WAIT.
Once I knew the questions to ask. 
SO ASK THE QUESTIONS!
Love,
Denise

Follow the conversation by following #NotAnotherMinute

The Hope We Give – Uniting through a Cancer Diagnosis 

By Shannon Miller and Denise Albert

Cancer affects everybody on Earth and if it’s ever affected you, you know that it can lead to very confusing thoughts and feelings. You start to ask questions like what is the best treatment? How will we afford treatment? Which trauma insurance providers in australia cover this type of cancer? Will it affect my ability to work? But with the right support group, you can process the diagnosis and focus on getting better. We can achieve a lot when we unite forces – which brings us to the topic of today’s post.

What do a seven-time Olympic medalist in gymnastics and an award-winning journalist and television producer have in common? Much more than you would think.

During a MAMARAZZI event in May, Melissa and I were joined by Shannon Miller as part of a partnership with Our Way Forward and TESARO, Inc., an oncology-focused business within GSK. In getting to know Shannon, who many of you know as a decorated gymnast, I realized that while I was diagnosed with breast cancer and she is an ovarian cancer survivor, we share many similar experiences, emotions and challenges in our journey.

In 2011, Shannon Miller was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer. As I have spoken about before, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2015. During our discussion, it became apparent that there are so many similarities between our diagnoses, the impact cancer had on our families, parenting and finding unity with others in the cancer community. We hope that many of you can unite with us in our shared experiences and continue to learn and share with one another.

Be Your Own Advocate: Listen to Your Body

DENISE: At 41, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went to my regular mammogram and it was fine. Weeks later, I got a letter which said, “The tissue of both breasts is heterogeneously dense.” I didn’t even see that part of the letter because the top of it said, “normal.” Months later I felt a small lump that hurt and went right to the doctor.

SHANNON: I had a similar situation. I was actually on the phone to re-schedule my routine appointment but something told me not to. That day, my doctor found a baseball-sized cyst on one of my ovaries. I brushed off three primary symptoms of ovarian cancer. I attributed all the symptoms to something else, like weight loss because my body was changing post-baby, bloating and stomachaches, I assumed were due to my monthly cycle. It’s so important for women to listen to our bodies and speak up when something doesn’t seem right.

DENISE: I couldn’t agree more. Even now, I may be cancer free, but the diagnosis and continuing medications and decisions are forever. I scheduled an elective surgery, a salpingo-oophorectomy, a procedure to remove my ovaries and fallopian tubes. I carry the HER2 gene so my cancer can return anywhere. But ovarian cancer is hard to detect. It’s often diagnosed at a later stage.

SHANNON: I think that’s the scariest thing. I had this mass growing but I could go to my doctor and tell him I felt perfectly fine. Not only was I dismissing my symptoms and general health concerns, I hadn’t even considered ovarian cancer as a cause. I didn’t want to complain. I didn’t want to be a burden. I didn’t want to give it much thought, I had too much to do. Now when I feel like something isn’t right, I say something right away.

Parenting Through a Cancer Diagnosis

SHANNON: My son was only 14 months old when I was diagnosed and it threw another wrench into the challenges of parenting. I remember when I would leave the house, my son would say, “Mommy don’t forget your hair.”

DENISE: Just like there’s no parenting manual, there’s no cancer manual. Combine the two and it’s scary. All I could think about was how I would care for my boys. When I’m sick, how will I do it? But I’m strong. I’m tough. And I called on friends. I relied on family.

SHANNON: And the community. I was scheduled to give a speech that fell during my chemo treatments. I was reluctant to cancel and hadn’t realized how difficult the treatment would be. That day, I felt absolutely awful. I didn’t know how I was going to even stand up through the 45 minute speech. But right before I went up, a woman came up to me and took my hand. She said, “I had the same rare tumor you have and the same doctor that you have. That was 10 years ago and now I have two amazing children. You are going to be okay.”

DENISE: That’s so inspiring. Especially because fertility is something that is discussed for many ovarian cancer diagnoses now.

SHANNON: Exactly. I was so fortunate that almost four years after our son, our daughter was born. We were fortunate that my other ovary “kicked in.” And thankfully, with the advancements in medicine, there are more fertility options than ever before for women with ovarian cancer, like egg freezing. It is important for women to be aware of these options and proactively start these conversations.

Uniting as Sisters in the Cancer Community

DENISE: Getting diagnosed wasn’t easy. Treatment wasn’t easy. But after sharing my cancer story, I was inundated with support. Calls, texts, emails and messages from friends and strangers saying how brave I am and it’s truly incredible to hear all of their stories.

SHANNON: You are brave! Cancer doesn’t care who you are, where you’re from, or how many gold medals you have – we’re never alone in our journeys. Finding and forging personal connections can help us better navigate our new normal, from diagnosis through survivorship.

DENISE: How do you find those personal connections? Because I have been public about my journey, people reach out. Do you have a similar feeling?

SHANNON: I do. For me, I was so excited to partner with the Our Way Forwardprogram, which offers resources and support for individuals diagnosed with ovarian cancer and their loved ones. I wish I had a program like this when I was first diagnosed. During treatment, we have this incredible support team around us but the day treatment ends, you suddenly feel alone. Our Way Forward provides resources to help keep that morale going. We need to have more of that communication and feeling of community so we don’t feel so alone.

DENISE: That’s great. I feel like it’s also my responsibility now to help others in the community. Sharing my story helped me, and speaking to my new cancer-community friends each day gave me more inspiration to keep sharing and hopefully helping others.

SHANNON: There is a sisterhood in cancer and the journey it takes us on. And what hope we give to each other just by sharing our experiences.

To learn more about Our Way Forward, visit www.ourwayforward.com or the Facebook page. To learn more about Shannon Miller, visit www.shannonmiller.com.

Horrific TSA Experience to Helping with TSA Cares

This could have been YOU.  Or your mom.  Or your dad.  Or your child.  Or someone else you may be traveling with.

‪Last December it was me.  Because of this, I’m hoping it won’t be YOU or anyone else.

‪I was loud.  I am now proud.  More than anything I’m thankful to the TSA for hearing me and now asking me to share my story, together with them, so it doesn’t happen to others.  I’m grateful that my kids, and others, can see that something positive can come from a negative.

‪I’m grateful that my story, and the video I worked on with the TSA can help travelers to make sure they know the best way to travel through security, can be a mini reminder for agents on their role to keep passengers safe while being respectful and sensitive.

‪I’m glad it happened to me.  I, fortunately, have a chance to make a difference.  I hopefully have.  I purposefully chose to capture the situation to share with you.  I now, proudly, am sharing more so others who travel with illness make sure to know the protocol.

‪So, please, watch the video.  Know your rights.  Pass this along.  Remember, the TSA is here to protect us.  Not hurt us.  As a mom, I am very proud that my children know that I stood up for my rights and because of it others will be helped in the future.

To see more from TSA cares watch here:

https://youtu.be/Mt54VpVip-Y

https://youtu.be/iGTJt5ssQbI

It’s My 1-Year Chemoversary — Here’s What I’ve Learned Since

Looking back, I did look sick … but now I look and feel like myself again.

Happy Anniversary to me. It’s not romantic. It’s not a gold, silver or even bronze. It’s my first chemoversary It’s been a year since I completed chemo. While in the midst of treatment I decided to celebrate all of the time. With the end of each treatment I had a party or dinner. I also decided to travel more. Having things to look forward to got me through each day. That philosophy has continued for me. I celebrate as much as possible and want to continue to travel as much as possible. I also got engaged, which is super exciting news right? I spent hours looking at engagement rings on websites like Moissanite to try and find the perfect one. I actually knew my boyfriend was going to propose so I decided to help him out with ring choices too! We’re so happy and we seriously can’t wait to get married. So many good things have happened since chemo. I feel so much more positive now and my life is finally looking up. I can’t wait to be a wife and see what else I can achieve!

So, with my boys off to camp, I planned a girls’ trip to Canyon Ranch . This trip though was more than being with friends. This trip was more about feeling like me again. This trip was me for the first time in a year finally feeling like it is okay to push myself. This trip was me for the first time finally with a full appetite again. This trip for me was healthy.

Read the full story at GoodHousekeeping.com

I’m So Happy My Kids Are Away at Camp This Summer

Yep, I said it. I deserve it. They deserve it. Gwyneth, contrary to what you said recently about summer camps for kids, I love my two boys. Kristen Hewitt, contrary to your piece that you are doing nothing with your kids all summer; I’m doing NOTHING. WITH. MY. KIDS – as in, they are not here. They are away and I couldn’t be happier.

I didn’t know how I would feel and had a lot of anxiety leading up to my boys leaving. I am 5 days in and feel great. I’m used to my kids not being with me all time since I am divorced. My two boys (12 and almost 9) left on Saturday and I was expecting that when their normal return time of 7 p.m. on Sunday evening of their dad’s weekend came I would be devastated. I thought about it when 7 p.m. came, but I was just fine. I have had lots more time to myself and it felt good knowing I still have the whole evening to myself too! I recently signed up to a Divorced SIngles club so I’ve been spending quite a lot of time looking on there! It felt a little weird, but I’ll take it.

Read the full article at GoodHousekeeping.com

How Good Can Come from Humiliating TSA Experience…

By Denise Albert

I never imagined how my horrific and humiliating experience with the TSA could turn into something so positive. I’m honored to be included in the TSA’s piece on Sprinklr.com. I’ve never been more proud to show my kids how good things can come from bad.

Meet the Team Transforming the Reputation of the TSA

At 440 federalized airports across the United States, 44,000 TSA security officers will screen 2 million passengers. They will do that again tomorrow. That’s 730 million passenger screenings annually, and all it takes is one missed needle in the haystack for the consequences to be catastrophic. To read the full story visit Sprinklr.com