Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Breast Cancer Myths, Scares and Survivals
Breast Cancer Myths, Scares and Survivals
One woman’s story that inspires the survival, not the scare, of breast cancer
This past October, 2009, during breast cancer awareness month
(Pinellas Park, Fla.) – There is something even scarier than Halloween this past October and it affects nearly 200,000 women per year in the U.S. Every year, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the U.S. other than skin cancer and is the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer, according to research done by the American Cancer Society. But beyond the doom and gloom there is hope and survival aside from the scare. One woman shares her survival story from her first thoughts when diagnosed (the myths and truths about cancer prevention), to breaking the news to her children, to now having a clean bill of health and offering inspiration to her fellow breast cancer fighters.
Gwen Novak is a single mother of two. She was recently sitting in a waiting room at a cancer center while watching as a fellow breast cancer patient sits terrified awaiting the news or more information on her situation. A year ago, Novak felt the same petrified, devastated feeling that she says left her sick to her stomach, “I have two little kids. What’s going to happen?”
Novak had to make some quick choices. What was she going to tell the children? How would she get through yet another life obstacle thrown in her path? How is it even possible that she could be given such a horrific diagnosis since she had been raised on nothing but healthy, organic foods? “I thought, maybe I should have eaten more vegetables! I never drank pop; I ate my mother’s fresh, ground peanut butter. My kids don’t even know what SpaghettiO’s® are! Although, if I hadn’t been so healthy, I could have been dead,” she said. Novak is a strong believer that your environment, along with your lifestyle choices and genetic disposition, is a huge player when it comes to a diagnosis.
Some common myths on breast cancer diagnosis involve drinking caffeine, eating dairy and, yes, eating your vegetables or not. According to a study published this year from Annals of Epidemiology, there is in fact no link between caffeine consumption and breast cancer.
Regarding dairy causing breast cancer: several studies (including a Norwegian study published in The International Journal of Cancer) show that women who drank more than three glasses of milk every day had a lower incidence of breast cancer.
As for those vegetables, research at the Strang Cancer Prevention Center in New York discovered that a daily diet including cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower significantly reduce estrogenic compounds believed to cause breast cancer. The chemicals in these vegetables, called indoles, induce the body to burn-off the form of estrogen that promotes breast cancer. Raw or cooked at least two to three times a day is recommended for these vegetables.
Breast Cancer myth statistics and studies were provided by Hallie Levine, Redbook, MSN.com.
Novak said the beginning was tough and she really didn’t know what she was up against. Novak received two lumpectomies. She received her radiation treatment from WellSpring Oncology. “You have to take each thing one step at a time – that is how they [the physicians] give you the information,” she said. Novak said the medical professionals on her case would give her a little bit of information each time so she could handle the process one step at a time rather than to, “blow through it all.” She said, “They piece it out to you so you can handle it and get through it one stage at a time.”
Speaking of her children, 10-year-old daughter, Chloe and 9-year-old son, Winston, she said she pulled them out of their private school and began a home-school program. “I was too sick to get them ready and drive back and forth two hours to the school, and it was the best thing I could have ever done for them,” said Novak, “having them close to me through this made it less difficult for them.”
Novak said she was honest and upfront with her children from the start. “A single-parent relationship is a little different,” she said. Chloe stood-up to the plate, “She ran the show around the house, taking care of her brother,” said Novak, “I wouldn’t wish this on anybody, though.”
To lighten the stress of it all, Novak recently attended a prostate cancer awareness fundraiser for WellSpring Oncology’s WellSpring Giving Tree (Catch for a Cure). She plans to get involved with walks and events like the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides - in the future once she has built-up her physical strength and former athletic-build again. “I am dying to get back out and get in shape,” she said.
Her advice to women out there going through the same “scare and survival” is to, “Keep a positive attitude. Dig deep for your inner strength to face the fear, other people cannot do it for you. Have fun along the way.” Novak had fun along the way by attending each treatment appointment as a different character – once as Malibu Barbie, adorning a flamboyant wig and all.
Novak’s Survival Kit:
1. Get your facts
2. Don’t regret
3. Take one step at a time
4. When you’re tired, lay down
Novak plans to live her life and move forward, not worrying if the cancer will come back. “I am a tough cookie, but I am going to eat more vegetables.”