Breast Cancer – When to Get a Second Opinion

If you have a breast cancer diagnosis and are wondering about when to get a second opinion, or even whether you should, you need to watch this video.

As a breast cancer coach, I’ve heard some real horror stories about breast cancer patients being told all sorts of negative things by their oncologist or someone on their cancer team, and this is not okay!

So in this video I provide information about the sequence of events that occurs when a breast cancer pathology report is issued, some tips about when getting a second opinion makes sense, and what to do if you don’t like your oncologist.

I hope you find the video useful, and if you do, please (as you’re watching it in YouTube) give it a thumbs-up, or comment (or both!). I will get back to you as quickly as I can. Thanks for watching!

GET MY BEST TIPS on healthy ways to beat breast cancer and prevent recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Taking the Scare Out of Breast Cancer Treatment Decisions

If you have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, that alone can scare the heck out of you. Then, to make matters worse, you’re expected to make a bunch of decisions about the treatments being offered to you for the type of breast cancer you have. I mean, let’s face it – you just found out you have breast cancer. Now you’re expected to make some really important decisions based on what your doctor is telling you. It’s enough to send you looney, and it’s no wonder people often make decisions they later come to regret. Let me help you take the scare out of breast cancer treatment decisions.

Let’s slow it all down, shall we? Watch my video. You have time to make these decisions. In all likelihood, your tumor has been growing for a number of years. Taking a little time out to come to terms with (a) the fact that you’ve been diagnosed, (b) the fact that you have a bunch of important decisions to make, and (c) you have no idea what you’re doing. Taking a little time will not hurt in the long run. Just don’t get stuck in that place and make no decisions at all – that wouldn’t be a good thing.

If you need help, send me a message. I have loads of resources and articles for you to delve into. I am available for coaching – call it information gathering. Whatever you want to call it, I can help. Don’t go through this alone.

Looking Deeper to Find the Cause of Breast Cancer

Looking Deeper to Find the Cause of Breast Cancer

When I was studying naturopathic medicine in the late 90’s, one of the things I was most impressed about was the fact that we were taught, when faced with a patient and an illness, to get to the root of the problem, to discover why the patient had the illness. I recall one instructor telling us that if you don’t find what is causing a person’s malady – or dis-ease – treating the symptoms was often not going to heal  them. It was impressed upon us that in order to heal from a disease you have to find out what is causing it.

Fast forward a few years, and I heard those awful words, “I’m sorry but you do have breast cancer.” I knew that in order to heal, I was going to need to find the reason for my manifesting this disease. I feel that is where conventional medicine totally fails us with regard to breast cancer – the recommended treatments do not address the reason why we got breast cancer in the first place and in many cases exacerbate the problem.

Cancer is a complex disease and can be caused by a multitude of factors, which is why I coach my clients to endeavor to discover what it was in the first place that caused them to manifest this disease.

Many already know. A whopping 90% of my clients tell me that they were under enormous levels of stress in the lead-up to their breast cancer diagnosis, and it was the same for me. Stress is a huge factor, because high levels of cortisol (the hormone that is released when we are under stress) impact our health in many ways.

18 years ago, Stanford University released a study which found that women with advanced breast cancer who had unusually high cortisol levels were significantly more likely to die sooner than patients with normal levels of the hormone. The women also had lower levels of natural killer cells (cells of the immune system that scour the body for cancer cells), and this reduced immunity was also a factor in the higher mortality of the women in the study. [1]

So for at least 18 years our medical professionals have known about the stress factor yet, to my knowledge, very few oncologists ever suggest that their breast cancer patients examine their stress levels or try to do anything about it. It seems they are too busy to read such studies, but a simple how-to-meditate course together with joining a support group has been shown to effectively lower cortisol levels and provide women with some much-needed social support – and these women are living longer.

Stress is not the only factor in breast cancer. As I stated before, there are many possible causes and here is a list of the 18 more prevalent ones:

  1. Stress and chronically high levels of cortisol
  2. Shift work, which disrupts melatonin release (see my article “Optimize Melatonin and Reduce Breast Cancer Risk)
  3. Lack of exercise
  4. Poor diet with inadequate fruit/vegetable/fiber intake
  5. Insulin resistance
  6. Epstein Barr Virus
  7. Obesity
  8. Environmental pollution, both in the home and outside it
  9. Overabundance of xenoestrogens, disrupting hormones
  10. Genetic predisposition (only 5-10% of breast cancer is due to this)
  11. Radiation exposure
  12. Poor breast microbiome (if you haven’t heard of this before, see the studies listed below under references)
  13. Compromised immunity
  14. Hormone replacement therapy
  15. Poor gastrointestinal health
  16. Poor dental health, including root canals in teeth
  17. Poor emotional health – an overabundance of toxic emotions
  18. Chronic inflammation

My goal by writing this article is to empower you with information so that you are better able to make your body hostile terrain for cancer development and growth. I am not telling you to ignore what your doctor has recommended for you. I do suggest that, in addition to whatever your conventional medicine doctor has recommended for you, one of the things to which you give a high priority is to discover the reason why you have breast cancer in the first place. It’s a lot of territory to cover, no doubt about it, but I encourage you to work with an integrative oncologist, or an oncology naturopath, or a functional medicine doctor, or at the very least (not to trivialize what I do) a breast cancer coach. All of us can help you find your way back to good health.

Sometimes it’s simply a matter of prioritizing stress relief. Sometimes it’s an improvement in nutrition, sometimes it’s a matter of dealing with a wonky gene (and that’s where functional medicine can help). It might be that you don’t methylate properly. It could be an environmental toxin. So focus on working with a trained professional, healing and getting past this. YOU CAN DO THIS!

References

[1] Stress Hormone May Contribute to Breast Cancer Deaths – https://news.stanford.edu/news/2000/june28/breast-628.html

Breast Cancer Linked to Bacterial Imbalances – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171006124004.htm

Breast tissue, oral and urinary microbiomes in breast cancer – http://www.oncotarget.com/index.php?journal=oncotarget&page=article&op=view&path[]=21490&path[]=68289

GET MY BEST TIPS on healing from breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the  far right-hand side of each page of this website. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Newly Diagnosed? Dealing with Anxiety and Fear

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and artur84

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and artur84

Newly Diagnosed?  Dealing with Anxiety and Fear

It has been my observation that newly diagnosed cancer patients generally have anxiety that is off the charts, and who could blame them?

Fear obviously plays a part in their anxiety – fear of death, pain, loss of function – it can all be life-changing and very scary.

The Difference Between Anxiety and Fear

In an effort to help move you through these sometimes paralyzing feelings, I’ve found some words that I hope will help you.

It comes from the book Living Beyond Limits by David Spiegel, MD:

“There is an important difference between anxiety and fear.  Anxiety is a general sense that something is wrong, which can lead to discomfort, restlessness, and worry, but which is not specific enough to point the way to any resolution of the problem.  Fear is something more specific – you know what you are afraid of, and this tends to make the possibility of effective action to control or reduce the fear more real.  One of the best means of treating anxiety is to convert it to fear, to change a general sense of discomfort to a fear of something in particular.  Thus, a general sense of anxiety in relation to cancer or other illness is best addressed by seeking to define exactly what it is you are anxious about: the discomfort associated with the treatment, the possibility that the disease will spread, the threat of death.  Each of these issues can be explored and addressed, which can reduce the discomfort they cause.  The way to tame anxiety is to confront it directly.  Ask rather than avoid.”

Learning The Language of Cancer

I believe Dr Spiegel gave excellent advice.  A lot of the anxiety of a new diagnosis comes from, I believe, all the new language you have to learn about medical treatments, from those overwhelming discussions of survival chances based on this therapy or that, the side effects of this or that. 

Here are a few tips to help you deal with anxiety and fear:

You must ask questions until you come to understand what is being recommended by your doctors and treatment providers.  No one could absorb all of that information the first time around, so take notes.  It is also good to have a friend or spouse with you – another set of ears listening is really important because I guarantee you, at some point you will be in overload mode and stop listening and possibly miss an important point.

Dr Spiegel also makes the point that as a newly diagnosed patient you must study for the role as though you were learning a new job.  He suggests that doctors, nurses, social workers, and other patients can be your teachers.

I would add to that list of people/teachers: other breast cancer survivors, psychotherapists (to help you manage your stress levels), naturopaths or nutritionists, and massage therapists.

That’s the role of a good healing team – to help you manage your anxiety and fear, to provide you with excellent care, to answer all of your questions in ways that you are able to understand, and to refer you to other members on the team when it’s necessary.

Try not to stay in fear-mode for too long.  Dr Spiegel’s advice to convert your anxiety to a specific fear and then tackle it by addressing each fear is a good one because if you are living in a state of fear you are not focusing on your healing and I believe that’s important to do, especially with a life-threatening disease like cancer.  Don’t beat yourself up because you are experiencing fear and anxiety, but do your best to move through it so that you can start the healing process.

I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Making Healing Choices

making healing choices

Image Source: stock.xchng/adamr

Making Healing Choices

Because every person is different – we come from different families, we have different ways of coping with life, different belief systems, different spiritual beliefs, different experiences, emotions and fears — all of this makes us who we are and directly affects how we make healing choices when dealing with a disease such as breast cancer.

One Size Does Not Fit All

I also feel that that very difference between each of us means that not one size fits all with regard to medical treatments, both conventional and alternative/complementary.  It is because each person is so unique that I feel medicine in the future will stop throwing the exact same therapies at each of us to help us heal from breast cancer.

We have already seen a leaning toward that future of medicine with chemosensitivity testing, although it is currently more prevalent in EU countries than here in the US.

Being a natural therapist, I needed to be able to make my healing choices from a combination of both conventional medicine and complementary and alternative medicine.  I was able to choose each modality and combine them to help me get to that healing place quickly and because I had the breast cancer background already (having gone through it with both grandmother and mother) and had studied it so intensively, I felt very blessed and fortunate to have those healing choices.

Honoring Choices

I believe it’s important to honor the wellness choices every person makes and to respect their religious and spiritual beliefs, even if they are quite different from our own.  Many doctors don’t take these important differences into consideration though – some act absolutely outrageously if one of us doesn’t follow their recommendations to the finest detail.

What Are They Thinking?

My own very good oncologist, although baffled at me sometimes, respected my decisions and did his level best not to say things like “You’ll come to regret that decision” or “Well, if you get it back again, don’t expect me to treat you.”  Amazingly, other cancer patients hear those statements all too frequently.

One of my subscribers was told by her oncologist that she was a “dead woman walking”.  That kind of negative, defeating statement fills me with rage!

It’s a pity that so many treatment providers tend to believe that the therapies they offer are the ONLY ones that should be considered.  I know they do their best, but what I’ve discovered is that the answers to healing come from many different directions.

It is so very important to have doctors and natural therapists that really hear you, respect you as a separate human being, and treat you accordingly.

Trusting Our Inner Wisdom

We need to trust our inner wisdom with any healing choices. Pay attention to your differences and make the best choice for you.  This is your journey and your body and you have every right to choose what happens.  Choice may be the only true power that we have during this difficult journey with breast cancer.

Can I Help You?

If I can help you on your path, I’m honored to do so.  I have years and years of experience with breast cancer, going through it with my mother, myself in 2004, and with dozens of coaching clients. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark Breast Health Coach) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey.  I also having coaching available to you, as well as How-To Courses. Lastly I’d like to share this quote from Buddha (this also appears on my “How I Can Help” page):

“Don’t blindly believe what I say. Don’t believe me because others convince you of my words. Don’t believe anything you see, read, or hear from others, whether of authority, religious teachers or texts. Don’t rely on logic alone, nor speculation. Don’t infer or be deceived by appearances.  Do not give up your authority and follow blindly the will of others. This way will only lead to delusion.  Find out for yourself what is truth, what is real. Discover that there are virtuous things and there are non-virtuous things. Once you have discovered for yourself, give up the bad and embrace the good.”

Beside you in the healing journey,

Please Don’t Needlessly Lose Your Breasts to Mastectomy

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and marin

Image source: freedigitalphotos.net and marin

While I was doing my research for yesterday’s article, I came across an article concerning needless mastectomy, a matter of which I was blissfully unaware.  Today I’m sharing that with you because you need to know.

Women are often enduring mastectomies for no good reason.

I’m not saying it’s always the case, but by the time you’ve finished this article, hopefully you’ll know the best reasons for having a mastectomy and when you should go after a second opinion.

On October 27, 2012, Nicholas Regush of ABC News wrote “While we hear news almost daily of the need for women to have mammograms and to inspect their breasts for changes that could suggest breast cancer, the actual treatment for breast cancer that many women receive, especially poor ones, is often outrageously out-of-date, if not bordering on the criminal.”  Here’s a link to the full article.

The article goes on to state, “In Texas, for example, a study of breast cancer treatment at one large urban hospital revealed that 84 percent of the women with early stage breast cancer had mastectomies and only 16 percent had lumpectomies. The women who lost their breasts were mostly poor.”

Mr Regush referenced an article written by Diana Zuckerman, President of the Washington, DC-based National Research Center for Women and Families.  The article was published in the Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association.  Despite much digging, I wasn’t able to get hold of a copy of that article, but I did discover that Ms Zuckerman has been extremely proactive with the Breast Cancer Public Education Campaign.

Because many women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have all the facts they need to get the treatment that is best for them, the National Research Center has been working to raise awareness of this issue.

Unnecessary Mastectomies

What I discovered from some of the online articles I read was that if a doctor was trained before 1981, his patient is much more likely to have a mastectomy. Apparently, old medical habits are hard to break.

Research is clear that lumpectomies are as safe as a mastectomy for most women with early stage disease.

Back in my grandmother’s day, nearly every woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer underwent mastectomy, often while under anesthesia for the biopsy itself with no participation in a discussion about treatment options.  How fortunate we are that this is no longer the case.

However, tens of thousands of women with breast cancer are losing a breast (sometimes both) unnecessarily each year.  Many women are getting their breasts removed for no good reason — meaning that such decisions are often not based on sound medical judgment but more on the basis of other factors such as her income (it’s cheaper to perform a mastectomy than lumpectomy followed by expensive radiation treatments), the training of her doctor, the age of her doctor, and where she lives.  Sometimes it’s based purely on fear of the return of the disease.

There is absolutely no data that mastectomy (either single or bilateral) in a breast cancer patient improved survival rates or helped them live longer.  It appears that many women are doing this in panic mode.

Mastectomy vs Lumpectomy

Presuming you have already found a breast lump and your doctor has told you it’s malignant, you will need to make the decision between a mastectomy and lumpectomy.

There’s a helpful article in www.breastcancer.org titled Mastectomy vs Lumpectomy.  Please read the article, it references the deciding factors, advantages and disadvantages, and there’s no need for me to reiterate it here.

When Mastectomy Makes Sense

  • If the tumor is big and, after the lumpectomy, very little breast tissue would remain
  • If there are multiple tumors in more than one quadrant of the breast
  • If you do not want to undergo radiation therapy after the surgery (and you don’t have to – I chose against radiation after my lumpectomy but I was very proactive in my health care and chose something else)
  • If you believe you will have less anxiety about a recurrence of breast cancer with a mastectomy

There is an alarming trend of more and more women removing healthy breasts because they are panicked or in fear of breast cancer returning or migrating to the other breast.  In some cases, doctors recommend prophylactic mastectomy, which is surgery that is performed to reduce your breast cancer risk.  That is a whole, huge topic unto itself and the subject of my next article.

While I can’t tell you what to do, I do want you to be aware that YOU HAVE CHOICES.  Please don’t choose mastectomy purely out of fear.  Sign up for my newsletters (use the colored box on the right) and allow my experience to gently  help you through this process.  It is my honor to walk with you on this journey.

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