Breast cancer, Breast Cancer Action, Breast cancer research, Family, Health, Healthy choices, Inspiration

Don’t Pink for Me: “Poison Isn’t Pretty”

Breast Cancer Action campaign
Breast Cancer Action campaign


Every October, the autumn leaves turn golden, the sycamores lose their leaves, and the color PINK is everywhere.

After 30 years of breast cancer “awareness,” have we found a cure? No.

What we have found are three thousand more PINK products, many of which contain carcinogens found to negatively influence cancer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for surviving breast cancer. I’m indebted to all of those who have contributed time and money to BC research. I proudly wore “pink” the first two years, like some lucky talisman to help me in my travels down the pit of despair.

What gets to me is the commercialization and big corporations making a buck or ten off pink buckets of chicken, yogurt and toilet paper.

And it sure as hell doesn’t impress me when the NFL cheerleaders dress in pink shorts and rattle pink pom-poms. (According to Business Insider, only 8% of the money from NFL pink merchandise goes to the American Cancer Society).

Now look at this 2015 news:

Recently, some of our members living with breast cancer asked us to look into the cosmetics used in a program for cancer patients called Look Good, Feel Better®.

Look Good, Feel Better is run by the Personal Care Products Council, the largest national trade group for the cosmetics industry, and the American Cancer Society, the nation’s largest cancer charity. They hold free workshops that give beauty tips and complimentary makeup kits to women in cancer treatment—support that some women understandably value while facing a cancer diagnosis.

Look Good, Feel Better bagThe downside? Many of the products offered to women in Look Good, Feel Better kits contain chemicals linked to increased cancer risk, including parabens, Teflon, and formaldehyde releasers.

As if that’s not bad enough, some of the chemicals in Look Good, Feel Better products may actually interfere with breast cancer treatment. For example, methylparaben has been found to both increase breast cancer risk by mimicking the hormone estrogen and interfere with the common cancer drug Tamoxifen.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve tried really hard to keep free of toxins in my food, hygiene, and cleaning products. Shouldn’t a corporation seeking to help survivors do the same?

These corporations make big money off pink products. Where does it go? Some of it goes to the American Cancer Society, or other breast cancer organizations. Like the donations from the NFL, these organizations may receive less than 10% of your purchase.

According to Charity Navigator,

…only 71.2 percent of money the ACS receives goes towards its programs. Last time I checked, the program expenses number now sits at 60.6 percent.

Compare this to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation which, according to Charity Navigator, spends 91.9 percent of its funds towards program expenses and its services.

If corporations want to really help, they can give money to research and provide services for underserved communities and community health clinics.

Charity Navigator gives this advice:

So, how do you evaluate which cause-related marketing efforts are worth purchasing? Start by asking these questions: click this link.


Cause Marketing
Cause Marketing

If you’d like to help fund research look for those organizations with a mission to do research or focus on the root causes of the disease, like Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation or Breast Cancer Action

While you’re at it, sign a petition or two to encourage legislation which will help those with breast cancer and please use as few toxic chemicals as possible.

So now that I’m done, for the year, with this issue, I’d like to thank my friends and relatives who were there for me when I had breast cancer:

A listening ear, a hug, ice cream, a book, a joke, a phone call, a pretty card meant the world to me and kept me going. I’ll always remember your kindness.

Source: Tell These Pinkwashers: “Poison Isn’t Pretty”

Breast cancer, Cancer, Health

Cancer, 10 Years Later

kick forward


Yesterday, was Cancer Survivor’s Day. The day reminded me of my own experience with cancer.

The National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation defines a survivor as “anyone living with a history of cancer–from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life.”

June 8, 2005 is one of two dates I remember from my experience. The other is the date of my last chemotherapy, November 28, 2005. That is the date I considered myself cancer free.

The day I returned from my honeymoon, I had a message on the message machine. Two days later, on June 8th, I (and the now former husband) sat in my doctor’s office. She squirmed in her chair. After a slight sigh, her eyes traveled to my own. “I’m so sorry to tell you this, but you have breast cancer.”

After that her lips moved but I heard no sound. I became temporarily deaf. My brain tripped on the word cancer and didn’t get up for minutes.

A chair squeaked, my arm nudged, her voice again. I felt myself enveloped in a teary hug. Her tears, not mine.

There are few things like that word cancer to flip your world upside down. Initially, I thought the worse outcome; especially since all of my mother’s siblings died of cancer.

Suffering, death, fear of leaving my three young teenaged kids filled my mind. I know these feelings filled the minds of my children and loved one’s too.

Gradually, I found my life turned right side up, clicking up from the bottom, like I was in a giant Ferris wheel basket, swaying, until I reached the top, able to see the view again.

I didn’t fully enjoy the feeling though as fear of dropping down again, into an abyss, clouded the view. And drop I have, a few times, in the past 10 years.

I seemed to slide in and out of the stages of grief for two to three years. There were no timelines or completion dates, just anxiety and no anxiety; fear and no fear.

These feelings are reproduced, to a much lesser extent, whenever I go for a mammogram, MRI, or PET Scan.

Days turned into months which inched towards years until I felt my momentum again. I’m aware I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m blessed to have had family and some very good friends help me through my time with cancer.

Now, I’m looking forward to one of the commitments I made to myself. (This is one of my ‘to-do’s’ on my bucket list). On my 10th year of cancer free life, I’d get another tattoo to symbolize the anniversary.

A year after treatment finished, I went down to a tattoo professional who my daughter knew and had a tattoo inked over the porta-cath scars above my breast. The butterfly symbolizes transformation and rebirth, the dogwood blossoms endurance and mortality.

1 yr. anniversary tattoo
1 yr. anniversary tattoo

I don’t know what my 10 year anniversary symbol will be or where. What I do know is I will celebrate again and continue to hope for a cure.






Health, Writers, writing tips

Five Ways to Prevent #Writers Butt


Sitting is the New Smoking
Sitting Too Much?

“Sitting is the new smoking…” Dr. Christine Northrup

I caught the tail end (no pun intended) of Dr. Northrup’s PBS talk on aging the other day. She told the audience that decline and deterioration doesn’t have to accompany aging.

Middle age spread, in your stomach and your derrière is not de rigueur. Worse, those two things age us and are detrimental to our health.

Most of us sit too long. Okay, I sit way too long. So when I heard “Sitting is the new smoking,” I paid attention. It was time for some self-care.

I also looked at my backside in the mirror, for more than a second. Yikes, winter and writing equals more than Kim K has behind her (pun intended).

Writers, in particular, type away for hours, research, scan social media, check out blogs, all while sitting.

We embrace the BICHOK

Butts In Chair Hands On Keys

Well, not anymore. Here are five ways to prevent writer’s butt:

1. Every 55 minutes stand and stretch for five.

Stretch your arms over your head, to the right, to the left. Here’s the standing side stretch and one for the back. Do a chair squat or arm circles.

2. Dr. Northrup’s 20 second move.

I really like this one, but recommend that you stretch your legs and arms for a couple of minutes first or you could pull a muscle. Run in place, fast, for 20 seconds while moving your arms. Think of that old Charleston dance. If you’re really serious, do this for one minute.

3. Use a standing desk.

You don’t have to go out and buy a $500 IKEA desk or a standing treadmill. This guy has a DIY version for less than $22.

4-Just walk.

Push away from the desk and go for a walk. It doesn’t matter if it’s down the hall, around your office, to the kitchen, to your backyard, up and down the stairs. Just do it for three to five minutes.

5-Two minute yoga stretch.

If you’re a beginner, take this slow and build up.

And now for the bonus tip:


From Ploughshares Journal:

Hook up your laptop to a pedaling system. If you stop pedaling, you lose the document. If you hit your optimal heart rate, you win thirty seconds of Facebook time. Reaching your calorie goal will unlock spell-check.

These tips can take you through five hours of writing and sitting. If you’re doing any more than that amount in a day, I suggest you perform all of the exercises in Ploughshare’s Calisthenics for Writers.

Feel free to share any of your tips.


Books, Encouragement, Health, Wisdom, Writing

Is Your Well Dry?

Dry Bucket-Marco Vacca
Dry Bucket-Marco Vacca

Feeling a little dry today?

Burnt out, used up?

I am. It’s been a full week.

Maybe you feel like this, too.

This morning I woke up too early, barely four o’clock. I fumbled for a book from the eight on my nightstand. I didn’t particularly care which one, I just wanted to fall asleep again.

My fingers chose Julia Cameron’s book “The Right Way to Write.” I hadn’t read this book for a few days. I had used the book cover as a marker, so I opened it to the last place I had read.

The title of the chapter was “The Well.”

“As writers (insert your word choice: mom, dad, student…)we draw on an inner fund of images that I call ‘the well’…an inner pond, one that must be kept both stocked and free flowing. We have simply overfished our inner reservoir…”


“YES,” I blurted out, there in my bed, and waited for a second wondering if I had awakened my son in the next bedroom.

“Yes, I’ve overfished,” my words now in a murmur.

There is no more fish, and the water has evaporated much like that in my beautiful terracotta fountain in the patio, neglected during this cold season.

Imagine your mind, body or soul emptied. Not a healthy picture.

To restock the pond, Cameron suggests an “Artist Date.” You can name it a “Mom Date, Me Date, Dad Date,” but whatever you call it, it’s for you alone. It’s a once a week date for one hour. Your AD or MD must be a solitary expedition to some event or place that interests you: a museum, the garden nursery, a movie, etc.

Go alone, that’s the deal.

You are to romance, flirt, court, woo your creative consciousness. Allow yourself to soak up the images, aromas, colors, textures, sounds. This is self-care, nothing to feel guilty about.

You don’t have to document anything on paper. Just BE THERE. 

You are there to fill up your well, not fish from it.

Makes sense to me. I fell back asleep for 90 minutes.

In the early morning I peeked into my backyard filled with shadows of slate grey sky and flicked on the patio light. The wet flagstone surrounding my triple fountain brightened up.

After an hour, with hot coffee in a gloved hand, bundled in a bathrobe with my tennis shoes on I visited my fountain. Rainwater filled the smaller bowls up with some in the largest bowl.

I hit the switch, sat down and listened to the water move up the center, over the top spout, trickle to the mid bowl, spill into the last. I sat for half hour, just listening to my well filling up. The air chilly, but it was worth it to be out there. (I’ll go back for another half hour later on today).

Right now I’m reflecting on the sound and image of one of those old-fashioned wooden waterwheels, its baskets dipping into a slow running river, scooping up water on a bright blue skied day. When the basket moves to the top it sprays cool water over me. My dry skin turns moist. My emptiness fills. I feel replenished. So much so that I’m now a mermaid.

Mermaid-Maria Bell
Mermaid-Maria Bell

Now go find some place to fill up your well and have a delightful weekend.