Guest Post: Three easy ways to support your friend diagnosed with cancer

By Marissa Henley, local cancer survivor and author of Loving Your Friend Through Cancer

Has this happened to you? Your phone buzzes, and you look down to see a call from a friend who’s expecting biopsy results.

The minute you hear her voice, you know: it’s cancer.

As you process your shock, sadness and fear, you wonder how you should walk this road with your friend. How will you support her as she endures treatment and survivorship? How will you avoid doing or saying the wrong thing? What does she need most?

loving your friend through cancer, marissa henleyI’ve gotten that phone call from a friend. I’ve also been the tearful voice on the other end of the line. In October 2010, I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called angiosarcoma.

I endured several months of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, most of which took place at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. My besties kept my household running, meals showed up three times a week, and the prayers of thousands encouraged and sustained me.

I wish every cancer-fighter could feel as loved and supported as I was. But too often, friends lack confidence and hesitate to reach out with supportive words and actions. If you haven’t already had a friend face cancer, it’s likely you will.

When that phone call comes, here are three simple ways to love your friend through cancer:

1. Don’t just “like” her updates—leave a comment.

Does your friend post online updates to a blog or social media site? You could “like” her post (and please do!), but she won’t be certain you actually read it. Commenting on her updates is a simple way to show support and doesn’t require her to respond.

Writing a comment can feel risky if you don’t know what to say. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Short comments are fine!
  • Keep your comments about her, not about you. This isn’t the time to tell her how upset you are about her illness.
  • Acknowledge what’s happening: “I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been feeling sick lately!”
  • Let her know you care: “I’m praying for you and your family.”

2. Make specific offers of help and let her tell you “no.”

Your friend with cancer will hear this over and over again: “Let me know how I can help!” She knows many of these offers come from a sincere desire to serve; others are flippant words spoken by someone who doesn’t know what else to say.

You can prove your sincerity by making your offer as specific as possible. Think about where your lives intersect and how you can help.

  • Do you drive by her child’s preschool on your way to work? Are your kids on the same soccer team? You could offer to give her child a ride.
  • Do you have a specific pocket of free time each week when you could commit to serving her? Ask what she needs during that time—offer to clean her house or take her to run errands if she’s unable to drive.
  • Are you a terrible cook with terrific technological skills? Offer to set up a master meal calendar and then sign yourself up to bring her take-out!

Once you’ve made your offer, let her tell you “no.” She may not be ready to accept help. She may be clinging to as much normalcy as possible, for herself or for her kids. If she turns you down, tell her you’ll check in with her again in a few weeks to see if things have changed. Make a note to follow up later with another specific offer.

3. Let her know you’re with her for the long haul. 

After my diagnosis, I kept apologizing to my friends. The next several months would be difficult for them, and I hated that reality.

One of my friends finally sat me down and said: “Marissa, you say this is an assignment from the Lord. Well, He didn’t give this assignment only to you. He gave it to us as well.”

Because of her comment and many others, I knew my friends were with me for the long haul, no matter what. I didn’t have to worry that when the newness of my crisis wore off, they would move on.

You can love your friend through cancer by repeatedly letting her know you’re with her. Text her and say, “You’re not alone in this! I’m praying for you.” Let her know you’re by her side for as long as she needs you. Even if her treatment is brief, she will need emotional support as a survivor, too.

Your friend needs your compassionate support. Show her your concern by responding to her updates. Make specific offers and act on them if she accepts. And be a friend she can rely on for as long as it takes.

Marissa Henley headshotMore about Marissa: Marissa Henley, author of Loving Your Friend Through Cancer, is a follower of Christ, wife, mom, and cancer survivor who writes about faith, friendship, and cancer at www.marissahenley.com. Most days, you’ll find her drinking a latte while shuttling her three kids around in a minivan, wondering if the dog will ever learn to stay and if she’ll ever love cooking as much as her husband loves eating.

 

Looking for something? We’ve updated our Moms’ Business Directory!

biz directory mastheadA few years after we launched nwaMotherlode.com, we started to get lots of emails from moms who were on the hunt for a certain kind of business. Some of the moms were new to the area and learning their way around. Some had been here forever but were new to motherhood. All of them wanted to find out about solid, mom-friendly companies that could help them out with what they needed — everything from bakeries to veterinarians.

We answered all these emails with our best recommendations, and then we decided that the best way to help out would be to put together a searchable database so moms would have an easy way to find local companies, organized by category. The result? The Moms’ Business Directory.

We know you’ve seen directories before. What makes this one different is that we include ALL of the local businesses we can find in each category, and we give you their name, address and phone number so it’s easy for mamabizdirectoryyou to contact them. (Many directories won’t include info about a company unless they pay for it.) But we wanted local moms to have as much info as possible, regardless of the company’s ability to pay.

You’ll notice that some of the listings in the directory have more info than others. (For example, some listings include reviews by local parents. They’ll also give you a short description of what that company offers as well as a link to the company website.) Companies who want you to have as much info as possible pay a little extra for these expanded or premium listings. (If you own or manage one of the companies in our directory and want to make your listing more comprehensive and “clickable,” just email us and we’ll give you info on how to do it.)

Below is a screen shot of one of the pages in the Moms’ Business Directory. Remember you can always find a quick link to the directory on the top-right corner of our homepage. Just click it and then begin a search by category and/or city. It’s easy to use and it’s completely mobile-friendly.

NOTE: We’ve spent the past several months updating the Moms’ Business Directory to ensure that the information is as accurate as possible. We’ve added new businesses, deleted closed ones and changed addresses for companies that have moved recently. As you can imagine, keeping a database of this size updated is an ongoing challenge, so if you see something that needs to be revised, we’d love it if you’d shoot us an email to let us know. If there’s a category that you’d like us to add, send us a note about that, too.

We hope you’ll love the new and improved Moms’ Business Directory and use it often to get connected to local companies. (Tell new moms about it, too!) Check it out by clicking HERE and let us know what you think!!

Biz directory orthodontists 2016 resized

How do you get your child to give up her pacifer?

We’ve all been there.

The pacifier/binky really needs to go, but your kid is saying no way. So how does a mom to get her child to willingly give it up?

Well, our photographer friend, Melinda Worthington, used a clever trick when her daughter, Clary,  turned 3. Super smart!

Mindy took Clary to Build-A-Bear at the Pinnacle Hills Promenade Mall to say goodbye to her binky.

Clary picked out an adorable kitty, watched it get stuffed, then slowly and somewhat reluctantly placed the heart inside…along with her last pacifier. Just look at these sweet pictures:

Clary pics

#growinguptoofast #sobrave

Mindy says she’s still doing well without her binky and has not performed a binky-otomy on the kitty so far.

Best Books for Christmas 2015: Ideas for what to read or gift to others

wrapped gift

By Marci Tate, local mom and library media specialist at Vandergriff Elementary

It’s the holiday season, so that must mean it is time for something great to read!

Here are few suggestions for everyone on your list.

For the Kiddos:

Lego books are some of the most popular books in our elementary library. We can’t keep them on the shelf!

awesome ideas, legoThe latest Lego book to hit the shelves is called Awesome Ideas. It is filled with helpful building advice, builder secrets and showstoppers. This book has appeal for all ages. Colorful photos to discover new ideas and techniques for every builder make this a fun purchase.

A very popular series in our library is the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis. The author takes the reader to big events in history and tells the story of a fictional elementary age kid surviving that event. She has done her research, so the stories have an authentic feel for the reader. It would be hard to say which one is the most popular in our library as all of them are constantly checked out. For someone just starting out with the series, try I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 or I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912. Recommended for 3rd grade and up.

Whether you have already read Harry Potter ten times, or are just picking it up for the first time, don’t miss Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Illustrated Edition. Coming in at over 250 pages, it is not something light to carry around in a backpack. Instead, this is something to savor over with its beautifully illustrated pages. This is the complete book with illustrations added by award winning artist Jim Kay. I see this as a collectible to enjoy for many years to come. Be watching for each book to have its own illustrated edition in the future.

As always, one of the best ideas during the holiday season is to buy fun books to complement the interests of the child/tween/teen. For those who love to cook, try The Complete Children’s Cookbook from DK Publishers. For the Star Wars fans, try Star Wars Absolutely Everything You Need to Know by Adam Bray.

For the sports fans, try Sports Illustrated Kids the Top 10 of Everything in Sports.

For the Grown-Ups:

One of the most unusual books that I read this year was The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom. It is the journey of a man’s lifetime and all of the lives he touches along the way. Don’t give up on this one when you get started because it all comes together along the way. This is the kind of book that sticks with you and you will always remember that “everyone joins a band in this life”.

humans of NYFor the person who has everything, I would suggest Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton. For those not familiar with this author, he started an ambitious project in 2010 to take a “photographic census” of the citizens of New York. After it started, he began also adding interviews with his subjects. He now has over 12 million followers on social media. This book is a recap of some of the photographs with interviews. It is a fascinating book. (There is some adult language in a few of the interviews).

If you have a friend or family member who enjoys cooking, but doesn’t want anything too complicated, then try The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime. This one is a bit different than her other cookbooks in that it features very easy fixes with some that you can make ahead. As always, she has great photographs of each step of the process for each recipe. While some of the recipes are fairly common, others will inspire to try something new – my family tried the Pawhuska Cheese Steak sandwiches and they were a hit (plus really easy to make with your own alterations).

For Everyone on your list:

One of the little daily pleasures in life is to open the mailbox and pull out a magazine (instead of those dreaded bills). For kids, it is a real treat to get something addressed just to them.

Magazine subscriptions make a great gift idea and it is a gift that continues to give all year. I like to buy the current issue and fix it up with a special note telling the recipient they can enjoy 12 (or whatever number) more issues for a full year. Pair it with something fun like a mug, cocoa, slippers or warm socks, or just slip it into the stocking.

catsterFor the younger readers try one of these: Sports Illustrated for Kids, Discovery Girls, American Girl, Boys Life. For the pet lover (or the young reader) try Dogster or Catster (formerly Dog Fancy and Cat Fancy).

For the men in your life, look for something that interests from sports to hunting to automobiles.

For the women in your life try one of these: HGTV Magazine, All You, More, AllRecipes. If you shop carefully, sometimes you can find a deal where you can bundle two magazines for the price of one (I recently saw a deal for House Beautiful and Country Living bundled together for one year subscription for the one price of $15).

Marci Tate of Fayetteville is a busy wife, mom of two boys, avid reader (when time allows) and Library Media Specialist at Vandergriff Elementary School.

The mammogram was clear, but a Sonocine exam found breast cancer

terri with family

Guest post by Terri Mallioux, mama of Trevor and breast cancer survivor

Summer-Remix4I could hear the laughter outside my kitchen door as teenagers were in the midst of celebrating my son’s 16th birthday and the beginning of their summer break. After the long, cold winter, everyone was looking forward to sun, fun and a little down time.

As I was peering out the window watching my son and his friends interact, the phone rang. It was at that point my plans for the summer took a dramatic shift.

“Mrs. Mallioux?”

“Yes,” I responded.

“This is the Breast Center,” the woman said.  “We need you to come in for some additional testing. We have some time at 1 p.m. today.”

My heart briefly stopped.  I had just had a mammogram 11 weeks earlier and it was all clear.  Then it dawned on me — I had opted to have an additional test at my own expense and I realized it was that test the clinic was calling about.

So there I was, 11 weeks after a “normal” mammogram, on my son’s 16th birthday, waiting in the Breast Center of Northwest Arkansas for further tests.

In all honesty, I was thinking to myself, “Surely this is just a false alarm. After all, false positives happen all the time. Remember Terri, you’ve had call-backs before and your mammogram was fine just weeks ago. You’re only 47.”

It didn’t take long for me to know this wasn’t just another doctor’s visit. The seriousness of what doctors had seen on my Sonociné exam, otherwise known as Automated Whole Breast Ultrasound, was palpable.

I looked at the doctor and ultrasound technician while I lay on the table and said, “Is it cancer?” as I stared at the irregular shaped black blob on the ultrasound monitor. The doctor said, “There are many characteristics that don’t look good. But the good news is it’s small.” She stressed the word “small” as to reassure me.

I walked out of the office and I knew. I had breast cancer. I didn’t even need to wait for the results of the biopsy scheduled for the next day. My summer plans had changed. My life had changed. And despite the magnitude of the moment, I felt a feeling of pure thankfulness; I was filled with relief; I was grateful; I was proud of myself.

The source of those feelings was due to the fact I had chosen to have a voluntary Sonociné exam at my own expense. That decision and that test could have saved my life.

I have known for years that I have extremely dense breast tissue because I have had a few breast ultrasounds and doctors have always commented on it. Dense breast tissue is comprised of less fat and more fibrous and glandular tissue making it harder to spot cancerous tumors on a mammogram.

Think of it as trying to find a pearl in a pile of snow — cancerous tumors appear white on a mammogram (the pearl) while the dense breast tissue also appears white (the snow).  In others words, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, for doctors to “see” a tumor via mammogram in women with extremely dense breast tissue.

A few facts:

  • denseMore than forty percent of all women have dense breast tissue.¹
  • Mammography misses every other cancer in dense breasts.²
  • Breast density is one of the strongest predictors of the failure of mammography screening to detect cancer.³
  • Breast density is a well-established predictor of breast cancer risk.⁴
  • Cancer turns up five times more often in women with extremely dense breasts than those with fatty tissue.³
  • Two-thirds of pre-menopausal women and one-fourth of post-menopausal women have dense breast tissue.³
  • Doctors have spoken to less than one in 10 women about breast density.⁵

You likely are asking yourself, “How do I know if I have fatty breasts or dense breasts?” A radiologist determines your breast density by viewing your mammogram.

There are four levels that doctors use to categorize breast density:

  • The breasts are almost entirely fatty
  • There are scattered areas of fibroglandular density
  • The breasts are heterogeneously dense, which may obscure small masses
  • The breasts are extremely dense, which lowers the sensitivity of mammography

If you’re curious while having your mammogram, simply ask the technician performing your exam. My philosophy is it’s your health, the least you can do is ask! You can also request of copy of your radiology mammography report from your referring doctor and look for the descriptions of your breast tissue. You’ll likely learn more about your breasts than you ever dreamed.

I applaud the Breast Center of Northwest Arkansas and other clinics locally and nationwide that are voluntarily informing women of their breast density on their post-mammogram letters to patients.

My post-mammogram letter which notified me of “normal” results also said this:

“Your mammogram shows that you have dense breast tissue. Since dense tissue can hide small abnormalities, you may benefit from having an Automated Whole Breast Ultrasound (AWBUS) exam. This examination is specifically designed for women with dense breast tissue like yours. Using Automated Whole Breast Ultrasound in combination with screening mammograms may find significantly more breast cancers in women with dense breasts than mammograms alone.”

This notification was the push I needed to get an additional examination. Sonociné is not a replacement for screening mammography. However, studies show an ultrasound examination, in conjunction with a mammogram, can find more cancers in dense-breasted women than if doctors rely on the mammogram results alone. I am proof of that.

Fortunately, 20 states now have state breast density reporting laws mandating breast density information must be included in a patient’s mammogram reporting results. Unfortunately, Arkansas is not currently one of those states. We have work to do! Federal legislation was introduced in are you dense logoJuly in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Kelly Ayotte following a companion bill introduced in the House by Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Rep. Steve Israel. The goal of the Breast Density and Mammography Reporting Act is to have a national standard of reporting breast density to patients. The bill would set a minimum federal standard for notification and recommend women discuss with their doctors whether additional screening is necessary.

The bill also directs Health and Human Services to study improved screening options for women with dense tissue. It is supported by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the Breast Cancer Fund, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Are You Dense Advocacy. Dr. Nancy Cappello, founder and director of Are You Dense Advocacy, Inc., and the inspiration behind the first density reporting law in the country says, “A national standard will ensure that every woman across this country is given critical breast health information as part of her mammography report.”

Sen. Feinstein adds, “Early detection of breast cancer is key to survival. By requiring that patients be informed if they have dense tissue, this bill allows women to make potentially lifesaving choices about their care.”

terriAt the time of my diagnosis, I was the 8th patient out of more than 800 that underwent a Sonociné exam at the Breast Center of Northwest Arkansas that was diagnosed with cancer following a “normal” mammogram. We are a special bunch. And we are a group that can make an impact on your health and awareness.

I am currently cancer-free and feel great following a lumpectomy and radiation treatment. I remember vividly asking one of my doctors how long it would have been before my tumor was spotted on a mammogram had I hadn’t have had the ultrasound procedure. He said it likely would have been at least two years and I would have been dealing with a much more difficult cancer to treat.

We all know early detection of breast cancer is of the utmost importance. And simply asking, “Am I dense?” can make all the difference in your medical care and your life.

For more information, visit www.areyoudense.org or www.sonocine.com.

Data cited in this article derived from: ¹ Breast Center of Northwest Arkansas ² Breg et al, JAMA: 2012 ³ Are You Dense, Inc. ⁴ Journal of National Cancer Institute ⁵ Harris Interactive Survey: 2010