A Neuroscientist Lost Her Mind From Cancer. Shes Not Alone.

Barbara Lipska was already a two-time cancer survivor when her hand disappeared in front of her face in 2015.

The neuroscientist and director of the Human Brain Collection Core at the National Institute of Mental Health specializes in studying schizophrenia. When she moved her right hand and it disappeared, she immediately predicted her eventual diagnosis.

I thought right away: brain tumor, she told The Daily Beast. But I quickly expelled it. I didnt have time for brain tumors.

Lipska, whose book The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness and Recovery was published on April 3, had already faced her own mental health challenges in the wake of battling breast cancer in 2009, then melanoma in 2011. She sought psychotherapy at the recommendation of her daughter.

Shes not alone in needing help as a cancer patient. According to the American Cancer Society, feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common in people with cancer, and up to one in 4 people with cancer have clinical depression.

I didnt have time for brain tumors.
Barbara Lipska, neuroscientist and author

The mental health issues Lipska started experiencing in 2015 were extreme. There was the vision issue, her disappearing hand, and the suddenly unrecognizable faces of colleagues. There was also her memoryforgetting where she lived while out on a run and an impaired awareness of having to urinate, leading her to pee her pants. And there was also her changing personality, breakdowns and overall failure to see that she was experiencing these things. Lipska, whose entire career revolved around these kinds of behaviors caused by mental health disorders, suddenly started experiencing them herself.

Lipskas brain tumors were metastases, secondary malignant growths in the brain that were a result of her melanoma. Her largest tumor was the size of an almond. According to the American Brain Tumor Association, melanoma is a common cancer to metastasize to the brain, along with lung, breast, and colon.

One of Lipskas doctors, Ayal Aizer, M.D., a radiation oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, told The Daily Beast that there are a number of elements to consider when patients are diagnosed with metastases, namely the location of their tumors, which eventually defines how they manifest. Lipskas tumors inhabited her brains frontal cortex, which, she writes in her book, determines who humans are.

Even if theyre small, theres a psychological aspect of having cancer in the brain which is very difficult to digest and ultimately cope with, and in addition to that, some patients who have brain metastases actually have symptoms that can impair what we value most in life like vision, coordination or speech or walking and the ability to think clearly and digest information, he said.

It really can significantly impact the life.

Aizer said that a patients mental healthcare is dictated by what they want or express in their unique needs. Sometimes, patients like to stick to strictly medical facts when dealing with oncologists; other times, they want to have an all-hands-on-deck approach, with psychologists, psychiatrists, even family therapists. The goal is to help patients process their mental and neurological issues, digest it, cope with it.

Sometimes we can bring in speech and language and occupational therapists, and I think just having the opportunity to sit with a mental health professional in the office for an hour where were not talking about chemo or immunotherapy or radiation or surgery and its talking about what life is like, what challenges theyre facing and having someone to sort of listen, serve as a sounding board and come up with strategies to cope is really valuable, Aizer said.

Lipska underwent many different treatments for the metastases, like immunotherapy, radiation, steroids and targeted therapy. And slowly, her clarity came back bit by bit, but she was entirely unaware of how shed behaved, so much so that her family had to fill her in on her behaviors.

Today, Lipska is now in remission. Its been 16 months after the initial findings of her tumors, but shes aware there could be more cancer cells still in her body. Theres also the chance shell develop necrosis, an effect of radiation that destroys healthy brain tissue.

But mostly, Lipska is positive, thankful. Shes happy to have her memory and brain back and to have learned so much from her experience that she can use toward her own work.

Though shes regained her neurological function, she largely associates what she went through with what mentally ill people go through every day.

In the course of losing and regaining my sanity, Ive come to identify with other people who have known mental illnesses firsthand, Lipska said in her book, explaining that the symptoms she exhibited fall in line with diagnoses for dementia, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Despite conducting research on mental illness for over thirty years, I believe it is my own suffering that truly taught me how the brain worksand how profoundly frightening it is when our minds fail.

Lipska said her compassion for those with mental illness is one of the many things this experience left her with.

The brain is an incredibly complex mechanism and we have no idea what happens in people with mental illness, so theres more empathy, it gives rise to more tolerance and more passion toward research in this field and more passion to find a cure, which I spend my life working on.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/a-neuroscientist-lost-her-mind-from-cancer-shes-not-alone

Cancer I could deal with. Losing my breast I could not

When Joanna Moorhead found out she had breast cancer, a mastectomy seemed the best option. So why did she pull out of the operation at the last minute?

Cancer I could deal with. Losing my breast I could not

When Joanna Moorhead found out she had breast cancer, a mastectomy seemed the best option. So why did she pull out of the operation at the last minute?

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/04/cancer-mastectomy-losing-breast-joanna-moorhead

How NASAs Search for Aliens Helped Detect Breast Cancer

Dr. Susan Love was exasperated.

Lovethe chief visionary officer of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, which is focused on breast cancer researchcouldnt figure out how to effectively study breast ducts, where breast cancer often begins. The ducts have a low biomass, taking up a barely readable amount of area and volume.

I got kind of frustrated that we didnt understand very much the anatomy of the breast, Love told The Daily Beast. It hasnt been studied very much. Theres been a study looking at the microbiomes of all the rest of the body, but not the breasts.

It turned out that NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory had a solutionin its Office of Planetary Protection, whose mission includes avoiding the biological contamination of environments that may obscure our ability to find life elsewhereif it exists.

When NASA sends spacecrafts to other planetary bodies and searches for signs of life, the agency follows strict non-contamination protocols to avoid spreading Earthly particles on foreign surfaces and vice versa. Thats important in giving us clear scientific results. Its also a big ask: The technology needs to be clean and able to analyze microscopic levels of biomass.

Thats where JPLs techniques like genomic sequencing came in. Love and her researchers needed a way to analyze DNA in the breasts ductal systems, which contains the glands that produce milk and secrete a substance called nipple aspirate fluid. After analyzing fluids from the breast ductal systems in women who had breast cancer history and women who didnt, researchers found that the community of microorganisms differed significantly between both groups. The presence of the genus Alistipes in the ductal system correlates with a higher chance of breast cancer, though whether these microbes actually cause breast cancer is not yet known. This was the first-ever study of microorganisms in human breast ductal fluid.

In space, these techniques for detecting life and analyzing DNA are used to look at microdiversity on clean or barren surfaces, such as a planet or a spacecraft. Its coolest attribute is the ability to tell whether potential signs of lifeliving or deadare around.

We can extract and look at all types of organisms. We have developed certain types of technology looking at microdiversity on extremely clean surfaces, Parag Vaishampayan, scientist at JPLs Biotechnology and Planetary Protection Group, said. Most of the time, we dont care if its living or dead, but for us, its important for us to understand if its living or not.

This, coincidentally, is also important when studying breast cancer. Currently, researchers must map the DNA from a sample, then subtract the human DNA to find the cancer thats left. However, there may be dead bacteria left over.

Researchers also found that healthy women with no history of breast cancer had higher levels of certain microbes than women with a history of breast cancer. Its possible that theres protective bacteria, but this needs to be investigated further.

The most interesting thing is the bacteria we found in our first study was higher in the healthy tissue compared to the disease tumor tissue, Delphine Lee, a dermatologist at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, said. We found the same bacteria in the nipple aspirate fluid. It was relatively higher in women who were healthy than women who have breast cancer. That doesnt mean anything yet, but that is intriguing. Perhaps you could introduce this bacteria down the duct.

Life detection tools werent the only technology used in breast cancer research. JPLs mapping technology can also be used in mapping the breast ductal systems.

When radar mapping in space, bodies of water appear jet black, so researchers must apply signal processing to map these bodies of water. Using this method, researchers could map the structure of the breast ductal system, even though it has fluids inside, and identify the duct where most breast cancers occur.

This study was part of the Medical Engineering Forum Initiative at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, where JPL scientists worked with medical researchers. Right now, theyre working on applying for funding for further research to better understand the microbiomes in the breast ductal system.

JPLs mapping technology can potentially help detect signs of breast cancer early, as early detection is the best way to prevent it. Right now, researchers are still working on mapping analysis. Ultimately, Love would like to have a 3-D print made of breast ducts.

Breast cancer starts in the lining of the milk duct, Love said. When we do surgery, were pretty blind. If we have a map, we may even just be able to squirt something down the duct and wouldnt even have to operate.

Loves team is currently working on a portable ultrasound that women can use themselves to identify if a lump is benign or not. This could help prevent breast cancer, and Love says this could be a potential collaboration with JPL, as female astronauts could use it to screen themselves.

JPL, for its part, plans to continue collaborating with doctors, as NASAs tools and techniques can be applied to other fields of medical research as well. I believe that the space technology we develop here is not only for space science, Vaishampayan said. Breast cancer research is just one example. I think there are many more fields where we can work with medical researchers.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-nasas-search-for-aliens-helped-detect-breast-cancer

Why Women With Early Signs of Breast Cancer Are Doing Nothing About It

In 2010, Donna Pinto was found to have abnormal cells within the milk ducts of her breast. She was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a condition affecting more than 50,000 American women every year. DCIS isnt dangerous in itself, but it can increase the risk of later invasive breast cancer.

Against her first doctors opinion, Pinto opted for active surveillance for two years after her diagnosis. Then, when there were signs of growth, fear led Pinto to agree to one surgery and then two more, plus seven weeks of daily radiation. She still thinks all of itand particularly the fearwas unnecessary to treat what was always low-risk DCIS.

This diagnosis is devastating womens lives, destroying peoples sanity, said Pinto, who said she lost two years of her life to worry, at a time when she had two young children.

Thats because doctors arent quite sure what to do about DCIS, which is usually detected by mammogram. The mixed messages begin right after diagnosis: Women are told DCIS isnt full-blown cancerbut that they need surgery within the next two weeks. It really isnt anything to worry aboutbut it might turn aggressive and kill them. It probably will go nowherebut they should undergo five to seven weeks of radiation and five to 10 years of hormone therapy to be sure.

DCIS will never lead to life-threatening cancer for many or maybe even the vast majority of those women. But no one knows for sure what those odds are, or how to tell the women who dont need to worry from those who doand so virtually everyone with the diagnosis worries.

Now, a trial underway at dozens of cancer centers across the country is hoping to figure out how dangerous DCIS truly is and for whom. This trial and two others in Europe are exploring whether patients diagnosed with DCIS who seem to be at low risk for invasive cancer can afford to skip immediate treatment, opting instead for active surveillance.

We have better imaging. We have better pathology. We have these biomarkers. We know so much more about immunotherapy, said Dr. Shelley Hwang, the lead investigator of the American trial, called COMET for Comparison of Operative to Monitoring and Endocrine Therapy. But DCIS is still treated the same way it was 40 years ago. Is this really what we want to do for a non-invasive condition? I personally feel we can do better.

But that doesnt mean patients who were aggressively treated for DCIS in the past should second-guess their treatment, said Hwang, also chief of breast surgery at the Duke Cancer Institute. That was the best we had at the time.

In the COMET trial, paid for by the federally-funded Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, some women will be randomly assigned to get surgery, and some to get active surveillance, where they will have semi-annual mammograms to make sure there are no worrisome changes in their breasts.

The same kind of active surveillance approach is taken in prostate, thyroid, and other slow-growing, non-invasive cancer types, said Ann Partridge, an investigator on the trial and an oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Cassandra Xanthos wanted the least invasive option when she was diagnosed with DCIS this past summer. She joined the trial in part because she was overwhelmed by the conflicting treatment information.

Xanthos, a 49-year-old Boston social worker, was randomly selected to undergo a lumpectomy. She and her radiation oncologist decided against radiation, but her doctor recently convinced her to try hormone therapy, to reduce the chances of a recurrence.

To take a pill every day for five years seems a little drastic, said Xanthos, who is still conflicted about how much treatment she should get for a condition that is likely to remain harmless.

To some degree, DCIS is a diagnosis of detection. Before mammograms, there were just few thousand DCIS diagnoses a year, Partridge said. Now, there are 50,000-60,000 a year. Thats probably a good thing for those patients for whom DCIS was going to turn into invasive cancer, she said, but not all those patients would have necessarily developed anything that ever would have been harmful to them.

Hwang said that people need to understand that cancer is not as black and white as theyve always believed.

Theres not that bright dividing line between cancer and non-cancer, she said. Theres a broad spectrum of cancerssome of which are definitely harmless, some of which will lethal, and others in between that may need to be treated but are unlikely to kill.

We should make patients question what the benefit of intervention would be for their particular condition, she said.

Going forward, the aim is to give women more choices, Hwang said. Some cant handle any uncertainty at all. They may still choose to have a mastectomy after a DCIS diagnosis, even after being told it wont increase their chance of survival. Others, like Xanthos and Pinto, will prefer minimal treatment. And others will want something in between.

To help a woman make the best choice for her, Rinaa Punglia, a radiation oncologist at Dana-Farber, is developing a digital decision aid that will be used in the COMET trial. Women will enter details about their diagnosis and information about their age, preferences, and risk tolerance, and the computer will give them the odds for recurrence with each different treatment approach: lumpectomy, lumpectomy with radiation and/or hormone therapy, and mastectomy.

It can be a challenging choice for women, Punglia said, because the survival odds are pretty similar among all the approaches. They still have very, very good outcomes no matter what they choose.

Although it may take another five years to get results, the COMET and other trials are designed to reveal the risks and benefits for active surveillance, as well. Then, women should be able to make an even better-informed choice, Punglia said.

For Donna Pinto, a patient advocate on COMET and founder of a website, DCIS411.com, to support women with DCIS who want a less aggressive treatment approach, that choice cant come soon enough. This trial has been in my opinion long overdue.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-women-with-early-signs-of-breast-cancer-are-doing-nothing-about-it

Julia Louis-Dreyfus shares breast cancer diagnosis

The star of Seinfeld and Veep tweeted a note to praise her glorious support network and fantastic insurance but added that not many women were so lucky

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has revealed that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The Emmy-winning star of Seinfeld and Veep shared a note on Twitter on Thursday to inform her followers while also reminding them of the importance of universal healthcare.

The good news is that I have the most glorious group of supportive and caring family and friends, and fantastic insurance through my union, she wrote. The bad news is that not all women are so lucky, so lets fight all cancers and make universal health care a reality.

The 56-year-old has received support on Twitter from fellow actors Sarah Silverman, Debra Messing, Veep star Tony Hale, Christina Applegate and Michael McKean. According to a statement from HBO, she received the news the day after she won her record-breaking sixth Emmy for playing the lead in HBOs hit comedy Veep. The show is set to finish at the end of next season. That decision was not influenced by the diagnosis.

Our love and support go out to Julia and her family at this time, a statement from HBO reads. We have every confidence she will get through this with her usual tenacity and undaunted spirit, and look forward to her return to health and to HBO for the final season ofVeep.

Louis-Dreyfuss plea for universal healthcare comes after other political statements criticizing the decisions being made by the Republican party. My father fled religious persecution in Nazi-occupied France, Dreyfus said at the SAG awards earlier this tear. Im an American patriot, and I love this country. Because I love this country, I am horrified by its blemishes, and this immigrant ban is a blemish and its un-American.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/sep/28/julia-louis-dreyfus-breast-cancer-diagnosis

This Grandma Greeted Soldiers with Hugs for 12 YearsWhen She Wasnt There, They Had to Find Her

She had given them over half a million hugs…

Since 2003, Elizabeth Laird has made it her mission to hug soldiers as they deploy and return to Fort Hood/III Corp Installation.

Affectionately known as the “Hug Lady,” the 83-year-old has developed a band of loving followers over the years as she goes to the airport to pay her respects to each military member with a warm embrace.She’s even got her own Facebook page.

It’s a small act, but it’s had massive impact.

Over the 12-year span, the local hero has actually given over half a million hugs. The troops had come to expect her.

But then one day, she wasn’t there…

What many didn’t know is that Elizabeth has hadbreast cancer for the last 11 years. Recently, she’s been admitted to the intensive care unit as she fights yet another round in her cancer battle.

Even though she’s been at war with her own health battle over the last decade, she’s still made it her goal to send off and welcome home our brave troops. And so they wanted to return the favor.

Because she couldn’t come to them, the men and women of Fort Hood are coming to Elizabeth, giving her the warmest bedside hugs in return for the thousands she’s handed out over the years.

“It brings a little life to you that somebody actually cares enough to love you. And a complete stranger at that,” said one of the visiting soldiers.

It would be my honor to give her a hug in her time of need, Staff Sgt. Jarvez Wilkes told NBC. I made it my business to get down here and show her a little love because shes shown me plenty of love.

In addition to the hugs, the troops have collectively helped raise more than $80,000 for Elizabeth’s medical expenses in less than a week.

In response to the amazing kindness, her son Richard Dewees said, The outpouring of people, the comments coming in, its amazing. Shes touched this many people in that way with just a simple hug.

If you’d like to help with Elizabeth’sexpenses too, you candonate to her GoFundMe page here. Or just spread a little “Hug Lady” love by sharing her amazing story.


If you liked this post, you’ll also love our story on the “grandma in the window.”

Read more: http://www.faithit.com/this-grandma-greeted-soldiers-with-hugs-for-12-years-when-she-wasnt-there-they-had-to-find-her-inspirational/

How Two Best Friends Turned a Breast Cancer Battle Into TV Comedy Gold

Lennon Parham is a big fan of Jessica St. Clairs breasts. After all, she did pick them out for her.

The comedy duo have been best friends and professional partners since meeting more than a decade ago while studying at New Yorks UCB Theatre, translating their simpatico sense of humor into an egregiously short-lived NBC sitcom, literally titled BFFs, and then the USA comedy in the same vein, Playing House, which debuts its third season on Friday.

Between Playing House seasons, the two typically suffer separation anxiety while servicing their careers as in-demand comedy scene-stealers; the pair counts Veep, Lady Dynamite, Review, Angie Tribeca, Bridesmaids, The House, Other People, and Curb Your Enthusiasm among their collective credits.

But there was no such distance to make the heart grow fonder before production began on season three. As St. Clair tells The Daily Beast, the pair had just finished editing season two, and then literally seven days later I get fucking diagnosed with breast cancer.

In September 2015, St. Clair was diagnosed with estrogen positive breast cancer. As she wrote in an essay for the Stand Up 2 Cancer website, she was feeding her daughter Cheerios the morning she found out. She had a mastectomy, and endured 16 rounds of chemotherapy.

During the 12 weeks of radiation that followed, she and Parham began work on the third season of Playing House, which will have St. Clairs character, Emma, receiving a similar cancer diagnosis and Parhams character, Lennon, fighting every step of it by her side.

When St. Clair got her diagnosis, her husband was traveling. So her first text was to Parham, who practically teleported to her side.

My husbands out of town and Lennon is there on the ground, and everyone at the doctors office thought we were lesbian partners until my husband showed up the next day, St. Clair laughs. Then they didnt understand if we were in some queen bee scenario where the two of them were married to me.

She then takes a pause for seriousness. Our conversation, like St. Clair and Parham, and like their wonderful series, is a wildly entertaining dance between sincerity and gut-busting hilarity, usually rooted in the same truthful story (and often that story is about Cheez-Its or Oprah). And Lennon did notand this is not an exaggerationleave my side for the entire year.

A mirroring storyline is introduced in the fourth episode of this season of Playing House.

Emma (St. Clairs character) is reeling from the news of her diagnosis and is in a spiral, demanding that Maggie (Parham) tell her exactly what Debra Winger dies from in all those movies that Debra Winger dies from thingsa very real obsession that St. Clair had after her diagnosis.

Maggie calmly and assertively brings the trip down the rabbit hole to a halt: Cancer has chosen the wrong duo to mess with, Ill tell you that much.

The word choice of duo is purposeful. So often the cancer narrative in pop culture is about individual strength, pain, and fortitude. But the Playing House message is clear: This is something that a family goes through together, and often that family includes your best friend.

The idea of writing about this was really terrifying, Parham admits.

We wanted to tell a story about how women come together and basically just do what needs to be done, surround each other with love, St. Clair says. And how even though cancer is a terrible thing and I would wish it on nobody, you do get a perspective on life that is so important. And not only do you change, but everybody around you changes.

Parham is the first to demure on the credit St. Clair gives her for being constantly there for her during her treatment.

She mentions how sometimes shed tag in others in their circle of Hollywood funny lady friends: June Diane Raphael, Casey Wilson, Danielle Schneider, Marisa Jaret Winokur; in other words your dream crew. Sometimes Id be like, What? Why is Melissa Rauch leaving her taping of The Big Bang Theory to show up for five minutes to make sure Im OK? St. Clair marvels.

But the more the pair talks about their experience, the more it becomes apparent that sharing these stories and this upcoming season of Playing House is St. Clairs love letter to Parham, just as Parhams insistence on always showing up was her veritable love letter to St. Clair.

Parham remembers receiving the initial text from St. Clair, saying she had cancer and that, Its fine, Ill be OK. Parham curtly sent back, Where are you, you crazy person? threw on her sweatshirt, and was on her way.

The day St. Clair got out of surgery, Parham didnt bother to call before heading to the hospital because she knew St. Clair would tell her not to come. Instead she just showed up in the recovery center to give St. Clairs husband a break.

Just like, Oh, Im already here and I drove all the way to Santa Monica during rush hour so you have to let me see you, Parham recalls. When your loved one or your best friend is going through it, you dont know what to do. But you know you just want to be near.

What St. Clair was going through is something that many cancer patients endure, but few talk about: She was embarrassed that she had cancer. She didnt want anyone to see her being sick.

In Playing House, theres a scene in which Emma tells her love interest, played by Keegan-Michael Key, that she doesnt want him coming to the hospital with her. Its based on a conversation that St. Clair really had with Parham the day before her mastectomyin the basement of Netflix, of all places, right after we had done a terrible pitchtelling her that she didnt want her to go to the hospital because she was afraid shed lose it if she saw her there. Parham showed up anyway.

Their reputation in the oncology center together could be described as nothing short of iconic.

Early on in the process, Parham made a binder that said on it, Cancer: You wanna roll with this? People were like, Who are these ladies? St. Clair remembers.

Every chemo session Parham would pack St. Clair in ice, as Parham puts it, like a choice piece of holiday meat, and feed St. Clair Teddy Grahams and Cheez-Its like a baby bird while reading aloud excerpts from old issues of Oprahs O magazine to distract her from the pain.

Lennon would be like, October 2013: How to make a planter out of your old jack-o-lantern, and I would be like, Yes! St. Clair remembers. I was on so many drugs that I would be so vocal about talking back to the magazine. I would be like, Oprah gets it, right Lennon!? And shed be like, Right. Youre screaming.

It was part of several cancer hacks that were passed down from other survivors. Freezing the scalp would help prevent total hair loss, ice packs on the eyes would freeze the eyebrows and lashes, and frozen booties and mittens staved off neuropathy in the hands and feet. They all worked.

Its invigorating for anyone whos gone through an illness like cancer to hear the warm humor with which St. Clair and Parham discuss the experience.

While comedy has certainly been explored as part of a cancer narrative in pop culture before, its so often dark and cynical and full of gallows humor, which doesnt reflect the sense of humor myself and those close to me have hadand we certainly have had one. As Parham says, Weird shit happens when shit hits the fan.

So while the vulnerability that comes from reliving the harrowing experiences while laying on a hospital bed on a TV set wearing no makeup was a massive hurdle for St. Clair to clearI did wear fake eye lashes, she clarifies, Im not an idiotthey both knew that the only way for the comedy to work on Playing House was to make sure that each moment came from the truth of their experience together.

In the finale of the upcoming season, St. Clair takes out all the hair pieces she had been wearing during shooting and lets her hair show the way it really looked while the patches she had lost were growing back in.

When that was happening in real life, St. Clair didnt want to leave the house because her hair made her look like Dog the Bounty Hunter. And thats true, she says. But I wanted to show it, because you know what? Everybody who goes through it looks a little bit like a Cabbage Patch Doll whos been chewed up by the dog a little bit.

Equally important to showing the vulnerability, though, was underlining the strength and the triumph that happenssometimes very quickly. Pretty soon after it all we got back in the business of having a good time, and thats exactly what happens on the show, St. Clair says. After we get through this, by the finale we have a bunch of drag queens make us over as Tina Turner and we dance to Proud Mary.

That shoot goes down as the professional highlight of the duos best friendship, the mechanics of which they are often asked to speak about with authority, but sometimes feel uncomfortable doing. Just like any pair of girlfriends, their relationship has had a tearful screaming match in the parking lot of Baja Fresh to temper every Tina Turner drag show.

Still, the cancer storyline in the new season of Playing House deepens the idea of the female best friendship, especially the way its portrayed in pop culture. As Parham says, I think any example of two women showing up for each other, not backstabbing but being the way we are in the real world makes for a better environment.

St. Clair mentions how Parham and their group of friends did superheroes work to make sure that St. Clairs then-two-year-old daughter had no idea that anything was wrong with her mother. But I cant wait to tell her what all of my girlfriends did for me, and to have this show to show her.

We end our conversation by discussing something that St. Clair, Parham, and I have discussed at length over the years: the role of Oprah in our lives. The first time we spoke, the pair was in the middle of an argument because Parham had deleted Oprahs very last Favorite Things from her DVR before they had a chance to watch it together.

The obsession, it turns out, has been life-saving. One of the first calls St. Clair made after being diagnosed was to Christina Applegate, who beat breast cancer in 2008. St. Clair ended up using a surgical oncologist who had appeared with Applegate on the Oprah show.

She got the Oprah signoff! Parham says.

People would be like, Did you get a second opinion? St. Clair remembers. And Id be like, Did you hear me? She was on Oprah!

Read more: http://www.thedailybeast.com/how-two-best-friends-turned-a-breast-cancer-battle-into-tv-comedy-gold

This teen developed a bra that could save you from breast cancer


An 18-year-old male may be the first to develop a bra that can detect breast cancer.

Julin Ros Cant from Mexico, along with three of his friends, took home the top prize at theGlobal Student Entrepreneur Awards this week, winning $20,000 to develop the Eva bra from its current prototype stage.

The Eva works via biosensorsthat detect changes in breast temperature and texture, since cancerous tumors increase blood flow and therefore skin temps. The sensors are connected to an app, which would log any changes over time. Women would need to wear the bra for at least 60-90 minutes once a week.

Since the bra is in such early stages of development, Anna Perman from Cancer Research U.K. told the BBC it’s unclear if it will really work. “At present, there is no evidence to show whether this bra is a reliable way to detect tumours, and it’s certainly not a good idea for women to use technology that hasn’t been tested in good-quality scientific trials.

“It’s great to see young people like Julian getting into science and having ideas that could help with cancer diagnosis. But an important part of science is rigorous testing, to make sure innovations like this actually benefit patients.”

The project is dear to Ros Cant, ashis mom almost died of undetected breast cancerwhen he was 13. At oneappointment, thedoctor told her that her lumps were malignant, but six months later, another mammogram found they were cancerous.

The tumor went from having the dimensions of a grain of rice to that of a golf ball in less than six months,” Ros Cant says in a video for his company, HigiaTech. “The diagnosis came too late, and my mother lost both of her breasts and, almost, her life.

Not long after, Ros Cant began researching the illness and developing the idea with his friends. He hopes it will be ready to marketwithin the next two years.


Read more: https://www.dailydot.com/irl/breast-cancer-bra/

Planned Parenthood Saved My Life and Now Republicans Want to Kill It

In 2003, my mother passed away from breast cancer. It was her second round of it. Her first time was in 1995.

If a hospital ever puts you in a nice room with a couch, its not going to be good news, I remember my mom saying.

In February of 2016, my father passed away from lung cancer. He never smoked. Both parents maintained healthy lifestyles. They were even vegetarians for a while.

Not long after my dads funeral, I decided that I should be proactive about my health. At a Planned Parenthood checkup, I told the doctor about my family history and said I wanted to get genetic testing done.

I never thought Id end up in a nice room with a couch a few weeks later. But that Planned Parenthood visit saved my ass. Well, my breasts. Actually, it led to me losing my breasts which in turn saved my life.

A Planned Parenthood doctor gave me a referral to get genetic testing in a nearby hospital, the University of Vermont Medical Center. Genetic testing uses blood samples to test for inherited genetic mutations. Mutations BRCA1 and BRCA2 increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

While at my Planned Parenthood appointment, my doctor also gave me a breast exam. She found nothing unusual, which is what I anticipated. At 33, I wasnt expecting to be diagnosed with cancer. I figured if I were to follow in my mothers footsteps it would be when I was in my forties, just like her.

Even though there were no signs of cancer, the doctor suggested I meet with doctors at the breast care center in the same hospital as the genetic testing. She said that early mammograms may be appropriate for someone like me. She, like most doctors I have seen at Planned Parenthood, was empathetic and didnt have a shred of condescension.

I got my blood drawn for the genetic test at the hospital and not long after I received a call that I was not genetically predisposed for cancer. I didnt have BRCA1 or BRCA2. Awesome, I thought. Cancer is not in my genes after all.

I still had the mammogram appointment set up, but it didnt seem pressing to me. I figured it was great I was starting such tests early, that I was ahead of the game. I even canceled my first appointment. It was early in the morning and I didnt feel like going.

When I went to my rescheduled appointment a few weeks later, I got my mammogram and was told to sit back in the waiting room to meet with a doctor. I figured I had done my proactive duty, that the mammogram would be clear and the doctor would tell me to come back in a year or two.

But that didnt happen. Calcifications were spotted on my left breast and more mammograms were required. After additional, more concentrated, mammograms, I was taken into a small, nicely decorated room with a couch and a box of tissues. Pamphlets about breast cancer hung on the wall.

Remembering what my mom said about nice hospital rooms, I began to cry.

A biopsy was promptly scheduled. A few days after the biopsy I received a call that I had cancer. My cancer was deemed invasive. That meant it was spreading.

Prior to surgery, it wasnt clear if the cancer had spread anywhere outside of the breast. It was unclear what stage it was. I was offered a few options for how to treat it, all of which sucked. I could have just had the cancerous parts of my breast removed and then received radiation, but that would have resulted in a more unsightly result (and thats a medical professionals words) than a double mastectomy.

I reluctantly opted for a full mastectomy in hopes of avoiding chemotherapy and radiation. During mastectomy surgery, lymph nodes are tested for cancer. If the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, it typically means a later stage. A later stage means that chemotherapy is likely unavoidable.

The surgery revealed, thankfully, that I didnt need that. I had stage one cancer.

I was relieved. Im extremely lucky. No radiation or chemotherapy was recommended because it appears the cancer has all been cut out. There is a very high chance that I am now cancer-free.

It was caught so early that I didnt even have to go on Tamoxifen, an anti-estrogen drug used to treat breast cancer alongside other treatments. I have been told by doctors and cancer survivors alike that, quite frankly, the medication sucks. It takes five to 10 years to work, and can be an annoying frosting on an already shitty cancer cake.

First you lose your tits, then you go on a medication for a decade that can make you fat, give you mood changes, and will prohibit you from drinking wine.

I dont have to do all that. I got to stop at the loss of tits part.

I was saddened and angered to hear Speaker Paul Ryan announce his plans to cut federal money to Planned Parenthood and that the plan has moved forward in Congress. Planned Parenthood offers a whole lot more than just abortions.

I have never had an abortion, but Planned Parenthood has saved my ass many times. They provided me inexpensive birth control when I needed it, both for birth control and complexion reasons. (My skin breaks out when I dont have it.)

But most importantly, Planned Parenthood suggested and referred me to tests that led to an early cancer diagnosis.

I am, for the most part, about to return to my lifestyle as it was before. I have Planned Parenthood to thank for pushing me in the right direction to have my cancer detected early.

If it weren't for Planned Parenthood, my breast cancer would not have been detected early and I would likely be spending my late thirties undergoing chemotherapy, or worse.

Read more: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/01/16/planned-parenthood-saved-my-life-and-now-republicans-want-to-kill-it

Why this 24-year-old is Instagramming her double mastectomy journey

When Paige More flew home to Los Angeles after her double mastectomy in January, the 24-year-old Good Morning America talent booker was still processing what her future would look like. Despite being young and cancer free, More had preventative surgery to eliminate her risk of breast cancer altogether. Just two years prior, she was diagnosed with a gene mutation that significantly increased her risk for breast and ovarian cancersBRCA1.

More is one of every 500 women in the United States who have inherited the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation from at least one of their parentsMore got hers from her dad because, yes, men can inherit the mutation, too. Nationally, about 12 percent of women will develop breast cancer and 1.3 percent of women will develop ovarian cancer during their lives, but the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations multiply that risk significantly.

By recent estimates, 55 to 65 percent of women who inherit the BRCA1 mutation and 45 percent who inherit the BRCA2will develop breast cancer by age 70. Additionally, 39 percent of women who inherit the BRCA1 mutation and 11 to 17 percent who inherit the BRCA2 mutation will develop ovarian cancer by 70, too.

But despite being one of hundreds of thousands with this genetic mutation, More had trouble seeking guidance about what having the surgery would mean. Internet searches for the procedure and recovery process lacked gravelyshe wanted to know what other women experienced and felt, so she too could know what to expect. But web results were clinical and intimidating, offering worst case scenarios that made her feel scared and alone.

It was while spending time with her 13-year-old sister Camryn that she realized she wanted to be abeacon for her sibling, someone who could tell her what the process is like in case she had to go through it as well. So she created Paige Previvor, an Instagram account dedicated to her personal journey post-mastectomies, in which More became the example she was looking for, helping thousands of other women face their own BRCA diagnoses and recoveries.

When I was going through this, I didnt have anyone to look toward I wanted to see anyone I could relate to, and there was nobody, More told the Daily Dot. I didnt want my little sister to have to feel like that if she goes through thisI hope she doesnt, but if she doesI wanted her to remember, My sister went through this and she was OK. She was still Paige.

There is no better feeling in the world then when you start to feel your body recovering and getting stronger. It took me about two weeks after my surgery. For me it means I am no longer confined to my couch or bed. It means I can get up and walk around and explore. It's an amazing feeling when you start to feel yourself getting better. I still have to take it slowly, it's so easy to overdo it which causes extreme pain and exhaustion. I've found that it's best to pick one activity and then relax and heal for the rest of the day. So when my sister told me she knew of a bright pink wall up in Los Angeles I knew I had to make the trek out to see it. This was the activity I chose for the day and though it took a lot out of me, it was beyond worth it. The feeling I had when I saw this wall was overwhelming. The color pink has always been one of my favorites but joining the BRCA sisterhood it represents so much more to me now. Standing in front of this wall I felt strong. I felt powerful. I felt beautiful and feminine. I felt healthy and happy. I felt bright pink. But most importantly I felt thankful that I no longer have to worry about getting breast cancer! What an amazing feeling!

A post shared by Paige More (@paige_previvor) on

With just shy of 15,000 followers, the Paige Previvor Instagram account acts as ajournal for Mores most intimate moments as a previvor, a survivor of a predisposition to breast cancer. Mores posts follow her surgery, like the “Hookem Horns” sign she flashed after leaving the operating room (a shoutout to her alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin) as well as the silly, hopeful, and painful moments from her recovery.

In one photo, the image that sparked her idea for the account, More poses shirtless in front of the famous pink Paul Smith Limited wall in L.A., rocking her leather jacket and aviators, her bandages covering her chest and her fresh mastectomy scars proudly on display. More had initially been reluctant to get in front of the camerawithout her breasts, she wasnt sure shed feel confident in her skin ever again. But not wanting her own insecuritiesto get in the way of her sisters fun, she left the house, bandages in tow.

When they arrived at the pink wall, in front of a handful of strangers trying to get their own shots, something clicked. So she took off her shirt, slipped her jacket back on, and posed.

I never intended to take my shirt off, I just had this overwhelming feeling likeI just felt like me, and I just felt beautiful like, You know what, Im proud of these scars, I think my scars are sexy, and I dont need to hide them under my shirt, and I dont need to be embarrassed of them, More said.

More shares a lot of moments like this: snaps of her looking like a badass posing in front of a mural, or making a goofy expression before a doctor inserts a large syringe for her implant reconstruction, or recording herself tossing her chicken cutlets and padded bras behind her, declaring her bralessness like a badge of honor. Its encouraging to see someone having undergone a double mastectomy at such an early age remain positive about these dramatic changes in her life.

After posting that last video I took Bo$$y for a walk along the Hudson. It really helped me relax and unwind. Listening to the water and seeing the beautiful sky behind the massive buildings helped me take a few steps back. I took in big deep breathes. I remembered how happy I am that I decided to have this surgery. I felt thankful that I was able to prevent getting breast cancer with this decision. I thought about the amazing people I have in my life, some from before and some from after. I thought of all the life I have ahead of me filled with love and laughter. Sadness doesn't just disappear with a nice walk along the water- that's not what I'm saying. But moving your body and letting go of some of your pent up emotions truly helps free you and helps you feel a bit lighter. Together we can do anything. I'm so lucky to have you all ?

A post shared by Paige More (@paige_previvor) on

But Mores feed doesnt glamorize the pain of facing breast cancer in your early 20s. She avoids playing into the harshest critiques of social mediahow we share our best moments in an effort to make our lives appear more stable than they actually areby also posting some of her darkest times. She invites her followers to witness pangs of genuine vulnerability and fear that anyone else would share sarcastically on their fake Insta with the caption EVERYTHING IS FINE, IM FINE, REALLY, or keep hidden altogether.

Sometimes you just have to fake it till you feel it. I have been amazed how confident and beautiful I have felt throughout this process. I think my scars are sexy. I feel extremely fortunate that I have been happy with my results so far. When I hadn't been filled yet, I loved how cute my small foobs looked. But the more and more I expand, the weirder they start to look. This was the first time I looked in the mirror and absolutely hated what I saw. Being surrounded by all of my friends who look amazing in their bikinis with their real boobs made me feel sad and insecure. This was the first time I missed my boobs. Once I understood what having the BRCA gene mutation meant, I instantly rejected my breasts. They were no longer mine and I wanted nothing to do with them. But when I put on my favorite bikini and looked in the mirror I missed my old boobs. I cried and mourned them. I almost decided not to go to the pool with my friends and opted to stay in the room all day. But that's lame and that's not who I am. I am never going to let BRCA keep me from doing things that make me happy or being with people that I love. So I went downstairs but kept my sweatshirt on (in my defense, it was drizzling!) I sat at the pool in my sweatshirt and sunglasses and tried to hide my tears and fears. After 30 minutes or so I realized how ridiculous this was. I was the only person at the pool wearing a sweatshirt. By doing that I was bringing more attention to myself. So I marched back to the room, ripped off my sweatshirt, recorded this video and then went downstairs in my bikini. I still felt insecure, unattractive, deformed and uncomfortable. But I pushed those feelings aside, help my held up high and told myself that I was beautiful, strong and healthy. And guess what? It worked! I ended up having an amazing day with the girls. I realized hat life isn't about always feeling your best. Sometimes when you are feeling down you just have to fake it so you don't miss out on fun times with your friends at the pool ?? Have any of y'all had a similar moment? Where you felt insecure about how you looked? How did you handle it?

A post shared by Paige More (@paige_previvor) on

Why are there sooo many implant options?! I understand every body is different blah blah blah but for someone who doesn't even like to pick a restaurant for dinner this is overwhelming! I love and appreciate all of you for giving me so much insight and advice. It's so confusing though! One breastie says she hates the gummybears (still can't believe that's not candy) and another breastie says she loves them! So I figured I'd take a look at the implants and maybe that would help me decide. Umm no… there are sooo many! This isn't even half, I just couldn't hold anymore than this. Luckily it turns out I actually have one more fill left so looks like I have some time to decide. Speaking of, this last fill was probably one of the hardest. I feel like I have two boulders on my chest! Woke up this morning feeling very tight and uncomfortable. So ready for this phase to be over with!!

A post shared by Paige More (@paige_previvor) on

In the post directly following her pink-walled power pose, More is crying. Shes sobbing, gulping in air between swipes at her face with the back of her hand.

Do you feel like you have to be strong? Mores mom asks from behind the camera.

Yeah, I think I always feel like I have to be strong, she replies with a cracked voice.

I think I always feel like have to be strong for everyone, for our family, for our friends, for myself. I dont not want to be. I want to be strong, and I feel strong, and I feel happy, she continues, composing herself between breaths. But then the sobs hit her again, But do think sometimes its still just scary, you know?

In another video, More talks through tears as she tells her followers about her depression, something she hadnt faced before her surgery. Shes seeking professional help and following tips from her breast friends in her Instagram commentspeople who have been affected by breast cancer to some extent, whether it’s facing a BRCA mutation diagnosis themselves, or having family or friends combating breast cancer.

Depression. Similar to anxiety it's a feeling that is very new for me. These highs and lows have really been throwing me for a loop. Depression is one of the weirdest feelings to cope with. It's 2 pm and I am feeling sad for no reason. I am feeling this overwhelming lack of self worth. And though I don't think that of myself, I can't control that feeling. It's scary. I can tell myself, "you know your worth," and I can believe that. But when you feel it and don't think it, it's hard to control. I don't understand where it comes from or why I'm feeling so down on myself. But for some reason I just got this powerful feeling of sadness. It's hard to explain. I'm not sad but I feel sad. I'm going to listen to some of the amazing advice I've been given. I'm taking deep breathes and going on a long walk along the water right now. I'm also looking into speaking with a professional to talk about these new feelings and I am attending my first FORCE get together tonight. These things are reminders that though I can't control my feelings I can control the steps I take to deal with them. Thank you again for the love and support

A post shared by Paige More (@paige_previvor) on

For More, talking her followers through what she faces has helped her better process these emotions without feeling too dependent on the people closest to her.

I dont have to pick up a phone or send a text and say, Im having a hard time. I can just let myself go through it and myself or write it out and share it I feel like I dont want to be a burden to anybody, so kind of helps me put it out there, More said. Sometimes Ill go back to some of my earlier posts and I cant even believe I wrote thatI forgot that thats how I felt at this time, and its helpful to see how far Ive come.

These posts, where More shares her doubts with her audience, are what makes her account so essential to women with the BRCA gene mutationshes helped generate a community for people who didnt know what to expect, and who are scared of the idea that theyll have to undergo a surgery to remove their breast tissue, let alone a second surgery to avoid ovarian cancer.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 25,” one woman commented on a photo of More right before her surgery. “I know the pain of a double mastectomy! This picture reminds me so much of myself, smiling the whole way but so afraid on the inside. Hope your recovery goes well.

It really is a crazy feeling to go from feeling like youre alone and theres no one who understands, to now having hundreds or thousands of people who are saying, I totally get it, More said. Its a beautiful and crazy andI dont even have the words for it.

For some women, Mores story is more than a support system, but a literal life saver. Recently, a breast friend of hers who is diagnosed with the mutation decided to visit her doctor. Like More, shes young, but her anxiety of having the double mastectomy made her avoid facing her diagnosisafter all, she had time to get it done. But Mores platform, along with the other women she had met through More, had given her the confidence to touch base with her physician. The doctor ended up telling her she didnt have much time at alland needed to have the surgery within the next year.

She was just in shock, More said. Shes doing her surgery this summer. So to hear someone say, You saved my life, I dont even know how to accept that.

Though Paige Previvior is less than three months old, its already taken More to walk the runway at New York Fashion Week for AnaOno, a company that designs lingerie and loungewear for people who have been affected by breast cancer, to hosting weekly breast friends meetups in New York for women affected by breast cancer, to being featured on People.com, and even on her own show, Good Morning America.

As for Mores sister, Camryn, she has another five years before she can get tested, and she is planning to wait until she graduates from college to do so. But Camryn has told More shes ready to face the experience should she test positive for the geneall because of the community of women her big sister helped cultivate.

Shes , Im ready because of you, and that really just likeIm going to cry thinking about it, it just makes me so happy, More said, her voice breaking once more. I was on the Cosmopolitan Snapchat story, and so she and was like, Youre so cool! I just like, Yes! Thats all I ever want is for my sister to think that Im strong, and I want to be the best role model for her.

Read more: https://www.dailydot.com/irl/paige-previvor-instagram-brca-gene-mutation-double-mastectomy/