What I Learned at School Today (errr…a few days ago)

I work at a University.  I am in no way employed in or directly involved with the academic end of our institution, but I do have access to some perks.  A few weeks ago, a friend in one of the colleges passed along an invite that his dean sent to his department.  The invite was for a lecture featuring one of the new chairs in the College of Health Sciences and his research on “Oncogenes, Cellular Transformation and Breast Cancer.”

I decided to attend the lecture and see what I could learn.  I also thought it would be neat to become more actively engaged with research that is literally happening at my doorstep.  I walked into the lecture room minutes before the presentation started.  A man sitting to my left immediately asked if I was a cancer researcher.  My initial response was “No, but I’m a cancer survivor.”  I then changed my answer to, “Well, technically, yes I am a cancer researcher.”  I may not have been published in any of the journals that this fellow has read, but I have certainly done my own research in an effort to proactively take control of my health.  Before I could say anymore, the host was introducing our guest.

There were parts of Dr. Flynn’s presentation that were way beyond my playing field and grasp of knowledge.  However, he presented his research in a way that I could clearly understand where he was going.  I really enjoyed learning about what efforts are being made to really combat this disease and in a way to prevent it.  Here is the short edited version of what I could comprehend from his lecture:

Basically everyone has these proteins/oncogenes in their bodies called Src.  When Src is activated or ‘turned on’ cancer can form in the breast and eventually break through the cell walls to spread to other parts of the body.  It was found that another protein/gene called AFAP1 activates Src.  And so Dr. Flynn’s research is revolving around ways to mitigate or “drug” AFAP1 so that it does not activate Src.  This is where he stands now and there is still work to be done.  Thanks Dr. Flynn for sharing your insight and research to this breast cancer survivor!  I look forward to learning more about the progress of his research and how it can benefit others.

I just thought I would share…I’m not sure if others have ever heard of Src or AFAP1, I know I had not.

Posted in Health & Well Being, My Breast Cancer | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Blog Post that Never Got Posted…

I write and then I schedule.  So, I might write something and have it automatically set to post on a certain day/time.  This post was scheduled (or so I thought) for April 13th, so it might seem a little off now.  However, I still thought I would share this since there’s still a few relevant days left.

#PlasticSucks

I came across a challenge leading up to Earth Day.  The challenge asks that you go plastic free for an entire week (April 14 – April 20).  There are 6 total steps to the challenge and you can read more about it here.

Given the toxicity of plastic, I think this is a great idea and it also benefits the earth/our environment.  However, as I tweeted last week, OMG plastic is in EVERYTHING.  So, I couldn’t sleep the other night and instead I mentally reviewed my daily plastic ‘consumption’ given an average day.  Here is what I think it involves:

1. Wake up around 6AM.  Brush teeth with a toothebrush made out of plastic (I’m assuming) and squeeze my toothepaste out of a tube with some plastic packaging.  Wow, I’m off to a great start!

2. Walk my dog.  Unlike some of the people in our neighborhood, we actually pick up our dog’s poop.  And what do we use to pick it up?  A plastic bag.  If anyone can offer alternatives, I’m all ears.

3. Come back from walking the dog and pour myself a cup of coffee.  The coffee grinds come packaged in plastic.  Add some milk to my coffee from a plastic milk jug.

4.  Jump in the shower.  On a typical day, I use shampoo, conditioner, face wash and body wash.  All of these products are packaged in plastic.  After the shower, there’s face lotion and body lotion – again packaged in plastic.  Wow, it is about 7AM and look how much plastic I’ve used.

5.  Get dressed.  Most likely the buttons on my pants and/or sweater are made of plastic.  Same if I’m wearing a jacket.

6.  Grab lunch bag.  Usually, there a plastic tupperware container housing my salad for lunch.  I have been meaning to switch my tupperware to glass containers.  However, even the glass containers have plastic lids!  Sometimes, I might have yogurt for breakfast – which comes in a plastic cup/container.  If I happen to grab a granola bar – woah, more plastic wrappers!  Hmmm…

7.  Drive to work.  I’m pretty sure that there is a lot of plastic in my car.  I just don’t want to analyze it all.  Even if I could ride my bike to work, wouldn’t my bike helmut be made from some sort of plastic material?  As you can see, I am making a lot of assumptions regarding the composite makeup of these items/products.  Further analysis might reveal that I’m way off, but I don’t have time for that!

8. Arrive at work around 8:30 AM.  Looking at my work desk, I am fairly confident that not too much plasic is in use.  Perhaps the tape dispenser and my phone are of plastic material?  Oh and I do have some binders, file folder holders and maybe the outer material of my computer is plastic?

9.  Work, work, work – all day long.  I’m sure that there are countless items that I use or come into contact with during a normal work that contain plastic.  For example, when I wash my hands after using the restroom, I pretty certain that the soap comes out of a plastic soap dispenser.  Some of my paper clips are plastic and not metal.

10. Work out after work!  If I’m taking my workout indoors, it might involve using a treadmill, stationary bike, elliptical, free weights, circuit weight machines, bosu ball, etc.  Plastic, plastic, plastic!

Okay, I have basically gone through my daily agenda from 6am until 7pm.  I am not going any further because clearly I have come into contact and used way too much plastic.  And I’m sure I am missing quite a few items.  So, I’m confused about how to go about a challenge like this and weigh the plastic I used?  I  plan to look up the hastag #plasticsucks on Twitter and see how others are approaching this challenge.  Has anyone else attempted to cut back on plastics?  Also, I’m serious about the question I posed in point #2…

Posted in Health & Well Being | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Free Radicals vs. Antioxidants

Our Cherry Blossom 10 miler is a little over a week away.  My husband and I have been consistent with our long training runs and we feel good.  In fact, I was feeling so confident that I decided to register for another half-marathon that my BFF is also running.  Yeah for running buddies.

The half-marathon is close to my hometown in NJ.  I called my mom to tell her about the race and that I’d be up her way the 1st weekend of May.  She brought up her concern over me running these long distances.  My mom also mentioned that there are studies out there on the correlation between too much aerobic exercise and the production of free radicals in your body.  I know I have definitely come across the term, free radical, before.  However, I cannot exactly tell you what they are or what they do.  So, of course I did what I normally do – I took to the internet for some good quality research.  At first I was quite skeptical about what my mom told me.  It did not make sense – everything I read about cancer prevention says working out and having oxygen circulate throughout your body is good.  So, here’s what I learned from various sites:

  • The the most common form of free radicals comes from oxygen.  When an oxygen molecule becomes electrically charged  it causes damage to your DNA and other molecules. Over time, such damage may become irreversible and lead to disease (like cancer).
  • During exercise, oxygen delivery to your cells increases which in turn increases free radical production.  In other words, cardio exercise does produce free radicals.
  • Good news (have to report this back to my mom): My body (and yours) can counter-balance the effects of an increase in free radicals from exercise.
  • Antioxidants are our friends.   Antioxidants may actually protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals.
  • Antioxidants can be found in foods containing beta-carotene (carrots), lycopene (tomatoes) and foods with high amounts of vitamin C (kiwi, berries, dark leafy greens), vitamin E (seeds, nuts, apricots) and vitamin A (kale, spinach, sweet potatoes).  This was actually something I already knew!
  • And then I read more and got confused…According to an article on Livestrong’s site: Exercise leads to increased free radicals, yet regular exercise promotes antioxidant production which neutralize the free radicals?  Seems like we’ve just made one complete loop.
Antioxidants vs. Free Radicals

Antioxidants vs. Free Radicals

Here’s what I plan to do with all of this information:  continue exercising and continue eating a crap load of fruits and veggies.  Basically, I am not changing a thing.  And I am fairly certain the anxiodants in my body will kick butt!

Yummy fruit!

Yummy fruit!

By the way, stress and environmental toxins can also lead to increased free radical production.  In addition to the Livestrong article, I found some good reading on The National Cancer Institute’s site and a fun blurp on an NYU health blog

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Best Of…Harlem Shake

Happy funny Friday!  Is anyone else obsessed with the Harlem Shake?  I find myself searching YouTube and Facebook for quick laughs here and there.  What’s better than laughing at random people you don’t know doing random dancing with random objects for 30 seconds or so?  Here are a few of my recent favorites for your enjoyment:

Jersey Strong  (kinda blurry)

Chemo Edition

Breast Cancer Edition

First Descents Bathroom Edition

Beagle Style

Fruit & Veggie Style

Ray Lewis/Baltimore Style

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Almost Like It Never Really Happened…

Did you ever have a dream so vivid and real that in the first few moments after you wake up, you feel like it really happened?  Or have you ever had the same dream repeat several times?  I don’t always have the best dreams so waking up with that feeling and then realizing that I was just dreaming can be a relief.  On the other hand, my husband always goes on these fabulous vacations in his dreams, so I guess it must be disappointing when he wakes up and realizes that he has to go to work.

I had a 6 month follow-up appointment with my oncologist the other day.  He is a such a nice man and I really do enjoy the small chit chat we engage in during each visit.   Keeping the conversation flowing while he fully examines me is also very helpful (especially when you’re naked from the waist up) and calming.  One thing the doc mentioned was that it has been about 2 years since I started chemo.  Wow, I had not even really been counting.  My response was that it is starting to feel like it “almost never really happened…”   My hair is now blonde, falls between my chin and shoulders and the chemo curls/waves are definitely gone.  My daily activities are normal and I have a full social calendar.  So, yes, it is almost as if I had a bad dream, woke up and now feel relieved that the events of my dream never even occurred (however, in the back of my mind, I do recognize that it did actually take place).

I realize that some people process and come to terms with their cancer experiences differently.  For some, they might feel stuck in their bad dream and have a hard time waking up.  I was talking to my aunt (another BC survivor) over the weekend about my intent to stop Tamoxifen after 3 years.  During our brief conversation I never felt like I had to explain my reasoning to her.  We both agreed that it happened, we got through it and we both feel confident that it will never happen to either of us again (talk about the power of positive thinking)!

Even though I still live with some of the after effects of cancer (daily Tamoxifen pills, hot flashes, putting our family plans on hold, etc), I feel like I am in a good place and really can focus on bigger and better dreams (hopefully more of those fun vacations)!!!

Posted in Chemo, Friends, Family, & Fun, Health & Well Being, My Breast Cancer, Tamoxifen | 1 Comment

Beating the Blahs

I’ve been feeling blah for quite a while (months?).  Not a sad type of blah, just a lethargic, tired and unmotivated type of blah.  So, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how I can “beat this blah” feeling.  I’m hoping part of the “blah” might be attributed to the lack of daylight.  But I’ve also been thinking about GOALS!  I need new goals (and not to-do lists).  I used to use the time in late December/early January to access the year and make some new goals.  I did not do that this year.  Also, related to these goals is sugar consumption.  My sugar consumption has increased substantiantially been out of control which I know is only contributing to this blah feeling.  Addressing this issue can certainly be tied in to my new goals.

Since March is only a few days away (gah), I’ve decided to start fresh with the new month and am creating my own kind of March Madness to focus on myself!  My husband and I have had some pretty intense discussions lately about our future goals which in turn made me think about what some of my own personal goals are.  Sometimes thinking too far into the future stresses me out.  Why not just start with one month?  Here’s how I’d like to focus on Alexis in March…

  • Create something new!  Are you on Pinterest?  I am, but I need to Pin less and do more.  I have so many things I want to try and I’m determined to do one new project (craft, new recipe, etc) in March.  Crafting and cooking are actually 2 of my favorite destressing activities.  I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I have a few project ideas in mind.
  • Drink more veggie juice!  I did this every day for 9+ months.  And now, I can barely bring myself to do it once a week.  Our commercial grade juicer is just taking up space on our counter (which I know drives my husband crazy).  I think my goal will be at least 3 times a week during the month of March and then I’ll reaccess at month’s end.
  • Read.  Turn off the Law and Order reruns and immerse myself in a book each night (even if its just for 10 minutes).
  • Decrease my sugar consumption.  We ALWAYS have candy in the office, so I know this will be the biggest battle.  Prior to chemo, I never really had a sweet tooth.  Now, sweets are literally consumed on a daily basis.  I’m sure that cutting back (whoa, I’m not ready to go cold turkey again) will definitely help with my energy levels.

Daylight Savings Time begins on March 10 and Spring begins on March 20 – hoping these two March events will also help spark some of my creativity and increase my energy levels!

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Not for the Faint at Heart…

I’m a little late in sharing the news, but my uterine biopsy = benign!  I was fairly confident going into the situation that nothing was/is wrong with me.

Also, for anyone who may have to have one someday, it is really not that bad.  I would definitely say that my procedures for my IUD were far worse.  One recommendation – having a friend, family member or spouse come along might not be a bad idea.  And I can now cross one more thing off my “been there, done that” list – fainting!

It seems that I may have jumped up and got dressed too quickly (and my body may have been a little overwhelmed that day).  No major problems with the fainting – luckily I fell right into my husband’s arms.  Thanks Bri for being there to rescue me.  I’m not sure I will ever hear the end of this – already he’s started with his jokes making fun of me.

In my mind - I like to think that I looked this glamorous when I passed out!

In my mind – I like to think that I looked this glamorous when I passed out!

Cheers to happy news – hope everyone has a fun filled weekend!

Posted in Friends, Family, & Fun, Health & Well Being | 2 Comments