Awesome Article Written By A Cancer Surgeon

Cancer, Redefined: ‘Survivor’

Sur-vi-vor, noun [ser-vahy-ver]: a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks.

As we enter a new phase in the understanding of cancer biology and its subsequent treatment, increasingly, more of us are living longer and fuller lives, with at least two-thirds of those diagnosed living at least five years. Yet extreme fear or awkwardness — or both — surrounding the topic of cancer survivorship has rendered even the most hearty either mute or shortly absent at first discussion. Truth is, we all have a story, often tragic, of the consequences of a cancer diagnosis. And whether that story is conceptually outdated, inaccurate, or mutated into some “whisper down the alley” facsimile, it is very real to us. So thank you very much, I’d just rather not discuss it. But I would bet that you also know many stories of quiet triumph over cancer, powerful stories of unparalleled growth of the human psyche, which transcended the reach of cancer and in doing so became… well, normal. Amazing and courageous stories lost to the banality of normalcy. So in honor of the more than 12 million Americans now living with a cancer diagnosis, it is time to begin a gentle discussion of the newer philosophies and definitions commonplace to the journey through cancer. It will affect us all in some way or another. Shouldn’t we all have a working knowledge of this topic?

Of tantamount importance in the cancer lexicon is some acceptable name of a group of individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer. Far too frequently this nomenclature, laden with some judgment as to the burden of their disease, has been applied to, rather than derived of, this amazing group of folks. Resultantly, each newly-floated collective noun of the cancer experience has been shot down, one after another in favor of a more inclusive, less judgmental descriptor of the entirety of the journey through cancer: from prediagnosis through diagnosis and treatment through remission and cure — or, if unsuccessful treatment, palliation and death. The term currently in favor to define such person is “cancer survivor.”

“Victim” and “Hero”

Older terms in use a generation or so ago, generally foretold the final stages of the journey: those who beat the odds — heros, those who succumbed to their disease — victims. Surprisingly, and sadly, I hear these terms still used today, often by caregivers or journalists struggling to imply some degree of the depth of the experience. Cancer survivors universally shun these terms, which simply do not describe the entirety of the journey. And they are far too laden with somebody else’s judgment of their predicament.

For instance, my grandmother — or Grandmaman, as we called her — was the “victim” of colon cancer in the early 1980s. Her late-stage diagnosis, due to no standardized colonoscopic screening, resulted in a colostomy and many years of suffering as a result of chemo and radiation. Yet during her five-year cancer survival, she taught me the power of human resiliency, the joy of a large, close family, and the love of new knowledge. All values I still cherish today. She was, and remains, my shining hero. And Lance Armstrong was the “hero” of advanced-stage testicular cancer in the late 1990s. Despite surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, Lance resumed his elite athlete status and continued winning numerous world cycling championships, including the prestigious Tour de France seven times. His development of, and support for, the Livestrong Foundation broke the chains of cancer bondage, finally introducing the word “hope” to cancer survivors. And in doing so ascended the altar of heroism, seen by no mortal since Hercules. Yet in the topsy-turvy world of cancer survivorship, hero becomes victim and vice versa. So let’s just let those to terms go, they’re too judgmental and rarely tell the whole story.


Those carrying a cancer diagnosis are often labeled as a cancer “patient” by the medical community. Although this term is nonjudgmental, it generally implies some active treatment is taking place: the fresh wound of surgery, the recurrent nausea of chemo. And when you think cancer “patient,” what comes to mind? Yeah, I know, me too. I don’t want to see those TV commercials anymore, either. The images that compel us to donate also reinforce the stereotype of the ghastly outcomes of cancer and its treatment. But for many patients, treatment is a small part of their journey, and for others treated as a chronic disease, the side effects are manageable with some lifestyle alteration. At the risk of being labeled a Pollyanna, I fully understand that there are still others who do remain patients under active treatment for the entirety of a difficult course. My point remains, though, that the term cancer “patient” is best used for those under active treatment, and doesn’t really apply to those who have long since outlived their disease.


Some cancer survivors choose their own personal monikers, oftentimes describing the intensity of their journey and the thrill of victory. The blogosphere and Twitterverse are replete with cancer kickers, conquerers, thrivers, warriors, victors, advocates and rock stars celebrating the sweet joys that life after cancer offers. While still others, undaunted by body image changes resultant from cancer treatment, taunt their disease with “ballsy” and “single jingle” for testicular cancer survivors — or even, for one tough-minded breast cancer survivor, “bald sweaty bitch with one tit.” In your face, cancer. But not really for everyone.


Most carrying a cancer diagnosis self-identify as cancer “survivors.” It is a far more universal term taking into consideration the breadth of the cancer experience while offering no judgment as to the burden or outcome of the disease. From one moment after hearing “I’m sorry, you have cancer,” a survivor is born. And the term remains applicable throughout a lifetime, no matter which phase of the disease that the survivor is experiencing.

My wife, a five-year leukemia survivor, controls her disease with daily oral chemotherapy, which she will take forever. She and her drug have acclimated to each other, resulting in a meaningful albeit slightly less frenzied lifestyle with all the blessings and curses that motherhood has to offer. My dad, an eight-year prostate cancer survivor, has undergone surgery, and then radiation several years later when his disease recurred. He really doesn’t ever recall being sick, and his cancer has minimally affected his lifestyle. My grandmother, a five-year colon cancer survivor, succumbed to her disease. And after several years of deep suffering, she passed away quietly with a tear in her eye. Each adopted different strategies to get through their journeys: lifestyle change, benign denial or deep depression. Each changed by their cancer. Each of them survivors.

 Written by Rick Boulay MD

Original Article:


Ever Have One Of Those Days?

Beautiful Chaos


Of course you have, what am I saying? I was up in Scotland today doing some work for that other j-o-b and it seemed to start out well. It started snowing when I got off the plane, I like snow. It’s what I do, i bring snow everywhere I go. So, I picked up my car from the car hire place. I had a lovely pregnant lady behind the counter that helped me. She was very friendly and I always like that.

I went the 34 miles away that I had to go to work, did my work and was done in about 3 hours time. It was all pretty cut and dry. I got back towards the airport and stopped at the petrol station. The car was a diesel and it barely moved on the gage but I know how that goes, you turn the ignition off and boom, it’s dropped. I don’t trust that stuff when it’s on my dime. So, I topped the tank off, meanwhile getting diesel all over my hands…..someone left it a mess and yuck, I hate that smell!

So, I got on the road and to the airport. I pull in to the car hire lot and the bloke who was checking in cars looks at me, jumps in a car and drives off. Strike 1. I walked in the little hut to see about getting a check out of the car and there are 3 people in there. Guy comes out, (it’s still snowing out) walks around the vehicle, notes the mileage and fuel then asks if I topped off the fuel. I said yes, he asked for the receipt. I handed him the receipt and he said I needed the itemised receipt. This receipt was all I got from the place down the street. The guy managed to tell me that he was going to have to charge me a fuel charge. I was confused, full tank, reads full, fuel receipt what gives? I asked when inside, what is the problem, the gage says full and I have a receipt. He starts raising his voice and saying its not a proper receipt and that he will have to find out how much petrol will go in the car before he can charge me for fuelling the car! At this point I am angry. I asked what was the point in having the receipt if they were not going to accept it. He and a colleague state it has to be an itemised receipt and then go on to point it out in my paperwork when I got the car, where it says receipt, not itemised receipt. At this point I am checking on my smartphone the mileage the particular car I hired gets. Turns out it gets 65.7 mpg. So, I went 60 miles and somehow the 4 litres of petrol that I purchased was not enough for him. I asked for an itemised receipt. He said he had to wait til his mate got back to say how much he put in the car.

His mate said he put 4 litres in the car. I smell a rat at this point. The gage was pegged past Full! So, the guy could not produce a receipt. I asked for his name (Malcolm) and he pointed me towards the check out  desks to get my receipt. Well, the lovely lady from when I picked up the car was, as it turns out, the manager on duty. I explained her the start of my story and before I even finished she was deleting the charge on my card. She apologised for the way it was handled and was going to go have a word with all of the lot working the check-in.

See, here is what was the worst, it was HOW he dealt with it. I was treated as though I had tried to steal from them and it was out of order. I felt bullied and ganged up on because even after I was trying to figure out how to remedy this he was getting his colleagues in on the discussion by having them agree with him. It was like a mob mindset! This is not how a company should be represented and it was bang out of order. I hope none of you has to go through this when dealing with a business.

I was looking up photos that depict ‘chaos’ and the picture above is what came out! I was mesmerised! It’s beautiful, so it seems that chaos can be beautiful and I can calm down and be tranquil before my flight. I hope all are having a great day!



Sex After Your Mastectomy


I had no idea! This is a really well kept quiet secret here in the UK! I was surveying survivors and was surprised to see the ‘write-in’ portion of my survey had 99% response rate of intimacy being the biggest issue for them after the surgery was all done.

I had a look around the internet and found some resources:  Yup, that’s it my friends, a big giant non-profit org that gets large amounts of money donated and raised for them and all they can muster up is a paragraph addressing intimacy! I can promise you this, my company would not do that to you! When you attend one of our seminars, retreats or even one-to-one services, you are going to get a whole slew of exercises that will help you reconnect with yourself, your partner (no matter what your sexual preference) and regain your confidence once again to be unchallenged by any of the things that hinder intimacy for you.

What I think is happening is everyone is talking about all of the victorious stuff that happens when you come out of surgery and are done with all the steps towards reconstruction (if you opted for it) and no one is talking about those little nagging things that are going through the mind after this release from care occurs.

When you are wanting to be intimate with your partner again it is important to get right in your mind with your new body image. No matter what your choice was for surgery a close and personal connection with what you now look like is important to get your confidence back. So, my first step towards this confidence would be:

1. Get in front of the mirror topless

You need to look at your new body shape and really get to know the new curves and the scars that may be there so that you are familiar with every detail. Why is this important? Well, the points where you have scarring can be the source of a spot that will be tender if you are doing intimate touching with your partner. Knowing and being familiar with these spots will help you to understand directing your partner to be sensitive with those areas. (An exercise to perform later with your partner would be to have them sit in front of you and for you to guide their hand over these areas so that they understand what degree of touch you can manage in that area. Something vital for them to be able to feel as there are many times when it is in the dark that you are being intimate.) Understanding how tender that area is, is important because it will be you who can say what level of pressure is allowable.

2. Touch yourself!

Yes, that’s it, touch all the areas of your breast (or breasts if both were operated on) and see how it all feels to the touch. Not just for tenderness but for a deeper understanding of what your partner will feel and you can make analogies to them when explaining the touching aspect of things. It’s important that YOU know your body before attempting the intimacy with your partner as it is easier for you to explain how things should go.

3. Have a conversation with your partner

The next step is to talk to your partner about intimacy. Whether you have had no intimacy during your treatment or you have, it is important to set up the open communication with your partner on what the expectation is from you, what the fears and reluctance may be for you ,as well as, for your partner and then also to give a refreshed line of communication. It’s not always 100% clear to a partner that the communication that was had before is the same. There is a change and for some it can be more open communication and for others the communication is cut off. So it is important to re-open the line of communication and don’t be shy!

The level of timidness in regard to your body needs to be put aside. Why, you may ask? Because this is your body and there have been changes that only you know and understand. You are the only one who can communicate these changes to your partner. You may have been very much into having your breasts touched and played with prior to all of this but somehow that has changed. You may not have changed that and there are frustrations with lack of feeling or even too tender and you are frustrated with that. This all needs to be put out in the open for you and your partner to discuss.

I hope this helps and there is some level of opening up that you will be able to have  with your partner. Let me know if you have further questions and if you want me to run deeper into some intimacy exercises. I have spoken with a couple of professionals that deal with many of the issues that can help and I am glad to put them to task and get the answers if you feel you need more. Also, in the summer, 2013, my book will be out and you will be able to get that. It will be filled with exercises to do in order to re-connect with yourself as well as your partner.

After mastectomy and being intimate

Yup, I went there, and said it! How many books are out there on this subject? I found ONE! That doesn’t mean that at the time my search was thorough but it certainly was disappointing! The most common question I get from ladies seeking my assistance is that of intimacy. So much so that I am creating a workshop/seminar around it! It’s important stuff!

Mind you, this might end up being a two part entry because I have a lot of searching on the net to do to make sure i have exercised all of my options of finding any morsels that are out there! Surely people are writing about it on blogs right? Or are they? Oh, and no sooner than I search, BAM, the first to results are blogs! Yay! I love hearing from the REAL people who are going through it because I can give you techniques and tips, but do they work? I want to know that more than anything! I have self exploration exercises that I am confident work because it is between the survivor and their bodies and no one else is involved.

So, this wonderful lady at the blog Goodbyetoboobs has an entry about this very thing. If you would like to read more about that, here is the link:

I like her blog title because I immediately started humming Patti Smyth’s song, so I get it girl, I truly do! Now back to the subject, reading her ‘public service’ story as she calls it really is cool. She has really hit the subject head on and talks about how she felt before during and after. Sooooo very important! to understand where you are and where you were before surgery.

Some couples didn’t have a very close connection before the cancer came and so the journey of the hospital visits and treatment and surgery all become a bit intense and can either make or break the relationship if it was slightly marred to begin with. Sometimes a perfectly great relationship can get affected as well. So it really matters where you are inside and outside on the marriage/relationship.

One really big thing to keep in mind is, take care of  YOU and make sure you have your inner fears and concerns addressed. This can happen with your partner or without, sometimes the journey is so deep it needs to be a self discovery thing. This is what I help women with. This is an intense time and when you have come out the other end it does not mean you aren’t suffering from some battle fatigue!

I am going to go read some of these other blogs and find some more information and come back to you on this subject because it is not over, by any means! Go out there and have a good week. I’ll be back with more details for you to go over on this whole intimacy and mastectomy thing.

Exercise after Breast Cancer Surgery

Some great information can be e-mailed to you from this wonderful lady. See the attached article I got from Linkedin about it:

One of the problems that many breast cancer survivors have complained about is not enough information on the importance of exercise prior to and after rehab, if rehab is even offered. Exercise is one of the key components that is often overlooked. Aaron Dalton published an article on the benefits of exercise for breast cancer patients before, during and after, Oncology Times, 2005. More up to date articles are available in the archived sections of Oncology Times. For those of you who are interested in learning more about the benefits of exercising without damaging delicate tissues and muscles please send your request to We’ll be glad to forward you links to various articles on exercise benefits for breast cancer patients. And by all means share this information with your Oncologist.

They are located in the United States in Maryland and the posting can be found from this original location:

I Don’t Want To Be Told I am In A Mood

So, ladies, I am sure you can relate, you wake up and most of the things your partner has done to work up to that waking up (usually nothing but sometimes just the right words contribute) says that you’re in a bit of a mood. I guess it’s not fun because I try to come to grips with where the mood is coming from (no, not PMS but more likely PostMS) and just when you are trying to work it out, he says ‘You’re in a right mood.’

Yeah, the tears start pouring out and I am in this fit of emotions that I just can’t get a grip on. Worse though, he is off to go have lunch with his mates and thinks it’s because of that. it is so frustrating. Then of course, as men do, they say and do all the wrong things to make it even worse because at this point it’s out of control. I just shake my head realising that most of my being upset is a direct indication of me holding in everything in the last 30 days and just not dealing with it.

So here’s my point, when we hold it in and don’t deal with the issues that are deeply affecting us, we fall into this trap of a monthly outburst. I am not by any means saying this in terms of pointing a finger because certainly, I am guilty of it all too often! The thing is, if we consistently take care of ourselves through exercise, meditation and good diet, we can see a huge difference in this monthly (I’ll say that because for some it is different than when we get our cycle) emotional outburst.

Not all things in our lives can be 100% happy and I am not going to lie, this can certainly be taxing on our emotions. It is how we build up our bodies to these events that will help us move through them with much more ease. I have gotten into this thing called Qi Gong and I have to say it really is amazing stuff. It’s like harnessing our own energy and giving us a boost in all aspects of our body.

So, start today with a simple thing, perhaps a small step towards giving yourself a much needed bit of relief. Here’s what I mean, having a bad day? Leave work a little early and book yourself in for a pedicure or manicure to give yourself some ‘me’ time. If that doesn’t suit you, how about booking in a massage? Or if you are a bit more active, go for a run or take an aerobics class, or better yet Zumba! Get yourself out and about and doing something for you. I don’t mean go and have a pint or a glass of wine because that isn’t really going along the lines of my message here. We tend to do that more regularly and it isn’t necessarily the way to give yourself a bit of refresh and restart.

If you want to know more about Qi Gong, you can have a look on YouTube and certainly find some videos on basic ways to do it, and you can do it in your home, by your desk or in the toilet for a quick recharge! Here’s the one that I use: