Image: books.simonandschuster.com


Hoda Kotb, co-anchor of the TODAY show, tells the stories of people who pushed through hardship and uncertainty to discover their life callings.  From a cook turned doctor to a retired couple who adopted Haitian children, each tale proves that finding purpose is often a winding road, but it’s never too late to start. Boy oh boy, talk about a Shining Moment!

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Image: Neuropathyjournal.com

After my taking the drug, Taxol, I experienced something called neuropathy. It is yet another example of the collateral damage that chemo does in its pursuit to eradicate breast cancer (or any kind of cancer for that matter). I know many (way too many!) people who have also experienced nasty neuropathy. I actually vacillated between feeling as though my fingertips were on fire or frozen. …really hard to describe unless you’ve been there (and of course I hope that you haven’t!).

Neuropathy is a general term for pain and numbness caused by damage to nerves in the peripheral nervous system. It can occur any time after chemotherapy begins and typically starts in your toes and moves up into your legs, arms, and hands. Mine started just a few short days after I started the Taxol.  Boy oh boy did it ever stun me (and just when I thought that nothing could shock me!).

ASCO (the American Society of Clinical Oncology) has done extensive research on neuropathy and has determined that sadly, there is no cure or medication that can prevent chemotherapy-associated neuropathy. Please, be warned: there are many medications on the market right now that are said to prevent neuropathy; however, they often have extensive side effects and can interfere with other cancer medicines. Ewwwww. This is NOT GOOD.

In light of this, ASCO’s new guidelines recommend NOT using medicines or supplements that say that they prevent neuropathy. These medications include:

  • acetyl-L carnitine (ALC)
  • amifostine (brand names: Ethyol, Ethiofos)
  • amitriptyline (brand names: Amitid, Amitril, Elavil, Endep)
  • calcium/magnesium
  • diethyldithio-carbamate (DDTC)
  • glutathione
  • nimodpine (brand names: Nimotop, Nymalize)
  • Org 2766
  • all-trans-retinoic acid (also called tretinoin) (brand name: Vesanoid)
  • rhuLIF (recombinant human leukemia inhibitory factor)
  • vitamin E

The bottom line is that the folks at ASCO believe that if there is no scientific evidence showing that a medication helps neuropathy then it is probably best to steer away from using it.

Now the Shining Moment is that there is ONE medication that ASCO has found enough supporting evidence to put on the recommendation list for chemotherapy-associated neuropathy. It is called Cymbalta.  While Cymbalta is not a cure for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, research does show that it does help slow the process down.

Here is the big, humongous caveat: please, don’t ever, under any circumstances take any medication without talking with your Oncologist. Each person’s treatment plan is unique. The last thing in the world that you would want is to have a drug counteract the hard work of the chemotherapy. Conversation is imperative and will be a great Shining Moment in your care.


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Image: Bhg.com

Check your pantry and fridge because you probably already have the ingredients for this delicious soup. A few staples like canned beans, stock, and spinach are elevated to main dish status thanks to a springy trio of leeks, thyme, and lemon. I enjoy cooking with spinach, but have learned that any number of other tender greens can easily take the place of the spinach. Try baby kale, watercress, or even dandelion greens. This recipe is easy-peasy and only takes 25 minutes!


2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced, washed, and drained

2 15-16-oz. cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

4 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable stock or broth

1 lemon, juiced (3 Tbsp.)

1 5 oz. packages baby spinach

1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped


Enjoy, enjoy!

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Image: Businesstocommunity.com

In the last two months, I have had no less than three wham-bam-a-ha moments that have centered me – in a wonderful way. Each has left me asking myself: Am I really present in my own life?

Here is a prime example: a few weekends ago, I attended a beautiful – and I mean BEAUUUUUTIFUL, over-the-top – birthday party. Every single solitary detail was spectacular and planned to the tee.  Instead of just taking it all in, I was the one (of many!) people who (now regrettably!) pulled out my phone to take photos. Are you wondering if I posted the pics?

The Shining Moment is that I gave myself a snap out of it moment and stopped myself. Feeling like a complete shuck, I wondered: Why on earth am I going to do this?  Fortunately, I made the right decision NOT to share.  I reminded myself that I never post a photo of anyone or any event without expressed permission.  I wasn’t going to name-names, but stilllllll….

Another downer was that by futzing with my f-bomb phone, I managed to miss being in the moment: enjoying the music, dancing and being fully present. Ugh.

Unfortunately, many people shared photos from the event on social media.  The backlash from the sharing was sad & yucky. Too many people asked: Why wasn’t I invited? How could I say: There was a limited guest list? without further hurting their feelings? It gives me knots in my tummy just thinking about it. What was a celebratory event required damage control and inevitably hurt people’s feelings, both of which took away the celebratory spirit. Double Ugh.

Beyond the whole privacy issue (that’s another post in and of itself!), thanks to our omnipresent technology, it seems as though so many of us have become habituated to passing through our life with little or no presence.

Now, I fully acknowledge (and am learning firsthand myself!) that being present takes time and effort and goes against the grain of our multitasking society. However, taking this time and effort – and some snap out of it moments! –  will help me/us see that being present to our life is more important than the passage of events in our life (especially when captured digitally).

I learned this the hard way, but the Shining Moment is that it was indeed a very valuable lesson!




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Image: cvgcares.com

YOU can change the world! If you don’t think so, you are incorrect. Helping out and spreading happiness isn’t very hard, but finding a cause that you truly believe in may take some effort. Phyllis Sudman knows all too well that there’s no right or wrong way to deal with tragedy. She was determined to do something to make sure no other family has to unnecessarily bury a child.

In 2005, her 3-month-old son, Simon, died in his sleep from an undetected heart condition-the same type that explains up to 15 percent of all SIDS deaths and is one of the reasons thousands of children die of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) each year.

So, Phyllis and her husband turned their heartbreak into strength by launching Simon’s Fund, which has organized heart screenings for nearly 12,000 kids and caught life-threatening conditions in about 100 of them.

Simon’s Fund has helped save so many young lives since the inception of the organization. The Sudman’s have truly made a difference, and I am proud to say, ARE CHANGING THE WORLD!


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Myths About Breast Cancer from an Oncologist



Nearly every day, I am asked questions about breast cancer. What amazes me is the omnipresent myths and assumptions (there are soooo many!) made about the disease. Countless times each week, I’m asked: “Is such-and-such true?” “Is it not?”

Recently, I came across a great article on Everyday Health (one of my favorite websites) in which oncologist Kandace McGuire explains 12 myths of breast cancer quite beautifully and succinctly (Shining Moment). I thought I’d share these with you.

Myth No. 1: You Have to Have a Family History to Get Cancer

“Women who don’t have a family history of breast cancer are surprised when they get breast cancer,” says McGuire. Family history is a well-established risk factor — so well-established that some women may believe it is the only risk factor, but it’s not. “Less than 10 percent of breast cancer patients get it because of a familial history,” she explains.

Myth No. 2: There’s Nothing You Can Do About an Inherited Risk

A strong family history is a cancer risk factor, but just because women in your family have had breast cancer does not mean you are destined to get it. Genetic testing will help you understand your inherited risk and allow you to make choices about your future care. Additionally, McGuire says that research shows that a low-fat diet combined with physical activity and moderate alcohol consumption (fewer than two drinks per day) reduces breast cancer risk. “If you have a family history, you should do everything that you can to decrease your risk,” she advises.

Myth No. 3: Double Mastectomy Prevents a Return of Breast Cancer

Removing a breast that has not had breast cancer does prevent breast cancer in that breast, but removing a breast that already has cancer still leaves you with a 3 to 4 percent risk of recurrence. “Your survival is based on the first cancer,” says McGuire, not on the removal of additional breast tissue.

Myth No. 4: Underwire Bras Cause Breast Cancer

“That’s absolutely untrue,” says breast surgical oncologist Kandace McGuire, MD, of the Breast Cancer Program of Magee Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pa. Dr. McGuire explains that this is based on an old theory that an underwire bra would reduce lymphatic drainage and increase breast cancer risk. “It was not based on any data whatsoever,” she says. Constriction of the breast, whether from an underwire bra or any kind of compression garment, does not affect breast cancer risk.

Myth No. 5: Antiperspirants Cause Breast Cancer

“There have been no studies to suggest a link between antiperspirants and breast cancer,” says McGuire. There are two possible points of origin for this cancer myth:

  • These chemical preservatives are used in some antiperspirants and some other products. They may increase estrogen levels, which is linked to breast cancer risk. But there is “no decisive link,” says McGuire. Check ingredient labels if you are concerned. Look for the ingredients methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or benzylparaben. However, most brands no longer include these ingredients.
  • Mammogram preparation.Antiperspirants contain some aluminum, which may show up on mammograms as a false-positive result. “One thing that is important for women to know is that when they go for their mammograms, they shouldn’t wear antiperspirants,” advises McGuire.

Overall, the National Cancer Institute does not advise limiting the use of antiperspirants, but does say more research is needed in this area.

Myth No. 6: Radiation From Screening Tests Causes Cancer

Although mammograms do give off a small amount of radiation, “the radiation dose in a mammogram is less than in a standard chest X-ray,” says McGuire. “It is such a low level that it wouldn’t increase breast cancer risk.” Women should also know that MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) and ultrasounds, which may also be used to screen for breast cancer in some women, contain no radiation at all.

Myth No. 7: Exposure to Air Causes Cancer to Spread

McGuire shares a myth she often hears from worried patients — cutting into a cancer and exposing it to air causes the cancer to spread. “That is untrue as well,” she stresses. Patients are naturally worried because cancer does have the potential to spread (called metastasis), but it is not caused by your cancer surgeon cutting into a tumor for a biopsy or to remove it.

Myth No. 8: Breast Cancer Occurs Only in Older Women

“Increasing age is a risk factor for breast cancer, so the older you are the more likely you are to get breast cancer,” says McGuire. However, that doesn’t mean younger women aren’t vulnerable. Breast cancer can be diagnosed at any age. “It tends to be more aggressive in younger women,” she adds.

Myth No. 9: Plastic Surgery Causes Breast Cancer

The good news for women who want to enhance or reduce their bust size is that there is no link between breast plastic surgery and increased breast cancer risk. Implants can make mammograms more difficult, but they do not make cancer more likely. Women who have breast reduction surgery may actually see a decrease in breast cancer risk. “Getting a breast reduction can reduce your risk of breast cancer by about 60 percent, depending on how much they take,” says McGuire.

Myth No. 10: Mammograms Aren’t Accurate Anyway, So Why Bother?

Recent controversy about the right time for women to begin having mammograms — whether they should begin at age 40 or age 50 — has left some women feeling the screening test may not be worthwhile.

Younger women often have denser breast tissue than older women, who have more fat tissue in the breast. “The denser your breasts are, the less accurate your mammogram is going to be,” acknowledges McGuire, but adds, “Having a bad mammogram is better than having none. It’s the only thing that we’ve shown thus far to reduce the mortality from breast cancer.”

Myth No. 11: Self-Exams Aren’t Necessary

Actually, the research is inconclusive on this question. “Most of the women that I talk to in the office are not doing self-exams. But there’s no downside — it’s cheap and easy to do,” says McGuire, who says that only good things can come from being familiar with the shape of your own breasts. (This is how I found my breast cancer, by the way!)

Myth No. 12: Abortion and Miscarriage Increase Breast Cancer Risk

While there is some evidence that having children before the age of 30 can reduce the risk of breast cancer, there is no research to support the idea that the early end of a pregnancy through miscarriage or abortion could increase breast cancer risk.

Armed with these facts — not myths — you will be better able to reduce your risk and plan your treatment if you develop breast cancer (Shining Moment!).


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Passover Goodies

It’s that time of year again where we have to eat unleavened bread and live on matzo! As we prepare for the holiday, I’ve found a few goodies that I would love to share with you. They are wonderful delicious hostess gifts and treats for the holiday. Purchase them now before they sell out!


No. 209 Gin

Sugar cane-based spirit that’s certified kosher- for-Passover.  There is a limited availability, so stock up! From $31.99; distillery.com




Danny Macaroons

Salted caramel, chocolate almond, and more. Oh my! Save room for this delicious dessert. $19.99 for four; dannymacaroons.com




Steve & Andy’s Candied Orange Peels

Believe it or not, these treats have a sweat, concentrated citrus taste.  Sprinkle on salad or eat straight from the bag. $12.25 for 2.15 oz.; mouth.com




Raley’s Confectionary Jewish Star Candy

These festive blue-and-white mints with a Star of David design are so fun! $7.75 for 3 oz.; mouth.com



The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen By Amelia Saltsman

I L.O.V.E. this book. The fresh modern dishes for the Seder table and all year are quite spectacular. Sterling Epicure, $29.95; amazon.com



ISH Premium Horseradhish

Robust, zippy and good on EVERYTHING – especially brisket or lamb. $15.99; farmtopeople.com




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Stressed Out


Stressed Out

Lordy-bee. WTF is going on with stress lately?  It is EVERY.WHERE.  Are you all feeling it? One of my friends eloquently uses the hashtags:  #stuck and #burnedout.  I would add #stressedbeyondbeliefwithnopatienceleft.  Yea, life and work are very overwhelming these days. The Shining Moment is that #hashtag creation cracks me up and there is nothing like a giggle to help balance stress and anxiety! Oh and the other big Shining Moment is that I no longer have chemo appointments in my calendar for quite some time. So there.

Anyhoo, recently I came across a powerful and super visual description of what stress physically feels (and looks!) like from the Huffington Post. These struck such a chord with me.  How about you?


“Like a huge knot in my stomach.”


“It feels like being caught in a stunami; the rolling of the wave keeps you from figuring out which direction to swim.”


“I feel like a shark bit me in the stomach.”


“For me stress is like a hazy fog that is so thick that it literally slows me down.”


“It feels like the walls are closing in. A vice grip on my body.”


“A volcanic mountain close to eruption with lots of pressure building up. Everything is amplified around me. “


“Stress feels like carrying around a mental cinderblock. You can hold it for a few minutes and not get tired of (an actual cinderblock weighs 28 pounds) but if you carry it around for an hour it will fatigue you, carry it around for a day it will hurt you, continue to carry it long term and it can literally kill you.”


“I feel like I am an Egyptian mummy wrapped all over and the pyramid is put on top of me.”


“It feels like a weight on my shoulders, gravity pulling me down and a sense of dread.”


“Stress is like being hugged by a giant.”

What does stress physically feel like to you?

Source: Lindsay Holmes, Huffington Post


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