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Cancer... AFTER the Treatment Ends
By Carol LeBeau
10/11/2012 4:37:57 PM


My oncologist smiled broadly as he entered the treatment room.  “Congratulations, Carol,” he exclaimed. “You’re now considered cancer-free!” While his words elicited a sense of relief and gratitude, I couldn’t help feeling a little empty and sad as I walked to my car. 

It’s been nearly a year since my diagnosis, surgeries and treatment…a difficult year, but the worst is over, right?  I should be happy, optimistic about the future and grateful to God for each new day.  Most days that’s the case but some days, I’m ashamed to say, it’s still hard. 

I take comfort knowing I’m not alone.  In fact, there’s new front in breast cancer – after the treatment ends.  Many women among the growing ranks of breast cancer survivors face long-term issues that are often overlooked.

Here’s what one woman had to say: “The second-hardest phase – after the initial diagnosis – is the minute your treatment ends.”  The 43-year old, 10-year breast cancer survivor adds, “The reality sets in that you have to live with this the rest of your life and the safety net is gone.  That’s when you really freak out.”

Amen to that, sister! Despite all the pink ribbons and billions spent on breast cancer research, there’s surprisingly little data on issues that linger or emerge in the years after treatment ends.  Although the odds of relapse fall with time, truth is, they never completely disappear.

Some patients who had treatment years ago are encountering delayed side effects such as heart problems, nerve damage, osteoporosis and like ABC’s Robin Roberts – secondary cancers.

Nearly 90 percent of respondents to a survey conducted by Cancer Support Community said they had at least one physical, psychological or social problem.  Mentioned most frequently were fatigue, sexual dysfunction and sleep issues.  Twenty-four percent of those surveyed reported being depressed – about twice the national rate.

More research needs to be done to help women, including distress screening and studies on the long-term side affects of treatments…but the upshot is pretty clear.

As with many chronic illnesses, a woman’s life is forever changed after a breast cancer diagnosis. 

So, all of you courageous breast cancer survivors out there…congratulations!  There’s reason to celebrate.  But as you bravely smile and are grateful to be cancer-free…count me among those who understand the tiny hint of caution in your eyes.

Cancer isn’t over when the treatment ends.


Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.

Eating for Wellness
By Carol LeBeau
10/5/2012 2:02:47 PM

I have to tell you about my favorite, new cookbook!

As some of you may know, cooking is not exactly on my “Top 10 list of Fun Things to Do.”  However, since my breast cancer diagnosis earlier this year, I’ve been more concerned about my diet.   While eating healthfully has always been important, now it’s become a life or death proposition.

I don’t mean to be melodramatic.  Diet, after all, is just one of many lifestyle factors that contribute to the incidence and recurrence of cancer.  It’s just these days I want to give myself an edge eating foods with the most nutritional bang for the buck.

Well, Prevention’s new cook book, “Recipes You Can’t Live Without” couldn’t have come out at a better time.  What makes it unique is its focus on the use of healing nutrients in each of its 101 main dish recipes.   The authors made it easy for culinary-challenged people like me by designing their dishes around 14 essential nutrients.

They identified the foods that contain the highest levels of these lifesaving vitamins and minerals, and combined them in recipes that are not only good for you.  They taste good, too!

Here are the nutrients these dishes bring to the table and what they do for you.

  • Anthocyanins protect the brain, reduce blood pressure, lower diabetes risk
  • Calcium builds bone, alleviates PMS symptoms, lowers colon cancer risk
  • Carotenoids help fight cancer, boost immunity, sharpen vision
  • Fiber aids digestion, regulates blood sugar, improves cholesterol numbers
  • Folate prevents birth defects, helps treat depression, supports heart health
  • Iron maintains muscle,boosts energy, improves your mental outlook\
  • Magnesium protects against diabetes, safeguards your hearing, aids sleep
  • Omega-3 fatty acids slash heart disease risk, keep the brain healthy, prevent and treat diabetes
  • Potassium protects against stroke, helps regulate blood pressure, promotes strong bones
  • Vitamin B-12 prevents headaches, bolsters the brain, supports metabolism
  • Vitamin C keeps skin smooth, fights inflammation, reduces stroke risk
  • Vitamin D strengthens bones, provides cancer protection, helps burn fat
  • Vitamin E wards off dementia, prevents blood clots, destroys free radicals

I’m just getting started on my new, healthy recipes. So far I’ve tried the bone-building pasta lasagne made with Swiss chard, eggplant and mushrooms (absolutely delicious!) and the cancer-fighting pizza with butternut squash, spinach and fontina.  

Next, I’m going to try the brain-boosting pork (I’m an Iowa gal!) braised in Kiwi-coconut sauce with white beans.  Here’s the recipe…let’s make it together!


Pork Braised in Kiwi-Coconut Sauce with White Beans

  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 6 (1 ½” thick) boneless pork loin chops
  • ½ lg. red onion, chopped
  • 1 can (14 oz) light coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp green curry paste (found it at Whole Foods)
  • 11 kiwifruits, peeled and chopped (about 4 c)
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 1 can (8 oz) pineapple chunks, drained and chopped
  • 6 Tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 3 Tbsp slicked shallots
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro

Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle pork with ¼ tsp salt and season with pepper.  Cook chops until bottoms are browned. 2-3 min. Turn and repeat on opposite sides.  Transfer to plate.

Reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook onion, stirring until soft, 6 min. Add coconut milk, curry paste and 1 ½ cups of the kiwi.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until fruit is very soft, 5 min. Remove from heat.  Working in batches, carefully puree in blender.

Simmer coconut mixture in a pot.  Add pork and any juices.  Cover and simmer, turning halfway through, until pork is cooked through, 12 min.

Mix remaining ingredients and remaining kiwi in bowl.  Serve with pork and sauce.

Good…and good for you!

For more nutritious recipes, check out “101 Recipes You Can’t Live Without: The Prevention Cookbook” at www.prevention.com.



Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.

Breast Cancer: It Can Happen to Anyone
By Carol LeBeau
10/1/2012 3:21:01 PM

Two years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing my friend and former 10News colleague, Bill Griffith for an article in Palomar Health’s “The HealthSource” magazine.  A six-year male breast cancer survivor at the time, Bill spoke candidly about his rare experience with the devastating disease that kills 40,000 women a year in the United States.

Lighthearted and positive about his treatment and recovery, when I asked Bill whether he’d known that men could develop breast cancer, he gravely admitted, “I knew it was possible.  I just never thought it would happen to me.”   I shuddered…imagining for a brief moment being in his place.

Meanwhile, in a companion article on the same page with Bill’s interview, yours, truly pontificated, opined and passed along expert advice on how to avoid becoming a breast cancer statistic.  “Up to a third of breast cancer cases could be avoided,” I wrote, “if women tried eating less and exercising more.”

I remember feeling a bit smug as I passed along the results of a major study done by the World Health Organization.  Twenty-five to 30 percent of breast cancer cases could be avoided, according to the study, if women were thinner and exercised more.  With confidence bordering on arrogance, I recall thinking surely I must be immune.  I’ve exercised and eaten well for years.  Breast cancer could never happen to me.

A phone call from my doctor in early January shattered that notion and my world.  In a matter of seconds, I went from arrogance to gut-wrenching fear as I joined my friend, Bill Griffith as one of the more than 200,000 men and women diagnosed with breast cancer each year. 

Like Bill, I didn’t fit the profile of a breast cancer victim.  Or so I thought.  As I’ve come to learn in recent months, breast cancer doesn’t care about your “profile.”  Breast cancer can happen – to anyone.

I received the grim diagnosis January 2.  With mirror image, slow-growing tumors in both breasts, my options were few.  Several weeks later I underwent double mastectomies with lymph node dissections on both sides.

In the weeks prior to surgery, I recall my emotions….alternating between calm resolve and denial.   This can’t be happening, I reasoned.   I have no family history of breast cancer. I’ve never smoked. I exercise and eat well.  I’m healthy!  I’m a health reporter, for heaven’s sake! 

Desperate and terrified, I cried out to God, “You must have me confused with someone else – someone who can actually do this!”  Weak, scared and completely ill-equipped to face my ordeal, I prayed for strength.  It worked.

God’s strength along with the love and support of my sweet husband, loving family, faithful friends and health-care providers literally carried me through the toughest time in my life.

Eight months later, things are getting back to normal.  I’m on anti-estrogen therapy and going through the reconstruction process and grateful for renewed strength to work, play, laugh (and swim in La Jolla Cove!) 

Life goes on, but some things are forever changed.  Although I’m currently considered cancer-free, I’m now keenly aware there are no guarantees.  And so I gratefully live one day at a time – replacing my former pride and arrogance with humility and compassion.

I still swim and eat lots of salmon and blueberries. But I now know that may not be enough to keep breast cancer at bay.  There are many risk factors to consider and the need, more than ever, for early detection and treatment.  Because when it comes to breast cancer, it doesn’t matter who you are.


Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.