I am awfully proud of this particular article I wrote October 1, 2015 for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Huffington Post because it is not always a pink party,
In the 2015 Winter Edition of Breast Cancer Wellness Magazine I wrote a feature article entitled, “Did My Diet & Lifestyle Lead to My Breast Cancer?”
In the end, genetics were a fact. I carry the BRCA2 genetic mutation. However, I believe diet, exercise, stress management and adequate sleep are essentials to staying healthy and reducing your risk.
Read the full article here: http://www.breastcancerwellness.org/mags/bcw_0115/FLASH/index.html
October 1, 2014- By Melanie Young, Special to Everyday Health
The day I completed my eighth and final round of chemotherapy for breast cancer, in the Spring of 2010, I felt like a marathon runner crossing the finish line. With a cheer I ripped off my hospital bracelet, a souvenir from my journey to Cancer Land. But the finish line that day was just the beginning of a new journey. Between a steady schedule of doctors’ appointments, treatments, and keeping up with my personal and professional responsibilities, I had failed to comprehend what was coming next. I was at the starting line of my healing journey…….
Read full story here: http://everydayhealth.com/columns/my-cancer-story/losing-breasts-helped-find-voice/
The 5-Part Wellness Plan That Helped Me During & After Cancer
BY MELANIE YOUNG
SEPTEMBER 22, 2014
In 2009, I was running a wine and food public relations agency in New York City, hobnobbing with famous chefs, drinking world-class wines and traveling the globe to promote wine and food regions. That summer I had partied with P Diddy’s celebrity guests at his Beverly Hills White Party, hosted a press trip to Spain, attended a cocktail conference in New Orleans and went on a two-week wine drinking business trip to Tuscany with my husband for a big new client.
It was on that trip to Italy when I discovered a lump in my breast during a self-examination. Within weeks my world changed. I received a diagnosis of Stage 2A breast cancer with tumors in both breasts. This savvy world traveler was about to take an unexpected trip to Cancer Land, a place she didn’t want to go, wasn’t prepared to visit and simply wanted to get out of alive with a one-way ticket back to good health.
After the initial shock sunk in, I looked at myself in the mirror and said to the scared person staring back, “You may not have chosen to have breast cancer, but you can choose how you will face it and how you will use this experience to make sure you stay in good health from this point forward. You will choose to be fearless and stay fabulous.”
I’m delighted to be featured in a 10 -part monthly blog series with @PaulaYoungWigs. Here’s post #1:
Breast Cancer Survivor Blog Series: Introducing Melanie Young
Writer, business woman, passionate traveler, and breast cancer survivor, Melanie Young is an advocate for the empowerment of women through education, peer support and mentoring… and now she’s offering her words of wisdom to Paula Young customers via a 10-part blog series.
This Q&A interview-style blogs series offers insight on Melanie, her book – Getting Things Off My Chest: A Survivor’s Guide To Staying Fearless and Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer – and her battle with breast cancer.
I hope you enjoy the first installment of this series which outlines how Melanie’s book is different from so many others.
PAULA: Why did you decide to write this book?
MELANIE: I originally started writing as therapy and to keep my mind focused during treatment. Writing was also an important form of self-expression during a time when I was keeping my cancer diagnosis close to my chest. I am a natural list maker, from “to do” lists to bucket lists, so making checklists and lists of questions was what I did to organize my information and stay on top of everything.
Click here to read more:
October 25, 2013
Greatist.com is the trusted health & fitness source for the young, savvy, and social. Health and fitness is hard. We want to make it easier. And for starters, we think you deserve better content than what’s out there now. Every fact is cited by a PubMed study, every story meticulously verified, and expert approved.
TEN WAYS I STAYED FEARLESS AND FABULOUS IN THE FACE OF BREAST CANCER by Melanie Young
In 2009, I was living the New York dream. I had a small, successful public relations business specializing in food and drink. I organized glamorous events, hobnobbed with famous chefs, and traveled the world tasting wines and attending cocktail conferences — for a living! Life was simply delicious!
And then everything deflated like a fallen soufflé….well, almost!
Continue reading by clicking here: http://greatist.com/health/how-i-stayed-fearless-and-fabulous-with-breast-cancer
Knoworthy, a website for smart, savvy,and independent women, asked Melanie to share her story in “If I Only Knew: Letters To Ourselves”
I am a four year breast cancer survivor and author of the just released “Getting Things Off My Chest: A Survivor’s Guide to Staying Fearless and Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer” (Cedar Fort Inc./September 10,2013).
In August 2009 at age 50 a breast cancer diagnosis knocked the wind out of me, but not the sails. I steadied myself, focused and plowed through the storm determined to beat cancer and live healthier by retooling my diet, ramping up my exercise, reducing stress and following my lifelong passion for writing. I just published a book filled with great tips to help newly diagnosed women.
Having cancer is not your choice, but you can choose to make smarter decisions about managing your health, diet, physical activity and stress to withstand treatment and reduce risk of recurrence. Ask every question possible and talk to other survivors for peer support. Do not compare your cancer experience to anyone else’s. Follow your gut making decisions but don’t stare at your navel with self pity. Don’t play the blame game about your cancer. Consider it a giant warning that you need to take better care of yourself for the long run.
Read more here: http://knoworthy.com/breast-cancer-stories-getting-things-chest/
Melanie’s story October 8, 2013 in Everyday Health provides tip for eating well after breast cancer. @everydayhealth
‘Hydrate, Gyrate, Masticate’: A Professional Foodie’s Guide to Eating Well for Breast Cancer Recovery
My journey into Cancer Land began in the beautiful wine region of Chianti Classico in Tuscany, Italy. I was on a business trip in July 2009 with my husband, David, when I found the lump in my left breast during a self-examination in the shower. I’ve always been diligent about getting annual mammograms, and the one from the prior year had been normal.
I own a wine and food marketing business and work with many international clients. One of the pleasures and perks of my profession is the opportunity to travel to beautiful places to learn and taste. But my jetsetter life came to a screeching halt when I was diagnosed with Stage 2A breast cancer a few weeks later. I was plagued with a sick, sour feeling in the pit of my stomach and overwhelmed by disbelief. There was no history of breast cancer in my family. And like many newly-diagnosed women, I blamed myself.
Did My Career Make Me Sick?
I was convinced my work-lifestyle — drinking great wines and cocktails, eating rich meals, jetting around for my job, not getting enough exercise, and juggling the stresses of running a business in New York City during a difficult economy — had sent me on the path to Destination Cancer.
And then I discovered small round lump in my left breast during a self examination in the shower at a hotel in Tuscany in July the same year. My heart sank life a deflated soufflé when my ob/GYN delivered the news a few weeks later after a barrage of tests that I had a “positive carcinoma” – a.k.a. breast cancer.
My father always told me to “think positive.” So the idea of a “positive” test delivering negative news was hard to digest. But I refused to let cancer sour my life or my attitude.
People will tell you to “Stay positive” and “Think positive thoughts” during cancer treatment. Sometimes it is hard, but it’s better to focus less on asking “Why Me?” and focus more on “What am I going to do get healthy?”
Having cancer may not be your choice but how you face the journey is your choice. I chose to use the experience as a learning boot camp to change anything in my life weighing down, stressing me out, souring my mood or stomach and holding me back from the three things I found really mattered: 1. Staying healthy and fit physically and mentally 2. Finding pleasure in your life and sharing it with others 3. Doing something you enjoy that gives you purpose and makes your life meaningful to you.
Smart Cancer Nutrition is Not Only Managing What You Are Eating – http://meals-to-heal.com/blog/smart-cancer-nutrition-is-not-only-managing-what-you-are-eating/
Managed nutrition should take a front and center role in your cancer treatment. Food is the fuel to give you energy to stay strong. You wouldn’t drive your car on empty or fill your tank with the wrong kind of gas. So why would you treat your body any differently? But just as a car needs gas to run, it also needs oil. Your body is the same.
Diet is only half the plate when it comes to the whole healing process. Improving the quality and quantity of the food you are eating is essential. But equally important is managing what is eating at you. This means learning to cope with stress and anxiety through a healthy lifestyle diet.
Getting Things off My Chest
Why I was standing in the ladies’ room feeling another woman’s breasts.
I recently was in a bathroom in a doctor’s office with my shirt off feeling another woman’s breasts.
No, I was not doing anything sexual, or “L” (loving, lewd, lascivious or lesbian). I was trying to determine if I had made the wrong decision with my breast reconstruction.
I am a breast cancer survivor who underwent a double mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and reconstruction in the last year. Like all cancer patients, there are countless decisions to weigh and make fairly quickly. Your mind is in a tailspin from the shock of diagnosis and the results of chemically induced treatments. The only decision I have questioned so far was my choice for new breasts. Even though my husband and I sat in my surgeon’s office reviewing “before and after” photos and looking at the shape and feel of different implants, from saline to silicone, it is just not the same as feeling the breast inside of you or on another woman. An implant hanging from the fingertips of a physician’s assistant is different from hanging on someone’s chest.
Read more here: http://more.com/health/wellness/getting-things-my-chest
MELANIE GUEST BLOGS FOR I HAD CANCER
Thanks For the Mammaries
After breast cancer and undergoing a mastectomy and reconstruction, Melanie had to come to terms with her new breasts. As she finds herself staring at others’, she finds the most beautiful breasts in the world are those that are healthy and cancer free. Read on to learn more about her journey.
I recently read that breast augmentation is the number one cosmetic procedure for women. It’s not covered by insurance and it’s pretty painful. But everywhere I go I see more “custom breasts.” Now that I have new ones myself, I find myself staring at others’.
I guess in a weird way, some people would say that I am lucky. Starlets, show girls, strippers and simply average women who want to feel enhanced have to pay handsomely out of pocket for new breasts. I had to pay for my new breasts by giving up my old ones. As nice as they were on the outside, they were a mess on the inside.
I call them my “Barbie Doll Breasts.”
As my breast reconstruction was covered by my health insurance, the real cost was emotional. I was able to plan and select my new breasts, from the shape and material to the size of the “tattoo.” They look pretty good now, one year later, though the skin around them feels really tight, and they feel quite different. They have absolutely no feeling or sensation. It took a good deal of time to gain back the strength in my arms and my range of motion. And sometimes I have phantom pain where the largest tumor was, at “2 ‘oclock.” They will really never be the same. I will never go topless again at the beach. But they are healthier and cancer free…and they will never sag! My doctor says I have a lifetime warranty, and I can even choose to change them whenever I want to another type of material or size. Hey, I had breast cancer. I guess I earned that right!
MELANIE GUEST BLOGS FOR PEDIATRICIAN DR. ALAN GREENE
Dr. Alan Greene has had a thriving pediatric practice in San Mateo, California since 1995. He is also author of “Toddler Mood Management: Easy Tips for Turning the Terrible Twos in the Terrific Twos” Ebook.
I was invited to guest blog at https://www.drgreene.com the week of June 24. It was fun to share my insights with moms. Here are links to my five posts:
June 24, 2013
The Supreme Court Decision on BRCA Testing: It’s Significance for Women
On June 13, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that companies cannot patent naturally occurring human genes. This landmark ruling is a giant step forward for women’s health because it breaks down barriers and opens doors for more accessible and affordable testing for the BRCA gene mutation.
Why Is BRCA genetic testing important?
We all carry BRCA1 and BRCA2, both naturally occurring human genes. However, a BRCA mutation, or abnormalcy, can lead to specific cancers. In women these include breast and ovarian cancer. While not all cancers are linked to the BRCA mutation, some women have greater risks.
If you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer there could be a link to the BRCA gene mutation. The mutation is also more common in women of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage. While my family had no history of breast cancer, my father and grandfathers had prostate cancer and my grandmother had pancreatic cancer, both linked to BRCA gene mutation.
June 25, 2013
The Hardest News to Share
The only thing worse than having a doctor tell you that you have been diagnosed with cancer is telling your children. Just saying the words, “I have cancer” can make you choke. It took me two years to say the words without a struggle.
So how do you share the news calmly to the most precious people in your life?
Think age appropriate when you share the news. A younger child will digest the news differently from a pre-teen or teenager. You may choose to gather the family in a room together or tell each child separately.
Use language they can easily understand and keep the medical explanations simple. Let them know that everyone is a “team” and we are going to win the battle. Tell them you have a great medical team on your side to treat you.
Speak in a calm and reassuring manner. Practice in front of the mirror. It helps to have your spouse or partner with you when you break the news.
Tell them how much you need and value their support and that you will still and always be there for them. It will be a challenge to face and important to plan, prepare and allow for a little down time but never “away time” from their needs.
Allow time to answer their questions. If you are met with their silence, give them a chance to digest the information quietly and tell them you are available to talk at anytime.. Read more at: http://drgreene.com/perspectives/the-hardest-news-to-share/
June 26, 2013
Making Meals and Nutrition a Family Affair
Children learn from their parents. If you want your kids to eat responsibly take a look at what you are putting on your own plate. Make smart food choices a family affair and make it fun for everyone at the same time. Show by example that sensible eating is both a necessity and a pleasure.
Teach Farm to Table
Take your kids to farmers markets to learn about where food is grown. One of my favorite family outings in the summer was to the weekly farmers’ market to select fresh peaches, strawberries, green beans, summer tomatoes and just picked corn, some of my favorite foods today,
If you don’t live in near a farming community, or if your city does not offer farmers markets, buy fresh fruits and vegetables at the supermarket rather than canned. Post a calendar in the kitchen showing when fruits and vegetables are in season so your kids can learn when plant foods are at their freshest.
Read more by clicking here: http://drgreene.com/guest-posts/page/2/
June 27, 2013
Take Ten for Yourself
A friend of mine complained about how overwhelmed she was at work and how she felt stressed and tired. She is self–employed like me, and sometimes I think you work even harder and longer hours when you work for yourself. I responded, “Give yourself a ten minute break each hour.”
Put Time on Your Side
There never seems to be enough time in the day when you are juggling family, work, community and social commitments, finances and myriad other activities that comprise your schedule. A friend taught me long ago to stop spending all my time on others and start saving time for myself. I took her advice and added a little “me time” every day.
It made a difference on my stress level. “Me time” can be a workout, getting your nails, visiting a friend, baking a cake or meditating…whatever it takes to make you unwind. It’s not being selfish; it’s taking care of your self. No one wants a stressed out parent or spouse, and you want to stay healthy for yourself and your loved ones.
“Me time” can be whatever time you can afford spend on yourself. But you have to make the time. If you don’t have an hour for the gym, take 15 to 30 minutes to stretch and exercise at home. Try taking ten minute breaks during the day to get up and recharge. A brisk walk outside will clear your head and rev up your energy at minimal cost.
June 28, 2013
Your Medical Checklist: What You Need To Know
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer I learned the importance of maintaining a medical checklist. I also learned how little I really knew about my health records and family history. I had to collect information quickly and document each step of treatment and medication.
This information is now carefully filed, and I have told my husband where to locate the information. Each time I visit a doctor and am asked to update my records I am better prepared. I learned that keeping medical records updated for each family member is important, especially when an emergency or major illness occurs.
What you need to record
Compile a permanent medical dossier for yourself and your children be prepared to bring it to doctors’ visits. Here is a list:
- A record of all allergies (environmental, food, medications, materials like latex)
- List of current medications, dosages and frequency taken
- Vitamins or supplements taken and dosages
- History of illnesses and surgeries and dates they occurred
- Family history of major illnesses
Read more by clicking here: http://drgreene.com/perspectives/your-medical-checklist-what-you-need-to-know/
BRCA2— Is It Better Not To Know?
Breast cancer connected me to Mailet Lopez, a fellow survivor and marketing specialist at Squeaky Media who started the award winning online community I Had Cancer.
Here’s my guest post dedicated to my late father, Mel Young.
When Melanie’s doctors suggested that she should undergo genetic testing after being diagnosed with breast cancer, she didn’t think twice. That’s when she learned about one of the many traits she shared with her father: the BRCA2 gene.
My Father died on November 2, 2009 after facing down prostate cancer and then renal failure. Sadly, I was not at his side when he passed away peacefully in his sleep before dawn. I had just completed my second breast cancer surgery within six weeks and was still in New York with a drain attached to the left side of my body.
I adored my father.
We had a dual relationship: father-daughter and business advisor-business woman. Way too frequently the two relationships collided. One minute we would discuss a tax issue, payroll or another business matter; the next he would share gossip from my hometown Chattanooga, tell me a joke or read me a chapter of the latest book he was writing about the Civil War. We’d fight over business and then share funny stories. He stood up for me when the banks turned me down for my first business loan and stood by me when my heart was crushed over a passing love affair.
We were both alike in so many ways. I inherited his business sense and his work ethic. I also inherited his sensitive skin, his square shoulders and his mischievous grin (or so people tell me). We shared a love for great wines, far flung travel and the brilliant ray of light who is my mother, whom he called Sunny. We also shared a “cancer gene” mutation called BRCA2. There is also a BRCA1 gene — they both translate to cancer but with different mutations and associated cancer risks. After I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I realized I didn’t know much about my family’s health history— who thinks about these things? Thankfully, my mother seemed to know everything about everyone in my family.
My father had prostate cancer and a bout with melanoma, and after I researched the family tree, I found out that his mother had pancreatic cancer, as did my paternal great grandmother. These cancers can also share the BRAC2 gene. Also, 1 out of 40 individuals with a background from the Ashkenazi Jewish population has inherited one of three founder mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2. (According to “Clinical Genetics Service Follow Up Report” from Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital).
My doctors suggested that I undergo genetic testing.
I did not give it a second thought. It wasn’t like I was at risk for getting cancer. I already had cancer. I just didn’t understand “why me?” when no one else in my immediate family had breast cancer. I assumed the cancer was the result of too much stress and being a bit overweight, but I knew that learning whether or not there may have been a genetic influence would explain more.
The test is simple. A nurse practitioner pricks your finger, and your blood is tested. First you fill out a zillion more forms, and counselors sit down and talk you through everything. It is all very thorough and not intimidating.
Testing positive for the BRCA2 gene meant that I had a 27% chance of getting ovarian cancer by the time I hit age 70. So I decided to have my ovaries and Fallopian tubes removed, a prophylactic surgery called an “oophorectomy.” The name sounds like the way you feel post-surgery – “Oooph!” If my cancer had only been in one breast, the risk of a recurrence in the second breast could be as high as 25-30% barring various factors. For me that was a non-issue; both my breasts had cancer and needed to go.
Some people may be afraid of undergoing genetic testing, especially if you have not been diagnosed with any of these cancers, are of child bearing age or have children. To that fear I ask, is not knowing better or worse? For some, knowing puts a cloud of fear in their minds. And how will it impact their children? Could it affect their health insurance? The specter of getting cancer puts the fear in everyone; the reality of having it puts you in survivor mode and teaches you to face your worst fear head on.
If I have to choose a fear of the unknown or a fear of knowing the truth, I prefer the latter. The glass is still half full even if there is a dash of BRCA2 in it. If you still are not sure, speak to your doctors and seek out others who have undergone genetic testing. You have my opinion. I got it off my chest!
My father died before knowing that I had the gene, our special bond. I am glad he never knew; it would have made him sad although it also would have brought us even closer. We shared the same spirit and the same courage to face anything that comes our way with a certain inner strength and sense of humor.
If my father were alive today he would tell me, “I am proud of you Melanie. You did the right thing. We will face it together.”
In many ways we did.
(Image courtesy of I Had Cancer)