Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Good Motivation for Reading Labels to Avoid Absorbing Phthalates!

Even Low Levels Of Phthalate Exposure Can Increase Breast Cancer Cell Proliferation - Food for Breast Cancer

Interesting new research suggests that American standards for phthalate levels should be reconsidered. European standards are more stringent meaning there are lower levels of phthalates in products, hence less human exposure.

I avoid them as much as possible. There are so many body care products ... soaps, lotions, shampoos, etc ... that I avoid for this reason.

I hope it's making a difference and giving me even better odds of avoiding a breast cancer recurrence.

Also compelling is this report about the "brouhaha over endocrine disruptors". Mostly what one gets out of this is that science can not necessarily be trusted. One has to look at the corporate associations of individual scientists ... if you can find it out ... and then determine their level of bias.  Scientists who speak out and have no bias are the ones with credibility.  It's a sad state of affairs in scientific research when scientific reporting can't be trusted.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Research Suggests 'Chemo Brain' May Be Legit! No Kidding!

It's about time. It's only been very recent studies that are revealing the reality of "chemo brain".  So many women who have undergone breast cancer treatments report such problems and so often they're ignored, or dismissed as being only a result of the stress and anxiety caused by breast cancer. Finally some studies are showing that it's the real deal. Lord knows I've suffered quite clearly from the effect and, in fact, 3 years later, still have issues that I honestly believe I wouldn't have had otherwise.

Chemo Brain. It's for real. And it sucks. Then again, so does death by cancer. Even more so.

Research Suggests 'Chemo Brain' May Involve Neurophysiological Change:

"For many years, breast cancer patients have reported experiencing difficulties with memory, concentration and other cognitive functions following cancer treatment. Whether this mental "fogginess" is psychosomatic or reflects underlying changes in brain function has been a bone of contention among scientists and physicians.  

Now, a new study led by Dr. Patricia Ganz, director of cancer prevention and control research at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, demonstrates a significant correlation between poorer performance on neuropsychological tests and memory complaints in post-treatment, early-stage breast cancer patients - particularly those who have undergone combined chemotherapy and radiation. "The study is one of the first to show that such patient-reported cognitive difficulties- often referred to as 'chemo brain' in those who have had chemotherapy- can be associated with neuropsychological test performance," said Ganz, who is also a professor of health policy and management at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health and a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA." (read more at the above link)


Low-Dose Aspirin May Halt Breast Cancer

If you're not already, you might want to consider taking a daily low-dose aspirin.

Proliferation Of Two Breast Cancer Lines Stymied By Low-Dose Aspirin:

"Regular use of low-dose aspirin may prevent the progression of breast cancer, according to results of a study by researchers at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo., and the University of Kansas Medical Center.  
The study found that aspirin slowed the growth of breast cancer cell lines in the lab and significantly reduced the growth of tumors in mice. The age-old headache remedy also exhibits the ability to prevent tumor cells from spreading." (Read more at the link above)


Seasonal Effect Revealed For Tamoxifen In Breast Cancer Treatment

It appears that low Vitamin D correlates to less effective Tamoxifen, meaning that in winter the Tamoxifen we take might not be working for us as well as it could be.  Interesting to me that the study doesn't recognize the importance of measuring our Vitamin D levels (which the Cancer Centre here has never tested for me despite the already documented link between breast cancer and low Vitamin D - go figure) and neither does it suggest increasing our Vitamin D levels via supplementation. What I infer from this report of the study is that they're suggesting perhaps we need more Tamoxifen during winter months instead. Hmmmm ...

Seasonal Effect Revealed For Tamoxifen In Breast Cancer Treatment:

"For women diagnosed with a form of breast cancer known as estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer, tamoxifen is an essential drug used in the treatment and prevention of recurring breast cancer. Currently, tamoxifen is used in a one-size-fits-all approach where the same dose is prescribed for every patient.  
New research at Lawson Health Research Institute has found that in addition to patient-specific genetic factors, lack of exposure to vitamin D during the long winter months affects the body's ability to metabolize the drug. The findings, which have been reported in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, are the first to identify this seasonal effect. Dr. Richard Kim, who is a physician at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) and holds the Wolfe Medical Research Chair in Pharmacogenomics at Western University, reports that during the winter months nearly 30 percent of patients are at risk for less than optimal level of the active form of tamoxifen, called endoxifen, and therefore may not benefit as much from the therapy. "  (Read more at the link above)


Breast Cancer Survival Not Affected By Alcohol Consumption

This has become pretty typical. First we're told NO, then we're told YES. I've been told to avoid alcohol and I mostly have. I have an occasional drink, which has supposedly been a non-issue but if I have a few weekends in a row where I've imbibed, I feel a twinge of concern and I chastise myself.

Now the tables have turned ... apparently (until they turn back again) ... and we learn that alcohol is a non-issue in breast cancer survival and, in fact, in moderation it may be beneficial. I feel much better about this research than the previous studies.

Tequila shots, anyone?

Breast Cancer Survival Not Affected By Alcohol Consumption:

Although previous research has linked alcohol consumption to an increased risk of developing breast cancer, a new study has found that drinking before and after diagnosis does not impact survival from the disease. In fact, a modest survival benefit was found in women who were moderate drinkers before and after diagnosis due to a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, a major cause of mortality among breast cancer survivors. (Read more at the link above)


Mammograms Indicate Effectiveness of Tamoxifen

This makes absolute sense to me.  One of the key risk factors for breast cancer is hight breast density. I didn't have a mammogram until after I'd discovered my lump but I was told both by my radiologist and my surgeon that my breasts were "very dense". After chemo, radiation, and some time on Tamoxifen, my mammograms indicate that my breast tissue isn't dense at all. The thing is, my radiologist never volunteers this information. I always have to ask. It's such important information to know ... at least I thought so ... and now it turns out to be so.  So please ... know about your breast density whether you've had cancer or not. It's significant.

Mammograms Reveal Response To Common Cancer Drug:

Tamoxifen is a common hormone therapy drug that is usually given over a course of five years to prevent relapse in women who have completed their primary breast cancer treatment. However, no method has been available for assessing which women are likely to respond to the tamoxifen and not develop relapse of breast cancer. Researchers from Karolinska Institutet have now produced a possible way of doing just this.
The team looked into mammograms, which are X-ray images of the breast, for an answer. Breast tissue on a mammogram can be broadly classified into fatty or dense. The proportion of tissue which appears white is what contributes to 'density', whilst the black parts are mostly fat. Since tamoxifen has been repeatedly shown to induce a reduction in mammographic density, could it be that only women responding to tamoxifen treatment would exhibit a concomitant decrease in mammographic density?
The study included almost 1,000 postmenopausal women who had been treated for breast cancer. Roughly half of the group had been given tamoxifen. The women were monitored over an average of 15 years, after which 12.4 per cent (121 women) had died as a result of theircancer.
The team discovered that the difference in mammographic density between two mammograms taken after the initiation of tamoxifen was related to breast cancer survival. Women who experienced a pronounced density reduction of 20 percent or more upon initiation of tamoxifen were half as likely to die from breast cancer, over a span of 15 years, than those who experienced little or no change.
The researchers hope that their results will be used to assess which breast cancer patients are responding to tamoxifen treatment. Since the patient group already undergoes annual follow-up mammograms, no further examinations are needed.
"What's needed is accurate measurement of mammographic density, which isn't currently routine," says Per Hall, Professor at Karolinska Institutet's Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics. "Measuring changes in density can be a simple and cheap means of assessing the effect of the treatment. If a patient is not responding to tamoxifen, maybe they should be given a different drug."


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Copper and Breast Cancer. Dang!

This recent research on copper and it's relationship to breast cancer is weighing heavily on my mind.

About a year ago my Naturopath had my copper levels tested (I don't remember why) among other things and when the results came back, my Family Doctor called me immediately to tell me that my copper levels were VERY high. CRAZY high. She suggested I talk to my Naturopath about it right away. And I did. My Naturopath started me on Zinc to counteract the copper. The reason my Family Doctor called first is because any tests my Naturopath wants done have to be requested by a medical doctor - it's the law in Saskatchewan.

We couldn't find any explanation for my high copper levels and I can't FEEL that I'm high in copper. Weird. And so I've been taking my zinc. But now I'll be going back to my Naturopath and my Family Doctor to get my copper levels tested again to see what's going on. I've never had my copper levels tested before so I can't know if they were high before I got breast cancer. It's interesting to me that if it's so significant, why doesn't an oncologist test for it? Then again, we know that low Vitamin D is also significantly related to breast cancer but they don't test for that either - at least mine doesn't.

Here's a report about the research.

Copper Chelation May Help Prevent Recurrence In High-Risk Breast Cancer Patients - Food for Breast Cancer

Recurrence is never far from a breast cancer survivor's mind.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A New Blog ... Just About Quilting

A new year. A new me. A new blog ...

It only seems fitting. I have days when I don't even think about cancer. It's wonderful! So I want to stop talking about it and spend more time making things.

I'll still update this blog from time to time but only about my health and recovery or ... please, NOOOOOO ... if cancer recurs. Since I can't know if that will happen and since I finally have days when I don't think about it, I think I can successfully LIVE like someone who is cancer free. I don't have cancer today!

My new blog ...  ... will be just about quilting and it will be a "slow blog". I don't feel compelled to blog all the time or even regularly. I'll just blog when I have something to show or talk about as it relates to quilting. I've designed it so that photos will display larger. I have wanted to redesign this blog for a long time but was always afraid that I'd mess something up and lose all or part of it and make a huge amount of work for myself in fixing things. So this is my chance to redesign.

So, if you're interested in what I'm up to in my dining room with my sewing machine and fabric stash, please follow along at .

I made a new table runner this weekend and there are photos of it over there. Check it out!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Seven Wonders Table Runner for Matt

This is a belated Christmas gift for Matt, Hannah's boyfriend. Prepare for a lot of photos. If you want to see close-ups, just click on a photo.

I made this yesterday … my first ever table runner. All in one day! I'm sure someone else would have whipped this up in a few hours but it took me a lot longer than that. Pretty much all day. I hand sewed the binding at night. The binding was a one-movie-job.

Matt has been making some beautiful tables out of worn barn board and metal and I wanted to make something that would look good against old wood.

I think these fabrics … Seven Wonders by David Butler (aka Parson Gray) … will look nice with worn wood. Remember the quilt I made for Uncle Reg? Well, the fabrics are by the same designer. David Butler is married to Amy Butler, famous for her fabric designs, patterns, etc. and he's also the lead vocalist with the rock band, the Black Owls … just so you know. Check them out. Follow him and/or his band on Facebook. I really like his fabric designs. Earthy. Manly.

I didn't use a pattern. I just chose three fabrics for the front and cut them in sizes that best worked with the repeat in the fabric design, resulting in a 12 inch wide runner. You can see that there are basically 4 blocks sewn together.  I was careful to cut the wavy and rainy fabrics in the same direction. The other fabric I wanted to show in different orientations because it gives a different effect depending on which way it lays.

For the back I was going to use a single fabric but because the runner is a bit longer than the width of fabric that I have, I chose a fabric to add to each end. The blue fabric is "wind" and the pieces on either end are "rain". The binding is the wavy fabric from the front.

Today Kevin and I were out for a bit so we looked for some places to take photos - a park, back alley fences, snow.

Seven Wonders in the Snow.

The sun finally emerged only for a little while when we got back home so I quickly pinned the runner to a neighbour's fence in our back alley and took a few sunny photos.

And some close-ups. 

I'll mail this to Matt this week.  He doesn't read my blog so no worries about him seeing it.  If you know Matt, don't tell him.

I just LOVE these fabrics.

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dexter Is Here for Christmas!

We are SO happy to have a dog for Christmas, even if we don't get to keep him.  He's excellent company, does great tricks, and is well-behaved … provided we don't leave the bread or buns out on the counter when we go to bed.

He snuggles in bed with us and curls up on the couch to watche tv with us.

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A Plus Quilt for Luke

This quilt was such a pleasure to make, partly because it came together so easily and mostly because it's the first quilt I've made for any of my own immediate family. It's for Luke. He's a mathematician so a "plus quilt" seemed appropriate. The fabrics aren't from any one line. They're all reds, creams, blacks, greys, and taupes. I included fabrics that have fleur de lis on them because it's the symbol I most see in Louisville. I also included fabric with crowns on it because he is, after all, my prince. And I included some Sweetwater Hometown fabric that has the names of cities from around the world. I made sure to include some pieces that have "Saskatoon" on them as well as some other cities Luke has been to.

Since I hadn't decided on the finished size of the quilt, I waited until the top was finished at the end of November before going to Periwinkle to pick up the backing fabric I'd had my eye on - super soft and cuddly black dimpled minky. I'd been watching it regularly and even the week before there was still TONS of it on the bolt. When I went to get it, though, someone had arrived only 20 minutes before I got there and bought ALL NINE METERS of it!  All of it. Gone!  The people at Periwinkle were great, though, and were able to get some in just in time for Lynette (who longarm quilted it for me in an all-over pattern) to do her magic. I got it back the Saturday before Christmas. That night, fortunately, Luke was out and I spent the evening doing the binding and getting it machine sewed on to the front. There was no way I would get the hand sewing part done so I wrapped it up for Christmas as it was and did the hand sewing a couple of days ago. It was a 4 movie job and since I was … am … mostly sick with a nasty head cold, it was just the kind of sewing I could do.

So today we took some photos before I wash it.

I ended up a few inches short on my binding and while I could have easily added some scraps from any of the fabrics used on the front, I was feeling a little edgy and so added a touch of shot cotton in blue. After it comes out of the wash, that's where I'll write a little note for my boy.

Next ... baby quilts (SO MANY BABIES!!) and then a quilt for Hannah. 
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Dresden for Auntie Anne and Learning About Thread

Auntie Anne celebrated her 80th birthday this Christmas and since I was on a mug rug roll, I made one for her. I've had and wanted to try out a dresden ruler for some time and so I busted it out for her mug rug.

A few firsts went into this mug rug - dresdens and machine quilting that isn't just straight lines. I learned a thing or two and so I made another dresden mug rug for Mom for Christmas and I think it turned out better, though I forgot to get a photo of it in my rush. 

For Mom's, instead of machine appliqueing the dresden to the background fabric, I just pinned it securely and attached it with the quilting stitches. It turned out better that way.  I got better at knowing when to pivot with my second effort.  The centre of the dresden looks a little more balanced (more round and less hilly) with my 2nd effort, too … I think because I used one less dresden piece.

I'm finding mug rugs good test projects for bigger things. I've confirmed that I want to do a bigger dresden project.

Something else I learned is that thread really matters both in piecing and machine quilting. Mettler threads in my machine are a marked improvement over Guterman. Aurifil and Sulky threads are even better. Aurifil is definitely my go-to thread for piecing after trying a few different brands and I'll be picking up some when I'm next in Kentucky, which is where I picked up the ones I have now. I don't know of any place to get it here. The variegated Sulky thread I machine quilted the mug rugs with worked very nicely in my machine, too. Interestingly, when I was machine quilting Robert's baby quilt, I was using various colours of Mettler silk-coated cotton thread and the colour yellow worked for me so much better than the other colours. Orange worked better than green and Blue was the worst. That whole quilting experience was so traumatizing, I didn't even get to the brown thread I was going to include. The memory still gives me the shakes. Still, odd that the colour of the thread could make a difference. While hand sewing bindings on the mug rugs, I noticed that different coloured threads in the same line sometimes had different textures, some being smoother than others. What a lot to learn!
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Co-op Mug Rugs

I work at the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives at the University of Saskatchewan and since the United Nations declared 2012 the International Year of Co-operatives, it seemed important to mark the year in a crafty way.

Just in case you didn't know, the rainbow flag is one of the symbols used by co-operatives, representing the seven guiding principles of the co-operative model.  So, with that in mind, I made each of my colleagues a rainbow mug rug and then backed each one with fabric from my stash that I felt most reminded me of that person.  I even made one for myself, though I still hadn't finished the binding at the time I took photos.

With renovations recently done in our building, the room where we regularly had lunch is now sometimes booked for events meaning we often have to eat lunch at our desks. I thought these might come in handy for that purpose. I won a mug rug a couple of years ago and it has been the handiest thing to have sitting in front of our desktop computer.
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A Baby Quilt for Robert

Well, it took me over a year. It's approaching "toddler quilt" status. But it's done. Josh and Noelene are both pilots, hence all the planes and copters!

This is my first attempt at machine quilting. Just straight lines. I hadn't anticipated any trouble but man, was I wrong!  I had a terrible time with that minky fabric I backed it with.  You would think that minky, which is so soft, would slide easily across surfaces but not so. Static developed and I really struggled with getting it through my machine. I unpicked threads, I pulled, I wore machine quilting gloves to help push. Finally what worked best was trying to lift as much of the quilt off the surface as possible and even creating a bubble of air just before the fabric when under the needle. Of course, this led to all kinds of other problems such as a few puckers here and there.  After each line I stitched, I spewed many, many bad words and after completing 2 or 3 lines, I would have to take a break to calm my nerves before going back to it.  It took me all bloody night!  I was up until 3:00 a.m. I was a mess!  It was a very traumatizing experience and I was quite disappointed in how it came out. Not nearly so nice as I intended.

Regardless, I am undaunted. I know now that I need one of those Super Slippery things that attach to the sewing surface that will allow the fabric to slide more easily.  I'll be getting one of those.

After finishing the quilt, I contemplated what to do with some leftover squares I had. I decided to put them together and make it rectangular by using some bits of pieces of scraps and ended up with a smaller quilt. It's probably a nice size for a wee baby play mat or for a quilt for a big stuffed critter.   At any rate, I'm sure they'll find a use for it. If Robbie doesn't claim it ... maybe a NEW little one will enjoy it!! Yes, Noelene shared the exciting news that she and Josh are going to be having another child in 2013. I'd better get some baby quilts in the vault because I know of several babies being born in the next few months and I want to be able to give them quilts. Boys? Girls? Who knows? I'd best be prepared!

We were able to Skype with Robert and his family on Christmas day. He looked to be having a perfectly wonderful Christmas with his Grandma and Grandpa Kerr and Aunt Kathy there, too.
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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hannah Comes Home For Christmas

It's so nice to have both of our kids home for Christmas.  For the first time in we can't remember when, we all decorated the tree together after Hannah got home.With Hannah home, we also got to see some of her friends who are still here or, at least, here for Christmas. Leah, Cody, and a bunch more. Sadly, we did not get to see Kayla, Gillian, Marissa, or Katelyn (except briefly at Shelley's and Ian's Christmas party).

Luke is not allowed to hang balls on the tree anymore!

Hannah came home carrying 3 boxes of home-made gluten free cookies that she had made in Vancouver.  Beautiful … and delicious, too!  She decorated the box in the style of my heart/peace ring that I've been wearing since I was 13.

The holidays went by too quickly and before we knew it we were waving goodbye to Hannah at the airport. In a couple of days we'll be doing the same with Luke. Boohoo.

Of course, both of them are probably glad to escape. We all got sick over Christmas. Kevin started (thanks, Kev) the ball rolling with a nasty cold just before Christmas. Hannah and Luke both caught it, though Hannah seemed best able to hold it to a minimum and she got out of Dodge before it got worse.  Luke, on the other hand, got it the worst! He got a stomach flu with it, has been feverish, feels very crappy, and was given penicillin when he went to the medi-clinic yesterday. He's still not feeling any better.  Me neither.  I caught it last … starting on boxing day … and have felt very awful ever since. It's really socked in. Luke doesn't remember a time when he's been so sick and is feeling a little frustrated. He had planned on going to the gym and getting his lacrosse stick in his hands every day while here so he'll be ready to start his last college lacrosse season as soon as he gets back to Louisville in the new year. That gym thing hasn't been happening and he's even lost weight because of his sore throat and ears! Not good for an athlete who has trouble keeping pounds on in the first place. He might never want to come home again!     
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Friday, December 14, 2012

Luke's Home for Christmas!

And when Luke comes home, all our other boys come home, too!  I missed some latecomers in this group shot and a few who couldn't make it … some because they had exams this morning.

In case you're not sure which one is our Luke, he's the one with the black LA ball cap ... and the MOUSTACHE!!  None of them can be contenders with Kevin's moustache and Movember beard-like thing.

Evan's eyes were half closed for the group shot so I've made sure to include a photo where his eyes are open.  This was taken after the 2nd batch of young men arrived ... and then they kept on coming. Girls, too.

Kevin and I smiled so much all night our faces hurt today.
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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Belated Giveaway Winner

I'm a little late with the results for my giveaway ... well, a LOT late actually.  Nonetheless, Teresa has just won this little bundle of fat quarters!  Congratulations Teresa!  I'll email you and get your contact information right away.

I used an online random number generator and with numbers from 1-19 (inclusive, it spit out #10 as the winner and that person is Teresa.

#10 Teresa wrote:
Saskatchewan...I tried to convince my husband to move there for years! My best friend and her family just moved to Yorkton. My cousin moved to...I'm actually not sure where in SK she lives. We moved to NS...and love it.
Thanks to all 19 who entered!

I have no quilty things to show, by the way, because (and I'm sure I'm not the only one), some of these things will be given as gifts.  I expect a plethora of backlogged visuals throughout the quilting blogisphere come January.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Canadian Quilters Connect & FIrst Giveaway

SewSistersQuiltShop Thank you Patti (of Retired to Quilt) for including me in the list of Saskatchewan Quilt Bloggers. I feel like a bit of a poser among the others but I'm starting to feel more and more like a REAL quilter all the time!

And thank you Sew Sisters Quilt Shop for hosting this wonderful event and for including me. I'm very excited to find more Canadian quilt bloggers!

Welcome visitors. 

Obviously quilting hasn't been the primary purpose of my blog but I'm happy to say I'm moving in that direction thanks to knocking down most of my hurdles. Click on the "QUILTS" tab above to get some idea of the quilting I've been doing. Maybe you'll want to check back from time to time. I hope to have my Plus Quilt top done this weekend and soon I hope to undertake my first machine quilting! YIKES!

And, oh yes, my first ever GIVEAWAY!  The thing is I don't know what it will be yet. (Oh yes, I do ... scroll down to see what it is).

Meanwhile, just add a comment to be entered. International entries are most welcome.  In your comment, tell me something you associate with Saskatchewan or share a Saskatchewan experience. And feel free to say so if you had to Google "Saskatchewan".

I'll make the draw and announce the winner on November 25, after the tour has finished.

Good luck and enjoy visiting all the blogs!


Here's what I'm giving away - 5 fat quarters. I think they're lovely. They're all from one fabric line except for the lime green chicopee at the top. I took this photo at night since I hardly ever see real day light during the week except out my window at work (thank GOD I have a window), so the colours aren't exactly true. In the photo the chicopee looks yellow instead of lime green and that tone on tone grid is actually more red than orange. Click on the links below to see better online photos of each fabric. Darkness sucks ... just sayin'.

From top to bottom
  1. Chicopee - Heatwave Stripe Lime
  2. Restoration - Large Medallion Black
  3. Restoration - Check Red
  4. Restoration - Intertwined Lace Black  
  5. Restoration - Stripe Black