Getting connected

In 2016, Shine decided to go large and hold our first annual conference. With close to 100 people in attendance, it was a great day and for 2017 we decided to go bigger and better! Shine Connect was held on 20th May in London and was designed as a way for young adults from across the country to come together and connect for a day. With expert speakers and much more, it’s now one of our favourite events, and this year 120 people joined us. Take a read of Jen’s blog about the day – and get set to join us next year!


Connect 1I’m not sure there are many – in fact any – other cancer conferences that combine singing and cute dogs with dating advice and frank discussions about sex and relationships. And that’s what makes Shine Connect unique!

Shine supports a diverse group of young adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s with the unfortunate commonality of having had a diagnosis of cancer. Our needs differ vastly from the older cancer demographic and Shine Connect, Shine’s annual conference, works to address those needs. It is a conference both for young adults with cancer and for healthcare professionals looking to better support young adults with cancer.

Following an introduction from Shine Directors, Ceinwen and Emma, the day kicked off with a panel discussion – think Oprah, but without the tears. Three young adults living with a cancer diagnosis, Robin, Chris and Jess, spoke eloquently about a range of subjects and took questions from the audience. Topics included dealing with uncertainty and anxiety; managing your own feelings and needs alongside the needs of your partner, parents and wider family and friends; dating after cancer; and returning to your career or readjusting career plans. Far from being depressing, their discussion was a lively, funny, raw and honest. Pretty much every person I spoke to could identify with something that was discussed on the panel and many people felt it was one of the best sessions of the day. (NB: You can view the Facebook Live video of the panel here). 

Having cancer as a young adult is a lonely business, and more than once someone at the conference mentioned the frequency with which we hear ‘oh, you’re very young for cancer!’ at clinic appointments. Having the opportunity to listen to and talk with others who are also ‘too young for cancer’ is like being hugged many understanding, warm arms. For me, this first session really set the tone for the rest of the day.

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Shine participants, Plus Ones and healthcare professionals came together

After the panel discussion, the conference attendees split into different sessions: building resilience, fertility after cancer, managing fatigue, and supporting children through an adult’s cancer. There was also a separate session for attendees who were the family/friends of a young adult with cancer, and a session about the needs of young adults with cancer for health care professionals. Over lunch (a super scrummy, healthy spread, followed by fruit or something a little more chocolaty if you preferred!) there was plenty of time to mingle and chat with others, and to swap tips gained from the various sessions. There was also a chance to talk to some of the other organisations that had stalls in the conference “market place”. These included Ellie’s Friends, a charity providing treats like days out and theatre tickets to young adults with cancer; the Lymphoma Association; Insurance With, a specialist travel insurance company for those with pre-existing medical conditions; and Maggie’s Centres. Look Good, Feel Better were there giving makeovers, while a couple of fabulous massage therapists set up downstairs and managed to give out 50 (!) free massages over the course of the day. Last, but definitely not least, Shine had invited Pets as Therapy to the conference, giving everyone who attended the chance to meet some very cute therapy dogs!

 

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One of the therapy dogs gets some love from a Connect participant!

The afternoon session saw some of the morning sessions repeated but there were also new sessions on sex, singing, and creativity in health. More than one person told me how difficult it had been to choose! Along with the majority of afternoon attendees, I went to the interactive sex session (that’s interactive as in talking about sex, in case you were wondering!) Led by the amazingly frank and funny Karen Hobbs and Dr Isabel White, a leading specialist in sexual problems related to cancer treatment, a range of issues were discussed, from physical limitations due to treatment, to chemically induced menopause. It was refreshing to focus on an area that is generally neglected by the medical profession.

Sex after cancer

Dr. Isabel White and Karen Hobbs hosted a great (and funny!) sex after cancer session

The day was rounded off with a fascinating keynote speech from Professor Mark Petticrew, a global expert in public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who has carried out extensive research into psychological factors and whether they influence cancer and heart disease. During my own experience of cancer and recovery, the questions of how a ‘stressful’ life might have contributed to my diagnosis, and whether emotional stress might hinder recovery, were often brought up. Professor Petticrew’s research showed, however, that there is very little convincing evidence that stress causes cancer and that many of the studies on stress and cancer are seriously flawed. It was an interesting note to end on given that so many of us worry that we have done something to cause our cancer. There’s no need to get stressed out about this too!

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Prof Mark Petticrew from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

If you go to Shine’s website you’re able to listen to some fabulous podcasts of ‘Not Your Grandma’s Cancer Show’. Shine Connect could have been called ‘Not Your Grandma’s Cancer Conference’. It’s certainly unique in the cancer world. If you weren’t able to attend this year I strongly recommend you keep an eye out for Shine Connect 2018; who knows what fun will be added next year!

 

It definitely takes a village to make these events happen and we’d like to send massive thanks to TTA, the amazing events management company who helped us pull Shine Connect off for the second year in a row! Huge thanks also to Don’t Forget the Kids, Emily Hodge of Coaching Emily, Toby Peach and Tenovus Cancer Care for delivering some fabulous sessions at the conference! We’d also like to send a huge shout out to Look Good, Feel Better for running some great make-over sessions, and Keith and Rozalia from the Complementary Therapy Department at the Royal Free Hospital for giving free massages to our participants all day!

Supporting the Supporters – our first Plus Ones workshop

Back in March, Shine held its first Shine Plus Ones workshop (we meant to publish this blog sooner – but we’ve been busy!). It was a great day and we were really happy to put some faces to the names we’ve come to know via email and social media over the last Plus Ones 5couple of years!  In our latest blog, Salma, one of the participants, explains how the day went down. We’re really keen to expand our Plus Ones group so if you’d like to get involved, drop us an email at plusones@shinecancersupport.org, or join our Shine Plus Ones Facebook group. The Plus Ones have also been meeting up for drinks in London and the more the merrier so please do get in touch!

From it’s 18th Century origins, the beautiful Somerset House by Waterloo Bridge has been a centre for debate and discussion.  How fitting then that a group of strangers should meet here to talk of something that is rarely given the platform it deserves.
Back in March, Shine held its first Shine Plus Ones workshop.  We are the other half of Shine – or in better terms the other halves.
Plus Ones 3
The wonderful Shine Cancer Support has helped and continues to support thousands of young people with cancer through it’s meetings, retreats, social events, blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds – and much much more.  But behind each of these people is someone who keeps it all together, day in day out, the spouse, the partner, the sibling, the parents……We are the Plus Ones and we sometimes need help too.
Public transport did it’s best to delay and reroute us but we are not a bunch to give up lightly and eventually all 22 participants managed to make it to Central London for the workshop.
Tirelessly organised and led by Ceinwen, Emma and psychologist Jason, the day began gently.  We’d never met each other before and none of us, we discovered, are that good at talking about this stuff.
We all provide care and support for our loved ones but how do you stand next to someone with cancer and say “Hold on – what about me?”.   You just can’t do it – unless that is, you are in a room full of people who feel exactly the same way.  And this is the genius of the Shine Plus Ones group: we all get it.  There is no judgment here, you’re allowed to say that you are angry with the person you are caring for, you are allowed to say you feel depressed or that you feel you’re being treated unfairly.  These little things are actually huge.

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Some of the ways our Plus Ones deal with stress

The day was cleverly arranged to get us thinking and talking.  It was invaluable to be able to give and receive advice to and from each other.  Jason is the one though who bound the day together; his personal and professional experience really cleared the haze for most of us.  As a psychologist, he really helped us to separate what are thoughts and what are realities, and he gave us tools to deal with our stresses and anxieties and taught us to be kind to ourselves. He made it ok to have a bad day.
Plus ONes

The workshop gang went for drinks afterwards. They’re now meeting up regularly.

At the end of it, we had a network, an email list and a few phone numbers.  Some of us have met up already since that day – a noisy table in a crowded bar where we blended in with all the other noisy tables of people laughing and drinking.  We don’t need to talk about cancer, we don’t need to cry or shout or talk deeply about anything – but the point is that we can if we want to, and we all know it.  There is another meet up planned and there will be many more.  And hopefully our group of friends will grow over time – not because it’s a nice club to be a part of, but because out of all this chaos and heartache it’s a huge comfort to know you’re not alone.

To find out more about Shine Plus Ones, please email us on plusones@shinecancersupport.org, or request to join our private Facebook group. This workshop was made possible through the support of our fabulous friends at Travel Insurance Facilities

Life but not as you knew it: 32 with bowel cancer

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness month, so in our latest blog post, we’re bringing you a blog by Cara, a Shine member who was diagnosed with bowel cancer shortly after she turned 32.  Currently undergoing treatment, Cara is passionate about raising awareness of bowel cancer and its symptoms, as well as sharing her experience of treatment. Please do share this blog with others and, as always, let us know what you think!


As April is bowel cancer awareness month I am asking this:

#Isitok that on average 2,500 young people in the UK are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year and that many of these individuals experience a delayed diagnosis? A delayed diagnosis that stems from a perception that in your 20s and 30s you’re too young to possibly have bowel cancer?

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Guest blogger, Cara

I decided to write this blog post because that is exactly the situation I found myself in 14 months ago when I was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer and I hope that by sharing my story I can raise awareness of the disease and make people stop and think. After all, nine out of 10 people survive bowel cancer if it is caught in the early stages and the key to this is early diagnosis. My advice is that if you have a concern and it’s not normal for you, don’t be embarrassed speak to your GP about it. We all know our own bodies and you know when something just isn’t quite right.

A little about me……

At 32 years old I found myself staring cancer in the face like an insurmountable challenge that I didn’t know if I was strong enough to tackle. It had taken 10 months to reach a diagnosis and when I speak to other people my age with bowel cancer I’m not alone in having been told we are just ‘too young to have cancer’.

My cancer story started when I decided to pay a visit to my GP because I was slightly concerned that there were some changes in my bowel habits and I was experiencing abdominal cramps. A routine blood test showed that I was anaemic and the GP made a referral. Looking back now the anaemia explained the tiredness I had been dismissing for months as something that just happens when you “turn 30” – something which now makes me chuckle as if reaching 30 puts you on some slippery slope to the realms of being an OAP!

Before I knew it, we were six months down the line with no answers as to why I was anaemic, and with the suggestion that the pain and anaemia were both down to period pain. During this time, I also had to deal with the death of my father. It was a difficult time, but as I dealt with my grief, my life began to get back to some sort of normal. I was going to the gym, going out with my friends and I even took part in a charity cycle from London to Paris with work.

However, as the weeks passed I found myself being unable to keep pace with my friends. Little did I know that my anaemia had slowly been getting worse and that lurking in my colon was a growing tumour. Just before Christmas, after a couple more visits and chats with the GP, I found out that my red blood count had fallen dangerously low and that my doctors were considering a blood transfusion. A test on a stool sample discovered blood that wasn’t visible to naked eye and I was quickly referred for a colonoscopy. That was when I knew I had cancer. I had seen this before when my father had been diagnosed. From that point my diagnosis happened very quickly but what I still couldn’t get my head around was why, with my family history of cancer, the faecal test wasn’t done at the beginning alongside everything else. It’s still something that I question today.

Since my diagnosis I have faced 14 months of endless hospital appointments, blood tests, seven hour days in the chemo unit, major surgery and blood clots, and while I would love to say I am at the stage of moving from cancer patient into the ‘life after cancer phase’, my post-chemotherapy scan showed lesions on my liver and the cycle has begun all over again. I am now undergoing a more aggressive chemotherapy which involves the joy of a ‘cold cap’ in a vain attempt to save my hair!

Another twist in my tale…..I have Lynch Syndrome…..

Lynch syndrome is the most common form of hereditary colon cancer and can increase the risk of developing colon cancer by up to 80%. Statistics make it as common as the BRCA mutation, but many people won’t have heard of it. Being in active treatment, I haven’t been able to fully address the impact that Lynch syndrome could have on my future, but I know that when the time comes it will have an impact on decisions about children and also that there will be decisions to make about having preventive procedures. While it would be very easy to think that knowledge of this mutation could have helped to detect my cancer earlier, I can’t change the past. I do believe though that knowledge is power and, that by ensuring I get right screening, I can minimise my risk of developing another cancer in the future.

What I have learned….

Dealing with a chronic disease forces you to develop a certain superhero strength…but that’s not to say that there aren’t difficult days or days where I feel so overwhelmed by it all that I don’t know how I going to make it through the next bit of treatment. Cancer will change me, but how is not yet fully clear. I’ve been told that I am so strong to be able to deal with everything that I am going through ………personally I don’t think I’m anything out of the ordinary. I think we all have superhero strength within all of us. It’s like the saying goes: ‘you don’t know how strong you can be until being strong is your only option’.

Cara works as a buyer in the womenswear department of a major UK retailer. She volunteers as a Cancer Research UK Campaigns Ambassador and claims to have an unhealthy addiction to travel literature and anything travel or adventure related! You can follower her on Twitter @Caraeliz24.

 

 

 

 

 

Life, but not as you knew it: Breathe and bend!

Every year, at Shine’s Great Escape, we run morning yoga sessions for our “Escapees”. For many, it’s the first time they’ve tried yoga and most people are pleasantly surprised by how much they get out of it.

In this blog, Stephanie Bartlett shares her experience of starting yoga during her cancer treatment and how it’s helped calm her busy mind.  Want to learn more? Below Stephanie’s blog, we’ve posted some ‘getting started’ tips from Shine’s yoga guru (and podcast host) Tatum de Roeck!


StephAndTheo

Stephanie with son Theo

Last July I was diagnosed with cancer.  As a young and healthy 32 year old, I certainly wasn’t expecting it, though I have learnt very quickly it genuinely doesn’t matter who you are or how ‘healthy’ you thought you were.

Cancer for me has been ‘mind consuming’. In the seven months since my diagnosis, my mind has been consumed with everything cancer related, from the seemingly endless weeks of waiting for test results to the side effects of 18 weeks of chemotherapy to the apprehension of the next course of treatment; there was just no getting away from it.

That was until I discovered yoga. My very first yoga session consisted of some simple breathing techniques and some basic stretching and relaxation. I followed my instructor and it was very peaceful. I found it easy and I soon realised that an hour had passed and I hadn’t thought about cancer.

I can only describe how I felt after my first session as a balloon floating in the sea. I felt present in the here and now.  My mind felt completely empty.  No thoughts had entered my mind the entire time. I had no idea what it felt like to be free of the constant cancer woes until then. I also felt very relaxed, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and like I was finally lightened of the burden.

I continued to practice yoga with my instructor about once a fortnight and before I knew it I had learned a whole yoga flow and every session we were adding to it. I was also learning more how good it was for my mind and body. Post-surgery and during chemotherapy I looked forward to each session as I viewed it as my escape from cancer. I then found myself doing yoga on my own at home in the days in between seeing my instructor – I could finally escape cancer every day. I knew exactly what to do and I loved it.

The truly great thing about yoga is that no matter how I was feeling or how physically able I was (and this changed from week to week, with the effects of surgery or chemotherapy), I was always able to do yoga. And it’s really not about getting one leg wrapped around your neck while balancing in the shape of an elegant swan – rather, it’s all about connecting with yourself and using your mind and body no matter how much you’re able to move.  Basically, we can all do it, no matter how flexible you are.

As a busy and working mum to my five-year-old son, Theo, I’m constantly on the go.  Life is always eventful and there’s no escaping the constant need to be somewhere or do something.  This consumed a lot of my thoughts before cancer and adding cancer to that mix made life even crazier. Yoga enabled me not only to calm down my mind but also to focus on simply moving and breathing.  It lets me forget the chaos that life has thrown at me and it enables me to put into perspective the important things that are worthy of my attention. Most importantly, it also helps me forget about the pointless little things that can fill the gaps.

I have certainly caught the yoga bug; I now know a moon flow, what sun salutation is and can do my warrior poses.  During each of these yoga flows, the actions and breathing are the only things on my mind. Even before the cancer diagnosis I didn’t know it was possible to escape; I’ve always had a busy mind so for me it’s been a real eye opener. Steph1

I cannot recommend yoga enough to anyone going through a cancer diagnosis or treatment – an even those that aren’t. I once thought “oh, yoga is not for me – it’s too airy fairy”.  How wrong I was!  I have even booked myself onto a four day yoga retreat in Spain, as a reward once all my treatment is over. It’ll involve hours of yoga, relaxation and a well needed break in the sun.I genuinely never believed yoga would help me as much as it does but I honestly love what yoga does for me.  Give it a go, you won’t know until you try it!

Stephanie lives with her son, Theo, who is five, and she was one of Shine’s 2017 Escapees. To learn more about the Great Escape, click here. And if you’re interested in trying yoga, read on for a briefing by our yoga instructor (and podcast host) Tatum de Roeck!


Thinking of trying yoga after cancer?

Three months after Tatum de Roeck qualified as a yoga teacher, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Below, she shares her tips for getting started with yoga. Tatum

Even knowing quite a bit about yoga, I was still daunted going into a new class when my body felt so alien. It was tough dealing with feeling physically limited, emotionally all over map and mentally frazzled. What made it easier was having an idea what to expect from a class and how to find the right one.

I now teach yoga as my main job and give classes as part of Shine’s Great Escape weekend. Many Escapees have never done yoga before and the class has given them the chance to find out they rather like it! So for others who think they might fancy giving yoga a whirl here are some tips and thoughts to help make finding the first class a little easier.

Yoga is yoga, right?

Not all yoga is the same. The spectrum of classes range from ones where all the poses involve lying down on the ground with cushions and blocks, to hot sweaty powerful classes that seem to be created for acrobats from Cirque du Soliel.

I’m not flexible, can I still do yoga?

Yes! Yoga isn’t about what it looks like on the outside but how it feels inside your body. You can be one millimetre into a pose and feel the benefit of the stretch. If you feel it, that’s your pose and it is perfect. Someone else might have a different rotation in their hip joint and their legs may impressively flop out, but they may be working on how to engage their muscles instead which might be just as much of a challenge. It’s good to bear in mind since everyone’s body is wildly different (and always changing) we don’t bend to yoga, it is yoga that should bend to us.

Starting Slow

Slow classes give you time to try a pose, see if it’s right for you and adjust as needed. Even if it’s a super relaxing class it gives you a chance to hear some yoga terminology, become familiar with teachers providing different options, and to build confidence for trying the next class.

How do I find a slow class?

If there is a yoga studio nearby I would either pop in or give them a call to ask if they offer a relaxing, slow or gentle classes. Some bigger studios sometimes even offer classes handily named something like ‘yoga for people with cancer’. Most mid-size studios will have great introductory offers of unlimited classes for a couple of weeks. This can be a really useful (and far cheaper) way to try out different classes. Sometimes yoga classes at the gym are unhelpfully labelled ‘yoga’. In these cases its useful to get some more info otherwise you might be in a sweaty power hour territory.

The key things to ask is it is suitable for beginners and is it gentle? If possible it may be good to see if you can briefly contact the teacher before you plan to take the class.

A lot of cancer centres like Maggie’s also offer yoga and if they don’t offer yoga on the premises it’s worth giving them a call to see if they know a place or a teacher they’d recommend.

What do I wear?

The main thing is to wear something comfortable, which doesn’t restrict movement but isn’t too loose. The reason we don’t wear baggy T-shirts is because some of the poses (like a forward fold or child’s pose) will cause loose T-shirts to ride up exposing the stomach and lower back or rising so much it covers your face. Very baggy shorts can also show a bit more than you bargained for. If this happens you spend the class fighting with your clothes which takes away a little of the joy (I’m relaying this from personal experience!).

Getting to the first class early

It’s a good idea to get to your first class 15 minutes early. There will be forms to fill out and it’s a good time to talk to the teacher before the class starts. You can let them know you are trying yoga for the first time, that you may need to take it easy or have a part of your body where there is a limitation of movement. They are the best people to give you a bit of an idea about what to expect in the class.

Do I need to do all the poses?

Nope! Yoga is about being in the body and feeling out what is right for you. Anything that causes sharp pinching pain or any sensation which takes your breath away is a sign from your body saying that position isn’t right for you at that time. If this happens you can come out of the pose slightly or fully. There is a pose called child’s pose which is the go to position any time in the practice. It’s the pose to regain your breath, to rest or simply stay there until another pose that you might like comes along.

Giving it another go

Since there is such a variety in yoga styles, teacher personalities and range of environments it is worth giving yoga more than one class to really determine whether or not it’s right for you. If you find it ultimately isn’t what you want at the moment that’s totally ok too! You’ll know what it is and that it’s there if you ever want to come back to it.

Ask for Recommendations

One of the best ways to find a class is to ask others who have tried and tested classes already.  In the comments below, feel free to share your experiences and any places or teachers you love. You never know another Shiny person may be in your ‘hood and looking for a class!

 

Bon appetite! Eating well and busting myths

You asked, we answered!

A few months ago we published a blog by Victoria Francis, a registered dietitian with over 15 years experience in helping people eat well.  We’re delighted that Vicky agreed to write a second blog for us based on questions posted in our private Shine group.

As food becomes trendy and food trends go viral, we thought it was important to keep to the facts about healthy eating. Vicky’s written the blog as a Q&A so if you posted a question, check below to see if it’s been answered.  And please do share and let us know what you think!


1. Is it possible that foods can “absorb toxins” and help you to expel them (e.g. chia seeds)?

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Registered dietitian, Victoria Francis

 

Detoxifying diets have gained increased popularity recently, in part due to the list of exaggerated non-evidence based health claims they “hold”. These are often suggested by self-proclaimed “health experts” and the media. The idea behind them is that our bodies are exposed to numerous toxins on a daily basis from sources including household cleaners, food preservatives and environmental pollutants and that our body is unable to get rid of them. Commencing a detox diet and eating a limited diet for a defined period is said to help “cleanse” our body. However, while nutrition does play a role in detoxification – for example specific nutrients support detoxification processes in our bodies – there are currently NO clinical guidelines or definitions of what should constitute a “detoxification diet”. And at present there is no scientific evidence that detox diets have any effect on toxin elimination.

But let’s humour the humble chia seed for a moment…..While scouring the Internet to gain clarity on the suggested miracle-workings of chia seeds I came across this statement:

“This tiny seed is a nutritional powerhouse for cleansing the body and removing toxins. chia seeds, like all gelatinous plant foods, become gel-like when wet. This enables them to absorb toxins, releasing them out of the system”.

While chia seeds can absorb fluids, there is no known mechanisms whereby they can differentiate between toxins and other substances and they DO NOT have the ability to absorb nor release them. However, they are a source of fibre which contributes to the elimination of toxins via faeces.

Vicky Blog 22Our bodies are well designed with their own built-in mechanisms (think of the immune system and organs such as the liver and kidneys) to purify and remove waste products and toxins via sweat, urine and faeces. It’s best to focus on a healthy eating plan with adequate fibre and fluid to support your body’s own self-cleaning system. Meeting the recommendations of 30g fibre per day (with additional fluid) will aid a regular bowel motion. This can be achieved by increasing your intake of whole grains, fruit and vegetables, pulses, legumes, nuts and seeds, and choosing high fibre breakfast cereals and wholemeal bread where possible.

2. I’m looking for an alternative to cow’s milk. Soya milk isn’t recommended for my type of cancer. Would almond or coconut be a good alternative?

As recently as 1980, 89 per cent of all milk consumed by British households arrived via the clink of a glass bottle on your doorstep in the early hours. The choice was simple – red or silver top?

Nowadays the choice has increased significantly to include soy, almond, rice, hazelnut, cashew, oat and coconut milk. Who would have thought nipping off to the shops to get a pint would prove so confusing?

Cow’s milk is one of the main sources of calcium in the diet but it also provides several other important nutrients including protein minerals such as phosphorus and vitamins including vitamin D, riboflavin and B12. While many non-dairy milk alternatives mimic cow’s milk in terms of drinkability and texture they don’t always have the same nutritional profile. For example, rice, coconut and almond milk are very low in protein (see table).

Most non-dairy alternatives are fortified with a range of nutrients commonly obtained from milk but do check the label. For example, organic alternatives are not nutritionally superior as they are not always fortified.

Finally, when choosing an alternative opt for an unsweetened version to minimise the sugar hit.

Vicky milk table

3. What types of foods contain phytoestrogens? 

Phyto-oestrogens are a subclass of flavonoids that have oestrogen-like properties (though not as strongly as oestrogen). Soybeans and soy foods such as tofu, soy milk, tempeh, and miso are the only significant dietary sources of these phytoestrogens although other sources include chickpeas and other beans.

Overall, isoflavones are thought to have beneficial effects on specific body organs such the breast, heart, bone and prostate. Research also shows isoflavones possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-coagulant effects. These properties have been associated with the maintenance of blood vessel flexibility and inhibition of rapid cell overgrowth which occurs in cancer development.

Replacing peas in your risotto/pasta with soy beans, introducing tofu into your meals or choosing soy yogurts are some simple ways to pump up the phytoestrogen content of your diet.

With reference to soya intake and cancer it is known that oestrogen can stimulate some breast cancers and thus there was a concern that foods containing natural phyto-oestrogens (mainly soy and soy products) might raise the risk of hormone-related cancers. Current evidence supports continued soya intake for breast cancer patients and survivors of breast cancer and 1-2 servings per day can be safely consumed (a serving = a cup of soy milk, soy yogurt or 80g edamame beans). Human studies show soy foods do not increase the risk and, in some cases, research suggests soy may lower the risk of recurrence in breast cancer survivors.

Please discuss with your healthcare team before including or excluding soy from your diet if you have any concerns.

4. What kinds of things can you eat to get calcium apart from milk and dairy products?

Most people instantly think of a glass of cold milk when asked about calcium-containing

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Nuts can be a good source of calcium

foods. While milk and dairy foods such as yogurt, fromage frais and cheese are excellent sources of calcium this is only the beginning of the story. Other good sources include fish with edible bones (think sardines, mackerel, pilchards), nuts such as almonds, tofu, and oranges and green leafy vegetables including kale, broccoli and pak choi. Composite meals (meals made up with a number of ingredients such as lasagne or quiche) can also be high in calcium (e.g. a serving of quiche can provide 300mg of calcium, over a third of an adult’s calcium requirements).

 

Many foods are fortified with calcium including Horlicks (600mg calcium per serving when made with water) and some breakfast cereals such as Ready Brek and Crunchy Bran, as well as fortified orange juice and some breads.

There are also some dietary components that can hinder calcium absorption and therefore the amount that is available to our bones and teeth. Spinach, nuts and seeds are a good source of calcium but they are also high in oxalates which bind to calcium to form insoluble complexes. Similarly phytates found in wheat bran, nuts, seeds and grains (e.g. maize) reduce the availability of calcium. However DO NOT start crossing these foods off your shopping list as they provide a variety of other nutrients important for health including fibre, minerals such as potassium, iron and Vitamin K. Instead, just ensure you spread your calcium intake throughout the day.

Clock up your calcium intake with these simple tips:

  • Enjoy a mid-morning cappuccino or latte with skimmed milk or a malted milk drink before bed.
  • Shake up a smoothie for breakfast with milk, fruit, oats and yogurt.
  • Ready Brek is fortified with calcium – a 30g serving with milk provides over 2/3 of your calcium needs
  • Add a handful of unsalted nuts to your cereal – almonds contain more calcium than any other nut.
  • Enjoy sardines on toast, but mash up the edible bones first.
  • Serve yogurt as a dessert or add to curries to boost calcium.
  • Try tofu as your Meatless Monday dish.

5. What other things can you eat for breakfast instead of toast, cereal and yoghurts?

Breakfast is the reason I get out of bed in the morning but to keep it exciting I do like to mix it up! I checked my cupboards while I was writing this and 10 boxes of cereal sit there proudly on the shelf. A close friend of mine, however, only ever has one box of Shreddies on the go and she has never strayed…. I mean never and I’ve known her over half my life!

If you’re like me and the thought of the same bowl of cereal every day doesn’t muster up any excitement here are some alternative ideas to break the breakfast boredom:

  • Pancakes with roasted or pan fried apple or peaches
  • Homemade nut and seed bars
  • Eggs and avocado on toast
  • Bubble and squeak cake with poached eggVicky Blog 28
  • Homemade breakfast bars
  • Ryvita with peanut butter and banana or cheese
  • French toast or eggy bread with pan fried peaches
  • Smoothies
  • Frittata – e.g mushroom and spinach frittata or red pepper frittata
  • Overnight oats or chia seed breakfast pot
  • Banana bread topped with mashed banana, peanut butter or just butter
  • Sweetcorn fritters with poached egg and bacon

6. Are there any good replacements for pulses and green leafy veg so that you can get the nutritional benefit without the …errrrr … effects on your digestive system? For example would a tablet/juice version be tolerated better than fresh?

While we know that eating more fruit and vegetables, nuts and pulses etc., are beneficial for our health, for some people these foods play havoc with the digestive system, primarily due to the fibre content. There are different types of fibre in our diet and they each play a different role (For example, the fibre found in beans, pulses, flesh of fruit and vegetables, linseeds and oats form a gel in the stomach helping to soften stools, making it easier to go to the toilet and lowering cholesterol levels, while the ‘insoluble’ fibres found in the wheat bran, skins of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds can’t be digested, so they increase stool bulk and transit time, therefore preventing constipation).

Side effects of increasing intakes of fibre for people with digestive disorders can be excessive gas production, bloating and constipation and/or diarrhoea. For some people increasing their fibre intake slowly can minimise these unwanted symptoms.

If you are sensitive to fibrous foods removing the insoluble fibre could help alleviate some of these symptoms and therefore juices could play an important role in boosting fruit and vegetable intake without the unwanted extra! Some juicers extract the liquid content and vitamin and minerals from whole foods leaving behind the pulp and indigestible material (including the pith and seeds). Other juicers such as the Nutribullet, Nutri Ninja and Breville Blend Active use the whole food, breaking down the stems and seeds, retaining the soluble and insoluble fibre. These are more likely to cause you tummy issues if you are sensitive gut. Nothing beats homemade but commercial juices can be handy when out and about. However, do check the label and avoid those with added sugar.

While there is no evidence that fibre supplements are harmful, choosing natural fibre sources means you get the added bonus of the vitamins and minerals in them. Also fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes act as a fertiliser and feed our healthy gut bacteria. We know that the more diverse our gut bacteria the healthier we will be as a healthy balanced microbiome (community of bacteria in our large intestines) regulates our metabolism and immune system protecting us from infection. It also manufactures vitamins such as K and B12.

If you cannot tolerate common culprits such as onions, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli etc, try to include polyphenol rich fruits such as berries and red grapes, as well as olive oil and dark chocolate in your diet. Polyphenols are like a great big slab of cheesecake to our friendly bacteria – they love them!

7. Red meat: Yae or nae? I’ve been told by so many people to avoid it completely.

Red meat can be included and enjoyed as part of a healthy balanced diet. The hype and scaremongering follows evidence showing a link between eating red meat and an increased risk of bowel cancer and an increased risk of stomach cancer from processed meat. Consequently, current advice from the Department of Health is to reduce the amount of red meat from 90g per day to 70g per day (maximum 500g per week).

Red meat is beef, lamb, pork, veal and goat. Processed meats include meats that have been cured, smoked or had chemical preservatives added such as bacon, ham, chorizo, corned beef, sausage, pepperoni and burgers. Red meat is a great source of high quality protein and vitamin and minerals such as iron, selenium, zinc and vitamin B12.

Are you eating too much? Data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2013-2014) suggest women are currently meeting the recommendations while men are exceeding them. So boys listen up and take note!

If reading this you are thinking “but what does this mean to me when I am in the supermarket?” or “how much should I put on my plate”?, here are some examples of various cooked meat products and their weights:

  • 3 thin slices of roast lamb/meat = 90g
  • 5oz rump steak = 102g
  • Slice of ham for a sandwich = 23g
  • 2 sausages (from a pack of 8) = 130g

For more information on portion sizes go to here.

If you feel you might be consuming too much red meat here are some simple ways to reduce the amount in your diet:

  • Replace all or some of the red meat in dishes with plant based proteins including beans and pulses e.g. use less mince in a cottage pie and replace with red lentils or cannellini beans.
  • Swap a ham sandwich for chicken, tuna or egg.
  • Try turkey mince instead of beef and see if anyone notices… (they probably won’t!).
  • Simply eat less: have two sausages instead of three and have an extra portion of vegetables to fill up the empty space.
  • Try to use more plant-based proteins such as nuts, tofu and grains such as quinoa. Try swapping your meatloaf for a nut loaf or your beef burger for a veggie burger.

 

Recipes

Overnight Banana and Pecan Oats

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Overnight oats

 

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tbsp greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • Handful pecans
  • ½ banana sliced

Mix oats, milk and yogurt together. Spoon into pot. Layer with peanut butter, pecans and banana. Leave in fridge overnight. Enjoy!

Nutritious nut, fruit and oat bar

Ingredients:

  • 100g dates
  • 50g semi-soft apricots (chopped)
  • 50g walnuts (chopped)
  • 1 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 150g oats
  • 60g ground almonds
  • 100g honey
  • 100g low sugar/salt peanut butter

Method:

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Nut, fruit and oat bars

  1. Heat dates in a saucepan with a few tablespoons water until soft and then mash (you may need to add more water)
  2. Heat honey and peanut butter gently in a pan and then add oats, almonds, apricots, walnuts and seeds.
  3. Add dates and stir well.
  4. Spread into greaseproof paper lined baking tray and press down firmly.
  5. Bake at 160 for @20 minutes.
  6. Remove and leave to cool completely before cutting into squares.

 

You can follow Victoria on Instagram and on Twitter

 

 

Take heart and raise awareness?

Has this happened to you?  You log on to Facebook and there’s a message from a friend asking you to place a heart as your status – no comment, just a heart. It’s for a breast cancer awareness day or week and is billed as an “act of solidarity”. But is it? And how does it feel to receive that message if you’ve already had breast cancer?

We know theses games are usually done with the best of intentions, but we had a big debate kick off online and in our private Facebook group last week.  “I’m SOOOO annoyed!” was a comment shared by many who asked, “does this really help to raise awareness?”. Others argued that anything to raise awareness of cancer is a good thing (and that the best thing to do is ignore the messages if you aren’t in a heart-shaped frame of mind).  One of our Shine members did, however, take things to a whole new (heart-stopping) level, by posting a picture of hearts drawn around her mastectomy scars. We love it when people go rogue – so we asked Bronwyn to tell us what was on her mind when she posted!  Read on to learn more!


Bronwyn.pngWhy did I do it?

I’ll admit, before being diagnosed with breast cancer late 2014, I used to perpetuate those silly Facebook “Breast Cancer Awareness” memes. Those coy, cryptic little messages that you get where you have to ask the person what the post is all about it.

The first one I remember doing was something to do with the colour of my bra. Why I was doing it then? If I’m being honest:  FOMO – Fear of Missing Out. Did I really care or know anything about breast cancer? Nope. By posting was I encouraged to find out more about breast cancer or help in anyway?  No. Were the people I was posting to? I really don’t think so.

Fast forward three years and it’s just gone midnight and I am impulsively painting pink hearts onto a scarred chest with my daughter’s pink glitter paint.  The same chest that has been decimated by the very disease that I couldn’t give a shit about before – except to post an ineffectual, silly comment on my Facebook wall. The hearts on my chest mimic this year’s Facebook trend of posting a pink emoji heart in your status.

I only saw two of these little hearts pop up on my own Facebook feed.  They niggled at me, but what bothered me more was the strong feelings they were stirring up in the cancer community I am now a part of – the same cancer community who literally saved my soul by providing an outlet in my year of treatment (and the continuing aftermath). They saw these emojis on their own Facebook feeds from friends and family who have never had cancer themselves.  They saw them as as pointless, lazy, careless, insensitive and serving no purpose except as acting as a cruel reminder. Something in my head snapped at midnight after reading a few days of this. I knew I had to do it right then because if I left it until the morning my sensible cautious side would have talked me out of it.

I needed those heartless hearts to stop. I needed to clap hard and loud in the faces of people who were posting them to wake them up. To show them the ugly reality of what cancer does, to shove it in their faces, and hopefully to make them see that this shit is real. I wanted to make them care. I wanted to make them do something beyond posting a silly little heart and pretending it means something or is going to change anything.

The support I got after posting was fantastic and positive and I am very proud that it was re-shared outside of my own Facebook echo chamber. But the comment that was the most meaningful to me was from a 35-year old woman that I worked with 7 years ago.  She had found some lumps and was referred to a breast clinic but then let it slide; she has now rescheduled her appointment for 21st February. That’s actually the type of “cancer awareness” I would hope for – that people are educated about when they should get their breasts (or any other part of their body) checked for lumps or if something just isn’t right.  A cryptic heart doesn’t do that.


bronwynBronwyn is originally from Cape Town, South Africa. She came to the UK in 2004 to travel and has been here ever since. Very happily married to a man who went through his own cancer experience eight years ago, she has a 4 year old daughter – a little miracle, as her husband was told they had virtually no chance of having children naturally after his cancer.

Bronwyn was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2014 and went through treatment throughout 2015 and 2016 which involved a mastectomy of the affected breast and removal of the lymph nodes there. This was followed by six sessions of chemotherapy over a long 5 months, 16 sessions of radiotherapy and removal of the other breast and her ovaries because she has the BRCA2 gene.  

 

 

Life, but not as you knew it: Running free

Here at Shine HQ, we’ve just launched our new campaign Smash it for Shine.  What’s it about? Getting out of your comfort zone and making 2017 your year – whether you want to learn something new, try something different, or just challenge yourself to make a change (no matter how big or small).  In our latest blog, our guest writer Vicky shares with us how running has helped her cope both mentally and physically with the shock of a throat cancer diagnosis – and how she plans to keep going until she rocks the Great North Run in September.  Have a read, get inspired and let us know how you’ll smash it this year. There are loads of ways to get involved (and we promise that most of them don’t involve running a half marathon!).


One day last September, I was diagnosed with throat cancer. What a shock – both for me and the medical team. I’m a fit and healthy married mother of two – I have never smoked and don’t drink (excessively!). Why, how, what if…all these questions flew through my mind for weeks…it’s not fair, what did I do to deserve this…blah blah blah. But there are plenty of blogs on all of that, so I wanted to chat about how my hobby, running, got me through it all.

vicky

Vicky and running buddy, Millie

I took up running about three years ago, going from being a complete non-runner (forged sick notes for my PE teacher, avoiding running for a bus etc.), to thinking that I needed a flexible form of exercise that fit in around my life. With childcare, being a committee member of the school PTA, and very busy career, I hardly had time to fit in exercise.

So I took up running using the “Couch to 5k” app. It wasn’t easy, I hated it and was often found having a quiet sob behind my sunglasses for the first mile or so. But eventually it got easier and as each month passed I could run further and a tiny bit faster. I looked forward to getting out in the fresh air and having 30-40 minutes to myself.

Three years later, I have run 2 half marathons (the Great North Run – GNR), countless Park Run mornings, and many, many 10km races. I joined a local running club and found the fun in running with a variety of people, all ages and abilities. I also told two of the running club leaders what I was going through, and received so much love and support from them – training and rest advice which really helped.

At the end of last year (2016) I managed to complete a virtual challenge – which was to run 1000km (621.4 miles), and my final race of the year was one week after my treatment. I ran a 5km seasonally named “Reindeer Run” on Christmas Eve.

During my initial tests, back in August 2016, I had my training plan for the Great North Run to keep me going, and it kept me focused. I knew I had to eat, get some rest and follow my training plan…despite being worried sick about what my diagnosis might be. I had two endoscopy procedures within four weeks of each other, and the first question I asked the consultant was “when can I go for a run?”

The big day arrived last year and I ran the GNR 10 days after my first endoscopy operation. My consultant thought that I was bonkers but agreed that I could do it. He told me that as my body was fit and active, it was okay to run as it wouldn’t be a shock to my system, and it might actually be good for me. That feeling after 13.1 miles was amazing. I ran a little slower than the previous year but that medal means more to me than any of others where I have achieved faster times.

vicky-gnr

Vicky and her 2016 Great North Run medal

I attended my follow up appointment (where I received my diagnosis) after I had run 5 miles earlier that morning, and it took my mind off the meeting with the oncologist. Running frees the mind, allows you to think about your breathing, and most importantly, if you find yourself a good running buddy, you can chat about random rubbish. The steps of running keeps you going. You can’t stop and cry mid-run, but I did have days when I felt I was running…. running fast… and angrily away from cancer.

I started radiotherapy at the wonderful Clatterbridge Centre, Wirral, in November…. six weeks of daily trips and treatment, with the target in my mind of continuing my running. I proudly told the nurse and radiology staff of my intentions, and they told me to listen to my body and take it easy. My oncologist and consultant have both commented on how being fit and focused has helped me tackle side effects and the treatment, and I do wonder if I might have suffered more if I wasn’t so fit?

My running slowed down during radiotherapy but I was out, in the fresh air, alive. Who cares how fast or how far you go, its getting out there that counts! Because of my treatment, I still have a sore throat and dry mouth, so my trusty water bottle comes with me, and I don’t beat myself up if I need to rest a little or walk a few steps. It’s still early days in terms of recovery and I’m happy to slowly build my fitness back up again.

vicky-gnr2

Vicky with her running crew

My message to anyone going through cancer is to consider keeping active and doing something you enjoy…that may be yoga, cycling or swimming, but during the days when you are waiting for appointments or for treatment to start, it’s a wonderful tonic to have a daily focus. Be prepared to slow down a little if you are going through treatment – even the super fit get their energy levels zapped with radiotherapy or chemo – but just enjoy the focus on your activity and put cancer out of your mind for an hour. Put on your trainers and get out there. Don’t let cancer beat you.

The running bug is still with me and I have booked races to run this year including three different 10km races and two more half marathons…..And I have been offered a charity place at this year’s Great North Run for Shine – how lovely is that? I will do my best to raise money and raise awareness of this wonderful charity.

So what are you waiting for? Get your trainers on!

If you’d like more information about how you can Smash it for Shine, take a look here.

Shine is the official charity partner of Virtually Geared, a virtual running company that will support you to reach your running goals – and send you a fancy medal once you’ve finished your challenge!

We currently have two places left to run for Shine in the 10 mile Great South Run in October 2017. If you’re interested in one of these places, drop us a line at fundraising@shinecancersupport.org.