SDN Spotlight: The Battle We Didn’t Choose eBook

Interviews and Questions from Scarves Dot Net

Interview with Breast Cancer Survivors

As many of you may know, over the past year the SDN gals have been working with bloggers, photographers, leaders, survivors, and patients in the cancer community to share their inspiring and heartfelt stories in our SDN Spotlight series.

Today we are proud to share that our friend and SDN Spotlight blogger, Angelo Merendino, has recently released a photo documentary book that powerfully details his wife’s battle with breast cancer.

My Wife's Fight With Breast Cancer photography

Available as an iTunes eBook and a downloadable PDF on Angelo’s website, The Battle We Didn’t Choose: My Wife’s Fight with Breast Cancer is a beautiful and moving tribute to his wife, Jennifer. We hope you will all take the time to check it out!

50% of the proceeds from The Battle We Didn’t Choose will be donated to The Love You Share, a nonprofit Angelo started in memory of his wife. The Love You Share looks to ease the everyday burdens of cancer patients by providing them with gift cards to local grocery services and transportation to doctors appointments.

You can also learn more about Angelo and Jennifer’s story by reading our interview with Angelo and by visiting his blog.

Knots for Hope Charity Drive

Knots for Hope

Serving the cancer community is a cause very near and dear to our hearts, here at Scarves Dot Net. Less than one year ago, our team announced the launch of Knots for Hope, a resource designed to instill hope in those affected by cancer. We have been both blessed and honored to receive positive feedback from customers and families who have stumbled onto our site and felt inspired.

Still, we want to do more for those who are battling cancer — a community that inspires us all. That’s why we are more than thrilled to launch the Knots for Hope Charity Drive this week. Through this new initiative, we’ll team with customers to donate head scarves to patients in need at The Cheer Guild of Riley Hospital for Children. Our goal is to donate at least 150 scarves — but we’re confident you can help us do even better!

cheer guild

So, how can you help? Partner with us to donate the Mya Scarf. Just look for “Knots for Hope” during the checkout process and, with a gift of $3.25, you will help us purchase the Mya to donate. But don’t stop there — help spread the word about this charity drive.

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Of course, even if you can’t help financially, we’d still love for you to be involved with Knots for Hope by sharing this resource where you can, watching step-by-step scarf tying tutorials, meeting bloggers affected by cancer, and much more! Read our stories, join our conversation, and start knotting for hope.

Louanne Roark from Look Good Feel Better

Interviews and Questions from Scarves Dot Net

Interview with Breast Cancer Survivors

Whether it’s heartfelt anecdotes or inspiring triumphs, the Scarves Dot Net gals love to share stories — especially when they’re incredibly touching. That’s why we’re starting a new series called SDN Spotlight. From influential bloggers to community leaders, we’ve scoured the blogosphere for the most inspiring men and women. So far, we’ve had the opportunity to hear from eight incredible individuals about how cancer has affected their lives.

Today, we’re honored to bring you our interview with Louanne Roark. Louanne is the executive director of the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, a position she has held since 2005. The Personal Care Products Council Foundation originated the Look Good Feel Better program in 1988, when the first pilot programs were offered at Georgetown Lombardi Cancer Center in Washington, DC, and at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Louanne lives in Alexandria, VA.

Look Good Feel Better logo

SDN: Please briefly describe the Personal Care Products Council Foundation and its journey to starting the “Look Good Feel Better” program.

Louanne: The Personal Care Products Council Foundation is the charitable arm of the Personal Care Products industry. The PCPF has a long history of supporting women and women’s health topics.The story of Look Good Feel Better is one of both opportunity and hope. In 1987, a doctor was caring for a woman with cancer who was struggling to come to grips with the changes in her appearance due to her treatment. The doctor contacted a friend who happened to be in the cosmetics industry to ask whether they would be willing to provide her with a bedside consultation on using makeup and other products to help make her feel like herself again. Immediately following that consultation the doctor noticed a remarkable change in his patient — from her outlook, her confidence, and her desire to beat her diagnosis.

From that one encounter, Look Good Feel Better was born. Soon, the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the Professional Beauty Association began collaborating to develop the program that we have today and that reaches millions of women around the world with the same promise — to help them once again feel normal in a life that is by no means normal.

SDN: How and/or why did you get involved with the Personal Care Products Council Foundation?

Louanne: I was working for the Council’s meetings/events department at the time and got involved with Look Good Feel Better in 1990 after watching with interest as the program was developed. My grandmother died from colon cancer, so I had the personal experience of watching her struggle with her disease. I wanted to do something to help other women find ways to cope with and manage their disease and the challenges of treatment. Look Good Feel Better presented the perfect opportunity to do that.

Beauty Editors Day

Louanne (second from right) on Beauty Editors Day at Saks Fifth Avenue

SDN: The LGFB mission is to improve self-esteem for women undergoing cancer treatments and to improve self-image through beauty sessions. We understand that a typical session includes tips about makeup, hair, nail care, and styling. Can you discuss, for our readers, how this creates a sense of support, confidence, courage, and community?

Louanne: Our national research among women with cancer and those who are cancer-free demonstrates that for the vast majority of women, how they look has a direct impact on how they feel. When a woman begins cancer treatment she often faces a cascade of dramatic appearance-related side-effects — from changes in her skin and nails, to weight loss or gain, to the loss of hair, including her eyelashes and eyebrows. Those changes leave women feeling isolated from family, friends, and colleagues, and have a negative impact on personal relationships.

Bringing women together in a safe, trusting atmosphere is an important demonstration to these women that they are not alone, and that they can overcome the appearance-related side effects of treatment. Our workshops impart a lot of great information and advice on the practical application of makeup, wigs, and turbans, plus clothing styling tips to mitigate the changes in outward appearance due to treatment. What’s more, the women around the table have the opportunity to share their own experiences — to talk, to laugh, to vent, to connect, and ultimately to bond with one another.

SDN: What advice would you give to someone who is hesitant to attend an event?

Louanne: I would tell them that they are not alone. The vast majority of our workshop participants are hesitant to attend at first. But once they’ve experienced LGFB, almost 100% say they would recommend the program to a friend or family member undergoing cancer treatment. We try hard to create a trusting atmosphere for our participants. No one is ever asked or required to share anything about their experience unless they choose to. It is all about giving women the tips, tools, and control to find themselves in the mirror again.

Look Good Feel Better workshop

Look Good Feel Better workshop

SDN: Drawing on your experiences with LGFB, are there any assumptions or misconceptions about cancer that you would like to shed some light on?

Louanne: Cancer takes a lot of things, both physically and mentally. But it doesn’t change who a woman (or man) is at their core. It may shake their confidence and rattle their self-esteem, but the power of the human spirit is an amazing thing. For the most part, people with cancer want to be treated like they were before their diagnosis. But due to the changes in their appearance, others often can’t help but affix the “cancer patient” label to them. It becomes a battle between what these people feel inside and what they look like on the outside. So, my message would be that: Yes, cancer changes you in both obvious and subtle ways — but you can still be yourself and feel like yourself by creating normalcy in your life. Spend time with your loved ones, keep going to that yoga class, talk to your friends, and continue to do as many of the things you have always done and enjoyed as possible. Be kind to yourself, and address and control the things you can so that you can focus your energy and endurance to overcome your cancer.

SDN: LGFB has some amazing corporate partnerships. Can you share a few opportunities that allow consumers to get involved and help raise funds for LGFB?

Louanne: We have a number of terrific corporate supporters that raise funds and make it possible for Look Good Feel Better to help 50,000 women each year. These supporters help us reach women with cancer, their family, friends, and medical professionals, and provide education about what they can do to help themselves or others who may be facing a cancer diagnosis. There are over 20 companies who partner with us each year, and each of them offers unique opportunities to get involved. The best way to see the full scope of support is to visit our web site at www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org and check out our corporate partners and supporters on the site.

SDN: Which head knot and/or other knot would you recommend for women to look good and feel better in? Why?

Louanne: In addition to wigs, there are many terrific, stylish alternatives for addressing hair loss during cancer treatment. Each woman’s sense of style, comfort, and creativity is different, so I encourage experimentation with the many available options to find the ones that she loves and are right for her lifestyle, time availability, energy level, and other important factors in her life. It’s an opportunity to have fun and try something new!

A special thanks to Louanne for taking the time to tell us more about this incredible foundation!

For more information on the Personal Care Products Council Foundation and Look Good Feel Better you can visit their website, connect on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

Image sources: lookgoodfeelbetter.org, wellbeingofwomen.org.uk, zimbio.com

Dr. Kathleen Ruddy from the Breast Health & Healing Foundation

Interviews and Questions from Scarves Dot Net

Interview with Breast Cancer Survivors

Whether it’s heartfelt anecdotes or inspiring triumphs, the Scarves Dot Net gals love to share stories — especially when they’re incredibly touching. That’s why we’re starting a new series called SDN Spotlight. From influential bloggers to community leaders, we’ve scoured the blogosphere for the most inspiring men and women. So far, we’ve had the opportunity to hear from seven incredible individuals about how cancer has affected their lives.

Today we’re excited to bring you our interview with Dr. Kathleen Ruddy. Dr. Ruddy is a breast surgeon, trained at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2008, she completed the first International Masters for Health Leadership at McGill University and then created the first and only breast cancer foundation (the Breast Health & Healing Foundation) whose mission is to discover the specific causes of breast cancer and use that knowledge to prevent the disease — what she calls the Pure Cure. She is particularly interested in the breast cancer virus and the world’s first preventive breast cancer vaccine, which was developed at the Cleveland Clinic in 2010.

Dr. Ruddy’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1974 and is still alive and cancer-free today. She shares about her experiences with breast cancer as a surgeon and as the daughter of a survivor on her blog.

Dr. Kathleen Ruddy and her mom

Dr. Ruddy and her mom (in pink)

SDN: Your mother was diagnosed with breast cancer years ago.  Could you tell us a little bit more about her, her battle, and her recovery?

Dr. Ruddy: My mother found a lump in her breast and had a biopsy that was read as a frozen section. She was told everything was fine. But then a few days later, the doctor called to say that on permanent sections the lump was really cancer. She had a mastectomy, radiation therapy, and then she had her ovaries removed. This all happened before breast cancer was something people were aware of. It was pretty scary for her and for the family, but she recovered and has been cancer-free ever since.

SDN: Coming from a medical perspective, what is the most crucial piece of information that the public should know about cancer?

Dr. Ruddy: I think there are a few things people need to know that they probably don’t. There is converging and compelling evidence accumulating that a virus (human mammary tumor virus) is responsible for 40-75% of breast cancer. Very little research money is spent supporting this research, and that’s a shame.

I think most people don’t know about the world’s first preventive breast cancer vaccine. It is 100% effective in preventing breast cancer in three animal models and is ready for safety testing in women. Money is needed to support this research, too. I hope we can move it along quickly.

SDN: You are the founder and president of the Breast Health & Healing Foundation. Can you explain why you started the foundation and share any accomplishments so far?

Dr. Ruddy: When I discovered that the major breast cancer foundations were not pursuing the causes of breast cancer or primary prevention of the disease, I felt I had to create one that would fill this great, unmet need.

In 2010, I created an iPhone app, Breast Health GPS, which was the #1 breast cancer app in the iTunes store for 18 months after its release. I also created a documentary film about the virus, It’s Time To Answer The Question, which was named Best Film of the Year 2010 by Rethink Breast Cancer. I’ve hosted two Breast Cancer Summits on Capitol Hill about the virus and the vaccine and will be hosting a third this month in New York City.

I launched an app for the iPad, Breast Cancer 411, that brings all the latest breast cancer news to users, and I launched an app for all smart phones, Lobby Me Pink, that allows users to send emails directly to their Congressmen on Capitol Hill.  All of my apps are free, and they are all dedicated to empowering women, giving them good information, and teaching them about how they can reduce their risk for breast cancer.

In 2011, I was invited by the University of Michigan Global Health Network to address their conference in Cairo about breast cancer in Africa and the Middle East. I spoke about the virus and the vaccine, and I think I generated good interest in the prevention of breast cancer in countries that cannot afford a race for the cure.

Dr. Kathleen Ruddy and Gloria Gaynor

Dr. Ruddy with Gloria Gaynor

SDN: The Breast Health & Healing Foundation focuses on breast cancer prevention rather than on “a race towards a cure.” Why do you think it is imperative to shift the focus towards prevention?

Dr. Ruddy: Scientists are certain that at least 30% of breast cancer cases can be prevented using known and proven risk reduction strategies, yet less than 2% of all research money is spent doing so. Even though other breast cancer foundations talk and market prevention, if you look at what they fund, it’s easy to see that they are marketing prevention rather than actually trying to do so. It’s a shame. They’ve lost credibility on so many counts, and this is just another way they try to convince the public that they’re doing something productive to prevent breast cancer, when they are really working more for diagnosis and treatment than anything else.

SDN: You are determined to find a “pure cure” for cancer. Where do you find the strength to pursue this goal day in and day out?

Dr. Ruddy: I was born with a good constitution. I was raised in a very disciplined way. I was taught to work hard and well. Passion runs through my veins right alongside my blood. I come by this drive naturally, but I do get worked up even more when I sense an unmet need — like preventing a disease such as breast cancer.

SDN: As a medical professional, you go above and beyond by exploring options, where others have previously given up hope. What drives you to go the extra distance for your patients?

Dr. Ruddy: I’ve written a manuscript, a very rough draft autobiography told in a series of tweets. It’s a fast read; take a peek and I think you’ll see I’ve always gone the extra distance. I guess I like the exercise!

SDN: You have used your blog to provide medical information to others about cancer treatment and research in easy-to-understand terms. What are you hoping that others take away from your blog?

Dr. Ruddy: I want to explain what is often a bewildering subject — breast cancer. Because I have worked my way up the ladder of medicine from secretary to surgeon, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to lie on a stretcher, completely vulnerable and needy, and how valuable a kind word and sound information can be. It can make all the difference in the world. If I can do that for more women than I can actually lay hands on — and I can, via the Internet — then why not?

Quite simply, I love what I do and I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I’d like to help other women and make it easier for them to cope with the unknown and the dreaded known.

Special thanks to Dr. Ruddy for sharing with us! To hear more of Dr. Ruddy’s story, you can visit her blog or connect with her on Twitter. And for additional information on the Breast Health & Healing Foundation and ways you can get involved, check out their website