Thriving through cancer, cancer prevention and living a healthier life
Author: Rn Momcologist
I’m a registered nurse and mother to an amazing 11 year old boy who has battled Medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer. Through my knowledge as a nurse and experience as a “Momcologist”, I share with you segments of our journey through cancer, what helped my son thrive through treatment, cancer prevention education and ways to live healthier/non-toxic lives.
“Emily was diagnosed 11/26/14, the day before Thanksgiving, at age 4 with a SPNET (Supratentorial Primitive NeuroEctodermal Tumor). Emily had been misdiagnosed with allergies after suffering debilitating headaches for a few months, we pushed the pediatrician until she agreed to order a CT scan. After her CT scan Emily was sent straight to the emergency room. Emily had a brain tumor and was transported via ambulance to Kaiser Sunset, where she had surgery the day after Thanksgiving.”
“Thankfully there were no complications and by the grace of God, she was talking, walking and was discharged. Three weeks later, doctors found the tumor had grown back. Emily started chemo on New Year’s Eve, having a total of 6 rounds of chemo at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and 30 rounds of radiation to the brain and spine. She was in remission for almost 2 years when she had scans in July of 2017 showing an area of enhancement.”
“On August 16, 2017, after having a seizure and being airlifted to CHLA, the area of enhancement showed growth causing her to relapse. Emi had a resection August 2017 in hopes that an immunotherapy trial with the University of Florida would save her life. While awaiting for her life saving shot, she reoccured 4 months later, the 4th tumor bled in Dec 2017 and she was put in observation. She had a 4th resection and started the immunotherapy trial. Just 3 months later she reoccured for a 5th time. During that 5th and final surgery, she suffered a stroke in the operating room, they induced a coma in hopes that the swelling in her brain would go down. During surgery the surgeon found out that the tumor had spread and there were now multiple tumors causing blood to be pulled to a different part of the brain and that caused the stroke. After a week of tests after tests, they declared her brain dead and she had to be taken off life support.”
“Emi gained her wings on March 27, 2018 at age 8, leaving us all heart broken and lost, but her legacy will live by inspiring others to love the way she did, to #LoveLikeEmi”
As much as we love to spend time in the sun, with our son’s sensitive skin post radiation we have to take extra precautions 🧢☀️⛱
It’s also not just about applying any type of sunscreen. You want to make sure what is being applied to your skin, especially that of your child’s, is safe and non-toxic since it will be absorbed through the skin.
Ways to reduce the risk of sunburn, skin aging from sun and most importantly skin cancer:
☀️Make sure to always evenly apply sunscreen at least 15-30 minutes prior to sun exposure.
☀️ When shopping for a sunscreen opt for ones that are water resistant, have SPF of 30 or higher and are “broad spectrum”, which means the product has ingredients that can protect you from UVA, as well as UVB rays.
☀️ Most dermatologists will say you do not need SPF greater than 30-50. Very high SPFs often create a false sense of security. People who use them tend to stay out in the sun much longer and may skip reapplying simply because they think they are better protected. Which in turn puts them at risk for more UV exposure, which, of course, then defeats the purpose.
☀️Reapply according to package instructions (at least every 2 hours)
☀️Regularly use broad spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF (exposure to UV rays during winter put you at the same risk as during the summer).🏖
☀️Wear sunglasses (this applies to children as well) They help protect your eyes from UV radiation!
☀️Wear added protection with wide brim hats (If you’ve lost your hair due to chemo, make sure to wear a hat out in the sun to protect your scalp. For added protection still apply sunscreen), pants or long sleeve shirts when possible 👖🧢🕶 Keep any surgical scars covered from the sun (If you cannot cover with a hat or clothes, once they are completely healed, you can apply sunscreen over them.)
☀️Limit time directly in the sun when possible from 10am-2pm (when UV rays are at their strongest)
☀️If you are unsure how strong the sun’s rays are, use the shadow test: if your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun’s rays are at its strongest!
☀️Some prescribed medications, especially chemo and radiation, make you at higher risk to develop sunburn (make sure to take extra precautions as the skin will absorb more UV rays under these conditions. Always carry sunscreen on-the-go.)
California Baby has this perfect “Fun In The Sun Essentials” organic tote bag for your outdoor fun with your kiddos! It includes 1.8oz Broad Spectrum SPF 30+ Super Sensitive Sunscreen Lotion, 2oz Natural Bug Blend Bug Spray, 0.5oz Broad Spectrum SPF 30+ Super Sensitive Sunscreen Stick, 0.5oz California Kids Supersensitive Broad Spectrum SPF 30+ Sunscreen Lotion, California Baby® Designer Sunglasses and a make-up sponge to assist with a smooth and even sunscreen application.
Their mineral sunscreen goes on very light and blends well. A small amount goes a long way!
If you would like to try out California Baby products, click here to take a short quiz and claim a free prize! Hope you love their products just as much as we do!
Although they make your clothes feel soft and smell “fresh”, fabric softeners and dryer sheets are some of the most toxic products. They add toxic chemicals to your laundry and, consequently, your body. Our skin is our largest organ and has a transdermal effect, so what we put on our body is just as important as what we put in it, which chemicals like these that stay on your clothes and have contact with your skin the majority of the day will have some effect on your health. Since fabric softeners are designed to stay on your clothes for extended periods of time, such chemicals can seep out gradually and be inhaled or absorbed directly through the skin.
According to Scientific American, some of the most harmful ingredients in dryer sheets and liquid fabric softeners include: -benzyl acetate (linked to pancreatic cancer) -benzyl alcohol (an upper respiratory tract irritant) -ethanol (linked to central nervous system disorders) -chloroform (a neurotoxin and carcinogen) -limonene (carcinogen) -surfactant nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) (reproductive problems)
The benefits of using dryer balls: -natural/non-toxic -reusable, can last up to 1,000 loads (once they start to unravel its time to replace) -helps separate the clothes while in the dryer allows additional air flow through to dry clothes faster -helps reduce wrinkles and static of clothing -save you money on fabric softener and dryer sheets -eco-friendly/biodegradeable
How to use: -use 2-3 dryer balls depending on size of load (they will work more efficiently with small to medium loads allowing the balls to bounce around and do their job) You will need more for larger loads
Most dryer balls are made of wool or bamboo fibers (these are the ones that you want to look for to purchase)
If you are looking for an added scent to your laundry, after the load is completely dried, take out the dyer balls and apply a desired amount of essential oil to each ball. Toss the dryer balls back into the dryer and run the load on “Air Fluff” for 10 minutes (no heat), so that the delicate essential oil is not damaged.
Today I had the honor of being in attendance of some of the strongest women I will ever meet. Although our stories are all different, our first chapter all started out with hearing the words “your child has cancer.” Words that will forever be imprinted into our hearts. We are part of a group that we never signed up for. Yet we are bonded in a way no one else can understand. We are a team and although this journey can sometimes be scary and lonely, no one fights alone.
7 years ago, one courageous mom lost her child to brain cancer. This courageous mom is Stacy Rees, mother to Jessie Rees for which the foundation is named after. This mom, the Rees family and Negu team put this first annual Courageous Mama’s Luncheon together so that other courageous moms can connect and be an additional source of encouragement to each other. This family lost their child and yet they fight so hard to encourage other families to Never Ever Give Up. I am still at a loss of words when I try to think of what they have endured and how amazing it is how they keep their daughter’s legacy alive by helping bring joy to other courageous kids and families.
Today we shared hugs, stories, laughs and many tears. We enjoyed a delicious brunch and if that wasn’t already enough, we were each gifted a special boost of love with this lovely Negu bag filled with thoughtful items for parents to use along the journey.
So grateful to have been able to be a part of this amazing event and have been brought together with other courageous moms. Thank you Jessie Rees Foundation for all the love you showed us today and everyday for all that you do!
If your child has been diagnosed with cancer, I encourage you to join Team Negu. No one fights alone… we are a team, we are family!💙https://negu.org/
For those of you who are not familiar with the Jessie Rees Foundation, it was created in honor of Jessica Joy Rees, better known as “Jessie”. She was a 12 year old girl who courageously fought two brain tumors (DIPG) from March 3, 2011 to January 5, 2012. During her courageous fight, she decided to focus on helping other kids fighting cancer that couldn’t leave the hospital. When Jessie learned that some kids never get to leave the hospital after their treatment she asked her parents “How Can We Help Them?” This desire led to the creation of her fun-filled JoyJars® and the Never Ever Give Up (aka: NEGU®) message.
Jessie personally sent over 3,000 JoyJars to kids during her fight. Now over 250,00 JoyJars have been stuffed and sent to courageous kids nationwide and in 41 other countries thanks to events like this one, along with the many donors, supporters and volunteers. Her family along with many volunteers and donors keep her legacy alive and continue to encourage other kids and families while they battle childhood cancer.
It is often believed that childhood cancer is ‘rare,’ and that it doesn’t affect many people. However, according to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, there are thousands of children between birth and 19 years old who are diagnosed with pediatric cancer annually. It is a much more prevalent issue than perceived, and this lack of awareness is what leads to the lack of funding. Only 4% of Federal government research funding goes to study pediatric cancer, so many children are forced to endure the harsh effects of adult therapies. In order to increase awareness on this issue, we are providing a platform for people to share what they have gone through and inform others. The people we have interviewed are Kyrell, Lovely (his mother), Ellie, and Carolina.
Could you please introduce yourself and talk a little bit about your experiences with childhood cancer? Kyrell (11 year old fighting cancer): My name is Kyrell, and I have been battling cancer for a year now. I first realized something was wrong when I was at a soccer game, and my leg cramped up. It got worse and worse, and eventually the doctors diagnosed that it was cancer.
Carolina Valls (mother of child who survived cancer): My name is Carolina Valls. I am a registered nurse and a mother to an 11 year old boy who battled Medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer, for the past 16 months. Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): My name is Ellie, and I was diagnosed with childhood cancer at the age of 14. There was a bump in my leg as well as pain, and doctors thought it was just muscle pain, but later I was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma (a type of tissue cancer).
What qualities in your child do you admire as he/she faces obstacles? Lovely (mother of Kyrell): He looks on the positive side. He is able to see the good in everything, and always seems to have a smile on his face. He has actually brought our family together because even though we might be going through tough times, he remains positive and happy.
Carolina Valls (mother of child who survived cancer): My son is resilient beyond measure. He has overcome every obstacle that has come his way with the most positive and calm demeanor.
What or who has helped you the most as you/your child undergoes treatments for cancer?
Lovely (mother of Kyrell): The doctors and nurses were very kind and supportive. The other families that we met were helpful, and hearing the inspiring stories in a community brought everyone together.
Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): I was fortunate enough to have a strong support network, since I had a lot of friends and visitors who would come by daily. I also lived in a ward full of people my age, so it helped me feel less isolated.
What “words of wisdom” and/or advice would you give any young kids/families facing cancer or another difficult struggle? Kyrell (11 year old fighting cancer): When I first found out I had cancer, I cried.
But when I was told that there are a lot of kids out there who are like me, I felt better. Just feeling like I was not alone, and there are others made a difference. Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): I think just accepting that you do have cancer, goes a long way. Staying in denial won’t get you anywhere, and if you keep feeling sorry for yourself you’re going to feel depressed. I’d say accept this happened, and do what you can now.
How did your child/you having childhood cancer change your outlook on life? Carolina Valls (mother of child who survived cancer): It truly made me realize how precious and fragile life is. You always hear the saying “Life is too short,” but you do not come to realize how true that is until your life, or especially that of your child’s is threatened. Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): I don’t really worry about the small things anymore. Too many people stay focused on little problems, but I honestly think if you’re happy and healthy, then it’s going to be fine. I also learned to be more grateful for what I have, and that life is too short to waste it.
What words would you NOT want people to say to you as your family faces challenges? Lovely (mother of Kyrell): We want to be treated normally. We do appreciate the kind gestures people show, but when you’re treating us like we’re disabled, it kind of gets old.
Carolina Valls (mother of child who survived cancer): “I’m sorry”, “It could be worse”…
What things should people say/do to best support a family with a child with cancer? Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): Just be there. And visit often, because when I was first diagnosed, everyone would come by to visit. But as time passed, less people showed up.
Lovely (mother of Kyrell): Be who you were to us before the diagnosis. Don’t change and act different. Just be there for us when we need you.
What kinds of changes do you want to see in the society we are currently living in regarding childhood cancer? Kyrell (11 year old fighting cancer): [smiling] I don’t know, just talk more about it.
Lovely (mother of Kyrell): People need to be made much more aware about this topic. I was a cancer nurse for more than 10 years, and I didn’t even know someone in my own house had cancer. I was taught all the signs and symptoms, but just not in kids. So when my son was complaining about a cramp in his leg, I had no idea it could be related to cancer. Even though it was my career, and I knew so much about it, I wasn’t educated at all about pediatric cancer. There is a lot of funding and education for adult cancer, but kids need proper treatment too. If my son was diagnosed 3 years ago, he would have been forced to endure harsh adult therapies. But because more research had been done, he was able to have a better experience, and that’s all because of awareness!
Carolina Valls (mother of child who survived cancer): Most research funding is geared towards adult cancers. That needs to change. Our children are our future and deserve more than 4%! We also need to educate ourselves better as a society on ways to reduce our risk of cancer and live healthier lives. Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): More funding and less ignorance. People’s’ attitude towards childhood cancer is that it’s rare, and it really isn’t and you see cases increasing year upon year. Companies don’t really see childhood cancer as profitable so they don’t invest as much of their resources in that aspect. And as a result of this children have to be treated with adult treatments, and this leads to a lot of long term side effects.
How do you plan on creating these changes? Lovely (mother of Kyrell): Ever since Kyrell was diagnosed we’ve been trying our best to make an impact. We’ve been going to interviews, sharing our stories, and supporting people like you who aren’t affected but want to help.
Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): I’ve done a lot of campaigning. Whether it be on YouTube or Instagram. And I’ve attended interviews, so spreading the word about this issue is really important.
A common theme that surfaces throughout the interviews is a lack of awareness. The perception of childhood cancer being ‘rare’ leads to less research and funding. Children are forced to be treated with harsh adult treatments, and this in turn causes side effects that will affect these kids for the rest of their lives. The key to improving the lives and experiences of pediatric patients is awareness.
🥤They are reusable! Not only is that good for the environment, saving our sea life from the pollution of plastic straws that ends up in the ocean but they are also good on your pocket! It will save you money in the long run if you are used to buying disposable straws.
🥤Plastic reusable straws start to build a film inside of them that are hard to clean and can build up bacteria or mold, can’t go in the dishwasher or they melt.
🥤Plastic leaches chemicals, even more so when exposed to extreme temperatures like freezing or heat, acidic beverages or UV light which of course posses a risk to our health since it can disrupt our hormones but even more so cause cancer. Most single-use plastic straws are made from polypropylene, a type of plastic commonly made from petroleum.
Options for non-toxic reusable straws: glass, stainless steel, bamboo and silicone (which are perfect for small children or people with disabilities that need a bendable straw).
🌾If you are needing single use non-toxic straws, for lets say a party or an event where you will need a great amount of straws, I recommend using these natural Hay Straws that are made from wheat stems. They are 100% compostable, so you can throw them in the compost and they will break down completely.
Personally, I like to use glass straws because I like to be able to see thru them and make sure that they have been fully cleaned out on the inside. Good quality straws are made sturdy enough where you do not have to worry about your children using them or breaking them. My favorite glass straws are from GlassDharma. I love that their glass is thick and very durable. I also love that their cleaning brush handle is made from stainless steel. Perfect combo with their soft hemp sleeve to hold the straw and be able to take it on the go! Glassdharma creates a variety of glass straws, including a nice collection of etched straws with inspirational words on them. They even make custom sized straws if you have a container you would like a specific length of a straw for. Best part is they have a lifetime guarantee!
⚠️Tip: make sure with any cleaning brush that you use, that the handle is all stainless steel (no aluminum).
This reusable monkey print travel pouch is from Marley’s Monsters. The pouches are perfect to take your straws on the go! I also store my straws in the pouch inside my kitchen drawer to keep them clean in between uses. This pouch even has removable and washable interior wet bag to keep your dirty straws in. They have a wide variety of adorable prints to choose from, as well as different sizes to match the length of your straws. Their site has a variety of great non-toxic, reusable items aside from straws ranging from kitchen towels, napkins, facial washcloths, nursing pads, bibs, washable duster, dryer balls, shopping bags and food containers.
After Anthony was diagnosed with cancer, this was one of the simple changes that I made. I stopped utilizing all non-stick cookware and started slowly changing out items in the kitchen, beginning with purchasing a cast iron skillet which I now use to cook all of his meals in. Because I knew that Anthony would start have iron deficiency anemia related to his cancer treatment secondary to reduced appetite, poor nutrition, potential gastrointestinal mucosal damage that results in blood loss and bone marrow suppression I resorted to using cast iron cookware. Iron is an essential nutrient for all the cells in our body. Iron’s main function in our body is to help transport oxygen through hemoglobin in the blood and myoglobin in muscles.
As a registered nurse one of our education instructions to our patients is to use cast iron cookware to cook in as a way to help increase their iron levels and prevent or improve their iron deficiency!
Safe, non-toxic types of cookware include: cast iron, stainless steel, glass and copper. One of the cast iron skillets that I use the most, which is also incredibly priced is from Lodge. Taking it way back to one of the oldest, yet safest ways to cook!
The best part about a cast iron skillet, other than the health benefits are that it will last you a lifetime. That is of course, if you take care of it appropriately:
Wash cast iron by hand (avoid putting in dishwasher or using any metal scrubbers). For extra sticky situations, simmer a little water for 1 minute, then scrape after cooled.
Rub with a very light layer of oil, preferably while the cookware is still warm.
Hang or store cookware in a dry place.
The great thing about cast iron is that it can be used on all types of stovetops, including in the oven!
Cast iron heats up very quickly, so make sure to use a lower heat setting to pre-heat prior to adding food and to also prevent food from burning or sticking.
You can use any utensils you like on cast iron, but avoid using anything plastic or aluminum for toxic purposes! Bamboo utensils are always a great option as they are organic and will not scratch any surface.
Purchasing all new cookware can definitely be a financial burden but it is a lifetime investment for your health and in the long run can save you a lot of money on potential medical care related to health conditions that may arise from using alternative cookware that expose you to hazardous toxins. Lodge has a nice array of cookware to choose from which is reasonably priced.
Individuals with iron stores that are too high should avoid cooking in cast iron. Also, children under age three are particularly susceptible to iron toxicity, so take extra precaution to not cook all meals in cast iron. Please consult your physician for further recommendation.
*Any application of the recommendations in this website is at the reader’s discretion.Information is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.Please consult with physician prior to use.