Friday, May 28, 2010

Dr. Kathryn Schmitz impressed with new yoga study

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) is hosting its annual meeting in one week. Over 30,000 clinicians will be in attendance at the annual meeting responding to and offering information as it relates to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. LBBC caught up with Dr. Kathryn Schmitz who was invited to speak at the meeting. She will be presenting guidelines for exercise testing and prescription for all cancer patients based on an expert panel brought together by the American College of Sports Medicine.

“Doctors are concerned about doing the best they can for their patients. There was a time, not so many decades ago, when cancer patients didn’t live as long as they do now, so doctors were teaching ‘take it easy,’ says Dr. Kathryn Schmitz as she discusses why most doctors don’t associate exercise with being the best option for cancer patients.

Dr. Schmitz conducts research that is based on the findings of the benefits of physical activity. While she targets those who suffer from obesity, she also has extended research to women affected by breast cancer as well. She supports a new study that ASCO released that shows evidence that yoga may help cancer patients with treatment side effects.

Dr. Schmitz is impressed with the way Dr. Karen Mustian went about conducting the yoga benefits study. “What’s lovely about this study is that Karen went through the oncologists. The challenge with dealing with cancer patients is getting clinicians involved…the oncologists have to know that it’s safe,” said Dr. Schmitz. “Until we provide information to physicians that women want this, women benefit from this and women will not be harmed, nothing will change,” she says.

Dr. Mustian was the lead author in a study that revealed that yoga had sustainable benefits on sleep quality, fatigue, and overall quality of life in cancer survivors. A total of 96% of the participants of the study were women and 75% of them had breast cancer.

“People [cancer patients] are living, and for a long time, particularly breast cancer patients. It turns out the talk of ‘take it easy’ is associated with worse risk than exercise itself. In my opinion, [doctors] should stop recommending patients avoid exercise,” says Dr. Schmitz. Primarily, doctors rely on medication to assist their patients with side effects of treatment and are more reluctant to “prescribe” exercise.

According to Dr. Schmitz, doctors don’t have time to investigate and encourage their patients to explore the benefits of exercise. “Women are talking to their doctors about arm pain, scar pain, side effects, and the best ways to prevent recurrence. By the time they are done with all of what is on their agenda, the allotted time for the appointment is over or even long past. And then Doctor’s are supposed to say ‘oh, there’s an exercise program you can do?’ There just isn’t enough time,” she said.

Financial issues also factor in when doctors consider suggesting exercise programs to their patients. “Cancer patients are tapped out financially. The financial burden of cancer treatment creates stress, and on top of that, many patients have taken as much time off as they are allotted at work. On top of that, they have to PAY for yoga classes? Cost can be a real barrier,” said Dr. Schmitz.

Dr. Schmitz and a team at the University of Pennsylvania are looking into disseminating an at-home yoga work-out video for breast cancer survivors as a way to assist with the high out-of-pocket costs for those undergoing treatment.

Dr. Schmitz herself has been practicing yoga since she was in elementary school. “People who have been doing it for the longest are the least likely to say they’re good at it, including me. I’m really still just a beginner,” she ends.

Dr. Schmitz has heard from people across the world who are pleased with the programs that LBBC provides. She has even offered to help LBBC promote more physical activity programs on a day to day basis for women affected by breast cancer.

To hear about the latest findings revealed at ASCO’s annual meeting, register for LBBC’s teleconference scheduled for June 11th: Breaking News from ASCO.

Are you having trouble sleeping? Are you suffering from fatigue after treatment? Talk to your doctor about practicing yoga at your local yoga studio and about any other options that may assist with treatment side effects. Tell us what your doctor suggested on our facebook page.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Moving Meditation

This entry was submitted by LBBC staff member Stacia Weaver:

Jeanne Egan vicariously lived through her grandmother’s diagnosis of breast cancer. After finding three benign tumors, the dreaded fear of being diagnosed with breast cancer had somehow become a reality. In October of 2007, Jeanne had a bilateral mastectomy which revealed that she had a 1.6 cm malignant tumor.

“I always had a fear of cancer. I always thought I would get it. It was just a part of my story,” said Jeanne.

Jeanne attended the 8th Annual Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer event. She joined over 1,000 people as they all joined together on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art to support women affected by breast cancer. But Jeanne’s presence at the event was even more significant when she learned that she was the top individual fundraiser, raising over $2,000 for LBBC’s education and support programs. It was the first year that Jeanne participated in the event and accounts the benefits of yoga to helping her heal, cope and find peace, grace and divinity.

“When I do yoga [the instructors] talk about grace. They tell you ‘you’re one with the divine. The divine is within you and there, you will have grace.’ Yoga is a moving meditation. It keeps you in the present. You’re so aware of everything in your body,” said Jeanne as she admits that she’s not afraid of recurrence. “Yoga is a big part of it,” she says.

Participating in an outdoor yoga class would have been a “no, no” for Jeanne when she first finished treatment after her 2007 diagnosis. Jeanne admits that she felt so intimated by yoga that she practiced at home with a beginner’s yoga work-out tape for about a year. However, now Jeanne practices yoga three to four times a week and admits that she can even do the advanced classes.

“Whether you’re taking a yoga class on the Art Museum steps or a yoga studio, you’re trying to achieve being one with the universe. Yoga is where I find peace,” said Jeanne.

But Jeanne also finds peace in her female support system that helped her during her breast cancer diagnosis. Jeanne’s blog, Sisterhood and Survival: A Breast Cancer Blog, is a reflection of the bond of women and the power of the female connection. After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Jeanne credits her significant relationship with her women friends with helping her get through the tragic time. Her blog is a symbol that represents that “women help each other get through crisis and happy times as well.”

“The illness has changed my family,” says Jeanne, mother of two. “It was very difficult for my son. It didn’t change our relationship, but more so, our lives,” she says as she acknowledges the very women were able to step in and take action for her family during this traumatic experience. “My women friends were a web of caring, a safety net that lifted me up. We [my family] got here because of my women friends, my sisters.”

One of her ‘sisters’ attended the event with her. Jeanne and her team, “Sisterhood and Survival,” were deeply moved by master yoga instructor, Jennifer Schelter’s performance. “When Jennifer talked about love and grieving and that connection, we were crying. It’s so true. We grieve because we love. This event resonates to breast cancer survivors’ lives, recovery, and living beyond breast cancer.”

“This event is a movement,” she ends.

Did you attened LBBC's 8th Annual Yoga Unites for LBBC and you want to share your experience? Email Remember, it's not too late to donate. Visit

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

8th Annual Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer a Definite Success!

This entry was written by LBBC staff member Stacia Weaver:

Over 1,000 men, women and children participated in, connected with and supported the 8th Annual Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer. Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) partnered with Jennifer Schelter, master yoga instructor and founder of Yoga Unites as she lead the largest yoga class in the city of Philadelphia on the morning of May 16, 2010. While participants followed Jennifer’s lead, the cloudy skies transformed into bright blue skies with a hint of yellow from the bright sun. With every yoga pose, Jennifer  instructed each participant to reach for the sun’s rays.

Yoga Unites for LBBC is an annual fundraising event that provides a way for individuals and teams to support women affected by breast cancer and spread the word about healthy living, while raising funds and awareness for LBBC’s education and support programs. So far, we have raised over $185,000 for our education and support programs. However, we are still receiving generous donations from the participants of the event who are dedicated to helping us reach our ambitious goal of $200,000 for the 200,000 women who will be affected by breast cancer this year.

This year, Lu Ann Cahn, NBC 10 investigative reporter was the honorary chair of the event. The 18-year breast cancer survivor put down her reporter microphone and picked up her yoga mat for the 8th Annual Yoga Unites for LBBC. She talked about her journey with breast cancer and how she, herself, is living beyond the disease. Right after the hour-long class she took the stage. She told all participants it wasn’t too late to join in on the cause if they hadn’t done so already. She urged participants to take part in LBBC’s latest text-to-give initiative and text “LBBC” to 20222 to make a $10 donation. With everyone's help, we will reach our $200,000 goal.

The therapeutic and intimate outdoor yoga class was also lead in song by Yvette Pecoraro and her talented musicians who chanted soothing lyrics that coincided with each yoga pose. Participants were instructed to close their eyes, feel and release their energy, and internalize all emotions of love. Jennifer’s grandmother died from breast cancer. Throughout her class, she expressed her love for her grandmother and explained that her grandmother is in fact one of the reasons why Yoga Unites for LBBC is a special event for her.

Philadelphia Eagles mascot, ‘Swoop’ participated in this event and helped LBBC celebrate May 16, which had formally been declared Living Beyond Breast Cancer day in the city of Philadelphia. He put his wings to work on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum with over 80 formed teams by his side. 

The half-day event included an outdoor yoga class and Healthy Living Expo, where participants were engaged in informative conversations that highlighted yoga and exercise, healthful foods, natural cosmetics and goods and services to improve quality of life. Olga and Warners, one of the sponsors for the event, offered bra-fitting tips as they offered women free bras.

Click here to view pictures of the 8th Annual Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer. Enter password: yogaunites.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Reason to Celebrate

This entry was written by LBBC staff member Stacia Weaver:

Robin Schoen is not comfortable using the term ‘survivor’ and admits that she “didn’t want to be a member of a group of women with breast cancer; who would?” However, she will be taking part, for the first time, in the 8th Annual Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer event. “I’m looking forward to meeting more incredible women and sharing our experiences in support of one another.”  One motivation:  May 16th is Robin’s 54th birthday.  Another, she’s a big believer in the benefits of yoga. Coincidentally, the city of Philadelphia has declared May 16th Living Beyond Breast Cancer Day.

Robin attributes much of her physical strength in coping with the treatment necessitated by her breast cancer diagnosis to the healing benefits of yoga. (She has been practicing yoga for more than 15 years, but has practiced it more consistently since 2007.) “In fact, I think the reason why I recovered so quickly following my surgery was the result of the core strength I developed from my yoga practice,” says Robin, as she describes her recovery from the mastectomy of her right breast and subsequent TRAM flap reconstruction. This surgery uses tissue and muscle mass from the abdomen to replace a removed breast.

Robin isn’t a member of one of the 80 or so teams that were formed in support of the May 16th event. “I’m not a great team player, so I decided to do this on my own,” she says. “I sent two e-mails and made a couple of personal calls, and pretty quickly received tremendous support in the form of very generous donations from my very supportive friends and family members.” To date, she has raised $2,695 for the annual fundraising event – exceeding her $2,500 goal – which will be used to advance LBBC’s work to support women whose lives have been affected by breast cancer and spread awareness of LBBC’s education and support programs.

Robin urges everyone to get involved with campaigns that deal with promoting awareness about the impacts of breast cancer. “Nearly 200,000 new cases of breast cancer are reported annually in the U.S. alone.  The methods for dealing with breast cancer have significant physical and psychological impacts,” she says. “The removal of one’s breast or breasts – unlike, perhaps, the removal of an internal organ -- provokes profound responses and the people affected need and deserve attention.”

This may be what drives Robin to support LBBC rather than organizations focused on finding a cure. “With breast cancer – as with all cancers -- there are so many variables and they’re so specific, that I’m not sure a cure is possible; perhaps better, less invasive and less destructive therapies and treatments – but a cure?  While driving toward these lofty goals, I think it’s important to remember to focus on providing the support needed by those who are living with breast cancer or its terrible impacts so they’re able to live their lives as unimpeded by this disease as possible.”

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Fourth Year Participating, My First as a Survivor

This entry was written by Denise Portner of Elkins Park, PA:

This May will be the fourth year I’m attending the Yoga Unites for LBBC event, and I always love the feeling of camaraderie, the gentle early morning sun on our faces, the quiet of a group of hundreds during yoga together. The Healthy Living Expo is fun, the food is fresh and the coffee is delicious. But this year will be different. It will be the first one in which I am a survivor. And the lesson I’ve learned is that any one of us can go from supporter to survivor. But with the help of loved ones and an organization like LBBC, we can make it.

I had gotten involved with LBBC through my work in public relations, connecting one of my client companies to LBBC as a sponsor. The CEO has since joined LBBC’s board of directors, as has one of my law firm clients. Both are men whose wives, sisters and other relatives have had breast cancer, and they want to be involved with an organization that touches women so profoundly, through individual support, as well as the highest level of educational programming and seminars around. That’s what hooked me too.

From the start, I was impressed with how easy it was to work with Jean, Elyse, and all the staff at LBBC and how quickly they felt like friends. In the meantime, I was on my own personal journey, since my mother and aunt had both had breast cancer. After my aunt was treated, she and my mother underwent genetic testing and learned they carried the BRCA 2 mutation. My sister and I were then tested, and I learned I was BRCA 2 positive as well. In the summer of 2008, after visiting two local Family Risk Assessment centers and receiving top-notch counseling, I was giving thought as to whether to take prophylactic measures to prevent breast and ovarian cancer. I was in my mid-40s, and my mother and aunt had been diagnosed at age 60. I assumed I had time.

Last May, on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I was a participant in Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer. In our tradition, I shared the morning with my friend Risa, her daughter and mother, who is a survivor. During the program, I listened to the stories and prayed for the women who had gone through so much, and was glad to contribute to a great cause. Later in the month, I attended my 25th college reunion in New England, spent the weekend with wonderful friends, and had a great time.

But then in June, I had an MRI rather than a mammogram, because of my genetic status. It showed an area of concern that I subsequently had biopsied, and all of a sudden, and forever, I became a woman who had breast cancer.

In the year since, I have had surgery, reconstruction, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. My care at Fox Chase Cancer Center has been top notch, and thank heavens, my prognosis is good. My family and friends have been there for me, and so has LBBC. The newsletters and teleconferences are suddenly extremely relevant – as if someone is reading my mind and addressing my concerns. Jean and Elyse have reached out to me, shared their experience, and put me in touch with experts for second opinions that are leaders in the field. The silver lining during this challenging year has been the expression of love and support I have received from my family, friends and colleagues, and the time I have been able to spend with them. I realize not everyone is as fortunate. Not everyone has the network I had, the insurance I had, the access to information and the ability to process it. And alas, not everyone is married to a physician who also cooks.

So this year, I appealed to my circle to help raise funds to support women who face this diagnosis with fewer resources than I had, because getting through cancer treatment is hard enough. This year, when we gather on the steps of the majestic Philadelphia Museum of Art, overlooking our beautiful city in the Sunday morning hours, my perspective will be very different. My sense of connection to LBBC and its supporters will be stronger. My compassion for those who suffer and worry and persevere, will be top of mind. And my gratitude for having reached this day, overwhelming.

It's not too late to part-take in this year's event! Sign up now at

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Karma Project in Honor of a Loved One

Lisa O’Rear thought that participating in this year’s 8th Annual Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer was the perfect way to complete her “Karma Project.” She has only been practicing yoga for a year and is now on her way to becoming a yoga instructor. One of the requirements for her yoga-teaching course is to complete a “Karma Project,” which brings yoga into the community by volunteering.

“Breast cancer is a huge deal. It runs in my family,” said Lisa. On April 23, 2010, Lisa lost her cousin Micheline Camire Bedard to breast cancer. She had been battling the disease for two years. “When Micheline was diagnosed, it brought back painful memories for our family. “Our aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 49. Micheline was the same age when she was diagnosed,” Lisa wrote in an email.

Yoga has been a fundamental experience in Lisa’s life. She credits yoga and its benefits to the healing effects that it has had on her personal life. “Yoga teaches you about acceptance; about being content with what is and not what could be,” said Lisa.

Over 200,000 women will be affected by breast cancer this year. However, a pilot study revealed that a brief yoga class would be beneficial for combating side effects from cancer treatment. Lisa is familiar with the many aspects associated with yoga. “It allows women to be physically involved. You can sit in a chair and do yoga.  It makes them [women] feel like they’re doing something. It gives them hope,” she said.

Lisa, 33, has done research about breast cancer gene testing. She believes that the more you learn about breast cancer, the more you realize that it could in fact be you. She is afraid of breast cancer and disappointed that people don’t become involved enough until it affects them. “Motivation comes from within. How could you not be a part of something that affects so many people?”

“Think about all the women you work with; about all the women you come into contact with in your daily life.” Many of those women will be diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Lisa.

Yoga Unites for LBBC will take place on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum on Sunday, May 16. Lisa’s team “MC Yoga Love” has raised $1,260 for LBBC education and support programs.

“You don’t always have the opportunity to do things like this in life. Micheline was a humble person. She was much more concerned about other people than herself. She was an inspiration,” she ends.

Would you like to share your story about participating in Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer? Email