, February 13, 2018 | More Post by

At Here for the Girls, we are not an advocacy group — however, we absolutely encourage our supporters and our survivors to equip themselves with knowledge about laws that affect them and to become strong advocates for their own health. In order to help our blog readers do these things, we invited our friends at the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation (VBCF) to share their knowledge and information about their advocacy efforts so far this year with the Virginia General Assembly.

In February 1991, five women met in an MCV support group. Stunned by a lack of research and progress in breast cancer treatment, they planned a Mother’s Day Rally at the Virginia State Capitol to bring attention to this devastating disease. The activist seeds of the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation (VBCF) were sown that day, and VBCF was incorporated as a 501c3 non-profit in October 1992. VBCF seeks to educate Virginians about breast cancer to encourage screenings to improve early diagnosis and treatment outcomes and to advocate for improved public policy to enable Virginians affected by breast cancer to receive the best quality of healthcare while on their treatment journey. We work to provide Virginians with knowledge and a voice when affected by breast cancer.

Each year, VBCF hosts a breast cancer advocacy day at the Virginia General Assembly in Richmond with training for volunteer advocates so that state legislators hear directly from their constituents impacted by breast cancer. At our January 30, 2018 Advocacy Day, our breast cancer advocates met with over 20 state legislators to make their voices heard on the following legislation:

VBCF Priority Legislation 2018:

Increase Access to Healthcare for ALL Virginians – Support for HB 348

Expanding access to health insurance through Medicaid expansion will mean that more women will be able to secure breast cancer screenings and treatment. Every month Virginia loses an average of $142 million in federal funding. Since 2014, the Commonwealth has forfeited over $10 billion in federal funds, which could have been used to help uninsured adults, hospitals, and businesses. Most states have expanded their Medicaid programs. While Virginians suffer without coverage, 31 states and the District of Columbia are providing health insurance to uninsured adults. Those states are seeing significant health and financial benefits.

The Latest: Current debate centers around adding a work requirement for those receiving Medicaid.

Use of Medical Cannabis for Cancer Patients – Support for HB 1251, SB 726.  Based on The National Institute of Health’s National Cancer Institute information, “the potential benefits of medicinal cannabis for people living with cancer include antiemetic effects, appetite stimulation, pain relief, and improved sleep.”  HB 1251 and SB 726 provide for a practitioner to issue a written certification for the use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil or THC-A for the treatment or to alleviate the symptoms of any diagnosed condition or disease.  These bills in one form or another provide an affirmative defense to prosecution for possession if a person has a valid written certification issued by a practitioner for CBD oil or THC-A oil. Under current law, only the treatment of intractable epilepsy is covered by this defense.

The Latest: As of 2/5/18, both bills were passed by their respective chambers. Since the bills are identical, the steps forward are largely procedural: the bills will “crossover” to the opposite house for a vote, before heading to Governor Northam’s desk for signature. Governor Northam, also a doctor, is already on record in support of “Let Doctors Decide” medical marijuana laws in the Commonwealth. Passage of this historic legislation would make Virginia the first state with a hyper-restrictive program to adopt such a broad expansion.

Improve Protocols for Step Therapy – Support for HB 386, SB 574 to make step therapy better and safer for Virginians – Step therapy occurs when a doctor prescribes a medicine, but the insurance company requires the patient to try alternate, cheaper drugs first, with no clinical justification. Step therapy can delay patient access to medication, causing adverse reactions and allowing their health to deteriorate. HB 386 and SB 574 put an online process in place for health care providers to request overrides for step therapy protocols for patients for whom the insurer- mandated drug is clinically determined to cause adverse health events or be ineffective, as well as those who have already met step therapy requirements and ensures that providers are notified in writing if their request is denied.

The Latest: On 2/1/18, the House Commerce and Labor subcommittee voted to recommend to the full committee that HB 386 should be “passed by indefinitely” meaning the bill is dead for this session. On 2/6/18, the House Finance Committee voted to recommend that SB 574 be “continued until 2019 in Finance” meaning it will be considered during the next General Assembly session.

If you would like to actively support breast cancer legislation at the state and national levels, SIGN UP FOR VBCF’S ADVOCACY ALERTS. These brief email alerts are sent periodically – when your advocacy is needed the most. The Alerts will keep you up to date with the latest breast cancer legislation and provide the tools and information you need to take action.

, January 25, 2014 | More Post by

I don’t know about any of you but I am not a fan of winter. It’s still dark when I wake up which makes it almost impossible to get out of bed. Not to mention that I’m falling asleep by 6pm because it’s already dark out! While it’s nice to have the occasional snow day, it’s not fun when you can only be outside for five minutes before you become an icicle. So unless you all want to move to Florida with me, here are some things that I do to fight the winter blues!

~ Jessjessica

Get some sort of exercise

While I am forced to get exercise through lacrosse (though I’d much rather be inside), I think being active for at least a little bit of time every day is beneficial. It’s so hard to get off the couch in the winter but tell yourself, “I only have to do something for five minutes.” Sometimes you may notice that those five minutes become ten! For those of us who refuse to go outside unless it’s absolutely necessary you could do many active things in your own home. Put an exercise or yoga DVD in, dance while you do chores, rearrange your furniture, or my personal favorite, play Just Dance. This game is a favorite for my friends and me and is a great way to exercise without really realizing it. However you choose to be active, you’ll feel great afterwards.

Take care of your body

Taking care of your body is extremely important in the winter. Your skin is exposed to a harsh environment, you’re not getting as much sun, and all you want to do is sit on couch and eat cookies (or maybe that last one’s just me). I make sure that I wear gloves whenever I’m outside. Dry skin is annoying and uncomfortable so make sure you hydrate your body inside and out. Getting enough vitamin D or sunlight is important. It affects your mood and energy. If you can’t get out into the sun, keep things as bright as possible in your home!

Set new goals

I’m a big advocate for goal setting. It helps pass the time and benefits you in the process. These goals could be small, like calling an old friend every week or reading a book. Or your goal could go hand in hand with your exercise. Take up a new hobby, volunteer, spend more time with your family, or if you’re brave, get a puppy (I wish!). Whatever goal you choose, treat yourself for your accomplishments. You should feel proud for achieving this goal! If you make this goal take up all of winter, before you know it, it will be spring!

I wish everyone the best winter you’ve ever had! Stay warm!

, December 17, 2013 | More Post by

becca for blogBecca Ostman is a one-year survivor who was diagnosed at age 32. She prefers to view her cancer as an opportunity to help other women who have been affected by the disease and to educate everyone on early detection and healthy living. Here she offers her offbeat humor and solutions to hefting on the holiday pounds.

Tis the season to start holiday (over)eating for most people. We have company parties, family dinners, and holiday celebrations. We are out shopping and wolfing down $.99 cheeseburgers on the go to maximize the amount of sales we can hit. We are trimming the healthy part of our food budget to allow for more gift giving. And in a few weeks, we will make the annual New Year’s Resolution to lose all that weight we made no effort to avoid in the first place. Why do we repeat these same cycles year after year?

So, as you hang our cherished A Calendar to Live By 2014 and flip the page to January, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to dedicate those New Year’s Resolutions to something more fun? Maybe like the activities we do around Beyond Boobs! — participating in the Dirty Girl Mud Run or Skydiving! Or how about checking items off your “life list” such as seeing a new country or state? Or you could even take up a new hobby? Anything rather than crash hardcore dieting. Again. And failing at it. Again.

There is no need to wait for 2014 to begin healthy eating habits. We can start NOW! There are several tricks to help you out during the season of feasting so January doesn’t become a season of unhealthy fasting.

Dietary Do’s and Don’ts

Have you ever been to a company party, Solstice gathering, New Year’s Bash, or family dinner that was “One Plate Only” style? Have you ever seen Uncle Bob or your CEO standing by the buffet table reminding cousins or temporary employees to pack on as much as you can because you only get one trip to the trough? No, of course not!! Buffet style eating was not created so we can have full sized side and main course helping portions of EVERYTHING on the buffet. It was invented for holiday grazers to get a little bite sized portion of several offerings so they are able to try Aunt Edna’s candied yams AND Aunt Sally’s Green Bean Surprise AND Uncle Mac’s Rum Balls without exploding on the fine china. It was created so we can try a tiny bit of everything. Emphasis on TINY. So, make that first round a sample plate with single or two-bite helpings only. That way, you don’t have to choke down spoonful after spoonful of hideous Green Bean Surprise while Aunt Sally watches with glee, and you can figure out what you WANT to go back for. Many times, the sample round is filling enough that you don’t need a second trip and you can save room for a sample round of deserts!!

Which brings us to desserts. Even though the holiday season is filled with stress and desserts is stressed spelled backwards, it doesn’t mean that eating piles of truffles and Christmas cookies is going to help figure out how to finance that new Batman car your kid is going to play with twice. It’s not going to leave you broke and happy. It’s going to leave you broke and fat and feeling miserable. Also, how do you only take a sample of four kinds of pies?! Well, believe it or not, it is not rude to cut a pie slice in half again or even two more times. Taking a sliver of pie is seen as not being a Piggy to ensure that more people get to sample the rhubarb AND the pecan caramel apple pumpkin cinnamon streusel. And this way, you get to try all four kinds of pie without having to take a whole slice of each and inducing diabetes! You can also pair up with a friend or relative and agree to each take a slice of a different pie then share at the table.

If you are a cancer survivor bringing a dish to a family or company dinner, this is a great way to share with friends, co-workers, and family, the new healthier eating habits that you have developed as a result of your diagnosis. There is nothing wrong with making a little placard on an index card to let people know if a dish is gluten or dairy free, low calorie, vegetarian, or healthy for survivors. It may inspire dinner conversations about how your non-cancerous loved ones can improve their own eating habits to help ward off the evil C-beast. Try to avoid slogans like “Try My Meatless Balls” or “Tofurkey Saves Tatas.” Keep it simple but intriguing so people ask questions.

Calorie-Busting Family Fun

What about after the family gorge? What can we do to avoid training all those calories to set up shop as lazy fat cells while we watch football? Well, back in the day, Thanksgiving and Christmas were both more active holidays! Families used to play healthy games of regular or Nerf football to work off dinner. But it doesn’t have to be football. You can play bocce ball, soccer, croquet, or any other game the family enjoys. On Christmas, it is also fun for everyone to head outside and watch the kiddos enjoy their new outside toys like bikes, skates, skateboards, and sports equipment or even participate by playing with them. This also encourages the kids to value those toys as well as the obese-inducing movies and video games. It’s amazing how much joy kids get from parents and relatives actually coming outside to watch some tricks on the bike or see how fast they can skate or how great a shot they are with their new basketball.

Family fun time it doesn’t have to always be sitting around the ol’ 95 inch watching Charlie Brown’s teacher practice her nautical radio skills for the 75th time. It may seem silly, but the Wii, X Box Kinect, and PlayStation Move can be very physical and can work you up a darn good sweat!! The sports games are great as well as workout games and fighting games. Even the music and instrument games burn calories while you have good family fun. If you don’t have any of those platforms, they can be bought very cheap at Thrift Stores and Cash Converters.

If you don’t like video games, there are many family board games with physical or charade type components. Shop around and see what you can find!! There is also the good old-fashioned go outside and play option too! And don’t forget how physically challenging securing and hand decorating and lighting a tree or decorating the house or yard can be!! Sure, you will all want to kill each other by the end of it, but it’s pretty to look at and will definitely burn off a few candy canes and Starbucks shopacinnos.

All throughout the holiday season, you can cut calorie build up and offer a preemptive strike against overeating like a polar bear in September by upping your regular exercise routines to offset the added calories going in. Unlike balancing your devastated holiday checkbook, the outgoing calories HAVE to be higher than the incoming to maintain a healthy balance and weight. If you are eating more, you have to be working out more!! Try working out during some of those Christmas movies you could probably recite even after a stroke. Do some crunches, squats, step aerobics, or wall sits while you absent-mindedly mumble about shooting your eye out and leg lamps.

Many gym memberships offer free trials during November and December. Give one a try! You may like it and decide to join, but if you don’t or the fees are too high, you got a month or a couple of weeks of free workout to offset all the extra poultry-loading. And you might have even found some workout stuff you can do at home!

Smart Gifting, Smart Shopping

What are the holidays without gift giving and receiving! It shouldn’t break the bank and doesn’t have to! What better way to avoid expensive shopping than to make some food items for our loved ones or take them to a holiday party gift swap. We can make these treats healthily and then include a little tag that tells them how healthy it is, why, and how to make it for their own families. It is a passive way to spread good eating habits. We know we are going to get some bins of popcorn and boxes of candy. If you know you don’t want to eat them, politely accept, stick them under the Kwanza bush, don’t open them, and then donate them to your local chemotherapy office for the chemo patients to enjoy when they are stuck infusing during the holidays. Many of us know the joy of finding actual chocolate in the Jolly Rancher and mint bowl!

Also regarding gifting and shopping, you know when you leave the house that you aren’t grabbing one thing “real quick” and are not coming home until well after dark. So, to avoid hitting up the fast food and sucking back five-hour energy shots, pack some healthy snacks to get you through the day’s shopping! You can pack homemade energy-boosting goodies, peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat bread, healthy whole grain crackers, cut up fruit and vegetables, or any other snacks you like. You can even pack a cooler with some low fat yogurt, fruit, green tea, or water.

When it comes to gifts and shopping, there are easy workouts buried within this too! You could always ask for a gym membership or workout equipment like a kettlebell, free weights, or resistance bands for Chanukah instead of one more sweater or throw blanket. When shopping for others, there is nothing wrong with encouraging good physical fitness in your loved ones. You can give light hand weights, jump ropes, stretchy bands, yoga mats, kettlebells, workout DVDs, more active fitness based Wii games, or outdoors toys. You can often find great deals on these at stores like Marshalls, Big Lots, and TJ Maxx and there is a special joy in watching someone struggle to figure out what a set of wrapped three-pound weights could possibly be.

When shopping for others, make yourself workout. Park as far from the stores as possible and get a free walk. More accidents happen in parking lots during the holiday season anyway and you will hit the store in a better mood! You can also park on the opposite side of the mall from where you are going and walk the mall. Who knows, you may spot that perfect ugly Christmas sweater for Aunt Helen on your journey.

Who knows, if you put these things into practice throughout December, you may find you feel better, look better, and have more energy. And you may just decide to be healthier all year long!!

Happy Holidays!!