Thursday, 24 September 2015 13:36

Navigating Life After Breast Cancer

By Kathy Kantorski

In the spring of 1999, a woman was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Her annual mammogram six months prior didn't detect any tumors; in a matter of weeks, the tumor had formed, and the cancer had advanced to a near-fatal stage. She underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Her usual cheerful demeanor became shadowed by a cloud of exhaustion. Her golden hair was gone, then replaced by patches of gray fuzz which she covered with scarves and wigs. She was too weak and nauseated to cook meals for her family, as she had done every day for nearly 20 years. But she remained strong. She chose to keep her job, working at least four hours every day throughout the treatments. She went to church every Sunday, socializing with friends and sharing her experience. And she survived.

That woman is my mom. I was 17 years old when she fought and survived breast cancer, an impressionable age that allowed the experience to be permanently burned into my memory. And in the years that followed, I watched my mom struggle to thrive again. The severe physical and emotional trauma of the cancer meant her fight didn't end when she overcame the disease; it simply evolved into a different struggle. Her treatments caused early menopause, she underwent reconstructive surgery and she battled anxiety and depression.

PHOTO-01My mom is not alone in her post-treatment struggles. One in eight US women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. You've likely heard of the causes, screenings and treatments, but not of the aftermath – until now.

Physical rehabilitation

The most common side effect from breast cancer treatment is fatigue. To combat this, experts recommend a moderate exercise program to increase energy levels, decrease depression and reduce pain. "Some studies show that regular exercise, such as walking 2.5 hours weekly, can actually lower the risk for cancer recurrence," says Dr. James Hamrick, the chief of medical oncology and hematology for Kaiser Permanente of Georgia.

Exercising the arms is recommended for women whose breast cancer treatment involved the removal of lymph nodes and radiation, as they are at risk of developing lymphedema, or swelling, in the affected arm. "Lymphedema may be mild and short-lived or become chronic. It may occur early after treatment or months or years later," explains Lisa Sherman, BSN RN, breast health nurse navigator at WellStar Kennestone Regional Medical Center. "Exercising the affected arm regularly to keep fluid from accumulating is important."

According to Jill Binkley, breast cancer survivor and executive director of TurningPoint Breast Cancer Rehabilitation, as many as 60 percent of breast cancer survivors face lingering issues years after their treatment that may prevent them from fully returning to their usual roles and activities, such as lifting their children, playing sports and work demands. She notes that initiating physical therapy, massage therapy and exercise within the first few weeks following surgery is ideal and can help women get back to a full life.


"Breast surgery and the side effects from treatment – hair loss, nausea, fatigue, weight gain, hot flashes – can wreak havoc on a woman's self-esteem," says Dr. Jane Lowe Meisel, medical oncologist for the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. "In addition, many women are used to serving as a support system for their loved ones. Learning to accept help and support rather than giving it can be very challenging."

Meisel recommends seeking support outside of your network of family and friends, such as in a support group. "Hearing from others who are going through or have gone through the same thing can help normalize the experience," she says.

Cati Diamond Stone, breast cancer survivor and executive director of Susan G. Komen Greater Atlanta, agrees. "I have found it immensely important to get involved in the breast cancer community and support organizations that help and empower others," she says. She goes on to note that reconstructive procedures can also do wonders to increase self-esteem. "After months or even years of treatment, you finally have control over how you look, how your clothes fit – how you feel about yourself. It's such a personal decision, but for me, reconstructive surgery was an important part of my healing process."


"Breast cancer is a challenge to the intimacy of even the best relationships," Binkley notes. This can be a result of low self-esteem and insecurity regarding physical changes in the breast(s), as well as fatigue and early menopause caused by cancer treatments. "The medicines prescribed can lower estrogen levels, cause vaginal dryness and lower the libido," adds Dr. Stephen Szabo, section head of community oncology at Winship Cancer Institute.

Communication surrounding the problem is imperative. "Given that intimacy can be challenging enough without cancer, I advise patients and their partners to open up and talk to one another," Hamrick says. "They can also benefit from additional expertise from a therapist or their gynecologist."

The worry of recurrence

Though the healthcare industry is getting better and better at detecting cancers early and treating them, there is always a risk that the cancer will recur. Binkley says, "When breast cancer treatment is complete, women need to trust and hope that the cancer will not return. Living with this fear of recurrence is one of the biggest emotional challenges faced by breast cancer patients."


This worry of recurrence will drive many women to "living test to test," as Hamrick puts it, meaning they need a scan or blood test with negative results to help them sleep at night. "Often, over-testing causes more problems and anxiety than it fixes," he says. "It's best to live a healthy, active life and be vigilant for new symptoms, but also learn not to panic with any new feeling. That's an understandably hard thing to do for a cancer survivor."

He goes on to explain that those who are years past their breast cancer treatment can often overestimate the threat breast cancer poses to their health relative to other risks. "Things like obesity, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle actually become larger causes of competing mortality. I like it when survivors are able to channel their motivation to beat breast cancer into healthier overall lifestyle choices."

Post-cancer treatments

Approximately 80 percent of women have estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancers, says Barbara Robey, LCSW, clinical social worker, counselor and coach for Chapman Cancer Wellness at Piedmont Healthcare. "In these patients, we recommend that they receive at least five years of either Tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor. These oral medications reduce the risk of cancer recurrence by 50 to 60 percent." The medication can have side effects like blood clots, cognitive impairment and menopausal symptoms, but Meisel adds, "There are a number of treatments we can use to help with these side effects, so it is important to mention these to your provider."

The silver lining

Eighty percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer do not die from their cancer, according to Dr. Laura Pearson, breast surgeon and medical director of the North Fulton breast program at North Atlanta Surgical Associates. "I like to use the analogy of cancer being like a flat tire, not a car accident," she says. "While it is something that cannot be ignored and you can't move forward until it's fixed, most likely you will get past it and continue your journey."

That being said, breast cancer survivors have the benefit of a newfound outlook on life. As Binkley puts it, "As a 15-year breast cancer survivor, there is not a day that goes by that I am not reminded in some way of my experience. But there is also not a day that goes by that I am not reminded of the blessing of having a husband, family and friends who have supported me every step of the way. Life is different, but can actually be better after breast cancer."


Jill Binkley, TurningPoint Breast Cancer Rehabilitation –
James Hamrick, MD, MPH, Kaiser Permanente of Georgia –
Jane Lowe Meisel, MD, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University –
Laura Pearson, MD, North Atlanta Surgical Associates –
Barbara Robey, LCSW, Chapman Cancer Wellness at Piedmont Healthcare –
Lisa Sherman, BSN RN, WellStar Health System –
Cati Diamond Stone, Susan G. Komen Greater Atlanta –
Stephen Szabo, MD, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University –

Wednesday, 23 September 2015 20:40

Our Top 10 Picks for Workout Wear

By Amelia Pavlik

The perfect pair of comfy running shoes could carry you over the finish line at this year's fall 5Ks. Workout capris can make you feel fabulous whether you're at bootcamp or brunch. Whether it helps you perform better in that race or just makes you look good, having the right gear plays a role in your fitness success.

If you're looking for a workout wardrobe boost to help motivate you to move, read on for Best Self's top five picks for ladies and gents.



For Men

Photo-01Mizuno Venture Sleeveless
Available at:
Price: $39 Size: S-XXL

"This running tank uses Mizuno's COOLTOUCH and BLINDSTITCH construction," says Alyssa Jordan, business unit manager of running apparel and accessories of Atlanta-based Mizuno. "So it will keep you cool and dry and is designed for anti-chafing and a comfortable fit."

Photo-02Brooks PureGrit Trail Running Shoe
Available at: Big Peach Running Co.,
Price: $120 Sizes: 7-14

"This shoe fits like a glove without sacrificing protection. You will feel in control of every step on the ground beneath you," says Rachel Tucker, general manager of Big Peach's East Cobb location. "It has an outsole peppered with hex lugs for maximum grip, while a propulsion plate protects your foot from rocks and roots on the trail. Lastly, there is a toe guard to provide protection and added traction when the trail gets steep."

Photo-03Core Short
Available at: Lululemon,
Price: $58 Sizes: S-XXL

These sweat-wicking shorts were made with multisport versatility in mind, says Helen McKeon, southeast area community strategist for Lululemon. "We added LYCRA fibre to the secure-fit waistband for great stretch and shape retention," McKeon says. "Plus, we've added an easy-access side pocket with a key loop for convenience."

Photo-04Mizuno Men's Helix
Seamless T-Shirt
Available at: West Stride,
Price: $45 Sizes: S-XL

"This is a shirt that functions well and feels weightless," says Deeter Dietz, West Stride assistant manager. "It's seamless, the fabric is breathable and lightweight, and it just
looks good!"

Photo-05Freefly Bamboo Lightweight Long Sleeve Shirt
Available at: Half-Moon Outfitters,
Price: $49.95 Sizes: S-XL

For those days you need a little more coverage, try this shirt. The soft fabric provides UPF 15 sun protection, says Laura Elliott, a buyer for Half-Moon Outfitters. "The fabric wicks moisture and provides natural resistance to odor," Elliott explains. "The off-the-shoulder fit provides great range of motion. It's a wonderful option for any outdoor activity."


For Women

Photo-06Mizuno Serenity T-Shirt
Available at:
Price: $44 Sizes: XS-XL

According to Mizuno's Alyssa Jordan, this classic running T-shirt is perfect for an intense workout. "The front panel is made of our COOLTOUCH technology, which draws heat from the skin to keep you dry and cool," Jordan explains. Plus, she adds, "The front and mesh back panel offer flat seams to prevent chafing."

Photo-07Lively Capri by Lole
Available at: Big Peach Running Co.,
Price: $90 Sizes: XXS-XL

"This capri smooths and shapes like no other," says Big Peach's Rachel Tucker. "The quick-dry Supplex fabric offers four-way stretch and UPF 50+ sun protection. And the Power Mesh liner at the abdomen delivers firm core support for a smooth silhouette and a stay-put fit."

Photo-08Pace Rival Skirt IIR
Available at: Lululemon,
Price: $58 Size: 2-12

"This skirt is designed to feel light and keep you covered when you hit the trails or the court," says Helen McKeon, southeast area community strategist for Lululemon. And it doesn't stop at comfort and style: it's functional, too. "Our signature three-pocket waistband has room for all of your essentials," McKeon says.

Photo-09Elomi Energise Sports Bra
Available at: Livi Rae Lingerie,
Price: $70 Sizes: 36F-44F, 36G-44G, 36H-42H, and 34J-38J

"This sports bra is an absolute must for full-busted women since it provides maximum support for high impact activity," co-owners Molly Hopkins and Cynthia Decker say. "This style is a great multipurpose sports bra that offers a racer back option created by a J-hook feature built in to the straps."

Photo-10New Balance Fresh Foam Zante
Available at: West Stride,
Price: $100 Size: 5-12 (wider widths available)

"This shoe is a lightweight trainer that is flexible, feels fast and has plenty of cushion for the long run," says West Stride general manager Wil Cramer. "The best part is that this shoe not only can help boost your performance –it's actually pretty stylish, too!"


Editorial Resources
Wil Cramer, West Stride,
Cynthia Decker, Livi Rae Lingerie,
Deeter Dietz, West Stride,
Laura Elliott, Half-Moon Outfitters,
Alyssa Jordan, Mizuno Running,
Molly Hopkins, Livi Rae Lingerie,
Helen McKeon, Lululemon,
Stephanie Michael, Village Podiatry Centers,
Rachel Tucker, Big Peach Running Co.,



Wednesday, 23 September 2015 20:28

A Gentler Approach

As a child, Assia Stepanian, MD, knew that she would make a difference in the field of medicine. The daughter of two renowned physicians, the Moscow-raised founder of Atlanta-based Academia Women’s Health & Endoscopic Surgery has brought a wide variety of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery (MIGS) options to patients in metro Atlanta and devoted herself to sharing her specialized knowledge with physicians worldwide. An active member of the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists (AAGL), she proudly follows in the footsteps of her mother, Dr. Leila Adamyan, who developed some of the most advanced techniques in the practice of MIGS. Here, Best Self Atlanta talks to Dr. Stepanian about MIGS, her commitment to providing compassionate care and how it can completely change the patient experience.

SB-01Q: What is Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery (MIGS)?

A: Laparoscopic, robotic, vaginal and hysteroscopic surgery are all forms of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery. These are surgeries performed through small incisions or sometimes require no incision at all.

Q: Why has it been important for you to devote so much of your career and life to learn, teach and implement MIGS approaches?

A: A doctor’s sense of fulfillment in medicine comes from seeing our patients happy for many years to come. Minimal intervention, combined with early recognition and successful treatment of the disease are, in my opinion, the keys of our patients’ long-term health. With early recognition of and attention to gynecologic diseases and the risks in their development, the least degree of the intervention will be required. The more we know about minimally invasive approaches in treatment, the more open will we be as physicians to intervene earlier. It is hard for physicians and patients to believe that minimally invasive surgeries can be offered even to patients with very advanced states of gynecologic conditions.

Q: What kinds of conditions can be treated with MIGS approaches?

A: It is impressive that essentially all gynecologic conditions that require surgery can be treated with one or more MIGS approaches, including uterine fibroids of sometimes very large sizes, pelvic pain, endometriosis, pelvic floor surgery (including cases in which the uterus descends completely outside of the vaginal canal), urinary incontinence, ovarian masses and adhesions (scar tissue), among other conditions. In addition, multiple forms of genital anomalies can be treated laparoscopically and hysteroscopically.

Q: What are the main benefits of MIGS?

A: Laparoscopy, whether or not it is performed robotically or with laparoscopic instruments, allows for superior visualization of the targeted tissue in surgery and outstanding performance of the surgery through small incisions.

Therefore, the precision of surgery increases and tissue handling becomes more intricate and gentle, with less tissue manipulation and less blood loss. In most surgeries the blood loss is of 25 – 50 ml, which is less than experienced during menstruation. The result includes decreased risk of perioperative infection and an early return to normal activities both in life and work as compares with open surgery. Some people return to work in only one or two weeks after surgery, even if the surgery is performed for an advanced disease. Additionally, there is hardly any use of narcotic medications post-operatively. Motrin is used as the primary medication for pain. Patients who receive the vaginal approach to surgery, which is the oldest of all minimally invasive approaches, have no abdominal incisions whatsoever and experience the same excellent recovery rates as laparoscopy. It is used when evaluation of the abdomen and upper aspect of the pelvis is not required. And hysteroscopy…what can I say? Hysteroscopy became our inspectional and operative window into the woman’s uterus. It allows for early intervention in the office setting or surgical suites and often prevents the need for more invasive uterine surgery.

Q: Have you had formal training in MIGS?

A: The American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopicsts (AAGL) has a very strong fellowship in MIGS and offers formalized training. I have completed my formal fellowship with Dr. Thomas Lyons, an exceptional surgeon and visionary who founded one of the first Minimally Invasive Fellowships in AAGL. My initial training and continuous training in laparoscopy, hysteroscopy and vaginal surgery was performed by my mother, Professor Leila Adamyan, the author of surgical techniques, classifications, books, who has taught many beautiful surgeons in Russia and in various countries. She is my primary mentor in life and surgery, and through her I have met and learned from our many good friends and superb surgeons worldwide. 

Photo-1Q: Your practice has been certified as a Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology Surgery. What does this mean?

A: The concept of a Center of Excellence in MIGS has been established in an effort to encourage development in MIS approaches in gynecology. We are hoping that with the opening of more Centers of Excellence, there will be more commitment to minimally invasive surgery.

Q: Your practice is also known for offering truly compassionate care. Why is this important to you?

A: It defines the entire purpose of my work. I am in the medical field because of my love for patients. I treat my patients as my family—with love, expectation, understanding, attention and compassion. I hope to always be able to empower and remind them that the world is beautiful and that whatever goes on with their heath is just a small hiccup in their life journey. I am truly blessed by my patients, and I am thankful to them for their trust, love and support.

Q: Can patients come to your practice even if you are not their current physician?

A: Yes, we are always accepting new patients and we are also very fortunate to receive referrals from many wonderful physicians. We evaluate those patients and establish a care plan. I always communicate with the referring physicians about any questions in order to make sure that the best strategies are selected and the risks are minimized for patients. If we select non-surgical approaches, we agree on parameters, after which additional intervention may need to be considered.

Q: What do you see for the future of MIGS and women’s healthcare?

A: MIGS will continue to develop in its applications and advancements. Performance of MIGS involves advanced training, and I would like to see more gynecologists obtain formal training in minimally invasive approaches to surgery. I also see us collaborating with other specialties, engaging integrative approaches in studying and treating a disease. Unification of the world of MIGS will be yet another advancement: we need patients, doctors, nurses, hospitals, insurance companies and manufacturers to combine their knowledge and abilities to serve the needs of the patients.

Q: Is there any place for an open surgery in benign gynecology, then?

A: Absolutely, there is! There are very rare times when MIGS is contraindicated or would not be the method of choice. A consultation with a specialist in MIGS would be able to address this most effectively.

Thursday, 10 September 2015 20:50


Thursday, 10 September 2015 20:25

Clear Path Wellness

Wednesday, 09 September 2015 15:19

Body Symmetry MD

Wednesday, 09 September 2015 14:40

Anderson Hair Sciences Center

Tuesday, 01 September 2015 16:26

Sleep Sanctuary: The Secret to Success

All naturopaths follow a similar basic philosophy. Rather than treat a diagnosis with natural remedies, we look for the combinations of stress and toxic exposures that caused your health to deteriorate. Once these have been identified, we work to remove the toxic burdens and support your healing with nutrition, herbs or homeopathic remedies. Sounds pretty simple, right? But there's one major stumbling block to success, and that is getting your body to switch from "go-go-go" mode (or "stress" mode) to "relax and heal" mode at the end of the day. Which brings us to my number one secret: Creating a sleep sanctuary.

It might surprise you to know that electrical devices in your bedroom are the biggest interference factor to getting your body to relax and rejuvenate when you go to bed at night. Not only does this make you more vulnerable to health problems, but it contributes to faster aging. And nobody wants that! When I first started working with clients in 1990, it was pretty simple: Remove the TV out of the bedroom. Those were the days before cordless phones, cell phones, computers and iPads. Today, it can involve much more (not to mention getting your spouse on board with the idea)!

healthypeopleHere are the basics: remove any device within your bedroom that you don't have to have, especially your wireless router. Small emitters (clock, fan, etc.) should be four feet from any edge of your bed. Big emitters (cordless or cell phones, computers, televisions or anything that recharges) should be eight feet from your bed. Measure not just from your head, but from the closest edge of your bed. Unplug your router, turn off all wireless devices (printers, etc.) and put cell phones and iPads on airplane mode in addition to turning their wi-fi mode off. I know it's a hassle, but try it for two weeks and see if you sleep better.

Want the hard science? Read "The Body Electric" by Robert Becker (an online search gives you a PDF version for free) or go to The science is definitely there. But the most important proof is your own results.

Wishing you sweet dreams,
Debra MacIntyre, ND



Debra MacIntyre, ND
Debra is a traditional naturopath, board certified by the American Naturopathic Certification Board with over 37 years of experience in the fitness and health care fields. She holds a nutrition certification from American Health Science University, completed her Naturopathic degree from Trinity School of Natural Medicine and has received advanced training in Biological Medicine, NAET allergy elimination, and homeopathic hormone rejuvenation. She's been in private practice since 1994.

Sponsored by: Natural Health Solutions | 11285 Elkins Road/Suite J1 | Roswell, GA 30076 | | (770) 817-8028


Your face is your public façade. It reflects your genetics and life choices. Combine this with the social pressures to look your best, and it quickly becomes apparent that one's facial appearance can have deep psychological impact on self-confidence.

We are all hard-wired to recognize things we define as attractive or abnormal. It is this refined sense of facial aesthetics we all possess that makes facial cosmetic procedures so demanding. Good results should go unnoticed, while bad results can be impossible to disguise.

When performing surgical or non-surgical facial rejuvenation, cosmetic rhinoplasty or facial reconstruction, the ultimate goal should be to create a natural, beautiful appearance. Achieving this goal consistently requires artistic vision, surgical talent, meticulous attention to detail and years of experience.

PHOTO-1While facial plastic surgery can improve an individual's appearance, the real power lies in its ability to enhance one's self-confidence and sense of well-being. Choose your facial plastic surgeon wisely. Your face is worth it!

Dr. Yellin's patient on whom he performed complete facial rejuvenation: injectable facial volume, upper eyelid blepharoplasty, lower eyelid tightening, a lower face and neck lift and CO2 laser skin resurfacing.


Seth A. Yellin, MD, FACS
Marietta Facial Plastic Surgery

Dr. Seth A. Yellin is founder and director of Marietta Facial Plastic Surgery, Laser & Aesthetics Center. As one of Atlanta's most well-respected and sought after facial plastic surgeons, he has treated thousands of patients for more than 20 years in practice, with the goal of making each and every patient happy. Dr. Yellin is nationally renowned for his expertise in creating a natural look when performing cosmetic and reconstructive facial plastic surgery and 3D facial volumization. He was Chief of Facial Plastic Surgery at Emory Healthcare from 1999 to 2011, and he has appeared on NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and Fox Television News to discuss facial aesthetic procedures.

Sponsored by: Marietta Facial Plastic Surgery, Laser & Aesthetics Center | (770) 425-7575 |  |  Marietta Dermatology & The Skin Cancer Center | (770) 422-1013 |

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer affecting American men to date. And while symptoms can include urinary and sexual problems, this
slow-growing disease can easily go unnoticed. Stay healthy with these tips and regular checkups from your primary care physician.

What are the Risk Factors?

  • Age – Two-thirds of prostate cancers are found in men over the age of 65. The risk of contracting prostate cancer increases with age.
  • Race – Found in men from diverse ethnicities, prostate cancer is most commonly found within African American men and Jamaican men of African heritage.
  • Family History – Men with family history of prostate cancer are more likely to get it themselves, so they are encouraged to be examined beginning at age 45.

What about screening and diagnosis?
According to the American Cancer Society, men 55 years or older should be offered a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a blood test to check for levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA). Signs to look
for include:

  • Frequent urination or difficulty urinating
  • Hesitant urination (difficulty emptying the bladder)
  • Painful urination

If your doctor suspects signs of prostate cancer or you have a significant change in your PSA values, tissue will be taken from your prostate and examined under a microscope. This test is called biopsy.

PHOTO1How do I treat prostate cancer?
If diagnosed with prostate cancer, it is best to discuss treatment options with a radiation oncologist and a urologist. These doctors specialize in treating prostate cancer with radiation therapy or surgery. The treatment choice is ideally left up to the patient, but the doctors can provide guidance based on your specific findings and disease characteristics.

Treatment options include:

  • Surgery
  • External beam radiation therapy
  • Prostate brachytherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Cryosurgery
  • Active Surveillance



Craig Wilkinson, MD

Centers: Georgia Center for Total Cancer Care at Preston Ridge

Medical Degree: University of Miami School of Medicine

Residency: University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital, Department of Radiation Oncology and Department of Internal Medicine.

Special Interests: Radiation Oncology/Bracytherapy, Breast Cancer, Prostate/Genitourinary Cancers, Lung Cancer, Head/Neck Cancers, Gynecological Cancers, Lymphomas, Gastrointestinal Cancers, Central Nervous System Cancers, Stereotactic Radiosurgery (Brain and Extracranial), and Benign Disorders

Dr. Wilkinson is married and lives in the Alpharetta area with his family. He is active in the local community and is involved in the cancer committees of the three local hospitals in the Alpharetta area. He has also been an integral part in starting Tumor Board/Multidisciplinary Conferences at two of the three local hospitals. Dr. Wilkinson enjoys playing intramural sports, new "technology" (i.e. toys!) and traveling.


Sponsored by: Atlanta Oncology Associates | (770) 255-7500 |
Alpharetta | Atlanta | Eastpoint | Greensboro | Hawkinsville | Macon | Over 15 Hospitals and Centers