Surviving Cancer, Beautifully


Our guest post today is from the Founders of Surviving Beautifully (read more about their mission at the bottom of this article).


“Beauty” and “cancer” are not words one thinks of together; and in fact so many women are still told it’s enough to survive.  

Even though life seems to stop the moment you hear those words “you have cancer,” there are still family dinners, school functions, vacations, work and a myriad of other of life’s events. You face the world with a set of new and unfamiliar and frightening challenges. But you have to face the world, and yourself. And feeling good about yourself is a huge part of healing.

Actress Helen Mirren made a very powerful statement when she said, “The way we look is part of our human condition. It is tribal and social and personal. I don’t think it’s superficial; it’s quite profound.” This statement is never truer than when appearance is forced to change due to an illness.

surviving beautifully logo




Surviving Beautifully’s founder, Lana Koifman, now a 5-year breast cancer survivor, knows exactly how this feels. How to worry about whether you’ll emerge whole from surgeries. What to do when your hair thins but you don’t want people to know. But most of all how to maintain your sense of self as a beautiful, whole person.

During treatment, Lana wanted answers to her beauty questions. But it took many lonely hours on the internet and in the library to find the information she sought. Simple questions, such as, “Can I use a self-tanner to brighten my complexion during treatment? And there were more complex issues: “What will my breast look like after the expander is fully inflated?” Lana found information by doing her own research. Unfortunately, she learned by trial and error about reconstructive surgery: truly, by trial and error, because when she did not like the result of her nipple reconstruction, she had another surgery to get it to look more realistic. She says: “If I had had up-to-the-minute information, I might have spared myself that additional, painful procedure. And I’m not the only one.”

Since then, Lana has set on a journey to help other women. She counsels dozens of women to

Lana and Victoria

Victoria Tillotson, Ph. D. and Lana Koifman: Founders of Surviving Beautifully

give them the hope that they can emerge from their battle with cancer whole, feeling like themselves, and with a renewed outlook on life!

Surviving Beautifully was born of this struggle; not just against a cancer, but against fear and lack of information. Our website and forthcoming book aims to give solutions to aesthetic issues, and most of all, hope!

There is another important piece to concerns about aesthetic issues arising from cancer treatment. Sometimes choices are made to forgo surgeries out of fear that cancer treatments will leave them horribly scarred; that they will be less than what they were before.

As Lana notes: “The news of Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a preventative double mastectomy was front page news. At the same time, I learned that my childhood friend was losing her battle to Stage 4 bone cancer, which metastasized from an untreated breast cancer that was diagnosed five years ago. It is difficult to believe that in this day and age a diagnosed breast cancer would remain untreated, but it is painfully true. She chose not to have the mastectomy which [doctors told her would likely be life-saving] because of its physical effects. My friend realized she made a wrong choice when she broke her leg last winter and was told that the cancer had spread to her bones. Five years ago, my friend made a choice not to have a mastectomy because ‘she did not want to be deformed and be less of a woman at the age of 45.’ Now she is dying because of that choice.”

It is crucial that women and men know that they DO have options! There are opportunities for reconstruction, scar treatments and a lot of help with body and aesthetic issues. At Surviving Beautifully, we hope that the knowledge of possibilities will lessen fears and allow people to make better choices about health care. We bring you experts in all fields – from plastic surgeons to makeup gurus to dermatologists to radiologists to psychologists – who give up-to-the-moment information to help you make good decisions, have hope, and survive beautifully!

About Surviving Beautifully: Surviving Beautifully was founded by a breast cancer survivor to provide expert answers for women with beauty and body issues during cancer treatment.

Our aim is to give sophsticated, up-to-the-minute, compassionate and empowering advice from medical doctors and other experts.

Our team includes renowned oncologists, radiologists, general and plastic surgeons, oncology nurses, complementary and complementary medicine practitioners, aestheticians, hair stylists, makeup artists, fitness experts, counselors, dermatologists, dentists, nutritionists and celebrity survivors.

We provide advice on skin care, hair care, dental care, breast reconstruction, hair loss (alopecia), eyelash and eyebrow loss, nail issues, makeup application, physical fitness, nutrition, and wellness.

We provide the information you need to survive your way. Every day.

Diet, Genetics and Making a Difference

A gift for cancer survivors - Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen

We continue to hear that our book, Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen, makes a wonderful gift for women facing cancer (or even if cancer isn’t on the table). This is something we love to hear, because when we wrote it, our goal was to get this book into the hands of as many women as possible after a cancer diagnosis – because it’s exactly what we wanted when we first heard the words “you have cancer,” but couldn’t find anywhere. We felt like if we had been given this book, we may not have felt so alone, confused and lost. We also realized, as we wrote the book, that it was also fitting for any woman trying to prevent disease and be healthy and happy.

In light of all the buzz about Angelina Jolie’s surgery after discovering she carries the BRCA-1 gene mutation (making her a cancer previvor), it’s important to note that diet and lifestyle does affect genetics – crazy, right? And this is why The Kicking Kitchen’s, Annette Ramke, as a breast and ovarian cancer survivor and carrier of a mutation to the BRCA-1 gene, chooses to eat well and use food as a tool in her cancer-kicking toolbox. No matter what personal decisions are made around preventative surgery and other treatment options, what we put into our bodies either supports or hurts overall health.

In quoting David Katz, MD, the amazing voice behind the foreword for our book: “We can, in fact, nurture nature.” He refers to a study in which 30 men with prostate cancer had major lifestyle and diet intervention – they ate a plant-based, whole food diet, included moderate activity and addressed stress management. Katz says they found “roughly 50 cancer suppressor genes became more active, and nearly 500 cancer promoter genes became less so. This, and other studies like it, go so far as to indicate that the long-standing debate over the relative power of nature versus nurture is something of a boondoggle, for there is no true dichotomy.”

So while many factors contribute to cancer and our health, including genetic makeup, diet can indeed play a role, even if you carry a genetic mutation, such as one on the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 genes. As we always say, it may help a little, or it may help a lot, but food will make a difference.

The information and recipes in Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen are designed to help the person in cancer treatment, dealing with side effects like nausea, mouth sores, fatigue, healing from surgery, etc., but they also support the the immune system and offer cancer-fighting foods. The recipes are simple, healthy, so yummy, and an enjoyable way to take back a bit of control in your health.

If you are looking for a gift for a loved one, perhaps a gal pal or woman you know who is dealing with Cancer World, we hope you’ll consider Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen. Please help us spread the word and get this book into the hands of those women who need the support, information and recipes, from two gals who have been through it and want more than anything to make a difference for the next person. Cancer sucks, but we don’t need to sit back and just let the doctors do their (important!) jobs – what we do makes a difference. The food we eat, how we live every day, affects our health more than many of us realize.

You Don’t Have to Like Pink


For many women, being a part of a national or local cancer-related movement offers support and connection and helps them to be proactive during their cancer journey. But you don’t have to be the poster girl for cancer. Don’t feel the need to adorn yourself with cancer pins, T-shirts or get a bumper sticker if it’s not your thing. Don’t pressure yourself to join every fund-raising event around. There are some great causes out there, but getting involved isn’t every gal’s cup of tea. Be real with yourself and use this time to feel what you want to feel, act how you want to act, and get involved with whatever you want (or not).

Breast cancer support is the best example because we see the pink paraphernalia everywhere. You’ve probably seen the pink hats, ribbons, coffee mugs, bracelets, water bottles, pens, calendars, socks, home décor, teddy bears and so much more. For many women, sporting the pink gives them a sense of belonging, hope and courage, and that’s fabulous. Many of the proceeds from sales from these items support worthy causes. However, if you do have breast cancer, don’t feel obligated to sport your pink ribbon unless it feels right to you. We know some breast cancer babes who truly get sick of all the pink stuff, but they are still amazing women who are working through their cancer and supporting fellow cancer chicks and organizations at their own comfort level.

Beware of the pink promotions that seem to go a little too far. Remember the pink KFC bucket of fried chicken? We aren’t sure how encouraging people to purchase and eat a bucket of factory-farmed chicken cooked in grease promotes good health. Anyone fighting breast cancer or trying to prevent it should probably avoid those buckets and support breast cancer organizations in other ways.

Think Before You Pink is a project of an organization called Breast Cancer Action. This project was launched as concern grew around the increasing number of pink ribbon products on the market. The project’s mission is to hold companies more accountable for their pink ribbon promotions and to encourage consumers to do their research and find out who or what a pink ribbon product benefits. It’s important to be aware of who is funding different cancer campaigns, some of which include pharmaceutical companies or other businesses that benefit from higher rates of cancer or actually create products that promote cancer itself.

The point is, be a savvy consumer and know what that ribbon is representing and who actually profits from the sale. And be real with yourself in deciding how “pink” (or any other cancer ribbon color) you want to be.