Resiliency; A Cancer Diagnosis can Come with Gifts – Marcia Donziger’s Story

In 1997 Marcia was 27 years old, newly married, working as a flight attendant, and excited to start a family. Everything seemed to being going right, her life was full of hopeful promises. When she started to experience agonizing pains in her abdomen, she decided to get it checked out by a doctor. After an ultrasound, her doctor found a tumor in Marcia’s left ovary, but assured her that it must be benign, telling her, ‘you’re far too young to have cancer.’

Under the impression that she would be back to work and life as usual in no time, Marcia scheduled the surgery to remove the ‘benign’ tumor. She was anxious to have the minor health scare behind her; however, what would happen under the knife would change her life forever.

After a lengthy surgery, Marcia woke up in indescribable pain. In her daze, she was told that she had stage III ovarian cancer and that she had a hysterectomy. Suddenly, her dreams of having children evaporated into thin air.

“I had no preparation for a hysterectomy or losing my fertility, or having cancer, so it all hit me as I was waking up from surgery and in a lot of physical pain, to the point where I had to be on morphine for days to get through the pain… it was physically and emotionally very painful.” She said of the moment she found out about her diagnosis.

Her life was immediately turned upside down. With a vulnerable immune system due to chemotherapy treatments, she was no longer eligible to work as a flight attendant.  The airline offered her a “ground job” in the airport.  The most challenging aspect of this change in duties was not the lack of travel, or the change in schedule, but the fact that almost all of her coworkers were pregnant and grounded on maternity leaves.  When Marcia lost her fertility, those around her were flourishing in theirs.

“There I was… working alongside pregnant women every day, and they were in this exciting part of their lives,” Marcia recalled. “I was grieving my fertility while they were celebrating theirs … to say I was an emotional wreck would be an extreme understatement.”

As Marcia’s internal battle forged on, her marriage was beginning to flounder. The two were trying to get pregnant at the time of Marcia’s diagnosis, and neither were prepared to have that opportunity stripped of them.

“We were trying to work through the loss of our fertility together…when one spouse loses theirs, the other does too. It just came to a point where he decided he didn’t want to have children through adoption or surrogacy.  Our marriage quickly imploded, and we divorced a year to the date of my diagnosis.”

After her marriage fell apart, Marcia moved from Chicago to LA to be closer to family, and to start again, from ground zero.

As Marcia’s treatments came to a close, she found an inner strength knowing that she is capable of anything. Being diagnosed with cancer at such a young age shaped her into the inspiration that she is today.

“I had never really been through a difficult challenge like that in my life, I had never broken a bone, I had never been really sick, so to have a serious illness, face your mortality, lose your fertility, go through a divorce, move across country alone, and all in the space of one year was almost every challenge I’ve come to now…I developed confidence in my ability to bounce back, adapt, and maximize new opportunities. I didn’t know much about resiliency before I was tested.”

Another struggle that Marcia faced throughout her experience with cancer was trying to keep her friends and family up to date with the treatment process and her logistical needs. She was often too tired or too sick to update everyone individually and it was getting hard for her to manage those practical needs.

As a concerned friend of others facing cancer, Marcia experienced these difficulties as well. One friend Leslie, diagnosed at 16 years old, struggled to maintain clear lines of communication. She utilized email for updates, yet replies got lost in the shuffle.  Marcia’s friend Lori, diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 33, utilized a personal website to update her friends and family. Marcia was inspired by this community of online support that revolved around Lori. Although Lori passed away after a two-year-long fight, her legacy lived on through her website. After she passed, Marcia called Lori’s mother who told Marcia, “that website was our lifeline.”

Leslie also tragically passed away at the young age of 27.  Both Leslie and Lori served as the driving forces behind Marcia’s creation of MyLifeLine.  Although Marcia had her own personal experience with cancer, she created MyLifeLine from the friend’s perspective; she created it so that friends and family could understand the process better, learn about key resources, and organize communities around serving the overwhelming practical needs– all while simultaneously providing love, support, and resources to the cancer patient.

“A cancer diagnosis can come with gifts.  I am incredibly grateful for the friends and family members who stepped in selflessly to help me throughout my crisis.  I felt so loved.  With MyLifeLine, all messages of love, support, and hope are centralized and organized.…providing an opportunity to create a beautiful keepsake book of memories and friendship.

MyLifeLine is a free service providing personal, private online cancer support communities to all families impacted by cancer.  Formed as a non-profit organization, MyLifeLine operates thanks to the generosity of hundreds of individual donors, sponsors, and grants.  Marcia’s passion for kindness and helping others has extended to improving the cancer experience and easing the burden of living with cancer for thousands of people; cancer patients, caregivers, friends, and family alike.

MyLifeLine has proved to be just that, a life line, for countless cancer patients, yet Marcia’s principles of authenticity and selflessness are at the foundation of the legacy she has built today:

“Everyone goes through some kind of personal trauma in their lives.  You may just walk by someone and have no idea they’re going through cancer treatment, and divorce, and grieving the loss of their fertility, so it’s always better just to give the benefit of the doubt and be kind to people, because I think we’re all more alike than we are different, no matter what challenges we are each destined to overcome.”

Diane “The Shark” Elmore’s Breast Cancer Story

Diane has always been a runner. As a devoted triathlete; running, swimming and biking were her passions. When she got the news that she had stage III breast cancer, however, she did not run. She decided to face it head on.

In September of 2016, Diane was racing in the Atlantic City Ironman 70.3. During the swimming portion of the race, she was kicked so hard that she thought she would drown. Although she was gasping for air and struggling to stay afloat, she persevered and made it to dry ground, and even went on to finish the race.

After a month, Diane noticed that the pain from the kick never fully subsided. Her doctor told her that it was probably nothing, but to get it checked out just to be safe. What she thought to be pain from the accident, turned out to be stage III breast cancer. She was completely shocked.

“I cried,” Diane said of her reaction to the news. “I knew life was going to become very challenging, and that my normal training plans would change into a new type of medical training plan.”

A new chapter in her life had just opened. Instead of training her body for the next race, she would be training her body to survive. Diane started her AC-T chemotherapy treatments in January and continued through April. On May 22nd, Diane had a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction (tissue expanders). On May 31st, Diane was rushed into emergency surgery for a broken artery near her heart. After all of the surgery she was put under, she was given the disheartening news that her cancer did not respond to the chemo.

“That was unexpected since I had thought I was done with it all,” Diane explained of the reality that her cancer was still there. “That really stunk.”

After all that Diane’s cancer has put her through, she has kept a positive outlook on life.

“Some days are more difficult than others to make the choice that I will be the best me that I can, and not wallow,” she said of her fight to stay optimistic. What motivates her the most to be the best version of herself is her family.

“Life is short, and you just don’t know what will happen.  I am able to bike and run today, but I might not be able to tomorrow.  Each day is a gift.  I want my kids to know that, and take advantage of each day!”

Diane’s husband Kevin and her many friends have come together to help in ways that she could never have imagined. It has been difficult for her to ask for help in areas that she used to be independent, such as preparing meals and planning transportation for her children. She uses MyLifeLine to organize these things so that it’s not so much of a struggle.

Another challenge that she has had to face throughout her journey was the loss of her ability to exercise as she used to. Five years before her diagnosis, Diane lost 80 pounds in order to lead a healthier life and be around for her children. Diane has done her best to continue to train throughout her treatment, as it is a way for her to “hold onto some semblance of [herself] and [her] sanity.”

“I might not be fit enough to race right now, but I need to maintain sanity. I never regret a workout after it is done.  They clear my mind and make me sane and able to handle the treatments.  I think exercise should be part of treatment to keep us strong and get us through it!”

MyLifeLine has provided Diane with a forum to keep her family and friends posted as she continues her journey through cancer. “I am grateful to MyLifeline for the ability to post updates to family and friends as well as the calendar feature to organize meals and rides in one place.” She said of her MyLifeLine membership. Because Diane uses MyLifeLine, her brother, who is a policeman in Oceanside, California, was inspired to organize his police department’s participation in 2017’s Relay for Life.

Since her cancer diagnosis, she has learned to ask for help where she did not need it before and to make someone’s day better, even in small ways that she did not before her diagnosis. Although cancer has been a tremendous challenge in her life, posing great obstacles for Diane and her family, there is an upside to the experience.

“A silver lining to cancer is that I have felt loved in ways I never imagined before. Everyone should feel this loved during their lives,” she reflected.

Because of Diane’s perseverance and strong will, she is known by her friends as “The Shark.”

Be The Choice

In May 2015, I wrote to MyLifeLine followers: I am feeling great. I feel so fortunate to be at this end of things…I am back at work full time and have good mobility and strength in my arms…with each improvement I feel like cancer is a more distant memory. What I didn’t realize at the time was that while cancer treatments end, the cancer fight – and perhaps the fear of recurring as well– changes who you are and what you value. Everyone experiences this differently. For me, having had cancer as a young person further consolidated my perspectives on what matters: social justice and realizing human rights.

As a professor who taught international human rights law and social justice before my diagnosis (and following treatment as well!), my friends and family celebrated that my life was “getting back to normal.” But my life has never returned to “normal,” and I somehow doubt it ever will.

What became very clear to me as I sat in the many waiting rooms was that most people in treatment were scared, lonely, and isolated. Most critically, many didn’t know what treatment options they had and the choices they could – and should – be making in regards to their health. It was shocking to me when I met women facing a breast cancer diagnosis like myself who didn’t know about skin sparing surgical options available to them that might preserve significant parts of their breast (surgeries where the tumor(s) is removed but the skin and possibly the nipples and areolas, are left intact. These surgeries generally involve immediate reconstruction.).

It made me sad and eventually, it made me mad too. Informed consent, after all, means that patients understand what choices they have and make a decision based on the spectrum of options available to them. Although this has been a right in Canada since a decision of the Supreme Court in 1980 (Reibl v. Hughes), from where I sat in those drab waiting rooms, patients were not even aware that they had this right.

Out of this, Be the Choice was born. Be the Choice is a not-for-profit organization lead by survivors, doctors and other dedicated volunteers that is developing software that maps the various treatment decisions that may lie ahead for breast cancer patients. We use the image of a tree to help patients and their loved ones understand what treatments are involved and what sequence of treatments may follow. It’s easy to navigate, sharable, printable and portable. You can check it out here.

After two years of development and many bake sales (nipple cupcakes!), fundraisers (art and wine!), and one grant (thank you Canadian Internet Registration Authority!), we released a beta version of the tool in September. On June 8th we will be launching the first full version of the tool in French and English.

Early users are reporting that this tool makes a huge difference in their experience of diagnosis. One woman wrote that the tool completely changed her treatment trajectory. Another young patient told us that she felt more informed and in control before her biopsy – and that this helped her stay calm throughout the procedure. More testimonials are pouring in.

I could not be more delighted to hear this news and look forward to many more stories such as these. Having breast cancer sucks. But having something constructive and tangible result from that experience is both rewarding and healing. I could not be happier that my life will never be normal again.

Melanie Adrian

P.S. A big thank you to MyLifeLine for being exactly that: a lifeline that connected me to my loved ones while I was deep in the trenches of cancer warfare. My experience of treatment would have been so much harder had the site not been around. Consider Be the Choice a small pay it forward!

By: Prof. Melanie Adrian
Contact: melanie@bethechoice.org
Website: bethechoice.org

Navigating Changing Guidelines on Cancer Screening

 

Editor’s note: For members of the community who have questions about cancer screening, Cancer Today and the AACR are hosting a webinar on Feb. 16 at 1 p.m. ET. A panel of experts will outline current guidelines on screening for prostate, breast, and colorectal cancers. They will also discuss how patients and doctors can work together to make individualized screening decisions.

Following his prostate cancer diagnosis in 2000 at age 57, Thomas Farrington dedicated himself to reducing prostate cancer incidence and mortality in
African-American men by starting the Prostate Health Education Network.

Twelve years later, Farrington was shocked when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a volunteer panel of experts that provides guidance on screening and prevention, recommended against routine screening with prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests.

“We worked hard to get the level of PSA testing for black men at the same level it was for white men,” Farrington said in an interview for an article on cancer screening in the winter issue of Cancer Today, published by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). Farrington was concerned that research was lacking on how cutting screening might affect black men, who are at increased risk of getting prostate cancer and dying from it.

Farrington is not alone in feeling frustration in the face of shifting and sometimes contradictory screening guidelines. Guideline-makers recommend breast cancer screening at different intervals and starting at different ages, and have experienced both support and backlash from patient advocates for their various positions. There is disagreement on whether prostate cancer screening should be recommended at all.

Cancer Today discusses the reasons for disagreement on cancer screening guidelines and how scientists are working to build better evidence for who needs to be screened, when screening should start, and how often it should be done.

For instance, the WISDOM trial aims to recruit 100,000 women to help determine whether personalizing breast cancer screening based on a variety of factors, including genetics, race, ethnicity, history of benign breast conditions, breast density, and family history could lead to better outcomes. Researchers say that more precisely targeting screening to the right people could increase benefits and reduce harms.

Please join us during our webinar to further explore this important issue.

This post originally appeared on Cancer Research Catalyst, a blog from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

Cancer and Careers: Be the Boss Over Cancer

This is a guest blog post by Cancer and Careers.

Cancer and Careers
How we got started:

In 2001, the Board of Directors of Cosmetic Executive Women came to a startling realization: five Board Members had been diagnosed with cancer. All continued to work during or following their treatment, and all encountered similar dilemmas.

How do I tell my boss? What will my co-workers think? How do I balance work and treatment? What can I expect from my employer? What are my legal rights? What do other people do?

Work doesn’t stop once you’ve been diagnosed with cancer. More than 80 percent of cancer survivors return to work after treatment. In fact, once they’ve been diagnosed, work becomes even more important. CEW created Cancer and Careers to address these challenges and change the face of cancer in the workplace.

What we do:

At Cancer and Careers, our mission is to empower and educate people with cancer to thrive in their workplace, by providing expert advice, interactive tools and educational events. In addition to patients and survivors, Cancer and Careers also educates coworkers, HR staff, healthcare professionals, and fellow cancer organizations—all potential advocates in today’s workplace.

Patients and survivors of all ages face challenges beyond the day-to-day stresses normally associated with work. Cancer and Careers strives to inform and remind the cancer community that with a little help, they can work, and we are here to provide them with the information they need to succeed at their current job, or to find a new one. We work to eliminate the fear and uncertainty about making a living following a cancer diagnosis. Our help is designed for people with all types of cancer, who do all types of work, and are at all stages of work and recovery. We offer tips and suggestions on a range of topics which include how to handle your cancer diagnosis if asked by a coworker, protecting online privacy, and concerns about legal rights and discrimination.

How we help:

Events:

  • National Conference on Work & Cancer – Our 6th annual National Conference on Work & Cancer will be held Friday,June 23, 2017, at The Graduate Center at CUNY, in New York City. The free, daylong event explores the issues faced by working people who are trying to balance their cancer treatment & recovery with employment.
  • Midwest Conference on Work & Cancer – We will be hosting Midwest Conference on Work & Cancer on Friday, March 31st, 2017in Chicago IL. The event is free and open to those who are concerned about balancing work and cancer.
  • West Coast Conference on Work & Cancer –Our West Coast Conference will be taking place in the fall of 2017, date to be determined. The event is also free and discusses the issues faced by those balancing work and cancer.
  • Balancing Work & Cancer webinars series – Presented with a patient-focused lens and covering topics ranging from Managing Finances to the Job Search to Working Through Treatment.

Advice:

  • Ask a Career Coach – The opportunity to submit a question answered by a career coach.
  • Resume Review Service – Have your resume reviewed by one of our talented and knowledgeable volunteer career coaches, for free!
  • Suggestions for interviewing – tips and tool kits for how to best answer the tough questions in an interview, and helpful information regarding protecting your privacy.

Information:

A Letter from Our CEO

pete-headshotThis is a blog post by MyLifeLine’s CEO, Pete Sheehan.

When someone hears “you have cancer,” their world is instantly turned upside down and the words are nothing short of terrifying. This is when MyLifeLine’s job begins.

MyLifeLine’s goal is to ease the burden of a cancer diagnosis for patients, caregivers and their family and friends. Our mission to help patients build their support community, reduce stress and anxiety, and provide the social and emotional support that is vital in the face of a cancer diagnosis.

With your support, MyLifeLine has served more than 150,000 people affected by cancer. We’ve helped them organize rides to treatment, schedule home cooked meal delivery, stay updated on friends and family member’s journeys, raise vital funds for their medical costs, find important resources and educational tools and overall, lighten the load of a cancer diagnosis. Our services are provided free of charge to all cancer patients and their families.

Your gift today allows us to not only continue the work we do every day, but also to
innovate and identify new ways to support cancer patients and all those who love them. In 2017, we plan to create a robust support toolkit for caregivers, personalize the MyLifeLine experience for many of the cancer types we serve, increase our reach to more patients and
families and enhance the functionality and features of our popular volunteer calendar.

We are thankful for your generous support of our work. Together, we are improving the lives of tens of thousands of people impacted by cancer.

Warm Regards,

Pete Sheehan
Chief Executive Officer, MyLifeLine Cancer Foundation


 

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5 Lessons From An Ovarian Cancer Survivor

This is a guest blog post by MyLifeLine founder, Marcia Donziger.

5-tips-ovarian-cancer

marcia-photoIn 1997 I was 27, happy, free, and traveling the world as a flight attendant. Newly married and ready to have a baby, I felt strong and invincible. My future was unfolding just as I expected it to. Until the symptoms appeared ever so subtly. Squeezing cramps around my waist. It hurt to pee. After a few weeks, I marched my invincible self into my doctor’s office, told her I diagnosed my own bladder infection, and may I please have antibiotics.

She decided to investigate a little further. After an ultrasound, she discovered a grapefruit-sized tumor growing on my left ovary. “Could it be cancer?” I asked. “No,” my doctor assured me, “you’re too young to have cancer.”

Surgery was scheduled to remove my “benign tumor.” I was excited to get it over with, so I could go on with my life and have babies. After 5 hours of surgery, I woke up in the recovery room, my body uncontrollably thrashing in pain. My doctor hovered over me and broke the news, “I’m sorry. You have ovarian cancer. You’ve had a complete hysterectomy. We took everything out.”

What I heard loud and clear was “Cancer. You can’t have children.”

The diagnosis came as a shock. Stage IIIC ovarian cancer had taken over my abdomen, resulting in an emergency hysterectomy that I was not prepared for. The intense grief hit immediately. The loss of my fertility was most crushing. I had always wanted to be a mom.

Halfway through chemo treatments, I celebrated my 28th birthday, but there wasn’t much to celebrate. My marriage was dying. Cancer puts tremendous stress on a couple. Some couples can handle it together like champs. We didn’t. We divorced 1 year from the date of my diagnosis.

After treatment ended, I looked in the mirror to see what was left. I was 28 years old, ravaged physically and emotionally, divorced, and scared to date as a woman unable to have children.

Who would love me now?

Now, almost 20 years later, I feel strong again (although not invincible).

With the benefit of time and perspective, I’ve distilled that traumatic cancer experience into 5 life lessons:

  1. Trust grandma’s reassurance, “This too shall pass.” As an ovarian cancer survivor herself, my grandma is living proof of this timeless wisdom. Stressful events don’t have to be permanent. We don’t have to be victims. Although cancer is extremely painful and unwelcome, the bright spot is we are forced to build character traits such as resiliency, emotional courage, and grit.
  2. Create your own joy in the midst of crisis. There are ways to uplift yourself during the chaos of cancer treatment. For example, I took a pottery class throughout my chemo months to find solace in distraction and art, which helped soothe my soul and ease the journey. What would make you happy? Do something just for you.
  3. Stop doing what you don’t want to do. If you were doing too much out of obligation beforehand, try to change that. You are only obligated to make yourself happy. No one else can do that for you. The key is to use this wisdom to prioritize your time and honor yourself, so you can be healthy for others. Drop what doesn’t serve you. Drop the guilt. Life will go on.
  4. Connect with others. The emotional trauma is hard to measure in a medical test, but it’s real. Anxiety and depression can go hand-in-hand after cancer–it did for me. In response to the emotional challenges I experienced, years later I founded MyLifeLine.org Cancer Foundation to ease the burden for others facing cancer. MyLifeLine.org is a cancer-specific social platform designed to connect you with your own family and friends to ease the stress, anxiety, and isolation. Gather your tribe on MyLifeLine. You are not alone.
  5. You are lovable after cancer. No matter what body parts you are missing, you deserve love just as you are. Cancer tore down my self-esteem, and it took significant effort to build it back up. I am dedicated to personal and professional growth now. Look into your heart, your mind, your spirit. Try fine-tuning your best character traits, like generosity or compassion. Never stop growing and learning. We are not defined by the body.

To wrap up my story–I learned that when one door closes, another opens. Today I am the proud, grateful mother of 11-year-old twin boys. Born with the help of a surrogate mom and an egg donor, my dream finally came true of becoming a parent. Where there is a will, there is a way. Never give up on your dreams!

Looking Good When Your Body Doesn’t Feel It – A Survivor’s Story

This is a guest blog post by Heather Von St. James, a Mesothelioma survivor.

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The beauty business can be wonderful, hard, lovely, and shallow all at once. But this was the career I had chosen, and I loved it. I specialized in cutting and color, but could do pretty much any salon service from pedicures to brow waxing. I had even done a body treatment or two when we were in a pinch.

I loved my job. I loved taking care of people and making them look and feel their best. I had a passion about my career that was contagious – and my clients loved it. I took great pride in having fun and colorful hair, on point makeup and stylish shoes. This was after all, and industry built on appearances.

I was part of this world for over 10 years when the cancer was diagnosed. I found out I had cancer just 3½ months after the birth of my only child. The pregnancy was incredibly easy. I had very little morning sickness, only gained 5 lbs. the whole time. The only problem was I was beyond tired. I had never been pregnant before and had heard fatigue was par for the course, so I didn’t think anything was amiss. Quite the opposite actually.

People always told me how good I looked. They said things like, “If I saw you from the back, I would never know you were even pregnant!” So I took it as a compliment that I hadn’t gained the weight that I thought I would. The only complication was Lily, my daughter ended up being a frank breech. I had to have an emergency C –section, but she came into the world a healthy 8 lbs., 14 oz.

After having Lily, I started losing even more weight, up to 5 lbs. a week. I chalked it up to breastfeeding and working full time. People always commented on how good I was looking, and that being a new mom sure agreed with me. I was the thinnest I had been in years! But the trouble was, I felt terrible. I was exhausted, I was having trouble sleeping, and I was having trouble breathing.

I just thought this is what postpartum was. I didn’t have anything to compare it to, so I just powered through.

Finally after 3 months of feeling worse and worse, and having more troubling symptoms, I went to see my doctor. After a series of scans and tests we had our answer: malignant pleural mesothelioma.

I was in shock. All at once, my world had come to a screeching halt. My life went from being a working mom, to medical appointments and scans. I would spend the next year fighting for my life through surgical intervention to rid my body of the cancer, followed by chemotherapy and radiation.

I was sicker than I had ever been in my life. I made my mind up early, though, that even though I was sick, I was still going to do my best to take care of myself. I figured, you can take the girl out of the salon, but you can’t take the salon out of the girl! Just because I had cancer didn’t mean I was going to stop caring how I looked. I was platinum blonde when I got sick, so I decided to dye my hair a darker brown, closer to my natural color, so it would be easy to deal with over the next few months. I figured it was only a matter of time before I lost it all due to chemo anyway, so why not have fun.

I found out later, that not all chemo causes hair loss, and the type I was getting happened to be one of them, so I never did lose my hair. What was sad, was one of my former co-workers accused me of faking cancer because I didn’t lose my hair. She seriously said that I probably was making everything up because “everyone knows you lose your hair with chemo.” All I could do was laugh and shake my head.

I found that many people said some really crazy things during my cancer battle. People would ask how I felt or how I was doing, and when I said the truth, basically I felt terrible, or was the most sick as I ever had been, I always got the same response. “But you LOOK good.” It was as if looking good made everything ok. And it meant that since I “looked,” good I obviously could not feel as bad as I said.

I began to wonder what I was SUPPOSED to look like… I guess I was supposed to be bald, not wear any make up, spend all my time in pajamas, and moan aloud all the time. I honestly think that is what many people expected, and when they saw me with my hair and makeup done, and dressed in normal clothes, it surprised them. I made every effort during my treatment to make sure I took the time to do those things. The truth of the matter was it made me feel better.

Being a cancer patient, you desperately want any sense of normalcy because everything is so NOT normal… for me? Taking care of myself and my appearance made me feel better. I wore normal clothes, not sweats or pajamas, unless I was in bed. I even got dressed up to go to chemo. I Joked that even though, I might be sick, I’ll be damned if I would look that way!

I was the only person I ever knew who wore red lipstick to get a blood transfusion. My elderly mother-in-law often took me to my chemo appointments, and all the nurses assumed I was there to accompany her for an appointment, not the other way around. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the looks of surprise, replaced by pity when they realized I was the one there for the infusion.

Over the last 10 years, I’ve learned that people don’t say these things to be cruel or unkind, quite the opposite actually. I believe they are trying to encourage, not disparage. I’ve learned to let the comments roll off, and instead of getting upset I try to educate, and I’ve learned myself what not to say to others who have gone through treatment.

I still care about my appearance. I have a shocking white blonde mohawk that has become my trademark. I like to make sure I look nice when I go places, not for other people, but for myself. When I talk to people I don’t know, they are always shocked when I tell them all I’ve been through. My scars are not visible unless I show you where they are.

You can’t tell from my appearance that I have only one lung or only part of a diaphragm. I’ve gained some of the weight back I lost during treatment, so it isn’t obvious what happened to my body as a result of the cancer – which is why when people still say, “Wow! But you LOOK so good!” I just smile and say, “Thank you.”

 

Thriving Through the Holidays

This post is brought to you in partnership with iThrive Cancer Survivorship Plan.

This time of year there is an anticipation of festive times with family and friends. But the holidays can also bring increased stress. While we often can’t control the amount of stress we have in our lives, we can control how we support ourselves during stressful times. This holiday season—and throughout the entire year—find time to focus on ways to rejuvenate mind, body and spirit. In this short five-minute video, the iTHRIVE five Rs of rejuvenation are discussed. These are gentle reminders of the many proactive ways we can give ourselves that extra support during stressful times. It’s time to thrive this holiday season!


 

About the Author: Karolyn A. Gazella has been writing about wellness since 1992. She is an award-winning publisher and the author of several books. Along with Dr. Lise Alschuler, she is the co-creator of the iTHRIVE Cancer Survivorship Plan. She and Dr. Alschuler also co-host a weekly radio show called Five to Thrive Live on the Cancer Support Network (w4cs.com) and iHeart Radio (iHeart.com). You can find more about their work at www.iTHRIVEplan.com.

Pay It Forward: Help Us Support Future Cancer Patients & Caregivers

pay-it-forward

MyLifeLine.org Cancer Foundation has been connecting cancer patients and caregivers to their community of family and friends for support since 2007. We’re proud to have helped over 151,000 cancer patients, caregivers and family and friends give and receive support during the past 9 years and we are asking you to join our Pay It Forward campaign to continue to support all people impacted by a cancer diagnosis.

We exist today because generous patients, caregivers and their support communities have recognized the value of MyLifeLine.org and wanted future cancer patients to have the same support. We are asking for your help to ensure that all cancer patients feel supported.

You can make a big impact by Paying It Forward:

$35      Connects 1 Guest to a Patient Website with New Features in 2017
$50      Gives 1 Cancer Patient a Website to their Support Community for 1 Month
$160    Provides MyLifeLine’s Materials in 5 Cancer Centers
$322    Develops New Programs & Cancer Specific Resources for Patients & Caregivers

Your gift will help patients like Paige, who used MyLifeLine.org as a voice during her battle with Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

“MyLifeLine.org was a lifeline for me during my journey; it was my connection to the world, my connection to my own self, and a place where I could be encouraged by others.” – Paige, MyLifeLine.org member

Will you Pay It Forward and help us support cancer patients and caregivers in 2017? Click here to join the Pay It Forward movement.