MyLifeLine Launches New Caregiver Toolkit

This summer, MyLifeLine launched a new resource; the Cancer Caregiver Toolkit.

cancer-caregiverCancer Caregivers play a large role in the support and treatment of cancer patients. However, the role of caregiver can have a significant impact on their own physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Caregivers reported significantly higher rates of anxiety, depression and sleep disturbance than the average US population.

With the toolkit, caregivers are provided with resources such as financial assistance, side effect management, end of life care, and much more.

“Arming the caregiver network with relevant tools and resources is crucial for the health and wellbeing of patients,” MyLifeLine Executive Director, Marcia Donziger said.

Top 7 Tips for Reducing Risk of Lung Cancer

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. Although lung cancer is most common in smokers and the elderly, there are steps we can all take to reduce the risks associated with the illness.

Here are the top 7 tips for reducing the risk of lung cancer:

  1. Don’t smoke. If you have never smoked before, you are already on the right track. Don’t start smoking, or you will increase your risk of lung cancer by an unfathomable amount. If you are a parent, inform your children of the risks of smoking and to be wary of peer pressure.
  2. Stop smoking. If you are a smoker, kick the habit. Even if you’re a long time smoker, quitting smoking will reduce your risk for cancer substantially. There are numerous resources and products to help you quit, such as nicotine patches and support groups.
  3. Avoid Second Hand Smoke. Urge your friends and loved ones to quit smoking. Take the time to educate them about the risks, not only to themselves, but to those around them as well.
  4. Test your home for radon. High radon levels can contribute to components that cause lung cancer. Get your home tested, as there are remedies for high radon levels.
  5. Avoid carcinogens at work. If you work in an environment where you may be exposed to toxic chemicals, take the appropriate precautions to ensure your safety. Follow the safety policies provided by your company; wear masks for protection.
  6. Eat a veggie-rich diet. Veggies are a great source of natural vitamins. However, do not take too many vitamins in pill form, as they have been shown to actually increase the risk of cancer in smokers.
  7. Exercise most days of the week. Start out slowly and build up to a comfortable level in order to improve.

Source: Lung Cancer Prevention, Mayo Clinic

MyLifeLine Welcomes New Staff Member – Kathy Lindner

MyLifeLine is excited to welcome our newest member to the team, Kathy Lindner, as our Operations Coordinator. As the Operations Coordinator, Kathy is committed to continually improving the user experience for MyLifeLine members, communicating new features, supporting the technology team, and providing compassionate customer care.

Kathy’s background includes a variety of work experiences, ranging from health sciences, event coordination, and customer service. Previously, she worked at GiveForward in Chicago, an online fundraising site serving those with medical financial needs. Her passion for supporting cancer patients and their loved ones led her to MyLifeLine here in Denver.

A Chicago native, Kathy recently moved to Denver with her husband and two children. They love to entertain and have enjoyed making new friends! She takes advantage of all the outdoor adventures Colorado provides, including: hiking, biking, snowboarding, fishing, and camping. When she’s not cheering on the sidelines of her children’s activities, you can find her enjoying some peace and mindfulness on her yoga mat.

“I’m passionate about helping patients and caregivers through the ups and downs of their cancer journey.” Kathy said of her drive to help others in this position, “MyLifeLine offers amazing tools to communicate with loved ones, connect with resources, and request help whenever needed. I hope to make these tools more accessible to members and highlight new features we have coming soon. The heart of MyLifeLine is compassionate, caring, and empathetic – and I hope to share this with our members!”

5 Ways to Support Elderly Going Through Cancer Treatment

Years ago, a patient with a cancer diagnosis, didn’t have as good of an outlook as older cancer patient does today. Older people were assumed to be too frail and fragile to withstand the course of typical cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy.

Nowadays, things are different. Older people, those in their 80s and 90s, are undergoing rounds of chemo and radiation and living to tell the tale. In the US, the majority of cancer patients are over age 65, according to Scientific American. The number of older cancer patients is expected to continue to climb, to 70 percent by 2030.

Receiving a cancer diagnosis and deciding to undergo the recommended treatment is difficult for patients at any age, but can present particular challenges to the elderly. For one thing, certain types of cancer (such as leukemia and colon cancer) tend to be more aggressive in older patients. Additionally, few treatments have been studied in older patients (above the age of 70), so it can be difficult for doctors to say for sure whether a treatment will ultimately help a person or cause more suffering.

For anyone this life changing diagnosis is difficult. It brings about a change in lifestyle, routine and normalcy for many. However, there are ways you can support an elder going through this tough stage in life.

  1. Encourage Positive Thinking

While a person’s outlook and attitude do not affect whether or not he or she is likely to be diagnosed with cancer, how a person approaches the diagnosis and treatment can have an impact on the overall result.

For example, a study from Ohio State University suggested that people with certain psychosocial factors, such as a limited social circle, anxiety, depression and a pessimistic outlook, were more likely to need more treatment or to be readmitted to the hospital.

It might be difficult to look an older parent in the eye and tell him or her to “think positive” or to “put on a happy face.” But doing so can have a positive effect on his or her cancer treatment progress and results.

There are also a few ways you can help an older adult with cancer think positively. You can encourage him or her to participate in support groups, during which others with a similar diagnosis share their experiences and offer emotional support. You can also help your loved one to flip the switch on their thinking.

For example, if the patient has gotten a 1 in 500 prognoses, you can encourage him or her to think of themselves as the one, versus the 499. The odds might be stacked against him or her, but someone is going to survive, so it might as well be him or her.

  1. Listen

Sometimes, the best way to support an older person is to be the person who listens to him or her. The American Cancer Society says that listening is often the best thing you can do for someone who has cancer.

When you visit your family member or friend, ask what he or she would like to talk about. And then let him or her talk. It’s very common for people to visit their loved ones and give them a monologue or outpouring of stories about other people who have had cancer.

While it feels rational to want to connect with your loved one by sharing your stories, keep in mind that they probably have already heard similar stories. They may not want to compare and contrast their own experience with that of other people.

  1. Offer to Take Care of Daily Errands

Another way to support an elderly loved one going through cancer treatment is to offer to take care of daily tasks or chores. Even if you’re not the designated caregiver, proposing to help out when you can be a huge burden off of the shoulders of the patient or the caregiver.

You don’t have to take on too much, either. Offering to toss a load of laundry in at the start of your visit and taking the load out to fold and put away before you go home can be very helpful. If the person has a pet, you can offer to take the dog out for a walk or make sure that the cat’s litter box get scooped. If the patient isn’t at home during treatment, you can offer to take the pet in until he or she returns home.

Another thing to do is to call your loved one before you head out for your grocery shopping, to see if he or she needs anything.

  1. Remember That the Patient is Still a Person

Often, once people get a cancer diagnosis, they transform into patients in the eyes of their friends and loved ones. Individuals who were once chummy and familiar become nervous and super formal around them.

The best way to support a loved one with cancer is to remember that he or she is still a person and still him or herself. If you were close to the person before cancer, stay close after to the person cancer. Don’t feel you have to walk on eggshells around him or her or that you need to be extra cautious about what you say.

If you’re not sure what to say to your friend or what he or she wants to talk about –ask! He or she might be glad for the opportunity to speak to someone in a real way.

  1. Make a Plan for the Future

Although you do want to keep thinking positive, it’s also important that you be there for your loved one and that you offer to help him or her make a plan for the future or end of life care. Sometimes, even after the treatment, the prognosis for elderly cancer patients isn’t good.

Hospitals and doctors don’t always know patient’s wishes or might not always be able to offer the emotional support a patient and his or her family needs at the end. With a plan in place, you can make sure that your loved one gets exactly what he or she wants and his or her end of life is as pleasant and peaceful as possible.

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

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:


  • 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.


  • 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.


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