How my dog’s cancer inspired me after my breast cancer diagnosis

This is a guest blog post by Petrina DiOrio, owner of Brewscuits, a natural dog biscuit company. Brewscuits will be donating $1 per bag purchased online from now to the end of the year to MyLifeLine.

brewscuit

When I heard the words, “Your dog has cancer,” I was devastated. It’s Osteosarcoma, one of the worst kinds. When the same words came later to reference me, “You have breast cancer,” somehow I felt okay and prepared to face my journey because of the courage and strength that I learned from my dog, Chessie, when she went through her journey with cancer.

Chessie was a Chesapeake Bay Retriever that I rescued from a family who had four children and could no longer afford to properly take care of her. I adopted Chessie when she was four years old and had many wonderful years with her. Her cancer started when she was 10 and the vet told us to amputate her front right leg, but at that point but the sarcoma was actually way up in her shoulder. We didn’t think amputating the leg would do much to solve the problem. Treating her with chemotherapy and radiation seemed unfair to her at her age. We wanted her to continue to live and hike and play as long as she possibly could and not be in and out of the hospital for treatments all the time. So live and hike and play we did and boy did we have fun. Annual trips to Maine hiking in the dense woods. A trip to Cape Cod to play on the beach and in the ocean. Camping, swimming, running, playing ball. You name it; we did it.

Chessie lived an abundant, fun-filled, loving life her last year. And finally, at the age of 11, she let us know it was time. As the vet administered that last lethal dose of love to help Chessie finally be out of pain and cross the rainbow bridge to be with all of her other playmates and family, I let her go of her physical body but her spirit is always with me. Somehow Chessie’s courage and determination and trust in me that I would do what was best for her helped me with my own diagnosis.

When the doctor told me I had cancer I looked at him and said, “OK then, what’s next? What do we do from here?” His response was to schedule surgery and go from there. Within two weeks surgery was scheduled and I underwent a radical double mastectomy. My sentinel nodes came back clean, so there were no lymph node issues, which was great news. I opted for the double mastectomy since breast cancer runs in my family. My grandmother and both of her sisters on my mom’s side all had breast cancer. Rather than a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation, I opted for the double mastectomy. Now five years and seven months later I am cancer free and I am in perfect health and living an awesome life. I married the love of my life and we have been together for almost 17 years now. We foster, rescue and take care of military family dogs when soldiers are deployed. We have an awesome all natural dog biscuit company called “Brewscuits.” Life really could not be much better.

Since Chessie passed away in 2004, we have had many more fosters and rescues come into our home. One of our current rescues, Tiki, helped inspire Brewscuits. Brewscuits are a hand-made, all-natural dog biscuit using the grain from the beer brewing process. We are homebrewers making our own beer in the comfort of our home and put our grain on our picnic table after brewing our latest and greatest brew. We let the dogs out and Tiki climbed on the table, stole the grain and shared it with his brothers and sisters. After some research we found that the grains were good for our dogs and we started making beer grain dog biscuits.

We upcycle a product that would normally be waste and create a treat for our dogs that is actually nutritious. Our biscuits contain barley, oats and rye which are grains our dogs should have in their diet to aid in their digestion. We use no corn or soy which our dogs cannot digest. We also use no salt, sugar, chemicals or preservatives. Our biscuits contain only a few simple ingredients – the spent grain (barley, oats, rye), flour, egg, and either peanut butter, pumpkin or sweet potato. For more information, go to www.brewscuit.com.

I’ve been given this wonderful opportunity to partner with MyLifeLine.org and share my story during breast cancer awareness month. We would love to give back to this wonderful organization. Brewscuits will be donating $1 per bag purchased online from now through the end of the year. Just use code “boobies” at checkout at www.brewscuit.com.

brewscuits-mll

Becki’s Breast Cancer Story

becki-breast-cancer-story

Becki had no symptoms when she went in for a routine mammogram and was convinced that everything was normal. She later learned of her Stage III breast cancer diagnosis.

“I felt really numb. It was very shocking,” Becki recalled. “I’m a very positive type of person and I just assume the best. I had myself pretty convinced that everything would be fine.”

Becki’s treatment plan included a double mastectomy with reconstruction. She completed 16 chemotherapy treatments followed by 30 rounds of radiation.

During her cancer journey Becki leaned on the support of her husband and three children, along with her mother who is an 18-year breast cancer survivor. She also had a group of friends who helped provide rides, coordinate meals and keep her company on ongoing trips to radiation. About 15 people from Becki’s support group even came to her last radiation appointment and they all went out for lunch afterwards to celebrate.

MyLifeLine.org was a way for Becki to utilize her support group. She and her husband made updates on surgery and treatment progress, coordinated meals and rides as well as sharing photos. Becki now uses her site to share milestones with her support group.

Although Becki says sometimes she feels like cancer hasn’t changed her life, there are some positive differences since her diagnosis. Cancer has made Becki appreciate the little things more and be open to new experiences. She’s never had her ears pierced, but her young daughter wanted to get her own pierced.

“After I went through everything, I thought ‘I really don’t know if I will be here when she’s 12 to wait until that milestone to get her ears pierced,” Becki recalled. Together, Becki and her daughter got their ears pierced, which was a special experience for the both of them.

Becki’s advice to other cancer patients is to utilize their support system. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to people and communicate. Let people help you,” she advised.


To read more cancer patient stories, visit our Inspirational Cancer Stories page.

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Healthy Recipes for Chemotherapy Patients

healthy recipes for chemotherapy patients

The importance of diet cannot be overestimated when it comes to chemotherapy. While a healthy diet is very important for someone undergoing chemotherapy, eating the same types and the same amounts of foods you enjoyed before diagnosis of your cancer may sometimes be difficult. You may feel anxious about eating enough of certain foods. Or you may become concerned about eating the “wrong” foods and eat very little at all. These reactions are normal.

During chemotherapy, you can continue to enjoy most foods. If you are worried about your diet and healthy nutrition during chemotherapy, or have questions, be sure to speak to your healthcare providers – they can provide guidance on proper nutrition during treatment since certain chemotherapy regimens do place restrictions on some foods.

Plan Ahead for Proper Nutrition

Sometimes cancer or chemotherapy can affect your appetite. Though you may not feel like eating, it’s important to do what you can do to maintain your calorie, protein and fluid intake during chemotherapy.  Here are some tips for eating while on treatment:

  • Cook in advance and freeze foods in meal-sized portions
  • Stock your refrigerator and pantry with prepared or easy-to-prepare foods for days when you do not feel like cooking; include foods you know you can eat even when you are not feeling well
  • Talk to friends and family members about ways they can help you with shopping and cooking.

It is important to remember to always speak with your doctor or nurse about any changes in your eating patterns and any problems you have with appetite, eating or digestion.

Healthy Recipes for Chemotherapy Patients

We’ve collected 15 healthy recipes for patients receiving chemotherapy. To get the full recipes, click here.

  1. Applesauce muffins
  2. Banana bread
  3. Banana-oatmeal hot cakes
  4. Multigrain pancakes with strawberry sauce
  5. Butternut squash, tomato and watercress soup
  6. Hearty vegetable and brown rice soup
  7. Mashed grains and cauliflower
  8. Brussels sprouts with pecans and dried cranberries
  9. Lasagna
  10. Pumpkin mac and cheese
  11. Easy spinach pie
  12. Penne with kale, tomatoes and olives
  13. Veggie pita pizzas
  14. Strawberry-melon smoothie
  15. Peppers with turkey and wild rice

For more information on healthy eating during chemotherapy treatment, click here.


This post is brought to you in partnership with Helsinn and Eisai.

 

 

Loss of Muscle & Weight from Lung Cancer

lung-cancer-cachexia

This resource is brought to you in partnership with Helsinn and Lung Cancer Alliance.

If you have lost weight and/or muscle, you may have been told that you are at risk for or have developed cachexia.

What is Cachexia?

Cachexia is uncontrolled and unwanted loss of weight and muscle. It is seen in some serious illnesses, including lung cancer. Over half the people diagnosed with advanced lung cancer have cachexia.

What are the impacts of Cachexia?

  • How well you handle side effects of chemotherapy and other treatments
  • Whether you can complete your cancer treatment or not
  • How you feel, your overall well-being
  • Your ability to stay independent and do the things that are important to you
  • How long you may live

What can I do?

Cachexia and its symptoms can be treated and may be prevented. Continuing your cancer treatment is important because cachexia tends to improve along with your tumor response.

  • Nutritional assessment or consultation by a registered dietician.
  • Stay as physically active as possible.
  • Treat depression.
  • Control lung cancer symptoms and treatment side effects.

Learn more about cachexia, what it is, and what you can do about it in this free PDF.

 

Finding Hope through a Clinical Trial

Clinical Trials

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a guest blog post from the Cancer Support Community.

Elisa was in her early 30s when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the eight years since then she has been through surgery, radiation and six different chemotherapies. Early this year, she learned her cancer was progressing, and she was running out of options. Elisa lives in Chile. A friend, who is a cancer specialist, told her about an immunotherapy trial in Chicago for which she might be a candidate. Elisa and her mother made the long journey from South America to Illinois to be part of this innovative study. Right now, she is doing well. While the future may remain uncertain, being part of this trial has given her hope.

Bill is a successful lawyer, a husband and father. Twelve years ago, he was diagnosed and treated for a rare brain tumor. He went on with his life, until the tumor returned in October. Standard therapy offered little chance for a good or lasting response. His doctors in Chicago suggested that he go to New York for a clinical trial with a new targeted therapy. Now, he still practices law, takes care of his family and travels every few weeks for his innovative therapy.

What can we learn from these two stories?

First, by joining a clinical trial, both Elisa and Bill were treated with new therapies that would otherwise not have been available to them. Like many people with advanced or difficult to treat tumors, they knew that their best option was to consider joining a clinical trial. That put them at the forefront of cancer research. Both knew when they made the decision to leave their homes and travel to another cancer center that there was no guarantee that they would respond to the treatment. They made conscious choices to be a part of something that might make a difference for them, and for other people facing similar cancers.

It takes courage and belief to join a clinical trial.  Many cancer patients bring those characteristics to their experience. From the moment a person hears the diagnosis of cancer, he or she enters a strange new world.  This new world requires making decisions about treatment and care. For many, that may include the opportunity to join a clinical trial, yet another unknown territory. The hope that new treatments bring is a beacon of light in that world.

Elisa and Bill represent the people facing cancer who actively seek information about the treatments available for their cancer, who work as partners with their doctors and health care teams to make the best decisions about their care. They both made choices that involved dislocation, uncertainty and loss. They made these choices because the clinical trial represented something more important. They chose hope–hope for longer, better lives.  They chose hope for the future, for themselves, the people who love them and everyone who ever faces cancer. Hope is what inspires courage and belief. Hope drives clinical trials.

To learn more about Clinical Trials, check out the Cancer Support Community’s new Frankly Speaking about Cancer Clinical Trials program at www.CancerSupportCommunity.org/ClinicalTrials.

MyLifeLine.org Celebrates National #Ribboning Day

national-ribboning-day

In an effort to raise awareness and humanize the cancer ribbon, MyLifeLine.org launched National #Ribboning Day in 2015. In its inaugural year, National #Ribboning Day resulted in participation from InStyle Magazine, fashion designer Zac Posen, Ralph Lauren, Women’s Health Magazine and hundreds of other cancer supporters across the nation.

This year, we invite you to participate in the second annual National #Ribboning Day on Saturday, July 16.

How to participate in National Ribboning Day:

  1. Take a photo of yourself in the “Ribboning” pose with your body in the shape of a cancer ribbon.
  2. Post the photo to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with #Ribboning and share who you are Ribboning for.
  3. Invite 3 friends to join #Ribboning and donate to MyLifeLine.org.

You can help MyLifeLine.org ensure that all cancer patients and caregivers feel supported throughout their cancer journey by making a donation to the #Ribboning campaign. Each contribution of $33 supports a cancer patient and their community for one year.

To learn more about the #Ribboning campaign and to make your donation to MyLifeLine.org, please visit www.mylifeline.org/ribboning.

 

MyLifeLine.org Attends American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting

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MyLifeLine.org Cancer Foundation was honored to be among over 30,000 of the brightest minds in oncology, including researchers, physicians, industry professionals and other patient advocates at the 2016 ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago from June 3-7.

This year’s meeting theme, The Future of Patient-Centered Care and Research, focused on the importance of creating a system of engaged, well-informed patients and health care teams to provide patients with high-quality and high-value personalized cancer care.

During the conference, we met with our partners and other patient advocates to discuss advancements in their oncology programs and how we can partner to meet the needs of cancer patients and their caregivers. MyLifeLine.org was invited to exhibit in the Patient Advocacy area, where we were able to share the important work we do to provide all people affected by cancer with social and emotional support services with attendees. This was our 9th year exhibiting at the conference and we were proud to present the advancements of our program that has now served over 151,000 cancer patients, caregivers and their support communities since our inception in 2007.

MyLifeLine.org also hosted its first Industry Advisory Council kick-off meeting on Thursday, June 2nd as part of the ASCO conference. The meeting brought together the council’s founding members in the pharmaceutical and oncology industry with the goal of better understanding the advocacy needs of the industry and identify collaborative opportunities to better serve the cancer community. Founding members of the council include Genentech, Genomic Health, Eisai, Helsinn, Pfizer and Lilly Oncology.

We look forward to continuing our work with industry partners to better meet the evolving needs of cancer patients, caregivers and their families and friends.

Maria Smith, Senior Director of Marketing & Corporate Development and Marcia Donziger, MyLifeLine.org Founder, at the organization's booth at ASCO.

Maria Smith, Senior Director of Marketing & Corporate Development and Marcia Donziger, MyLifeLine.org Founder, at the organization’s booth at ASCO.

Imerman Angels and MyLifeLine.org Partner To Bring Social Support Services to Cancer Patients and Caregivers

imerman-angels-partnership-mylifeline

Imerman Angels and MyLifeLine.org Cancer Foundation announce a new partnership to bring social and emotional support services to more people impacted by cancer. Imerman Angels, a global nonprofit that provides free one-on-one support to cancer fighters, survivors and caregivers, is joining with MyLifeLine.org, an organization that empowers cancer patients and caregivers to build an online support community of family and friends through free, personalized websites.

Imerman Angels, currently celebrating its 10-year anniversary, matches cancer fighters, survivors and caregivers with a Mentor Angel – a volunteer who has been through the same experience. Criteria including type of cancer, stage, age and lifestyle are all taken into account when making the matches.

MyLifeLine.org connects cancer patients and caregivers to their community of family and friends for social and emotional support by providing unique communication and stress reducing tools that allow patients and caregivers to share their journey and focus on healing.

Imerman Angels and MyLifeLine.org were both founded by young adults diagnosed with cancer, who realized during their fight that there was a void in the cancer community that needed to be filled: emotional and social support.

MyLifeLine.org founder Marcia Donziger was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when she was just 27 years old. She felt grateful, yet overwhelmed, by the number of calls she received from family and friends wanting an update on her condition. At times, she felt emotionally drained from repeating the same information over and over again. Marcia saw an opportunity to make a difference for other cancer patients, and began extending the benefit of a free, personal website to all cancer patients and caregivers through MyLifeLine.org.

Jonny Imerman, founder of Imerman Angels, was diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 26. Throughout his experience, Jonny was lucky enough to have loving support from his family and friends, but he had never met anyone his age who was a cancer fighter or survivor. He wanted to talk to someone who truly understood what he was going through, who was intimately familiar with his experience. In short, he was looking for someone around the same age who had survived the same type of cancer. This was the beginning of Jonny’s vision, which became a reality when he founded Imerman Angels.

“To date, Imerman Angels and MyLifeLine.org have provided support to over 175,000 cancer fighters, survivors, caregivers and their friends and family members, and hope to reach thousands more through our combined efforts. This partnership will significantly broaden the community and reach of both organizations, allowing us to help thousands more of those whose lives have been affected by cancer. The potential impact is enormous,” says Imerman Angels CEO and Executive Director Ben Bornstein, a three-time cancer survivor.

“This partnership offers cancer patients and caregivers two ways to receive social and emotional support through referrals and resources from both organizations,” says Pete Sheehan, MyLifeLine.org CEO. “Imerman Angels provides one-on-one support which is incredibly beneficial to people impacted by cancer. MyLifeLine.org allows patients and caregivers to connect with their entire community for inspiration and encouragement, which is a one-to-many support model. Together we will be able to help a greater number of cancer patients find the type of support service that best meets their needs. Our combined goal is to help get people through their cancer journey and achieve a positive outcome.”


For more information on MyLifeLine.org, visit www.MyLifeLine.org or call 888-234-2468.

For more information on Imerman Angels, visit www.ImermanAngels.org or call 866-IMERMAN (463-7626).

Subaru “Shares the Love” with MyLifeLine.org

MyLifeLine.org is excited and honored to be chosen by Shortline Subaru as a local charity beneficiary during Subaru of America’s annual “Share the Love” fundraising event.

For every new Subaru sold, Subaru donated $250 to the purchaser’s choice of one of the four national charities. Drivers in the Aurora and greater Denver area could instead choose to donate those dollars to two local charities, including MyLifeLine.org.

This successful campaign raised more than $76,000 for people affected by cancer who rely on MyLifeLine.org every day for social and emotional support services.

We would like to thank  Subaru of America, Shortline Subaru and its owners Don and Laurie Hicks for their active involvement with MyLifeLine.org and the local community.

Share the Love - Check Presentation 2016

MyLifeLine.org board and staff members accept the check for Subaru’s Share the Love event.