Tag Archives: emotional support

4 ways MyLifeLine.org can help during your cancer experience

When someone is diagnosed with cancer it’s easy for them to become overwhelmed with the influx of new information. Not only are they suddenly bombarded with doctor appointments, gathering resources, learning about their diagnosis and making treatment decisions, but there’s the family members and friends who want regular updates on progress and want to know how to help.

Returning every phone call, email and request for information can be exhausting. MyLifeLine.org Cancer Foundation is an important resource that can help relieve the burden of communication that cancer patients and caregivers often feel.

Here are a few ways MyLifeLine.org can help:MyLifeLine Features

  1. Build a Community of Support. Patients and caregivers can easily organize and coordinate the help they need using the Helping Calendar. Set up rides to treatment, a babysitter for the kids or a friend to bring meals, all through your MyLifeLine.org personal site.
  2. Communicate with Friends and Family. Patients can share updates on progress and treatment, or use the tool to journal about their experience, all in one central location. Patients often use MyLifeLine.org as an outlet and personal blog during their experience, and friends and family can leave comments of encouragement and support on each update.
  3. Collect Resources on Your Specific Cancer. The Learning Links tool enables patients to collect resources and share information about their specific cancer type with friends and family, so they can easily get a betterunderstanding of their diagnosis.
  4. Create a Personal Fundraiser. Friends and family can easily donate directly to the patient to help with treatment costs and other medical needs using PayPal through the Giving Angels tool on your MyLifeLine.org personal site.

Every day, MyLifeLine.org provides free, personal and private websites to cancer patients and caregivers to help them easily connect with family and friends, because every cancer patient should feel supported. A patient – or a friend or family member, can create a site and invite guests to visit and offer support. Click here to set up a MyLifeLine.org personal site and start building your online support community.

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Meet Laura, a Cancer Support Helpline counselor

This is a guest blog post by the Cancer Support Community (CSC). 

Are you newly diagnosed with cancer and unsure of what to do next? Or a longtime survivor looking for new resources? CSC’s toll-free Cancer Support Helpline (1-888-793-9355) is available to help you navigate every step of your cancer journey. Professionals like Laura, one of the Helpline’s licensed mental health professionals, are equipped to help you find the support you need!

CSC spoke with Laura to learn more about how she got involved with the Cancer Support Helpline and how it makes a difference in the lives of people touched by cancer.

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Laura, a Cancer Support Helpline professional

CSC: How did you become so interested in the cancer experience?

Laura: I found my passion for oncology work when I did my internship for my Master’s in Social Work degree at the Cancer Support Community (then The Wellness Community) in 1999-2000. While co-facilitating support groups and working one on one with cancer patients and their support persons, I began to understand how enriching this work really is. I’ve worked in the field of oncology social work ever since.

CSC: What type of training did you receive to become a call counselor for the Helpline?

Laura: First of all, I had my Master’s in Social Work degree and am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I also have extensive experience in the field of oncology social work, including pediatric oncology, support group facilitation, program development and evaluation as a former Program Director, and hospice experience. Once hired, though, I went through a specific and intensive training to become a call center counselor. We continue to be trained on some of the more technical aspects of the job, but also learn more of the clinical pieces, as we continue to expand on the services that we provide (i.e. Distress Screening, Open to Options, etc.)

CSC: What services does the Cancer Support Helpline provide?

Laura: We provide support for callers, in general. What that looks like from one call to the next, though, may vary. Some people are looking for resources. We try to assess their needs and educate them about both national and local resources that they could benefit from. Others are just looking for someone to talk to and process with. While we do not provide ongoing intensive counseling, we can provide people with compassion and understanding and sometimes just talk them through a difficult moment and then try to link them to those resources that will help them in the long term.

Outside of the “general”, we also have some more specific things that we can provide for callers. We can offer distress screening, which is a brief tool that is done online and helps identify where people are experiencing the most difficulty. That allows the caller to have better insight about their own distress and also allows us to more appropriately intervene. We also can provide our Open to Options program to those who have an upcoming doctor’s appointment where they will be deciding on some aspect of their treatment. The Open to Options tool is designed to help “fine tune” their questions and help them feel more organized for their appointment, in hopes of maximizing the time they have with the doctor.

CSC: What are some of the most common questions you receive on the Helpline?

Laura: There isn’t a specific question, per se, that comes to mind. What’s common, though, is the underlying “theme” of the questions, which is often the idea of “normalizing.” People need to know that what they are experiencing is “normal.” That alone seems to decrease anxiety and the sense of isolation that people feel when going through cancer.

Sometimes even reframing their perceptions can be helpful. For example, someone may express feeling “depressed.” While this can be “normal” depression, it might also be grief. Sometimes it helps people to think about things in a different way that doesn’t seem as “diagnostic.”

CSC: What do you find most rewarding about working for the Helpline?

Laura: To me, it’s the fact that people share their story and feelings with me during such a difficult time. It’s also the fact that, whether it’s through sharing information, offering support, or just listening, I might have some sort of positive impact on a person’s cancer journey. In a nutshell…it’s the connection with people that’s most rewarding.

CSC: Can you tell us about a particularly rewarding moment from working on the Helpline?

Laura: It may sound simple, but the most rewarding thing was when someone said to me, “My anxiety level has decreased significantly after talking to you.” I think this statement underscores the importance of people having a place they can call into where they feel safe and where they feel heard.

CSC: What is your favorite piece of advice to give to those who call the Helpline?

Laura: One piece of advice that would apply to everyone would be to simply give themselves “permission.” Whether that’s permission to grieve the many losses that come with a cancer diagnosis, permission to ask a question multiple times until they really understand the answer, permission to feel OK about getting a second opinion, permission to care for themselves in a way they never have before (such as join a support group or set limits with others)….the list goes on. I think people begin to cope better when they give themselves “permission.”

CSC: Why is the Cancer Support Helpline so important?

Laura: Because it gives people access to information and support who might not otherwise have access to it, knowledge of it, or feel comfortable reaching out in person.

Hopefully we can not only educate people about resources, but also help to “normalize” what they’re feeling in such a way that it helps them feel OK about seeking out the support that can help them along the way.

CSC: Who should call the Helpline?

Laura: Anyone who is touched by cancer in any way.

About Cancer Support Community: The mission of the Cancer Support Community (CSC) is to ensure that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action and sustained by community. As the largest, professionally led nonprofit network of cancer support worldwide, the Cancer Support Community delivers a comprehensive menu of personalized and essential services including support groups, educational workshops and social activities for the entire family at more than 100 locations and online. To learn more, call the Cancer Support Helpline at 888-793-9355 and check out the CSC blog.

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Patricia’s Breast Cancer Story

Patricia wasn’t alarmed after she was asked to have a follow-up mammogram. She was still calm when they followed up with an ultrasound and needle biopsy, both of which she’d previously completed with normal results.

It wasn’t until Patricia was introduced to a nurse navigator that she realized her medical team thought she had cancer.
“I could’ve been knocked down with a feather,” Patricia remembered upon learning her diagnosis. “I never, ever contemplated having cancer.”

The tumor was small, but somewhat aggressive, and her medical team told her that chemotherapy was a choice. She had to quickly make decisions on whether to have a lumpectomy or full mastectomy and what treatment plan she wanted to pursue for her Stage 1, Grade 2 breast cancer diagnosis.

Patricia quickly gathered information from a variety of people to make decisions for her treatment. She met with a surgeon, collected advice from other breast cancer survivors and researched online to assist her with the decision-making process.

“I was totally overwhelmed by how much I had to learn,” Patricia recalled. “It’s almost like getting a Ph.D. in breast cancer.”

She ultimately decided to have a lumpectomy, intraoperative radiation and chemotherapy. Patricia was so terrified for her first treatment that she didn’t even want to go in the door. She knew she had to conquer her fear and although the chemotherapy was hard on her body, it wasn’t as bad as she thought it might be.

“I’m pretty stubborn. I’d say ‘I can’t do this anymore’ but I knew I had to,” Patricia reflected.

The number of people who said nothing about her cancer surprised Patricia. She understood that people often don’t know what to say so they say nothing at all, but now that she’s experienced cancer she has a better idea of what to say to someone facing a cancer diagnosis.

“Even a hug is better than nothing,” Patricia advised. “Just acknowledge that you care and that you’re there to listen if they need someone to talk to.”

Patricia learned about MyLifeLine.org through a coworker and remembered being completely overwhelmed with the amount of support she received through her personal site. She invited only the people she knew would be supportive to follow her experience on MyLifeLine.org.

“I was very careful about whom I let read my blogs on my site, but I had thousands of visits during the time that I was blogging. It was huge knowing there were that many people who cared about me, even if they didn’t write anything,” Patricia explained.

She used blogging to write about how she felt during the many ups and downs of her experience. “I really explored how I was feeling by writing. It was therapeutic. The feedback from friends was encouraging,” she reflected.

Patricia’s advice to those facing a cancer diagnosis is to maintain a positive attitude. “Your attitude is the only thing you can control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation,” she said.

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The Cancer Journey: An Unplanned Detour to Your Life

About the author: Jeff Ward is a cancer survivor, no, actually a thriver, a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, certified Cancer Coach, dad, husband, and lover of nature and an adventurous life. The mission of his heart-based coaching is to help and inspire those affected by cancer, particularly cancer survivors who got a wake-up call from their cancer, to move from surviving to living a thriving life. You can reach Jeff at his website at www.jeff-ward.com, or email jeff@jeff-ward.com.

Cancer has a way of sending us off the path of our normal lives. One day we’re going about our business, doing what we do to live a normal life. Then, through whatever circumstances and events, we learn we have cancer, and our lives take a major detour; totally unplanned, totally not welcomed, and for some, the path of our lives will never be the same. I know when I was diagnosed, my life took a sharp turn to a place away from what was until then my everyday life.

The following paragraphs describe the seven stages to the path that a typical cancer patient experiences. Some people may experience variations of the journey or minor stages not listed (such as denial), but for the most part, these are the major steps most cancer patients experience to some level. Caregivers go through similar stages, though with a different perspective.

This journey can also apply to those dealing with other life-threatening diseases or life-altering events.

  1. Innocence – This is the stage where everything is normal in your life, where there is indeed a sense of innocence, of a normal energy level. There is no sign of what is about to happen. You may have something not quite right that may warrant a doctor visit, but there is no hint of cancer at this point. Life is good. For me, there were no symptoms – just a routine blood test for a yearly physical.
  2. The Call – This is when you first hear the word “cancer”, perhaps after undergoing some tests. Your life is about to change and you feel it deep inside. You are entering a new world and have no idea what’s ahead. It’s like you are being forced off a cliff edge, out of your control. I almost fell off my chair when my doctor told me I tested positive for cancer. I did feel my like my life was out of control.
  3. Initiation – This is the stage where you are introduced to medical terms, tests, treatment etc. that you aren’t used to and not expecting. Your body seems out of your control. You feel bewildered, lost, physically fatigued from treatment and not sure what’s next. Physically you’re not the same. Talking with doctors, looking at treatment plans, etc. was entirely new and scary to me. I was very healthy pre-cancer.
  4.  The Pit – The Pit is the low point in the journey. You feel fear, anxiety, negative energy. You don’t know how you’ll get out of this, or if you even will. It is dark and lonely and unpleasant. You feel out of control on all levels – mind, body and spirit. This is also the place of greatest growth, where you need to let go of certain old beliefs or something that no longer serves you. Then allies and hope and something new can be welcomed in. I went into the pit fairly quickly after my diagnosis, as my dad had died of the same cancer years before.
  5. Allies – Allies are anything that provides support, help, sense of trust, or a sense of forward direction. They can be people, spirituality, things, etc. Allies are always there, but take hold in your life when you start letting go of old ways and let go of limiting beliefs from the Pit stage. As you rise out of the Pit into this stage, you begin to understand how you have changed from pre-cancer to now. Listening to those who cared about me help me to let go of money and practical concerns and focus on what was important to my healing.
  6. Breakthrough – This is a time when you have hope, when you feel like you have more control of your life, when things are moving forward. There is a renewed sense of hope and future here. You are starting to feel unstuck, that you are more in control of your life, and starting to do things that reflect that. When I started to heal from my treatment, and realized that I could come out of this ok, I started to feel more hopeful on beating cancer.
  7. Celebration – Imagine being on the medal podium, celebrating your achievement – this is Celebration. It is a place where you celebrate what you’ve been through, who you’ve become, what you can do from here. There is a sense of accomplishment, that the worst is over, and you’re a new person and have learned from and embraced what you’ve been through. You see a new you, a new life. There is hope and possibility from this place. When I got my follow up testing results and was found to be cancer free, I felt a tremendous sense of relief, and a sense that I’ve been given a new lease on life to live more powerfully.

Some of the benefits of understanding this unplanned journey include:

  • It really is a journey with twists and turns, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually and mentally as well. There will be ups and downs.
  • Knowing where you are on this map can help you deal with some of the uncertainties and fears that cancer presents, so that you can live more powerfully through this experience
  • Being in touch with your raw emotions. Feeling and acknowledging (but not being stuck) where you are at deep inside is vital to your recovery.
  • You are not alone. Others have walked your path, and many more are on the wings ready to help
  • It can be a wake-up call to whatever you’ve been holding inside, to a new life
  • For most cancer patients, you will come out of this unplanned trip okay
  • You will learn about your authentic self, and perhaps be a changed person for the better

Healing, dealing with, and overcoming cancer involves more than just getting medical treatment. It also calls into play paying attention to the mind and spirit dimensions as well. While navigating the cancer journey is obviously unpleasant, it can be an opportunity to grow, and for those who survive, to push the re-set button to their life and perhaps be a changed person on a deeper, more authentic level.

So, where are you on your cancer journey roadmap? What have you learned about yourself on this journey? What will be different about your life? I’d love to hear your responses.

This cancer journey description is based on information from ©The Cancer Journey.

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New Beginnings After Breast Cancer – A Survivor’s Story

Gina Costa-Goldfarb is a breast cancer survivor and Certified Professional Coach and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner. She is the founder of New Beginnings Coaching Services, LLC. Gina helps women diagnosed with breast cancer cope, step-by-step, with the emotional and physical challenges they experience, so they gain confidence and feel in control of their life again. You can connect with Gina on her website, Facebook, or email gina@newbeginningswithgina.com.

So much comes up when we receive our initial cancer diagnosis. I remember receiving mine and I immediately reframed it to taking cancer out of the equation. I told my husband right there in the moment: “this isn’t cancer, this is the boob job I always wanted.” And yes, the tears definitely fell from my eyes throughout the experience, but I kept an Rx of humor in my back pocket along with many other coping skills I had collected over the years.

For me personally I was able to embrace a positive mindset immediately because of the lengthy and rocky relationship I had with cancer. I was caregiver to my mother who died of complications of being treated with chemo for her stage 4 ovarian cancer in 2001. She passed away and 3 days later I gave birth to my first born. To say the least, this was a very dark period for me but when I came out of it I vowed to turn all of my negative life events into positive ones. This was a conscious choice that I made on how I wanted to live my life moving forward. It helped me shed so much of the negativity that surrounded me as a child. It further lead me to being very proactive in my own health, pursuing genetic testing and becoming a top individual fundraiser for women’s cancers for an organization based in NYC and LA. Then I had the experience of my sister being diagnosed with breast cancer and a year later I received the same diagnosis.

I had a lot of tools to get me through my diagnosis and treatment. However, I still went through the entire process. Initially, I had feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious, followed by doubt and a little depression which ultimately lead me to acceptance. I had doubts on what my life would look like “after cancer” and how people would receive me. Getting through and to all of these emotions is key to getting to a place of peace and acceptance. When you get to that point you are fully able to accept what has been placed on your doorstep so that you can put your efforts into working on what you can control in your life and letting go of what you can’t. What you can do is take control of your health and your life from this point on.

Giving up control of “doing it all” for the sake of others and getting support is also critical, followed by self-care. There is no other way to fully heal unless you learn to go down this path. So many of my clients have trouble giving up the old mindset of: “If I don’t do it myself, it won’t get done” or finally coming to the place where they realize everything they have done up until this point in their lives has been to please others and they rarely do anything for themselves first. They get to a place where they realize that it is “OK” to allow them to receive!

You see, with a cancer diagnosis, not only do thoughts and emotions come up around a diagnosis and treatment, they also come up about who you are at your core. I am not one to minimize the impact of a cancer diagnosis (I saw my mother through her last days in hospice, they are forever etched in my mind and I have had my own physical and emotional journey with breast cancer) but I try to help my clients come to a place where they can see the opportunity to create awareness of who they are,  how they are living and how they can use this life altering experiencing to reassess their lives to reduce stress which feeds not only physical healing but in the mind as well and making choices to pursue the life you have always wanted to live. This can include looking at yourself and why you act as you do on a deeper level, looking at your relationships to see which serve you and those that do not, looking at the patterns in your lifestyle that have kept you on the same page and left you wondering why you are still there and so much more. When you go to your core to find out who you really are vs. who you think you should be, magical things can happen.

The next step is taking action and making choices to change your life. The choice is yours!

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Gina is the founder of New Beginnings Coaching Services where she helps women diagnosed with breast cancer cope with the emotional challenges they face.

 

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Study Finds Cancer Diagnosis Can Lead to Mental Health Disorders

A study published Monday in U.S. News and World Report, found that one in three people diagnosed with cancer experience a mental health disorder, such as anxiety or depression. Researchers in the study conducted interviews with more than 2,100 individuals with cancer between the ages of 18 and 75. This study reinforces the importance of the mental health of cancer patients—the core of MyLifeLine.org’s mission; to provide the online platform for social and emotional support for all people affected by cancer.

Here is a summary of the findings from the study published on Oct. 6 in the Health section of U.S. News and World Report:

  • About 32% of cancer patients experience a mental health disorder, while general population mental disorder rate is much lower at 20%
  • More than 40% of patients with breast, head and neck cancer and malignant melanoma had at least one mental health disorder
  • The lowest rates of mental disorder, around 20%, occurred among patients with pancreatic, prostate, stomach or esophageal cancers
  • Anxiety disorders is one of the most common mental health disorders affecting cancer patients
  • Breast cancer patients were twice as likely to experience a mental disorder than people with typically more fatal types of cancer, such as pancreatic or stomach cancer

MyLifeLine.org believes social and emotional support is as important as medical care in the face of a cancer diagnosis and provides anyone affected by cancer with a place to receive support for their mental health. Because every cancer patient should feel supported, every day we provide free, personal and private websites to help them easily connect with family and friends.

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Got Oncology Social Work?

This blog post is by Ann Fairchild, LCSW and member of the Oncology Advisory Council for MyLifeLine.org.

The Oncology Advisory Council is comprised of professionals in the field of Oncology including Oncology Doctors, Nurses and Social Workers. This group provides advice and guidance on our program offerings to people affected by cancer, vets our cancer resources to ensure the information we are providing is from solid and appropriate resources and offer education  and awareness about the trends in the area of Oncology, so we may better serve the patients, friends and families using MyLifeLine.org.

“I wish I had known you were here sooner.” That was an oft heard heartbreaking message I heard from patients and family members as an Oncology Social Worker. Here is the deal: (start eerie music..) Oncology Social Work is shrouded in mystery in many cancer treatment centers. I could have neon posters, flyers and brochures promoting Oncology Social Work (OSW) services and they were too easily passed over for the medical information available in a resource room. That was my rude awakening when I was lucky to score a full-time job in a physician practice in Austin in the late 1980′s. Cancer treatment was just moving out of inpatient settings for many patients, and physicians discovered the need to have a Social Worker on site to address the issues that often fall through the cracks in a medical setting. I quickly developed a lot of humility recognizing that people were not at the oncology clinic to visit me! The much more urgent medical needs trumped my offerings for good reason.

Who needs an OSW, anyway?

At the risk of academic boredom, Social Work theory views a person within the multiple systems that define their lives. We view a person’s constitution as a result of their communities, homes, families, schools, spirituality, job status, financial situations, friends, etc. When making an assessment, a SW cannot separate a person from his/her environment. This is the most important distinction one can make about how a social worker can be of help in a medical setting. Cancer can devastate one’s life upon diagnosis. Even if a person is feeling well, most of the treatments they will undergo will create challenges in their day to day lives.

There are significant emotional reactions as well, for a patient and their loved one. There are practical concerns like managing to continue in ones role prior to diagnosis: Will I be able to work? Will I be able to take care of my children? Will I be able to stay in school? How will my family cope with my illness? How will my illness affect my financial situation? Will I be disabled? Will I be disfigured? Am I eligible for any support services? What if I cannot drive myself to treatment? What if I have no insurance? Should I apply for disability? Will my doctor discontinue treatment if I cannot pay? These are concerns that can be addressed by an OSW. As well, a good part of my practice is spending time with caregivers and loved ones of patients. Matter of fact, there was a consensus among the couples I worked with that posited that the cancer experience is harder on the caregiver/loved one than it is on the patient.

Can we talk about that Elephant in the Room?

“I am not satisfied with my doctor but I am afraid if I change doctors he/she will be mad.” “I intend to live to 100, but just in case, can we talk about what my disease will be like at the end?” “I want to create a legacy project for my infant daughter, should I not survive.” “My sex drive is on a road trip somewhere, how can I get it back?” “I am so exhausted, I am thinking of quitting treatment.” “Would you help me write my will and get power of attorney documents?” “My friends say I look great since finishing treatment…. Why don’t I feel so great?”

Oncology Social Workers are counselors. Most have a master’s degree in Social Work and a tremendous amount of expertise in therapy and counseling. Due to heavy caseloads, most OSW’s focus on brief format counseling and group work which is most compatible with people with cancer. The shock, anxiety, fear and grieving can be addressed by an OSW. Should more significant needs arise, your social worker can refer you to a professional in the community. Good news is that most OSW’s salaries are covered by the physician practice so there are no charges for OSW services.

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Healing Spaces

This week’s guest blogger is Roberta Aberle, a MyLifeLine.org member. Born in Rapid City, South Dakota, but raised in Fort Collins, Colorado, Roberta Aberle has been surrounded by cancer her entire life. Diagnosed with the rare cancer, Primary Peritoneal Carcinoma Stage IIIC, on Leap Day, 2012; after a total hysterectomy in 2009 was performed to reduce her risk for developing cancer, Roberta has been both a fighter and advocate for rare, sub-types of cancer. “I’d love to see other cancers reach the level of awareness and fundraising that breast cancer has with the Susan G. Komen Foundation,” she says. Roberta has been on multiple treatment regimens since her diagnosis in 2012, with the goal remaining to see some phase of remission. Her treatment has included clinical studies, surgery, intraperitoneal/hyperthermic chemotherapy, but has also incorporated many holistic approaches such as journaling, meditation, aquatics and nutritional strategies. Her primary goal is to not only reach remission but to use her experience to help demystify the cloak around cancer for caregivers by speaking honestly and authentically about the insights gained living the role of a cancer patient.

In my travels this week, it was a huge reminder of how radical the pace of life truly is. Especially in places of mass transit, like an airport, the flurry of people racing one from place to another is astounding.  I used to be one of those people.  My life revolved around the next trip, the next big project, the next deadline, the next …. whatever.  I didn’t sleep enough hours a night, I worked too many long days, in fact, at this time of day on Friday, you’d sometimes still find me chained to my desk.

My weekends were ruled by all the errands and “need to do’s”, I would often say it was as if my weekends just ‘evaporated’ before I found myself back at work on a Monday morning far too fast.

It’s exhausting to even write about.

Then I got my diagnosis and so much of that life came to a screeching halt.  Of course, it picked up pace with other types of activities; tests, scans, labs, treatments, etc. And before I knew it I was back living a frenetic pace.  I even worked some days before my chemotherapy because I had a few hours beforehand.  That’s a little extreme even I can finally admit.

For some reason, this week I realized that I cannot possibly keep up with my old pace now.  I am too worn out from all of the tests, labs and appointments, too fatigued by the treatments, too weak from the assaults on my body.

But rather than feeling discouraged by these restrictions, I understand their purpose.

I need to heal.  I have taken in about as much chemotherapy as a person can and I kept right on functioning to a degree.  I have been out of weekly treatments for barely a month and yet I keep asking myself when I am going to feel stronger and more energetic.

Talk about expecting too much too soon.

This week I stumbled upon a variety of ways to help myself heal in the most unexpected ways.  Whether staring at a long stretch of road or even waiting out airport delays; there is the opportunity to focus on healing.  We have the power to create our own healing space in the midst of whatever surrounds us.  It doesn’t have to be a place, it doesn’t require tons of effort nor does it have to consume a great amount of time.

Instead of getting sucked into the stride of others, the nuisances of public places, the inevitable down time that comes with any commute, job or nearly any endeavor these days, I let my mind drift to a mantra or literally just focused on the purity of the moment to avoid the headache associated with racing around.  You don’t have to be able to go to a spa or sanctuary to escape the busyness of life. You can escape into your own healing space.

In flight, scrunched into a window seat, the flight oversold, overhead bins burgeoning and the requisite crying baby in the seat directly in front of me, I focused on the plumes of clouds that we climbed through, marveling at their majesty. The billows stretched as far as you could see, a virtual ocean of white, formations crafted from the swirling and fluid mist. It was like flying through a piece of art. The beauty of it brought tears to my eyes. Those big tears that literally cascade from your eyes and saturate your face.  I found a space to heal.

At nightfall with the satiny feel of cool linen against my skin, atop a cushiony bed with the comforting smell of the night air wafting in the window brought another brief moment to reflect on healing.  Breathing in the scent of fresh-brewed coffee before turning on any technological gadget, yet another space to think about healing.

Woven in throughout the day, in the simplest of acts, it is possible to escape the rat race.

It doesn’t feel like an effort, it doesn’t feel forced, it doesn’t even feel like another thing I should make myself do.  It feels natural and welcome.  By sheer observation and trying not to contrive something else to add to my routine as a goal or a task, it is possible to just use awareness of your surrounding as a means to heal.  The colors, the sights, the scents, the patterns, the vibrancy, the sounds, the tastes, are all facets to appreciate in any situation.

All it takes is the recognition to pause, to find what is unique in every moment that can contribute toward healing and remind myself, “I am healing.  I am healing.  I am healing.”healing spaces

One Day at a Time

Tricia, Post Author

When you are diagnosed with cancer, one of the first things you do is to try learn everything you possibly can about the heart-wrenching news you have received.  You have so many questions and you want the answers to all of those questions NOW.

What is a fine needle aspiration and core biopsy?  How much does it hurt (needle = pain!)?  How is a biopsy performed?  Will they use anesthesia?  What is pathology and what do all the results mean?  What does Stage 2B mean?  What is a lymph node?  How do cancer cells grow and more importantly, how do I stop them?  Did I cause the cancer?  What is a lumpectomy?  If I have surgery, will it get all of the cancer?  Will I need chemo?  If I do, will I be sick or lose my hair?  What is radiation?   What is a port?  Does it hurt when it is installed in your chest?  How is blood drawn from a port?  What??  There is a needle in your vein??

Then you start asking the even harder questions of yourself.  WHY ME? I have been kind, generous, loving and joyful.  I am a good wife, mom and friend. I have dreams to finish.   I want to see who my children will become.  I want to see them graduate, go to college, marry, raise a family, and experience the joy of grandchildren.  I want to retire with my husband, travel, spend time together after raising a family.  Will I die before my dreams come true?  Do I need to write down the “Bucket List” and start crossing things off TODAY?  Why did I wait to do the things that I always said I was going to do?

Cancer gives you more questions than answers.  My oncologist nurse, Tammy, gave me the best advice.  Tammy said to enjoy the things that I can, when I can and to take it ONE DAY AT A TIME.  She told me to not get ahead of myself or to insist that I know all of the answers immediately.   Pray, meditate, laugh, cry, research carefully, talk, love, hug, but most of all, one step, one day at a time.   Learning this helped me at doctor appointments, before and after surgeries, through chemo, radiation, reconstruction and even today, 4 years later as a “survivor”.  I always have the fear that my cancer will return but I don’t allow that fear to overwhelm me.  I accept that it will always be with me but I take it one day at a time, enjoying my life with my husband, my children as they grow, marry and bless us with grandchildren!

One day at a time.

 

My Dad, My Hero – A Cancer Story

I will never forget April 25, 2013. I was representing MyLifeLine.org at a conference for oncology nurses, telling them about the free support services our nonprofit provides for cancer fighters and their friends and family, when I got a call from my Step Mom, with news that my Dad had just been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. My Dad had been experiencing a lot of unexplainable abdominal pain and while I suspected this would be the diagnosis, I was shocked, sad, scared, and numb all at the same time.

I spent the remainder of the conference educating nurses who came to the Mylifeline.org booth about our services, grateful to be keeping busy instead of dwelling on thoughts about my Dad. I was also comforted knowing one of them just might be taking care of him. My Dad loved his nurses.

When I did talked to my Dad after returning from the conference, he said “I want you to know that I am okay with this”; he sounded so calm. I felt comforted by his voice and he sounded just like my Dad pre-diagnosis.  After we hung up, my thoughts returned to the road ahead for him. I was sad and scared for what he was about to face with his treatment.

My sister and I were able to visit him in Florida a few weeks later. He was three weeks into daily radiation and weekly chemo treatments and doing remarkably well. His appetite was good, he felt good. I remember one night while we were out for dinner, he held my hand. I had tears in my eyes and kept my head down so he wouldn’t see. The last thing I wanted was for him to have to comfort me when he was the one who needed comfort. Thinking back, I am sure he knew and in the true role of a parent he was comforting me. The last time I saw my Dad, I hugged and kissed him good-bye three times. I told him to be well. I didn’t know that would be the last time I would see him.

My dad passed away on July 18, 2013 after being in Hospice for just a few hours. Nothing prepares you for what you will feel. I felt deep sadness. Sadness for my Step Mom, who must now live without her life partner and sadness that my Daddy was gone.  The man who supported me through all life’s ups and downs. Our relationship was not always perfect, it was only within the last decade that we gre closer and I’m so grateful we had that time together even though it was mostly long distance.

It has taken me some time to be able to write this story. I will remain forever grateful for the kindness and compassion everyone has shown me and my family around the loss of my Dad. I can only hope to have the opportunity to repay that kindness and consideration.  I will take this experience and use it to better serve those who come to MyLifeLine.org, whether they seek to give support to a patient or get support from friends and family.

I have the honor and privilege of serving MyLifeLine.org as its CEO and remain humbled by this opportunity to provide a solution for the communication needs that arise when someone is faced with a cancer diagnosis. Please consider using MyLifeLine.org. While you may not be able to control what is happening to you or a loved one health wise, you can control how you give or get support.  To those using MyLifeLine.org, I remain inspired every day by your courage and spirit and thank you for trusting MyLifeLine.org to provide a tool that will help you receive emotional support. I also thank you for letting me honor my Dad by telling my story because in my world, he was my hero.

 

 

Melissa Bowen is the current Chief Executive Officer for MyLifeLine.org and a regular contributor to this blog.