Lisa’s Story of Help and Hope

November 10, 2014

After Lisa was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2009, she turned to her reiki practice, a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing, to help make sense of it all.

“When I was initially told I that have cancer, of course, I was shocked. I turned white in the doctor’s office,” remembers Lisa, a certified reiki master and holistic practitioner. I immediately went into survivor mode. It was surreal, bizarre.”

Lisa soon underwent a lumpectomy and radiation and credits her spiritual tools for helping her through the difficult time. “I don’t believe in giving cancer power. I just called it the ‘C’ and I’d imagine Pac-Man eating away all the diseased cells out of my body. I had to do a lot of spiritual work on that.”

At times, Lisa found herself overwhelmed by her diagnosis and subsequent treatment. “I felt like I was getting lost in the shuffle and had to be my own advocate. It was hard to navigate all of this. It was like a full time job – getting a second, third opinion. The key to it was listening to my intuition as my guide, as it always leads me in the right direction.”

After learning that many of her medical bills wouldn’t be covered by insurance, Lisa turned to CancerCare. “I couldn’t believe that I was being hit with all of these bills while I was still going through treatment. CancerCare guided me in the process of receiving financial assistance. They really gave me a lot of tools that helped me and for that I’ve been so grateful.”

Lisa always knew that she would give back to those who helped her one day. She began putting her skills as a reiki master to use for a greater good. Each October, for the last three years, Lisa has donated her reiki income to CancerCare’s free support services. She also uses her healing skills to perform reiki on people going through cancer treatment. “Reiki is gentle but yet powerful. It gave me hope, inner strength and released lots of anxiety and stress.”

“I feel blessed that I came across CancerCare. They helped me when my insurance company failed me and left me with a huge portion of the bills. What I received, no words can describe.”

When Lisa was previously diagnosed with chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS), which has no cure, she was led to find alternative ways to heal. Since that time, Lisa has regained her health and strength and has been dedicated to healing, teaching and empowering others with cancer or any other type of illness. To learn more about Lisa’s story, visit her site.

 


CancerCare Oncology Social Worker Pens Inspirational Book for Families

November 5, 2014

Communicating with a child whose parent has been diagnosed with a chronic illness can be both confusing and overwhelming. As CancerCare’s Healing Hearts Program Coordinator, Claire Grainger, MSW, LCSW works closely with families to help navigate these challenges.

Based on her professional experience and expertise, Claire has written the recently published book “My Daddy Sits Upon a Star.”

According to the publisher, the book follows the life of a child whose father has been diagnosed and later dies of a chronic illness. The story shares how, even though the child misses his father’s physical presence, he is able to develop a way to maintain an everlasting connection to his father’s spirit.

Claire was first inspired to write the story after forming a lasting bond with her neighbor, Joey. At six years old, Joey experienced the loss of his father to pancreatic cancer, and Claire and her husband quickly stepped in to help the family cope.

“Joey is an only child and had no immediate family in the area. His mother, Kathy, is incredibly independent and stepped outside of her comfort zone to ask if we could help watch her son one night each week while she worked,” said Claire. “We became family in no time and forged a lasting relationship with love. We are connected and are there for each other.”

Claire penned the story and began reading it to Joey during their time together. “He loved the book. I wanted him to think about his dad in his everyday life and carry on the amazing bond that they shared. I wanted him to look out into the universe and still see his father.”

Joey, now a 22-year-old college student, has volunteered for the last three years at CancerCare’s Healing Hearts Family Bereavement Camp and other CancerCare fundraising events. “I think he sees himself in the children at the camp because he has been in their shoes. He wants to show them that he’s still connected to his dad and he’s ok.”

“This experience has taught me that even from a really difficult time, some really poignant and meaningful events and relationships can evolve,” said Claire. “This is a book for anyone who has suffered a loss. It can bring peace in knowing that you will never forget your loved one and that you can let them continue to inspire you.”

CancerCare provides free, professional support services for people who have experienced the loss of a loved one to cancer, as well as grief and loss information and additional resources.

Claire Grainger, MSW, LCSW

 


Coping When Your Loved One Has Cancer

September 5, 2014

Resources for Adolescents and Young Adults

Most teens and young adults face the everyday challenges of school, jobs and relationships. But if you are a teen or young adult who is also caring for a loved one with cancer, you know firsthand how a cancer diagnosis can bring on a whole new set of concerns. You may suddenly find yourself adjusting to the role of caregiver; someone who provides emotional and practical support. Here are some things you can do to help you cope:

Keep in mind that being a caregiver can mean many things. As an adolescent or young adult, you may not be the primary caregiver, but know that your role is still valuable. Whether you are thousands of miles away from your loved one or living in the same household, it is important that you are involved in ways that are meaningful both for yourself and the person with cancer. You can help your loved one by making phone calls, going to doctors’ appointments, cooking a meal, or offering emotional support.

Communicate with your loved one. Having an open dialogue with your loved one can help gain mutual understanding and can clearly outline your role as a caregiver. Talk to each other about the changes that are happening and how you both are coping. Acknowledge that you may see things differently, and explore ways to come together when you can.

Make your care a priority, too. Maintaining your own responsibilities, commitments, and lifestyle are all important in ensuring that your needs are met as you care for a loved one. Take advantage of down time to read a book, take a walk, listen to music, meditate, or spend time with friends.

Seek support. There are more people affected by cancer at your age than you may think. Connecting to a support group can help ease feelings of isolation, provide emotional and practical support, and help maintain aspects of your life that were important before cancer. Individual counseling with a professional oncology social worker can help you prioritize your responsibilities, set goals, and find better ways to cope with being a caregiver.

Remember that you are not alone. CancerCare has additional free resources tailored specifically for the needs of adolescents and young adults.

 

 


The Benefits of Joining a Support Group

August 27, 2014

People with cancer and their caregivers sometimes feel that other people, unless they’ve been through it themselves, don’t really understand or “get it.” Or they don’t want to burden their families or friends with their worries: Why do I feel so bad? What will happen to me?

Joining a support group is an opportunity to meet with people who are going through similar experiences. By expressing your thoughts and feelings and sharing what you’ve learned, you may begin to feel less alone. Group members exchange valuable information and tips with one other including where to find reliable medical information, how to communicate better with their doctors, and what useful resources are available. Groups provide a safe space in which individuals can voice their feelings, concerns, and anxieties without fear of judgment or reproach.

One support group member shares her experience and gratitude. “The people in this group have become family to me. They understand the roller coaster ride. I can cry here and I can share tender stories here. I can share the rays of sunshine as they come. I am grateful to CancerCare for facilitating this group – I don’t know what I would have done without it.”

All of CancerCare’s support groups are led by oncology social workers. These professionals help the group achieve its goal of providing support to members, and can also help members individually as needed. Groups meet face-to-face, over the telephone and online.

If you’re feeling alone and needing information and emotional support, a group might be a valuable way of connecting with people to help you cope with your situation. CancerCare has many free support groups that may be a fit for you or your loved one. And if a support group is not a good fit, you may consider individual counseling.


Susan’s Story of Help and Hope

August 14, 2014

The family at Henri’s 5th birthday party

Susan faced many challenges after her husband Chris was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. One of the greatest was figuring out the best way to talk about cancer with their five-year-old son Henri.

“Henri knows that something is wrong and I’m sure he knows more than he is able to articulate. He knows that daddy is sick,” shares Susan.

After searching online, Susan called CancerCare in search of resources to help Henri understand and cope. An oncology social worker suggested The Comfort Pillow Activity to help the family communicate with one another and feel more comfortable talking about cancer. The Activity includes a pillow that can be customized and designed to bring a child comfort, as well as a booklet and additional resources that help to initiate therapeutic conversations.

“CancerCare and their resources have been so helpful. Chris and Henri sat on the floor together, spread out all of the kit materials and colored on the pillow. It was a really great exercise for Chris – a really special bonding moment and it’s something they’ll always have together.”

The pillow features Henri’s favorite things including superheroes, rainbows, planets and rocket ships. “Henri sleeps with the pillow every night. He traced hearts on one side and wrote ‘Henri, Dad and Mom’ in each of the hearts.”

Sue feels the activity has brought the family closer and has allowed them to have difficult conversations about cancer. “When Chris has to leave for chemotherapy, he is oftentimes gone before Henri wakes up and doesn’t return until after Henri goes to bed. On those days, Henri can pull out the pillow and know that he is loved and can read the special message on an enclosed heart from his dad.”

 

 


Finding Support for the Cancer Caregiver

July 7, 2014

If you are helping to care for a loved one with cancer, you are a “caregiver.” It can be an incredibly rewarding role, but it can also take an emotional and physical toll. You need support, too.

Some caregivers find it difficult to ask for help. You may feel embarrassed or like you’re imposing on others. But getting help is important—for both for you and the person you are caring for.

The website Help for Cancer Caregivers was created especially to help you take care of yourself, while you take care of your loved one.

CancerCare client Kathryn opened up about her caregiving experience after her husband was diagnosed with melanoma. “One of the biggest challenges that I was facing as a caregiver was feeling the need to be ‘on’ all the time, feeling that I had to be the one who remained strong and healthy. I was surrounded by people who loved both of us and supported us, but there was no one in the room who really understood what I was going through.”

To be the best caregiver for your loved one, seek support and information from others. Caregivers who receive help report feeling less isolated, anxious and depressed. And, having a community of support can free up their time and help them maintain their physical and emotional well-being, which in turn makes them better able to care for their loved one.

“Some of the most important things to keep in mind while caring for a loved one is that it’s important to listen to them and give them a safe space, but also to have them listen to you and let them take care of you a little bit sometimes,” shared Kathryn.

Help for Cancer Caregivers is a unique collaboration of organizations with a shared goal of improving the health and well-being of the people who care for people with cancer. CancerCare has additional resources dedicated to helping you cope, including support groups, publications and podcasts. For additional help, reach out to one of our oncology social workers by calling 800-813-HOPE (4673).

 


Families Remember Loved Ones at CancerCare’s Healing Hearts Bereavement Camp

June 26, 2014

 

Thirty families recently joined together to spend the weekend at CancerCare’s Healing Hearts Bereavement Camp – a retreat for those coping with the loss of a loved one to cancer. The camp combines fun activities such as swimming and horseback riding with therapeutic grief activities.

“The camp is a place where the families can come together and not feel different. They meet others who have experienced a similar loss and they don’t have to explain anything to one another; they can just come together and have fun,” said Kathy Nugent, MSW, LCSW, CancerCare director of social service. “There are a lot of tears, but there is also so much laughter. They’ve all found new friends – people that understand. Our hope is that they all made a lasting connection.”

This year’s camp featured a butterfly theme, focusing on metamorphosis and healing. Families were given the opportunity to create butterfly collages honoring their loved ones and ended the weekend with a ceremonial butterfly release.

The sixth annual camp was held at Malibu Dude Ranch in Milford, PA from June 13 through June 15. The free retreat was made possible by our dedicated supporters at Eisai.

You can view more photos from the Healing Hearts Bereavement Camp or watch a video of the song, “Fly Butterfly Fly,” written and performed by Meaghan Farrell, Andy McNamara and teens at the camp.

 


Coping with Lung Cancer: Arlene’s Story

May 27, 2014

Arlene visiting the CancerCare Wig Clinic

During a routine annual check-up with her physician, Arlene C. learned that after 15 years in remission, her lung cancer had returned. “The cancer had come back – an aggressive one. Surgery and chemo. That’s when it all began,” shared Arlene.

Arlene knew that chemo meant she would likely lose her hair and she wanted to prepare herself for the physical change and the accompanying emotions she might experience. Her daughter-in-law mentioned that CancerCare had resources that could help.

After making an appointment at the New York City-based CancerCare Wig Clinic, Arlene and a friend met with an oncology social worker to discuss her treatment and the challenges she was facing. She was also fitted for her new wig and given a care package to help her through the next few months.

“I went to CancerCare and was treated royally,” said Arlene. “I was expecting the hair loss, but it was still a shock to my system. But I didn’t make myself or anyone else nuts over it and, before I turned around, I had hair again.”

Arlene was touched by the care she received and made a donation to the organization and wrote a poem about her experience. “I made a donation in honor of the CancerCare staff who just made my day in many ways with their caring and comfort.”

 

“Daze of Chemo”

By Arlene C.

The doctor called, “We have to talk”

I set the date to learn my fate

Aggressive cancer

Surgery then chemo

The next step was to embark with my children Susan and Mark

Where to go for my chemo?

Mark thought I should be closer to him in Sag Harbor for treatments

But we let that rest and went with the alternative that was best

The calendar was marked for the days, the hours, but not my mind or body

Mark and Susan were with me all the way

I made a promise I couldn’t sway or betray

Where do I begin?

The daze of chemo was upon me

I was never good at acting

But in the end I knew I was going to win a trophy as the best robot

Where do I begin?

My battle began with anxiety, brain loss – especially names

Stomach problems, low blood pressure

All of this caused by the very strong dosage given

However they changed the recipe and I was cooking again

And then the crowing glory

I lost all my hair

Susan bought me a hat

CancerCare gave me a wig

And I amassed some turbans, etc.

Everyday became a chore

Trying to match headwear with outfits

The one good perk was I didn’t have to buy shampoo

Six months later, after two PET scans, I’m clean

Is there anything else to do but thank God and all my friends that prayed for me?

Not done yet

I had my own unveiling

Tossed the turbans, etc. and showed my head off

Everyone loved my new hair do

I truly felt I went from being a robot to queen for a day

 


CancerCare Recognizes the Importance of Cognitive Behavior Therapy for People Affected by Cancer

March 24, 2014

CancerCare Social Work Staff and Training Instructors

CancerCare‘s staff of oncology social workers recently received in-depth training on the use of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for anyone affected by a cancer diagnosis. CBT is a therapeutic model that focuses on empowering the client to create coping mechanisms for life stressors and issues that otherwise compromise the quality of life.

“CBT is a model that fits the CancerCare counseling approach and is appropriate for the person with cancer, the caregiver and the bereaved,” said CancerCare Director of Clinical Services William Goeren, LCSW-R, ACSW, BCD.

One featured topic, “Body Image Issues after Cancer Treatment,” explored the multiple factors affecting body image and the outcomes of CBT and mindfulness interventions.

The training was lead by Szilvia Vas, health psychology researcher and member of the British Psychological Society; Andrea Ryder, Macmillan therapist; Ashley Yarwood, Macmillan therapist; and Jeanette McCarthy Macmillan director.

CancerCare provides free services for anyone affected by cancer. View all of CancerCare’s body image resources and learn more about our counseling services.

 


Free Yoga Workshop at Our NYC Office

August 23, 2012

CancerCare will hold a free yoga workshop at its national office in New York City on Wednesday, September 5 from 1:30-2:30pm. The workshop, “Gentle Yoga,” will be led by a certified yoga instructor and focus on meditative breathing, relaxation, and gentle movement.

Learn more about the workshop.

Relaxation techniques such as yoga and deep breathing exercises can help calm the mind and reduce stress. Some treatment centers have programs to teach people with cancer and caregivers the basics of relaxation or meditation. There are also a number of audio recordings and publications on this subject that provide step-by-step instructions, such as CancerCare’s free fact sheet on relaxation techniques and mind/body practices.

Leading experts in mind/body practices recently answered listeners’ questions during our Connect Education Workshop, “Using Mind/Body Techniques to Cope with the Stress of Survivorship.” Listen to the workshop.

Certified yoga instructor Marian Paglia will lead “Gentle Yoga.”

CancerCare’s “Gentle Yoga” workshop is free, although registration is required. Call 800‑813‑HOPE (4673) or email info@cancercare.org to register.

Don’t live in the New York City area? CancerCare’s professional oncology social workers can help you find a yoga workshop or mind/body program in your community. Call 800-813-HOPE (4673) to speak with a social worker.