Vera’s Story of Help and Hope

December 16, 2014

Advocating for the well-being of others has always been a priority for Vera, who is the founder of a career advancement firm specializing in diversity recruiting. But she quickly began to realize the importance of advocating for oneself after being diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2014.

“I didn’t know a thing about breast cancer. I was totally in the dark and only knew that I’d been lucky up to this point,” shares Vera, 71. “There was urgency and I had to be aggressive to get what I needed. I had to make sure that I was taken care of the way I needed to be taken care of.”

Vera soon underwent an MRI, biopsy and surgery to remove the tumor. Chemotherapy and radiation followed in her treatment plan. “I hated going to chemotherapy the first day and then saw that I had to change my attitude. My friend said you have to be grateful because how many women out there with cancer don’t have access to treatment. That changed my thinking and I started to see that people were there to help me. They were my friends, not my enemies, so I went in with a smile.”

Throughout her treatment, Vera leaned on a network of caregivers and was referred to CancerCare through several members of her synagogue. “I’ve been very open about my diagnosis and that has been part of the support. The people in my synagogue are very supportive, always asking me what they can do. Some have even begun telling me how they’ve survived cancer and it has been very inspiring. It shows me that I’ll have a long healthy life ahead of me.”

Vera credits her CancerCare oncology social worker for helping to navigate the emotional, physical and practical challenges associated with her diagnosis. “I received total support from Alison. Total understanding of how I felt and that I was not crazy. I couldn’t have gotten through this without her.”

Through her cancer experience, Vera says she has become a much stronger and more compassionate person. “I used all of my survival skills. They were put into play as soon as I had that mammogram and heard the doctor say, ‘Oops it looks like we’ve got something here.’ I went into gear immediately.”

“I’ve learned to be really very supportive of other people and what they’re going through. Everyone needs people to care about them, to love them, to be thinking about them and hoping that they are going to be ok. Everybody needs it. It’s really been a huge lesson for me and has made me very aware of how fragile we are.”

Continuing to do the work that she loves, maintaining a positive outlook and staying up to date on cancer treatment information has helped Vera to heal and regain a sense of normalcy.

“One message I would share after going through this is to advocate for yourself every minute. You’ve got to stand up for yourself. No one knows what you need better than you.”

 

 

 

 


Family Conversations about Cancer

December 2, 2014

Cancer is a difficult subject to talk about, and many parents coping with a diagnosis may try to avoid the topic in fear that they will upset their children. What to say about cancer, how to say it, and how much information to share are common concerns.

Through my work at CancerCare, I have found that the use of art therapy can help families to communicate about cancer.

As one example of a creative project that can bring families together, CancerCare, with a sponsorship from Bayer, recently developed a free at-home activity kit to help start these discussions, called “Pillow Talk: Conversations about Cancer.”

Families who are supporting a loved one with cancer can order a free Pillow Talk Care Package that includes a hands-on, pillow-decorating project as well as materials that will help initiate those often-difficult conversations. With this care package, families can bring a blank pillow to life—it has a sleeve for pictures or special notes, fabric markers, and decorative materials that lets families’ creative expression drive the discussion.

CancerCare client Susan, of Connecticut, was faced with figuring out the best way to start the difficult cancer conversation with her 5-year-old son after her husband Chris’ diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer. Susan and her son sat together and colored the pillow that now features her son’s favorite things—superheroes, rainbows, planets, and rocket ships. On those long days when Chris is away at treatment, Susan’s son pulls out the pillow and reads the special messages his father left for him in the pouch.

 

Guest blogger Sandra Tripodi, MSW, LCSW, CancerCare Senior Director of Community Engagement

 

 

 

 


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.

 


Helpful Resources Available in Time for National Family Caregivers Month

November 3, 2014

Kathryn and her husband Jonah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As more patient care is happening within the home, caregivers are becoming increasingly responsible for providing ongoing emotional and practical support. However, fewer than 15 percent of caregivers seek professional help in addressing their own physical, emotional and financial needs. In celebration of National Family Caregivers Month, CancerCare encourages caregivers to seek out support.

Helpful resources are now available to address the unique needs of those caring for a loved one. A new online tool called Help for Cancer Caregivers provides personalized information to help monitor, track and manage the challenges each person faces in their caregiver role. For example, if individuals feel overloaded by their caregiver responsibilities, the web tool responds with information on how to cope and talk about overload with others.

“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,” shares Kathryn, a cancer caregiver. “I was having a very hard time socially because 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.”

National Family Caregivers Month is an opportunity to advocate for those who provide care for loved ones. It is also a time to advocate for support and to provide education and resources for those playing this vital role.

Help for Cancer Caregivers is a collaboration of organizations with a common goal of reducing family caregiver distress: Caregiver Action Network, CancerCare, Indiana University, Johnson & Johnson, Michigan State University, Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company, Onyx Pharmaceuticals, an Amgen subsidiary, and WellPoint. Help for Cancer Caregivers continues to lead and innovate in the field of cancer caregiving.

CancerCare has additional resources for caregivers including support groups, counseling services, podcasts, educational materials and more. 

 


Palliative Care Inches Toward Standard of Care

October 29, 2014

The Inaugural Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium made its debut in Boston on October 24, 2014. Jointly sponsored by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM), American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) and the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC), this marks the first major meeting of cancer specialists and clinicians who focus on relieving symptoms.

Palliative care is specialized medical treatment that focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness. It improves quality of life for both the patient and the family.

Traditionally, palliative care has been accessed only toward the end of life. Many recent studies however, have shown that introducing it earlier into cancer patients’ care plans results in improved quality of life, living longer and lower medical costs. Patients and families may resist palliative services because they associate the term with hospice and end of life. This problem of semantics often results in patients not being adequately treated for debilitating symptoms such as pain, nausea and fatigue.

It’s time to correct these misconceptions and help patients access the care they need, be it medical, emotional, spiritual, financial or otherwise. Through palliative care, people affected by cancer will benefit from improved symptom management, reduced stress and overall, a better quality of life.

Want to know more? Visit cancer.gov or cancer.net for additional resources.

Our guest blogger is CancerCare Chief Executive Officer Patricia J. Goldsmith.

 


Financial Assistance Available for People with Pancreatic Cancer

October 27, 2014

 

CancerCare recently announced a new national grant, generously provided by Celgene, available for people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The “CancerCare Get You There” program will assist both men and women with transportation costs associated with their cancer treatment. Applicants must be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and meet additional eligibility guidelines. To apply or learn more, call 800-813-HOPE (4673).

“A cancer diagnosis is a very difficult time for many families financially and costs such as transportation can oftentimes prevent our clients from receiving proper treatment,” said CancerCare Director of Patient Assistance Programs Jane Levy. “Thanks to Celgene, these individual grants will help to alleviate some of the financial stress for people coping with pancreatic cancer.”

CancerCare offers additional services for anyone affected by pancreatic cancer, including support groups, counseling, podcasts and educational materials.

 

 


A Conversation with CancerCare CEO Patricia J. Goldsmith

October 16, 2014

 The latest edition of  The ASCO Post features a conversation with CancerCare’s CEO Patricia J. Goldsmith. In the article, Goldsmith shares her personal story and her exciting vision for the organization. Please enjoy a few of our favorite excerpts from the article.

Our CEO’s Unique Perspective

Eleven days before Patricia J. Goldsmith, joined CancerCare as its CEO last May, she received the unexpected news that she had early-stage colorectal cancer. While the diagnosis was shocking, Ms. Goldsmith said it gave her a unique perspective on what it means to have this serious disease and a greater understanding of the emotional and financial impact cancer has on the more than 170,000 people nationwide who turn to CancerCare each year for support.

“Getting my cancer diagnosis made the work we do at CancerCare very personal,” said Ms. Goldsmith. “Having cancer changed everything, including my outlook on what is important in life. I think getting the diagnosis just before starting my new position was meant to be, because it gave me an even greater appreciation of the important services the organization provides to people affected by this disease.”

About the Organization’s Vision

My overarching vision is to help the organization further expand its mission to provide support to anyone who has experienced a cancer diagnosis or been touched by cancer in some way.

About the Future of CancerCare

We are in a moment of transformation as an organization moving from what we currently are to what we will be in the future. Our ultimate aim is to be the most active support and advocacy organization in health care providing the highest-quality services to improve the lives of those affected by cancer.

To read more of the conversation, visit The ASCO Post.

 


Caribou Coffee Partners with CancerCare to Support Anyone Affected by Breast Cancer

October 1, 2014

For the third year, Caribou Coffee has partnered with CancerCare for a month-long promotion during which 10 percent of all Amy’s Blend Collection purchases benefit CancerCare’s free support services. The Amy’s Blend promotion honors Caribou Coffee’s original roastmaster Amy Erickson who lost her battle with cancer in 1995.

From September 27, 2014 to October 31, 2014, Caribou Coffee will donate 10% percent of all Amy’s Blend Collection purchases directly to CancerCare with a minimum of $100,000 donation to CancerCare.

“There are more than 2.8 million women in our country who currently are battling or have battled breast cancer,” CancerCare CEO, Trish Goldsmith. “We are thrilled Caribou Coffee is joining us again this October to support and uplift our strong community of patients, survivors, families and friends.”

Caribou Coffee’s original roastmaster Amy Erickson

To learn more about Caribou Coffee Amy’s Blend, visit Amy’s Home.

 


Family Brings Holiday Cheer and Hope to Anyone Affected by Cancer

September 17, 2014

The Facilla’s home

John and Josephine Facilla have decorated their Long Island home for the past 35 holiday seasons. The display started off small and has grown to include more than 10,000 lights and an elaborate Santa’s Workshop.

“Decorating brings our family and the community together. Usually after Halloween I start putting the display up and I go crazy,” said John.

Josephine, a three-time cancer survivor, and her husband wanted to spread holiday cheer as well as make a difference for a cause close to their hearts.

Left to right: Josephine Facilla, John Facilla, Hunter Brignoli, Tom Brignoli, Donna-Marie Brignoli, Sophia Facilla, John A. Facilla, Ava Facilla, Denise Facilla, and in the arms of Donna-Marie, Charli and Brooke Brignoli.

 

“We had the inspiration to do something big for the holidays one year,” said Josephine. “Our neighbor was very sick with cancer and someone gave them the number for CancerCare. It was unbelievable. They gave them everything and anything that they needed. It was like nothing we’d ever seen before, so we decided that was the route we were taking.”

For more than 20 years, the Facilla’s display has featured a collection box for donations, with proceeds going directly to CancerCare’s free support services. They have since raised more than $10,000 for people affected by cancer.

“We have people come that have cancer, so I can talk with them and relate,” says Josephine.

The Facilla family adds something new to the display each year, but the mission of the project remains the same – to bring cheer to the community and to make a difference in the lives of people with cancer.

 


O’Neill’s Irish Pub Golf Outing Raises $175,000 for People Affected by Cancer

September 2, 2014

Ollie O’Neill moved to the states from Dublin in 1995 and pursued his dream of bringing the Irish pub culture to his new hometown, Norwalk, CT. He opened O’Neill’s Irish Pub and Restaurant on St. Patrick’s Day of 1999. Not only did he want to provide authentic food and drinks to the community, Ollie also wanted make a lasting difference in the lives of people affected by cancer.

Ollie O’Neill at this year’s event.

“I initially wanted to do something for CancerCare because my sister was diagnosed with leukemia when she was nine,” said Ollie. “We all felt that this was a cause we wanted to help because CancerCare was right here in town and we’d heard about some of the great services. I feel that if we had had these services when we found out about my sister’s diagnosis, it would have helped quite a bit.”

In 2007, O’Neill’s Irish Pub established the first annual Golf Outing. Ollie and his team of supporters have raised an astonishing $175,000 over the past 15 years.

“We figured it was a good way to get the community involved and give back. Get out there and play, eat, drink and have fun for a good cause,” said Ollie. “It is amazing. All we do is host the event and invite people to participate. They just want to contribute. I’ve sold out every year.”

“The event that O’Neill’s Pub and Restaurant hosts each year to benefit CancerCare makes a discernible difference in the lives of people affected by cancer in the Norwalk community and beyond,” said Regional Director of the CancerCare Connecticut Office Sandra Tripodi, LCSW, ACSW. “Whether it is a person who is in need of a wig, a child who is struggling to make sense of what cancer means in their family, or someone in need of financial assistance to address treatment related barriers, we depend upon our community of support to make our free services available.”

Are interested in making a difference in the lives of people facing cancer? Get your friends, family members, co-workers, neighbors, and community involved in supporting CancerCare‘s free services through Team CancerCare. There is no limit to the kinds of events you can organize.