Thanks for Sharing Your #CaregiverCandids!

January 13, 2015

In honor of National Family Caregivers Month, CancerCare encouraged anyone affected by cancer to recognize caregivers by sharing a photo that represents this important role. We received a collection of inspiring and creative photos from across the nation.

Congratulations to grand prize winner, Melissa!

“My amazing husband, Bud, with me on 11/11/14 as I prepare for my 11th surgery. I had a total hysterectomy and oophorectomy due to being a BRCA2 mutation carrier. This was an emotionally difficult surgery. He brightens my world when I’m lost in the dark.” 

 

Congratulations to our second place winner, Stephanie!

“I am the caregiver for my husband Andy who just recently had his 3rd surgery since being diagnosed with GBM IV. This continues to be a stressful ongoing struggle, but I am thankful to be here helping encourage him and our children to never give up hope.”

 

CancerCare provides free, professional support services for caregivers and loved ones, as well as caregiving information and additional resources.

Take a moment to check out our #CaregiverCandids album and follow us on Facebook to learn about future photo contests!

 

 


Rasheen’s Story of Help and Hope

January 6, 2015

Rasheen noticed a suspicious lump after having difficulties breastfeeding her youngest son, Abraham. In 2009, the mother of five was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer.

“I was only 38 and didn’t think it was anything at first. It turned into an ultrasound, a biopsy, then an MRI and then a mastectomy,” remembers Rasheen.

During her treatment, Rasheen grappled with feelings of helplessness. “I felt lost because I couldn’t do the duties that I was able to perform before the cancer – taking care of the house and the children. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. There was always the question of if I don’t survive, what’s going to happen to our children. They won’t know their mother.”

Rasheen’s husband, BK Davis, became her primary caregiver and put his career as a Steinway International Artist on hold to be by her side. “My husband would just play music for me. I think the help of prayer, faith and music all contributes to not feeling alone.” Her mother also became a strong source of support and caregiving from afar.

The Florida family also began struggling financially as medical bills mounted. They decided to reach out to CancerCare for help. “Money was getting tight. I applied for grants and different types of help. I found that CancerCare was just the number one resource for information and financial assistance. They understand the emotions that you’re going to go through. It’s a one-stop shop.”

Rasheen knew that she wanted to give back and share her experience with others and so she began writing “The Chemo Room.” The book, to be released in February 2015, talks about her life leading up to cancer, her experience in the chemotherapy room and gives tribute to caregivers. Proceeds from the book with benefit people affected by cancer.

Rasheen now serves as her husband’s manager and the couple will head out on a 25 city tour in 2015. At each stop, she will share her cancer story with the audience. “After 20 years in corporate America, I had to give it up and now I’ve found another way to be useful – working with my husband and advocating for CancerCare. I’m truly grateful that this is my time to give back.”

She has made it her personal mission to help other women and their families to regain the usefulness of their lives after the pain and fear of breast cancer. “Cancer caused a lot of depression and anxiety. Some days I feel good and those are the days when I tell someone my story and it helps them. I feel like this is a new reality for me. It’s a whole new life. ”

 

 


Join CancerCare for Free Webinar on Cancer in the Workplace

December 30, 2014

CancerCare CEO and cancer survivor Patricia J. Goldsmith will lead the webinar “Cancer in the Workplace: What Every CEO Should Know” on February 5, 2015 at 1PM EST.

The presentation will look at how employers can support their employees affected by cancer while improving their bottom line. Participants will learn how to help employees balance cancer and career; support their return to work; and to sustain and retain employees affected by cancer.

“Most people think that the world – and the work – stops when they hear the words, ‘you have cancer,’ but it simply isn’t true anymore,” said CancerCare CEO Patricia J. Goldsmith. “Among the 14.6 million cancer survivors in the U.S. are your employees, colleagues, friends and family members. They all strive to be as ‘normal’ as possible while struggling through a maze of pain and anxiety, clinicians and payers, multi-modality treatments and medicines, procedures, scans and physical changes that defy imagination and may go on for years. Yet, they continue to work in your company as well as juggle their responsibilities as parents, siblings and caregivers, community leaders and volunteers.”

Through this webinar, specially tailored for CEOs, VPs and operational leaders everywhere, participants will learn how to partner with organizations like CancerCare to make a difference in today’s workplace and provide help and hope to those affected by cancer.

To register or to learn more, visit www.execunet.com. If you are unable to make the live presentation, please complete the registration form to receive the recorded program after the session.

 


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.