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.

 


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.

 

 


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.

 


CancerCare Awarded $1.5 Million Grant from Susan G. Komen

September 30, 2014

 

CancerCare has received a $1.5 million grant to assist people diagnosed with breast cancer. The generous grant will support Linking A.R.M.S., a CancerCare program in partnership with Susan G. Komen. Linking A.R.M.S. provides financial assistance for breast cancer patients for hormonal and oral chemotherapy, pain and anti-nausea medication, child care, transportation, lymphedema care and durable medical equipment.

“We are tremendously grateful for the continued support of Susan G. Komen,” said CancerCare CEO Patricia J. Goldsmith. “This substantial grant will provide help and hope to thousands of people diagnosed with breast cancer during what may be one of the most overwhelming times in their lives. Costs such as transportation and child care can oftentimes prevent our clients from receiving proper treatment and, thanks to Susan G. Komen, this will now be less of an obstacle for thousands of individuals.”

“A breast cancer diagnosis is a life-altering event, and while patients are making difficult decisions about their medical care, day-to-day needs like childcare and transportation can be equally challenging. Last year alone, CancerCare provided direct financial assistance to 1,356 breast cancer patients undergoing treatment. We’re pleased to again award funding to this important program to allow them to continue this work,” said President and CEO of Susan G. Komen, Judith A. Salerno, M.D., M.S.

Those interested in learning more or applying for financial assistance can visit our website or call 800-813-HOPE (4673).

“Words cannot express the appreciation I have for the financial assistance I have desperately needed,” shares Kimberly, a recent Susan G. Komen grant recipient. “What a huge relief to know there is help. What a privilege it is to know that CancerCare does care. A huge weight has lifted from my shoulders and my heart.”

 


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.

 


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.

 

 


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.

 

 

 


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.